Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Obon Weekend

The Obon holidays were this last weekend, and, as usual, I had a fantastic time (if you don't know what the heck I'm talking about, you can read my blogs about it here).

I am fairly certain these are the BEST days out of the whole Okinawa year, and while many people take advantage of the three-day-weekend to travel, there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

This is what Obon looked like for me this year:

Friday: Asato Matsuri
The festivities started on friday so I donned my new yukata (summer kimono), and walked up the road the the next neighborhood to enjoy their festival.

Javier came, too! 
Eisa dancing. Isn't he cuuute??
Here you can see my yukata. 
They even had a tiny fireworks show at the end. :D
Saturday: Hanashiro Matsuri 
For me, Saturday is the main event. I love, love, love my neighborhood's festival. It's one of my first and best memories of Okinawa, and the local grandmas always feel like a part of the community. It's just so much fun!

Posing with my self-proclaimed "Okinawan Parents," 

and the little neighbor girl. :) 

Dancing with my grannies. :)
Javier danced, too!! 

I tried to get a good picture of my Obi (the yellow bow/belt) because I tied it by myself for the first time.
This was QUITE the accomplishment. :) 

One last dance to end the night. 

Sunday: Family Dinner
For the locals, however, Sunday is the most important day of Obon. On this day, Okinawan people gather together at their family homes to share a dinner together and bid their ancestors (whose ghosts have been visiting for the weekend) farewell. I did get to experience this dinner my first year with a teacher's family, but didn't have the opportunity this year.

Monday: Shishimai 
After the ancestors have returned to their homes in the sea, some communities have one last Obon event: the Shishimai. I wrote about it more in-depth last year, and you can read that blog here.

Shishimai means "lion dance," and while the lion (or shisa) certainly does dance, I think of it as more of a parade, because it also marches all around the neighborhood as people follow behind. The main purpose of this tradition is to usher out any negative spirits that may have remained after the ancestors' departure.

One thing I love is the way the shisa is able to express so much character and emotion because of how the people inside move around and open or close the mouth.

If you look in the shisa's mouth, you can see that the man inside is having a pretty good time, too
(probably because I nearly fell over when he came charging at me). 

Of course, I love how the shisa chows down on little kids and babies to bring them good luck...

but I also love how the shisa seems to respect the elderly members of the community and dances with all the grandmas.

On that note, I love how the grandmas here really love dancing. At the end of the parade, they have yet another dance party, and they once again force me to join in. :) Not that I'm complaining.
They even form a rockin'-grandma dance circle! 
And get the little guys to dance along, too. 
My favorite interaction of the day was between this toddler and the shisa. He seemed pretty fearless standing up to the big lion, until the lion came at him with his mouth wide open:
gif animator
Then he was like, "Time to GTFO!"
Also, please note the anpanman on his hiney. Ha!
(If the embedding doesn't work, you can see it here)

As you can see, I had a really amazing weekend. I hope this isn't my last year in Japan, because I'd love to do it all over again next year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Kazuno: Sneak Peek

Look at me! Making sneak peek blogs like a pro! Too bad I am only masquerading as a photographer. For now. ;) 

Mommy-to-be, Kazuno, and I headed to Toyosaki Beach today to take advantage of the blue skies and sunset potential for her maternity photo shoot. 

She is going to have her first baby any day now, so I was a little worried when the typhoon rolled in and I didn't know when we'd see the sun again. Luckiliy, it returned in time for us to capture that adorable baby bump. 

Being pregnant in Okinawa may not be so bad after all. 
The sunset did not disappoint, and I did my best to capture it and my gorgeous friend. I took about a thousand photos, and so these are just a few (mostly) unedited samples of what's to come. 

Soo many sun flare photos!
This is no where near the best of them, but I love her happy smile!  

Oh, what a fun day! 

Blooper Photo. Win. :) 

Friday, August 5, 2011


I'd be the easiest person in the world to torture for information. Just put me in solitude for 24 hours and I will start screaming: "Please! I'll tell you whatever you want!! Just let me out of here!! I need human contact!"

Sarra needs bentos.
Do you hear that, Typhoon Muifa? You did it; you drove me to the point of despair! What do you want to know??! I will tell you anything! Just please, please, please! Let me outdoors. Let me breathe fresh air and laugh and eat fresh fruit! I am BEGGING YOU!!

It's not like I've been alone all the time, either. I spent almost 24 hours at Sarra's watching movies and eating constantly, and about 12 hours at Max's after I came over for dinner and got trapped when the storm unexpectedly grew stronger. These friends have been amazing, and I'm so glad I wasn't alone all this time, but I still feel all the energy leaving my body. I feel the mad desperation of a person tortured for many hours, on the verge of breaking entirely.

Please, typhoon Muifa! What do you WANT from me?!  You ragging maniac, let us out of here!!!!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

High(and low)lights of Late

I am way behind on blogging, and there are way too many things that I want to immortalize in writing, so I'm going to make it quick and hit a few highlights.

Sometimes, I cook. 
Just sometimes.

Recently, I've been trying to cook more Japanese recipes. Like this Omusoba:

I wanted to cook yakisoba after watching Ochi's video on youtube (She has a great Japanese cooking channel. Check it out HERE). Then I saw this other video and decided to put said yakisoba into an omelette. It was delicious. I was so proud.

I've also been looking for light, summer recipes, and this Apple Vinaigrette Salad is my current favorite:

I got the recipe from a simple google search and have made it once a week ever since. Tasty.

Often, I party. 
Maybe a little too often.

I love having people over. Sometimes I just have a friend over for dinner (which was the case with the above two dishes) and sometimes I invite 25 high school students over. 


Um... what?!

A few weeks ago some students from international club here at school asked if they could host a party at my apartment. Since the international club usually consists of about 10 sweet mannered girls, I said "no problem!" I found out the day before the party that the regulars wouldn't be the only ones attending. Oops.

Not to be intimidated by such a number. I  rearranged some furniture, removed two of the sliding doors between the tatami room and the bedroom, and hoped for the best.

Lucky for me, these students were not just considerate guests, they were also very tidy.
Shoes all lined up so carefully.
They were comfortable sitting on the floor,  brought their own food...

... and they left my apartment in better shape than they found it in. Amazing!
Sparkly clean. 

So, if 25 Japanese high schoolers ask to come to your 2LDK apartment, just say yes!

The next day was my buddy/ coworkers birthday, and so some of us put together a little surprise party for him (also at my apartment).

Can you say yakiniku?!?

Yakiniku just means grilled meat but the special part is that you grill all of the meat on a burner at the table. Usually I eat yakiniku at a restaurant but some students taught me how to do it at home. It's great! You save money and can still eat until you are stuffed.

So, in honor of Max, a good-sized group of ALTs, Kazuno, and one of Koyo's teachers got together to devour mountains of meat and celebrate.

Sarra brought a beautiful chocolate mouse cake which I so gracefully placed my arm in. Sorry about that Sarra. And Max.

It was still, edible, though, and with cups full of cake everyone was happy to say "Cheers" to Max's 26th.

Recently, I say 'goodbye.'
Way too many times.
This time of year is full of sunshine and fun and, unfortunately, way too many "sayonaras." Tis the season for the great JET exodus in which dozens of the friendly faces around the island vanish. This year, I've not been handling it well. It feels like this vast hole has opened up in my life, but at the same time I refuse to accept that it's happening. So many friends are leaving. For good.
Kate and Osborne (front and center)
I haven't really shown much emotion, but inside I am cracking more and more with each goodbye. Like saying so long to sweet Kate last night. Or to Osborne today. These friends have become such an important part of my daily life here.
Alana is soon to follow and then Laura... there are too many to count.  I just can't imagine Okinawa without them.
Every time I prepare myself to say goodbye to one of these lovely people, all I can think is "Please, Don't Go. "

Dear, dear friends, please know that you are missed, that you will be missed, that you've changed Okinawa in your time here, and that that change will live on in each of us who were lucky enough to know you while you were here. Please stay in touch. I mean it.

Once in a great while, I travel.
But not this time.
That stinker is coming straight for me. Boo. 

This weekend, I'd planned to take my one and only summer vacation, but a nasty looking typhoon is moving in. It kind of looks like it will be out of the way by Friday night/Saturday, but I'd planned to camp on the beach and the weather still might not be ideal for that.  So, I decided not to risk the weather ruining my plans and just cancelled them instead. Hopefully I can find another weekend to get away, but in the meantime, I have more house parties and recipe experiments to look forward to.

Does anyone have a recipe that makes typhoons pass more quickly?