Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Living in Korea (Part II)

We arrived in early November. It was very cold, especially for someone coming from southern Texas. The coldest temperature that I recall was nine degrees. It made quite an impression on me because I’d never been in such a cold climate before and specifically remember thinking, so this is what nine degrees feels like. It stayed in the teens during most of the winter. The apartment was drafty and stayed chilly. They used pipes that ran under the floor to heat their homes. We did break down and buy a small floor heater once we got settled, but when we got really cold our best bet was just to lie down on the floor with a blanket.

My first week was spent touring my new surroundings, which required a great deal of walking. I had to learn my way around and most of the things we would need or want to do were located on one of the bases. It was about a half mile from our apartment to the front gate at Camp Casey, which was the larger of the two Army bases near us. Camp Hovey was actually a little base attached to the back of Camp Casey where the husband was actually stationed and still had a room in the barracks. We would end up spending many hours in his room in the months that followed.

Both bases were small and not equipped as full functioning for dependents like we were used to. There was an urgent care unit but it was only to be used for life threatening emergencies to stabilize someone until they could be transferred to Seoul. There was a small PX on Camp Casey with a food court attached that had five or six fast food restaurants and an eating area. Unfortunately, we didn’t have choices like Taco Bell or Pizza Hut, but after a few months of being there I grew to love that food. The commissary was a major disappointment. It was the size of a convenience store and only offered a small selection of food items. I’d never given it much thought before that time but did learn that many foods from here either can’t be shipped that far without spoiling, or the cost of doing so was too great so we were left with very few choices made available to us. They also rationed the amount of each purchase by issuing us a ration card. That meant we could only get so much at one time and that would require us to make more frequent trips to the store, which was far from an easy task.

Our routine would become for us to walk to Camp Casey and then down to the bus stop. The bus would stop at various locations on Camp Casey letting people on/off and then over to Camp Hovey to do the same. It was a regular military bus and nothing like riding the civilian Korean buses. We typically rode the bus several times each week to get where we needed to be.

The scenery during the walk from our apartment to the base consisted of shops, bars, apartments and Bordello*s, which were ummm, well, places where a man could go to get certain things. The Mamasons (Madams) used to stand outside as we passed trying to drum up business. I was so horrified I would just ignore them and never did go off on any of them, but looking back on it wish I had. I should've screamed, “Do you see me and this baby walking next to him? Now back off and find another soldier to solicit." They'd stand out there asking the passing soldiers if they wanted a “good time”. Most of them wouldn't say anything when we passed by together but a few had the nerve to proposition him even with us in tow.

The husband had taken about a week off from work to get us settled in and adjusted. When the day came for him to return to his normal work routine he had to get up extra early and walk to Camp Casey then catch the bus to his room and change clothes in time for early morning PT. It was always cold and dark outside when he left every morning before 5am and when he arrived back home after 5 pm each night. Naturally he was always exhausted and ready for an early dinner and bedtime. I, on the other hand, was excited and ready to talk for hours since he was my only adult contact for the most part.

The first several weeks after he returned to work were very difficult. Instead of being eager to explore on my own, I was afraid and unsure of the world outside that was so different from the one I knew. I would eventually venture out alone on those long days, but not just yet. He went back to work and I was forced to deal with long, lonely days cooped up in a small apartment with an 18-month-old and very few things to keep us both occupied and entertained like I was used to having at my disposal back home. What in the world were we going to do with ourselves all day long without a phone,(it was 1989 and there was no internet), cable TV, a yard or even neighborhood park to keep us busy? Not only would I find myself dealing with a lack of things to do, but I’d also have to adjust to how difficult it was to carry out even the simplest tasks such as doing the laundry, grocery shopping, getting to a doctor and even taking a hot bath. Things weren't anything like I'd expected and the next six months would offer challenges I never saw coming.


teresa said...

Tell us more. What challenges are coming?? My poor Carri. I remember the day you left. You were so determined. You had to see & be with that smokin hot man you still love so much. I can't wait for part III. Please tell Paul we miss him.....

Carri said...

It's 1145pm here Teresa, so it's still your birthday here!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Did you get my card via snail mail??

Carri said...

Oh, I'll share more. Good things came from my experience but it was sort of hellish at times.

Anonymous said...

i can't wait

~~annonymously prestonsgirl

teresa said...

Carri - I got your birthday card today. Thank you so much! I love those old fashion cards. Who'd of thought that we would ever relate to being this old. Okay, I know I'm older than you, but only by two weeks. Your day is almost here! I love you!