How I moved across the world

TO ALMOST PARADISE

1M7A9040Okinawa consists of a group of islands 400 miles south of the mainland of Japan. It has an area of 463 square miles.

I scored. I landed a job in Okinawa. In a tropical paradise. I pulled up roots, left the comfort of my home & everything I know, hugged my loved ones goodbye, and began a journey to the other side of the world.

Phase 1   LETTING GO

We tore out of California, my husband and I. This husband of mine who encouraged me, knowing he’d be the “dependent”…this is the man who is the wind beneath my wings. And me, I’d be the “sponsor” & breadwinner for both of us, at least for awhile.

There were months of packing, deciding what stayed, what went with us. Seeing our home empty after 20 years was shocking. The to do list was all encompassing: Rent out the house, sell the cars, close accounts, get the mail forwarded…when one detail was finished, another took its place.

Saying goodbye to family & friends was brutal…and I wondered over and over…am I doing the right thing? Meeting my three week old granddaughter Avery Mae for the first time then kissing her goodbye was like ripping out a part of myself.

Letting go…all the time. Letting go was the mantra.

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The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly….

The real truth about working overseas

Traveling around the world is wonderful.  I adore it.  Live for it.  I practically die for it.   Lucky me, I found a way to work internationally.   The real truth is that it can be downright uncomfortable and annoying.   And  it’s definitely not the same as being on vacation or holiday.  However, that said,  I’m willing to put up with A LOT of things I don’t like.

Window Sill

I arrived in Germany 2 weeks ago.

It went the same as usual: 2 days of flying, the jet lag stupor, and arrival at the hotel. I found my room and opened the door, dragging 2 rather large suitcases behind me.

This time was a shock.

I glanced around.  Two small twin beds, a desk, and barely room to turn around.

My heart sunk.  Deeply.   A lilliputian room for six months.  Six, yes, 6 months.  It’s not a good feeling.  I was not impressed. Room with a View

So I did the thing I do when I’m shocked and appalled. I defaulted to the Scarlett O’Hara thinking:  Tomorrow.  “I’ll think about this tomorrow.”

So now, after almost 2 weeks,  I’m off my prima donna status and I’m dealing.   Because there’s actually  good, bad, and the ugly.

The good.

I have a room with a view of a castle and a river.

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An Unconventional Conversation…

What Alaska Said to Guam

Life is about contrasts.

Who would have thought I’d be in such opposite places in the world one year apart?

Like, did you ever think about where you were a year ago? And how they compare?

At the moment I find myself in cold, dark, ALASKA.

This time last year I was in paradise.

Tanguissan Beach-largeI remember waking up and seeing sweeping ocean views of blue green tropical waters. It would take my breath away & I’d pinch myself and say, really?

I was waking up in Guam, the beautiful US territory in the Western Pacific.

Today in Alaska at 9:00am it is still dark. There are no azure skies and ocean; I do not hear children’s voices running and playing on the beach. Instead I hear the crunch of ice beneath my feet when I walk to my car. Looking out the window, I see darkness, although when the sun at lasts wakes up, I will see various shades of grays, whites, & browns.

In Guam, I remember my glasses fogging up when I walked out of the air conditioned buildings into the hot, humid tropical air. The strange twist is that when I went to the library on base, I’d have to wear a fleece jacket to be able stay there for more than 5 minutes to deal with the sub temperatures of the air conditioning.

2012-10-30-Alaska-snow-dark-carsHere in Alaska, I wouldn’t dare go outside without a warm coat, hat, gloves. And sometimes hand warmers.

That’s contrast all right.

 What if Guam had a conversation with Alaska? Reasonable, eh? They’re both the US, both not attached to the Mother Land.

GUAM: Hey there Frozen Man. How’s it going? I heard you guys got a lot of ice up there and not much snow this winter. That’s too bad.

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I Felt the Earth Move

wedding kimono Surviving an Earthquake

Here is my story of life in Japan surrounding the time of the earthquake. I share this to give you an idea of what things were like. I am grateful to so many people in my life who care about me and have sent messages of concern and prayers and good thoughts. Thank you. My apologies for not responding to each one personally, but it has taken me all this time to gather my wits and make sense of my experiences. So here goes….

On March 9, I was lamenting not being able to celebrate my birthday the way I wanted …my job was intense that day. I was finishing up my rotation with the military in Japan with no hint that two days later I would experience one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded.

As I huddled inside the door frame that Friday afternoon, March 11, I tried not to panic. Stationed just outside of Tokyo, I had just walked up the outside steps to the 2nd floor of a building on base. Immediately I was met by four women who were startled and shivering. “It’s an earthquake!” they shouted. I responded to myself with, “It’s OK, Jo, everything will be all right.” But I was trembling with fear.

It took a second and then I felt the scary, unnatural sensation of the building rocking and shaking. I HATE EARTHQUAKES. They frighten me. I always think the worst is going to happen.

I tried comforting myself by recalling that the building was reinforced, that Japan has strong earthquakes all the time, that this one couldn’t be that bad. As the building shook more violently, I thought, Oh no, I don’t like this, I want to get out of here, I don’t want this to happen. I fought the strong impulse to run outside. But where? I could see tall trees and buildings, light poles, telephone poles but no open spaces.

I felt confused and terrified and I didn’t exactly feel like waiting for the building to collapse down around me.

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Alaska is not for sissies — or is it?

It takes a lot of energy to not be afraid.

Traveling around the world, I’ve come to know intimately the voices inside my head that love to challenge me to not do something, to stay in the comfort and safety of my hotel room. I’ve become expert at hearing these scary little saboteursin my head and talking back to them defiantly…”I’m doing what I want and you’re not going to stop me.”

Sometimes the voices, try meaner tactics. They try to take control . They say stupid things like, what if you get lost & you can’t find your way back? What if you can’t find anybody who speaks English while you’re cavorting around by yourself everywhere? What if your oxygen runs out while you’re scuba diving? WHAT IF?

 But until I came to Alaska, none of these conversations included what if I get attacked by a bear? Or charged by a moose? Or what if my car battery dies (like it did on a beach in Okinawa) and it’s 10 degrees outside? What if I freeze to death?

I’d been in Alaska for 2 weeks. I knew it was long overdue that I explore the wildness of Alaska.

So I did. I drove a few miles outside of Anchorage. The drive was stunning.

PalmerMountains-blog

Majestic mountains on my right, the white icy inlet on my left. I was pondering where to pull off the road to take photos of the beautiful scenery around me. “Go here, go here”, I heard myself say and I turned off onto a road that led to a lake. A frozen lake of course. As I parked my car and got out onto the white landscape, I greeted a woman walking back to her car walking her dogs. Another car in the parking lot was empty.

Hmmmm, I thought. There are people around. It’s safe. Right? I felt the familiar uneasiness, exploring a new place by myself. Everything around me was silent, as if frozen in stillness. I looked around. The scene seemed eery, almost mystical. The barren trees stood together, in a forlorn manner as if burnt.

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