A snowstorm that stranded a group of South Korean tourists near Buffalo, New York, last December turned into an unexpected opportunity for cross-cultural exchange and hospitality.Embed from Getty Images
The tourists were on their way to Niagara Falls from Washington, D.C., when their van got stuck in the snow. Two of them knocked on the door of a nearby house to ask for shovels, but instead they were welcomed by Alexander and Andrea Campagna, a couple who had planned for a quiet Christmas weekend indoors.
“They ended up in the right place at the right time,” Andrea Campagna said.
The couple invited the nine travelers plus the driver to stay at their home until the blizzard subsided. They offered them couches, sleeping bags, air mattresses and a spare bedroom. They also shared food, stories and friendship, and celebrated Christmas together.
“We have enjoyed this so much,” said Yoseb Choi, one of the tourists who was visiting the U.S. with his wife on their honeymoon. He described the experience as unforgettable and a “unique blessing.”
The Campagnas, who are fans of Korean food, had ingredients to make dishes like jeyuk bokkeum, spicy marinated and stir-fried pork, and dakdori tang, a spicy chicken stew. The tourists cooked for their hosts and taught them some Korean words.
The group also watched an NFL game on Christmas Eve and exchanged gifts. The tourists gave the couple souvenirs from Korea, such as traditional masks and fans. The couple gave them books about Buffalo and New York.
The tourists left on Sunday when roads were cleared and returned to New York City. Some of them flew back to Korea later that week, while others stayed for New Year’s Eve.Embed from Getty Images
The story of their encounter made headlines in both countries and caught the attention of the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO), which decided to invite the Campagnas to visit Korea as a gesture of gratitude.
“This invitation is a token of our appreciation for the American couple who lent their helping hands to the Korean tourists stranded in heavy snow,” said Park Jae-seok, KTO’s New York branch manager.
The Campagnas arrived in Seoul on Saturday for a 10-day tour of South Korea. They reunited with some of the tourists they hosted and experienced Korean culture firsthand. They attended a cooking class, a cosmetics tour and a traditional tea ceremony.
They also received a medal for public service from New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who recognized their actions as an example of kindness and generosity.
“We knew we were going to be stuck at home for many days. So when we heard the knock on our door, we wondered who would be outside in this weather,” Alex Campagna said. “We’re glad we opened it.”
- U.S. couple that took in Korean tourists invited to Korea | Korea JoongAng Daily | February 7, 2023
- American couple who sheltered Korean tourists in blizzard visit Korea | The Korea Herald | May 14, 2023
- South Korean Tourists Given Refuge After Getting Caught in Buffalo Blizzard | Insider | December 28, 2022