Sunday, August 29, 2010

First Homecoming...

Nick is coming home....WHOOHOO!

Yes, I know it has only been 3 and 1/2 weeks, but it feels like FOREVER to me! Nonetheless, Nick will be flying in, or "flying off" as they call it (I still have no idea why, it makes no sense to me) tomorrow morning!

Nick...doing what he does...this deployment Nick got to fly in the 3 Star Helo...very big deal!!!

I am super excited to see him (and I am pretty sure the feeling is mutual) but with a homecoming comes a full on checklist of "to-do's" before the man of the house arrives! I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get things done. At the top of the list is getting our documents squared away for yet another move...yep, we found an off-base house and are (hopefully) finally moving into "the one"...crossing my fingers that everything goes smoothly and we can be moved into our new house before Nick leaves again! ....More on that in a later post!

Also, since September is Nick and my birthday month and we don't know how long he will be "home" we are taking a mini-trip away for the weekend! I am super excited...we are traveling to Kyoto and Hiroshima! Yippee!! (Again...more on that in a later post!)

More pictures and updates soon!

Monday, August 23, 2010


Busy, busy, busy! I have always liked to keep my schedule full, so here in Japan is no different.

I decided I didn't want to take on a full-time job so that I could have more time to explore. Instead I am dipping my hands in many part-time positions, if you will. In addition to tutoring several English classes I am working at Ichiban Collectibles.

Ichiban is on base, and sells Japanese everything...from souvenirs to furniture! It was closed last month for summer break. During that time, we painted and re-arranged the showrooms, making it look even better! The store just opened up last week, so I am now working every Tuesday and Thursday selling Japanese collectibles!

The other women who work at Ichiban and I at our Grand Opening in the newly painted store! (Sorry Diann we missed you in this picture) Gotta love those hats, even though I am the silly one who had the tag showing...nice!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bamboo Forest

A couple of 51 wives and I made a quick trip to Kamakura this week, so that one of them who is a photographer could get a couple shots for a magazine. (Tammy Ward Photography…check it out!) Would I pass up an opportunity to do a little site seeing in Japan? Hmmm…that’s a tough one, NOPE!!!

It is sooooooo hot here, so a couple hours in the sun will just about do anybody in. (Which is why I say “quick trip”) We went and said hello to the Great Buddha, (literally hi and bye) then sought out to find a place none of us had ever been to before. Thank goodness for I-phones and the map application, cause we found it (seriously I don’t know how people get anywhere without it)…

Our destination: The Kamakura Bamboo Garden and Hokokuji Temple, a tourist spot definitely worth visiting.

The bamboo is plentiful, (and scarily large) and all the green and shade are quite refreshing!



Despite the heat, it wouldn't be a Japanese tourist spot without some Green Tea. The charming tea hut was part of the ambiance...gotta pay the extra yen for a tea break in front of the lush forest! That's some Zen for your yen!
A steaming bowl of green tea, complete with 2 sugar candies...Jess popped them in her mouth and ate them by themselves, I put them in my tea for extra sugar...don't know which one of us was right?!? Tammy was last to get her tea and asked what she was supposed to do with hers? We both shrugged...who knows...Tammy followed my lead, cause tea is always better with little bit of sugar right? (That's what you get when you live in a foreign country and can't understand their ways, yet don't know the language in order to ask when you are skeptical!!!)
Green tea ice cream...a treat that never gets old! It makes me such a happy happy girl! (As Tammy and Jess can testify to... considering I see it and HAVE to have it every time!)
Tammy literally pulled over on the side of the road putting her emergency blinkers on while I ran over to a vender that was selling my favorite Japanese dessert...clearly it WAS an emergency!)
Despite getting the Japanese X (meaning "NO") for stepping off the path (ok, so I hopped the rope for a photo...big deal!) it was a fun trip! With over 2,000 Moso-bamboo (the biggest species of bamboo in existence) to see, it is picture worthy and a "must-return to" place for me!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

This one's for Nick...

Since Nick’s full-time job is to be in the military, I have made it my full-time job to document our adventures wherever the military takes us. (Sadly sometimes this means that Nick isn’t even in the posts I share, because he is always either gone or working.)

Right now he is deployed…which means that again he isn’t here to experience the adventures in Japan with me. However, so he isn’t left out, here’s a couple of pictures he has sent me recently from afar:

What Nick gets to fly these days...
Doing some drills, ready for action...

Let’s be honest, I wouldn’t even be in Japan if it weren’t for that hunk in the flight suit above…so I have to give credit where credit is due! (Especially since he is out there working his toosh off, while I “play” here in the Land of the Rising Sun!)

He has only been gone a little over a week, but already it feels like much longer. Though we are extremely lucky and he gets to email me daily, and Skype and call every once in awhile, it is still hard not to be able to see him every day and not always knowing what exactly he is up to or where?! (Again I can’t complain because other family members out there don’t have the luxury of emailing daily and have to go weeks without contact from their family member in the service. My heart goes out to them!)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Man’s best friend…

And in this case Woman’s too! God must have known when creating this special breed of animal that there would be lonely people out there who needed a creature to love and comfort them no matter what!

Nick has only been gone a week, but already I have started to dread coming home to an empty house. Not just because there has been no husband to greet me at the door, but also because my poochaloo Beretta hasn’t been here to give me attention upon entering either. I have been without my husband for a week, but my puppy for almost 3 months!

I am going back to the States for one of my best friend’s wedding in October, as well as pick up my dog. (Thank goodness!) Until then, I have to endure this time without her, and for now, my husband too! Well, luckily for me other spouses here have dogs, and those same spouses have husbands who are deployed. Deployed hubbies means trips to see those hubbies! Because Nick isn’t in the same place as the rest of my friend’s husbands at the moment, I don’t get to go to “Port Call” with the rest of them…but that means I am available to DOG SIT! Those are the magic words for this lonely girl these days! “You are going out of town? Do you need me to watch your dog?” (As if I need any persuasion!!!)

So I am currently keeping not one, but two poochaloos at my house. (If you didn’t catch that, my husband and I have nicknamed our dog poochaloo. This name has stuck with my family and close friends for calling all puppies poochaloos!) Right now as I type this, they are both passed out next me, just as happy to be with me as I am with them! Cause what dog doesn’t LOVE getting to snuggle on the bed!?! (Yes my comforter is covered in dog hair, but that is a sacrifice I am so willing to make right now!!!) One is a female hound dog mix; the other is a male yellow Labrador. I am in love with both! I have to say I am feeling a bit like the “Dog Whisperer” right now, but then again I have always had a weird obsession with all dogs! I can’t help but crouch down on their level and give them kisses whenever I am near one! (Of course because of this, dogs walk all over me, they know I am a dog lover through and through!!!)

Mr. Saigo

Miss Bailey
Having a dog means when I walk in the door I am always greeted with enthusiasm. No matter how long I have been gone, to a dog they are just glad I am home! These two dogs I am watching have been no different…I got home tonight and both of them came charging at me as I walked through the front door, knocking one another over to get to me first! With wagging tails and excited faces, I was greeted with slobbery kisses and yelps of joy! For me, that feeling never gets old! It makes me feel loved and appreciated at the end of the day, (or middle to dogs it doesn’t matter) especially when my husband isn’t home to greet me as well! Even when we were back in the States, I would get home from work and Nick wouldn’t be home because he would be flying, yet Beretta would welcome me and make my day better no matter how crappy it had been!

Yes, this is what they do...all day long...follow me around, watching my every move!!!

Or they sleep...on my bed...notice how nice they were to leave me 1/3 of the bed?!?
Not only do they greet me when I walk in the door, but these two pups keep me company throughout the day and night as well. What a blessing it has been these past couple of days to not have to go to sleep and wake up alone! How nice it has been to get slobbery kisses in the morning! And how safe I have felt knowing the minute someone is at my door (or near it) the dogs are immediately alert and barking!

They need my attention (and actually fight over it), and I need to be needed! But most importantly they have been keeping me company! Sorry Madori and Sarah, you might not be getting your dogs back!

On the way to the dog park! Whoohoo...happy dogs!

At the dog park...about to run and play! Yeah!
Playing fetch with my friend Tami and her dog Bella!

I’ve said it once and I will say it again…Dogs really do make great best friends!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Yunessan Hot Spa

Here at NAF Atsugi, they try to get us gaijin off base as much as possible by providing various tours to different locations around Japan. They are all set up through MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation). Nick and I experienced our first MWR trip a couple of weeks ago; when we went to the Yunessun Hakone Hot Spa. Spas are very popular in Japan. In fact, it is rare to see a swimming pool in someone’s backyard, much less at a hotel here. Instead the Japanese frequent spas and onsens. An onsen, meaning “hot spring” is a public bathing facility usually set up around a hot spring. Japan has so many of these due to the fact that they are a volcanically active country. There are many types of onsen, some are outdoor, indoor, or both. Most of them you go nude, but there are many family-friendly onsen where a bathing suit is required. The spa that Nick and I went to was of course one of the bathing suit necessary onsen.

As you can see in the picture below, there is a separate section of the water park that is nude, the "Mori No Yu Zone"! (We didn't make it to that part, but surprisingly it is not something that is seen as strange here!)

Going on an MWR trip meant all Nick and I had to do was show up at the meeting location and get on a bus…we didn’t have to drive ourselves the 2+ hours to the hot spa - getting lost, paying tolls and being frustrated with Japanese roads. We were able to read (or study in Nick’s case) and relax during the trip there and back. Of course we had to pay to go to Yunessun, but it was a group rate, therefore cheaper and we got to skip the line of over 200 people waiting to get into the facility. (The lines of people we got to pass up, looked like the long lines you wait in to get into Disney…not fun!)

To compare the spa to something in the US, the one we went to was sort of like going to a water park…only with warm water. There are different pools of water, areas to purchase food, a kiddie section and even a water slide.

One of the indoor pools...this one was too crowded and had too many kids splashing and screaming for Nick and I to even try to get most of the pools, this one might have appeared cold, but was probably warm!

Besides being warm water instead of cold, the main difference in the spa Nick and I went to and a water park in the US is that at Yunessun there was "flavored" water.

The picture below is of one of the spas that was coffee flavored! It was not only the color of coffee, but it also had the delicious aroma of my favorite morning beverage! (Of course there is no way it is sanitary to attempt to drink the water, but boy did it smell heavenly!)

The "Open-air Wine Bath," warm fushia water with the luscious scent of sweet wine, very different, but so relaxing!

There were many types of spas. My very favorite was the, “Green Tea Bath,” it smelled so good I didn’t want to get out! There was also the, “Floating Bath” where you literally floated on the surface like in the Dead Sea! There were a couple of baths that Nick and I didn’t get to try because they were too crowded, aka they were the most popular among the Japanese. One of them was the “Japanese Sake Bath”…this one of course smelled like Sake. The other one was the “Dr. Fish Footbath,” it was where you went and put your feet into a pool of water and let the little fish nibble off the dead skin from the bottoms of your feet! Gross! (However, I would’ve tried had the lines not been soooo long to get in!)

Sitting in warm spas all day is peaceful and relaxing, yet made Nick and I sleepy. We took a break mid-day to eat lunch in one of the “resting rooms” (a bowl of Ramen with chopsticks of course) and take a nap the Japanese way! It is very common to be on a train somewhere and see people sleeping, or walk down the street and see someone snoozing on a bench…the Japanese like their sleep! So going to a hot springs was no different. In the “Resting Area/Relaxation Room” the floors were covered with tatami mats, where people would sit down at the kotatsu tables to eat their lunch, then lay down for a little nap afterwards! Nick and I decided, “when in Japan be like the Japanese” so we took a little nap ourselves right there in the middle of hundreds of Japanese people!

The trip was an experience, and one we wouldn't mind doing again! It seems strange to go sit in a pool of flavored warm water with lots of people, but really it is quite relaxing...and like I said before...

"When in Japan...."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Little girl in a Big House!

Today I FINALLY got to move out of the Navy Lodge!!! After almost 60 days of living in a hotel…this girl was way beyond ready to move…ANYWHERE! And I say “I” got to move, because Nick is no longer here! Yes, just in time for us to relocate into a new place of residence, the Navy decided to ship him elsewhere!

Luckily Nick's trip was delayed a bit and he got to go with me to pick up the keys to our house the day before we moved in...We had to get a photo of us stepping over the threshold, even if Nick is never home enough to technically "live" here!

In his absence I have already learned something…I depend on Nick for many things, things that I don’t think about on a day-to-day basis!

I don’t feel the need to check in my closet for the boogieman like I did my whole life up until marrying Nick when he is home. (You think I am joking but I kid you not, even in college I did this every night.) Now that he is away, I find myself doing it again, only this time there are way more closets to check!

Thank you Nick for taking away my worries. Thank you Navy for taking away my Nick!

As excited as I was to get out of the cramped hotel room and into a bigger place, I now feel very small inside a big empty house.

Our household good are still set to get here in the middle of September, therefore we had to borrow furniture from the base to help survive the next month and a half! Thank goodness for that, otherwise this 2-story house would be really bare!

The movers came and brought us our temporary furniture and I have to admit it isn’t bad…I kinda like the dining room table (6 cushioned chairs included) that they set up in my kitchen! They also delivered a couch, 2 living room chairs, a coffee table, 2 end tables, a double bed, 2 sets of dresser drawers, 2 nightstands and 2 lamps! Plus I also was able to borrow kitchen utensils and cooking ware from “Fleet and Family” (a place on base where one can go for ANY sort of info/question/help).

A second set of movers came and delivered our Express Shipment! This = Christmas in August for Brittany! After living out of a suitcase for over 3 months, getting to open the boxes and seeing all of the clothes, was like getting a new wardrobe all over again! YES!!!…(oh, forgot I had those heels and that dress and that scarf…it’s been so long since we have seen each other!!! J )

With my newfound motivation (ie-clothes high!) I set to work getting this place looking more like a home. Without Nick, Beretta, or even my own furniture to fill this place and make it feel cozy, I had to at least put up a few decorations and give it some warmth! A few hours later, the furniture was moved around, candles lit and all of the knick-knacks I had purchased from the Shrine Sales were displayed throughout the house. Those little touches made a tremendous impact and I felt at peace after I was finished.

Living room...overlooking back patio and yard

Other side...leading into front hallway (White walls - yuck! Can't paint, or I would!!!)
Kitchen...finally got to put my obi on the table!

Master bedroom...complete with a picture of Nick and Beretta - the two I am missing the most right now! (Thank you mom for the care package, frame know how I need pictures!)
Tonight I might be sleeping in a new place and without my hubby, but I will be sleeping on our pillows and sheets (memory foam pillows oh how I've missed you too!)...that's as close as I can get to feeling at home for now, and I'll take it!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Yokohama X’s 2!!!

Last week was the pits…not going to sugar coat it, it was! But, who likes ending things on a negative note?...Not me, so moving on to a more positive post!

After the bad news times 3 on Thursday, Nick and I went out for a much needed good time! We went with a few friends to downtown Yokohama for a little karaoke! Whoohoo!

Pics on the train…first time I have been bold enough to whip out my camera while on the train! (Normally it is too crowded and I don’t want to be impolite…however, this night in particular the Japanese stayed away from us, as in literally got up and moved to different seats so that we were in a section of the train by ourselves… I took advantage of the situation for a picture opportunity!)

First we went to a “European” bar. The music, decorations, and drinks on the menu were English/American, but the waiters and customers were very Japanese! Jessica and I ordered some “American Tea” just because of the name, but of course it didn’t taste very American at all!!! (No surprise there!)

The red drinks were the "American Teas"!

Next we went to a Japanese Karaoke place…now Japanese karaoke is not the same as it is in the States. The Japanese do not think it weird at all to sit in a private room, with as little as 2 people, singing to one another!!! (I don’t know why they don’t just buy the box set and do this at their own home, but that’s just me!?!) So in Karaoke places here, that’s what you do, you pay to karaoke, but it’s done in a room with just you and your party….very private, no one else is able to witness you singing like a fool but the people you came with! (I personally would love to observe what is going on inside the other rooms where the Japanese are karaoke-ing….do they sing in English, Japanese, are they loud, silly??? I want to know? One of these times, I am going to “accidentally” walk into the wrong room! Heehehe!)

Me with the fan I was given by a man advertising on the street outside the karaoke place...this is not uncommon to get advertisements on the streets in the form of a fan, package of tissues, and other useful/not items! This one in particular was an advertisement for a gentlemen's club (I think, obviously I don't know because it was in Kanji)! Hahah!
Nick and Dave, belting out some tunes...notice Jess and I staying classy in the background!!! (No beers for us...YUCK!)

Jess and I tried to get the boys to sing along with us on our "girly" songs! They weren't having it!

Nick wasn't really rocking out, but he did a good impression for me anyways!

After we had been there about an hour, one of the guys (Plapper) disappeared for a bit...when he came back this is the get-up he was in! Hilarious! He had apparently ran downstairs and went to a store across the street which sold costumes! Gotta love pokemon!

Oddly enough, I ended up in Yokohama the very next night for a pre-planned girls night with some of the spouses of HSL-51. It was our Spouse Club’s “July Social.” We went to the Breeze Garden on the seventh floor rooftop of the Shin-Yokohama Prince Hotel.
This cute little "beer garden" served beer in these tall beer towers pictured below. (Though I don't even like beer, I had to get a picture with the tower, purely for blog purposes of course!!!)

For some reason this night out in particular we got a lot of responses from the Japanese, both men and women! (Seriously it was crazy the way they responded to us…you would think they had never seen Americans before – which is so not the case! However this place in particular, we were the only gaijins in site!) When we walked into the beer garden, people from all over the terrace turned to stare at us. Some people pointed and laughed…don’t know if it was amusing to them that we actually go out and drink, or if we just looked funny???

Three different groups of men came up to our table to take pictures with us and ask questions. Twice we had men bring us drinks to our table!

The two men in the pictures below kept coming back to talk to us...they were a bit inebriated and were definitely entertaining!

When Mari told them a couple of us girls were from Texas, the one in the orange shirt tries to mimic (very dramatically) riding on a horse and galloping! (Because obviously that's what ALL Texans do right?!?) It was HILARIOUS!!!
Each girl paid 4,000 Yen ($40) to go to the Beer Garden, which included all the drinks we wanted for 2 hours, plus 5 different yummy appetizers! It was a very fun girls night and a unique experience!

Trying to leave, when we were yet again, stopped by a girl who wanted to talk to us! She wanted to take a picture with us, but we were ready to leave and asked her to take our picture in the elevator instead..."silly gaijin"!
Twin shoes...yes, I copied Jess! After over a month without heels and still another 2 to go, I broke down and ordered a pair on the internet! (It's not as if any of them fit me in the stores here!!! The largest they sell is a size 8, and that's still hard to find!)
In the train station...still getting questions and's ok, it gave us the opportunity to ask our onlookers, "will you please take our picture?" "Arigato gozaimasu!"

Thanks again Tammy for the "peace sign" that ended up giving me bunny ears!!!

Despite the fact that Nick and I have been here almost 2 months and had yet to experience the Japanese favorite hobby of karaoke, we ended up doing it not once but twice this weekend! (Yes I am very horse as a result!)

After leaving the Breeze Garden, the girls and I all took the train back to our starting point. Several of the girls parted ways, calling it an "early" night. A few of us however, decided why not go karaoke?

Nick and Tammy's husband met us at the Karaoke place...they couldn't resist watching us girls sing and be silly!

I think they "actually" sang about 1 song in total...the rest of the time they were just posing!

Before joining up with the girls, Nick and our good friend Dave went to eat sushi and then to an “American” bar to listen to music. He tells me later the funny stories of his experience.

The sushi restaurant they ate at was one of the places where you sit by a fish tank and watch your dinner swim around before you eat it! Gross! He said they literally pointed to the fish they wanted, then watched the sushi chef chop it's head off and slice it up before serving it to them!

Then he and Dave went to the "American" bar where they were the only Americans in site!!! He said the musician played American songs that they knew, singing them in English. So afterwards they were excited to go up and talk to him, assuming since he could sing in English, he could obviously speak it as well! Wrong...they said he couldn't speak a word of English, he had apparently only memorized the words to the songs!

After karaoke, Nick drove us all home! Don't be fooled by our small car...the Cube is supposed to only fit 4 people, but we fit 6! I wore a motorcycle helmet for safety since I was the one who had to squeeze in the trunk with no seat belt! Safety first!!! Haha! Yes, I did duck when we entered the base so as to not get a ticket!