Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mt. Mitake

I'm a little anxious about making sure that the three years we spend here in Japan are well spent!  I want to experience Japan!!  so- we are going to try and enjoy as many parts of this wonderful country as humanly possible!

This week we ventured out to Mt. Mitake in Ome, Japan.  The Air Force Base is pretty close to some fabulous mountains- and I think we could spend our entire three years just exploring a few kilometers away!  this area is a national park of sorts- and we only spent a couple of hours at the river walk.  I'm sure there is so much more to do.

The kids kept asking if we were in a Jungle!  the insect and animal sounds were so loud!  and pretty amazing.

I had all sorts of 'ideas' about what Japan looked like- but I don't think I realized how amazing the mountains are.  Everything is so lush. and there are a lot of mosquitoes.  Kent is convinced we all need to go and get the Japanese encephalitis vaccine that is 'optional'.  With as much exploring as we have been doing and with a s many mosquito bites as we all have (Zeb counted over 30 on his legs alone) I think I agree with him.  Now we've just got to convince the kids that the series of shots is mandatory.
Zeb found a really cool bamboo walking stick that he brought home!

His cheesy grin for the camera kills me.  Ike refuses to even look when I ask- so I can't complain about Zebby.
All of Japan uses public broadcasting speakers in their cities for extreme weather, earthquakes, and other warnings.  Apparently it's also often to chime the dinner bell or other things we can't understand.  near the river there are several dramatic cartoonish signs about running for your life if there's a tsunami!  They TERRIFIED ike. So- when the big loudpspeakers chimed some bells and a Japanese voice started saying things we could not understand- he panicked a little :)  "what are they saying!?!?!  mom!!  what?!  do we need to run!!!".  it was pretty cute!

Metta was not a fan of the face level foliage :)   and see that bag behind her in kent's hand? I got it at the 'daiso'. the 100 yen store.  The place is miraculous.  Imagine a target where everything costs ONE DOLLAR!  I'm in heaven.
The river was actually moving quite swiftly.  I made Kent stop before he got to the rock.  I wasn't going in after him if he slipped.
Japan is gorgeous, isn't it?!
we found this little shrine off the trail. It's the size of a fairy shrine.

I am trying to get a few more pictures with me in them.  and it infuriates Kent because I hand him the camera to take them and then I complain that they are a little blurry or not right.  I shoot in Manual mode and it requires some skill.  but if he would have shot this picture in auto- the flash would have gone off and we wouldn't have seen any of the background and the detail would all be left out and blah, blah, bah. I know I'm terribly annoying with the camera- telling him "wait- what mode are you in? make sure the focal point is on us".  Sorry, kent.  thanks for the picture :)

metta and the rabbit.

the kiddos did really well hiking around and enjoying themselves.  It was humid- but not unbearable.
this little metta is adroable right now.  She's so easy to love.  and is so loving.  we are 'de'binkying' currently and I think the binky was her talking plug.  she talked plenty with it- but now I can't get her to stop..  she'll spend entire car drives singing at the top of her lungs!  my ears hurt.
Ike looks so grown up here. He starts kindergarten in a few weeks!!   that's nutso to me.
And here is an example of the signs!  there were several- all along the river.  
I hope our reenactment isn't terribly insensitive.
"everybody run for your lives if there is a Tsunami"
Here's a picture of the town mountain road.  I love being up in the mountains!

and then this sign.  they are everywhere, too. and they all have the giant fish on them?!
After our advenures- we ate at Mcdonalds.  because we had to still be Americans somehow.  the boys were SO SO excited.  I was actually really surprised at their level of excitement.  I don't know if it was the familiarity of Mcdonalds and chicken nuggets- or the Pokemon happy meals.
they have all sorts of weird things on the menu- but we just stuck to kids meals and a melon shake.  Kent and I got rice bowls at a Japanese place nearby.  They were delicious.  and we REALLY need to learn some more Japanese!! :)  kent can read the mcdonalds sign at least!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

more adventures...

Japanese peaches are DELICIOUS.  so tasty I can't believe it.  They are mostly white flesh and the most perfect combination of sweet with just a hint of tart alongside the absolute perfect texture.  Not mushy and not stringy.   I could eat a dozen a day.
Other tasting adventures have not been so pleasant.  Kent got me some 'chicken' for dinner that ended up being intestines.  I just thought it had the flavor of car upholstery and the texture of soft cardboard.  I had no idea what I was eating,
I'm so excited to be in a new place where I can take pictures!!  I can't tell you how much I enjoy taking pictures of fun and exciting places and things!

Last night for 'family home evening' (every monday night family night with an activity and spiritual message) we ventured into the mountains just a few kilometers from base!  Our night was so much fun.  Somehow- the atrocious heat took a break for the day and the park was empty besides us.

A giant roller slide down the mountainside! the size of this slide is hard to imagine.  it covers a mountainside. literally.
 we took cookie sheets to enhance the riding experience and were glad for them.  I took a ride without anything to sit on and my bottom is a little sore today :)
the slide has meter markers- and I think it went to 300.
 Here's Zeb making a run for the top again!  it was a pretty decent trek up that mountain over and over!
 metta was a little nervous waiting for her brothers to appear.
 The completeness of green in the mountains is pretty amazing.  Down closer to base- there are lots of trees- but nothing like in the mountains!

 besides the insane slide- there's an entire wooden obstacle course where the boys trained to become ninja warriors.  It was pretty awesome.  and we only had one injury.

 Having EVERYthing written in Japanese Kanji and lettering can be pretty overwhelming! Kent loves it.  It pushes him to learn more.  It terrifies me.
 This last picture is so everybody can see our awesome new van! 2000 honda odyssey.  800 dollars!  we are considering getting a little car for kent to take to work on rainy days, as well!  our hope is to spend 500 dollars or less :)  cheap cars on base are abundant!  it's like a giant car yard sale!  pretty exciting.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Oh, japan.

We are finally starting our lives in Japan.  Honestly- the last 6-8 weeks have been so fast and so busy- I'm not sure what to do with myself.  I need to blog about our adventures between Ohio and Japan- but those will have to wait.  

I feel like Kent has been on vacation since the beginning of June!  which has been WONDERFUL! but- when life gets back to normal next week with a real work schedule- it will take some adjusting.  Right now he has to go in to work- but usually only the mornings or for a training of some sort.  He starts seeing patients again in a week.

We arrived on base about 9 days ago!   the flight was actually almost perfect.  Our kids were SO SO great. honestly- it could not have gone better (unless we'd flown first class!).  And actually- seats on the rotator (military flight) are all business class- so we had plenty of room! and the flight was only 9 hrs and 24 minutes!  I was planning for much longer.   plus- we landed ON the base so we didn't have to wait in any crazy lines or deal with crazy customs.  

Adjusting to the time change (14 hours!!!) was BRUTAL.  luckily- it only last 4-5 days.  But those days were pretty miserable.  We felt like the walking dead.  
the kids were up by 2:30 and wanting to play or watch movies.  I'm pretty sure it was our stomachs that woke us up.  I was starving constantly. all day long I felt like lead.  my head hurt.  it was rotten.
this morning- nobody got up earlier than 6:15!  and we all stayed awake last night until 8 or later! that is pretty amazing.  

Our very first night here we went to dinner with Kent's sponsor.  Every military member gets another military member already here to help 'adjust', pick us up from the terminal, get situated, etc.  Our sponsor is an internal medicine doc.  He and his wife have been wonderful.  
We went to an authentic Japanese Dinner where we sat on the floor with no shoes!  Metta loved it.  She even ate with chopsticks.  
the boys were both out cold the entire time!  they don't remember any of it.
 That first weekend I also went and checked out 'Joyful Honda'- a giant super store nearby.  The produce here is CRAZY expensive.  1980 yen (approx $19.80) for ONE POUND of grapes!!!  I found a seven dollar peach!  ONE PEACH!  it was shocking.  luckily- the base grocery store is cheaper- and I can shop markets where things aren't so outrageous!!

the male/female signs here crack me up.  
since I wake up so early- I've been trying to get out and run in the mornings!  it is still WAY too hot and humid at 5- but running helps me feel normal and less stressed.  Plus- running in a new place is exciting.  I get to run along/across the flight line and that's pretty cool.  I really need some workout buddies!!  I miss my YMCA so much.
 This is where we stayed our first seven nights here.  It's the temporary lodging while we waited for our place to be ready.  We were on the third floor and the kids loved using the elevators every day.
 We spent a lot of time riding the (sporadic) base shuttle around to try and sort out our lives. We didn't get driver's licenses or our car until we'd been here a week- so it was really tough that first week. and I was pretty exhausted and grumpy.  The humidity here is outrageous.  Luckily- ohio helped us acclimate a little bit. But hauling around three super tired kids in the insane heat on foot is not for the weary!  I think now that we've gotten past that first week- it can only get better and easier!!
We are all moved in to our place- I'll post pics soon- and we are sleeping much better.  We have loaner furniture that isn't too shabby.  we also ended up getting loaner linens (no blankets or pillow, though because they are out!), loaner silverware and dishes, and lightbulbs to light our house.  I only mention all of those things because we had to track them down separately in different buildings from different departments. the lightbulbs had their own building.  It's insane.  The government invented the wild goose chase.

A super nice thing about the base is the plethora of playgrounds.  they are on EVERY corner and in EVERY nook and cranny.  it's pretty amazing.  and if it weren't so hot- we'd spend all of our time on them :)
 Yesterday- Saturday- was our first real day.  we were moved in- had our car- and got internet and phones.  Cell phones and internet (along with grapes) will be our biggest expense adjustment here!  they are a ton more expensive!  luckily on top of kent's salary- we get a few hundred dollars a month as a 'COLA' (cost of living adjustment) to help offset the difference.  I'm kind of a cheapskate- so the prices increases have been hard to swallow!!

We had a church picnic yesterday morning at 8AM for Pioneer Day (mormon holiday!)!  since we are up at 5:30 anyway- it was perfect timing -although already terribly humid.  the kids got soaking wet to deal with it.

It's been so great to see the kids find friends and play.  I know this has been pretty hard on them and I love that they can make friends so easily.

 Zeb was over it after about an hour and a half.  Have I mentioned how humid it is?!
 we ventured off base and to a giant store called "seiyu" after lunch.  It's walmart. really.  they have walmart brands and walmart bags.  and you can use your walmart credit card.  Best of all- their produce was decently priced!!  and the 'people of walmart' aren't nearly as scary as in the states!!  Check out metta's little stroller thingy.  it was pretty fun.
 Zeb was dying to eat some teriyaki chicken and he was impressed!
 we also found a cell phone store on the street and signed our lives- along with our firstborn- away!!  So many places here have areas for kids to play.  it's HEAVENLY.  our kiddos were just happy too see toys and have A/C.  they were entertained the entire hour we were there.
 Zeb was pretty impressed with himself finding waldo in japan.  It's much harder when waldo speaks japanese, I guess.

we got some fresh fruit at the market while kent practiced his Japanese skills.  He really is such a proficient language learner.  I'm impressed.  He's reading a ton already and speaking well!  we plan on trying to be off base a lot to practice!
 While wandering around- we found a mini parade for the summer festival.
there were a few floats and lots of Japanese people giving us the peace sign :)  we look very touristy, I'm sure. Although I fit in nicely with my giant nikon camera around my neck!!

 here is an example of their streets.  this is two way. and SO SKINNY! driving is terrifying.  In fact- I haven't tried yet.  I make kent drive!!  it's the wrong side of the road!  and the steering wheel is on the right side!!  eeeeek.

We finished off the weekend with church today.  Our building is three stories- the top floor is the main meeting room!  The meetinghouse is just outside the base gates and the congregation is really pretty big.  About a hundred kids in primary (3-11) and as many adults!  It's really fabulous to have a built in community on top of the military one.

I can't wait to explore more and try out more food!!  our adventures are just beginning.