Last year, Chris Jeon, a 21-year-old UCLA math major, left his $9,000-a-month internship at BlackRock, a financial firm in San Francisco, in search of “real experience.” He wound up fighting with the rebels in Libya. Men’s Journal describes Chris’s desperation and ultimate decision to leave his job (and school) to pursue a spontaneous idea.
On the nonchalant entry into Libya:
The rebels guarding the border were playing FIFA soccer on a PlayStation when he arrived. Jeon waved at them. They glanced at his passport and went back to their video game. “OK, cool,” Jeon said, and simply walked into Libya.
This comes across as careless:
Jeon didn’t speak Arabic and hadn’t done much research on the region, but he’d read the Wikipedia page on Libya and watched a bunch of YouTube videos documenting the war.
On bonding through music:
He [Jeon] was becoming part of the katiba, the Libyan word for brigade. He still didn’t speak much Arabic, but that didn’t seem to matter. There was a cheap Casio keyboard in the town house and when they weren’t on patrol, Jeon taught a skinny 17-year-old named Akram how to play Beethoven. In exchange, Akram showed him how to assemble and break down an AK-47. After two days, the Casio was covered in gun grease, but Akram could play “F ür Elise” and Jeon could field-strip the gun in less than 90 seconds.
And in the midst of rebel fighting, Jeon discovered true happiness:
A couple of days later, the katiba drove into the desert and fired cannons at loyalist positions. Jeon helped load the ammunition. “My lips were cracked and bleeding, I hadn’t brushed my teeth in days, and my face was peeling, but it didn’t matter,” Jeon says. “I was totally happy – happier than I’d ever been.”
Joshua Davis, the author of “Arab Spring Break,” joined Chris on his return trip to Libya. An interesting read overall, though the brazenness and recklessness of Jeon isn’t without criticism.