Leaving Japan

After nearly two years in Japan the time has come for us to return back to the States. I have not written anything on the blog because living abroad has stripped me of my northwestmomminess. So in order to not sound anti-American I have avoided sounding anything at all. Let me explain.

Living in Japan has reminded me of how it feels to be part of your society, how it feels to fit in, to be included. Most of us bloggers found our voice because we didn’t fit the norm. Moms speaking up on motherhood, people moving abroad, women defying standards, men choosing to stay home, photographers embracing the new era of picture taking, families traveling on a budget, homeschooling, adopting, marrying same sex partners… You name it. Most blogs are born out of the need to explain how we are negotiating change or challenging times. For me I started writing when we moved to USA. Although I relocated to Washington state as a US citizen and I lived abroad most of my adult life I was an outsider. Perhaps growing up watching sitcoms Americans seemed to us Europeans just like us except more free spirited, opinionated and with bigger cars but once I made America my home I realized the main difference is not how we act but how we think.

In Europe, much like Japan we celebrate togetherness and achievements as a society. We strive to work and contribute to society first and in the process find personal success and fortune. If we do not achieve these we don’t stand out tremendously because when it comes to basic human needs they are met and not having more then your neighbor is not viewed as a failure but more as a personal choice. I’m sure this could be disputed, it’s just how I was brought up and how I see my friends still living back home and it is how I perceive Japanese who quietly commute on the train, politely greet each other on hiking trails and go out of their way to not inconvenience others.

In America we are taught you can be anything you set your mind to because you are fortunate to live in the land of opportunity. In order to do that you must work hard on yourself and by yourself yet the measure of how successful you end up being is set by society. And that measure lets be honest is to end up being a rich, white guy…

So after we moved to Japan I became European again. I went around every day fitting in. No longer did I have funny stories of me trying to negotiate through daily life because everything fell in place. I might look different, don’t speak the language and perhaps struggle remembering with all the etiquette differences but when I look around I see my people. They act like me and think like me and that is why I am sad to leave for sure.

On the bright side I will no doubt find our new city challenging so stay tuned 🙂

Judging Judy

Not much in this world bothers me.

I tend to be one of those people that walk away from things that pump my pressure high. And if something does bug me I try to not dwell on it. It’s just not very productive right?

But last week, while on vacation with Little J something happened that bothered me a little when it happened and now it bothers me a lot. I have been trying to let it go and in all honesty I cannot leave it behind me. So I figured I could ask you for your opinion and maybe you can give me a new perspective on it.

Here is the story:

My five year old watches documentaries obsessively. His favorite by far are about how the Earth was made, specifically about the volcanos. He has been hoping to climb one for over a year and when I planned our road trip I made sure we go to Mount St. Helens as a grand finale. There is no way we could climb to the crater but they offer helicopter flights over it. They are expensive. I mean break your piggy bank and cry for a week as you are paying for it expensive. This year I have saved all the tips from my photo sessions and took that cash with me in hope that I can treat Little J to a flyover of the volcano.

I took him up to the mountain on Saturday and he hiked patiently miles long Boundary trail in hope that clouds lift and he sees his mountain. No luck. Driving down to our camp site I stopped at the Hoffstadt bluffs to see if we can get a spot on a helicopter tour. We were greeted by the pilot who quickly offered Little J to sit in the chopper which he was so very happy about he never even realized I was actually planning on buying us a tour! Pilot said it is worth checking at the reception if there are any available flights and he explained to us that due to low clouds they will only be flying the short tour that afternoon, definitely not into the crater. Still, it would be rather amazing.

We walked into the reception to enquire and there was an older couple already negotiating with the cashier. They were going back and forth and another shop assistant asked me if she can help. I told her we were hoping to take a tour either now or the next day. She quickly realized she might make the other customers happy and suggested we join the couple to do the tour together. Turns out they got stood up by whoever they were sharing the tour with that morning and have been hoping to go up ASAP. As you can imagine the price per person is nearly half if there are four vs two passengers. I said we don’t mind going up with them so we all paid for our tickets and went back to the helipad to attend safety briefing before our flight.

Little J was so excited. I think it all happened so fast he could hardly believe his lucky stars. In a matter of minutes he will be flying in a helicopter over his volcano. He was so very happy. We sat down to fill out the paperwork and pilot told us there are 4 seats in the helicopter, 1 next to him and 3 at the back. He asked who would like to sit next to him. After a tiny pause Little J lifted his hand and said “MAY I?”

I was fine with it if it was OK with the pilot. But Judy was quick to say: “Actually I would. I have been waiting here since 10 AM and I want to sit in the front.”

As I relive it writing this I am getting mad with myself all over again. Maybe it was my upbringing, being told to always respect the elder or just my politeness but I told my son we should let the lady have the first choice. I told him he can sit at the window which will be even cooler cause we get to sit together. He was absolutely fine with it and we had a lovely helicopter ride. He never once dwelled on not sitting in the front and he still says it was the best thing ever.

But I am so disappointed with myself. I should have stood up for my son. I know I was younger then Judy but I am also a grown up, a mother and was a full paying customer. In fact if it wasn’t for us agreeing to join them her husband was not going to pay double the price for them to go solo. I keep telling myself my boy is young and there are many helicopter rides in his life. This might have been her only. I keep giving excuses for her behavior. But if I am honest with you I find it appalling that an older woman, possibly a mother and grandmother herself would take it away from a child to sit in the front of the helicopter. Specially since he claimed it fair and square. How selfish is that? It’s like going to a store and snatching the last chocolate that a kid is queuing to pay for cause you have had the munchies all day.

Am I being unreasonable and emotional? What would you have done?

Let Judy sit in the front?

Island Politics

Our island is divided.

All of the sudden the idilic, peaceful Whidbey Island that we know and call home is all over the news and heating up debates among young and old, Democrats and Republicans. A small group of concerned citizens living in the middle of the island, in the charming town of Coupeville are suing Naval Air Station Whidbey and it’s Commander. They claim the noise that jets make during night training in and out of Outlying field that is close to their homes is unbearable and more that Navy anticipated. So much so they chose to found an independent study and file a lawsuit in Federal court.

Nothing can be worse and more unpatriotic then complaining against our Armed forces. Looking from a simple and emotional point of view saying that our brave men and women should go into battle without proper training on how to land jets on aircraft carriers in the middle of the night is selfish and rude to say the least. I am the first one to agree they are loud and I do believe the concerned citizens that it makes their daily lives and their livestock uncomfortable. One can easily choose to support either side of the story and argue it passionately until the bitter end. And so far seeing that our island is mostly inhibited by Navy families and those who’s livelihood depends on Naval Air Base and it’s future on Whidbey Island the support for a few who choose to sue is non existent.

As a Navy wife my logical respond would be: Base has been here longer then most of the houses of people who are suing. We all sign acknowledgement that we are buying property in a flight path and it’s expected noise level. Let them fly, if you don’t like it-MOVE.

As a passionate advocate for supporting local farmers that are living on Ebey’s Landing I might say: let the local business grow and go back to natural, sustainable farming which clearly does not include noise pollution.

But as much as my gut agrees with the Navy wife stands and my passion for eating locally and supporting the farmers will not subside I am appalled by all. Because everybody supporting the Navy is now boycotting local business south of our town and our favorite pizza place is counting empty tables. Because the few silly locals who got pumped to support this lawsuit will be the most hated neighbors for years to come. Because the genius that decided to print T-shirts saying “Close OFL” and “Save OLF” will make a fortune. And when all is said and done this lawsuit will take it’s course regardless of what people say and think and how many heated comments are left on Facebook regarding it.

Ultimately this is all money based. Whenever someone chooses to sue a large entity there is money to be made. No matter how right of wrong the Citizens of the Ebey’s Reserve for a Healthy, Safe & Peaceful Environment are, at some point or the other a settlement will be made. Some lands will be bought out at a larger then market price, someone will get to build a development there in years from now and sell it at a premium, something that we have no idea about will come out of this.

And my pregnant friend who is kissing her pilot husband goodbye as he deploys will sleep restlessly hoping that he clocked enough hours of night landings before runway was closed. My friend who has the best restaurant on the island will worry how to support his family as his business declines. We will all rally up in town with signs and protest instead of going for a hike this Saturday. There will be rude exchanges and things being said in haste but in the end it really isn’t about us.

My five year old son asked me a few weeks ago at Farmer’s Market what they are selling at the stand called ‘OLF‘. I told him to to go and ask them. They politely explained to him they mind the jet engine noise and are trying to make it go away. He looked at them puzzled and said ‘They are noisy for sure. But you don’t want my Daddy to go away, do you?’

My only wish is to see the bigger picture. That we will be neighbors for generations to come, that Navy pilots will fly for our freedom for generations to come, that life will go on. Let us all get along and let the politicians do the politics. In the end whoever stands to make a profit out of this ‘Whidbey Island war’ will do so. But for the rest of their life they will sleep uneasy. And not because of jet noise, but because of guilty conscience.