Been there, done that

9 Sep 2000 | Cpl. Derek A. Shoemake

Having just visited our fourth country during this deployment, I'm finally realizing locals do not understand English better when you speak louder.Try as I might, repeating the phrase "Do you sell little spoons?" in a loud and slow voice only makes the shopkeeper change her expression from confused, to mean and confused. Making an eating motion with your mouth and hands and adding, "You know, spoons," is equally ineffective, will make you look stupid and produce no little spoons.I've also learned that it seems only Americans think ketchup is a prerequisite to a meal, holding up two fingers to make a "v" is not the universal sign for peace (it can very well get you slapped in some countries) and steak tastes different in places without cows.These are not lessons I would have learned in a classroom; they come only with experience. Gaining that experience is one of the reasons I joined the Marine Corps, and from what I've seen in the places we have stopped, the other members of the 26th MEU(SOC) are taking advantage of the culture as well.For example, in our port visit to LaSpezia, Italy, hundreds of Marines and Sailors spent more than ten hours on a bus just for the chance to spend three hours in Rome. I was among these hundreds. I even have the little spoon to prove it.To make our port stops better, the ships' Morale, Welfare and Recreation office, led by Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Gregory, spent time underway making sure some fairly impressive tours were set up for the Marines and Sailors on ship. As if that were not enough, they often discount the tours as much as 30 percent. In our recent port of Dubrovnik, Croatia, a journey to several islands via a tour boat was only 20 dollars.The military life may be demanding, but it surely has its advantages. One of those being the chance to gain experience. Like many of my Marine peers, I?m only 21 years old and have been to seven different countries without spending a dime to get there.This, of course, means I have more money to spend on little spoons.