Sunday, November 17, 2013


I was told I could be his girl in every port. But I didn't think it would actually happen for us, that naval port calls could be as good as they sounded coming from the mouths of seasoned or retired navy blues.

Movember was all fall for us.
Japan was a dream most of our people heard too much about and didn't fully understand. We agreed - being stationed on this slice in the Pacific was forward deployment and meant missed faces, laughs, celebrations and comforts. BLAH BLAH BLAH. Right? We oscillated between confidence and doubt. We wanted to see more of planet Earth and push ourselves in doing so. But did we really? Yikes, who knows.

I guess we did. When Cary deployed in September, it began a series of port calls that really turned out to be everything the military romancers crack it up to be.

Our broken record hopes were now right-smack-dab-in-reality.

Two rock star spouses and I flew to South Korea for free. On the whole, Space-A is the coolest resource since peanut butter and Excel. Yeah, you gotta be flexible. Yeah, your blood pressure is on the high side 'til you're on the runway. Getting to your destination is hit or miss, yet you know going in if it's more likely going to be a sunk battleship or not. We did spend an extra four typhoon days splitting a hotel room, watching movies, playing Cards Against Humanity and eating fried chicken - but we did save money, and we did actually fly Space-A. Now I just wanna get on one of the cargo planes next time so I can see if stretching out on a camping mat (albeit in a cavernous cabin) is a nice way to travel far.

Seoul sits clean, modern and snug between green hills, oddly just 35 miles from the desolate north. We devoured Korean barbecue, put our hands up to The Killers, and looked through stores like North Face and Esprit, all a short drive from a different world. While Seoul pops up American-looking, new age, strip malls that include Coffee Beans and fro yo, the nearby, ironically touristy DMZ is the gateway to a pressing fear. Southern cities have nail shops and leather jacket bartering, Brazilian buffets with warm, brown sugary pineapple carvings and friendly, quiet Portuguese men who'll bring you as much meat on a stick as you desire. But across the North Korean border, the villages are fake, empty or petty, with few cars and tricky ideologies. As a journalist who doesn't follow the news, I'm a Korean conflict rookie; if it wasn't for book club and a DMZ tour, what they're going through might never have soaked in. And like all political situations, left me more more aware and confused than ever.

Korean BBQ spread -
the only thing not pictured is the crunchy rice/veggie/egg bowl bibimbap.

Girl and the world

We chased the boys to Thailand. Mieh. I used to tease my mom for toting Hawaii bar none. 'But we can get burritos in Cabo... Shouldn't the water be bluer and sand whiter in an unspoiled spot in the Caribbean? What about Pensacola?' My brother and I would laugh, watching her face turn to worried disgust if we mentioned Mexico over Hawaii for the family vacation. Then I went to the beach in Pattaya, and I had to check my face. The girls and I were expecting Brokedown Palace before the prison camp. Oh. Everything was good for cheap - hotel, food, drinks, wares - but the seawater, the smells, and the human factor made it seem like what we got served up was a third world Vegas-Bourbon Street mashup.

These were the best parts.

Then came Hong Kong. Dunt-dun-da-da. From the currency to the tips of the skyscrapers, it's a city at it's best. There was more peking duck to be had and views to make our way to. Unexpectedly, one of my fave times was the last day, taking the liberty ferry out to the Mustin, where Cary's been living for weeks and was on duty. The first tour of something with his job is always the best, when I'm the only one and everything's new to me, before family and friends are kind enough to take part with more interesting professional lives to compare and better questions.

The Ting Kau Bridge at night with more mist in the air than this is the cat's pajamas.


Tour peek. (Does anyone else think the Romeo packed up looks like Rudolph?)

Now he's helping out in the Philippines with other spouses who are going to come home to impressed significant others and extended. What am I really getting out of all this? Inside jokes and Newbold three times over by the time we leave?

Back home as I rode the train, getting used to the commute to a copyediting gig, I thought, smack-dab-reality. It's more than a thumbtack on a map or Facebook posts; it's enjoying the music you're listening to, the mustache you've grown, the day you're breathing in feeling right as rain.