Dated 16 April.
Happy Easter everyone. I arrived here about 9:30 pm last night. Had a good seat on the flight, but it was a strange feeling to be the only non-oriental on the whole plane!!!! Am in the very nice Dragon Hill Inn on the Army Post
Starts Monday 17 April:
Monday, my Sponsor met me and we went to have my nametags changed from Decker to Fiddaman on my uniforms. It is chilly and raining here today and due to the weight limits on baggage, I couldn’t bring my BDU jacket so was a little cold. We then went to have my name changed on my military ID card and that was a mess as the Army didn’t know how to do AF, etc. He also wanted to see my marriage license, which I didn’t bring, or my passport, which was back at the hotel. I finally just asked (begged) him to use the orders please. They had to call Osan (the AF base) to have me put in the computer and then they finally did it. The next stop was to “BIDS” (no don’t know what that stands for) to get my ID card into the computer for getting on and off base. SFC Harris then took me to get a cell phone and since I’m only here for a few weeks, it was cheaper (supposedly) for me to buy it instead of rent it, so there went $200 and it’s even a used one. Can’t figure out how to use it, as it’s in English and Korean. Will ask someone at work. My cell here is +82 10 3040 7045. Also discovered that I had left my American Debit Card in OZ so am having Rodney mail it too me the fastest way possible. Hopefully it will get here by next week so I don’t have to use my other credit cards or the OZ debit card!!!!! Found out that the post has a strict curfew – Sun-Thurs you have to be back here by midnight to 0500 and Fri-Sat by 0100. The curfew is due to the young and not-so-young Bucks and Does who like to party hardy and then a fight or worse starts!!!!!!! I then started work & discovered that I’ll be helping to set up for the next exercise in August. Apparently I will be working on the welcome video, which will be something I can sink my teeth into. Then had to go shopping, as the barracks doesn't supply sheets, blankets or towels. When I got to my room, discovered that the previous occupant had left all those items for the next user (except towels) so will take the things I bought and probably use the refund to buy Rodney something. Forgot how cheap everything is in the PX (Post Exchange – department store).
Tuesday, moved into the
barracks. Not too bad thought my
two roommates aren’t too friendly so looks like I’ll be on my own most of
the time. Another surprise the
former occupant left was a nice feather-lined Redskins jacket.
And I mean a nice one !!!!!!! Two
items of interest that I learned today:
Yellow dust season is here (almost over though) so my allergies will be
acting up. Here is the definition I
found in a book on the stuff: “Yellow
dust storms, called ‘hwangsa’ arrive in March and April.
The dust arrives in Korea after passing over heavily industrialized areas
of eastern China and contains numerous heavy metal substances and toxic
chemicals that can cause eye infections and breathing problems.
The phenomenon is a result of the rapidly accelerating desertification in
the regions neighbouring the Gobi Desert.”
That is why I see lots of Koreans wearing facemasks, etc.
2. Cherry blossoms are already in bloom and beautiful, but they only last for a few days and then the air looks like pink snow as they fall. I’ll try to find a tree that still has blooms on it and take a picture.
I finally found the chow hall and the food is okay. Not brave enough to try the Korean dishes yet as there are too many American dishes I’ve missed so today I ate corn dogs with real Ketchup & orange cheese on my salad, which I really enjoyed. Rodney’s reply left a nasty puddle on the floor at home. I could get internet here at the barracks but think $83 a month is too much so since the barracks is only a short walk from the Dragon Hill, so I bought some air time at the hotel & will come up there each night & get online and talk to Rodney on Skype which is free. Work is 15-20 minutes away & there are lots of stairs, (everything seems to be up hill !!!!!) so I should be fit soon. I have to walk everywhere here on post. Only E-7’s and above can drive cars. Parking here is awful and the drivers (Korean) don’t seem to look where they are going or hitting. My e-mail at work is "jcrmain at korea dot army dot mil" (it's in that way to stop robots picking it up) if you’d like to keep in touch. You may get bounced once, but just try again. MSG Lowden, my recruiter is here for a few days from Japan, so got to finally meet him too. Big thunderstorm right overhead last night. Startled awake, but so tired went right back to sleep. Been told this is unusual weather, but it seems like that all over the world right now. OZ is going into winter right now (Korea into spring) and Rodney told me that it got down to –3 C last night. Brrrrrrrrrr. Guess he won’t be taking the bike in that weather. He had to take his bike back into the shop, as it still isn’t running right after it got “dumped”.
Wednesday, it is cold
& raining, but with no (military) coat to wear over my uniform, &
therefore wearing no coat at all, I just keep reminding myself that it's just
like Seattle. (And we only packed summer weight uniforms too.) I’m working
with an Army Major, an AF Major, an AF Captain (my boss), a Navy Lieutenant
& an AF Staff Sergeant. An Officer killed a Korean yesterday, hit by his car
in downtown Seoul. This is what is considered a “strategic situation”.
They way it was explained to me is:
If the Korean was in the wrong, i.e., not using the crosswalk, etc. then
the Korean’s are very understanding.
2. If the officer was in the wrong then there could be many problems, like demonstrations, etc. Not only will the officer’s career be in trouble, but also he will have to make restitution to the family. This Post has a new General in charge, so if he handles it correctly…we’ll see.
I’ve been warned about “The Red Light” district, which can change each week, ummm how to explain, when you walk by windows with women sitting in them - if the chair is empty, then she's busy. Also there are quite a few places off-limits due to prostitution and human trafficking. Scary thought. We also are not allowed to use the following places off post: doctors of any sort, pharmacies, massage places, tattoo parlours, etc. The Army hasn’t changed that much and micro-manages everything as usual. For instance: In order for my Army Major to get leave, he has to do PT tests every 6 months (passing) & fire weapons every 3 months, but the weapons thing is a lottery, meaning that it is a first come, first serve type thing up to a certain number of people. Really stupid and the Major agrees. It been interesting to see the difference between the AF and Army up close. I woke up to the sound of Army PT singing – Great !!!!!! I’m lucky with this new job, as I don’t have to do it, like I would have in the other place.
Thursday, I was a pretty quiet day. The Chow Hall opened late this morning, so I wandered down to the Mini-Mart. Didn’t want to spend a lot of money so found a "thing" called a Tornado - the description said eggs, sausage & cheese, but the sausage was very spicy. Just ate two bites and the coffee was horrible. Oh, the commissary has the neatest thing for instant coffee. We have it at work, so will definitely get some and ship it home. It is all in one (sugar & cream) packets and it actually tastes good. Still cold & windy, which apparently is unusual for this time of the year. And the roomies are pretty unfriendly, which is a pity.
Friday, the sun is
finally shining – glorious day. Not
too much happening except work. Had
a Krispy Kreme donut though :>) Feel like I’m coming down with a cold. God I hope not.
Saturday, yup I’ve got
a cold !!!!! The sun is shining and
I wanted to walk down to the town of Itaewon, which is right outside the gate.
Description in the book is: “You
know you are in Itaewon when you see the sidewalks filled with people of every
nationality and race; fast-food shops and English signs on the stores.
Itaewon is particularly well-known with some 1,350 shops located in the
area.” But unfortunately, I
didn’t wake till almost 1300 and felt really bad.
So instead I just walked around post to get myself oriented.
Will go definitely next weekend (if it’s not raining).
There are a couple of things I really want to do and that is see the DMZ/JSA
& 3rd Tunnel Tour plus go on the Korean Folk Village Tour.
I will sign up for both of those next week at the USO club.
Sunday, yup still snotty
and it is raining cats & dogs. Cold
again. I had breakfast at the
Dragon Hill and the chatted to Rodney for a while.
Guess I’m staying home again today.
:>( Hope it isn’t
again today. The weather here is really weird. Goes from cool,
overcast, rainy to nice and warm. Had to buy some more long sleeve shirts
due to my plane weight limits. I did go and have breakfast at the Dragon
Hill Inn. Didn’t feel like walking 15 minutes up-hill to the chow hall,
plus tired of their breakfasts – not much imagination so had Belgian waffles
(can’t find them in OZ) and eggs. Just stayed home and watched some
day of just working and doing research. Below are some examples of Korean
Culture that a person needs to know when dealing with the people here:
As Koreans tend to believe in the idea of "mind-transfer," they often assume their feelings are universally understood. It is quite common for them to simply bow or produce a light smile when they have made a mistake. When embarrassed, especially when they cannot assist you, they may even laugh. Don't become frustrated by this. In Korea, this is a native's way of offering an apology.
Koreans ask many questions -- questions the unknowing foreigner may feel are too personal in nature. Don't be offended if someone you barely know asks about your age or even family and marital status. He is trying to be friendly by showing interest. This is to help him understand his relationship to you. For example, he needs to know if you are older than he is, so he can show the proper respects.
Koreans may come across and ask you where you are going, or if you had breakfast or lunch. This has no more meaning than, "How are you?" They are just showing interest in you and are not expecting an explicit answer. You can just react by saying "Hi."
Koreans think it's impolite to boast about one's self or one's family members. You'll never hear a Korean male saying his wife is beautiful. A man who boasts about his wife is ridiculed by others as a fool.
Koreans try to be humble by avoiding the word "I," especially when describing something done well. This habit even extends to the words husband, wife, mother and country. For example, a woman will refer to her spouse as "our husband."
Koreans dislike loud music except in heavy metal concerts, cafes or bars. They try to avoid disturbing neighbours by keeping the volume turned down. Some people may be offended by "boom boxes."
Opening a gift in public sometimes embarrasses Koreans. But, some westernized Koreans don't mind if you open the gift immediately. Ask before you open it.
Korean names usually consist of one character surname and a two-character first name, no middle names. Koreans believe the family name is inherited through the blood line. Thus, a Korean woman will not adopt her husband's name when she marries. But when you don't know her name, addressing Mr. Kim's wife as Mrs. Kim is acceptable. Address a Korean by his or her title and surname. The use of first names is reserved only for family and childhood or school friends. If a Korean knows your child's name, he will address you as "Jimmy's mother/father." A Korean woman will introduce herself as somebody's "wife" or "someone's mother," instead of specifying her name. The same goes for non-business telephone manners. Koreans will say "I'm calling from Yongsan" (identifying himself by the place where he lives) instead of telling his name.
Koreans possess a striking sense of humour. Traditionally, common people enjoyed their humour by criticizing the Yangban (the upper class) in puppet shows or mask dances. Humour was the common people's way of releasing the tension imposed on them by the ruling class. Official meetings are carried out very solemnly, but most social gatherings are light hearted.
Korean women may giggle with their hand covering their mouth. Some old people still think that women laughing loudly with their mouth wide open or talking loud is unsophisticated.
There is a great respect for age in Korean culture. Always offer your bus or subway seat to an elderly Korean. Let an older person proceed you through a door.
Koreans avoid prolonged eye contact with their seniors. The senior may keep longer eye contact than those of a lower status. During official or business meetings, maintaining eye contact is not rude. When a junior is scolded, he will look down. Looking at a senior while being scolded is considered very rude, and will make the senior more angry.
Koreans don't smoke in front of their elders or seniors. However, if permission is given to do so, one should turn his head aside when smoking. Turning aside is also practiced when drinking with seniors. Women usually don't smoke in public and never with elders.
shaking hands, the younger Korean will bow slightly and grasp the older person's
hand with both his/her hands. Older Koreans will consider you extremely polite
if you adopt this custom. Women bow rather than shaking hands.
When walking, Koreans may push and shove without apology. They think indirect physical contact with other people in a crowd is common practice. They aren't naturally rude, they just have a different perspective. The rapid industrialization and modernization of Korea is believed to not have provided its citizens with ample time to adjust to crowded, hurried and anonymous urban life.
Koreans drive more aggressively than most Americans. Be especially alert when driving in Korea, especially when driving off post.
Many public toilets are floor-level traditional commodes which resemble drain holes. Look for the words "Foreigners" or "pedestal seat" for western-style commodes. Also, some public facilities sell toilet paper from dispensers.
Koreans are not as openly affectionate as Americans. You may see some young couples holding hands - but rarely will you see anyone past middle age showing affection to another. It's common for young males or females to walk holding hands or arm in arm. In crowded trains, you'll see some young men sitting on another's lap. An open physical touch between members of the same gender is more acceptable than such acts openly displayed between the opposite gender. The contact is an act of good friendship and not a sign of homosexuality.
Use both hands with a light bow when receiving or giving objects from or to your seniors or elders.
In some instances, Koreans don't think they have to form or stay in a line. At bus/subway stops and in front of escalators or elevators, they will crowd toward the front. In a public rest room, they will stand in lines at each booth instead of standing in one line at the main door.
If you are invited to a Korean home, be sure your socks are in good shape. You are expected to remove your shoes when entering a Korean's house.
drivers will pick up one or more passengers going in the same direction. This is
practiced more during the rush hour and the driver will charge each passenger
separately. It is illegal, and if he spends a lot of time trying to find another
passenger, you have the right to complain.
flag down a cab or ask someone to come by extending their arm and hand, with
palm facing downward (never upward), and waving up and down with an inward
motion as if you were motioning a car to slow down. Motioning for someone to
come forward with the palm facing up is considered rude.
Traditional Korean table manners are very strict. Most of them are similar to western practices and should be observed. However, don't be surprised if elders or other Koreans make slurping sounds when eating soup, noodles, and other dishes. Holding a soup or noodle bowl up to drink is a Japanese custom and shouldn't be practiced when eating Korean food.
Kimchi, the famous Korean side dish, is seasoned with garlic and other strong spices, and often leaves a very distinctive odour on one's breath. In Korea there is no way to avoid the kimchi odour - especially in elevators and other small enclosed spaces.
When dining with Koreans, don't use your fingers unless the host or other Korean guests use their fingers. Often the host sets the example by eating some items such as barbecued ribs with his finger or using his hands to wrap rice and meat in a lettuce leaf.
Don't stand your spoon or chopsticks upright in a bowl or rice. This is done when honouring the deceased in memorial ceremonies. Blowing one's nose at the dining table is rude. If you must do so, excuse yourself from the table or turn away and blow quietly. Openly cleaning your teeth with a toothpick is also considered rude - cover your mouth with one hand and clean your teeth with your toothpick in your other hand.
in other societies, Koreans drink to socialize. Koreans normally do not pour
their own drink, especially the first one. You should be prepared to pour a
drink for one or more other person, especially seniors, when their glasses are
near empty. After consuming a glass of alcoholic beverage, Koreans often pass
their empty glass to another person who fills that glass, drinks from it, and
then returns it to the original owner. This is unsanitary and contributes to
drinking more than normal. It is okay to politely suggest that passing the glass
not be done. Remember to hold your glass/bottle with both hands when
receiving/pouring a drink - using both hands shows respect to superiors and
Koreans generally dress more formally than Americans. Males frequently wear white socks with business suits. It's not "geeky" to Koreans, but rather an acceptable manner of dress.
Avoid writing the name of a living Korean in red ink. It may hurt his feelings. Only the names of deceased persons are lined out using red ink on the official register.
Koreans have some superstitions. The number "4" is unlucky because it sounds like the Korean word for "death" in Chinese characters. In some buildings, the fourth floor is marked as "F" or completely excluded. The number "3" however, is considered lucky by many. Some days or months in specific years are considered lucky or unlucky. On these days, you'll see many weddings, or people moving into new homes.
use of "yes" or "no" is different in Korean than in English.
In responding to positive questions, Koreans answer "yes" or
"no" the same way as in English. But when asked in a negative form,
they answer differently. For example, "Can't you go now?" The Korean
response to this negative question is "Yes,
I can go now," (meaning: "Yes, I agree - I cannot go now.) or No,
I can go now," (meaning: "No, I disagree - I can go now.). Regardless
of the "yes" or "no," pay closer attention to the main
sentence that follows. Koreans are quite diplomatic about refusing you without
using the word "no." To a Korean, "yes" means "I
understand" or "I'll do my best." Even when they are sure they
can not help you, they try not to say "no," in an attempt not to hurt
your feelings. When they don't understand what you said, they will not ask you
again because they think it will cause you undo trouble to repeat the same
words. But don't worry, when they do important business, they will say no, if
know the above was long, but it really is interesting and we need to adjust to
their customs also. I’ve gotten the bow down pretty good now.
around and took some pictures which Rodney has put on our website.
Capt downloads movies to her computer so has many DVD’s. She is loaning
me some so I no longer have to rent them. We don’t have cable hooked up
to the barracks.
from Rodney today that DIMIA (for VISA and Residency to OZ) sent us the
paperwork for my residential, so this will be fun doing it from over here to
there. Everything has to be in by Jun 16th, including
fingerprints from the FBI, again. I asked Rodney if we couldn’t just
call them, tell them where I am and work thru it when I get home but his
response was “they don’t give a ‘poop’ where you are, they want it
now” which of course he if right – again :>)
I got home to the barracks after work, discovered we had no water. Have no
idea how long it was out, but when came back in from the Dragon Hill Inn
(talking wireless to Rodney), it was back running but it was like in the movies
and came back a very ugly brown – and to think I shower in this and drink
thing that I’ve noticed here different from OZ is NO SPIDER WEBS on
everything!!!! :>) They are everywhere in OZ. I did see one
big black spider outside, but let it live which is unusual for me.
was my Mom’s birthday (okay where the
today my cell phone rang about 4 different times with a wrong number.
Finally I talked to her and she was calling from
called and has been offered a position with the Kaz Group (no don’t know what it stands
for) at the same rate of pay that he is getting from Boeing. Kaz took over
the area he's working in and he has decided to take it as he really likes his
job and he plans on retiring in about 5 years or less. It will be
interesting to see difference between the two companies.
traipsing all over the post with Capt Rees to actually talk to people we are
making the video for. Up hill, down hill, up stairs and down. Pant,
pant, pant!!!! Am doing better though then when I got here.
day today. When I went to the chow hall for lunch, I saw some Korean High School
girls in costume. They are with the band. I asked the chow hall
head-honcho (Korean) if he would ask two girls if I could take there picture.
He went over and asked, but while this was going on, their escort/guard came
over and said “no pictures, see show, buy promo”. I guess I looked
disappointed but two other girls came over and said “pictures, come”.
We went behind a wall where the “escort” couldn’t see and they let me take
their pictures and one with me. This was very nice and very brave of them.
They were a little apprehensive though. I was very grateful.
coming back from the chow hall, I saw my “rental” car (see website pics) so
couldn’t resist a picture either. Great as the responses have been
“really yours?”, “You’re joking, right?”. Hee, hee.
to the Dragon Hill that night to “chat” with Rodney and it was HS prom –
beautiful, very expensive dresses. Woke up early the next morning to a lot
of yelling, (happy) I hope.
to Itaewon – very overwhelming – too many stores (yes I actually said that).
Saw some Americans who were very drunk (about 11:00 AM) stumbling up the street
– well dressed but wobbly and had beer bottles. I was standing next to a
Korean and made a comment. He said he sees them down here all the time
partying – great review for the
then went to the optical shop at the Dragon Hill and got prescription sunglasses
for only $90 US. He took my prescription from my glasses. What a
watching movies now – Open Water (not what you would expect) and Twisted.
Very good .
tuned for next week.