About John McCrarey

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.

Walk on!

It’s been quite awhile since I broke the 30,000 step barrier. Had a tough day yesterday and this filled 4 hours in a positive way.

I’m also down to 212.6 pounds, a loss of nearly 14 pounds in 12 days.  Happy about that!  I want to see if I can finally break the 200 pound threshold.  Lowest I got before was 205.

Got to stay strong!

Like the fool I am and I’ll always be
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
They can change their minds but they can’t change me
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
Well, I know I can share it if you want me to
If you’re going my way, I’ll go with you

Moving me down the highway
Rolling me down the highway
Moving ahead so life won’t pass me by
Moving me down the highway
Rolling me down the highway
Moving ahead so life won’t pass me by

Turn the page

 

Waiting to see what happens next!

Ah well, moving forward I suppose.  Regaining my perspective.  

In a different world I’d be writing something exciting from Hong Kong.  In this world you get to hear about me.  

And I’m back in full acceptance mode:

Accept that the past is the past, learn from your mistakes and move on.

Accept that it hurts to lose, but embrace the opportunity to find a woman truly worthy of my love.

Accept that old dreams die, but new dreams and adventures are waiting to be embraced.

I will not deny that I’ve been battling the onset of depression.  But I have not been fighting it alone.  I have often felt like the proverbial solitary man, and then I discovered just how many people actually do care about me.

One friend reminded me that I have a beautiful life.  I asked for an example of the beauty in my life.  And then she told me the story of how I didn’t give my daughter up for adoption.  That really blew me away.  First of all, I don’t even remember ever telling her about that amazing day all those years ago.  Or that she cared enough to actually remember it.  And yes, that decision I made as a 20 year old “man” has made all the difference in my beautiful life.  Thank you, Mi Young.

Two women that have loved me in the past and suffered because of it continually reached out with words of encouragement and support.  I’m a stubborn bastard and tend to have to learn things the hard way, but it means a lot to me that they didn’t give up on me.  Even if I deserve this Karmic justice. Thank you, Eva and Maria.

And I have had many friends who read my blog tell me “Kevin Kim is right.  Listen to him!”  So, thanks for that as well, Kevin.

I considered spending the holiday weekend in Bangkok (it’s too soon for the Philippines right now, but I’ll be celebrating the New Year there).  In the end I just didn’t have the energy to make the journey.  I’m going to spend the time instead getting comfortable with my new reality.  

It’s a beautiful life.  Time to start the next chapter.

Well it’s all right, even if they say you’re wrong
Well it’s all right, sometimes you gotta be strong
Well it’s all right, As long as you got somewhere to lay
Well it’s all right, everyday is Judgment Day

Maybe somewhere down the road aways 
You’ll think of me, wonder where I am these days 
Maybe somewhere down the road when somebody plays 
Purple haze

Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and gray
Well it’s all right, you still got something to say
Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live
Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive

Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please
Well it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line

 

What a week

The week ended like it had begun.

Against the advice of the vast majority of my friends, I stayed in the fight for Loraine’s heart.  She was clearly conflicted and torn between two loves.  We did a three hour video chat Saturday morning, and when we finished Loraine said she wanted to share a life with me.

I was ecstatic and throughout the remainder of the day we exchanged messages about our future plans and she said several times how happy she was.  I even joked about how every Saturday we were in love again but from now on every day would be Saturday. We were going to meet in Hong Kong next week to celebrate our love.

And then late last night she sent me a message.  “I’m sorry, I love Kev more than you” . And then she blocked me on Facebook.

I walked right into that sucker punch again.  And it hurts.  But, at least now I know I did everything in my power to fight for the love I had discovered in my heart.  And I lost the fight.  But at least now I have closure. I wish Loraine and Kev all that they deserve in the future.

I averaged over 20,000 steps each day this week trying to calm my emotions, including a three hour trek to Pyeongtaek this morning.  In the good news department I’ve now lost over 12 pounds in a week.  I don’t recommend the broken heart diet plan however.

This too shall pass.

Best comment ever

Leave it to the esteemed Kevin Kim to see right through my bullshit and slap me in the face with reality:

Well… that’s why I privately suggested someone ugly—or a guy—as your caretaker. If you truly are done with the love thing, then it shouldn’t matter to you whom you hire. If, on the other hand, you really are looking for the potential for romance, then you’ll have to be honest with yourself about that fact and include it as a possibility in whatever writeup you create for your online profile. My intuition is that, if you’re still looking for a good-looking woman to be your caretaker, you want much more than an employee. In terms of breaking the samsaric cycle, I see two ways: (1) be honest that what you’re really looking for is a life-companion who can offer you love along with support, or (2) be true to the idea that you’ve sworn off the love thing, having been hurt too many times—and really stick with that mindset. Either of these paths is better than the one that leads right back to the same pain.

I’m reminded of the hilarious foot-massage dialogue between Jules and Vincent in “Pulp Fiction”: Jules tries to argue that foot massages don’t mean anything, that they’re perfectly innocent, but Vincent traps him by asking, “Would you give a guy a foot massage?” Jules has no argument, so his response is, “Fuck you.” No matter how much we fool ourselves, foot massages mean something every time we give them.

But when I read this:

“Truth is I’m really not ready to engage emotionally with anyone until I’ve worked my way through the betrayal of Loraine.”

—I get the feeling that “emotional engagement” is indeed the thing you’re looking for. For whatever reason, you’re convinced that you can’t hack this life alone, that you need a companion, not merely an assistant. If that’s the case, then you CAN’T stipulate that your next caretaker needs to understand there’s no potential for love/romance because there obviously is. So whatever you’re looking for will not be a strictly employer-employee thing, and whichever woman you finally select will need to know that. The lady might end up being a Machiavellian gold-digger, but she still deserves honesty.

My two scents, said the skunk.

Damn.  I see that I simply replaced one four letter word, “love”, with another, “care”.  Bottom line is I do want to be loved and cared for.  To have that, I’m going to have to risk feeling this way again in the future.  Is it worth it?  I don’t know yet.

Thanks, Kevin.

I’ll think of something

Ah. Bored today at lunch so I found a facebook group called foreigners looking for a Filipina.  What the hell, why not?  So I posted this:

My Filipina just broke my heart. Time for me to move on. I will be retiring to the PI in May 2018 (Olongapo area). Hope to meet someone who wants to take care of me and I will take care of her. Loyalty and honesty are my primary requirements. Anyone interested?

Might have been a mistake.  So far I have 477 “likes” on that post, half as many comments, and over 100 friend requests.  A little scary and reeking of desperation.  Probably should have just stuck to the dating websites.  I’m not about to “friend” a bunch of random strangers on FB.  Still, who knew I could be so popular?

Another day in the process of moving forward.  Truth is I’m really not ready to engage emotionally with anyone until I’ve worked my way through the betrayal of Loraine.  It’s going to take some time I think.  Who can you trust?

I don’t know how I’ll get her off my mind – but give me time
I’ll think of something
I can’t say today that I’m all right – but by tonight
I’ll think of something
I’ll find so many things to do that I wont have the time to think of her
And then if she’s still on my mind I’ll try to drink enough to drown the hurt
And if that don’t work 
I’ll think of something

Stupid man

This will be the final post in the series about the fuck over I received from Loraine.  Yesterday I once again expressed to her all that I felt for her, told her again that she had made the wrong choice, and gave her a final opportunity to change her mind.  Now or never I said.  By her lack of response, she chose never.  I gave her that chance because I didn’t want there to be any doubt about how I felt and where the blame lies. I’ve blocked her on messenger and no longer care to hear whatever she may have to say about us.  And I certainly don’t want to hear her painful entreaties when Kev proves to be the liar I believe him to me.  Heh, they deserve each other in that regard.

It has been a gut-wrenching past few days.  Haven’t completely got my mind around it yet, but I hope I’m grasping the lessons this whole sad affair was meant to teach me.  And it has been amazing to see all the people who have reached out to me with heart felt advice and support.  It really helped me get my mind right and gain some perspective.

Perhaps most impressive was hearing from two Filipina women who have loved me in the past.  I am so thankful that despite the pain I caused them, they still care about me.  I count them among the small handful of friends I maintain in this life.  Here is some of their advice:

Its like you are giving her the power of prolonging the agony if you remember her. Choose to be in control and avoid entertaining memories.

There are many who will gladly accept the pay you gave Loraine. Maybe the next one will be loyal.

Choose to be tough  There it is. An opportunity.

Its not really the person that will make it hard to move on, its more of the memories and the plans you had in the future with her that makes it harder.

John if she had loved you she can not do this to you…she can not hurt you…but she thought she would better with other man then she had to know it…you are a wonderful person and you deserve good things in life…you will be ok…I know that…and this is not a thing u should be devastated about..Goodluck again.. I pray for your welfare.
I’m also going to post some of the advice I got on the Philippines forum when I posted my sad tale there.  I really just want to have all this wisdom in one place where I can refer to it as necessary.
John, that’s a sorry tale but you need to suck it up and move on. Indeed she had a better offer and had to grab it when the opportunity presented itself. Kev was probably in a more desperate state than yourself so again had to pounce or chance losing out. With this experience now behind you there’s every chance you’ll move onto bigger and better things. There’s plenty of good girls in the Pines that are exactly what you are looking for so don’t be discouraged. Get back out there and let love take care of itself. 
***
 It also shows you her resolve was shaky at best which is a good thing.  Maybe in due time, the shine of the golden promises of her newfound lover will slowly reveal its leaded core, and she will be crying back to you again.  I would just bite the bullet, delete all contacts, ignore and move on…. That would be the fastest way to get over her.  But easier said than done, most of of us would probably be in same shoes.  Why not look for a younger model, at most 30-40 yo, that’s what I would do.  
***
I would give shit to a promise of a guy she knows since short to marry her and to take her to the UK. Must be either a looser or someone just getting into her panties with empty promises. Move on mate. Shes in for the money only. 
***
Followed your story with interest, brother–and while I feel for you, can’t say I’m too surprised by the outcome. 
I’m experiencing this deep truth on a daily basis myself: things rarely turn out as planned with Filipinas. In their struggle for survival–and generating support for their offspring and family–whatever loyalty they feel to some foreigner readily tends to switch over to a higher bidder.
Actually you got off easy, brother–after giving in to a classic piece of emotional blackmail. It’s Kev I’m worried about! 
Once the new-relationship energy between Kev and this mature has dissipated–and once Kev’s triumph over winning her over against stiff competition has worn off–the true cost of his extravagant promises is likely to hit home, and the whole marriage-and-adoption scheme will fall apart.
Totally predictable what will happen at this point: she’ll come crawling back to you, beg for forgiveness, and swear everlasting devotion–while, of course, keeping up her search for someone more optimal on dating sites. 
The only question I have: will you take her back? 
***

The next girl you crush on could be anything.  Maybe prettier.  Or funnier.  Or sweeter.  Or whatever you like. It’s a world of possibility and acceptance isn’t about making excuses for her.  It isn’t about trying to understand her so that you can understand, and gain control over, the future relationship. Acceptance is about accepting that this is how life is and embracing the positive aspect of it, which is that you have a beautiful adventure ahead of you, starting today.

The assumption here that Kev is gonna follow through with his promises. Knowing how that works, it is less than 50/50. I am worried about John actually getting back with Lorraine after Kev ditches her under some false pretext.  What do these girls know that we don’t know or refuse to understand. They know we are vulnerable after a certain age and we long for company which we don’t get in places where we live. Once they know you are hooked on, you are done. I am glad that John escaped relatively unscathed.      ***

She was playing you. If it were true love, she never would have allowed this Kev guy into her life. It is actually worse than that. She actively searched for Kev. Count yourself lucky. Now, go get yourself a younger model.                                                                     ***

And finally, this from commenter Kevin Kim on my previous post:

The Hindu concept of life is that it’s a painful wheel of existence called samsara.We’re chained to this repetitive, revolving wheel through our actions (karma). The object of the game is to gain enough wisdom about the nature of things so as to escape an eternity of repeating the wheel of life-events, again and again, all thanks to our accidental or deliberate unwisdom. Good luck as you examine deep causes and do your best to find liberation from the wheel (moksha) and bliss in your life (ananda). Every day is a new chance to walk a different path!

I will walk a new path.  Hopefully it will not lead me to more stupidity.

(with apologies to Neil Young)

You’re just a stupid man
You really got a lot to learn
To start living again
Forget about remembering
You’re such a stupid man.

You’re such a beautiful fish
Floppin’ on the summer sand
Lookin’ for the wave you missed
When another one is close at hand
You’re such a stupid man

 

 

Aftermath

Still reeling, but better today than yesterday and hopefully not as good as tomorrow.  Had a long walk yesterday afternoon, drank too many beers, then had a mostly decent sleep.  23,000 more steps today (so far). Still have no appetite, but I’m down 8 pounds since Sunday, so I will take that result.

I’ve really been touched by people reaching out to me through email and private messages to offer comfort and advice.  Most of which is to move on, telling me I can do better.   I have no choice but to move on and perhaps one day I will find an honest and loyal woman to share my life.  That’s really the most important thing, having someone I can depend on.  Loraine’s betrayal was especially devastating because it proved that I am a much poorer judge of character than I thought I was.  Who can you trust if you can’t trust yourself?

I appreciate the comments here on the blog.  I also posted my story on a Philippines expat forum and have gotten quite a lot of feedback.  Most of them saying to forget Loraine and find someone younger and kinder.  Many of them are very critical of her and her actions towards me.  And quite a few share my opinion that Kev will not follow through on his promises.  They expect Karma will exact its toll on Loraine and when she realizes her mistake she’ll want me to take her back.  I’ve been urged to not even consider doing so.  If she came to me right now I probably would.  If she waits until Kev is gone, I would not.  I don’t expect her to be back.

I actually miss Loraine very much.  The morning greeting and chats throughout the day were something I guess I had taken for granted.  Shame on me.  I do love her and wish her no ill will.  I don’t think Kev was the right choice, but I hope I’m wrong about his true intentions.  

So, in the moving on department.  I’m going to go back to the Filipina Cupid dating site, update my profile and begin my search for a new tour guide/caregiver.  I plan to celebrate the New Year in the PI and would prefer not to do it alone.  Yeah, I could rent a girl from a bar I suppose, but that is really not my thing.  We’ll see.

I had met a Filipina-American named Joy who works on base a couple of weeks ago.  Just friends at the bar, but we had planned on having dinner last Sunday (before Loraine became my girlfriend for a day).  Obviously, that date didn’t happen.  But Joy has been sending an occasional message during the day to check on how I’m doing.  I appreciate that she cares enough to do that.  So I’m thinking maybe when I get back on my feet I will see if I can get some Joy in my life.

It’s a start.

FUCK ME!

Walking my blues away. It didn’t work yesterday. I’ll try again today.

In my long and storied history of failed love relationships, none were shorter than the one with Loraine, which lasted all of about 24 hours.

On Saturday we had chatted and expressed our excitement with our new boyfriend/girlfriend status.  We exchanged some email, the last of which from Loraine stated:

My dearest John.I am very happy and yes.We need to be strong and face the challenges to keep our relationship work and keep the love more stronger. I Love You more John.

And then on Sunday she disappeared again.  I feared the worst, that she was back with Kev.  I frantically sent her messages and tried to call her, all to no avail.  Finally, after several hours she sent me a photo and said she was at the mall.  With who? I asked.  She said she was alone, then disappeared again.  A couple of hours later she claimed to still be at the mall.  I asked her if she was committed to me, and she replied “to you, and you only”.  Finally she sent a message late that night saying she was going home and for me to get some rest.  She still would not answer my calls or messages.  So, I knew in my heart what she had done.
I didn’t hear from her again until lunchtime today.  I had sent a ton of messages and all but begged her to respond.  She finally did and my worst fears were confirmed.  Yes, she was with Kev.  He promised to marry her, adopt her daughter, and move them to the UK.  So, it was over with me.
I’m still reeling.  I guess I could understand and accept that she felt like she had a better opportunity.  But the lies and deceit were like twisting the knife in my shattered heart.  I’m actually devastated and not sure what to do next.  Well, nothing I can do be start trying to get over it.
When we first got together as GF/BF she told me it was an answer to her prayers.  I guess the Lord truly does work in mysterious ways.  I couldn’t sleep last night and I prayed for wisdom and comfort (I never pray except when I know I’m in deep trouble spiritually and emotionally).  So I’m taking comfort in knowing that I found out how little my love for her meant sooner rather than later.  I wasted 7 years on the last wife.
My acceptance philosophy is overwhelmed right now.  God help me.

The lonely and barren road to future. Whatever that may be.

Let her go

In the beginning.  New Year’s Eve 2016.

I’ve written about my caregiver Loraine here before, I guess most recently in a post called “Paying it Forward”. A woman I truly admire and respect.

Unfortunately, I had to let her go.

When I first employed Loraine I made it clear that I was never going to love again.  If she was looking for love she needed to keep on looking.  She told me that her family was all the love she needed and she wanted the job.  And so I prepared a formal employment contract and the deal was done.

Frankly, it was wonderful having her as my tour guide and caregiver on my recent journeys to the PI.  I paid to send her to massage therapy school and she is currently enrolled in a caregiver certification course.  She seems to be doing well with her studies and is happy for the opportunity.  And I was looking forward to a future where I could benefit from that training.

When I’m not in the Philippines Loraine has provided care and comfort by keeping track of my blood pressure readings, sending me health tips she finds on the internet, greeting me in the morning and sending me messages during the day and evening to let me know someone is this great big world was thinking of me.

And then earlier this month on our visit to Boracay (a trip I made specifically to celebrate her birthday) she kept getting text messages from a guy in the UK named Kev.  She insisted there were just chat friends, but I suspected otherwise.

And sure enough, I noted that my contact with Loraine had diminished quite a bit.  I suspected something was going on, and those suspicions were confirmed when I discovered her “chat buddy” was in the Philippines to visit her.

Loraine told me that she needed love in her life and I could never give her that.  She wanted to take the opportunity to explore those feelings with Kev.  And then she proceeded to accuse me of having sexual relations with many women in Korea.  Ha! In my dreams!  Regular readers know just how empty and pathetic my life here is.

Well, her actions as described above violated the terms of her employment contract, although to be fair, seeing another man was not specifically included, but it was implied.  So, I had no choice but to terminate her employment.

And I’ll be damned.  Making that decision was very painful.  It made me face the fact that despite all my brave talk, I did in fact really care for her on an emotional level.  I had taken much comfort in thinking I would have her with me when I make my big move to the PI next year.  The prospect of losing her hurt me in the same way that losing a love does.  I don’t know how that can be when you have vowed to never love again, but there it was hitting me square between the eyes.  Whatever you call it, being emotionally attached to someone makes you vulnerable and subject to heartbreak.  I guess I’m just going to have to suck it up and face that fact.

So, I had a long talk with Loraine to let her know how I felt.  And then I fired her.

In other news, I have a new girlfriend.  Her name is Loraine.

Well you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missing home
Only know you love her when you let her go
And you let her go

A little bit of Seoul

I had a couple of meetings up in Seoul on Friday afternoon, so I drove in the morning and then booked a room and spent Friday night in Itaewon.  Had lunch with my senior Korean labor adviser and introduced her to American-style BBQ at Linus’.  She said she’ll be back.  The meetings went well enough then I picked up a few things at the PX and called it a day.  Here’s what happened after work.

A new edition since my last visit to Itaewon. There was no comforting her though, she just sat there in stony silence…

…but I had bigger fish to fry. Actually, I failed to get nekkid this trip, but I was on my way…

….to tackle that mountain named Nam.

Now, I didn’t realize just how flat Pyeongtaek is compared to Seoul. I was winded before I even made it to the beginning of the stairs. I seriously considered wimping out, but then I said “fuck it, go for it! What’s the worse that could happen?” Half way up it occurred to me that a heart attack was perhaps the answer to that question.

getting closer…

Looking to the south….

Looking north on the upward trek…

The city wall…

Namsan put an ass whipping on me…

But I reached the top and made the tower my bitch

Going down with the sun.

A pause at the Philippine embassy…

That was a lot of hard walking….

I rewarded myself with a nice evening at Shenanigans with the nephew. I didn’t get asked to buy a lady drink once. Go figure.

Back home in Pyeongtaek where the choices are much more limited….

But I can accept that. Peace out!

Buy me a drink!

My favorite bartender quit her job this week.  She was good at what she did but was not really cut out for the work, or at least not the way bars seem to operate here in Anjeong-ri.  She shared with me some of the frustrations she encountered in the biz and while I was not surprised it was still disappointing.  Here’s the lowdown:

Way back in 2009 I wrote about juicy bars and prostitution.  My experience was pretty much limited to what I had seen in Itaewon.  This burg is a whole other animal.  A juicy bar is a joint where the girls work for drinks.  It’s usually a lounge type bar where you sit with the girl and chat while she downs W10,000 drinks.  And that was about the only reason you’d have to visit such a venue.  By the time I left Itaewon there were only a handful of this type bar left.  Most of the bars were regular pub type establishments with pool and darts and food and regulars just hanging out (like Shenanigans for example).  You could buy the bar staff a drink if you wanted (and they felt like drinking) but it was always customer price.

So I was somewhat taken aback when I first explored the Anjeong-ri bar scene.  I’d go into what appeared to a regular pub and get hit up for a lady drink.  Now, I don’t mind buying the occasional drink for a hard working girl, but I really hate being asked.  As time went on I discovered that virtually ALL of the bars here operate on the “juicy” principle (girl gets a W10,000 drink, and her share is W5,000).  These aren’t regular drinks either, they are watered down versions or alcohol-free juice. It really gets tiresome being pestered for drinks by the staff, so I’ve tried to find places where they will at least leave me alone until I offer.  My friend the (former) bartender was one of those.

After quitting, she explained to me the horrendous pressure the bar owners put on them to hustle drinks.  It begins with paying a ridiculously low salary so the girls will feel compelled to supplement their income with lady drinks.  Now, I enjoyed my friend’s company, so I’d normally buy her a drink with every one of mine (which gets expensive real quick, no idea how these young soldiers I see buying lady drinks can afford it).  She told me about a customer we both like who never buys a lady drink.  The owner would get mad if she talked to him, saying he should be ignored until he bought I drink.  I said, well you know, the owner wants you to talk to other customers who will hopefully buy you a drink.  She told me no, even when the bar is empty I’m not supposed to chat with someone not buying drinks.

Well, that’s fucked up.  And it made me recall a bar I visited before I understood “the system” here.  I mean, I’m used to ordering up a beer and having some small talk with the bartender (provided she’s not busy).  But this one just moved down to the far end of the bar and sat there.  I was thinking what the hell did I do to piss her off?  Now I know.  Another bartender I like asked me one night to rate her as a bartender.  I told her I thought she was a solid “8” (great personality, good conversation, just not that cute).  I asked her why she wanted to know and she said the owner told her she was just a “2” because customers don’t buy her enough lady drinks.

Oh, and the bars hire these undocumented Filipinas and pay them even less than the Korean staff.  This is not only unfair and exploitative,  it forces these girls to be even more aggressive in pursuit of lady drinks.

Damn, obviously I’m spending too much time in the bars.  But at this rate there won’t be many bars left that I can countenance to patronize.  I’m actually down to three now.  And yes, the girls in those bars also work for drinks, but they have the good sense not to pester me for one.  They get their share out of me (especially when I’m drunk) but they at least create the illusion that it is not expected.

I would love to open a bar here and run it the right way.  Ain’t gonna happen of course because I hate the idea of running a bar.  But the bar scene here needs a kick in the ass, that’s for sure.

I don’t know

While I was in the Philippines I received a message from a Filipina I know that used to work in a bar I sometimes frequented.  I Don’t Know the name (ahem).  Anyway, she quit at the end of September and got engaged to some lucky guy.  Apparently, the bar owner was not happy with her leaving and decided to punish her by not giving her the salary she had earned.  Was there anything I could do?

I suggested she contact the ROK Ministry of Employment and Labor whom I would surmise take a dim view of a business owner treating an employee like a slave.  She told me she couldn’t do that because she was working without a visa.  But of course.

Well, that kind of exploitation really pisses me off.  I promised her I’d see what I could do when I returned.  What we have is a bar that hires undocumented workers knowing they have no recourse for whatever abuse they may dish out.  But not paying someone for work performed is completely over the top.  So, USFK has strict rules regarding prostitution and human trafficking.  Bars that violate those rules are subject to being placed off limits to USFK personnel (soldiers, civilians, and contractors).  That’s the kiss of death for any bar that is placed off limits because that’s the entire customer base in Anjeong-ri.

I know of no prostitution in the bar I Don’t Know the name of.  But as I reviewed USFK’s definition of what constitutes human trafficking, one example was refusing to pay an employee for time worked.  I thought I could make the case to the Provost Marshal should I be compelled to file a formal complaint.

I didn’t want to do that if I didn’t have to.  It’s the nuclear option and I figured it would make me persona non grata with the local bar association.  So I reached out to a couple of friends that know this bar owner and asked them to intercede and try to convince said owner to do the right thing.  I also asked them to convey to her that if she failed to pay what was rightly due to the former employee I was prepared to raise the issue with USFK.  I said I was moving forward if she wasn’t paid by Monday.

Apparently that created a bit of a shit storm, but today my Filipina acquaintance advised the bar owner said she would pay her tomorrow.  Mission accomplished!  She also told me the bar owner wants me to come to the bar and apologize to her!  What the fuck?  Obviously that ain’t happening and I have no intention of ever patronizing that bar again.  I Don’t Know why I would.  Except for the darts.  Oh well, I’ll take the game up again after my move to the PI.

Well, it’s Sunday so I reckon y’all are expecting to see some photos of my glorious weekend.  Here you go:

That was me living life on the edge in the Philippines.

That’s me drunk.

That’s me sober.

That’s what an autumn day looks like here in the countryside…

That plant is known as “the answer” or so I surmised when I observed it blowing in the wind. Ahem.

That’s one big ass spider!

That’s my Sunday dinner…

And that’s me at 25 and totally clueless. Now that I think about it, not much has changed.

And there you have it.  How about some Hunter S. Thompson for dessert?

What he said.

Serving a purpose

Back in February 2008 I wrote about my friend and soulmate on the anniversary of her death in a post entitled “Remembering Linda Ketner”.  She was an amazing woman and I still miss her very much.

So it was a great surprise when I received this email:

Hi John.  I read your article about my grandmother today.  My wife had searched our last name and found it. I appreciate everything that you had to say.  I’m 25 now and it is getting hard for me to remember her.  Reading through your letter brought a little clarity as to who she was.  I hope to hear back from you.  

Linda and her grandson. Sorry the quality of the photo sucks.  It’s the only one I have.

There is really not a lot more I can say about Linda beyond what I wrote all those years ago.  I’m not a religious man and I have no belief in a Biblical afterlife.  But still, hearing from her grandson brought forth an avalanche of memories and emotions.  And I guess we all live on as long as there is someone on earth who remembers us.

I couldn’t help but wonder what Linda would have to say about my life today.  She was always my touchstone that got me back on track when when I was recklessly leading myself astray.  She always called me “John-boy” (I guess being a couple of years older gave her the right).  She was never judgmental, but was quick to point out the flaws in my logic, especially in matters of the heart.  I could use her wisdom now more than ever.

Dear Linda, it seems I’ve fucked up yet again.  I’m not sure where to go or what to do next.  Any ideas? John

Dear John-boy, give yourself a break.  Yes, things didn’t turn out the way you wanted, but there will be other things and new adventures.  Never give up and never stop believing in yourself.  Take comfort in acceptance and don’t worry so much about the things you cannot change.  And always remember that I love you. Linda

That last day we shared while she lay dying in the hospice, Linda squeezed my hand and said emphatically “this is not goodbye!”. I guess maybe she was right about that after all.

Thank you Linda, and thanks to your grandson for reminding me to remember all you tried to teach me.

 

Acceptance

My week in the Philippines allowed me to practice patience by accepting the fact that much there is not as it could or should be.  If you cannot accept that simple truth, you will be very unhappy living in “paradise”.  I’m still a work in progress in that regard, but I am getting better at “taking a deep breath, relaxing, and accepting the Filipino way”.

One afternoon as I sat drinking ice cold San Miguel Light beers beach side, it occurred to me that the concept of acceptance might have some applicability to what remains of my life here in Korea.  Accepting that things are not always as I would desire them to be doesn’t make my “problems” go away, but it allows at least some additional perspective that in the grand scheme of things those problems are relatively meaningless.  Certainly being in a poverty ridden third world country underscores that point.

I am not so naïve as to think that acceptance will equate to happiness, but I’d certainly settle for a little peace of mind.  Practically speaking, here’s how I see the concept of acceptance working:

  1. Accept that the past is the past.  There’s no going back, there’s no fixing it, there’s nothing to be gained by feeling sad about what is lost.  It’s gone, let it be.
  2.  Accept that negative thinking doesn’t make things better.  I spend a lot of time in my head pondering about what I don’t have, lamenting my solitary existence, wishing for something better.  It’s pointless.  Instead I want to focus my attention outwards, helping others where I can, and taking satisfaction in my existence making a positive difference for those I am able to touch.  That’s certainly my post-retirement plan, perhaps I can get a head start now.
  3.  Accept that future plans are fraught with potential disappointment.  Instead, I’ll keep an open mind to whatever may lie ahead in life, while endeavoring to live in the moment.  As the old saying goes, “today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday”.  I’m going to seek to be satisfied with each day as it comes, knowing that a bad day will give way to a new day.

So, that’s the idea.  It’s in the early stages of implementation, but already I’ve noted that I can repel the sadness (more or less) by simply uttering “acceptance!”  People probably think I’m crazy when I do, but I can accept that.

Home again

And I learned some things along the way.

Plane landed wheels down at 1730 in Incheon.  A 747 and it appeared every seat was full.  I was relatively close to the front (row 37) so hustled on down to beat the crowd to the immigration queue.  Success!

Had to wait for my bag about 10 minutes, but I’m not one to complain.  Much.  Anyway, I was undecided about how best to get home.  I went out to the Airport Limo ticket stand and asked about the next bus to Pyeongtaek.  It left at 1900, and my watch said 5 minutes past 6.  Fuck that I said to myself (hopefully I didn’t say it out loud!).  So I made my way to the airport railroad.  I reckoned on taking the “all stops” line, figuring to get off at Yongsan station and catch the train home.  Well, once I was on board the AREX slow train I looked at the map and saw the fucker didn’t stop at Yongsan.  Every other goddamn burg along the way, but no Yongsan.

So, I got off at the stop prior to Seoul station and caught the subway over to Yongsan (2 stops).  I arrived at 19:30 and the Pyeongtaek train departed at 19:50.  So the timing was good.  In retrospect, I’d been better off taking the express AREX to Seoul station and cabbing or subway to Yongsan from there.  Might have saved me 30 minutes.  Not sure if there was an earlier train to Pyeongtaek, so maybe it didn’t matter.

Anyway, I got back home a few minutes after 9.  I probably beat the Airport Limo bus, but not by much.

Traveling is such a pain in the ass.  Can’t wait to do it again!

Bowed but not beaten!

And tomorrow I’ll blog about my new attitude.  Now it is off to bed.

Boracay adventure–finale

Kinda got settled into the drunken laid back beach lifestyle and couldn’t be fucked to post here.  In Manila now and will head out to the airport in an hour.  Let’s ketchup!

This is where I stayed. As mentioned previously, a bit inconvenient in that it is at the end of the beach with no road access. I guess you might call it a “boutique” hotel, small and older but not without its charms.

Probably the best thing going for it was the friendly staff. Everyone I encountered was smiling and helpful.

Now, getting up to the room could be a bit of challenge, especially on those nights when I had a bit too much to drink (that would be all of them). Narrow and twisting stairway from the lobby…

….leading to a second flight of stairs…

….and finally to the balcony in front of the room.

Sailboats on the beach….

I got a kick out of this dog. He held that plastic bottle in his mouth like it was the best chew toy ever. I’m really hoping to own a German Shepherd once I make the move.

Doggone.

A breakfast view…

A view of breakfast…

Speaking of food, it was generally a disappointment. Subic Bay has a lot more choices and higher quality preparation in my experience. This pulled pork sandwich was pretty nice though…

Unlike Subic, Boracay has a lot of franchise chain outlets. Hadn’t seen a Johnny Rockets since I left NOVA in 2005. Had to give it a try of course and the double meat burger I ordered was quite tasty.

Sunday was my last night in Boracay and so I spent it on the beach. Where else would I go?

Made it back to the airport with a minimum of trouble and in less than an hour.

The view from the very small terminal was quite pleasant.

Back in Manila and I needed to get some walking in. Hoofed it over to the Mall of Asia. Huge it is!

Christmas season is in full swing here. Crazy!

In a land of beautiful brown skinned people I was quite shocked to discover this outlet in the mall….turns out it is an inappropriately named restaurant.

After the mall I paid a visit to the EDSA entertainment complex. The entertainment being a group of several bars featuring dancing girls and overpriced drinks. This blonde didn’t have much to say, but she was friendlier than most of the gals I’ve met lately…

And now I’ll begin the journey back home.  But before I go I will share this nugget the daughter sent me:

Ha! She inherited her father’s sense of humor!

 

Boracay adventure Day 2

Take a deep breath, relax, and accept the Filipino way.  Repeat as necessary.

I said that a lot on the way to Boracay.

The one hour Cebu Pacific flight from Manila to Caticaylan airport went without a hitch. Getting from that small airport to Boracay requires transport to the ferry depot, a short ferry ride to Boracay island, and then transport to your hotel.  During the flight it was announced that Cebu Pacific was now offering a package that would take you from the airport direct to your hotel all for just 550 pesos ($11).  Well, that seemed like a good deal just for the convenience factor so I ponied up the money.

So we land and deplane onto waiting buses.  Not unusual for small airports with no jet ways.  What I had never experienced before was having the bus exit the airport, drive through some small villages, and arriving at a small terminal 15 minutes later.  Well, I call it a terminal, it just seemed to be a room for bag claim.  Anyway, retrieved my luggage and walked outside where I was besieged by touts offering transportation.  I said no, I’ve already bought a ride from Cebu Pacific.  It took me awhile to figure out that Southwestern Tours was the contractor for this service.  Someone eventually pointed to a waiting van across the street.  The van driver told me I had to go this nearby window to get my ticket.  The ticket I got on the plane was just a voucher for the real ticket.  And so began the ordeal.

I was only second in line, but damn, you wouldn’t believe the paperwork.  I had to fill out a form, then receipts were printed, taxes (a 75 peso “environment” tax) collected, and so on.  I was then handed a stack of paper to carry with me and directed to board the van with about 20 other travelers.   We drove through some fairly heavy traffic for such a small village, but arrived at the ferry in due course.  Where we stood in line to go through security, including x-rays of the baggage.  Then we stood in another line where some of the paper I had been issued was collected.  We were then directed to the line for the ferry entrance, where more paper was taken from my stack.  There were lots of ferries to choose from, but I eventually found the Southwestern Tours boat.  I boarded and waited.  And waited.

Once we were full-up we made the quick trip (maybe 10 minutes) across the water and finally arrived at Boracay island.  Where we waited some more for a van to take us to our hotel.  I guess we had ten people in our van, and of course my hotel was the last one on the list.  Worse than that, it was just shy of total gridlock the entire way.  Who knew there could be so much traffic on such a small island?

Two hours later (no shit, two hours from the airport to my hotel, a total distance that couldn’t be more than 15 kms or so) I arrived.  Sort of.  My hotel is at the far end of the beach and the road doesn’t go that far.  Seriously, it was a two block walk through the sand to get to the hotel.

I repeated my mantra like a Catholic praying to Mary for most of the ride.  Welcome to the Philippines!

So, that was the bad part.  So far, Boracay has been pretty nice otherwise.  Just some quick geography before we go to the pictures.  Boracay is divided into three stations. The ferry arrives at Station 3, most of the tourist resorts are in Station 2, and my hotel is at the far end of Station 1.  At first I was distressed at being so far from the “action” but after witnessing that action, I’m very pleased to be on the relatively quiet end of the island.

The ferry port, Station 3 Boracay island.

The view from my hotel..the Aritista. Not bad, eh?

The beach at Station 3 Boracay. My hotel is at the end of the beach…

The Station 3 water view…

The Spider House. Had dinner here the first night. Interesting set of stairs to get up there and really cool ambiance and views. Food was mediocre and the service was worse than terrible.

Sunset on the water…

And the harvest moon…

The water is crystal clear here. Puts Subic to shame in that regard.

Took a goodly long walk yesterday (22,000 steps all told). Most of it was on the beach, but this was part of the trail as well. Would not walk it at night or after drinking though…

Who says there are no virgins in the Philippines?

Lots of beachside bars like this…

Beautiful places, smiling faces…

I’ve only tried muff diving…

Station 2 beach scene. Now you can see why I’m glad to be in Station 1. I’d say 85% of the tourists here are Korean and Chinese.

Lots of Hanguel signage and Korean food. And to a lesser degree, Chinese as well. Clearly catering to their tourist base.

Lots of diving places back in Station 3.

This is the National Highway that runs the length of the island. The only highway apparently. Very narrow two lane. And as I mentioned, it often results in gridlock. I walked back to the hotel this way and it was not pleasant. I’ll stick to the beach from here on out.
This is also why I’m unlikely to ever return here. Lots of new hotels under construction but no work on the supporting infrastructure. What is bad now is only going to get worse.

Last night I helped my tour guide/caregiver Loraine celebrate her 50th birthday…

A restaurant I will NOT be trying. What next, a building named Trump?

And that pretty much captures the highlights of Day 2.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

Boracay adventure Day 1

Greetings from the Philippines!

Getting here was half the fun.  Well, less than that.

The bus I rode from Anjeong-ri. It arrived 10 minutes late and not at the stop I had been advised to catch it. Actually, after waiting awhile I decided to go catch a cab to Pyeongtaek. While heading to the taxi stand I found the correct bus stop. Lucky me!

It was a little disconcerting being the only passenger for the first part of the trip.  We were taking narrow backroads through rice paddies and I’m thinking it’s gonna be a long ride to Incheon.  As you can see, the bus I rode indicated it made stops in Songtan and Osan before going to the airport.  Nope.  We stopped at a bus terminal in Ansung and picked up a handful of passengers.  Drove past some random roadside stops where no one was waiting, stopped at another bus terminal in Suwon (I think), more backroads, then a highway with bumper-to-bumper traffic for awhile.  All told, it took just over three hours to make the airport.  Interesting ride but one I have no intention of ever taking again.

Still, I had three hours more to kill before my flight was scheduled to depart.  That’s fine, I much prefer being early than late.  I had checked in via the internet, so there was no waiting when I dropped my bag.  Sailed through security and immigration.  The terminal was packed with holiday travelers, which kind of surprised me.  I figured most folks would have departed earlier in the week.  Ah well, it made it a pain in the ass to get my walking in, but I managed.

Plane boarded 30 minutes late.  Apparently they didn’t have enough ground crew scheduled on Chuesok to get the job done.  Almost all the flights seemed to be getting out late for that reason.  Despite departing late, we arrived in Manila right on time. Good job Korean Air!

Well, our Boeing 777 was fully loaded and I was near the back of the plane, so…

…this is what I encountered at immigration. Must have been more than our flight arriving at the same time. 45 minutes to get through, but I expected it would be much worse than that.

Baggage claim was a bit of a fiasco.  Because everyone was stuck at immigration, the belt was jammed with bags and golf clubs to the extent that new bags could not exit the conveyor belt until passengers retrieved bags to make room.  Alas, my bag was not one of those already on the belt.  15 more minutes and I was able to walk through customs without an issue.

Met my tour guide/caregiver and she suggested we catch a “grab” cab (similar to Uber) because the airport taxis wanted 600 pesos for the short ride to the airport hotel.  So, we went to find a Grab and that fucker wanted 500 pesos for the two mile trip.  A legit metered taxi might be all of 200 pesos.  It was late and I was tired, and really the difference amounts to 6 bucks, so why argue.  I hate being ripped off, but when in the Philippines…

Hotel was clean and comfortable and convenient, except for the internet password which is like a VIN number for an automobile.

So, that makes three times so far I’ve used my mantra “deep breath, relax, and accept the Filipino way.”

Quick walk around the poverty stricken neighborhood after breakfast.  Lots of destitute people eking out a living, filthy homeless children sleeping on the streets, desperation filling the air, but that is the life here.

Oddly enough, I’m already feeling much better.  Not sure if I’m just in vacation mode or if being out of Anjeong-ri has helped clear my mind of self-pity.  Certainly being reminded of just how fucking lucky I am may be part of it.  And here’s the thing–I can make a difference here.  I’m ready to get started.

Flying on to Boracay in a couple of hours.  More to follow.

Expecting to fly

Happy Chuesok to those of you who celebrate Korean holidays.

If everything goes according to plan I’ll be on an airplane to the Philippines tonight. Getting to Incheon from Pyeongtaek ain’t nearly as convenient as it is from Seoul. Basically my options are to take a cab or city bus to Pyeongtaek station, grab the train to Yongsan station, then transfer to the slow airport train (or cab or subway to Seoul station to catch the express).  Alternatively, I can catch the airport bus here in Anjeong-ri and ride it on in to Incheon.  I’m going with the bus.

I don’t arrive in Manila until 11:00 p.m., so I will overnight there and then catch an afternoon plane to Boracay island.  First time I’ve every visited there.  From what I read it is pretty much a touristy beach area.  Considering my difficulty in securing a hotel room I’m assuming it is a popular spot for Koreans on this long holiday period.  I should feel right at home.

It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling of late.  I’m hoping this vacation will help me get my head on straight so I can man up and stop being such a pathetic whiner.  You know, that whole changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes thing.

Stay tuned.

Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places I’ve been.
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again.
If it suddenly ended tomorrow,
I could somehow adjust to the fall.
Good times and riches and son of a bitches,
I’ve seen more than I can recall

These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes,
Nothing remains quite the same.
Through all of the islands and all of the highlands,
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane

Should I stay or should I go?

Came across this site in a wooded area on yesterday’s hike. Thankfully, civilians are not allowed. Unless I wasn’t supposed to take the picture.

It should come as no surprise that I’m not particularly happy with my life here, so why stay?  As commenter Brian pointed out, you can’t add time to the back end of your retirement.  Well, here’s my thinking on the subject.  Although my thinking is subject to change.

To begin, technically I’m still retired since I’m drawing my full pension.  In the parlance of Uncle Sam, I’m a re-employed annuitant.  So one way to look at it is that I’ve taken up a forty hour per week hobby with some pretty lucrative benefits.

When I originally left government service on December 31, 2010 I had a plan and most importantly, someone to share my planned life with.  Initially I was kept engaged with seeing my parents off on their voyage to the afterlife, then dealing with matters of their passing as the executor of the estate.  I also had to set up residence for myself and Jee Yeun, finding a house and having it remodeled, and furnishing said house.  There were the kids and grandkids to spend time with, dart leagues to found and run, and some travel to enjoy as well.  And with the six months there, six months in Korea routine it kept things from getting stale.  Which is not to say it was never boring, but it was a comfortable life that I expected I would live until the end of my days.

Then one day it was all gone.  A betrayal I’ll never fully understand or completely recover from.   Well, life goes on (until it doesn’t) and having a job and what passes as a social life with my work family gave me some meaning and purpose.  I’m not sure I would have made it otherwise.

Now I find myself back in the job I left when I retired and living in lovely Pyeongtaek.  I had planned to re-retire prior to the the move, but was convinced to stay through the transition to Camp Humphreys.  My employees (bless their hearts) think I’m the greatest boss ever and don’t want me leave.  I seem to be respected and appreciated by the command leadership and that feels good.  And not to brag, but my organization has really stepped up and filled some voids.  We have a “can do” reputation and I’m very proud of all that my team has accomplished.  Which is a long way of saying I do derive a lot of satisfaction from my working life and it is not really a burden to show up each day and do what (little) I do.

Well, all things must pass and I have told my people that I will not stay beyond May. Nothing real magical about that day, other than it is when the lease expires on this big ass house I’m living in (for free).  And in reality, I can leave anytime between now and then (with a 30 day notice to the landlord) if I decide circumstances warrant bailing out.

And there’s the rub.  There is nothing wrong with my life here.  Other than the fact that I’m unhappy with it.  I’m bored, lonely, and far too often, drunk.  That lifestyle is unsustainable.  But I know that until I figure out how to transform myself, those symptoms will likely continue wherever I am living.

What to do, what to do?  A girlfriend would be nice except that a) I’m incapable of love and b) I don’t want to get roped into a relationship that is doomed to end in just a few short months.  So I’m going to have find a way to deal with the boredom and loneliness on my own.  And preferably without the alcohol crutch.  I’m floundering some now, but I’m confident I’ll find my way out.

Does it get any better than this? I sure as hell hope so!

So looking ahead to my new life in the Philippines, what will I do to keep myself occupied and engaged without the benefit of a full-time and meaningful job?  Good question.  Here’s what I envision:

I’ll have my employee available to assist me and take care of me.  That should help some.  I’ll have a dog or two.  Dogs never complain about not having a happy life and then abandon you.  I could use that kind of loyalty in my golden years.  I’m still struggling with what my “purpose” will be in retired life.  I envision myself becoming more engaged with the Fil-Am orphanage  I have assisted during my recent trips to the PI.  And I have it in mind to do some other regular charity work, I’m just not sure what that will be yet.  I’ll play in the dart league and join the local Hashers  hopefully making some new friends along the way.  Maybe that will be enough.

So there’s lots of work to be done in the meantime.  I do appreciate all the support and encouragement my loyal readers provide in the comments.

Onward!