Sunday, August 7, 2011

Apartment Success!

It may have taken nearly two months and over $3,000 but I finally have it. The most amazing place in all of Sasebo, Japan. Now if you are reading this the odds are I need not remind you how cocky I am, but let me slip on the humble shoes here for a minute and still declare my place a spot of national interest because of the sheer amount of coolness emanating from all four bedrooms of my penthouse. Wait a second - did he really just say four? Oh, he did? Wow. That's what your reaction should be - Simply wow.

Okay, okay, so I may be a little biased as to the level of amazingness my apartment merits. That's an easy call. Now I offer you this... I have a room for trash. I have so many rooms... One is strictly for the containment of cardboard until I feel like disposing of it. If only Japan wasn't tiny I'd throw a damn pool table in there. Also I'm not sure where you'd even get a pool table in Japan - well that's another story.

So despite having an amazing place, and this may to much for the casual reader to handle so I advise you to proceed with caution is absolutely amazing things make you queasy. My friend Cimmi, a fellow Naval Officer, cooks for me because - now get this - she likes cooking... Yeah? I know right? Free food and wait for it... here's the kicker... She does the dishes! I told you guys, this place is borderline paradise. Did I mention the fireworks? I didn't think so - we get fireworks whenever Sasebo has a festival. I know right?

And to claim that my two amazing leather couches are anything short of chariots fit for the Gods would be underselling at it's best. Seriously, I have a more comfortable couch that my Dad. (Sorry for selling you out Dad, but good Lord I love this couch!) Throw in my bean bag room, six seat dining room set, classy coffee table, and full sized bed, and what you have my friends... is the greatest place in all of Sasebo City.

And YES - you can quote me on that!

PS ( I found the most hilarious coaster on this planet... )

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sushi Go Round

So you know those places where they serve sushi little plates on a conveyor belt and at the end of your meal they charge you based on how high your plate stack is? Well neither did I until I got to Japan. Not even until tonight in fact as I write this full of shrimp, fish, eel, rice and pineapple. Honestly I never thought I'd try something like that being as picky as I am but I have to admit I had an absolute blast trying all the different interesting mystery seafoods that I was brave enough to consume. The best part is that my total came to about 20 American dollars, or 1,800 yen, and I racked up a good 12 plates. My stomach full, my eyes droopy, my yawn imminent I still type away as the pictures upload to Facebook. I will also upload a select few to show here. It is funny how in a month I have mastered chopsticks and for 22 years I avoided Japanese food at all costs sans hibachi grills. Funny thing is - I haven't seen a single hibachi place in the whole city. Funny how that works isn't it?

Enjoy the pics!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thinking On Watch Can Be Dangerous

As I stood on the quarterdeck sweating in the humidity, I relished the moment of peace I had while standing watch. In that moment, I became fixated on the flags flying in front of me. The National Ensign, Japan’s flag, the Navy’s own, our ship’s flag and the POW/MIA banner. Watching the flags wave in the wind, flowing proudly made me stand a little stiffer. I looked to my left, and saw the entirety of Sasebo City with its homes climbing the mountain becoming more and scarce on the way to the top. To my right rested several Japanese warships, their own respective flags waving in the wind, while behind me stood the never changing scene that was the base. In that moment I thought about where I was, what I was doing, and how it played into my defending these great United States. I didn’t have a weapon, there was no apparent enemy, and the land I was fighting for was hundreds of miles away. My watch seemed trivial in the grand aspect of things; that I, a lowly Ensign, was part of the world’s greatest fighting force and that my role was critical. Then it hit me more than ever.

I was in Japan - and I would be for another two years, and in Japan I had a mission. I saluted the next passerby requesting permission to go ashore and let them leave. My attention broken, I looked back and stared at the grey mammoth that was my home. The Essex, LHD 2 if you will… the “deuce” to many. I chuckled unexpectedly under my breath as I realized I was 7,000 miles from the balmy Baton Rouge I left. Surely coming to Japan was never part of my plan… I though back hard, trying to remember if it was ever even an option. After some thought, I had realized I made the decision on a whim literally within minutes on my ship selection day. Then the inevitable question poised itself in my mind. Do I regret that decision? Another moment of deliberation leads me to think that it may have been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Japan isn’t America, not by a long shot. It is an unquestionably difficult challenge I deal with on a daily basis; from the physical distance from my loved ones to the time difference and difficulty in communicating with them. The hardest thing about being in Japan is that no one from Louisiana will ever understand it. The customs, the stress, the multitude of work required to get something as simple as a bike permit or a much needed signature. The pace of work is elevated from what it is stateside and frankly, if someone has never worked as part of the forward deployed Navy there is no real way to describe it. Most days I just focus on the main issue of work but never get a chance to “escape.” It is difficult because while I do have a furnitureless apartment, I still live on the ship. I sleep on the ship. I wake up on the ship. I eat on the ship. I study on the ship. It’s not the easiest thing to cope with. I know from experience that it is even worse underway.

Despite the monotony of the Essex I still have a good time on board and often find new adventures. I find myself now on a beanbag in my air conditioned apartment listening to Billy Joel and typing to relieve the stress. I look out of a crack in the curtain and see the hills of Sasebo. For some reason the houses look different than on the ship, speckling the top of the tree covered mountain. From this spot, in my house, where I have control, they are part of my view… Granted the apartment is paid for by the Navy, but that’s as far as its reach goes. I own this moment, and with it comes the relief and break I have been anticipating for so long. I feel good, relaxed even. I sigh and continue to type away thinking about tomorrow, our morning workout, how many signatures I will need, and of course of all the unexpected surprises I never see coming. But finally before I hit submit and pass this on to the public space that is the internet, I smile.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


FPO AP 96643-1661

That's right folks - you can now send me stuff!

What do I need?
Thanks for asking!

Croutons (yes we have none on board)
Homemade anythings
Snacks in General
Nice ink pens ( I lose one daily)
and an amazing water bottle!

That is all! Thanks in advance!

Holy Crap I Stay Busy

Okay folks so here it is - over a week has passed since by boarding of the USS ESSEX and it seems as if I have been on this ship for eons. I miss the feel of carpet, and the scent of anything that isn't ship related. It's funny though, the things I miss the most are intangible. I don't particularly miss anything more that people of course, Laura, Mom, the family, but I think I miss things like having work and home apart more.

Waking up, shaving, getting chow, reporting for muster, studying, exercising, climbing, yawning, learning, eating, and being tired as hell asre all staples in my day. I am constantly tired, and when I am not, I am asleep. When I am not studying I am eating or on watch.

Watch. Wow, watch... where do I start? A five hour shift in the ship's main combat center - you know, the blue lit room you see in all the movies? Well believe it or not it is nearly dead between the hours of 0200-0700. Take my word for it.

Enough complaining, we do get to be in Austrailia sooner or later - that should be fun - I just hope my reunion with land will make me better aquainted and prepared for another underway.

Until next time - Fair winds and following seas!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

So it begins...

So it begins. Leaving Laura at the gate was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It was nothing like the movies, not like that at all. No final waves, no dash to stop the plane, no ongoing farewells… just a hug, some tears, and a kiss. Seconds later I boarded the plane and begun to choke up myself… I didn’t think I’d get too emotional, as I rarely let myself go like I did, but it was as good a reason as I could think of to break my regular protocol.

On the first flight I kept my mind off of her, talking to whoever I could in an attempt to focus on the fact I was on my way to being 7,000 miles away from the girl I love. In a rare twist of inevitable fate, the person across from me taught at the same school as Laura. She knew of Laura’s assigned teacher, and of the program Laura was in. This was my first sign of hope, I frantically explained Laura’s teaching position at her high school and made sure this teacher could help her along the way. Luckily, I made sure to gather the teacher’s contact information and I texted it to Laura the second we landed. This was the first time I had helped her since I left and it had only been an hour since I kissed her goodbye.

I managed not to look at the book she gave me on the first flight. Although I was dying to read what she had penned I was afraid I would be overwhelmed by its contents. Fulfilled by conversations on the first flight, I kept the book in the back of my mind until I was waiting, boarding pass in hand, for my second flight. I opened my heavy carryon and pulled out the smooth, black leather-bound book and opened the cover. Smiling back was a picture of us looking up at the camera and her seemingly straight out of the photograph and into my eyes. That’s when the first tear fell. I missed her terribly already and it had been less than two hours. Knowing that I was headed on a monstrous 13 hour flight didn’t help. I got several pages in, called her with the biggest grin one could imagine on my face, and was thrilled to hear her voice. I couldn’t wait to see her again. She was at lunch with her parents, she wasn’t crying, and that made me even happier.

Boarding the plane I found myself with two strangers on my left and on my right. Out of my carry on I got Laura’s book and a novel I never touched. Preflight I started to think about how miserable this flight would be with the confined quarters and the seemingly full plane. Then I opened her book, started where I left off, and stopped shortly after because the tears were too much. The things she wrote in that book are the most amazing literary representation of a person’s total personality I have ever seen. I have no doubt that a part of her free spirit, the one I fell in love with, was bound into the every single love filled page. Seeming uncomfortable with my unexplained quiet sobs, the woman to my left requested a seat change and moved to an aisle seat a few rows up. This allowed me to stretch out some more and enjoy the flight in a better capacity than if I were crammed between two strangers.

It took me nearly two hours for me to get through the book without entirely breaking down into tears. I’ll spare on the details but the final page pushed me past my limit. I cried until I fell asleep at the last message she included in the book. I slept intermittently throughout the rest of the flight then was relieved to finally get out of the cramped plane once we had landed 13 grueling hours later.

Next was baggage claim and customs, a surprisingly short and quick process. Also another round of security was ahead. The guards were well disciplined and honor bound - nothing like you’d see in America. One was so methodical I could of sworn he were a robot. I was spouting out “arigatos” and “konichiwas” as I passed through the dozen or so lines until I finally arrived at my gate. Warm and uncomfortable, I stopped and bought some mineral water and downed the bottle in seconds while waiting a good hour for my final flight.

After I boarded I silently complained about my window seat and cursed myself for leaving my neck pillow in the overhead bin. Adding to my stiff neck was the size of the plane. Incredibly small, I boasted six seats on each row where an American plane would have four. Two hours later I departed the plane and grabbed my luggage and loaded the heavy bags onto a cart. Waiting for my ride, I ran into a few sailors from the Essex. One Chief was nice enough to let me use his phone to call my ship’s contact. Within minutes he arrived and we hit it off well. His name was Scott, he went through Officer Candidate school to be commissioned, and was fairly laid back.

We talked to pass the time for an hour and a half until the bus came. He was from Ohio, and was surprisingly plenty like me. We shared college tales and talked about Japan and our future at sea. He also gave me the rundown on the crew. Overall he taught me a lot and made me feel like a member of the crew before I even got to the ship. Soon the bus came and we boarded and headed for the base in Sasebo. We started to chat some more while the clock clicked slowly towards 11. Then I inquired about the distance to the base, his response was less than pleasing. It would be two more hours until we would arrive. I started up my phone’s music player and passed out almost immediately.

Once the bus pulled into the base and we all showed our ID cards to the security guard, we got off and grabbed my luggage. Scott had a backpack on each side of him and he carried my garment and duffel bag. I carried my seabag on my back and my 59 pound duffel with constantly alternating hands. The walk to the ship seemed like it took eons. Not only was the humid weather reminiscent of Louisiana’s damp air, it also kept me covered it sweat during the mile trek to the ship.

Scrambling up the quarterdeck, I boarded the ship and followed Scott to our stateroom. After five or so flights of stairs with the heavy bags we finally entered the stateroom and dropped everything on the deck. Absolutely exhausted, I brushed my teeth and climbed into another sailor’s rack. He was away on leave and there wasn’t room anywhere else. Then Scott delivered the news that we would be headed to enlisted barracks in the morning due to an overflow of incoming senior officers. My day just kept getting better. As he turned off the lights and I began to fantasize about ridding my shoulders of their incapacitating knots, Laura popped back into my head and made me smile. It was the last thing I thought of before I passed out for the night.