It feels like Time is flying…

…already. We just passed our 1-month mark in Japan, and it seems so much has already happened that I wasn’t quite ready for yet. I knew Chuck’s work trip was on the horizon, yet it still felt abrupt when his departure date arrived. I had early leads for jobs, but it still felt sudden when I actually got one. It feels strange and QUICK to be headed back the U.S. so soon (for job training), and for 2+ weeks no less. Before I know it, it will be time to start school come August.

It probably feels more intense because Chuck’s work just killed 3 weekends in a row. I’m glad we hit the ground running with exploration, because we are losing free time now and we are about to lose more when I head out. Additionally, a friend from home will be on the mainland the weekend after this and I am trying to go meet up with her, which is more travel and time away in close proximity to all the other time and away.

I have this idea that between my job, Chuck’s job, and my school, these next few weeks are the last of relative freedom. I am so happy that things are falling into place for us, and I don’t mean to sound like I am whining, because that’s not what I’m trying to do at all… But it really does make everything move far quicker – far sooner – than I ever would have anticipated! I tend to feel overwhelmed when everything happens at once 🙂

The one thing that is NOT moving quickly, however, is this week. You’d think I wouldn’t mind time away from Chuck after being with him 24/7 the past couple of months, but I wish he’d hurry home! 🙂 It’s lonely here without him.

This is home…

We are all moved into the new apartment, and Miss Bean (& Co.) couldn’t be happier!

Seriously, it is so wonderful to have all our stuff again, since we have been living out of suitcases for 2 months. I’m especially excited to have gone to the grocery store. Chuck and I are both feeling the benefits of balanced, home-cooked meals again.

People keep asking for photos of the new crib, but honestly, there isn’t much to see – it’s just plain military housing. Now that it’s come together with furniture and such, it’s looking better, but I kinda want to get some Japanese pieces to make it a little more ‘Murica-Asia-Fusion!!

…But there is plenty of time for all that, of course 🙂 In the meantime, I am grateful for the plentiful space, the mini-balcony, and the 5th floor city view! This is home, and I have already learned to love it.

Moving right along…

  • We move out of the hotel and into our apartment on Monday. As luck would have it, ALL of our belongings arrive on Tuesday. 🙂 I am so excited to have my own stuff again. I am also excited to say “bye-bye” to the food courts, cafes, and fast food joints that have made up the majority of our meals, because unfortunately, we can’t eat at a lush Japanese restaurant every time. Chuck and I are both looking forward to balanced, home-cooked food again!
  • I was accepted into the Johns Hopkins grad school program. I am happy, but this definitely presents me with a dilemma. GWU, or Hopkins? The program I like better, or the cheaper one? As you all know, I am terrible at making decisions.
  • My lovely Bean will not have to go back into caged quarantine! This is the silver lining of on-base housing. She can do the quarantine “in-home”, which – for a generally indoor cat – is actually like no quarantine at all 🙂
  • I applied to 3 jobs, and already scored an interview for one of them. How is it that it took me a year to get an interview in North Carolina but it only took a few days here in Okinawa? Of course, none of this means I will actually get the job(s) – or even more interviews – but it’s encouraging to hear something back, rather than applying countless times only to hear… absolutely nothing.

As of now, I have no real plans for the weekend. I still need a car, so maybe we can go scouting for the one I like…my only requirement being that it’s pink! Pink cars are everywhere on Okinawa, yet they are very difficult to find at the “approved” used car dealerships. Wish me luck! I can’t be without wheels for too much longer.

Home is where the Heart is

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Today, the military offered us an apartment on our assigned base pictured above, near a town called Urumua-shi on the northeastern side of the island. It is a bittersweet moment in the process of getting settled. On one hand, it’s wonderful that we have a place and the ball is rolling. On the other, it’s disappointing that we were essentially forced to take it, and not granted the option to live off-base as we had hoped.

Earlier this week, we inadvertently tortured ourselves by visiting a few rentals off base, in the scenic and lively Yomitan-son area of the island that I have decided to fall in love with. Since we don’t have children and I am generally not involved in traditional military spouse activities, I figured we would enjoy the more independent lifestyle and cultural immersion that living off base would offer. Blissfully unaware of the intensity of the mandate to live on-base, I booked an appointment with an adorable agent named Reiko. My expectations were low, but I was blown away by the places she showed us that day. There was one apartment in particular that was just beautiful – and you could walk out on the balcony from every room!

The best I can say about our apartment on base is that it is recently renovated and reasonably spacious. Otherwise, it’s the same dull, no-personality utilitarian fare that I have come to expect of military housing (with a little extra mold I asked the Housing Office to take care of.) I am concerned that I will find base living rather suffocating, but it may not be so bad. We are right near the gate, outside of which a lovely Japanese residential area with a river walk begs to be explored. I have decided to purchase a bike and see what Uruma-shi has to offer. It doesn’t look as dynamic and cross-cultural as Yomitan-son, but it is more authentically Japanese! And really… Yomitan is only about a 20-25 minute drive west 🙂

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 Disclaimer: Photos are not my own. I will take far better ones of the area and of the beach… just wait 🙂

Nihon e yokoso!

“Welcome to Japan!”

No one has actually said these words to me, but that’s how you say it, according to my trusty Babel Fish translator app. In fact, “welcome” is actually “kengai”, which makes no sense in light of the previous phrase and also indicates that Japanese may be a trickier language to learn than I thought. However, one of the first things I was told upon arriving here is that some of the bases offer free language classes, so I am determined to attend and learn what I can in order to make the most of my time here and befriend the locals. I would at least like to be able to order my food in Japanese! We shall see how it goes.

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These first few days in Okinawa have been a whirlwind of discovery, rice, emotion, and noodles. I don’t even want to talk about the 40-hour journey to get here, or the fact that my cat probably hates me for life after putting her through it, but I do want to say that the island itself is beyond beautiful. The architecture, however, is a sharp contrast to the lush and colorful surroundings. It is stark… utilitarian … plain… ugly. But when you are reminded that this is a country regularly battered by typhoons and earthquakes, you start to understand the need for cold, hard concrete. I have no doubt I will appreciate this reality even more once I experience my first typhoon.

For now, we are attempting to get the logistical business out of the way so we can get the real  adventure started. Housing, in-processing, vet appointments, and new vehicles are still pending, and it’s all very “hurry up and wait.” But since when has that NOT been the  military’s style? 🙂 We are just going with the flow over here, as always… And still waiting to visit what looks like a series of drop-dead gorgeous beaches!

Living the adventure

Last night, on the eve of our big 3-year adventure in Japan, a good friend gave us a beautifully written card:

“Chuck, when you proposed to Nikki – could either of you imagined how the next years would lead you to Japan? Surrounded by cherry blossoms, your decision that day led you down a path that could never be known to either of you in that moment.”

Ironically, last night was the 4-year anniversary of our engagement, which took place the midst of DC’s Cherry Tree Festival (albeit in a quieter part of it!) Now, we are headed to the land that gave us those cherry trees, starting a new phase of our lives across the world.

We have had a fantastic time here during our break. We spent quality time with family, friends, and the city we call home. We celebrated our democracy with a private tour of the Capitol, honored our history with visits to the Air and Space, Natural History, and American History Museums, and just plain had fun by trying new restaurants and enjoying respective girls’ nights and guys’ nights out and about town (with a side trip to New Orleans!)

Now, I am simultaneously excited, nervous, and a little bit sad as I prepare to fly to the Far East later this afternoon. I will miss everyone, and I am sure I will have moments of nostalgia, but Chuck and I both have a sense of adventure that will ensure we make the very most of our time in Japan…

“…I hope the same thought applies to the time in your new home – letting things come one day at a time, knowing that the next adventure is right around the corner.

Actually, scratch that – you’re living the adventure today!”