UCLA Student Gets An Unconventional Summer Job: Fighting With Libyan Rebels
There have always been Americans, who have run around the world to chase history, to Paris in the 1920s, to Spain during her Civil War, to Berlin as the Wall crumbled. As Hunter S. Thompson wrote of San Francisco in the 1960s: "no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world."
One UCLA math major has found his corner, and it's a little more hot, harsh and bloody than Haight-Ashbury. Chris Jeon bought a one-way ticket to Cairo, and is now in the town of An Nawfaliyah, on the road to Tripoli, Libya.
"It is the end of my summer vacation, so I thought it would be cool to join the rebels," he told the The National. "This is one of the only real revolutions."
Jeon embedded himself with a gang of rebels, who are a little bemused to find an Asian-American kid in a basketball jersey, with no knowledge of Arabic, in their ranks.
But Jeon has as much fighting spirit as the next man. One rebel handed him an AK-47 on Wednesday, reports The National. "How do you fire this thing?" he asked, before switching off the safety and firing twice into the sky. "I want to fight in Sirte!" he exclaimed, waving westward toward one of the last towns still under the control of Gaddafi loyalists.
Jeon has accessorized his jersey with a keffiyeh and a bullet pendant.
The rebels have nicknamed him Ahmed El Maghrabi Saidi Barga, a mix of local tribal names and regions, and whenever the language barrier causes conversation to falter, Jeon shouts the name to a chorus of cheers.
One friend of Jeon's called him a "thrill-seeker" who wants to "test himself," reports The L.A. Weekly.
But that test might have come to an end. Turns out, the Libyan rebels may not have had have much use for an American college thrill-seeker. Tweeted Al Jazeera English's Evan Hill: "Our team in east #Libya said rebels fed up with Chris Jeon, US kid who tried to join, told him 2 go, last seen on pick-up going 2 Benghazi."
Jeon hadn't bought a return flight when he spoke to The National, because if he was captured, he didn't want to have wasted the money. He's probably surfing for cheap return flights now.
"Whatever you do, don't tell my parents," Jeon told the newspaper. "They don't know I'm here."
His parents probably do now, and when Jeon returns home, he'll find out how well they took to their son's flirtation with the Arab Spring.
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