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Space-A

Pennsylvania

We rode space-a to Dover last friday where mom and dad picked us up.  So we spent just over a week in PA visiting family and surprising folks.

It was a relaxing time and nice to see the states after nearly 2 years.  The shopping overwhelmed me at first, with so much stuff in every store … especially craft things and books that are hard to find. In the end I did get a few things. 
We spent most days playing out in the fresh air and doing some schoolwork.  One day it was warm and springish and the next it snowed 6+ inches!  We had a blast sledding and then it warmed again. 
Of course the most exciting thing was news from Bryan that he knows our next assignment.  It’s at the NATO school in Spain!  I don’t think the news has really sunk in. 
A week later and we found ourselves at BWI trying for a spot on the rotator to Ramstein.  Mom and dad waited with us as the 156 seats weren’t a shoe in.  In fact, it filled up!  And we were aboard, ready for our next continent and a visit with Bethany. 
Waiting for roll call at the bwi uso

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Spontaneity (alternate title: There I Fixed My Spelling, Bethany)

This morning I woke up between two kids.  Bryan flew late and so they like sleep with me when he won’t be home until we are all sleeping.

I had spent some time yesterday searching for and pondering spending some big bucks to go see Bethany in Germany.  It’s been so long since we have visited her and she and I have been talking about doing a trip this spring.  I was holding off for finding our assignment – in case we end up in Europe I didn’t want to spend a lot of my own money, just to be sent by the AF a few months later.  But that news still hasn’t come and is driving me nuts. 
Anyway,  all this has been going on in my brain lately.  The pros and cons of buying tickets to Germany, the uncertainty of wether its well spent if we get stationed in Spain, or would that mean a wasted opportunity to make one last Asian visit with that money.
Well, this morning a solution apparated!  I often check the space-A boards at Osan figuring out if I could do an Asia to Europe hop, but it’s hard as I cannot make two stops in CONUS (because of a rule for dependents).  So I try to work around that, but in general, Pacific military craft stay on the west coast and Atlantic stay on the east coast; very rare is a flight connecting the two with a single-landing in the states.  It’s irritatingly complex and nonsensical.  Retirees can do it,  and so could I 6 years ago… 
But this morning an even rarer thing happened: a flight from Korea to the east coast!  What?! I had to call and verify.  From Korea,  I always have a stopover in Japan, perhaps Hawaii, rarely Alaska, and onward to west coast bases… never have I seen a flight to Delaware!  
Needless to say,  it was a busy morning of decisions.  Was I ready to go?  Is Bryan OK with this?  His thoughts and advice were essential and sound:  this is a rare opportunity,  the kids haven’t seen their family in nearly two years, you will save us thousands, just do it. 
So we spent the morning packing.  In reality that took only about an hour,  but the kids’ schoolwork prep took a while longer.  I don’t want to bring entire teachers guides, so I photo those pages. I don’t want to bring bulky workbooks, so I pull the pages we will need. I also tried to get any of our reading books on my kindle, and we had a few things to finish up.  
Luckily roll call was late afternoon and Bryan was still on nights so we spent the morning with him and all had lunch at the BX together before dropping him at work and finishing our own Africa unit at home.
At the terminal we were the only propel trying for the flight until roll call when one other dude showed up.  So, with 73 seats available, four were used for space-a.  It was too easy. They didn’t even scan our bags or anything! It was just, ” hey let’s walk out to the plane” and we went out the back door.
A C-5 has seating upstairs – it’s all cushyairline  seats, but rear facing and with only two windows at the emergency exits.  Slightly claustrophobic. But free.  I hung out by an exit window texting Bryan and Bethany while the kids ate their subway dinner.  Bryan was going to takeoff just before us and we got to see him taxi past!  It was really cool to know we were flying at the same time.  I’m sad he can’t come along.  Maybe he will see our little blip on his radar for a bit and feel the love. 
Other than landing, our flight was uneventful.  We mostly slept, but Avu got sick when we were landing.  A that sleep turned and the odd laying -back feelings gave him a yucky stomach. 
Now, we do have a layover in Alaska,  which is hopefully not too long.  The crew doesn’t seem to know. The Elmendorf space-a board shows our flight departing late tonight (as in tomorrow night for us – back in time), the other passenger seems to think we would stay over, and the crew was vague.  We will see! I don’t care; it’s free.  
——-
We have been at Elmendorf for 15 hours and been fairly productive. Just got checked in for the onward flight to Diver after a wild and cold, but surprisingly stress free layover.
First, the kids just wanted to play in the family room at the terminal, and I was happy for that while I attempted to see messages to Bryan and the fam.  I also wanted to check out “to-do” things here, feeling that surely this base has something either fun or cultural for us to waste an afternoon doing.  The Internet, however, is out! 
Spoke with the passenger service rep and he recommended we go to a place called Arctic Oasis: an indoor playground with wifi and a nice cafe.  Sounds great. A one stop shot for what we need. He also verified for me, nay, promised me, that the terminal would remain open all night because roll call was at 0145.  They usually close at 2200 for cleaning; he said he would “make sure that doesn’t happen.”  No need to get lodging only to leave in the middle of the night. I agreed that was great.
So we spent the afternoon at Arctic Oasis. The ymca runs an on-call base taxi service shuttle, which took an hour to arrive.  No matter, kids had fun playing out in the cold breaking ice. The sky and the view is gorgeous, though the temp is at ONE degree!
Arctics oasis was all it was promised: a free indoor playground and rock climbing wall.  There was even a bouncy castle or for an extra buck, which we took advantage of. After some hours there living on fumes and snacks, the kids were pooped and hungry… Bummer te cafe was under renovation.
We walked three blocks (big, alaska blocks) and through a field to the nearest food: BK where I encountered the nicest BK employee ever! He cheered me up and we had a great late lunch/ early dinner.
The BK folks called the shuttle for us to return to the pax terminal and it was right there in a minute!  I expected a long wait, so we packed up our leftovers and road along to drop off another passenger.  It was s great tour of this giant base, and fulfilled Zoe’s desire to see what base housing looked like. 
Back at the terminal was chaos; quite different from the empty morning.  Apparently a different flight had taken off and returned;  all the pax (lots of kids) were waiting for news.  My kiddos enjoyed playing for a bit, but their BK good soon wore off and they glazed Iiver to watch Cars which I borrowed from the front desk (they have a big list).
Before it was over, the place cleared out when everyone else found out the flight pushed to tomorrow. Good for us. We needed a nap!! So, around 7pm we snuggled into the comfy couch and woke up at dark.  It was about 10 PM, Zoe had made an amazing wood block castle, Avi was still asnooze, and I went out to the desk to verify they weren’t closing, only to find that they were. I mentioned the guy this morning and the new shift were a bit peeved he would say that.
The rep said one of the lodging buildings was open 24 hours with a lobby / rec room by far away.  So, I reluctantly packed us up, woke Avi and bundled to far the dark freezing Alsaka night.  It was only two blocks and we shortened it by cutting across lots, but we were frozen when we got there.  
The place was warm, and empty an ripped apart under remodel.  No carpets, wrecked wooden stuff everywhere, paint and plaster all over!   The rec room was full of equipment so we wandered the empty, but oddly fully lit halls, upstairs and found an open door to the “staff” room.  It was just fine and had some bonus cardboard to sit on instead of nails and plaster dust!  Though it felt like we were homeless people squatting in an abandoned building, we didn’t care.  I was surprised at how much we didn’t care… Just ate our BK leftovers, played some Uno and watched That Darn Cat on my computer to occupy our time.  Good thing we were wide awake!
The trek back to the terminal at one AM was the coldest I’ve ever felt!  We are all wearing layers and our winter coats and gloves, but the old bit right through!! Both kids had amazing attitudes all day and Ben this last obstacle didn’t faze them.  Avi said we should to be warm quicker, so run we did.  The air was so cold it hurt my lungs. The sky was beautiful!  Just as we thought we’d freeze to death we flipped into the terminal.  
Our continued journey is a go.  The passenger rep got us checked in and then roll called some new passengers; we won’t have the plane to ourselves this go. I bought two box lunches, and we settled into the playland for a bit. Will get going at 3am! 
Mom and dad should be keeping track of our arrival via the Dover pax terminal,  I sure hope!  I was able to send and receive a few emails and texts during our afternoon at Arctic Oasis, but otherwise it’s been a communication-less evening.
The announcement went over the loud speaker that we were heading out to the plane a bit early, so the gaggle of us spats (space a travelers) lined up at the departure gate.  There were a couple young guys and a few retirees joining us; one with a tiny dog!  The screening process was the same at any airport, but once all 9 were through security we walked out to a blue military bus waiting in the darkness of 3am. 
The bus drive us all around the flight line to where our gigantic C-5 was being loaded.  Is an incredible site to see a plane like this, rear entrance opened, being loaded with pallets. A giant vehicle with a platform brings the pallets and then raises itself up to the level of the open cargo deck an they are slid on. Outside the plane there were lots of other vehicles and people prepping.  We waited a while until the load master called over the radios thy he was ready for passengers. Another rep from the terminal drove a set of air stairs up to the lower level door and our bus driver pulled closely behind.  Again we waited for news that we could board. 
Avi was first out the bus and first up the stairs.  Inside the door, we were on the cargo deck – mostly empty but for a few pallets of netted-downequipment, and our luggage- there is a steep ladder to the seating area on the upper deck. Again, Avi was first up.  I could tell he felt like a pro as the loadmasters crew gave him warm a, “welcome back”.  Zoe scootled up after and I followed.  We claimed two rows across the aisle, in the back middle where the heat works best. 
The seats on a C-5 are really wide and comfy, spaced with lots more legroom than an airline, in rows of 3 and 3.  Avi and I sat across from Zoe.  As we got settled, a crewman brought our 2 box lunches.  On most flights you can buy one of these for $5.  It’s typically a meat and cheese sandwich, a piece of fruit, a water, a soda an 2-3 package snacks like chips and granola bars.  We noshed down a good bit while the plane was readied…. this involves lots of weird mechanical sounds followed by the engines starting up.
 
Eventually, we packed our leftovers and could sense movement as we rolled along to taxi to the runway. No windows to tell.  It’s an odd sensation taking off backwards, too.  Instead of being pushed back into your seat, it’s like being pulled forward down. Our lunchbox (because they are delivered, literally, in a box) leftovers went sliding down the floor-turned-ramp.

Zoe laid down and slept before we even leveled out, and Avi was soon to follow. I dozed, seated, for a bit and then tried to spoon with Avi on our seat.  No luck, our dear choice was a bit cold so we were too bulky with coats on.  Instead, I got him settled and laid down across the row with his packed pillow and one of the available scratchy wool blankets.  I went to lay on the empty row in front of Zoe and fell asleep.  

Only woke a couple times before realizing wer were about ready to begin decending to land!  I found our lunch box had slid all the way past 8 rows of seats and was caught near the front under some escape gear and rope. Then I sat down with Avi’s head on my lap for landing!!  Both kids slept through that. 
Can’t wait to get to PA for our spontaneous trip!  And get a shower. 

C-130

Sleeping at the terminal worked out great.  In fact,  if we hadn’t been there I never would have known about the flight we caught and we would be stuck in Hawaii for a while longer!  Thanks to Zoe!!!  She talked me into it.

At 0445 I heard the ping of the loud speaker announcing a roll call to Travis.  It awakened me, but I fell back asleep hoping for more snooze time.  Later a lady came in a turned on the light…. And quickly back off when she saw us.  We weren’t in the main family area, but instead on the rug of a side room for babies; it had the cribs and lower lighting.  
Anyway it woke me enough to check the time: 530. Ugh.  I also decided to check the board.  To my shock and awe there was a magical flight to Andersen Guam set to roll call in an hour.  I quickly brushed my teeth and hustled out to the counter to be marked present.  Then I went out to move the car into a rental return space (another essential reason for getting the higher priced rental at the  terminal),  cleaned out our junk and went inside.  Kept the keys though,  just in case. 
I woke the kids and got their airplane clothes – long pants, long sleeve, a sweatshirt, plus socks and sneakers.  They watched a show on the TV while I quickly repacked our sleeping bags and other junk that seems to spread out everywhere.  By then an hour had passed and we wandered out to the main terminal just in time for roll call at 0640. 

They release 20 seats – we were called 4th!  The terminal processed everyone quickly; verified names, checked baggage, paid for box lunches, and got tickets.  By 0730 we were back in our seats waiting for the boarding announcement.  I ran down the hall and dropped the rental car keys in the after hours box at 0800 we went through security and straight our to a bus.  
A C-130 is a fat short cargo plane that has our propellers and opens out the back.  The only one I’ve been on got Zoe and I sick.  It kind of made me dread the 6-7 hours we would spend on the plane with the Jolly Roger flag that we saw out of the bus window.  This is a Marine Corps plane. 
There are red canvas seats with webbed seat backs that fold down from stantions installed in the floor – most are along the walls but there was also a single set in the center at the front and that is where we chose.  Zoe sat on the center seat facing Avi and I along the wall with a little porthole window at our backs.  The buckles are funny, the plane is loud and slow, but it’s fun and free.

 

Once aboard we found out there would be a bonus on this flight. It  can’t get to Guam in one hop so we were stopping at Wake island to get gas!  Um wow.  That meant 6 hours to Wake and another 4 to Guam.  Long day ahead.  I was nervous about a bumpy sick ride. 
We began with naps.  Naps are great and the canvas seats are like a bench so Zoe spread across hers and Avi and I spooned on ours.  When they woke we did some lessons, ate our box lunch sandwiches, and stared out the window.  
Landing at Wake was a highlight.  It’s an atoll.  It has a runway from early Pan American seaplanes. It’s all Air Force.  You can’t come here.  But we were. AND they let us leave the terminal!!!  We walked along a little “walking tour” path to see the chapel built in 1967, a bunch of old metal from WWII, an anti aircraft gun and a rad old bunker used in Dec 1941 before he Japanese took the island.  There was a nice memorial to the marines and others, and the coral.  It’s an atoll so there isn’t dirt and dirt roads, but chunky coral an coral roads and a coral beach and everything made from coral an cement. It’s also flat an had very few trees.  The area around the airport certainly felt desolate.  
 

 

A half hour isn’t enough to see the lagoon or base where a few people live (there appeared to be short fluffy trees over there).  We were all rounded up and back into the plane within an hour of landing.  Very cool and very remote. 

It made me think of my granddad who recently passed away.  One of the things we talked about was his time on a pacific island during the war.  He found it fascinating and kept busy, though said that not everyone did. I did not see any of the kind of shells he collected, but we didn’t get near the lagoons.

A steep takeoff just like the steep landing and we were back on the path to Guam. Zoe’s water bottle went clanking and rolling down the airplane when we took off. 
The second highlight of the day came next.  I’m not sure if the kids would rank this or Wake island number one.  I will ask. They got to go in the cockpit and fly the plane!! For serious.  They sat in the right hand seat wearing headphones while the pilot showed them stuff.  She let Avi play with the yoke; he intensely pretended to fly like he was attacking someone.  He loved the clouds and the buttons, but especially loved speaking on the headset.  Thy let me use one so everyone could hear everyone and chat.  
 
 

This crew is out of Dan Diego and seemed geniunily happy to be helping us get home in a fun way.  Oh, and the flying was smooth.  No sick bellies here. 

Zoe’s turn was next.  This time the oily turned off the autopilot and actually let Zoe stead for real!!!!!  It was cute to see her little blonde head beside the female pilots blonde head.  The marines were commenting on her being a mini version. “Look two female pilots!”  “Just what we need”.  All in fun.  Zoe did great following directions- she banked left and straightened out to get the ball on the line.  She went right and then back but it was tougher.  “Not an ambi-turner” said the pilot.  :).  They had a conversation about flying and daddy being a pilot.  It was a proud moment to listen in on her convo with a role model while flying. The pilot let Zoe just stear back and forth for a while.  
 
Meanwhile,  Avi slipped on the steps and hit his head.  I picked him up; no one could hear the crying.  We are wearing our earplugs this entire flight. 
Done in the cockpit, we climbed back down the ladder to our seats and revelled.  Zoe said it was the most amazing thing ever. Avi wanted to go up again. 
A movie was a necessary distraction.  So my old iphone came out and they watched Swiss Family Robinson, Alice in Wonderland, and Fantasia…. All without audio.  
It’s too loud on these planes. Though I swear I keep hearing big band music – like it’s playing faintly on a radio.  Maybe The ghosts of Pearl Harbor have gotten to my brain. 
The second half of the flight ended up being just under 6 more hours.  Slow. 

I read three (shortish) books on my kindle. The Mayflower, Beowulf and the Wizard of Oz. Plus some of Odins Children which Zoe and I are reading together – I needed to catch up to her 5 chapters ahead of me. 
So what I thought would be a great afternoon in Guam turned into a log fynon a C 130.  The pax rep at hickam said we should land in Guam about 1pm local, maybe 2.  That sounded great, but we landed at 5pm and weren’t into the terminal until about 6 where we waited for bags about a half hour.  So much for seeing anything if Guam. I was hoping for   The afternoon to visit, but the flights to Osan are heading out this evening.  I was also hoping maybe an Osan flight would turn up for tomorrow afternoon and I’ve us the morning to your Guam, but no such luck.  So,  we’ve been to Guam and walked to the bowling alley for dinner.  Now we are napping until the 2245 roll call to Osan via Kadena. Should get on. 

It was worth missing out on Guam sights to go to Wake island and see the kids fly! 

Pearl Harbor

The kids slept great at the Hale Koa… I was restless though anticipating the early email from our virtual roll call. It never came!  The flight didn’t take any pax. Both it and the second one to guam disappeared from the boards. 
We slept in and drove to Pearl Harbor for the day.  The kids were super interested in the attack there.  Both were quite curious about Japan being an enemy and how they had already taken over Korea by that time. It was interesting to see them relate the story to themselves in that way… Owning Korea even more than the US in a way.
We arrived around noon and lucked out with the last three of five tickets left for the 1:15 boat ride to the USS Arizona memorial.  Had a snacky lunch of hotdogs and nachos before venturing to the bookstore and finding two veterans of the attack.  We spoke with one at length at Pennsylvania and Penn state: he was from Pittsburgh!  I was so proud to see the kids very respectful. 

Our boat tour out the memorial began with a video describing the events leading up to the attack.  It was helpful for all of us; Avi was fascinated to think the airplanes were the bad guys.  It seemed confusing to him. Zoe also wanted clarification on how Japan and Germany (as an enemy, this shocked her more) is now our friend and we have bases there. 
They were fascinated to see the boat, it’s oil leakage, the corals growing, and then the list of names. Zoe was quite somber about it; I think death is something she understands. Avi was more interested in the size of the boat and the cool model showing it then and now.

 

When we returned to the park Avi had a massive meltdown and threw a glorious tantrum (mostly in the car after I carried him out).  He wanted to get a model airplane, which I said no too but offere instead a it airplane that was on sale.  Well he said no to that because it was the bad guy plane. He found another few things all of which were either expensive or breakable so I offered the toy and again he declined.  Then, as we left he freaked out that I didn’t buy it!  Well I wasnt going back for something he didn’t want and especially after the meltdown.  It then turned into a full blown tantrum in The car.  He was tired!  
We drove to Ford island (part of Pearl Harbor navy base) to see the USS Missouri which he had wanted to go on.  Well we got there and he was still so pissed off that he refused even a toe on a cool battleship!!  Zoe and I took pictures and then we stopped at the shopette for a drink.  Avi rode piggy back into the store and fell asleep on me! 
Zoe and I continued to drive around the island – saw the pacific aviation museum and the old hangar with still-broken glass.  She recognized it from a ghost hunters episode. Then we visited the USS Utah; Luckily it’s roadside and (fortunately for us, though surprising) devoid of other tourist on bus tours. We left Avi in the AC car and took a few pictures.  This site, to me,  seemed a bit more in-your-face real about the attack. It’s a site to behold the underbelly of a vessel tipped and submerged – without a big fancy white memorial overtop of it.  Zoe and I agreed it seemed more simple and respectful this way, though the USS Arizona had 1177 people on it!

 

Anyway,  Ford island is gorgeous.  Again we were envious of the people living there. But,  Zoe did have a point that we get snow and they don’t.  One point korea.
Zoe also talked me into sleeping at the terminal.  We stopped over there to check on flight times for tomorrow’s two flights to Yokota and Kadena; at least beginning journey home.  Well they were not taking pax either!  The rep said a bunch of these flights had explosives or weapons aboard that can’t be on with passengers.  Bummer!  And to top it off – NO pacific- bound flights in the foreseeable future.

I called around to lodging but all were full.  Zoe and Avi had a great evening playing in the family lounge – it is super nice with toys, an outdoor playground and even a crafts bin.  Avi did 3 projects!  I busied myself tidying the place up. Zoe was outside making bird nests in the palms. They also have a ton of free food and drinks from the USO.  There were no other family’s around with such few flights going out.  Zoe talked me into staying the night on the floor.  A bed sounded nice, but she hooked me with “it’s free, mom”.

Hickam

I fear I’m becoming a beach person.  Not the beaches I grew up going too – cold British stone beaches or the flat cold-water of the Atlantic coast,  no.  I mean really nice beaches.  Soft white sand, shady edge trees, some scenic cliffs and mountains, torquoise blue water,  and WARMTH. That’s the key.  Warm water and warm weather.

I always disliked the idea of going to beach because it seemed sandy, cold and boring.  What do you do?  “Nothing. Swim. Chill out.” boring.  Well I have finally figured out that is not all there is to do on a NICE beach.
Bryan is busy at work for an excercise, it recently snowed which was fun to sled in, but the kids had this hacking korea-cough for a while and I was antsy.  I know Christmas is coming but we hopped a space-A trip to Hawaii.  Bryan suggested it… Even got me the paperwork without asking.  I think he is looking forward to some good sleep.
We got on a C17 direct to Hickam from Osan!  It was easy.  They didn’t even do a proper roll call, just said everyone was selected.  I was surprised to see a friend of mine and her daughter as well!  She needed a break too, so we had a good time yapping while the kids played, until the plane started up and no one could hear a thing. Took off at 6pm.

At altitude I laid out our sleeping bags and we snoozed, did some homework, watched a show on my phone, and passed the 9 hours. When we landed, it was 17 hours back in time – the morning we left. 

Just as we were departing I got on my phone and booked us at the Bellows fam camp… So at Hickam I needed a car. There is an enterprise rental at the terminal known for never having cars available.  Well to my shock they did have one: a minivan. It was about $100 more than what I had searched for a little economy at the Honolulu airport,  but after calculating taxi cost to and from the airport, I opted for the MV… The $20 savings not being worth the airport hassle.  It’s a big vehicle and I notice it’s poor turn radius.  Otherwise the kids are loving the space.  We folded down the first rear seats so they share the back bench and have a huge area for messing around.
I used a piss poor tourist map to find Bellows Air Force base.  It’s on the windward (east) side of the island while Hickam is on the south.  A giant mountain range splits the two with lots of road options and poor signage…. Well signs that don’t match the map.  The map has road numbers: the signs have named the freeways instead. 
It’s gorgeous. The water is blue and the trees are green.   It’s hovering in the low 80s during the day and 70s at night.  Sleeping in our tent is perfect.  Bellows used to be a base but it’s now just a rec area with its own great beach, cabins and TLFs.   The campground is inland a little ways and comfortabley tucked into a stand of trees.  Glad to be back from the beach as the windward side is windy!
Luckily they let us check in early so we pitched the tent and took a nap.  We are the only tent here on a Thursday in December, though she said more folks come on the weekend.  
Spent the afternoon playing at the beach and swimming.  Avi spends most of his beach time digging trenches; he likes to pretend he is a backhoe or crane.  Then he throws the  sand in the water and gets sucked out.   Zoe, on the other hand,  swims in the water and plays with the plants.  She finds seedlings and replants them,  builds sandy walls around the trees ad generally gardens at the beach. It got a bit cloudy and Avi was waterlogged so we headed to a bathhouse for warm showers and dry clothes. 

We needed food and instead of popping into the shopette I had this idea to go to the Whole Foods market; it’s been forever since I’ve shopped at a huge natural foods store and we saw one in the next town over. Plus, it was farm market day, so I figured that was a better choice.  Wrong!   Everything was so super expensive!  And not just at the Whole Foods; we ditched it and went to a grocery store to find still-high prices.  Same with the farmers market!  I thought it may be a fun place to grab dinner, but not spending $10 on a burger!  Yikes.  Not sure if it’s Hawaii or that the town of Kailua is kind of yuppy?  Can’t tell. The homes aren’t exceptionally fancy.  Top the prices off with a traffic jam – 2 hours to go 10 miles because of a sinkhole – back to Bellows and we got back after dark.
At Bellows, the shopette had all we needed.  This morning i did laundry at the laundrette since Avi was so tired he wet the bed last night!  I was surprised. One sleeping bag, his clothes, and mine needed washed.  He doesn’t even remember me waking him in the middle of the night for dry clothes!  Sleepy child!!
Today we rented boogy boards at the outdoor rec office and surfed. Only $7 for three boards and a life best for Avi!   Zoe wanted a surfboard but they only have 9 footers, nothing her size.  The body boarding was fun!  I popped Avi on my board and rode with him in.  He loves it and squeals.  Took a while for Zoe to get the hang – its a different technique than surfing, but once she did it was all afternoon in the water.  The sun was out and it was warm until the clouds built in the mountain.  Once it was chilly we headed in for showers and schoolwork at the campground.

 

This evening we again wasted a drive, well not a complete waste, but still. The lady at the outdoor rec told me incorrectly that the big Honolulu Christmas parade was tonight.  We drove around the scenic way to see more of the island and stopped at some viewpoints, but otherwise it was silly.  The parade is tomorrow I found once we got to Honolulu. Made up for it with dinner at a great Mexican place called Serges … Just out the gate at Bellows. 
Tomorrow we board some more and maybe go see an arboretum or the giant Marine corps base nearby.  Maybe they have kid size surf boards at one of their beaches.  Kaneohe.  It also has a campground but couldn’t book online; I’m interested to compare. 

Airplanes galore

We woke early Thursday to walk two blocks to the train for Paya Lebar air base. This begins our space- A journey home from vacation.  Avi whined the entire way that he couldn’t walk because his feet hurt from “walking around the world”. Time to go home!

He calmed down in the taxi the last bit of the trip.  There were only a few families at the base trying to get to Yokota, so we were called second! As always,  this flight was very not-space-a-ish with flight attendants, yummy food and service.  There were a bunch of guys on r & r from Diego Garcia heading out to visit family, too.


At Yokota there were no flights to Osan in the foreseeable future.  We walked to lodging and got their last room!! They had told me on the phone there were none available, so I was happy to be in an American bed!  We had met another mom and her kids on our Singapore flight who offered for us to stay with them – she had a three bedroom TLF.  Even though we didn’t need to share, we still all went to Chilis together.  It was fun to hang out and hear about their being stationed at Singapore. Super nice!!

In the morning – Friday – there was no potential flight to Osan til Wednesday. So I looked at other options.  With a half hour to spare, we rush packed and took a risk. Checked out of lodging to attempt a flight to Kadena, via Iwakuni, as there is an Osan flight departing from there late tonight. It showed no seats available to Kadena, but the nice lady who works at the terminal told me it often opens up. They wouldn’t know for sure until it landed.

Well the risk paid off – we were chosen last – and got the final seats on a patriot express flight. Originally, I had no idea what kind of plane we were trying for so it was a pleasant surprise to find out it was the PE.  This is like an airline full of people moving to Japan.

  It’s comical how loud and chaotic one of these flights are.  Think of your typical trans-oceanic flight with a bunch of business folk and a few families on holiday trying to keep their kids quiet as to not disturb others – this is nothing like that.  A patriot express flight is basically an entire airplane full of young families.  There is little attempt, or reason, to quiet the kids.  It’s so loud with crying and playing and screaming before takeoff that it’s humorous.  After takeoff, though,  most everyone naps; especially on this flight as they had already been traveling about a day…from Seattle to Yokota to Iwakuni to Kadena (their new home).  We were just guests among super sleepy grumpy parents and wild kids.

Zoe sat behind Avi and I.  She read Ivy and Bean on the kindle the whole hour flight to Iwakuni.  Avi and I played and had our snack. Then, just as we landed he fell asleep. Seriously, AS the plane bumped down he closed his eyes.   Fine, though, because we sat on the plane for about an hour before getting let off.  They had to take the PCSers to Iwakuni first.

Two hours sitting at Iwakuni terminal went quickly. Then we got back on the plane for a two hour hop to Kadena, Okinawa. The kids sat together and watched Shaun the sheep on my phone while I read Ivy and Bean.  Such a fun book series!!

Arriving in Kadena felt like being famous. The terminal was full of welcomers: all the sponsors and the USO welcoming all the people, which was most of the plane, to their new assignment. We blitzed through all the disappointed faces and made our way to departures.

Here at Kadena we are camped out in the terminal playroom until roll call at 0330.  We had 5 hours to waste playing and watching Wall-E in the USO.  I ordered a pizza for dinner and then we slept in the kid playroom til roll call.

At 0315 I drowsily walked out to see a hoard of people in the once-sleeping terminal!  Man the competition is fierce this summer as our flight continues from Osan to the states.  Lots of families are trying to go home for summer vacation. Lucky for us they split the seats – 30 to the US and 43 to Korea.  Well, this was the first time my name was called first.  The kids and I are the only ones taking the seats to Korea!

I let the kids sleep while I checked in – we have another 3 hours to wait until 7am boarding.  I was hoping to go back to sleep, but more people with kids keep trickling in to try to get on other flights departing to points east. My kiddos are still shockingly sound asleep on the couch while 10 kids and a TV make noise around them here in the playroom.

Only a 2 hour flight on a C-5 home!  Can’t wait to sleep in my own bed and check the garden.  Hope the bunnies are alive.

Sorry, I took NO pictures flying from Singapore or even at Yokota.  Just having that much of a good time, I guess.  Or being busy with 2 kids.

 
waiting our turn to board a flight from Yokota to Iwakuni and Kadena.  There were a ton of marines there waiting to go somewhere as well.   They kept good care of their guns.

Zoe on the plane to Kadena…doing some math work
Spent the night at the Kadena passenger terminal, and a lot of time here in the USO lounge.  Thank you so much USO!!! 

Sleeping on the floor of the terminal play room. Comfy enough.

the playroom filled up that morning!

that’s our ride home.  Here I was really hoping it wouldn’t break.

On the C-5.

Bye Bye C-5, have a nice flight to Hawaii. 

Singapore

We got on the Singapore flight from Yokota this morning!  Not a lot of competition – there were some empty seats of the 42 available.

The flight is amazing with flight attendents and lots of food! They even give everyone a little media player with movies and games.  I did insist on some schoolwork before the movies.  It’s a 7 hour flight.
I had prebooked a hotel near the southern harbor of Singapore, so we grabbed our junk, toiletted, and walked out the Paya Lebar air base gate. 
Just out the gate is the 94 bus which we rode one stop too many and enjoyed a walk around a neat mosque in the sprinkling rain (which doesn’t make much difference when it’s so humid) back to the subway stop we were trying to get too. The kids especially loved the city bus because it was a double decker and the only seats available were in the back row on top… Hence we missed our stop. 🙂
The subway was as usual.  We ride those a lot and the kids get excited to get seats; which we did, thank goodness, as it was a long 30 minute ride.  
Walked to the hotel as it was getting dark.  But we HAD to stop and check out the giant snails!  Avi found the first and then we spotted them all over.  Apparently they come out after a rain.
We are at the Fragrance Hotel Royal.  Great spot near the jungle park and “waves” walkway we did last visit.  It’s also walking distance to Sentosa island!! That is our goal tomorrow.  
Tonight the kids are enjoying watching “little shiva” while I book our next move in a few days.  

Double decker bus in Singapore

Crowded subway. 

Avi loves the snails!! Sorry the humidity was fuzzing my phone. 

Shinkansen

Verified: the Shinkansen is fast.  Got to check that off the bucket list today.  Rode the Japanese bullet train from Misawa to Tokyo.  Mostly we snacked and napped and Zoe read “Ivy and bean” on kindle.  It really didn’t feel super fast, which is nice. Not creepy; but we did a 10-11 hour drive in 2.5 hours.  YES!

Our day didnt’ start so fast.  After an amazingly good nights sleep (complete with a dream about Tom Cruise in that rock opera movie) I woke to two happy kids and a very blue Misawa sky.  We spent an hour on school lessons and then some playground time before taking  a taxi to the train station.  
Misawa is really in a very rural part of Japan.  It’ nice.  It seems liveable and slow.  The view from the train was pretty. It looks a heck of a lot like Korea, but tidy, clean, and matchy-matchy.   As in, the houses look good together.  They have a collective character, not the randomness of Korean building style.  
Tokyo was busy!  It took a bit to find the lockers at Tokyo station where I stashed my backpack.  For this trip I only have my  backpacking pack, and in it a cloth purse/bag for out and about.  So, we stashed the pack at the super-techno Japanese lockers and spent another 10 minutes trying to find the exit from Tokyo station.
From there we walked to the Imperial Palace.  It’s close…about 4 big blocks.  Enroute we stopped at an awesome water fountain park that really perked up the kids to the potential here.  They were grumpy about seeing a garden.
The east garden of the old imperial palace, though, isn’t just a little garden.  It’s a huge FREE attraction with manicured areas, forests, ponds, and the cool old palace walls.  
We started with a stop in the ‘rest room’ for ice cream to sweeten attitudes.  It worked well!  The kids had a fun time running along paths in the woods, counting the koi in the pond, and climbing a tree by the big field.  We took a nice long break in the grass for snacks and Zoe reading.  She is obsessd with Ivy and Bean.  Avi also mistakenly tossed a cheeto to a raven who creepily followed us with his buddy until I insisted the cheeto bag go in my purse. 
The walk back to Tokyo station was much more pleasant as Avi was busy taking pictures.  He loves the camera. 
The local train was surprisingly uncrowded as we made our way toward Yokota air base.  Sadly, base lodging is full as is the Toyoko inn nearby.  So I had to book off base in Tachikawa.  Its like the next suburb over.   Our hotel: the Crest Hotel is shockingly super nice and fancy. Rooms are big for Japan, as is the bed! They even gave the kids a little pack with their own washcloths, cute toothbrushes and slippers.
  Thank goodness its nice because we got lost walking between the train station and here.  My map from the website sucked and I expected a few landmarks that didnt exist.  We made the best of it by getting a great 7-11 dinner.  I had to ask for help twice, and found people quite willing and kind.  Of course, now we are here I see where I went wrong.  Oh well, the kids were excited about seeing all the neon lights and didn’t complain about the walk until just as we got to the hotel. Me?  I’m tired. 
Tomorrow we’ll have to forgo our free breakfast to depart with enough time for the walk, subway and then taxi to base.  I’m hopeful, though, that I will be blogging from Singapore tomorrow night!

Breakfast and school sans shirts

Leaving northern Japan

It’s the famous Shinkansen is very “nosey”
Japanese train station lockers!  This also helped me find our locker again later. 
Cool fountain

East imperial gardens are a hit

The old moat and wall

Avi in his tree

Following the yellow lines (for the blind) in Tokyo. 

Crest Hotel and dinner from 7-11

taking the risk

We woke early to find a big rainstorm had taken over Korea.  It’s a good day to get out! Except that there wasn’t a taxi in site to take us to the passenge terminal.  I called for 45 minutes before biting the bullet and driving into base, parking in the deck and walking to the terminal.  Its about a mile, and not a big deal outside o rainy days.  I carried Avi the whole way while Zoe walked behind.

We got to the terminal with only 20 minutes to spare.  Lucky for us the roll call had been pushed back those 20 minutes.  
Zoe and i weighed the pros and cons of departing today:  it’s a flight to Misawa with a goal of getting a connecting flight to Butterworth Malaysia…via C-130 (puke machine). They may not even allow us on that flight because its such an odd destination. And, there is rarely anyting else going from Misawa. 
We would rather wait until tomorrow to go to Yokota for the typical following day connecting flight to Singapore.  BUT, the Yokota flight isn’t posting seats available AND the Singapore flight isn’t on the boards.  I expect it will show up, but maybe not.  
So, we took the garunteed risk…Misawa.  I was confident we would get one of the 60 seats, and if that Malaysia flight doesn’t work then we can take the bullet train to Yokota and try for some other destination.
Dont you know that Singapore flight showed up as soon as got to Misawa!  I kept checking the Yokota boards up til the last minute (even ticketed) ready to bale for a day.  Of course, we still would not have necessarily made it on the flight TO Yokota though which would mean missing Singapore.
Now we’ve decided to stay the night in Misawa. I’m not even trying for the C-130  to Malaysia.  The Misawa Inn is quite nice, and I have directions from ITT on how to take the bullet train – Shinkansen – to Tokyo.  There we can subway to Yokota and try for Singapore instead.  With 42 seats available I’m very hopeful!
Instead of being in transit all day as I expected we had a great afternoon at the Base Beach.  It isn’t hot here like Korea, but the beach was fun with black sand and a great playground.  It was on a huge lake so the water was too cool for me, but the kids loved it.  
Dinner came from the comissary; best way to save cash. Early to bed for us.  

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