Monday, June 18, 2007

Day 4. Wow. It's Only Day 4??

Yesterday (Sunday; Father's Day; the day when NOTHING is open here except restaurants that are a car ride away) it poured constantly for the whole day, and it was frustrating to be stuck in a tiny room for the whole day. Especially having been awake since 5am. All of us were stir crazy for sure.

It was BEYOND great to get OUT though- we went to a really cool little restaurant out in town called the Crocodile Cafe. I had lobster (which was soup, salad, a half-lobster with the meat pulled out with a creamy sauce served in the lobster shell, ahi poki over rice, veggies, and french fries - and Craig had a steak with veggies, mac & cheese, and black-eyed peas on the side; Mia had the sandwich I brought for her as there was nothing on the menu she'd even try. (Their kid's plate was pork & But they immediately brought her a magnadoodle to plaly with and the staff there was SO nice. It was a great little place! Good food & good company. Rich, his wife Kelly, their 11-year-old adopted son, Nicholas, and their older daughter (23) who graduated college and is looking to teach out here maybe (BIG BIG $$ here). They're adventurous eaters (Nick had alligator!), and told us they eat at a different place each time they go out. So far they've had good & great, but nothing horrible, and they all knocked on wood.

Kelly & I got to talk a LOT about everything - finding a place, shopping for food (the commissary was a big disappointment really). She said there's MUCH better produce in town at the markets and it's way cheaper too - another benefit to living off base! We talked about the parks, going to the beaches, getting dive certified, taking classes & tours, tons of stuff. I'm more excited than ever to be here & explore with our friends & family!

We got up to pay & leave, and I was pointing out the crocodile decorations around the restaurant to Mia. The rain had finally subsided and it was wet, but nice outside and the restaurant was half outdoors - there was a really cool bar out on a tile patio. We ate outside actually, under an awning next to a tall window wall that had waterfalls. I think there was some karaoke in the room, we kept hearing another party speaking in Japanese and they had a microphone set up at a stage.

Anyway, I was showing her the wooden crocodile, and then one wearing a suit in ceramic, and a waiter saw us exploring and in his broken English, said, "a crocodile is on other side of bar there..." and pointed. Since it was only wet & not raining, we walked around (I figured it'd be another statue or something) - it was a REAL crocodile in a cage! WHAT?! The waiter turned on a light in the cage so we could see it, and the little guy (probably only about 3' long) was in a pond in the small cage. Craig & Rich were paying for our meal at that point (try splitting a bill AND doing yen math...) and Mia was a bit wary but fascinated. The crocodile then walked out to the edge of the cage to greet us and Mia squealed with delight. As I saw Craig & Rich walking away from the payment window I summoned them over. Rich ran outside to get the girls & Nicholas, who were waiting for us out front not realizing we had been distracted. I took a few pictures, hopefully one came out - it was hard in the dark through a cage - but how COOL!

Mia was truly in her element, especially when she realized Kelly would listen to her stories - and then even more-so after dinner when she requested to sit next to Nicholas on the ride home so she could see his Nintendo DS and play Pokemon with him. I hear her say, "Oh, you're 11? I'm five and a HALF." That "half" had never been important until she sat back there with an 11-year-old boy.... oh jeez.

Kelly offered to bring us up to their apartment so we could see it, and we said yes. As I pulled Mia out from the van's back seat, she said, "Mama - can I hold his hand?" She was adorable - but man oh man, we're in trouble. I told her to ask him, and she did, and he said, "Sure!" and he led us to the elevator.

Their 5th-floor 3-BR apartment was a REALLY nice size - big living/dining room, nice kitchen, huge master b/r, and wood floors. Also a big balcony and a great view. She said almost all housing off-base has wood floors. Craig & I loved it there - I don't know what they pay, but if we can get anything even similar I'm game! We were excited after that.

Then we went downstairs to the parking garage for Rich to drive us back to our lodge, and Nicholas ran outside to hand Mia some crazy popsicle thing that she carried home despite the fact that it was frozen and making her shiver- he was SO sweet. The whole time we were up there she was playing with him in his room - basketball, DS, legos... and as she went to the bathroom before we left, she said, "Mama, can he come to our hotel?"Again - oh jeez. But I'm glad she makes friends easily and he was SOOOO sweet. She could do worse for a friend.

So now it's 6am, Craig is at his first day of work (Rich picked him up at 5 because he PTs before work) yeah, up at 4:15 to get ready and thankfully Craig didn't wake Mia who is sleeping on the floor right next to the bathroom sink! So he'll pick up our mail, check in, and hopefully get some immediate leave to find housing, etc. Rich said that shouldn't be a problem for him, which is good. Mia & I might call Jacqueline today (a friend of Armida's, a girl I worked with at Cabrillo). She offered to take us to a park or just hang out together. I'll probably do some laundry too. I'd see what Kristina was doing, but her daughter (Leah, she's 5) has a fever and we need her to get over that; she is going to watch Mia while we attend our welcome brief on Wednesday & subsequently get our driver's licenses.

So the good news is, tomorrow (Tuesday) we'll apartment-hunt, Wednesday we'll get a license, and possibly as early as Thursday or Friday - we'll have a CAR! AH, sweet independence!

A few interesting things:
-The trash situation here is totally different and I feel like I need a class to understand it; they burn trash (small island, no room for dumps!), so it's separated by combustible and non-combustible. They also recycle. If you live in a house, there are FOUR trash categories you have to separate your stuff into or they will not take your trash away! But in an apartment, you can just do the 2 categories, and Kelly said the garbage men (who drive trucks that sound like ice-cream trucks - jingly music & all - ha!) open the trash bags at the American apartment buildings and separate it out the proper way. Crazy.

-There is NO tipping here. Not at restaurants, not in cabs - only sometimes when you get a service like a manicure/pedicure. I took a cab with Mia back from the store with bags of stuff, and the price was $4.50- I gave him $5 and he shook his head and said "no no" and gave me back a $1 and said thank you. I defy you to find anyone who lets you go knowing you shorted them any money!

-I'd really like to learn some Japanese, and was surprised to find that the food at the commissary isn't labeled at all. What a great learning experience it'd be to go to the store and read the Japanese words for "apples", "noodles", "fish", etc. Right!? I think I'll make a suggestion.

-Don't EVER leave chopsticks sticking up in your food or share your food chopsticks to chopsticks with someone else- these are practices done only at funerals - not good. The major religion here is Ancestor Worship - the Japanese are very particular about their ancestors and the way they're cremated and their remains are handled. (there are TONS of cultural eccentricities like this - i find it so interesting!)

Ok, I'm going to go now, you've read & I've typed enough. By the way - you can leave comments here if you want to (down below the posts) - I will read them! Enjoy your day - wherever you are.

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