Friday, July 22, 2011

Pa Rock on Okinawa: One Year Later

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

I arrived on Okinawa late in the evening exactly one year ago today.  During that time (regrettably) I have not been to the United States nor gotten to see any of my children or grandchildren, but I am planning a trip back this fall when the new crop of grand-babies begin arriving.

But that does not mean that I haven't gotten out and explored over the past twelve months.  I have made some very good friends here, friends whom I know I will cherish for the rest of my life.  Together we have traveled this small island from the northern tip - Cape Hedo - to Peace Park at the extreme southern end.  We have eaten in Okinawan, British, and even Russian restaurants,  walked along dozens of beaches, and gone whale-watching.  Over the past year I have been to several Esai drum festivals and many fireworks displays - the Okinawans really like their drums and fireworks!  I have even been to the bullfights and participated in the world's biggest tug-of-war.

I have also managed to leave the island briefly on three occasions, including two pilgrimages to Korea - one for play and the other for work, and well as a trip to the neighboring Japanese island of Yoron for the Memorial Day weekend.

Some friends and I are talking about a trip to Vietnam or Thailand this winter.

And then there was the weather and events of nature.  I have sat through a couple of typhoons on Okinawa and a really good one while we were on Yoron.    Year one on the island has also included three minor earthquakes - the most recent of which was just yesterday morning.  And I was also here during the giant Japanese earthquake and tsunami of March 11th - and spent several anxious hours watching the East China Sea from my apartment in anticipation of a possible tsunami here.

All in all, it has been a good year, one that has gone by very quickly.  I regret that none of my kids were able to come for a visit, but am hopeful that we can get that corrected in year two.  The high point of the year has been all of the new friends that I have made here.  They are people who were destined to share adventures with me and become part of my life, but we had to come to Okinawa in order to meet!

Now for year two!

Okinawan Earthquake

by Pa Rock
A glimpse of the East China Sea near sunset from
my 6th floor apartment.
Cultural Explorer

Okinawa experienced an earthquake lasting approximately 15 seconds yesterday morning at 4:19 a.m.  It shook me awake.  The earthquake was felt across the island, from my apartment on the East China Sea, to my friend's apartment near the Pacific Ocean.   This was the third earthquake that I have experienced here, and it was by far the strongest of the three.  There were no reports of damage, nor did I see any.  The Japanese and Okinawans build with earthquakes in mind, and they generally do a good job with their construction.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Day on the East China Sea

A larger boat being hauled out of the water.
The crew of a dragon boat hauls it ashore
Our boat preparing to be launched.
by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

My friends Daniel and Kelly and I spent yesterday learning how to operate and navigate a small boat on the East China Sea.  The morning was dedicated to an outdoor class where we learned some marine basics and received information about the fourteen miles of Okinawan coastline that we would be allowed to navigate.  The afternoon was actually focused on learning how to operate our watercraft - a twenty-foot fishing boat with a 70 horsepower Yamaha outboard motor.

Our instructor, Chiaki Maekawa
It was fun in the sun all day long!

We took our lessons at Kadena Marnia which is a government run facility close to Kadena Air Base, yet it is open to Japanese nationals as well as to Americans.  The Marina is where people go who want to become certified divers, as well as learn how to snorkel and operate a variety of watercraft.  There was a large diving class sitting next to us in the morning as we received our formal "schooling," and in the afternoon another large group was in the water learning to snorkel close to where the boats were tied up.

Daniel's turn to drive!
Individuals on Okinawa who own boats can also keep them at the Marina.

Chiaki and Kelly while our anchor is dropped.
A whole day of fun plus a great lunch at the Marina!  What a perfect day!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

AmericaFest 2011

Attack helicopter
Fighter Jet
by Pa Rock
A couple of young pilots at the controls of a C-130
Cargo Plane
Cultural Explorer

Kadena Air Base on Okinawa is the largest American air base in the Pacific.  While many local nationals work on the base, the vast majority of Okinawans have little or no access to this massive piece of their island.   One of their few opportunities to get on the base and look around comes over the Fourth of July weekend each year when Kadena holds it's annual AmericaFest celebration and allows all of the local nationals onto the base for the festivities.

My friends Nefredia, Valerie, and Daniel at
AmericaFest 2011
This year AmericaFest was held on July 1st and 2nd - Friday and Saturday.  I went with friends on Friday afternoon to look at and climb through many of the various aircraft which were on display, and then a friend and I went back on Saturday night to hear country music singer Jessie James and watch the fireworks display that closed out the event.

The mighty AWACS
Most of the units had tents set up where they sold unit tee-shirts and insignia, soft drinks and food, and sponsored games for the children..One of the more interesting games that I observed was where little kids fired pop guns at a table covered with plastic dinosaurs of various sizes.  If they knocked a dinosaur over, they won it.  I'm not sure what type of message that was supposed to give out!  (Maybe Sarah Palin is right and dinosaurs did walk the earth with our ancestors - and those good ole boys and girls killed them off for sport!)

C-130 with a snub nose
How well done would you like that burger?
AmericaFest 2011 was a big success and a lot of fun!  I will definitely go back again next year!

Friday, July 1, 2011

N's Garden

by Pa Rock
Cultural Explorer

Nefredia inside on the phone, with Murphy
and me outside as reflections.
Two weeks ago after my friends and I left the bullfights, we stopped by a nice little restaurant in a pastoral setting.  The place is N's Garden, and the signature item on the menu is homemade croissants hot out of the oven.  There is a wonderful nature trail with flower gardens and bird houses behind the restaurant.  The trail made me very homesick for Rock's Roost back in the Ozarks.
Silly Wabbit!
Rabbit power!
View of N's Garden from down the trail.