Although we no longer live in Okinawa, the rhythmic tempo of PCS season remains with me. I remember the thrill and the challenge of arriving on the island….the search for housing, the strange car buying process, the over abundance of concrete architecture, the breathtaking sunsets, the intense heat, and the exhaustion of absorbing so many new sights and sounds. I also remember the summers that followed our arrival. The sudden shift in the population as we said good-bye to friends and greeted new faces. The huge increase in sidewalk treasures…furniture, grills, outdoor toys left on the curb for new owners or to be picked up by the trucks with towering loads. Each summer the island seems to swell and deflate on a daily basis with the arrivals and departures.
And I remember all too clearly our departure last summer. A very bittersweet departure. We were so eager to return to the States. Eager to see family and friends. Eager to have fresh summer produce (peaches, cherries, etc that aren’t frozen and aren’t outrageously priced!). We were sad to leave the island with its beautiful beaches, friendly people, vibrant festivals, and delicious food, but we didn’t realize how intensely we would miss it until we arrived back in the land of strip malls, road rage, and high stress. We suddenly found ourselves experiencing reverse culture shock and craving the island pace of Okinawa.
For those just arriving in Okinawa, welcome to a whole new way of life. I hope you will embrace the island and all that it has to offer. Don’t be afraid to ask for support or directions. Explore, connect, and enjoy. For those about to leave the island, savor your final days and begin to prepare yourself for a return to your home country with a new set of eyes. For those staying on the island during this PCS season, reflect back on your own experience and reach out with a helping hand. Watch out for those new drivers (you know the ones who stray to the right and turn on their windshield wipers when they meant to flip the turn signal). Take a walk in your neighborhood and you might find some new goodies on the curb. And most importantly inhale that island air and enjoy the small things that make Okinawa so special.