The journey to Japan began months ago, late autumn of last year. While renewing his contract my husband had some input for his assignment location. The Netherlands was on the radar. “Right between Belgium and Germany, think of the beer!” was part of his supporting argument. The job opening's timing was too soon however and next on the list was mainland Japan, outside Tokyo.
I began researching fervently and as much as I was trying to contain my excitement (unrealistic expectations) I was really looking forward to living in the Tokyo metro area. Unfortunately there was no official paperwork to cement the relocation so I couldn't publicly talk about this incredible opportunity. A few people very close to me knew, of course, but I always spoke without certainty because in my husband's employment “everything is written in jello”.
Sometime around January we received a change in plans – Okinawa, Japan. I was disappointed and kicked myself for thinking so much of mainland Japan (unrealistic expectations). The research began anew, first at Google Maps. I thought the island of Okinawa was fairly close off the southern coast of Japan and was confused and personally embarrassed not to find it immediately. Once I did I began to zoom out on the map to find the island's location from the mainland. I zoomed and zoomed some more but only saw water. A few more zoom-outs later I finally saw land. Wow. Okinawa is a tiny island the middle of the ocean, in middle of nowhere it seemed.
The thought of living on a subtropical island was really growing on me but I tried not get my hopes up knowing the ever present uncertainty. I couldn't talk to anyone about it save for a few people because there still was no official word. I lived in this limbo for a few months.
Then, one May day my husband came home with official documentation that contained neither Okinawa or myself. What? He said the paperwork would be changed and that he and I were going to Okinawa in one month. I accepted that and began making announcements to family, friends and my employer. Life was changing quickly, plans were being made and I gave my two-week notice at work.
The stress of planning and executing an overseas move in one month is almost unbearable. I probably should have been writing about the experience at the time but plans were still changing so quickly and frequently that I could barely follow it. Our calendar was a scribbled mess. I was calling family and friends everyday just to keep my head together.
I focused on one day at time, sometimes only one task at a time because if I thought any larger I began to panic. The big picture included sorting all our belonging into need now, need later, need eventually and storage; gathering numerous legal documents and updating them; opening and updating financial accounts; selling my beloved car and planning storage for his; preparing the rental house inside and out for final inspection; and the most difficult, planning our kitty's future.
Moving a domestic animal overseas is a confusing and exasperating event, so much so that I cannot even explain it here. All we were able to accomplish were his shots, blood test and flying him solo to Seattle to stay with his god-kitty-momma (who loves him as much as we do) until we figure the rest out. We miss him terribly, it's still difficult to think about with out tears so I'll save the story for another time.
While all this was happening I still was not on documents to accompany my husband overseas. I was sorting and packing with a departure ten days away and had no idea where I was going or how long I would be there – Michigan to stay with family? Seattle? No way was I staying in Texas. I was an irritable mess until finally we had an addendum that included my name, spelled correctly, thank goodness. Then I filled my two biggest suitcases with enough clothes and supplies to last up to three months. Surprisingly, I narrowed my shoe selection to ten pair (eight when appropriately excluding flip flops).
After all of this though, finally, on a warm, Texas summer evening, we drove into Dallas for our last night before boarding a plane to Japan. We toasted numerous times over dinner, mostly congratulating ourselves on getting through it together. Our tempers only exploded once and later we were able to forgive, understanding that stress factored in a great deal. Mostly we smiled and laughed and toasted to each other and whatever lies ahead because we will be there together.