Wednesday, February 21, 2018

8 things I will not miss about Okinawa

The other day I painted kind of a rosy picture of life here, every bit of which is true. And there's even more. But right now I'm in a mood to make a list of things I will not miss about Okinawa.

1) Living in a concrete house. Sounds are magnified a thousand times as they pass through these walls. A couple nights ago I was reading a book in bed when I started to hear a thump!bump!thump! sound coming from my left. Upstairs or downstairs, I didn't know -- it seemed to be reverberating all over. I went to investigate which one of these crazy kids was up and about, and I found each of them in their beds. Delaney was sitting up and reading. I reminded her not to stay up too late and went back to bed. Then I heard it again and started to get really annoyed. Just what is going on in this house?! I walked around again and found them all in their beds. I ducked my head in the girls' room one more time and happen to catch Delaney tapping her head against the wall behind her. "What are you doing that for?" I asked. "It's relaxing," she told me. O-kaaay.. "Well, could you stop?"

I gave up months ago on training Joey to sleep through the night in this house when I can hear his every whimper as if he's right there in the room.

2) Having to drive to a post office 15 minutes away to pick up my mail. Oh, the joyful anticipation of counting down the 10-14 days it takes for an Amazon Prime package to arrive .. and then leaving the post office toting a shopping bag filled with a week's worth of junk mail.  I will not miss that at all. Instant gratification will soon be mine again!

3) A cruddy selection of produce, most of which is unaffordable. I have heard that things are available on a seasonal basis at the grocery stores and farmer's markets in town. But I don't want to drive all over. I want to shop at one place, the commissary. Delaney asked me to make kale chips recently, and I am only too happy to oblige when a kid asks for vegetables.
But not this time. Sorry, Delaney.

4) Stale PB&J. I don't feel the loaves of white bread here to choose the freshest, I feel them to pick ones that seem least stale. This one has a little bit of give.. I almost feel bad for my kids as I'm packing their lunches (they are overall pretty ungrateful for the food I give them, so that's why I say almost.).

5) The puny cupholders in our Oki cars. Neither my water bottle nor my coffee mug will fit in any of them. I realize it's a nitpicky thing, but I miss my Traverse with its multiple generously-sized cupholders.

6) The lack of adequate parking anywhere out in town. Sometimes there's just no parking at all. On a rare day that Tim had off and the kids did not, we decided to do a little bit of antique furniture shopping. There was a string of stores along a stretch of the highway south of where we live. We wanted to take the whole morning to meander in and out of them. There was just one problem; actually two. The first was the stores didn't open until 11, at which point our day is half done, there's lunch, Joey's nap, and then the kids get home. The other problem was that the stores were literally at the side of the highway with cars zooming past, and there was no parking either on or off the road. There was maybe a questionable-looking alleyway you could drive down on a steep hill and search for parking; but Tim wasn't too keen to do that. So he dropped me off at one end of the sidewalk and I walked down the road alone peering in the store windows to see if it would be worth the trouble of coming back later and trying to park. Not exactly how I had envisioned the morning going.

Of the places that do have parking, it is typically limited and consists of the head-scratching kind that makes me think, 'I can get in there, but am I going to be able to get out?' Once I had a morning dentist appointment, and since I was 15 minutes early and still had the little parking lot to myself, I executed a 16-point turn in order to get my car pointed at the busy road for when it was time to leave. It was well worth the effort.
7) The roads. Holy crap, the roads. I'm pretty sure I mentioned this before, but the side roads are crazy here. They are really narrow with corners of buildings and telephone poles jutting out into them. If I go down the wrong road and need to find my way back, you think oh, no problem: just take a series of turns all in the same direction and turn yourself around, right? NO. It doesn't work that way. I once had to meet Tim at the base where he works for a Christmas party at night, and I was kind of familiar with how to get there, but I had only done it in the daytime. I had Google Maps directing me, but I still managed to take a wrong turn down a pitch-black back road. In order to backtrack I pulled into a parking lot (on my left -- big mistake because remember, we drive on the left side of the road, so when I make a right turn I have to look both ways). I had no visibility to turn out of that parking lot because of a hedge on the right, and I just froze, a scared old lady not wanting to go anywhere, with a car full of impatient kids who'd like to go to a Christmas party and see their dad.  
I have gotten comfortable with the routes I need to know to get anywhere I need to go, and I never make wrong turns anymore because I don't drive around to new places anymore. It's a little sad, but kind of a matter of survival for me and my nerves.

8) The dollar stores that have no gift-wrapping supplies or greeting cards. I know, they have a lot of cool stuff, but what do I need the dollar store for most of the time anyway?

That's everything, I think. And now the countdown really begins -- one month to go!

Monday, February 19, 2018

In our "backyard"

I miss my blog, and I miss feeling like I have a real reason to update it ever. So the other day I thought I'd take out my camera, snap some pictures and build a post around them. I hadn't gotten out my real camera forever, and it is a great exercise, trying to capture moments I don't even notice most of the time and appreciate the things I take for granted. 
Spring has arrived in Okinawa, and the temperatures have jumped from the high '50s/low '60s to the '70s. There are still no bugs. We had nowhere to be because we went to Mass Saturday afternoon (leaving Joey with the babysitter to make it a tad easier for me with Tim away), and there was no CCD yesterday because of the holiday weekend. After some time spent putzing around with our Kindles, I sent us all outside. 
There's this amazing tree near the playground. It's the stuff of fairy tales and adventure stories. You can disappear inside it. You can climb the dense network of branches almost to the top, and there's a thick canopy of leaves that will keep you cool in the heat of summer. It is a tree meant for any kind of pretend game a kid could ever want to play. Not that the kids usually need any prompting to go play in the tree, but I brought my camera along and dropped several hints. The light is so perfect in there when the sun starts to get high. Note: If this tree had been in South Carolina, we would not be going inside because there would be snakes, spiders, gnats and mosquitoes in there. 
Timmy was in a battle with the neighbor boy.
There's something for everybody: a magical tree, a playground with a hard surface they can scooter and bike on, even a sweet little dog named Sushi for the 10-year-old who is obsessed with dogs. There are almost always other kids out playing, whose presence may or may not be appreciated by certain children of mine. Often there's a grownup for me to chat with. Kids routinely leave their bikes, Nerf guns and skateboards at the playground overnight, and find them there when they return. (This is not good training for reality, I know). The military communities I've lived in will always hold a special place in my heart, and this one is a real jewel.
This is all going to be a blip in our memories soon enough, but I want to make sure they can look back and think to themselves, this was a pretty amazing place to call home.