September 11th is a very memorable day for Matt and I (as it is for most Americans, no doubt). Not only was it a day that changed America forever, but it was also one of the reasons that Matt decided to join the Marine Corps - changing our lives forever and shaping them into what we are today. September 11th will always be memorable to the both of us, because it is also the date of our very first day in Okinawa, Japan (or "Oki" as we now lovingly call it along with the rest of the locals). We stepped off that plane into the overwhelming heat and humidity on Friday, September 11, 2009. Yes, that's right - we have just passed our ONE YEAR mark living overseas! And if you've been following this blog since we left the good old USA, then you've been listening to me ramble on about our adventures here for a YEAR now! Congratulations;)
Looking at photos and reading my blogs from a year ago, it really amazes me how much time changes things. I have to admit (and anyone who has talked to me on the phone in the past year can attest to this) I had my share of problems here in Oki for about the first six months. I was confused, nervous, sad, lonely - you name it - when I first arrived. As I look back, I realize that one of the largest contributors to my rough time was dealing with having to pick up and leave my job and co-workers that I loved so much. It was a huge part of my life in California - including the source of all of my girlfriends.
However, it truely amazes me how someplace so foreign (literally, in this case!) can begin to feel like home - like you actually belong there. Things that once confused me or made me nervous now feel like they've always been that way. It makes me laugh that I was once frustrated that I couldn't read any signs or store names here, because I am now just completely used to not knowing what anything around me says - used to guessing at what is in every store. While I still miss my job and my friends back in the States like crazy, I've gotten quite used to not having as many friends around anymore. And the ones that Matt and I do have here in Oki are amazing, and I know that they are going to be friends that we will remember always after this experience - just like friends we've had to "leave behind" in the past. I always wondered how Matt was able to deal with change and leaving people he's grown close to so often in the Marine Corps. It's something, I've learned, that is definitely not easy, but it is a growing experience nonetheless.
I can tell you exactly when everything changed in Okinawa for me personally - about six months in, I started to recognize that there were things (people, places, food, etc.) that I was really going to miss once we had to go back to the States. I realized that I needed to stop yearning for home and accept this place as my new home, because I knew I didn't want to leave Okinawa in 3 years and regret not embracing it. And that's what I did;)
So what HAS or HAS NOT changed over the past year??
- I am MUCH better at counting and converting Yen
- I no longer freak out when I see a red light with a green arrow at an intersection
- I haven't slipped up and driven on the right side of the road in a long time
- I still cannot speak much Japanese, unfortunately (beside the handful of phrases we use on a daily basis) - still on my "to do" list!
- Although I don't speak much Japanese, I do feel more confident communicating with the locals
- I have fallen in love with the Persimmon fruit
- I'm not as nervous about Typhoons, but still just as nervous about the earthquakes
- I still get aggravated at Japanese drivers who let their babies free to roam in their cars
- I don't know how I ever lived without my iPhone
- I don't know why America doesn't have a vending machine around every corner - what if you really need a cold drink??
Over the past year living in Japan, it has all boiled down to these two truths for me: how fast time really goes AND just how blessed we are. If this past year is any indication of how fast my life is going to go, then I sincerely hope that I can live every day to the fullest and take the adventure that we have here and apply it to the rest of our lives. I never want to stop seeing and experiencing new things in this world - after just this first year here, I can't imagine life without adventure and travel! And if God continues to bless Matt and I even a fraction of the amount he has this past year, then I know we will always have amazing family, fabulous friends, and incredible experiences in the years to come.