Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in Korea

We've been back in the U.S. for a week now, but I still have some pictures left to post from our last few weeks in Korea. Praise God Tyler slept on the plane for the first time!! It helped his time adjustment from 2 days rather than 2 weeks like last time! We've been having fun with Andy's family here in Sacramento, CA and will head for our road trip to Tucson on January 2nd. Here are some pics of the 25th Spouse Christmas Coffee and Ornament Exchange, the Children's Christmas Party (with a special guest appearance :), family photos with the A-10, and some Osan AB decorations.
With Jenny Renner, Mrs. Squadron Commander :)

Tops in Blue flew to Osan for a show and did some caroling on base the next day.
The very busy BX just days before Christmas
BX food court
Children's Christmas party

A very humorous magician

Classic :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009


A few weekends ago, Andy and I went on an all day tour of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) which is the border of South and North Korea. Children 10 and under are not allowed, so our friends graciously watched Ty for us...thanks Childers!! This was an incredible place to witness as it is a living and active memorial of the Korean War and it gives reality to the reason our US military is still here. Growing up, I did not learn much about the Korean War or realize how many American soldiers we lost during those 3 years. Nor did I understand how severely harsh their Communist Government is on their people. We hear about Kim Jong Ill on the news, but rarely learn about the people that are affected by the Communism. There is too much to explain, so I urge you to click on these links to read a bit about it...we owe it to our lost soldiers and active duty military here in Korea to not only pray but to be knowledgable about this major travesty in our US & Korean History. Hopefully there will come a day where Korea will become one nation under democracy. These sites have great timetables with additional links to read more about other occurrences (i.e. Axe Murder incident, 3rd Tunnel, etc)

Visiting the Freedom Bridge and obviously not paying attention to the sign that says, "no pictures"....oops!
The Freedom Bridge, or formerly known as "The Bridge of No Return" was used for prisoner exchanges at the end of the Korean war in 1953. The prisoners were given the choice to remain in the country of their captivity or cross over to the other. If they chose to cross they would never be allowed to return. It is the only bridge crossing the Demilitarized Zone and was last used for a prisoner exchange up until 1976 after the Axe Murder Incident occurred.
The Unification Councils re-named the bridge as the "Freedom Bridge" in hopes that it will one day open again for people to cross without borders or a communist country to hold them captive.

The South Koreans hold ceremonies here and leave a testimony of their desire for a unified country someday

At the Observation deck looking into North Korea. On this 3D map, we are located at the very bottom of the blue arrow (where the sign is on the hill). The Propaganda Village of North Korea is labeled in Red

Here is North Korea with their very large flag. South Korea has a flag at the border as well, but Kim Jong Ill insisted their flag be larger and taller

A distant view of Propaganda Village. It is basically a fake village with uninhabited buildings that are hollowed out without windows and rare sightings of actual people. It has a fake school, day care center, work facilities, etc...all giving the appearance that Communism is not severe and that the North Koreans are treated rather well. The reality is that North Koreans are impoverished, living as peasants in a crumbling economy. They have no contact with the "outside world". They have TV's but only North Korean propaganda. Their government restricts them from being exposed to the prosperity of other countries by brainwashing them to become devoted to their leader; Kim Jong Ill. A North Korean who escapes the country risks their entire family being murdered as punishment and witness to the control their government posesses. I could go on and on, but you'll have to read for yourself. You have to click on this link for a quick read with photos...one of the best I have found to show you the reality of communism

A very common beer of the North with a venomous snake in it....WHAT!?!
Typical Children's toys....notice the tank and the military gun in the next picture? (sorry it's sideways)

Knives and tools for farming
No movis from the "outside" are allowed in so that the North does not become westernized, so good ol' Mr. Ill makes his own
A typical house...1 room for everyone...and you can't forget...
...the photos of "Dear leader" and former "Dear Leader"...every house is mandated to have these on their wall for the people to pay tribute
Can't forget thier photos in the classroom either!
Books...or shall I say, "Pamphlets"
We think this is what Andy and I probably looked like in school growing up...(have to make some light of all this seriousness, right!?)
North Korean shoes (everything made in the country)
Souvenir shop...aka: Playtime!!
Oh, my gosh, I almost forgot my Chocolate Mushrooms...it's the whole reason I even came on this tour!!
Ginseng candy...yuummm
Love this statue :)
Love this statue too...preferrably the one on the right...hehe :)

Dorasan Station is an actual train station that was built all the way up to the border of North Korean during Unification projects in hopes that it will someday connect to North Korea's capital city Pyongyang. You can buy a ticket and pretend to board the non-existent train...kind of random, but a cool experience :)
Our wonderful tour guide showing the map of the unified railway
North Korea ahead...
This is the first ticket I've ever purchased that I didn't use. Maybe someday!

You'll never guess who was there that very moment signing his name on the unified railway....Former President Bush!! His pen was upside down; which we thought was kind of funny because you can't sign your name that way, but at least he agreed to shake our hands...what a nice guy :)
"Hey man! Long time no see...how's the wife? Kids?"

Finally reaching the JSA (Joint Security Area), the closest part you can reach towards North Korea. The JSA is where the Axe Murder Incident occurred and other events. Building 2 and 3 is the only place where leaders from both governments come together for meetings and peace talks. When this is not happening you can actually go inside and put your foot across into North Korea. Thanks to H1N1, the buildings were closed and we couldn't...bummer!
South Korean guard

This was a very surreal moment. We were told to stay in 1 long line and not to take photos until authorized to do so. We could not look directly at the North Korean guards (we only saw one) and we were being photographed and video taped the whole time....creepy!
The guards on the sides of the buildings leave one foot out and one in to move quickly behind the building to evade any open fire.
North Korean guard. In the window to the left you can see binoculars and photogrpahs being taken of us (you may need to click on it to enlarge it)
Another view of Propaganda village and the tallest flag in the world

The little builing on the far right is where they have their intelligence watching, videotaping, photographing all of us. I've never felt so important! Famous, almost!

We love the shades the South Korean soldiers wear. They actually sell them at the JSA gift shop
Thankfully they happened to have my favorite: Seaweed Chocolate!! Oh how I am going to miss all these yummy Korean treats when I will have all the yucky European chocolates, German Pretzels, nutella crepes, and pastries at my disposal. Maybe I can find someone to ship me my seaweed and mushroom chocolate so I don't go into withdrawl....hmmm
We got to go into the Third Tunnel, but couldn't take pictures down below, it was a long climb to get back up. Four tunnels were found that were dug by North Koreans into South Korea after the armistice was signed in 1953 claiming an un-ended War but a vow to end the fighting. Rather, tunnels were dug to invade South Korea and while only 4 were found, there is still belief of hundreds that were dug along the entire DMZ border. They were carefully dug as thousands of land mines are in place within the DMZ to prevent people from entering or escaping. Anyone that treads there is not likely to make it.

Sweet ol' lady :) I think she needs a chiropractor though.
I wasn't allowed to take a picture of this along the DMZ fence, so here is a statue to explain. All along the fence line they have large rocks in place so that if someone trys to climb the fence it will dislodge the rock causing it to fall and send an alert of an intruder. It is also evidence of "where" the invasion or escape may have occurred.

May we never forget and never stop hoping...