Tag Archives: Seoul

Agriculture Museum and Rice Museum

First of all, sorry for the lack of photos. It’s difficult to snap photos while making sure my two 4 year olds don’t destroy anything or kill themselves with an 18 month old strapped to my back! I’m working on it though!

Today, the kids and I set off to the Rolling Ball Museum and the Fun Museum, which I read about on this AMAZING blog Kids Fun in Seoul. It sounded great, and I coordinate some other moms and their preschool-aged kids to meet us there. We arrived to find that of all the weeks in the year, the museum was closed this week for their yearly break. :-/

Luckily, on our walk to the museum from the subway station, we passed the Agriculture Museum and right next to it, the Rice Museum. Why not? We’d come all this way. May as well venture in!

We started at the Agriculture Museum, which felt a bit strange when we first walked in with our brood of 4 year old boys. They were loud and rambunctious, and the museum was dead silent. The women at the information desk welcomed us in, and one of the women followed us through the first floor exhibition, giving us (me, mostly, since I was the only one of the bunch who spoke Korean) brief descriptions of the dioramas.

The museum is filled with depictions of early agriculture in Korea, beginning with the Stone Age and progressing through the development of Bronze age tools, the adaptation of natural resources (abundant mountain streams to irrigate crops), and innovations that allowed for things such as growing crops during Korea’s cold winters. One of the most interesting dioramas showed Korea’s unique greenhouse–the very first greenhouse ever used in human history according to the museum guide–made from paper (since glass had yet to be invented) that had been treated with animal fat. Very cool!

We were guided upstairs, where the exhibition continued, showing depictions of everyday life in post-agricultural or “traditional” Korea. At the end of the exhibition galleries on the 2nd floor, there’s a small room with activities for children. There wasn’t a whole lot that our group of kiddos could participate in since everything was in Korean, but there were buttons to push and a couple of touchscreen activities that engaged our 4 year olds, despite their inability to understand what they were doing!

Sorry for A) the blurred out faces of these handsome little guys, but only Charlie and Lincoln are mine, and B) the fact that I was unable to get a photo with ANY of the boys actually looking at the camera! 

No matter what, button pushing is fun. 

Right next door to the Agricultural Museum is the Rice Museum. I should mention that both of these museums are sponsored/supported by NH, a major Korean agricultural company. Their green and blue NH logo can be seen all over the country–on food items, on buildings, on banks–there’s actually an NH bank that was originally founded to help farmers manage their finances.

Anyway, the Rice Museum is a much more child-centered museum. The space is bright and colorful, and it’s much more hands-on that the Agricultural Museum. There’s a room with cute little stools for kids to sit on (or climb or rearrange) and watch a video about rice. Moms can sit in there and take a little break too!

One of the women told us about a little rice cafe upstairs on the second floor, so we ventured up there and found a cafe that sold snacks and drinks consisting entirely of NH products. There were things like rice lattes, shikhae (the sweet rice drink that’s often given to you at the end of your meal at Korean restaurants), hoedduk (a pancake-like snack with melted brown sugar in the center–so good!), ddukbokki (the spicy rice cake dish often found at street vendor stalls), and rice puff snacks for kids. FYI, none of the food is prepared there. All of the food that’s sold and served is from NH’s line of pre-packaged instant-ready foods. The just add water and microwave. You can also purchase these items at the little shop to take home and eat at a later time.

On our way out, I noticed a sign by the door to the elevator lobby:

It appears as though the Rice Museum offers enrichment classes for children on the weekends. Obviously, these classes revolve around cooking, and I would imagine that understanding and speaking Korean is a requirement… But how fun! The youngest age group is 6-7, so my kiddos are too young to go anyway, but they would love it. I’ll have to come back in a couple of years and get them in some cooking classes!

So all in all, despite our little setback at the beginning, we had a good time. We’ll probably be going to the Rolling Ball Museum next week since I was able to confirm that they will, in fact, be open.

Children’s Grand Park

This beautiful Labor Day, we decided to make our way over to the Children’s Grand Park. From our place by the Mapo subway station, it took about 45 minutes to get there. It’s was a relatively easy trip there, and we arrived around 9:30, just as our friends arrived at the park as well, so at the very least, our trip out there was a success. 😉

The park was almost entirely deserted at that time, so we were able to take a calm, leisurely stroll through the park, although the boys pretty much beelined for the zoo portion of the park. There’s so much to see that one day isn’t nearly enough to take advantage of all it offers. The park entrance is free, and I had read on the website that there’s a fee for the zoo, but for whatever reason, there were no tickets to purchase and we were able to wander around the zoo for free. At the entrance, there’s a place to rent strollers (3,000W), which would be great for people who don’t want to struggle with a stroller on the subway.

On our way to the zoo, the kids discovered a sculpture garden, a playground, and plenty of space to run around. As I mentioned, the park was pretty empty at this hour, so for little ones who live in the city and are constantly surrounded by people and cars, being able to run free without worry is such a beautiful thing.

The zoo is definitely tailor-made for little ones. It’s quite unlike any zoo we ever visited in the States, and you’ll probably find yourself thinking about the rather small confines that the animals are in…but the kids will enjoy seeing the animals up close and personal. We’ve been to a number of zoos in the States, but I can honestly say that I’ve never been so close to lions and cheetahs and jaguars (separated by glass, of course!), and I was surprised at how big they are–particularly the lion.

As with all Korean parks, there were plenty of places for cute little photo ops…

For Lincoln, no trip to the zoo is complete unless he sees a turtle, so we had to make sure to find this little guy. 

  
 And what parent doesn’t love a little adult humor in a children’s park, albeit unintentional?

The zoo also offers camel rides for kids and adults and pony rides just for kids (5,500W for adults, 3,000W for kids).

After the zoo, we ate lunch at Han’s Cafe right outside the zoo portion of the park. In retrospect, we should have searched a bit more for another place to eat because all this place had was burgers, fried chicken, and various types of katsu. We’re not big on fried food and would definitely would have preferred some bibimbab or naengmyun… So next time we venture out there, finding the cafeteria will definitely be on our list of priorities!

As we headed out of the park, the boys really wanted to go inside the botanical garden where we found an area full of bonsai trees that were 100 to 200 years old. I don’t know that the boys appreciated it, but the adults thought it was pretty cool. The kids, on the other hand, were pretty impressed with the little pond FULL of goldfish. The boys found this little bridge with a kid-sized bench for another little photo op. And look how happy they are about it! 😉

And finally, as we walked back towards the entrance, the music fountain was more excitement than the kids could handle. They ran past the rather ineffective barrier and ran through the jets that play along to the music. Luckily, we brought a change of clothes for them so they didn’t have to ride the subway home soaking wet.

We only saw a small fraction of what the park has to offer, so we’ll definitely be making a trip out here again soon. There’s the new Seoul Children’s Museum, an amusement park with rides for little ones, as well as a Kids Auto Park that offers driving classes for kids, complete with mini cars and tiny little roads for them to drive on. There’s so much more to see and do here–another adventure at the Children’s Grand Park is definitely on the horizon.

Yongsan Family Park

Despite having lived in Seoul for 10 months already (yeah, when did that happen?!?), we made our very first trip to the Yongsan Family Park. Located a very short walk from the Visitor Gate/Gate 13 and the Ichon Subway station, it’s a great location for anyone who lives on or around post. None of my children like big crowds, so we tend to avoid public places on the weekends, particularly those that attract families with children. It just gets a bit chaotic, and my boys have realized over the past several months that they don’t like being stared at while trying to play. So we decided to go right after breakfast and arrived at the park around 9:30am. There’s a very small parking lot (maybe 25-30 spaces) that’s tucked away under an overpass. When we arrived, there were about 3 other cars in the lot. We were given a ticket when entering the parking lot with a time stamp in order to pay on our way out (FYI, we were there for a little over 2 hours and paid 2,400W when we left).

Right next to the parking lot are the restrooms and a handful of picnic tables in a shaded area–great place for a picnic, especially if you don’t feel like lugging 3 kids and bags and/or a cooler full of food to another picnic location. My kids don’t care where they eat. As long as they eat!

There’s also a very convenient little map of the park, labeled in English, at the entrance of the park. The walkways are very well-maintained and if you’re looking for a place to just go for a walk or a run, this park would be great. It’s quite stroller friendly, and little ones would have plenty to look at and admire while mama gets a workout.

When we got there, some people were working on the vegetable garden, and my boys, who love tomatoes and zucchini were quite impressed with the garden. It’s really too bad that we don’t have a yard here in Seoul, although I imagine a container garden up on our balcony would do really well. There’s also a barefoot path through the vegetable garden, so this would be a great way to teach your little ones about how food is grown while letting them get some dirt between their toes. And don’t worry–there’s a water faucet to clean your feet afterwards!

We wandered through the park, tossing around a football and a frisbee we brought with us while trying to prevent our ever-curious and perpetually suicidal 18 month old daughter from falling into the little pond and stream.

The only thing Miss Penny Penny is afraid of, apparently, are grates. She won’t step on them. Ever.

We only made it halfway through the park because the kids were distracted by the playground. It’s a lovely little play area with a cute little mushroom house, flowers, benches and picnic tables as well as the closest thing I’ve seen to sand at a playground (it’s more like sand mixed with gravel, but the kids didn’t seem to mind!).

My only complaint about the playground area is that although the rest of the park is very well shaded, the playground itself has no shade. I don’t mind the kids getting some sunlight, especially after what felt like a ridiculously long monsoon season this year, but we couldn’t stay out here for long stretches, especially with my littlest one’s fair skin. On the bright side, there are restrooms and a water fountain very conveniently located by the playground.

There’s also a SUPER LARGE bench, which not only makes for a great photo op…

…but offers little boys another opportunity to give their mother a heart attack. :-/

We ended our morning trip to the Yongsan Family Park with some juice and a snack at one of the picnic tables. All in all, I’d say it was a lovely little adventure!

Our Adventures Begin…

After agonizing over the decision for weeks, weighing the pros and cons, discussing it with friends who are parents and educators, my husband and I decided not to send our 4 year old twin boys to preschool this year. Neither of us ever considered “homeschooling” our children, but it seems that for this year before they enter kindergarten and they begin to spend more and more time out of the house, I will be my children’s teacher. I will also get to snuggle them just a little bit longer, help fill their growing brains with memories of exploring the world around them, and nurture a love of adventure!

I’m both excited and nervous about this task I’ve decided to undertake. On the one hand, I’m in love with the idea of spending this next year adventuring with my boys, and I’m confident that I can teach them the ABCs, the sounds that letters make, numbers–all the basics to prepare them for kindergarten. On the other hand, as most moms do on a daily basis, I’m constantly questioning whether or not I’m really doing what’s best for my children. I’m a bit nervous about the amount of work it will take to do this, the fact that I also have to care for my very demanding 18 month old daughter, and that my boys will miss out on the socialization aspect of preschool.

I hope that most days will be full of laughter and the spirit of adventure, but I’m sure that there will be many frustrations, days that I wish I had put them in preschool… So here I am blogging about it. Mostly, it’s to hold me accountable for the next 9 months, but also for me to think about the things that work for us and the things that don’t. And maybe if anyone reads this, it will help them with their own preschool adventuring, whether in Seoul or not!

More House Hunting

In my last blog post, I was so naively optimistic about our search for a new home here in Seoul. Apparently, DH and I were unaware of the cutthroat business of renting apartments, and the one we picked out–the smaller home in a great location–was swept out from under us. We found ourselves nearly a month into the house search without anything to show for it because during the time that we believed we had a new home to when we found out the landlord wasn’t exactly forthcoming, two other apartments on our list of possibilities were rented out. So we started back from the beginning, and we felt rather discouraged since nothing we saw even came close to what we thought we had.

Until last Thursday, that it. On a lark, our real estate agent took us to see a place that isn’t exactly far away from DH’s work, but it’s not close either. And we absolutely loved it. With 5 bedrooms and 3 baths, there’s enough room for the whole family, and with space for DH to have his entertainment room/man cave, for me to have an office/crafting room, and for the kids to have a designated play area–it met almost all of our criteria. There were a couple of drawbacks with the place. The fact that it doesn’t have a dishwasher is quite an inconvenience, but not necessarily a deal breaker, but what I really couldn’t overcome was the fact that it doesn’t have a clothes dryer. According to the current tenants, a dryer could not be installed. Something about the gas lines not existing. And well, we just couldn’t believe her. How could a relatively recently remodeled apartment not have gas lines for a dryer? So our realtor took some initiative and called out a professional who informed us that a dryer could, in fact, be installed relatively easily. Just not right next to the washing machine.

Then, this morning, our realtor took us to see another apartment in the same complex as our original first choice. And it was even better than what we lost the first time around. But despite the great location, we couldn’t get over the fact that the other place–the 5 bedroom–offered so much more. For the location, we’d be giving up the kids’ playroom, DH’s man-cave, and my office/crafting room. That’s a lot just for a slightly shorter commute.

So, we’ve made our choice and it’s going to be 10 days until everything is official, but I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve spoken with the landlord’s representative, and he seemed very nice and forthcoming. We just may have our home for the next 5 years. 🙂

7000 miles later…

I can’t believe that it’s been 2 months already since I last posted. What’s even crazier is that in that time, DH has changed jobs, we packed up our house, shipped our cars and moved 7000 miles to the opposite side of the earth! Right now, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Seoul, South Korea. My baby girl’s fast asleep in the other room, and my little boys are playing at grandma and grandpa’s house. It’s so quiet without them… You’d think that I’d take advantage of the quiet time to get some knitting done, but I haven’t really knit since just before leaving the States. I think I’ve got too much going on inside my head to sit and relax, think of nothing and just knit. The view from our hotel room is beautiful, but it hasn’t done much to inspire my creativity these days…

We’re deep in the middle of house hunting. I think today may be the last day of looking at apartments before making a decision. There are two that we like more than all the others, but the one that’s in the perfect location with lots of great facilities (fitness center, sauna, indoor playground, etc.) is just a tad small, and the one that has all the space we need and is just perfect for our big family is in a not-so-great area. If only we could transplant that house in a nicer neighborhood! Unless the realtor shows us something amazing today, I think we’ll be sticking with option one–the smaller space in the perfect location.

I’ve also been tentatively planning Miss Penelope’s first birthday party. She’s (already!!!) 9 months old, and the way time has been flying by, it’ll be February before I know it. First birthdays (or dol in Korean) are a HUGE deal in Korean culture, and the parties are completely over-the-top. The boys’ dol was pretty crazy… We rented a reception hall and had 100+ guests–all in the midst of a great Snowpocalypse of 2010 on the East Coast. Penelope’s dol is sure to be a circus as well since we have so many relatives here in Korea. If everyone actually travels up to Seoul for the party, the family guest list will be at least 70 people. And since the boys’ birthday is the day before Penelope’s… Well, the boys will have a small party the weekend before. But there’s lots of planning to do and lots of crafty projects that I need to undertake between now and then! I’m thinking of a cherry blossom theme for Penelope’s dol and I may have to do a combination of pirates and firetrucks for the boys’ party or one will be left weeping!

As for my knitting, I’m currently working on two projects. The first one is almost finished. I used the $5 in Paris pattern, available for free on the Knitting Up A Storm blog, to make a sweater dress. I just have one sleeve to finish up and the dreaded weaving in of ends to complete.

The second is a cute little cardigan for one of my nieces. I haven’t gotten very far on it, but so far, the pattern is quite easy to follow. The pattern’s called in threes: a baby cardigan, and for $6, it comes in 6 different sizes (0 to 5T)–not bad. I’m sure that once I finish this one, I’ll be working up another one for my little peanut.

Anyway, I have some phone calls to make before Penelope wakes from her nap… So until next time…