Friday, September 28, 2012

jane wayne

I am not cut out to be a Marine.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea – I never considered becoming a Marine, nor did I ever labor under the misapprehension that I would be qualified or well suited for such a choice. Nevertheless, even though I am and have always been quite secure in my decision not to pursue a career in the armed forces, last Friday I had the chance to find out, once and for all, whether or not I was right. And it turns out I know myself pretty well.

Of what do I speak? Well, last Friday, I participated in a long-time Marine Corps tradition called Jane Wayne Day. I honestly don’t know where they came up with the name, but the idea of Jane Wayne day is to let spouses (most often wives) get a taste of some of the things their husbands do on a regular basis. I asked if we would be doing marriage counseling, leading services, and visiting people in the brig – but no, that wasn’t what they had in store for us. Instead, we ran a modified CFT (combat fitness test), had a lesson in MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program), ate MREs (meals ready to eat – what Marines eat in the field) for lunch, conquered the obstacle course, and went in a convoy simulator. Oh, and we rode around in big trucks, stood in formations, and got yelled at by drill sergeants. 

As to whether or not a typical Marine would do all those things in one day, I have no idea. But, as ridiculous as the idea of Jane Wayne day sounds, I do think it provides some much needed perspective to many spouses on the kinds of things their spouses are expected to do at work on a daily basis. Even the waiver we had to sign to participate was instructive; we were warned that we might sustain physical and emotional damage, and had to agree that neither we nor our offspring nor our next of kin nor our debtors nor our executors nor our friends-who-used-to-be-our-neighbors-down-the-block could sue the Marine Corps if something DID happen. I had fun doing it for one day, but like I said, I am more sure than ever that I could never ever do that every day.

I didn’t take any pictures of my own, but here are a few of our group that were distributed. Shabbat Shalom! 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Stop and Look Around

Leora is supposed to write this week, but I’m going to give her a week off.

I’m writing this on a Thursday evening – Japan time.  I’m sitting in a little bit of a snooty outdoor café overlooking a beautiful stream.  The waiters are stacking oranges in the displays out front, but I’m now under the impression that they are for show and not for eating.

I’m sipping away at a Hoegaarden White.  As expected, it is just as good in mainland Japan as it is in the States.  One can never be too sure, so I might have to order another.

Across the river there is a beautiful green park full of exactly the trees that you would expect to see in a beautiful green park, all manicured to perfection.  I would expect nothing less from Japan.

There is music nearby emanating from the park.  There are definitely little cymbals and a string instrument.  I would say there is a piano, but that seems unlikely.

Behind me, the streets are bustling.  I almost makes me think of Central Park.  How it almost seems weird that there is a real city just outside the confines of the park.  The park has a life of its own.

A Japanese baseball team just ran in front of me, laughing and having a good time.  Purple uniforms with electric green writing was not a good decision.  They should get some Oriole’s Magic.  Orange and Black.

The snooty waiters are now giving me a look for being on my computer in their snooty café.  I order another beer and they seem to mind a little less.  I’m a sailor, buddy.  If it comes down to it, I can do this all night.  Bring an orange with the next beer.

Another beer.  No orange.

I know my drinking a beer is hardly newsworthy, but I’m drinking a beer in Hiroshima.  I’m sitting maybe 50 feet from the epicenter of the blast that killed hundreds of thousands of souls some 70 years ago.

Considering that seventy years ago, there was literally nothing in the city, Hiroshima is now a sprawling metropolis.

I remember how I first felt when I sat down in Oswiezem, the Polish town located just outside of the gates of the Auschwitz Death Camp.  How can a person live here?  How can you make your daily life on the very ground where so many perished?

They said in the museum that following the blast, the people were told that nothing green will grow in Hiroshima for at least 75 years.  They defied the odds.  First, there was one tree.  One side burnt by radiation, the other side pushed forth with leaves and seeds.

I still don’t know the answer to my questions, but I am amazed, impressed, and inspired by the resilient people of Hiroshima.  They replanted, rebuilt, and rededicated themselves.  Hiroshima was once a military town; Hiroshima is now a town dedicated to peace and nuclear non-proliferation.

I’m currently on my rabbinical whirlwind tour of the area.  I spent Rosh Hashana in Okinawa, and put together a nice holiday for my regular group.  Today, I visited Iwakuni again (and since there are very few Jews at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni), I had a little time to wander up to Hiroshima.  In the next few days, I’m headed to Sasebo (in the Nakasaki Prefecture) and to Guam. 

I imagine that few of my friends and family will have the opportunity to see this town, and as soon as I can get my camera to upload pictures I will attach them to this post.

Friday, September 7, 2012

20,000 leagues under the sea

I have never been particularly enthusiastic about swimming. I love hanging out in the pool, and I’ll swim a few laps every now and then, but that’s kind of the extent of it. I’m a good swimmer, but not a great one or a strong one. And I used to get swimmer’s ear all the time. (I actually missed the first two days of eighth grade because I had swimmer’s ear and ear infections in both ears.) For those of you who speak the Camp Ramah in the Berkshires lexicon, I don’t think I got a green tag until Machon or even Gesher. I can honestly say that I never imagined myself strapping on 70-or-so pounds of equipment and going for extended swims in the ocean.

And yet – last weekend, Yoni and I did just that.

When it comes to things people recommend doing in Okinawa, scuba diving is at the top of the list. For the one thing – the island is basically surrounded by coral reefs that are easily accessible from the shore – no boats necessary. For another thing, the sub-tropical climate is forgiving, making diving a basically year-round possibility. And finally – it’s cheaper to get certified here than it would be almost anywhere else in the world (thanks, military discounts). So, for all those reasons and more, diving is a popular pastime on our little island. Yoni felt strongly that we should both get certified, and so, this past week, we became PADI certified Open Water Scuba Divers.

To be completely honest, I was more scared than I was excited. I mean, there are SO many things that can go wrong. Almost all of the potential pitfalls are easily avoidable with the proper safety procedures and equipment checks, but still…

Also, during a class I took in college entitled “History of the City of New York,” I learned all about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Washington Roebling, supervisor of the project and son of the original designer John Roebling, spent the remainder of his life in paralyzing pain after contracting “the bends” from ascending and descending out of the deep water too quickly. I’m pretty sure that small piece of knowledge that stuck in my head did not help with the scuba diving fear factor. Today we call it Decompression Sickness instead of the bends, but the theory is the same.

Nevertheless, as part of our certification process, Yoni and I went on four “open water” (read: in the ocean, not the pool) dives last weekend. We stood on the side of the road in the very hot sun, assembled the approximately 70 pounds of equipment, put on neoprene wetsuits (no easy task), strapped on our gear, climbed up and down stairs to get into the water, pulled on our fins and masks, sank below the surface – and discovered another world, 50 feet below the surface. This world was calm, and quiet, and blue; it was full of neon-colored fish, sea snakes, and coral that was very clearly alive. It was scary, yes, but it was also amazingly cool. I can’t wait to get back out there.