Busan Part VIII

Sat 7/9, day 24

Calvin’s present from us came in the mail and so Nathan and Annie spent the morning playing Chinese Checkers with the kids. We thought this would be a good gift, a) it’s a 6 player game, and there are 6 Collins, b) it was one of Nathan and Annie’s favorite games growing up, c) Amazon would be able to ship it before we left in a few days. A few things about Chinese Checkers, 1) it didn’t originate in China or anywhere in Asia, 2) it is based off of a game invented in Germany in 1892, 3) Chinese Checkers was the brainchild of the Pressman brothers in 1928 as a market scheme, their name Hop Ching Checkers was dropped for the simpler Chinese.


By the time I looked up, the game had lost 3 of its initial competitors, including the birthday boy. Four might be a bit too young.

The weather was nice and the kids were dying to go to the beach. I normally try to avoid the beach because I am really good at getting a sunburn. I get burnt, then I feel sick, then I’m in pain, then I start peeling, and then I am pale again. Not super fun, but I’m game. It usually takes me an entire car ride to get sun-screened up. I think the kids were a bit worried about the amount of sunscreen I felt the need to put on. But it was a glorious day.

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We got a beach cabana and Nate and the kids got the last inner-tube and headed to the water. It was really fun to see Nate play with the kids in the water. Dan, Annie, and I gave up on getting our other present to Calvin to work: a kite we picked up in Chinatown in San Fran. Apparently we needed an instruction booklet or YouTube tutorial. We were very unsuccessful and there wasn’t an absence of wind either.

When Nate and the kids got tired of being in the water, they worked on sand castles. The boys were fearless about going in the water and convinced of their swimming acumen. Nate asked if they could swim and they both nodded oh yes. Annie in the background assured Nathan that they couldn’t really swim. They however, were not deterred. Nate and the girls were busy flipping each other off the tubes and I was very content watching them swim in very cold water.

Eventually Annie, Dan, and I got in the water and played a bit. But Uncle Nathan was the star of the show.


Busan Part VII

Fri 7/8, day 23


Early this morning I went on a hike with Dan up to the rocky peak of the mountain overlooking Jeonggwan, that you can see from the Collins’ apartment. He often mountain bikes this trail, up to a certain point where it turns into stone stairs. It was quite a steep route – not many switchbacks like you’d find in the Smokies; I guess the Koreans just want to go straight up. We passed a few people on the trail, including an old man in pajamas whom Dan said he sees often. As we got higher we saw more wildlife – a chipmunk here, a bird there – and started to get a view down into the valley. At the top, the view was breathtaking. It started out with a pretty clear view down into the valley. Then the fog rolled in and up the mountain, seeming to defy gravity and flow through the gap between us and the next peak over. You could still hear a lot of the noise of the city (mostly traffic, some construction) but when you pass over the peak to the other side with Jeonggwan behind you, that fades away and it’s quiet. Dan and I had a great conversation, catching up on what life has been like for him in South Korea for the past 4 years, and what he’s looking forward to in their move back to the States and his new role with TLI.

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We also wanted to go and hangout with the girls on individual dates. Phoebe and I went to a stationary store and for boba tea and had a fantastic time swapping stories and doing origami. She is incredibly funny and talks a mile a minute. I’d ask a question and then she’d ask me a question, not in a lawyerly manner, but more in the way of old friends catching up after a long time.



A bit later in the day I had my one on one time with Maddy. We also went to the boba tea shop, but they didn’t have any without milk, so after Maddy got hers we stopped by a coffee shop so I could get some coffee. Then we walked down by the river telling stories and asking each other questions. I asked about what she’s looking forward to in the US (snow) and what she’ll miss from Korea (food, freedom). She was just acting like a kid which was nice to see – she sometimes acts like a teen or an adult (9 going on 19) maybe partially due to being the oldest, and definitely partially due to her personality, so it was nice to see the playful kid side of her.


The big event of the night was going to see the Lotte Giants play the LG Twins. Korean baseball is a lot more interactive than in the states. In one section, there’s a stage set up for dancers and a sort of mascot guy, not in a mascot suit, but with a cap. A weird Elvis of sorts. Nate learned a few of the cheers (there’s one for each player). There’s the typical Kiss Cam and Dancing Cam. Try as they may, the girls didn’t get on the screen. They danced their hearts out.


As into baseball as the Koreans are, their sportsmanship is still maintained. So Dan shouting, “Hey batter, batter…swing, batter, batter…” definitely got a lot of strange looks. I loved it. As an avid and vocal baseball fan, I joined in a bit. Dan also made friends with the young Koreans around us by including them in his spontaneous cheers in Korean (making them up on the spot, I think). High-fiving everyone around us. It was great.


At the 7th inning stretch, something very odd happened. Attendants started passing out orange plastic bags. Apparantly when the hometeam needs some extra juju, this is their style of rally cap. Let me describe: you blow up the bag and tie a good knot and then stick the bag on your head and then loop the handles over your ears and wear it like a hat. Very odd. But when in Rome….


The score kept on going back and forth. LG was up in the top of the ninth. With two outs in the bottom of the 9th, and two men in scoring position, we were on our feet, but the rest of the crowd wasn’t. So Dan and I (mainly Dan) cajoled our section into standing up. I said obnoxious things like, in America we stand up when there are two outs (ok, granted two outs, two strikes). I desperately waved my hands. I’m not sure why I felt it my job to inform the Korean fans that they have to stand. They’re really quite accomplished in their baseball cheering skills without me. But many people actually followed our lead, well Dan’s anyway. They really like that he randomly shouted Korean things at the players and umps.

And what happened? Base hit and we won. Go Lotte, go!

Busan Part VI

Thu 7/7, day 22

We headed down to Busan’s Igidae park to hike along the ocean. It was a mirror to our Land’s End hike in San Francisco just over a week ago. It was hot and muggy, but the trails are really well maintained. It was a bit different hiking with 4 kids. But they were used to it and trooped along with the adults. A few daring moments left Asher with a nice booboo after jumping off a rock staircase. You live, you learn. It felt as if we should be silent, moving through the forest. But that really might just be my adult brain, because the four kids felt differently. If you’re outside, you should run and be free and whoop and be wild. I’m not sure why I was feeling more contemplative, but there was little talking except as we passed many older Koreans, we said, “Anyong-haseyo (hello).”


Is there an age at which we lose that wild, childlike desire to play and be free? I remember being a kid and adults seemed so quiet and when they did things like going into nature or a conservatory or an art gallery or JoAnn Fabrics, or I don’t know a zoo, I was always being sushed. Sometimes I thought to myself, “If you wanted quiet, why did you invite a kid?” But being like an adult seemed really boring. But as an adult, I don’t feel boring. But I do wonder what my 10-year-old self would say about enjoying the peace and quiet of Muir Woods.


We hiked up and then down, down, down to some incredible climbing rocks. I am not a rock climber. In fact, I’ve only been to a climbing gym twice in my life. But as I tried to scramble up a small boulder, I sort of got it, why people go to the middle of nowhere with a whole bunch of gear to climb stuff. This rock was radiating heat. The natural handholds made it remarkable easy, if awkward looking. It felt powerful to pull myself up and further explore rock upon rock. I was more daring than I normally am. There was a deep crevice with rushing water under it and a giant rock making a nice landbridge to more climbable rocks. It was about 4 feet wide and 10 feet long, the drop off with no rock was about 4 feet too. Dan and I both crossed it, the four kids wanted to come over, but their wise parents deemed it a bit too risky.


The kids were rockstars on the climb back up. Ice cream had been promised as a reward to anyone who completed the trek back up. All four kids avoided mud and tumbles (mostly) and complaining. Right near the top turn back to the car, poor Phoebe took a tumble, but had a pretty awesome warwound to take away.

When we got home we had to hustle to get cleaned up because the kids were getting dropped off at the babysitters and the four adults were going on a double date to a traditional Korean restaurant. The restaurant was near Dan’s University, where he also teaches English. Even though we had been having a blast staying up late playing cards, there’s also something really fun about going out on a date and getting dressed up. It was in a really nice area of Busan and we had to take our shoes off and thankfully, they had a cutout for our feet to rest in under the table. We were in a private room and each course was an incredible array of Korean delicacies. We’ll have more on Korean cuisine in a later post. It was Annie’s first time to this style of restaurant as well, so it was nice not being the only newbie. Another Korean tradition we tried was their most popular alcoholic beverage: Soju. It was pretty intense. Like a shot of mild vodka with nothing in it. I liked it about as much. But it’s always good to try new things.


We finished up our date night at an incredible bakery with excellent pastries and pies and cappuccino.

I’d like to say that we all went to bed early because the guys were getting up at the crack of dawn to go on a hike, but of course, there were more cards and jokes.

Busan Part V

Wed 7/6, day 21

I remember being a kid and having adults take you out for a special “date”, so we wanted to do the same thing with the kids. Of course, taking all four at a time is not really what we wanted. Today, Nathan and I took Maddy and Phoebe on a double date for a sushi buffet (the first time the girls tried sushi, it was their idea too) and noraebang (Korean karaoke). Kids are so different away from their parents and sometimes with their aunt and uncle they are even more different. I’m not sure what that is, but I’ve experienced it myself. I remember older cousins and mentors taking me out for hot chocolate and how special I felt that they wanted to spend time with just me. (Sometimes Joel was there too).

We all dressed up just a bit and the girls showed us where to go. It is all very walkable in their area. Like a suburb, but actually walkable. The girls (especially Maddy) know a lot of Korean because they went to Korean school for a year, so that was really helpful because Korean is incredibly hard. It was kind of pushing us a bit, because we don’t hang out with 8 and 9 year olds that often and so what do you talk about? Phoebe is a chatterbox, but trying to ask the right questions to each of the girls took some trial and error. But we had a great time.

A noraebang has a lot of small (4 people max) private room with mics, screens, and disco balls. We couldn’t figure out how to turn down the volume, so it was very, very loud. The first song Nate chose was Bohemian Rhapsody. Maybe you know the lyrics, but when they’re on the screen and an 8 and 9 year old are looking at you like you’re crazy, it’s sort of tough. It was an epic fail and it just kept on getting weirder. Maddy was hunched down covering her ears by the end. (A bit dramatic). The girls treated us to many, many K-pop songs (Korean pop). Their favorite pick from their aunt and uncle was Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi. It’s tough finding pop songs that are appropriate or trying to remember if a song is appropriate. After an hour, we were given 10 minutes of service (free stuff), we stayed but we were all ready to go. It was super loud in there.


We loved being out with the girls and I think the feeling was mutual. We were going to do some stuff with the boys, but it’s a bit more difficult because they can’t navigate like the girls did. But Asher definitely mentioned wanted to go for sushi and noraebang with us.

After dinner we wanted to head back out to walk along the river and it was absolutely beautiful. Tons of people were out walking along the river and so were the bugs. The river water wasn’t quite as full as the day before and Asher wanted to cross on the rocks, but at night that didn’t seem like such a good idea. Dan met up with us at a park where people were training for who knows what. The decor was a ripoff of Beauty and the Beast, pretty sure Disney hasn’t sent them a cease and desist yet.


Busan Part IV

Tue 7/5, day 20

We were so excited to be here for Calvin’s 4th birthday. In the Collins family you get to be “king for a day”. So Calvin determined the activities and the meals. We were working on a Superman cake that wouldn’t be ready until after lunch, so Calvin started with some presents: yay for LEGOs. Cake building is a serious business in the Collins’ house. From scratch and with super sweet frosting. We’re not sure if food coloring really has adverse effects on kids, but there was a lot of food coloring and some extreme emotions later in the day.

For lunch we had PBJs and presented the cake to Calvin, who absolutely loved his Superman cake. We decided to go to Peter’s Pet Cafe for his next activity. It did not disappoint. I love animals that are cute and the pet cafe had really cute animals that you want to adopt. There was Chris the Alaskan husky/wolfhound. A really nice dog. There were so many cute and a few ugly dogs. Many types of terrier/bull dogs and poodles. There was a section with smaller, “bitty” dogs that held Pomeranians and some other dogs and a really ugly small dog without hair. There was one dog that was super old and ugly and just wanted love. It was like your awkward friend and it sought Nathan out right away. I was allowed to hold one of the Pomeranians named Sunshine. We were both beaming. So much love in the room. The birthday boy was a bit shy of the dogs and so was Asher, but the dogs kept trying to snuggle. A chocolate brown poodle became Calvin’s friend, until the other dogs wanted to sit on his lap too. A danger about the pet cafe is that it started a whole new round of, “Can we get a dog?”



The really ugly dog that needed love is hanging out under Annie's chair.
The really ugly old dog that needed love is hanging out under Annie’s chair. It sensed Nate’s and Annie’s compassion 🙂



The girls needed some books and so we went to the library, which is next to an incredible rose garden and the river. Annie headed inside with the kids and Nate and I wandered and smelled the roses (for real, you know you can picture it). It was like a giant labyrinth of roses and some of the varieties are from plants that go back to the 1960s. Roses always remind me of my grandpa’s house outside of Portland. Whenever we would visit, my mom would have us help out with the garden: weeding, mulching, and a lot of complaining. Grandpa had had a bigger rose garden in the past, but he started slowing down in his 80s.


On top of the library is an awesome lookout and ampitheater. They do a great job of using space in Korea. The roof overlooks the river which was pretty high because it’s been raining a lot and flooding is a problem. We observe 4 boys, probably around 8-10, trying to ford the river over some giant stones. Normally, I think it would be a pretty easy crossing, but rushing water made them really consider the possibility of being swept away. The river isn’t very wide, but it was moving. They went slowly over the first few rocks, helping each other and working well together. About halfway through, they started getting more confidence. They made it across and we started loudly cheering from the top of the library. The boys looked up at us and neither smiled nor acknowledged us. I took that as encouragement to cheer them on all the more. They went over the real bridge and tried it again. This time it was easy and they were joking. When they finished again, we cheered to see if we could get a reaction out of them. Nope. Same, same.

We found Annie and the kids in the library. She was reading to Calvin and Asher, but Calvin had fallen asleep. That seems to happen a lot and it is really cute, but of course, then someone has to carry him home. After rousing Calvin, we headed home and made fajitas/burritos (Calvin’s request).

We were just hanging out on the couches after dinner and before bed, but this rumbling and shaking began. It was loud and fast and my heart was racing. An earthquake. My first earthquake. Here in the Pacific Rim, earthquakes aren’t uncommon. Dan said that they had experienced one other earthquake and it was a lot more subtle than ours. It was just a few seconds, but so powerful. It was 5.0, just off the coast of Busan. Crazy. We were told to expect aftershocks, but none came. We all sort of paused and just were like, “Did that just happen?”

More late night cards, conversation, and laughing for the adults. Though a few times we circled back to the earthquake. Did that really just happen? Yes.

Happy 4th birthday, Calvin! What a way to end it, though.