Seven Hours Without [S]

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Odo Kaigan, Itoman, Okinawa, Japan.  That’s me walking towards the water.

Yesterday, Russell took the day off from work.  We awoke at 6ish, fed [S], packed our snorkel gear, filled our cooler with snacks, and ensured we had a change of clothing.  The three of us left our house at 7:50 a.m.  Our first stop?  Dropping [S] at her day care provider.  “We’ll collect [S] by no later than 3:30,” I promised.  Our second stop?  BK for an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich.  Our third stop?  Odo Kaigan, also known as John Man Beach, in Itoman.

Itoman is located at the southern tip of Okinawa Honto.  To reach Odo Kaigan, we drove through several sugar cane fields before pulling into a (free) small parking lot, which was nearly empty.  One of the parked vehicles was a dive van, which made me think we had made the right decision traveling south rather than north.

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Tide pools.

By all accounts, Odo Kaigan is a place to snorkel or scuba, but not to swim.  Unlike resort beaches, there are no facilities save rustic, but clean, men and women’s toilets, no lifeguards, and no concessions.  But that is the beauty of the beach.  I felt as if we had discovered our own private beach, unknown to many, if not to most.

The water is full of coral and the fish are plentiful.  We saw trumpet fish, parrot fish, angelfish, zebra fish, brightly colored blue fish, pale colored blue fish, and fish that tried to blend into the sand.  I love to swim, but I get anxious when I see too many fish swim my way, which happened yesterday morning.  When I took a break, I explored the beach, which is mostly coral, with plenty of bits of pottery, sea glass, and shells, mixed in, a treasure trove for beach hunters.

OdoKaigen2Fortunately, I did not spy venomous lionfish, poisonous habu jellyfish, or the shark known to frequent this area.

As the hours passed, the beach became more and more crowded.  Groups of scuba divers walked the beach, families gathered around tide pools, and flotation devices could be seen dotting the waters.  When we returned to the parking lot, it was full.  People were eating lunch under trees, snorkeling tours were having participants sign waivers, and families were making their way to the water. Despite the activity, we managed to change into dry clothes and make our way northeast to our fourth and final stop of the day.

OdoKaigen4Cafe Curcuma, known as Thai in the Sky, has a reputation of boasting gorgeous views of the sea and tasty Thai food. Both of which are true.

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View from Cafe Curcuma.

We arrived at the restaurant at 1 p.m. and were informed it was a 30 minute wait to be seated inside.  As we walked the grounds, we were rewarded with sweeping views of the bright blue waters surrounding us on one side and a garden protected by shisa on the other.

ThaiIntheSky1As for the food, it was good.  We shared larb gai and green curry with chicken, featuring squash, carrot, and potato.

ThaiInSky3 Thaiinsky2We returned to Camp Foster to collect [S] at 3:15, with 15 minutes to spare.

#WhatADay

#ADayWellSpent

#LovingOki

61st Zento Eisa Matsuri

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[S] getting up close and personal with an eisa spirit.
Experience makes one smarter.  That is for certain.  Last year, we attended the 60th Zento Eisa Matsuri.  Being it was our first time in attendance, we didn’t know what to expect and were unprepared.  This year, we attended the festival like experts.  Indeed, we’ve been awaiting this particular matsuri (festival) to attend as its location is nearby, allowing us to park at Kadena Air Base and walk to the venue, and we had a great view of the performances.

Last year, the weather was humid and there were heavy showers during the festival, causing a break in performances, and we were unable to sit on the grounds, as we failed to bring a waterproof tarp to sit on.  This year, the weather was dry, with a light breeze and scattered clouds.  Oddly, I felt a chill or two sitting on the grounds.  And we arrived prepared with a tarp, purchased at our local DAISO store (100 Yen store).

We arrived at the festival later than expected and sat on the grounds near the performance exit.  Each time a group completed their set, they walked past where we were seated.  Eisa, a celebratory performance, steeped in Buddhist tradition, marks the end of Oban.  It is believed that each year during Obon ancestral spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives.  On the third and final day of Oban, the spirits return to their world.  That explains the appearance of white-faced spirits in eisa performances.

One of the spirits took time to interact with [S], who quickly retreated into my lap.  I’m just happy that Russell was at the ready with a camera.

Eisa20162#EisaRocks

The Freedom of a Burkini

This post was drafted, but not completed, last night, before France’s highest administrative court overturned the ban on burkinis.

* * *

The debate in Europe regarding the acceptability of the burkini, full-body water-friendly attire, on beaches has reached the United States.  Articles attempting to explain the burkini, as well as the historical reasons for its ban, are prevalent.  The reason for the burkini debate requires an understanding of cultural and religious norms, as well as historical and current laws, in France and across Europe, as well as throughout Muslim countries and communities.  I have no such bona fides.

I write because the burkini brouhaha engenders feminist irony.

In Turkey, traditional Muslim women have long argued that wearing what they want on their heads is a fundamental human right. Feminists and secularists counter that the head scarf is a symbol of women’s subjection to men, and of Mr. Erdogan’s project to restore the country’s Islamic identity

The Multifaceted ‘Burkini’ Debate, The New York Times (Aug. 22, 2016).

Women who want to go to the beach, should be permitted to wear whatever clothing they chose, so long as it comports with dress codes and notions of decency.  There is no need to place the word “Muslim” at the beginning of the sentence, just like there is no need to place the word “Jewish” or “Black” at the beginning of the sentence.

I am for women.  All women.  If I want to cover my body at the beach, be it because I’m a nun or seek to avoid a severe reaction to sun exposure, I should be able to.  Indeed, many women in Okinawa are covered from head to ankles at the beach to avoid sun exposure.  My position should come as no surprise.  Indeed, if women want to engage in the sex trade, they should be free to do so, so long as she is doing so of her own free will.

There’s the rub.  If a woman wants to engage in sex industry, she must be able to do so without fear of physical or emotional harm.  She should be able to dictate when, who, where, and under what circumstances she wants to work.  But that is stating the obvious.  But is a woman who was sexually abused as child, engaged in sex work of her own free will?  Is a poor women seeking to provide her children with food and clothing, working in the sex trade of her own free will?  There is no easy answer.

If a woman wears a burkini because that allows her to enjoy a day at the beach, who are we–as women–to object?  Indeed, if she is unable to enjoy the beach without full covering, the feminist argument–that she should not be allowed to fully cover her body because such a dress code demonstrates subjugation to men–puts that woman in a worse off position.

The balancing of individual rights with public policy is never simple.  But for the feminist, the answer should be clear.  Women should be given the right to choose what is in their best interest.  If my religion dictates I cover my body, no one should tell me to do otherwise.  Just as if my religion dictates I refuse alcohol.

#FreetheBurkini

Solo Stands Alone

U.S. Soccer terminated the contract of goalkeeper Hope Solo on Wednesday for what it called “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles.” The federation also said it had suspended Solo from the women’s national team for six months, but in ending her contract, it sent a strong signal that Solo — who has balanced on-field excellence with off-field controversy for more than a decade — might have played her last game for the United States.

The suspension was a direct result of critical comments Solo, 35, made after the United States was eliminated by Sweden in the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics on Aug. 12. After the loss in a penalty-kick shootout, which sent the Americans home from the Games without a medal for the first time, Solo responded by assailing the Swedes’ conservative tactics and calling them “a bunch of cowards” for not going toe to toe with the more talented American team.

U.S. Soccer Suspends Hope Solo and Terminates Her Contract, The New York Times (Aug. 24, 2016).

Sports.  Those who aren’t fans call it fun and games, but dedicated spectators of fill-in-the-blank understand that the match is about more than mere wins and losses.  At the professional level, sports are about business, branding, sponsors, and money.  But sports also are about the personalities, personas, personal histories, and egos of athletes, whether performing or not. Just ask Ryan Lochte.

Hope Solo’s talent as a goalkeeper on the pitch is undeniable.  Indeed, her records speaks for itself.  But off the pitch, her commentary and actions have plagued her for years.  As a Team U.S.A. soccer fan (men’s or women’s), I was disheartened that the women failed to make it to the semifinals.  But such is life.  Sweden played by the rules and won.  Full stop.  End of story.

Ms. Solo’s comments post-match were inaccurate and unnecessary.  She demonstrated poor sportsmanship.  Her comments were a shining example of what not to do post-loss, no matter how high the emotions run.

U.S. Soccer took the right steps given Ms. Solo’s name-calling at the Olympics, an international competition where goodwill should trump ego.  As for Ms. Solo, I am hopeful she understands why her comments were unacceptable.  And I wish her well in her future endeavors.

The Colors of Love

FullSizeRender(278)My day began at 5:16 a.m.  Soon after waking came preparing breakfast, making beds, sending work e-mails, getting ready for work, and work.  Post-work there was the checking of e-mails, two loads of laundry, and dinner preparation.  Sometime post-work pre–dinner, [S] said she needed a diaper change.  Clasped in her hands were two crayons, which she refused to let go.  As we walked down the hallway, I noticed that she reached towards the wall, as if to see whether the crayon would work on painted concrete.  “No, [S], we don’t color anything but paper, do you understand?,” I asked.  “Yea,” came the reply.

As I changed her diaper, I asked [S] the colors of the crayons.  “Pink,” she enthusiastically offered up.  “No, that’s purple; that’s Nana’s favorite color,” I responded.  [S] suggested the second crayon also was pink.  “No, it’s red; aka in Japanese,” I responded.  Afterwards, she ran back to the living room and I began working on our family finances, recording expenses and checking receipts against credit card charges.  [S] was quietly playing at her table in the same room.  At least for most of the time.

As I handed [S] a few receipts to play with, I walked in front of our sofa.  That’s when I noticed an unusual marking on a cushion.  As I approached our straw-colored couch, it became clear that the discoloration was due to purple and red crayon colored into the fabric.  I glanced at [S], noting her preoccupation with crayons had long since ended, the offending crayons having been returned to their box.

[S] saw me.  I, again, explained that crayons are to be used only on paper.  I expressed my dismay that she colored our couch.  And I left it at that.  It is what it is, after all.  The remainder of the evening, she sought my forgiveness, which had been given immediately.

As we prepare to have two children in the house, I am bracing myself for the realization that such things will happen.  I am also reminding myself that [S] is a well-behaved child, with such incidents rarely occuring.  Touch wood.  Indeed, like most parents, I see my child as a wonder, growing, learning, doing–far too quickly most times.  Perhaps, if I can’t work out the crayon from the fabric, it will serve as a colorful reminder to examine the world from a child’s perspective, while embracing the patience of a saint.

#ColorMePink

An Upturn: Rejecting the “Boys Being Boys” Defense

U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte lost all four of his major sponsors on Monday, including Speedo USA and Ralph Lauren Corp , following his apology for an “exaggerated” story about being robbed at gunpoint at the Rio Games.

—  Ryan Lochte loses all his major sponsors after Rio incident, apology, Reuters (Aug. 23, 2016).

The Beach Life

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Onna Seaside Civil Park, Nabee Beach, Okinawa, Japan.

Those with a keen eye may discern that the massive hotel behind us is an InterContinental.  The InterContinental ANA Manza Beach Resort is a stunning property, boating manicured lawns, palm-lined roads, and a pristine beach with ocean obstacle courses for adults and children alike.  That was not where we were.  Rather, we were at Nabee Beach, located one stoplight south of the InterContinental.  Indeed, it was an InterContinental staff member who provided us with the simple directions when Google Maps continued to bring us to the entrance of the Manza Beach Resort.

As I’ve written about previously, Okinawa is full of beaches, many of which are free to access, while several are not.  I still recall being shocked that one may have to pay to access a beach.  Then, I was a young girl visiting her Grandparents in New Jersey.  And while I appreciate all of the varied–and valid–reasons access to beaches may be pay-to-play, I tend to prefer spending my time at no-fee beaches.  Judging from the crowd at Nabee Beach, so do many Okinawans.

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Nabee Beach, Okinawa, Japan.

Nabee Beach is more than a beach.  It has one lifeguard, who also was in charge of putting up umbrella rentals.  It has activity rentals (think banana boat rides, kayaks, snorkeling and fishing excursions).  It has barbecue rentals.  And it has an Okinawan restaurant.  It is a busy place, with a steady flow of people consistently arriving and departing.

The swim area is netted and no snorkeling is allowed.  However, a short walk towards the InterContinental will land you at a small beach, without amenities, lifeguards, or restrictions.  We spent time on both beaches; both were equally beautiful, but the small beach was quieter and intimate with the added bonus of schools of fish swimming about.

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We appeared to be the only Americans at Nabee Beach yesterday.  The handful of non-Asian people we encountered likely were European or Australian.

FullSizeRender(274)Aside from the clear waters and carefree environment, my favorite part of the day was when [S] demanded to get out of her panda ring while in still in the waters of the East China Sea.  She delighted in being motor-boated from one parent to the other, despite the splashing of salt water in her face, laughing out loud the entire time.  Perhaps my second favorite part of the day was knowing we saved a c-note by bypassing the InterContinental and finding this gem of a beach.

Love.

I felt it Thursday evening.  “Russell, I don’t feel good.  I think I’m getting the flu.”  Unfortunately, those words have not been uncommon in the recent past.  Indeed, they have been far too common for my Husband to doubt the veracity of my statement.  That night, I went to bed, only to awaken to my own moaning in the early hours of the morning.

When [S] woke Friday morning, I brought her into our room to await Russell’s return from an early morning run.  Once he returned, I went back to sleep, staying up long enough to do as he instructed–I texted [S]’s day care provider to ask if we could drop her off that morning.  “Yes, of course,” came the reply.  I woke a bit after noon, slowly realizing I had slept the morning away.  My head felt as if someone had hit me over the head with frying pan and my throat was raw and sore.  We collected [S] together that afternoon.  I took her home and was alone with her for a few hours.  Once Russell walked in the door, he put her to sleep.  And I fell asleep as well.

This morning, he awoke with [S].  He fed her, dressed her, and took her to run errands, returning after 2 p.m.  During that time, I slept, drank tea, and marveled at the quiet.  By the time they arrived home, I felt better.  And by this evening, I felt significantly better–the massive headache gone, the sore throat soothed.

When I married Russell I knew he was loving, thoughtful, and kind.  Yet he still surprises me by just how loving, thoughtful, and kind he is.

#Love

The End of the Paper Chase, For Now.

This week we received notice that USCIS would be transferring our petition to bring our son to the United States to its field office in Seoul, Korea.  Upon receiving a copy of the notice, our case manager congratulated us for reaching the end of the paper trail.  At least for now.  Once an adoption decree has been issued, the necessary paperwork to get him home will be required, but it will be completed locally, in Korea.

In the meantime, we will continue to do what we have become accustomed to doing:  waiting.  We will do so knowing that our waiting time shortens with each passing day and that miracles occur every single day.