Normally it would be Yoni's turn to write today. However, due to the fact that he is currently deployed, you're stuck with me again. I'm going to cheat a little, though, by sharing some photos that I know Yoni meant to share before he left but never did.
Yoni celebrated his 31st birthday in the weeks before he left, and as a birthday gift, our friend Josh, who moonlights as a flight instructor, took Yoni flying. We both assumed that they'd go on a scenic tour of Okinawa, see the sights from above, take in the ocean and the mountains. But Josh had something else in mind. When he said he wanted to take Yoni flying, he actually meant that he would let Yoni fly the plane. I know, it's a terrifying thought. Luckily, though, the plane was what I like to think of as a driver's ed style plane, meaning there were dual controls. But Yoni insists he took off and landed twice, practiced turning and steering, and was generally trusted with the operation of the (very small) plane.
At any rate, assuming he was going on a sightseeing tour, I sent Yoni with the camera. He didn't get too many pictures (he was pretty busy concentrating on the flying part), but he did - with Josh's help - get a few shots of himself in action. Hope you enjoy!
Friday, February 28, 2014
Well, Yoni is officially gone, off to spend 6-8 weeks on the USS Ashland as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
While there was no official send-off with flags and balloons and a brass band (too many people and too much stuff to on-load, I guess), I did get a chance to visit the ship with Yoni a couple of days before he left. We weren’t on board for long – Yoni was just dropping off some of his bags – but it was long enough to check out the accommodations and get a sense for what it might be like to live on a US Navy vessel.
First of all, I have to say that ships were not built for people as tall as Yoni. Putting aside having to step through every porthole/doorway and the million and a half opportunities to trip there are onboard every day, Yoni barely cleared the light fixtures. I’m not convinced that he won’t come back with a permanently bruised head. At least he fit in his bed – even if it was just barely.
Speaking of beds. In the Officers’ berthings (apparently that’s the ship-appropriate word for room-where-people-sleep), or at least in Yoni’s, there were 4 beds – 2 sets of bunk beds. It was a small room, and that seemed crowded.
At least until I saw the Enlisted berthings. Their beds are – no joke – 4 high. And these are not rooms with high ceilings. And each set of beds is pushed right up against a second set of beds lengthwise, which I’m sure makes for some awkward accidental middle of the night cuddling.
Oh, and the stairs might as well be ladders. I thought about wearing a skirt the day we visited; let’s just say it’s a good thing I didn’t. It must be an excellent workout, though, just moving around the ship all day.
Even based on the 45 minutes I spent on board, it’s hard to imagine being able to live on a ship like that for two months or more. It certainly gives me new respect for people who elect to do so. I’m curious to see how it plays out for Yoni. I’m sure he’ll make the best of it, however the actual experience is, but here’s hoping he learns how not to bump his head everywhere he goes! It’s the little things.
Friday, February 14, 2014
I am a neglectful husband. I am leaving my poor pregnant wife alone with the dog while I go to sea on a cruise that people would spend thousands of dollars to book (and in fact, the taxpayers do spend millions on it). Further, I didn’t buy her chocolates today. Even though neither of us celebrate Valentine’s Day: fact is, she is still pregnant and chocolates taste good. To that effect, I will not write a blog post this week...so that I can spend the few minutes after work and before going to shul with my wonderful beautiful wife. I will, however, write for her next week (she says this post is a cop out)
Friday, February 7, 2014
Last night, I attended my first ever pre-deployment brief for Yoni’s battalion. By the way, I can tell that I’ve been living in the military world for too long because that sounds completely normal to me – of course that’s what I did with my Thursday night. In case it doesn’t sound quite so normal to you, here’s a bit of an explanation. As I think he’s written about on the blog (although, looking back, I’m not sure he was so overt), Yoni is getting ready to head on a deployment for about 1 ½ - 2 months. His battalion, Combat Logistics Battalion 31, is part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which, to make a long story short, means they spend almost as much time off island as they do on island.
During the lead-up to any deployment, Marines, Sailors and their spouses always have a lot of questions, like – when are we leaving? Will it be easy for us to stay in touch with our families while we’re gone? Where are we going, exactly? What should we expect? Where can I send my spouse mail while he/she is aboard ship? What if there’s an emergency at home while we’re gone? The pre-deployment brief is designed to address those questions and concerns.
While we did get answers last night, I can’t share very much with any of you (or, really, with anyone). At least not if what you want to know is when will Yoni be leaving and when will he be back. I can tell you that we’re told to expect bad connectivity i.e. don’t be upset if your spouse can’t call you and doesn’t manage to send many emails. (Awesome.) If there’s a real emergency you’re supposed to send a Red Cross message. And we’re told that any dates we’re given re leaving and returning are – of course – subject to change.
While this is all valuable information, I’m sure you can imagine that a spouse who is a veteran of many deployments might find such a brief boring; aside from the specifics, the information and suggestions don’t really change. MCCS (Marine Corps Community Services), though, who runs the briefs, is always looking for ways to encourage spouses to come out. And so they decided that if you want to receive a Deployed Spouses Benefits Card, you have to come to this meeting. These cards are serious – they have our names printed on them and they’re laminated and everything. Someone, somewhere spent time making them. It would follow that there are some serious benefits to be had by cardholders. Want to know what they are?
Typhoon Motors (our on-base auto repair shop)
- free roadside assistance to include towing (I already get that from my insurance provider)
- 40% off all oil / filters (every girl’s dream)
- all retail sale item discounts will double (discount will not exceed 40%)
- 20% discount for regularly priced retail merchandise over $50 (in case I want to…buy a new car stereo?)
- free rental shoes 7 days a week during open bowling
- first game of bowling is free for adults during open bowling (bowling is pretty cheap on base anyway…but I guess that’s nice)
- all retail sale item discounts will double (discount will not exceed 40%)(for all my bowling merchandise needs I guess)
Food, Beverage, Entertainment, and Special Events
- $5 off Sunday brunch
- 20% off the total check (excluding alcohol) at all participating MCCS club dining facilities, to exclude: Sunday Brunch, Family Night, Mongolian BBQ, Sunday Breakfast Brunch, Catering, and Banquets.
- $0.50 off for children under 5 from a Lunch Buffet, excluding: Sunday Brunch, Family Night, Mongolian BBQ, and Sunday Breakfast Brunch (what is that? I don’t even…)
Impressive, huh? If by impressive, you mean not really. Thanks, MCCS. I appreciate your support.
Friday, January 31, 2014
Before reading this, I’m feeling pumped today. Good Torah day. Good counseling day (lots and lots of counseling day). Good follow-ups to good work being done. And. Lunch was delicious.
I've been thinking about the act of building all day. It's the 18th anniversary (L'chaim) of my Bar Mitzvah (Terumah), and for the first time in six months I will be sharing words of Torah at the Okinawa Jewish Community Chapel. Terumah is almost entirely about the building of the Tabernacle in the desert: building a home for the nomadic people of the Exodus narrative to be with God. I don't think the analogy needs to be spelled out further, it pretty much screams "darsheini" (rabbinic for "sermonize about me!"; add Pete Seeger's death/"If I had a Hammer" to the equation and a rabbi can't avoid talking about building this shabbat).
When I got to Okinawa two years ago, I spent way too much time trying to rebuild the chapel. The infrastructure was in place (more or less), and the personnel were present. But lacking any pass down from my predecessor and never really on good footing with the lay-leader, I often felt like I was building a Jewish community from scratch. We did programs from scratch. We dismantled Friday night and restarted from scratch. We literally changed the layout and walls of the space. It was a complete rebuild job. That is not to say that the community was replete of natural resources, but its certainly a lonelier place to be a Jew than the Upper West Side (or even Hampton, VA). And there was work to be done.
In rabbinical school, we talk about building communities based on vision. When I look back on it now, it seems less like building and more like bulldozing. Not exactly visionary leadership based on the Torah portion, but not a bad deal when you look at the haftarah. In the haftarah, Solomon builds the Temple. Not a temple nor a fixed tabernacle. He builds THE Temple for an extended period of time. To do so he uses the finest materials and builds upon a solid foundation. The foundation is just as necessary as the building.
I like to think, I cleared the foundation for some serious building. Not for me, but for the future of military personnel in Okinawa. This week, I had a major sit-down with Rabbi Creditor. As it is looking like I will be at sea during Passover, we wanted to sit down and talk about Pesach needs and how the seder runs. When I first got here, I had to make serious compromises just to keep from having a completely treif seder. There were hurt feelings; there were overlooked rituals. The fights are behind us now. The bumps are cleared. The transition from completely lay-led community to rabbinic-led community - striving continually to rise in holiness and never decline - is pretty much complete.
This week, I felt for the first time, that the work being done here isn’t just an ad-hoc mess. I felt like I was watching something really permanent take root. It was a good week.
Friday, January 24, 2014
Well, it’s cherry blossom season again here in Okinawa, which always tells me that (shockingly) spring is just around the corner. (No, I’m not trying to make you all jealous of our sub-tropical weather.) But as much as I love the Nago Cherry Blossom Festival (as evidenced by this video I made a couple of years ago), I think Yoni and I will skip it this year. Too much of a good thing, you know?
At any rate, talk of this weekend’s upcoming festival gives me the perfect opportunity to share some photos I took last year. These were taken in Tokyo and Okinawa; I happened to catch cherry blossom season in both places in 2013. Lucky me!