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A Weird Thing About Okinawa

Posted August 01, 2013

Well, about living in Okinawa as a military spouse. Today, I went to the Marine Gift Shop over on the big base to hand in my application to join the Marine Officers' Spouses Club.

Ok, some weird things there, but not the one from the title. The gift shop doesn't sell Marine Corps-related gifts, it sells Asian stuff. But it's run by the spouses club, with all profits going to charity. The Navy and Air Force spouses have them too. And yes, I joined the Marine club, not Navy, because it's much bigger and thus has a lot more activities and potential for making friends. And yes, I paid a $25 membership fee in an attempt to make friends. Among the activities listed: book club, gourmet cooking, and wine tasting. Enough said.

I had checked that I'd be interested in volunteering in the gift shop. (Another weird thing: they advertise that a benefit of joining is the opportunity to volunteer there. Which sounds strange until you know that if you volunteer, you get a discount. There's the real benefit.) So the woman I'd given my application to went and got the volunteer coordinator, who started chatting with me. One of the first questions, as always, was whether we have kids.

Me: No.

Volunteer Woman: I don't have kids either!

Volunteer Coordinator: Our stockroom girl doesn't have kids either!

Me: Oh, wow!

Those exlamation points are not ironic. This is what being a childless military spouse on Okinawa does to a person. It's that rare to meet another one of us. The discount and first crack at new merchandise were going to be nice benefits to volunteering, but you're telling me I can meet not one, but TWO women who don't have kids? Hot damn, sign me up!

It's not just me. That woman was looking at me like I imagine a panda does upon spotting another panda in the wild. Who knows if we'd have anything in common out in the real world, but who cares? On Okinawa, this one thing is pretty much enough to make you want to say, "Well hello, new BFF!"



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Alisa says:

August 02, 2013 at 05:11 AM


Ok, I'd totally be in for the Marines for the book club and cooking. But wait: can you join more than one? I mean, I'd consider joining all three if I had a chance at three book clubs.

I totally get the $25 to make friends. When E was first born, I joined the town's mothers' club. It's proven to be largely useless over the long haul, but I did manage to make one friend and get a recommendation for a decent plumber, so I suppose my $37 was worth it.

Lori says:

August 02, 2013 at 01:23 PM

Sadly, I don't think the join all three plan would work to get me more book clubs. The Navy one is so small that the only group they list having is bunco. Mostly the only Navy presence here is chaplains and medical staff. And I don't know if I'd qualify to join the Air Force one. I know I'm good to join the Marine club because Raj is serving with a Marine squadron. I just can't serve on the board or vote in elections since he's not a Marine. Fine by me.

Alisa says:

August 02, 2013 at 02:05 PM

You couldn't drag me in for bunco. I have no idea what bunco is, exactly. Based on my unscientific observations of People I Know Who Play Bunco (population: 5), it's an excuse to drink heavily. Which I'm not opposed to, but why would I need a game to do it?

Lori says:

August 02, 2013 at 11:31 PM

It's a dice game. There's not a lot of thought involved, which makes it work well for an activity to do while really focusing on drinks and conversation. Plus there tend to be prizes. I don't have any problems with bunco. I just wanted to join the club that had more than just that.

MargieK says:

August 03, 2013 at 04:54 AM

I used to be in a Bunco group. I guess officially I was a sub, but there was always someone who couldn't make it, so I went most of the time. Yes, it's a dice game with absolutely no skill (unless you have a trick to throwing dice), and yes most of us would drink (an excuse to "go out with the girls" without spending too much at a restaurant, bar, concert...), but since most of us had to drive home we weren't irresponsible about it.

I've never done a book club. Probably because I haven't read a book for fun in I don't know how long. Part of that I attribute to working full time and having kids (they're all grown and out of the house, but that's what got me out of the habit). If I were like Lori (unemployed and childless), I'd probably read a LOT of books! Like I used to. :) I like reading people's book reviews online.

Hope you hit it off with your new "friends," Lori. And gee, you haven't been married all that long so I wouldn't expect you to have kids yet anyway. When my cousin's husband got sent to Belgium, the joke was that everyone who gets sent to Belgium gets pregnant (but I'm guessing that has more with the spouses not having much to do, or with good health care in Belgium, or just a coincidence that people liked to chuckle about). Yep, my cousin's daughter was born in Belgium. ;)

Lori says:

August 04, 2013 at 09:40 AM

People call Okinawa "baby island" and I think part of it really is that the wives don't have much else to do since it's so hard to get a job. Also, the military doesn't cover IVF and it's cheaper to do it off base in Okinawa than in the US. We're fortunate to have a great Navy hospital here with a NICU. Anybody with a complicated pregnancy in the whole region gets flown in here. So that's comforting.

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My name is Lori. I write. I teach. I run. I enjoy intelligent conversation, professional football, big government and the public library. I married a libertarian. We live in Okinawa, Japan.


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