FC: Misawa Air Base July 2007 - May 2011 | My Japanese Adventure
1: I had been working at the Luke Air Force Base library as a children's librarian for almost 5 years. It was a wonderful job and I loved working with the kids but the advancement potential was limited and I was starting to get restless. After some budget restructuring at Luke - I started to think that perhaps the time had come to start exploring other career paths. I found out that the Air Force was converting their historian positions from military to civilian at a pay grade MUCH higher than my current one. I started applying and was hired to be the Historian at Misawa Air Base in Japan. It was a little scary to think of moving to Japan alone - but I knew this was would be a great opportunity for me.
2: Preparing to Leave July 2007 My First Experience with Military Moves... It was DEFINITELY easier than all my previous moves... They did all the heavy lifting! All I had to do was sort the items into Storage, Express Shipment, and Main Shipment- they did everything else!
3: Dad and Sandra came to Arizona to help me pack up/out and to see me off on this adventure. Three days of packers and movers - and my stuff was on its way to Japan!
4: Farewell to all my friends at Luke AFB. After attending countless promotion parties - I decided it was time to repay the favor and throw a party at the O Club for all my friends as I moved on to a new job. | The Lovely Luke Library Ladies... | TJ Wyatt and the other Lockheed Guys. A bunch of retired pilot-types that welcomed me as a friend and encouraged me to... "Push it Up" | Feet on the Crud Table - A Cardinal Sin - but I couldn't resist the temptation... just once.
5: After an afternoon drinking at the O Club with my friends - Dad, Sandra and I went out to dinner one last time. In a slightly ironic nod to my future destination - we headed to the Japanese restaurant in Avondale. (Ironic because I never saw a restaurant like that the entire time I was in Japan.)
6: With a big suitcase packed as tightly as possible and a backpack with a brand new laptop, noise reducing headphones, snacks, and anything else I would need for my long journey - I headed to the Phoenix airport. (With a stop at the Cracker Barrel for my last American meal...) I flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles, changed planes, flew to Narita airport in Tokyo, took a bus to another airport, spent the night at the airport hotel, and then took my final flight to my new home. Made for a LONG day!
7: A Giant Blue Cow - first of many strange things in Japan | A runway built over the water | Kicking back in the hotel in Tokyo | Thank goodness the signs were in English | My first view of Japan: lots of golf courses | Hanada Airport
8: Feet Dry | My first glimpse of Misawa. | Something you don't usually see from a commercial airline - an arresting cable across the runway. | The neighbors - waiting for the commercial flight to clear the runway.
9: Peering out the window - I took lots of pictures of my new home. The commercial airport was right next to the military base and shared a runway. Seeing the Japanese F-4's made me think about TJ and Howard - two dear friends who encouraged me to take this leap. They both flew F-4s for the USAF. As I drove around the base on my first tour - two F-4s thundered overhead - shaking the entire car. It was almost like they were saying Hello...
10: I arrived at my new world on August 7th - my mother's birthday. Of all the days of the year to begin the biggest adventure of my life - it was almost like a little hug from her. | For the first month or so - I lived in Lodging. Cute little room - but with no air conditioning - that part was painful.
11: My new office was right in the Wing Headquarters Building. (The three windows to the left of the main entrance.) A beautiful Heritage Room, research area, work space and two big safes with all the various histories of the wing and the base.
12: Found a great house - after looking at several not-so-nice ones...
13: LOVED the doorbell-activated camera. Made me feel much safer to live alone in a foreign country. | I miss my Japanese bathroom. Between the heated toilet seat, the no-fog mirror and the shower room - it was GREAT! | Living room and bed room - bright and beautiful. Blackout curtains were a MUST! | Check out the giant radiator on the wall - one in the living room and one in the main bedroom. The only thing I didn't like about the house was how WHITE everything was. It was blinding! But since I was the first person to live there - it was gorgeous.
14: Found a GREAT truck. `94 Toyota Landcruiser. Paid a bit more than the average - but it was a tank that I loved at first sight. Incredibly sturdy & still small. | After living with loaner furniture for almost 2 months - I finally got my stuff. | Japanese packers and movers were amazing. Shoes on and off every time they went in the house - regardless what they were carrying and they worked SOOO fast!
15: They did unpack everything - but what a MESS they left behind! Although - it did force me to put all away quickly.
16: Master Bedroom | Dining Room | Living Room | Living Room | All Moved In
17: Massive Kitchen sink.... | My original Easy-Bake Oven from the base - bought the full-sized one from a friend.
18: My first "Far East Bazaar" experience... SOOO many things to choose from! A fabulous computer desk, a versatile 3 piece dresser, and some great home decor items!
19: Love these scroll paintings - esp for about $5 each! One even had a "bonus" painting rolled in there. I really need to get it framed! | Transom panel from an unknown house - such beautiful carving!
20: As a part of the area orientation program we visited a temple in the area. The first of MANY temples I visited during my time there....
21: Next stop on the tour was the Hachinohe Fish Market. The biggest in the area - it was impressive. You could even buy fresh seafood and then cook it on charcoal braziers 20 feet away.
22: Visited a local mall as well. Learned that the little horses were a symbol of the area since there was a long tradition of horse farms in the area. The mall had some of the winning floats from recent parades on display. Japan is very fond of parade floats!
23: First view of the Misawa Beach (from the ground) - Beautiful but COLD and windy! Love how the Japanese prepare for ocean storms and erosion. In America - there would be houses all the way to the water and then people would complain about erosion!
24: The first of many festivals and parades. Beautiful floats, drumming, and of course, lots of festival food.
25: Even the little kids got into the fun!
26: Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge
30: Bought a brand new digital camera and set out to explore the area with my new toy... | Merry Christmas 2007 To ME!
32: Shimoda Swan Lake
33: Didn't notice this until after I got home - apparently one duck likes to do his own thing... | LOVE the details and closeups I can get with the new camera
34: New York in Japan! I think it was a "sister city" sort of thing.... | Gotta have your picture taken with Santa!
36: Towada Snow Festival | February 2008
37: I wanted to go to Sapporo for the big snow festival but never made it. Bitterly cold, but the snow sculptures were neat. Crafts were a fun bonus! Made a candleholder by dipping a water balloon in melted wax and putting pressed flowers in the wax layers
38: Ziggy Arrives In Japan | Japan's quarantine laws and my training schedule made it necessary to leave Ziggy in Arizona for several months. Picked him up on my way back to Japan after a 6 week training class in the states. It was a VERY long trip for him - we had to spend the night in Tokyo and then take a 12+ hour bus ride - but he settled right down when we got home. I think he missed his Mommy.
39: Japan Day | A great tradition at Misawa - a chance to experience Japanese culture with the help of local residents.
40: Hirosaki Castle April 2008 Unfortunately a gray, rainy day was not great for picture taking but it was still an absolute gorgeous sight to see thousands and thousands of cherry blossoms in bloom.
42: Origami Museum in Tokyo Airport
44: More fun with my camera as I explored the area....
47: Cape Shirya Lighthouse northern-most tip of Honshu
48: Cape Shirya had "wild horses" running loose in the park. (They were VERY used to people - so I don't know how "wild" they were.) But it was great to see the babies up close.
50: Shipwreck Beach | A place with very special memories. After chatting with "that cute Navy guy in church" for several months - I finally got the courage to ask him to go in search of a place I had heard about. We parked in the wrong place and had to walk a LONG ways down the beach - but we finally found it. It was a great first date - and the start of the rest of my life.
52: I went back with Dad and Sandra when they came to visit. We found a MOUNTAIN of shells nearby.
53: At the corner of Mutsu Bay - all kinds of stuff would wash ashore in this area. This is where I found my large glass float.
54: The Big Meeting I knew I had found someone very special and since my parents were in Japan for a visit so the time came to introduce them to one another. Sunday Brunch at the Club after church - it all went very well.
55: Iris Festival Randy offered to drive while I navigated so that we could spend time together while my parents were here. It was a great way to slowly get to know each other.
57: SO many pictures - I only picked a few for thsi album...
58: Asamushi Aquarium
59: These little kids were SOOO cute! | Most bizarre aquarium exhibit ever... "This is where your sushi lunch comes from" | The squid that were so famous in this area...
60: Big Buddha in Aomori | Shoes off as a sign of respect
61: Meditation Prayer Path | Pinwheels for deceased children | Deep Thoughts
62: My Fortune from the Temple... I think it did come true...
65: So many beautiful statues...
66: Tanabat Festival in Misawa City
67: Streets full of pretty decorations, lots of yummy festival food on a stick, but I never really knew WHAT the town was celebrating!
68: Yakiniku House | shoes off! | cook your food - right at the table! Yummy! | (some was ready to eat though)
69: Mt. Osorezam - Gateway to the Underworld
70: About 3 hours away from Misawa, we came into the caldera of an ancient volcano into an area unlike anything else we had ever seen in Japan. The smell of sulfur was strong, very little green plant life, strangely shaped rocks, and giant black crows all gave it a very eerie feeling. It was easy to see why the ancient Japanese thought this was part of the underworld. We came the day after a very large festival so there were offerings of food, money, and pinwheels EVERYWHERE.
71: sulfur coming out of the ground in the barren and desolate landscape | more pinwheels for lost children
72: Dad, Sandra and I took the train up to the next island, (through an underwater tunnel) and spent the weekend exploring the city. | Ahh... Japanese vending machines... | Hakodate | a place to "check" your umbrella!
73: Hakodate was one of the few Japanese cities opened to the West in the 19th Century so there was a wide variety of western architecture and western churches
74: Onuma National Park
75: (I spent a lot of time looking through the camera)
76: Air Force Ball in September | getting ready with the help of friends... | Taiko Drummers
77: Navy Ball in October
78: Living the Domestic Life is so nice. | Game night... | Ziggy wanted to play too... | What a catch - a guy who cooks...
79: Trip to China | In what ultimately became our pre-wedding honeymoon - we spent 10 days in China. I took so many pictures - I made an entirely separate album for those 10 days!
80: The morning of December 21st started like any other Sunday morning. We went to church and then came home so Randy could get ready for work. I was scheduled to leave for Iraq the next Saturday and I had a very heavy heart as I thought about the next six months. Randy came out to the kitchen and wrapped his arms around me and just held me for a long time. He looked down at me for a long time and I had a moment of panic, thinking that he was trying to find the words to say that we needed to take a step back during this long time apart. I knew Randy would be gone by the time I got back to Japan and I didn't know when I would be seeing him again. | Then he started talking: he reminded me that Dec 21st was the Winter Solstice - the darkest, shortest day of the year. From that day on - days got brighter and longer every day. He compared that to his life since we met - brighter and sunnier with each passing day. And then he got down on one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. | The Wedding Week
81: I wrapped my arms around him and told him "Of course" and we both started to cry a little bit. He slipped a ring on my finger and told me that the ring had been his mother's. That made it even more special. Then - with a hug and a kiss - he had to run out the door so as not to be late to work. I spent the day calling my friends and family to share the happy news. By the time he was done with work for the day - I had taken some time to think about the logistics of the situation. As much as I dreamed of a beautiful wedding with the big white dress - I knew that was not a realistic possibility. We had a couple of days before I left for Iraq and I knew that if anything were to happen while we were apart - we needed to be married as soon as possible. So we started planning to get married right away.
82: After a bit of drama with the Japanese Legal Liaison Officer and a little trouble getting the paperwork in order during the couple of days before a long holiday weekend - we had everything set up. Our good friends Steve and Gisele Nicolai agreed to be our witnesses. It was only appropriate - we met in Chaplain Nicolai's church services - I was so happy to have them there with us.
83: A few of our friends were able to slip out of work and join us at the legal office for our "wedding ceremony" on Wednesday December 24th. It was almost comical as we left our offices, stopped for coffee, and then raised our right hands to swear to an "Affidavit of Marriage" and sign the paperwork. In just a few minutes - it was official. We were husband and wife. We went to lunch and then back to work. I had to finish out-processing because I was leaving for Iraq three days later.
85: Our friend Whitney had a Christmas Eve party that night and then our "wedding reception" was the day after Christmas. With a flurry of emails and phone calls we got as many people as possible to come to the Officers' Club for an open bar and a bit of fun. Despite a snowstorm and many people being on vacation - we had quite a decent turnout as we celebrated with our friends and family. It was a great way to spend our last day together and kept my mind off the fact that in the morning - we would be saying goodbye for many months.
86: Randy dropped me off at the airport in the middle of a major snowstorm and my deployment to Iraq began. I spent a week in South Carolina doing last minute training. I wrote my wedding gift Thank You notes on New Year's Eve while sitting in a hotel room. | The deployment lasted from January until mid-May 2009. It was a wonderful experience and adventure that I am glad I was able to do but not one I want to repeat. See other album for many more pictures.
87: When I returned from Iraq, Randy had already left Japan to attend the Submarine Officer Advanced Course in preparation for his next sea tour as a Department Head. It was wonderful to be home but a sad homecoming without him there. | I became good friends with Heather, wife of the guy who came to take Randy's place. I worked a lot - trying to get caught up in the office after being gone for nearly six months. Weekends - I went exploring with friends and found some great shops in the area!
88: I flew to Connecticut for 2 weeks in July. Randy had school but was home relatively early each day and had a long weekend for the 4th of July. | Critter we saw along the beach | USS Nautilus | Yum...
89: Spent the 4th of July in Newport, Rhode Island. Quaint little town and we went out in the harbor to view the beautiful fireworks. It was a little chilly but it was the best fireworks experience I had ever had. | Yum, Yum, Yum!!!
90: Having fun with the Misawa folks - even through Randy couldn't be there to share it with me! | Toga Party!! | Happy Halloween!
91: Christmas 2009 | Randy was underway for Christmas and our first wedding anniversary. It was definitely a bit of a melancholy Christmas. Randy sent a box of goodies before he left that I held until Christmas and then took pictures as I opened them. I printed the pictures and sent them to him in a care package so that he could "share" in my Christmas.
92: Finally my time came to leave Japan. I gave my notice of resignation in October 2010 when Randy was officially checked into his new unit. It was not until May of 2011 that all the paperwork was processed and approvedand I finally left Misawa for the last time. Thankfully the Air Force had reinstated the | Patriot Express flights that flew directly from Misawa to Seattle so the trip home was much less painful for both me and Ziggy. As the plane lifted off and I watched Misawa disappear - I thought back to that day I arrived. I was a little scared when I started this Japanese adventure - but it really did all work out for the best. Randy met me at the airport to bring me home at last. Everything was perfect.