Formerly known as "Cruzers in Korea"

Friday, January 23, 2009

VMI and Shenandoah

Friday, January 23, 2009 3
I've never been one to try to explain the VMI experience to family and friends.  It's a futile exercise.  Trying to encapsulate the myriad of events experienced during a four year cadetship at this tiny military school nestled in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley is a heavy task.  However, there's one slice of my personal VMI experience that came flooding back to me today when I saw this video clip of the VMI Corps of Cadets marching at President Obama's Inauguration Parade:

As a cadet, me and 1200 of my best friends marched in the Inauguration Parade for President Bush (senior).  What a day that was.  Frigid, windy and just downright miserable.  We waited outside in a parking lot near the Pentagon for hours trying to do everything we could not to freeze.  Finally, it was the Corps of Cadets' turn to march.  The parade order had the famous Budweiser Clydesdales in front of us.  Normally, being close to these famous beasts would be a positive thing but on that particularly cold day, these horses were obviously very hydrated and not nice to be around - especially downwind with a stiff breeze.  We knew that because of the smell of the mist of their bodily fluids that some of us unlucky cadets felt on our faces.  Not pleasant.  It was a long trek before we finally arrived at the reviewing stand of the new President.  Although the challenging temperatures, the tiresome wait and the dodging of horse manure could've dampened my spirit, it was still an incredibly memorable day for me.  I was extremely proud to be a VMI cadet that day.  Like the cadets that marched a few days ago, my chest was puffed out and my head was held high as I proudly marched in honor of the President of the United States, whether I voted for him or not.

The song being played by the VMI Band in the video is called "Shenandoah."  It is a memorable and haunting song for me.  For four long years I listened to Band Company produce that distinctive drum beat and those brass notes that comprised "Shenandoah."  For many cadets, I'm sure they grew tired of this tune.  After all, we were forced to march to it a couple of times a week during parade practice and every single weekend during parades.  But for me, I always loved that song.  It rings of tradition, promise and love.  One line goes, "Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter."  Little did I know that I would marry this daughter, my own Southern Belle.  The song rings of the Shenandoah Valley which VMI calls home, with autumn leaves of vibrant orange, yellow and reds, framing a blue skyline that proudly boasts, yes, God most definitely made this place.    

When I saw the video today and heard "Shenandoah" for the first time in many years, I have to tell you that I began to well up.  I was truly overcome.  The cadets, marching sharply in their overcoats, a sea of blue-gray with hints of red - a blood red that reminds us that yes, some of these brave young men and women will unfortunately and undoubtedly spill their blood for their country in the coming years.  Rifles held high and steady.  The "eyes left" command so they can properly honor their new President.  The infectious smile and the sincere giddiness of the First Lady with her thumbs up show of approval.  And the snap of one of the first salutes from President Obama.  All of these great sights on a memorable day in American history - in lock step to the song I want playing at my funeral.  VMI, you made me very proud today.  Well done.  -- C2, VMI Class of 1991

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lip Eye and Tow Da Meat

Thursday, January 22, 2009 2
Here's one that maybe only my brothers and sister will appreciate.  You know what Chapstick is, right?  Probably the most famous lip balm out there.  Ever since I can remember, Dad called it "Lip Eye."  Me and my siblings always wondered why the heck he called it that.  Was he saying "lip balm"?  Hunting down the answer to that mystery wasn't high on our priority lists.  

So a few weeks ago in Hong Kong, I see this:

Mystery solved!  Dad was saying "Lip Ice" all those years.  I guess that's the first lip balm product that he knew of back in the Philippines.  Notice the look of satisfaction on my face after solving that one.

It reminds me of the other little language nuance that befuddled me for years.  As a child, Mom would call home from her job and ask us to "tow da meat."  So we would go to the freezer and tow out, like a tow truck, the ground beef or chicken or whatever meat Mom would cook for dinner that evening.  It wasn't until many years later that I found out that Mom was saying "thaw the meat."  Who knew?

For the record, no, I'm not making fun of my parents' language skills.  Even with their thick accents, their English is exponentially better than my Pampangan.  Ah, the joys of living through cultural differences with your own parents.  Until next time -- C2    

Friday, January 16, 2009

2008 Christmas Letter

Friday, January 16, 2009 1
Here's the annual Cruz Family Christmas letter.  My apologies if you didn't get it in the mail.  That probably means we don't have your address.  Beware - it ain't your typical holiday letter.  Enjoy!  I'll blog again when I return from Thailand.  Until then --C2

December 2008

Dear Family & Friends,

I told myself I was not going to write about poop in this year’s letter.  I really did.  But just as I began to type this letter, I hear the following conversation from down the hall:

“Mommy, there’s red on my poo!” Jake yells as he’s sitting on the toilet.  “Did my shooey bleed?”
“I gotta see this!” CJ says, as he sprints in from the living room.  He follows that up with a big “whoah!” after he sees the marvel created by his little brother.  
“Jake, put your butt up high,” Carol says as she does her best proctologist impersonation.  After she inspects the rump roast, Carol then soothes poor Jakey with a “poor Jakey.”
The little guy responds with “Poor shooey.  Is the shooey hurt?  My shooey was so big, it was bleeding.”

I can’t make this stuff up.  Okay, so now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, greetings from Busan, Korea!  Welcome to the annual Cruz Family Christmas letter.  If you’ve read our family blog on, you’d know that we’re having an incredible time in Korea.  It’s been a sensational adventure so far – Busan, Seoul, Singapore, Hawaii.  I never thought I’d be spanking Jake in a bathroom at Disneyland in Hong Kong.  We’ll be visiting my parents in the Philippines for Christmas.  To prep for the trip, I’ve been practicing mixing up my P and F sounds.  
Carol is doing fantastic.  She stays busy with the boys and with the Busan International Womens Association.  BIWA does a lot of charitable work in the community, volunteering at orphanages, English labs, etc.  Or so she says.  I personally think she’s out boozing with the ladies and stuffing Korean Won bills into the banana hammocks of the male dancers at Club ChippenKim’s.  
CJ has become quite the socialite at the Busan Foreign School.  The little ones love him and are constantly chasing him around the school yard.  He also gets along really well with several of the teenagers, despite the fact that his parents won’t let him watch Dark Knight.  He’s got a great teacher in Ms. Taylor.  Because she was in the Olympics a few years ago, I feel obligated to suck in my gut when I’m around her.  Jake has turned into our adorable little stinker.  In class, he pulls hair and hits people.  He even told the Principal that he was going to throw him out the window.  Seriously.  At home, he breaks things and writes on the walls.  At least he’s compassionate with his shooeys.
As great as Korea has been, there are some things that we really miss about the U.S.  The biggest ones for me are our church and our dog, Fred.  Oasis Church in Miami was just a really special place for our family.  We now attend an awesome church in Korea and have made some good friends because of it.  Speaking of church, let me tell you about my recent 666 experience.  If you’ve read Revelations or seen the cliff notes (better known as the “Omen” movies), you know that 666 is the devil’s number.  Carol knows that I am not a fan of that particular number.  Just a quirk I have.  So when she tells me that on my next trip to the U.S., I should stock up on her favorite lip liner that she can’t get in Korea, I said sure.  Just get me the details.  She tells me her lip liner is called “Wet N Wild”, color #666.  Are you kidding me with that number?!  As beautiful and sexy as Carol is – I still get worked up when she bends over to pick up Legos off the floor – I can’t kiss her with 666 on her lips!  Side note:  as Carol was previewing the letter and got to the 666 part, she said that I’ve got to take it out and replace it with the story of her medicating my butt zit instead.  Umm, I’m writing this letter so the butt zit story stays out devil girl.
Fred, our wallowing mud mammal, is living with my brother in Virginia.  Sometimes Carol and I choke up when pictures of Fred pop up on our computer screensaver.  He’s 14 years old now.  We just couldn’t take the chance of him not making the long flight to Korea.  Alan, Danita, Joel and Jena – thank you for taking such good care of him.  I hope Fred hasn’t done the booty-scoot across your carpet too much.     
So this is my command tour.  Mr. Big Pants.  As the senior Dept of Defense official in Busan, my job requires that I attend some high level events, most of which are a lot of fun.  There are dangers with this job though.  Not the North Koreans invading, terrorists or protestors.  We’ve got those under control.  It’s eating those spicy Korean dishes with chopsticks.  There I was at a dinner surrounded by very prominent VIPs, expertly maneuvering my chopsticks while slurping up a spicy noodle, when all of a sudden, the noodle whips out of control.  As if in super slow motion, I see red pepper sauce splattering around my face, with one concentrated splatter tracking directly towards my eye.  If I were a younger man, I might’ve had the reflexes to avoid it.  Regrettably, those days are long gone.  Bam!  Direct hit, right in the eye.  AAARRGH!!!  My retina is on fire!  Across the table is the Mayor of Busan and I’m crying like a little school girl.  And I thought landing on the aircraft carrier at night was tough.  I’m thinking I deserve hazardous duty pay.  
Let me get a little serious on you now.  Maybe it’s because some of us are approaching 40 or already 40ish and our parents aren’t spring chickens anymore.  Maybe it’s because we’re now mature enough to deal with certain things we’ve been putting off for years.  Whatever the case, something is happening to a lot of us.  For my family, that thing was the healing of some extremely deep wounds – an act of forgiveness my siblings never thought would happen.  I’ve spoken with many of you in the last year or so and you’ve had similar experiences too, almost like a religious or psychological awakening.  Whether it’s a divisive family issue, a hidden secret that needs to get out, addressing the fact that you know your kids can’t drive themselves to church, or a change you know you need to make – if you’ve been hearing it inside you but have been ignoring it, don’t ignore it any longer.  Do something about it.  Pick up the phone and call who you need to call.  Work out what you need to work out.  Forgive who you need to forgive - no matter what.  Okay, so maybe that was a little bit more than a little serious.  Forgive me.  Just let me know how it works out.
It’s tough out there, ain’t it?  Automakers are taking a hit, the housing market stinks and the President is getting shoes thrown at him.  But you know what?  You probably have a car, a roof over your head and more than one pair of shoes.  You can also write something on a piece of paper, mail it away and hopefully brighten someone’s day.  Let me close this novel by simply saying that I love all of you.  Otherwise, why would I write something like that previous paragraph?  If the last paragraph had no meaning for you whatsoever, let me know and I’ll put the butt zit story on a piece of paper, mail it your way and hopefully brighten your day – or at least gross you out with a smile.  Have an incredible 2009 everyone.  I’m gonna kiss my wife on the lips now.

All the Best,

Chris, Carol, CJ, Jake and Fred  

p.s.  in my best Filipino accent, “porgot someting”
new address and info:

PSC 1, Box 32 205-267-6541  (U.S. Vonage #)
APO AP 96214

Saturday, January 10, 2009

More PI Pics

Saturday, January 10, 2009 0
The last entry on the Philippines wore me out.  This one will be a lot quicker.  I appreciate all the conversations and emails regarding the trip to the PI.  Got a couple more pics to post from the trip.  Here we go:

We spent a day in San Fernando, the place where I was born.  The former Clark Air Force Base isn't too far away.

I feel a little silly holding up this sign.  There was a reason though.  Check out the words underneath the sign - "Sembrano Apartments."

This is Alan and Beanie in the Philippines as munchkins.  Check out the words to the left of Alan's head - "Sembrano Apartments."  I got to visit one of the very first places where we lived.  Now we understand why Beanie has girl troubles.  

We used to live on the second story at the front of this building in the apartment that faces the street.  Mom said they really fixed up the apartments.

Right next door to our old apartment is the school that Alan and Beanie attended.  You can see the school on the left side of this picture.  You can also see my kili kili.

Here's the school again.

And here's the school when Alan and Beanie attended.  Beanie is 4th from the left in the back row.  You can't really tell but he doesn't have any pants on in this picture either.

Here's the school again.  That's Auntie Memy on the left.  Not sure who that is on the right.

Beanie, center stage at the school.

We got to visit Auntie Pining at her house in San Fernando.  In true Cruz fashion, we didn't give her a heads up we were coming.  Growing up as kids in Norfolk, it was always the Cruz's, Simbulans and Punsalans hanging out.

Speaking of the Cruz's, Punsalans and Simbulans, here are the lovely matriarchs.  Notice the obligatory Last Supper behind Mom, Auntie Lita and Auntie Pining.

This is the hospital in San Fernando where I was born.  In other words, this is where the magic happened.  It used to be only a clinic back then.  Now it's a full blown hospital.  Notice the various forms of transportation in this picture - car, jeepney, wheeler and tricycle.  The horse drawn buggies are popular too.  They get great gas mileage.

This is Mom & Dad's church.  They were married here and the kids were baptized here also.

Just like old times.

Here are a couple of pictures of the surrounding area near Mom and Dad's house.

Neighborhood kids hanging out.

Animals are all over the place.  I thought it was funny that with the conditions out here, Dad's dog and cats are pretty picky eaters.

These monkeys were on the side of the road near the Subic Bay beach area.  In one area, there were about ten of them hanging out.  If you got too close, they'd bare their teeth and hiss at you.  Bunch of animals!

We spent an afternoon at Subic Bay.  It used to be a US Navy Base.

Jake practicing "the pose".  He's almost got it.

Oh the humanity!

Mom and Dad out cold in the cabana after feasting on pancit, barbecue, squid and lechon.

Here are a couple more pics of the house.  This bathroom was huge.

I guess we could've cleaned up the bedroom a little better prior to taking the picture.

The stained glass was a nice touch.

One small point about the house.  For some reason, Mom and Dad have like a gajillion keys to the house.  It takes them a good fifteen minutes to find the right key to open the front door.

Mom took Carol to the local market.  Yeah, she blended in.

Hope you enjoyed the tour.  That's all for now.  Until next time -- C2
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