Sunday, February 24, 2013

I've Got Two Tickets to Paradise...

Alright, it's technically not paradise it's North Korea but hey...semantics!

This weekend, as part of our H.U.A.S.K.B.W.L.B.I.N.L.W.B.L.H.F.O.A.Y.A., "hurry-up-and-see-Korea-before-we-leave-because-it's-not-like-we've-been-living-here-for-over-a-year-already", weekly excursions, Daric and I took a tour of the DMZ and JSA here in South Korea. The DMZ is the De-Militarized Zone and the JSA is the Joint Security Area. It's where a bunch of important, cool stuff happened way back when and happens sometimes in the recent present. I don't want to bore anyone with the details but if you don't know what I'm talking about there's this magical invention called "Google". I highly recommend it. Moving on...

The tour is *supposed* to be for anyone over the age of 11 years old so the kids didn't get to go but at the very least Akira could have gone since there was a kid, around the age of Riley, on the tour with us. (hindsight...you get me again a-hole!) Daric and I were looking forward to the tour since it's been on our Korean Bucket List since before we got here. If you ever are stationed in Korea, or visiting, I highly recommend taking the tour. It's amazing! I'm also a history nerd so things like that fascinate me. There were many parts of the tour where picture taking wasn't allowed so someone get on inventing a device that can tap into my memories and record them like a movie, stat! Thanks.

not a coal miners daughter
Part of our tour was the 3rd Tunnel, the above picture was taken there. It was so cool yet at the same time I hated it! Explanation for the hate is as follows: I am incredibly out of shape, we walked down about 350 meters which means we had to walk back up those same 350 meters but the best part...IT WAS AN 11% SLOPE!!!! I dare you to put that on your treadmill. Now you understand why I would not like that part of the tour so much. But I'm merely making a joke, I loved the entire day, every last grueling part of it! Yes my jacket was soaking wet (with sweat, yummy!) for the rest of the day since we did that first, yes I wasn't sure if I would be able to climb the stairs in any of the other places we went, yes by the time the bus dropped us back off to our starting point I was beyond exhausted but if I had to do it all over again tomorrow you better believe I would! Fine...maybe not tomorrow or even next week, I'm not sure how long it's going to take for me to recover. *wink* I'm actually not hurting much, my shins are killing me but I think I walk funny so... (sorry train of thought derailed there, forgot where I was going with that)

We also went to the JSA which meant in the conference room we were able to stand in North Korea. The atmosphere there was different than anywhere else on our tour. I could feel it but I can't describe it...surreal? That might be a good enough word. It was something to behold that's for sure. Outside the conference room we were allowed to stand in front of the JSA main building, Freedom House, and take pictures of the North Korean version of the Freedom House. We brought the good lenses for the camera so I was able to zoom in on the North Korean guard outside the building and the camera that was pointed at all of us in the window next to where he was standing. I didn't get the camera out in time to get a picture of the guard looking at us through his binoculars but I did catch him yawning. I think that's a better picture anyhow.


mid-yawn & spy status to the left

 We had lunch at Dorasan train station which is the last train station in South Korea or as they like to say, "Not the last station from the South, but the first station toward the North". This is where we were able to purchase our tickets to "paradise". It was only 1,000 won for two tickets, roundtrip. As of publish date on this entry $1 = 1,085KRW so both our tickets were roughly 90¢...yup. We got to stamp our ticket with a souvenir stamp showing the station name plus the destination of Pyeongyang, North Korea, the first station you'd reach if you were allowed to ride the train into North Korea.

 
Dorasan Station's motto
North Korea bound...someday...
no really, it's a good restaurant
my bibimbap which was DELICIOUS

for 25K won it better be good for me!

Daric's "BBQ" which was really bulgogi









I have tons more photos but that's going to be all I upload here. If you're my Facebook friend you'll get to enjoy all the pictures of our day, we took 477! Alright, maybe not all but let me get them edited then I will post them for your viewing pleasure. If you're not my Facebook friend...sucks to be you cause I'm awesome!!

And on that note, goodnight, morning or afternoon where ever you are in the world from our history "buff" family to yours!


Seoul sunset

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Veni, Vidi, Semi Vici....

I came, I saw, I semi conquered...

If you've kept up with my blog then you should remember our brief foray into the Korean version of a spa. *see: Herb Island...Neither an Herb nor an Island Discuss!* If you remember the way that blog post ended then you know there is much nudity involved at the spa and you should also remember I came to the realization I'm somewhat prudish. I am proud to report I can no longer use my name and prude in the same sentence. Let the story begin...

Saturday we took an over delayed trip to Woongjin Playdoci, a.k.a. Tiger World. It's an indoor water park/ski slope. We went to the water park side, that's what the kids wanted to do and we went as a group the Chaplain organized for Daric's unit. I didn't take any pictures, I didn't purchase the cool plastic bag looking thing to protect my cellphone so I could take pictures in the water. I think the Chaplain's assistant took pictures though so when I find them I'll post them. Back on track...so part of the water park is a spa area with aqua therapy massaging pools and such. BUT even better than that is part of the locker rooms is a spa area with all the same stuff but as you may remember if it's a locker room spa that means NUDITY!! The water park has an incredibly efficient system in use, they scan your entrance ticket before you hit the locker rooms and assign watches to everyone in your group. The watches have numbers on them, those are your locker number. You hold your watch up to the lock on the locker it opens, hold it up when you're done it locks. Amazing! But wait, there's more! You DO NOT need money on the inside, that's what the watches are for. You scan them at all the food kiosks, the Dr. Fish pool (the fish pedicure thing), the souvenir shop inside to purchase floaties, swim caps, etc. You scan your watch and when you're exiting they scan all the watches then give you your total if you've used them. So freaking cool but easy to lose track of how much you're spending since each kid, well big kid, got a watch too. I'm still in awe.

Back to the story...so I take the little princess with our swimsuits and proceed to the women's locker room to find our locker. I'm expecting the nudity this time so it isn't as shocking. Thankfully everyone is clearing out of my row so I'm alone with baby girl. I get her changed and while I'm changing her into the swimsuit an older ajumma (older Korean woman, I'd say grandma age range) comes and sits down on a stool in front of her locker to I guess hang out before she got dressed or did whatever it was she was going to do. So now I have the task of getting myself into my swimsuit with a naked grandma eyeballing me. Yes, it was as comfortable as it sounds! My shirt was long so I thought I can take off my pants and underwear and slip my swimsuit on without her seeing the goods. I was incredibly graceful, seriously, it went smoother than I had expected. Everything slid off and on with ease. I was feeling pretty good about myself so I pulled my swimsuit up further to right under my bra then took off my shirt. I could put my swimsuit on all the way then take off my bra so no one would see anything I kept thinking with a triumphant smile. I didn't have to get stark naked and change in front of the prying eyes because I saw them all start to look in my direction. I'm the freak there, the oddball, the exotic stranger...ok maybe it was my imagination but I swear even ladies in the row across from mine were looking over as they changed into/out of their clothing. Well getting the bra off with the swimsuit on wasn't as easy as I thought so I had to bare my boobs but it's ok they're just boobs, we all have them. I only felt a little mortified as I saw ajumma eyeballing me. Now being all ready for the water park, I grabbed the princess and headed out to meet the rest of the family. The boys disappeared into the crowd of kids, Daric took Ezzio and disappeared then reappeared to take Katerina but stuck with me in the lazy river which was more like whitewater rapids! Those kids were going nuts! Our day at the water park was much like anyone elses day at the water park. We swam, we went to the water park spa area and sat in the massaging pools, Daric and the kids did the Dr. Fish pool, I didn't still creeps me out a little, we ate Korean snacks and food for lunch, we spent entirely too much money on floaties for Ezzio and Katerina but hey they're Korean and awesome so it was money well spent in my opinion. All in all it was a fantastic day and we really didn't spend that much.

When it was time to go I took princess and realized as I stepped into the downstairs of the locker room (the water park was downstairs so I had to walk down 2 flights of stairs in the locker room to get there) I'm going to have to walk upstairs NAKED with Kat if we are going to take a shower and dry our swimsuits in the drying machines. DAMN YOU KOREA!!!! I thought I had gotten over it all but I hadn't. I stood in the shower holding Katerina, fully swimsuited, while we were surrounded by young and old alike fully naked. The younger kids were playing and running around chasing each other, naked, the older ladies were hobbling around, naked, the ladies closer in age to me were in groups chatting along as they dried their hair, showered, walked around, naked!! Ugh...my ego from earlier had left me. Now I was just an embarrassed, stupid American kid. Kat's a baby, she was naked but I'm a grown woman, I can't just go around naked like that. DAMN YOU AMERICAN PRUDISHNESS!!!! I realized I was spending far too long struggling with what to do so I decided I'd just go to my locker and get dressed there knowing my clothes would get soaking wet since I was still soaking wet. I went upstairs with a handful of tiny towels thinking, in vain, I could use them to dry off  before I put on my clothes. To my pleasant surprise there was no one in my row, the row across or the rows to either side. I had to carpe diem! There was no time to waste so I got naked, stark fucking naked and toweled off as fast as I could but something happened while I was toweling off. I realized it was kind of refreshing to be naked like that. Kat was crawling around on the floor playing with towels I dropped and I stopped to watch her play for a minute. I bent over to start drying my legs, now taking my time and that's when it happened... My big, bare ass was up in the air on full display when an 80 year old ajumma walked right up next to me to get in her locker. THE HORROR!!! My ass was still wet but I threw on my undies quick as a flash, practically ripped the straps off my bra in my haste to get it on too so at least the goods were once again concealed. I swear ajumma chuckled as she slowly put on her undergarments and sauntered off to the mirrors. Now in a complete tizzy I threw on my pants and shirt, dried my hair as best I could, threw Kat's clothes on her, grabbed our wet stuff off the floor and out of the locker, and left. I felt stupid for my knee-jerk reaction but hey, I've got 31 years of being told public nudity is bad to contend with. I was doing pretty good for a minute there.

At least I wasn't the only one having issues with the locker room nudity. Daric told me on the way home the big boys were freaking out about being around all the naked men. Ezzio, of course, had no issues with the nudity. He's my little aborigine! I'd say 95% of the time he's naked, the other 5% he's clothed when he absolutely has to be, like when we aren't home. I can only hope my little nudist never develops shame or embarrassment over his body. I had thought I was doing pretty good with the bigger two, making them comfortable with their bodies but something must have happened for them to become so shy about being naked, even at home. Doesn't matter if there's a stranger in the house or it's just us, Ezz will let it all hang out and even shake it a little for your entertainment. I know, sounds terribly wrong but he's his own spirit, if he wants to shake his naked butt in the air so be it! I am in awe of Ezzio's confidence and amazed my sweet little man has learned a lesson well before his time. I just need to make sure he keeps that confidence so he doesn't develop into a "prude" like the rest of us. With confidence like that, one day that kid will move mountains! And now I'm rambling so on that note I will say...

Good afternoon, morning or goodnight where ever you are in the world from our au natural family to yours!
isn't she lovely?

that's how she...rolls!!
modeling the scarf I'm crocheting
look at that face!
who wouldn't fall in love with this face?

oh look I do exist
our quick layover tour with Be






Thursday, February 14, 2013

FREEDOM!!!!

All we have to do *now*, is take these lies and make them true somehow, all we have to see-ee-ee-ee, is that I don't belong to you and you don't belong to me *yeah yeah* FREEDOM!! Thanks George Michaels and you're welcome for the song being stuck in your head now.

In October our world was in turmoil and chaos. Our future was unclear and panic set in. Granted panic isn't the most appropriate response unless there is actual danger but for us it worked in our favor...**Brace yourselves for the mother of all digressions**

I am a Pinterest junkie! There I said it! Yes, I have spent many a wasted day on that *evil* site. I love seeing the food, the world, the pictures. Like books, Pinterest takes me away to a land I might otherwise never see, a point in time I wish I could have been a part of, it makes me a culinary Goddess, it appeases my inner gypsy. If you don't know what Pinterest is STAY AWAY!! No seriously, it's like cyber heroin. I've managed to control my time spent browsing but it's still a black hole. I just sat down to look for a recipe for dinner and now it's the weekend. Ok maybe not that bad but pretty damn close. Anyway, my point, so while browsing Pinterest for quite some time I kept seeing the same pin pop up and not from people I know pinning but from the magical, mystical void. I was actually getting annoyed with seeing this pin over and over so one day I decided to click it and see what exactly it was. The picture was of envelopes in a wallet, all prettied out on scrapbooking paper or some shit (yes I'm making up my own damn words since they fit MY damn story!!) Every time I saw that picture I'd think "oh those are cute but how inefficient. I'd hate to have to fish my money out of envelopes every time and what about the coins? They're heavy and would ruin the pretty paper. Besides, who uses cash when you have cards that are soooo much easier?" Following the link led me to a blog. That person talked about how they got onto some cash only system and budgeting and blah blah blah. I skimmed since it barely held my interest. There was another link on that person's blog leading to the final destination of all this financial nonsense. I looked the site over, seemed legit, I decided to try making a budget and that's where they got me! I knew there'd be a catch sooner or later and when I wanted to make my "free" budget online they asked for my payment information. I'd get a free trial period of one week to play around on the site, utilize any/all tools I wished and see if I'd like to go ahead and be charged the $79 for the year's subscription. I thought why not, I can just cancel it in a week, no harm, no foul. I started reading, started listening to the podcasts, started downloading forms and before I knew it I had made a budget, made a list of all our debt as well as the payment plan we were currently implementing. I DID NOT like seeing the projected pay off date on all the credit cards we had and that was assuming you cut your cards up so you couldn't charge anything else to them. The payments we were making weren't the minimum, I'm smart enough to have figured that nugget out on my own, but they weren't enough to make a difference. It would have taken us like 4 years to pay them all off. About a week after I entered my payment information I still had not canceled the subscription. I wanted to see just how well this was going to work (THEY GOT ME!! Sucker...) and then a book came in the mail. I didn't realize I was getting a book also. I read that sucker cover to cover, slowly, to let the flood of information really sink in. When I had finished the book I had a plan. Now to get Daric on board, not the easiest of tasks. 

To make this long story short-ish, we sat down together after the kids had gone to bed, we pulled his paystubs up online and figured out, to the penny, how much he brought home (which surprised us both), we made a budget which was possibly the most stressful thing I have ever done with him. We realized how much money we blew on well nothing! Eating out, random useless shit, you name it we were guilty as charged. We eliminated all of the mindless spending, we cut up every single card we had except our ATM cards, we knew how much we spent paying bills online out of each payday and we figured out how much cash we needed for the rest, the essentials. We made a $0 balance budget meaning we allocated every last cent of his bring home pay somewhere, we have no money just hanging out doing nothing anymore. I cannot sing the praises of the man responsible for getting us on track enough. Yes, I still think that $79 for the year is a sham BUT it keeps us dedicated because WE ARE going to get our $79 worth!! If you're curious to know who this man is, his name rhymes with Rave Damsey *wink wink nudge nudge*. If you already knew what I was talking about good for you or if you're skeptical, trust in his system, I can vouch...it works! 

We went from having 8 credit/store cards to zero. November was our first month of using the all cash system and in 4 short months we are 100% DEBT FREE!!! Even if we didn't use part of our tax return to pay off the last card we would have been debt free next month. You bet your ass that was hard and took LOADS of dedication. I don't know how many lunches I missed out on with friends because it wasn't in my "budget". I can't tell you how much whining I've had to endure from Daric because he wants to eat out or buy something random and useless but it's not in "the budget". In his head we're poor because we "never have any money" but it's the opposite. We have money, plenty to be comfortable, plenty leftover to use on that random, useless shit or eating out BUT I had to break him. Those are bad habits that helped create the debt in the first place. He's not the only one to blame though, I definitely had my part in all of it but I'm also a stubborn, frugal ass so my resolve is a little stronger than his. It has sucked to "limit" our life but none of us ever goes hungry or without what we need. Need, that's the key word. We've had to give up on some wants but I knew how unhappy this house would be if I made everyone sacrifice all their wants so I budgeted for a few wants to keep the peace. I've gotten so good at this budgeting thing that I always have money leftover out of my grocery and gas budgets. I don't want to readjust those budgets since there are times when I need the whole thing, and a little more, but I'm able to make my family happy with the random, useless shit they want with the extra money I find in my pocket every week.

So what was the point of the song at the beginning? Well, in Mr. Damsey's book he touched on what a scam credit cards are and not just for the interest rates on them but mostly the illusion all of us are under that we need credit cards or some sort of revolving credit to be able to get stuff. "We take these lies, and make them true somehow" (George not Rave). It is a lie that we need credit or debt, we don't! Ask your grandparents what their FICO score was when they were in their 20's and they'll laugh at you. (Unless you are a young reader and your grandparents therefore are young. In that case ask a great-grandparent!) They didn't have FICO scores back then, they didn't have credit cards well they did but credit cards weren't for the "common man". They dealt with cash. It HURTS to spend cash. It doesn't hurt to swipe a card that pulls money from some mythical land where money grows on trees and the streets are paved with coins. Only problem is there is no mythical land like that, the money comes out of your bank account, eventually. It hurts me to hand over cash for random, useless shit. It didn't hurt when I was swiping a card. "All we have to see, is that I don't belong to you and you don't belong to me" (again George, not Rave). I had my eyes opened and Daric is slowly getting there as well. I don't belong to debt and now debt no longer belongs to me! I keep my life 'negativity' free, or at least I strive to, and part of that was eliminating debt. Talk about a major negative in every sense of the word! We have a nice chunk of change in our savings account for our pending move since we have to foot the bill until the Army decides to reimburse us, we have ZERO debt so all the money that was being funneled to pay it off now goes to our emergency fund which we were already funneling money to (we were that dedicated, killing two birds with one paycheck), and when we get back to the states the major change we'll be experiencing in Daric's pay won't hurt so bad. We'll be losing more or less $2,000 a month since we won't have all the extra/incentive pay but it won't matter since we won't have debt to pay off. We have our budget, it works even with the lesser pay, and with coupons I'll still be able to save on my grocery trips so I'll still have money leftover to get my family all the random, useless shit they want! Win, win, win!

I started this blog as a way for our friends and family to stay involved in our life. This has been a big part of our life so I wanted to share. I hope you enjoyed your "day in the life of" entry and now for the part you've all been waiting for...PICTURES!!!! Enjoy the barrage of images and as always...
Good afternoon, morning or night where ever you are in the world from our financially fit family to yours.

the little princess

she is beyond perfect!
sang il chu ka hamnida! or happy birthday!


he had a rough night
I get to see this every morning...LOVE!!
showing his sister how to do something destructive



sang il chu ka hamnida
taking in Le Cirque
he is pretty awesome like that

she is pretty awesome like that