weekday wanderings

Sunday, June 28, 2009

One of the best things about our life in Korea is all the time we spend together as a family. When Matthew was working a 9-5 job in the States (salary, which means it's never just 9-5), Liam was usually still asleep when he left for work in the morning. By the time he came home, it was time for dinner, then bath, etc. in the downward spiral towards bedtime. Here, Matthew doesn't start work until after lunch, so we have the mornings (usually Liam's best time of day) together.

We try to get out most mornings, so we've built a repertoire of usual spots. On average, once each week we visit downtown (usually including the traditional market), Sokcho Beach, and Expo Park. We also squeeze in errands like haircuts, quick shopping, banking, etc.

Once or twice per month, we also visit Daepo-hong (a harbor just north of Sokcho with many fresh fish restaurants) and Mt. Seorak National Park (a 20 minute bus ride). Both are nice on weekdays because they're not so crowded. Below are a few pictures from a weekday trip to Seorak earlier this month.

Matthew & Liam waiting for the bus.

Liam & Rowan -- I love that baby bear has his jet sticking out and daddy bear is halfway covered by the carrier.

Matthew & Liam strolling through the woods. "If you go out in the woods today, you'd better be in disguise..."

Matthew & Rowan sitting down for lunch at one of the trailside eateries. Rowan looks awfully interested in the sanchae (wild mountain vegetable) bibimbap.

Besides the aforementioned wild mountain vegetables (such as mushrooms and assorted greens), bibimbap also includes rice (bap), a freshly fried egg, and gochujang (fermented red pepper paste), which is served separately here, so that the customer may add the desired amount. It's delicious! Also appearing are the requisite kimchi, doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew, with tofu and vegetables), and a (cut-up) potato pancake that she brought service-uh for Liam. He was more interested in his goldfish crackers, though. (Don't worry, I ate it!)

These cats belong to the restaurant owner. The mama's name is Nabi (Butterfly). Her kitten was a bit skitish, but she is friendly. I remember seeing her last summer when we went through. Her kitten from last year is now much larger than she is, but still very, very wary of Liam.

Monks walking down the trail ahead of us. I don't usually take pictures of monks. In fact, I think this is the first time I've ever taken pictures of them, but they were RIGHT THERE. If one has the right temperment, being a Buddhist monk in Korea seems like a pretty good gig. The temples are located in some gorgeous areas, perfect for zen hiking.

international walking festival

Monday, June 15, 2009

On Saturday, our little family participated in the 5th Annual Seorak International Treking Festival, along with our friend Brian (his blog entry here), his son Alex, and our friend Jenny. Unlike last year, when the entire international element consisted of us, two other A.P. teachers (another American and the Chinese teacher) and two Egyptian men who teach Arabic in Seoul, there were actually more than a handful of foreign participants. The bulk of these were a class of Russian students, who also participated in a dance festival later the same day, which another friend attended. (Unless, of course, there was more than one class of Russian students, mostly girls, in Sokcho that day.)

Traditional performance -- they dance whilst playing drums and whipping their heads around which moves the streamers attached to their hats. Talk about multi-tasking!

Brian started calling this gentleman "The Mayor," because, although we don't know who he is, he seemed to be fairly important. He wanted to have his picture taken (by the roving event photographer) with Liam. Obviously, Liam wasn't really on board with this idea.

Liam managed a calm grimace while everyone quickly snapped pictures.

Liam & Alex probably ate about three choco pies each -- not only the ones they received with the registration packets, but also the ones that kindly "aunties" gave them. I'm sure they used all that sugary energy on the walk.

Jenny said she was our "nanny" for the day, which consisted of holding Rowan, taking turns pushing the stroller, and chasing Liam around a little.

The crowd gathers...

After the traditional dance performance, the opening ceremonies consisted of the national anthem, several unidentified important people speaking, and group warm-up exercises, which I caught on video. (Unfortunately, we only had our older camera which doesn't have sound, so the K-pop music which accompanied the stretching exercises is sadly missing.) The Russian kids are all on the right. It looks like some of their teachers were shooting photos or video as well.

Since our group consisted of Liam and his 4-year-old friend, we did the 5K walk, which ended just inside the entrance to Mt. Seorak National Park. The 10K continued through the waterfall hike and the 20K was a course that is apparently only open twice a year.

Alex & Liam scored these super-cool visors with slide-down sunglasses and a solar-powered fan. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough sunlight amongst the trees to power the fan, which kept falling out.

Family photo at the turn-around point. We could have picked up a copy of the official photographer's shot back at the start/finish, but it was easier just to have him take one with our camera. So true to form, Rowan is attacking my hair and Liam is pacified by an ice cream cone.

Rowan enjoys relaxing in his new stroller with his toys.

Alex and Liam take a break from walking to explore the terrain. They walked a fair amount of the time, but also took breaks via shoulder and back rides.

Liam received this lovely "diploma" for his efforts.

new expat parents forum

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Expat Parents in Korea Board

Sarah of Quest for Cuteness has started a forum just for expat parents here in Korea. There's already a "Matching & Hatching" forum on www.expatkorea.com, but it's not very active. About six months ago, she started an Expat Moms Club Korea in a different format, but the group has outgrown that format and there have been a number of dads interested in joining.

The new coed group is just starting, but I think it has the potential to be an excellent resource and outlet for those of us raising kids in South Korea.

everybody farts

Monday, June 8, 2009

뿡뿡이 (Bboong Bboong Ee) is a popular Korean children's show, which Liam has been, um, fortunate enough to watch at his friend's house. Both boys are fascinated by the show and JunMin even does some of the little dance moves. Part of the appeal? Fart humor. Lots of it.

The general gist of the conversation in this clip is that Bboong Bboong Ee (the orange guy) ate too much ice cream. His blue friend has mosquito bites. (I can totally sympathize!) Apparently the human character is "General Fart." Actually, if anyone with better Korean language skills can explain more, I'd be delighted!

puppy goes to school

Sunday, June 7, 2009

(Liam's alter-ego, Puppy)

As I've mentioned before, Liam started "nursery school" (basically day care) a week after we returned to Sokcho from our trip to the states. I never thought I'd be sending my child to daycare, since staying home has always been a huge priority to me. However, I haven't been able to provide Liam with consistent social interaction with children his own age. Most often, he plays with elementary school children at the playground, who treat him like a pet or doll, and let him get away with just about anything. In deciding to stay for a second year, we concluded that Liam needed more appropriate interaction, even if we have to pay for it. (As an added benefit, he should pick up more Korean than the few words and phrases we use with him on a regular basis.)

We registered him at an 어린이 집 (eurini jip or "Children's House") just two buildings (and two parking lots) from our apartment. A friend's son attended until he reached the upper age limit of about 3 1/2. We had also seen the caregivers and children interacting at the playground and it seems like they provide quality care. The only drawback is that their structured activities all take place in the morning, which is our family time before Matthew goes to work. Instead, Liam goes after nap time (because he almost never naps anymore) and basically plays, with supervision, for about four hours.

The first week, he went three days, then came down sick with the flu. The next week, we kept him home for several days because the rest of us were still sick. He went that Thursday because he begged to go when Matthew went to work. When I tried to take him on Friday, he wanted to go anywhere but there, and ended up taking a nap as soon as we got home. When he didn't want to go the following Monday or Tuesday, we started to suspect it was because he consistently bit kids each day he went to "school" and got in trouble for it there and at home.

We had basically given up on sending him, but on Wednesday when Matthew headed out the door to return Liam's backpack (which the 어린이 집 provided), he freaked out and wanted to go. We told him that if we paid for the month of June, he has to go every day. (How much of that he understands, I don't know. He's beginning to grasp the concept of money, though, and likes to buy snacks at the local convenience stores.) He wasn't too happy when Matthew dropped him off, but was having a great time when I picked him up. And...he hadn't bitten anyone that day. As hard as we'd come down on him for biting, we put the same energy into praising him for keeping his teeth to himself. All the privileges he'd lost were returned along with extra hugs, kisses, and high fives. He didn't bite on Thursday or Friday, either, although Saturday he bit a child at a birthday party. (I hang my head in shame.)

He's now attended a total of seven days over the course of three weeks, but he seems to be enjoying "school" and settling into a routine. We plan to send him at least through the summer. I'm not excited about the prospect of being sick throughout the fall and winter because of germ-infested toddlers, though. We're looking for activity-based classes he could attend starting in fall, like a weekly tumbling or art class. By that point, Rowan will be more independent and interactive, which will be easier for all of us.

The 어린이 집 provides each child with a special back pack and a book with a page for each day. The caregivers circle appropriate information about the child's activities, meals, naps and, um, toilet behaviors for the day. If I was a working parent who sent my child there all day, I'm sure that record would be very helpful and reassuring. Since Liam's only there for a short time, most of it isn't applicable. Also, on Fridays, they send home a paper with the scheduled activities and menus for the following week. (That was a fun activity for practicing our Korean reading and comprehension skills!)

(The biting isn't part of his pretending to be a dog. It's just his inappropriate way to deal with conflicts, which seems to be improving as he develops more self-control and better verbal skills. "Puppy" likes to pick things up with his mouth and run around barking. His other alter-ego is "Pig" who runs into things, like Wilbur trying to bust down the fence in Charlotte's Web. He's quite the little "ham.")

in memoriam

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cleo "Cleopatra Jones" -- September 1999 - June 2009

Cleo was the sweetest, most loving cat I've ever had the privilege to know. We brought her and her "sister" home in March 2001, just a few months after we were married. Leaving the cats behind was one of the hardest parts of coming to Korea both times. She will be missed immensely.

Cleo & Roxy:

Cleo & Liam napping:

They loved each other:

just another day in "paradise"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

It rained until noon -- thunder, lightning, the works -- then abruptly stopped and the sun came out.

Just when we'd decided that nursery school wasn't going to work out, because Liam didn't want to go, he pitched a fit that Matthew was going to return his backpack. So Matthew took him to school, paid for June, left him there crying, and...this was the first day he didn't bite anyone. He was in a great mood when I picked him up.

At the playground, some kids let their dog crap all over the playground. I supplied the "water tissue" (baby wipes) to clean up the dog poop. Maybe 10 minutes later, a dead mouse seemingly materialized from out of nowhere. One minute everything was fine, the next minute one of the moms was standing on a bench screaming. All the other moms kind of wandered off, leaving almost a dozen elementary school kids to poke at the poor, dead, most likely disease-infested rodent. My friend finally went to fetch a doorman to dispose of it. He apparently just threw it on top of the bagged garbage in the dumpster area.

On the way home, waiting for the elevator, a grandmother was trying to figure out Rowan's gender. Another mom told her that he's a boy. So then she asked me if both boys were, well, boys. And she actually gestured at herself, like, "Do they have penises?" I replied in English, "Yes, they have penises." (I also told her in Korean that they are both sons.)

The last thing was actually yesterday, but I got stuck in the elevator going down with nosy grandmother. She was babbling away to Rowan, then suddenly reached out and touched my breast. What? I told her (in Korean), "Don't touch me," and looked at her like she's insane, which I seriously think she may be.

Seriously weird. Is it a full moon?
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