This is a Blog dedicated to my summer travels with my wife Shirley Porterfield over June and July 2013.  We have the privilege to attend two professional conferences -- one in Seoul, South Korea; and the other in Sydney, Australia -- about two weeks apart. We are taking time during these trips to visit these two wonderful countries for some vacation time to end the sabbaticals Shirley and I have had this year, which end this summer.  I have decided to write about these travels below, in a journaling fashion, with pictures and videos, mostly so I can remember the trip, but in case any family and friends want to follow along.  Note that the blog starts at the bottom and works its way up (so it is reverse chronological order.)  Enjoy... Tim McBride, Summer 2013

I Love Korea and the Koreans

June 28, 2013
After a few days here in Korea, I must say I love the Korean people (and Korea too), but mostly the Korean people.  Wow, they are such amazing, lovely and sweet people, so kind.

I have always been fond of all the Asian people that I have met -- from China, Japan and other Asian countries.  I guess I should not be surprised that at how amazingly kind and warm the Korean people are, and welcoming they are to foreigners, or at least to Americans.  I have known several graduate students from Korea, and they have been just fabulous, easy going, and wonderful.  And back when I went to graduate school at Wisconsin, I had several wonderful friends from Korea (and I would love to reconnect with them!).

But when Shirley and I got here, we just have been met with incident after incident of small or larger acts of kindness. It is from the small smiles you get from the elders you see on the subway that are really not so small, or their nods.  Or the wonderful and polite bows you get when you pass almost everyone who works in the hotels or any other business.  It is almost embarrassingly polite to an American who is used to poor service.

But those are not what I am talking about.  Shirley and I can now count on more than two hands the times we have stopped to look at a map on the street or subway, and within seconds really people stop to ask us "can I help?  do you need directions"  It is stunning.  And it is not just women, or young people -- it is middle aged men, older people, young people.  It is people who speak a lot of English or not much.  If they speak little English they try to help, or get out their cell phones, or use sign language.  They don't leave until they make sure you are fine.

We have read that it is polite to give your seat to older people, so we do that.  But we find that while they appreciate this, and thank us, they usually refuse.  I also dropped my subway card, and a middle aged man made sure I knew that I knew this immediately.  

The waiters and waitresses are always polite and the service is great.  We are amazed to read that tipping is not expected.  There is no place to put a tip on a bill.  I am frustrated I cannot put a tip on a bill because I am generally a big tipper.  There are times when we have been met with extra acts of kindness but we have not been able to reward this like we do in the U.S. with cash.

I have to say that I feel guilty a bit because I told Shirley in the first few days that I thought Korean women are delightful, but I was not sure about Korean men.  Korean women are amazing -- they seem incredibly sweet, always smiling, always willing to help, and I dare say, I think very beautiful.  Korean men, especially middle aged businessmen at first seemed to me to be more gruff and sexist.  But I have turned around on this as I have been met with very wonderful acts of kindness.  So I am now convinced that the whole culture is just kind and thoughtful.

And that says nothing about the food, which is incredible.  More about that later.  And the cleanliness of the place.  I have never, ever seen subways that are cleaner than Korean subways.  

More on that later too.  In short this is just a great country and very easy to deal with.  I attach a couple pictures of some wonderful examples of very nice Korean people.  The first is a wonderful fellow who drew a calligraphy for us.  The second is our tour guide who took us on the DMZ tour, Jai.


Day 4: 6/26: IAGG, Presentations & Dinner

June 27, 2013
Day 4 (6/26) of IAGG included more presentations and a dinner for the conference.

Shirley presented her paper at the conference in the afternoon, and it went well!   She presented a paper on pharmaceutical drug switching (from brand to generic), for elders.  This is the same paper she will present at IHEa in a week or so.  So the good news is that when she is done she can submit it for publication.  She has been working very hard on this.  The presentation went well, Shirley thinks.  She got g...
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Days 3: 6/25: IAGG Conference, Presentation

June 25, 2013
Today (6/25) Shirley and I continued to attend conference events at the IAGG conference.  Tim presented his paper at a session in the morning, chaired by his Dean Eddie Lawlor.  The session seemed to go very well.  Eddie presented the first paper, Tim the second, Prof. Naoki Ikegami from Japan the third paper, and Prof Terry Lum from Hong Kong the final paper.  It was a wonderful overview of problems in long-term care systems in at least three countries across the world.  

Below I post a nice ...
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Day 1, 6/22: Meeting on Aging Initiative

June 24, 2013
As I mentioned in my first message, one of the reasons I was asked to attend this meeting was to join a large 20-person delegation from Washington University to make a presence on Aging, at this international gerontology conference.  I am presenting a paper here on some of my aging work, in a session chaired by my Dean, Eddie Lawlor.  All of the rest of my colleagues are also presenting papers.  My Chancellor Mark Wrighton came over, and we had a discussion about starting a Global Aging Initi...
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June 21: Our Three Week Trip Begins!

June 24, 2013
As some of you know, Shirley and I are starting the longest overseas trip of our lives.  We left Friday June 21st from St. Louis, and took a very early morning flight from St. Louis to Chicago.  Then we had a very long 5-hour layover until we got on an Asiana airlines flight from Chicago to Seoul, South Korea.  That flight took 13 hours, and we landed (after crossing the dateline) at 4 pm Seoul time.  We slept on the plane so we were pretty rested.  But it took three hours to get to the hotel...
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About Me

Timothy McBride Timothy D. McBride, Ph.D. is a Professor at the Brown School, Washington University in St. Louis. Here you can find musings on health policy and other issues.

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