Thursday, November 17, 2016

There's no place I'd rather be

Bright and early Monday morning, our first full day in Japan, we reported for the Area Orientation Brief class, or AOB. It's 8 hours a day for a full 5 days of information to, well, orient you with the area!

On one hand, it's a very useful class. It's good to know about all the resources available to sailors and their families, the dos and don'ts on and off base, and more. 

On the other hand, it's a LOT of information at once. Death by Powerpoint is a real thing, y'all, especially when it's your first day/week and you're wildly overwhelmed by the newness of everything, not just all the information being given to you. For some who have lived on or near robust military bases before, some of it's not new information, but it was pretty much all new to me and I did my best to keep up. Fortunately, there are a lot of handouts, it's not uncommon to take pictures of slides when needed, and Blake was there with me. I may not have retained a lot of the information immediately, but I've since referred back to things or heard something again and been able to process it that time. 

The biggest lesson I got out of it was that we have a lot of resources on this base to support the sailors and families, as well as a lot of things to do on and off base. There's always help to be found and if you're bored around here, it is your own fault.

After that first day, jet lag was hitting me hard. Our sponsor picked us up and offered to show us a little around base, which I agreed to, and he dropped us off at the cell phone store. By this point, I had the foggiest brain I can ever remember having and I was barely functioning. Somehow, we still managed to get new Japanese phones and even an iPad, because they were on a crazy good deal of a promotion. It's all a little pricier than our plans in the States, but not bad.

Back in the Lodge, we took care of Malcolm and got dinner at the Chili's next door. There's not a huge variety of American food on base, but it covers a lot of the major fast/convenient cuisines. Pet-friendly rooms here only have a microwave, so we ate a fair amount of frozen dinners and peanut butter sandwiches for a little while. The Lodge did provide breakfast every morning. We had been given a welcome basket from Blake's ward room, so did have some other snacks and goodies to supplement.

Tuesday was more classes about on base resources and the like, but Wednesday started our cultural indoctrination classes. We started learning about the Japanese language, culture, food, money, and so on. Much at this point was a review for me, having taken Japanese several years back, but the review was very much appreciated. 

Thursday, we finally got off base and went on our first field trip! The instructors escorted us to one of the two train stations that are close to main base (two different lines), helped us purchase train cards, and then we rode the train to Kamakura. It's an adorable little town that was once the de facto capital of Japan during the Kamakura period. It's a fairly popular day trip tourist location for visitors to Tokyo.  

First, we set free to find lunch. We'd been given a little instruction on dining in Japan, so we felt somewhat prepared. After some wandering (including discovering a children only restaurant!), we found a yakiniku place that ended up being delicious. Yakiniku is where you grill your own meat at your table, and we loved it. This particular place had traditional Japanese tables where you remove your shoes and sit on the floor, but we were seated on the Western side of things. A very successful first dining experience in our new country.



Then, we regrouped and were taken on a little walking tour that led us to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, the most important in Kamakura. We were shown around the grounds and had various aspects explained to us, which I appreciated. It's a beautiful shrine and I love learning about other religions. (It's a shame I so frequently fell asleep during my world religions class at BYU, but it was at 8am and in the dark and I refer you to my earlier comments about Powerpoints.)
Walking through a torii gate on your way into a shrine is believed to purify your soul.


As a final test, we were on our own to make our way back to base. This gave us time to stop and get ice cream - purple sweet potato for me and white peach and soda swirl for Blake. Of the three flavors, white peach was my favorite. We've also found white peach Fanta since then, and it's very good. It was a really lovely first off base excursion! 
A cast member had given me some fish pastries as a thank you, which I didn't understand as a choice. Apparently fresh cooked fish pastries, filled with various things, are a very tasty street food in Japan! My friend had just found them at a Korean bakery and didn't realize the significance either! We tried custard and caramel.

The warm October weather definitely called for ice cream. 

Kamakura!

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