Author's note: Everything I write about here (and, actually on this whole blog, unless otherwise stated) are my experiences and mine only. Yours may be, well, probably will be, different. But these are some things I have learned and would like to share with you. Your results may differ...
Leaving Iwakuni is like pulling a Band-Aid off veeeerrrrryyyyy sllllooooowwwwlllllyyyy. And you feel every hair as it's pulled and tugged along the way. Every one of them. And ultimately, the bandage is going to take a little skin with it too. The adhesive is just that good.
I made the mistake of loving people, places and things here in this country. I started having to say good-bye to close friends last year, so, really, my departure began about a year ago, I'd say. The spouse and I went to our last Marine Corps ball... riiip! The kids had their last Homecoming dance and Mini Marine Corps Ball... rip, rip. Ashleigh and Carolyn left in December... riiip, riiip. I had my final cherry blossom season as a photographer... riiiip. I said good-bye to KC, Amanda, Teresa and Britt.... riiiiiiiiiiiiiiip!!! I went to Kuju, my most favorite place in Japan, for the final time... riiiip! Gwen left... riiip. I said matane to my lovely English students.... riiip. I gave up my volunteer responsibilities and said goodbye to the amazing people I was fortunate to work with... riiip.
I organized my entire house into "luggage," "express shipment," "household goods shipment," "mail," "sell," "giveaway," and "toss," and then executed each of those things, hoping I did not make some grave mistake in my categorization... riiiiiiiiiiip! I watched the movers carry away my belongings, I cleaned my apartment for the last time and we handed the keys over, never to set foot inside the place again... riiip. I sold the reliable, utilitarian car that had managed to get me all around Japan for a respectable sum, but couldn't watch as it was driven away... riiiip. I went on my last day trip and onsened for the last time... rip, rip. I said goodbye to Chie... riiiip.
Today I say goodbye to the balance of my close friends left in Iwakuni... rip, rip, rip, rip. Save one. Cortney... who is kind enough to drive us to the airport tomorrow morning and will be there for the completion of Band-Aid removal. I apologize to her now for anything that might happen then.... RIIIIIIIIIP!
No one but military-affiliated people can understand this. Oh, they try to, they really do. Many have empathy and compassion, and do what they think might make you feel better. And thank you for that. But, honestly, when we arrive in the States with our exposed wound without any hair left, we just want a shower, a greasy American meal and a soft bed. Because we are tired, physically and emotionally, it will take weeks, if not months, to completely heal. And we pretty much have to do that on our own.
And I am saying this as a person who is leaving Iwakuni willingly and is excited about the future. I'm not regretting anything or feel like I am being torn away from my life here. All is well as far as the big picture goes. For some people, that isn't the case. Everyone has a different story. Try to be kind and patient.
Well, OK, sniff, the sappy crap is over. Here are some helpful tips that are more practical the torn Band-Aid advice... and shows you how much fun it is try to move out of here:
* No one knows anything about what you need to do to fly with your pet until the morning you show up for your flight. Seriously... it does not matter how many times you ask about the type of kennel you have, the size of your pet, the procedures or the guidelines... it will be WRONG. The information the people provide you may be correct for somebody somewhere, but, inevitably, it does not pertain to you and your situation for some reason. You find out that your cat is not actually flying in the cabin with you, like you have thought for months, but is now under the plane. These two situations require two different types of carriers, one of which you do not own. If you have a connecting flight on a commercial carrier (95% of people do) you may have an entirely different situation on your hands, and a different type of carrier might be needed. The resources available for assisting with these procedures here in Iwakuni is nil and I have yet to hear of anyone ticketing and flying their pets out of here without some sort of major problem at some point along the journey. There was a Japanese woman at the Iwakuni terminal named Yoshiko who was my husband's savior today (I say 'husband' because I refused to deal with the cat when I had the bulk of the other household responsibilities). If it wasn't for her, Iwakuni may have had yet another abandoned pet. Our cat will not be flying until tomorrow, so there is still plenty of time for something to go wrong, of course.
* This next one is both a bad and good thing... Because we are overseas, the military member must be present for or conduct most of the checkout procedures. There are, not kidding, about 40 of them. And you have to go around on base to each building to do them. And each entity, from housing, to the cable company to the armory, all have different days and times that they will sign your checkout sheet. Nothing is streamlined or easy. It takes an industrious person at least three days to check out of base. The system sucks, especially in 85-degree heat with humidity. The good news? For once the Marine Corps spouses who usually help do all of this crap when they leave other state-side duty stations while their husbands are hiding out at "work" can just sit back and drink mai tais at the hotel room. Just kidding. I was changing the addresses on all of our banks and insurance companies online and packing necessities for the plane ride. No mai tais. The good news is that I got to do it in an air conditioned room! #winning
* We were entitled to 7 days reimbursement at TLF (hotel we stay at on base until it's time to leave). HOWEVER, you can only have an overlap between checking in to TLF and checking out of housing (your apartment) of two days. No one will tell you this until it is too late. We used three days because of when our housing appointment was scheduled. We may not be reimbursed for one of our days of lodging. Basically, because the USMC thinks he has nothing else better to do, the Commanding Officer OF THE BASE has to sign off on us getting reimbursed for that one day that we had no idea would be an issue. Or, we have to pay out of pocket and lose food money for that day. But, with the super cold A/C, daily trash pickup without having to yell at my kids, and amazing water pressure in the shower, the extra money out of pocket is almost worth it. Almost. Not quite. Show me the money!
* If you have a house phone, you cannot turn it off and pay your last bill on the same day. This is just too much to ask. So, go on one day (they are now located in the Torii Pines shopping center) to shut your service off, and then go the next day to pay your final bill. Our final bill was twice as much as our usual bill. I have no idea why, but after a bunch of abuse by the check-out system, you start to not care anymore.
So, these are just some of the things I've run into through this leaving Iwakuni process. I do still have 18 more hours left until my plane is supposed to take off, so there is time for something more to present a challenge... let's hope it doesn't... wish us luck!