Hi guys, remember me? It’s Emily. I owe you an update. Or I need to shut the blog down or something, which I’m not going to do, so I’m brewing coffee and I’m going to do the update. I’ll try to keep it brief but a lot has happened since my last post so you might want to grab a coffee, or a glass of wine. Whatever you fancy. Gosh darn you guys, I hate when I get so behind like this. I wish I was better about blogging frequently. I’ve been through all this before with you, it’s nothing new for me to sit here and tell you about how it’s hard to blog when I’m busy, you’ve heard all the excuses. Just like I should clean the house more often, I should blog more often. It’s that simple. Heh heh…
So since we last talked we took a trip to Jeju Island, a Korean island south of the peninsula.
It’s the “Hawaii” of Korea and that’s really where the comparisons stop. It’s still Korea but with more palm trees. It was nice to get away, though, and the kids enjoyed the hiking and the museums we visited. And the oranges were unbelievably good there.
Alex left for a short TDY to Alaska shortly after we got back from Jeju. The first week he was gone was great, I was managing life solo with the kids just fine.
Things took a turn one day when I was driving back from a photo sessions when the kids were with the nanny and got hit by a Korean on a Harley. I was turning left in an intersection and he made a stupid decision to illegally pass me. I’ll be honest, driving in Korea scares the daylights out of me. They have traffic laws but the way they drive is insane. It’s mostly just a free-for-all and the laws and road signs are more of a suggestion. I didn’t see him coming at me until just as he was about to hit me. He t-boned me in the driver’s side door going way too fast. I was fine (bruised and sore) and he was just fine but the damage to my car was pretty ugly, mainly isolated on the driver door. I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the details of how it all played out, but in a nutshell, I ended up getting 100% of the blame for the accident, primarily because I’m a foreigner. The American Security Forces from the base came, but since it happened off base, it’s under Korean jurisdiction so they were mostly there for moral support. None of the Koreans spoke English at the scene so no one talked to me, they sent me a subpoena (referring to me as the “suspect”) to bring me into the Korean police station for questioning. They showed me a video that clearly showed the accident was in no way my fault. The translator gave me the peace of mind that the motorcyclist was obviously in the wrong but they needed my side of the story to complete the investigation. Several weeks later, the insurance agent called me to tell me I was found at fault because a) I wasn’t in the imaginary turn lane, supposedly there’s an ambiguously written law that says you need to keep toward the center line if you’re turning left when there’s no turn lane (the video showed an oncoming truck that was very close to the center lane which caused me to be more to the right in my line) and b) Korean traffic laws are written to protect, and I quote, pedestrians, bicyclists and scooters. You guys, he was riding a HUGE Harley.
I later found out that not so long ago, no matter what happened, Korean law stated that if a foreigner was involved in an accident they were automatically at fault with no investigation. That’s since changed, they now investigate, but I don’t think the mentality has changed. It’s so wrong, it’s discrimination. I was pretty ticked about the whole thing and didn’t even have Alex around to lean on (he was still in Alaska). And it was the nail in the coffin for my time in Korea. I was finished. Alex’s TDY ended up getting extended by several weeks so my mom thankfully came out to help me with the kids so I could handle the situation. The day Alex came home, a few days after my mom left, was such a relief. He’s my person, my better half and just his presence alone made everything better. He made the point that it’s just some bent metal on a car that is worth less than my camera. Isn’t he awesome? Why didn’t I think of that sooner? Anyway, we got to meet him at the jet when he flew in, which the kids always get so excited about.
Summers in Korea are pretty miserable, very hot and very humid, and this one was really dragging on. Alex had some time off for some much needed family time so we took a few trips to the splash pad, which the kids always love. I just tried to ignore the disgusting air that we were poisoning our lungs with…ick.
Then before we knew it, August rolled around and the time of the year I was so looking forward to… Kristin and Grady’s wedding! I’ve known both of them for several years and they were both in our wedding five years ago which is where they met for the first time. A couple years later, I connected the two of them hoping they’d become friends and the next thing I knew, they were engaged!
But the trip to Pennsylvania for the wedding turned into quite the adventure. We were initially planning to take the military rotator (a contracted airline that transports American military members and their families between Asia and Seattle). It’s reserved for those who are traveling on orders but if there are any empty seats available, they will give them out to military members for free. We’ve usually had decent luck with getting space available seats, but the one time we tried and actually needed to get on, we didn’t get seats. We planned a lot of extra time to allow for this just in case this would happen, but I still started to panic. After returning to our apartment disappointed and nervous about how we’d get to the wedding (and Owen sobbing because he really wanted to get on the plane) I sat down to the computer to look up other option. I found an insanely cheap flight to Hawaii THAT NIGHT, with a fairly cheap flight to the states a few days later. So we said heck, why not and did it. And it was AMAZING. If you’ve ever debated a trip to Hawaii, do it.
The beach was a huge hit with Owen, but he didn’t love the pool (at all) and clung onto us for dear life, even with all three floaty devices. We really need to get him in swim lessons. Della absolutely loved the pool, she’s a fish. The beach on the other hand, not so much. She refused to touch the sand and insisted on being held at all times.
Hawaiian sunsets, by the way, are fabulous.
Hawaii is just on the other side of the international dateline, so that made for an interesting kind of jet lag, that was surprisingly manageable. We left Korea on a Thursday night and 7ish hours later, landed in Hawaii…on Thursday morning. But somehow the adjustment wasn’t as bad as I expected. We still struggled a bit though…
We stayed in Honolulu where we found a decent deal on a Marriott but if we had to do it again, we’d get out of the city. It’s swarming with tourists and the beaches are very crowded. We spent a couple days exploring the area and eating all the fish tacos (they were so delicious). The Honolulu Zoo was right next door to our hotel and was great. It was just the right size.
On our last day we rented an overpriced car and ventured out of the city. A trip to Hawaii is not be complete without visiting Pearl Harbor. Since our trip was last minute, we weren’t able to get tickets to the memorial, but we could tour the ship. What an incredible experience it was to be in such a historical location.
If you’re military, we highly recommend heading north across the island to Bellows Air Force Station. Located right next door to a world famous beach (Kailua) this is a private beach for military ID holders and it is absolutely stunning. It’s quiet and not overcrowded, the softest white sands, and the water and sky were four shades of blue. There’s aSubway and a shoppette with everything you might need (including beach toys), plus you can pretty much park right on the beach. They even have little cabins that you can rent with their own little paths right to the beach. Literally, you step out the door and five steps later, your toes are in the sand. It couldn’t get any more beach front than this hidden gem and we really wish we had known about them sooner. We only went for the day and wished we could have stayed longer. Owen had a blast digging in the sand and building sand castles with us, but Della didn’t care much for the sand. I plopped her down in it a couple times which lasted maybe a minute or two. She much preferred being held with her feet in the ocean waves instead.
The next day we flew to Pennsylvania where my parents (who had driven out from Iowa to help with the kids) picked us up at the airport. It was a whirlwind of a week but I had an absolute blast watching two of my best friends marry each other. It was an absolutely beautiful wedding and I am still having dreams about it, waking up wishing I could relive it again and again! Kristin couldn’t have been more a more gorgeous bride. I got to put faces to names of many of her friends and family that I feel like I’ve known all these years through her. I just love seeing Kristin and Grady so happy together!
Our flight en route home from Pennsylvania for the wedding dropped us in Seattle for a couple of days before our flight to Korea. We were still a little weary from the jet lag and the busy week. We slept a few days and finally ventured out to see the city. We’ve always wanted to see Seattle and really enjoyed the market and the especially the food.
This ginger beer was incredible…I’m still craving it.
Owen came back from our trip to the states with hand, foot and mouth disease, which we just had let to run its course – that was NOT fun. Fortunately, Della never got it. We took it easy for a few days readjusting.
I had two weekends full of taking photos of families in our squadron with the F-16, those always make fun Christmas cards, and I had a great time photographing our Viper family! The kids never miss an opportunity to hang out with their dad’s jet.
And they love seeing all the planes land and take off on the flight line. This was some VIP visiting Osan.
Then it was time to start getting ready for the big move. Our time in Korea was almost up (yay!) and we had so much to do to get ready for another international move. While Alex was in Alaska, we got word that our next assignment was Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, NM. We’re headed there in October and couldn’t be more excited to move back to the states. As much as we love living overseas, and we’re definitely not ready to be done with it, we are so over the international flights with kids. We are so anxious to have a real house with a yard and a garage and storage and space…it’s the little things that living in a tiny apartment make you appreciate.
We decided it would be in everyone’s best interest if the kids and I left before the apartment got packed up. That allowed Alex to organize the apartment for the movers without stressing everyone out. But leaving meant a lot of difficult goodbyes to our friends, friends who became family. Saying bye to their nannies was probably one of the worst…these two women are so special to our family. The kids didn’t really understand why we were all so sad, but I think that’s for the best. Emo and Ms. Choi have loved my babies as their own, taught them so much about love, life and the Korean culture. They’ve saved my sanity and without them I wouldn’t have been able to run my photography business. They were invaluable to our family, such a blessing, and were truly part of our family. I’ve tried so hard to stay optimistic about Korea, but it’s been a real struggle for me at times, and I often found myself wallowing in misery. I’m so glad I put my trust with God that Korea was exactly where I was meant to be for the past two years or we would have never met these two women who got me through the most difficult times.
Earlier this week, the kids and I boarded a plane for one last 36+ trip across the pond. I can’t say it went great (is that even a real possibility on a flight that long?) and was dreading the exhaustion but I was so eager to get out of there. It wasn’t like leaving Germany at all. I left Korea behind, kept the memories, and didn’t even look back. When we took off out of Korea, I actually cried happy tears. Korea was an experience, and I made some lifelong friends there, but I’m so glad it’s behind us. We are currently staying in Iowa with family for the next few weeks until Alex joins us and despite the jet lag, it’s been wonderful so far. It’s so nice to have a break from laundry and let someone else take care of my kids. I’ve already gotten so much done (to include this post). In early October, we’re driving our new (to us) car to New Mexico to begin our new adventure. (By the way, did I mention that our friends Kristin and Grady also just moved to New Mexico?!?!) We’ve put down a deposit on a beautiful house in Alamogordo that’s about as close to I can get to my dream house for the time being, and are really excited about this next chapter in our life because…
We have some big news!
Baby Smith #3 is due to arrive in February 2018 and we couldn’t be more thrilled!
So, with that, I’ll wrap this post up. Hopefully over the next few weeks I’ll have a bit more time to keep the blog updated and not wait three months before posting again.
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!!