Cactus in Seoul

On the flight(s) back home, this one from Guilin to Beijing, I was seated next to a Chinese girl and her mother.  The Mum spoke English and told me that her daughter was very interested to know all about me and asked me 21 questions about work, family, hobbies, why I was travelling, where I had been,  where I was going and pretty much everything that a curious kid might want to know.  Mom even asked if she could take a photo of her daughter and I – I agreed and asked that she also take one with my camera so that I’d have one for the website.

The entire row in front of us was filled with the daughter and Mum’s family and in no time they were up and out of their seats and talking with me.  Some of the young men spoke great English and we chatted most of the flight.

There was a show on the tv during the flight.  While I don’t speak Chinese,  just by watching it I was able to make out that it was a documentary on the Chinese Army Special Forces.  The program seemed to be akin to the Discovery Channel or maybe the Military Channel.  The program showed the selection process as soldiers ran up and down flights of stairs, climbed obstacle courses, swam through mud, carried logs on their shoulders (below) and received close range gunfire and hand grenade drills.  The selectees seemed to be in quite good condition and performed all of these military drills (at least to my eye) quite effectively.

The family that I had met on the flight was quite helpful and they helped me to find my way to my hotel driver at the airport.  After a quick night in Beijing, I was out on another flight to Seoul early the next morning.

Arriving in Seoul, I was a bit surprised to find a desert landscape in the center of the airport.  I felt like I had landed in Mesa, Arizona!  It was a nice touch and made me feel a little at home in the Southwest United States.  Just across from the desert landscape was a Dunkin Donuts and I couldn’t resist a donut and a hot cup of coffee.

Nearby a flat screen tv had the Olympics playing and I sat with some Italian and Korean travelers and we blissfully munched on donuts, sipped coffee and watched the world’s athletes compete in good form.  As I sat there, I looked around at this beautiful airport, with all of its modern amenities and then thought about the run down state of Los Angeles International airport.  I thought how the United States has so much money to spend around the world but can’t even fix its own bridges, roads and to update its airports and air traffic control system.  I thought about the advances in economy that China is making and I wonder if my countrymen and women have any idea that soon we will be passed – easily within our lifetimes – and America will no longer be #1 in the world (so far as economies go).

Well, it was a nice airport after all…

And, the Global War on Terror marches on.  Like most places in the world, Korea was showing a high level of security.  I noticed these two soldiers making their rounds carrying Daewoo K-2 rifles.  I shot a few photos of them, but with the low light and their brisk pace, the photos turned out blurry.  I remembered a shooting technique that I read about in a photography magazine wherein you track the subject with your camera and click the shot while maintaining your point on your subject.  The result is a blurry background but the subject is supposed to be in focus.  I gave it a try and it seemed to work!


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