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. 


The Merrills said...

Sounds like driving in Korea is what it always should be: an adventure.

Adriane said...

Wow, that does not sound fun. I hate crowded roads, so I dunno if that's my place... lol! I hope you had some Tylenol in the van :)

Kristal said...

You have been busy! I would love to go to that fabric building. What are the prices like? Crazy traffic. That might bar me inside my apartment. I hate traffic.

Living Lavallee said...

The fabric is a good price here. There's a lady in the ward who is quite the seamstress; she gets stuff here for $20 a yard that is more like $100 a yard in the US, if it can be found.

OUR HOUSE said...

I think I was the red Toyota, Sienna - you can follow me any time:)

Dawna Greer said...

You are so brave to venture out into that kind of traffic and driving conditions with three little boys in tow. What an adventure for you!