It occurred to me as I climbed into bed very early tonight that I had not posted a blog this week. When I say climb into bed I mean to say my lovely air mattress with memory foam topper. Since October 1, I have been living in my wonderful little house with only what I carried over in two suitcases and one heavily burdened backpack. Now, I have purchased quite a few things, you’ve seen the furniture and whatnot, but I haven’t purchased too many clothing items or things to personalize the house much.
The reason was that I am a minimalist and I had a very difficult time clearing out my life in the States. I did not want to have done all that only to start the process all over again in a new place. Also, what do we really need to have in a house? Well I’m about to find out. I received notification this week that my shipment indeed did come in and is sitting in Okinawa City awaiting delivery. Tomorrow, November 30, they will be here with most of my earthly possessions. So tonight is my last night on the air mattress unless I get reminiscing about the early days here. I am sleeping in the front bedroom, the one with the bordello curtains (yes, they’re still up) and listening to the rain fall.
I also had a text from my housing agent that the lawn man would be here on Saturday. I texted back that was fine and prepared to practice my Japanese (Nihongo).
So I heard some hedge trimmers on Saturday morning and headed out the door with my little bottle of morning green tea, the good stuff that Sensei keeps for the non-drinkers that show up. Now, there are several things to get used to in Okinawa, one that never fails to crack me up is all the people walking around with surgical masks over their mouths. It’s consideration for everyone else if they are not feeling well to wear a surgical mask, I find myself smirking because I feel like I’m watching people get ready for surgery. I know it’s immature, but I keep laughing to myself. Okay, so these guys didn’t have the surgical masks, but they did have the ever present white hard hat, along with the white jumpsuit and the white rubber boots that come up to their knees. I frequently feel that I am in the middle of a Monty Python sketch and am waiting for Bicycle Repairman to show up. So I practiced my little introduction three times before I headed out the door. I thought there was only one guy, but there turned out to be two. I introduced myself, last name first as is the polite way to do it and offered the tea. The lawn man gave me such a nice smile and yelled to his friend and said my name. He asked if I was American, in Japanese, and I understood him (thank you Mango Languages) and was able to respond in Japanese. I was all excited because I had just completed the lesson on introductions in my language study course! So I went back in the house ( I was leaving on a high note) and prepared to go meet my fellow adventurer and buddy Amanda for lunch. As I was getting ready to leave I brought the fellows some delicious Matcha cookies. So my question for all you other Okinawa visitors out there is, have you had these delicious little cookies? They are like butter cookies with Matcha* a high quality green tea. I love them. Apparently the yard guys did too! The one was up on a ladder trimming the tree and he said Cookies! They were so sweet and what a beautiful job they did on my trees and yard. Over here they believe in gods and goddesses, sort of a combination of Shintoism and Animism (everything has a spirit). They also believe that the gods and goddesses walk around and that we should have manicured gardens for them to rest in. Isn’t that a beautiful way of looking at things? So I hesitate to call them lawn or yard men, they were artists what they did to the trees and plants.
I am finding that when I practice speaking Japanese the local people are much more willing to engage with me, even if I screw it up, they go out of their way to offer the word they think I’m trying to say. It was a comedy routine the other night when I’m trying to say ‘I speak English’ to Sensei, but it came out ‘nice to meet you’ (for the first time). He was trying to help me out and I just kept repeating it wrong until he finally spoke English and told me what I was saying! He says I need to work on my English! I think he’s right!
I had my first Thanksgiving out of the country in many years and that was an interesting experience since I am in not just one alien culture, but two, because the Marine Corps is a culture in and of itself. I posted a meme on Facebook that someone over had put up about remembering that not everyone gets to go home for Thanksgiving. It really struck me that so many of the people I work with, Marines, Navy and their spouses, are so very lonely this time of year. Many of the unaccompanied, read single, Marines have to live in barracks and eat at the Mess Hall. Some of the older Marines were inviting the younger guys over to their homes to give them the feeling of a family. I was so impressed with how they take care of each other.
I am in love with the dignity and integrity of the warrior culture, both military and martial arts here in Okinawa. What an experience to be able to live and work in a place that puts a high value on these ideals.
So for my Thanksgiving I decided to eschew the American buffet at the Officer’s Club in favor of my favorite Ramen restaurant. I might have mentioned this place before, it is near American Village and you put your money in a vending machine with pictures and descriptions (in really crazy English)and a little ticket comes out that you give your server. I keep trying to get what I had the first day I was there with Cesar, Paul and Mattia, but I keep ending up with the same thing. It’s delicious, but I’d really like to try that first dish again!
It was a lovely Thanksgiving. I am so grateful and appreciative of this experience. It truly feels that I have hit the lottery. I am doing the work that I envisioned for myself when I went to grad school. I will also be pursuing another certification in addictions counseling while I’m here. And I am able to train with Taira Sensei. I would never have foreseen this life for myself even a year ago.
I’m thankful for all the adversity in my life because it has made me appreciate when thing are really going well. And life just keeps getting better!