One full year has passed.
Last year, we landed in Okinawa just before Thanksgiving. On the first day, I checked into my new command. On the second day, Leora and I went to Orientation, got driver’s licenses, and put a down-payment on a car. We wouldn’t have a car until the next week.
Thanksgiving Day, the former Jewish Community lay leader took Leora and I to Camp Hansen’s Thanksgiving Meal. We got a little lost going all the way up to Camp Hansen – a base which none of the people in the group had really ever frequented. We were blown away by the quantity of over-the-top ice sculptures, by the sheer quantity of pork/meat/shellfish-reinforced dishes, and the group in general. Scott, the lay leader, is significantly older – and we felt like the extremely jet-lagged kids at the end of the adult table. There were some top-notch desserts. At the end of the day, we returned to our hotel room at the WestPac Lodge and awaited our first Shabbat in Okinawa.
This year was very different.
We now have two cars and could run our own Orientation to the island. I don’t really have any communication with any of the people (other than Leora) who were at the Thanksgiving Dinner last year. I commute up to Camp Hansen nearly every day (and couldn’t get lost getting there, if I tried) – and made a concerted effort to avoid it on Thanksgiving. We are now the stable island residents; in fact, Leora made some cookies and I made Tennessee-Apple Sweet Potatoes (sweet potatoes with apples and a sweet-spicy-whiskey sauce) to deliver to the single Marines living in Barracks for Thanksgiving.
We decided to spend Thanksgiving dinner with our friends, the Mayorals. There were only 4 and a half of us (their daughter is 2, but can pack away the food), but we definitely had food for 20. Leora and Lara had been cooking for several days. Leora made Aunt Enid’s pumpkin bread (delicious), cranberry sauce (yum), pumpkin pie (parve and tasty), mandel bread (with extra chocolate chips!), Brussels-sprouts (oh yeah), and carrot kugel (a-mazing).
Its not like we were just catering a meal for the Mayorals, either. They made devilled-eggs, salad, and deep-fried a 17.5lb turkey (yes, for 4 of us to eat – kosher turkeys only come in big sizes). They also supplied the three and a half bottles of wine (and Lara Mayoral is pregnant, so that put the onus on the rest of us to work through the bottles on our own).
We spent hours there, and only came home because Penny would have to go out. We played Rock Band, but it was a disaster. Clearly there was a problem with the instruments and calibration, and nothing to do with the tryptophan, meat coma, and copious quantities of libations. There is also not a possibility that we are just not good at the game. It was definitely instrument issues.
One full year has officially passed. I qualify for my first new ribbon: Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon. I’m testing for my Fleet Marine Force Officer Qualification in the near future. Leora and I have friends and community here; we have great adventures ahead of us. But even as we celebrate here -
Our hearts are in the West. We are trying to be optimistic about the current cease-fire, and we are hopeful for peace in Israel. It seems so much more distant from here (even though we are technically closer to Israel than NYC), but we keep our brothers and sisters (quite literally, Shula landed in TLV this week) in the Land of Israel in our hearts and minds.
Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you for supporting us!