From The New York Times: U.S. Warship Misses Thanksgiving in Hong Kong

[By the way, the heroine of the following story is not I. I spent Thanksgiving watching rented DVDs, surfing the Net, and ignoring the Sisyphean pile of laundry that could suffocate me if I inadvertently slipped and fell into it.]

Imagine you are a young Navy wife stationed in Yokosuka, Japan. You have never been out of the US before, and your tour in Japan has been filled with new experiences. But the truth is you haven’t done as many things as you would have liked to because your kids have school and various activities on base, your husband has been gone much of the time, and travel in Japan is somewhat expensive and exhausting becasue you don’t know the language. You know there are people who go on trips alone, but somehow you just haven’t done it. You also know your husband’s ship, the USS Kitty Hawk, is scheduled to be decommissioned next year. So, news of one of her last major port calls, Thanksgiving in Hong Kong(!), seems a perfect excuse to meet the ship, see a famous city (everyone says the shopping is great), and enjoy Thanksgiving together. Everyone says last year’s visit was fantastic, and they give you endless advice on which tailors to visit, which restaurants are the best, what to buy, what to see. It all sounds so tempting.

You make a reservation at a hotel that costs a lot more than you feel comfortable spending (two hotel rooms, you’ve got the kids with you, and you don’t want to miss out on deployment sex) and buy plane tickets. You read your guide books, arrange for someone to watch the dog, and away you go! You arrive in Hong Kong, check in at the hotel. Your heart is racing. You are very excited to see your husband. As usual, he was deployed this year May through early October, and then he left again late October. It was long spring and summer, and just when you were used to having him home again in October, he was gone. You look out the window of your room, you think of how much fun you are going to have, and you check your email…

You have messages from the CO’s wife and many fellow spouses who have come to Hong Kong. They are all veiled references to “the upcoming visit” stating that it may be canceled. You make lots of phone calls, again, speaking in code about what could be happening with the ship. You try not to freak out. You go to lunch with some friends, but you have a sick feeling the whole time that you have wasted a lot of money on this trip. A few annoyingly upbeat wives are saying, “Hey, these things happen, the ship gets caught in bad weather, there’s some emergency. Port visits get delayed and canceled all the time. Hell, one year there was a typhoon and we were all trapped in the hotel rooms. At least this time the weather is good.” This advice from older Navy wives does not, of course, make you feel much better, because in this case there is no emergency except China is jerking us around out of spite.

You imagine your husband on the ship. You know he’s feeling stressed out, upset he is missing a port call, doing lots of work as the ship circles about, and he’s worried about you. He knows you can handle things, but he’s worried just the same, and angry at the Chinese officials that have denied the ship’s visit. You feel sad that he might have to miss out on the fun, and feel guilty when you have a moment of pleasure walking along Hollywood Road.

You spend the first night agitated and sleepless. Thanksgiving Day dawns and you think you had better just make the best of it: the info from the CO’s wife is that the ship isn’t coming. You do your best to stay cheery and optimistic, and take the kids around town. After all, worse things could happen. He could be in Iraq; instead, he’s floating, safe, just outside the harbor.

What will happen now? Will they go into port? Our poor heroine, at least she got a knock-off Chanel purse and some dim sum…

[I’m sorry, Kitty Hawk and friends, that you missed your port visit. See you back in Japan. We’ll spend the $32 million you would have spent on Cantonese food and bespoke clothes on sake and sushi instead.]

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