Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I'm playing by my own career rules and you can, too...

Doesn't that post title sound like some kind of cheesy ad that pops up on your screen as you're browsing a lifestyle web page? But it made you click, right? One of the many little tricks we've shared at an IHBO meeting. Don't know what the IHBO is? You might want to... keep reading...

Little did I know at the time, but when I married my active duty military spouse, my career plans became secondary to... just about everything. Being career-minded, goal oriented, and sporting a bachelor's degree, I wrestled with the inevitable for a decade before finally realizing that I needed to find a source of income that did not require me to live somewhere any longer than three years. Sure, I worked at plenty of companies, and while I received glowing reviews from my employers, and displayed leadership skills, I was never given a promotion. Either I wasn't with the company long enough for the opportunity to present itself, or the employer would (incorrectly) assume that it would be smarter for them to invest in someone who "would be around longer." Oddly enough I outlasted every employee in my department at my last job... except for one, who was my boss. And only one other employee had an active duty spouse. The rest were "natives." Be careful about assuming, people...

Scrabooking instructor
But since most employers do assume, my career path has been less than direct. It looks like I can't hold a job because of the moves I must make for my husband's career. Or, especially when I was younger, prospective employers didn't believe how much experience I actually had. They assumed (there's that word again) that I had padded my resume. When, actually, I just asked for more work and opportunities to learn more. If you hadn't guessed by now, I don't like to be bored and if I am required to be somewhere for eight hours, I'd rather be busy.

My jobs have always been in some form of communications, from reporter and photojournalist, to advertising and marketing representatives/consultants/whatever-title-they-wanted-to-give-me-except-manager-because-then-they-would-have-to-pay-me-more. Later, I would own a crafting business I founded, only to sell it for a loss when the economy tanked in 2009 and, I yet again, had to move.

Some of this may resonate with other military spouses. Depending on their career paths and training, they may also have to get certified in different states (which can take months or years), and/or make sure they get the continued education they need to maintain their American certifications... in Japan or Europe. All while they are juggling kids, the household and the curveballs life tosses their way - like their active duty spouse being deployed for months, or sent across the country for weeks to attend one of the inevitable "trainings" that he or she has to do for either their job or their rank. But, of course, employers also assume that these military "single parents" will be less reliable because of the absence of their spouse. I find that to be hilarious. I've found that dependable people are dependable regardless of their home life. You can't get the lazy broad with an accountant husband and a mother-in-law in residence to be on time to anything if she doesn't want to. Trust me, I've witnessed it.

Marketing Rep
So, as I am sure you can sense, I have a bit of bitterness about the opportunities I would have loved to have had when it came to my career. I watched my husband get promoted four times over the past 13 years. I am so proud of him and he deserved each one. But those are HIS successes (I'll save the blog post on wives who wear their husbands' ranks for another day). Being who I am, right or wrong, I couldn't help but look at my own career and how I've never been promoted. I've changed jobs, I've been given more responsibility - without more pay, of course - but I have never been promoted and it breaks my goal-oriented heart.

Well, it DID break my goal-oriented heart - for about a decade. Which was about 10 years too long. Instead, I decided to play by my own rules... which is what I'm better at anyway.

About three years ago, I decided to change my goals. I had to readjust so that it was no longer about becoming a manger at some company that wouldn't allow me to telecommute from wherever we got stationed next. I didn't want to be at the mercy of someone else's "assumptions." I had to "think different" (sorry, Apple haters, but I love the premise of that company's story and philosophy) and think bigger. Forget about being a manger. My goal was to do something I loved, and make some money doing it. I'd lead by example.

I took stock of what I liked to do, and what I thought I was good at: scrapbooking, crafting, photography, reading, writing, teaching, problem solving, learning, organizing, leading. And, now, I'm doing them all.

Thanks to the spouse's G.I. Bill, I was able to earn a master's degree in Strategic Communication and Leadership from the University of West Florida in Pensacola, FL, for free. I did this while my husband was stationed at NAS Pensacola, graduating two months before we moved here to Japan. I took a full course load (9 graduate school credit hours a semester, which was three or four classes) worked at a marketing job, was a graduate teaching assistant (which means I taught public speaking to freshmen and sophomores) and still managed to get to most of my sons' baseball games. I even occasionally slept. Everything is a trade-off though: I also gained 50 pounds. Yikes.

I'm a master! ;)
But two years of this insanity was about to pay off. While jobs may come and go, I would always have an advanced degree on my resume, not to mention the knowledge I gained while completing the coursework.

Graduate teaching assistant
When we moved to Japan almost two years ago, that's when I really started being able to "think different." I am now able to live a life I love to wake up to.

Hours after completing my final project required for a masters degree, UWF offered me a position as an adjunct instructor online. So I now teach Global Communication to college seniors, which I love doing. I wish I could be in the classroom, and I wish I could pursue my doctoral degree, but that's just not possible right now. And instead of seeing it as a career goal unfulfilled, I am seeing it as something to maybe do later, when the time is right. The time is right for other endeavors right now.

Tenaciously Remembered
Once I settled in to the Iwakuni community, I dusted off my crafting skills, as well as my bachelor's degree in photojournalism and business. I now own two home-based businesses, Tenaciously Remembered, with which I teach crafting classes and make hand-made scrapbooks and gifts, and Jessica Guthrie Photography... which is pretty self-explanatory. I take pictures and try to make them great ones. I also teach photography classes. With both, I am able to make my own schedule (which does sometimes require me to accommodate my clients' schedules, but, again, it's my choice) so that I can have time off whenever I want to go explore Japan, volunteer as a LINKS mentor, go to my kids' baseball games, sleep in for a few more hours, etc. Oh, and I was able to focus on losing that 50 pounds. But I not only had to be self-motivated to lose weight, but to build my businesses, too. My businesses will only do as well as the effort I put in to them. Kind of like diets.

Jessica Guthrie Photography
And as a military spouse who moves around a lot, this is where I need to "think different," and I encourage other spouses to do the same. There are a lot of discouraged people coming to Iwakuni, people who are quitting good jobs to move. I had to quit two jobs when I moved. Bummer. But it was going to be awhile before I could be a manager in either place. Good point. So I became my own "manager." I made my own goals and definitions of success. And, as a military spouse, or as someone whose career plays second fiddle to a higher priority in your life, your definition of success is probably going to need to change, adapt and overcome. You may not be able to find a nursing job in Iwakuni... actually more than likely you won't. But, what are your interests and specialties? Can you train to be a doula? Can you become a nutritionist? A life coach? Can you counsel parents on disciplining their kids? (Please?) If you are a licensed teacher, you may not be able to find a job at the schools right away. There are a lot of opportunities to teach English to the Japanese. Or, maybe you can tutor students, teach painting classes or be an instructor for an online university. I hate to use a cliche', but think outside of the box. Google some phrases that pertain to your skills and interests. You may be surprised about what jobs are out there that you may not have thought of.

If you are having a hard time thinking of a business idea, then yes, there are the catalog party companies for jewelry, containers, toys, crafting, fitness, makeup... if you're female, you've probably ordered from one of these, or have already been a consultant for one. I don't advocate doing the direct sales thing to get rich, or even have a full-time-job income. The only people who get rich selling Tupperware/Avon/Princess House/whatever-other-company-has-parties-and-a-catalog are the people who started the company to begin with, and now have every single consultant beating the streets for sales providing them their paycheck. Or, the rich people are the dream story you hear from your upline and read about inside the front cover of the company catalog: the 0.5 percent of company consultants who have made parties and sales their life, are incredibly driven, and, well, let's face it, are pushing their products 24/7. They are the ones who you see at the supermarket and then you try to turn your cart down another aisle quickly. You hide before they can ask you to join their team or have a party because you haven't had one for them this month yet and there's a new hostess special she knows you're gonna love. And the reason I know this is because I sold Princess House (it's like Tupperware, only glass instead of plastic) for about two years. I learned a lot, "earned" a lot of free or half-price items that still grace my kitchen, but I never got rich. I wasn't pushy enough at the supermarket. I didn't want to be avoided. However, I do think that being a consultant for one of these companies teaches you a lot about people, sales and marketing yourself, but as a long-term career, it very rarely works, even for those with the best intentions.

I also decided that if I had to be a pushy, driven consultant, it was going to be for my own business, not someone else's.

But starting a business aboard MCAS Iwakuni wasn't as simple as creating a Facebook page and sharing the link on Iwakuni Classifieds. There's a little more that goes in to having a business here; some of it can be complicated, and very little of it is well advertised or explained. So, I set out to solve that problem and founded the Iwakuni Home-based Business Organization (IHBO) in October 2012. It's a group of active duty military, military spouses and other SOFA-status people who also happen to have some kind of business that they own. You can see some of them here. We are not affiliated with the base or the government. We are here to help other business owners navigate the SJA paperwork, follow the marketing rules the base has so they don't get in to trouble, and understand what customer service in a small community entails (Rule #1... don't bad-mouth your competition... this is a very small community and it will probably not bode well for you in the long run). We also host business expos on base a couple of times a year, and have meetings about once a month to network, share ideas (like blog post titles that are catchy) and pool resources. You can find out more about the IHBO, learn how to join the group, and get some info on starting the SJA process here.

I know this post is long and without pretty pictures, but if I have helped some spouses find inspiration and/or avoid the pitfalls I've stumbled in to at some point, then it's done its job. And if you're staring to "think different" about your career path, then perfect. I can't wait to see what you come up with. Live the life you can't wait to wake up to.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Cabining in Oshima... Day 2

Please note, there is a prequel to this post... Cabining in Oshima Day 1. I recommend reading it first because there are several references to the information in that post in this post.

When we woke up Monday morning, it was a special day in our family. It was Xan's birthday. So, I woke him up singing (more like yodeling with some scratchy yelling) our family's traditional birthday song: "Hippo, Birdies, Two Ewes". It was from a birthday card my Dad got years ago, one with a hippo, some birds and a couple of sheep, and it's just stuck around. Plus, we don't owe anyone royalties when we sing it.

After breakfast, it was present time... even for Will , who wouldn't celebrate his birthday for 10 more days. Yes... both of my boys were born in April, the month of the Military Child, and the month that has a diamond birthstone. I have two pair of diamond earrings my husband awarded me in the hospital after pushing each of them out. Winning!

So Xan got his gift first... one that he had asked for months before but, I think, forgot he had asked because he figured he would never get it. But, with big brother going off to junior high next year, and him sometimes walking home alone from school because of that, plus his excellent responsibility when it comes to his other devices, the spouse and I did something we never thought we would do... gave a 2nd grader a cell phone. And I think you can see how surprised and excited he was:

So, now all four Guthries have cell phones. Scary... but efficient. It's pretty easy to find and communicate with each other... even if one of us is simply in the bathroom.

Then it was Will's turn. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes with him probably knows he is obsessed with fish and other slimy creatures. He enjoyed fishing with friends and family in Illinois the past couple of summers, so we figured we'd enable his interest with a fishing pole. You can see how surprised and excited he was. Until he tried to actually use it.

Please note the utter redneck-ness the spouse is displaying. We are on vacation. I am on vacation, which means 1) he did not have to wear his cammies to work and 2)  I gave up trying to dress him for a couple of days. And also note this plastic box the fishing pole came in... this will be important later.
So, off we went to fish. I was going to send the guys off for some "man time" so that I could finally enjoy some quiet reading time, but was guilted in to coming along so I could take pictures. Fortunately, it was a quick excursion. We drove down to the beach below our cabin and walked out to the manmade jettys, or concrete piers.

I had found a bamboo fishing pole for 105 yen and the Daiso, so that Xan wouldn't feel left out. The line on his pole managed to reach the water with about six inches to spare. But, it turns out, he had it better than Will did. Will's line tangled every time he cast, resulting in a huge mess. So... we fished for about 15 minutes before everyone was cold and bored. We headed back to the cabin.

Which was fine by me because the deal was that if they got to do what they wanted to do (fishing), I got to do what I wanted to do, which was explore the island. And have lunch at Aloha Orange. If you haven't eaten at this Hawaiian restaurant, you should. And I don't care what diet you are on (unless, of course, you are on the "I am allergic to nuts" diet), you must have the macadamia nut pancakes. Order it with your meal because it takes awhile for it to be made.

So here is a map I took a picture of, with numbers that I added as to where we went to explore... all of it for free, with the exception of fuel for the car. Click on the picture of the map to enlarge it.

So, Number 1 is Katazoe Beach, where we were cabining. There are plenty of walks to take along the beach and up through the hills, and a few jelly fish to poke sticks at. Be sure to go back to the previous blog post for the details about this great place to "get away."

Number 2 is Aloha Orange. And Iwakuni Explorer has a good write up about it, so I won't bother.

Number 3 is a shrine we found when we followed the Jutendo sign to a grocery store. We need to buy some things, like salt and a spatula, and figured that somewhere near a Jutendo (gardening store) would be a grocery store. And we were right. There was a grocery store next to Jutendo. That's a good thing to note of you are planing to cabin anytime soon. As you drive around the island, away from the green bridge that brings you to the island from Iwakuni (you will have turned left after exiting the bridge on the Oshima side) you will look to the right little ways after passing Aloha Orange and you will see an orangey red Jutendo sign with an arrow pointing inland. Follow the sign. Go to Jutendo (The grocery store is to the right of Jutendo, just FYI, as is the liquor store). And, instead of pulling in to the Jutendo parking lot, turn left on the road in front of it. All of a sudden, you will come upon this:

And this... minus the Guthries.

Park your car in a sort of small parking lot across the road in front of this gate and start walking through the gate. You will pass this building that looks like it is about to keel over...

... and an auto repair shop with a blue sign to find this:

 And this:

 And this:

This, too:

Ready to work off those macadamia nut pancakes? Start climbing! It's worth it! (There is away to drive up to the shrine above, but we didn't go looking for it. The map near where we parked the car may help if you're not a stair climber.)

At the top is a small shrine, and the cherry blossoms were still blooming while we were there... it was very pretty.

But keep walking... on the path to the right of this shrine... because there is more... stairs. And more shrine to see. I won't ruin it for you, but here are some fun highlights:

I am sure this shrine has a name, but I did not learn what it was. But, if you can find the Jutendo, chances are you can find the shrine. Just look for this:

After burning off the pancakes, there was still plenty of afternoon left, so we headed off to Number 4 on the map above... a wind park. I do not know what the wind park is for, since there was nothing going on that day. The picture on the map above has some hang gliders, so there you go. But the building at the wind park does have a grassy slope on one side of the building that gives you a great view of the Oshima foothills.

While I don't have a picture of it, from this slope, we could see a clock tower to the left of the view above with some steps or seating around it. The spouse wanted to check it out, so we drove over there next. There wasn't much to see, so we drove past and started to look for a place to turn around... and came across a glass beach, seemingly untouched.

Until we got there and climbed down... no stairs... it is definitely a bot a of a drop, but my Big OK butt managed to do it. With assistance from the Big OK spouse, but really, nothing I couldn't have managed to do alone, but I know how he likes to feel needed . ;)

We stopped and collected all sorts of treasures. The glass and ceramic pieces we found were all sanded down smooth by the salt water and there were so many colors and patterns! Anyone who enjoys collecting sea glass would enjoy it here. Xan even found a discarded frying pan. Lots of treasures for everyone!

Number 5 on the map was actually something we did on the way home to Iwakuni the next day, but I'm going to add it here. As you drive along the coast of the island, past Aloha Orange and Jutendo, but just before the tun off for Katazoe Beach, you will find this market and visitors center:

Nothing is in English, but it is fun to look around, shop and eat. And go island hopping. There were pictures and maps that explained this in the visitors center, otherwise I would not have known. If you park and walk behind and to the right of the building you see above, there is a wharf, where you can follow the sea wall in an "L" shape until you reach a sandy peninsula. And then, you can walk out to the "island." Warning: There is a lot of discarded trash around, so if you have toddlers, keep an eye on them. They might find a rusty bucket or twelve. But the views are gorgeous... and the trash, interesting.

And the kids said the rock climbing was superb.

So, after we had our exploring adventures, we headed back to the cabin. We had hot dogs to roast and a birthday to celebrate!

Now, I realize that I did not share pictures of part of the cabin in the last post. This is the inside of the front door.

When you enter the cabin though this door, you are immediately greeted by this:

And I mean the huge window, not the redneck with the barbecue and large child. There is a window decal on the glass because I am sure some drunk Japanese guy tried to walk through one of these windows once. I almost did and I was sober. Margaritas are hard to find in Japan.

As you are staring at the window, you can turn to the left and find the bathroom sink area:

To the right of the sink is the shower room.. which Rodney and I are considering installing in our next home. But with higher amenities so that Big OK people can fit better.

 And to the left of the sink area is the toilet:

All of this is important in the story I am about to tell. The cake had been eaten, everyone was in bed. Rodney was playing games on his iPad and listening to music with his headphones. I was reading a book on my iPad. The boys were asleep. Before I settled in to go to sleep, I decided to use the bathroom so that my uncomfortable sleep wouldn't be disturbed. I tuned on only the lights necessary and did my business. I came out to head to bed and was greeted by this:

Now, this is a picture of a huntsman spider a pulled off of the internet, but it looked like that. Very common in Japan, apparently. Especially when cabining. I was too busy yelling and running to get a picture of my own. It was the size of a drink coaster. Not kidding. I shrieked... a lot... and ran. The spider ran, too, right in to the shower room. I yelled for Rodney... who did not say a word and definitely did not come running to my aid. I ran back to the bed and found him happily humming along to his music. He had his headphones in and couldn't hear his damsel in distress. I ran over to him, yanked his earphones out and told him that he obviously didn't hear my shrieking. Neither did the kids, apparently, because they remained fast asleep through the whole thing.

Of course I told him about the huge spider, to which, he sighed, nodded and got out of bed to remove from my presence. His demeanor definitely suggested that he believed I was over reacting. I stayed where it was safe - on the bed - and let him go kill the spider alone.

"Holy $h!t!!!" is what I heard from the bathroom. Mmm, hmm, yeah. Remember, I'm not prone to over-exaggeration when it comes to the size of things, dear. And then I caught "Bring me something to kill it with! This paper towel isn't enough!"

I glanced around the cabin.. iPads... no... chopsticks.... no.... rice cooker... no.... plastic box from the fishing pole... yes! I grabbed the yard-long plastic box and tossed it to the spouse before climbing back on the bed.

BAM-bam-bam-bam-BAM! BAM! BAM! "Ugh! He's getting away!" BAM! Bam-bam-bam! BAM! Bam-bam-bam! "He's running for the door!" Bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-BAM-BAM! "Got it!" And then the paper towel came in handy so the not-so-small corpse could be disposed of.

I cabined instead of camped so I could avoid large creatures with too many legs. I am going to assume this was just our lucky night with arachnids and say that yes, I will cabin again. The fact that there is a lovely view, flushing toilet and warm shower makes it tolerable... but I will definitely be bringing air mattresses and possibly a maid. Between all the cooking, bed-making and spider-finding, I didn't get as much quiet reading time in as I had hoped.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cabining in Oshima, Day 1

Each spring break, we try to take a little family trip. Last year was Sasebo. This year was cabining. And I say "cabining" because, and I am using third person to place emphasis on this properly, Jessica does not camp. I tried camping in Girls Scouts about three times: 4th grade, 5th grade and 6th grade, and the experiences progressively got worse. These experiences included icy winds whipping THROUGH our cabin all night (to the point where we were so cold, we were a shade of blue and got to sleep in the facility's cafeteria the next night), vomit and menarche. Add to that overflowing porta-potties, having the lyrics of "Pour Some Sugar on Me" written on my arm in Sharpie, and dust so thick you couldn't breathe, and I'd had enough by junior high. I do not camp.

Cabining, however, is something I might be able to appreciate... if I brought a maid along with me. Let me explain.

As a Christmas present, our neighbors took the boys cabining a couple of months ago and they had a great time, The boys were eager to share this experience with us, their parents, and asked if we could go for Spring Break. The spouse, who is from rural Illinois, felt the need to get back to his woodsy roots and was willing to go. That just left me as the party pooper, and, if you haven't learned anything from these posts, it's that I am willing to try nearly anything once. So, I agreed to try cabining. After getting information from the neighbors who put this idea in the boys' heads, I headed over to the ITT (travel) office on base, found in Crossroads Mall. There I told them where I wanted to camp, Katazoe Beach on Oshima Island (about an hour from base), and they used my cell phone to make the reservation. I could have done it myself, of course, but I do not speak Japanese. For a 4-person cabin, it runs about $130 a night. In my opinion, this is cheap, considering that Japanese hotels charge per person, meaning we spend more than $200 a night in most cases. ITT also gave me a map to the campground, and a list of all the amenities the campground had to offer. Our cabin had a kitchen, so we could cook meals there. We also rented a grill for 1,000 yen ($10) for each day. Yeah, that's expensive, but they clean it for you afterwards. Bonus.

So, not having been camping in my adult life, I definitely needed think seriously about what to pack. We brought food for five meals (one meal we were going to eat at Aloha Orange, a Hawaiian restaurant on the island that I recommend - be sure to get the macadamia nut pancakes), items to grill being the top staple. We remembered eggs, cereal and fruit for breakfast, hotdogs, hamburgers, ketchup, mustard and the things needed to make s'mores, but forgot salt and pepper. While sheets and blankets are provided, you need to bring your own bath and kitchen towels, as well as bath soap... we did forget bath soap, but, luckily I had some soap left from a hotel stay a few months back. Mom saves the day! Essentially, by the time we were done packing to be gone for 48 hours, the four of is had filled the back of my large sedan.

So much for packing light. But we were on the road a little after 1 p.m. so we could check in around 3 p.m., the earliest you could check in to your cabin. While the staff does not speak much English, as long as you have your yen in hand, everything else kind of works itself out as you check in. You had over the yen, they hand over sheets, a cabin door key and a pass that opes the electronic gate t the campground. A gated community, no less! But definitely have a Japanese translator on speed dial... I had to use my "Phone a Japanese Friend" option about an hour in to the cabining experience.

Spring break was an excellent time to go. The weather was cool but not miserable and it is not a popular time for the Japanese to camp, so there were only a few other people there. A Japanese family was truly camping... in a tent and everything. And there eded up being a group of Japanese men cabining on the hill above us. Other than that, we had the place to ourselves.

We got Cabin #5. And this was the view from our back porch:

Fr thse camping in tents, the building seen in the picture above is the bathrooms, showers and laundry room. Maybe this isn;t "real" camping after all. No toilet paper leaves necessary.

This was the front of our cabin.

And the back... the spouse is already dressed in hunting gear, with a cigar, starting the grill. He looks happy, doesn't he?

This was a cabin behind us, which was easer to take a picture of. Ours was on a bit of a cliff, so getting a good shot of the porch was difficult.

Once all the required gear was brought in to the cabin, the males in the family scattered, leaving the housework to the lone female in the family. I supposed I could have gotten dirty with the boys or smoked a cigar with the spouse, but I was more of the mind to sit quietly, read and enjoy the view. Plus, there were perishable foods that needed to be put in to the (tiny) refrigerator, and iced tea to be made... I was thirsty. The beds needed to be made and storage was scarce, so I had to find a place for stuff to go so I wouldn't trip on it everywhere I moved. This where the maid would have come in handy.

Here is the one-room living area:

The kitchen:

The boys loved the bunk beds... they each have their own window!

Another plus to cabining: There is air conditioning and heating, with a remote control thermostat attached to the wall. There is another console on the wall near the front door. My neighbor who took my kids camping had explained that I needed to go to the console near the door to turn on the hot water for showers and cooking. I pressed every button that I could find on the console on the wall by the front door... no hot water. Rodney confirmed that my button pushing wasn't producing the required results. All of the buttons were in Japanese ands the instruction booklet that comes with the cabin is... all in Japanese.

Hmmm... time to phone a friend. A Japanese-speaking friend. I texted a photo of the console to my friend Chie, along with a brief explanation of my predicament. It was a terrible quality photo and she called, asking if there was anyone there she could talk to about my predicament since she couldn't read the buttons on the photo. I told her I would call her back and made the 1-minute drive to the campground office. When I got in to the office, I called her back and handed the phone over to the guy at the front desk. His face was priceless. He looked at my phone, looked at me and squinted in disbelief. I said, "Please," and put the phone to my own ear in an attempt to show him how to use my iPhone. Sometimes sign language goes a long way. I handed the phone to him again. He took it delicately in his hand (I think he might have thought I had American cooties or something) and then said mushi-mushi, or whatever it is that means "hello, begin speaking" in Japanese. Chie explained my lack of hot water and Japanese reading and writing ability in a matter of moments, and I soon had the campsite guy following me to my cabin to show me how to turn the hot water on. Turns out, there is a whole other, third console in plain sight that I completely missed. He showed me how to turn on the hot water and then waited to make sure that I did, indeed, get hot water. I thanked him profusely, and then he headed back outside... and around the corner of the cabin to where my husband to grilling to ask him in limited English if everything was OK. Why he didn't ask me, I have no idea... maybe the (mostly untrue) rumors about dumb blondes has reached the island. Just because I couldn't find the third console in plain sight, geez. But I would not quibble... I now had hot water for a shower. Yet another benefit of cabining.

So here is how the afternoon went after we acquired hot water: Rodney was manly with the grill, the boys got dirty and found random "treasures" and I learned how to use the Japanese hot plate.

While I made all the beds, the guys were playing catch outside. While I put away the groceries, Rodney was "manning" the grill while the boys searched for just the right sticks for roasting marshmallows. While I made iced tea and cut produce for the burgers, the boys played tag outside and Rodney lit a cigar while stoking the grill. I didn't really get in my reading time like I had hoped. Again, a maid would have been nice.

We did go for a stroll down to the beach, but the sun was going down and it was quite chilly. We still had plenty of fun looking at weird plants and poking things washed up on the beach with a stick.

The spouse grilled hamburgers for dinner, followed by s'mores, which I had not made or eaten since Girls Scouts... they are actually quite tasty when you haven't set your marshmallow on fire. Not that Xan would know...

 I got a birds-eye view of dinner from the top of the bunk beds (with their own windows!)

While the boys were excited about the sleeping arrangements, Rodney and I were less so. Basically, the beds were tatami mats with thin futon mattresses. Thirty-something Americans aren't designed for these. Especially the spouse, who somehow convinced me it was better to sleep together on a narrow space with two futon mattresses stacked beneath us. Sleep was.... difficult. Let's just say that if we cabin again, we will be bringing air mattresses and sleep separately.

Day 2 is when the real adventure began...