What an adventure

Even though my countdown ticker says we've already flown, we still have about 18 hours until we board our flight. We've crossed everything off our lists and we just have one day to revel in what this adventure has been about. I think we are all better for the experiences we've had and the the people we've met. I'm not opposed to another overseas tour, but some time at home near family will do us well.

I will not be posting on this blog since we won't be McBrides in Korea anymore. When I get the new blog up and running I'll put a link here.

Peace out Korea, it's been the adventure of a lifetime.

Seodaemun Prison History Museum

This was a really interesting adventure for the boys and me. I had heard that this museum was neat, but I wasn't really thinking about whether I should have young kids with me while I went. Since it was either go with kids or not go ever, I obviously brought them along and we took a lot of time talking and explaining things. This place had a similar feel to the holocaust museum, but obviously the devastation was not on the same scale. Still, being on the grounds where people were tortured for their beliefs, it was eerie.

The prison was used from 1908-1987 while Korea was under Japanese rule, and those who were anti-colonists were imprisoned, tortured, forced to do extreme labor and executed. 
A layout and blueprint of the prison as it was in the beginning.

Name tags

Execution chair

Cade taking a picture of Alex behind bars

Original handcuffs

The museum had a great layout that takes you through some history and then leads you through different buildings and the purposes they served during the prison years.
Room dedicated for remembrance. Pictures of 5,000 who died surround you.

Replica of the execution room. You can enter peer into the real execution room, but no pictures allowed.
Different torture rooms. This was the finger poke room, blood stains on the table.

(I liked the picture both ways, with the bars clear and blurry)

Torture box, not big enough to stand up, too small to sit down, and then they'd shake it.

The boys as prisoners.

Narrow room torture
 The next series of pictures are in the actual prison cells. It was really neat to be able to go inside some of them and get the feel for their living conditions.
Two levels of cells

These are the cells for the really bad prisoners, look how small!

All throughout the museum there are things like this replica of a woman inside the prison cell that are just creepy. There were lots of visual and sound effects to recreate the aesthetics of the prison. I'm glad my boys were able to listen to my explanations and not get too scared.

Giant Korean flag displayed outside the prison hall.

The boys holding hands as they walk up to the house where the lepers lived.
The mountains in the background are just gorgeous.
After you leave the 'actual' execution room you are led to a tunnel where they would take the dead bodies.

This was an interesting feature. This was an exercise area, with walls to separate the prisoners from talking with one another.

Inside the exercise area

I'm glad we went, and I would recommend it to all my friends in Korea, but maybe not for the younger kids, 2-4 or so, or if they get spooked easily.

A helpful tip

A few random people have mentioned how helpful my blog has been as they've been getting ready to move their family to Korea, and to help them find things to do here. To those people, I share this helpful tip as you are getting ready to leave Korea.

You will go to the transportation office to set up your flight arrangments to go home. Any date they tell you will be exciting to you. However if they offer you a date that is more than 4 days from your DEROS date, however tempting it may be, do not take it. No one will tell you then, and no one from transportation will even know of their mistake, it will be your batallion who will realize once you're outprocessing that your flight is too early, even if by one day. They will then say you cannot fly on that day, but there will be no space A flights left in 4 days before or after your DEROS date. You will then have to jump through hoops to get an exception to policy to fly commercially and hope that the O-6 who ends up with it on his desk will sign it, or who knows when you'll be leaving.

Never mind that you have movers scheduled to come in 4 days, and there's a federal holiday coming up where no one will want to look at your papers, and that you have all your hotels already arranged in Korea and America.

True story. This is how it goes in the Army. They tell you one thing is okay and then turn around and tell you it's not.

So my countdown to flying to America is most likely wrong. Not sure when we're leaving, but somewhere closer his DEROS which is July 17th. At this point we are just planning on having our movers come on the 5th still, moving into the Dragon Hill Lodge on the 6th, and instead of staying there 5 days, we hope to stay there until our new flight date is decided. That would be the easiest, but they could disapprove our request to stay in the dragon that long... but I don't want to think about that right now...  happy thoughts!

Bugs In My Teeth -or- Why I Ride

I feel privileged to be a guest blogger on my own blog, and a day like today is plenty reason for me to make my debut.

I started the day with my usual facebook surf.  Today, however, I chose not to ignore the birthdays and wished a happy birthday to Robert orr, the man who got me into cycling.
Turns out the army didn’t treat me too well.  While trying to clear out of my current duty station I ran into road block after road block (who knew the army didn’t work on Thursdays?) collecting all of one signature in all the hours of work I put forth.  This, however, is what gave me the impetus to ride my bike today.

Making my way along the han river I was astounded by the elevated level of shennaniganary that was taking place.  I’ve never seen so many uncoordinated people trying to learn to ride a bike without hands in the space of 45 minutes!  Fearing for my life I almost turned around, but I pressed on anyway hoping to make it out to the north side of paldang dam for the first time.  An hour into my ride I finally entered hanam city and made my way across the paldang bridge.

I was elated as I looked out over the valley that I was about to ride through.  I had one of those feelings of invincibility that, fortunately, is not strong enough to overrule good judgment to the point where you fling yourself over the railing of the bridge simply because you to feel the thrill of freefall.  Invincibility faded into contentment and that emotion was my companion for the rest of the night.

The newly paved bike path on the north side of the paldang bridge was built over the top of old railroad tracks.  Personally I think this is an idea that should be adopted by other countries.  The pathway is already cleared, the bridges are already built.  All you need to do is pour concrete.

Riding through unfamiliar territory transformed me.  I stopped looking at my cyclocomputer.  I no longer cared what my average speed was.  I wasn’t timing intervals.  I was taking in the world around me and there was a lot to take in.  

There were bike loving robots sculpted from junk.

(by the time I finished taking this picture there was a line of 4 koreans who wanted to do the same thing)
There were denizens dwelling within the robots.

There were flowers on the side of the bike path.
(I was disappointed that I didn’t see any Koreans copying this behavior.)

There were railway bridges converted for pedestrian/cyclist use.

There was a tunnel that was about 8 degrees cooler than outdoor temperature with motion activated lights

There were lights telling you when it was safe to cross a road that intersected the bike path.

This path was geared so specifically to the needs of the cyclists.  Many of the shops lining the path have free compressed air access for filling tires and a stock of basic cycling supplies.  Korea has also installed small phone booths along the bike trails that have a stamp inside allowing you to collect stamps from different locations around the country.

One of my favorite finds was the place where I stopped to have dinner.  I saw a sign advertising 10 gogi mandu (meat dumplings) for 3,500 won (approx. $3USD).  I walked up and found that the establishment was being run by two young boys with not an adult in sight.  There was a banner next to the establishment portraying its glory days with cars and customers lined up to sample it’s spectacular fare.  I sat down and bit into the most delicious mandu that I have ever had.  By the time I got to the 10th they were alright.  I guess the first was enhanced by hunger.

As night fell the bugs came out, but I just couldn’t seem to wipe the smile off my face.  I was stopping every couple of minutes to take pictures.  The Koreans walking along the path seemed pleasantly surprised to see a wayguk (foreigner) that could so expertly greet them in their own language.  Fortunately conversations never progressed far enough for them to be disappointed.  As I made my way home in the dark I started reflecting on the last 3 ½ hours and remembered why I started riding.  I don’t ride for the exercise.  I don’t ride to save the earth.  It’s not to save money, and it’s not just to get from point a to point b.

I ride for the freedom.

I ride to relieve stress.

I ride because I need to know what I will see in the next mile.

I ride because it’s fast enough to see a lot, but not so fast that you miss it.

I ride to celebrate other people’s birthdays…

and to realize that I  was the one who received the present.

I ride to meet new friends,

and for bugs in my teeth.

paldang dam

sunset over paldang dam

view from converted railway bridge

new railway bridge running parallel to converted bridge
valley from the center of the paldang bridge

Aquarium with a friend

One of the great experiences about living abroad is meeting people of other cultures. Our congregation at church is the biggest melting pot of people and it gives you a great appreciation for having the same beliefs as the brother or sister next to you from Africa, Malaysia, or even from Korea. One of Cade's church teachers is Bora Lim, a sister who is born and raised in Seoul, but did not convert to the LDS church until the past few years. She studied English in school and when she went on a trip to Malaysia she met the missionaries and learned all about our church in English. Apparently when she came back to Korea and joined her local Korean congregation all of the terms of the church were very hard to understand and she didn't feel comfortable there. So she attends our English speaking branch and our kids fell in love with her (and I think she fell in love with our kiddos too!)

Here's Bora and Cade

We mostly saw Bora at church, but we've had a few occasions to get together. Since we were moving soon and Cade was out of school we decided to all hang out at the COEX aquarium. Bora was such a trooper since she wasn't feeling well, but had my kids plastered all over her, pulling her over to see sharks and seahorses.

These are all pictures from Bora's phone :)

After the aquarium the kids stopped in this toy store, and Cade wanted a picture with every angry bird. Apparently by the last bird the workers weren't very happy with us... oops!

We will miss you Bora, and never say never. We will meet again!

Our family

Our family

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What time is it in Korea?

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