When Rowan was born, our friend Kelsey got this set, including cool trainer chopsticks and a spoon in a nifty zipper case for Liam, as a big brother gift. At two, he wasn't quite coordinated enough to use them, but we recently found them and he's quite thrilled...especially since they have Thomas on them.
Last night, Matthew brought home Chinese food, so Liam had a blast eating with his special chopsticks. They're great for kids or dexterity-impaired adults. I think we sent a few less fancy sets home for my sister and brother-in-law (at their request).
Note: Because I'm that anal-retentive, it's been bothering me for 8 months now that I have 98 entries on this blog. So close to an even 100, and yet, I don't want to write random entries. I'm planning one more, probably a collection of recipes that Matthew got from his cooking class and from friends.
Since I'm no longer living in South Korea, it's difficult to be domestically blissful (or blissfully domestic) there. Matthew is also an authorized poster for this blog, but I don't know if he'll post here, since he already has another blog of his own: That's Good Engrish!
I'll be blogging about motherhood and other things at A Not-so-quiet Life. If you're interested in the minutiae of raising Monkey Boy and Super Chunk, feel free to follow me there.
Our trip home by the clock: 8:30 a.m.: Left Sokcho on a bus to Gangneung 10:00: Left Gangneung on a bus to Incheon Airport (Seoul) 2:00ish: Arrived at Incheon Airport 3:30ish: Said goodbye to Matthew & went through security 6:20 p.m.: Flight from Seoul to Vancouver, B.C. noonish (PST); about 10 hours later: arrived in Vancouver, B.C. 7:00 p.m.: Flight from Vancouver to Portland, OR 8:00ish: Arrived in Portland
Highlights of the trip:
*After staying up until 1 a.m. getting my three large bags to weigh in at EXACTLY 23 kg, with a fourth lighter bag full to the point of exploding with toys, books, and goodies to share...Matthew checked the Korean Air website again just before we left. The baggage limit was 20 kg per bag for Liam and I, with Rowan allowed one 10 kg bag. We brought another smaller empty bag and did some rearranging at the airport. We just scraped by with no exorbitant extra baggage fees.
*Rowan fell asleep before the plane too off. Perfect. We were seated behind the bulkhead with a bassinet so I didn't have to hold him all night. Great. We hit turbulence right before dinner time, so I had to pick Rowan up, which woke him up, and he thought he'd had a great nap. He wanted to play during dinner time. Lame.
*Despite taking a Benadryl before boarding, Liam stayed awake through "Finding Nemo" and half of "Ice Age 3," then woke up about two hours before our 10-hour flight landed. Rowan went back to sleep after dinner and woke up just before...breakifast! I'm not complaining too much though. Both of them did well, with very little crying...unlike the 8-month-old baby beside us...
*Wandering around the Vancouver airport trying to find an elevator that would take me (wearing Rowan in the Ergo), Liam and the stroller loaded with carry-ons down to Canadian customs, but only finding ones that took me to dead-end boarding gates. Finally giving up and taking the escalator down.
*Standing in line for at least 30 minutes with a tired antsy toddler (and a fortunately sleeping baby), then getting snippy with the young female customs officer when she wanted to know (a) was I traveling alone with my children today (b) did I have sole custody of them (c) if not, did I have a note from their father giving his permission for me to fly with the boys today (d) if not, why? (Um...because I didn't even think about that.) The snippiness came in when I wanted her to just tell me if she was going to keep the boys and I in custody somewhere until Matthew could be reached. She was not. She just had to question me about it. I realize it's just her job, but I was not in the mood for beating around the bush, especially since said tired antsy toddler was running around in circles by this point.
*Having to pay a porter $20 CAD because there was no way I could haul all five bags from the International Terminal to the U.S. Terminal by myself, let alone with all the above-mentioned gear/kid. He was a really nice guy, though, and I was able to just follow him in a daze rather than having to navigate through more confusion.
*Switching to a single flight from Vancouver to Portland (instead of two separate flights going through Seattle) which was supposed to get me into Portland five minutes earlier. This worked well for the most part, as it's easier to stay in one place with two little boys, instead of boarding and deboarding an extra time. However, when I went to board the plane, it was delayed 30 minutes.
*Having to call my mom collect...internationally (even though it's only like a 5 hour drive)...because the pay phone wouldn't accept either my credit or debit cards, and I only had $2 coins which the phone didn't accept and the coffee shop wouldn't ("there aren't any $1 coins in the till") exchange for me.
*Feeling grateful to the nice ticket agent who had earlier played Thomas trains with Liam (while I switched flights), then carried sleeping Liam and his Thomas backpack onto the airplane for me, since I was wearing a sleeping (again) Rowan and carrying two diaper bags and Liam's stuffed dog. Both boys slept through the entire flight, even though we were right next to the propeller. I enjoyed a complimentary NW microbrew from Octoberfest and dozed during the flight, then managed to wake Liam up enough for him to walk off the plane to the (still collapsed, thanks Horizon) stroller.
I think it would be difficult to have an uneventful flight when traveling alone with two small children. Overall, everything went quite well. The staff was friendly and helpful. Even that darn customs' agent was well-meaning.
Tips: *when traveling on Korean Air (or any other non-western airline), order the Korean (or other local) dinner option. The bibimbap was pretty good for instant airline food. The western-style beef dish did not look appetizing. *you cannot overplan. I had a schedule planned out in my head before leaving, including when they were going to eat dinner, get into their pajamas, etc., etc. Mock me for my anal-retentiveness if you want, but I think everything went smoother because of that. *make sure you have smaller bills in all types of currency. I had to visit the currency exchange counter with the porter because he didn't have any change available and I only had a $50. *bring plenty of new exciting toys for kiddos. Liam got three new Thomas trains and a carrying case of small dinosaurs, which helped immensely. He also had new crayons and stickers from his friend Alex (Thanks, Brian!).
That's all (HA!) that I can think of at the moment. We've been back almost three days and, after several really busy days, the jetlag is catching up with me again. I feel like I'm on cold medication, even though I'm not. Hopefully, I can get a good night's sleep tonight and get back into the swing of things.
Since Liam loves looking at the fish for sale here (as in to be cut up and eaten fresh, fresh, fresh), we've seen pretty much every species of fish eaten in Korea. We've seen these ugly guys (not the ugliest, however, that title belongs to the Pacific Lumpsucker) around before, but just realized recently that they have FEET. What kind of crazy, mutant fish has FEET? No, that's a real question. When I google "Korea fish feet," the results I get are all for "doctor fish," the fish I wrote about yesterday which nibble the dead skin off your feet. Does anyone know what these fish are called?
(I apologize for the poor quality of the photo. The fish were in a weird-shaped tank.)
How did we live in Sokcho for almost 27 months (combined total) without going to Waterpia? Yes, it's a bit expensive (at W33,000 full adult price, with price drops later in the day) and can be quite crowded at times; however, our family had a blast! If we were staying longer, we would definitely go again.
When my friend invited us to join her family, I was a bit apprehensive. I don't have a swimsuit here and didn't really want to buy one just for a few hours at a water park. My friend reassured me that she just wears a t-shirt and shorts, so I could do the same. In retrospect, it would have been worth it to buy a swimsuit. Suits are also available for rent, but this strikes me as a little strange.
As soon as you go through the front entrance, you remove your shoes and take them to the locker with the number corresponding to a number on your receipt. You then take the key from that locker to use for the same number locker in the changing room. The key is on one of those spiral cord keychains that you can put on your arm or ankle while you're in the pool. It's all very well organized, which is typically Korean.
Matthew decided to wear his shirt, since my friend's husband was wearing his. As you can see, not everyone did this. The dads & toddlers spent most of their time in the shallow end of the wave pool, which was only on about 20 minutes out of every hour. (Matthew did get to go down the huge slide -- no toddlers allowed -- while the rest of us were having a snack. He went about eight times in a row, until his legs could no longer carry him up the stairs.)
That's my friend's nephew (her husband's second brother's son) catching a ride by hanging onto Matthew's shirt.
Rowan also enjoyed the wave pool during the brief time he was wearing his swim trunks. We ended up changing the babies back into normal clothes after a bit so they would be more comfortable in their carriers and not soak us. Also, I kept thinking Rowan was going to take his long-overdue nap. He finally did...after several hours.
I tried the "doctor fish" pool, which I'd added to my "Korean Coop List" after Mama Seoul suggested it and Kwangdong Brian confirmed that Waterpia had such a pool. It was a blast! My feet are EXTREMELY TICKLISH. INSANELY TICKLISH. At first, the sensation of dozens of little fish nibbling the dead skin off my feet and ankles (as far as they could reach) was almost unbearable.
By the time my friend took this picture, I had adjusted slightly, but still couldn't stop laughing and grinning like an idiot:
After a few more minutes, I became even more accustomed to the feeling and could hold steady enough to shoot this video:
MinJeong had tried the doctor fish briefly before, but had thought it felt too weird. When the attendant offered to let her stick her feet in for free (I paid W6000 like every other adult -- W4000 for children), she decided to give it another try. Her reaction:
Back in the wave pool, Liam rocked the pink flotation device that MinJeong borrowed from another friend:
Liam conferring with JunMin and his cousin JunHo (the H is pretty much silent):
Liam wound down a little in the kiddy pool while Matthew changed back into street clothes:
You could easily spend an entire day in the waterpark. There is so much to do (see the website for proof) and various eateries in the food court and scattered around the park, including a "well-being" Lotteria (which means it has a limited menu and doesn't serve french fries...boo!), a "Sand & Food" sandwich shop, and -- curiously -- at least two hot dog places, as well as more traditional Korean food.
We were there for about four hours, including snack time, but excluding changing time. Had we gone earlier in the day, Liam & his friend probably would have lasted longer. As it was, JunMin fell asleep on the car ride home and Liam went to bed quite soon after arriving home. (This was awesome because MinJeong and her husband came over to our place for fresh salmon and gourmet macaroni & cheese. We had a peaceful dinner with adult conversation as the babies quietly played together.)
The top thing on my "coop list" was to visit a Korean palace during our final trip to Seoul. Based on a number of recommendations, I chose Changdeokgung, which was just a short walk from Insadong, where we were staying.
You can read all about Changdeokgung elsewhere on the web, but here are my thoughts: *palaces in Korea are very similar to temples (as my friend J.E. pointed out) in architectural style, just a lot bigger *an English tour might be more interesting (than the Korean one we took), but unless you're right up with the tour guide, it probably wouldn't make much difference *the last tour of the day is pretty lame, because the staff is trying to lock up behind the tour group. It's not really a relaxing stroll.
I won't try to narrate the pictures, because I couldn't really tell you what anything is. Even if my Korean was good enough to understand the tour guide, I lagged behind most of the time after having to take Liam to the bathroom right after the tour started and staying behind at another spot to nurse Rowan.
Sokcho has recently (like over the past year, with project completion projected for December) reinvented her downtown shopping area as "Rodeo Street." In Hangul, that's 로대오, like the shopping district in Beverly Hills. Yeah... At any rate, the renovations look great. If you'd like to read more, there's a Korea Post article including a picture of the mayor (who is not the man who posed with Liam at the walking festival).
the sign at the beginning of downtown:
The boys, Matthew's parents, and I walking down the street:
a new water-sewer maintenance cover featuring the Sokcho mascot:
continuing the rodeo theme, I think this is supposed to be a bull painted in the intersection:
all the bus stops have been replaced:
another wide street view:
I think this is the "lovers' plaza" mentioned in the article:
really cool sidewalk art:
one of the water fountains in the middle of the four-lane road. (This is an accident waiting to happen, as Liam desperately wants to play in those fountains whenever he sees them. He's not the only toddler I've seen straining to escape mother's grip.)
Matthew prepares to cross a snazzy crosswalk:
the bull at "Sokcho Plaza" represents how well-endowed Sokcho is ; )
I don't think this is actually new, but I enjoy the random bull-with-Korean-flag, most likely decorating a restaurant that serves hanu beef.
And this guy, the owner of a local eye glass shop, proudly proclaims his love. Sorry, I'm too lazy to bother translating the rest of the sign: