Wednesday, July 4, 2018

June 2018 Summer Camp is a blast for the Kids!



Author: Christi Cline
Editor: Jessica Lister

In case you haven't heard, Pyeongtaek Youth Rock!


Earlier this year I had heard about a couple different camps being offered. As a mother of four, who is deeply invested in their children’s well-being, I was worried about what kind of experience was offered. I also worried if my kids would be safe. I talked to the parents of the kids who attended last year’s camps and found that the Pyeongtaek Youth Center group received consistently high praise. One parent said it was one of the most memorable moments of their time in Korea. In my heart, I believe kids need good opportunities and challenges to develop and grow, and this camp sounded like the right kind of opportunity. I signed them up and crossed my fingers that I was doing the right thing. After all, it does no good to live life as a worry rat. But for good measure, I volunteered to attend as a camp counselor. You know, so I could see for myself what really goes on at camp. 


Let's go to camp!


The day came to pack our bags and get on the bus. My twin daughters were excited to attend their first camp. I was anxious because I wanted to do my part to help make camp an enjoyable experience for everyone. I would soon learn I had nothing to worry about. Our first event was the rope course. I don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to join the difficult level course. I kind of consider myself out of shape. I seriously started to rethink my choices and wonder if the kid I saw who stayed on the ground was the smart one. But then I was hooked in and it was time to start. It was too late to run away. I may or may not have screamed a time or two, but I did the course and found myself enjoying it! 

Our adventure continued with no thought of slowing down! 


Take a look at this video to see some of the fun stuff we were up to!


I have no clue how some of the kids still had the energy to stay up until midnight giggling and playing games. I consider myself a night owl and I was ready to hit the sack. When it was time to say goodbye I thought it was pretty cool that the kids could take home pictures of their camp experience!

I admit that I am a little sad that our fun has come to an end! 


It was a memorable experience but more importantly, I discovered the truth about the Pyeongtaek Youth Center. As a parent, I can say confidently that your kids are in good hands. I was able to see first hand the counselors treating the kids fairly and with kindness. As a volunteer, I was able to see the leaders and counselors in action working hard to make this a good experience for the kids. Their efforts showed they truly care about the community. The theme of this camp is "Better Life in Harmony" and I think that sums it up nicely. Because of this, I look forward to helping out at the next camp! If you have kids that are interested in this kind of experience, then you don't want your kids missing out on the next one!

Mark your calendars! The next one is in August and you can sign up HERE!

Pyeongtaek Local News reports https://blog.naver.com/seo8587/221306224836
News & News reports https://blog.naver.com/newsnnewsn/221296269601
Kilhoilbo reports http://www.kihoilbo.co.kr/?mod=news&act=articleView&idxno=757126



Thursday, June 28, 2018

2018 Beach Bus Reservations Have Started


2018 Beach Bus Season Has Arrived!

For the second year in a row, South of Seoul has ride-share buses leaving Pyeongtaek on select Saturdays, headed to beaches. Bus travel is wonderful because you can avoid the stress of traffic, driving home exhausted, not being able to have a drinky drink while at the beach. Heck, we even have cars but we still go on these buses because it makes the experience so much more relaxing.

Not only are they the easiest way to get there, but the buses are surprisingly affordable. One-day trips are all under 20,000 won per person. Considering it usually takes 6-8 hours (BUT ONLY 2.5-3 WITH US!) on public transportation, it seems like a steal. In fact, outside of having your own car, the SOS ride-share buses are the only real option for getting to the beaches nearest Pyeongtaek.

These beaches are not for those who are looking for an experience just like the Bahamas. It's not going to be perfectly manicured to specific western ideals or super warm water. These beaches are about being outside and enjoying the sea air, splashing around, and being free of the city for the day. Korea has its own unique flavor and we love it. We swim, surf tiny waves, play in the sand, collect shells, dig for things, look at tiny crabs, and blissfully waste our day. On a rainy day, we read next to the sea, get wet, go to the botanical gardens, and still have a brilliant time.

However, we understand it's not for folks who are shy about being in a new country. Especially the SOS ride-share trips because no one will be holding anyone's hand. Instead, we just all go together and enjoy our own free time. Maybe make some new friends or chill with the friends you came with.

WHERE ARE ARE GOING: (we will update this as we add places)
Dates                   Seats           Ride-Share Contribution
July 7, 2018            44            Mallipo  18,000 won round trip West Sea
July 14, 2018           44           Mudfest  19,000won round trip West Sea
July 21-22, 2018      19            Sokcho  38,000 won round trip East Sea

HOW TO JOIN US:
Registration for the rideshare buses is handled via the South of Seoul app which is available for Android and iPhone. This system allows us to easily manage the rideshare and keep costs to a minimum. Thank you for playing along :p

HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR CONTRIBUTION:
You don't pay in the app. Instead, we offer two ways to pay for the convenience of our local and US Military participants. Payment needs to be completed within 24 hours of submitting your seat request. Once payment has been verified you will get an email confirming your reservation.

******To pay in US Dollars: ******
OPTION 1: PayPal southofseoul@gmail.com - please select the gift option or there are high fees taken out and that leaves the shared cost short.


******To pay in Korean Won:******

OPTION 1: transfer directly to KB account 468601-04-118306 Name: Rivers-Woods

A few regularly asked questions:

WHY A BEACH BUS?
Pyeongtaek is close to a number of delightful beaches, yet they are surprisingly hard to get to because there are no direct express buses. We are changing that. We are doing this by harnessing the power of the community and renting buses for us all to share together. By pooling our resources we can all enjoy some time in the countryside even if we don't have cars or don't feel like driving.

IS THIS A TOUR?
Nope, it’s not a tour. It’s a bus to the beach. There won’t be interpreters, no hand holding, no special stops, or pre-made meals. The bus driver picks us up, drops us off, and we explore the area. You are going to love it. Bring all the things you need to just sit back and relax. They will not drive us to lots of different places along the way. We go from Pyeongtaek to the beach and back.

WHO CAN GO?
Anyone can go on the bus if they pay for a ticket. It’s for families, single travelers, teachers, military, friends, etc. You can be from Songtan, Anjung, Paengseong, Suwon, Dongtan, Yongin, etc. It’s also not just for foreigners. Bring all your friends no matter where they are from. It’s about having a beautiful time together in the summer. If you have a group that wants to go together (language meetup, church group, kids whatever, etc) just be sure to buy your tickets early so everyone can go.

WHERE WILL THE BUS PICK ME UP?
There will almost always be three stops. You will select which stop you will be at when you reserve your seat in the South of Seoul app: 
  • Songtan Subway Station
  • Pyeongtaek Station Exit 2
  • Camp Humphreys walking gate. 
You will need to be there on-time. We can't hold the bus on the street for long periods of time.

ARE THERE DISCOUNTED TICKETS FOR (fill in the blank)?
No, there are not. The bus costs a base amount. We've based the tickets on that price. We are not a tour company nor good at math... simple division is all we can handle. Also, we are not affiliated with the military. This bus is for EVERYONE! So prices, are prices, are prices.

WHAT ARE THE BEACHES LIKE?
The beaches on the west coast of Korea tend to be shallow with very small surf (often no surf). This makes them really fun for kids because they can play like crazy in the water. When it rains or there is a storm at sea it will affect the clarity of the water. No way around that. It’s how the ocean works. Over the last few years, we have seen clear blue waters as well as silty/muddy waters. Just depends on the weather around the time you visit. The beaches are sometimes a mix of rocky and sandy. There tend to be lovely tide pools and lots of little crabs to chase around. This is not Hawaii. It’s not South Florida. It’s not Mexico. It’s not a comparison game. We are sure that at some point in your life you went to a different beach than this and it was so much better. We aren’t going to the beach because it’s the best beach to ever exist in the world. We are going because beaches are awesome and these are the ones we have.

WHAT SERVICES ARE THERE AS THE BEACH?
There are always restrooms, places to rent floaties, a snack shop, maybe a restaurant, and often showers. 95% of the food is Korean since this area is not heavily visited by tourists due to the lack of public transportation. If you don’t like Korean food, be sure to pack a picnic for the day. However, there will always be a convenience store for drinks, chips, water, etc. If we get there and you did not bring food and also don't like Korean food, this was your own personal choice to go hungry. Korea has done nothing wrong by having its own food at beaches visited by Koreans.


WHAT SHOULD I BRING?

  • A tent or umbrella to get out of the heat
  • Wet wipes
  • Dry case for your phone
  • Swimsuits/rash guards 
  • Snacks 
  • Towels
  • Clean clothes
  • Sunscreen
  • Hammack
WEATHER
If there is a massive storm coming in we may re-route to a potentially less crazy area. However, we are talking a HUGE storm. If it's just raining we still go. The beach is awesome always and so far we have had great luck with the beach weather being excellent even when it's storming in Pyeongtaek.

REFUNDS & CANCELLATIONS
We don't refunds because we are all in this together. We rely on everyone paying their part. However, you can certainly find another person to fill your seat. That's up to you though. We can't help with this aspect. We don't have staff so we can't do the hustle. Of course, if we have to cancel we will give everyone their money back.
CAN YOU HELP ME WITH (fill in the blank question on the trip)?
No, not really. We are not going as tour guides, translators, or as information support. So, although we will be helping make sure all the passengers are loaded who are going to and from the beach, that’s the extent of it. We are an all-volunteer organization and don't have endless time to dedicate to this so please read everything before you ask questions. 


All that said, we are so excited for beach season!!!!! Let's do this!!!!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Outdoor Pools Open in Pyeongtaek July & August


We have already told out about the splash pads that will be opening in August (read that here) but did you know there will be outdoor pools opening up soon as well? These are fab and fun places to connect with the local community while cooling off from the oppressive heat. Remember, these are very Korean outdoor spaces so following local customs is very important and doable. No reason to be scared, but be prepared.

Culture Notes
In order to have the most fun possible, be sure to read the South of Seoul Culture Notes that are embedded in each listing. These are useful tips we have compiled based on the surprises we have experienced. If you have a tip to add to the list just let us know! The more prepared everyone is when they arrive, the more fun we can all experience when integrating into the local culture.


However, with this blog, we are going to take this to the next level and tell you a few more things you need to know in order to have the most fun and relaxed time possible your first day out. Here they are! Our 5 Extra Pro Tips:

1. When you try something new you are going to feel uncomfortable and this will be no exception. However, don't worry about it. Once you get the hang of it that feeling will go away. It's true that people might stare. Foreigners haven't known about these places until now. Not because we aren't welcome, but because information hasn't been available in English. This means all the locals are sitting there wondering, "How did they find this pool out in the countryside?" Don't worry, nobody hates you. Just go about your business of having fun in the sun.

2. It's going to be packed so politely squeeze in. For the best results show up early and stake your space with the cool picnic tents and mats from Daiso or Emart. There aren't that many pools, but there are a lot of people and they like their outdoor supplies. If you are freaked out by this then maybe outdoor pools aren't the right experience for you. That is ok. Know your limits. On the other hand, if you can deal with the experience it can be emotionally uplifting and help you feel more welcome and integrated into the community. We personally love it. We bring all our food, a tent for naps, and splash around like fools.

3. These pools aren't like the ones at home. They are usually waist deep, there aren't diving board or any other type of fanciness. These are old-fashioned, sometimes also just old, outdoor play areas for families to escape the heat. You aren't going to be swimming laps or diving for pennies. They are built for splashing and being silly together. Truly excellent places for kids. Think giant puddles and embrace it.

4. Go check out opening times as a test run. Before you pack up the kids for a pool day do a test run. Go find out for sure the days and times it's open (these can change from year to year). There is also a chance you could get lost going to these pools for the first time, so do a trial run before there are 3 kids in the car screaming they want to be in the pool. We ALWAYS recommend doing a trial run for any adventure.

5. Bring your own snacks and mat/tent to eat them on/in. In Korea food is almost always available but maybe it doesn't match with your dietary requirements or preferences. In order to avoid being hot and hangry, bring snacks. Also bring a mat/tent to lay claim to your dining and napping area.

That's it! Those are all the helpful ideas we can think of right now. Hopefully, these extra tips combined with the tips in the app will empower you to show up prepared for a wet and fun adventure with friends or family. We know we always feel better the more information we have before we try something for the first time. Good luck and happy splashing. With no further ado, here are the outdoor pools we've found for you:

Easiest for Osan Air For Base Access...


Jinwee Countryside
(Kid and Family Focused)

Jinwee Countryside
(Good for adults and kids)

3 Easiest for Camp Humphreys Access...

Anjung Countryside
(Great for adults and kids)

Dunpo, Asan
(Great for adults and families. Very limited space. Maybe need a reservation?)

Asan North Countryside
(The pools is for kids, but the park is for everyone.)


As always, the exact details of each listing is in the South of Seoul app which can be downloaded from Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Pyeongtaek Splash Pads Open July & August


Once summer hits we are all looking for ways to beat the heat. One of the most enjoyable ways to fend off the intrusive rising temps is to visit one of the various splash pads installed around the area. We have tracked down five of our favorites and added them to the app. These aren't the only ones in town. There is also one at Pyeongtek lake, another in Seosabol, and a third near Pyeongtaek University. Someday we will get those entered. For now, these are the 5 we have focused on. To find them just put Splash Pads into the Pyeongtaek "search" like this:


These lovely havens from heat only operate in July and August and have a set schedule throughout the day. For a few of the ones listed in the app, we have even figured out what these times and dates are and posted them. We don't have the schedules for all of them because they weren't available at the time. The schedules look like this:


Also, and this is a big one, we have included Cultural Notes in each splash pad listing so you can better understand the social rules associated with splash pads and don't get caught off guard. Knowing what's expected ahead of time will help you feel more comfortable and have a stress free playtime:


Now that we have you oriented to how the place pad listings work, let's take a quick look at our five picks and what neighborhoods they are in:

Anjung


Pyeongtaek City
(Great for adults and kids)

Countryside West


Ichung
(Great for adults and kids)

An area in east Pyeongtaek




You can find the addresses and waze pins for each of these listings in the South of Seoul app which can be downloaded from Google Play or Apple App Store. We aren't trying to be jerks, we just can't keep up on information in two areas. Keeping all the information in the app helps us stay more accurate. We hope you have an awesome time out exploring the neighborhoods and play in the summer sun. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

How to get Better Service in Korea


Written by: Chrisi Cline

I have a question for you:

Do you deserve the service you are getting?

The other day I walked into a shop to find a present for a friend’s upcoming birthday. I was going a mile a minute when I realized that I wasn’t making sense to them. That quick pause helped me to see I was acting like they should stop everything they were doing and serve me immediately. My behavior was rude and entitled. On top of that, I was forcing them to read my mind. If I didn’t change my approach I was going to leave without a solution for a birthday present. I took a deep breath and willed myself to start over. This time focusing on being aware that they did not know all the details I know. And what do you know? Their expression and attitudes towards me changed.

The funny thing is, this happened in Texas. The “other day” was several years ago and the language barrier was over our different accents. When I look back, I think what saved me that day was that I was willing to think about what I was doing and adapt so we both got what we wanted.

That experience stayed with me and taught me a couple of things that is currently helping me in Korea. I recently had a conversation with a friend about a restaurant we both visited. We had two different experiences with the same waiter. She decided the poor service she received there was because the waitress was racist and was discriminating against her. We decided to go to lunch together and test out our theory about what was happening.

At lunch, I noticed there were other people of similar background as my friend. The waitress didn’t seem to have an issue with any of them. Was it because we were women and there was a male-female cultural difference at play? No. There were other women in the restaurant being served by the same waitress. It turns out the problem was simple. My friend had the habit of speaking too quickly and not letting the waitress digest what she said. When the waitress didn’t respond immediately my friend rolled her eyes and it created tension between her and the waitress. Once we figured what the real deal was my friend reported that her experience at that restaurant improved.

Of course, my friend was quick to point out that she was not the only one to annoy the waitress that day. My fault nowadays as a customer is being indecisive. I own that, and I know it is something I need to work on. I haven’t figured out a fail-safe solution for that, but here is what I do know will work to improve your customer experience while in Korea;
  • Slow down because not everyone can understand what you are saying at the speed you are saying it.
  • Your English is not everyone else’s English. Try more specific words or change your phrases a little. For example, "That's fine" could be said as "Yes." Use straight forward words that an ESL speaker would find clear and easy to understand.
  • Help people understand what you want by introducing a basic idea and then build on that by asking them to help you with the specific detail or service you want. Since servers here have often never lived in other countries, they are doing their best but might need help fully understanding what you are asking for or what you are expecting from them.
  • Get better service by researching what you want. Avoid impulsively buying something that you don’t know much about. Avoid putting strangers on the spot by making them guess what is "perfect" for you.  
Fast forward to Living in Korea. The problem and the solution I experienced in Texas seems to work here as well. At first look, I can tell that we all come from diverse backgrounds and cultures. We each have different ideas of what service is supposed to look like. What we seem to forget is that we expect to be served a certain way without understanding the impact of our own behavior as customers and how it relates to the local culture. Looking a little more closely we can see there is a lot more going on than a simple confusion over accents. They are as stressed and confused as we are.

Let’s imagine for a moment that you want to buy a car. You have done your research and you know the make and model you want to buy. Or actually, maybe you are buying on a whim and wander into the nearest dealership. Regardless you are ready to buy. You end up buying a car, convinced it is perfect for your needs. A week later you take a corner too fast and the wheels spin out uncontrollably, leading you to crash into a pole. You angrily take yourself back to the dealership demanding a refund. But they refuse. You are not happy with their response. You get in their face. You yell at them and tell them if they don’t make it right you are going to leave bad reviews for them.

Do you think this business is going to refund the car you destroyed through your own mishandling?

In short, if the customer is the reason a product is damaged, it is not the business’s responsibility to replace or refund it. It seems obvious when talking about cars but it can be less clear when using new products you've never used. You might think you used it correctly, but to those who know how to use it - you clearly didn't. This is a common part of culture shock for all of us.

Granted some places have a policy that out of goodwill they will replace or refund something with no questions ask. Sometimes a membership or an insurance fee is required to guarantee that kind of service for their customer. However, it should not be expected across the board. When we don't get think we get the response we came for, we need to stop and realize sometimes things just aren't how we were used to. In this case, it means acknowledging what we did to cause a product to fail and eating our humble pie. And living away from our hometowns has given me plenty of opportunities to have a piece of that pie!

On the other hand, we all have had a time when a product or service has disappointed us. If you are not happy with an item and it is in good condition-you might have some options. Generally, it is always best to check before buying to see what the policy is. However, if the business misconstrued what the product can do or sold you a faulty product knowingly, you have every right to ask for a refund or exchange. All things considered, if you are shopping with a reputable and legitimate business here is what you should say for the best results; Useful Phrases for Getting an Exchange or Refund.

Keep this in mind
  • Observe the type of customers that frequent the type of establishment you are visiting. You can tell a lot about what is normal or not normal service by taking the time to note this detail.
  • Understand you are not always the type of customer a Korean business builds their customer culture around. Many businesses in Pyeongtaek are not prepared to provide customer service for foreigners. At this businesses, you will have to follow local customs.
  • Do your best to negotiate politely. You will not always get what you came for. Know when it is time to walk away. Remember that pointing out people's failures usually gets you less and not more here. Approach things from the standpoint that you need help and not that you are blaming them. This gives them more ways to provide a quality experience.
  • It is okay to be firm in your request but also respect the place of business’s established policy. It is unreasonable to ask for things beyond the scope of a person's responsibilities. A store manager may be unable to give you what you want because it must answer to the policy of a Corporation.
  • Korea4Expats wrote an article about locating your local Korea Consumer Agency or other consumer organizations for consumer counseling. You will need receipts and contracts to help your case go smoothly.  
  • If you are unhappy with your service, make sure the establishment is aware of the problem. Be prepared to offer helpful suggestions in a non-aggressive manner. Sometimes the back end of the operation is not aware of what the front end service looks like.
Remember you are a representative of the country and the communities you came from. Every time you explode, you are in essence ‘losing face’ for everything you represent. I have watched customers who felt entitled to act like a bully get the deal they wanted. It leaves the impression that the fastest way to get what you want is to act aggressively. Over time it changes the attitudes and atmosphere towards the next bewildered customer. The reality is if I expect a quality business to give me good products and services, then they should get a high-quality customer who knows how to behave.

How you conduct yourself affects us all.