Saturday, April 29, 2017

Shopping Spree in Yeoju

Today I took a bus trip with a church group, including Erika's sister-in-law and a couple PWOC friends. Much of the nearly hour and a half it took to get there was dedicated to circumnavigating Seoul. Then we went through a couple tunnels and wound among beautiful hills before arriving in Yeoju, center of the South Korean ceramics trade. The group sends a bus about once a month, and many of these ladies had favorite shops and knew exactly what they were looking for.

The novelty this trip was a ceramics festival. There was a lot of beautiful stuff, but for the most part the prices were higher than we wanted to pay.

Outside the exhbition hall were plenty of other shops of the cheaper, more permanent variety, where I found some small things for Christmas gifts that I think my Sunday school class will enjoy.

I bought several bowls of this blue pattern on a previous trip.

The factory outlet had lots of different shapes and sizes, but I decided my cupboard didn't need more dishes.

Another stop found us crowded into a tiny room with this elegant white-on-white china. These companion shapes are commonly sold together as male and female. If I didn't live in a cabin in the north woods, I might have been tempted.

In the larger area, one of the few children whose parents trusted her to come on such a trip watched a potter making more.

What I really had been hoping for was something like the blue and gray bowls I already had, but with touches of red like you see in some of these gorgeous pots. It was this last shop that would have really tempted me if I had more space, not just in my luggage, but in my house.

Korean fast food seems to be often served State Fair style--on a stick. This "fish bar" would have been nicer fresh and hot instead of handed to me from under a heat lamp. As it was I would classify it as one of those things I'm glad I tried, but I won't be rushing back for more.

This is only a portion of what our ladies brought back under the bus. Some of them are getting ready to leave and want a remembrance to take with them. Some of them just enjoy living in Korea.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Seoul Zoo

I love nicely landscaped zoological gardens. This one is at Seoul Grand Park, a mere seven subway stops away.

The zoo nestles among hills. We took the chair lift to the top. The views were fabulous, but I would have enjoyed it much more without a wiggly four-year-old sending my stomach into my toes every few minutes.

We found this interactive pavilion where changing the position of your arms evoked different segments of film including a major tiger roar.

Then we found the real thing.

And a climbable version. The odd expression is Simeon roaring like a tiger cub.

We met up with some friends, watched the dolphin show, picnicked and generally had a wonderful day.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hitting the Markets

Monday was a stay-at-home day. I took Simeon to the playground in the morning while Erika's PWOC music group rehearsed. In the evening we had Cubbies (Awana) where Erika has a table of kids to supervise for craft and to hear their verses.

This morning we took an easy subway ride to visit my cousin Sarah who is married to a Korean and has lived in Seoul for years. Sarah is great with kids. Her husband made it very clear that he is ready for grandchildren. Their college-aged daughter Susie enjoys Erika so we had a good time. When we put Erika and Simeon on the train to get back in time for school, Sarah, Susie and I caught a bus. I was glad for that experience because I may try to get to a different ice rink later this week, and the one I'm thinking of would involve a bus.

Sarah took me for lunch to one of her favorite hole-in-the wall places in Dongdaemun Market at the 500-year-old East Gate of the city, (which of course, is now totally surrounded by high modern buildings). We wended our way through the food section of the market.

Here's the kitchen of our restaurant where they are frying the bean cakes Sarah recommended.

They did have a small dining room back behind.

After lunch Sarah showed me a bit of the market. This is the bakery market. I guess Koreans don't usually bake at home, so she comes here for things like baking powder and chocolate chips that she can't buy in a grocery store.

There were cookie cutters of every shape and size.

Now, you probably have been envisioning this market area as a square block or so. A square mile or so would probably be more accurate. The buildings on either side of this canal are just a small part.

The building on the right as far as you can see contains clothing stalls, the sort where retailers come and order fifty or a hundred of an item. There were shops with nothing but hats--20 shops in a row with nothing but hats. Aisle after aisle, block after block of clothing shops. The building on the left is fabric--stall after stall of trims, then stalls of button and sequins, not to mention aisle after aisle for multiple floors of bolts of fabric. Very overwhelming. My favorite was the shops with elegant fabrics and embroidered pieces ready for traditional Korean outfits still used for weddings and celebrations. They even have seamstresses on site.

I am not a big shopper; I'm mostly a looker; but I did have some shopping I needed to do in Korea. The gradeschool of my other grandchildren is near the university and very multicultural. The librarian told Katie that she finished the year with $150 still in her budget that she wanted to spend on Korean language books for the Korean-speaking kids attending the school. I agreed to do the shopping.

Susie had her own errands to run, but she joined us to go to Kyobo, a major bookstore in the center of Seoul. This store is so big it even has it's own subway entrance. Here is a small corner of the children's section.

It was no less overwhelming than the other markets, but I was grateful to have Sarah's help to figure out what we were looking at. Susie pointed out some stuff that was popular when she was in fifth grade. We got some translated classics, including one of the current Newbery winners, and some major series. I ordered A Single Shard, an older Newbery set in 12th-century Korea that I loved. They prefer to deliver rather than have me come back to get it. Never in America!

When we were finished, Sarah and Susie pointed me to the correct train and sent me on my way, a bit nervously I thought. I texted when I had successfully arrived home. I'll have to see them again because my book is being delivered to their house. :-)

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Here I was thinking, "It's Sunday. I wrote about church last week. I can take a day off from blogging." And then Dan said, "Do you want to go on a hike with Simeon and me?" Erika had music prep to do for the women's meeting, so the three of us took off after lunch.

Destination Hyeongjebong in a national park right here in Seoul. Bong means peak. You guessed it. Like most hiking in Korea it was uphill.

After driving across town, we parked here, right on the highway in the background of the picture.

But 180 degrees from taking that picture, I took this one.

Of course, every Korean hiking spot includes a temple, but we didn't take the time to investigate this one. Notice how much younger the leaves are at the higher altitude. A lot of the flowering trees were still just in bud.

Simeon found a fireman hold a relaxing way to hike. Further along the trail, that hold became a matter of safety rather than laziness.

Despite being surrounded by nature, we were never far from the city.

Simeon wanted to picnic at every rocky lookout. Here we snacked on dried seaweed, a favorite of Simeon's.

There was no shortage of rocks to climb on.

And then there was this part of the trail. That is the trail you are looking at.

I was beginning to think we had gotten off on a side trail to a lookout, but no, the trail continued down the other side, almost as steep. There were knotted ropes as well as these bars to help us up.

According to my phone app, I did not reach 10,000 steps today, but I think I can be forgiven since it says we climbed the equivalent of 80 flights of stairs. That is not as high as it would have been to climb Lotte Tower instead of taking the elevator, but we were pretty tired on the way home.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tot to Tower

It's been a busy Saturday. Simeon's school had a carnival including a short program by the kids. Simeon's class sang, "Dance Like You Have Ants in Your Pants," and acted it out enthusiastically. It was a priviledge for a normally remote grandparent like me to be there.

It was a beautiful day, and after lunch Dan thought it was a great time to go up the new Lotte Tower, which opened last month. At 123 floors, it is the sixth highest building in the world. Definitely the tallest I have been in. It's right beside Lotte World and the ice rink where I skated earlier this week.

We waited in line for tickets, fearing they would be for later in the day, but we were able to go straight to the elevator line.  First we passed through security where they x-rayed our bags. Dan carries a small pen knife on his key chain. They sealed it in a plastic bag and gave it back to him as if a plastic bag would stop a terrorist. The big security risk evidentally was Simeon's yellow balloon, given to him by a friendly Korean lady in the line; the young woman at security took it from him, let the air out and handed it back. Simeon was as deflated as his balloon. His lip trembled, but he didn't cry.

Korea is BIG on technology, and this is no exception. The tunnel to the elevator reminded me of DisneyWorld with plenty to interest you while you wait. Except we didn't wait; we hurried right past. Even the elevator had multiple screens on three sides with doors made of mirror. In the 55 seconds it took on the way up they showed a surround video that began with an ancient temple and showed the development of Seoul in timelapse up to the building of Lotte Tower. On the way down we were surrounded with views of the tower erupting with fireworks on the night of the opening.

The "top" included multiple floors, each slightly smaller than the next. The views are like something you would expect from an airplane.

Seoul Tower can be seen in the distance on the right.
The green space below is the site of the Seoul Olympics. The shadow to the right is none other than Lotte Tower.
One level had projections with glass floors we could walk out on. Didn't bother Simeon a bit.
The projections above were outdoor terraces where you could feel the wind.
We could also look up through a netting to the summit of the building.

The lowest levels are an elaborate shopping mall. You can see Lotte Tower through the glass roof of this atrium.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Climbing in a Rain of Blossoms

Today Erika and I dropped Simeon off at school and then climbed to Namsan Tower, the famous Seoul landmark. It’s an “easy” walk from the base if you define “easy” as short. But this is Korea, and all walks go straight uphill. This one was 4.2 miles start to finish, but my phone app registered the equivalent of climbing 44 flights of stairs. We did it last time I was here, pushing Simeon in the stroller. That’s why we decided to do it this time with him in school.

I did my I-wonder-what’s-over-there thing, and we went a different route than the stroller-friendly one we did before. This one had stairs. Lots of stairs—44 flights worth! But it was very pretty.

I was wondering what the pretty traditional building was. Erika sounded out the name over the entrance. Park Office. Oh. Prettiest park office I ever saw.

Our goal was often in sight.
Blossoms rained down like snow.

Did I mention lots of steps?
The views weren't the greatest with the polution. No point in paying to go up the tower. When we stopped at this lookout, I commented how much I love green spaces like this next to city spaces like the buildings you can see below. Erika added, "Next to mountains like that," pointing to the horizon.

We grabbed a late lunch at the Katusa snack bar. Katusas are the Korean soldiers assigned to the base, and this is their place to get "home cooking." We enjoyed Bibimbop (meat, vegetables and rice) and yaki mandu (fried dumplings).

Then we walked to Simeon's school to pick him up. The street is narrow. Believe it or not, this road is not one way.

The walking gate we used is commonly referred to as the "kimchi pot gate" because of this shop just outside, selling pots for making pickled vegetables.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Following the News in South Korea-a link

Some of you have asked about the situation here, so I decided I should blog about it even though it has had little impact on my trip. I posted those comments on my author blog, Times and Places.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

An Afternoon in Seoul Forest

Yesterday's trip to the ice rink gave me courage to launch out on my own again today. There is something exhilarating about having a whole subway system at your command.

Yesterday was dismal and rainy--a fit time to spend underground and indoors. Today was glorious, and much of my train ride was above ground. 

We spent the morning at Erika's Bible study, PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel). I am so grateful for Erika to have the support of this network of women looking at their lives in the light of Scripture together. I'm also grateful for the opportunity she has to minister in music to these women and to build relationships as they practice and lead together. I can see her growing so much.

But this afternoon while Simeon was in school Erika had a shopping date with a friend, returning to the music market where we were on Friday. She suggested I might want to go to Seoul Forest instead. I spent a fabulous afternoon. I had been there previously with Steve, Erika and Simeon, so it looked familiar when I came out of the subway. The fun thing about being alone was that I didn't have to worry about a four-year-old's attention span or other adults rolling their eyes when I wanted to know what was over that bridge or down that path. Although Erika and I had gone to the station together, I was on my own to get home, so there was no time schedule either.

Part of what I was hoping for was cherry blossoms. A lot were past their peak, but not all.

And there were plenty of other flowers to enjoy.

I wandered through this tunnel (no eye-rolling!)

And emerged under an overpass with a ramp onto a bike path that follows the river. Dan often bikes the river path, but I don't know if he does this section.

(Looking back at this, I realize that is Lotte Tower in the distance that we will visit April 22.)

When I started across this bridge, I thought it was only an overlook to the deer park below (all dirt; not photogenic), but it turned out to go a lot further than I expected: across seven lanes of traffic and down to...the bike path. Benches made a nice spot to sip from my tea mug.

It was a bit windy by the river, so I didn't linger. I came back and found a bench along the lake where I could read my book. (I love e-books on my phone that don't add any weight to an afternoon outing!)

I recognized several playgrounds where we lingered for Simeon to play on our previous visit. Next time.