June 30, 2009

Leroy Quills the African Pygmy Hedgehog

video

One day, the girls and I were walking around Seoul...going from market to market...and in Seoul, there is a market for everything you might want.
 
And...yes...a market for pets...the kids are always asking for a pet...I thought I could avoid the issue here in Seoul. But what is a gaggle of kids without a pet? So I relented.

...but Leroy is a bit prickly for me.  He actually purrs...

June 29, 2009

A truly creative education


It's is not true that all Korean kids go to "factory-like" schools that stifle creativity. My neighbor took me to visit his kids school. His kids attend Presbyterian affiliated school just out side of Seoul. Kids stay at the school from Monday to Friday and spend the weekend at home with their family. The school is all about hands on. Hands on with agriculture, art, dance, judo, and more.



The school is nestled in a picturesque setting the mountains about an hour outside of Seoul.


Again, it is about hands on...


And they have not forgotten what the sand box can teach a child about life...


Meals are served in the school's sanctuary (chapel). It is a time for a prayer to give thanks and a hearty dinner to feed your soul.


The kids grow much of what they eat. They toil in the fields daily and know what it takes to put food on the table.


Even the English teachers are carefully cultivated to be compatible with this type of environment. Sarah, who teaches here, was recruited from Goshen College a Menonite affiliated institution in Goshen, Indiana. She is a long way from home!


Parents are responsible to cook for their kids 2 times a month. This keeps the parents active in school activities while ensuring the kids have a robust diet to fuel healthy minds. This ajuma (married woman) was a slave driver! I thought I would try to help out and we all ended up washing the same dishes twice! Well...she has standards ;-)


While the food was a bit spicy for Adam...after a full day of bouncing around with the students, he was ready to eat the arm off a rag doll.


After dinner there was more time for play. Not sure I could do this on a full stomach, but that is Austin for you.



At least my kids have a glimpse of what learning can be like. They begged me to send them to a school like this. I wish I could. Maybe the next generation of Wills can find something like this.

June 28, 2009

Pottery Classes


Since I have Adam and Austin immersed in baseball, my first thought was art class for Amanda and Alexandria. However, I wanted to give them something more than a general art class. One of my "connected" neighbors helped us find a great pottery studio willing to take my daughters in for the summer.


The girls are still just getting their feet wet. The first couple of days have been a mixture of frustration, creative angst and start-overs, but in the end it will be memories of inspiration, sharing and kinship.

June 27, 2009

Climbing Bukansan: #1


Bukan San (san means mountain) is about a 30 minute train ride from Samcheong-dong where we live. It is a huge park with lots of trails, streams, temples, shops and restaurants. It has something for everyone.


Some of the trails require a little extra effort and skill. This is an easy one. There are many trails where you only have a steal cable to grab onto. Today I took it easy on the kids. I figured at least 3 of them would survive. ;-)


Yes we made it. And we all learned how much mister macho...Austin...is a afraid of heights. I am sure he gets this from his grandfather. For a while he wouldn't even look forward into the scenary. I had to force him to "face his fear." Yes I am a mean and sadistic father. The meanest...at least that is what I hope they believe...I have to keep them afraid of me. ;-)


So, the most amazing things are not the mountains themself, but what you find along the way. What you find about yourself, your kids and how that interaction helps define each individual and the family as a unit. Seeing Alex's fascination with frogs, Austin's fear of heights and how to help him cope, Amanda’s love of drawing and Adam’s skill and stamina for climbing.


We were told that this dog was part wolf...I think Lassie was sneaking off for a secret rendezvous when the camera was not rolling.


This is one of those days where Adam felt bigger than his older brother. And from the picture it shows even though Adam is a full 9 inches shorter. He really loves climbing and the heights do not bother him.

After the climb...


On our way back from Bukansan mountain, we encountered a group of soldiers. I can only imagine what is it like to march through the mountains on a hot summer day in full fatigues and 40 lbs strapped to your back.


It's little random experiences and situations like this that the kids are exposed to here in Seoul. I never know what sinks in and how it affects them. I wonder if the parting peace sign was the inspiration for Alex’s pottery work...

June 26, 2009

Cheonggyecheon



What to do on a warm summer day? Amanda and Alex were planning on going to Dongdaemun to purchase an African pygmy porcupine. Well...along the way, they got side tracked and took a stroll along the Cheongycheon (the man-made stream running 6 Km through the northern half of Seoul).



Everyone loves to lounge on the Cheongyecheon. It's quite nice. Above is the before shot...hmmm...water...hot kids... Hey! I have an idea!



No more hot kids! Geez...wish I was still a kid...



And... the day was not without mis-hap... Amanda slipped and fell into the stream while crossing...she got a big bruise on her knee from the rocks :-( We will post that later... Along with the African Pygmy porcupine...

June 25, 2009

Lunch Habit


Each day we steal away from the hustle of Seoul and enjoy box lunches on the porch of the guest house of former Korean President Yun Bo-seon.



My kids never know how privileged they are. I hope they never do. Before they know it they will be tucked back into life in Kalamazoo. Their friends will never know what they have experienced.

June 24, 2009

Masks

Every where you go in Korea you will find masks: Masks for tourists, foriegners, co-workers, bosses, friends, etc. Yes, there are masks that you buy at the tourist destinations, but I am referring to the masks that Koreans where themselves depending on the situation. You just don't make friends here overnight. It takes time to get past the many "masks" of Korea.



We were, just strolling around our neighborhood in Samcheong-dong. This particular mask is for the protection of the household (restaurant). Then it struck me when I saw this mask and the look on Adam: I don't know who is crazier, me for the bringing my 4 kids to Korea or them for following me!

June 23, 2009

Talent


Adam never ceases to confound and amaze me. I let him use play with the camera and he quickly became obsessed with composing a shot. I did not pay much attention at the time...but I kind of like what he came up with.

June 22, 2009

Dress-up


The local tourism board loves to play dress up with foreigners. My girls are always happy to oblige.

I always feel safe letting my kids travel around Seoul, especially when they go out as a group. This day... I had Amanda and Alex go to Lotte Mart to pick-up some food supplies and they were conscripted into the Army! My girls told me how the Koreans pulled them forward and started throwing traditional clothing on in them to reenact Korean War era setting. The clothes made them hot and sweaty but everyone was laughing in the end.

June 21, 2009

Hand Games


We have been adopted by a prominent local family in Samcheong-dong where we are living this summer. My kids are at the family's restaurant just after they arrived in Seoul. Fun is the universal language. I could not understand the hand game they were playing, but it was a combination of skill and pain. The loser got slapped nice and hard. ;-)

June 20, 2009

Beautiful Setting


Though I am still struggling to find work. I have managed to find ways to keep have the kids nested in a beautiful setting. However, there is a downside...




“You want us do what?” “Wash our own clothes?” “By hand?!!!”




I said it would be a learning experience... ;-)


Still...I hope the kids will look back and see what a life they they got to live... :-)

June 19, 2009

Spraying mosquitos!

I was tortured by mosquitoes last summer...this summer is no different! Seems like the Koreans hate them too. Its ironic that I was doing work for a mosquito abatement company just prior to returning to Korea.

I have no idea what this guy was spraying and did not have a chance to ask him because I passed out like a bug right after he sprayed me. I twitched on the ground for 20 minutes before I regained control of myself. ;-) I think the strategy is to kill everything and let God sort them out later.

June 18, 2009

Start of Baseball



This will be year two for Adam and Austin to play baseball in Korea. Last year was spectacular. Thought it was not easy going, the boys grew tremendously. Austin ended up winning a starting position and was able to rotate to third base and first base. As a reward for his improvement over the season, the coach put him in as a pitcher in a crucial tournament.

For Adam last year was a growing year. It was his first real experience playing with kids much better than himself. He had a hard time. There were lots of tears and emotions. This drove everyone nuts, but in the end everyone grew to love Adam.



The above image is a note one of the boys had to write to the coach for throwing a rock and hitting Adam in the mouth. Ouch! Adam ended up swallowing it! And yes, I had to watch for it later :-0
Regardless, of all his spitting and sputtering, everyone knew that his heart was in the right place. His desire will pay off one day.



In the end, the team really played a big role in our lives during the summer of 2008. So, we are back for one more summer.

June 17, 2009

Back in Seoul



I am back Seoul, Korea. I spent over a year and a half working here as an innovation design consultant. I never expected to stay more than 4 months, but somehow the life here grew on me and I found myself becoming more and more immersed in the culture.
I guess this happened because I reached out… I reached out and found open arms reaching back.
So… to add more life experiences and the potential for disaster… last summer (’08), I brought my 4 kids to Seoul! They spent the entire summer together in Korea.
They all took a Korean language class and now they can speak better than me!
My girls, Amanda and Alexandria attended a local art school. My boys, Austin and Adam where on the best little league baseball teams in Korea!
It was no easy feet to get them in art school or on the little league team. I think this is because the expat community sticks to themselves and vanishes during the summer. I had no support. So, I had to beg and beg…and when the Koreans felt my sincerity…well…they opened up.
It has not been easy…Korean’s expect and respect performance in all aspects of life. All of my kids were pushed…times were not always rosy…but they persevered.

So, for the next few months, my blog will be devoted to how my kids and I navigate through the ups and downs of the 2009 summer. I hope that in some small way our story can serve to inspire others to follow their passions no matter what the obstacles. Please make sure you give me feed back…I can’t improve the Blog unless I know what you think.

June 15, 2009

Why White Space? 여 백

By sharing my experiences here in Korea, I hope to inspire others to follow their passions and trust their instincts; whether it's raising children or writing poetry.

For me, my passions are my children and the relationships that surround our lives. I am always trying to become better at trusting my instincts and following my passions. Follow us through Korea as we try to find balance between the drama and beauty within the white space of our lives.

여백 (yeo beak) is not quite white space. I am told it is a concept beyond space. Noting is something and something is nothing. In western culture, it is like “less is more.”

...stay tuned and make sure you check out the older posts...

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