Air Power Day

A few weeks ago, Osan Air Base celebrated Air Power Day 2011.  This is an annual two-day air show featuring American and Korean aerial performances, military demonstrations, and aircraft and equipment displays.  The base is open to the public, giving the locals a chance to come onto base and enjoy the festivities and food.  There were over 50,000 visitors at the show this year.

The Republic of Korea Black Eagles

The A-10 East Demonstration Team

Combat Search and Rescue Demonstration

Military Dog Demonstration

"I've been to this event four times," said Taegyu Kim, APD spectator.  "I love airplanes, so I thank the Air Force for having this event; it's a great way for Koreans to build relationships with American military."  -Pacific Air Forces news article

"The engine is the heart of an airplane,
but the pilot is its soul."
~Walter Raleigh

Scenic Sunday

* Every Sunday our blog features a random scenic photograph from our travels *

View from Apulit Island Resort, Philippines

"Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try."
~Author Unknown

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Coincidentally, this also is the 200th post of our blog.  How fitting that it is for a holiday during which we celebrate the things we are thankful for.

We have so much to be thankful for on our 5th Thanksgiving together.  We are thankful that we are spending the holidays together again this year.  We are thankful that we are all happy and healthy.  We are thankful for all of our family and friends who enrich our lives beyond words.  We are thankful that we were able to spend this year living in Korea together with Dulce and we are thankful for the changes that the new year is going to bring.

"For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Woof Stock

A few weeks ago, the dog kennels here on our military base hosted a fun outdoor dog party called "Woof Stock".  There was at least 30 dogs of all breeds and sizes who showed up with their owners.  The dogs had a great time playing and chasing each other.  There were treats for the dogs, snacks for the humans, and gorgeous weather enjoyed by all.

When we first arrived, Dulce had a great time playing with other dogs and showing off on the agility equipment.   However as more and more dogs showed up, she started to look overwhelmed and wouldn't leave our sides.  She's never been around that many dogs all at once before.

There were some adoptable dogs at the party hoping to find a new home.

There were three contests for the dogs to compete in:  Most Obedient, Best Trick, and an Eating Contest. For the Eating Contest, a dog and his owner had to eat food (canned dog food for the dog and canned stew for the humans) out of dog dishes.  They were paired against another dog and its owner. Whichever pair finished all of their food first, won.  We chose not to enter this contest... the cold canned stew didn't look very appetizing, especially in a dog dish :)

We did enter Dulce into the other two contests.  For the Most Obedient contest, the owner could use whatever verbal and nonverbal commands they wanted to show how well the dog listened and followed directions.  I went through Dulce's commands and tricks with her such as sit, lay down, roll over, 'bang' (play dead), stay, leave it, and high five.  For the Best Trick contest, the dog had to perform one trick. We came prepared for this since the contests were advertised in the Woof Stock flyers.  We brought Dulce's toy basket and some toys and had her "put away your toys" in the basket.

There were many dogs that competed in the contests but Dulce ended up winning FIRST PLACE in both of the contests she entered!  She won two big baskets full of food, treats, toys, dog shampoo, and a bed.

Our happy winner :)

"We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare, and
love we can spare.  And in return, dogs give us their all.
It's the best deal man has ever made."
~M. Acklam

Insam Festival

After our tour of Wine Korea, we stopped at the Geumsan Insam Festival.  Insam is the Korean word for ginseng.  Ginseng is a popular herb available in many different forms such as liquid extracts, powders, and capsules.  White Ginseng is ginseng that has been peeled and dried.  Red Ginseng is the same ginseng but left unpeeled and steamed before drying.

Ginseng is reported to have many physical and mental benefits.  It is typically used to improve such things as athletic performance, mental sharpness, and life span.  It is also used to prevent diseases and to treat various ailments such as headache, fever, asthma, and even cancer.

To read more about ginseng, visit a website such as

There were buildings of vendors selling ginseng products including supplements, teas, and candies.  Some bottles of red ginseng extract were hundreds of dollars!  We were handed samples at many of the booths we walked past.  I personally think that ginseng tastes like dirt but it's supposed to have amazing health benefits.  Johnnie and I must have consumed enough ginseng at the festival to add years to our life :)

Red ginseng foot baths...

Ginseng candy making and ginseng seed planting...

Singers and dancers performing on stage...

A somewhat disturbing street performer...

There were food vendors selling Korean food and snacks throughout the festival.  We tried some ginseng tea (yuck) and we ate some fried ginseng which was surprisingly tasty.  The thin parts of the root tasted like ginseng but the thick part tasted more like a potato.

Whole ginseng roots are often kept in jars or bottles of soju liquor or rice wine, infusing the alcohol with ginseng.  We've seen this at restaurants and bars and we tried it once... it's not an enjoyable drink.

Peeled white ginseng...

Yay for ginseng!!

"I'm not sure that ginseng is any better for you or me than a carrot,
but just in case the Chinese are right, I grow it in my garden.  I stick
a root in a jug of gin and call it Old Duke's Gin and Ginseng."
~James Duke, USDA botanist

Scenic Sunday

* Every Sunday our blog features a scenic photograph from our travels *

Mayan Ruins of Tikal, Guatemala

"The one who does not open their eyes today will never open them."
~Ancient Mayan Quote

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The Wine Train

A few weekends ago, Johnnie, myself, and some friends went on the Korean Wine Train.  We booked the tour trough the tourism office on our military base, but the Wine Train is available for everyone in Korea be it individuals or groups.

As advertised:  The Wine Train tour begins with a two-hour train ride in themed train cars with all-you-can-drink wine and snacks.  Upon arriving at the winery, you visit the winery facilities, have lunch, enjoy a wine foot bath, and make wine soap.  After that the tour continues to a local attraction depending on weather and availability before taking the two-hour train ride back to where you started from.

Seeing the brochures and the website, I had been looking forward to going on the Wine Train for months!  Maybe I built it up too much in my head, or perhaps the tour just really doesn't deliver all it is supposed to.  Was it fun?  Yes, definitely a good time but I was expecting more and felt unfulfilled at the end.

We boarded the train onto an awesome car that had small tables, plush velvet armchairs and seating, and a live musician with a guitar.  This was the train car that is on all of the Wine Train brochures.  The Koreans sitting there were having such good time that they put smiley stickers all over their faces :)

Our group was pushed through that awesome car into one simply filled with booths.  Disappointing but at least it still had cool curtains and lighting.  After doing some research, I've found out that the awesome car is an extra 5,000 won in price.  We didn't have a choice, booking the ticket the tourism office on base, but I would have gladly paid an extra $5 to sit in the blue, velvet swivel armchair :)

There was also a cinema car where you could watch movies while drinking wine.

We got a tray of snacks for the train ride but it left a little to be desired... cheese puff balls, yellow cheese slices in plastic cut into four pieces (really?), saltine crackers, ritz crackers, a sliced banana, some Korean ginseng snacks, and some small sweet cakes.  I was really expecting something a little more upscale on a "wine train" especially with the amount that the trip cost.

There were four wines to choose from on the train; one white and three red.  Let's just say that Korea is not known for its quality grape wines but at least there was wine to drink!  It was supposed to be all-you-can-drink but the waiters only came around to fill glasses once, okay maybe twice, without someone going and asking them to do so.  Couldn't they please have left a bottle at the table?

After arriving at the Yeongdong Station, we boarded a tour bus for a short ride to Wine Korea.  This is the only grape winery in South Korea and has only been making wine for 25 years.

The first thing we did at the winery was have lunch.  According the brochure we were supposed to gather for lunch under a grapevine awning (the room pictured below) which would've been amazing!  However, that room must have been an extra $5 as well because that's not where we got to eat.

Instead, we all gathered in this dining hall (nice but not grapevine awning nice) where we were offered a red and a white wine served out of boxes.  Boxed wine at a winery luncheon?  Really?  The nice room pictured above had wine served from barrels....  just sayin'...

Lunch was a buffet with a variety of Korean dishes to choose from.  It was okaaayyy but not especially good.  It didn't help that the winery underestimated the number of people that would be there and they ran out of food.  Luckily there was plenty of boxed wine left.

After lunch, we headed to the foot bath area.  This was a charming room with a ceiling of grapevines heavy with grapes.  There were many square tubs filled with hot "grape-colored water" and also individual buckets filled with the same along the sides of the room.  We were told that the tubs were big enough for 10 people to sit around.  Umm... maybe 10 Korean people, but 8 of us would've been more comfortable.

We each got a towel and a pair of rubber sandals before heading to the tubs.  The sandals didn't quite fit all American-sized feet.  After we finished, the sandals were placed back on the table for the next group of people to use... no form of cleaning or sterilization was done to them.  Wish I had known that before I put them on my feet.  At least the towels appeared to be washed.

The hot foot bath was actually very relaxing.  Just try not to think about how many feet are and have been in the "grape-colored" water!

While enjoying the foot soak, we were given some refreshing chilled drink pouches of grape juice :)

A wall/sign made entirely out of empty wine bottles and a lovely little "not quite right" poem.

In the Oak Cellar Cave

Say "kimchi!"

I thought I found the bottle of wine I wanted in the gift store... until I found a bigger one outside :)

That was it.  What about the wine soap making?  "That old brochure. We not do that today."  Hmmm...

Our tour group boarded the bus and stopped at a local ginseng festival (which will be another post) before heading back to the train for the ride home.

Was the Wine Train worth it?  Yes, if you don't expect too much and go prepared.  There was a group of ladies on our tour that had obviously done it before because they came prepared with their own array of snacks such as meats, cheeses, nuts, and bottled water.  Smart!  Also, I imagine that if you bring a wine bottle opener, you can buy a bottle of wine at the winery gift shop and drink it on the ride home so you can ensure that your wine glass will be filled even when the waiters on the train disappear.

"Consuming wine in moderation daily will
help people to die young as late as possible."
~Dr. Phillip Norrie