Okinawa Part I: How I Got Here

You may wonder what it’s like living in another country.  You can’t drive home on weekends and holidays, but if you embrace it you will find it to be a wonderful experience.

In October 2015 I began discussions with my current employer to take a position performing work as a government contractor.  The initial question was “Do you mind travel?”  I didn’t.  Then it was “Are you willing to live overseas?”  After I expressed an interest, the process that got me here to Okinawa began picking up speed and happened almost overnight.

I might not have been interested or might have been too fearful.  But several years ago now my son made a trip to China to meet a girl he met online.  He assured me that he’d taken precautions to make the trip and have it laid out whether she actually showed up or not or turned out to be creepy (which she wasn’t).  He’d gone through the passport application and came home with some amazing stories and photos.

Only a few months after that he came to me and said he was going to move there.  He was quite put out with me when I replied, “O.K.”.  He told me that he’d planned this big speech to convince me.  Hey, he was 18 and should live his life.  So, he sold most of his possessions and left for China the following spring.  He planned to receive training to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL) and had a job lined up.  He ended up living there for two years.  Partly because he wanted to prove to her parents that he wasn’t there just to snatch their only daughter away to never see her again and partly because of the process involved in getting paperwork for her immigration to the U.S.

My late husband and I got our passports.  We were looking forward to making a trip to China for the wedding scheduled for April 2010 and meeting her parents.

I was asked many times over those two years if I missed my son.  I laughed and would always respond that it was hard to miss him when I talked to him on Skype ever day and sometimes more than once.  It was as if he never left.  (Though the house was cleaner!)

My husband’s cancer, Multiple Myeloma, got worse in 2009 and he died that September.  He could’ve hung on a little while longer, but we had agreed that I would intervene if the quality of life wasn’t there and that’s what I did.  I didn’t want to say good-bye to my best friend and soul mate, but I knew that the person with me wasn’t the same so I held up my end of the deal.  I also kept my promise to have him cremated in his favorite ratty old denim shorts, worn out shoes, Army jacket from college in the 60’s covered in patches and a stash of weed in the pocket.  (I think the funeral director must have thought I was insane!)

The week before I was to fly to Shanghai, China for two weeks I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer.  I wasn’t terribly surprised, but it was rather ironic.  I had a wonderful relationship with my gynecologist and he told me that it was extremely early and that it’s slow growing and that I should go to China and enjoy myself and not worry about it.  We scheduled surgery for a complete hysterectomy in late May before I left.  I did just that.

My time in China went pretty fast as you might imagine.  I was really grateful that I wasn’t there just as a tourist.  I got to go to every day places and got to go out to a small village where her parents lived and meet what seemed like hundreds of relatives that came for the wedding.  People came from all over.

There was an entire room of their house just for fireworks!  These were what we would see as professional fireworks in the U.S.  It was just amazing.  That’s a practice there to set off fireworks for such events.

There was so much food and so much booze and so many people to meet.  You drink your alcohol in a bowl and the bride and groom and family would go from table to table and everyone would toast you.  Well, you can imagine that if everyone is toasting you how much the bride, groom, and family are drinking to toast every person they come too?

On top of that, my husband had already challenged her father to a drinking contest.  Damn him.  We were planning on having scotch, but customs made sure that didn’t make it.  So her Papa wanted me to drink with him.  When you do this you drink down as quickly as you can and turn your bowl upside down.  So here I was trying to be respectful and drink down beer (which I don’t care for anyhow) and beat Papa.  I thought once was it, but oh no!  He kept pouring and he and the uncles at the table and I chugged I can’t even begin to tell you how many bowls of beer.  Needless to say, I got wasted on my son’s wedding day.

So, in November 2015 I left Roanoke, VA and drove to Woodbridge, VA to stay with a friend.  She was in the Marine Corp and lived in Japan and tried to teach me some Japanese.  She took me to the airport the next day where I flew from Dulles to Tokyo and then Tokyo to Okinawa.

Please sign up to receive the next installment in this series.  I’ll share with you my apartment, shopping and driving, the people, and what I’ve learned about Okinawa.

Stay tuned!

 

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3 thoughts on “Okinawa Part I: How I Got Here

  1. I am sorry about your husband but I am proud of how strong you have become. I have few memories of my first time living abroad. I had just graduated from college and went to law school when my then boyfriend cheated on me. I thought I needed a change in atmosphere so I flew from Philippines to Malaysia for a job offer. It helped with my healing and 5 years flew by. Fear and excitement were at a constant battle but I would not change a thing.

    I hope you are enjoying Okinawa. We had the best 3 years living in that tiny rock and would not hesitate to go back. We are hoping my husband and I can find a contractor job and hopefully we can go back. I miss it a lot. The people are very warm, and the food and the place itself is awesome. We used to live in Ginowan, on the seawall, and I would just walk to San-A when I need to do some errands and do not feel like driving. Speaking of driving, I can’t wait to read how that went for you. We used to confuse the turn signal with the windshield wiper on our first few weeks. 🙂

    Have you tried umibudo?

    Like

    1. Yes, the “Okinawa wave” of using windshield wipers instead of turn signals. I like the San-A and the Aeon. I still don’t care for goya though even though it’s wonderful for you. I live between Camp Foster and Kadena Gate 2. I have a view of the Pacific Ocean. It sounds like you were near Hamby Town? It’s one of my frequent shopping places. Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate your writing.

      Liked by 1 person

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