Thursday, June 30, 2011

Home, Sweet Home....sorta

You'll all be happy to know that, after weeks of packing and moving and flying and hotel-ing, all four of the Asia Vus are once again together at home. ( 'Home,' in this case, means 'the place where your toothbrushes, underwear, and some of your dishes are.')

That's right, we've left the nurturing cocoon of the efficiency apartment, its solicitous staff, and its excellent cable TV stations and struck out on our own, into the Big City, where (surprise!) not everyone is patient with your inability to speak even the most rudimentary Korean and (more shockingly) all the directions are not helpfully provided for you in English.  We have had the training wheels removed, more or less.

We've already received what is known in expat circles (don't I sound sophisticated? Yeah.  Read on.) as 'the air freight,' which is a small 500-lb shipment sent by air (duh) which gets there shortly after you do.   If you are intelligent and experienced (ahem) your air freight has been thoughtfully packed to contain what you'll need to get by until everything else arrives via the slower - and cheaper - sea shipment, known as 'household goods.'

Having been in a somewhat frantic state as we were packing to leave - and also having been heavily influenced by my two teenage sons - I can only tell you that my packing was not thoughtful at all.  In fact, I have no idea what the hell I was thinking when I packed most of it.  All I can tell you is that, until the household goods arrive around the 20th July, we have a TV, an Xbox, 17 video games, a bundt pan, almost all my Calphalon, and 16 towels.  We do not, however, have any silverware.  Or pillows.  Or a trash can.  And when I wake up tomorrow, I'll probably find that I failed to pack about a hundred other things we need.

But all of us are here, together, under the same roof, with (some of) our familiar things around us.  We may be  sleeping on air mattresses, eating with plastic cutlery, watching Korean TV and sitting on the floor, but yeah.  It's already starting to feel like home.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Pig: An Answer

Wow, less than 24 hours after posting about the pig on the 7-11 bag, I got an answer from one of my favorite Korean expat bloggers;  'Hails' of Coffee Helps.  I found her blog when we first learned we were moving to Korea and I was looking for some insider information on life in South Korea as an expat, and have become hooked on her hilarious writing style as well as her very honest insights about living and teaching in a foreign country.  Hails teaches English to Korean elementary-schoolers and has been here for 2 years, so I should have known she would have the answer for me!  Here's the comment she left about my pig question:

I fear it will be less interesting when you know, but... in Korea the pig is believed to bring (amongst other things) money and good luck. In this case, it's a symbol for a lottery ticket, letting you know that you can play at your helpful 7-Eleven. Disclaimer: I haven't been told this for sure, but I knew the pig=money and luck belief, and I know the word under him in this picture means 'lottery ticket', so I took a guess. ; )

Well, she was right:  it wasn't as interesting as I'd hoped - I mean, I knew they couldn't possibly sell pigs at the 7-11, so I don't know what exactly I was hoping for -  but at least I know, and that means I'm not waking up in the middle of the night, wondering about that pig.  Of course, he will probably be replaced by a thousand other questions within the next 24 hours, but for tonight, I'm looking forward to some uninterrupted sleep. Thanks, Hails....

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

When graphics really don't help at all...

Yes, yes, we're in a city of 12 million people with innumerable fabulous restaurants, but sometimes you just need a Snickers bar (or its Korean equivalent.) Or some Häagen-Dazs. Or (in Mr. Logical's case) a beer.  And when the mood strikes, where do you go? Right.  You go to 7-Eleven, mere steps across the street from our temporary quarters and shoehorned into a space roughly the size of my utility room back home.  It's a perfectly good 7-Eleven, though, and it has everything that a convenience store shopper could want or need.  But one thing has been waking me up in the wee small hours of the night, and I know once you see this bag, you, too, will be wondering about it:

I know, I know, it's killing you, isn't it? Me too.  I am just dying to know, and I promise to post as soon as I learn the answer to the burning question:  What's the pig about?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Communication Breakdown

So, having been in Seoul for an entire 5 days now, we're starting to get the hang of things.  Son #2 and I have been navigating the subway system competently and I have been bold enough to make some cash transactions in stores (as long as there are digital readouts on the register:  I don't know my Korean numbers yet.)  However, every time I start to get a little smug and self-confident, something happens to put me back to square #1 and remind me that, yes, you are in a foreign culture.

Since language is very much a barrier, getting ready to move into our apartment has been a bit of a challenge.  Mr. Logical's company provides the services of a a group of  'relocation coordinators' whose job it is to help us negotiate our way through the forest of Hangul all around us, and they have done a very good job so far, when we remember to call them.  The problem is, one isn't used to anticipating when one will need their services, and even the most mundane-sounding task can suddenly be brought to a standstill by lack of communication.  I'm also discovering that the hand gestures, head-nodding and dumb-show (along with a smattering of Latin-based languages) that got me comfortably through Europe (and occasionally, the US,)  really don't help much here.

Yesterday's example:

Mr. Logical receives a call from one of the relocation coordinators saying that the apartment manager needs to have workmen access the apartment to re-seal and/or caulk the apartment windows, which should be done before we move in next week.  Mr. Logical and I coordinate a time for me to be there to let them in, and this is conveyed (via the coordinator) to the building manager, who (presumably) conveys it to the workmen.

Son #2 and I take the subway across town and manage to get into the apartment.  Exactly on time, the workmen appear at the door.  Nodding and bowing, they remove their shoes and (as far as I can tell) gesture questioningly at the bedrooms, asking for permission to enter  (since we have no furniture and no one is actually living in the apartment, there is really no need for such delicacy, but it's certainly appreciated.)  I make expansive gestures with my arms indicating that they may go anywhere in the apartment, and Son #2 and I retire to the living room, where (due to having no furniture yet) we stand around awkwardly.  The workmen enter all the rooms, opening and closing the windows and discussing them gravely with each other.  The box of tools and supplies they have brought with them remains in the entryway on the floor.

After making a circuit of the entire apartment, the one I assume to be the senior workman approaches me, bows, and, waving his hands expansively, bursts forth into a torrent of Korean.  I understand nothing, and shake my head helplessly.  He waves his arms again, points to the window, and says something else.  I do not understand.  I say this.  He shakes his head.  We are at a standoff.  I do my best to indicate that he may begin his work, and it's fine with me.  He keeps gesturing at my windows and explaining in Korean.

Son #2 (with what I feel is outstanding presence of mind) pulls out his cell phone and accesses a language translation app that he had downloaded a few days earlier.  He navigates it to Korean-English and hands it to the workman, but he doesn't understand how to use it and - naturally -we can't explain it to him.  More discussion between the workmen, the phone is handed back, and the four of us are back at an impasse.  I am desperately trying to tell them, "Yes, do whatever it is you have to do, it's fine with me" and they keep gesturing at my windows.  I can't understand why they are asking me for permission to do this stuff when, after all, that's what they've come to do.

Suddenly, I remember the relocation coordinators.  Naturally, I do not have their number, so this means a call to Mr. Logical who is up to his ears at Customs trying to arrange delivery of our belongings and hardly in the mood for a chat with a desperate wife.  I get the number, call the coordinator, describe my situation, and ask her to talk to the workmen.  I then hand the phone to the workman and wait while more discussion ensues in Korean.  At the end, he bows and hands me back the phone.  

When I ask the coordinator what's going on, I can hear the amusement in her voice.  

"He says there is nothing wrong with your windows and he doesn't need to do anything to them."

Oh.  Right, then.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cultural Differences

Advertisement in the Seoul subway station.  They definitely get points for plain talking....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

All that glitters

All is well here in Seoul.  We're here in the hotel in an efficiency apartment that has everything we could ever desire, including a very nicely-stocked kitchen and a lovely view of Seoul.  I really wouldn't change a single thing.

Except for maybe the laundry situation.  I am referring, of course, to the washing machine.

Now, before you take me to task for complaining about the washing machine, let me assure you that I am well aware that many expat wives in other countries have no access to any laundry facilities at all (at least while in temporary lodgings) and those women -who are washing everyone's knickers in the bathroom sink and draping them over the furniture to dry- would give their right arms to have access to a washing machine of any sort.  And of course, having grown up overseas,  I knew there'd be adjustments, and that would include the laundry situation.  So, no, I wasn't expecting two American-style heavy-duty super-capacity machines.  However, I was expecting that the provided appliance would actually wash and dry the clothes.

But there you are.  Changing your expectations is part of the whole expat experience, right?

In theory, this little machine is actually a clever, space-saving idea in a city of 12 million people, most of whom live in small apartments, functioning first as a washer and then as a dryer.  And believe me, I wasn't expecting to have a washer or a dryer in our temporary lodgings anyway, so I was thrilled to find this little guy tucked into the corner of our kitchenette.

Of course, this isn't my first time around the block with appliances, so I know that, as a rule, the more things a machine claims to do, the less effectively it does them. So a machine that claimed to both wash and  dry clothing efficiently would have to be taken with a grain of salt.  And yet.... I was seduced by this machine and its expansive claims.    It told me it could wash and then dry anything:  bedspreads, curtains, towels, you name it.  I mean, it even gave you the option of boiling things.  My full-sized machine at home could never have done all that.

So, needless to say, I was thrilled.   Instead of having to move into the new apartment with a garbage bag of everyone's dirty laundry in tow (and 10 loads of laundry to do on our first weekend in the new place), I'd be able to keep up with the laundry right here in the hotel.

Taken in by its seductive promises,  I optimistically tossed in my first load of approximately 3 items (all that would fit.) The little machine churned and spun and sudsed and shook and hummed and (presumably) washed away for approximately ninety minutes, at which time it started spinning the clothes.  Since this spinning (logically) has to remove as much water as possible before starting the drying cycle,the process has to be pretty energetic.  It sounds very much like a plane right before takeoff, and  I was very encouraged by this auditory demonstration of efficiency.

Once all the water had been centrifuged out of the garments, I had to re-start the machine, this time on 'dry.'  And off hummed my new friend, tumbling the clothes merrily away and giving every indication that drying was taking place.

A mere 90 minutes later (for those of you who are counting,yes, that's 180 minutes for 3 shirts) I trotted confidently to the appliance, opened the door, and -  pulled out three damp shirts.  Not ' mostly dry with a few damp collars 'or 'dry except for a moist hem';  I'm saying nothing was dry.  Everything was warm and damp.  It was as though the last 90 minutes had never happened.  Nonplussed, I marched into the sitting area to demand that Mr. Logical - who has been living in this hotel since April - come take a look at the machine and figure out what's wrong with it.

"Oh, it's fine," he said, "that's just how they come out."
"They come out wet after 90 minutes? on 'dry'?" I asked.
"Yep,"  he said, "That's how it works."

Suddenly, Mr. Logical got up and walked to the machine.  For a brief moment, my heart leaped.   I was sure that he would press a button or turn a knob and  - poof! - solve my problem.

Nope.  He just got up to get me the other laundry accessory thoughtfully provided by the hotel.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So, how was your flight?

Here we are in Seoul at last.  After months of planning, confusion, tears, excitement, anticipation, more confusion, and the final grueling stretch of packing, we finally did it.  We got on a plane and - 18 or so hours later - ended up in Seoul.

The flight itself was not bad, although - regrettably -  we did not have enough frequent flyer miles to upgrade the 3 of us to Business Class and therefore had to fly steerage economy.  Son #2 was perfectly happy with the situation because there was an almost-constant stream of video playing on the drop down screens:  he's not a picky child: he'll watch just about anything, although he was forced to resort to actually reading when the airline offerings had deteriorated to old episodes of 'Frasier.'  Mr. Logical did exactly what he always does on planes and fell asleep as soon as his seatbelt was buckled, only waking intermittently to eat and watch an occasional DVD.  As for me,  I did relatively well  considering that I was sandwiched in between the two of them for the entire flight, experiencing only one claustrophia-induced momentary nervous breakdown around hour 10 when I could not extricate myself in the darkened airplane from the various blankets, pillows, seatbelts, headphone cords and underseat luggage enough to find my shoes and crawl over Mr. Logical into the aisle in order to make my way to the lavatory.  I did, however, manage to pull myself together quickly enough to avoid any real loss of dignity - or at least that's what I told myself.

But really, for such a long flight, it really was not bad at all.  I would not go so far as to agree with Son #2, who stated:  "That flight was GREAT!"  But I will say that it was not as bad as I'd feared, and the airline was clever enough to keep feeding us at intervals so we had intermittent diversions.

So the flight itself was just fine.  However, getting on and off the flight was another story altogether.  I can't really do justice to the entire giant logistical challenge we experienced while trying to get ourselves checked in at the airport, so I'll simply tell you that travel was, shall we say,  complicated  by Mr. Logical's insistence on carrying with us and checking as luggage, his beloved bicycle.  Those of you who have read my blog for a while are aware that Mr. L is a serious cyclist, so it stands to reason that he would own a serious bicycle, which he does.  His bicycle - made out of titanium or platinum or something that is both strong and lightweight that escapes my memory now - weighs very little, was custom-made, and costs as much as some small cars. So yes, it stands to reason that he would be concerned for its welfare.  However, trailing around through the airport with most of our worldly goods in suitcases PLUS the giant rolling bike case really took our travel experience to a new level, not that we really needed any more complications.

Shepherded anxiously by Mr. Logical was the bicycle,  which had been lovingly dismantled, cleaned, checked and lubricated by the specialists at the bike shop and gently interred in its padded carrying case with as much care as the Queen's jewels. Mr. Logical - who had, of course, researched this extensively - planned to check the bicycle as one of our checked luggage pieces (Son #2 is insisting on my including here the fact that HE had to cram all of his belongings into one bag in order to allow Dad to check the I'm giving credit where credit is due) and pay an oversize fee in order to ensure that his darling traveled and arrived safely instead of languishing in the hands of the uncouth louts who must surely be handling our sea shipment (never mind that MY bicycle is traveling with said louts and Mr. Logical never blinked an eye.  Ah, the injustice....)

The case, which is roughly the size and shape of the biggest plasma television box you can imagine, is difficult to steer and took up far too much space in the line while we waited for check-in, garnering hostile stares from all the other sleep-deprived early morning international travelers.  While we were at the counter checking in (and doubtless being silently cursed by all the airline employees) the behemoth blocked the access to two other self-check kiosks and generally stopped all traffic in the line behind us.  Our mortification was only complete when it was discovered that one of our suitcases was a pound or two overweight, whereat Mr. Logical began randomly pulling out underwear, socks, and undershirts and stuffing them into other (underweight) bags until balance was achieved.   After this exercise had been completed and our suitcases fed into the gluttonous mouth of the conveyor belt, we were still not free of the albatross.  No, we were told to stand 'over there' and wait for an employee to escort Mr. Logical to a special area where the bicycle case would be personally inspected.  The three of us and our brooding hulk went 'over there'( which was still in the general traffic pattern) and continued in the ongoing alienation of our fellow-travelers.

After what seemed like a thousand years of waiting, we followed the yellow-vested safety specialist to the area where the bicycle would be examined for  - well, I don't know what it was examined for, but it stands to reason that, if danger can lurk in more than 3 ounces of moisturizer, the amount of danger that could be packed into a bicycle case would be significant.
Mr. Logical follows the safety specialist to his private screening.

Entering the private screening room.

Whatever was done to Mr. Logical behind closed doors, we will never know, but Son #2 and I were so relieved to see him again without the case, we didn't even bother to ask. We enjoyed the next 20 or so hours bicycle-free until we had an unwelcome (on my part) reunion with it at the baggage carousel in Inchon.

Naturally, we couldn't just waltz out of the airport, either.  Apparently the case was so intimidating looking, the airline people at Inchon insisted on x-raying it before we took it out, presumably to prevent us from smuggling something into the country inside it.

By the time we arrived at our hotel in Seoul and got the thing unloaded (no doubt permanently ruining the health of the poor limo driver), we had only the gauntlet of the hotel lobby and the elevator to run, and, after all we'd experienced, the few curious stares and shocked glances simply did not register on our radar. The bike case has been settled in a corner of one of the bedrooms, where it will stay until we go to move to our apartment, and, if we're lucky, Son #2 and I will get to ride over in a different car when it does go.

So, yeah.  The flight was fine.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Empty House

Warning:  For those of you who read for general amusement and the occasional laugh,  I'll have to warn you that this post doesn't contain much of either.  To paraphrase 'K' in the movie  'Men in Black', MsCaroline no longer has a sense of humor that she is aware of.

Things are winding down to a close here.  We've been shuttling between hotel and emptying house, watching them box, wrap, and remove for the last 4 days and we're all worn down.  Even the kids are tired of it, although - being male - they couldn't resist turning all of the big open spaces into impromptu wrestling arenas, making me - as the only real adult present - roll my eyes, wince, and occasionally point out that someone was going to get hurt. (Mr. Logical, of course, found it all to be great fun and joined in on more than one occasion, so I'm standing by the 'only adult' comment.)

I'm so tired and drained that I've lost most of my cynical sense of humor, although I'm still sufficiently jaded to note that both of my children seem to be very comfortable living a nomadic lifestyle and would likely adjust quickly to life beneath an underpass.

The storage people, having shrouded all of our remaining furniture in brown paper padding, have loaded it onto the truck, ready to bear it off to a storage facility where it will sit for months and years, still and silent, awaiting our return.  The house is empty except for fragments of packing tape and the accumulated dust and debris of the last six years of our lives here. Tomorrow, we get up in the dark and head for the airport and our new lives in Seoul.

We're ready for - and excited about - this new chapter in our lives, but we're all having a hard time finishing the present chapter.  The last days of packing and moving have also been full of  shared meals, hugs that will have to last for years, laughter, fond reminiscing, and teary goodbyes.  We have been loved, supported, helped, encouraged, blessed, cheered, and prayed for.

Which makes it that much harder to leave.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

That which does not kill us...

"That which does not kill me, makes me stronger." - Nietzsche

Here at Asia Vu, we are doing as well as can be expected, living like displaced persons, and hopping from room to room as our house is overrun by movers and packers.  A team of them has swarmed in, wrapping and packing anything that's not nailed down (including Son#2's phone charger, which is possibly the most awful thing that can happen to a teenage boy.)  We have sent off the Air Freight, ( an impossibly small shipping container in which we were supposed to pack everything that we anticipated needing before the Sea Shipment arrives in 3 months:  nothing like trying to see into the future.)  The Sea Shipment is being trundled off as I write this, leaving the remaining 60% of our belongings, which will be packed up and borne away to a storage facility over the course of the next two days.

Naturally, as with all moves - whether across town or across the world - any number of crisis situations have arisen here at the last moment, providing that extra element of panic that heightens the senses and allows one to fully engage in the moment.  The high points of this particular move have included:
  • Inventorying every single @#$%^& thing in our house and its estimated value on a series of spreadsheets, subdivided into 'air freight,' 'sea shipment,' and 'storage' categories. If you are thinking that this is an impossible and overwhelming activity that would test the mettle of even the most patient and saintly individuals, you are correct. Surprisingly,  Mr. Logical and I are still married, although of course we did have  moments of wanting to slit each other's throats an occasional difference of opinion.  
  • a failed coupling on our water main that necessitated cutting off the water to the house.  We are still waiting for the plumber to fit us in, and experiencing all the medieval-style conditions that exist in a house full of people with no access to plumbing. 
  • a call informing us of an 11th-hour Affidavit that would need to be signed, notarized, and presented to the proper authorities before leaving the country in order for Son #1 to continue to be eligible for instate college tuition when he returns (for my non-US readers:  the costs are roughly double for students from out-of-state, and this document ensures Son #1 will remain in the 'in-state' category)
  • An absentee moving van bearing the Sea Shipment container, due at our home at 9am, but which did not arrive until approximately 11:30.  The dispatcher, however, helpfully called us in 15-to-30 minute increments all morning long to assure us that the truck was:  a) somewhere along the way  b) not on the way c) stuck somewhere due to unknown issues d) on the way after all   e) closer than they thought, f) not on the way after all f) really on the way now, g) getting close  h) getting closer  i) nearly there.  
  • the discovery that our new address does not fit in the 'change of address' boxes online.  Still not sure how to deal with this one.  Maybe this will mean no bills for two years.
  • Confusion as to how to deal with Son #1s belongings, which have been subdivided into so many piles that even he has no idea where it all goes.  This has to do with the fact that Son #1 is not flying with us, but will be staying here for a bit longer, the better to enjoy a few weeks of summer with his friends before he leaves for Korea and they leave for University. His belongings have been categorized thusly:  1) things he will need for the next few weeks while he's staying with friends;  2) things he is packing to take on the plane to Korea; 3) things he wants to go to Korea in the Sea Shipment; 4) things he will need for his dormitory room when he returns to go to University, to be stored at his grandparents' house; 5) things to be put in the storage facility for the next two years 6) things he no longer wants/needs and which can be donated, which included -quite rightly, but most painfully - a terrible number of outgrown childhood toys and books which I was in no way prepared to stumble across in the 'discard' heap in the hall...ouch.
So, yeah.  We're kind of like hobos at the moment, living out of a pathetic assortment of bags and backpacks, eating in odd places at random times, sleeping just about anywhere (exhibit A:  Exhausted Son #2, in the flotsam and jetsam of the last room with furniture) and using other people's laundry and plumbing facilities.  So much for the glamour of overseas travel....

Mr. Logical's observation:  "At least he's not using the garbage bag as a pillow."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Making a list, checking it twice...

If you've been wondering about the deafening silence here at Asia Vu, it's because Mr. Logical and I are up to our necks in list-making as the clock ticks down to just under 3 weeks before our move to Korea.  Our relationship has deteriorated into nothing more than twice-daily meetings via Skype, wherein we plan the logistics of the upcoming move with a level of precision worthy of a military maneuver.  Due to the 14-hour time difference, one of us is always hunched groggily over a coffee cup while the other one is slumped exhaustedly over an adult beverage.    After the routine greetings, our conversations tend to follow this typical trajectory:

1.  Updates:  the children, the dog, the house, the yard, the vehicles, the doctor, the dentist, the students (me);  the apartment search, the packers, the movers, the new job, the plane tickets, the visas, the paperwork, the details (him).  After these exchanges, we move on to:

2.  The List:  things I need to do, things he needs to do, things that should have already been done, things we think we should do but know we won't have time to do, things that we definitely won't do but would like to do, and things we really don't need to do but will do anyway (dammit.)  After all this, there's usually a brief, stunned silence while we both digest the overwhelming amount of  stuff that needs to get done, and then the conversation moves into the terminal stage, namely:

3. exhortations to have a Good Day or Good Night, followed by professions of mutual admiration and assurances of a later meeting roughly 12 hours hence.

Repeat as necessary.

For those of you who are curious about what exactly is on those lists, I think the most accurate way to provide some insight into what we're dealing with is to simply show the lists to you.

 (Turns out that this list-making thing must be some sort of universal response to stress, because I ran across an eerily similar post over at Expat Mum, who also has her hands full at the moment.  It's good to know I'm not alone.)

Ms. Caroline's List:

  • make reservations for graduation dinner for Son #1's graduation.  Try to get Son #1 to give me an idea of the number of his friends who plan to join us.  Despair.
  • send Son # 1 to get minivan washed and detailed in preparation for selling it.  Discover that minivan battery is dead.  Decide to let Mr. Logical deal with it when he gets home.  
  • make end of year slideshow for students.  Cry a lot while making it.  Stay up too late.  Exhaustion exacerbates emotional reactions the next day.
  • make arrangements to have utilities cut off; cancel gym membership
  • change insurance liability to cover renters
  • arrange for painters, carpet cleaners, and housecleaners to arrive after final pack-out.
  • take dog to vet for health certificate ( required to be issued within 10 days of flying to Canada.) 
  • designate items for storage, air freight, and shipping by trying to imagine what we will and won't need in a high-rise apartment in Korea for the next 2 years.  Guess wildly.
  • buy little sticky dot things to put on items to keep them from getting put in the wrong pile;  forget halfway through which color is which;  go back to beginning.
  • grade final exams; calculate final grades.  
  • stand over Son #2 and insist that he take sunscreen to the 8th grade end-of year all-day waterpark party. Suspect he will not apply it even if he does take it.   Finally spray it on him myself, even if he is 14.  
  • clean out pantry;  find Jello that dates back to birth of Son #2.  Reflect on what this says about me as a housekeeper.  Choose not to think about this anymore.

    Mr. Logical's list:  
    • go look at apartments in Seoul.  Find one that is perfect. Call wife.  Send her photographs.  Decide that you'll take it.  By the time you express this to the realtors, who then express it to the landlord in Korean, the apartment has been rented.  Look at more apartments. Repeat several times.
    • Call credit union in the U.S. to remind them that our car is paid off and that we need the title sent to us now, not in two weeks, please, so that we can ship our car which otherwise cannot be shipped.  
    • try to explain to Son #1 via e-mail how to jump-start his mother's dead car battery.  Hope that he does not blow up the engine of A)his car or B) his mother's.
    • Look at apartments.  Find one that seems tolerable. Make desperate offer despite sneaking suspicion that wife hates it.  Apartment has already been rented.  Begin to picture family camping in cardboard box in Seoul subway.  
    • call relocation people to set up dates for packers and movers.  Try to coordinate with wife's schedule.  Suggest relo people (who are in the US) call wife(also in US,) which they do not do.  Relo people do, however,  forget you are in Korea and return your calls at impractical times.
    • Make flight reservations for family using Byzantine corporate booking system, ending up with departing flight at impossibly early hour.
    • Arrange for payment of Son #2's school tuition fees, part in Won, part in dollars, according to obscure formula.
    • look at zillionth Seoul apartment.  Ascertain there is a roof and plumbing.  Make offer before landlord can change mind and give apartment to someone else.  Take  hundreds of photographs of apartment so wife can 'see' it, including interior of oven and dedicated kimchi fridge. While you are at it, derive great pleasure from photographing complex controls on toilet, entitling it, 'Arse-blaster 9000.'