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Sunday, March 25, 2007


Our 6th wedding anniversary was February 17th, right in the middle of Solnar. The day after, we sort of realized that it had gone past, and decided that we were no longer newlyweds.

I decided at the time that I would try to make up for it, even though neither one of us were really that disturbed. The best occasion I could think of was March 14th, the 7th anniversary of the day I proposed to Horyon and she accepted. In some ways, March was busier than the months Horyon was working. She was studying with the tailor, as well as with a woman who taught her how to do clever sewing things with ribbons, mostly involving making flowers and plants and stuff. Some of it is really adorable, and it will really add value to her girly dresses.

By the way, we settled on a name for her label:

Little Hand Made

I thought it carried the right proportions of cuteness, description of the product, and humor to be successful. I Googled it and found no other company with that name, which was kind of a relief, as Horyon had already ordered the labels. It would be just my luck if it were registered as some sort of maid-outfit porn site.

Anyway, back to the anniversary. On the 14th, Horyon knew that I had something planned. A couple of weeks before I had asked if she liked surprises. When she said yes, I told her that was good, because I had one coming up for her.

This, of course, drove her completely crazy. I refused to divulge any other information. She pestered me constantly, and I eventually broke down and told her that we were going to have dinner together, and that I had arranged for her parents to take care of Maxine for the evening. I congratulated her for figuring out the surprise, and she was satisfied with that.

Early that evening, around 5:00, we started walking down the beach. She was still pestering me about where we were going to eat, but she thought she had the whole thing figured out. We walked at a leisurely pace for about half an hour, then I led her into the Hotel Homers. We had been wondering about this place for some time. For me, it was a toss up between whether it was a Greek Mythology place or a Simpsons place. Perhaps some combination of the two, with Homer Simpson lashed to the mast while beautiful maidens offer him donuts.

We ate at the Chinese restaurant in the hotel. The food was excellent, even given that dinner for the both of us cost more than $100. Very fresh ingredients, prepared in what looked like ridiculously small proportions, which nevertheless managed to leave us both feeling quite full by the end of the meal.

Afterwards I suggested that we should take the elevator to the Sky Lounge at the top of the hotel for a couple of drinks. When we got in the elevator I pressed the 10th floor button, but Horyon didn't see. She only noticed that the 19th and 20th floor buttons hadn't been pressed. She actually felt a bit embarrassed when another woman got into the elevator going up. She was a bit confused when I pulled her out at the 10th floor, and even more so when I went right up to the door to a room, unlocked it and opened it.

Inside the room there were seven roses spread out on the bed, a bottle of champagne in the fridge, and a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake melting on the table.

Rob had done his homework.

I'm not that good at keeping a secret. For starters, it's my policy to not lie. I don't go around mentioning every true thing I know, but I don't like to tell people things that aren't true. On the other hand, I love teasing Horyon. I had involved Horyon's parents and her sewing teacher in on the secret, and both of them had played their parts as well as could be expected. The last couple of days I was sure she would figure it out, but the dinner plan sufficiently obfuscated the real plan.

We had a lovely night, alone together. A reminder of the high points of this marriage. The next couple of days we had to deal with visa stuff, multiple calls to the IRS in America, and a struggle to find a working fax machine. But that is an entry for another day.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Moving Update

Well, I've got some news for you all.

Horyon's visa interview was Monday. We went to Seoul Sunday night and had a great time with my mother-in-law's family. They are not adverse to having drinks with their dinner, and they prepared a wonderful dinner Sunday night.

The interview was Monday at 8:30 a.m. We got to the embassy around 8:00, and managed to be 11th in line. Step one is submitting your papers. When we were called for step one, we found that there was a problem. We had one document wrong. It was not a big enough mistake to call off the interview, so we waited for step two: fingerprints. No problem there. Step four was paying for the process, around $300. Step four was the interview itself.

It went well, actually. We had brought Maxine with us, and my game plan was to hold her up to the window and say, "Look at this cute baby! Now give Horyon a visa!"

It didn't work. The missing paperwork turned out to be vital. However, based on our other documents, she was approved for a visa. They will mail it to us as soon as they receive the correct form.

Unfortunately, it was not a matter of going to an internet cafe, downloading a form and filling it out. They needed the form that my mother had filled out. So I mailed her the correct form, as well as the paper saying that all we need is that form, and now we are waiting for this beautiful little circle to complete itself.

Fortunately, my parents' cruise ended on Sunday, and they planned to be back home by late Wednesday night, because that was about as soon as I could expect to get the paperwork to them.

As soon as we have Horyon's visa, we will buy plane tickets to go home.

Yes, we had plane tickets before. They have been cancelled. This might all work out before our original departure date (March 29th), but then again it might not. In addition, the original plane tickets carried some inconveniences that we were happy to be rid of.

I know there are lessons to be learned from this. The U.S. Gov't web site said clearly not to make travel plans before you get your visa. I, however, was in a hurry to get home, and encouraged Horyon to ignore that advice. She also found evidence that lots of people buy plane tickets before they get their visas, so it must be all right. We succumbed to arrogance.

I've been telling people for weeks that we will leave on March 29th, and now we are not. For me, it drives home the point of the scriptures that tell us, "Do not say, 'tomorrow we will do this,' or, 'next year we will do that.' God holds all the cards, and you hold nothing, sissy-boy." (That's my own paraphrasing there.)

The application is the hard part; letting go. My natural tendency is to just let things happen, but with Maxine in my life I want to be more in control. So I'm relearning this lesson.

In other, less philosophical matters, our stuff has arrived in America. Actually it arrived some time ago and has been waiting for me to arrive. Obviously, that is not going to happen soon, and so we decided that instead of sending it to me, we would send it to my Dad, at our Lawrence address. Problem solved. Dad should be meeting them some time next week to make sure that none of our boxes have been dipped in vomit or dropped off a cliff.

Last, I'm sorry for the recent lack of posting. Monday sort of hit me like a ton of bricks, and it has hit Horyon even harder. Though the embassy made it very clear that Horyon will get her visa, she doesn't have it now, and everyone she talks to asks why she failed. She has enough trouble dealing with that (incorrect) question from herself, much less everyone around her. So hopefully this will all be resolved soon, and those of you reading this from Kansas will be hearing more in person.



Monday, March 12, 2007


Last week I topped Dalmaji 2 twice.

From Dalmaji 1 it really isn't a rough ride. Maybe 1.5 km, less than half of it uphill. Dalmaji 2 is no longer just a wide spot in the road, though. There is a parking with six spaces marked out, so at least 10 cars will cram in. From the small parking lot are some wooden stairs continuing up to some sort of gazebo which I can only partly see from Dalmaji 1.

Dalmaji 2 itself is not really the challenge. The challenge lies in continuing from there to Songjung Beach. It's a long ride down, with only a couple of small rises to break the monotony. It's fairly easy to reach speeds of 50 kph (30 mph). When I was riding with Earl we would push it even higher, but I am not as daring on my own.

What makes Dalmaji 2 a challenge is getting back up it from the other side. I always thought it was a miserable hill, and I was right. However, I have found that it's not quite so bad if you don't get off the bike at Songjung. I did take it easy, circling around a bit, riding along the coast. But it's too cold to just stop and sit, and with no one to talk with, there's no point. So I stayed in the saddle. Getting back up D. 2 was still pretty rough, but not as bad as I remembered.

The road itself is a bit superfluous. People who drive it do so only to appreciate the view. People who are actually going somewhere tend to use the tunnel. So during the week, it's pretty low traffic. There are times when the only sound is the wind whistling by me.

Of course, when I say "by me" I mean "out of me", and when I say "whistling" I mean "wheezing". One of my rides was Saturday afternoon. That wasn't as nice. Too much traffic. Still better than the main roads, but a bit stressful.

In spite of the pounding of my heart and the gasping of my lungs, I felt good. Round trip around 29 km. I believe the views are very scenic, however I am mostly focused on the road in front of me.

When I used to ride with Earl, he led me on beyond Songjung to Gijang, the next town after Pusan. The road is a divided highway with a very wide, well-paved shoulder. The road rolls along, not too hilly, not too flat. The main thing stopping me from continuing on to Gijang is time. Songjung and back is about two hours. Gijang is about three. Still, it's calling to me. Perhaps this week.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Kyungsung Goodbye

Today I went back to Kyungsung University for an appointment my manager, Mr. Kim, made a couple of weeks ago. It was very nice. Many of my coworkers were there, and they gave me a nice little plaque that I will be proud to put on whatever desk eventually becomes mine. We then went down to the cafeteria together and had lunch. It was a pretty good lunch, with broiled fish, seafood dol-sot-bibim-bap, and tofu stuff that tasted better than you would expect tofu to taste. The conversation was not bad, though I am already well on the way to being an outsider. It's a situation which Horyon and I are becoming accustomed to: everyone else is continuing the same old conversations they've been having for months, sometimes years, and we are not really part of it. It's nothing deliberate, but my fate to them is just one of many topics. For me, it's kind of the main topic.

I'm not completely cut off. Until my dying day I will always sympathize, and to some extent enjoy, stories of the suffering that Earl goes through with lazy, stupid, obnoxious students. Today I heard this one:

So I'm in Thailand, on vacation, and it's February, more than a month after the deadline for changing grades, and I get this email. (Just for the record, I could already see the direction this was going at this point. But Earl's stories are not about the ending, they are about the process.) It's from a student, and she says, 'Do you remember me? I got married in December so I was very busy and you gave me a project to do and I did it and I have the email in my sent box, but I still got an F, so how can we fix your mistake so I can graduate?' So I said, 'First of all it was your mistake for taking so long to follow up on this, and second it's way too late to do anything about this, and third, you're an idiot.

Man, I will seriously miss Earl's stories. It may not show in my pitiful transcription, but there is a kind of sparkle to them. Perhaps my enjoyment stems from the irony of knowing that Earl actually likes his job, and works very hard to teach his students and grow as a teacher. Loosing Earl as a biking partner was pretty bad, but losing him as a coworker is worse. Fortunately, I don't have to worry about losing him as a friend.

Because that wouldn't really be so bad.


Seriously, I will miss working at Kyungsung University. It had the best working atmosphere of any place I have worked in Korea. What made it the best was that the management left the teachers alone. Mr. Kim has been the head of our department for a long time. I was told ten years. He had had some experience working overseas, and applied that to working with us foreigners, to great success.

And then yesterday (just three days after my going away lunch) I heard that he had been shuffled off to a different department. His replacement will be Mr. Kwan. I have worked with Mr. Kwan before. In fact, I have had a few drinks with him. There's a fun little story behind that, but for now I will just leave it at this:

It is possible, though unlikely, that someday I will want to work at Kyungsung University again. No point in burning any bridges, right?

Well, I was hoping to post the pictures that a friend took at this event, but he has not sent them to me yet. If they come, I'll add them to this post.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Costs of Moving

We are now completely at Horyon's parents' home. Well, completely if you don't count our stuff that is in a warehouse waiting for me to go to America so it can come, anyway. Or my stuff that's been sitting in my parents' basement, some of it for multiple decades now. And you definitely don't count the stuff we have abandoned.

And we have bought tickets to move to America. We will be flying to Seoul, from Seoul to San Fransisco, San Fransisco to Dallas (I think), and from there to Kansas City Int'l Airport. I have no doubt that some of you who read this will have post-game-play suggestions as to how we could have done better on this. We know. Believe me, we know. One early option I looked into was traveling by ship. Believe it or not, not many people do that sort of thing nowadays. The only options are booking tickets on a cargo ship, or going on a cruise ship. The first is not an option for passengers under five years old, and the second is only an option if you can find cruises that connect the points you want to travel between. So travel by ship was ruled out on both counts. Horyon also gets sea-sick, but I think I could have drugged her up for the trip.

Between the stuff in transition and our plane tickets, we are spending something in the neighborhood of $8,000, almost evenly halved between the two. We decided to bring Maxine's car seat and buy a seat for her on the international flight. That costs 75% of the adult fare, with absolutely none of her fare going to the passengers seated around us who will no doubt enjoy her presence almost as much as we will. I'm figuring that for us it will be a lot like the other flights we've been on with crying babies, except that it will be our responsibility to get the baby to accept her lot in life.

We're thinking that this trip might be a good time to introduce Maxine to beer.

Just kidding!

Sort of.

The moving of our stuff proved to be more expensive than we expected. The minimum price was about $1600, and we kind of figured that we'd be doing good to keep it under $2500. Turns out we didn't do so good. The moving people told us that we had made a common mistake: we figured that if we weren't bringing furniture our costs would be low, so we could afford to bring other stuff. Even now when I think about the stuff we've brought, it's hard to figure out how it ended up being so many boxes. Granted, two industrial sewing machines, including the tables they are set up on take up a lot of space. Multiple boxes of thread and cloth bought at much lower prices than we will be able to find in the States will be a huge advantage in kick-starting Horyon's sewing business. Multiple boxes of books should keep me from spending a lot of money on more books.

Right. Like having lots of books ever stopped anyone from buying more books. But I'll tell you what: I'd really appreciate it if you all could avoid mentioning this to Horyon.

We're also bringing a lot of our kitchen stuff. Nothing electric, of course, because in Korea the appliances mostly run on 220 volts, and American stuff is all 110. (It's been my experience here that anything needing a converter is more trouble than it's worth. Unless it's a really cool gadget, of course. And nowadays the coolest gadgets run on both voltages.) So I will be able to cook as soon as we get there. I'm just missing a few odd things that should be easy to acquire. Our big frying pan was due to be replaced anyway, and most of our wooden spoons were hosting bit's of the past several meals they had participated in.

On the other hand, we already have some kitchen supplies back in the States: an ice cream maker (a Christmas present I bought for Horyon, knowing how much we like ice cream), an electric knife (wedding present, hasn't left its box since 2001)... I guess that's pretty much it. Time to put together my wishlist:

food processor
crock pot

I've got a crock pot here. I've used it once since moving in with the in-laws, to make chili again. This time I toned it down in the hopes that Maxine would eat it. Didn't work.

Today I made chicken in mushroom gravy, featuring our old friend, Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. I also used some real mushrooms, just to liven things up a bit. I didn't have time to do it in the crock pot, as we were gone most of the afternoon. We drove an hour and a half to a meat restaurant, ate, bought more meat to bring home, then drove back. I thought it might be a good indication of how Maxine will do on our trip home. My conclusion is that she will do great if:

1. we can stop and get out of the plane to walk around every 45 minutes,
2. she can watch the scenery go by, and
3. it doesn't take more than about three hours to get from here to Kansas.

The meat was good. I'm not sure if it was worth driving that far, but I'm from Kansas. To me good beef is sort of a given, and you shouldn't have to drive that far for it. Now if you want it prepared specially, you can drive a bit. In that respect, this restaurant was a bit ironic: we cooked the meat on a grill in the middle of the table. It may sound like work, but believe me, it is a good kind of work. You get the meat cooked exactly the way you like it, and every bite comes to you piping hot, right off the grill. This is one thing I will very much miss in America.

And now Horyon's mother is cooking gom-guk. (rhymes with "home juke") Gom-guk is made by boiling beef back or tail bones and other cuts for a long time. This is a kind of going away food for Horyon and me. It's one of the few non-spicy soups that Koreans like. It's very rich, though if you don't add salt it doesn't taste like much.

A quick Maxine update: she is adding a few more words to her spoken vocabulary. Somehow the word "ball" has gotten in there. We're not sure why, as she doesn't really enjoy playing with her ball that much, but there's a picture of a ball in one of her books, and she always homes right in on it. She does a pretty good approximation of "dah-het-dah", Korean for "all finished." It's very cute, and sometimes even comes at an appropriate time.

She also enjoys dancing. She doesn't need music, just a suggestion and a little encouragement. She has taken to mimicking the way I shake a finger at her when she does something bad. She knows that grabbing my glasses is a spanking offense. I try to be fair about it. The first time she grabs them I tell her "No" and remind her that the next time will get a spanking. One time I gave this reminder in front of Horyon, and Maxine swatted her own thigh to demonstrate that she knew what I was talking about. We demonstrated that we need to exercise more self-control to avoid laughing while talking about serious topics.

She loves living in Grandpa (Harabuhji) and Grandma (Halmony)'s home. Grandpa Kang finds it impossible to say no to Maxine, and will give her almost anything she asks for. Grandma is more likely to say "no". This, I believe, is why Grandma and I are sort of in a tie for third place in Maxine's affections. Not that Horyon can't say "no", but she's the mommy, and still breastfeeds to put Maxine to sleep. I just can't compete with that. Not sure if I want to. It's going to be hard for her when we leave, but I suspect that she will adapt to life in America faster than either of us.

That's all for now.



Thursday, March 01, 2007

Good Kids

I had lunch at Burger King in Somyon yesterday, which is a rare treat for me. McDonalds has left it's huge footprints all over this country, but the King has not been so successful. People tell me it's because B.K. is too expensive, which leads me to believe that they can't tell the difference between a decent hamburger and a Big Mac. The menus at both places are pretty much the same as in America. You get the odd dessert thing with a combination of beans and ice cream (true!) or burgers with "Korean style" sauce.

But that's all beside the point. The point is that at the table next to me were four boys. (The rest of the restaurant had like two other tables with people, but they sat next to me. Welcome to Korea.) They were pretty well behaved, and they didn't point at me, make goofy comments in English (e.g. too many "OK!"s, "You are stone head!", etc.) or hit each other too much.

What they were doing was messing with their cell phones. I don't spend a lot of time around many kids, so I really had no idea how old these boys were, so I thought I'd ask. First I asked if they spoke English, and they all said yes. Good start. I might have been able to ask what I wanted in Korean, but I would have sounded like some kind of foreigner or something. They were very polite to me, and spoke English surprisingly well. This is what I found out:

They were all 13 years old. (I assume Korean age, so 11 or 12 by Western reckoning.)

The time they had had cell phones varied from four months to five years. Yeah, since he was like seven years old!

One of them didn't have his cell phone because his mother had taken it away. I'm afraid I didn't ask why.

One of their mothers had driven them to Somyon. They get to do something like this once a month or so.

They didn't all go to the same school, they just live in the same neighborhood.

One of them spent a year in Canada, though he spoke less than the other boys.

When I got home, I talked with Horyon about when Maxine will get her first cell phone. We're guessing even earlier than those boys. I think she's going to start asking pretty soon, because she's already fascinated by cell phones.

In biking news, today I got 2k up Kumryung Mountain. I decided that I am not masochistic enough to do this thing without stopping at all, so I took three or four breaks to drink water and pant like a dog. When I got up to 2k, I found the retreat center where our church had its outdoor service a couple of years ago. There was plenty of parking lot for me to ride around in without straining myself, but no alternate way down.

I've also decided that I don't like the Kumryung Mountain road. It is very steep and curvy, as well as being poorly surfaced for biking. Lots of washboard concrete, and a few patches of red stuff they put on the road to remind cars to slow down. all it does for bikes is make us feel like we have no traction. Going up is bad enough, but down is almost worse. I had to stop halfway down to take a rest and get the cramps out of my hands.

And so I'm limiting myself to one Kumryung Mountain attempt per week. Even after relaxing in the bath house, I still feel beat up. I'm too old to be doing this kind of thing every day.

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.