Monday, December 31, 2012

Travel Tuesdays-Thailand

Happy New Year everyone! Hope you all had/have (it's already the New Year here) a great New Years Eve filled with lots of love and laughter.
Look out next week for posts about our year in review and some pictures from our little snow storm we had (it was the most snow this island has seen in 30 years!). But as for right now I'm going to enjoy this day off with hubs and curl up on the couch and watch old Bond movies.

Just a little something to cure your wanderlust for the week.
Tiger Temple-Chiang Mai

We are interdependent and dependent on one another. We have got to find a way to make this whole planet work. ~ Andrew Young

Jumped another hurdle today

Today was the big day to have my pre-surgery physical exam and testing to determine if I really would get a new hip next week.  It’s been about two months in the planning, but I’m happy to report that I passed!  Because of the doctor changing hospitals and all of the delays, I was feeling the surgery was never going to happen.  I hate these kind of days.

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Tonight’s photos are from my roving time yesterday on the refuge.  Dew on a young longleaf pine.

I was pretty calm until I got about five miles away from my first appointment.  I could feel my blood pressure rising as I neared the orthopedic office.  I’m sure some of you know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when dealing with doctors and nurses.  I wish it wasn’t so.


It took about an hour to go through that initial exam, and then I was sent off to the Mayo hospital for further testing.  Each person I talked to asked the same questions, but I was prepared for that. 


I figured I would be poked and prodded, and I was.  Blood draws, urine sample, and an EKG were done.  There was one test, however, that took me by surprise.

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                                               Hermit Thrush in the understory.

At one point, a nurse took a long wooden Q-tip to swab my nostrils.  I’ve never had that done before.  I was told it was to check to see if I had a staph infection.  The thing that popped into my mind as she did it was that old insult “Up your nose with a rubber hose!”  Nyah-Nyah

I also met with the anesthesiologist, and he assured me that I would be in La La land next Tuesday.  The distance between different tests at the hospital was daunting.  I was thrilled when they plopped me in a wheel chair and took me from place to place.  When it was all done, they even wheeled me out to my car.  You can’t imagine the amount of pain that saved me from.  I was very thankful.

By the time I left, my blood pressure was down to normal again.  It should be fine until that drive into the hospital next Tuesday…Disappointed smile  I will be so happy to get this done and over with!

IMG_1529                                                                                  THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Santa for a Day-Sungjiwon Orphanage Party

Reading and translating the Christmas story

Our friend's baby got crowds of attention from both the girls and the boys
The younger age groups had a short dance performance for us

He was SO excited for Santa to come!

Every so often the foreign church that we attend goes and spends time at one of the local orphanages, Sungjiwon. I have always cherished the times that we are able to spend with these kids. Even though we don't speak the same language, there's always such an excitement that surrounds these visits and our last visit was certainly no exception. Every year the church throws a Christmas Party for the orphanage complete with Christmas carols, reading (and translating) the Christmas story, games, presents, and of course a little visit from Ol' Saint Nick (played this year by hubs).

It can be such a bittersweet experience going and seeing these kids that I have grown to become so attached to. I love how their faces light up as we come in, ready for endless rounds of duck duck goose and the ever so popular game of 'tie a balloon around your ankle and try to pop your friend's balloons'. We need another name for that one. But I can't even begin to describe how it breaks my heart to walk in and see new faces, new children without a family and home to go back to. A part of me is also disappointed to see the same children there time after time. As attached as I have become to some, I would want nothing more than to realize a child is missing because a loving family has welcomed them in. Don't get me wrong, from what we've seen, they're well taken care of. Fed, clothed and attend school and church each week. But nothing could be better than having a family to call your own.

Many times on this blog I am not very informative when it comes to certain aspects of the Korean culture. I think all expats can agree with me that there are some things about the different country that we live in's culture that we simply do not understand or fully agree with. Sometimes living in Korea, I feel that it's so westernized that it's not hard being away from home. Then there are others that I realize just how far I am from home and the culture that I am accustomed to.  I, for the most part, try to avoid talking in too much detail about some of the cultural differences because I would hate to come across hateful or judgmental when that is not my aim or my true feelings. One of these differences is the adoption process. I come from a country that inviting a child into your home that is not your own is both celebrated and praised. But the sad reality here is that many of these children will be in the orphanage until graduation day. I'm certainly no expert in this field and am simply going off of what we have been told by Korean friends and the owners of the orphanage. But from what we've been told, Korean culture does not think highly of adoption. Family blood lines are very important and they take great pride in being a pure Korean. For this reason, if adoption does come into the picture, families are more likely to adopt babies instead of older children because they can be more easily passed as their own children. These children in the pictures above have been given up for the standard reasons that we see in the states in addition to divorce and the child's disabilities. When I tried to describe to my co-workers how much I want to adopt in the future they were both confused and intrigued. I received questions as to why I would want to do that and if it was common in the states. My heart goes out to these children but I am thankful that there are great owners and caretakers at the orphanage who make sure they are well taken care of, and also for the camaraderie that's so apparent amongst the different age groups.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Another Christmas Bird Count is history

I set my alarm last night, and was up before the crack of dawn this morning to prepare for my umpteenth Christmas Bird Count (CBC) this morning. I opted out of driving to Folkston for a pre-count meeting at 6:15, and just met the group I would be counting with on the refuge a little after 7:00.  This would be the first time I would do a CBC from a boat rather than by car or on foot.  (on foot was out for me this year)

Before we headed out into the real swamp, we had a few stops to make to try to find some red-cockaded woodpeckers.  Even though it was raining, we were able to find nine of these rare little birds between two  locations.  Cool beans! 


There were four members in our group today.  Our leader was Art, a supervisory ranger, who was spending his last day before retirement getting paid to watch and count birds.  What a way to end a career!  He would be piloting our boat.  Besides the two of us, there was a woman who had done the CBC on the refuge in a boat for years and years, and a brand new staff member to the refuge.  Since Art was driving the boat, he asked who would be the recorder for our count.  The new staff member stated she was coming to take pictures.  Okay, so I volunteered to be recorder. 

To answer a commenter’s question, we identify and count every different species we see while we are out and record how many of each species are seen.  With four observers, my job was to keep track of every sighting that was called out.  That certainly didn’t leave me much time for photography.  I really didn’t mind though, since the damp dreary conditions didn’t make for stunning photos anyway, and I’ve always enjoyed the excitement and challenge of trying to find every bird possible and documenting it.


Even with the iffy weather, we weren’t the only ones on the water.  We ran into several groups of canoers/kayakers that were plying the waters in the Federally designated Wilderness Area.  It amazes me how many people secure advance reservations to paddle these wilderness areas and camp for several nights at designated sites no matter what time of year it is. 

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We stopped for lunch at the Roundtop camping platform for our only pit stop of the day.  It was quite a challenge for me to literally crawl out of the boat to get on the platform.  I needed all the help that was offered to accomplish that, but nature’s call made it mandatory. Disappointed smile  Carol, our more elderly counter, must have a bladder of steel as she never once got out of the boat during our long trip.


We covered well over twenty miles in our travels through the swamp today, and despite the weather, it was a productive bird day in the Suwannee Canal and in the Chase and Chesser watery prairies.  Sure beat doing the CBCs I used to do in cold and snowy upstate New York!  Not that it was balmy here.  I had on many layers including my winter coat, gloves, winter hat, and an outer layer of wind/rain pants. 

It was ten hours before I returned to the rig.  Emma was thrilled when I immediately took her out, and we soon had the arrival of new neighbors.  Another volunteer couple drove in.  I think I’ll head to bed early tonight.  I’m pooped, and I have to work tomorrow.


                                                                                  THE END!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Merry Little Christmas

I apologize for the slight silence around here this week. A massive but happily welcomed food coma ensued for the better half of three days (no complaints here) and I simply got lazy. And instead of doing anything productive, I spent massive amounts of time cuddling up with hubs watching movies and enjoying the fruits of my baking labor (again, no complaints here).
To say we had a good Christmas would be a great understatement. We were able to spend the better part of the holiday with friends and of course massive amounts of delicious food. We have found such an amazing community here and it has made all the difference in the world when it comes to celebrating holidays overseas and away from family. It all started Christmas Eve when a huge box from The Land of the Goods (aka my mom's house) arrived with 43 pounds of everything that expats dream about. Our little apartment is now fully stocked with all the ingredients needed for s'mores, fudge, and a giant cookie cake. Bring on the winter 'warmth' pounds. Sadly, I have no photos of this box of love because as soon as it entered our cozy apartment, it was ripped apart.
That night we headed to church for a cozy little candlelight service. Being away from the states, and therefore distanced from all the fuss of this season has given us space to really reflect during this holiday and truly celebrate it's purpose. I'm not saying that we wouldn't do the same if we still lived back home but I think that with more distractions comes less focus for reflection. Being overseas during the holidays can be extremely bittersweet for us expats. On one hand I miss the lights, the Christmas music being played in every store, the family time filled with good food, games and an abundance of laughter. But being away from it all has given hubs and I a chance to really bond together during these times and enjoy the simplified version of this holiday.

What was your favorite part of the holiday?

Time marches on


                                                         My oldest, Daniel, and his dog, Buddy.

Forty years ago today, I welcomed my first bundle of joy into this world.  It was a struggle getting him birthed for a tax deduction as 1972 drew to a close, but I got it done.  Confused smile  At that time, they kept new mothers and their babies in the hospital for several days, and I even had a dinner with Champagne on New Year’s Eve that year.

Where in the world does the time go?  I can’t believe that I have a child that is 40 years old.  Seems that it confirms that I really am an old fart.  Surprised smile  How did that happen??  I need a few minutes to recuperate from that realization…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Dear tastebuds, I think I finally found the perfect cookie. I've already made two batches and as long as there's marshmallows in that bag, I'll be making more this weekend. Dear Life, the time has come when we're receiving baby announcements instead of wedding announcements. This both excites us (that it's not us) and terrifies us (that it could be us). Hubs and I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling, too scared to even touch each other. Because we all know holding hands in bed is what really makes babies. Dear Boss, I came into work and you asked me if I had a party to go to because I had 'a lot' of makeup on. I guess lipstick is just too much in Korea. 

Dear shock value, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that in our writing book their example of a how-to essay is about ramen noodles. Only in Asia. Dear Dad, even though you weren't here to carry on the tradition of cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, I tried my best and they turned out pretty darn good if I do say so myself! Maybe in a few years we can do them together. Dear Hubs, we have made an undiscussed agreement in the past two years of marriage that we wouldn't get each other Christmas presents. But when I came out to that gloriously bare Christmas tree of ours, I found a little package from you. I love you and your little surprises that keep me on my toes. Oh and sorry there was nothing in return...Oops.

A getting ready day

There are two experiences looming on my horizon, and my day off today was spent getting ready for both.  As usual, I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish for the day and I actually got most of them done.  Most immediately, I will be participating in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on Saturday.  I have been email corresponding with the local organizer, and verified that the only counting I could do this year is from the seat of a boat.  Hikes on trails are out for me right now. 


Tonight’s photos are from a recent visit to the ‘secret’ pond on a chilly morning.  Instead of finding three sandhill cranes in the field around the pond, there were eight.  They were all trumpeting away while feeding as I approached and shut off the motor.

There are forms to fill out, and others to take along for this official bird count.  I’m actually quite thrilled to be doing the count out on the water.  Any time I can get out on the swamp is a bonus experience for me.  The weather forecast for Saturday is for an 80% chance of rain in the morning with beginning temperatures in the 30’s, so I’ve gathered many layers of clothing to wear along with my rain coat and rain pants.  We will be out for the entire day from dawn to dusk, so we’ll need to be prepared for cold wet conditions in the boat.  I’ll be getting my lunch and snacks ready tomorrow.

IMG_1460         With all that trumpeting going on, it wasn’t long before other cranes came in to join the group.

The other experience looming is, of course, my surgery.  I had two things on my list concerning that today.  First up was arranging for a kennel for Emma for two to three weeks.  I was able to get her reservations in a local home/kennel where the dogs have house time in addition to time in kennels.  There is a large fenced yard, and the woman running the kennel (the ‘Dog Lady of Folkston’) has several boxers of her own.  She assured me there would be plenty of play time for Emma with herself and some of her dogs. 


                                             More arrivals, and more trumpeting conversations.

Next week, Emma and I will travel to her house for a meet and greet to acclimate Emma to the place.   I didn’t get a chance to tell the woman that Emma is happy to go with anyone, anywhere.  Separation anxiety is not something she is plagued with. Eye rolling smile  I don’t think she would care one way or the other if I ever returned to pick her up.  That’s just the way she is.


After chatting for a while, the whole flock decided to head off for greener pastures with a cacophony of sound.

Second thing on the surgery list was to make a trial journey to Waycross, GA, so I’ll know where I’m going next Monday for my pre-surgery appointments, and to find the hospital.  ‘Jack–in–the-Box’ took me on a very interesting route, but I do believe it was the fastest one to get there.  It’s about 45 miles from the rig, so certainly closer than Jacksonville, FL.  It was very obvious to me that this is a Mayo Clinic operation.  I didn’t get out of the car, but I’m comfortable and glad I made the trip.


I’ll be nervous enough as it is with Monday morning.  Doctor’s visits just naturally raise my blood pressure.  I thought perhaps knowing the route and where to park might calm me down a bit.  Probably won’t work, but one can always hope. Disappointed smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Didn’t really sleep in on Christmas Day.  I was providing the baked ham for our Volunteer Village Christmas Dinner here at Okefenokee.  I got the ham ready by scoring it to put in the cloves, and pat the brown sugar on it Monday afternoon, so it was easy to just slide it into the oven in the morning.  The holiday dinner would be shared by 12 volunteers, staff, and friends.  Santa’s gift to me on this day was a visit from two folks that many of you may know and follow.


Fellow recent fulltimers and bloggers, Erin and Mui joined us for our meal.  Erin writes the Two to Travel Phaeton’s Journey.  Since they were spending some time near Jacksonville, Florida, I emailed her and invited them to join us.  Knowing that they were early risers, I suggested they arrive at the refuge in the morning so I could give them a tour before dinner.  The refuge was closed for the holiday, so we had the whole place to ourselves.  I believe they had a good time visiting the Chesser Homestead.

Eventually, all 12 people showed up for dinner, and the food was everything it should be.  What a grand time we had.  I just wish I had asked Erin and Mui more about their trips to Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands.  I hate it when the constant pain from my hip means I’m just not on top of things like I want to be.  Sad smile

As I was sitting outside early this morning with Emma for her first outs, apparently the incoming storm knocked out the electricity to the village.  I waited a while, and then cranked up the generator just before the skies really opened up.  It was more than three hours before power was restored, so the genny got a good workout for the month.

My second present for Christmas came in the mail today.  I normally only get mail delivery Monday through Friday, since the gates to the compound are closed on the weekends.  Well, because of the holiday, we haven’t had open gaits since last Friday.


Along with a Netflix disk, I received my annual calendar from my brother Carl.  He chooses pics from my posts of the previous year, and fashions a hanging calendar for me each year.  Each month I get to reminisce about happenings in the not too distant past.  Cool beans!  I look forward to its arrival each year.

Tomorrow I’ll take the calendar into the VC to use a hole punch so I can hang it on my fridge.  Then I need to line up the kennel for Emma to stay at while I have my surgery and begin recuperating.


Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, December 24, 2012

My Twelve Days of Christmas

Most of us are familiar with the holiday tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  You know the one with the 12 Drummers drumming, 11 Pipers piping, 10 Lords-a-leaping, 9 Ladies dancing, 8 Maids-a-milking, 7 Swans-a-swimming, 6 Geese-a-laying, 5 Golden Rings…, 4 Calling birds, 3 French hens, 2 Turtle doves, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.  Well, as I’ve been doing my roving time on the refuge, this tune popped into my head and my mind went-a-whirling.  So, for this special night, I give you my rendition.  Most of the photos were taken on Okefenokee NWR, but I had to beef up some pics with photos from Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR, Malheur NWR, and Balcones Canyonlands NWR. 

If I were techie enough, I’d provide the music in the background, but you know I’m not.  So, I hope you’ll sing along with me on the last verse of the song, and have as much fun as I did composing it.

                                   ♫ ♪ “ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY REFUGES GAVE TO ME: 

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                                                                12 WOODPECKERS DRUMMING


                                                                        11 HERONS FISHING


                                                                      10 LIZARDS-A-LEAPING

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                                                                 9 BUTTERFLIES FLUTTERING

12 Days of Christmas

                                                                           8 OWLS-A-HOOTING

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                                                                 7 ALLIGATORS SWIMMING

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                                                                       6 FROGS-A-CROAKING

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                                                                       5… GOLDEN… SUNSETS…

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                                                                     4 MOCKINGBIRDS,

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                                                                          3 PILES OF SCAT,


                                                                    2 WHITE-WINGED DOVES,


                                                     AND A RARE PECKER ON A PINE TREE… ♪ ♫

                                                     Come on, try singing it; it really is fun! Open-mouthed smile

                                          MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!