Sunday, November 22, 2009

Another Post

Bill sent me this post to upload for him on November 11th, it was the last email he was able to send before communications were shut down. There's been no word from him since, however the CO did inform us that everyone is safe and aboard the ship. Sorry it took me so long to post it. ~ko

So I can’t access my blog anymore, other blog for that matter – so it’s time to play good news, bad news:

Bad news: I can no longer load the precious videos of the family
Good news: I can still update by blog through my proxy
Bad news: I cannot remember what the titles to the other Phuket stories were…
Good news: Ya’ll will get to hear about something else
Bad news: Ya’ll will get to hear about something else
Good news: I can access
Bad news: Everything is written in Arabic…

I played a little game in my mind today – ‘twas fun. I had a backpacker magazine that a friend dropped off on my desk today – so I read through the entire thing and imagined being in each location until something from work drew me away (relax, I only lost maybe 20 minutes of work and I made up for it later) – but it was pretty fun to imagine hiking and camping out in Wyoming, or Colorado, or even Canada. Oh, and by the way, my significant other has lived in three of the top 5 “Best places to raise an outdoor kid” which I guess explains why she wanted to go camping 8 months pregnant the first go around – you better not get any crazy ideas without me, missy!

So now I’m psyched to take the family hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing when I get back – maybe in a few years, but you know – gotta plan early.

In the meantime, it’s pretty cool there are so many easier, less complicated hikes so close – we are blessed

I was also reading about dogs that are trained to search for stranded and lost hikers – there was a Lassie-type dog, some sort of collie, who wears a harness and will repel with its owner, attached to his belt – pretty awesome – I do miss my Dora-dog

As for where we are right now…somewhere west of California and somewhere East of New York – hahaha – I know I’m soooo hilarious

So I got to tie down a helicopter the other day in a monsoon – well I don’t know if it was rated as a monsoon, but it was like 40 mph wind and raining buckets – like the rain machines you see in the movies – needless to say I got soaked to the bone – like I had just jumped in a pool, but the cool thing was that the rain stopped, the wind actually picked up, and I ended up going below dry – and a pilot that had left early was still wet downstairs – go figure

Everything is going well over here – it’s exciting to actually be doing the job that I’ve been effectively training for for…7 years now – well 25ish if you count arguing a point as my job (thanks, dad)

In order to avoid rambling since I am getting sleepy but my fingers are still moving, I shall end this post

Friday, November 6, 2009

Part deaux

Sleeping on a Ship: Sleeping on a ship such as this can be interesting -the strangest sounds can wake you up at night - and not necessarily coming from the guy sleeping above you, or across the room, or above that guy, or even above that guy - oh no, we have the distinct pleasure of being directly beneath where they park aircraft - it's actually not that bad except for the chains...they anchor down aircraft with chains to make sure they don't move when parked - and the chains are pretty heavy, probably 15 pounds each, and people drag around 4 or 5 at a time- and they're long, so they get dragged. I've drug them a bunch on the deck putting planes away and getting them out without thinking about it much, but when it's directly above your head it sounds like a dog barking and scraping at your door - which can really mess with your head if you are asleep and they're parking a bird at 2am. But even more disturbing, and more rare, thankfully, is the fact that our rooms are at the end of the ship with the main anchors - they dropped anchor at like 4am the last time they did it and I would have sworn it sounded exactly like what metal ripping 75 feet up the side would sound like - quite startling. But the best experience I ever had was the few weeks I stayed on an actual aircraft carrier - one level beneath the number 3 catch wire (the one aircraft aim for) and next door to the actual arresting gear - no joke, it sounded like a freight train derailing and crashing through the next room...every couple of minutes...until 2 in the A-M - yeah, that was pretty awesome

The Walk: As for the walk - if you don't see the intoxicated Pooh-Bear, then you will after this post - The Walk was what solidified for me that Craig is as frugal / cheap as I am, especially in port. If my family was with me I would have no qualms with getting a cab - but two dudes in their 20s and the cabbie wants 1000 baht (about $30) - we don't even try to bargain, we just laugh, take a gander at the directions, and headout. Lucky for us, 7-11 has apparently bought out every other convenient store in the country and is as plentiful as a Starbucks in Malibu. We were going to a house that all of the officers put some money together to rent - it would have free food and free drinks, so we skipped lunch. There was no talk about how long it might take - we had a map, but no reference to distances...or elevation change, for that matter - we just both mutually understood you don't pay for food when there's free food out there and you don't pay for a cab when it's two dudes and we're not on crutches. So we head out and bounce from 7-11 to 7-11 getting frosty beverages along the way - interesting thing in Thailand, if your drink comes in a glass bottle, they open it for you at the counter - nice and happy the Thai are. Oh, did I mention we skipped lunch? So it's the late Thailand - yeah, we started and continued to sweat - thankfully the 7-11s we frequented were air conditioned, the only places that were with the exception of houses and hotels, actually - so we walked and walked, and walked some more -just like Rabbit, Piglet, Tigger, and Pooh into the 100 acre wood - it was hot - it was humid - we were sweating - I got a sweat stain on my jeans where they creased on my ankle - just above the shoe - and soaked our shirts through (FYI we are all taking daily malaria medication which makes you even more susceptible to sunburn - and if you know me at all you know I hate hate hate putting on sunscreen - total baby, I know -but instead I wore a hat, jeans, long sleeve shirt, and undershirt -awesome attire for Thailand, by the way - Craig did the same) so yeah, it's hot, we're walking, we make a couple of turns and we see the hill -now this wasn't a normal American hill, oh no, it was a lying, menacing Thai hill - full of curves and false plateaus - we kept walking up up up- and got laughed at by a lot of Thai people - you know, the friendly "You silly Americans, why don't you get a tuk-tuk like everybody else" kind of laugh - a Tuk-tuk is the Thai version of a cab - google it because I forgot to take a picture. So just as the sun is starting to hard-boil my brains under my hat I see it - the funniest thing I will see in Thailand and one of the funniest things (situational dependent) I will probably ever see - the ridiculousness of the sight - here we are, winded, hot, sweating out of every pour (EVERY POUR) and there is a billboard-sized picture of Whinny-the-Pooh, loved by children, enjoyed by grown-ups, an icon of youth and innocence - drunk off his stuff-and-fluff- now THAT I had to get a picture of - and I did - and we were only half way up the hill So we make it the rest of the way and when we get to the house people are confused and thought we had already jumped in the pool - then they realized what we'd done and they laughed at us - this was more the "You guys are weird so I'm going to laugh at you" kind of laugh - eh - we saved our 1000 baht and ate our free food and drank our free drink -success. We just had to figure out how to get back.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Phuket Phunk

This blog entry and the following ones pertaining to my experiences in Phuket will be disjointed - not a story start to finish, but rather a collection of random items that I jotted down to remind myself to write about later. And now is later, so here we go:

Phuket Phunk: So - what is the "Phuket Phunk?" Well let me tell you - it is a smell unlike anything I, or you, have ever smelled before. It's a strange mixture of sourness, sweatness, BOness, street food vendorness, and essence of spilled alcohol. There's probably more smells in there, but you guys all know that if I taste a wine I don't talk about the 'burnt mahogany with a finish of steamed roses' I just taste good and bad - and the Phuket Phunk was bad. The high temperatures and even higher humidity only exasperated things further. The rain (every night like clockwork, actually) did clear it out while it was raining, but only returned stronger after. It wasn't as bad up in the hills - but then it still smelled - usually like my perspiration (I did sweat…a lot)

Craig: I spent a lot of time with a now good friend Craig. In Craig I think I have found a guy as cheap and unwilling to spend money wastefully as I am. Good dude - we have a lot in common - married, 2 kids, Christians, generally good natured. What we don't have in common…he's 6' 2" and maybe in the neighborhood of 230 - basically a linebacker from the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team (he's from Minnesota, actually, but a corn-fed country boy from Nebraska was more fitting). And walking around the streets of a foreign country it made me feel safer to be with a guy on average twice the size of anybody else there.

Ship to shore: This was my first port of call and really had no idea how things would be set up - they explained it pretty well to us, but some things you really can't understand until you experience it. In retrospect, I still saved money doing this port the way I did, but if I were to do it again I might do it differently - anyways - the island of Phuket doesn't have a port large enough to let a ship as big as ours actually pull up, drop a ramp, and let us walk off - we would run aground first (bad news for the CO, no doubt) so we drop anchor a mile or so off from the shore - oh, let me tell you about that later. And shuttle ships are provided to bring people from the big ship to shore at 120 people a shot. These ships are pretty old, owned and run by the host country, and take about a half hour to or from. And then we took busses from that point to the actual city - the good news is that all of this is free and provided for the military guys to get into and out of town - also good is that they ran pretty much 24 hrs all the time we were there. The bad news:

Average Time: 1 hr 30 min Shortest Time: 1 hr 20 min Longest Time: 3 hr 30 min (Yeah that one hurt, especially because I got to the bus at 1 in the morning) So my plan when everybody else was making hotel reservations was that I'd just stay on the boat, get off to get something to eat and walk around a little, and come back to work out in the now open gym. Doesn't work out so well when a round trip is a little over 3 hours of sitting waiting to get somewhere. It still worked out in the end and let me get to know Craig a lot better during this trip.

One thing I did notice about Thailand, moreso outside of the city where there were so many people, is that it if very open - houses, businesses, garages, restaurants - almost none of them had a front door - or a wall in the front, for that matter - which also means none of these places had air conditioning - lots of ceiling fans - it was interesting to drive by all of these places - being so open, you can see the entire restaurant, all the way back to the kitchen, the whole garage, everything is out on display. Kind of contributes to the general Thai disposition, now that I think about it. The Thai people have a reputation for being one of the happiest cultures around - from my experience I would have to agree. Maybe because their language is so hard and we Americans make such a funny scene trying to pantomime where we want to go to a taxi drivers - nonetheless, they all looked very happy / friendly / generally pleased to see you - even the people outside of the city. I think part of it is because of the openness of their architecture. Their home / business / is open to anybody passing by to come in and sit, have some tea, and some roasted duck (well they say it's duck I'll never really know for sure) - it was nice

Bodybuilders: my first day there I was riding in a bus and was people watching on the way to the drop off point - and being the mathemagician I am, I started polling the population passing by for ethnic diversity. I was one of the last ones off the boat so by that time at night I saw maybe 80% Thai, 8% Marines / Navy, 7% European / Caucasian tourists, and 5% grossly huge muscle guys wearing torn up shirts because their abnormal frame won't fit into anything the right way. Strange - it seemed disproportionate to me - as I'm sure it does to you. What are so many bodybuilders doing in Thailand? It has nothing to do with training at altitude (this is the part of the country that got wiped by a typhoon a few years back), and training in extreme heat and humidity is just annoying - I asked a friend and got a fitting but sad answer: Steroids, along with many other drugs, are totally legal in Thailand - so you get an influx of European and American bodybuilders who come the Thailand and "get huge" for a few months and then go back home - blah.

Some of the items on the docket for tomorrow (Or the next day, we'll see how things go - I am deployed, you know):
Phuket Drivers
To do list
The walk
Sleeping on a big ship
Thailand Economics explained