All right, I'm getting back into the swing of this now. These photos are thumbnails that you can click on to get the full-size photo to pop up. The full-size photo will appear in a separate browser window, so when you want to come back to this page, dismiss the pop-up window and you'll come back to this. It'll save you having to reload all those thumbnail photos again.
Here it is, home sweet home, Misawa Air Base, Northern Honshu, Japan. Everybody who's ever been here will brag about the killer snow storms they went through. They'll cite weather statistics that prove Misawa gets 120 inches a year - Woooooo! What they don't tell you is that, about a week after it falls, it's usually all gone. The last two winters here have been very brown. This picture shows an exceptionally snowy day here on our street. That doesn't stop people from bragging. Even Barb says over and over again that this is nothing; why, when she was stationed here back in '87, they used to get snow that would bury the houses up to the chimneys. They used to have to tunnel their way to work, uphill both ways, resort to cannibalism to survive until Spring, and blah blah blah blah.
The Air Force Ball is normally held in September, the anniversary of the formation of the Air Force, but in 2001, the year we arrived, it took place a couple months late, for obvious reasons. They still pulled it off, though, in November, if memory serves. Barb and I dressed in our finest and sat through many long speeches to come to the conclusion that nobody did the Air Force Ball as well as our tiny little twelve-person detachment in England. Now THAT was a party!
Tim and I relax watching television in our quarters. The place is very nice; can't find fault with free shelter, water, and heat - especially the free heat, in a country where you can easily spent five-hundred dollars a month heating a Japanese house. Most of them aren't insulated in any way at all. Our quarters are a lot roomier than Japanese houses, too. Well, at least the rooms are larger; the storage space sucks, though. I think that's the only bad thing I can think of, though. Oh, wait; the uniform beige exteriors and the battleship grey interiors are just a teensy bit drab. Did I mention it's all free?
There's a noodle house in town that everybody calls Cheese Roll Noodle. Barb thinks it's actually called Marumiya, but I'm not so sure that you can trust everything that's written on the sign. Any way you call it, they serve the best bowl of hot shrimp ramen I've had anywhere in Japan - heck, they've got the best ramen, PERIOD.
Here's how Tim carved a pumpkin into the scariest jack-o-lantern on the block last October. Okay, it was the only jack-o-lantern on the block due to a sudden shortage of pumpkins at the commissary. The Japanese enjoy Hallowe'en, trick-or-treats, and dressing up for costume parties, but they haven't gotten as far as carving jack-o-lanterns yet, so without pumpkins at the commissary, we had the only one I saw on base. Comes from paying attention and shopping early for the holidays.
The cat gets a whole lot of attention around here. She's very lappy, by which I mean that she will detect, through a means not comprehensible to the human mind, whenever somebody is sitting down anywhere in the house, make her way to the person in question, and call dibs on their lap in less time than it took for you to skim to the end of this dumb paragraph. And she also has the power to make you sorry if you disturb her by getting up, especially if it's to do something trivial, like eat or go to the bathroom. She knows who's boss around here, and milks it for all it's worth.
Tim and I are great big gadget-loving geeks, so when I saw this remote-controlled dune buggy for sale at a local hobby store, the wheels started turning in my head. I know! This will teach Tim the basics of vehicular mechanics, not to mention how it'll develop hand-eye coordination, careful planning, and patience when putting it together. Yeh! It'll be an educational experience! That was pitch I used to sell it to Barb, and what do you know? She went for it. I don't mean she believed my cock-and-bull, but she allowed as to how we could have some fun together with our new toy. Tim put it together, we both had a hand in painting it, and it was a gas to drive up and down the road in the middle of the night after the battery finally charged up.
Here's Sean all gussied up and ready to go to the prom last fall. Isn't he the picture of handsome poise? You know already, don't you, that he tore his clothes off in the first thirty minutes he was at the dance, right? I don't mean he was butt naked, but apparently what kids call dancing these days involves stripping down to at least your underclothes, or as close to it as you can get away with. I just don't even want to know any more what he's up to; let me live in my own naive world. What do you think of that tie? That's something you could hang over a curtain rod and use as background for a photo shoot.
The air base is on the south shore of Lake Ogawara - I mean, we're practically IN the lake. The North Area housing is alongside the beach area you see in the first photo; it's exclusively for the use of the on-base personnel. We're kinda selfish that way. The second photo is looking more toward the south, where, if I were a professional photographer and this were a high-resolution photo instead of a snapshot made with a twenty-dollar camera, you would be able to see the snow-capped mountain peaks towering over the horizon. It's really very beautiful; just doesn't translate well onto web-page snapshots.
This is the kind of quarters that used to stand all over Misawa. There were still quite a lot of these cozy little bungalows when we first arrived, but they're almost all torn down now, making way for the more solid, earthquake- and fire-resistant concrete bunkers that are going up. It's progress, I suppose, but I had to include this photo because, from the first time I laid eyes on them, I thought that these looked exactly like the kind of vacation cottages that people from Chicago would drive all the way to northern Wisconsin to stay in for the summer, and pay a thousand bucks a week for the privlege to boot. This particular house was one of my favorites; it had a patio out back, paved with flagstones, a big back yard shaded by towering pine trees, and was surrounded with bushes and cherry trees. The last family to live there hung paper lanterns from the trees, and lit the patio with lights and tiki torches. That's all gone now, I have to say, and the base is poorer for it, in my opinion.
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