Friday, January 15, 2010

Living in Military Housing

People often ask what it's like living in military housing. Since this is my first time, I can't really compare it to anything but I'd like to share my observations. First of all, if you drove through our neighborhood, you'd never know it wasn't anything except a normal-looking subdivision.

About the only clue would be the fact that almost every driveway has a different state's license plates. In our house, we have California, Virginia and Florida. Next-door is another Virginia and then next to that is Georgia. Three houses down is Texas, while across the street we have Utah and Montana. Down the other direction is Oklahoma and Hawaii.

So what's different about military housing?

  • The abundance of moving trucks. Someone is always moving in or moving out so there is usually a different truck here weekly, which leads me to...
  • Getting free stuff from your neighbors who are moving away. The movers won't let you take plants, liquids or food. Out neighbor across the street is moving to Japan on Sunday and so far we've "inherited" all his plants, half-empty bottles of human and dog shampoo, all his cleaning products, an American flag, kitchen curtains, tons of Japanese condiments (his wife is Japanese), half-empty boxes of dog treats, a picture frame, a steak, a 6-pack of Sunny Delight and 2 boxes of Suddenly Salad.
  • The proliference of "Welcome Home Daddy" banners plastered to people's garages.
  • The inordinate (and varied) amount of gossip that goes around. I'm sure this happens in all neighborhoods but when you couple 6 month to a year separations with people being in a strange town away from friends and family, you have a perfect storm for marital hijinks and infidelities. Within the past week, I've learned that our neighbor's husband returned from a 6-month deployment to the Philippines only to tell her he wants a divorce because he met a Filipino girl over there and wants to be with her. Apparently, he's now trying to bring the Filipino girl to the States. Never mind the fact that he has 2 babies and a wife at home who waited for him for half a year. Nice. Then there was the woman who moved her boyfriend into military housing when her husband was deployed for a year. Always classy. She got kicked out though because someone told the housing office that the guy that was always there wasn't her husband.
  • The fact that you're not allowed to do any kind of repair to your house. I mean not even change a light bulb. If one burns out, you have to call the housing office to send a guy to fix it.
  • The fact that some people try to scam the system. To live here, the government just deducts your BAH (Basic Allowance Housing) from your paycheck. This amount is determined by rank. For example, Leo gets a little over $2,000 for housing each month. (Which wouldn't go far out in town in San Diego. This place is hella expensive). This automatically gets paid directly to the housing people. What some people do is to "rent" out parts of their house to single military guys or allow their family members to move in. There is a cap on the number of people who are supposed to live in each house. From what we heard, in our house (which is a 3-bedroom ranch) there were 8-9 Mexican people living here--an extended family with tons of kids and a grandpa living in the garage.
  • Diversity. I think in many ways military neighborhoods are more diverse than the people in a "regular" neighborhood since they are all segregated by income, education and style/location preference. For example, in our neighborhood you have myself--a working wife with 2 Master's degrees who is a vegetarian animal lover who loves to travel, and across the street you have a bow-hunter from Michigan. While some military spouses get up and go to work everyday, others get up and take care of their children all day. Down the block you have people who have McCain/Palin stickers on their cars living next to people with "Make love not war" and "Coexist" bumper stickers. About 1/4 of the marriages are inter-racial. Since it's the Navy, it's usually Asian women marrying American men, but we have Mexicans, Japanese, Filipino, blacks, whites and everything in between living in our neighborhood. I don't think you could say the same about most American neighborhoods.
I'm sure there are more things but that's all I can think of right now. Any thoughts?


  1. Very interesting to read! I never thought about the "free stuff" aspect.

    I just like your house because of how home-y you make it. :) :)

    So the neighbor with the Japanese wife ended up agreeing to move to Japan?? details! Speaking of that guy, the gossip stuff seems pretty inevitable.

    miss youuuu

  2. PS: Alex and I just had the following conversation, when he glanced over and saw the title of your blog:

    Alex: Why military wife? She's more than a military wife! She's an English teacher!
    Me: She doesn't teach anymore, remember? She works at the university now, in an office
    Alex: Well, then, University worker in an Office in Paradise!

    Pretty random, we're not drunk, I promise

  3. hahha, Love it! I do have to agree with Alex that I hate it when women define themselves in terms of their mates. ie. like Doctor's wife, etc. But I needed a name for the blog and university worker in an office in paradise just doesn't have the same ring. lol.
    You guys are awesome!!!

  4. Wow! I never actually thought this all through, so it was very cool & interesting to read what you have to share about the military housing. Especially with the comings & goings constantly! The moving too, being even I can understand how this feels whenever I visit America & try to load up my suitcase with goodies. The process of thought of how I can't bring specific items in my carry-on as I travel city-to-city, leaving my suitcases behind at one location which I will return to, etc. One visit I made in America, I had to leave behind a Christmas gift because I couldn't bring it with me in my carry-on to the next location, for example. Thanks for sharing about this!

  5. Interesting, especially your last point. I don't know a lot of people in the military (and the ones I do know are pretty similar - goofy 20something middle class white boys), but it definitely sounds like a mix of all kinds of people and cultures!