Wednesday, April 30, 2014

In Bloom

We've got something new in bloom around here, and it's not just the flowers!

Sunday, April 27, 2014


(Written last Monday, but forgot to post! Old news is better than no news, right?)

This has been a tough week to be on the Korean peninsula, in spite of the fact that we're sheltered from local news. There's no way that we can miss the grief that everyone here is feeling, as a result of the deaths of so many people on the Sewol ferry to Jeju Island. Nearly every business we walk by has the coverage on, and we can't ignore the tears in their eyes as they watch it. So many young lives lost. We're praying that the suicide of the vice principal doesn't lead to a string of suicides relating to the disaster.

It's been an interesting week in other ways for me, as well. My classes were testing all week, so I didn't really have (get) to do any teaching. We also had a couple of department days--long days of meetings to plan for next year--so I didn't even see my classes for two days. The week ended on Thursday, since we observe Good Friday (another reason to love teaching in a Christian school!), so it was a pretty easy week in that regard.

This week was also exciting because even after having our soccer game cancelled on Wednesday because of pollution (that's a first for me!), the girls were still able to win our game on Thursday against one of our toughest opponents to clinch the first place slot. This is the first time in school history that the girls soccer team has held first place, and we're pretty excited! We only have one more game this week, and then the end-of-season tournament is next Friday and Saturday. This will be a busy week, but it's the last one!

Now, if only my students hadn't been turning in work this week! This three day weekend is consumed by emails with thesis statements awaiting approval, grading resumes and cover letters, and grading quizzes. All of that on top of all of our other activities.

On Friday, Eric took the kids to the park to have a picnic with friends while I got some grading done and then went to the doctor. Then, I met them at the park for another hour or so. The weather was beautiful, and the kids were happy to be at a different park and playing with friends.

On Saturday, Eric took Kennedy to his baseball game while I took Cade to soccer and swimming. Our high school swim teacher is offering a few weekend classes for Pre-K kids to get introduced to some swimming basics.

We really hadn't done anything for Kennedy before she began swimming lessons in Kindergarten, and she was fine, but Cade is a different kid. He has a healthy fear of water (where she doesn't), and just basics like putting his head in the water are things he needs an introduction to. I'm not sure that swimming lessons will be a good investment until we can get him over this fear.

Kennedy, on the other hand, is doing great in swim. Even though she took 3rd quarter off, she picked it right back up in 4th quarter, and she can now swim the entire length of our school's regulation size pool both on her front and her back. I was so impressed when I happened to be in the swim office last week and saw her little pink swim cap swimming in the deep end.

Anyway, Sunday, of course, was Easter. Eric and I were pretty lame this year. We don't tend to do a whole lot for Easter--not really baskets or anything big--but we have always had some little eggs to hide until this year. Costco sells big chocolate eggs, but Eric has been going with the kids since I started soccer, and that's not really the type of thing he thinks to pick up.

So, after being exhausted Saturday night and not preparing anything, he got up early on Sunday and hid the Hershey Kisses that Lindy sent for Valentine's Day. I don't think the kids were super impressed, but I think they're willing to take chocolate in any form. We didn't really have plans for the day aside from that.

After Skyping with Eric's mom in the morning, we headed to church. There, one of the families from our school invited us over for Easter lunch. They had been asking us to come over and begging to take the kids for a few hours for the last couple of months, and we just hadn't made it happen, so this was a good opportunity.

They took the kids home from church with them, and Eric and I had a coffee date for a couple of hours, which was nice. We ended up having a delicious lunch, complete with ham, macaroni and cheese, and some really good salads.

After lunch, their middle and high school-aged daughters hid real plastic eggs full of jelly beans outside for the kids to find. They had the best time! (And that was when they let us know how lame our Hershey Kiss hunt had been!) They were even more excited to get to take the eggs and baskets home for next year.

Have I mentioned how grateful we are for good friends here? We don't spend a lot of time with this particular family--their kids are our students--but they're very supportive, kind, and generous, and I've appreciated the time we've spent with them. Unfortunately, they're another family that's leaving at the end of this year.

I can't think of a smooth transition into these pictures, but I will say that it was in the 70s today. Kennedy and I were outside in sleeveless dresses for the egg hunt today, and I'm so grateful for the absence of snow and jackets!

Our second day in Seorak was spent in the snow. We spent the morning sledding on a little hill not far from our condo. They charged us a ridiculous amount for this little hill and sleds, but the kids had a lot of fun. The only downside was the hike back up the hill after the ride down, but such is life.

After sledding, we headed into Sokcho for lunch. After our adventures in eating the previous day, we ready for something a little more reliable--and a little more filling. So, we headed to Pizza Hut. I will admit that after having Pizza Hut about twice in my entire life in the States, I'm embarrassed by how often we have it here. It's probably the best pizza I've had in Korea, though.

It was important that we get some sustenance because our afternoon plans were to finally make it Seoraksan National Park--the whole point of this long drive. Eric went to a bachelor party last spring where they went hiking at Seoraksan, and he had been wanting to get back ever since.

To be honest, I'd been dying to go, as well, but I wanted to go in the fall when the leaves have turned and the foliage is beautiful. He promised me this year, but I don't think it's going to happen. Nonetheless, we went hiking on Seoraksan. In the snow.

Of course, hiking with kids (and hiking in Korea) isn't too vigorous, but we had a nice walk, and it wasn't too bitterly cold.

They got into several snowball fights, and I had a good time capturing the winter scenes. After a few hours, we were done. We still had a three-four hour drive home.

We hit the road without having eaten any dinner because no one was too hungry when we left. We picked up some snacks to sustain us for a bit, and we were on our way.

An hour or two into our trip, we needed gas and food, so we stopped at what turned out to be a pretty lame (by Korean standards) rest area. We got our gas, and then we headed in to try to find something to eat. There weren't many options, and what we ended up with was pretty hilarious. A microwaved hamburger. Bibimbap. Rice. Microwaved mandu. Yum.

But, it was food in our stomachs, and if I'm honest, that was not the worst road dinner we had while Travis was here!

As I said at the beginning, I actually wrote this post last weekend. Much has happened since then, but I just don't have the time to trash such a long post right now. Better late than never, right?

If things go as planned, I'll get some recent pictures uploaded and edited and get a post up this week.

Soccer is finally over, and I've started to make a dent in my grading, so I have high hopes!

And now, I've got to get some more grading done!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sokcho & Seorak

Well, this weekend it was back to the grind and back to the busyness. I'm so glad that we had last weekend to relax as a family!

On Saturday, I had a baby shower that I'd promised to make an appearance at and then Eric had his first baseball game of the season. Cade is still in soccer for a couple more weeks, so we missed the game to make sure Cade could get to soccer. It was a busy day running around, and I managed to accomplish very little.

As a result, I spent my Sunday making up for it, and unfortunately, I've been working on catching up on things that I've been putting off all year. It's already time for those end-of-the-year meetings, and I had plenty to do to get ready for them!

Otherwise, our week has been pretty typical--lots of soccer for me, lots of cooking for Eric. He out-did himself this week and cooked four nights. That definitely sets a record for his cooking in Korea--after almost 3 years, I think he's got it figured out!

The weather has been a bit warmer again and while all of the cherry blossoms are gone (and no, I didn't take pictures; I'm pretty sure they looked the same as last year!), the azaleas are starting to bloom. Things are green, and it's so nice after the long winter!

After our trip to Busan (we headed home early on New Year's morning), we were ready for something a little more relaxing. The next day, the kids and I introduced Travis to the jimjilbang--it was a nice, brief escape from the wintery weather outside.

We checked out all of the sauna and steam rooms for both genders in the main area of the Dragon Hill Spa. Then we had some bulgogi, dongkas, and rice in the restaurant before we headed down to the hot tubs.

Cade thoroughly enjoys his time at the jimjilbang (which is unfortunate because Eric doesn't like it and Cade can't go with me!), but Kennedy was not really a fan. She was not in favor of taking off all of her clothes or showering in a room with a 50 other naked women. We spent several hours there, so I think we got our money's worth, and Eric got some time to himself, which I'm sure he needed.

The next day we decided to go check out the Electronics Market. For some reason, I had been wanting to see this place ever since we moved here. To be honest, it was less than thrilling. Much of the place seemed to be shut down and out of business. It was evident that it had been a busy spot at one time, but that wasn't really the case any more. I know there are several buildings for various electronics and appliances, but we only checked out one.

There were floors and floors, but they all kind of looked the same. We checked out a lot of cameras and various equipment--I was on the lookout for a tripod. We also checked out some pretty cool projectors--we've been looking for one since we don't have a tv--and they make them so small now! Eric wasn't ready to shell out hundreds of dollars yet, though.

We ended up with just a pen drive, and the extremely unfortunate episode of Kennedy losing much of her Christmas money when her wallet fell out of her coat pocket. The poor kid learned a tough lesson that day about carrying around money. It was pretty heartbreaking. Afterward, we headed home for homemade bulgogi and another evening of cards.

The following day, we headed out to the National Museum. It is yet another impressive (and free) Korean museum. This one is quite large--you really can't do the whole thing in one day. It has some overlap with the other museums we take tourists--the War Memorial and the Folk Museum--but it covers the history of Buddhism in Korea, as well as Korean pottery, two of my interests.

As you can see, I don't have many pictures of the adventures I've discussed up to this point. We've been to the National Museum several times, and I wasn't feeling too camera happy on this particular trip, other than a couple with my phone that were on Instagram once upon a time.

We actually managed to get ourselves a babysitter for that evening--it was a Saturday night after all--so that we could all have dinner together. We went to Craftworks, one of the craft breweries in our neighborhood that's famous for its beers and its food. After dinner, I introduced Eric and Travis to noraebang.

I don't think either one of them were particularly excited about the idea of having our own room to sing karaoke in. They don't really enjoy karaoke anyway, so Eric especially, was not sure why having our own room to do it in was going to make it more enjoyable. Noraebang won them over! There is just something about the combination of horrible Korean dramas being played to nostalgic 90s music, complete with microphones, lights, and disco balls that results in a lot of fun! (Okay, there was beer, too.)

Our hour in the noraebang flew by, as it typically does at the place that I frequent, because they keep adding another 10 or 15 minutes each time we near the end of our hour, so it was probably closer to two. By the time we left, though, it was time to head home to relieve the babysitter.

On our way through Itaewon, Eric suggested that Travis and I go out for a drink (as they had already done earlier in the week), so he headed home while we went to find someplace new among the back alleys. We ended up at an interesting place where Travis ended up with the most hilarious drink. It was slushy, blue, and had a cookie in it. It was so funny to see that in his hand!

The pictures in this post (which may set a record for the longest ever!) are from our trip to Seorak, about a three hour drive from Seoul, which we left for the next day. A Korean friend of ours made reservations for us in a condo not far from an indoor water park, sledding, and hiking in Seoraksan National Park.

After arriving, we went in search of lunch in the tiny coastal town of Sokcho. There we found more fresh seafood, and Travis was not going to pass it up this time! He ordered some snails and crab and we waited upstairs in the "restaurant" for our food to be cleaned and cooked for us.

Above you can see the pictures of how our food was served to us--not exactly prepared, as one might expect, but it was cooked. We had some rice and side dishes, and it was a good thing because I think Cade out-ate us all in the crab department. I think he could have finished both of them himself if only he was a little better at getting the meat out!

After lunch, we met our friends at Waterpia, a pretty big water park and jimjilbang. There were several rooms, an outdoor section with hot tubs, and just about everything the kids could think of for a perfect escape from the winter cold.

The kids were pretty wiped out by the time we'd finished dinner--another interesting Korean experience. I promised Eric that I wouldn't post any of the pictures of that particular dinner, but let me just say that we were the only foreigners and that the owners were very hospitable. I'm pretty sure that they thought we'd just flown into Korea for the weekend based on our inability to sit on the floor and our lack of skill in cooking galbi!

And the adults, of course, continued our many rounds of cribbage. We made excellent use of Gretchen's cribbage board on Travis' trip! And yes, this place was considerably nicer than the nasty hotel in Busan. What a relief!

The onslaught of Q4 grading has officially begun, though soccer is winding down, so with any luck, I might be able to finish the pictures from his trip before we leave for the summer!
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