Formerly known as "Cruzers in Korea"

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Random Thoughts on Busan...

Saturday, August 30, 2008 5

Pics of Busan and one of the Korean War Memorials

First off, I should preface my comments by reminding folks that we're in Busan and not Seoul. After all, Busan only has 3.7 million people as opposed to 23 million in the greater Seoul metropolitan area. My comparison between the first and second largest cities in Korea goes something like this - things are just a little bit better in Busan. It doesn't get as hot as Seoul in the summer, it doesn't get as cold in the winter, the traffic isn't as bad and the people are friendlier. I'm sure the 23 million have something to do with those last two items. Busan's population is comparable to that of Los Angeles (3.8 million in 2005) and even bigger than Chicago (2.8 million in 2005). So when I tell people that I'm in Korea, and they ask me if I know Bob, my answer is probably no.

Facts that might interest only me:
- Busan boasts the 5th largest port in the world.
- Busan boasts one of the top 50 skylines in the world.
- I am using the word "boasts" too much in this post.
- The second tallest building in the world is now under construction in Busan. Well, once it's completed it'll be the second tallest. Right now, it's maybe the 74,254,856, 904th tallest building in the world.
- Busan is trying to host the 2020 Olympics.
- Busan and Pusan - same thing. Interchangeable although Busan is the more modern name.

I've gotta throw in a little history. During the Korean War, the North Korean Communists pushed almost all the way to the beach, but they never took Busan. The Busan Perimeter held up. Daegu and Busan were the only cities in mainland Korea to not be taken by North Korea during the war. I still get chills when I cross the Nakdong River on the way to the airport, thinking how the fighting reached this far south. Then I try to snap out of it so I won't miss my exit.

Now, I don't want to scare anyone, especially family, about all this war talk. I mean war, what is it good for? Absolu...never mind. It is extremely safe here. After our two burglaries in Miami, Carol and I joke that we have to move near a de-militarized zone (DMZ) to get some true safety. Kids are in the streets by themselves. People leave their purses wide open in restaurants and walk away to the bathroom. This has to be the safest place I've ever lived in.

The people are extremely nice, but very reserved. I don't think we've had a subway ride yet where a total stranger hasn't given the boys a little snack. The other day, a nice older woman gave CJ and Jake some dried fish. Two weeks ago, it was a big old apple. Yesterday, a nice woman gave them a small bottle of juice. They just fawn over the boys. Gotta sign off now. Flying off to DC today. Carol and I are really enjoying catching up with folks through the blog and reading everyone's comments. As soon as she gets a break from the boys, Carol will be posting here too. You might even see a little something from CJ. Bye for now. C2

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Singapore and School!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 1

Here are pics of the boys on the first day of school and also sporting their Bruce Lee outfits that I bought for them in Singapore.

Bono is trying to stop world hunger. Angelina Jolie, when she's not busy popping out twins, adopting kids or inflating her lips, has an admirable campaign against land mines. And Pastor Rick Warren, author of "A Purpose Driven Life" has a PEACE initiative that is rallying churches all over the world to act in very positive ways. After this most recent trip to Singapore, I realized what my goal in life must be. At airport baggage claim areas, I endeavor to have people stay five feet away from the baggage carousel until their bags are in sight. No more crowding the carousel! There's not enough room for everyone to stand right next to the thing. The impatient people end up being a human blockade for the patient people that are politely waiting for their bags. Everyone should just back away a few feet until they see their luggage. When you have positive ID on your bags, only then should you step forward. Is that too much to ask? At McDonald's we don't stand at the counter until our food is ready. We wait until our order is ready and then we come up and get it. Spread the word to all your friends. We will take back our airports - one luggage carousel at a time! Are you with me ?!?!

Okay. I figure I'd get my rant out of the way first. One more side note on the traveling thing. In Korea, they don't make you take your shoes off while going through airport security, unless you're on a flight to the US. That's curious because in Korea, you take your shoes off for practically everything else - restaurants, people's homes, school, etc. I guess that Shoebomber story never made it to Seoul.

Just got back from a business trip to Singapore. What a green and lush place. Green and lush in a Rainforest Cafe Restaurant kinda way, not green and lush in a drunk Irish guy kinda way. Singapore has such a diverse mix of people. I felt like I was in a Benetton commercial. I wish I could've seen more of the sights but it was pretty much all business. I did have a really good local meal though. I'm pretty brave when it comes to the native cuisine - sometimes a little too brave. The dish I had was very tasty. It had shrimp, noodles, egg, coconut, and unfortunately, some form of milk. Me and my lactose intolerant self thoroughly enjoyed the meal, but did not enjoy the after dinner music my body was orchestrating.

Singapore was very clean. It's amazing what the threat of a cane will do for country-wide cleanliness. There's so much shopping and eating there. Here are a few sights that stuck with me:
- loads of brown guys in the back of trucks on their way to work
- "Chew Fish Head Soup Restaurant"
- Double Croissantwich, Double Whopper, Double everything at the airport Burger King - you couldn't get a single whatever
- crazy motorcycle drivers but at least they wore helmets

While I was gone, Carol had to take on the first day of school duties by herself. With help from our work family, CJ and Jake were delivered to the school in one piece. No crying even. CJ is the only American in his class. They're all English speaking kids but most are Korean. One of them grew up in Australia and has the accent to go along with it. "Eet's not a tumah!" Got a long day tomorrow so I better sign off for now. BTW, it's been great hearing from so many of you! C2

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Getting Settled In...

Saturday, August 23, 2008 5

So here are two pics at Haeundae Beach and two of our apartment. Haeundae Beach just broke the world record for the most umbrellas on a single beach. Craziness.

The Cruz family is getting settled in nicely here in Busan. As most of you know, I was selected to be the Commanding Officer for Military Sealift Command Korea. It's a two year tour for us. So what do I do exactly? Well, you know how North Korea recently destroyed one of their nuclear facilities? Yeah, that was me. Just kidding. It was my staff. Seriously, I'm kidding. Don't forward this entry to the CIA or anything. My job is to support the Military Sealift Command ships that come to this part of the world. I took the reins from a prince of a guy, CDR Ron Oswald, on 20 June and it's been a whirlwind ever since.

Things are good and getting better every day here in Busan as more boxes get unpacked with each passing day. We brought way too much stuff! I'm thinking we should've doubled down on the stuff we placed in storage. I wish the family's first few days could've gone smoother here. We had some hiccups with some of our appliances - gas not connected to the stove, dishwasher not working, heated floors coming on and making the house feel like a North Korean torture chamber and an extremely funky smell coming from the pipes that is totally overpowering the kitchen. But like a good hemorrhoid, most of these appliance problems are behind us now.

The Silver Bullet (the Acura) has been having some troubles too. You know you're in trouble when the Korean mechanics at the Honda dealership recommend you put the car on the ferry to Japan and have those folks fix it. They don't sell the MDX or Honda Pilot here in Korea so they're not familiar with it. Fortunately, and in large part due to Carol's good southern upbringing - cue in visual of Carol bringing baked goods to our Honda specialist mechanics in southern Florida - we contacted our Honda guy in Miami and he's shipping parts, instructions on how to fix our car problems, pictures, the secret to life, etc. What a great guy. Howard the mechanic has now reached best mechanic ever status in the Cruz household.

Our little three year old, Jake, got a bug bite during his time in Alabama. The swelling made it look as if Jake had big Mickey Mouse gloves on. And so the doc gave him some penicillin for the inflammation. Well, as the medical expert and comedian Chris Rock used to say, we should've just poured some Tussin on it. That's Robitussin for those that were absent for their last ebonics lecture. So there we are, the family's first full day in Korea, and Jake wakes up and looks like he's got the measles or chicken pox. He has this bad red rash all over his body. Turns out the little guy is allergic to penicillin, or at least to omyxicillin. Problem fixed through a large doseage of steroids. Jake's doing great now and he's also bench pressing the refrigerator.

CJ's doing good. He's happy about finding some special Japanese Transformer toys. It's funny watching CJ watch Spongebob in Korean. He now puts on the Ipod and jams out while watching the yellow guy. Always a picky eater, CJ's been tilting his head in a funny way when the Korean food hits the table. Keeping him properly nourished might be challenging. Thank God for the McDonald's which is a 5 minute walk away and Carol's good cooking. Jake's jumping into the Korean food like he was born here. What's that strange brown looking noodle with stuff on it? I'll just put it in my mouth and try it. No problem for Jake. Carol braved her first bites of kim chi the other night and thought it was okay.

We also found a good church that's very close to our apartment. We were kinda squirming in our seats a little bit last week at church though when the Pastor was preaching about greed and material things. She mentioned Donald Trump and his empire and plasma flat screen TVs. Little did she know that just minutes before her sermon as we're rushing to get to church, I tell CJ to turn off the TV (the plasma flat screen) just before we rush out the door of our Trump Towers apartment.

Well, better stop for now. I'm off on a trip to Singapore today! C2

Friday, August 22, 2008

We're Here!

Friday, August 22, 2008 7

The Cruzers are finally in Korea. Welcome family, friends and total strangers that are curious about Korea. This is my first blog entry ever so bare with me as I make the technological leap from two dixie cups and a string to this more modern mode of communication. I think this internet fad just might have some staying power.

Anyway, Carol, CJ and Jake are doing great. I would've said they were doing just "well", but since we found a Krispy Kreme Donuts, complete with the neon "Hot Now" sign, I feel comfortable with saying they are doing great. They were giving out free donuts too! Fred is doing well with Alan and Danita, Joel and Jena out in Suffolk, Virginia. I would've said Fred was doing "great" but since Fred heard the family's voices on the computer during a video conference with Alan's family, he's had a bad case of diarrhea, and is only doing "well". In unison now - "When you're trying to chase a cat and you hear something splat - diarrhea! Plop, plop! Diarrhea!" Sorry, I digress. Anyway, I'm sure by now, Fred is doing "great". Alan, Danita, Joel and Jena - thanks again for taking such great care of Fred. You guys are the best. I'll buttress you all last.

Okay, gotta run to Daegu to hit the commissary, exchange and the boys' favorite international eating establishment - Taco Bell. Next time I'll have more pics, more details and less quotation marks. C2
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