18 April 2013

Home Sweet Home - Moving in, Again

Well, it's been 2 months since we have arrived in Japan, and it has flown by in record time.  Since we've been here for so long, I thought it was about time to share with you our house hunting experience.
The following pictures are a mixture of photos taken during our initial walk through before we accepted the house and the day we moved into the house and got our HHG shipment.

The Tuesday after we arrived (We arrived Friday) we stood in line at the housing office to get into their first meeting.  What we weren't told is that it's a group meeting held at 8:30am, so really, no need to rush.  At this meeting we were given a copy of our application (we had applied for housing before we arrived even though it didn't go into effect until the day we LEFT our last duty station - this is good to know since housing is on a first come first serve basis).  We also found out during this meeting that we were NOT authorized to live on base.  Major bummer here folks.  We were trying not to get our hopes up even though we had been hearing for months that the base housing is full and everyone who has wanted to has been able to live off base.  Housing is provided based on rank, dependent status, and when you filled out your application.  Single military members are required to live off base here - basically why have one person utilize and ENTIRE house.  According to a procedure they put in place the prior week, if our base OR a base next to us is under 95% capacity, we are required to live on base.  At the time of our meeting, our base was 99% full and our neighboring base was 93% full, requiring us to live on base.


People who arrived the week prior and the week after us were able to live off base.  

We asked the people at housing a couple of times to explain it to us, and we realized there was no use in arguing, it's just the way it worked out.
We really, REALLY can't complain though. We have a really large house (which is actually my biggest complaint, and yes, I know how strange that sounds), it's in a nice neighborhood, convenient for work, and it's new and modern and clean.

After our Tuesday meeting we were told they would review our application and give us a call in a few days.  We were called that afternoon and given 2 houses to look at as soon as possible.  We hassled some folks for rides again (still didn't/couldn't have a car at this point) and took a look at both locations. The first one was actually neighboring our friends house, was really nice, big, and close by everything (the commissary, work, the exchange, etc..).  We checked it our and headed over to our other option.
The second house was almost the same exact house as the first one, but every room was about 2 feet smaller.  It was still huge compared to what we are use to.  The major selling points to this house was how out of the way it was.  The only cars that drive through this neighborhood are those people who live here.  It's up on a hill, so we have a little view of the town off base and some view from our bedroom of mountains and such.  There aren't many playgrounds around, and just some elementary schools off in the distance.  Our backyard in this house is actually elevated from the neighboring buildings, so pesky little bastards children won't trespass wander into our property.  The first neighborhood was really busy, with lots of school zones, and high school and middle school kids wandering about, and you could see the house from the main road.  We really liked the privacy of the second location - for being off base, it's sort of off the beaten path, which we really enjoy.  It's also pretty quiet, bonus!
So we called in the morning to accept the 2nd house.  It was either that day or the next that we were able to meet with our housing counselor and sign everything that needed to be signed.  We picked up our keys are were allowed to move in Friday morning.  Since our HHG (Household Goods) arrived about a month before we did, all we had to do was schedule a delivery date.  Our counselor was kind enough to do that for us, which was awesome cause she got on the phone, spoke a ton of Japanese, and scheduled delivery for the morning we moved in. AWESOME!  Asides from having all our stuff, it meant that we didn't have to deal with government furniture, which is furniture the government loans and delivers you until your stuff arrives.  It's a great free service they offer, and would have been glad to take it if needed, but it was nice not to have to bother with extra deliveries and pickups.  It also meant that after 7 months, we were able to sleep in our own bed.....holy shit....that thing felt like a fucking cloud that day....
The movers were awesome. They showed up during their scheduled arrival 'window', and were in and out of there in an hour, and asked me numerous times if I wanted them to unpack everything for us.  
The moving company was a local one, and I got my first experience of how polite the locals are when they enter your home.  We had 3,774 lbs of stuff shipped over (total of HHG and UB), which sounds like a lot of weight, but really isn't, we were authorized over 12,000 lbs.  I can't even imagine owning that much stuff!!!!  Anyway, 3 guys carried my 3,774 lbs of boxes out of our 4 crates, to our door, unwrapped anything that was wrapped, carried it all inside to the room I directed them.  As they did this, I had my handy dandy copy of inventory, and checked off each and every box number that came in. Even though everything was in crates, I did this.  One of our crates had been opened and inspected (I know this because the seal was broken).  It was also easier to tell what was in the boxes by looking at the inventory.
Each and every time one of the workers came into my home, they removed their shoes.  I actually didn't even notice it at first, because they were so quick about it, never missing a step.  They literally got to the door, and stepped right out of them.  On their way back out, stepped right back in.  Communicating with them wasn't difficult at all.  The guy in charge spoke English pretty well, and the other 2 guys seemed to understand me most times.  If they didn't, they just went to work unloading the truck until they could verify with their boss what it was I wanted.  Never once did they stop to chat, rest, or take a break.  I was pretty impressed by how strong these guys were, for being smaller then me....they were carrying stacks of boxes in and up the stairs, dressers over their shoulders, mattresses like they were pillows.
We even thought we were missing a box at the end labeled 'parts'.  It was on the inventory, but I didn't recall having a parts box.  The guys went through the entire house twice, looking at each and every box to make sure we didn't miss it.  We filed some paperwork to say it was missing, but I came to realize that it never existed.  Most people probably have one, our initial packers probably just wrote it first on the inventory sheet, and I just overlooked it, since it was waaaay at the top of the page.
I gave the guys some Coke, which they seemed to really appreciate, signed a bunch of stuff, and they were gone.  *POOF* Not one scrap of paper or garbage remaining.  Like I said, they seemed to really want to unpack me, but I've never had movers do that, and I don't think I will, even though it is part of their job.  Yes, it would be really nice to be rid of all the boxes and packing paper, but I couldn't live with piles of shit just laying all over the house.  I need to put stuff away (even if temporarily) while I unpack.

As you can see, we have tons of storage space in this house.  Including that giant ass closet right in the middle of our living room.  Also, we have a little "Harry Potter" room/closet under our stairs, directly in front of the bathroom.
My favorite part is how clean it is, and how many windows there are.  In our living room, we have an absurdly large sliding glass door to the back yard. Yay!

Is it even right of me to complain about too much space and too much storage?  I know, first world problems for sure.  It just seemed so empty, and neither one of us really wants to own more stuff...so the challenge is to make it cozy without filling it up with crap.
These houses were really built with families with kids in mind, which then, the size would make sense.  The 8 closets plus 2 outside storage rooms would make sense. 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms would make sense.  It just happens this is what we were authorized also, and it was available.  It's really nice, and for having to live on base, I'm so glad we were able to secure a home on our base, our neighborhood, and how clean it is.  It almost seems like we are the only people who have lived here, I can't even imagine how hard the cleaning crews work.
Since taking these pictures, we have acquired some more furniture.  A king size bed for one, which is awesome.  We have been talking about getting one for a while, but with moving around and hoping on getting off base, we weren't sure if we could fit one anywhere.  We put our queen in the spare room, which will be awesome now for guests...no more air mattresses or couch sleeping.  Damn...we are like real live grownups now!
We also ended up....oh shit....here's another grown up thing we got.......we bought a sectional.  For real.  I actually have always hated sectionals, but saw this one at the Foster (a Marine base nearby) furniture store and fell in love.  I'll show you some pictures another time.  It's a monster, but it comes all apart, and has one of those giant ottomans (with storage inside) that everyone can put their feet on.  It's big and gray and has metallic pillows(!!!) and we love it.  I really like how big it is, that you can fit a whole bunch of adults on it and no one feels cramped or right up next to each other.
We were temporarily missing 2 things when we got our stuff.  We couldn't for the life of us find our bed frame screws.  I know I put them somewhere safe that I wouldn't forget.  We picked up 2 screws for free at Eagle Hardware (a free self-help store on base that supplies you with things like screws, air filters, light bulbs  etc. Things needed for base housing that residents can do themselves instead of calling maintenance).  The next day, I found the screws.  They were with our tools.  The same tools we'd need to use to tighten the screws.  Derp-Derp.  The other thing that we didn't find for almost 2 months was our darts.

We had them in Altus, and packed them last...so that narrowed down where they were significantly, but we still couldn't find them.  It was driving me INSANE that I couldn't remember there these were. I bought some more at the Exchange just to hold us over, and then one day not too long ago I was sitting on the couch and it dawned on me.  I blurted out "THEY'RE IN THE GUITAR CASES!!!"  Sure enough, in the pocket of the guitar case were both sets of darts.  Phew!  Crises solved.
We moved our love seat up into the office, and still have our red couch in the living room.  I'd love to show you, but asides from being completely unpacked in 2 days and buying a bed and couch...our home hasn't gotten much better looking.  I shop either on base, in town, or online nearly everyday but still can't even agree with myself what kind of curtains to buy for the office, never mind decorate anything else.  We haven't hung pictures on the wall yet because at first we thought we'd paint a wall or two, then nixed that idea, then brought it back and nixed it again, and we don't know if we are going to do shelves over the couch or just hang the frames.  Should I re-order photos larger. I don't know.  Do you think John & Sherry from Young House Love will made a trip to Okinawa to help me out?  After all, I did support them on their book tour by purchasing their $15 book.  It's only fair, right?  Maybe I should at least present them with the invitation here.

As you can see, Sammy enjoyed exploring all our stuff.  She was all 'mind blown' when we put here in the spare room while the movers were here, and when she comes out it's like Cat-Disneyworld with all the boxes.  I enjoyed unpacking, and putting stuff away (most of it is staying where it was first put which is always awesome).  It's funny when you live without your stuff for half a year and finally see it, you don't even want half of it.  We did without all this fine...so now what should we do with it all?  Yikes!  I wanted to start downgrading after the first box was opened!

Anywho...I've been thinking a lot about this blog, and how frequently/infrequently I have been posting lately. I have lots of photos of things we've been doing here, and things I think you'll find interesting, I've just been busy going out and exploring and taking those photos, that I haven't spent much time blogging about it.  I am though, going to put in a little more effort to blog on a more regular basis...hopefully enough to keep you all here and entertained.

One thing I'd like to ask from you is....what are you interested to know about our life in Japan???  Are you curious about food? The 'military life'? Do you want photos of poorly translated signs and menus?  Explorations and activities? Really....I would love to know what you want to know!  Leave me a comment below.

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  1. What has been the most difficult thing to get used to since arriving in Japan? Do you think you will adopt any Japanese "norms" or culture into your daily life (and maintain them outside of Japan)?

  2. Did you know Young House Love is from Richmond? Mo just went to a conference where they were guest speakers. If you ever come visit maybe we can try to stalk them down!( J.k!)

  3. Great questions sister! I'm gonna do a whole blog post on them!

  4. I did, I did!!! I saw them in Dallas last year actually. They were just as dreamy in person as they are on their blog!