CONTRIBUTED BY MEREDITH NOVARIO
Um, we haven’t spoken in a while but it’s me, Meredith, checking in from Virginia. Joelle is flying back to Okinawa so I’m jumping in to assure you that the world beyond Okinawa still exists. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
Now where were we?
We’ve been in Virginia for almost three months which means that it’s also been three months since we left Okinawa. A gasp of time that thundered by without too much fanfare but left every pocket of our familiar life upturned. You all know the routine.
At first our new house seemed absurdly spacious with enough room for somersaults and legitimate games of hide-and-seek. The fenced yard with squirrels, a hammock and deck. The kitchen with its garbage disposal and dish washer. The three flushing toilets. Television ads for Cialis and Obama. The neighbors who speak English. The signs I can read. The highways. The malls. The bumpers stickers. Target.
I’m not sure when I started blinking again.
Less than three months ago, I had routines. I knew which aisle in the commissary had tomato paste. My friends were on re-dial. The electricity bills were around 30,000 yen per month. The BX was my one and only shopping solution. The yard took an hour to maintain once a month. The ocean was my neighbor. And Eli attended a Japanese school five days a week in a uniform he despised.
Now, here in Virginia, we’re leisurely piecing our life together and I’m in no rush. Mostly because my family is nearby. I worried that that might seem claustrophobic after living so far away. Yet I haven’t tired of it once. My mother has gone grocery shopping with me. My cousin and I are going into business together. Maltsby runs free with other dogs his own size. Grandma took us in the very night we touched ground on the east coast. My brother dropped by for lunch. Kaho has slept over twice. I am home even if it is full of boxes packed to the brim with things I wish someone would just do me a favor and steal.
I do miss Okinawa though. Everything but the heat. I don’t wish to be there instead of here. But there is absolutely nothing like going somewhere new, finding your beat and making a home away from home. Now I’m working on doing the same here. I haven’t made any friends but I blame that on the breathtaking zit I had on my chin. No one wants to befriend someone with that kind of baggage.
Enough about the mundane details of my new life. How about some mundane details of my move and a little unsolicited advice.
- We had too many carry-on bags. I had one for each boy that we hardly opened although we spent plenty of time carrying them. Bring fewer bags.
- If you think your kid is pretending to feel sick out of boredom be safe and get a puke bag. Bring a change of clothes for everyone.
- If your first point of entry is in Chicago then put in an extra prayer that your bags will make it to your final destination. We lost one. Eli’s bag. It was never found but United did cut us a check. Of course, I could not remember what was in the bag but you bet I made stuff up. I figure no money can compensate for the precious amount of Japanese t-shirts that I had hoped to keep in the treasure chest I’d give him on his wedding night.
- Get someone State-side to find your house before you set foot here. Get to know militarybyowner.com. My mother, heroically, did it all for us. Upon arrival, we googled our address, parked in the driveway and sat on our new floor. It was empty but it was ours.
- If you know your address before leaving Okinawa make very sure that TMO has written it down correctly. Otherwise you might learn a lesson like we did. There is a Monfair, North Carolina which is not Montclair, Virginia where we live. We did not receive our household goods for over eight weeks.
- Bring your kids with you to Target the first ten times you go because shopping with them is painful enough to discourage you from buying every delicious piece of merchandise. Target is just as sexy as you remember it.
- Our fifty pounds of royal mutt-itude, Rick Maltsby P.I. made it back from Okinawa to DC in one piece. He did not soil himself in the cage and in Chicago I was allowed to take him to a grassy knoll while they did a rather unofficial looking “crate inspection”. A few days prior to leaving the island I took Maltsby to the vet on Kadena to get his official Health Certificate and such. I was told there that I needed to bring all the documentation to include our orders and FIVE copies of this said paperwork to the Animal Quarantine Office at the . They gave me a map that worked out just dandy. I was also told that they would check there to see if his crate was acceptable for flying. I was excited about this because I wanted to be reassured that the crate was an okay size for our flights on ANA to Narita then United to Chicago then Chicago to National. I dutifully went to Naha with all my paperwork. I even put it in a baggy and duct-taped it to the top of the crate. The meeting was anti-climatic. They stamped stuff and told me they wouldn’t look at my crate and that I needed to contact my airline. ANA said it was too big then just fine then too big then just fine. So I was nervous getting to the airport. Unsure whether he would make it. We paid about 18,000 yen to get him to Naha. Then 44,000 to get him to DC. There are all sorts of quadratic equations and derivatives of pi that are used in coming up with the cost most of which are based on the fairweather airlines. I wish I could give you a one price fits all.
- We had a vehicle in storage and drove it around for almost a month with registration from 2005. That only exacerbated my feeling like a cavegirl that had been dropped into the future. I didn’t know that you could keep your vehicle registered while it was in storage though. We did it on-line which was easy. Still haven’t had an oil change on that car. We’re rebels that way.
That is the extent of my wisdom. May you all PCS with your sanity and possessions intact.
Here’s my moment of suburban zen.
For posterity’s sake we have left this universally euphoric, terrified, confused, “What am I doing?!” series on Okinawa Hai. However, we have closed comments for future readers. If there is relevant information for all readers to benefit from, we have taken elements from this series and created new posts, which we’ve linked to from the original text. Thank you for joining us on this ride.