In some ways, it seems like just last week we were watching our things being packed into boxes in our home in Kansas. But it wasn't last week and it's that time again. The movers came on Monday and packed away all the personal items in our apartment. I snapped some photos of the process for memories sake.
We cleared our apartment on Tuesday and now are in Army Lodging until time to board a plane. We're temporarily homeless. But, it feels pretty good! ;)
Living on the fifth floor might present a challenge for some things, but the movers/transportation have a great system!
I have to admit that I got a little nervous standing out on the balcony watching him load that platform. One shove too hard would have something of mine flying off the other side.
Loaded. He pounded the platform hard enough to signal ready. The guys down below hit the button and the load headed down.
Outside, this was the view.
During our time here, we've watched so many people being packed and loaded to move. A few times, we've witnessed carefree movers riding up and down that little elevator between box loads. It was during those times, we decided they were absolutely fearless (and a whole lot of crazy!)
It's the time again. We've served our time at our current duty station and we're looking at being almost done here in Korea. Wow. Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday, G-Dub got a call and asked me to think about coming to Korea. I remember that like it was yesterday. It was sometime in February of 2009. He hadn't been back from his Iraq deployment long and there we were thinking of taking off again. And thinking of all the things that needed to be done before we left Kansas.
Then, in November, the day before Thanksgiving, the boys and I arrived in Korea - a few months behind G-Dub's arrival, but with all those "things to do before Korea" marked off the list. Wow.
And, now here we are again with a list of things to do before LEAVING Korea. I've said for the past year that it is going to be hard leaving Korea. I first realized that when a good friend left last year. In all of our duty stations, we've made friends and made a home for ourselves there. It's the military family way of life. But there's something about being in this small country on this small post in what seems like worlds away from everything we once perceived as normal. I read some blog posts the other day about getting ready for Christmas. Wow. I can't fathom that. Though1t that's such a normal thing. But when I'm looking at moving across continents again and setting up a new home somewhere else - Christmas is the last thing on my mind. I'll think about Christmas in November. Maybe. Someone remind me. ;)
Today was the last day of school for the kiddos. That's something that is so far beyond my grasp. Growing up in the south, we got out of school before Memorial Day. So, to still be in school after FLAG DAY has been bizarre. I happened to be down in front of our building when school let out before lunch today and watched as kids were leaving the school grounds and coming home to their Family Housing apartments. There were not many smiles on many faces. The smiles and happiness were few and far between in the people that passed me by. I found myself thinking how bizarre that is. And then I started paying attention to who had smiles and who didn't. Most of the kids who were smiling were kids that are not moving away this summer. Most of the kids who didn't look happy about school being out were the ones who will be changing their lives soon and moving to new places. Most of those were older, many middle schoolers who have figured out what having friends is all about. And now, they are about to leave those friends and go into the unknown of their new worlds. Not something they willing chose to do, but something they are doing.
I brought those thoughts home with me and was pondering over them as I folded laundry later. It was at that point that my heart strings felt tugs and tears stung the backs of my eyes.
This military way of life was not something these kids chose. This military way of life was something that was chosen for them. This military way of life is something that we, as parents, as soldiers, as military spouses, chose when we were adults and had a better understanding of just what we were getting into. We knew when we made that choice to become a part of a branch of service to our country be it through serving ourselves or supporting a spouse that we'd be leaving all that we knew as normal, all that was comfortable to us. We knew that we'd change comfort zones every few years and start anew somewhere else. We knew it wouldn't be easy. We knew we'd shed tears, miss loved ones, make new friends, leave strong bonds every few years. We knew "normal" would be something completely different to us than much of the rest of the world. We knew what we were getting into.
Our children did not. Oh sure, they have survived it all, but they don't always have to like it. I've always said my kids are great troopers. But, Dev is older. He's a teenager now and this current PCS - permanent change of station - is really effecting him. I can hear it in his voice, I can feel it in his actions, I can see it in the acne that has suddenly appeared on his skin. He is feeling the stress of moving. Of leaving friends he's so comfortable with. Of starting over somewhere else. Of being the new kid at a point in the near future. When I think about all of that and what he's going through as an adolescent, not knowing what I know as an adult, my heart breaks for him. And in my new role as parent of a teenager, I'm not sure of how to make it better for him. In the past, it's always been easy. We talk up how great things are going to be where we're going. How busy we'll be, what places we'll see that we've never seen before, etc., etc., etc. That was always easy when they were younger and when they actually thought we knew what we were talking about. Teenagers are different. He's not buying any of the talking up we've been doing. He has his own emotions, his own feelings and his own sadness. I guess as a parent, all I can do is sit back and guide him through it to the best of my ability, but as a teenager, he's a little stubborn about accepting guidance. So, I guess we have to sit back and watch more than guide. And, let me tell you. That's not always easy.
A few months ago, I went with our local photography group to visit a botanical garden in Osan City. The cherry blossoms were blooming so it was a beautiful time of year. It just wasn't a beautiful day which is typical in Korea. There are very few days where you get clear blue skies because of smog, fog or yellow dust from the outskirts of China's deserts.
I was pleased with so many of the photos I took that day. I need to share some of those with you. Maybe soon.
In the meantime, I'll just share the one which stood out as one of my favorites from that day.
I had crouched down low on the ground to get this photo of the bridge with the cherry trees in the background. Only there was one thing I didn't like about it. The last of contrast between the dreary Korea sky and the blossoms of the trees. I thought about it for a little while, then the thought of having it painted came to mind. Custom oil paintings are really inexpensive here and I have a favorite artist to use. I've used Mr. Kim at Royal Gallery a couple of other times. The first was when he painted the image of my mom's old house place. Then, I oversaw him creating a painting for a friend of mine. And then a few months ago, I had him do a painting for G-Dub for our anniversary. So, why not have one done for me, right?
I took the photo in a few weeks ago and showed it to him. I told him he didn't have to leave it as it was if he didn't want, but I did want the bridge and cherry blossoms as the focus. The only major request I had was blue skies. He talked about changing the bridge to a traditional Korean bridge. But, I really liked this bridge, so he stuck with it.
And here is my completed painting. It's a 20x24 canvas with the frame adding some size.
I love it! I'm so glad I went ahead with the thought of having it done!
Tonight, I was busy in the kitchen baking biscuits, frying eggs and heating sausage for 50-ish sausage/egg/biscuits for a fund raiser tomorrow. I'd left the dinner dishes on the table. The kitchen was a mess with me everywhere in it. I saw Reed out of the corner of my eye come to the trash can with his lunch box. Ok, it's about time he decided to empty it. I saw it in his backpack two or more days ago, but in the fleeting moment that I saw it as I was zipping his backpack on his back while he was walking out the door, I didn't think anything of it other than, we need to check that when he gets home. That thought was long forgotten.
Back to the present. Me working stuffing biscuits and him lingering near the trash can. Then it happened. Everything came to a screeching halt. What the heck was that smell? Oh.my.goodness. It was soooo very bad. Like nothing I've ever smelled before or EVER want to smell again. So.bad. Really.bad.
He had opened up his little divided container which ...
Let me try to remember when the last time I actually packed his lunch and he took it to school was. It wasn't last week. He was out all last week with his mystery illness.
Think. Was it the week before?
I don't even think it was the week before because I have truly been a slacker mom as of late and they've been eating in the cafeteria.
Three weeks ago? Geez... that seems like a lifetime for a half eaten - oh I hate to say it, but at least you didn't have to smell it - a half eaten boiled egg. My nose burns just typing it. Oh.my.goodness.... that was such a horrific smell.
I immediately thought of the food handlers course that volunteers are to attend for preparation of food for the public. Oh, sure, I was doing all the right things, but then there was this horrific smell that filled my nostrils and had made me question tossing everything that was present in my kitchen. I walked over to him and held my breath as I looked at his cute little divided plastic container for his lunchbox from the Daiso store. The lunchbox that I tell him everyday when I do pack his lunch to empty when he finishes or gets home. Oh, the egg. The cheese/cracker that was meshed with the egg so much so that it was barely recognizable. Did I mention the smell? Then, my mind went back to sippy cups that we'd found under beds half full of juice or milk and mold and my decisions then to toss them rather than attempt to clean them because I'd have to actually touch them to clean them.
Then the smell brought me immediately back to reality. And my decision.
"Throw the container away too." (We'll go buy another one for 4,000 Korean won if we really want another one.
"Now. Toss it."
"And take the trash out, too! Right now!"
When he came back into the house, right behind G-Dub who walked in and said, "What's that smell?" I couldn't help but mutter something under my breath about Templeton's egg. Ugh, we had found it. And it wasn't pretty. Take my word for it.
If I ever meet the man who invented Lysol. I'm going to thank him profusely. And I will probably not want a boiled egg anytime soon.
On Wednesday, we had agreed to/planned a trip with James (Mowgli) and his friends to Caticlan, Panay Island. James lived on the island of Panay in Caticlan which is where we landed originally from our flight from Manila. and traveled back and forth via the sailing boats everyday for "work". Since he was always outside our hotel looking to make a few pesos off the tourists, I use the term work lightly. ;) Panhandling... easy money in tourist areas. We liked James though and more importantly, trusted him, so we didn't mind tipping him a few extra pesos for planning our adventures at certain times. James was a proud Filipino. He was proud of his island and wanted to share it with us. He arranged a trip to a waterfall/river park and a local cold springs spa. We weren't sure what to expect, but were ready for what the day held.
We met him in the morning and he took some pesos and went down to the local market to buy our food for the day. Then we hit the
shore to board a catamaran that would take us across the way to the island of Caticlan. No photos of this sailing boat trip -
the waters were rough and the cameras were stored in the hull where it was dry. We got SOAKED on the trip! It was all fun.
But, it was on trips like this, my DSLR stayed in the room and the Sony Point and Shoot went with us.
We landed on the beach and then loaded into a van that took us further into the middle of the island. It was at this point when if my mother could have seen me, she would have thought I was crazy. Strange country with many remote islands getting into a van with strangers and not knowing exactly where we were going or how to get away! LOL Can you say "adventure"? (The next day when I emailed her to check in and tell her what we'd been up to, I could "hear" it in her response - "You are brave going off with someone you just met. Better be careful." Uh huh, I can read her mind, I know what she was thinking. LOL But, what she didn't know was that there were ten of us on the trip with the three Fils. And like I said earlier, we trusted them. I will admit at some point, I started to question where the heck we were going. We were on the highway forever, then turned off some sketchy back road that we were also on forever. Then we slowed down and turned into the park area.
We unloaded from the van and looked around. As one might have guessed, we were the only Americans we saw. :D We were looking for the waterfall. James had said our first stop was the waterfall, then the second would be the river. We got out and thought, this has to be the river, because we don't see the waterfall. Not that we were disappointed because the river was beautiful! There was a dive platform set up with two different board heights.
There were inner tubes that you could rent to float in for a couple of pesos.
And there were plenty of places to stand around and take pictures which is what I did because, frankly, that water was COLD!
And I'm a WIMP!
So, I wandered around, watching the boys and taking in the scenery. None of us could believe how clear and blue the water was. We never did figure out what made it that way. It was fresh water also being the river through what we later labeled as the rain forest.
I crossed the beautiful concrete bridge that looked as if it had been there forever. The textures on the bridge were so cool.
Dev and Chris decided to do a little diving off the bridge. When my heart recovered from their first dive, I stood back and enjoyed watching their antics.
Many of the locals that were there seemed to be entertained by the boys and their diving antics. They were just sitting around on the other side under the umbrellas that you can see in that first photo, visiting with each other and enjoying the day.
View from the other side:
We played around and then walked a bit further on the west side and found the waterfall.
Hmmmph, not quite what we were expecting, but we laughed it off and enjoyed the place anyway.
After a while, we checked on James and his friends who were preparing our lunch. I decided then and there that this sort of stuff was the reason they require you to get Hepatitis shots updated before traveling abroad.
It didn't take long to cook. Then everyone got out of the water and gathered around the picnic tables to eat.
That fish was ugly, but it was so tasty! It was a white salmon if I remember correctly. Oh, so good. I had to remind myself that it was there for everyone and not just me. :D
After lunch, Tom and Huck commandeered a bamboo raft and the masses of younger boys followed suit.
The "waterfall" park was neat. At some point, we looked around and actually spotted an American man who was watching us with an interested eye. G-Dub and Erik went over to talk to him. They discovered he was there from the DC area with his wife, visiting her family.
Shot of the souvenir shop where we bought bottled Pepsi for 10 pesos. At the time of our trip, 42 pesos equaled a US dollar.
We packed up and left this area, then traveled to the Cold Springs Spa. Wow... when they said cold springs, they meant it!
This place made the water at the other place seem like tepid bath water. In the words of Shaggy, ZOINKS!
The views were beautiful though. There again, we declared ourselves in the rain forest. At that point, it had actually started to sprinkle rain.
We didn't stay here very long because of the cold, the rain and the mosquitoes! But, it was neat to say we were there for just a short while.