What a YEAR. If someone had told me what I would endure before being reunited with my husband, I would have just given up on everything. It has seriously been such a chaotic year; from moving three times-all internationally- during a pandemic, to getting out of the military, to the death of a very dear family member, this last year has not been easy. This post isn't about all those hardships, though. No, no, no... This is just me sharing some of my experiences since I've been here in Okinawa, Japan. Let me tell you all; this place can sure mend a broken soul.
I got here at the end of July-after quarantining at Yokota Air Base outside of Tokyo (at my own expense, thanks to the U.S. Air Force). I hadn't seen my husband, James, since last September. Yes, September 2020. So, it goes without saying I was ecstatic to not only be on this beautiful tropical island but to finally reunite with James after such a long time apart.
He picked me up at Naha International Airport. I remember being so overwhelmed by everything around me -in a good way. The airport is right on the water, so the landing was just breathtaking. The runway looks like it just floats in the ocean. Can you imagine the work that went into constructing that?! What sealed the deal for me was the Pikachu masks the flight attendants handed out while deplaning. About five minutes on the island and I was already in love with it...
Luckily I didn't have to do any COVID screenings or go through customs since all of that was handled extensively at Haneda Airport in Tokyo... Another story for another day... Once I got my suitcase, I headed outside to wait on James. The heat was unreal; I'd never felt such humidity. I felt like an industrial-sized blow drier was following me around the second I walked out of doors at the airport.
The ride home was crazy. I was just so taken aback by the beauty of this island. The light blues and greens of the sea that met with the soft pink and orange hues from sunset followed us our entire way home. That journey home was healing for me; right then and there, Okinawa felt like home.
In my first two hours on Okinawa, I fell in love and felt at home. It was a feeling I don't think I'll ever forget, especially after the horrible year I had just faced. Because of the sense of serenity (SERENITY NOW, SERENITY NOW), I immediately felt, mixed with the healing this island has given me since arriving; I will always connect to this beautiful place.
~The day after arriving home <3
For anyone PCSing or looking to visit Okinawa once COVID lets up, I've made a list of the things I wish I would have known, things that would have made my life a hell of a lot easier, before entering Japan.
HAVE AN UMBRELLA. I got poured on at Haneda, trying to find the base's shuttle. It parked way out in an uncovered parking lot, so I had the pleasure of riding 2.5 hours soaking fucking wet. It rains here on Oki randomly and very heavily. Having an umbrella handy can also give you some shade from the scorching sun if you're out and about.
Have yen. Some places don't accept cards; also, it is a lot easier to buy little ~knick knacks and snacks~ having a few yen coins on hand, especially from the vending machines!
Learn a few Japanese words or phrases. This is probably a no-brainer to a lot of y'all. I thought I could google translate a few phrases during my layovers; however, Japanese pronunciation is hard for non-native speakers. English to Japanese doesn't translate well, either.
Elevators are few and far between. At least on the damn bases anyway. Some apartment complexes and the likes off base don't have elevators, from what I have read. I had a HUGE suitcase and two carry-on bags. YOU GUYS. I had to carry all of that shit up six flights of stairs. Tired, soaking wet, and carrying like 60lbs of luggage up all those stairs was hell. So be prepared and try to pack light!