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Old 12-23-2017, 06:53 AM   #1
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Going to other countries can be a shock.

I hope to cruise to as many other countries as I can. I haven't been to but a couple of other countries and I'm 62. I got quite an education when I went to Palau a few years back.

I was hired by Daewoo a few years back because their Geotechnical and Materials labs were apparently having quality control issues and were shut down by the US Corps of Army Engineers, (USCOE), due to suspect test data. Daewoo was loosing about a million dollars a day because of it and hired me to fix it. In the USA Engineers do not do technical work. In other countries Engineers do work in the lab. This lab was no different and had about 20 Engineers in the lab. They were all hired from the Philippines and were getting paid 90 cents an hour and sending it home. After the first week the head Korean Engineer, (Doe), called me and his right hand man -Brien-, (the American Engineer who hired me), in to his office. He asked me how many of the "technicians" should we fire. I sat there in shock. He explained that they needed to show the USCOE that they were making big changes and were serious about fixing the lab. I said that there was this one guy who just sat in his office playing computer games and that we should let him go. This time Doe looked shocked. Brian explained to me that they do not fire Koreans and suggested that him and I should discuss it and that we would meet again with a list of technicians to let go. The next day I found out that they fired all of them!

At some time after that or before, I don't remember the timeline. I decided to go to lunch with a small group of the "technicians". They really should have been called what they were, Engineers. "Technician" was what the Korean engineers called them out of disrespect. As we were approaching the cafeteria I kept walking with the group toward the door on the left and they said no, no you go there and pointed to the door on the right. They all went through the left door. I walked in to the right door, which was this empty cafeteria with one guy, (obviously a Korean Engineer or executive) sitting there eating. He didn't even look up at me. I walked up to the serving window and could see across to another cafeteria with about 300 people talking and laughing and eating. The next day as we were going to lunch again I asked about the two cafeterias. The lab tech told me that I have to eat with the Koreans and that the Pilipinos and Koreans do not eat together. It was more of a engineers and executives do not mingle with the technicians and staff. Although it was really a Koreans and Pilipino thing. I decided that the next time I was going to eat with my fellow technicians. So as they started to push me toward the Korean cafeteria again I said no I'm eating with you guys. They looked horrified and said "no no you must eat there" but I insisted. They all walked behind me as I walked in to their cafeteria. As I entered I saw about 150 people on each side of the room with a big isle down the middle to the serving window. The place was alive with talking and laughter until they saw me. The whole room went silent! Everyone stared at me in stunned silence. Some had big smiles on their faces, some just starred, some actually had their mouths wide open. I'm not exaggerating it was the strangest thing that I have ever experienced. This only lasted for a few seconds but it felt like an eternity. Then everyone, almost simultaneously turned around and started eating again. After that nobody bothered to look at me. I told Brien about it. He told me that I shouldn't have done that because they will lose respect for me. Some did and some didn't. I did have a harder time getting some of the lab technicians to follow my instructions after that. I'm still shocked and confused about that.

Brien invited me to go out one evening to some karaoke bars. I was again shocked because Karaoke bars in Palau are not like karaoke bars here in the states. I was married and faithful. That's all I'll say about that. At the end of the evening Brien was a bit tipsy and I asked about the drunk driving laws in Palau in an effort to get him to pull over and let me drive or call a cab. Brien just laughed and said that the police won't give American's a ticket. You could be 3 sheets to the wind and they would take you home at worst.

One Sunday I took a couple of hours off to walk around a fairly rundown neighborhood (as it turned out) with a camera hanging around my neck looking like a typical American tourist. There were a couple of youngish tough looking guys drinking beer in a kind of car port, at best. When I got to about 50' away one of them yells (in pretty good english) "hey, you American?" I nodded yes and he posed for a picture. Then they smiled and waved and I waved back and kept walking. Then the same thing happened a little further down the street. There was this old guy with a really long beard sitting in a lawn chair on his front lawn drinking beer. He didn't smile but asked me if I was American. I answered and he smiled and held up his beer in a pose so I could take a picture. I felt like a movie star or something.

Earlier that week when I first got there I went down to the lounge in the fairly fancy hotel that Daewoo had arranged for me. It turns out that it was only one of two in the country. While I was sitting at the bar sipping my beer three scruffy looking guys sat down at the bar. They looked very uncomfortable. I assume because it was a fancy place and they were not dressed appropriately. They sat there for a while occasionally glancing over at me. Then one of them asked me if I was American. I said yes I was working for Daewoo. Then the guy told me that they liked Americans and proceeded to tell me how the Americans helped to liberate them and their Island from the Japanese in WWII. I was shocked that these 20 something young guys would know much about WWII. I bought them all a beer and they acted like I had handed them each a C-note. Americans are treated like royalty in Palau. I told my father in-law about it because he was on several destroyers in WWII. All three of the ships that he was on were hit by torpedos and he made it home! He passed away a few months ago. The nicest and funniest guy that I have ever met. A true hero but he was so humble. It turns out that he was there at Palau. He called it Pellalu (SP?). He said that they fired so many rockets or bombs (I forget the word that he used) that it looked like the islands were jumping out of the water! He said that the islanders were treated so poorly by the Japanese that it's no wonder that they still love the Americans. Hey that was a long time ago and it was war. I'm sure that we haven't always done the right thing during war. Anyway I digress.

A couple of days later I walked in to the hotel restaurant, which was empty. There was a very pretty, young, and well dressed Japanese lady waiting to be seated. There were three or four waiters cleaning tables and milling around while she was patiently waiting in the reception area. She looked a bit confused like she was wondering why she wasn't being seated. As soon as I walked in, the waiters almost ran over to me and said "good evening Mr. Cooper where would you like to be seated?". I was very confused and becoming very embarrassed as I started to realized what was happening. The young lady and I were standing about three feet apart. The waiters stood between us with their backs to her as they greeted me. As I was being shown to my table, I gave the lady a confused and apologetic look. I didn't say anything because it was so blatant and I was kind of in shock. I thought maybe she was done with dinner and waiting for someone. I don't really know for sure but I feel pretty confident that they were being rude to her. They seated me with my back to her so I couldn't see if they ever seated her.

It's like WWII just ended for them. The strange thing is. Palau is a very popular place to vacation for the Japanese because it's so close to Japan.

It was quite an experience and quite an eye opener to what a second or third world country is like. And how far we have come in regards to treating each other. I am excited to cruise to other countries and see what they are like. I really want to do a long cruise to Cuba. I am a bit worried that being American may not always open doors for me. Next time I may be left standing in a reception area wondering why they're not seating me.

I sincerely hope that I have not offended anyone. It certainly wasn't my intension. For a guy who was born and raised in San Francisco. It was one of the strangest two weeks of my life. I hope you enjoyed my story. I sure did.
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Old 12-23-2017, 07:23 AM   #2
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I know spelling of sone geographic places is different all over, is this the same place you are describing?

Peleliu

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Peleliu
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Old 12-23-2017, 08:21 AM   #3
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You might start with the US State Department information, you can sign up for online updates, travel warnings, etc.
I’d be a little cautious walking around with the camera in some areas of some countries including the USA. It is great to hear that some of the liberated countries have a appreciation for the sacrifice made by the US in WWII.
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Old 12-23-2017, 08:33 AM   #4
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Thanks for the post. When I was an engineer in industry I had a few interactions with foreign engrs (mostly Taiwan and European), but with them here stateside. Even then there were some cultural things that really stood out. Most notable was the stiff hierarchy. Us redneck engrs made no distinction between engrs and techs and would get right in the dirty work with them and drink beer with them later. The foreign engrs commented that they would never pick up a tool.

The Americans I know that have gone to Cuba come back with reports that they were treated very well. But there were some benjamins being handed out, so that might have an effect.
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Old 12-23-2017, 08:52 AM   #5
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Palau is quite geographically isolated. Likely part of the reason for that culture. I worked as an engineer in China, Japan, Vietnam, etc and I ate where all else ate, same cafeteria food, etc. In Shenyang, there were still buildings that I worked in that were made during the Japanese occupation, that even last year, the locals were anxious to tear down.
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Old 12-23-2017, 10:02 AM   #6
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Dirt,
Great story, thanks for telling!

Cuba: go!

We were there as terrestrial travelers 2 years ago, spent New Years in Trinidad and had a great time. We were treated very well, I met and conversed with local engineers as well (30+ for me, BSME, PE, ret). The locals were great. I never felt threatened or at risk.

We got lost and wandered the back streets of Trinidad after midnight. Almost all the locals that saw us walking around asked us into their homes to party and dance the New Years away.

Read up on cruising Cuba, there are some good cruising guides out now. The place has real thin infrastructure, only a couple of real marinas. Finding fuel and spares could be an adventure.

But if you make it that far in your trip you will have such matters dialed in I'm sure.
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Old 12-23-2017, 10:55 AM   #7
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Great story, and you will probably see a very different reflection in the mirror of our own country's behavior, not just in the past, but still today is so many ways.
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Old 12-23-2017, 11:36 AM   #8
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Dirt,

Peleliu is one island of many within the Palau Islands.
While serving on the USS Peleliu, LHA-5 back in the 80’s on our very first cruise we were lucky enough to visit the Island of Peleliu. Back then, the population was very small and could not handle such a large group of men. Our visit was to place monuments and ceremonies in remembrance of the Battle of Peleliu some 40 years earlier.
A beautiful Island and very gracious people, they were some of the most humble people I have ever met.
One thing that was common in the Navy (at least back then) was the effort that was put into informing the crews of the culture and customs of almost every country that we visited.
We all could learn a great deal of respect and admiration if we spent a few moments and did the same whenever traveling outside the USA.
Below is one of my last memorabilia while serving aboard the Peleliu, which by the way is now decommissioned.
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Old 12-23-2017, 12:10 PM   #9
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I know spelling of sone geographic places is different all over, is this the same place you are describing?

Peleliu

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Peleliu
A bit more reading and i fugured it out....
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Old 12-23-2017, 01:28 PM   #10
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Dirt,

Peleliu is one island of many within the Palau Islands.
While serving on the USS Peleliu, LHA-5 back in the 80’s on our very first cruise we were lucky enough to visit the Island of Peleliu. Back then, the population was very small and could not handle such a large group of men. Our visit was to place monuments and ceremonies in remembrance of the Battle of Peleliu some 40 years earlier.
A beautiful Island and very gracious people, they were some of the most humble people I have ever met..
Peleliu may have been the most horrific and arguably the least necessary battle of the war.

I commend to you the excellent memoir: With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge.
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Old 12-23-2017, 03:26 PM   #11
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Dirt, thanks for your thoughtful post. I’ve cherished my travels abroad, and will continue as long as I can.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad
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Old 12-23-2017, 03:43 PM   #12
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Peleliu may have been the most horrific and arguably the least necessary battle of the war.

I commend to you the excellent memoir: With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge.
Excellent book if you want to learn what the WWII Marines really went through.
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Old 12-23-2017, 05:28 PM   #13
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Nice story, dirt.
If you continue your traveling, I'm sure you'll get a full range of receptions being American, although most of the time people don't care where you are from. As long as you treat them with respect, you'll be treated the same way. That's what I've found in my travels so far across about 40 countries. A very basic understanding of their culture, religion and language goes a long way.
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Old 12-23-2017, 05:42 PM   #14
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Excellent book if you want to learn what the WWII Marines really went through.
I recently viewed the TV mini series "The Pacific", produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg amongst others. Episodes 5, 6 & 7 cover Peleliu. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pacific_(miniseries)

It is an excellent series, very moving and it received well deserved acclaim for rendering key military actions in that brutal war.
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Old 12-23-2017, 06:02 PM   #15
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Each country has many sides. Doing business in one or working in one you get to see part of it. Going as a tourist you often see a very different side. We try, as tourists, to meet and talk to the people as much as can safely be done. Business taught me several things in this regard. First, that the workers, quality, ability, comitment was there wherever you were. However, then it taught me how different the management methods, the treatment of employees were. Plants we owned, we operated just like US manufacturing facilities. Places where goods were made for us were a challenge to get contractors with appropriate treatment and behavior. We seldom stopped using a plant over quality or production, but often did over their lack of human rights decency.
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Old 12-23-2017, 06:14 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by psneeld View Post
I know spelling of sone geographic places is different all over, is this the same place you are describing?

Peleliu

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Peleliu
Yes it is. When I first got there I was given a tour of the construction headquarters, which were some old WWII buildings that Daewoo tares down and moves from site to site. One of the rooms was called the museum. The room was filled with every kind of bullet up to huge shells that they ran into while constructing the highway across the island. They had pictures of small hills of stacked shells that they had to disarm and move. They had to have demolition experts onsite at all times. There were crashed airplanes sunken military boats of all kinds. There is live ammunition and weapons all over the islands. Many of the islanders still live in the quonset huts left by the military. I spent two weeks there, working 12-14 hour days. I wish I had had another week just to wonder around. There was a small group of westerners mostly from Australia, some Americans but very few. Most of them sailed there and ended up staying. They all went to this one bar by the marina. Well, kind of a marina. "Marina" is being very generous. The bar was built out over the water so you could fish from your table, then give the cook your catch and they would prepare your dinner on the spot! Everything about Palau was amazing. It's probably changed since I went. One smart law there is only natives can buy land. Did you know that it was a territory of the USA until 1994 when we gave it back to them? I'm going back there as soon as I can and never come back. Well, I'll come back to visit. It's a 21 hour flight. Can you imagin how long it would take to get there at 8 knots?

Cheers!
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Old 12-23-2017, 08:29 PM   #17
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Dirt, All experiences like you described don't happen in foreign countries.


Your comments about being directed to a different part of the restaurant took me back to an experience when I was stationed in Biloxi, MS in 1969. We went to dinner one night with a couple who lived next door and were from Georgia, at a restaurant downtown. They picked the restaurant (we were new to Biloxi) and when we got there I was surprised to see a "No Negroes Allowed" sign on the front door. There were two sides to the restaurant, one for whites and one for Blacks.


I had grown up in MI and was not at all used to that. When I asked the couple we were with he made a comment about "not eating with them if they didn't have to" and that's why they had picked that restaurant. It was a real eye opener for me.


Needless to say that was the last time we went out with them, and the last time we went to that restaurant.
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Old 12-23-2017, 09:20 PM   #18
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I remember in 1977, the year I got my driver's license, I was visiting my grandmother that summer. We were driving my grandmother's Mercedes through rural Georgia near Ludowici (one side of the family came from the deep South, the other side from Connecticut where I grew up). We stopped for gas at a classic roadside stop -- hound dog under the porch, the whole thing. I remember there was a Coke machine on the porch with a long rectangular glass door, you put in a quarter and pulled out a glass bottle. An elderly black guy and I reached the screen door at precisely the same moment. I opened the door for him and motioned for him to go in first. "Oh no suh, y'all go first boss." I was 17, he was maybe 80 and my parents taught me to be polite to my elders so I insisted. He firmly would not go through that door before me. We were both in a dilemma, my Yankee rules about deferring to elders clashing with his 80 years of habit. I don't know if the clerk inside was watching us or not. I finally resolved it by acting like I forgot my wallet in the car.

Never forgot that...cross cultural experience.
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Old 12-23-2017, 10:00 PM   #19
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Peleliu may have been the most horrific and arguably the least necessary battle of the war.

I commend to you the excellent memoir: With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge.
Thanks for the book reference. My dad was at Peleliu aboard an LCI(G) for the invasion. He NEVER talked about it.
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Old 12-23-2017, 10:24 PM   #20
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I recently viewed the TV mini series "The Pacific", Episodes 5, 6 & 7 cover Peleliu.
The "home front" stories from Alabama were especially well done and its only near the end that I realized that it was Eugene Sledge's town and him they were reminiscing about. A story well told.
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