Friday, December 30, 2011

The Margarita Tree

We bought a Margarita Tree.

Alternatively, we bought a Gin and Tonic Tree. I guess it just depends on the season and what other drinks are available. But I’m really excited to have a tree. She’s a lime tree, and I can’t wait to see her.

Okinawa has its own unique species of lime. Sometimes called the Taiwan tangerine, flat lemon, or the hirami lemon (thanks Wikipedia!), it looks like a lime, but it tastes like a lemon. I’m sure its juice is wonderful, but no good for mixed drinks. 

No, we were going to get a good old fashion lime tree. And when one is in Japan, where does one go to get a citrus tree? Make-Man!

Let me take a moment to explain Make-Man. It is your Japanese go-to store of all your making needs. Leora and I did some recon and tried to take in the entire store. The best way to describe it is Japan’s version of Home Depot, but it’s so much more. There’s lumber and power tools, blow torches and build-it-yourself bookshelves. But on the other side of the building is pet goods and appliances, 100 yen store, portable burners, towels and actual pets. Pretty much, Make-Man is everything you could ever need and more.

The smell of lumber and orchids greets you at the door. Sure it’s nice for the first minute, but it only gets stronger. As it attacks your olfactory senses, you ears are assaulted with cartoony Japanese music. Not the classical music, but the stuff that plays in the background of anime and helps lead to seizures in lab rats. Think about that, but with the chorus of the song put on repeat.

I make fun of it, but Make-Man is awesome. And they will help you make anything, including a porch garden. And they so want to be helpful. The employees went out of their way to try to help us. But, there is one problem. Not a lot of English speakers.
Fortunately for us, there was an employee who spoke English. Unfortunately, not in the garden department, and he knew nothing about gardens. So they found somebody in gardens who could understand what we were looking for – a translator for our translator, if you will. Most people would say it reminded them of being at the UN. Leora and me? It reminded us of an episode in the first season of West Wing. But that’s a different story for a different time.
We left the store with Japanese basil, thyme, rosemary, and dill. Pots and soil, an orange tree... and a lime tree. I hope we don't kill it.

Private note for Matan Skolnik:
If took you awhile to find me because I was hiding in the lime tree, it meant you weren’t looking that hard. It’s a pretty small tree.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Away from home for the holidays

I love to watch TV. It’s one of my weaknesses, for sure. But growing up, it was also something that we did as a family: my mom and I watched Gilmore Girls and Judging Amy; my dad and I watched Walker Texas Ranger and SVU marathons; you get the idea. So, the unknown TV situation in Japan was definitely something that made me nervous before I arrived. I assumed there would be something, but how much foreign language programming can one person really watch (completely without subtitles) before going insane? And what if Hulu didn’t work?!

Well, I am here to report that the situation is better than I imagined, though not great. First of all, Hulu works well. Second, the armed forces has one cable contractor, and we are basically subject to whatever channels they want to provide. That means that we have completely random and hysterical channels: E!, FX, Univision, MTV, Spike, A&E, ESPN International, CNN, Bravo, Animal Planet – you get the idea. Did you notice anything missing?

Ah, yes – there’s no network TV. Well, no traditional network TV. We do have the “Armed Forces Network”, AFN for short. AFN is funny for a lot of reasons. First of all, because we are living in the future here, all of our network shows are broadcast the day after they are broadcast in the states. How I Met Your Mother on Tuesdays, NCIS on Wednesdays, SVU on Thursdays. Second, shows are broadcast between 7pm and 10pm instead of 8pm and 11pm. I’m told that has to do with the shows being beamed from California or some such nonsense, but I don’t know what that has to do with anything. Third, the selection of shows (just like the selection of movies out here) is, shall we say, random.

But the funniest thing about AFN by far is the selection of commercials. Because AFN is not a traditional network, they are not allowed to show real “commercial” commercials. Instead, we get public service announcements, news updates from the Army and Navy, weather updates (though they barely mention Okinawa), and LOTS of dramatizations designed to teach Marines what not to do. Don’t skateboard without a helmet, or in your uniform! Don’t plug outside devices into military computers! Don't drink and drive – at all! Recycle! Plan your emails in advance to use less internet time! (I think that one is designed for enlisted people who possibly are not allowed to have their own computers, and have designated internet time.)

The selection of commercials I just described was accurate two weeks ago. Now that the holiday season is in full swing, though, about half the commercials are pre-recorded messages from high-up military officials and (usually) their wives, thanking us for our service. (Well, not me, but you know what I mean.) There are also taped messages from senators and congresspeople, sending greetings from Washington and words of thanks to all the active duty military personnel.

Most of these clips have the same theme: we know it’s hard to be away from home for the holidays, but thanks for all you’re doing to keep us safe, etc. I get the idea that these commercials are supposed to be comforting, as if Marines and their families are supposed to watch them and say, gee, we ARE far away from our families, but at least people out there appreciate us! And that message does come across. The whole idea is lovely, really. But the truth is, those commercials make me more homesick than anything else. I’m plenty aware every day that I’m away from home. All I have to do to remember is look out the window and see the East China Sea instead of 90th St and Central Park. I don’t really need the reminder from every commanding officer AFN can come up with and put in front of a fireplace decked out in Christmas decorations. So, while this isn’t really our holiday season (nowhere is that more apparent than here, by the way), I guess I’m just saying that I am very aware of not being at home for the holidays. I hope that this island will start to feel like home soon. In the meantime, though, please know that I am thinking of you all, and wishing everyone a very Happy Hanukkah and a Shabbat Shalom.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Good Eats

What a huge week. 

This past week, we had a pre-Hanukah party in the Jewish Community. We got a relatively big crowd, and met some really great people. I’m not sure if we can repeat that kind of success any time soon, but I think there is what to build on.

I also started work for one of the local Combat Logistic Regiments. I’m a long-term sub while their official chaplain is out, but I’m pretty happy about it. I’ve only been there for two days and I’ve already had some really good counseling sessions.

But let’s talk about the most important thing that happened: A few nights ago, I ate chicken.

Keeping kosher in Japan is not exactly the easiest thing to do. Eating “not-treif” in Japan isn’t much easier. But we have an apartment, and we have an oven, and the commissary is stocking Empire Chicken Parts!

So it’s a little freezer-burned. When you live on the other side of the world from the closest Kosher butcher, you have to make a couple of compromises. But, a little paprika, maybe some seasoning salt, and maybe a little Old Bay Seasoning (yes, they sell that here), and voila – dinner is served…and it’s delicious.

When eating out in Japan, it is important to know that local restaurateurs want to make the most delicious food in the world. I am sure they can make a spicy tuna roll without putting in shrimp. But why would a person want that? Treif is (probably) delicious. 

There is a certain blank look that comes on the waiter’s face every time we try to explain that we want the salmon, but we don’t want the crab. I don’t have to understand Japanese to know what he/she is really saying: “Would you eat it on a boat? Would you eat it with a goat?” No, Sam-I-Am, that’s not how I roll and I’m not going to rhyme either.

While it’s tough, we have found that, with our policy of eating hot-dairy, we are able to eat out. There are some American-ish places. Supposedly there’s a Bollywood and Indian Food restaurant, and I heard there is a Buddha-Bodai-esque Buddhist Vegan Chinese place (but I don’t know where). But, we’re in Japan. We want Japanese food!
I have a favorite non-sushi restaurant, but I have absolutely no clue what it’s called. I like to refer to it as “the delicious restaurant halfway between Kinser and Foster next to MOS Burger…you know the one with the white sign and all the cars in the parking lot.” There’s another one between Camp Lester and Kadena AFB, but I haven’t been to that one yet. They make Udon (basically really thick-rice noodles), and they make it good. 

The number one reason that I like this place: its delicious. The second reason is that I can actually watch as they make the udon, and I know they don’t put anything in it! It comes with vegetable tempura and fruit/fish wrapped in seaweed and rice. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. While Japan isn’t known for making prices affordable, this place is pretty cheap. That also makes me happy.

So there is udon, but there’s also some pretty solid sushi. We went to a phenomenal sushi restaurant with a local couple (they are Americans, but they’ve lived here for nearly 50 years). It was good. I thought the sushi in NYC was comparable, so it wasn’t life-changing. However, it was very good and very authentic.

And then, there is the sushi-go-round. It’s exactly what it sounds like (as long as you were expecting me to say “sushi going around the restaurant on a conveyer belt”). It seems weird, and you start to wonder what happens to the stuff that keeps going around and around after an hour or two. But it’s hilarious, and not bad at all.
There is so much to talk about, and I could talk about the food here forever. 

Tomorrow, Leora and I are going down to one of the marinas to find some fresh caught fish for Shabbos. I’m pretty excited about it. I feel like “Joseph Who Loved the Shabbos” (if you haven’t read it, it’s a quick read and its life changing); I'm gonna buy a fish and its going to be huge (and it will fit in my kitchen). We’ll let you know next week if we are successful in our attempt to find fresh fish (it’s harder than you’d think!). Until then, eat some readily-available kosher food for us. We miss it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Photo Series #2: Our first accidental fieldtrip

This past Sunday, itching to get out of our hotel room and tired of running errands, Yoni and I decided to set off and explore the island. We read in a guide book that tangerine picking is something you can do during the winter in Okinawa, and bolstered by our positive experiences blueberry picking at camp, figured – sure! We took a beautiful drive all the way to the end of the Okinawa Expressway (it only covers about 2/3 of the island) and beyond, and found the sign we were looking for:

Unfortunately, once we arrived, a very nice non-English-speaking Japanese woman communicated to us that, actually, tangerine picking season ended November 30 (it was December 4). Of course. At least we got to buy some tangerines.

As we had spent a good portion of the morning getting up to this small village where we now found ourselves with nothing to do, we decided to follow road signs to Mt. Yaedake (Mt Yae for short).

The road became smaller and narrower as it wound up through the mountains. Eventually, after about 45 minutes of incredibly beautiful driving, we found an observation spot to pull over and take some pictures.

The jungle is incredibly thick in the north part of the Island; the Marines use it for jungle warfare training!
Once we got about 4/5 of the way up the mountain, cars were no longer allowed on the road. We left the blueberry in a conveniently located parking lot, and climbed the rest of the way by foot. We were headed for this observatory-ish place, at the very top.
Look how big those leaves was like Jurrasic Park!
Eventually, we made it to the top and were greatly rewarded for our efforts. The 360-degree views of the island were incredible. I learned later that Mt. Yae is the second-highest peak on island.

See the Blueberry in the parking lot?

After a brief resting period, we returned to the car and headed back to the highway. Starving, we stopped for some ice cream in Nago (the big city of the northern half of the island. 

We sat overlooking the beach to eat, and guess what we saw?!

If you look very closely, you can see the observatory where we stood at the top of the mountain! It's in the very center of the picture. If you can't see it, just take my word for it - it was there. All in all, not bad for an accidental field trip.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Yoni and I realized last week that, while we’ve touched on a lot of big-idea topics on this blog, we have neglected to update you all on some of the everyday things that have been going on here. So that’s what I’m going to try to do here!

First things first: on Tuesday, we will be moving into our permanent lodging, an apartment on the second floor of the North Foster Towers. The apartment is located on Camp Foster, very close to the Jewish Chapel, where Friday night services are conducted. It’s a bit of a miracle that we were able to land this apartment. See, the housing office basically can put you wherever they want. The only rules they follow are these two: you are supposed to live close to where you work; and each family is supposed to have two options to choose from. If you don’t like one of those two options – too bad for you. They also don’t particularly care if you have pets or not, even though pets are not allowed in all forms of housing. Now, as many of you know, Yoni and I have a dog. We also (for obvious reasons) need to live within walking distance of the Jewish Chapel, even though it’s not Yoni’s primary place of work and so not the location the housing office is supposed to take into account. Luckily, the housing office was sympathetic to our cause, and did everything in their power to get us the housing we needed. Our new place has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchen big enough for at least 7 people to stand in – not to mention our own washer and dryer! For Yoni and me, coming from our 1-bedroom Manhattan apartment, this new place will be palatial. We are very excited to move in and feel a bit more settled.

 Second, we bought a car! It’s pretty impossible to get around the island without a car, and while Yoni’s fellow chaplains were very good-natured about chauffeuring us around, we couldn’t depend on them for too long. Our new (used) car is a bright blue Nissan Cube – not a car you would ever see in the states, but awesome in its funny-looking-ness. I like to say that the car selection in Okinawa is similar to the car selection in Israel; I think this will give many of you a pretty good idea of what kinds of cars you see on the roads here. Here is a picture of our new car, which we affectionately refer to as the Blueberry:

Third, on Thursday night we went to the Chaplain Corps Ball, celebrating the 236th birthday of the Chaplain Corps. We were pleasantly surprised that there was a viable vegetarian option for us, and we met many of the island’s chaplains and their spouses. (A funny side note: almost every woman at the ball was wearing a floor-length dress – prom dress style! I was certainly underdressed.) There was even dancing! There was also a bit too much invoking of Jesus for me…but that was to be expected, and that’s also something that will be hard to change. But overt Christianity aside, we enjoyed our night at the Chaplain Ball, and are working on making some friends here so that we can feel normal and settled.

Finally, my mom mentioned that some of you are curious about the availability of American food here on base (and off). Here is a brief (but not exhaustive) listing of American restaurants I’ve seen. On base: Popeye’s, Captain D’s, Burger King, Subway, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin Donuts, Charley O’s, Manchu Wok, Pizza Hut, Romano’s Macaroni Grill. Off base: McDonald’s, A&W, Starbucks. Hope that at least gives you some of idea of what is available here. If there are other questions you have about life here, leave them in the comments area, and we will do our best to address them!

Shavua tov to everyone; have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shabbat Across Okinawa

Dear Siddur Sim Shalom,
It’s called transliteration. You should try it some time.
Respectfully yours,
Rabbi Yonatan M. Warren, LTJG, CHC, USN

The Jewish community here has been lay-led for more-or-less a couple of years. There was a rabbi who was here for a couple of months, but overall they were maintained by a “military appointed lay-leader.” As such, they used the Gates of Prayer.

I hate the Gates of Prayer – even the slim version. I take that back, I strongly dislike praying out of the Gates. Theologically, religiously, and linguistically – it just doesn’t work for me. One of the awesome things about being a military rabbi is that whichever book I say we use is the book that we use (as long as we have them in stock – and I can order any book for prayer purposes). Unfortunately, my current options are the Artscroll Interlinear with Transliteration (which causes migraines in lab rats), the Gates of Gray, and Sim Shalom. I chose my main man, Mr. Shalom.

Every other part of my first Shabbat on the island went pretty well. The chaplain in charge of all of the base chapels (a really nice captain who came in with big hugs for everyone – like an older, darker, Christian version of Jesse Olitzky) met with me first and then introduced me to the congregation. A little more than a minyan showed up (not bad for a holiday weekend) and we sang Shalom Aleichem. But then – L’chu Neran’na (no transliteration), Shiru Ladonai (no transliteration). We skipped and I tried Mizmor L’david (total bust). We had some traction with some of the other songs, but I just felt that with a little transliteration we could have been rocking.
Things that were awesome about the Jewish chapel: 1) The RP (Religious Program Specialist or Shamash with a gun) was hardcore about making the Jewish prayer space better. 2) There was a cute baby who was running around and having a good time. 3) People didn’t mind singing in tune or out of tune. 4) One of the congregants makes a pretty solid challah that I enjoyed eating very much. And 5) my d’var torah connecting the transitional patriarch (Isaac) to transitional moments in the community (in particular to transitioning from layled to a rabbi) to the holiness that can be found especially in liminal moments (see candles to mark Shabbat, ceremonies to mark beginnings of adulthood and marriage, etc. etc.). I think it was awesome; Leora can make her own comments below if she so chooses.
For the coming shabbatot, I think we’re going to use a lot of the siddur that I spent my entire summer compiling and editing (“The Siddur for Jewish Armed Forces Personnel”), and hopefully that will make things better on the prayerbook front.
I’m still nervous about the coming weeks: fitting in to my actual job, fitting in the Jewish community, making enough time for myself and my wife. But, I think it was a good first step. This week, there is going to be a big welcome event for me and Leora (and I’m also making it an appreciation dinner for the layleader). I think more people will be around, and I’ll have to raise the caliber of my game. But, for one week – I’m pretty happy.

Some other things happened this week: we got an apartment, we bought a car, we made some friends, and we discovered at least one really good (and affordable) restaurant. But none of that is as important as how my first Shabbat went.
Also, this is already too long for a blog post and we want to keep you thirsting for more. Leora will write about the rest of that stuff sometime soon. So for now, Shabbat Shalom and Sayonara.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Living in two places at once

Last week, Yoni and I (along with assorted family members) went out for Vegetarian Dim-Sum in Chinatown.  Getting off the train at Grand St was kind of an experience – the station was packed, everyone was pushing me, and Yoni and I were the only white people there. I was totally overwhelmed – even more so when I realized that my next two years might well feel exactly like standing on that subway platform. All I could think was, what am I getting myself into? After having spent about half a week in Okinawa, I can honestly say that I don't feel like we’re standing on the Grand St subway platform. But I also don’t feel like we’re living in America. 
Let me back up a bit. As we stood on the check-in line at JFK, it became immediately apparent to Yoni and me, as well as to my family, that we were the ONLY non-Asian people on the (very full) flight. (Eventually we discovered an Indian family and one man Yoni says was Colombian, but – you get the idea.) It was certainly a strange feeling, but between the super personalized entertainment systems, unlimited free wine and beer, and haagen dazs ice cream for dessert, we were not complaining. And hey – by the time we got off the flight in Tokyo we were already good at saying “thank you” in Japanese!

The domestic terminal of Tokyo/Narita airport boasted many more Americans (mostly in the form of Marines on their way to Okinawa), but many fewer American amenities. I’ve already written about the seeming perils of hot coffee in a can. And when I went online to check on our blog from the airport, the blogger website came up in Japanese! And so I began to adjust to the feeling of being in two places at once.

And that’s kind of what living here feels like. On the one hand, when you’re on one of the 13 or so military installations “on island” (that’s how they say it here), it feels largely like America. Of course, cars are still coming from the wrong direction and there are many Japanese phrases being thrown around, but overall, any one of these bases could pass for America in a pinch. On the other hand, the second you step off base (whether to travel to a different base or to explore the local neighborhoods or to visit the 100-Yen store) you are immediately reminded that you are NOT living in America. Everything is in Japanese. Gas prices make no sense (Yen and liters is a bad combination). Speed limits are slow. Road signs are foreign. But with all that and more, you figure out how to get by. Because what other choice is there?

Yoni and I are lucky that the other chaplains of the 3rd Marine Logistics Group are welcoming and helpful and happy to help us run our endless errands and chauffer us around the island. Their assistance has been invaluable this week as we try to figure out how to get settled – setting up phones, getting drivers licenses, buying a car, finding a place to live, going grocery shopping – here on Okinawa. Though we have made good strides this week, I have a feeling that really getting settled will take more than a week.

Tonight is Yoni’s first Shabbat service with the Jewish community. I’m sure that you’ll hear more about his progress in that aspect of his job in the coming weeks. But while you’re finishing up your turkey dinners and going to bed with (hopefully) full stomachs, Yoni and I are beginning preparations for our first Shabbat on island. So, from us to you (or, as my sister Talya says, from the future): Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorach! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Photo series #1

There is SO much to write about this week…I need at least until tomorrow to get my thoughts together! But in the meantime, here are some pictures to give you a taste of what’s going on here. 

Desperately seeking caffeine in the Tokyo airport, Yoni and I had to resort to what were essentially Latte juiceboxes! They seemed safer than the other popular Japanese option, hot coffee in a can. For real.

Some of you might know that soon after I found out we were coming to Japan, I read a very interesting and totally terrifying book about an American teacher's experience in rural Japan. She spent a lot of time talking about how she was constantly sorting her trash and recycling in the wrong ways. Seeing as this is an airport recycling bin (look at all those options!), I am pretty sure that she wasn't kidding about how confusing it can be!

After arriving at 10pm (2200 hours that is) on Monday evening, Yoni and I were picked up the next morning at 0845 so that he could check in with his new command. Here is the complete uniform shot...

...and here's a smile.

Our temporary lodging is on Camp Foster, but here is a shot of Camp Kinser (where the 3rd Marine Logistics Group, Yoni's command, is located). You can see the ocean in the distance, and get a sense for what things look like around here.

I absolutely could not believe they had pareve margarine in the commissary!! This bodes well for my pareve baking...and helps me to not regret the decision to ship two boxes full of TJ's chocolate chips. :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thoughts on Leaving

I think this is really going to happen.

Three months ago, I thought we would be leaving any day.  Two months ago, I thought we would be leaving any day.  Last month, I thought we would never leave.  And as of yesterday, I know that we will be leaving Sunday.

People have asked me how I am feeling about leaving, and the answer is that I’m thrilled and nervous, excited and antsy.  I’ve had pretty horrible insomnia as a result of the emotional rollercoaster – and so I’m edgy on top of everything else.

While most of my classmates have been working for months at their new positions, I have been sitting around living the good life.  Leora and I checked off a lot of boxes on our NYC bucket-list, and we ate a lot of Kosher meat.  I think those days are coming to a close really soon.

I’m starting my full-time rabbinate for the first time next Monday.  For the first time in my life, I’m going to be ministering, pastoring, rabbi-ing (choose the correct verb) full-time.  No classes.  No internships.  Just me and a bunch of Marines (oo-rah). 

It’s lonely: or at least I anticipate loneliness.  Thank God (and I do every day) that Leora is coming with me.  Without her love and companionship, I could never do this.  But, I still, as a rabbi, I feel alone.

When I started rabbinical school, I came in with 2 of my closest friends.  I knew that whatever school threw at me, it would probably hit Steve first (because his last name begins with A) and if Josh got involved, the person causing the problem would probably be so flustered that by the time he got to me, he would simply give up.  But more than being friends, they were my chavrutot (study buddies).  Josh and I were chavruta for Prof. Herzberg’s Miqraot Gedolot (and we rocked it).  Steve and I were chavruta for Prof. Diamond’s Mekhina Talmud (and it was awesome).  I made great friends, and formed outstanding chavrutot in rabbinical school.  Who’s going to be my chavrutah now?  Sure we can skype, but is that the same?

My mentors – the rabbis who have guided me through life, through rabbinical school, through internships – will be on the other side of the world.   I imagine that if I were in a pickle as a congregational rabbi that I would call Craig Scheff or Arthur Weiner in a second; I’d pump out an e-mail to any of the past and present rabbis of Rodef Sholom (Gilah Dror, David Booth, Neil Scheindlin, Steven Lindemann) and within the hour somebody would give me a response. V’ein tzarich lomar (Talmudic for, “Duh”), Gerry Skolnik.  Now they can respond…FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD!  From a different world: one where camouflage goes in and out of style.

It’s daunting.  It’s scary.  It’s challenging.  I’m excited, but I could also use some sleep.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How did we get here?

Many of you have heard bits and pieces of this story, but, for the sake of clarity, Yoni and I thought it would be best to begin our blog with a brief summary of our experience to date. But where to start?

All rabbinical students are required to do a chaplaincy rotation, in the name of training. Most choose to do theirs in a hospital. Yoni, having grown up in a military family, decided to serve as a chaplain candidate in the Navy Reserves. The training program came with no strings attached, no commitment after school, no requirements really except a summer spent in Officer Development School and Chaplain School. But even so, Yoni always planned to remain in the Reserves even after taking a pulpit.

By the time the 5th and last year of rab school rolled around, two things had changed. First, Yoni had become more excited about the idea of doing a stint of full time Navy chaplaincy; and second, the job market for newly-graduated rabbis had taken a turn for the worse. Now, to know me is to know that moving around constantly is not my idea of a good time. (Actually, in high school, I used to tell my parents that, if they moved, I would not be going with them.) That being said, Yoni and I were relatively easily sold on the idea and the adventure of spending 3 years in locations unknown, and Yoni put the necessary wheels in motion on the Navy side. Our only caveat was that we were not interested in going to Japan. We were assured that would not be an issue.

Of course, the night before Yoni was scheduled to sign the papers committing him to three years of service, we found out that we would, in fact, be going to Okinawa. We also found out that we’d be leaving in October, not August, as we had previously believed and prepared for. Having quit my job in June to prep for our August move, I was more than a little flummoxed but this turn of events. But, as I quickly realized, there was absolutely nothing I could do. So I tried (and continue to try) to adopt a go-with-the-flow attitude, and to be as good a sport as I could about everything. It's a good thing I learned that lesson early on!

The rest of our summer was spent endlessly pursuing my “area clearance”, military ID, medical clearance, and all sorts of other bureaucratic stuff. By October, it finally seemed like all of the pieces were finally going to fall into place. My clearance was in process (despite a snafu involving decades-old encryptions), the first shipment of our belongings had already arrived in Okinawa, and the day we assumed we were leaving was approaching. However, we then found out that the application for my diplomatic passport had been misfiled by the post office, and had to be re-submitted. And, although I am in possession of a brand new (regular) passport, I apparently would absolutely not be allowed to leave without the other one. And so we were delayed again.

This past week (it’s November, mind you), things finally started falling into place. We received word from Okinawa that I had FINALLY been cleared, and we heard from the people Yoni works with in CT that my passport exists and is on its way to Forest Hills. So it really seems like we might be leaving within the next week or so.

So where does that leave Yoni and me? We are, of course, excited and scared. We’ve also been preparing for this moment for such a long time that we’re both pretty reluctant to believe it might actually be happening. I know I won’t believe it until we actually get on the plane. Whenever it happens, though, I am pretty sure that eventually we WILL get on a plane and end up in the sub-tropical Okinawan climate, where I’m sure more adventures (bureaucratic and otherwise) await. Thank you all for your support and encouragement so far. We’ll try to post here once a week or so to keep you all up-to-date. Stay tuned…