Seoul Station

As we were planning our trip to Korea for October 2017, one of my worries was what we were going to do with our luggage the day we were flying out. Our flight wasn’t until 8 pm, but of course we had to be out of our AirBnB before lunch. I was so relieved when my husband told me that we could check our bags in with Korea Air at Seoul Station.

Honestly, the options for travelers at this station are so convenient. On Friday we were moving from our apartment in Seoul to Suwon, but first were having lunch with a friend. It was Seoul Station to the rescue again with the Baggage Service.

On the B2 level of the station, the Baggage Service allows you to store your bags for hours or days. Cost is based on the size of your bags and how long you are storing them. We stored all of our bags (seven total) for several hours for about $40 that Friday. Then on Monday, we stored our carry-on bags while we did some sightseeing before our flight. We loved this service.

Also on the B2 level of Seoul Station,  you can check-in for Korea Air flights and check your bags. Once checked in, you also go through immigration there, which makes the process once you are at the airport much shorter.

These services made our transitions so much easier.

 

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AirBnB: Korea Style

Eleven years ago, my family went to Korea for the first time to pick up our son. In October 2017, we finally made it back to Korea for a return trip. Many things have changed since our first trip 11 years ago, one being options on where to stay. The first time we visited Korea we stayed at our agency’s guest house. Once we booked our trip this year, we decided to use AirBnB to book accommodations and we weren’t disappointed. We spent four days at an apartment in Seoul and finished with three days at an apartment in Suwon. While you may not stay in the exact same AirBnB’s that we did, I thought I would share some general tips that we learned through our two AirBnB experiences.

Location, Location, Location
We chose the apartments we did based on their location, each one near a subway station. In Seoul, we found an apartment that was two blocks from Seoul Station. This was ideal for a couple of reasons. First, the express train from the airport arrives at Seoul Station in about 45 minutes. (This was another new things since 2006; the airport train didn’t exist then. It was so convenient!) That meant that we could easily walk to the apartment with our luggage. Second, everyplace we wanted to see was within two or three subway stops of our apartment. We will definitely rent in the Seoul Station area again. Our apartment in Suwon was only two blocks from the Suwon City Hall station, making it a convenient walk with luggage as well. Next time, we might choose something closer to Suwon station, since the shuttles to area attractions leave from near that station.

Communication
We had a mixed experience when it came to communication with our AirBnB hosts. The man who offered the apartment in Seoul was wonderful! He sent a PDF with detailed directions on how to get to the apartment from Seoul Station. We had no problem finding it. Then once in the room, he had a house manual that explained how things worked in the apartment. We had trouble getting the air conditioner to work, and he even came over and helped us. Our Suwon host was very responsive once we were at the apartment (we had a plumbing problem while there), but we didn’t feel that we got all of the information we needed when it came to finding the apartment from the subway station. We ended up grabbing a taxi to get there, which was not necessary but we just didn’t know where to go from the station. Bless the soul of that taxi driver, who drove us the two blocks between the station and apartment! Our Suwon apartment also didn’t have a house manual so it took longer to connect to the wi-fi and get other things in the apartment working.

Size
Our apartment in Seoul was listed as sleeping five to six people. It has a bed in the main living area, plus a sleeping loft with two beds. While there are only three of us in the family, we loved having the extra space. We each had our beds so no one was cramped, and there was plenty of space to have our luggage open but out of the way. The Suwon apartment was listed as sleeping four, but honestly we were cramped in this one. It was a studio apartment with one bed and two chairs that reclined into beds. Now I would opt for bigger.

Cultural Differences
A couple of cultural differences that you might want to consider. Bath towels in Korea considerably smaller than those in the US. They are somewhere between the size of a US hand towel and a bath towel. So, if you are really attached to large bath towels, you might want to take your own. Also wash clothes weren’t provided. We adjusted to the towel size, but next time we’ll take our own wash clothes.

Our apartment in Seoul was older so you had to turn on the hot water and let us heat up before taking a shower or washing dishes. This wasn’t a problem; it was just something you had to plan for.

While it took us 11 years to make a return trip to Korea, we hope to go again next year. And we will definitely do AirBnB again for our accommodations. They were convenient, cheaper than hotels, and it was cool to live like the natives for a few days.

 

 

 

Chuseok 2015

This weekend marks the Korean holiday of Chuseok, a traditional harvest festival. As most of you probably already know, the date of the holiday follows the lunar calendar so the holiday falls on a different date on the Gregorian calendar. This year the Chuseok holiday is Sept. 27.

My husband is traveling for work on Chuseok, so our family celebrated a week early with a homemade Korean meal. Likely the little guy and I will play yut nori and eat Korean again on the actual date of Chuseok.

If you’re wondering what to cook for the holiday, here are a couple of ideas from Korean Bapsang. The Galbijjim recipe can even be prepared in the slow cooker for added convenience. According to Hyosun, the owner of Korean Bapsang, both of these dishes are traditional ones to prepare for Chuseok. My family can personally recommend both. Yum!

http://www.koreanbapsang.com/2011/10/galbijjim-korean-braised-beef-short.html

www.koreanbapsang.com/2011/01/modeumjeon-fish-shrimps-and-zucchini.html

In Korea, Chuseok is about spending time with family and honoring ancestors. I highlighted ways to incorporate honoring ancestors in my 2011 Chuseok post. But I thought I’d add another suggestioKoreanChildren'sFavoriteStoriesn for families celebrating Chuseok.

Tuttle Publishing offers several books covering Korean culture or language. Their book, Korean Children’s Favorite Stories by Kim So-Un, is an English-language book filled with folk tales that have been told by Korean families for generations. Some of the stories are unique to Korea, while the plot line of some will be familiar. The illustrations by Jeong Kyoung-Sim are wonderfully done in a Korean style that resembles paintings done on ancient Korean screens.

This book would be a wonderful addition to a family’s library and a fun way to share Korean culture with your children.

만우절 (April Fools Day)

Not sure how I’ve missed this over the last nine years, but somehow I didn’t know until this year that April Fools Day is big in Korea. It was big on our house this year for the first time–9-year-olds are all about jokes! So maybe it was fitting that I learned of Korean student pranks this year.

In Korea, the holiday is called 만우절 (pronounced “ma-noo-jawl), which is translated “very foolish holiday). From what I’ve read, on this day you have to suspect of everything said or done to you. Whole classes in school get together to pull pranks on the teachers.

You can check out some of the most used 만우절 ideas here: http://www.soompi.com/2015/04/01/the-absolute-best-of-april-fools-in-korean-schools/

 

 

 

Book Review: Korean Folk Songs

KoreanFolkSongsI knew it had been awhile since I’d blogged, but I was amazed to see that my last entry was exactly a year ago today. As much as I love doing this blog, life has certainly gotten in the way of blogging.

But today I’m happy to bring you a review of a wonderful book that would make a great resource for Korean adoptive families, or anyone who wants their child to learn the Korean language.

The book is “Korean Folk Songs: Stars in the Sky and Dreams in Our Hearts” by Robert Sang-ung Choi. The book features 14 Korean folk songs and includes everything you need to learn the songs, including a CD with the songs presented in two versions, one that is sung and another that has no words so you can sing along.

For each song, the book contains a short description of the song and its history. Then the music is included with words in hangul, romanized Korean, and English. And since many Korean songs have hand and/or body movements to go with them, a description of the actions that should accompany the song is listed as well.

Some of the songs, like Santokki (Mountain Rabbit) and Gom Semari (Three Bears Song) were familiar to our family. But there are several others that are new to us. As a baby my son would have loved the Jjak Jjak Ggung (Clap, Clap, Clap) song, since that was one of the games he was playing in Korean when he came home. Korea’s most popular folk song–Arirang–is included as well.

All of the songs are steeped in the Korean culture and are likely songs our children adopted from Korea heard during the months or years spent in their birth country. The illustrations by Samee Back are beautiful and represent the folksy, cultural aspect of the book well.

I would highly recommend the book for any family that is learning the Korean language (learning by song is sometimes the easiest way to learn), and especially for adoptive families with Korean-born kiddos. My 9-year-old enjoyed listening to the CD and looking at the illustrations.

Here is a link to the Amazon listing for the book.

(Note: Tuttle Publishing provided me with a review copy of the book.)

Seolnal 2014

One of the biggest Korean holidays is coming up on Jan. 31. Seolnal is the Korean lunar new year. It is one of a handful of Korean holidays that are celebrated according to the lunar calendar, meaning that the actual date fluctuates from year to you on our calendar.

Our kids doing saebae last year.

Our kids doing saebae last year.

This is a great holiday to celebrate with your family and friends. Traditionally Koreans make a big feast and honor their ancestors. Children honor their older relatives with a formal bow (saebae) for which they receive money (saebae ton). And families often play games like yut nori. You can find the game on Ebay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/KOREAN-TRADITIONAL-BOARD-GAME-SET-Yut-Nori-Yunnori-New-Year-Portable-Chess-/261030910418

Learn how to say Happy New Year in Korean: 새해 복 많이 받으세요. It literally means, I wish you good blessings in the new year. Here is a video that will help you with pronunciation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Qm_k49BQ4k

Jan. 31 marks the beginning of the year of the horse. Do you know your Korean zodiac sign? If not, check out this site. http://koreanzodiac.com/

It has a calculator that you enter your birthday into and it will tell you your sign. At the top of the page, there is also a category marked “Elements.” To get your full Korean zodiac sign you have to know your elementy (metal, water, wood, fire, earth).

If you’ve read Linda Sue Park’s book Archer’s Quest, you know how important it is to know your element.

The traditional food for Seolnal is tteokguk, which is rice cake soup. Here’s a great recipe for it: http://www.koreanbapsang.com/2013/01/tteokguk-korean-rice-cake-soup.html#.UtRc7LTWMyM

I know it’s early but to all of you I say: 새해 복 많이 받으세요! I hope you each have a wonderful Seolnal.

Korean American History Resources: Middle and High School

While we’re still a few centuries away form American history in our chronological study of history, I thought I would start to compile some resources that cover Korean American history as I come across them. Here are some excellent resources to get you started with the history of Koreans in America. Most of these are for middle schoolers and high schoolers.

I read this book several years ago, and while it is out of print, I plan to include it in our curriculum. From the Land of Morning Calm: The Koreans in America was written by Ronald Takaki and published in 1994. It is recommended for ages 11 and up.

This book, A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America, is recommended for ages 10 and up. It’s an adaption of a book written by Ronald Takaki. While not strictly about Korean Americans, it tells the stories of many people groups who have come to America.

The book, Koreans in America: History, Identity, and Community (Revised First Edition), edited by Grace J. Yoo, is a recent release. Yoo is a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. It looks at Korean American communities over the past 100 years. I haven’t

This series, Arirang: An Interactive Classroom on the Korean American Experience, was put together by PBS. The web site is interactive and just incredible. You can also purchase the DVDs, and use lesson plans set up to go with the series. The lesson plans are aimed for grades 9-12.

Here is the web site address: http://www.koreanamericanstory.org/arirang/flash/main/korean_american_history.htm

I imagine I’ll use the timeline and parts of the web site when we get to the 1800s and up in third and fourth grades. I’ll hold off on the actual lesson plans until high school.

This one is an online curriculum. It gives the history of Koreans in American, plus talks about important Koreans in US history and details some Korean Americans found in present day media. http://apa.si.edu/Curriculum%20Guide-Final/unit1.htm