Journey to Hiji Falls

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Nestled in the more sparsely populated Yambaru area of Okinawa Honto is the beautiful 26-meter Hiji Waterfall. Chuck and I woke up bright and early on Sunday morning and drove 1.5 hours north to make the hike. The approximately 2-mile trail incorporates steep climbs, wobbly suspension bridges, and sharp turns, and my calves are truly feeling it today, but who can complain when your ultimate destination is this stunning display of nature?

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…Seriously. I felt like I was magically transported into South Pacific the musical, frolicking in Bali Ha’i with Cable and Liat. Such a lovely place to spend a lovely morning, and I am glad we did it before the extreme heat of summer arrives.

After working up a bit of a sweat, we made our way back to the car and drove a few minutes in the opposite direction to visit Okuma Beach. Any time I Google “Okinawa beaches”, Okuma is the one that truly dazzles me. Since we were in the area, we had to pay it a visit, even if it was a bit cloudy and chilly. It is a Japanese resort area in part, but we were surprised to see that the U.S. Air Force actually has command of a large chunk of it, as a “recreation facility.” Chuck and I are both not sure how we feel about the military spending money to run the place, and honestly, I had hoped for a more unadulterated, local beach, but none of this changed the fact that Okuma is absolutely beautiful and I will most certainly go again when the weather warms up. Even with the clouds and wind, it was just perfect – and the sun managed to peek out once or twice!

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Asian Food Porn 2.0

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Two delicious meals from our lunch spot in Kunigami-son, after our excursion to Hiji Falls and Okuma Beach. I don’t actually know what any of this is, but I’m guessing it goes something like this: Rice (or) Noodles + Meat + Veggies. Mix with delicious magical Japanese potion and serve 🙂

Anything is possible with sunshine and a little pink: Introducing Lilly, in Japan

I was first exposed to Lilly Pulitzer designs in college. At the time, I disliked the brand – I associated it with the seemingly cult-ishImage
sorority life on campus, of which I was decidedly not a part. Not that I had (or have) anything against it. I went to a few open houses, and looking back, I think I probably would have enjoyed it. But after 4 years at the all-girls’ prep school that inspired the movie Mean Girls, I just couldn’t get fully on board.

Then, I moved to the charming beaches of the southern corner of North Carolina. I found myself meandering into a signature Lilly Pulitzer boutique called “Palm Garden” one lazy summer afternoon, and truth be told – I was hooked. The bright colors and playful designs sucked me in, and I couldn’t escape the pure happiness of its message and the sunny charm of its origin. Before I knew it, I was trying on one of the signature shift dresses, and was delighted by how well they fit me. The only downside was the price… but let’s not talk about that. 😛

When I learned we were moving to Japan, I figured my Lilly wear was the one brand that would seamlessly transfer into the cutesy, colorful, tropical culture of Okinawa. Of course, most of it is still packed away, so I have yet to rock my Lilly dresses, shorts, and tops, but I did walk into yesterday’s nail salon with my latest (and most useful) accessory, the Charlotte Wristlet and Phone Case.

ImageNow, the ladies in Cocok spoke minimal English, but before long, they were all squealing over my happy little wristlet and exclaiming “Lee-lee-PULL-itzer” to each other across the salon. Through a combination of facial expressions, a few basic English words, and hand gestures, I managed to explain that it is only sold in America at this time, but they have a website! It wasn’t until I left – after I wrote down the URL for them to pass around – that I remembered Lilly doesn’t ship internationally. D’oh!!!

As for me, I am keeping my fingers crossed that APO addresses are an exception, and I can still get my Lilly fix. If they are, maybe I should mass order and open a little franchise here in Oki. I had a feeling it would fit right in!

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Moving right along…

  • We move out of the hotel and into our apartment on Monday. As luck would have it, ALL of our belongings arrive on Tuesday. 🙂 I am so excited to have my own stuff again. I am also excited to say “bye-bye” to the food courts, cafes, and fast food joints that have made up the majority of our meals, because unfortunately, we can’t eat at a lush Japanese restaurant every time. Chuck and I are both looking forward to balanced, home-cooked food again!
  • I was accepted into the Johns Hopkins grad school program. I am happy, but this definitely presents me with a dilemma. GWU, or Hopkins? The program I like better, or the cheaper one? As you all know, I am terrible at making decisions.
  • My lovely Bean will not have to go back into caged quarantine! This is the silver lining of on-base housing. She can do the quarantine “in-home”, which – for a generally indoor cat – is actually like no quarantine at all 🙂
  • I applied to 3 jobs, and already scored an interview for one of them. How is it that it took me a year to get an interview in North Carolina but it only took a few days here in Okinawa? Of course, none of this means I will actually get the job(s) – or even more interviews – but it’s encouraging to hear something back, rather than applying countless times only to hear… absolutely nothing.

As of now, I have no real plans for the weekend. I still need a car, so maybe we can go scouting for the one I like…my only requirement being that it’s pink! Pink cars are everywhere on Okinawa, yet they are very difficult to find at the “approved” used car dealerships. Wish me luck! I can’t be without wheels for too much longer.

Here’s a little Asian food porn for ya: Today’s lunch at Transit Cafe on the Seawall, which was comprised of tuna, avocado, seaweed, rice, a quail egg, sea grapes, and some sort of delicious sauce #yum

American Pedicures, You Lose

ImageWhen I first found out I was moving to Okinawa, the girls I knew there consoled me with the same bit of seemingly useless information: “You can get an amazing pedicure over here!” This afternoon, I visited Cocok Nail Salon with my sponsor, Kellie, and I have to admit that it was pretty much the best thing ever.  Not only do they serve you chilled green tea and the massage is lengthier and more thorough than any I’ve ever had, but you get a giant book of hundreds of intricate designs to choose from. I played it safe the first time and stuck with the pink and floral design pictured above, but it’s just a matter of time before I attempt one of the following:

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Plus, what’s not to love about a nail salon with a great view (clouds and telephone lines aside) and a resident feline? His name is Mitt, and he’s adorably grumpy 🙂

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All in all, this was an experience I will certainly repeat. I’m generally the type of girl who gets a pedicure maybe two or three times per year, but in a place where I will fairly consistently be in sandals (or cute peep-toed shoes), I think they may became a staple in my island beauty regimen. For better or for worse, there is another location near the base I on which I will live. How lucky is that?

Now, check out Kellie’s toes! They’re little minions! Too cute.

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Is this what they call “frizz”?

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I’m not quite sure what to make of my hair these days. This is generally how it looks several sweaty hours after I attack it with curling irons, a teasing comb, and hair spray – not the morning after a fresh wash. My hair is very fine and somewhat thin, so I rarely deal with frizz. I guess this means I need to find a way to condition more without making my roots overly greasy. Or maybe I can find a way to enhance it so it looks more like a sexy beach wave? Maybe Pinterest can help me out…

Shisa Dogs & Lucky Cats

One of the first things I noticed while driving around the island was the omnipresence of the rather creepy looking “lion-dog”, or Shisa. Nearly every business, household, and restaurant has two of each – one on either side of its entrance or rooftop. One, with its mouth open in a vicious snarl, is the male shisa (despite the obnoxious assumptions made by certain males in my company), and the other is the female shisa (with its mouth firmly shut, thank you.) As it turns out, these shisas are protectors based in Okinawan and Chinese mythology, intended to shun evil spirits. The open-mouthed shisa wards off the evil, while the close-mouthed shisa keeps good spirits in (although, according to Wikipedia, these gender roles can be “variously assigned.) I am not superstitious, but in the spirit of cultural immersion, I will definitely have to get a petite pair of these guys for my new home! Besides, who doesn’t want good spirits?

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The other item I’m seeing everywhere I go – though less frequently than the shisa dogs – is the Maneki-neko, or “the beckoning cat.” Usually made of ceramic, these cats are meant to bring luck to the owner. White cats bring general good luck all ’round, black cats bring good health, and gold cats bring financial fortune. There are a series of beautiful (sometimes heartbreaking) Japanese folktales tying the cat to good luck, which – as a crazy cat lady myself – pleases me to no end. In addition to my shisa dogs, I plan on getting a few of these feline talismans in smaller form, since I find the large ones a bit tacky and overwhelming for my taste. Maybe one in each color!

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New Climate, New Lifestyle

It’s only April, and while the heat is not yet unbearable here in Oki, the sun is strong and the humidity is apparent. My body and face lotion no longer absorb into my typically dry skin – it sits in a milky-white film before I grab a tissue to dab it. My hair has this new consistency that I don’t quite understand… it’s much more dense. Heavier, kinda flat, but feels thick…?

Besides cutting back on my moisturizing and conditioning habits, I am going to have to invest in a hat. I hate sunscreen, and will definitely have to find a brand that agrees with my skin better than the cheap stuff I usually use, but at least I can protect the more fragile skin on my face with a cute beach hat of sorts, that will go with most anything. This will be quite the search, because I’m not a hat gal. And I don’t think I’m quite up for the Japanese approach of toting an umbrella around like an early 20th-century parasol, even if it is pink!

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Happy Easter from Japan!

ImageChuck and I spent Easter weekend gallivanting with new friends and exploring two of the beaches the island has to offer – Torii Beach, and Zampa Beach. Both visits were during low tide, so I’m not sure we experienced them at peak beauty (unless you find exposed seaweed and miscellaneous gooey stuff particularly attractive.) However, it was ultimately apparent that the water is clear, blue, and warm. I have already determined that I will keep a bikini in my car at all times, so that on any particularly hot, sweaty day, I can take a dip in the Pacific blue any time I would like (even though this is actually the East China Sea!)

I did have a preference for Zampa Beach, clearly more frequented by locals than Torii, which was mostly military. Since the tide was so low, we spent a good bit of time walking over the exposed reef, poking at odd critters and speculating at the more bizarre of them. We were especially fascinated (and somewhat disgusted) by what we dubbed “sea poops”, which were scattered literally every few feet across the reef. I can only assume they are some sort of sea slug – if that is actually a thing – but they seem relatively harmless.

Our Newcomer’s Brief did warn us of all the dangers these waters have to offer – box jellyfish, rockfish, fire coral, and more – but overall, I think it will be perfectly fun and safe, if we are smart. Chuck is the one who is more reckless with Nature – I’m gonna have to reel him in!!

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… SEA POOPS!!!

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