Thursday, October 27, 2011

Treading water

PHEW!  I feel like I have been treading water for the past 3 months and someone finally threw me a life preserver.  I'm well aware that my life has been crazy because I chose it to be, and I wouldn't trade it for the world, but man is it nice to relax a bit!

Since my last post, I spent 6 days in Ofunato where I did some more gutting, laid some bricks at a park, distributed winter items to families in temporary housing and learned how to play ground golf, a game many elderly Japanese play that is very similar to putt-putt.  Sadly, that trip was my last to Ofunato, at least for now.  I would like to return in the spring to volunteer some more and if that's not possible, I hope to visit again as a tourist some time before we leave.

I also spent 3 days at a photography workshop in Yokohama.  I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up for PhotoFest Japan 2011, I just hoped to learn a few things about my camera and a thing or two about photography in general.  Any expectations I had were far exceeded!  10 minutes into day 1, class 1, I learned how to do something on my camera that I didn't think was possible and it just kept getting better from there. Basically, there were 3 professionals that each taught a different class on a different topic every hour.  Participants were free to attend which ever class we were interested in.  We also went on a few different outings and were able to drill the pro's with tons of questions.  I learned a ton, met some great people and got to work with a few models {a 1st for me...unless you count ones that are related to me}

At the end of the weekend, we had a "contest" among the participants.  While none of my photos were chosen as favorites by my peers, one {we were only about to submit 2 each} of my photos was selected by the pro's as an honorable mention and what they think is way more important.

Here is that photo

and a few others from the weekend

The most important thing that happened since my last blog post however, was this
Hubby {far left} finally got his company command!!!  It's been quite a roller coaster getting to this point but it's here and we're excited for this part of our journey here in Japan!  I'm sure there will be many vague, ranting posts to come regarding this topic =}

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

All Hands Project Tohoku

I leave tomorrow morning for a 3rd week in Ofunato with All Hands.  For those of you that have asked or are interested in what kind of work we do up there, please watch this video.  In fact, even if you don't care about the work that is being done there, you should watch this video anyways!

Six Months of Project Tohoku from All Hands Volunteers on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Fun Sunday in Tokyo

Last week I received an email letting me know that some local photographers were getting together to participate in a Worldwide Photo Walk  I already had plans to meet up with some All Hands friends in Tokyo before they took off in different directions all around the world so I decided to join the photo walk as well and make a day of it.  The group was headed to Harajuku which is one of my favorite places to spend a Sunday afternoon so it was perfect. The weather was great, the people were great, and some of the photos were even great.

Here's the whole group, pre-walk

We started in Yoyogi Park.  I love these guys, I talked about them before here

He's my favorite, I can't get enough of his hair!
 how cute are these two
 choosing the right song

sometimes they pause to help each other with their hair 

 she's totally adorable

Then we moved over to Takeshita Street which is famous for its shopping and its street fashion.

We saw these guys giving out free hugs and kisses on the way over

Takeshita St. people watching is some of the best

that's actually a dude under there

After the photo walk, I met up with friends at an izakaya which is a Japanese all you can eat/drink for one price restaurant/bar.  It was such a bittersweet night.  Everyone had a lot of fun but we all knew when the night ended, it would be the last time we would see each least for a long time!

Toby and me, love him!
 with Chris, he and I worked together every day I was there the 2nd time around
 half of the room

I LOVE THESE GIRLS!  Lucky for me, they both live locally =} 

Military Life

Earlier this week, I read chapter 30 of the Army Wife Handbook {it was given to me as a gift, I figured I might as well read part of it}.  Today I attended a 6 hour class at ACS.  Anyone want to take a guess what is about to happen?!?!?  

Almost 2 years after my husband graduated from CCC {Captains Career Course}, it's almost time for him to take company command.  In less than 2 weeks, I will be the proud wife of the ICORP FWD HHC company commander.  Along with his new job title comes the responsibility of maintaining the company FRG {Family Readiness Group}.  What that really means is, since no spouse has stepped up to lead said group {it's usually led by a spouse of someone in the unit under the supervision of the CC}, that it falls on Jason's plate.  This leaves me with 2 options.  1. Let him do it which in turn means more work for him which leads to less time to spend with me.  or 2. Step up and volunteer to lead the group myself.  Since I actually enjoy spending time with my husband, I have chosen option 2.  The only problem with this is that until recently, I have never even attended an FRG meeting {we've been through a string of unusual units/circumstances}.  I basically have NO clue what I'm doing but if it makes my husbands life easier, I'm going to do my best to figure it out!  I pray that a more experienced wife steps up and offers to help me but for now I'm trying to suck up as much information as possible. {Any advice/resources/thoughts/comments/experiences would be appreciated}

Just when I thought my schedule was going to calm down a bit, I've realized it's probably going to do quite the opposite.  I picked up an English teaching gig as a sub for one of my friends, at least once a month.  PWOC has started back up again.  I was elected secretary of the photography club on base. {I wasn't even around for that one, I received an email the morning after the meeting I missed saying "Congratulations!...." lol}.  The spouses group here has kicked off a new year.  I'm still teaching my regular students.  I started taking Japanese lessons. My volunteer projects.  This blog.  Holiday season.  Now the role of FRG leader?!?!  Thank God for my Lilly planner or I might just lose my head!  I really need to schedule in time to go to the gym too before the pounds creep up on me.  I wanted to start taking some classes and get to work on finishing my undergrad degree but that is going to have to wait until I see exactly how much time these commitments are going to take up.

I have always thought my time management skills were above par but I guess we are going to find out here in the next couple months!

And because I can't post without a photo, here is a shot of me and some of the awesome girls I met through All Hands hanging out in Tokyo

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ofunato & All Hands

Until recently I assumed that unless I tell someone {outside our little milspouse community} about my blog, they don't know it exists.  I found out I am mistaken.  Apparently when you mention a NGO on your blog, they notice.  Last week I returned to Ofunato to do some more work and my first day back my favorite volunteer coordinator {love you Toby!} mentioned my blog.  My jaw dropped and I believe my response was "how the %&*$ do you know about that?!?!?"  Sometimes I forget that people can find my blog by a simple Google search.  I promised my friend a write up, with words this time, so here it goes.

Here I talked about my trip up last time and I posted a bunch of photos here but I didn't really talk about my experience with All Hands.  I will admit, I was a bit nervous on my way up the first time.  Going into unknown situations does that to me {and the all the complications on the way up didn't help} but all those feelings were wiped away once I arrived.  The staff were wonderful.  I had a quick "orientation" then dumped my stuff and was put to work {I arrived in the middle of the day and they gave me the option to hang out or work the rest of the day}.  The normal arrangement is to work all day then come back to base for dinner {which is always homemade my some awesome Japanese ladies} and after/during dinner, they have a meeting to introduce new volunteers, discuss the work that was done that day and the work to be done the next day and leaving volunteers have an opportunity to say goodbye.   At the end of the meeting, they ask for 4 volunteers to do dinner dishes.  Those 4 people have 1st choice of work for the next day.  After they sign up, it's a free for all to sign up for the next days work on the board.  Somehow, over 11 nights, I have managed to only be a part of the mad rush once!

This was the board last week

This was the board around the last time I was there

Our numbers dwindled and they've gotten even smaller since I left last week!
{the project is coming to an end}

So on a typical day buses leave base no later than 0815.  Depending on how far way the work site is, you work from 0900ish-1200 then break for an hour lunch.  We eat bentos everyday, which is a very typical Japanese lunch.  Then we work from 1300-1600ish before heading back to base.  The work week goes from Wednesday-Monday with Tuesdays off, that way if people want to come volunteer on the weekends when they are off from their regular job, they can.

So, that's basically how it all works.  Obviously my experience didn't suck or I wouldn't have gone up for a second time and I wouldn't be going up for the third time next week.

And here are some photos from last weeks trip

building a fence at a park


one of the best lunches ever


harvesting rice to be made into sake

some kids came to help

 which turned into a friendly mud fight

 froggy kisses =}

 the field after the rice was harvested

the house we gutted

I'm responsible for about 90% of this mess =}

I leave one week from today to go back up for a third week and I cannot wait!