Monday, October 25, 2010

Flaming Sinuses

 Lately we've been going to the hemophilia clinic most days as Tristan's current goose egg is taking a while to heal. It doesn't help that he bumped it again a week ago.  Tristan is a trooper, and sticks out his little arm for them to put a needle in his vein and give him the factor VIII.  Sometimes he cries a little, sometimes he doesn't.  At least there's entertainment while we wait, and Kyler's always in high fashion.
 We went to the World Cup Stadium Park a while back.  The playgrounds aren't necessarily as safe as in America, but the kids did fine.
There are plenty of questionable trademark knock offs here, although I'm pretty sure Chick Fil A doesn't serve beer.   Doesn't every kid stand in the dishwasher? 
 Kyler has had fun with the Halloween costumes which emerged in the last month.
  I love these signs.
 Another of Tristan's daily tasks is to get into the bike-riding gear.  The boys are required to wear orange vests along with helmets when riding bikes in our village.
 The base had a fall festival recently.  I put Tristan in this bouncer with Kyler, and they had a ball.  Dean entered a hot pepper eating contest and won handily, of course.  I've never seen anything too hot for the man.  They each had 10 Korean peppers.  He snapped the stems off first, then at "go!" popped all 10 in his mouth, munched them quickly, washed the remnants down with water, and had his mouth inspected.  There were a number of Korean participants, who were probably favored to win since their food is often spicy.  Dean won a new Blu Ray DVD player, and the new Robin Hood movie in Blu Ray.  He did say his mouth and sinuses were on fire after the contest.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Flung my Casserole

 Last night was our Branch Fall Activity (at church).  Other than taking an hour to get there (traffic on Saturday nights is horrendous here), it was loads of fun.  Oh, and somebody (not me) managed to dump an entire sweet potato casserole on the floor of the parking garage, so we contributed no food to the dinner.  I was blamed for the poor choice of box that the casserole was in, however, which is supposedly why the casserole was flung from the box.  
 Tristan is an easy-going guy and had a good time wandering around, playing with other little ones, snatching cupcakes from the cake walk table (which was at his height), and foraging from others' plates.  His diaper exploded during the long car ride there, so he had nothing on but the dinosaur costume and a diaper.
 Dean went again as Captain Love.  I asked him to quickly find a costume online for me as we were getting ready to go (actually as I was sewing up some treat bags for the boys, one of which Hunter the Vampire is wearing in this picture.  So, I went as a "leaf blower", with a leaf dangling from a baseball cap that I could blow on. 
 Hunter wanted to be something "scary".  I couldn't coax Kyler into a picture, so maybe on Halloween we'll try again.
 Kyler did, however, attempt to fix whatever he thought was wrong with his hair this afternoon.  I am still pondering whether it will look worse buzzed, or left as is.  Hunter did the very same thing in the same place when he was four (Kyler is five).  I thought we ought to be past that stage.  Kyler has been obsessed with his hair lately, wanting to water and comb it every day, and fretting about roosters.  I think it looks better left as is (wash and air dry, smooth down by hand while wet) than combed smooth.  He worries about fashion, shoes, weaponry, and so much more.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Saved at last

 Hunter has been anxiously awaiting his baptism for some time now.  The day finally came, 10-10-10, about a month after he turned 8.  We decided years ago that there wasn't any reason for the kids to take the sacrament, since they weren't baptized, and all it is/was to them was a snack/drink, and an opportunity to be irreverent and obnoxious.  So, hopefully it will mean something to him now as he starts to take it.  We tried for a picture of the occasion.
 And tried.
 And tried some more.  Ah, well.  This is our reality.  Tristan had other things in mind to do.
Dean baptized and confirmed him here in Seoul at our church building.  We did it in conjunction with the Stanley family who were baptizing Emma.  We all shared a bit of lunch afterward.

 On the way home, Tristan made a most wonderful discovery.

Retreat! Retreat!

We recently had the glorious opportunity to attend a weekend marriage retreat sponsored by the army, so we jumped all over it.  We even managed to find babysitters for the children, which was the only hurdle and expense, other than souvenirs and such.  We were bussed with 10 other couples, a chaplain and his wife to the British hotel, the Kensington, on Mt. Sorak early on a Friday, and returned Sunday.
We patronized a rest stop along the way, and sampled some interesting snacks (not these, actually, but they were available).  These are mostly dried sea creatures.
 They sold three packs of eggs on the shelf (unrefrigerated).  That's how eggs are sold in Brazil, too.  Hence, I don't get excited about the eggs if the power goes out...

We attended several marriage seminars, which were all useful and interesting.  We were serenaded at dinner both nights by a saxophone dude.  The meals were a mixture of Korean and Western foods (Kimchi at every meal, etc).
I tried frog legs for the first time.  They more or less tasted like mildly fishy chicken.
The scenery was gorgeous.  It was a refreshing relief from all the cares of our little world.
There was beautiful furniture galore in the hotel.  This piece is a throne chair.
On a hike to a waterfall (I think it has been years since we've really hiked - it's hard to do with small children) there was a group of older Korean ladies having quite the time of their lives.  I haven't ever been to a Peyote Meeting, but if I had to guess, this likely resembled one.  One the way up we saw the group of women sitting around a campfire, though no fire at the time.  They were laughing and having a merry time of it.  On the way back these two ladies thought we were interesting and interacted with us as much as they could with the language barrier.  One was holding the other up.  Must have been some pretty good Peyote, or whatever they have here.
There is never a shortage of signage, and there was a life saver (just not visible in the picture).
Here is the biggest bronze Buddah.  That would be me in the corner (not bowing).
We made it to the waterfall.  We were planning to "renew our vows" here, which the chaplain offered to do for the couples.  We thought it would be nice to do in such a setting, in the tenth year of our wedded bliss, but alas, we forgot once we were there.

There were buddhas galore in the shrines and temples.
We went down the mountain into town on Saturday night and checked out the fish market.  Here are more of these sea squirts.  The best part of that outing was when we took a stroll along the beach.  We started to pass a couple of guys grilling fish on a little fire they had going.  They got all excited and insisted that we join them.  They offered us their Korean liquor (Soju), but weren't offended when we declined.  We toasted America with water, at their insistence.  One of them has been to the U.S. a number of times with his work, and he loves it.  They were grilling (what we later determined to be) some fresh mackeral.  It was dee lish!  All they did was slap it on the grill.  Someone told us it comes already seasoned from the fish market.  They were sure friendly (I think the Soju helped). 
 Those extension-cord-looking things in the back are dried squid or octopus.  A native Korean in our group insisted that we try a bite of hers that she had bought.  It was like trying to chew on a piece of salty leather.  I finally took it out when she wasn't looking.
More of the temple

 A square grand piano at the hotel
 A giant nutcracker and a double-decker bus

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Driving on the Sabbath

I ended up driving to church today, as Dean is on call for the week and was called just as we were about to leave.  In the U.S., I drive almost exclusively because Dean hates having to drive nicely.  But since that's not what is done in the Seoul, he doesn't mind driving like a maniac, or rather just like everyone else here.

Things went fine until I followed the GPS off on some random road that leads down to a recreation area between the river and the freeeway.  There isn't much land to speak of in the Seoul, so they are creative and make use of what little there is.  In the states such land under an overpass might be planted with flowers.  This particular error of the GPS has happened numerous times, but that has yet to stop me from doing it again.  Naturally, there were about 10,000 buses and cars in the parking lot for this recreation area - Sunday is a big day of shopping and fun, much like in the U.S.  So, one of the bus drivers decided to block the road so that no one could get out.  Nothing out of the ordinary there.  He hopped out and strolled around a bit, then told the person in front of me that he was stuck and how he was going to maneuver out of there.  I managed to eventually do an illegal u-turn and get on a bridge across the river.

I found myself in a turning lane when I didn't want to be after crossing the river, and of course the Koreans, who are perfectly friendly in public, are rude and ruthless and won't let me over in traffic.  When they want to, they "nose" into your lane and honk at you as though you are in the wrong.  I've done my share of nosing; if you don't start driving like them, you're going to get into trouble, but this time it wasn't working.  Our good friends the Lees were just a couple of cars behind, I noticed in the mirror, and they were kind enough to let me in, whether they meant to or not, ha ha!  I soon noticed a red Toyota Sienna ahead, so proceeded to follow them the rest of the way, with the Lees right behind.  (Koreans don't think much of the Japanese, who have invaded them hundreds of times over the millenia, so a Toyota is likely owned by an American).

By following them, I was finally shown the best way to the ALLEY that the church is in.  Yes, that's right, our lovely church is down an ugly alley, with room for one car at a time and a three story parking lot.  That doesn't mean there is a lot of parking - not at all.  There are maybe ten spaces on the first floor, and then maybe 20 or so on each of the lower levels, if you count the double ones - where you would leave your car in neutral so that it can be pushed out of the way.  We were a bit late at this point (would have been on time if the GPS and bus dude had cooperated).  By a stroke of grace, Tristan was asleep, and stayed asleep as I put him into the stroller.  We rode the elevator to the third floor and went to church.  The front row was wide open, so we made use of it, and Tristan slept throughout the meeting, which was Heavenly.  Hunter bore his testimony, which is always nice.  Kyler wanted me to "help" him with his.  My policy is that when a child is ready to bear his testimony himself, he is more than welcome to.  I vaguely recall one of those letters from the First Presidency read at the pulpit asking people to not whisper testimonies into their childrens' ears on the stand.

Then, it was off to the nursery for Tristan and me.  I never in my life thought I'd welcome a call to the nursery, or at least not since we were last called to the nursery about 7 years ago in Loveland, CO.  That was most wretched, as we had zero experience with tots, except for our own Hunter who was not quite nursery age.  But, after chasing Tristan around the chapel for Sunday School and Relief Society for the last couple of months, I welcomed the nursery with a sigh of relief.  I'm just a helper, fortunately, so try to abate tears and break up fisticuffs and such.  Tristan does great in there, pretty much what he does at home all day: get into everything and have a wonderful time doing it.

Dean was able to get to church after Sacrament Meeting, so he drove the boys home and I took the Trist-man.  Driving out of the winding parking garage in the church, I managed to dent the side of the van.  It made a terrible noise, but didn't end up being that bad, or so I thought until I got home and Darsha asked what had happened to the van.  So, it is certainly noticeable, but the great thing about driving an inexpensive vehicle, is that it really doesn't much matter when such incidents happen, and no, I'm certainly not going to pay to repair it (so that it can happen again).  Dean scraped up the same side a while back in the alley as we were going to church, and I scraped up the other side in an even-narrower parking garage in a hospital here in the Seoul.  The van was in near-mint condition when we bought it early this year, especially for having 60,000 miles.

The fun wasn't over yet.  I was nearly home and driving down one of the narrow streets lined with vehicles parked half on the sidewalk, half in the road (there is zero room for parking, but that has yet to stop anyone).  I didn't think I was that close, but managed to kiss side mirrors with a parked van.  I "parked" up the road and walked back.  I was tempted to just keep on going, but I had flashbacks of the driving course here that said there was pretty much nothing worse that a foreigner could do than leave the scene without getting the OK from the "victim".  They weren't concerned about the damage, and had actually pushed their mirror in on its hinge so it wouldn't be sticking out there so far.  I made it home, and do not plan to do any more driving today.     

Oh, and it took about two and a half hours to get home last night from the temple area, which is less than ten miles away.  I hope to never repeat that.  There are 13,000,000 people in the Seoul, and about 10,000,000 of them were stuck in traffic with me.  No wonder we now get about 250 miles on a tank of gas here (we used to get 400+; I think it holds nearly 25 gallons).

On an unrelated note, we experienced our first Musical Testimony Meeting a couple of weeks ago.  Dean and I gave each other "the look" when it was announced, but were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was.  The only time I remember feeling the Spirit more was at a particular funeral, but that's another story.  It was amazing, and we assume the idea came from Utah, but it was wonderfully spiritual nonetheless.  Whoever wanted, got up and stated what hymn he/she had in mind, and which verse was particularly poignant, and the organist played and the chorister led, and we all sang.  It was most touching to hear people's feelings behind the hymns that they chose.