Saturday, June 18, 2016

-the familiarity of the unfamiliar.

a free concert at the lake
I mentioned on facebook the other day, that my sweet husband had a thought as we were walking toward Suseong Lake after a delicious dinner, that it seemed as though we were walking in a foreign country, then he realized "We ARE walking in a foreign (to us) country." That may seem like an odd realization for an American living in South Korea, but I completely understood his sentiment. While there are MANY things that are new and that we don't understand (every street sign we see). This place has become our home and there are many things that have quickly become familiar. We have learned the bus schedule between posts, we have familiar paths to places we go regularly, we understand the subway system, and have favorite snacks, drinks, and shops. There are certain businesses that we see wherever we go, like "Angels-in-us Coffee", some form of market on every street, "Paris Baguette", and chicken restaurants on every block.

There are places that remind us of home as well (even if the menu doesn't)

Yup the Golden Arches are nearby, except I don't think that I've ever seen a shrimp burger on the menu before.

I'd rather see a Krispy Kreme..

I doubt the big gulp is as big as in the US

But, of course, in the land of coffee shops (often multiple on one block)
Starbucks is going to have a presence.

Of course each of these places have a local spin, like macaroons instead of Lemon pound cake at the Starbucks, but it's a nice touch of the familiar in a world where every outing is an adventure. We're starting to develop some favorite Korean foods like Bulgogi, KimBap, Japchae, and of course the many varieties of ice cream treats that you can pick up at the corner markets for less than 1000 won.

We have also begun navigating the Korean medical system. As we establish follow up care for Keilah. Her next appointment wasn't due until September, but since I don't know how long things take, and it seems new doctors want more involvement than "ok, nice to meet you, I'll see you in a year". I went ahead and jumped on getting referrals. Which happened quickly. There are three hospitals in Daegu that accept TriCare, we had visited one, but our doctor referred us to another based on her patients past experiences. Each of these hospitals have an International Health Service Center. This center provides English speakers to help with your medical care. In our case, the Health center called us when they received the referral and made our appointment. We were told to arrive early, and when we couldn't quite find their office, they walked to meet us. The individual from the office helped us with our paperwork and then went with us through every step of the appointment. She interacted with all the office staff and then explained what would be happening next and making all follow up appointments as well as scheduling tests. In our case, after we met the doctor he ordered a PET scan and the regular blood work (which actually seemed like more than she's had before, as they took several tubes this time).
Koreans understand customer service-Full coverage hospital PJ's and slippers
instead of the American style no-coverage gown.

Interesting thing about bloodwork, instead of checking in and then being taken to a room, all the attendants are seated at a long counter, and you sit in the waiting area facing them, in what is basically a wide hallway. You go up to the counter, confirm your information, and give your blood while sitting across from them, much like when sitting for a manicure. It was quite efficient and it turns out Korean children don't like giving blood any more than some American kids. One poor child had to be held by 3 attendants to get his necessary work.  When we returned two days later for the PET our same attendant met us and escorted us to the area and helped explain each step. Since it's a two hour procedure, she didn't wait for the whole thing, and then the front desk called her when we were done, so that she could explain that we were now free to go, and gave us the appointment for getting results-dependent on another referral. This was the one part that confused me and required a trip to the Tri-care liaison. While we would get a referral state side that was good for either multiple visits or 1 year, in order to make sure that our PCM is getting up to date information on their patients care the specialist reports to the PCM and requests an additional referral with explanation of the need. They also send all tests/results in ENGLISH so that they can be scanned into your permanent record that will travel back with us to the states. Once I understood that purpose, I appreciated the extra step. And fortunately it required nothing from us. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


I can't believe that we've already been here one month, celebrated 2 birthdays, attended 3 Korean classes and enjoyed 4 weekends and walked 10,000 miles. Ok, so the mileage is a bit of an exaggeration, but my feet feel like it has been. We are enjoying this new city life and making the necessary adjustments. We are learning to shop smaller and more frequently at the Commissary. To buy what we can carry (and call a cab when we don't). The oldest among us are pretty confidant traveling the subway. We can make necessary purchases on the economy (with occasional pointing and holding up of fingers) and feel safe wandering the town at any time of the day.

We have bought some familiar foods and unfamiliar snacks on the economy at the local markets. I am still working up to buying meats and some of the more unfamiliar vegetables and fruits. We do however enjoy the "street" food, and Mike and the kids have tried Squid on a stick, along with the "meat on a stick", and various fried offerings we've tried, dumplings, and sweets. We've learned that if it's read it's most likely to be spicy and if it's corn, Koreans will put it in/on everything, including ice cream.

Here are some highlights from the first month:
1)Attended a lantern festival in honor of Buddha's birthday
(Buddha's birthday is like Derby back home, and is celebrated by 2 weeks worth of festivals)

2)Attended another, smaller street festival on the river with lots of food vendors
and well done displays that were amazing when illuminated for the evening.

3)Took ourselves out to a ball game! What a blast! Each player has his own theme song that is played and sung by the fans when he is at bat, led by cheerleaders. Cheerleaders! at a baseball game. It kept the entire event much livelier than stateside.

4) We've seen 2 different movies and of course got snacks (regular and caramel popcorn, squid, and nachos).
Koreans manage movie attending much better than we do. Seats are assigned at the theatre, and a website tells you whether there are good seats (center-5th row back) fair seats (sides) or poor (first rows) available at the time you want to attend.

5)Subway riding, we've become pretty proficient at navigating the subway and feel between our feet and the subway we can make it anywhere we need to go.
6)Daiso! We are already missing this store when we return in two years. Think Dollar Tree, but nicer. This is a Japanese chain and everything is 5000 won or less (less than $5 US). From kitchen to gardening, hygiene to craft supplies, this store has a bit of everything and it's all CUTE.

7) Seomun Market: The oldest market (and largest) in Daegu. It is comprised of several buildings as well as all the paths and alleys around them. 2 floors of one large warehouse are dedicated to fabric. It was amazing. Along with a million sock vendors, clothing, food, and that was just the 1 section we visited. We briefly went down to the dish floor of another building and needed to leave. This will be a place we return to explore many times.

8)Memorial day cookout with new friends. A good old fashioned American potluck
to celebrate our freedom and remember those who gave it all while in Service.

9) Korean classes. We've all started taking the introductory Korean class, led by an intern. It's quite the adventure as we learn to speak and write Korean. I'm having the hardest time remembering that Ne is Yes, and have agreed to more than one thing I meant to disagree with!  We've all learned to say hello and thank you, which is a good start.

Most of these adventures are occurring on our weekends.  After our second weekend I mentioned needing some "stay home" time and Mike quickly said "No! We have less than 100 weekends left!" Well, when you put it that way....

We are beginning to establish some routine and the kids are back to their books. The move has pushed 3 of their "end of school" pictures  (and graduation) back a few months. But that's OK. It's one of the reasons we choose to homeschool. We are able to embrace this life, without sacrificing their education. The younger boys are on sports teams, I'm serving on the local PWOC board, J and Mike are going to the gym 3 nights a week faithfully, we have found our chapel home, K has joined the choir and the older 3 are all attending youth group. Which is a HUGE thing for this family, as my older two have not had the greatest experience in the past with organized church youth programs (pretty ironic-given their father was a youth pastor prior to the military).

The only thing missing is our stuff and our car to help us complete the transition of making Korea our Home, at least for the next 22 months.

I'd love to hear from you! So be sure to leave a comment :)