Born and raised in southern California. My career exodus has taken me to Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, DC. And as of 23 January 2005, Seoul, Korea. Married with 6 grown children (blended family). First grandchild is in the oven! I created this blog to document my adventures as an expat living and working in Korea. I'm also pretty confident that I will on occasion feel the need to express my views on current events and other matters I find of interest.
Well, it’s Father’s Day so cheers to all you dads out there.
My father’s father.
My father’s son.
This father’s son.
Fathers and sons.
And of course, my first born daughter.
I spent a goodly portion of the day riding on the river.
Camp Humphreys on the left…
The river on the right…
I encountered a grave situation on Saturday’s hike.
Darts at IDK on Saturday night. Took home first place money for the third week in a row. Ha, better to be lucky than good I always say…
Friday found me in Seoul where I attended the G1 Hail and Farewell ceremony. As the name implies, it was where new folks coming in are welcomed and goodbyes are said to those on their way out.
The G1 is basically the Army’s military HR directorate. I’m in charge of civilian personnel, and my directorate reports through the G1 to the Chief of Staff. That can at times be problematic, but thanks to the outstanding leadership of Colonel Irish and Command Sergeant Major Grandison, we functioned effectively as one team.
Both COL Irish and SCM Grandison are departing, but we didn’t let them leave without a token of our appreciation.
I spent the night in Itaewon, so of course I dropped into Shenanigans to see two of my favorite bartenders, Sonya and Veta.
And in the category of an unexpected treat…
…I came home from work to discover my landlord had erected this nice cover over the area I set up for my grill. Didn’t even think to ask for that, but it is really a nice touch. Kamsamnida!
Learned this relatively late in life, but it is my mantra going forward, that’s for sure.
And that’s how my weekend were. Hope yours was fine as well.
Exactly like riding a bike, because that’s what I did this weekend. Back in the first iteration of my Korea life I had a very nice bicycle that I’d ride along the bike paths on the Han River. But that was seven years ago.
Circumstances being what they are I broke down and purchased an inexpensive bike on Saturday. I just couldn’t handle the desolation and distances involved in hiking the river here.
The bike, helmet, and lock came to W234,000.
Nothing fancy, but she’ll carry me to places my tired old legs would never see.
Kinda like this…
The ajumma who sold me the bike was also very friendly. I was wearing shorts and she noticed the varicose veins on my left leg. She told me I really needed to see a doctor about that as she stroked my leg and tsk tsked. I promised her I’d get it checked out.
So, it turns out that riding a bike is much more strenuous than walking. Maybe that should be obvious but it came as a surprise to me. I was shifting into low gear on the slightest of inclines and really pumping hard on the pedals. I guess that’s a good thing, cardio-wise anyway.
That first day I was also in quite a bit of pain.
This cruel bastard was the cause of my butt hurt.
So after an abbreviated ride of an hour or so, I parked the bike at home and hoofed it to PX on base.
Where I purchased a seat more appropriate to the size of my ass. Today’s ride was much longer and much more comfortable for sure.
Anyway, I plan to incorporate the weekend biking into my regular exercise routine. Which means the river rides will be in addition to my daily step goal of at least 15,000.
In other news…
Maybe so, but not so much when you are living a solitary existence.
Still, I took myself out on a dinner date and enjoyed me some pretty decent Mexican food. For dessert I won the dart tourney at IDK for the second week in a row…
There was a full moon Friday night…
Which led me to a pub called “Horse and Cow”…
The Pub featured a drink special called “Sweet Tight Pussy.” Sorry, but I’m not going to pay for it!
Despite a nasty hangover from last night’s over indulgence, I set about hiking a new section of the local river this morning. Unlike the Han, there are very few bridges. Well over two hours into my walk I finally reached this bridge:
But it was a freeway. So, I could either turn around and retrace my steps (something I absolutely despise doing) or I could seek out a new route home.
I chose the later option. The only exit from the river trail was across a narrow concrete jetty through the adjacent rice paddies. I could see traffic way off in the distance, so I figured what the hell. The farmers must have thought I was nuts.
So when I reached the highway I saw a sign that pointed to Pyeongtaek/Ansan. Well, that’s generally the right direction although I live in Anjeong-ri. After a goodly long walk my road intersected with highway 45 leading to Pyeongtaek. Problem is, that’s a major thoroughfare not conducive to pedestrian traffic. So, I took a detour and walked through the sleepy little village of Bucheon-ri.
At this point I was at the three hour mark which is pretty much my max and I wasn’t entirely clear where I was or how to get to where I was going.
Nothing to do but soldier on. After awhile I saw a taxi on a cross street up ahead. I wondered about the odds of his turning in my direction (well, I guess they could have been 50-50). He did turn my way so next I wondered if he might be empty. As he approached I saw that he was indeed without a fare. Deciding it was providence I flagged him down and said take me to Anjeong-ri. A few minutes into the ride I realized that if I had walked on for ten more minutes I would have known where I was. But that was still a 45 minute hike away from home, so I was glad to be in the cab anyway.
Had the cabbie drop me at the street market where I purchased some fresh bananas for tomorrow’s traditional Sunday smoothie.
A whole bunch of nothin’ going on here in my country life, which I expect is what country living is all about. Well, nothin’ to say never stopped me from sayin’ it anyway, so let’s roll into June, shall we?
My friends all tell me that I’m great. My imaginary friends anyway. Not sure what the Koreans are saying…
Me at a bar called “the Wall”. It was only me for the entire 2 hours I was there…
IDK is slowly becoming my “go to” bar, almost by default. It ain’t real busy either, but the staff is friendly to me at least…
When I’m not working or drinking, I’m usually out walking the country roads. Here’s a shot of the river…
And some wall flowers…
No one told me I was leaving! Actually I found this when I was unpacking some boxes in my new office. That’s from back when I retired the first time in 2010…
This cracked me up…
Still struggling with the emotional side of my life. Not really going to go there, but this is one way to put it:
Time is a one way street. So, why does the past loom so large?
Easier said than done…
I’m still being an oversensitive crank. In fact, this could be my theme song…
That’s it. I say it best when I say nothin’ at all. But you knew that.
I’ve never been a particularly patient man. And lately I seem to be in a perpetual bad mood. Little things I could and should ignore just irk the hell out of me for some reason. Or maybe I’ve just become the proverbial grumpy old man.
My irritation seems to manifest itself most often in bars. Not surprising I suppose since I spend too much time in bars these days. I guess the bar I frequent most often is IDK. They have darts and a reasonably friendly staff. But I stopped in early on Friday night and was served my customary Miller Lite beer. There were a couple of guys playing pool and me alone at the bar. They were playing the crappiest music I’ve ever heard (hip hop?) at an eardrum piercing loud volume. Now, I can tolerate crappy music. I can put up with loud music. But crappy and loud crosses the line. I could have said something I suppose, but it’s not my bar or my place to tell them how to run it. Instead I voted with my feet. Plopped W7000 on the bar (6 for the beer and a tip) stood up and headed for the door. The owner was surprised because I never only have one beer and asked me what’s wrong. I just pointed at my ears, shook my head, and walked out. I was back last night for the dart tournament and the music was played at a more reasonable volume.
I have crossed a couple of other bars off my circuit for various minor irritations. I don’t have to put up with bullshit so why should I? One thing I don’t like is being asked to buy a drink for the bartender. I’m pretty damn generous in that regard and I’ll normally make the offer in due course. I usually do it as a reward for good conversation/friendly service. But not likely if I’m asked or its expected. I understand a lot of the gals make “commission” on drinks they receive, but that whole “juicy girl” routine is not my style. I’d rather be alone than pay for company.
Anyway, if I had a life I wouldn’t be spending so much time in the bars I suppose. It’s a social thing because I do need to get out of the house and be around people. Here in Pyeongtaek most of the bar scene caters to young soldiers, not exactly my demographic. Still, I got drunk with a group of combat engineers the other night. It’s all a little fuzzy but I remember this song was being sung.
In other news, I got a series of text messages from the woman who parked her car in my driveway. It was clear she was using a translation app, but I played along. We did the name exchange and the what do you do here thing. She asked me if I had any plans this weekend and I’m thinking “hmm, this might get interesting”. When I said I had nothing going on, she started in on the going to church thing. Damn. Told her I wasn’t religious and didn’t need to be saved. And suddenly she lost interest in chatting. Oh well.
I had a successful work day in Seoul on Thursday and spent a few hours in Shenanigans afterwards. I guess folks were glad to see me, so that was nice.
Left my hotel at 0530 for the drive back to Pyeongtaek and encounter no traffic jams or vehicle malfunctions. Didn’t get lost either. My Waze app did the job even though I didn’t understand a word she was saying. I can follow the arrows!
What an exciting life I’m leading here in the countryside! I’ve got pictures to prove it:
I don’t know if this is a custom restaurant or a costume restaurant. I did note that if I ever get a hankering for dog stew, this is the place to go. And no, I’ve never had nor will I ever have the desire to dine on dog.
Rice planting season is in full swing. I’m told the real joy comes when the start applying fertilizer. Woo Hoo! Something else to look forward to.
Quite a lot of Filipinos in the area. Although contrary to what the sign indicates none were for sale or on the menu…
Discovered this park on my hike around the neighborhood this morning…
And this one. I’ll give the city leaders credit, they’ll put a park up anywhere that is not suitable for rice cultivation.
I’ll keep holding on.
Can you help me remember how to smile? Make it somehow all seem worthwhile How on earth did I get so jaded? Life’s mysteries seem so faded
I took the afternoon off work to go on a quest to find the Good Morning Hospital. My Waze app, despite being in Korean, got me there with no problemo. Finding the parking lot was another story. But eventually I did.
I was without a clue (shuddup!) when I walked in the doors of GMH so I was happy to see the Foreigner information desk.
And the English spoken here was surprisingly good. Noteworthy in fact. So the way it works is you tell these folks why you are there (COPD) and then they walk you over to the appropriate physician and serve as your translator. Well, my main goal was to get some prescription refills and make sure I didn’t have anything else to worry about The pulmonary doc I saw didn’t seem to be all that concerned so either he doesn’t give a shit or I am not in any immediate danger. He did take an x-ray and told me I don’t have pneumonia. So there’s that.
They’ve already given me an affectionate nickname at Good Morning– Jo*. Hell, I’ve been called worse.
Anyway, another nice feature is they fill your prescriptions right there at the hospital. Easy Peazy. Although two of the drugs I requested were not available, so I’ll have to find them on the economy I reckon.
These are the drugs I did bring home from GMH.
Add them into my other daily drugs and I’ve just about reached the pharmacy level.
Anyway, the hospital is about 15 minutes away by car and I’m glad to know where it is in case of emergency.
When I got back to the house there was ANOTHER car parked in my carport. What the hell? I called the number on the windshield and a woman answered. Apparently she was getting her hair done at the salon across the street from my palace. She came running out all apologetic and she was pretty cute for a fortyish gal (meaning hadn’t gone full ajumma). I tried to flirt a little bit, but alas, her English was next to non-existent. And of course with my limited Korean all I could have asked is get me a beer please. By way of explanation she did go to Google translate on her phone which told me that my house had been vacant for a long time and she thought that it still was. Fair enough.
Tomorrow I’ll be driving up to Seoul to attend a couple of three meetings. Will spend the night, take leave on Friday, and come back down to Pyeongtaek for the long Memorial Day weekend.
Had a coughing jag yesterday afternoon. Then I experienced chest pain. Wasn’t sure if I was having a heart attack or if my violent coughing fit had pulled a chest muscle. Seeing as how I have no clue on where the nearest hospital might be and having too much pride to call on one of the few people I know down here, I just said fuck it, I’ll go to bed and see if I wake up alive. I did.
I did check out the local hospital with an international clinic today on the interwebs. It’s named “Good Morning Hospital”. Better than good night I suppose. I’ll get in the car this weekend and find out how to get there. Just to be safe.
Speaking of the car, I came home last night and someone had parked next to me in my carport. Seriously, who does that? I wasn’t in the mood to deal with it, and this morning around 0530 I observed 4 fuckers from the house next door hop my fence and then hop into the car. I didn’t bother confronting them. But I did re-position my vehicle today in such a manner as to take up both spaces. Fuck you motherfuckers!
And then I came upon this short vignette that I expect captures exactly how I will die when the time comes. I’m in no hurry, but maybe tomorrow….
Finished up the first week in Pyeongtaek. Let’s got to the photos for the story.
A view from my office. Yongsan was more of an admin base, hosting the HQ’s of USFK and Eighth Army. Humphreys is a base devoted to war fighters. That runway is home to all kinds of helicopters and some fixed wing aircraft, and they are always in motion it seems. A whole different tempo here..
Another view. That building is the future home to USFK. Being in the ADVON is a bit of a pain in the ass. They are still working out the kinks in our HQ building. Also, no refrigerators or microwaves. Really cramping my bring lunch from home lifestyle. Not to mention making it hard to enjoy cold diet Cokes throughout the day. I’m not one to complain, but…
As busy and noisy as the Army base is, Anjeong-ri is quiet and docile compared to the Itaewon scene. Still have not nailed down my “home” bar, but after a week I’m greeted by name in 3 bars I visit and in two others that know what I’m drinking (light beer). I’ve actually gotten to where I prefer gin and soda but surprisingly none of the bars I’ve found have club soda in stock. It’s freaking bizarre.
The Drunk Bus is not a bar I expect to frequent regularly, but it did remind me of the dive bar atmosphere I enjoyed at the Grand ole Opry back in the ‘twon.
I paid my rent. $37,068 for one year. I don’t expect to be here a year, so by terms of the lease, the remainder will be reimbursed to Uncle Sam.
Some of my Yongsan staff came down to look for housing (most will be moving here at the end of next month). I treated them to some Korean BBQ for lunchee.
I upgraded my phone to the Galaxy S-7 Edge. Not cheap, but half the price of the new Galaxy S-8.
Katchi Kapshida only goes so far I guess…. Doesn’t bother me, I’ll always be the bigger man. Ahem.’
Up early Saturday morning for a hike. Wound up here ten minutes from the house.
History in stone.
Very pretty area though.
Old and new living in relative harmony.
Once I was out of “town” I was walking on some old time country roads…
Your guess is as good as mine.
Saturday afternoon found me at the Osan Air Force base. I took advantage of the Arby’s there.
It’s been awhile and it was good.
I was in the area for a Saturday night dart tourney at Xenis Bar in Songtan…
My old friend Vox is the proprietor. He was getting some hair love. I of course was not. Not that I need it…
Here in Anjeong-ri it is the Spring Festival weekend…
Which means music has been blasting from that stage and into my living room all weekend…
These guys did a decent enough cover of “born to be wild” that I ventured out to get a closer look.
The main street in town was closed to vehicles for the vent…
And as you can see I was having a grand old time…
I did enjoy a nice long walk along a new river today..
Lots of exploring to do yet.
It is certainly no Han.
The bridge what brought me there…
A few folks on bicycles and only one other hiker. Made for a lonely walk…
but there is always time to stop and smell the flowers…
This area is old school farm country…
That bridge is a train trestle. Couldn’t find any other place to cross and given that I was two hours into my hike, I turned around a walked back…
That’s Camp Humphreys on the other side of the river…
It was hot today. I only carried one bottle of water with me, needed two. Or maybe this. Also sunburned my neck. It’s true, I’m definitely a redneck now.
And that’s all I’ve got. Feeling isolated and lonely, but that’s a big improvement over sad and miserable. Progress!
The dryer installation went fine, but when I asked the installer about the washing machine he gave me a look like I could do it myself, gesturing at the two hoses that just needed to be connected to the machine and to the faucets. I shrugged, it seemed simple enough.
Nothing ever is.
Alright, connecting the hoses was easy enough. The faucets didn’t indicate which was hot and which was cold. But what the hell, I’ve got a 50% chance of being right.
Now, since these are “American” appliances they come with 110v cords. Luckily, my house has both types of outlets…
…except when it doesn’t. Those are 220v cleverly disguised behind the 110 v panel. Now what?
Improvisation baby! I happened to have this transformer handy and put it to use.
Another issue was the hose drain was not attached properly so the hose wouldn’t stay in the drain pipe. I put to work some duct tape, but didn’t really expect it to work.
Trying to do a load of whites right now, but something doesn’t seem to be working right. Gonna have to get the landlord out here I suppose.
Right on schedule, my washer and dryer were delivered at 0830. I was told it would be an American combo. Well, LG ain’t American…
…but they are American style.
Once the delivery was completed I headed on in to work for my first day in the new building. Alas, my computer has still not been hooked into the network nor has my phone been activated. Even for a government employee, that makes it hard to get things done. So I took care of some other business. Went to the medical clinic pharmacy for some refills on my inhalers.
Yes, I’m sorry to report that I’m still dealing with my lung issues. It was better for awhile, and still not as bad as it was, but last night I had a pretty tough coughing fit. The inhaler helps, but I’ve found that the nebulizer brings more comfort. Out of juice though and no refills left on my prescription.
Seeing as how I wasn’t going to get much done with no computer/phone, I took some sick leave and went off to find a Korean doctor. I did, and his name is Dr. Kim. Go figure. In the manner of Korean medicine to which I’ve grown accustomed, I was granted all of 3 minutes of face time with the doc. Dr. Kim: Nice to meet you. What’s the problem? Me: COPD. I need a refill on my nebulizer juice. Showed him the prescription. He types into the computer and shows me an inhaler. Nope, got those. I need the liquid to go into my nebulizer machine. Oh, he says. So he gives me a prescription for 3 bottles of juice. The pharmacy only had two in stock, so I took them. Maybe they’ll help, maybe they won’t. But it gives some peace of mind having them if I needed..
Then a man came and installed my new bidet. Woot!
There is some comfort in that and that pleases me.
Then I found a dry cleaner around the corner and dropped off my clothes.
Next the washer/dryer installer came and installed the dryer. He left me to my own devices on the washer. That fiasco is worthy of a post of it’s own. Look for it tomorrow!
I did do laundry. And fired up the grill.
Feels like being back home. Wherever the hell that might be.
Oh, and I met the neighbor across the street.
He didn’t have much to say though…
Finished the evening at IDK bar. I guess I’m achieving regular status there as they all remembered me from Saturday night darts. I told the bartender everyone keeps asking me what “IDK” stands for and I tell them I don’t know. So they said I should ask. What does it stand for? She told me “I don’t know”. I guess no one does.
Ah, and here it is 10:00 p.m. and the sound of Taps is filling the air. They sure do blast it out from the Army base. Must be telling me it is time for bed.
Well, I’m pretty much unpacked and settled into my new place. Waiting for the washer/dryer to be delivered so it’s a good time to recap the weekend.
It’s quiet here. Real quiet. Walking the streets I’m just amazed at how little foot and vehicle traffic there is, even in the “downtown” area of Anjeong-ri. I’m so used to the crowded sidewalks of Seoul I suppose, but sometimes it feels almost deserted here. It’s not unpleasant, just a little disconcerting. I’m sure I’ll get used to it.
I honestly don’t know how some of the businesses remain viable, but from appearances, most have been around awhile. And of course, things are only going to bet better when the rest of 8th Army follows me down here next month. Right now, the most prevalent business seems to be real estate shops catering to USFK personnel.
I did find a nice little Korean restaurant called “Me and You”. It caught my eye because the signage said they served “American-style breakfast”.
And so they did…it was actually quite tasty.
I reckon there to be some 20-odd bars in the immediate area, I’ve probably sampled about half of them so far. One difference from Itaewon is that very few seem to open before 6 p.m. The other difference is most seem to cater to a very young crowd, mostly soldiers. I understand that, given that this area lacks the diversity of foreigners (age, nationality, job type) that you see in the ‘twon. I do miss that and it makes it more difficult to find a bar I’m comfortable hanging out in on a regular basis. It’s early yet, I’ll keep looking!
I did play in the Saturday night dart tourney at a bar called IDK. I don’t know what that stands for. Oh, wait a minute! Anyway, the tourney was small and not so well organized. Most of the players were new to the game and didn’t have much skill or knowledge of the rules. I finished second (my former teammate Craig who lives here now as well) took first. Eh, I wouldn’t call it fun but it was something to do.
What else? Apparently there is a weekend street market here.
Did some shopping at the commissary yesterday. It is half the size of the one in Yongsan so it stands to reason the selection will not be as good. Still, it was disappointing that so many things I’m accustomed to buying are not available here.
As I was leaving my office for the drive I noticed something dripping underneath the front of my car. I dipped my finger in the liquid and it was the color and consistency of transmission fluid. Except it made no sense that it should be dripping from the front end. Maybe it was power steering fluid?
Well, I briefly considered nixing the trip until I could get it checked out. But I had already loaded my work computer and monitors in the back seat. So I figured I’d roll the dice.
I questioned my judgement thirty minutes into the drive when I noticed some unusual surges. But I was on a packed expressway and had no idea where I’d go if I exited. So I continued on. Things seemed to settle down and I cruised along at 100 kph for most of the rest of the way. As I entered Camp Humphreys there was some slippage, but I made it to the new headquarters building without further incident.
Off loaded the computer and figured I’d go to my Star Palace and drop off some stuff I’d carried down for the house. And that’s when my car had had enough. The tranny would barley engage, and my top speed was less than 20 kph and dropping fast. I put the shift into low gear and was able to crawl out the main gate, turn left, and pull into a auto repair shop.
The owner spoke excellent English and advised me he could rebuild the transmission for “500”. That’s about what my 1999 Hyundai is worth, but what are you going to do? He said it might be ready for me tomorrow. Hailed a cab and piled some of my shit in the trunk and back seat and guided him to my new place. I was disappointed that when I announced “Star Palace” as my destination he didn’t have a clue.
Farewell to Seoul, my home for most of these past 12 years. It’s been swell and sometimes hell, but the memories will last a lifetime.
but new adventures await.
Thanks to Shenanigans for the alcohol fueled farewell last night. It was good to see so many familiar faces one last time. I’ll post some photos when I get home.
This morning I’ll check out of the Crown Hotel (okay for less the $50 a night), catch up on some emails at the office, then meet my landlord at my former residence where hopefully some money (in the form of my deposit) will change hands. I left the place cleaner than I found it, that’s for sure.
Back to the office for a pizza and cake event to celebrate the May birthdays on my team, after which I’ll load up my work computer, and head on down the highway for Camp Humphreys.
I created a little excitement in Shenanigans last night. I had been enjoying a couple of gin and sodas and chatting with some dart league friends. I remember standing up and coughing. And then I remember being helped up off the floor spewing blood from my mouth.
I hate when that happens.
And it has happened before. Back in February 2006 I had a black out in Dolce Vita. That earned me an ambulance ride and a bunch of stitches in my forehead. Stupid is as stupid does, eh?
I guess you might say that blacking out and falling down in Itaewon bars is something of a tradition with me. I couldn’t very well leave town without one last fall for old times sake, now could I?
Last night’s tumble went down just like the first two incidents. I stood up, I coughed, blacked out, and went face first into a table. This time I came away with only a split lip, so I’ll consider myself lucky.
And for the record, I was not drunk, nor was I drunk the other two times. The fact that it only seems to occur in bars is purely coincidental. I’m not sure what it is all about, the combination of standing and coughing seems to create a lack of oxygen flow to the brain or something. Hell, I don’t know. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen frequently and it’s always good for a blog post.
As I was being helped up from the floor and regaining consciousness, I was in a dream-like happy place. I didn’t want to leave there. It wasn’t exactly a “walk towards the light” moment, but if that is what dying feels like it won’t be so bad. Of course, there is only one way to find out and I’m really not THAT curious!