So much has changed in the past 90 days. When we first arrived to Okinawa on March 18th I was nervous, confused, and scared. I had never lived outside of Pennsylvania nor had I ever even been to Asia, I had very few experiences being on a military base let alone living on one, and I had never been faced with the task of putting an entire apartment together from scratch without Target or reliable online shopping. My only real confidence came from the fact that after two years, Ben and I were ending our long distance logistical nightmare and our dream of living together was finally coming true... It just so happened that it would be on a microscopic Japanese island in the middle of nowhere. I guess beggars can't be choosers?
Fast forward three months and I'm waking up to the sound of the American National Anthem followed by the Japanese National Anthem. Colors. It must be 0800! When I eventually head out, I'll pass by sailors and marines in their cammies (a once intimidating sight) without batting an eyelash. I'll hop in the right side of my car and I'll drive on the left side of the road. What used to petrify me, is now my new normal. I'll go to the commissary or the PX or Express and not only will I know what they are, but I'll know where they are. Getting back onto my base means I'll stop at the guard hut, show the Okinawan guard my military ID and give a quick "ohayo gozaimasu" if it's early enough.
Later on, If Ben and I go out in town, giving the locals a smile with a simultaneous head bow comes so naturally I don't even notice myself doing it. The bright, flashy signs written in Japanese characters that are plastered practically everywhere no longer confuse me, nor even catch my eye. They're just a part of our every day landscape. A few jets will fly over head followed by their customary "WHOOOOOSH" or an Osprey will mosey along in comparison. The buildings are dirty and not much to look at, but in Okinawa you never judge a book by it's cover. Plus, when the Pacific Ocean and East China sea are almost always within eyesight or walking distance, you learn to appreciate natural beauty over architectural.
Out to eat, chopsticks are just as practical as forks, but we are far too respectful to stick them into our rice since this is a Japanese funeral custom and highly offensive. We slurp our ramen loudly and pray that what has splashed on to our shirts won't stain... although it always does! We don't even contemplate ordering alcohol. Only one drink would put Ben over the limit here, not to mention the fact that we are currently prohibited from drinking off base by the military (that's a whole other story). There isn't much of a nightlife scene on this laid back island anyway, so we've learned to find fun without drinking. When we eventually pay, it'll most likely be in change. We've accumulated handfuls of it since there are no Japanese bills valued under $10. Our change purse (a must have) is filled to the brim with "yennies," but we'll search through it until we've located the ever-so-valuable ¥500 and ¥100. A quick "arrigato gozaimasu" and we are on our way.
The biggest change about day-to-day life is that I've stopped feeling the urge to take pictures of EVERYTHING. If this doesn't mean that you've officially assimilated, then I don't know what does. Plus, how many pictures of soba does one person really need?!? (Probably zero).
I can't lie that I'm pretty proud of how far Ben and I have come. We built a little life 7,600 miles away from everyone and everything we've ever known and have found true happiness together in Okinawa. Since I know he'll read this later... A huge shout out goes to the best husband I've ever had (lol see what I did there) for helping us keep our sanity through day 1 of getting his orders here 8 months ago to day 90 of being on island. Life is a wild and exciting adventure and I feel so lucky that I get to do it with my best friend by my side!
P.s. Don't fret, I will still be updating my blog, there is much more of Okinawa I'd love to share!
We're Kara and Ben, a Marine Corps family currently stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Enjoy our adventures, travels, photos, thoughts, and life together halfway around the world!