Guns and You – it’s not red and blue!

Guns and You – it’s not red and blue!

America, this is reality calling, please wake up!

Seriously. You are heading for civil war. There is no black and white in all things up for debate right now, only grey.

My daughter went to school on March 14, 2018 and went outside for 17 minutes of silence, to remember the 17 victims of last month’s massacre in Florida, when she returned to her classes, some of her friends were extremely rude to her, thinking she had walked out protesting gun laws. Now don’t get me wrong, she will be doing this (of her own accord) on March 24th at the Marching for Our Lives Protest, she will also be walking out of school on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre. Her school has actually communicated with both parents and students in regards to this walkout and they have offered students a safe area (on school grounds) where they can peacefully protest, they have also offered students the choice on the protesting and said to them that it is completely of their own decision making. Students who remain in class will have time to read or do something of their own selection. Whilst those outside (teachers included) are able to safely protest current gun laws. No parents are allowed to be involved (unfortunately for me, but I completely understand why because of the safety aspect).

I digress, back to March 14; the school had asked if any students wanted to protest and were given a solid answer of April 20th being their day, obviously there was mention of some sort of remembrance ceremony though. My daughter joined many others that walked out of their classroom and stood outside in a circle around 17 pairs of shoes and silently remembered those 17 unknown students who had died just one month before, some of them whilst buying roses in their cafeteria for the one they admired; celebrating Valentine’s Day.

When she sat down with her supposed friends at lunch, two of them belittled her for walking out. They called her names and told her she was a coward for doing so. They started lecturing her on the fact that everyone has a right to own guns, who was she to say no one could have guns! She tried to tell them firstly that it wasn’t a protest and secondly that she wasn’t trying to take guns away from people, but it was all to no avail, she couldn’t get a word in. Her ‘friends’ wouldn’t or couldn’t listen to any other opinion. They had already been judge, jury and executioner. They are all 13 years old.

Here we are, a group of people trying to remember the kids/young adults who were all murdered just over a month ago by a psycho who had spent some time planning his attack on kids at school, whilst kids at school are so worried about losing their 2nd amendment rights (do they even have them yet or is this pure parent talk) that they are judging others because they thought they were outside protesting said rights! How can any of this make sense to anyone?

My world inadvertently involves guns. My husband is in the military. We have lived on base/post throughout various times in our many years of military life. We have plenty of friends that love their guns. My husband owns a gun. He is also extremely well-trained in guns. He doesn’t have a temper. He is very sound of mind and full of common sense; the complete opposite of me, lol! He is one of the people who could own a gun and society wouldn’t have to worry that he is going to go all nut jobs on everyone! He also doesn’t believe that assault rifles belong in the hands of society members. He understands the need for common sense gun laws. When he got his gun and the background check took 15 minutes, both he and I were in shock! 15 minutes to check someone’s background to make sure they were of the mental capacity fit to own a gun. He bought a second one in the time it took for his background check to complete. How can that be ok? And you can buy bullets at the same time!!! What! So someone has really pissed you off and in a crazy temper you walk into a gun store, get your gun and bullets within 15 minutes and go and take care of the person/people who have pissed you off? All whilst still in your temper! You may have cooled down had you been given a few days to chew over what it was they did to you (you may not too but that’s where psychological tests come into play). Surely to god every upstanding citizen out there doesn’t want innocent lives taken? Surely.

I’m Australian, I was living in Australia and very well remember the day the massacre occurred in Tasmania (28 April, 1996), the day everything changed in Australia, the day Martin Bryant murdered 35 people and injured 23 others, the day that shocked Australia so much that we knew it must never happen again! That was the day radical gun reform began in Australia. The government immediately enacted strict gun laws and issued a buyback program. The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) summed it up well:

The National Agreement on Firearms all but prohibited automatic and semiautomatic assault rifles, stiffened licensing and ownership rules, and instituted a temporary gun buyback program that took some 650,000 assault weapons (about one-sixth of the national stock) out of public circulation. Among other things, the law also required licensees to demonstrate a “genuine need” for a particular type of gun and take a firearm safety course.

Now at this point in time, a National buyback program wouldn’t work here in the United States a: because very few people would voluntarily give up their guns and b: because it would cost an absolute fortune to compensate for said guns. As of 2017 in the USA, “there were no federal laws banning semiautomatic assault weapons, military-style .50 caliber rifles, handguns, or large-capacity magazines. There was a federal prohibition on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines between 1994 and 2004, but Congress allowed these restrictions to expire”. (CFR) After every mass shooting, particularly the one in Las Vegas, in October, 2017 and after the Parkland school shooting, “some lawmakers expressed provisional support for a federal prohibition of so-called bump fire stocks, devices that allow semiautomatic guns to fire at a rate approaching that of automatic weapons”. (CFR).

On March 24, students and parents alike, will ‘March for our Lives’ in Washington D.C. and throughout the country. My daughter and I will march. How can we not? There has been plenty of talk about the “Walk Up not out” movement being a great way to walk up to those kids who are sitting by themselves or those students who are being bullied. Firstly, how about we practice being nice and including all those who are different every single day? Why is it ‘walk up’ on that day only? How can things change without some sort of dramatic uprising? The massacres are not stopping! The school shootings continue. Something has to dramatically change! Teach your children to be inclusive, teach them to love, teach them to treat others the way they would like to be treated, make that an every day occurrence. But, do not ask my daughter to walk up to the psychotic kid that has spent his whole life torturing animals, the one who has shown every sign of becoming the school shooter. Don’t expect her to show kindness to him when he has nothing but animosity for every living thing out there and is looking for someone to start with. Don’t tell the wife of a brutal husband that beats her whenever he feels like it, that she should ‘walk up’ and be nice to him, that will make everything better! Stop it! You are being naive. Sometimes, there is no other way than to ensure the person cannot have access to the tools (normally guns particularly when one is looking to cause as much carnage as possible) one craves to cause damage.

Yes, the pro gun, anti gun legislation, people will argue that people cause carnage with knives (the eight (8) men in China that killed 29 people and injured 130 more). Now imagine if those EIGHT men had guns; assault rifles even. How much more carnage would they have done?

Yes the pro gun, anti gun legislation, people will argue that you can cause carnage with cars (the vehicle attacks throughout the UK and Europe in 2017 are devastating, many were killed and injured) again though, I ask, imagine the greater casualties had those men had assault rifles? Many more would have died, there is no disputing that.

Yes the pro gun, anti gun legislation, people will argue that criminals can easily access guns on the black market; it’s not normally regular ‘criminals’ causing this mass carnage in the USA, it’s every day white males aged between 17 and 50. It’s not normally terrorists, it’s men who are psychotic in nature or who have flipped a switch and literally gone loco.

Basically, stop worrying about your 2nd amendment rights. If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about! I heard a great quote the other day, “the 2nd amendment has been bastardized”. The forefathers couldn’t have foreseen the carnage today’s weapons would cause and the number of innocent children taken far too early by them. They wouldn’t have agreed with that! They set these amendments in place to protect ‘Americans’, not so they could be used to kill the most innocent.

This fight isn’t black and white. This fight is full of grey. The one thing we all have to agree upon though is that too many children are dying in the USA at the hands of guns. It has to be time for change otherwise what sort of future do we have?

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What the ?

What the ?

Hey fellow Mum/Mom, what the …..?

So, my daughter had her 12th birthday party a few months ago, she invited 8 of her friends. She didn’t invite one girl that she’s had this on again/off again relationship with. She asked me if I thought she was doing the right thing, I asked her how she was being treated lately by said girl and what their relationship was like. She responded with: said girl had been treating her like crap (after having a play date at our house the week before) and she had an invite for her but rescinded at the last minute because said girl was being a little hellion (according to my daughter).
Here’s my thing; my kid and your kid are both not going to paint themselves in the ‘worst’ picture when it comes to situations involving their friends. I’m going to believe my kid, you’re going to believe your kid.
Sometimes our kids aren’t telling the entire truth; sometimes they blatantly lie.
I can’t tell you who is being more honest, what I can tell you is there are always two sides to a story and why the hell are you unfriending me as your Facebook friend because our kids no longer talk?
Seriously, this happened! I have been a parent for over 12 years now and I’ve only just realised that it is a big mistake to get involved with any of your kid’s friend’s Mums! Well okay, maybe not. Maybe you’ll walk away with a friend for life, but maybe you’ll also both get drawn into the shit that happens when your kids have falling outs! Do not get involved!
Well, hang on, if it’s serious, get involved, but most of the time it’s just the frigging drama that goes along with a bean/tween/teen! It’s seriously not something you need to take a stand on and that’s where the grey comes into it: New Mum/mom, only child Mum/Mom, old hat Mum/Mom, your kid is going to go through drama, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being bullied, but it’s a whole lot of drama nonetheless! (Oh and keep a very keen eye out for the bullying because that’s a whole different ball game!)
The drama is going to involve your kid’s best friend/girlfriend/boyfriend or a complete stranger. You are going to have no clue from which direction the drama will unfold. Here’s the big picture though, don’t frigging unfriend the mother you friended a few months ago when your kid’s were best friends because there’s a damn good chance they’ll be best friends again before you know it! Don’t bring the other parent into the drama! I’ve learnt this the hard way, and I say this in all seriousness, don’t frigging friend someone either just because they are the parent of your kid’s friend! Just because your kid’s are friends doesn’t mean you need to be, and you know what? On a grown up level, just because you’re friends, doesn’t mean your kids need to be!
We seem to go through this notion where we think we have to Facebook befriend the parent of every kid our kids love and sometimes they’re not necessarily people we want to know and other times they’re the best friends we never knew we had. It’s a tough game that whole friendship as an adult thing but when our kids come into play, from now on my new motto is, hey, I really like you but you need to understand our kids may have differences and I don’t particularly give a crap because I really like you and the kids can work their own shit out or move on! Do not get overly involved! Advise your kid. Do the parental thing. Call the other kid out. But has the parent done anything to you? Is the kid old enough to have started developing their independence? Then shit, stop holding grudges against the parents; sometimes great parents have shitty kids and sometimes shitty parents have great kids! That’s just the way it rolls.
This woman’s juvenile behaviour has now made me think everything my daughter has told me about her daughter is true, whereas before, I wasn’t so sure. How can we set the example for our children, particularly our daughters (I’m a firm believer in women believing in other women rather than putting them down) when we start judging other women by the actions our juvenile children narrate to us when they are still learning what is right and wrong in the world? Disappointed doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings about this seemingly smart, well educated woman! And no, there were no other posts made by myself between Saturday night (the night of the party) and Monday afternoon (when she came up on my Facebook feed as someone I might know).
What the ?
Lady, you are doing nothing for your child by being like this. You are not setting a great example to resolve conflict and nor are you ensuring your child has the confidence to make the right decisions- be they right or wrong. I am glad in a way that we are no longer friends because you’ve helped me explain to my daughter the kind of woman ‘not to be’ (but I actually liked a couple of parts of your personality, so in another sense it saddens me that this is where we’ve come).
I wish you and yours all the best and hope your kid can walk away from this a strong woman who knows what it’s like to both fail and succeed and to know the important role other women play in this thing we call life.

The Elephant in the Room – or not

Ok, let’s address the elephant in the room, Donald Trump is the President elect. So what does that mean for us? Well, firstly, what a surprise! Even the pundits didn’t predict that one! Secondly, obviously a majority of Americans are ready for some big changes. To give the leadership of the United States of America to a man with no political experience, a man who’s promises on his first day of being the President include (but aren’t limited to) to “repeal and replace Obamacare,” to “terminate every single unconstitutional executive order signed by President Obama” and “begin implementing plans for construction of a wall along our southern border” is making a huge statement. The American people have spoken and there is a divisive line between the people. For me, well I’m a middle of the roader; some of my beliefs fall to the left and some fall to the right. A big wall seems to me like a big waste of money and something that will cause more trouble than it will actually help. Look at my last blog on the DMZ, walls do nothing. If people want to come in (or get out) they’ll do whatever they have to do. I’m still yet to hear where that money to build the wall is coming from Mr Trump. As far as I can tell, you’re cutting taxes for everyone, particularly the rich, so where the hell are you going to get money for anything from? 
Ok, let’s discuss those tax cuts (please don’t forget that I am but a layperson trying to simplify this for my readers) “the biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan.” Mr Trump has said he will cut the current 7 tax brackets to just 3:
Less than $75,000 – 12%

$75,000 – $225,000 – 25%

More than $225,000 – 33%

On the business side of it, the business tax rate would go from 35% to 15%. 
There are many more complicated tax plans and promises within this very basic explanation, some of which I think are great, some of which I question. If you google Mr Trump’s tax plan, you will find a lot more information. Here is a table showing the 2016 tax brackets to compare what we’ve had thus far:

Alright I’m not too savvy when it comes to accounting, so I won’t keep going on the tax side of it, but at least you can see on a basic level, what this will mean for you and your family, let’s get back to discussing what this presidency means in other ways.

I love, love, love his promise to root out corruption in Washington! The people have spoken and they are sick and tired of the political BS that’s going on and want change and big change at that! The pledge to make a “constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress” is something I can definitely support, as is a law barring government officials from lobbying the government within 5 years of their service. The freeze on hiring within the federal government could be a bit iffy, but with no money coming in, we might just need it. I also like the fact that military campaigns will remain unpredictable, I never did approve of the announcement of maneuvers prior to their happening, ISIS/ISIL  certainly don’t tell us what their about to do. I do also like the fact that Mr Trump wants to eliminate common core from our schools, this is an absolutely ridiculous system that needs to go! 

Now here’s where I have some huge issues though Mr Trump and really do have to ask the WTF question! Climate change is real! Not a “hoax” as you call it. The evidence is there, it’s happening! Your vow to cut off funding to the United Nation’s climate change programs and to renege on the Paris climate agreement that only went into action last week, is a notion so prehistoric, I have to question your sanity! Thank god Erik Solheim, the head of the U.N. Environmental Program, has said they “will wait and see, and judge American politicians on their actions, not on the different statements they made during the campaigns.” But unfortunately, it seems one of your first actions has been to appoint a climate skeptic, Myron Ebell, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when you do take office. Mr Ebell, in my humble opinion, is a complete tosser that seems to be so ignorant of climate change that his head is somewhere up his arse near his intestines. I am truly flabbergasted by the ignorance both you and Mr Ebell have of the importance of our earth and the environment that surrounds us. You say you want to rid Washington of the corruption, to “drain the swamp,” yet you are allowing big oil to continue to do whatever the hell they want, no matter the consequences. 

Please Mr Trump, please listen to 93% of scientists who say that climate change is a real thing and we humans are making it occur far more rapidly than it would if we weren’t here doing so many stupid things in an effort to make our lives more comfortable. Please listen to the other countries throughout the world who all understand that we have to do something before it’s too late. Please understand that we are not some weirdo ‘greenies’ doing this to get attention. There is evidence that the climate changes are happening far more rapidly than ever before. There is evidence that climate change is very real. This is not science fiction and this is not something that we can stick our head in the sand and hope it goes away. The people have spoken and they have chosen you to represent both them and their families’ needs, now, and in the future. Make the changes for the good of the people, get rid of the corrupt politicians but get rid of the corruption within the energy industry too and realize that by recognizing climate change, you are not being a ‘greenie’ you are merely taking a common-sense stand on an issue that will effect us all. 

DMZ

DMZ

One of the most amazing things about living in, or visiting The Republic of South Korea (ROK as it is regularly know or SoKo as it is known to expats living here) is the ability to visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that place between North and South Korea completely unlike any other place on earth. Let me start with some background information….

On June 25, 1950, the North Korean People’s Army, under the rule of Kim Il Sung, invaded SoKo by crossing over the 38th parallel. Kim Il Sung had decided South and North Korea should join forces as the entire country would be better off (in his not-so-humble opinion) being Communist. I think he took a leaf out of Mao Tse Tung’s book and determined that people didn’t really need to think for themselves when he could think and decide for them! But let’s go back a little further shall we:
Korea had been a part of the Japanese Empire since the beginning of the 20th Century (there is still some animosity towards the Japanese even today; some places wouldn’t service my Toyota because it is Japanese, and there are very few Japanese products available, but that’s an entirely different story). After Japan fell at the end of WWII, Korea fell into the hands of the Americans and the Soviets. What to do with this Imperial possession, became the question. In August of 1945, two aides at the State Department were given the task to divide the country in half. They drew a line at the 38th parallel. The top part (North Korea or NoKo) occupied by the Russians, the bottom (SoKo) occupied by the Americans. What followed was the emergence of two Korean Dictators, the anti-communist dictator to the South, Syngman Rhee, and the communist dictator to the North, our buddy Kim Il Sung. Understandably neither really liked the idea of their country being divided particularly by some outsiders, but even more so, they disliked each other and there were plenty of skirmishes along the border even before the Korean War began with approximately 10,000 soldiers killed.
On that day though in 1950, people, particularly the Americans, were taken aback. They thought this was the beginning of a communist uprising to take over the world and that just wasn’t going to happen on their watch! As far as America was concerned, this was a fight of good versus evil, east versus west. In Harry Truman’s own words: “the Soviet[s] will keep right on going and swallow up one [place] after another.” So when they readied their troops for battle, the USA wasn’t just fighting for SoKo, they were fighting a war against communism itself. At first the war went pretty badly for the allies with the South Koreans understandably scared, untrained and not disciplined at all, to top it off it was one of the hottest, driest Summers on record and I can assure you Summer in this country is pretty bloody miserable at times, and the American soldiers were getting incredibly sick and even dying from horrible gastro diseases, after drinking water from rice paddies (human waste was the main fertilizer). President Truman and his main man at the time, General MacArthur, decided to change things around and go on the offensive and this was great until the Chinese thought they were trying to take over Communist China and their crazy leader Mao Zedong/Mao Tse-tung/Chairman Mao wasn’t going to sit down and take that! He sent troops to NoKo and warned America to back off unless it wanted full scale war. Truman, the diplomat, didn’t want that, but General MacArthur thought this an appeasement to China and North Korea and he was all about a full scale war. The two men’s opposing opinions eventually led to MacArthur getting fired for insubordination and President Truman starting peace talks (new military commanders in tow) with NoKo in 1951. Obviously they talked each other’s ears off for the next two years with most of the problems stemming from what to do with prisoners of war. An armistice was signed on July 27, 1953 and allowed the POWs to stay wherever they liked, a new boundary was drawn that gave SoKo an extra 1500 square miles and created a 2-mile-wide “demilitarized zone” that we were going to visit today.
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The alarm went off at 0500 (5am) Saturday morning. We’d had a late night the night before having decorated and been through a Halloween haunted happening, but having to also clear out of there by 2200 (10pm) as it was still a functioning location and all decorations needed to be removed in a timely manner. Awesome night though. We were all tired. The DMZ tour was only for kids 10 and older so we had left one child at a friend’s house after our haunted do and the other went to his friend’s house at 0600. Then we were off to catch the tour bus.
The tour had been co-sponsored by our Family Readiness Group (FRG – a group in the Army life made up of family members that supports the needs of both families and soldiers by helping to maintain morale, and if possible sponsor events). We had 24 people on the tour bus that were part of our group. Our bus tour was through Osan ITT (for any military or family members reading this and wanting to know more). We left at 0700. Unfortunately there was something going on with the speaker system/bus driver and we couldn’t hear a lot of what our guide said when we first got on the bus but then they put on a fascinating DVD from the History channel talking all about the history and the various skirmishes since the Korean War armistice. Yes, the war has never really ended and every time a new Kim comes into power they seem to get a little bit crazier.
Kim Il Sung ruled for 47 years, the man called himself supreme leader and ensured all NoKo’s knew him by that name. I don’t really know a whole lot about his reign of terror, I mean reign of leadership, but I’m pretty sure he scared the bejesus out of most people and when he decided to pair up with Mao Zedung for the Korean War, they probably shared a laugh and knocked some torture ideas back and forth, collaborated a little, found best-practice methods and all that jazz. What is really crazy is that four years after Kim Il Sung’s death, he was named the Eternal President of the Republic! Seriously! A dead man is the eternal president and the presidency itself was written out of NoKo’s constitution! Where does that leave his son and grandson you ask? His eldest son, Kim Jong-il, became known as the Dear Leader and later, the Great General. As far as I can tell, he didn’t do much more for NoKo than his father, other than sleep around a lot. He fathered two sons before super crazy boy (I mean current leader), that were considered the black sheep of the family, in fact the eldest put it out there that his family shouldn’t have complete control of NoKo and on top of that, he got caught in a plot to visit Disney Tokyo! I mean seriously, that was it, he was done! And rightfully so! There’s no room for fun in NoKo! He apparently lives in China now, not sure how much fun he’s having there either, but the Chinese seem to have a sense of humor unlike crazy Kim. The second son was a bit too feminine to rule, not quite sure what that means, but nonetheless, there was no go for him to lead NoKo! That left the third son, to yet another mother, Kim Jong-un to lead the way (taking command in December, 2011) after his father’s untimely death. And we’ve all seen what a catastrophic, I mean, charismatic guy he is! I guess he wants to completely differentiate himself from his father and grandfather so has attempted to develop an academically-focused, extroverted and extremely masculine persona.
This video (I’m not sure if you would see it on any other tour buses) makes you understand a little more, the serious nature about living here in SoKo and how this isn’t actually a joke at all. Even though I may have made a few jokes about the crazy man to the north. It also only tells of the NoKo invasions/skirmishes but there have been raids or incursions by SoKo as well. Always two sides to a story but I’m far more inclined to believe the Americans and SoKo’s given the information I have researched and read/seen/heard since taking an interest in going on this tour to the DMZ. I can’t list them all but I’ll try to brief on the main points.
  • 1958: NoKo agents hijack airliner en route from Busan to Seoul. 28 passengers released, 8 remained in NoKo.
  • October 1966-1969: The Second Korean War or the DMZ Conflict occurred. 299 SoKo’s killed, 550 wounded. 43 US personnel killed, 111 wounded.
  • January 17, 1968: The Blue House Raid. A 31 man detachment crosses into SoKo to kill President Park Chung-hee and very nearly succeed. 28 of them were killed, 1 captured but the other two were never accounted for. Unfortunately 26 SoKos and 3 American soldiers were also killed, with numerous more injured.
  • January 23, 1968: The USS Pueblo (United States Navy) is boarded and captured with NoKos saying it was in their waters and US vehemently denying that saying it was in international waters. 1 sailor is killed the other 83 are captured and only released when US retracts its statement saying it was in NoKo’s waters. As soon as the hostages are released at the ‘Bridge of No Return’, the US retracts its retracted  statement and says it only agreed to say that to get its people back. Fair enough, I say. The ship is still in Pyongyang and is apparently a museum now.
  • Nov 1969: four US soldiers are killed in DMZ.
  • Dec 11, 1969: a NoKo agent hijacks a Korean Airlines plane flying from Gangneung Airbase to Gimpo International Airport. 39 passengers were returned but the crew and 7 other passengers never came back.
  • 1974: A second assassination attempt on SoKo President Park Chung-hee that went wrong, inadvertently killed his wife. a high school student was also killed.
  • 1974: The first infiltration tunnel in SoKo is discovered followed by the second in 1975, the third tunnel (the one we visited) in 1978 and the fourth in 1990.
  • August 18, 1976: The Axe murder incident. This one did break my heart a little and there are reasonably graphic photographs on the movie. Some civilians went out to trim a tree that was blocking SoKo’s view of NoKo in the DMZ, and the NoKo soldiers came up and started attacking them with the axes they were using to trim down the tree. 2 US soldiers died and 9 US and SoKo soldiers were injured.
  • In between there were a number soldiers killed when they crossed the lines in both directions and a chinook was shot down when it strayed across the line with 3 airmen dead and one briefly held prisoner.
  • Nov 1987: Skirmish at the JSA (Joint Security Area – also on the tour). 1 American and 1 SoKo soldier are killed.
  • December 17, 1994: US Army Kiowa crosses 10km into NoKo border, one dead, one held prisoner for 13 days.
  • May 1995: NoKos Fire on SoKo fishing boat killing 3.
  • April 1996: several hundred armed NoKos enter the DMZ at the JSA and elsewhere, breaking the armistice agreement. As with many other events, NoKo denies this ever happened.
  • June 1997: 3 NoKo vessels cross the Northern Limit Line and attack SoKo vessels. 14 NoKo soldiers cross 70 metres south of the center of the DMZ. 23 minutes of gunfire are exchanged.
  • June 1999: the First Battle of Yeonpyeong
  • June 29, 2002: the second Battle of Yeonpyeong leads to sinking of SoKo vessel and 6 SoKo sailors deaths.
  • Mar 26, 2010: SoKo naval vessel sunk by NoKo torpedo. 58 survivors recovers, 46 dead.
  • Nov 23, 2010: NoKo fired artillery at SoKo island. 2 SoKo marines and 2 SoKo civilians dead, 16 injured. About 70 SoKo houses destroyed.
  • Oct 6, 2012: NoKo Army Private defects to SoKo.
There are plenty more incidents to read about but these are the main ones in my opinion. What is interesting also is the whole loud speaker propaganda war going on at the DMZ. NoKo is known for its loud speakers talking the communist talk at the border towns, but I guess SoKo decided to get in on the action at some point and put their own loud speakers up. Unfortunately for the North, SoKo’s amazing technological advancements mean their speakers are louder and far superior. Every now and again SoKo plays its own propaganda messages talking about how great it is and how defectors are always welcome. They talk about soap operas and even play Kpop (SoKo’s own music version – Psy is the first well known world-wide Kpop artist with ‘Gangnam Style’). After the sinking of the ship in 2010, SoKo responded with the song “Hit Your Heart” by the Kpop girl group 4minute. If you get a chance, have a listen to it. NoKo were so pissed off by such a response amplified by 11 gigantic speakers that they responded by threatening to turn Seoul “into a sea of flames” if it didn’t turn off the music!
Back to our Tour
We arrive at what looks like an amusement park and in fact is an amusement park surrounded by shops and monuments and history. Only in South Korea. We are not sure how this is going to work as the guide really hasn’t said much to us but he takes us all to the toilets, tells us to be back on the bus at a certain time,  then people seem to scatter to do their own thing. Hubby has run back to the bus to collect our winter gear as it is bloody freezing and the guide waits with us telling us to go with him. We literally get a personal tour of this place, avoiding all the crappy tourist stuff that he (and we) have no interest in seeing. We see this war memorial erected by the local people and listing the names of all those killed from this area in the Korean War, also known as the Six-Two-Five in SoKo after the day it started. There’s also a rusty old train that has over 2000 bullet holes in it from the train driver speeding back to SoKo after seeing the advancing army on the other side, he survived! We go and look at a statue of President Truman and a number of other monuments as well then return back to the area where the shops are to run into some of the other people we know, one of who is Korean and is eating freshly steamed, warm snails from a cup. My daughter says she should try one but then backs out, I tell her I will try one first then she can (what’s a mother to do but lead the way when it comes to trying new things! 😜) Big mistake! It was tiny, but the taste was big. Yuck. If I liked fishy tasting fish, then it might have been ok, but I don’t and it wasn’t!
We boarded the bus to the next stop which was the ‘Third Tunnel of Aggression’. This is really cool and you can’t take any photos due to security reasons when you get inside but it’s worth trekking down that tunnel nonetheless. It’s a steep walk with the need to stoop happening more often than not. There are hard hats available on either side as you begin your trek down but no one tells you to wear them. It’s weird actually because about 3/4 of the way down there is a tram to go back out (not sure if it was running, as we didn’t see it moving anywhere but the sign reads that you can’t ride it if you have a hard hat)! On another note, you will need your hard hat. The clanking of hats to ceiling was a constant throughout the trek both down and back up again with I, myself hitting mine twice. Seriously, you have to stoop unless you’re short. It’s a haunting experience when you get past all the usual touristy stuff with the walls narrowing and the ceiling getting ever closer. The lights begin to dim as you make your way down the 265m path. Once at the end, one pauses and wonders what all the fuss is about until one looks through the square hole into the other side of the tunnel where a North Korean could be waiting (not really, as SoKo has taken control of the tunnel and put machine guns in places we couldn’t go, but it does make it all the more real). The tunnel goes to a depth of 73m (240ft) (That’s a long way down and a lot of digging) and spans a distance of 1.7km (1.1 miles).
Next stop was the Dora Observatory or as we called it, the overlook. Basically we listened to a KATUSA (Korean Augmentation To the United States Army – a SoKo enlisted person drafted from a pool of qualified volunteers who are subjected to mandatory military service then ensconced within a variety of departments/areas within the Eighth United States Army) talk about some of the history and tell us about what lies on the other side in NoKo. There are binoculars to provide zoomed up views of life in NoKo, there’s even a fake town called Kijong-dong. I guess this town was built in the 1950s in an attempt to lure SoKos to defect and move over there. But observations throughout the years have noted windowless buildings and no inhabitants since its construction. There is a huge map on the ceiling showing you what and where are located, as you are looking into the real life view of North Korea. It was a foggy day for us, so my view wasn’t that great through the camera lens but still incredibly interesting. Most people seemed to flock to the binoculars on the center and right side of the viewing point but if you head to the left, you can hear more clearly the propaganda being put over the loud speakers from the NoKo side.
This was followed by a trip to Dorsan Train Station – the train station that would unite the NoKo and SoKo if it could ever happen. It’s a touristy trip with lots of money invested by many in a dream that will probably never happen but a dream that needs to be kept ignited nonetheless. We got our souvenir train tickets to Pyongyang and went out to the train tracks. Like I said, interesting but not my favourite site on the tour.
Our next stop was lunch and unfortunately, this wasn’t anything to write home about. If you do the same tour as we did, it’s a Korean buffet, the tour guide and bus driver sat at their own table with the owners and had special food cooked for them whereas the rest of us just got to eat the 5 or 6 choices given including mini pork cutlets, want-to-be chicken nuggets/fried chicken with a choice of two sauces, one of which was awful and definitely not sweet and sour as we know it, the other though was good. The spaghetti looked terrible and my daughter spat it out, so I’d give that a miss too. There were fries but they’d been sitting out for a long time and were quite mushy. The beef bulgogi though wasn’t bad.
Finally we went To the JSA – Joint Security Area. Very interesting. Somber, haunting, weird. Somebody asked me if we wanted to make the guards laugh, my response was an immediate no. It’s not like the Royal Guards at Buckingham Palace, this is a real life war zone. Millions have been killed throughout the past 70 odd years. It is really quite haunting to stand there looking into North Korea, seeing a guard over there who has been brain washed into thinking his country is the finest there is to offer.
When you sign up for a tour to the DMZ, you will be informed of the dress code and it is a very strict dress code at that; a “neat and presentable appearance.” No faded or ripped jeans, no flip flops, or open-toed shoes, no clothing with profane or provocative text, no sporting gear, nothing excessively baggy or sleeveless. It’s a propaganda thing, basically we don’t want NoKo to be able to use anything you wear as propaganda, no possibility of them saying, look how poor those people are and how great we’ve got it here. There’s also strict rules about pointing or gesturing of any kind. You feel kind of intimidated standing there and don’t want to do anything to draw attention to you or your group. There’s also restrictions on what nationalities can go to the DMZ and if you’re South Korean, you want to book way in advance as you will face a rigorous background check before being allowed to go.
When you are standing there looking into North Korea (not pointing, not gesturing, not making faces, not doing anything but taking a gazillion photos and looking in awe) you will see in front of you lots of blue buildings. The two buildings in the center are marked by a cement line which is literally the division between SoKo and NoKo. On your tour, you will be allowed to enter the United Nations Command, Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) room. This room has held numerous conferences, peace talks and not so peaceful talks. Half of it is located in North Korea, so when you enter the room and cross over the concrete border, you are literally in North Korea! Very cool indeed, Vern with all the surrounding hoopla and rigmarole. And the guard who stands at the NoKo door is the coolest looking Korean I have ever seen. I’m pretty sure these guys are picked out for their looks and ability to wear shades and that helmet and still look frigging cool. I know they’re picked out for height. Seriously, is this guy cool or what?
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Never in the world has there been a place like this. A country so advanced in technology bordering, even hinging to another country to the North that is so repressed. A country divided and still at war some 70 odd years later! I have had mixed emotions throughout my time living here in SoKo but I have to say this piece of history opened my eyes to a much bigger picture and made me appreciate the South Koreans so much more. I also understand the serious nature behind the US Forces’ motto ‘Fight Tonight!’ We never know when this country will go into another all out war and with Kim Jong-un (crazy) leading the way, it is a very real possibility.
I don’t want to scare any of my fellow military spouses living here as I think war is a possibility in a lot of places in this day and age, but I just want to reinforce the seriousness of where we are living. When your spouse is involved in an exercise, it’s because they need to be ready for anything. When they have to do so many things and obey so many rules that are very different to both the United States and Australia, it’s because this place is like no other. But it offers opportunities like no other also.

 

Is it time to return to Washington’s Vision? Methinks so. 

Is it time to return to Washington’s Vision? Methinks so. 

I haven’t written any blogs for the past couple of weeks because I haven’t really had any time firstly, (this month has been particularly busy) but also because I haven’t really wanted to get involved in the upcoming US elections, which are dominating every form of media and quite frankly, turning into a joke as far as the rest of the world is concerned.
You know America, we may give you crap (a lot sometimes) but it’s because we love you. You’re like a sibling that thinks they know everything. You’re a ‘big brother’ so you hold the power too, but wow, just like a sibling, sometimes you make silly decisions and this election and the two candidates running for power, is no exception; what the hell are you thinking?

Now, I feel like I can give you crap personally because my husband has served in your military for 13 years. He has done two ‘official’ deployments and numerous months away from us for his country. We have three kids all of whom are half American. I have personally volunteered for 100’s, possibly even approaching the 1000’s of hours helping the US Army and US Navy and the children and spouses of service members over the years who have sacrificed a lot for this country. My husband has missed countless birthdays for both the children and myself and the list goes on.  I am Australian and am in the process of applying for American citizenship and as a legal green card holder and contributing member of American society,   I’ve earnt the right to voice my humble opinion on this matter.  This blog is about the fact that somehow two people who do not necessarily represent the people of the United States of America, are running as presidential candidates to become the leader of this great country and in turn, the leader of the western world!
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard extremely intelligent people utter phrases such as “I don’t like Donald Trump but I hate Hillary Clinton more!” Or “I’m not a Hillary fan, but I’m a Democrat, so I have to vote for her!” And it goes both ways. Basically very few people actually like their party’s candidate, yet they seem to be voting for them anyway just because they’ve always been a Republican or a Democrat! 
Are you kidding me? How can the leader of the most powerful country in the western world be chosen like this? Why are people just going along with their party’s decisions? I know there’s the third party options; the libertarian; Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein (Green party) but did you know there are also a number of independents (over 3,000 people have put their names forward as nominees) running for President, & that maybe, just maybe, one of them might be a better leader of this nation than either the Democratic or Republican representative? Why this so well-developed nation, this republic, is run by two parties, and two parties that have shown themselves to not necessarily be about the best interests of the people, is beyond me.
On September 17, 1787, eleven men – ‘The Council of Eleven’ – were given the task to find a way to elect a President of the United States. They had to ensure they represented the will of the majority but also that they protected the rights of the smaller states and defended against influence from foreign entities. It was a difficult task but they came up with multi-tiered voting system modelled after a system of government used in the ancient Roman Republic. It was called the College of Electors. This same system is still in use today. 
From my very basic understanding, the new president will need the majority (270) of the Electoral College votes. The Electors are proportionally given to every State (to include the District of Columbia) equalling the number of delegates to the Senate and House of Representatives). Each state (except Maine & Nebraska who for some reason do things completely differently) then pledges its Electoral College votes to the presidential nominee who had the most votes in the State. Maine and Nebraska give out votes proportionally by Congressional districts for some reason unbeknownst to me. So, why is the country run by two main parties instead of some fairer representation of the people? I have no idea! What I do know is that the first president, Mr George Washington, one of the founding fathers of this nation, as he is known, was adamantly against the idea of political parties, believing them to cause partisanship and division on a federal government level. He never aligned himself with any party throughout his term of presidency and went so far as to urge the American people, in his 32 page farewell address, “to avoid excessive political party spirit….” This great leader knew then what both the people and the politicians seem to have forgotten today; political parties don’t necessarily represent what is good in the world.
If a third party or independent candidate got some airtime, we may know what they’re thought process is, where their loyalties lie, and where they stand on the ‘big’ issues. Unfortunately, unlike a certain candidate’s latest media accusations, no third party or independent candidate gets the airtime needed to allow the general populace an opinion on his/her political positions. The monetary funding behind a political candidate deems the whole process unfair to those who come to the political arena with nothing behind them but ideals and good intentions. Far from being a fair and just system. 
These United States are supposed to be a Republic of open debate and the exchange of ideas. Nowhere does it say that it should be run by two major political parties. The only way it can change is if the people start voicing their opinions by using their voting power to select a candidate that isn’t backed by either party, a candidate who truly represents the majority. Maybe we can then send a message to these political parties telling them that not only have they strayed from where their beliefs should align, but they have pissed off the American people enough to put them back in their respective places; as representatives of the ideals of the people, not the crazy whims of the powerful and wealthy. 
If George Washington was aware of the control of the two political parties in the current political world, he would be rolling over in his grave.

The Perfect Wife!

The Perfect Wife!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my next blog and what it should be about. I guess I see a lot of examples of the ‘perfect’ military wife all the time! Now before I go on, I have to make something very clear; everyone’s definition of what makes someone perfect is very different, secondly, there is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ wife. These women just seem to make it all look easy. They are gracious, kind, able to make small talk with ease, can speak to anyone, never have doubts, they know what to say and do at the right time, they know who’s who and what’s what. Now for me, I cannot be something I am not, nor do I wish to be, most of the time, but sometimes……
We (people in the military or attached to the military) live a completely different life to normal people. It’s really quite an old fashioned world in a lot of ways, as the female spouse in many cases, stays home with the children. It’s difficult for spouses to get and maintain jobs because of our constant moving. Most of us are well educated and very intelligent, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! There’s also the matter of giving our children some sort of normalcy; meaning they get one parent at home on a regular basis – one constant in their life. And luckily, in my case, we can afford that, though two incomes would definitely be better, hence the reason so many military spouses are going into independent consulting businesses. But, I stray, that’s not what this is about. This is about the women I meet everyday, the women who have so many expectations put on them, the women who epitomize the perfect military spouse and the women who don’t. 
This past week has afforded me this wonderful opportunity to meet lots of great ladies but I can’t help but feel like my husband got a raw deal. I’m brutally honest; we hosted a small dinner over the weekend for my hubby’s soldiers and they brought me a lovely bottle of wine, but then one of them asked if I liked it, I should have just lied and said yes, but I didn’t! I said, and I quote, “I like almost every wine out there, except for sweet wines.” (Should have stopped there but I didn’t!) I went on further to say something along the lines of re-gifting it or someone will drink it when they come over. Seriously. The grace left me. Afterwards I thought about how rude it was and I’m still berating myself for it, but I follow after my mother and have foot in mouth syndrome! I laugh at myself though, never taking anything I do too seriously, as I hope others don’t either. Once you get to know me, you’ll see that I may have this ability to put my foot in my mouth but I’m as loyal as hell and I’ll never give you the BS side of it! You’ll always get the truth, whether you like it or not. But sometimes I should limit my answers to one word! Yes, short and sweet. 
I see people every day who are seemingly, the ‘perfect’ military spouse; they wear the right clothes, they have the right answers, they are always so positive, they serve the right food, they never drink too much wine, they go to church, basically they epitomize everything the perfect military spouse should. Sometimes I really wish I could do it all too. I say way too much, I speak my mind. I disagree with certain things the military does and say it out loud! I dress well, but I show cleavage (oops). I don’t know when to shut-up, seriously! I share way too much on Facebook too. I’m Australian and that in and of itself makes me different too. I’m not religious. And that’s a big one; I’m not an atheist either, I just try to live by the golden rule and if I started going to church, it would be hypocritical of me. But that in and of itself outcasts me. As my husband gets higher in rank, all of these things are going to start impacting him more and more, I’m going to have to watch what I say and do.
I hear some of you sitting there reading this saying, “so what!” But, it’s truly a big deal. In this life, the fact that I don’t fit in in so many ways, will always mean I’m a bit of an outcast. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of military spouse friends who accept me just the way I am but as I sit here and think of them, none of them have quite so many outcast traits as I do. They know how to talk the talk without trying, they too epitomize the ‘perfect’ military spouse. But you know what? I bet they too feel like outcasts at times too! The pressure on us to be the perfect wife gets old. We are living in a modern world surrounded by tradition, facing obstacles other spouses don’t face, and I’m not even talking about the obvious ones like deployments! Instead I’m referring to tradition meets modern, princess meets plumber, hostess with the mostest meets mum with guns (no, not the bullet wielding ones, the ones formed when one clenches a fist and shows muscly biceps). We are put down when we put on weight – yes those soldiers can be judgmental about military wives, yet, considered too much when we take pride in the way we look and dress. We are expected to know the traditions that go along with being a soldier, a sailor, an airmen, a marine, we are also expected to know the ranks, the to-dos, the expected behaviours of our military partners and the second language that comes with being attached to the military (the acronyms are a killer)! On top of all of that we aren’t really considered as anyone important; (though some spouses seem to think they wear the same rank as their service man/woman for some reason) everything is done under our spouse’s social security number! Yes, I know my husband’s better than my own! We can’t do certain things without them either. We move when they move, we take care of everything when their gone but we need power of attorneys to be able to operate normally. Welcome to our world; the world of ‘perfect’ spouses! 
We have a military ball coming up and yes, I do know how to dress appropriately for it, I know what I should and shouldn’t do in the receiving line. Just so you know what I’m talking about if you’re unfamiliar with the military life: at a military ball, we actually do all get dressed up like princesses. It’s not appropriate to wear anything too revealing at these sorts of functions. True ball gowns are called for so if you enjoy dressing up like a princess every now and then, it’s really quite fun. There is a social hour before the official start to the ball where people have a drink and socialize. Once the receiving line goes into play though, we must finish our drinks and make our way along the line of VIPs into the ballroom. During this line, one must ensure one is not carrying a drink (it used to be a factor that one not be smoking either but given most places are non-smoking nowadays, this doesn’t normally come into play anymore). If you know people in the receiving line, it is not appropriate for you to stop and chat either, or to hug them for that matter, unless they hug you first. You will be introduced by your soldier spouse (who is dressed in their military finest) and you will walk through the line and say your hellos to everyone as you greet them. Then you will go to your table and be ready for the night’s formal portion. There are a lot of toasts and particular responses one must say after each toast (all in the program, thank goodness). It is all very proper and one thing I can do is proper, though I probably always end up having more wine than I should and normally I don’t like some of the food so the wine goes to my head faster than it would if I were eating a proper meal. It’s just the small talk I’m bad at. I can’t stand being fake and not getting to the heart of knowing someone so the small talk normally goes out the door in a flash. I’m not saying that small talk means your being fake but saying hello how are you to everyone and not really caring about their response, is definitely not being ‘real’ and we’ve all seen that in action, military world or not! I can’t stand it when people do it to me. Don’t ask if you don’t want the answer, it’s as simple as that, but I digress once again. Small talk and I don’t work well, give me your best small talk lines if you have any ideas, because I’d love to hear them! 

From another angle, I love meeting honest-to-goodness people, you know, the ones who call it like it is. It’s refreshing in our military life, especially when they are seasoned mil spouses. I love talking to people and getting to know them beyond the bullshit small talk; those are the people I become friends with. I love hearing stories about crazy things, I love telling stories about crazy situations we’ve been through. I like to look nice and dress nicely, I like to have that touch of sexiness going on, especially if I’m going to be seeing my husband; yes I’m that woman, the one who thinks my husband is the sexiest man out there and who always likes to tease him just a little so he knows I’ve still got it too. I like it when other women look good too and take pride in how they dress. I’m not talking weight or makeup, I’m talking about looking nice and feeling confident. A confident woman has to be the sexiest kind of woman out there. I wear my workout clothes to the bus stop every single day. But if I’m going out, most of the time, I take pride in the way I look and the minute I take some time for me, I start to feel sexy. 
The perfect wife: No there isn’t such a thing, and everyone’s definition is very different. There’s definitely a lot of close calls in my circle; I’m not one of them. Would I like to be? Sometimes, very much so. Other times, definitely not! I’d certainly like to better my social skills, perhaps learn to keep my mouth shut sometimes. For my husband’s benefit, it would be nice if I could fit in a little more, not that he’s too concerned on most days. But I do the best job I can do, I take each challenge as it comes and try to greet every person I meet without judgement, we are definitely judged enough by others. No, sometimes I don’t fit in at all. No, sometimes I don’t say the right thing either, but I’m there doing the best job I can and being the best me, I can be. But to military spouses out there feeling like they aren’t ‘perfect’, or feeling like they’ve screwed up something, you aren’t alone. We can’t all be perfect and even the perfect ones screw up sometimes! 😉 All we can do is be who we are, bettering ourselves all the time and being the ‘best’ us, we can be. 

Mums/Moms About Teaching Kids Etiquette #MATKE

Mums/Moms About Teaching Kids Etiquette #MATKE

I read today about target (USA) taking mini trolleys (shopping carts) out of their stores after getting a few complaints from parents and other shoppers. I then read some of the complaints and was quite honestly dumbfounded. Are you serious? Do you people really have nothing better to do with your time? How about you start with learning how to give your kiddos some self-control. I’m sure the little darlings are amazing creatures but seriously, if my kid starts running rampant through Target thinking he or she (yes I have both sexes) can do whatever the hell they like and can buy anything they want, I’m going to start doing some introspection rather than blaming Target for having mini trolleys! In Australia, mini trolleys are everywhere and we love them! Even our little, tiny minuscule commissary (grocery store for US Military stationed overseas) has one little trolley. My kids understand that only one of them can use it at one time (it’s called sharing) and when someone else has the one and only miniature trolley available, well, so be it! There’s no temper tantrums (ok there was once but I nipped that in the bud very quickly so it never happened again), it’s called life people, and one day your little darling is going to have to face the fact that they have to share, they have to understand when ‘it’s all gone’! 

Shame on you Target for giving in to the few! Most kids have parents who understand when there’s no miniature trolleys left and explain to their child/children that it is actually a fact of life that sometimes things aren’t fair! Most parents also teach their children trolley/cart etiquette; no little Sarah, you don’t run over people’s toes with your trolley. No you don’t park in the middle of the aisle and ruin it for anyone coming either way! No you don’t put whatever you like in it either! No you don’t hit other shoppers (or me for that matter) in the ankles!

When I’m just buying a couple of things and when there’s a mini trolley available, guess what? I put the stuff in that I’m buying. The kiddos help me pick out healthy options and into the cart it goes! It’s as easy as A,B,C! No tanties, no whining, cause I put my Mummy panties on and I do my job! 

Seriously, we talk about helicopter parents, well “Hello! There you are!”

Mums about teaching kids etiquette! #MATKE