USAG-HUMPHREYS - Exchanging Korean and American cultures was the theme of the first-ever Korean and American Family-to-Family Friendship Day, at Buyeong Elementary School near here Nov. 1.

The day-long event included traditional Korean clay mask making, group dancing contests, and a live circus-style juggling act.

Korean Families teamed with American Families and competed for points and gift certificates during the dancing contests. But there was also an entertaining challenge at the person-to-person level.

"I could see that we were eager to tell each other things but just really didn't know how," said Larry Collette, USAG-Humphreys Internet Manager. "We eventually found basic sign language, like 'thumbs-up' or 'high fives' to be the easiest method of communication."

Collette said seeing the enjoyment expressed in each other's faces while sharing the experiences during clay mask crafting, meals and physical events was more than enough to understand what we were trying to say.

"Participating in the Family-to-Family event will bring new appreciation and understanding of what similarities we actually have despite living in completely different countries and cultures," he said. "I think every American should participate in this sort of event at least once while here in Korea."

At the end of the event, the families exchanged gifts and post cards.

"We have never experienced a Korean gift exchange and didn't know what to really expect," said Collette. "We received a kitchen apron and slippers from one Korean family and figurines from another. We exchanged post cards and addresses and hopefully will be able to use that to make future plans to spend more time together as a family."

Collette said more American Soldiers and their Families should make the effort to go out and make the best of things while being in Korea.

"As the military allows more and more families to come to Korea, experiences such as this can give the Korean people a completely different and more positive outlook towards Americans being in their country," he said.

"I think the event went very well," said Cho Mi-jung, Pyeongtaek Development Support Division, Gyeonggi Province. "The Korean parents were very happy to have their children interact with American children and work on their English speaking skills.

Cho said the Korean families had heard about American Families living in Gyeonggi Province, but didn't have a way to meet and talk with Families of American Soldiers serving in Korea.

"I received good feedback from the Korean families and we are planning to have another event like this one next year," she said.

"Our goal for the event was to learn about each others' cultures and customs and just as important - to make many new friends," said USAG-Humphreys commander Col. John E. Dumoulin as he greeted all the families. "This is what events like this one are all about - to learn just how alike we are in so many different ways. This is a great chance for all our families to get together and have a great time."

During the event, there was a surprise visit to the Family-to-Family event from the mayor of Pyeongtaek.

"I'm happy this event happened for us in our area," said Mayor Song Myeong-ho. "It will be great for Korean and American mutual understanding and to further build the Korean American alliance at the family level."