Sing (Another) Little Songtan [Travelogue]

Somewhere in Songtan

So I have officially been the Land of the Morning Calm for two full weeks as of this writing.  And to say that this place is growing on me would be a drastic overstatement, basically entirely false.  It is probably factual enough to state that I am beginning to understand Songtan and Osan AB a bit more, and maybe getting more settled in.  I’ve begun showing up for work, which I have recently learned is far more relaxed that place I just left, so that makes me smile inside and out.  But, I have also had the fortunate experience of having a wonderful tour guide around the area, who has in turn introduced me to some very nice folks.  His name is Whitey (short for Michael Whittenberg, a nickname I am sure myself or a colleague gave him for obvious reasons) and he knows these alleyways and bars in Songtan like no one else I could ever know.  He has been a big help in introducing me to some very fine locally displaced Americans and local masters of servitude towards Americans and our foolish ways.  But, most importantly, he introduced me to something I have been wanting to do for a very long time….the VFW.

As I once stated, Songtan is a collection of bars and shops placed in whatever hole local Koreans or returning Americans can fandangle a way into making into making their space a legitimate establishment.  But, 80% of the establishments are places that built around the philosophies of what Americans want.  Well, to be fair, what the locals and displaced Americans think we all want.  It can be easily summarized into a couple of categories:  dance music, beer pong, endless flirtation, and a place so fucking loud that all inhibitions become drowned out by the sound of Eminem or LMFAO screaming at you in 15 by 15 room.  So basically, not a place you would probably find myself frequenting too often.  While I have enjoyed a few rounds of beer pong in several garages in middle America, it isn’t exactly a spectrum of a night out that I really want to see.  And this is where the VFW comes into play.  Whitey has been a member of the V since he arrived here in Korea, and it has been his home away from home, and I suspect it will be my home away from home (away from home…..because Korea will never been considered a “home” to me).  The drinks are cheap, the people are nice, the atmosphere is as calm as you could imagine.  Although it is an association dedicated to veterans, which includes many active duty members and several old retirees who moved back to Songtan as soon as they could, something I could never fathom.  And yes, being around a bunch of old men does mean one thing…..a young person of my personal belief will be ostracized from time to time for being a bleeding heart liberal who doesn’t believe in God and voted for that “son of a bitch socialist Kenyan”.  But, this is something I have come to expect by 90% of military affiliation.  But still, they are good folks at heart.  And when you become a part of this community, it feels just like that, a community.  I’ve played rounds of poker, had Friday night free dinner (which also means I am going to be able to cook!!), and simply threw back some Korean Sunrises (a speciality drink named by Whitey, Soju and Orange Juice and a splash of cherry Grenadines) and just laugh at shared experiences and what not.  I have been to a few other places in town in brief spurts, but without a doubt, the VFW is going to be the best thing I take out of my experiences here in Songtan, I can already tell.

Somewhere in Songtan

As I mentioned, I have gotten to a few more places.  I’ve frequented The Dawg Pound, a small hole in the wall bar owned by a retiree that is frequented by mostly Civil Engineering folks from Osan.  Which also brings us to another point: almost ever unit, detachment, section, whatever, has a place they frequent the most as a group.  A big part of being stationed here at Osan is the a common sense of community with the people you work with every single day.  And being a former CE guy, this is where I like to go.  I like to look at the walls and see pictures of so many people I have known throughout the years taken in the very spot I am standing in.  The true Korean experience is almost a right of passage in many ways.  In one way it is one experience that many Airmen experience, and love to share their experiences, which have been going on for 60 years.  But, in a brighter way, so many of the people stationed here at Osan are only here in order to make it to greener pastures.  Meaning, we may not want to be here in Korea, and it is a terrible situation to be away from the one’s we love the most…..but after this, “I’m going to motherfuckin’ [insert preferred station] man!!”.  For me, it’s all about getting to Spain, where my family is allowed to be.

But, that being said, I do plan to travel a bit while I am here.  My theory is that you simply do not enter a foreign land and not try and discover as much as possible.  Songtan is a fun town in a cliché sort of way, but there is so much more to this country.  Obviously, there is Seoul.  I will definitely be making my way through the typical tourists spots of that city, and definitely hitting up the Jazz and Indie Rock social scene they have (yes it exists, and you knew I would find it).  But, there is also so much more!  A very common tour to take around here is heading up to the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) which for those who are clueless to its importance, it is the area located on the 38th parallel that separates North Korea and South Korea.  You can literally stand and stare into the abyss of darkness that is the country of North Korea, a land most of us will never venture to.  Seoul and the DMZ are obvious tours that must be done before one departs Osan, but there is even more!  There is the the Changduk Palace, the Haengju Fortress, Busan City, Kosu Caves, Wawoochong Temple, the Korean Folk Village, and so much more things that have actually interested me more than I ever expected.  And I plan on making my way to as many sites as possible, and obviously reporting them all back to you, the fine readers.

Somewhere in Songtan

But, until then I only have Songtan.  Which I am learning to accept, and enjoy considering I have no other choice.  I wonder the town in the middle of the day, for it would be a death wish to do so at night (I’ve been jumped in the sweet city of Spokane, I wouldn’t want to even chance that here).  And I’ve spent a few nights dining on lumpia and other Philippine delights at a cultural bar, while listening to a wonderful new friend and blues man, Toosi, do Jim Croce, Bob Dylan, and Van Morrison covers, as well as a few originals about Songtan Sally (who I plan to fill all of the unfamiliars in on at a later date), the Songtan Hex, and other variables of life in this area.  I’ve shot pool in the inappropriately named Irish themed pub, The Free Zone (what the hell does that mean?).  All is going okay.  I am beginning an irregular work routine, just like I once had, and I know the days are going to continue to disappear into time as I plan for several day trips, my lovely wife’s first trip out of the country to see me, my mid tour in which I will return to Kelso-Longview (watch for that reporting, I will try to be nice to my home of record), and eventually getting the hell out of here and off to El Puerto De Santa Maria, Spain!  But until then folks,

Anyoung he Ka Ship She Yo (Good Bye),


About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

3 Responses to Sing (Another) Little Songtan [Travelogue]

  1. I will be in Songtan for 3 months for work. Have you seen or been to the Asia Hotel? Is it nice? How long were you in Osan?

    • I stayed in the Asia Hotel for a few nights when I first got there. Pretty nice, or at least average and probably not a bad place for a short stint. Excellent location too. 5 minute walk to the Osan Gate, 10 minutes to the bus station, and right in the heart of Songtan. It’s also only a few blocks from the VFW, the finest establishment in Songtan, and one of the few VFW’s entirely open to the public. It’s located directly below the Pacific Hotel. Find an old person, tell them Tre sent you.

  2. davidminne says:

    Hahaha, an Irish bar in South Korea called THE FREE ZONE….that’s hilarious. Keep up the travelogue, I enjoy it.

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