It feels a little early to be saying so but Medina is six months old today.
Celebrations started with a good night’s sleep and rising to a morning temperature approaching the positive figures in the Celsius scale for the first time this week. The sun soon broke through the light cloud to improve things further.
The main event of the day was admittedly more for the benefit of the parents than the ‘birthday’ girl as we met a small group of friends for smoked duck lunch. One advantage of the restaurant however (as with many in Korea) was that we all sat on the floor bringing youngest and oldest alike to comparable elevations.
After a couple of hours and a fine meal it was back home for some play and relaxation before bath and bed. Below is a photograph a freshly fed girl with her mother and smiles all round.
Compared to Oslo, London and Baku, Medina has been causing quite a stir in Ulsan and thankfully taking most of it in her stride. We knew from our previous visit that Korea is a very child-friendly nation but it is not until you arrive with one of your own that you learn just how much so.
As Korean babies are traditionally strapped to their mothers for transport from a very early age, pushchairs are a rare sight and a foreigner with a pushchair is a beacon that attracts a good deal of attention.
At the innocuous end of the scale you can walk down the street exchanging nods and smiles with numerous men and women alike (mostly older folk) who clearly know what you are pushing and why and they are happy to share the acknowledgement in passing. On the same street you can count the number of oncoming heads; again irrespective of gender; that lock onto the pushchair and swivel round to follow it as you pass, craning with varying degrees of enthusiasm to see what is inside. I sometimes feel I could be a little more accommodating to these more curious folk but simultaneously realise that on a busy street it could then take ten minutes or more to cover one hundred yards so I keep walking and keep smiling.
Moving up the scale you find levels of enthusiasm that are rarely expressed in public when in London. One of the chambermaids in the hotel was a lovely example. It did not matter if she was right by our door or far at the other end of the corridor when we left the room to go out, the moment she spotted the pushchair she would come rushing up with a huge smile on her face, grab Medina by the foot and shake it vigorously while speaking animatedly to her in Korean and smiling all the more. Medina’s reaction to new people and new sensations can vary considerably depending on her mood; thankfully she was never less than bemused by the leg shaking monologues and even smiled a few times.
As the weather gets warmer and Medina gets older the wraps will come off (she is currently bundled up again sub-zero temperatures plus wind chill) and she will sit facing forwards. I imagine these revelations will stir inquisitive folk to further moments of interaction and thankfully it does not make me feel uneasy in the slightest.
Ironically the only thing I am unsure of in this, the nation’s third city is how much use we can get out of the pushchair. Provision for non-roadgoing wheeled apparatus here is no better than it was in Geoje, perhaps worse as Ulsan does have more pavements and has a larger bus network but the former are rough and crumbling and the latter have posts in the middle of the doorways that make them too narrow to permit pushchairs. Even taxis are a gamble because many have a tank for LPG fitted in the boot and there is not enough space left for the pushchair chassis. I would not want to be a wheelchair user here. Thankfully we have been able to borrow a car for the last few days and will have one of our own from next week. Sad to say but I am not sure what we would do without one but that no doubt will be an other story.