In the process of moving

10 Dec

Well, we should be in Korea soon and I can start writing again. Just thought I’d keep you updated. Right now my house is a mess, with the last of the 3 moving companies coming tomorrow to pick up the little bit of our stuff that will be meeting us in Korea. We’ve been sleeping on pillow but even those will be gone after Monday. So, a few days of sleeping on the floor ^.^  …   :(   Oh well, we’ve had worse lol. I’m really excited about getting to Korea, but at the same time I’m scared to death because I really hate heights and planes.

Orders

19 Nov

So, I haven’t posted in a while and it may be a little longer until I post again, though not more than a month. We finally got our orders and we are heading to Korea in early December, so, lots to do and only a few weeks to do it! Wish us luck!

Sixteen Tons

8 Nov

I want to write about something that makes me angry, but I’m not sure that I can articulate it properly, so please bear with me and feel free to chime in with comments or links back to similar things you have written.

Have you ever heard the song “Sixteen Tons” by Merle Travis? If you haven’t you can listen to it here. The chorus goes like this:

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

The song is about coal miners before the union days who would live in “Company Towns” and the company they worked for would pay them in vouchers good only for the “Company Store” in town instead of real money. The company stores typically had incredibly inflated prices and the companies didn’t pay their workers enough to live, so the workers would go in to debt with the company stores which would result in them owing the company money which would result in them going farther into debt with the company store just to get enough food to eat. It was a vicious cycle that basically ended up amounting to slavery. You can read a little more about it here.

The miliary does not do this, obviously, but they do something that (in my opinion) is almost as bad.

When my husband went to Basic, he had to have a hair cut and buy things like running shoes, razors, shaving cream, soap, shampoo, etc. and all of this was taken out of his first paycheck before he got it. I’m sure this happened to you or your spouse as well. It didn’t matter that he already had things at home that he could have taken, that he could have bought many things much, much cheaper at Walmart or online or that I could have cut his hair before he left. No, he had to pay the (very) inflated Army prices because they gave him no other choice. This is a dishonest and corrupt practice in and of itself, but of course there’s more.

Some AIT students are able to go off base but are not allowed to have their own vehicles, they must rely on taxicabs to get around. There are, however, only a certain number of military-approved taxi service that are allowed on base, the option to use a cheaper service is not available and I am sure that military or an individual is getting a kickback somewhere along the line from the taxi’s making money off of the students by having little to no competition. The AIT students who are not allowed off base still have to buy things like razors, soap and shampoo and their only option is the troop store or the PX. I can say from experience that the troop store prices are much higher than prices at Walmart or Kmart. Again, though, they have no choice, they must buy from the Military Store.

We will be PCSing to Korea soon and if you’ve never been to Korea you may not know this but you are REQUIRED to stay in the Dragon Hill Lodge (An “armed forces recreation center” or military hotel) while in processing. Oh look! I just happen to have a chart showing their rates!

which of these things is not like the other?

Notice how the rates for anyone PCSing (that is to say, those required to stay at the Dragon Hill Lodge) are more than double those staying there on Pass or Leave? I looked on Priceline.com for civilian hotels that were at least 3-stars in Seoul and found many, many hotels priced under $100 a night. My favorite was the Ramada Song Do Hotel which cost $77/night and looks like this:

Nice modern room, big bed, good view, nice tv

nice, modern lobby

In contrast the Dragon Hill Lodge cost a PCSing family of 4 $290/night and looks like this:

That looks more like a cheap motel

For $290/night in Seoul you can get this at the Grand Hyatt Seoul:

Lavish Indoor Pool

Modern Rooms

Slight difference, huh?

Of course, there is the fact that you get reimbursed for the first night you stay at the Dragon Hill Lodge (we all know how quickly the military reimburses you, right?) though of course if you have to stay longer than 1 night for in processing you don’t get reimbursed and are still required to stay at the Dragon Hill Lodge (You can apply for special permission to get reimbursed for any other nights but I have yet to hear of anyone successfully doing this).

I’m sure there is more of the same throughout the military that I haven’t run into yet. I think this kind of thing is a blatant money ratchet taking advantage of military members and their families when they are their most vulnerable. It’s dishonest and pathetic and just wrong.

The Fort Lee Area

5 Nov

I’ve noticed a lot of misconceptions among my fellow spouses here at Fort Lee about the surrounding areas. Some of them are missing out on some really great opportunities because they are too scared to venture into what they mistakenly think of as “bad” areas, so I thought I would post some reviews of the towns around Fort Lee in the hope that if you get sent here you won’t do what a lot of people seem to do and only go to the places in the immediate vicinity of the base.

1. Petersburg- Everyone I meet tells me not to go to Petersburg, but Petersburg is actually really great! The area near Fort Lee is indeed poor and broken down and could be considered a “bad neighborhood” but past that is downtown Petersburg and it is, among other things, this areas restaurant center. It’s where you can find all of the non-chain, oh-so-good, higher end restaurants like Wabi Sabi, The Brickhouse Run and The Bistro at Market and Grove as well as smaller but still tasty places like Longstreet’s Deli, Saucy’s Walk-Up Bar-B-Que, 23:1 Bistro and Hiram Haines’ Coffee and Ale House. Downtown Petersburg is also full of history, (the Petersburg National Battlefield, for example) architecture (The Blandford Church and Cemetery) and art (Petersburg Regional Art Center and a “Friday for the Arts” program).

So, don’t let its reputation stop you, Petersburg is worth a visit!

2.Hopewell- Hopewell has a better reputation than Petersburg, the area closest to Fort Lee has shopping centers and restaurants. There is a Food Lion and a Farmer’s Foods for grocery shopping  that is usually cheaper than the commissary, I recommend Farmer’s Foods as they usually have the best prices, though a lot of people won’t go because they don’t like the smell of the fish market in the back.

This is also where you can find the restaurant Elephant Thai (which I’ve mentioned in a previous post) as well as Carter’s Courthouse Cafe, Rosa’s Italian Ristorante and J&E Puerto Rico Cuisine. Most of the local chain restaurants like Denny’s, Dairy Queen and Ruby Tuesday’s are also in Hopewell.

Hopewell is great for its library (which I’ve written about here) and it’s abundance of small riverfront parks.

3.Colonial Heights- Colonial Heights gets the best reviews from the spouses around here, most people who live off base choose to live here. The mall as well as a lot of chain restaurants and one or two good local restaurants like Koreana and El Caporal are located here. Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target can be found here as well as a lot of other shops like Toys-R-Us, Lowe’s and Books-A-Million. There are some local shops here as well, my favorite is a children’s consignment shop called Once-Upon-A-Child.

Most of the doctor’s offices in the area are in Colonial Heights. I plan an offering a review of some of the doctor’s I’ve used in the area on a separate post.

So, that is the immediate area around base. Please remember to get out and explore once you get here, don’t let fear make you miss out on anything!

Fort Lee Housing

31 Oct

The on base housing at Jackson Circle is, mysteriously, not attached to the rest of Fort Lee, it is in its own fenced in area NEXT to Fort Lee. I have no idea why this is, the rest of the housing is located on the base. It makes it very inconvenient to get around to other places on the Fort, especially since they started road work at the main entrance, you can expect to be stuck in 1 hour and 45 min traffic jams at times just trying to pick up your son from preschool. Even without the traffic jams you have to memorize the gate hours and take circular routes to many places because the gate that would have taken you straight there is closed.

The housing area itself is nice, they have big yards and garden plots outside the front door.

You get a nice little garden plot, though you have to get your own plants :)

Nice Big Back Yards

There are lots of little playgrounds and a water park area.

Water Park

One of the many playgrounds

You have no front porch, but you do have a small back patio. In the summer you will be overrun with bugs, I think because there is so much standing water around. There are flies absolutely everywhere, and you see dragonflies, spiders and mosquitoes all the time. The houses themselves are really nice and spacious, I’ve never had a problem with anything here.

The housing office for Jackson Circle has very nice and helpful people, they usually have a snack set out and they have a room full of treadmills that you can use. My neighbors keep to themselves for the most part, no one is really overly friendly or comes to introduce themselves when you move in. I’m hoping that’s just because this is a training base with a high turnover and not all military bases are like that…

I wish I could review the rest of the housing, but all I know about it is that it’s conveniently located right next to the CDC and also has lots of playgrounds and a water park area. You can find more information on the housing, including floor plans, here:

http://www.lee.pinnaclefamilyhousing.com/

Helpful Websites for Military Newbies

25 Oct

I just wanted to post some websites I have found useful in my attempt to learn about Army and Military Life.

www.marriedtothearmy.com -This was the first site I really found besides the official army websites, and it’s really useful, though a little outdated. It offers basic explinations for things like Tricare as well as useful reviews of various Military Posts.

www.spousebuzz.com – This website has a lot of military and military life related articles by various bloggers. It’s kind of light stuff and doesn’t get too deep into many issues. They have articles like “What not to wear to a military ball” and “How to land a Mom job.” But things they mention offhand and assume everyone knows can be really helpful, I’ve discovered a lot of things that I didn’t know exsisted through this site, like Dislocation Allowences. At the very least it has helped me to avoid embarrassment due to complete ignorance.

www.duffelblog.com- This is a military humor website, a lot like The Onion. I find that you can learn a lot through websites like these, people joke about common experiences, so you can learn things that everyone who has been in a while knows enough about to get the jokes.

www.militaryonesource.mil- You can find a lot of articles here and you can chat with them or call them at 1-800-342-9647. They will answer almost any question you can think of, and if they don’t know the answer they can usually direct you to someone who can.

www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil- I haven’t used this one a lot but it seems to have a lot of useful information and links. You can learn about everything from adoption to housing here.

Another really helpful thing to do is to go to the base website, for example I am in Fort Lee,  so I googled Fort Lee, VA and found the www.lee.army.mil site, which provided A LOT of information and helpful links.

If you know of any useful websites, please let me know so I can add them!

People Who Join the Military are Stupid

23 Oct

People who join the military are stupid.

Did you know this was a thing? I certainly didn’t until I read this article on Spouse Buzz. Maybe it’s because I come from a rather conservative small-ish city in Kentucky, but I’d always assumed that people were generally pro-military, even if they were anti-war.

Once I read the Spouse Buzz article, I looked around google and found some stuff that surprised me, like “Hidell” who put this on forandagainst.com:

There’s too much praise, even worship, of people in uniform these days. Now we’re being told in Britain that former members of the military should get privileged access to schools and healthcare because of their great sacrifice for us all. This is balderdash. Most people in the military are just stupid people who couldn’t get any other job. They’re not braver than anyone else. They’re not more patriotic than anyone else. They have two distinguishing qualities : Stupidity and sociopathology.”

Right now 45% of people agree with him and 55% of people disagree with him, some of the comment highlights:

Yes, the military is only for losers and garbage people. The people that join are too stupid to succeed anywhere else. Many people go on with their lives after high school to make 6 and 7 digit salaries while most of those in the service could not even succeed at selling Amway or generic perfume in parking lots! The military, like prison is nothing more than a dumpster for incompetent and non-motivated people. The military is nothing more than a government run day care center and it’s so called benefits are no different than welfare.” -monte_ray

“They see themselves as superior to other citizens. Because they have gone to some third-world country and murdered defenceless brown people at the behest of some evil politicians, they feel themselves entitled : Entitled to free education, free medical care, free child care, free travel, free prostitutes…..

….But the fact is that most of them are of sub-normal intelligence. They joined the military because employment opportunities which required intelligence were not available to them. In other words, they join for simple economic reasons, not because they feel some burning desire to serve their country or perform heroic deeds. In any case, how heroic is it to drive round murdering brown people who can’t fight back? It’s not a real war. A real war is when the enemy can fight back.”-Hidell
And then there is this video on YouTube where Stephen King gives the Military as the scary alternative to not learning to read. It is followed by comments such as:

“you, sir, are an idiot. have fun dieing for my country. I just want you to know one thing – i dont appreciate your sacrifice and i dont think youre a hero. shoot a muslim for me bro.” -mittROMNEY666

“It’s the truth , don’t try to demonize the man for speaking the truth. The majority of the bottom 10% of your classroom will eventually end up in the military. “-Fasil777
“Everyone knows that the military the last ditch job option,

What kind of intelligent person would actually choose to kill people for the state unless they were mentally ill?

It’s a job for inadequates and mental deficients, every single video of the abuses they commit just reinforces that fact. Do you think normal people hurl puppies around and beat up children? Do normal people machinegun farmers and bomb schools?

People in the military are every bit as bad as terrorists.” -asubjectiveopinion
I don’t know if this kind of stuff makes me mad or sad, maybe a little of both? Army Man is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, he was in the top of his class (including various advanced classes) all throughout high school, he understands difficult concepts quickly and easily and he wants to get a degree in Biomedical Engineering, it’s one of the main reasons I was attracted to him in the first place, I’m a big fan of intelligent men.

Why do people think that ONLY stupid people join the military? I agree that SOME military members are less than intelligent but that can be said for almost any group of people, not just the military.

Army User Guide

15 Oct

I’ve noticed a lot of military wives come from military families and most military wives at least have someone in their family (an uncle or brother for example) in the military. We didn’t know a single person who had ever been in the military until Army Man joined, so it’s definatly been a learning experience. A lot of the things that other wives seem to already know, even new wives like me, I have no idea about. For example our first move was a DITY move, and we didn’t know that you needed a weight ticket (and the guy at travel only told us to keep our receipts and said we didn’t need anything else) so we never got reimbursed for the move.

I wish there was a guide for new wives, a book or a checklist or something that the army gave you when your spouse joined that explains what the FRG, spouses clubs, ACS, PCS etc etc is. A lot of the information I have now I found online, but not all of it is accurate or up to date. I’m hoping I can explain a little on my site to help other wives, but first I have to figure everything out myself.

So, I will be trying to post guides every now and then about lots of different Army related things, and if anyone would like more information about something, let me know and I will do my very best to find out. If anyone would like to contribute to this “army user guide” please let me know as well and I will post a link to what you wrote on here.

Command Sponsorship Update

11 Oct

If you are trying to get command sponsorship overseas, make sure you have recent TB tests and updated shot records for everyone in your family. You will need to carry these with you on the plane. The EFMP woman just told me this today, so now I’m going to be calling every doctors office I can find in Ashland, KY to try to find my shot records because my mother hopped around from doctor to doctor when I was younger so that I got my shots from whoever she didn’t owe money to at the time.

 

This should be fun…

Out to Eat Around Fort Lee

9 Oct

My husband and I are sort of foodies, we love to go out and try new food and we love to find the best restaurants in whatever area we’re in. When we were in Ashland, KY we could always point people to the kind of restaurant they were looking for, from inexpensive and “down home” to high-end and romantic. So when we moved to Fort Lee, after we got our finances figured out, we started exploring area restaurants. So far, we’ve found some really good ones, though we won’t be here long enough to achieve the same level of expertise we had in Ashland.1.Elephant Thai- This is probably my favorite restaurant in the area. It has two locations, one in Richmond and one about 2 miles from Fort Lee. The curry puff appetizers are amazing (though you only get two, they are pretty big). The curry itself is really good, especially the yellow curry. They will make your food really spicy for you if you ask them to, but otherwise they serve it pretty mild. The buffet is my favorite part, you can get things on the buffet that are not on the menu, like the sweet pumpkin in coconut milk I had for dessert a couple of weeks ago. They are not very expensive, only about $8-$12 for most meals. They offer a military discount of 10% on the Monday lunch buffet. The people working here are really friendly, they are helpful and patient if you are not sure what to order. Sometimes you’ll see one of their kids running around during slow times and they will come up and say hi to you, which is cute.

2.El Caporal- A lot of people in AIT at the base like Los Bandidos, I’ve tried both El Caporal and Los Bandidos and I like El Caporal much better for American Mexican food, though Los Bandidos is worth a visit just for the pretty decor. I found El Caporal through Yelp and they very rarely let me down. Located near Walmart, their service is a little slow, but their food is delicious, especially their chips, salsa and cheese dip. If you go here, make sure to have dessert! The churro’s are my favorite! El Caporal is located near Walmart.

Delicious

3.Koreana- Mmmmm…Koreana, you have the best banchan. Koreana is a great Korean place in the Kmart shopping plaza. The woman who runs it is so nice, she waited patiently, explaining everything on the menu to us while we tried to decide what to get. We’ve been trying to eat a lot of Korean food lately in order to find out what we like before we get to South Korea. Once she found out we would be going to South Korea, she told us a little bit about living there. They have really good fried sweet potato (I forget what it’s called in Korean) as an appetizer, and the fried bananas covered in honey sauce is one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. The have a big buffet every Sunday that we haven’t been to yet, but we plan to go soon!

The bulgogi is really good too.

4.Seoul Fusion- Seoul Fusion is another Korean restaurant we went to. It was good ok for us, but it’s more of a date spot/get drunk and do karaoke spot than a family restaurant. I think the food might be a little more authentic and the portions of the soups are HUGE. The service is a little grouchy and slow, they seemed frustrated that we took 10 min to order and they were really reluctant to give us a to go container for our food.

The soups come in GIANT portions

5.Wabi Sabi- Almost everything in this place looks delicious. They have a good amount of sushi, and really good burgers. The people were really nice, when we went we were under the impression that they closed at 10pm but they closed at 9pm. When we showed up at 8:50pm they let us eat anyway. They have a bar room and a dining room and I think a basement that they have live music in sometimes. It’s good for families in the dining room and adults in the bar and basement.

Sushi!

Black and Bleu burger was delicious

So, we haven’t really gained the area knowledge we had in Ashland, but we’re working on it! An invaluable resource for me when I travel is Yelp, which offers user reviews of restaurants and other places and can generally be relied upon. I don’t know what I’m going to do without it when we get to Korea!

I’ll probably put up another local restaurant list before we leave and one of a few Richmond restaurants.

(I finally have my internet back!)

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