Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Newcomers Orientation

Matt and I were required to attend a newcomers orientation on Wednesday with all the married couples who arrived on our military flight. We were there from seven thirty in the morning until four thirty in the afternoon. It was a long day with many different speakers. My favorite, however, was the speaker for the culture brief. She taught us a few basic words (hello, thank you), and told us things that we should never, never do. Like tip the waiter or pass food from chopsticks to chopsticks. She also emphasized that the people in Okinawa value the community over the individual and praise virtues such as humility and graciousness. I have personally witnessed the thoughtfulness of the local people. When Matt left his dirty clothing on the unmade bad, our housekeeper made the bed and folded his work out clothes.

Example A of being too considerate. 
I wish we had attended the brief before Matt and I made our first foray off base just the two of us. The day before we wanted to find a restaurant, and after several turns away from the base gate we found a side street with several options. We chose a Japanese taco stand. I did not even know how to say simple phrases such as "thank you" in Japanese, so I felt very lost. Fortunately there was a book of pictures on every table so I could simply point to what I wanted. The lost in translation moment began when I noticed shoes lining the wall on the other side of the restaurant. We were still wearing our shoes! We were also the only ones in the restaurant, so I could not look to others for guidance. I was really worried about offending the kind restaurant owner, so Matt attempted to ask if we should take off our shoes. This led to Matt pantomiming un-tying his shoes as the owner looked completely baffled. We gave up. After the brief we learned that many places required you take off your shoes if you sit on the mats, but you keep your shoes on if you sit at the "Western-style" tables and chairs. We didn't offend anyone! We just confused them a little bit.
Japanese taco stand
Me with my taco rice. I am so happy they gave me a SPOON! 
An "American" restaurant with an "American" on the sign. Made me giggle. 
The newcomers orientation ended with the written drivers test to obtain our driver's license. We had studied the road signs and rules of the road throughout the day (I had studied the night before too), and we both passed! With our licenses in hand we went to a used car lot off base and bought a car for me! I love it! We pick it up tomorrow! Matt will drive it to work until I feel more comfortable driving on the other side of the road and we find the perfect car for him.

I am not going to show a picture until we pick it up, but just a hint- it is one of the cars featured on my post "The Strangest Cars," but in a different color. Stay tuned!

Who else loves the smiley faces?

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