We are excited to introduce a new writer — one who is beginning her journey to Okinawa. She’s agreed to keep us posted on the ups and downs and in-betweens as she leaves the States and finds her groove in Okinawa. I know her experiences will encourage those who are PCSing to Okinawa, and receive nods and mmm-hmmms from those who have been through it all before.
For those of you planning a move to Okinawa soon, we hope Marie’s descriptions of the process of their travel and first months of settling in can help you with a few of the “unknowns.” To read more of their story see links at the bottom of the post.
CONTRIBUTED BY MARIE LEWIS
First thing’s first. I’m a control freak. So when I found out my husband and I were going to Japan, I was terrified. Today, one day before our non-temp storage (NTS) pick-up, I’m ecstatic. Needless to say, the past few months have been an emotional roller coaster. But more about that later.
I read with interest the posts from the Howe family and identified with the range of experiences they were facing – everything from drowning in paperwork to guessing whether we would need our lawn furniture anymore. I was heartbroken for them when I read they were medically denied in the end. They’d re-arranged their lives and planned every last detail around their move to Okinawa. Then, they’d had the rug pulled from under them. That’s what almost happened to us.
For Kenny and I, it started about two weeks before Thanksgiving. We’d been married in August in New York (where I grew up) and driven cross-country to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, where Kenny is stationed. I’d landed a job at Fox 5 San Diego as a freelance reporter. I will never forget that November morning. I was getting ready for work, preparing to ask for a promotion. A full-time reporting job had just opened up, and I wanted it so badly I could taste it. That’s when Kenny walked in the door. He had no reason to come home from work early and the look on his face told me something major had happened.
Kenny: “You need to sit down.” (Guys, just for the record: when you start the conversation with those words, don’t be surprised if she starts hyperventilating.)
That’s when he told me we had orders to Okinawa. At first–I’m going to be completely honest here–I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. So long promotion, career, family… I sat and tried to process this information. I thought we had at least another two years in San Diego.
Kenny’s voice interrupted my thoughts: “I know you were going to ask for that job today, so I came home to tell you as soon as I found out. How do you feel about this?”
Me: (Long pause.) “That’s…awesome!”
Truth be told, I only half believed it. I went on to explain my ambivalence. Kenny understood. He knew how hard I’d worked to succeed in TV news; it was extremely competitive and my dream. But once the shock wore off, I started to realize I was missing the big picture. This was an opportunity the likes of which I’d never even imagined. I’d never left the country, but always wanted to travel. There was a part of me, too, who wanted to escape from the rat race and take some time to enjoy new experiences. Learn a new language, immerse myself in a rich culture. This is the attitude I started to embrace.
I put in my notice at work and we began the process of medical and dental screenings. It seemed with every form we completed, there was another someone had neglected to give us. It quickly turned into a nightmare. We would get one set of instructions from one office, follow them, only to be told something completely different by another person in the same office. One official said my dental work was fine, another said I still needed X, Y, and Z in order to be cleared. One official said I needed to be enrolled in EFMP, the next said I did not. This went on…and on…and on. By this time someone else had been hired to fill the position I gave up at work, and now I didn’t even know if I was going to Japan. I was angry and frustrated…and waiting. It all came down to one final Navy doctor, who by the grace of God saw no reason why I could not thrive in Okinawa. We had our clearances and port of call a couple of weeks later.
Kenny and I had to laugh, looking back. I went from being disappointed about giving up my job, to fighting ferociously for medical clearance. I have him to thank for keeping me sane during those months of uncertainty. We are going to pop our anniversary bottle of wine early (since we’re pretty sure we can’t take it with us to Japan) and celebrate the adventure to come.
Read all the posts in this series: Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
Your story reminds me so much of where my husband and I were a year ago. Just married (like weeks) when he got his orders, trying to deal with medical and all the stress that comes along with it! We’ve been here for 9 months now and I am in love with this place! We found an amazing resort to celebrate our 1 year wedding anniversary (ps, we did bring our wedding wine and it survived with our shipment of stuff). Okinawa is a wonderful place to call home!
Our kids (now 28 & 26) grew up in Okinawa during our 6-year stint on the island many years ago. The 26-year old decided 2 years ago to go back and is now gainfully employed by MCCS. The experience you will encounter living in Japan cannot be replaced by any amount of education nor job opportunities. No regrets! Now that we’ve retired from the military, we still visit Okinawa twice a year (Space-A). Enjoy your tour!
I was halfway through a teaching credential getting ready to student teach and had just found out I was pregnant with our first when I got the news. I was devastated at first thinking about leaving my family and not having them around for the baby but we’ve been here 6 months and now we love it here! Looking forward to your posts. =)
I’m glad someone is writing this article. I shook my head while I was reading your story…ah, memories! I was shopping for grad school after working so hard to hurry and finish my Bachelor’s degree, all so I could go to grad school and be a doctor by 30. I was SO determined. My husband (now, at the time he was my live-in bf) and I had just bought a car, and then the fateful e-mail came. In a flash, all my dreams and hopes began to take a different shape, as did yours. There were a lot of disappointments along the way, but a lot of new opportunities as well. Now at the end of our 3 year Okinawa honeymoon, I am thankful that life turned out the way it did. I am still determined to be a doctor, I just had to wait a little bit and try new things in the meantime, and I feel that I am better for it. Take advantage of and savor every moment of this crazy Oki experience! I look forward to reading about the rest of your adventure!
Hehe, I remember the day my husband told me we were moving. I had just bought my books for my first semester in nursing school. Within a few months, I’d dropped out of the program and moved here.
It’s definitely been our 4 year Okinawan honeymoon and now that we’re slowly preparing to PCS again, I can tell you, it’s quite ride and you should enjoy every second of it.
We’ve loved Okinawa dearly and we know we will find a way to return.
I look forward to reading about your adventures! 🙂
Good for you for having the right attitude! I felt similarly about the process (seriously, it’s like NOBODY has ever done an overseas PCS with these people) and the location. We’ve been here 10 months and we are loving every minute of it.