28 January 2013

Real Talk: January 2013

I usually like to keep my blogs light and airy with some stupid bitching about unimportant things along the way.  But it's my blog and I feel like real talking for a moment.  I mean, it's always been real talk, but it's gonna get more real in a second.
Realities of Moving
I'm moving across the world here shortly.  We've known for nearly a year, and I feel like I've done everything humanly possible to prepare.  Okay...so maybe I haven't master Rosetta Stone Japan yet, but whatever...let's come back to that one.  But maybe by being prepared, I've become my own worst enemy.  I've been ready for a while, and now I'm waiting. And waiting. And waiting.  And please, I know that's how life is, how the military is, but knowing how it is doesn't make it any less annoying.

Excitement & Nerves
Since day 1 of knowing, people have tentatively asked if we were excited.  Do you want the truthful answer?  We were, we have been, and we are 400% excited!  It might sound cliche, but it's a dream come true for me.  Another question people ask is if I'm nervous.  Aaron doesn't get this question a lot.  Maybe it's cause he's a guy and should be all emotionally strong and stuff and I'm a woman and should be all soft and mushy and emotional. HA!  Another truthful answer:  Neither of us have been nervous.  Not about living so far away from family and friends. Not about moving to another country.  Not about not knowing anyone in that country.  Not nervous about that country not speaking English (primarily).  Nope, not nervous at all.

Anxieties and My Ridiculous Brain
As I said over at the kitchen, we are in transition from our last assignment to our next one.  Only since moving out of our apartment have I started to get anxious.  Maybe it's not really having a place to live (of our own).  Maybe it wasn't having an address anymore (we have since received our APO PO Box).  Maybe it's the stress of making sure the cat's paperwork (she has more than we do) is all taken care of and she survives the multi-day travel and flights (why in the world did I read this article about Pet Deaths in Airplane Cabins!?!?!). Maybe it's just the sitting around and waiting while living out of a suitcase for a month and a half.  It's probably a little of all of that, but I'll tell you something that I've been thinking about.  And trust me, I know how ridiculous it sounds.

I'm concerned I'm not going to be able to do all the things I want to do while living in Japan for 3 years.

Seriously, that has been consuming my brain at 3am.  I KNOW that I can't do everything in 3 years.  Fuck, I know I couldn't do EVERYTHING in my whole life.  So why the fuck did that thought ever cross my mind?!

I mentioned this irrational concern to Aaron the other day.  When he asked what I wanted to do while in Japan, and why I don't think we'll be able to do it, I responded, "I want to do EVERYTHING."

Yeah.  Not a lot of things, not most things, I want to do ALL things.

He gave me 'the look' and very kindly said that I might need to readjust my expectations.

People...I know this.  Really, I don't expect to do EVERYTHING.  I really don't.  I think I'm just looking forward to taking advantage of as much as I can.  I don't want to be that person who sits around on base because it's familiar - if you know me, you know that isn't something I do.  I want to be the person who goes out and explores everything she possibly can!!!  And you know what folks?  I'm going to be that person.  I am that person!!!  WOO!

Friends and Family Back Home
Most of our family and friends are really excited that we are moving, but some are sad or upset, and that makes me sad they feel that way.  I don't see it as us moving AWAY from anything, instead we are moving TOWARDS a once in a lifetime experiences and our future together.  Wow, that sounded so mega corny, but it's true.  For me, moving to Japan wasn't an option.  Once we had the opportunity, we were going to take it.

Realistically, we will be able to see and speak with our families just as often as we do now, and have for the past couple of years.  We are only a plane ride (or two) away, and according to google maps, you could always kayak to Okinawa (use walking directions to find your way).  Phone calls are still possible.  There are options for text messaging back and forth from the states.  Of course there is video chatting.  These are things we already do to stay in touch.  The 15 hour time difference just makes it slightly less convenient.

And of course I'm going to miss them, they are my family and friends!!! I just hope they take advantage of knowing someone overseas to go visit and explore.

Learning Japanese
I'm slowly working on it...and asides from saying a few words here and there (neko=cat), counting to 6 (ichi, ni, san, yon, go, roku), a few primary colors (acai=red), and some sentence that I have yet to figure out what Rosetta Stone means...it's not going as well as I hoped.  It's hard to begin with and learning things like this is not something that I've ever excelled at.  Apparently it hasn't changed with age.  I often have to remind myself not to compare my speed of learning with other people, especially Aaron.  He's learned nearly 1,000 Kanji characters, is currently using Rosetta Stone, and just started to learn Hiragana1.   All this on top of learning how to fly a plane and everything that goes along with it.  I could be biased, but I'm proud of him.

I'm still plunking away at it, slowly but surely.  Rosetta Stone estimates it should take around 200 hours to complete the program.  I estimate more than double that.  It takes me a lot longer to get a passing grade (over 90%) in each section than it suggests.

Most of you came to this blog because you follow me over at Kacey's Kitchen.  You know I like love to cook and eat and all things foodings.  Both Aaron and I like to eat.  We like to eat new things, eat often, and eat well.  If I can cook it, we like it even better.  I can't even begin to express how stoked we are to be able to eat our way through foreign lands.  Not only do we plan on immersing ourselves in the food culture of Japan, but we intend to visit many other countries while over there...eating our way through Asia would make this couple very happy.

I would really love to cook like the locals and learn lots of new techniques and dishes.  I would love to do most of my shopping off base at Japanese markets.  It could get overwhelming and time consuming at first...navigating my way to the stores while not being able to read street signs, navigating my way through the store while not being able to read signs for products I've never seen before and don't know how to cook with.  Without wanting to put too much pressure on myself, once we get into our house and unpacked, I would like start out cooking 1 new dish (Okinawan, Japanese, etc...) a week.  While I would love to tell you all I'm going to come back in 3 years cooking only Japanese dishes (oh, and trust me, we would LOVE that), I'm going to START off with 1 new dish a week using local ingredients and increase that as I get more comfortable.  I also hope to participate in the Okinawa Island Produce CSA project, which is similar to the Bountiful Baskets program I used while here in Oklahoma. OIP has been 'down' since the typhoons last summer...but hopefully it'll pick back up.

Making Friends
Unless you are a freak, making friends isn't easy.  I wouldn't say that it's hard...it's just not as easy as it was when I was young and in school.  Moving around every few years doesn't help.

We are so lucky to know another couple over in Japan.  We met them a few months ago at our TDY location and became close friends.  They headed to our new base in December and doing well getting settled in and giving us the scoop on what to expect when we arrive.  We look forward to seeing them again soon and go explore the island with them!  I feel a little spoiled moving to another country and knowing someone there, but hey, I'm totally taking it!

I hope to volunteer a bunch while in Okinawa, and who knows what kinds of groups and clubs we may become a part of...but I don't think we'll be at a loss of meeting people.  There are going to be tons and tons and tons of people in the same situation we are, with lots or resources, away from familiarity, and with lots of things on our 'to-do' list.

There are so many things I want to do while over there, and I'm so excited to get started!  I'm going to try a blog a few more times before we arrive in Japan, but we'll be traveling a bunch, so we'll see how it goes.

Is there anything that you would like to know about our adventure?  Leave a comment below!!

A Japanese writing style (along with Kanji, Katakana, and Romanji).  Hiragana and Katakana are part of the 'kana' systems, with each character representing one sound in the Japanese language.  Hiragana is used for words which there are no kanji.  It's all very confusing to me.

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21 January 2013

California & Grand Canyon Adventures, Part 10, Day 9

If you need to catch up on our California & Grand Canyon Adventures this summer, check out Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8, and Part 9!

I know, I know, it's about time to finish off this series, huh?    Well, for the last few days of our trip, we stayed with my cousin down in Orange County.  And just a few days before we arrived at her door, she calls to let me know she just broke her right leg/ankle.  Of course, I know NOTHING about that....and since she was living alone, up a flight of stairs, we were really happy we could be there to help her, especially that first week filled with doctors appointments and getting used to hobbling around in a cast.  If you've never experienced such a thing, let me tell you...it majorly sucks.

When we arrived, Soju (her monster cat) immediately fell in love with Aaron.

 These last few days were actually perfect.  We took it easy having well needed cousin time, and of course some beach time...about a mile from her house.  Life is rough folks...life is rough.

Although it was the beginning of June, the Pacific Ocean wasn't quite the temperature we wanted, but the beach and sun were perfect.  Technically, we did go in the ocean, about up to our ankles.  Sitting on the beach can get exhausting, so of course, we had to grab a burger...  

We were happy with the Shwack.  It's a casual beach type place in downtown Dana Point.  Show up in your bathing suit, order at the counter, grab a beer, sit outside, and enjoy. Their burgers were delicious and the Shwack spuds were amazing!  Check out how crunchy they were!  Oh, and asides from fresh and delicious food, the prices were great too.  I like!

Next up was bringing the cuz to the doctors office.  Hitting in up early, we got a nice look at her bruises and swelling while she waited for some x-rays to verify the damage.  Looking at these pictures, I really liked those jeans...I wonder what happened to them...

Yup.  Definitely broken.  Super nice and twisted and definitely needing surgery.  All those little lines are where the doc showed us where the pins and screws would go.  Yikes!

At our second doc visit of the day.  Obviously Shannon's super stoked I'm taking a picture of her in this state.

My family is really, REALLY good at working up an appetite.  Shannon took me out to South of Nick's which is another great food spot.  Nice modern and warm decor, we grabbed a table, and shoveled delicious food into our faces.  Both of us were super stoked about our choices here.  I recommend!  At this point, I felt a little bad about leaving Aaron home and him not enjoying this great meal...obviously I got over it though.

When we got home...the monster had gotten him again...

We had a blast during our California vacation, and while we were there, we planned to have me fly back out with my cat and stay for a month to help Shannon out after her surgery.  Aaron was going to be away in training, so it worked out perfect!  Maybe I'll do a short little series on that trip.  It was so awesome to be able to spend a whole month with my cousin, and we were amazed that not even ONCE did we want to strangle each other!!!

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07 January 2013

Pack it up, Pack it in!

I'm pleased to announce that all of our belongings (with the exception of our filled suitcases) were packed up over a month ago, and they are currently on their way to Japan as I type this.

Overseas military moves have 2 shipments: Unaccompanied baggage (UB) and household goods (HHG).  During a UB, your stuff is put into boxes and sent over via plane.  It gets there first, and because it costs more, you are limited to only so many hundreds of pounds.  The overseas household goods shipment gets boxed up and then crated, and sent by boat, so it could take quite a bit longer (hence the UB shipment for priority items).  This shipment also has a weight limit.  The weight will be determined by your destination, rank, and if you have dependents (that's me!).  In our case, we were authorized a total of 13,500 lbs, including a ~1,000 lb limit on our UB Shipment.  You've got to estimate your weight yourself, and figure out what to do with the rest, cause the government will move EVERYTHING you have, but if you are over those weight limits, they charge you an arm and a leg and your first born or something like that.  I don't know the exact amount off the top of my head, but you just hear from people, "DON'T do it!".  So basically, don't do it.

The weight limit is pretty much a joke to us.  We don't own much.  In fact, we recently received emails saying they weighed our shipments.  Our HHG weighed 3,465 lbs and our UB weighed 309 lbs.  Yup...29 years of 2 peoples belongings and it doesn't even weigh 4,000 lbs.  Nice, right?! 

98% of our belongings have been up in storage since summer since we moved out of our house and into a furnished apartment, so my day with the movers went amazingly smooth.  We packed everything up well enough to ship overseas, with the intentions the movers wouldn't have to repack anything.  Our efforts worked well, because they didn't have to unpack anything (okay...just one box that was crushed).  The movers are responsible for getting your belongings to your destination safe, and they are NOT allowed to write 'packed by owner' on the bill of lading, so they'll open up boxes to make sure it's packed to their standards.  They might need to throw some extra paper on top to prevent shifting, or repack a box entirely.  It is their call, no matter how nicely you think you packed.
Pro Tip Alert! If you plan to put your stuff in storage, do it right the first time, when you have time, and you are the one handling your belongings.  Go to the recycling center at your local base.  They flatten and keep the professional moving boxes and even sometimes bags of paper.  They'll give you anything you want for free.  Get it, it's what the movers would use to protect your belongings.  If you pack it up to snuff with moving company standards, it will save you so much time on moving day, plus the peace of mind knowing your the only one touching your stuff.

We had 2 storage units (because only small were available at the time we moved in), so the movers worked on one at a time.  They checked some boxes and decided if they were all packed as nicely as those...they wouldn't be repacking any.  I have heard of folks getting annoyed that shippers won't send those big plastic totes as they are, but it's really for your own good.  The temperature changes could crack the plastic, making all your shit fall out.  And you don't want your shit to fall out.  A solution would be to ask for what my movers did automatically...instead of repacking the totes, they just sat them inside of another box.  Viola!

The guys were really good with my belongings, but I stayed close to help answer questions (this eliminated the need for them to search through something), and just to keep an eye on things that may have been overlooked.
Pro Tip Alert! Keep an eye on that bill of lading sheet that the head-mover-dude is filling out.  When he/she walks away from it, take a look, count your boxes, and make sure those stickers are on EVERY SINGLE BOX (otherwise you can't prove you had it, if it gets lost).  It's easier to ask to look at the sheet occasionally while they are working on it rather than after they have everything in the truck, and 10 inventory sheets, and you have no idea what's missing or wrong.  Doing it this way, I was able to catch numerous boxes they hadn't accounted for (simple oversight), and a wrong description of our TV.  If something still goes missing, at least you know that you did everything you could to ensure the best possible move.  If you don't...well...really, who's fault is it?
Once all the items were out of the storage units, boxed, labeled, and listed on the BOL inventory, they were stacked into the crates.   This was pretty fun to watch how perfectly they could stack/shove so many boxes into one crate.  NOTHING else could fit in them.

The HHG's were done in one day.  We had two scheduled just in case, and also our UB shipment on the second day by a separate provider.  I brought hot fresh donuts from the local donut shop, and the guys took breaks so I didn't feel obligated to feed them anything else.  On the second day, my movers practically laughed at me.  They had it MADE that day with only 7 boxes that they placed into 3 larger boxes.  Once the paperwork was complete, it was less than 12 minutes from the time they showed up to the time we all left.

So what's left now?
We've been living on what we can fit in our suitcases to bring with us on the plane to Japan.  Aaron should be finishing up with training this week, and then we will move out of our apartment and in with some family until we leave for Japan.  So this weekend we are going to pack our suitcases.  And then all that's left is to clean the apartment, put together a box to ship to ourselves (bedding, & other last minute stuff), and hand in our keys.

Oh, and then wait a month.

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04 January 2013

MilSpouse First Friday Fill-In (January)

Wifey of Wife of a Sailor came up with this 5 question monthly series to get to know our fellow bloggers better!  Once you post your answers on your own blog, you will submit your link on her site, where all the contributors are listed! Check it, Check it! 

Here's my questions and answers for January!

1. What’s one thing in the past month you would have changed? Hmm...I'm not really sure.  Oh! I wouldn't have let the fucker who bought my jeep drive home with my license plate.  He was another military member from our base and for once, I gave someone the benefit of the doubt, trusting them until they give me a reason not to.  He didn't return my license plate, and played games with me the whole month about it.  Hopefully I've worked out all the legalities with the state of Florida, and nothing will come back to me about it...we'll see.  This just helped justify to myself why I do the things I do.  
2. What was your favorite thing that happened in December? Seeing sister of course!!! Yay for sister time!!!!!  Another favorite was destroying my little cousins in a pillow fight....total annihilation!!!
3. What are you looking forward to in January? Getting out of our stinky furnished apartment.  It's stinky.  It has furniture that isn't ours.  And only 2 windows.  And ever since packing up and sending everything we own to Japan....I'm getting frustrated when I try to cook only to find out I've packed that certain spice or kitchen utensil or best of all, a baking dish for that pie I just made.  It's hard to cook a pie without any sort of baking dish.*sigh*
4. What did you do for New Year’s Eve? Ran a bunch of errands with Rachael, Brendan, and Aaron. Got our Jersey food fix with the MOST AMAZING sandwich at Rose's Pizza in Garfield.  Played video games in our PJ's, snacked all night on gourmet stuffed olives, and drank lots of wine and champagne!
5. What are your hopes and wishes for 2013? That the Sammy girl (the cat) has a successful trip to Japan.  I also hope that I experience everything I possibly can while living in Okinawa!!!
Turkey Sub at Rose's
Want to check out my past MilSpouse First Friday Fill-In?  Check them out here.

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Resources for Living in Japan and Other Things

For the past 9 months or so, I've found myself doing research nearly every night about moving to Japan, living in Japan, communication to and from the US from Japan, and traveling throughout Asia.  I'd almost say it's become an addiction, but in the best way.  It's so exciting knowing that in less than 42 days we leave for Japan.

Lots of people are curious about our adventures and what Japan is going to do and mean for us.  I respond with 'everything'.

I've subscribed to dozens of blogs relating to Japan and have found hundreds of websites.  Some of my favorites or most useful, I've actually posted links to on my bloggy-blog here.  Look up, just below my header, you'll see a link for Resources.  Go ahead, click on it and explore if you are interested in what I've been researching.  Maybe you are looking for some tips on living in Japan too!  If you are, we should totally meet up for some coffee or tea or something.  Maybe at the Neco Cafe?  Because a cafe filled with cats is how all cafes should be.  Don't you agree?  And please, if you visit that Neco Cafe site, please use Google Translate to make it legible and read it.  The translation throughout the site is hilarious!

Anyway.  I like using my blogs as sort of record keeping...you know, for the stuff I want to share publicly and all.  I hope on updating more often, but you don't really want to hear about us 'hurrying up and waiting', do you?  Naawww.  But here's a quick followup:

We just got back from nearly 2 weeks visiting family on the east coast.  Aaron still has a few flights left.  We need to pack our suitcases this weekend.  We move out of our apartment next week.  We are homeless for about 3 weeks, although thankfully staying with family who is gracious enough to take not only us but our cat in for as long as we need.

In the meantime, I continue with my research addiction.  Tonight I found a few more blogs of interest, and thought I should share them here.

Just Hungry: My new go-to Japanese cooking blog for the basics.  I think this will help me reduce my 'learn how to cook all over again' time once I start shopping locally in Okinawa.  I appreciate the '100 Japanese Foods to Try at Least Once' list.

Just Bento: By the authors of Just Hungry.  I would really like to make Aaron fun bento lunches in the future.

Savory Japan: A beautiful site explaining who/what/where/why of Japanese food.  Some great recommended reading found here also.

Surviving In Japan: Anything you want to know, from how to ship lithium batteries to Japan, to Japanese tampons, to using your Japanese air conditioner.  Great lists with English/Kanji/Romaji words that I'll be bookmarking soon!

So...that's all I've got for tonight!


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