Okinawa: Eating Our Way Through the Last Stretch

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Cafe Pipineo is about 10 minutes from my apartment and serves the most luscious cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had my whole life.

Welp! We are just about 6 weeks from our presumed rotation date, and the Marines still haven’t given us orders for the next assignment. Never mind that pretty much everyone else in our lives knows where they are going. Chuck and I are masters of the “hurry up and wait” philosophy, at this point. That said, I continue to assume that we will depart Okinawa this spring. With our time here drawing to a close, I am hoping we can squeeze a few more adventures into our remaining weeks – however big or small.

One thing I will surely miss are the darling cafés that dot the island.  They typically offer just 2-4 menu items at any given time, which sounds limiting but actually ensures a more memorable culinary experience. Of course, the ingredients are always fresh and local, and the décor is consistently unique and charming.

I won’t mind having more options (especially vegetarian and/or gluten free) when I return to the States, but I don’t know what I’ll do without a hearty guarantee of savory Japanese curry, garnished with local vegetables known to bless Okinawans with the longest lifespans on the planet.…  Continue reading

Observations Abroad: Year 1

Since moving to Okinawa, I’ve seen plenty of Buzzfeed-style blogs and lists about what makes it unique, special, or funny. Since arriving here myself almost 1 year ago (!), I’ve come up with a list of my own. Very little of it is scientific, of course. These are just observations I’ve made since moving here last April. I hope they provide a bit of insight into the cultural experience I’ve enjoyed here so far 🙂 Continue reading

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.

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!”