A Capitol’s Quiet Hour

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June 30, 2019, Raleigh-

Perhaps in a moment of selfishness, I chose to head to North Carolina’s Triad region, specifically to the Capitol, rather than to the west central area, north of Charlotte.  This, though, is what my spirit guides were telling me was in order.

I found Raleigh in a quiet and pensive collective mood, whilst walking about the Capitol District on this morning, when many were engaged in acts of worship.  I pretty much had the area to myself.

The great museums would not open until noon, by which time I was getting my laundry done, in south Raleigh’s International Market, a haven for the area’s Hispanic community.

Part of the Tar Heel story is told on the Museum of History’s grounds.  The frame of a Catawba home is here, surrounded by the lushness of the Piedmont.

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North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences takes up the right flank of the Museum Quarter.

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The North Carolina Museum of History occupies the left hand side.

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Three figures greet the visitor to the Museum of History: A woman of Sauratown, Thomas Day and Frederick Augustus Olds.  Sauratown is an isolated mountain region, northwest of Winston-Salem.  The independence of area residents is commemorated by this statue of an unidentified woman.  Thomas Day is celebrated as an example of how much a free Black man could achieve.  He was a skilled cabinetmaker, of the Antebellum period. Frederick Augustus Olds, a journalist, was a relentless advocate of telling North Carolina’s story, especally of “human history” and of the advancement of both Boy and Girl Scouts.

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Here is the Promenade, in its fullness.

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North Carolina is the birthplace of three U.S. Presidents:  Andrew Jackson, James Knox Polk and Andrew Johnson.  They may not be the favourites of many people, but each pursued and achieved his goals.  The State Capitol looms in the background.

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Here are more complete views of the State Capitol.

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This statue depicts a naval cadet, of the late Nineteenth Century.  A woman passing by with her young daughter remarked to the child that it must have been most uncomfortable to have to wear such garb, in the heat of a Carolina summer.

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This bell tower, of First Presbyterian church, is framed by the Memorial Garden of the Harden family.

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At the opposite end of the Promenade, near the Natural Sciences Museum, is this statue depicting the naturalist Rachel Carson, listening to a story being told by a young boy.  She was passionate about educating the young, as to the dangers posed by excessive chemical use, in the mid-Twentieth Century.

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My time with the Hispanic people showed that the Tar Heel tradition continues to promote the achievements of the individual, over a mass ideological swell.  May that ethic long continue.

NEXT:  Virginia’s Eastern Shore

 

The School of Hope

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June 28, 2019, St. Helena Island, SC-

I am of the opinion that there should be no child left behind-and I don’t mean to throw us back to the Federal educational initiative by that name, which only met the need in a limited fashion.

Truly meeting a child’s needs is something that no “one size fits all” program can possibly address. The basis for any effort to improve a person’s well-being is love for that person, as an extension of one’s love for humanity.

Penn Center, in the heart of this Sea Island near Beaufort, is a shining example of the true meaning of “No Child left Behind”.  Its genesis was the implementing of the Emancipation Proclamation. One thing that was ever in Abraham Lincoln’s mind, when he contemplated freeing the slaves in the Confederate States, was the immediate unleashing on Southern society of millions of illiterate people, the majority of whom were also not trained in any skilled trade.  “Forty acres and a mule”, the mantra of freed enslaved minister Garrison Frazier, turned into a scattershot attempt to relieve that society of its immediate burden, once it became actual Federal policy.  Lincoln himself, hamstrung by his own conviction that any given White man was inherently superior to any given person of another “race”, had no coherent plan to alleviate the situation.

So, it fell to Rev. Frazier and a council of educated Black men, in the Lowlands from Savannah to Charleston, to devise and implement a plan to establish a school for the children of the Sea Islands region. Penn School, established, as its name implies, with the support of the Society of Friends, became just such a school. It was initially established in 1862, even before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.  Truth be known, word had reached the Black community in Savannah that many slaveholders in Virginia, Louisiana and Georgia were teaching their male slaves how to read and write.  Many others had been taught, surreptitiously, by the wives and children of their masters. The former estate of a freed slave, Harvey Gantt, became the site of an expanded school, in 1864. By 1865, Quaker abolitionists in Philadelphia began supporting the school, and it was named Penn School.  In 1901, Hampton Institute, a Black college in Virginia, began sponsoring the school, which was cut off from public funding by Beaufort County’s segregationist leadership. Even with this assistance, though, the school continued to struggle.  In 1948, Penn School closed and Penn Center, a community development and cultural preservation institution, emerged on the property.

Today, Penn Center is a haven for the study and preservation of Gullah language and culture and for the promotion of Civil Rights.  Its York W. Bailey Museum has a wealth of African art and Gullah artifacts.  The Center promotes the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park, of which it is the epicenter, and the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, from Florida to North Carolina.  It maintains active relationships with people in West and Central Africa, with the President of Sierra Leone visiting the Center, in 1988.

Here are some scenes of Penn Center’s grounds.  No photography is permitted in the Bailey Museum itself.

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The Gantt House  (Pine House) today serves as one of the learning sites for Penn Center.

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These storage cisterns were once the school’s main source of fresh water.

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This is Darrah Hall, Penn Center’s oldest building, built in 1903.  It is used for large events.

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The flat bottom boat is a staple of Low Country transportation.  This one was built and used by freed slaves.

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This is the Center’s Administration Building.

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Here is one of the first classroom buildings of Penn School, circa 1905.

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This complex was a beehive of activity, during my visit.  Vibrant teens were calling out friendly greetings to me, while their teachers were trying to get them focused on the activity of the afternoon.

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As in any community, a small cemetery has sprung up at Penn Center.

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I end with two shots of Brick Church, the original site of the school, and which predates Penn Center.

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There is much to learn, as yet, about Gullah Geechee culture, so I know this is far from my last visit to the Low Country.  Penn Center, though, gave me an excellent introduction.

NEXT:  The Wonder That Is Charleston

 

Staying Independent

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July 4, 2019, Saugus-

I will continue (go back to) my photo blogs, in the next few posts.  Jumping ahead to the Fourth of July just seems best, though.

I had a conversation with someone very close to me, during the family gathering at a niece’s home, this afternoon.  One thing rings very loud and clear, from this discourse and from other conversations I’ve had, these past few months:  Many people are feeling put upon by aggressive individuals and groups, who take a point of view opposite that which they happen to hold.  Many individuals and groups ARE resorting to the use of force, when confronted with those taking such opposite viewpoints.

I was raised to hear other people out.  My parents, social conservatives, made a great effort to understand even the most seemingly ludicrous viewpoints.  I have maintained an open mind, as a result, throughout fifty-six years of adolescence and adulthood.  Civil Rights have long been a matter of supreme importance in my life, and that cuts both ways.  The Right cannot bully people of colour, of Faiths other than that of the majority in a community, or those living a lifestyle different from that which is conventional. The Left, likewise, cannot deprive people of more traditional bearing, of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Violent behaviour, on either side, is the stuff of fascism (even when the bully calls self “Antifa”)

I am, as it happens, an obstinate soul, when people without authority try to force me to do their bidding.  Additionally, I question those who DO exercise authority, as to the ethical basis for their actions.  That is what I get from both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.    That is what I get from my Faith.

So, to my family-my elders, siblings and cousins:  You all matter, greatly.  Your point of view has at least some validity and is worth hearing, and pondering.  Our family is large, so there are all points covered, on the political spectrum. I will not plug my ears to any of it, so long as you do not ascribe to a coda of violence or or a policy of defamation against your opposite numbers.

To my children, nieces/nephews, and “grands”- You are, one and all, a great hope; you are people of immense promise and, especially if you are feeling vulnerable,  are worthy of all the support and love that we, your elders, can muster.  We cannot spare you from life’s ups and downs, but we can point towards the light. This is the very least we can do, in building and safeguarding your own sense of well-being and independence.

Most of the problems we face, when it comes to intolerance and reactive violence, seem to stem from the violent ones acting out of insecurity.  In truth, though, i have to ask, “How does a person expressing an alternative point of view, in and of itself, constitute a threat to my well-being?”  It may be annoying, but it is not a threat-unless accompanied by force-which then makes it an entirely different matter.

Staying independent means, to me, that one takes the time to carefully examine issues and evaluating a variety of points of view.  It also means extending that right to independence to every one else.  These are my thoughts as the Sun goes down on another July 4.

Godswood

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June 10, 2019, Bellemont-

Those who faithfully watched Game of Thrones will know the title term, as being the spiritual retreat of the family Stark and their vassals.  There are several places on this property that serve as such a place of solace.

I have spent six of the past eight nights here, three of them in the company of middle-school aged youth, who are, as their predecessors were, far more of a blessing than many realize.

Their spontaneity needs monitoring, and correction at times, but does not need the check that some in my generation see as imperative.  We, the Baby Boomers, were after all the generation of free speech. I heard no more than three “f-bombs”, during the course of these three days.  The kids’ focus was primarily on elevated speech; on matters of the mind and spirit.  We, the Baby Boomers, had a thing about “free love”-though it was less widespread than the media often portrayed.  I saw no unwanted attention directed towards anyone.  The kids both see one another as people-first and foremost-and not as objects to help a person break from his/her shell.

There is, in any generation of youth, a cooperative spirit.  This spirit has been ravaged, among many who have aged, by the way we have approached the issues of everyday life.  Some will say that the rising generations will feature more of the same, as that’s how human beings just are.

By and large, I don’t concur.  Humanity is moving, slowly but inexorably, towards a cooperative, united front.  I find youth, basically, to be fairly more mature, at a younger age with each generation.  Their methods of communication may differ, as may their methods of spending time.  I do not, though, see a dark future ahead, on account of the “dissolute gamers”.  Any darkness that comes forth will be solely the result of selfishness and a provincial, “me-centered” mindset.  No generation has a corner on either, and no generation can point fingers at another.

These are things that came to me, during work, play and at meals, during these eight days in “Godswood”.

 

The Genesis Spirit

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May 12, 2019-

I only had one call to make, this morning.  Mom is still very much alive and well.  Mother-in-Law is by her eldest daughter’s side, in the spirit world.  I know they still have my back, though their plans for me are somewhat hidden, at this point in time.

I don’t so much fret over my present state of affairs, as wonder where it is leading.  It could be that, tomorrow, when I contact the County Office of Education, I will be told to re-do this or that process or be told simply that everything is in order on my end, but that they need more time to finish the red tape.  Regardless, the academic year is almost over.  The needs of summer will shortly be upon me.

Enough of my quotidia, though.  This is a day, beyond Hallmark cards and the floral industry, for fully recognizing the spirit of nurturance, the raising of generations.  The vast majority of women who give birth are nurturers. There are always exceptions, outliers, who are not fit for the greatest and most honourable job in the human world.  I read of one such benighted soul, earlier this morning.  Most mothers, though, take the ball and run with it-to the eternal benefit of their progeny, or of those whom they take in as their own.

My mother has taken, and still takes, her responsibility as a nurturer seriously.  That spirit has flowed, seamlessly, to her daughter and granddaughters. It has informed the choices of mate that my brothers and I have made-Penny and each of my sisters-in-law raised their children in a sea of discipline and love.  It continues with our children’s generation. Aram and four of his male cousins have each married strong, nurturing women.

It can’t be easy, this balancing of body and soul; this overcoming the intense pain of bringing a newborn into the world of contingency.  It is certainly troubling, to sometimes feel one’s efforts are overlooked, cast aside or unappreciated, until it is often too late.  In my case, I have sometimes felt that I have had to make up for lost time, with the most important people in my life.

That, though, brings out the true beauty of  the genesis spirit:  The power of forgiveness; the strength of forbearance; the ability to get an errant child to take ownership of destiny.  A true mother does the heavy lifting of nurturance, gets a father to buy into the process and sends a child into the wider world, with the assurance that-one’s foibles and weaknesses aside, there will be success against a backdrop of trials and setbacks.  It  will be so, because of the firm foundation of love.

The Shortest Distance, and The Longest

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May 5, 2019-

“Civilization is precisely the human capacity to say no…….”- Rob Riemen, To Fight Against This Age

Viewing the film “Room”, this evening, I prepared myself for a variety of possible outcomes, none of them good.  Having worked for so long in child protection and recovery from abuse, I know the permutations that such cases can take.  I know that attorneys for the abuser will sometimes do their job all too well, and the cycle will repeat itself, ad nauseam.  I know that sometimes, the good guys win, and people like Erica Pratt, Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart go on to achieve at least a fair amount of normalcy and success, on their own terms.  I’ve seen a mix of the two outcomes, with identity mix-up and role confusion, only resolvable with the maximum amount of patience and sensitivity.

In a complex world, where everyone gets to jump in and have a say, many times with an agenda that has nothing to do with the recovering child, the cases can take  a long sideways route, often twisting like a corkscrew, until nothing is left.  In these cases, money is made, but no one wins.  Fame is achieved, sometimes for people who had nothing to do with the original case-and sometimes for those who did, but who have moved on, past the reality of the victim.

It’s been long enough, since the film was in theaters, that I can applaud how the story panned out.  “Jack” used native intelligence and common sense to save his mother twice- first from their captor, then from herself.  “Joy”, the mother, did well to keep both of them alive, and to recover, from both abandonment by her father and a misguided barrage of criticism from a sensation-seeking journalist.  The film is thus a cautionary tale, for several sectors of society.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  “Jack” was young enough to use that logic, in describing his former place of captivity to the police, and in avoiding the long, twisting, jagged-edged road to recovery faced by his mother.

I like to think that I prefer taking the short route, in my own life, but time has proven that sometimes, the long route has ended up being chosen.

Victim

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April 27, 2018-

I have not, in real terms, ever been a victim. Yes, I have had an old laptop stolen from me. As I was the only one who could get it to work, chances are it is in the pile of useless electronics. Yes, someone pilfered a U.S. Passport, only to be himself caught, sometime later.

I have not ever been a victim.  Difficulties, stemming from misdirected choices, slow reactions to swiftly changing circumstances and excess trust of incompetent people are not grounds for crying “Poor me”.  I have been a slow learner.  I have placed trust in those who didn’t deserve it.  That is not victim-hood.

I am, instead, far more concerned with those who ARE victims: Children and teens who are put into one form, or another, of servitude-sometimes, even by their own parents;  adults, usually-but not always, women who are promised gainful employment, but instead are turned into slaves, living in brutal conditions; seniors, living in filthy conditions, and mentally unable to call attention to their plight; members of religious or ethnic minority groups, demonized by powerful interests in their own countries.

There will be a time, in the not-too-distant future, when my time, whether traveling, or in a Home Base, somewhere, will be spent primarily in voluntary service.  Then will my focus not be on keeping a roof over my head, but on keeping the vulnerable, wherever, I find them, out of harm’s way.

I am keeping my eyes open, in this relatively peaceful community, until the day that I move on,  and it’s true that there will be plenty of  opportunities to help others-not those with signs or outstretched hands, begging for cash, but people who are being genuinely mistreated, beyond their ability to fight back.

I will remain, not a victim.

 

 

The Z’s, the Alphas and Evolution

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April 16, 2019-

Yesterday was a bear, for many.  The damage to Notre Dame Cathedral (which I have only seen from outside) and to Al Aqsa Mosque (in which I had the honour of praying with the Imam, in 1982) was serious, but in both cases, not irreparable.

For me, it was a productive day- visiting the new Cuppers Coffee House location, attending a Baha’i study circle and getting in another exercise session were pluses.  A new online acquaintance asked me what I was doing for the day, and my response was “Tending to my personal affairs”, which at the time was weighing on me and not what I wanted to detail, to a relative stranger.  Turns out, the whole process took less than ten minutes, and all’s as well as it can be, for the time being.

I was brought further out of my shyness and awkwardness, at Cuppers, when several young people chose to sit down on either side of me.  Something refreshing about Millennials, and more so about Gen Z people, is their overall forthrightness.  Growing up always questioning my worth as a human being was a real pain.  The younger generations see no reason why anyone should do that, though I’m sure they have their moments of insecurity. Nonetheless, Gen Z’s mantra, “I got you”, obviating any lengthy explanation of one’s feelings or opinions, is actually a treasure.

I see intuition becoming a hard-wired thing.  Yesterday, there was a post about five teenagers who helped an elderly man get up from the sidewalk, where he’d fallen, walking home with him and cleaning his wounds.  Goodness prevails here, and is more common than its opposite.  The media has a label ready for those born since 2010:  Generation Alpha.  I haven’t had much contact with younger kids lately, but judging from the intuition levels and cooperative spirit of my grandnieces and nephews, and online friends’ children, I would say the label, as contrived as it sounds, is actually spot on.  They, with their immediate elders, will be the ones working to reverse a host of problems that foolishness and greed have bestowed on the human race.  All this makes New York’s recently enacted “nonmedical abortionist” law that much more ludicrous, besides being downright menacing.  The world needs its rising generations, even those who have some physical or mental flaws.

So, on we go, and I feel more confidence than at this time last week.

All Those Meanwhiles

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March 26, 2019- 

For a good part of my time with my little family, in Korea, I was drawn away from anything to do with the wider world.  It felt only natural to narrow my focus, with only a relatively brief microburst of heavy rain, upon our return to Busan from Jeju, on March 15, to let the potential of havoc remind me that there was indeed “life’s mud and stone”, in the words of the great Kenny Rogers, of which to be ever mindful.

Nothing was more jarring than the shootings in Christchurch, something for which I ached, for days afterward, upon reading a digest of news in a copy of The Korea Herald.  Spiritual truth is one, continuous flow, throughout history and will remain so.  The wanton slaughter of 120 people in northern Nigeria, yet another episode in the back-and-forth atrocities between Christians and Muslims in that country and the ongoing bloodbath in Mali, orchestrated by the Islamic State and pitting the Peuhl people against IS’s Dogon opponents, have stayed on the back burner of the world’s awareness.  This is the wrong approach. At the very least, what happens in Africa, especially in the west and north of the continent, will spread to Europe, eventually, just as conflicts in the west of Asia are feared to do.  More essentially, the deaths of hundreds-anywhere- is a humanitarian crisis, worthy of the full attention of the wider world.

We seem to at least be paying closer attention to the horrific cyclone-caused damage and casualties in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.  Americans can identify with such events, especially when simultaneous horrors are ravaging the North American Great Plains and riparian areas of the Midwest.  Nature is in a highly-charged state right now.  Whether it is cyclical or the result of intense man-made climatic disruptions, unified responses are necessary.

Then, there were the more personal individual tragedies:  A young lady who had survived last year’s Parkland, FL shootings was overcome by her emotional pain, and took her life.  A week later, the esteemed economist, Paul Krueger, overcome by suffering of his own, followed suit.  Closer to home, two teen girls in our area and a Phoenix police officer were killed by inattentive drivers.

I learned my lesson, that even during the most basic and intensely personal of life events, there is no separation from all that surrounds us.  Meanwhile, family thrives, near neighbours may struggle-and those who live in areas, where life’s larger problems seem intractable, continue to warrant our love and efforts to help, where possible.

The “meanwhiles” never take a vacation.

Quotidia Beget Adventure

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March 7, 2019, Los Angeles-

Among the phenomena which might be overlooked, when one is en route to a special destination, is the landscape below an airplane circling for a safe landing.  Such was the case this evening, as our Sky West flight from Phoenix got cleared for landing at LAX.

This was the first time in memory that I had a window seat, and thus could look at the vast expanse of  territory that is the Los Angeles Basin.  With all that has been written, bantered and felt about LA and its smog, congestion and excess, the place as a whole is a marvel, when seen from 8,000 feet-especially at night.  Some SoCal-phobes will reply that a mess can’t be a marvel, but we know better.  One does not have to approve of  what is the current situation, to be amazed at how much humanity is packed into even such a vast area.

Prior to this, I put in a full day at work and was glad to leave my charges with a sense of accomplishment, leading up to the ten-week homestretch that follows Spring Break,  The shuttle van down to Phoenix was an equally smooth and quotidian process, with us arriving at Sky Harbor with time to spare.  Barrio Avion provided tender and spicy beef for my farewell burrito.

Two three-year-old boys, meeting by chance and becoming fast friends, provided the after-dinner entertainment.  G., a new older brother, very much appreciated the presence of J., his new friend.  Watching them play with miniature cars and trucks, hide and seek and get lectured by their respective fathers, for shaking the line stantions, that are used to separate groups of boarding passengers.  There was no lack of spirit with these two.  Indeed, my first encounter with G was his running up the aisle, momentarily unbeknownst to his parents.  I kept my distance, but also kept an eye on him, in case he made it clear to the TSA  area.  Mom was on scene, 30 seconds later, and brought him safely back to the gate lobby.  Then J and father showed up and more localized activity took over.

We landed at LAX, about fifteen minutes late.  I then embarked on a 1 1/4-mile walk, from the United terminal to the Asiana booths, at Tom Bradley International (AKA Terminal B).  I am in the shape to undertake such a luggage lug, but I wonder how disabled people are accommodated, with the City of Cars expecting everyone to walk, with no electric sidewalks and only the occasional elevator, along the labyrinth.

I made it, with the loudspeaker calling my name, four times, as the Koreans wanted to verify my new passport.  I heard them and felt their pain, eventually getting to show the document to the chief of security at Asiana and receiving his swift assistance, in getting through the line, to the check-in booth and onto the shuttle bus that brought us to the plane.  It was an East Asian style shuttle, meaning that a packer was on hand, to shout at and cajole us into cramming as tightly as possible.  I actually kind of miss those days, in Seoul and Jeju, though I must say young men are less prone to grab all the seats and make women and older men stand for the ride.  That is the one thing about the old days that never failed to get me rankled, especially when Penny was pregnant with Aram.

I’m on the plane now, seated with an elegant woman from Colombia and a Korean student, on Spring Break from her school in Arizona.  It’ll be a long, and I sense, restful, journey to Seoul.