Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Riding the school bus

During Maddox's last week of school we moved into the World Hotel, which is not far from the Main Gate of Osan.  However, it is the opposite direction of where we used to live, making the walk to school around .75/mile.  Since it was still sweltering hot and muggy in late August, I decided to let Mdx ride the school bus home in the afternoons.  She was SOooooooo excited, because after the School Bus Scare of 2010  (she got on the bus when I was supposed to pick her up) I told her never never never never never never to get on that Korean school bus ever again- oops!  Mama changed her mind!

Maverick and Daddy waiting on Songtan's main street.  I could see them from our hotel room, so I snapped some pictures.

The bus pulling in, and the teacher throwing open the door.  One teacher always rode on the bus with the kids.

She jumps out and lowers Mdx out of the bus.

It's hard to see, but Mdx is overjoyed in this picture!

Mdx had to say goodbye to her sweet Teacher (Seon-Saeng-Nim).  Goodbye Global Kids, we will miss you very much!  

Monday, November 28, 2011

Email to Kia

Oh, what a Monday.  UGH.

I just finished writing an essay email to Battleground Kia in Greensboro, NC and also to Kia USA Consumer Affairs division.  We'll see what they have to say about our situation.  I'm not looking to get a new car out of this, or even for them to pay our repair bill.  I just really want to know what they think, and what they suggest.  Here's the email- it is long, but interesting...if you are into that sort of thing.  Disclaimer- the sludge theory came from a friend, it is not mine- but I bet he is right!!

Dear [redacted for his personal safety],

Please forward this email to whomever you feel is appropriate at your dealership, as I could not find an email for the service department on your dealership's website.  I am also forwarding this to the Kia USA Consumer Affairs division, through the KMA Consumer Assistance Center website.

My name is Mary [McYouaregoingtowishyounevermetme], and my husband Marshall previously used your website to ask for help regarding our vehicle.  You replied saying we should expect contact from the service manager, which has not happened.  We do not have any emails, or missed phone calls.  

I brought in my Kia Sorento VIN # NOTTH3R3AL1 to your dealership on 9/15/11 for its 90,000 mile maintenance, even though the car was running perfectly at the time.  I specifically asked the service department to do a thorough check of the engine, since we would be shipping it overseas and I needed to ensure to the best of my ability that we would not have problems with the car once it arrived in Germany. (We are currently stationed at Ramstein AB, Germany).  Having two small children and with my husband frequently out of town or country, I make sure to keep my vehicle in good shape!  We paid $496.96 for the premium service, which includes an oil change.  After picking up the car on Thursday, Sept 15th, the next day we drove to Norfolk, VA, where the car was shipped from the vehicle processing center en route to Germany on Monday 9/18.  There were no problems at all with the car after the appointment or before shipping.

We have the maintenance records to the vehicle in a file in the glove box.  We provided regular maintenance including the 60,000 mile maintenance, and oil changes, some of which were done at Casey Kia in Newport News, VA, and some were done on base at Langley AFB.  I have gone through our oil changes specifically, and the average mileage between oil changes was 4,000 miles, using synthetic oil.

For some reason, after picking up our vehicle in Kaiserslautern, Germany on 11/2/11, during the drive home the oil light turned on and the engine started a small knocking.  Since we were close to home, my husband drove carefully home and checked the oil level, which was fine.  I told him that since there was a Kia dealership nearby in Kaiserslautern, we should take it there, which he did.  They informed us that they would charge us 600 Euro just to diagnose the problem (approx 795 dollars).  This was an astronomical figure, just for them to tell us what is wrong.

At this point my husband tried to contact your dealership to ask what we should do.  However, since we are 6 hours ahead of you, and he works full time, making a phone call is not the most convenient way.  He sent the message through your website, awaiting a reply.  We never got a reply, hence this message.

We decided to have the car towed from the Kia dealership, because we could not afford the diagnostic fee.  The vehicle was towed to Ramstein AB Auto Shop, where they checked the oil pressure, and found it low.  They suggested changing the oil and filter, and checking the lines to make sure nothing had been shaken or knocked loose during transit, thus blocking any vital oil passages.  Once this was done the oil light turned off and the engine operated as normal for approximately 45 minutes, after which the light and sound returned.

They called us to notify us of their findings and their new recommendation to replace the oil pump.  The part (actually multiple parts, as you know you can't replace just one part to any car) were ordered, and we were told it would take 2 weeks to arrive in Germany, with an approximate cost of parts and labor totaling around $600.  This is painful to us, but luckily we had an emergency fund for this specific reason.  

Which brings us to today.  You see, today we heard from the Auto Shop, who received the parts and began dissembling the engine to replace them.  What they found is perplexing to me.  There is sludge in our engine.  Our regularly maintained engine.  The engine that your dealership performed 90,000 mile maintenance to only 2 short months before, saying nothing of sludge at the time.  Our labor bill has now skyrocketed, as taking off the pan, cleaning the parts, etc has become a much larger job than they anticipated.  The mechanics brought me back and showed me the engine, and I took a few pictures.  I am attaching them to this message.  After asking them what they recommend next, it seems that their first suggestion is to stop dumping money into the car, since it may need a new engine anyway.  If we want to salvage the car, they could send the engine off base to a German facility to get cleaned, costing a staggering amount of money.  Their only other suggestion was to buy an engine flush type product and attempt to flush out the sludge ourselves, then get the oil changed again to hopefully remove as much as possible and have a working engine.  

Finding ourselves in a financial bind, I don't believe we have much choice.  It appears that if the engine flush doesn't work, we will have to junk our 2005 Sorento, that only has 94,000 miles on it.  

I simply don't understand how a car with no mechanical issues and regular maintenance develops sludge so quickly- but I have a theory.  This is not an accusation, but merely a brainstorm as to where our engine sludge came from.  Feel free to investigate, or offer any other opinions.  We dropped off the car, and you performed the maintenance as requested, seeing no signs of sludge.  You also changed the oil.  It is certainly plausible that the bulk oil that you most likely use for your oil changes was probably at the bottom of a barrel, and therefore contained sludge mixed in.  Sludge that went into our regularly maintained engine.  As long as we drove the car the oil stayed mixed up, and therefore didn't settle and gum up the filter, pump, and engine.  However, when the vehicle sat on a boat for 6 weeks, it was ample time for the sludge to settle.  Therefore, when we got our car back- BOOM- engine sludge.

Now, if the oil for our oil change came from quart bottles, then this theory cannot be correct.  Do you have any other ideas?

I am also curious as to what suggestions you have for us from this point forward.  We should be picking up the vehicle in the next few days.  I wish I could express how inconvenient it has been to be in a foreign country having car trouble, but the biggest concern for us now is finances.  My husband is an E-5, and I do not have a job.  If we have to buy another car to replace this regularly-maintained-and-paid-off car....well it won't be pretty.

If you read this entire email I thank you for your patience.  Now, please do me the honor of a reply, so I know it was received, and not ignored.

Mary Mc[Toldya]
(German phone number) 8675309 cell
German phone number WD-40 home

We'll see if I get a reply!!

Korean Birthday party

In between the kids' birthdays in August we had a party for them so we could celebrate their birthdays with our friends in Korea before we left.  We decided to have it at a place in Songtan on Aragon Alley, called "Casa Bella", which is a Greek Restaurant run by two lovely Korean ladies named "Sunny" and "Honey".  Of course those are not their real names, that is just what they told us to call them.  They both used to be models, and there are pictures all over the restaurant from their modeling days.  They both loved it when Maddox (and the rest of us) would come into their restaurant, and she would color pictures for them.  So, it seemed fitting to host the party in their restaurant.

Mav showing off his Super-Mav outfit, that I purchased at an adoption fundraising auction.

Mdx helped greet the guests.

The party table (see the pictures on the wall?!).  Ice cream cakes, beer, treats for the kids, and cake pops!

The strawberry cake pops were made by a Captain in Marshall's office.  They were awesome!

We got boxes of cookies, and Maddox wrote "Thank You!" notes, signing her name in English and Korean.
We were packed into the restaurant, luckily they turned on the AC for us!  There were a few funny moments, but one particularly embarrassing one.  We began to open presents, and Mdx opened her first present, which was a Toy Story game for her Leapster.  She thought it was the Toy Story movie, which she had only tried to watch once, but she thought it was scary and screamed for me to turn it off.  So when she opened up the game she yelled "I don't like that!" and practically threw it at me.   ACK!  I was mortified.  I had to explain that it was a game, not the movie, and apologize to Megan, who gave it to her.  After the party I started working with Mdx on "present face" (you know, no matter what- you smile and say "thank you so much!").  Let's hope that never happens again.

This was our surprise guest- Mr Chicken!!  
We wrote out a Birthday invitation, and took it to Danny at America Realty.  He translated it into Korean for us and printed out two copies so that we could give one to Mr. Chicken and one to Imo (the woman who runs Blue Opera).  We didn't really think that they would come, we knew that Imo had to be at work at B.O., and Mr. Chicken didn't seem to understand when we gave him the invitation.  But he came!!  He came running in the door a little late, and he brought an ice cream cake!  He speaks very little English, but he hugged and kissed Mdx, and sat with her during the party.  It was SO sweet.

Toward the end of the party- SuperMav passed out.

Back at home, Mdx practiced telling people that she is FOUR.

The next day we went to Blue Opera and saw Imo.  She gave Mdx this beautiful white shawl that she crocheted herself!  It was so special.
Mdx is also wearing the dress that she was given for her birthday, that was made by her buddy K's mom.  The dress has a M on it (hard to see in the photo).  K has one that matches, with a K on it.

Our last Sunday lunch at Blue Opera!  We sure do miss it there.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Landstuhl Christmas Market

There's no way I'll ever be able to post every thing or every picture that I want to post from the last three-ish months that have passed.  Trust me, there was chaos, craziness, shenanigans, and weight gain involved!  You don't need to see all that, now do you?  I think in order to make sure that I get to post things that are happening NOW now instead of after all the catch up posts, I will post new stuff as much as possible and old stuff as I get time.

NEWS FLASH- we are living in Germany now!   Marshall is stationed at Ramstein AB, we live off base, and so far we love it here!

Today we went to the Christmas Market in Landstuhl, which is a town just south of Ramstein AB.  Landstuhl Army Medical Center is where most of the wounded soldiers from Iraq or Afghanistan are transported for medical care, en route to the United States.  I'll post more about this later.  We had gone to the (surprisingly small and overall not impressive) Christmas Market in our town, but you can't go to just one!  They start in November and run almost constantly until Christmas, just in different cities and towns.  There is a guide to all the Christmas Markets around here:  Christmas Market Guide 2011

Maddox was all bundled up and ready for some fun!  

Maverick was in the baby carrier, because we were told that strollers didn't really fit at the Market.  That probably would have been true, but we went right as they opened and they weren't very busy.  It worked out well, because Mav was warmer against me than he would have been in the stroller.

Landstuhl's Christmas tree in front of the Stadthalle.

There were many choices of places to get Brats and other things to eat.  We stopped at this one that caught Marshall's eye.

No such thing as a bun length here?  Ha!  It was delicious!

This was a spice tent where they sold tons of different spices.  It would have taken me forever to translate and figure out what they were, but I did understand the "Gluten Free" on the sign.

Look Carla, we found a miniature booth! I mean, a booth that sold miniatures.  The guy said he doesn't have a shop, he just makes things as a hobby.

Advent wreaths are everywhere.

There was a carousel for kids to ride.  Mdx rode this one but didn't think it was much fun.

And another ride that had cars that went around called "Micky's Drive".  Mdx loved this one and cackled the whole time.

We had to try the waffles with melted Nutella to make sure they were as awesome as they looked.  They were.

Before we left we stopped by the "Highlander" booth to get a glass of Glühwein (pronounced glue-vine).  You can't go to the Christmas Market and not get glühwein!  It is mulled with lots of spices and served warm.  It was delicious!  You don't get to keep the mug, but they do sell them if you want to buy one.  

I asked the guys working the booth if they were Irish or Scottish, and they said that they are just Germans who like everything Scottish.  They were wearing kilts in 30 degree weather.  I think if you drink enough glühwein you don't feel cold anymore.  They gave me a pamphlet for their Irish festival in April, so we'll have to go and check that out.  It was a fun trip, and we are glad that we ventured out early so that we missed the crowds!  We are talking about going to Mannheim or another larger city next weekend to go to another Market, but we'll have to wait and see how the weather looks.