A Weekend in Seoul

My how the tables have turned! As most know, the entire time Josiah + I were engaged + early married (aka until like 5 months ago), I worked at the Aveda Institute Provo, a cosmetology school.

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I love Aveda, I love the institute, + I love the people, so basically I loved my job. Sort of. It was kind of a love/loathe relationship. I was the school’s admissions scout/recruiter + in charge of all incoming students + anyone interested in attending cosmetology or esthetics school. Basically the position is a beautiful concoction of public relations, marketing, cheerleading, life coaching + most of all- SALES. It required me to wear heels, black clothes, lipstick, + most importantly a perky smile while also maintaing a HIGH level of energy, connection, positivity, + professionalism. With a cool wardrobe, trendy haircuts, amazing co-workers, + lots of caffeine, what could possibly be wrong with this job?? Not much actually, it was fantastic.. besides the skeptical mommas, the competition of a million other hair schools, + of course, the benchmarks to succeed. It was a dream job that became a reality, + with reality comes work! So I worked + worked + worked.. + I loved it 94.6% of the time. If you ask Josiah what this period of our lives shall be called, he would name it the black HIPPIE HELL where the devil wears Aveda (+ yes, he ALWAYS made comparisons of our life to the movie The Devil Wears Prada).

IMG_0870On my phone at home…

IMG_0326 On my phone on my honeymoon…

IMG_0780On my phone at a friend’s wedding…

That was the problem… I loved my job, so I put all I had into it.. aka barely any time for Joe. Of course Josiah was happy that I was pursuing a career, supporting us, + that I ultimately loved what I did, but it was hard for him.. for both of us actually. He had 2 breezy semesters of school left + was working a cushy 20 hour a week job which gave him not only more time than me, but more importantly, a lot less pressure + anxiety to worry about 24/7. Many times he felt like he was the only one putting forth effort in our relationship + I could care less. I would then get aggravated like, “hello I worked 12+ hours today + I still have a few emails to send out.. I’m exhausted, hungry (because I would forget to eat the entire day..minus the taco bell hot sauce and/or some scraps a coworker would give me after running into the office like a rabid dog that had been beaten + starved), + my brain is fried from talking all day. I have no clean black clothes to wear tomorrow (which was always a lie since I owned every black article of clothing from H&M + Forever 21) + you want me to cook dinner with you because that sounds like a fun date? Or go see a movie + then talk about it?? ARE YOU SERIOUS?? Don’t you know I love you? Can we be content with that?” I just wanted some peace, food of any kind, + to have my back rubbed while I tweaked on instagram + texted a few last ‘work related’ messages to detox from the day. I would get irritated thinking, ‘What do you do all day?? Why do I need to feel guilty for not helping with dinner or folding the clothes when you have so many free hours during the day? Do you understand how hard I work? Ya, it looks like I’m just having fun + posting on social media all day because that’s MY JOB! I am working so hard for YOU! For US! Why wouldn’t you be so proud of your hard working girlfriend/fiancé/wife/boo thang?? What.. do you expect me to be at your beck + call with a smile + hot dinner waiting?  Are you some kind of sexist, traditional, misogynist?!?!’ (okay okay.. I knew Joe was not a misogynist- he married me, duh. And I knew he was proud + only had good intentions, but I could get a bit hysterical + defensive after no sleep + too much caffeine) And in Joe’s frustrated mind he thought something like this, ‘You told me you would be home 2 hours ago + I tried to make dinner but now it’s cold.. I waited to eat until you got home, so now i’m grumpy + pissed. What could possibly be that important?? You were just hanging out with Tiff weren’t you?!! Why do you like your boss more than me? I’m busy too ya know, THANKS FOR ASKING!!! I JUST LOVE YOU AND WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH YOU!’. (Note: we have never raised a voice to each other, the “!!!” are for emphasis only.. Joe wanted me to add that in fear that you all will think he is controlling + abusive. No, he is not. It’s probably the other way around if anything.. KIDDING!) But finally came the day where we left our old life behind, morphed into dirty gypsies, + traveled homeless, carless, + jobless for 9 weeks + then off to work Josiah went.

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I didn’t even spend time putting makeup on… Like I said, dirty hippie status.

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It was a fun, carefree few months; spending every minute together acting like the goofy kids that we really are. That time was good for our relationship to say the least, + good for our souls to look at the big picture again. As his training in Texas quickly flew by, I was busy filling out every bit of paperwork needed to become an unofficial member of the Army, as well as start the process of command sponsorship to be allowed to come to Korea with Joe… And trust me, that process alone kept me pretty busy. Since having arrived + settled into our new home here in Korea, Josiah has been working non-stop. From what we have heard (+ now seen with our own eyes), Korea is a very unique duty station that requires more hours clocked + more effort put in than your average base/fort/camp. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that it is sort of like combining a big, normal base back in the states with a non-combat deployment. You have the simple day-to-day tasks that you would have in somewhere like Colorado mixed with the crazy, ‘We Fight Tonight‘ mentality where everyone must prepare for imminent danger.. which hey, North Korea is like right here.. probably getting their nukes ready right now, so I get it. But man.. Joe works.. like a lot. 5am-7am he gets up + works out (you go glenn coco!) 7am-9am he comes home, showers, eats breakfasts + gets my sleepy bum up. 9am-6,7,8pm?? he works, then comes home + sometimes works some more. I remember my mom telling me awhile back that soon the tables would turn + I would be the one with all the free time while Josiah worked, + how wonderful it will be that BOTH of us have gained a much deeper appreciation for the roles that we play. As per usual, my mother was right!  The past few weeks have definitely been an adjustment for me. At times I feel I will go insane without a job.. or something meaningful to keep me busy, + other times I am thrilled to wake up with the sun + munch cereal in my pjs while listening to music + mopping the floor. I have however, become slightly addicted to meal planning + trying new recipes while cutting out most, if not all, sugar from our diet. I seriously get excited chopping veggies up + testing new spices/flavors out (I realize this sounds lame + maybe I do need a real job haha but I think a passion for cooking is in my DNA). I have also started doing yoga daily + am in the process of starting a photography program (I bought a nice camera a year ago, it’s time I learn to use it). As my life continues to transition into this next phase, I will always smile as I remember + appreciate the wonderful (and challenging!) times I had at Aveda, they helped morph me into the person I am today + taught me so many crucial lessons I needed. And until I get back into that sparkly, FUN world, I am excited to be the best support I can be to my hardworking G.I. Joe, after all, I know what it’s like to want to come home to a hot meal + a back rub. 🙂 (BTW, Josiah has shocked me multiple times by apologizing and literally commenting, “I feel like I work at Aveda.. Except I wear camo and I don’t like everyone I work with.”)

Okay so what was the point of that long drawn out story?? Josiah had a four day weekend so we took advantage of the freedom + headed to Seoul. And by head to Seoul I mean drive in our little hooptie all through out one of the biggest cities in the world, all the while dodging MANY crazy Korean drivers. We do have the option to take public transportation up there, but figured since we hadn’t really used public trans yet, we didn’t want to get confused or lost. Plus we wanted to get real comfortable driving in this country + thought, why not just dive right in? Besides not understanding which lane to get in for the tole booth + barely missing some potentially terrible accidents, we made it unscathed. So Joe has this really fabulous sister named Tanya, (the kind you brag to other people about to make you sound cool) who has a swanky job at the W Hotel in Union Square NYC (see i’m totally bragging). Tanya is also extremely sweet + has the ability to hook us up with amazing hotel deals all over the world (best family perks ever y’all!). So we booked our killer hotel reservation in none other than the trendy Gangnam district of Seoul. Yah, like Gangnam Style.

The hotel was like WOAH. It wasn’t some big fancy resort hotel, it was expensive COOL. Like the unspoken cool. Everything was sleek, modern, + had just enough of an Asian touch to remind us that  we were in Korea. The urban design was perfectly trendy to the point it made me feel like I wasn’t cool enough step foot inside, but the staff was warm + kind enough to remind us that we were, shockingly, cool enough to be guests there. Enjoy the pics below. Joe + I were in heaven.

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IMG_1836Selfie nation over here! 

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IMG_1816Killerrr view

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As far as Gangnam goes, I highly encourage everyone to translate the lyrics to the song + enjoy. The song, I feel, is decently accurate of what it is like. There is a line that talks about a girl enjoying a cup of coffee + boy do they like their coffee. Every single block had at least one coffee shop whether it was an American brand, English brand, Korean, etc. Gangnam definitely had that hipster vibe with people walking around covered in an air of sophistication that softly screamed, “I’m too cool to care” + “Ya i’m a dude + my shoes were $350 but I still don’t care”. And let’s just talk about the men… I mean, BEST DRESSED DUDES IN THE WORLD. There I said it. Take that Milan. They take slim fit + double breasted to the next level. And their hair. Way better than mine. While the ladies wore sleek + perfectly tailored everything, they don’t compare to the men in my opinion. Despite the video, everyone we saw was pretty conservative + neutral.. very androgynous in fact. The guys are a bit more feminine, while the gals stick to simple clean lines that don’t promote their curves (maybe it’s the lack of curves?). Even one of the lines in the song-

“A girl who looks quiet but plays when she plays
A girl who puts her hair down when the right time comes
A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all
A sensable girl like that”

So I guess that explains it ha. And unlike the video we did not see hardly ANY color (besides the buildings/signs). People love neutrals here. So my lavender/silver hair definitely stood out like sore thumb in the sea of black + brown. While we were in Gangnam (+ the rest of Seoul) we really just explored. We didn’t have a serious agenda so we took our time checking out the streets and eating like 7 meals a day ha. Enjoy some of the pics!

IMG_1854Because there’s always, always traffic!

IMG_1861This one’s for you Lisa Kipp!

IMG_1870Street food noms…

IMG_1874fish shaped treat? It was like a fried, sweet, black bean filled..pastry? Whatever it was, it was GOOD.

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IMG_1919So the Coex is one of the biggest, nicest shopping malls in the country..it was like walking through the airport.

IMG_1922Didn’t see that one coming.. but okay, sure. Beer + sushi always go together, silly me! 

IMG_1932Wanna feel like a fat @$$? Try on clothes in Asia. Joe is now a size large.

IMG_1933But this jacket tho.. I WAS OBSESSED.

IMG_1943I mean, it was only $375…

IMG_1949Hubba hubba..

IMG_1954Accidental blue steel.. I mean he’s a natural at the whole modeling thing.

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After wondering around Gangnam we ventured to the other side of the river close to Yongsan (the Army base) + began exploring Itaewon market. There were lots of different food choices from around the world + many stands selling cheap Korean trinkets + souvenirs. Off the main road there were shops upon shops ranging from expensive boutiques to sketchy black market retailers. We had fun eating even more street food + again, just wondering about. There were (+ are) TONS of mangy cats all over Korea that just sulk in the alleys + dumpsters, BUT we found out there is a trend in korea called Cat Cafes. I know what you’re thinking, no, they don’t eat the furry creatures at these cafes (probably because they’ve all got the mange!). Since most people in Korea don’t have pets (it’s apartment living throughout the entire country guys) there are these cafes where a feline lover can go + literally just hang out with a bunch of cats. You pay a small cover fee, take your shoes off, + play, pet, feed, watch, or do what ever you do with a bunch of cats for an hour or so. I can’t get over this phenomenon. I mean, WHAT?!? Since i’m genuinely intrigued, I have talked Joe into going to a cat cafe next time, partly so I can get a better grasp on how all this works + partly because I think it will end up being a hilarious story with funny pics. Until then, feast your eyes upon all of our feasting we did while at Itaewon.

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IMG_2081We ordered using hand signals. But I could eat the pickled ginger + mandu (korean dumplings) ALL day long.

IMG_2088Okay so it may not look like it in this pic, but my chopstick skills have gone from newb/novice(aka struggling) to apprentice level. Joe has been ever so patient + has only been embarrassed of me a few times.. (sorry not sorry I grew up in the south)

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IMG_2116Korean speaking Turks…

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IMG_2133My new dream scoot. I was about 4 seconds close to jumping on with the Korean who owned it.

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IMG_2147Getting educated on Lush products.. Korean style! 

IMG_2159Tiniest alley award.

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IMG_2171Seems legit…

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IMG_2273Cray cray up in here

Like I said the trip had no structured agenda + we knew we would be frequently visiting Seoul, so our trip honestly just consisted of relaxing, exploring, + eating! Overall our favorite food was the street food in Gangnam (sooo good) + our best shopping happened to be the sketchy alley way shops at Itaewon. Next time we definitely want to hit the Korean War Museum + the Seoul Tower that overlooks the entire city. Until then i’ll be wondering around my local Korean market trying to figure out what everything is + we’ll just be taking hilarious selfies while riding the bus back and forth to downtown Pyeongtaek. You’re welcome.

Peace!

xoxo, V

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home sweet home in k-town

PHEWWW, WHAT. A. WEEK.

1. I sat through my first all day army briefing (ration card- CHECK!)

2. I passed my Korean driving test (only by the grace of God). As did Joe.

3. After searching for a day + a half straight, we found a place to call home!!

4. We bought a HOOPTIE car. ( http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hooptie )

5. Joe + I BOTH survived solo driving in Korea and BOTH have witnessed wrecks on the daily.

6. We made friends. (this is big guys!)

7. We found the church. (the reason we have friends)

8. Korean shopping markets don’t have heat. But I proudly conquered the market without looking like an idiot.

9. I have devised a detailed traveling plan for the next 2 years.

10. I HAVE UNLIMITED DATA ON MY PHONE! YAAAH

 

So, it was a busy, busy week y’all. Starting with a long new-comers briefing, where I learned exactly which brothels were off limits (all of them, dang) + why people die on the daily from driving related accidents, we started the process of searching for housing, a car, + how to get a Korean driver’s license. Driving here is crazy. SO CRAZY. It’s a combination between chaos + order. Which is why it is SO difficult. Which rules can I break? Which laws are enforced? We were told “it’s not if you get in a wreck here, it’s when.” Cool. There’s also this crazy little thing called the 50/50 rule. In the states when you get in a wreck, if it’s your fault, then it’s 100% your fault.. If you didn’t do anything wrong, then good for you, you’re in the clear! Here, no matter what happens or whose fault it is, BOTH parties take 50% of the blame. I could be stopped at a red light + some nut could rear end me + it is still half my fault. Awesome. Despite all of that, we both passed + received our driver’s license. WHOO! Now lets go get in a wreck (jk, fingers crossed!)

 

We were then on the hunt for an apartment off base. Somehow we got wrangled in by some Korean citizen that works on base in Joe’s office to meet with his “friends” that were realtors. It all happened so fast + with the language barrier we didn’t know what was going on until it was too late. But we got to see 6 apartments around town that were all very.. Korean. I had no problem with the layout or size but I just didn’t love the styles or designs of any of them. Not to mention they all felt a tad beat up and dirty. Some of them were catered towards military families, so the kitchen would have the super fake, ugly wood cabinetry (think cheap college apartment style). Or they would have the cheap brassy fan/lighting in the bedrooms/living room. blah. (sorry not sorry if this offends anyone..) Plus the realtor dudes that were taking us around seemed slightly sketch.. So I convinced Joe to let me look for one more day with a different realtor that was recommended to us by a friend who is also here at Camp Hump. So began our journey with our first Korean friend, Helen. I could sing Helen’s praises all day! Helen picked us up, drove us around, made us feel so comfortable, + I could understand about 90% of what she said (score!). She took us to about 8 or 9 different apartments. For the fist 5, I would like some things but there was always one thing I just didn’t love. Finally, we walked into one + I fell in love! It was the first one I saw that didn’t have crazy patterned wall paper everywhere or tacky colors with asian flower print. And it was bright, the sun was streaming in + I felt like there were a million windows. That really sold me. Something about the place felt slightly like an ikea magazine (not everything though, I warn you..) Is it my dream place? No. Is it the best thing I saw out of the 15+ places we looked at? Yes. It’s a 4 bedroom/2 bathroom (so plenty big enough for all my wonderful friends who want to visit.. wink wink!) on the 3rd floor with a pretty decent view. Korean ovens are SO tiny, so no turkey or baked goods for us. The bathtubs are also small. I have a video tour I wanted to post below so you guys can see it better, but I can’t figure out how to upload it (any advice blogger/tech savvy people??) so for now I just have phone pics. We had to wait for an inspection + the army housing office to sign off on everything, but finally we moved out of the hotel on base after a 10 day stay + into our new Korean home!

 

We then searched for a car. We were told to just get a little beater because we will inevitably get in a wreck + since there is so much dust + dirt here. We searched all over FB pages + all over base for something, anything (right now is low season for military moving in + out). I finally found a comment from some soldier dude with a phone number of a Korean car guy that has the “hook ups” (warning sign #1). So we called Mr. Chang. He came and picked us up (how nice I thought…) + told us he would take us to a used dealership that was close by. Little did we know this dealership was over THIRTY minutes away (it’s amazing we haven’t been kidnapped + held for ransom by rando strangers we meet). He then tried to sell us a 1996 Kia with over 175,000 miles on it for $2,500. In fact he forced us to test drive it.. on a very busy HIGHWAY with –OUT- him in the car. So Joe’s first driving experience in Korea was down a scary crowded road where he had to flip an illegal U-ie to get back to the dealership. Lots of screaming was involved. Then we laughed after we survived..good times haha. Mr. Chang tried his hardest to get us to buy the car, but we politely said no (praying he would still take us back to base as quickly as possible). Later that day we luckily found a Kia Optima with only 90,000 miles on it for less than Mr. Chang’s $2500. Done + done!

 

Finally, I felt like we weren’t treading water anymore.. With unlimited data phones, a car, + a home we were dancing on top of the world. And we finally were making friends! A sweet couple that we connected with via FB group pages invited us over for yummy enchiladas + a game of  ticket to ride (apparently Joe + I have never followed the correct rules.. sorry for any lives we ruined by telling you lies –aka Jami + Morgan). They even gave us the leftovers + their crockpot to use as we moved in (BLESS THEM!). We went home that night happy + sleepy, ready for our first night in our new place.. Then came the bed problem.. Our apartment came with a king sized bed/mattress, a KOREAN mattress to be specific. Just a little FYI- Korean mattresses are HARD AS ROCKS. We laid down in the dark + were silent for about 60 seconds before we both sat up laughing/crying at how hard the bed was. We then spent the next 30 minutes playing a game of “what is as hard as this mattress?” + “what do you wish this mattress was as soft as?” Top answers- the bed is as hard as: my boney shoulders, the edge of a stale pop tart, dried out tofu, stacked cardboard, a pallet on the floor minus the blankets to make the pallet, dried noodles on the side of a dirty pot, bamboo, a month old french fry found in your car. Top answers- we wish the bed was as soft as: a pool float, spongy fresh tofu, sticky rice, cotton candy, a pallet on the floor with blankets, mashed potatoes, cotton balls. Finally, we managed to laugh ourselves to sleep + the very next day ran to the PX (think giant Army walgreens plus clothes + lots of electronics.. maybe a kmart?) + bought a mattress pad that helped our poor backs. So that being said, all of our things we had in storage should be arriving in the next 20-30 days.. fingers crossed!

 

Church went swimmingly, of course. Anytime you find a big group of Americans in a foreign country that invite you to dinner with out even knowing your name, it’s gonna go well. We are in a congregation of about 100 members of all different shapes + sizes. I’m excited to get more involved + have already been recruited by the district relief society presidency (aka 4 unpaid women that are partly in charge of all of South Korea’s mormon military branches’ vitality & welfare)  to teach a make up class in Seoul for an upcoming relief society activity. So any advice from anyone about how to teach a class + what info I should include about makeup, please please drop me a line! We have felt so loved + welcomed since being here… Ever feel lonely? My advice, find a church (I obviously recommend a Mormon church) + count your blessings. You’ll feel the love in no time. Speaking of friends + love, Helen (our cute Korean realtor) has dropped by unexpectedly to make sure we are doing well. Each time she brings a treat with her. First, Korean sweet potatoes.. And by Korean, I mean the box is in written in Korean, otherwise they taste the same HA. The day we signed our lease she bought us a pizza for lunch, as we looked at the menu we noticed they had “sweet potato pizza”. We asked Helen what that was like, “good” was the answer we got. I guess by us inquiring about the pizza, she assumed we liked sweet potatoes (which we do!) so she bought us some yummy sweet potatoes. Then, even though neither Joe nor I, were home, Helen popped in, dropped off our new microwave + left a jar of unknown red spicy substance on the counter (she also turned our heat off for us.. Koreans have NO problem stopping in unannounced + walking into every room.. even when you have dirty laundry lying around) Gotta love Helen… Luckily the realtor you go with is also your landlord of sorts. Since they usually speak pretty decent english, you go to them for everything + pay rent through them.. So we will be seeing lots of Helen over the next few years haha. She did her best to show us how to work the heat (which is run by hot water pipes underneath the floor.. I LOVE IT.) + how to operate the Korean washing machine. I thought I could handle it all until I did our first load of laundry. Everything was going well, I threw the load into the dryer + then went to add an extra spin cycle on the washing machine since our laundry room has no heat + the left over water will freeze if left in the machine (Helen was ADAMANT that I always do the extra spin cycle). So I hit the button I thought would do the extra spin cycle.. Nope. The machine started filling with more water. NO! NO! NO! To make a long story short, I spent the next 10 min hitting buttons only to get frustrated. I frantically tried to think of what to do next so I wouldn’t have to call Helen + admit defeat. I thought of Joe’s friend Matt who speaks Korean.. I’ll get him to translate for me, I decided. Then realized he was a guy + probably wouldn’t know even if I asked him. Then I went with plan C, that should have been plan A- GOOGLE. I literally googled “korean washing machine translation”. I found an article that showed Korean words equal to English words. Cool. I matched up the strange characters on my washing machine hit the button, pressed start, + waited as it began to beep at me strangely.. WHAT IS THE DEAL!?! I then realized the top was not closed. WOW. Dumb blonde moment to the max. After 10 min, the water was gone + I had conquered laundry for the first time in Korean.

I think that’s about it for this week! In a few days we are headed to Seoul for a 4-day weekend (woohoo!) so I will be sure to snap lots of pics 🙂 If you want daily pics/updates follow me on snapchat- vanessywalker + instagram- vanessa_decosta

Oh + our travel plans? We want to hit Japan, Bali, India, Thailand/Cambodia, China, the Maldives, Australia/New Zealand. If any of you have tips or recommendations please, PLEASE tell us! Or if you have suggestions for other places we should hit while we are on this side of the world, let me know! And if you want to coordinate a trip together to one of the above countries, then by all means, LET US KNOW!

PS- I know 2 Korean words: 감사합니다 (thank you. pronounced kum-summy-dah) + 예 (yes. pronounced nay.)

PPS- I have not received my gas mask yet, but it will be coming soon! Pics to follow.

PPPS- Today marks one year married for Joe + I. Just thought i’d gush a little bit 🙂 I’m one lucky dame to be married to my hunky, hilarious, + pure hearted best friend. What a wild + crazy journey it’s been thus far, can’t wait for the adventure to continue!!
Love you all!

xoxo,

V

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Foyer, living room, opening to kitchen/dining area. Oh + Helen!

 

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Kitchen! Clean, simple monochromatic color scheme.. my favorite! Note the teeny tiny oven!

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View from the kitchen into living room. Yup, that’s a real fireplace! And Joe + Helen.

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Our bedroom complete with a very hard Korean mattress, brand-new tv, + bay window.

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Spicy Korean paste Helen gifted us!

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Korean pastries.. some were terrible, one was DELICIOUS. It was called a honey steam cake. Kind of like a combination between angel food cake + pound cake but much silkier with an amaretto flavor.

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Our first home cooked meal from yours truly. (mexican because duh)

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And of course, Helen’s gift of korean sweet potatoes. So adorably packaged.

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Okay so I got a little gushy here.. But in honor of our anniversary I threw in some pics from our day. Embrace the cheesiness and enjoy the video at the end!

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Cabin Fever

Yes, I AM ALIVE Mom!! It’s hard to believe we have been here for over a week now. Honestly it feels like we’ve been here a month already. I wish I could tell everyone how fabulous life is here + what an exotic place it is, with wonderful people + amazing food, that this is everything I thought it would be + then some. Unfortunately, no. It’s pretty much none of those things… At least not yet. I started this blog excited + eager for an adventure. I knew there would be MANY, if not every, unexpected bump in the road, but I assumed with the security of the military all would be happy go lucky. I want to give you guys every detail, the good, the bad, + the ugly, never glossing over the unpleasant + just focusing on the beautiful happy bits. I think far too many bloggers do this, + hey, who’s to say they’re wrong for doing it? But I wouldn’t feel right munipulating my life to just look glossy + glamorous 24/7 (or maybe it’s just the fact that I don’t have enough glamorous experiences or pictures to make it that kind of blog even if I wanted to HA!). So here was our first week in Korea (complete with the bumps and ugly bits)-

After an 11 hour flight from San Fran to Seoul, one last mexican meal on American soil, + terrible plane food, we landed at the Incheon airport. Upon arriving, the first things I saw in airport as far as food- 7 Eleven + Dunkin Donuts. So much for exotic. The bathrooms however, were simply adorable. I didn’t know quite what to expect as far as the cleanliness, size, or overall esthetic of the airport. The only other Asian country I have been to is India.. not totally 1st world, nor clean ha. The Seoul Incheon airport was surprisingly clean. Like cleaner than some US airports. I had been warned that the toilets could be stand up bidet style, but again, to my surprise they were clean, efficient, tiny toilets complete with very private, dark wood stalls. I felt like I was in a Nordstrom. The sinks… I bent down to reach them. I’m 5’2 y’all. That should tell you how low down + delicate they were. We checked in with the USO + 20 min later were off to Yongsan (army base in the middle of Seoul).

After an hour shuttle to Yongsan we checked in at the infamous Dragon Hill Lodge, an old school Army resort style hotel on post. The next few days were a blur really. Josiah got up at the normal 5am to participate in PT, then was gone most of the day for briefings + in-processing procedures. I explored the hotel while he was gone. We checked out the base together which was surprisingly big considering it is literally in the middle of Seoul (you can hardly tell where the base begins + ends).  We didn’t have time to leave base nor did we want to break any rules that we were still pretty unaware of. And by rules I mean, lots of rules. For instance- curfew. If you get caught out past 1am and before 5am, you get in serious trouble. Like the kind of trouble that will destroy a soldier’s career in the military. Ration Cards. Yeah like WWII, 1940’s style ration cards. I am only allowed to buy $800 worth of groceries from the commissary (*a grocery store with American brands for soldiers, their families, + DoD employees) a month. And last but not least, I will be trained + supplied with a gas mask in case of an attack (insert wide eyes + then laugh at the image of little V marching around in a gas mask giving orders). Ok, so really curfew doesn’t apply to civilians (aka me.. + other family members) just military, + really Joe + I won’t even come close to spending $800 on food a month, + getting a gas mask is kind of bad-ass, plus i’ll be way more prepared for an apocalypse of some sort than any of you, but I don’t like rules. Anyone that knows me well, knows inherently I have a hard time with authority (I am my father’s daughter.. GASP!). I hate buckling my seatbelt just because someone told me to. Following the speed limit? Ya right. Follow the leader + don’t ask questions? um really. Do everything the conventional way? Nope. (hello purple hair! Your welcome mom.) And I know what you are all thinking, “But Vanessa, you married Josiah! He’s in the ARMY!!! Get with it!”. Ya, ya. I know. Opposites attract, what can I say? And yes, I plan to get with it. Slowly but surely. I respect the Army, I may not understand why they do everything the way they do, but I respect it. Anyways, we figured out quickly that we didn’t want to make any wrong moves. So we ended up eating American food (there were no other options, wah!) + staying on base for the two + a half days we were in Seoul (I half blame it on the military + half blame it on the fact that I woke up at 4am every day + fell asleep at 6:30pm).

On the 2nd day, after being told were going to stay at the Dragon Hill Lodge for the next four days because of the NYE holiday, I got a call at noon from my excited hubby telling me to “hurry up, pack the bags, get everything ready because we are leaving for Camp Humphreys in 45 min!”. Such is the life of an army wife y’all. Up until this point we didn’t even know exactly where we were going to be stationed. Apparently there was some sort of mix up (is anyone really surprised?) but they fixed it + we were headed 55 miles south to the small town of Pyeongtaek (PEE-YONG-TACK) where the good old Camp Hump is located. Another hour long bus ride later, we arrived at a very, very LARGE army post. When I say large I mean it is one of the biggest bases i’ve been to land wise. However, it has the TINIEST commissary, PX, etc EVER. Camp Humphreys is under construction. It is supposed to be the biggest base in all of Asia once complete with a huge new hospital, commissary, PX, housing, etc. Most of the Yongsan base will move down to Camp Hump upon completion. It was supposed to be done a few years ago, but with the change of a president + a declining budget, Camp Humphreys will probably not be done until 2018 (at the soonest). So here we are, the beautiful boonies. Minus the beautiful. Pyeongtaek is.. meh. It’s a smaller farm town that seems pretty run down. Joe + I have been staying at the hotel here at Camp Hump (definitely not as nice as the “grand” Dragon Hill Lodge) + because of the new year everything has been shut down since we got here. So we literally could not do any in-processing or take care of housing or get my ration card (or my gas mask!!) or ANYTHING for four + a half days straight. We were going crazy. Cabin fever like i’ve never had it before. Everything on post was shut down (besides Taco Bell, Popeye’s, + Subway) + everything in town was closed. So this is where I wish I could tell you how glamours my life was + how fantastic + cool Korea is… But no. The highlight was walking around base bundled up (it was a crisp 12 degrees) + going to the “super gym”. After eating too much nasty American fast food (even Popeye’s has a limit) + being cooped up in a hotel room, we didn’t care if the town was dead, we wanted to get out + see Pyeongtaek. So we walked around the cruddy part of town right outside of the base (passed at least 5 strip clubs + a few bars) + stumbled upon a Korean restaurant. FINALLY! We were starving for something, anything, different than what we had seen, smelled, + tasted for the past 5 days. Joe + I had been to quite a few different Korean restaurants in Utah, Arizona, + Hawaii so we thought we knew what to expect. Language barrier? Psshhh, we got this! We walked in behind a Korean family + watched as they immediately took off their shoes… Um okay. Joe + I quickly looked at each other, smiled, + took our shoes off. We watched as the Korean family was seated. We both looked at each other + smiled again (that uncomfortable ‘WHAT’S HAPPENING’ smile) + waited to be seated. Finally after 5 min of standing there like two idiots, this korean dude started yelling + waving at us in Korean to come sit down somewhere.. Whoops, I guess it was rude to think we should expect someone to seat us HA! We sat down at a table with a pit in the middle. I was facing the wall so I told Joe to watch every move the Korean family was making + then tell me what to do… We looked at the menu, blindly chose two pork dishes + waited in silence, only speaking with our awkward smiles + glances back and forth. Suddenly the Korean dude brought in a hot metal box of coals from outside + placed it in the center pit of our table. He then brought a plate of raw meat + slung it on the hot coals. Joe + I nodded, “okay we got this!”. Then came thunnamed-3e familiar, tiny side bowls of rice, kimchi, seaweed, raw onions + garlic, squid, + a whole lot of other sides that I honestly had no idea what they were. They didn’t, however give us plates or anything to place the meat on.. Hmm… the raw meat plate? No. On top of some lettuce? Yes. Joe continued to watch as the Korean family made lettuce wraps with the meat and sides (They placed 5 WHOLE GARLIC CLOVES into one wrap along with LOTS of raw onions). We tried our best to sit straight + act like we’d done this for years, the whole time trying not to laugh at the hilarious experience or notice that everyone in the restaurant was trying not to stare at us. It was a good time. I enjoyed 90% of what was placed in front of me, while Joe gave his 95% approval rating (neither of us could do 5 whole garlic cloves though..). After staring at our empty plates for about 10 min, Joe got up + found the korean dude to take care of the bill. Of course paying in Korean won proved to be a challenge in + of itself, but we managed!

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As Sunday came we were both beyond excited for some praising + worshiping (I have never been so excited to go to church in my entire life). As most know, Josiah + I are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.. aka Mormons. Like the Catholic Church, Aveda, or Starbucks, there is something so familiar + stable about walking into a mormon church. You know exactly what you’re going to get. They all look the same, smell the same, + are run the same. Familiarity was exciting. We had the address written down, looked at the map, searched the web, + were ready at 8:30 to head to our military branch. But of course, the cab driver could not read english + said she had no idea where or what the mormon church was. As Joe frantically tried talking to an english speaking worker at the cab headquarters over the phone, our cab driver continued to drive past all the popular church sites around Pyeongtaek as we shook our head no. Finally we went back to our hotel feeling pretty bummed over the mishap + over paying an unruly cab fare. So, as we munched on our Krispy Kreme donuts + accepted defeat, we searched again for a phone number or contact info for the church.. Nothing. The next day (yesterday) was Josiah’s birthday + we decided to head to the one “nice” restaurant on base, mostly out of convenience + laziness (walking everywhere takes its toll). But of course, the restaurant was closed for the night +  since we were right by the main gate we decided local grub sounded pretty good after all. After a semi-decent, hole-the-wall Korean dinner, we trudged back to base + right before entering we noticed something. Joe turned turned to me saying, “hey, are those missionaries?”. Sure enough I turned + saw two squeaky clean boys in black suits standing on the sidewalk talking to someone in a car. Following an awkward yell across the sidewalk we ran up to them more excited than we had been since our first Korean dining experience. They then introduced us to the people in the car, our branch president and his wife, who low + behold were headed to a group family home evening on post. Of course we eagerly accepted the offer to jump inside the car with both missionaries + the branch president to catch the free ride to FHE. After an extremely warm welcome, a birthday cake was brought out + everyone began singing happy birthday… to an older fellow in the ward (for a minute I thought they were psychic). So moral of the story? Joe got everything he wanted for his birthday after all (except for a baby.. not happening yet folks!). Call it divine intervention, the universe, luck, karma, or whatever you want, but we were blessed with a slice of warm loving people to make us feel at home.

So what does this next week have in store for us? More briefings, getting phones with unlimited data, finding an apartment somewhere in Pyeongtaek, taking the test for a Korean driver’s license, buying a car, receiving my ration card (+ hopefully gas mask!! I want that thing!), + eating fresh food (insert cheering)!!

If you managed to read this entire lengthy post, have a great week friends and hopefully your New Year’s was more eventful then mine! 🙂

Peace and Love-

Vanessa

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Looks like the local Hooters shut down and was replaced with a fabric shop!

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First Korean experience in the mother land.

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Main road in our new “village”.

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Happy birthday Joe!

The Last Hour

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. – Helen Keller

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Much to my shagrin, I am here… starting this blog. Let’s go back to high school. Specifically to my high school english class. We had to pick a partner + debate a subject together in front of the class. A friend + I teamed up, quickly trying to pick a topic to debate. I went to a very small high school in the middle of the sticks Alabama so diversity was not only uncommon, but largely frowned upon. When trying to come up with a topic we naturally disagreed on, we struggled.. we seemed to agree on everything. Then it hit me- social media! While all my fellow classmates obsessed over myspace (and soon Facebook), I sat reading books, listening to music, + following politics like some crazed, underpaid news anchor wannabe (I was so cool, right?). So, that day in english class I debated my heart out against the evils + immature reasonings of social media. Then a year later, I joined Facebook. I did it to reconnect with old friends + stay in touch with current friends, it seemed justified to me… But alas, then came youtube accounts, twitter, + instagram (my very favorite!). But I swore I would never get into blogging. I drew the line there… Yet here I am, again justifying it as a way to stay connected, or more so remembered (ha ha). Just call me a #basicwhitegirl.

 

As most know, my husband Josiah is an officer in the US Army, + by default that makes me an army wife. I have always been a self proclaimed gypsy. I actually looked up the definition of gypsy… a nomadic or free-spirited person. I moved quite a few times growing up + always looked forward to meeting new people + making new friends. In fact, one quality I looked for in a spouse was someone who had the traveling bug just as severely as me + thankfully Josiah has the fever, even better the army forces us to move… often. Moving doesn’t just mean packing + repacking constantly, finding new housing, etc. It means growing roots fast, making friends faster, +  worst of all, leaving behind all the people, places, + connections we so quickly attached our hearts to (hence the name- G.I. Gypsy) This journey we are about to embark on won’t be an easy walk in the park, but I do know it will be one wild adventure around the world… starting in Korea. The goodbyes have been hard but our new home awaits! Which is why I created this blog… between time differences, cost of international phone bills, + more than 6,000 miles between us, this is the best way to stay in touch. I have had several people ask me to update them on what Korea is like + send pics… this seems to be the easiest way. I assume 95% of those viewing this to be family, so don’t mind me while I either address certain inside jokes specifically to my mother or write as if this is my own family journal ha ha. If the 5% of you out there have any questions or requests, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. Get ready for pictures and posts on weird food, weird people, and weird things. IT’S GONNA GET WEIRD.

Peace and Love y’all. I’ve got a flight to Seoul I must catch! BYE AMERICA!!!

xoxo,

V

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