On Memorial Day our chapel sponsored a family trip to a local amusement park. The chapel paid for our tickets, chartered three buses, and acquired two boxes of the park’s complimentary rain ponchos when our group began to be anointed by liquid sunshine. So, just after the gates opened we joined a flood of rain coat clad Koreans pouring past costumed greeters into Everland Amusement Park. We found ourselves in a picture perfect town square with fountains and roses everywhere beckoning us further into the park where promises of unknown entertainments a waited. Except that, for me, they weren’t unknown. And while other moms posed their kids for pictures in front of the gate or hunted for English language maps of the park, I was suddenly ten years old again. Twenty years ago, when I was in elementary school, my family lived an hour or so south of Seoul on Osan Air Force Base. Whenever my dad had a day off we used to drive into Seoul and spend the day running around an amusement park called Yongin Farm Land. Since the Koreans usually were still in school we would run from ride to ride without waiting in a single line. It was like having our own private amusement park and I used to imagine that I was a princess and all the rides and gardens and restaurants were just part of my palace grounds. I can distinctly remember every ride, every character, and all the seasons of the rose garden. Now, twenty years later, standing in the entrance of Everland Amusement Park it was like I had stepped back into those memories. Everland Amusement Park was Yongin Farmland, grown up a little and renamed (kind of like me,) but still my amusement park where I had reigned supreme for so many days as a child.
Many things were different. In fact, to be totally honest, I wasn’t even sure my recognition was legitimate until I did some research, but some things were shockingly the same. Even, frighteningly the same, (shouldn’t they have retired those roller coasters and gotten new ones in the 20 years since I had last visited?)
But there as a carousel, and I remember how my mom used to ride every time, holding onto the pole and smiling like a kid. Even if we kids didn’t want to we had to ride the carousel for mom because, like the Haagen-Dazs ice-cream that you couldn’t get anywhere else, it was something about Yongin Farmland that made her smile. Now it made me smile as my 8 year-old pretended to be terrified of the “intense” ride.
Truth be told, I may have taken nostalgia a little too far. Near the end of the park we came across the Amazon River ride, one that I loved as a child, and which looked just like I remembered it. My eyes grew big looking at the entrance and remembering floating down the rapids on the big green rafts under the waterfalls and cheesy head-hunter décor, but Kenny looked at the ride with a little more trepidation. “I don’t really want to get soaked.” After all, it was raining and not at all warm, but… I cajoled. “Look at the people getting off the ride, none of them are wet!” So we rode.
And I was right. Twenty minutes later when we exited the ride everyone walking with us was dry. Everyone who had ridden in our raft with us was dry, but Kenny and I… were soaked. It really was unreasonable. We were sitting on complete opposite sides of the raft. What are the chances that we would both just happen to be in the paths of two separate waves that zeroed in on our position with the accuracy of a homing signal and didn’t so much as spash anyone else around us. I think someone was listening to our conversation before hand and thought it would be fun to aim the water directly at those silly Americans.
So, we spent the rest of the afternoon dripping all over the park. We literally left puddles whenever we walked through a building and the Koreans we passed all caught our eyes and laughed. We were especially amusing because we were two sopping adults escorted by three responsibly dry kids.
When it was time to go home I curled up on the bus seat in a sleepy, damp heat, with my head on my long-suffering husband’s sodden shoulder and watched the signs featuring Yongin and Farmy, the same characters that used to grace the park in my childhood, fade behind us. I felt that, in more than one way, Everland had made me a kid again just for the day and if I was a princess again, riding away from my childhood palace, I suppose that made Kenny my prince. The thought made me laugh- because I knew how much he would be embarrassed by the sentiment and with a smile on my lips I closed my eyes for my ride back home.
Tips for American’s Visiting Everland:
1. There are English language maps available at the help kiosks and the front gate.
2. The menus are basically the same at all the restaurants: chicken nuggets, shrimp burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries, and the like, but the chicken nuggets have a distinctly Korean flare and several of our little ones didn’t want to eat them.
3. On the subject of food, be warned, while you will smell funnel cakes all over the park they are not, I repeat, not actually sold here. So don’t get your hopes up and go wandering around searching desperately for them. (Not that I have ever done that.) Oh, and the pretzels are filled with cream cheese. Yeah, weird.
4. Bring wan.
5. The sea lion show is really good, even though it is in Korean.
6. Don’t miss the wild animal safari!
7. The monkeys in the monkey house are crazy and so fun to watch, but in one of the zoos they have dogs on display and it made both Kenny and I cringe a little to see man’s best friend staring back at us from behind a glass and concrete case without any toys or anything.
8. If it begins to rain unexpectedly ask for the complimentary rain ponchos at the front gate. Unfortunately, while the keep you drier, you will have to remove them for every ride, and, as David discovered, they won’t add height to help you qualify for the big kid rides.