Thursday, December 31, 2009

Side Note: Toilets...

Okay, so I forgot in my last post to state that I walked into another Japanese innovation in my travels. Something so advanced, something that is a facet of everyday life. The thunder mug, the john, the infamous toilet... This toilet had more buttons on it than most tv remotes. Exaggeration yes, far off no. It has buttons that make noises so when someone breaks wind people can't hear it. Oh also, the seats themselves are heated! Now here is the dilemma, I myself prefer a simple toilet, do your thing, flush, go about your business. But I can see where the heated seat would be nice. I mean no one likes to in the middle of winter be the first person in the morning to sit on the kamode. I mean it's so cold the shock itself has you on the ceiling. So yeah, good idea. 

Okinawa Week One

So the flying was pretty uneventful. I ran into Patrick Stewart as I was heading to my next gate in Salt Lake City. For those of you who don't know, he is most famous for playing Captain Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Professor Xavier in the X-men movie trilogy. I smiled and said hello, he said hello back but that was about it. Then I spent the next seven hours waiting for my flight. In that time I had a beer, some pizza and watched Monday Night Football. Then I got hit with some bad news. Salt Lake had an hour weather delay meaning that they were limiting the flights coming in and out. The culprit... fog... So our plane was late coming in and if it had to be de-iced I would get into San Francisco at 11:40pm. My plane left at 12:05am. So yeah, 25 minutes to get to the airline counter and through security. Luckily they didn't need to de-ice the plane. So the flight was only a half an hour late. That still put me into the terminal in San Francisco at 11:15pm. I still had to run like hell from Domestic flights to International flights and so on. I barely made the plane. I sat next to a little Japanese woman who glared at me a lot. But that is okay, I tried to sleep through out the trip but, I was woken up every hour for food or something ridiculous. They give you two full meals on the plane. That was sweet. Then I got into Taiwan, waited an hour then flew to Okinawa. Customs and quarantine weren't bad. Once I stepped out of that area Maddie and her mom were there waiting for me.

We then went to the car where I was hit with my first bit of culture. The steering wheel of the car was on the right side. They also drove on the opposite side of the road. Once I got over the fear that we were in the wrong lane and thus were going to get hit, I started taking in the sights. I was a bit overwhelmed with everything. Gone was the sparse areas of Montana where you could drive for 10 minutes and be in the middle of nowhere. In its place were mass amounts of urban sprawl. We drove through the city of Naha on our way to Camp Foster. The thing is, I really have no distinct idea of where one city ends and another begins. It all just seems to be a blend of flashing lights, signs written in Japanese, mixed with various areas of stores and hotels. Afterwards we met up with Maddie's dad and got my passes to get back on base. We then ate at Coco's Curry. It was really good considering it was my first curry experience. Afterwards we got settled in and hung out. The next night we went to the Botanical Gardens to view the lights. It was neat to see all the lights. Christmas we spent here inside the house as it was raining. In fact it didn't stop raining all day. I'm not talking the constant wet drizzle we get in the U.S. but down pouring.

The next day we stopped by a pottery village and checked out all the hand made pottery. Afterwards we checked out, Cape Zampa. The water was rough and it was crashing on the rocks. That was neat to see and feel as the wind blew the spray up at us. Also they have vending machines for everything. It's amazing. They even have hot drinks in them. The fire hydrants are weird too. Basically there is a sign and then a lid in the ground that you pull out.

During the weekend we went to Cape Hedo at the northern point of the island. Again the waters were rough and crashing. The waters are an awesome blue color and watching them crash on the rocks is just something else. Over on the other side we saw a bunch of little fish swimming about. Then we went back a different way through the jungles. There was a bike race or something going on because there were a ton of road bikes that we had to pass.

Monday Maddie and I then checked out Jusco which is like a mallish type place with department stores in it. We also stopped by American Village. I don't know how it's American really but I just went with it. Tuesday we checked out the 100 yen shop which is closely related to a dollar store. They had some silly stuff. Wednesday, Maddie, her mom and I went to Kokusai Street. Basically it's a street of shops and restaurants. They have Habu Sake. Basically they take the habu snakes which is a poisonous viper here on the island that they stick in sake. Apparently it ferments or something and the poison gives it a real kick.

Tonight is New Years Eve. We are going to Peace Prayer Park to see the light show there. They are also lighting a torch. So that will be awesome to see.

Anywho, I have to apologize, everything I have talked about is not in detail, because I've had a lot to experience my first week here. I'll write in more detail later. Stay tuned! Oh and a Happy New Year!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Winding Down the Semester

So the end of the semester was like most with one twist. Papers, finals and stress galore plus the added benefit of the Silver Nozzle Competition. What that is, as was explained to us, is a competition where fire teams of three compete against each other for their names being engraved on the Silver Nozzle we have. We would compete in first floor search. This however was not the twist. The twist was that it would be done in the main entrance of the College. It wasn't graded for school but more of a benchmark to see how far along we have come and so on. For some of us, the change was significant and for others, not so much. The one rule we had 100% no give on was nozzle control. Open the hose in the school, you get disqualified. As Dave our instructor said. no one had that problem before.

We rolled up into the parking lot and the hose guy would drag the hose up to the door. We then sounded for victims and pounded for floor integrity. We had to tape a towel to the halligan tool because the floor in the main area of the campus is marble. Forceful pounding and marble don't mix in case you didn't know. Anyway, we made entrance and searched, checking for victims. We found the victim down the end of the first hall. He was a 280lb fire fighter. There is one thing that I learned in the beginning of classes back in September, 280lbs of weight is heavy. There is another thing that I learned in the end of classes here this last Wednesday, 280lbs is still heavy.

We got the victim packaged up and the tool guy started dragging him. As we were pulling him out, the tool guy made it 10 ft before he got tired from dragging the guy. After that it went down hill for our group, Team 4.  Our nozzle guy lost nozzle control. Water sprayed everywhere down the hallway. There was a giant puddle. In our defense the floor needed cleaning. After that I had to take over in dragging the dummy. Now this is where some of us discover how far we've come or not. When I first started, I could not drag 175lb dummy out of a building, much less a 280lb person.

At the competition, I got behind the guy and started pulling. It hurt. My muscles screamed from lack of oxygen and over-exertion. I started sucking air from my mask. I almost got over-excited. But I calmed myself, started to control my breathing and started getting into a beat and pulling the guy out. By the time we were half way back down the 100ft hallway, the tool guy was low on air, as well as the hose guy. We all started at full tanks. By the time we were 80% of the way, they both had to take off their masks. We managed to get the victim out of the building and walk back to the truck before my low air alarm started buzzing. I was amazed. I managed to keep to under a tank of air.

Well needless to say, we got disqualified. It's okay though, because I improved in every way possible. I can control my breathing, I have the endurance I need to move a person out of a building. I can step in and help as needed. It was nice to do.

After that I had to turn in my proposal in for English. Got an A in that, as well as my other classes. So for my first semester in the Fire & Rescue Program I have a 4.0. The test in Incident Command seemed hard but I did way better than I thought I would. I got a Pass in Physical Training because I improved in all four of my baselines. So I feel somewhat accomplished and relieved.

Today we had a party with money we put into the swear jar. We had 58 dollars total. I had one dollar. One kid had $20.75. Dave our instructor, gave us his retirement speech as today is his last day, and sent us off. It was a pretty epic way to end the semester.

Now all I have to look forward to is hanging out in Bozeman for the weekend, then my trip to Japan. I leave Monday. I can't wait. Which reminds me, I need to continue packing. Stay tuned for our international version of Smoke Before Fire. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Obstacle Course, Club Duties and Truck Driving...

So it's taken me a while to get back to the blog to update everyone on my adventures in Fire Fighting. It's been a busy few weeks. One of my co-workers gave me his cold. So I've been dealing with that. We have a lot in store for this blog, I've been busy. Alright, here we go.

So Wednesday of last week was filled with fun. We were in the class room that day and learned about venting and tiers of Incident Command and how they apply to fires; Such as tier two fires becoming tier three fires. Basically that means that when a tier two fire becomes big enough they call in an incident commander who has more experience and can handle the stresses of bigger crews, bigger fires, etc. Thus it becomes a tier 3 fire. While one instructor went over that sort of stuff, the other instructor blindfolded a few of us and explained to us which end of the fire hose faces towards the truck. The male coupling faces towards the truck. We then based on that were told to follow the hose through a hose maze sort of deal. We crawled over a fork lift, crawled under the fire truck and around the drive bay.

After that we had english then PT. PT was a blast. We did part of the CPAT (Candidate Physical Ability Test) for it. We carry hose up, down, and back up flights of stairs. Then we lifted more hose up through a second story window. After that we ran back down stairs and pulled an extension ladder so that it was fully extended it and then let it back down without losing control of the ladder. Then we had to drag the 175lb mannequin about 100 feet then dragged hose and pulled 50 more feet of hose. We were timed to see how fast we could do it. I got 2 minutes 1 second. The fastest time was 1 minute 15 seconds, but that kid took a supplement to increase his stamina and he was jacked on enough caffeine to drop a bull rhino. But average was about two minutes so I was pretty happy about that.

Thursday we had our first meeting of the Fire & Rescue Club. We met at Jorgenson's because the club president works there. We went over the constitution and figured out a little. As the treasurer I am in charge of the clubs finances. I get to buy stuff when needed. After that we closed the meeting.

Friday was sweet because it was the day that we started to learn driving the fire truck and ambulance. I started off with the Ambulance. That wasn't too bad. Basically driving a giant van. We went to the fair grounds so that way I wouldn't maim any people or ducks*. Afterwards I drove the fire truck. That was pretty sweet. It's big but it corners well. The air brakes are a little touchy. I had to back it up and get it close to this parked truck. I did pretty well.

Other than that not much is going on. We have one full week of school left. Then finals week. After that I will be on my way to Japan. I'm really excited. I can't wait. Stay tuned for competition news next week then Jack Does Japan!