Living on base:
When we were first assigned to Hawaii, we chose to live on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. It was a good choice for us at the time. We had a large new 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath house with a two-car garage and a yard. I was pregnant with CC when we arrived, her birth was unexpectedly early, and then shortly after she was born, Johnnie deployed for six months. Being on base with all necessary conveniences within walking distance and a neighborhood of helpful people made life so much easier. I felt very safe and secure living on base, especially when Johnnie was away.
The base, which is on the south shore of the island, is almost always in a bubble of sunshine. It is amazing seeing ships and submarines come in and out of the Pearl Harbor channel, the base is nice to run around and there are many 5k races throughout the year, the dog beach is amazing during low tide, CC loved the playgrounds and all of the airplanes that constantly flew above us, and our neighborhood was a suburban paradise with kids playing in the streets and people walking their dogs. It was peaceful living, almost surreal at times.
Living on base had many benefits and we really enjoyed living there for the most part. Hickam is the first base I've lived on and one of the nicest bases that I've ever seen but no place is perfect. There was no breeze where we were so we had to run the air conditioning 24/7. There was constant noise from jet engine runs (planes sit idle with engines running, sometimes throughout the night) and from fighter jets flying overhead multiple times a day - you get used to it and learn to pause your conversations until it passes. We had neighbor houses very close in every direction so there was no view and no privacy outside. There is also the issue of contaminated soil throughout some neighborhoods on base... which you are not told about until after you move in.
We originally chose to live on Hickam even though Johnnie is not assigned to that base. He is actually assigned to and works at Schofield-Wheeler (located near the center of the island) and made the commute to and from work every day. Our new house is a much nicer commute for him. In case you're wondering,
Our Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) increased for 2014. Military members get an extra amount of money to pay for housing (depending on rank and where you are stationed) in addition to their base pay. When you live on base, every penny of that money is taken back by the military as your rent. If you live off base, you use the money to pay rent like normal, however much it is. Because we lived on base and all of our BAH was taken for rent, a BAH increase also meant a rent increase. We had to decide... essentially pay the higher rent to stay put or take the money and find a better place off base.
We wanted to leave the military bubble that we lived in and enjoy real Hawaii life! Living on base was very nice but it didn't feel like Hawaii, it felt like a military base. A new neighbor recently told me that if I didn't think it feels like Hawaii then I just didn't get off base enough (I wonder if he'll still feel that way in a year). That may be true to a point but having a small child and having to time trips to correlate with the horrendous traffic makes getting off base a bigger ordeal than it should be. Besides, wouldn't it be nice to experience Hawaii without having to leave home to do it?!
Finally, our neighborhood was built on the old flight line and therefore the soil around our house was contaminated with petroleum. Other neighborhoods on base are contaminated with pesticides. We are warned not to dig in the soil, eat anything that grows in it, and not even to touch it (see the excerpt from a community newsletter below). This is why all the kids mostly play in the driveways and on the streets instead of in the yards. Dulce began chewing and licking her paws, to the point of being raw, continuously since we moved in. On our last visit to the vet, he told us that he sees a large number of dogs from our neighborhood with the same (or worse) skin issues as Dulce. CC has been having severe skin issues as well that has completely baffled all of the doctors and specialists that we have seen. The soil contamination may or may not be a trigger for these issues but it's enough of a coincidence to factor into our reasons for moving.
Issues with moving:
Issue #1 - Price. Everything in Hawaii is more expensive, especially housing. You won't find even a small one-bedroom apartment here for less than $1,000. Many of the cheaper places are definitely not where you would want to live. When the house description says "no drug dealers", that's a good sign to keep looking. Everyone wants an awesome house with a great view in a great location so of course those are the most expensive places. There are some houses that rent for $20k, $30k, or even $70,000 per month!
Issue #2 - Finding a place with a decent commute for Johnnie. On this island (with the 2nd worse traffic in all of the United States) driving eight miles can take an hour. You have to be careful choosing where to live in relation to where you work and you also have to be careful about the time of day you choose to drive in certain directions. We found some amazing affordable houses but the commute would have been miserable for Johnnie.
Issue #3 - Finding a place that allows pets and would be good for Dulce. Many houses we liked did not accept pets, no exceptions. An apartment is not fun with a dog (we did that in Korea) so we weren't willing to go that route again.
Issue #4 - Finding a place that would be worth the hassle of moving. We wanted to move but we didn't have to move. Moving without a new assignment meant arranging and paying for the move ourselves and it was a huge pain. We will only be in the new house for one year so we had to find a house that was awesome enough to be worth it.
We had to give base housing a 30-day notice to avoid fines so we gave the notice before even finding a new place with hopes that we would! Thankfully we found a house in time. This was a quick move with less than two weeks to prep and arrange everything.
Our new house is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath single-family home with a carport instead of a garage. It is smaller than our old house and it is furnished so we also have to rent a storage room to put most of our belongings. Prepping to move into a furnished house was a lot of work. We had to decide what was going to the house, what was going into storage, and what we would sell. We had to downsize big time - keeping only what we love and will need/use in the future.
On a Friday, the moving company that we hired, Innovation Movers, came to move our things into our storage room. At our request, they had given us boxes in the week before so that we could start packing things ourselves. When they arrived, they finished packing what we didn't and loaded it all onto the trucks. The five guys from Innovation Movers were wonderful. They were all clean cut wearing matching company t-shirts and they were all very polite and friendly. They were careful with all of our things and packed/wrapped everything well. They did a great job fitting everything into our storage room which was reminiscent of a game of Tetris. Innovation Movers offers a nice military discount and we were very pleased with their work - we couldn't have done it without them!
On Friday night we took a much needed break and went over to the dog beach on Hickam to enjoy the low tide at sunset.
On Saturday we continued packing up what was left in the house, loaded everything into our cars and a truck that we rented, and went to our new house. We were blessed with great friends who helped us load and then unload everything! CC, Dulce, and I stayed at the new house Saturday night, camping out together on the floor of CC's new room. Johnnie ended up staying at the old house and cleaned throughout the night, taking only short naps.
On Sunday, we joined Johnnie at the old house and cleaned all day. Base housing gave us a very detailed list of everything that needed to be cleaned or else we would be charged. We thought it was no big deal, that we could clean everything ourselves... we were delusional. It would have been well worth it to either hire a cleaning service or simply do a quick surface cleaning and pay whatever housing charged us. It's not really "free" to do it yourself if you think about what your time and effort are worth... and we put in a lot of time and effort. It seemed that everything left in the house kept multiplying as we cleaned, like it would never end. It didn't help that CC was unpacking things that we packed. Next time we'll hire a babysitter as well.
By 9pm Sunday evening everything was about done, both our SUVs were packed full, we had all of the leftover things in the garage, and CC was sleeping upstairs in her travel crib. At that point we realized that we were too exhausted to drive safely to our new house which was a 40 minute drive on a narrow, windy, hilly country road. I ran to the shoppette on base and bought some diapers, wipes, water, and contact solution. Johnnie dug Dulce's bed (which thankfully was freshly washed) and some curtains out of his car. We slept on the floor next to CC's travel crib using Dulce's bed as a pillow (she was nice enough to share) and the curtains as blankets. It's not what we had planned but we were too tired to care and it worked well enough.
On Monday morning Johnnie drove to the new house with Dulce to unload his car. I finished cleaning the oven (which I had sprayed with cleaner the night before) and made sure everything was ready for inspection. When Johnnie returned, we loaded his car again and put a few big things in our neighbor's garage (seriously the nicest people ever). Inspection was done by two people who were very thorough - they pulled up carpets to check for stains and wiped their hands along cabinet shelves, lights, windowsills, and the range hood to check for dirt. We did a great job cleaning and ended up only getting charged $15 for a small hole in the screen door. We were glad to hand in keys and say good-bye!
At the new house we unloaded the cars, put together CC's crib, made up our bed, had pizza delivered, and then did some much earned relaxing for the rest of the evening. Unfortunately the new house needed cleaned before we unpacked anything.
CC came down with a slight cold the day the movers came and then didn't nap at all for 3 days straight. She was miserable which made the moving process more difficult for us. She didn't want held but didn't want put down either, she was crying a lot during the day, and screaming at bedtime but thankfully still sleeping through the night. By the third day in the new house, she was back to normal.
Dulce handled the move like a champ but of course she is an experienced mover with six moves under her belt now! She hung out in the neighbor's fenced yard (in the corner where she could still see into our door) to stay out of the way of the moving and cleaning. The move itself didn't seem to cause her any stress and it only took a couple days for her to get used to the new house.
The new house:
I could write an entire blog post about this house and title it "How Not to Manage a Furnished Rental"... it really was that bad. Every drawer, closet, and under each bed was crammed full of the owner's stuff. A lot of garbage was thrown out before we even got the keys but there was still a lot left to deal with. I've been packing things into boxes and storing it all in the laundry
So where is this new house?!?! We moved to a beachfront house on the North Shore in the Waialua/Haleiwa area. We are living the dream and it's absolutely beyond amazing!
Our house is a comfortable size with a great layout, it has big windows and a huge deck overlooking the ocean, the beach is private with no public access nearby and no tourists, it is in a lovely neighborhood with a playground for CC, our neighbors are sweet, and it is only a short drive from the famous little town of Haleiwa. The North Shore has a wonderful laid-back and easy-going vibe which is a world of difference from the Honolulu/Waikiki area. It is a farther distance from the airport, shopping, attractions, etc, but that distance is appealing now after being on the island for two years. A quiet, simple life on the beach is the perfect way to spend the next year. I am so thankful for every single minute of every single day that we spend here.
As you can imagine, the rent on this house is not cheap but it's not one of the insanely expensive ones either. We have to adjust our budget and watch our spending but we can make it work. It's not the most financially responsible place to live as we won't be saving much while we're here but it's only for one year and it is an amazing opportunity that we may never have again. Some people choose to spend their money on trips or big purchases, we are choosing to spend our money on rent. It's worth it. This will be a year of our life that we will never forget, a year that we will sit and reminisce about when we're old and gray. This will be the place of CC's first memories and of the best time of Dulce's life! Living here provides a great opportunity for me to build my photography portfolio and it will certainly help Johnnie and I to relax and enjoy life more.
We are throwing caution to the wind, taking the chance, and forgoing rationality. We are living life to the fullest this year and will make memories that surely will warm our hearts on the coldest days.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things
you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines,
sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."