And then, 2015. Bam.
It’s cliche, I know, but where in the world did 2014 go? How is it possible that we’re already in the year Marty McFly traveled forward to in Doc Brown’s DeLorean? (Have I just dated myself with that reference? Blame my husband’s obsession with the entire Back To The Future franchise for that one. And I’m still waiting for my hoverboard to arrive from Amazon.)
Here’s how we grew in 2014:
At the beginning of the year we tweaked and redesigned our three existing sites – Okinawa Hai, Germany Ja and Korea Ye. More importantly, we purchased our own dedicated server to host our Overseas Yes network, and exponentially increased online safety measures for ourselves and our readers across the board.
In March we added a fourth website to our network, Turkey Tamam. Much like Okinawa Hai’s beginnings, it serves a small contingency of the military in a remote corner of the world, and has emboldened those families to get off base and explore their host country. As we all know, this is the kind of encouragement we need to help make those years away from home find a residence in the warmest spots of our hearts, and we’re so glad to have created this community for our military family in Incirlik, Turkey.
We produced another successful Okinawa Hai Calendar, sent to satisfied customers around the globe (and hand-delivered to many of you on Okinawa by our Local Manager, Marie Lewis). We could never make a product like this without the help of our island photographers, haiku masters and those of you who ask us to continue providing these each year, so a great big THANK YOU to every one of you who helped us in some way, shape or form to make it happen.
(Pssst – We have fewer calendars left for sale than I have fingers on my hands, so if you haven’t purchased yours already, now’s your moment.)
Due to requests we branched out into another form of social media; in addition to our Okinawa Hai Facebook Page – which just hit 10,000 likes on New Year’s Eve! – Kassie O’Driscoll has continued reaching out to many of you through our @Okinawa_Hai Twitter account and also through our new @Okinawa_Hai Instagram account. We love interacting with those of you who love our island as much as we do, and your comments make us warm and fuzzy inside (which we need on these chilly island days right now)! Please connect with us if you are on any of these social media sites.
As for this year, we have even bigger goals in front of us.
On a local level, we plan to bring you a mobile-friendly browser and a Google Maps experience to help you find your way around this island from the screens of your smartphones and tablets. Long overdue, we know, but these are not small projects. While incorporating these changes we’ll also be completely redoing our front landing page, and making the places and experiences you want to learn about about easier to find.
On a global scale, we will be potentially adding FIVE NEW SITES to our existing Overseas Yes network! Former (and current) readers of our existing sites have approached us about branching out to other OCONUS locations, to help families in those locales also feel more at ease with their assignments, and we want to help them. Next month we will be launching a fundraising campaign where we’ll be asking for your assistance, because these are not projects we can fund on our own. We’ll need help – lots of it – but we’re confident that those of you who have found Okinawa Hai and any of our sister sites to be helpful to your own overseas life can lend us a hand. To reach out and help others who can benefit from the experience of those who have come before, and those who will arrive later.
On a more personal note, we will be experiencing personnel changeover across all four of our sites; we’ll be saying goodbye to Local Managers, staff writers and social media managers not just here but also in Korea, Germany and Turkey. (Thanks, PCS Season, for this logistical challenge tossed our way!)
This spring Joelle Yamada will begin nursing school (!!) while juggling her duties as the Overseas Yes General, Accounting and Advertising Manager for all four sites. Heather Gelormine, the Overseas Yes Content Editor and Social Media Coordinator for all sites as well as the Submissions Manager for Korea Ye and Turkey Tamam, will make yet another PCS (emphasis on permanent this time around) to places that are still TBD but which are definitely impending.
In which Joelle & Heather somehow managed to arrange a Skype session between ourselves in Central Standard Time
and our managers in Germany, Korea, Okinawa and Turkey. This is truly an international collaboration.
We’re hoping to squeeze in our annual in-person business weekend before we embark on those new adventures, because despite our daily brainstorming sessions via email, Skype or Voxer nothing beats face-to-face conversations in order to really get stuff done.
We both left Okinawa in the summer of 2010; our 2011 meeting was held in a booth at a Chick-Fil-A in Castle Rock, CO; in San Diego, CA in 2012; in Phoenix, AZ in 2013; and in Omaha, NE in 2014 – all near one or the other of our then-current living quarters.
Perhaps 2015 will provide us with a slightly more exotic locale? Suggestions – and benefactors – welcome.
In short: we made a lot of progress last year, and have even bigger dreams for this one. We want to thank each and every one of you for joining our community and continuing to help us keep it alive and thrive. Okinawa Hai is bigger than we ever imagined it would or could have been, and we’re excited to see where it will go in the future.