Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sayonara, Iwakuni!

A quick run-down of our three years in Japan:

The Bad:
  •  A combination tsunami-earthquake-nuclear disaster leak during my husband's first deployment away. 
  • Living in an industrial/farming town surrounded by chemical factories, paper product factories, and a crematorium. 
  • The lack of non-Japanese food in the area. A girl wants soup, salad, or a sandwich once in a while!
  • Medical care: Who decided to send families to a base where there is no hospital? 
  • The lack of people who shared our demographic: northern, college educated, married, no kids.
  • The expense! We arrived in Japan when the yen rate was somewhere around 75 yen per dollar. This is on top of Japan just being expensive in general. Trains, planes, and highway access are outrageously expensive. This was awful because I'm painfully thrifty even when I have money!
  • We alone kept in business because of my addiction to Amazon Prime and need for American goods. The frustration from comparison shopping and, upon checkout, discovering an item will not ship may warrant it's own post.
The Good:
  • We had a healthy, beautiful pregnancy and birth of our baby girl on the island of Okinawa. We waited six long weeks for her in tropical paradise!
  • Australia: I visited Joe in Australia for a few weeks and had the opportunity to pet koalas and kangaroos, stay on a dive boat and scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef, check out Australian racing, and meet interesting RAF officers.
  • Philippines: I visited my friend Shea in the Philippines where she was teaching with the Peace Corps and experienced unparalleled hospitality and kindness! I also got a reality check on how people live in other countries without the luxuries we often take for granted. We swam with the whale sharks, saw the world's most perfect volcano, hiked a mountain and camped on top in a rainstorm with wild cows and Norwegian missionaries, helped out at a summer camp for kids, and ate delicious and fresh food!
  • Tokyo: We saw met up with our friend Liam to see the nightlife and stayed up until we got to see the fishermen unloading their giant tunas at Tsukiji Fish Market, frolicked around Disneyland Tokyo with my Minnie Mouse ears, stayed at the New Sanno, dined at an Alice in Wonderland-themed restaurant, shopped in Harajuku, crossed the street at Shibuya Station, and saw the Hachi dog statue.
  • Kyoto/Nara: We had a chance during the fall colors to take our little girl to see the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle, the Golden Pavilion, Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine, the giant buddha (toddlers can crawl through his nostril), and see the beautiful Kasuga Taisha lanterns at twilight. We even received a favorable fortune while at the shrine.
  • Cambodia: At about 2/3rds of the way through my pregnancy, we decided to go exploring Cambodia and Thailand! I felt like a pregnant Indiana Jones for the first adventurous week in Angkor Wat, and then sick as a dog for the remainder of our supposedly relaxing trip at a resort on the beach on Koh Samui in Thailand. 
  • Guam: I loved the two short trips I made to Guam to visit Joe. The weather was warm, the water was perfect, and the people were friendly. The food was recognizable and comforting, the language was usually English, the shopping was cheap and life was good. Did I mention Joe stayed in nice hotels?
  • Fukuoka: We really liked checking out our first-and-only sumo wrestling match. We had the crackview of the tournament and had to resist laughing like maniacs the entire time. We ordered food up to our eyeballs when we went to the Hard Rock Cafe and saw the American food on the menu.
  • Okinawa: On our first trip, we got our dive certifications, saw some wonderful friends from our last duty station, and enjoyed walking on the sea wall. On our last trip, we went to the amazing aquarium to see the ocean life, saw great friends, and I forced myself to walk on the sea wall to bring on labor!
  • Working as a Readiness and Deployment Support Trainer in Iwakuni taught me that I could present information to groups of hundreds of Marines! What do I have to be intimidated by now?
  • THE FOOD. Nice Japanese restaurants have the most intricate menus with many tiny portions of beautiful and often delicious food. The cheap comfort food featured fried and carb-heavy noodle dishes.
  • Safety. Japanese people are outrageously polite and kind. People joke that you only need to lock your car doors on base because no one in town would even think of going in your car except to roll up your windows in the rain or turn off your headlights. I would routinely take my dog for walks at night and never encountered anything suspicious except an embarrassed drunk man urinating in a parking lot's grassy area once. 
  • The relationships. The framily we built in Japan is amazing. I hope our relationships last forever and I know our paths will cross again. 
As they say, it's not over 'til it's over! Right now we are waiting for Joe to finish work in Thailand and then hop on a plane to return to the USA! Say a little prayer for us that everything goes smoothly and the next chapter of our life comes quickly!