Graduation and Leave

Finally, it’s over! After 6 months of the most intense academic challenge of my life, graduation finally arrived. It’s an awesome feeling to be done, and I’m incredible grateful for the gifts He gave me that allowed me to get through the program so successfully.

If graduation was good, the leave I was able to take afterwards was even better. First my mom flew down and we spent some time being tourists in Charleston together. It was great to share the experience with her and such a blessing to just have some time for the two of us to spend together. I then had the opportunity to go home for 2 weeks and spent one of those as a counselor for a camp sponsored by my home church in PA for 5th-7th graders in the Pocono Mountains. It was an amazing week and so incredible to see the Lord working in the hearts of the campers, counselors, and especially my own throughout my time there. The fellowship I was able to share with some of my friends from home was also pretty special. Other highlights from the trip home included visiting NYC and getting a tour of the Google office there from my older brother, going to an “Of Monsters and Men” concert with my younger brother and his girlfriend, spending some time with my grandfather who just turned 96 (and taking a pictures of the two of us in uniform – his from the 40’s), just enjoying being home with the family, and also appreciating the garden at home and some fresh vegetables from it! I also had a chance to ride my younger brothers new bicycle which rode like a fighter jet compared to the bike I’m used to (my Dad’s ~40 yr old Schwinn), as well as to drive one of my Dad’s friend’s Nissan 350 Z. That was quite a thrill as well. And, to top it all off, I was able to make a pit stop in Raleigh, NC, on my way back down from leave to visit my cousin who just started her new job with Fidelity there after graduating from UNH this year. It was great to see her and spend some time catching up on everything that has been going on in our lives.

Now I’m back in Charleston and things here have also been exciting. I had the chance to spend some time downtown going to a couple restaurants that were undoubtedly just a sampling of all the amazing places to eat that help make Charleston such a tourist mecca. I also had some fun going to a Riverdogs game (the local minor league baseball team), shooting pool with some friends, and also hitting up the beach and flying my trick kite – couldn’t have asked for better weather or wind the day we went.

The temporary duty I’ve been given for my time on hold here until around the end of September has also been pretty great. I’m working with the Fitness Enhancement Program (FEP), helping out with the sailors who are given extra PT because they don’t meet the physical fitness standards. It’s tough still having to report at 0530 every morning, but a great way to start the day with some PT of my own. I’m also hoping to complete some classes towards my masters degree through a distance learning program run by Old Dominion University (ODU) that I get credit towards because of the NPS and Prototype training I’m going through. I’m hoping to stay productive, but also have some fun during this time before I have to report for Submarine Officer Basic School (SOBC) in Groton, CT, in mid-October.

French Cafe, Avenue Q, and Act of Valor

What a fun night. Got to go with some of my classmates to a very cool French cafe, and then we went to the musical Avenue Q at the Dock Street Theatre in downtown Charleston. My classmates and I shared a box right above stage right, and it was great to see down into the pit where the orchestra was. I had a clear view of the clarinetist who reminded me of my brother, Tim, who still plays clarinet for the orchestra at our church back home. It was fun to finally see Avenue Q for myself, especially after hearing references to so many of the songs from my college roommates who saw it together, but who I didn’t join, probably for some poor reason (like studying), however important it may have seemed at the time. I’m really trying to focus on enjoying Charleston and while still prioritizing my studies and maintain a perspective on what’s most important.

I also had a chance to see Act of Valor, and it was…pretty disappointing. Poor cinematography all around and a plot and script that just left you feeling like it totally lacked depth. Some of the technology (especially the submarine) was cool, but that didn’t make up for the rest of the movie that felt more like a recruitment advertisement than an actual movie with a story line. The producers had so much potential, and I wanted to like the movie so much because of all the men and women it portrayed who deserve our utmost admiration for the sacrifices they’ve made, but the movie just didn’t do them justice.

Amazing Week.

It’s tough to describe all the awesome experiences this week. I had a significant amount of time to explore the Charleston area, and I’m very thankful to Jim for showing me around and entertaining me with tales from his past the entire way. From the details of flying charter flights for Bob Hope, George H.W. Bush, and the former governor of SC Mark Sanford to reminiscing about his time flying for the Air Force to his dealings with thwarting potential miscreants with his firearms to his NASCAR exposure and opportunities to interact with Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr. as well as other prominent drivers…there were some good stories. The cuisine we got to share over the meals was great as well…including Sticky Fingers, Texas Roadhouse, Smokey Bones, Manny’s Neighborhood Grille, TJ’s Beef & Brew, O’Charley’s, and Bighorn. I really enjoyed some local “Low Country” specialties including alligator and shrimp and grits.  I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity before school starts next week.