A look back at 2016

What a year! The mainstream media has dubbed 2016 as one of the worst years in history, but for me 2016 has been full of fun, adventure and learning. Moving to Japan in early 2015 and having my husband whisked off for a deployment soon after our arrival gave me the opportunity to really get my feet planted in Japan. This year, we were determined to take full advantage of our current home, and see as much of Asia as possible. If I had to pick one word to describe this year, “wanderlust” would be the sure winner. Man, have we caught the travel bug!

What better way to tell you about my year than in picture format. We started off with a several week tour of Thailand – staying in five different places. One of the highlights was visiting and spending the day at an elephant sanctuary.  They really are gentle giants!
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary 58

Spring time came around, and the spouses group trained hard for a friendly, and goofy, crud tournament. Crud is played mainly by the military all over the world, and its a fast-paced team game played using a pool table.  It’s like tackle pool with your hands? Really, there’s no way to explain the game without seeing it in action!


Our husbands spend a lot of time away from home, which facilitates close and fast friendships with our fellow spouses left behind.  They truly are my family away from home!


For about a year now, I’ve been teaching English at a little Japanese preschool about an hour away from base. They are so full of life and energy.  Being greeted with a chorus of “good morning” with those massive grins just makes my day.

Have you heard the new hit (goofy) Japanese song called “Pen Pineapple Apple Pen?”  If you haven’t, please enjoy but don’t blame me when it gets stuck in your head! Because the words are in English, my students think its great fun to sing it when I come to teach.  How could I not enjoy that?!

Teaching English

I also volunteer to lead the childcare program for a moms support group on base.  We entertain LOTS of kids in order to give moms a break and chance to fellowship and commiserate about the challenges of motherhood coupled with military life at a remote location.


When summer finally came, Mom came to visit!  We spent time in Tokyo and Northern Japan where we are stationed.  I loved having her visit and hope she can make the trip again!

Mom visits

Seeing and feeding “wild” horses was a highlight from her visit!

Mom and wild horses

One of the easiest ways to experience Japan is through the food and man is it good! Trust me, the Japanese food and sushi we’ve all enjoyed in the states is nothing like the real deal.

Earlier this year, I organized a cooking class where we learned how to make ramen and gyoza. This picture even made the newspaper in our tiny town. Ha!

Cooking Class

I have a few adventurous friends and we enjoy traveling about and trying food that’s mostly a mystery to us.

Out and about in Japan

My Japanese teacher even took me to an all-you-can-eat cake house.  Yes, you heard that right. ALL YOU CAN EAT CAKE. Japan is good for the soul. (But, maybe not so good for the diet…)

Cake House

Working off all that delicious food, Mike and I enjoy taking the pups out for adventures.  They’re great little travel companions.


Car rides, especially when they end at fun locations, are lots of fun too!

After a long fall of the hubby being away, we met up for a vacation in Bali.  We spent the majority of our time scuba diving, completing our advanced certification course. Yay!

Rachel and Mike Advanced Certs 3

Although I do spend a lot of time traveling and teaching, I spend the majority of my free time studying Japanese.  Learning the complicated language has been a bit of an obsession for me as I know I only have a limited amount of time to live in Japan. Did you know that the Foreign Language Institute has determined that Japanese is one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn?  They say language proficiency requires 88 weeks of work and 2,200 class hours. Sheesh!

Japanese Class

Being involved in language classes and community events allows me to meet lots of people I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to meet. I shared a Thanksgiving meal with this sweet family who were interested in learning about American customs and traditions as well as practicing speaking English. It was a great start to a budding friendship!


Not all new friendships have been cultural.  I’ve been so fortunate to get to know this sweet 88-year old gentleman.  His obvious love for life and our mutual willingness to chat with random strangers has made us fast friends.  He frequents the local diner on base where I do a lot of my studying so we often have breakfast together and he shares stories from his 20+ years in the military.

Andy and me

In the midst of all the joys of military life, it’s also hard. Things change, families struggle with constant separations, and friends move far away.  Saying goodbye to those I’ve grown close to over our time here is sad – no other way to put it.  Hopefully we all reunite at some point during our spouse’s military careers.


Even though we have to say goodbye to good friends, we also have friends who come to visit us – no matter where we are!  Two of our friends came out to visit us for Thanksgiving and together we traveled down to southern Japan. We did a whirlwind tour of Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe where we saw ancient history, ate real Kobe beef and bonded with the ‘wild’ deer of Nara.

Nara Wild Deer 19

The year capped off with a fantastic Christmas party at an old sake factory with my husband’s squadron.

Christmas Party

As you can see, we’ve been blessed! The busyness of life here has meant less time for blogging so I hope you bear with me as I try to balance everything. I have two new quilts to tell you about too – so look out for those soon!  Sneak peeks on Instagram!

Love you all and looking forward to a fantastic 2017.

  • Amanda ‘Wood’ Lipscomb

    You have had a wonderful year!!! I love hearing that you are enjoying your teaching and learning. I hope 2017 is just as wonderful for you. 🙂

    • Rachel Dreher

      Thanks, friend! I hope you got my email – we have so much catching up to do!

  • Rsmary

    Rachel, thank you for sharing your adventures in Japan. I think my niece is coming out there with the Navy in June….. well, I mean to Japan. I do not know exactly where, I hope to meet up with her a lot while she is training in Virginia (where I live, yes, a huge state, we are in Northern Virginia.)
    Thank you for sharing some gorgeous pictures. So lovely, What an amazing experience for both of you, and the pups, and your mom. I hope she can come back. This is excellent that you are enjoying friends and teaching!!
    Best wishes to you two for 2017.

    • Rachel Dreher

      I hope your niece loves it here as much as we do. You’ll have to keep me posted and let me know if she’ll be stationed at the same base. Will you come to visit here? It would be so fun to meet up!!

  • Anne Beier

    Rachel – So good to hear from you on the blogosphere. I’m glad your year was so good. I love seeing your photos. And I wish for you and your family a healthy, Happy New Year. I can’t wait to see your quilts. Thank you to you and your husband for your service. It means so much to us.
    Sending hugs.

    • Rachel Dreher

      Thanks, Anne! I wish the same blessings for you and your family. Happy New Year!

  • It has been wonderful to watch your adventures through Instagram and I am so glad to hear that you are having a good experience there. Happy New Year and may 2017 be wonderful for you! <3

    • Rachel Dreher

      To you too, sweet friend! I need to get caught up with what everyone else is up to. I’ve gotten so far behind and I miss seeing everyone else’s beautiful creations. I hope you’re new year is starting off well!