Cherry Blossoms: A Bit of Pink Amidst the Gray

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The new Lotte Tower behind cherry blossoms

This is the third spring that Alex and I have spent in Korea, and the first one where we have had to constantly monitor our air quality app on our phones (and not just because we have Baby M to worry about). The air quality seems to have gotten worse each year we’ve been here. So far this year, I can count on one hand the number of days the air quality has been “good” (with “moderate” to “unhealthy for sensitive groups” being the norm, with an occasional “unhealthy for all individuals”). There are days when I have to keep Baby M inside because the air is so bad (and I don’t think a face mask would stay on her for more than a second!). We even purchased an air purifier (air washer, in Korea) that runs 24/7 in Baby M’s room.

 

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Smoggy view from our window – Alex said, “What a beautiful sunset…”

Is it yellow dust blowing in from the Gobi Desert? Smog from Beijing? Pollution generated within Korea? Probably a combination of all three. But whatever it is, it has really made Alex and me appreciate the clean air we tookΒ for granted while in living in the U.S.!

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Korean flag made from (plastic) flowers

In the last two weeks, cherry blossoms started blooming everywhere: on a couple of trees along the street downstairs, along the Han River, in Olympic Park, and of course, around Seokchon Lake (a manmade lake behind the new Lotte World Mall). [The cherry blossom festival for Seokchon Lake was this past weekend — the air quality was, at best, 140, unhealthy for sensitive groups, and at its worst over 180, unhealthy for all… I wonder how many people braved the nasty air to get a glimpse of the blossoms and partake in the festival?]

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First clear day of spring

A week ago Monday, I woke up to blue sky (and saw some mountains, in the distance, that I hadn’t seen for, I swear, a year!). I quickly opened all the windows in our apartment, and as soon as Baby M woke up from her lunchtime nap, popped her in her stroller and headed for the lake. We did one loop around Seokchon Lake (stopping at a few places to take pictures, but more importantly, for me to hold a fussy Baby M as well as pick up her hat which she kept taking off her head and throwing onto the ground). I guess a lot of people had the same idea about taking advantage of the first clear, warm day, because the path was packed!

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In front of Olympic Park

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“Can I eat this? This is food, right?”

A couple days later, the air was decent, so we took a walk to nearby Olympic Park (FYI – not a very friendly park for strollers). I gave a cherry blossom to Baby M to smell, and she promptly put it in her mouth. Lovely. Shame on Mommy for thinking something wouldn’t go in her mouth!

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Baby M wearing her bucket hat (5,000 won at a baby fair, yeah!)

And, this past Monday, we met with a friend and her son to take another walk around the lake. (This time, Baby M’s hat stayed put, thanks to my friend Renee, who attached an elastic band.) Some of the trees were already more green than pink, but it was still a nice walk.

I really hope the air gets better, because keeping a baby – who is on the verge of crawling – inside all day is … going to drive me bonkers! I can’t wait for the next clear day so that I can throw open the windows, and go for a walk.

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Found a cherry blossom tree that was accessible by stroller at Olympic Park

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“I’m prettier than a cherry blossom!”

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3 responses to “Cherry Blossoms: A Bit of Pink Amidst the Gray”

  1. Marcia says :

    Very interesting and well written, as always! I’m sorry about the air quality and wonder if Baby M’s parents also need an air purifier for their bedroom?

  2. drzejan says :

    Air pollution in Korea is bad, really bad but on the other hand in my case after almost two years I may have got used to it or I just spent whole day at office in air conditioned environment… What’s interesting is that when I check level of pollution in Korea (in Seoul and Suwon) somehow it seems to be lower than in Poland where I don’t remember any week during which I could not see blue sky at least once. At this point I start to question measurements in Korea…

    But you are right – pretty much every foreigner is shocked when the come to Korea as everyone is taking clear sky as granted. Bad thing is that in 5 to 10 years a lot of people here will develop lungs cancer. I talk a lot with my friend from China both of us realized that pretty much every Korean is blaming China for pollution but when I see amount of cars on streets, state of lakes and rivers and I remember what my friends from Poland said about Gumi from theirs business trips – China is not the biggest issue here but it is extremely convenience blame them and ignore Koreans’ own faults.

    By the way – have you tried to wash windows at your place? I tried a few times and I failed… seems like pollution melted into them >_>

    In the end, to leave behind the negative things, I damn envy you going for a walk during really nice day. I hope you will get many more chances for this πŸ™‚

    Stay tuned for my posts from my trips from Japan form hanami as they will appear sooner or later on my blog πŸ˜‰

    • OliviaM says :

      I haven’t tried washing our windows… I’m not even sure how to access the big panel in the living room! They are REALLY dirty though!

      The really sad thing is- most people are oblivious to the bad air. When the air was “unhealthy,” I saw middle school kids still having their physical education classes outside! Running!

      We just went to Nami Island and Garden of Morning Calm today – stayed tuned πŸ™‚

      Looking forward to your blog posts about Japan, as always!

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