Today is my fourth day living in Misawa Air Base and I have already experienced so many feelings; happy, excited, disappointed, surprised, giddy, loved, loving, angry, frustrated, sad, and homesick. Although not all of these feelings are positive, I am overall content. There was a time where I could not accept such an array of emotion. It would really stress me out and I would be depressed. Thankfully, I am able to experience life and sit with my feelings without being too judgmental or hard on myself (for the most part).
This is going to be a long one. Let’s start at the very beginning of this adventure.
On the day I left, a bunch of friends came by the house to spend some last moments with me. It helped me come out of being a deer in headlights. It was really hard to say goodbye to everyone–not just the friends that came to visit. After graduating college and moving back to New York, it took some time, but I was able to make a lot of amazing connections with people. I have never loved or felt so loved in my life. I really hate the thought of not seeing these people as often as I would. I am actually able to be myself around them. It could be because I am growing into myself, or because the universe has brought perfect people into my life. It’s probably both. Hopefully I will be able to meet more great people here in Japan. In the meantime, I am trying to stay as connected as possible with friends and family back home. I do wish I could still talk to Pookie, the family’s fifteen-year-old pug. I love that little lady to pieces.
Being at the airport with my parents was a bit frustrating because my dad loves to rush rush rush. I ask him to calm down, but he just gives me this stern look like I’m so wrong to ask such a thing. My mom came off very calm though, so that helped. I know he just wants everything to be settled, but he doesn’t realize that rushing me into security check doesn’t give me much of a chance to say goodbye to him and my mom.
So the first leg of the trip was Newark, NJ to Seattle, WA. Six hour flight, not bad. I sat next to a brother and sister who looked like they could be in that 90’s band, Hanson. They must have been about 17 years of age. They were super kind and polite, so I got lucky. You had to pay for the in-flight entertainment, which I would have done, except the card slot must have been wonky because it would not read my card. So, I twiddled my thumbs the entire flight and tried to somewhat meditate/sleep.
When I got to Seattle, I got my luggage and had to go to the USO (United Service Organization) to hang out and receive instructions about the next leg of the trip. It’s for military and their families. I walked in and a man greeted me and immediately started barking orders at me. Listen guy, I have no idea what I am doing here (I later learned that very few people do), and you’re being a bit of an ass. He told me to come forward to sign in on a computer. I left my luggage cart and walked a couple feet forward, and the guy says, “We don’t take your bags for you.” Really dude? I replied somewhat calmly, “I didn’t think you did.” That was my first experience with the military. Fantastic. He was the only person who worked there that was like that though. Everyone else was very friendly.
So this place had red, white, and blue everywhere, obviously. There was a small cafeteria with hot dogs, sandwiches, and a soda machine–everything free. Beyond that were rows and rows of these huge leather reclining chairs that were filled with people sleeping. I sat at a table for about an hour and a half until I was given directions to head over to check my baggage and get my ticket. There was a long line filled with mostly guys fresh out of high school that were either in the army or Air Force. We sat within the ropes for about an hour and talked to each other. I was so out of place. I was just observing and keeping quiet, but every now and then someone would ask me what branch I’m in or what job I do. I must have looked like I didn’t belong. My response was always with a smile, “I do nothing. I’m just a dependent.” Really, I expected a lot of them to generally be douche bags, but they are all actually really nice and happy to help each other. Teaches me to have more faith in people.
Later I went to sit at the terminal for about 6 hours. I spent that time working on my first blog post, but I began to feel extremely dizzy when I looked at the screen, so I stopped and listened to Joe & Charlie tapes. As more people came, more people were on the floor sleeping. This flight was stopping in Japan first, then going to South Korea, so there were a lot of people. Turns out the military has its own commercial airline.
The plane was a regular plane, but it was much older than the ones now. You can tell by the seats and the way there were TV screens only in certain sections. A friend asked me if the flight attendants dressed like they were, or did they wear military clothes, so I am letting everyone know that they were not part of the military and they dressed like all flight attendants dress. They were definitely more accommodating and friendly than other flights I have been on. That military life… Everyone treats you like you actually matter to the world. Anyway, the flight was super long– 10.5 hours. Luckily the guy sitting next to me introduced himself and we ended up becoming friends. He is in the army and going to South Korea.
OK. Finally talking about Japan now…
After getting off the plane at 11:30am, we were put into a big cold room where we sat and waited for our luggage to be brought in. Dogs in crates were crying and barking, children were screaming or sleeping, and everyone else tiredly sat and waited. I filled out an immigration card, had to have it checked, and then I would be able to finally see Dan! I walked out into the room and… wait for it… no Dan. So I stood around like a big dummy waiting, because they didn’t put us in the regular passenger pick up building, where Dan thought I would be. So that was disappointing, but understandable. We walked outside, and big chunks of snow was falling from the sky. We went into the car, a 1992 Suzuki Jimny, which we are both in love with. Dan named it Cricket! Clever guy. Dan drove around a little to show me what base looks like. Every single building looks exactly the same. The only way to differentiate is by the number on it. They are all an off-white, yellowish cement. I feel like they could have picked a nicer color, but alright. So right now as I look out the door that leads to the balcony, all I see are ugly yellowy off-white buildings. And trees.
We went to sleep when we got to the apartment (around 12pm) because Dan had gotten out of work at 8am. I was tired anyway. Let me sort this out in my brain… We slept for a few hours, woke up and hung out, went back to sleep for four more hours, and then began our day at 8pm. I think we stayed up for twelve hours, slept until 12pm, then did things! I am sharing the specific times of day and hours slept because I want everyone to understand the lack of routine. There is no schedule. Time has meant nothing. I don’t even know when to brush my teeth! I just randomly do it. It’s like this for now because Dan is off for six days (yay). When he gets back to work on the third, it will get better.
Dan told me we will be picking up our 6-month-old husky on January 5th, from the Misawa airport (different place from where we landed on base). So, we went to the BX and bought doggy things. Fun fact: if you are wearing civilian clothes, you cannot purchase anything on base without showing your military ID. Later we went to a sushi restaurant off base. We were supposed to go with Dan’s coworker Edison and his wife Demi but Demi was sick so we just went together. Let me just say, I was pretty confident I wouldn’t get culture shock. I travel enough to be ok with not being able to read street signs. However, right when we got off base, I was in a little bit of shock. Everything was in symbols. It kind of freaked me out. We got to the restaurant and there were no English speaking people working there. You mean you didn’t learn the language for me? Oh no. Dan was so cool about it though. I was a deer in headlights, meanwhile he said some Japanese phrases and got by.
Anyway, we were given a card with our table number on it, and walked to the corresponding number. We sat down, and there was no service. You didn’t need to talk to anyone! There were chopsticks in a box, macha powder, cups, a hot water dispenser, and the sushi and other foods came out on a conveyor belt that went throughout the restaurant. If you wanted to order something specific, there was a screen with a menu, and you just clicked on what you wanted. Thankfully there was an English option. So when you ordered, it was processed, sent out on the conveyor belt on a plate that says “order” and your screen starts making sounds and tells you that your order is approaching. Crazy! I thought it was funny. Apparently that restaurant isn’t even that good compared to other ones, but it was so tasty! And super cheap. We paid like 1,500 yen which turned out to be about 15 USD. And we were full.
After dinner, Dan put into his GPS “Misawa Airport”. I asked him why the base was called that when there is a separate Misawa airport, and what is that called then? He said that’s just what it’s called and the actual airport has some other name. So we end up driving to the airport, and Dan seems to be doing loops, trying to find parking. I am getting pissed off at him because he keeps saying he doesn’t know where to go, and I don’t understand how he doesn’t know. We are at the airport and do not want to be there. We want to go to the base. He is not saying anything. It starts to register that we might actually want to be at the airport. Finally we park, and I look to my left and see Dan’s friend Edison sitting in his car. I realize that we are picking up our dogs! I was totally surprised and super excited. Poor thing was terrified. He was frozen. We kept trying to get him to walk on the leash so we can get him out of the cargo area, but he would not budge. We tried and tried and I was getting more and more irritated because the guy that worked there clearly wanted us out, and Dan wouldn’t come help me put him back in the crate. And I was shivering like crazy. Same exact thing when we got to the apartment parking lot. Took him out of the crate, he wouldn’t move, and we stood there in the freezing cold for like 30 minutes. My entire body was shaking. My teeth were chattering and my lips were quivering so much, that my jaw got stuck for a second. I couldn’t feel my hands or feet. So I became more and more irritated. Dan finally decides that it’s time to just pick him up.
We brought Kumo (means “cloud” in Japanese) inside and he was still very scared. I tried to be as gentle and loving as possible, but Dan told me to give him space. So I did. Then Dan sat next to him and did the same thing, so I joined him. Again he said we should give him space. What the F. I felt like he wasn’t allowing me to have any say in the matter, and anything I did was wrong. I also felt as though he didn’t want me to be involved because of the fact that he was doing what he told me not to do. Dan had an explanation, which was fine, but I was angry that he kept telling me what to do, and I was upset that Kumo didn’t want to be with us.
I sat on the couch and was quiet. Dan sat next to me and asked me if I was mad at him. I turned my head, said “yeah” and smiled and laughed. I don’t even know why I did, because normally when I get into a bad mood, it is difficult for me to get out of it. I think I am receiving good guidance from the universe. I’m glad this happened because it made me feel a lot better. We moved on to the floor and laid down and played with a rope toy to show Kumo that we’re fun. He warmed up to us a bit. I’ll write more about Kumo adventures and our New Year’s Eve later.
Thanks for reading!