Saturday, May 23, 2015


I really want to finish my travelog, even if few are interested. I want enjoy the pictures and memories. Anyway, I keep getting sidetracked with lots of activities like high school graduation, and work around the house. Bear with me, I'll finish up soon.

The painting is done in the living room and I absolutely love the colors. Next step is getting the ghastly green carpet out and painting the floor. That's next week's project. I've got to hurry and finish so I can get outside and work in the yard. We've had lots of rain and everything, including the weeds, is growing a mile a minute.

Here's a flower I planted:

And some glorious clouds after a thundershower:

And another shot a few minutes later:

When I get the living room back completed and back together I'll take some photos and show you; then I'll get back to reporting about Korea. Occasionally out of the blue I have intense longings to return, I just love that land.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Meanwhile, back in Korea . . .

I looked at the dates on these photos and scratched my head trying to figure out how the first one is the 12th and the rest are the 13th. Duh, my camera was still on Iowa time so when it was noon in Korea, it was 10:00 PM in Iowa, hence at midnight Iowa time my camera turned over to the 13th. Okay, that discrepancy is explained.

We took an express (non-stop) bus into Seoul; this is a view of one, of dozens, of apartment complexes along the way. There were few stand alone buildings, generally they were clustered in groups of two to six, and generally thirty to forty stories high.

A picture for my boys who love their "Chucks". We found this store on our way to have lunch.

After lunch we took another subway to the area of town where an ancient palace is. The interior of the nearest subway station was built to look like an ancient fortress.

Inside this particular subway station were exhibits of artifacts or replicas, and art installations. This is a replica of the hemispherical sundial invented during the reign of King Sejong (b. 1397 d. 1450 r. 1418-1450).

This is one of the art exhibits. At first I thought it was artifacts from an ancient era, until I noticed the toilet and realized it was "installation art" of seats! Pretty funny.

We made it to Gyeongbok Palace just in time for the re-enactment of the changing of the guard. This was the first royal palace built by the Joseon Dynasty, three years after its founding. Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung was located at the heart of the newly appointed capital of Seoul, then known as Hanyang, and represented the sovereignty of the Joseon Dynasty. It is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces, serving as the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty.

 This is the huge drum sounded at the end of the ceremony.

And our pictures with one of the Palace Guards.

The door (gate) into the inner courtyard.

The Throne in the main building.

Another view of the throne.

A gate between areas at the back of the palace yard.

The traditional dress, called a Hanbok. I love them for their beauty and gracefulness.

Fabulous brick work in the back wall.

Just inside the main door (see above) looking toward the main building where the throne is.

I've watched a few Korean Historical dramas so I could picture the courtyard full of soldiers and government ministers, retainers and scholars. It is a fascinating land and country. I was so happy to see it is person. Now I have to find a good book of history to satisfy my thirst and hunger for more understanding.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Well, we made it

I finished enough of the painting to hold a graduation party on Friday night:

At the commencement ceremony Dandylion played the drums in the prelude (Guardians of the Galaxy) and the processional and recessional (Pomp and Circumstance).

We heard a local veterinary doctor give the commencement address; he advised the students to 1) Be honest, always tell the truth; 2) Love what you do and you'll be successful; 3) Believe in something, you'll need faith in your life; 4) Always be positive, avoid negativity, have fun; adversity makes you better.

Posed with the graduate:

And caught a picture of two sets of brothers who are good friends:

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Five Modes of Transportation Needed to get to Noble's dorm in Korea!

That's right. We were driven in a private car to the airport; flew from Tokyo to Inchon; rode an express train from Inchon to Seoul; took three different Subway trains to a bus station somewhere in Seoul (don't ask me, I was totally lost the whole time I was there!); then took an express bus from Seoul to the city surrounding the Air Force base; took a taxi from the bus station to the main gate of the base, walked through security at the gate; then took another taxi from the gate to the dormitory building where Noble lives. Whew! All the while toting two suitcase, one large and one small, fortunately both are wheelies. I can understand why frequent travelers pack light, very light.

Anyway, a few photos on our way to the airport. First, a view of the narrow streets.

Pardon my "smart" camera which kept focusing on the rain splattered window, instead of seeing through the window to the bridge and river. (I dislike "smart" appliances of any kind, I prefer to think for myself, thank you very much.)

I think this is my one and only view of bamboo growing. Those tall feathery looking things, mostly in the lower right.

Upon arriving at Noble's we were so tired that we just sort of collapsed for a short while before venturing out to the store to buy food for Sunday and Monday morning. I was surprised at how cold, overcast and rainy it was. Just the week before my trip Noble assured me that it was warm and wonderful. How quickly the weather can change. 

Sunday we relaxed; there was no scheduled church as this was deemed General Conference weekend. (Because of the time difference watching Conference live is unreasonable.) So we watched a session, and enjoyed letting our feet rest. Noble had plenty of outing planned for us to we discussed them and made our final plans.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Painting Progress Report

The entry hall painting is done; the carpet will be removed when I finish all the painting. We have a new front door to install too. I'm happy with the color.

I ran out of paint Monday before I even finished the first coat on the next wall. That evening, in spite of tiredness I drove to Council Bluffs to pick up some more paint. Tuesday I finished the first coat in the morning and the second coat late afternoon.

This is the chaos I'm living with right now. Have I mentioned how much I dislike painting? Fortunately TopDad got me the scaffolding to make it less painful.

Here's the finished wall. When noticing any flaws I remind myself over and over what my father taught me: A blind man would enjoy seeing this! The color is called Creamy Buttermilk and this morning it looked so pretty to me! Even though I dislike painting, I sure enjoy the finished product. Having a room painted in "my" colors lifts my spirits!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Reflections on Japan

As I was flying in to Japan from high above the ground I saw lots of long white things clustered together in rows. I couldn't tell what they were, but as we descended I realized that they were greenhouses, Quonset hut shaped, draped with plastic sheeting. This is their secret for having fresh vegetables and fruits year round. The Japanese are careful stewards of their land and every available inch is utilized. (Same with Korea) Houses are clustered tightly together and any bit of yard, or roadside or space beside the rail tracks or rivers was cultivated, or planted with fruit trees. Except for the ultra-wealthy, houses are small and compact. Most people live in high rise apartment buildings. As we rode around I had a feeling of yes, this is familiar because it is the same earth that I live on, but at the same time the changes to the landscape by humans was very different from the US.

I noticed that Japan is very clean, as in almost no trash anywhere, especially in public spaces. The weird thing was that there were no trash bins on street corners or in restaurants or stores. I'd have a piece of trash in my hand and look around for someplace to discard it and I never could find anyplace. But there was no trash on the ground. Evidently, people just tuck things into their bags, pockets, etc. and discard it at home. I did see a few bins in the Subway/train stations, but NEVER in the restrooms. Which reminds me, there were no towels in the restroom and seldom an electric hand dryer. The ladies would wash their hands, then pull out a small towel (what we would call a washcloth) from their bags, dry their hands and pop the towel back in their bags. I used my large cloth handkerchief and changed it daily. Good thing I didn't need to blow my nose too.

Japanese cuisine, at least what I was exposed to, is delicious. The tastes are refined and delicate. Everything seemed to be "natural", that is, not flavored with spices or herbs. The flavors of the foods themselves were allowed to be tasted. Their cuisine is heavy on fish, soybeans, and seaweed. I think I had those in many varieties at every meal. Emphasis is on taste and beauty, rather than quantity, although I was always fully satisfied at every meal.

The Japanese people are reserved, yet friendly and helpful. Those employed in the service industries were cheerful, helpful and polite in the extreme. It was so refreshing. Even the garbage collector we passed on our way to the train station greeted us with a polite bow. They seemed to delight in trying out their English and I was impressed by everyone who tried. They certainly did better with English than me with no Japanese.

I enjoyed being a people watcher on the trains. Stereotypically, we think of Asians looking all alike. Wrong! I knew before I went that there is almost infinite variety in their looks and features. I knew this from almost five years of watching Korean Dramas online. I believe the only thing that is identical is hair color, which they change so there are lots of dark browns and reds, with a few blonds which stand out. I am taller than most of them, although the younger generation, my children's ages, are growing taller.

I didn't get any pictures, but we got to attend a performance of Kabuki Theater. We saw a short one act comedy. Headsets were provided so we could hear a translation and explanation of the play. It was different and delightful. Written in 1773 (or thereabouts) the play was witty and clever. The stylized exaggeration of inflection was interesting to listen to, and the acting was great.

I am so glad I visited! I would like to return and explore a little more of the countryside. Of course there is plenty to see in the city too. Like New York City, three days is enough to only skim the surface of a few highlights.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Last Night and Morning in Japan

After the gardens we walked through a section of town where the fish markets are, then went for a late lunch at a sushi place and I had my first tastes of sushi. I wasn't terribly adventurous and didn't have any raw fish, but what I ate I enjoyed; I didn't take pictures either because I simply forget until it's too late. That evening I got to go to a session at the Tokyo temple. While I was inside the others walked around (in the rain) and went to a cafe for hot chocolate, etc. Here's Noble with what I think is the Tokyo Tower (old TV broadcasting tower, before SkyTree was built) in the background.

See, here I am at the Temple which is smack dab in the middle of urban Tokyo. It is right on the street with only a fence and sidewalk separating it from traffic. 

On Saturday morning we took pictures before leaving for the airport. I just love this wonderful family. (They also have a son, but he was shy and not around much so I didn't get a picture of him.)

Daughters and Mothers
And lastly, some interesting brickwork seen on the way to the airport. (Can you tell I like brick?)

I had a wonderful time in Japan and would love to go back. The best part is having someone to stay with and act as tour guide since I don't speak the language. It is a fascinating country with lovely people, really good food, and interesting history. Well worth the time and expense of getting there.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Second Garden of the Day

Hama-rikyu Gardens

"Gardens of the Tokugawa Shogun family representing the Edo era, famous for its "Shiori-no-Ike" pond and two duck ponds. The Shiori pond is designed featuring a landscape that changes with the ebb and low of the tides. These are the only tidewater ponds which still remain in Tokyo."

Cherry trees against the backdrop of skyscrapers:

Part of the rock wall lining the canal to Tokyo Bay through which the tidewaters flow.

"This pine was planted 300 years ago to commemorate the great renovations made to the garden by the 6th shogun Ienobu. The thick branches spread out low, presenting a proud, imposing view."

Showing some of the branch supports. I was fascinated at how many ancient trees I saw around Tokyo, held up by supports and nurtured rather than destroyed.

A variety of bamboo growing on a slope. I saw some beautiful bamboo groves, but never when I had my camera ready. (Darn)

A view of one of the ponds.

PFCMom and my sweet hostess.

"This is a rest house where the shogun, ladies and Imperial Court nobles enjoyed a view that they were all very fond of. The present building is a restored one built in 1983. Here you can enjoy powdered green tea and Japanese sweets."

Matsu-no-ochaya (Pine Teahouse)
"One of the teahouses built in the time of the 11th shogun Ienari. While it was destroyed by fire during the war, it was restored in 2010 based on research of the remains including cornerstones. By construction faithful to the historical sources, a landscape redolent of bygone days has been recreated."

In the midst of a gigantic, bustling city, I enjoyed this oasis of peace and beauty. I could well imagine what it was like hundreds of years ago. The two gardens we visited gave me some ideas of what I could do with my own little plot of ground in Iowa.