Well we have just returned from doing a big shop at a place called the Lotte Market. On Wednesday Mel arrived home in a rented car - she and Luke decided that it will take too long to wait for the company car and a driver, so in the meantime we have this Hyundai which can take the two car seats with me in the middle in the back. So it has meant that we have more mobility.
Luke, the girls and I set off on Thursday to find the Lotte Market. It took quite a while to figure out the GPS as of course it was in Korean!! Anyway we were filled with admiration for Mel who had driven home from work the night before, all by herself - navigating her way and of course driving on the 'wrong' side of the road!! Fortunately the lights seems to stay red for quite a long time which gives one more time to figure out what the GPS is telling one! The roads are well signposted on the actual tar as well as above the road but even so - its all very confusing! No doubt we took much longer to get there than we should have - definitely the scenic route, as we crossed the Nam river a couple of times to get to the store which, on the map, was on the same side of the river as our home!! Morgan kept on singing to Seren - "we're almost there.... we're almost there...."
Everything is very modern - lots of glass, concrete and steel structures - many high rise apartments and office blocks - all very well maintained and new looking. Once again the overall impression is one of being very organised and methodical and definitely efficient. There is absolutely no litter anywhere. Certainly where we have driven, the roads are tree-lined and often festooned with flower baskets or flower beds in raised boxes on the islands in the middle of the multiple lanes of traffic going in both directions. Every so often as well, there is a lane in which one can do a u turn which is pretty useful!! We did see a couple of homeless looking people further into the more built up city area, and near the Seoul station. Mel says that there is no government system here to take care of the elderly so most of the homeless one sees are old people.
On both Thursday and today, the supermarket was very busy. I have seen very few westerners. For the most part, prices are higher than we are used to, with the definite exception, in the super market, tat is, of clothing - especially childen's clothing. It is interesting to see how everything is packaged. Usually in plain containers with an extra layer of wrapping on which everything is written - it seems like extra packaging but it does mean that once the outer layer is removed, the items are ready to be recycled without ink or writing etc.embedded in them.
It was a bit of a nightmare for Luke and me shopping on Thursday. We had hoped to set off as soon as Seren woke from her morning nap at 10ish, anyway by the time we left the apartment it was more like 11 o’clock. Well we had a total meltdown as Morgan did not want to sit in her car seat….. Luke had taken her to the park the day before and she had not had to sit in a car seat so obviously in her mind that meant those days were over!!! Quite logical….. Well eventually she agreed to sit on the bolster seat but that too was not OK as she is still too light for it!!! After much persuasion and frustration – it was of course as hot as anything, we set off when she realised that if she did not sit in her car seat we would not be able to go and she would not be able to find the beads we were going to buy!!!
Once there, we realised that there was no way that we would be able to shop with Morgan in tow as it was a bit like herding cats!!! So Luke set off on his own while the three of us looked at buckets and spades with Morgan wanting everything she saw!! I didn’t notice Seren’s dummy fall out of her mouth and thank heavens a couple came after us with the woman holding it gingerly between her fingers to avoid contaminating it I guess!!! We ended up getting a beautiful blow up ball!! Anyway Luke spotted a pizza bar so we went off to order a pizza, while he finished the shopping. I fed Seren her midday lunch from woollies instant 6 month old food that we still have!!!
Getting home was much quicker as Luke began to figure out the driving and the GPS!!
Its really too hot to go outside before 4 pm - temps are around 35 degrees!! On Thursday afternoon Morgan and Luke were outside playing with the hose pipe when Jane from upstairs arrived with Jan her 18 mth old son and pointed out a little plastic blow up pool in which they had a wonderful time. Apparently it belongs to the “Swiss couple upstairs”. It’s all so friendly and like a community, as people share things like motor bikes (children’s!!), sand pit toys and the pool.
There are a couple of cats who hang out in the garden – quite tame but not enough for one to actually touch. I don’t know who feeds them but there are bowls lying around. I certainly cannot help but be relieved that we don’t have Bodhi and Mia, (the great dane and boerbul who were rehoused in SA) here!! Obviously they are very missed, especially by Mel. It is wonderful though – Mel got a mail from Barbara who is their new mom – they have settled so well and she says ‘prefer the posh loungers to the old ones’!!!
On Friday and today, Luke has gone out for a cycle – very strenuous as we live in such a hilly area and he can’t build up speed but at least he got out. He did manage to get a bit further today and onto one of the many cycle tracks - it is incredibly cyclist friendly. He is looking forward to the container arriving with his exercise bike.
Now that we have the car, he and I should be able to venture out and explore. On Friday night Luke and Mel went out for a date night which they certainly deserved!! Mel is enjoying her work but it is quite something to leave us each day to go off to work. She catches a taxi at the bottom of the nightmare hill!! On Thursday night she had some kind of company drinks and dinner evening – well she left at about 9 ish as the rest were beginning to knock back the alcohol!! Obviously the diehards carried on well into the night as a lot of them were not at work on Friday!! I had been told by Stephen, Pauline Kock’s brother who spent some time here in the 70’s that ‘the Koreans were big party animals…’
Mel has explained some of the social customs in terms of greeting and signs of respect afforded older or senior people. In the office for example – a senior person is not addressed by one’s name but rather by one’s rank as defined on a government set job level. However this is always in Korean so one can’t translate it but in effect what one is saying – Good day Director Wong or Vice president Ramsey! Also in giving or receiving something or shaking hands, it is a sign of great respect to use both arms, one open hand and the other touching the arm or elbow – not unlike African culture. Also when one greets, one bows; the deeper the bow, the more the seniority or deeper the respect. Quite a hierarchical society.
And so we continue. I have to say I am so enjoying being here. We are all getting on so well and really working as a team as we look after and tend to the needs of the children. I am finding the time to reflect and find it interesting that although I am not actually sitting on the cushion (meditating), I feel I am very aware of each moment and being mindful in each moment. I know that obviously, one has to be with children. But for example, when I am about to bath Seren I go through in my mind what I will need and get it all ready before I lift her; or before I sit down on the floor with her, I check that there is a nappy, wet wipes, her dummy, a cushion for me etc etc within arm’s length. I suppose I did this with Luke and Josh but I certainly wasn’t doing it consciously. I also find that I am doing a lot of observing of Morgan and Seren and realising even more, the genious of Maria Montessori.
So – we are about to start our supper – a roast chook and all the trimmings, so I must away to the kitchen to help Mel. Luke has downloaded a movie so we hope to have a chilled evening having got the children down reasonably early!!
So will continue later.
Hopefully I will be able to download some pics.