Monday, October 13, 2014

Korea 2014

We've been in Korea the past three weeks, heading home tomorrow- On the way here Eli had his own seat for the first time and was glued to the in-flight entertainment.

In-flight entertainment
We're always thinking about how to help our kids learn and grow, and while traveling seems to make them more flexible, it also seems to involve a whole lot of entertainment hours, because of the ways our schedule is messed up, not to mention 24 hour trips in airplanes (with personal screens) and airports. Horrible amounts of passive entertainment aside, before our trip Eli was mainly wearing underwear, but peed a lot outside on our plants because he hated asking us for help. But he didn't want to wear diapers on the airplane (or ever again, apparently), and amazingly, he's now completely fine day and night while in Korea. The boy knows what he wants. If it sticks when we get back, I will be faced with an existential crisis over what to do with all the time we used to spend washing diapers.

So anyway, Noah hates change, Eli doesn't mind as much. Noah is acutely aware of the perceptions of everyone around him, which presents a lot of pressure when he can't understand much Korean. That's pretty much the story of our trip. That, and my being much more grateful than last year for free food and hot showers at Eug's family's place, and our family all wearing clean clothes simultaneously.

Playing dinosaurs.

dancing to the beat of his own drum.

We stayed in a hotel for a couple of nights so that the kids could go to Lotte World. I really dislike theme parks, serious (no-fun) person that I am, but I was persuaded that the kids should experience it once. The kids spent ages watching construction on the huge new Lotte building across from the hotel, and probably enjoyed the swimming pool at the hotel as much as the busy, crazy Lotte Adventure theme park, where they were over-stimulated and over-tired.  Take home message was: it's fine to be persuaded, it's also fine not to go there again.

A room full of balls with different ways to shoot them= Heaven for Eli and Noah.

Besides our time at Lotte world, we pretty much stayed near Eug's mom's place in Bundang, hanging out with family, visiting parks and doing our usual stuff: playing, reading, sometimes working.

My mom-in-law's place, where we've tried to just have a normal schedule as much as possible, which evidently includes pretending to sleep in a cupboard. 
We get to see many different parks, and though they're all very similar, to the kids it's like a whole new world to explore every time we arrive somewhere (very slightly) different.
Sculpture park, where Noah and Eli climbed on a few sculptures, and a lot of burial mounds.
Seoul forest- big and full of millions of school groups (except in this picture). In the background are the 2 largest apartment buildings in Seoul, where the rich and famous apparently live.

Playing with school groups

Eli got a lego airplane with pizza. To be fair, it was a very expensive pizza.
For Eli, anything that has both an engine (theoretically) and eyes is worthy of attention.
Eli has spent a lot of time on my back. Our first trip without a stroller, and the problem is less one of stamina and more about safety in super busy streets, with a little boy who thinks that he can face down a car and win.
Book theme park at Yuldong park. Loud classical music in an empty amphitheater, with the kids' footsteps amplified by the stones.


Korea brings up a lot of insecurities for me, and this year was no different. The slice of Korean life that I'm exposed to is centered a lot on convenience, which involves a lot of consumption, often conspicuous and frantic. This seems to be more or less the opposite of our apparent quest for total inconvenience (with some reasoning and hopes behind it, but still), and previously I took this contrast to be some kind of aggressive threat to our lifestyle, and to sustainability. This visit it wasn't as important to make a decision on the roots of Korean society (and I realized how much judging I do), and we were grateful for very generous family members, great infrastructure, and feeling safe walking in the street, among many other things.

I think this change in perspective might reflect my current approach to our hopes and dreams. I feel tremendously grateful for what is ahead of us- having land to grow stuff, building a really small house, meaningful work, home/unschooling, trying to make sense of the world and our place in it, listening to God and other people. I feel as though we're stepping towards really good things.

At the same time, it is good to travel and see that our kids are just kids with strengths and weaknesses, and our parenting- for all it's idealism and striving- is similarly just a mix of life experiences, limited perspective, strengths and weaknesses. It's obvious that our unusual lifestyle (as compared to our peers) hasn't given us a special edge on joy- when we have a sense of joy, it's from somewhere much more powerful. My experience of Korea is also improved by age: I am also, gradually, no longer the youngest adult in a room, and this also provides a healthy dose of realism. I'm in my thirties! We do some work stuff! We have kids and responsibilities! Sometimes it works! Sometimes all we get is a smelly case of self-righteousness. There is something to be said for embracing mediocrity to the extent it affirms some of our common human experience. This trip, the daily decisions with extended family over what to eat (meat? not? takeout?), wear (my mom-in-law's clothes, or in Eug's case my brother-in-law's), or talk about, and whether to buy stuff or not, did not loom as large as previously. It was a relief.

All to say, it will be good to be home but I'm so grateful that we're figuring out this multi-continent family stuff as best we can.

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