hey lizard, get outta my house.

9 05 2010

Remember that whole love/hate thing between me and this island I mentioned in the last blog?  Well, the tides have turned my friends.  Me and Okinawa?  NOT on good terms right now.  Well, at least me and the creatures of Okinawa….

A few nights ago I came home from work pretty late and immediately went upstairs to get on the computer.  Now, I have an extra bedroom that more or less exists as my “get ready” room.  I do my hair here, iron clothes, put on make-up, those sorts of things.  TB is currently on a trip which not only affects my mood most days but also affects how much time I spend staring at a computer screen.  I was on the computer hoping to catch him on Skype or chat before bed but to no avail.  I stood up from my giant floor cushion, start to walk towards the doorway and noticed a shadow on the wall.  Weird, my walls are all WHITE.  What’s that strange, greenish, brownish, thing up there?  Uhhhh, it has legs.  And a tail.  And little beady eyes.  That’s right, it was a lizard my friends.  My heart was pumping so hard I honestly thought I was going to pass out.  Stephanie, a lizard.  Who cares?  I can hear it now from you animal lovers, but here’s the thing.  It was taunting me.  Like, hey lady.  I’m not moving.  And since I’m hanging out above this doorway that’s seven feet high, you can’t get me down.  So now what are you going to do?

So we had a stand-off.  And at this point, this is where it got ridiculous.  I was honest to God standing in the middle of that extra room, arms crossed just staring at this lizard.  I would take a few steps forward to look at it, it would move it’s tiny creepy foot, and I would jump back about eight feet.  Then, I talked to it.  I honestly had a conversation with this lizard that went something along the lines of, “Look.  I need you to be out of my house.  I need you out because I won’t sleep well until I know you’re gone and the slightest ruffle of the wind will have me convinced you are in my sheets.  So please, please just go.”  Nothing.  Not one world from that lizard.  What a pompous bastard.

Then I started realizing there was a LOT of stuff on the ground.  Like, a whole lot.  Which also made me nervous.  In the moment I was worried that there was a whole family, a whole lizard community living under my baseball hat or behind the mirror I have yet to hang on the wall.  So I started cleaning.  I picked up everything that was on the floor with the most rapid motion you have ever seen.  You know, just in case the community actually existed.  Nope, still just the one. So my next move?  Just get outta the room and close the door.  The lizard found his way in, he can find his own way out.  And that’s exactly what I did.  I walked slowly towards the door, made a small leap out the doorway, and slammed it closed.  I’ve seen too many movies where people end up with animals on their heads.

But no, of course I couldn’t actually be okay with a lizard just hanging out in my house.  Good lord.  I tried to convince myself for about 15 minutes that it would be fine.  But every time I walked up the stairs my heart started beating so loud I swear I could hear it.  So I grabbed a jar.  I figured I could just scoop him up close the lid and then take him outside.  I never had any intention of killing him, (again, information for you animal lovers out there).  Besides, can you imagine the potential mess and clean up of killing a lizard? YUCK.

I slowly opened the door with my free hand, jumped back into the room and spun around to find…..nothing.  The damn thing was GONE.  MIA.  SHIT.   Wait, this is what I wanted right?  I wanted to abandon the lizard so it would find its own way out.  Only, somewhere in the back of my head, I KNEW that thing was still in the house.  Only now it was in a better hiding spot.  Either behind the basket of hair supplies, on the leg of the iron, in the curtains, or wait……behind the stupid baseball hat.  I see your skinny little head lizard!  Come here!  I moved the hat towards the jar thinking he would just waltz right into the jar, I could close the lid and then take him outside.  But no, of course it’s not that easy.  That little sucker was fast as lightning.  He started darting all over the room.  From one corner, to the ceiling, to the opposite wall, back to the corner.  He finally stopped on the curtains, and I had my chance.  I picked up a small cardboard box on the ground, jar in my right hand and trapped him from both sides.  Unfortunately, success only lasted about 3 seconds.  The lizard quickly realized that the jar and the box were not the same size, thus leaving an opening on either side of the box.  He crawled out, I dropped both jar and box out of a terrifying mix of shock and fear (Yes, of a gecko.  Shut up back there in the peanut gallery).   Are you freaking kidding me?!?!  I was so frustrated, so annoyed.  Then what happens, the phone rings.  TB is finally able to call from his trip, at 2am mind you, in the MIDDLE of my lizard crisis.  SO not okay.  But.  What’s this?  The lizard is now on the wall next to a window.  Stephanie, just open the damn window.  So I did.  I talked myself into reaching within 4 inches of that thing and opening the window.  It was like he trusted me again, back to stand-off mode.  I prodded him along with the box, slowly so he didn’t freak out again because I really couldn’t handle anymore of the running around the room.  He paused for one tiny moment as if to say, really?  This is all you wanted?  And then walked out of my concrete house, cool as a cucumber.  I on the other hand, with sweaty palms slammed the window closed and sank down on the floor and cried.  The combination of the lizard, the phone call, the lack of TB and the adrenaline finally did me in.  I’d had quite enough of the animal kingdom, thank you.

Except.  That it wasn’t enough.  What is this ridiculous karma I have with island creatures?  Sheeesh.  Fast forward about 20 hours. (I promise to keep this story shorter).  My friend B and I had recently been discussing bats and how they are everywhere on Okinawa.  Not just the little ones either.  We have big ugly fruit bats and they are NOT afraid of people.  They go zooming around at night around the bars, restaurants, and military bases.  Now I have a small yard with a lot of trees.  Big trees at that.  Tall with big floppy leaves, flowers, the whole bit.  So, I need to go out to my car, get my book.  Open the door and BAT FLYING AT MY FACE out of one of the giant trees.  I swear, I just stood there and sighed shaking my head back and forth while I lost another 6 years off of my life.  I feel like smoking would be less detrimental to my health these days than all of this animal nonsense.  The bat flew in between my front door and the columns on the porch.  We’re talking a space of about 3.5 feet friends, seriously.  That is too close for a bat to be to my house, let alone to my face.  I went back inside, talked to B, drove to her house and proceeded to split 3 bottles of champagne with her and ate a big bag of Popeye’s.  I had earned it over the past two days, don’t you think?

Now, some of you may be thinking, seriously Stephanie.  Cut the overreacting, cut the drama.  But I’m stressed.  TB is out-of-town and I have animals running amuck in my house and flying at my head.  I’m exhausted, I’m on edge, and I don’t like animals enough to say oh well, fly at your own speed, even if it means crashing into my face.  You go live by yourself in a foreign country and let me know how it goes when a bat flies at YOUR face or a lizard decides to take up residence in YOUR spare bedroom.  Until then, you may laugh at my misery but you may not judge me for it, thank you very much.

PS – Happy Mother’s Day friends and family.  Especially to the one and only Gail who supports all of my crazy ideas with never-ending love and boxes of supplies from home.  I don’t know how you do it, and I’m forever grateful for your generosity and go get ’em attitude.  You remind me to be strong on the days that I want to throw in the towel with your positive attitude and Bailey’s Irish Cream.  I love you, G dog.



ziiiiip! lining.

2 05 2010

Well, what do you know.  I have completed an actual adventure!

About 6 weeks ago, TB (“the boy”) and I said we were going to go ziplining that very weekend.  Clearly, that didn’t work out.  Turns out we like to drink too much.  We would stay out until ungodly hours of the night and then fail to get out of bed until noon the next day.  Oops.  On the few occasions were we decided, okay, no drinking tonight so we can zipline tomorrow and not puke all over everything, it was raining the next morning.  See, Okinawa and I have a love hate relationship about my days off.  I love them and plan fun things around them, and Okinawa hates me and manages to produce rain for several hours on said day off, thus crushing all of my hopes and dreams.  Okinawa 1: Steph 0.

Last weekend though, all of the stars aligned.  TB and I managed to have a nice dinner on Friday, a few drinks, and called it an early night.  I woke up at 9 am – no alarm, thank you very much, to a cloudy yet beautiful day.  Alas!  Ziplining could happen.

We drove north to Onna Village to a place called Forest Adventure Park.  Just finding the place is a little ridiculous considering there is a small shop, convenience store size, where you have to first stop and pay (along with sign your life away).  From there you drive across the way to park your space shuttle, ahem, I mean car, and then finally board a Forest Adventure Van that takes you to the actual park.  I was out of breath from the 200m hike up to “the lodge” where you get all of your gear.  Great.  This should be super fun running around in a forest all day…..

So.  What do you call employees that watch over people zipling?  Like the beach and the pool has lifeguards, right?  What do you call those that watch over zipliners?  Because whatever they are called, apparently the people of the Forest Adventure Park feel as if they are unnecessary.  I was quick to realize we were about to be on our own for this.  Granted you do have to complete a safety course before they just let you out into the park.  Let us discuss.

First of all, we’re in Okinawa.  Can I just remind you how many Americans live here?  I’m all for learning the language of the land, but when it comes to a safety course, don’t you think you could have an instructor that can say more than “danger” in English?  Eek.  So our safety course consisted of this: 4 Americans and about 10 Japanese standing around watching a lady demonstrate the proper ziplining techniques.  It was a lot of show and tell, with the four Americans not understanding the tell part at all.  The woman would speak in Japanese for a good minute and a half and then would look at us, point at the rig she had set up and simply say, “Danger.”  The actual zipline and the safety facing the same way?  Danger.  The safety being in front of the other apparatus? Danger.  The safety not being on top of the ziplining thing?  Danger.  So you see my point perhaps.  I’m all for doing ridiculous things, but when there are no lifeguards (for lack of the proper word) on this zipling course, I would like a better explanation of my gear than “danger.”

Of course being Mr. Army that he is, TB volunteered to go first across the safety course, thus volunteering me to go second.  Great.  I’m already scared as hell, would have been happy watching 20 people go across this safety thing, and now I’m second with a bunch of Japanese people staring.  I managed to hook the safety to the correct rope (you have to climb up rope ladders and sketchy wooden ladders to get to the platform you actually zip from), climb up the ladder and then I failed.  I unhooked the wrong thing first.  Then I was standing on the platform not hooked into anything.  Big no no in ziplining world apparently.  Somehow I managed to cross the first obstacle without falling off so I was gaining some confidence.  I guess my smile and the fact that I was with TB cleared me for the course because I definitely should not have passed the safety course.  I probably did 3 out of 5 possible things incorrectly.  Who knows.  Maybe TB slipped the safety lady a 20 to let us on our way.  More of a, look, I’ll take care of her.  Don’t worry.

So doing something like this with someone in the Army is hilarious.  The first thing you have to do is walk down this pathway to get to the first zipline.  TB though wanted to be ahead of everyone else so we wouldn’t have to wait in line behind them since only one person can zip at a time.  So instead of walking down the pathway, we ran.  TB, boot camp style and me tripping over my own feet.  We had a quick chat about, hello, do you remember how clumsy I am?!?! and we slowed down.  Though only slightly.  We got on the first line, he hooked my apparatus up (probably since the safety lady could still see us) and away I went: zzziiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiipppp across a jungle!


How much fun is that?!?!  The answer is real fun my friends.  I couldn’t stop laughing for a very very long time.  It was absolutely imperative to make a silly noise every time I stepped off of a platform to zoom across another section of the forest.  It was either that or get a running start and fling myself over the edge.  I went with the former.  Check out these other crazy things that were randomly spaced out across the course:

Tibetan bridge

sketchy bridge

The best/weirdest/craziest part was at the very end.  There was an obstacle course that started with you JUMPING off of a platform, on a loose line, and throwing yourself into a giant rope net.  Imagine how people swing on a trapeze line, that was similar to this only you’re not grabbing on to another person that’s going to take you with them, you’re slamming yourself into a rope net.  I earned a nice hip bruise from this one.  It was very American Gladiators which I thoroughly appreciated.  You continued on this course through swinging logs (30 feet off the ground), a wire that had zigzagging wires running through it, thus making you step around them (again, 30 feet in the air), and yes.  Yes, my friends it’s true.  Even the rings from American Gladiators.  Only instead of swinging back and forth like a monkey from your arms, you had to get your FEET in each one before you could move forward.  By this point I had had enough so I opted for the shortcut.  TB took the long route, clearly it wasn’t going to get the best of him, and it was definitely decided I had made the better decision.  One last zipline and away we went.

I have recently come to appreciate the difference between adventuring with friends and adventuring alone.  While I do enjoy both, with friends is way better in cases like this.  We laughed so much – at ourselves, at each other, and at the tiny Japanese girls who couldn’t stop their nervous giggles.  I was so thankful to have someone to share this kind of thing with, doing it alone just wouldn’t have been the same.

Last thing, I swear.  After all the adventuring was done, we were driving and saw THIS.

Holy giant statue, holy giant bell.  The bell had one of those big ass round pieces of wood hanging next to it, perpendicular to the bell to ring it with.  There was a thought there for a few seconds of, shoot.  Do we ring it or not?  Is it only for sacred days?  Sacred ceremonies?  Funerals?  Births?  GOOOOONG.  The pressure was too much, we had to ring it.  And the statue was awesome.  I need to decipher who the guy was, I’ll get back to you on that.

And that ladies and gents concludes this edition of awesomeness in Japan.  Jaa mata!