Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nago Part 1

On Friday, Alison and I made our trek up to Nago to spend some time sightseeing and away from our wood box. We checked into the Marriott, thank you again Mark, and found our room on the 13th floor to be very cute and quiet with an AMAZING view! The reservation said we would have a partial ocean view room…let me tell you, there was nothing partial about it!! It is awesome and far better than the Marriott in Tokyo. We settled in, read a little bit and napped a little bit (of course!), then had dinner. After coming back to the hotel we made our way down to the indoor pool/jacuzzi for some relaxation then finished off the night with a Christmas movie. (This, my friends, is what they call a partial view!)

It was so great to sleep in on Saturday! We slowly got up, sat in the “living room” (you can see the pictures below) and read, then finally got ready and headed out for a trip to the northernmost tip of the island (Cape Hedo). It was about an hour and fifteen minute drive up, and the view was so worth it! I am simply amazed by the ocean here. It is more beautiful than I could ever picture and I still can’t believe that I live here!
I told Alison I would NOT travel out like those psycho people!
We were thinking one side of the tip had to be the Pacific Ocean so let's just pretend that you all live over there!! -->From the top we went across a bit to Sekirinzan-Kouen. We thought this was just going to be a rock formation that we would walk up to, grab a view pictures, then head out. Instead, when we walked up a man guided us to the ticket booth and said the bus would be leaving in 5 minutes. We bought our ticket and awaited the bus that would take us up to the starting points of 4 different courses that we could take to walk through this national park. We chose the “scenic” course. We walked in through the jungle that has some pretty odd shaped rocks. Alison was just talking about how we needed to start walking more and apparently today was the day for that! We walked for about an hour until we made it back to the car.

...And you all thought Alison was a nice, tame, completely normal person!!...okay well not exactly
A fabulous view from the hike
This is the top of our hike with the panoramic view...sorry for the bad picture, a family along the way took it for us! This is what we really came here to see...little did we know there would be so much more to it! I think this is the first time I have felt small in Japan!

Cuz let me tell you...THIS does NOT make me feel small!
We drove down south a bit and tried to find a pottery store, glass store, weaving factory, and waterfall that should have all been within walking distance of each other. Unfortunately, our reliable tour book gave really vague directions (go figure) and we only found the weaving factory. We decided it was time to head back so with one last stop at Jusco (shopping center) we made our way back to the hotel for some rest before dinner.
Sunday- Originally we planned to make a stop at Nago Paradise Park on the way to the Zoo and Pineapple park (yes we’re going again…we ran out of cookies J ), but I gently brought up the thought that this was going to cost us $6 to see plants and we changed those plans! So we headed down the wonderful route 58 to the zoo. This zoo reminded me of a cross between the San Diego Wild Animal Park and any other zoo. The first thing we walked in to was the flamingo pond where the flamingos were literally walking around next to us. There were some other fascinating things there, like the community farm that had a little pen with pigs and dogs together. Who does that?? We also walked by a lemur that scared the living daylights out of us when it decided to scream and leap onto the cage…yikes!

Alright, image walking into a zoo and immediately see this right in front of you!
Can you find it?
Did you know dogs and pigs belong in the same pen?
We had to take a picture with Thomas, after all he is who we named our car after!

From the zoo we went to the Pineapple Park but we made a quick stop at Fruit Land…haha, yup there was fruit plants, and more fruit plants, a few butterflies and birds, and more fruit plants…we won’t be going there again haha…So on to the Pineapple Park. We really like the Pineapple Park, especially the cookie samples. Last time we were there Alison and I were both eyeing the perfume that smelled wonderful, but the ladies would only let us smell the sticks and not try it on, so we passes. This time we were hoping the lady would be nicer and let us try….she didn’t, but since there are two different scent bottles that together make one pineapple (you can buy them both or separately) and Alison and I like different bottles we bought it. The ladies there were so excited they gave Alison a little squeeze! Lol My guess is they made their quota for the day. Someone come visit us please so we have another excuse to go back! :)

Nago Part 2

It’s Monday already! Today was the long awaited trip to the second largest Aquarium in the world…it’s second to the aquarium in Atlanta. Following our handy dandy blue road signs we safely made it to the Aquarium only to find that this was the place to be on the island! We had to park quite a bit down the road, past all the other parking lots for the aquarium and onto a little side street. We saw many different types of sea life, walked past little wall tanks and large tanks and finally reached the MAIN EVENT! This massive tank had 3 whale sharks, lots of sting rays, and other fun looking fish. The big thing here is the 3:00 feeding of the whale sharks. The room we walked into was huge and it was overfilled with people taking pictures. Alison and I were there over an hour early so we decided to try and find a seat up at the top to chill for awhile. Thankfully we found seats and there we sat for the next hour talking and looking at the tank. We decided this was our “sea wall” moment as we began talking about life and Japan. When feeding time came we were sad to be sitting too close to the top, nonetheless, the experience was still well worth it!
This is the view from the entrance of the aquarium
The following are some of the fancy fish we saw!
The lion fish
The girly fish hehe
The main event! This tank was massive!

Feeding time...they showed the top of the tank on the screen...As Alison and I sat watching the tank for an hour I thought about Free Willy. lol Remember when the huge tank collapsed? I had visions of that happening here. I wondered if we were far enough at the top to be safe from the water. We eventually had to walk down in the would be "splash zone" to get out of this room. :)

Yes, Alison does walk 10 feet in front of me sometimes too!

We made a pit stop on the way to dinner at the Butterfly garden...We asked a family to take this picture for us and the parents had their son take it since he knew a little bit of english. They did lots of smiling and we did our little head nods to each other. They asked us if we were from America. We told them yes but we were teachers here on the island. They got very exited when they found out/understood what we were saying.
We were able to walk into a large tent with the beautiful flowers and butterflies all around. I tried really hard to get one to land on me but wasn't incredibly successful.
Aren't I a beautiful butterfly?? :) or is it tinkerbell? hmm...
Alison and I with the butterflies
Alison and I survived our trip to Nago with MANY laughs (most of them directed at me, whatever, who DOESN'T dance in the car?? ;) ), only a few detours, fun sights, beautiful views, and LOTS of reading (Alison's favorite).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Eve/Day...

Christmas Eve was a lazy day for Alison and I. We lounged in our pajamas until it was time to get ready for church. We even decided to splurge on yummy dinner plans. We decided to try this restaurant down the street from us that is all you can eat for about 2,000 yen or $20. We weren't sure what to expect but when we got there the atmosphere was much better than i had expected. We got to choose whatever we wanted on the menu and they brought it to us, uncooked. It's a good thing we eventually figured out how to get the waitress back to our table (there's a button to push and it dings at the waitress station). The only contingency was that we needed to eat all that we ordered or they would charge an extra fee. It was great! Our meal even included a refillable drink and soft serve ice cream. This dinner was a great addition to our evening! From there we went to church for the Christmas eve service. It was a nice time ending with some candlelight and singing. I was especially excited for what would happen when we got home! Alison said that I could open one present! I've never been able to do that before, kind of a fun change! We ended up opening a few, then watching White Christmas, which Alison had never seen before! I was having flashbacks as I watched the two men sing "Sisters!" Reminds me of my grandpa and my dad belting it out! :) haha
Christmas morning was pretty exciting. We had got to talk to family, open presents, eat a yummy breakfast, and finally get ready to head to Lori's. The girl's were real excited to see us and show us all their new, fun toys. One of the things they got were princess elbow/knee pads and a helmet for their bikes. Well Izzie wanted hers on so Alison got her all ready and we headed outside. She rode a bike for a few minutes then she ditched the bike and started running up and down the sidewalk yelling over and over again, "Look Miss Pepe, I'm safe!!" lol it was hilarious! I have a picture but I don't have my cord up in Nago with me so all I can do it describe it to you! After a delicious lunch that included mac and cheese :) we made our way to Pastor and Carol's house....Oh yeah we also brought little loaf size funfetti cake with us to each house. We made them all on our own in our toaster oven!!!...We had a lot of fun over there kicking back and laughing with the church folk. The kids roped me into playing a game of Sorry with them and sadly they needed to give me a refresh on the directions! And....drum roll please...the big gift of the year....more silverware!! hahaha Pastor had broken one of our forks when we had them over for dinner last month, and since that meant we were down to 3 forks, they gave us some extra utensils to use! I'm pretty sure I left their house with my face hurting from laughing so much! Good times and overall a good day!...I'll be posting my Nago events/pics on the 1st!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve...

Here are most of the families that joined the class for our "Happy Birthday Jesus" party last Friday...
Merry Christmas Eve from Japan! I'm laying here in bed, having just woke up, and I'm thinking about the fact that it is Christmas Eve. I just cannot believe it. The season has crept up on us and I guess life suddenly got busy here in Okinawa. The weather is cooler, there are some lights around, I'm listening to Christmas music, some gifts have come in the mail, school's out, went to a Christmas program, I've baked cookies (not at my house of course), and yet it still doesn't really feel like Christmas...What's the missing key? Home and everything that comes with it. As Alison said, Christmas is really all about the people we spend it with!...And I'm missing my people! ;)

Last Friday was our school christmas program. The little kiddos did a great job. Always the show stealers. We also did our program on Saturday night on base at Chapel 3 (yeah they're numbered haha) along with some other church choir groups. The older kids also did a performance on Friday night following the little ones. Each grade level represented children from countries all over the world. My favorite part was when the third graders, representing Japan, got up in their kimonos and were doing their speaking parts about how small the Christian population is in Japan and how Jesus Christ came for us all. It touched me, knowing that many of those kids up there saying those lines probably come from Buddhist families and yet we have the opportunity to teach these children about Jesus and how awesome he is!
Here are some dress rehearsal pics (not pictured: the stable)
The shepherds and sheepThe angels
Here are the elementary/junior high kids during their program

On Monday, we attempted to go back to Higashi Falls, where we had to walk in the water to the waterfall. It didn't end up going the way we had planned, but an adventure none the less. Tuesday, we went to Lori's house with some other teachers from my campus and baked, and baked and baked, and baked all day. Alison and I got a break when we went for a massage/facial! It was very relaxing, though they still don't compare to massages in the states! The evening concluded with an always fabulous trip to Taco Bell!
...Christmas Eve...Alison and I are going to hopefully relax a bit today, have a great dinner, then head to our church's Candlelight Communion Service at 7. Tomorrow will be lunch at Lori's (so nice of her to take us in) then an open house at Pastor and Carol's house in the afternoon/evening.
I'll leave you with this video of the little ones (some of them anyway) singing Silent Night at Chapel 3 on Saturday Night

video

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmastime...

Here are Alison and I all ready for our church's Christmas party last week... We've bought new dresses in Japan (not that Alison needs any more dresses...what are you at now...17?)

With the week coming to a close I've got a few things/events on my mind...1. Happy Birthday Jesus party with my class 2. School Christmas Program on Friday night and an encore for the little ones on Saturday night 3. Church Christmas Program on Saturday Night (gonna go see my japan mate in action!) 4. Getting a break 5. Tour booking for a week 6. Christmas 7. All of you!
Below are some pictures from our campus wide (preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten) Polar Express Pajama Day. 100% participation! I even snagged a picture of us teachers. We had a lot of fun dressing up! That night, I also attended a Christmas party for my class at one of the family's homes. I wasn't sure what to expect, but ended up having a blast! They are really fun folks who love to laugh! It was also my first time doing something for real without my japan mate. I must admit it was a bit tramatizing :) but I made it there and back in one piece without getting lost! yay for parties!

Here are a few of the people at the party...Can you find the Christmas tree? And I don't mean the real one.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The holidays are here...

Christmas is so close I can taste it...only this year it doesn't taste as good as it usually does. Unfortunately, Alison and I cancelled our trip to Thailand due to the drama that has been taking over the airports. We really didn't want to get caught in the mess over there. So with that said we've been trying to make replacement plans and make the best with what we have, though obviously quite disappointing at the same time. This week Alison and I will be going to our church's Christmas party and preparing to have some of our school staff over for a Christmas get together. There are also a few things that we are looking forward to this Christmas now that we'll be here on the island...getting to attend the Christmas eve service at church and fellowshipping at the open house on Christmas Day at our Pastor's home. We're hoping to go up to Nago the day after Christmas for some more sightseeing for the week. There should also be a few other events here and there that will help to make the season bright! Hmm...seeing all those things in writing makes me think this next month may not be too bad, maybe even a little busy!

The picture above is my very own homemade nativity bulletin board (My cute store-bought one is sadly sitting in my garage at home). I think I did it the way my elementary teachers did things (traced it on the wall from the overhead to enlarge it, then colored). Anyhow, it turned out well and that's one less big white spot on my walls. :)

The pictures below are of our apartment a few hours after I put up our Christmas lights. Sad huh? It was actually quite funny as Alison and I were in my room catching up on our sling box shows and hearing these weird noises that made us perk up and sit quietly for a moment. Apparently no amount of double sided tape or scotch tape can keep those suckers on the wall. I think I've been up and down from the chair about a dozen times since putting them up yesterday...though I must say they've remained in place for several hours now! :) Can you spot our cute little Charlie Brown tree? It's our buy from the 100 yen store, no it wasn't 100 yen...try 1,000 yen ($10). I think it's cute even though our TV dwarfs it! :) 10 days of school left and counting...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Feast/Wednesday...

Wednesday was our school’s Thanksgiving feast with a short presentation for the parents given by the preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten. We each did our own little poem and song then we sang a few songs all together. They were adorable but I was unable to get a picture with their hats cuz one of my little girls decided to get shy on me and wouldn’t detach herself from my side the entire time. After the kids left my classroom was transformed from Fall to Christmas…YAY! It will be fun to walk in there on Monday morning.

After school Alison and I headed back to our apartment to change and pick up our luggage for Tokyo. We met up with Rachel then headed to the airport. We arrived a bit early so we sat and observed the fact that we were the ONLY white people in our whole terminal. Anyway, we took off at about 7 and landed in Tokyo at 9. Pastor Wes told us the best way to get back to our hotel from the airport and that if we stood looking at the map for about 30 seconds someone would definitely come over and offer to help us. He also said that if we ever needed to ask someone directions we should always ask someone older…well, we stood, and for the most part the help came. We found our way to the Marriott, exhausted and ready to crash! Our room had 2 oversized twin beds so instead of someone sleeping on the floor Alison and I decided we could share the bed…haha she and I both slept on the edge of the bed and our shoulders still touched in the middle…we slept, kind of.

Thursday...

Thursday morning came early as we needed to be in the lobby at 8 for our tour pick up. Alison and I found this cute “local starbucks” called Tully’s Coffee Shop. We had a delicious bagel sandwich and coffee and went back to our hotel to wait for our ride. Our pick up service was not the tour but just a bus that would take us to the bus terminal where our tour actually began. There were 11 adults and 2 kids on our full day tour. Our group represented many places; Canada, Texas, Birmingham, Australia, and us…we didn’t know what to tell people when they asked where we were from so we got into our whole story quite a few times throughout the day. The guide was a local Japanese man to had 3 sons and 1 daughter, his princess. He also had a 96 year old mother who is very active, walks everyday, and is very strong (he repeated himself a lot!!! hehe). We made our first stop at the Tokyo Tower, then to a Japanese tea and Bonsai garden, a fabulous barbecue lunch, a stop by the emperors palace, a (lame) river cruise that went under too many bridges (I slept through this part), and finally a stroll down a popular shopping area that leads up to a very famous temple (so famous I can't remember the name ;) ).

View from the top of the Tokyo Tower
A view down from the top of the Tokyo Tower... We received quite the stares as we took this one :)
Garden scene at the traditional tea house
More scenery...
Our tour guide and the tea master
My favorite...:)
in the city...
In front of the Emperor's palace...I was a little cold ;)
On the river cruise...aka the one I slept through. This must have been taken prior to my nap time :)
If you saw "I Survived A Japanese Game Show" then you've definitely seen these guys...
The Temple
These people are drinking from the fountain then spitting the water back in...yup it is as gross as it sounds!
Thursday was a COLD day with lots of rain. By the end of the day my shoes were wet as were my jeans up to the middle of my calf…I couldn't feel the toes on my left foot! Our nice tour guide dropped us off after the tour right near our hotel, even though he didn’t have to! We went to our room and changed shoes and socks then headed out to the large shopping district in Ginza. We were bound for H&M. The store had just opened in September, just in time for us! There was a line to get in and guys standing by the door! After searching through 3 floors all three of us left with a few purchases… one of my purchases was a pair of gloves for the remainder of our Tokyo stay! We continued to wander the streets feeling intensely underdressed. I have NEVER in my life seen so many men in dark suits and women in boots! After walking for too long we finally agreed to eat dinner at Quiznos, I know I know you’re asking yourself why we are eating that in Tokyo. Well, knowing we are not coming home after this trip we wanted to eat as much “home” food as possible…that and we couldn’t read any of the posted menus for other restaurants. All three of us had achy legs by the time we made it back to the hotel and once again we crashed in preparation for Friday which included a hotel transfer to the Ritz Carlton (WOOHOO!) and Disneyland (WOOHOO again!)

Ginza Street shopping...