Monday, 31 August 2015

Monday 31st August

Luke, Seren and I took a walk down and up the hills to Itaewon main road - it was very surprising to me to find how close we are to it. It was very hot though but great to find our way in the winding streets and apartment complexes that make up this part of Itaewon known as Itaewon villa. We found a little shop where I bought some light weight tops and a very light weight long machine knitted jersey. Here are a few pics of the neighbourhood.

Very close to home, we stumbled across this shrine moved here from Namsan National Park,( the park we go to close to here) in the early 20th century when the Japanese wanted to do military operations in the Park.

What ones sees from the shrine - interesting - signs made it clear this was a sacred space
so please do not bring your dogs here!!

A couple of chooks in a hock below the shrine. 

Luke took a panaramic view which I think has concetinoed!!

Seoul tower in the background. It lights up different colours at night
 indicating the level of pollution in the air!! Like our shark flags!!!

Another little park opposite the shrine

Motorbike casually parked outside complex. - love the little 'cage' for a small doggie under the seat!! 

Mish mash of wiring again - never ceases to astonish me!

Meditation centre just around the complex - watch this space - see the poster below announcing grand opening!

Novel way to keep car cool!

I had a skype call with Kathleen this morning (Californian sister) whose husband Richard suggested that we set up a time for the four sisters on four different continents to have a skype chat. We figured it originates in SF at 11.30 pm, Beulah takes it at 8.30 am, and Fay, in Hobart, Aus and I take it at 4.30 and 3.30 pm respectively!! Brilliant - a great idea as Fay is still not able to speak since her stroke 7 years ago.....

I then called Fay and her husband Rudd which was wonderful - I had not figured out that the time difference was so little

For those of you who know Beulah in Durban - we are overjoyed to say that the tumours are responding to this latest round of very virulent chemo and have reduced significantly - even dying the oncologist says - the other news is that she has sold her flat in Durban - a cash sale noggal and moves into Eden Gardens retirement home at the end of this month. So all good on that front. My John is doing really well -

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Friday 28th August

I planned on spending the day chilling at home - and in fact told Luke that he should take Seren out (on foot) and leave me to have a midday to myself! So he set off and I settled down to nap and to finish my book when suddenly he burst in the door with a very distressed Seren. He had picked up the pram to go down some stairs and the bar he was holding to carry the pram came away from the pram and she tumbled out of the straps that were only around her waist. I don't know who was more upset. Anyway we settled her and waited a good half hour before she went to sleep. Well she was and is fine - no doubt babies are a lot more resilient that we think! She has a little bruise on her leg and that's all .... but very scary all the same.

The German couple upstairs held a German braai in the evening - it had rained pretty heavily during the day soaking the tables and benches he had delivered on Thursday. But the same came out and dried up all the rain!!  A great time was had by all - everyone in the complex had been invited as well as many folk from the German embassy where Alex works. The children had a ball on the scooters, skate boards, in the paddling pool Alex set up and playing throwing games.
Swiss Oscar in the pool within a pool!

Max dry - Oscar, Greta, his sister, and Morgan 
Great abd Morgan with Oscar looking on

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Thursday 27th August - moonlight tour

So Thursday night at the Palace was serene and gentle and magical. Not so the getting there and getting home afterwards!!! I had arranged to meet Mark at the ticket office. He sent me details of how to get there by metro but in the end we opted fro a taxi which Luke ordered to be here at 7 pm. A really larnie black sleek number!! So I am waiting outside and I see this car without any taxi signs or lights ooze passed - is that the taxi I ask the gate man - no as he shakes his head - unlike in Nepal where shaking your head indicated the affirmative..... the black car then stops with flashing lights about 50 metres away. I call Luke who is at his function to say the guy is not yet here - luke calls me back to say he has just spoken to the guy so says he's waiting outside..... in the meantime I suddenky remembered I was supposed to have my passport so I dashed back to get it. On coming out I phoned the taxi guy so our gate guy could talk to him and lo the driver of the black car gets out holding his pone and waives to me.... So off we go - I show the piece of paper on which Mel has written the name of the Palace in English and in Korean!! He shakes his head and points to his GPS. So off we go and rive for quite a while - I confirm with Luke via text that Luke had given the driver the destination.  All good or was it.... we see enormous palace gates ahead, all lit up and the driver says some"where must I drop you?" I say in a thick accent "ticket office.. tic-ket" rubbing my fingers together to indicate money exchanging hands!!!! In the meantime I have been getting texts from Mark saying he is running late and, then where am I and then he is now eat the ticket office.... so I ask him if he could talk to the driver. Brilliant idea - we discover that I am at the wrong palace!!! So - eventually we find the place and connect with Mark - and there are still 10 minutes before the tour is due to start. Then the next hurdle - (interesting - to digress for a moment - when is it an obstacle and when is it a hurdle.... I guess its to do with how we relate to what ever 'it' is...) My name is on their list but the reference numbers we have, which Luke received as confirmation of booking and payment) are not the same as theirs!! Not are the cell phone numbers the same as any of ours - that was not surprising as we used the location agents number and we had not got our phones yet. So once again - calls to Luke, then emails from Luke to the ticket lady .... minutes ticking by - me showing them my passport with my name and birth date exactly as on their list - I have no idea why we cannot just go in but some protocol was being breached - Mark trying to understand it - speaking in Korean. we hen get taken to another list where some other lady suddenly says all is OK so off we go - we are in room 2 which I realised later was in fact group 2!!!

There were 5 or 6 different groups with a group leader carrying the proverbial flag bearing your number. We were each given head sets. Our guide was young Korean woman, quite softly spoken with a lovely lilting voice. It was a perfect evening - the moon was full, there was a slight breeze and it was staggering to think we were in the centre of a bustling city and yet it was so very still. There were even little raccoon type animals that scurried across the path. The buildings were pagoda type structures with intricate lace patterns on the windows - we didn't go inside any buildings and in fact only the throne room which was three stories high was furnished. It was difficult to follow her explanations so in the end I decided to take in the ambiense and the essence of the place and not worry about the detail. Sadly the pics are a bit disappointing but I will include some and speak to them as I go along.

Please look at the pics as they are numbered in the captions, starting at number 1 - durrhh!!!

8. A staggeringly beautiful  scene of a building set above a pond in which everything was reflected. Trees were lit from below. This is in the secret garden, 300 000 sq metres of largely unkempt natural vegetation - the secret being exactly this - that everything is left to its own devices and not manicured so it reveals the secret of nature. The trees are old and form a canopy overhead with delicate green leaves fanning out, catching the lighting and the moon light. - a feeling of incredible gentleness and delicacy  - and yes - secrecy! 

9. A woman quietly playing a traditional instrument - it seemed to be a plank with twine on it which she played with her fingers and a stick every so often. It sounded quite eerie and haunting and sort of reminded me of bushman or aboriginal instruments

10. There was a' orchestral' presentation at the end after we had tasted some Korean tea and delicacies.
Amazing instruments that produce a very unique sound.
Hopefully you will hear a few notes I was able to record before my battery said howzit!!!

6. City buildings in the background - hard to comprehend that we were in the heart of Seoul
with its sprawling millions of inhabitants. 

5. A corner of the throne room - very ornate and beautifully balanced without being over the top!

4. Inside the throne room - viewed through netting at the entrance 

3. The throne room - one floor three stories high.

2. Inside he palace grounds and looking back at the entrance with the moon in the sky! We were given the option of carrying a coloured lantern to light your way - see the red, blue and white coolurs of the lantern - very graceful!

7. A good example of how ornate some of the walls are - notice the lattice windows in the back ground. 

1. The entrance to the palace - everyone in rows behind their room/group leader!!
The tour lasted  two hours and mark and I decided to treat ourselves to a glass of wine - well easier said than done. we couldn't find anywhere open so opted for tea. We finally found a place in a pedestrians only street or area called Insagung I think Mark said! It was wonderful to be strolling around mingling with the locals who took absolutely no notice of us. Things were definitely winding down. In fact we were told the tea room was closing so were asked to leave. I had iced jujube tea which was really good, far tastier than Mark's iced cinamon tea. A few places were still open but none were serving liquor it seemed.

By this time it was about 11 pm so we tried to get a taxi for me. Mark was caching the metro home. Well - an impossible task - taxis have strict areas in which they are allowed to porate and drin-ve and everyone we hailed was not allowed to go to Itaewon. Mark tried calling 3 or 4 taxi companies he knew to order one without luck. Eventually we called Luke who said he would call the guy who had dropped me but I didn't tell Luke that I was no longer at the palace!!! Anyway hopeless!! We cancelled him and Luke said Mel would fetch me -  by  this time it was after 11.30 and of course I had no battery left in my phone!! At this point a young Korean couple asked if they could help us and pointed us in the direction of a tall building a block or so away and assured us we would find a taxi there! We set off at a gallop as Mark was anxious to get the metro before it closed but obviously could not leave me. Well we spotted a taxi and when I shoved the slip of paper with our address written in Korean on it in the window, the guy held up 3 fingers and made a zero with his fore finger and thumb - 30 000 - Mark  was outraged but I said whoa - absolutely I will take it - rather than have Mel come out in the middle of the night!! Luke had had a good party so couldn't drive!! So I finally arrived home well after midnight - really.......

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Thursday 27th August

Its interesting this feeling of peace - of being at one with the world - what does that mean - to be at one with the world - does it mean to be calm , to be contented, to be satisfied, to be accepting of what is - what ever that is might be?? Seren is alseep, Luke is out cycling, Morgan is at school, Mel is at work. John is asleep - or maybe not?? Josh and KL are together. Nancy, a different helper, is cleaning the house. I have caught up on my emails, sip a cup of tea, eat a chocolate cake shaped like a log from a place called Coffeesmith which Luke brought me on his way back from doing some errands with Mel - I was reading the novel on the I pad I am using and I started pondering...

I have absolutely no concerns - nothing that demands my time or attention other than that which is immediately here - I have Seren's monitor next to me and I probably have 10 more minutes before she stirs - such is the nature of her clock and daily rhythym. How fortunate to be in this place and space - I am completely in this moment. My tummy is full, my body is obedient, my mind is not playing monkey tricks of racing all over the show. Every so often I remember some one who needs something or to whom I offered help in some way and I think - I will get to that/her when I get to her - there is this sense of spaciousness, of no rush, of no pressure. So I thank Luke and Mel for this gift, for this time of reflection, of perspective and of course , certainly, this time of totally new experiences which I am having on the back drop of the security and comfort of family. I think this is what is so different about this time in the East compared to last years experience in Nepal and Kathmandu.

I am so grateful for these times in Asia - its amazing that a few years ago I attended a writers course/workshop In Cape Town and one of the practices we did was to make up a collage of our lives - who we are, what we have done,  and what we would still like to do and I had a big section on travel and experiencing the East and here I am - really against all odds - as there is no way I could have budgeted for this but it has all happened anyway - plus my incredible time at the Shambhala centre in Vermont, my stay with Nancy in New York and our holiday with Kathleen and Richard in California in 2013. Extraordinary - so get this - there is no doubt in my mind that I am supported by something even if it is my own energy coming back to me...!!!

So this evening I meet Mark an American literature professor whom I met at the Shambhala centre here a couple of weeks ago. We are going on a moonlight tour of one of the palaces here. Luke has something he needs to do and Mel will be home with the children so sadly one of them cannot avail themselves of the second ticket. Should be fun.

Whoops - madam is stirring so I will post these ramblings. With love to all of you. Thank you Seren for this gift of time .......

Wednesday 26th August

Today Luke, Seren and i went for a long walk down thro Itaewon to the main road. We went past Swing Park and instead of continuing down the hill passed the Waffle Shop, I suggested we walk straight along a relatively flat road , guessing that if we eventually made a right we would come out at the big plastic poop bag dog! Well yay for my sense of direction as that is exactly what happened.  I am going to relate the rest of the day hro the captions on the pictures.
A little shop we pass on the way to the Swing Park - no apparent indication of what its business is...

We popped into see this place that advertised a swimming pool. This is on the second floor - shades of our aqua class in
 Fish hoek! Luke plans to come and train here - cos s about R 800 a month and the pool is oene 24 / 7...

I was right we came out on this road - so the hole under mister doggies tail supplies poop bags!!!

I loved this indoor tree with its frilly net and satin tutu - at the pool entrance 

We walked over the main road on our way to the War Memorial Museum - that is North Seoul mast on the skyline - we took the cable car up to it on Saturday. Our apartment complex is away  to the right in the greenery - we'd walked some distance!!

Seren and me walking on the cycle track on the way to the Museum. The main road is to the left.
We were actually walking in the opposite direction to get there.
The American Military base is on either side of the road so there were quite a few Korean police along the track.

The main entrance to the Museum

A replica of a plinth with abiut 1700 Chinese characters depicitng the story of
one of the Korean emperors from, I think the 4th century. 

Seren got so excited when she saw these fountains

A group of preschoolers having their lunch from their identical snack packs.

We then went and found a place to eat and to feed Seren. On the way back, we saw their bags and the mats carefully stacked on the benches and left unattended while I guess, they were all inside the museum.
Wow - have we ever got a way to go in the trust stakes!!!

A very poignant memorial depicting a soldier meeting his younger brother who was from the other side, that is,
 they were fighting on different sides. The crack represents the split between North and South Korea
and the hope that they will reconcile eventually. 

It was too late for us to actually enter the Museum as we had to back at the complex to meet Morgan's school bus. We plan to come back again soon - by bus next time! So we caught the bus home. Here are Luke and Seren in a special space allocated to prams and I guess wheel chairs.  Once again everyone was mesmorised by little Miss blue eyes!!

The ride cost me 400 wan - about R4 as I had a metro card. Luke paid R10 cash.
 We were not sure if he could pay cash so we phoned this number - 1330 - which is answered by some one
who speaks English and one can ask her/him any transport related questions!! Sooooo organised....

So definitely an easy option to travel by bus particularly with Seren as she is safe in her pram while in a taxi, unless we take her seat belt and all the trappings to attach it, we would have to hold her - not a good idea!
Altho the car seat does fit onto the pram but she does not get as good a view!

Luke took this pic of a meditation centre opening very close to us - I am definitely going to check it out!!

So a great day - quite a bit of walking and my feet complained some when we got home. Seren had a good sleep so I had a little snooze and wrote this blog. Luke and Morgan had the usual run around with Max, Oscar and Greta  - all racing each other on scooters. They came to our place afterwards - I had given Seren her supper by then and decided to take her for a walk along the road before her bath. I had Jose, their nanny, Oscar and Greta watching her bath and wanting to put all sorts of things in her bath. 

Things started getting a bit hectic but Luke said firmly - Ok - time to go home now and off they went!!

I really like Seoul - or what i have experienced thus far - I love the way things are grown in all sorts of places and the pumpkin creepers ride up the electric wires!! I love the cleanliness and the orderliness. More later as Luke is heading out to cycle, Mel is not back from work and Morgan needs a last story...... and one more and then just one more Nana!!!

Here's a great example of efficient and practical - three ladies weeding while sitting on layers of foam type cushions strapped onto a little skate board type platform on wheels which they puled around as they moved to the next clump of weeds!! - also look at how protected they are from the sun!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Monday 24th August

So the morning poddled - Luke and I took the children to the Itaewon park in the afternoon - generally called Swing Park by Morgan and Luke  I am getting much braver at pushing the pram down the hills - three cheers for my stylish crocs that I am still wearing as they grip the surface well. The park was great - the pics will speak for them selves,  Luke and Morgan pushed off somewhere else  in a nearby exercise park!!

Unfortunately by the time I took the photo the crowd of women chatting in the shelter
and the two teenagers exercising on the swing platform had left!

Seren blissing out on the swing!!

Morgan and I enjoyed really tasty waffles and ice cream at this waffle shop near the park. Seren had her first taste of ice cream. She was fascinated by this doll just sitting on the back board outside the shop. One often sees something like this outside a shop with obviously no concern that it might not be there at the end of the day!!