Seongnam, Korea

 

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The Hotel Gallery in Seongnam

 

I spent a couple of days in Seongnam, the first planned city of South Korea. Two of the international schools in our athletic conference are located there. This was my second trip to Korea and I gained a few more impressions of the neighbor of Japan.

Korea is very similar to Japan in many ways. It is modern, clean and a fully developed nation. The Koreans seem to have a bit more of an edge, both in their demeanor and the architecture and infrastructure, compared to the more sedate Japanese culture. The citizens of both countries come from the same gene pool and both were heavily influenced by China throughout their history. Both countries have extremely homogeneous populations.

 

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Trails along the Bundangcheon River 

 

There seemed to be more and larger apartment complexes than in Japan cities. The restaurants and hotel were more spacious than in Japan.

My new favorite Korean dish is Bibimbapa bowl of rice mixed with veggies and some type of protein. Delicious, especially when served in a hot stone bowl and lots of red chili paste and kimchi. 

 

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Ginpo Airport has a temple decor

 

Seongnam started to relieve the congestion of Seoul, but the city has overtaken it. It is a really nice area and similar to our suburb of Osaka. There are lots of parks and they have kilometers of bike trails along the rivers. Our hotel was near a large mall and plenty of really good restaurants. I was working a lot and didn’t have time to really enjoy much of the city.

 

 

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Latest Reading: The Nature Fix: Why nature makes us happier, healthier and more creative

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I loved Florence Williams’s book about how wilderness and nature are good for human physical and mental health. She travels the world talking to researchers who are trying to pinpoint, why time spent in a forest, desert, beach or even a park, lowers our blood pressure, helps us think, lifts our mood, alleviates symptoms of mental illness, etc.

The chapters are varied. I particularly like the idea of “forest bathing” shinrin yoku that is popular in Japan and Korea. It hearkens back to a time before penicillin and the cure for tuberculosis was going out to a spa or retreat and taking in the healthy air. Although now, scientists are looking for what triggers these outcomes. One researcher showed how spraying cypress tree oil on someone, immediately lowers the heart rate and blood pressure. What other oils do trees and plants give off that are beneficial to us?

Different cultures view the healthful impact of nature in different ways. The Finns, who live in the most heavily forested country in Europe (74%)  really get into the woods, with the idea of metsan peitto, which means a deep surrender to the forest. I also like jokamiexhenoikeus which means that anyone can go on anyone else’s forested land to pick mushrooms, berries or to camp. Nature is that important to the collective good, that ownership of land cannot deny people having access to it. She came to the same conclusion I did about Singapore which has a lot of nature, but it is mostly artificially set there and controlled. With more people living in cities today on earth than ever before and the allure of games and screens, getting unplugged and out into nature is more important than ever.

Williams describes how time spent in nature can help everyone from former soldiers with PTSD to students with ADD/ADHD, etc. There is a chapter about walking in nature and how it helps creativity and thinking.

She ends the book with the idea of a nature pyramid, similar to the food pyramid. It is the recommended allowances of nature that humans need for optimal health.

daily – nearby nature – birds/trees/fountains in our neighborhoods – pets/houseplants, architecture that allows for natural light, fresh air, patches of blue sky

weekly – outings to parks and waterways where sounds of city recede; 1 hour per week, the larger and wilder the park the better

monthly – forests, state parks, etc.

yearly – multiple days in a wilderness; backcountry hiking and camping; kayaking, etc.

PYP Osaka Olympics – Golden Week

We had a couple of days of school last week during the “Golden Week” here in Japan. Golden Week is a series of holidays strung together to give everyone some extended time off, hence, the week is Golden because you do not have to work. Outside of New Year, this is one of the few times that the entire country is on holiday, so we usually stick close to home to avoid the crowds.

Ocean is shown above running the 50-meter run on Wednesday as part of the PE department’s Osaka Olympics. Our family loves track and field so it was fun to watch Ocean compete. She is not the fastest runner, but she has good endurance. Nadia is prepping her for a 5-kilometer run at the end of the month as part of her Girls on the Move club.

 

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Canal Views in Ibaraki

I have been cycling a lot this week, getting out daily. The cool, sunny weather has been perfect to be outside. I took the photo above on my way back to my house. I usually go for loops of 10-20 kilometers, depending on how much time I have. This is a typical “river” in suburban Osaka. The sides and bottom have cement or stones to prevent erosion, good to prevent flooding, bad for wildlife. There is usually a paved path next to them which makes them ideal for running or biking.

 

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A hot and tired Oliver

Besides Ocean running, we also have Oliver running with us. He beat Nadia and I in a 7 kilometer run yesterday. He complained about going, but once on the route, he ran strongly the entire time. Ollie is getting taller and slimming down as he ends grade 6.

 

 

 

Counting Sheep (err Major League Baseball Cities)

I suffer from insomnia often, waking up in the middle of the night and I cannot get back to sleep. I seem to be getting more of it as I get older. I’ve been experimenting with ways of calming my mind of all of the tasks I have to do and my concerns. One method I use is going through mentally,  lists with sporting themes.

Last night the topic was Major League Baseball and I was comparing the American and National League cities. I took the perspective of a player and considered which set of cities would be more enjoyable to visit and play in. I took into account the quality of the team, the history of the stadium, attractions the city has to offer, etc. I came to the conclusion that is slightly better to have a predominately American League schedule. I rated the American League East and Central over the National league’s East and Central divisions. The National League West would be better than the American League. For example, traveling to San Diego, Denver and Phoenix, in my opinion, is more interesting than playing in Dallas, Houston and Seattle.

I then made my ideal league from this perspective. What would be the ultimate League schedule? I came up with the following:

Kralovec League

East Division – Boston, New York (Yankees), Toronto, Washington and Miami

Central Division – Milwaukee, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis, Detroit, Minnesota (I am biased towards the upper Midwest/Great Lakes region where I am from.)

West Division – Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego, Seattle, Colorado, San Francisco

 

Oliver is a Teenager!!!!!

singing happy birthday to Owen

We now have 2 teenagers in the house after Oliver’s 13th birthday on Monday! It  is a Kralovec family tradition that the birthday person is the boss and gets to do what they want on their special day.

It started with Ocean and I preparing Oliver’s favorite breakfast. He loves chicken pesto with eggs on toast. We gave him breakfast in bed along with his gift of two Nintendo Switch games (Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) (Poken Tournament). He invited several of his friends over for homemade pizzas. We went to Avengers Infinity War at the local 109 cinemas in Q’s Mall.

 

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Nico, Noah, Chiharu and Oliver at Infinity War

Oliver also had volleyball games on Saturday. His team won both games and he is a pretty good player. He is shown below with an impressive serving form. The ball is quite high!

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Oliver is growing up into a fine young man and it has been wonderful to guide his journey into adulthood.

 

A Spectacular Day at Koshien Stadium

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Sunday afternoon we went to the Hanshin Tigers versus Yomiuri Giants at the hallowed grounds of Koshien Stadium. Despite the Tigers losing 1-11, we still had a lot of fun. To sit for an entire game is boring, especially for young people, but between eating stadium food and walking around the stadium, we did pass the time in a pleasing way. It is nice for Owen especially to watch live baseball and see if he can improve his own play. He is playing left field this year for his high school team.

The Giants are the most popular team in Japan and the oldest and most successful in the history of the NPB similar to the New York Yankees. They had 16 hits and really shut down the bats of Hanshin. They are in fourth place at 9-11, a 1/2 game behind the Hanshin Tigers, who are 9-10. In the Central League, the DeNA Bay Stars from Yokohama and Hiroshima Carp lead the way with 11-7 and 12-9 records respectively.

 

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Owen and Oliver in front of the stadium 

 

With much of the crowd leaving in the eighth inning, I walked down to the first row and took some photos. The setting sun and the yellow-clad Tigers supporters made it a really great photo! The iPhone cameras are really good!

It will be fun to follow the Tigers this year!

 

Family Journal: April 22, 2018

Spring is here and the past week has been absolutely lovely with blue skies, a cool breeze and azaleas blooming all over the city. Yesterday Owen’s baseball team opened their season with a 12-0 victory over the Marist Brothers International School. Owen made the varsity as a freshman and is playing left field. In the video above, he doubles to left field, his first hit of the season.

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Ocean had a delightful time at the grades 4-5 parent/student dance on Friday night. She is shown above with her friends in the foyer of the conference room, where they set up a photo booth. It is such a great idea to have a social event for parents and students. School dances are a foreign concept in Japan so introducing these types of events is part of the intercultural understanding we are developing at the schools. Ocean is a party girl and loves dancing and socializing with others. She takes after her mother!

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Oliver has a volleyball game over in west Kobe so no photos for this blog post. I did snap a photo of him at lunch the other day. The students were eating the courtyard, can you spot Oliver?

 

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The MidoSuji highway with the Cielia Tower under construction

On the way back from visiting businesses downtown Osaka, I took this photo from a pedestrian bridge over the freeway. A new apartment tower (Cielia) is under construction and the azaleas in the median are in bloom. It is really difficult not to be in a good mood with such fine weather!