Sunday, June 23, 2013

Signing Off

It's a strange thing to rush like crazy to check out of a place that you really don't want to leave at all. 
When we first moved to Japan, it felt like we were on a vacation that was lasting a bit too long, and I was ready to head back home.  It took 6 long months, but Okinawa really then became my home.  I remember the day I actually decided to start embracing this place.  I was in my car driving (as I usually am when I get great and inspirational ideas ;) and I realized that this wasn't my first move and it probably wouldn't be my last.  So, I could either spend my life constantly missing the last place I lived, or I could actually enjoy the place that I was living in now
And hey, maybe things didn't always turn out the way we expected them to, maybe we didn't always have the career we wanted originally or the dream job.  But maybe God took us out of our comfort zone and put us in situations where we tried new things, met new people, or learned something new about ourselves & Him (and the world He created). 
I couldn't imagine doing this with anyone else.  Matt and I really grew up together through this journey.  We spent the bulk of our twenties living away from family in California and Japan.  And while our twenties aren't quite finished yet, I can honestly say they were some of the best twenties that anyone could ever ask for!  We spent the past four years finding our way together in a foreign country - 12 foreign countries actually - and if we can do that together, I know we can do anything.  Some people look back and say that college or high school were the best times of their lives.  I have no doubt that I will look back at these four years as the greatest time in my life.  We really learned how to LIVE while living there.
After seeing so many people come and go, it is finally our turn to leave Okinawa behind.  This makes me sad, because it isn't just the end of the line for us in Okinawa, it's the end of the line for us in the Marine Corps as well, which, as anyone in the military will tell you, isn't just a job, it's a lifestyle.  A lifestyle you become completely immersed in.  Especially overseas, where the only Americans you are exposed to are affiliated with the military in some way.  Thinking about it now, I'm realizing that I will never again stop my car and put my flashers on during evening colors.  I will never again sing the National Anthem in the theater before seeing a movie.  I will never again have to give Matt's last four when asked for "my" social.  And I will never again get to see my husband leave for work in camis & boots. 
Yes, I'm a little anxious about our new life.  As much as I am excited for Austin, I'm scared of change and of losing the life we had in Oki.  We've really had an amazing life so far, and I don't want to let that go.  But one thing I've learned - if you make something a priority, it happens.  We know many people in Okinawa who wanted to travel but never did.  That wasn't us.  Travel was important to us, and we took full advantage of it, and I am confident we will continue to do so in the future.  For us, Okinawa was a journey - A journey that shows you new things about each other and yourself, how you handle stress, change, being uprooted, good times and hard times.  A journey that takes you places you never thought you'd go and teaches you things about the world you never thought you'd learn.  And we are so grateful for that. 

In many ways I feel as though Okinawa was a gift that God gave us.  A four year gift.  We weren't going to reenlist, but for some reason, we did, and it changed our lives.  How many people get to take a four year break from real life??  It allowed us to find out who we really were as individuals and as a couple, to figure out what we really wanted out of life.  It amazed us, humbled us, and made us infinitely more grateful for what we all enjoy in America each day.  It changed our perspective on the world, cultures other than our own, and life in general.  I can honestly say that we are both leaving Okinawa much more mature than when we arrived.  We may be kids at heart, but we really grew up and grew as people while living here. 
Our time on Okinawa may be finished, but the island will still miraculously go on without us - it's just the beginning for so many other (incredibly lucky) military families who are just starting their journey.  And it will continue to have that turquoise blue water, that delicious food, those sweet Okinawan people, and the most gorgeous sunsets I have ever seen.  And I will miss it every day.  I truly hope we left our mark on Okinawa, because it sure left a mark on us and will always have a piece of our hearts.    
And as my good friend Amanda once told me...

...I'm still working on this one;)

A big thank you for all who have followed us on our incredible journey over the past 4 years - you helped me keep going when I wasn't particularly inspired.  Your love & support means more than you know:)

'Till next time...



Thursday, June 20, 2013

Packing & Painting

After rolling spare change, painting our walls back to boring cream, final inspections, dozens of papers  being signed off on, and even more boxes and bags being packed, we are right back at the Westpac Lodge, in a room almost identical to the one we lived in for our first couple of weeks on Okinawa.  Throughout this process, I've learned that leaving Japan is MUCH more difficult that coming to Japan.  Matt has a huge check out list that requires a multitude of different signatures in order for us to leave this island, and we've been running around like crazy trying to accomplish everything.  In order for us to get our plane tickets, we had to get Matt's command to sign his check out sheet.  In order for the command to sign the sheet, we needed to get the Vehicle Registration Office to sign the sheet.  In order to get the Vehicle Registration Office to sign the sheet, we needed to sell both of our cars and get them transferred out of our names... and the list goes on, and on... 

Although there were some rocky days (ie. being woken up by the movers at 7:30 am when we weren't expecting them until 8:30 & rushing to the last minute to get all of our stuff out and clean every last inch of our apartment for our final inspection!), we were able to somehow get it all done by working together.  At this point, we only have 2 full days left living in Okinawa, and things are finally calming down a bit.  Our responsibilities after this point are pretty much limited to making sure we eat at all our favorite restaurants and getting to the airport on time.  I think we can do it.  

With the end of our time in Okinawa drawing near, the same is true for this blog.  Stay tuned for my final post as we say goodbye to our life overseas.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Ryukyu Glass Blowing

A funny thing starts to happen when you've lived somewhere for years and you are about to finally leave - you start scrambling to do everything you wanted to do that you haven't done yet!  I know, you're probably thinking -I've been following your blog for almost four years now.  How can there possibly be anything left that you really wanted to do??  But there is - and there always will be - Okinawa is an amazing place.  It's that simple!  

Ryukyu Blown Glass is one of Okinawa's most well-known traditions - one that is unique to Okinawa apart from the rest of Japan.  This tradition of glass blowing dates back to the end of World War II when the local craftsman would gather the many recycled glass bottles from the US military bases.  Beginning with glasses and bowls, today they make everything and anything you can imagine from the recycled glass.  

While glass blowing wasn't on Matt's Okinawa bucket list, It definitely was on mine!  As a last outing together over the weekend, I went down south to Itoman with my group of co-workers to RGC (Ryukyu Glass Craft) - the largest glass factory in Okinawa.  We each got to select our glass color and took turns (I was first in our group, go figure) actually blowing our glass cup.  The workers heat up what looks like a scorching hot ball of glass on the end of a long metal stick, which they then set into the mold on the ground.  You grab the stick (with gloves and arm protection on!) and blow through it to fill the glass with air.  After that, the second step is shaping the rim of the glass.  This involves the worker heating it up in the fire once again and handing it back to you.  You roll the metal stick while using what can only be described as gigantic metal tweezers to shape the rim of the glass.  This portion of the glass blowing was not as easy as it looked and generated quite a few laughs from us girls - we were a little nervous to see how our glasses would turn out! 


Monday, June 3, 2013

Okinawa Yoho

I know this may not be any spectacular jungle, beach or waterfall, but there is one little place I have been wanting to visit for the past 3 1/2 years, and that is Okinawa Yoho (honey) shop.  After years of passing by this tiny shop with a bee on the sign, I finally made a quick stop in the other weekend while I was out running other errands.  Although quite tiny, the shop is fully stocked with a multitude of different honeys and honey products - all from either Okinawa or mainland Japan.  The only English to be found was on a few tiny little signs posted by each type of honey, describing what each honey's benefits were.  Some were good for your health, some were good for your skin, and some just tasted delicious - like the blueberry honey!  The young Okinawan girl who ran the shop was so sweet, and she instantly started feeding me sample upon sample of different honeys - DELICIOUS!  Their flavors make the regular honey from the grocery store taste... dull.  After our taste-test, we even attempted to have a real conversation about how long we've each lived in Okinawa and how much we love it here - all while utilizing her minimal English, and my even more minimal Japanese! 


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Springtime in Okinawa

Since it's been so rainy here in Okinawa these past couple of weeks, I thought I'd post some springtime photos that I took around the island right before we entered the rainy season.  To go right along with the  dreary weather, I haven't been feeling so well these past couple of weeks, so I'm hoping these will lift my spirits:)  Enjoy!

Field upon field of flowers

Some beautiful dishes found in Yomitan Pottery Village

Me working on some photos for my website

Shisa guarding someone's house

Hope your spring is looking bright!  Thank you for following!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dragon Boat Races

Another part of Golden Week involves the Dragon Boat Races, an Okinawan tradition that occurs all over the island.  This event began back in the 14th century to honor the god of the sea.  Crowds gather to watch teams as they furiously row their brightly colored boats, painted to resemble fierce dragons.  The teams are made up of groups of people from all over Okinawa - Japanese and American alike.  In fact, the US Navy women's team is always one of the top teams each year!  It's a special event that brings together so many different people, cheering for the end of one race as another one begins.  

The races, called Haarii (a Chinese word meaning "dragon"), are generally accompanied by food, games, music and festivities, the biggest celebration being held at the port in downtown Naha.  Although I've missed the past couple years of races, I made up for it this year by getting to go to the White Beach races as well as the big Naha races.  Matt and I parked near downtown and rode our bikes over to the big festival, which was a fun and unique way to experience it.  It was exciting to be a part of the rich Okinawan culture at both events - so glad I got to see them!