"When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky"
-Guatama Siddharta

Over and under and up and down...sunshine and thunder...a laugh and a frown!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Okinawa Ambrosia

1/31/11

I haven't had an Ambrosia post in a while, and certainly haven't had one for Okinawa, so here it goes...this will be a photography ambrosia (all pics that I finally took off of my iPhone)!

Some of the directions you might receive while driving in Japan...what's wrong? You don't understand either?!

Pornographic Godzilla (pronounced "Godzirra" here)...this wasn't actually pornographic, just when I took the pic from this angle it was...but how could I resist?!

View from the walking path in Comprehensive Park
There is some sort of shrine in this rock/island and people walk out and light candles and offer food during low tide
Low tide view from walking path (Comprehensive Park)
People farming their seaweed gardens during low tide (Comprehensive Park)
Velodrome in Comprehensive Park
Sun setting in Comprehensive Park
The Okinawa Parfait Dessert. Amazing. It comes on fire. Ok so it's a sparkler, but still. Does your dessert do that?!
Someone is getting these in the mail...I couldn't pass up the Crunky Nude Balls
Green Papaya Salad (I eat this at least 4 times a week, it's amazing!)

Japanese Spring Training

1/31/11

Spring training season is upon us folks. Okinawa just so happens to be the Florida of Spring Training here in Japan. We are lucky enough to have the Hiroshima Carp staying at the hotel here with us. Today the media were swarming the lobby (I snuck a pic with my iPhone from the balcony above) buzzing around with their heavy duty photography equipment and bowing courteously as the players and coaches would walk by. There was a level of respect and privacy that was present here that doesn't exist in the states, so it was neat to see. Never once was a player approached by the media unless they solicited the media themselves, the media just bowed, showed respect, and left them alone until they "got a turn" to interview them, then things went back to business as usual.
tapping away at their computers trying to get the first stories in!

Perhaps our etiquette differs slightly...

1/31/11

Entrance to Comprehensive Park
Today while walking in the beautiful Comprehensive Park (yes that's the actual name and it suits it well) I did what I would consider "polite" here in Japan and bowed slightly to acknowledge my respect for an elder Japanese man. He stared at me, continued walking on his path, and as he was right next to me he farted very loudly.

Knowing very little (if anything) about customs, traditions, signs of respect, in this country, I wasn't sure how to take this gesture. Perhaps it was similar to the greeting that dogs exchange when they sniff each other's butts. Perhaps he was expressing his disgust for my presence in his country. Or perhaps he has a problem with flatulence that I'm taking way too personally...one will never know

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Nago Cherry Blossom Festival

1/29/11

Festive it was, but whatever it was that I expected, this surely was not it. There was no cherry blossom king and queen, no cherry blossom princess even. The parade my friends consisted of lots and lots of older women with a pink shirt on with a cherry blossom attached to each hand doing Hawaiian-like dances down the street. That. Is. It. No singing, no dancing, no drumming, and certainly no throwing of free candy.
Prior to the parade though I climbed over 400 steps to the site where a castle used to be. You would think that after climbing that many steps you yourself would get a little parade of sorts...
As for the castle site, you would also think that something that had such significance would have some sort of memorial. There was an opening/clearing. I don't see how a castle could have possibly fit up there unless it was something from the Barbie or Lego era.

As for the Cherry Blossom part of this event, I was deceived. So the "Cherry Blossom Festival" is actually just the even that kicks of the start of cherry blossom season. So really not that many blossoms have bloomed by this time, they are just started to show signs of cherry blossom-ness. What cherry blossoms did exist I tried to take pictures of.

On the way up the 400+ stairs (at about the half way point where you can call it quits if you want to) I was rendered speechless by the following:


Not just the sight but the fact that the whole family was wielding guns and pointing them at one another. This little baby even had her rifle firmly planted in my thigh at one point. 

All in all it was an interesting day. Given what I know now about the Nago Cherry Blossom Festival I probably wouldn't go back, but, there was some great people watching, Kit Kat finding, and those 400+ stairs were a fantastic workout!

Here is my full photo ALBUM since the slideshow feature is currently failing to work!

Black biscuits in chocolate Kit Kat

1/29/11

Found a new addition to my Kit Kat enterprise. Today while wandering the streets in Nago, I popped into a drugstore (?) and low and behold this beauty was right in front of me! How could I resist the newest flavor? Taste testers hold onto your seats because here comes...

Black biscuits in chocolate Kit Kats


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nago Pineapple Park

1/22/11

Today was a marvelous day in all meanings of the word! The weather was perfect, the sun was out, the sea was turquoise, and I went to the Disney of pineapples. It was fantastic! Pineapple Park is a total tourist attraction if there ever was one, but why not go to a place where you ride around in a pineapple shaped golf cart that drives itself?!

There is a winery on site that makes (and sells more importantly) pineapple wine. I did come home with two bottles; sparkling pineapple wine, and dry pineapple wine. Both were rather fantastic...and I did sample everything they had to offer (without an allergic reaction!)

Pineapple Park also brought a new Kit Kat to my collection (Beni-Imo) so that was fun, I can't wait for my taste testers to try it out!

Ufuya (means Big House)
After Pineapple Park we ventured to a restaurant called Ufuya. Turns out there are no signs in English to locate this place, but it was worth the searching (and drive through a cemetery) to get there. This place was like Swiss Family Robinson...with great food! Unfortunately I didn't plan ahead for "traditional Japanese" and chose to not wear socks with my shoes today which resulted in some awkward feelings and lots of embarrassment when it came time to remove our shoes to enter the restaurant for the meal. Lesson learned, I will never leave the house without socks in my purse.

All in all a great day...but now I'm exhausted...and stuffed...and I've eaten (and drank) my weight in pineapple...so it's time for stretchy pants and some relaxation...I had a long hard day being the navigator...huge success in that department by the way as I sit here typing from my own computer, back safe and sound in my hotel room!



Beni-Imo Kit Kat

1/22/11


Beni-Imo flavored Kit Kat...otherwise known as an Okinawa tradition...the Purple sweet potato

Found this one today at Pineapple Park. Quite a find if I don't say so myself!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Good Morning 1/20/11

1/20/11

I just missed the sun before it ducked behind some clouds, but I assure you it was the most beautiful pink. I captured the remnants of the sunrise...enjoy and Happy Thursday!
All taken from my balcony...not a bad view right?!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Irony

1/17/11

I guess in the blur of travel I completely forgot what I think is pretty ironic/impressive. On the flight from Atlanta to Tokyo one of the movie choices was The Cove. Now if you haven't seen it I highly recommend it. If you have seen it, you can understand the irony in one's ability to have this option en route to Japan.

Here is the website as it relates to The Cove, Ric O'Berry, and dolphins in Japan

Beach Hopping

1/16/11

Full Rainbow
Today I went with some colleagues on an island beach hopping adventure. Although the weather didn't always cooperate, it was still nothing short of amazing. During the adventure we saw many rainbows, even some double rainbows (no I didn't freak out like the guy on Youtube). I put my hands in the ocean (not too cold, but not warm enough for me to get in), collected some beautiful shells, and soaked up the sun when it made it's appearances!

On to some important news...I have resumed my Kit Kat search...and guess what, I found a new flavor today! Strawberry Cake! So all of you who have enjoyed the Kit Kats, buckle your seat belts, I'm trying to top the flavors that I brought home before! I put a few of my favorite pics in this post and then all of them in the slide show...enjoy!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wrong Way

1/10/11

I debated not writing this post tonight for several reasons, I'm exhausted, jet lag has taken over and consumed the tiny fragments of my functioning brain, and because quite frankly I didn't want to re-live it...but, then I thought, the story would lose it's luster (and details) had I waited a day or so to gather my energy to divulge!

Today was the first day in Okinawa post flight. What other logical thing would one do but to drive, on the wrong side (which they actually think is the right side, but I won't get into one of those arguments here)

Wheel on the wrong side, also switched are the blinker and wiper knobs, resulting in sporadic wiper usage when one intends on making a right/left
It turns out that I'm actually a good left side driver...possibly because of ALL of the experience that today permitted me (that's trying to see things from a positive lens). On a side note there is a nice little jingle that someone shared with me today to help with "wrong" side driving. Here it goes: "Look to your right, stay to the left, and keep your hiney on the liney" Pretty accurate!

OK, on to the dirty details of my traumatic evening here in Okinawa...A group of us were following each other back to the hotel, the leader was someone who has been here before, and I (not by choice) fell in position 5 of 7 in the line. After running several orange, and some questionably red lights, I finally met my match in a red light at a 4 way intersection (freakout moment: which way is oncoming traffic, where do I turn, who has the right of way, how will I find the previous 4 cars). So thinking I would see the cars after the light turned, I proceeded in the direction where I last had visual contact. By this point car 7 in the train has also fallen off somewhere. This leaves 5 (me) and 6 to try to find the way back to the hotel. I diligently followed the hand written directions that were given to me earlier in the day. Several times.  But, here's the funny thing about Japan, things aren't in English, street signs are limited to non-existent, and what seems logical is not (like allowing me to drive in this country knowing nothing about the road signs, traffic laws, etc).

I'll spare you all of the gory details, there might have been tears. I might have convinced myself that I had elicited the help of a Yakuza member, and I might have envisioned my own death in an ally at the hands of complete strangers. But I assure you, this only happened after 3 hours of driving aimlessly around the city (and the wrong prefecture). I gave lost a whole new meaning. Eventually I pulled into a gas station, at this point I had become separated with car 6 and was flying solo. I must have looked pathetic (the tears?) because the man working there said for me to "chase" him. Now, for you common folk, this means follow. And I happily obliged. Prior to "the chase" I heard a familiar language and saw a familiar car, in the same gas station...car 6 and I had been reunited! We both "chased" the man through winding streets, and eventually up and back down an ally, where he connected us with a younger and even more random person who just happened to be traveling in the same ally in the same direction. He told us that we should now "chase" this fella and that he would bring us to the hotel. Bring us to the hotel he did, the wrong one.

At this point I was starting to feel drunk from the lack of sleep in the past 3 days. Definitely should not be operating a motorized killing machine (aka: left side driving car), and oh yeah, I had to pee starting about an hour ago.

In a LONG series of events that lasted over an hour the nice guy who brought us to the wrong hotel was able to call our hotel, connect us with the English speaking staff member, who then translated (since oh yeah, I forgot to mention, nice guy didn't speak English). It resulted in nice guy hailing a cab for us who then drove as we followed all the way back to the hotel. I was feeling relieved that "home" was so close, until of course he had us pull a U-Turn in the middle of a busy 4 lane Japanese road filled with "wrong siders". After that I lost faith quickly on the cab man. We did one more of these tricky moves before finally ending up on the right road, going the right direction, on the right (left) side of the road.

Upon finally arriving at the hotel, they wanted us to go park our cars down the hill in a lot (which you have to back into these micro spots) I laughed (and almost cried) and let them know that I couldn't drive any more. I got complimentary valet for the evening.

What lessons can be taken from this "adventure" well, let's see, there are so many...how about the first and most important:
1. DON'T drive in Japan
2. It's OK to "chase" just make sure you know where you're chasing to
3. Maps that you can read in English are useless when eliciting help from Japanese who speak no English

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Safe and sound in Okinawa...until they give me a car!

1/10/11

Well hello friends and family! I am safe and sound in Okinawa. I arrived after midnight last night (technically this morning I suppose) and as I sit here typing, it is 4:40am. I am meeting some others downstairs for breakfast at 7:30 then we are off on our adventures for the day.
  
Pre packing mess

When I say adventures, I mean, attempts to stay alive while also not injuring or offending any of the locals in the process. That's right, after two days of travel, and little/no sleep last night, I guess they think it's a good idea to give me a car. With the steering wheel on the "other" side, and then to allow me to drive..."on the other side". Yikes! It certainly has given me a full appreciation of the extensive walking that I did last time I was in Japan...without a car!

I'm told that Okinawa is a small island, but while looking around during our ride from the airport to the hotel, small was not the first thing I thought of. Also, is it really a good idea to allow someone to drive when they have no idea what the signs on the road mean, how to interpret the traffic lights, better yet, which traffic light applies to them, etc. Ah adventure!

The accommodations here are amazing compared to my last stay in Japan. I can actually walk around in my room. I have a toto washlet in a nice rose color that constantly keeps my toilet seat heated, I have a balcony, ooh, and my bed is bigger than a twin! The hotel is much nicer and has all of the facilities one would hope for! I've included some pics of the new digs, prior to my suitcases exploding and my belongings being strewn from wall to window!



I'll post more when I'm conscious, assuming I survive this driving experience!

Love to all!