Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Waiting on the Twins

The Twins play the White Sox tonight/this afternoon for their one-game play-in. I'm hoping that I'm able to track it down on tv out here in HI. I'm torn about my team. On one hand, I have to root for them. They're my team. I want them to succeed. I want them to win every game. On the other hand, we will get crushed in the first round of the playoffs. So what's better? Losing today and looking back at the season as a pleasant surprise and looking for a solid season next year? Or winning today to extend a season that shouldn't have been and then lose in the first round? I'm not sure. Regardless, I want to watch the game. And of course I'll root for them to win.

I went to IKEA's website to order a new slipcover for my futon today, but learned that they do not ship to Hawaii or Alaska. I'm not sure why. We DO get mail out here. They have things like airplanes and ships. It IS possible to transport goods out this way. So I was more than confused and pissy when I saw that I couldn't place my order. So now I'm trying to recruit my sister to pick up a slipcover in person and then mail it out to me, because apparently the United State Postal Service has located Hawaii and is able to transport mail out here. IKEA hasn't, but the USPS has. Go buy some stamps. Support the USPS.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Great Unpacking of 2008

Tuesday morning we checked out of the Navy Lodge and got the keys to our new place. A little later that morning all my stuff from MN arrived. It was weird seeing my things out of context. This isn't where they belong. Yet. There apparently is one box missing. When they packed us up they put numbers on all the boxes and listed the numbered boxes and a brief description of their contents on a inventory. When they were unloading the van they would call out a number and I'd check it off the inventory. When we finished I didn't have a check mark next to box 349. It was described as a box of books. Not surprising. I had about a dozen boxes of books. I was rather amazed at the quantity. The moving guys and I did another run through of the boxes to see if we could find it, but didn't. So I'm triple-checking as I unload my boxes, but I still haven't found it. It's a weird feeling, because now I want to know what specifically was in the box. If I hadn't known it was missing, it probably wouldn't be on my radar. Like most of this stuff. Out of sight, out of mind.

Slowly, slowly, we've been unpacking. I've been washing the dishes and pots and pans as I unpack them. At least I know everything is clean this way. I'm also going through the pains of making sure that all the Tupperware is in good condition and has a matching lid. I suppose I could have done this before everything got packed back in MN, but here I have more room to spread out and the time to do it. The goal for this week is to go through the boxes of books, pick which (if any) I'm getting rid of, and going through my boxes of files. Papers and books. It's kind of nice to have the excuse to really go through things. I've got enough projects to keep me busy for a good long time -- organizing everything, photos, my arts and crafts stuff.

We got a tv. An obnoxiously large tv. It's almost as large as I am. Zac decided we couldn't wait until the end of November for his tv to arrive from OK. (Turns out they just released his stuff from OK, so we won't see that until Nov. 21 or so.) We've been able to watch football this weekend, which was nice. This is the second day in a row that I was downstairs at 7:30 watching football. This is ridiculous. Hawaii played a home football game last night, but they show those on PPV so I couldn't even watch a live football game when it's a stone's throw from here. Weird. Thank god for Hawaii volleyball which is fun to watch, and half the time it's live and in our prime time.

Zac and I have been playing a lot of cribbage at night. He just finished up his two weeks of school and tomorrow he reports for work. Speaking of work, I need to shoot the people in Eagan an e-mail to see if I can start working. It's been five weeks without a paycheck. I'm not a fan.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Internet is a go

I don't have too much time to blog tonight, but suffice it to say internet and cable are good to go. I even set up our wireless internet so Zac and I can sit on the couch with our respective laptops computing til our heart's content.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Until Friday

We're about to check out of the hotel, so I won't have internet until they hook it up on Friday. Please take a few extra minutes to surf the web on my behalf, since I won't be able to. One last parting photo from Ford Island:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Wrapping up my time on Ford Island

Let's take a few minutes to look at some fun images from Ford Island. We'll be leaving here on Tuesday so I'm already getting nostalgic. I'm growing rather attached to the place.

This is my air raid
shelter. It houses 200. What? You mean you don't have an air raid shelter across the lawn from you? Odd. There's a second one just down the street from this one. They're apparently common here. You might want to check with your landlord. I think you should probably have one of these.

The trees here have flowers. They're pretty. Pink ones, yellow ones, white ones, red ones. It's weird to have flowers fall instead of leaves.

I don't know what this is, but it's pretty. At some point I will have to invest in two field guides for Hawaii, one for the plants, one for the birds. They have neat birds here. They don't stay still for photos like the flowers do though. So the flowers get the publicity. Tough luck, birds. Quit moving around so much, and maybe I'll blog about you.

These are coconuts. That's about all I got to say about this one.

More pretty flowers. I don't know why, but I'm compelled to take photos of flowers. I have a couple hundred photos of flowers on my external hard drive. I don't know what I plan on doing with them. I just like them. Color is a big thing with me.

This is the USS Utah memorial. It was sunk on Dec. 7, 1941. They salvaged some of the ship but let the rest of her lay where she went down. Each year the salt water wears away a little more of her, but when you're up next to it you can still see all the details of the ship. It's so weird to be in the middle of a working, fully operational military base and at the same time there are national monuments everywhere and sobering reminders of what has happened in our past. Just down 100 yards from the Utah is a Navy oiler (not shown in this picture) doing what oilers do when they're at the pier. Weird.

Old housing. This is the classic housing on Ford Island reserved for officers. It's the kind of architecture that you think of when you think of old Hawaii. At least it's what I think of. It's what I'd see in movies staring John Wayne and Elvis. Not together. I don't think they did movies together. Maybe they should have.

This is a hibiscus. I think it might be the state flower of Hawaii. They come in different colors, but they're all beautiful.

Why wax nostalgia? We got a house and we're leaving the Navy Lodge and Ford Island tomorrow. We will be living in an area called Pearl City Peninsula. The military has privatized (surprise, surprise) housing for soldiers/sailors. Here in Hawaii the company/agency that runs it is called Forest City. When a sailor arrives here and wants housing here that sailor can choose one of two options: 1.) to accept BAH, a monthly check deposited to his/her account that they spend on housing wherever they want, or 2.) accept Forest City housing where the money is given directly from the military to the housing agency. Like anything, there are pros and cons to both. Since Zac and I didn't want to spend a lot of time house hunting, and because we have a dog, we decided that we would just go with the Forest City housing because it was easiest. We can change our minds in the future if we want, but for now it seemed like the right choice.

One part of Forest City housing is that the neighborhoods are arranged by rank. So this neighborhood is E1-E6, that neighborhood might be O1-O5. (Enlisted, officer.) Most times they are divided into junior and senior neighborhoods. So the E1-E6 will be together, and the E7-E9 are together. They might all be included in a larger neighborhood/housing area, but the houses are clustered based on rank. Yes, it is a little elitist and flies in the face of egalitarianism and democracy, but this is the military. That doesn't work here.

They have a shortage of E7 housing right now, so they offered Zac and I an E6 house. It's a nice place, attached, sharing one wall with the neighbors. It was built within the last ten years, lots of electrical sockets and phone jacks. Lots of windows and bright. Nice little back yard with a patio. Air, all major appliances. It's really nice. But it's not E7 housing.

Zac has had a really strange road becoming a Chief and then for the first year he was a Chief. He did all of it while he was essentially alone down in El Salvador. There were, at max, three other Chiefs down there with him. Part of the learning curve of becoming a good Chief is learning from your fellow Chiefs. They emphasize that it is a brotherhood (siblinghood?) where the best resource that they have is each other. Zac has been missing out on that a lot since he was inducted. Now that he's here at a larger installation, he'll have more resources to draw on.

I really wanted to have E7 housing so Zac's immediate neighbors would be his peers. So he could walk next door and have a beer with a fellow Chief and chit chat about things. So he could establish some of those relationships that I know are critical to his professional development, at least a little more easily. Outside of work, outside the office.

We have to stay in the E6 housing for at least six months. Then we can re-request for E7 housing and then we'll wait for that to come available, if we want. Maybe we'll really enjoy not being around Chiefs, maybe we'll count down the days til we can leave. No way to know that yet. But whatever comes, it starts tomorrow.

Khaki Ball #2

Every year, around this time, the Navy gets a new crop of Chief Petty Officers. They conclude six weeks of induction with a pinning ceremony where they don their new khaki uniforms, get anchors pinned on their collars, and receive their new cover (i.e. hat). It's a moving ceremony full of honor and tradition. They worked hard to make Chief and it is a time for family and friends to celebrate them. I really enjoyed attending the one earlier this week. This time last year Zac was going through the process. At some point after the pinning ceremony, there is a Khaki Ball where all the Chiefs get together to celebrate the new Chiefs and relax after the grueling six weeks.

Last night was the Khaki Ball here in Pearl Harbor. Zac and I went. Luckily I had kept one little black dress, not my KALBD, and one pair of black dress shoes with me on my travels. I could have gone and bought a new dress I suppose, but I'm kind of anti-spending right now as I'm technically unemployed for the moment. I looked nice, Zac looked sharp. We went to the Ball and sat at a table with four guys (and their wives) who will be working with Zac. It was my first major Navy social engagement here. I guess I can sum it up in simple terms:

Welcome back to high school.

Imagine you transferred high schools in your junior year. That was Zac and I last night at the Ball. Whether it was overt or implied, almost everyone I met last night had an agenda. "Don't talk to that person," "That person is trouble", "You didn't invite her to come with, did you?" They had might as well told us to stay away from the stoners hanging out behind the football field, the chess club is social death, and if we want to be accepted we need to drive a sports car or large pickup truck. It was ridiculous really.

It's really an impossible situation to be in. You try to be courteous with everyone, but so far it seems that the Navy is a black hole of drama. You can't help but get sucked into it if you're anywhere near it. I'm sure as we spend more time here with more people we will be able to figure out for ourselves who's "good people" and who isn't. In the meantime I'll be honing my skill of diplomacy.

After the Ball last night we went out to a bar on Waikiki with three other Chiefs and their wives to sing some karaoke. Well, they sang. I don't sing. Not in public. Not even to drunk people I don't know. I'm exhausted today. We closed the bar. Thank heavens it was one of those places that is only open til 2. There are a couple of places around here open til 4. Who needs to be drinking at a club until 4am is beyond me. It was bad enough closing a bar at the usual time. I stopped drinking around 11, so the last 2.5 hours was nothing but water and general amusement at my surroundings. Zac had a blast. He loves karaoke. LOVES it. I have a feeling we will be going back to this bar many more times.

I met a few interesting people last night. And by "interesting" I mean people that I may have to tolerate because Zac works with them. Maybe I'm being overly harsh and don't have enough empirical data to make an accurate assessment of them, but they weren't the kind of people I wouldn't want to spend too much time with. One couple was either insulting each other or screaming at each other (or their kids). The kind of screaming that makes you really, really uncomfortable and makes you look for someway, anyway, to leave their presence. Doors, windows, fire escapes, air shafts, etc. On the plus side, Zac and I made a pact that we will never, ever, act that way in front of people.

Another couple had a wife who I swear was three sheets to the wind when we met her. Although after spending the evening with her watching her drink, I'm not too sure if that's just the way she is sober or otherwise. She shares. Too much. Waaaaay too much. It's not always the best way to introduce one's self to someone new with, "I got so wasted at the Ball last year. I got in to a lot of trouble." Um. Okay. Great. She also wanted to know about whether Zac and I are having kids and talked about first-year-of-marriage-sex within the first five minutes we met here. Zac and I just kept looking at each other like she was a lunatic. Her husband just seems to tune her behavior out.

The other couple that went with us to the bar seemed nice, mainly because they weren't drunk or angry or screaming. My bar has officially been lowered, apparently.

When we left the bar last night we were walking down Waikiki beach back to car, the eight of us, shoes in my hand, sand between my toes, warm breeze keeping me comfortable despite being 2 in the morning, and I thought, "What the f*ck am I doing here with these people?"

You know what role I hope to be cast in, in this high school drama? The cold, aloof bitch who doesn't have the time for anyone. I think it might be the only way of getting out of this one alive.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lodge, Sweet Lodge

I don't think I'm going to cross stitch a sampler to put on the wall here saying "Bless this Navy Lodge Room Serving As Our Home" any time soon, but I have grown accustomed to my temporary living situation. Really, the Navy Lodge is a decent place to live. The grounds are tended to, lots of flowers about. There's a pool. Coffee is made in the mornings and available in the lobby for free, if on the off chance you broke your room's coffee pot while doing the dishes the other day and haven't got a replacement carafe from housekeeping yet.

The rooms have a
kitchenette with basic kitchen stuff. A mini-fridge. In the lobby there is a uber-mini-NEX to get stuff like food, decks of cards, toiletries, sunblock, etc. so you don't need to stray too far. There's are some beautiful sitting areas in the hotel and lots of interesting places to walk on the island. I can walk to the USS Utah memorial in about five minutes. The staff has been very nice, and over all, it's a very calm, serene place to be. In case people were wondering where we're staying, here are some photos to show off our temporary residence:

This is the front of the Navy Lodge.

This is the lobby. No one uses it to lounge in, but it is still lovely.

Here's the lanai, or patio.

The pool. I like the pool. It's nice to sit by at 9:00am. It's too dang hot otherwise. I'm going to end up looking like a piece of weather-beaten leather if I go out there any later than 10:00.

Here's our room. We essentially have two rooms and bathroom. This is the room off to the left when you walk in.

The same room, but taken from the opposite corner.

The hallway to the bedroom, containing our kitchenette. This is where Toivo chooses to lay most of the day. It's a tile floor making it cooler for him. You can see the bedroom at the end of the hall.

Our bedroom. We have converted one of the beds into a holding area for a massive pile of clothing.

So there's our hotel life. Maybe tomorrow I'll post a few photos of flora and fauna around the hotel. Really, the trees, flowers, shrubs, and birds are quite lovely.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mercy can be a beautiful thing, in more ways than one

Zac and I were driving over the bridge from Ford Island the other day when I saw this off to my right:

I actually caught my breath. It was the most striking ship I've ever seen. First off, it's just massive in size. Second, it's so white. Just gleaming in the Hawaii sun. When I saw the red crosses, it really did make the ship seem . . . friendly. There was something just utterly beautiful about it. I was captivated.

The ship is the USNS Mercy. It's a hospital ship. This is from Wikipedia:

The third USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) is the lead ship of her class of hospital ships in the United States Navy. She was named for the virtue of compassion. In accordance with the Geneva Conventions, USNS Mercy and her crew do not carry any ordnance. Firing on the Mercy is considered a war crime.

Mercy was built as an oil tanker, SS Worth, by National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, San Diego, California, in 1976. Starting in July 1984, she was renamed and converted to a hospital ship by the same company. Launched on 20 July 1985, USNS Mercy was commissioned on 8 November 1986. She has a raised forecastle, a transom stem, a bulbous bow, an extended deckhouse with a forward bridge, and a helicopter-landing deck with a flight control facility. The Mercy class hospital ships are the second largest ships in the U.S. Navy Fleet by length, second only to the nuclear powered Nimitz Class Supercarriers.

Her primary mission is to provide rapid, flexible, and mobile acute medical and surgical services to support Marine Corps Air/Ground Task Forces deployed ashore, Army and Air Force units deployed ashore, and naval amphibious task forces and battle forces afloat. Secondarily, she provides mobile surgical hospital service for use by appropriate US Government agencies in disaster or humanitarian relief or limited humanitarian care incident to these missions or peacetime military operations.

The Mercy has helped both sailors and civilians. She was there to assist with the tsunami back in 2005. She was out doing humanitarian work this summer. She left her home in San Diego in April for "Pacific Partnership 2008", a 4-month humanitarian and civic deployment in Southeast Asia. A number of other countries and a few non-governmental organizations are participating in the mission too. The Mercy was one of the Navy ships that was poised and ready to assist the people of Myanmar/Burma when they got hit by that massive cyclone, but their government refused to let outside countries help. Right now the Mercy is on her way home to San Diego. It is pulling into Pearl Harbor as her last stop before bringing her people home, 900 officers and sailors, in addition to 300 US health and construction experts.

When you drive through Pearl Harbor and see the other, usual, gray ships, you can almost feel their aggression. They are designed to inflict harm on others. Whether to attack or defend, their purpose is to cause fear, destruction and death. That's why the Mercy caught me so off guard - it really felt like it was there as a beacon of something good, something peaceful, something merciful, out there on the water. Maybe I'm drinking the Kool-Aid this morning, but I feel good about this ship being in our fleet and out there helping people. All sorts of people.

Monday, September 15, 2008

First official Monday of Navy Life

Zac is off to begin his training. I'm sitting in the hotel room, hands tied, unable to do anything to improve my/our situation. You know what you can't do when you don't have an address? Fill out employment papers. You know what happens when you don't have employment? You can't pay the bills. Crabby, crabby morning.

Besides longing for some work to activate my brain, I'm trying to find a place to live. I'd like to go check some of the places I found, but Zac has the car, so I guess I'll just sit here and ponder the fact that if Zac and I had children that the Navy would be bending over backwards to help us. No kids=no real help.

Query: Where does one keep Kleenex when wearing a swimsuit? No pockets. But my nose is running, so I need Kleenex. And I can't do anything, so I'd like to sit by the pool. But I want to wear a swimsuit and work on my freckles. Sigh. I guess I'll bring the box to poolside.

Another blow to my life -- Hawaii doesn't have a single Target store. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Where the hell else do people shop? Ugh! I'm stuck on an island with
NO TARGET STORE??? Send help! Call your Congressman or Congresswoman! Please! ARG!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Obligatory ALOHA entry

We're here. In Hawaii. Jet lag factor=high. On the plus side I want to wake up at 5:00 am, on the down side I'm almost totally asleep at 8:30 pm. Either I have moved to Hawaii or I'm channeling my 89 year old Grandpa. The palm trees and ocean views are pretty good evidence of the former.

We got here on the 11th, this last Thursday. We've been running around, filling out forms, running errands and getting a general lay of the land. Zac was stationed here from 2000-2004, back when Paul was here. (They were shipmates on the Port Royal.) He remembers things pretty well. Sometimes things have changed, e.g. the uniform shop has moved, but mostly things are the same. That's nice because it's one less stressor of the move. At least one of us has an idea of which way is up. I'm surprised that I remember a little bit from my one visit to Hawaii back in 2001 or 2002. I'll find myself thinking, "There should be 'X' on this side of the road," and abracadabra, there it is.

The housing situation is interesting. Right now we're staying at the Navy Lodge, Zac, Toivo and I. (Oh, I forgot to mention - Toivo cleared quarantine with flying colors. Apparently all my diligence paid off and he was released immediately from the airport. Yeah, I'm a rock star of a pet owner!) We have a nice room with a kitchenette. We're in the process of looking for housing. You have two options in the Navy for housing. Either you can take military housing and not pay for housing, or you can live out in town and have X$ given to you every month to cover the cost. If you choose the second option, if you want, you can live someplace cheaper and pocket the extra, or if you choose to live somewhere more expensive the difference comes out of your pocket.

Zac and I thought we'd try for military housing. It's pretty nice stuff, online anyhow. If you get the right place, it can be quite good. Since Zac is an E7 and married, he qualifies for a certain category of housing. (Due to his rank and dependents status. Yup. I'm a dependent. Go suck an egg, Navy.) We went to the housing office on Friday to see what they had. They didn't have anything available right now that Zac qualifies for. We would have to wait until November to get that. It would be a three bedroom house in an E7-E9 neighborhood. Obnoxious in size for our modest needs to be sure.

[I need to take a moment to clarify a few things. I am completely aware of how utterly incomprehensible it is that I/we don't pay for housing. It is so devoid from normal life that I can't process it. Yes, these guys make a low wage, but they get housing and medical for free. I'm aware that I shouldn't be bitching about housing at all, since it's essentially being handed to me on a silver platter. I'm really just trying to tell the story of how it works.]

[Also, I guess this whole 'rank' thing is rather important. I fluctuate between being indignant, "What? E6 housing?? My husband is a Chief, thank you!" and, "They get closer parking spaces at the grocery store because they're an officer? Oh, that's bullshit." It's inconsistent. I know.]

The housing agent looked at what was available and regretfully informed us that the housing Zac qualified for wasn't available. We could 'settle' (see above disclaimer) for a two bedroom house in an E1-E6 neighborhood. Then we would live there for six months. After that period we could go onto a waiting list to get into housing that Zac qualified for. Then we'd wait for 1-6 months until we got what we wanted. That's one scenario.

The other scenario would be we go onto a waiting list for housing that would be available in November and move into an apartment on a month-to-month lease until then. There are pluses and minuses to both approaches and Zac and I have been discussing them thoroughly. We have to have a decision by next Wednesday. We were leaning towards the housing for six months to get on the waiting-list-later-route, but then we drove by the house we'd be getting this afternoon and we changed our minds. It looks really beat up. We could go get a tour of it, I suppose. (Again, please see my disclaimer above.)

We spent a little time today looking for a short-term place to live. There are quite a few, if you don't have pets. Alas, we have Toivo and I worked too damn hard to get him here to give up on him now. So we'll keep looking through ads this weekend. Hopefully we'll find something and we can get on the waiting list for the November housing. All I know is it utterly SUCKS not having a snail mail address. You might think they're obsolete, but they're not. I can't get a new license, I can't open a new banking account, I can't get bills, I can't fill out paperwork. It's awful. I suppose I could get a PO Box, but then some places don't accept that as a legitimate address. Irritating.

Anyhow, for now I'm five hours behind my friends and family in the Central Time Zone. We Hawaiians don't observe Daylight Savings, thank you. Keep that in mind if my correspondences come at odd times . . .

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Why do we still let people smoke inside?

Location: Seattle, WA
Miles traveled since leaving Mpls: Somewhere around 2,309.

I'm sitting in a Days Inn just south of Seattle, WA tonight. Did you know they still have smoking rooms in hotels? They do. I thought we had effectively shipped all those people to an island somewhere, but apparently they still contaminate the indoors in parts of the country. Zac and I were looking for a relatively cheap hotel to stay at. I went to Travelocity looking for a hotel that had wireless internet and allowed pets. The Days Inn fit the bill, so we reserved a room for two nights. We got to the hotel today and lo and behold they only allow pets 1.) If they are under 10 lbs and 2.) If they are dogs.

Hmmm. A couple of things are wrong with this situation. 1.) My dog, as 95% of dogs are, is more than 10 lbs. 2.) I'm pretty sure the word "pets" usually includes other domesticated critters including cats, hamsters, parakeets and pot-bellied pigs. So perhaps, maybe just maybe the website should have been a little more explicit with its restrictions. Like instead of "pets allowed" it should have said "only prissy little dogs that would be entered in the 'Toy' division at Westminster are allowed."

So the lady at the front desk wasn't happy that we wanted to bring our 40 lbs dog in to the hotel. (Note that I lied about the dog's weight, about as much as I lie about mine. We're both about 5 lbs lighter when I have to say it out loud to someone that might be judging us.) The lady seemed to ignore the weight violation but informed us that we would have to stay in a smoking room with the dog. And so here we are, the three of us in a room where apparently the Marlboro Man had his last family reunion. We have the windows wide open and the air conditioner is on "Fan" and is blowing across an air-freshener in a desperate attempt to make it bearable.

I've got other things to say, to update. 2,309 miles has a lot of stories in it. But it's going to have to wait. We fly out the day after tomorrow. Hawaii is almost in sight. Bizarre.