Dani and His Old Dad Reunited

Back with my Boy…
After what seemed like a lifetime I finally got back to see my little boy. After 7 long weeks I was there to collect him from school yesterday.

What a coincidence. It was Día del Padre in Spain. He was so excited that he could hardly contain himself. He had bought me a surprise present and made me a Father’s day card. And a great card it is too – see below. Maybe he had a little help with that…

I feel that I have to point out a small inaccuracy. I think that, just maybe, the Hulk is a little stronger than me. But the rest is a fairly accurate comparison of his dad with some of the more well-known superheroes.

The present was also a great surprise. It was a ‘LetraBot’ (letter-bot). This is a complete collection of letters that transform into robots. I was lucky enough to receive the letter ‘W’. I quickly got the feeling it was more for himself. 😊

It turns out they are called Alpha-bots in the English-speaking world. Probably not even a new thing. Just new to me. Here is the letter “W” before and after transformation.

                   

Great eh?

The Alpha-bots are even marketed with the following slogan. ‘Ordinary letters one moment and extraordinary robots the next!’. Please…

These ‘toys’ are obviously meant to be collected. There are 26 of them covering the alphabet and they also come in the form of numbers. Well at least there is a clear limit to the size of the collection. All parents should be thankful for that at least. Unless, that is, they decide to try to “educate” kids in the alphabets of the oriental languages. They even come with some kind of comic-cum-magazine that falls over itself trying to be educational. With simple arithmetic and the likes…

Letra-Bots? I don’t Get it!

It reminds me of that scene in one of my favourite Tom Hanks movies “BIG” when he finds a job testing toys for a large toy maker. Josh – the 13-year-old played by Hanks – sticks his hand up in a meeting and says: “I don’t get it.” He goes on to ask about the new “toy” and clarifies that it is indeed a building that turns in to a robot. Then he asks:
“Well what’s fun about that?”

My thoughts exactly when I first saw these ‘Letra-bots”. What’s fun about a letter of the alphabet turning into a robot?
But what do I know? Dani loves them and now has now built up a little collection.

You can watch that scene here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ERuhks3GNk

Who Will Sell the Toys?

Another great scene in that movie is the one filmed in FAO Schwartz toy store in New York. Made famous mainly by the floor piano scene. For me the best part of the action in that store was Hanks riding that zebra rodeo-style; it still makes me laugh. That shop was fantastic. I have been there a few times and I loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, it was bought out by the same group that own Toys-R-Us. They opened a huge flagship store in Times Square and some genius thought it was a good idea to shut down the FAO Schwartz operation. Now of course Toys-R-Us has fallen on hard times and it looks like all their stores will close. In the USA, UK and in Spain. Karma anyone?

Maybe, just maybe some bright entrepreneur will spot the opportunity for re-opening a real toy store and once again we may be able to visit an FAO Schwartz…And then I read….

Apparently there was an attempt to re-open the store on 5th Avenue with East 58th street but it is unclear whether this was just for the festive period alone. Yet another report suggests that it will reopen in the Rockefeller Plaza some time like Autumn 2018. Much smaller than the famous 5th Avenue location but still great news if true. If anyone knows for sure please let us all know.

I suspect that the large supermarkets and internet will completely take over from the large toy stores. Sad but inevitable.

A Curious Piece of Local History

There’s a saying that goes around on big projects: ‘The days drag but the weeks fly by.’ That is so true about this one. I have been here for 6 weeks now, yet each day seems to drag. Well, most of them…

A Local “Attraction”

My last Sunday here – for this trip – so I decided to take the day off. A well-earned day off if I do say so myself. I wanted to visit the Prisoner of War (POW) camp not far from where I am staying. The Geojedo POW camp.

As no doubt everyone knows, the Korean peninsula has been divided since the civil war in the early 1950s. This camp is a large part of the history of the country as it is today.

This part of Korea was the only corner not to be overrun with North Korean and Chinese forces, so it was not only the logical choice of location, it was almost the only one for such a huge camp. The ‘Historic Park of Geojedo POW Camp’ as it is called was built in 1951 and accommodated over 170,000 prisoners. Some 20,000 were communist Chinese.

History meets Entertainment

To describe it as surreal doesn’t quite explain it.

The whole area has been turned into part museum and part theme park complete with rides and similar attractions. Most of the models and pictures had English translation so it was at least educational.

For example; I had always believed that it was an American led mission to help the South; albeit with help form other allies. In fact it was a United Nations operation – the USA naturally contributing the most.

                 

The original camp site would have extended down to the sea but most of that area is now covered in high rise buildings. There wasn’t much to photograph as little attempt has been made to recreate the real living conditions. Most of the so-called barracks would have been tents and the prisoners were left more or less to “self-regulate”. That led to political divisions and gang mentality. Ultimately that led to widespread disturbances and even a US general being captured and held hostage inside one of the compounds

There is no doubt it would have been very brutal. Maybe that is why I had never heard of it?

4D Cinema…

Just before the exit there was a cinema showing a film about two North Koreans who were captured then sent to this site. It included the US general hostage situation. It is a 4D cinema! The usual 3D glasses plus seats that rocked and jolted when there were explosions or heavy machine gun fire. As missiles and objects explode past your face jets of air are fired from below the seat or along the handrail. Not very convincing but different.

There is no doubt that this place paints a one-sided view of that period. I fully understand that. But it has certainly sparked my interest in the history of the country’s civil war. There’s a book or two to be read on the subject when I get back home.

Now I have only a few days before the end of this working visit. The closer it gets the more I miss my little boy.

More Korean Oddities

Tomorrow South Korea is sending a delegation to North Korea. Possibly a first. Things may go well or tensions may increase. We shall see. In case it takes a turn for the worse here are some more fun things from this part of the world to take your mind off it all (and mine!)

Office Drinks

Among the various sachets of instant coffee and flavoured teabags that we can help ourselves to in the office were these…

The first one looks like an instant soup. Just add boiling water…

 But look closer and it is actually a type of tea. Who dreamt up a corn flakes, potato and yam tea? There are clearly jobs out there where people are allowed to go right off track and dream up whatever they want. For the record it actually tastes OK. But I only tried it then left the remaining “tea” in the paper cup. Within minutes it started to congeal. Within half an hour it was like a thick paste. Just as well I didn’t drink it all I thought. What can that stuff do to your insides?

 Later in the day I tried this one….

This one is made in Vietnam. As you can see there is no Korean writing. Someone told me that coconut coffee is available in most trendy coffee bars. I wouldn’t know. I am strictly a coffee with milk man. That said it was quite nice. Sweet tasting -but only in the way coconut milk is sweet. I think I could get used to that one.

Anyone care for a refreshing drink…

Called Sweat?

It doesn’t sound very appetizing does it? It’s an energy drink that is supposed to be SWEET. Do the Koreans think “sweat” is the American spelling of “sweet”? Is it?  I really don’t think so.

It tastes like most non-fizzy, so-called energy drinks. It’s the name that puts me off.

Manhole covers (or is that person-hole covers?)

These two friendly looking characters are everywhere you walk staring up at you on cast iron moulded manhole covers. The holes on the streets that lead to the sewers.

Someone told me that these cartoon-like characters are meant to be two turds. It seems a plausible explanation when you look at them and where they are located. It is as if they are smiling up at you saying welcome to our home. Mr. and Mrs. Turd – they do look like a male and female couple.

In actual fact these two are Mongduri and Mongsuri. They are the area’s tourism mascots. Very odd.

Meanwhile…

I also heard that Maersk had ordered 31 of the giant container ships. They cost about 190 million US dollars each – presumably a bulk buy deal?! Many have already been built and I saw one being driven out of the shipyard today. It looked odd. High in the water without the huge number of containers it is designed to carry weighing it down. These things are just a shade under 400 metres long. That’s four football pitches. That is also about 120 metres longer than the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.  At 59 metres wide they are too big to pass through the Panama canal but can traverse the Suez canal. It is fair to deduce that they will be transporting goods mainly to Europe.

Thirty one! That is some order. While we in Europe may or may not buy some of the cargo being shipped from the far East the Danish shipping company must certainly be making a lot of money moving it around the world’s seas.