How I Found Myself in the Back of a Military Cargo Aircraft For 12 Hours {Part III}

I let myself cry for approximately 60 seconds, just to get it out. I reminded myself that this was a completely free, direct flight to the states, and how lucky I was to get a seat. I played some Sudoku. I looked around at all the little kids that were on the plane, and thought if they could do it, so could I. (Of course, I also thought sure, but they have a parent who will let them curl up on their lap and give them juice. They also won’t be judged if they soil themselves mid-flight.)

Mid-takeoff, I had a strange sensation of going backwards. After stupidly thinking for a moment that the pilot had made a mistake and accidentally kicked it in reverse, I realized the passenger cabin faced BACKWARDS. I had gotten all turned around while boarding and finding my seat and this fairly important fact had escaped me. Take everything you know about the sensations of flying on a plane – turn it BACKWARDS.

I read my Kindle. I ate my baloney sandwich. I actually slept quite a bit, considering. It helped that it was an overnight flight and I had a row of seats to lie down on. Still, when we landed, I thought I might kiss the ground.

After the flight I had just endured, and saving about $1800 getting myself home, I had absolutely no qualms about shelling out cash for a cab straight to San Francisco. I made friends with my cab driver, who was awesome, and got to look at California for an hour while he took me straight to the hotel Tim had booked.

Tim had surprised me by upgrading my room to one with a view of the bay, which was absolutely beautiful. The room was amazing, with a king sized bed I could have lived in forever. I ordered some pizza, watched some TV, and despite having slept for hours on the plane, went straight to sleep.

The next morning I woke up early and took some photos of the foggy bay out my window. Having only a single, direct, domestic flight to catch that day was practically a vacation after my usual trips to and from Okinawa. I took my time getting ready, enjoying my room and my leftover pizza for breakfast. I headed to the airport, breezed through security, and enjoyed one of the best flights ever (Frontier, of course). My mom picked me up in Kansas City, and before I knew it I was home.

So ends my last, and most eventful, journey from Oki to the states. Tim will join me here this weekend, and then we can start our next adventure! (And no more space-a travel for me, thankyouverymuch.)


How I Found Myself in the Back of a Military Cargo Aircraft For 12 Hours {Part II}

I said goodbye to Tim, who agreed to book my hotel and next flight as soon as he knew the plane had actually taken off (anything can change with military flights). I went through security, which was stressful but pretty standard. I sat in the waiting area and then got on the bus that would take us to the plane.

The plane. More like the BEAST. I couldn’t believe how big this thing was. I thought we might actually be going into space. This is the plane that carries other planes where they need to go. This is the plane that carries the tanks. We think it was a C-5; here is a photo (not by me – my jaw was on the floor and it was taking everything I had to keep moving forward and get on the thing):

We had to climb up what I figured to be about four flights of stairs to get to the top, where the passenger cabin was. Which maybe took up about 10% of the entire plane.

There were no windows. The seats looked like they had been installed in the 50’s as an afterthought and never thought of again. Instead of headphones, they distributed earplugs, because it’s so effing loud. The safety demonstration for some reason included how to inflate your life vest in mid-air after jumping out of the plane into the water (after tossing your child out first, of course). My lunch was a baloney sandwich in plastic wrap and a bag of Doritos out of a fun pack. The “flight attendants” wore jumpsuits.

After giving up my empty row to a woman traveling with kids, I ended up in the very, very back. Right by the cargo. I basically was the cargo. Also right by the bathrooms. Imagine the raunchiest smelling port-a-potty you’ve ever had to use – that’s what I smelled every time someone opened the door to use the bathroom. Speaking of the bathrooms, the sinks were filled with individually wrapped moist towelettes, the kind you get after eating crab legs – better than nothing, I suppose. Oh, and a full-size oxygen tank. Just in case?

The noises this plane made were unbelievable. The earplugs were not optional. Being in the back, I think I had the worst of it. I jumped out of my skin every time the landing gear made a move. There may have been a few tears when it sunk in that I was going to be on this monster with no windows for twelve hours.

Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion in Part III…

How I Found Myself in the Back of a Military Cargo Aircraft For 12 Hours {Part I}

Tim and I woke up to our alarm at 3:45am on Saturday, the automatic coffee maker already brewing away. Bleary eyed, I said goodbye to the BOQ and we headed to Kadena AFB to get me registered for the space-available flight to Seattle. The flight was scheduled to leave around 9am – we got there at 5:30 to make sure I got a seat.

So did everyone else.

I didn’t get a seat.

The lady at the counter told us there was another flight leaving at 9:30 that evening for Travis AFB in California. A direct flight to Travis, with no stops on the mainland, which she assured us had plenty of seats available. We said we’d think about it, and went to get Subway.

I said hello to the BOQ (again) and we started planning my trip (again). We ended up finding a direct flight from San Francisco to Kansas City the next day for a ridiculously low price, figured out how to get me to San Francisco from Travis (about an hour away), and found some hotel options close to the airport. Tim programmed all this into my iPhone like I was a kid traveling alone for the first time. When I felt reasonably confident that I could do this, I decided to try to get on the Travis flight.

But first we napped like it was an Olympic sport.

When we got to Kadena this time, there were still a ton of people waiting, so there was a while when I was sure I wouldn’t get on this one either. Just when I’d checked the movie theater schedule for that night and decided what I wanted for dinner, they called my name and I got a seat.

When I got out my wallet to pay for my ticket, the guy at the counter told me this flight was completely free – that probably should have been my first indication of what was to come. I paid $4.25 for my meal, and that was all it took to get me on a direct flight across the Pacific. Pretty awesome, I thought. Much better than shelling out about $1800 for a one-way ticket.

It was free, the ticket guy said, because it was a cargo plane.

Now those of you who know how my mind works might understand how the first thing I pictured was the cargo plane in Temple of Doom that was filled with crates of chickens and crashed in the Himalayas after the pilots jumped out of the cockpit with the last two parachutes, leaving Indy and Willy and Short Round to escape by jumping out on the inflatable raft. Either that, or having to be strapped into seats around the side of the plane like paratroopers ready to jump out the back. I was not excited about either of these scenarios.

Stay tuned for Part II, complete with frantic iPhone photos.


Today is my last day in Okinawa. I’m beyond excited to be moving back home and starting our new adventure soon, but leaving a place, possibly forever, is always a little sad for me.

I have a terrible habit of never appreciating a place until I’m about to leave it. So today I have my graduation goggles on for Okinawa, and there are parts of it I will definitely miss.

Sayonara, Oki.

Sunabe Seawall

Tim is determined to get scuba certified before we leave the island  (which is so soon, you guys!), so he went for his first lesson this weekend. I decided to tag along to the Sunabe seawall and enjoy the beautiful day.

I was at the seawall for low tide, so I rolled up my pants and hopped around the tide pools filled with fish and crabs and starfish and other sea creatures.

I wasn’t the only one. Continue reading

Some Personal Thoughts on Japanese Hot Dog Statues

I’d like to take a minute to talk about the reasons why I find this hot dog so terrifying.

1. Most obviously, he is applying ketchup and mustard to himself. This implies that he is preparing himself to be eaten. The smirk on his face, paired with this fact, makes me very antsy.

2. The way he is licking his lips makes it seem like he is going to eat himself. This is disturbing.*

3. His arms and legs seem to imply that he is half hot dog, half human. This unnatural hybrid does not sit well with me. (Plus, his hands only have 4 fingers. This only raises more questions, like that 4-toed statue in LOST.)

4. Speaking of his arms, his biceps are too toned for a hot dog. I’m afraid I would lose to this hot dog at arm wrestling.

5. Check out his eyes. Why is he gazing so menacingly at me when he’s the one about to be eaten? Right??

6. You can’t see it in this photo, but he is wearing an American flag like a cape. Is this what Japan thinks of us as a nation? A self-cannibalistic hot dog?

7. Until recently, I assumed the only creepy hot dog statue was at Tokyo Narita Airport. The other day I discovered at least two more on Kokusai Street in Naha. I can only conclude that they are building some sort of unholy hot dog army.

*But it also reminds me of this, which is awesome:

Catching Up

I hate it when I let the blog go untended for this long. It always makes the next post seem more daunting. So, bullet points.

*Part of the reason I have fallen off the blogging wagon is what’s been going on in Japan. We are fine – Okinawa is farther away from the mainland than people realize. But watching this disaster unfold, so close to me, has been devastating. Fears of more aftershocks and now radiation just make it that much worse. I’ve sort of been curled up in a metaphorical fetal position for the past week and my anxiety, usually kept at a reasonable level, has started to get the better of me.

*Some good news  – Tim and I are starting a new, exciting adventure in a couple of months. It will involve a move to a new state, a new job (hopefully), and probably lots of ramen noodles. More on that soon.

*My thesis data collection is almost finished. Progress! Now I just have to write the damn thing (easier said than done).

*My last weeks in Columbia were filled with all kinds of awesome. A road trip to Cincinnati, the True/False film festival, and my first real photo shoot. Photos and posts to come.

*Tim and I have started working out together everyday. He’s got us on a pretty strict routine, and I love it. I feel so much better when I exercise, and it’s nice to have a workout buddy to motivate me.

Off to work out now! It’s good to be back.