So I'm going to attempt to get it all out of my system the reasons I (so far) love it here and wish I could stay. Once it is all down here in words and pictures, I get to keep it forever.
A neighbor in Parris Island who had just come from Okinawa told me that it took her a year of hating it before she finally got used to being there and then started to love it. I'd heard that a bunch of other times too. The expression is "You go to Okinawa kicking and screaming and you leave kicking and screaming." I'd heard it takes anywhere from six months to a year to finally feel like you're home here. Knowing there was a good chance we'd only be there a year, I told myself I don't have the luxury of time to spend hating this place. I had to skip straight to the honeymoon!
The reality is we don't even get a year because the commanders' course is in April. Seven months is all we get. Seven. Months. So I'm going to sit here and just list all the things that I like or love about being here. Maybe once I've done that I can stop complaining about having to move so soon, and just start looking forward to North Carolina. That probably makes zero sense, but here goes.
1) House and its location.
If we're going to have a condensed Okinawa tour, there's one huge thing that worked out in our favor, and that's housing. Ordinarily, people move here and live on base and get no other choice. But with so many base houses being renovated, many people are being told to go out in town. The rental market has been inundated and people spend a month or more living in a hotel while they try to find a place to live. Getting the house locked on right away freed us up to just start living here.
When my friend down the street first described Camp Lester and the houses here, it didn't sound all that great. I didn't and still don't know what "tier two" housing is, and why it is not being offered to people; you have to know to ask for it. But I figured if it was good enough for them it was good enough for us, so Tim asked for it at the housing brief and we got offered two houses here.
Like a typical Okinawa house, this house has zero curb appeal. Picture a concrete bunker and you've got our house. But inside it is perfect! It has the exact amount of space we need, no more no less. No huge, huge expanse of living spaces that we're trying to fill with random furniture like on PI. Plenty of natural light pours in throughout the day through a handful of windows. It's an open floor plan, which is very conducive to our family. The kitchen is way bigger than most kitchens here, with ample counter space and more storage than we know what to do with (that is, until our slow shipment arrives).
|One of our resident lizards|
There are two small full bathrooms upstairs, and small bathrooms with itty-bitty sinks are a cinch to keep clean. We also have four bedrooms upstairs. The girls and the boys each share one, and the fourth is a spare.
Besides the house itself, I'm really happy with the neighborhood. For one thing we already knew one family before moving in, and they have introduced us to several more. Our next-door neighbors have all approached us to introduce themselves. Timmy, ever the sociable one, has already made friends with the boys in the surrounding houses. There are plenty of places to play, and the neighborhood is quiet and safe. It's just like Parris Island in that regard, and that's why as a stay-at-home mom with young kids I prefer living on base over the other options, however nice and affordable they may be. I like being part of a community, not just a nice neighborhood. As introverted as I am, I still hate to feel isolated and alone among people who can't be bothered to wave as they walk or drive by. That was how it was living off base in North Carolina, and I won't soon forget it.
American Village is about a block away from that. We've walked around there a few times and gotten dinner. At night it is all lit up, colorful and flashing like a mini Las Vegas strip. There's a ferris wheel that the kids can see out their bedroom windows, and a fireworks show on any given weekend night. This place is what first got me thinking that the way people have always described Okinawa to me is very misleading. I remember our first next door neighbors on PI telling me about what a "simple life" it was there with no distractions. I said, "Simpler than here?" She was emphatic that yes, Okinawa has even less to offer than Parris Island, Beaufort and the surrounding area. There were the beaches and some hiking trails and that was about it. Well, maybe a lot has changed since she was there about 8 or 10 years ago, because this place is very built-up and touristy just from the little I've seen with my own eyes. We came from the simple life. This is not the simple life. But I'm OK with that because it's been a fun change of scenery.
|This was right outside of Starbucks the same night.|
I haven't gotten the lay of the land here by any stretch, but I'm comfortable finding my way to the commissary (five to 15 minutes away depending on the lights), the library, the pool and school. I know enough to get me by, but I have to push myself to venture beyond that. It makes me nervous, but it can be really rewarding. I took Timmy to a fish market across the island a couple weekends ago, and it was only about a 22-minute drive, but it felt so far away. When we got there I had no idea what to get -- we just guessed and pointed to things, and it was all delicious, the stuff we ate there and the stuff we took home for later. We even sampled squid jerky and squid ink. We both gave them a thumbs up.
I've always heard people sing the praises of the DoD schools here. After just one week here I don't know enough to form an opinion on this school in particular, but their teachers made a good first impression on me and the kids seem pretty happy so far.
|Joey waits eagerly for them to get home and yells, "Annie! Annie!"|
|Annie's finally lost one of her top two baby teeth! Both girls have lost teeth since we've moved here, and we're finding the Tooth Fairy to be very fickle, sometimes leaving 1000Y for a single tooth, and other times forgetting to come at all.|
3) Nothing in the air or on the ground trying to bite me or sting me.
The heat and humidity are as bad as Parris Island, maybe even worse. But I can handle some sweating because at least I know I'm not getting bitten to pieces by mosquitoes or sand fleas every time I go outside even for a minute. I can also wear sandals and flipflops without looking down all the time watching for fire ants. Anyone who lives in the South knows what I'm talking about.
We go walking and running at night and come back with only an occasional mosquito bite. It's amazing. The ants are all over the place, even inside the house, but they are harmless and I don't care.
We've enjoyed a few meals outside since we've gotten here. Amazing.
Once the weather starts cooling down a bit, I'm afraid Tim really will have to drag me out of here kicking and screaming.