Monday, September 19, 2011

a look inside: MCB Okinawa, Japan

Konichiwa from Okinawa, Japan!

My name is Morgan and I moved to Okinawa about a month ago. My husband and I are originally from Grand Prairie Texas which is right smack dab in the middle of Dallas and Fort Worth. Our last duty station was Washington D.C and we definitely had mixed feelings about leaving there. I loved it but my husband…. not so much! I met some wonderful friends and made some lasting memories that I will cherish forever. My husband is a Marine and has been for a little more than 7 years. We were middle school sweethearts that lost touch over the years but reunited a few years back. We have been together for almost 3 years and will be married 2 years in December.

My husband has braces through the Air Force and originally had an extension to stay in DC until March 2012 when his treatment would be over with. Welllll Tyler got a new monitor that expressed his concern about his braces and said that if they weren’t considered a special case, he could be treated on other Air Force Bases. His doctor said it wasn’t a special case and that he was able to be seen by another doctor. Tyler’s monitor got the news and a few days later Tyler went into work with web orders waiting for him to Okinawa Japan. We got our orders mid May and they were for August…. Yes, 2.5 months from then! We had so much to do to get ready for an overseas move and honestly didn’t even have time to sit and think about moving so far away. We were happy, sad, excited, nervous but like I said, didn’t have time to even deal with those feelings because we had a huge move to plan for. After a summer full of moving, finishing work, and spending time with our family in Texas, it was time to head to Japan.

We landed in Japan on August 9 and immediately put ourselves on the housing list. We thought we had done that in D.C but were told they couldn’t do it until we were physically on the island and ready for a house. We were told that they didn’t have a lot of housing available and that there was a big chance that we could live out in town. We were worried because we really wanted to live on base! They said they would offer us one house and if we chose not to take it then we would have to live off base. Friends of ours came at a not so busy time and were offered three different houses to choose from. Luckily we got a call about a week and a half after being put on the list and were offered a two bedroom apartment in one of the towers on base. They only had pet housing available for us so we decided to take it. We didn’t come over here with a dog but are planning on getting one so it worked out perfectly. We did a walkthrough of the apartment and were very pleased. We gave them the OK and moved in about two weeks after we arrived on the island. There are a ton of towers on the bases in Okinawa and luckily we were offered one of the newer ones. We have wood floors throughout our house, a huge kitchen with lots of cabinet and counter space, huge balconies (yes, plural), and good size rooms. So far we haven’t had too many problems with the apartment. The building is made of cement (walls and all) so it is nice not to hear what our neighbors are doing but when it comes to trying to get cell phone reception in the house, the cement sucks! There is always a funky smell in the hallway (not sure if it is a mixture of people cooking, dirty apartments, being near the trash room, I don’t know?) but thankfully it never lingers into the apartment. Recycling is a big issue in Okinawa and everyone is required to do it because there is a shortage of landfills. They told us at our new comers brief that if you are caught not recycling you will be ticketed (not sure how they would catch you but whatever).

Here is a picture of the tower that we live in:

When we were given orders we were also assigned to a sponsor, someone that is supposed to help take care of things in Okinawa and make your move go as smoothly as possible. They are supposed to help book your hotel, pick you up from the airport and provide transportation until you get a car, help get your driver’s license, and anything else that may help you on journey to Japan. Some people don’t even get a sponsor and we may as well have not been assigned one because ours did absolutely nothing for us. Wait I take that back, he picked us up at the airport and took us to Subway and that was about it. Because he failed to help us book a hotel room, we were scrambling 12 hours before our flight to Okinawa to find a place to stay. We called numerous hotels and of course they were all booked. We reached out on facebook and found a few friends that were more than happy to lend us a place to stay until we got our house. We were so thankful to have them here because we would have been screwed otherwise. Another thing our sponsor didn’t do was help prepare Tyler for his driver’s license. There are a number of things that active duty members have to do and they should be done before arriving on the island so you will be prepared to take your driver’s license test at your new comers brief (usually scheduled on Wednesdays which was the day after we arrived for us). Dependents don’t have to do anything except provide their orders and area clearance and take the test. Active duty members practically have to jump through hoops to get theirs (at least Tyler did here on the island…. Not sure what it is like for people back in the states that are better prepared for the test before coming here). I took my driving test (which was a very easy 30 question multiple choice test) and obtained my license the same day. A few days later we went to one of the dealerships and looked at cars. We picked one out and went inside ready to buy it. Welll turns out that although I had my driver’s license, they wouldn’t let us purchase a car unless Tyler had his or a letter written by his command giving permission for me to purchase the car. Sadly Tyler and the rest of his coworkers were doing a two week exercise and all administrative stuff had to be put on hold. Once the exercise was finally done the drivers license stuff was put on hold for about another week. Finally one of Tyler’s superiors found out what was going on and said that it was unacceptable (nothing that he did but he was upset because Tyler had been here a month and had gotten nowhere with his license situation). He then took Tyler and got all of the right paperwork and the right signatures and Tyler was able to take his driver’s license test last week. We went and turned in our stuff to the dealership and finally picked up our car a few days later! Cars here are nothing like they are in the states. They are much much smaller so we picked out a mini mini-van type car.

Here is our Mitubishi Dion:

Because it took us so long to get a car, we have spent a LOT of time on base since we have been here. We have come to know the exchange and commissary very well. The commissary is your ordinary grocery store, nothing too fancy. It is an average size store that I wish was a little bigger. We were a little worried at first about eating the meat and produce here for fear of radiation from the main land. Luckily nothing comes from mainland and even Okinawa won’t buy their food from mainland because of the issue. Most of the commissary’s meat and produce actually comes from the U.S. All of the produce has a sign above it stating where the products were brought over from and the majority of it comes from America. The only bad part about that is it tends to go bad quicker so you need to either eat it or freeze it within a few days. I am not quite sure how the commissaries in the U.S work with couponing because I rarely shopped there in D.C, but these stores take coupons that are up to 6 months past their expiration date! There is also a personal services center that you can go and pick up a nice big envelope full of coupons that people have so kindly sent over from the states. If there are any you don’t want, you just drop them off in a basket at the front of the commissary and someone else can make use of them. The exchange is not anything special and is about the size of almost 2 CVS’ or Walgreens (maybe a bit smaller). The exchange on Kadena AFB is much bigger but most of the exchanges carry the same items so it’s really not worth the trip over there. Needless to say, Amazon has been my best friend since we moved here. I have ordered a bed set, sheets, mattress pad, and a ton of other stuff that I wasn’t able to find at the exchange. Amazon is one of the few places that will ship out here which has been wonderful. They won’t ship certain items like furniture, electronics, and other big items but have been great for finding smaller stuff. We haven’t been out in town to check out the shops but will definitely get out and do that soon. We also have only been to a couple of Japanese restaurants with friends so have been stuck eating the same ole stuff on base (Taco Bell, Popeyes, Subway, Pizza Hut, Burger King, etc.). We have been to the McDonalds out in town and that was a pretty cool experience. You walk in and the employees are all dressed very professional….. I would compare them to flight attendants. They are so nice and welcoming and take their jobs very serious. The food is also better quality and is not as greasy which is a big change from the McDonalds in the states. We try to stay away from the fast food places out in town because they are very expensive! Everything here is expensive but luckily we collect COLA while living here so it helps a little.

So far our experience here has been great and will only get better because we have a car now and can go exploring. There are so many different things that the island has to offer and I cannot wait to get out and try new things! We went hiking up a waterfall the first weekend we were here and that was a great experience. I have become obsessed with http://www.okinawahai.com/ because there are so many different things listed to see and do in Okinawa. Tons of different people post the activities they did and give lots of details (like directions to, hours of operation, what type of payment the place takes, etc.). Below are a few pictures of the island taken by a friend, Sarah Vaughn. All of the pictures in this blog post are from her except the crummy cell phone picture of my car. Because we haven’t been out in town much, we haven’t taken any pictures (booo I know!). Feel free to ask me any questions about Okinawa. You can find my blog at http://justuspriors.blogspot.com/. Thanks for reading!

View of the water from Camp Foster

The beaches here are beautiful!

Street signs in Okinawa

Lots of palm trees

Shisa Dogs- You see a LOT of these in Okinawa. People place pairs of shisa on their rooftops or flanking the gates to their houses. Shisa are wards, believed to protect from some evils. When in pairs, the left shisa traditionally has a closed mouth, the right one an open mouth. The open mouth wards off evil spirits, and the closed mouth to keeps good spirits in.

Okinawa sunset

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Thank you so much Morgan! I miss your sweet smiling face and hope to see you again soon!! Please go check out her blog and read about their adventure trying to get to Japan!!

Please let me know if you or anyone you know would like to write a post about your "home". Its a perfect and FREE way to support your shop or blog!

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