Wednesday, April 19, 2006

We're HERE!

January 6th, 2006

Not all of you may be interested in the minutiae of my life, but hey, here it is for anyone who wants to know!

We're here in Japan FINALLY...arrived late last night (it's Friday morning now for us ,though it is still Thursday night for you!) The flights were long, but generally good. We flew from Charlotte to San Diego on Tuesday, then left Wednesday morning from San Diego for about 20 hours of travel (three flights, two 2-hour layovers). The business class looked very comfortable as we walked past it, but the first class was amazing--almost like miniature hotel rooms! No wonder it's about seven thousand dollars for a first class ticket!! Of course, we were in economy, but it's nice to dream! :)

Customs was very easy, as was immigration. The trip from Osaka to Fukuoka was interesting, as we had a huge plane that was only about 1/3 full, and it only cost $10 each to upgrade to first class, which was GREAT after a 12 hour flight in economy, with little kids kicking our seats the whole way! :) It was only an hour and 15 minute flight, but the seat was so comfortable, I got my only sleep for the whole trip.

When we got on the plane, I was disconcerted to see a group of about fifty Japanese school girls get on the plane, each in kilt, sailor top, knee socks and satin jacket declaring "Marching B
and" in English. They were all about 13 or 14 years old and I figured it would be a very noisy flight. I was wrong! They talked and giggled, but very quietly and were so well behaved! I think there was only one adult (maybe two) with them, but the girls were astonishingly orderly as they split into groups at baggage claim--some getting baggage for everyone, some getting band instruments from a special door and the rest lining up two by two for the bathroom. I tried to imagine a similar group of American kids behaving like that, but failed entirely.

Today, Fearless Husband (FH) has gone to the base with his sponsor, and do the stuff he has to do to check in. Then they will come back for me and we'll go to the commissary and to medical and the pharmacy, etc. Next week (I think) we will take a week long orientation course that begins with a few phrases in Japanese and finishes with a field trip into the town. Most everyone here understands some English, though many are hesitant to speak it. I'd say about 60% of the people speak English, which is nice, as I speak only about three words of Japanese! The class is supposed to be intense, but very good for helping with the cultural gap.

From what we've been told, the ship leaves next Frid
ay, but they will let FH stay here to house-hunt with me for a week or so longer, then will fly him to Guam or somewhere to meet the ship. He should be out for a few weeks, then come back for a couple of days, then head out until June (!!) But we'll have most of the summer together. Then they go back out for October and November, getting back in time for Thanksgiving. Then they have a short cruise, then have a few weeks here at the base for Christmas--they call the breaks "Christmas stand-down" and "summer stand-down". He'll have to muster every day, but will be home at night and on weekends during the stand-down times, except for when he is on leave.

We're in a Holiday Inn right now, but hope to be in the Navy Lodge, with kitchenette and reliable Internet service, by the 16th, if not before. In the meantime, it's fascinating to be in this little room with the fancy electric toilet (!!) and the high-tech bedside table that controls the clock, alarm, radio, heat and A/C. It's small, but very nice, with complementary slippers, since they expect you to take off your shoes when you enter a room.

Getting in last night was sort of surreal. We were both so tired. The Navy sent a van for us, and the two guys soon had us loaded up and flying down the expressways. Tolls are everywhere, and the unfamiliarly shaped and colored traffic signs in Japanese were disconcerting (as was the fact that we were driving on the other side of the road!) We stopped at a rest area which was spectacularly clean and very pretty--and deserted. It was all brightly-lit vending machines with bright, clean graphics, offering things from ice cream to beer to flash-frozen, flash-re-heated steaming hot foods. Everything is very clean, with no trash or cigarette butts anywhere, and everyone pays attention to the differently marked trash cans for recycling. It was hard to take it all in. This morning I think I will walk down by the river to the Albuquerque bridge (that's Sasebo's sister city) and just look around. There is the longest shopping mall in Japan (over a mile long, sort of a roof-covered pedestrian mall/market) that begins about two blocks away, and has all sorts of market stalls and restaurants, and I might go explore there, too.

I opened our curtains in the hotel room this morning, and the view is of a slice of the harbor, with lumpy mountains all around. It's all so...Japanese! I took a picture through the window and it's not very good as it makes things look industrial, but I am going to attach it anyway. The camera wants to focus on the safety wire in the glass and not on the stuff outside the window. You can see the harbor to the left, and the river at the bottom. The Albuquerque Bridge is the arch at the left. Unfortunately, the rest of the view is of commercial rooftops, but many of them have nice tiles. The sun is shining, but grey clouds and mist have piled up in the harbor and are headed this way. The mist seems appropriate for Japan. I will take better pictures, of course, and send them to those who want to see them, but I wanted to share my first daylight view of Japan!

More soon for those who are interested, but I wanted to go ahead and touch base. Take care of yourselves, and happy new year!

p.s.--I first view of daylight Japan was actually as we flew in yesterday evening just before sunset. I could see Tokyo as a splash of lights below us not much different from any American city from the air--until I saw the unmistakeable purple and blue and white form of Mount Fuji jutting up through the clouds. It's HUGE and beautiful, and let me know I was indeed in Japan!

1 comment:

Becca said...

Howdy, I found your blog to be one of the most helpful things I found looking for info on my upcoming transfer to Sasebo. My wife and I have been married for almost a year and she has never experienced "navy" life. I would love if she could e-mail you and ask some questions. I am not sure who I am talking to so I will leave it at this. Our e-mail is I hope that goes through. Thank you so much in advance. I am going to the essex and I would love for my wife to feel a little more comfortable about the move. Thanks again. Andy