Friday, December 24, 2010

We found a house!

Well, after looking at seven homes in a variety "cho's" (neighborhoods), we finally picked one and we are super excited! As many of you know we spent three years living in a one-room apartment in Hawaii with limited storage. I loved it, I'm not complaining... I was just ready for a house (with more than one room) and yard!  Chris and I quickly realized that houses in Japan are very different from what we are used to.  For example, we can't hang things on the wall.  They don't paint their walls, they cover their walls with a nice wall covering, therefore nails are not allowed (and Chris and I do love to hang our artwork).  Also, kitchens are not designed for dishwashers or ovens, so I will need to learn how to work a convection oven. However, we do have a small grill specifically designed for fish and we have a hatch door in our kitchen floor specially for keeping beverages cold.  
So, we decided on a two story house in Oghata Cho with four bedrooms and a nice size yard. Chris will be gone a lot, so the yard is my responsibility! I'm looking forward to learning how to mow a yard.  It also has a tatami mat room.  This is a room covered wall-to-wall with straw mats and doors with rice paper.  However our favorite perk of the house is the heated toilet.  Our winters get very cold, so the seats are actually heated! Also, we have plenty of room for guests and we love to have company!! Here's some pictures:
A view of our yard
Tatami mat room, this is downstairs next to our living room


You don't wear shoes in Japanese homes, so this is
our large shoe cabinet by the front door.

The heated toilet!  You thought I was kidding, didn't you? :)
The white buttons on the side let you adjust the temperature.

Master bedroom, we love the large window and access to the balcony.

Just one of the many closets, love it! I love to organize and store! I can't wait to get busy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Essex Homecoming and Our First Week in Sasebo

I arrived in Sasebo two days before Chris because he was still out on the ship.  I found out Wednesday morning that the Essex (his ship) would be coming in that afternoon... I was thrilled! Also, since this was the first time they were pulling into their new port, they were going to be manning the deck in their fancy uniforms. So I went with the wives to meet the ship and it was an amazing sight!  Now, before you ask, I was super excited to see Chris and since I'm new at this ship stuff, I forgot to take a picture of him in his uniform when he came off the ship, I know I'm a bad wife!  Hopefully I'll remember next time!

Now that Chris was back, we were off to explore our new town!  Chris' favorite thing by far are the wide assortment of vending machines that Japan has to offer. He stops at each one!  They have hot and cold drinks, tea, coffee, juice, and milk.
We are within walking distance from the amazing shopping area called the Ginza.  They have exciting places to eat, where I hear Chris say the whole time, "just eat it, you don't have to know what it is," and our local grocery store.

Pretty desserts and an iced coffee (from the vending machine, of course)
Also, one food that we came to love in Hawaii was sushi, needless to say we have been anxious to try some real Japanese sushi.  We have been hearing about this place the Americans call "Sushi-Go-Round" but of course it has a Japanese name.  Since we are only getting around by taxi right now, we had to find out where it was and its real name.  Once we did that we were on our way.  It was quite exciting and different from sushi we have had in the past.  Also, all the writing was in Japanese so we never knew what we were eating or looking at, but pulling the items off the conveyor belt was a fun time!

I have almost mastered the art of using chopsticks, its either learn how to use them or carry plastic forks in my purse!

These were today's specials!

Our European Vacation

Chris and I left Hawaii in the middle of October, but before we came to Japan, we had several places to go first!  We were in San Diego for three weeks because Chris had to be trained as a legal aide officer. After he graduated at the top of his class :) we had a two week break before we wanted to be in Louisiana for Thanksgiving.  So during those two weeks we decided to go to Europe!  We knew flying there would be expensive, so we (well mainly Chris) decided that we should take "Space A" flights to get there.  These are free flights that the military offers on military aircraft.  It is great because it's free, but they don't have a schedule, planes break frequently, you may or may not have a seat, and if you are lucky enough to get a seat, it's usually an uncomfortable one!  For the organized and scheduled person like me, it drove me crazy, but of course Chris loved every minute of the "adventure!" That's what he called it every time I complained! (I should also mention that our only luggage for the entire two weeks was a backpack. I am normally I very heavy packer, so this was quite a feat for me!) So we left San Diego on Monday (November 9th), arrived in Jacksonville late that night, got up early Tuesday morning to sit in the terminal for 9 hours, then we caught a flight to Norfolk, waited there for three hours, then took an overnight flight to Rota, Spain, where we arrived on Wednesday afternoon.

Our goal was to make it to London to visit our wonderful friends, the Rays, so we stayed the night in Rota, and left Thursday night for London.  We finally made it!  We spent the next few days sightseeing with our friends... it was super fun! We rode the London Eye and saw Big Ben, Parliament, Stonehenge, and two plays: "Wicked" and "Phantom of the Opera."

After saying "good-bye" to our sweet friends, our second adventure began! We took a train to catch a flight to Munich, then took a bus and a train to our hotel.  (You may want to take note of all the forms of transportation we utilized during our trip.) Once we got settled in, we went to the center of the town called Marienplatz. We wanted to see the famous cuckoo clock strike and tell the town's story, but we got there to late, so we just walked around the town. 

We got up early the next morning and took a train to Salzburg.  This train ride was quite memorable because it took us past breathtaking sights in the country and we watched "Sound of Music" because it was filmed in Salzburg.  Once we arrived in this enchanting town, we took a bus to our hotel, then set out to explore the town.  We saw Mozart's birthplace and the house in "Sound of Music," then we ate dinner at the fortress and listened to a Mozart concert.  

The next morning we took a bus to Berchtesgaden.  We originally went there to see the "Eagle's Nest," but we quickly learned it was already closed for the winter. So we regrouped and took a bus to a nearby town and then took a boat ride through the snow-covered country side.  It was quite cold, but they gave us hot chocolate, so I was happy! Here we also traveled around with a young man named Jack, he was from China. It was great to get to know him and also to have someone take pictures of us! We then took a bus to our hotel, grabbed our stuff, and walked to the train station.  We were taking a sleeper train to Paris.  This was the part of the trip I was most nervous about.  We walked into our six-sleeper cabin which already had three men in it and Chris and I got on our beds. They were directly across from each other.  Once Chris' bed was made, he walked down to the bathroom and noticed along the way that there were several empty cabins. So my wonderful question-asking husband asked if we could relocate and I was thrilled to move to a private cabin and we had a great night's sleep!  We woke up the next morning in Paris!! The first thing we did was climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower! This was my favorite, especially at night because it sparkles every hour on the hour! We also toured Versailles and the Louvre, and went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame.  

Even though we were exhausted by the end of our trip around Europe we had an amazing time and made some unforgettable memories!  I'm so thankful for this time Chris and I had together especially because Chris will be gone on the ship the majority of the time we are in Japan!  And, we made it home just in time for Thanksgiving!!