American Southwest Family Vacation

We followed historic Route 66 on our way to see the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, plus much more in New Mexico and Arizona.

End of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Here are our stories from two and a half years of living in Saudi Arabia while exploring the region.

Excursions to Oman

On two different trips, we strolled Muscat, hiked Wadi Shab, and sailed a dhow through the fjords of Musandam.

Our Expedition to Jordan

Highlights included tracing the steps of Indiana Jones into Petra, following Lawrence of Arabia into Wadi Rum, and floating in the Dead Sea.

Our Adventures in Sri Lanka

Safaris to spot leopards and elephants, swimming in the Indian Ocean, sipping tea in the mountains, and several more!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Trier Christmas Market

We've only been in Germany for a few weeks, but it seems First experience with the Trier Christmas market: gluhwein, bratkartoffln, and bratwurst. Yum!











Going into the Wald to harvest Christmas tree. 
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

End of Tour Summary: Korea


For a one-year unaccompanied tour, my time in South Korea went surprisingly quick. But what makes the time go by are the people you're there with.
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Last Day in Korea

Ah, the fall colors, crisp morning air, and the excitement that come with rejoining your loved ones. It really is a beautiful day.
The view outside my room
Since I turned over all my responsibilities to my replacement, there's basically nothing for me to do but walk around and enjoy the view. But then I came across this:
Broken water main...but it's no longer my problem.
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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Promotion to Captain!

Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea
Today is my promotion ceremony to the rank of Captain. I was given the choice of where to hold the ceremony. For the last year, I would pass this one particular tree on the golf course, and it just seemed right to incorporate it. The tree's roots date back to about 1270 A.D. It has seen the rise and fall of nations. It has seen countless wars and conflicts. In fact, the Enheng-jungui Ginkgo Tree located on Osan's golf course was declared a registered local landmark by the city of Songtan in 1994.
I think the tree will be there long after the bunker crumbles.
Trees such as this are an important piece of traditional Korean culture and have often been a focal point of village life. According to tradition, most villages had some type of tree, which was often thought to influence the prosperity, fertility, health and fortune of the village.
November in Korea isn't exactly the warmest time of year.
Korean history also shows that people hold many of the large old trees in high regard due to much of the deforestation that occurred during the Korean War. A tree that has lived more than seven centuries carries a lot of history in its branches and should be treated with respect.




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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween in Korea

One of the best things about living in Korea is the ability to get made to order clothing...or Halloween costumes.

Pretty standard Pumpkin and Angel
A penguin, a dog, and convict go to a bar...
Bad Taste award: The Late Steve Irwin
Most original: A Deviled Egg
Dr. Evil, I presume?
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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Playing against the Black Widow

Thanks to a slow work day, a well-timed phone call and the right answer to a radio trivia program, I get to play a game of 9-ball against Jeanette Lee, also known as "The Black Widow." I admit that my game's not that good, but I'm hoping that all the imperfections on our club's table throw her off her game enough for me to have a fighting chance.

Her warm-up consists of trick shots.
Waiting to break

Did I mention I was playing in front of 300+ people?
She's telling me "Don't screw this up"
Yeah...I scratched on that last shot.
Clearing the table during her next match.
So, I lost by two. Which was a smaller margin than anyone else who played her. Even though she was probably just using our game to get a feel for the table, I consider that a win for me. While she might look serious during the game, she's actually very friendly and personable.
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Friday, August 11, 2006

Climbing Mount Fuji

I hiked to the top of Mt. Fuji in 2006. I used various forms of public transportation to get out to Station Number 5, which is basically "base camp." Setting out a few hours before sunset, I was determined to view the sunrise from the top of the mountain.
View of Mount Fuji on the flight into Tokyo  
Mount Fuji Station Number 5



Mount Fuji Station Number 7
It was about this time that I had a solid stream of sweat rolling down my back. While I had plenty of water and a change of clothes for the hike down and ride home, I hadn't thought about bringing a third set of clothes to change into when I took a break at the last station before the top of the mountain. Some folks were sleeping, others were chatting outside. I hunkered down in a heated bathroom for a couple of hours. I know what you're thinking, "ew, gross!" but believe me, those were some of the most well-kept bathrooms I've ever seen. Since there wasn't a whole lot of traffic passing thru that station at that time, I basically just sat in my own private stall, warming up and drying out.
A Torii on Mount Fuji
Torii silhouette
Somewhere along the hike up from the last station to the top of the mountain, I ran into the sister of one of my best friends in high school. It was extremely dark, so I couldn't see her all that well, but I could tell from her accent that she was American. So the conversation went something like this:
ME: "What state are you from?"
HER: "Florida."
ME: "Me too! What city?"
HER: "Fort Lauderdale."
ME: "Really? What school did you go to?"
HER: "Saint Thomas"
ME: "Wait a second, are you Garrett's sister?"
HER: "Yeah, Oh, you're Greg!"
How's that for a strange coincidence? A totally unplanned meeting on the opposite side of the world with someone I had given Christmas gifts to over a decade ago? We ended up hiking the rest of the way to the top of the Mount Fuji together and watched the sunrise and then texted a photo of ourselves to her brother in the US.

Before Sunrise on Mount Fuji
Sunrise from on top of Mount Fuji
Marked another one off of the bucket list!
Somewhere along the way down the mountain, we were separated again, which only makes the meeting that much more special I think. Well, at least we'll always have Fuji.
The dude in back climbed Mt. Fuji in a suit. Why?
You can almost see it in the picture above, but the entire mountain is made of (somewhat obvious, now that I think of it) the kind of lava rocks that you see in saunas. Which is to say, very hard to walk on. My boots got torn apart.
So much for that pair of boots.


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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Mud Fest!

Daecheon Beach Mud Festival
A whole bunch of us went to the Mud Festival, an annual festival in Boryeong, a town around 200 km south of Seoul. The first Mud Festival was staged in 1998 and, by now, the festival attracts 2+ million visitors to Boryeong. The mud is taken from the Boryeong mud flats, and trucked to the Daecheon beach area, where it is used as the centrepiece of the 'Mud Experience Land'. Gotta love the straight Korean translations.

The mud is considered rich in minerals and used to manufacture cosmetics. The festival was originally conceived as a marketing vehicle for Boryeong mud cosmetics. Although the festival takes place over a period of around two weeks, it is most famous for its final weekend, which is popular with Korea's western population.
Jay with Billie and Mary, two very dirty girls
A mud-wrestling ring
Mudslide?
Mud: SPF 100
Eat your heart out, Zoolander!
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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Kuranda and Tjapukai Aboriginal Center

So, today is a fun adventure through the rainforest. We'll start by taking the Kuranda Scenic Railway up to Kuranda Village, then take the Skyrail back to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Center.

Kuranda Scenic Railway
Kuranda Scenic Railway map


RRR is an adventure seeker.
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Monday, June 12, 2006

Daintree Tour

We walked around the city of Cairns today, but the big activity of the day was an animal spotting tour in the Daintree rainforest that started in the late afternoon and ran into the night so that that we would get a chance to see diurnal and nocturnal animals.
A list of what we saw & what we could have seen

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Flying foxes

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Diving the Great Barrier Reef

It's our first morning in Cairns, and we woke up a little early, had breakfast in the hotel restaurant (the first reasonably priced breakfast we've had this trip). Then waited for our tour bus to take us to the wharf. We were on our way, and very close to the boat when we had to stop and watch a triathlon go by. We were trying to make a right across the intersection and the cops were in no mood to let us go. If there weren't bikes coming straight at us, there was traffic passing across in front of us.

So when we finally arrived to the Quicksilver Tour desk, they pointed us to the boat , we boarded, and were under way. The weather started getting rough. Our diving ship was tossed. Over half the passengers got sick. We didn't. The 1.5 hour trip out was really choppy,  and there was little to be seen out the windows besides wash and spray.

We had full wetsuits (with hoods and mittens) but the water was too warm for me to use them. We stepped over the side and descended the line to the sandy sea floor. We saw a stingray straight off, and all sorts of fish and coral all around us. We went down to around 15m, exploring all the colorful sea life. It's really hard to describe it all, so we bought the DVD video that our tour had, even if it was kind of annoying to have the photographer bumping into us as she scurried around getting pictures. I thought I was going to run low of air...Queensland requires 50 bars (1/4 tank). Saw a big barracuda right at the end of the dive. The boat was rolling around quite a bit, so the ladder was a challenge. Kacey hurt her finger, I hurt my toe.

We found Nemo
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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Alice Springs to Cairns

Slept in, at "brekky" at McDonald's, then a few hours at the Alice Springs Desert Park. Lots of pretty birds singing. Woodland and desert habitats. Since there were no fences, we were able to get really close to a red kangaroo who hopped away.We saw emus, owls, and falcons as well. A bunch of lizards and rodents too. I highly recommend stopping here if your schedule allows.
Alice Springs Desert Park Map


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End Of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

We spent two and a half years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on our second tour in the Foreign Service with the US Department of State. As you migh...

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