First Impressions

We've been here a week. In some ways, it feels like we *just* arrived and in other ways it feels like we've been here a while. We've mostly beaten the jet lag/time change issues though I still feel pretty wiped out by 4pm, even though I'm not doing much. But we're sleeping and eating on a normal schedule so that says something. Still don't have a phone, which is frustrating, but I plan to remedy that this weekend.

My first impressions of Korea are pretty favorable - much more favorable than my first impressions of Kansas were. Here's a partial list:

1. the people ~ Incredibly accommodating and willing to help. From the moment we set foot ON the plane in SanFran (partial Korean crew), everyone we've come in contact with has been more than willing to help. We were almost accosted by people at the airport offering either a ride or to point us in the direction of tickets/English-speaking assistance as we waited for MacGyver to get our ride home set up. The gate guards on post are friendly and love to speak English about as much as we love to speak the few Korean words we know. The cashiers at the exchange and commissary are equally as friendly.

2. the location ~ It looks a LOT like Kansas in the winter. Brown everywhere. Makes sense, given that it's winter. There is trash everywhere. You don't see public trash cans so it just winds up on the ground. And I'm pretty sure they don't have landfills here so what can't be recycled (or what ISN'T recycled) winds up in piles everywhere. They recycle a lot but without a system of rubbish disposal, you get trash everywhere. And living spaces are hidden and tucked away in places that, in the states, you'd never think to look for a house or an apartment. Our place is tucked so far back and the turn in is so inconspicuous that I doubt anyone would ever find it unless I led them here. I've really not seen much of Korea beyond our immediate area so I can't really say much more than that.

3. our living arrangements ~ Our place is pretty nice. It's spacious and pretty wide open. The rooms are decent-sized and we have everything we need. There are quirks and things that take some getting used to (no garbage disposal, a dishwasher whose layout makes NO sense to me, radiant-floor heating that I'm still learning, etc.) but we like it here. However, the drains STINK. The way the sewage system is set up, you pretty much get to smell everyone's sewage. It comes up through the drain, particularly in the laundry room. Thankfully, the laundry room has its own door so we can close that off and keep the rest of the house from stinking. The showers are unique but I'll save that for another time (when I have a camera and can post pictures). We're also just a short distance away from the airfield so I get to hear helicopters, which I like. We're also near enough to the air base to hear the jets too - BONUS!

4. the military installation ~ I had forgotten how it was to be a part of a military community that is a.) small and b.) relatively isolated from the community in which it resides. Because the post is so small and - due mainly to the language/cultural barriers - isolated from the civilian community, the cohesiveness here is much stronger than anything we experienced in Kansas or Hawaii or Tennessee or Rucker. People here are QUICK to make friends. Facebook pages are the preferred form of information dissemination and camaraderie. It's been really nice.

5. the food ~ We've not yet eaten out on the town. I'm embarrassed to say that! In my defense, we arrived on Friday and were just a hot mess. Took the weekend to recover and then MacGyver went back to work so we've not had time to go out. Hopefully we'll get out this weekend. I will say that the SBUX people on post are starting to recognize me. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

6. the driving ~ The drivers here are...nuts. They are incredibly aggressive yet cautious because Korea is a '60/40 state' meaning that, in the event of an accident, both drivers will share in the cost. So most drivers, while putting Los Angeles drivers to shame in the aggressive-driving category, will usually do their best to avoid hitting you. However, many of the laws seem to be...suggestions. There are several lights on the road to our place that are not at street intersections - usually they are at crosswalks or where a driveway Ts into the street. If those are red and there isn't a person in the crosswalk or a car at the driveway, most drivers just blow right through the light. Also, on the non-freeway streets, there are speed humps - the big ones that you usually find in American neighborhoods. Sometimes there's one. Often times there are multiple humps. And, if you're not paying attention, you can quite easily catch air in your hoopty truck. Ask me how I know! I've been brave enough to drive several times on my own, including once in the dark. There's a FINE LINE between bravery and stupidity...but we made it there and back in one piece so all's well that ends well!

More coming later.


- hfs

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