The Cube

Our house is mostly unpacked and all there really seems to be left to do is laundry, laundry, and (did I mention?) more laundry! I realized our clothes wouldn’t smell fresh-from-the-dryer when we unpacked them (after all, they were in storage for about eight months before we got them!) but I had no idea the stuffy smell would permeate the whole house! Now, therefore, I have to clean every. single. stinking. piece. of. clothing. OHMYGOODNESS. I have probably never done this much laundry in a single week. I have never done this much laundry in my LIFE. There are sheets, comforters, bath towels, kitchen towels, mats, blankets…and the list goes on. Let’s not even get me started on the number of loads I’ve done with just clothes alone. (The count is currently at 21…and I’m not yet finished.) Needless to say, the past 48 hours has consisted of me staying in the vicinity of the washing machine! Thank goodness we aren’t living off base…off base housing (while greatly envied for many reasons) has ridiculous utility bills. I’ve heard of people paying in excess of $700 a month – for electricity alone! At least I can wash everything without cringing in anticipation of the next bill each time I turn on the machines! Thank the Lord for small graces.

Anyway. Now that my laundry rant is over…on to cute Okinawan things – like cars!

Okinawa has the cutest (and some of the ugliest!) cars I have ever seen. For starters, there are more pink and lavender cars than I have ever seen anywhere. My first two days on the island I counted 57 pink cars…once I started counting, about halfway through my first day. That’s a lot of pink. There are dark magentas and very light pinks though most are this color shown below. ↓

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Here’s the back of a purple car I spotted on one of our explorations through town. ↓

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Now, to clarify, both of the cars I just showed you are a decent size for Okinawa – another thing here that is unusual is the general size of vehicles. To give you an idea…a Toyota Prius is huge. A Dodge Caravan would be monstrous (though I’ve yet to see one here). Most cars are two or four seaters and very boxy – though there are lots of cute old cars and many hatchbacks as well. If I see someone in a sedan the only thing I can think is that I would never EVER want a car that long here! The streets are tiny, and the parking spaces take me back to high school when I lived in Belgium – and when I first decided that a Smart car was very practical (and for good reason!). There are, as far as I know, only two Smart cars on the island. I have no idea why they aren’t more popular here, but I’m going to take a guess and assume it’s because they’re more expensive – why pay $12,000 for a car when you can buy a nice, albiet used car, for $4,000? (Or, if you really want a lemon, for $800?)

Initially, I wanted the smallest and cutest (most “island-y”) car I could find! My heart was set on the Nissan March Bolero.

Check it out. 

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Isn’t it the cutest!? Hoban and I decided that if a Mini Cooper and a Rolls Royce had a baby, this would be it. Adorable. I found someone selling theirs for only $2,700 and almost bought it – but due to the awkward JCI (Japan Compulsory Insurance) date I’d have to get it redone TWICE. (Which would be quite expensive and a pain in the butt.)

(If you’re interested in learning more about the JCI, check out this article shared on Okinawa Hai! For those of you who don’t care to read the article, I’ll give you the rundown. The JCI must be redone every two years and can cost anywhere from $400 to $1400 (or more, depending on the condition of your car). Basically, someone official checks out your car and must “pass” it in order for you to be able to legally drive the vehicle. They will get you for anything large that’s wrong (such as an old timing belt) as well as anything small and stupid (such as having no windshield wiper fluid.) If your car doesn’t pass, you have to pay the place to get your car fixed. It’s a little insane.) 

Anyway, the Nissan March Bolero. The cutest car in the world. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up buying one. By the time my happy bubble was popped and I realized the one I found wouldn’t work out, the practical side of me was leaning toward a different car. The  March Bolero, while undeniably adorable, just didn’t have the space I’d probably need. The trunk was tiny (almost non-existent) and driving with more than four people would be impossible. Should Hoban and I have kids in the next three years, we would have practically no space left once a car seat was installed. The real issue, however, was that if Hoban and I wanted to scuba dive, we couldn’t fit more than two people and our dive equipment. That was the final nail in the coffin. Bye bye, Bolero.   😦

We looked around and eventually settled on B.C. Used Cars right outside base. It was reputable, almost everyone we spoke to recommended them, came with a new 2 year JCI (and all road/weight taxes pad for one year!), and had a one year warranty on the car – so I could take my car to their garage whenever there’s an issue and they’ll fix it for free (and will give me a loaner car in the time being!)

B.C. Used Cars (Outside Kadena Gate 2) ↓

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Now, B.C. Used Cars was a bit more expensive than getting a car from the lemon lot on base – but we personally felt that the peace of mind (and having the JCI/taxes paid for already!) were worth the extra money. That being said, while negotiating we decided to pay in cash as it significantly reduced the price of the car – but we had no idea that paying “cash” literally meant with cold hard money! Checks and debit cards weren’t accepted…nor was any dollar bill larger than a $50! We cashed a check at the Officer’s Club and returned to B.C. the next day with our wad of bills. It was pretty ridiculous! I felt like I needed a briefcase to make the transaction. (A very very small briefcase 🙂 )

Our small pile of car money ↓

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While I’d decided not to buy the tiniest car available, I still wanted a fun color – one I wouldn’t have in the States.  I saw a car while perusing at B.C. that fit the bill. It was baby blue and it was one of those super boxy cars Hoban and I make fun of in the States – a Nissan Cube Cubic! Here’s a link to a youtube video showing the inside of the car. Ours is slightly different (Yes, we ended up buying it!), but it’s pretty much the same except for the color. Our interior is grey/black, and our dashboard has a GPS navigational system (all in Japanese though so we can’t figure out how to use it). The two seats in the very back fold down to create trunk space. I doubt we’ll have the two extra seats up often (unless we have several visitors at one time) but we love that we have the flexibility of more seats.

Here’s a picture of my new car outside our house (It was rainy which is why the picture is so dark.) ↓Image

What do you think? So far we love driving this around – it’s spacious though still small enough to explore the island – and small enough to fit in the teeny tiny parking spaces!

Here are some more cars commonly found on Okinawa! ↓

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Memorial Day

As promised, I’m going to post pictures from our day at the beach! Our new friends from the squadron (and from our neighborhood!) called us up to see if we would join them for a day of snorkeling last Monday! That definitely sounded like a good idea so we jumped at the opportunity. What a perfect beach day. The sun was shining, the water felt as warm as bath water (until the colder currents came in around 4pm!), and the company was superb. Check out our photos from the day!

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Just another wonderful day in paradise!

 

Scuba

Not much has happened in the last few days since I’ve mainly been cooped up inside our house unpacking boxes and organizing. It’s so exciting to finally have our things and so crazy that we’re finally in our home for the next three years! Still, I can’t wait to be done sorting and cleaning so that I can get out and explore even more.

The ocean is mere miles from our house and it kills me that I’m not out snorkeling and diving on a beautiful day like today! We did both last week and had a blast.

Two days after arriving we met up with other people in our squadron for a couple dives. We parked along the road, put on our gear, and trudged through lots of nastiness to get to the ocean. I couldn’t stop laughing as I tried to remain balanced, but by the time we reached the water I was covered waist down in mud! That being said, the dive spot was well worth the trek. Once in the water, it wasn’t a far walk until we reached the drop off point by the reef, but it took me quite a while- I spent so much time trying to avoid all the sea urchins! I have never seen so many in my life! There were probably ten per square foot. At least. We wore felt-bottomed booties for protection, but I was scared of slipping and knocking into one from the side. That would definitely hurt! Along with sea urchins there were gigantic sea cucumbers, and hermit crabs – and that was just in knee-deep water.

Once along the ocean floor we swam through tall (and narrow) canyons, through a cave, and among the reef. WOW. That’s all I really know how to say! The water was clear, the coral was bright, and the ocean life was plentiful. On one dive alone we saw a couple of lion fish (and what I’m convinced is the largest lion fish in existence), a banded sea snake (which is about 16 times more deadly than a cobra!), and more fish than I can count. I kept hoping to see a reef shark which is rumored to hang around that area, but no such luck. (Normally I would never ‘hope’ to see a shark…but if I’m going to I’d like to in a group of at least five people!)

Not my photography as I just google searched for this photo – but here’s a sea snake if you don’t know what they look like! We were about this close to one.  ↓

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We walked back to the car for lunch in-between dives and enjoyed some things I picked up at a local convenience store along the way to our dive spot. In the states you can find any number of things to eat somewhere such as a 7-Eleven. At Lawsons, CoCo, and Family Mart (Okinawan convenience stores), you can have a bunch of neat food! They sell the japanese version of a sandwich – a triangular seaweed wrap containing rice and something else inside like tuna, salmon, or pork. There also were long and uncut sushi rolls, ramen bowls (which is a popular food here), noodle/tuna/veggie salads, various sushi, and taco rolls. Yes, I said taco rolls. Imagine a long piece of seaweed wrapped around white rice with a center of cheese and taco meet. Uhm, yes please! I bought that as well as a variety of everything else to try. It all was delicious! We were later told (and have seen for ourselves around town) that taco rolls – and especially taco rice – are a hot commodity on the island. (Which is amazing for a non-fish-lover such as myself!) Here are some shots taken by our friend Sarah while on the dive.

Just fyi – We didn’t have nearly enough weights and so had to weigh ourselves down with small boulders…thus the large rock Hoban is holding in this photo! ↓ Mine were mostly shoved into my BCD pockets, haha. It made our dive a bit more difficult since we had trouble with finding neutral buoyancy, but it was worth it!

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Hoban ↓

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One of  the lion fish we saw! ↓

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Diving was amazing, and so was snorkeling! Check out my next post to see some photos from our Memorial Day at the beach!

On-Base Housing

I normally won’t post multiple blogs in a day, but you’ll have to cut me some slack for the time being – I have so much to share and if I don’t post now I’ll constantly be playing catch-up!

As I mentioned in my previous post, the ball got rolling a lot quicker than we expected once we arrived! Most everything on the island is done only on certain days…and much of that is done on Wednesdays. As we arrived late Wednesday night and therefore couldn’t do anything else (and as this was on the forefront on my mind after living out of suitcases for eight months) we went to the housing office first thing on Thursday to figure out where we’ll be living.

The last time I lived on base I was five years old…so you can imagine that I had no idea what to expect when we walked in the door. At best we hoped to be allowed off base. At worst we imagined another month or two in temporary lodging. Neither happened. An incredibly helpful woman explained to us that since the Air Force is trying to save money, we have to live on base. It wasn’t what we were hoping for (let’s be real – I was researching off-base housing since I discovered we were moving to Okinawa!) but we at least like one of the houses offered to us.

For those of you who don’t understand how on-base housing works, I’ll let you know. Essentially, you’re told what kind of housing you’re allowed to have. (As a married Captain with no children, Hoban rates a 2-bedroom townhouse or single family house) Once they figure out what you rate, you’re given the keys to two units – only TWO. And then you have to pick one within 24 hours. If you say you don’t want either, your name is moved from the top of the housing list to the bottom and you aren’t offered another house until your name comes up again (so you pay – out of pocket – for your continued stay in a hotel)…which is why I’d never decline both options unless they were complete pits.

Thankfully we won’t have to worry about that. We were surprisingly offered two houses our first day on the island which is almost unheard of here – our own sponsors stayed in temporary lodging for more than a month before they got a house! The first home we looked at was a bit dingy – outdated, dark grey carpeting, bleak – it didn’t inspire much excitement. It was 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, with a large laundry room, an L-shaped kitchen, and living room. I’d say the only great things about the house were the size and the location – easy walking distance to the gym and across the street from the baseball fields. Still, I was praying for something better with house #2.

House #2 delivered. It still might not be what I would choose back in the States, but it is a thousand times less gloomy than house #1! It also is a 3 bed, 2.5 bath house. In fact, the house is almost identical to house #1 save for a few differences.

  1. The floor/carpeting/finishes look much more recently updated (thank goodness)!
  2. There is no large laundry room. The laundry is essentially in a closet behind a pair of doors……
  3. ……but instead of a laundry room there is another decent sized room off the front of the kitchen! (Which I forgot to take a picture of – oops!)

Seeing as I don’t spend much time in the laundry room anyway, I’d much rather have the extra living space. We aren’t sure what we want to do with it yet but I guess we’ll have to think it over soon as we’re moving in this Saturday! I am SO excited to sleep in my own bed! Here is a view from the master bedroom.

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Master Bedroom ↓

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Master Bath ↓

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Upstairs Bathroom #2 ↓

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Bedroom #2 ↓

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Bedroom #3 ↓

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View of our Street (Aspen Court) from Bedroom #3 ↓

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Upstairs Hallway ↓

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Stairs ↓

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View from front door/staircase to the Living Room & Bathroom #3 ↓

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View from the front door/staircase into the laundry/kitchen ↓

(The extra room off the kitchen is to the left of this picture – but I forgot to get a snapshot!)

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View #2 of the Kitchen from the Living Room (the cut-out over the sink looks into the extra room)↓

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Living Room  (as seen from the kitchen) ↓

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Backyard/Patio ↓

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We will be living in a townhouse and we have an end unit. That means much more grass to mow, but it also means that we have some walls that aren’t shared with the neighbors – which makes me more than willing to mow a bit more! The house is still very close to the gym and is only about five minutes from the BX and commissary – and less than ten minutes for Hoban’s commute to work! I’ll post more pictures once we are all moved in!

Shogun Inn

We arrived on Okinawa almost a week ago and I can’t stop pinching myself! I didn’t realized I’d have so much to share and yet in six days we’ve already found a house, bought phones, looked at cars, seen the squadron, checked out parts of town, made sushi, gone on two dives, been snorkeling, and have spent time at the beach. I guess a good place to start would be the beginning.  🙂

Our flight from San Francisco was rather uneventful. The woman checking us in for our flight tried to help us out by giving us exit row seats. Normally I’d be thrilled to have all that leg room on a super long flight……but when the exit row is right by the bathrooms, all that “leg room” just becomes a continuous line of people waiting their turn. So, while it wasn’t ideal, we really did have extra space. Sometimes. The same cannot be said for the poor man next to me who had the inflatable emergency slide in front of his knees! I think he had less space than everyone else on the flight. We also (unfortunately) had an incredibly old plane and therefore couldn’t control what we watched. While The LEGO Movie and Monuments Men were shown (and both were fantastic), I spent the remainder of the flight reading Les Misérables and trying my hardest to stay awake. (I really wanted to get ahead of the jet lag!)

We touched down in Tokyo with almost two hours before our connection to Okinawa. My overall impression was that Tokyo’s Narita Airport is the quietest International hub I’ve ever been in! I honestly felt so self-conscious talking that Hoban had to ask me repeatedly to speak up. It was also very clean and very well organized. Going back through security was a breeze – I didn’t even have to remove my shoes! A receipt is printed for you at security that has your flight, gate, and seat number printed on it – which is really great since I didn’t need to pull out my ticket and chance dropping it each time I wanted to make sure I was going the right way! I definitely would love to have that in the States.

Our flight to Okinawa was fairly short and the view of the island from the air was incredible. There are almost no lights on the Northern part of the island except for the coastline – I wish I’d had my phone or a camera on me so that I could have taken some photos! After grabbing our bags, we were picked up from the airport by a guy in Hoban’s new squadron. He took us to our temporary lodging at the Shogun Inn on base where we met our sponsor’s wife (our sponsor was gone for work). She had stocked the kitchenette for us and left laundry detergent as well – which was super thoughtful and amazing! Our hotel has a bedroom, bathroom, kitchenette, and small living space. Check it out.

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It’s basic, but it’s also very clean – and more room than we need considering we’ll only be here for a grand total of 10 nights before we move into our new home! Check out my next post to see our new digs!  🙂

Sayonara!

I had a wonderful first blog planned out – first there’d be one about our hectic time before leaving Little Rock, then there’d be one about our limbo in Albuquerque and finally (Dun! dun! dun!!!) there’d be our adventure in Okinawa. Obviously, that’s not going to happen anymore. Our flight to Tokyo leaves in four hours and I still need to get myself ready, make sure our bags are totally packed, call family one final time, and find that stupid shoe I misplaced in our hotel room. (Who loses a single shoe in a nearly empty hotel room???)

As my original plan went down the drain as soon as I procrastinated enough (story of my life), I’ll just sum everything up for you.

  • May: Hoban arrived home from Afghanistan only to be told that week there was a possibility of us moving to Japan.
  • June: We’re told we ARE moving to Japan but probably not for a while…and via 8 months in Albuquerque for training as Hoban switched from the C-130H to the MC-130H.
  • July: Told we were to leave Little Rock in five or six weeks. Panic sets in. Finish all the projects around the house, pre-pack for TMO (that’s the people who arrange for our movers for all you non-military people reading this), visit family, have family visit us, and arrange for our house to be managed for renters while we live a million-billion miles away.
  • September: I left for Orlando to hang out with family, leaving my (wonderful, kind, loving, generous, amazing) husband to take care of our move. I then visit my sister at TCU while Hoban (again – wonderful, kind, loving, generous, amazing) drives with a small moving truck to pick me up on his way to Albuquerque.
  • September: Arrive at the Residence Inn in Albuquerque which was our home for the past eight months. Marriott, I love you.
  • October – April: Hoban went through training for his new airplane while I sometimes visited nearby family (or hosted visitors in Albuquerque). 🙂
  • May: We struggled through red tape, trying our hardest to get our orders all ironed out so we could leave for Japan. Played the agonizing waiting game.
  • May: Visited my parents (who were thankfully within our allowed driving distance for travel!) while awaiting our tickets/itinerary
  • May: Off to the most magical place in the world!!! Literally. I mean, it’s Harry Potter World.
  • May: A quick drive to Fort Lauderdale for a fun weekend before getting to San Francisco where we are now

Where we are now is nice. I suppose living in a Marriott for eight months really pays off once you leave – Platinum Elite membership comes with all kinds of perks. Upgraded bayfront view, Club M access, free food/beverages 24/7, free high speed internet, and an AMAZING breakfast! Flans, smoked salmon and cream cones, quiche, bacon, an egg bar, fancy yogurts I can’t pronounce the names of, parfaits, oatmeal with all the toppings, fresh fruit, bagels, donuts, pastries, and any kind of drink you could think of – and that’s only some of what was available.

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It’s great, but we haven’t been able to use all the amenities here – I’ve mostly been in our room packing and looking for that stupid missing shoe.

Where did it go?? Sneakers do not just vanish into thin air. I’ve looked in every suitcase, under/on/in every piece of furniture, and have stood there scratching my head like an idiot for more time than I care to admit. Ergo, if anyone reading this found a white leather Lacoste sneaker in room 1037 of the Airport Marriott San Francisco, please send it my way. I’ll have an address soon.