Monday, June 28, 2010

Never thought I would be doing this....

I am learning that one should never say "I will never". When my husband initally put in his dream sheet last year for his next duty station, I said to him, "I'll got anywhere BUT Korea". LOL I know you are all laughing. I am now here!

I have also enjoyed the comforts of my home, the things that make my life easier and the appliances that do the work for me. BUT now I am living in an apartment, using a washer, which doubles as a dryer. I have also been told that the cost of utilities is extremely high here, though since we have been in the apartment for just under a month, I can not deny or confirm how high this truly is.

So in the spirit of being frugal, saving money and getting more laundry done in a single day, I have decided to hang my laundry to dry and use the dryer minimally. I never thought that I would be hanging out my laundry. It always seemed to old fashioned to me but like I said before.... Never say Never. Life might just challenge you with exactly what you said you will never do.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Noises in the night

Tonight as I was getting ready to go to sleep, I could hear the pitter patter of the rain that was steadily coming down. As I began to doze off, I was abruptly awoken by a scream, shouting and whistling. I sat up in my bed, wondering what in the world was going on. It got louder and louder. I looked out my bedroom window to an empty courtyard...then it hit me. Korea was playing tonight in the World Cup Games.

Last week in our neighborhood, we saw people setting up a large video screen and a sound system in an empty area across from our apartment complex. Now I know what they were doing. Getting ready for the game. We saw them setting up again this afternoon too.

Pride for their nation and their team is alive here in Korea as they compete in South Africa. Red shirts are being worn everywhere to show their support. Angel and I talked about getting shirts for the girls and I to show support of our "new home". I guess I won't be getting much sleep tonight...and even more so if they win. Good luck Korea!!

Photos of Korea

The girls and I have been passing around the camera as we venture out into our neighborhood, town or even surrounding communites. Each of us seems to find something deserving of a picture. Here are some of the sights we have seen these last three weeks.

Our Empty Apartment

Some people have asked about our apartment and when we are going to share some pictures. I am posting some of the photos that the realtor took before we moved in earlier this month. After our furniture arrives from the states, which should be by mid August, I will post more pictures of the apartment .

Friday, June 25, 2010


I had been in Korea for a total of 4 days when I was told that I would have to participate in a NEO drill the next week. You maybe wondering what is a NEO drill? I would have been thinking the same if I hadn't done my research on families accompanying their sponsors (that is Angel in this case - the active duty military member who is responsible for the dependents [this being the wife and kids]). NEO stands for NonCombatant (non military member) Evacuation Operations. Basically, the military plans and prepares for any event in which they would need to evacuate families from the country where they reside. Documents must be filled out and a kit packed in case of an emergency.
The drill that was held last week was for Angel's unit only. They wanted to make sure that families were ready and documents were completed. Another part of this drill was that I had to get the girls and myself to a certain location without my husband taking me there and dropping me off or waiting in the car. Since I am still not comfortable driving here in Korea yet, I was brainstorming my options for getting to this drill. I could take a taxi. I could take public transportation. I could go to work with Angel in the morning and take a shuttle .

Since I had not used public transportation yet and I have never hailed a taxi, the last option appealed to me the most. So that is what we did. The girls and I went to work with Angel that morning. I checked the shuttle schedule and made sure we arrived a little early. I didn't want to miss this bus becuase they only run every hour. We had our documents filled out, our bags packed and everyone was ready to go.

We finally arrived at the drill and checked in. We were given a lesson on wearing a gas mask and each of us had to try the mask on to make sure we knew what we were doing. The girls had fun doing this and I took some pictures of their experience. By the time we got the shuttle back to Angel's work it was after lunchtime, so the girls and I got some microwavable meals for lunch and hung out around the post until Angel was done working for the day.
It was an interesting experience, though I hope a NEO never has to really take place.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Learning all over again

I have been baking bread from scratch for over a year now. Last November, I began grinding my own grain for flour. We have enjoyed eating fresh baked bread on a daily basis...well at least we did until recently. When we arrived in Korea, we used store bought bread because my bread pans came from the US broken. I have since purchased a new pan...a metal one this time....and have attempted to bake my homemade fresh bread. BUT it's not working. I can not seem to get my oven to work for me.

I am used to dealing with a large oven and temperatures in farenheit, but here my oven is very small and the dial has the temps in celcius. I went online, found a conversion chart and thought I was ready to go. That is not the case. I set the temp to what should be 350 degrees farenheit (177 celcius) but my bread didn't bake right. I added more time and it still was not cooked correctly. Maybe I need to see what the altitude is where we are and see if I need to make an adjustment for that.

It's getting frustrating for me. It's like I need to learn how to make bread all over again. I have since baked three loaves, using two different recipes. The third loaf has come out better than the first two, but it could be the different recipe that I used, which is not my normal bread recipe. I am hoping that I will get the kinks worked out in my bread baking and we again can enjoy fresh homemade bread each day!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Children's Grand Park in Seoul

Today my husband had a day off so we decided to take the family to Children's Grand Park. Since the family hasn't used public transportation yet since we have been here, we thought this would be a good first time trip. We drove to the local station in Yangju and parked our car to jump on the train. As we exited our vehicle we were approached by a gentleman trying to tell us something. After using our handy dandy language book, we found out that it was not free to park. Since we were meeting a friend along the way, we paid the 5000 wons and were on our way. The subways in Korea were VERY clean and fairly easy to use. If you've ever ridden a NYC subway, you would be shocked by riding the Korean Subway, it was a nice change.

We arrived at our destination around 11AM and we were off. There is so much to see and do that we did not even get through the entire park. We packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed our meal next to the water play area. The girls saw lots of different animals and even were able to feed little birds out of their hands. A playground caught their attention and we had to stop so they could have some fun climbing and running. All in all, everyone had a great time and were tired by the end of the day. Breanna fell asleep in the car on the ride back from the train station. I guess we'll have to schedule another trip down just to finish the parts of the park we didn't see.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Transportation in Korea

Today marks our 15th day in Korea. The last two weeks have been busy. I am thankful that even though we don't have our van yet, my husband has a "hooptie" to drive. You might be asking...what is a hooptie? Well, let me tell you about our little car. We have a four door 1993 Hyundai. One door does not open and the driver's side door needs to be lifted up, in order to open it. The front and rear bumper are cracked, but still there. One of the fog lights is smooshed and doesn't work. There is a radio...but it doesn't work. And the driver's side window goes down but has trouble going back up and needs a little assistance. All in all, this car gets our family where we need to go. All four girls fit quite uncomfortably in the back seat, but it works. I have attached a picture of our little "Hooptie".

Another option for transportation is public transportation, which consists of busses and subways. I have been told that this option is very reasonable in regard to price. Tomorrow we will be venturing out on the trains as we take a trip down to Seoul. I have been on a bus and subway in NYC but the language barrier here could prove to make things difficult. I'll let you know tomorrow :)

We could also take a taxi, but with so many kids, we would probably have to take more than one to move our family where we need to go. A friend of mine took one from our neighborhood to the closest post, which is about 6 miles and it ended up costing her 20,000 won. (about 18 dollars) So this is not the most cost effective method of transportation.

I pray my van makes it here sooner than later so that we can comfortably move our family where we need to go. If you have never been to Korea, they drive like those who are from New York City, so my husband is very much at home. LOL

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Some Reminders of Life in the US

Earlier this week, my husband had multiple events to attend at Yongsan Post in the city of Seoul. We thought this would be a good opportunity for us to come along. On the drive down, we took the route that takes you through the towns between here and Seoul. Along the way, we saw some familiar places to eat. The girls got very excited as we continued to see one after another. We just had to take some pictures to share with you.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Our First Week

We have officially been in Korea for one week! We are living in our apartment with borrowed furniture and minimal stuff. Our belongings, that were packed up in Texas almost three months ago, are finally beginning their journey to our new home here in Korea. It will probably take two more months for everything to arrive, but we are managing quite well without all of our things. What I am really missing is my car. Angel has a very small vehicle and traveling with all the girls touching each other is proving to be overwhelming some days. But we are at least getting around when Angel has time to run us. I have not taken the driver's license test yet, so I am not able to drive here yet.

There were many tasks to be accomplished this week to inprocess the me and the girls. We had to be added into the ID system, get a ration card, fill out paperwork and put gather information for our NEO kit. In addition to the things required by the Army, we have also had appointments here at the apartment to have our internet connected, gas turned on and our bidet installed. All this with adjusting to the 13 hour time difference and there are days when we were just exhausted.

We managed to have some fun in between all the tasks that needed to be completed. One night we went to dinner at Reggies', the restaurant on Angel's post. After that we went to the post movie theatre to see "How to Train a Dragon." It was a cute movie and we had fun going out together.

I was finally able to meet my facebook friend Vikki, who has been living in Korea for one year now. She picked me up and took me out for a girls' night out. We actually went to HomePlus, a mega store located in Uijeongbu. It was like going to a mega super Walmart and then some. The store consisted of five different levels of grocery shopping, clothing, household items and food court, cafe/restaurants. The technology in this place was neat too. When we entered the parking garage, it told us how many parking spots were available on each level. On each level, above every parking spot was a light. If the light was green, it meant the space was free...while a red light meant the space was full. You could also take your shopping cart up and down the escaltor. Once you pushed your cart on, it would lock it's wheels into the escalator until you reached the end and pushed it off. Thank you Vikki for a fun night out!

On Saturday, we had planned on walking around our neighborhood, but due to constant downpours all day and night, we opted to drive around the area a bit. We found the following places within walking distance....Baskin Robbins, French Baguette, and Cold Stone Creamery. While driving around the area we also saw Dunkin Donuts, Outback Steakhouse and 7 Eleven. I love Dunkin Donuts for their hot tea and a plain bagel with cream cheese but on our drive around we decided to stop and try the donuts. See here in Korea, the donuts they make are like specialty donuts. We bought a 10 pack variety and each tried a bite of the different ones. Some were great, others interesting and some not so enjoyable. I should have taken a picture but everyone dug in so quick there wouldn't have been much to look at.

Well, there's a summary of our first week. We are enjoying ourselves so far. Korea will be our home for the next two years, so we need to make the best of it. Yes, it's different. Yes, they speak a different language. BUT we can still enjoy ourselves if we approach this tour with a good attitude, a willingness to learn and be taught by the national people and our faith in God that when things are tough, He is still with us.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Our Apartment

My husband was required to go to Korea first and find an apartment for the family before we were allowed to join him. I gave him the top end of our budget that I was willing to pay, along with a list of amenities that I wanted to have in our new home. The distance from his office was up to how far he was willing to drive each day. I must say he did a fabulous job!!

We actually feel like we are living in a hotel, well except that I have to clean it! We live in a 15 story apartment building. Since I am not used to city living, I asked him to get a place on one of the first four floors. We are on the first! There is a playground right outside the apartment and I can see the girls playing from the living room window. We have three bedrooms and two baths, about 2000 square feet. There is lots of storage cabinets everywhere.

When you walk into a home in Korea, it is the custom to remove your shoes. Our apartment has a wall of shelves where ones shoes can be placed when you enter. Our Master Bedroom is huge. It will hold our king size bed, once it arrives and probably a small loveseat also. It has a large walk in closet, along with two additional closets. The Master Bath even has an electronic bidet. When they came to install it, all the girls had a good laugh.

Technology in this apartment is way beyond what I have seen in the states. When someone rings your apartment, you can see and hear them on a screen in the living room or kitchen. You can talk to them and buzz them in if you choose. The same touch screen controls the gas, heat, lights, etc in the home. It would be much better if I could read what it says (everything is written in Korean), but we are learning to at least know what the different buttons do around the home. The kitchen sink has an automatic foot pedal to control the water in the sink without using your hands. We even have a washer that functions as a dryer too. There is also a sterilzer in the kitchen, though I am not sure what I could use this for yet.

We are greatful for our beautiful new home and will enjoy living here over the next two years.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Our Journey to Korea

Last Friday we started out on our journey to Korea. The girls and I were up bright and early…at 4AM, as our flight was scheduled to take off just before 7AM Eastern Time. My dad loaded all of our luggage (10 pieces to be checked and 5 carry on pieces) into his truck and my mom had the girls and me in her car and we were on our way. We checked in to our flight without any problems and made our way to our gate. My parents were able to escort us to the gate and they waited until we got on to the plane. I was a bit nervous about this trip as our first flight from Baltimore to San Francisco was 6 hours long, followed by our flight to Korea, which was 12 hours long. I must say that everyone did very well and we even got a little bit of rest too. By the time we arrived in Korea, it was 1:30AM Eastern Standard Time or 2:30PM local time in Korea.

We did a lot of walking to get to where we needed to go in this airport. Our first stop was immigration, where we ended up in line behind someone bringing in an animal. Needless to say, I think I had picked the wrong lane. It took so long just to process this couple and the girls began to get antsy. Finally we moved through the line and were on to our next stop, baggage. This proved to be a bit difficult as I had to manage kids, carts, and making sure we had everything we had put on the plane in Maryland. Customs was next on our list of stops. I had filled out the form on the plane and I was ready…but I couldn’t quite understand what I was suppose to do. It appeared that if I wasn’t declaring anything, I just needed to turn in my form and be on my way. After receiving some clarification, that’s what we did. As soon as we approached the doors after customs, the girls saw their daddy and began to run!

It was so nice to have our family reunited again!

We headed to the kiosk where we needed to go to sign in for the bus that would take us to the Army post in Seoul. We were informed the next shuttle would be there in one hour, so we waited. The gentleman who helped us told us they would call us when it was there. After waiting for about an hour, we checked back in with the gentleman only to find out that it had come and gone. Our option was to wait another hour or to hire a taxi for $120.00. If any of you know me, you already know which option we chose. We waited! And this time we didn’t wait inside hoping someone would let us know it had arrived, we went directly to the area where the bus picked up passengers. I did not want to miss this shuttle again!

Our drive to Seoul had many sights to see along the way…from oceans, beautiful mountains and rice paddy fields to the hussle and bussle of the city. When we arrived at the post, Angel loaded all our stuff into the vehicle he had borrowed and I took the girls for a potty break and to find something to eat. By this time it was about 8PM (7AM EST). Once we got our Subway sandwiches and everyone was settled in their seats, we were on our way to our apartment, about an hour and a half away. We hit lots of traffic in Seoul as the sun was going down and the city was beginning to shine. The older girls fell asleep and the little ones would not stop talking the entire way. When we finally made it to our home, the girls were both excited and tired. They wanted to explore but also wanted to go to sleep.

Well I will post more later about our first few days in our new home in South Korea