Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Changdeokgung and Huwon

May 17, Buddha's Birthday is celebrated in Korea as a national holiday.  Bob and I headed south of Seoul to go paragliding, but when we arrived we were informed that the wind were not right and we would not be able to go.  So we headed back to Seoul and decided that we needed to be outside since it was such a beautiful spring day.  We took the subway to Changdeok Palace and it's secret Garden (known as Huwon and often called Biwon), which we didn't get to fully explore last fall due to heavy rains.  (Colorful lanterns hung all around the city celebrate the birthday!)

We had a little time before our tour, so we walked around a bit and came upon a little park.  Doesn't it look like the kind of place Bob and I would fit right in?  Don't know if there was an expected event, or if this was just the place for us old folks to catch some shade on a lovely spring day.

Changdeok palace is one of five major palaces built by kings during the Joseon Dynasty, and construction on it began in 1405.  Much of it was destroyed during Japanese occupation during 1910-1945, but a lot of it has been restored to it's original beauty.  Korea's last Emperor, Sunjong lived here until his death in 1926.  The location and design of this complex makes it the most beautiful of all the palaces we have seen.  Behind the palace complex (which includes the East Palace or Changgyeonggung - not visited this day) is a huge peaceful garden which only the royal family was able to enter.  Though not a flower garden as we had expected, it is a beautiful retreat from the city.  Unfortunately, it is not open to visitors except as part of a tour.  Here are few photos of the palace and surrounding buildings:

The throne building is protected by guardian figures on the corners of the roof tops.  The more guardians there are, the greater the importance of the building.  Behind the throne is a lovely painted backdrop, which is represented on the 10,000 Korean won bill.  The buildings were built with space for fires to burn underneath for warmth and had chimneys off to the side.  Every detail of the buildings seem to hold some significance.  Spiders represent good luck coming down from heaven.  The Chinese characters in the roofs providing ventilation mean "good health" on the hospital, and "be happy" on another building. 

 And now, enter into the secret garden:

Spring is beautiful in Seoul!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Our Home in San Antonio

With Chelsea and Thomas moving to San Antonio, where Thomas will be attending medical school, Bob and I decided to invest in a small home that they can rent from us.  Bob had meetings in The Woodlands, so we flew in to Houston a week in advance and drove over to San Antonio to spend a week house hunting.  We were hoping to find a real bargain out there, but unfortunately, from the time we first starting researching homes on line a couple of months ago until now, the housing market had a real surge and turned from a buyer's to a seller's market.  Nevertheless, we did find a little investment property which we think will work out well for all of us.

First I have to show you a picture of one of the first houses we found.  It was in a great neighborhood - and was one of the small homes on the block.  It was for sale by owner, and was quite overgrown with shrubbery.  At first glance it looked like it might have potential and we decided to return the next day with our realtor.  Well . . . we drove up to the house and made a phone call to see if we could get in, and as I got out of the car, I surveyed the home for curb appeal.  That's when the "all-seeing eye" appeared!  Check out the triangle above the front porch.  Our realtor didn't even get out of the car - she was so afraid to approach the house!  It did have a creepy feel to it, but curiosity got the best of me, and so we ventured inside.  The home belongs to an artist, and believe it or not, she had Christian paintings and artwork all around her home.  In fact, she had an art studio out back behind the garage.  It was a little strange, but we actually quite liked the house . . . however, not that much!

The next couple of days were a little stressful as we debated whether to get a newer or older home, one closer to the university or in a more rural area, bigger or smaller, inside the loop or out, one story or two, with amenities or not . . . You know, the typical house hunting dilemmas!  We liked this new home, but the rooms were small and the price tag big.

Then we found a bigger home that we really liked.  Apparently, we weren't the only ones, though, because two other offers besides ours were received the same night.  Guess who made the lowest offer?

"And then baby bear found a bed that was just right . . . "  Well, that's a little what the whole experience felt like.  In the end, we decided upon this little gem.  Built in 2010 with around 1700 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and an office on a small low maintenance lot, it should suit Chelsea and Thomas fine for a few years while they get through medical school.  Interestingly, we have since found out that the neighborhood is home to a couple of families we have church connections to, and is a popular area for LDS families.  Chelsea and Thomas will feel right at home and will even be able to enjoy the community pool which is just a couple of blocks down the street from the home.  Now, if Chelsea can just get a teaching job at the elementary school just a stone's throw away!

I must admit, it feels pretty good to have a home in Texas once again!