PLACES (of the earth & mind)

Why do They hate Us?

Why do they hate us?
Stupid question asked by simple people looking for feel-good answers.

Okay, I'll fall on the sword and proffer this:

No, they do not hate us for our freedom, for “Dancing with the Stars” or for Beyonce. “They” are not jealous of us - so stop feeling so superior. They hate us (okay hate is a strong word, and Okinawans are gentle people)…they dislike us because we are all up in their biz with FREAKING LOUD NOISE. Did you hear that? Because I didn’t. Not over the ABSURDLY LOUD planes that fly over my head every 3 minutes. Oh. My. Lord.

The F-15s have been grounded since I arrived on the island and now they’re baaaaack. I woke up this morning to rip-roaring engines, and the high-pitched whistle that usually precedes bombs exploding. I thought to myself, “this is it, we’re under attack, I cannot believe Kim Jon Il waited till I got here, just my luck.”

Thankfully, it was not the North Koreans, only my friendly neighborhood fighter squadron.

It’s an odd feeling to walk around amongst the natives, as I am so clearly affiliated with the US military. What do they think of me? I smile, bow, and say “Konichiwa!” – the subtext being “I’m sorry for the noise my people are causing, please don’t hate me.” But that’s just my liberal-self-loathment talking. Inevitably when you bring a bunch of 18 to 22 year-old boys anywhere, more than a few are going to be offensive. Laws will be broken, property will be damaged, messes will be made. I know this. I have many brothers.

But in the eyes of the Okinawans, I am the same as that Marine who just threw a glass bottle into someone’s driveway. Yes, I saw this happen. Thankfully, this idiot was an exception, as most every American I have met here is very respectful, and aware that they are guests here. Pretty much every American in this area is affiliated to the military in some way. We have been here since WWII. What must it be like to have a foreign military intrinsically part of your town for over 50 years? I was told by an Okinawan that the US military offers valuable protection that the Japanese military could not offer. It’s a complicated question I am not able to figure out just yet, but I realize that the answer is not so simple. Meanwhile, I will act like the good girl my parents raised, respect the laws here, and tread lightly on the Okinawan soil.


The mini-drive

[painting by Mary Helmreich]

It's been exactly one month since I've arrived here. I think I've earned the right to be homesick for a few entries.

It's rainy here tonight, and the first thing I always want to do in the rain is take a death-defying drive north on Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu. (Even if I had a driver's license here, you couldn't pay me to drive these streets in the rain - even in a bright yellow armored Hummer. Topic to address at a later date: Japanese drivers.)

DD and I cultivated the fine art of the mini-drive early in our freshman year of college. There is something soul-stirring about wet roads, a diet coke, a cigarette, and a mixed tape and no particular destination. Oh how angsty we were back then. Nikki and I then perfected the art of the "drive-by" - another topic for another audience. The mini-drive was created for Los Angeles, and vice versa. It is not considered odd to drive destination-free around the city, clocking absurd mileage on the odometer and consider it an evening out. It's all about the journey, man.

Some great things I miss about SoCal:

the warm smell of gasoline when you fly into LAX
Del's Cash-Only Saloon
great neighbors only an alleyway away
Bagelworks coffee
English speakers
Spanish speakers
Santa Monica Farmer's market
the drive to Del Mar

Now that I read this list, I'm thinking to myself, this is not enough to be homesick for a place. Yet, I think that's what the Sumeba Miyako is about. You love it BECAUSE you live there. That's what makes it home.

Mini-walks do no have quite the same horse-power as mini-drives. However, that's what's open to me right now, so I'm going to mini-walk my self down to the seawall. It's not torrey pines beach, but it will do for now.


Adventures in supermarket shopping

Poor John worked 6:00pm to 9:00am this morning. He's still zonked out. I've been researching some good raw recipes on the internet so I thought I'd go to the supermarket today alone and see how many of the ingredients I could find. Wow, i'm lucky to have made it through one recipe worth of ingredients. I think some things are just going to have to wait till I get back to the states - wheat berries? groats? I'm not even going to bother trying to translate those. However, I did find everything I needed to make some really tasty coleslaw.

Package design in Japan is amazing. While unfortunately, packages rarely say anything in English except "YUM!" or "SUPER GOOD!", they have mastered the art of visual clues.

What do bees make......honey!

This one was a little bit trickier. I needed Apple Cider Vinegar. This was in the vinegar section, and it has those pretty apples....although it's in a box that resembles apple juice, and those kids look like they're drinking it straight-up.....ah HA! There it is! The word VINEGAR. (It actually tastes like an apple juice/apple cider vinegar hybrid.)

So here you can find the recipe to the Psychedelic Slaw:

And here's a photo of mine!


Tsunami protection

This being tsunami country, I'm pleased to report that the locals have taken preventative measures. There is a 10 foot high seawall that is artfully colored by local "artisans." Beyond the seawall , there are GIANT cement tinker toys that are meant to cut the pressure of the waves in a large storm. Each must be 4 feet high and i can't even guess how heavy. The tide was so low this afternoon that we walked out onto the coral reef (past the tinker toys). We saw crabs the size of lobsters, sea slugs the size of cucumbers, and lots of of beautiful occupied shells. I'll be sure to bring my camera next time.


John is on his way to work. He is working nights this week. 6pm to 6am. Hence the reflective belt. I really don't know what to say about this photo. He left his gas mask in the car. He swears he's a lawyer, but I have yet to see proof.