Friday, January 25, 2013

Gone Fishin'

“In Okinawa, all Miyagi know two things: fish and karate.”  Karate Kid taught me so much about what my life would be like in Okinawa.  I imagine my brown belt in karate is not going to get much wear out here, but I thought definitely there would be fishing.

After being in Okinawa for a year, Leora and I decided it was time to brush off the fishing poles that I’ve had for twenty years and put them to good use making dinner.  After all, it’s a long weekend, and what else do we have to do?  We picked up a whole bunch of frozen shrimp and headed over to the East China Sea….where I proceeded to break one fishing pole, lose 5 weights, and countless shrimp. 

Plan B.  Restart somewhere new.  We headed down to Araha Beach (right near us).  I only lost three weights.  I also threw out the broken pole.  And, to add dramatic flare to the afternoon, I threw all the rest of the shrimp into the sea (where they were quickly gobbled up by the fish in the area).

So it was not the most successful fishing day.  But Leora and I got of out the house and enjoyed a beautiful Okinawa day. And that was enough!

the first fishing site
getting everything set up
trying to convince the lures not to get caught on the coral
the second fishing site

Friday, January 18, 2013

MLK Weekend and Chaplain Duty Watch

I have the island-wide duty chaplain shift this week.  Aside from being on-call 24 hours a day through the MLK Weekend (and therefore, no consumption of alcohol of any type), I am responsible for an article to be published in the Okinawa Marine.  I submit to you my article from this week's edition.

Re-Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In one of my favorite scenes from the 1988 classic "Coming to America", Eddie Murphy as Clarence the Barber describes a chance encounter with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"You know, Sweets, I met Dr. Martin Luther King once.   Yeah, I met Dr. Martin Luther King in 1962 in Memphis, Tennessee. I walkin' down the street minding my own business, just walking on. Feelin' good. I walk around the corner, a man walk up, hit me in my chest, right. I fall on the ground, right. And I look up and it's Dr. Martin Luther King. I said 'Dr. King?' and he said 'Ooops, I thought you were somebody else.'"

What is your memory of Dr. King?  How do you remember?  Unfortunately, very few of us have actual memories of Martin Luther King, Jr.; the majority of us weren’t born when he was assassinated.  We have history textbooks, old videos, and past-down stories.  With these tools, we teach, but we hardly instill memory.  The fact is that for most of us the memory of Dr. King garners little recognition in our lives - except another USMC 96-hour weekend. 
As members of the military, we should remember Dr. King for his commitment to the causes of freedom and democracy.  We should be inspired by his courage to speak out, to push forward in the face of innumerable threats. We should remember the modern day prophet who dreamed of a better tomorrow, a life of dignity, a hopeful future for all Americans.  As service members, by our very creed, we are committed to preserving the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Turn this weekend into a weekend of service.  We remember through action.  We carry on the legacy of Dr. King by turning dream into reality, by answering the call to grant dignity to all people.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched with Dr. King in Selma, Alabama.  He said his experience in the march, "I was praying with my feet."  May we turn this weekend into a weekend of service: pray with your actions, pray with your hands, pray with your feet.

Friday, January 11, 2013

becoming a "sensei"

A couple of months ago, I took on a new (very part-time) job teaching a beginner’s English class. For the past six months or so I have been doing a bit of one-on-one English tutoring with adults, and I assumed this would be more of the same, if in a slightly larger-group setting. To the interview, I brought with me a copy of my resume and some sample lesson plans I had worked up for other students. The man interviewing me looked over these papers seriously, and then told me they were very impressive looking, but that he couldn’t actually read English with enough fluency to understand anything I had written. Nevertheless, he offered me the job – I think based merely on the fact that I had thought to bring those papers with me at all. As the interview was winding down, he finally found fit to mention that, oh yeah, I wouldn’t be teaching adults at all – he was actually organizing a class for young kids, somewhere between the ages of 4-10.

And that’s the story of how I became an early childhood educator. (I know that, strictly speaking, 4-10 extends outside the early-childhood range, but when you’re working on foreign language skills with young kids, I think it makes the kids feel and act even younger.) I tried to explain to the organizer (the father of one of my students) that my experience with kids in this age group was limited to babysitting, being an aunt, and having siblings, and certainly did not extend to teaching of any kind. He was unconcerned, though, and so I am making it up as I go (and doing some online research on the side).

I teach two forty-minute classes every Tuesday evening, each with two students. My students (Yoshikage, Miu, Hayate and Ayuna) are adorable, but there is a lot lost in translation. We sing songs, read books, do crafts, and practice vocabulary. We count, talk about the days of the week and the months of the year, and I ask them about that day’s weather – although, this time of the year, the answer is always “cloudy,” so I think that’s the only weather term they’ll really learn. I can tell that Japanese students are trained to do a lot of repeating, as they readily understand when they’re supposed to repeat things after me. But sometimes I’m not at all sure that they understand what I’m trying to communicate - especially when I am reading to them. I read mostly for language exposure instead of content, since there are very few books in the library out here with the correct sort of vocabulary; most of them are way too wordy, and so the kids pay attention but don’t know what they’re paying attention to.

Of course, I do speak a bit of Japanese, and that sometimes helps me to transmit certain ideas or to understand their very basic questions. I don’t speak enough to know if, when they’re laughing together in class, they’re being funny or mean. But still, we stumble along together, looking for enough common understanding to learn and have fun at the same time. I think it’s going relatively well. I just hope they’re actually learning something. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Cell Block 9

 “We need to make sure the best of the best go out on this thing to [deleted],” says the CO, “they should feel that they are getting rewarded.  They’ll get liberty, spend some money, and have a good time.  And when they get back --”

“We’ll throw them into lockdown and take away all their privileges,” interrupts the Sergeant Major.


If only this wasn’t a fake conversation.

We’re on lock down.  As of the Friday evening before New Years, all movement off-base is restricted for personnel assigned to my battalion.   Those living off-base may only drive to their homes and their place of business (this part was rescinded after New Years Day).  While Leora and I live on a base, we were not allowed to access the main part of our base, as we live across the street.  As the order read: you can go to work, gym, place of worship.  And that’s about it.

Spouses are free to move about as long as they follow the rules and regulations of the current liberty order.  The problem is that since I am sitting at home being useless, Leora has to do all the shopping that I would normally be able to do (including the Exchange, the Commissary, and the Gas Station). 

Suffice it to say, we did not have the most exciting New Year.

So what happened?  What could possibly cause thing sort of punitive response?  Answer:  We made the News.  In the Marine Corps, getting your picture in the paper is never a good thing, even if it is just the military news.

Since New Years Day, a lot of the restrictions have been lifted.  I still can’t go to off-base establishments, but I can go to anything on any base.  This is good, not great – but good.

We will be on lock down for the next 23 days – to include a couple Marine Corps 96 hours weekends.  We’ll watch some movies, maybe go bowling (on base).

I’m personally more worried about the Marines.  They’re stressed and cannot get a release off-base.  They are angry, and there is nothing they can do about it (as the CO has threatened a full-court martial to anybody who touches the cause of this lock-down).  They are tired of being treated like tots; nobody likes being put in time-out. 

So, I guess that’s why they keep me on staff – to worry, to look out, and to care.  I just wish there was more that I could do, aside from loading them up with candy and pancakes (which I did today)…all in a day’s work.