We are truly living our best life. Not only do I love my job even more than I did before—which I didn’t think was possible—but it has also given my husband and I an opportunity to grow as people and in our relationship.
Rachel Montoy likes a good adventure. She and her husband enjoy camping, backpacking, fishing and traveling. She’s game to jump in the car or on a plane to explore new places, even if they’re time zones and languages away.
So, as a Local 290 mechanic for Puget Sound Navy Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, she always looked forward to the two to four months she’d spend each year on a project in Japan at the Yokosuka Detachment. And when she was offered the opportunity at the end of 2019 to stay in Japan as a full-time mechanic on the project, she was “through the roof excited.”
Montoy and some co-workers had drafted a list of pros and cons for hiring a full-time mechanic to remain in Japan versus constantly sending people for short stints. They submitted the pro/con list to the detachment management team, who saw that the pros outweighed the cons to send someone full time. Montoy didn’t think that someone might be her.
“After talking it out with my husband, we decided this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we couldn’t pass up,” she says.
Just a few months after accepting the offer, Montoy, her husband and their dog were off to the airport and on their way to an ultimate adventure.
Despite the bulk of her time in Japan being stymied by COVID-19 restrictions, Montoy says it’s been a wonderful experience.
“We are truly living our best life. Not only do I love my job even more than I did before—which I didn’t think was possible—but it has also given my husband and I an opportunity to grow as people and in our relationship,” she says.
What does she like best about living and working in Japan?
“Everything. The culture, the food, the customs.
“We’ve been making the best of exploring within COVID restrictions,” she says. “Since we are attached to a military base, we have to follow their guidance on what we can and can’t do, but day trips to Tokyo and Yokohama are one of our favorite things.”
Since Montoy had lived for six weeks in Japan through a high school student exchange program between sister cities Bremerton and Kure, she was somewhat prepared for the experience. But there are a few things that have taken a little getting used to.
“The language barrier definitely creates some unique situations, such as needing to use a pocket translator to have a conversation with a neighbor, and sometimes you go to a restaurant and the translator can’t decipher the menu. So, you have no clue what you’re ordering,” she says. “You just have to wing it! And learning to drive on the other side of the road took a little while to get used to.”
Technology has allowed Montoy to maintain connections with her union, including continuing her role as a trustee for Local 290, representing the Bremerton metal trades and her participation in Tradeswomen Build Nations events. She attended the virtual 2020 Tradeswomen Build Nations conference online, as did all participants. The difference was that for Montoy, the event took place in the middle of the night from Japan.
And she’s continued to build her skills. In Japan, she got her license to operate a six-ton truck with a 25-foot bed and is just one of two employees at the detachment to have that license.
“There are many things about my job that I love: constantly being given the opportunity to learn new skills…and the people. Both at the local and at the Yokosuka Detachment. They are an extension of my family, and they continue to push me to be a better leader and person on a daily basis,” she says.
“[As an exchange student] I thought that was the only chance I’d have to live in a foreign country. I fell in love with Japan and everything it had to offer. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would actually get to live here. I can’t wait to take my husband to the Hiroshima Prefecture so he can meet my host family, the amazing people who gave me the opportunity to fall in love with Japan in the first place.”