For me, this month, there were three Rules of Three that guided my existence.
1) The Military Dependent World Traveler Rules of Three
I traveled back to the States to visit family for a few weeks this month and air travel can be... challenging. Even when you only have two flights to take you to and two flights to take you from your destination. Here are the rules and how I followed them:
|Delayed in Tokyo|
- You will be delayed somewhere along the line. It may only be a few minutes, it may be a day, or two, but when you travel between Japan and the States, you will be delayed. Every time I have traveled, whether it be commercially or with Space A, I have been delayed. Sometimes it is because I accidentally mail my passports to myself. Sometimes, like this time, TSA delays my flight from LAX to Tokyo because they can't examine some Marines' bags fast enough... try an hour and half delay, which meant my kids and I missed our flight to Hiroshima and spent the night in Tokyo... luckily at the airline's expense (and I think they should bill TSA, but poor customer service will be discussed later). So, as you follow this rule, remember to pack a full change of clothes and a tooth brush in your carry on. You never know where you might be spending the night.
- Take a copy of your sponsor's orders with you. Even if you have been stationed overseas for years, having a copy of these orders can save you time, money and a ton of hassle. Some of these savings are are in a "gray area"of what is "allowed" and I don't condone any misuse of anything ever and this is merely a suggestion from what I have seen and heard other people do... yep. But, because of these... stories I have heard... it's gotten to the point where I have the passports, military ID's, orders, itineraries and a pen in one easy-to-access pocket of my purse. And whenever one item is requested, I pull everything out and plop it down on the counter/table/kiosk. And then act blonde and helpless (which, depending on how long I have been traveling thus far and who I am traveling with, may not be far from the truth). Take what you want, official travel people. Whatever it takes for me and my kids to get where we need to go when we need to go here for as little money and hassle as possible. Oh, and the pen is because there are forms to fill out every time you leave and enter any country. Having your own pen handy saves a lot of time. Especially if you can write quickly, yet legibly and accurately, while winding through immigration and customs lines.
- Both Japanese and American iPhones are must-haves. This is strictly my opinion, of course, and I am sure it is not the cheapest/smartest/most travel savvy option. BUT, it was easy and I always had communication options. The spouse and I have our U.S. AT&T accounts held for us, as a specialized option for military members, so we don't rack up charges while we are stationed overseas, but we can turn our accounts on and off for a week or month at a time. We've kept our old iPhone 4S's as our "American" phones, and simply call AT&T to have it turned on while we are in the States. We have our same phone numbers, so our friends and family already have them, we have our same calling and data plans, and thanks to whatever "G" network is up and running that year, we always have Internet access. As a woman traveling alone, sometimes with two kids in tow, getting delayed and needing to find whatever hotel we've been assigned to for the night in whatever country we are in, this makes me very happy. And having access to my Candy Cush account at all times is a happy bonus. For me and anyone who is in my proximity when I've been told I've missed a flight.
2) The High School Reunion Questions Game Rules of 3
|Ready to reunion!|
- Do you have kids? Yes. I do. I have two boys, they are 12 and 8. Beyond that answer, any details sound like bragging. For example: They are funny, intelligent and receive compliments about their behavior and attitudes on a regular basis. They both got straight A's or the equivalent (because second grade STILL doesn't get letter grades - Why, people why?!) and their baseball team won the base championship for their age bracket. Well, actually, the younger one played up a couple of years because the 7-9 year old bracket doesn't keep score yet (Why, people, why?!), and the poor kid couldn't stand it any more. Neither one of them have figured out rocket science or the meaning of life yet, but we expect that from them in the next 12 to 18 months. Follow me on Twitter and I'll keep you informed of their progress. (Jokes on my classmates, I do not have a Twitter account.) Some of my classmates just had their first baby this year. I smiled, congratulated them and thanked my lucky stars I wasn't one of them. I love my full nights of sleep and diaper-free life.
- Where do you live? I live in Japan. Really? Yes, really. I have no motivation to lie. If I did, I would come up with something even more exciting, like Fallujah, Antarctica or the Moon. I am pretty creative. Of course, I have to explain: My husband is a Marine and is stationed overseas. Yes, I am enjoying it. No, I don't want to live there forever. I'm too American. And I speak about 10 Japanese phrases on a good day. For someone who likes to communicate, that's frustrating. But not frustrating enough for me to want to try and learn the language, which has three different alphabets. The good news is that, despite the fact that I do not live on the moon, I won the bottle of wine for "the classmate who traveled the furthest," beating out a drunk woman who thought Tennessee was further than Iwakuni, Japan. I didn't remember her from high school. Obviously she wasn't in the "smart people" classes...
- What do you do? I breathe, eat, shower on occasion... oh, you mean as a job? Well, as I mentioned before, my husband is a Marine, so that means any traditional career path for me has been sliced apart by a Marine Corps K-bar (for civilians, that's a big knife) so, like my resume, my current means of earning money are splintered: I am a photographer, scrapbooker, an online adjunct instructor for the University of West Florida, I teach English, photography and crafting, I have owned/own some small businesses... I guess I am a bit of an entrepreneur. Of course, just when I am feeling good about my answer, in a room full of doctors, lawyers and financial analysts, a fellow classmate, with an air of skepticism, chimes in with: "Like, how are you an entrepreneur?" Like, I don't know... like, I like to start stuff from nothing and then maybe run it or sell it off. Like, follow me on Twitter and I'll, like, keep you posted. Turns out, she, like, just had her first baby... I will chalk up her lack of imagination to 'baby brain' and call it good. The good news here was that, while I wasn't the classmate who had been married the longest, 13.5 years put me solidly in the top 5 percent of those in the room. #winning #thankshoney
3) The Three Rules of Returning to the States After a Year Absence
I am lucky in that I have been back to visit my and members of my husband's family in the States three times in the two years we have been gone. They deserve much of the credit, as they have primarily bankrolled this ability. Thank you. But there are definitely three things to keep in mind when you go back to the homeland:
- You will gain weight. Despite the fact that I will be featured in the base magazine next month for having met a fitness goal, I consumed a lot of excess calories upon my return to the good ol' US of A. Wahoo's Fish Taco, Dave and Busters, Outback Steakhouse, Del Taco, Lucille's Barbecue, authentic Mexican food, Sonic Drive-in, Waffle House, Cheesecake Factory, the Donut Storr in Mission Viejo, Calif., ... which are the best doughnuts in the world. And these are only the restaurants I can remember without going back and checking my Facebook wall. I had 19 days to satisfy every craving I have had in the past 12 months. That also included a watermelon that didn't cost $40. Yep, my capris are tight right now. So I wear sundresses. Don't judge. I'm back to eating healthy and am trying to get motivated to start working out again... I have a ball dress to fit in to this fall!
- The customer service in America sucks in general... and they want money for it. Seriously... I am spoiled by Japan's customer service. I have heard it from others who have lived here and then gone back to the States, but I didn't believe it until I experienced it myself. I used to tip servers 20 percent most of the time, as long as there weren't any major issues, like our whole ordered being misplaced. This time, most servers were lucky to get 10 percent from me. And I am sure they complained to someone about it. Well... don't make me wait 15 minutes for you to acknowledge my existence in your section, bring me cold food that's supposed to be hot or vice versa, or let my tea glass go empty. In other words, do your job. The Japanese people do their job, do it with pride and don't get tipped. You should taste the McDonald's nuggets here. And the Big Mac arrives on your tray looking just like the picture on the menu board. No kidding. And I seriously don't have time to get in to my thoughts on TSA... but they could learn some lessons from the Japanese airport security.
- You will drive on the wrong side of the road at least once. And it won't be on your first day driving, or when there are a bunch of other cars on the road. It will be late in to your stay, and when there are no other cars on the road. That is because you will be 1) too conscious of trying not to be the cause of a head-on collision the first few times you are at the wheel on the left side of the car, and 2) if there are other cars to follow, it's a no brainer as to which side of the road you should be on. My mother, kids and I went on a week-long road trip around the Southwest, where I drove 98 percent of the time. It was not until the last couple of days where I was turning the wrong way on to a side street and then, again, in a parking lot. I had gone in to auto-drive mode, where I stopped worrying about which side of the road I was on and went with instinct, and there weren't any other cars in the proximity moving in the correct direction for me to follow to help me decide which country I was driving in. Fortunately, my mother was there to remind me - remarkably calmly - that I was driving on the wrong side of the road and to get over. Now, you will continue to screw up the turn signals/windshield wipers throughout the duration of your stay. Just accept it and act like you meant to do it by squirting windshield wiper fluid. No one will be the wiser.
|Road trip! Tombstone was NOT one of the places I drove on the wrong side of the road.|