A Year in Korea — Settling In

occurred to me that I need to inform you of several facts I forgot to include in part 1. When I decided to go into the army, my father was in the hospital recovering from his second heart attack. I told him I had joined the army with my mother present. My mother said I was thoughtless doing such a thing but my dad said, “It’s all right. It’ll be good for him.” He could not have been more right. My dad was as World War 2 veteran having served as part of a B-26 team in North Africa, Italy and France. Try as I might, I could never get him to talk about his time in the army. Years later I figured out why. Anyway, I asked him if he had any advice for me which he did. He said, “do what your officers tell you to do, and stay away from the women.” The first part I understood perfectly but the second part was a mystery at that time.

Korea in the 1960s was still classified as a war zone by the Defense Department. As I learned firsthand, men died during DMZ skirmishes with the North Koreans. Even though a truce had been declared 16 years prior, a very uneasy peace hung over the two countries. The Pueblo incident flamed the hostile feelings, and the desire of the South Koreans to reunite with the north surfaced.

A tour in Korea was called a “short tour.” That is military speak for serving in a war zone. Soldiers, and sailors too, who served a single short tour would not be required to ever serve another. It was one of the promises the military always made good on. Still, there were many GIs who volunteered for 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th tours in such areas. The rest of us simply marked off each passing day as bringing us one day closer to returning to “the world.” That’s how we referred to the United States, “the world.” Asian culture was always austere and too difficult for many to even comprehend, even though it was all around you. For my part, I embraced it as much as I could.

In those days, the military printed a thing called MPC, Military Payment Currency. It was a substitute for U.S. Dollars which we were prohibited from using while over there. Our loved ones, however, knowing how poorly paid we were, would send us money, usually $20. Every GI quickly learned that $20 on the Korean black market would get him $25 in return. Rumor was the Korean black market would put in a demand for gold but I don’t know if that was true. To give you an idea of army pay back then a private made under $100 per month and a buck sergeant made a little over $200 a month. But no one complained. After all, we all got “3 hots and cot” for free; that is three hot meals and a place to sleep.

When I arrived in Korea and reported for my first day of work at the communications center, the sergeant in charge, a sergeant major, stood 5 of us in a line. We had all graduated from the same signal course at Fort Gordon. To each of us he asked if we had any electronics background. For those who said yes, he assigned them to communications maintenance. And to those of us who said “no,” as I did, he assigned us as communications systems trouble shooters, tech controllers was the actual title. He said we would learn through on the job training. And that is exactly what happened. And as it turned out, it worked out very well for all five of us. We were each promoted a first time after three months there and a second time after 6 months. The reason for this I alluded to before, we were usually near 50% strength. But there was also a constant turnover of old personnel leaving and we, the new personnel, having to take over their jobs.

The year 1969 was an especially eventful one for America. On December 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo crew was marched to the DMZ where they were reunited with the American military. Even though that happened in 1968, it was almost a harbinger of things to come in 1969, as if to kick things off.

In Korea, every GI barrack had a houseboy, a Korean man who would clean up after us, take our clothes to be washed, shine our boots and keep things tidy in our “hooch.” Hooch is a slang term used by G.I.s in Korea and Vietnam denoting the place where they slept. It could also refer to where the locals slept.

From my earliest days in Korea I always felt welcomed by the Korean people. Maybe it was because they were resigned to our being there, which was probably true for some, but also because they were generally happy for our presence. After all, we had freed them from the Japanese tyranny they suffered through from 1910 until 1945. And then again, in 1950 when the North Koreans unexpectedly invaded the south, it was the Americans who won them back their freedom. I have no memory of ever been looked upon with disdain by any Korean. Maybe I just missed it but I don’t think so.

In Korea in 1969 there were 2 army divisions, the 2nd and the 7th, along with numerous support organizations, such as the one I was assigned to, and a large contingent of US Air Force personnel who were station at Osan AFB in the north and Pusan AFB in the south. There was also a detachment at Inchon which was the international airport serving Seoul. In all, there were over 50,000 military personnel in Korea at any one time, almost entirely men.

Korea, like Vietnam, was what the military refers to as an “unaccompanied tour.” That means dependents were not allowed to accompany the serviceman to their duty station. We had a very racist term for American women. We called them “round-eyes” and every GI talked endlessly about what he would do with the first “round-eye” he met when he got back to “the world.”

With exception of the release of the Pueblo crewmen, life in Korea was very uneventful for my first four months there. Working the mid shift, 11PM to 11AM, was always the most boring. Television did not exist in Korea and so we were limited to listening to Armed Forces Radio which was canned, having been recorded in the Los Angeles area. GIs both in Korea and Vietnam got their daily dose of a beauty named Chris Noel. He soft voice and beautiful features seemed the promise of the future. I think most guys either had a picture of Chris or knew someone who did. See for yourself.

Chris Noel Girl Happy

But AFRS was not a 24-hour station. From midnight until 5 the station did not broadcast. Being in communications gave us access to certain things other GIs unfortunately did not have. An enterprising GI at Osan AFB managed to pipe music from his hooch to the microwave link and passed it on to any and all who cared to listen. And trust me when I say, everyone listened. In Yongsan, I was at one end of the microwave link and Pusan was the other end. From there it was jumped to Japan and then jumped again to Hawaii. Another enterprising GI came up with a poster for our nascent radio station. We had to have called letters, as does any legitimate radio station, so he came up with WFTA. The FTA part meant “fuck the army.” The poster showed a guy with a pair of bandoleros wrapped crosswise over his chest as if he were a South American rebel. The letters WFTA were printed across the top. I proudly displayed that poster. One day, for reasons I never understood, my battalion commander decided he needed to see what his troops were doing. In fact, he had no business there but who is going to challenge a colonel? When he came into my section and saw the poster. He was naïve to the meaning of FTA and asked what it meant. I do not remember my answer, but whatever it was, he bought it. He asked who had come up with it and I told him who. The guy who made up that poster ended up getting a commendation medal for aiding in good morale.

One night I got a call from the guy at Osan who asked if I wanted to join in on what was called a “B.S.er” I didn’t know what that meant and he told me the idea was to link communications sites together around the world via teletype. If done correctly, you would type on one teletype and a few seconds later see what you had typed come in on a different teletype. As I remember the links went like this, Yongsan Korea to Taipei Taiwan to Phu Lam Vietnam to Tehran Iran to Italy to Ft. Ritchie Maryland to Hawaii to Japan and back to Korea. A single communications line linked around the world was unheard-of in those days but we did it. It was done mostly out of totally boredom but we did it.

The war in Vietnam struck home for me one day unexpectedly. As a communications trouble-shooter, we had to report all communications outages. Those were rather frequent occurrences to the field units in Korea we had direct lines to and less frequent going almost everywhere in the other directions. Being a part of the 8th US Army Headquarters, we of courses had direct lines to many places around the far east. One line, for reasons I never understood, went to a field unit in Vietnam. It was one of two lines we had there. The other was to Phu Lam. One day the 2nd line went down while I was on duty. Being really good at my job, I called Phu Lam for a status on that line, if they even had one. They did. The line was out permanently as the position had been overrun by the North Vietnamese Army.

In the early months of 1969 I got more and more comfortable with my surroundings in Korea. I was able to contact the Korean family I had been told of. My houseboy had been instrumental in making that happen as I was clueless on how to bring it about otherwise. Korea in those days was a study in contrasts. There was a huge peasant class, very poor people. There was a smaller upper class, and a tiny middle class. The upper class all drove Toyota or Datsun (Nissan) sedans while the middle class drove refurbished army jeeps. They were always painted black but the interior was made quite comfortable. The family I met were middle class.  Below is a picture of me with a boy about my age from this family.


I cannot tell you where they lived but it was a nice section of Seoul. Nice is a relative term. Nice in those days meant they had indoor plumbing and were not reliant upon charcoal heaters placed beneath the floor for heat. I was introduced to Korean food. Kimchi is a staple of the Korean diet and my family said they would understand if I did not care for it, which one bite in told me I did not. They got a good laugh for my efforts. Unfortunately, that and their cooking bulgogi, grilled beef, are my only memories of the evening.

We paid our houseboys the large sum of $5 a month for his services, the bill being due payday which was the first day of each month. Most of us gave him a tip in addition, probably a couple of dollar more, but I really do not remember exactly. I became very friendly with my houseboy and was invited to his house for supper.

As opposed to the family I had visited, my houseboy lived close by in little more than a hovel. Living with him were his wife, his child and both his parents. The doors to his house were a wood frame with paper where glass would otherwise have been. They all lived in two small rooms. But they were happy, at least that is my memory. The laid out a feast I know they could not afford. They too got a laugh out of my inability to swallow some of what was offered. But I tried. They were very gracious. After the meal, the men were served rice wine, makkoli. Each time my houseboy took a sip of the wine he turned his head. I asked him why and he said he did it out of respect to his father.

Every army company, 200 – 250 men, had a KATUSA assigned to it. A KATUSA is an acronym for Korean Augment to the US Army. In our company, he was the company commander’s driver when he was with us. One day I came across his being beaten severely by his sergeant for an infraction he had committed. I don’t know what it was but I was advised by a senior sergeant that I was not to interfere or even say anything. It was how the Korean army conducted its business.

One thing that became very clear very quickly was just how good the Korean army was. They were extremely well-trained fighters, extremely loyal and extremely reliable. I found out later that our troops in Vietnam cherished having their Korean counterparts attached to their unit. They were renowned for their bravery and skill as fighters. I was informed that every Korean male between the ages of 16 and 60 were either on active duty in the military or a part of the country’s military reserve. Their freedom seemed always in the balance and in any fight, they were determined to come out on top.

This takes me through March of 1969 where I will pick up in the next installment.


The New American Xenophobia

Xenophobe n. One who fears or hates strangers or foreigners or anything that is foreign. (Webster’s II New Riverside University Dictionary, 1988, p. 1332)

At the beginning of the 20th Century American immigration laws were few. An immigrant had to have on his person $50, a named sponsor to take him in, be free of disease or mental defect, and have no criminal record. Americans today view all immigrants of that time coming through Ellis Island New York. But in truth, the ports of Boston and Baltimore were also quite alive with immigrants.

Europe during the period 1900 to 1915 was fraught with civil wars, unrest, and an Ottoman Empire which was at war with Great Britain. As can be seen by the map below, the Ottoman Empire covered most of the Baltic countries and large portions of the middle east. It is also worthy of mention that this was a Moslem Empire which Christian Europe feared. In Eastern Europe, Russia was flexing its influence as it held onto much of the territory it controlled when it became the USSR. In particular, it controlled most of Poland as we know it today. In 1905 the Czar ordered that all Polish men of a certain age be drafted into the Russian Army. Those who refused realized harsh consequences.


Ottoman Empire 1905



Russian Czarist Empire


In the case of Italy, the country’s industrial north did not offer enough employment for Italy’s labor force. The Italian tendency towards large families made for an excess labor force. The excess labor force could find work neither on the farm nor in Italy’s factories, hence they looked towards America where, they heard, there existed a need for more labor. They also heard, falsely of course, that such labor, even though unskilled, was well-paid.

The social, economic and political unrest of much of Europe lead to its radicalization. Some were of the new socialism as outlined by Karl Marx and practiced by Trotsky and Lenin prior to the revolution. Conversely, Fascism arose out of Europe’s aristocracy against the growing socialist ideals. The common man found himself caught between the two groups in Europe with no place to run, except America.

The overwhelming majority of immigrants to America in the early 20th century were people coming from extreme poverty. They were indeed a cross-section of Europe embracing every type of religious, political and social belief. And as with any cross-section, among them were the anarchists and others who would prove troublesome to the established American public.

The epicenter of American radicalism in those days was in the small boarding house rooms of Greenwich Village. They were a small but vocal group who advocated the overthrow of the wealthy, the industrialists, and the powerful politicians by any means possible. Names like Emma Goldman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Margaret Sanger, and John Reed seemed to most Americans to be the ones originating most of America’s radical troubles, but as with many things, the truth was something quite different.

When Leon Czolgosz assassinated President William McKinley, William “Big Bill” Haywood, Emma Goldman was extremely vocal in her opposition to violence as a tool of the anarchists. Margaret Sanger attended many anarchists meetings in Greenwich Village, but her purpose was to gain support for her settlement house in the lower east side and in getting aid for single mothers. John Reed was a journalist who was more interested in reporting on the anarchists, though he did agree with their views, the partaking in their political actions. Big Bill Haywood was an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World, a socialist union whose prime member was the unskilled laborer. But in 1907 Haywood had been tried for murder in Idaho. Haywood was innocent of the charge, a charge that had been trumped up simply because local politicians hated him, and found innocent after his trial. But he could not shake being labeled as a murder and his presence always brought trepidation to any community he visited.

People like Haywood and Sanger took on the cause of the immigrant and were closely associated with the various new immigrant groups. When a strike broke out in Lawrence Massachusetts in 1912, Big Bill visited the city and both city and state leadership felt certain that riots and all sorts of violence were sure to follow. Again, the truth is far different. Haywood spent very little time in Lawrence and focused his energies on raising funds for the strikers in other parts of New England. He actually had no interest in being a part of the strike save the role of fund-raiser. But then dynamite was found at a house in North Lawrence and everyone was certain that the IWW and Big Bill were somehow behind it. A few days later it was discovered that William Wood, a mill owner, had planted the dynamite in an effort to discredit the efforts of the IWW to win the strike.

What in common between the events of the early 20th Century and those of this presidential campaign, is Donald Trump’s use of fear and xenophobia to activate an American public. Fear is common to all human beings and has been used to exploit people throughout the ages. Because we are in the middle of Trump’s plotting it can be hard to gain perspective, but it is perspective that will save us from foolish beliefs and even more foolish moves.

The immigrant is the life blood of America and their introduction into our country makes us stronger. And while it is true that there are elements in those immigrants who would do America harm, we are more than strong enough to survive their worst. Unlike much of the world, our country thrives upon its diversity. Our Constitution guarantees that diversity cannot be used against us.   And the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty bear remembering, Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


People You Forget to Remember at Christmas

In December 1968 I was in the United States Army and stationed in Korea. I was a green 19-year-old spending his first Christmas away from home.  Korea, of course, is a Buddhist country and does not celebrate Christmas.  There are Christians there but they are such a small percentage of the population.

I the late 1960s Korea was still a war zone near the DMZ. Even though a truce had been called in 1953 the animosity between the two countries was palpable and armed conflict still erupted from time to time.  Sometimes it was in the form of infantry but mostly it was an exchange of artillery fire.  American soldiers stationed on the DMZ became caught in the crossfire and lost their lives.

That was the first of four Christmas I spent away from home while in service to our country. The next three were while I was station in Italy.  Of course Christmas there, as here, is a big event.  But still, we were away from our families at a time when family togetherness is so important.

Christmas of 2015 will once again see 100s of thousands of soldiers and sailor stationed away from their homes and loved ones. Some will be in the warring countries of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Their Christmas is particularly tough as has been true throughout our country’s history for every soldier who found himself on a battlefield at Christmastime.  For this part of my little diatribe, I ask that you take a moment to remember the men and women who have donned our countries uniforms and taken post in faraway places, away from their families.  Their gift to us is insured freedom.

While in Korea I was tasked with visiting an orphanage which was support by the military group I was stationed with. We were a small convoy of a couple of trucks with a jeep mounted with a 50 caliber machine gun in the front and rear of the trucks.  Each of us also were require to take our M-16 rifles along, just in case.  But besides the men who were in the trucks we also brought food and presents for the children of the orphanage.  The exact location of the orphanage was kept secret from us for reasons we were never given.  I do know that it sat right on the DMZ in northwestern South Korea.

We arrived at a single story cinder block building which housed the children and who were looked over by Catholic nuns. I do not think there were more than 25 or 30 children present but my memory them is that of expectancy, wonder, and sadness.

We were told that all the children were of one of two types: those born to prostitutes who of course could not keep them and those who were Asian-American, born of Korean mothers and American fathers. Theirs was the worst fate of all as they would never be accepted by Korean society simply because of their obvious differences.

We were all gathered into a single room where the children were introduced to us and we to them. As I looked around the room my eyes fell upon this one little girl with blond hair and blue eyes.  Her only language, of course, was Korean, and even if all the other orphans had even a slight chance in Korean society, this little girl certainly had none.  It broke my heart to see her and she haunts me to this day.  I wanted more than anything to get her back to the United States where at least she’d have something of a chance.  I actually looked into it but was inform that a married couple would have to be found and then it would be a prolonged affair to actually have her adopted.

The point is, those Korean orphans were all the result of a war. They are the casualties of war that go unreported, are pushed into the background and out of sight.  As I sit here this evening I have no doubt that similar conditions exist in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Orphans in those countries undoubted outnumber the ability of the country to care for them.  You might ask “what can we do for them?”  There actually is an answer, UNICEF, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.  They have a website at unicef.org and are always in need of donations.

It only seems appropriate at this time of year here in the United States where we have so much that we remember the children who have nothing.

America’s Disinterest in Classical Music

I just read a posting on Facebook that told of a man, Joshua Bell, a concert violinist, was placed in a Washington DC Metro station with a $3500 violin at rush hour as a test of how the general public would react.  After 45 minutes the Bell had been able to collect only $30 from 20 people.

The Washington Post who organized this asked the questions, “Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?”  Now this article is making the rounds and an indignant public is responding as if some sort of commentary on Americans in general has been made.  This is foolishness to the utmost.

Classical music is an acquired taste just as any sort of music is.  I do not believe it appeals to the majority of Americans.  I don’t think this is any sort of commentary on the average American other than American’s are mostly drawn to other sorts of music.  In the Washington Post test it is likely that the music drew only those people who both like and appreciate it.  If you hear something you do not find beautiful, regardless of what anyone else says, you are not going to take time to listen.  That is just human nature, and nothing more.

I think you will find a greater portion of Europeans who appreciate classic must than Americans but because it is a part of their culture as much as anything.  American music includes jazz, blues, country, blue grass, and rock and roll.  It is part of our identity.  You cannot go to Poland and expect to find blue music being played every weekend somewhere as you can in the U.S.  It is a very simple cultural thing.

Countries like Poland, Germany, France, Italy, and Russia have classical composers who are a part of their history.  As such, in any country where a famous classic artist was born, homage is given to them, airports, parks, and monuments have their name.  They are a regular part of the national dialogue.  With that comes a natural interest in the music they wrote, and with that what the music of their contemporaries was and sounded like.

I love classical music most likely because I heard it when I was young.  My father used to listen to it and that is probably where I came to enjoy it.  Since, I have immersed myself in my own sort of classical music appreciation.

What I think most Americans do not realize is how much classical music they are actually hearing in public, on television, and in the movies.  I would guess that a good 50% of the better movies have at least one piece of classical music in it.  Movie-makers usually understand it and use it as an important instrument in telling their story.

When I was a kid, most of the cartoons I watched were full of classical music.  Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies, and others almost exclusively used it.  In one Bugs Bunny short, the makers used Mozart’s “Valkyries” in something of a form that it was meant to be presented.  In a twist they used Elmer Fudd as the tenor who sang “Kill the Wabbit” to Mozart’s music.

But even as someone who truly loves classical music, I am not certain I would have stopped to hear that violinist if he were playing something I did not find particularly appealing.  There is a lot of classical music that has the potential to appeal to a large portion of the American public, but there is also a portion that appeals only to classical music diehards, and that is just the sort of music this man may have been playing.  If you do not understand your audience, you cannot possibly appeal to them.  I wish more Americans liked classical music but I am not going to criticize them because they do not.

The follow is the link to the article I am referring to.  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=396563050432534&set=a.254264747995699.63706.253054451450062&type=1&theater


Never Be an American Tourist

I have been to about 20 foreign countries over the years.  When I first started visiting those countries I was actually living in Italy at the time.  I made a decision to abandon my U.S. dollars for Italian Lira.  Yes, this was well before the Euro.  My first stop was Greece.  I had a hotel room in Athens and set out to see the sights.  The people of Athens were horrible.  They reminded me of those arrogant entitled Americans!  They had no time for anyone, and were only too willing to ignore me.  I rented a car and headed out for Thessalonica in the north.  I was not very far outside Athens when I picked up a couple of hitchhikers who just happened to be Americans.  It was getting close to lunchtime so we stopped at a very small roadside cafe we came to.

We had an immediate problem.  Americans expect everyone who serves them should naturally speak English and have real problems when that is not the case.  I was fortunate enough to have lived in Italy for some time at that point, had learned Italian, and knew that these small, out of the way places were not where English was spoken.  The cafe was just an extension of a typical European farmhouse.  A man and a woman ran the place and of course spoke only Greek.  We three Americans accepted that and quickly set about breeching the language gap.  We had acquired some ears of corn along the way and we wanted to have it cooked for us.  At the time, most Europeans did not eat corn on the cob, and many considered it to be only good as cattle food.  Through hand gestures, and other means, we were able to convey our desire to have the corn boiled.  Our hosts were aghast but were more than willing to comply.  I do not remember what else we had with the corn, but I can assure you it was really good.

As we sat in the cafe, we being the only ones there, we were able to have a conversation, of sorts, with our hosts.  They conveyed to us how things were for them during World War 2 and why they truly loved Americans.  These people were extremely nice.  It was at that point I discovered that speaking a common language was totally unnecessary to gain an understanding of the people you find yourself with.  This set the tone for the rest of my trip.  Even though my feelings for Athens remain unchanged, my feeling for the Greek people in general is extremely positive.  I truly saw these people as just like me in many ways and that was comforting.

At another point on this trip I found myself in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.  I exchanged some of my Italian lira for Lebanese pounds, found a cab and headed for my hotel, the Alcazar.  The man at the reception desk spoke perfect English and was extremely helpful.  I later asked him about his knowledge of foreign languages.  He told me that to be employed in a hotel in Lebanon you were required to know at least four languages, Arabic, French, German, and English, so you could deal with the greatest number of the guests.  He knew several more languages on top of these.  It was really impressive.

Across from my hotel there was a sign about a casino to the north of the city.  I asked the man at the desk about it and he told me to rent a cab and go because it would be a wonderful experience.  I had met up with a couple of Canadian women in Beirut and they agreed that it would be a really nice way to spend the evening.  I noted that the cab fare to this place was only about ten American dollars.  We rented the cab and went to the casino.  Upon arriving I tried to pay the cabbie but he said no, that I could pay him after we got back to the hotel.  I was really surprised by this statement and said we would be inside for hours and the cabbie assured me that he expected that.  Then I asked him how long it would take him to get there when we came out.  He assured me he would be one minute away.  It was unbelievable, to the American mind, but we decided to accept what he said.

When we finally decided to return to our hotels the cabbie was there just as he said he would be.  When we arrived back at out hotel he said the fare was 30 Lebanese pounds, ten American dollars.  We were shocked, to say the least.  We decided between us to give him 60 pounds feeling it was more than worth it.  The cabbie had been everything he offered and more.  He was polite, friendly, and offered us some useful tips.  He suggested we go on a tour to Damascus, that we would really enjoy ourselves.

Well, the next day the three of us boarded a tour bus going to Damascus.  The trip to Damascus was uneventful although upon arrival at the border we were held for over an hour while our passports were inspected.  Upon our arrival in Damascus we were asked to change buses for our tour.  We did not think much of that at the time and went on our tour of the city.  I loved Damascus.  When our tour bus returned us to the bus that had brought us to Damascus we were quick to find skeins of fabric pushed underneath all of the seats.  We had become a part of a smuggling scheme from Syria to Lebanon.  I joking said to my companion that maybe we should say something about this at the border.  She assured me she would kill me if I even breathed wrong.

Shortly after our return to Beirut we were walking through the city bazaar when I spotted a heroin deal going down right out in the open.  Not 20 feet away was a policeman who could not have missed such a transaction.  I noted what was going on to one of my friends and we agreed that had any of us been involved, the policeman would have been quick to notice.

My entire stay in Lebanon showed me one very important thing.  The Arabic people, the common man, were extremely friendly and took me as I was.  I have nothing but good things to say about these people and take offense at anyone who says anything to the contrary.

The thing is, when I am in these foreign countries I never present myself as an American, as if that is supposed to count for something.  I am always aware that I am a guest in the country and that good manners is what I need to display.  By acting this way, I cannot tell you how many times the people of these countries have been surprised upon discovering I am an American.  I was fortunately aware of the concept of the “Ugly American” and it was the last thing I wanted to be.  I cannot say I have always been treated really well but in general, I have been treated really well.  Because of that I have enjoyed my travels abroad immensely.

Americans, when you travel abroad, leave at home your American ideas of the way things should be, of how people should treat you, and especially, leave at home all feelings of entitlement because you are an American.  The phrase “I am an American” abroad means something between nothing and utter contempt to anyone you would say this to.

Ten Places To Visit You Have Probably Never Considered

These are ten places I have been to that seldom make it to an American tourist’s itinerary.  I have been to all these places and cannot recommend them highly enough.

1.  Damascus Syria — Damascus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.  It is huge in the Moslem world but it also has much Christian history attached to it.  The picture below is of one of the main mosques in the city.  But if you look closely you will see that it resembles a cathedral, which it was.  The cathedral was built by the Crusaders but when the Ottoman Empire moved the Christians out it retained its status as a holy place.

2.  Baalbek Lebanon — Lebanon  was once a destination for French tourists.  Beirut is a beautiful city with very friendly people.  The ancient town of Baalbek sits northwest of Beirut.  The picture below shows the remains of the temple of Baal, the Phoenician sun-god.  The Greeks and Romans also built temples on this site dedicated to their sun-god.

3.  Cyprus — Cyprus is an island at the eastern end of the Mediterranean.  It has endured centuries of fighting between its Greek and Turkish inhabitants.  Still, it is a place of beauty and great historical importance.  Cyprus is the location of Othello’s Castle as told by Shakespeare.  The picture below is of one of the beaches on the north coast of Cyprus.

4.  Warsaw Poland — Warsaw is a city rich in Polish, and European, history.  Its people are very friendly, its food extremely good, and its prices very reasonable.

The picture below is of a street called Nowy Swiat and is typical of many Polish streets.

This is a picture of Market Square in Warsaw.

This last picture is of the Wilanow Palace in Warsaw.

5.  Porto Fino Italy — Most people who visit it visit places like Rome, Venice, Florence, and Naples.  But Italy has hundreds of other cities that are great destinations.  Chief among these is one well-known to Europeans, Porto Fino.  Porto Fino is a small city south of Milan that is a hideaway for European millionaires.  This is a place where seeing the large yachts of the wealthy and the super-wealthy is not at all unusual.  Even so, reasonably priced accommodations are not difficult to find.

6.  Volterra Italy — Volterra is a small  town located in the central Italian mountains.  Its 13th Century center remains virtually unchanged since it was built.  Extremely narrow street defy the use of automobiles in them.  Volterra is also the site of a first century Roman amphitheater.

7.  Kona Hawaii — When visitors to Hawaii decide to go to other Hawaiian Islands they make Maui, Molokai and Kauai their prime destinations. But the largest island of the chain, known as the Big Island of Hawaii, offers everything any of the other islands have and more.  For people visiting the big island Kona is the city where you want to stay.  It is the second largest town, to Hilo, on the island but has a quaintness about it that is extremely attractive.  Not too far from Kona is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

8.  Boothbay Harbor Maine — I have visited most of the seaside cities and towns on the Maine coast and I believe Boothbay Harbor to be far and away the finest of these.  Boothbay is a small town situated in mid-coast Maine.  It is at least half an hour from the nearest interstate.  Boothbay is rich with history surrounding ship building and fishing.  The town has any number of bed and breakfast houses which are virtually the only place you can stay there as there are only a very few motels.

9.  Monaco — When Americans consider what countries to visit in Europe, I doubt Monaco ever comes under consideration.  You cannot fly there, it does not have an airport.  The closest is probably Marseille France.  Monaco is a hidden gem.  It sits between the Alps and the Mediterranean sea.  You arrive there either by car or by train.  The city-state offers beautiful beaches, casinos, and an active castle.

10.  Krakow Poland — Krakow is the most ancient of cities in Poland.  Its history reaches back to the earliest of times in Polish history.  The city was amazingly untouched by World War 2, it was never bombed or even attacked.  It retains all of its old-world quaintness.  Its leisurely way of life is conducive to the most restful of vacations.  It is also home to Jaglonian University which dates back to the 14th Century.