Andrew’s Travelogue: International Diplomacy

By Andrew Belet – Rattling Chains staff

At the risk of sounding crude and violent, I must begin today’s submission with my explanation of how I’ve treated international situations up until now.

When I was 15, I was fortunate enough to go to Germany as an exchange student, which I loved. I joined the military right out of high school, and since then, my diplomatic skills have started at the barrel of my rifle and ended with the impact of the projectile. It’s not a fun job, believe me.

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This is why coming to South Korea for a year is so great; there is a phrase here that refers to Korean/American relations: “katchi kapshida,” which means “we go together!”

Truly, South Korea would be much worse off if not for us. As well, America would be much worse off without our friends in the now-prosperous country of South Korea.

For armed forces members here on the peninsula, we are constantly encouraged to go out in town and volunteer in the community. We do so, and gladly. In fact, this winter, I will be coaching the Korean Special Olympics, which is a passion of mine I’ve had since I first coached weightlifting in high school for the Montana Special Olympics.

Most Koreans regard our presence here with great respect and a spirit of friendship. Older Koreans, who can remember the Korean War, show their gratitude to every American they see, armed forces or not.

So I was quite excited when my Korean friend, HyunDo Jang, contacted me via Facebook and asked if he and his girlfriend, Shinah Kim, could come up and play the Dragon’s Lair.

They live in Seoul, and he promised to show me some of Seoul’s courses next time I was down there in exchange for the visit. Of course, I eagerly accepted. We decided to meet up on Sunday and play two rounds (for tags, naturally) with Joe of course playing with us.

The first hurdle was getting them on base. I have never signed a foreign national on to the base before, so I was pretty much going in blind. I met them at the front gate, and the Americans and Koreans who work there were extremely helpful and made the whole process relatively painless. Within 10 minutes we were in a cab on the way up to the Dragon’s Lair for two rounds of disc golf in the hot, humid, South Korean summer weather. We met up with Joe and headed up to tee off on hole one.

The round started off great, with everyone making an ace run at hole one. Shinah was actually the closest, just barely missing the pole, while HyunDo overshot and nearly landed in a swamp. He made up for it with a super-clutch putt for a birdie that was awesome to witness.

HyunDo teeing off on the second hole. (photo by Andrew Belet)

HyunDo teeing off on the second hole. (photo by Andrew Belet)

I knew I had my work cut out for me if I wanted to leave with the highest tag (Korean tag No. 23). I toned down the posturing and focused on my game, wanting to show our Korean friends how Americans golf.

Joe and I proceeded to put on a clinic for our visitors. While they hung with us, the final score for round one had me at a course record of 21, Joe tying the previous course record of 22, HyunDo putting in work with a 24, and Shinah shooting an even-par 27. I took the tag, but knew I had to avoid my typical second round blow up to keep it.

The second round indeed started off hot, as our visitors now felt comfortable with the course and, as so, were able to take some more risky shots that paid off well. HyunDo even figured out a hot new line on hole three by throwing a wicked tomahawk. It almost ended with a Tommy ace after somehow missing every one of the fifty or so trees that could have stopped its majestic flight. High fives and props abounded after we witnessed that shot.

Everyone was playing extremely well, and by hole nine I was in the lead by two, with Joe and HyunDo tied and Shinah bringing up the rear, two over Joe and HyunDo.

Then, the famous Belet second-round curse kicked in.

I stepped up to the tee on hole nine, fully confident that my metal flake Tangent would flip to flat, then drift right and land right next to the pin for an easy bird and a second victory. Of course, I managed to shoot that plan to heck when I pulled my drive and turned it over right into a tree.

Joe and HyunDo laughed and high-fived at my misfortune, both of them sensing victory. Of course, their drives were just about perfect. My second shot ended up parked, and I thought I had an easy three which would still secure my victory, though not a true dominating performance.

My blow-up was far from finished, however. My putt went wide right and proceeded to roll its happy little way down the hill, stopping just short of the creek. Joe putted out for three, but HyunDo missed his putt as well, albeit without the rollaway. I missed my second putt (of course) for a 5 while HyunDo and Shinah carded 4s. With my head hung in shame, Joe and I swapped tags after his come from behind victory.

A collage of images, created by Shinah, of Andrew Belet and his Korean friends holding their gifts. (courtesy of Andrew Belet)

A collage of images, created by Shinah, of Andrew Belet and his Korean friends holding their gifts. (courtesy of Andrew Belet)

Unfortunately, after only two hours of playing, it was time to say goodbye to our guests, as they had to begin their long journey back to Seoul. Before they left, I made sure to respect Korean tradition and gave them each a small present for coming and enjoying the course with us. HyunDo received an Avery Jenkins Tour Series Star Teebird and Shinah left with a 10/10 0x KC Pro Roc in 150g weight. The look of gratitude in their eyes when I presented them with the gifts was just as perfect as the rest of the day had been.

It was bittersweet saying goodbye to our new friends as we escorted them back out the gate. While our time playing together was brief, we had a ton of fun and, as I have stated in several submissions before, the bonds of disc golf once again shined and crossed international barriers. Our love of the game even crossed language barriers; while HyunDo speaks excellent English, Shinah only speaks a little. Yet we had no trouble discussing the finer points of hyzers and stabilities of discs. We all parted ways excited for our next round together, and with a deep respect and even deeper friendship. “Katchi kapshida!”

Andrew Belet has been playing disc golf for more than 20 years. He’s currently serving with the U.S. Army in South Korea. A published author and poet, you can see his works on Amazon. He can be e-mailed at andrew@rattlingchains.com.

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