Saturday, January 30, 2010

Spelunking the Flats

For those of you who are not familiar with the term "spelunking", it is simply a funny word for "cave exploring". Matt had wanted to go on one last dive before he went over to Thailand, so he and our friend, Jason, had attempted to go diving at a really cool area called Maeda Flats. However, they had some difficulty getting in and ended up just exploring the area outside of the water. The next day, when sea conditions were much more calm, Matt and I (along with Jason and his wife, Andrea) went out to the same spot and went snorkeling and spelunking!

The first thing we did was snorkel out to the reef, which was different than what I've seen in Okinawa so far. There were not a ton of fish, but there were A LOT of sea urchins as well as a huge, deep crevice that we followed the whole way. In fact, the previous day, our friend Jason had lost his mask and snorkel when they had trouble diving, and Matt actually found it (still intact!) at the bottom of the crevice! How often do you loose something in the ocean and find it the next day? Not often I'd like to bet!

Video clip of the Flats:

Awesome little blue fish

One of many Sea Urchins

Rainbow fish (very technical name)

The huge crevice

Video clip swimming over the crevice:

A different kind of Sea Urchin

Maeda Flats is amazing! Not only is it gorgeous and has some great diving and snorkeling, it also has countless little caves to explore. A lot of them seem to be connected, not on the surface, but underwater. So, you can swim from one to the next through openings underneath... pretty neat! In addition to this, small "pools" are created at low tide that you can hop into and swim in just like you were in a swimming pool. They go at least 15 feet deep, so we were doing cannon balls into them, and Matt even climbed up the rocks and jumped in!

Video clip of inside one of the caves:

Video clip of Matt and Jason swimming through the caves underwater:

This is one of the "pools" that we were jumping into

Video clip of Jason and I jumping into the "pool":

Video clip of Matt jumping off rocks into the "pool":

Matt jumped in off the rocks multiple times

Some coral that stops growing right at the "low tide" water level

More Sea Urchins!

Me holding one

Maeda flats is somewhere we definitely can't wait to bring our friends or family that visit us here - you've got the beach, swimming, snorkeling, diving, and spelunking! Now, who's going to be the first to visit??


Monday, January 25, 2010

Deployment Destination #1: Thailand

The time has finally come for Matt - for him to actually be deployed for the first time in his 5 1/2 year Marine Corps career! He's been incredibly fortunate to live in such places as Florida and California, and now, he's even more fortunate to be deploying to a country like Thailand (although just for a few weeks). In fact, not only is he in Thailand, he's also staying in one of the beautiful areas that people vacation to, living for free at a gorgeous resort, and has already seen people riding elephants! Is it possible that I'm a little jealous of my husband's deployment... :)

A week or two ago, the spouses (ie. ME) were prepped for this deployment as well as the Marines themselves. Matt and I went to a briefing where they told us all about why our husbands were going to Thailand, what their mission was, how to reach them, what resources we had available to us while they were gone, etc. I really had no idea why the US Marines were going to Thailand at all, and to be honest, I still don't completely understand it and probably never will understand all military concepts, but at least now I do have a better idea of why. Apparently, Thailand is one of America's biggest allies, and we have a very good relationship with them. Marines go over on short "exercise" deployments for a few weeks (like Matt is) in order to keep up that good relationship with the Thai people and government. The Thai military actually lets our US military set up camp on their bases for those weeks. In addition to these exercises, the Marines also do community outreach throughout Thailand, almost like mission trips. This time, they are building an orphanage in a part of Thailand - these are the types of missions that the US likes to do to make a lasting positive impression on the Thai people.

So, I dropped Matt off last weekend, early in the morning, at one of the gymnasiums on the Air Force base, Kadena. It seemed like there were hundreds of Marines arriving on buses, transferring their bags into large cargo trucks, and getting in a never-ending line outside the gym. I left, not knowing when I would hear from Matt next, but sure enough, he started leaving me messages on Facebook that same night after he got into his hotel. We've been chatting on Facebook or via Skype as much as we can. He has free internet at work as well as at a free internet cafe right outside of his resort, however, he is charged by the minute for internet usage in his room, so we try to avoid that and stick to the other options. I'm sure if I were in Thailand with Matt right now, I could describe it in full detail. Since I'm not there, I'm not going to even try - I'll just share some of the photos that Matt has taken and posted online so far. He went with a different unit than his own on this deployment, and he is also in a different area of Thailand than most of the other Marines, so he didn't know what to expect. However, it seems to be turning out much better than either of us expected, and he seems to be enjoying the experience so far.

Some cool painted buses that picked him up

His hotel room

Talk to you all soon!


Wednesday, January 20, 2010


One of Matt's friends, Tony, is leaving the island soon and going back to the States. So, a bunch of us gathered together and went out for a "going away meal" at a new restaurant called Crocodile's. "New" meaning "new to us", not "new to the island". This is one of the coolest places to eat (at least in my opinion!) that we've found here so far. The place itself is very visually interesting. It has lights strung and lit up outside, an outdoor bar with pool table, indoor and outdoor seating, a tunnel as an entrance, a unique indoor "water window", a real, live crocodile, and the best part - fire dancers! I can't imagine going to Crocodile's during the day - the night just makes the place come alive.

The entrance

Inside after passing through the tunnel

The live crocodile - I think he hates his life:(

The croc's name was Coco... i guess?

Cool lights they had in the floor

The "water window" they had in the indoor dining area

A video clip of the live music and fire dancers:

Because much of their menu is seafood, the prices aren't the cheapest around, but the food was REALLY good! My favorite thing was actually our appetizer - Fried Crocodile! I'll admit, I didn't want to give it a try - I hear it's a pretty common food down south in places like Texas, but I'm from the Midwest, where we like to stick to your basic meats like beef and chicken. However, once it arrived at our table, it didn't look as scary as I had pictured in my mind. It was breaded. It didn't taste weird like I expected either. It was actually really good! I will definitely get it again! You might think Fried Crocodile was weird enough for one meal, but NO - Matt's friend Tony had to order the Scorpion. It looked just like a live scorpion sitting on a plate, and he devoured it in two bites! He says it is good. It just sounds crunchy and gross to me!


Friday, January 15, 2010

Tomigusuku City

Matt and I set out on a little drive last weekend that ended up being a long drive. We had never been further south than Naha before, so once we went farther than that, we just decided to keep on going. We eventually drove along the whole southern coast of Okinawa, which may not seem like too far of a drive on a small island, but It was about a 6 hour trip for us (including a few stops). It was windy, chilly, and slightly rainy this day (like many of our days here have been lately). We stayed along the coast, making little stops here and there to get a snack at the Family Mart or check out different spots we might be able to bring our jet-skis to. We also passed a few tourist spots that we want to come back and visit another day - when the rain doesn't feel like shards of glass falling from the sky... maybe?

We ended up in Tomigusuku City, which had a big shopping area called Tomiton and an outlet mall called Ashibanaa. The outlet mall was outdoors and very nice (similar to Carlsbad Outlet Mall in California, or Aurora Premium Outlets in Chicago)... and we both agreed that we almost felt like we were back in America while walking through it. It even had many American stores - Nine West, Armani Exchange, Coach, etc. We went into the Nine West store to check out the selection of shoes. They were a bit more expensive than an outlet store in America would be. The largest shoe size they sell is a 25, which translates to a women's size 8! Lucky for me, I just made the cut-off at 7.5, otherwise, I wouldn't be able to find a pair of shoes here in Japan that weren't meant for Men! Shoe stores here, as well as this Nine West outlet, do not display shoes the same either. In American shoe stores, they display one type of shoe, and underneath it, there are all the different sizes that shoe comes in. In Japan, they have sections of the store dedicated to different sizes. You go to your size section (mine would be 7.5), and they have all the shoes out on display that they have available in that size. So, you will see the same shoe displayed around the store multiple times in most cases - this confused me when we first got here! Anyway, the shoes in Nine West were cute, and I recognized some of them, but others seemed different than American Nine West shoes somehow... I couldn't quite put my finger on why.

Over at the shopping center called Tomiton, Matt and I checked out the amazingly large Sports Depot store and then got something to eat at a restaurant called Cafe Jr. Italian Tomato. It was a little soup, sandwich and pasta place, and it was delicious! The ingredients were all super fresh, and they put so much effort into making the dishes for us. Afterward, we stopped into another store in Tomiton called My Kitchen, which was a very large and upscale grocery store/bakery. They also sold a lot of kitchen utensils and had an area in the center of the store where they gave cooking classes. We shopped for some produce - they had such a fresh selection - and then headed over to the bakery section. There were so many amazing pastries and breads. We chose a few treats for dessert, and we also bought a loaf of freshly baked french bread to take home. Mmmmm ... so good!

In Sports Depot, they had an area to "test" out their hiking shoes

Me trying on some AWESOME Stitch earmuffs

They love their cantaloupes

Little turtle bread - we couldn't resist the cuteness!

Thanks for following!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Here's to Life in 2010!

Matt and I have never really done too much when it came time to ring in the New Year. We usually stop by a friend's house or just stay in and watch movies. The closest thing to a tradition we have so far is getting a "crave case" from White Castle for our New Year's Eve meal. Gross, I know. So, we didn't really have much planned for this New Year, especially since we were in Japan - with NO White Castle! We had to make do. A few of the guys Matt works with wanted to go camping, so Matt planned a 3-day camping trip to the secluded beach on Miyagi Island that we had just found on one of our weekends exploring. That morning, we loaded both our cars full of camping gear and food, and made the trip out to the site on New Year's Eve. We set up camp, did some grilling, and the guys literally cut a path through the dense forest right behind our camp site to collect fire wood. No pre-cut, store bought wood for us! We were roughing it. I mean, my cell phone wasn't even getting service there! Later on in the day, a few of our other friends came out to join us. We ended up ringing in the New Year around a big bonfire, with champagne in red plastic cups:)

Our campsite

Matt cutting down trees

The fire at its largest point

Champagne for our New Year's toast

First photo of 2010

The beautiful sunrise the next morning

A few more guys that Matt works with ended up joining us the next morning, but they were not able to stay over night. I volunteered to take the guys back home before midnight that night, which worked out well for me, because I wasn't planning on doing both nights anyway. However, right before I left the camp, Matt and a few of the other guys went on a night hike and ended up making a creepy discovery while in the forest. They came out with stories about how they were hiking and ran across a human skull! They ended up going a little further and finding more and more! The next morning, I came back to the camp to pick up Matt and the others that had stayed the second night, and they took me on a hike to show me the bones (in the daylight). What had taken them about an hour to find in the dark, took about 20 minutes for us to find in the light. And they weren't kidding. There were, in fact, tons of human skulls and other bones! About half of the bones were in large ceramic pots, and some of the skulls had been placed up on the rocky cliff that surrounded the area. Just a little creepy. It was obvious that someone had put them there, and all we could think of was that it was probably some sort of shrine. The Japanese people treat their dead much differently than we do in America. People are not buried, but are put in large tombs by family. These tombs look like little concrete houses, and you see them everywhere you go in Okinawa - just on the side of the road a lot of times. I have a feeling that these people were put here by their family members who were maybe too poor to buy an actual tomb for them?!? We couldn't figure it out - all I know is that if we had made that discovery in America, the police would certainly be involved. However, this is Japan, and I'm fairly certain that this kind of this is not uncommon here. Still creepy.

I think it's safe to say that this has been our most interesting New Year's so far! Happy 2010!