Wednesday, September 5, 2018

bugs, infections and hospitals, oh my!


The last couple of days have been a little busy as Elise’s strange mosquito allergy has turned into an infection.  I made her some garlic poultices and rotated them off and on while throwing in my essential oils and, in my defense (Hannah said I was going overboard), the swelling on her arm went away with my efforts.  Our family was very sweet and very concerned about it so this afternoon (after reading about all sorts of complications with infections), I gave in to their insistence that we take her to the 평원 (hospital).  It took me years of freaking out before I found out that when Koreans take someone to the hospital, they are normally just taking them to the doctor.  I used to worry so much every time I was told that my mother in law went to the hospital!  So Elise went to the “hospital”, I discovered how dirt cheap a doctor visit is in Korea and then we all had peace of mind.  Chris' sweet aunt drove us over and did a bang up job of speaking Korean for me. I was warned that without insurance, I would have to pay for the whole bill.  I barely scraped together the $15 to cover it. ;) And then the prescriptions for a few different medications…that came to a whopping $11.  Needless to say, I am no longer quite as concerned about the kids getting sick over here.  As a little side note before you berate the state of healthcare in the United States, this is the same country that said Chris’ grandma was too old for open heart surgery to be worth it some 15 years ago.  I’m pretty glad that family pulled together the funds and that we got to make that decision, not them.

The bottom line is that I don’t have to stay up all night worrying about Elise dying in Korea and, much to her disappointment, she gets to go to school tomorrow.  She was such a sweet patient, always thanking me profusely for anything I did for her and just enjoying our time together.  It was a nice change of pace having her home, beyond the worrying and covering her in garlic all day.  This girl and her darn mosquito bites.  We now put mosquito repellant on her twice a day. 

Before Elise’s infection started peaking, we took a little trip to a riverside park close to the girls’ school.  I thought it would be a fun after school trip but I am now learning how pooped the kids are after a day full of class time.  Hannah lost 7 attitude points at the park!  The other girls only had a bad attitude until they got close enough to the river to see the swan boats.  They quickly perked up as the swan boats were a bucket list item on our last trip that we never got to cross off due to wind.  We came.  We swanned.  We conquered.  But not before our boat died in the middle of the river.  There was a school kayaking team out practicing and I felt really bad not being able to steer out of their way, but help eventually came.  Contrary to Elise’s belief, it died from a bunch of gunk being in the motor, not due to my general incompetence.  Hannah was in a much better mood once our boat died as her sense of adventure kicked in.  She was humiliated when I replied (she apparently wanted me to sit silent!) to some of the kayakers who were concerned.  My korean stinks enough that I told him to please tell my friend that our boat died vs what I was going for, which was “We’re ok.  We told our friend that our boat died.”  He raced over in his kayak and told Chloe all about our boat dying and I realized my mistake while he paddled.  Oops!  I forgot to use past tense AND I didn’t use an object marker.  Korean has very flexible word order but you put markers on the subject and object.  When speaking casually, sometimes they drop either/both and leave it to context.  This was apparently not a good time to do this.  I’ve decided to leave it to the natives to decide when they feel comfortable dropping markers but that I am not quite experienced enough to decide. 

In other good news: The flower bread lady has come out.  She makes little flower waffles filled with red bean in her cart and we’ve missed her immensly.  We had started to wonder if she had moved, but all is well in the world.  

(Also, you're welcome for the cute puppy pictures instead of Elise's gross arm pictures, which I do have plenty of. I thought these were better alternatives.) 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Yesterday was our first day on our allowance system that Chloe helped create for me.  I'll start with a disclaimer.  We do not do allowance of any kind back home.  We implemented allowance on our last trip as a way of giving the kids spending money in Korea and as a way of cutting down on the many requests for all of the adorable stuff they have here.  This time around, we've made a rather complex system where I give them daily points for their attitude, how much Korean they speak at home and away from home, how well they know our weekly vocabulary words and how helpful they are around the apartment.  Chloe has the opportunity to earn a little more (this was my addition, not hers) by using her phone wisely in a 4 different ways.  

One of my biggest character flaws is my lack of ability to stick with things.  (schedules, plans, chore charts, etc). I lack grit.  The only reason why I think this has the power to work is because the kids are invested in it working as their allowance is tied to it.  Yesterday was a dream.  The kids have been especially whiny and they've been arguing a lot since we came to Korea. (I like to think it is because they're adjusting to being in such a small space with each other, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating!) I only had one kid lose points from having a bad attitude and from arguing with a sister AND when I was calculating points that night, she said "I have 5 attitude points."  She knew.  So here is to hoping this keeps on working.

Hannah and Chloe are really diving into their Korean class.  I wish I could find a way for them to get their high school language credit from this.  They're spending 20 hours a week learning Korean but it doesn't count as their language credit.  It is kind of a shame but it doesn't seem like there are a lot of solutions out there.  They both came in from school and pulled out their vocabulary lists, made a quilt list and spent the afternoon trying to memorize them all.

Yesterday was Lilly's first day at Taekwondo.  (Elise starts on Wednesday thanks to a mosquito allergy that caused a pretty swollen elbow!) She was so excited to go and even paid for her own dobok.  The teachers were worried that she would feel behind and uncomfortable (they wanted her to join the foreigner class at 9 pm...Koreans have such late bedtimes!) but Lilly said she had a great time and she can't wait to head back.  After class, her teacher asked me if she is shy, to which I answered "She isn't as shy as Elise!".  He'll see what shy really looks like on Wednesday.  This is such a quintessential Korean activity!  Last time we came to Korea, I tried to make the kids to Taekwondo but there was serious push back.  This time, even Hannah wants to do it!  Last night made a quizlet list of basic Taekwondo terms, which will hopefully help the girls not bring shame upon our family name and help them not give blank stares when asked to do things. ;)

And just as a reminder for me: I have resolved to call Halmoni every week when we get home.  It is really hard to call her because our language skills are pretty remedial but being here with her has shown me how much those calls mean to her.  Chris' mom calls every Monday afternoon (Sunday night) and Halmoni schedules her day around it.  She is always home for a few hours on Monday to answer this one phone call.  We facetimed Chris today and throughout the day I heard her tell several people all about her conversation with him.  It means so much to her!  So when we return, we will do better.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Saturday chillin'

This post is just for my dad.  He sent me no pressure sort of message letting me know that my blog is the first thing he checks in the morning.  Just to clarify, I don't expect anyone to check this regularly.  My blog was the only thing that helped me put together a decent collection of our travels last time we went to Korea.  Thus I blog because my memory stinks.  

Yesterday was a pretty chill day.  Elise and Lilly hung out with Yeju all day long so it was just the older girls with me.  We started off with a Korean cooking class sponsored by the Daegu YMCA.  We were 15 minutes late so we missed the majority of the cooking (it was an easy recipe), but we got the gist of it by finished up the food and we didn't miss the most important part. Eating it!  We made Ddeok Kalbi, which is basically korean meatloaf that is wrapped around a large piece of ddeok (rice cake).  It was delicious and I look forward to finding cheap enough ground beef to make it at home.  

After the cooking class, I gave the girls a pass to do whatever they would like in downtown Daegu.  It is crazy crowded on weekends and they opted for a lot of shopping.  There are so many options for shopping in this area so we spent some time above ground, checking out the many make up stores (korean cosmetics are really fun to explore.  Their lipsticks are different, they have face masks of every variety you can imagine and their bb cream is just superior.), we hung out in the basement of Kyobo bookstore exploring school supplies (so many cute things!  My theory is that through cute school supplies, they make their many hours dedicated to studying tolerable) and then we headed to the underground shopping area.  This is a subway mall that is connected to a subway station and things tend to be a little cheaper down there.  As we were checking out the goods down below, we heard all sorts of ruckus from up above.  When we made it up to ground level again, we found ourselves right in the midst of a protest.  We still aren't sure what they were protesting, but they were carrying Korean and American flags while marching.  Like I said before, this is a very busy section of town (especially on Saturday) and they had to shut down two lanes of traffic for this march.  I don't imagine this happens very often but it was fun to see Koreans being passionate about their beliefs.  I don't normally feel this way about protesting as it is done all.the.stinking.time in Portland.  I think the frequency of protests in Portland diminishes the impact.   I tried to get the girls to join in for a free Korean bandana but they said something about not marching when they don't know what they're marching for.  Lame.

We headed off for a cause that we knew we could support.  Gluten.  We decided to try out the Schumann Cafe that offers unlimited bread for its customers.   We weren't quite sure what level the bread would be on but we soon found out that it was well worth it.  They had a large selection of pastries and bread and it was set up so you could take small portions of each type so you could explore the different varieties.  I love my bread and feel like I've tried everything, but there were some new breads that wowed me!  One of my favorites was a yeast chocolate bread.  I've never seen anything like it.  It had a thin shell of chocolate on the top of the crust, the actual bread was a hint chocolate flavor (not really sweet) and before you hit the bottom crust, there was a little layer of chocolate truffle stuff.  It was delicious and unexpected!  We also loved their olive bread that was a light and fluffy sourdough.  After spending an hour just hanging out in this very aesthetically pleasing cafe, we went to use the bathroom.  It was then that we found out that the downstairs is full of private little corners for you to hang out in, complete with a hammock chair and study rooms.  Next time we go, we'll have to hang out downstairs!  Oh, their drinks were yummy and well presented also.  Between the three of us, we had an Oreo shake, lemonade and a mango smoothie.  The Oreo shake was the least sweet somehow but they were all adorable and delicious.  We will be going back there again, but not too soon.  It is definitely a 5 pound cafe. 

Ooh.  What did Lilly and Elise do?  They partied.  They did ceramics, went to Daegu Stadium (there is a big park there) and finished off their day at the Jjimjilbang.  One thing I didn't tell you about Jjimjilbangs is that they have a lot of stuff for kids to do.  They have a play area, a movie room, a restaurant and an ice room in the sauna area.   They came home right before midnight and crashed.I'm so grateful for friends in Korea!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Things are moving along as we're finding more opportunities to immerse ourselves in the culture.

I found a weekly Korean class for me to take that is very specific to my level, so that is a serious win. And it is while the girls are in school.  I went in today to meet the teacher and I was impressed.  As she administered the placement test, she taught me grammar in a very clear way, teaching me things that nobody has explained before!  I am excited to learn with her.  Also, after the placement test she said that my grammar is really advanced (which is a stretch) but that my speaking needs work.  I wanted to hug her!  My class back home in the states did not give a lot of speaking opportunities as it mainly focused on writing.  She was appalled by this, which says a lot about her teaching style.  I can't wait to practice speaking more and then practicing even more with family!  

Tonight we went and watched the taekwondo class that Lilly and Elise are going to take.  The majority of the kids in the class are black belts, like good little Koreans, but there are a few beginners. (their friend, Yeju, is one of them)  It is three days a week of exercise, discipline and speaking Korean.  Woot woot.  Elise is less than thrilled about it but I love making my kids do things that are good for them. (Hey, we're in Korea, right?)

Korean school is going well.  Lilly asks me if she can stay home every day (which is kind of a repeat from last trip here) and Elise started crying in class when they had to read their essays in Korean BUT they always come home telling me that it went well.  I am very glad that this school is a very gentle environment for them to learn Korean vs the Korean public school system.  Their classes are small (5-8 people), their teachers are patient and, with them being the youngest students, they're treated very well.  It is also a little more reassuring this time around as I now know that they will probably be crying when they have to leave in December, just like last time.  

We also had the Sister Missionaries from our branch over yesterday.  It was fun visiting with them but it was also nice feeling the sweet spirit that follows them.  They shared a message that accompanied the well known marshmallow video, talking about how much this trip can benefit the girls for years to come.  They talked about the many blessings that can come out of our time here and how the girls may not see those blessings right away, but that they will come.  I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father that sent this message to our family, just when we needed it.    

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

what to do?

August 29, 2018
(Halmoni took me out for oxtail soup, which is at the top of Chris' very short "least favorite Korean food" list.  I loved it!)
Today was day 2 of the girls school and I decided something.  I have got to figure out something to do during the day.  Homeschooling my girls for the past The girls are gone from 9-3:30 and I am not used to having this much time on my hands.  The apartment is small so it was clean super fast.  I hung out with Halmoni and her social worker helper friend, Mrs. Hwang, for 2 hours.  We spoke Korean the whole time so I am thinking that counted as some serious study time. (by the way, Mrs. Hwang said my Korean is much better than last trip.  I was starting to doubt if there had been any improvement over the last couple of years so I am celebrating this!)  I had to explain to her Chloe’s dual enrollment program, which I possibly shouldn’t have even tried.  I am not sure if she understood in the end.  Beyond that, I studied. All day long.  It was a very long day and I need to find more things to fill it.  

I would like to start interviewing Ha
lmoni so I may start doing that during the day.  Chris and I made a list of questions that we want to record her answering.  After I figure out all of the technology, I think the daytime would be ideal as there won’t be kids bouncing off the wall in the background.  I’ve scanned in all of Halmoni’s pictures, but I would like to record her telling me about each picture.  All attempts to find a place to volunteer have been unsuccessful as of yet.  If I sign up for a language class, they’re all at night.  With the kids gone all day I feel like it would be pretty jerky of me to run away two nights a week.  I’m going to keep looking for a daytime language class.  Oooh.  Mrs. Hwang IS trying to find someone to teach me how to make a hanbok (a traditional Korean costume), so that could keep me busy for a while.  I would love to learn the technique behind making these beautiful costumes and get my hands on a pattern.  But until I find something useful to do with my time, I am going to be forced into some lovely relaxation time at the jjimjilbang tomorrow.  Every time I have gone so far, I have been on a time crunch and only spent 1-2 hours there, which is down right criminal.  Tomorrow, I plan on spending as much time as I can stand there.  Halmoni is gone all day tomorrow, the kids are gone all day tomorrow and the jjimjilbang is calling. 

Hannah and I are heading over to check out a b-boying class tonight to see if she has the guts to join it.  I emailed them today to confirm that girls are actually allowed in a b-BOYing class and they are.  The next question is “Are there girls in the class?”.  We shall see.  Either way, it will be fun just to see the class in action.  

Monday, August 27, 2018

Oh, if I could count how many times over the past few days I have questioned my decision to pack up our crew and head to Korea!  Every time I start to feel this way, right after shoving those thoughts deep down inside me to keep my brave face, things work out.  So here I am, smiling and hoping that things will work out.  Hoping I am not scarring my kids, hoping they have a good experience here and hoping that we come out of this closer than we were heading in.   I know there are reasons why we came here and why we're supposed to be here for this extended period of time.  I just don't know all of those reasons yet.  I will tell you that sweet and wonderful wang Halmoni has been waiting for us to return for two years.  She saved our water bottle, my scale, the girls' brush and my 4 hair curlers.  If we had left a bobby pin, I think she would have saved that too.  And every older lady in the apartment building that we have talked to knows all about us and that Halmoni was waiting for us to come.  I am glad that we were able to give her something else to look forward to. (and hopefully she won't be looking forward to us leaving in December!)

Yesterday we went back to our little branch in Gyeongsan.  There were 20 people in attendance minus us and two return missionaries that were visiting. (siblings who both served in Korea...I love when that happens!) So the five of us now make up ⅕ of the attending congregation.  It felt like coming back home to see old faces. After the second hour, we realized that church was over.  Somewhere in the past two years, they have cut their meeting time to two hours and added a yummy lunch afterwards.  I'm not completely sure what their reasoning was, but I think it really does lessen the burden on individual members of such a small congregation.  When you have 3 hours of talks and classes, someone has to prepare that material and often one person has to prepare 3 different talks/lessons in one Sunday.  It makes sense and it seems to work for them.  Lilly loved primary because instead of just her and another boy, they have 3 lively junior primary kids that she gets to play with.  After church, Rachel and I scanned a bunch of Halmoni's pictures.  Among the treasures was this picture of Chris' mom.  Before this, the oldest picture I had of her was as a teenager.    I'm so grateful that Rachel found this album and made me sit down to scan them. (I'll post more later because they're pretty spectacular.)

Rachel and Collin heading back up to Seoul today to finish off their trip.  We loved getting to play with them and adventure about but as soon as they left, things did start to feel a little more routine.  Chloe and I rode the subway to the grocery store and brought home just enough that we could carry. (Emart had the nerve to close their location right across the street from our apartment!)  We went with dear sweet Mrs. Hwang (Halmoni's weekly helper) on an adventure to take a Korean test.  My Korean is so lovely that I thought she said that the girls' school didn't have a class anymore. The girls were happy to see us get on our very familiar bus, go on our very familiar route and end up getting off our very familiar stop.  The school had moved locations, which is what she must have said when speaking at the speed of light in Korean.  The girls start class tomorrow after being sorted into their houses via a pretty intense placement test.  Surprisingly enough, the two that said they guessed when they got frustrated are in the lower class.  And then we came home and made a routine Korean dinner.  All in all, a pretty routine day that we survived.  And topped off with popsicles.  Why? Because Emart may have shut down but a new Popsicle shop opened up around the corner.  It is a whole shop full of so many different types of ice cream.  Oh, and because the humidity is trying to kill us.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

the train to busan

We were sitting around the apartment yesterday feeling pretty hot and planning a day trip to Gyeongju for Saturday when we checked the weather. The typhoon had switched directions, making a trip to Busan doable again and Collin was hunkering to meet Busan. The kids threw a change of clothes in their backpack and we booked it to the train station, barely missing our train. Just kidding. We only thought we had missed our train.  I may have tried to get them to reopen the door but I learned a valuable lesson. Always check the train number before pounding on a train.  We ventured into downtown Busan with me being promoted to lead tour guide since Chris wasn’t here.  I found I may not have paid very close attention to my surroundings when he was leading us around Busan two years ago.  

A few things that we learned from our trip:

•Busan is more fun with a seafood lover at the helm.  Some of the girls love seafood but they didn’t even know where to begin when ordering. 

•Don’t hop onto a tour boat before asking where it takes you. It could be fun though!

•If you have lost your cat in Korea, look for it around Busan Tower.  We saw more than 20 cats wandering around on our way up.  It is now dubbed “고양이 공원”. 

•Koreans (who sure do love their umbrellas) aren’t as wimpy with rain as I thought.  They will play in the ocean in the pouring rain.

•If you look hard enough in the direction of Japan on a cloudy day, you can convince yourself that you see Japan. The mind is a wonderful thing.  

•The street food in Busan is alive and well but choose a tempura stall that re-fries your order instead of microwaving it. 

•Guest houses are the way to go.  They have yet to let me down, they’re cheap, they fit our family AND every one that I’ve stayed at has used great decision making skills when choosing their fonts, graphics and decor.  This trip, we stayed at Kimchee House @ Busan Station and they did not disappoint. 

•You may be mistaken for an American tv show when you have a huge family walking down a street food alley with two GoPros. 

The most important lesson? Always be willing to throw a change of clothes into your backpack and run off on last minute train trip.

side note: My korean skills are a bit rusty but they are getting us around.  Tonight we hopped into the elevator with some Korean women who said their floor level to each other and I confirmed in Korean and pushed the button.  They were so surprised that I understood. (yeah...I know numbers. sort of. The darn Koreans have two numbering systems but that's a story for another day) They proceeded to discuss our yummy smelling fried chicken and we had a nice little chat in Korean.  Small successes.
popsicles are saving our lives over here in this humidity

a small sampling of the many many stairs down to the boat 
a true oceanfront restaurant
sometimes a spontaneous boat ride to a mystery location can be the highlight of your day