Five Steps Down

I spent a few days with Scott and Mark’s family up at Mark’s family’s cabin on the White Earth Reservation in northwest Minnesota.

Amongst water-skiing (Mark), tubing with the boat (all three of us),and lounging around while snacking and watching a lot of movies, we also went to (Lake) Itasca State Park and walked across the Mississippi “with five steps down.”

[Mississippi Headwaters]

Death and Red Tape

You know that old saying about packing? Take half as much clothing and twice as much money (and film). Add to that, “and allow three times the expectation for red tape stuff.”

A great-uncle that I didn’t know well died on Thursday. I got to see some of my cousins (all of the not-graduated ones) and some family I haven’t seen in a while. One of my poor cousins, I refused to agree that he, as a twelve year old, needs a cell phone. He told me I wasn’t being “the cool, older cousin.” He is a very, very good kid, and I’m sure he’ll use his prepaid cell phone for good rather than evil.


[Dangerous flowers]

I sat near these two cousins.

Both good kids, I left with the Boy Cousin for a while because he couldn’t sit still. His mother and Cell Phone (Brother) Cousin were both giving speeches (and Cell Phone Cousin is going to be the president, I promise you) and his dad was in another row, so I followed him to keep an eye on him. He sat down and drew pictures of planes and I showed him how to write his name in Korean. I asked him to draw my picture.

He said, “You’re too hard. My mom told me to start with easy things.”

“But I am beautiful! Draw me!” I struck a pose, leaning back on one arm.

“OK, but only your head. And don’t move your eyes. Stay still.”

Voilà! (BS are his initials. Not a comment about me!)


Korean, Scott Style

I got my E2 visa number yesterday and my ex-fiance dropped off all the paperwork for me. In typical red tape fashion, Ex-Fiance lost the parking slip in some vent in the Scout and so $1 parking fee cost him $15. Oh well! The passport is on its way here!

Meanwhile, before we went out dancing last night Scott taught me the Korean alphabet. He made me write my name, some polite phrases, “ice cream” and my new city. He has, as I’ve said, been a great resource. He was a good teacher, too. Tonight I’ve been practicing online. I know I can’t learn a language without reading or writing it.

Further, I’m trying to find FAA approved flight schools in
territories. Anyone know if there’s a flight school in Guam?

Mark Comes Home!

Last night Mark came home from his adventures around the world.  Robbie, Scott and I picked Mark up and then enjoyed dinner together.

Scott taught in Korea a few years ago and has been a huge resource to me (“Quit reading Dave’s”), and he says he wants to cook some Korean food for me. Robbie brought out four desserts, and Mark’s neighbor stopped by. We had some home-brew white wine and ate Nerds. We talked about former teachers and home remodeling. We talked travel, politics, and bad tour guides.

As I sat in a kitchen I’ve known for 13 years, I thought, “This is what I need to do for the next week. This is my going away party.”

Post Offices

I dropped off the trailer this morning, and then George, Mom and I unloaded the truck. Afterwards, we were going to visit Mom and George’s probable-new-house.

George had me park the Penske here.

[Post office]

Mom didn’t think this was nearly as funny as we did; she made us move the truck.*

Mom and George’s new home is in a city outside of Lindstrom, Minnesota, a very Swedified little town. They even have a teapot as a water tower, and they have been told that it sometimes emits steam.

Water tower

Welcome to small town Minnesota, folks.

I talked to my grandpa (“the one who shoots bears,” as my brother used to say) and he was driving in about the same area I was yesterday! He thinks we were within 50 miles of each other at several points. Also, he declared that if I could drive that 16′ truck with the trailer, I can fly a plane. He learned some stick work when he lived in Alaska and proudly declared, “Alaska has more unlicensed pilots than the whole lower fourty-eight has licensed pilots, yeah, you should get your pilot’s license. That’d be neat, Mandi.”

I’ll trust my truck-driving Grandpa on this. Must be that truck drivin’ blood in me that made it up here in two days!

*This was funny only because it was freaking out Mom so much. George had me park there on purpose to freak her out.

A Cross and a Calf

I left Kuttawa, Kentucky at 7:45 AM and made it to Minnesota is just under 13 hours to surprise my mom and stepdad, who didn’t expect me until tomorrow. Even though it was close to 9 pm, it was still light out when I got home. I LOVE how long the summer days are up north.

Welcome to Minnesota

I was excited to cross over the river into Minnesota. I don’t want to live here again; coming for a visit is so much sweeter.

Driving through Illinois, on one of the exit 159s, I saw this. There was a sign that said, “Truckers welcome.” I don’t know if they meant to say that truckers were more or less Godly than the general population.

The Cross

I gassed up in Wisconsin, climbed into the truck, and heard something mooing. I looked the my right and saw a pickup truck with a trailer. Inside the trailer was a calf.

I wanted a picture of this.

I asked the two gentlemen who drove the truck if I could get a picture, said something about having lived in the South for too long and missed the farmers of the Midwest. They looked a bit amused and said I could go ahead. I figured I’d peek through the slats of the trailer, but they invited me inside of the trailer. So Man #1 held the outer gate closed while Man #2 opened the inner gate so I could snap my photo.

The calf wasn’t too happy and I had to move fast, but here it is in all its glory.


I hopped out of the trailer, calf poop all over my sandals, and thanked the two guys. Hey, it’s a first!

I thought about travel firsts as I was driving. The first time I took a cab by myself (Reno, Nevada), and the first time I argued with a cabbie (in another language in Costa Rica). The first time I flew alone to a city where nobody was waiting for me (Stockholm, Sweden). The first time I rode in a train (Germany). The first time I went up in a tiny plane (Nick was the pilot) and later a biplane.

This was the first time I’ve driven such a large truck or towed anything. And as scared as I was, I still did it! All 1150-some odd miles!

She Grew Up Tall and She Grew Up Right

I finished loading up the truck with Rob and Caro’s help this morning and bid farewell to the dogs and Rufus (too hard for words). I picked up the trailer and the guys at Penske loaded it up for me (even though they’re not supposed to).

The truck and the trailer both had Indiana plates, so I had these lyrics stuck in my head. Poor Caro, since they were stuck in my head, I kept singing them.

But she grew up tall and she grew up right

With them Indiana boys on them Indiana nights.

I left at about noon and hit some awful rush hour traffic, got cut off by some crazy lady in a Neon (hey, which one of us is going to die, lady?), and decided to stop in Kuttawa, Kentucky. I only make hotel reservations for the first and last nights in a foreign country and it caught up with me this time.


Yes, ladies and gents, the Gold Wing Association is having some large meeting in Kuttawa, Kentucky.

Furthermore, this city has the smallest phone book I have ever seen. It is all of 80 pages, yellow and white pages.

Princeton, KY Phone book

I’m crashing for the night, only having gotten 350 miles or so under my belt. I’m aiming for 600 miles tomorrow. Ex-fiance argues I can do the rest of the trip in a 12-hour day. I think he’s crazy.

Crime Rates

I don’t know if my mom reads this, but this post is mostly for her (and Grandma, and Aunt Debbie, and anyone else concerned about my safety in South Korea).

From the GBI, in 2004, the total crime rate in Georgia was 4082.1 crimes per 100,000 people. (For the record, a much, much longer and more detailed breakdown in crime stats can be found at Statemaster.)

From Nationmaster, the crime rate in South Korea is 31.7267 crimes per 1,000 people.

Going back to the sixth grade math I taught this year, we slide Georgia’s decimal 2 places to the left to get from 100,000 to 1,000 and that makes Georgia’s crime rate 40.821 per 1,000 people. Look at Korea’s stats again. So we’ve got 3.17 per 100 vs. 4.08 per 100 crimes. Also, if you break down the stats, Georgia has more than 2.5x the murder rate per capita and nearly twice the rape rate.

Now, Mom might be thinking, “Yeah, but you’ll be a foreigner, yeah, but you look different, yeah but…”

I know, Mom.

What Can Brown Do for Me?

What can brown do for me?

Cut through red tape!

OK, not exactly, but if I make it to Korea with my head attached I’ll be in a good place.

Thursday I trucked it over to my college to pick up transcripts. The office didn’t have change for a twenty. So I headed up to the accounting office. They didn’t have change either, because they’re in the middle of a move. So I headed up one more floor to visit an old prof, The Dragon. He had change and we chatted for a bit. So far, so good.

I purchased the transcript and headed back to Midtown. I went to the Staples (or Office Depot or Office Max, I always confuse the three) to photocopy my degrees, but they didn’t have a machine large enough for the Masters. So I called Kinko’s, and found one office with the large rolling scanner, at 100 P’tree St. I needed to be at 229 P’tree for
the consulate! Score!

Downtown, I parked in one of the lots and got bugged by a panhandler. I’ve spent enough time downtown doing work with a summer research program and GSU for grad school, so I expected it. I hoofed it to Kinko’s and got copies of everything and faxed some paperwork to Korea.

So far, so good.

I headed up to the Korean Consulate to get my degrees notarized (because I am not sending my original degrees!) only to realize that my original Masters was missing.

I ran back to 100 P’tree (not as close as it sounds) and found my Masters, then headed back up to 229 P’tree. I looked at my watch and realized that my time was running out in the parking lot. I decided to check out the lot and found…the booter. Checking windows for the parking tags. I rushed to buy another half hour of time and threw the ticket in the window with 3 minutes to spare.

I get back to 229 and get my degrees notarized and leave. And soon enough, I’m being chased down the hallway by the Korean consulate woman because she had my passport.

Today I had to “overnight” my contract and various forms. I had already left the house before I realized that I had left the copy of my passport on my desk. So, head back home… Finally, I went to UPS, USPS, FedEx, and DHL and UPS was the only place that could get the package to South Korea by Thursday. Everyone else was Friday or Saturday.

Let’s just hope I didn’t forget anything else.

But isn’t the notarization neat looking?

Notarized Degree