Formerly known as "Cruzers in Korea"

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Sunday, January 31, 2010 5
There have only been three times in the last year and a half where I wished I was back home in the US.  It doesn't happen often because I love living here in Busan.  Now is one of those times.  One of my best friends, Mark Barao, had a heart attack and stroke recently while traveling for work.  It's hard not being able to support Mark in person.  The good news is that Mark is getting better every day and is now back in Virginia Beach with his family after an arduous stay in Pennsylvania.  He has definitely come a long way from two weeks of uncertainty.  For those friends and acquaintances of Mark's that don't know about his situation, please take a look at the following Facebook page:

In Support of the Barao Family

Even if you don't know Mark, it's very uplifting to see the progress he's made and the tremendous support his family has received from friends and loved ones.  For many of Mark's friends, I'm sure this was a huge wake up call.  Mark's always been a strong, tough guy - a man's man.  I remember seeing a video from one of his karate black belt tests (third degree I think) where he's flying through the air breaking multiple wooden boards before his feet touch the ground.  If I was a girl, I would've given him my number.  Who am I kidding, I would've let him get to third base.  Heck, the only thing you need to know about Mark's virility is that he knows Chuck Norris.  Did you know global warming was created from the heat coming off of Chuck Norris' fists?

Well, rather than dwell on the somber side of this situation, I'd like to share with you a couple of things about Mark, and maybe even have a laugh while doing so.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Mark will be back to doing roundhouse kicks and playing golf in no time.  Those physical therapists better be careful to not get knocked down by Mark's motivation.  It's a powerful force.

Let me tell you about my friend.

Mark and I have been friends since we were teenagers.  We were classmates at Brandon Junior High, Princess Anne Junior High and Kellam High School in good old Virginia Beach.  Matter of fact, Mark was one of my first friends when my family moved from Norfolk to Virginia Beach.  We had a lot of things in common - we were the same age, we were both Filipino, our dads were both in the Navy, we were both into sports and most importantly, we both had awesome mullets.  Check out our coifs:

All business in the front...

...and all party in the back.  Mullet - best hairstyle ever.

I was compelled to include this picture of my brother Lee's mullet cause his mullet totally crushes mine and Mark's combined.  Oh yeah, Duran Duran called.  They want their bolo tie back.

One of my best memories from high school is zipping around in Mark's convertible MG with the top down.  It was a feisty little burgundy two-seater that was the coolest thing ever.  It wasn't until later that I found out that Mark and I were breaking Man Law #7 - Two straight men shall not ride in a convertible together with the top down.  Hey, we were still learning.  

Later on, Mark had the Camaro then the 300ZX.  But it was that MG that was the most fun.  That MG had the fastest windshield wipers known to man.  On multiple occasions, I offered to drive to school but I think Mark preferred to drive his MG instead of riding in my white 4-door 1972 (or whatever old fart year it was) Chevy Nova that used to be a Chesapeake city car.  I knew it was a city car because you could still see the faded letters from the stenciling that was on the doors of the cars.  Yeah, not the coolest car in the world but it ran and it only cost $500.  You know what was really cool?  Mark never joked me about my car.  He was a good friend.

Mark always had the nice toys.  Some of us had the pleather Michael Jackson jacket while Mark was sporting the real leather.  When we were zipping around on our bicycles, Mark had the cool red moped.  While some of the neighborhood kids, myself included, were taking a dip in the neighborhood lake, Mark was enjoying his new swimming pool.  And he was really kind with inviting the buds over to enjoy the pool with him.  We'd play our own made up games like "Astronaut, Astronaut Never Come Up."  That particular game was borderline hysterical fun and hospital emergency room visit.  We survived.  BTW, that lake I mentioned - it was kinda dirty.  I'm pretty sure those lake swims were the reason why I had to go to the doctor and have my ears cleared out that summer.  I'd bet good money that the muck in my ears was from that dang lake.  Feel free to take a quick break so you can gag.

Oh yeah.  Mark was named "Best Dressed" at Princess Anne Junior High School.  Little known fact.  Mark almost missed this photo shoot because he was too busy folding his pants up at the ankles and pinning them tight.   

Mark and I really got tight during wrestling season.  We were both cutting weight and pushing our bodies to their limits.  The blood, sweat and tears we shared during our wrestling years is one of the reasons why I know Mark is gonna recover just fine.  Coach Michaels - thanks for everything you taught us and put us through - grueling practices, frogs, lazy dogs, challenges, all of it.  Mark might be thinking of you during those physical therapy sessions.

Young bucks on the Kellam High School wrestling team.  I wrestled at 105 lbs and Mark was at 132 lbs.  Mark also played wide receiver for the football team.  Even though Mark didn't have a ton of experience wrestling, he was still beating guys with much more experience.  He was just a natural athlete.  I remember him beating a guy from Kempsville that was supposed to be the best in the region.  Yeah, he learned about Filipino power that day.

On to more embarrassing stuff - breakdancing.  There was the Fil-Am Rockers - the official breakdancing group.  Then there was the unofficial CRAM Crew.  CRAM - Chris, Rowell, Arnold and Mark.  Oh yeah.  We had routines and everything.  Shoot me now.

CRAM Crew plus two.  Clockwise from top left:  Mark, Bill Cassity (Bill Shree), Arnold Callanta, me, Ant Brown and Rowell Armenio.  This is near the Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach.  We liked this spot because we could sneak over to the hotel pool and do crazy stuff off of their high dive.

I think this was taken with a disk camera.  Remember those?  They went away about the same time that our abdominal muscles went away.

Chilling with the boys at my house.  Even though this picture was taken from the second floor, you can still see the awesomeness of Mark's mullet.

Sexy!  You look good too Lani.  This is during Mark's midshipman days at Old Dominion University.  "Love lift us up where we belong..."  Side note:  Mark likes to bring up an old story where I was in a fight with a neighborhood guy and my nose started bleeding even before punches started flying.  I then like to bring up the story that I went out with Lani before him.

Hugging it out at my brother Alan's, ahem, first wedding.

Hanging out with our good friend Aileen.  Check out my IOU shirt.  IOU some money for not laughing at this picture.

Aileen, Mark and Lani.  Three of the nicest people you'll ever meet in your life.

There they are again, being nice.

At James Madison University visiting Lani and Aileen.

Mark professing his man-love to me.

Mark caught red handed two-timing on me.

One thing about Mark is that he can SLEEP.  Here he is knocked out at a party.

Here he is knocked out at another party.

Mark seeing me off at my farewell party before I departed for flight school in Pensacola, Florida.  This is also right before he knocked out asleep.  I don't think Mark knew how sad I was to be saying bye to him.

My oldest brother Alan, Mark, Aileen and Dave.  This is before Aileen and Dave got married and right before Carol and I tied the knot.

So a couple of years passed and I was the first of the group to get hitched.  This is right before I got married.  I'm really happy Carol said yes even though I had on a ridiculously large bow tie.  Mark gave me a hard time about not attending his wedding.  I had a good excuse.  I was deployed aboard the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT flying missions in the Adriatic Sea and Persian Gulf.  Cut me some slack man!  Wish I could've been there for you and Lani.

Catching up at my sister's place about 15 years ago.

We got to visit Mark and Lani in San Francisco while I was stationed in San Diego.  At least we were on the same coast for a while.  It was an awesome visit.  That's my flying buddy Al Francisco and his daughter Alyssa in the middle.  Here we are showing off the fruits of our loins.

No more crazy speeding in the Mustang from VMI to JMU or beating up drunk guys at Peabody's.  Settled down family guys.  That's us.

In August 2007, a bunch of the old Virginia Beach crowd had a mini-reunion at Princess Anne Park.  It was a great time.  Hadn't seen some of the old gang in over 15 years.  Me, Rick "The Man" Cosca, Mark, Arnold Callanta, Bill and Alan.

It was awesome seeing all of the kids too.

20 year high school reunion.

Pepito Arganza, Edgar Castillo, me, Gus Evangelista and Mark.  Better known as the OTW Club - Other Than White.

Well, thanks for taking this stroll down memory lane.  Lani and Mark, you guys are such an inspiring couple.  We'll continue to pray for you and the entire family.  Mark, I know there will be tough days ahead but nothing that you can't get through.  Stay strong and keep working hard.  God's strength is limitless.  You will get to the Mark of old.  My brother, I expect nothing less than TBD throughout your physical therapy - Total Barao Domination.  

Can't wait to see you in person.  I love you bro - Chris

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Best Desk Ever!

Thursday, January 21, 2010 0
So here's a picture of the real deal.  One of the baddest things on the planet - a dang aircraft carrier.  I've spent most of my Navy career flying on and off of these floating cities.  Including the Airwing personnel, there are about 5,000 people who deploy on an aircraft carrier.  This picture is of the USS JOHN F KENNEDY - better known as "Big John."  I've done two 6 month deployments aboard Big John.  I've also done long deployments aboard the aircraft carriers GEORGE WASHINGTON and THEODORE ROOSEVELT.  I've done carrier qualifications (CQ) and other operations aboard the CARL VINSON, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, CONSTELLATION, ENTERPRISE, RONALD REAGAN and JOHN C. STENNIS.  I might be forgetting some others.  All of the different "boats" just kind of blend together over time.  In total, I have over 800 carrier arrested landings - better known as traps.  It's a strange thing trying to sleep with airplanes landing on top of your head.

Big John

So check out this awesome aircraft carrier desk:

It's even got the night time running lights like on the real carrier.

That's gotta be one of the coolest things I've ever seen.  I'm in lust.  Until next time -- C2

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Recycling in Korea

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 1
Man, we only think we recycle a lot in the United States.  We've got nothing on Korea.  They recycle everything here!  Back in the US, our family probably went through 4 or 5 kitchen sized garbage bags of trash every week.  We were some trash producing fools!  Because of all the recycling that's done here in Korea, we might produce one bag of trash every two or three weeks.  It's amazing.  They even have special bags you have to buy to throw out trash that you can't recycle.  By forcing you to purchase the special bags, it gives you some motivation to recycle.  Besides, it's the law to recycle.

These are pics from our apartment's recycling center.  Most apartment complexes have trash/recycling areas like this.  They even have a "recycling dude" that hangs out in the room to make sure you're putting stuff in the right bins.  I think that's what he's doing anyway.  What the heck do I know.  He might be collecting styrofoam peanuts for all I know.  We don't have one of those guys looking over our shoulder in our apartment yet, which is a good thing.  The sorting of all the recyclables takes a little bit of getting used to.  I'm still not sure if we're sorting correctly.  We divide our stuff up into the following categories:   



Plastic -  grocery bags, food and container wrappers, potato chip bags, etc

Metal - aluminum cans, steel, metal hangers, foil, etc

More plastic - even divided up into different colored plastics and types

Food waste.  Ugh!

Momma looks good even when recycling.  Be thankful that you can't smell the funky odors coming from that food waste container.  It's like a combination of wet dog, kim chi and burnt panther.  That's Carol's funky smell smile just so you know.  

Recycling is expected at restaurants too.  Check out the trash and recycling setup at McDonald's.  You don't just dump everything all together like in the US.

Taking the recycling down to the recycling center is now one of CJ's regular tasks.  He does a pretty good job with it.  He used to complain about it but then he remembered that I don't like complaining and that he doesn't like going to bed at a ridiculously early hour on the weekend.

It seems as if many things in Korea are designed so that less trash is produced.  Instead of big old napkins being on restaurant tables, they put out very small and thin napkins (think toilet paper).  They have these small steel water cups in a lot of eating establishments that helps lessen the amount of trash.  With so many people in Korea in tight spaces, every bit of conservation and recycling helps.  I wonder how long it'll be before the US is forced to adopt some of these same recycling practices?

We're still gonna recycle when we get back to the US, but it's also gonna be really nice to just throw out some regular old trash without a bunch of sorting.  Can't wait.  Until next time -- C2

Monday, January 18, 2010

Brotherly Love

Monday, January 18, 2010 0
Jake was having a fit the other night.  I'm not sure what got him all riled up but he was crying and just having a heck of a time.  He was inconsolable - until CJ came to the rescue.  Big brother hopped into the bed with Jake and started talking and playing games with him to help him calm down.  Soon enough, Jake's cries turned to laughs.  Good job CJ.

Well, the next morning, here's what we see in Jake's room:

After calming down his brother, CJ had fallen asleep in the bed with Jake.  Sometimes their fighting, bickering and tattling drives Carol and I crazy.  It was really nice to see this episode of brotherly love.  Until next time -- C2

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti Relief & the US Navy

Sunday, January 17, 2010 0
When I first saw the new US Navy commercial and the new slogan, "Global Force for Good," I wasn't sure what to make of it.  It's been out for at least a couple of months now.  After what's happened in Haiti with the massive earthquake and the ongoing relief effort, I think the slogan is spot on.  Some of the things I'm most proud of in my Navy career thus far are the things I've been able to do within the community and for those less fortunate (stateside and overseas).  That's a big part of the Navy's mission.

The tragedy in Haiti is heartbreaking.  We still have many friends in Miami, both at my old command, US Southern Command and our old church, Oasis Church of Pembroke Pines.  These friends have family and loved ones that have undoubtedly been affected by the earthquake.  It will be a long time before Haiti gets back on its feet.

I spent two years at the US Southern Command Headquarters in Miami, Florida.  I started out in J3 Operations, serving in the Maritime Branch.  I was also in J5 Policy and Strategy, serving as the Chief for Strategic Threats.  Most of my time at Southcom however, was spent as the Executive Officer for the Deputy Commander.  It was a busy and very rewarding two years.  Southcom has the lead for all of the military support for Haiti.
Here are some pics of Southcom's previous relief  and support efforts.

The aircraft carrier, USS CARL VINSON has arrived and will be supporting the relief effort.  The medical facilities onboard an aircraft carrier are pretty substantial.  My friend even had a vasectomy onboard an aircraft carrier.

This is the hospital ship, USNS COMFORT.  She will be going to Haiti as well with many military and civilian doctors and medical personnel, to include people from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as Doctors Without Borders.  The COMFORT will most likely be the largest operable hospital facility near Haiti.  The COMFORT is one of the 180 ships operated by the Military Sealift Command.

Just two days ago, I had the opportunity to brief a group of Military Sealift Command sailors, military and civilian mariners.  It was inspiring to see them ready to volunteer for Haiti if needed.  The CARL VINSON, COMFORT and these MSC sailors and the entire relief effort - it makes me very proud to be in the US Navy.

I didn't ask those MSC sailors to volunteer and they probably couldn't go anyway because of their mission here in Korea, but it was very cool to see that spirit of helping alive and well in that room.  We will need that spirit for progress to be made in Haiti.  Let's all help out however we can.  Even though we're thousands of miles away from the situation, there are no distance limitations to our prayers.  Until next time -- C2

Friday, January 15, 2010


Friday, January 15, 2010 0
Check out this story of a Korean woman and her attempts to get a driver's license.  That's commitment.

Until next time -- C2

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pier 8 Organization Day

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 0


Here's another video for you that I hope you like.  Excuse some of the atrocious dancing.  I didn't know I was being taped.

At least annually, most military units will take a pause to have a fun day dedicated to camaraderie, team building and relaxation.  One name for this type of event is Organization Day.  I found out that Pier 8 as a whole has never had an event like this together as a group.  Pier 8 is comprised of twelve different units.  While the individual units like MSCO Korea or 837th Transportation Battalion have had individual Organization Days in the past, the entire Pier 8 Team had yet to do one together.  As the Pier 8 Commander, I thought it was time to do just that.

So in June 2009, we kicked off the first ever Pier 8 Organization Day.  You know I like a good party.  We had a great live band that had folks dancing.  We roasted a whole pig, grilled burgers and hot dogs and had plenty of good American and Korean food.  There were a bunch of children's activities too like an inflatable bounce house, huge climbing apparatus and slide, a ball pit, a balloon artist, and a fire truck static display.  We also had many raffle prizes like luxury hotel packages, commissary vouchers and restaurant gift certificates.  The dunk tank fundraiser was very popular.  We raised a lot of money which went towards the Pier 8 Christmas Party and the two orphanages that we sponsor.  

Many leaders from the Busan community were in attendance to share in the festivities to include the Korean American Busan Association, People To People International, Busan Veteran's Hospital and the Busan International Women's Association (BIWA).  We also invited children from the Sung Ae Won Orphanage and Miewon Orphanage to come out to Pier 8 for this fun day.  As you can tell from the video, the kids had a blast.  Smiles all around.  Pier 8 and BIWA team up on various events throughout the year to help support the Sung Ae Won Orphanage.

A lot of hard work went into making this event a success.  Many thanks to my folks at MSCO Korea, the Kargo Kings of 837th Transportation Battalion, Chinhae MWR, the USO in Daegu and all the others that made the Pier 8 Org Day such a big hit.  Special thanks to my old Executive Officer (XO), Lieutenant Commander Ray Franklin for pulling all of this together.  Miss you my friend.  I also have to tell you that two of my folks, Chief Henderson and the now retired Petty Officer Betita, volunteered to stay up all night roasting the pig.  They told me that they wanted to do it.  I told them it was too much work and that they shouldn't do it.  They insisted though.  Howz that for dedication?  I also have to pass special kudos to Ms. Kang because she did not bail out of her dunk tank responsibilities like some others did.  The top vote-getters had to get in the tank.  She did her part like a champ.  I think my favorite part of the whole video is the slow motion piece of the dunk tank.  

Quick story.  Back when Camp Hialeah was still open in Busan, they would open the gates once a year for a big party and invite many Korean locals to join in the festivities.  It might have even been the Camp Hialeah Organization Day.  They would grill up hamburgers and hot dogs and have games and other entertainment.  I've had a couple of Koreans tell me about their memories of those days at the Camp and how it was their first time to experience an American hamburger and American culture.  They told me that these were good memories that stuck with them - memories that helped them to have a better understanding of the United States, a more favorable understanding.

I like to think that some of the things we've been able to do with the local community - particularly with the two orphanages - have had a positive effect.  As these precious kids are guzzling down a Mountain Dew and enjoying a burger while taking a break from jumping to their heart's content in the bounce house, maybe these experiences will become lasting memories.  Good memories.

Chris from the Sung Ae Won Orphanage shared with me recently that some of the kids told her, "I like Hello's best."  She explained to me that the "Hello's" are the foreigner volunteers at the orphanage.  They call us "Hello's" because that's the first thing we usually say when we see them - Hello!  Well, I am very proud to be a "Hello!"  Until next time -- C2

Pier 8 Org Day Video on Youtube

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