Sorry I didn’t report in last night. This time difference is kicking my butt. I was just too tired to blog last night, and if you know how much I love to blog you know I was exhausted. I am slowly adjusting my sleep pattern. I stayed awake until 9:30 and woke this morning at 3:00. A couple of more days I should be back to my typical 11:00 to 5:00 sleep routine.
So as I imagined yesterday was basically devoted to in-processing paperwork. The HR people are Korean nationals, and their English ranges from good to barely understandable. To be fair, I have a hard time with accented speech anyway, but I think as I hear it more often I will be better able to comprehend. Anyway, I still don’t have that elusive DoD ID, it will take several days before I am in the system (whatever that means). Everyone speaks in acronyms which is another new language I will have to learn. I was able to secure a temporary ID that permits free movement on and off the base. Today I am hoping to get a temporary ration card so I can have access to the PX and commissary.
I also have to attend SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) training today. This is the agreement that governs how USFK (United States Forces Korea) personnel are treated by the Koreans. We are of course subject to the laws of Korea, with some minor exceptions. For example, I was met by a US customs agent at the airport, the Korean government is precluded from searching our luggage by the terms of SOFA. However, US customs enforces the Korean restrictions on what can be brought into the country. Well, I will know more about it after my training today (which is conducted by the Korean government).
The most interesting thing I did yesterday was attend a luncheon with the 8th US Army commander and the leaders of the union representing Korean nationals employed by USFK. Can’t talk about what was discussed there, but it was pretty fascinating to get a behind the scenes look at what is currently going on between the US and ROK regarding our military presence here. I have never met a 3 star general before, let alone be personally welcomed to “the team” by one. He was very impressive. I thought during the meeting this guy could be a CEO making tons of money in the private sector, but he has devoted his life to serving his country. America is great on many levels, but when our best and brightest answer the call to defend our liberty and freedom, we are truly blessed. I am in awe of our military and I am proud to be “serving those who serve”.
The funniest thing I learned is that I have a curfew. I guess I had my last curfew at 14 or so, but that one was not enforced by MPs. Everyone here with USFK, including civilians, has to be off the streets (and out of the bars) between midnight and 0500. Apparently, this is a “security of forces” matter, but I suspect it is intended to reduce incidents with the local population by Americans who don’t know when to say when. The Koreans are a very proud people who are very sensitive about foreigners being disrespectful of their culture. So, drunk Americans harassing Korean women gets big play in the press and that is not conducive to accomplishing our mission here. You know, if the situation were reversed we would react the same way. Anyway, I have no problem with the curfew. I’m not big on the bar scene and I don’t see midnight that often anyway.
Talk about efficiency—I got a call last night from a Korean realtor who wants to show me apartments this weekend. I suspect someone in personnel must have a deal going where they pass on information about new arrivals. So Saturday I am going to get a guided tour of the area around the base and start looking for a place to establish residence. I get a very generous housing allowance so I should have a nice place to live. Plus, once I leave temporary quarters status I will get a 15% allowance added to my pay. This is a good thing, especially since I took a pay cut to take this job.
All right then, that is the story from here. The weather has been warmer than DC this week (high 30s) but it was overcast and hazy yesterday. I will do some photoblogging later this week so stay tuned!