South Korea Trip #1

The first thing I’ll mention was that South Korea was frigid. I mean, yeah.
It’s winter-time, but thus far we had spent all our time in tropical
places. This sucked. It was the first time I had experienced less
than 70 degrees since the Victoria, Canada trip.

We pulled in for just a few days. In on the 10th and out on the 13th,
but as with anything in the Navy, things were not uneventful. On
Saturday the 12th, we all decided to get off base for once and see
the city of Pusan. Up to this point, all I had done is hang out at
the E club on base. I watched the movie Friday Night Lights at the
on base theater. It was a tiny little private screening room and
only about 5 other guys from the boat other than me were in it, quite
cozy. I went to the library and sent an email to an old high school
friend of mine that I found out was now a teacher back home. That
was cool.

I went to the cash machine to find out that 35 hundred bucks US means
that I had 3.5 million Won! I was a mill-Won-aire. I pulled out
about 200 thousand and we were off. We walked of base and caught a
cab into Pusan. I had a Tears For Fears song stuck in my head the
whole time. It was Mongo, Darko, me and a couple other dudes that
have since been erased from my memory. I’m pretty sure Pastry was
there too.

First, we walked around the city looking at stuff. I stopped in at a
convenience store next to a butcher shop that had skinned cats
hanging in the front window. I bought just a bottle of water and
the guy gave me the total. It was like 2.500 Won so I pulled out my
wad and looked confused. The clerk kindly took what he need and gave
me the change. It turned out that he was an honest guy, but he could
have totally ripped me off and I wouldn’t have been any the wiser.
Another one of those moments that renews my faith in humanity, when a
stranger sees that a white American boy needs help and does so
gladly. The perception is that people around the world hate
Americans. That is simply not true. The truth is, yes, some people
in the world hate us. But the for the most part, people are more
than willing to be generous hosts and show us a good time.
This was even more evident when we made our way out to the bars on
Texac (sic) Street (pronounced ‘Texas’). We were bored at the huge open
market. Lots of exotic things for sale, an incident where a turtle
vendor turned his back and one of the turtles was trying desperately
to escape the low-walled box they were all sitting in. There we are.
Five guys cheering on a turtle. When the turtle finally made it over
the breech and hit the ground, our uproarious cheers had alerted the
shopkeeper and he darted over, grabbed the escaped future soup
ingredient and threw him back in the box. He just shot us a stink
eye and went back about his business.

Texac Street, Pusan, South Korea

‘Texac Street’ is a kind of red-light district of Pusan. On one side
of the street is all Korean owned and operated bars, while the
opposite side was all Russian owned with Cyrillic writing on the
facades of the establishments. It was widely known that this was the
place to go for a little rub and tug. The Russian babes were
unmatched. We were there during the dead of day, however. We spent
our time bouncing from one side to the other pounding Jack Daniels,
Hite and Korean firewater called Soju.
I do recall an older guy in a car that drove past us more than once,
“You guys want boom-boom?” It was obvious what he was selling and
Mongo was actually starting to get annoyed. The day consisted of bar
owners firing up the space heaters every time we walked in. They
were more than cordial. One barkeep asked us numerous times if we
wanted Russian ‘wodka’ and we said “sure.” The bar maiden then
proceeded to go grab a bottle of Absolut from behind the bar, and in
plain sight poured 3 shots of it for us. When she got back to the
table, Mongo was pissed…

“I thought you said you had Russian wodka!?
This isn’t Russian…it’s Absolute, from Sweden. You lie! I’m not
paying for this shit.”

We all took our shots and paid for them,
Mongo did not.

One bar that we particularly liked was an up-the-stairs joint. As
soon as we got in there, the couple that owned the joint, in what
seemed like a coordinated effort, like they had done it a thousand
times, fired up the heater and got us some Hite and Jack Daniels.
The guy fired up some Bob Seger (it was his Greatest Hits album, I
think) and that got us all rolling. Especially Darko. He started
putting away the Jack Daniels like there was a world-wide shortage of
the stuff.

Needless to say we all got hammered. I just remember being at this
one club. It was dark and creepy, Darko was shitfaced but somewhat
lucid. Me and Mongo decided to head back to base because we had the
start-up the next morning. We got in a cab that had no idea how to
get to the base that we needed to be at. I was of no use, first of
all because I was lost myself, and second, I was passed out in the
passenger seat. It’s a hopeless feeling, being lost in a strange
land, no idea where you are and no idea how to get back to where you
need to be. The cabbie spoke almost zero English, and had to stop a
couple of times to ask someone where the Navy base was that we were
staying at. He eventually found it, we stumbled through the gate and
found our barracks.

The next morning was rough because I had the startup, Mongo was still
stumbling. He stumbled off the duty bus and on to the boat. He did
the Reactor startup perfectly, even though he slept through the whole
startup brief. Later, we would find out that Darko was so bombed
coming through the gate, the MP asked him for his ID and Darko had no
idea where it was. He had said that he didn’t have it, which wasn’t
true. He later found it in his jacket. But at the time the MPs
wanted his ID, and Darko pleaded with them to let him through
anyways. Being a smart ass, Darko pulled out a sharpie after being
asked to produce an ID for the third time and he goes, “Here’s my
fucking ID, asshole. Just let me through.” It was at this point,
the MPs slapped the cuffs on him and tossed him in the clink.
We all got a good laugh out of the incident, but Darko got put on
liberty risk for the rest of Pac. Not good when you get thrown in
jail on liberty. We all asked Darko repeatedly, “What happened,
man?” Darko got fed up and finally hollered, “I don’t remember!” He
was completely clueless as to what had happened after our time
jamming to Bob Seger, which he claims is the last place he remembers
being. I told him, “Dude, those MPs are bored out of their mind,
just like us. They’re just waiting for some drunk asshole to come
stumbling through the gate and give them shit so they have something
to do. At least you made their morning…”

We finally headed out on February 13th to go play war games with the South
Korean Navy. The games were to be kind of laid back for us Nukes back
aft, but they got canceled. There was bad weather and the South
Koreans decided to stay in port. Did we stay in? Nope.

We went out to practice putting out fake fires and stop pretend flooding for the
week.

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