Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jiminy Crickets!

Just in time for Halloween, another creepy crawly!  This "little" guy started serenading me about 1am:

Some sort of cricket, maybe?  Definitely not a cicada and seemed too noisy to be just a grasshopper.

For some reference on the size:

My hand vs Superbug
Sometimes I can't wait to move out of the tropics.

Monday, October 22, 2012

On base housing?

Early Tuesday we got a phone call letting us know that we were at the top of the base housing list.  I had completely forgotten we were on the list.  We could view the available house and needed to make a decision to accept or decline by the next morning.

We set off in Praripoon's downpour to check out the Camp McTureous townhouse.  The first house was immediately available and literally across the street from the elementary school.  The second, which was still waiting to be cleaned, was further up the hill near the pool.  Both were the same floor plan: two stories, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms.

Front entry
The entry is very small.  The kitchen and laundry are the first door on the left.  No more hanging laundry!

The laundry area


The counters were stainless steel.  There was a large pantry, lots of cabinets, and standard American appliances (fridge, stove, dishwasher).  The front patio is right off the kitchen.

Front patio
The front patio had outdoor storage with a locking door.  The storage was large enough to store the recycling bins and garbage cans.

Further down the front hall is a half bath on the left and a large storage area underneath the stairs on the right.

Storage area

Downstairs bathroom

Both the kitchen and front hall lead to the living room.  The room was large enough to split into a dining area too.

Living room

Off the living room was a second patio and yard.  The yard ended on a slope, but we were told we could request a fence to be added.

The back patio and yard

On the second floor were the bedrooms and two full bathrooms.

The upstairs hallway
In the hallway was a large linen closet.  The two smaller bedrooms are on the right, the bathroom at the end, and the master bedroom to the left.  The upstairs bathroom had a large tub and shower.

Closets in the bedrooms


The master bedroom

The master had an en suite bathroom (the sink was separate) and walk in closet.  The room looked large enough for our queen bed and end tables.  And the walk in closet would have been great for our clothes.

En suite bath and walk in closet

The bathroom

We needed to decide quickly.  Stay off base or move?

Pros of McT housing:
- Storage!!  There was so much storage!  Much more than our Japanese house has.

- American kitchen.  No more fighting with my little oven and tiny fridge, a big plus over the holidays and for birthday parties!

- Dishwasher.  The Japanese house has no dishwasher and we both hate doing dishes by hand.

- Enough room for an office.  Right now, Chris doesn't have a quiet spot for a home office.  With three large bedrooms, a walk in closet and the storage area under the stairs we'd be able to find somewhere for Chris.

- Location.  Very close to the school, shopette, and pool.  Although we're not very far now, we'd be able to walk to the McT pool instead of driving - the boys would love that!

- Two stories.  Our Japanese house is a single floor with the boys' rooms right off the living room.  The mess of toys and books end up all over the living room.  And we have to be careful not to wake them up after bedtime.

- Separate rooms.  The Japanese house has a very open floor plan.  I know great rooms are very popular right now, but I can't stand it.  I can't keep the boys out of the kitchen, noise carries throughout the entire house, if one room is messy the entire house is messy.  The McT house had doors separating the kitchen, hallways and living room.  I could easily put up baby gates to keep the boys safe while I'm cooking.

- No bills.  No stressing about the summer electricity bill.  No fussing with GI Bill Pay and yen rates.  No trips to the konbini.

- Moving.  Although we qualify for a free move (the base housing was at 100% when we arrived last year so we had no choice but living off base), I do not want to move any more than we absolutely have to.  I don't want the boys to be disrupted again.  And I definitely do not want to spend another holiday season fighting mountains of boxes.

- No character.  The entire McT house was tile floors and concrete with plain vertical blinds.  Reminded me of a school or hospital.  Our Japanese house has wood floors, features like built in shelving, curtains and other details that make a space feel like a home.

- Bad internet connection.  I've heard the on base provider was close to dial up speeds.  We use the internet quite a bit, so a slow connection would be awful.

- Traffic.  I worry traffic in the morning.  I know most Marines have similar schedules.  And being close to the school would mean morning and afternoon buses.

- Noise and privacy.  Living in a townhouse in Virginia meant having neighbors right on top of us.  Not sure if we wanted to lose our privacy and put up with possibly noisy (and nosy) neighbors.

The choice came down to convenience and practicality verses culture and adventure.  In the end, I decided to stay off base.  Although the extra room and the American appliances would have been nice, I just didn't want to give up a once-in-a-lifetime chance of living in a Japanese house.  I've studied Japanese language and culture for most of my life, so the opportunity of having a tatami room and traditional entry is very special.  We'll be back in America and back to a "normal" house in just a couple of years.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Typhoon damage

Looks like Typhoon Prapiroon is going to skip us.  Definitely glad that we won't have another typhoon but bummed that the weather this weekend is stormy and Foster Fest has been canceled.

I've heard that Super Typhoon Jelawat would have been rated a Catagory 3.  The Air Force weather center on Kadena measured gusts as strong as 115mph.  I'm not sure how strong Sanba would have rated but I've heard that Jelawat was worse.  Two big typhoons back to back has certainly taken it's toll on the island.

Thankfully, our house sustained very minor damage and our cars were untouched during both of the storms.  We weren't here for Sanba and we returned to find a missing barbecue cover and lid (Chris eventually found the cover but no luck on the lid).  During Jelawat, besides losing power for about 14 hours, some of the gutters were ripped off the house and shattered, a few wooden slats in the fencing were broken, and our shed now has a slight crumple to the roof.

The wide spread damage I'm seeing is the stripped branches and uprooted trees around the island. Workers quickly cleaned up the downed trees and piles of debris, but Okinawa is definitely looking bare.  In fact, it almost looks like a typical autumn scene with all the leaves gone.

The bougainvillea in our front yard
Before the typhoons in June
The field behind our house after Jelawat and Sanba
Before in July
Overlooking the same field, taken last October
The current view

We're used to seeing the island green and lush year round, so it's nice in a way to look outside and see a more familiar fall look (even if we can't wear long pants or scarves yet).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Owen's first kimono

We're getting close to celebrating our first Shichi-go-san with Owen!

While flipping through Kadena's Venture magazine a few weeks ago, I noticed an ad for a kimono sale at the officers club.  Although I have seen Shichi-go-san sets for sale at Aeon and I believe some children's kimonos where at the store I bought my yukata, the on-base sale said these kimonos were second hand and I was hoping they'd be a better deal.  Since he'll only wear the outfit once or twice, I wasn't looking to spend more than $60 or $70.

Yeah, that budget didn't last long!

At the sale, the boys section was much smaller than the selection of kimonos and accessories for girls (this always seems to be the way with boys clothing).  And in my ignorance, I thought Owen would only need the hakama pants and the haori jacket.  I did not know the hakama are worn over a full kimono and I forgot to factor in zori sandles and tabi socks too.

All total, I think we spent about $150.  Eep!!  But he's so flippin adorable, totally worth it!

Owen in his kimono

The ladies at the sale also said the sleeves on the haori are adjustable.  We can let out stitching on the shoulders as his arms grow longer.  I think he might need new hakama as he gets taller, but we can pass them down when Isaac turns 3.

Now on to the second half of the puzzle: figuring out the schedule of events at the Futenma shrine...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sam's By-the-sea

Chris has been jonsing for a good steak dinner.  So far, he hasn't found anywhere on base that he likes (we've tried Kadena Marine, Chili's, Macaroni Grill, Camp Courtney's Tengan Castle).  Normally we just fire up the barbie, but grilling on our own isn't currently an option (our barbecue's lid blew away during Typhoon Sanba).  We decided to try Sam's By-the-sea in Awase.

The front porch

The tiki bar decor was fun!  I ordered a drink for the souvenir cup (I got the skull, but the Jaws mug looked awesome too).  The soup was amazing and the salad dressing was delish! Although Chris wasn't too thrilled with his steak, I liked my rib eye.  I was so totally fat and happy by the end of the meal!

Sam's is a bit on the spendy side, but I definitely want to go back soon.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Busena Marine Park

Taking advantage of the long weekend and pleasant weather, we took a short trip up to Nago for the Busena Underwater Observatory and glass bottom boat ride.  (Making a longer trip out of first visiting the Marriott for their pool access and lunch buffet "Enjoy Plan" would have been nice too.  Maybe something to keep in mind for next summer.)

The observatory

Isaac watching the fish

The boat

Owen and I on the boat

Fish in the reef