Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Overdue update - in preparation for a Typhoon Talas


So this update has been some time in the making...REALLY we will try to update more frequently.  Since the last time we wrote, we attended the Misawa City Festival.  The great thing about this festival is that it was right outside the main gate and walking distance from our house.  So we all headed to the festival in the early afternoon, we had some of the local cuisine (icees, japanese fries, and of course some of the local brew).  Something interesting that we learned in watching the festival parades was that the Japanese men really enjoy dressing as women to celebrate these include well endowed "balloon chests" as part of their costumes.  In one of the parades there was also a group dressed as sumo wrestlers...they were literally wearing only the g-string...Delaney, who STILL talks about it, may be scarred for life, but it was definitely a good laugh.  This year's festival was centered around the 80th anniversary of the Little Miss Veedol flight.  It was the first trans-pacific flight, and it took off from Misawa and landed in Washington state 41+ hours later (great history and definitely worth googling).  The highlights of the parade were a REALLY young marching band and some of the Misawa Air Base wives, NOT Megan, that were part of the dancing parade (and of course the great beer).  Below are some pics of the parade:

The next day, we took our first trip to Hachinoe (pronounced hatch-ino-hey).  Most directions to everyplace in Hach reference a left or right turn at Sega World...yes an entire store that revolves around Sega, maybe we will stop and check it out next time.  Our first stop was the the Toys R Us.  We thought this would be a little taste of home, but of course we were mistaken and all of the toys, games, etc. were Japanese.  However, we did find some replacement wrist straps for our Wii remotes, so we replaced the dirty old white ones with blue and pink ones.  As our friend Chip knows, Wii wrist straps are VERY important.  Next, we visited Freedom dome mall, talk about crazy, there was basically an amusement park inside of the mall, to include all kinds of games, a 'rollercoaster-like' ride and a merry go round, or as the Japanese call it, a "Merry Goraund".  We bought the girls some umbrellas at the mall, and it may have been the best purchase ever since we have had a ton of rain, with a lot more on the way.  The pictures below are of the Sega World, Toys R Us, the Freedomdome Mall amusement park, and the Merry Goraund.

During the week after our visit to Hachinoe, we went on a shopping trip to the local Homac...think Walmart without toys or food.  We bought a few things we could not find in the BX, like an office chair and we decided to buy chopsticks for everyone in the family.  There are a few pictures below of us practicing our chopstick etiquette.  Megan and Jeff also took a Japanese customs and courtesies class and learned that it is not acceptable to stab your food with the chopsticks.  Also, you are not supposed to put soy sauce on your Japanese is like putting ketchup on steak.  The pictures below are of us practicing with chopsticks.

The next week was the last week of summer.  Jeff went through his first Phase II exercise in preparation for the 35th Fighter Wing's upcoming Operational Readiness he got to wear his flak vest, gas mask, and chem gear all week.  After the exercise, Jeff took the kids to the base pool one night.  They all passed the swim test, even Laney, but the pool is indoors and doesn't really compare to the P-town YMCA...especially since none of our P-town peeps were there.  On Saturday of that week we all went to a free movie screening of Mr. Poppers Penguins, which included free popcorn, soda, and candy, so the girls really enjoyed that.  That Saturday night we also had our first Misawa poker party which ended up being a great time for all.  Sunday we spent the day prepping for the first day of school...oh yeah...AND we bought a new couch and loveseat which made Megan VERY happy...she has been campaigning for quite sometime.  Below are some pics of the girls first day of school, we will include pics of the furniture next week after it is delivered:

This weekend  we have a 4-day weekend with a PACAF family day on Friday and Labor Day on Monday.  We also have the Misawa AB airshow on Sunday with lots of different planes on display and both USAF and JASDF (Japanese Air Self Defense Force) demonstrations.  They open the base to the local populace and expect ~150,000 locals to show up.  The good thing about that is the great fund raising opportunity it provides our Comm Squadron booster club (the Comm Rockers).  We sell funnel cakes, Betty Crocker cakes without frosting, and squadron t-shirts and coins.  We should make enough money to fund our squadron holiday party from this one day.

Finally, we are hoping that the airshow is not postponed by the inbound Typhoon Talas.  The storm is a Category 1 and is supposed to move in just west of town on Saturday night/Sunday morning.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that there is little wind and rain.

That is all until next week...hope to hear from everyone soon!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Week of Heat - Another Busy Week in the Phillips-5 Japanese Adventure

So this has been far and away the hottest week since we arrived in Japan.  We've lived in some hot places throughout our various moves during our time in the Air Force.  We lived in Virginia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama and the hottest of all...San Antonio, TX.  The key difference between those places and Japan is that we had air conditioning in all of our homes at those locations, and we have no air conditioning in our house at Misawa AB.  So, to beat the heat we often go to the one place on base that does have A/C...the movie theater.  This week we took the girls to see 'Thor'...the movie was o.k., but it was  a good way to stay cool for a couple hours.

Then on Friday we got an unplanned surprise for the family; we got to spend a couple more hours at the air conditioned theater checking out an 'American Idol' tour that came to base.  We got free tickets to a pretty good show, there were 8 singers from the last few Idol seasons, none from the top 12 of any season, but all of them were at least from the top 24.  We got to see John Wayne Schulz, Janell Wheeler, Jimmie Allen, Jovany Baretto, Chelsea Sorrell, Colin Benward, Rachel Zevita and Ta-Tynisa Wilson.  After their show, they all stuck around to sign autographs and talk to the kids.  The pictures below are of the girls and the 'Idols' during the autograph session.

Then on Saturday morning after the concert, we got a phone call bright and early at 7 a.m.  Riley and Callan were recalled and ordered to report for duty for Operation Code.  They got to experience a deployment processing line and spent a day "playing war" at Camp Defender.  After their recall they showed up to process through the line and got pretend id cards, orders, shots, powers of attorney, Camel Baks (which they got to keep), fake injuries, first aid training, and then they were off on their deployment.  After 5 hours of being off at war, all the parents welcomed them home with signs, flowers, and cake.  They seemed to have a good time, and they were definitely tired out from their busy day.  The pictures below are of the girls during the deployment processing.

Finally, on Sunday we took a trip to Lake Towada and took a hike through the Oirase River Gorge.  Lake Towada (十和田湖 Towada-ko?) is the largest crater lake on Honshū island. It is located on the border between Aomori and Akita prefectures, it lies 400 meters (1,800 ft) above sea level and is 327.0m (1,073 ft) depth, and is drained by the Oirase river. With a surface area of 61.1 km², Towada is Japan's 12th largest lake, its bright blue color is due to its great depth. The lake is roughly circular, with two peninsulas extending from its southern shore approximately one-third into the center of the lake.  Our hike took us about 3 km out (and back for a total of 6km) from the lake down through the gorge created by the Oirase river.  There is a trail that parallels the river, and there are several sets of waterfalls along the trail.  The only downside was that there is also a road that parallels the river.  A VERY narrow and busy road that we drove all the way up to start our extremely nerve wracking 9km.  Overall it was a great day for the Phillips-5, the kiddos were definitely troopers...especially on the return portion of they hike when they were tired out.  The pictures below are from our day on the trail.

The final picture of the week is from the information center/rest area at the base of the gorge.  All of the toilets at this particular rest area were like the one pictured place to sit down, just squat and go.  The girls have affectionately named these the "squatty potties."  They say that the Japanese must have strong legs because using these is not an easy task.

That is all from the Phillips-5 until next week or the next update.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

An update 3-weeks in the making!

So this update is long overdue, but it has been a very busy three weeks.  We finally sat down today and downloaded some pictures and took some time to let anyone who was interested know what is going on in the Phillips-5 Japanese Adventure.

So...lets go back to Friday July 22nd, this was the end of Jeff's 2nd full week on the job and we finished off the week with the 35th Fighter Wing Combat Dining Out.  This type of event was new to both of us, but everyone said to show up dressed appropriately (i.e., combat attire) and to show up armed.  So we made our way to the 100 Yen store (Japanese equivalent to the Dollar Store) and added some "Super Soaker's and water balloons to our arsenal.  The event ended up being a lot of fun and we were both plenty soaked for the cold walk least we were close enough to walk.  The pictures below are of us prior to leaving for the event, Megan and some of the other wives, and one of the Grog Bowl.  For those that don't know...the Grog Bowl is where violaters of the rules of the mess have to go to drink.  It is usually filled with several bottles of liquor.

The next day Jeff left for Hawaii for the PACAF Commander's Course.  He took off Saturday at 9:55 a.m., had an airport transfer and a 7 hour layover in Tokyo, and still landed in Hawaii at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday (almost 2 hrs before he took off)...the joys of crossing the International Dateline.  During that week, the girls attended Vacation Bible School on the base which gave Megan a nice little break each day.  During all that "free time" she finished unpacking and we were finally at the point of hanging up pictures.  Jeff's week in Hawaii was fairly uneventful, he flew back on Saturday, but had to spend the night in Tokyo and ended up arriving home on Monday morning.  The picture below is of the flight board in the Tokyo Narita airport.

During the following week, Jeff had a lot of catching up to do which resulted in a couple of late nights of work to get through 500+ emails.  The highlight of the week was the release of the Staff Sergeant promotion list.  The 35th Communications Squadron had 20 Senior Airman selected for promotion, the second highest number of promotees for the entire base.  Riley and Callan stayed busy attending a paintball camp Monday - Thursday...Riley actually called it quits after the first day, but Callan stuck it out.  Even though she came home with lots of bruises, she thoroughly enjoyed the week.  On Friday, Jeff attended the Senior NCO induction ceremony...a mess dress event where 6 people from the 35th Comm Squadron entered the Senior NCO corps.  The pictures below are of the girls heading into paintball combat. 

The weekend ensued with Riley and Callan heading off to a cultural exchange camp.  About 25 kids from Misawa Air Base went to Aomori and spent 2 nights in a local elementary school with Japanese and Korean kids.  Over the course of the weekend they had a snack exchange to experience popular snacks from other countries, they went to a beach, visited an Onsen (Japanese bath house or as Callan would say, "a big hot tub where everyone is naked"), and finally they marched in a 3 mile long parade as part of the Nebuta Festival.  Throughout the course of the weekend, Callan and her blond hair were quite the object of affection.  According to one of the chaperones, other kids were petting her most of the weekend, sometimes up to six people simultaneously.  As much as Callan loves attention, even she said it was a little much after a while.

The Nebuta Festival takes place from August 2nd to 7th every year in the city of Aomori, which is located at the northern tip of Japan's main island, Honshu. It used to be part of the Tanabata Festival, which was traditionally held on the seventh day of the seventh month on the old Japanese calendar.  The Festival features a parade of huge lanterns in the shape of samurai warriors. The lanterns are made with wooden or bamboo frames and covered with brightly colored paper-mâché. Most of the warriors depicted are historically famous generals or are characters from well-known kabuki plays.  Jeff, Megan, and Delaney drove up for the parade, but unfortunately picked the one spot on the parade route that the girls did not pass by.  However, we did get to visit them before and after at the school where they were staying.  We all spent Sunday recovering from our late night at the festival and getting ready for the week ahead.  The following pictures are of the girls at their cultural exchange camp, some of the parade, and Jeff with the largest traffic cone we have ever seen.

That is all from the Phillips-5 until next week or the next update.