Friday, June 29, 2012


When Yoni and I were in the States in May, we had the opportunity to spend a day together in New Orleans. I hadn't been to New Orleans since I was a baby, so I was especially excited to see a bit of the city. Our hotel was just outside the French Quarter and, after eating beignets at Cafe du Monde, i spent some quality time there with my camera. I know we usually write about Japan on this blog, but, well, I discovered these photos languishing on the camera today and I thought I'd share them here. Shabbat Shalom!

neighborhood brass band?

i wouldn't mind having a seat on that porch

Friday, June 22, 2012

Motivation, got a lot of motivation


provided with a motive or given incentive for action; "a highly motivated child can learn almost anything"; "a group of politically motivated men" [ant: unmotivated]

Can be abbreviated to “moto” (as in, “wow, that is super-moto, Chesty Puller would be proud”)

Motivation can be a good thing in the Marine Corps.  Honestly, when I think of Marines, I think motivated.

For the most part, when the word “motivated” is used to describe a Marine, it is either sarcastic or it means that trouble is around the corner. 

Examples of Marine Corps Motivation:  Motivated PT (Physical Training).  As it has been pouring rain on the island for the past week (including a brush with a typhoon), the fields were incredibly muddy.   In our matching green t-shirts and obnoxiously short green shorts, we did our stretches and warm ups.

As I spit out the mud and sweat that had accrued in or around my mouth, we began a three-mile battalion run.  For us, that is about 1,000 marines and sailors – enlisted and officers – running in four columns.  I never quite appreciated how many people are in my new battalion, until I saw the length of this line. 

Battalion runs are annoying because of their pace (and distance).  The annoyance factor is intensified if you are in the back.  As you can imagine with a line that stretches for 250 people, there gets to be a little bit of an accordion effect as the group goes over hills and makes sharps turns.  For awhile you don’t move, and then you have to sprint…in order to not move again.

I’m not sure how they are supposed to motivate, but I get a surge of motivation when I hear the cadences.  Example (and a personal favorite):

Hey there Army!
Dirt Baggin' Army!
Get in your tanks and follow me
I’m in the U.S.M.C.

Hey there Air Force!
Low Flying Air Force!
Get in your planes and cover me
I’m in the U.S.M.C.

Hey there Navy!
Swabbing decks Navy!
Get in your ships and Supply me
I’m in the U.S.M.C.

Hey there Coast Guard!
Puddle Pirate Coast Guard!
Get in your din gees and follow me.
I’m in the U.S.M.C.

Semper Fi, Marine Corps.
Pick up your packs and follow me
I’m in the U.S.M.C.

While I’m not in love with what they have to say about the Navy, I love a good cadence.  In various Marine Corps cadences, we do all sorts of wonderful things like beat up St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, beat up Satan at the Gates of Hell, and find all new exciting ways to use a K-bar (Marine Corps issued big knife).  Sometimes Grandma and Grandpa are lying in bed, and they have an intricate conversation about PT (as it turns out, “when my grandmamma was ninety-two, she did PT better than you).

When we got back to the field for some quick calisthenics, I took a couple minutes to talk to some Marines who had fallen out (e.g. didn’t make it – let it be known, that I did not fail).  I missed the first exercise of flutter kicks (again in the mud), but it was amazing to watch 2,000 legs up in the air, kicking on cadence.

I’m motivated now.


Friday, June 15, 2012


Typhoon season here on Okinawa begins on June 1, and lasts until November 30. Today is June 15, and we are already prepping for our second potential typhoon…so I’m guessing this “season” is not really a joke.

Even when there’s not a storm directly on the horizon, as it were, it still rains pretty consistently. I thought the summer weather here would be like Miami – you know, sunny, but it will probably rain once a day. Instead, it’s kind of the opposite – rainy, but you might see the sun every few days for an hour or so. I took this picture a couple of weeks ago.

Actual typhoon readiness, though, is a whole other animal. Throughout the season, the entire island is in TCCOR-4 (Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 4), which is the lowest level of alert. (Confusingly, the numbers go down as the threat gets more severe.) The TCCOR level is regularly broadcast on the radio and is emblazoned at the bottom left-hand corner of every AFN channel at all times.

I won’t go into all of the different TCCOR stages, but suffice it to say that the first few (4, 3, and 2) are mostly preparatory, and occur within 72 hours of the typhoon’s arrival. After that, schools get closed, driving is restricted, military non-essential personnel are sent home – you get the picture. Last summer a particularly brutal typhoon hit early in the season, and everyone had to stay inside for three days (!).

As I mentioned earlier, we are currently in the early stages of prepping for Guchol. Our TCCOR level hasn’t changed yet as the storm isn’t supposed to hit until Monday night/Tuesday morning, but as you can see from the following projection map, we’ll all be pretty surprised if it veers off course like the last one did.

In case you can’t find Okinawa, we are the dots directly under where Guchol is supposed to hit on Monday at 9pm.

Although the predictions seem dire (high winds! crazy rain!), people here don’t get too worried. Actually, most people I’ve spoken to hope Guchol will come, because it might mean a day off from work and some time to relax with their families. Me? I’m ambivalent. Yoni and I have a few really important things going on early in the week, and I’d prefer they not get cancelled due to inclement weather. Otherwise, I like a good crazy storm as much as the next girl. Wish us luck!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Better than a good day working...

Another tough day in chaplaincy.

The NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers – Corporals and Sergeants) of the Combat Logistics Regiment that I have been covering took it upon themselves to plan a morning golf tournament.  I had to drag myself out of bed to get up to Taiyo Golf Course for my 7:00 am Tee-time.  It was horrible, but for the command…for the Marine, I’m willing to forego personal comfort.

I really give it to the command for supporting this event.  June is a big down time from military exercises, and nothing big is coming up for us.  But, they really see it as an opportunity for people to let loose a little bit and enjoy each other’s company.  Further, funds collected at the golf tournament (significantly more from officers and SNCOs) goes to support events for NCOs and junior Marines (E-1 though E-5).  Everyone who wants to go is encouraged and given the day off from work (if possible). 

The CLR-3 NCO Golf Tournament is not a once-in-a-lifetime example of commands sending their Marines golfing.  There is a culture of golf tournaments here: if one plays their cards right (and some colonels do), one can spend every Friday golfing.

I am not good at golf.  While I took golf as an elective in college, I was never that good.   That was a long time ago. Today was the first time that I played a round of 18-holes since a bachelor party in Myrtle Beach in 2008.  And I’m not 100% that we finished all 18 then.

While I was a disaster for the first 10 holes, my team somehow pieced together a victory.  I even contributed! 

For the first time, I went out during a work-day to do something fun.  I got to wear some awesome plaid shorts and not camouflage.  I relaxed…and my phone only rang 28 times.

Friday, June 1, 2012

adventures in Japanese cooking, part 2: Onigiri

In America, you don’t always have to think about your next meal. By that I mean that, if you want to hop in the car and take a day trip, or decide to spend the afternoon in a neighborhood with which you’re not familiar, it’s reasonable (especially in NY) to assume that you will be able to find something to eat at some point. If you are a strict adherent of kashrut, you might not be able to find a restaurant, but at least you will be able to find a selection of snack food in any convenience or grocery store. You will, at the very least, be able to find something to hold you over.

That’s not really the case here in Okinawa. Don’t get me wrong – convenience stores abound. It’s hard to drive five minutes without passing a Family Mart, a Lawson’s, or both. But finding something to eat at these stores – that’s an entirely different proposition. My Japanese is improving, but I’m still nowhere near able to read nutritional labels, and lard and/or shellfish are hiding everywhere here. As I’ve written about previously, I can’t even trust that American snack foods manufactured in Japan are safe to eat. Luckily, Yoni and I have managed to find one thing that’s often available in convenience stores, malls, airports, etc – Onigiri.

Onigiri are (or is – in Japanese there’s no distinction between singular and plural nouns) a form of Japanese fast food, essentially created to make rice portable. As you can see in the picture above, onigiri are often triangle-shaped, and are almost always stuffed with something. Traditional stuffings include pickled plums, kelp, salted salmon, fish roe, and miso paste. Non-traditional stuffings include tuna fish salad (like from a deli) and wakame seaweed mixed with wasabi-flavored mayo (really yummy). When there’s nothing else to eat in sight, Yoni and I are often able to find Onigiri to get us through.

Since, in addition to depending on them, I also really like to eat them, I thought I’d try my hand at making some at home. Here’s how you do it.

Cook some rice to the package specifications (I used brown, but white is more traditional).

I decided to make salmon Onigiri using canned salmon. (Next time, I will try to use fresh salmon.)

I also added this salmon rice mixture to the hot, cooked rice to add a little extra something. This mix, which someone who reads Kanji told me is free of non-Kosher products, has little pieces of dehydrated salmon and greens that come back to life when incorporated into the rice.

After all the ingredients were prepped, I used my best rice-ball-making instincts to figure out how to shape them. Basically, I put a big blob of rice onto my hand, stuffed some salmon in the center of the blob, and added more rice on top. I tried to seal all of the salmon inside, and shape the rice into a triangle.

My mother-in-law, Tova, had sent us some sheets of nori (seaweed used for wrapping), and so I decided to wrap half of the Onigiri since that’s usually how you would buy them.

All in all, it’s definitely easier to buy Onigiri than it was to make them. That being said, though, if I were planning a Japanese-style picnic or needed some road-trip food, I would definitely make Onigiri again. And as I’ve never seen them sold in the US,  I’d better keep practicing, because I won’t want to give them up when Yoni and I eventually come home!