Monday, 2 May 1983

Dear Mom & Dad,

Angelique (age 3) and Steven (age 1) We hope you are doing well. We think of you often. So far we are not homesick. We know that it isn't really too far back to Arkansas. We could be there in less than a day. To call you is somewhat difficult. I have to stand in line to call and it costs $3.00 (or $3.50) per minute to call the States. Timing begins when you pick up the phone to dial. All calls from the base are direct and they won't let you call collect or use a credit card. There are 3 phone booths that are used only for this purpose. When the fleet is "in," it is very busy there for ~15 hours per day.

Michael (age 28) Jeannie (age 27)

All of us have been well. We have not yet gotten sick. Perhaps we won't. Mostly, we have just been tired. I didn't sleep at all on the plane coming over. Jeannie slept about 15 minutes. Angelique slept 1 1/2 hrs. Steven slept 2 hrs. Angelique couldn't figure out how it got to be morning so quickly. We left Philadelphia at 12:15 PM (6:15 PM Naples time). Seven hours & 15 minutes later we landed in Rota, Spain, and had to get off for 1 1/2 hrs. while they refuelled the plane. The kids enjoyed getting to run around and playing with other kids even though it was 1:30 AM - 3:00 AM there. We thought we were going to get to sleep when we got back on the plane, but they surprised us by serving breakfast at 4:00 AM. But after that, the kids went to sleep. About 5:30 AM we landed in Sigonella, Sicily, & stayed on the plane for 1 1/4 hrs. The kids slept while we walked around the plane. By this time, we had met most of the officers on the plane & were visiting with them. There were lots of kids on the plane, most of which were sleeping by this time. While in Sicily, we could see the lava flowing down the side of Mt. Etna. It glowed red in the dark.

We landed in Naples at 7:30 AM. Our sponsor (Penelope, a family practice doctor here) was not at the airport. By the time I had gotten our luggage, I had decided that she wasn't going to show up. I got in line to use the phone to call the hospital & she walked in. She drove us to the hotel (the Hideaway Hotel) which is just across the street from NSA ([Naval Support Activity], the main Navy base). Jeannie & the kids took a nap, while I went to the hospital to be shown around. I even met the commanding officer (Captain & Dr. O'Brien). I hadn't even changed clothes, shaved, or brushed my teeth yet! Also, I was so sleepy that it was difficult to think straight. I did get the afternoon off to take a nap. We ate lunch at an Italian restaurant behind our hotel. Steven broke a bottle of wine. The kids were really fussy the first couple of days because we kept making them get up when they thought they should be asleep. We got up about 5 PM the first day & made the kids stay up till 9 PM so they wouldn't be awake in the middle of the night. I don't think they got straightened out until Friday when Jeannie slept till 9:30 AM & the kids slept till 10:30 AM.

Thursday, on my birthday, I spent most of the day "checking in." I can barely remember that day, except that Jeannie & Penelope got me a cake from Baskin Robbins. It was half ice cream, so we had to eat it all at one sitting. After that, Jeannie, the kids & I went to eat prime rib (the kids had chicken) at the "Steak House" on NSA. It was very good.

I think it was Thursday afternoon that we went to Pinetamare Clinic which is about 20 miles north of here. I will be working there 1 day per week. Also, the elementary school is near there. We will probably live in that direction.

Friday, I had a detailed tour of NRMC ([Naval Regional Medical Center], the hospital). At 12:45 PM, I was on the phone talking with Ron Winfree, the missionary here, trying to arrange for transportation to church Sunday, when Jess Baird (who I had written) came in to find me at the hospital. Then Jess and I tried to find Jeannie. We finally tracked her down, but missed her by 20 minutes. She went on the van from the housing office to see houses for rent. Finding a house is her #1 priority right now. I don't blame her. She did not act disappointed about the types of houses that she saw. She says the tile throughout the houses is very beautiful. Most of the houses have fenced yards & 2 or more bathrooms at a reasonable cost. Jess & I ate lunch and talked about the Navy, Naples, & the church here while we were waiting for Jeannie & the kids to get back.

Saturday morning we moved to a different room. Now we have 2 separate bedrooms. The kids go to sleep easier & before we do. Before this, we had to go to bed early so they would go to sleep. This room is only about $7.00 more than the last one. I think Jeannie would have gone crazy if she had to keep sleeping in the same room as the kids. Saturday afternoon, Jeannie washed clothes while I took the kids to the show to see "The Last Unicorn." It was a 1 1/2 hr. cartoon. I enjoyed it. Angelique got bored after the M&M's ran out. Steven slept through 90% of it. The kids (under 5) got in free. Angelique took a nap when we got back. She fell right to sleep since she was in a separate room.

Saturday night we went to Penelope's house for supper. She lives in an apartment. We certainly don't want an apartment.

Sunday morning Jess picked us up at 8:00 AM. We drove 1 1/2 hrs. to Gaeta to go to church. Most of the Naples members went up there (north of here) because they were having a gospel meeting. We met inside one of the Navy buildings. They couldn't take up a collection because the Navy says that if they take a collection inside the building then they have to give it to the Chaplains' fund. So, the church waits till they are outside the doors to take up a collection. The Navy is strange. We then went to a park for a picnic. The kids had a blast. We had a good time getting to know the members from Naples. We practically ignored the members from Gaeta because we felt we needed to get to know the people we will be with. They were really nice. It made us feel at home to be with them. Most of them have small children. They were glad to see us. One of the girls from church is keeping our kids this week during the day.

All this week we are going to ICR classes from about 8 - 4. It was very enjoyable today. The first two days we sit in classrooms, but the last 3 days we go to downtown Naples to get firsthand experience. We are really looking forward to it. It will make all of this more real. It is hard to believe you are really in Italy when 99% of the people you meet are Americans. On the base we still use dollars & cents. Almost everything, everywhere on the base looks American. Most of the workers are Italians on the base. Ninety percent of the stuff sold in the Exchange & Commissary is shipped over here from America. The prices are very reasonable considering most are American products. It seems crazy to me that they even ship Coke from the U.S. when Coke is bottled right here in Italy. I think the Navy is at least as crazy as the Italians.

The mountains around here are very pretty. They are much bigger than I expected. There are several tunnels right here in Naples. There is trash in the streets, but not as much as I expected. The Italians are very friendly when we have the kids with us. They talk a lot with the kids. Our blonde-headed children are quite different from all the dark-haired Italians. The Italian food we have had is just superb. (I'm getting tired & sloppy.) The telephone system is very odd here. If I ever get it figured out, I will tell you more about it. Our hotel room is #103. It is on the first floor, only the Italians consider the ground floor to be "T" and then start numbering after that. So, you would say this is the 2nd floor. I must not forget to mention the driving. In Naples, everyone drives like crazy. It is even worse than you can imagine. No one pays any attention to the traffic laws, even stoplights. In Naples, no one ever stands in line. If you can imagine a crowd of people getting on a bus without standing in line, you can almost imagine cars doing the same thing driving down the road. I think there must be some logic behind this insanity on the streets, but I haven't figured it out yet. I will tell you more about driving after I get a car. I would buy a car tomorrow if I had time to find one.

The hospital here is not real nice, but it is better than some I have worked at. It is much, much better than what we had at Fort Chaffee. Everyone I have met at the hospital has been pleasant. Most have been very helpful. Everyone seems astonished that this is my first duty station. I think we are really going to enjoy it here after we get settled. Everyone at the hospital & everyone at church seems willing to do anything for us.

The reason I have been able to write such a long letter is that Jeannie is at another hotel babysitting with the kids whose family sat behind us on the plane. Friday night, they will babysit for us while we go to a party. The Navy is a lot like one big family over here.

It is 11:30 PM. Jeannie just got back. She says "hi."

I hope you enjoy this letter. It may be a long time before I get a chance to write again.

Oh, the weather has been very nice here. No snow or cold like in Norfolk. It's not too hot & not too cold.

If you want, you can photocopy this letter & send it to Jeannie's parents - Rex JOHNS, Route 1 Box 452, Searcy, AR 72143.

We love you. Come see us.


Michael, Jeannie,
Angelique, & Steven

P.S. I am mailing this at the post office at noon on 3 May. How long did it take to get there?

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