When my wife and I arrived at Misawa Air Base in Misawa, Japan, we knew no one. That is how life goes when your spouse is an active duty military officer, you spend 2-4 years in one place and then you move to the next place. It is a little easier on the military member as they are continuing their profession, involved in similar job tasks at the new duty station, and may know a handful of people at the new place in the faces of those they have served with on deployments or previous duty stations…at least most of the time that is the case. For the military spouse, however, it is a very different story.
For the military spouse it means everything changes every 2-4 years. I mean everything! Your job. Your location. Your house. Your friends. Everything. To transport our lives to Misawa at the command of the United States Air Force I had to resign from my job as an educator in the city of Las Vegas, in other words I left a perfectly good job and my own financial stability for the unknown. The move was not easy. We had to pack up our house in Vegas into what would make the voyage to Japan and what would live in storage in the United States, we had to sell our automobiles as it was cost prohibitive to ship them to Japan, we had to say goodbye to our families and life-long friends, and we had to say goodbye to another group of good friends we were just getting to know. Next stop: Misawa, Japan.
So we arrive in Misawa as strangers in a foreign land. My wife goes to work at the hospital leaving me home alone. So, I sleep in for the first time in a long time! This goes on for a few weeks and is quite refreshing. And then I hit the wall of boredom. For the those first few weeks, I did the same thing everyday: sleep in, eat breakfast, unpack boxes, explore Misawa AB, explore Misawa City, and explore job opportunities. Wake up and repeat. It was like I was living in the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray!
About those job opportunities. I’ve been an educator for over twenty-five years. A couple of months before we left Las Vegas, I submitted my application and all required documents to the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) because all inquiries led me to believe there was an immediate need for middle and high school teachers. Once I arrived here in Misawa, I found that to be inaccurate. What they needed were qualified substitute teachers. I did apply to substitute at the schools on base. I have subbed at both the elementary and the high school and had great experiences, but subbing is not really my cup of tea. USAJobs is the other employment avenue for finding employment on Misawa AB and I have been navigating those murky waters as well and as I write this blog, the future looks promising. Needless to say, despite the attempts at job acquisition, I still had a lot of time on my hands. Enter Jacob Bitterly and Joe Nestor.
Jacob arrived in Misawa about two months after I did. In fact, he is my neighbor. His wife is active duty at the hospital, so Jacob also has a lot of time on his hands. We sort of saw each other as we came and went during our long days of keeping ourselves occupied. We actually started talking one day waiting for a class on how to use the wood shop on base. We were both waiting outside for an instructor that never showed up! We discovered later that it was a Japanese holiday and the class had been cancelled. From that day forward, we became fast friends. The days were more enjoyable for both of us as we now had someone to run errands with and do some exploring. Maybe Misawa would not be that lonely after all.
Joe, his wife, and two daughters arrived in Misawa around the same time my wife and I arrived. Joe’s wife is also active duty working at the base hospital. One day, Jacob asked me if I wanted to go to lunch with him and meet this guy named Joe, whom he had met through his wife. Of course I said yes, what else was there to do at this moment in time. We piled into Jacob’s car and headed to Isshintei Yakiniku Restaurant for lunch. We had a fabulous lunch and started to get to know one another. One lunch led to another lunch which led to exploring the world around us together. We decided that life was more fun as a pack, so we formed our own Wolf Pack. Then, one of us had an idea.
The idea, as Joe explained it to us, was to start shooting video of our adventures and create our own YouTube channel. We had the time, we had the passion for exploring, and Joe had the video skills and equipment. Next thing we knew, we were calling ourselves the Well Kept Men of Misawa (WKMoM) and we created our own YouTube channel. First adventure? Getting haircuts at a local Japanese barber in Misawa! Other adventures have included fish markets, bowling, cool lunch spots, must-see travel spots in northern Japan, and grocery shopping. Our videos have been well received and we have started to build a following.
The Well Kept Men of Misawa came at time when the three of us were searching for a way to belong in this new place, a purpose beyond our daily family life, and fill our day in a productive way. The goal of each video is to inform and entertain our viewers about everyday life in Misawa, Japan. And with each video, the message we impart is to be positive with an open heart and open mind. Don’t just make do with your situation, but do your best with a positive attitude and do LIFE! The rest, as they say, is history!
Go to our YouTube channel and watch what it is like to live in Misawa, Japan! Here are two links to get you there and don’t forget to Follow, Like, and Subscribe!
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