Big Typhoons and Birthing Babies

There is a class 5 typhoon, Neoguri, headed to our little island and it is suppose to hit us within the next 24 hours. Normally, I’d be happy for the forced down day to relax inside my cement-made-for-typhoons-home, while nature has a temper tantrum outside….

neoguri on july 5 2014 jtwc forecast track

I’m on the little speck named Kadena, right along that pink path.

In fact, I should be particularly excited because this is the first typhoon I get to have with my handsome husband, instead of just me and my cat. He was deployed during all the typhoons last year.

Typhoons around here, are like a snow day. Every structure on island is made to withstand multiple typhoons, every year. As long as you prepared; tied down things that could fly away, stocked up on food and water, and prepared for the possibility of the power going out….. there really isn’t anything to be nervous about.

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So, why the change of heart? Because today is my due date. Can you imagine trying to drive to the hospital in the middle of the biggest typhoon this island has seen in 15 years? Or delivering your first baby at home by yourselves?

No?

Neither can the hospital staff. When the storm gets close, the hospital will start excepting all pregos within 3 weeks of their due dates and their plus ones. We will all get set up in a large room with cots to sleep on.

A cot. I’m not excited about that. Also the image of me and every other pregnant woman waddling in there with our millions of pillows tucked under our arms… it is just comical.

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On top of this situation… have you heard about the change in barometric pressure during a storm causing women to go into labor? After a short google search (what I did to see how much weight this theory has) it’s easy to see that, while there is not a clear conclusion, it is most certainly loosely connected. The change in pressure outside can cause the membranes inside to rupture and to speed up the labor process. All studies I read were unanimous on the fact that, during storms, the number of pregos giving birth increases.

So now I’m thinking there is a very likely chance that I will have a typhoon induced labor. The first part of my birth plan is out the window in that situation.

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I can’t labor at all in my own home. There goes my plan for those yummy popsicles in my freezer. And that glistening, just cleaned bathtub.

My doula can’t come, unless I go into labor before they close down the roads. If you don’t know what a doula is, just know that she is a wonderful lady that helps the family before, during, and after labor. I really want her to be there.

I have to leave my kitty at home by herself. I know, I know…. I’m a crazy cat lady to worry about her. But I can’t help it. I don’t want my furry friend to go through the stress of a storm without her humans.

And I think my tiny Japanese car might fly away, like a plastic bag, in the hospital parking lot. Even though we did our best to make it extra heavy by filling the gas tank and leaving the sandbags we didn’t use in the back of the car. Not like either will help if it catches a gust of wind.

This is why I think that my car might be tossed around: Category 1 typhoon, Jelawat, that hit Okinawa in 2012:

I may have told myself that everything is going to be okay enough times now, that I can calmly head to the hospital tonight feeling like that it is so. I will still feel guilty for leaving my kitty and I’ll be shocked when we emerge later to find that our car is still in working condition in the parking lot, but we can work with this.

And who knows? I might get to hold my baby girl a few days earlier than I would have if this typhoon didn’t decided to blow through?

If she is born during the storm she’ll have a great nickname, Neoguri. Which means raccoon dog in Korean. I think I will call her that when I’m angry.

Come back soon to find out how things went…. I’m curious too.

Pooh Bear

This post was written about 2 months ago… just now getting around to posting it…. yeah…. I’m on top of things. I tried to make up for it by including pictures of the painting I did last week. I think it’s fun to see how a piece develops.

I had a moment today, where I realized I’m not quite normal.

Winnie The Pooh in the Honey Tree

When being asked a simple question about nursery colors and theme, I mentioned how I’m a little much in love with the classic Winnie The Pooh stories. The colors for her room are intended to be soft and gentle like on the pages of those story books…. with a touch of whimsical princess of course. I’m far too girly to not include a little reminder here and their that she’s our little princess.

I suppose that is all normal, but when I got to the bit about how I’ve just finished reading the entire Whinie The Pooh series out loud to my baby girl… the look on my questioner’s face was either telling me that I was silly, majorly maternal, or had just gone off the deep end of loonyville. I’m not sure which.

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Honestly though, as soon as I read that my baby had developed the ability to hear, I pulled out that book and started reading out loud. Maybe it was the love for books that my mother instilled in me that compelled me to start reading to her? Maybe it came from a desire to give her a head start learning about the world? Perhaps it was a way for us to bond?

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Or maybe it was a selfish indulgence to read the words of A. A. Miline out loud? Those words were not written to be silently read to ones self. They practically beg to be given a voice. Miline’s words are so clever, so rich, and yet so simple. They are more filling then a bowl full of comfort food, and reading them out loud is an extra special treat.

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I gobbled up the sweet memories of childhood’s pleasant unknown, remembering the fun and the lack of limitation on imagination. When a bear, covered in mud, could float up into a honey tree with a balloon to fool some bees that he’s just a little black rain cloud. Or when a game of racing sticks under a bridge to see who’s came out first, was a real thrill. Childhood is such a magical time and I think it’s perfectly captured by the stories of a boy and his bear of very little brain.

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I think we are going to read through this book again. Until we have other books to read, I suppose. I thought about reading Wurthering Heights to her…. but the Bronte sisters are probably a little too dramatic for someone still in the womb.

 

A Baby Story: Part 5 – The Reveal Party

Nathan and I went into the ultrasound knowing that we’d see our baby that day, but that the gender would still be a secret. Once again, Nathan had a great idea that involved waiting. I always thought that out of the two of us, I was the patient one, but waiting for baby stuff is not a skill I posses. We had told 10 of our closest friends on island to join us for a reveal party that weekend. So when the radiologist asked if we wanted to know the gender, we told her our plans and asked if she could put the results in an envelope for us. I can’t believe that we walked out of there not knowing. I really wanted to know!

Fast-forward through a few days of contemplating placing that envelope in the freezer, or holding it in front of a steaming tea pot until it sneakily opened…. but never actually doing anything more than staring at the envelope… wondering…

Thank goodness I only had to wait a few days. The reveal party day came.

Nathan gave the envelope, two pie tins, two tubs of whip-cream, and one blue, and one red tube of food coloring to one of our friends. In the privacy of her home, she looked inside the envelope, then put colored whip, blue for boy, red for girl, in the bottom of the pie tin, covered it with white whip, and brought the pies to the party.

Obviously the only way to find out the gender is to get to the bottom of the pan. Which is best done by smashing said pie into your loved-one’s face.

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So we did.

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We had to look through dripping whip at each others face to find out if it was a boy, or girl.

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We are both pretty stoked to find out that we will be welcoming a little girl into this world come summer time.

Gender Reveal.2All photo’s were taken by the amazing Mickey Holiday! Thank you so much for sharing your talent and capturing this moment for us!

A Baby Story: Part 4

The reveal last night was so much fun and so exciting! Thank you for being a part of this with us! It means so much to me to have the support of all of you who are far away.

I’ll post pictures from the reveal party later, but really quick, I have to post the news……

We’re having a GIRL!!!!

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UntitledAnd you’re gonna wana see how we found out… we did something a little different from the norm and it’s pretty funny.

A Baby Story: Part 3

I have a lot of memories of long conversations with my mom. We talked about everything. We talked about friendships and how they change as you get older. We talked about the dumb things boys and girls do when young and dating. We talked about how she could never remember embarrassing stories about herself, but she had an arsenal of stories about her sister. She was the best at telling a story and boy did my aunt have some juicy ones. We talked about how great family is, how she never thought as a kid, that she’d consider a brother to be one of her best friends. How her mom once hid in the bushes with a hose to catch a kid who was out past their curfew. She told me about her past, and things that she learned along the way.

I listened intently to every story and every bit of advise she gave me. Well, I often ignored her fashion tips… I was pretty sure I knew more about that then her, but that’s the only area where, in my mind, I had any advantage.

Today is the anniversary of her passing and I often reflect on how lucky I was to have those conversations with her and how much more lucky I am that I can remember so much of what she said. Today is also the day that I learn if this baby in my belly is a boy or a girl. So being the hormonal emotional mess that I am, I thought I’d share this with you.

Lately, the conversation that keeps running through my head, is one we had while folding laundry in her room. She was probably folding towels into neat thirds and I was probably sorting through our mountains of unmatched socks.

I had always been impressed with my mom’s beauty, her stage presence, and her ability to tell a story through words and music. I was so sure that if she had been able to go to Broadway, to sing and act with all that talent surrounding her, she would have easily climbed to stardom. I asked her if she ever wished she’d stayed on that path, not had settled down in California and had kids. Part of me felt like I stole that from her. I wondered if me and my punk siblings were worth that missed opportunity to her.

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She didn’t even bat an eye and made it clear that she wouldn’t ever change things. She loved being our mom. It’s something I suspected. She couldn’t ever finish the children’s book, “Guess How Much I Love You,” (among others) because her eyes would cloud with tears before she could reach the end. It was very apparent how much she loved her babies.

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She loved all babies actually. She loved to chat them up, to make them smile and coo. She loved to breathe in their sweet baby scent and pinch their cubby little thighs. She would just eat them up. She told me often how she missed the days when her long, lanky children could fit in her arms and she could cuddle them and rock them to sleep. After reminiscing about her babies she took a pause from folding to look at me. Her long, curly, red hair was pulled back into a ponytail and her green eyes rested on me in a loving way.

She sighed, “I can’t wait for my grandkids.”

My teenager self looked back at her in astonishment.

Seeing my look of surprise, she added, “Of course you can take your time. Get married and find the right person and all that,” She said as her hands became busy again, “but I really hope you don’t make me wait too long.”

With me still in silent shock, she added, “And make sure you marry someone really cute like your dad.”

I warned her that the road to grandkids was a long one, and she would have to be okay with all adopted grandchildren because I had no intentions of ever getting pregnant. She laughed, happy that she didn’t have to worry about her teenage daughter coming home pregnant anytime soon. Seeing her prego is enough to make any female think twice about creating offspring. She told me that eventually I’d change my mind and that she would wait.

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As always mom, you were right. The thumps and bumps I now feel in my belly, are proof of that. I greatly miss her presence in my life, but with all the memories I have of her, it’s not like she’s far away. I thought that reaching these mile stones in my life, like having the first grandchild, would make her seem more distant. The thought of starting my family without her guidance was something I imagined to be intimidating and scary, but I somehow feel calm. Instead of feeling farther from her, I feel closer.

So, when I see a bouncing baby on the ultrasound, I feel may feel shocked that there is someone growing in my belly, but I’m not deflated by the fact that I can’t talk to her about it. I miss her immensely, but the time that she was here was not waisted. She did a good job arming me for the life ahead. Plus, if I do have questions, I still have the other half of what made her great, my dad.

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I’m so excited to learn if this baby will be a boy or a girl tonight! And either way, I’m excited to be a mom and put into practice all the things my parents taught me.

Got any hunches? What do think baby Sinex will be?

Oh, and I’m also pretty sure the husband that I picked will help make my babies extra cute. Thanks for the tip mom.

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A Baby Story: Part 2

My husband has this habit of googling, which he calls yahooing. If he has a question and wants an answer, there are a million answers available for him at the click of a button. When he found out that we were expecting, he did a lot of googling…. this has lead to him having many exciting plans for milestones in our pregnancy.

This is the first googled plan… There will be many more to come….

Keeping a big secret is a hard thing to do. I really couldn’t keep the news quite around the people that saw me everyday.

I had to tell people at work right away because I was assisting in the surgery part of the veterinary clinic and the anesthesia that the pets inhale while being prepped and undergoing surgery, is not good for developing babies. So, to the lab I moved where there is far less risk and a handful of opportunities to actually sit down during the day. I’m sure anyone working in just about any medical field knows that sitting during the workday is a very rare occurrence.

I also couldn’t hide it from my friends here on island… for obvious reasons… so we told them…. or more accurately, they figured it out.

So that just leaves all our friends and family back in the states.

We thought we had come up with a pretty swell way to tell our parents, and once they knew, then I could tell the rest of the world…. which really means being able to start posting things on facebook, finally.

The idea was to send them onesies in the mail. We picked out something clever for both sets of parents, and placed our orders so that the packages would arrive in time to be opened on Christmas morning. We let them know to be on the lookout for a gift from us and that they had to wait to open it untill we could Skype with them, on Christmas.

Our great plan was foiled. As most great plans are.

The San Jose Sharks onesie that was purchase for my hockey-loving-family was right on schedule. My shipment tracker said it was going to get there in plenty of time. What I didn’t plan for was the attempted Skype call from my step-mom one morning as Nathan and I were leaving the house for work. As we were pulling away from our internet source, her garbled voice was vary hard to understand, but we seemed to hear a tone of panic. The line cuts out about a quickly as it came.

Then a message, “I’m alone! I don’t know how to Skype! A HOT hot mess! Call me!”

Then the MagicJack app on my phone starts to ring. I hand the phone over to Nathan to answer while I drive. I can tell he’s trying hard to listen and is very confused. He starts to hold the phone up to my ear while says that he’s not sure what’s going on, “The connection is bad and it sounds like she’s crying,” he advises.

In the seconds as he says those words and raises the phone up to my ear, I imagine that her sweet dog must have died, or is gravely sick at the vet. Why else would she be crying and a hot mess?

I hear her voice on the other end of the line and her speech is broken up between sniffles and a poor connection, but I manage to undestand enough to know it’s something about a package and does it mean what she thinks it means?

“You opened it?!” I exclaimed a little louder than was necessary.

Nathan pulls the phone back to talk to her now that he knows what’s going on and confirms that we are pregnant, the onesie is for her first grandchild.

It’s very exciting to be the oldest and getting to tell the parents about the first grandkid. Even though the surprise didn’t go anywhere near as planned.

Oh, and she’s not the only one who knows either. My brother was home when she opened the unmarked package and tried to figure out who bought it and who it could be for. And he was there when she saw the message, “Merry Christmas, love Britta and Nathan,” and then became the blubbery, curious mess she currently is.

She then tried to find a way to get a hold of me to figure out if her hunches were right. We already know that Skype wasn’t very successful. The number she had for us in her cell phone wasn’t working…. so the next thing to do is to call someone who would have the right number.

“So… um, Dad knows too,” she confessed. Oh Karyn… surprises are over rated anyways right? This is comical how much this surprise has flopped.

“But we can still surprise your sister,” she says, like it rights the blunder.

We decide that surprising one family member is better than none, so later, we hop on Skype and sit down with my family in the states, and us in Japan. The sister is handed the package and asked if she knows who it’s for.

She pulls out the Sharks onesie, knowing it must be from the people she’s skyping with, her brain works through who this outfit could fit in her home…. She questions, “Is it for the cat?”

“Yes, we bought a human onesie for your fat cat,” we sarcastically remark.

“Who would the onesie be for?” She’s prompted again.

The expression on her face looks like she’s put all the pieces together and is realizing what it means.

“What to do think about being an aunt? she’s asked next.

Shocked.

That’s what her face says next. She hadn’t put it all together yet. It’s very hard not to laugh at just how long it took her to add everything up. At least she was fun to surprise.

Meanwhile….

The other set of parents have a onesie experiencing shipping delays…. humpf.

The onesie, with a clever math problem on it for the delight of the math lovers and teacher in his family, was looking like it was going to arrive the week after Christmas. Meaning I have to wait that much longer to tell everyone. I no longer like keeping secrets.

They finally get their package and wait to open it until we can get on Skype with them. With both of them sitting in front of the screen, they open it and know right away that this onesie means something. My sweet mother-in-law asks what the onesie means. Her face says that she knows, but doesn’t want to say it out loud, just incase she’s wrong.  Or maybe she just really wants to hear the words come from her son, instead from her? It is more believable to have a voice other than your own tell you what you want to hear.

Nathan hits the ball back into her court asking her what she thinks it means. They go back and forth like this for a while while my father-in-law is doing the math problem on the onesie. “Yes, we are pregnant,” we finally confess. I think the in-laws breathed a sigh of relief that we finally took the plunge into parenthood. With smiles on both their faces we knew that even though our plan didn’t execute very smoothly, it was still a fun way to have our family find out.

Nathan’s father proudly hung up their memento on their wall so anyone who comes to their home can see it.  My family probably dressed up the cat.

A Baby Story: Part 3 is cooking up… and this next one has pictures :)

A Baby Story

I love a good story. This is the story of someone very special, who I love oh so dearly, and whom I haven’t met yet.

Nathan had just gotten back from deployment and we were lost in our own world of delight at finally being able to reside in the same corner of the planet. Just being in the same time zone was a great pleasure for us. This is when I started to notice strange things…. things like feeling nauseous on occasion, suddenly finding a dislike to the flavor of cherries, and a sore bosom. I told myself that I might need to take a pregnancy test, these symptoms were quite strange for a common cold.

When the test showed up negative, I told myself that I might be catching the flu? Or a stomach bug? Another week had gone by and all my symptoms continued to persist. Okay, somethings up, I figured.  While we were out grocery shopping, I grabbed a box of pink pregnancy tests. I wasn’t really feeling all that swell, so I went home to perform the science experiment contained in that little pink box, while Nathan ran out to finish our last errand of the day.

I had left the science experiment on the bathroom counter to do whatever it has to do while sitting still for 3 minutes as I finished putting away the groceries. Nathan walked in and I suggested that he go take a look at what was on the bathroom counter, and to tell me what it says. I heard his foot steps shuffle in and stop.  I realized I wanted to be able to see his face, just incase that magic little wand told him we were pregnant. My mind hadn’t been able to come to a conclusion on whether I thought I was, or I wasn’t.

His face, as I peered around the corner, changed as he picked up the wand. It morphed from curious desire, to a smile that engulfed his enthusiasm. He thought he’d try to be clever and test my ability to discern if he was lying or not, a common game we play. He asked me to detect if he’s telling the truth when he coyly states, “You’re pregnant, we’re gonna have a baby” while beaming from ear to ear.  That was one face that could not have been confused for anything else. I gaped at those little lines and then back at his thrilled face. Our world was completely changed. He was going to finally get the family he has wanted for years. I was excited, scared, and shocked that we got pregnant in about 5 seconds after him getting home from deployment. I felt like my world had left the realm of reality.

This fantasy land was one that I had literally dreaded ever since I had seen my mom pregnant with my little sister. My memories of coming home from school everyday to the sound of my mother barfing, eating Thanksgiving dinner in the garage, so as to not stink up the house (which, as a kid, with a father skilled at coking things up on a camping stove, was actually quite fun), and the general grayish look that bound my mother’s usual bright self, didn’t make me eager to learn about the joys of life. When your mother tells you the easiest part about being pregnant is labor…. it doesn’t make you wana jump into the experience.

I knew that there was a chance I could take after my dad’s side of the family and escape my mother’s fate. While I had no idea if it was much better or not with their genes, I felt I could assume when your paternal grandma makes 9 babies…. it couldn’t have been that bad for her. I was certain though, that I wouldn’t be so lucky.

And as I assumed, it didn’t take long for the barfing to commence. I felt nauseous pretty much 24/7. The only time I didn’t feel it was when I was asleep. Which I did a lot of…. off and on.  Often taking breaks to barf or pee.

I missed a ton of work.  On some days when I thought I could manage it, I’d come in and be told to leave, pretty much because I looked like death and they could manage without my rain-cloud hovering over the vet clinic.

I was miserable. The phrase, “How in the world do I have any siblings?” kept running through my head. Seriously though at this point I was wondering why I couldn’t have been born a sea-horse…. did you know that it is the males that carry the babies and are “pregnant?” I’m pretty sure I saw that information once upon a time on the Discovery Channel and my brain decided it should hang onto that piece of information to flaunt it in front of me when I became sick with child. Oh why, oh why, could I not be a sea-horse?

I was also puzzled at how happy I had always perceived pregnant people to be. The idea of the pending bundle of joy seemed to paint their world in new bright colors. All I felt was the disgust at not having brushed my hair in over a week and the lack of desire to leave my bed unless the cracker and ginger-ale supply on my night-stand began to dwindle. My world was painted in colors associated with grime and vomit.

We weren’t telling people yet either. Something or other about it being the first trimester and you’re suppose to wait or something. I thought waiting was dumb. The husband told me it was smart and about how fun it would be to surprise our families on Christmas. A well planned surprise did sound pretty cool. I love surprises. I was sold on the idea.

Until I wasn’t. I constantly wanted to tell everyone.

A Baby Story Part 2 coming soon…

 

The World’s Largest Tug of War

The best blog posts are the ones with lots of pictures right? Well, I sure hope so, cuz I had a really hard time not putting pretty much every photo I took at the Naha Tug-Of-War into this post.  My friend, who has been teaching me how to use a grown up camera, laughed when he said, “My baby is going to come before you’re able to post those pictures.”  Not only did his baby arrive, but the handsome little guy a few months old now.  Yeah, this post is a little late.

My friend, Mickey Holiday (as he’s known in the world of photography and fashion), is pretty darn good at what he does and has quite the knack for networking and making friends.  Which is how I found out that this picture existed.  One of his buddies sneakily shot me while I was learning how to play with this fancy camera. It was then put on social media where Holiday saw it and tagged me.  I promptly made it my profile picture.

This will also be the only photo of me that day because I was far too busy taking pictures of everything else… also, the camera I had in my hands is not the kind you should take a selfie with.

Photo Credit, the talented Christopher A. Baldwin

Okay, now…. the actual event, The Naha Tug-of-War, is the biggest tug of war in the world, so large that it is in the Guinness Book of World Records.  The rope is so big that you need at least 15,000 people pulling to be able to move it!

Its seems like everyone comes to Naha for the tug-of-war.  I mean, it’s tradition.

Tug-of-wars are not uncommon things to take place in Japan.  There are lots of different kinds that take place to give good luck to the fisherman, or farmers, or to help build camaraderie…. mostly they are for good luck of some sort.

This tug-of-war brings luck, symbolizes the battle between East and West, the tug and pull of trade and commerce, and celebration.

The day started with a parade down Kokasai Street.

Each prefect in Okinawa was represented by people carrying flags, banging on drums, making music, dancing, and showing off their strength or agility.

I love that picture…. makes me giggle every time I see it.  I wish I knew what was going on between those two.  I’ve made up a few good stories in my head. Mostly, the one guy thinks he is hot stuff and the other is telling him, “Only in your dreams.”

This guy was handing out salt to the people watching.  He handed some to me and the husband and we stared blankly at our piles of salt and tried to look to see what everyone else was doing with theirs.  Holiday told us that it is good luck to eat it while he took a nibble of his.   I’m not the biggest fan of salt…. so I pretended that I was European and tossed it over my shoulder, when I thought no one was looking.  That’s good luck too right?

This is Holiday, making friends wherever he goes.  He’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.  I say one of the nicest, because his wife is pretty darn sweet too.  We hit the jackpot having them for neighbors!

We had a lot of fun watching everyone in the parade.

These guys walked through the parade holding a poll up in the air, with a large ornamentation on top that represents their prefect.

At first, I wasn’t too impressed by their part in the parade.  Yeah, sure, you can walk around with a heavy poll… big whoop.  But, I started noticing how much effort it took to just keep that thing upright.

They had beads of sweat rolling down their faces while they maneuvered around the traffic lights of the city street.

They had to combat the wind that kept gusting and making them re-adjust the trajectory of the poll.

And sometimes all those elements didn’t work in their favor and they had to work quickly to make sure that poll didn’t come crashing down into the sea of onlookers.

They would all rush in to try to support it and bring the poll to the ground, so that the earth could hold its weight while they got it balanced again.

 

When the locals start retreating, you know something’s going down that you don’t want to be around for.  And they were all backing up, as this poll looked like it was going to come crashing down.

 

No worries though.  They fixed it.

After the parade, everyone makes their way over to the rope (on a street just a few blocks down), for the main event.  I didn’t have a good picture showing the grander of the rope… so I’m borrowing this one I found in a bing.com search.

Pretty impressive right?

The husband and a friend, Alex (whom we had the luck of running into) got positioned to pull, as the handles of the rope were passed out.

Holiday, Kandice (Alex’s wife), and I decided to take our positions as observers while those two pulled.

They pulled the rope into it’s starting position…..

And they are ready to test their strength.  Which side is gonna win?

At the center, I hear there is a little show… maybe it was some fan dancing, or a karate thing…. I couldn’t see anything going on over there…..

Suddenly there were balloons and confetti falling from the sky….

And from both sides of the rope, we can see two kings being carried on platforms to meet at the center.

A king from the East.

And a king from the West.

 They do a fancy choreographed sword fight and part their ways.

This means we can start the Tug-of-War!

They pulled for about half an hour…

 And guess who won?  Our side did!  It’s tradition to take home part of the rope from the winning side to bring good luck to your home.

People were pulling out all sorts of sharp objects to slice off their share of the lucky rope.

 If you are ever in Okinawa around the time of the Tug-of-War… Go!

We had so much fun!

I love living on this Japanese island.

I Love Okinawa

I found a wonderful friend who has been teaching me how to use a big kid camera instead of my iphone.  These are my favorite shots from our fist lesson.

Probably because they show my favorite part of Okinawa.  The friendly people.

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The Best Part of Traveling Is Not Flying

I had this harebrained idea to figure out how this military space available, travel…. thing works this summer.  The military has this clever system set up to allow its members the opportunity to fly all over the world.  Sounds amazing right?  And get this, it’s free!  They have planes leaving all the time to serve particular missions and often, not all the seats are filled on these plane, so why not offer those seats to people who may want to take a trip?

It’s a nice gesture, but not quite the deal I was expecting.

I gathered all my paperwork for flying, and prepared myself mentally, for the possibility of not getting on the first flight I tried for.  There are plenty of people trying to get on these flights and some people have a higher priority than others.  Starting with people who are flying on an emergency, and going down to retired military going on vacation.  As a military spouse, who’s husband is deployed for 6 months, I was pretty low on the list…. I was traveling by myself though, so I believed that my chances of getting on a flight were decent.

Haha!  Think again Britta!  It took almost two weeks of me trying for every available flight headed over the Pacific ocean, to get off my little island.  I barely made it onto a flight to Alaska that had over 90 available seats on it.  Trying to get on that flight, I felt a sort of déjà vu, that kind of rejection that I felt as a kid when my playmates learned that my height gave me no advantage in sports.  I was just the strangely tall kid with no talent.  This time I was on the looser side of an airport terminal.  Everyone else who had whatever it was I’m laking, lined up with their treasured boarding passes in hand, as I sat there with my luggage hoping to be included with the “in-crowd.”  By the time my name was called I had given up hope of getting on the flight.

Flight to Alaska

I kept saying to myself, “You’re not gonna get on this flight.”  And even after they called my name, I surmised, “The plane probably has something broken, like a light on one side that wont shine.  They wont let me fly until it’s fixed.”

I walked though the back of this beast of a plane and claimed the first seat I came to.

Flight to Alaska

Once I was on the plane I figured, “They are going to change their minds for sure.”

“Just kidding.” they will tell me, “We miss counted, there isn’t room for you.”

And I would get off the plane and be like, “I knew it, its okay.  I didn’t want to go to California anyways.”

But then something amazing happened.  The plane took off, and I was on it.  “Okay,” I concluded, “I can work with this.”

I’m actually making my way across the Pacific Ocean.  Finally.

Flight to Alaska

The lady next to me pulls out her carry on and begins yanking out all these extra layers.  She’s put on a second pair of socks, sweats over her pants, sweaters, coats, and a hat to top it all off.  As she begins to dress her husband and child in a likewise fashion, I notice the other passengers taking on a very similar strange behavior.  People are bundling up themselves and their little ones.  Some people have even brought sleeping bags that look like they were made for chilly sub zero nights on Everest.  As we climb higher and higher into the atmosphere, I realize why my fellow humans acted in such a bizarre manner.  Why was I not warned that these planes are actually flying refrigerators?

I was not dressed appropriately.  My choice of shorts, tee-shirt and a light sweater (incase it got a little chilly, hurmph) left something to be desired.  I was so cold that I got up in the isle and did lunges and squats until I could feel my feet again…. multiple times.  People looked at me like I was crazy.  Judge me all you want people, I didn’t get the plane is actually a freezer memo, like all of you.  I’m not going to explain to people that the reason I had to get my feet chopped off, was from the frostbite I got from taking a military flight in normal clothes.  Not gonna happen.

I don’t think I have ever been so cold in my life.  Landing in Alaska was such a welcoming experience.  I have a friend who’s from Alaska and she had family waiting to get us at the terminal.  From here I wasn’t risking another military flight and I was headed to the civilian airport to get on a commercial flight leaving in two hours to San Francisco.

My internal dialogue told me, “You’re gonna miss your flight.  You are not going to get to your final destination.”

And I’d reply to myself, “That’s okay, because I didn’t really want to go to California in the first place right?  I mean it would be nice and all, but being stuck in Alaska would be a great adventure.”

“Oh, please…. no more adventures,” reality would say to me.

Sitting in that car, my stiff limbs began to thaw, and my heart continued to sink deeper into the bitter chill of my current state.  The sounds of an oncoming train were getting closer as the movement on the road came to a stop to let a train pass.  The pile up of cars behind us was nothing compared to the long line of boxcars being pulled on the rails in front of us.

The words, “You’re definitely not getting on a second plane,” ran though my head as each boxcar passed.   “Like you could be that lucky.”

As the railroad crossing gate began to pull up, I could feel my friend’s eagerness to get me there on time.  She hadn’t given up yet. But I sure had.

At the airport we exchange phone numbers, “just incase,” she said.

“Yeah, just incase,” I agree out loud.

I go through the motions of checking a bag and getting my boarding pass.  I quickly step over to security and guzzle the contents of my water bottle before it becomes an object of suspicion.  My efforts to have an uneventful waltz through security fail miserably.  A security officer pulls out my bag full of souvenirs and asks me to step aside with her and instructs that I cannot touch my things until she is done.  She asks me if there is anything in my suitcase that will harm her.  “No, just presents for my family back home,” I reply.  As she opens it, she sees my piles of wrapped gifts for friends and family waiting for me in California.  Her eyes clearly show that she does not want to go through and unwrap everything to find out what it is.

“Do you have a candle in here?” She questions, hoping that will lead her directly to the questionable object inside.

“No candles.  I don’t have anything even candle-like,” I respond.

“Anything in a tin can?” She prompts as she sifts through the packages.

I run through my mental inventory of people and the gifts I brought for them…. nothing in a can comes to mind.  “I have a tea cup,” I hopefully suggest as times continues to pass.

“No, it’s not that,” she grumpily retorts.

She’s having just about as good of a day as I am having, I suppose.  We are both getting a little testy as I tell her to look through all the weird Japanese candy I brought for my siblings.  Maybe the Japanese packaging is what’s throwing us for a loop.  The officer pulls out a small tin of hard candies and a few other strange looking items and places them and my luggage back on the scanner belt to be rescanned.  My things go through this time without a hitch.  She returns to me the disarray that is now my bag and asks if I would like her to put my things back together for me.  I smile and tell her, “Thanks, but I can do it.”  It took me far too long to figure out how to fit every gift into one small carryon bag, I don’t want to wait for someone else to have to go through the same process I did.  I suppose my smile didn’t mask the morose feelings that consumed me because she rolled her eyes at me, her hands went up in the air, and she scoffed at me like I had just placed the cherry on top of her horrible, miserable, no good, very bad day.

I’m so over this.  And I so not going to make this flight in time.  I have 20 minutes till boarding time; something else is going to stop me from getting on that plane for sure.

To my surprise, I make it onto this plane as well.  I fall asleep through the whole flight, happy to have the flimsy airplane pillow and blanket.  The highest comfort I have known for the past 15 hours.  I wake up to the descent into San Francisco and again my internal dialogue tells me to be ready for disappointment.

“Something happened and your friends couldn’t make it here to get you,” my disgruntled self says.

Even my hopeful, positive side doesn’t sounds so good, “Well, a hotel in San Francisco should not be too expensive.  But you would also need a taxi to get you there.”

Then I hear the sweetest sound, my own name, “Britta, is that you?”

A friendly face.  A short drive to San Jose, and a crash into bed.  I don’t want to even begin to think about the reality of the need to fly back.  For the next few weeks I’m going to pretend that I will just teleport there.

If I had any life left in me I would tell San Jose that it better be worth it… but I’m so tiered, a warm place to sleep is where my mind settles and falls deep into sleep.