Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sunday, 26 JAN 2014: Vikings Buffet

Jake and Gallegos picked me up from my dorm and from there we went to "Misawa's best seafood and children's favorite foods at Miss Veedol Dome Festival." It was the 12th annual festival anniversary and the best part was the local food. Each stand had their special dishes for only 400 yen; not bad for a little experience of the culture in Misawa! We tried the hokkaido noodles (butter, corn, and soybean sprouts included), salt butter corn ramen, seafood chower in a bread bowel, and the red wine flavored paika. The Chowerd bread bowel resembled a meal I once had back in the states at the Minnesota Renaissance festival. Although the dish from Misawa had a clam flavor to it. People were handing out free samples of Japanese curry. All my friends seem to be obsessed with Japanese curry. Before Japan I only knew about the runny yellow curry from Thai restaurants. Discovering brown curry was a shocker for me since my image of curry always looked yelllow in my mind. With our food in hand, we walked over to the white cirucs tent that housed tables, chairs, and a stage. The wind was so terrible and vicious that it ripped at the edges of the tent and the covering couldn't keep out the bitter cold. The weather in Misawa is not usually terrible, as a matter of fact, it is better (in my opinion) than the weather back in Wisconsin. My whole life I've endured cold snowless winters and lukewarm summers. Misawa is not too cold, yet has tuns of snow. The summers are said to be warm and pleasurful. The only downfall is the wind. Misawa's mascots were walking around and taking picutres.   
  They resembled surf clams called "Hokkaigai." The meat of this sea creature is thick and tastes sweet. Generally they grow to about 2 1/2 inches tall. Locals in the Aomori Prefecture area near the ocean dig for them from December-March.
            A geisha came onto the stage infornt of us and began to tell a story in Japanese. She danced and sang the whole time. My friends and I enjoyed it, however, we did not understand anything she was doing. Miyabi and her from from Aomori 
showed up and sat at our table. Miyabi spoke english well and explained the performance to us. The cold chilled us to the bone and we couldn't stand it   
anymore. We left and went to the Misawa Aviation and Science Museum through the POL gate near base. We got a little lost trying to find it (as usual). My expectations were not high, per contra, the experience was great. After we walked through the entrance we came into the plane exhibit. By strange circumstances
the big red plane on display was called the “Miss Veedol.” In Misawa there is an area called the Veedol dome
where a farmers have a market every month on the 9th, 19th, and 29th. We walked inside real airplanes and played with the switches and buttons. The museum even had activities for us to participate in. A room full of glass objects had a small globs in the middle of them where electric lightning boults sprang out. Whenever
you touched it the electricity would follow. In the technology portion (my favorite) had rides and games. 
everywhere. A chair connected to a long bendable and flexible pole allowed you to experience zero gravity.
Another ride resembled a miniature version of the power tower at an amusement park from my childhood
called Valley Fair. Seats were arranged around a metal pillar. When activated the ring of chairs facing outwards
shot up in the air and fell with gravity. Once in a while small, intense boosts sent the chairs flying up toward the
ceiling. A Japanese lady motioned for us to walk into this strange looking room. Estle stood on one end and  I stood at the other end. The Japanese women pushed a button and the whole room started spinning. For
learning purposes we were told to throw a ball to each other as the room spun around on an axel at different speeds. According to science, the ball was going in a straight velocity path even though it seemed like the ball
was curving. An interesting display that fascinated me was something that had the concept of using a string with
cups at either end to communicate from a distance. Instead, there were these giant, metal, concave objects
facing one another from quite a far distance. When you spoke into it the person standing at the other metallic
disc could hear what you said. If possible I would have spent an eternity there, but the  museum was closing and they had to usher us curious onlookers out. Nothing could make me more happy than science museums!
           Our next stop was a Japanese buffet restaurant called Vikings. Just as always, we got lost. Even when
we put our heads together we still end up going in cirlces. Japan has so many narrow confusing roads that its a surprise when you end up where you want to go. We were driving for a good hour or so before we finally  we  located the restaurant. Estle was visibly upset that we wasted so much time driving around. I guess it is one of his pet peeves.
            We paid the entrance fee then our hostess lead us to our seats. No chairs were to be found since this was more of a traditional restaurant. Instead we sat on mats around a table with a grill in the middle. At
this point we were free to enjoy the variety of meats, fruits, vegetable, and desserts at the buffet. No one was
allowed to wear shoes on the area designated for sitting so we slipped on the bright pink or blue slippers at the
edge of the no shoe area. Gallegos turned the grill on and we started cooking. I tried this strange small, red
apple fruit that tasted like pineapples with a hint of coconut. Gallegos had them before and showed us how to
peal the outside to eat the white misty inside. At the vegetable section I found some clear noodles that tasted
like water. The texture was what blew my mind because it had a strange crunch to it. A variety of sushi was
also available that were decent. Estle and I were watching my friend Gallegos eat for a while because he was
chowing down like there was no tomorrow. The intensity and speed he was eating at was beyond normal
human capabilities! He must have a black hole hidden inside him somewhere because he just absorbed the
food. When I couldn’t eat even one more piece of cake, trouffle, deep fried chicken, or subsidence I sat and
relaxed. The sleepiness you get when you eat too much overwhelmed me. Estle, Gallegos, and I talked for a
while. Just to mix it up a bit I asked them riddles like: “what is greater than God, more evil than the devil, the
poor have it, the rich need it, and if you eat it you die.” Another complicated riddle that Estle told was, “two
knights are each guarding a door; one leads to heaven and the other to hell. You may ask one night one
question to find out the correct door to choose. The catch is, is that one of the nights always lies, whereas the
other always tells the truth.” This riddle caught me by surprise and it took forever to find the answer! Eventually
our legs were started to cramp from sitting on the floor, so we left and called it a night

Saturday 12 March 2014: Frustrated

            Being the President of the Frontline was more challenging that I could have imagined. Leading people was new to me and my committee were not the kind that wanted to be lead...I would ask A1C Hart to help me. I needed Harts help on simple things like reviewing a power point or sending an e-mail ect. Everytime he responded with a cold approach and a resistive attitude. He actually said once that his role was to simply take my place in my absence. It was left for me to assume his actions did not reflect the title he now held. As for SrA Blount she was in the same boat. I would ask her to send an e-mail and she would only do it if I asked her a million times. She was not condescending like Hart, but she wouldn't help! A1C Crittenden has my back (I know this for sure), but the bulk of the work I need done applies to the other two in our committee. Seems like I was running a one man show. My thoughts keep going to re-election and giving the positions to people who actually want to make an effort, however, I am forgiving. Hopefully, the two will clean up their act before the Frontline falls.

28 Feb 2014: Frontline

            Today was the day. I practiced my speech all morning for the Frontline Precidency position. Maj Laco (flight chief nurse in the MSU) listened to my speech and helped me practice. After a few hours she let me leave the floor to go to the meeting upstairs inside the Rose room. Not many people were present around the long mahogany table. The meeting began and the candidates made themselves known. 2 people were running for each position (president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer). Previously, I spoke with Captain Zozo about running for Presidency, yet I was not confident. All my co-workers encouraged me and told me not to be afraid (leaders cannot be weak). At the moment I still wanted to make sure that I would secure a position, hence I ran for each position. Everyone had to give a speech as to why they should be chosen. Since I opted for each spot I gave 4 speeches. My first speech was serious and well planned. For the rest it was quite comical and relaxed because I did not prepare ahead of time. My planned speech is written below as a reminder of my goals because I got the Presidency position! Disbelief and excitment overcame me. Never before had I held responsibility as such. The Vice President, A1C Mason Hart from systems, had the idea of walking around and introducing ourselves to everyone in the hospital as the Frontline officers. A1C Samuel Crittenden (treasurer) and SrA Abigail Blount (secretary), and I trailed behind A1C Hart as we lead us to all the offices of important people. The hospital is somewhat of a maze to me. Working in the basement prevents me from exploring upstairs and I was turned around by the end of our entourage. Once everything calmed down I went back downstairs to work. After thinking a bit I actually didn't know much about the Frontline and what the duties as a president were. It wasn't until much later until SrA Wagle, the previous Frontline president, explained it as an organization that gets airman involved with leadership through activities, volunteer work, and fundraisers. Frontline focuses on ranks E-5 and below. Last year the organization lead camping trips, eating contests, luncheons, ect. The secretary keeps connections with everyone in the hospital and the treasurer tracks our money situation. The Vice President is supposed to aid the President when needed. For sure I knew this was the beginning of good things and I was ready to make a difference.

Friday, March 28, 2014

22 March 2014: Salmon Release Cancelled!

            I was so sad because we were going to go the Salmon Release today but it was cancelled due to the snow storm the night before. I organized this event with the Japanese people for the Frontline and people in the hospital. Many hours were spent on contacting people, putting together a power point, ect. Life can be so unexpected. Even though I did not expect anyone to show up at the rendez-vous point I went there to make sure the word was passed on. Only one person showed up and I delivered the bad news.
            I asked Jake if he wanted to go to a cycling class at the gym and he agreed to go. We met inside and did the hour long excersize (it was a challenge!). After that I went to the Arts and Crafts center to work on pottery. Art is theraputic to me in any form (pottery, paiting, drawing). Ever since I've arrived in Misawa I have been neglecting art and I almost forgot how enjoyable it is.
            Panchana and Lara picked Jake and I up after I finished. We drove to Hachinohe and stopped at McDonalds to drink a small drink. Panchana's friend Bryce joined us at the pet shop down the road. All the dogs and cats on display were adorable! The only downside is that buying pets in Japan is a huge expense (most dogs and cats are over $1,000). As an Airman in the dorms I am not allowed to have pets; besides the commen gold fish or turtle. Once we were done admiring the animals our group walked into the Hachinohe mall. We visited Deihso (a popular 1 yen store), the indoor amusement park, arcade, and other shops. Sunlight was running out so we hit up the thrift shop by Sega World (a popular arcade area). The whole reason we all went to Hachinohe was to find Bryce a piano. Turns out the prices were a bit too spendy for what Bryce was looking for. We left and stopped at a Modern chinese noodle restaurant.
            The food in the Shanghai Ryu was amazingly delicious and the prices excellent. We sat on the mats, ate our huge portions, and enjoyed each others company. By far, this place had the best food I've tasted since I've come to Japan. With our stomachs full we went back home.

23 March 2014: Church

            As usual I woke up around 0600. My body is so used to my work schedule of waking up at 0512, going to work at 0600, and finishing at 1800 that it has adjusted. I ran over to the Mokuteki cafe to meet the group at 0730. Jake and Gellegoes showed up a bit later and they started to eat some breakfast. Finally, Abigail came to pick us up to bring us to her church off base.
            Bible study started right away. It was a great lesson and everyone seemed to enjoy it. During the break my friend Jelani came over to sit next to us and Abigail left to join the choir. We sang for a long period of time. All members were enthusiastic and energetic. One person even ran around the whole congergation. A women clothed in a white dress danced at the front to the rhythm of the music. We clapped our hands, people shouted, and swayed to the beat. The preacher came and took over once the music died out and talked about the fast the church was about to begin. The fast was going to start Wednesday March 26th and he was preparing us all for it. Again, people were really excited. Random people would shout and stand up to interact with the preacher. After his preaching he had me convinced and I decided to join the church in the fast. My friends were getting tired because the serman was really long (4+ hours!). I was also thinking that 4 hours was way beyond my limit and we left the church.
            Panchana, Will, and Lara met us at the BX and we all drove to the outskirts of Misawa. We were hoping to do some strawberry picking at a local greenhouse, yet the season was over and it was closed. Instead, we walked around the stores, ate ice cream, and observed all the fresh foods that were selling on the market. One section of a store was full of flowers and we all couldn't get enough of it. The oders and beauties of the the plants captured my attention and it was difficult to walk away. I love plants and I hope to start growing some plants of my own in pots soon.
            Lara and I wanted to make "apple, apple pies," so we stopped at the Universe grocery store to buy apples. Free samples were everywhere (Gellegoes and I took full advantage of them!). We saw the green tea Kit-Kats in the candy section and Gellegoes bought 2 large bags of them. Green tea Kit-Kats are said to be the best flavor, however, there are many varieties that come with the seasons.
            With our supplies in hand we drove to a friend of Panchana's and Lara's to hang out (they temporarily are staying there because they are married and the military has not given them a house on base yet). When we walked through the door Lara's cat came running by. The little black cat is truely the cutest cat I've ever seen! The breed is really peculiar and reminds me of a ferret. After playing with the cat for a while Lara and I were about to begin baking when we realized we didn't have any butter! 2 of the guys went out to buy it. Once they were back we began to scoop out the inside of the apples. We mixed the guts with white and brown sugar, cinnemon, and honey before putting it back inside the apples. To top it off, Lara made dough to cover the opening (giving the recipy its name of Apple Apple pie).
            While the Apple Apple pies were baking in the oven Jelani, Lara, and I made sugar dough cookies on a skillet (delicious!). All the while the guys were playing cards against humanity and video games. Time was running out and everyone still wanted to go to the Onsen. I placed the Apple Apple pies on a plate and we all drove to Sukiyas (Japanese fast food restaurant equivilant of McDonalds). My friends and I had a quick dinner, enjoyed our Apple dessert, then drove to the Onsen in town inside a hotel.
            We were about to enter when I realized Lara was not beside us at the counter. She was over by the gift shop because she couldn't go inside for personal reasons. I felt like it was only right to stay with her. The Japanese were putting on a show in the main area. Lara and I watched the performance as people sang, played instraments, and acted.
            Even though the day didn't go as planned I had a great time! I have to remember that control is an illusion and even when you make a plan it doesn't always goes as planned (which is the best part)!  

Saturday 29th March 2014: Fasting/Lent

           Today I just failed…I was supposed to stay disciplined during the fast but I let myself  be taken over by my desires and wants….It seems that in the moment I reacted rashly and hastily to prevent myself from using my head. I need to think before I act instead of letting myself be driven by simple pleasures and greed. The bacon, eggs, and hash browns tempted me and I ate it. In the moment it tasted so good, yet afterwards I felt awful. It didn’t even satisfy me. Instead I felt disappointed because doing this fast is for God and I failed him today.
            The whole point of the fast is spiritual discipline. I am not abstaining from food completely compared to other fasts. Rather my church created a healthy menu that reflects natural and simple foods to replace meals and snacks that are considered a temptation or gluttony. My goal is to rely on God’s power and strength over my own to help me through this trial. Simple pleasures that are temporary are to be substituted with bible reading, praying, and journaling. The fast may restore my “first love” for the Lord and not for worldly things. Constantly I need to reminder to think before I sin/act. It is in human nature to sin, however, we as people are able to prevent being victims of sin through will power and self-control.
            Below is another reminder to myself of what is good and bad to eat. The menu is to make me healthier, happier, and closer to God.
Foods to eat:
v Whole grains: brown rice, oats, barely
v Legumes: Dried Beans, pinto beans, split peas, lentils, black eyed peas
v Fruits: Apples, apricots, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, cantaloupe, cherries, cranberries, figs, grapefruit, grapes, guava, honeydew, melon, kiwi, dragon fruit, lemons, limes, mangoes, nectarines, papayas, peaches, pears, pineapples, plums, prunes, raisins, raspberries, strawberries, tangelos, tangerines, watermelons, ect.
v Vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussells, sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chili peppers, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, giner root, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, okra, onions parsley, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, scallions, spinach, sprouts, squashes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, watercress, yams, zucchini.
Seeds, nuts, sprouts
v Liquids: Water, unsweetened soy milk, herbal (caffeine free) tea, natural fruit juice (no added sugar), honey.
Foods to avoid:
v Meat, poultry, fish
v White rice
v White flour
v Fried foods
v Caffeine, coffee, tea
v Carbonated beverages
v Foods containing preservatives or additives
v Refined sugar or sugar substitute
v Margarine, shortening, high fat products
v Bread
v Dairy (milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, ect.)

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedth from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Saturday, 25 Jan 2014: Pumpkin Shots

It was another 12 hour work day. Everyone says I get more days off to make up for all the hours spent in a day at the hospital. The benefits, in my opinion, out weight the costs. The main downsides to my job is the fact I have to work weekends and after a full days worth I am left exausted with no time left for myself in the morning or evening. Today I had some energy left and decided to hook up with the guys (Chevren, Gallegos, and Jake). We walked off base to a Hawaiian restaurant called Tubes to eat dinner and have a few drinks. Our goal was to hit up the karaoke place.LALALA Karaoke!  Misawa Japan. This place was a lot of fun! I. I miss Misawa When we were full we entered an elevator and walked into a small waiting area where people were crowded around a cashier. To our dismay, the Japanese lady told us they only had a free room during the time we had to be back for curfew on base. No singing tonight! Instead the guys lead us to a different karaoke bar across the way. Each some was only 1 yen and if we reached a certain score, then we would get free drinks. Tonight was not our luck (maybe we were just not born to sing professionally!). Flaming Pumpkin PieI wanted to show the guys what a pumpkin shot was and we left to hop to the next bar. A week or so after I arrived in Misawa a friend from the Med (medical) group showed it to me and it was my turn to show the newbies. With not much left to do we headed back to base and hung out in Jakes room to watch a movie. Chevren offered us a Mike’s Hard Lemonade and it tasted like...lemonade! Sometimes I would speak in french without realizing I was and the guys kept telling me I needed to speak english! I missed speaking french so seems no one speaks it wherever I go. Anyway, halfway through the Terminator movie, Chevren sat next to me and asked me in a whisper if I wanted to be his girlfriend. Such a strange question out of the blue! In return I had to explain to him that I was not ready for a relationship...and I didn’t tell him I wasn’t interested. Its that tricky situation when you love them as a friend, but not as a mate. Those kind of relationships were not in my mind at the time...It was time to call it a night because my body could not handle the long hours of being awake. 

Friday, 24 Jan 2014: MSU

My first day of orientation at the MSU (multi-service unit) was quite informational. I got there at 6am and stayed until 6pm. Our job consists of longe term care for patients, particularly for pre-op and post-op surgery patients. One of the first goals of the Medical Tech. is to start an IV when the surgery patient arrives. I’m pretty good at it notwithstanding the fact that the patient does not enjoy it (no person likes being pocked with needles). The anti-cubital region at the opposite end of the elbow is the easiest place to find a vein, however, we have to poke the patient on the lower arm or the hand to allow anesthesia to use that area just in case of an emergency. We prep them further by instructing them to remove make-up, jewelry, ect. We give them hospital gowns and a bracelet with their name, birth date, and other information on it (having the wrong patient for a procedure would be terrible!). Food and drinks are not allowed to be given to the patient going into surgery, moreover they should have known because the doctors tell them beforehand they cannot eat 8-12 hours prior to surgery. This prevents infection and vomiting while under anesthesia during surgery. If possible, the patient should have avoided taking vitamin E since it causes an increase in bruising and bleeding following surgery. After surgery it is helpful to take vitamin C to aid in recovery. The surg. Tech comes and takes the patient away and when they come back we immediately take their vital signs every 15 minutes for an hour (or depending on what type of surgery they had), every 30 minutes, 1 hour, 4 hours, ect. We measure their heart rate, respiration, pulse oxidimetry, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and pain level. The list goes on. Admin work is also included in our job description. We discharge the patient and clean the room. The janitors clean the room as well as a double precaution. The job can be demanding because the patient may use their call bell to ask for help, we have to get labs when they are ordered, we have to input their information on the computer, and assist the nurse we are assigned to, whenever and however we can. On top of that the MSU is really undermanned. With one nurse and one tech it can be super busy! About 7 beds occupy our unit, but it can house more if needed. By the end of the day my head was spinning. Tech. School was just the beginning of my training and I had a lot more to learn...

Wednesday, 22 Jan 2014: Getting Lost

Ever since I’ve arrived in Misawa I have been going out to eat pretty much non stop. One reason being is, is that most of my friends are new to the area such as myself and we want to explore. Another reason being is that I love to go out and do something (sitting around is boring for me). My friends and I all got packed in the car and drove to a small mama and papa restaurant called Cheese Rolls. Many people have recommended it and I was ready to eat their famous food! Misawa has many alleys and small roads between buildings presenting a situation where we were sure to get lost and we did. None of us even knew the exact location! On top of that it was snowing like crazy. Misawa is a winter wonder land due to the loads of snow it gets. Anyway, we always get lost due to some obstacle.... A half an hour into our search we finally came across it! Although, we couldn’t find parking in the small alley street. Another 10 minutes later we walked up to the door to see the owner closing it for the night. Coincidence decided to alter our plans. We hopped back in the car and drove to a ramen place referenced as Orange Top Ramen not too far down the road. We were seated on the floor which was raised a few inches higher than the floor that had regular chairs and tables on it. Cushions became our support as we sat at the table which barely rose above our crossed legs. Jake, being well over 6 foot, had to stretch his legs under the table into Chevrens personal space since he just couldn’t find a comfortable position with all the x-small sized furniture. 
We all ordered ramen that were served in huge bowls. My meal came with a slice of meat, noodles, soybean sprouts, soy sauce broth, and half an orange yolked (back in the states the yolk is more of a yellow shade) egg that was semi boiled.
 A strange device was sitting on our table and we were trying to figure out what it was. The directions and information on it was all in Japanese hence we just put a 100 yen coin in it to see what would happen. A small ball came out and inside was a fortune (it was like a fortune cookie without the cookie). I couldn’t tell you what it said because it was in Japanese. The waitress gave us really small cups for water, which I quickly drained within 5 seconds. I asked the waitress “Misu wo motto kudasai” -more water please. She gave me a weird look and I repeated what I asked before. This made me doubt what I was saying so I repeated it once again, then became concerned that I was saying the wrong thing. Without another hesitation I pulled out my phone searching for the correct phrase. All the while my buddy turned to her and said “more water.” The waitress understood and walked away. Feeling a little disappointed I put the phone away. Restaurants near base have workers that can understand english, yet I wanted to practice my Japanese....Toward the end of our visit everyone started to become amused and we all told jokes and laughed until our stomachs ached. Thereafter we went to the Universe grocery store so I could buy candy (Japanese candy is strange, yet appetizing). I have somewhat of a sweet tooth. Back at home I skyped with friends. It can be difficult to skype with people back home due to the 15 hour difference. Living during the opposite portion of the day forces me to talk with people back home at certain times to make up for the crazy schedules we all have. Either I must skype in the morning which would be night back in Wisconsin or I skype at night which would be early morning back home...There is no winning! In the end I managed to get in touch with the ones I love because if there is a will there is a way.

Thursday, 23 Jan 2014: Fire

Today was a day off from my usual 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. days. Panama shift workers get more days off to compensate for the 12 hour cycle we are on. This type of schedule does not bother me, actually, I enjoy it! Everyone who lives in the dorms on base (usually those who are E-4 and below and not married) have to be on a “meal card” -military account that allows their members to eat at the defac without seeing the money; it’s automatically taken out of the paycheck. As for the 12 hour shift workers, we cannot leave the hospital to eat breakfast or lunch (and dinner for the night shift workers) exempting us from having that money taken out. We can use the money given to us to pay for any food we desire. Since the whole day was all to myself I took the time to walk around and explore Misawa. Many little boutique shops and small restaurants lined the narrow streets. They all had something interesting to offer. A mini-mall called Skype Plaza had an international grocery store in it with food from all over the world. Products I’ve never heard of caught my eye and they were all so foreign to me. Across the hall was a bakery where I bought some type of fluffy bread with egg and meat inside (hmmm delicious!). One piece of food in particular was really bizarre. A hot dog bun had brown noodles stuffed in it. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy it but maybe next time I would try the hot dog noodle food. I hit the road again and I was trogging down an alley when I was abruptly cut off by black tape closing off the area. A small fire truck, police cars, and people were all gathered around a pile of black rubble that used to be a building. Apparently a fire had devastated the area. What I saw told gist of what happened...hopefully no one got hurt. Hurriedly, I looked over to the Cheese Roll restaurant and let out a sigh of relief. Someday i wanted to go to to that place because people have good recommendations about it. Going to that little restaurant was on my bucket list and knowing it was still intact and untouched by the fire was relieving. A sadness still overcame me for the loss for the owners of the demolished building. Without much for me to do I left and walked back home. I had enough adventure for the day.

Cute Kids!!!!!

Monday, 20 Jan 2014: The Ocean

A great day was upon us because it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Holidays always begin cheery because it is an excuse for a celebration, especially for those who have made such extravagance contributions to our heritage and evolution as an American country. Per contra I had no plans; it was just a day off for me. 
A friend from the hospital drove me to the beach to take pictures for some project the Air Force tasked him with. The ocean was spread out before us as we stood on the peer. 
I’m glad it only took about 15-20 minutes to get there because with this stunning view I was for sure going to come back to re-visit the site on warmer days. Waves hurled themselves against the rocky edges of the pier and sprayed their foam and droplets in disarray as they roared in a rhythmic pattern. Deeper and darker pigments of blue areas covered the expanse of the deceivingly flat ocean off in the hazy distance whereas the lighter tones surrounded us. The wind was stabbing cold slashes against my face and tug at my hair and clothes. Sometimes, as we walked along the shore, strong odors of fish stung my nose. Despite the occasional seagull there was no creature or being in sight besides ourselves on the lonely bay. If it wasn’t for the piercing cold I could lollygag there all day and be content. As I store out across the ocean I become lost in its magnificence and lore. Every time I see it I am reminded of how powerful, almighty, and wondrous the Lord my God is. How can any earthly being create such a wonder? If it was up to me, the 8th wonder of the world would be the one has yet unlocked its secrets at its deepest depths. In reality the ocean is also somewhat of a fear to me, or perhaps a weariness I have toward this entity that covers the majority of our earth. One must respect the ocean for its power and mystery. In the presence of a mass such as this heightens my awareness of my puny exitance and nonsignificance....All these thoughts swirled in my head during our excursion, even while we walked off. 
A sign we passed by showed an illustration of a boy drowning and had english and Japanese translations on it. To my delight the word dangerous was spelled wrong. Whoever wrote this didn’t heed enough attention to what they wanted to say, all the same it still got its point across (be careful in the water). In the evening I met up with a group of 5 people including myself at the Mokuteki Cafe. Fun fact: my friend explained to me that Mokuteki mean purpose; end; a goal; or an aim. Off in the corner we studied some Japanese grammar for about an hour or two. A1C Lord (that is his actual last name) lead the group in discussion because of his advanced knowledge of Japanese. It took him about 2 years to become somewhat fluent. Everyone was at a higher level of Japanese than I, be that as it may, it inspired me to do even better

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sunday, 19 Jan 2014: Kit-Kats

Jake and I drove to the Tex Mex place right next to the main gate on base to meet with my new Japanese acquaintance Miyabi. It was only a week or two ago when I first met her at the cold weather gear issue warehouse. Staff Sergeant Armendariz drove me to the building in order for me to collect my military winder jacket, long underwear, hat, gloves, ect. Miyabi was at the counter and checked in my stuff. We went into a short conversation; some words and phrases in english and some in Japanese. Right there I asked her if she wanted to hang out sometime. Its super difficult to find female friends on a military base, especially one who is Japanese and can speak english! We ended up scheduling this get together to talk about future possibilities of enhancing each others language skills. While Estle was driving I noticed how narrow the street was with little to no parking, henceforth, Jake parked in some random spot. We walked to the small Mexican restaurant and enjoyed some pepper soup appetizer. We were about to order our burritos, tacos, ect. when a elderly Japanese women came up to our table and started rambling off in Japanese way too fast for me to understand. I’ve been practicing Japanese, yet I could not distinguish any coherent word from her dialogue. Thankfully, Miyabi and her friend Osarah was there to translate what the women was saying Jake’s car was parked in the wrong place... It is mind boggling that this women who owned a restaurant down the road knew that we were there at the Mexican restaurant and that our car was not parked in that space for the intent of going to her restaurant. I suppose in a little Japanese town such as this one, that is a big deal. Back in the Mexican place our meals came out and Miyabi and her friend said “ittakimas”-bon appetit. As we ate we discussed interesting aspects about the Japanese culture. For example, if a person wants to jester to another to come their way they keep their palm facing down and move their fingers consecutively back and forth. On the other hand, Americans may turn their palm up and motion with their pointer finger or all fingers at once to emphasize they want someone to come to them. Another discussion we had was about the Japanese janitors on base. Apparently, they are called mama-sons. At work they always bring in food for my co-workers and I (they are the most hard working and generous people I’ve ever met)...Another interesting thing Miyabe told us is if we addressed a man we would say son at the end of his name or koon for a young male (Miyagi-son and Daniel-son) and chan after a womans name (Kayto-chan). My name in Japan is pronouced Kayto instead of Kate. The most interesting part of our conversation was about geography. On the western side of Japan they are known to have a French accent! If I lived there then my life would be complete (I speak fluent french)! A few hours passed, maybe three, before we were kicked out of the building. The Tex Mex place closed between lunch and dinner hours. To be able to speak to a local felt awesome. Next on the list of things to do was to find the Hachinohe Fish Market at the Hasshoku Center. We swung by Gallegos’ place (our little Pilipino friend) and headed off. The directions I got from my e-mail was difficult to understand. The standpoint of the sender (of the e-mail) was from one that was experienced in the area, per contra we didn’t know our way around and couldn’t recognize the referenced points. Eventually, we made it to our destination out of sheer dumb luck. We drove in a circle once and almost made a u-turn before we spotted the large yellow building. The reason we knew about this place was because the Ready Start brought us there a long time ago. Free samples were everywhere and we took full advantage of it. The only foods I regret trying were the raw fish eggs and squid jerky. Definitely a no go! A popular dessert from the market was the squid cake (also tried that on the Ready Start tour).
 Gallegos bought a package of green tea flavored kit-kats that were super expensive! For a small bag it was about $ was worth it though because it tasted so amazing and different from the regular kit-kats we are accustomed to back home in America. Actually, 15 various flavors of kit-kats exist in Japan and they are: strawberry, citrus golden blend, pear, shinshu apple, edamame soybean, purple sweet potato, hot Japanese chili, cinnamon cookie, strawberry cheesecake, blueberry cheesecake, matcha-green tea, hojicha roasted tea, brown sugar syrup, red bean sandwich, and wasabi. That’s a lot of flavors and many of them are seasonal. On the way back we tried to find the Kushihiki shrine that we saw on our Ready Start tour as well. My GPS lead us to a cemetery instead! Even though that was not where we intended to go it was still an interesting experience. The grave yard was covered with a blanket of crunchy white snow and the sun was already hidden behind the horizon. Grey and black tombs lined in rows had their own unique design, yet had a similar style (one could compare them to the tomb stones seen in the Disney movie Mulan). Lines of Japanese characters (kanji and kana) were etched in the reflective stones. Most of them had alters, places where food and flowers were left behind, an area for incense, ect. Sotobas- long flat wooden sticks with more Japanese characters as wide in length as my hand, thick as half my pinkey, and as long as a 5’7” female (myself) were held in place on these tomb stones. They overlapped each other near the ground and fanned out like a Japanese fan at the other end. It is unknown to me what their significance are henceforth I have made it my goal to find out and understand the Japanese traditions. The night was getting colder and the sky darker forcing us to quite the area and go home. All of a sudden I had an epiphany that many of my family members were about to celebrate their birthdays. My Grandma Westerham is on the 24th of January, Owen (my brother) on January 27th, my little step-sister Grace has her’s on the 29th, and I have mine on the 5th of February. It just goes to say that late January to early February is a huge deal (when thinking of death one tends to think about life and birthdays...). I convinced Jake to go to the grocery store in town so I could buy Japanese candy as gifts. A crepe shop in the small store caught our attention and we bought some. They were pretty scrumptious. In spite of the talented Japanese cooking skills, the crepes I made with my host family in Belgium will forever be the best. Thereafter we proceeded to go to Jake’s apartment to watch a movie and call it a night.