Sing A Little Songtan [Travelogue]

I’ve been in South Korea for approximately 4 days now.  It has been a slow, yet productive introduction to this estranged society.  Estranged because it is so different.  But estranged because of the forced similarities.  Where do i start….

 

Songtan is a city that is literally based around Osan Air Base.  Without an American presence, I would hate to see what happened to this community.  It is a few city blocks filled with shopkeepers who are willing to barter, food carts making delicious midnight drunk grub (which I am sure I will have entire posts about at a later date), and even more pre valiant….bars.  Lots of them.  Some with insanely simple yet defining  names like “Nice Place” or “America Bar”.  Of course it’s not all that simple.  One place seemed ripe for Chinatown in Portland, Oregon with its clever address as the “Th?nk Pub”.  And then there are several hotels smack dab in the middle of it all.  One of which I frequented for a couple of nights.  It wasn’t to shabby, I must say.  A bit of forced class.  The slanted eyed kitten slippers and the 45 inch TV really set the mood of the place, if you ask me.  Even better:  I could smoke in the room!  A luxurious feeling in itself!  I now kick myself for not taking advantage of my usual “cigarette in the bath tub” routine I love to do when I am in a city that allows me this great luxury.  Oh well, maybe I will stay there a night or two on my way out.

 

I have yet to really frequent any place in Songtan.  I’ve walked the city a couple of times.  Once guided by a three year veteran of the area.  He took us on a guided tour letting us know all of the places that were once banned from military use, but seem to have gone legit.  For many of you old time military folks out there, you all remember the Juicy Bars.  Juicy referring the “fine young women” who would share a glass of Soju with you, and conspire upon you to spend even more for “good time”.  Well, I have to upset some of the old folks around to let you know, these plays are legit.  The Juicy franchises as they once where have been reorganized.  Think of it as 60’s Las Vegas, to the Vegas we know today.  Still a den of sin, but kids are welcome too!  No, these bars are now “sports bars”.  What does that mean?  Well, you can now play pool.  Throw darts.  Watch American football.  And strangely enough still speak with the same “fine young women” (or perhaps their offspring at this point) who could be found just years before.  Now that’s progress, right folks?

 

Asia Hotel in Songtan

But, as I said, I have yet to really do any purchasing (obviously not Juicy wise, not in this fucking lifetime) other than the amazing energy drink I discovered that cost a measly 1,000 Won (roughly 1 U.S. dollar) at a 7/11.  But, I did flirt with the idea of living down in the city.  It has become constimary for many low-level non-commissioned officers and airmen to live off base due to over population on base, and the lack of torn up rooms (like the one I have!) that were to be provided to us.  But, alas, I decided to keep myself on base.  While the prospect of living within 2 minutes of more bars than you could throw a bag of kimchi at did seem flattering, I eventually opted to stay with the rest of my American slob counterparts and live the dorm life.  Something I have never actually done before in my career, so I guess that is an adventure in itself.

 

I moved into my new quarters rather quickly by mere luck.  As of this writing, I have spent one night here.  I have yet to meet my suite mate, but by the looks of a refrigerator loaded with several different types of beer ranging from Pabst Blue Ribbon, to Shock Top, to a full range of seasonal brews, I think we might just get along.  The room is decent size.  Probably 9 ft by 15 ft, with a walk in closet added.  The furniture is shabby, and seems typical for a junior college dorm room, but adequate.  After a bit of rearranging, I made it into my own personal space.  I have my twin comforter that my wife’s Grandmother made for her when she was a young child that I have become so fond of in the 11 years I have known my sweet wife, I’ve got my books I intend to read (Sartre, Anthony Bourdain, Jess Walter, etc.) but probably won’t, a few cheap DVD’s I picked up while here (how many Children of the Corn movies did they freaking make?), a digital picture frame, iHome, and of course, my beloved MacBook Pro.  Yep, more essentials than I could really even consider to be essential.  Staying here is actually pretty reminiscent of two of the four months I spent in Iraq in 2008, when I was given a trailer to my own.  Only upside here: I can have vodka.  Down side here: there is no way I could get away with smoking in my room like I did in Iraq.  Pro’s and cons I guess.

So, here I am.  I’ve been doing all that is required of me to be a part of Osan Air Base, and getting myself acquainted with the base.  Which really isn’t that hard.  Osan is similar to every base I have ever been to.  And this one even has a Chili’s!  Although I loathe that place, it is comforting to know that some sort of American lower middle class luxury still exists.  For those who have never frequented a military base, here are some of the usual accommodations (Note: this is not all-inclusive, obviously):  Your major fast food restaurants (Burger King, Taco Bell, Popeye’s, Subway) minus McDonald’s, but don’t fret, there is one directly outside the gate in Songtan.  Also there is a movie theatre, a pool, a club of sorts, a community center where I recently watched every major news channel pronounce Barack Obama as president of the United States once again and got to chat on Facebook with my beautiful wife while wishing diabetes on an old fat friend of mine, a library, and more.  Typical for a military installation.

 

Well folks, I guess this is the basic layout of the place.  As more events and unique traits make themselves more visible, I will surely share them with you.  Until then….362 days left!!!  Cheers!

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

One Response to Sing A Little Songtan [Travelogue]

  1. davidminne says:

    Great article. They really should stop making Children of the Corn movies if they haven’t already. And as for Chili’s, well, I want my baby back ribs.
    I hope all is well with you. Hit me up if the Sartre you’re reading throws you into a mental mele of existential dilemma.

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