sea glass

17 09 2010

It’s always a good way to start the day when, as you’re rolling out of bed, your boyfriend delivers Starbucks and a cinnamon roll as if on cue.   NOT a good way to start the day when the creme brulee macchiato is meant for you to get your butt in gear; you have to leave in 10 minutes because you need to take your boyfriend back to the base.  To be fair, I did this to myself.  Not the  him leaving again thing, but the driving to the base at 9 am thing.  I’ve needed to put my car in the shop for a while now.  Better that I drop him off and use his car as my “rental” rather than his car sit on base for a few weeks while he’s gone and me continue to put off the car maintenance, right?  Somewhere between the espresso and the rushing, I realized I was headed to one of my favorite spots on Okinawa.  Time to get ready.

Let’s paint the picture shall we?  Here it is 9:15 am.  My hair is in the same braid it was in the night before, I’m wearing a brown polka dotted bikini, I’ve got a flight suit thrown over one shoulder.  In one hand my coffee, in the other my beach combing bag.  I’m holding a backpack full of god knows what kind of Army gear….wait.  Did I just say beach combing bag?  Indeed my friends, indeed.  I have become THAT lady.

Why did I need a beach combing bag at 9:15 am?  On a Monday?  Or at all to be fair?  Well let me explain before you judge any further.

Dropping off your boyfriend at the airport sucks.  Dropping him off at a base sucks even more.  I was going to be sad and I knew it.  I knew I would be in need of something to cheer me up.  Thankfully, Torii Station is home to Torii Beach, one of the best places on the island to search for and find sea glass.

I was intrigued (and hooked) the first time I saw it.  My friend that I was with kept yelling back, “Be careful!  There’s a TON of glass around here!”  Little did she know (until our other friend explained to us) that this is actually a treasure of sorts.

Sea glass is formed when glass bottles tumble around in the ocean for years, decades even.  The bottles eventually break apart and get rolled around in the waves, knocked against rocks, sand, and the ocean floor.  The edges of the glass are rounded because of all of this clambering about and the actual face of the glass is usually frosted.  The salt water eats away at the coating on the outside of the bottle giving it a rough texture.  A lot of sea glass is formed because people throw their glass bottles overboard on cruises, fishing trips, etc.  Sea glass in this area is thought to have come from ships that were sunk in the war, GI’s throwing empty medicine bottles in the ocean out of frustration, things of that nature.  More war, less tourist.  Sea glass in general is becoming quite the collector’s item now that so many things come in plastic bottles rather than the colorful glass of yesteryear (I’ve always wanted to work that word into a story!) as well as the push for recycling.  Who knew that my liberal tendencies would pay off in way of a hobby someday?

The most common colors of sea glass are brown and white.  Amber green is a little more rare and then you have cobalt blue.  After that comes ice blue, red, purple, and orange.  These are the rarest of the rare colors of sea glass.  A pair of earrings made out of red seaglass the size of a pea go for $200.  Here in Okinawa we find a LOT pieces from brown, amber green and clear bottles.  Most medicines were kept in ice blue bottles and a lot of booze in the green and brown.  In one of the pictures, you can see part of the Coke-Cola symbol written out in cursive on a white piece of glass.

Still, this doesn’t explain the beach combing bag, I’m getting there.

Searching the island for sea glass is the most peaceful, relaxing thing I can imagine doing on a lazy morning.  It’s calming, and trust me, when you drop your boyfriend off for trip after trip, you need some calm in your life.  So I comb the beach for pieces of sea glass.  I walk up and down the same stretch of beach, 2, 3, 4 times or until the sun does me in.  I’m spoiled in Okinawa, particularly at Torii Beach.  There’s so much of the stuff that I can literally pick and choose which pieces I want to pick up and put in my bag (a ha!  There it is, the bag!)  and which I can leave behind.  That’s unheard of most places in the world.  Most places, you pick up every piece you find no matter the shape, color, or size.  Here, it’s easy to take for granted.  It’s fun too, if you go early enough in the morning, to watch the crabs dig their daily holes and watch the tiny shells crawling roughly across the sand with their little beings inside.  You get to pick up and examine the pieces, deciding if they would be good for your collection or for one you want to send back home.  If they are even worthy of being deemed true sea glass or if they need a few more years in the water (these pieces almost always get thrown in the ocean).

I cherish the mornings I get to do this.  When I am literally the only person I can see on the beach.  When I’m staring down between my toes trying to figure out to start left or to start right or if I should just sit and gaze out at the water for a few minutes.  I’m so interested in the stories of the bottles.  I wish they could tell me who threw them over, was it is rage or good humor or drunkenness.  Where did it break apart?  How long has it been here?

Something else I’ve started collecting with the glass is pieces of pottery I find.  A lot of this pottery is from dishes of cruise ships or from the war.  The island was completely blown to hell and stuff landed everywhere, namely, the ocean.  It’s neat to find pieces you think might be from the same set or that might be from some old Okinawans home.  If only THOSE pieces could talk….

Anyway, that’s all for this one.  While it’s not as exciting or entertaining as the other nonsense I get into, it’s pretty fabulous for me.  And see?  For those of you who might be worried my adventuring has taken a backseat to my new found love interest, you should be glad to know I’m still doing stuff for myself, too.  One of my friend’s husbands thinks it’s completely ridiculous that I love collecting sea glass and you might too.  That’s fine, to each his/her own.  But when your significant other starts wanting the stuff because they read this blog and see the pictures, don’t come around these parts asking for help.



Not to get all sad on you…

11 09 2010

but today is in fact 9/11 and TB has just mentioned that he has basically been at work for 9 straight years since that day. That’ll make a girl stop and think. Especially when the bags are being packed for yet another trip, not one week after returning from the last.

I’m not going to go on and on about 9/11, there are blogs for that and this is not it. But my thoughts about that day have changed drastically since living on this island. I talk about “my people.” We all have them, we all need them. They are the ones that you talk to when you are having a crappy day, the ones that make you smile when you thought it wasn’t possible, the ones who tell you it’s okay to cry or to suck it up when frankly, the crying just has to stop. They are family members, colleagues, and best friends.

Of course I still have “my people” Stateside. Mackenzie, Coppy Copp, English Jack, Gail, Stuie, Papa Long.  But now.  Now my people are military.  They are enlisted, they are officers, they are wives and team leaders.  My boyfriend, my best friend in Okinawa.  All of them related to the military in someway, and all of their lives forever changed on THAT day because they knew as soon as those towers fell, the ones they love would be leaving or that they would be doing the leaving.  And they were proud to do it.  They did it because it was their job or their calling (depending on who you talk to).  They love this country more fiercely than you can imagine.

9/11 was a tragedy unlike any this country had ever seen.  Attacking civilians, methodically and purposefully, who could do such an act?  While you remember those who lost their lives on that day, please also remember those who continue to risk their lives on a daily, month, yearly basis to keep us safe.  I never realized how much I truly took my safety and my freedom for granted until my life was flipped upside down by a member of the United States Army.  He will be embarrassed by this, I’m almost sure of it.  But it’s not just me that experiences these feelings of my world twirling around.  It’s everyone who has a loved one in the military or is in the military themselves.  They know THIS feeling, the one that you can only truly comprehend when suddenly your life is entwined with that of a service member.

Remember on this day those who lost their lives by acts of violence unforeseen and those who lost their lives trying to rescue the injured.  Remember those who have given their lives for this country because of that day 9 years ago, those who fight the daily battle for freedom and safety.

Phew.  I’m off the soapbox…..  love you all.  TB has (finally) given me the green light to use his real name on here after much prodding on my end.  Jesse, thanks for sharing your life with me, I love you.



and alas, an update.

2 09 2010

So….. I suck.  I suck at updating.  I know this, I have embraced this.  I was so good for a while! And then, nothing.  There are so many updates I don’t even know where to start, but I’m going to give it a go.

For starters, I’ve moved.  I loved my house, absolutely loved it and I had finally even embraced the random animal noises at all times of day and night.  I liked my neighbors though I’m not sure they would say the same about me.  There was a little old man who always managed to be around when I got home from work in the middle of the day.  I never did figure out where he came from, he didn’t live in the house next to me nor the apartments on the other side, but I did finally figure out his name – Tomoya.  I know it’s silly but I miss seeing him when I get home from work.  When I first moved into that house, he was the constant in my life – always there with a smile and saying hello.

But now, I have a new man in my life.  While his actual presence on this island is far from constant, his smile and greeting are both far more important than Tomoya-sans.  TB and I have been together for going on 6 months now.  Things are great with us.  We have managed to fall into a routine…well, make that two routines.  One while he’s on island and one while he’s away.  And while that was not an easy adjustment, the constant travel, it was a necessary one.  At some point it became ridiculous that we were living in two different places.  We were together constantly, shuttling back and forth between two places in two different parts of town 20 minutes apart.  The yen rate was and is awful – I was losing about $200-$300 dollars in the exchange rate every month when I was paying rent.  I was talking about moving anyway and over enchiladas and pilaf, TB asked me to move in.  I was a little shocked and taken aback but quickly realized, OF COURSE.  You love me, I love you, let’s do it.  So here we are.  No more driving between two houses to turn on or off the dehumidifiers, leave money for the lawn guy.  No more 4 am PT wake up calls because the base was so far from my house (instead it’s an alarm going off at 5am…).  It’s cooking dinner, drinking wine, and hanging out on the balcony.  Watching an episode of Modern Family and going to bed – at 9 pm.  And I love it.

Alright, alright.  Enough of the sappy, moving on.  I have recently (and by recently I mean yesterday) survived my first typhoon.  It was a harrowing experience, one I never want to live through again, one I don’t think I could survive…. Wait, what?  Lies, all lies.  Lots of hype, not so much on the actual event.  TB is, as you can probably guess, on another trip, which means I really was home for this experience by myself.   I don’t know about you, but when I hear typhoon, my brain hears hurricane Katrina.  We found out about it on Sunday evening, heard we were probably going to get some activity on Monday night but that it would be a small one.  And it was, right up until it wasn’t.  Turns out if a tropical storm is moving fairly quickly and then hits a huge patch of warm water, it will essentially stop and double in size.  Our tropical storm (soon declared typhoon Kompasu) did this – not once but twice.  It slowed down so much that it arrived almost a full 24 hours later than what was first reported.

Was I scared?  Yes.  Of course.  Again, I’m thinking Katrina! Katrina! Katrina!  We live on the 6th floor of an 18 floor apartment building that’s on the ocean.  I was convinced the glass was going to shatter out of every ceiling to floor length window in the apartment, thus allowing water and wind to just blow wildly into our house, destroying all the electronics, making flying projectiles out of the coffee machine and laundry basket.  I was about to die.  You could say my imagination runs a little off track in a possible disaster situation.  I moved my giant egg chair, a satellite dish, a beach chair, 3 pairs of shoes and diving gear in from the balcony.  The egg basket portion of the chair ended up in front of the fridge so that when the windows violently exploded, it couldn’t fly.  The TV, xbox, Wii, and all other electronics were promptly removed from the living room.  I unplugged all other electronics and strategically placed them behind objects that couldn’t be moved by 70 knot winds.  Essentially, I overreacted.

By the time we went into TC-1E at 6 pm, I was more annoyed than scared.  We had been hearing about this “typhoon” since Sunday.  One would think awful weather, at least a little rain and wind, but no.  It was beautiful all day Monday and most of yesterday.  There were people out riding bikes, people at the ocean.  It was a sunny, beautiful day.  Because of my fear, I had now been cooped up inside this apartment with barely a light breeze outside.  Without going into the huge explanation of the typhoon condition system, TC-1E is the emergency level of the system.  It means yo, keep your butt inside, this mess is here NOW.  All of a sudden it was BLACK outside.  Huge, scary dark gray ominous clouds were rolling in off the ocean, I was literally watching this storm hit.  I literally watched the sea level raise about 5 feet and waves were crashing in the fishing port across the street.  Steps that usually lead down to boats had disappeared.  Something fabulous I discovered about the apartment last night was that somehow the architecture allows no wind to hit our balcony.  It was amazing.  I had a front row seat to this thing, clearly all of my fear had left me.  And what’s that?  Okinawians are still out driving around?  Yes.  Typhoons are like a joke to them.  They make fun of the scared Americans, put away the sun umbrellas, bust out the golf umbrellas and go to the grocery store.  Go surfing, go to the bar.  Activities as normal.  And while I wasn’t that brave, I was still going stir crazy.  I had now been in the apartment for 18 hours waiting for this thing.  I wanted a better look.  I opened the front door to go downstairs and get an ice cream cone….except, I couldn’t open the front door.  I checked all 3 locks, all undone.  I pushed all of my body weight against the door only to barely have it budge.  But that was enough.  The howling noise of the wind and the beating of the rain against the door was enough to make me give up and respect this thing a little more.

Eventually, the rain stopped and the wind died down.  The electricity never went out and thanks to our amazing builders, rain never even touched the wall-sized windows that were BOUND to shader at any moment.  TB made me promise to use his headlamp if anything happened and sadly, I put it away without ever turning it on (trust me, had I needed to use it, there would have been a self portrait for sure).

So now the apartment is back to it’s normal state of disaster – clothes everywhere, dishes to be done, my organizing projects strewn across every surface.  All outdoor furniture has been returned to it’s balcony home and the electronics have been plugged back in.  The coffee machine is back on the counter along with the  all of the picture frames.  Herbert the beta fish was lucky enough to sleep in our room last night but has since been returned to his normal space.  I have to work today after having an extra day off thanks to our typhoon, I had my morning skype date with TB and will have our nightly Google chat here in a few hours.  The laundry machine is up and running again regardless of not being able to read what cycle it’s really on (all Japanese appliances = instructions in kanji) and I’m back to typing on the couch staring at the ocean.  I appreciate that the only thing that shows there was a typhoon yesterday is that the ocean is a hideous color of green and brown from everything being churned up on the bottom of the ocean.  If nothing else, Okinawa is disaster prepared (need I remind you about the earthquakes?  NOT fun in a 18 story building).

I think that’s going to be all for now.  I won’t guarantee another update this week, but I will try.  Thank you for being patient with me while I work out how to have a normal life here and still keep in touch with the States.  You would think a year would have been enough time to figure it out, but hey.  It’s all I got.