Monday, October 17, 2016

My First Overseas Bonding Trip

There were many times when Steffi had to give in to her younger siblings and learn how to take care of them at a tender age. In fact it even reached the point where she drew a picture of just me and my wife holding her hands (without the brothers and sister) when asked to depict her happiest moment. It was as if she had lost me to her siblings and I can feel her pain. I needed to make it up to her somehow, and decided on a free and easy father-and-daughter bonding trip to Korea, just before she started formal education. It was the best decision ever.

Fresh Experiences

I had never been to Korea before myself, hence with her along, we had our many first times together. It was the first time we saw and felt snow – we even tried catching snowflakes with our tongues. Made our first snow balls, snow angels, had our first snow fights and even went ice-fishing to boot! I can still remember her smiles, and her laughter as we reveled in each other’s company. They were uninhibited, genuine, and priceless. Those were some magical moments indeed.

That’s a big snowball there isn’t it?
Trying out ice-fishing in the freezing cold!
Unfortunately we didn’t get any but we still got to try out fresh trout!
We had no fixed itinerary to follow, and all the time in the world to do what we like. All we needed was our portable WiFi egg for navigation. Absolutely liberating and we simply went with the flow!

Unfounded Fear

Singapore is definitely safe but that doesn’t mean other places are as dangerous as you may perceive. Looking back now, the wife was rather apprehensive about letting me leave the country alone with Steffi, and kept reminding me to take good care of her, never to let her out of my sight and avoid all dangerous stunts! Being the caring wife and mom she is, she also shoved lots of “essential” stuff into my luggage.

I was able to find almost anything we needed from the street across our hostel. Here’s a photo with the staff from Korea Tourism Organization stationed in the streets.
But my tip to would-be travelers to Korea or to most other cities as a matter of fact, is to just bring along the bare necessities, especially for consumables. Heat packs, gloves and even winter wear were so much cheaper in the many street markets. If I were to go again in winter, I may just decide to bring along ONE initial set of warm clothes and leave luggage space for their trendy winter wear! So do not worry over missing anything out and end up over-packing, there are always places for you to buy what you need.

Where do you think Korean parents buy stuff for their kids anyway?

One can probably get whatever is required to keep one warm at this store and this is the handsome storekeeper!
There are lots of interesting street food too!

Breaking down barriers, with Kids!

I was supposed to be the one showing Steffi around, but in reality it was really because of her personality and likability that broke down the barriers (language or otherwise) between us and the locals. She would step into restaurant kitchens to see how food was prepared, approach policemen on the street for a photo, walk into the restricted fish-holding area, get behind the counter of the Pojangmacha (small tent selling food), strike up a conversation with tourists, and basically explore places I don’t think I would, if on my own.

Escaping the cold in the Pojangmacha.
Super fresh food that needed no refrigeration and aunty likes Steffi!
And she casually walked over to strike a conversation with other tourists!
Presumably the owners of the restaurant here.
This uncle gestured to Steffi to go over his table proceeded to teach her how to do the gesture for “love”
Walked past the police station and this is what I got, very friendly law-enforcement officers!
Everyone was so friendly towards Steffi!
I am almost certain that if I were to explore Korea on my own, I wouldn’t be able to have even half the fun I had together with Steffi! I have noticed that everyone tends to warm up to me when I am with my kids and it helps greatly that Steffi was friendly and outgoing! That made everything so much more enjoyable!

Great memories

First time skating in the open too!
I am no professional photographer but exploring new places together allowed me to take great photographs of her, and of us, that we can always look back at to temporarily ease our wanderlust. Of course, the feelings and memories are forever etched in our minds too. It’s been two years and Steffi is still able to remember us having our ice-creams in the cold, the ajumma who offered her hot soup in the Pojangmacha, the ice-skating in the open rink and most importantly, having all of me, my full attention to herself for the 5 days.

Such beautiful scenery that any point and shoot camera will do!
Love her comical and exaggerate poses.
I love capturing all the moments.

The time is now

Even an uneventful flight, can become an unforgettable experience for Steffi.
Procrastination will be your worst enemy. You have heard this advice time and time again from parents with grown up children, to be there for your kids and savor their childhood. Blink and you would have missed it. So live the moment, go forth and explore the world together. The experience of exploring the world with your kid will be truly amazing, I guarantee that. I know, because my trip with Leroy last year was a blast too, and I am so looking forward to my next trips with the younger two! So go forth, step out of your comfort zone and escape the daily grind!

Note: This blog post is in collaboration with Friso. Kids learn from experiences whether big or small, good or bad. That’s why Friso provides the right nutrition for your child to be strong inside to take on challenges. For more information on Friso, follow them on their Website, Facebook or Instagram.

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