The past two days have been a whirlwind ride, let me tell you. You never really think about it, but it is a lot of effort to do everything that you associate with “normal life” all at the same time. For example, I need to do the following: get a PO Box (APO Box since I’m working for the military), obtain my military ID, get my visa, get a bank account, get an apartment, buy a cell phone, buy a car, and learn Korean. Although, the “learn Korean” part isn’t really something that I am actively working on. I can say hello, but that’s about it. I firmly believe in the international language of pointing and money. You can literally do anything in Korea (or any country for that matter) by pointing and flashing cash. True story.
On Monday I got a ride to the office and started my first day. I got set up with a cubicle, met everyone in the office, and started filling out a mountain of paperwork. (It is the government after all) Around lunchtime one of our senior staff took me on base to get a PO Box and my military ID. Both items were a painless process. Then we had lunch at Popeyes Chicken. Let me tell you this- I have never had Popeyes. My other option was Taco Bell, so I think I made the right choice. I can safely say that my first time eating at an American pastime, Popeyes Chicken, the backbone of America, was in Korea. Hah. You can’t go wrong with fried chicken I promise.
Let me tell you about the guy who took me around to get my ID and box. He works for us at Jacobs. You can tell he’s coming because he has a slow walk punctuated by the *clack clack* of his cowboy boots on the hard floor. Don’t forget the giant belt buckle either- that doesn’t have anything to do with this story, but it’s an important detail.
I spent a good two hours picking this guys brain. The conversation started with me asking “So…. when did you get to Korea?” He had a simple answer- “I landed in Korea in 1962 after jumping out of a C-130.” The stories he told me are too many to retell in this post, but as time goes on I may write a few down. I must say that his track record is nothing short of extraordinary; the list is extensive. He fought in Vietnam and Korea. He was a demolitions specialist and a Nuclear specialist. He was commander at Okinawa three times, he finished his career as commander of the Pacific stationed in Hawaii. He was a colonel and retired as a colonel, and was on the list to become a one star general before Congress changed the requirements, otherwise he would have gone on to become a general. He was a Master in almost every company he was in as a paratrooper. Needless to say, I have utmost respect for this guy and I know I will learn a lot from him. The kicker is that he doesn’t even take home any money on this job- 100% of it goes to the government due to the fact that he collects a pension and social security.
He took me to a realty office that we use and we drove around with the realtor for awhile looking at places to live. Apartments in Korea are pretty dingy on the outside, but pretty nice on the inside with modern furnishings and fixtures. I didn’t want to decide then and there, so I said I would get back to her. She emailed me later saying the one I had expressed the most interest in already had a deposit -__- Today I chose an apartment that was the best of the group in my opinion because of its amenities. For starters, it’s less than a kilometer from my office so it will be a close commute. Second, it includes a refrigerator and washing machine. It has a balcony, couch, TV, and bed. The best part? Rent was supposed to be $800 with nothing included, but I talked the landlord down to $750 including internet and water. BOOM. Everything is negotiable in Korea, including negotiation. I should be moving in Friday. Some crappy pictures until I can get my things moved in-
I met the Army Commander of our operations today. He came by our office and we had a communal lunch cooked by one of the Engineers. This guy is from either Mississippi or Louisiana, and cooked the best BBQ I’ve had in a very long time.