Seattle, San Francisco, Nartia, Yokosuka
theladyjess

3 am came way too fast this mooring. After a very hectic week of running errands, scanning documents for the new house, and packing it’s finally time to leave for Japan. I only got 4 hours of sleep—I’m exhausted but excited about seeing Chad again, even if he’s been really crabby the last few times I’ve talked to him.

Dad and I are out the door by 4am and waiting at Krispy Kreme for Jennie by 4:15. If I would have known that Jennie would have been running late I would have slept an extra 30 or 45 minutes. When she finally arrives I transfer my luggage to her car, say a quick goodbye to Dad and we’re on our way to the airport. We’re both sleep deprived but amazed that the day is finally here. For both of us it seemed like the trip was several weeks away and then suddenly it’s time to leave.

Check in goes smoothly and security is a breeze. Because I have Hans with me we get to use the priority line and skip all the waiting. When we board the plane I realize that the airline has messed up my seat assignment although Jennie’s is still correct. I have the FA hold boarding so I can go speak with the gate agent to get things straightened out. Usually my seat assignment wouldn’t be a big deal but Hans is with me and I made arrangements ahead of time for the bulkhead seat specifically for him. The gate agent is less than pleasant, telling me that Hans doesn’t have to sit in the bulkhead. I inform her that according to the Air Carrier’s Access Act that as long as I call ahead and request a seat assignment that they have to honor that assignment. She seems rather annoyed with being told what the rules are and tells me to take a seat and wait while she deals with other pax. WTF? It’s not my fault they changed planes at the last minute and fucked up my seat assignment. Why should I have to wait while she clears all the non revs? Another agent comes over and begins working on my seat but doesn’t seem very happy about it. After much waiting and a ton of BS from the gate agents I can finally board. Once seated Jennie tells me that she and the FA had the whole situation resolved within minutes of me leaving and they even told the gate agent so when she called down to the plane. UGH! What a waste of my time!

The flight goes well and as always the FAs ooh and ahh over Hans. We arrive in SFO and hike over to the international terminal. As I’m being checked in the ticket agent informs me that we’ve been upgraded to Economy Plus (still with the bulkhead seat) because the flight has been over booked. I’m all like, “Woo Hoo!!!” More legroom on a 10 hour flight is never a bad thing.

Like always when I travel with Hans we preboard. Both of us are immediately impressed. Our seats are wider than we thought they’d be, we have plenty of leg room, the seats recline significantly and even have leg rests. In the seatback pocket we find a menu for the flight along with a pair of slippers which we don’t hesitate in putting on. As we taxi I notice that we’re seeing the same thing on the screen in front of us as the pilots see up in the cockpit. It’s a different POV and really cool to see the same things as they are.

Once airborne Jennie and I pull out our personal entertainment systems and settle in to watch a movie. We have several choices of movies, TV programming and video games to pass the time. During the flight Jennie naps off and on while I stay awake. I’ve never been one to sleep in cars or on planes as I can never get comfortable and the slightest thing usually wakes me. I end up watching a total of 4 movies during the flight—Up in the Air, The Blind Side, Couples Retreat, and 2012.

We’re flying JAL because I’ve been told the service is outstanding. After awhile I can see that’s true. From the slippers in the seatback pocket, to the hot towels before meals, to the little in-flight comforts they bring such as toothbrushes, eye crème, sleep masks, and such I’m being pampered. I don’t think I ever want to fly a US carrier again. The meals are good; at least as far as airplane food goes. For my first meal I have an allergen free dinner consisting of steak, potatoes, cooked carrots, broccoli, a small salad, and a fruit cup. My second meal is a vegetarian meal that isn’t so great—tofu, rice, a small salad, fruit, yogurt and a dinner roll. Thankfully the FAs come by with snacks and there’s a self service basket of goodies in the galley. The FAs are also more than willing to bring sodas and vodka to our seat as well.

Hans does really well on the flight. I had tried to piddle pad train him at home but he wouldn’t take to it. I didn’t need to worry too much; he didn’t really want to get up at all during the flight. I tried to give him some water but he didn’t want it, however, he was more than willing to share my salad and fruit from my meals.

When we disembark the plane there’s a customer service agent waiting with a wheelchair for me. I tell her that I’m doing well today and that I don’t need it and Jennie and I continue up the Jetway. She comes running after us and tells us she’ll take us to Quarantine. She escorts us through immigration where we don’t have to wait in the long lines like everyone else. After immigration we head over to the Quarantine desk where they check over all of Hans’ paperwork. There is some confusion again over his microchip and I try to explain that he has two chips but I’m not sure how much they understood due to the language barrier. He finally gets all his papers stamped and we collect our bags. It’s only been about 20 minutes since we went through immigration but during that time they’ve processed everyone on our flight and the baggage claim is practically empty. Our bags have been pulled off the carousel and are waiting off to the side for us. We hand our papers over to the customs agent who takes a quick look and allows us to pass. 

We exit customs and see Chad standing behind the barricade with two roses, one for each of us. He’s absolutely beaming, so happy to have his wife here at last. He has to buy our tickets for the train but first must find a cash machine. Why he didn’t get cash while he was waiting for us is beyond me. I swear that man makes no sense sometimes! We get our tickets and while Jennie heads outside to feed her cancer cells I head to the restroom. 

We’ve got 10 minutes to make our train as we make our way down to the platform. As we pass through the turnstiles one of the railway workers spots Hans and comes over to tell us he’s not allowed. We try to explain that he’s a working dog and show her his ID tag. She then goes to get a supervisor who comes over to investigate. I check my watch…there goes the train. Shit! Now we’ll have to take the next one. The supervisor finally sees that Hans is a working dog and allows him to ride the train. She takes our tickets to exchange them for the next train and we’re free to go.

On the train the snack lady comes by and Chad purchases two canned Chu His—one for him and one for Jennie. I stick to the water that I bought at the airport because I’m feeling a little dehydrated after the flight. Jennie is immediately hooked. She loves the chu hi, but I tell her to wait until she has a real one at the bar. During the train ride we tell Chad about our flight and our impromptu upgrade. He’s jealous, the best he ever gets in the exit row. When we get to the station in Yokohama we switch trains and Chad gives Jennie her Pasmo card. I kept mine from last year to use again since I still had over ¥2,000 on it. Chad wasn’t sure if it would still work after being inactive for so long but he had nothing to worry about.

We finally arrive in Yokohama and I can tell Jennie is spent. We’re both exhausted after the long day of travel and all we want is dinner and a bed to sleep in. Chad had bought some groceries, but being Chad he had put all the meat in the freezer. We weren’t sure what restaurants would allow Hans so we left him in the apartment while we head out. Jennie and I decide we don’t feel like walking that far so we just hit 7-11 for some snack foods. By the time we finally get to bed it’s around 11 pm local time and I’ve been up for over 24 hours straight. I’m out shortly after hitting the pillow, but there’s no rest for the weary, we have to be out of the apartment by 9am because some workers are coming to work on the bathroom in the morning…

 


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"It must be nice to take your dog everywhere!" HA! If you only knew the hassle....
theladyjess

Normally things go relatively smoothly before a trip. Not so with this trip. We had to begin our prep way back in September, however, looking back, I probably should have started back in June or even as soon as I got back from my last trip. 

Last year I came to Japan without Hans. It was hard on me not to have him with me, but I think it was even harder on him not to be near me. He was happy when I got home but didn’t greet me with his usually butt wagging enthusiasm as usual. He was more sedate, more relieved than excited that I was home. Two days later I found out just exactly why his greeting wasn’t as enthuastic as usual. He was sick—sick with worry and stress. After seeing him go through that I vowed that I wouldn’t put him through that again.

In September I began quarantine procedures so that I could bring Hans to Japan with me on this trip. I knew it would take 180 days and that he’d need another rabies blood titer drawn. I also knew that he’d need a new microchip since the one he had received in 2002 can’t be read with international chip readers. If I would have known that the stupid chip was going to be an issue I would have had it implanted a year ago.

I probably spent a good two weeks emailing back and forth with Japanese Animal Quarantine about Hans. The first issue with him was that his new microchip was implanted on the same day the titer was drawn. I had to explain to them that he had to get an ISO chip because his first chip can’t be read with their reader, so I dug out the info from the first chip, scanned it, and attached it to the email along with some other paperwork they may want to see like rabies certificates and his titer from 2003. I figured as long as I have to scan and attach I may as well give them everything I have. Yeah, that didn’t help me.

Next comes a response back saying that Hans can’t come because he had an 18 day lapse in his rabies vaccine and to come he needs to have another booster shot, blood titer and wait another 180 days. I inform them that getting another rabies booster and a titer is no problem but I can’t wait another 180 days (6 months). I explain that he’s a service dog and that it’s medically necessary for me to have him with me at all times and ask if they can please make an exception since his titer is 5 times what they require. They refuse to budge but say that if I am SOFA (Standard of Forces Agreement aka Military) then I can bring him and quarantine him on base.

I forward Chad the copy of the latest email from Japan Quarantine and ask him to send me a copy of his orders so I can forward them and bring Hans. I also ask him to try to get a hold of the base vet so that we can talk to them about the procedures. If Hans is going to have to be kenneled on base I won’t bring him, it’s just not worth it.

After a frazzling weekend of waiting to hear from the base vet, Chad visits the office and is able to speak with someone there. He calls me so I can speak directly with one of the vet techs who tells me how to fill out the Notification of Import form, writing a note at the bottom saying that Hans belongs to a SOFA family and will be quarantined on base. She also tells me that I need to bring a ‘magic paper’—a military vet form that will make Japan Quarantine happy. She informs me that as far as the base vet is concerned we are living on base since we have a PSC address and that we can do whatever we choose with Hans as long as we have the ‘magic paper’ turned in. I thank her for all the information and I finally feel some relief over the situation. I scan and email the Notification form back to Japan Quarantine and a day later I get our Authorization form.   Hans can now officially come to Japan!

What an ordeal you might say! The truth is, that’s only half of the story. While dealing with Quarantine I was also dealing with Orbitz and Japan Airlines (JAL) over my return trip. When I booked the tickets with Jennie it was a Thursday evening. I called Alaska who we’re flying on for our connecting flights and to get a bulkhead seat assignment. Alaska gave me no problems and assigned our seats without question. JAL’s US office was closed so I called them as soon as I got up Friday morning. I gave them my itinerary and told them I’d be flying with a service dog and I would like to sit in the bulkhead seat. They said they’d forward the request onto their home office in Tokyo and would get back to me. Tuesday I get a call saying that I have to change my return trip because JAL doesn’t have an agreement with Canada to allow service dogs to fly in the cabin from NRT (Narita, Japan) and YVR (Vancouver). I must change my return trip so that I fly through SFO or LAX, but they can’t do it for me since I booked my ticket through Orbitz.

I call Orbitz and explain the situation to the agent. I want to keep the return trip on the same day, April 29th, just connect change my connection. She looks up the fights and tells me that there’s a flight that will land in SFO at 11:30am and then depart to SEA at 1:05pm. I ask her where I’m going to go through customs and immigration at, SFO or SEA. She tells me SFO and I ask her if she really thinks that an hour and a half is enough time to disembark the plane, clear customs, go back through security, and make it to the gate for my connecting flight. She agrees that’s not enough time and puts me on the 5pm flight. I agree that that’s a better solution even though I’m not happy about having to sit around the airport for 5.5 hours but what can I do. She’s about to book the flight when she tells me that the fare difference between my original flight and this one is $540 plus a $100 reissue fee. I’ve already paid $1030 for this ticket and cannot afford to pay another $600+ so we go about looking at other days for my return that won’t cost as much. After two hours on the phone with her we finally decide on a flight for April 22nd, a week earlier than what I had wanted. Just as she was about to confirm that’s the flight I wanted the line went dead. I’m already annoyed at the fact that I have to change my return and this just elevates my annoyance to a whole other level.

I wait a few minutes to see if she calls back since I know she has my number but the call never comes. I call Orbitz back and ask to speak with a supervisor because I’m not explaining everything to another agent. When the supervisor comes on I give her a brief rundown of what’s happened and tell her that the flight didn’t get booked because we got disconnected. She looks up the flight and confirms with me it’s the one we agreed on. She then says that she has to contact JAL to ok it with them and places me on hold. I look at the time and see that it’s just after 6pm. I know she won’t get a hold of anyone since they closed just a few minutes ago. Sure enough, she comes back on to tell me that she can’t book the ticket until she speaks to someone at the airline and that she’ll have to do it tomorrow. At this point I’m pissed. I’ve wasted over 3 hours of my day on the phone dealing with this only to not have it solved. I let the supervisor know just how angry I am. She assures me that she’ll call them as soon as she comes on shit tomorrow and that she’ll call me by 11:30 am my time (she doesn’t go on shift until 11am). I inform her that if I don’t hear from her by 1pm I’m calling back and raising holy hell.

True to her word she calls just after 11:30 to tell me that she’s on hold with JAL and will be calling me as soon as she’s spoken with them. A little while later she calls back to say that the ticket is ok and we proceed to book it. She informs me that this return trip is $166 less than the original ticket so I ask if I can get that refined. She says that I have to contact JAL because they’re the ones who actually charged me for the ticket, and Orbitz is just a tool the airlines use to increase sales. She then also tells me that she can’t book the ticket unless I pay the $100 reissue fee. Again, I’m pissed and I tell her so. I shouldn’t have to pay to change the ticket because JAL should have told me when I first contacted them on Friday that I couldn’t fly through YVR with Hans. Since I have to book the ticket I just agree to pay the stupid fee.

After the ticket is booked I call JAL and speak with the customer care agent who’s been handling my reservation. I inform him that I’m not happy about having to pay the reissue fee when it was their fault for not informing me of the conflict when I first called. If I would have known on Friday I could have changed the ticket with Orbitz for no charge. He says there’s nothing he can do about it other than contact the head office and ask for a refund. I also ask him about refunding the $166 fare difference but he says that since the ticket was purchased through Orbitz I have to contact them (even though JAL was the one who charged my card). I informed him that I’m not very happy with JAL at the moment—I’m getting screwed over three ways: making me pay $100 reissue fee, not refunding the $166 fare difference, and I have to come home a week earlier than I wanted.   After his apology, I hang up and call Orbitz yet again.

This time when I call I immediately ask to speak to a supervisor, not even explaining anything to the agent who answers. He finally transfers me to a wonderful woman named Gretchen who takes the time to listen to the whole saga and apologize for my inconvenience. She then places me on hold while she contacts JAL about the situation. When she comes back on the line she says that JAL won’t budge on the reissue fee and that she can’t do anything about the fare difference because that’s JAL’s responsibility. She then tells me that Orbitz will refund the $100 reissue fee that I had to pay as a show of good faith and apology for all the shit I’ve gone through. She also gives me her direct email so that I can contact her if the refund doesn’t show up in my account. I thank her immensely for all that she’s done.

 I decide that I don’t want to go round and round again with JAL over the $166 so I just let it go. At least I do not have to pay more than I already have on this stupid ticket. I’ve already spent over 5 hours on the phone over the last two days dealing with all this. I’ve wasted enough time. All of this shit just makes me not want to go on this trip. I’m sick of the trip and I haven’t even left yet. Hopefully I don’t have any issues once I get there.


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Hey All!
theladyjess

To all my old readers, Welcome Back! To all my new readers, I hope you find my ramblings and musing on my trip fun, interesting and maybe even a little educational. Just a note to all, I tend to write like I think which means I may leave things out skip over details while over describing or going into too many details on other things, and there may even be some potty mouth language. For those who know me in real life this shouldn’t come as much of a shock. I will try to upload photos as I go but Chad’s computer is being weird (overheating and then shutting down unexpectedly) so don’t get too pissy if you have to wait. As always I love getting your feedback, questions, comments, etc. so don’t be shy about leaving some love at the end of each post.

Once again, thanks for reading, it really means a lot to me.


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Dorks in Forks
theladyjess

So, it all started back in April or May when I heard that Forks holds a celebration on September 13 in honor of Bella Swan. I thought, “Cool, maybe I should go.” I told Kenzie, my sister, about it and she was all for a day trip. The subject came up every now and then over the months but not much was discussed.

 

Late July:

My husband, Chad, is home from Japan for the summer and we start discussing where we should go for a few days before he has to go back to Japan. Victoria, BC? Leavenworth, WA? Seaside OR? Chad busts out with “How about Forks?” I’m like, “What??? Seriously? You’ll go to Forks?” He assures me that he’s not joking. Bad thing to do.  I have my computer on my lap and I immediately do a Yahoo search for Forks. Up pops www.forkswa.com the website for the chamber of commerce (C of C) and I start looking at hotels. I start coming up with ideas of things we can do while in the area before realizing that Chad won’t have enough time off before he leaves to go on a 3-4 day trip with me and our family camping trip so one will have to go. Unfortunately the trip to Forks is put on hold.

While doing research for the trip that never was I came across info for Stephenie Meyer Day. I was now more determined than ever to go and once again brought up the idea to Kenzie. She has to work on Saturdays so Sunday was the only day she could go. As the weekend approached I went back to the websites I found to see the schedule of events and plan our day trip. 

September 4th (one week before SMD):

I stumble upon a blog for 98331 Gear www.98331gear.com , a store in Forks that sells Twilight merchandise. I comment on a shirt they will be selling stating that I’ll be in town for Bella’s Birthday.

Wednesday September 9th:

Around 1am I’m surfing the net and check back at 98331’s blog. Staci, the store owner, had posted a new blog the day before about vampire makeovers the store was going to offer. I commented that I am a makeup artist and would be willing to help if she would like. At 10pm she posted that she’d love to have me help and to send her an email. MSN was coming to town to cover the events and she was kinda freaking out. I fired off an email and waited for a reply.

 

Thursday, September 10th:

No reply from Staci and Kenzie is starting to flake out on me. “I’m not sure if I want to go. It’s a long dirve.” Waah, waah, waah. STFU Kenzie! I’m still debating about going because I’m not sure if I want to go alone. I want to go on Saturday but not by myself. Yeah, I’m 31, but I’m totally pulling the girl card and not wanting to go to the bathroom alone. I post to my Facebook, “Anyone want to go to Forks with me this weekend?”

Friday, September 11th:

I get up around 11am (I know, you’re jealous but I don’t work so I can sleep in), shower, and check my email. Still nothing from Staci but I figure she’s busy preparing for the weekend so I give her a call. When she answers I can tell she’s stressed. I explain who I am and she is relieved that I can come. She asks me to bring my kit, what she’s planning to do, and that she’s starting around 10 am. I hang up and immediately start to panic. 

OMG! Where am I going to stay? No one has any vacancy. Do I want to go up tonight or get up and be on the road by 6am? Am I crazy? There’s no fucking way I’m getting up early! Over to the computer, look up www.forkswa.com and start calling the hotels they have listed. No vacancies. No, sorry, we don’t know who might have a room. After about 5 hotels I give up and go over to hotels.com. Shit out of luck, they have no listings for Forks what so ever. Hmm…Port Angeles then. Ahh! Days Inn. $80 a night? Sure, all I need is a bed and a shower.

Ok, hotel is done, now onto my makeup kit. Shit! I still haven’t cleaned my brushes. Gotta grab the brush cleaner and take it with me, I’ll just clean them in the room before I go to bed. Good thing almost everything I need is together in my rolling case. I pull out the dirty towels, grab a few clean ones and some extra applicators since I’m not sure how many people I’ll be doing.

Out to the storage shed to grab a small gym bag for my clothes and my folding makeup stools. Since I don’t know what the set up will be I’d rather bring them and not need them than leave them and not have them. I’ve made that mistake before and my back paid the price for the next week.

Makeup done, now onto clothes. Of course my ‘I heart Boys Who Sparkle’ shirt has to come. I’m wearing that one on Saturday. What else? Oh, my black shirt with white trim and two pairs of black skinny jeans. Oh, but the weather report says it’s going to be in the mid to upper 70s. I better grab my black white and pale blue plaid skort just in case. Add some under clothes, my bathroom bag and some jewelry and I’m done.

Woohoo! I’m on a roll. Now to tackle the check book so I know how much I can spend. Thank God it balances on the first try; I don’t think I could handle trying to find any mistakes right now. Pay some bills, get a deposit ready and I’m done. Pack the car and I’m ready to leave.

Before leaving the house I need to write down the address of 98331 Gear and of the Chamber of Commerce so I can input them into my GPS. I also try to print off a copy of the schedule of events but for some reason I can’t get it to print. Fucking computer! I don’t have time to fuck around with it; I’ve got to get to the bank before they close for the weekend.

Somewhere in all of this I’m on the phone with Kenzie a few times. She wants to bail on Sunday and I’m like, “No way, you’re going!” She’s all, “I feel like such a dork for wanting to go.” I say, “Well, then we’ll be dorks in Forks! Now, are you coming up and staying with me on Saturday night or are you coming up Sunday morning?” She finally agrees to come up on Saturday and she may even be able to get off work early. I want to make t shirts that say “Dorks in Forks Totally Twihard” but I don’t have the time to run to the fabric store to get the necessary supplies.

I’m out the door and on the road by 5:30pm. I stop by the bank and jump on the freeway. I stop again to fill up my gas tank and grab a bite to eat as I head up Highway 16. Traffic on Hwy 3 slows to a crawl l just past the Poulsbo exit due to the stop light at the intersection of Hwy 3 and 104. Once I turn onto 104 things get going again and I’m soon passing through Discovery Bay and Sequim (rhymes with swim). I finally pull into the hotel at 9:30 or so after stopping at Safeway to pick up some soda, water and snacks. Of course there’s a long line at the counter and only one desk person. 

Once I’m finally in my room and my brushes are clean I sit down and log onto www.imdb.com to see what’s new. Of course the new trailer has to be released on the day that I have shitty internet. I try to watch the trailer but all it will do is load for 3-4 minutes, play for 1-2 seconds and then load again. This goes on for almost an hour before the entire trailer is loaded and I can actually watch it. OMG!!! Awesome! Now I can finally go to sleep. I still have an hour drive ahead of me in the morning and I want to stop by the C of C before I start makeup.

Saturday, September 12th:

I get up at 6:30am, hella early for me. Once showered, dressed and make up applied I’m ready to hit the road. God I could really use some caffeine. As I’m headed out of town I see a Safeway and low and be hold they have a Starbucks. There is a God! Once I’ve got my venti double blended caramel frap with extra caramel in the cup I’m on my way. The drive is beautiful and I’d stop to take pics if I wasn’t on a schedule. Why do all the slow drivers insist on being in front of me? Move damn it! I need to be somewhere!

 

Woo! There’s the “Welcome to Forks” sign! Almost there! I enter town from the north end and the C of C is at the south end. I pass through the “downtown” area on my way through town and I’m surprised that most shops aren’t open yet even though it’s just after 9:30. I arrive at the C of C about 20 minutes to 10 and I really have to pee. Like, they better have a bathroom in there or I’m going to pee my pants have to pee. As I chat with some other Fampires as we wait for them to open I’m wondering to myself if I can wait until they open. Finally at about 5 to 10 they open the doors and I’m able to get some relief. I pick up some of the free publications they have for the weekend, my map of Forks, and buy two books—Twilight Tours and Twilight Territory. I sign the guest book and I’m on my way to 98331 Gear to help with makeovers. 

     
 

When I get to the store things are kinda crazy. MSN is setting up for the interview, the back room is hot because of the lights and Staci can’t start the interview until her daughter gets there. People seem to be coming in waves so the store is empty then full then empty again. I grab my kit from the car and fill my apron pockets with what I’m going to need. It’s a good thing that I packed my stools because we need them. Staci’s daughter finally arrives and I find out from her that she’s the ASB president for the high school and has been doing tours of the school all morning. I don’t want to be in the way and the back room of the store is sweltering so I hang out up front and do a little shopping as I wait. 

As soon as MSN is gone the back room cools at least 10 degrees. They only had two lights but man those things put off a ton of heat! Because we got started late we have several makeovers waiting. I’m used to pressure and speedy makeup from doing weddings so I just move into make up mode. Ass in the chair, powder, eyes shadow, eye liner, mascara, sparkles, done, on to the next one. The mad rush finally calms down and Staci steps out to see what else is going on in town and I pull my kit together and put my supplies away. 

Around 1pm Kenzie calls to say she’s on her way and I leave the shop to do some shopping as I wait for Kenzie. I want to check out Dazzled by Twilight www.dazzledbytwilight.com and am amazed by the store. Apparently everyone else wanted to go shopping at the same time I did because the store is a mad house. I spend my time browsing and find a little monkey with a button that says “hang on tight spider monkey”. Kenzie and I have this thing about chimpanzees. It’s all the fault of the Bare Naked Ladies and their song Another Postcard http://www.mtv.com/videos/barenaked-ladies/35812/another-postcard.jhtml If you haven’t heard it, go check it out. It’s a very catchy little tune, but I digress. After I leave Dazzled I head to the park. Or at least I think I’m heading towards the park. I end up going the wrong way and after about a block and a half I duck into a motel office to ask where the park is. Yep, that’s right; I’m walking in the wrong direction. I’m usually very good with finding my bearings but today I’m directionally challenged. Now I’ve missed the group photo.

Now that I’ve finally found the park I do a little shopping while I wait for Kenzie to get here. There are vendors selling original jewelry designs but I’m not the type to wear Bella’s charm bracelet or something that has the names of the books on it. I prefer things that are more of an “inside” thing. Something that to understand what it means you’d have to know what it is talking about. Like the pendant that I found made by Bitten&Dazzled www.bittenanddazzled.com that says “Plus que ma propre vie.” Angela has some awesome jewelry designs—bracelets with quotes from the books, ear rings, pendants, key chains, and bookmarks. I love her stuff and spend some time chatting with her. She tells me about a Twilight event coming up at one of our local malls and I offer to help her at her booth at the Tacoma Food and Gift Festival. She also tells me about a Twilight cruise. I’m like, “Seriously? A cruise?” and she’s all like, “Yeah, they want me to be a vendor.” And she gives me a brochure.

I check my watch and it’s almost 4pm, time for the documentary but Kenzie still isn’t here. Of course the ONE THING I really want to do this weekend and it doesn’t look like I’m going to make it. I’m debating about going on my own but I know if I go then she’ll get here and be all pissy ‘cause she can’t find me and doesn’t know where to park. I just stay put in the park and hang out with Angela. Around 4:30 Kenzie calls to say she’s just passed the Forks sign and where should she go. She sees the park and just meets me there. 

Kenzie makes a quick circuit of the park. As we wander over to where Bella’s truck is parked we see another attendee who’s dressed as Charlie (she’s dressed in a flannel shirt with jeans and police style sunglasses and has her hair braided. Anytime she’s in character she holds her braid over her upper lip). One of Forks’ finest is picking up the police car they have on display and he lets “Charlie” sit in the car and turn the lights on. It’s nice to see that even the police can get into the spirit of the weekend.

Kenzie’s seen everything in the park so we jump in her car and move it to where I’m parked. We run back into 98331 Gear so I can pick up my makeup kit and I can pay for my shirt. Staci is back and I ask if she has the Eddie Bear in the store and if I can hold him. He’s so cute and cuddly. I’m really hoping that the store will come out with all the Cullen men in bear form. I pay for my “Forks makes me wet” shirt and Staci compensates me for my services. I’ll be back next year if she’ll have me. I love the girls in this store and their merchandise is great! I mean, how could you not like a store that sells shirts with saying such as “I got fanged in Forks,” and “I got licked in La Push”? If you come to town you have to stop by and say hi. You just have to! Staci also has the most autographed merchandise for sale I’ve seen in town.

Kenzie and I head down the street and I inform her of my plan of attack. Today we’ll shop for a bit, grab a bite to eat and then head to La Push for the Quileute story telling on the beach, while tomorrow is reserved for sightseeing, more shopping and birthday celebrations in the park. Our first stop is JT’s Sweet Stuff where I find the cutest stuffed werewolf wearing a little red shirt saying Jacob. I’m not necessarily Team Jacob but he’s too cute to pass up. I also pick up an “I partied at Bella’s Birthday” badge. The badge looks so official that while in other stores people stop to ask me questions.

 

We make a stop in the Dazzled by Twilight tour shop where the writers of Twilight Tours are here signing books but I’ve forgotten mine in the car. Maybe tomorrow. I see that they have a Japanese promo poster for the movie, but it’s not the full size one like what I have. We head two doors down to the actual Dazzled store. If you ever come to Forks this is the place for all things Twilight. Bumper stickers, shirts, sweatshirts, jewelry, mugs, glasses, books, you name it it’s here. Kenzie is on the hut for a Cullen baseball shirt. The store isn’t crazy like it was when I was in earlier but it is hella hot. I remember that I only packed my lightweight jacket and I know it’s going to be cold on the beach so I’m looking for a sweatshirt. I can’t find the one I want in my size. Hellooo!!! Not all of us are a size 2! I settle on a red “Lifeguard, First Beach, La Push” one instead. It may not be exactly what I want but at least it will keep me warm. I love shopping with Kenzie—she never fails to ask for a military discount. She scored us a 10% off our purchases.

By now it’s after 6pm and I haven’t had anything to eat since I scarffed down my McDonald’s pancakes in the Safeway parking lot this morning. We need something quick because we still need time to get to La Push so a sit down restaurant is out of the question and Forks lacks any fast food chains with the exception of Subway. We decide on Sully’s Drive In. Two words: tater tots. I fucking love tater tots and Sully’s are hot and crispy. Aside from tater tots they offer burgers, shakes, malts and pizza. I’m definitely coming back the next time I’m in town.

Sully’s was a good choice because it didn’t take too long. We were in and out within a half hour or so and were on schedule for the story telling. I’ll admit, I’m an impatient driver. When I drive you need to go the speed limit or faster or get the hell outta my way! Shortly after turning onto the 110 to La Push I pass a car, not that it made that much difference. Down the road a little ways we get stuck behind a van that insists on going at least 5 mph below the speed limit. As we poke along we pass the Boundary Line but I’m in too much of a hurry to stop to take a pic and it’s getting dark, fast. Soon we pass Third Beach, then Second. We round a corner and our breath is taken away. On the opposite side of the road is a gorgeous span of ocean with the sun setting along the horizon. If only there was a place to pull over to take a pic! Finally the dumb ass van turns into the parking lot for the hotel. Kenzie and I are now trying to find our way to First Beach, and after turing around twice finally find it. In reality it wasn’t that hard but they didn’t have any signs pointing the way, and remember, today I’m directionally challenged.

We get to the beach and park but we’re confused. Just as many people are arriving as are leaving. Kenzie goes up the main dune and looks down the beach to where she sees a bon fire. I look and decide there is no way in hell I’m walking that far so we get back into the car and drive back towards the hotel. I find a parking spot along the dune and Kenzie gets out. She asks some people coming off the beach where if we’re in the right spot only to be told that the story telling is already over. What a fucking waste! We drive 20 minutes; turn around a total of three times for nothing!!! And the really shitty thing is that Tinsel Korey, “Emily” in New Moon, was supposed to be there signing autographs and posing for photos. Total fail.

Since the story telling is out we head back to Forks to attend a free concert. The Mitch Hansen Band is playing at the Twilight Lounge. I don’t know crap about who they are; only that it’s free unlike the Twilight Music Girls who are playing somewhere else for $20 a person. What the hell, if we don’t like the band we’ll just leave early. We’re like an hour early but that just gives us a better choice of seats. I grab some free stickers and a Twilight trivia from a table and start quizzing Kenzie. She knows the answers to practically every question (not that the questions are that hard) down to the order that the wolf pack first phases. I guess it helps to read the series six times.

The band comes on at 9:30 and the first song is “Jacob Black”. I’m like, “Wait a second. Sarah sent me a video of this song on Facebook but it wouldn’t load.” I immediately grab my phone and log onto Facebook mobile to tell her I’m watching the band live. When the flyer said the band played music inspired by Twilight I assumed they meant the soundtrack. Nope. When they said “inspired by” they meant the books. They had songs about Bella, Edward, Jacob, Alice, and they all rocked. If you have never heard them, check them out NOW!!! www.themitchhansenbandblog.com They’re trying to get onto either the New Moon or Eclipse soundtrack. If you go to their website they have directions on how you can help them by contacting Summit. I’m so into their songs that I go up to the counter and buy their CD when I get another soda. After the concert I have them sign it and they’re all really cool, friendly guys. The drummer is Japanese so I put the fact that one of the few things I can actually say in Japanese is “thank you”. He seems kinda surprised but smiles and says “you’re welcome” back. I really need to work on my Japanese more, but again, I digress….

 

After the concert Kenzie and I head back up the street, in the opposite direction of the car, to Dazzled. Why? I don’t know. It’s like the place has its own gravitational pull and sucks you in. We chat with a lady who supplies the store with some merchandise and she tells us how Target ripped off one of her shirt designs. We also chat with some other people who were at the concert, some of the employees, and some people who are doing some late night shopping. 

We finally leave Forks around 11 or 11:30, I don’t even remember. We decide to take one car back to the hotel because they’re no reason to take both. On our way we crest a small hill and see the moon just above the tops of the trees in front of us. Epic.   Fucking epic. The moon is a HUGE, low, orange, waning harvest moon. It couldn’t be any more perfect. It’s like the moon from the New Moon posters is now hanging in the sky right in front of us. We’re both speechless at the sight of it. If I had a better camera and a tripod I would have stopped right there and taken a few photos, but alas, I didn’t. Sucks to be me. As we continue on our way I nearly hit a raccoon that’s right next to the road.

Sunday, September 13th:

I think I was asleep within 5 minutes of my head hitting the pillow. I was wiped out! 7am came waaay too soon. Kenzie being Kenzie, refused to get up so I showered first. Really I don’t remember much of getting ready and emptying the room. We want to stop at the Hungry Bear Café on our way to Forks for breakfast. When we arrive around 9:30 we’re surprised to find that they’re still closed. I’m too hungry to wait and I’m on a schedule. We end up at the Forks Coffee Shop; a really old, run down café in town, but the parking lot is full so the food must be good. (Travel tip, always eat where the locals eat.) Kenzie and I order the same thing—a bacon, egg and cheese English muffin. They have old issues of The Forks Forum­ on the walls. It’s interesting to see what made news years ago in this tiny town. Our issue is from 1957 and has a story about two residents who attended a wedding in Yakima. Such news!

After breakfast we start our “tour” of Forks. The town has designated certain houses as the Swan house and the Cullen house. There’s also a reserved spot at the hospital for Dr. Cullen. Our first stop is Forks Outfitters. It’s not really its own store, it’s situated between the Thirftway and the Ace Hardware, which are kinda two stores in one. I find a Forks shirt and a Cullen baseball shirt that I might give to Chad but I might keep for myself. I haven’t decided just yet. After the Outfitters we head over to the Swan house. It’s a blue craftsman style house with a nice yard. Not quite how I pictured the house but it works. A lady who pulls up behind us asks me why it doesn’t look like the house in the movie. I explain to her that the movie wasn’t filmed in Forks and the houses on the tour are just houses that resemble what’s described in the book. I swear, some people are just fucking clueless!

         

After Bella’s house we head over to the hospital. If there hadn’t been a sign pointing the way to the ER I would have never known the building was a hospital. It looked like it could have been anything but a hospital. I’ve worked in clinics bigger than the Forks hospital. We stop and I jump out of the car to take a picture with Dr. Cullen’s sign. Next stop, the high school where we take a pic of the sign before moving on. Two more stops before we head to the park for the birthday festivities. On our way to the Cullen house we pass City Hall where the police station is. Since its Sunday City Hall is closed and we have to settle for a picture of the sign instead of going inside to check out their Twilight display.   Our last stop on is the Cullen house. It’s an old farm house that is now a bed and breakfast. You can tell the owners think it’s an honor to have their house be the Cullen house because every day Esme leaves a message on the wipe board for passersby letting them know what the Cullens are up to that day. This is the place I want to stay with Chad when we’re able to come up here. The place looks so peaceful and serene. The type of place you can just escape what’s going on around you. 

   
 
 
 

Yea!!! I’ve stayed on schedule and we’re headed to the park for the Birthday celebrations. Cake anyone? Who doesn’t love cake? Especially free cake. As we’re waiting for the cake cutting an announcement is made that there is still openings for teams for the trivia contest. I look at Kenzie and ask, “What do you think? Wanna do it?” We go over and sign up with our team being the Dorks in Forks. As I’m asking Kenzie if we want to find anyone else to join our team the two ladies who shared our table last night show up to sign up for the contest too. We invite them to join our team and they accept. After all, why wouldn’t they? Kenzie and I are just plain awesome! Kenzie gets us both cake, but it’s on one plate. She eats hers and then as I’m trying to eat mine she keeps going after it! Damn it, leave my fucking cake alone!

There are a few vendors in the park today that weren’t here yesterday so we look around and visit with other attendees as we wait for the group photo. After the group photo it’s trivia time! There are a total of 9 teams, with three rounds of three teams. As the first round is starting a few drops of rain fall from the sky. One of the girls playing freaks out and goes, “It’s raining!” I shout out, “It’s Washington!” She’s all like, “But it was sunny yesterday! I got sun burnt!” Again, I say, “It’s Washington! Did you not read the books?” Apparently even though the books take place in the rainiest place in the US, and we’re currently in that place, this rocket scientist can’t get the fact through their thick skull that it might actually rain here. When it’s our turn to play we’re doing really well. We would have won if Kenzie would have conferred with about who Mike thinks about taking his car to. She said Hastings before I could stop her. We all know the correct answer is Dowlings.

Things in the park are winding down and Kenzie and I want to get some shopping in before we head home. I found out from another attendee that Jerry’s Lock and Key has the license plate frame that I want. I stop in to pick it up only to find out they’re sold out. I order the “I drive like a Cullen” frame and head down the street to meet up with Kenzie. We head over to the pharmacy to see what exclusive items they have. The great thing about the shops is that each one has exclusive shirt designs and other merchandise that you’re not going to find in other stores. I don’t find anything that I can’t live without and neither does Kenzie. 

Once again we’re at Dazzled. I don’t know why we’re here again, we just are. I chat with the two cheerleaders who work here. I first met them yesterday while they were on duty outside the store in their cheer outfits posing for pictures. They’re in their cheer outfits again today and are relieved that things are winding down. It’s been a long weekend for the two of them.

Kenzie and I say our goodbyes to the cheerleaders and each other. As I walk back to my car I decide that I’m going to make a quick trip to La Push to get some pics since it was too dark last night. I make quick stops at the boundary line and at the welcome sign. I head down to First Beach to take some pics of the water and the drift wood. I meet some other people who are on their way out of town as well. They were staying at the hotel just down the beach and gave me the low down on the story telling. The time in the flyer was incorrect; the bon fire was at 6pm not sundown. They were lucky enough to come back to the hotel in time for the story and got to meet Tinsel Korey. Next year the tribe and the C of C need to plan better so people don’t miss out on the events they want to do.

 
 

My time in Forks and La Push is coming to a close. I still have a three hour drive ahead of me and it’s already 5:30. The dive seems longer than it is and my back is killing me which only makes it worse. I had an awesome time and can’t wait until next year. I’ve already started making plans in my head of costumes I can come up with and shirts I could design. I hate to admit it but I think Twilight is becoming more than just a fun hobby. But I promise I will never become a screaming fan girl. I swear I won’t.

For more pictures of Forks, La Push and the festivities go to http://s73.photobucket.com/albums/i204/theladyjess/


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theladyjess

You can see more pictures at http://s73.photobucket.com/albums/i204/theladyjess/Japan/

No Cherry Blossom Festival for me today. I didn’t wake up until sometime this afternoon. Was it 1:30 or 2:00? I don’t remember, I just know that I needed the sleep. I feel refreshed but sore. This bed is going to be the death of me and my knees are killing me from all the ladder ways on the boat yesterday.

Today is Chad’s only day off this weekend. We lazily get ready to head out so the maids can do their daily service. We don’t have an agenda for the day, instead enjoying our time together doing nothing. We’re both hungry, neither one of us having any breakfast, so we head towards More’s in search of something to eat. We decide on Gyu Katu, the BBQ place we went to with Pat Miyuki. Afredo, one of the Norfolk guys, told me it was on the 9th floor. We find it without a problem and set about ordering almost the same thing we had last week. The food is so good here I could eat it once a week and never become bored. 

After lunch we stop by the pet store on the 5th floor to see the puppies before getting ice cream at Baskin and Robbins. B & R has some of the same flavors as home as well as some regional ones like one made from red beans. Chad almost got the bean ice cream before I stopped him, knowing he wouldn’t like it. We ate our ice cream as we walked back to the hotel. Along the way we ran into Mike and Shelly for the second time. Mike works with Chad and Shelly, his wife, has been here for most of the project just hanging out like me.

We’re both tired, and without saying anything to each other we both decide to have a quiet evening in our room, just the two of us. We stop by the bar so I can get pick up some more sodas so Chad can make a drink in the room. Chad plays PS3 for awhile before putting in a movie and ultimately falling asleep. I run downstairs to get some vodka and then spend the rest of the evening on the computer checking email and writing an update.

The window is open (this room is so stuffy) and I can hear the voices of people down below laughing and having a good time. If you were to go to the bar in the lobby and look around you’d never know it was a Sunday evening and almost everyone there had to work in the morning. Most of the people working on this project seem to have the unspoken motto of work hard, play harder. I don’t know how they do it, I know I couldn’t. 

It’s been a marathon night for me, completing three blogs and getting them ready to post. I’ll leave that for tomorrow.

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Japan 9
theladyjess

8:30 am. That’s when my eyes slammed open and I wasn’t able to sleep anymore. I’ve only had 4 hours of sleep, and I’m exhausted yet wide awake. I wish I could go back to sleep but try as I might it just won’t happen. Like any morning after a night of drinking I’m completely sober and without a hangover, headache, or any sign of partying last night other than the fact that I smell like cigarette smoke and alcohol.

Chad is still sound asleep and I’m so jealous of him right now I could scream. It’s not fair that sleep comes so easily for others and so hard for me. I’m not sure how I’m going to get through today. We’re meeting up with Pat and Miyuki this afternoon to tour the boat before Chad has to work his altered shift—6 pm to 2 am. The TV has been left on Discovery Channel. I lay in bed first half watching/half listening to a program on China, and after that a program about the Haj. The Haj, as it explains, is the once a year religious pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, that 2 million Muslims make each year. It’s an informative and interesting show explaining the logistical nightmare that 2 million extra people create on a normally small desert town.    Haji is a title give to those who have completed the 5 day religious event.

Chad finally wakes up and I’m able to convince him to start getting ready as the maids will soon be here to clean the room and I want to grab a bite to eat before we meet his cousin at the train station. Like always he tells me to hit the shower first, allowing him to lie in bed for a little while longer. As we head out of the room Chad asks what I want to eat. Doughnuts sound really good right now and that’s what I want. Once on the street Chad mentions that we have enough time to eat at TGI Fridays if that sounds good. I tell him I don’t care and we’re in one of those, whatever you want, no, whatever you want discussions. I really don’t care, I just want food. He ends up deciding that we’ll just go get doughnuts and I’m left wondering why he brought up Friday’s in the first place. I hate it when he does that!

As we approach the train station we notice there’s something going on. We get closer and see a group of children dressed in traditional costume singing. They range in age from about 3 or 4 to about 8 or 9. I notice some monks standing hind them and figure that it must be some type of religious event. They parade down the street before Pat and Miyuki arrive so I can’t ask them what it was all about. We later pass them on our way to the navy base and Pat mentions the monks are Buddhist but doesn’t go into any explanation of what’s going on.

Pat and Miyuki are both hungry when they get off the train, and after getting their base passes Chad decides to take them to Italian Gardens. We arrive only to find they’re closed. Now we’re off to the Chief’s Club, but since it’s between lunch and dinner, they’re closed too. The Rec Center is our only hope, and they’re open until late so that won’t be a problem. As we eat Pat mentions that this would be the weekend to go to Sankeien Garden as it would be exploding with cherry blossoms or sakura as they’re known in Japanese.

We run into a small snafu when we arrive at the boat. Apparently only active duty personnel can bring guests on the boat. Even with Chad’s clearance the guards won’t let us through. Chad tells us to wait and heads off down the pier. I tell Pat that he’s probably going to find a ship’s force guy to sponsor us on, and sure enough, about ten minutes later he arrives with Larry in tow. Larry is the ship’s lesion with Chad’s office and is willing to tag along as Chad gives us the ‘grand tour’.

Pat and Miyuki are amazed by the size and operation of the boat. Pat can hardly believe the bunks the sailors live in for 6 months or more at a time. They’re both overwhelmed at how big the flight deck is and the fact that the boat can launch a plane every 45 seconds or so. All they can say is “wow” or “oh!” as Chad and Larry explain this or that. I’m amazed at all the stairs and can’t believe that I’m actually going up and down them. Why didn’t I just stay at the office? I’m so tired and sore it’s hard to be impressed with the boat at all.

Chad has to get to work so Larry escorts us back to the gate where we can pick up our IDs. I walk Pat and Miyuki off the base and back to our hotel before saying good bye to them. I’d walk them to the train station but it’s starting to rain and I don’t have my jacket.

The Norfolk guys are all gathered outside so I stop to say hi. Jason explains that they’re all going out to dinner but I’m welcome to meet up with them later. I accept the invitation and head up to the room for a much needed nap. 

It’s amazing what a good two hours of sleep will do for you. While I’m still tired when I wake, I’m not nearly as exhausted as earlier. As I get ready I make myself a PB & J and eat it as I check my email before heading downstairs. 

Tonight we’re starting at the dart bar and we’re supposed to move on from there but we don’t. I don’t feel like drinking that much, and over the course of the night I only order 3 drinks, drinking water the rest of the time. Besides, why should I buy drinks when I can just sip off Jason’s grape chu hi? We’re about the same age so I tend to hang out with him more than the other guys who are either much younger than us or much older.  

Around 2 am I call it a night. We’ve lost about half our crew and Jason wandered off almost a half hour ago in search of an ATM that will take his credit card (not all ATMs will take all American credit cards even if they have a Visa or Master Card logo) and hasn’t been seen since. Since I’m not drunk and we’re just down the street from the hotel I don’t bother asking one of the guys to walk me back. 

Chad got home early and is happy to see that I’m not out as late as I was last night. He asks if I want to go to the base’s Cherry Blossom Festival tomorrow. It all depends on how much sleep I get tonight and how tired and sore I am tomorrow.

Comments are better than two hour power naps!

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Japan 8
theladyjess

Last night was not a good night. Chad hadn’t been taking one of his meds like he should and had been off it for a week or so.   He started taking it again, and just like always, it upset his stomach. I spent most of the night listening to him vomit or dealing with him flopping around on the bed like a fish out of water. All in all I think I got about 4 hours of very interrupted sleep. I was so relieved when he finally got up for work as I was able to get an hour and a half or so of good sleep.

It’s Friday, and I haven’t spoken to my mom in almost a week. With the time difference I want to make sure I get a hold of her. Skype is a great, only costing us $0.021/minute. It’s 10 pm here time so I call forgetting that it’s still Thursday for her. She’s happy to hear from me but asks if I can call back because the final episode of ER has just started and she really wants to see it. I hang up and decide I should do my laundry since I’m running out of clean shirts.

The hotel does Chad’s laundry for free as part of the arrangement the shipyard has with the hotel, along with the drink tickets and free breakfast. The laundry perk is great, except when I’m here they charge us for my laundry as well as his. Thankfully they provide free washers and dryers on the second floor. I gather up all our laundry and head down. Luck is on my side and three of the four washers are empty. I start my loads and head back upstairs to check my email. The maids have just begun to clean the room when I get back. Not wanting to get in their way I grab my bag and head out in the search for something to eat.

I wander aimlessly down Blue Street not knowing what I want and just trying to waste time. I stop by Vie De France and pick up a few rolls before deciding to go in search for the illusive underground market I’ve heard talked about. I know there’s a market under the ‘swan mall’ (I don’t know the name of it, but they have a swan in their logo) so I head there. The market is big, but I’m not sure if it’s the one that the guys from the shipyard were telling me about. I meander through, never the less, as the sights and smells of so much good food lure me on. The cakes, pastries and candies are so tempting, so perfect they’re all most too nice to eat. A few stalls down the smell of loose green teas is almost overwhelming. In the middle, the meat stands offer almost any cut of beef, pork, chicken and a few other meats you could imagine. I stay away from the sea food stands. Just the smell of fish is enough to turn my stomach. 

Eventually I realize that it’s been over an hour since I left and I need to get our clothes in the dryer. I find my way back to the street and enjoy the sun on my face as I walk the block or so back to the hotel. Before going up to the room I switch the laundry and pick up my shirts that will be hung in the bathroom to dry. It’s almost midnight at home but Mom won’t mind if I call. 

I’m mainly calling to check on Hans. I’ve never been away from him for this long and I’m kinda stressed out about it.  Mom reassures me that he’s doing fine. They’re playing ball with him almost every day and giving him plenty of attention. She also mentions that she’s picked up two more dogs for rescue. One of the dogs was left in an apartment by his owners when they moved out. It took the owner of the building two days to catch him. The dog, Dieter, is wary of men and Mom has told Dad several times to give him room and not get too close. Dad, being Dad, didn’t listen and Dieter nipped at him as a result. Serves Dad right if you ask me.

   Last night I hung out with some of the guys from Norfolk that are here working on the project. One of them invited me to a party they’re having tonight. Chad’s been telling me to get out of the room and meet people so I decided to go. Let me tell you, interesting doesn’t even begin to describe the night. 

When I went downstairs this evening the party hadn’t started yet. Some of the shipyard guys saw me and called me over to join in their dice game. Since I had lost money last time I played I figured why not play this time, perhaps I could win some of it back. And I did, about ¥1,000. 

Eventually the game broke up and people started going their separate ways. I headed over to a side room to join the Norfolk party. I didn’t know many of the guys, but hung out anyway. One of the Japanese workers was fascinated with tattoos and was collecting photos of everyone. Being the proud owner of two tattoos myself, I contributed mine to the mix. Thankfully I don’t understand Japanese because one of the guys was making some crude remarks about my chest. You don’t need to understand the words when the gestures speak for themselves. There was one other woman there, the mom of one of the Norfolk guys, and we were the highlight of the party for the Japanese gentlemen. I think all of them had their picture taken with one or the both of us.

Someone brought a bottle of Absinthe and the shots started getting poured. I’ve heard things about Absinthe and the Green Fairy in the past (it’s featured quite heavily in Moulin Rouge) and decided to give it a try. It’s like drinking liquid licorice. It’s strong. I’m the only one who did the shot without a chaser because I’m hard core. I think the guys were impressed with me. After the Absinthe I did two shots of sake (rice wine). The sake didn’t really have a taste to it, much like vodka. Since on one brought any vodka I went out to the hotel bar to get one to mix with some orange juice that was on the table. We all stood around talking and taking pictures and just having a good time.

I followed some of the guys outside while they had a smoke and noticed that there was a large crowd gathered around something across the street. As the guys wandered back they began telling the rest of us that one of the massagie girls had gotten beaten up by two others. She was still lying on the street when the shore patrol showed up. The shore patrol must have called the MPs because they arrived next. Someone called an ambulance and the girl still hadn’t moved by the time they showed up. Her friend was with her, holding her head as they waited. Finally the police arrived to take statements and the girl was taken away in the ambulance. We think it may have been a turf dispute because before the police left the girls who work that corner were back.

As the party wound down we headed up to the guy’s boss’ room to hang out for a bit before heading out on a pub crawl. Some of the guys continued to drink, but I had switched to water earlier as to not get too drunk too soon. We sat listening to music and eating the fresh lumpia one of the guys was making. Just like the shipyard guys, the Norfolk guys gave me shit about my age, saying that I was only 15 (yea! I’ve aged 3 years).  The guys were getting rowdy, and two of them crashed through the divider on the patio separating the two rooms. With that we decided that the best thing would be to get going.

Our first stop on our pub crawl was a tiny bar called Tom & Jack’s. I don’t think the bar was much bigger than two or three of our hotel rooms put other. As we stood there shoulder to shoulder some navy guy tried to give us shit about being on the dance floor, as if we had somewhere else we could stand. After one round we headed to our next destination, Country George. I liked this bar much more that the other one. It felt comfortable, like being at home. Perhaps it was just the fact that it was bigger and was playing country music. Justin, one of the Norfolk guys, was starting to get into it with a guy who we had seen briefly at the hotel. I pulled him outside and calmed him down explaining that Japan isn’t the place to get into a fight and get arrested. Once back inside we finished our drinks before heading to the next bar. Since I don’t walk as fast as everyone else Jason hung back with me, allowing me to walk at my own pace. On our way, Justin and his cousin, Mikie, left us, returing to the hotel. 

We ended up at a place called Wanna Bees, but the guys simply call it the dart bar because they can play darts there. This was our last stop for the evening. The more drunk I got the more things became fuzzy. I do remember Jason teasing me about using the bathroom so much, but when you gotta go you gotta go and drinking makes me go. After hearing some really bad karaoke I’ve come to the conclusion that it should be outlawed around the world. I know the Japanese are the ones who came up with it, but seriously, it should be used as a torture device. It’s downright painful to listen to.

I was out later than what I planned on, but the guys were impressed. I was able to pretty much go drink for drink with them, often finishing mine before they finished theirs. I left the bar around 4 am, escorted by Jason who made sure I got back to my room safely. Chad was surprised that I was out so late, but happy that I had left him a note. I found out later that some of the guys were out until 7 am.

Hanging out with the guys is great, but comments are better!

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Japan 7
theladyjess

What time is it and why is someone pounding on the door? It takes me a good minute to figure out what’s going on. I foggily remember Chad leaving early and telling me to go back to sleep. It’s now 2:00pm and the maid wants to clean the room. I try to tell the maid to come back in a little while but I’m not sure if she understands. I get my answer a minute later when the front desk calls. I let them know that I’ll be out of the room in a half hour. I must have been more tired than I realized to have slept so late. Just as I’m gathering my things to leave the maid is at the door again. This time I let her in as I let myself out. 

Today I’m exploring a different mall. The Daiei mall to be exact. Like More’s City, this mall has a market and I’m inexplicitly drawn into it. There’s something about the markets here that draw me in. I can’t seem to pass one without fighting the urge to wander the aisles. This time I let the market draw me in and I mindlessly wander around, looking for nothing in particular. 

 All this time in the market has made me hungry and I head to the food court to find something for lunch.  It’s hard having food allergies in a place that relies so heavily on seafood. I don’t trust any of the restaurants so I settle on a coffee shop that serves hot dogs. Hotdogs and sausages seem to be popular here, with even McDonald’s getting in on the action. This coffee shop reminds me of home;   people reading or visiting with a friend or listening to their iPod while enjoying their coffee. Here, just like at Starbucks, a seat doesn’t stay empty long as one person gets up and another takes their place.

I continue my shopping after my snack. I spot things here or there with cherry blossoms, my new obsession. As much as I hate pink, I’m beginning to like it provided the item has a cherry blossom on it. I discover a small tea shop and pick up some mango and cherry blossom teas to drink later in my room. A few floors up I find a book store with a small selection of English books. About half the books are for learning English but I manage to find two that catch my interest. The first is about Japanese customs and etiquette and the second is a crash course on Japan-food, culture, history, government, etc. Both books are written in both English and Japanese.

I finish up at the mall and head back to the hotel, treasures in hand. It’s beginning to rain and everyone is using their umbrellas. “Whimps,” I think to myself. It’s not really raining. Halfway to the hotel I abandon my hood. The wind keeps blowing it down and I won’t melt if I get a little wet. After dropping my things in the room I head down to the bar to hang out for awhile. I’m not in a drinking mood so I stick to Coke. I’m mainly wasting time down here, not wanting to sit in that tiny room all night. I share conversation here and there with other shipyard people. 

As the night wears on the bar empties out as people call it a night. They have to work in the morning so I can’t really blame them. I’m left talking with a couple of people and one of them let’s me try her ‘Taliban taco’. It’s a pita pocket stuffed with chicken, lettuce and sauce that’s sold at a little hole in the wall owned and run by Iranians. I’m hungry and it’s really tasty so I say goodnight and head upstairs to grab my jacket.

As I head down the alley to the stand I pass one of the gentlemen who I spoke with briefly earlier. He’s in conversation with two ‘massagie girls’ and doesn’t seem to notice me as I pass. Massagie girls are working girls. They usually hang out in pairs along the streets near the hotel. They prey upon foreigners and can be relentless in their pursuit of their next ‘client’. Chad is terrified of them and will purposely walk on the opposite side of the street and avoid all eye contact with them in attempts to get them to leave him alone. If you didn’t know what the girls were there for you’d never know they were working girls. They dress in jeans and all have coats on, not the typical image of a prostitute. As a woman they don’t pay me any attention but if a guy walks by you’ll hear, “Massagie? Me give you massagie? Happy ending!”

I get to the stand and order a beef pita. I’m really hungry and it’s really good. Just what I need. I eat it as I walk back, stuffing it in my pocket as I duck into the 7-11 to grab something sweet. I settle for a cake and custard dessert and a chocolate éclair. I swear I’m going to be so fat by the time I leave here with all the delicious pastries I’ve been eating!

Chad arrives home around midnight, and I’ve only returned an hour or so before he has. He’s not surprised to find me on the computer, he thinks it’s all I do all day, but we know the real truth.

Taliban tacos are good but comments are better!

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Random Stuff
theladyjess

Random stuff that hasn’t made it into a blog so it get’ its own blog

1.       Some of the toilet seats in the public restrooms are heated. It gives new meaning to the term ‘hot seat.’

2.       There are few trash cans around, especially in the subway, because they were used in the sarin gas bombings back in 1995.

3.       The mirror in our bathroom has some kind of heating element in it that keeps part of it from fogging up when we shower. I think it has to do with the water pipes. If you feel the glass after a shower the fog free part is warm while the rest of the mirror is cool. Before a shower the whole mirror feels cool.

4.       Almost all restaurants provide a hot cloth or wet wipe to cleanse your hands and face, just after being seated. Sometimes this is the only napkin you get for the meal. Every time I’m handed a cloth I think, “Hot towel? Hot towel?” from the airplane scene in The Wedding Singer.

5.       I’m not the most talented person when it comes to using chopsticks but I’m better than Chad!

6.       You cannot use the hot springs or go to certain water parks if you have visible tattoos. I don’t know why this is or if it applies to public bath houses as well.

7.       Cold hard cash (or yen as the case may be) is still the most accepted way of paying for goods or services here. Some places take credit cards but not many. This is fine with me as we’re trying to eliminate all our credit cards and use cash or our debit cards only.

8.       As hard as it is to believe, Twilight is almost unknown here. The movie doesn’t even get released until April 4th.

9.       The apples in the markets are HUGE!

10.   Some of the American stores/restaurants I’ve seen here include Denny’s, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, 7-11, ampm, Starbucks, and the Gap.

11.   Our hotel give out green drink tickets that can be used at the bar for drinks. Coke is one ticket; mixed drinks are between 2 and 4 tickets. People staying at the sister hotel and at the tower apartments across the street get tickets for our bar as well so this is the place to be. Every night between 5 and 9 pm you can walk into the lobby and hear all the loud Americans hanging out, drinking, and sometimes playing dice. We get 20 tickets every 5 days or so. Since Chad is working second shift, and the bar is closed when he gets home he has a stash of 230 tickets. The tickets can be used to purchase bottles of liquor so he usually buys a bottle and keeps it in the room to make his own drinks.

12.   The area around our hotel is known as ‘The Haunch’. It’s not the most desirable area of the city. There are several American bars around the hotel and every night you can find teams of Navy personnel on shore patrol, making sure the sailors don’t get into too much trouble.

13.   I miss my Hans more than I can possibly express. I don’t mention him much because it makes me miss him even more.

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Japan 6
theladyjess

This morning I wake feeling like someone smacked me in the shins with a bat and discover two small blisters on the bottom of my foot near my big toe. Damn socks! They just wouldn’t stay up for some reason and I had to stop several times yesterday to pull them up.

Chad wants to go to the Chief’s Club for lunch. Before heading to the base we make our daily pit stop at 7-11 across the street from the hotel so he can grab a Coke and something for dinner. As I trudge towards the base I feel every shift of my weight against my painful shins and puffy blister. Why, oh why, didn’t I just stay in the room and make myself a PB & J? My head is still clouded from sleep and I try to put the pain out of my mind and think about what I’m going to have for lunch.

The club reminds me of a high school cafeteria that’s been painted, decorated and dressed up with four-top tables and nicer chairs. The food is decent, but nothing to really write about. Just as I’m finishing Chad asks why I have a red stripe on my face. I pull out my mirror and sure enough there’s a strip going from the corner of my mouth up my cheek like the Joker’s scar from Batman. I take a peek at my upper chest and see a hit of a flush. Did they make my lumpia with the same oil as their fish? Hum… No headache, yet…

I want to stop by the NEX to pick up some snacks to eat in the room before heading back to the hotel. We time our leave just right and manage to grab the base bus in the nick of time. Chad leaves me at the Rec Center, his stop for the boat. I forgot to grab my headphones for my iPod so I listen to the conversations of the sailors around me. Two officers are talking about enlisted men who’ve gotten in trouble for various things: one passed out drunk on the admiral’s lawn, another who had been found in the CO’s house trashing the place, and yet another who was discovered asleep on the CO’s couch.

My trip to the NEX is a bust. Chad was wrong and I can’t get in without him sponsoring me. I settle for doughnut holes from Dunkin’ Doughnuts. As I pay a woman approaches me and offers to sponsor me into the NEX. I thank her for her generosity but assure her it won’t be necessary since I’m getting the doughnuts. Truth is, I’ve got a bit of a headache and want to get back so I can lay down for a bit.

When I reach the bus stop I check the schedule only to find out that I’ve just missed the bus and have to wait 20 minutes for the next one. I decide to pass part of the time by wandering down to Subway and grabbing a sandwich to eat for dinner later.

I get back to the room and I’m not even here for more than five minutes when the maid knocks on the door and asks if she can clean the room. I hate being in the way (so easy to do when the room is so small) so I find my notepad and head to the lobby to write. I’m one of the few people down here but it doesn’t last long. People are slowly trickling in on their way home from work. My quiet refuge keeps getting louder and lauder as the shipyard guys don’t bother to drop their stuff off at their rooms before getting a drink. The party has begun and everyone has decided to sit near me as if I have a neon light above my head reading, “I speak English, come bother me.”

One of the guys is showing off his shiny new toy; an iPod touch and everyone’s gathered around to admire it. Someone else pulls out the dice and before I know it I’m being talked into playing. Its ¥100 a game and the object is to get a 6, a 5, and a 4 in that order and the last two dice added together is your score. You only have 3 rolls and the highest score wins the pot. I begin the game with the ¥600 that I have in my pocket and by the time we’re done I’ve won ¥2,500 off them. I’m not sure if it’s beginner’s luck or the fact that the other players are drunk. Either way I’m walking away with their money and a huge smile on my face.  

Comments are better than winning at dice so leave some love!

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