Tuesday, September 22, 2015

More Family in Korea

Erika and family were not the only relatives I visited in South Korea. My second cousin (granddaughter of my paternal grandmother's sister), Sarah Resch Koh, is married to a Korea archeologist, turned CEO of the Korean Broadcasting System Symphony Orchestra. They offered us free tickets to a concert last week that we were disappointed not to be able to take advantage of.

Sarah has connected with Erika a couple times since Erika has been in Korea and Erika has relly appreciated it. She came out to Pyeongtaek by metro train on my birthday to escort me back to her place in Seoul. We met up at Starbucks at the Pyeongtaek station and the three of us yacked for a couple hours--a "hen party" our grandmothers would have called it.

The journey back to Seoul took a another couple hours. (Sarah insisted she didn't mind the time to read on the way out.) As senior citizens (highly respected in Korean society) we both had seats. Sarah lives in a beautiful apartment with a view of Seoul Tower (much like the Seatle Space Needle) across the mountain ridges. A landscaped path winds up the ravine between high rise buildings with little places to sit and overlook the city--a haven of peace amidst the crowds and traffic.

Sarah prepared a stir fry dinner and served it with sheets of dried seaweed. The idea is to fold the seaweed around a little bundle of rice, meat and veggies, and put it in your mouth--all done neatly with chop sticks, which required more dexterity than I possess. Sarah was gracious enough not to comment on my atrocious table manners. The truth is that it was really yummy. She even sent a packet of dried seaweed home with me. Seijin was tied up with orchestra business in this his first month on the new job and didn't get home until bedtime.

The next morning Sarah put me on the airport bus and I was off home.

These have been a good three weeks in Korea, mostly just being there for Erika and enjoying Simeon. I'm going to miss this little guy. My last day he got a kick out of these floppy "ears" and stuck his tongue out like a puppy.

He enjoyed watching videos of "baby Simeon" on my computer. Next time I see him, the pictures I took on this trip will seem like a long time ago to him. :-(

Monday, September 21, 2015

Accident at Midnight

I start my trip home today. My last night at Erika's was interrupted by a phone call. Dan has been on a bike trip with his brother David from Seoul to Busan at the southern end of Korea. They finished yesterday and took the train home. Since the train didn't get into Seoul until nearly midnight, Dan was planning to sleep at his brother's and come home today. But ... an hour or so from his own bed ... traffic so much lighter at night ... He made the same decision my husband would have made—go home. But in the dense fog (my phone went off with an emergency alert) he had an accident and totaled the car at one o'clock in the morning.

Erika found a friend (a GREAT friend to get up a that hour and help!) who took her to the site to pick up his stuff, including an expensive bike, and take him to the hospital in Osan. The painful hand turned out not to be broken, but when Erika saw the pictures on the MP's phone (car was already towed when she got there), she knew Dan would be dead if it weren't for airbags and the Lord. He has a bright red and purple line where the seatbelt crossed his chest and assorted other bruises. Fortunately, no other vehicle was involved. And it was good that I was here to stay with Simeon. So grateful that he still had a daddy when he woke up.

The fog is so thick this morning that although I can see the picnic pavilion at the base of the building, I can't see the school across the street.

When Simeon got up, we had to tell him to be gentle with Daddy's boo-boos (rather than climbing all over him in welcomed return from his bike trip). Simeon was very concerned and offered to pray for Daddy's boo-boos. I didn't catch all the words but God did. Simeon then proceeded to give Daddy's boo-boos laser treatments with his space gun.

Taken next day at the garage

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Beth Moore Comes to South Korea (sort of)

 When I went to Korea to visit my daughter, I wasn't expecting to attend the Beth Moore Living Proof Simulcast, but a friend agreed to take Simeon for the day and we went. 

We were about 40 women in the conference room of the "Supergym", the largest gym on base. The local Protestant Women of the Chapel had invited the groups from other bases on the peninsula. A bus came from Yongson in Seoul. They all wore little Korean-style hats to identify themselves as a group. Erika will be moving to Yongson in a few months so she was eager to meet them.

The idea was that churches and individuals would all sign on to the computer at the same time and participate in a mass event. The event was scheduled for Saturday, September 12, in Witchita, Kansas, but of course, for us, it took place in the middle of the night. So we met the following Saturday for a recorded version. Not quite the same as 150,000 women in 50 states and 19 countries worshipping Jesus at the same time, but almost. (And I suspect some of the other non-US locations viewed at different times like us.) We cheered when South Korea was mentioned as participating.

The worship was fabulous. We sang our hearts out. The theme was Audacious (title of a new book by Beth Moore giving the teaching in print form.) She challenged us to be mighty women of God. Her six "Mighty Makers," given in one morning session and two afternoon sessions) were:
  1. The AUDACITY to make the unseen Savior the supreme romance of your life
  2. The AUDACITY to live in the tension that comes with loving in truth
  3. The AUDACITY to pray for astonishing works of the Holy Spirit
  4. The AUDACITY to forgive and live forgiven
  5. The AUDACITY to hold tight with all your might to Romans 8:18, the concept that this present suffering is nothing in comparison to the glory that is to come
Beth Moore is always full of laughter as well as content. This was no exception. The local PWOC is struggling right now to work out what it means to "love in truth" in the context of the military's lumping all non-Catholic beliefs that call themselves Christian into one group. No creed or statement of faith is allowed even for leadership, and that can get messy. Some women come just because it is a wholesome place to socialize and has free child care. Yet there are women seeking to know God better and Beth Moore tells it straight. Dan and Erika are moving to Seoul, and I probably won't be back to Pyeongtaek. I find myself wondering what God wants to do in the hearts of these women I may never see again before eternity. I have no doubt that he is doing something.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Korean Folk Village, Suwon

Friday Erika and I took Simeon along with some friends to the Korean Folk Village in Suwon. For my Indiana readers, think Conor Prairie on steroids and as crowded and as the Indianapolis Children's Museum during Christmas week. We visited a small folk village in Seoul when we were here in March, but this was WAY bigger. It reminded me of St. Fagans National History Museum outside Cardiff where I spent significant time researching Honddu Vale. South Africa definitely needs something like this to showcase the various cultures.

Evidentally, we picked a bad day. This is the beginning of their busy season. We later learned there were 10,000 children there that day. No wonder we felt overwhelmed! But they were so cute with their matching uniforms and back packs, the younger ones holding hands in pairs or clinging to a colored strap to keep them connected to their teacher.

The place was awesome. Right off we hit some shows including this Farmers Dance. Notice especially the men with the streamers on their hats and how they control them with a flick of the head. One guy messed up at one point and had the ribbon tangled around his neck, but that only demonstrated that it is NOT easy.

Simeon was eager to sit with the other kids--NOT Grammie.

This is a living history museum with houses and workshops from various parts of Korea amidst beautiful landscaping. My cousin is married to a Korean archaeologist who grew up in a village on Jejun Island represented by this traditional house, built of stone to withstand the strong island winds.

Jars out back are for fermenting kimchee, spicey pickled vegetables (especially cabbage) served with every meal.

One of the shows was a traditional wedding. Of course, I couldn't understand a thing. As in African weddings, the couple did not smile. 

The groom rode off on a horse followed by the bride in a litter.

Here are some of those 10,000 children in their school uniforms crossing the river.

Without a nap Simeon disintegrated by the end of the day, but he was eager to take a picture with this giant grasshopper made of ... grass.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Discovering a Local Park

A fun morning. We had talked about going to the main market downtown, but in the end we just walked out the gate into the Anjeong Ri section of Peongtaek. We followed a cobblestone street lined with restaurants, bars, groceries and tourist shops. Erika called it "the ville". I bought some long-handled spoons for ice tea and malts. They sell lovely sets with matching stainless chop sticks, but I have plenty of chop sticks.

We wandered further than Erika has been before and then turned left to come back on a parrallel street, except we could see a green hill ahead. It turned out to be an old hill fort with earthen fortifications like in my novel Honddu Vale. It was a great place to explore.

We walked around the top of the walls. Inside was a pleasant grassy area with trees and crisscross paths.

The top of the wall felt like a great spot to picnic, or at least feel the breeze and look out over the rice paddies.

You have to remember that this is in the middle of the city with crowded highrises all around. A delightful find, an easy walk from the gate.

There was a sign in English to tell us all about it.

"Were generally came into of being"? If you're not sure you know much more after reading than you did before, here is a website that might work better for you, expecially if you have no idea when the Three Kingdoms Period is.

On the way home we stopped at a little Korean hole-in-the-wall restaurant for bibimbap and fried dumplings. The bibimbap (rice and vegetables) turned out to not be what Erika was expecting--cold, not hot--but it wasn't bad. The dumplings dipped in soy sauce were very nice, and it made a cheap lunch to wind up our adventure.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Erika and Simeon have both been fighting colds. I have a bit of a sore throat, which is how their colds started. It was pretty inevitable that I would get it. Nevertheless we took off today for Songnisan, a place two hours away that Dan and Erika enjoyed on a previous visit. The scenery getting there was spectacular with hairpin turns and sevral tunnels. Erika was very proud of herself for finding it on GPS and following the instructions to get there.

'San' means 'mountain' as you may have noticed from our previous hike to Yeonginsan. 'Sa' means 'temple' and Beopju-sa, established in 553, was our destination at Songnisan. From the parking lot behind a street lined with restaurants and tea shops, we followed this river upstream.

The temple gates were guarded by a lot of mythical creatures. Simeon foudn them especially fascinating.

As soon as we passed through the gate, he made a bee line for this statue. I'm afraid it reminded me of Nebuchadnezzer's golden image we read about in the Bible story book the night before.

Erika had raved about the scenery, mountains surrounding the temple. We weren't disappointed.

Erika checked her email while I went around taking way too many photos.

Simeon walked the whole way there (maybe a mile or mile and a half). After running around to explore, he found some rocks that made perfect cars, and we just sat under the tree and admired the view.

The giant Buddha dominated the scene from every angle.

There is a wonderful network of trails to various temples and peaks. I'm sure the views would be awesome on a day like today. But without Dan we weren't prepared to attempt them with Simeon even if he is a good walker. Another time. We had to head back to Peongtaek.

The kids are loving this beautiful country, and we plan to be back to explore some more in 2016. 

Friday, September 11, 2015


An outing to Yeonginsan, the mountain near the town of Yeongin about half an hour from here. Erika took me there in March when all was brown from the winter. Now it is lush and green. We enjoyed the gardens.

This time we hiked along the road since it was less steep and we were managing a three-year-old. Lots of switchbacks with mirrors to help you see approaching vehicles, mostly school buses with gangs of kids Simeon's age.

He enjoyed the sculptures that were also drinking stations. We refrained from using the communal dippers. When Simeon saw this picture, he immediately informed me that there were ants.

We took a trail to one of the peaks. Simeon is quite a trooper. He walked most of the way, except when he had trouble listening to the command 'stop!' and had to ride for a while. (We were on the edge of a cliff.) At the top was this monument. 

All info was in Korean so we have no idea what the monument was, but there were some fun sculptures at one end.

And great views between that peak and Yeonginsan itself. (Hmm. Looks like this was the steep part when Simeon needed help listening)

And we did make the top!

Where it started to rain. But it was a fun day.

Simeon's nap consisted of 45 minutes in the car. He needed extra attention in the evening when we all played dinosaurs and made this video of a favorite from VBS.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Hiking at Magoksa

Labor Day is a day off here too, at least for American military, so we went hiking. I got in my desired 10,000 steps. 18,000 actually. 7 miles and 48 flights of stairs. Erika said she saw an article about things to do in Korea that said something like "If you don't mind going straight up, hiking in Korea is awesome." Very true.

We drove about an hour away to Chungcheong and did two hikes. One was on an app Dan had. He says everything he has ever done from that app has been a well-organized hike on a well-marked path. This one wasn't. We drove up a narrow road like a British one-lane with passing places except the passing places were few and far between and instead of a hedge at the side, there was a drop off. Erika was very nervous. I was feeling the same, but not as expressive. It seemed to go on forever, up the mountain and through a farm, but at least we didn't meet anyone. Funny thing was that on the way back down it was only a few hundred yards and not so steep! 

The path itself became less and less distinct, but with Dan's phone we knew we were on it or slightly off and eventually found the water fall. There was hardly any water, but several man-made platforms (stone retaining walls) as if for camping or picnics.

We hiked through what we eventually decided was a chestnut orchard. The trees had these green spikey balls on them and there were lots of dried up and cracked open ones on the ground. The nuts inside were what made us decide they were chestnuts. Chestnuts (among other tree nuts) are one of Simeon's allergens. He got mild hives, but mostly we managed to keep him from touching them. Hard since he was eager for his new plastic dinosaur to romp in the leaves.

The surprising thing was how much walking Simeon did. He's getting heavy to carry and Daddy only put him on his back in the steepest places. Otherwise he was off on his own (with Mom frantic that he would topple over the edge!) Quite a trooper. His new dinosaur got pretty dirty investigating what he could eat and had to be washed in the stream.

Staircase number 2

We had stopped for bathrooms at a shopping center that included a billboard map of a local temple with hiking trails, so we went there next. Much more civilized, but also much more elevation involved. By 'civilized' I just mean there were other tourists and the path was plain. I gave up before the top. I had already passed my 10,000 steps when we came to a staircase whose top we couldn't see. Before you judge me, know that we had just climbed another in hopes of a lookout, but the view was obstructed by trees. I sat to wait while the others investigated the view. When they didn't come back and a bunch of old people came down, I decided I was rested enough to take it on. More trees at the top. No view. The path was more level, so I walked on, vowing not to take on another staircase, but when I came to a flat rock good for sitting I stopped there. I pulled out my phone and read from my devotional book, praying for Korea. We had passed a couple shrines where people lit candles and paid to hang prayers from the ceiling. 

A temple half way up the mountain

There was also a very ancient Buddha carved in a rock part way up the mountain where people were bowing on their faces. I felt sad for them. In the village we could see a cross on a building that we assumed was a church. I prayed for their impact on the community. 

On the lower slopes we found a couple rest shelters, but alas, none where I waited.

Simeon "resting" in one of the shelters
The others returned. They said eventually the path descended again before climbing another peak. The top of this one was closed in with trees so I was glad I hadn't pushed further. 

Simeon loved the colorful entrance to the actual temple area.
Supper was at a chain called Seong and Cook where Dan has enjoyed their pizza although the pizza in this one was entirely different. It was a sort of deep dish made with puff pastry. Very good but not anything like traditional pizza. It was a second floor restaurant open to the city. Right downtown Cheonan with buses,  tall buildings and city lights. 

Simeon had only maybe 40 minutes of sleep in the car. The restaurant manager made friends with him and brought him a free order of fries, sprinkled with what we think was powdered sugar. At least, he didn't have a reaction to them. Erika has never ordered fries before because of what might have previously been fried in the oil. Something with a wheat breading would leave traces to be picked up on his fries. Simeon loved them and flirted with the man constantly.

I was in bed within 10 minutes of getting home. I woke at 3:29 as I have been since arriving, but had no trouble getting back to sleep. Only woke again at 6:15. Hopefully I am over the jetlag hump. :-)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Return to Korea

I said I would be back for our trip to Turkey, but here I am in Korea visiting Erika and family. She and Simeon were planning to come to the US, but plans change and here I am instead! Unfortunately Steve had other commitments and can't join us.

I am not ashamed to say the trip is all about spending time with three-year-old Simeon before he becomes four-year-old Simeon and soon thereafter leaves for college. (At least to us grown-ups, that's how fast things seem to move. We watched videos today of baby Simeon and I would have sworn they were taken just a week or so before this trip.) So brace yourself for lots of pictures from a doting grammie.

We've had a couple trips to the playground.

Driving the train on the playground.

We also spent a couple hours at the base Splish and Splash. Neat water slides that looked like the double arching back of a sea monster among others. Simeon had a ball despite the clouds but no pictures due to the wet! (I already had to replace my phone once this summer because of a mishap near our dock.)

There was church on Sunday (Why do people sit so far apart in a large auditorium?) and a music rehearsal for Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC). Erika leads worship, but no one participating this week sings harmony so I got drafted.

Saturday Dan participated in his second triathlon. He took second in his age group. Simeon was thrilled with the trophy.

As we prepare for a Labor Day hike, Simeon thought he would try wearing both my boots and his mom's.

I don't know how often I will update this blog. Life is a bit less predictable with a three-year-old around, and everyday experiences are not as exciting as Alaska or the Canadian Rockies.