Thursday, September 29, 2011

Unpacking - part 1

Our first shipment arrived today!  Finally - I have some different shoes to wear, the kids have some toys to keep them entertained, and we have real silverware again!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Torii Beach

After a Sunday filled with odds and ends, we finally set off for a quick trip.  We arrived at Torii Beach just in time to watch the sun set.  

Although it was a little too late to go swimming, Owen still had fun digging in the sand and splashing in the surf.  I was amazed at the abundance of sea glass!  I've heard this beach has good tide pools, so we'll definitely have to go back again soon

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Flora and fauna

Life is settling down again, so hopefully I'll catch up on posts about the PCS soon.

With the kids back on a more normal sleep schedule, I was able to sneak away for a little bit this afternoon and begin taming the jungle. Behold - the beast of our front "yard":

Our rental agency said that we could do whatever we wanted with the space. The plan is to rip up all the weeds (although it seems like all weeds at the moment lol) then worry about replanting and/or decorating.

Some little friends I found along the way this morning:

What a cicada left behind:

I can believe the number of shells I've found!

Trying to think of something artsy to do with them. Perhaps I'll have to hit up Pinterest soon and get some inspiration....

I tried to get pictures of the black butterflies and the gnarly looking wasps, but both were too fast for me. The vines were covering swarms of ants that left me with a creepy crawly feeling all day (but thankfully no habu were hiding out!)

I called it a day after developing some serious swass. But at least I made some progress.

And I discovered a potted plant! A free decoration for our porch - huzzah!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Government furniture

Much like gov'ment cheese, you only take this stuff because you have to

In an earlier post, I mentioned we were only allowed to take about a third of what we own.  Because we couldn't bring items like our couches and desks to Okinawa, the government loans us furniture.  And it's about as nice as one would expect - a step above something at a Goodwill store.  At least it all matches and is pretty stable.

Some of the bedroom items (I forgot to get a pic of the night stand):

The bed only comes in one size (full) on a plain metal frame.  No cribs or toddler beds are available.  No pillows or linens either.

The office (we haven't set up the shelves in the bookcase yet):

And the lovely living room:

Some of the furniture we choose to bring is our queen sized mattress and frame, entertainment center (a low shelf and two tall bookcases), TV, high chair, crib, and toddler bed.  For now, the boys are sleeping in a Pack'n'Play for Owen and a Co-Sleeper bassinet for Isaac.  I've been using the dresser with the mirror as a changing table.  

Our kitchen isn't big enough for the dining room table they offer (we were told it seats six) and we don't rate a kitchen table.  (I should add that Chris in an O2E in the Marine Corps. I've heard rumors that the on-base housing gets nicer furniture than the off-basers.  And I'm sure that the Air Force has the nicest stuff of all lol)**

This weekend we'll be looking at some of the furniture stores around the island for a kitchen table.  I tried Okinawa Yards Sales without any success.  I'd like to get different couches (these make me feel like I should be rocking a side pony-tail and watching "America's Funniest Home Videos"). We'll see if we can find something affordable (aka hella cheap!)

** UPDATE: We've been to a few homes on base now and they have the exact same furniture as we do.  The one exception being that a couch was maroon instead of green.

I'm very happy that we decided to bring our own bed.  Although it's a bit big for our bedroom, the government mattress was awful.  We're still getting everything settled so I'll try to post pics soon (probably around Christmas time when we get the decorations up)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Oura Wan beach

A new tradition I'd like to start is getting out for a family trip every Sunday.  We'll see how long we're able to keep it going once Chris's work schedule picks up, but for now, we decided to head up to Camp Schwab.  I wanted to see where Chris would be working and I've heard good things about the beach at Oura Bay

Unfortunately, fate was not on our side.  Owen was sick, Isaac was fussy, I forgot our camera, the weather was cruddy - all added up to a miserable trip.

We used Chris's phone to snap a couple of pictures in a quick break between rain storms then called it a day

Saturday, September 17, 2011


This was by far the easiest car shopping I've ever done.  We looked at two lots and only spent a few hours picking out our cars.  (The SOFA driver's test is also just as easy.  No driving portion, just a basic multiple choice written exam.)

Most cars on the island are used and late 90's/early 00's models.  The tsunami in mainland Japan raised prices to about $4000 - $5000 per car.  We were lucky enough that when we sold our Passat in Virginia, we had almost enough to buy two cars here.  (I didn't handle any of the business side of things, so I'm not sure how taxes, JDI, insurance, ect figure into the cars' price.)

There's no test drives, so basically you walk around the lot and just pick a car out based on looks/superficial features.  I would have loved to get one of the smaller sub-compact cars (some of these streets are ridiculously narrow!) but I needed something big enough for both car seats and my BOB jogging stroller.

My Honda Mobilio
Besides having enough room for everyone, the rear doors slide open which is very helpful in the tiny parking lots.

Hubby's Honda Torneo
Driving here is very different.  Getting used to being on the wrong side of the road isn't too bad.  Remembering that the windshield wipers are on the left and the turn signal is on the right always trips me up (very embarrassing on a bright, sunny day and you've turned the wipers on instead of the turn signal). I also keep mixing up my left and right while giving Chris directions.  I guess I associate left turns with turning across traffic, so I'll usually tell him to turn left when the turn is actually a right.

The hardest part of driving here is getting used to zipping in and out of lanes.  Lane lines here are treated more like suggestions.  People will often be stopped on the side of the road and all the other drivers will simply swerve into the on-coming traffic lane to get around them.  Same with people zooming around someone stopped to make a turn or a pedestrian walking in the road (happens all the time, especially on the smaller side streets).

Oh, and as an American, you're treated as a *professional* driver.  If you're in an accident, no matter what it's probably going to be considered you're fault and could possible cause an international incident - so no pressure or anything!!  lol

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chillin' at the Lodge

Although at times it feels like we're on a bad vacation, we've been pretty lucky so far on this trip.  First, we really haven't been jet lagged.  I thought for sure we'd be in a world of hurt, waking up at all sorts of odd hours and generally feeling awful.  When Chris and I went to Paris in 2006, we had a very hard time adjusting to the time difference.  Now add in a newborn and a fussy two year old - that's the stuff of nightmares!  But strangely, we've all been able to slip into a good routine of sleeping and eating without too much pain.

Second blessing - our sponsor and his family have been amazing!  They had us over for dinner (delicious lumpia and some sort of amazing noodle dish!).  They've been great with the kids, watching Owen while we took care of some classes on base.  And Jason knows so much about the island.  We definitely couldn't have done this without him!

The lodge on Camp Courtney has been a good temporary home too.  We're able to walk to the library, a small grocery store and a couple different restaurants.  So nice having some options while we don't have our cars.  The lady who works at the front desk (I'm so terrible with names!) is very friendly.

Here's some pics of our new Okinawa life:

A gazebo by the lodge

Some of the base housing

The clouds here are breathtaking!

Walking from the library to the lodge

The baseball fields

Home sweet (temporary) home

The kitchen area

Owen's room/living room

Playing the "backyard"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chirugwa soba

Our first taste of Okinawa soba!

Instead of the usual Subway or Pizza Hut on-base fare, our sponsor took us off-base for lunch at Sobaya Chirugwa (or as he calls it, Earthquake Soba)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Japanese cuisine

Our first small steps (or should I say small bites?) into adventure!

Tonight, we ordered an Ebi Filet-O (deep fried shrimp burger) from McDonald's.  (I forgot to get pictures but this is basically what the sandwich looked like.)

Pretty good but I don't think I'd order it again.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Away we go!

The morning of our flight, we needed two cabs (one regular and one mini-van) to get from Quantico to the airport. We were told that a rental car would not be reimbursed by the Marine Corps, which sucked because the day before Chris needed to drop his truck off in Baltimore for storage. Thankfully, both taxis were reimbursed ($90 each!!) and we got two adults, two kids, two car seats, a dog in a crate, a stroller and 15 bags to Reagan National - whew!

Owen saying "bye-bye" to Virginia
Our flight was from DC to Seattle. Unfortunately, we didn't get a choice of a red-eye flight.  I was worried about flying with the kids during the morning but both kiddos did extremely well. They fell asleep as we rolled out to the runway and stayed asleep for most of the flight.

Our families live in Oregon and we were extremely blessed to be able to spend 10 days with them as a "stop over" between Virginia and Okinawa.

My parents holding Isaac, our souvenir from Virginia
After celebrating the two newest cousins (Isaac born in June and Linnea born in March), an engagement (congrats Keenan and Lori - it's about time!), another baby cousin in the works (yay for Megan and Erik!), and Owen's 2nd birthday, it was time to be on our way to Okinawa.

Chris's brother, Jason, drove us back up to Seattle.  We stayed at the Double Tree hotel near the airport.  That afternoon, we took the hotel's shuttle to the airport and took the light rail to Pikes Place.  (Although walking to the monorail and going to the Space Needle is doable, we've already-been-there-done-that several times (Owen was actually conceived the day after I ran the Seattle Marathon) and we were just too tired to do much sight-seeing.)

We took a quick trek through Pikes Place Market (I swear they are never throwing fish when I'm there! lol) and had dinner at the fabulous Pike brewery.

The next morning was an early one.  We arrived at Sea-Tac about 3am to check-in for the AMC flight.  There were two separate lines, one for families and one for single service members.  Chris was able to handle most of the process while the kids and I waited near by

Owen catching some z's before our flight
Once we got to the gate, the cluster started.

First off, there was no signs at the gate and the area was closed.  We thought we had the wrong gate, but it turns out we were just too early for any of the flight crew.  We waited, and we waited.  Gate checking the strollers was a major pain. Then boarding was delayed. Finally we get on board and the stewardess directed us to the wrong seats.  Very annoying!

The flight itself wasn't too bad.  They served plenty of meals, snacks and drinks, provided blankets and pillows, and were generally very helpful.  I was too short to see over the seats in front of me, so I couldn't watch any of the movies (they played Dealthy Hallows part 1, Thor, Green Hornet, and a couple others).  The kids got a little antsy but nothing too awful.

Although we were told by the travel agents in Quantico that it was a non-stop flight from Seattle to Okinawa, the first leg of the flight was 10 hours to Yokota.  After a 3 hour wait, we were off to another stop in Iwakuni.  Finally, 17 hours after we left Seattle, we arrived in Okinawa!

The airport at Kadena