Monday, June 25, 2007


I’ve been meaning to write an exciting entry for you all, but now I’ve forgotten what sorts of interesting bits of Okinawan life I was going to throw at you. I was going to write up a funny little story about how I watched a family sneak platefuls of tempura into napkins and bags at an all-you-can eat buffet, but after a week, it doesn’t seem quite as amusing as it did at the time.

This past Saturday (the 23rd) was Memorial Day in Okinawa and apparently there were some ceremonies and such, although I didn’t see any evidence of anything special happening. But last Wednesday the entire school headed to a theater to view a movie about World War II to remember the war. I thought that the movie was about Okinawa and the actual battles that happened here. I was surprised to find that this movie was actually a cartoon and although I could get the gist of what was going on, I only realized that it wasn’t taking place in Okinawa when there were lightning bugs (Wait! Okinawa has lightning bugs?!) and then snowfall (Now, I know that we don’t get snow…). Anyway, the movie was about a young girl in Tokyo and basically her family just kept getting killed off. She had an unlucky life, that’s for sure. The only real response by the students who traveled 40 minutes by foot each way to see the flick, was uproarious laughter at the portrayal of some goofy GIs at the end of the movie. I felt like the entire auditorium was laughing at me. Strange.

Then on Friday (yet another week with only 5 classes) we had Track and Field Day. It was sort of like our various volleyball days, but since you never really knew who was doing what, it wasn’t as much fun as the tournament. And it was hot. My homeroom did enjoy some victories and of course, all the students were good sports about being forced to run around a track in 100 degree weather. I spent the day amusing students with my excessively large sunglasses. They were passed around amongst the entire homeroom class and I did have a nice time sitting under the trees and chatting with some of the girls. I also had a lovely raccoon sunburn as a souvenir from the day (despite sunscreen applications). The day afforded me the opportunity to enjoy some lunch and yummy watermelon on the beach and then since I was down in Mihama, I wandered around shopping (and seeing hundreds of students who suddenly decided that they can talk to me) and enjoying hazelnut coffee and a book. I will miss sitting and just looking at the ocean while sipping on a drink. I think I need to move to Seattle.

My weekend was a nice one, including some gym time and a couple of hours on the beach with Bridgit on Saturday. I finally turned on my air conditioning and the thought of leaving the coolness (okay, freezingness) of my apartment fills me with dread. Also, strangely, my apartment has reverted back to the way it smelled when I first moved in. I’m sure it’s due to the heat and being closed up more often, but every time I walk in, I am transported to my early days in Okinawa.

This week is supposed to be surprisingly normal with my usual 10 classes and no strange events during the day. Sorry that my life hasn’t been full of any extreme excitement. I am starting to make lists of things to get done before leaving and need to ship some boxes this week. I have also paid my last month’s rent and am getting ready to blow some money on myself in the near future. I can’t believe that in 32 short days, I will be walking on real American soil (not the military base kind) and will be facing an extended time in the States for the first time in a long time. Anyone know of any jobs?!?! Seriously.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Steamy Weekend

In more ways than one. The weather. The loooooove motels. The hotness of a stone room.

First, the not-so-steamy stuff. On Friday, my not-crazy-at-all gym friend, Izumi, joined me for dinner. She picked the restaurant, an Italian place that I had never been to, and we spent three hours enjoying our meal and talking. The food was oishii and the conversation was nice. We discussed all sorts of things and although I’m not sure if she was following everything I said, it wasn’t awkward and we made a dinner date for next Friday at the other restaurant that she wanted to take me to. A successful first date (and things weren't strange between us at the gym today. Ha.)...

Izumi mentioned that she forgot her camera but wanted to do “Print Club.” You all know that I’m never one to refuse print club! She said she hasn’t been in a booth for two years and as we scoured Mihama for the best shots, we found a bit of a Print Club Mecca with scissors for cutting apart your pictures at various stations, about 20 different booths, costumes to wear for your pictures if you’re so inclined. We picked the shiny booth that was “New Model” and jumped in. I was so happy to see that Izumi struggled with what exactly was supposed to be happening as well! I thought it was just my total lack of Japanese skills. We took some of the best shots that I’ve done and had a blast trying to figure out all the menus.

(Sorry I can't take a better photo of photos)

Today at the gym, she said that she had "so much fun with Print Club!" It was apparently the highlight of her weekend. I thought it was going to be the highlight of mine as well …. until…

On Saturday, Bridgit and I decided to take hold of destiny and make our weekend worth something for once. So because it wasn’t terribly sunny, we decided to finally hit the Love Hotel Valley in Okinawa City. Obviously, Bridgit and I weren’t in it for a romantic rendezvous. We just wanted some sort of crazy Hello Kitty themed room with a big hot tub. We grabbed some snacks, had our bathing suits, and some magazines to lounge around and look at. The love motel business is described nicely here. Essentially a lot of generations live under one roof and well, you can use your imagination as to why people might visit these hourly hotels. You can either get a “rest rate” for two hours or if you show up late at night, you can pay a nightly fee which is usually cheaper than an actual hotel.

So here’s how things happen:

First, you pick your hotel. We drove the valley and were deciding between a pirate theme, carnival, or 2001 astronaut theme. Inspired by Johnny Depp, we zigzagged our way to the giant submarine pirate building.

You pick a garage and pull your car into the spot. At this place, you pick up a phone and say what room you are checking into and then the garage door closes (with material to block your license plate number). You walk a short little hallway up to your room. The door mysteriously opens as you walk in and there you go, your own little retreat.

We were so disappointed, because the bath was only big enough for one person (although it did have jets) and the room was really nice! We didn’t want nice! We wanted swashbucklers, eye patches, and “Ahoy, mateys!” Bridgit called the front desk and somehow convinced them to let us leave without paying for the room. They opened the door to let us back out and then the garage. (You have to pay before you are allowed access to the car.)

Our next stop was the carnival one. Surely, with crazy clown signs and elephants and seals, there would be some sort of theme room.

This place was creepy from the get-go and despite the whole front desk anonymity thing, Bridgit got a lady to give us a room with a big tub for cheap. We walked in and ummm… well…. I don’t know how to describe this room except to say that there were no clowns, no lion tamers… only a ton of diseases crawling around an absolutely decrepit room. The tub was big, but no jets and also quite creepy. So we soaked in the experience for about 20 minutes, paid our dues, and took off giggling at all the craziness we had run into. Who cares if we never exactly found a theme room. We’ve done the love hotel thing and it was hot.

While we were sitting in the room, trying not to touch anything, we planned our next course of action. We decided that even though we didn’t have the directions with us, we would try to find Thai Med and have some hot stone therapy. By some miracle, we found the place and for only 1200 yen, I was treated to a relaxing afternoon at a spa. The basis of the treatment is that you lie down on hot stones that have some sort of infrared radiation that is completely safe (and apparently is a cure-all, including preventing cancer and relieving costiveness (whatever that is)! Score!). There is steam pumped into the room with some relaxing music (although the politicians outside on bullhorns seeped through at times). You face down for five minutes, flip and do your back for 10-15 minutes, go outside to drink water and eat some Okinawan sugar, and then head back in for another cycle. I did the whole thing four times in 90 minutes. And you sweat. And sweat. And sweat. Your outfit weighs 20 pounds more by the time you’re done excreting all the water in your body. You can feel a constant stream of sweat and the pores literally being opened on your face. It was amazing. After I finished my time, I needed to wait for Bridgit (who got a very personal lymph node massage) and enjoyed the best tea ever. I was completely relaxed. Fantastic. Check it off the list. (We found a spa near my apartment with pedicures, massages, etc. and plan to hit it after payday this week. Also, according to Izumi, the gym has a hot stone room downstairs that I can use if I pay a bit more.)

And that brings us to today. I’m not scheduled for any trysts, unless you count chilling with McSteamy, and am just sitting indoors enjoying the torrential downpours and thunder. Perfectly suited for my relaxed self. That hot stone stuff must work miracles. Ahhhh....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

How they do things up north...

There are some things here in Okinawa that are “must-sees” and you would think that at some point during my 10+ months here, I would have visited these sites. Well, just like the fact that I’ve never been to a Bears game, have never been on the Navy Pier ferris wheel, and have never been up the Hancock Building in Chicago, I just sort of put off going to the famous aquarium here on my little island.

This weekend, I put it at the top of my list of things to do, which involved a trip to the friendly north and crashing on Amy’s couch for two nights. Saturday ended up being a fairly beautiful day despite weather predictions to the contrary. After schlepping to the Jusco bakery for some delicious pastries, we made our way to see some fish in large quantities. I owe Amy big-time for taking me to the aquarium since she has had to take numerous visitors there before and will most likely be taking her mom next week. She was a great sport, though, as I oohed and aahed at the tanks. The admission price at the aquarium is slightly steep considering that this place can be entered and exited within an hour. The most famous bit is the world’s largest freestanding tank or something like that. It was quite impressive and have made a fantastic “Finding Nemo” wonderland out of that tank.

After snapping some photos, we met up with Paul, king of off-roading, and decided to go see a habu snake (Okinawan poisonous snake) fight a mongoose. Or at least that’s what we thought we were going to see. Turns out ¥300 won’t allow you to see any actual blood spillage, but we did have a funny nature man show us the habu and many other snakes found on the island. There were only 7 of us watching the show and since we were the foreigners and they thought it was funny, we had numerous snakes wrapped around us and each got to experience forked tongues kissing our noses. He showed us a video of an actual mongoose/habu fight in the wild since anti-cruelty laws prevent public showings. Spoiler Alert: The mongoose wins. I guess the mongoose is one of three natural predators for the habu. He brought out a mongoose named Sachiko who won 50 something mongoose/habu battle royales and was the reigning champ for Okinawa before it was outlawed. I guess they don't make heavyweight champ belts for little mongooses. Mongeese?

After our slight disappointment at not getting to see a battle, we headed into the hills to a shiisa café. Despite the fact that it is fairly hidden, it was hopping as people looked at flowers and a plethora of shiisa. It was a relaxing time and we enjoyed it just as much as this little fellow.

The next item on our list was to do some glass blowing. Juhi met up with us and we enjoyed a special teacher’s discount. The actual process of making glass only takes about 3 minutes. You stand on a box and blow into the hot glass to get the height for your glass and then sit in a chair and roll a metal pole, while sticking a sort of prong in the other side. Mine looks fairly terrible, but Juhi has become a professional in her time in Okinawa.

Our next stop was another café on Sesoko island that is connected to Motobu with a bridge. We ate at a lovely café and enjoyed some pizza, while mosquitoes feasted on us. It was very relaxing and Zen ... all of these little cafes are full of character. I could go café hopping all day long. In fact, maybe I will someday soon.

By this time, Amy and I needed to head back to Nago because we were expected at a potluck for one of her friends. Our contribution to the dinner was going to be German chocolate cake. We drove out to the house and much to our surprise, there was no one to be found, except some barking chihuahuas. We were troopers, though, and decided not to waste the cake, but rather eat it for a late dinner with “Sex and the City.” It also made a delicious breakfast.

On Sunday, we met up with Bridgit in Nago and Christina took the two of us over to Camp Schwab to the military beach. It wasn’t a very sunny day and hardly anyone was there, but it was a nice excursion, and although Taco Bell was closed, we did get some Pizza Hut. Although Pizza Hut and Taco Bell are a taste of home, I wouldn't actually choose a meal there in the States. Funny how important normal breadsticks become when you can't have them.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"Third Annual Going Away/Coming Home Family Farm Extravaganza"

Aquire the sign to your calendar! We us who have possessed the party 2007 August 4th celebrate everything which is let escape over last year! In order for we to return from Japan at the farm of the Griggs family for hitting hard the 3rd annual summer, connect us! We toss beanbag. We enjoy 3rd annual Otaru toss. The food is tasty. It should drink, there is many beer.

(We want to celebrate all the stuff that happened over the last year so mark your calendars for August 4th for our annual party!)

Friday, June 01, 2007

Not for those easily offended---

You've been warned. But this is hilarious. And explains so so so much.