Here is a super long story I just can’t rehash, made short: We had to move to Tucson.
We’ve known for a bit that our car was in Europe; first Germany and then here in Spain, but down at the import lot at Rota Naval base. It took a while to get all the paperwork in order to be ready for picking it up, and we decided to drive down our cheapo Volvo together on the weekend. Bryan would return Sunday, but the kids and I stayed on until Monday to pick up the car. Continue reading “Rota Naval Station”
Well we got our household goods! Woohoo! They called Tuesday evening to bring a few things early and then came back at the crack of dawn Wednesday to finish the delivery. Bummer for all: the big truck with crates would not fit down our road. So they parked out of town, opened the crates, loaded our junk into a couple smaller vans, and then delivered it. Lots of extra work for them, but they seemed quite ready to take breaks when the van was retrieving a new load or at mid morning snack or again at lunch and smoke time and they were promptly done by dinner…spanish dinner at 830PM. They were great! Placed everything (but some pesky wardrobes that wouldn’t fit through our oddly small garage access door) and put together all the furniture and even unpacked all but a handful of boxes that I wanted left.
We made it. This move has been one of the smoothest ever in our military experience. It’s really incredible; either our perspective has changed or things are simply sunny this go around.
On our final day in Korea we woke around 0430, got into our travel clothes, woke the kids, and we all dragged our bags a block over to the Osan lodging to catch the base shuttle bus to Incheon. My friend Sarah showed up as we were loading up the bags, and it hit me then that this was for good. Not coming back. It was a tearful goodbye, but happy. I think it all hit Avi at that time as well, because he started crying and saying we were moving. He sat with me on the bus and we waved at Sarah….which made him feel a lot better. The have really gotten to love hanging out with her.
As the bus pulled out of the base we saw another friend as well! Steve was on his way into base to do a shift at the animal shelter. Avi recognized the car and we frantically waved. Steve saw us and waved back! It was a great send off. We even waved at our house on the way past and saw the new tenant out in the backyard with his dog…. life had already continued without us in Korea.
The bus ride was fast, I snoozed, both kids slept, and we had hours at the airport to spare. Baggage check was easy and we were glad to get ride of all 6! We each had a rolly suitcase, plus a duffle with camping stuff, and one with the kids’ car seats. Way more than we are used too. Flying Korean airlines had it’s perks at Incheon, and we were given a special pass for the express security screening – a separate security line just for people with kids or special needs. Breezed through there and customs, then we wandered into the terminal and found the Korean Tourism Office where they offer traditional crafts to make for free. We spent a long time working hard at creating a pretty laquerware mother of pearl mirror. We then went upstairs to the rest and relax area where the kids played a while in the playland before we all got hungry and had lunch in the cafeteria. The three hours went quickly, and before we knew it we were boarding our flight; first again, as we had kids, and for once we took advantage of that because we had more carryons than usual.
We had two window seats; Bryan and Avi sat behind me and Zoe, but no one was in the third seat beside us, so we each got a row of three and spread out. It made for a really comfy and enjoyable 13 hour flight. Every seat has its own TV, too, with games and movies and radio. I got hooked on a caveman puzzle game and spent hours getting to the next to last stage. Didn’t watch a single movie: just a show about bug eating plants. Zoe watched a few movies, but also got hooked on a tetris-style game that occupied her time. Avi watched a ton of movies back there, too. We all napped and ate the two dinners that came: loved my last spicy octopus bibimbop. The seats were comfy, the flight attendants nice, and we had real silverware. It was snazzy. It was also nice to complete the flight and not need to take another one!
Madrid was instantly hot. Our plane taxiied around the airport forever. Zoe felt uck because the landing was bumpy, and I was obsessed with trying to complete caveman game. It felt like we were trying to find a parking space at the Osan BX. Ended up parking at Terminal 1, and let me just say the Madrid airport is in no way vying for awards like Seouls’ airport. It was basic, had stairs instead of escalators and the customs agents were pretty casual. In fact, they seemed to care less about our military status; we weren’t sure which passport we should stamp (offical or tourist) and he kind of just laughed and said it mattered not to him, what do we want? No computers, no picture, no finger scan like in Asia. we laughed, too, when an agent saw us in line off the Korea flight and started speaking to us in Spanish like we were in the wrong (foreigner) line. We said we spoke English and he laughed too. I think he thought we were Spanish. No more standing out in the crowd as foreigners, here! Baggage took a bit to arrive, but all showed up just fine and loaded onto two carts. We had to get directions from the info counter to the other terminal. Bryan rode the bus over, while the kids and I waited for him out at the curb. It ended up being pretty far away! No matter. We were in Spain.
The new unit had sponsored us as a little group, it seems, and one guy in particular helped a ton with our transit. He and his family left from Madrid on vacation a few days prior and left there car for us. Bryan found it just fine and came around to load me and the kids….who were getting cranky. We spun up the GPS in the car and hit ‘home’. We are also staying at the guys house! Watching his doggy and watering the plants. It’s incredible, convenient, and such a nice way to be welcomed into the little family of US people stationed at this detachment.
The drive was gorgeous with arid landscape, big topography, miles of visibility, and wheat and sunflower fields stretching all around. At the house we were exhausted and quickly unloaded, found some beds, and crashed out. Some other members of our new unit had the table loaded with food for us and a lasagna in the fridge! What a welcome!
Our first few days have been productive. Got Spanish ID numbers, signed our lease at the new house, walked by Zoe’s new school, walked into downtown for tourist and trail maps, shopped at some gigantic stores, and took siesta every day. This is going to be an amazing assignment. There are incredible grocery stores; bigger and better stocked than we have experienced at our last 3 assignments (Korea, Georgia, Korea), there are big jardin centers with lots of plants to create an oasis in our new backyard, and there is a Home Depot style enormous home store that makes this place feel like we moved to the states, save for the Spanish. There are also incredible parks and bike trails and history. I’m excited to explore more.
Yesterday, the detachment had a little get together to farewell a guy and welcome us. It was wonderful to meet everyone (except the family whose house we are using =) and have the kids play. They have made fast friends with the other kiddos and super enjoyed having a little doggy to watch. They have loved walking to all the parks, loathed going shopping, and already gotten used to the sun and swimming.
There comes a time that every assignment comes to an end, and today was the beginning of the end. Only two packers came in the morning, but by the end of the whole thing there were ten guys at our house loading up the trucks and hauling away all our belongings! We filled 11 crates, including one made a foot longer just for our special mother of pearl wardrobe topper.
The kids were excited and playing hide and seek at the beginning, but by the end, the chaos ensued and we just sat and watched.
Time is flying by too quickly. We’ve been out biking around town; there is a newly built bike trail that goes along the river just outside of town over to the Jinwi campground. It’s a wonderful little route; perfect distance for the kids.
Bryan and I even had a date night! We drove up to Everland to ride the best roller coaster ever…the T Express and enjoy some romantic lights in the rose garden.
Another Friday night found us hanging with the kids at the rock wall.
We also went to a nearby memorial museum that was just built a couple years ago. The first battle of the Korean war to include US / UN forces was just north of us in Osan city. A small memorial to mark the Task Force Smith battle was erected just after the war and a bigger one built a decade ago, but the new museum to accompany it it great. The highlight was a big topo map board that has video projectors walk you through the battle. Kids enjoyed it as well, and especially Avi who felt so emotional about the memorial section with pictures of all the troops that he wanted to put up a personal message on the thanks wall.
I have been busy cleaning out pots and prepping house stuff for our next big move. Bryan is prepping the car, and Avi enjoyed helping him out last weekend! They changed the spark plugs and brake pads.
Lastly, was the big Spring Fest at Camp Humphreys – the army base just south of us. We will miss such amazing military support and activities when we leave Korea. There were bouncy castles galore, craft tables, food booths, local Korean information, and bands playing on 3 stages. Bryan and I enjoyed sitting with a bunch of older Koreans from the local folk village to learn how to package up our hard boiled eggs in rice straw. Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan band was the highlight at the end of the evening! We ended up leaving early, while his band was still playing, because Zoe hurt her knee pretty badly in a bouncy accident. I guess she got stuck under a bent down poofy thing and another kid jumped right on her. ouch!
Suwon Air Base had a Paul Bunyan competition this afternoon, and Bryan won! We found our way up to their recreation center and had some lunch waiting for other competitors. Eventually there were three of them in the running and Bryan blew them away with his skills.
First was throwing a huge post, followed by sawing three tiny slivers off the end of a very hard piece of treated lumber, and then hammering in three nails. Bryan won the first event because they added up total distance from three throws, otherwise another guy had one throw that beat them all. On the next two, though he blew them away! A final indoor competition was to see who could eat a whole bowl of Korean ramyon noodles and soup the quickest. Bryan didn’t get this one, but came in a close second. Overall, though, his points were highest.
The kids got a kick out of the day watching daddy and going to a different base. He one a gold medal and a Genghis-khan-esque statue.
Today was party day! We woke early to join a group going to a nearby orphanage. Zoe and Avi were prepped with a “this is for them and not you” talk, and were raring to go. Zoe even wanted to pack up her own toys and take them over. Perhaps another time. Today each kid at the orphanage was getting new Christmas gifts! It started with a fun presentation that the orphanage kids put on – each age group singing a song or dancing along. Then the squadron commander announced that he got a call from the base, and Santa was landing out front. They got so excited when Santa walked in and sat up front calling each kiddo by name to deliver a gift and get a picture. It was great.
Zoe and Avi had fun sitting with the orphans on the floor during the presentation. Avi especially made a little girl friend whom he palled around with the rest of the day. Zoe helped some of the other older kids play ‘elf’ and deliver gifts to Santa for distribution. They were wonderful and giving and I was so proud that neither questioned that anything was for them. Bryan and I had a great time watching the show and sitting with the Korean kids oooo and aaaa ing over their new special gifts, too.
This afternoon it was time for the squadron kids Christmas party. There were crafts and cookies to decorate, a backyard full of snow, and (of course) Santa. Each kid got a book. I think mine were truly scared they would be getting nothing….I threatened them with Santa’s wrath yesterday when they were being disobedient by playing (and then falling) on the ice at the BX. Well, they were super excited to hear their names. Santa brings books nowadays. Avi loves his Fred and Ted Fly Airplanes. Zoe spent most of the party decorating cookies, and giving out some special pipe-cleaner candy canes she created at home. She spent days making those and the special box they came in…complete with nutrition facts. This evening I’m tired.
Today is the big day – it’s actually Thanksgiving after two weeks of parties and feasts around town we now get our last taste of turkey. Bryan’s squadron, the Assam Draggins, hosts a big meal for all the jet maintainers… With the pilots and families supplying the feast. It’s quite big, a couple hundred folks, so it’s at the high school cafeteria.