Thursday, May 30, 2013

Seoul, Korea - The Rest of It...

So I left off on Saturday with a tour of the DMZ. We got back into the city and went immediately for a pedicure. We were too impatient to wait the full 20 minutes to let our nails dry because we had places to go and see (and because of this we were buying toe nail polish and touching up our nails after we got back to the hotel) so we went back to the hotel and changed for shopping, a show, and dinner. The shopping is fabulous in Seoul. We bought into the culture and bought some face cream to help give us shiny glowing skin like the South Koreans. The shops stay open late, until midnight or later, and these people love to shop. The shops were mostly for face cream, clothes, shoes, and athletic gear. Loud music was blaring from a lot of them and lights were shining bright in all directions. Coffee shops and smoothie shops are on almost every corner. My friend read that Seoul has the most coffee shops per capita than any other city in the world. So we shopped and ate some dumplings on the side of the road. Then we went to a show, famous in Seoul, called Nanta. It is basically the Stomp for Asian cultures using kitchen supplies - they make music while chopping cabbage. It was really entertaining. After Stomp we ate some more Korean bar-b-q. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were exhausted. Sunday, we were up and at it by 8AM, grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed to some palaces. First we toured Changdeokgung Palace. It is known for its Secret Garden that you have to see via a tour. We joined the Korean tour since it was the first one offered. :) It was beautiful. From there we walked to the Bukchon Hanok village. It is a village of old historical homes that are still lived in or used as a guest house. From there we walked to Gyongbokgung Palace. It was beautiful and housed a children's museum and the National Folk Museum. Unfortunately we did not have time to go into the museums. After that we grabbed lunch (you guessed it, Korean bar-b-q) and walked through some more shopping streets. We got back to the hotel, packed up and got on the airport bus. Just as we were talking about how smoothly everything went, our bus was in a minor accident and was stopped for about 20 minutes. A taxi ran into the side of the bus, where the luggage was stored. After lots of persuading, the bus driver opened one of the luggage containers that thankfully had our luggage. We got our luggage and sprinted through the trains to get to the airport while the bus driver gave a testimony to the police. We were on the last flight out of Seoul to Tokyo. We did not think our husbands would be too happy if we called and said we were not coming back until Monday. We made it to the counter 45 minutes before our plane took off; thankfully they took us in. It was such a fabulous weekend. I loved the food and the spicy chili sauce they put on everything. Seoul reminded me a bit of NYC with the lights and music coming out of the stores. It was louder than Tokyo - people talked on their phones on the subway which is not allowed in Tokyo. It felt a bit more relaxed, like the people were more relaxed in general. You saw people sitting on the ground while they wait for the train to was as if you broke the rules it was will go on and you will be okay. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity. What a blessing. I had a blast and will remember it for a long time. What is next...we were thinking Taipei for a weekend in the fall...but we have yet to tell the husbands about that. :)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Seoul May 2013- DMZ

So, I just got back from a weekend in Seoul, S. Korea with a girlfriend. Have I mentioned before I have the greatest husband? Not only did he encourage me to go (and he works really hard to make bonuses so we can do fun things like this) but he took great care of the kids while I was gone. This was the first time I had been away from them for 3 bedtime routines, and in a different country from them. No tears were shed when I left, some were shed while I was gone by them, and everyone was thrilled to see each other when we all awoke this morning. I confess, I did not think much of the kids while I was gone. For one, I knew the husband could handle them and would do a fabulous job. Two, I needed a break...a break from dinners, baths, constant questions, constant feet under mine...a weekend to be an adult and not a full on mama. It was a much needed respite and I felt so re-energized when I came back. I was tired today, because we literally did not stop except to sleep while in Seoul, but I was not tired in the way of I will yell at my kids because I am tired. I was physically tired but mentally refreshed. So, we got to Seoul Friday evening. By the time we got into the city and checked into our hotel, we grabbed a bite to eat (Korean bar-b-q naturally, because what else do you eat in Korea except meat and veggies) and hit the sack because Saturday morning we had to meet at the USO base in Seoul to depart to the DMZ, otherwise known as the Demilitarization Zone...aka...4 km of territory that is both occupied by the North and South militaries and some folks from the US. This was a high priority for both my friend and I because there is literally no other place on earth that is like this. You cannot imagine the feeling of standing at a guard post, taking pictures of a fake city developed by the North, with North Korean soldiers behind you in the guard post in a window with a mirror. Crazy. This fake city has a large flag of North Korea with the tallest flag pole in the country, and from this city the North gives propaganda over a loud speaker out to the country. We got to walk in the rooms where meetings are held between the two countries and step into the North. While taking pictures of these rooms, across the way was a lone soldier from the North watching us with binoculars for any weird movements or gestures. Thankfully nobody waved at him. It was just surreal. The whole experience. I learned so much. The CEO of hyundai has tried to help build bridges with the North. He donated 60 cows to them because he felt guilty that as a child he stole one cow. He paid for a special bridge to be built in the DMZ to transfer the cows to the north. I got to see the bridge of no return, where after the war 50,000 people chose to walk to the south and 11,000 people chose to walk to the North, and they never returned. I saw the place where men were killed trying to cut down a tree so they could have a clearer view of the North. They were told they had permission to cut down the tree but within ten minutes were attacked and killed. I saw a village in the DMZ, inhabited by 211 people, who are protected in the DMZ by S. Korea and the US and are paid $85,000 a year tax free to remain in the village and work the land. Their ancestors survived the war and the only way you can live there is by being born into the family or if women marry into a family from the village. Men from the outside cannot marry a woman from this family and they continue to live in this village. I crawled in a tunnel that was built by the North Koreans. Supposedly they have built 20 tunnels underneath the ground all heading into S. Korea for a potential attack. However, the S. Korean army has only found 4 of the 20 tunnels. I learned that S. Koreans and Chinese people are not allowed to take the tour I took unless they get authorized permission due to the potential of them being spies. I got to visit Dorasan station, the railway station, that if one day opened up, would enable Koreans to travel through Korea, take the Trans-Siberian railway, and make their way to Europe, opening up a huge range of opportunity for travel for them via trains. The US troops and S. Korean troops who are stationed here face their enemy every day...literally, they share territory with their enemy. It was an unbelievable experience I will never forget. I hope I can see in my lifetime this country become one again.

Scrapbook Day May 2013

May 13th fell on a Monday this year. Right now, our Mondays are somewhat flexible in the morning and pretty packed in the afternoon. We have been invited to a play group on Mondays but we do not always go. We go when we have the energy. If we do not have the energy we stay close to home. On Monday May 13th we had a little energy day, so we met a friend for a picnic at a local park in the morning. We came home and the K Man took a nap while Miss M had her Japanese lesson. Each week her Japanese teacher is so impressed with her skills. She is working on a book right now for 6/7 year olds in Japanese and she is learning to read katakana now. Her hiragana is pretty good and she can read books in Japanese with her teacher. We are so proud of her and hope she can keep it up no matter where we go with our family. After Japanese, Miss M and I worked on a craft and then we headed to ballet. Miss M loves ballet. She has made a little friend in the class who also goes to her sports class on Thursdays and really enjoys herself. She looks so cute in her outfit. I finally got the K Man into the doctor last week for his check up. He is a whopping 33 pounds. I imagine he will pass Miss M in weight soon as the last time I had her weighed at the doctor she was 36.5 pounds. He is 34.5 inches tall. The doctor said he could be up to 6 feet tall when he is full grown. I kind of laughed, behind her back. Seriously y'all...I know they like to do those predictions at age 2, but both my husband and I are 5.5inches tall. I do not think the K Man will be 6 feet tall. My Grandpa on my mom's side was tall, but he was also super thin, and the K Man definitely does not have that in him, so I think 6 feet is pushing it. But we will see. I have not blogged much this month. Feel kind of bad about that as this is really for me and a scrapbook for my family. But I have not had the energy and we are just busy. I have so many thoughts swirling in my head. But for now, they will remain in my head. Enjoy the pics of the K Man and Miss M playing dress up. Even though the K Man got boy dress up clothes for his birthday like a fireman hat and a construction worker helmet with a cool light, he still wants to wear the purple and light blue skirt. Love this sweet boy, skirts and all.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Church Retreat - to the mountains

Our church always takes an annual retreat to the mountains every year during Golden Week. This year was our first time to go while living in Tokyo. I am so glad we went. Rather than taking the bus up with the rest of the group, we opted for the train. When we got off at the station, we assumed we would just get a taxi to the retreat center. Well, there was NOTHING at this station - not even a bathroom or a vending machine. Thankfully we had cell phones and a signal so we called the retreat center. Once the man heard kids in the background, he offered to pick us up in a minivan rather than make us wait 45 minutes for the next bus to come by. Miss M asked what all the trees were around us - I told her it is called nature, a forest. She ate her first hot dog on the retreat. Maybe that is a good thing that she is 4.5 and just now eating a hot dog, but you get my drift...she had to ask what a forest is and tried her first hot dog. The stars were beautiful and we were able to see a few more cherry blossoms. We had devotions from our pastor throughout the retreat, discussed them in small groups, and relaxed in the mountains. I took Miss M out on a paddle boat one day. The hubs played soccer and threw a football. The kids ran and played and we shared a room and I went to bed with the kids and got ten hours of sleep each night. It was so nice to get out of the city, make some new friends, smell crisp air, and expose our kids to nature.

Another Party for the K Man

Our Japanese friends who do not have children have somewhat adopted our kids to spoil. They love throwing them birthday parties. They bring all of the food and character cake and shower them with little presents. I told them that the K Man is loving Thomas the Train these days, so she got a cake with Thomas and the K Man's face on it. He LOVED it. And so did Miss M. So I guess this was his little birthday party. On his actual birthday, we were heading to our annual church retreat in the mountains of Nagano. It was Golden Week so hubby had off on Friday, and took Thursday off to celebrate the K Man's birthday. I was planning to take the K Man to the doctor in the morning for his two year old check up. Nothing like getting some shots on your actual birthday. We were running late so I hailed a taxi. The hubs was home with Miss M getting us ready to leave for the retreat. On our taxi ride, the K man had a bout with morning sickness and got sick all over me and the taxi. Needless to say, the pediatrician did not want to give him immunizations just in case he had a little stomach bug. His birthday was not getting off to a good start. My Australian friend met me at a grocery store with a change of clothes for myself and the K Man. We made it home and he was fine. Stupid motion sickness. That is what I get for hailing a cab and spending the money when I should have left earlier and taken the train. When we finally got home, I realized we would not have time to open the K Man's presents. We did sing to him over lunch with some pumpkin chocolate chip muffins that were supposed to be for breakfast but mama forgot. Then we headed out the door for our church retreat. We returned home on Saturday night and the K Man finally got to open his gifts. He got a new race track for cars, some tender sheds for our Thomas the train set with his own trains so he does not have to fight with Miss M over them, and an Anpanman bath toy, which they both are enjoying. The K Man is such a joy. He has an ear for music and loves to sing. His favorite song is "God is so Good" from BSF. He picks it every night when he goes to sleep. He is a huge people person and loves being around older kids. He has a smile that would make any mama melt. He is chubby...well, who are we kidding...the boy is a fatty, but he sure is cute. He loves Thomas the Train and Anpanman. He is talking a lot and can even put sentences together. If something breaks he will say "It is broken." He loves his sister, most of the time, and loves to ask where people are..."Sissy, where are you?" or "Daddy, where are you?" He sucks on two fingers a lot and his favorite stuffed animal is this tiny little blue horse. It goes everywhere. He also sleeps with a small blankie a friend gave me when we had him with his name on it, Mickey Mouse, a small Anpanman, and a Smurf his cousins gave him at Christmas. He loves to give me kisses but it is more like attacking and licking my face. He loves the park and going down slides. He is hilarious and I can tell he is going to be a people person, like his daddy. Everyone who meets him, loves him. He is learning how to drink out of a cup, a Thomas cup, and loves to cheers or kampai at every meal. He loves to give the peace sign, like a lot of Japanese people do when they have their picture taken, but he puts up all five fingers rather than his two peace fingers. And he is not camera shy. K Man, or K Buddy Man, or "my sweet little buddy brother", you are dearly loved by this family. I cannot imagine our family without you. You brighten up our home with your smile and sweet spirit. Happy 2nd Birthday buddy man!