Monday, February 06, 2006

The Pride of the (Seventh) Fleet

Following that depressing Seahawk Super Bowl loss, I was in a pretty lousy mood for the rest of the day.

There's only one thing that can knock a depressed fan out of the "My team made it all the way to the Super Bowl and then lost" blues.

Or at least numb the pain a bit.

And that thing is...

...participating in a welcoming ceremony for the USS Blue Ridge, flagship of the Seventh Fleet, at Sakimori Port in Muroran.

I was pretty excited for this, because I was hoping the menu would be similar to the party last October on the USS Lassen.

That party had shrimp cocktail.

This is a big deal. Hey, it's hard to find a good shrimp cocktail over here, so when you do find one, it's big news.

So I had Hiraga-sensei drive me out to the port (still lacking wheels of my own - I'm planning on remedying that situation soon) and after passing through several checkpoints, I boarded the USS Blue Ridge.

I may not know much about the Navy, but I knew that they were pulling out all the stops with this party.

Several members of the crew were lined up to welcome all of the guests on to the ship.
The reception was held in the "fancy" room. What? It had wooden flooring. That makes it "fancy". I think it was an officers' lounge or something similarly restricted to certain members of the crew.
They had a live band playing some background music.
There was a small ice sculpture at one of the tables.
And they had shrimp cocktail.

YES!!!!

So I had some wine to calm down (not big on crowds at all) and then went over to the buffet table.

Chicken fajitas.
Turkey croquettes.
Spicy corn on slices of bread with a salsa dip.
White fish and green pepper kebabs.
Shrimp cocktail.

Them's good eatins!

There was a big crowd at the party, too. Like I mentioned before, due to the murder that happened in Yokosuka, the Navy is a little less than popular right now. So local groups came out in force to show their support. Self Defense Forces higher-ups, many members of the Chamber of Commerce, city government officials...the room was a tad crowded. But it was cool to see.

The Navy choosing Muroran as their port to stop at is good news for the city. Sailors like to spend money when they visit different ports. Muroran could use the economic boost.

I met some really nice folks at the party, locals and military. I also was able to talk with the captain of the ship. Very very cool guy.

Why? Well...

My school will be taking our second year students to the U.S. this summer. Some students will stay longer to participate in an intensive language program. The plan is to have that part of the program in San Diego. There is a large naval base in San Diego. I was given a mission by Starfish High's principal.

da da da-da da da da-da (Mission:Impossible theme)
Get our students a tour of that base.
So I ask a guy I know from the U.S. Consulate in Sapporo if he could help me out. He told me that he's not the got to talk to, but he knows who is. The captain. So he introduces me, and I give him my sales pitch.
We're taking some students to San Diego, and with the relationship we have with the Navy, what with Kaisei playing hoops against a team from the USS Lassen last October, would it be possible to get a tour.
The captain laughed and said, "Check this out."
He raised up his right hand and made a "come over here" motion to someone.
Someone came over. Ike.
The captain introduced us, and I gave the sales pitch again, and Ike, who is a public relations guy for the Navy, said, "It's a done deal. Give me your contact information, and we'll get you set up for when you go over."
We don't even have a complete schedule figured out yet and I just got the okay for not only a tour of the base, but...
"You want to tour a ship, too?"
...a ship as well.
The captain is awesome.
All in all, a fun night, and I came away with a full stomach, a slight wine buzz, and a guarantee of a tour of the naval base in San Diego.
I hope I get invited to the next party that happens when the next Naval ship comes to Muroran.

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