The Life of a Military Wife, New to Okinawa, Japan
When our airplane first touched earth in mainland Japan, we had been traveling and flying for over 30 hours. That is, flying on a military flight with a 2 year old and many stops containing unexpected delays. We first landed on a military base south of Tokyo to refuel, drop off and pick up more military families. I said FAMILIES. Not soldiers or people in uniform just flying for work. No. FAMILIES, most likely relocating with screaming infants and toddlers, pissed off military wives and even more pissed off single soldiers from all ranks. The wives' stern, empty and slightly pale faces seemed to say, “I didn't ask for this assignment so I do not care that my child has been screaming for 13 hours of your time.” And the childless military people's faces read, “WHY on earth can't they create flights for families-with-children SEPARATE from the flights for us.” And shockingly, I sat there, almost the entire duration in peace, with a totally peaceful child and an almost peaceful husband.
Mirabelle was an angel. I think she was so quiet because it was a completely new experience to be without the comforts and familiarity of her own home for an extended period of time. She was just...being, observing. That and pure exhaustion from this LONG, bender of a travel “day.” She slept quite a bit on the flight because her poor little 24 month old body simply just had to shut down wherever she found herself, in any position. I loved every minute of it.
My husband on the other end of the spectrum, is completely mortified to fly. Major phobia here. He never reads my blog so he will never get mad at me for sharing this. And the reality was, the military placed him on an assignment that made us to fly the entire way across the US and the entire way across the pacific....in two consecutive flights. HAHAHAHA. He was a dream though, no complaining because his fear made him silent. Any turbulence made him shutter like a scared, little, 7 year old, girl who was flying for the first time. Knuckles white on the arm rests. But other than that, he did great. Hey, we all have our fears, mine is needles, dentists, doctors and shots....seriously to a sweaty and irrational level. But I still love to laugh at him. Ha ha, big tough Army guy. He pulled through just fine. I love him for his strengths and more for his weaknesses and that was an epiphany for me, so every experience has it's good and proper place.
So me enjoying my husband's silent nervousness, my daughter's exhaustion and the pain of the other military wives made me feel blissful and peaceful in the most fulfilling way! I was sitting there, being quiet (after too much talking through too many family visits before leaving the country), being peaceful and reflecting on what my new life was about to mean. I loved that long flight, to my surprise.
At that first touch down once in Japan, we (all 300 of us) were herded off the plane into a waiting or large lobby area of the first military airport. What were we waiting for? No one told us. How long would we be here? What are we doing? What is the meaning of life? I am delirious here people, I need some explanations! But it is the military, “hurry up and wait, while clueless” is the motto I have learned from day 1. Even though the lack of good sleep weakened our bodies and minds, my family came off the plane with huge smiles, so excited to be in Japan for the first time. Our new country. I then went from frozen, dead feeling legs while walking into the waiting facility to cracking up laughing. As we entered the waiting area Judge Judy was on a wide screen TV surrounded by soda and snack machines filled with Gatorade and Doritos. It just surprised me. But then I realized ok, we ARE on an American air base after all. I just can't believe how much US, junk, stuff we Americans fly in to far away countries to comfort ourselves with normalcy, no matter how unhealthy. It made me tumble over with laughter thinking how far we had journeyed and got off that plane and nothing really had changed......yet.
Once we finally got to our destination ….8 years later..... we slept. We ate. We slept at the very comfortable Air Force Inn accommodating 2 bedroom hotel room. We ate.......Philly cheese steak sandwiches and Taco Bell. Ugh. That was all that was offered in walking distance from our lodging. My one and only major complaint about the military is the lack of attention paid to healthy foods and drink. But anyhoo. We were (somewhat) nourished, rested and being taken very good care of by Chad's sponsor. His sponsor picked us up from the airport, helped us find cell phones and cars and took us to our two housing possibilities. Nice guy with a very nice wife.
This is, however, where my nightmare and struggles began in Okinawa. I got a sinus infections right out of the gate when we arrived, lots of pain. But that was nothing to my struggle with trying to keep calm during the housing situation. My house and home is my haven. My house is my sanctuary. My house is my party place. My house is my daughter's comfort zone and stability. My house is my open door to visitors, where I love to cook. My house is my Yoga place, Reiki place and resting place. So obviously it is my everything. I had liked the choice the military made for me on location. Awesome tropical island, sweet. Thank you Uncle Sam. Housing choice......I was not so sure. I had seen housing buildings around the bases we had been near the first week and I was, in a word, underwhelmed. The housing had been built in the 1950's and was built to be secure for class 90 Typhoons coming and ripping through the area. They were once story, off white cement and looked like Trenchtown, Jamaican ghettos. I was scared of what we would be presented with.
The day to look at housing arrived. I was sad to leave my cushy, regular room/maid service hotel. So in my way, I breathed....deeply. I was sweating as we got in our sponsor's car. I felt my face looking pissed, tense. My intuition was trying to squash my mind saying, “I know I am going to hate these houses, lets just get this over with.” We did not have the regular option to live off base in a home of our choosing, for temporary budget reasons. And I despise moving, so I knew wherever we live we would be stuck with for the next three, long, years. So we pulled up to our first choice's parking lot. I was shaking, angry, cold sweat and trying to just let go and believe that I could make my new home amazing even if it felt like I was living in a dirt hut. I desperately tried, in my jet lagged mind to let go and be thankful for whatever it was we would have to put up with. I have an awesome child and husband and my health. Life will not be so bad. We walked into a large, tower apartment/condo style building. I hate towers, I thought. Hmpf. But as we entered the unit....my first thought was oh! This is very clean! This is big! This place has tons of storage! This place has great windows! This place has big bedrooms! Wow, two balconies!? The kitchen is nice! The bathrooms are big, with lovely tile! Oooh, is that a bar area??! SO. Either my breathing and conscious reminder to stay positive and thankful, worked ...OR we just really lucked out with this place. Our next option........yea, looked like a Trenchtown, Jamaican ghetto and Chad and I both hated it. But we had that first choice and we jumped on it! And I love it here. I cannot bring my doggy into the country or to this building, sadly. But the residence is VERY nice, has a huge playground for Mirabelle, has an extensive recycling center on the ground level and every tenant I have met so far has been incredibly kind to me. We live on a Marine base about 5 minutes from Chad's work and I foresee us loving it here.
I have embraced this experience with wide open arms. I am loving my new home. I am comfortable now trying to make a perfectly decorated and tidy home while also being patient about this materializing in due time. I am being patient in situations like, if my kitchen is spotless but with a messy pantry. The same is true for my life. I am formulating a balance between total comfort and relaxation while also finding something to do here that really challenges me regularly.
I plan to take Japanese language lessons, which will be a long class! I plan to find a personal trainer, which will no doubt create a ton of good pain and effort. I plan to rest when my child naps. I plan to write and paint as much as possible. I plan to beach often. I appreciate the solitude of living in a new country, it gives me time to focus more on ME. Though I have surprisingly spoken to my friends and family more now than I did when I lived in the same region as everyone!!! It is all balanced and nice.
The island of Okinawa as I have witnessed so far, is not the calm, quiet, healthy place I expected. It is loud, fast, has a lot of bars, busy traffic and is very crowded. Things are never what you expect. So I totally embrace it all. I will seek out my quiet towns as I explore more of this large island. I will find my cherry blossom Buddhist meditation gardens. I do not doubt that. I will embrace what America has brought here and celebrate my patriotism while trying to unite humanity from regions of opposite ends of the earth. But as I learn about this new culture and location I will continue being flexible and peaceful and I fully intend to grow, still deep breathing and become something....unexpected.