Saturday, December 20, 2014

Our Christmas in Korea

The 2014 Christmas Season has been a busy one for us so far and much different from 2013. At this time last year we were basically homeless and recovering from severe jet lag (which happens when you move halfway around the world!).

We've been able to enjoy events on post, admire the decorations (like the ones pictured on the left at the post office), and re-establish some family traditions. While we cannot physically spend time with family this year, we thought we would share some of our activities here for everyone.
The American Forces' Spouses' Club held it's 1st Annual Tree and Wreath Auction for charity after Thanksgiving, so I helped organize and create some donations for the event - here are what the final products looked like.

--a music themed wreath, a scrapbooking tree, and a Korean music tree--

We have been enjoying our first season with our Elf on the Shelf, which Michael named "Trat". He's been having fun hiding from Michael and leaving little positive notes for him (none of those bad behavior antics will be tolerated in our household!).

Just like last year, the Dragon Hill Lodge decorated for the holiday and 
I managed to snap a few pictures.

They do have an interesting choice in Santas...I'm guessing this one likes the "naughty" list?

There was a tree lighting ceremony held on base, on a very cold and windy night, so we stayed just for the countdown and to snap a few pictures.

Santa likes to play the sax, it seems.

Did I mention it was cold?

Michael finally took some interest in Santa while at a special library story time, and he was very clear in his request for a spaceship with a red astronaut and a blue astronaut.  
Santa took note.

We decorated a tree this year with our one box of Christmas decorations, and though it is smaller than our usual tree, it is much larger than the 6 inch one I managed to squeeze into our luggage last year!

As the spirit of the season is giving, I decided to help organize a collection of gently used baby clothes, supplies, and items for young, unwed mothers at welfare homes in South Korea. The families at Yongsan came through in spectacular fashion and we put together these 20 large gift bags, as well as an additional 10 large bags/boxes of supplies for the homes.

As previously posted, the 8th Army Band gave an excellent holiday concert in a world class facility.

That's about it for now - we may plan some additional holiday adventures over the next two weeks, depending upon everyone's health and how cold it is outside. 
You know I'll tell you about them, if we do!

From the Bruns Family to all of you, Have a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2015!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Eighth Army Band Holiday Concert

The Eighth Army Band, as well as the Second Infantry Division Band, participated in the 7th America-Korea Friendship Holiday Concert this past weekend.

The concert was held at the Seoul Arts Center, which is a pretty impressive hall. My seat was in the nose-bleed, 3rd balcony section, which turned out to be a great vantage point.

Rob conducted four pieces on the program: a caroling set and two songs with The Barbarettes. They are a Korean trio, whose influences are 50s and 60s music groups such as The Andrews Sisters, and they sang Sleigh Ride and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy with the band.

It was an excellent concert all around - I was so glad I was able to get a ticket (long story there). The second half of the concert consisted of the Seong-Nam Philharmonic Orchestra and Soprano Miseon Oh (she was wonderful!). We managed to get everyone together for a photo afterwards.

I ran into Katie, a former student from NY, while I was there - we really do live in a small world!

And I came home with some flowers, courtesy of one of the other band conductors who handed them off to Rob.  The winter cabbage adds a nice touch.  :)

Here's a brief article about the concert: Eighth Army celebrates holidays and partnership at annual concert

If I can find any video clips, I'll post them here at a later date.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Children's Museum at the War Memorial

When I heard a new Children’s Museum had opened up by the War Memorial of Korea, right across from USAG-Yongsan, I was excited to check it out with my Michael and some friends. We parked on post and had a nice walk through the airplane section to the newly renovated building.

The outdoor section has a fun little airplane themed playground and ample space for outdoor events. I am guessing there will be some fun programs during the warmer months.

Inside there are a number of rooms that lead through various exhibits about Korea’s war history. Some are fun and informative, while others are a bit too scary for the little ones, in my opinion.

They had a pretty cool ball contraption on the entrance wall.

There was a castle wall section with space on top for Peek-a-boo fun and small alcoves for history lessons underneath.  Can you find Michael?

We had to pause for some photo-ops, of course!

The last section was a playroom, with a cushioned area for kids under 110 cm and fun climbing area for kids OVER 110 cm.

Michael is only 105 I got some very grumpy looks from the attendants when I let him play anyway. He was a pro, though, as he's done more complicated ones at other museums!

Remember how I said this was attached to the War Memorial and Museum? Well, that also meant there were some very specific depictions in the kid's museum about the Japanese occupation.  I made the mistake of pushing the button for one of the large video screens and had to hustle Michael out of there, away from the scary movie.

It was a nice visit, though I don't think we'll head back anytime soon - it's meant for older (and taller) kids, and we can definitely find some fun elsewhere!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Seoul Museum of History

We had a free weekday, which also happened to be a rainy day, so we decided to try a new indoor museum. We pulled out our umbrellas, jumped on the subway, and headed to the Seoul Museum of History for the afternoon. It’s located just west of Gwanghwamun Square and sits right next to the Gyeonghuigung Palace. There is a large trolley car out front and a huge moving sculpture across the street.

On the grounds outside the lobby you will see large chucks of what was the previous Gwanghwamun Gate, as well as relics from other demolished buildings, and a map-shaped splash fountain.

Stone Stele from Joseon period, unearthed near Mapo

splash fountain map

The building, as with many others in Seoul, was decked out for the holiday. There was a large Christmas tree out front with the two stone mascots of the museum, Haedori and Haesuni. They represent the haechi, Seoul's mascot, which is an imaginary animal believed to ward off evil spirits, discern good and evil, and give joy to those around him.

Inside, there were some nice decorations, as well!

The lobby has huge stone murals near the information desk and a history library.

We climbed up to the 3rd floor where most of the displays are and found the giant scale model of Seoul. We had fun finding our "house" and visiting all of the landmarks we could recognize.

In the display about the Joseon Dynasty, we found this terracotta map of Seoul and a nongno, which was used to lift stones for building castles.

a portable firearm

There were a number of interactive computer screens throughout the museum - these were fun for us to learn more...and for Michael to push buttons.  :)

model of hanok living

On the balcony level pictured above we found more computer activities, relics, and directions for origami projects.

One of my favorite displays was the water clock, with ornate instrument ringers.

In the museum sections of more modern eras, there was a fun display from the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

There were a few fun trick eye exhibits...

Displays of clothing and screens...

...and many pictures of the transitions the city has gone through over the centuries. One of the most striking things to us were all the pictures of the destruction caused by war and the changes seen throughout the city's architecture.

In this next picture from 1926, during the Japanese occupation, #10 is where the Gwanghwamun Square begins today near City Hall and #17 is where the Gyeongbukgung Palace is again now located (after being rebuilt). 

There were so many things to see, I couldn't possibly share all of them in pictures, but here are a few more:

traditional wooden shoes to try on

pictures of many of the monuments throughout the city

the gift shop

We stopped by the cafe for a quick snack and had these tasty Vivel Snowballs...they looked perfect and round in the case...

And were given to us like this...for ease of eating? 

As we walked back to the subway, I snapped a few photos of the surrounding artwork - a massive, moving sculpture and a set of blue horses pulling a sleigh.

Live in or visiting Seoul?  Here's how to find the museum:

55 Saemunan-ro (sinmunno 2-ga), Jonggno-gu, Seoul 110-062, Korea
서울특별시 종로구 새문안로 55 (신문로2가)

Closed on Mondays and New Year’s Day
Tuesday-Friday: 9:00 – 20:00 (yearlong)
Weekends and Holidays: 9:00-19:00 (March-Oct); 9:00-18:00 (Nov-Feb)

Fees:  FREE entry
Free English Audio Guide available at Information Desk, 1st Floor
Free storage lockers on the right before you enter the building.

Subway Directions:
1) Gwanghwamun Station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 7.
Upon exiting the station, turn around, and turn right at the 4-way Intersection. Go straight about 500m to arrive at the museum on the right.

2) Seodaemun Station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 4.
Go straight about 600m to arrive at the museum on the left.