Saturday, October 16, 2010

Thoughts on Living Abroad

I know I've ranted about this before, but here I go again...

Yesterday, a few friends and I went to the Himeyuri Peace Museum in Itoman. I previously visited the museum in January 2009, and blogged about it here. Quite the sobering experience, believe me. It's a memorial to some horrifying events from World War II.

Itoman is near the south end of Okinawa, just off one of the highways. It's a bit of a drive, but it's not difficult to get to. In the last two years, I've been down to Itoman probably half a dozen times, and I've been through the museum twice. You know what all of those visits have in common?

There wasn't another American in sight.

Same goes for most of my trips to Kouri Island, several visits to Ikei and Hamihiga, and at least three trips to Cape Hedo and Cape Mazamo.

Weekends, weekdays, summer, "winter", crappy weather, nice Americans. Ever.

In fact, it's pretty much a given that once we drive more than a few kilometers in any direction away from the two major cities or any of the bases, we won't see any Americans. Or if we do, very, very few. It's not just a question of not seeing anyone walking around; in Okinawa, American drivers have different license plates than Japanese and Okinawan drivers. You can tell at a glance if the car in front of you is American-owned or Japanese-owned.

So, as we drive out to these little shops, memorials, parks, beaches, islands, waterfalls, temples, restaurants, viewpoints, battle sites, and other such things...we don't see any Americans.

Now, if we go to American Village (an off-base shopping area that caters heavily to Americans, as the name suggests), it's about 50/50 local nationals/Americans. Ditto with Gate 2 Street, which is the street just outside Gate 2 (surprise!) of Kadena Air Force Base. Gate 2 Street is where everyone goes to drink their paycheck and party. Maybe Kokusai Street, which is basically shopping central in Naha.

Anywhere else? Not an American-owned car in sight.

There are something like 50,000 Americans here. The area of the island is less than 500 square miles. Yet we never see Americans ANYWHERE.



I hear a lot of people complain about how Okinawa is boring. There's nothing to do. There's nothing to see. It's soooooo tiny. What a shithole. How lame. Get me the fuck off this island. Etc.

And yet... as we wander around to all the little shops, memorials, parks, beaches, islands, waterfalls, temples, restaurants, viewpoints, battle sites, and other such things...we're the only Americans in sight.

People, if you live abroad, GET OUT AND SEE THE COUNTRY. You have the opportunity of a lifetime. Especially in places like this, you're surrounded by amazing scenery, culture, and history. It won't come to you. Get off your ass, get off the base, and GO. CHECK. IT. OUT.

And if you don't...if you choose to spend your time within the safe little fences that surround the bases, and never venture past American Village or Gate 2 Street or your locale's equivalent...don't bitch to me about what a shithole it is or how boring it is.

1 comment:

  1. AMEN sister. And further, get out and meet the locals!