Formerly known as "Cruzers in Korea"

Friday, February 27, 2009

Trip to Osan

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I'm one of the few naval aviators stationed in Korea.  As a flyer, one of my requirements is to get an annual flight physical from a military flight surgeon.  You know, cause only the flight surgeons have the extra large calipers to measure an aviator's huge head.  Well, the closest flight surgeon is at the Osan Air Force Base, about a 4.5 hour drive from Busan, traffic dependent.  Here are a couple of pics from that trip.

We saw many of these traffic speed cameras.  As crazy as the driving is in Korea, I think the accident rate is pretty low.  I'm sure these cameras have a lot to do with that.  It's hard to sustain a high rate of speed on the roads with these cameras.  Unless you don't care about paying a bunch of speeding tickets that is.

Houses are a rare sight here.  Most everyone lives in high rise apartments.  There just aren't a lot of houses in the city.  These houses were on the outskirts of Osan.  They were pretty big too.

This is me and Mr. Yun eating lunch at Chili's at Osan Air Force base.  Mr. Yun is one of my command's Marine Transportation Assistants.  We are very fortunate to have him on our staff.  Chili's was awesome!  I want my baby back, baby back, baby back ribs...and we got 'em!  We talked about how huge American meals can be.  Koreans just don't eat that way.  No wonder so many of them are slim and trim.

This was hanging in the doctor's office.

And so were these.  Let's just say I was glad the flight surgeon didn't have to use the large gloves.

This is the scene of the crime.  I gotta say that I was a little humiliated for a split second.  There I was, butt-ball naked with my elbows on this table just like the doc asked.  He's just about to become intimate with my nether regions, when all of a sudden, he stops.  He says that I might want to angle a little bit to the left so that he has more room to maneuver.  Sheesh.  I graciously scooched my exposed ham hock a few inches to the left, I guess so he could get more leverage or something.  Yeah, I know - too much information.  At least he was kind enough to leave the tissues so I could clean up the collateral damage.

I joke about the whole physical thing but it's crucially important.  Back in the day, as a young junior officer up for my flight physical, I was ecstatic when the flight doc would simply ask me how I was feeling and then sign my physical paperwork.  The older you get, the more you realize that glossing over the physical isn't a good thing.  I've heard too many stories of tumors, cancer and other major medical issues being discovered (or not discovered) in an untimely manner.  The doc at Osan was very thorough and I was glad for it.  Get your stuff checked out.  Even if you have to drive 4.5 hours and scooch your behind a little bit to get it done.  Until next time -- C2

Thursday, February 26, 2009

More Random Pics

Thursday, February 26, 2009 0
Hello family, friends and total strangers interested in Korea!  Enjoy the pics.

Here we are chilling at a nice spot in Dalmaji Hill before heading off to church.  The English service starts at 4pm on Sundays.  This later time took a little bit of getting used to.  I miss going to church first thing in the morning.  It was always nice to be able to start our Sundays with church.  Then you have the rest of the day to gamble and drink.

Here's some Korean graffiti at the Dalmaji Hill spot.  Someone hearts someone.

Carol has learned to kick it Korean style.  She's putting on her high heels in the car.  That's the way the Korean mama-sans roll.  They also wear their shorts year round.  To heck with the cold weather!  Just slap some tights on under them shorts and they are good to go.

Here are some of the folks from the Filipino group at our church.  They are such a fun loving, energetic group.  Carol and I are probably the only ones that don't speak Tagalog.  They let us hang out with them anyway.  After church service, the group usually does dinner at a nearby place.  The boys love it when the dinner destination is McDonald's.

Here is Ceej (CJ) at the HomePlus by our house purchasing the latest Lego Bionicle toy.  Ceej gets 2000 won every week for his allowance.  That used to be about $2 but with the current won rate, it's only about $1.40.  I guess it wouldn't hurt to bump up his allowance.  Look at that boy's face.  He's got no idea he's getting jipped on his allowance.

Don't be alarmed now.  The symbol on the lantern means peace.  Adolph Hitler took this spiritual symbol of peace, reversed its direction, and transformed it into the infamous swastika - a true symbol of hate and intolerance if there ever was one.  It was a little shocking to me when I first started noticing this symbol around temples and other places.  Now when I see it - I just think of peace.

Jake's getting pretty independent.  He wanted to take off and throw away his own pull-up diaper.  He did just that but also threw away his pajama bottoms too.  Oh well.  BTW, he's been out of diapers for awhile now.  We just put him in a pull-up at night every now and then, especially on Sunday nights after a long day of drinking.

Ah, bulgogi!  This is Korean style barbecue.  The bulgogi restaurants have mini grills built right into the tables and hoods as well to suck up the smoke.  This is one of my favorite meals. 

You slap the marinated meat on a leaf of lettuce with some sauce and other stuff.  Oh man it's good.  I'm salivating as I'm typing.

Last but not least, here's Jake, the current Student of the Month for Busan Foreign School.  He's come a long way from wanting to throw the Principal out the window and pulling ponytails to Student of the Month.  I'm proud of the little guy, even though he's holding his certificate upside down.  Until next time -- C2

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sundown of the S-3 Viking

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An end of an era came to a close recently.  The last S-3 Viking squadron was decommissioned a few weeks ago.  I've been very fortunate to have spent almost my entire Navy career in the cockpit of this fine machine:

The only non-flying jobs I've had so far were my year at the Naval War College getting my master's degree, my tour at US Southern Command in Miami and now as the Commanding Officer of Military Sealift Command Korea here in Busan.  People ask me if I miss the flying.  I do, but not as much as I thought.  What I really miss is flying with certain people - Nancy, Hoss, Whip, Knobby... the bonds you make with these great Americans are incredible.  That's what I miss - the camaraderie of a squadron and belonging to this special band of brothers.

Here's a little stroll down memory lane for you S-3 Viking Bubbas out there and Navy types in general.  The Mighty War Hoover - we're gonna miss you!

My drive home from work now is just a tad different from this old ride home.  People ask me who has better pilots - Navy or Air Force?  Well, Air Force pilots get to land on big long runways.  Navy guys have to land on a moving postage stamp with stuff on their right and left.  You make your own decision.  Man I miss this!  I've got about 850 aircraft carrier arrested landings.  It would've been nice to hit 1000.

Ah, a packed aircraft carrier!  This is home for months at a time.  To give you a reference, in 2004, I was home approximately 60 days out of the entire year.  It can get rough.

This is the ready room of the VS-30 Diamondcutters onboard the USS John F. Kennedy.  We're conducting some training while wearing this really sexy protective equipment.

This is the "Run Across the Atlantic" by VS-30 in 2002.  At the tail end of our deployment aboard the USS George Washington, we "ran" across the entire Atlantic Ocean, 24 hours a day until we reached the east coast of the US.  The running was done on a treadmill with the officers taking their turns.  It was an awesome team building event led by the great VS-30 Junior Officers.

This is me in Fallon, Nevada, standing in front of my troops.  Those guys are a big part of why I'm still in the Navy.  It's inspiring to work with such a dedicated and hard working group of folks.

The Shamrocks of VS-41 based in San Diego.  This was a shore duty tour that I spent as a flight instructor.  One of my favorite things (and Carol's least favorite things) was flying out to the aircraft carrier with new students so they could get their carrier landing qualifications.  It's their first time ever seeing the aircraft carrier at night and I'm flying right next to them.  Pretty exciting stuff.  I think I've crocheted a couple of doilies with my sphincter during a couple of those night carrier qualification flights with a newbie pilot.

My first deployment in 1995 with the VS-24 Scouts aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.  The Bosnia situation really blew up and it kept us busy in the Adriatic Sea.  Then Scott O'Grady, an Air Force pilot, got shot down and it made things really interesting.  No complaints about doing a combat cruise for my first deployment.

The S-3 Viking expending flares.

Hoss and I about to go flying!

Chilling in Paris with some great squadron mates.  That's Whip, Deke, me, Joose and Knobby. Whip is the Mini-Boss on the USS George Washington in Japan.  Deke is the Executive Officer of an EA6-B Prowler squadron in Washington state.  He got back recently from a very long deployment in Afghanistan.  He'll take over as the Commanding Officer soon.  Joose is an Aeronautical Engineering Duty Officer in Maryland.  Knobby will be the Executive Officer of an F-18 squadron in California.  Guys, no matter how scattered we are throughout the world, we will always have Paris.  Hmm, that sounded kinda Clay Aiken-ish.  Sorry.

The Scouts flying over Jacksonville.

Me and Whip down in Puerto Rico right before we shot this Harpoon missile.

The VS-24 Scout hangar at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

Second from the right is Chum Dailey, one of my former Commanding Officers.  A great leader and great American, he's one of the reasons I stayed in the Navy.  This is him after he got his 1000th trap, or carrier arrested landing.  That's a pretty big feat in the Naval aviation world.

There's nothing like a Navy homecoming!

Where else but the Navy can you have that first kiss all over again?

The Department Heads of VS-30.  You can hardly tell we've all had our lobotomies.

In the middle is Don "Stump" Cioffi.  On the right is Tom "Casper" Wilcox.  They passed away when their S-3 impacted the water after a night catapult shot off the USS John C. Stennis on March 15 1996.  Unfortunately, I have way too many friends that never made it to their final safe trap or landing.  You guys will always be remembered.

Getting pumped up before a flight.  Gimme some!

Fair winds and following seas to the S-3 Viking!  We won't forget you.  -- C2

Pizza & Chop Chae!

Carol is great about cooking for the family.  There's nothing better than sitting around the table eating a home cooked meal with Carol and the boys.  Carol's home cooking is one of the major reasons why my belly extends beyond my belt line right now.  The other reason is my sloth-like behavior towards working out.  I'll get back into a groove one of these days.  Anyhow, Carol needs a break from the kitchen every now and then.  Back in the States, that break is called pizza delivery.  We haven't deciphered the code on that one yet - you know, language barrier and all.

Until now that is!  Domino's pizza delivered to our front door tonight.  Yes!  My predecessor gave me the number to the local Domino's Pizza before he left.  I totally forgot that we had it.  Carol called and was able to speak with someone that knew just enough English.  It was challenging for her to communicate where we lived and what we wanted.  Even though we told them we lived in the Trump World and wanted a large pepperoni, it wouldn't have surprised me if they delivered a rump roast to the local aquarium instead.  With our fingers crossed, we hoped for the best.

30 minutes later, we've got a nice pepperoni pizza in our hot little hands.  That's the delivery guy, safety helmet and all.  He was very nice.  I'm sure that once he hopped on his motorcycle or scooter, he turned into a madman though.  Those guys are absolute maniacs on those things!

So here's what you get with your pizza in Korea - pickles and hot sauce.  What's up with the pickles?  I scarfed the pizza down with a cream soda.  Thank you Domino's!  End o blog post...until the doorbell rang.  It was one of the neighbor's Carol recently met in the elevator, Shin Young.  she came to deliver us this tasty dish:

This is chop chae.  I'm sure I'm botching up the spelling of this tasty dish.  It's a Korean noodle dish with meat, veggies, egg and other good stuff.

How nice was that?  She came up with her 5 year old son, James.  That's his English name anyway.  A lot of Koreans pick their own English names partly because their Korean names are difficult to pronounce for foreigners.  Some names just come naturally.  For example, if I was Korean, my English name would be "Sexual Chocolate."  So now Jake has a play date with James and Carol has a cooking date with Shin Young to learn how to make chop choy and mondu.  Mondu are like potstickers or dumplings.  Very tasty.

Even though I felt like a stuffed sausage after devouring half a pizza, I just had to dig into the fresh chop choy.  Man was it good!  That was some serious noodle goodness there.  I'll say it again.  The Korean folks are so friendly.  We are really fortunate to be living in this country.  Pizza and chop choy - that's the way to start a weekend!  -- C2

Monday, February 16, 2009

High Tech Korea

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Korea is most definitely a high tech place.  There are plasma screen TVs in the subway stations and some of the bus stops.  It's one of the most wired places in the world.  Definitely more wired than the US.  I love the free internet cafes at the Seoul airport, especially considering all the time I've been spending there lately.  Here is just a small sampling of some of the high tech things we've got here in Korea:  

One of my favorite tech gadgets is the little "Mini-pass" chip thing that you clip onto your cell phone.  You can use the Mini-pass to pay for toll roads, subways, the bus and even some taxis.  It's very convenient.  You just load up the Mini-pass by giving money to a toll booth collector or at a subway machine.  The toll booth collectors are extremely nice, BTW.  They dress up and everything.

We don't even carry a house key anymore.  Most of the front doors to apartments have this type of security lock.  You lift up the face to reveal a number pad.  Type in your code and you're eating Oreos in your underwear on the couch in mere seconds.  Jake even knows our code and how to open the door.  When the door opens, there's even a nice little Korean greeting that comes out of a speaker.  There's also a little keychain remote you can use to open the door.  Who needs keys?

This is the panel in our apartment that allows us to see who is at our front door, in the lobby or down in the garage.  It's a high tech version of what Jerry, George and Elaine used a couple years back in New York.  If you don't know who I'm talking about, I suggest you drop what you're doing and purchase the Seinfeld DVDs.  Your life won't be fulfilled until you do so.  I've mistakenly hit the emergency button on this thing once or twice and had a couple of frantic Korean guys knocking at the door.  These apartment security guys were really nice about it but I'm pretty sure I heard them mumbling "stupid Americans" in Korean underneath their breath as they headed out the door.

I'm not sure if this is common in the US but it sure is over here.  A lot of apartments come with built in vacuum cleaner systems.  They have these wall hookups in spots throughout the apartment.  You just plug in the hose and start vacuuming.  Carol was overjoyed when I hung up a bracket in the closet so the long vacuum hose could be neatly put away.  Yeah, I'm romantic like that.

Even the toilets are high speed.  Note the buttons to the afterburners on the left side.  Some of the toilet seats are even heated.  Ours are not.  That's probably a good thing because I'd never leave the can.  "Chris, are you dropping the kids off at the pool again?"

The buttons on the powered toilet are pretty humorous.  I think the first button means stop.  Second button shoots water on your bum.  The third button does something for girls, although I'm not sure how the toilet can tell if you're a girl or not.  Like I said, this place is high tech.  And the fourth button will give you a perm.  Just so you know, this toilet is in CJ and Jake's bathroom, so naturally, we unplugged it.  We didn't want our boys with constantly wet behinds and curly hair.

Carol just piped in and told me that the last button makes air blow on your butt.  Wow.  Well, it's time to hit the can.  Until next time -- C2

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Reading Labels in Thailand

Saturday, February 14, 2009 2
Something to think about if you ever find yourself in Thailand:

If a label on a food product contains the words "Super Spicy", that probably means this product can cause severe damage to your internal organs if not eaten in  extremely small quantities.

Note the picture of the snickering, devilish looking person on the right side of the label.  This is probably another indication that eating this food product will make you sob uncontrollably to your Mama and curl up in the fetal position with your thumb stuck in your pie hole (like I did).

For my bros and sis, this was definitely a "makboom nang pitaklan" moment.  I hope you all avoid putting a fiery inferno in your mouth today.  Until next time -- C2

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today is Valentine's Day.  What better way to celebrate than to drive to the Army base in Daegu and eat at Taco Bell!  I'm romantic like that.  Actually, Carol and I are not into Valentine's Day at all.  We don't need a commercialized day with overpriced chocolates and roses to show our affection to each other.  We try to go to the base about once a month to stock up on groceries at the Commissary and grab household items at the Exchange.  The base also has the best price for gas.

Our trips to Daegu are usually an all day affair.  It's about a two hour drive each way, traffic dependent.  We'll arrive around lunchtime, eat some Taco Bell, Burger King or Subway and then do some shopping at the Exchange.  Next is the gas station and then on to the Commissary.  Exciting stuff I know.  One of the best parts though is just having the four of us together in the car talking about whatever is on our minds - that's four hours of good family quality time.  You can't beat that with a stick.

Here are some pics from a typical trip to Daegu:

Valentine's Day at Taco Bell.  Whooh!  Mexican food isn't that prevalent here in Korea, not that Taco Bell is real Mexican food.  Jake is licking the sour cream off the lid of the sour cream container.  We once caught Jake eating spoonfuls of sour cream at home.  On another occasion, he was eating butter straight up like it was candy.  Tonight, CJ caught Jake eating toothpaste.  One of our parenting goals now is to make sure Jake doesn't end up on the Biggest Loser.  

Sometimes CJ and I chill out in the car while Carol shops for groceries in the Commissary.  We get some guy time in like this.  Today we talked about girls in CJ's class and what it's gonna be like being a teenager.  I also told him what a BFNR is. 

Sometimes Jake knocks out on the ride home from Daegu.  When he woke up today, he really had to go to the bathroom.  Since there was nowhere to stop, we broke out an empty water bottle for him to tinkle in.  Coincidentally, as he was tinkling, there was an old Korean man on the side of the road peeing in the bushes.  

It's always an adventure lugging our stockpile of groceries from the garage to our apartment on the 29th floor.  It usually takes a couple of trips on the elevator.  Koreans usually buy groceries in small quantities.  Not us!  We buy the motherload of groceries once or twice a month.  Our neighbors probably think we're crazy.  We've learned to load the groceries up in boxes and then place them on the baby stroller that we don't use anymore.  I usually end up carrying the ice cooler of cold foods.  The grocery runs make the Cruz's feel like camels, donkeys or other beasts of burden.

During one camel run, I was overzealous in loading up the baby stroller.  Carol told me I had put too many groceries on the thing, but did I listen to her?  No.  The groceries came crashing down to the floor.  Dumb man that I am, I tried to reload two more times and the groceries came crashing down two more times.  Carol gave me that look.  You know, the Fred G. Sanford, "You Big Dummy!" look.

My Valentine's present for Carol this year?  I didn't bust up any groceries today.  Until the next camel run -- C2
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