Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010

2010 is my year, baby! I can feel it. If you've been reading here for any length of time, you might have seen one or more of my escape attempts. They're sort of reminiscent of the castaways' efforts to leave Gilligan's Island. You might not be quite old enough to be a Gilligan's Island fan, so let me summarize, just in case: A small group of innocent victims volunteered for a short pleasant tour to an exotic location. Some of them HAD to go on the tour, because it was their job. The rest of them were just along for the ride. Alas, things did not go quite as they had expected: the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed. Onto a deserted island, with a giant hole in the side. The boatmates, of varying attractiveness, intelligence, and temperament,made many, many, brilliant plans to get off the island, only to see them thwarted by ham-handed operator errors. Is any of this ringing a bell?

The similarities are striking, I think. All except the varying attractiveness intelligence and temperament part, of course. All the folks here in our little slice of paradise are exceptionally gorgeous and whip-smart, and super polite. Take my friend, Pam, for example. She just posted her Christmas pictures on Facebook, and she is a beaut, for sure. A right vision in her Christmas finery. All she needed was my festive Christmas ornament necklace and she could have been on the cover of Vogue. Hey, that reminds me! You guys are not going to believe this; I totally have to tell you! My Aunt Ina, who lives in the poshest part of Oregon, if such a thing can be said to exist, says that all the fancy gals in her town are wearing ornament jewelry! It's quite the trend among the smart set there. Can you believe how they ripped off my idea?!?!? They probably thought they would get away with it since I'm stuck on this island peninsula. Well, I'm onto them!

And I'm not done with Gilligan's Island, either. I just have to say here that they didn't have it so bad: there were plenty of coconut cream pies, stylish clean clothes and an efficient bicycle-powered dishwasher. The weather was beautiful, they had American radio and they were infectious disease free. Even the occasional visitor, some of whom looked exactly like one or more of them! I have none of those things here, people! And what I couldn't do with a body double, let me tell you. The possibilities are endless, and extremely intriguing. But you won't hear me complaining, no sir! Because this is the year I'm getting out of here. I know, I know, you're smart to be suspicious. I've been working on it for a while now, to no avail. You might remember the time I pretended I was crazy, or the time I tried to hitch a ride on Air Force One, or the time I seriously considered stowing away on our van as it headed out across the Pacific on a freighter, just to name a few zany episodes.

Hey, have you noticed how my thoughts are kind of wandering? That can be a sign of dementia, right? Maybe I should give that pretending to be crazy thing another go. I think I was really close to making that fly, don't you? It's my year, you know. And I'll try anything once twice.

Stories from Korea wishes you the very best 2010: May you have lots of pies, only good visitors and no midnight fire alarms.

Book Report

Poor old Osan, I know I mostly write about the lousy things. But there are a few sweet bonuses here if you look hard. Really hard. One of them is the library- it annoys me that it doesn't open until 10 a.m., but it IS open every day, unlike many stateside public libraries. Our community is small and a lot of people just use the library for internet access. I go several times a week and I rarely see anyone else checking out books, but there are always a bunch of people on the computers. That's good for me, because I can often snap up brand new books I'd normally have to wait months to read. Some books I've recently read are Ted Kennedy's 'True Compass' and Patricia Cornwell's 'The Scarpetta Factor'.

I have been devouring mysteries since the second grade when I read every single Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew novel even though they scared me so much I had to have my mom walk me down the hall to go pee even during the day. I actually don't read much fiction anymore, and I don't even know why I read Patricia Cornwell at all. Her Scarpetta books suck and each one is more outlandish and ridiculous than the last. And yet, I keep picking them up, I guess hoping she'll come up with one that's mediocre like the first couple of ones she did. I find that's true of many of the detective series I've read, and I'm pretty sure I know why. Writing is hard. Even this stupid blog. This post, for instance, I've had in a draft for five days, and I'm going to publish it as soon as I'm done, even though it's not very good. So I can really relate to what those overburdened popular novelists are going through with their big fat advances. I did recently read an exception: 'U is for Undertow' by Sue Grafton. I've read every one of her Kinsey Millhone mysteries since she started with 'A is for Alibi'. The early ones were pretty good, but they started to deteriorate around 'H' and get pretty lame around 'N'. But 'U', the latest one is the best of the bunch, really outstanding. For a mass market mystery series, I mean. Yeah, yeah, yeah, but I'm a lowbrow reader, you should know that by now. Here's a partial list of the detective series I have read, so you can offer me suggestions for new authors, if you're so inclined. I didn't love all of these but I did at least finish most of them:

Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone)
Faye Kellerman (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus)
Jonathan Kellerman (Alex Delaware)
J.A. Jance (J.P. Beaumont/Joanna Brady)
Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon)
Patricia Cornwell (Kay Scarpetta)
Robert Parker
Dick Francis
Michael Connelly
Carol O'Connell (Mallory)
Ruth Rendell (Inspector Wexford)
Elizabeth George (Thomas Lynley)
Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum)
Dennis Lehane
Ridley Pearson
John Grisham
P.J. Parrish
Peri O'Shaugnessy
Kathi Reichs
Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child
Sara Paretsky (V.I. Warshawski)

Right now I am also reading Stephen King's latest giant novel, 'Under the Dome', also snatched from the new book shelf at the library. I passed up the latest Kingsolver for it, that's exactly how lowbrow I am. I would have taken them both; I do like a nice big stack of books but those two piled together are taller than my laundry mountain and that's a bit daunting even for me. Plus I think Kingsolver is overrated, though I did like 'Animal, Vegetable or Mineral'. I have read a lot of Stephen King and I can sort his books roughly into three categories: The Good (The Stand, It, The Talisman, Black House, The Green Mile, Firestarter, The Dead Zone, Bag of Bones, Christine, Duma Key, Misery, Pet Semetary, The Tommyknockers) The Bad (Cujo, Salem's Lot, Carrie, The Shining, From A Buick 8, Lisey's Story) and The Ugly (Needful Things, Insomnia, Gerald's Game, The Darktower/Gunslinger series, Desperation, Dreamcatcher, Rose Madder). For the most part, I think the 'Ugly' ones are the ones he wrote while in his coke phase and they are totally unreadable. The 'Bad' ones I just didn't like, or I thought they were too yucky. 'Under the Dome' is similar to 'The Stand', as they both focus groups of people who have been isolated in one way or another. I do like it, but I'm about a third of the way through it and it's getting pretty creepy in a 'Lord of the Flies' kind of way. Since I think Stephen King has a certain prescience and I live on a teeny tiny military base on a peninsula next to an evil empire, I am finding it increasingly alarming. I'll keep you posted, IF YOU CAN STAND IT.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry

This is our last Christmas in Korea, so hurray! The season has gotten off to a slow start because we've been sick and grumpy. And in Korea.

But last night we went to the squadron Christmas party and it was awesome: tons of inappropriate behavior (not by me, this time), free lousy beer, karaoke renditions of a lot of old country songs, and a meal of 'Honey Grazed Ham'. What more could you ask for? I'm not really sure that they fed those pigs ONLY honey, because the truth in labeling laws here are pretty weak, but I really like to picture a field full of fat happy hogs slurping up honey off the ground. It sort of reminds me of myself, blissfully drinking tequila off the cleaning the floor.

The night started off with a bang. I was getting ready, and I went all out: the festive Christmas ornament necklace, eyeliner, shadow AND mascara, the works. I came out the bathroom and Weston was stunned:

Weston: Mama, you look brand new!
Me: Thanks, Sweetie.
Weston: Way prettier than regular!
Me: Thank you.
Weston: I really like the way you look. You look a lot more like Miss Janelle now. You look really different.

Ummm, okay, I think I get the picture: usually I'm a haggard wretch and but once I slop on a little pleasant-smelling oppression I look GREAT. Or not great, maybe, but a little more similar to my more attractive friend and neighbor. Thanks! I GET IT NOW. PLEASE STOP WITH ALL THE COMPLIMENTS. I'M BLUSHING.

Then, I won a ton of stuff in the raffle. Lloyd tried to stinge me out of tickets, but I wasn't falling for it, and it was a good thing. I won three blankets, and this little ceremonial Korean sword. I hate the sword, but luckily one of my friends was fond of it and I swapped it for some way better stuff that I would describe except for it might crimp my re-gifting style.

Tonight is Christmas Eve and we will open a few presents, then tomorrow we'll open the rest, then attend our final Christmas party in Korea. Now, that's merry! Merry Christmas to all of you from Korea!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tequila

I think we call agree that tequila is an extremely useful substance. Versatile, too. There's nothing better if you're looking to land yourself in a filthy bathtub with abrasions around your waist from diving through a very small bathroom window after running down a dark alley after a guy in a bronco offered you some wine coolers while he was chopping coke on a box of bullets with a giant hunting knife. Not that I would know. His name was Lloyd, too, isn't that a freaky slash creepy coincidence?

Anyhoo, that was a long time ago, and after that I wasn't much of a tequila fan, not that I'm any too picky about filthy bathtubs. But here at Osan, the best drinking is at the Chili's, and the wine selection is weak to say the least. So margaritas it is, and with a lot of effort, I have overcome my tequila aversion. Last night, I sat there for several hours with one of my favorite friends, and sucked down quite some volume of frozen green happiness.

After a few, I noticed something funny: I had a stinging sensation right in the middle of my upper lip. Right there where teeny tiny babies get their nursing blisters. The parallels astound, but I won't go into that here. I got to thinking, and when that happens, you know a brilliant idea is soon to follow.

So, here it is, and it kind of matches up nicely with my latest cleaning scheme. The tequila abraded my lip because it's caustic, right? Especially when you mix it with lime juice and salt! And I'm always looking for a way to clean the grout, the burnt on crud on the stove top, and the disgusting ring in the washing machine. Well, okay, that's a lie. I really couldn't care less about any of that. But I MIGHT try to get it off now that I have this tequila idea. We could share: one shot for the floor, one shot for me. One shot for the floor, two shots for me. It's not THAT outlandish; people do use vodka to clean, you know. You can read about it here. That would never work for me, though. I've worked really hard but I still haven't managed to vanquish my longstanding vodka phobia. I'm definitely willing to give it a try, but someone better come check on me in a few days.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Fear

I am so very relieved; there has been no apparent backlash against my anti-poetry tirade of the other day. I keep whirling around, trenchcoat flapping, to make sure there are no mad poets skulking around as I go about my daily business. So far, so good! I'm not THAT worried, I have an idea that any poet worth his or her salt would really stand out here. They're all dirty, with long scraggly hair and ugly little mustaches, right? And that's just the women. Hyuk, hyuk. There is definitely no one like that around here, so I'm moving on with my life free of a pervasive fear of deadly poets.

It's a good thing, too, because I don't have the energy to be afraid. Last night, Shane was awake in the night for hours. From approximately 01:22:17 to 03:34:22. We don't leave him alone to scream, though I can certainly understand the temptation, and so Lloyd was in there with him. Until Lloyd had to go to work at 02:45 in the icy snow, on foot, at the behest of a person I will call, ummm, 'Dick Schmucky'. It wasn't one of our Osan Schmuckys, of course, as they are all kindhearted souls who hand out fine chocolates and big fat cigars instead of late night assignments, but rather one of the Schmuckys from elsewhere. Lloyd couldn't drive to work because our van is on the slow boat to America (I would be dying of envy, or stowed away, but I get very seasick) and he couldn't bike because it was snowing and he has a road bike with skinny tires. The alarm blared, Lloyd had to get up, and Shane was still awake. Eventually, he drifted off to sleep while I lay frozen in position, terrified to move for fear the noise would start again.

We knew in advance that he was going to have to go in and also that Shane was likely to wake up, so we had a plan: Lloyd was going to sleep in the boys' room hoping to get Shane right back to sleep, because it seems to work better for him than for me, while I slept in our room with the alarm clock. It would go off, wake me, and I would go wake Lloyd up. All these complicated logistical arrangements are necessary because the last time Lloyd had to get up in the night to go to work, the alarm woke up everyone in the house except for him and I had to get up and shake him awake after I tried to flush the clock down the toilet to silence its hateful shrieking. Seriously, the sound is otherworldly. In fact, I call the thing 'the hateful clock' because it is so heinous. And, to make it better, we have two of them. They are atomic clocks, similar to this one, given to us several Christmases ago by my in-laws. Two of them, do you get it? One each, so that we can both get up on time, up and at 'em from our twin beds, located several rooms apart, right?

You can tell we need a lot of things here, but a new alarm clock is at the top of my list. Only not a regular, noise making alarm clock. I need something revolutionary: it should utilize some sort of pinching, poking or biting system designed to instantly wake Lloyd while simultaneously silencing his screams and dampening his thrashing so as not to wake me or the boys. I asked my Facebook friends for help, but they didn't really get what I was going for. One of my them did have a useful idea involving a stun gun and a gag. That might work, but I was thinking more of a timer-operated leg-trap type device. Oh, and he could sleep inside a soundproofed isolation pod. The in-laws would like that, and it would be easy to clean up the blood. I'm a little sleep deprived so my scheme could probably use a little work. As always, input is welcome here at Stories from Korea.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On Poetry

Ever since I wrote the last post, I've been feeling a little guilty about my disdain for poetry. I realize I also insulted a large percentage of my friends and some wonderful bloggers that I don't even know, but funnily enough, that doesn't bother me a bit.

I was a little delirious, but I seem to recall expressing some full-on hatred for poetry, and that's probably not quite accurate. I would hate to be responsible for an entire genre jumping off a cliff, you know. I don't actually hate poetry. I just hate other people's poetry, just like everyone else does. There are a very few exceptions, of course. My favorite poem ever is 'Patterns' by Amy Lowell, and I can certainly appreciate a nice lowbrow limerick. Literary poetry is another story entirely; I'm far too obtuse. If you have something to say, just say it! Or don't, I don't care, but don't write some cryptic missive about it and expect me to enjoy puzzling over it or appreciate your use of some weird words that no one ever heard of, okay? Here, click on this. It's called 'Wonder' and it's a prize-winning poem. What the hell, right? Crazy. I wonder, all right. I wonder what the hell you're talking about. Only I don't care enough to figure it out. Why don't you just make it easy on all of us?

I like the idea of poetry, and I like the puzzle-like aspect of it, where you try to fit an idea into a certain format, like a sonnet: fourteen lines, ten syllables each and a certain rhyming scheme. But when I'm done, I certainly don't expect someone to READ it. Sheesh. I don't want to see your completed crossword puzzle, after all, no matter how big and complicated it is. I better shut up now; I don't want any angry poets to come beat me up.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Displacement


Let me just admit right up front here that I am only writing this post so that the poem won't be at the top. The photo of Lloyd on Air Force One during President Obama's recent visit to Osan is completely irrelevant to anything I'm typing right now, or anything that might or might not be residing in my head. I simply can't stand to have a terrible poem at the top of my blog. What if some fancy publisher is clicking through blogs, looking for someone to give a multi-million dollar advance to for a memoir? When I look at new blogs, I always leave immediately if there's any kind of poetry, because I hate poetry. Someone with the refined taste of a publishing house would no doubt have similar feelings.

If you are, in fact, such a reader, please be assured that there is much more than bad poetry in my repertoire. I invite you to peruse the posts listed on the upper right, or read 'My Life in Cats', which I especially like, but alas, is neglected up there on the right because it is neither particularly funny nor objectionable. Under no circumstances should you click on any of the 'Good Reads' or 'All the Latest' because all those blogs suck. Trust me, you wouldn't want to give your hard-earned cash to any of those clowns. Sure, they're funny, touching, wise, whatever. They can't hold a candle to Stories from Korea, and don't you forget it!

The rest of you might be pleased to hear that we're on the mend. Unless I just called you a clown. Sorry! Did I write that out loud? It's the sickness; I just can't control myself. Wankers. Dammit! I have to go; they're at the door with the nets again. They're always after the tortured, brilliant artists; it's so typical.

Sick

Don't say I didn't warn you! But at least it's short, right?

Woe to us, poor family
We've been sick an eternity
Coughing, choking, puking, more
Juice, tea, tissues galore
No wine, long sleepless nights
Grody meds and bitter fights
Hour upon hour of lousy shows
Day upon day of whiny no's
Meals are vile, drinks are worse
Why were we visited with this curse?
Alone, the laundry will kill me
What can it be, this vexing malady?
It's as bad as bad can be
It must be an Osan allergy!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Warning

Just so you know, we've all been sick for about a million years. Fever, earaches, stomachaches, dizzy spells, and coughing. Even vomiting, and not the good kind. And here's the scary part: I have a strange compulsion to write a poem about it, so you might want to steer clear of Stories from Korea for a few days. I don't want you to get sick, after all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Disorder

I have decided I must have a syndrome. Everyone should have at least one, you know, and I've been looking for mine. Well, here it is: Order Aversion Syndrome (OAS). I'm pretty sure I've always had it, but new advances have allowed me to finally diagnose it. You might have it, too. In the hope that I can help others, I'll just tell you my story. I don't know how the disorder got started. My mother is tidy, my father is not untidy, my sister is obsessively extra-neat. My husband is tidy tidier than me, and so are my kids. For real, and that's bad.

My front closet floor is piled high with a mixture of shoes, boots, hats, coats, shopping bags and empty wine bottles. My pans are stored in three different places in the kitchen, intermixed with storage containers and mixing bowls. When I go to put one away, my disorder causes me to place it totally at random. I am unable to fold clothes or towels the same way twice. Sometimes I just shove things in drawers, of course, or just leave them in the laundry basket until Godzilla could hide in there, but sometimes I do fold. Usually when I'm trying to avoid something even more unpleasant. Because my disorder renders me unable to fold a series of items all the same way, my laundry stacks look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This, as you might imagine, is very unsatisfying, thus reducing the probability that I will fold again anytime in the near future. See how insidious it is? My books are piled willy-nilly on bookshelves in four rooms. Amelia Bedelia might be next to 'Bowling Alone', or she might be next to 'Positive Discipline' or she might be next to 'Rocks and Minerals'. Who knows? The disorder makes it a crapshoot every time!

Oh, I've tried all sorts treatments for the disorder, believe you me. I've bought an organizer and scheduled tidy tasks: clean the bathrooms on Tuesday morning; mop the floors on Friday afternoon, and so on. I've tried the Flylady, and really, she just annoys me. I've borrowed a friend's labelmaker and labeled all the shelves and drawers. I swear, she made it sound like the thing had magical powers, but unfortunately, it didn't transform my home into a serene oasis of order and beauty, although I DID think I saw a golden unicorn dancing around behind the dusty blinds. I was going to link to her here but then I realized she might get mad at me for making fun of her labelmaker. To be fair, it's a LOVELY labelmaker and I'm sure that any less-than-optimal outcomes were solely the result of operator error. And, of course, I've devised all sorts of brilliant labor-saving cleaning schemes, for which I am STILL unrecognized by the Nobel or any other prize committee.

But now, I'm done. Done trying to fit in. Done trying to conform to your orderly world. I don't have to have neatly folded clothes or pans that can be located. It's just not for me. And if it takes too long to find Amelia Bedelia, maybe we'll find Mrs. Piggle Wiggle where it fell down behind Little House on the Prairie, and read that instead, and that's order enough for me.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Chores

As you must surely be aware by now, Stories from Korea is an EXCELLENT place to get your handy household tips: parenting, cleaning, cooking, jewelry design and the like. I take this responsibility very seriously, indeed. Did I say 'responsibility'? I meant 'privilege', of course.

Our departure from Korea is getting ever closer. So close now that using months is meaningless, and a smallish number of days/weeks remain. Naturally, there are many, many things to do to get ready for our move, and I have been trying very hard to make sure that I am wasting my time doing jobs that will stay done rather than wasting my time doing work that will have to be done again tomorrow, or later today, such as dishes, laundry, cooking and bathing children.

This policy allows me to spend my time wisely, and gives me some unique opportunities. Think about it. Wouldn't you love to take that annoying ambulance with the ear-piercing siren that a so-called friend gave your kids and those holey sweatpants your husband insists on wearing every single day, and the book that will make you kill someone if you have to read it one more time (I'm talking to you, Toby's Alphabet Walk) and put them all in a giant trash bag, toss it in a dumpster and LEAVE THE COUNTRY? Oh, and the little pieces of toy sets that are scattered willy-nilly all over the house, the vase you've always loathed, the muffin pan with rust spots, and those pants that never fit right? Oh yeah, baby, buh-bye! And I have the perfect response if anyone starts asking nosy questions: 'Oh, no, Darling, it must have been lost in the move. Such a shame.' BWAHHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously, everyone should move away from Korea. I highly recommend it. And now, I must run. I'm out of trash bags and that simply will not do.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Festive


I feel clever, oh so clever.....

It's Tuesday, so naturally I was at the Thrift Store bright and early this morning. I scored some nice goodies: a Michael Kors skirt for $3, a few books, some crafting stuff for Weston, and a pair of cap guns. As I was about to check out, a particularly entertaining customer was talking to the staff, so I pretended I was looking in the glass case by the register so I could keep eavesdropping. You would not believe the characters that hang out at the Thrift Store here. Oh. Well, maybe you would. Never mind. Anyway, as I casually looked over the jewelry, watches and little trinkets, I saw it. The most beautiful three-strand shell pink necklace the world has ever known. I waited ever so patiently for the clerk to come get it out of the case for me, and then quickly checked the price tag. How much would it be? Five bucks? Ten?! Would it fit in my holiday budget?? My quivering fingers turned over the tag. $1.50, my friends; can you believe it? I snapped it up so fast the crazy Thrift Store people thought I needed medication.

I tried it on as soon as I got it home. Perfection in pink, it was. But something was missing. Just the littlest thing. Something, something, what was it? And then my eye fell on some of my Christmas ornaments. The little flesh-toned orbs I bought last year for the nursing-themed Christmas tree that the Breastfeeding Support Group entered in the decorating contest at the Officer's Club. They are all different skin colors: bronze, tan, chocolate, peach and pink. The perfect matching shade of pink. Could it be? It's so crazy it just might work, I thought. Trembling, I affixed the ornament to the center of the bottom strand of the necklace. It was just right. I felt BRILLIANT. If you have ever met me, you know that I have no talent whatsoever and that this stunning success is something on the order of Scooby Doo proving Fermat's Last Theorem.

Of course, not everyone can pull off a Christmas ornament around her neck, but I'm just the girl to do it. And, there's not a lot of places you can wear something so fabulous, but I'm working up a list: The BX, the Commissary, the library, the playground.....

Monday, November 30, 2009

Four Eyes


As you can clearly see, I've had glasses before. My mother was thoughtful enough to send me these pictures, and she practically DEMANDED that I put them up. Yes, I am aware that I am likely violating copyright law by doing so.

If you are reading this and you own the copyright to stacks of moldy class photos from Washington Elementary circa mid 1970's, MY MOTHER MADE ME DO IT! DON'T SUE ME! Now, don't get me wrong- I'm a big fan of copyright law but I think it might have gone a little too far lately.

I just read a post on Consumerist about some poor schmoe who went to the-store-who-must-not-be-named to get some photos printed for a relative's funeral. The photos included some school pictures, similar to mine above. Well, except for the glasses, probably. The store, despite all evidence to the contrary, apparently considers itself a beacon of justice in a cruel, dark world, and refused to print the school pictures, citing copyright law.

Also recently, I read about a woman who has been blogging as 'Frugalista' for some time, only to be sued by someone who just copyrighted the term. I didn't realize you could copyright words, but I definitely want to get some. I haven't decided which ones I want, because I especially like quite a few: 'cacophony', 'disingenuous' and 'martini' spring to mind. I don't want to be selfish and take more than my share, so I guess I should try to figure out how many words there are and then how many people might want some and divide to determine my personal quota. When I'm done, I'll let you know so you can get some for yourself, too. Not everyone will want some, so there should be plenty to go around.

Rats! Now I find myself in need of an ending, and nothing comes to mind. Oh! Someone else must have already taken the words I want. THAT'S the trouble. Greedy bastards.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bad

Well. Last night was a real winner, people. About twenty minutes after the boys went to bed, Shane came out saying, 'I hungwy'. So I gave him a piece of bread and sent him back to bed. Everything would have been fine, except:

Lloyd: Did you let him take that bread in there?
Me: Yeah, why?
Lloyd: What if he falls asleep with bread in his mouth?
Me: That's crazy! He's not going to fall asleep with bread in his mouth!
Lloyd: I've fallen asleep with food in my mouth lots of times.
Me: And you're not dead, right?

But, of course, because we are paranoid idiots, I had to go in and retrieve the bread. I had hoped he was asleep, but no such luck. He hadn't taken bite one of the bread, and was happily playing with it. I left, quiet reigned, and we waited a few minutes. Lloyd went in a little later and came out with the bread, now broken into pieces, and tossed it in the trash. The wailing started, and Shane came back out wanting his bread back. I gave him a new piece but that just made it worse, because the new piece was not properly broken. Right about now you might be wondering why we did not just make him go back to bed and go to sleep. This just proves you know nothing about small children. But we also live in fear that his high-pitched shrieks might wake Weston up, since they share a room. So it's 'Yessir, yessir, three bags full' and it's a small price to pay. Thank you for keeping your opinions to yourself.

You know what comes next, right? Yep, I fished the precious broken bread out of the garbage. Just then one of our more well-groomed neighbors knocked on the door, wishing to borrow an iron and ironing board. Standing there with bread crumbs and coffee grounds dripping from my hands, I had to confess the truth: We do not own an iron. There, I said it. And I'm not ashamed. Just don't tell anyone, okay? I'm not sure he believed me, but it's totally true. I can't even remember the last time we had one. And I have to say, I haven't missed it, not once. In fact, I'm thinking of getting rid of the vacuum cleaner, too.

As it turns out, Shane was unable to sleep because he was having bad dreams about the 'ghost train'. I believe this is his catchall phrase for anything scary, but I'm not entirely certain. The whole night was pretty bad. Luckily Weston was hopped up on Benadryl and didn't wake up at all. He had a huge ugly swollen upper arm from his shots a few days ago, but it seems to be improving now after a trip to the ER. Today we will be making dreamcatchers and 'No Bad Dreams Allowed' signs. Wish us luck!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oops, I did it again

Ta-da! Here it is: Turkey 2.0. My turkey roasting skills are obviously in high demand, because I got to do another one, this time for Lloyd's squadron Thanksgiving party. It was quite tender and delicious, because I roasted it upside down like my father told me to. He was quite cross because he didn't get any credit in the original turkey post, but here he gets his rightful due. The innards were thoughtfully removed for me this time, so there was no chance of a repeat of the giblet bag fiasco. And we can all be grateful for that on Thanksgiving, because those things are NASTY.

I know it doesn't look too good, but I had to carve it up and put it in a serving pan anyway, so nobody but you lucky Stories from Korea readers got to see it. Although, really, why are looks so important? Can't a turkey be good enough with what it has on the inside? I just think it's so unfair that the most attractive birds get the best parties, while the more homely ones get stuck with the second rate affairs. The pretty ones get all the perks: gracing the corner office instead of the dingy cubicle, going to the fancy Ivy League school instead of the broken down public university in Podunktown. And let's not even talk about the accessories. Why do they even make those frilly leg bloomers? Only about 2% of the turkey population could even hope to wear those. Why can't they make something an average bird can wear? I blame the media, like usual.

But not me! It's the insides that count, as long as the innards are gone, of course. I looked beyond the superficial appearance. I dug deeper and truly appreciated the gorgeous and Rubenesque inner beauty. And then I took the rest to the party.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Guilt

Well, sorry, I don't have much to say today, but I always feel guilty for not posting in a timely manner. Why, I have no idea. It's not as if it's an assignment that I have to complete or else my GPA will go down or something equally horrifying. It's not even as if anyone cares. BUT, there you have it. So today I am posting a somewhat goofy picture of me in my reading glasses; I'm sure you have all been dying to see them. Have you ever noticed how ridiculously hard it is to take a picture of yourself? This was definitely the best of the bunch. I like one other one quite a lot but some evil camera plot made it appear as if I had a double chin in that shot, and of course I most assuredly do not. As far as you know. Can't you tell from the picture that my chin is extremely svelte?!?!?!

And, just for funsies, here are a few strange Osan sightings over the last few days:

1. Man and woman (IN FRONT OF ME) at the thrift store, purchasing every single children's book there- a couple hundred books, plus some Christmas decorations. They told the cashier they were from the library (?!?!?), and then, after they were rung up (which took a LONG time, and did I mention they were IN FRONT OF ME?), they asked if they could come back and pay later. Ummm, okay? Off they went, leaving their bags of books at the checkout. In front of me.

2. Cabbie peeing in his taxi in front of the commissary. He was standing by the open driver's side door, facing into the car, and I can only assume he was holding a bottle or some other receptacle. This is a common sight on the streets or highways; Koreans don't mind peeing freely. And yay for them, right? Who cares? But there is a bathroom just inside the front door of the commissary, not 50 feet away from where he was parked. This is a strange, strange place, my friends.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Obama Visit



President Barack Obama paid a visit to Osan this week, that lucky bastard. Some of my friends who have views of the flightline from their balconies got excellent views of Air Force One, out on the tarmac. Alas, my view is of the dog-walking area, so I didn't get to see it, but if your dog poops on the grass and you don't pick it up, I WILL NOT MISS IT. Also, I get a high quality snapshot of everyone coming home from the commissary, so if you walk up the sidewalk with your stash you might want to put all those Little Debbies in a brown paper sack. Otherwise I might judge you, then show up at your door looking for snacks.

It was really interesting to see the effort that goes into security for his travels. The Secret Service was here far, far in advance of his visit, securing everything they could find. A lot of coordination and work goes into making it look as if he moves about freely, without fear of an attack.

The President addressed a group right here on base, a couple hundred yards from my house. Lloyd was there but I had to watch it on AFN, as seats were at a premium and I am VERY unimportant. But you knew that. Oh, and also? They locked me in my apartment. I think they might think I'm crazy.

The event opened with the Wing Chaplain saying a very long prayer to a non-denominational God. Then the music played. And played some more. And then stopped. Still no Obama. The wait went on and on, and the military 'newscasters' were clearly unprepared for a delay because they had few facts at their fingertips to fill the dead air. They did know one thing: that Obama has now visited twenty countries in his first year in office, more than any other president. George H. W. Bush (1989) and Gerald Ford (1974) both visited fifteen during their first year in office. Fascinating, yes? They thought so; I heard it like ten times. The crowd was getting a little unruly when someone finally took the podium to introduce him, but when he did show up they went wild. His speech was good, if not especially memorable; it was about what you'd expect from a President addressing the troops. Only he's a good speaker.

Then, he got to get on his big blue airplane and LEAVE. 'Take me with you,' I cried, 'I'll even leave my precious cat behind!' But no, off he zoomed without me, leaving nothing in his wake except for a restraining order fluttering in the wind. Ah, well, back to the drawing board, my friends. Got any Little Debbie snackcakes? I always think better with snacks.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lies

We all know there's a big long list of lying liars. I could write it out but it would take all my writing time and space and you still wouldn't know what the hell I was talking about. Plus, you might think some of my liars are telling the truth and get mad and not read my blog anymore, and then I would be sad. Which is not the point of this at all. The news media is definitely always near the top of my list (I'm looking at you, Jayson Blair and the New York Times; can't you just go away? You disgust me and we can never be friends again), but astronomers, if they make the list at all, are down at the bottom with the sneaky cats and my more reliable relatives.

It's cold here in Korea; have I mentioned that? Highs in the mid-30's with winds of 10-20 mph. I wouldn't say it's bitterly cold but it's getting unpalatable for sure. We've been housebound for a week because Shane refuses to wear anything but his Jay-Jay the Jet Plane t-shirt, jeans, and Crocs. No socks, no underwear, no hat, no coat. Don't even ask about mittens. I would let him go out like that until he decides he's good and ready to put his warmer clothes on, because a cold child is a compliant one, but Lloyd won't go for it. Right now you're probably thinking that he's a much better parent than I am, but the truth is he's just worried someone will rat us out to Family Advocacy (our Air Force version of Child Protective Services) if they see Shane shivering while the rest of us are all bundled up. I would just tell them he was being punished for spilling milk on the couch, because I think that's really funny, but Lloyd says that would make it worse.

Anyway, this morning we ventured out waaaaaaay before dawn to watch the fabulous meteor shower the news has been telling us about for days. The best view would be in Asia, the astronomers said. Hundreds or thousands every hour, they said. Find a dark place with an expansive view of the sky, they advised. So out we went into the cold night. Shane had his coat on, but I don't want to talk about it. Let's just say the tantrum included vomiting on the floor. We parked near the golf course, the darkest place we could find on Osan Air Base, which is lit up like Stalag 17.

And..... we saw ten meteorites in the hour that we were there. TEN. We should have gone to North Korea. It's plenty dark there. I bet they got the show of the century, but the astronomers and 'journalists' there probably told everyone that the shooting stars were coming our of Kim Jong Il's ears or some crazy shit like that. And guess what? That's no worse than the garbage our news media machine feeds us. In fact, I think I might prefer it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Eye can read!


Today I had to haul myself out into the windy cold, all the way across the street to the clinic to see the eye doctor. I have been having to zoom the computer screen in two times lately to do my required daily blog reading and annoy my friends on Facebook.

While I was waiting for Lloyd to come home from work so I could go, I noticed a creepily lifelike stuffed cat lying on the floor. This is not unusual at all, of course; there are many, many things of every shape and kind on the floor all the time. But instead of kicking it aside like I normally would have, I looked down at it and had an intriguing thought.

Would people think I was crazy if I took it to the eye doctor with me? Regular people that don't read my blog, I mean. If I carried it and talked to it? Exactly how nutty would I have to act around here to make people think I was truly crazy? This is a small base; it wouldn't take long for word to get around that I finally lost it. And then what? Well, you've all heard of Corporal Max Klinger, right? You might remember the ridiculous lengths he went to to try to prove to the Army that he was crazy so they would send him home from Korea. I should have thought of this AGES ago!

Off I went to the eye doctor with my brain churning. The doc was a perky little guy, probably not even old enough to remember M*A*S*H, or to remember when only Big Bird could see Snuffy. I'm sure he's plenty smart; he can probably spot a glaucoma a mile away, but he looks young and naive. Just what I'm looking for. He says that I need reading glasses. I say, 'HAVE YOU MET MY CAT, DOC?'

Turkey

You probably haven't been thinking too much about turkey yet, but here in Korea, things are a little.... different.

This morning, I roasted the tenderest, juiciest turkey ever for a USO function. Not that I would know, of course, because it was for CHARITY and eating some would be like STEALING. That's what Lloyd says, anyway. I consider it more of a TAX, and a super reasonable one, not like those stupid vice taxes that are breaking my budget. After all, I am the one who had to get up in the middle of the night and slave over a hot oven push SEVERAL extra buttons on my oven control panel before I went to bed. To be totally fair, it's not as if we bought the turkey with the intent of donating 90% of it to the USO. Someone else bought it and Lloyd volunteered to cook it, but I still think a small fee, payable in delectable turkey bits, was in order.

Of course, the juicy goodness of the turkey was complete dumb luck, but I am fully prepared to modestly take credit for it: 'Oh, this old thing? It's just an secret old family recipe. I'm glad you like it.' But because Stories from Korea, like Fox News, is fair and balanced and 100% reliable all the time, here and here only, I'll spill the unvarnished truth. The turkey was wedged upside down in an undersized rusty thrift store roasting pan. I didn't cover it so the top was all crispy while the breast marinated in the juices in the bottom of the pan. We probably don't need to discuss the overlooked bag of innards. I even made my traditional holiday gravy. Or as my mother-in-law calls it, 'gravy-with-lumps'. That IS a secret family recipe, so don't even think about asking! I was feeling especially domestic and all festive-y and it would have been nice if Lloyd hadn't been so suspicious of me:

Me: Look, there's tons of juice. Do you think I should make some gravy?
Lloyd: For the USO, RIGHT?
Me: Ummm, yeah. Of course. Right, for the USO. Dammit!

So, as it turns out, I didn't get the first nibble of turkey or teeniest spoon of gravy. The USO even took the carcass! I wonder if Lloyd told them I wasn't to be trusted. That would be just like him. What is it they say? It's a foolish bird who fouls his own nest, or something like that?

Gobble, gobble, Lloyd!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hodge Podge, plus pictures!

We had some pictures taken recently by our fabulously talented friend and neighbor, Christa. She did a great job and we were really pleased. I am not so photogenic myself, and she actually got a few nice ones of me, so hurray! Shane was in a real mood, too, and you would never know it from the pictures.

And, I am considering submitting one of my 2009 posts to a blog anthology effort, but I have no idea which one to send in. If you liked one in particular, please let me know. Don't worry, I wasn't thinking of sending in the booger one, even though it WAS especially satisfying.

Weston made me a peanut butter cookie dough sandwich for lunch, and it was every bit as delicious as it sounds. He must have been in an especially creative mood today, because he also installed weather instruments on the deck: pipe cleaners, straws, paint brushes, crayons and a coaxial cable, all stuck into the bottom of our hanging planter boxes. Now, he can determine the weather conditions: if the wind is blowing just a little, the smaller instruments like the pipe cleaners will move. If the wind is stronger, the coaxial cable will move. Believe me when I say he will be at least as accurate as any weather forecast I've ever seen around here. Take that, AFN and Yahoo! You've been outmaneuvered by a five year old boy wielding toys and art supplies. If you want some weather forecasting advice you can email me at storiesfromkorea@gmail.com; I'll see if he can pencil you in. On the other hand, if you're here from the Food Network, you might want to check back in a few years.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Facebitch

I am a reluctant Facebook user. If you've been around for a while you might remember when I became assimilated, virtually against my will. At first, it was great. I felt oh-so-cool and in the know. Then, I started knowing just a little too much, if you get my drift. I've read tons of 'What not to post on Facebook' posts, and probably all of them are way better than mine. Products from Asian sweatshops are always inferior, but it's my blog and I have to post SOMETHING, now don't I? Oh, the humanity!

I don't mind the cute kid stories, and I'm a big fan of pictures. I am not even going to complain about the 'I had pancakes for breakfast and now I'm going to the movies' posts. On my DO NOT LIKE list are all the usual:

The I won another cooking contest/my kid got another A++++/my husband got another promotion and all the other 'WE'RE SO SWELL; AREN'T YOU JEALOUS' updates that used to be saved up for the Christmas letter that could be crumpled up ONCE and recycled immediately instead of spent tormenting people throughout the entire year;

The TMI posts. I don't want to know many, many things. In fact, I don't even want to list the things I don't want to know, because it might give someone an idea;

Imaginary presents. If I can't even give them to the thrift store, they are totally useless; and

Cryptic crap. If you have something to say, come out and say it, dammit!

But I have a bigger problem; one I'm loathe to admit, but once again, I have to post SOMETHING, now don't I? Sometimes, the things my friends post make me like them a little bit less. Which I DO NOT LIKE. All my friends are 'real' friends, too, not 'friends' like the girl that sat next to me in sophomore English. Because she was a real bitch. And even worse are the friends of friends; some of them are real wackos and it makes me wonder what the hell my friends are thinking, being friends with such freaks.

I have a solution, though. I'll tell you what it is but it will have to be our little secret, okay? Okay, here it is: I hide my friends when they annoy me. Like a little time-out that only I know about. After I deem them sufficiently punished, I unhide them. It's very satisfying, you should try it. Only not to me, because that would be rude, after I told you my secret and all. And I have another strategy: friend rotation. Facebook has done me the favor of listing them alphabetically, so I'm going to hide them in groups of ten or so and rotate them to keep them fresh and interesting, like I do for my kids' toys. That way, it takes the edge off the NOT LIKING, and we can stay friends. And that, I LIKE.







Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ummm, chocolate!

Now, you guys might not believe this, but I cleaned the laundry room yesterday. Well, okay, 'cleaned' might be a little pretentious; what I did was shove the washer and dryer back against the wall where they belong, prop up the unbalanced washer leg with a bar of soap, move all the junk that was all over the counters and shelves into corners and cupboards, and sweep the floor.

You've probably read my occasional complaints about the laundry facilities here, but the laundry room is brightly lit and roomy, with lots of shelves for storage and a nice counter. Some of my friends use them for sewing or hobby rooms, and I even heard of a family that took all the shelves down and turned it into an extra bedroom. Let me just say right now that I have NO idea how any of that is possible: you can see a picture of the typical state of our laundry room here.

As I was sweeping up a pile of debris that you could hide a rat in, Shane came in and closely surveyed it. Then he said, 'No chocolate chips', and meandered off to simultaneously throw all the books off the bookshelf and smear peanut butter on the wall while I stood there, puzzled. Chocolate chips? Then it hit me: at some point, he must have successfully mined chocolate chips from the sweep-pile, and now considers it a food source. Ummmmm, chocolate.

I hear you knocking, but you can't come in

Happy Halloween, everyone! We had a successful party: plenty of witch's brew, sugar peaks and valleys, toy battles, and banged noggins. The only thing that prevented it from being absolute perfection was those blasted trick or treaters that kept ringing the bell. I swear, someone had to get up every five seconds to hand out candy. We did try the bowl by the door, but that cut down on the volume only a little. Some kids still knocked or rang, and others took way more than a little candy, requiring someone to get up every ten seconds and refill the bowl.

Unfortunately none of us will be together next year for a Halloween hall party, but that didn't stop us from devising a plan to solve this serious problem. I have to give total credit for this idea to Lauren, so don't come crying to me when you try it out and someone gets hurt. Here it is: the treat-dispensing funnelator! The idea needs a little work; currently any sort of funnelator requires three people to operate it: one on each end to hold the tubing, and one in the middle to fire. I'll get back to you as soon as I figure out how to automate it. I'm pretty sure it will be way before next Halloween because I can already see some outstanding year-round applications for it. Oh, and if you're coming to visit me anytime soon, you might want to call first.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oh, Boy

I try to honor all the important boycotts: I hate greedy, soul-sucking corporations just as much as the next guy. Maybe even more! But I'm starting to have trouble keeping up with which evil behemoths torture animals, which ones fund terrorists, which ones hate gay people, which ones are chopping down the rainforest with reckless abandon, and which ones enslave their workers and use sneaky tricks to make it look like their prices are the lowest (cough cough, Wal-Mart, cough cough).

I looked at the list of products that Nestle, that baby-killing exploiter of the poor, makes money from, and Cheerios are on the list, people! Cheerios! Most of the items on the list present me no trouble: I can easily buy Hershey's chocolate chips instead of Tollhouse, for example. And while I'm talking about chocolate, you simply must know that I just read a fascinating book called The Emperors of Chocolate, about the Hershey and Mars companies. Just so you know, you can feel reasonably good about buying Hershey: at least at the writing of the book, the stock was controlled by the Hershey Foundation, which does fabulous things for thousands of orphans, including giving them outstanding prep school educations. So most of the profits gained by hosing chocolate farmers in poor countries and spewing out toxins go to orphans in New England so they can grow up to proudly carry on the corporate tradition, despite their unfortunate beginnings. Mars, on the other hand, is family-owned, and those people are just nuts. Oh yeah, sorry about the Amazon link to the book. They discriminate against gay people, you know. And as soon as I move away from this place where yellow slips in my mail box tell me I have a box of the retail joy that makes my life tolerable, I'll never shop there again. Sorry, gay people; catch you on the flip side.

But back to the Cheerios. I'm not sure I can live without Cheerios. Not for us, so much; we go through some serious quantities, but they are not necessary to our survival, say. But they are my sole successful technique for placating our little 11-month old neighbor. She comes over every week with her sister and brother because I swap childcare with her mom, and she LOVES me. Never before have I been any too popular with babies that aren't mine, so I'm pretty sure it's because I'm her Cheerio connection. I just sort of dump some around her and she's happy for HOURS. She doesn't eat a lot of other things yet, so it's not like I can just replace them with something else. She does eat bananas, but even I can see the folly of placing piles of bananas around a baby sitting on the carpet.

So, see? This is a real dilemma. What's more important: personal comfort or the greater good? I swear, the only place I can shop in good conscience these days is Etsy. Oh, and the thrift store, of course. Sure, it sells Spiderman watches that don't work, and never has a deinonychus colored shirt when I need one, but it's a small price to pay, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hallowhat?


Sometimes I really don't know what to write on here. Some days my thoughts are super boring, even to me, and it's exhausting to even imagine the drudgery involved in typing them out. But today, you lucky bastards, I woke up and thought, 'Hey! Everyone really needs to know what I think about Halloween!'

I don't really get Halloween. When I was little we didn't dress up or go trick-or-treating, so I don't have any 'Oooh, Halloween is super fun and my kids will shrivel up and die if they don't have the perfect costume and get a huge bag of candy!' angst that I project on them. One year when I was almost too old for trick or treating, I went out with my cousins, just because I had never done it. It really wasn't that fun. An old lady answered the door at one house with a notebook and took down everyone's name; maybe she thought she was Santa's henchwoman. Or maybe she actually was. In any event, that was my first experience with developing a false identity on the fly, although, sadly, not the last.

It sure seems like a lot of effort just to end up with a bag of candy. If you really want the candy, you could just buy the candy you want, sparing yourself the disappointment of having to paw through those crappy Laffy Taffies and Tootsie Rolls so you can get to the small handful of Hershey's Dark mini-bars and Smarties. Then what do you do with the lousy candy? Throw it away? There's starving children in Africa, man! Your leftover Tootsie Rolls could feed a family of seventeen for a week; if only they could have your cast-off sugar high and tooth decay. So, see? Wasteful.

We live in an apartment building with somewhere around a hundred apartments and at least twelve thousand kids, so trick or treating is a huge deal. The BX shovels the big bags of fun-size candy onto the sales floor with a dump truck, for real. Okay, fine, not really, but they totally should because it would save them a ton of work. This year, we are having a 'neighborhood' party with some of our hall-mates. Shane will be either Spiderman or Buzz Lightyear, and Weston is going to be a Deinonychus in a costume fashioned from a 12-24 month dragon Old Navy dragon costume and a thrift store Juicy Couture sweat suit. I had hoped to incorporate my growing supply of dryer lint, but Weston isn't as easy to fool as he once was. Fortunately, I have found a great use for the lint, you can check it out here. Don't worry, though, if you are coming to our Halloween party, you won't HAVE to donate your candy to starving children or play with lint from my dryer. But you totally can.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Old

So! The Stories from Korea are weak and boring this week, so I am stealing a clever idea from Swistle: Three Old Posts. The idea is to post links to three of your own old posts, so below are three of mine from days gone by. These are not necessarily my favorites; those are listed up on the upper right sidebar. These three just struck me today for one reason or another:

1. This morning, we went to the Ye Olde Korean Fishing Hole and came home by our old apartment, so here is one from shortly after we first got here. Back then, my blog was just a way to update family and friends instead of the literary brilliance it is today.

2. The pinecone one.

3. The one with the paint. This one has an update: we did eventually restore the walls to their original color. Today, the walls are are in exactly the same condition as they were before we undertook the whole painting fiasco. Maybe a little worse. Let that be a lesson to you.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

True

Here are two conversations from this morning, free of any embellishment or commentary whatsoever:

Lloyd (getting shirt out of drawer): This shirt is dirty!
Me: So?
Lloyd: I can't wear this! It smells like underarms!
Me: What are you complaining about? It's a miracle any shirts even get into your dresser. You should be grateful. And if you don't want your dirty clothes and your clean clothes mixed up, you should put your dirty clothes in the laundry room, instead of on the floor where the clean clothes are.
Lloyd: I don't even know what to say to that.

Then, after Lloyd went to work in a huff, I was took a leisurely 30 second shower and came out to this:

Shane: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Weston: Shhhhhh, you're okay. Want me to kiss it?
Shane: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Me (picking up Shane): He sounds like he's really hurt, Weston. What happened?
Weston: Ummmm, we were playing.
Me: I see that. How did Shane get hurt?
Weston: Welllllllll, I hit him with this ('this' is a hollow, hard plastic tube, about 18 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter). On accident.
Me: Where did you hit him?
Weston: Ummmm, in the face. On accident. Twice.
Me: I see that this is too dangerous to have out; I'll have to put it away.
Weston: Why?
Shane: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Airshow

videoToday was Air Power Day here at Osan, and the big attraction was the Thunderbirds. It was a beautiful day, and a good time was had by all. Even the protestors for peace, who camped out by the front gate and had lunch while watching the show.

The Thunderbirds are a pretty big whoop a lot of places, but if you're reading this from Seattle or Pensacola, you might be a little too Blue Angel-centric to appreciate them. No matter, they don't care what you think. They really do put on a spectacular show, but I have to giggle a little about the autograph signing and meet and greets. I mean, seriously, you can't blow your nose around here without spattering boogers on a fancy pilot. Or at least a pilot who THINKS he or she is fancy. But I can assure you, pilots-who-think-they're-fancy leave their dirty tighty-whities in a crumpled pile on the floor, just like the teller at the bank and the mail carrier. Not that I would know, of course.

I apologize for the poor quality and short duration of my video; the show was a little late, it was past naptime, and Shane and Weston were obsessed with the bouncy castle. It was Shane's first experience with standing in line and waiting his turn, and it was more than slightly traumatic, causing my videography to suffer. If only the fancy pilot could operate the 'video' button on a Sony Cybershot as adroitly as he can execute a split S......

And, if flying isn't your thing, there was plenty of other stuff; Korean dancing, bands, and souvenir stands. The boys love their new inflatable T-bird jets. Interestingly, Burton Snowboards even had a pretty nice setup. The second video is a pretty standard example of traditional Korean entertainment, at least the Americanized version that we often see. Enjoy!


video

Monday, October 19, 2009

Irrational

Here in Korea, we are constantly threatened by a cruel dictatorship. You probably know what I'm talking about: the ration control system. If you're lucky enough to live in the land of Target and drive-throughs, you will probably not have encountered such a thing. Here on an American oasis in the not-quite-right desert, ration control is the law of the land. Everyone gets a ration card, and when you buy something at the BX (general purpose store, similar to a lousy Wal-Mart), commissary (grocery store) or shopette (convenience store, liquor store and video rental store), your ID card gets scanned. Every tub of oxi-clean, every roll of duct tape, every bottle of wine, every copy of 'Subversion for Dummies', and every pair of ever-bigger pants goes on your report. A person COULD shop off-base to avoid this, but the options are limited, and there are many normal American things we can't get off base, so most everyone hits one store or another multiple times a week. The cards have social security numbers on them, too, just for a little extra invasion of privacy.

Why on earth would they do this, you ask? What possibly could be the reason for such oppression? The BLACK MARKET! Ooh, sounds scary, doesn't it?? Yes, freedom and democracy depends on keeping an accurate account of my Dove Bar purchases. Apparently, goods bought on base are sometimes resold in town, throwing a wrench into the entire world economy. Oh, except the human trafficking trade, because that seems to be going strong; I don't see any ration cards being issued to juicy bar patrons. You know.... oh wait, where was I? Oh yeah, my ration card. I'm going to try to stick to the subject because I've decided my outrage, no matter how justified, doesn't get me anywhere, and it's just too, too exhausting.

So, the military tries to keep rationed goods off the local economy by tracking everything we buy. Well, except for goodies from the thrift store, and we can all be grateful for that. If you go over your dollar limit, buy too much beer, or make a suspicious purchase such as 40 pounds of beef, the bossman gets a notification and you have to go explain yourself. Fine, whatever. While I DEEPLY resent having the big blue machine looking at what I buy every month, I recognize that the military is rife with similar indignities and I have been beaten into submission. I can no longer whip myself up into a froth of indignation, because I only have a few more months to suffer. Soon, I will be able to buy an entire cart full of lentils and no one will bat an eyelash. Not that I would; those things are disgusting! Ration away, people, if it makes you feel powerful and efficient. But maybe you should take a closer look at your system. Today, I was looking at my card and guess what? It's been expired for weeks.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Indoctrination

The doctors here come, and then they go, in pretty rapid succession. There have been three different pediatricians here in the time we've been here. There's only one at a time, just in case you live in a regular place where you can still take your kid to the doctor if the pediatrician is sick, on vacation, in training or at a conference and don't get my drift. You know, it's the military; they move around, that's how it works. That's what I used to think, anyway. Today Weston had an appointment and I had to take Shane with us, and now I know they are just churning through the doctors until they can find one that can hang.

We have a nice little clinic: you walk in through two sets of automatic double doors, and the entryway opens up into a large common waiting room for all the clinics. There is the pediatrician, the family practice clinic, the dental office, the immunization room, a pharmacy and a couple of administrative offices. The waiting room probably holds about 50 people normally, but several hundred can fit in a pinch, like during the great New Year's Eve fire. This morning, there was a normal crowd- maybe a couple dozen people in varying states of distress. Until we arrived, of course. Then the distress level was elevated across the board.

We had to come a little early so I could fill out some forms. The boys played and chatted quietly while I filled out the forms and I felt pretty smug as our appointment time approached. As our appointment time faded into the past, I started to get a little antsy. I'm an experienced parent; I had some healthy snacks and little toys in my bag, but by ten minutes past appointment time, the sunflower seeds were flung all over the floor and the toy interest was exhausted. That's when it got ugly. Shane started running in circles around a pillar right in the center of the check-in desks. As if that wasn't bad enough, he was hollering, 'BUTTON! BUTTON! BUTTON!' in sort of a sing-songy voice. It was a toss-up as to which would be worse: let him continue, or stop him and listen to the screaming instead. I elected to stop him and sure enough, screaming ensued. It didn't last long, though. Just long enough for a loud and heated argument to brew:

Shane: I Spiderman!
Weston: But I'm Spiderman!
Shane: NO! I not Underdog! I Spiderman!
Me: You can both be Spiderman; please use your inside voices.
Both: NO!
Clerk: Does anyone mind if we move these kids to the head of the line?
All: NO!

Okay, okay, I made the last part up, but jeez, what a nightmare. Then, once we got into the doctor's office, it was even worse. The room with the elephant table was being cleaned, so we had to go into one without an elephant. CAN YOU IMAGINE? The horror! And the instruments, garbage can, sink and floor were irresistible. Finally, the doctor poked his head in, looked Weston up and down, said, 'He's fine!', threw some papers at me and slammed the door. I don't think he'll be here long.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Naive


I am very naive; maybe you didn't know that about me. I'm very suspicious of some things, such as politicians, pharmaceutical companies and military brass, to name just a few. But oddly, I am often shocked, simply shocked, by events that would probably be considered pretty ordinary by most people. Like the whole juicy bar thing. If you're not familiar with 'juicies', they are local bar girls. Patrons pay for the privilege of their time, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. If you're curious, and you know you are, they're called 'juicies' because they look for clients to buy them overpriced 'juice'. Or so I hear. I'm just not sure I believe it. Who would do that? It just doesn't make any sense! Now, we live in a military town, and every single military town all over the world has seedy establishments right out the front gate, right? And surely the world's oldest profession must be thriving. I know all these things, and yet, I am still surprised that this might actually occur.

And, here's another one: apparently two-year olds commonly have tantrums and insist upon the most ridiculous things. I KNOW! I mean, sure, I've read that in a book or two, and heard dozens scores at least twenty jillion parents say something along those lines. And, I've even had a two-year old before, so you'd think I might have been prepared for my charming curly-haired little cherub to turn into a red-faced, snarling, venom-laden (but still cute) rodent when something doesn't suit him. But NOPE, I am still surprised. Maybe if he'd eased into rodenthood, I could be a little more accepting, but it was pretty sudden. For a few days now, he's been favoring certain things: a fleece blanket, a t-shirt, this toothbrush instead of that one, nothing too hard-core. But today was one constant scream-fest. Why? Oh, let me count just a few the whys:

1. Could not eat giant spoons full of butter instead of lunch and dinner;
2. Had to wear an alternate shirt because Jay-Jay the Jet Plane shirt was in the washer (see photo above);
3. Mean mother tried to help operate drinking fountain; and
4. Hateful brother did not want to watch spider episode of Magic School Bus all day.

OH, THE AGONY! But I'm pretty sure he'll be back to normal tomorrow, right? Surely this can't go on. I mean, who would do that? It just doesn't make any sense!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Lloyd and I often sit out on our deck at night, drinking wine and watching people go by. We have a prime location, overlooking the sidewalk on the main drag and the dog walking area, and if we sit out there long enough, all of Osan will walk by.

Last night, one of my lovely friends walked by and said she was flying out today. I knew she was leaving soon, but around here it doesn't pay to keep track of exactly who is leaving when, because it is just too, too depressing. See, everyone wants to leave themselves, but no one wants to see their friends go. The one thing everyone misses about this place is our wonderful and close community. Most of us will never again live in a place where dozens of friends will happily and without notice swap childcare, loan you eggs, share dinners, stop by for a chat, or go for a walk.

Now it's almost my turn, ladies. I'm packing up boxes and getting ready for the last Halloween in Korea, the last Thanksgiving in Korea, and the last Christmas in Korea. The coffee filter countdown is under 100. But I don't want to say goodbye to any of you; I'll just see you on Facebook.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Neverending

Jeez. It never ends, people. I was just minding my own beeswax last night, reading a 'The Secret Life of Germs', a book by Dr. Philip Tierno Jr. about germs that my good friend Helen sent me after I begged all my friends to send me reading material. Weston is interested in germs and is always asking questions about them, so I thought it would be good to brush up. It's a fascinating book, all about how we normally live in balance with microbes, which are everywhere, in huge quantities. Parts of your body have trillions of microbes per gram; that's a little scary, huh? Especially for us higher gram girls.

If you are old enough, you might remember the Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) scare of the mid-80's. The syndrome wasn't new but there was a new epidemic occurring in women using tampons. It turns out manufacturers had begun using cost-saving materials to make tampons instead of cotton, as had been done in the past, and the new materials were fostering bacterial growth, leading to the disease, which is often lethal. So they figured it out quickly, a few brands were pulled off the market, a few changes were made, and no one ever heard about it again. But guess what? People are still dying from TSS related to tampon use. Manufacturers are still using the alternative materials to make tampons. Want to know what they use? Probably not, but I'm going to tell you anyway: ground-up sawdust mixed with a few other things for absorbency, and dioxin to make them nice and white.

Dioxin, in particular, is nasty. It's a by-product of the chlorine bleaching process that causes cancer and is suspected of causing or contributing to immune system and hormonal system disturbances, and fertility and other issues.So what, right? Surely studies have been done showing it's safe to use these things month after month for years and years, right? We're talking about half the population here! But nope, not a single study. In fact, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney has repeatedly introduced a bill that would require a study on the safety of tampons and related products, and it has been continually defeated. Can I just say, though, I LOVE Rep. Maloney! I almost want to move to her district. Anyway, there's no incentive for manufacturers to make safer products. Why should they? They are making money hand over fist and they aren't held accountable for the collateral human damage. It's much cheaper for them to settle an occasional lawsuit than spend the money to develop and produce a safer product. And the lack of studies makes it easy for them. Their expensive lawyers, lobbyists and PR staff that they pay with all the money they make off of us consumers say, 'Don't blame us! There's no proof that tampons cause TSS!' And they're right, there's not legal proof, because no studies have been done, because the manufacturers spend a lot of money to suppress bills that would require studies. But here's a novel idea: make the manufacturers prove their products are safe, instead of requiring dead people to prove that they were killed by dangerous products.

Here's what we can do: Contact your legislators in support of the Robin Danielson Act. Click here to find your representatives. And once again, talking with our money is the only way to make change in the consumer market. Luckily, there are lots of great alternatives to sawdust and dioxin tampons. Try the unbleached, all-cotton varieties, a Diva Cup, Mooncup, or reusable pads.

And also, just a general tip? Wash your hands a lot more than you're doing. It could save your life. For real. Do it before you eat, after you use any publicly used facilities or items (bathroom, telephone, elevator, movie seat, taxi, grocery cart), after you shake hands, after you shop, and when you come home. Use plenty of soap, and when your hands are clean, don't touch the faucet or bathroom door on the way out. As for me, I'm going to stop reading. But first, I'm going to go sanitize my door handles.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hell

You might think you know what hell is, but you would be wrong. Vomit in the grocery store? Child's play. Poopy infant + sleeping toddler + airplane window seat + fat snooty business person in aisle seat? Pfffft, who hasn't been there? I know all my Osan pals will readily understand true military hell, but I'm going to try really hard to write it so our civilian sisters get it too. I'm not sure I have the proper skills but I'll give it my best shot. So, the military is weird. Especially on a teeny-tiny base like we have here. Imagine a person that is like your boss, your father, the president of the only bank in town and your kid's principal all rolled up into one. In our own little hellish version of Pleasantville, that guy is your husband's boss, aka 'The Corner'.

Lloyd's squadron regularly has events at their squadron hangout, and we never, ever go. EVER. Only today, we went. Not going to squadron events gets you a major frowny-face on your paper, your allowance docked, your loan denied, no promotion, and gossip behind your back; get the picture? Taking kids is a disaster waiting to happen; the drinking, the swearing... and that's just me! But the thing to do is show your face once in a while, and today was the day. It was carefully planned to the second to minimize the potential catastrophes. The speeches were scheduled to run 1630-1700 (that's 4:30-5:00 p.m. for those of you not in the know), followed promptly by a spaghetti dinner. I even made deviled eggs. New post coming soon: Bedeviled by eggs (but that's a story for another, not-so-depressing day).

I wiped faces, I packed snacks and toys, I made sure bladders were emptied. As I loaded up the stroller, Lloyd called to tell me the power was out and they were moving the event. He gave me these long, detailed instructions to the new location that included the phrase 'Go through the gate with the razor wire and into the door that says 'No admittance''. I'm sure that would have worked out really well but I was deterred by the machine guns and made a detour that resulted in us entering through a fancy security clearance office that opened up right behind the podium where the big boss man was giving his speech. We got there right at 1700 but what's this? The location change delayed the dinner so the speeches will continue? And we're trapped behind the podium in full view of the entire squadron? And the stroller has stopped so what's that, Shane? THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE WILL EXPLODE RIGHT THIS SECOND IF YOU DON'T EXIT THE STROLLER AND START SHRIEKING AND RUNNING AROUND LIKE A MONKEY ON CRACK?!??!?!!?

So yeah, tres embarrassing. And it went on for long, excruciating minutes and included a toy thrown in my face, a screaming-laden time-out, a loudly popped balloon, and a penis joke. If there had only been a little puke or poop, it would have been an unholy trifecta for sure. And oh yeah, NOT DONE! At 1725, there was still no food, so we decided to leave. We're not gluttons for punishment, after all. We gathered our 56,629 tons of goods and made tracks. As we left the building, it started to rain, and Weston, still traumatized from the toy throwing/time out incident, started wailing. Right that second, the 1730 music started, and we ground to a halt. Right behind a large group of uniformed people that work in Lloyd's office. If there is anything worse than being humiliated in front of the boss man, it's being humiliated in front of the staff, right? Usually when the music starts, Lloyd is either still at work or is at home in civilian clothes, and so Weston was very confused about why the uniformed service members stood at parade rest during the South Korean anthem and saluted for the 'Star Spangled Banner'. We generally encourage questions, and he loudly asked me about the details: 'Why doesn't he have his hand over his heart? Why are they standing like that?' Shane, on the other hand, couldn't have cared less, and started running in circles and hooting wildly into the solemn reverence, capping it off by banging into one of the airperson's legs while he stood stock-still, ignoring us to the best of his ability (ed. note: airman is the generic term for an Air Force service member, similar to soldier, sailor or marine. I refuse to use it on the grounds that many of these service members are female, and use airperson instead. Lloyd most definitely does not approve, just in case you were wondering. Lucky for me he doesn't read my blog anymore).

Stoically (we're good at that now), we stood there until, mercifully, the music stopped and we could slink away like beaten puppies to await our inevitable pink slip/F grade/ foreclosure/grounding. I just hope we don't lose our internet access, because that would really be bad.....