Musings from Okinawa, Japan

Here’s something I started to write several weeks ago and never got around to posting until now. I don’t want to change the tense of it, though, because I like it, so, here you have it:

My mom and I are in Okinawa, Japan, to attend my 18-year-old triplet nephews’ high school graduation. We’re staying a little over two weeks; the ceremony went down about halfway through. Watching them walk across that stage in front of their peers and parents was such a treat — and, of course, the exotic locale has practically ensured that the entirety of the trip would be one grand adventure.

We’re staying at a hotel primarily for people affiliated with the military who are either moving to or away from Okinawa. While there, I picked up a book from their communal library, Bad Dogs Have More Fun by John Grogan, the same writer who wrote Marley and Me, the bestselling book that later became a major motion picture that I cannot bring myself to watch because I am absolutely certain that the dog dies at the end. I’m pretty sure people have told me as much, and, anyway, when a dog plays the main character in a feature film, it’s pretty much guaranteed the poor mutt will end up in doggy heaven before the credits roll.

But this book I picked up isn’t a novel but rather a collection of short essays the writer wrote for The Philadelphia Inquirer over the course of his career. They’re short, pithy, and highly entertaining. Some are funny. Some are moving. Some are both. All are warm and easy-reading thanks to the obvious genuine feeling behind the words.

I bring up this American writer’s book that I found on a military base in Okinawa, Japan, because it’s inspired me to take a different approach to updating my blog. To try my hand at a writing practice that focuses more on frequency than length, on the doing of the thing for the sake of the doing of the thing. On maybe relaxing a bit and having fun with it again—because that’s the whole friggin’ point of a thing like blogging, no? (Or at least shouldn’t it be, for this sort of blog? I think so.)

So I’m planning to start posting little mini posts about different musings. These might be about trying current scary things, or old scary things I’ve tried, or scary/inspiring things I read about other people trying, or things I have on my mind for one reason or another.

I hope to publish these little vignettes 2 to 3 times a week. But in the interest of not blowing up everyone’s inbox, I won’t shoot out an email to my mailing list about them as frequently as I publish them. I’ll probably sent out an email once or twice a month with a little breakdown of what’s new here, inviting people to stop by at their leisure. Because we’re all entitled to relax, here. This is a place for fun and games, y’all. Fun and games. And words — fewer of them, but with greater frequency (which might actually end up equating to more of them overall. Time will tell.)

Here’s my first one. Wish me luck on keeping on keeping the momentum and moving forward!

Full disclosure: I only wrote that first bit while in Japan. This next bit I wrote tonight. Thanks for taking this ride-along with me, and rolling with the punches.

Japan was incredible. Okinawa was wildly beautiful, and the people were so nice. Anytime you purchased anything, you would be told “thank-you” at least three times before you were allowed to leave the register.

And there was no trash anywhere. There were no trash cans anywhere, either. I suppose people pocket their trash until they get home. I know that’s what I did. I’m not a litterer anyway, but in a place that is so clean, it seemed almost sacrilege to even think about dirtying it due to inconvenience.

I had so many wonderful experiences in Japan.

In one such:

I experienced being lost in the airport in Tokyo, not knowing where to drop off my bag before my flight to Okinawa, and approaching a desk that I could see by the signs was for elite passengers (which I was not).

I spoke to the women at the desk and told them I knew I was in the wrong place, but if they could tell me where to go to drop off my bag with the plebs, I’d be happy to do so. And instead, they took my bag and even highlighted my gate on my ticket and told me the fastest way to security. And thanked me for my time. They knew I didn’t belong there. And it didn’t matter, because I was a customer and their job was to make my life easier, and by God, they did.

In another such:

I was with my triplet cousins at a military beach resort, and we got the chance to kayak to an island and to walk in a tunnel in the middle of it that led to the other side. It was low tide but there were still pools you could swim in on your way to cavern’s mouth. I hadn’t brought my phone, because it isn’t waterproof and wouldn’t have been able to weather the potentials of the terrain. And I liked that because it meant I could focus on the moment.

The boys and I came across some tadpoles in transition. One said, “What are those?! They have tails, but they look like frogs!” And I got to feel wise from years of discovery channel watching and had the chance to say, “Those are tadpoles on their way to being frogs.” They were slipping and sliding along the rocks, in and out of the water. And they seemed like a metaphor for my cousins, just out of high school and college bound. On their way to take on the surf, and anything else in their path.

In another such:

I met a man at the hotel bar whose name has been lost to time (and wine). He was older than me, in his late forties, and had just moved to Okinawa. He had a wife and a child in the Philippines he hoped would come join him there. I hoped that for him, too. He was worried about taking the kid away from what he’d always known to come to a place he didn’t know, but he thought the school might be better, and wanted the best for his kid’s future. He also wanted to be together as a family again.

I told him it had been a good school for my cousins. That they had become really involved and had a lot of friends. That I was sure his son would like it, even though I wasn’t sure of that—who could be sure of that?

But I did know, and may have said to him (though I can’t be sure, because, time and wine), that when I was a kid and my dad wanted to move us to Kuwait in the early 90s, my older brother (around 11 or 12, just in middle school) had very distinct feelings about that.

He said to my dad, at the time, “It’s OK for you to ruin your life, but why do you have to ruin all of our lives, too?”

And then my dad, ever the skillful negotiator, asked him what his dream job might be. And Eric said, “Professional baseball player.” And dad asked, “Well, if you were on a team you loved, but you got traded, what would you do? Would you move with them?” And Eric said, “Well, I’d have to.” Dad replied, “Would you want your family to come with you?”

And Eric, ever the rational son, said, “Well, I can understand it but I don’t have to like it.”

And I wondered if that guy I met at the bar would be met with a similar rational resistance. And I thought about the tug-and-pull of family, especially in a time when men and woman have different careers for themselves.

And amen to that! But it does create a dynamic sometimes when people have to choose: whose career move is most important? And what about the kid(s)? Whose needs matter most?

These are complicated decisions that, as a single person, I don’t have to make. But I see them. And I see my friends making them every single day. And they’re damn hard to make. And I think they should be talked about more. Because the more you talk about a thing, the more you neutralize it. At least in my mind.

I hope to write about other such times, and maybe funnier ones, in the next post. But in the interest of posting more, and not getting bogged down, this is it for this one.

Be back next time. Thanks for being here—hope you enjoyed the read!

<3 Leigh


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