Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thursday, May 31st

After much painting, cleaning and throwing out, we cleared housing in the morning so our check-out process is complete.  That left us time for one last lunch at the sushi-go-round...

...before picking the boys up from their last day of school...

And then our last time at our favorite restaurant, Laxmi!  We all love the Japanese/Indian curry blends here and the family that owns it loves us.  We were given a free curry pizza and then followed out the door with hugs and waves and calls of "arigato".  Oh how we'll miss Laxmi!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A week of lasts

Now we're in the final week of being in Okinawa and it seems like I should name it the week of "lasts".  

Last time to get my toes done.

Emmy, Jess, Ashley and I went for pedis.

Last meal at the "ticket restaurant".

Last fire pit.

Last walk on the sea wall.

And today, last shipment of our stuff off the island.

Four more days and counting!

Sea wall

One of the things on my bucket list that I didn't quite get done was to have a photo session of the family on Okinawa.  So I improvised and took (ie. made) the family go down to the sea wall for some fun pics before we left.  Here's our collection...

Emmy, modeling

Steve told them to "look cool"

Graffiti on the sea wall

This was funny because Emmy was trying to put her head on London's shoulder and he was trying hard for her not to!

The jacks

Monday, May 28, 2012

Going away BBQ

Our first neighborhood BBQ took place one month after we moved into our house.  It was Labor Day and I had asked Kelly, our new neighbor at that time, if they ever did any neighborhood events.  So we put together an invite, sent it out and the Lester Heights parties had their inaugural event.  (I didn't quite enjoy that one to its fullest since it was the same day I was released from the hospital after having an emergency appendectomy!)

Since then this neighborhood has had some great parties.  We've had parties for all the holidays (Labor Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Halloween), for birthdays (including a surprise party for my 40th), Thanksgiving dessert parties, New Year's blow out parties, Christmas Eve progressive lunch party, sending off to deployment parties and welcoming home from deployment parties, even typhoon and tsunami warning parties (gotta do something when you're on lock down).  But sadly Saturday night was our last neighborhood party, the Coats' family farewell BBQ.

Our wonderful neighbors arranged this party in our honor and we were surprised and blessed by how many folks came out for it.  Thank you neighbors for a good time, well, for many good times!

Me and Ann Marie

Alicia and me

Jess and me

Spencer, Sydney, Sean and Suzy Bjarnason

The grillers


Begging for another cupcake

Enjoying some steak (Jess, Chris and Ashley)

Joe and Steve

Emmy and Dima being monsters

The 'hood

...and Joe, who was taking the 'hood picture

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Photo safari

Sunday afternoons have typically been our time for adventure around the island and this being our last Sunday I was ready for an adventure.  But, unfortunately, my family was not.  Stevie was ready for a nap and the kids were ready for the pool.  So I compromised, I released them from any obligation to go on an adventure if I could go - alone!  A solo photo safari of Okinawa, what joy!

I pointed the car south and headed for a blissful afternoon with just me and my camera.  I ended up stopping by "our beach", a peace memorial, the suicide cliffs and the Gushikawa castle ruins.

Shots from "our beach":

A hermit crab tucked in the rocks with spider webs

I checked, there was no fortune on the other side.

I love the patterns of the rock pools
My dad has been asking me to take pictures of the peace memorial for a while since he is doing a presentation on the Battle of Okinawa.  This is not the more famous Peace Prayer Park which we've visited before, but a smaller peace memorial dedicated to the girls and women of the First Okinawan Prefectural Girls School and the Women's Division of the national Okinawa Normal School who made up the Himeyuri Students Corps.  Quite a mouthful.  Basically, they were some prestigious schools for girls on Okinawa and during the Battle of Okinawa the girls were "called upon" to work in the hospitals that were set up in the caves of southern Okinawa. When the fighting got really bad, the military abandoned the girls and they were forced out of the caves during which time most of the girls lost their lives.  They began with 225 and ended up with 21, so the memorial is in their honor.

That's the entrance to one of the caves in front of the memorial

Strands of 1,000 origami cranes - signs of peace

I have to say, it's really weird to be an American visiting these types of monuments - by the way the signs read, the "Americans" were the bad guys.  Granted, we were the enemy, but the Japanese were even worse to the Okinawans than the Americans.  That part seems to get missed in these peace memorials and instead its about the Americans bombing all these civilians.  But, for the sake of knowledge of history, and to please my dad, there I stood on Sunday surrounding by Japanese tour groups looking at me like I pulled the trigger.  And boy do the Japanese tour groups visit - in droves!  There must have been 15 bus loads of Japanese high school students that passed me on the way to the parking lot.

So after the peace memorial, I moved on to the suicide cliffs (Cape Kyan), yet another place I received the evil eye for visiting as an American.  These steep, craggy cliffs were the place of an untimely demise for many Japanese and Okinawans - a preferred alternative to being captured by the Americans, or so they thought.  Nowadays, it's home to a tired looking memorial and captivating views of the East China Sea meeting the Pacific Ocean.  Although it's pretty sobering to think of what happened 60+ years ago in the same spot.

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From Cape Kyan I had one last stop, the decaying castle ruins of Gushikawa castle.  This "castle" was built in the mid-14th century but now the only remaining parts are a few of the castle walls and the entrance to the main gate.  It stands on a cliff and its most interesting feature is a cave which leads down to the sea - a pretty good natural escape route if you ask me.

Yes, this is pretty much how it looks after 700 years of battering by the weather.

View from the castle down

The castle entrance

With my photo safari time running out, I wound my way through the fields and farmlands of southern Okinawa.  This is a very agricultural area with their main crops being sugar cane, beni imo (Okinawan purple sweet potato), elephant ears, goya, tobacco and thai plants.  Okinawans do farming in a very different way from Americans - they are small plots tucked in here, there and everywhere all neatly planted and tended by hand.

Farmer's glove left to dry?  Or a sign saying everything is OK?

Fields and greenhouses

You often see these strings of bulbs above the fields.  I really can't figure out what they're for.

Sugar cane

Two Okinawans clearing weeds from a field.

Hand sorting crops - yes, this is typical dress, even on a hot day.

 I headed back to our base - happy and sad at the same time.  I will dearly miss this place!