Saturday, August 28, 2010

Don't Say It's Over

But it is. I'm back in the US of A and Korea is in the rear view mirror. I had a great time and got to see a lot of the same officers from back in March. There was Maj Shin, who was my main counterpart and who I worked with the most, and Maj Baek, who I had the previously described conversation about 'fairy dust' with. We were more comfortable with each other this time around. (One great bit came when I was trying to teach a group of them how to pronounce the word 'collaborative'. It was a hopeless cause from the outset but we all had a good laugh.) The translators were better this time. One of them grew up in California and probably knew more Spanish than Korean. The one from Philly was hilarious to listen to during the briefs and another one studied at Oxford and sounded a bit like John Lennon. The final victory party was a shorter version of the last one, sans karaoke, but it was a better time in general.

It was a bit sad to leave knowing that I'll likely never go back again but then, that's how most things go in our lives isn't it? Now, with that behind me, I'm turning all focus on my upcoming deployment to Djibouti, Africa. I'm learning the history, studying the role of the US military there, and j'apprends le francais.

Life is like a giant book and it's time to turn to the next chapter.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Rules

Rule No. 1: Never post when you're drunk.

Rule No. 2: Never break rule number one unless you've just spent two hours with the ROK Marine Corps, who, by the way, are professional drinkers (like the Russians but without the bitterness), and have thoroughly enjoyed the duck and pork and host of dipping sauces and garlic and peppers and kimchee and beer and soju and a really good whiskey.

This Is the Life

This is where I've been living for the past couple of weeks. The room fits seven but we usually only have a few of us at any one time. The showers are open bay style and they're down the hall. Toilet facilities, sinks, and a big rec room/chow hall at the other end of the building.

It beats a tent.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Words You Never Want to Hear the Four Year Old Say When He's the Only One Answering the Video Call and You're In Korea

"Dad! Why do meatballs explode?"


This is the emblem of the Republic of Korea Marine Corps. The Eagle, Star, and Anchor, mounted outside the HQ building in Baran, South Korea. It symbolizes the fact that allied countries all over the world have forces that are trained to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Travelling Lighter Than Normal

Let me tell you how to get lost luggage back from the airlines. First you have to go to their service counter at the baggage claim and ask where your bags are. If you're in Pusan, which may be unlikely for you but very likely for me, you look around for someone who speaks good English. Then, and this is the important part, you assume a look of utter amazement while saying, "My bags aren't even in Korea yet?" Then you get a phone number to call and a claim number to reference. Then you shrug and go about your business. Then you spend an unrestful night on a cot wishing you had a pillow while listening to everyone else snore. Then you call the number the next morning, after the clock strikes Business Hours, and find out that your bags are somewhere over the Pacific and will get to Pusan late that night for delivery to you the next morning. Then you give them contact information for whatever military base you're currently staying at. Then you buy a couple of shirts. Then you go about your business. Then you wake up the next morning, feeling less fresh than usual, and call again to confirm that your bags are on the way. Then you wait all stinkin' day and they don't show up. Then you sleep again, with your mood in a downward spiral. Then you get up and spend a few hours trying to find out who picked up your bags from the main gate last night and, once found, patiently wait for them to figure out which van your bags are in the back of. (Hint: It's the van that just took someone to the train station.) Then you wait another hour or two and get your bags back. Then your glasses break.

And that's how you get lost luggage back from the airlines.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Left My Bags In San Francisco

I suppose when you travel as much as I do it is bound to happen to you. Of course it would be better if international travel and military exercises weren't involved.

I arrived in Seoul only to find out that my luggage did not. Since we were delayed out of Seattle to SF, and I had to hustle to make my flight to Korea, my bags didn't make it with me. So now I have a connecting flight to the south end of the peninsula followed by a bus ride out to another location only to wake up with no fresh clothes or uniforms tomorrow and get a ride right back to the airport in hopes that my bags finally show up. I imagine things will work out just fine in the end but I'm not sure how tonight's going to go. I have a sleeping bagless cot waiting for me in some tent somewhere. The potential for misery is high for this Marine.

But hey, if it was easy, anybody would do it.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Writing Lessons From Inception

Inception is an outstanding movie. In a time where we get nothing but films about a group of similar people shooting/killing/blowing up a group of similar bad guys it is very nice to see something a little different. This is an excellent and suspenseful action thriller that is both smart and moving. The visuals are awesome and the plot moves with just enough complication to keep you interested the whole way through.

It's a fascinating aspect of the plot that is the focus of this writing lesson. The technology that gets the characters into each others' dreams is never explained other than by one line of dialogue: "The military developed this so soldiers could train realistically and not actually hurt themselves." That's the extent of the technobabble. What I love about it is that the technology really is irrelevant when you think about it. The characters believe in it. They use it and it works and it follows a few rules and that's it. That's a smart way to write the script because it saves you all kinds of time and effort to come up with something plausible. While you might think that is important, I would submit that you are just opening yourself up to trouble when someone starts to pick apart your system. Much easier to just remain mum and let the rest of the story work in your favor.

Anyhow, go see Inception. You'll thank me for it later.