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 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 Naha Airport. 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.



All the posts in Meredith’s “Me & My Big PCS” series: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX

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.


  1. Yes, Its like having all of my friends back again but in some sort of wierd online virtual community! It was really nice to see Eli and henry (soo big!)And Kaho has been sleeping over??? I love the thought that yukari and Eli are hanging out together. YAY!!
    Ok, why do I need to have my car (POV)registered every year?Can I just do it the year I’m coming back?? WIll miss you all at Halloween this year :{ JUL

  2. Hi all!
    Meredith, I’ve lurked and listened and am glad to hear you are settling in here in the states.

    Lan…I didn’t know you were in st. louis again! Maybe I’ll run into you guys when I visit my family again!

    Suzy, about the POV stuff…we had our’s shipped to our new duty station (all the way from maryland to California!) It took awhile, but we got it.

  3. Hi Suzy,
    All good questions about the stored POV (maybe I should write a quick post about that?). Our minivan had to go straight to the garage to have it checked it out before we drove it (oil change, battery change, emissions check, etc.). I believe that you can have it shipped to your next duty station..but can’t guarantee that. And yes, expect reverse culture shock! The choices are immense! And everything’s big, big, big! But eventually, you’ll find yourself feeling at home again and feeling blessed for the overseas experience in Okinawa. Good luck!

  4. While I doubt we’ll be leaving the continental US (although a girl can dream about getting stationed in Honolulu), your post makes my eye start to twitch at the prospect of our own upcoming PCS in less than nine months, to a place as yet unknown.

    Again, welcome home, Meredith and family!

  5. Woohoo Meredith! Boy you look good and fishy 🙂 (To anyone else that is a lens reference and not a B.O. reference!). That lens and you are a PERFECT MATCH! Couldnt have dreamt of a better home! Your picture of the boys looks like it belongs in Parents Magazine!

    Miss you…SN

  6. Welcome back Meredith! You have me salivating over life in the states right now. What I wouldn’t give to slip quietly into a target while sipping on a Jamba Juice smoothie! Oh what pure joy that would be! I have a few questions for you and Lan about the car issue (and anyone else who’s PCS’d back to the states). Did either of you have any problems with your vehicles after getting them out of storage maintenance-wise? Did they need to go straight to a garage to get checked out? Also, what did you do with your cars…ie., did you ship them to you next duty station or pick them up yourselves? I have no idea as to what to expect! My last question is…did you experience culture shock of any sorts when you returned to the U.S.? I’ve heard that it’s strange and a little overwhelming if you haven’t been back in a while??

  7. Great to hear from you all! I do miss this community but not the rain. Not for a second.

    Julia, Welcome back to this side of the universe! Can’t wait to catch up. And YES that is a new lens. New to me from the generous hands of Serena! Lucky me.

    And Lan, good call on the stored POV. I’m going to add that to my bullet list. Totally forgot about that saga.

    Denise, hold tight and get ready to be addicted to blogs! Welcome.

    Larissa, any preschool recommendation? Good places to eat? Parks or tips on a good life in this area?

    Staci, Eli told us yesterday that he wanted to take Sebastian to a book store. So put that in your calendar.

    I hope the rain stops soon. Say hello to Okinawa for me.

  8. Loved reading your words again. And almost didn’t recognize Henry! He’s a bona fide toddler! Can’t wait to visit your new blog when we get a minute to breathe between painting around 3 kiddos and picking out curtains to replace the nursing home-ish ones that still gives me the heebie-jeebies. Still feeling quite new-ish here in St. Lous burbs, so it was refreshing to hear an old friend’s “voice”!

    Another piece of wisdom to add before you PCS out of Okinawa. If you have a vehicle in storage in the states, be sure to keep it registered every year! We didn’t think about that for some reason. It was difficult, but I resisted putting the pedal to the metal for a few long weeks b/c I was scared to death of being pulled over w/expired plates!

  9. Great post! I loved reading about VA – we miss it and I even chatted with a friend in Stafford this morning to wish her a happy birthday!!!! It makes me miss “home” – closest to home that I have!!!

    We are loving Okinawa though I’m not loving the rain right now!!!

    Goodluck with unpacking!! I don’t envy you!

  10. Could that be a new lens that you’re shooting with? 🙂

    The boys looks great! I didn’t recognize Henry with all of that hair!

    If it makes you feel any better I am (new) friends-less albeit zit-less. Or maybe I should go check.

  11. Hello,
    TI’m new to the blog world. Thank you for introducing the DC Mom blog. I looked at a few of the regions. What great reads. Looking forward to seeing more of your work. Your cousin’s blog is interesting too.