Formerly known as "Cruzers in Korea"

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Costco and Onions

Thursday, December 31, 2009 1
Costco is awesome. We used to have to drive to Daegu to get our Costco fix. That's about two hours away. You never know when you'll need a barrel sized can of peaches.



Now we have a Costco in Busan, just minutes away from our house. This is a very significant thing for the military folks here in Busan, especially since we don't have a commissary or exchange in the city.


One of the cool things about Costco is that you can get a super cheap lunch right there in the store. Where else can you get a hot dog and coke for 2,000 won? That's about $1.75. And that includes all the onions you could possibly want.


Koreans love onions. Notice the lock on this onion dispenser at Costco. In many bulgogi (Korean barbecue) restaurants, customers get served a big bowl of onions as a side dish. Usually you add a special sauce to your side of onions.


I've seen many Koreans load up their plates with onions at Costco and eat them like a side dish, usually with some mustard or ketchup.


Check out this guy's pile of onions.



Here's a closer look.


I'm guessing this Costco employee spends a lot of time refilling the onion dispensers.


Well, only six months left in the onion eating capital of the world. We are really going to miss Korea. Hope you have a great New Year's day. Until next time -- C2

A Very Nice Christmas Present

Another holiday season is coming to a close. Seems like all the Christmases blend together as they years pass by. I can hardly remember what the boys got for Christmas just last year. Every now and then though, you're privileged to receive or give a very memorable gift. Like when CJ was three years old, he asked Santa for a red fire engine with a remote control. That's when the whole Santa thing really came alive for him. That boy was asking and asking for that fire engine. When he opened up that present on Christmas morning, it was magical. The rush of great Christmas memories came flooding back to me. I felt like a little kid again. It was that way with Jake this year.

Tyler Allen is the American Presence Post Officer / US Consul here in Busan. His wife, Jen and Carol have gotten to be very good friends. Their middle daughter, Hannah and Jake are in the same class at school and are best buddies. Anyway, last year for Christmas, they gave Jake this nice Pororo book:



Pororo is a popular penguin here in Korea. The Pororo cartoon show is a little different in that they sometimes tackle non-traditional topics like diarrhea and bed-wetting. My kind of show.

The special thing about this present was that Tyler translated the entire book from Korean to English:



How cool is that? Between Tyler and Jen, I know that was a lot of typing, cutting and taping. What an incredibly thoughtful gift.

We're really gonna miss them. The Allen's get to stay in Busan a year longer than we do. It's gonna be terrible for Jake to say good-bye to his best buddy.




Happy New Year's everyone! Until next time -- C2

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fred

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 4
It was a sad week in the Cruz household. Our dog Fred fought the good fight but went to sleep for the last time on the 19th of December. He lived to the ripe old age of 15 years and 7 months. We were very fortunate to have him that long. It's kind of a tough thing to talk about for those that aren't dog lovers. How can you explain that special bond if you haven't experienced it yourself? Fred really was a best friend to our entire family. He was our first child and CJ's watcher and big brother for many years.

We wish we could've taken him to Korea with us. Had we known his health would deteriorate like it did this past year, we would've done just that. We were extremely fortunate to have my brother Alan, his wife Danita and their kids, Joel and Jena take such great care of Fred in Virginia during our absence. Little did we know how difficult this undertaking would be.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Fred. We got him from an animal shelter in San Diego shortly after Carol and I were married. I usually favor large dogs but our landlord at the time said he would allow us to get a small or medium dog. So off to the pet shops and animal shelters we went. I would visit the local animal shelters at least twice a week in search for our future pet. On a repeat visit to one of the shelters, I saw that almost all of the cages were empty and had red plastic roses on them. I asked them about all the dogs that were there just a few days ago and about the roses but already knew what the answer was. Because of space, they had to periodically euthanize all of the animals. It was then and there that Carol and I decided that we were not going to buy a dog from a pet store. The right thing to do was to save a dog from a shelter.

So one day at a shelter in Chula Vista, Carol and I see a little white dog with a brown head. Carol thought he was an old dog. I thought, woman, are you crazy? That's obviously a puppy. They told us that this dog was found at a school playing with a bunch of children. We put our names down to adopt this nameless white dog. Unfortunately, two other people had beaten us to the punch. I decided to push the issue. The shelter folks said that the two people who had dibs on this white dog each had a 30 minute block to claim the dog. If they didn't show up during their time blocks, they forfeited their rights to the dog and the next person would have a turn. We got our time slots as the third people in line and hoped for the best.

The day finally came to pick up the little white dog. Or at least try. I went to the shelter bright and early. Well, the first 30 minute block came and went. The first person was a no-show. Oh man, I just might have a shot here. The second person in line actually called the shelter and said they wanted the dog but that they might be late. Long story short, their time block elapsed too. Fred was now ours! So that's how the little guy entered our lives.


Here's Fred with his shelter tag still on. We named him Fred because he looked like a Fred. This kinda complicated things when my Dad would visit because his name is also Fred. We didn't want to insult my Dad with the same name thing so we came up with the bright idea to call Fred "Red" when my Dad was around. The gig was up when Dad started to answer to "Red" too.

Here he is less than a year old in San Diego.  Fred is a Jack Russell Terrier and Corgi mix.  Smart as a whip and full of energy.  Jack Rusells have apple shaped heads and Corgis have barrel chests.  Fred ended up with both.

This is from Fred's first birthday party. Carol and Fred stayed at Martin and Amy's house in Alabama during my first deployment. This is where we discovered that Fred was an escape artist, hence the name, Freddy Dufresne Cruz, after the main character in Shawshank Redemption. There was a fenced area outdoors that Fred would climb over like a monkey. Despite those short appendages, there weren't too many places that he couldn't escape from. Even after escaping, he wouldn't go very far. I guess he just liked his freedom.

Here's his birthday "cake" made of ground beef. Meat cakes are probably one of the reasons why he never went very far after escaping from the pen. Like I said, he was a smart dog.

Okay. So now you're probably thinking we're some of those crazy dog people. You're probably right.

This was our first house in Jacksonville, Florida. Fred loved this place because of the nice walks, a big yard and the enclosed sunroom that he spent most of his time in. If you look real close, you can see Fred's apple head near the bottom of the door.

This is the house where he would terrorize the mailman on a daily basis. As he saw the mailman approaching the house, evil growls would churn in Fred's throat and hairs would stand straight up on his back and neck as he worked himself into a crazy frenzy. Finally, as the mailman would attempt to carefully shove our mail through our slot in the door without getting a finger bitten off, Fred would go totally ballistic - loud, scary barking, eyes black as the inside of a basketball and teeth chomping like the shark from Jaws snacking on Robert Shaw. As soon as the mail would enter the house, Fred would grab it with his teeth, fling it around with his head and on many occasions, totally destroy our mail. Every now and then, he would fling the mail around so bad that it would fall behind the furniture in the room, only to be discovered months later. I once missed a jury summons because of this madness. Fred also bit through multiple credit cards that were sent through the mail to the point where we would have to request more credit cards. Try explaining that to Visa without them thinking you're doing some kind of scam. The mail thing was nuts. He'd also get so worked up because of the mailman that during his frenzies, he'd lose all bodily control and squirt out a little Hershey's kiss. It was terrible. I think he really enjoyed that visceral madness though. It was just Fred exercising his doggie rights. Man, he loved hanging out in that sunroom.

Fred was a great companion and guard dog for Carol when I was out at sea.

Fred hanging out with my nephew Joel in Virginia.

And then CJ came along. Fred was so good with him. When Fred couldn't see CJ, he would wander around the house sniffing and sniffing until he found him. I think he was worried about the baby. Little did Fred know that it wouldn't be too long before he'd be physically tormented by toddler CJ. He was always so patient though. I remember seeing CJ with his finger up Fred's... well, somewhere it didn't belong. Fred remained calm and just gave me that "please remove" look. I was reminded of my annual flight physical.

I think Fred wants his rawhide back.
A very happy homecoming after one of my long deployments.


As Fred got older, he would push the limits.  In this case, he knew he wasn't supposed to be up on the furniture but he loved to look outside the window so much, kinda like in the Florida house.  One day after I left the house, I had to return because I forgot something.  Fred was caught red-handed on the couch.  He knew he had done wrong.  This is his "busted" look.
Being a Navy dog, Fred's lived in many different environments and extremes. Here he is in the snow of Newport, Rhode Island.




Chilling with the boys in Miami.  The swimming pool was like a giant water bowl for Fred.  He loved to chase the ducks back there.


Here he is wearing the cone of shame after having bladder surgery. He's been through a lot over the years. Back surgery, bladder surgery, a torn ACL (I didn't even know dogs had ACLs), a scratched cornea after a cat fight, been pepper sprayed by a mailman, severe heart problems and we think he had an altercation with a burglar(s) that broke into our house. Even after all of that stuff though, he kept on fighting.

He wasn't happy about all the medicine he had to take.

He also loved the deck area of our place on Talbot Avenue in Jacksonville.  He was king of the hill of our backyard.

I think one of Fred's favorite things was heartbeats. He just loved to be around people. That's Jena, CJ and Joel on a tractor ride in Virginia.



Bliss! Fred really enjoyed this bed but liked his "love pillow" even better. Yup, Fred was fixed early on but still had the doggie urges. Every now and then, he would drag his pillow into the living room and start going to town. It was worse than Cinemax after dark. I swear he would do the foreplay thing first, licking the corner of the pillow tenderly before humping it across the room. It was rather impressive I must say. Sometimes he would even get airborne. Even after he was done, his little hips would have remnant humping actions as he would walk away from the pillow. Man, I'd hate to see how things would be if he wasn't fixed.
A short year later, he's basking in the heat of Miami, Florida. Fred has made many cross country road trips. As you know, not all hotels are good with pets staying the night. On one particular cross country move, we were trying to keep Fred as quiet as possible in the hotel room so that we wouldn't get kicked out. He kept us up all night though with his barking. Every little noise that he heard outside, he'd do his guard dog routine. It was a sleepless night. Fortunately, we didn't get kicked out of the hotel room. The next day, Fred can't stay awake in the car because he was up all night barking. To get our revenge, Carol and I would wait for him to doze off then bark as loud as we could in his ear. Yes, juvenile but very pleasurable.

We were reunited with Fred this summer, at least for a little while. Here's Carol and Fred's tearful reunion at my brother's house in Virginia.

This was one of our last experiences with Fred. We took him with us to Leenie's lake house in Alabama. I think he had a really good time.

My niece Jena drew this picture recently. It's Fred dreaming of all the happy things he likes to do. Thank you Jena.

For those that are thinking about getting a dog or cat, here's one very peculiar thing that you need to think about. It's going to end badly. I mean, think about it. That's reality. Unless something tragic happens, we will most likely outlive our pets. We go into the relationship knowing this. There we are at the animal shelter thinking about how cute the little puppy is. We're not at the pet store cause we all know that we should save an animal first, right? But we go into this pet thing knowing we'll have to bury that lovable creature 5, 10, or 15 years down the road. And you know what? It's okay. It's totally okay. I swear Fred taught me how to be a kinder, more loving person. He helped me to relieve all of those work stresses by a simple pat of his head, a lick on my face or a fetching of a ball. He taught my family about unconditional love - the kind of love with no strings, no matter what happens. Where else does that kind of love exist except from God?

Maybe logic says this pet thing might be something to avoid because of the potential heartache at the end. But heck, we could say that about people too right? Friends move on, grandparents pass away and yet we continue to love them. We shouldn't live a life of avoidance. I'm thinking that when we get back to the US, we're visiting the animal shelters again.

I'll end this tribute now by posting this email that I recently sent to my family after Fred's passing. Thanks for taking this journey with me. We miss you Fred. Until next time -- C2


Dear Alan, Danita, Joel and Jena,

This is a difficult email to write. Alan, I'm guessing that you had the same troubles. Carol said that I would know what to write. I think she was wrong. All I know right now is that you all have been a true blessing from God to have taken such great care of Fred. For the heart wrenching day that was today. For the vet visits, the cleanups, the difficult feedings, the pills - everything. We will never be able to repay you for what you've done for us and what you've done for Fred. Thank you Alan for being such a great brother to me. Danita, I know you're not a dog person which made this extreme imposition even more extreme. Joel and Jena - I know you were both a huge part of Fred's happiness in the later stages of his life. I thank all of you for loving him.

As you can imagine, CJ took the news pretty hard when we spoke to him earlier today. I must now do what I told CJ to do - focus on the many great memories of Fred rather than his weakened state of his last couple of months. Memories like the furry guy scarfing an entire loaf of banana bread. Him terrorizing the mailman on a daily basis to the point where he would lose control of some of his bodily functions and squirt out a Hershey's kiss every now and then. Fred up on his tippy toes giving baby CJ soft licks on his newborn face. Fred humping his pillow in the living room like there was no tomorrow. And maybe the most special memory for me was he and I doing sprints when he was a young pup. Even with those teeny tiny legs, he would beat me in a race. Not every time but some of the time. During those races, I'll never forget him flying like the wind - ears pinned back, tongue flapping in the wind and legs like little cyclone blurs. That's the Fred I choose to remember. Kinda like Jena depicted in her recent masterpiece. Thank you Jena for the great picture.

I'll close now by saying that our hearts will be heavy for awhile, but I take comfort in two things. One, the great care and love he received from you guys. And two, the fact that any Heaven that I picture in my mind most definitely has Fred in it. Doing what you might ask? Well, running wild and free in a lush green field, ears pinned back, tongue flapping in the wind and legs like little cyclone blurs of course. It'll be a great day when I can race with my friend again.

Love,
Chris


Fred Dufresne Cruz
Memorial Day 1994 - December 19, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mini-Bar Surprise

Friday, December 11, 2009 0
As we're all prepping for the holidays, everyone has a list a mile long. Christmas shopping, get the tree up, decorations, Christmas pageant, church stuff, wrap the presents, write the Christmas letter, crash a Presidential party, on and on. Hey, it will all work out. Don't stress yourself out.

When things get hectic, what helps to relieve the stress is a nice cold beverage. Carol and I spent the night at the hotel where we had our work Christmas Party last week. Great party by the way. I'll post some pics soon. So we're in our hotel room and Carol checks out the mini-bar. Here's what she sees:


Looks like your typical mini-bar, right?


Upon closer inspection:



Whoah! Placenta?

I've read an article or two about how folks eat the placenta for health benefits. Something about how animals do it all the time. It's supposed to relieve post-partum depression and other pregnancy complications. Just me talking but what about that other huge complication - you know, of having to eat the placenta? Hope I'm not offending anyone that partakes in this practice. It's just that I haven't personally overcome that mental hurdle yet, you know, of eating the placenta. Anyway, for those interested in learning more about this topic, here's an interesting article from Time magazine:

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1908194,00.html

Back to my original point of a stress-relieving cold beverage. Don't forget to kick back a cold one with a loved one. Might I suggest Bailey's on the rocks or a nice eggnog maybe. A little Christmas music in the background doesn't hurt either. Heck, if you're feeling a little frisky, throw in a little baby-making music too and make those yuletides gay. Okay, poor choice of words. We all get so wrapped up in what we have to do that we forget to enjoy this great time of year. Hope you're all having a great holiday so far. Until next time -- C2

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sweet Buns!

Monday, December 7, 2009 1


Oh yes! After 16 years of marriage, two boys and a gajillion moves, she's still got it people! We recently celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary on Nov 27th. I have no earthly idea what those sweet buns are doing with me.


The dating days back in '92.


Showing off the sweet buns in her wedding dress.


And here's our front side.


Fast forward 16 years. Still very happily married. Here we are jamming to Michael Jackson on a shared Ipod just a couple of days ago in Thailand. Seems like just yesterday I was thinking, "nice butt." Yup, I'm romantic like that.

Carol has put up w/ multiple deployments, an insane amount of family separation, crazy work hours even when I'm not at sea, thousands of dirty diapers, countless nosebleeds, way too many poop stories, two complicated c-sections and enough crabby patty attitude from me to drive anyone bonkers. Thanks for taking the journey with me. I love you and look forward to the next 16+ years! Until next time -- C2

Sunday, December 6, 2009

All the Single Ladies...

Sunday, December 6, 2009 3
So here's what happens when Carol's not in the car.

video


video

Gotta love Beyonce! Until next time -- C2

Friday, December 4, 2009

Phuket, Thailand!

Friday, December 4, 2009 2
For this past Thanksgiving break, the family went on an Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) trip to Phuket, Thailand. These trips are good package deals that are subsidized by the military. Our anniversary happens to fall over Thanksgiving break so that usually makes for some good celebrating and relaxing.

Phuket was my kind of break. Lounging on a gorgeous beach and saddling up to the pool bar is my idea of a great vacation. Carol and I both enjoy sightseeing but we're not one of these couples that breaks out the Frommer's Travel Guide and does the Bataan Death March to get all the check in the block tourist sites in. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I just don't like to feel like I worked a double shift when I'm on vacation.




Prior to takeoff, Jake reviews the safety specifications of the airplane.





On almost every trip, the boys' favorite thing seems to be the hotel pool. Nothing wrong with that.


Speaking of pool bars, here's CJ enjoying a nice mocktail. I have to admit that I got caught reading "Twilight" by a Navy buddy while lounging poolside. I might as well have been drinking a Fresca too. Hey, I was just trying to find out what all this hype is about.


We took a boat ride out to Phi Phi Island. Leonardo Dicaprio did a movie here called, "The Beach" a few years back. Unfortunately for Jake, he was behaving pretty badly so I had to take him to "The Bathroom" on "The Beach" for some attitude adjustment. I was gonna say "The Beating" to keep the not-so-clever alliteration going, but we don't do that to our kids - everyday. Kidding of course. Don't want any Child Protective Services folks "beating" down our door.


It reminded me of the place where they found King Kong or where "Survivor" gets taped. Very beautiful. By the way, "ph" is pronounced with a "p" sound. For example, Phuket is pronounced "pooket" and Phi Phi is pronounced "pee pee." After going to the bathroom on the island, it was cool to be able to say that I went pee pee on Phi Phi Island.




CJ enjoying the crystal clear water.



Pharadise!


Jake was wiped out after Phi Phi Island. This is CJ making fun of his little brother on the boat ride back. Notice Jake's half opened eyes while he's sleeping. This is an unattractive trait that runs in the Cruz family. I've been accused of sleeping with my eyes open. I can't confirm this of course because I'm usually asleep when trying to confirm this accusation.


Gotta do an elephant ride while in Thailand! Warning. It is a bumpy ride. Lots of fun though. The scenery was breathtaking. Especially when Carol's elephant took a BMW sized dump right in front of us. That was worth the price of admission. Of course I caught it on video.




Here's our elephant rider.



Here's our elephant rider digging for gold in his ears with this green little stick thing. He was going to town with that thing! I couldn't take my eyes off of him. It was like watching a train wreck. And then he switched ears. My goodness. In my mind I was saying to myself, "For the love of God, please don't put the green stick in your mouth!" I'm convinced that if I would've videotaped this ear digging and put it on Youtube, it would've gone viral.



I love this picture. I think this elephant was born and raised in captivity. They are still an endangered species. Although this specific safari company had a good reputation for taking care of their elephants, they did show us this hook type instrument they use to prod the elephants to move in certain directions. I was not a fan of that hook. Besides, I didn't want Carol to get any ideas.


Truly amazing creatures.


Now that was a fun family outing.




Beautiful Patong Beach. The beach was a very short walk from the hotel. There's someone parasailing in the background. There were also some topless Europeans on this beach. In this instance, it was a good thing that CJ can't see very well without his glasses.





Creating our sand castle masterpiece.



After we constructed our multi-layer fortress masterpiece, Carol put a feminine touch to our manly work by adding starfish and seahorse accents. Dang it woman!


The boys modeling their new necklaces. CJ got a shark's tooth and Jake opted for an elephant. Of course Jake had to get his best buddy Hannah a matching necklace too.



Sipping on a coconut on Patong Beach. Carol's putting on a good front for the camera. She thought the coconut milk was nasty.



Big old jellyfish. Either that or my elephant rider finally picked out what he was digging for.



The only thing wrong with this trip was that it was too short. We could've easily stayed out there another week or so. Work calls though. Along with the beaches and seeing some of the sights, we did a good bit of shopping and had some really good Thai food. Finding Thai food was a lot more difficult than I thought it was going to be though. It reminded me of trying to find good Chinese food in Hong Kong. Impossible!

I've had two trips to Pattaya Beach, Thailand for work in support of the Cobra Gold military exercise. While many folks enjoy Pattaya, the adult playground thing just wasn't my speed. Maybe a few years back it would've been fun, but not anymore. It actually left a sour taste in my mouth for reasons I won't go into here. So coming to Phuket with the family was not only a great vacation. It was also a reclamation of sorts, helping to erase the negative vibes I had about Thailand because of my Pattaya experience. Phuket was simply awesome.

Hope everyone out there is doing well. Until next time -- C2
 
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