“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Korea 1979-1980


 It's quiet here tonight.  Another not necessary but pleasant fire burning in the hearth.  Dark outside, no moon and few stars.  Cold out there, for the time of year.

Just for a little variety,  here are some pictures of Korea as it was about 35 years ago.  This was in the countryside up near the DMZ.  I guess now everybody in Korea lives in a nice McMansion and drives a Hyundai to and from their city jobs. Wasn't that way back then.


The countryside was medieval.  There was no electricity outside the towns, and in the really rural parts I doubt they had changed anything in 500 years.  People still heated their houses using coils of charcoal they burned in recesses under the floors. Naturally people died from carbon monoxide poisoning but they just considered it part of life.  They used human feces for fertilizer. You'd see the wife and kids in the morning, out ladeling the goodies onto the rice from the "honey pot" buckets. In the summer the place stank so bad you could not breath around the fields. The smell got in your hair and your clothes.


Korea in those days was a rough place.  Life for the country people was hard, and brutal. Their soldiers were that way, too. I liked the Korean military, but I never made the mistake of thinking that they were "just like us."  All people are not alike.  Thinking that they are is a mistake made by lots of Americans who have never traveled further afield than Cancun.


I have worked with a lot of armed forces from around the world. It's my experience that Americans, Canadians, and Europeans tend to be very generous and friendly with an indigenous population. Assuming, of course, that the locals are not engaging in activities like sniping, ambushes and mining the roads.

Korean kids in the villages loved Americans. They knew the Americans had good things and would give them these things. They liked gum, they liked the crackers and cheese or peanut butter from C-rations. They would ask you for cigarettes. The first time a Korean kid the size of a peanut asked me for cigarettes, I was flabbergasted.  The Korean Lieutenant I was with was greatly amused. He told me the kids wanted smokes for their moms, dads, and grandparents, all of whom lived in one little house. So I gave them cigarettes. I guess I'd go to jail for that today.

Older Korean kids from the villages would work in the U.S. tent camps. They would shine boots, keep the diesel stoves in the tents going in winter, haul off the trash, whatever. It was against regulations to have them do that, but trying to keep them out was a losing battle for the Military Police, who were using their services like everybody else anyway.  The only time I ever saw these kids mistreated was if a Korean NCO was in our area and saw them. The Koreans of the day beat on their subordinates for anything. How bad they beat them depended on the nature of the transgression.  We always tried to prevent that kind of thing. "Hey, Sgt. Pak, come on in here and let us pour you some American coffee." Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.  The kids seem to take it in stride.


I only had to do one winter exercise in Korea. It was miserable beyond belief.  The cold was incredible. How the Korean War was fought in the winter was beyond me.  That Marine on the left is a WM (woman marine) . Her name was Moyer.  I liked her because when we went to the field, she was the only WM that didn't pull strings to keep from going.  Nobody likes "going to the field" except maybe the Grunts. The Air Wing hated it.  Thank God I don't do that anymore.  Like the old Confederate Veteran remarked in one of Shelby Foots books, "the best thing about being in the Army is remembering it years later, sitting by a fire with a full belly."


The Koreans were dirt poor. The officers were paid less than a U.S. Corporal in those days. But they were hospitable. They appreciated us being there because they knew damn well the North Koreans would be over the border if we weren't. They don't need us anymore, I suppose, but they did then.
They would invite you to their house and spend more on the meal for their guests than they could afford to.  The men and male kids would eat at a little table six inches off the floor, sitting cross legged. The wife and daughters would serve. I always tried not to eat a lot because I worried the wife and the girls wouldn't get any supper if  I did.  The Koreans worked hard, had a strong sense of honor and family. I liked them.  I don't know any now, but I hope they haven't changed all that much now that their country is rich.

People that read this blog know I love animals.  Yet here is a picture of me eating dog meat with a Korean friend. What can you do?  You don't go to a man's house and eat with his family, as his guest, and turn up your nose at what the wife serves.  Back then they ate dogs. I think some of them probably do now but not as much as then.


After an exercise concluded, sometimes you got liberty before you went back to Japan. In this picture, the guy on the left was the squadron maintenance officer. The older guy was our squadron commander, and this picture is important because I think it's one of the few times I saw him sober.
That's me in the middle, (I was the operations officer) and the fellow on the right was a good friend from up at Group.  We were in Osan.   Osan was a good sized place, and it was famous for things made out of brass. I still have all kinds of vases, spirit lamps, a big Globe and Anchor plaque, made out of brass from Osan. They also sold furniture made out of wicker. You could buy the furniture in Osan, the seller would deliver it to the Air Force Base, then the Marine C-130's from MCAS Futenma on Okinawa would fly up there, pick it up, and you'd go over and get your stuff at the airfield. Then you shipped it home when you went back to the States PCS.  These were known as "Wives logistics training hops" because most of this stuff hauled back from Korea on the Hercules were things the wives wanted back in the states. Unaccompanied tours meant you left your wife and kids at home for 13 months.  The only person I ever knew who took his wife to Okinawa on an unaccompanied tour was my brother in law. He took my sister over there and for 13 months she lived in a tiny little Okinawan apartment. I think she wished she'd stayed home. It's really hot and humid in Okinawa, among other things, and the Okinawans didn't use air conditioning like we did on the American base.

One thing you always brought home from Japan was china.  I didn't have a wife then, but I figured I better get her some china, whoever and where ever she might be, because it was too good an opportunity.

I went to the Noritake Store on K Street outside Kadena AFB, and bought a 12 place setting with the completer kit. I think I paid about $600 for it.   Because it's now a discontinued pattern, a single plate runs $145.00, so I got a pretty good deal.  Of course, my wife and I only used it once in our married lives (so far) and it stays in the hutch otherwise.  She plans on giving it to my daughter once that one settles down. But it was a ritual.  The other things you brought home from Japan were Samurai swords, Japanese paintings, pottery and art, and for a lot of the guys, Japanese women.  Nobody can go wrong with a Japanese wife. They are centered on the husband and the family. That's their life's purpose. Maybe that isn't true today though. We did a lot for the Japanese after 1945, but inflicting our culture and our values on them sure wasn't something they should thank us for.


So, that was Korea in 1979 and 1980.  I was stationed in Japan for 13 months, so I didn't spend more than about 8 weeks in Korea on exercises, but I went over there on liberty sometimes. On any Saturday, you could go to Kadena AFB on Okinawa, and for ten dollars you could fly to the Philippine Islands, or Australia, or up to the home islands, or Thailand. Then the following Saturday you could fly back to your base for another ten dollars.

Well, at least this post is different.  Maybe we have all had enough bad news from the television for a week and a break won't hurt.


38 comments:

  1. i love these stories Harry! my korean teacher came from a little village just outside of pusan right about the time you served. she and her husband were in their 20's when they left with 2 small children to come to canada. she had majored in english and so was able to find a job teaching korean at the military school. but her husband, whose english wasn't very good, and had an engineering degree. so he drove a taxi and went to english school for 3 years in order to pass the engineering test here. it was very hard on them. but her stories about growing up are very similar to the stories that you told here...and her pictures looked very much like yours.

    in my second year of korean school, after i had spent 2 years telling her about cape breton, her family came here on summer vacation. they had a most wonderful time and were welcomed into many homes and fed and taken care of. when they came back she was full of stories of how cape breton looked very much like korea to her. and she and her family could not believe the hospitality they received. i was very proud of my island for that.

    Harry, you have been to places that none of us have seen, and you have experiences to share. i love these kinds of posts and love sharing back with you!

    my korean teacher gave me and my 3 other classmates korean names after a month of school. my name was sayt-byul which means special morning star...it refers to when korea sees the bright orange planet of venus in october during the mornings. but she gave me an additional nickname which was jak-eun-ak-ma...which means little devil. guess which name she called me most of the time? bahahahah!

    thank you for sharing your stories. i love to read about them and i really love the pictures. i think a bunch of us who share our blogs are sentimental and want to know and understand the people we have befriended on the net. i enjoyed your sharing captain crunch's story too.

    i have blathered, i know, but your post made me think of my teacher. i can still read korean (i practice all of the time) but my transcription has fallen to crap and i can barely speak it any more. it makes me feel sad.

    sending much love, as always! your friend,
    kymber

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    1. Kymber, you don't blather. I'm always really glad when you come by. I know J has been doing your latest posts over there, so I assumed you were still pretty busy with the puppy and all.

      When I came back from Italy, several boxes of my household effects went missing. One of them had a lot of my pictures in it, and I never got it back. There was no such thing as digital pictures or home computers then really, so that was that. But some that were in albums I still have. So I took the albums apart and cut the pictures out , and scanned them.

      I'm really glad to see you when you come by, I enjoy what you write. You know that!

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  2. GREAT post!

    I really enjoy reading about the time other people have spent in the service. Wirecutter writes about his time in Germany once in a while.

    I have a very good friend who's from South Korea, and they still appreciate what we did for them in the 1950's and on up to "modern" times.

    When my M1 Garand was delivered to his business for me to pick up, I opened the case for him to check it out. I had the list of serial numbers with me, and looked mine up, and found it had been built during one of the periods the arsenals were cranking them out again. In my case, the rifle very probably served in the Korean conflict.

    My friend turned towards the rifle, very reverently bowed, and said "Thank you Mr. Garand for helping save my country".

    And he meant it!

    99% of the South Korean people I've met are good, honorable people.

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    1. The Koreans I knew were like that. They were honest, sincere people. I had a hard time with some of their habits like beating the hell out of subordinates, slapping people in the face for virtually nothing, etc. But it was their country, their show, and we were warned to keep quiet and not interfere in their doings. There really wasn't anyway to stop that kind of thing, because unless you could figure out a face saving way for the beater, he'd just beat on the lower downs even harder. On the other hand, because they were so tough, they had a great reputation and nobody minded serving with them because you felt like if the PDRK came across the border the ROK's wouldn't run away.

      I kind of envied them the simplicity of their lives and their beliefs. But I wouldn't have wanted to live in one of those villages!

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    2. Yep, they meet my definition of "good, solid people"!

      My friend is a Mechanical Engineer and Computer Programmer, so he and I share many technical jokes. His wife is a translator/voice-over artist for Disney, and does the Korean translations on the Disney animated films.

      Really good hard working folks, and up until I met my current wife, his wife kept setting me up with single Korean women!

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    3. You could do worse. I didn't know that many fellows with Korean wives. Korea was largely an Army and Air Force show, so I imagine there were many Korean wives around their bases. But one third of the Marine Corps combat units were stationed in Okinawa or in the home islands during my time there. That was an entire Division, a full Air Wing, and all their support groups. Japanese wives were very common around Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune. I remember one birthday ball at Lejeune where a Captains wife wore a beautiful kimono and obi. She was exquisite, even among all the dress uniforms and ball gowns.

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  3. Great stories and photos. Thanks for sharing all that. Check your Gmail.

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    1. Everybody, including me, gets strained by a constant drum beat of bad news. Older people have the advantage over younger people here, because older people can look back and think "whatever happens next, I still have that."

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  4. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)


    Interesting post.

    I have a few overseas stories myself. No pics though.

    I knew many former G.I.'s that brought home wives from Korea. I think back then I would have choose a Japanease wife. Things were much simpler back then too. Memories of WW2, Korean war and the Cold War gave our country and its service members respect.
    America is disliked in most parts of the world and now the odds of an active duty serviceman finding a wife oversea's is slim.

    I also think if I was active duty now. During ports of call, I would just stay on the boat. Maybe take watches for $50 a watch. I knew a first class petty officer that did that and he made a stack of $50's.

    I hate to sound negative, but we are universally hated by most countries in the world.

    Back to the 'Psychochick' thing.

    The lastest is the eviction did not go through today. I guess the lawyer is having an effect. I may have to write up a statement saying that psychochick's claim that I called her and said that the tenants were dealing narcotics is false.

    I do live in a pretty good neighborhood. Everyone came out in support of the family in the rent house next door to me. No one likes 'psychochick. I seethed in anger long enough and vented. Now I will just lay low. Psychochick will hang herself (legally) one day and I hope Im around long enough to hear about.

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    1. I hope all that works out, but I also hope you can evade any further entanglement in it.

      I'd go crazy if I stayed on a ship in port. Besides, if you were there you'd get scarfed up for every B.S. assignment that came down the pike. Nope, I'd do what I did then, get a hotel room and stay away from the ship as much as I could.

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  5. very interesting. bro was there in the army probably about the same time or a bit after. 3 times in all. brought back a korean wife, his second wife.. they had two kids but now he's on wife #3.
    he was a sgt for most of his time.

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    1. Korea was a big duty station for the Army back then. Maybe it still is today, but I don't know how many are there.

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  6. Wonderful photos! My father in law used to tell stories about Korea but that was back in the early 50s.

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    1. My uncle was in the Korean War, so he was a contemporary of your father in law. My dad's brother was a Marine infantry Sgt. in WW2, then an artillery lieutenant in Korea during the war..

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  7. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)

    This mornings bad instant coffee fueled rant!

    I just watched/scanned a video on youtube called 'Human" that was sponsored by the Bettencourt Shueller Foundation (a liberal, globalist foundation from what I can surmise)
    I tried to find more info on the foundation that sponsored that video but it was kinda of a vague trail on their real political leanings from what I could find.

    I am assuming that they are advocating 'global transference of wealth' , global socialistic programs etc, etc.

    Now I am getting hammered on taxes and a chuck of which is property tax in Texas which is a nightmare onto itself (we have no state income tax, but we Texas, makes up for it with property tax)

    Going back to video.....yeah I feel sorry for the people that are born in Senegal, Ethiopia, blah blah blah. Poverty, poverty to no end. Okay I get it. I've seen it in East Africa myself. There are no easy solutions.

    All the logical solutions have been offered from birth control to revolution. The world is still on fire. Tin pot rulers take from the poor and pass onto the rich, yeah whatever. Grab an AK and solve your own problems.

    I know blame it on 'Colonialism' and the wealthy nations and current consumer economy of throw a way disposable items, flat screen TV's, and reality tv shows.

    We have a global transference of wealth now with our country giving away tens of billions in economic ad to other countries only for it to be 'gobbled up' by tin pot rulers and other parasitic entities.

    Now here's what old (captaincrunch) thinks.....

    wanna start WW3. Wanna watch as armies are being moved around on the globe like muslim immigrants storming across southern Europe.

    Go for a full, global transference of wealth. The fascist and the nationalist will crawl out of the wood work in developed countries. Little Hitlers will pop up all over the place and some knucklehead will start lighting off nukes at some point.

    All this is happening now. The 21st century will be a huge bloody mess to eclipse the 20th century. The death toll from wars will wear down the population. We may even have a 'Supersized Holocust" compared to the one in WW2.

    All paths point towards global war and not global cooperation. I see no threads that will lead us (the human race) to any other end.
    To believe otherwise is foolish and nieve. Mans competition for scarce resources is another factor in the equation that many don't factor in. Western Europe's eyeing Russia's vast mineral wealth and building up standing armies in Eastern Europe shows the desperation that may lead to a Nato's invasion of Russia that will be suicidal in the end.

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    1. Well, nobody can foretell the future, but hey, I think we are all going to find out very shortly that the net effect of myriads of small negative developments is a much larger general catastrophe. I just turned off the BBC World Service here a few minutes ago because they were trumpeting the need for America to "do more" about the "refugees'. The announcer said "American Officials" had sent a letter to the President demanding we take in 100,000 a year. But the "officials" turned out to be from the same liberal cabal that has been flooding Idaho with these slugs, and this outfit gets paid by the head. Their "compassion" was motivated by the wallet, not the heart and they are certainly not "officials" by any stretch of the imagination.

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    2. We're taking in WAY too many as it is.....

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    3. I was listening to the BBC World Service on the satellite radio this afternoon. The announcer was going on and on about "the poor refugees", (who are busily attacking the police in Hungary and Serbia as I write this) and how the Americans weren't doing enough to "help" them. Then he said a group of "American Officials" had sent Blowjama a letter demanding we admit 100,000 "syrians" a year for the next five years. The officials turned out to be some Moon Bats from a left wing tax exempt foundation that has been responsible for importing "refugees" into Idaho and other rural states. They get paid by the head for this by another "foundation" associated with some of the George Soros crew. I turned the radio off.

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    4. George Soros....a Communist who made his fortune using capitalist methods, and now wants to impose his beliefs and will on others.

      As much as I hate to wish ill on another human being, that ba$tard can't die soon enough.....

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    5. 40 yrs ago my husband told me one central american country in which he had travelled received in 'foreign aid' every year enough $$$ that every man, woman, and child should have been 1 million $$$ richer each year.
      of course none of the infrastructure and other projects for which the money was sent were ever built.
      and the common people never saw a penny of it either.
      i'm sure it is all in swiss accounts. and undoubtedly many of our pols received kickbacks from it , too.
      but naturally untraceable.
      'wealth redistribution' is just a phrase meaning 'corruption'.

      saw a list of ohio destinations for the moslem terrorists--cincinnati, akron [too close to us], cleveland [also too close], and columbus.

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  8. Great post Harry, I love hearing life experiences. They're like reading a great book, for a short time you're living someone else's life. Thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. Kirsty, thanks. I appreciate that. I try to vary the content once in awhile so it doesn't get boring.

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  9. My fire captain had fought as a Marine in Korea. He thought he'd never be warm ever again. Once a year he'd tie one on at the anniversary when he should have been killed. Was overran by the Chinese. After dark he made his way back to the US lines, not knowing mines had been laid. By the time he got back they'd changed the passwords and he was almost shot.

    My uncle married a Korean woman when he was stationed there. I've got some good looking cousins. :)

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    1. He was lucky. I don't doubt that he remembered the anniversary of his escape every year but I imagine it was not a happy time for him.

      Eurasian women tend to be very beautiful , so if he had daughters I expect they had no trouble finding husbands in the states.

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    2. The guy had a rough time. He reached the point where he couldn't even dream about his home in the states. His dream of heaven was a night of sleep in a dry warm cot far from the front. His pack was stripped down to ammo, grenades, and rock candy. Threw everything else away.

      My uncle had some fine kids and his daughter is a real looker. Good people.

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    3. That was a bad war. We weren't ready and things went wrong for a couple of years.

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  10. Yes while you were hanging around at the DMZ having fun, I was roughing it out at Mare Island at Combat System Technical Schools Command in Vallejo CA. There on the banks of the Napa river. The only distractions we had were Wine country or San Francisco. I was arduous duty but I made it through and survived those two long years.

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    1. Well, you can console yourself for the difficulties you faced with the knowledge that it was tough, but somebody had to do it! ;-)

      My youngest brother spent his last year in the Marines as a guard officer at some weapons depot in Livermore, California. He really liked it.

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  11. This post is interesting. I've never been to Korea. I dated a guy that is Korean. I think his parents frowned upon him dating an American. He was grew up in the US.

    I heard they ate dogs there and in China. Chow dogs in particular. I guess you eat what you have to. If there's nothing but dog to eat in front of you that's what you eat.

    Human waist is good fertilizer, but you are right it does smell!

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    1. Unfortunately, the people in that part of the world, with the exception of the Japanese, were big dog eaters back then. I know it's still on in Viet Nam and China, but I think the practice is declining even there. I hope so. Cruelty to animals exist everywhere but it's endemic in the third world. I'm not referring to the act of eating dogs, but how they are treated overall.

      The most ethno-centric people in Asia are the Japanese, and that caused significant problems for mixed Japanese American couples back then and probably still does. It's hard to blame the Japanese for it though, Americans are not held in real high esteem there, and blacks have made the same unsavory reputation in Japan that they seem to bring on themselves everywhere.

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  12. Good post Harry, I enjoyed the read.

    Note: Like you, out of respect for my host I would've eaten the dog.

    Thinking back on my mis-spent youth, I swear some of those tacos I ate in Mexico back in the day were dog meat!

    -Moe

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    1. Moe,
      The worst thing that I ever ate (that I know of, I ate a lot of stuff that I had no idea what it was) was "monkey on a stick" in the Philippines. It's considered a great delicacy, they kill some kind of little monkey, and skin it, and grill it over charcoal. But it looks exactly like a human fetus on a stick. Filipino men are really into the macho thing, so I didn't want to look lame and I ate the thing but I felt like puking the whole time. Not to mention we got it off a street vendor, something only an idiot would do under normal circumstances. In the P.I. places like Olongopo make Juarez look like a first world city .

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  13. This was really interesting and the pictures were neat as well. What forethought to pick out china when you were there! I also really liked the picture with the kids.

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    1. Lisa, everybody did that. The Marines have been in Japan now for more than 50 years, and there's a whole lot of customs that have developed. China in Okinawa was like gold in Turkey, it was the thing you brought home to the baby's mother. I wasn't married then but I couldn't be sure when or if I'd get back, and prior planning prevents poor performance.

      I always liked kids everywhere I went, except in Lebanon. I expect I felt about them like Vietnam Vets felt about the kids there. You could never be sure.

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  14. Omg Harry..you were such a hottie marine back then..

    Yes always get China when in Japan...my dad was an airdale in the Navy during Korea. He went two Japan quite a bit and bought Japanese Geisha Dolls in glass boxes...I got the one he gave my grandma when she died, and have kept it nice all these years as Its over 50 years old...kind of cool.

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    1. That's kind of you to say, Glock Mom. I'm old now but a compliment from a younger woman, married or not, is always pleasant to an old geezer.

      I can remember seeing the same type of dolls in my Uncle Tom's house. I didn't buy any dolls but I bought a lot of Japanese pottery and some paintings. I like Japanese art to this day.

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  15. I find these posts really interesting and a good insight into the interesting lofe you've lead, I doubt you've ever been short on adventure. Experiencing different cultures in this way must be amazing and to look back on it also. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I wanted to travel, and I sure got to. In some cases, I saw more of the world than was healthy.

      My wife and I agree though that we are past the stage of traveling long distances anymore.

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