Turns out it's a lot harder to sit down and write when Nick is home. So here, a week later, is part two of Japan. Friday morning was moving day for Kristi. It was such a shame that her husband Ben had to leave to meet his ship just five days before they could move in, leaving everything up to Kristi, who's been quite the trooper. I rolled up to her house armed with McDonald's coffee and already the movers were unloading crates bringing boxes and furniture into her new home. Several other friends were there to pass Ryan (left) around, help direct box traffic, and make furniture placement decisions. Personally, having just gone through my own move, I cannot imagine having to make all of these decisions on my own, especially when two little guys and their things are also involved. But Kristi did a great job taking it one box at a time and, once again, showed a kind of strength only found in navy wives and navy moms.
Mari's blog post about the evening so you could get all the rich detail and cultural significance. I will be limited to describing what I remember.
Upon entering the park, we were greeted by this beautiful pagoda over a lake. It's one of those unique views that triggers your brain to confirm, "yes, we are in Japan." After admiring the gardens for a bit with the day's remaining sunlight, we had a delish bowl of mushroom udon soup (I am now obsessed with noodle soup) and tea (I am now hyper-obsessed with tea, as I was previously pretty devoted). It's the perfect meal, really.
Next we found ourselves stumbling upon a gift shop that did a touristy version of a traditional tea ceremony. At this point, I was so thankful that Mari had been taking "tea ceremony classes" (yes, such a thing exists), so she could explain what everything meant. According to Mari, the whole purpose of a tea ceremony is to show respect to honored guests and to appreciate beauty and nature and seasons. You do so by sipping a bowl of frothy green tea (which I later regretted doing whilst wide awake at 3am... completely forgot about the caffeine content!) and nibbling on these tiny sweet tea cakes. Of course, there's a lot more to it than that in terms of the order of events, the significance, even how you hold the teacup. I suggest anyone who wants to learn more should take a tea ceremony class, because that's all I've got!
|Me with the tea ceremony lady|
|Chen Zhen playing the two-stringed Asian violin (thanks Mari!)|
Another interesting level of observation on this trip was realizing just how much Guam really is like America. We're only a 3-hour flight from our friends on American bases in Japan, so I'd previously lumped us all in as "over there" type people. But after spending a week exchanging money to yen, speaking with hand gestures, and riding around on the left side of the road (which at times was terrifying!), it put into perspective just how much Guam really is like America and that we really haven't gone anywhere that terribly foreign. When I walked into our house that night after getting back, it really felt like home. And as much fun as I'd had, it was still so, so good to be home.
Finally, the best and most memorable part of the trip was being in such a foreign place and yet finding myself among friends. It was so great to see Mary and Annika and Kristi and Ryan and Will. While I love a lot of the new friends I've made in Guam, it has also felt like the past two months have been jam-packed with small talk. It's never fun trying to get to know new people and starting from scratch with friendships. It was so nice to be among people whose backstories I already knew, and who already knew mine. Especially when we found out about Amy's husband. It was comforting to be around friends who know her. It also made me realize what a truly incredible group of friends I've been a part of in San Diego. And it made me miss everyone that much more.
Thinking about these friends just now, I can't help but mention what's really on my heart and mind. Today was Brendan Looney's memorial service and burial at Arlington National Cemetery. My thoughts and prayers are very much with Amy and the friends who were able to be there to comfort her. I can't imagine how hard it was to be there... and yet, it's hard not being there too. And in fact, the hardest part of all begins now, with somehow moving forward.
As I look out my window and see the breezy palm trees, energizing blue sky and radiant sunshine, I am reminded what a glorious world we live in. I am also reminded that it's by taking memories of beautiful moments like these with us that will get us through the storms. Rest in peace, Brendan. May our collective memories of you and your sacrifice push us all to be better spouses, better friends, better Americans.