Formerly known as "Cruzers in Korea"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Male Grocery Shopping

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 1
This is what happens when I go grocery shopping:

Not the normal stuff you find at Home Plus, E-Mart or Mega Mart here in Korea.  Gotta love the base commissary for various forms of fat pills.  For the record, I haven't eaten a Twinkie in years.

Two of the products pictured are pretty amazing.  The "Bagelfuls" already have cream cheese inside the bagel thing.  The "Uncrustables" already have peanut butter and jelly inside the bread.  Like I said, amazing.  These products remind me of "Goober," the peanut butter and jelly - wait for it - that are in the same jar.  You never know when you'll be sitting around the house hungry.  Man, I could use a sandwich but I only have the energy to open one jar.  I ain't got time to be opening two jars.  Bam!  Peanut butter and jelly in one jar.

I can't claim this one.  For full details, youtube Brian Regan and peanut butter and jelly.  Pretty funny stuff.

CJ loves those Little Debbie brownies.  He'll eat the whole box if we let him.  If you want to hear a funny story and have ready access to a Cruz, ask them about the Little Debbie brownies and the "Greedy B."  Leo, if you're reading this, I have to tell you that we still get a kick out of that story.  Until next time -- C2

Monday, March 22, 2010

Carol's Cooking

Monday, March 22, 2010 1
Not sure what I ever did to deserve someone that can cook up a storm like Carol.  Not only is her cooking incredible but its the heart that goes along with her cooking.  For example, if she finds out it's your birthday, she'll cake you.  Carrot cake, pineapple upside down cake, dump cake, angel food cake, etc.  Her recent trend is to brownie people.  See previous post.

Anyway, for my birthday she tiramisu'd me.  I know.  I'm butchering this whole grammar thing with my noun-verb usage.

Here's the last piece of my birthday tiramisu - better known as a small chunk of heavenly mascarpone, coffee and lady finger goodness.

I mean for real, who even knows how to make tiramisu?  I'm talking for real, not the urbanized recipe of:
1. Drive to Costco
2. Buy tiramisu
3. Remove lid without getting a paper cut

The other day, Carol busted out these Vietnamese style spring rolls.  They were amazing.  Peanut sauce and all.  She also cooks a couple of Mom's Filipino dishes like pancit, lumpia and caldareta.  Please don't pass this along to my Mom, but my nephew Brandon even said that Carol's beef and broccoli is better than Mom's.  Blasphemy!

The point of this blog entry wasn't to brag on Carol's cooking skills...well, actually it was.  I'm just so inspired by the heart that she puts into her cooking.  Whether it's making spaghetti for International Day at school, baked goods for the PTA fundraiser, mexican food for the Cinco de Mayo get together, cooking up a storm for the various church functions or just having some of the geo bachelors over the house, she's just so generous with her cooking.  When I was the Maintenance Officer at one of my old squadrons, Carol even cooked special meals for all of my troops - for no reason whatsoever.  The guys working the night shift really appreciated her kind gesture.  They sometimes feel like they're forgotten.  She would take turns taking requests from the various shops.  Whether it was pasta for the jet engine mechanics or pot roast for the electricians, they all seemed to like the home cooked meals.  

The other thing is this.  I've done the last minute dinner invitation thing for various Mr. Big Pants over the years.  Carol has always responded with grace in these types of situations.  She knows she can tell me to pack sand but she rarely does.  I know a lot of spouses wouldn't be so understanding about the last minute guest thing.

So the only negative to Carol's total kitchen domination is the extra poundage that girdles my loins.  Hey, I'll take it.  Thank you Carol for feeding us Cruz boys so well.  Little did I know that cute smile, curly locks and southern drawl that I married over 16 years ago would turn out to be such a maven in the kitchen.  Hate to think what you could do with a double oven.  Watch out!  Until next time -- C2

Friday, March 12, 2010

Carol's Brownies

Friday, March 12, 2010 0
Carol's brownies are quite the hit here in Korea.  I'm biased but I think they'd be a hit in the US too.  Carol's had several Korean and international friends over the house to teach them how to make her homemade brownies.  She'll go out and buy all the ingredients and measuring cups and make sure her friends get properly schooled up in the art of brownie making.  Then Carol will send the measuring cups, brownie making paraphernalia, and of course the brownies themselves home as gifts for her friends.  For Chuseok, Lunar New Year and all of the pigging out Korean holidays, it's a real nice treat for these Korean ladies to make something special for their family members.

Jake requested brownies for his birthday dessert.

Carol made a bunch of brownies for the Busan International Women's Association (BIWA) Christmas Bazaar.  This is their biggest fundraiser of the year.  Every time there's an event at school, a get together at someone's house, a full moon, a month ending in the letter "R", or a day ending in the letter "Y", Carol gets asked to make brownies.

Here's a quick story of brownie love:

This is during Staff Sergeant Soto-Perez's farewell.  Not the most flattering picture but there is a tongue reference in this story.  Carol baked some brownies for the party and she made some extras for Soto to take home.  Well...

Kemmeh on the left loves Carol's brownies.  Even though it was Soto's farewell, she wanted the brownies for herself.  In a vain attempt to establish ownership, Kemmeh enthusiastically licked the brownies.  Did this deter Soto?  Hecks no!  He still claimed the brownies, saliva and all.  Being the gentleman that he is, I heard he and Kemmeh came to a mutually agreeable solution.  Either that or Soto was reminded that Kemmeh's husband is bigger than him.

I'm thinking Kim Jong Il and President Lee Myung Bak could try their hand at brownie diplomacy.  Sanctions, shmanctions.  How about world peace through brownies?  Just saying.  C2

p.s. shoot me an email if you want the recipe

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Tuesday, March 9, 2010 2
Carol and I are pretty social creatures.  We enjoy having people over the house and have been known to throw a party or two.  Almost a year ago, I talked about throwing a toga party.  Carol's response was, "You can't throw a toga party in Korea!"  Those at my work know that you shouldn't tell me that I "can't" do something.  The "can't" word is supreme motivation for me.  Unbeknownst to Carol, the gauntlet was thrown down.  And yes, I did feel a little funny about typing the word, "unbeknownst."

The thinking went like this.  What type of event would attract a lot of people in Busan?  Beknownst to me (okay, I'm getting carried away with that word and it's derivatives), there's a large English teacher population here in Busan.  We thought a toga party would be something the Busan crowd could sink their teeth into.  And of course, the Naval Aviator in me thought what the heck - toga party!

So there's some of the background behind last Friday's fundraiser.  The main reason for throwing the party of course was to raise money and awareness for the two causes I wrote about in my  most recent blog post - the Sung Ae Won Orphanage and Habitat For Humanity.

Mission accomplished.  Over 400 people attended the big toga party fundraiser last Friday at the Novotel Ambassador Hotel in Haeundae Beach.  We had people travel from Daegu and as far away as Seoul.  We raised over 9 million Korean won (about $8,000 US dollars) for these two organizations.  This money will go a long way towards improving the quality of life for the children at the orphanage and some people in difficult housing situations.  People have already told me that we have to do this again next year.  I will definitely pass that on to my replacement.

Busan's English radio channel, eFM did a radio interview with me about our two causes and the fundraiser.  That's Ashley Kim, a radio personality from eFM.  She was incredibly nice.

Bobby McGill on the left is the Editor of Busan Haps Magazine.  This is a great magazine for foreigners.  I wrote an article for the magazine to help get the word out about our two causes and the big event.

The party was held in the Novotel Ambassador Hotel.

The hotel is right on Haeundae Beach.  From the Grand Ballroom, we had a nice view of the ocean.

Here's the banner in front of the hotel.

And finally, some party pics!  I wasn't exactly sure how many folks would come in togas.  As the night progressed, there were definitely a lot more togas than non-togas.  We did attract our normal suit-wearing crowd, which was expected.  Here are some of the MSCO Korea crew looking good in their Greek gear..

Lots of dancing and only a couple of wardrobe malfunctions.  I thought I saw someone's tonsils once.

That's me, Kristin, Nick and Maria.  We couldn't have done it without the help of some awesome folks like these three.  Initial setup, decorations, prepping food, tending bar, manning the door, selling raffle tickets, running the coat check, etc.  There was a lot of behind the scenes actions to make this thing happen.  Thank you so much MSCO Korea, Busan Foreign School, DK, Pier 8, Busan Storage Facility, Costco, Commissary, Chinhae MWR, USO, BOSS, Navy League and all of the other volunteers and donors.  You guys rock!

Tessa is the Habitat For Humanity Coordinator for BFS.  She's also CJ's Science Teacher.  She's a tough teacher but we wouldn't have it any other way.

Definitely the most creative togas of the evening.  The Jolly's came as the Canadian Bobsled Silver Medalist and of course Princess Leia.  Total awesomeness.  May the force be with you.

We were honored to have the Director of Sung Ae Won Orphanage say a few words.  A very sweet lady.

Sal won an iPod during the blindfolded musical chairs game.  Sharon is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet.

Carol and Ms. Kang looking like precious metals.

Mr. Im surrounded by interns.

Wendy, Carol and Kemmeh.  As always, the ladies were looking really good.

Bunky, XO of MSCO Korea and Commander Melinda Michael, XO of Expeditionary Port Unit 111.  It's the Executive Officer (XO) picture.

That's David Kim on  the left.  He did some heavy lifting to make this fundraiser happen.

Ice luge!

Double ice luge.

Thank you USO for your support!

Yum.  Wine in a box.  Hey, we had 400+ people to entertain.  Cut me some slack.

The beloved Filipino Group.  One thing about our Filipino Group from church is that you don't need anything at all to have fun with them.  Get three of them together and it's all laughs and an instant party.

Donning a toga for the kids.  For the kids man!

Frances and Derek - we're gonna miss you!  So is the Fuzzy Navel.

The smile on this guy's face is because he just won the grand prize - 500,000 won.  We raised a nice chunk of change from the raffle tickets.

Here's Steve winning the Best Toga contest.  He had the home crowd (Busan Foreign School) rooting for him.  Congrats!

Surrounded by some exotic Cleopatras.

Members of the Korean American Busan Association (KABA).  Thank you so much for your support!

Mr. Yun and Technical Sergeant Daisy Galan.  She was a finalist for Best Toga.

Amber is on the left.  She helped out a bunch with the party decorations, raffle tickets and other things.  You should check out her article in the latest issue of Busan Haps.  Here's the link:  Underground Art

Ms. Yi is the Vice President of People To People International.  Her organization does a lot of great things in the community, including supporting North Korean refugees.

Okay, I admit it.  I was vexed by the amount of body hair on some of the dudes.  Some of those guys don't need to spend a cent on sunblock during the summer.  Just saying.

At the end of the night, there were folks jumping rope, playing football with wigs and other interesting acts.  Folks didn't want to go home!  

Kemmeh and Emmekah

I'm reminded of the Academy Awards.  "And I'd like to thank..."

Just a great night!

I'm a huge fan of doing something you've never done before.  For many of the Korean guests, this was their first time donning a toga.  For all those college grads out there that never had a chance to attend a toga party as a student, this was the perfect opportunity for some college redemption.  Those people can now say that they've truly graduated.  For many, the toga thing was old hat.  Some looked incredibly natural in this environment, as if they were Julius Caesar himself.  BTW, such a great historical figure and he gets a salad named after him.  Sheesh.

There was the wallet that was lost.  Then found.  Then lost.  Then found again.  There was the girl who punched her boyfriend and was wondering why she was all alone.  The bananas in the elevator, the upside down ice luge and the Cape Jacob boys having a great time.  It was definitely a memorable night.  Lots of fun while helping out two important causes.

Our adventure in Korea never ceases to amaze me.  Just when you think it's a pretty conservative country, it shows us a thing or two by cranking out a very less-than-conservative bash last Friday night.  One last point.  Why toga?  Because it's a celebration of life.  Just throw what the heck cloth over your shoulder and enjoy life with no worries about what the other guy might think.  Hope this won't be the last.

Thanks again to all of those that helped make this happen.  And remember, if you've got some time to spare, come on out and spend some time with the kids at Sung Ae Won.  They'll love you for it!  Until next time -- C2

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sung Ae Won Orphanage & Habitat For Humanity

Sunday, March 7, 2010 2
I was gonna work out but decided to eat another chunk of Carol's tiramisu and blog.  It's all about priorities.

Well, the last two weeks have been incredibly busy.  We've got our Navy Reserves in town for the Freedom Banner exercise down in Mokpo, another group of Reserves here for the Joint Chiefs of Staff exercise, Key Resolve and another group helping to support the many ships we have here in the Korean Theater of Operations (KTO).  Been working the last couple of weekends.

I also had the great honor of preaching the sermon at our church here in Busan last Sunday.  Definitely not the typical birthday for me.  I thought it went really well.  Something I won't easily forget.  I'll be blogging on that one later.  The latest event that's been keeping me busy was the big fundraiser we held this past Friday night.

Side note:  Just heard Carol in the background emphasizing to Jake, "Get your pee in the toilet!  Get your pee in the toilet!"  Oh, the joys of raising children.

I digress.  So before I go into details about the fundraiser (can you say "Toga Party?"), I'm long overdue in talking about  the two important causes which this fundraiser benefited - the Sung Ae Won Orphanage and Habitat For Humanity.  My command, Military Sealift Command Korea and the Busan Foreign School decided to team up in an effort to raise awareness and funds for these two causes.

Here's an article I wrote for the Busan Haps magazine on the fundraiser:

Busan Haps Article on Fundraiser

I won't go into details but the orphanage situation in Korea is significant.  My heart really does go out to these kids.  On a weekly basis I'm dealing with some pretty heavy issues at work - noncombatant evacuation operations, major military exercises, ammunition movements, multiple ships, General and Flag officers and of course, our neighbors to the north.  I can honestly say though that from my vantage point, the most important - and most fulfilling thing I do all week - is visit and hug on those kids at Sung Ae Won.  I can't make it every week but I try.

I get the feeling that many Koreans think that orphanages are depressing places.  I'll tell you that from my experience, this is not true at all.  The depressing thing for me is when I have to leave and some of the kids start crying.  With no mom or dad, these kids are missing out on a lot of playing, hugging and affection.  That's where volunteers can really help out, especially if you're able to make it a regular occurrence.  It doesn't cost a thing to volunteer.  Well, maybe gas money or bus/taxi fare.  These kids will love you for it.  Take a look at these pics:

The Busan International Women's Association (BIWA) is how MSCO Korea and Pier 8 got involved with Sung Ae Won.  What started out as just a handful of volunteers has blossomed into a significant volunteer effort.  Pictured here are some ladies from BIWA and US Army soldiers from Daegu.

Here's Ms. Chang from the MSCO Korea staff playing with the kids.  If you can speak Korean, that'll make your volunteer experience that much better.

Our Navy Reserves volunteer as well.  When they come to Korea for their duty, they stay very busy.  It says a lot about their character that they spend a few hours on their off day to volunteer at Sung Ae Won.  This is CDR Mike Gochis helping out during a big pizza party we threw for the kids.

Captain Rich Bayard during the pizza party.  The children can really use male volunteers.  They just don't get to have much male contact in their lives.  You guys out there in Busan - come on out and help!

The Captain of the USNS POMEROY, Mike Finnigan gave his ship ballcaps to each of the kids.

Everyone had a great time at the pizza party.

That's Air Force Technical Sergeant Daisy Galan in the middle.  She's been a great volunteer at Sung Ae Won.  My wife, Carol on the left coordinates the Sung Ae Won volunteer effort for BIWA.

As far as volunteering, first it was BIWA, then MSCO Korea got into the act.  I spread it out to all the commands at Pier 8 to include the US Army and Air Force units and even folks from Daegu.  We also try to get as many of our Navy Reserves to volunteer as well.  We also have volunteer groups from our church, Antioch International Ministries (AIM) of Sooyoungro.

Beach picnic for the kids at Haeundae Beach with BIWA in 2008.

We expanded last year's beach picnic to include BIWA, MSCO Korea, 837th Transportation Battalion, other units from Pier 8, Busan Storage Facility employees and the American Presence Post.

It's also great when the weather cooperates.  Awesome beach day with the kids!

One of our good friends in Alabama sent us a bunch of children's clothes for the orphanage.  She rallied some of her friends to contribute from thousands of miles away.  This is the Chairman of Sung Ae Won accepting the clothing donation.  Thank you so much Heather!  For those of you in the US or wherever, if you have children's clothing that's just sitting around the house, we'll gladly accept them and send them over to Sung Ae Won!

TSgt Galan was key to a successful toy drive for Sung Ae Won.  Because of this toy drive, we were able to provide each child their own toy during the Christmas Party that we sponsored.

The Christmas Party was a huge success.  We had face painting, a magician, pizza and lots of good food, plenty of toys and just a great time.

We even had a Korean speaking Santa Claus to give presents to every child.

Here's Scott Jolly, the Principal of Busan Foreign School.  BFS also had a toy drive which helped make the Christmas Party a big success.  Thanks a bunch Scott, Amber and the rest of the BFS crew!

Most of the little girls asked for Barbie dolls.  We even got them little hanboks for the dolls.  They loved them!

The kids were mesmerized by the magic show.  It was their first time seeing magic tricks. 

We were also able to provide the orphanage with some special gifts.  They were in need of DVD players so we got them two.  We also got them a Wii video game system with 4 controllers.  When it gets cold, it's hard for the kids to have good physical activity.  The Wii is one way for them to expel some energy.

Some of the smaller kids were asleep when Santa Claus came.  Here are two kids that understand that "the early bird gets the worm."  Check out the sleepy-heads in the background.  This little girl was not gonna let go of this present!

The Busan Foreign School has been volunteering for Habitat For Humanity for a couple of years now.  Building homes for those less fortunate is hard work.  We're talking serious sweat and soreness.  Here is the BFS crew in action in Thailand.

Here's Kristin doing her best "Cool Hand Luke" impersonation.  Kristin also had the great idea of teaming up and doing the combined fundraiser.

Sebastian Cabrera hard at work under the hot sun.

Finally done!  The students undergo a life changing experience from this volunteer effort.  Many of us are coddled in our comfortable environments and forget how difficult life is for millions of people out there.  There's nothing more fulfilling than helping others.

I've gotten several requests through previous blog entries from folks who want to help at the orphanage.  It's always heartwarming to hear from folks that want to help.  For those interested in volunteering at Sung Ae Won, take a look at the scanned brochure below.  You'll have to click on the picture to read it properly of course.  It has contact information and different ways you can help.  Chris from the orphanage speaks great English and is incredibly helpful.  I hope you can make some time to spend with these kids.

So here are a couple of pointers for potential volunteers:

- Always call in advance.  Sometimes the kids will get sick or have last minute schedule changes where a visit will need to be rescheduled.

- The little ones (2 year olds) are great.  They will jump into your arms and sit in your laps after just a few minutes.  The 3 year olds can be skiddish sometimes.  They can get shy and even cry so you'll need to warm up to them more than the others.  The 4 year olds and older usually aren't shy.

- They love playing with little adhesive stickers.  Bringing stickers and maybe some paper for them to stick on is a nice ice breaker.

- Crayons and paper is good too.  Some of them might put things into their mouths that they're not supposed to.  Just watch out for that.

- Take their picture and show it to them on your camera.  They usually get a kick out of that.

- They like small treats - raisins, fruit, etc.  I'd ask the helpers first if it's okay to give candy and other snacks.  You don't want to ruin their lunch or dinner.

- Bounce them on your knee.

- As you're holding them in your arms bear hug style, lean forward and dip them down.

- Don't be afraid to just pick one up and put them in your lap.  They'll let you know if they want to get down.

In the last two years, we've been able to do some really good things for Sung Ae Won.  The volunteer effort is off and running but they can really use your help.  If you're reading this and no one has ever pushed you to volunteer, well I'm pushing you now.  If you're in Busan, Sung Ae Won can use your help.  If you're in the US, how about Habitat For Humanity, Big Brothers or Big Sisters or any one of many great organizations?  You're a good person, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this.  Now it's time to stop talking and do something about it!

Speaking of doing something, that's exactly why MSCO Korea and Busan Foreign School teamed up to do a big fundraiser...but that's for the next entry.  Stay tuned.  Until next time -- C2
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