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.



My apologies.

30 07 2010

I would like to make an apology post.  I have slacked.  I have said over and over again I will post blogs on a regular basis so that the people in my life can know what’s going on with me.  I realize it is important to stay connected, but unfortunately, life has gotten in the way.  Which is sad and ridiculous but is so so SO true.  Somewhere between running a restaurant, finding TB, visits to mainland, and adventures on island, I have stopped writing.  So here is my grand apology to those of you who read this on a regular basis – I’m sorry.  Now, since I’m on the other side of the world, you have to forgive me.  I think that’s how this works.

I would like to offer an abbreviated list of things I have done in recent months (months, I haven’t written in months.  Sheesh).  Then, perhaps someday soon, I will expand on these stories.

1. Kyoto.  TB and I made a trip up to mainland to see something new and to get off this island for a few days.  Why did we need to leave tropical paradise you ask?  Well because.  I get antsy.  And I have found a guy that realizes when I get antsy, it’s serious.  So he took leave, I took vacation, and away we went.  Our timing was less than stellar as we arrived at the beginning of monsoon season in Kyoto and left Okinawa at the tailend of ours.  Humph.  Figures.

2. Adjusting to the military.  I’m not entirely sure that anyone will ever understand this that hasn’t dated someone or had family that was in the military.  I’m not usually one to say you wouldn’t understand, but having been on the non-military side of the coin, I’m saying it.  If you’ve been here, you get it.  Adjusting to this life takes a serious amount of work and dedication.  And I’m fine with that.  It’s the random trips to random unknown places for an undetermined amount of time that will get to you.  It’s the alarm going off at 5am everyday and the late nights and the uniforms and the lack of communication for “security”.  Well, let me back up.  The uniforms are hot – that’s the saving grace in all of this.  If it wasn’t for that uniform, see ya later solider.  (TB – I kid.  I also stick around for the sushi dates).

3. Monsoon.  Have you ever been through an actual monsoon?  It’s depressing as hell.  It rains more or less nonstop for about 25 days.  No kidding.  And you’re on a beautiful tropical island no less.  So it’s even more depressing because while you could be outside, doing all of these amazing things, instead it’s monsoon-ing.  UGH.

I’m going to stop with the list now.  Not because I’m out of things but mostly because I’ve had a glass of half Baileys, half Ameretto on the rocks and I’m getting tipsy.  I swear I will write soon.




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!


well, shoot.

15 04 2010

I’ve done it again.

I do all of these cool things and then fail to write about them in a timely manner.  But you know, I’ve been busy.  And trust me, I know I need to update.  This is now the 4th time I’ve started this blog because I wasn’t sure how to go about it.  Where to start, what to include, what to leave out.  But we’ll start with the important stuff and work from there shall we?

I swore to myself I would never talk about my love life on this blog, but alas, rules are made to be broken.  There’s a guy.  He’s great.  He’s smart and funny and sexy and pays attention when I talk.  Like, really pays attention. He knows my favorite color is orange, that I drink carmel macchiatos, and how important my family is to me because of the pictures he sees when he first walks into my house.   He organizes my shoes when he thinks I’m upset (or more accurately, KNOWS when I’m upset) and he holds my hand in public.  And he’s in the army.  Shocking I know.  To think I would end up meeting someone in the armed forces.  Don’t worry, I’m baffled, too (please note the sarcasm – do you know how many servicemembers there are on this island?!).  We met at the local watering hole, managed to talk – like really talk, for 3+ hours and just hang out.  It was nice.  Then lo and behold, we did it again!  AND I didn’t want to run in the other direction, make up a death in the family, or claim to have a boyfriend.  In fact, I did just the opposite.  I wanted to hang out, I wanted to go to dinner, and I wanted to meet for lunch.  So things are good on that front.  I had a moment when I really thought, What the hell am I doing?  Military?  Deployments?  Are you insane?  I told him I needed my space, he gave it to me, and an hour later I sent a text message that read, “I’m done with my space.  Can we go to dinner?”  So now we’re cute and obnoxiously happy.  I wish some of you were around to see this, make fun, whatever.  Really I just wish you could meet him. Perhaps someday.

I can hear my friends now.  Yea yea Stephanie, sheesh.  Enough with the mushy stuff, okay?  So, back to the adventuring.  I wandered off to a coffee farm a while back.  Of course it was one of those days when I thought, I’ll get up early, hit a beach on the drive up, hang out at the coffee place for a few hours while I read, and see a beautiful sunset on the way back down.  Instead I woke up at 11, screwed around until 2, and finally left the house.  Mind you, this coffee farm was not near – we’re talking a 2+ hour drive.  And did I mention it was in a jungle? When I say jungle, I kid you not.  It’s beautiful there, yet slightly terrifying driving there by myself.  I don’t tend to play the girl card, but this was definitely one of those moments when I wanted a guy around just in case I blew a tire, I found a snake in my car, or the engine exploded.  Because those are all likely things that would happen when I was alone with no cell phone service in the jungle.  But my god, the scenery.  Unbelievable.  Mountains and jungle and beach and beautiful ocean all around.  Which was great because this was not an easy place to find.  Take this turn and that one next to the green sign and drive for 4.7 km and take a hard right, another left in 9 km and then you’ll see the Hiro Coffee Farm sign.  Uh, yea.  Sure.  See ya later coffee farm.  Alas, I made it and it was well worth the trip (and the irrational fear). It’s a family owned shop, can’t remember quite how long they have been growing coffee beans, but they are the sweetest people.  You can tell that they truly care if you are taken care of, if you are enjoying their coffee.  Those kind of people.  They even brought out a blanket for me when I got cold, mega points for the Hiro family.  A few pictures from this adventure:

my corner

came with my own coffee pot and warmer. and a cookie!

Oh, and look at this little gem they gave me as a present:

My very own coffee bean plant!  It came with instructions that said, “you’ll be able to enjoy your very own coffee in 4-5 years!”  Uh, please.  It’s a miracle that plant’s still alive after 4 weeks.

Since my coffee adventure, I got SCUBA certified.  That’s right.  I’m officially allowed to breathe underwater and people trust that I will not make my brain or my lungs explode.  HAHAHAHA.   More on this in the next blog.  Let’s just say I almost quit not once, but twice in the 6 day course.

I also found “my” restaurant, Sushi Zen.  This is another one of those things that requires it’s own blog as the owner, Yuki-san, has taken on the role of my Japanese father.  His words, not mine.  He’s come under fire lately for the way he runs his business (to be explained in the next blog).  I think because I go there 3 times a week I took this as a personal attack, though I imagine Yuki-san doesn’t really care.  He is my Japanese pops, don’t mess with him, alright?

I think I’m going to call this good for now.  New blogs to come on SCUBA and Yuki-san by the end of the week…..eek.  Let’s be real, end of the month.  Love you guys, talk soon, yes?


ps- if you ‘re reading this from Okinawa Hai, thanks dude!

so, earthquakes.

8 03 2010

So let’s have a chat about natural disasters, shall we?

(disclaimer: again, this is one of those I started a while back so just put yourself in a setting about 9 days ago please….)

In the past 72 hours we have had or been under the following:

  • 7.3 earthquake
  • 9 aftershocks which have all been between a 4.6 and 5.6
  • 2 tsunami warnings (one of which was major)
  • and something about a tropical cyclone (typhoon)

Now, let’s talk about what that really means.  If I can be frank (which we all know I’m going to do anyway), the 7.3 earthquake was a bitch.  It occurred at 5:31 AM which means that most people on this island were fast asleep in the middle of their REM cycles when they were so rudely awaken by mother nature.  The USGS website says that the shaking lasted for 14 seconds, which I assure you is incorrect.  The shaking started vertically, died off, and then got stronger again.  Only this time, my house was shaking horizontally.  Now, I haven’t ever been in a major earthquake period.  But I do know that if you can feel the earth shaking one way and then all of a sudden it’s shaking the other way, your bed is no long centered under your window, and one picture has removed itself from the wall, that’s not pretty picture.

I quickly discovered I’m terrible in a disaster.  I think I did everything that you are NOT supposed to do in an earthquake.  I ran downstairs, opened my front door, ran back upstairs and went out on my balcony.  Not once did it occur to me to stand in a doorway or to just stay still.   I do remember the entire thing fairly well, though.  I remember having the thoughts of alright, if the balcony falls off, no one will be hurt.  If this shaking from side to side doesn’t stop, the 10 floor apartment building next door will smush my house if it comes down.  What is that noise (it was the chains on my giant chair creaking)?  Who do I call if there’s a gas or water leak? What’s the emergency number in Japan?  To be fair, I didn’t know the answer to any of those questions.  Trust me, I do now.

Wait, what’s that?  We’re under a tsunami warning?  Neat!  You know what else is neat?  American news channels freaking everyone out.  The first tsunami warning was issued after our earthquake here in Japan.  It was cancelled before I ever even got to work an hour and a half later.  The second on the other hand, was for the entire Pacific rim from what I hear.  Turns out I REALLY need to get my TV hooked up or at least get a radio – I didn’t even know about the Chile earthquake until 1130 pm on Saturday.  The tsunami warning was cancelled everywhere except Japan and Russia mostly because we have had pretty bad tsunamis here before.  I think that they also wanted to use the technology that they paid so much for, just sayin’.  Anyway, part of the base closed down including 2 gates.  Anything under 30 feet above sea level was evacuated.  The best part?  I still had to go to work.  Upon arriving there, what do I see?  A group of about 100 Americans standing on top of the headquarters hill.  Staring at the wrong ocean.  So sad to say, I did NOT get a picture of this.

Clearly, we were fine.  The “tsunami” ended up being 20 cm high, or about 6 inches.  The earthquake broke 2 water lines and 2 people sustained minor injuries.  All in all, we were lucky.  Chile, not so much.  To be honest, I think that I went into a mild state of shock during all of this.  I was very aware of what was going on, but in a surreal kind of way.  A, this isn’t really happening kind of way.  More of a, I’m freaking out so I’m going to get ready for work as fast as possible and get out of the house, kind of way.  It’s hard to describe what it’s like to be sitting in bed watching a hanging lamp shaking back and forth.  Or what the sound of rice paper doors sliding along their rails is when your house starts shaking without any notice or warning.

I feel a little ridiculous saying this, but I have woken up every night since then thinking an earthquake is going on.  Last night I was so convinced, I got out of bed to check the USGS website (shows earthquakes across the world) and to see if my water was still running.  I’m sure this will weirdness will wear off eventually.  I’m hopeful anyway.  But damn, just when you think you are getting settled….BAM.  Natural disaster #383 hits the island.  See ya later normal sleep patterns.

Until something else nutso happens…..sayonara!