Sunday, October 30, 2011

October has come and gone!

The 3-weeks since our last update were very busy and went by very quickly!  The girls have started soccer and have practices and games at all different times, so that has kept Megan busy running them back and forth.  She is also staying busy volunteering in the schools - she goes into Delaney's class every Tuesday, and helps with the popcorn sale on Wednesdays, and even went in to help with the annual hearing/vision tests.
On the 15th of October, the area of the city right outside the main gate held the Misawa City Halloween festival.  There were throngs of American and Japanese kids all dressed up and lined up outside the stores getting candy.  We did not dress up, but we did go walk around and enjoy all the costumes and decorations on display.
The streets of Misawa during the Halloween Festival.

Callan just had to pose with the pumpkin.

And Delaney had to follow her older sister.

Fun at the festival...Callan loves making faces!

Megan also finally took the leap and found a place to get her hair cut off base.  The Prism Salon came with several recommendations, and she ended up pleased with the result.  She had ulterior motives for the "new look" as we had a family picture taken the same day...our first family pic in almost 5 years...we do not have them back yet, but we will post some in a future blog.

The day after the family picture, we got up early and took a drive into the Hakkoda Mountains. The Hakkōda Mountains (八甲田山系 Hakkōda-sankei?) is a volcanic mountain range that lies to the south of Aomori city in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. The range consists more than a dozen stratovolcanoes and lava domes arranged into two volcanic groups.  The highest peak in the range is Mount Ōdake, which can be climbed from Sukayu Onsen in about four hours. Heavy snowfall makes Hakkoda a prime destination for backcountry and mountain skiers, and there are two mountain huts for overnight trips.  Our timing was really good...the weather was 70 and sunny, and at the base of the mountain the leaves had reached their peak color and were really an awesome sight to see.  We took a small winding road up and around the mountains and made several stops along the way.  By the time we got to the top, the temperature had dropped about 30 degrees and the weather was very cloudy and misty.  We made a slight navigational error and ended up taking the long way home, but we got to see another part of the mountain that was also pretty stunning.  We look forward to some winter trips to this area for some skiing and snowboarding.
Here is a map of our day trip into the mountains.  101 miles total, took about 4 hours driving time plus a couple hours worth of stops.

The 'other' side of the mountains that we got to see due to our inadvertent detour home.

The small and winding road up the mountain...mind you we had to dodge several tour buses on the way up.

HUGE leaves that were brilliantly colored.

Some natural steps on one of the trails we walked during a stop.

The underside of a foot bridge crossing a river that paralleled the mountain road.

A map of the hiking trails.

Not sure what it says...but the girls wanted a picture - there was a 40 ft drop off right behind this rock...not many safety features along this trail.

The weather changing as we get closer to the top.

Running back to the car after a quick stop.

The week after our mountain voyage, Megan had her first spouses meeting.  About 10-12 people showed up, and they all promised to bring more people with them next time.  She is going to try and plan a spouses wine tasting for November and recruit some drivers (me, the Chief, and the Deputy) to drive the spouses home.  Megan also participated in an 'out and about' day trip with the Misawa Officers Spouse's Club.  They drove about 3 hours away to visit the Takayama Inari Shrine.  With a history dating back to the 10th century, Takayama Inari Shrine is one of the most famous Shinto shrines in all of northern Japan.  The shrine pays homage to the Inari god, thought to preside over the harvest and wealth, and is most well known for its spectacular row of red torii gates in the garden area on the far side of the shrine.  The small hill at the end of the gates reveals an excellent view of the gates as they weave through the garden area.

The front of the shrine.

The green slippers are to wear inside the shrine, then you had to switch to the red ones to walk in the bathroom.

One of numerous prayer houses on the ground.

The row of torii gates in the garden.

An inside view walking through.

A view of the grounds from the top of the hill.

This last Friday and Saturday we celebrated Halloween Misawa style.  On Friday we attended the Halloween Bash at the club.  We went with the other squadron commanders in the group, but there turned out to be about 30 people from the comm squadron there.  We (and the Comm Rockers) had a great time, and got to see some very interesting costumes.  Then on Saturday we went to a party hosted by our friends Barney and Susan and had a great time sitting by the fire, smoking stogies, and having a few drinks with some friends.  Since it was mostly the same crowd from the previous night, 3 of the couples decided to switch it up and wear their spouses costume, which made for some pretty interesting costume cross dressing.

The Hawaiian Tourist.

Great food and great friends.

Megan's new Halloween motto!
Pic of the guys?

The whole group.

The girls?

Also on Saturday,  we filmed a Family Holiday Greeting.  You know all those messages you see from overseas military members during the holiday season?  Well keep your eyes peeled in Fulton, NY - Norwich, NY - and the DC area because we may be on one soon.

Today we took the family to see the Smurfs movie...definitely a blast from the past for Jeff and Megan, and the girls seemed to enjoy it.  The theater has been out of commission for about a month or so, so it was great to have this entertainment option back.

Some random pics from the month...

Callan doing her best 'Fat Albert' character impression...

Riley showing off her red ribbon for 'Red Ribbon Drug Awareness and Prevention Week'

Tomorrow, Jeff heads to Hawaii for the PACAF Communications Squadron Commander's conference.  This will be the 8th Halloween (out of Riley's 12) that Jeff has missed due to a TDY.

That is all for this week, hope to hear from everyone soon.

Phillips-5 Out!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Shipwreck Beach, Free Money, Saliva, and a Bazaar!!

Life at Misawa continues to move along since we last posted.  The end of September was kind of slow, but we did take a day trip to a local attraction called Shipwreck Beach.  This is a beach on Mutsu Bay about 1 hour north of Misawa.  We parked along a road and had to walk about 1/2 mile to the beach.  As we walked to the beach, we passed what can only be described as a mountain of seashells.  The pictures below don't do it justice, but this mound of shells is about 40 feet high, 100 yds long and 20 yds wide, and is made completely of shells.  On the beach are several old wooden shipwrecks, and the beach is known for being able to find lots of stuff that washes up on shore.  One of the things people look for are glass floats that fishermen use to keep their nets afloat.  When the weather gets rough, they break loose and wash up on shore.  We were there on a VERY windy day and the bay was quite rough, but we did not find any glass floats.  We did find lots of sea glass, shells, drift wood, and other junk...and we had fun looking through all the stuff that was washed up on the shore.  Several pictures below from our trip to the beach: 

Map from Misawa to Shipwreck beach...fortunately GoogleMaps works in Japan
Getting ready for a cold walk on the beach.

Seashell Mountain.

Trying to climb the shells.

Twin shipwrecks.
Walking on the beach with a windmill farm in the background.
Riley trying to stay dry...the water was coming right up to these rock walls

The start of October was great for the 35th Comm Squadron.  Many of the squadron's leaders were gone for most of September, but a couple of them returned to work on October 3rd.  Primarily Jeff's secretary Ruby who had been gone since the end of August completing reserve duty at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo.  A few different people filled in for her, but it just wasn't the same.

October 7th was 'Sports Day' for the 35th Fighter Wing, so all the squadrons competed against one another for the Commander's Cup.  The weather was chilly and windy all day, but it was a nice break from work.  The 'Comm Rockers' competed well and ended up 5th out of approximately 15 teams.  However, the highlight of the week was later that evening at the Intramural Softball All-star game.  The Comm Rockers had two players in the All-star game, and the Force Support Squadron held a contest for the squadron with the rowdiest fans. The Chief and I encouraged the Comm Rockers to show up and cheer loudly at the game (beer and soda bribes tend to increase attendance at these events), and we had by far the largest crowd.  We ended up winning $500 toward the squadron holiday party, which will be a nice addition to our booster club coffers.

Show me the money!!

On Saturday Megan volunteered at the annual Misawa Officer's Spouses Club Bazarr.  This a huge event where Japanese vendors from all over the country come in and set up booths and sell their goods to the Misawa AB community.  They have everything from furniture, to Kokechi dolls, and there are so many vendors that they fill up an entire hangar.  Since Megan volunteered, we got to 'pre-shop' a couple of hours before the bazaar actually opened.  We found several Christmas presents and even ended up buying one for ourselves.  We bought a VERY heavy wooden bar that can be folded up and used as decorative furniture or can be set up as a full bar.  It is kind of hard to describe, but there are a few pics below:

Our new bar.
The inside with it folded out.
The top has marble in the middle, then wood on both ends that fold out.
Somehow they already look quite at home behind the bar.

On Saturday night we had planned a commander's poker party, but changed our plans at the last minute.  The band Saliva was putting on a free concert at the club, and we decided to attend with a couple of the other commanders.  Even though neither of us had ever listened to the band it ended up being a lot of fun.  The venue only held about 500 people, so we were able to get right up next to the stage.  The band gave away a ton of free stuff to include iPods and iPads...we didn't win any of those, but we definitely enjoyed the free rock concert.  The band even stayed afterward and talked to everyone and signed autographs.

We finished the 3-day Columbus Day weekend by hanging around the house and getting the girls winter clothes out of storage.  Jeff did get a round of golf in this morning, but other than that it was a quiet day.

That is all until next time, hope to hear from everyone soon!

P.S. - Almost forgot to mention that Megan is now an elected official.  She attended her first PTO meeting this week and left as the Sollars Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization Secretary.  She won by an overwhelming majority...mostly due to the fact she was the only non-board member at the meeting and was therefore the only one nominated for the position...haha!