In two hours, a friend and colleague of Russell’s will collect the three of us and our six bags to take us to Naha International Airport. It is striking, but not at all surprising, that we leave Okinawa much the same way we arrived. We no longer have a home. We no longer own vehicles. Our mobile telephone service has been terminated. We are largely unburdened by possessions, living out of our suitcases, relying on a small fraction of items we carefully selected to accompany us. Our lives have been pared down to the basics–our family, our friends, some clothes, and currency.
Yesterday, [S] told a friend that we live at a hotel. I laughed at her word choice. Later, I realized she had spoken the truth. We do not have a home to which to return. We do not have an address. We are transient.
To many, this is an odd way of living. Packing out, cleaning up, relying on friends and neighbors for transportation, home cooked meals and vehicles, and relying on wi-fi for communication. But for a small segment of the US population, this is familiar, if not routine.
As we leave, I am struck by how two years has altered my reality. Yes, it is a given that our experiences living outside of the United States have broadened and enriched my understanding of the world and human nature. Just as significant, the past two years have changed the way I perceive self-reliance and independence.
Today, I leave Okinawa understanding that asking for–or accepting–help, be it someone to watch our daughter so I can clean, bring in our garbage bins from the curb, or borrow a car, is not an affront to my capabilities or preparedness. These are requests I would happily oblige, but never quite felt comfortable asking. That was before. Before living on a military base. Before living in Japan. Before having a young daughter.
I’d like to think our entire family leaves Okinawa better than we arrived. We are, I believe, better stewards of the environment. We are better ambassadors of America. We possesss a better understanding of Asian culture. We have a better understanding of war and conflict. And we are better global citizens.
Most importantly, we leave knowing we can–and do–make a difference, every day we act. My hope is that we are change agents for the better. Always.