Hey out there. As I sit in our rental home in Tampa, I am a little overwhelmed with all of the events of our PCS the last few months. Let me recap.
Jess, Biscuit, and I were booted from our house on December 3rd and were relocated to the on base hotel for a few nights. We departed for (and landed in) Tampa on December 7th. After 5 long LONG flights totaling somewhere around 38 hours of travel time, we found our way to the on base hotel for about two weeks. During those two weeks, we looked at approximately fifteen rental homes, googled about 200 others, got cell phones, Jesse completely in-processed at work, and we bought two cars. After those fourteen-ish days, we scooped Sophia up and flew to Texas for Christmas. In Texas, we stayed with "Grandma Gail" for another two weeks and then made our way back to yet another hotel in Tampa for three nights. We finally moved into our rental house on January 5 and our small shipment of things like pots and pans, sheets, and blankets came on January 6.
We were officially homeless for 34 days. I slept on an air mattress for the following 25 days while Jesse slept on the floor, and we've been living out of the same four suitcases for the last three months. Our large household goods shipment that contained our beds, furniture, and majority of our possessions left Okinawa in late October arrived yesterday (17 days past the "deadline") which means that we were able to spend one night in our very comfortable bed before Jesse had to be at the airport at 6 am today for his first "Army Vacation" with the new job. Oh, and I'm now a few days shy of 29 weeks pregnant.
None of those numbers or events are exaggerated in the slightest.
I thought we were prepared for this move, and we were. I had never done a military move before (since Jesse and I met in Japan), and so you might even say I was over prepared, borderline obsessive. We had just about everything we needed in those 4 suitcases to live fairly comfortably for an indefinite amount of time. Everything went as smoothly as possible in Okinawa as well getting from Okinawa to Tampa. The on base hotel in Tampa was more like a small house than a hotel, and it was nice to be able to do laundry in our own room, cook our own meals, and watch American TV shows we'd never even heard of.
I had researched Tampa quite a bit before we moved so I thought we were also prepared in the area of house hunting. There lies my biggest mistake. Having never been to Tampa ourselves, we really had no clue what we were getting ourselves into. We were used to driving max about 20-30 minutes to ANYWHERE we wanted to go in Okinawa. The areas where we were looking to rent meant a 45-75 minute commute for Jesse every day. Not to mention the zoning. Rather, the lack of zoning. Trying to avoid that commute along with about $4.50 a day in toll fees, we started looking at locations in South Tampa. There are businesses next to 3 million dollar homes next to a trailer with 4 cars parked in the front yard - one of which is on blocks. We were assured these areas were safe, just "quirky." We were definitely starting to feel the reverse culture shock of moving back to the US after being away for so long. I started crying in Publix because they didn't carry Japanese rice or dried red chiles.
Let me just say, thank goodness we did our own research on the areas that some of these homes were in. For example, we completely fell in love with one house that we were going to apply for. It was a beautiful Key West style townhome, lime green, 3 stories, 2 car garage, all wood floors, gorgeous kitchen. And it was in our budget! For some reason, I got it in my head that we needed to look at crime rates in the area. This was about twelve hours before we were going to apply and put down a deposit for the home. Looking at crime rates and such might be common for most people when looking at renting or buying property, but before you judge me for NOT thinking to do this sooner, remember I lived in a country for the last four years where there is an average of less than 10 murders a year. Jesse lived there for seven years. It wasn't even on our radar that we needed to check this kind of thing. After finding what we did, I guarantee we will do this for any future move within the US.
The first thing that popped up in google was the sex offender list. I should have known then that we were not renting this home. I felt completely sick to my stomach as I realized there were 6, 6! offenders and one predator living in a 2 block radius of our dream rental. The house directly behind the property had a mother and son living in it that were BOTH on the list. We could see their house from "our" master bedroom. The sexual predator lived one block over. I'm not even going to try to describe the state of these homes. Let's just say when we did our "night recon," we were VERY concerned and Jesse was making me promise I wouldn't be going out after dark if he wasn't home. Needless to say, we didn't apply for this house. We were very, VERY frustrated by this point.
Thankfully, we did finally find a townhome that we decided to rent and bonus! The community is sex offender free. Jesse does have to drive a minimum of 30 minutes to work every day, but we are really enjoying our area on the weekends. I've started going to yoga about 5 times a week, Jess has found a running trail he really enjoys and Biscuit is just happy to be in the same place for more than a few days at a time.
Overall, I'd have to say the PCS was an okay experience, but not one I want to do again any time soon. Moving back has definitely been an adjustment and quite honestly, I thought I would adjust faster. I really miss Okinawa, and I know Jesse does, too. While we still agree that it was time to leave Oki for the sake of our mental well-being, we are definitely on board if we get stationed there again. If this post seems like it's coming from a place of exhaustion, then bingo! My current mental state is shining through on your computer screen. It's been a rough few months, but we've obviously made it through. January has been fairly good to us, and after having a frustrating December, I decided to start 2014 by committing to thinking more positively and looking for the good in all situations. Yoga has really, really been good for me this month and time out of the house to myself has been a blessing. Now that the dust has cleared (along with the moving boxes), we can FINALLY concentrate on baby and getting completely ready to become parents in eleven short weeks. The excitement and nerves are really kicking in, but we truly can't wait.
Here's to a happy, exciting, and full year from our little family to yours!