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).