Friday, January 28, 2011

My birthday gift to myself

I've been going back and forth a lot about blogging because I'm afraid that a future employer could stumble across the blog and think twice about hiring me due to my outlandish behavior or personal beliefs. I've decided to stop being afraid of this and just take precautions like not using my full name and not using important search-able key words for businesses I've worked for in the past. I think this is a good policy and hope it works!

The reason I'm trying to get over this is because I spend at least 20 minutes each day reading other people's blogs. I love seeing my Google reader fill up with new eye candy and seeing what interesting people are getting into. I also used to journal a lot and I love looking back at my own writing to see how much I've changed and how different the world seems to me after a few months or years.

Today is my birthday and I'm going to give myself permission, as a 25-year-old, to blog and not worry about how people will misinterpret what I say. That said, I really appreciate anyone who takes the time to read my blog and would gladly clarify anything that someone is mad about, hurt by, or deems as being a little off-the-rocker. I love intelligent debate!

Monday, January 24, 2011


I've always been interested in Japan and hoped to visit, but I never expected to actually live there! About 25 percent of my elementary school was Japanese and I loved learning new words and checking out my classmates' tidy bento box lunches while I took soggy PB&Js out of my lunch bag. I thought it might be interesting to note some of my expectations of Japan before I get there so I can look back later and see where I was right or wrong.

1. Transportation will be incredible! I've heard that Japan has a very progressive transit system with high speed trains. I've discovered that Iwakuni will be a little bit farther into the country, but I still hope there will be opportunities to take trips without getting in the car.

2. Houses will be tiny. Joe and I want to live "in the economy" as the military calls it. This just means that we would prefer to live outside the base. My feeling is that we aren't moving away from family and friends to experience American life in Japan; we want to experience Japanese life in Japan! If this means we need to pare down our belongings, that's fine. We've purposely kept our current digs sparsely furnished for this reason.

3. I'll be cold in the winter. I've heard that Japanese don't heat their entire houses; instead, they move a space heater to whichever room they are using and dress warmly. I'm not sure I'll be into this. I have a feeling there are western-style houses or apartments with central heating and cooling, but not sure how rare they are.

4. Coffee will be hard to find. I keep hearing about tea ceremonies and tea houses, but I'm not sure if this is still popular. I read Memoirs of a Geisha a few months ago and really enjoyed it, but I know geisha don't exist anymore and am curious to find out how tea houses transformed with the social change.

5. People come across as being shy. One thing I really like about Japanese culture is how important respect for others, and especially elders is. Starting a conversation with a stranger is normal for me at times when we have something in common or I have a question, but I can see where this might be seen as intruding in their personal space. I hope that I make friends in Japan who are comfortable opening up and talking candidly with me.

6. Booking airline tickets will be easy! A huge perk of being an overseas military spouse is that we are allowed to take "space-available" flights for very low prices. These flights, known as "space-a" flights, seem to be popular in Iwakuni since it's an air base. I'm already making plans to visit my lovely USMC wives in Okinawa using this system! Aside from space-a, the dense population of Japan means that there are more commercial flights going everywhere! I'm making plans to visit my friend, Shea, in the Philippines for the week of Easter to experience the huge celebration I've heard about. I'm really hoping that I can find low-cost tickets for all the adventuring I have up my sleeve. I can't wait!

7. It is going to be impossible to find a job. I know, I know. It's all about attitude, right? Well, I'm preparing myself for the worst but very hopeful that my skills as a technical writer and editor will be valuable to someone in Japan. I've thought about tutoring people who want to learn English, but I'd really like to work in a corporate setting and learn about engineering and technological advances. I'm not sure how this will work without a work visa, but I'll give it my best shot. I'm also interested in working on base because there are a lot of great programs in the military that I'd like to get involved with.

8. I won't be able to find clothes or shoes anywhere! I'm not very tall (5'5") but I think I'm taller and bigger than an average Japanese lady. I've been using this as an excuse to go shopping and stock up on American clothes, but I'm secretly hoping this isn't totally necessary. I also know there will be an "exchange" in Iwakuni, so I can buy clothes there if all else fails. For those confused by the word "exchange": the military has department stores at almost every base to suit the needs of Americans living there. Joe once described it as being like a Kmart, which is fair, but they also have Michael Kors jeans, Coach purses, a tailor (for uniforms), a nail salon (at the few I've been to), and other luxury items.

9. The exchange rate is going to kill me. We seem to have bad luck with exchange rates. Joe and I lived in Germany from late 2007 to early 2008 and experienced the dollar at an all-time low in relation to the Euro. I was in college at the time, so I just shifted my perception to be like camping. As my two-bag arsenal of clothes wore thin and became seasonally inappropriate, I layered. Not a big deal. I get to bring my entire closet and house for this move, so I'll be much more comfortable! I'm still worried about hotels/hostels, train tickets, and dining out. I just hope they aren't prohibitively expensive since I am so excited to see Asia!

That's all that comes to mind for now. I feel like I have a good grasp of what to expect, but am open-minded for all the surprises that will come my way. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guide to Living

Being new to this "being a grown-up" thing, I found the Dalai Lama's rules for living very thought-provoking and inspirational. Obviously no one ever tells you how to live your life - and if they do, I'm the first to ignore them - but, I think these are open for interpretation and can help anyone live a satisfying life.

Just thought I'd share:

Simple Instructions for Life by the Dalai Lama
  1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three R’s: Respect for self
    Respect for others and
    Responsibility for all your actions.
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
  7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  8. Spend some time alone every day.
  9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  13. In disagreements with loved ones deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
  14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
  15. Be gentle with the earth.
  16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
  17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
  19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.
I found these on a great blog I've been following for a few weeks: Yum & Yuk. It's like a cup of coffee in HTML form: the author wakes up my senses with great art, interesting news stories, workout insight, and quotes from inspiring leaders. I'd highly recommend a peek!


We are currently in our townhouse in Stafford, Virginia. We've been living here since September 2009 when Joe started The Basic School (TBS) in Quantico. TBS was six months of insane schedules, brutal training for Joe, and getting to know a new area, tempered with newly wedded bliss and the friendship of some amazing women who happened to be other TBS wives.

After TBS, we took a trip to Jamaica to hard-reset our brains. It was amazing! Crystal blue water, warm air, an occasional rain storm to lock us inside watching a movie together, and rum punch on the beach: it was just what the doctor ordered. It was a spur-of-the-moment idea and one of the best ideas of 2010!

While Joe waited for his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) school to begin, he was working at a high security network center for the Marine Corps. It was during this time period that I found a job! I graduated in August of 2009, but had not been looking for serious work during TBS because we (thought we) knew we'd be leaving in a few months. I was very happy to be working on a contract for HP Enterprise Services for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. I was working at a call center for defense hardware, software, and networking mostly focusing on base access technology. My job as a technical writer was to work with engineers and call center management to create articles to teach call center representatives how to resolve issues with customers. It was very interesting work, but I had to leave it when we found out we were going to Japan.

So, in December, we started getting everything ready to move and the medical screening portion of the process revealed that I needed to have a total thyroidectomy because some suspicious growths were on my thyroid that could have been cancer. Long story short: I had it removed on December 17th and found out that the suspicious growths were not cancer, but they incidentally removed some very small cancerous material. Because it was so small, I don't need radiation, but I count myself as being very lucky to have found it early and had it removed. My scar from surgery is healing very well and I'm feeling lots better.

Right now, we're waiting for more paperwork to be pushed, and we are expecting to have two tickets to (paradise?) Japan by January 26th. When we find out the exact dates, we are hoping to go to Michigan to visit family and friends, sell my sweet little Saturn, and say our good byes for our three-year tour!


My husband, Joe, and I are so excited to take part in an adventure to the other side of the globe: we're heading to Japan in a few weeks! I'd like to use this space to document the places we visit and new experiences we encounter as well as use it as a space to communicate with friends and family. I'm hoping my audience is mostly friends and family that I know in real life, so please leave a message letting me know who you are!