Saturday, December 19, 2009

hello hello hello

Well people, I thought I would send this week's update out on Karena's blog. Maybe I will start using it more so that there's a record of what I have written about while I am in Korea.

A lot has happened since last week! Originally, I was staying in ramshackle base lodging and my reservation was set to end 16-Dec. Click the link and look at the picture for "building entrance." That is where I was staying, the only difference is that there is no parking lot. It is a dirt/mud patch for all of the contractors working on the new lodge. Fortunately/unfortunately, my reservation was cut short for a Distinguished Visitor (DV). It seems there are a lot of these coming to base since the new lodge is nearing completion and is half a year behind schedule (at least). I pity the person moving out of the main lodging buildings because they will be welcomed by a shared bathroom, wind shooting up under the front door, no internet, and five TV channels. I was a little worried because I have been unsuccessful in all of my attempts to find off-base lodging. Lucky for me there was a nice civilian working on Sunday. I told him my problems and he immediately knew of a place. I'm now staying at the New Motel Fox for 50,000KRW a night (or about 44USD). I pay weekly and it is about 310USD which includes tax and my credit card's "foreign currency charge." Motel Fox is a "love motel" but it is not seedy or anything. In fact, it is probably 10 times nicer than base lodging I was in. I have a heated queen size bed, 50" flat screen HD TV, internet, HUGE bathroom with a two person whirlpool tub, stand-up shower, and nifty robotic toilet (I love the heated seat). The TV gets about 70 channels although only about 10 are in English. I can even watch soccer (EPL and Serie A)!! I have gotten hooked on this Korean feudal drama. I don't understand anything about it but I love the costumes, settings, and action. There is a lot of butt kicking going on. They also have free movies in English. Hard part is that the titles are all in Korean, so if I can't identify the movie by the actors or the cover I have to start watching it. There are also a lot of small convenience stores and restaurants around my hotel. I have explored a bit, but am trying to conserve money since I'm not on per diem. I wish I could go hog wild though because there are lots of great smells outside of my hotel. Downside to my new room is that I don't have a microwave. So thank you to everyone who has sent me food from home, but it looks like I'll have to try and cook it at my office (they do have a microwave). I have been contemplating buying a hot plate, pot, and pan but it seems like an extra expense that I don't want to incur. I will be making a trip to the commissary today or tomorrow to get some stuff like bread, lunchmeat, milk, cereal, fruits and other stuff that doesn't require cooking.

My first night at the Motel Fox I went to the convenience store on the corner (GS25). I bought a tub of ramen and discovered the holy grail of a "Pitcher in a Bottle; a 1600mL bottle of yummy beer. For those conversion challenged folks out there, 1600mL is 1.6 litres or 54 ounces. Everything totaled 5500KRW (about 4.69USD) and it included almost all of Jamie's Food Groups: beer, salt, dehydrated meat and veggies, grains, and MSG. The only two missing were candy and fried goods. I didn't realise that my pitcher-bottle would go down so easy so I woke up with a bit of a headache on Monday. As for restaurants, the only one I have explored is called Chicken and Beer...or that is what I think it is called since I can't decipher the Hangul on the outside of the building. At C&B you get a plate of Korean fried chicken pieces (they only had wings when I stopped in) served with sides of salt/pepper, a sticky/sweet/spicy sauce, pickled radish cubes, and tasty Korean bar snacks. The Korean fried chicken is different from the stuff back home. Don't think of Popeyes, Chuch's, KFC or Bojangles here. The batter is light and crispy and I think is only seasoned with a little bit of salt and pepper. It was very delicious and hit the spot but it was not an earth shattering meal. I'm not running back to C&B every night for fried chicken. I do have a funny story about my visit to C&B. I sat down at the table with a menu and ordered one of the three things they had pictures of. I also mistakenly pointed to the 1700mL that was LARGER than my pitcher-bottle from the previous night. The woman gave me a real crazy look and made lots of hand gestures to cheaper options. I just kept nodding and saying "Yes. Beer." I didn't realise that I was trying to order 1.7L of beer for just myself. Yes, I know some of you are going to think "Jamie, I'm disappointed. I thought you would never back down from beer of any kind." After a few more hand gestures on my part the waitress left. "I guess I got my message across" I thought. She came back a few minutes later with a one litre mug of beer. At that point I figured out what the whole scene was about a couple of minutes earlier. I smiled, nodded, and thanked her in Korean. I'm sure I could have finished the 1.7L but I think the walk across the street to my hotel would have been interesting. I was telling this story to a coworker on Tuesday and he asked me what I would have done if she brought the 1.7L bottle. I laughed and said "I don't know. Part of me would have probably tried to finish it. Also, this is Korea so I could probably get away with just taking the unfinished bottle and walking out of the restaurant. I haven't heard any warnings for open container laws here."

One funny observation about heating in Korea. They don't seem to enjoy using heaters in restaurants or bars. Everytime I go into one, it is freaking freezing. At C&B they had a portable heater and it was only up at halfway. I had to sit there eating my fried chicken with my full winter coat on and a sweater. I almost resorted to putting on my knit beanie but then I thought I would look ridiculous. It was a bit much whenever somebody walked in and the cold air would blow into the restaurant. The cooks/waitress was lucky. If she was cold she could just run back into the kitchen. I didn't have that luxury. Maybe next time I go in I will sit as close to the back as possible.

So let's see, what else is going on? Well on Saturday my team and I worked across the runway since neither the Air Force or ROKAF were flying. There were a couple of commercial flights during the day, but nothing serious. We just had to make sure we weren't near the runway when the planes were landing or taking off. It was pretty cool being so close to the runway when those things are landing or taking off. I'm glad that no military planes were flying though. My ears would have hated me. The subs would also stop work and wave whenever a commercial flight came by. It was pretty entertaining. It has been neat here recently because there are some planes here TDY from other bases so we have had the pleasure of watching them zoom around base.

Wednesday night we started getting hit with snow and it did not stop until today (Sunday). We were not able to work outside on Thursday or Friday. I was able to drive to base on Thursday and do some office work though. Friday it was just too bad. I thought it was going to let up eventually but I was totally wrong. I think we got about two feet total accumulation. It is supposed to rain today and wash some of this stuff away. Hopefully it doesn't freeze overnight though. With all of the snow I have been doing some driving in what we would call inclement weather back home. You would think that snow conditions would make people start obeying traffic laws a bit more, but it doesn't. It just makes cars travel slower. Buses seem to drive faster. They don't plow over here either which makes life interesting. You actually want to get out and travel in traffic because then it loosens up the snow and ice and turns it to slush...much easier to drive in. The main roads aren't too bad and I have not had any trouble. I have been running some red lights though! I'm not as gutsy as the drivers around here. I can't just blow through the lights. I actually slow down and treat them as yields now. Some day I hope to attain the level of the Koreans around here. It actually feels a bit liberating when you run a red light. Things will be fun when I get behind the wheel back in the states! At least I won't have to get used to driving on the opposite side of the road like they do in Okinawa.

I can't believe this week is Christmas. I miss all you friends and family back home; especially as a lot of you are getting together for drinks and socializing. It is also too bad that I missed Karena's Third Annual Post Thanksgiving Turkeyday. I heard everyone had a great time though. The food looked amazing. I read about it on the blog. My favorites were probably the sausage stuffing and the pumpkin trifle (good work Jorge)! If I was home I'm sure there would have not been a problem with excess leftovers. I was also envious of the appetizers. They looked delicious too. Maybe on Christmas I will find some place to grill up some galbi for myself. There is rumor of a comm. party so I might try to wrangle an invitation. I tell you, these comm. guys have been great to me. They are always friendly and take time to talk to me when they see me on base. None of them have hesitated to help out when I have needed it. It is really different from when I traveled to bases with SAIC. I guess back then we were doing compliance assessments so people where hesitant whenever I showed up. Here, everyone knows that I am trying to help them. They know that helping me will make their jobs easier in the future. Plus they've been ordered by the comm. CO so that helps :)

I hope everyone has a good Christmas and New Years. As most of you know I will be making my triumphant return to Okinawa for my birthday!!! Yay, I'm so excited to be stuffing my face with Okinawa soba, butteryaki, yakitori, and all sorts of delicious Okinawan food (think pork, kalamansi chu-hi, awamori, and Orion - YUM). No bitter melons this time! I'll probably write a couple of times after New Years about things here and my mini-vacation.

I want to thank everyone who has sent cookies, candy and stuff like that over. I share all of that stuff with my subs. They are great to me so I do all I can to let them know how much I appreciate them. I know it may be asking a lot, but if you feel like you want to send me treats, please consider that I will want to share them with my guys. I will tell you that they have enjoyed everything sent so far! In fact, I caught Mr. Cho (the old yoda) eating six sugar cookies one day. Every time I turned around he had a cookie in his hand...hahahaha! Mr. Cho is the guy who directs me along the tone paths and also teaches me to say things in Korean that everyone else laughs at.

Anyways, that is all for now. Everyone have great holidays and stay warm/dry/safe if you're in DC. I hear yall are getting rocked with the blizzard of 2009!


Karena said...


Christina Penn said...

Glad to see you found better accommodations!

Olga said...

That bedroom is amazing! Not sure I'd want it for my own apartment, but it'd be fun to stay there for a little bit: great colors.