When times are good…

Infinite counts of neglect in the second degree. How do you plead? Okay, guilty as charged.

It’s not really surprising that when times are good, I’d rather be out living life to its fullest than keeping up with sharing the stories. Who would blame me?

What can I say? Two years of living in Japan has only spoiled me with this quiet town full of amazing adventures. My time here is ticking down, and it’s hard not to cry as I travel around my prefecture and realize that this is the last time I’ll see it… for a while. That is my saving grace; I have to believe that I’ll be back some day.

Bear with me as I take the next few weeks and months to try to catch up on the stories that I’ve left you out of: the Hells of Beppu, falling in love with Japanese houses, getting to walk memory lane in Iwakuni with Dad, the flooded shrine of Miyajima… There are so many to tell.

While we’re looking forward, let’s also take a moment to look back. The last time I posted, I was packing up from a few months in paradise, living the good life on the beaches of Coronado, California. It was so hard to say goodbye, even to the hotel room I’d lived in for two months.

I can’t really complain about a life that takes me from one soul-capturing place to another. I’ve been blessed at the direction my life has taken and the seldom-trod paths it entails. There’s nothing like the feeling that you’re standing (or driving) where people haven’t been for years.

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Livin’ the Life

Even just scrolling through the old pictures is enough to make my breath catch. I don’t want to delete the duplicates because even those hold value. I was there. I remember that view off my balcony. Watching the sun dip behind Point Loma. It wasn’t until after it had disappeared completely that the sky would begin to darken with the fiery tones of sunset.

I could look to the surf crashing, nothing but a few hundred feet of sand between the sea spray and my door. I swear the water was never so blue as it was this summer. After years of living here, I never loved it until I came to stay for only a short while…

Where are my manners? I grew up in San Diego for the most part. Well, an outlying suburb… kinda. Anywho, needless to say, SD in sunny SoCal was not going to be anything new to me. Honestly, I wasn’t particularly excited at the prospect of returning. Thank goodness I’d only be there for three months.

Yeah, everyone else in the Navy seems stoked at the idea of getting orders to Sand Dog, but for me, the area reeks of old haunts, lost connections, and struggle. Don’t get me wrong. I had a whole list of things I wanted to do, places I wanted to visit (a slightly smaller list), and people I wanted to see (a pretty short list by this point) while I was in town. The overall feel though, as my road trip wound down to its last few thousand miles, was that of trepidation.

SoCal was where I’d gone through most of my schooling, namely high school. HS was not the high point in my life, which was why I got out early. I sincerely hope it’s not the high point for anybody I know. The person that was driving west across the Rockies was so different from the one that had left. The same in so many ways, but the experience behind her, the way she looked at situations, and her ability to moderate her reactions to them… those were all changes for the better. I wouldn’t want to go back to the person that left SD for bootcamp in the summer of 2007. Yet here I was, almost exactly six years later, returning to the environment that had fostered habits it had taken far greater people than me to change.

Regardless of all of that, I was not going to sulk through my last few months this side of the Pacific. And honestly, it only took a few days before I had a complete change of heart.

Meeting Bob & Barb, initially friends of my dad’s, but now I claim them as my own friends as well, was the first good turn. Tucked way up north and inland, they were technically close (like 15 miles from) the run down area I lived in throughout high school, but their lifestyles were so different from what I’d experienced, it wasn’t even possible to compare the two. Absolutely lovely people, they opened their home to me, and let me claim a lot of their time while I was still in the area. I spent my first night back in SoCal at their house, and they hosted me for my last night as well. A nice tidy circle in my opinion.

The majority of the rest of my stay in southern California was spent in paradise. I spent a few weeks living on the amphib base down near Silver Strand on Coronado Island.

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A view of the San Diego skyline across the harbor, walking access to the beach with the best views in the city (SEAL training anyone?), and finally having a purpose again by being back at work (okay, school, but at least it was a military school) made it so that by the end of those two weeks, I couldn’t imagine a better place to spend a few months TAD.

The next step in my military education, Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC), was hosted over on the dry side of 32nd St. base. I was not about to ruin the pleasant buzz two weeks in the sun and sand had built up, by living in the slums that surround that base. I tried my luck at getting a reservation at the North Island Navy Lodge during their peak season; highly unlikely considering I’d need to stay for at least 75 days. Apparently, this was my lucky summer, though.

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If I thought I was blissed out from my good fortune thus far, I hadn’t seen anything yet. My best friend Krystal finished up her time in the Navy and moved back out to California. This meant that for the first time in almost five years, we’d be living within a few hours of each other! It wasn’t to last long, but we managed to get a couple of really good visits in while we had the chance. And now I know what I can look forward to next time I go back. ^__^

Life on North Island was… indescribable. I took the time to watch the waves crashing and the sunsets fading again.

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I tried a slew of new adventures like teaching myself to surf,

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learning how to sail,

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and going deep sea fishing.

My ivory skin turned golden from my explorations,

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then it turned funny colors from my paint balling exploits (arms both near and far, both legs to the ankles… those aren’t smudges, but bruises almost two weeks after the fact).

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The sights alone were worth the stay. From the curious/comical

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to the breath-taking,

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I have so many strong memories to take away with me from this trip. Needless to say though, my stay in Coronado, CA will always have a golden aura around it.

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It was hard to leave. Clearing out my room, walking away from paradise to something I was having trouble even fathoming… my chest will still ache from just the ghost of the memory.

I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to. I didn’t see all the people I’d hoped to catch up with. I’m kind of glad for that. It’s just a few more reasons to go back again. I don’t even think I’d mind getting stationed there someday.

My time there was beautiful, but this visit was just a long stop in journey that I’m not sure I’d say has ended yet.

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Giant Spiders, Off-roading, Rivers, and Caves – One Crazy Day

A day to shame all other days. Starting the morning off in Texas gave it an unusual flavor to begin with, but when you top the morning off with giant spider encounters, you can’t help but wonder where the day will end up.Image

 

What could possibly go wrong on a drive peppered with tarantula crossings? Maybe sudden road closures due to flash flooding? Fine. But we really didn’t want to drive back the way we came, so we took a few dirt roads and even did a little mudding to see if we could find a way around the flooded section of road.

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Nope. We just dead ended at an oil storage facility in the middle of nowhere New Mexico. So, we back tracked to the closed road… but we still really didn’t want to go all the way back to the main road. Dad drove down to the flooded section and watched as a truck carefully crossed the rapidly running water.

Pft. It was barely a foot deep. We could totally make it. So, Dad forded a river in my MINI Cooper.

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It was all worth it, though, for the chance to explore the Carlsbad Caverns together.

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A must-see if you’re ever out this way. I cannot get over how beautiful the place was… and huge. We were 800 feet underground, standing in caverns that could fit 14 football fields. I tried taking pictures for the first 10 minutes or so, but quickly gave up. I’m not adept at playing with the variations of artificial cave lighting, and it was simply impossible to pull the scale and delicacy of the formations into the lens. So, I craned my neck and tried to absorb as much as I could. By the end of the self-guided tour, Dad and I were just plowing through. He kept mentioning that he was over-saturated. I knew exactly what he meant from my time in Russia and Ireland. Sometimes your mind simply cannot process any more beauty.

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The Beginning: Today

This follows the promise to many friends that I would start a blog similar to the one I kept during my travels to Russia. It likely won’t be as frequent or quite as involved and it might not always be in perfect chronological order, but I’ll try to keep it interesting. This one will read somewhat like a journaling of events. For random thoughts, rants, and discussions, check out my tumblr

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