Published: August 28th 2011August 28th 2011
South Korea, Kunsan AB
Traveling is one of the most wonderious things; it provides an escape from reality, a drastic change from everything you know. The language, the food, the types of people - you don't know where the Hell you are, how to express that you are lost or why everyone stares at you when you decide to wear sweatpants in public.
THAT is what makes traveling and living in a foreign country so amazing; it is like you are in a different world, but have simply hopped on a plane instead of a spaceship.
Except, what if you are not in another world? What if you have traveled to another country, but nothing has changed? You may be aware that that you are somehow in Korea, but the need to adapt, figure out where to go and learn basic phrases of communication is removed from the equation.
This is life at Kunsan. You live in America, work in America and can even somehow live in Korea for a year without attempting to learn one word of Korean (past Soju of course). We have our own bars (hooch's) built on base, so the need to go out in town is removed, we have a movie theater, bowling alley and even a place to get a solid hamburger, The Club.
Further, you are surrounded by individuals who do not know, nor care, about traveling or assimilating to another culture. They complain about the weather, how Koreans never understand English (are we not in Korea?), and try to find places that serve 'western' cuisine and customers.
Is everyone like this? No - of course not, but it is the culture of the base. Military first, Korea second. I simply wonder how the Koreans perceive such behavior. I know I would find it frustrating, much less annoying.
Somehow, though, they seem to still retain their wonderful spirit. Koreans are notoriously kind, honest and relatively happy people. Surprisingly, the sense of foreigners is also very welcoming. The Korean War still has veterans that are alive and feel personally indebted to the American people. Coming from a generation that only knows the world somehow hates Americans (my guess is for some of the reasons listed above), this is amazing in face of how rude and impatient some people can be towards the local population - which by the way, tolerates our prescience here, knowing that their neighbor is lurking just around the corner.
Adjustment to constant structure, brown buildings and general lack of interest in local culture will be interesting. At the very least, the local population serves to be both patient and kind.
For an ending thought, I wonder, how would you do if the situation was reversed? Korean army station in America to assist with our leery neighbors - the Mexicans (cue dramatic music)?