Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nagasaki Lantern Festival

It's been a while, but I'll catch up you.

Evan's ship was supposed to leave in January, but do to some mechanical problems, it was better to fix the issue instead of get underway. So, Evan stayed around for another month. Yay! Right before he was supposed to leave, we went to the Nagasaki Lantern Festival with a couple friends of ours. We went on a weekday which meant that Nagasaki was far less crowded. We waited until the boys got of work before we left. So we didn't get to Nagasaki until about 6:30. We walked down Chinatown and to the main arena seeing several lanterns and light displays. Since Evan's ship was supposed to leave, I chanced going to Nagasaki again without him with an MWR trip. He stayed home, slept in, and played games all day while I got some amazing shots I didn't get to before. I was able to travel a lot more given that we had several hours instead of a few. I broke away from the large group to see as many places as I could.
They even had dinosaurs!
A Chinese violinist. I don't know how she was able to ply because it was so cold out. My fingers were freezing in my pockets.
Dancing dragons put on by a team of high school girls.

All in all, it was good fun. I was really, really cold and our shipment hadn't gotten in yet with all of our stuff, including my winter clothes, so I wore Evan's jacket. It was super crowded and I didn't get to see some of the shows the put on because I couldn't see over other people and then I had to leave.

If you'd like to learn more about the Nagasaki Lantern Festival, look here for about it's origins and traditions.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Crash, Bang, Boom

This is our car. This, of course, is our car after the wreck we got into. Our car is probably 4.5 meters long (or 14.76 feet). The point of impact is clearly right behind the driver's seat on the rear car door. We are both very grateful he didn't hit the driver's door. Jennifer was driving.

The morning started different than most mornings. Evan left his phone charger on the ship and his phone was dead, so he relied solely on his watch to wake up. We woke up at 0631. Since there is some walking distance from the parking lot to the ship, it would be easier if Jennifer drove Evan to the closest point to decrease the distance he had to walk. We left the house at 0635. We were leaving the cho trying to turn right. Keeping in mind that Japan drives on the opposite side of the road as America, in order to turn right, we have to cross two lanes of traffic going left.

There is a small (very small) space for the car to sit to turn. It is not a complete turning lane. There was zero traffic coming from the right (the two closest lanes) and there was traffic coming from the left. When Jennifer pulled into the turning area, a bus had stopped across the street causing two lanes of traffic to merge into one, leaving fewer chances to merge into traffic going right. All wasn't bad at this point. But then...

Traffic began to come from the right (in those first two lanes) we still weren't in danger because there was an opportunity to merge into traffic without causing a wreck ourselves. We could make it, however, the first vehicle in the traffic heading our way, in the inside lane was steady in its speed. Yet we saw the gap in the cars. We could make it. The van didn't slow down, but the gap in the cars was getting closer. Unfortunately, so was the van. For some reason, this van did not slow down or stop. We still do not know the reason for this.

As soon as the gap in the cars was available, Jennifer gunned it. Less than a second later, the van plowed into the rear seat, driver side door. It spun our car 180 degrees. What boggles us is that the car did not think enough to slow down, swerve to avoid hitting us, or stop. Why, oh why, did the driver not slow down? He was the first car in its lane, there were no obstructions to seeing us. It was dark, but there were street lights, and as he approached us, he should have been able to see us and slow down.

The speed limit is 50 kilometers per hour on that road. Presuming he was going the speed limit, he was going as fast as 31 miles per hour. If we consider that he was the first car, leading the pack, and in the faster lane, he was going AT LEAST 31 mph. This happened at 0640. We called the military security who managed to show up an hour later. The Japanese police talked to the other driver for all of 10 minutes. They talked to Jennifer for 2 hours trying to figure out what happened.

At about 0930, the tow truck arrived to take our car to base where it will wait until the verdict arrives from the insurance company on the fate of our car. Insurance here works differently than in America (or anywhere else for that matter). They can choose to use the police report or not. They can conduct their own investigation and go by that instead. When Evan went to the insurance company to tell what happened, they told him that it sounds like it was the other guy's fault because we were stopped in the road. Had we been moving into the line of traffic and then gotten hit, it would have been our fault because we moved into traffic. Insurance companies cover the cost of the car, but they don't cover any cost for personal injuries.

Our questions that still remain:
  • Why didn't he (or the passenger in his vehicle) see us and slow down?
  • What questions did the Japanese police ask the other guy?
  • How fast was he going? Was he distracted?
  • How was he able to see us from 100 yards away and not react yet every other car on the highway stopped within the few seconds this happening?
  • How did the police look at our car and think the point of impact was on the driver's door, 1.4 meters from the front of the car? It's clearly the L-shaped dent in the back door. Anything infront of that was where our car hit the side of his fender as it spun into traffic.
  • Why wasn't he questioned more than 10 minutes?
We are thankful no one was hurt. And we are thankful that there weren't additional accidents due to our car going into other, oncoming lanes of traffic. We hope and pray that our insurance company fights for us to put the blame on the other driver who failed to pay attention to the road in front of him. We are still waiting to find out the results of their investigation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Paying Responsibly

I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship that covered tuition and fees and even gave me a monthly stipend. It also sent me on some summer activities where I got paid as well. Unfortunately, the scholarship did not cover everything (like a place to sleep and food to eat), so I had to take out some student loans. All in all, it totaled up to about $8000. And I was really looking forward to paying it back after I graduated. Not just because there was a financial burden lurking on my credit score, but because it meant that I had a job! I had the ability to take responsibility and give the bank back its money.

It is a pleasure to see the money dwindle down to zero. I am not quite sure why other than it means I can pay it back. It's almost like I'm tricking Sallie Mae. For instance, they are only asking me to pay about $20/month and yet, I've already paid off the biggest loan I had that also had the highest interest. That probably cut my 10 years repayment schedule down to 3 years or so, or it just means much lower repayment each month. Granted, I don't have a job yet and all that money was left over from the money I earned during my last semester (it pays to be a wife, ironically). I did not have to spend as much of my own money during my last semester, therefore saving that money I would have used and using it to pay back the loans.

I have used almost all the leftover money to repay the loans and I have applied for a couple jobs. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I get one soon so I can finish paying the loans off faster. And then whatever money I earn goes towards building up savings and investing my money into a high yield return. I don't like spending money and will typically have a very frustrating and unproductive shopping trip when I walk into a store. I don't really like shopping with other people, but other times it can help me make a decision when I need to get something. If I'm just browsing, I'll probably drop everything and leave the store or talk myself out of what is in my hands because I can make do with what I already have.

I don't think that's a bad thing at all. There are some people I know who can't wait to go shopping with their paycheck and then they complain about not having money to spend on themselves. Yes, well, that's because they are playing the game wrong. The idea is to not spend frivolously as soon as you get the money. It's to get the money and then wait until everyone else is broke to go shopping so it looks like you're rich. And when everyone else isn't shopping or spending, you're less likely to spend and shop.

(I just made that up, but it sounds good so I'll keep it.)

I can say honestly that I am looking forward to a paycheck again. Additionally, I am looking forward to most of that money going into savings.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year

The past year has certainly been crazy and taken some unexpected turns.

It started out with Evan going to work for a few weeks at the NROTC unit until a few days after his birthday. On a trip that should have taken about a full day, instead it took four days. Due to bad weather, plane delays, and scheduling, he did not get to Sasebo, Japan until four days after he left Japan.

I spent my last semester at Tech alone in our apartment with our dog, Baron. He changed a bit when Evan left. He was a bit sad. It was probably a sympathetic emotion felt from me and consumed by him. I was the Battalion CO (the first female and female Marine CO at Tech; something I'm merely pointing out and not bragging about) but failed to commission due to medical reasons. I don't really see it as an accomplishment or raising the bar that I was what I was, it just happened. But I could go on and on about my feelings about me, the permanent staff's decision in appointing me to that position, and how I feel afterward, but I won't do that on here.

I graduated with honors from Georgia Institute of Technology in four years with a Bachelors of Science in History, Technology, and Society. That's all one degree, not three of them.

I packed up all of our stuff (with the help of mine and Evan's family) and moved it into storage. I went to my mom's house with Baron.

Evan, in the meantime, was working with Operation Tomodachi aboard the Essex. I did get to visit him for a few weeks and we saw a little bit of Japan and I got to meet the people he's been talking about that he works with.

I came back to Georgia and auditioned for a musical called "Damn Yankees" and I was an assortment of characters. I went from a housewife to a baseball player to a member of a fan club (duet number) to a baseball player and then a dancer in a nightclub scene. Immediately after that closed, I moved all my stuff (sans Baron) to Japan where I've been ever since.

Evan went to Yokosuka for "baby SWOS" and to Rhode Island for SWOS. When he came back from RI, we were fortunate to get an extra week in addition to the week he asked off. And then he left on my birthday.

I coached two teams of soccer for a short while and then quit that because I was told I wasn't doing my job right from someone who is not technically my boss but is somehow above me. I was also playing on a team. I thought it was a lot of fun and Evan was able to see one game.

I finally got command sponsorship and subsequently all the advantages that come with it (drivers license, being able to see a doctor, being able to get a job, etc).

I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner just a few hours before it started. I had a fantastic time and met a whole bunch of people who have become my friends here. It's one of the best things that has happened to me here. A few of the people were on the flag football team and persuaded me to join the team. And so now I play flag. Oh, but during one practice I fell down onto my arm and it still hurts. I have a doctor's appointment about it this Friday (the day after flag returns from the holidays!). These last two games should be fun since we'll basically be starting over. A new coach, new positions, new plays. That's beneficial to me because I missed the first month or so of flag.

This new year I think is going to be fun. I will hopefully get my Personal Training Certification and work at one of the gyms here. Also, another part time job would be nice to stay busy.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Recently, Evan and I went to Kyoto. He had some leave stored up and there was the holiday stand-down for the Essex, so we took advantage of the opportunity. This was the first big trip that he and I had taken while in Japan. We had taken day trips before, but not anything that lasted as long as six days. I was fortunate enough to have the chance to go sightseeing with my new dSLR given to me as an anniversary gift from Evan. I took a little less than 2000 photos of the four days we went around the former capitol of Japan.

We saw many shrines and temples and gardens. After a while, they started to look just like the one before. However, there would be a slight difference that was uniquely intriguing that kept us going to the next one and the one after. This one, the Golden Pavilion, was probably most unique for obvious reasons.

As the days went on, I took fewer pictures of the massive, historic buildings and more of the smaller details and got more "artsy." I was tired of seeing the same things, so I created Kyoto in a way in which it made each place entertaining, different from the one before, all with a new perspective. I wanted to get pictures of Kyoto no one had ever taken before. Below are some of my favorite photos using my new camera and a different perspective.

(I must give Evan credit for finding this little lady. Without him, I wouldn't have been able to capture this gem.)

This was a part of supporting structure to a gate at one of the shrines. I saw it on the way out.

These are just a few of my favorite. But doesn't my camera do a good job of getting my idea across? Feel free to comment below about what you like and don't like.