Hey. Greeting from Guam. I am sitting at a coffeehouse at the Naval base in Guam, enjoying the sun and high-speed wireless internet! I’m sorry I haven’t been able to post updates to the blog or e-mail, but internet access is extremely limited aboard the ship and they wouldn’t let me check my Hotmail account.

I don’t want to make this too long, but here’s some highlights from my trip thus far:

  • I flew to Hawaii at the end of May. Once there I caught what they call a COD out to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier. If any of you watched the PBS special Carrier, you’ll know what this is like. The landing is the worst landing you’ll ever go through! I feared that we’d skid across the runway and slide right off the other end of the carrier. But I made it safely.
  • I spent a night on board the Reagan. It’s just like the documentary. There’s this long “p-way” (hallway) with these pill-shaped door hatches, and if you look down the hall you can see dozens of people stepping through these doorways. It’s kind of surreal, something you’d dream about.
  • After that first night, I took a helicopter (which I later found out is named Red Stinger 1) over to the USS Chancellorsville, one of the many ships traveling with the Reagan. It’s a “small boy,” so there’s only about 200 people on board. On the flight over, I watched the sea bubble and foam, and I kept thinking the bubbles were the spots on the back of whales, but they were just bubbles.
  • I felt a little out of place on board (being the only civilian), but I quickly got over that. I found my “sea legs” quite quickly. I feel right at home now.
  • The Navy is a whole, different world. There are all kinds of acronyms (more than the Army). And it’s always loud. The 1MC (that’s the speaker system throughout the ship) is always spitting out instructions or other noise. It sounds at 6 a.m. for reveille (and yes, I do get up with the sailors at 6 a.m.). There are constantly announcements for “flight quarts” – Flight quarters, flight quarters. Designated personnel man your flight quarter stations. And there are these bell chimes every half-hour and these annoying whistles (which are part of Navy traditions, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying!). What I like best about the 1MC is the evening prayer at 10 p.m. I’m not religious, but I’ve fallen for the voice of the sailor who does the announcements. He could read Windows 97 user manuals and I’d still be smitten. He has this perfect, soothing radio voice, and at the end of the prayer he says, “Goodnight Chancellorsville. God bless always. One love.” I like that, mostly because I feel part of the Chancellorsville he addresses.
  • My students are pretty good. I have 3 women and 27 men of varying ages. At first I thought sailors would be different – always on time and always respectful and dedicated to the material. I was wrong. Some come in late. Some turn in assignments late. Some just don’t seem to care about the class (they don’t have to pay for it; the Navy pays their tuition). But, I have a few favorite students who put the time into the class. And, they are always respectful; they call me Sir a lot (which I kind of like).
  • One of my favorite things thus far have been the Steel Beach Parties. On Sundays (and for the 4th of July), the ship hosts these parties on the fantail (back) of the ship. They have three grills that they use to BBQ chicken and ribs, and they have speakers with music. At first it felt kind of weird because I’d be sitting on the fantail, enjoying some ribs, while in front of me would be a the giant barrel of a gun, and around me would be miles upon miles of blue ocean. I’ve also witnessed a burial at sea, watched as the ship did a humanitarian mission to the people of the Philippines after the typhoon that came through there at the end of June, and observed a swim call, where they stop the boat and let people jump into the ocean to go swimming. The best part of the swim call is that they had this small, motorboat loaded with sailors with guns. They are there to shoot the sharks if they approached and tried to nibble off a few sailor-legs. We did the swim call near the deepest part of the Pacific, off the coast of Guam.

Well, that should tide you over until my next update. We’re scheduled to go up to South Korea and then Japan. I should be leaving the ship in a little under a month. Thanks for the e-mails.