the LOST island..

After a few days in Naha we decided that we wanted to get away from the city and find a private beach. So we took a ferry to T0kashiki island, a tiny island 35 minutes away. We got picked up at the ferry and driven to our hostel. The island was incredible, huge hills/mountains with lush jungle forrest surrounded by bright teal water. We had the beach to ourselves, it was amazing.

We were a little early for the tourist season. While thats a good thing for the beach its a bad thing for food. Everything in the village was boarded up until tourist season. There was one restaurant and it was open for an hour at lunch and and hour at dinner. On the first day we missed lunch. Eventually we found a dive shop that sold potato chips and made a point to get to dinner on time. Not exactly roughing it, but it got pretty tense for 15 minutes. Had it been a real situation I don’t know how long we would have lasted.

our lunch feast. crisps have never tasted so good.

We spent the next two days soaking up sun and enjoying our private beach. There were a few other groups but none of them stayed too long.

i didn't know "photo?" meant "photo w/ me"

We had a difficult time pulling our sunburned selves away from our island paradise. Had there been more food we might have never left. But we did. Jacob stayed in Okinawa. Kerri just got back to Canada. Jennie is in New York. Heather is off to Matsue (2 hrs north of Okayama) next week. We had a great last week together. Couldn’t have asked to anything more.

throwback

stop 3 of our bus tour was Ryukyu Mura, a preserved Okinawain village. They saved traditional houses, and had people dressed up demonstrating various aspects of ancient life including music and dance, pottery, and sugar making.

 

this bad boy drove the mill to grind the sugar cane

There was also a performance of traditional Okinawan dance. Including Miruku- the bodhisattva of happiness and prosperity, Shishimai- a lion dance which is traditionally performed during the bon festival, Chondara -the clown of the performance, and Eisa -a traditional folk dance with drums.

Miruku

Eisa

Chondara and shishimai

the gift shop had samples it was like cosco!!

busing it.

Although Okinawa was our tropical vacation the weather didn’t seem to get the memo. The first day was cold-ish, and the next day was nothing but rain. Since it wasn’t beach weather we decided to see what the rest of the island had to offer. We found a bus tour that went all around the island visiting a giant bridge, the Churaumi Aquarium, and Ryujyu Mura traditional village.

Our first stop was a little island off the norther tip of Okinawa, it is famous for the really long bridge to get to it. The beach was beautiful, however it was raining and that put a slight damper on the time we wanted to spend on the beach. I did find it amazing that the water was still a radiant teal even though the skies were gray and rainy.

Next on the tour was Churaumi Aquarium. Its one of the biggest aquariums in Japan, and since we missed the famous aquarium in Osaka I’m glad that we made it there. There were all the standard aquarium exhibits, and they were all inside making it the perfect place for a rainy day.

this would have been beautiful on a sunny day

the sharks, they're sooo big!

dolphin show: almost as good as sea world, but there weren't any fireworks

It was a great way to see the island, we got to see all the sights, with transportation included and we got to nap between destinations.

island life.

the week before the quake the 5 kids from Okayama traveled down to Okinawa. It was a jolly good time. I waited a bit to put the pics up from our trip because the timing just didn’t seem right.

4 days of our trip were spent in Okinawa’s biggest city Naha. It was an interesting city because  Okinawa is still part of Japan but it isn’t very Japanese. The islands are quite far away from the Japanese mainland and didn’t become part of the country till much later, so they had a very unique culture already established. Think the Hawaii of Japan.

Naha @ night

There is also a very strong American influence from the Marine base. A&W’s, Yogurtland, taco shops, blue  stripe ice cream and other American shops were all over the island. After being the only foreigners for 8 months seeing so many Americans was quite a shock. I didn’t know what to do when I started to understand conversations that we overheard. In other parts of Japan we have been treated as a novelty, but in Okinawa a group of foreigners is nothing special. This was just a taste of the culture shock I’m gonna face when I visit the states again.

americaland

americaland

my first yogurtland encounter outside California

It was so nice to be somewhere warm. The day we left Okayama it was snowing, so anything over 50 degrees we considered tropical. The first day we found a beach and walked around the city.

There was a huge strip for tourists. It was filled with themed restaurants, bars, and an abundance of souvenir shops. The change of food was nice. I got my mexican food fix with tacos, and Okinawa’s famous taco rice. Think taco meat and fixings on rice. (Pretty self explanatory)

 

first guac in 8 months

having a moment with my mexican food

We also splurged one night and found a Hawaiian themed restaurant where they cooked our meal infront of us. The owner loved us; gave us appetizers, dessert, and sailor hats. It was a fabulously tacky, yet delicious dinner.

normalcy.

As things in northern Japan continue to get worse, life in Okayama continues as normal. More businesses play the news and there are a few collection jars around town, but other than life goes on unchanged. Even as the reports of the nuclear facilities gets worse Okayama is still hundreds of miles away from the worse-case-scenario danger zone. Even though Tokyo had very little structural damage the city has limit train service, daily electricity blackouts, and food shortages.

I feel guilty that my life is fine while there are so many people who lost everything, or are waiting to see if they will.  Other than donations there is little else that I can do. I want to help in May when during our spring break, but that still may be too soon. So until things calm down all I can do is open my heart and my wallet. I made my donation to the Red Cross at a convenience store; they have a program set up. If you  want to donate follow the link http://american.redcross.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ntld_main Also, if you happen to hear about an American relief trip in the coming months please let me know, I am trying to find an english speaking trip if possible. Thank you.

sending love up north…

I’ve spent the last 3o hours reading or watching the news. Every time I see the images and videos of the tsunami my heart breaks. I still can’t believe what is happening up north. It is especially strange, because life is so normal here in Okayama. People seem to be going about their everyday business, while the northern half of the country is completely devastated.

I have experienced an outpouring of love and concern for my safety and I am so grateful.  I am safe and life is normal. However, there are millions of people whose lives have been turn upside down. Please keep these people in your thoughts and prayers.

 

down south: we’re OK.

I’m ok. My city was untouched by the earthquake and following tsunamis.  In fact I didn’t even know about them right away. We were traveling back from Okinawa most of the day, unaware of the devastation up north. When our plane was landing in Kobe the landing was delayed because the “runway was shaking.” We thought it was a strange translation for the word turbulence and blew off the announcement. At the train station shinkansen trains were delayed because of an earthquake, but those happen all the time. We didn’t have a clue about how serious things were till I got a call from my friend Jacob panicking that we were ok. He told us about the earthquakes and tsumanis. As soon as I got home I turned on the TV to see the devastation. There were live videos of the tsunamis sweeping away cars, semis, and shipping boats into a wave of sludge.

Its strange to be so close but so far from a disaster. Although I’m only hundreds of miles away from the one of the biggest earthquakes in history, my city was untouched and and life goes on as normal. I only know one person up north in Yokohama and he was contacted within hours of the quake. Working in schools is my strongest connection to Japan society and since I’m not teaching I’m really cut off. I can’t express how lucky I am, in where I got placed for work and we chose to vacation south this week instead of up north.

My friends and I got back from an amazing trip, but it seems inappropriate to post those pictures so close to such a disaster. My prayers are going out to those up north.

a break from real….

the Ok(ayama) crew has relocated to another Ok(inawa). So for the next week we will be basking in the 65 degree weather, beachside, sipping frosty beverages. My post Okinawa agenda consists of hanging out in Okayama, job-free, spending time with my ladies, packing my apartment, learning to drive in Japan, weekends in Hamada, Kobe, and Hiroshima. March is gonna be a rough month…

contract: completed.

 

6th grade gift

 

portrait plaque 2 of 4

That’s right I’m done. With my current contract anyway. (I’ve signed another year contract so I’ll be in Japan for another year) Its crazy that 6 months of teaching have gone by, it doesn’t seem like that much time, until I think how far I have come. I distinctly remember walking into my schools for the first time ready to poop my pants with fear. I was so nervous to be infront of the students, how to act towards other teachers, and how everything worked in the school. By the last 2 months most of my schools felt like my second home. The teachers were incredibly welcoming, and showered me with kindness, coffee, and delicious snacks. Some schools even far enough to invite me to their christmas parties, bbq’s, and out to dinner. I really don’t think I could have asked for a better experience. My last day at each school was vastly different, but helped me to realized how appreciated I was.

goodies from Kachi

Honestly I was blown away, I didn’t think these schools thought about me all that much. I had a couple first years cry when I told them it was my last day. I was showered with student artwork, plaques, cards, candy, and even given a human tunnel as an exit on more than one occasion.

I am sad to leave my schools. But I think I’m ready to move onto what’s next.

Contract 1 completion conclusion: Japanese students are amazing at drawing anime. I still like teaching. Its still too early to decide if I want teaching of some kind to be a long term career plan. But I have to say I still enjoy getting paid to play with kids. To get an idea of my students check out this video. This is similar to the reaction I get when I walk into a first grade classroom. (hardly an exaggeration)