I visited my good friend Devon in Japan last week. He joined the Air Force sometime after we graduated high school and since then, had only seen him two years ago.
Devon and his wife Chelce picked me up on Monday and took me to eat Chicken & Waffles. Not exactly your typical Japanese cuisine but not completely at odds with the current state of the island.
The U.S military owns quite a large part of the island and has a few different military bases all around. I had never been inside a base myself, so while Devon worked Chelce showed me around and took me to see where the jets take-off and where military wives can buy their imported American products.
Devon showed me around his job site, taking me to see the jets he works on everyday. Devon works under the “Weapons” unit, which means he’s in charge of loading missiles and drones on jets. I have a lot of strong opinions about the military but with Devon as my friend, I’ve learned to disaggregate my critique of the institution from the individuals who belong to it. So seeing the jets, touching them, was strange. I sort of numbed my feelings and rolled with the experience.
Towards the end of my stay, Devon was able to get the day off so we could go diving. Ever since I saw a video of my friend Elsi diving with sharks in Mozambique, I knew I had to try it before the end of my Watson year.
There were six of is in total that day with 3 instructors, which was great because we each got lots of attention. It definitely took some time getting used to breathing through the mouth piece and in my case, not panicking and holding my breath. Once I made it down there, it was amazing. I could not believe all of the color! thinking back to it now, it feels like a dream because it was like nothing I had ever seen and experienced before. The highlights included seeing a little Nemo (clownfish) family, having fish swirl around me as I fed them sausage, and swimming over purple and lime green coral.
One of the nights before leaving, I rode around with Devon’s friend Arce in his Evo 6–a very fancy car I was told. One thing for sure, it was fast. I don’t know how fast because of the whole Km-Miles problem, and because of that I can’t actually confirm we were speeding and breaking any Japanese road laws…
I was pretty terrified at first but I asked Arce lots of questions and soon enough I trusted him and what he was doing; he was very knowledgeable about his car and despite his affinity for Adrenalin inducing sports cars, didn’t seem like a foolish risk-taker. Arce’s friend John on the other hand, obviously wasn’t very knowledgeable about his car because he crashed his Skylight (another fancy car) that same night. He said his tires didn’t like the rain and sent him spinning. Thankfully he was OK, but his car was bent from the front and the back.
The icing on my Okinawa cake was fitting three interviews while I was on base. I learned about women’s experiences in the military and/or as military wives and I couldn’t believe their stories; they exemplify what it means for women to have to survive and the creative but challenging strategies they must employ to accomplish that survival.
I had the most amazing four days in Okinawa. I left feeling very replenished with good energy after spending time with an old friend and making new connections. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to close my time on this side of the world.