Monday, May 30, 2016

Monday, Day 24: Alpensia Ocean 700 Water Park

We spent Monday morning at the indoor water park near the hotel. Not a safe place for a phone or other camera so your only picture is this one taken from the lobby or the few on this website

You are looking at the wave pool, which Simeon loved at the time. He is totally unafraid of getting his face wet although he was disconcerted at having his feet washed out from under him and being unable to stand. He recovered and plunged in again and again, but it must have affected him more than we realized because sleeping in the car on the way home, he kept jolting awake saying, “Not the waves! No waves!”

A “river” ran through the park. Erika and I rode inner tubes down it. Simeon watched excitedly while we passed beneath a waterfall, but it was near the end of the morning before he got up the courage to do it himself with his daddy.

There were a couple junior water slides, mounted water guns, and places where water tumbled down. Simeon quickly figured out that to reach the water slide without getting doused he needed to wait until the bucket filled and tipped over and then dash to the steps while it refilled. Later he decided that standing directly under where the bucket would dump was just as much fun.

Steve had stayed behind in the hotel, but Dan, Erika and I took turns watching Simeon and checking out the adult attractions. Believe it or not, I had never been on one of the big slides where you ride a raft. I have always believed that “I’m scared” is not enough reason to say no, so I went with Erika. Wow! It was thrilling. When “the Tornado” opened at noon, we did that too. We were only two on a four-man raft. It swung around so that I was entering a black hole backwards. Pretty scary not being able to see where I was going. Of course, the second time I was facing forward where I COULD see where I was going. I decided that backwards was better! At the bottom of the black hole we sloshed wildly up one side and down the other before sliding out into a pool at the bottom. Lots of fun, but that one would definitely have given Simeon nightmares!

In the far left corner was a whole spa of water massages. Erika and I, of course, had to try each one to see which muscles it massaged. Erika’s favourite was the neck and shoulders massage where you stood under a jet of water so forceful I thought I would be bruised this morning. My favourite was one that bubbled up all around you, making it hard not to float away. Pushing aside plastic flaps, you could swim outside to a few more pools. The river had an outdoor option as well, but that was closed. The outdoor pool has not yet opened. Although it is hot and sweaty in Seoul, this is the mountains and it is still pretty cool.

To someone who has visited an American water park, those attractions probably sound pretty normal, but there were some unique aspects. This being Korea, we had hardly paid our fee when we were required to remove shoes. There were shoe lockers off the lobby. Your locker number was stamped on your ticket. The same key matched a locker in the locker room for clothes and bags. The key was on a spring cord that fit around your wrist. Anything (like required life jackets) that you bought or rented inside was charged to that wrist key.

The other thing that would not be typical in an American water park was that shirts and even shorts were encouraged for modesty’s sake. Almost everyone wore them over their bathing suits. Hats are required—either a swim cap (not my favourite, but not unreasonable in a public pool) or a baseball cap. How my baseball cap protected the pool, I’m not quite sure. I was asked to remove it for the water slides. Let’s just say that swimming in a baseball cap was kind of weird.

We drove home mid-afternoon via Camp Humphreys where Dan picked up his car. The scenery was fabulous. Simeon fell asleep inhis umpteenth viewing of "Red Dusty," the second Planes movie. Today will be laundry and down time.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday, Day 23: Odaesan National Park

Sunday afternoon we hiked in Odaesan National Park. The city parks in Seoul are great, but pale in comparison to the Korean National Parks. Just the hour drive to the trail head was gorgeous. Too bad Erika (cramped in the back with Simeon and me) was car sick and took most of it with her eyes closed.

Korean’s love hiking. This trail followed a gorge to a collection of waterfalls. Lots of cataracts along the way.

This temple offers drinking water to weary hikers.

Picniced at this water fall.

Our picnic spot is top left.

Spectacular views at every turn, and since we are in the mountains, it was not as hot and sweaty as Seoul.

Saturday, Sunday, Day 23-23: Alpensia

From Pyeongtaek and Camp Humphreys we travelled to Pyeongchang, site of the 2018 Olympics. This is already a popular ski area with lots of resorts. We are at Alpensia, a collection of Holiday Inn Hotels with a pedestrian mall down the middle that reminds Dan and Erika of Whilster, BC. I say “pedestrian”, but one did need to look out for young motorists cruising the plaza on Saturday night. Simeon loved it.

The lighted in tower in the background is the top of a ski jump, we presume built for 2018.
Simeon is one of the last drivers steering madly around the plaza.
Sunday morning we rode the alpine coaster we could see from our hotel room window. We rode up the chair lift. This was a challenge with nothing but a thin bar beneath their feet for Erika and Steve who suffer from fear of heights, but Simeon loved it. Even I felt my knees going weak as he leaned forward and squealed with delight.

Grandpa feigns terror at the height of the chair.

 Down was via a small car on a twisting, turning track. You can control the speed with a break. Needed a go-cam on the front to get any pictures because there was no way I was going to let go of the brake to get out my camera. Simeon and Daddy went last. Simeon had no desire for Daddy to use the brake. “Go fast, Daddy! Go fast!”

Steve arrives at the bottom of the Alpine Coaster.

 If it weren't so expensive, it would be worth going again. By the bottom Erika and I were ready to take it on with a bit more speed. 

Simeon rode the train at the tiny amusement park because a four-year-old can never pass up a miniature train. Erika was glad she had let him do the one ride in the morning because she had intended to let him ride more in the evening, but everything was closed up and the place had become a ghost town by the time we got back from our hike. (See next blog.)  Koreans don’t have Memorial Day Monday off.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday, Day 22: Pyeongtaek

Simeon's favorite kids’ café is back in Pyeongtaek where they used to live. It has cars the kids can actually drive. Dan has a race there tomorrow, so today we drove down to their old base at Camp Humphreys and and spent the afternoon at the kids' café.

Erika says the cars can also run by remote control. If there are smaller children, the staff turn the big kids off the track for a while so the moms can drive the little ones by remote. Today there were no little kids—just boys about Simeon’s age, some of whom were so thrilled with driving that they grinned at their parents as they drove off the road. The place had a “sandbox” of pellets with toy trucks, a slide into a pool of plastic balls, a trampoline room, playhouses, cooking centers with plastic food, toddler scooters, musical instruments, and a “hospital” with doctor coats, medical instruments and a teddy bear patient. But what did Simeon do? He drove. There is a cross walk to get to the parked cars. Periodically, the light changes to let pedestrians across. The workers made the kids wait until the walk signal turned green even if there were no cars coming. If a driver reached the crosswalk when the light was red, he had to wait. Good practice at following the rules of the road.

After about 45 minutes the other little boy left. It’s not as much fun by yourself, so Simeon went to a log cabin and played camping. (The staff play with your kids so you can drink coffee and hang out.) But as soon as another little boy arrived and Simeon heard the sound of a car starting up, he dashed back to the track for another 30 minutes of driving laps. 

He’s a competitive guy. He doesn’t like being passed. He even waited at one point for the other kid to almost lap him so that Simeon could be in front. As he got more and more tired without a nap, we had to remind him that these were not bumper cars like the one he drove yesterday at LotteWorld.

You take off your shoes Korean style and store them in a locker. You pay by the hour for your kid (cheap babysitting) and adults are required to pay a small fee or buy a drink. We opted for the drinks. Cheaper than Starbucks. A fun afternoon.

Tonight we went to the potluck at the Candence ministry hospitality house. 

A great crowd. I didn't think to take a picture until the cleanup was nearly done.

After dinner there was a short talk by Chris Jolin (in blue shirt) before he interviewed Chaplain Bryan, Erika's favorite chaplain when they lived here.  The Brandts are leaving soon for their next assignment.

The Jolins, the missionaries who run it, are friends of Erika's from her Camp Humphreys days. Jenny Jolin also happens to be the daughter of Steve's best friend in high school, best man at our wedding. So it was fun.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thursday, Day 21: Birthday at Lotte World

Thursday was the day Simeon had been looking forward to--"I'm four!"

We celebrated at Lotte World, a sort of cross between Disneyland and Camp Snoopy at Mall of America.  Lotte is a major conglomerate, whose name I have often seen on skating jackets at Worlds.

There are lots of rides. We took turns riding with Simeon.

Here is Simeon's favorite. There was no line, so he went four times in a row before we convinced him to try something else.

Part of the park is inside (The ice rink is not included, but next time in Korea I need to bring my skates.) Part is outside.

The sky is partly overcast and partly major pollution.
Great parade of characters. Simeon is in love with the butterflies.

Cameras and selfies are popular here. There was a large "Trick Eye" room. You can see what an angel my grandson is.

Or maybe not.

Dan had a Memorial Day picnic that Erika and Simeon went to as well. They came home to Simeon's favorite (rice flour) spaghetti. Presents included a baseball and glove (big hit at the picnic), Legos that he still couldn't put down on the toilet this morning, and lots of books.

Friday morning he asked me, "Am I still four?" I assured him that he would be four all year and never be three again. Now he off with his daddy to change the oil in the car before we take off for the weekend. Stay tuned. :-)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Monday to Wednesday, Days 18-20: At Home

This has been a hang-out-at-home week. I child sat again for PWOC music rehearsal. Wednesday's PWOC was the closing for the year and transition to the new board (including Erika on music.) My cousin Sarah came over to hang out while Simeon napped. (He adores her which makes me feel good since Grammie is going away in another week.) Simeon got his award at Awana for all his memorizing.

We took an outing to the park around the corner where the National Museum is located. On a nicer day, I would have gone crazy with my camera. Lots of photo spots like this one.

Through the opening in the building you can see Nam San Tower where we hiked last week.

Besides the playground, there were lots of paths to explore, including around Dragon Falls (below). Yongsan (the name of the base) means Dragon Hill, the traditional name of the area of the city.

This park is maybe 15 minutes from home, so if the weather clears up, I will go on a photos shoot, but since the gray is mainly pollution it may well not happen.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday, Day 17

I didn't get a good picture of Erika in church last week. Here she and the pianist are coordinating their improvisation during this morning's meet and greet. Since junior high, Erika has loved being part of a team that made music together that is greater than the individual parts. A praise team is ideal for her.

Again we stayed for choir, a piece written by a friend of one of the choir members who is leaving this week. When I knew that, suddenly the words were incredibly meaningful.

The weather here is a lot warmer than home in Wisconsin--in the 90s several days this past week. This afternoon I took Simeon to the playground and discovered a group of kids playing with a hose. It was wild and a bit overwhelming. It took Simeon a while to get up the courage to actually join in, but when he did, he had a fabulous time. Later as kids were starting to leave, I brought a towel and found him shivering, but unwilling to give up until the last kid left and the hose was turned off.

The negative of a military community is the constant turn over. The positive that I am seeing is the community--clusters of houses or apartments around playgrounds where children and parents congregate. More often than not, there is someone to play with--they just might leave in a few months.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Saturday, Day 16: Spider Man Comes to Seoul

Simeon's fourth birthday is next week--the reason we scheduled our trip for this month. Today was party day! Erika went all out with Spiderman decorations ordered from Amazon.

She even added red and blue food coloring to the wheat-free, egg-free cake layers. (That IS blue, not green.)

This was the fanciest cake she has ever attempted, and she did a fabulous job. 

All the guests came as super-heros. Well, one was a super-princess. Simeon was already thrilled with the decorations, but when he saw the spiderman outfit, he was overwhelmed with excitement.

The apartment is small, so four guests for a four-year-old was a good rule. We also started the party on the playground to run off a bit of energy before coming in. Batman was the first to arrive.

These superheroes were unmasked (masks can be scratchy) and their true identities revealed.

The sun got hot--especially in superhero costumes, so we retreated to the apartment,

played games, ate gluten-free pizza, and sang "Happy Birthday."

The event was labeled an overwhelming success. Simeon wants the decorations to remain a permanent part of the apartment decor. Erika has agreed to leave them until the actual day on Thursday.  

Still Friday, Day 14: Seoul Symphony

Our day was not ended. My cousin Sarah is married to Seijin Koh, president of the Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) Symphony orchestra. Seijin graciously provided us with tickets for last night's concert. Dan and Erika got a baby sitter and everything. We might have taken the subway, but the route took 45 minutes, went way out of the way, and would have dropped us several blocks from the center anyway, so we chose instead the cultural experience of Seoul traffic--for forty-five minutes--but no walking at the end.

Seoul Arts Center is a spectacular facility with multiple venues. The lobby of the concert hall is elegant.

The orchestra is impressive. The women all wore black pantsuits with white shirts, the better to blend with the men, but I was surprised at the high percentage of women. Probably half. The program was Beethoven. First half was incidental music from the 1787 Goethe play, Egmont, with narration and soprano soloist. Excellent. Unlike Erika who recognized a number of the pieces, it was all new to me. Sarah had graciously printed out a summary in English so we were not entirely lost in the story--typical opera melodrama where everyone dies, but with a nationalistic twist of fighting for freedom. We shared the English with a confused Aussie behind us at intermission. Second half was Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Shame that Steve is elsewhere, visiting theological programs int he region. The audience was VERY appreciative, demanding multiple curtain calls until the orchestra finally pulled at a Hungarian Dance as an encore.

The complex includes a musical fountain, which was on when we left the auditorium. When Erika went before, it was for a kids' concert of Carnival of the Animals. Afterwards the fountain was crowded with kids playing in the mist. Tonight was quite tame by comparison.

I can see why the kids are pleased to be living in Seoul with all it's cultural opportunities.

When we got home at 11 PM, Simeon called cheerfully from upstairs--not a sign of sleepiness. The poor babysitter had been sitting with him the whole time, trying to get him to close his eyes. Just when she thought he was asleep, he would whisper her name and ask her something. Like I said, he didn't seem the least bit sleepy when we got home.

Friday, Day 14: Namsan Park

Enough of hanging out at home. Today we walked to Namsan, the mountain surrounded by city topped with the tower tourists call Seoul Tower. It is not that far from one of the gates, although as usual in Korea, it is all up hill.

View of our goal from the parking lot where we started.

We turned left outside the gate and continued along a busy Seoul street for 10-15 minutes.

I almost didn't include this, but then I figured those other than Uncle Bob and Aunt Peg who have never been to Korea, might not know what a "busy Seoul street" looks like--except it wasn't very busy at this particular moment.
Eventually, we turned along side the old city wall. At one point on top I found a sign that said the wall was from the Joesan Period. Not very helpful to a foreigner. It also said the wall was built in 1996. That didn't sound very historic to me. When I looked up Joesan Period at home it said 14th -19th centuries. I suspect the 1996 part was restored.

The way got pretty steep. We rested a couple times and were passed by very-physically fit Koreans, some of them ten years older than I am. At one point as we sat on the curb, these guys came along and just started pushing. Little to no English, but we laughed and made gestures and they pushed Simeon the rest of the way to the top.  The only negative was that we were too proud to suggest another rest! They took pictures and we thanked them in Korean.

Great views of the city in every direction from the top. We didn't have one of the ubiquitous selfie-sticks, so we asked someone to take ours in exchange for taking theirs.

Locks enscribed with lover's names drape the overlooks. Simeon was fascinated.
Koreans are great at landscaping. Unfortunately, they aren't so great at picking up their trash. Just to the left of the picture is an empty water bottle and wadded up napkin. Behind me is an empty chip bag. Hard to reconcile with their other great traits.

The views from the base were so great that we didn't feel a need to actually go up the tower.