Friends:

Well, I’m back in South Korea. This is my fourth time in South Korea, and there isn’t a whole lot different. I’m in Busan (also called Pusan). I was here last summer for a weekend. It’s basically the summer capital of South Korea because of all the beaches and water.

Thanks for all the comments and e-mails. Here’s the answers to some of your questions:

What have you been reading on this trip? – Bryan, Mankato

In my rush to prepare and leave for this assignment, I only packed one book – River Town by Peter Hessler. Dick recommended the book because it’s about a Peace Corps volunteer teaching for two years in a remote part of China. It’s a long book, and on the ship, I tried to savor every last bit of it. I tried to read it slowly and take it all in. Unfortunately, I have a lot of time on the ship and I finished it in no time. So I went to the ship’s “library” – half dozen carbboard boxes full of mostly shitty paperbacks and advanced, uncorrected proofs (I’m not sure why so many uncorrected proofs). It was here where I found Charles Baxter’s The Soul Thief. I’d be interested in discussing this book with anyone who’s read it. I love Baxter’s short stories “Griffin” and “Snow,” but I didn’t care for this book. In Hong Kong, I found Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys and Sebatian Junger’s The Perfect Storm. I couldn’t read Chabon’s novel because the movie (which I love and have seen a million times) closely follows the book, and I found myself drifting back to the movie. It felt like I was wasting my time, so I put the book down. The Perfect Storm was great. This book has been on my bookshelf for years, waiting to be read, and I’ve finally gotten to it. When I got to Guam, I was eager for some new reading material. I found David Sedaris’ new collection When You Are Engulfed in Flames. I finished it in a day. I’d say that it’s even better than Dress Your Family … Finally, I’ve read two Iraq books: Rory Stewart’s The Prince of the Marshes and Imperial Life in the Emerald City (I forget the author of this one). Both good books.

Do they have a poop deck, and when did it stop being funny when people said it seriously, as in “Hurry! The poop deck’s aflame!”? – Bryan, Mankato

I have yet to find the poop deck. I think it’s a myth. I’ll have to make this a top priority during my last two weeks on the ship.

How many of these sweaty-balled sailors have anchor tattoos? – Amanda, Mankato & Have you talked any sailor into getting a regrettable tattoo of Asian script? And have you gotten a regrettable tatto of Asian script? – Bryan, Mankato

You know, I’ve kind of fallen for the tatooed sailors. There is something sexy about all their tattoos. It’s true that many sailors have tattooes, which is funny because at every port the command says that they can’t get tattooes (most sailors do anyway!). But to answer this questions – I have not personally inspected any sailors for anchor tattoos or Asian symbols, although I kind of wanted to.

Have you had a chance to stand out on the edge of the ship close your eyes and open your arms real wide. I hear that feels like flying…but maybe you need Leonardo DiCaprio holding you for that sensation. – Bryan, Mankato

Yes, and it felt wonderful. And any tattooed sailor is a fine stand-in for DiCaprio!

Is where you’re sleeping another chamber of farts like your tent in Iraq? – Bryan, Mankato

For those unfamiliar, Bryan is referring to the chapter I read at my thesis reading. The answer: No, sailors don’t seem as gassy. But, here’s a related story. I live in what they call “overflow.” The boat is backed so “overflow” consists of a bay for the enlisted sailors and a section for officers and chiefs. I’m in the section for officers and chiefs, which is divided from the rest of the room by a 3/4 wall and a door. I can’t really see the sailors but I can hear them. The funny thing is that I kind of live with some of my students. We share a head (bathroom), so there are a number of times when I’ve caught my students wandering to the head in nothing but boxers or shirtless. It’s kind of weird. It totally shatters the “teacher-student” wall I try to put up.

Has anyone offered you a pair of bell bottoms and a wedge cap to fit in? – Amanda, Mankato

No. Bell bottoms have gone out of style – even in the navy. It’s a shame really. I wore my white bell bottoms the first day of teaching and boy did I get some stares!

Who’s sexier? Sailors or soldiers, now that you’ve been surrounded by both? – Amanda, Mankato

This is a tough one, but I’m going to go with sailors. It’s the tattoos that are swaying my decision.

Do you intend on telling your grandchildren that you served in the “Pacific theater” during the War on Terror? – Bryan, Mankato

You bet!

Did you take a Buddha picture with your I’m Sorry You Feel That Way tote??? – Diana, Mankato

I left my bag at home. But, I do have it packed for China, so if I make it back to Hong Kong, I’ll get a pic with the bag and the buddha. If nothing else, I’ll have to find the world’s largest standing buddha and get a pic with it.

What date do you come back? – Teri, Fargo

The last day of class is July 27th. We should pull into Japan shortly after that. I should be back in North Dakota by Aug. 1.

That’s it for now. I should be wrapping it up in the next two weeks. I’ll post more details shortly.

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