March 18, 2011

Sorting Through the "Rubble" (our junk)

We have a huge job ahead of us. We have to decide what to take, what to sell, what to donate, and what to trash. In the grand scheme of things. . . oh wait, yep, we really do have that much crap. We have a house full of 8 years of marriage, and two kids worth of stuff. Now we need to downsize to our minimum. To our basics.

The thought of how much there actually is to do in the coming months is really overwhelming. But this is where my husband and I need to work together to make the task a little bit easier on both of us. I've already come to realize that clear communication is very essential in accomplishing this and coming out no more worse for the wear on the other side. So far I've compiled a spreadsheet of essential items that must, must, must come with us to Japan. This list includes our furniture, most of our kitchen stuff, clothing, kid paraphernalia, etc. Then I have a list of wish items. These are things I would like to take if there is space (weight allowance) left. These are things that my husband refers to as dust catchers. I think of them quite differently. These are the things that make our house a home. The little things that I've collected over the years, precious items that have sentimental value to me. These are things that will help me feel at home no matter where in the world we happen to be.

Then there is the list of stuff that can go. Wherever it goes I don't really care, but it can't stay here. These things include old baby clothes that no longer fit the kids, toys they no longer play with, clothes that I no longer wear or don't fit well anymore, kitchen items that we don't need to have, and furniture that's just filling up rooms, or broken, or that we just plain don't have to have.

I am by no means a hoarder, but the process of getting rid of things goes much deeper than you'd think. There are a lot of emotional attachments to certain things that we just can't take with us. I stay positive about this whole thing by thinking of this as a chance to get rid of the excess. I will always have my memories, and I don't really want to move with all of our crap. Quite frankly, if its been in a box since we moved the last time (a little over a year ago) then I guess we really don't need it. It clearly hasn't been missed.

We have to sort through the closet in the office/guest room, the closet in my son's room, the closet in my daughter's room, I have to sort through my clothes, and then we have to tackle the dreaded garage. Overall it will get done in time. 4 months and counting, and it's going to go by quick.

March 17, 2011

Concern and Worry

In the last several days I have had many family and friends express great concern for me and my family and the current situation in Japan. So I will share with you what I know, what I don't know, and what is going to happen to us.

First of all I would like to thank everyone for their concern. It's always nice to know that so many people love and support us in our journey. As of right now we are still headed to Okinawa in August. That is still several months away so there is time for the situation to resolve. I am sure we will know much more in the coming days and weeks. 

The island was relatively unaffected by the earthquake and tsunami. They had a tidal surge of 8 inches. As reported the island is unchanged and life is continuing as normal. As a precaution the U.S. military bases had their residents who live in low lying areas evacuate to places of higher elevations during the Tsunami watch which has since ended and residents are back in their homes. There are many tried and true contingency plans for events that include tsunamis, earthquakes, and typhoons. The safety of U.S. military and their families is a priority. Many units from all branches of our military stationed on Okinawa have been deployed in support of the crisis in northern Japan.

Second. Okinawa is not very close to mainland Japan. It is actually closer to Taiwan. It is roughly 1500 kilometers from where the tsunami hit, and where the radiation/nuclear issues are taking place. In fact some people are actually evacuating to Okinawa. If you hear of bad stuff happening to Taiwan, thats when we need to worry more. As of right now, the winds are blowing everything to the southwest toward Tokyo, and then in an easterly direction out to sea. This is indicative of where a nuclear cloud will go if there is a full scale meltdown. Not good for other areas, but Okinawa will again more than likely dodge the bullet. 

Lastly, if there was a need for the U.S. to evacuate it's people from the island, I would assume the Army would give us instructions on how to proceed. I don't know where we would report, I don't know what would happen to our stuff. I have no information or idea of what would happen. However, my husband's orders will not change. He will still need to report to that unit and currently his unit is stationed out of Okinawa. Unless they re-station that particular unit, we will go wherever they are. 

I have been and will be staying on top of the situation. Thank you again for all your concern.


March 11, 2011

Flood, Devastation, and Heartache

We all know what happened in Japan in the early morning hours. I awoke to the awful news that Japan had been hit by a HUGE quake, and a Tsunami. I immediately went to Facebook. We have friends all over the world and Facebook, while incredibly trendy, is really the most convenient way to keep up with everyone. I was relieved to discover that my family's next duty station on Okinawa had dodged the bullet so to speak. The island did not feel the quake, nor did they get hit by a Tsunami. Everyone we know in Japan, Hawaii, and on our own west coast was safe.

I spent the morning glued to my TV, the news on, flipping between any station that was reporting on it. Back and forth during commercials. I am not even there yet but my heart is already attached. During all of my research, excitement, and preparation to move my family there for 4 years, I already feel an emotional attachment to the country and it's people. I received phone calls from family and friends asking if I was relieved that we weren't there yet. Many jokingly telling me that I'm not allowed to go. But I found myself not feeling relief that I'm not there. I wish I already were. My mind immediately went into what can I do to help mode. I began to think of what I could do to aid the people who lost so much.

I cannot imagine moving to a place and being completely oblivious to the danger, the loss, the pain of such an event. What happened in Northern Japan is their version of Hurricane Katrina, or the Indonesian Tsunami. For a long time Japan may be consumed by the utter devastation, destruction, loss, and death of their people, their infrastructure, their farm lands, and so much more.

The country that I've been dreaming of, fantasizing of living in, has been forever changed in the blink of an eye. In 4 short months I will be moving to a country that has been forever changed by recent tragedy. I will be moving to a place that is no longer the perfect paradise, or the ever exotic adventure that I pictured it to be, but a country and a people that will be healing from loss, and an economy that may be struggling to recover.

But I will take it all as it is. I will weave myself into the fabric of the country and it's people. I will do what I can to understand and reach out to those who may suffer from such a tragedy. Japan will be my home too. Today I signed an emotional contract with the people of a different nation and culture. Today I promised to look outside of myself to help repair something that may not be mine in territory, soil, or homeland , but is mine in heart.

March 6, 2011

Japanese Lessons

One of the major perks of my husband's job is that we have access to Rosetta Stone software for free. He logs on and we can choose any language from French to Urdu. So I decided to take on Japanese. I know I won't be anywhere close to fluent in 5 months but my hope is that at least I can speak enough so that I don't have to point or use grandiose gestures in order to be understood by the local populace. I am sure that plenty of them can understand some English due to the huge military presence there, but I would like to try to speak to them in their language, being in their country and all. I think that to assume they speak English is rude on my behalf.

I sat down in front of my computer and took on Japanese. The real challenge for me is going to be figuring out how to read Kanji which is the writing system used on Okinawa. It is a mixture of Chinese and Japanese characters. And not to be rude, but it all looks like little scribbles to me. I do need to learn some of it though. When you go to purchase tickets to ride the train, it's all in Kanji. Zero English. I've heard that a lot of wives will match up characters on their destination to the characters on the ticket machine. Wise, but I would rather have a general feel for what I'm doing than guess. Especially when I have my 4 year old and 1 year old with me.

After the first lesson, I think it's going to be ok. My plan is to go through each lesson several times before moving on. When it comes to languages, I'm a pretty slow learner. But at the moment I do have the time and the motivation to make this happen. I feel like the more I know and am prepared for, the easier the transition will be for me, and the easier I can make the transition for my kids and husband.

Sayonara! Till next time.

March 3, 2011

"New" Cars

My husband and I have decided that we are going to sell both of our vehicles and just purchase "new" used cars once we arrive on Okinawa. There are a few reasons for this. First, the Army only ships one vehicle. Second, we'd have to pay to get it converted and approved for the Japanese emissions system. Third, they drive on the other side of the road like in the UK or Australia. Hence the steering wheel and pedals are all on the right side of the car as opposed to what we are used to. And lastly, anyone who has ever lived near the ocean knows just what sea air can do to vehicles.

So by the end of the month, both my Camry, and my husband's brand new F150 will be posted for sale on Craigslist. In the mean time we have been perusing Okinawan used car dealership websites to get a feel for what we can get, and how much we can spend. There are very few brand new cars on Oki. Most military families purchase used cars from "lemon" lots. Basically these are cars that have been used by a military family and are brought back to be resold when the family is ready to PCS off the island.

In looking at some of these websites, there are a whole lot of Toyotas, Honda, and Nissans for sale. Ooofta. I can see it now. I come out of the commissary for the first time, arms full of groceries, my kids in tow, and have managed to lose my car in the sea of other cars just. like. mine. After explaining the scenario to my husband in great detail we decided that we would try to find a car unlike all of the others just for me. I managed to find an old school mini cooper that we could purchase for about 6,000 American dollars. Oh boy oh boy oh boy! I am ALL over that!

Buying a new, used car is just one of the exciting parts of this coming experience. Even though I see what I'd like online, there is no guarantee of what we will find once we get there. I guess I am of the mind that what's meant to be is meant to be. I have my anticipation to keep me company for the next few months. My computer is my best friend as I continue to research cars, homes, things to do, places to see, and more of what I can expect from life on the island. Until then, I'll be waiting for my vintage mini. beep beep!

March 2, 2011

Hatred is a Four Letter Word

My heart is heavy tonight as I write this. All politics aside, no matter which side of the aisle you stand on, our military community was dealt two devastating blows today.

First, a bus load of our  unarmed servicemen was attacked by a Muslim terrorist in Frankfurt Germany. They were being shipped out to a combat zone and were gunned down by a madman who shouted "God is Great" in Arabic. Two men killed, two critically wounded before our uniformed men wrestled him down. How they showed the restraint to not beat the terrorist to death I will never know.

Upon hearing the story, my first thought was My God, there is no front-line in this war. Our soldiers and citizens are being attacked and killed all over the world, not just in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is no clear cut line that you can "fall back" to and know that you will be safe. My heart aches for the families who lost their soldier today. I can only imagine the devastation of sending my husband off on deployment just to have him unsuspectingly murdered by a terrorist before he even enters a combat zone.

The second blow was dealt by the Supreme Court. They ruled in favor of Westboro Baptist Church. For those of you unfamiliar with the name of that group, they are the psychos who protest military funerals. I understand the ruling, and the desire to protect all of our first amendment rights. It is indeed a slippery slope. But the fact that families of dead servicemen and women are not protected by their own nation, for which their soldier served and sacrificed their life, to bury their dead in peace and dignity is an utter travesty. While the news was showing clips of the WBC "congregation" and clips of our country's soldiers, my 4 year old asked me, Mommy, do those people on the tv hate Daddy? It's amazing how much he understands and how quickly he processes it. How do I answer that? How to I explain to my son that these people are using soldier's, their families, and the all consuming grief of loss to further their own platform of hatred? So I just said, "No honey, they just aren't very happy people." There is so much hate, ignorance, and misunderstanding in the world. Whats more, is the ignorant, and the misguided have no desire to learn about or attempt to understand their "enemy".

After dinner was over I took my baby girl upstairs to put her to bed. I gently changed her, fed her, and cuddled her until she slept peacefully in my arms. She knows nothing of hate, prejudice, or violence. Her peace, trust, and love overwhelmed me. I sat holding my baby daughter and wept. I shed tears for our dead. I cried for the torture military families must continue to endure at the hands the Westboro Baptist Church. I closed my eyes and prayed in His words, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34.

People who are not members of the military community sometimes do not understand that that when a family loses their soldier, their pain is our pain. Their loss is our loss. We all feel it because it could be us.

I put my baby in her crib, dried my eyes and went downstairs to rejoin my husband. Tonight I will put it away. I will enjoy my time with my family. Our favorite show is on, so tonight we are going to forget the pain, and forget the hate. Tonight we are going to laugh.

March 1, 2011

How to Say "Starbucks" in Japanese

Sutabakkusu. That is Starbucks in Japanese. Ok, fine, I admit that I am not only a coffee drinker, but a Starbucks lover. Yesterday after I dropped my son off at school and was on my way to hit up the commissary I realized I had forgotten to brew and bring my coffee. With out my morning cup(s) I get pretty cranky, not to mention the onset of the dreaded caffeine headache in the afternoon if I don't have my daily joe. So I diverted from the quickest route between preschool and the commissary to stop at the drive thru Starbucks.

After placing my order and nearly vibrating with anticipation, I sighed with relief as the first sip of life renewing elixir hit my tongue. Then I had a terrible, awful, horrifying thought. In all my excitement to move to Japan (the land of green tea) I had completely and inexplicably forgotten about my love affair with Starbucks.

I'm going to have to give it up! But it's gonna be ok. I can do it. It's a small price to pay for getting to live abroad, and it's only for 4 years. 

I don't know about the commissaries over there, but I do know that every single commissary I've ever been in in the states has had a wide and fairly impressive variety of home brew coffee that comes in either whole bean or pre-ground form. So I know I obviously will not do without. It's just that Starbucks is my vice. Pathetic. I know.

Today I actually sat down and googled "Starbucks Okinawa Japan" and much to my surprise, several responses appeared on the map! After further investigation of the pinpoints I knew it was true.

Oh my god! They have STARBUCKS over there! 

I did a quick and silent prayer of thanks that in the midst of a foreign and unfamiliar land where I will be away from everything I have ever known, I will be able to find that little bit of the familiar. Certainly there will be slight differences. The menu will of course be in Japanese and hopefully English too, but it will smell the same, taste the same, and if I get homesick I can close my eyes breathe it all in and make believe I'm home.