Sunday, October 16, 2016

As we only have one full day left in Daegu, the girls and I have been walking around a little sad about ending this trip.  Hannah asked if she can come for 4 months next time and is already working on a deal that involves her hijacking Halmoni's trip next year.  Lilly and Elise are begging to return to Korean class tomorrow.  And I was left trying to explain to our family and friends tonight why I love Korea.  It was pretty messy with my serious lack of Korean vocabulary so I'm going to share with you guys.  In English.  So much easier.

1. Everyone holds hands here.  It's just the way it's done. Moms and daughters.  Friends. Guys hold guys' hands.  Girls hold girls' hands. It means nothing except "hey, we are friends. Or family. And we like being together."  I find it sweet and almost did a cartwheel when a certain 13 year old of mine (no names here) held my hand throughout the market the other day.  That would have never happened in America, folks. I loved it!  And do you know what I loved even more? The Koreans that I was telling this to were appalled that it isn't done in America.  They were shocked.  

2. Sijangs for the win.  I don't know what I will do when I can't walk through a sijang for all of my veggies, cute socks a plenty and, of course, cheap street food. Yes, we have farmers markets in America.  In Portland, they're expensive! Here, they have the best prices around AND they will sometimes throw in an extra apple or what not.  And going back to having to drive into Beaverton for my Korean veggies will be sad. And inconvenient. And more expensive.  Being a 5 minute walk from just about anything we need is pretty sweet. 

3. Tiny apartments.  I kind of love Halmoni's tiny apartment.  I know they wouldn't work back home unless we took to sleeping on the floor but I do enjoy it.    Did you know that most people that have modernized and have beds don't actually have a soft mattress? It's basically sleeping on the floor but higher.   I thought we might eat each other or something being so squished for 2 months but it's been quite nice. And just having less has been a little freeing.  Of course, I saw this as we are packing and I am bringing home half of Korea in our bags. I do want to do some serious purging when we get home and maybe move to a smaller house. Or to Korea. 

4. Safer public transportation.  My girls are much more free to roam about and I really think it's because of the Halmoni's. Halmoni's don't sit at home much here.  They walk to the senior center. They walk to their friends.  They walk to the sijang and to the exercise park. With them out and about all day long, there are always tough Halmoni's around to smack anyone who messes with your kids. Because of this, nobody messes with your kids. They know they're being watched. 

5. Jjimjilbangs. Need I say more? How have I made it 38 years without you??

6. Korean food, on the cheap.  You name it, we will miss it. (Minus the silk work larvae) It is about as expensive as McDonald's dollar menu and mostly healthy.  I've gained a taste for sweet red bean, kimbap and sweet potatoes on this trip.  I've tried octopus and still am not a huge fan, but I like the majority of Korean food. (Ok, they live on a peninsula and love their seafood, so I guess I probably like 50% when you consider that.)

7.  Branches. I love branches.  In America, our church congregation has about 400 people and is called a ward. Smaller congregations are called branches and our little Gyeongsan branch has about 25 people on any given Sunday. (With the Kangs and the two sets of missionaries.) I love the intimacy of a small group and the girls especially love having the sisters around.  Oh. Today I was invited to bear my testimony in sacrament since it was our last Sunday (After church started!)  A sweet returned missionary translated for me and it was kind of hard.  I get distracted pretty easily and stopping after each sentence for a translation was a bit of a struggle.  What was I saying again? We love the branch here in all their smallness, even if it does insure that you're teaching a lesson each week and probably giving a talk or saying a prayer on top of that.  

Ok, I could keep on going all night long. The point is that we're going to miss this place. The good news? I kept trying to use an extra box and Halmoni made me use her luggage, telling me to bring it back next year when we come again. I finally gave in which means....I need to start saving for next year! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

You know how in America younger kids don't need ID when flying domestically?  Well. They need it here.  My dear sweet mother in law made a round trip taxi trip to our apartment in record time to grab the passports and get to the gate a few minutes before boarding.  She did it all while staying cool, calm and collected.  I love that woman!

We're in Jeju at a pension (kind of like a condo that has mats for us to sleep on) that is a quickly walk from the beach.  We've already sampled black pork (as in from a black pig that is unique to Jeju) and we've walked along the beach.  Tomorrow we have a tour guide taking us around the island, which I felt was an unnecessary expense until today. It's nice knowing that I don't have to worry about us getting everywhere!

And right now? I'm waiting for Lilly to fall asleep after a good cry about missing her Koreant school.  Going home next week is going to be a little sad as we've made some special friendships here. Sigh.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Yesterday the Kangs got a little more Korean as we had our first noraebang experience.  Welcome to the world where you can rock out to karaoke as loud as you please within the privacy of your own room. Yeju's family and Dong Bin took us to a noraebang across the street because we asked for some guidance.  Silly me. I let the fact that every 100 meters has a new noraebang keep from choosing which one to go to for our first time! Noraebangs, Siktangs (restaurants), Hagwans (after school academies) and make up shops are everywhere.   Elise loved the tamborine, they loved the English song selection (pretty much anything minus our favorite musicals. They did have some Les Mis that turned out amazing!) and we especially loved that they put no thought into the what images played in the background.  There was one children's song that basically had girls pole dancing in the back. Agh! Yes, we also did some Gangnam Style.

We also had a birthday dinner for Halmoni, Hannah and Chris' cousin.  It included a whole ton of samgyeopsal (pork belly=happiness) and raw halibut.  I snuck my halibut on the grill. Shh. Don't tell anyone. We sang happy birthday three times so nobody missed their wishes, a little like in Reply 1988.  Hannah got the English version.  Today was Hannah's real birthday so we let today be her last day of Korean school and sent her off to ride her first Segway.  They're only $10/hour to rent here so Dong Bin, Chloe and Hannah chased down small children with their new wheels.  (Ok, they didn't.  BUT Hannah did speed.  I'm actually not sure I'm ever letting her date, drive, leave her bedroom...)

Our last day of school was so Korean.  My teacher tried to buy us all lunch, but I out Koreaned her.  I was pretty slick.  They didn't even know the bill had been payed.  Then after our wood shop exursion (we made pens on the lathe and cut little animal puzzles from a saw that I swear he said couldn't cut fingers? The dangers of translating safety instructions.) our school tried to treat our family to dinner also.  I already feel seriously indebted to them as they have been angels with the patience and kindness that they've shown our family over the past two months.  Did I mention that this was a free school?  They are just a bunch of sweet ladies that put up with a whole lot of sass, some tears and plenty of empty stares as the girls had no idea what they were saying for a lot of the time there at the beginning.  If/when we come back, hopefully they won't lock the shutters when they see us coming.  I'd love to have us attend there again.

Tomorrow we are off to Jeju-do (do=island, pronounced doh, Homer style) Hopefully there will not be anymore typhoons and enough sunshine to climb Hallasan (san=mountain) and the Olle Trail.  We will try Jeju's famous black pork and let you know if it tastes any different or white pork.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bad mom confessions.  Lilly hurt her ankle on Thursday and I ignored her complaints (because she had spent the previous week chronicling every mosquito bite and minor bruise on her body) until we couldn't get her shoe on for school on Friday morning. This, of course, was 4 hours before our train left to Jinju for the lantern festival.  So we bought her a brace and tried to limit her walking, which is kind of impossible in this land of public transportation.  When I don't exercise in the morning, I still average 5 miles a day.

Jinju was great.  On our shuttle bus to our guesthouse (guest houses for the win! 6 twin beds makes this momma happy!) we passed by a big hullabaloo that we quickly figured out was the Korean Drama Awards...and there was a red carpet surrounded by a bunch of girls in school uniforms.  I hate to confess this on the blog, but the girls and I have kind of gotten into Korean Dramas over the past year.  Obsessed?  That's kind of a strong word. Addicted? Nah.  Do we enjoy them? Oh, yeah.  So our shuttle bus drops us off and we have to walk quite a ways to find our guesthouse.  As we are getting the run down at the guesthouse we hear the screams of high school girls at the Red carpet.  It was right around the corner. So Hannah quickly announced a change of plans and we went to have another pretty Korean experience that involved being pushed around by a bunch of fan girls.  Hannah is still bitter because she's pretty sure her favorite actor came before we were there.  We only saw a few people arrive but actually recognized one from a show we've been watching in Korea.  Funny story. On Friday morning, Hannah said she wanted to see a famous person in Korea.  Done.
As Chloe said, the Lantern Festival was lit. They had lanterns you could make and float down the river but they also had huge themed lanterns all along the river that ranged from historical lanterns to Disney lanterns.  My personal favorite was the part that was above the river, along the fortress wall. I kind of have a thing for fortress walls.  They're beautiful!  This fortress wall was a little ruined with displays for the festival, but it was still pretty amazing.  All of the "lanterns" on the wall either were related to Korean culture (games, food, period costumes) or they helped tell the story of the Imjin War in 1592.  Yep, the lantern festival is more about celebrating an important battle than about the romantic notion of sending lanterns, complete with your wishes, down the river.  The girls found a musical going on and it turned out to be a musical about the Imjin war. It was really well done for a free musical at a festival.  We loved it, even if we only got to see the last 15 minutes of it.  The rain let up a bit (apparently I brought rain to Korea...they've had more rain for this month than normal. Feeling a little bad about that but I do enjoy the rain.) so we headed to make our lanterns. Hannah didn't want to join in on the lantern making festivities so we told her to watch. Of course she changed her mind as I was paying and then was like a little kid as she followed her lantern down the river.  Silly Hannah.  Some of the girls made deep wishes about us being kind to each other and some of us wished for a trip to Harry Potter world.  They all write their Korean names on their lanterns and released them down the river.  Was it a little crazy to take a a train to a tiny town, paying for the most expensive guesthouse yet so we could release lanterns down the river? Absolutely.  It was a short but fun trip that made me glad I have daughters.  I don't know if I could have gotten sons on board for a lantern floating excursion.

Side notes:

Lilly's ankle was worse when we came back. I suck at parenting.  Don't worry. She riced it all day and it's much better.   Koreans are more into rhce. They think ice is horrible for sprained ankles.

The girls tried snails! I thought 3 out of 4 liked them but have been corrected. Chloe liked them.  She actually wanted more with breakfast this morning.

We've now made it through 2.5 sessions of conference. I loved Jeffrey R Holland's home teaching talk and Quentin L Cook's talk about looking beyond the mark.  Conference is the best!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Well, I did it.  I went to a Korean bath house (jimjilbang) today.  I am a pretty modest person so it has taken a good 3 months of internal pep talks and Internet research to get me through those doors.  A Jimjilbang is actually a little more than a bath house as there are saunas for clothed folks (matching shirts and shorts that you get upon arrival) and there are rooms for you to sleep in.  It is a super affordable travel option at about $10.

During my first week here, family offered to take me to a jimjilbang and I nicely refused them.  I still wasn't sure if I could handle being naked with a bunch of tiny Korean ladies, much less being naked with tiny korean ladies that I know.  When I finally decided to give this thing a try (you can't come to Korea and not go to a bath house, right?), I opted to fly solo.  I figured I rather be a little clueless than be with naked with my mother in law.  

I'm pretty sure you are supposed to do the bath house portion of the jimjilbang first and then go to the clothed sauna portions.  I decided that I would do whatever I darn well pleased today as I couldn't handle the scarier part until I was seriously relaxed.  I threw on my uniform and ran away from the dressing room. (Ok, no running. I was a grown up about it all.)  They had different rooms for you to sauna away in with different temperatures. I started off in the 39 degree salt room (you are laying on salt rocks) and after feeling pretty relaxed, decided to move to the 49 degree salt room. At the beginning, I felt like I was going to leave with burn marks all over my body. As I acclimated, I hit a point where I think I could have fallen asleep.  Maybe I was starting to cook?  I then headed to the ice room, which felt pretty cool (hehe) after the previous one.  I then decided to repeat the cycle but this time around the 39 degree room wasn't hot enough so I went to the 49 degree one. So relaxing, folks. Maybe it's just the mom in me, but it felt rejuvenating to lay on what felt like a bed of burning legos, using a big ole salt block as my pillow. There was another room that was shaped like a oven and said 72 degrees.  The Korean on the door had the word fire on it. Because I've read Hansel and Gretel, I decided to skip this one.  No need to be grilled up in Korea.  Now I was sufficiently relaxed and running out of time.    Never go to a jimjilbang when you have to meet your kids in 2 hours. More time would have been ideal. 

Now to the good part.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I never fully adjusted to locker rooms in high school, I really don't dig being in the swimming pool locker room. But I did exactly what Lilly told me to do. Get naked and forget that you are.  Best words of jimjilbang advice ever.  From the mouth of babes. They have different pools that you move back and forth from of varying temperatures and contents. One pool was purple. I'm not sure what I was soaking in but I'm pretty sure it had plenty of health benefits. Right? Another one was mugwort and there was a long ole list of health benefits on a sign. But it was in Korean and I didn't have a phone on me to translate. It probably cured me of at least 10 life threatening ailments.  There were also two saunas (49 and 72 degrees. Celcius, of course.) I went back and forth between cool and hot, every now and again going to the cool sauna. Cool as in it didn't kill me. It had this strange combination of "I don't feel like I can breathe" and a tingly feeling as my pores were releasing every toxin they could. Ok, I don't actually know what my pores were doing, but it felt pretty dang good.

 I was doing all of this while waiting for the ladies in their underwear to call me over.  At every bath house, there are ajummas who over an intense scrub down. I don't know how much it normally is, but I handed them 20,000 won ($18) and I got a full body scrub and a cucumber mask.  (They had a price list but I didn't have enough jimjilbang vocab to make any sense of it.  This was pretty intimidating as I'd read that they scrub every nook and cranny but I sucked it up, took of my big girl panties and made it work. I basically used an age old technique used by toddlers. If I can't see you, you can't see me.  At this bathhouse they have you lay on a massage table of sorts for your scrub down. It takes about twenty five minutes and takes off so much dead skin that you see big balls of dead skin all over the table, despite the ajumma's continual cleaning of the table as she scrubs you.  The cucumber mask was freshly grated cucumber and did a superb job of keeping my eyes closed.   Every nook and cranny. Every now and again, she would throw warm water all over me and start again.  She ended with some pounding, stretching and massaging.  I've had massages before but this was a whole new realm of relaxation.  There are no words.  It was the most...agh! Really. No words. But I suddenly understood why this is such a huge part of the Korean culture (up to now I thought it was just to compensate for their tiny bathrooms at home). This isn't something just for women. It isn't just for older folks. I only saw a few kids because I went in the middle of the school day (strategically so!) but normally there can be generations that go jimjilbanging together, scrubbing each other down and talking together.  And then I had a realization. I am soon going back to a land that is short on jimjilbangs.  The nearest one to my home is 4 hours away and 4 times as expensive.  I think we need to move to Korea.  I'm pretty sure I could handle anything life throws my way with a weekly trip to the bathhouse.   So all in all, it was a pretty life changing week. I now eat kimbap (guess what I had for lunch today??) and I visit jimjilbangs.  Lilly is excited to go to one together before going home. Everyone else refuses to go with us, which is why I think we should go to the one with an indoor waterpark.  You can call it manipulation but I call it natural consequences for refusing to try scary things. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

wang halmoni

I met Halmoni for the first time when Rachel was a tiny baby.  She brought her a little pink dress for her 100 Day celebration, along with all of the requisite good jewelry and a baby hanbok.  And I have loved her ever since.  She is one of my all time favorite Korean people.  As much as I love her to bits and pieces, I have always worried that the connection that I felt with her was one big miscommunication.  She doesn't speak any English and I don't speak Korean. Maybe, as sweet as I thought she was, she was actually yelling at me in Korean this whole time?  My Korean skills are now better than they've ever been (still pretty mediocre, but we are measuring improvement, not fluency, right) and as I was heading to Korea, I just hoped that my improved Korean would keep Halmoni as the nicest Korean that I know.

It has been a little over a month now.  Our family brought 7 new bodies into her little apartment, along with a whole heck of a lot of luggage.  She comes and goes in between her apartment and Chris' uncle's apartment.  She deals with us and all of our crazy a lot.  She is patient. She is tender and loves hugs.  She thinks Autumn is hilarious despite the fact that some might consider her sense of humor crazy and disrespectful.  She misses Rachel. She values family.  She taught me how to run her apartment.  She taught us how to pee in the pot. (Don't ask. We still don't understand that conversation.) She worries about us. She reads my mind and buys the same things I do at the grocery store. She reads her scriptures daily.  She is so patient with us and our sketchy Korean.  Did I say she's patient yet? In the time we've been here, she has gripped us out many many times but now, I understand what she's saying. Eat more rice!  I bought you apples.  Eat them! Did you eat breakfast?  You need to eat more!  

Today I got to hang out with her while the girls were in school. We talked about our very wet picnic yesterday and had a good laugh. Like any proper Korean, she followed up asking if we were all sick now.  We talked about the weather around here (I can do weather!) and talked about Oregon. As always, she asked me if I miss Autumn and Rachel.  She wants Autumn to come back here when she doesn't have school and misses her "man-ee" (많이).  She went for a walk and brought back a bag of kimbap for us to share.  My family all knows that I have tried for at least 8 years to like Kim.  (Seaweed)  Every now and again, I make an announcement that I'm going to make myself like it. My kids have even tried to present it to me in ways they think will be yummiest.  My resolve lasts until my gag reflex kicks in.  It's really a sad thing but I did try again right before our trip (I had a theory that I could reset my tastebuds) and failed. Again. So here Halmoni (97!) goes and picks up kimbap and tells me to eat up.  😬  I did what I had to do and ate up. Guess what?!? Not only did I eat it, but I enjoyed eating it.  I took a two bite strategy that allowed the kim to not get stuck in my throat so much and it allowed the fillings to overpower the kim.  I was ridiculously proud of myself but also grateful that I didn't throw up on Halmoni.  I know this is silly, but Heavenly Father has helped me in so many ways on this trip.  Most of them are with trivial matters that probably don't matter so much in the end, but they sure have made this trip easier.  This little miracle allowed me to enjoy a lovely day with Halmoni and made our lunch a little nicer. We even got to FaceTime Autumn together!  I am so grateful for such a tender and kind example in my life and am especially grateful that I've had this time to grow closer to her. When planning this trip, I KNEW we were supposed to go to Korea now. In my "I know what Heavenly Father has planned for me" wisdom, I assumed it was to see Halmoni before she dies.  She is 97 and I assumed she was on her way out of this life.  I don't know how much longer she has here but after our visit, I will now be shocked if I hear she is even sick. She is one tough cookie! I don't think she got the news that 97 is supposed to be old. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Things I thought were going to be hard in Korea but weren't:

•living in an apartment smaller than the back of our house: turns out that I kind of like living in small spaces. Everyone is close at hand when you when you need them, cleaning is quick as there isn't much to clean and we hang out more. When the kids start getting on my nerves, they run down to the playground and all is well after 30 minutes of quiet

•not having a dishwasher: not as hard as it was not having a dishwasher at home. There aren't very many dishes and everyone has gotten used to washing their dishes right away. Also, the nature of Korean food makes the dishes easier to wash well. No cheese to scrub off and less grease. 

•public transportation being our only form of transportation: I actually like the freedom the bus and subway offer us. Of course, it is super cheap to ride here. It costs about $3 for the whole family to ride one way but this also includes up to 3 transfers within 30 minutes.  You can get anywhere on a bus or subway here and then you don't have to drive with the crazy scooter folk.  

•speaking the language: hehe.  Just kidding. That has been so hard.  So very very hard.  It actually is discouraging that we're going home when we are because I do feel like a lot of progress has been made. I wish we were staying longer so we could keep advancing at this rate. (When I say we, I mainly mean the kids)  

•sharing one bathroom: it's been hard, but not as hard as I thought it would be. The girls have gotten a bit of a routine down, including a 5 minute knock for the world's longest showerer, Elise.  The banana milk prize for the first one in the shower has also helped!  The showers are a little different here so when I say shower, I actually mean "sit in a tiny bathtub and spray water on yourself".  It's a little cold but we've adjusted and it really isn't a big deal. The hand towels they use instead of bath towels? We're used to those too.  I'm pretty sure they use those because there just isn't room to dry a bunch of large towels.  And those Koreans are so tiny anyway, right??

•getting the kids to attend the Korean branch: I thought they might last a week before begging to go to the English branch but they're doing great. I think this is, in large part, due to the amazing American missionaries in our branch, who are also the yw leaders.  Who wouldn't want to hang out with sisters for all of your classes and activities?  They've even made the girls conduct in Korean! (with help, of course!) I did actually understand a couple of the testimonies today.  One was by the other yw in the branch who talked about how hard it is being the only Mormon in her school. She talked about how nice it has been having Chloe and Hannah in yw with her this last month...and it kind of made me want to stay forever. She is a super nice of those girls you want your daughters to be best friends with. Our goal is to get her to Oregon for a visit someday.  

•sleeping on the floor: I actually wouldn't know because I've slept on the bed most of the time. Ha! Nah, I slept on the floor while Chris was here and it was kind of rough for these old bones. The kids are sleeping right now though, so it can't be that bad.  

•not having a blow dryer or straightener: ok, this has been horrible.  My hair looks horrible and we have mirrors lining the elevator so I have reminders everytime I don't take the stairs.  I will overcome but I'm so sick of my hair looking cruddy.  

Hey, it turns out that the girls' Korean teacher lives around the corner and is going to start taking the girls to school.  When trying to figure out what I would do with my free time, Chloe said "Do what moms do when their kids are in school!"  I still had a blank stare as I've never experienced that, so she got more specific. "Do family history, mom!" So I made a game plan for this week and am pretty excited to get some family history done on my two free days.  

Saturday, October 1, 2016

And then there was 6.  Halmoni is now here so we are back up to 6 in our party.  She arrived at 1:30 this morning and thanks to a little miscommunication (see!  I didn't double check what I thought a message said on naver!), Chris' uncle woke me up with some soft knocking at 1 am.  I discovered that it is harder to speak Korean when you're half asleep.

It's great to have Halmoni here and not just because the girls skipped school today in honor of her arrival.  Lilly and Hannah have been the best at speaking Korean to her so it may take some training to get the other girls out of the English mode with her. (Myself included. It's hard to talk baby to an adult when I know I can more clearly express myself in English.)  Today's adventures proved that Daegu-ites are not Oregonians.  It was overcast with some scattered sprinkles and some wind. We started off at Suseongmot (Suseong Lake) in an attempt to ride duck boats and eat snow ice in the cafe that is in an airplane.   It was really a nice quiet day at the lake. It was a stark difference from a few nights ago when we went during the festival that half of Daegu attended.  The Snow ice place was closed. Maybe it was too cold?  The duck boats were closed.  (Wind and duck boats don't mix, I guess).  Approximately 5 minutes before making it to the duck boat dock, Hannah asked to ride the Viking ship ride.  I dismissed her by saying we could if the duck boats were closed because, of course, I thought the duck boats were open.  So we rode the Viking ship. Including Lilly, who had a small burst of bravery that lasted long enough to climb on the ride but not long enough to make it past the first tiny swing.  What did we discover about Lilly today? She is very coherent when freaked out and sobbing uncontrollably.  Some thoughts she had while sobbing on the ride that the nice Korean man extended just for us? "I am seriously regretting my decision to ride this!" "Mom, my entire body is trembling because I'm so scared!"  Who has the time to speak in complete sentences when in the middle of being scarred for life? Apparently Lilly.  

Amazingly enough, even though I lost credibility after recommending that ride, Lilly still trusted my opinion on the Mt. Apsan cable car.  

One of the highlights of the day? Hearing stories of Halmoni and Halapoji's dates at Suseongmot back before there were duck boats and a carnival.   Halmoni also remembers walking many times from the Suseongmot area to past Mt. Apsan as an alternative to riding in a car because she would get so carsick.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mother Nature pulled a mean trick on us here on Daegu.  It was hot and humid but we were used to it and surviving.  Then it got nice and cool and we were ecstatic.  We pulled out our jeans and sweaters and were living it up for two days.  And then it got horribly humid again but this time it felt worse because we had enjoyed the fresh cool air.  We basically felt like we were going to die yesterday and ended up with some pretty cranky kids as a result.  I threw some shikhye (rice lemonade? It is sweet and refreshing) their way, along with their favorite Popsicles.  Speaking of horrible humidity, we don't have an air conditioner here.  Ok, we kind of do.  I see one in Halmoni's apartment but it has never been on and isn't plugged in.  We've been ok as we keep the windows open and normally have a nice breeze going on.  Honestly, the worse part about the humidity is the laundry.  It takes forever and a day for your clothes to dry when the air is dripping with water.   It took two days for a load to dry once.

We wandered to Gyeongsan Sijang yesterday to kill some time before the girls had mutual.  There was plenty of veggies, fruit and street food. (Oh-dang for dinner, hotteok for dessert.) Our best find was a resale shop as it was much less expensive than in downtown Daegu.  We got a cute skirt, some shirts (one with a cute peter pan collar) and a dress for 10,000 won.  The sister missionaries say there are tons of resale shops in the area but I only found the one so I'm looking forward to finding more! The girls are enjoying exploring the different styles in Korea.  Forever 21 is Korean owned so it is a little bit like shopping there.  The seem to have an abundance of midi skirts (don't worry, the mini skirt is everywhere, too!) and cute jumpers.  The fanny pack is alive and kicking here but it is worn more as a cross body.  Our family now has 3 fanny pack owners.  Oh, dear.  The couple tee is real and the girls love spotting it in the wild.  Couple shoes, couple outfits, couple phone cases.    Sadie Hawkins on a date.  It's kind of sweet.  I like Autumn's summary of couple tees. "It gives you something else to burn when you break up!"

Ooh. Halmoni comes today. (As in Chris' mom.)  I am not quite sure how it will change the dynamics of our trip but we're excited for her to come. We will still go to school while she's here but we'll take days off here and there for things like going to Jeju Island!  (Korea's Hawaii)

Monday, September 26, 2016

The local branch here has family home evening every Monday evening but we've been traveling so much that we've only got to go once.  Tonight was a must because a very sweet Halapoji in the branch was teaching "well being exercises".  Think Korean yoga/stretching.  He has done these stretches everyday for 7 years and is pretty die hard about it.  It was just us, the missionaries and another sister in the ward and boy did he give us a run for our money.  There was one stretch in particular where this 75 year old man was almost in the splits and the put his nose to the ground.  We all had our legs  at about a 90 degree angle and couldn't get close to the ground.  It was pretty impressive.   Our new Korean word from the night? 보라 (bo-la) means something along the lines of "ok, you've tortured yourself enough in that position...let's move on.  It seems like an important word. Tonight it was our favorite.  This particular Halapoji is one of my favorites in the ward already.  He is  great at annunciation and reading with lots of feeling.  This makes it so much easier for me to follow along as he reads and raises the odds of my picking up a few words.  He also speaks with a lot of passion, which is probably why the annunciation happens.  I appreciate it nonetheless.

My Korean class is only twice a week for an hour and a half so up to now I've been riding the bus with the kids and twiddling my thumbs for the time that I'm not in class.  I study. I walk around the local market.  I do a little bit of sightseeing.  I just have to do it in 2 hour increments so I can come back and have lunch with them.  Today we got brave and I left them after lunch.  My theory was that their bus would be heading towards our home, making it less likely that they would get lost in the middle of Daegu.  The scariest part? Chloe's unpredictable sense of direction. It's either really good or...really bad.  I headed home pretty nervous but ultimately felt like they would get home safely.  Halmoni and her friend were home so I got to practice a lot of Korean for a couple of hours.  I think it went ok but I said "I don't understand" and "please say it again" a lot!  I then got a text from Chris. He couldn't sleep. Apparently someone was more worried than I was about the girls! We talked for a while and when the girls finally walked through the door, Chris was relieved and went back to bed. I know this doesn't seem noteworthy, but with me winning the award for worry wart at our house, it was nice to have someone else be more concerned than me.  Of course, it was only nice because the girls all got home safely.   The local buses are used mainly by students, Halmonis and Halapojis.  Because they are so commonly used for transportation, they feel so much safer than in the US. Everyone is also pretty mindful of the littles, especially Lilly.  They give her their seat, pat her cheeks and call her cute.  The seat is definitely the best part of the deal.  

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Calm you shall keep and yes hmm...the perfect shirt
While Chris was here, I slacked a lot on my Korean.  It is so hard to settle for a meh translation when you can have someone tell you the exact meaning!  There is also something intimidating in speaking Korean in front of Chris!  Maybe it is his perfectionist side or that I know he will correct me?  Anywho, with him back in the states, I've been speaking more as I kind of have to! Chris' uncle made plans with us to have dinner last night and even called me to make sure I knew which subway exit to get off on.  I got off the phone, hopped on the subway and got to the station that we were supposed to meet at. It wasn't until we had waited for a little bit that I had this thought. Did he say to go to Jeongpyeong station or that they were at Jeongpyeong and would come to Sinmae station to meet us? The Korean sentence structure is kind of the opposits of English so I was suddenly doubting myself!  I did what any potentially lost American would do.  I found the nearest bakery and bought us treats so we could think clearly.  Kidding.  Before that, I messaged him. And he didn't respond.  I finally got ahold of family and discovered that we were at the right place!  Phew!  Next time I am on the phone, I am going to be less quick to assume meaning and repeat back plans.  And dinner was at Chris' aunt's  삼겹살 (pork belly BBQ) restaurant, which means tons of delicious carmelized meat served with different sauces and side dishes.  Basically, I regretted using any stomach space on that darn pastry.  삼겹살 is always better.   We got to bring home Yeju for a sleep over afterwards as a bonus! The girls have loved having a friend over here and always look forward to seeing her on the weekend.  I wish they knew some of the neighbor kids. They are so darn shy that they will go to the playground and play next to other kids without saying a word.  (And I think the Korean kids are equally shy) We actually had some middle school girls say hello to us as walking past and then crack up as soon as they passed.

Side note: there were two guys at the restaurant from England and Illinois so I got to speak to them a little.  They have both lived in Korea for more than 10 years as they teach at local universities.  I'm a little jealous.

Side note 2: we have been enjoying a historical kdrama that is airing right now, Love in the Moonlight.  It's about a crown prince and his Eunuch that is a girl but disguised as a boy.  Monday and Tuesday evenings are looked forward to and this drama made touring Gyeongbukgung palace much more exciting for a certain 12 year old.  Historically accurate? Maybe a little.  Fun to watch? You betcha.  If you're watching it with subtitles, I would maybe selectively edit episode 7 at the very end. We don't have subtitles here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I know that I've filled Facebook with a gazillion photos of yummy food but I thought I should tell a little bit about what we are eating over here.   We are eating out way more than we do at home for two reasons. 1. The girls get to eat out for lunch everyday that they have school. 2. Healthy Korean food is dirt cheap at restaurants (I think meat is cheaper at restaurants as it is very pricey at the grocery store) 3. We love Korean food and want to try all the food that is harder to get back home.

Ok.  For breakfast and dinner, we eat the same thing.  This is super Asian.  Breakfast food is no different than what they eat the rest of the day unless you look at more westernized options.  We could buy cereal, eggs, doughnuts, etc... here but we are sticking to the do as the Romans plan.  Every meal includes rice.  If we don't eat rice (or even enough rice), we get in trouble with Halmoni.  We also pull out all of the banchans (or side dishes) that are already prepared and in the fridge.  This includes things like kimchi, Korean bean sprouts, a cucumber salad of sorts, fried anchovies, kimchi jeon, and so forth.  Sometimes, I fry up eggs to go with it. We always have kim (seaweed) as the girls like to crumble over their rice or put rice in it and roll it up.  For dinner, we also might have soup or a meat but normally we don't.  Halmoni is the queen of turning nothing into a delicious soup and I'm determined to learn her art.  When she makes the bean sprouts, instead of dumping the water, she leaves some bean sprouts in at turns it into soup.  I guess you learn skills like that when you live in leaner times.

Treats here include a lot of the little yogurt drinks (they sell them at Costco in America), banana milk and Popsicles.  There is a little mom and pop shop a quick walk away that sells a huge variety of Popsicles for 400 won a piece. (Not super cheap but reasonable-about 40 cents)  Its cheap enough that the girls like grabbing a Popsicle when they go buy me bean sprouts or cucumbers.   Fruit is expensive at the grocery store but cheap if bought on the street.   The vendors have a bunch of fruit stacked in a bowl and the price is for the bowl, not per pound.  It is very reasonably priced.  We always keep some fruit on hand for snacks but it requires me to cut it and set it out on a tray, complete with mini fruit utensils. ...unlike at home where I say "grab an apple." I get scoffed at for not peeling the girls' fruit but I remind myself that they haven't got the memo that the skin has a lot of nutrients!

We love street food.  The food carts here are less flashy but cheap and delicious.  Hotteok is a sugar filled pancake. They are generally about 1000 won. ($1)  Kimbap, ddeokbogi (spicy rice cakes) and fish cakes on a stick can be found on just about any corner and several places in between.  The fish cake is called "o-dang" so we enjoy commenting on it everytime we see it.  Hannah is especially fond of the broth they cook the o-dang with.  Some of the stalls have cups so you can drink it more easily, which helps Hannah maintain some of her dignity.  (Don't get odang to go.  Hannah will find a way, no matter how ridiculous it may look, to slurp up all of the broth!)

The biggest struggle here with food has just been limiting ourselves while people are trying to show their hospitality by stuffing us full of food! Don't tell Halmoni, but when she isn't here for breakfast, we eat half as much rice as when she's here.  If we serve up less rice with her here, she adds more to everyones' bowl. The girls were all lecturing Elise about serving up too many anchovies for herself at the beginning of a meal.  What they didn't see was that Halmoni was adding anchovies to her bowl throughout the whole meal!  Our goal? Not to have to buy extra seats on the way home.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Our family had a blessing in disguise as we didn't get to do baptisms at the Seoul temple because of a slight lack of planning on our part.  This allowed us, on a pretty limited schedule, to spend almost two hours in the family history library.  We weren't able to miraculously fill out Chris' family tree or anything but we did learn some very important things. (This list is for future reference. Please bear with me.)

1. I learned how to simultaneously enter Hangul, romanization AND Hanja for names. Why would I want to? Hangul helps you pronounce it correctly and is what is used in Korea. Important stuff.  Romanization allows Americans to pronounce it. Hanja is the ancient Chinese character that the Hangul is based on. It allows you to pinpoint the origin of a name and differentiate between what looks like 5 of the same names. (They can all be based on different characters)

2. I learned that I need to go back and do this for everyone currently in our tree.  It helps avoid duplication.  I'm pretty sure Chris is feeling inspired and ready to go through all of those names before I get back. Right, honey??

3. I learned that we can order a government document that basically include 4 generations.  Chris had one for his dad but I didn't realize we could order them on a whim! I need to plot with Uncle to get ones ordered for the different lines. Mwahaha...

4. The Park Miryang clan is crazy huge which makes it hard to research. Think Smith and Jones. Obscure last names are a blessing in Korean genealogy, too. The Kang line is a blessing as we're from a small Kang clan.

5. Korean indexing is on the horizon.  I didn't get a timeline but it sounds like it's soon. I've been hoping for this for at least 5 years!

6. I saved the best for last. Sometimes, the birth and death dates in jokbo listings include a King's name.  This is huge.  Jokbos are great.  I love them. BUT they randomly switch back and forth between two different date systems. One is based on Chinese numbers, which I know and are easy to read. 1-9-9-5 is 1995.  The other one is based on the lunar calendar and is on a 60 year rotation. If the year is _____, it could mean 1802,1862, 1922, etc.  You have to reference different generations to guesstimate which year they're actually referring to. It's not too big of deal unless you're thinking....ok, this guy either had a kid at 14 or 74.  OR, as in the case of our Kang jokbo, if the whole darn stinking book only uses the lunar calendar with no Chinese numbers in the whole darn book to reference.  This is where the Kings that are referenced help. We got a chart today that includes the different kings of China, Korea and Japan to help you narrow down the birthdate.   I'm excited to look at our jokbos and A. Use it in the Kang jokbo to find out what years I'm even dealing with and B. Go through our Lee jokbo and use the listed kings to verify dates.

Not family history related, we took a lovely ride along the Han River today after borrowing some bikes from a lovely rental joint that doesn't charge you.  I don't understand how they manage but, nonetheless, We had a wonderful ride. I think it may have been my favorite activity so far on our trip. It was a little idyllic. The wind blowing in my hair (no helmets were provided!), Lilly humming a song in front of me (before she fell), the Seoul cityscape off in the distance, bells dinging, no throngs of people was the best!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

I've decided that I'm going to feel discouraged and frustrated about my language skills every Sunday. It is such a long 3 hours when you are trying to pick out words here and there.  Even if you get the jist of the message, you still don't understand any depth.  (And normally it is more of a "Ok, so they're saying SOMETHING about the sacrament.") I have come to really appreciate this sweet ajhussi (old dude) in the ward because he reads scriptures with a lot of animation AND he enunciates in a way that makes it easy to follow along. Everyone else reads so quickly that I can pick out the first word of the verse and maybe a couple after that. Korean is a pretty easy language to read but I still read like a preschooler.  The upside? My prayers are getting better.  I don't think I could pray in a public setting but I can pray.  I find my prayers are much more heartfelt in Korean as I am putting so much thought into which word I should use.  It's kind of a cool experience.

Onto the next very real struggle in Korea.  Ugh!  They are all so dang nice here. Hospitable to a fault?  Chris is normally a good buffer as he is so good at saying "no" but he can't even go up against their kindness.  A great example? Us staying at Halmoni's house.  Our original plan was to get an Airbnb that was right around the corner. Yeah, that worked out well.  It basically is super rude and sends messages that we don't think their offering is good enough when really, our message that we're trying to send is "our family is huge and we don't want to be a pain in your rear!"  This morning we leave for a quick trip to Seoul to visit the temple and take Chris and Autumn to the airport. We planned to stay in a guesthouse right by the temple but that got switched real quick. We are now staying with Chris' very kind cousin's family. End of the story.  Our big ole family overtaking their apartment.  I feel bad just thinking about it!  Another example? Chris' aunt has this amazing samgyeopsal (pork belly) BBQ restaurant. I would eat there as often as I could BUT I know there is no way she would let us pay.  So we go when invited and stuff ourselves like its Christmas.  I got in trouble because I took the girls to an all you can eat samgyeopsal joint around the corner instead of her place...but I really just wanted to pay for our dinner! (No more facebooking about our BBQ adventures!) They have such a strong sense of obligation to family.  Really. They are just kind as can be and will do anything in the name of family.  If I needed anything and was actually able to express it in Korean, they would go ridiculously out of their way to help me.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Yesterday we did a bunch of shopping for Autumn before she heads home with Chris in a couple of days.  In Korea, there are underground malls built around subway stations. Lilly, upon being introduced to this, said "it's like a subway station that turned into a mall!  Who wouldn't love this???" Daegu also has a large amount of specialty streets.  Jewelry alley.  Cosmetic alley. Second hand shops alley. Fusion food alley.  Dukbeoggi alley. It's pretty amazing.  Our plan was to start at the second hand alley and then head to the underground shopping area but the insane amount of rain shortened our thrifting experience.  Their thrift stores are cheap and full of adorable clothes as Koreans generally have a really cute style.  Autumn found plenty tshirts with badly translated English on them, which are hilarious but not really something I want to spend money on. Sorry, Autumn.  There are now more Kangs that have fanny packs (agh!!) although they wear them a little differently here. They wear them as cross body bags with the bag right up front. It's a little cuter and makes everything easy to access.  We loaded Autumn up with the best writing utensil on the face of this earth. Mitsubishi gel pen, we honor you.  Adorable socks? We're on it.  I have a theory that school uniforms drive their cute sock industry.  There are cute socks everywhere, folks.  Everywhere.

While we were out shopping, Lilly and Elise were finishing up their sleepover with Yeju, which involved a trip to a Jimjilbang.  (Korean bath house and sauna, which I'm absolutely terrified of)  I think I'll have Lilly blog about the bath house as she had a great time and is young enough to not be phased by it.  Yeju's mom then started messaging me (her English skills are pretty minimal so we're all in Korean now) to arrange a meet up.  Here is how I roll: I read their message and decide what I think it means.  I then copy and paste into naver (a much more accurate version of google translate) to see how close I was.  Then I type up my reply, copy it back into naver to check it and then send it off if it makes sense. Where it gets tricky is if Chris' uncle also starts messaging me in the middle of it OR if they call me. Calling is so much harder.  A. It's loud everywhere so it's just hard to hear. B. I can't copy and paste our phone call in naver!  After lots of messaging and a rough phone call with Halmoni that ended much better than it started (she used some words I've NEVER heard before!), we were able to plan a meeting to go to the local science museum.  And I was able to arrange to have them pick up Chris and Hannah.  Success. I've found that I'm much more brave with my Korean without Chris there.  I have a hard time even mustering up the courage to try with him there.   So my Korean skillz should improve more after Chris flies home.  Theoretically.  We shall see.  But let me say this.  Korean is a hard language.  Learning to read it is the easy part. Between all of the many different levels of politeness and a sentence structure that is opposite ours, it can be hard to twist your brain around.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

And today I gained back all of that weight. ;) It is Chuseok in Korea, which means three days off of work and school. It also means extensive eating with family.  Like a whole ton of eating.  Today we went over to uncle's house and helped cook. (Sort of.  We weren't great help but we did try.  And I now know how to fry lotus roots and make egg battered meatballs that aren't balls.) It was all delicious. Everyone was stuffed.  Que the next course.  We ate japchae (stir fried sweet potato noodles; one of my first Korean foods that I liked 20 years ago), chicken, rice, and panchans a plenty. The kids were looking sick yet family was still encouraging them to eat more.  I kind of "wink, wink, nodded" to Chris to explain to them that the kids were done or throwing up soon.  So much good food.  Wonderful company as Chris uncle's family is the bomb diggity.  Kind to each other, fun to hang out with, they put away their phone and are great with the girls...oh, we just love them!  So great day.  We are heading home, feeling royally stuffed when they started talking about breakfast tomorrow.  Apparently today was kind of a warm up. Tomorrow is an all day affair, folks.  Oh. My. Dear.  We start at 9 am so I'm going running at 6:30. It's the only way to survive the feast.  The good side of it? At least it is food we love! Imagine if they were giving us gross food.  It could be worse.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

We are now back in Daegu and ready to experience our first Korean holiday. You'll get to hear about Chuseok for a few days (apparently, Thanksgiving in Korea involves three days of eating. Beat that, America!) so I will stick to blogging about Busan today.

All of the rain was gone today so we tromped around Haeundae today.  There is a great trail that goes along the coast that provided shade, a nice breeze, an epic view AND a visit with the mermaid/queen statue.  Lilly was a little disturbed by her lack of sea shells. There were lots of stairs but I only managed 28 flights of stairs today so it wasn't too bad.   We did some more culinary touring with some kimchi mandu (dumplings), shrimp mandu, squid tempura and lots of sikhye (a sweet Korean rice drink). I found another place that sold Misugaru smoothies and this one was even better than last night.  My rules for Korea? If there is a western toilet, you at least try. If a cafe makes Misugaru smoothies, you always order at least one.  This time the girls had snow ice while I ate my smoothie so I was safe from having to share too much. 


We let the kids play very briefly at the beach because the sun was out in full force and we didn't have any sunscreen.  The water was refreshing but not freezing. The ocean breeze was gentle enough to cool you down without throwing sand in your eyes. It was perfect but I did manage to swing a sunburn in that 15 minutes.  Darn!

We came home to a sweet Halmoni that had slaved away making us dinner.  Fish pancakes, green onion pancakes and soup.  I'm telling you, you cannot keep this 97 year old woman down.  Dinner hit the spot after two days of street food!   She chastised me before she left for the night because we aren't eating enough rice.   Bonus: she called when we were at the train station and I told her where we were! (And I understood what she was asking ...which is way better than my conversation with the taxi driver. Don't ask.)

good news minute: we finally found a scale today at emart.  We casually pulled it down to try it out and...I've some how managed to lose weight while eating like a queen.  Yes, the scale could be off but I'm not going there. It was also night time and I was fully clothed. (Phew!) The stairs, kimchi and Misugaru are working. Go team!

Monday, September 12, 2016

This morning we had the kids each grab an outfit as we ran out the door for a hiking adventure in Juwangsan National Park. It's doughnut day in Daegu because there is a shijang/시장 (open air market) outside of Halmoni's apartment that grows substantially on Mondays, which includes the addition of a doughnut lady. She has become Hannah's favorite Korean with her rice cake doughnuts and red bean filled doughnuts.  Back to the hike.  It was sprinkling as we left for our hike so we decided to stop for doughnuts. They weren't ready so we headed for the bank and then proceeded to wait in a heavier rain for doughnuts.  By the time we had our doughnuts, we were going to Busan for the night instead of going hiking.  Rain. Hiking.  Nah.  

We had the shortest wait for a train ever as we had to run to hop on our train.  In Busan, were staying in our second guesthouse.  We've found them to be a great solution for big families. We basically rent a dorm for just our family and it's a great fit. Everyone gets a twin bed, they have breakfast and it's pretty cheap. Hotel rooms here tend to be for 2 people, which would cost us a fortune. The guest houses are everywhere and are full of cute little touches. I love them! 

We went to Jagalchi today, which is Busan's notorious fish market.  They had a rich abundance of all things seafood. Live, freshly killed and dried of everything you could imagine.  We even saw some turtles waiting for some sort of future on a kitchen table. (Cover your ears, Leo!)  Chris was in heaven and ended up eating sea squirt and eel with the more adventurous Kanglings. Everyone at least tried it except for Hannah and Lilly, who are notorious for their picky eating.  Can you really call any Kang a picky eater? Probably not, but in comparison with their siblings...yeah, they're picky. We then wandered through the market that had more than just seafood. The biggest find? My drink that I've been searching for all throughout the past two weeks. There is a grain drink mix called Misugaru that I love to mix with a little bit of honey in the morning. Sometimes people make smoothies with it and I wanted to try it so badly but Halmoni doesn't have a blender and nobody else seems to sell the darn thing. I even had a barista tell me that I should just make it at home.  I got it tonight!  And the kids watched in horror as I ordered this healthy brown smoothie. And then they tried it.  Everyone wanted a little bit more. And a little bit more.  I got enough but next time I'm lucky enough
To find a Misugaru smoothie, I'm getting two of them. 

In other big news, the Kang girls felt their first earthquake today.  The epicenter was actually close to Daegu so I imagine it was felt stronger there.  After sitting in a delayed subway (never happens here!), Autumn got an emergency text telling us that there was an earthquake.  Our subway carried on.  We were walking back to our guest house via a food market (do you see a pattern?  We are culinary travelers!) when things started shaking. It wasn't enough to knock anyone over but Lilly was so terrified! She ran to me just in time for it to stop and we had a lesson about aftershocks.  It wasn't until 2 hours later that we found out it was not an aftershock but a stronger earthquake.   Nothing tragic or horrible but I bet the girls will always remember the earthquake they felt while hunting for some good steamed buns and hotteok.  All in all, a good day.  

Ooh...small world story. We got off the bus right after getting to Busan and started wandering around to find a guesthouse. Across the street was a flock of p-daying missionaries and, of course, one of them had just been transferred from our branch last week. What are the odds? 

Sunday, September 11, 2016


It is so hard to sit through three hours of church when you understand so little. There were two new American missionaries so I DID understand their introductions. For the most part, that is.  Elder Finch talked about how when life is hard for everyone, Jesus Chris helps something.  He has 12 siblings and is from Alaska? Nope. I guess he's from Utah.  Then the Koreans start talking and it gets so much harder. In my defense, Daegu is known for having a bit of a southern drawl. I'd like to blame all of my inadequacies on their drawl.  It was fun having Chris at church today. He learned a lot of new words. Baptism. Sunday School. Branch President. Things he didn't say as an 11 year old in Korea.  He also was able to tell the branch more about our family, including that we met on the Internet.   A member of the branch presidency asked if we'd like a Korean Book of Mormon.  I thought he was going to hand us a missionary copy and was super excited.  He proceeds to give us a nice triple combination!  I told Chris we should give it back and Chris simply said "you do NOT return gifts."  So kind of him!  The sisters are meeting me on Wednesday to give us a Korean lesson. I'm hoping to learn how to pray and bear my testimony before going home.  Or maybe just pray.  Did I tell you how much my Korean stinks?

After church we ate dinner with Chris' uncle. He opened up his restaurant just to make us dinner so I'm counting that as Sunday appropriate.  I am this close to installing a grill into my table when we return home. At his restaurant, you grill these thick slabs of pork until they are carmelizing, cut them into smaller pieces and then dip them in a delicious sauce. You can put it in a lettuce leaf or eat it plain. It is pretty amazing either way.  As it grills, you also throw some garlic, onions and duk (rice cakes) on the grill. The rice cakes come off tasting like toasted bread.  My favorite new food.  The garlic is yummy to add into the lettuce wraps with the meat.  The whole meal was amazing.  Dae bak.  대박! (Awesome!)  And the bonus was that since I got us lost on the way there, we were extra hungry and had burned off extra calories as we wandered around a neighborhood on the other side of the river.  Yep. More calories to eat!  Afterwards, us adults talked for a while. Ok, I mainly listened. I understood so much of what was being said until Yeju's dad would turn to me to tell me something specific. Why only then could he not use one single word that I knew?  The problem with adult conversations? I don't have an adult vocabulary. I want to say all of these things and...I can't.  They asked me if it is hard homeschooling. I wanted to tell them why I think it isn't any harder and what the benefits are.  Ugh.  I hate not being able to say what I want to say!

Next time your teenager complains about their homework or school load, ask me about Dong Bin. She is Chris' cousin and is a senior this year. We ran into her right by the subway last night at 10 pm.  (We almost didn't recognize her because she was wearing a mask!)  Guess where she was heading at 10 pm on a Saturday night? Yep. School. She had already gone to school and her after school academy. This was another class that she was off to.  On Saturday.  Today, I walked Elise over to their house to spend the night.  I asked where Dong Bin was. She was at school so I asked when she was coming home from school. 1 am.  On Sunday.  And then I told him that I'd pick up Elise at 7 but he said Dong Bin could bring her home on her way to school. At 7 am.  I obviously think Koreans are insane when it comes to this. And most Koreans would agree.  It is a vicious cycle as they have to study this much to keep up academically with the other people who study this much. And after college, they have to continue this to be competitive in their career.  They study like crazy and work crazy long hours.  I'm just amazed that their brains don't all explode from the pressure.   So next time you feel like your child has too much homework...

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Today we decided to spend another day in Yeosu instead of heading over to Busan. It allowed us time to wander the island of Olongdo (do is island in Korean so that sounds a little silly. The island of Olong?) and to get a very inexpensive meal full of seafood.

After dropping all of our bags off at the the train station for storage (the best 4,000 won we've spent on the trip), we walked to Olongdo.  It has a little man made land bridge that allows you to stroll to the island. Olongdo is full of paths that lead to different view points along the island. Although it is not super natural (there is music softly playing as you walk the trails), it was still pretty woodsy, relaxing and full of beautiful scenery. (And stairs. Lots of stairs).  The only bummer of the morning? There was a lot of fog so there wasn't the same visibility we had yesterday.  Another cool part of Olongdo? There was this foot health trail where they encourage you to shed your shoes and walk along their trail full of different textures.  It hurt like heck to walk on but afterwards, my feet felt so fantastic!  At the end of our walk, we found a cool musical fountain that was a smaller version of he Bellagio fountain but still pretty neat. It helped that it was choreographed to "Under the Sea".

Next was our seafood lunch, which ended up full of seafood delicacies that I can't tell you about because I...don't like seafood.  I know! I was a wasted spot at the table but the kids and Chris enjoyed it enough to make up for me. I stuck to rice and vegetable panchans, which filled me up just fine. I don't know the details, but I know there were plenty of sea squirt, cockles, crab and abalone at the table.  It only cost us 52,000 won, which isn't bad for 7 of us!
The weird part of the day? After our long train ride home, we finally made it back to Halmoni's house.  As we got out of the subway station and were right around the corner from her house, I had that feeling that you have after coming off of a long trip. That feeling of coming home and home just feeling so darn good? I felt that for a place that I've just been visiting for 2 weeks and I must say, it felt good.

Something new I changed today: the kids get a 10,000 won weekly allowance here for souvenirs, kimbap and the like. Today I made it a rule that I have to hear them speak Korean to two people each day to earn the full amount. Lilly immediately starting telling Halmoni that her throat still hurts.  In Korean.  Bribes are good sometimes, right?  I hope this is one of those times. Autumn has picked up quite a bit of Korean considering the fact that she only knew how to say hello, goodbye and thank you before our trip. The funny part? Despite her having the smallest Korean vocabulary, Halmoni treats her like she's fluent. Why? Because she fakes comprehension the best.  It's kind of funny to watch.  She does understand "your hair is pretty" because everyone seems to say it to her.

Friday, September 9, 2016

After a nice bowl of bibimbap, we said farewell to Jeonju.  Apparently, bibimbap started in Jeonju so it's a little different (and more expensive) there. It has more of a variety of vegetables which give it a complex taste. At least that is what Chris said.  I love bibimbap but this one had seaweed mixed in it so I stuck to the bulgogi.  I really do wish I could like seaweed. I've tried. And tried.  We just weren't meant to be.  It just keeps me from eating Kimbap mainly, which is sold in every other store here.

We hopped a train to Yeosu, which was a 2 hour train trip.  We took the cheap train and found it to be plenty comfortable and clean.  It only cost 55,000 won for all seven of us, which is about $50.  Not bad for a two hour trip.  The train had a little snack car that, of course, had mini karaoke rooms for you to rent out. Why wouldn't you have karaoke rooms on a train, right??

In Yeosu, we hopped a bus to go straight to the Buddhist hermitage that Chris wanted to see.  Instead we got distracted by a replica of the turtle boats, a statue of our dear admiral Yi (Hannah is his biggest fan since she watched an episode of a Korean drama about him) and a cool pagoda of sorts that overlooks the city and the bay.  THEN we headed to the hermitage via an hour long bus ride through small villages that either were rice farmers, fishermen or kimchi experts.  I just can't get over the beauty of their countryside. I feel like Korea's cities are really big and their villages are really small.  They seem to squish everyone into the city to keep the villages small. I love it! If I moved to Korea, I'd take up residence in a village.  We knew we were in for it when we had to walk up these steep city streets (Lombard road minus the switchbacks) just to get to the hermitage gate. We then climbed up, up, up these beautiful and steep granite stairs (more than 300 of them) to the tippy tippy top. It made for a spectacular view and was completely worth the whining we had to listen to.  (Which, in all honesty, wasn't that bad. It was playful whining.) While explaining that this was a sacred place for Buddhist folks to visit, the girls all decided that they were grateful that they don't have to climb so many stairs to get to the temple.  Figurative stairs, ladies.  Figurative. With super sweaty backs (we all had our backpacks with all of our stuff for the trip), we reluctantly headed back into town on the bus.

There were minbaks and pensions (rooms for rent) a plenty in these tiny towns and of we hadn't already made our reservations in town, I think we would have stayed the night! We then had a very kind bus driver that saved us from ourselves as we got off at the wrong place and he waited for us while helping us figure out our junk.  I kind of wanted to hug him but settled for a few "kamsamnida"-s.   Yeosu is a nice town as it isn't overwhelmingly huge but has the markets and what not of a big city. They have less cross walks so you just have to be gutsy and trust that the oncoming traffic values human life as much as you do.  There are plenty of Korean women out selling their fruits and veggies on the street. The buses got us where we needed to go and seemed to come often.  And all of that was complete with a nice view of the ocean.  Ooh...their ocean seems so calm.  Almost like a bay with no waves crashing up on the rocks.  You rarely have a place where you look out and don't see oyster farms everywhere.  It looked a lot like Oregon's coast but different.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Today we hopped an intercity bus and headed west for Jeonju, a city known for their hanok village. A hanok is an old Korean house that normally has a courtyard and several rooms that connect to the court house.  They have the amazing tile roofs and come with ondol floors. (Think radiant floors awesome and innovative great grandpa.).

Although the bus station looks a little sketchy, Korean intercity buses are pretty cushy.  There are only about 20 seats because they are abundant in leg room and arm rests. They stop half way through the ride at a rest stop that has a restaurant, a food stand, a convenience store and exercise equipment.  We loaded up with some hotteok (yeasty pancakes with a cinnamon filling), used the row of normal toilets vs. their squatty potties and were on our way again. The drive was amazing as we went through lush mountain country and rice paddies a plenty.  Something new I learned?  Koreans are more of a "through the mountain" vs. over the mountain sort of folk.  We went through so many tunnels! I wish I had counted them.  It is kind of cool because it tends to be more of a straigh shot AND the roads don't seem to muck up the view as much.

In Jeonju we hopped a taxi to the hanok village and immediately set out to find a place to sleep. (ever since a childhood trip through Idaho that left us on a roach motel, I really hate this approach.)  We decided not to do anything else until we had a room but then we ran into the octopus food stand.  Two octopus on a stick later, we (Chris) regained our focus.  One block later, we found Autumn's long lost hanok and decided it was fate and that we must stay there. (Autumn's Korean name is 아름다운/Autumndaun and means "beautiful". It means her name is all over the place). Our hanok is named "아름다운집" or "beautiful house".  We took it as a sign and rented a pretty small room for the seven of us.  We are all sleeping on the floor with traditional sort of bed duvets, which is what we've been doing at Halmoni's. A little rough on the back but a kind of cool Korean experience.

We then spent the evening wondering the streets of the hanok village. We ate different types of mandu, hotteok, kalbi on a stick, snow ice, steam buns and a local variety of cheese that they grill.  Everything was delicious, minus the octopus that I left to our seafood lovers. We toured a local shrine that was built to honor King Taejong that was full of beautiful buildings and cool history tidbits. We got to watch the Korean couples that rent hanboks (Korean traditional dresses) and wear them around town.  We also got to listen to Elise and Lilly ask to rent hanboks a gazillion times. After us all listening to them ask and ask,  I was  saying how good something savory sounded and Chloe said "I was thinking the same thing! About a hanbok?"  She's a funny girl.  This is a pretty touristy town but I have to say that I just love walking up the cobble stone streets and seeing all of the intricate gates and tile roofs.  It is a tourist trap that I can handle, I stick to that even as I am lying on the hard floor. (Which isn't so bad either.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Since the sister missionaries are the young women leaders, the girls have got to hang out with them extra.  It is a real perk to being in this tiny branch.  One of the tidbits of Korean culture that they taught the girls about was the idea that the Halmonis of Korea rule the country. If a Halmoni runs you over, it's your fault for being in her way.  If you're sitting down, you're in Halmoni's spot.  We've seen it at Halmoni's house. If Halmoni tells you to eat, you eat! You don't even bother arguing with her.

So now I will share my favorite moment of our trip so far.  Halmoni. Sweet little Halmoni. She is well under 5 feet, 97 years old and just sweet as can be.  She has a walker she uses sometimes that is pretty epic. It is like a stroller with a little spot if she gets tired and a place for her to put her goods.  It needs better wheels but it is a nice concept.  We were waiting at an intersection with her and her walker when it was our turn to go. Two twenty something girls were in front of Halmoni and apparently hadn't seen the light turn green. She RAMMED her wheels into their heels and said "bali ka!" (Hurry and go!)  We were behind her so we got to laugh about it without being rude but the real indicator of Korean culture was that the girls instantly started moving and didn't have any negative reaction.  Halmoni told them to go and they went! I'm sure I wouldn't laugh if it was my heels being rammed into but it was so out of character for the Halmoni we know. If Halmoni tells you to do something, you better not hesitate!

With Chris here, we only went to school for half the day and then went to find a way to the mountains.  There are mountains all around and Chris' mom had asked that I wait for her so I don't get lost.  I figured that Chris and I could handle it or die in the mountains together. ;) Chloe hurt her ankle yesterday and Lilly has a cold so they stayed home.   It is extremely humid right now so the 5 of us that went sweat buckets while finding a nice trail up the mountain. We didn't make it to a view point as some of the girls were feeling a little whiney but we did hike up, up, up with minimal switchbacks. I look forward to going there again when it is cooler outside and with Chloe, who is always up for an adventure.  We ended the hike with snow ice, which made it 100 times more amazing.  (And the snow ice was served in an air conditioned cafe...I hadn't realized how much I've missed air conditioning.)

Monday, September 5, 2016

Panchans: They're served with any order, are super delicious and change from day to day. 
Nangmyeon (냉면)

A few really amazing things happened today:

1. The girls found out that there is a normal toilet on the 2nd floor of our school.  My approval rating for our Korean class jumped significantly knowing that we would no longer have to avoid water on class days!

2. On the way home from class, it was pouring down rain and we were umbrella-less. (Which is completely unacceptable in Korea-everyone uses umbrellas for any amount of rain! In Korean dramas, if you get stuck in the rain you will probably be on your death bed for the next few days.) we ran into a bakery because that is what you do in the rain, right?  The lady was kindly musing over our lack of umbrellas.  In Korean.  Yep, I understood.  And I could actually respond.  I told her that on the morning, it wasn't raining so we didn't bring umbrellas!  And she understood me!  I had a two way conversation with someone besides Halmoni.  And they understood me.  Cheap thrills but it made my day.

3. The rice cooker that I couldn't figure out? I came home and the rice that I left in it was cooked.  I thought Halmoni cooked it but then she came home and said "you cooked the rice?" Something I did worked.  Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure what it was.  Chris is coming tomorrow and his first job is going to be translating the rice cooker buttons.

4. We took Elise and Lilly to Hogsmeade tonight for family home evening.  It is a little Harry Potter cafe that happens to be around the corner from church and a rather short bus ride from Halmoni's house.  What are the odds?  They were in heaven, eating their overpriced tarts and butter beer and taking pictures with all things Potter related.  It's a pretty cute idea for a cafe and had a nice little ambiance going on.   After a bus ride to contemplate the evening, Elise confessed that she saw a few flaws.  I suggested she tuck them away for when she opens her own Harry Potter cafe.

5.  I had nangmyeon for lunch. It's one of my favorite Korean foods ever.  And it is only $5 at the restaurant by our school.   Every time I eat it, I think of the first time Chris' mom made it for us. I politely told her I wasn't hungry was a cold noodle soup.  She persuaded me to give it a try and ever since then, I order nangmyeon if it is on the menu anytime it is remotely warm outside.

Chris will be here by this time tomorrow. The girls can't wait for an excuse to skip Korean class.  I can't wait go on early morning walks with my cutie.