Monday, January 28, 2008

Back to Reality

We have been on a roller coaster for the past month or so getting and then going to Korea so we thought we would update you on what each of us is up to back home, here in Bangalore ( not sung to the tune of Camelot).

Remember that being an Ex-pat here in Bangalore is somewhat akin to the movie Groundhogs Day and you wake up wondering if it will be any different today than it was yesterday or even last month...

Here is what Tracy is up to on any given day...

4:15am - Huh, who’s that?! Someone has crawled into bed with me and is stealing my pillow and the covers! Oh, just Billy for his nightly cuddle-fest. Roll over and go to back to sleep…

5:45am – In a sleepy haze, I hear the local mosque doing their calls for prayers, it sort of relaxing and soothing chanting every morning…

6:15am – Ok ok ok, time to get up, Angela will be here in 15 min’s to do yoga…

6:30am – I have started a load of wash, put out milk coupons, gotten the yoga DVD ready and put away dinner dishes from the night before, where’s Angela?!

6:40am – Starting my 60 min, Rodney Yee Power Yoga DVD. 4 of 5 times Angela is on time or even early, but this last week, I’ve had to go it alone as she’s tired. On the days we don’t “yoga”, I have been running about 30-35min’s/morning. Surprisingly, I don’t go that far I can't decide which is better, getting up god awful early to yoga or getting up god awful early to run. Equally hard to do… but I feel so much better through out the day…

7:25am – Billy comes down stairs and wants to love me up while I am doing yoga, I think this is the power part of power yoga. They should make a DVD where you do yoga while an affectionate 3 yr old hangs off your body. It would be a big seller and women would no longer need to go to the gym to do weight training!

7:35am – Holy SH_T! The kids need to leave in 20 min’s for school, time to wake them up and get them downstairs for breakfast. This consists of, Tom literally carrying Jimmy and Kay to the table still wrapped in their blankets. I make 3 box lunches, 4 breakfasts (5 if Tom is nice to me), brush 4 sets of teeth (Tom is on his own here), get 3 people dressed (I reserve my shower for after the kids have left for school), stickers on the day before’s good behaviors, load up 3 back packets and shuffle 3 kids out the door and into the car for a hug and kiss before they are off to school. (Wade calls this part II of my morning work out)

8:15am – Finally, time for a shower and little decompression time (Scary that I consider blow drying my hair “my time”).

8:45am – Angela is BACK! Time to head to work. This is always an interesting experience as depending on traffic, it can take 40-90 minutes to get to work. The good news is … The bridge is almost finished and a new “road” has been paved on the way to work. We can actually get the car up to 35 mph. Yippee!

9:15am – We slowly move past the herd of water buffalo that walks towards our building each morning. We never see them walking the OTHER way. Huh… curiouser and curiouser… I guess everyone has a daily commute.

9:25am – I “reach” work. Why am I so tired?!! Where’s the coffee??? Yes, sadly, I am no longer caffeine free, the Indian coffee is small in size but huge in flavor and a great mid morning pick me up. Just dont have 2!

9:30-10:30am – Time to catch up on all the emails from MPLS. This ranges from 50-100 per day. Usually there are good bits of info embedded in them like; sales results, juicy gossip on people who are moving up/out, business updates and new deadlines to meet. Sort of a virtual Starbucks run if you will.

10:30-12:30 Meetings, Meeting, Meetings…. Many of which pop up on my calendar or change 5 minutes before I am expected to be there. Meetings at Target India are sort of like Roller Derby. You need to be prepared for the unexpected, reach from behind, surprise attack. You also have to be strategic about which you’ll go to, which you’ll send a peer/friend to, and which you’ll pretend you didn’t see coming. Always planning 3 moves ahead. Add to that, the daily dose of rooms changing or being double booked and you need that boost of coffee just to get by.

12:30-1:00 – LUNCH! Twice a week we are learning Hindi, the rest of the time is spend shoving food in our mouths quickly and sharing news from MPLS (see 9:30-10:30). I have successfully learned to count to 5, say “I don’t speak Hindi”, “I don’t know”, “excuse me”, “Thank you”, “what’s up man” and “hey you, pay attention!”. All very handy tidbits to know. Occasionally, there is a lunch “outside” or visitors in town and then we get the ever exciting treat of Pizza Hut pizza. Since I’m not a big fan of pizza, this is hardly the exciting event that my team (and kids) seem to think it is. Add to it that every Indian I have ever met puts ketchup on their pizza and that most of the toppings are some sort of Indian side dish (curry, tandoori, baby corn) and you can see why I get hungry mid afternoon.

1:00-5:30 – See 10:30- 12:30, but add into it… team stopping by to chat, ask questions, say hi, cut a birthday cake, ask for my signature on a visa form, etc….

5:30-6:15 – Strangely dull down time. The team is wrapping up their day to head home and calls with MPLS haven’t started yet. What to do, What to do … Oh that’s right, all the work I couldn't get to all day while I was sitting in meetings.

6:30-8:00 – Conference calls with MPLS – Believe it or not, I have gotten so efficient, I can fit in 3-4 of these calls a night. Mostly they are phone calls, but there is always the occasional video conference that entails trying to figure out the equipment, how to call, how to zoom and how to adjust the volume. (Note to self, dont wear patterned clothes on this day, it makes the folks on the other side of teh video conference dizzy). I swear, these are harder to work than my cell phone or my DVD player. But, I do enjoy these, they help me feel connected to my teams in MPLS and I also get to feel the MPLS vibe for a few minutes a day. That said, I can't wait to come off daylight savings as that will give me an hour of my day “back” and I can wrap up by 7pm.

8:00-8:15 – Angela and I are rounding each other up, sending email after email saying… “1 more minute”, “1 more call”, “1 more email”, “1 more trip to the bathroom” and I’ll be ready :)

8:15-8:45 – We ride home and decompress on our day. Surprisingly the ride home is less stressful and faster than the ride in. Or…maybe its because its dark and I cant see the garbage, poverty and dustiness that is Bangalore. We are tempted each night to stop by the “bar” on the way home. It’s a make shift counter where you walk up, drop 20 rupees on the counter, get one glass of whiskey and then walk away. In the last 18 months, I have NEVER seen a women at one of these bars. Angela and I figure that if we actually stopped at one, we’d get the same sort of reception as if the Dali Lama were to show up. Sort of shocked submission. When we do get up the courage, we'll be sure to take a photo and blog it.

8:45 – I’m HOME!! The kids are in bed, but no where near asleep. 2 extreme examples: (Most nights are a combination of the 2)
~ Belly laughs are coming from the kids bedroom. I have no idea what they are doing/talking about, but they are cracking each other up. Over the next 20 min’s the laughter subsides and they all fall asleep. How cool is it to have kids?! we ask each other
~ Kicking, screaming and fighting that sounds like the latest episode of Gladiators is happening directly above my head. Do I go up? I operate under the assumption that as long as they are being loud enough that I can hear them, no one is permanently maimed or injured. Last week Jimmy punched Kay in the nose and gave her a bloody nose (she was antagonizing him). He freaked out, and started crying. She didn’t shed a tear, but instead said “that was a really really bad choice Jimmy, you know, there are other choices”. These are the days we question our ability to make good choices ourselves.

9:00 – After kisses and hugs all around, answering a thousand “one last question” demands and tucking everyone in, its time to eat. I am starved and eat everything in sight. I’ve begun to question if I really like Indian food, or if I just love that food is ready when I come home and I can eat my fill. Either way, our cook Raj, is the best cook in Palm Meadows in my book. This also explains how I ended up eating brains for months and months without questioning anything (see former blog)

9:30 – Dishes, clean up, prep for tomorrow…. If I’m lucky, one of our visitors will have brought the latest US Weekly or People magazine and I’ll read it quietly at the table. Its no wonder that last year I dreamed that we recruited Brittany Spears to my Target India team. On the nights that I don’t have my latest fill of American pop culture, it’s a glass of red wine with Tom on our veranda, gazing at the stars. It is sorely needed time to let my brain stop functioning.

10:30- To bed to bed!! My head hits the pillow and I’m asleep before Tom finishes brushing his teeth. I love that each of my days is so completely filled with laughter, challenges, hugs, decisions, sensory overload and fantastic stimulating people (both at home and at work).

I am completely exhausted and sleep like the dead.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What a Journey

So as you can see we had the perfect trip back to Korea. I am unable to really sum this up in words or chose what was the best. The fact that our families met our Foster Moms and their families or that we were all together in Seoul to ring in 2008 or any of the many other events that happened, all I know is that Tracy and I are blessed in our lives and in our families.

So here are a couple of cute things that happen when you get together with family and kids.
This year for Christmas in preparation for our trip to Santa gave each of the kids a hat and a pair of gloves. Kay received a nice crochet black hat and a pair of mittens.

Kay Marie, not Grandma Kay, was really in need of as haircut and here in India they are really bad at giving kids, let alone Korean kids haircuts. So Grandma Bunny said that when we she her in Seoul she would cut Kay's hair. So she did and being we did not have a proper scissors she used a well, I believe a cuticle cutter and she did a great job. Tracy asked Kay," How do you like your haircut?" Kay said " Well it looks like my Hat"!

Now everyone knows that there is a long standing rivalry between the Vikings and the lessor known team, the Green bay Packers. Even more renowned is Aunt Sue's clinical addiction to the Packers and countless therapy sessions she has had in regards to this. She has even gone so far as to use Mrs. Holgrens ticket and sat in her booth during a playoff game. Well you can take the girl out of Packerland but you can not take the Packers out of the girl, enough said!

It is hard enough when you are the parent of three, screaming kids or the parent of two screaming kids, or the parents of the other three screaming kids no matter how your math works 10 adults and 8 kids under the age of 6 1/2 means the adults are out numbered.

The Grandma's and Grandpa's Murphy and Hickey were such a wonderful addition to this trip that without them we would not have had quite the fun. They endured the extreme cold, jet lagged kids, theirs and their grandkids as well, and helped make this a remarkable and fabulous trip. We can not thank them enough for their presence and support in our everyday lives.

As we were all getting ready to leave the good byes were said and hugs were given and the kids all went off to sleep. Now Aunt Julie's kids Cedric and Solomon were the last kids to leave and when they work up the next morning they went downstairs and could not findJimmy, and were sad. Where is Jimmy,we want to play, Julie had to tell them that we had left and they kept going into our room and saying " where is Jimmy?" When they returned home to Costa Rica Cedric looked at his mom and said " When can we go back to Jimmy"s house?" " we miss eveyone and it was soo fun", anyone have a Kleenex, kids they say the damnedest things.

Aunt Tammy and Uncle Jeff had the added stress of planning Georgia 4th Birthday. So we had pizza and ice cream cake and being that we had traveled , well some people had travelled half way around the world, the adults got into this " brought the best present, no Ibrought the best present" routine, Georgia was cracking up and getting really excited about all these cool presents she was about to receive. Long story short, Georgia loves baked beans so Tracy carried,or one of us carried, the can from Bangalore to Seoul and even wrapped for the big day, which is also New Years Eve, is anything ever easy in this family? And, even after all that, Georgia voted the new pink hanbock her favorite gift.

One last thought ... It might not be over! On our last day, a reporter from the Chosen Times found out about our raison d'etre in Korea. She came and spent 3 hours interviewing EVRYONE in the family and taking tons of family photos. So... once we get the article and photos (and get it translated into English) we'll post our final blog of our once in a lifetime, how can we be this blessed, arent we so lucky, wonderful, adventure "The LoudAmericans go to Korea" otherwise known as "Family Vacation - Seoul".

Until then, back to our regularly scheduled programming, The Murphys in India:)

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Korean Bath House- Guest Author-Grandma Bunny

Tracy has asked us to comment on our adventures in Seoul and I would like to begin by saying we enjoyed all of them. We were most impressed with the people and how warm and friendly they were by grabbing a hand of a child, offering candy, gum, a kleenex, and even money. There was a feeling of safety and caring.

Julie read in the guide book that you must experience the baths so she got directions to the closest one which she said was right next door. We set off for it on our last day with directions from the people at Eastern , it was called the Happy Day Spa. After walking for a while, we finally asked at the hotel if they knew where it was and they pointed us to the tall building a block or so down. We got lucky when we entered the building as there was no English lettering telling us we were there, in fact there was no English at all so we had to guess at what we were doing. With a lot of gestures they figured out what we wanted and equiped us with little pink shorts and T shirts to wear in the sauna and 2 hand towels each.. Before we even entered the spa we had to put our shoes in a locker and then were given another locker for our clothes. Other than the sauna it was obvious that we would not need our clothes until we left. The saunas were 4 little buildings like igloos amongst mats with people sleeping in little pink outfits for the women and white outfits for the men. We warmed up there for about 20 minutes then set out to find the steam bath and pools. Donned in our birthday clothes we ventured into the huge room with row upon row of showers with little stools and many people [all women in this section]. There were 3 whirlpools that could hold about 20 people each with different temperatures, individual whirlpools and one big pool that was very cold. We would spend about 3-10 min. in the steam bath and then rinse our selves off to jump in the cold pool which felt wonderful. There were strong cold jets above that you could stand under and they pounded out any aches and pains you might have. After doing this for about 1-2 hours we felt wonderful and decided that we should have discovered this place the first day. It was definitely a place you wouldn't want to miss.

(Note, there are NO photos of this experience:) )

Friday, January 18, 2008

Seoul Grand Park-Guest Author Kay Marie Jeon Murphy

Today we dedided to visit someplace we had not been before, that is my Mom and Dad, and headed out to Seoul Grand Park.

The usual fights started out and I was particular about what I wanted for breakfast and what I wanted to wear, I mean a girl can change her mind anytime she wants, right? We loaded onto the subway and quite a while later we arrived. Now the first thing is that this place is huge and I mean like miles long. The other thing to my surprise was this lady selling gloves. You see I do not like to walk and this whole tour of Seoul has been a walking tour and I have had it. My Dad told me I had to walk because he did not have gloves and being that is so cold he had to keep his hands in his pockets and therefore I could not ride on his shoulders. But no more, the lady struck a hard bargin, but my old man barders like a camel salesman, and got a pair of gloves for 400 wan and I got to ride the rest of the day on his shoulders. Now that piece of info out of the way, back to the Park.

There are literally miles to this place. They have a golf course, a sledding hill. a tram that takes you all over, untold hundreds of animals and even in the middle of winter they had a Giraffe.

They even had a KFC, can you say Westernized, good cause I can't.There were a whole bunch of baby animals and baby yions,( lions), and and a baby monkey playing with a computer and my dad said it reminded him of the us kids, whatever that means.

Mommy found this place that was real warm and had a crib thing with baby guinea pigs in it and we got to hold them. There were these people from the news paper and took a bunch of pictures of us holding and sometimes dropping the guinea pigs. We did not drop them on purpose but they have little claws that tickle your hands and well it scares ya. Being in the cage crib thing with the guinea pigs made me wonder how all the animals felt in there cages.

We saw alligators, monkeys,snakes,wolves and my favorite the hippopotamus. We walked all over the place , well they did I was riding and then got on a trolly back to the KFC where we had yunch (lunch).

But, the best part of the day came when Mom and her sisters went shopping at Namedeum. Do you know what they got me?! A beautiful new princess hanbock. What a great day....

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Visiting the Fire Department- Guest Author Grandpa Jim

To write about one "adventure" as the most memorable would be most difficult as we thoroughly enjoyed every minute spent in Korea.
My unique experience was visiting a fire department in Seoul. Since I am a volunteer fire fighter at home, I was truly interested in visiting a Korean department. Again, Eastern was very helpful in making this a reality. I stopped in their office and inquired as to the nearest fire department location. They immediately got on the computer and got the address and phone number and then called.
They asked if I could visit. The response from the department was that I would be most welcome. Then one of the Eastern volunteers, who spoke English, agreed to take me by cab to the department and interpret for me. We were welcomed on arrival by one of their officers. He spoke no English so it was of great help to have the Eastern interpreter along.
He gave me a complete tour of their department and we were accompanied by a recruit/cadet who had a camera and took many photos of me standing by the various pieces of equipment. I ask many questions as to their operations and he asked many questions of me.
All in all, we learned that our equipment, training, policies and procedures are very much the same. They were a much bigger department than the one at which I volunteer in the States. They had a new state of the art building that covered at least 3 stories. They have 50 full time fire fighters who are on 24 hours and then off 24 hours. They average two calls per day and run a real fire call about every two days. All of their fire fighters are college/university graduates. The department even had the poles that they slide down when they are "toned" out.
On concluding my tour, I gave my host two Keowee Fire Department arm patches. It is custom in the US to give one another arm patches when visiting another station. He explained that this was not done in Korea. He became very apologetic that he did not have a "gift" for me (we learned that Koreans give gifts to visitors for almost any occasion.) As I was about to leave, he started over to the cadet and was about to rip the patch off the cadet's uniform to give to me. I said not to do that but if he would email me the photos they took, that would be a great gift. He followed me all the way out to the street continually bowing and thanking me for taking the time to visit their department. .

Monday, January 14, 2008

War Memorial and Seoul Tower

I have to say, I thought the best part of the trip was the War Memorial. When we had been in Seoul to pick up Kay in 2003, the War Memorial was under construction, confusing and disjointed. However, even then, it was still incredibly powerful. They had a big sign that says "Freedom is not Free" written on the construction gate in red paint and had black marble stone engraved with all the people that lost their lives in the Korean War, both Korean people and people from other countries that had assisted them in the war (yes, even the U.S.) So, it was moving and tied back to our own War Memorial in Washington DC in a surreal way.

I need to be honest. This trip, I was skeptical of taking the kids to the War Memorial. While I had moving memories of being there, I also had a preconceived notion that it would be cold (it was), dirty (nothing in Seoul is dirty after living in India, I should have known better) and disorganized (silly me). Boy, am I glad I was wrong! The War Memorial was my favorite "repeat" tourist site of the trip. And the kids had a blast.

They finished the museum part of the War Memorial in 2006 and it is now a state of the art look into Korea culture, land disputes, wars and battle strategy over the ENTIRE history of the Korean peninsula. It was incredible. They had a granite pillar that dated from 400bc and chronicled the successes of the king at that time. They have bronze busts of each and every major general or admiral since 100 BC and recreated reenactments of battles, war ships and costumes of the time. The kids thought it was a blast! More recently, you could walk through a Navy ship, pilot a fighter plane and see entire reconstructed villages which had been ruined in the Korean war. They also had reconstructed the Viet Cong bunkers of the Vietnam war and had displays of all the conflicts they are currently supporting or fighting (Somalia, Afghanistan, etc).

But.. the highlight of the museum is the aircraft, tanks, submarines and helicopters that are spread over a huge park area outside the museum. These are living monuments to the war and you can climb in them and walk around them, pretending to shoot down, run over or bomb the enemy. The kids were in HOG heaven. Especially the 5 boys. They were running screaming and yelling from one fighter plane to another, sitting in tanks, driving helicopters and overall enjoying boy nirvana. It was pretty cool.

After a long morning spent getting our history degree in Korea skirmishes, we decided to head up to Seoul Tower for a Seattle Space Needle type view of Seoul. Again, the last time we were in Seoul, this was a shoddy excuse for a tourist attraction. Once again, I was pleasantly surprised.

We needed to hail 2 cabs (the 1st of our trip) to get us from the War Memorial to the Tower. Not easily down when you are standing on the street corner with 8 kids under the age of 7. Not a single cab would stop for us... Huh, go figure.... Finally we found 2 slightly disgruntled cab drivers that were in the mood for adventure. Almost immediately the cabs went separate ways and lost each other. I was having flash backs to Bangalore traffic and yet our driver deposited us neatly at the base of the Tower. Nicely done. Our sister cab-ites were not so lucky. Their cab driver dropped them at the exit, they had to walk UP HILL 1 km, catch a bus and a mere 40 min's after we arrived, they were neatly deposited at my feet. We went in search of Julie, Ced and Solomon since it was much too cold for their Costa Rican blood to be standing out in the cold.

Have you ever seen a Korean crowd? If not, an Indian crowd? A Chinese crowd? I suspect that they are all similar in the energy level, lack of personal space and use of elbows. We got to the tower and found ourselves in the midst of a pushing, shoving, loud, hot, manic group of Korean tourists that had one thing in mind.... Get to the top of the Tower. They had lines "formed" and you had to enter the line when your ticket # was called. We waited patiently for our tickets to be called and wondered absentmindedly "where's Julie?", as the time passed, we grew hot, frustrated, crowded and thought ..."what's the deal, where's Julie?!" ( a little more concerned now). This quickly escalated into our children rolling on the floor in boredom, crying in hunger/tiredness and overall parental crabbiness at being in a small space with 1000 people and "WHERE"S JULIE?!" Of course Karma plays a role in all of this and as our ticket # is called, Julie comes sauntering by with Sol sound asleep in her arms. They had been waiting inside where it was warm, got bored, bought a ticket and had their ticket number called. She didn't know what to do since we still hadn't materialized from our cab adventure so she went "up". We were so relived to see her and excited to finally make progress towards the tower.

The elevator moves at warp speed and shoots you to the top of the "needle" for a hilltop view of Seoul. On each window they have cities from around the world longitudinally marked with their distance from Seoul. Tom took a picture of all the cities we have been in from around the world. It was pretty cool. They also had all the tourist, memorial, temple sites in and around Seoul marked on the windows, including descriptions of why these were relevant places in the culture of Seoul. One of these actually gave me an idea for our next outing - Seoul Grand Park (Kays favorite spot and an upcoming blog).

We walked around, fought with the kids about ice cream/candy/etc and finally made our way back to Eastern.

We had been out and about for over 6 hours in the cold, sunny weather. We were exhausted but well educated! :)

Gyeongbokgung Palace-Guest Author-Billy Murphy

Today we ventured out in the extreme cold to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is the biggest Palace in Seoul and by far my (this is Billy) favorite place.
Mom and Dad bundled us all up and we took the subway all the way there and it was real fun. We had to wait for this lady who was going to show us around the Palace to get ready and we had snacks and stuff in a kinda warming room place and then out we went.

There are these cool guard guys who stand at attention for an hour at a time and they do not move. We all had fun getting our pictures taken and trying to get them to laugh or move but they never did; they are professionals my Dad said. The main guard, a guy named Sumunjang, was from the Joseon Dynasty and his job was to devote to the peace and security of the Dynasty by guarding the gates and thus the monarch and his family inside.
These guys took their job serious and it was quite a process to see them change. Now they change every hour but back in the 15th Century there were night guards and day guards only. The process goes like this, first a guard pounds on his drum, like my brother Jimmy, and then the guards start to move into a line. Then the drum guy beats the drum again and the guards move into the main pavilion area, I am not sure why they did it in the 15th Century but my Dad says they do this for a photo op, whatever that is. Then they hand over a book of who came into the Palace, who left and other important stuff like that. Then the drum guy is back at it and everyone leaves and I wanted to find some chocolate milk.

The Palace has a ton of rooms, 13 to be exact. and different buildings and is very old. Along the central axis upon which Gwanghwamun Gate stood was the nucleus of the palace, including the throne hall, reception hall,and the king’s entrance. I point this to you because I really wanted to sit in the chair. I told my Dad, “ dat’s my chair” and “dat’s my bed” because I was a ruler in one of my past lives but my Dad is still in charge.

I liked they way we could walk around the Palace and we saw all the different places the King and Queen lived and the other people too. There is a cool thing under the main rooms where when it is cold like now, the king could build a huge fire and keep the whole building warm. The Japanese must have known about it because when they came to rule they burnt the palace down and everyone was mad. But there are these cool people called FPCP which is Foundation for the Preservation of Cultural Properties, and they and some other adults have been working to restore the palace to is original beauty. I think that when they get the palace done I will move back in.

I mean the place is laid out awesome with the major buildings built symmetrically according to the geometric order and would you believe that in contrast, other buildings were laid out asymmetrically, thereby creating a beauty of variety and unification.

I mean I am only three but you could tell this was a home. We all got really cold and I decided to finally pitch a major fit to prove that I am really in charge. I got my chocolate milk and my Mom found us a great restaurant to get Be Bim Bop.

Hope you like my Palace. Billy

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The DMZ - Grandpa Jerry & Grandma Kay Murphy - Guest Author

Today we are finally HOME. It seems like we have been gone for ever. It was a very different six weeks. The sadness of Don's passing, the joy of Christmas and the wonderful trip to Korea. Not many people can say all that in a six week period. The DMZ trip was one of the highlights and we will try to explain our feelings about.

Tom arranged for a trip to the DMZ for Bunny,Jim,Sue, Tammy, Jeff and Kay. He told everyone that they must bring their passports. Of course Kay forgot hers but did have a card that listed her passport number and Expiration date and luckily that was good enough. It was a thirty minute trip outside Seoul and we were at the thirty eighth parallel. It was very much a part of our daily lives in the fifties and for we older folks more alive then history for the younger folks. We have many friends that were part of the Korean War.

We arrived at the Freedom Bridge site. It was cold and windy put we braved the weather and walked out to the Bridge. We were told that at the time North Korea invaded there was only one Bridge over the Han River and the South Koreans blew it up to stop the invasion. The Freedom Bridge was built to bring back prisoners. There are now 25 bridges over the Han. ( The Han River wanders through Seoul).From the Freedom Bridge we traveled through the DMZ, we had to present our passports to a broader guard, the young soldier just nodded at my passport card and I was allowed to go on to the Tunnel area. The North Koreans built a series of Tunnels in the Seventies with the idea of invading once again. The South discovered them and stopped the digging and countered with side tunnels and then set barricades. We were allowed down one the tunnels. It was a 480 meter walk down the where the barricade was set up. The North got so many tunnels in on the pretense that they were digging for coal. However, there is no coal in that area and that gave them away!! We had to put on hard hats to travel down. It was most interesting,some had to bend down to avoid getting conked on the head,(one if the advantages if being short). The sides were wet and you could see where the North Koreans smeared black paint to make the sides look like coal. The climb back up was not as much fun. Jerry and I had to stop and rest a few times but we made it up before the bus left. Our next stop was the new railroad station dedicated in 2000 by North and South Korea and the U.S. Pres. Bush was at that ceremony. It is a huge station that they hope some day will carry people and supplies from South Korea, thru the North all the way across the continent. Right now there is no traffic into North Korea but they are planning for the future. Our guide said that in ten to fifteen years they hope that will happen. The last stop was at the observation building. From here there is a 24/7 24hr. watch over North Korea.

We were told we could look over the ramparts into the North but to take pictures we had to stand behind a yellow line or our chips ( everyone has digital these days, but Jerry) would be confiscated. As usual there was one person who paid no attention and the young soldier took his chip away from him. The South Koreans are very serious about keeping the nation safe and you can see that by the presence of the soldiers. The U.S. had a larger role in the DMZ earlier. In fact there is monument to six soldiers that were killed on one of the bridges in the seventies. Now the U.S. has only 50 troops in Korea and the Koreans are solely in charge of the border. There were large red signs posted around the DMZ that warned any North Korean planes that they would be shot down if the entered the South's air space. We had a wonderful day of touring. As noted this was one of the highlights of the trip. Just being with Tom and Tracy and the grand kids was a great pleasure for us. They (the kids) have changed a little from our last visit. We loved the chance to be with them and really enjoyed the rest of Tracy's family. They are good travelers and the children amazed me with their stamina. We appreciate the fact that we were able to see a part of the world that we never thought to visit. Thank you Tom and Tracy.

Kay and Jerry

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Day 3 Wally World (ie. Lotte World)

Guest Author of the day - Jimmy Murphy

This is the trip that I have been waiting MONTHS for. Not only did I get to ride on 2 different airplanes to get to Korea, but I was able to eat Korean food everyday of my vacation. It was SO yummy. My favorites are Kim Bop (Korean sushi rolls) Jap Chae (Korean noodles/Maggies) and Bi Bim Bop (Korean stir fry rice bowls). In fact, I was really disappointed to find out that in Korea, restaurants specialize in each one of these things and no single restaurant carries all of them. I put up a mighty fit and had lots of questions about that!!

The best part of about Korea was seeing all my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, but the ABSOLUTE best part was being able to play with my best friend Ced every day. Ced is my best friend, but he's also my cousin. He was born 6 weeks after me and we are good friends. He's my buddy. Ced lives in Costa Rica, so he has never seen snow. It was so fun to go up on the roof of Eastern after it had snowed and show him what snow tastes and smells like (not very good with dirt and pollution mixed in). There wasn't enough to make snow angels, but when we get back to MN, Ced can visit and I'll show him snow that tastes good and is good for snowballs, snow angels and sledding. Ced got 2 new hand held video games for Cmas, a Superman one and a Batman one. We played those for hours on end when Mom and Dad weren't dragging us around Seoul.

Speaking of being dragged around Seoul. Ced and I were really excited when Mom told us that we were going to go to Lotte World on Saturday. Lotte World is like Camp Snoopy at the Mall of America on steroids. It also has a bowling alley, indoor skating rink, and outdoor amusement park that is even open in the WINTER! The outdoor park has a big castle in the middle of it, just like Walk Disney World. Also, just like Disney World, the place was really really busy (Mom kept calling it a zoo, but I didn't see any animals there). As we were approaching Lotte World, my Mom and Dad kept saying things like ... Welcome to Wally World, we are closed The Moose out front should have told you ... UGHHH! and... Wally World burnt down because of something you did... Parents are so strange sometimes.

Never the less, we loved it. We had to stand in line for 45-60 min's to go on any of the rides. My favorite rides were the balloon (a 'real' hot air balloon that took you all over Lotte World), the train and the cowboys and Indians game. This game was so cool, you rode on horses and got to shoot at the screen. You got points for all the bad guys you shot and then they put of the pictures of the people that got the most points. Dad came in 3rd place! Everything was in Korean, but we managed to figure it out. Unfortunately, I am so tall now, that I am TOO tall for any of the kids rides. Kay and Billy had to ride on those for me. Kay loved the Hopper, but after Billy insisted on riding on it as well, they had to stop the ride because he was too scared and putting up a major fit on the ride. We were afraid he was going to fall out! Little brothers sometimes, I tell you.

I don't know why, but the grown ups didn't seem to like Lotte World as much as Ced and I did. I can't understand why! The 8 of us cousins loved running between peoples legs, butt-ing in line, eating junk food and screaming with excitement at the top of our lungs. So what if it was too crowded to walk, or that fact that we all had to carry our winter coats along with us inside with a 80 degree temperature or that nothing was in English so we couldn't figure out what time the shows/activities were at. They should have just let us go and came looking for us 4-5 hours later, that was my plan at least.

Another really cool part about Lotte World is that we got to ride 2 subway trains and they even went OUTSIDE! This was so cool. We saw all these buildings and the river and people and tons of parks and bridges. One lady on the subway even gave me 10,000 won and started clapping when she found out that Kay, Billy and I were all born in Korea and that Mom and Dad had adopted us. I was feeling rich so I gave the money to Grandpa Jerry and he bought us all ice cream, that's so nice. Yum! My other favorite person from the trip was Baby Herbie. He's Aunt Tammy's newest baby and he is WAY too cute. I helped feed him a bottle and played with him whenever he wasn't sleeping. He is so dang cute. But... I cant decide if he's as cute as Isabelle, our neighbor in Palm Meadows, or not. I guess they are both pretty sweet.

Finally, it was time to go home. On the way back from Seoul to Bangalore, I ate 5 donuts, 2 kids happy meals at Burger King, all the snacks/treats my Mom had packed in my backpack, the yummy salmon lunch on the plane and a peanut butter sandwich when I got home. I felt like the very hungry caterpillar. I think I am growing again. Darn it, the new school shorts my Dad bought me in Oct don't even fit any more.

When we got home, the 1st thing I said was ..."I'm so excited to sleep in my big comfy bed again:) !!"

Home Sweet Home!

(FYI, more from Grandpa Jerry and Grandma Kay tomorrow)

Day 2 Meeting the Foster Parents

This was the main reason we decided to take this trip, the chance for our kids and our family to meet the Foster family that took care of our kids before they came home to us. I will try to explain what was happening as best I can. I will have a separate entry for Jimmy, Kay and Billy. A picture does speak a thousand words!

We woke up late as we were all dealing with jet lag and sleeping in a different place we had breakfast and were ready for the day. The kids were all acting a little out of sorts and Tracy and I were not sure if it was jet lag, or if they were nervous or what. Jimmy decided he was not going to wear the outfit we brought. Tracy gave Kay a nickname when she first came home and we still call her that today , it is "The Pookarook", and Kay kept telling us that she is the only Pookarook and that we will never be able to get another one, and Billy would not let us put him down and kept giving us kisses and hugs......

Meeting Jimmy's Foster Mom

Mrs. Yoo took care of Jimmy from the time he was 1 month old until he was 8 months old. We had a great time when we came in 2001 to get Jimmy and actually meet him at her house on her birthday and got to meet her "posse" of Foster Moms and sing Happy Birthday off key with them. How do we manage to get ourselves into these situations?

She was to meet us at 12:30 and for some reason was delayed so we had to wait and wait and she finally arrived at 1:30.

She looks the same and was very happy to see us and Jimmy as well. She was funny because her first comment was "he is still a large baby".

Jimmy was a little hesitant at first but after about 5 minutes he was laughing with her and standing by her and even gave her a hug and a kiss. Jimmy is nearly as big as she is.

She was very interested in what Jimmy has been up to and very glad he was so happy and eating well. We were very proud of him and it was nice to see he respected her and somewhat understood who she was.

They played and held hands and at one point we were teasing her that she had carried him on her back for many months and then she had Jimmy climb on her back and they both got a big laugh from that.

We inquired into Jimmy's Foster brother as Mrs. Yoo had two or three kids at the same time, she is a Saint. Well it turns out he is no longer doing Foster care and we also found out her Husband had recently passed away and she is very sad about that. She is now taking care of an elderly women and likes that. She has two children and they are both out of college and one has just returned from his mandatory service in the Military.

Even though she speaks very little English her facial expressions gave away how she really felt. She gave Jimmy a 10,000 won note, which is quite a sum for her, and he was very happy. It is traditional to give gifts so Jimmy gave her a very nice Pashmina, a silk Indian scarf, and a photo album of the past two years and she came as close to tears we have ever seen her in 3 times we have met!!

Tracy and I thanked her and we all gave hugs and kisses. It will be a long time before we all may meet again and it was hard to have to say goodbye. She wanted to go buy Jimmy a toy and come back all because she was so happy to see him. We all had a tearful goodbye and we promised to keep the pictures and letters coming so she can keep up on her , Jimmy.

Meeting Kay's Foster Mom:

Mrs. Im took care of Kay for the shortest time of any of our foster Mom's which was 3 1/2 months. Kay and her Foster Mom seemed to have a ball together when she was little and picked right up where they left off. Mrs. Im is very funny and very insightful. She gave Kay a pencil and coloring book set and a handmade crayon holder. Now we all know Kay is a budding artist but how did Mrs Im know, it was uncanny.

Kay gave her a big hug and said "yook my Foster Mommy", it was very cute. Mrs Im put her hands on her hip and firmly stated something to Tracy and I which we had no idea what but she seemed upset? It turns out she was mad because the pictures and letters had stopped coming and she wanted to know why. We explained the we now live in India and the mail system is not real reliable. She seemed calmed down but then demanded to know when we would be back in the US so she could start getting her pictures and letters about Kay! She is a pistol. Kay did give her a Pashmina as well as a photo album so I think we are safe for awhile.

When we first meet her and her husband the only English they knew was "Kay" and surprisingly enough it still is. Kay drew a bunch of pictures for her and her husband. It turns out he travels a lot for work and was out of Seoul and could not make the meeting. Mrs.Im's mother, Kay's foster Grandma, who when we met Kay at their home 4 years ago ,took Kay out for a walk while we were there, is also doing quite fine. Then just as we were getting ready to say goodbye in walks Kay's foster Dad and we all lost it. Here is this guy who was four hours away stopped what he was doing and drove all they way back to see Kay, and us, amazing.

Kay really had fun with her Foster Parents and we did too we were finally saying our goodbyes when in came Billy's entire Foster family Mom Dad and brother and sister...

Meeting Billy's Foster Family

Mrs. Song took care of Billy until he was 7 Months old. When we first met her and Billy he would not even look at us. He was by far the most attached of the three. He had a little scooter type thing he sat in at her house and she would roll him around in it. This is probably the beginning of his attachment to cars.

Now just like Kay's Foster Mom Mrs Song gave Billy a Transformer that went from a car to an airplane, his two favorite things in the world! Sometimes connections are far to uncanny to analyze.

Billy gave her a big hug and a kiss and his Foster Dad was also very happy to see him. They played on the floor he played with his Foster siblings who were also very happy to be there. It was awesome to see the connection was still there and that they all really loved him.

Mrs.Song wanted to know all about Billy and what he has been doing. She seemed pleased that he was eating well and had a round happy face. They wanted to take us all out to dinner which would have been a disaster. It was after 8:00 the kids were starting to meltdown and Bill was looking for "chocolate milk". It would have been fun to go out with them but what would we talk about, unlike Kay's Foster mom who could say Kay, Mrs. Song could not even manage to say Billy.

She then started passing out 10,00 won bills to everyone and we finally put a stop to it. They were and are very generous people.

We gave hugs and kisses, Billy's Foster siblings did not want to go and were crying as were the rest of us. It was so amazing seeing the look in every one's eyes and to know these people took time to come and see Billy whom they have not seen in three years.

I can not really summarize this meeting of several different families, not just cultural difference but genetic as well. It was well ,just families doing what families do. The love, support and care for each other, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly and sometimes yearly. The are connected to each other even if the never see or talk to each other.

Take a moment with your family and just feel the strength that is there and thank God each day for what you have.

The circle does grow stronger.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Day 1 Arriving

Arriving in the early morning on Thursday the 27th we encountered our first delay. Where were Sue, Julie,Cedric and Solomon? They were to have arrived a couple of hours before us and we agreed that they would meet us at the Baggage claim and we would all take the bus to Seoul together. We searched high and low I mean how hard could it be to find the only two kids at the airport whom were Blondie's? Apparently quite hard and after an hour or so we attempted to call the agency. We realized they had given us two different numbers and not the right city code. After calling the wrong number several times we finally figured out the correct way. However upon reaching Eastern they informed us the the Murphy party had called and said they would be late? Who, apparently all the rooms were reserved under Murphy and therefore we were not sure whom would be late?

So we headed off to the bus and made the trip to the designated meeting spot and there were Jim and Bunny, Tracy's Mom and Dad. They helped us tote our stuff off to Eastern and of course their first question," where are Sue, Julie and the kids", no idea. We checked their flight and sure enough it had landed but where were they???

Tracy, I and the kids got ready for our meeting with the people from Eastern only to find out they wanted to post pone it until later when everyone else had arrived so we all could meet them, they very thing they wanted to avoid in he first place! Our friends at Eastern have no idea what's in store for them!

Next Tammy and Jeff arrived safely with their 3 kids and Tracy's Dad went out to the airport to see if he could find Julie. Jeff and Tammy needed three cabs to get all their stuff to Eastern and were finally settled in when Sue, Julie and the 2 kids showed up WITHOUT Dad?! Turns out that the plane in Costa Rica was late taking off and they missed every connection they had and 36 some hours later finally made it!! This could be a whole blog in and of itself!!

Tracy's Dad returned to find us having cocktails! We all had dinner and got the kids ready for bed andI headed out to meet Jeremiah and Kay. They were the only ones to travel business class and were well rested and well feed , so no pity was shown to them!!

We all said goodnight and Tracy and I were finally relieved day 1 was over and everyone had made it safe and somewhat sound. Tomorrow we hoped would prove to be an incredible day. We had been planning this for almost 6 months and were excited for the chance for our kids and families to meet the people who helped raise and love our kids in their first few months... Our foster Moms!!

Monday, January 07, 2008

First Stop Kuala Lumpur

We decided that due to the arrival times into Korea from Bangalore that we would schedule an 18 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur. We thought this would be a good idea and it indeed turn out to be just that.

We left India at 1:10 am and the four hour flight was very uneventful. The kids did manage to nap and we managed to have a couple of hours of down time to reflect and prepare for the next couple of days. We landed at 7:30am and realized our first mistake. We packed our bags with the assumption that because we had this layover that we would have to recheck our luggage, not so. The problem of course is that we packed our spare clothes in the outside pockets of the luggage, and of course they were checked all the way to Seoul. Sometimes being efficient can have its downfalls. No bother, there would be plenty of shops for us to help boost the local economy!

The hotel was inside the airport and the room came with a complimentary breakfast buffet. The plan was to feed everyone as much as possible and then hope to take a 4 or 5 hour nap. The food was great and we all had our fill and sure enough we fell asleep at 9:30 and we woke up at 2:00 perfect.

We were then off to the Aquarium and then to the Petronas Towers. They booth were great places for the kids and of course we had to go to McDonald's for dinner where Jimmy, the eating machine, had two kids meals!

The towers were great to see at night and were full of spectacular shopping, if you are into that. Tracy and I each spent more than we wanted to but it was fun. We walked around the whole complex, outside in the rain, in the hopes the kids would sleep on the plane.

We arrived back at the hotel around 9:30 everyone took baths and we headed back to the airport for the final leg. Our flight left at 1:00 (again) and the kids managed another 4-5 hours of sleep. They love planes, but I tell you, 2 overnight flights in a row is enough to drag anyone down.

As prep for our next few blogs, I will add the proposed schedule for Seoul to give you an idea of what we are in for. Keep in mind, we are traveling with 10 adults from 4 different states and 3 different countries. There are also 8 kids all under the age of 6. 2 6 yr old boys, 2 4 (soon to be 5) year olds, 3, 3 year old boys and a baby. We have our work cut out for us!!

Day 1: Arrive and get settled, late afternoon meeting with the people from Eastern ( the agency in Korea as well as the place we will be staying).

Day 2:12:30 meeting with Jimmy's Foster Mom trip to Kyobo Bookstore ( the largest bookstore in the world), 6:30 meeting with Kay's foster Mom and then a 7:30 meeting with Billy's Foster Mom.

Day 3: Lotte world, like Camp Snoopy on steroids

Day 4: The DMZ

Day 5: Visit Palaces

Day 6: Korean War Memorial and Seoul Tower

Day 7: Seoul Theme park, Zoo and Namdaman Market

Day 8: Lunch, Namdaman Market and final good byes

Day9: The trip home

So we will be adding a bog for each day over the next few days and pictures as well.

Happy New Year and may it be prosperous!