Thursday, September 18, 2014

Okinawa International Women's Club Luncheon in Naha

Well, how's that for a fancy, eye-catching title? If you couldn't infer, this is a post about the Okinawa International Women's Club luncheon this month, that took place down in Naha last week. The OIWC was one of the first clubs I had an interest in joining. It is made up of something like 300 women- Okinawa nationals who are invited to the group by their peers and foreign women living on the island (that's us, the military spouses, but we're not all American). While the large group gets together once a month, we are also broken into smaller "culture groups" that will meet also, more casually, to get to know a few ladies closer! It offers a social opportunity to learn about the culture from locals as well as having a philanthropic side, helping local charities and those in need.
Here I am posing with members of my smaller culture group "Fukuro" (Owls) and members of the Eisa group that performed for us!
For our first luncheon, I carpooled with another spouse down to Naha! Most of the ladies at this event dressed up in Yukatas! It was so neat seeing a vast majority done up in their beautiful attire! The Okinawa women hosted, and from what I hear the opening event is always held at the same venue- the absolutely beautiful Hotel Nikko Naha.
This place was stunning! Our event was held in a ballroom similar to those in hotels back in the states, except kind of fancier! I imagine the Okinawa women took car of the centerpieces and all. One member from each table was allowed to take the centerpiece home with them, and since I was the newest member in my culture group, they let me have ours!
Name tags were made for everyone who was in attendance and both "Okinawa International Women's Club" and our names were in both English and Kanji! That was pretty neat! I wanted to bring mine home so badly, but the Japanese are very big into reducing waste, so it got turned back in to use at the next event!
We started the event with a lovely social hour where we were able to mingle. For me, this meant meeting so many women who I didn't know. I knew a few ladies already and was lucky enough they are Owls as well! After the social hour, everyone settled in and the board welcomed everyone with the help of a translator! Then we were treated to an Eisa performance and dancing! It was so beautiful! I love, love, love Eisa drummers- I don't understand at all what they're saying, but they're so passionate about the performances!
Then it was time for lunch. This was maybe the most extravagant dining experience I've ever had. The waiters were in tuxedos and they served you in these gorgeous dishes! The menu had me feeling a little uneasy, but I made the commitment to myself to try everything, and I was so happy I did!
Our first course was a paprika mousse with seafood. Now, I know- this was something I was not at all looking forward to- me and seafood just don't mix. What the heck is paprika mousse, also! It is gorgeous, is what it is, and I tried the little rolled up piece of meat in the center which I am certain was ham, and the little fish eggs on the right. They weren't bad, but I'm not running out to the store looking for more. I did not try the white fish.
Next we were served a shrimp curry. The waiter brought it around to us in a very fancy silver soup dish, like something you'd expect to see in Downton Abbey- not in my life! I stopped him with one ladle as again, I was uncertain about this dish. I wish I let him serve me more, and more, and more- it was amazing!
The main course was a piece of seared beef sirloin over a few noodles- almost like ziti or rigatoni noodles, maybe? They were in a creamy sauce a little thicker than Alfredo, and cheesier. It's not how I ever would have thought to serve it, but it was as delicious as the courses before it!
  We were then served your run of the mill house salad- mixed greens, cucumber, tomato with a rice wine vinegar based dressing that was delicious. This was followed by the most decadent little dessert I've ever had!
It was a lovely event that ended with more Eisa and one of the Okinawa women teaching us a traditional Okinawan dance! I don't think I even picked up one move to it, but it was an amazing experience! I've already RSVPed for next month's event: a costume party!!! That ought to be fun to see what everyone wears! I can't wait to share it all with you!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Finding My Black Rock in Okinawa

"On the black rock, is where I spend my time writing that memory or writing a rhyme. Thinking about what is right or wrong. On the black rock, is where I like to go after a long night coming home from a show, and that's where I write my songs."
(A few lyrics from "Black Rock" by O.A.R.)

O.A.R. has a song called "Black Rock" about Black Rock, Maryland (you can see images from it here). I remember when I discovered O.A.R. and the very first time I heard this song. I was in college and I had my very own "Black Rock." We moved to California, and there was a part of me that needed to find a new black rock- somewhere I could go be alone, talk to God, stop, and breathe. I feel the exact same here in Okinawa, and I found it this week when I got lost. I also learned how to take panoramic pictures on my iphone to try and show off it's beauty. I'm not a fan of the distorting in panoramic shots, so if anyone knows how to prevent that, help a girl out!

I was looking for a grocery store that has been described as the Okinawa WalMart- a little bit of everything. I was ready to find what treasures hid in this magical store and wrote out directions I'd been given. They were better than typical Okinawa directions (turn when you get to the three soda machines by the purple flowers!) but they were wrong, and had me looking for the 33 instead of the 36. I never found the 33... instead, I found this:
How do you see that and not immediately drive to it, put your car in park, and take a look? I mean, it was as if I had found some paradise that I had been searching my whole life for. It was the first time I was going to enjoy the coastline of Okinawa up close, and not just in passing. It was beautiful. It was quiet, and while not secluded, the rocky shore made it so that it wasn't really a place to loiter and hang out "on the beach" so there was virtually nobody there, except a few fishermen minding their own business.
There was a paved walkway there where I think I will find time to get out in the morning and do my walking like I had been doing at the Oceanside Harbor back in California. How can you complain about getting healthy when you get to enjoy this view?!
My panoramic. Seriously, anyone know how to make it not be distorted?
My one hope is that I never get used to seeing this. I hope I never take it for granted. I hope that my last week here I am as taken by this very spot as I was earlier this week when I laid my eyes upon it for the first time!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Happiness From Okinawa // September 2014

Before we moved to Okinawa, there was just something so fun about putting a package together and sending it off to a friend. Since moving to Okinawa, it has become even more of a favorite hobby of mine! I send letters to Nan regularly, and we're dropping postcards in the mail to family every now and again, but there's nothing like packaging up a little box or bubble mailer and shipping it out, knowing the happiness that will welcome it on the other end! I just can't help it, I love sending Happiness from Okinawa!
Aren't these Tiny Print labels the best?
Last month, there were 301 entries into a giveaway I held for a little package with some fun Okinawa goodies. Lauren was so patient in awaiting her box! With getting settled on the island, getting a car, messing with the headache of housing, getting used to Gene working the night shift, and getting a little sick, it took me a little longer to get her box together, but I think it was a fabulous box that more than made up for the wait!

This month, we're settling into our house, I have my little office/craft room/package room mostly set up and a package READY TO SHIP to the winner! Are you guys ready for the AWESOME things that could be coming your way? I've got a shisha dog key chain, green tea kit kats, a kokeshi doll magnet, some awesome chewing candy made with a citrus fruit right here on Okinawa, some bubble gum made from the same fruit, strawberry pocky, butterscotch candy, Hello Kitty tissues, and some fun food shaped erasers!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open to US residents only, or those with an APO/FPO address (sorry- it just costs too much to ship internationally, unless sponsorship really picks up!). Interested in sponsoring one of these monthly giveaways? Hop on over to my Passionfruit shop and buy yours today for $10!

Good luck, friends!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What I'm Currently Doing (A TDY Edition, Sept 2014)

It's Saturday evening here in Okinawa, and the house is empty. Gene left this morning for a business trip, and I've got a little time to myself. While I have so much fun stuff to share with you all, and will be using my alone time do get stuff posted, I thought I would use this immediate time this evening to post a fun "Currently" post with some of what's going on for me right now!
Seriously? This picture wasn't taken on a vacation... It was taken on date night two weeks ago!
So currently, I am:
  • making meatballs from scratch for tomorrow's lunch & dinner. What I mean by this is, I made the breadcrumbs and everything! I'm practically Italian now, right? At least honorary?
  • cooking said meatballs in the crock pot. I am also cooking up a pork roast with a pork bourbon sauce for dinner tonight. We ran out of nights to have it before Gene left, so I'm all about treating myself to some delicious dinner for one tonight! I've messed up on the green beans three times though, so we'll see!
  • drinking happiness. That's what it's called, folks, and it is amazing! Ok, well, I'm not drinking it right now. I bought a bottle earlier this week and have been on the hunt ever since! It was hibiscus and something else. The bottle is in the car. I might make a quick run up to the Family Mart (little Japanese convenience store) to look for some there tomorrow! 
  • listening to Pandora! I'm on the Bruce Springsteen channel, and the playlist while I write is going something like: Fleetwood Mac "Dreams," John Cougar Melloncamp's "Little Pink Houses" (which might just be one of my favorite songs ever), "Fortunate Son" by CCR, Stevie Nicks' "Edge of Seventeen!" Ummmmm, is there a better anthem to just rock out in your kitchen to? It's almost embarrassing how I react when this song comes on... Time to go get dinner out of the oven and DANCE & SING!
  • wanting a basket to put outgoing mail in by the door, or at the top of our stairs (we're an upstairs unit- you open the front door and walk immediately up a flight of stairs). I write Nan letters and cards back in the office, and every time I go to the post office I think about the stack adding up back on my desk. It's pretty hard getting used to not having a mailbox at the end of my driveway! I'm looking for one like this: Cute Natural Woven Hanging Wall Basket. It's in my Amazon cart... I'll probably buy them, but what do I need two for?
  • wishing that this TDY goes quickly. I have quite a few events to go to that will keep me pretty connected with friends on the island and not wallowing around in loneliness, so I know that will make it seem like it's going quickly! Shoot, we're almost already done day one!   
  • enjoying the girliest of movies and tv shows on Netflix. Seriously. I figured out how to plug my computer into the tv so I can watch them on the big screen and it's amazing.
  • wearing a pajama top and yoga capris. I got dressed today, left the house to drop Gene off today, and then the minute I got back home I changed right back into comfortable clothes. I then had a neighbor come ring the bell to find me shuffling around the house looking for a little hoodie to toss on so I didn't look like a street walker going to the door. Lesson learned: get out of the jammies.
  • feeling lonely. Gene's not going to be gone too long. Truthfully, he'll probably only be gone long enough for me to get used to him being gone, then he'll come back home like a wrecking ball! I didn't think the "I'm all alone" feeling would kick in so immediately (or really at all!). It never did on deployments so soon, so this is really awkward for me!
  • reading a book that our book club is reading this month: Me Before You: A Novel by Jojo Moyes. I had the preview sent to my kindle app and got hooked in the prologue! I'm really excited to get together next weekend and talk all about it with the ladies! I've heard nothing but really good things about it, so I'll be sure to share my thoughts in a post here, too!
  • buying bubble mailers! I actually ordered some off Amazon, since we're prime members we get pretty quick (free!) shipping to our APO and I know I got them cheaper than driving all over looking for them! I'll be using them to send off some pretty fun Halloween packages to some of the kiddos in our lives back in the states! 
What are you currently up to? I'd love to hear all about it in the comments below! Also, what are some of your favorite "currently" prompts? I keep a list of some fun ones when I see other bloggers write posts like this, but I'd love to know what you'd like to know about me, currently!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11th In A Foreign Country

The internet is exploding right about now with people talking about September 11th. People still remember exactly where they were when they heard the news that America was under attack. I couldn't tell you my locker number from that year in high school, but if I were to walk those halls- I could tell you exactly where I was standing, who was around me, and exactly what I was thinking when I heard a senior walk through the halls talking about World War III breaking out. Innocence was lost as I thought about how scary the world I lived in really was.
A patriotic corner in our living room, while always there, takes on such greater meaning today.
Now, I find myself sitting at a desk in base housing in Okinawa, Japan. I have never felt farther away from home than I do on this rainy, thundery morning. I can't help but think of those who lived here in 2001, who were asleep when we, back in America, were learning of what had happened. Asleep when our eyes were glued to televisions, news coverage and footage on a 24 hour cycle, and fear coursed through our veins. People who were so far from their loved ones and their country during such a crazy moment in history.

September 11th has been a somber day for me for my entire adult life. A day where I cry thinking of the families who lost loved ones- normal, everyday people, working at their jobs in cubicles and corner offices, moms and housewives hanging out with friends for brunch or coffee, men and women going home from a night shift at a fire station or a hospital. "Normal" everyday citizens who faced the horror that morning while we watched, helpless.

Today: I feel helpless, I feel alone, I feel so disconnected from my friends and my family back "home" in the States. I fight a little harder today to not think about my husband being in a forward deployed Marine unit, getting ready to leave the island. I fight to not think about what goes on in the training exercises he can't tell me about, because what he can tell me about scares me something fierce. I fight the thoughts of what is going on in the world, in the States, in the Middle East, EVERYWHERE.

I fight those feelings with prayers for peace. Prayers that all of those family members reflecting on the loss and remembering lost loved ones today from 9/11 and the military operations resulting from it know they are thought of, and will find peace. Prayers that those living in areas torn by violence right now will soon know peace and know it for a long time. Prayers that my heart will know peace during our time away from family, and that all of those families living abroad with the military know they have "family" where they are. Prayers for every man and woman who leaves his/her family behind to fight the good fight, protect our nation, and defend our quality of life.

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