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).”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?”

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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 🙂

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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.

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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.

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Busan Part III

Sun 7/3, day 18

We were really excited to go to church with the Collins. We got to church early and so Dan stayed behind while the rest of us went along the water front looking out at the Pacific Ocean. It was a strange reality that we had just been over 5,000 miles on the other side of the Pacific at Land’s End. It looked amazing and ominous. We were still jet lagging and the gray cloudy hazy rainy day reflected the state of our brains and bodies.

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Various dogs and their owners down by the ocean/river. Yes, those are pink puff tails.

Redeemer International Church is made up of mainly English speakers from all over the world. Dan is the pastor and we haven’t heard him preach in about four years. It’s always intimidating for me to go into a new church. I’m not exactly sure why because I have done it a lot. I get all shy and I hide in my journal, drawing or recording my nervous thoughts. I wanted to do interviews, but it takes a lot to work up to that and I was having a shy day, so even though it would have been pretty easy to talk to people, I didn’t. We stayed after for a potluck and I even waited in line with the men to get my food. Normally kids and women went first. Not for me today. There was a ton of great food, but it just reminded me of being a kid and visiting churches when my family traveled and how uncomfortable I always felt.

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After church and the potluck we headed to Shinsegae, a huge mall, they call a department store. It took over half an hour to even get in the parking lot. Everybody was here on a Sunday. This was definitely an upscale experience. The majority of the time we were in a stationary shop. I really think that I could have spent an hour longer, but at some point you have to go before you spend all your money on paper. Mostly kidding. Or not.

Nathan: We ended up at a bookstore, and I was browsing around and picked up a beautifully printed book that was in Korean. An older gentleman saw me pick it up and asked if I was looking for anything in particular. His English was better than average and I think he wanted to take the opportunity to continue practicing it. He told me about himself – he was a retired Buddhist pear farmer and had written an essay about Africa that took him to Seoul to meet with African leaders at one of the embassies (he showed me pictures of himself with the African leaders – I don’t remember which country, maybe Ghana).

Busan Part II

Thu 6-30 – Sat 7/2
Days 15 – 17

For the next few days we just chilled out and recovered from jet lag. We had one day that was super hot and we went to a playground, but we were too tired to do anything else. And the forecast? Rain for the next two weeks. Hot and rainy. Cooped up while being jetlagged didn’t seem so bad, but after three days, we really wanted to get outside.

But you know what you can do while it’s raining? Write songs on the ukulele, go to amazing restaurants, and try and learn Hangul (Korean letters). Annie, Dan, Nate, and I stayed up late every night playing cards: spades, Oh Pshaw, rummy. We did a lot of laughing and the kids told us to quiet down, more than once.

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Nate journal entry excerpt from 6/30:
30 minutes of quiet reading time is going on right now. Amy’s with Phoebe, Asher & Calvin. We’re in Busan, South Korea – 16 hours ahead of SF where we came from, 13 hours ahead of home. Crazy. It’s been over 3 1/2 years since we’ve seen my sister and her family. It’s so good to be here. The kids are much older than the last time we saw them. They each have fun and unique personalities and it’s fun to get to know them again. Calvin (almost 4) is super cute, very independent, a risk taker (seems like so far). Asher (6) is loving and loves (really loves) hugs. Annie says he has an engineer’s mind. We played with legos and lincoln logs. Phoebe (8) is funny, talented, loves her sister. We did origami together. Maddy is a little lady – Dan says 9 going on 19. Very talented songwriter – she sang a song about moving that was amazing, lyrically and melodically. We’ll work on the chords together later.

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