The Excitement Heightens in 2012 Part IV: A Book To Read, Preparing for an Overseas Move, & New Beginnings in Okinawa

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Intellectual Exercise: Books to Read Part 1 THE HELP by K. Stockett

Reading has been a passion of mine.  I started reading to Elise as early as 1 week old.  First reading material was my graduate research paper for Southern Illinois University.  The night before I gave birth, I submitted my final copy.  A week after I gave birth, I completed my oral defense.  Hopefully, Elise will be encouraged to have a curiosity for research as much as I enjoy immersing myself in it.

Anyhow, this blog entry is focused on the book, THE HELP.  Aside from the strong message of the book about racial segregation during the 1960s, I am drawn by it because of the courage of the female characters, the humor, and the parenting skills of women during those time.  What struck me is the fact that white women allowed black women to nurture their children but doubted them to polish their silverware.  Such irony,isn't? Makes me think of the countless Filipinas who serve as nannies and domestic helpers abroad to make their families' lives in the Philippines better and most of all to send their kids to college. Hmmm that will be an interesting research and novel...hint...hint.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our bags are packed and ready to go...

Elise, you are soundly asleep with your Dada as I write this entry.  Little do you know what transpired within the last couple of days.  After celebrating your 1 year old birthday and baby dedication, your Dada and I went on full swing to get our "worldly possessions" in order for our relocation to Okinawa, Japan.  A feeling of excitement engulfs me as I look at you and think to myself how lucky that you will be able to live in a different country at such a tender age.  The adventure and fun we are going to experience are priceless.  Not a lot of children could say they have traveled to far away countries before they learned how to walk.

If there is one thing in this world I would love you to do when you reach adulthood - I would love for you to TRAVEL, see the beauty of diversity, culture, different landscapes of life and taste the local food around you.  Be a citizen of this world, open your mind and heart, and share what you have experienced. Thrive, my love!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Journey to Okinawa, Japan

Second time to be in Japan, first time on Okinawa.  Excited? Definitely!  Our tour in Yokosuka, Japan 2002-2005 was an amazing experience as a newly wed couple.  Some lessons learned:
1) Meet new friends and experience what is beyond the base gates.
2) Learn the language.
3) Travel around the Pacific.
4) Volunteer and learn the military lifestyle.
5) Taste the local cuisine with an open mind.
6) Help out the newcomers, you were once like them.
7) Learn to use the train system.
8) Glad to have hiked Mt Fuji once...maybe never again.
9) Take advantage of the MWR local trips.
10) Learn a new sport - snowboarding!
11) Never stop learning about your spouse, you will be amazed that both of you are evolving into different individuals.  Communication is key, maintain your individuality and compromise need be.

After almost seven years in San Diego, we are getting ready for our next overseas assignment.

The Timeline

February 2012
Last week of February: PCS orders received to go to Okinawa, Japan.
Notified family, friends, and co-workers about the upcoming move between mid-April to early May 2012.
Registered to attend the Fleet and Family Support Center's PCS Workshop.
Scheduled our appointment for overseas clearance.

March 2012
Completed overseas clearance.
Started a binder for PCS documents.
Important documents to have with you (original and copies) - service record, birth certificates, marriage certificates, naturalization certificates, tourist passports, Social Security Cards, military orders (family entry approval if available), address and phone numbers of family and friends, military ID cards, drivers license, school transcripts, shot records, medical and dental records. Do not forget copies of no fee passport application, paperwork for storage items and shipments, inventory of items shipped out etc...
Made sure to have updated annual medical and dental records.
Scoped out helpful websites on Okinawa.
Started networking - friends on Okinawa? co-workers who have been to Okinawa? employment opportunities on Okinawa?
Started our own Relocation Calendar and Things to Do.
Scheduled Househould Goods Shipment, Unaccompanied Baggage (Express), and Pick Up for Storage Items.
Attended the Fleet and Family Support Center's PCS Workshop.
Completed the Anti-terrorism training and printed the certificate for the overseas clearance package.
Updated resume and started looking for job vacancies on Okinawa.
Listed down the pro's and con's of living on base and off base.
Notified military housing of last day @ unit.
Requested for a sponsor.
Made plans for pet, and scheduled all her veterinary appointments.
Scheduled a garage sale.
Sorted out items to give away, get rid of, and items to bring to Okinawa.
Submitted my letter of resignation at work.
Submitted letter at child care center re: daughter's last day at the center.
Submitted paperwork for vehicle storage.
Items for storage were picked up.
Household goods items picked up.
Express Shipment items picked up.
Scheduled "hail and farewell" gatherings with friends and family.
Submitted overseas clearance package.
Made reservations at the Navy Lodge.
Applied for no fee passports.
Secured General Power of Atty.
Updated page 2.
Applied for jobs on Okinawa.

April 2012
Submitted forwarding address for all USPS mail.
Notified utilities i.e. cable services and cell phone subscription of last day of services.
Cancelled subscriptions i.e. magazines, Curves, Massage Envy etc.
Made sure to clean the car for storage.
Drop off car to storage facility.
Have the car to be sold on CARMAX detailed.
Sold the car at CARMAX.
Cleaned the housing unit for final check out.
Checked out of housing unit.
Received Family Entry Approval.
Amended the Family Entry Approval (if corrections are needed).
Submitted the Family Entry Approval to Personal Property Office, and NAVPTO.
Important: The Family Entry Approval goes with the military orders. This is the form that indicates the name of spouse and dependent child/children approved to accompany the service member. Therefore, this is the form used for employment and child care services whenever people ask you that your name needs to be on the orders.
Picked up prescription refills.
Picked up contact lenses.
Picked up medical and dental records.
Secured Letters of Recommendation/ Reference from prior supervisors.
Applied for unemployment.
Made sure we have enough $ (savings, applied for dislocation allowance, tax refund, car sale $ to cover relocation expenses expected and unexpected).
Waited and waited from NAVPTO and PSD for itinerary and airline tickets.

Rough Spots:
1) During our medical clearance, Elise's weight was scrutinized by the medical provider. She was put on hold and we were asked to go see her Pediatrician.  I called the appointment line only to speak with a Customer Care Rep that does NOT understand the urgency of having the medical clearance completed so we could submit our overseas clearance which in turn will start the gears of our Family Entry Approval rolling - a form required for our household goods to get shipped out, for me to apply for jobs and for us to reserve childcare. Solution: I went directly to the clinic (walk-in) and requested for an appointment and explained our case.  Got an appointment right away! Both Elise's Pediatrician and Nutritionist agree that her weight and length are proportional for her age and ethnicity. Downside: Three weeks wasted!

2) Hubby was asked by the Admin person from SWMI to go back and forth and submit this and that to complete the overseas clearance package.  Admin Person sat on the forms including the travel request for more than 4 days before sending the message out.  Okinawa replied back the approval 3 days after...just when we thought all is good with our Family Entry Approval...a friend caught the mistake that Elise is NOT on it.  Called Okinawa for the error and was told it must be San Diego's fault...basically finger pointing followed and we had to WAIT (again) for Okinawa to make the correction, approve, and send us back the corrected copy...domino effect = itinerary and airline tickets on HOLD and changed from commercial flight to AMC flight = Delay = 3 weeks.

3) Rude Customer Service Rep at MCRD Billeting

Unexpected Angels: Lori and Lashawna from MCCS, Miki and Alison @ MCCS OMD, Joey A @ Passport, Arcy, Cust Service Reps @ Navy Lodge 32nd St, Carrie Deza and hubby.

Lessons Learned: Have TONS of patience, if it is not in writing - it may never happen, trust people but verify, always follow up, make sure EVERYONE is in the same page, most of the time - things are beyond control, always ask questions, NEVER assume, try to have down time, recharge when needed  PCSing is stressful, ask for help from people you know you could rely on, and have a sense of humor.

As of this writing, our itinerary has been changed TWICE, our plan of being on Okinawa by the end of April is not going to happen, we are officially homeless and carless, still no sponsor to assist us, and we are leaving on suitcases for the last 4 weeks.  The bright side, we are able to spend more time with family in San Diego, we are now waiting for our tickets to be released, one job interview done (whoohoo), waiting for unemployment claim interview, waiting for our circuitous leave to visit my family in Canada, and our friend on Okinawa reserved us billeting at the WesPac Lodge and he will be picking us up from Kadena AFB.  The beginning of our journey to Okinawa may be bumpy but at least we are a family (the 3 of us) are all together for this adventure in the Far East.