Sunday, June 03, 2007

Tick Tock

---This entry is a week old, which should tell you a little something about how good I think it is (not very) and how my week has been (not productive). Oh well. You don't have to read if you don't want to but I'm including it so that when I look back in a year I'll remember---

Our Okinawa clock is counting down, so we used our long weekend to check off a few things on our perpetual to-do list. First up: the "used American" stores that line 58 south of Futenma. Suffice it to say they look infinitely more appealing when you're looking at the stuff from behind dirty windows at 60 kph. No great finds there, although the store with the giant spiderman hanging out front was really cool. I might actually have to go back and pick up some dishes.

Sunday we had a lofty goal: make it all the way to Cape Hedo. It's the northernmost point of Okinawa and we've always intended to make a trip up there, because it seems like something a person should do while they live here. But for an island that's only sixty-some miles long, it takes a seriously long time to get anywhere. We planned, we consulted maps, we loaded the car and we invited Lisa & Nathan to go, too. Once we got everyone buckled in and fueled up with coffee from the USO, we hit the road at 9 am.

After we got to Nago, we cut across the island on a little highway only because we decided it'd be interesting to go up one side and down the other. It was really cool! That little highway turned out to take us up through the jungle with no towns to speak of before dumping us out on the Pacific. And then the drive north was just beautiful. Lots of scenic views of cliffs, water, jungle, pineapple farms; you know, standard stuff. It's interesting to me, though, how that part of the island looks different than other parts. I'm sure it's technically all the same but it feels different up there. Little to no traffic, small towns that are few and far between and an absence of other Y plates. In fact, we stopped at a convenience store (locally owned, not a chain) to use the island's grossest squatty potty and an Okinawan man started asking me all kinds of questions: where do we live, do we like it here and why (when I told him we really like it and it's because the people are so nice, he beamed from ear to ear and said, "really?", as though that was surprising to him).

We stopped at the Hiro Coffee Farm (yes, Okinawa has a coffee farm!) for more caffeine and a bag of beans. PC had mentioned it to Lisa, who in turn mentioned it to me, because he'd stopped there on one of his trips north for work. We were all excited about it and thought maybe we'd just drive up there sometime but after actually making the trip and stopping, we understand why it's not really a destination in and of itself. Don't get me wrong, it was super-cute and the lady was really nice - even when Jeff asked if there was a bathroom and she just let him use the one in her house - but it's decidedly off the beaten path and surrounded by nothing else. And then it was time to get back in the car and keep driving to Hedo. At some point on all the twisty, hilly, bumpy, jungly road I started feeling mildly carsick (always fun, and it had a little something to do with digging around in a cooler to get snacks for the boys), so I started feeling like Hedo couldn't be close enough. After another eight kilometers of sheer curvy road torture, we arrived.

Unfortunately it was kind of socked in with fog and clouds. We could see the water (Wyatt started grunting when he saw it and Nathan declared it "wa-wa!") and it's a lovely view from the cliffs but not unlike other cliff/water combinations we've seen much closer to home. The water is really beautiful and it was a very calm day, but I can see how it would be really amazing if the surf were churned up a bit and the sun was shining. But since someone cranked the humidifier to about 97%, I was okay with the cloud-cover.

We visited every scenic lookout to make sure we got the most from our Hedo experience and then scanned the food options since it was lunchtime. Although I totally would've eaten the Japanese corndog, Lisa and Jeff opted for lunch down the road somewhere. So we loaded everyone back in the Surf and kept driving. It turned out we weren't too far from Okuma - had we known it was so close, we would've made the effort to get up to Hedo sooner. We drove just a bit further before Jeff spied a cute cafe. We pulled in (well, technically, we cruised right past it, discussed it and then made a U-turn through a gravel lot) and planted ourselves on the deck. We were the only people there at that point and the owners moved the outdoor fan to point on our table. Please reference the previous humidity comment and realize that a fan moving wet air is fairly not-helpful. But it was a lovely gesture. Besides, this cafe had decent food*, ice cream and "waffies" and an awesome view of the East China Sea.

We decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up so after lunch we all changed clothes and traipsed across 58 to the beach. Good decision! The water was beautiful and it was actually a good beach - not too much coral and some interesting super-flat black rocks. Wyatt again showed his appreciation for the ocean through a series of grunts and lots of frog kicks. Nathan divvied his time between land and sea and the rest of us just enjoyed the scenery*. I don't really know how long we lasted out there before the boys showed signs of being finished, but Jeff loaded the car, we all changed back into dry clothes and headed home. The boys conked out after Lisa read them a couple of books (such a good mom, always prepared) and we were finally free to talk about how miraculous it was that neither one of them freaked out about being in their carseat for the entire day (you know, without worrying about it jinxing us).

We pulled into our parking spot at a little past 5. That's right, this was an ALL DAY affair and let me tell you, I have never been so glad I thought to use my crockpot! Dinner was ready so by the time we got everything unloaded, bathed our kids and ourselves, made a salad and Lisa fired up the blender, we were ready to eat. Amazingly both boys continued to play and were in great moods right up until bedtime. I know ours didn't make a peep after we put him down for the night and I'm guessing Nathan was pretty shot, too.

So finally, we accomplished something kind of big and checked that trip off our list. I'm kind of glad we saved it for now because it's fun to discover new things this far into our assignment. You know, just when things were feeling very mundane we went and spiced it up! Now we just have to figure out where else to go and when we're going to do it because the time is still ticking away...

*there might be a little more to this story. And if you buy me a drink sometime (or four) I might tell you.


lisa said...

You toned this down in places.... I think its worth mentioning *where* some of us changed back into dry clothes, that we were sweating profusely which makes getting dressed that much harder, that Nathan climbed into the drivers seat of the car (while it was on) and proceeded to eat the entire bag of Japanese junk food snack, should I keep going? :)

geri said...

This day sounds so fun! we love the photos, adorable of Wyatt and Nathan! Yes, the others are great too! thanks for sharing! geri and mike

Mom said...

Sounds like a memorable day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos.