Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hope for Japan

History is being written every day, and it is an amazing thing to be able to say that we were living in Japan when they experienced their record-breaking 8.9 magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami. We are so very fortunate here on Okinawa that we were far enough away from the epicenter that we were not affected. In fact, we never even felt the initial quake or any of the ensuing aftershocks. Even California got more of a tsunami than we did. I'm telling you - God was protecting our little island. The death toll currently just passed 11,000 with more being added each day as re-building begins. While the people up in mainland Japan are still feeling the aftershocks every day, another growing concern that many of our family and friends back in the States have been wondering about is the radiation from the damaged power plants. As far as we know, we have not received any radiation down here in Okinawa, and according to our sources, we are not projected to get any because of the wind paths across the globe - they don't go south, they go east into the Pacific Ocean. In fact, Okinawa has been pronounced as a "safe zone" to which many American families living up in mainland Japan have evacuated to.
A diagram showing where the epicenter was in relation to Okinawa (click to view larger)
Unfortunately for us, we (along with four of our other friends) had a trip planned and paid for to Kyoto up in mainland Japan that has since been cancelled - and barely refunded at all. We ended up losing about $300 on the tickets. No matter how mad we were about our situation, we realized that the situation that many others are in right now is about a million times worse. People lost their homes, their belongings, their pets, their family members, and their lives. We were actually living IN Japan at the time of this devastating event. If all we lost was $300 and a vacation, then I thank God for that!

Thank you everyone back in the States for all your love, support and prayers for our safety and for everyone up in mainland Japan!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Bollywood Dreams

Our obsession with curry continues as we got to experience another great Indian restaurant in Okinawa - Bollywood Dreams. Shortly after Matt returned from Korea, we went out for some dinner and dessert, followed by a rented movie. Bollywood Dreams is a brand new restaurant that just opened up in a shopping center in American Village. It's tiny, but has really flavorful decor: bright lights, graphic upholstery, and large screens playing the latest movies straight from Bollywood (India's version of Hollywood). While the dinner sets are a little pricey, I think both Matt and I agree that it was worth it - our favorite curry yet! The best part is it comes with a whole plate of rice (Basmati - one of my favorite types) and the most delicious Naan bread that I have ever tasted! Matt got the cheese-filled type, and I went with the crispier garlic Naan.

My Chicken Moghlai creamy curry

Garlic Naan

Matt and I at the restaurant

The view in American Village

Time for dessert - they had no English menus, so we had to guess what kind of ice cream we were getting, but this was the closest thing I have had to Coldstone in awhile!

Definately on our "favorites" list!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Sleeves Up - Spring is Here!

My favorite time of the year is here once again - "Sleeves Up Season" - also known as Spring! While clocks over in the States are reflecting daylight savings time, the Marines stationed over here in Okinawa, Japan are marking the change of season with their uniforms. If you aren't familiar with the Marine Corps lifestyle, you may not be aware of their bi-yearly uniform changes. Fall and Winter = Woodland Camis (dark green and black), sleeves down. Spring and Summer = Desert Camis (light tan), sleeves up.

I am so excited for this Spring and Summer. We just passed our half-way point living out here, and 2011 is our last full year living in Japan. Now that Matt is finally back from his classes and deployments, I feel like our year can truly begin. We have some amazing activities and trips planned for this year, so stay tuned, and as always, thank you to all of our friends and family for your love and support!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Whale of a Good Time

Every year around this time, the waters of Okinawa, Japan become home to some of the most amazing creatures on earth - Humpback Whales. I had wanted to go see them last year, but Matt was in Thailand, and I (being unemployed at the time) had very few friends on the island. Although Matt is currently deployed in Korea, I just couldn't let another year pass me by without getting to see these giant mammals! While many of my friends would like to go on the boat tour, most of them are too nervous to actually do it. Why? (You might ask) Because the trek out to the whales is supposedly a rough one, from which many horror stories of sea sickness tend to surface. I've heard stories of people throwing up on the ground, over the side, on each other... you get the idea. I'm not going to lie - I was a little nervous, imagining myself getting seasick and being stuck out there with nowhere to go. However, my desire to see whales was stronger.

I got my brave friend, Lyndsey, to go out with me. It was a decent day outside - started off a little chilly and cloudy, but quickly cleared up. After downing some Dramamine and tying on bright orange life-vests, we boarded the boat and sat on cushions on the floor, because all the window seats had filled up quickly. We departed from Tomari Port in Naha City around 9:00 in the morning, and the course took us north, not far off from areas that we've actually been to swim and dive at. After about a 45 minute boat ride, we quickly realized that all the sea-sickness people had warned us about was not from the actual ride out there, but from sitting at our location, rocking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth for an hour while we were to watch the whales. While Lyndsey ended up feeling quite nauseous the whole time out there, I, luckily, felt absolutely fine!

We saw our first whale right as the boat stopped - the huge creature came to the surface, blowing air into the sky and flapping his tail as he went back down into the ocean. And then there was another, and another, and another - they were amazing! Often, we would see many whales, and then we wouldn't see any for 5-10 minutes or so. When we saw them again, we would move our boat closer as if we were chasing them - us and the five other whale-watching boats that were out there! It was more difficult to photograph them than I had expected it to be. They were so quick and popped up in random places. I'd be looking 100 feet out, and then one would pop up just feet from the boat, right underneath me! Out of nowhere, one even FULLY jumped into the air (I wasn't quick enough to get a photo). It was HUGE and incredible how a creature that size is able to jump that high into the air! It was like a scene right out of a National Geographic magazine - It's hard to believe I actually got to see that, but I did, and it was probably one of the most amazing things I've ever witnessed so far!

Sitting on the floor of our boat (named PINKA) on our way out to the whales

We were the only Americans aboard:)

The crew gave us a little instruction sheet in English... "When you feel like vomiting, do not vomit into the toilet, it clogs easily."

Lyndsey and I

Most of them were so close to our boat!

We kept hearing, "Sugoi!" "Sugoi!" (Wow! Wow!)

Right off Cape Zampa!

Check out this very short video clip of one of the whales:

I actually had an amazing time, and I can't wait to do this again with Matt!