Asia #2: Seoul

The traffic’s a cross between a glacier and a hopelessly snarled fishing line….. The weather featured the biggest snow and harshest cold snap in a half-century, complete with 2-wheeled dare devils criss-crossing lanes with reckless abandon on icy roads (untreated by either salt or sand) on motor scooters. (Maybe I didn’t really need to put my Vespa up for the winter?).…. We ate incredible food, both Korean BBQ and Traditional. (Note to self: Where have Korean Pears been all my life?….. We encountered a strikingly modern city with a few contradictions. On the one hand, the airport is maybe the shiniest and most techno-advanced I’ve ever seen. At the same time, some of the downtown Seoul streets lack names and I observed veteran cab drivers scratching their heads in befuddlement as they tried to find locations barely a mile away from their standard beats.

While in Seoul, Sophia and I held several meetings with consultants and Hyde parents. Having enrolled a number of Korean students during the past 3 years, we knew that they came from families who place a premium on academic achievement. This visit enabled us to share thoughts and feelings on this objective as well as the broader Hyde mission.…. One father noted that he came from a family of high achieving siblings who had attended more prestigious colleges than his alma mater but he had come to believe that the many struggles he faced in his younger days prepared him better for life than the training his siblings received. He later told me that the greatest thing about Hyde was “The Concept.”….. One mother thanked Hyde for helping her develop a much stronger relationship with her son, one she had deeply wanted to recapture….. For my part, I stressed that while I care about the quality of the colleges that their (and my) children will attend, I care far more about the quality of people they will be where they’re 35.

I also couldn’t resist concluding the evening with an old teaching saw: “If you promise not to believe everything your child says goes on in this school, I’ll promise not to believe everything he says goes on in your home.” Speaking through an interpreter, I wasn’t sure how the joke would play through our obvious language and cultural differences. I delivered the line and waited for their reaction. There was a pause, and then…… they all busted a gut, proving that laughter is truly an international language.

As for my interpreter, I stand grateful to Hyde alum John Kim’ 89. John was our first student from Korea, enrolling almost a quarter century ago. He went on to graduate from U. Chicago and today counsels kids on their college plans. He is excited to mentor Hyde’s Korean students and parents and I am honored to have him with us. On to Beijing.

Onward, Malcolm Gauld