Heart and Seoul

When the phone rang at 7:30 on Saturday morning and the caller ID showed a number with 13 digits, I almost didn’t answer it. Good thing that I did, because it was our son, Ethan, calling from Korea to tell us he had arrived safely.

Ethan arrives in Korea
Ethan arrives in Korea

To bring you up to date, it was two years ago – almost to the day – that Ethan enlisted in the Army. In the year after he graduated from SF State, he had not been able to nail down a full-time job with any kind of a future. And he refused to do a third hitch as a Starbucks barista.

Through some circumstances that we can only attribute to “God has a Plan,” Ethan got introduced to the military. He enlisted, did his Basic Training in South Carolina, spent 18 months learning Korean at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey followed by Intelligence training in Texas. For the last couple of weeks, he was at home with us, on leave before flying to Korea last Tuesday.

While he was here, he told us that wished he had been assigned to learn Arabic or Farsi so that his post-training assignment would have sent him to the part of the world where the action is happening. Needless to say that as his mom, I am very glad there is a very large continent between him and the craziness in the Middle East.

As I said to him in the last text we exchanged while he was still stateside, let the adventure begin! What an opportunity he has to experience a new (and relatively safe) culture.  The Army base is located in Seoul which according to Wikipedia, is the world’s second largest metropolitan area. During college, Ethan never would have been the kind of kid to bum around another country – he didn’t have the kind of confident, adventurous spirit that doing something like that requires. But now, the Army’s got his back and he’s excited to take it all in.

Although he had been in Korea for less than 72 hours when he called, his initial feeling is that he “lucked out” on his duty assignment.  The Army base is huge – 21,000 personnel with a PX that looks like a strip mall, two Starbucks, and an assortment of other American franchises. And when he describes the barracks, he’s not living in a Quonset hut like I imagined but an apartment that he says is nicer than some of his rentals in San Francisco.

Until he shows up shaved and in uniform on Monday morning, he doesn’t know what his actual job will be. Sure, he’s spent two years training to be a Cryptologic Linguist but according to Steve, there’s what the Army trains you for and then there’s what they actually have you do. Whatever it is, it will be better because it’s in Korea.


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