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

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!”

Down to the wire!

All sorts of happenings (and mishappenings) over here! This is our last weekend down on the Chattahoochee. The “storage” movers come on Monday, Chuck graduates on Tuesday, and the final round of movers come on Wednesday. The cleaning lady comes on Thursday morning, inspection is Thursday afternoon, and then we are out of here Friday morning!

Currently, I’m most annoyed at Craigslist and the vet clinic. I’ve “sold” our washer and dryer about 3 times this week, but the buyer always backs out before even seeing the damn things. It has to be gone by Sunday, so I dropped the price and am carefully waiting to see which of my two pending offers comes through at this point. I’m tired of being stood up!

As for Annie – I heard from the Japanese quarantine services, and apparently she needed to be vaccinated for rabies TWICE after the insertion of her microchip (she’s was vaccinated once after they put it in.) The poor thing is practically glowing with antibodies already (and I have the blood test results to prove it), but I got an emergency appointment for Monday afternoon. I can only hope it still counts! It’s too bad I can’t trust the vet to know what they’re doing and I’m having to scramble before we leave the state… oh well. So long as I get her into the country, and she doesn’t have to stay locked up for 6 months after all this effort, it’ll be good…

BUT! I am excited to be moving on. There’s a lot that needs to happen, but I am ready. Plus – Chuck and I head to Europe in 10 days!! Woohoo!!

Just got our Japan itinerary…

… And it’s the most long-winded, annoying trip ever! Seriously, who plans these things..?

April 9th, we fly DC —> Atlanta —> Seattle.

April 10th, we fly Seattle —> Yokota Air Force Base —> Iwakuni Marine Base —> Kadena Air Force Base, ultimately arriving in Okinawa on April 11th.

I’m so worried about Annie. That is a longggg journey with a lot of transfers! I’m worried she is going to get lost, or sick. In my experience, cats won’t pee on stressful trips. Crazy cat lady Mama is going to be out in full force, that’s for sure.

But, it is moving right along, regardless. Our first round of movers come TOMORROW. We are sending over an air mattress, sheets, towels, toilet paper, lamps, and the microwave in this early shipment. Should be good things to hold us over before the rest of our stuff arrives at the new house. It will be funny getting through the next 3 weeks without a microwave here though…! I don’t think either of us appreciates how much we actually use it. We will soon! Ha 🙂

2013: A Year in Review

Actually, I’d like to talk about more than just one year. Specifically, I want to talk about the past 3 years! Only because I feel as though 2014 is the beginning of a whole new era, and it’s rather unbelievable how much has happened in that relatively brief period of time. The events of those years have ultimately culminated into what I am feeling at this very moment, and captures an interesting combination of emotion, growth, and self-discovery that I know is not nearly finished yet.

In that time as a new wife between 2010 and 2013, I’ve been through two deployments, two work-ups, three less-than-desirable moves (about to do a fourth), and said goodbye to two really good jobs – not to mention friends, family, and ready access to some of my favorite things. Sure, I’ve dealt with a little resentment in the process (and probably still will from time to time), but I’ve also experienced things that have added new dimension to my life, in all kinds of ways that I like to think make me happier and more interesting than I was before. I worked in the medical community. I lived on the beach. I diversified my resume in the business community. I visited beautiful Southern cities and held baby tigers. I learned the inner workings of (and made a name for myself in) a whole new city. And with frequent moves and long separations, I learned my own strength. Essentially, the past few years have forced me to create opportunity for myself in new and unexpected ways.

Now, I’m about to embark on a new adventure with my husband and partner in crime. I can’t lie – the first few weeks after hearing the news were really difficult and full of inner turmoil, but now I am remarkably at peace with it. In fact, I am even excited about it, and look upon the move with inspiration and hope for the great (and even the not so great) experiences it will bring.

I do struggle with some things that come with being a military spouse (and I try not to struggle too much out loud), but the truth of the matter is that Chuck is the best thing to ever happen to me, and I love him and my little Annie Bean more than anything in the world. I know how rare and special it is to find that kind of love and family and adventure, and I want to be sure I never take that for granted, in 2014 and beyond…