Nom Nom Nom

June 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Bryan and I have experimented quite a bit with the cuisine of Okinawa. While in Arizona we normally limit ourselves to Mexican and American (i.e., chips and salsa and anything you can grill), we have really made an effort here to try different things. The main thing that makes it difficult for us to really sample traditional Okinawan/Japanese cuisine is that, unless the signs are written in English, we do not know if we are looking at a restaurant or what type of restaurant a place is just by looking at it. This really limits us to the locations with English signs, and of course these are the places that are purposely trying to attract Americans. They have full-color English menus with photographs, hefty prices, and are full of loud, obnoxious Americans and their loud, obnoxious children. I have nothing against Americans, of course, but when you are sitting in a restaurant trying to enjoy some nice teppanyaki (steak grilled on your table by a Japanese chef), it would be nice to be able to hear the person you are sitting next to.

That said, we have been to some really amazing restaurants here, whether they cater to Americans or not. Sam’s-By-The-Sea overlooks a bay in Okinawa City and serves absolutely amazing steak and seafood. It was very spendy, but the pirate ship decor, tiki torches, view, and food were worth the big price tag. They also serve tropical drinks in collector’s glasses shaped like skulls, coconuts, and Shisa dogs that you get to take home. We chose the Shisas–they are these traditional ceramic dogs that the Okinawans place at the front of their homes to ward off bad spirits. Our little Shisa glasses will have to suffice for now, because the ceramic Shisas are around $400 for a set!

So here is Bryan with his Shisa glass…
And here I am with a drink I got in a Skull glass. Arrrrr!
And here is a close-up of our Shisa drink. We got a set to take home (clean and boxed, not the glasses we drank out of here), and they are now sitting on our microwave. Hopefully we will get our own Shisas to sit outside of our house and guard against evil spirits. They are really cute and I love driving around Okinawa and spotting the Shisas outside everyone’s houses!

While Sam’s-By-The-Sea was great, it was more of a place for a special occasion than a regular haunt. Last Sunday we were driving around town, running errands, and we were both very hungry. We saw a place that looked like a restaurant, but the sign was in Japanese so we weren’t sure what type of restaurant it was. We did, however, spot the “All You Can Eat and Drink!” banner….sign us up! It turned out to be one of the coolest restaurants we have ever been to. It is a Korean BBQ, where you grill all of your food right at your table. For $20, we got all of the meat we could handle–the only caveat was that we had to eat it all, or we would be charged a food disposal surcharge!

This is Bryan prepping the grill–he’s so excited to have found a place where you can grill your own food!
Here I am enjoying my Kimchi, a spicy Korean vegetable dish. I loooove it!
Bryan’s beautiful presentation of our food as it grills.
Bryan manning the grill…
The finished product…nom nom nom.
This is a close-up of the kimchi…Bryan tells me that it is rotten (literally), but I still love mixing it with my rice and meat.
And, of course, the bill. For $20 all-you-can eat (and $14 all you can drink in 2 hours, though we didn’t try that one out–the DUI laws here are very strict), this was a great deal! But our bellies were very full afterwards…

Some other great finds: Pancake House, a tiny hole-in-the-wall where they serve up tasty pancakes. This restaurant is located in someone’s house, the pancakes are very good, and the service is wonderful. The only downside–all Americans (that’s the basic pattern here). Obbligato is a Mexican food restaurant near our house, and while it’s no Salty’s, it was pretty good for a Mexican food restaurant in Japan. We will probably return one of these days, but it won’t be as regularly as our old favorite, the Salty Senorita. Finally, our most adventurous moment was when we were starving and driving around in an area with NO English signs anywhere. These is very rare. After what seemed like hours of searching, I spotted a tiny restaurant (at least, I thought it was a restaurant). We had no idea what it was, if they would welcome us, etc. But we took a chance and went in–and found a tiny soba restaurant. Soba is a traditional Okinawan noodle/soup dish. We definitely stood out as the only Americans, but we chose our soba from a picture on the wall and enjoyed our meal quite a bit.

Many of you are probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned sushi. Sushi is one of my favorite foods, but Bryan can barely stomach it. There is a restaurant with a revolving conveyor belt of sushi right near our house that we went in to once, but they didn’t have anything on the menu except for sushi, so I let Bryan off the hook. There are a few places near our home that look like they might have sushi and other items as well, so we will have to check those out soon!

And last but not least, possibly our favorite restaurant–home. We have such an incredible patio, now complete with tiki torches (filled with Citronella oil to ward off the skeeters), a patio set, and a grill that I bought Bryan for Father’s Day. So we grill out at home almost every night and enjoy our ocean view! We’re planning to have a 4th of July BBQ this weekend to show of our beautiful home to Bryan’s work colleagues, so I’ll have more pics of that coming soon!
This is a picture of Bryan messing around at home with the Japanese gardening hat we bought to send to Hayley. He’s such a goofball!
Here is Bryan showing off the meat before we christen the new grill for the first time:
Putting the meat on the grill…note the beautiful view from our patio!
The meat cooking…obviously.
And, the finished product…Bryan is a really great barbecuer!

I will leave you with a shot that Bryan took that really captures the mood of our wonderful patio…the Corona bottle, the funny little ashtray, the sun, the ocean view. We are in heaven here!


Photos from Okinawa

June 24, 2009 § Leave a comment

So my daily schedule here in Okinawa goes something like this: wake up, go with B to the gym on base, come home, shower, and say goodbye to Bryan as he goes to work, read everything I’ve missed on the Internets while I was sleeping (celebrity gossip, news, fb updates, etc.), make the bed/clean up from last night, begin my reading, and read pretty much until Bryan comes home. Bryan sometimes comes home for lunch, and he sometimes picks me up and we go out to lunch, and then he drops me off at the library on base for the rest of the afternoon. Then at night we watch movies rented on base, cook dinner, and try to relax. Even though I’m on vacation, Bryan is not, so we have to save a lot of the touristy/fun stuff for the weekends because he still needs to have energy to work each day.

This batch of pictures is from some of our weekend excursions around Okinawa. There is a small beach right down the street from our house that we have been to twice. We’ve been waiting for the weather to improve for a real “beach day”, and even though this beach is nice in that it is so close, I’m excited to get out of our town (Ishikawa), and explore some of the more renowned beaches, go snorkeling, and see some more of the island. There are also some pictures on here from a short day trip we took to Ikei Island. The island is connected to the big island with a bridge, and is absolutely beautiful. It is very sparsely populated, and has a few hotels, but seemed mostly untouched from what we saw of it. There are a few beaches with recreational areas set up, and I hope to get to get back to Ikei Island soon.

This is a picture of a scary spider on the path to the beach. Turns out, there are a lot of scary spiders here in Okinawa, including many that have made our balcony their hunting ground!
Here I am posing on the beach near our house.
Here is Bryan and me taking a photo of ourselves on the beach near our house.
A better view of the beach near our house…
A picture of a tide pool that Bryan liked. The tide comes in really far, so we have to be careful about when we go to the beach I guess!
This is the beach on Ikei Island. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been–I can’t wait to go back and explore more!
So the weather here is VERY humid. My hair makes that fact quite clear, I believe. After seeing this picture, picked up some Frizz Ease, and I’ve been good ever since 🙂
Okinawan religion is a lot about ancestor worship. These tombs are erected on the property of the family, and they go back to pay their respects, light candles, etc. all the time. It’s amazing to drive around the island and see these everywhere–very haunting, so to speak.
Bryan took a picture of himself while standing on the side of the highway on Ikei Island. So Bryan 🙂
This is me posing by a rock back at the beach by our house. Notice the lack of bathing suits–either it’s been raining, or we’ve felt like we were too busy for a beach day. I plan to remedy that soon and break in our snorkel gear that’s waiting in the hall!
Another nice view of the beach near our house…and the industrial complex in the background.
This is the same tomb photo, but I think it looks amazing in black and white. It really makes those tree roots stand out as they threaten to overcome the tomb and suck it back into the earth (or at least, that’s what it looks like to me).

More photos of our adventures to come soon!

First Impressions

June 17, 2009 § 1 Comment

When I landed in Tokyo, the person I was sitting next to (I had the middle seat) didn’t lift the window, so I couldn’t do any initial inspecting from the air. I had had a mostly pleasant flight, despite my unfortunate seating arrangement. The people I was sitting with, a middle-aged Japanese woman and a middle-aged American man, kindly allowed me to use both of the armrests, and I took them up on their offer. I watched three or four movies to pass the 10-hour flight–He’s Just Not That Into You (already seen it–love it), The Reader (snooze), and Bride Wars (cheesy fun). Luckily, the man who had the aisle seat felt the need to stretch his legs often, so whenever he got up, I got up and paced about the cabin. 

Upon landing, I was still nervous about making my connection to the airport across town, so I booked it through customs (success), got my luggage (no problems there), found my way to the nearest money exchange (double success), and headed straight for the bus counter to buy a ticket for the shuttle to the other airport (great success!). So far things we’re going exactly according to plan! When I went outside to my bus stop, I saw a few people standing there, so I stood behind them. The bus stop manager (is this what they’re called?) checked my ticket, and told me that my bus wasn’t coming for 10 minutes. I already knew this, but assumed I could stand in line anyways. Wrong! As it turned out, there were three different “queues”–one for the people departing on the next bus, one for the people departing on the bus after that, and one for people who’s bus would be coming third. Talk about organization! The funny part was that there were only 1 or 2 other people waiting, so I didn’t think it was a big deal if I stood there, but the bus manager was adamant that I stand in the appropriate queue. But so far, everyone understood and spoke enough English to help me, so I didn’t mind having to be told 2 (3?) times to stand in the right line. 
My bus came and I boarded successfully. I was hoping to be able to see a bit of Tokyo out the window on the hour-long ride, but two things interrupted this: One, I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open, and two, the little I did see was mostly cloudiness and industrial looking buildings. Nothing fancy, nothing to pique my interest, really. So I slept most of the way. 
When I arrived at the second airport (Haneda), it was like I was in a new world. The airport was packed with Japanese business travelers walking hurriedly, many chattering away on cell phones that looked different than the ones we have back home. I gathered that this airport was more of a commuter airport for the Japanese, as it seemed that most of these business travelers (men and women) were heading for other Japanese cities. When I travel in the U.S., it seems that most business travelers aim for comfort in their apparel–rarely do you see someone travel in a business suit (at least where I live on the west coast). But these business travelers were all wearing black suits (no navy, no brown–all black) and heels, if they were women. 
The Japanese flight attendants were also a sight. They all have very intricate uniforms involving very fancy neckwear. They seem to take their jobs very seriously, and they really do a great job. 
I did happen to see quite a few Americans waiting to board my flight to Okinawa, which was my first clue that Okinawa was not going to be the purely Japanese experience I was kind of hoping for (more on that later). I could tell that the Americans on my flight were all military or their dependents, which makes sense given the sheer number of military personnel living on Okinawa (something like 40,000, could be higher). 
My flight from Tokyo to Okinawa was only 2.5 hours, but it seemed much, much longer than the flight from L.A. to Tokyo. The first reason was no fancy personal movie player on the seat in front of me. Drat! The second reason was that I was exhausted from not having slept on the Tokyo flight (even though I took a Lunesta). So I put on my eye mask, pulled up my hoodie, and attempted to sleep. I was never awoken by the dreaded drink cart to the elbow (this time I had an aisle seat–score!), but I kept waking up due to cold, so I didn’t sleep very well. Oh, did I mention that I was on the Pokemon plane?! I never saw the outside of the plane, but the inside of the plane was completely decorated with Pokemon characters, just like I predicted from my earlier post!! I was highly amused. 
When I landed in Okinawa I rushed to the nearest bathroom to make myself look (semi) presentable for Bryan–he hadn’t seen me for 2 weeks and I wanted to look as good as a person who has just traveled for what seemed like 24 hours could be expected to look. I got my luggage without a problem and rushed through the security exit into Bryan’s waiting arms. I was so happy to see him! We headed for the parking structure, where his brand-new Japanese car was waiting. I, of course, headed for the right (wrong) side of the car, and Bryan had to remind me that in Japan, the passenger sits on the left. Driving from Naha International Airport to our house in Ishikawa took about 1 hour. My first impressions from that drive–lots of car dealerships, many signs and billboards written in Japanese (duh), and a strange number of signs written in English. Some of these were typical, like road signs and some stores and restaurants, but others were just plain funny. Like they tried to come up with a cute English name for their place of business, but somehow their intent was just lost in translation (Such as the hair salon called “Boy’s” that leads me to question “Boy’s what?” every time we drive past it. I’m planning to post an entire blog post about that. 
We stopped for sustenance at the Family Mart by our house (real name, in English), but I couldn’t understand what any of the food was and for some reason we weren’t feeling very adventurous, so we went to McDonald’s instead. Great way to spend my first night in Japan, right? Well it was the only thing open at 10 pm, it had drive-thru, and a Big Mac just sounded good to both of us. I guess some things never change, no matter what hemisphere you are in…

Update: There’s no turning back now!

June 4, 2009 § 1 Comment

So I’m sitting here in the airport in Phoenix, about to board my plane to L.A. After I land in L.A., I will have to probably exit security and go to the ANA ticket counter to check in. I also just realized that when I get to Tokyo, not only will I have to change money and find a way to call Bryan, but I will have to get my bags and find a shuttle to the other Tokyo airport. 

I’m pretty nervous right now. I am always nervous to fly, but my nerves right now are more focused on all of the logistics of getting myself to a tiny island in the middle of the south Pacific. But I know when I see Bryan’s smiling face waiting for me in the airport in Naha, all of this traveling and stress will be well worth it. I have my backpack packed with law books, so I really need to get back to my reading now! 
I’ll post as soon as I have internets access again 🙂 

Leaving on a jet plane!

June 3, 2009 § Leave a comment

I sure hope that my plane and flight attendants look like this!

So, as you might have guessed from the title of this post, I’m leaving for Japan tomorrow! I’ll be flying from Phoenix to LA, LA to Tokyo, switching airports in Tokyo, and then Tokyo to Okinawa. I leave Thursday morning Arizona time and arrive in Okinawa Friday night Japan time.

I’m going to try to sleep from LA to Tokyo so that I’m not a crabby pants when I finally see Bryan in Okinawa! I have so much packing to do, mainly because I haven’t even started packing yet. I’m not planning to bring a whole lot, but I have a bunch of books that I want to bring to do some law school prep over the summer, and those can get pretty heavy. I really need to call the airline/go online to figure out how many bags I can bring! But in characteristic-Jenna fashion, I am leaving everything to the last minute! Aside from packing, today I also have to go sign a Power of Attorney document so that my mom can sell my car and lease an apartment for me in Boston, visit Ilalia and baby Tyson, and see a documentary about religion (I think) over at Noah’s house.

Bryan has been pretty busy as well…I just got off the phone with him and he was about to go to bed. He’ll call me again this afternoon (his Thursday morning) when he wakes up, after which he’ll be taking a cab to the NEW HOUSE to meet the furniture delivery people. The military is going to loan him some furniture until his delivery arrives/he can buy his own furniture. We have some furniture of our own that has been shipped over, but not enough to fill an entire house (pics of the house to come soon!). So we’ll be doing a lot of shopping for the house while we are there. Apparently furniture is pretty cheap (because it’s made in Vietnam, which I hear is close to Japan), so we’re going to try to get some nice pieces that we’ll be able to use in our next house (hopefully in DC…more on that later as well!).

Bryan also purchased a car from a dealer in Okinawa, but so far he doesn’t actually have possession of it. He paid the dealer to take care of the Japanese registration and everything for him, and it has taken much longer than he hoped for to get that all taken care of. He’s getting pretty annoyed as a matter of fact, and I think if the car is not ready tomorrow, he’s going to ask for his money back and buy something else. I’d be pretty annoyed too if I had to take cabs everywhere I went for 2 weeks!

As far as my move to Boston, I still have a lot to take care of. My mom and Kelly are flying to Boston this weekend to find me an apartment. I found 2 roommates on facebook who seem great, so now all I have to do is find the apartment. I really don’t want to move again for 3 years, so it has to be a great apartment! I also finally posted the advertisement on Craigslist to sell my car (if you know anyone who is interested in a 2005 Toyota Corolla S, let me know!). The money is going to come in really handy, because HLS won’t be handing out financial aid checks until the first week in September!

We won’t have the internets in the house until June 12, but I will try to post an update from some computer on base. Wish me luck in my next big adventure!!

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