(In celebration of ten years of blogging here at LTG, each week for the next 52 weeks I will delve deep into the sewer archives of past posts to bring you a tidbit of blog history. I had originally planned to call this series “The best of LTG”, but damn, there just wasn’t much “best” to be found. And mediocre is too hard to spell.)
It’s been cold. And I’ve come down with one as well. My efforts at dressing to keep warm met with derision from Jee Yeun. She suggested I take a can and sit outside for awhile. Hell, I’d probably make as much that way as I’m earning at the new job. ‘
Which reminds me, after my first day of work yesterday I rewarded myself with a couple of hours of beer drinking in Itaewon. Now, my motives were pure–I simply wanted to let the rush hour subway crowds dissipate a tad before I ventured home. When I did make it back to Gireum, Jee Yeun accused me of spending my entire day’s wages at the bar. She was only half-right.
…it’s off to work I go! It’s been four years since I’ve been paid for my time but hopefully I’ll remember how to “git-er-done”.
I’m up early this morning. I intend to catch the subway from Gireum to Samgakji station at 0600. That’ll leave me a ten minute or so walk to the on-base post office where I’m scheduled to meet my co-worker (also a John) at 0700. We will then walk the block over to the bus station to catch the military shuttle going to K-16 Air Base in Seongnam. In all the years I previously worked in Korea I never had occasion to visit K-16. It’s been called the “most insignificant military base in Korea”. Since I’m probably the most insignificant employee in Korea, it ought to be a good fit.
I’m still a little fuzzy on what my precise duties will be. I think I’m supposed to keep track of the folks who come to use our computer lab. That task will be made a little more difficult as I won’t have access to the database used for that purpose today or for the near future. There was a little hiccup with my security clearance. Although my past clearance had been “archived”, when it was resurrected all my pertinent data was missing. Which means I need to complete a raft of documents, get fingerprinted, and have my background investigated. The security office is going to try and have that process started by Monday. Until it’s done there is not much I can do on the USFK computer network. Well, co-worker John is going to be there today to show me the ropes and I guess we’ll devise a work around.
Anyhoo, it should be interesting. Especially when my body tells me it’s nap time this afternoon. Ah well, one of the sacrifices a working man must make, right?
So my friend Jeremy is behind bars. He’s being transferred today to a prison in Incheon where he will stay until his trial date, presumably in a month or so. He’s been charged with “violence resulting in death”, which I understand is the Korean equivalent of manslaughter.
Several weeks ago Jeremy was at the Old Town Tavern in Itaewon. He observed a young Korean man verbally and physically harassing a female friend of his. Jeremy intervened, and a shoving match ensued (some accounts say Jeremy punched the guy). The Korean man subsequently fell to the pavement, struck his head, went into a coma, and later died from his injuries. He was 20 years old. I’m hearing in his 30’s now, see update below.
I’m not sure how you say “screwed” in Korean, but that most certainly describes what Jeremy is. The altercation has been reported in the Korean media in terms much less favorable than those I’ve described above. An attorney Jeremy has consulted advises that he is facing 7-10 years in prison, although that might be reduced to as little as two years, provided he makes some restitution to the deceased’s family. The victims medical bills alone are fifty million Won.
Like many expat teachers in Korea, Jeremy is basically broke. He was fired immediately after the incident hit the news. He will have difficulty funding a competent lawyer, I see no possibility of him being able to pay off the family. The Go Fund Me campaign started on his behalf had only generated several hundred dollars before it was pulled. Go Fund Me doesn’t allow people to donate to the legal fees for individuals accused of a violent crime. So, like I said, he’s pretty much screwed.
I’ve known Jeremy for several years and I’ve never seen him be violent or aggressive. But I knew he had been in fights before, mostly because he’s a stand-up guy who won’t back down. As another mutual friend put it, Jeremy is a smart man who does some really stupid shit. Now two lives have been destroyed and their ain’t a fucking thing anyone can do to change that. It’s a nightmare for all involved.
So I offer this sad story as a cautionary tale. Just walk away. It’s not worth it.
UPDATE: A friend of Jeremy’s has created a Facebook page in an effort to generate some financial support for legal expenses. I wanted to post the account of the events outlined there for clarification. I wasn’t there and neither was he, but this is probably as close to accurate as we are going to get.
A good friend of mine, Jeremy Frye, was recently arrested on charges that could put him in prison for a long time. Because I wasn’t there at the time of the incident I can only relay the story according to Jeremy and a couple of other friends who were at the scene. I will try to simplify it. Here goes:
On Nov. 30th, Jeremy was at a local bar with his friends in the early morning. A Korean man in his 30’s sexually assaulted one of Jeremy’s Korean female friends by grabbing her inappropriately. The Korean man was removed from the bar by the security later to come back inside. The Korean guy pursued to apologize but instead tried to become physical with one of Jeremy’s mates. The Korean guy then left the building only to harass another one of Jeremy’s female friends and physically trying to harm her. Jeremy stepped in and removed the Korean guy which resulted in a scuffle. When this happened, he was almost immediately pulled away by the bar owner and security guard and went back inside. Several minutes later the paramedics arrived on scene because the Korean guy fell unconscious. When the police came, the Korean guy’s friend pointed at Jeremy. They questioned him and then let him go home. Later in the day, the police arrived at Jeremy’s apartment and arrested him for more questioning. He was held overnight and released again. The police told him the Korean guy was in a coma. About a week later the Korean guy died in the hospital. Jeremy is now in prison and awaiting his trial, which could be in a month.
If you feel like giving Jeremy the proper legal assistance, you can transfer funds to a bank account I have set up for him. I will try my best to keep everyone updated on his situation on this page. It will be difficult to contact individually.
Either way, the Walrus was spotted in Itaewon for the first time in too long this weekend. As one wag put it, the photographer captured my good side in this pic.
Friday night darts at Dolce Vita featured a round robin format which I rather enjoyed. You throw a lot more darts than in the typical double elimination tournament. I failed to make the cut into the championship round, which I blame on my inability to properly adjust to 16 ounce Korean beers after months of drinking 12 ounce ultra light beers in the USA. Or maybe I just threw crappy.
Saturday was the end-of-season tournament for the Seoul International Dart League. I threw better there, but not good enough to actually win anything.
Got lots of heartfelt welcome backs which made me feel good. Indeed, it is good to be back.
One long ago winter’s day in Stafford, Virginia I sat down and crafted the first ever post here at Long Time Gone. Looking back from the perspective of half a score of years, I can’t help but cringe a little at the naivete and cluelessness of the person I was back then.
I’m moving to Seoul, Korea. Although the general consensus among family and friends is that I’ve lost my mind (which I don’t necessarily deny), this is something of a calling for me.
I went on and on about duty and honor and serving those who served, which was perhaps the truth on some level, but as is usually the case with me, my motivations were at their core driven by my own selfishness.
I have lived a very comfortable life. Too comfortable perhaps. The chance to live and work overseas in a totally alien culture seems to be an exciting opportunity to get out of my box and experience a new lifestyle.
Now, what I meant to say here is that I hate my fucking white bread suburban life, I’m bored and miserable, and if I don’t find a way to get out of here I’m going to go batshit crazy. Although I guess maybe you can read that between the lines.
I have made a two-year commitment to the Army, and if I am miserable and lost and lonely, well I will deal with it and learn what I can from the experience. Going in, I have a positive attitude and believe that I have the power to determine what I gain and how I grow as I live this new life.
Oh my, but I was full of myself back then, wasn’t I? That two years became six and carried me right up to retirement. I did in fact find myself more than occasionally “miserable, lost and lonely”, as often as not from the sometimes cruel hearts of Korean women. For example, a Korean woman I dated for almost two years broke up with me via email. While we were living together! Still, the good times outweighed the bad and in my ignorance I came to love Korea, even if I didn’t (and don’t) always understand her. It is pretty funny that I actually believed I had the “power” to determine what I gained from the experience. I still feel the pain of the things I lost by being here over the years. What have I gained? Well, I get to be the person I have become. And I like that better than the person I was.
So, this blog will serve as a diary of my life in Korea. It will be a place where I share my thoughts on what I am seeing, doing, and learning.
I guess I got that part right. Mostly.
I’m going to cut that guy from tens years ago a little slack though. He wasn’t happy with his life and so he changed it. There was a price to be paid for that, but I think it was worth it in the end. And ten years later finds that guy back in Korea still pursuing his happiness. Hope springs eternal.
“Though half a score of years are gone, Spring comes as sharply now as then— But if we had it all to do It would be done the same again.
It was a spring that never came; But we have lived enough to know That what we never have, remains; It is the things we have that go.”
Today I successfully completed all the requirements necessary for issuance of an identification card that allows me access to the various facilities on U.S. military installations in the Republic of Korea.
Still not too handsome for government work…
Tomorrow I’ll head over to the Korean Immigration Service to secure a SOFA visa.
Tonight I dined on galbi.
Life is good in Korea. And so is the galbi.
Went to bed at 0600 hundred this morning and woke up at 0900. I’m running on fumes right now but I’m trying my hardest to stay awake until at least 2200. Hopefully a full night’s sleep will get me back on a more normal sleep cycle.
Back in our humble apartment in Gireum-dong. 33 hours door-to-door.
Began the day at 0400 in order to catch my 0700 flight out of Columbia. Arrived in Atlanta at 0800 with 4 hours to kill before my departure to Seoul via Korean Air. Had a sausage, cheese and egg biscuit from McDonalds, then parked myself in the smoking lounge where I enjoyed free airport WiFi, a rare treat in the USofA.
The appointed departure time came and went, and then came the announcement of some unspecified “mechanical problems” with our A-380 aircraft. They estimated the fix time to be three hours, and gave us all a ten dollar lunch voucher. So, I scored me some Arby’s and headed back to the smoking lounge to wait out the delay.
Three hours go by and the repair is still not complete. Then another hour. Then Korean Air rolled out a couple of carts filled with snacks, soft drinks, and water with the promise the problem would be resolved “soon”. We finally boarded at 6:30 and then sat at the gate for the better part of an hour. I set my watch for Seoul time and resolved to not worry about those things I can’t control.
About halfway into the flight, I hear a woman screaming in Korean. I figured maybe a fight had broken out. Shortly thereafter the flight attendant took to the P.A. to ask if there was a doctor on board. After a few more minutes she came back on to ask if there was anyone with medical skills available to help. I asked the flight attendant what was going on and she said, we have to get a sick passenger to the hospital. I said “A hospital, what is it?” She said “it’s a big building paitents, but that’s not important right now!”. Alright, of course that last part didn’t happen, but I couldn’t resist the “Airplane!” reference.
Anyway, they moved the ill person up front and things quieted down I watched three forgettable movies (2 American, 1 Korean) and in between actually managed to sleep a few hours. Which might explain why I’m still up right now.
We landed at Incheon at 0100 local time. As we deplaned, a Korean Air employee gave us each an envelope with seven W10,000 coupons good for future travel with the airline. An unexpected and nice touch. I sailed through immigration and customs, although one of my bags got destroyed somewhere between Columbia and Korea. It was the last bag to come down the carousel. I had packed that sucker jam full and had a hard time getting it zippered up. I knew if TSA or Korean customs attempted to open it they’d never get it closed again. It arrived back in my possession with a burst zipper and haphazardly held together with packing tape. All the contents seemed to be intact however, so I’m grateful for that.
I was happy to see a currency exchange kiosk still open, so I exchanged $200 for Won as I anticipated an expensive taxi ride from Incheon to Gireum. Instead, another Korean Air employee met me as I exited the airport and directed me to a bus that would take me to Seoul City Hall, paid for by the airline. That suited me just fine. I was the only passenger on said bus, and in broken English the driver asked where I was going. I told him Gireum station. He had a suggestion: He would take me to Gimpo Airport where his car was parked, and then he drive me to Gireum himself. I caught on that the guy was ready to get home, and this plan likely would have shaved a couple of hours off his night. I readily agreed, but alas, another passenger arrived and foiled our plan. Still, there was a cab waiting at the City Hall bus stop and he carried me to my destination for W12,000 including tip.
Jee Yeun greeted me at the door with a smile and a kiss and I knew at long last my journey was over. It’s good to be home.
Had a nice, but bittersweet, farewell at Kwagga tonight. It was really good to see some old friends one last time before I leave for who knows how long. I know I wallowed in a fair amount of self-pity these past few months, but lately I’m reminded that there are folks out there who do care.
We had a very nice turnout tonight. Folks said goodbye to me and we all said our goodbyes to Kwagga Sports Pub, closing for good on the 15th.
Kwagga’s proprietors, Ben and Dirk. Sad to see their business fail, but they gave it a shot and made some friends along the way.
Well, it is after midnight and my alarm is set for 0400. We’ll see how that works out. I’m a little concerned that I’m growing stupid lately. I had the microwave incident this afternoon, and tonight I got almost all the way home from Kwagga when I realized I didn’t have my darts. So I turned around and went back to get them. When I got to the bar I went back to the table where I had left them and they were gone. I was thinking “oh shit, someone has stolen my darts!”. And then I noticed they were securely fastened to my belt where they had been all along.
Damn, maybe all I’m qualified to be is a Wal-Mart greeter. Here’s hoping the stupid wears off soon.
Seventeen hours left in this iteration of my American life.
Did my online check-in with Delta this morning. Since it’s a one-way flight they asked whether I had a visa. I don’t yet, but hopefully my offer letter and USFK documents will suffice to let me board the plane.
Went to the post office and mailed two medium size boxes containing Jee Yeun’s shoes and “must-have” clothing items. That set me back $175, but I reckon if I had to allow a shopping spree at Hyundai Department Store it would have cost me a lot more. So there’s that. Also submitted my official Postal Service change of address card.
Swung by the Goodwill store and donated a large bag of clothes I didn’t expect to ever wear again.
Then it was over to Walgreen’s which is an official Toys for Tots drop off point. In addition to the toys we collected at the charity dart tournament on Saturday, I also converted the cash donations into toys.
Filled the Toys for Tots collection box to overflowing. Made me feel a little like Santa Claus. Lord knows I have the belly for the job!
Came home hungry so I popped my last frozen dinner into the microwave. I got distracted on Facebook and then realized that either I was experiencing the longest three minutes in history or I had somehow screwed up. It was the latter…I had inadvertently set the timer to thirty minutes. D’oh!
My renter/roommate came by on his lunch hour to transfer utilities which proved to be a rather large pain in the ass. He worked the water and electricity while I dealt with the TV/Internet from ATT Uverse. That turned out to be an incredibly convoluted process. When I called the 800 number I was told that a transfer had to be done online. Except I wasn’t able to login online. Called back and got a new password, but when I went to the transfer service page, my new password would not work. So I went to online support where an incompetent support person sent me a new password. Which didn’t work either. So he transferred to another tech who after about 30 minutes was able to get me set up. I thought my head was going to explode at several points, but I eventually prevailed.
Still to do: cramming some last minute items into my suitcases and praying neither is more than the fifty pound maximum. I also need to drop the TV box off at the UPS store (my renter is not keeping television service. I have a check to deposit at the bank, and I need to get a haircut.
Tonight I’ll make my final appearance at Kwagga for some darts with a buddy who is driving in from Atlanta to say goodbye in person. I then I need to wake up at 0400 to get to the airport in time for my 0700 flight.
Worked the swing shift at Kwagga Sports Pub last night, throwing darts from 3:00 till 11:00. Started with our Toys for Tots charity event which my partner and I managed to win. Then we followed up with a singles tourney which I managed to win as well.
Of course the real winners were the kids. We collected some toys and $80 in cash to make Christmas morning a little happier for some needy boys and girls.
Kwagga Sports Pub hosted the event and provided some cash to the winners and some very nice bar swag (I took home a case of beer!). It was a bittersweet day as sadly the bar is shutting it’s doors for good on December 15. They did a lot to help us grow darts in Columbia. A few unfortunate incidents and misunderstandings resulted in a significant loss of customer base that couldn’t be overcome. If I weren’t moving, and had the time, money and inclination, I think I could make a go of the place though. Well, maybe in another lifetime.
I may be getting older but the memory is still intact. Why, I can actually remember almost everything that happened to me…today. Here, let me prove it.
At 0138 I’m laying in bed and I hear my Skype ringing. It’s my future boss with the good news that my official job offer letter has arrived. He asked me to sign and scan it and email it back. And so I did. It was a little disconcerting to discover that the minuscule pay I had anticipated was actually considerably less than I recall being quoted. Oh well. It does provide SOFA status and gives me a foot in the door while I await something a little more financially rewarding. Putting the best possible spin on it, I could say that I’m now an educator, as I’ll be working in the Army Continuing Education System (ACES). Of course, my job title is not nearly so impressive: Reception and Admin Services. Told you I was going to be a greeter!
At 0800 my phone ringing forced me from the warm cocoon of my heated bed. This time it was the Chevrolet dealership advising that the parts had arrived to complete the repairs required under a recent GM ignition switch recall. Apparently, due to a manufacturing defect you could be driving along and have the ignition turn off. This would cause both the steering wheel to lock and also deactivate the airbags. As you might imagine that proved to be a fatal combination in several instances. So I was more than willing to get the free repair completed. I scheduled for 11:00 and was told I could anticipate a two hour wait while the work was done. I walked over to a nearby Wendy’s and had an unsatisfactory hamburger and then a pleasant phone conversation with the wife. I returned to the dealership at noon and was welcomed with the news that my vehicle was ready to roll. Woo Hoo!
Being out and about at a relatively early time of day, I rolled on over to my credit union to deposit some checks from my Blue Cross Health Plan and withdraw some Ben Franklin’s to carry with me to Korea next week. I’m pretty pissed at Blue Cross right now. The checks were small reimbursements for doctor visits and prescriptions. But so far they have declined to pay for the big ticket item–my $1300+ comprehensive physical exam. Yesterday I spent the better part of an hour arguing with three different Blue Cross jackals who asserted I needed to submit additional medical justification for the services rendered. I pointed out that the whole concept of bi-annual physical was to detect potential problems before they become a major illness. The documents I submitted showed the tests performed (colonoscopy, endoscopy, ultrasound, heart imaging, etc) and the cost of each of those tests. They are insisting on medical records showing why these tests were necessary. Which is bullshit. Anyway, I’ll have to go see the hilarious Dr. Yu when I get back to see what he can provide.
Having completed my banking my next target was Target to shop for something a child may enjoy on Christmas morning to bring to the Toys for Tots charity dart tourney tomorrow. I bought two, a truck and doll. They don’t give extra points for creativity after all.
I arrived home and took a short nap. Later in the evening I drove into downtown Columbia to (what else) play darts at Publick House. This sign greeted me at the door:
My day had been a little of both so of course I drank some beer…
And the day has now ended with the completion of this post. As far as I can recall.
Although I am still awaiting the official job offer letter, I’ve been told unofficially that the start date at my new gig in Korea will be December 16.
Yesterday I went to Home Depot and purchased two large storage containers in which to store stuff that I won’t be taking with me. I also bought a couple of boxes to mail things I want to take that won’t fit into my luggage.
This morning I acquired a one-way plane ticket for the sweet price of 70,000. Delta SkyMiles that is. In addition to saving the cash I was able to book my preferred route of Atlanta to Seoul non-stop on Korean Air. I’ll be flying out bright and early from Columbia Tuesday morning and arriving in the Land of the Morning Calm Wednesday afternoon.
I’ve placed orders to cancel my electric, gas, and water. Still need to do my phone, TV, and internet. Kind of hoping my renter will keep the ATT UVerse service so I don’t have to hassle with turning in the equipment (and subsequently being without access to the ‘net on my final day in Columbia). I’d like to be able to keep my American phone number and also unlock my smartphone. Hopefully AT&T will work with me on that.
What else? I need to go buy a large suitcase so I can pack up Jee Yeun’s clothes (she didn’t bring any winter stuff with her). I also need to empty the closets and dresser drawers, clean out the garage, and otherwise prepare the house to turn over to my new tenant.
Once I get my APO address I’ll make arrangements with the Post Office to forward my mail.
I guess I’ll need to pick up a couple of things to wear to work as well. I’ve been in a blue jeans and sneakers mode for going on four years now. I still own a couple of suits but I understand the uniform of the day at my new company is business casual which I take to mean slacks and a button down shirt.
I’ll make my final darts appearance in Columbia on Saturday at a Toys for Tots charity event. Entry fee is a new toy, so I’ll need to get one of those as well.
There’s bound to more to do that I haven’t thought of as yet, but it’s all getting real now.
UPDATE: My AT&T contract does not expire until May. To cancel now would result in cancellation charges of nearly $400. I can temporarily suspend my service for six months and pay $20. per month during the suspension. Doing the math tells me that suspending is the way to go. At the conclusion of the six months I can cancel my service without penalty which will save me almost $300. Which is good because I just spent $400, at Kohl’s for some workplace attire and a luggage set. I needed another suitcase because I only brought one bag home from Korea since I left most of my summer clothes there awaiting my return. And so it goes.
Imagine that you are an American sitting in a Seoul drinking establishment minding your own business. Your Korean ex-girlfriend is there as well, but you are not there together. You then observe a younger Korean man begin verbal harassing your ex. And then he strikes her. Acting on instinct you get up and tell the guy to back off and give him a shove. The guy collapses and goes into cardiac arrest. He is transported to the hospital and placed in ICU. You are placed under arrest and transported to jail.
This just happened to a friend of mine. I’m not sure what the outcome will be, but I don’t see any scenario where he isn’t screwed. Any options he might have are going to require money that he does not have. So, at my suggestion he’s set up a Go Fund Me account. I hope things work out for him somehow, but I don’t have much faith in Korean “justice” under these circumstances.
Just got word that I have been approved for Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) visa status. That was the last remaining hurdle to my impending employment in the ROK.
Now I just have to wait on an official offer letter from the company. The guy I’m replacing hasn’t given an end date yet, and the offer letter won’t be issued until he does. I’m chomping at the bit to get back though so I hope I don’t encounter any horseshit. (Heh, kind of a mixed metaphor but both are equine related, so buck off!)
Anyway, my spirits are high at the moment. Lots to get done before I depart, now maybe I’ll feel motivated to get off my ass and get it done.
So a guy moved into my house last night. I haven’t had a roommate (excluding girlfriends) since my older brother and I shared an apartment back in the 1970s. I honestly don’t know much about the guy who moved in other than he’s a decent dart player and he came here from Alabama a few weeks ago. He’s been staying in a hotel since his arrival which as you might expect is a budget buster. So I offered up my guest room which he gladly accepted.
I have a Korean-style mattress in that bedroom and I warned him it was hard. I remember when I first moved into my Korean apartment it had a similar bed. Those first couple of weeks were uncomfortable but I got to where I prefer a hard mattress. When I went shopping for a bedroom set here in the states it took me awhile to find a mattress anywhere near as hard as to what I’d become accustomed. Finally after visiting several stores and describing what I wanted one place offered up a mattress they called the “back breaker”. Still softer than I’d prefer, but it works. Well, I asked my new roommate Brandon how he slept last night and he just grunted and said “it’s gonna take some getting used to”.
Anyway, I’ve gotten to where I prefer my solitude but hopefully this arrangement will only be for a couple of weeks. I plan to get out of Dodge as quickly as circumstances permit. When I leave Brandon is going to rent my house. He’s basically taking it “as is” which means I don’t have to deal with the hassle and expense of storing my furniture and other worldly possessions. That works for him as well because all he brought with him from Alabama was a couple of suitcases. The rent income will also help defray the expense of finding a place close to the Army base. My goal is to be close enough to walk to work.
Speaking of work, my potential employer advises that things are “looking good”. The hiring package is with USFK awaiting approval. He thinks I’ll have an answer Monday. The last thing I need to provide is my university transcript which should arrive early next week. I’ve got to pay my own way to Korea so I’m guessing I’ll be screwed on airfare with a short notice purchase. Maybe I’ve accumulated enough frequent flier miles to get a free or at least a discounted ticket. We’ll see.
If things go as I hope I’d like to arrive in Korea on or around December 12. A lot to get done between now and then, but I’ve got nothing but time on my hands I suppose. Now that I’ve completed this post I can re-cross my fingers.
Regular readers know that I’ve been feeling a little depressed lately. I had a particularly bad time of it yesterday, so I called the suicide hotline number. Got transferred to a call center in Pakistan. When I told they guy who answered I was thinking about killing myself he got all excited and asked “can you drive a truck?”