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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas and Global warming

Wholly Shit is it HOT!!! It is December 30th and this last week we had high temperatures around 80 degrees with humidity over 80% it is sticky and nasty. For the week of Christmas we had hot weather, and several tornado warnings. This is Satan's armpit. It is hot, moist and sticky here ALL THE TIME!!!  Funny thing that also ties into my theory on why they are SO religious here - this kind of intimacy with Satan confirms his existence. Oh and the rain I have to keep draining the pool before it overflows some how the rain and draining pool aren't leaving standing water in the back yard - gotta wonder where it all goes?? I am worried that the trees are going to lose their grip on the mud back there and fall, or maybe a hell mouth will open up and demons will walk out. Either situation will lead to more work for me.

Grandpa was going to fly in for Christmas, he only comes for visits of 2-3 days (that includes flight days so he was arriving on the 24th and leaving on the 26th - why bother? And it was like God got the memo cause 4 hours before we were going to pick him up at the airport he called to say he couldn't make it. I was angry that he was visiting for such a short amount of time, then oddly didn't really care when he canceled. Maybe that was because I knew it wasn't his fault that he wasn't going to make it - well not directly his fault but who travels on Dec 24th if they don't need too?!?

The up side to the wet weather - Binge watching Netflix!!  I am into Criminal Minds (which I had not watched before) and we are going through the comics based shows right now The Flash and Arrow.  I am a bit of a wimp so it is surprising that Criminal Minds doesn't leave me sleepless and whimpering in a corner. It is a scary look at the depravity of humanity, but wow I like the characters. Reid the young super genius is fun, and Morgan is nice eye candy. Hope your Yule is Merry and Bright!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Trying to settle in

I mean to write really I do, it seems all my great ideas occur in the shower and I don't have a computer or a note pad ready when I am wet and naked . . . .

It is Yule or here they call it Christmas :-). Kids settled in and spouse is enjoying his job, I do well in fits and starts. My Army wife duties are plenty here (don't get me wrong they don't make me do anything) and I like the ladies (no male spouses present yet) that are involved. The weather is as always a challenge for me, you see I like it cold and that doesn't happen here for example today is December 16th and the temperature range according to iPhone is 49 - 65. For me that is a nice fall day, but at least it is cold enough to put on pants, and even a light jacket if you wear short sleeves.

With the back to back to back moves I am having real trouble getting unpacked, at least that is the excuse I am using this year. I went from trying to get the house organized to just shove it all in a cupboard and decorate for the holiday. The Holiday I decorated for was Halloween, which I am happy to report did get put away, now I am trying to get Christmas out. It seems most of the Brigade planned on getting their events done in the first 2 weeks of December so it has been non-stop. Funny thing about that I really enjoy the actual social functions - it is just the pre-event doings that stress me. AND to make it worse I have gained 15 pounds - so clothes are tight and it is not cold enough to layer and hide the lumps UGH!!

Most of all I have confirmation that I am actually allergic to this place!! Wait, wait, -hear me out; I am back on Zyrtec and Singular daily and if I miss a dose I have trouble breathing the next day. My skin is a wreck it is really bad - all the facial scars I have were earned here as an adult, when I move away skin gets better (but not perfect I am a little shinny naturally). Eyes, and nose run all the time, I should have bought stock in Kleenex before we moved. And my ears itch, it is a really strange feeling and I am sure at some point I will jab something in there and cause an ER visit. All of this and it is winter, sorta I mean at least there shouldn't be new stuff blooming right?!? I have even started to try and track if rain helps to clear the air making breathing easier but that doesn't seem to work. In addition to whatever is causing the trouble I learned over the blistering heat of August that humidity makes it hard to breathe. Yup loving the 11 months of summer they have here!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Move

I wrote this with no preamble - so here goes. We got orders to leave Korea and move to Ft Rucker AL after only 11 months in Korea. That makes 3 moves for my family in 23 months. We have been to Ft Rucker before, 3x before to be exact and I hate it. You will learn all the reasons why as the posts pile up. Here is a bit about the actual move in July.

Ha-ha-ha you can't believe the fun. We were supposed to fly on 12 July and got to the Airport at 7am left Humphreys at 5am, our flight was set for 1135. The united desk opened at 840AM and we found out the dog and crate were 1kg over weight that is 2.4 lbs and the guy called the us 3x to get an exception to policy and they would not give it to us. In Korea they don't do pets so we had no way to get back to Humphreys, we had to call a soldier to bring the mail van to get us. Oh and the 12th was Sunday so no one at the airport could help us. To be overweight he needed to go as cargo and it takes them 10 days to process it, and the health certificates are only good for 10 days and our SOFA stamps were going to expire, plus we were living in a hotel with no car borrowing from people for everything. 

We went back to the Hump Sunday night and then on Monday redid paperwork and certificates, reworked the tickets, and found a lighter crate then shaved plastic off the crate all night Monday so we could fly on Tue. It must have terrified the guy at the counter when he came in and saw us again. Hemi was a great ambassador for large dogs having Koreans pet him all day Sunday and Tuesday - because the bus goes to the airport at 6am and our flight wasn't until 435pm (the pets can ride that one bus from Humphreys underneath with the luggage in their crates - Mooshu is in therapy). Our new flight went to SFO where you have to pick up everything go through customs then recheck everything even the pets to get back on the next flight to Reagan - they couldn't get us to Richmond because the dog crate would not fit on that plane. So we left the hotel then about 30 hours landed in VA and got to drive 2 hours to Richmond. Dad picked us up but we filled the mini van and an SUV, that we rented from Alamo. Longest day ever!!!!

Kids, pets, luggage all made it we rested for 4 days and drove down to Alabama. Because we still own the house in NC we have to rent here and the choices are so sad. The first place we saw I told Mike I would cry everyday if I had to live there. It only got slightly better; we wanted 2000+ sq ft, 4 bed, 2 bath (the idea is the 4th bedrm could be an office). After living in 1700 3/2 for the last 2 years I just want some room to be able to get away from each other. The houses that size have had all the life rented out of them and need SO MUCH work, better places go fast like before I even hear about them. We found a house for rent by owner but she is moving ahead of the service member so she doesn't have any real pressure to go - the school year starts on Aug 6 so with out a property management company to hold her accountable I am worried she wont leave fast enough.  Our saving grace on that, there are several properties that come on the market in August - but I can't register the kids with out an address. So much fun in my life.

AND 7 years didn't help this place much, there are more shops and places to eat but there aren't jobs and I just hate the heat it was 106 today (that is the index real temp was at 93). It is hard to find positives I feel like this is a huge case of deja vu, I have been burned here trying to find positives before and then none of it works out and I end up so fed up, and done I am just going to embrace the bitter rage and work with that :-) 

So once they work out the lease, get kids in school I get to fly to El Paso and drive Mike's car back - then I can try to find a job. Our stuff should arrive in September the van then too - right now we are using Mom's van. So I have some stuff to keep me busy for a few months before the depression sinks in :-)

Our house is on the market with no renter for now, we are going to carry that until September before we search for a renter again. Makes our budget really tight should be a couple of fun months. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Chusoek A Korean Harvest Festival

Chuseok is a 3 day harvest festival, celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar which usually falls around the Autumn Equinox. Although the exact origin of Chuseok is unclear, the tradition can be traced back to ancient religious practices that centered around the significance of the moon. The sun’s presence was considered routine, but the full moon that came once a month, brightening the dark night, and was considered a special and meaningful event. The celebration is to give thanks to the ancestors for a great harvest and to share the bounty with your family, friends, and neighbors. Over 35 million Koreans will travel to their ancestral home over the holiday, the roads get very busy and train tickets sell out. Families that live off of the Military base received gifts of fresh fruit from their land lords, a Korean  working at my husband's office gave us a Korean pear. Pears, apples, and fresh rice are part of the feast at Chuseok.

There are three different ceremonies preformed as part of Chuseok; Bulcho, Seongmyo, and Charye. Bulcho is when families visit the graves of ancestors and clear away weeds and debris as a sign of devotion and respect for your family it is done about a month before Chuseok, but can happen after. Seongmyo is the actual visiting of the grave site and it involves a bowing ceremony. Charye is done at the home in front of an altar of food offered to the ancestors on the morning of Chuseok. Traditional Korean belief is that when people die they watch over their families for four generations, during this time they are seen as part of the family and the relationship is reaffirmed on special days. The ceremonies are to show appreciation and respect for the ancestors, who return to enjoy the holiday food prepared for them.

As with any ritual the setting of the altar space is important, I will share what I have found to be general rules please note that each region has some variables. For example in a Buddhist home spicy vegetables (garlic, chives, spicy peppers) would be avoided because it is believed that they disturb the spirits. A screen is placed to the north, with an altar/table before it. The spirits will visit from the north and enjoy their feast from behind the screen. On the north side of the table a wooden tablet (wipae) used to hold a paper (jibang) with the name, title, and place of origin of the ancestor written vertically in black. Sometimes the wipae is not used.  This is the honored place for that ancestor and as food is placed out it should be set so that the departed can eat from this position. Here is an example made all in wood.

The food is prepared to be beautiful, fresh, and taste wonderful. You want to serve your ancestors the best you have to offer. Special lacquered dishes are used to present the food which should be stacked tall and symmetrically. Food is arranged with the red foods to the east and white foods to the west, and each row is as follows; southern most row is dessert type goods so fruits, cakes, and cookies (what the ancestor would eat last); next row side dishes, vegetables, Kimchi, salted and fermented fish dishes, dried fish goes here too; next row toward the screen  is for soup there could be as few as 3 kinds or as many as 7 and a dish of soy sauce for seasoning, next are the meats - fish should have its head which points east and the back of the fish toward you so it is ready to be served to the honored guest; closest to the screen the main dish in Korean cuisine, that means rice, rice cakes and soup here there should be as many rice bowls as there are ancestors being honored. Pile the rice on high so it looks like a mound is sticking out of the bowl.

There are several traditional foods, I have copied their description from wikipedia;

One of the major foods prepared and eaten during the Chuseok holiday is songpyeon (송편),a Korean traditional rice cake which contains stuffing made with healthy ingredients such as sesame seeds, black beans, mung beans, cinnamon, pine nut, walnut, chestnut, jujube, and honey. When making songpyeon, steaming them over a layer of pine-needles is critical. The word “song”(송) in songpyeon means a pine tree in Korean. The pine needles not only contribute to songpyeon’s aromatic fragrance, but also its beauty and taste[11][12] Songpyeon is also significant because of the meaning contained in its shape. Songpyeon’s rice skin itself resembles the shape of a full moon, but once it wraps the stuffing, its shape resembles the half-moon. Since the Three Kingdoms era in Korean history, there was a Korean legend saying that these two shapes ruled the destinies of the two greatest rival kingdoms, Baekje and Silla. During the era of King Uija of Baekje, an encrypted phrase, “Baekje is full-moon and Silla is half moon”, was found on a turtle’s back and it predicted the fall of the Baekje and the rise of the Silla. The prophecy came true when Silla defeated Baekje in their war. Ever since, Koreans started to refer to a half-moon shape as the indicator of the bright future or victory.[13] Therefore, during Chuseok, families gather together and eat half-moon shaped Songpyeon under the full-moon, wishing themselves a brighter future.[14] 

Another popular Korean traditional food that people eat during Chuseok is Hangwa. It is an artistic food decorated with natural colors and textured with patterns. Hangwa is made with highly nutritious ingredients, such as rice flour, honey, fruit, and roots. People use edible natural ingredients to express various colors, flavors, and tastes. Because of its decoration and nutrition, Koreans eat Hangwa not only during Chuseok, but also for special events, for instance, weddings, birthday parties, and marriages.[15] The most famous types of Hangwa are YakgwaYugwa, and DasikYakgwa is a medicinal cookie which is made of fried rice flour dough ball and Yugwa is a fried cookie that also refers as a “flower of Hangwa”. Dasik is a tea cake that people enjoy with tea. 

Back to ritual set up:

Note the small table in front of the first here you place the drinks (Soju, boiled rice water, water), an incense bowl filled with sand and a bowl of sand. The burning incense represents heaven and the bowl of sand earth. You need to call upon both to recall the ancestors, as their spirits float in heaven while their bodies are buried in earth. There should be two candles placed on the main table. Now you are ready for the ritual.

The ceremony is usually run by the eldest male in a family, but this is changing I found a wonderful blog by an American woman married to a Korean man here is her Chuseok blog: 

The Soul of Seoul, Chuseok

The ritual is held first thing in the morning. The family bathes and men wear suits, women a conservative dress or traditional hanbok. The table is set, open the door and welcome the spirits. The eldest male lights the incense. Then he bows head to floor 2 times then kneels. Everyone else bows head to floor 2 times then one bow from the waist.  Soju is poured in a cup held by second oldest, then poured out in the sand this is done in an order of three; some places say 3 cups, some say pour in 3 sections. This is to symbolize the ancestors descent to the offering table. The next cup is poured then circled in the smoke 3 times then placed for spirits to drink. Each of the male family members makes a wine offering. Chopsticks are tapped on the table 3 times then placed on a dish, a spoon is placed in the rice, the concave part faces east, repeat for each spirit. Once the table is set everyone leaves for a few minutes for the spirits to eat in peace, then you return. When multiple generations are being honored the process can be repeated for each generation. Bow three times again replace soup bowl with water bowl, place 3 spoons of rice in water, cover dishes and discard wine. Bow 2 times and say goodbye, then the jibang (paper with name) is burned in the incense bowl. Clear the food to a table in another room to be enjoyed by everyone. 

Here is a blog that goes into great detail on the Korean Jesa, a ritual to honor the deceased. 

Ask A Korean, How to Hold Jesa

Different forms of this ancestor honor ritual are held 3 times a year; Chuseok, Lunar New Year, and an individual ceremony at midnight on the death day of the person. 

I hope you found the information on this ritual as interesting as I did, if you are interested in trying your own ritual I highly suggest reading the Ask A Korean blog he goes into great detail. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Household good arrived!!!

Wow, our stuff arrived!!! Unpacking is as fun as ever, I am a little dismayed that this is taking me so long – seriously I have done it 6 times as a wife and I only have ½ of our stuff so what gives!?! Then I realize I ONLY have HALF of my stuff!!! The buffet that platter lives in, not here and hardest of all we don’t have any book shelves or desks. Ok, I guess I can cut myself a little slack for wandering around with items in hand like a zombie. As a plus I now have a full complement of pots, pans, bake ware, and tools throwing dinner together just got easier. Of course I am still figuring out the best organization for the stuff but that generally takes me a few weeks of working in the kitchen with it all. OH Oh (jumps up and down clapping) and now I have other clothes to wear, those 12 outfits I brought were getting old after 12 weeks – a few of the high quality Walmart t-shirts are actually wearing out Yikes. I have learned just how much smaller the Government Issue dresser is compared to mine – and geez do I need that many pairs of underwear or socks?!? Dog is happy we now have 3 large golf umbrellas. I have my stuff 30 days earlier than expected, so I will be thankful and find solutions to where will I put this or that.

We also have our van and I got my Korean driver’s license. Overall the experience here is improving, I just need to get brave and go out and adventure. To drive off the post requires coping with the way Korean’s drive. Everything – signage, painted arrows on the road these are mere suggestions the native population drives with abandon. Interesting fact all accidents require both drivers to take 50% responsibility, yes if you hit a parked car it is 50% that driver’s fault. Then there are the signs they aren’t all in Hongu (the Korean alphabet) but the words all look the same to me, one name can be different from the next with just 2-4 letters difference that’s very hard to notice while you are driving by. If I get lost getting directions from someone when I can’t even ask in Korean could be difficult, plus I don’t know my numbers, or left and right in Korean. Others tell me there are lots of Koreans that speak English and it would be fine.

We have been out and about in Pyeongtaek (the large city by us) and Anjeong ri (the suburb of Pyeongtaek right outside our gate) and both adventures were fun and exciting. The girls and I went to the market in Anjeong ri before the van came so that involved a half mile walk to a 20 minute bus ride then we walk out the pedestrian gate into the ‘ville. It was lots of fun and the Korean merchants were very helpful and friendly; we bought great veggies and fruits that were inexpensive and so fresh and tasty. Next is to try the large market in Pyeongtaek, just gotta be brave and go.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Monsoon season

I like to plan ahead. I feel like it gives that Murphy guy less to do, the things I plan for don't happen - it is that one thing I miss that screws it all up. SO I knew that July and August were monsoon season and I tried to buy rain boots for the kids and myself but we lived in El Paso, TX which is a desert rain boots were hard to come by in June. No matter since it isn't (so far) days of constant rain. It rains every day for some amount of time, and there is now standing water in lots of places but I don't always get wet when I walk the dog.

The other morning it was really wet air, so you got wet while you walked along but the water had not reached a critical mass and started to fall to earth. I was ok with that and the dog did his thing and I didn't even need to change my clothes when I got back in the apartment. Oh how 5 hours can change the world. Looking out the window while I waited for the elevator I thought, Hmm it is raining a little. In the time it took that little metal box to go from 4th floor to 1st floor it was pouring. Dog had to go, so out we went. Dog was not happy. I found the whole thing laughable. The water ran down my face I couldn't even see, dog did not complete the mission. He tapped out.

So with the standing water and pouring rain - I really need boots. Oddly I am having trouble finding any, you would think shops would capitalize on this moisture and get some rubber boots in, alas so far no luck. Thankfully the rain is back to falling at night. The weather reports say it has been a dry monsoon season, and the country is headed for a drought. I do hope it rains, and the Koreans don't have a drought, I just hope it waits until I find some boots and a really large umbrella for the dog. I don't think he can hold it more than a day at a time.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tossed under the bus . . .

Right now I am writing my resume, can you tell? I was gathering my papers I have this folder that I have kept copies of my resumes through the years and letters of recommendation and cards of love and support from family and friends. I found it was a good place to go when I got sad and felt worthless. I could read all these letters that said I was responsible and a hard worker. Sometimes I forgot about my folder of attagirl, and those months would get dark . . . . Anyhow in the back I found my darkest day, orders leaving Oregon.

Once upon a time I was crazy happy in Salem, Oregon. I had friends, a purpose, I was on a great housekeeping schedule, I felt like I fit in - it was amazing. At the elementary school a ponytail and no makeup it was ok, hell it was standard Mom attire! Only problem, spouse was a recruiter and he was really unhappy, we had grown far apart and lived as roommates. We didn’t even communicate with notes, neither one knew what the other was doing in their life. Then it was time for him to return to the regular Army, he started to come back to me, the sarcastic loving guy I married started to show up at our house. We got our orders for Germany, *squee*, I love Germany. I was excited even though I would leave my home. One week before we were getting on the road they changed our orders – in a voice mail – to Ft Rucker, AL. Southern gals, inspite of the crazy melting humidity, to go everywhere-even the gym in make-up and with hair done. To say I hate Ft Rucker is a supreme understatement, I do not fit in there and we had been there 2x already. I cried for 3 days. I knew I had to make a choice, my marriage (kids were 7 and 3) or my happiness and that really is how I saw it. SO I made a sacrifice for my family, for my kids and returned to HELL.

I went to AL, and held it against him for the 2.5 years there and another 2 years at Ft Bragg, NC. It was pretty bad, I gave up. Actually laid down and gave up. I don’t even know if he could have done anything, at times I told myself that if he at least apologized for what the Army did, or admitted that I gave up so much for him then I could forgive him. LOL my husband isn’t good at sorry even when it is his fault much less for something he can’t control – but my twisted mind felt like there were words he could use to fix it. Like any good martyr I suffered for my cause, I stayed in bed for the better part of 2 years – yeah that’ll teach ‘em!!

When I started to get straight with my health and my mind a therapist asked me why did you leave Oregon? If you were happy there why didn’t you stay? I had to admit that if I had stayed we would have been divorced in a year, we were too far apart at that point and we needed to become husband and wife again. There are strong marriages that can take time apart, or even damaged ones like ours (he was deployed 2x while I continued to hold vigil) can make it if you are together in theory. If I had stayed I would have declared my independence physically when I was already living it mentally. So while he was in Afghanistan the second time I chose to get better. We were supposed to retire in a year so I would get to go back to Oregon and have a career – the kids were 13 and 10 they could function without me. He would retire and be an at home Dad while I got a career. I had a happy family picture in my mind all of my suffering was over my reward earned.

The Army did it again, while deployed he made the Sergeant Major (SGM) list and called to tell me we were going to Ft Bliss for a year and then he had to spend another 4 years in the Army to retire at SGM. I really didn’t know what to do, OH the rollercoaster of emotions. I could go to Oregon and start a life with the kids and he could join us when he retired, I could stay in NC and see where he went after school. I wanted my family intact, but wasn’t ready to trade my soul again. I am nothing if not dramatic! Once again I had a plan and here it was tossed under the bus.

I put on my big girl panties, it took me a couple of months to find them. I was pleasantly surprised that they were too big, while getting healthy I lost 50 lbs and 2 sizes. With new found pleasure at my healthy success I loaded up the family to move to Ft Bliss, TX for a whole 10 months. In Texas we discovered each other again. He came home for dinner and lunch and we laughed and enjoyed each other, both pleasantly surprised to find we were still in love. I let go of my martyrdom, and he forgave the years of passive aggressive behavior. I am a fool, I planned on getting to Ft Lewis, WA and starting my life 3 hours away in Oregon.  Thought we could have it all. Oh the Gods have a sense of humor.

I am writing this from Pyeongtaek South Korea. This time I got through my shock and dismay in about 24 hours and decided this was my overseas adventure that I had waited 8 years for, being a martyr did finally pay off.