Sunday, April 29, 2012

School Field Trip: Back to the Children's Grand Park

The kids are a year older and the time had finally come to go on our first field trip of the year. We headed to Children's Grand Park, and this time had some new treats to see. The park, like last time, was brimming with spring flowers.

Whenever the petals were falling off the trees and making a rain effect, the kids "Oooed and Ahhhed". Our first stop was to see an animal show, which involved some monkeys, cats, seals and birds.

The show was overall fun to watch, and entirely in Korean. Except for when a parrot started singing the A, B, C's. Birds flew over head and a few kids were called down to volunteer to do stuff. It was the Aladdin story so I was able to get the gist of it all. The best part, I thought was when a cat came out of a box and leaped across platforms that were very high up.

After that fun and exciting show, the kids were hungry so we headed to an open field and had lunch under the cherry blossoms.

At some point a large group of seniors arrived and we realized that we were on their blanket (we found it empty when we got there), so we had to move. But all together it was a good lunch under the shade and the kids were sent out for a treasure hunt after their meal. My lunch was a sandwich I brought along from Paris Baguette, and some rice snacks.

After lunch and the quick games, we headed for a walkthrough of the zoo. I didn't particularly like this part of the trip, as it was crowded, hot and the kids were pushing everyone out of their way.

It was a fun day, and our next trip will be in June (they cut back the amount of trips this year). Generally nice to get out of the classroom and run around with the kiddos.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

hair In Love Salon: A Great New Place to get a Hair Cut in Seoul

On an impulse I went to a new hair salon with my friend last Thursday. It is called Hair in Love, and is located near Apgujeong, Seoul. The questions, "Where can I get a great hair cut in Seoul?" "Where can I go to get a hair cut with an English speaker in Seoul?" or "I want to find a salon that isn't too big but knows what they are doing?" Along with, "I have curly hair, where can I get my haircut in Seoul?" Can all be answered by going to this salon, where Jun the hair stylist speaks English and knows what he is doing.

I'll post directions at the end of this write-up.

The salon is a cozy one with only a few chairs for clients and some area for sitting. But I liked this as I didn't feel like just another head of hair in a large salon. We came on a Thursday afternoon, and from what I hear the weekend can get quite busy. This place also does hair coloring, perms and straightening, which according to some folks do a great job.

I went in for my usual spring hair-cut, and asked for, "More layers with it being longer in the front and shorter in the back." As Jun consulted with me he was quite intuitive and asked if I wanted an asymmetrical look, but I wasn't too sure about it. During the cut he was very attentive and not distracted at all. I tend to find that in larger salons the hair dresser often is multi-tasking.

Although I didn't ask for it, they blow dried my hair and straightened it after the cut. I guess next time I should of said that I want to keep the curly look. But it was fun anyways to sport a straight look for the evening.

Just so you get an idea, here is what I looked like before...

My hair cut was just 27,000 won, which is incredibly cheap compared to back home in the States. Plus I felt that was a reasonable price for one in Korea. My friend, however, got her hair dyed and cut a little which came to around 80,000 won. I don't know if that is a good price, but she says their service is really great for coloring.

Also she said, when his assistant is there you sometimes can get a massage.

Anyways, I would highly recommend trying out Hair In Love, and giving Jun some new business. It's a great salon that seems to know latest trends and also has a creative side to it.

The address:
19-19, cheongdam-dong, gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea

Photo Map:
You want to head out of Cheongdam station exit 9, and get a taxi or walk up the long street till you get to Dosandaeroe street and turn left. You can see on the map. What you want to do is get to the building you see here on the right, that is gray and concrete. You want to walk up the street next to this alongside this building.

Then you want to be at the corner of the gray and glass building and make a right. The salon is just a bit up the street and on your left.

The green paneling on the building on the left there, that is the salon. I hope to get better instructions from my friend soon, but here is a workable map link you can use.

Plus this area has a lot of great restaurants nearby, and is near the Apgujeong Butterfinger Pancakes. Anyways, I hope you find yourself at this salon one day and having a great hair cut or treatment.

Telephone: 02-546-0366

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Little Guide to the Rain in Seoul

I'm sure all of us know how to use an umbrella and get around their town in the rain. You look out for puddles and wear proper gear. But it seems surviving the rainy streets of Seoul, can add on a few more challenges. I've come to realize these nuances over the course of living here four years, and thought I would share them with you. Not as a way to complain about life here, but just to divulge my observances. Here we go...

1. Puddles and Splashes:
I've noticed quite often that puddles seem to accumulate on one side of a sidewalk. When this happens you of course want to avoid them, and so end up trying to steer around them. Generally, I have come to see that puddles are random throughout the walking experience, and some can be surprisingly deeper than others.

Splashes can occur if you walk really close to the edge of the sidewalk where it meets the road. People driving their cars don't seem to really notice the big splash they make when they glide past the side walk. This causes whoever is standing there to get a soaking that can occur from knee down, depending on your height. Because I've noticed other people getting soaked and heard tales from colleagues, I've learned to stay closer to the other edge of the sidewalk. In addition to this, you might want to stay a few feet behind the edge of the sidewalk when waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green. Cars turning right certainly are closer to the edge and can't help but cause a splash.

2. Umbrella Etiquette:
In America, even when I lived in San Francisco, people tried their best to give you and your umbrella room. It's a tricky thing to walk down a crowded street with an umbrella hovering above your head that makes the width of you more round. Ever since living in Korea I have experienced the daunting challenge of trying not to get bashed in by other folk's umbrellas. I don't think they mean it intentionally, but people here certainly don't try to avoid you and your umbrella. Now, this is not all the time, as I do experience the occasional dodging of each other's umbrella.

But the typical case is that your umbrella will bump with others and you can sometimes be hit on the shoulder or head by the edge of them. Certainly, it's tricky business to have lots of people get through a crowded and narrow sidewalk, with umbrellas in hand and not have a few collisions.

My advice is to be hyper aware and cautious. Also think about your height and in this case I find being shorter than most people here to my advantage. I can just lower my umbrella a little and glide underneath everyone.

3. Footwear:
In the past year or so fancy-rain-footwear has become more prevalent in these parts. I'm talking about rain boots.
The fashion ladies of Seoul would probably have a hard time walking down the drenching streets in heels. So I think they have turned to cute or fashionable rain boots. I for one am starting to feel interested in getting my own pair.

Otherwise, it seems difficult to figure out a pair of shoes that will get you through the day without your feet getting soaked. It's not just the rain that falls down on them, the general sidewalk ends up being it's own mini-splash zone.  When it rains in the heat of the summer I usually just truck by, wearing sandals and dry off my feet once inside.

4. Bus and Taxi Embarking and Exiting:
As with the challenging umbrella dodging, getting on or off a bus can be tricky as well. As you know, busses in Korea don't wait for you to take your time folding up your umbrella or getting it ready for when you want to get off. You have to be quick, no matter what the weather is like. This means you often get a little soaked entering a bus or exiting it.

What I find also happens is that if you walk past a bus stop, and there happens to be a bus unloading people. That those people will pop open their umbrellas in your direction. So watch out!

Also I could add how it's tricky to keep your soaked umbrella from touching yourself or others while clinging on to the bus or train. Thankfully some places you visit along the way have plastic covers.

Let's hope the rain this summer won't be as drenching as last years (seen above). When no matter what umbrella or shoes you wore made a difference. However, I'm thinking Seoul is very prepared now just in case this happens again. 

Rain, Rain...go away...or stay...or linger...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Seonyudo Park: In the spring time

As you might recall I wasn't having the best of times at the Yeouido Flower festival, and so headed to a familiar park nearby. After checking my digital smart-phone App I found that Seonyudo park was just down the river.

It had been since around 2010 since my last visit and so knew I needed to head there again. Since then a whole new subway line opened, which brings you closer to the park. Seonyudo station lets you exit and walk up a street to a covered bridge, which crosses the great highway.

You might recognize the following view, only with out the filters I applied to it for my blog header.

One of the fun parts of visiting this park is the humped bridge crossing you take to get over.

Spring seemed to be in a jolly mood on this little island in the center of Seoul, as greenery and flowers were found.

I parked myself under a shady tree and had a small lunch of a Caffe Bene sandwich, along with some tteok cakes I picked up. It was a wonderful moment enjoying watching the people pass by, and the pleasantness of a new spring day.

Afterwards, I explored around admiring the flower blossoms. Warning spring amazingness!

The amount of couples prowling about were quite a plenty. It made me wonder how long these relationships would last, or whether the spring air would help keep love strong out there in the love mingling of Seoul.

Otherwise the kids were enjoying the new warmth in the air. I like the following view of Seoul through these yellow blooms.

When you visit Seonyudo park you basically just follow this circular path that takes through the greenery, but then you approach the architectural historic aspects. Not to mention it had mountain peaks taken off, and became a sewage plant. This place is fun to poke around to find all these remnants of history. I found myself at the botanical garden and the sewage treatment remnants.

The park was just starting to get more crowded as I headed out, so I was glad to get some feeling of space in there. On my way back to the subway station, I found myself at what looked like a new minted cafe. Called, "Ipanema" they had a selection of coffees and cool drinks. Staffed by some cute youngins, I enjoyed a blueish lemonade.

I'm telling you, if the rest of Seoul wants to restore itself with these hipster cafes, then I'm all for it! In fact this little stretch of street in Seoul had other cafes and restaurants which looked new, too. Although, many will think it is best to keep Seoul in it's traditional form, I think getting rid of the eye-sore store fronts and million signs, is going to be a blessing.

Anyways, I highly recommend you get out to Seonyudo park, as one of the more green places to visit in this city. You can get great views, have a picnic and cross some fun bridges.
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