Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Last week, the news abruptly announced that tsuyu--the rainy season--had come early to Okinawa. I grew up in Vancouver, so really shouldn't complain about a few weeks of merely sporadic rain and mucky skies. But this will be our last week in Okinawa. This Saturday, the remaining four of us, plus the dog and cat (who incidentally still hate each other's guts, despite sharing a roof for over a month), will be returning to Tokyo.

Okinawa is to the rest of Japan what Hawaii is to the US mainland, and no one imagines being here and having to deal with umbrellas, rain slickers, moldy laundry, and dark afternoons. I'd thought we'd have at least one chance to swim in the gorgeous ocean so tantalizingly close by. I packed our swimsuits--which have remained folded inside my suitcase.

We've been making nearly daily trips to the coin laundromat to dry our clothes, since the only option at home is hanging things outside on the balcony. Every afternoon, the dog and I stare longingly out the living room glass door, willing the leaky clouds to clear out and for some color to return to the world. Sunday was all scorching hot blue skies--for which I was grateful, but I'm hoping for at least one more such day, so we can spend it at the beach before our time in Naha is up.

I was rather mournful about coming here, about living with my in-laws. Now I wish we didn't have to leave. It's been an incredible experience, raising R with people--family--around to help out. The luxury of popping out to walk the dog and leaving R at home or cooking dinner while R plays with someone in the other room or, at the end of a long day, having R say she doesn't want me but obachan to give her a bath (oh darn I am so hurt but okay then I guess I have no choice but to lie here on the sofa and read something on my iphone while eating this handful of gummy bears): This is the first real vacation I've had since R was born. I realize what a breathless race life is back in Tokyo, where it's just R and me; there is never enough time to do everything I need to do, from the moment I'm jerked awake by my daughter's cries in the early morning, till I lower her back into the crib that night.

I've had so much more patience for R and she, in turn, is calmer and less prone to tantrums. R is clearly happier for having other people in the home who she can turn to, for love, for laughs, for comfort, for learning. She has really bonded with my mother-in-law and I couldn't be more glad.

Sure, there are things I won't miss about our life here: For one thing, my mother-in-law has unexpectedly revealed herself to be a total TV addict. I swear, if the TV could be programmed to turn on first thing when she wakes up in the morning, like a coffee percolator, she'd do it. She has been understanding of my wish not to have R watch too much TV, but still, every other minute the damn thing is on at high volume and too often R will stumble into the living room and become immobilized before it--mute, deaf, and brain-dead--until my MIL catches on and turns it off.

Second thing I won't miss: Considering what a middle-of-nowhere neighborhood we're living in, it's freakin' noisy as hell. We're practically touching distance from an elementary school and are bombarded all day long with tolling bells, screaming children, blaring brass bands, and bored roosters. Then there are the uncontrolled guard dogs waiting at the front gate of every house, ready to explode into sound at the least provocation; the garbage trucks that play a tinkling tune at high volume, to alert residents to their approach, I suppose; and the stupid black motorcycle parked outside my window that roars to heartstopping life every night at around 2am. Am I the only one who fantasizes about shooting things with a gun--like that damn bird who starts croo-CROOing at 5am every morning?