Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Letter 2011

Family and Friends,
This has been an interesting year for the Minear Family, so I guess I’ll start from the beginning. In February, we took a trip to the city of Sapporo for the Sapporo Snow Festival. We took an overnight ferry to get there because Sapporo is on a different island than Misawa, the ferry ride
was a lot of fun and we are very thankful that some friends went in on a private room with us so we could get a good amount of sleep on the way there and back. In Sapporo, we saw HUGE snow
sculptures of all kinds, buildings and people and animals. We ate dinner at the Sapporo Brewery and Annelise really enjoyed the lamb and learned to ‘Kampai’, which is ‘cheers’ in Japanese. We were also able to tour a chocolate factory and drank the best hot chocolate in the world.

Then came March. March 3rd, I had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate Girls’ Day with a
local group of Japanese women; that day was one of the best I’ve spent in Misawa. On March 10th, I filled up the car with gas because I was running on fumes. On March 11th, we experienced a 9.0 earthquake and the Japanese coastline was devastated by a tsunami. Because we lost all power, we didn’t even know how devastating the tsunami was or anything about the nuclear issues in Fukushima until the next day. We were only without power for 2 days, but I was very glad that the gas tank was full since gasoline was rationed for a week or two. John worked long hours getting maps and up-to-date images to the rescue crews while I comforted Annelise during the hundreds of aftershocks. We accepted the military’s offer to leave Japan for a little while and
went to Texas at the end of March. While Annelise and I were in the States, John went on a couple of cleanup missions in the local area. When we returned to Japan, Annelise and I helped put together backpacks full of school supplies for the children of Otsuchi.

The main reason that Annelise and I left Japan was that the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks scared her. She crawled into my lap during each one and woke up when we had them at night. Even a bumpy car ride made her cry and I knew she needed some time to get past her fears. Spending time with family really helped, and it took some of the stress off of me, as well. We were also able to see my sisters during their pregnancies, which was a wonderful bonus. We hosted a baby shower for Dianna and Melisa at the beginning of May
and then headed back to Misawa.

This year, John was finally able to go to the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival with us and we had a lot of fun. The castle grounds are so beautiful when the trees and gardens are in bloom! For
Mothers’ Day, John sent me on a day trip with friends to paint kokeshi dolls, it was so much fun! I even took Annelise back to paint her own in July! In June, Annelise welcomed her first cousin, MacKenzie Marie. Melisa and Trent’s little girl is so adorable and she loves to talk to us on Skype, she smiles every time she sees us! July brought me my first godchild, Cooper Scott. He is Dianna and Kyle’s son and has me completely charmed.

August brought Annelise and me back to the States while John went to Alaska. Cooper and MacKenzie were baptized in our church back home and we loved spending two weeks with them
and the whole family. Annelise loved holding her babies and feeding MacKenzie a bottle, she’s going to be a great big sister one day. After two weeks in Texas, we traveled up north, to Indiana. We had the best time hanging out with family, eating yummy food, and
getting some shopping done. Annelise got to play with her cousin Olivia when we were in Lafayette and renamed her cousin Claire, calling her Yaya, when we were in Indianapolis.

In September, we were almost back to normal, but then October brought the Officers’ Spouses’ Club’s annual Far East Bazaar. I was on the bazaar committee and spent three days in a hangar full of amazing items. At the end of the weekend, my feet hurt and our bank account was a
little bit lighter, but the club raised over $30,000 to be given out in the local community.

John and I went out with friends in October to celebrate my birthday with some karaoke, and Annelise dressed up as Jessie from Toy Story for Halloween while John and I were Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head. November brought a family trip to Tokyo, where we visited DisneyLand and DisneySea for a couple of days. We had a blast and got to meet a number of Disney Characters, including Princess Aurora, Minnie Mouse, and Princess Ariel. We made the trip over Thanksgiving and Annelise’s third birthday, she had a blast and loves to tell people about the trip. She wore her Jessie costume one day and a Cinderella costume the next and everyone at the
parks thought she looked adorable.

Now that December is here, we’re finally relaxing after a crazy year. John had an inspection at work this month that ate up a week out of every month this year while they prepared. Thankfully, his office did well and we’re done with that for a while. We’re planning a quiet Christmas at home before ramping up for the new year. We have several friends arriving here over the next few months, which eases the pain of some of our closest friends moving

When we moved to Misawa, we thought we’d be leaving in January of 2012, but we have extended our stay by six months. We will be done with our tour here this summer and should be finding out about our new assignment in the next couple of months. We have absolutely loved our time here and are so grateful for the chance to live in this amazing country. The people are so wonderful and their culture contains much to be admired. We haven’t always enjoyed living so far from ‘home’ or how long it takes items to arrive in the base stores, but we have made many wonderful memories and dear friends.

We’re sorry that more of you couldn’t visit us in Japan, but we understand how much money and time it takes to come here. There are a number of things left on our ‘to-do’ list that will remain undone, like a visit to Kyoto and Hiroshima, me climbing Mt Fuji, and seeing some of the southern islands, but overall we feel that we experienced some of the best that Japan has to offer. We plan on spending the rest of our time here enjoying one last Winter and Spring, building snowmen, skiing (for John), watching the trees and gardens bloom, and spending plenty of time at the beach. We can’t wait to see what life has in store for us this next year!

Merry Christmas!!
John, Angela, and Annelise