Venturing Out

 

Crossing the bridge from one side of post to the other.  See Seoul Tower in the back ground?

Crossing the bridge from one side of post to the other. See Seoul Tower in the back ground?

This week we began to explore! We are still living in the beautiful Dragon Hill Lodge. After nine days here we are calling Elliana the Korean Eloise after the books about the little girl who lives in the Plaza Hotel in New York. The children have learned to take turns pushing the elevator buttons, about tipping waiters, and that it is not OK to play merry-go-round with the revolving door. We have become friends with the ajumma that cleans our room each afternoon. She made my day Friday when she gestured around the room at my kids and said “happy family.” That meant a lot after nine days of uninterrupted family togetherness. Every afternoon this week we headed out exploring. To get around we ride the post buses. It took me several days to figure out the on post bus system, which has four lines, involves a lot of math in public and uses military time. The kids have decided that the very back of the bus is the coolest because it sits up higher than the other seats. I discovered it is not a good idea to let them sit there when we are on our way back from the grocery store. (Sorry to all the poor soldiers sitting on the aisle who got whacked in the knees with grocery bags!)

The Commissary has kids sized shopping carts- but beware they are so, so, so loud.  Even the kids said we sounded like a stampeded of elephants, heading through the store, except Elliana's, her's squeaked like a mouse (which explained the elephant stampede.)

The Commissary has kids sized shopping carts- but beware they are so, so, so loud. Even the kids said we sounded like a stampeded of elephants, heading through the store, except Elliana’s, her’s squeaked like a mouse (which explained the elephant stampede.)

We found two parks, the put-put golf course, the bowling alley, the PX and the commissary. Then, on Friday we were finally ready to venture off post. We rode the bus to the gate, got stuck in the computer monitored gate and then, after nine days in Korean we finally set foot on Korean soil. We ventured forth boldly into uncharted territory, and then about 100 yards off post found an awesome park and had to stop.

This thing has constellations punched in the sides so you can stick your head in and star gaze

This thing has constellations punched in the sides so you can stick your head in and star gaze

That day we also learned how to cross the street in Seoul. See, they don’t have many sidewalks over their major roads. Instead they have subterranean pedestrian pathways. So, to get across the street you enter the subway, walk along and exit where you want. For us it was like playing whack a mole from the mole’s perspective. We went into the subway knowing where we were headed but were never sure where we would pop up.

Saturday Kenny was off so we went as a family to I’Park mall, one of Seoul’s tourist attractions. The reason we went was not a love of malls but simply because the kids and I had figured out how to get there on our Friday explore. There we learned that malls in Korea are about as attractive to us as malls in America. Also, that Korean malls are laid out like a three dimensional puzzle and have no benches for resting. Instead of floor by floor maps, their directory is arranged by product and they have huge seven story department stores that are impossible to escape. We visited E-mart then spent three hours looking for the children’s play area. We found it next to a sign that read 15,000 w admission. That’s $15 a kid, $45 for our family. So, we settled for ice cream and walked back to the park.

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We are all really enjoying the simplicity of this time sequestered as a family. I am being spoiled by the lack of cooking and housework, and Kenny is enjoying all the free time for the family. It’s fun to take a break from everything and be able to enjoy family without distractions. Kenny taught the kids how to make lightning with spearmint life savers (the whole family in the bathroom with the lights off crunching enthusiastically.) Dallas built a spa and insists I get my hair brushed every evening. A few nights ago he and his assistants even washed my feet and walked on my back. I told you I am being spoiled! Last night was family night so for something special we let Elliana chose and run the activities. She and I went to the hotel basement and ordered pizza, bought popcorn, and rented a movie, and then we all snuggled up on the couch for Brave, pizza, popcorn and pocky. I hope we are making memories and tying strings between our family members that will last into the future.

The kids spend a lot of time drawing on the coffee table in our hotel room

The kids spend a lot of time drawing on the coffee table in our hotel room

Welcome to Korea

I am sitting at a desk in our hotel suite looking out at a three panel long panorama of Seoul, South Korea. The view is wide, but shallow, because the ever present, opaque, grey fog only allows me to see Young Son Garrison, spread out nine stories below me and the very first line of Seoul’s sky scrapers. The rest of the city and the craggy layers of mountains beyond are still hidden- like the sunrise. Here the sun’s entrance is just a humble blush in the fog. As the day progresses the fog will retreat, unveiling more of the city, but it hangs in the sky all day long.

We arrived in Korea two nights ago. The flight that brought us here was about 15 hours long. The boys set a family record by playing ten hours straight of video games. Elliana and I tried BeeBimBop with pickled cucumbers and sea weed soup. Everyone got a little sleep. By the time we landed Elliana could say hello and thank you in Korean and had decided to become a flight attendant when she grows up. The army kept us waiting about five hours between the time we landed and the time we reached a hotel, but it really flew by. Once we traversed the baggage claim and customs I took the kids to a Korean snack shop where I saw ice creams and snacks I remembered as a kid (Will and Kaitlyn, pictures to follow.) Then the kids made friends with another newly arrived army family whose boys were about Dallas’ age. Five over stimulated kids was a bit crazy in the airport and on busses and while were trying to carry bags, but the kids had fun. We are staying in Dragon Hill Lodge, the garrison hotel for military personnel. I used to visit this hotel when I was a kid. I remember the stone lion-dragons outside the front door, a panel of rock carving depicting Korean history, the waterfall in the garden, and the ceiling and fans of the hotel restaurant (funny the things you retrain as a child.) Now, though, the hotel also has a huge children’s area with traditional children’s garden and playground, and the hotel restaurant has been changed into a food court with about five restaurants. There is also a market wing where you can buy everything from souvenirs to a car. Yesterday, our first full day in Korea, the children were up at five, thanks to jet leg. We ate pop tarts from the in PX exchange in the lobby and did school all morning. After lunch with Kenny we went to the hotel pool for nearly three hours. The kids seemed to be doing great but when we sat down for dinner jet leg hit. David literally fell asleep waiting for his food and almost tumbled out of his chair. Elliana ate then climbed in my lap and fell asleep faster than I have every seen anyone. Even I ended up passed out on the couch before 8 pm and then we were all up bright and early at 6:30. So, we are not quite adjusted yet but the kids remain up beat and that makes all the difference. I have learned that our trio doesn’t get whiny when they are tired, rather they become extremely hyper, and lose all judgment. This has resulted in some interesting situations, such as when Dallas attempted to pick up a Korean woman thinking she was one of our suitcases, or when David nearly lost his hand playing “Elf” in the revolving door. Understanding that it is their way of expressing the grogginess Kenny and I both feel we have left off lectures (and in fact feel sort of bad about them,) and are making sure the kids get plenty of attention. It was amazing the difference in their ability to think after just half an hour of our undivided attention. I am sure there must be some principle in child psychology there but I am just glad to know what I need to do. There are other things which require an adjustment period, besides just the time. Korea smells- I can’t say bad because I am sure it smells just fine to a Korea, but it is going to take some getting used to. Also, the food, whether Korean, or American made by Koreans, just doesn’t taste like anything we are used to. For example, lasts night’s bean burrito contained boiled potatoes and plain pulled pork. It was weird. Thankfully, a banana still tastes like a banana so we are stocking up on fruit and veggies. Even the cartoons here are weird- the kids just spent the past hour watching a show about flatulent bugs- no really! Exploring a new culture is so much fun and I can’t wait to get off post and explore Seoul! Kenny is restricted to government property until he finishes in processing on Monday, so, we will use the weekend to adjust and then dive in to our new country!

Elliana watched "Hotel Transylvania" three times

Elliana watched “Hotel Transylvania” three times

ALL the boys play video games

ALL the boys play video games

Amy and Elliana sleep on the flight

Amy and Elliana sleep on the flight

The Hotel Pool

The Hotel Pool

Please shower before swimming.

Please shower before swimming.