Sunday, July 25, 2010

Everything Old is New Again

One person's trash is another one's treasure, right? Well, in our case it was. On Okinawa, there are many, many junkyards. I'm not sure if this is just an Okinawan thing or if there have always been a lot of junkyards around in California and Chicago as well. Maybe I've just never looked for them before? Or maybe its because we live on an island now, and they're just very concentrated here. In fact, its very common for people to look to these junkyards for parts for their cars and trucks, and it's also very common for Americans to use these yards to junk their cars when their tour is done and it's their time to leave the island. I'm telling you - there's at least 6 right in the area of the island we live in. This means that when we are looking for something for our (Matt's) truck, we get to drive around to each one until we find what we're looking for... fun, right? Well, I'm going to be honest - it really isn't much fun for me at all since I'm not a car-enthusiast of any type, but this day we (I) happened to actually spot a great find!

We made our way down some classic Okinawan back roads until we came upon Miyagi Junkyard... maybe that wasn't the real name, but they all seem to have names similar to that. As we found the Pajero "section" (ie. two old Pajeros), I noticed something that Matt has been wanting for pretty much as long as we've had the truck - one of those ladders that go on the back so you can climb up and use the roof-rack easier. It was attached to a decomposing Pajero with no wheels, but it was actually in pretty great shape!

Matt installing the ladder onto our Pajero

Testing it out

Thrilled with our find, we then tried to haggle with the owners of the junkyard (who spoke no English of course). They apparently wanted Y3000 for it (about $34) which wasn't happening - mainly, because we didn't have that much yen on us. I'm still not sure what we ended up paying for it, but we just gave them whatever yen and dollars we could scrounge up out of my purse and Matt's car seats. After 20 minutes of haggling, removing it and reattaching to our Pajero, we now are the proud owners of a new-ish ladder!

Finished product

Thanks for following!


Monday, July 19, 2010

Independence Week

Independence Week was a good one for us this year - and yes, it is pretty much a week-long string of events! After all, just about every American we come in contact with here in Okinawa is someone affiliated with the US military, so these are the guys that not only enjoy the freedom America has to offer (like the rest of us), but they are also the ones fighting for that freedom! I can truly say that July 4th has really taken on a more important and real meaning for me since becoming a part of the military community. I thought celebrating America's birthday in Japan would be weird, but it wasn't that bad. There are so many celebrations going on because of the large American presence here that it didn't seem all that different from celebrations past.

Because we did so much this week, I'm just going to touch on a few of the highlights. The celebration pretty much started with the Torii Station Jazz Fest, where we met up with some friends, ate some Japanese food being made in a tent, drank some sangria, and listened to some live Jazz. I thought I'd mention that they also had a Japanese lady named Miss Kitty on the stage singing "Hello Dolly"... just saying... good times:)

They also had fireworks

Matt won this little guy for me by throwing darts at balloons (don't ask me what she is - possibly a raindrop with arms, legs & wings?)

Don't worry - its just root beer

The day before the 4th, we went on our first group dive with 2 other couples from our church that we're friends with. We wanted an easy morning dive, so we went to Sunabe Seawall which is usually calm. It was a little rough that day and we had some difficulties getting in and out, but it was really a lot of fun to go with a group like that! We ended up seeing some neat things, including a few large sea snakes. I almost swam right toward one, but one of our friends pointed it out to me before I got too close... another reason it's good to go in groups!

After getting cleaned up and dried off, we went over to our friends' house for a BBQ and then back to Torii Beach for some more fireworks over the ocean. It was incredibly windy, and there were rumors that the show may not even go on. Fortunately, they were just rumors, and we were able to enjoy our second firework show of the week. I'm not sure if many of you know this, but fireworks always hold something special to us, because Matt and I went to see them on our first date back in 2003... just some extra info there!

How adorable are these two?? (Matt & our friend Nick)

Torii Beach

Amanda & I braving the wind for a photo

The actual 4th of July was a scorching hot day (I'm not exaggerating when I say that the tops of my thighs were beet red for about 2 weeks after this day!). Matt and I (along with some of our friends and other jet-ski buddies) set up tents on a beach on the east side of the island, BBQ'd, and went jet-skiing and tubing. Yes, that's right - after months and months of begging from Matt, we are now the proud owners of a "tube" to pull from our jet-skis. It actually worked out really well and was a ton of fun! I DID slather on SPF 70, but I think it kept getting rinsed off with all the falling off the tube that was going on.

Matt pulling Nick on the tube for the first time

Amanda and I

Our friends Andrea & Jason

Matt and Nick also borrowed our friend Steve's wake board

Matt surprised me at how good he was!

Just because the 4th has passed, you didn't think the celebrating was over did you? We went out the following night to the Seawall, got to enjoy a really pretty sunset, and then we met up with Nick & Amanda again for some dinner & games...

Local Japanese man playing his Okinawan instrument on the seawall

Arcade time (our personal favorite is airhockey boys vs girls)

Amanda and I playing some strange drum game

I hope everyone had a fun and safe holiday & God Bless America!!

Talk to you soon!


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Zipping Through the Treetops

There aren't too many things that are more exhilarating to me than flying. I can't tell you how many daydreams I had as a child, pretending I had wings, which may explain some of my slight obsession with zip-lining! So, maybe getting fitted into a harness, clipping yourself to a metal cable, and trusting nothing but a caribeaner clip to keep you from falling hundreds of feet down to the depths of the forest isn't exactly the same thing as flying, but it sure is a freeing experience - and the closest we can get without planes (or wings for that matter)!

Forest Adventure Park is a zip-lining and ropes course that is actually a chain in Japan. They have a few parks in mainland, including one at Mt. Fuji, and we have the privilege of having one right here on our little island of Okinawa as well. In fact, the park is in a town called Onna, which happens to be only about a 20-25 minute ride from our house! While the cost to get in is not cheap (Y3,500/person - close to $40/person) the experience is totally worth it! We drove to the office where you pay, signed some waivers, and parked the car. Then, a shuttle took us on a drive up into the forest, past lush pineapple and sugarcane fields. Once we got dropped off by the shuttle, we still weren't at our destination - we did a quick little hike deeper into the forest until we got to the beginning of the course.

The view from our starting point

Before starting the course, we were helped into our harnesses. These things were no joke - when I say tight, I mean TIGHT! We were then given a short lesson on how to use the caribeaner clips on the course by a guy who didn't speak much English. Come to think of it, the only thing I really remember him saying in clear English was "safety first" - reffering to the second safety clip we had on our harnesses, which ended up having us all repeating "SAFETY FIRST!" all day to each other;)

Anyway, after our completion of the practice zip-line (which took all of about 3 minutes), we were off on our own! No guides, no staff watching us, just us on our own to go at our own pace, which was really nice. The course is basically a bunch of different zip-lines that are connected by other bridges, ladders, ropes and obstacles that you have to traverse in order to get to the next zip-line. There is also a lot of hiking up stairs between obstacles, so it was quite the work-out for those who haven't been doing our cardio Anyway, I'll let the photos and videos speak for themselves...


We went with our friends Nick & Amanda

Matt getting suited up

Our "instructor" showing us how to use the clips

Us trying to figure out what he's trying to show us about using the clips

Me up on the practice course

Nick on the first real zip-line

Matt getting accross one of the net bridges (more wobbly than it looks, people!)

Check out this clip of Matt on the zip-line:

This one was more wobbly than it appears as well - especially when Matt is shaking it from the other end

Amanda & I

Looking down...

This part was so neat - a bunch of different ladders and obstacles all attached up in the sky - you can choose which way you want to go!

View of the gorgeous ocean from the top of the course

The craziest part of the course was called the "Tarzan Swing" - you climb up really high, attach yourself to a rope, jump off the platform, free fall for a bit, then swing into a huge, upright cargo net that you need to grab onto and climb up in order to get onto the next platform! The free fall was the scariest part, but it ended up being the most awesome part!

Check out this clip of me doing the Tarzan Swing:

Check out this clip of Matt doing the Tarzan Swing (he was holding the camera while jumping!):

Check out this clip of me getting across the rings (MUCH more difficult than it seems!)

The whole course takes about 1 1/2 hours to complete, but, I say the price is worth it, because you are allowed to go through and do it as many times as you like (that is, if you still have energy left after the first or second time). We ended up going through twice, and my upper body was all kinds of sore the next day!

'Till next time!