Two roads diverged and I took the one lesson traveled by… and that is why it was so damn difficult.
We’ve arrived after three days of travel. Moving across the world is extremely taxing, but the hardest part isn’t emotional. It’s physical. Carrying eight bags, weighing between 45 and 70 lbs is just painful. And I really feel for my poor husband who had to do it all 😉
We flew AMC – Air Mobility Command – as dictated by the US Navy. Evidently it’s a new policy that all service members moving to Japan must take this chartered flight. Chartered flight, that doesn’t sound too bad, right?
Wrong. AMC has a few major drawbacks. Foremost: baggage. Every airline in the US allows military with orders to take four checked items per person. They deem it right to grant families who are uprooting themselves and moving overseas this small privilege. Every airline, that is, except the military airline. It only allows two. Oh, the irony!
Unfortunately for us, we didn’t know about AMC till a week before we left, and I had eight highly-organized suitcases packed and ready to go. We’d already sent everything else, so there was really no other choice than to take them… all.
Therefore, the day before our flight, my mother and I spent HOURS re-packing four bags with the contents of eight. Not so simple. Thank goodness for Ziploc Space Bags.
Well, the time arrives. First a noon flight from the east coast to Seattle, with a layover in Detroit, finally landing in Seattle at 10pm (or 1am for us). Next comes the fun part. Lugging our combined 440 lbs of stuff from baggage claim, up the stairs (yes, stairs), along the sky walkway, and across the street to where our hotel’s shuttle promises to meet us. “Promises, promises.” An hour later, we stagger into the hotel and collapse, only to find our hanging bag has been opened and they have re-packed it, catching my favorite (and very expensive) evening dress in the zipper, effectively destroying it.
So, after three restless hours of sleep, we arise again to catch our very early plane. Note: AMC requires you to check in three and a half hours early or you lose your seat. Yes, lose your seat! Whilst checking in, we discover that they have a different definition of carry-on than any other US airline. And even though our small rolling bags have gone on two planes already, they are not permitted by AMC. So we must check them as well, for a small fee of $123 per bag.
The flight itself isn’t horrendous. Yes, there are no individual TVs, and yes neither of our headphone jacks work, so you can’t even listen to the movie playing on the tiny screens at the front of the cabin, and yes, there are over 100 children on this flight, all of whom take turns having temper tantrums. But it’s only an 11-hour flight. I mean, no biggie!
Finally we arrive. Not to Narita airport in Tokyo. But to Yokota Air Force Base, where we “listen” to a brief that everyone ignores.
“Counterfeit items are prohibited. You may not bring any fake Gucchi, Chanel, or Louis Vuitton into the country. Men, you must leave your knock-off Rolex watches here. If you have a question, we can inspect the item.”
Oh yes, let me pull out my Prada wallet so couture expert, Airman Snuffy, may inspect it. Because that’s going to happen!
“Knives longer than 5 cms are forbidden. If you need us to measure, we would be happy to assist.”
Me! Me! Please wait while I remove hundreds of pieces of clothing from my eight suitcases to locate my husband’s pocketknife so you can size it! Over here!
After the superfluous briefing, we are released to collect our baggage. With us there are over 300 people (many families among them) who are moving to a foreign country. One should assume we all have a lot of luggage. Thank goodness the Air Force saw fit to provide luggage carts. All six of them. For 300 people. Yeah, that makes sense.
Anyway, after a two-hour wait on the bus, we have a two-hour drive to Yokosuka Naval Base – our new home. We are, thankfully, taken directly to the Navy Lodge, where we check in, drag all our possessions to the fourth floor, and then sigh. As we look around the small room, we realize we will be living here for the next few months as we try to find housing. There is no earthly way all of our belongings will possibly fit. But, I decide, that is tomorrow’s job.
We left home on November 30th at 10am and arrived at the hotel in Japan on December 2nd at 3pm. We are tired: physically pained, mentally exhausted; hungry; and unsure of the future.
To sum up: It was awesome! And we are here!