Formerly known as "Cruzers in Korea"

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mother's Day in Osan

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I asked Carol what she wanted to do for Mother's Day and she said she wanted to go to Osan.  So we went to Osan.  Good call Mama!  We had a ball.  The city is actually called Songtan and is maybe 45 minutes from Seoul.  When we say Osan, we mean Osan Air Force Base and the surrounding shopping district right outside the front gate.  The shopping is incredible in Osan.  You can get custom made clothing at very affordable prices from skilled artisans.  I'm a big fan of the sports jerseys.  We've gotten some artwork for friends and family from Osan.  The haggling is fun too.     

Here's Jake chowing down at a rest stop on the way to Osan.  The highway rest stops are no joke in Korea.  Lots of things to eat, playgrounds, vendors, etc.  In the foreground is a yolky egg with some seaweed on it.  Jake says he only likes the white part of the egg.  Any self respecting Cruz likes ALL parts of the egg.  I stuffed some of this egg - yolk, seaweed and all -  down Jake's pie hole and he loved it.  Told you!  CJ, that's another story.

Here's Carol enjoying some bibimbap minus the egg on top.  Jake took care of the egg.  I've mentioned this before about Carol's hair.  For the uninitiated, every now and then, Carol straightens out her curly locks.  I come home from work and see this straight-haired stranger sitting in my living room.  I feel like I'm cheating.

Like I said, the rest stops here are no joke.  They even have cribs for your baby to take a nap.  I was eyeballing this crib myself.  Carol still hasn't gotten her driver's license so I'm stuck doing all the driving.  This is not a good thing especially considering the fact that I'm a notoriously sleepy driver.  I've been pulled over before because of my sleepy driving.  

This is the standard water arrangement at the rest stops and for many eating establishments throughout Korea.  The steel cups are kept in the ultraviolet cleaning machine thing on the right.  Most places won't even take a drink order for you.  They assume you will drink water.  If you want a soda, you'll usually have to seek out the server and ask.

Here's the other woman, I mean Carol, in our room in Osan.

You can get lots of quality knock-off stuff in Osan.  This is Jake using the bathroom in the back room of a knock-off purse place.  You've got your main store with the legal stuff, then there's the back room full of the fake stuff.  Notice the Coach purses in the background wrapped in plastic to protect them against pee splatters.  I'm certain that if the owners would've caught me taking this picture, they would've taken me to the other back room and given me a couple of knuckle sandwiches.

One of our favorite things to do in Osan is eat at the Chili's on base.  We actually ate there twice during this short trip.  It's like a slice of home.  I want my baby back, baby back, baby back ribs...

Here's CJ after I demolished him in a game while waiting for our food at Chili's.  It's good for him to learn defeat.  I'm not one of these parents that lets his kids win at everything so they can feel good about themselves.  I think it's good for him to take his big old head and lay it on his big old pillow and cry out some big old tears every now and then.  They've got to learn to deal with adversity, right?

Speaking of adversity, here we are returning to the scene of the crime.  The last time the family went to Osan, Jake had a bad fall across the street from Chili's.  It was not a good day.  We're recreating the scene from a couple of months ago.  Jake actually had two falls that first Osan weekend.  We ended up taking him to the emergency room and everything.  This trip was much better.

Jake was acting up pretty bad at the PX so he had to go stand still against the wall.  I caught him red-handed eating his Fruit Loop necklace during his punishment time.

So what's so special about this picture?  Nothing much except for the fact that CJ is peeing in a bottle.  This was on the ride back home and he really had to go.  The rest stops are great but sometimes they're few and far between.

One of the best things about these road trips is the time spent in the car yapping with each other.  Carol said this was the best Mother's Day ever.  She found a nice case for her new iPod at the exchange, stumbled upon a nice dress that fit perfectly, went into the back room of a place and got a nice "class A" purse and ate at Chili's twice.  And the best part was that Jake didn't even crack his skull this trip.  Until next time -- C2

Friday, May 15, 2009

First Birthday Parties in Korea

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The way I understand it, birthday parties are not a highly celebrated event in Korea - except for a child's very first birthday party when they turn one year old.  In the past, due to a number of reasons, the death rate for children in Korea was extremely high.  Many children died before their first birthday.  After one year however, the survival rate climbed steeply, making the one year mark a very happy and important milestone.  So there's some of the background behind why the first birthday in Korea is such a big deal.

Carol and I attended a first birthday party recently.  What a huge party that was!  It was held in an upscale hotel, with a huge buffet to include lots of seafood and sushi.  There was some serious money invested in this party.  Check out this video of some of the entertainment:

Carol and I plan to learn this dance routine for our next get together.  We're gonna be the bomb.

Charlene's Mom dancing up a storm

Here's a sample conversation with some of the moms at school.  "Jake Mom, this is Charlene Mom.  We go to Pororo show on Tuesday.  You call Hannah Mom."  We still don't know what Charlene's Mom's name is.  She is simply known as "Charlene Mom".  Sarah Jolly is one of the teachers at the  Busan Foreign School and a good friend.  To get her attention, some of the Korean moms yell out, "Hey Jolly!"   

Here we are with Jake Mom, Hannah Mom, Madison Mom, Charlene Mom, Hey Jolly and others.  And I thought we were gonna be wearing goofy paper hats and eating sheet cake.  I hope we get invited to more first birthday parties.  Charlene Mom and Dad were such great hosts.  Everyone had a great time.

Jake and his best buddy Hannah.  He's come a long way from that very first day when he pulled her hair in school.  Now they're inseparable.  Side note:  I think some of the Korean parents at school think something is wrong with Jake and Hannah because they only go to school three times a week instead of everyday like their kids.  Carol and I opted for only three days because, well, he's just a three year old (now four) and we didn't think he needed to be in school full time.  I honestly think some of the parents think Jake might be a little slow because of the three days a week thing - or maybe it's because they've met me.  I tell you what, the education piece is no joke here in Korea.  Even at a very young age.

Notice the placement of Carol's purse behind her back on her chair.  It is utter blasphemy to place your purse on the floor in Korea.  This one is her hand painted Anushka purse that she loves.  If it wasn't such a nice purse, I would've asked her to stuff some dang crab legs and sushi in that bad boy to take home.  By the way, Carol finally succumbed to the pressure of getting a designer purse here in Korea.  Well, a "class A" designer purse anyway.  More on that later.  

Well, Jake just got up this morning.  I just heard him yell, "Mom, I peed on the floor in my room!"  Time to start the day.  Until next time -- C2

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


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My command has two orphanages that we do volunteer work with - the Miewon Orphanage and the Sung Ae Won Orphanage.  Visiting these kids is one of my absolute favorite things to do in Korea.

MSCO Korea has had a relationship with the Miewon Orphanage since 1954, when the command sponsored the very first Christmas Party for the orphans.  Miewon really is a success story.  Over the years, MSCO Korea has built bedding facilities, a library and even brought indoor plumbing to the orphanage.  We do fundraisers throughout the year to pay for food, clothing, toys and heating oil for these needy children.  We also sponsor a couple of big events every year for them like the Christmas Party, a summer outing and other events.  With our help and help from other sponsors and the government, Miewon is doing pretty well these days.  It really is a nice success story.  Here are some old pictures of the kids at Miewon Orphanage:

I love this picture.

This was during a tour of one of the MSC ships.

Unlike me, these kids weren't afraid of the mustache one bit.

Another ship tour

This is the library that MSCO Korea helped build and fund.

And now more recent pictures.  This was from the 2008 summer camp up in the mountains.  That's CJ hanging out with the kids.  I think this was CJ's second day in Korea.

The kids don't get to have soda too often.  They loved the Dew!

The different orphanages are run by different rules.  Miewon is the type of orphanage where the kids are not adopted.  Miewon has infants through 18 year olds.  They stay here until they are adults basically.  It gives new meaning to the phrase, "one big happy family."  I think the kids take pretty good care of each other, as do all the assistants and caretakers.

That's me presenting a check to the Director of the orphanage.  This money paid for the heating oil during the cold winter months.  The gentleman in the middle is Walt Christiansen, the Director of the United Seamen's Service Center in Busan.  Several years back, Walt and his wife Sue adopted two Korean girls of their own.  The girls are now adults residing in the US.  MSCO Korea and USS work together in their support of Miewon.

Miewon Summer Outing 2008

Future gymnast

So here are pictures of the Sung Ae Won orphanage.  Sung Ae Won is home to newborns and kids all the way up to 5 years old.  When the kids get to school age, they have to go to another orphanage.  Unlike Miewon, you can adopt kids from Sung Ae Won.  This is during the exercise Key Resolve.  MSCO Korea, along with our Navy Reservists and crewmembers of the USNS POMEROY visited the orphanage.  We put on a nice pizza party for the kids.  It was a lot of fun.  The Captain of the POMEROY even brought ship ballcaps for each of the kids.

The older couple in the background are the Directors of Sung Ae Won.  They are a very warm couple with big hearts.  You can tell that they really love the children.  They made sure to tell us to give the kids a lot of love and physical contact.  They told our group something that I thought was very nice:  FAMILY stands for Father And Mother - I Love You.

That's Xavier, our Operations Officer.  Most of the volunteers are women so the Director of  Sung Ae Won was happy to see so many male role models for the kids to spend time with.  Can't think of a better role model than X.  He is the man.

Here's the half Russian, half Korean girl that steals my heart every time I see her.

She loves playing with stickers, to include putting them on your face.

Having fun!

With both orphanages, what started out as a small endeavor evolved into a very significant volunteering effort.  Miewon now has several sponsors and volunteers that keep it up and running.  Sung Ae Won started with a small group from the Busan International Women's Association (BIWA).  Carol is a member of BIWA so that's how I got connected with Sung Ae Won.  I expanded it out to MSCO Korea, our Reservists, other commands at Pier 8 and even the Army folks in Daegu.  We also have groups from our church going regularly.  It's great to see so many more folks involved.

So why am I posting about these orphanages?  Well, if you get the opportunity to visit and just spend a little bit of time with these kids or kids at your local orphanage, I think that would be a great thing.  Maybe get involved in a program like Big Brothers or Big Sisters.  I think there are a bunch of people out there that have huge hearts for volunteering - they just don't know it yet.  Stop making excuses and get out there!  Until next time -- C2

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