Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Baby Bucket List

Two months down, only 34 more to go… It’s hard to believe how fast the time has flown since my husband and I arrived here in May. Between moving, unpacking, decorating and puppy adopting, we’ve consumed ourselves with getting settled and transforming our house into a home.

However, it seems like whenever we’re out meeting new friends, the question that always arises is, “When do you plan on starting a family?” or Do you want babies here in Japan?”

Valid question, but quite frankly, none of your business ;) j/k… But I digress. Of course we want babies (lots of them!) but honestly, not here in a foreign country, thousands of miles from family and friends. We JUST got married last year and we still have so much we want to see and experience together before becoming parents.

I mean, if we were stationed in Minot, North Dakota, I may have different sentiments, but we are in Okinawa, JAPAN, and the world is at our fingertips!

With that said, I’ve created a Baby Bucket List—all the things I want to do before becoming a mother (before leaving Japan).

 1)  Jump out of a perfectly good airplane. (terrified of skydiving, but Kevin’s pressuring me to overcome my fear)

2) Scuba dive a large shipwreck. (a REAL one, not manmade)

3) Run a marathon in less than 4 hours.

4) Compete in a triathlon.

5) Kayak the Okinawa coastline.

6) Learn to speak Japanese.

7) Go ocean jet skiing & hang gliding.

8) Master the art of photography.

9) Go skinny dipping in the ocean after midnight.

10) Travel Asia:

In Okinawa:
-Watch the sunrise on the east coast of the island.
-Tour the Nago Pineapple Winery.
-Tour Orion brewery.
-Visit Churaumi Aquarium. (one of the largest aquariums in the world)
-Scuba dive every major site.
-Zip line the forest canopy.
-Walk through the Valley of Gangala.
-Explore Gyokusendo Cave.
-Hike Mount Katsuu & Hiji Falls.
-Visit Neo Park.
-Nakijin Castle ruins
-Hedo Point
-Nakamura House
-Ryukyu Mura Folk Village
-Yomitan Pottery Village
-Ikei Island
-Forest Adventure Park
-Japanese Naval Underground Headquarters
-Peace Memorial Park
-Shuri Castle
-Kinjocho Stone Road
-Komaka Island
-Kerama Island (diving)

On Mainland Japan:
-Hike Mt. Fuji.
-Tour Hiroshima.
-Disneyland Tokyo.
-Imperial Palace.
-Sapporo. (snow festival in Hokkaido)

In Thailand:
-Visit Bangkok.
-Ride an elephant.
-Feed the tigers.

In Australia:
-Visit Sydney.
-Scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef.

In China:
-Visit Shanghai.
-Visit Hong Kong.
-Tour Beijing- Forbidden City.
-See Xian.
-Walk The Great Wall.


South Korea

Right now, the plan is to tackle Okinawa first, soak up all there is to offer on this island, and then venture off to other countries. If there’s something on my bucket that you also want to accomplish yourself, please let me know! The more, the merrier… After all, experiences are always better shared with a friend. :)

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
— Helen Keller

Friday, July 20, 2012

From Garden Slave to Produce Princess

As a kid, the only thing I hated more than cleaning the barn was weeding the garden. Yes, I once lived on a farm, and yes, I had chores. Of course, I didn’t mind the ones that involved minimal discomfort (i.e. feeding the bunnies), but the ones that kept me outside burning in the hot, scorching sun only to get eaten alive by gnats and mosquitos? No, thanks!
Our family farm in Punxsutawney, PA.

So, growing up, I grew to HATE the garden. Why? Well, maybe because ours was half the size of a football field. Or perhaps it was a bit unpleasant getting woken up by my mother at 6am during the SUMMER to weed, pick and water. Not gonna lie, at age nine, I felt like a slave…and boy, did I want emancipated! (Sorry, Mom! lol.) While all my friends were sleeping in, there I was... hunched over, knees covered in dirt, filling a five-gallon bucket with enough beans to feed Somalia.

At the time, I had no appreciate for fresh fruit or vegetables, so this was pure, unwarranted torture. To me, candy, pastries and ice cream were way tastier than carrots, tomatoes and squash. But now, as an adult, I look back and realize how fortunate I was to be eating organic produce from our very own garden.

Living on base, most military families (including us) shop at the commissary. But there is one type of food I refuse to buy there, and you guessed it… it’s produce. It’s not only expensive, it’s overripe and on the verge of rotting before you ever bring it home. It only took one bad batch of tomatoes with brown, rancid juice, for me to swear off their vegetables forever.

So now I shop off base at a nearby Japanese farmers market, where all the produce is locally grown, fresh and delicious.

Japanese woman peruses the gourd bin.

Mangos are considered a delicacy in Japan.

For 1,300 yen (or $16.54), you can buy TWO mangos.

Fresh bananas grown in Okinawa.

My friend Cerrin selecting some garlic.

Soft tofu, a staple in the Japanese diet.

Yummy fruit jams.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Fluffy Monsters: Murphy & Marley

"Whoever said you can't buy happiness forgot little puppies." -Gene Hill 
I’m proud to introduce the two newest, fluffiest members of our family… Murphy & Marley!
Kevin, Marley & Murphy pause during the first of many evening walks.

M & M have a story much like many other pets… They were born into a litter of four puppies, placed into a kill shelter, and given only five days to live.
Murphy, his brother (who passed away) & his sister (who was adopted) at Ozato Shelter.

Fortunately for them, the fluffy five-month-old duo caught the attention of a non-profit organization called Doggies, Inc, whose director decided there was no way she’d let them get gassed. Soon, M & M were removed from the shelter and sent to live in a foster home with a volunteer family.
The brothers munching on some tasty rawhide treats.

It was then Kevin noticed an advertisement online to adopt these precious babies. At first, I was a bit apprehensive. After all, we had only arrived in Okinawa a month prior and we’d barely settled in. But after meeting them in person, my heart melted like butter.

Murphy had a fluffy forehead, a shaggy coat and a boisterous personality, while Marley--the tinier of the two—was somewhat meek, but extremely energetic.


And the way they played together was ADORABLE. One minute they were licking each other, the next they were wrestling.

I knew that if we adopted them together, we’d never have to worry about us (or them) ever getting bored! They were playmates from the womb and we believed they deserved to stay that way.

So, Saturday, July 7th, we accepted the adoption and by Tuesday, July 10th, they officially became our pets.

I’ll be honest, the past few days have been utterly exhausting (experiencing a traumatizing day at the vet, picking up poop, cleaning the carpet and getting dragged by the leash), but every hour of the bad is worth every second of the good. Every time they lick my hands, follow my footsteps or snuggle me on the floor, I’m reminded of what it feels like to be loved unconditionally… and I hope they feel the same. :)

"My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am." :)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Camping, Diving & Kayaking at Okuma Beach

Hands down, this was the best weekend I've had since we arrived in Okinawa! We spent two days at a military-only, secluded resort called Okuma for camping, diving and kayaking with two of our newest friends.

On Saturday (for the first time in over a year), Kevin and I donned our masks, fins & tanks to go scuba diving... sinking almost sixty feet under the surface of the East China Sea to see hundreds of tropical fish and canyons full of brightly-colored coral.
Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the actual dive. 
Our underwater camera got stolen at the Tough Mudder Race in Texas.

Instead of staying in a hotel, cabin or condo, we chose to be "at one with nature" and pitch a tent (so to speak)... ;)

Of course, we relaxed on the beach & went swimming in the emerald waters...

Kevin and John bought matching hats...

Allison and I worked on our tans...

The four of us shared a few drinks...

Captured the moonlight reflecting off the water...

Fed a little boy his first-ever S'MORE...

Acted like children...

Hiked through a cove...

Kayaked our way through the ocean...

Managed to get stuck in a rip current that was pushing us out to sea... 

But thankfully, due to a combination of arm power, paddling and persistence, we eventually made it back to the shore.

All in all, it was the perfect weekend with the perfect scenery and the perfect company... and I can't wait to go back!