It’s official. After a long, cold winter, spring has finally arrived in Seoul: old men gather around plastic furniture at local convenient stores to drink makeoli, cafes and restaurants spruce up their patios, and best of all, the flowers bloom. While the magnolias and azaleas are stunning, no flower can compare to that of the cherry blossom. While the flower is often associated with Washington D.C. or Japan, it is just as iconic in Korea. Each year, residents and foreigners alike eagerly await the arrival of cherry blossom season as March turns into April. Last year’s winter was particularly harsh and drawn out so I had just missed the flower festivities when I left for a visit to the homeland. I made sure that I would get my fill as this year’s spring came around. And oh, did I.
Last week, my school took our kindergartners to Seoul Children’s Grand Park. The weather couldn’t have been better and I’m pretty sure the teachers were just as excited as the kids to get away from school and spend some time in the sun. Children’s Grand Park is a rare patch of urban green space that sits just north of the river and boasts attractions for people of all ages, despite it’s name. There is an amusement park, botanical garden, entertainment venues, sports facilities, and a gorgeous water fountain that plays music. It’s also known for it’s zoo, which was the main destination of our trip. The zoo wasn’t much to write home about, but the kids enjoyed looking at the animals that were there. Considering that the weather was the warmest we’ve had in a long time, I think the animals were a bit confused; they were all sprawled out sleeping like you’d find them on a hot summer day.
After we got our fill of picnic food and cherry blossoms, we parted ways. I was glad that we had been there on a weekday morning, as the crowds started pouring in by the time we left. I heard it was even more brutal on the weekend.
Still, as unfortunate as it is to see the departure of the cherry blossoms, it’s delightful to see color again. With the exception of yellow… yellow dust, that is. This dust- or sand- is from the Gobi desert of China and Mongolia and each spring it blows on over to Korea. My sinuses turn into a non-stop faucet of grossness for weeks at a time and this year, it’s said to be radioactive. Still, despite these claims and the fact that I have to look like Michael Jackson walking around with a face mask, nothing can put me in a bad mood. It’s just too pretty and delightful not to be happy this time of year.