Okinawa Sunrise

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Give Thanks I'm not sending you Habu Sake!

A very merry holiday season to you all. Okinawa, both on and off-base have come into full holiday swing. I am loving listening to Japanese Christmas music whenever I walk into a shop. Even if the only words I catch are "Merry Chrisimasu"! They are only two of many words which, happily for those learning, are borrowed directly from English like "keyboardo" or "Kohi" for coffee and "hamburga" for hamburger.

In other news you will be happy to know that Michelle and I did not destroy any government property on Thanksgiving and our new apartment remains char-free! Our Turkey turned out splendidly as this picture attests!

We also used the weekend to take a trip down to Kokusai street in the prefectural capital of Okinawa, Naha. Kokusai is the main shopping drag in the city. For you Washingtonians, its like the M street of Naha. It was great fun although I'd sworn of buying for the day. We stopped into a traditional restaurant for a bowl of Okinawa Soba, an area specialty of Noodle soup. It came with some interesting accompanying dishes which I could not name. I know one was seaweed, very tasty if a little slimy. My favorite tourist friendly adjustments to traditional restaurants are spaces under the table for your straw flipflop-clad feet so that you don't have to settle on your haunches and have major cramp by the main course!

Although it was Sunday, I was suprised to see a huge hoard of Japanese school boys and girls heading down the street for an afternoon shop. I can't say definatively that all Japanese kids go to school on Sundays but there wasn't any other explanation for why they were all headed down the street en-mass... Another curiosity on Kokusai street is Habu sake. While Awamori is an Okinawan specialty, a fermented sake, Habu is a native Okinawan snake. It lives in caves and cool woods and keeps out of the city unless it arrives in a bottle of Habu sake. If it bites you, odds are you will not make it to the hospital. Which is why it boggles the mind that one would want to throw back some shots of something a Habu has been marinating in for sometime. To each his own I guess!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Talking Turkey

This is a random assortment of pics to illustrate my little update. The lovely couple in the first picture is Brian and Michelle. Brian is our sponsor and the first friendly face we saw through our bleary eyes when we landed in Okinawa. Until we got our little speed demon of a Toyota he was shuttling us around everywhere. Brian and Michelle will be joining us for Thanksgiving in our new dining room pictured third. Its slightly more furnished now (drapes, rug, table cloth etc). Michelle and I will be (Lord help us) cooking said Thanksgiving feast in the kitchen pictured fourth. My thanks to all of you who gave us kitchen goodies for the wedding that I am OH SO excited to finally put to use!

Its been a little hard to believe that its already Thanksgiving! The fact that its still 75 degrees has helped it sneak up on me very stealthily. I'm sure Christmas will follow suit! Pictured last is the small beach by the Kadena Air Force Base Marina. As you can see, there are still sun worshipers out and about. However, my friends here that dive tell me that the water has turned cold already so I may take the winter to get dive certified and enter the warmer waters come spring. Okinawa is known for its tremendous dive spots so I am determined to face my claustrophobia and get in there. The pictures of whats out there would tempt anyone! My new friend Danielle, who is a Brit! (we're everywhere we are!) is making a profitable hobby out of underwater photography and promises to show me all the best spots!

I am also taking the time before I have found work to try to jump start my Japanese. Japanese is a very practical language. The months of the year are just numbered - January is month-one, Febuary month-two and so on. Its also very concentrated on respect. You may already know that its important to call all others -san when speaking with them. Mr. Smith is Smith-san. However you may not know that you never san yourself. Respect is also show by putting O- before certain words. You ask someones name by asking their Onamae and give your name as your namae. Your birthday is tanjobi but you ask someone elses otanjobi. Pronunciation is important. You must pronounce "husband", Shujin, with a short "i". A Shujiin, with long "i"is a prisoner. Coincidence?

All these rules make me wonder why interesting manglings of the English language (as shown in picture two on a T-shirt at a local mall) occur so frequently. Either they are applying Japanese rules to English or figuring we all just make it up as we go along. I'm working on figuring that one out. In the meantime I am accepting your opinions on what exactly the wearer of the above t-shirt might be trying to convey! If the image isn't loading for you it reads.."Rainbow passes emptywave for a long time to the distance". I was also fond of the sweaters in the baby section which told toddlers "do not despair, live with bower", but the security guard was standing a bit to close to that for photographing!

So with that, I wish you an "ohio gozaimasu" (good morning) or "konbanwa" (good evening) for whichever side of the international dateline you're on!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Homeless no more!

So its taken me a long time to post again because I am no longer chained to a hotel room desk (thank god there was no mini bar in there!). Thats right we have moved in!

We chose to move into what the government offered us. We are living in one of the apartment blocks pictured in an earlier post. I know its slightly unadventurous. It wasn't with a certain degree of sadness that I let go of the little house off-base with its nice hardwood floors, tatami room and teeny tiny Japanese oven and all the great writing fodder I was sure that a Japanese neighborhood might have offered!

But we could not poo poo the apartment in the Towers. We have a 3 bedroom apartment on the top floor with great views over the base and (if you lean left of the master bedroom balcony) the ocean! I don't really know what a couple with no kids can do with 3 bedrooms. The present plan is a study and a guest room. But ya know, when you've done almost two years in a basement studio with less that 400 sq ft, who cares!

I am currently in major decorating mode, hence no pics! I promise that as soon as the place looks presentable, I shall provide!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Garlic House and Touristy stuff

Well for all of those waiting with me to hear about our housing situation....wait on McDuff! Friday was a Japanese holiday and therefore, our housing counselor was off and unable to let us know what the military has to offer us! So here I am, staring at a phone that never rings, and hoping that the off-base place we like has not been taken should the military offer us something less than appealing.

To distract ourselves from this apprehensive wait, we had a fairly eventful weekend. Friday night we were invited out by the lovely Meghan and Melissa (two of the best reasons to live on base!) to the Garlic House. Its actually called Arin Kirin but its a delicious variety of foods flavored with garlic which (the sign will tell you) is very convenience material for the health.

Saturday, Adrian and I swung down to Naha, the capital of the prefecture, to see the Shurigo Castle. Shuri castle was built by the Ryukyu kings who ran the show on these islands form the 12th through the 19th centuries when they were non too nicely welcomed into the Empire of Japan. Before then, the Ryukyu chain of islands maintained themselves through trade with China and Southeast Asia. That its why much of the food, architecture and textiles that Okinawa is famous for have a unique blend of cultures.

We then stopped by American Village for a wander round and found our way to a beach inlet right at sunset. It was really beautiful and a couple were lucky enough to be having their wedding reception right there on the sand.

Also this weekend we saw Flags of our Fathers. If any of you are like me and despise gore I would still recommend it with the caveat that you do as I did and watch the better part of the scenes of the battle of Iwo Jima through your fingers. But its an important look at what heroism really is and how we use it to package war. Along the same lines, I would really recommend a film called The Americanization of Emily. A very different look at the same subject made 40 years ago which tells a pretty pitful story on the progress of mankind and how little we've learned.

It made me also think of what gets lost in the crossfire. Only recently has Shuri castle been put back together following its destruction during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. One thing I hope to play some small part in while I'm here is the reconstruction of something much more difficult, the goodwill of the Okinawans toward the Americans. From what I here and see, things are already moving in that direction. Natives and Americans living here tell me that more and more comingling is going on in restaurants and coffee houses.

Well, while musing about things is pretty much the extent of my disenfranchised permanent resident power, I would like to ask also for your thoughts/prayers/positive vibes (whatever ya got) to send out to my friend Rory and Meghan's husband Clint who are soon crossing out of Kuwait and into Iraq.

Nothing more to say except...Vote!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sushi a-go-go!

Most definately the niftyest thing I have seen yet here in Okinawa was last night at a Sushi spot in what is known as American village. Some of you may have heard of the Sushi restaurants in Japan where the Sushi rolls around on a conveyer belt in front of you and you pick out what you want. More than that, there is a mini chest of drawers in front of you with chopsticks and tea bags. Hot water for the tea comes out of a little spout right by your seat! I was really sorry I didn't bring my camera!

They tally up how much you owe by the empty plates that your sushi came on. Now the nifty part is that the waitresses come along when you are done and run this little scanner doohicky over the stack of empty plates. Now I don't know how it works but it puts the info onto a small plastic card that you take to cashier. There is some science going on that I just can't suss out!

Feeling a little guilty about all the fish I ate now that I read a report on showing that there may be no fishable fish in the oceans by 2050. Take a read.....leeeetle scary!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Freedom is an open road!

Thats a song isn't is? Anyway....feast your peepers on our new (well, mildly used) Toyota Cynos. Thats one hunt over, the hunt for the apartment/house continues. Made no easier by the fact that roads in Okinawa ARE NOT NAMED! Thats right! Only main highways have numbers. You look up any ad in the Yellow Pages and you won't find a street address, rather a small map showing permanent landmarks like a MacDonalds or pet store.

We have found two possible candidates. Both lovely. One simply enourmous when you consider that we have most recently lived in one room just under 400sq. ft. The other still decently sized. Both with tatami rooms which make you really feel like you are living in Japan. A Tatami room is usually where you put your arranged flowers and shrine paraphenalia. They have sliding window covers that are the wood and paper checker board kind and the bamboo mat rugs. The larger place has a slight edge in our minds since it had an American oven. Japanese ovens have the capacity of about a 7lb chicken. Also a little grill tray for fish etc. None too useful for a full Thanksgiving spread. Either way, Friday is the day we will know for sure so stay tuned!