Monday, June 20, 2005

Leave it to a blackshoe........

Leave it to a blackshoe to take something like liberty (time off the ship for you non-naval indoctrinated personnel) and make it hard. Yankee Sailor obviously did not have enough to do, so he tagged us folks of military persuasion with another meme. But its a good meme, and to play you have to have paid your dues in the service of Uncle Sam. So to get the monkey off my back, I will answer the prosecutors questions.

Now before I start there are a few caveats I need to make clear. During the bulk of my Navy time I had been an East Coast Sailor. I had never been to the Pacific save for one stint off of San Diego as a midshipman, a long time ago and a galaxy far away. Had I been a Westpac Sailor in my younger days, I might never have come back! So this list is slanted towards the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. Yankee Sailor is too young to remember the days when we spent hours boring holes in the sky and water, just to make Jimmy Carter feel like he was doing something about the hostage crisis. Looking at his post, we both went to Haifa about the same time; for the first time. The difference is he was a midshipman and I was a LCDR (sel)....!

Since coming to Asia and reaching the promised land, I've traveled a lot around the region. However now, I do it via the comfort of Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific or Thai Airways. If I had known having a job with this kind of travel existed, I would have been gone from the Navy a lot sooner. So for fairness sake, I have left out all of my Asian places; the worst of which still outclasses the best Mediterranean or American port. Since I was / am in aviation, I have included any location where we made a detachment of over 2 weeks, since those are a "cruise" of sorts. So with that in mind here goes:

Number of ports I've visited: 63

Most recent port I visited: See caveats above. Last port visit I made was over 8 years ago, it was St Maarten's in the Caribbean. ( I've traveled a lot since then, however). I liked St Maarten, and the highlight was having our admin ( that's something I'll have to explain in another whole post) in an entire house on the south end of the island. Brought some "guests" back just in time to watch 2 of the JO's, doing nude cannonball's in the pool.

Port I never want to see again: Colombo Sri Lanka. In a word, IT SUCKED! The boat ride was long and the city was drenched in poverty. We would go out sightseeing and be besieged by beggars in the street. Its also the only place I have ever played golf where cows were a hazard. ( That's a no s***er! They allowed these scrawny cows with horns to graze on the course and I still have memories of trying to chip an 8 iron shot over a cow and hoping that I did not hit him and make mad). After 3 days in port, we just said screw it and spent our days getting drunk by the hotel pool.

As an aside, the worth of a place depends on whether you are there with the ship or not. For example I visited Djibouti abut 13 years ago and actually had a pretty nice time. The French had brought in an extra 1000 Legionaires ( Legion Etrangere) to keep the Issa tribesmen at bay so the city could run, so the place was crawling with French Legionaires. An Army Sergeant First Class attached to the Embassy there, gave me the full tour of all the discos and hooker bars the legionaires liked to go to. Drank with a lot of Kepi wearing legionaires, got to dance with the girls and drink a lot, and all in all a good time was had by all. Our introduction to the SFC was interesting: he pulled out several strips of Trojans, gave us each a strip of 8, and reminded us that we were in Africa and to be "careful out there". Believe it or not, mine went unused, (NOT IN AFRICA! NO CHANCE PADDLES!) so I gave them to the C-2 crew that flew us in. From what they told me, they put them to good use with his maid and about 6 of her friends......

Only goes to show that any place is better when you go there without 5000 people tagging along.

But I digress.......

Three ports that were the most memorable:

Edinburgh Scotland- It was coolish in September, but the people were great and I got to play golf. Plus it was the first time I had ever driven on the left hand side of the road. A buddy and I took turns driving and scaring the S**t out of each other. We were going to play golf at St Andrews, but a wise man in a pub told us the night before about a local country club that he could get us on for free. He was true to his word and it was great. We got right on and did not have to wait on any tee boxes. So playing the Old Course at St Andrews is still on my life "to do list". Add to that I love English ( Scottish) beer!

Haifa Israel- While I was at the War College, I sponsored the Israeli student. 2 years later on cruise, he returned the favor by letting me stay with him and his wife ( who was from Russia and was GORGEOUS!). Daron drove me around the country including to the West Bank and the Golan Heights. I have a picture of a sign facing Syria with an Israeli flag on it saying, "Welcome to Israel!" The day we went to the West Bank, I was slightly taken aback when he showed up with an M-16 in the back seat and a Barretta by his side in the drivers seat. On the way , we stopped at a Kibbutz and picked up a "tail gunner"....Amazing. Drove through Jericho down to Masada. I also got to visit an Israeli winery in Daron's home town of Zikron Yaakov. He arranged to have me get a one man winery tour and wine tasting. Outstanding!

Intifada or no, if you get a chance to go to Israel..TAKE IT! Its a beautiful country. Also seeing Israel after seeing Egypt made me very pro-Israeli. I still am.

Trieste Italy- Not because Trieste is that great a town, because its kind of dumpy like most Italian cities. However 3 of us took leave, got on the first boat off the ship and then immediately went to the train station where we caught a train for Salzburg Austria. 6 hours, 6 beers, and 2 bottles of wine later we got off in Salzburg with snow falling and snow up to our asses. Found the first hotel we could find, slept it off and then had a blast for 3 days being in a city with NO SAILORS THERE!

Some close runners up: Panama City Panama, Ft Liquordale (er..I mean Lauderdale), Athens, Marseilles, Palma........hell any place is all right provided: a) its not on the ship and b) there is cold beer and hot women!

Liberty ports are what you make them. Come to think of it, I've really never had a really bad liberty port......a bad day in port still beats a good day on the ship!


P.S. I think this meme would interest Neptunus Lex, Bow Ramp, and Bubblehead.


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