Tokyo take Three

Standard

We have less than a year left in Korea. We were thinking about one more trip for the fall, but since we don’t know when we’re leaving, we decided to go to Tokyo one last time for Tim’s birthday instead.

We planned a morning flight to give us an extra half day in Tokyo. I booked the flight on Orbitz with Asiana which I read great things about. So we arrived at Incheon and waited in line for Asiana only to be told that this flight was actually run by Seoul Air so we had to go check in with them which was a horrible experience. We were beginning to think they weren’t going to let us check in because we didn’t have an army leave form. Tim isn’t in the army…

Anyway, we got through security and immigration and to the other side of the airport just in time to board the plane. By this time we were very hungry. We took the 6am bus and our flight was at 10. Thankfully they served some fruit and a salad to hold us over until we landed in Narita. The seats were very comfortable. There was no in-flight entertainment but it wasn’t an issue because we brought our own electronics anyway. The flight attendants were nice. I don’t think we will fly Air Seoul again though.

We tried something different this time and took the Keisei Skyliner into town instead of the airport limousine bus. It cost more but took half the time, so I think it was worth it. As a side note, the reason that the skyliner worked for us is because Tim could handle the suitcases and I was in charge of Clarissa. If you have several bags or multiple small children, you are probably better off with the airport limousine bus because it is basically door to door service from the airport to your hotel.

The Skyliner ended at Ueno and we needed to switch to the metro to get to Shinagawa. We decided to have Hard Rock Cafe for lunch before heading to the hotel since it was already after 2pm. As usual our food was delicious and Clarissa picked some fun pins for our collection.

wp-15318091411385603293491955226175.jpg

After settling in to our favorite hotel, Tim headed to Family Mart to pick up his amazon order. This was something new for us this trip as well. Tim usually has a list of electronics items that he wants to find. This time, he found some on Amazon Japan ahead of time and had them shipped to a convenience store down the street. This eliminated some of the searching since we had a shorter trip this time.

It really can’t be Tim’s birthday trip without visiting Akihabara so we headed to there next. Tim found a few things at BIC Camera and Yodobashi. All of us enjoyed Kotobukiya, with Clarissa and I both finding some treasures. Another fun surprise on the way back to the train was the Square Enix Cafe which had some fun things to see as well.

God’s Girl Says Yes

Standard

Wynter Pitts wrote a book with her husband last year about praying for your daughter called She is Yours. I loved it. She also has a new podcast that I have been listening to. So when the opportunity presented itself to be on her book launch team for her latest book, God’s Girl Says Yes, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

Her last book was for parents, but this one is for girls. There are not any pictures so it will probably be a few years before Clarissa is ready to read it, but I look forward to reading this book with her one day. Wynter also has a magazine for girls that looks great!

Each of the 16 chapters in God’s Girl Says Yes has a specific message for your girl with scriptures, a prayer, and personal stories about either Wynter or a girl in elementary school. I think these stories will really help to build Clarissa’s faith and to show her that you do not have to wait until you are a grown up to do big things for God. She goes through the fruit of the spirit as a whole passage of scripture and then breaks up each individual fruit into its own chapter.

The book is very relatable. It sounds like a conversation between friends. There are several places to answer questions that will really make your girl think. Some of my favorite thoughts from the book:

  • “The Israelites’ story shows us how difficult it is to make good choices all the time. Sometimes saying yes day after day can be really hard…God loves His people and wants His people to choose Him. He entered into a relationship with Israel on purpose. He knew what was best for them, and He knows what is best for you.”
  • “As you say yes to the things God asks you to say yes to, you will have to say no to other things – to things that are unhelpful and that He doesn’t want for you. When you say yes to God and walk with Him on the path He has chosen for you, amazing things can happen. “
  • She does a good job of explaining why we have rules and learning self control.
  • “God gave us more than rules-He also gave us a relationship with him… Our life is not about rules. It’s actually about being free to live an amazing adventure with God.”
  • Chapter 15 was probably my favorite. She talks about trusting God to have a plan for your life and using your gifts and talents for him.

I really enjoyed this book. I look forward to reading it again with Clarissa soon.

Asan Insect Museum

Standard

A few months ago, we drove to Asan with friends to check out the Insect Museum. We were very disappointed when we got there and found out it was closed for renovation. In June, we headed back for another try.

The girls were very excited to take pictures with the animal statues outside.

We headed into the actual museum. It only cost 5,000 won (about $5) for Clarissa and I to get in. There were cups of food you could take to feeds the animals. We started with a room of models and diagrams.

Then there were a few different rooms with aquariums of fish, insects, and frogs.

Then there was a a room with small mammals and lizards. Clarissa enjoyed feeding the meerkat and watching the chipmunks run around.

Outside there were peacocks and geese. We also had the chance to feed rabbits and Guinea pigs.

There was one more room of bugs before we arrived at the butterfly room.

We packed lunch so we had a picnic at the playground after the museum. The girls had a great day. The Asan Insect Museum is definitely worth the trip (closed on Mondays).

The Great Wall… of Korea

Standard

One thing on my bucket list when we found out we were moving to Korea was The Great Wall of China. It’s not a super easy trip to take with an active toddler so we haven’t made it there yet. There is a big fortress nearby so I wanted to see if Clarissa could do that before we took the time and money to go to China.

Camp Humphreys CYS took a field trip to Suwon Fortress on Saturday, June 9. For $10, we could take the bus and not have to worry about trains, buses, or parking.

The bus dropped us off near the palace. It wasn’t a large palace and the architecture looks a lot like Gyeongbokgung in Seoul. Clarissa really enjoyed it. She thought it was interesting to see how the castle looked for the king and queen. She also liked looking at their different rooms. The entrance fee was 1,500 won for adults and Clarissa was free.

Next, we headed to the entrance of the wall. We stopped for lunch at Burger King on the way. Clarissa had plenty of energy after lunch so she was ready to climb. She did really well on all of the steps. She enjoyed looking at the different monuments and seeing the city from the wall. She was especially excited to see a big bell because Tim has a small version of this in our apartment. You can get to the wall at several different spots and it costs 1,000 won for adults. Military and students receive a discount so they can pay 700 won.

There are toilets marked along the wall so you can stop if you need to. Several places also show where you can get off to buy snacks at convenience stores. Clarissa was excited that they had an archery class. But you have to be 7 years old to participate. It costs 2,000 won for 10 arrows. The class happens multiple times per day. It seemed like most of the day it was on the hour and at the half hour.

If you don’t want to hike the wall, you can also take a trolley or bike taxi from the palace. It will take you on a tour of the wall and the different sites along the fortress. I am not sure of price and I don’t know if any of the tour guides speak English. But if you just want to see things and not walk, you can pay for that instead.

After we finished the wall, we headed back to the palace area. There is a Cultural Foundation to the left that has an artsy street which reminds me of Insadong. We found some cute handmade jewelry. You can buy a personalized stamp with your name for $20. There are wood crafts that can be personalized as well.

We had a great day together. Clarissa did very well. She walked the whole wall (3.57 miles) with some breaks. I think she is ready for a China trip now. Though she said she doesn’t want to do it again! She said the Great Wall of Korea is good enough for her.

 

One more trip to Seoul

Standard

Tim’s passport expires this month so we had to make a trip to the US Embassy in Seoul to get it renewed. We were warned that it would take forever so be prepared to wait. However, we were in and out in less than 15 minutes. If you need to go to the Embassy for a passport, I would recommend an early morning appointment. They will let you check in a cell phone but no other electronics are allowed in the building. Bring a book to read though because they keep your cell phone until you leave the embassy. They did have a corner with children’s books and tables to entertain your kids. They told us it would take two weeks for the embassy to receive our passport and so we registered for a courier to deliver it to the apartment instead of making a return trip. (This is 6,000 won if you live in Seoul, 8,000 won if you live in Gyeonggi-do, and 10,000 won for delivery anywhere else in Korea. You pay cash on delivery.) Update : Tim’s new passport was delivered in exactly one week instead of two.

With six hours left before our return train, we decided to head to some of our favorite air conditioned places in Seoul. Our first stop was Lotte World Mall. We thought about doing the tower since we haven’t before, but it was a pretty overcast day so we figured it wasn’t worth it. We started at Hard Rock Cafe for a delicious lunch. We were the only customers in the restaurant for the entire time we were there. Apparently 11 AM on a Thursday is not popular. Since we were near the top of the mall, we decided to walk through each level before we got to the aquarium on B1. We found so many fun things to look at on our journey. Clarissa chose a small Jiji in a cage from the movie Kiki’s Delivery Service. I found a lot of fun stationary.

Clarissa’s favorite was when we finally got to the aquarium on B1. We had two choices of aquariums this day, but this one is our favorite. It wasn’t very crowded since is was a Thursday after lunch and school is still in session for both Koreans and Americans. We had a great time. Clarissa was able to feed fish and sting rays.

Then, we headed to Coex Mall for Tim to check out Gundam Base. He didn’t end up buying anything, but enjoyed looking at all of the models available.

After our train ride, we went to our favorite restaurant, Sawatdee, for dinner near Osan. We had a few things to pick up at the BX as well. We had a very full day and enjoyed each other’s company. It was the second day in a row that Clarissa went on an adventure without the stroller and she did very well. Sniff. Sniff. I think she is actually becoming a big kid.

National Institute of Ecology

Standard

Our friends from church invited us to visit the National Institute of Ecology with them for Memorial Day. They picked us up at 7:30. We added another family near Cheonan on our way to Seocheon and arrived about they time they opened at 9:30.

The admission prices were excellent. It was 5,000 won (about $5 USD) for adults. Children were 3,000 won (about $3 USD), but Clarissa was free since she is still under 5.

We boarded an open shuttle bus to the Ecorium. Inside this building there were 5 different climate zones (Tropical, Desert, Mediterranean, Temperate, and Polar), a restaurant, library (that had both Korean and English books), and an ant section.

The kids had a great time looking at all of the plants and animals in the different zones.

There were even two monkeys outside.

img_20180606_1054423279116066047527259.jpg

The restaurant had several Korean food options for decent prices. Most dishes were 7,000 or 8,000 won ($7 or $8). If you aren’t a fan of Korean food, there were french fries available and also a convenience store to buy snacks as well.

The ant section was pretty cool. I didn’t know there was that much to learn about ants! The kids put on lab coats and pretended to be scientists learning about ants. Clarissa even pretended to give a lecture about ants. There were coloring activities and puzzles as well.

Inside the building was also a play area. Clarissa was able to wear a special suit with velcro and stick to the wall on her own. She got a little nervous when I let go, so she would reach for me and fall off. But some kids were more brave and would hang upside down.

After our exploring, we went to the playground. The playground was really nice. Clarissa was excited about the big tree house. But the main attraction was the water. They had a splash pad as well as a small wading pool for the kids to play in.

We decided to walk back to the car after that. The visitor center on the way out had a couple of movies and games, but if you’re tired, it’s not really worth going to. We also passed some deer and a big goat on our way out.

This was one of our first adventures that didn’t involve a stroller. Clarissa’s stroller wasn’t going to fit in the car with 7 people inside so we decided to leave it home. She actually did really well and walked the whole time (6 hours). When did she get so big?!

On our way home, we went to a Shabu buffet restaurant in Pyeongtaek that was pretty good.

An Afternoon in Cheonan with Friends

Standard

Last Friday, Clarissa went with our friends to Cheonan in the afternoon.

We started at Ebony and Ivory, a used English bookstore to buy books for our next Ladies Bible Study at church. It is a few doors down from the Shinsagae Mall in Cheonan that I blogged about last year, across the street from the Subway restaurant. Brooklyn English Used Books near Camp Humphreys gets their books from this store.

The bookstore was full of books, all of them in English. Clarissa and I started at the Disney table at the front of the store. Books were 10 for 1,000 won (a little less than a dollar).

More than half of the store was Children’s books. There was so much of everything. We found several Magic School Bus that we didn’t already have, Fancy Nancy, Berenstain Bears, Little Critter, Clifford, and Curious George. There was so much more! Clarissa found some books from my generation of My Little Pony. We found so many books to use for kindergarten this year.

There were adult books too. They had a science fiction section, complete with an entire table devoted to Star Wars. There were fiction and nonfiction books as well a comic and religious books as well. I’m sure anyone who walks in will find a pile of books to read.

The prices were great! I would have stayed for hours. But Clarissa and her friend got restless after about an hour so we left with what we had picked out already.

On the way home, we went to the wholesale market in Cheonan. They had one building for fruit, another for vegetables, and a third for seafood. We only went to the fruit building. They had several stalls of yummy fruit at good prices. It was an air conditioned building with a bathroom. Vendors took both won and credit card.