Monday, October 20, 2014

Taco Rice and Gate 1 // E Squared 101 in 1001

One of the things I absolutely love about Okinawa is trying all of the new foods. There are thousands of restaurants out there waiting for us to discover them, and be brave enough to try them out! One of the things on our bucket list for Okinawa is to eat at 50 new restaurants. We figured this would keep us from getting too comfortable with "old haunts" and make us explore a little more!

One of the new restaurants we tried is Gate 1, right across the 329 from Camp Hansen (for all you Okinawa folks!). It did not disappoint. We had passed it several times, and stared at it every morning when we first got here, and Gene was working 12 hour night shifts on Hansen. It's a seedy little place, but we're learning that's how Okinawa is- functional, not aesthetically pleasing.

They advertise one of my favorite Okinawa dishes: TACO RICE! It's not what to get if you've got a hankering for Mexican food, and I find that people either LOVE the stuff or hate it. It is a tasty Okinawa twist on a taco salad, and I am in the group of people who think it is delicious!
Clearly, the tacos are pretty banging too ^^^. Parking was a little tricky, and there are about 3 other places in the same alley that also serve taco rice, so I don't know when we'll get back to Gate 1, but that, of course, is the purpose of the goal- not stopping at the first "best taco rice" place we find and making it our usual haunt! I did, however, buy some taco rice kits from here to try and make the dish on our own! Wish us luck with that one!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Starting To Collect A Jar Of Sea Glass // E Squared 101 in 1001

We have a little sail boat in our living room. I bought it at the Marine Corps Exchange at Camp Pendleton, I suppose thinking we'd make our whole living room "nautical" themed. That didn't really pan out, but I really love that little sail boat and decided I wanted to work with it somehow. When we moved to Okinawa, I knew it would be the perfect place to become a beachcomber and collect sea glass, and sea shells, and fill jars with them for the sail boat shelf! Collecting these things got put on our 101 in 1,001 Okinawa Bucket List! For my birthday, we set out on an adventure to find Sea Glass Beach and begin our collection!
The entire day was filled with adventure, but finding this little beach was particularly fun! It's off the beaten path, and as with all directions here in Okinawa, it was a good little hunt to find! These were the direction we had from our house
  • Take a right at the second 13 off the 329 (just past the College of Technology)
  • Take a right just before the Y and go down a hill
  • Take a left at the gas station
  • Drive until you see a huge house with a red tower-like roof
  • Take a left onto the gravel road across from this house
  • Drive straight down the gravel road. Turn right at the Y.
  • There'll be a Japanese sign leading you to the beach
We took a wrong turn, but it gave us this incredible view from the top of a cliff before finding the beach:
The gravel path we were on was big enough for one car, and I maneuvered to turn her around to get back to the main road. One thing different about Japan is that all US Military have license plates with a Y on them, so if you're ever lost and see another Y plate, you either take comfort in knowing you're not too far off the path, or you follow them. We decided when we saw some other honkeys driving towards the beach that we would follow them, and they took us right where we wanted to be!
The beach was filled with shells, sea glass, broken pieces of pottery, and coral! We had heard about the beach before, and people kind of made it out to seem like it was nothing but sea glass, but I'm so happy we were treated to a little variety! We found tons of sea glass, and we also found TONS of crabs! We checked the shells extra good to make sure no crabbies came home with us!
It was such an awesome afternoon collecting fun little treasures! Our sea glass jar isn't quite filled yet, so there will be more collecting to be done, but we're almost there, and our shelf is looking pretty fun!

Monday, October 13, 2014

This is Thirty

Oh friends. Today marks the end of a decade: my twenties are officially behind me! I never in a million years thought I would be celebrating my birthday in a foreign country, but here I am! I have been looking forward to my thirties probably for half of my life! Not that I'm an old soul who needed to grow into her personality, but in that I've been looking forward to the confidence, the calmness, and the comfort my thirties would bring.

I guess I always felt I'd feel a little more confident with who I am... that I would know who I am, in my thirties! I always thought I would be a little calmer in my thirties- not so rowdy, not so loud! I just knew that I would be more comfortable in my thirties: with where I am in life, with how I felt about myself, being settled down and in that good old comfortable flow of life.
We decided who needs a "3" and a "0" candle when you can have sparklers?!
I welcomed in my thirties with one heck of a day! Luckily, super typhoon Vongfong passed over Okinawa over the weekend, leaving me my birthday to head out and explore with Gene, since he has a 96 this weekend! We decided we would head out on an adventure to find Sea Glass Beach! We had an amazing day eating lunch at a new spot, starting our sea glass and found pottery collection as well as finding a few more shells and coral, and ending with dinner at a Japanese steakhouse and dessert at home from a local patisserie (because it's fancier than a bakery)!

This is thirty:
Walking around Kin Town- grabbing a delicious lunch at Gate 1, and heading off on Adventure!
Taco Rice and Taco Combo at Gate 1!
Collecting Sea Glass!
I'll be sure to share all about our lunch and beach adventures later this week! We ended the evening with dinner at a local steakhouse where they cook your food right in front of you on the table. I completely forgot my camera! There's just something about being in Japan for your thirtieth birthday that made that kind of meal feel really awesome! Even though I admit, it wasn't what I would have picked for myself- thanks Gene for the special memory!

I'm ready to embrace my thirties. I'm ready to celebrate this decade with reckless abandon! I'm ready to get comfortable, make memories, and enjoy my life in a way I never knew possible in my twenties. This is thirty, and I'm glad to be here!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

I Have A Life That Is Good

It is so easy to get caught up in trivial things. There are days that are hard, and there are seasons in our lives where we don't think life will ever get better.  I've been there, done that, and I think it's safe to say we all have. I know that sometimes I get comfortable in my "life of privilege" and forget that what seems like the end of the world to me is a "first world problem" (as Gene would say). Sometimes there's too much month at the end of the money, sometimes I can't go shopping with the girls because we're paying down on bills, and it seems like we'll never get to the point where we can live comfortably.

Today, I was reminded about just how comfortable my entire life is, and has been. I went to coffee with the North Island Officers' Spouses' Club at Oriental Place. It is a beautiful Antiques shop near Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. The woman who owns the establishment took time to write out her life story in a 4 or so page document and share it with all of us. The president of N.I.O.S.C. read it to us and I was enthralled from the very beginning. It is a story that in fact, moved me to tears, sitting right there listening, and then more tears when I got home and recounted it to Nan.
Kassie sharing Yuki's story with us. Picture courtesy of N.I.O.S.C. on Facebook.
Yuki was born and raised in China. She was a child of a wealthy family when the Cultural Revolution took place. After hearing her story I spoke with her briefly, thanked her for sharing it with all of us, and I asked her if I could share it with you all. She hesitantly agreed; maybe she wasn't sure what a "blog" was, or why I wanted to share it, or what bias I would be sharing it by. I was excited to get home, and write out as much of it as I could remember- what it must have felt like for her as a child seeing her family go through what they went though! The more I sit and think about it, the more I know it's not my story to tell, though.
Near the end of her father's life, someone told him he should write a book about his life and experiences. He said he had more sadness in his life than happiness, and that he didn't want to relive it by sharing that. I will tell you this much of Yuki's story: Her family was attacked during the revolution for their status. Her father had his driver's license and vehicles taken, lost his business, and was moved very far away from his family to work. One night the red guards came into the house and locked her mother, her & her siblings, and the house staff in a bathroom while they pillaged the house- destroying everything they could. They had the children destroy belongings. Everything they knew in life- gone.

Their lives were turned upside down and they went from living a life of comfort that had been worked hard for, to living in capitalist poverty. Her story went on, and I felt more and more ashamed of the little things I complain about in my *oh-so-hard* life. I guess having to eat that frozen Bertoli's dinner in the back of the freezer the night before payday isn't so bad after all, huh?

I won the water bucket I'm holding in the above picture during a drawing. I also purchased an antique vase and ladder. I hope those items, displayed in my home, will forever remind me that even on the worst of my days, I have a life that is good- I have a husband who comes home to a house built on love, a grandmother who is always there to listen to my rants, a neighborhood filled with amazing friends, and more blessings than I can count.

And just because I got the title of this post from a song that has been on my heart so much lately, you can listen to it here:

Never forget the good life we have as an American society. Never forget the blessings we take for granted. I surely hope I never again lose sight of all my many, many blessings I have in this amazing and wonderful life, and am so thankful, once again, for the opportunity to be living here in Okinawa and experiencing all that is around me!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Aloha, E Komo Mai // Our Luau Date Night

I've always wanted to experience a real Hawaiian luau. I think it would be so amazing to be at one- fire roaring and tiki torches all around, pig roasting on a spit, food everywhere, drinks everywhere, fun on the sand (because the real Hawaiian luau in my head is on a beach, of course). Maybe one day we'll get the opportunity to go to one, but until then I guess I'll settle for a good old-fashioned MCCS event to carry me through.
Forgive me for taking so long to share this with you all! Back in August, there was a luau at one of the clubs on base: Tengan Castle. We had heard commercials about it since the day we arrived! A woman comes through the radio waves sing-songy saying: "Aloha, e komo mai, welcome! Come join us at Tengan Castle..." Seriously, we heard it until we were blue in the face. It was almost a last minute decision to go though, and we were lucky to have snagged seats because the event sold out!
The dinner was the Saturday that Gene ended his stint on the night shift, so it was fun to finally be going out to dinner together! In true military fashion, it was a complete cluster once we got there. There had to have been over 100 people. You checked in, received a shell lei, and were put in order based on when you checked in, as seating was on a first come, first serve basis. The you waited. By waited, I mean: you stood around (more than likely) outside because space was so limited in the lobby of the air conditioned building. I have never been so uncomfortable in my life! You were there for a nice night out, in the tropical humidity, which we were still getting used to, sweat just dripping. Dripping down your legs, dripping down your arms, dripping down... places you couldn't wipe dry in public.

When we finally got to go in and sit down, we were sat family style. We were at a table with a family of 5 (with three kids under the age of, I'd say, 6), and two ladies. I understand that was to fit the most people into the space provided, but it totally bummed me out since we were on a celebratory date night. So, we immediately hit the bar for tropical drinks.
What happens at a luau, stays at a luau? At least there wasn't a fruity umbrella pick in it!
After what seemed like a hungry forever, the buffet line opened up. We sat there and waited a little while for the line to die down. I don't know who thought this seating method up- but waiting around to be sat, and then letting 100+ people all get into a buffet line, all at once was a little chaotic. In all of this, I forgot to get a picture of the buffet. There was a pig, but the meat was all gone by the time we got there. We had some noodles, spam fried rice, salad, chicken, some pig meat (not on the pig, but in a chaffing dish), roasted sweet potatoes, and I'm sure a few other things I'm not forgetting, a month+ later. It was all really delicious food!

Then there was entertainment! I believe it was a local dance troop that came to perform for us! They wore what I would call "traditional Hawaiian garb" and dance a very primitive dance performance, like you would expect to see in native Hawaii. I don't know anything about Hawaii though, so I could be way off. There was a costume change and they danced a more soothing hula. It was fun to watch, especially since we had great seats, right up front!
This little girl killed the crowd with adorableness! She was just absolutely too cute for words. Before the set was over, they brought a few people up from the crowd and everyone hula danced together. It was fun, because one of the guys got REALLY into it, and everyone cheered him on. It was a really fun night, but we left after the first show- assuming the second set would be similar enough. I didn't hear any differently.

I don't know that we'd be jumping at the gun to go to another event like it anytime soon, but we're wanting to try the Sunday Brunch at Tengan Castle... maybe this weekend for my birthday we will :D I'll be sure to take pictures of the food this time!

Have you ever been to a luau in Hawaii? 
I would LOVE to hear about it in the comments! 

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