Wednesday, August 31, 2011


So today we went to housing to fill out the lease agreement. And they told us some bad news...

...we can't move in till Tuesday! That's six days away!

We had the keys yesterday. Shoulda just kept 'em.

Poor Zero has to stay at the kennels till then.

Also means we have to pay for boarding till then. I get frustrated with the military sometimes.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Today was a pretty boring day. Dustin had to report to work so I stayed around the hotel room. About an hour later he picked me up and we went to visit the many places we had to visit to check-in. First on our list was housing.

The housing office was empty when we arrived and we found out we were missing some paperwork, BUT I asked about the wait list for townhomes. (Side note: there are two types of on-base housing. The towers and townhomes. The townhomes are the only ones that allow dogs, but also allow for more space so they go very fast. If they were all full we would have to look off-base. That wouldn't have been horrible, but with the yen/dollar exchange rate it would have been very expensive. Also, I'm not sure if our furniture would fit and we definitely wouldn't have a room for visitors... which we want.) The woman looks at us and Dustin's rank and said she had keys for us today if we brought back our paperwork!

AHHH!!! Happy dance! Don't have to live in the hotel forever! Zero can come home! Happy dance!

Needless to say we went immediately to get our paperwork, came back and got keys to see two different townhomes.

One is brand new on the north side of the base. It is a nice clean neighborhood with quick access to Main Gate. The floorplan was okay and had tile throughout. Unfortunately, it was the second floor. So the fenced in yard that would be our responsibility was in the front right under the downstairs house kitchen window. It also was a much smaller yard. But it was brand new with convenient access to the gate.

The second option was out in the older housing. It has brown carpet throughout and the HVAC system is hanging down from the ceiling. The kitchen is huge with a floating island. The location is by the Monzen gate, which lets out into the back side of town. You also have to go over the Freedom Bridge to get to it and we have been told it ices in the winter. The neighborhood wasn't as clean. The sidewalks were cracked and the grass was a little out of control in some areas. But it was on the bottom and came with a fenced in yard and large patio.

The decision has been bothering all day. Dustin and I looked at over 30 homes when we purchased our home in North Carolina. I am horrible about these kind of decisions.

Tomorrow we go in to sign all the paperwork. We must decide by then.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Vending Machines

They are everywhere! And have anything you could posssibly imagine!

The drinks come out cold. The coffee comes out hot. The selection goes on forever. I had a very good apple tea out of one on the day we got here, but Dustin hit disaster with a green tea he purchased today. Coke products, sodas, waters, teas, milk, coffee, specialty drinks, and even wine are in these things!

Cigarette Machine
The crazy thing is they are everywhere. Corners of streets, major thoroughfares, even the middle of a neighborhood that looked pretty sketchy. Often they are just sitting on cinder blocks near a light pole with an extention cord running up for electricity.


Today we had to attend an all day seminar for indoctrination. Most of the information was interesting, but hopefully won't apply to us while we are here.
We are still fighting some jet lag. We both woke up at 3AM and couldn't go back to sleep. Hopefully after today's rigorous schedule we will sleep through the night.

The day started with 3 hours of briefs from various people around base. NCIS talked about how safe/unsafe the base is on any given day. Legal talked about the differences between Japanese laws and American laws. Also went over what to do if you find yourself in jail. Side note: you aren't guaranteed a phone call. Multiple people talked about alcohol abuse and restrictions. Japanese culture is deeply rooted in alcohol, but Americans always tend to take it too far. One woman spoke on equal opportunity and another on managing your money while stationed overseas. Lastly an officer came and spoke to us about the places where Marines are not allowed to go. By the end even I was fidgety.

Before we broke for lunch over 40 base businesses and organizations set up booths around the room for a quick meet and greet. We got information on cable, cell phones, bank accounts, the thrift store, commisary coupons... the list goes on. I was disappointed to see the University of Phoenix representative did not show up. We did get some great information about Japanese language classes,  cooking classes, and Dustin's school.

For lunch we were on our own. The briefs were held at Club Iwakuni which seems to be a multipurpose building. It has a couple restaurants, various ballrooms and meeting rooms, and the officer's lounge. They had a soup and salad bar in one corner that had us at vegetables. It wasn't as good as Sweet Tomatoes, but it was quite tasty.

Then came the good stuff! We all loaded up into an (air conditioned!) bus and got a tour of the base. The entire perimenter is only six miles so you can imagine that didn't take too long. It was good to start putting together where the major buildings are like the post office and library.

Then we went off base to the city of Iwakuni. It was our first time being able to leave... and it was quite intimidating!

Tour Guide

Tiny Train Ticket
 This may be the most confusing lesson I have ever had. The train schedule is daunting and much of it does not have English translations. We will definitely have to practice then and I am sure will waste some yen in the process.
Train Schedule
 After the "how to buy a train ticket" lesson we walked over to the bus station. This one seems a little bit easier because the base purchased a big sign that tells you exactly what bus and how much to make it back to base. If I still can't figure it out then a taxi will take me straight to my door.

Downtown Iwakuni

Rt 188 - Lots of Shopping
Then we were released to explore on our own. We walked away from the crowd (they headed into the 100 yen store). We ended up walking all the way down this street to a large department store. Unlike with stores in the States, each level had a different store, although checkout was only at the bottom. The first level was a grocery store. Two through fiver were women's clothes, men's clothes, toys, bicycles, a tailor, homegoods, etc. I imagined it to be similar to a Walmart only nicer. The sixth floor was a 100 yen store and the biggest (and loudest) kiddie arcade I have ever seen. We stepped off the escalator to a quadruple Chuck-e-Cheese style venue. It did have Time Crisis 3 so I will be wasting plenty of yen there in the future! The last and final level had a food court with Japanese soba and other foods. It also had a McDonalds that didn't look to serve anything in which I was familiar. They wouldn't let me take pictures, but there is another one across town that will.
So hot and humid!
The day was very hot and Dustin and I went through lots of water and one disasterous attempt at trying something from the vending machines. All in all we absorbed a lot of information that slowly sweat its way out of us in the miserable heat and humidity.

Upon returning to the base we went to visit Zero at the kennels. She was very excited to see us and ran around like a crazy dog for a while. Kyoto (the walker) was with her when we pulled up and Zero almost pulled the 90 lb woman off her feet! Hopefully we can get housing soon and bring her home.

Well, it is only 7:30PM here but I am exhausted. We are trying to stay up till 9, but I doubt that will happen. Soooo sleepy...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hotel Discoveries

Some interesting finds in our hotel room:

A tatami (畳) is a type of mat used as a flooring material in traditional Japanese-style rooms. Traditionally made of rice straw to form the core (though nowadays sometimes the core is composed of compressed wood chip boards or polystyrene foam), with a covering of woven soft rush straw.

Tatami is derived from the verb tatamu, meaning to fold or pile. This indicates that the early tatami were thin and could be folded up when not used or piled in layers. Tatami were originally a luxury item for the nobility. Rooms completely spread with tatami came to be known as zashiki (literally, room spread out for sitting), and rules concerning seating and etiquette determined the arrangement of the tatami in the rooms. It is said that prior to the mid-16th century, the ruling nobility and samurai slept on tatami, while commoners used straw mats or loose straw for bedding. The lower classes had mat-covered dirt floors. Tatami were gradually popularized and finally reached the homes of commoners toward the end of the 17th century. (Source)

The milk is good for more than a month. Today at the commissary I saw milk good for two months!

Our hotel came with one packet of coffee. Apparently the Marine Corps has their own brand of brew. It was not good.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

We Have Arrived!

...and are exhausted!

The view from the airplane was phenomenal. Lots of small islands everywhere. Side note: Japan is made up of 6,582 islands.

After a long day of flying we arrived at 3PM local time on Saturday. We are 13 hours ahead of the east coast. Our sponsor was there to meet us and took us and Zero around the base. We dropped her off at the kennels which was hard. She has been in small spaces so much the last five days. She's doing great though and doesn't seem to show any signs of distress once she's out of the box!

Now we are settled somewhat in another hotel room. We will be here until we are given housing. Our sponsor put Cheerios and milk in the fridge and pointed us to the local Taco Bell. We are set until our day-long "indoctrination" seminar on Monday.

We plan on exploring the base tomorrow, but want to do nothing now but sleep. Pictures to come!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Flying Daze

Someone wise (Val) just reminded me that this is still an adventure. So as I tell the story of our last few days I will try to remember it. As I write this we are still stranded/stuck/tired/stinky at the Seattle airport in Washington. It has been a rough few days.

Monday we flew in to Jacksonville, NC to pick up Zero and drive closer to a neighboring base for her vet appointment.

Tuesday morning had us at the vet enjoying our last day in North Carolina before driving up to Raleigh. American Airlines has been added to the ban list because of all the issues we had flying with Zero. We spoke with 7 different associates and 4 of them had never heard of a mandatory four hour pickup on cargo. It is too hot in the South to have Zero fly with us so we were sending her ahead early in the morning. She would then wait in Seattle for us to arrive that evening. Unfortunately we got some poor information. A kind soul finally let us change our tickets to fly first thing in the morning and have Zero fly with us.... at no extra charge.

4AM - Drop Zero off at cargo. Say teary goodbyes coupled with Dustin's reassuring comments.
6AM - Boarded our Chicago bound flight. Flight is delayed 30 minutes.
7AM - Arrive at Chicago on the furtherest possible terminal from our connection. Dustin and I run (and I mean run, no jogging or skipping here) to our next gate. We arrive as they are boarding. Once on board we asked the captain to ensure that our dog made it on board. They hadn't even gotten her off our last plane yet, but he put a call in to rush her over. We waited 20 minutes, but we got her on board!

Once in Seattle we had nothing to do. It was 10AM PST and we were both tired and hungry. We put all our stuff outside under a metal art sculpture and took a nap. I got sunburned. Finally I got tired of the smell of mildew and urine and called Fred to get some hotel information. Doubletree is pet friendly so off we went.

Wednesday R&R
Thursday: For some reason the government flights require us to be at the ticketing counter at 2AM. Not sure why the government is all about the "hurry up and wait." We were first in line for the family line and got good seats right behind the bulkhead (lots of leg room and 3 windows). Zero didn't have to be back for three more hours so we decided to go back out to our metal sculpture.

Thursday 3AM
We ended up freezing out there so we snuck Zero inside the terminal under our blanket and grabbed some sleep. Security was peachy.. I got selected for the patdown because I forgot my chapstick in my pocket. Finally at 8:30 we get on the airplane and are ready to take off.

But, alas, it was not meant to be. The plane was having mechanical problems so we sat there for an hour before the airline decided to let us deplane. Then it was a thirty minute waiting game. Thirty minutes passes, update on how they are still working on the issue and will let us know again in thirty minutes. After 2 hours of this some of the families were getting upset. Some of the men (yay military, gettin' somethin' done!) got together and told them to reschedule for tomorrow or give us more concrete information. After some negotiating we were told we could pick up our pets but not our luggage and we would try again on Friday.

We were put in the Clarion near the airport. Zero was not a happy camper. It was noon by the time we made it back to the hotel so we slept for a little bit. I would not recommend this hotel. A huge spider was crawling up the wall and a man used his key and walked into our room!

We were disappointed to learn that we were very far from downtown Seattle and didn't have anywhere that we could even get high enough to see the Space Needle. Instead we opted to walk the streets with Zero. We found the largest hill we could and climbed to the top and were rewarded with this:

Mt Rainier
Friday: So here we are to Friday. We have been in these clothes since Tuesday and are ready to go to Japan! Hopefully everything will go smoothly this time!


Our Plane

Second try from Seattle

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I stumbled across this online and thought it was pretty fun... and tricky. After seeing these logos for years I thought it would be a walk in the park. I only got 50%.

What did you get?

Sunday, August 21, 2011


This year is a big year for my mother. She turns the big 5-0. Unfortunately we aren't going to be here for her birthday (September 13) so I decided to throw a surprise party during our visit. I contacted Louis and with his help planned a surprise party at the Terminal Brewhouse in downtown Chattanooga, TN. It worked! She was very surprised!

Waiting for the Moment
DELICIOUS cupcakes!


Three Generations

The food was great! I highly recommend the Terminal Brewhouse for food if in Chattanooga, TN.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cammie & Zonks

On our last day in California we went to visit some old friends of Dustin's family. Cammie and Zonks came quickly and spent a few minutes meeting us.

Zonks is half zebra/half mule. Very friendly and loved getting his nose scratched.

I couldn' quite warm up to Cammie. She is a wee bit larger than I imagined camels to be. I'm not sure why in my head they are smaller.

Posing with Cammie
 Had to try this photo half a dozen times because I was too scared to get too close.

Maybe my hair looks like food?!

Dustin & Cammie

I can now mark petting a camel off my 'To Do' list. It was a scary experience for me!


While visiting family in California, we had dinner at Christopher's in Senora. For an appetizer, Paul ordered garlic fries. Hopefully you can see the mounds of garlic on these fries.

The fries are fantastic! I've never had garlic fries before and this take on it was very good. Unfortunately, disaster was looming.

I dared Zachary to eat a spoonful of the leftover garlic on the plate.... and there was a lot of it as you can imagine. After Paul took the lead we all took large spoonfuls of garlic on the count of three. And cleaned the plate!

...ugh! I still smell garlic sometimes!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is beautiful. We were only there for a short while so it was like getting a taste of something fantastic. Making the drive there was half the fun, as Dustin would say. See California Roads for my take on it. :)

When we arrived in town we parked and road the gondolas up the mountain. They are glass encased and quickly make the 2.4 mile journey up the mountain.

Halfway up the mountain the gondolas stop at an observation deck that allows for breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Check out the year-round snow! The breeze at the observation deck made it a bit chilly, but the air just feels fresher.

After getting back on the gondolas to continue up the mountain, we arrived at a ski resort and beautiful restaurant. There wasn't any snow at the time, but we could see the trails that would make for a super-fun ski trip in the winter.

Once at the bottom we had to add one more state to our U.S. map. We were so close to the Nevada line that we just had to cross over. It was funny to see how the casinos set up show right on the border.

We highly recommend visiting Lake Tahoe. We had a quick appetizer of a visit, but we are sure to make it back.

Ebbetts Pass