Who knew that a letter in the mail written carefully and stylishly by hand from a young soldier stationed in Korea is such an event? Reflexively we handle the envelope delicately and examined it thoroughly. In the pile of bills and slick color paper ads, it rises to the top like a magic trick for the rarity it is: A hand written letter. A thoroughly tactile dispatch from across the earth. We all sniff it to see if it had an exotic scent. After all, it had come so far. And the letter itself, written in black ink on thick white note paper bearing the watermark of a map of the world, is a treasure packed with detail.
It is science fiction the way we communicate now via the internet where instantaneous utterances and images fly at the speed of fiber optic light. Type, click, enter and it is gone. Forgotten is the close, word by word, reading of someone’s personal script transmitted by ink to paper and I’ve missed it.
Dearly it seems.
With his permission, here is Tim’s letter exactly as he wrote it
How is everything in Florida? How are you? Also how is Sean, Tori and David? I do hope all is well.
Let me start by saying I Love Korea and Korean culture. Its very respectful, and very calm. Almost to the point of being shy. Age is very important here. The older you are the more respect people give you. Sweet 16 parties are unheard of here, because everybody turns 16. No when you turn 70, that’s when your family really celebrates here. They feel like that was lifes true challenge to live that long. If a buss is full people will stand or leave to make room for a older person. I think its very cool.
Another note, Koreans can’t drive and traffic laws are not enforced. Driving off post is a thrill ride of its own as everyone speeds, and does whatever they please. Like driving on the sidewalk for example. Its crazy but I have yet to be in an accident so heres hoping I never am.
The Korean war is still fresh in the minds of many people here. They live as is it happened yesterday, and it will be happening again tomorrow. Most bridges are set to blow to slow the norths invasion. Battle positions all face north, true and ready.
Because of the Korean War most people actually like Americans. They remember the USA coming to save them and helping them to the point they are today. So everyone is friendly and are always willing to talk and have dinner and drink with you.
Yes they eat dog here. Its very expensive and kinda hard to get, but it taste good and is an experience I recommend. They own pet dogs, and are 2 very different types between the one that cuddles your lap and the one that cuddles your rice. Not for the weak of heart.
Every Korean loves soccer, and dancing. Internet here is 4 times faster then in the states. Wifi is free, and everywhere. Never tip your waitress , it’s an insult to her. Theres no such thing as“separate” bills. One person will get the check. Never point at someone with one finger, it means you want to fight. People here dress in suits…everyday. That’s just a few. I will send you more later. Take care.
Tim is in the Army Military Police and was deployed to Afghanistan prior to Korea. He is a pal of my son's, an Eagle Scout, and I wrote about him in '09 here entitled They're All Tim to Me.
It is rough, lonely and isolating for a 20-something American guy in a foreign country. Writing is a way out, even if for just a brief moment, and I push him like a Tiger Mother to pick up a pen and just go stream his thoughts. Now that I have wiped my eyes and smiled, I am awash in the gravity of what a hand written letter can do. After I get over the dog thing (!), he’ll be receiving something hand written and home made soon.
|Riding patrol in Seoul|
|With the big gun in Afghanistan|
If you would like to send Tim letters or care packages he can share with his unit and Korean friends, here is his address:
Unit 15254, Box 69
APO AP 96205-5254