As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry, my family and I went to Seoulland, an amusement park inside Seoul Grand Park.  Earlier this month, we visited the zoo at Seoul Grand Park.  With a footprint the size of Disneyland, Seoulland isn’t quite as majestic or thematic as Disney’s theme parks.  Seoulland serves as more of an affordable, functional family fun park.  Admission was fairly cheap (about $9 per adult with a discount coupon).   We even received free gifts, pairs of hunter orange and black Thinsulate gloves embossed with the Seoulland logo.  The park offers a wide variety of fun attractions, including rides, carnival booths, restaurants, and gift shops.   
We went with two other couples and kids in tow.  The day was cool and smoggy but not unbearable.  When we arrived, we were greeted by a pungent smell that turned out to be the wafting smell of fried silkworms.  Yes, silkworms.  I took a photo of the concoction (see below), but I couldn’t capture the acrid smell with my digital camera.  We opted to snack on corn dogs and chicken sticks instead of trying silkworm.  I’m sure they must be delicious!
For the Shutterbugs:  I posted more photos of our trip to Seoulland for your viewing pleasure.  Enjoy!

Overblown and overprepared

We went to Seoulland today with some friends.  I’ll talk more about what happened there tomorrow.  For now, let me dwell on something interesting that happened–or rather, did not happen–today.  We left today fully prepared for heavy congestion and massive crowds at Seoulland.  After all, this is Sollal, or Korean New Year, and the entire nation of Korea is supposed to be out and about enjoying a much-needed holiday.  We all prepared for the worst.  Our friends considered taking the subway to avoid driving to Seoulland.  Finally convinced that driving was a better option, they packed extra food and a portable DVD player for the kids, just in case we were stuck in heavy traffic.  It was all for naught.  The roads were eerily quiet, and we arrived at Seoulland in just 20 minutes.   Granted, we drove on surface streets and avoided the interstate highway, which I assumed was more likely to be congested.  Seoulland was very quiet when we arrived at 10:30 this morning, although the crowds came later.  We left before the masses departed and avoided congestion on the way home.
The experience reminded me of all those times I overprepared for something that did not materialize as planned.  Dear Reader, do you remember Y2K?  Did your company spend an inordinate amount of money and effort to upgrade their computer systems?  Did you wonder at midnight on December 31, 1999 whether the lights would go out and the world would shut down because of the overly hyped Y2K problem?  Did you buy candles or flashlights and keep them handy?  Did you stockpile canned goods?  Did you ever read "The Hot Zone" about the Ebola outbreak in monkeys in Reston, Virginia or watch the movie "Outbreak" and wonder whether a human strain of Ebola or another devastating airborne virus would hit the United States?  Do you wonder now whether avian flu will become a pandemic?  Preparing for the worst and taking precautions are very important, whether you’re driving in wintery conditions, safeguarding your home, or anticipating future risks such as the effects of Hurricane Katrina.  Nevertheless, sometimes non-events happen that are occasionally overhyped and leave you feeling foolish, duped, and/or extremely relieved.  It’s critical to discern when to play it safe and when to take calculated risks.  For example, I’m thankful we did not let any worries prevent us from traveling to the Middle East immediately following 9/11.  The trip was unforgettable.  Today felt like one of those days.  I’m glad we risked heavy Sollal traffic and massive Seoulland crowds despite any misgivings and had a great time. 
Granted, this is also the 20th anniversary of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, a tragedy that could have been prevented if NASA had heeded the advice of scientists who warned that the space shuttle’s O-rings were vulnerable to overheating.  In situations as critical as the launch of a shuttle into space, such concerns must be addressed.  A trip to Seoulland during Sollal is much less of a concern and worth the calculated risk.

Right-handed…I think so

I took a couple days off from blogging.  I spent Thursday evening drafting my career evaluation, and on Friday evening we went out with some friends to celebrate one of their birthdays.  Writing my own evaluation has been an agonizing experience.  It’s easy to blog about life in general; it’s much more difficult to evaluate your own job performance and anticipate what your supervisor and reviewer will write about you (good, I hope).  I have to give both of them material they can use to write their evaluations of me.  This annual ritual is one aspect of the job everyone seems to dread but knows is critical to career success.  Perhaps I should recommend changing the format of evaluations so that they’re more like blogs, or online journals.  That would never happen!
Last night my wife and I dined with friends at a "French" restaurant called "Pishon."  Marginally French, it actually served Italian-Asian fushion cuisine, although the ambiance invoked a districtly French aura.  The food was exquisite, and I was experience happy to see that they did not serve sweet pickles.  This is the first European restaurant I’ve patronized in Korea that did not serve sweet pickles, a kimchi substitute in Western restaurants.  The restaurant is cozy.  Seating is only available for about 30 people.  The kitchen could not have been more than 10′ x 8′, much too small to prepare multi-course meals.  I suspect that the restaurant prepares meals in another kitchen.  I also thought it interesting that the gentleman playing classical guitar (which was very nice and romantic, by the way) also doubled as a dishwasher.  At least the restaurant offered valet parking.  All in all, I would recommend "Pishon" to anyone living in Seoul who’s looking for fine dining.
My son and I spent the morning together while my wife caught up on her beauty sleep.  My son really missed us last night, so at 5 a.m. this morning he woke up, looking for mommy.  When she went to see him, he became so excited to see her that he couldn’t get back to sleep.  I took over at about 7:30 a.m. and was with him until he went down for an early nap.  I fed him some cereal and noted that he ate it with his right hand.  Later, when we went outside and played in the sandbox, I again noticed that he used his right hand to shovel dirt.  I realized that my son must be right-handed.  I’ve wondered for awhile whether he would be right- or left-handed, because I am left-handed and my wife is right-handed.  When he was younger, he used both hands equally, but now he’s growing increasingly right-handed.  Right-handedness is a dominant human trait, so I believe it likely that my son would be right-handed.   
In Chinese culture, children are still taught to use their right hands regardless of whether they are left- or right-handed.  As a left-handed person, (a.k.a. leftie or southpaw–not to be confused with someone who leans Left politically), I am critical of this practice, although I know that it is a manifestation of cultural tradition.  In certain countries, I will have to learn to use my right hand to write or eat, or I will risk offending my hosts.  Chinese and Koreans do not generally take offense when one uses their left hands to write or eat, although they still require their children to use their right hands.  In other areas of the world, especially in South Asia and the Middle East, locals can be very critical of people who use their left hands.  I maintain that lefties are essentially a "persecuted" minority, even in the West.  I learned long ago as a student to using scissors with my right hand, because no left-handed scissors were available, and I learned to study in undersized classroom desks designed for right-handed students.  I am dreading the day when I have to eat with my right hand to be polite, because it’s an offensive practice necessitated by protocol (it’s better to do it than offend your host).  Perhaps less malicious than forcing a vegetarian to eat meat or a non-drinker to drink alcohol, it still is offensive to lefties.  I cannot help but lament over the many left-handed people who are forced to use their right hands, stifling the benefits that come from being left-handed.  Left-handed individuals use the right half of their brain, and they tend to think and perform differently than right-handed individuals.  They are well known for being creative and talented, although these traits are not universal to southpaws, nor are they exclusive to lefties.  I would have been very proud if my son were left-handed, but considering that we may live overseas for a long time, I’m happy that he won’t have to worry about which hand he’s using.
I digress.  Let me go back to talking about my son.  Lately I’ve noticed that my son’s speaking has become more nuanced.  For example, rather than simply answering "yes" or "no" in English or Chinese, he now says, "I think so."  I think it’s cute to see this little guy answer questions with more than a curt reply.  I think it’s a phrase he picked up from one of us.  I don’t think he grasps the concept of "I think so" other than that it’s a positive way to answer a question.
Blog Notes:  I talked to my colleague, the community choir director.  He said that he’ll try to accommodate my schedule so I can remain part of the choir.  I will continue to be part of the choir.  It should be fun…and a lot of work.  I’m glad the schedule is flexible.