Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Welcome Brief; Check!

Another day, another thing checked off the list. Kristina (mom of 2, wonderful saint) took care of Mia today while we attended the welcome brief. This was ideal because in a room full of about 75 people, there were at least 3 or 4 babies/toddlers getting cranky. I don't blame the parents; they had to arrange for childcare beforehand, and obviously didn't get a chance to.

The brief was at the "E-Club" (big 50's diner kinda bar with video games & pool tables, tvs and such) in a meeting room at the end of the hall. One guy ran the show, he was a bit dry, but very nice. After a quick hello and some interesting facts about the island (60 miles long, and less than 20 miles wide at its widest point), he sent us down the hall where there was a circle of tables set up and convention-style we picked up brochures and forms and booklets and keychains about everything from financial institutions to car sales and arts & crafts classes.

Then we went back to the room. We covered a bunch of informative topics:
  • the Personal Services Center (they make sure we have everything we need, and tell us everything we need to know about living here) - family support, personal financial management, coupons for the commissary (HEY - send me your grocery coupons that expired! They're good for SIX MONTHS past their expiration dates here at our commissary!), cultural programs, etc.
  • The Staff Judge Advocate (base lawyer, basically) gave a speech about laws on the island - we have no rights. Everything is our fault if it happens. But he was funny. They talked about snakes (poisonous and not) and flowers that if you even smelled them you could get sick - yeah, great.
  • Customs & Culture information- mostly they told us stuff we knew, but get this - when speaking with a Japanese person, making constant eye contact is considered impolite. You're supposed to nod occasionally and look away sometimes. Also, when someone gives you a business card, they hand it to you with both hands on the card, you accept it with both hands on the card, and look at it- DON'T put it in your back pocket right away. A very nice Japanese woman gave this part of the brief, she was really cute.
  • Substance Abuse Counseling - not something I have an issue with; yet. Though my daughter's addiction to grilled cheese is disconcerting and may soon be cause for me to seek help. But let me tell you, they were explaining that there are cocktails and beverages on this island that if you drink one, it's more like drinking 4 or 5 - I think I just became a cheaper date! Where are those beverages please? And there is no WAY you can drink & drive. A grown 200lb man can blow positive for a DUI at .03 - that's 4 ounces of beer. You'll see me walkin'....
  • MPs gave a chat (that's Military Police for you civilian folks). Basically a "scared straight" kinda thing - by the end of that chat, I was wishing they ran the whole US. It is totally unacceptable to misbehave here - loud music, mouthing off, disrespecting others- the man giving the brief said that this island is like a small neighborhood in the 1950's - people watch each other's kids, look out for each other. It's really nice, I'm liking it.
  • They talked about traffic violations, court, speeding, etc. Just don't do it, it's all so not worth it. And really, you don't go over 35mph on this island unless you're on a freeway, where the limit is 50. Between driving on the other side of the road & Japanese road signs, not to mention roads paved using coral (VERY slippery when wet - which it almost always is here), I'm fine with taking it slow for a while.
  • Commissary & Exchange info (they kinda suck here, but at the commissary they will order your favorite food for you if you aren't finding it - they do go out of the way to make it like home here). Basically, I'm going to be ordering LOTS of stuff online!
  • "Reality Check" - differences between Okinawa and your last duty station - LOTS of them. Mostly - we're here by choice, we have no rights. None. But it's ok, it's all a learning experience. Here they also spoke about rip currents, the dangers of swimming in the ocean without knowing what you're doing, and general water safety. Yep, scared again! But still wanna get dive certified :)
  • SOFA (Status Of Forces Agreement) - we get a SOFA license to drive, this was a brief about driving rules & stuff
  • And then we took the driver's test - Craig & I passed.

There are fitness centers with free classes (everything from power yoga to step and lifting, also FREE personal trainers!), bowling centers, tours, hobby shops, craft classes, libraries, and golf. Crazy lots of info. WHEW! Tomorrow we go to our housing brief (with Mia - I think it's only an hour long), then we'll actually get our licenses (passed the test today but didn't have Craig's orders with us, so we have to go tomorrow), and hopefully shop for & buy a car. Then we're going to check out more apartments. It's 8:10PM now - gonna hit the hay soon and get ready for another full day!


Mike Karyn & Nash said...

WOW!! Love your blog and will have keep my eye on it. Mr. Mike says HI and wants Mia to continue practicing her "polar bears"
Take Care!!1

Julie said...

I find myself logging into your blog everyday excited to see what happens next! It is so interesting!! Keep 'em coming! I am glad to hear all is well. Nothing new here...