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
Pouring rain. Heavy traffic. I’m driving home from a meeting and feeling good about buying a second car to accommodate my new work schedule. Suddenly the car tilts to the right. The steering wheel jerks and I feel the whole car wobbling. I pull over along the narrow shoulder and carefully open my door as traffic whizzes past. Sure enough, my right front tire blew out. It’s Saturday. Kenny and I bought this car on Tuesday. Four days. That’s how long I lasted before having to call a tow truck. But that was a last resort. Before that dreaded request, a Good Samaritan had stopped to change my tire. He was a kind Japanese man who didn’t seem to speak English, but went out of his way to assist me. I thanked him profusely with my limited Japanese before he left.
By now Kenny had arrived to help as well (he was worried about me being alone on the side of the road in the dark and rain. I’m not exactly MacGyver.) He drove the car and I switched into the van to follow him home. We made it to the next light before I saw the car drop to the right again. Our spare was a goner too. Luckily our insurance (AIU) covered the towing and a few days later we learned the problem. The “new” tires the seller told us he’d put on the car two years ago– well, they turned out to be nine years old. The repairman told us tires on Okinawa will usually only last for six years.
Lesson learned. I just wished the seller had been a bit more honest with us and made clear that the tires he’d bought were used. Four new tires later, we don’t have any more grievances with the car. It is in good condition and we’ve had no other problems (knock on wood.) Having to invest a little extra money was a minor hiccup in our settling-in process. There were other “hiccups” that both frustrated me, scared me, and made Kenny laugh so hard he cried.
The first of these was no laughing matter. My home delivery prescription with Express Scripts was MIA, and I was almost out of my medication. I had updated our FPO mailing address online before we left the states, and I had confirmed with Express Scripts via telephone that my next order would be shipped to the new address. I looked up my order online and found that it had indeed shipped at the end of April, before our flight here. By the end of May, it still had not arrived. I ordered a replacement that was supposed to be expedited, but as I write this that shipment is not here either.
The pharmacy staff at the U.S. Naval Hospital on Camp Lester saved the day. I brought them my empty bottle and prescription information from my previous doctor in the states, and they were able to re-fill my prescription on the spot. I was lucky enough to be there early on a Saturday morning when the pharmacy was virtually empty, so I didn’t have to wait at all. They don’t always have every type of medication readily available, but they had just enough left for me that day. If I’d known how long the mail-order prescription would take to get here, I wouldn’t have bothered with Express Scripts. From now on I will be going to the hospital for these needs.
The hospital may have shown me mercy, but Mother Nature didn’t. Kenny and I joined a group to hike Tadake Falls on a somewhat rainy day. The rain was coming down lightly on and off, and we trekked through shallow streams to the majestic falls. At this point the rain was coming down harder, but still not pouring. We hiked up to the top of the falls, and by the time we made our way back down the steep hillside, a flash flood met us at the bottom. We sought higher ground and hiked through the muddy hillsides as far as we could before we had to cross the river again. The water was still too high and the current too strong to make it safely across. We waited it out for almost two hours, watching the water level intently. There were moments when I thought we would be spending the night out there in the woods. The mosquitos were having a field day. Eventually the water receeded enough for us to finish the hike back to our cars. A few people in the group needed medical attention that week because of the swelling from the mosquito bites. Note to self: save river hikes for DRY days.
Our next mishap turned out to be comedic therapy for Kenny after a stressful day. Let me explain. As I’ve said, I’m no MacGyver. Although I may not be handy, I’m pretty thrifty. While Kenny was still working one day I wandered down to the Marine Thrift Shop on Camp Foster to browse. I was looking through curtains in the linens section when I spotted one that I thought would look nice on our bedroom window. It looked brand new, so I paid the three dollars for it and brought it home. I asked Kenny to help me hang it when he got home. He agreed, but his expression became more and more confused as he hung the curtain. He said, “Do you realize there are holes in the top?”
“Yes,” I said. “Doesn’t that make it easier to hang?”
His perplexed stare morphed into a half-grin. He couldn’t keep a straight face. “Sweetheart, this is a shower curtain.”
I shrugged my shoulders and threw up my arms. Whatever. Kenny almost fell off the chair on which he’d been standing. He was laughing hysterically, tears streaming down his face. I had to laugh at myself. I’d been so preoccupied with getting settled at home and at a new job, I hadn’t recognized the difference between a window curtain and a shower curtain. Strangely enough, that shower curtain is still hanging in our guest bedroom. It blocks the glaring sunlight and helps keep the room cool. As a bonus, it makes us laugh every time we look at it.
All of these bumps in the road were, for us, just part of adjusting. I am learning to pay closer attention to my car’s needs in a different climate and on roads made from different materials than in the states. I am learning where to go for answers to my medical questions. I’m learning to check the weather forecast more diligently (READ: heavy rain = flash flood potential.) I’m also learning to be a bit more savvy when it comes to domestic issues. Little by little, Kenny and I are settling into married life and life on Okinawa.