Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vacation Intermission

As the economy crashed last year, Heather was the only one in our family whose job was a bit up in the air. Mom and Dad were both in secure positions of seniority that couldn't be discarded, and since Joo and I were already technically unemployed, we had nothing to worry about! As the layoffs in Heather's company increased, her share of the workload skyrocketed and put her under a lot of extra stress although she did manage to keep her job. And then, out of the blue a couple weeks ago, she had an opportunity to take a promotion and move from Arizona to Virginia. In a whirlwind of debating and prayer, she decided to accept it and so Dad flew out and helped her drive the 16' Budget truck + attached car trailer 2200 miles across country in less than 3 days (they only had a small window of time since our vacation in the Outer Banks was already arranged). Being a good steward of company money, Heather cut as many costs as possible across the trip which included an "interesting" stay at a Motel 6!

Mom, Joo, Kiwi, and I took off and met them at a gas station along the way so that I could relieve Dad of some of the final leg of the drive. Joo was assigned as my passenger to keep me awake...

Eventually, we got Heather moved in, navigated the heavy Outer Banks traffic, and made our way down to Duck where Dad was pooped (Incidentally, we're teaching Kiwi English on this trip and our recent lesson has been the vast difference a suffix can make between "pooped" and "pooping")

Joo and Kiwi had grown up just 10 minutes away from the Eastern beaches of Korea, but they were surprised at the differences between Korean beaches and American beaches. Mom and Dad had been planning the vacation for months, so we've had it loaded with good food and entertainment including grilling out, a concert in the park, bodysurfing, miniature golf, a trip to Kitty Hawk, lots of Rook, and more.

For me, the highlight was seeing Kiwi interact with our family since it was the first time they had ever met. With his love of chocolate, olives, playing cards, sports, and especially joking, it was a very smooth and quick transition to being fully welcomed into the family.
The transition was not so smooth for Heather and Joo trying to escape from the pit we stuffed them in...
Inspired by our neighbor Rick, Dad sought out and found a hat that almost perfectly matched his hair color. The best part is watching people's reactions when he takes off his "hat" in public (and of course the hair comes with it).

We've had a fairly safe time at the beach this time around although I did have some issues getting water out of my ear one night...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Home, Family, and School

As happy as Joo and I were about our recent house purchase, there were still some key remodeling and nesting milestones that needed to take place for it to truly feel like our home. The first major one was to redo our living room floors. Carpets still felt a bit unnatural and perhaps even "dirty" for Joo (I don't think I ever saw a single carpet in my two and a half years in Korea), and we were both sneezing quite a bit from the pet hair even after we had vacuumed. And so when Justin offered to come down and help us install a laminate wood floor, we jumped on the offer.

Though excited, I was a bit apprehensive about the project since my tool experience was limited to basic hammers and screwdrivers. Justin was confident though (luckily he didn't know about the transition problems we would later encounter, nor that the room wasn't square) and so we jumped right in. It took us a couple doors due to various problems we kept running into (while Justin repeatedly reiterated that it was nothing like the laminate wood floor he had put in his own house in a couple hours!), but we eventually got it to look pretty good by the end of the weekend.

Joo helped out also, cooking several meals, cleaning everything when needed, and even painting the new trim:

In addition to saving money by purchasing a separate underlayment and installing the floor ourselves, we also utilized to donate our old carpet - rather than us paying $50-$75 to have them carted away, a family contacted us and picked them up within a matter of hours!



The big damper on the weekend had nothing to do with the floor itself, but with Justin's daughter Addie who had to be rushed to the hospital with stomach pains. He went home a day early to check on her, and it turned out to be quite serious, as she needed to have a fluid-filled cycst and a lump surgically removed. When we visited her in the hospital, she seemed quiet and frustrated at first, but soon warmed up to her spunky self as she pelted me with stuffed animals and put premie diapers on her babies with her mom.
The surgery went fine and now it's just a matter of waiting to see how the test results come back on the fluid and object that were removed.
While we were back at my parents' home, we were amazed to see the growth that had taken place in the garden!
We then zipped to the Columbus airport to pick up Joo's brother Kiwi who would be staying with us for the rest of the summer. Unfortunately, the 24 hour flights with transfers had taken their toll on him around Chicago and he had fallen asleep in the airport and missed the final leg of his journey. Knowing almost no English, he somehow managed to arrange a second flight (for free!) From a traveller's standpoint, I was pretty impressed with his skills.
John arrived soon after, thus completing our four-member intentional community for this summer. He brought with him a gasless lawnmower which provided us with a good source of exercise and an incredible cut!
In reading one of the many Athens publications, I stumbled across a free English program that was being offered at the university and so we signed Kiwi up. He was a bit reluctant to go on the first day, but we eventually forced him to go, and he soon adapted to enjoy it. Since the classes were free, we went ahead and enrolled Joo in the most advanced level class and it turned out to be quite helpful to her as well. I sat in on the first class and I felt like I was in a traveller's hub again as I watched students from 12 different nations communicate with each other in English.
Before going on vacation and turning the keys over to John to do his remodeling magic, our final surprise was being connected with a recently graduated PhD student who was returning to Israel to live. She had accumulated a vast amount of possessions and was now selling them all at very low prices. Joo and I bought a printer, a futon, and several other things and she ended up throwing in about a quarter of her entire possessions for free as a bonus!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

After the first week in our new home, alternating meals with a single spoon, we went back up North to collect our spattering of possessions with the help of some eager guys...

The move down went smoothly thanks to a last second Matt King rescue of a flapping blanket that was surreptitiously inching its way to freedom. After moving in (which took all of five minutes), we headed to the Athens Beach - I'm not sure what the story is behind the beach in the middle of thousands of acres of national forest, but it was a perfect setting for us to play one of our time-tested favorites - a group "hacking" game. This particular one involved catching and throwing a frisbee to each other in mid-air. We set a goal of five hacks, meaning that each person around the circle had to catch/throw the frisbee five times without anyone dropping it - this took a good four or five hours, but it was ever so satisfying when we reached it!

One of the things that attracted Joo and me to Athens was the community feel - here is a chart that's displayed in one of the local cafes, showing an example of sustainability through buying a decent portion of goods locally and then balancing them with a handful of regional, national, and international foods/drinks.

But the boys were more interested in having fun during their weekend visit. We played a card-throwing accuracy game, with the loser agreeing to any punishment set forth by the winners. Dustin's aim was off which cost him a trip through Krogers in some attire provided by JooYeon...

Having explored his feminine side a bit too much, Dustin led the boys onto more "manly" tasks like a group push-up.

After all the action, and a rough night in Wayne National Forest, the group crashed readily on our floor.

They revived the next day and all gave me their opinions on different possibilities of how to handle the remodeling of the house. Being so clueless myself and feeling overwelmed with all the different projects, it was extremely encouraging to hear. It was also fun in general just to have a weekend of "practice" for our intentional community (this summer we plan to have Joo's brother out, as well as John - both living with us - and perhaps other guests coming and going).
I think they inspired Joo too, because after they left, she was busy working on lots of the nesting details.
All in all, it has gotten progressively more optimistic as we mold it into our new home!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The first week...

After months of searching and a particularly nervous final month of going through closing procedures, we finally own a house! This is Brooks, our realtor, who was a real gem throughout the whole process. Knowing so little about home value, small details, etc., we would have been lost without his advice, especially since Joo and I both agonize over even the smallest decisions.

However, being busy with the whole process, I find myself a bit backlogged here on blog entries so let me step back in time to two weeks ago right before we left for the closing. Our garden, which centers around peppers and tomatoes, finally began producing its first edible veggies- yum yum!

Joo also got her first experience at working in a soup kitchen- Our Daily Bread in Bellefontaine. Dad was excited to see her in the hairnet, joking that she had finally become a real Mennonite!

When we did move in, it was rather a bittersweet moment. We had a translation deadline looming over us and it was a frustrating one (every now and then we bid on a translation and then it turns out to take much longer than we thought it would)... so that probably contributed to our first emotions upon seeing the house. We hadn't seen it since our first time going through it over a month ago for only 5-10 minutes, and now it was suddenly ours, and so you can image the anticipation as we walked up to our front step to see how much it had changed from our first impressions.
For me, it was significantly different than what I had remembered. Somehow, I had shifted the whole layout of the kitchen 90 degrees in my mind (which wasn't necessarily better or worse, it just surprised me), and although I knew it needed a new roof, I hadn't realized that most of the bathroom needed remodeling (I had only peeked in before when we first looked at the house), and that the windows needed replaced. On the plus side, it was a bit roomier than I had remembered it, I found an extra storage shed and a closet I must have missed on my first walkthrough, and it pulled in more sunlight than I had thought because of some large picture windows. Joo was a bit more frustrated at first since she found some mildew and had never even seen the bathroom yet. But despite some of the frustrations, we were both extremely happy with the kitchen area which was completely redone with all new appliances, tile countertops and floors, and a beautiful arrangement. We also got lucky in that the sellers were very kind, had cleaned the house thoroughly, and have answered all of our questions and given several helpful tips throughout our moving in process. So this is about what Joo looked like (over my hairy leg) on the first day...
We had haphazardly packed a few things for our first week, so our only furniture was two lawn chairs, our only dishes were oversized cups from a Cleveland Indians game, and our utensils consisted of one plastic serving spoon with which we took turns eating meals. Here's me with a "bowl" of cereal on the second day...

As we adjusted to the house, it became more like a home every day... it was also a bonus to find a local organic pizza place that quickly became our favorite!
Joo continued to work onto her translations as we looked around the empty house, unsure of what to do next...

Both of us being list people, we made about 5 different multi-page lists of things we needed to do and buy; all those little things that come with the first home (vacuum, dehumidifier, trash cans, sink strainer, fans, drying rack, broom, etc.) Thankfully, Mom and Dad had lots of doubles to contribute and what we still lacked, we went on shopping sprees for at Big Lots and WalMart. It was an exhausting first week, especially since we still don't have any beds or even mattresses...

...but it was also one of growth. We felt the value of friends, family, and relationships as we were surrounded with various help and encouragement. We also felt the spirit of the sellers who had lived here before and sweated out countless hours fixing it to the point where it is now. And we made a significant step in our relationship as well, since we have never yet lived alone together despite nearly two years of marriage (in Korea, we lived with Joo's father and brother; in South America, we were often with friends, relatives, or couchsurfing; in the U.S., we were jumping around between friends and family).