Friday, February 4, 2011

Guest Post: Wife on the Roller Coaster

Today I'd like to welcome Wife on the Roller Coaster from Riding the Roller Coaster
Her blog was one of the first that started reading when I jumped into the blog world
almost a year ago. She's a MilSpouse, runner, reader & wine lover. In other words, 
a lot like me. (Well, except for the runner part.) Her family experienced an 
overseas tour in Japan. Japan! I simply can not imagine how crazy that 
must have been. Germany & Europe are one thing, but Asia and Japan?
Another kettle of fish all together. Today she shares a little of what
life in Japan was like. I cant wait to hear more! 

Living Overseas and Turning Japanese

 Before I start, I just want to say how excited I am to be guest posting at Uncork and Unwined today!  I love living vicariously through her adventures abroad, and I so wish I could fly over to Germany and have a glass of wine with her!  Her stories and pictures inspired me to share a little bit about my own adventures abroad.  So here goes…

“Jacksonville or Japan?”  I stared at the phone in disbelief as my husband told me the options for our next duty station.

“What happened to California or Virginia?” I whined.

At the time, we were already living in Florida, and I had little desire to stay in the Sunshine State.  On the other hand, Japan didn’t top my wish list either.  I had never traveled outside the US before, I didn’t want to move a half a world away from my family, and I wasn’t exactly known for my adventurous personality.  All signs pointed to Jacksonville.

But somehow, I heard myself blurting, “Japan.  Let’s go to Japan.”  And 5 months later, I was living overseas and turning Japanese.

After only a few days in Japan, I wondered how in the world I’d last 3 years in this country that was so foreign that I couldn’t even pretend to blend in.  As a taller than average, blonde American woman, it was impossible not to stand out in a Japanese crowd.  Besides my physical appearance, I could neither speak nor understand the language, I was rendered illiterate, and I was terrified of driving on the left side of roads that were half the width of the roads I’d driven on since I was 16.  What had I gotten myself into?  Was Jacksonville still an option?

It’s always difficult to try something new and jumping into a foreign culture is no different.  I was tempted to barricade myself within base housing, to hide within the microcosm of America that we called the fishbowl.  But I couldn’t hide.  Not only would my adrenaline junkie husband not allow it, but the housing office wouldn’t allow it either.  There were no openings on base housing when we arrived, and we had to move into a Japanese neighborhood while our names slowly crept up the waiting list. 

For me, moving into a cho house 20 minutes away from base was precisely the push that I needed.  Before I knew it, I was exploring Japanese stores and restaurants, driving with ease, and using Japanese phrases without hesitation.  The chorus of the song “Turning Japanese” played in my head like my own personal mantra: I’m turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so.

Once I shed my training wheels, I graduated to more challenging feats.  I became a regular at a local onsen (essentially a spa where everyone soaks in hot springs naked), I sang karaoke while drinking chuhais (a fruity Japanese mixed drink), and my husband and I tested out love hotels (that’s a blog post in and of itself).  I joined a spouse club that went on monthly excursions, I signed up for Japanese craft classes, and I joined a dozen other Americans to compete in a Japanese half marathon.  Our family traveled to Thailand and Korea and numerous locations throughout Japan.  We toured castles, we saw geisha, we cheered at a pro baseball game, we admired cherry blossoms, we ate exotic food, we rode the Bullet Train. And the ultimate practice in cultural immersion?  I welcomed my baby girl into the world in a Japanese clinic surrounded by non-English speaking nurses.   I truly did turn Japanese.

Living overseas is a unique experience in one of two ways.  It’s either a dream you hope you’ll always remember or a nightmare you pray you’ll soon forget.  You either love it or you hate it.  And it’s up to you which experience you end up having.  I chose to make the most of our time overseas, and I will always cherish the memories and friends (and furniture!) I left Japan with.  I can’t imagine hiding through an entire tour.  I can’t imagine missing out on all of the amazing things I experienced.  I can’t imagine choosing Jacksonville.  I can’t imagine not turning Japanese. 


Nicky said...

Awesome post! My boyfriend is an adrenaline junkie too, but me not so much - it's good to hear of others being so different, yet thriving! Your big move out there will be very inspirational to others about to do the same.

Roller Coaster said...

Thanks again for letting me guest blog for you! Have a great weekend! :)

Kenneth said...

What a great post! I can feel "Wife's" transition from living in the US to her embracing the Japanese lifestyle. What a wonderful experience for her and for her readers!

Mrs. F said...

Great post! I'd be terrified of living in Japan too!

Jessica said...

Wow! We lived in Hawaii for a year and a half and I had culture shock then. I can't even imagine living in Japan, I really can't. Like you said, it's all in what you make it. Such a great and inspirational story! Thank for sharing!

PS. Those "love hotels" sound...interesting lol!

tootie said...

Japan sounds like an amazing experience! I'd love it if we got stationed there someday.

Unknown said...

These are always my favorite reads. Thanks for sharing!