03 March 2013

Getting to Japan

The big day was finally here.  FINALLY.  FINALLY!

Unfortunately we had to leave our fancy-pants suite waaaay too early in the morning, with our alarms going off at 2am.  I started to get nervous belly at this point.  Not because we were moving to Japan, but I was terrified that I forgot something.  Like I forgot our passports (nope, I checked for those consistently), I forgot to reserve space for the cat (nope, that was done and verified.  Wait! Did I verify it?), what if I'm missing paperwork for the cat (THAT was my main concern).  I have spent MONTHS and MONTHS preparing for this and making sure all our documents were in order.  The thing was, I did some of it so long ago, that I started thinking....did I do it? Or did I THINK I did it?  Too late now, I guess we'll find out.

There was so much fucking paperwork and running around for last minute vet visits for the cat (we had to make a 4 hour round trip to a military vet a few days before we left for Seattle to get one of her required visits done), I was terrified something was overlooked and I'd show up at the airport and they'd say, sorry she can't board the plane and I would be in the terminal balling my eyes out not knowing what to do with the cat who can't get on the plane that I am boarding.

Nevermind all that though, the paperwork was fine (of course), and she boarded the plane.  They even made an announcement when we were on the plane that all the pets had been loaded up! Yay!

Since we were flying a military contracted flight, our check-ins and procedures were just a little different than normal.  Our flight was scheduled to depart around 7:30am, and we had to check in as early as 1am but absolutely no later than 4am.  Since we were already guaranteed a seat, as long as we were there before 4am, we were going to be fine.  The folks flying Space-A (Space Available) need to be there ASAP because those seats are handed out on a first come first serve basis.  Little did we know that since we had the cat, we'd be bumped to the front of the line.  Sweet!  Well...sort of.  You'll see why at the end.

We grabbed 2 luggage carts.  Again...we brought way too much luggage, but in my defense, we were living out of these bags for 3 months while our stuff was already shipped to Japan.  I thought I had narrowed down our belongings, but I guess all those little things spread out over the apartment really added up.  Now I know better.  Next time, I am only allowing 1 bag each, plus Aaron's uniform/equipment bag.  Plus the cat.  Next time...
We lined the pets up, and started their check-ins, which consisted of handing over lots of paperwork, answering some questions, and paying $112 for her.  Look at her...she looks so tiny next to those dogs!  She was definitely the most calm out of the animals that we saw, she just sort of sat there and looked around, I'm sure wondering why those dogs were making so much noise.  
If you're curious how we handled her eating/drinking/bathroom situations, I'll briefly go over it.  Vets will tell you to freeze water in their bowls, so it'll defrost over the length of the flight.  That wasn't going to work for us. She was put into the kennel a 2:45ish am, and wasn't even going to be put on the plane until 7am.  Our total travel time from hotel to hotel was going to be around 26 hours.  A small ice bowl wasn't going to cut it, and I thought she would be worse off if she was soaking wet for the whole trip.  Some folks suggested using a hamster/rabbit style water bottle, which was a great idea, but we tried getting her to use it the weekend before we left, and she wasn't having it.  I didn't want her dehydrated BEFORE our flights, so I let her eat and drink up to the night before.  When I went to bed, I took her food away and when we woke up before the flights, we took her water away.  We also make her use the litter box by picking her up and putting her in it over and over and over again until she gets the idea.  This works every time (if she has to go) and takes anywhere from 1-15 minutes.  But it works.  We lined her travel kennel with animal training pads, and put her bed and her favorite toys in with her.  We were able to see her during both stops in Japan, so we gave her a little food soaked with water, although it didn't surprise us that she didn't eat it until after we picked her up at our destination.

It's a hard call what to do with animals being transported that long, because other people have very strong opinions on what you should be doing.  I believe (and I'm obviously no expert here) that if you talk to your vet, and your pet is healthy, you'll know what the best situation is for him/her.  I've traveled a lot with Sammy, and I've used these procedures every time, and she's been fine every time.  I knew she would be okay without food and water for 1 day, and if for some reason we got 'stuck' somewhere, there was food taped to the top of her kennel and she had food and water bowls attached.  She did amazing.  She held her bladder the entire time, and when we got to the hotel room in Japan, she ran out of her kennel and right up to her litter box.  Yay Sammy!

Okay...back to our flight.  After dropping off the kitty, we headed up to the USO for someplace comfy to sit.  It was crowded, but not too bad, and we were able to grab some juice and relax for a few.  Around the time they were going to take Sammy to the plane, we headed down to check on her one last time, then headed through security and to our gate.  We boarded around 6:45am.

I was actually surprised that the plane wasn't nicer with more modern amenities, but then I remembered I didn't have to pay for it and it's a contracted flight to shuttle people back and forth across the world as efficiently as possible.  But just because the actual plane wasn't all spiffed up, doesn't mean the service wasn't awesome.  The flight attendants were super awesome and friendly for the entire trip.

Hot towels before every meal and snack? Yes please.  Hot towels before meals are very common here in Japan and I LOVE IT.  It's so hot that at first you feel like your skin is going to melt off, but then you just realize it's just the germs melting off.  I've also been to a restaurant here that has a sink & soap in the entry way.  How nice!
After a couple of hours in the air, we were served a hot breakfast.  By now I think most of us were starving so whatever they wanted to give us was fine.  I think we had the option of an omelet or pancakes.  Both came with a ton of food though...Sausage, hashbrown, bagel, fruit cup, and yogurt (which I noticed was non-dairy.....can someone explain how that works?).
After breakfast, everyone started to wind down and get comfy.  They played movies and tv shows throughout the entire flight.  It was our goal NOT to sleep through the flight.  We agreed that taking a small nap here or there would be okay, especially since we had been awake so early, but the more we stayed awake, the easier we would be able to deal with the time difference.  This was especially difficult for me since I just pass out whenever I sit in a plane.  Maybe it's habit to make the time go faster, I don't know, but I can sleep on a plane like no ones business.  My head might feel like it's going to snap off and I might drool all over the person next to me, but I'm asleep!
It was probably around this time that I realized we were sitting within a few rows of THE EXORCIST CHILD.  Aaron's probably not going to appreciate me talking about this here because THE EXORCISTS parents might stumble upon my blog one day...but seriously....your kid was a fucking nightmare and you know it.  Let's be honest here.  Most of you know I feel about kids.  But I REALLY hate kids in confined spaces.  When I board a plane and watch a child come in I am filled with emotion.  Hatred is one of them, but so is disappointment,  panic, and sorrow.  I'm that person on the plane that sits down and watches you struggle with your 10 carry-on bags (because you feel like it's your right to ignore the rules since you have proven to the world you are capable of reproducing).  I don't offer to help, not because you have kids, I don't help because you brought 10 bags and your husband is right next to you and not helping because he already told you not to bring 10 bags.  You don't need 10 bags to entertain a 1 year old.  You need 10 bags to piss everyone else off.  I'm the person on the plane that hated you and your family before you've even boarded.  I don't think it's cute when you let your kid run up and down the aisle tripping people and then screaming when the beverage cart runs her over.  I don't think it's cute or funny that you are brilliant at ignoring your child as he/she screams for 7 out of 9 hours of the.first.leg of an international flight. 

Back to the EXORCIST. I hate when your EXORCIST child pukes all over the fucking place and I hate it when I overhear you telling EVERYONE that she's has gotten motion sick since she was born, and no, you didn't bring a change of cloths on board.  Because that wouldn't make any sense, would it.

I should say that there were a TON of kids and babies on our flight, and not ALL of them were bad.  There were actually a few that I had no idea were sitting right around us.  Awesome!  And thank you to those parents who actually acknowledged they had a kid with them and took care of them!!!  But...for those evil children, most of the time it wasn't the kids fault.  Even I will acknowledge that.  The parents let them run wild and didn't do a thing to calm them or comfort them. Nothing.  And trust me...I watched you all with an evil eye. I really felt like the mentality of a lot of these families was, "I'm military and it's oh-so-gosh-darn hard to move across the world with a child, we are exempt from acting like civilized human beings."

That gets a big thumbs down from me.  And a bitching rant on my blog.

Also...while we have a 2 hour layover somewhere...please please PLEASE wake your kid up and make them run around like crazy, so when we board the plane again you can just strap them down and let them sleep.  Because 35,000 feet is not where I want your kid bouncing off walls.

I'm sure I have no more readers with children at this point, they've either stopped reading, unsubscribed, or probably have some mean and nasty things to say to me.  That's fine.  It's not going to make me like your evil child any more.

Not all was bad.  MAJOR props to my friend Jenni who provided us with earplugs before our flight.  Yes, I had all those strong feelings above while wearing earplugs the entire time.  I don't know how people handled it without them...although I did see a few guys who were close to breaking down.  The earplugs saved our sanity, incredibly.  Thank you Jenni!

Okay. Phew. I got that outta my system.  AND I've had 2 weeks to chill out about it.  It's a good thing I held off writing this post.

Moving on....

The ice was really pretty. I had never flown north enough before to see the ocean frozen over...
A few movies later (I lost all sense of time during this flight), we received a hot lunch.  I chose the chicken.
Aaron chose the Pot Roast.  Both were edible and appreciated.  Enough said.
I'm not really sure what I did the whole flight to entertain myself.  I read almost an entire book, watched some movies, and stared out the window whenever we had a view.  Once we got into the Japan area, there were some great views of the outlying islands.  It sort of reminded me of Hawaii.
This was us coming into our first stop, Yokota AB (outside of Tokyo).  I'm not sure if they refueled here, but we needed to drop some folks off and pick others up.  We all got off the plane and corralled into a room to wait, and those of us with pets got to go outside on the runway and check on them and walk them.  We took Sammy out of her cage and just carried her around, just to give her a different view.  There was one couple who took there cat out and just let him walk around. It was really amazing.  This cat just followed his owners around as they walked, not going anywhere else.  After the second stop, we learned that the cat was blind!  The lesson I learned from that was in order to have a loyal cat, you must blind it.
So they re-boarded everyone onto the same plane and headed off to our next stop of Iwakuni AB, about 1.5 hours away on the main island of Japan.  The same procedures took place, de-board, check on Sammy cat, re-board, and another 1.5ish hour flight to Kadena AB on Okinawa!!! Yay!!!

The sun had set and it started to rain by the time we were able to see Okinawa, but we were able to check out the coastline and the city lights!  It seemed like FOREVER before we landed.

We flew right into base, where they have a small terminal for baggage and customs.  We got off our plane and took a bus to the terminal and waited in line for someone to check our passports and orders, then went downstairs to gather our bags.

This is where it did NOT pay off to be the first ones in Seattle.  First bags on, last ones off.  We were able to get Sammy right away, but waited probably close to 45 minutes for all of our bags.  After all of our traveling, and seeing our friends beyond the exit doors waiting to welcome us....it seemed like HOURS.  The Kadena USO was there handing out water and pet treats!!!  How awesome is that!  While waiting, we were also greeted by someone from the Vets office to hand us a packet of paperwork and tell us what procedures we needed to follow with the cat in the next 72 hours.
We finally got our bags, went through customs, and some guy with a microphone asked if anyone was here to great us.  Being that we were one of only a handful of travelers left in the building, it was easy to find our welcoming group.  Plus, there were about 10 of them standing right at the door waiting for us with a big 'Welcome Aaron & Kacey' sign.  That was pretty awesome considering we only knew 2 people (and a baby) here, and didn't think our sponsor would be there.  There were a bunch of folks from the squadron including the commander of the squadron.  I thought that was pretty cool, because I'm sure the last thing the commander of the squadron wants to do after a week of commanding the squadron is stand around at the on-base terminal waiting around to say 'hi' for 2 minutes to a couple who just spent 26 hours traveling and isn't going to remember a thing about the introduction.

So we shook hands with everyone, their names went straight through my brain, we were handed some welcoming gifts of beer and wine, and everyone help load our bags into our sponsors wifes car, who then brought us to our lodging (on base).  She was awesome enough to have filled our room an fridge with food, so we wouldn't have to worry about the essentials right off.
There were a few Japanese treats thrown into the mix! Yay!
Oh! And our friends KayCee and Jake here gave us the best welcome gift ever.  Nice shampoos, soaps, lotions, and poofs.  I definitely have to remember this when we become sponsors. It was so nice to be able to shower that first night without having to dig through our bags for our stuff.  And this stuff was WAAAY better than the hotel soap.
And more food and Japanese snacks.  Very much appreciated!!!
We postponed going out to eat with our sponsor since we were so freaking tired.  That's what you get for not sleeping the whole flight! It worked out well, because by the time we actually got our bags into the room, it was probably around 9:30/10.  Sammy was relieved (in more than one way) to be let out of her kennel, and finally got to stretch her little legs, and then we crashed and we crashed hard, but we woke up at a decent hour to start our first day on the island.

Next up I'll actually share with you guys what you've actually been waiting to see.  Photos of Japan!!!! Yay!!!  Now that we've been in our house for a week, I've had some time to do cooking, so I plan on updating Kacey's Kitchen here soon also!  I apologize for not updating sooner, it's been really hard to sit in front of the computer when I just want to be out exploring and setting up our house!

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