1.27.2014

Puppy love

The kids have been pestering us for months, if not years, to get a dog. We've never really been in a position to get one before - uncertainty as to our future in one location and living in rentals that didn't allow pets pretty much put the kibosh on owning a pet. Until now. Korea has a dearth of homeless pets - dogs and cats. Thankfully they also have wonderful organizations here that work to get many of these animals fostered or adopted.


We've been browsing the adoption sites, looking for a dog that looked like it would fit our family well. We wanted a younger dog for a variety of reasons: the kids are still young, we're a pretty active family, it's possible we'll be moving again in the future (can't say I plan to make SK my forever home) and moving can be tough on older pets, etc. We finally found a good match and picked her up last weekend.





Meet Ginger. She's (what we believe to be) a Finnish Spitz. She looks like a little fox. She was rescued, along with her mom and littermates, before Christmas and is about 11 weeks old. She's sweet and pretty calm (for now) and has started to relax a bit from when we first got her home. She's quite the fan of playing with bouncy balls and is really good about sticking close to our heels and following our every step. If she keeps up with that, I'd love to look into agility and obedience training with her once we get back to the states. We like her so much that, when we heard that one of her littermates is still in need of adoption, we asked to have her as well and are now making arrangements to get back up to Seoul to get her. They're like potato chips - you can't have just one! Having a playmate around should make things much more fun for Ginger, and us.


Our settling in is going along pretty well. It helps that MacGyver was here 5 months before us. But we're making friends (quickly...I had forgotten how quickly military families, when living in a small and isolated military community, make friends) and learning our way around. We took off to Seoul last weekend to explore a bit - using the train and subway. I'm looking forward to going again once it's not so cold outside. We did manage to find 'Doni Burger' that my MIL had pointed us toward (after having read an article in the LA Times about this place and its similarity to In-N-Out) and tried out their burgers. They were pretty yummy. Not quite In-N-Out but still very good.




And then the other night I had a chance to go out with some wonderful ladies and check out a couple of local coffee shops, whereupon I discovered Korean Honey Bread. It. Was. DIVINE. It's about 1/2 of a loaf of something that resembles Hawaiian sweet bread with cinnamon sugar and powdered honey drizzled all over it and baked. It is then topped with whipped cream (while still hot), caramel and chocolate sauce, slivered almonds, and what seemed to be Frosted Flakes. It's served with vanilla ice cream. I'm still on a sugar high. 




My Korean reading skills are coming along. Slowly. But I'm learning. And I'm learning my way around well enough that I can usually find my way home after getting lost. About a week ago, we were also lucky enough to meet up with some friends from Kansas that are stationed up near Seoul. They came down this way and we were able to spend the day with that - that was good for me soul! We're hoping that we can get up to see them soon. I'm hoping, once the weather warms up, we can take the puppy on the bus and head up to Seoul to check out some of the great parks they have there and just go exploring. 


And to complete an otherwise full month, one of my very bestest friends is here visiting her husband who is stationed here (unaccompanied) so I get to spend time with her while he's at work. Yay!! All in all it's been a pretty good month. 




Pau.




- hfs







1.09.2014

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.




Pau.




- hfs

1.05.2014

안녕하세요

Anneyonghaseyo!


We made it to the Land of the Morning Calm a few days ago. I apologize for the extended absence - to say that life has been interesting for the past few months would be an understatement! MacGyver left for his job in Korea, leaving us behind to wrap things up before the holidays. Before he left we had been looking for a house to buy in the area and, just after he left, we found one that met our needs and most of our wants. So, armed with pre-approval from the bank and a power of attorney, I bought a house...on my own. It was insane. But it's ours and I cannot wait to start tackling all of the plans I have for it!


Christmas was it's normal insanity with preparations for an international move thrown in for good measure. The post office now knows me by name and I feel like Norm in 'Cheers' every time I walk in there. After doing my best to downsize, we put most of our stuff in storage and shipped off the little that remained - clothes, school stuff, Legos (must.have.Legos.), a few kitchen supplies, the important files and paperwork. And then there was the insanity that comes with moving - all of the last-minute minutiae that I absolutely DESPISE: runs to Goodwill, the dump, ditching things with friends, panicking that we weren't going to get it all done in time to head to the airport.


Oh, and the goodbyes.


We all know I suck at goodbyes. I did my best to avoid them but I wasn't able to do so entirely so there was that. But we made it out alive. Our flight took us through Denver and had an overnight layover involved so we were able to eat at one of our favorite restaurants, The Flagstaff House. MacGyver and I have been there five times (including this last trip) and this time we were able to take the kids with us so they could experience it. What a joy it was to share it with them! They tried everything that was placed before them - including pate, petit fours, and eggnog pannacotta.


The next morning we were off on the incredibly long flight to Seoul. They've been retrofitting 747s with in-seat video screens and auxillary power for your tablet/computer/etc. as well as in-flight wi-fi so we were looking forward to that. Sadly, we managed to get THE oldest 747 in the airline's fleet - it had NONE of those items. Thankfully, we had melatonin and neck pillows! The flight attendants were fantastic and seemed to be fascinated by the fact that we all travel with our own water bottles. They brought my children chocolates and topped off our water bottles constantly. I think that staying hydrated like we did helped us rebound from the flight more easily. We had heard there was Jamba Juice at Incheon and were looking forward to finding it but, by the time we landed and made it through immigration and customs, all we wanted to do was go home. Sadly, that meant another 2.5 hours on the bus.


But we're here now and settling in. Korea is - on first impression - like living in an alternate universe. There are MANY things that are very reminiscent of living in the states. And then, when you look a little closer, you realize you're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. I'll write more about that later. And pictures...I'll post pictures. But first I have to get a new phone and cell service. And a car. But I've been to Starbucks so all is well!




Pau. (I suppose I should learn to say 'done' in Korean instead of Hawaiian...)




- hfs