Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Good Day, Sunshine!

The typhoon left behind some of the most beautiful weather we've had all year. I'd be okay with a typhoon sweeping through every month if it guaranteed low-humidity sunny days like these! 


The view from Hamabe no Chaya Cafe

Angie and her french toast. This cafe was open and serving customers despite the power outage. 

Dinner at a cafe by Araha Beach as the sun was setting. 

See the palm trees?
I drove straight from work to drink in this view. Mibaru Beach. 

Back to Hamabe no Chaya for the 2nd day in a row. Kitty!

Hamabe Pizza :) 

Then to Hiyakuna Beach:

to read, 

to watch the sunset, 

and to play. 


Monday, May 30, 2011

In Songda's Wake

Here are some photos (click to view them larger) and stories from the day after Super Typhoon Songda. It was certainly the strongest natural force I had ever personally encountered. Hopefully the worst I ever will. 

The storm was so loud on Saturday night that it was impossible for me to fall asleep in my room next to the rattling glass windows. To solve that problem, I took the futon and slept on the kitchen floor. It was still unbelievable loud in there, but not as terrifying. It was kind of like camping. 

The next morning, I woke up to partially blue skies and birds singing happily.  

See the bird?

At that point, I'd been stuck in my apartment for about a million years, so I had to get out. Since I still didn't have a car, I decided a bike ride would suit me just fine. 

I set out and immediately started to note the damage the typhoon had caused.  
My how the mighty have fallen. 

Repairmen were out first thing in the morning to work on this roof. 

It was no match for those extreme winds. 
 About halfway through the ride, Wang joined me on her bike. 

My biking companion and coworker, Miss Wang. :)

Wang's door had only a small crack before the storm. 

My favorite walking/biking path was completely inaccessible. 

Trees weren't the only casualties, either.  I saw more dead birds than I care to count, but I won't post pictures of that here. Heh. 
I wonder why the power is out... 

 After taking a slight detour around all the blocked roads and paths, we finally arrived at Mibaru Beach. 
It looks nice without any boats in the water, huh?
 The whole area had lost power so it was nearly impossible to find something to drink. Of course the vending machines don't work when the power's out! But we got to watch the beach stuff put some of the boats back in the sea, and we eventually found a grocery store which would sell us luke-warm cola. Ahhh... refreshing. 

 At the end of the bike ride, Wang cooked me some delicious yakisoba (fried noodles). I still didn't have power at my apartment. So I was happy to accept her generosity. ;)  

 My power was eventually restored but I was out enjoying the post-typhoon weather (more about that later), so I didn't notice until after 10 p.m. I was actually pretty lucky to get power the next day! The students in the dorms had no power AND no water for two days! My poor, stinky students. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Exploring Risotto

I've been stuck in my apartment all day because of this impending storm (and because my car is stranded in Naha... long story), and the boredom is starting to crush me. I've watched at least 13 episodes of "Bones" today, have cleaned about 75% of my house, and have cooked two big meals. 

Right now, the storm is raging strongly. The wind and rain and slamming against all the windows and doors. The power flickered a few times and is now out completely. That leaves me, 1 hour of laptop battery, some candles, and nothing to do. So... I will tell you about risotto! 
Creamy chicken tomato risotto with cheddar cheese (and a yummy pickle garnish). 
I like cooking dishes that are easily variable to fit the random contents of my fridge (like fried rice! you can just throw anything in there!), and risotto fits the bill! So far I have made it with cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, and, today, chicken broth and canned tomatoes: 

Tomato Risotto cooked chicken broth and a yellow pepper garnish. 

Sometimes vegetables can be pretty expensive in the grocery store, so I like to buy whatever I can find at the local veggie stand. Campbell's soup is also pricey, so I just pick up whatever I can find at a good price. 
It's a lot of fun to totally improvise a meal. It makes me feel like I can actually get by in this world and make my own meals. Pretty novel, right? 

Well, that's the end of my typhoon-boredom-power-outage ramblings. The wind sounds either like a demon train of destruction or like the world's largest chair scraping loudly and painfully across the world's largest wooden floor. Kinda creepy. Now I'm going to take my candles, flashlight, and a book to bed and hope the wind quiets down enough for me to sleep at some point tonight. 

Goodnight, Super Typhoon Songda. You were fun for like a minute, now go away. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Weekend Plans

What I have to look forward to this weekend: 

Don't worry, mom, I have an emergency kit ready, 
and I know better than to drive or walk around in a "super typhoon." 

This is all anyone can talk about today (myself included), but it's hard to feel any real concern when every other typhoon warning has brought little more than a heavy tropical rain. Logically, I hope that this typhoon is similarly anti-climactic, but there's a twisted little part of me (the same part in every person who cranes his/her neck to catch a glimpse of disaster) that hopes the hype isn't for nothing this time.

Besides, I'm from Idaho. I like power outages.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tea Time at Wistaria Tea House

I almost forgot about one of the Taiwan experiences that was definitely noteworthy! That's what I get for storing the pictures in another folder. 

On my last day in Taiwan, before heading off to the airport, Jules and I (and later Katannya) bused over to  Wistaria Tea House for a classic tea service and an early lunch. 

We started with a tea of Jules' choosing.  
Luckily, the server was a very kind lady who took us through
 the ceremony in English so that we could do it right. 

Coconut tea cakes. Yum!

 The tea I chose is called "Lotus in a Golden Wind."I chose it mainly for it's  name, but the description is pretty convincing, as well. 

It was a yummy choice: light and fruity. 

 When we were through our second batch of tea, it was lunch time! 
To my surprise all the lunches were Japanese-style. 
It turns out that this tea house was created during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. 
No matter the style, it was delicious! 

Thanks for the lovely tea time, ladies! It was a great way to end a marvelous vacation!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In Memory

To most, Harmon Killebrew is known as a great baseball player: a true talent who didn't play dirty. He was a man whose powerful batting earned him the nickname "Killer" and whose life earned him the respect of everyone who was lucky enough to meet him.

To me, Uncle Harm is this guy:

A sweet, caring, sometimes goofy man who would go to great lengths--even dressing like a rapping, dread-locked Santa--to make his family happy. All of my memories of Uncle Harm are good ones. He was the kind-hearted and funny with a gentle-spirit that always set me at ease. Even as a very young girl I knew that he was a good man: a doting father, caring husband, and super cool uncle.

I'm not sad for him. He's being taken care of now, I'm sure of it.

But I am sad. Heartbroken. That I won't get to see him again, that my aunt and my cousins, especially, are grieving, and that I have no words... no way to truly comfort them.

I wish I could have seen him. I wish I had been in better contact in the last few years. I wish I could be there to comfort my family. I pray their heartbreak is lessened in some way, somehow, soon.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Taipei Top 5!

Every year in Japan there are a cluster of holidays which fall close enough together to give us an opportunity for a little holiday. This year, despite some financial woes, I decided that I couldn't give up my best chance to see more than just this tiny island.

So, I decided to hop on over to the closest country (also a tiny island, but a new, exciting one): Taiwan!

I had a lot of great experiences during my short trip, and here is my Taipei Top Five! 

#1 Staying with Julie

I consider myself extremely lucky to have a friend like Julie. She used to work as a JET program ALT in Okinawa with me but finished up her contract and moved to Taipei. She is a sweet, extremely caring, and super fun friend. I was so happy that my trip to Taiwan meant that I got to spend time with her and see her nice, new apartment. 

#2 The Unintentionally Long (but Beautiful) Train Ride
On Wednesday morning, a big group of friends and recent acquaintances boarded a train to Jiufen (more about that later). Everything seemed to be going smoothly, but when we accidentally missed our transfer station, the express train we were riding on took us for quite the joy ride. The next station wasn't for another 30 minutes so all we could do was sit back and enjoy the ride. It was quite enjoyable, though. :) The scenery was beautiful, and we had this little girl to keep us entertained:

All told, our little side adventure put us back about two hours (I estimate) but it was relaxing, and we got to see more of Taiwan than originally planned, even if just from the train window. :) 

#3 Jiufen (The Spirited Away Town)
 Our real destination for the day was a little town tucked away in the mountains called Jiufen. It's famous for inspiring the anime Spirited Away but is also appreciated for it's stunning views:
...on a clear day, I suppose. Unfortunately the weather was less than accommodating so we mostly just enjoyed the food and shopping. Definitely worth the trip, despite getting soaked to the bone. 

"Tea Goose"

Shopping for Tea

#4 Sightseeing in Taipei
You can't go to Taipei without being a bit of a tourist, now can you? 
I also went to two museums on the same day. Brain. Overload.

 Taipei 101: The world's 2nd tallest building. Another dreary day.

#5 FooooooOOOoooooood!

Lamb and Feta Burger. When you live overseas, it's okay
to eat really good burgers wherever you find them. :)

Yummy Tofu (not of the stinky variety)

Night market food: fried noodles and oyster omelet.

A delicious desert made of peanut brittle shavings, ice cream, and cliantro! Yum! 

The "Modern Toilet" Restaurant. Everything is served in toilet-shaped bowls. 
Yum! ;)
Bonus: Dancing with Zombies! 
Actually, these are my favorite two experiences from Taipei, but it seems weird to have a Top 6. ;) 

Julie has been taking swing dance lesson since she arrived in Taipei. If you know me at all, you know that I LOVE swing dancing, so I was most looking forward to hitting the dance floor!
 The Taipei Swing group was awesome! Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and I loved the location. I danced until I was drenched in sweat and beaming with happiness. 

After all that dancing, we took a taxi to Ximen to meet up with some of Jules friends. They were extras in a local movie and were all done up in makeup to fit the part. 

Happy Zombie! Ahhhhhh!

It was definitely the most eventful night of my trip, which was altogether wonderful. 

Thank you, Jules, so much for hosting me and helping me experience so many wonderful aspects of Taiwan. Perhaps after I am done here in Okinawa I will follow in your footsteps.... we'll see. ;)