Welcome to Okinawa

[Obligatory Trigger Warning: This post contains excuses for being absent from this blog for a lengthy period.]

My family and I moved to Okinawa Japan in June (more or less).

Just before leaving, I agreed to post more for the Omaha WordSowers, the writers’ group that my wife and I joined during our two years in Nebraska. I hoped (and still hope) to stay engaged with the group despite the distance.

So consider this the first post from Omaha WordSowers’ on-location overseas blogger in Okinawa, Japan!

Less than a month on island, and we were greeted with our first typhoon of the season (which stretches from June through October). Since Typhoon Neoguri appeared in mainstream news in the States, I figured a blog post on the subject is a timely way to return to this endeavor.

It might not be obvious from the reaction to this storm, but typhoons are frequent occurrences on Okinawa (and in this whole region of the Pacific). They’re essentially the same as the hurricanes that strike the East Coast.

The military installations on Okinawa are designed with this weather in mind. It would be no good if one of our primary airbases or Marine Corps camps got flattened every year by a common and easily anticipated natural weather threat.

Our housing is made like a concrete bunker, trading safety in a storm for the aesthetics we might prefer. Houses are not going to collapse, except perhaps in the most freakish of accidents. Occasionally we’ll see someone post a YouTube video of a tiny car getting pushed around or tipped over in the fiercest winds. But most of the time, a storm might mean a power outage or perhaps a small leak near a door or window.

(One wonders why they don’t make more houses like this in Florida and other coastal areas.)

The base did not escape completely unscathed this time. Some areas of the base are dealing with significant flooding. I’ve seen pictures online of water levels up to the windows of parked cars.

However, all military personnel and families are restricted to their homes for the duration of the storm, so one of the biggest problems requiring a solution is “What are we going to do to keep the kids occupied?”

As long as there’s electricity, that’s probably easy. But power can be fickle in a typhoon.

For my family, the power went out at 11:30 AM yesterday and stayed off until about 3 AM this morning. That led to some stir-crazy kids, a claustrophobic mom, and a frustrated dad thinking about how many dollars’ worth of food might spoil if the power didn’t get back on soon. We mitigated the boredom by taking advantage of the battery life of the iPad Air, on which The Lego Movie was previously loaded. I also read several chapters of Words of Radiance to the wife and kidlets, which is usually a treat.

The house really started getting stuffy and warm by bedtime. But this morning, I was able to take a hot shower and heat up breakfast. So I have no complaints, especially in comparison to what others are dealing with because of flooding. I’ll be in to work around lunchtime once the base finishes up recovery actions and releases us from our houses.

To those in the States who were concerned for me and my family personally or for the safety of our military personnel in general, you have my thanks. But I wouldn’t have you burdened with unnecessary worry, so I wanted to make clear that typhoons pose a fairly limited risk to all of us stationed out here. I’m more concerned about that flooding in other parts of the base than about the storm.

Here’s a picture of the view outside our house, from the front and back. You can see some busted branches and a tipped over can (not ours) that blew up against our van. All in all, the effect on us was minimal. Essentially I got a five day weekend.

Not a bad “welcome home” to the island where my family and I have spent 14 years already. We miss our Stateside friends and family, and I miss our writing community.

But thanks to modern technology, this is a first step to keeping in touch.



5 thoughts on “Welcome to Okinawa”

  1. Back in Oki? That’s definitely a record right? Hope the weather changes for the better for you. Please let the family and the unit know I say, “Hi” and “God bless.”

      1. It has been such fun. Occasionally I’ll ask the kids whose voice a new character should get. Zahel in Words of Radiance is now Christian Bale Batman. The Lopen gets a Strongbad voice. Teft is Clint Eastwood, and Sadeas of course hisses like a snake.
        They actually call me on it too. I forgot how I did the voice of Gaz between Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, and the other day, they interrupted to remind me. “Gaz is sort of growly and low.” Uh… ok… 😀

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