Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cape Zampa

Today Lee and I decided to go out to Cape Zampa, which is I think what my parents call Bolo Point. We took the "good" camera with us and we totally lucked out--it was a *great* day to take pictures up there. We went around noon, but there was enough cloud cover that it was fairly cool (although still very humid) and we got some fabulous pictures of the clouds and such. So here are a few of the best ones, we took about 90 while we were there today :)

We got up to the Zampa area and found a place to park, and then just got out of the car and started walking around. We started on the beach a little bit down from the lighthouse, and here's a picture of the little path we went down.

The Cape Zampa lighthouse. It really isn't all that tall, but it's got a *great* view of the surrounding coastline. Well, is it surrounding coastline if the lighthouse is out on a little finger of land? Anyway, you can see in this picture that there's not a sandy beach here, it's all weathered limestone. We went climbing all over it and I figured out very quickly that I should have been wearing tennis shoes rather than sandals. Oh well, live and learn--we didn't really have any idea what it would be like when we got there.

Don't worry Mom, we stayed at least 3 inches from the edge at all times :) For reals, Lee is a lot further from the edge than it looks like in this picture, I just got a fun angle on it. Now if we'd just had a third person with us to pretend to push him over the edge...well, it would have made a funny picture. (Really Mom, relax. We were totally careful.)

Lee took most of the pictures today and was positively giddy when he downloaded them onto the computer, he was so tickled with how they turned out. You can see the clouds over to the left; it was raining heavily just a bit north of us, but was just overcast where we were. The clouds were fabulous though, when you're taking pictures at midday you want some cloud cover to keep from having harsh shadows all over the place. Plus they just look cool. This one (above) was taken from the ground.

And here's the coastline as seen from the top of the lighthouse. It only costs 200 yen per person to climb up to the top, so about two dollars. As I said before, it's not a very big lighthouse; the observation deck on it is pretty tiny but DUDE! The view was fabulous! Nice breeze, too.

We met a cute little Japanese girl on the top of the lighthouse and she agreed to take our picture for us, and then we returned the favor and took her picture with her camera. Turns out she had the exact same camera that we do :) And this is the picture she took of us. Aren't the colors fantastic?! We are *so* glad we bought this camera!!

I just had to get Lee to take a picture of this as we left, it's a sticker that was on a light pole or something on our way back to the car. It seems like almost everything in Japan has its own cartoon character...I've seen "men working" signs on the road and they all have smiling cartoon characters on them. There's a billboard that has a smiling pickle wearing a seatbelt right when you go on a bridge into Nago, which I find funny.

So there you have it, Cape Zampa. This is just a little smattering of the pictures that we took, but enough to get the idea. This is only about 30-45 minutes away from where we live, aren't we lucky?

I was wearing sandals while we were out, and now I have some really funny tan lines on my feet. Anyone remember the Jell-O 1-2-3 stuff? Or else maybe candy toes are white up to about halfway up my feet, and then it gets a little darker, and then there's my regular sock line and my legs are a little bit tan. Not a lot tan, but I've started to pick up some color just from walking the dogs every day--first time I've had tan lines in *years* but I'm still pretty pale. And now my feet look funny!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bats in the Belfry

Ok, I'm finally posting the bat pictures. Lee just uploaded them on the computer yesterday but I didn't get a chance to post until this morning.

These are the only two pictures that came out ok...Lee had a third one where their eyes reflected the flash back, but he deleted it because he said he thought that they were busy...making baby bats. ;)

If I remember right, these are red fox bats and they eat bugs. Seems like most of the critters on this island either ARE bugs or they EAT bugs, heh. (Speaking of bug-eaters, we saw our gecko friend Buddy in the house again the other day). We see the bats flying around a lot around twilight since that's usually when they go out for dinner. Some of them get to be pretty big, maybe around the size of ravens or so? Here's an interesting bat-related fact for you: when you see "vampire bats" in the movies, they aren't really vampire bats. Vampire bats are really pretty small (could easily fit in your hand) so usually filmmakers will use larger fruit bats 'cause they look better and scarier. The things I learn from reading the movie trivia on

Yesterday Lee also edited my white orchid photos, he got them to be not-so-blue and edited out some gray spots on the flowers. I looooooooooooove that one I took at an angle, it looks just fabulous now--I'm gonna have to get that one printed out in a humongous size so I can hang it in my craft room :)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Orchids and Sunflowers

Lee: "Hey Chris, it looks like your yellow orchid here has sprouted a white orchid buddy!"
Me: "Yeah, isn't that WEIRD?"

This is why Lee hates to send me to the store unsupervised, I buy random things that he doesn't think we need. Last time we went to the store together he told me I didn't *need* a white orchid plant. Well, I went back by myself and wouldn't you know, it followed me home! I couldn't resist it for $5.43. It's got just four blooms on it, so nothing like the humongous $200 plant they have at the Make Man store, but it's still just gorgeous. Check it out.

Yes, I like to take really close-up shots of flowers, this is why I need a macro lens. That picture is me playing with camera angles. :) The flowers on this plant are much larger than my purple one or the yellow freckled one.

Just love 'em! Our other two plants are slightly the worse for wear...I'd put them on the floor near the sliding glass door so they could get a bit of sun but still be inside, and apparently while I was at the gym one morning the kiddos got to play-fighting and schwacked the plants with their tails. That's my guess, anyway. Several of the purple flowers just fell off altogether, we lost one yellow flower and a few flower petals on the other blooms. Then after I re-potted the purple and yellow plants, Lee was trying to re-tape a stalk of the purple flowers and it broke off, so that plant is really looking sad right now. Hopefully I'll be able to nurse them all back to health and keep this white orchid plant in the pink.

On Saturday, Lee and I went out to Torii Beach for a luau with his work compatriots. I'd never been out there before, but it's where Lee goes to fly his RC plane. We didn't take the camera with us to the luau, so we went back today to take a few pictures. There's a field real close to the beach with sunflowers planted all along the perimeter--I have no idea what's in the middle, but the sunflowers are probably ten feet deep along all the edges. I'm sure they get bigger than this, like closer to six feet tall, but they were still pretty! The yellow was so bright it was practically neon. See that speck over my head? That's an RC plane flying; their flying field is right behind the sunflower field.

Hey look, Liz, I'm *in* a picture! Not a great picture of me but anyway...I have shorts! I had to go buy some this weekend, otherwise pretty soon I would have been the only person on island still wearing pants. It's just too hot and humid for long pants anymore. And my mom is the GREATEST, she's sent me a bunch of tank tops and some shorts to work out in at the gym. I definitely needed those! Anyway, here's a closeup of one of the sunflowers.

Lee wanted me to get on in there amid the flowers, but there were tons of bees and I bet there would be even more bugs in there than I could see from where I was standing, so I wouldn't do it. And here's Lee himself, I managed to get him in a picture (I had to delete several where he was making "I don't want to have my picture taken!" faces...)

You know, it seems like all the pictures we took today are bluish. I wonder why that is...even the orchid pictures have a blue tint to them, and the flowers in real life are bright white. Well, maybe I'll mess with it some more and try to get it less blue. It was a cool effect on the pictures of the Ryukyu glass but I think people look better in pictures if they *aren't* blue. Unless it's the Blue Man Group, and then it's kind of expected.

When we let the dogs out tonight after dark, we heard some really weird animal noises from across the street, so Lee went to go check it out--it was bats. We have some fairly large bats here, I think they're red fox bats (insect-eaters). Lee got a few pictures of them but I haven't figured out how to download them on the computer yet (Lee kindly downloaded all the pics that I shared today) so I'll have to ask him to help me with that tomorrow so you can see the bats. He couldn't get any pictures of them flying because he couldn't get the camera to focus on them, but he did get a few of them up in a tree. So look for that in the next day or two.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Leave It To the Professionals

Ok, I finally took pictures of our glass yesterday. The two short, dumpy ones are the glasses that Lee and I made; the two tall pretty blue ones are the ones we bought :) Those cost us around $50 for the two of them. Lee made the slightly taller one on the far left; mine is the shorter one on the right that kind of leans. I like the aqua color though; when we were making them you couldn't even tell what color they were going to be.

I changed a setting on the camera--don't ask me what, I don't know--and then the pictures suddenly turned out all blue! I think Lee has a polarizing filter for the camera but I don't know if it's on there right now or not. Anyway, I thought it made a kinda cool picture although the colors are more true-to-life in the pic above.

I was going to take some trash out the other day and stopped when I saw this butterfly on the outside of our sliding glass door. He was just sitting there so I snapped a few pictures and then took the trash out the *front* door instead so as not to disturb him. They have a lot of butterflies here on Okinawa...well, a lot of bugs in general and hence the large gecko population, but at least the butterflies are pretty.

Okinawa wildlife I could do without--snakes. I SAW one on our walk today. Luckily it was dead, but still a little freaky--he was a silvery green color so I KNOW that there's no way I would see one of his live cousins slithering through the grass until it was too late. This one wasn't big, he was only about as big around as a pencil and about twelve inches long, but still. SNAKE. -shudder- I've seen a lot of red millipedes lately too; there's one stretch on my daily walk with the doglets where these things seem to congregate because they're always going one way or the other across the sidewalk. It's like the March of the Millipedes. We've seen some pretty nasty-looking centipedes too, Lee killed one in the house a while back when he saw it come in from the back door, and he said it was a fast little sucker with some dangerous-looking mandibles. I'm just glad I was upstairs and totally unaware of what was going on!! I don't DO bugs!

ETA: I saw the dead snake again today so I took a closer look at him. Turns out only his belly is silvery green, he's black on top--so he coulda been a baby habu snake, which is a poisonous snake indigenous to Okinawa. Now I'm *really* glad he's dead!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

How to Make Beer, By the Ancient Egyptians

As interpreted by me...

Step 1: Rope a cow and use it to plow up some ground.

Step 2: Throw seeds everywhere (and maybe dance while you're doing it...perhaps even Walk Like an Egyptian!!). Wait for it to grow (not pictured).

Step 3: Go harvest the grain. Clothing optional! No really, check out the dudes carrying the basket. Then dump all the grain in one big storage area.

Step 4: Beat the grain into submission? Ok, really, I have no idea what happens after the harvest part.

Step 5: Put whatever is left in jars to ferment.

Step 6: Bottle it to sell to all the local taverns :)

Step 7: Deliver Egyptian Premium Light Draft Beer to local taverns and hot spots.

Step 8: Bar maids serve beer to tired pyramid builders.

Step 9: Tired pyramid builders come to drink lots of beer and watch the dancing girls. Gee, not much has changed...well, the clothing style has anyway.

There's the whole mural. Now seriously, the Egyptians did give their pyramid builders lots of beer. I heard it on the History Channel once so it must be true. They also provided medical care for them so they weren't quite the ill-treated slaves you see in the movies.

And here's Lee enjoying a beer. Well, maybe not enjoying...neither one of us likes beer much, but this one was free. I got some sort of cherry-flavored soft drink instead. Anyway, we went on this tour of the Orion beer factory in Nago (boring boring boring...not much to see really) and at the end of the tour, they brought us to this huge room with that mural of the Egyptians on one side and a bar where they offered us either two free beers or one free soft drink. Apparently the soft drinks are more apt to give you a buzz than the beer is ;) And this was the last stop on our Tour of the North last weekend. Hope you enjoyed the pics and the mini-history lessons!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Glass Factory Shopping!!

At last, here are all the bright colorful pictures I've promised. There's a fairly large shop attached to the glass factory where they sell the stuff, and it's amazing what they make. This is what you see when you walk in the shop...

These things are just amazing, but I know there's no way that we could get it back to the States in less than a million pieces. Here's a close-up of one of them; notice the price tag says 38035 yen. The exchange rate is roughly 100 yen to a dollar, so this vase and flowers would set you back almost $400. Ya gotta love the red, white, and blue!

They have vases in all different colors--turquoise shown here, darker blue, yellow, red, a bright lime green, and a few that are a beautiful pale pink color.

Larger vases with designs on them--no idea how they do that but it sure looks cool!

A collection of cups and goblets in different colors, this gives you an idea of all the colors that they work with.

Lee took this one of a little sprig of glass flowers that was attached to one of the shelves.

And just because every shop in Japan sells some, here are some Shisa. I don't think these were made in the glass factory though because I've seen ones exactly like these at several other shops. The one on the left is female and has her mouth closed to hold in the good spirits, and the male is on the right with his mouth open to frighten off evil spirits. You'll see these on roofs or at the entrances to homes and shops in Okinawa. They range in size from teeny ones about the size of a quarter to huge ones that would probably weigh hundreds of pounds, made out of concrete.

Lee and I found another shop that sells the Ryukyu glass yesterday, and they had a lot of pieces that were mostly clear glass, but the bottom of the cup would be colored glass. The glass also has a lot of bubbles in it and is not heat resistant, so I won't be putting our pieces in the dishwasher :) We bought two blue pieces (most of what we own is blue! Guess what Lee's favorite color is...mine are purple and green, at least those jive well with blue). I'll take pictures of the cups that we made and post those along with pics of the two pieces we bought so you can laugh at how silly ours look compared to the real thing :)

Stay tuned tomorrow for some pictures from the beer factory...yeah, we coulda skipped the beer factory part of the tour but we didn't have a choice on that one. :p

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Ryukyu Glass Factory

I'm a day late posting these, but here's some pictures from the glass factory. It's not a large building at all and I wouldn't have guessed what it was just from looking. I think it's across from some bowling place that has cartoon characters on it, I'll have to look for that landmark when we try to find the glass factory again. Anyway, the "factory" seems to be just one big room with two walls that are open to the outside, and they have two or three large kilns? forges? whatever, big fireplaces to fire the glass. I bet that in the middle of summer this place feels like an absolute furnace.

We got to watch the glassblowers work for several minutes while they got us sorted out to make our own glass. So here's what they do--they get a glob of melted glass on the end of a long hollow pole, and then blow into the end of the pole to make a bubble, like this...

Once the bubble is the size that the glassblower wants, s/he sits it down on a table and I think they roll it to make sure it's symmetrical and to let it cool some. Then, another glassblower brings over another pole with a smaller glob of melted glass on it, presumably of a different color. The one who's making the piece will move the pole with the glob where he wants it and then touch the melted glass to the side of the bubble, then cut it off with his pliers. They go all the way around so you end up with a row of colored circles on the glass bubble. Not sure what else they do to it since around this time we got to start making our own :)

First, a glassblower will bring you a pole with a glob of melted glass on it, and they put it in a mold on the floor. Then you blow gently into the pole until the glass fills the mold.

Then you go over to this other work station and they'll help you attach a new pole to the bottom of the cup, and they detach the original pole from what is now the inside of your glass piece. The glass cools pretty quickly, so as soon as you get the pole attached to the bottom, they go put it in the fire for a few minutes to heat it back up. At this point, Lee's fell off the pole and into the fire :) so they had to make a new one for him real quick.

After the glass is reheated, you sit down on a chair with long flat arms, and you roll the pole back and forth while using a pair of tongs to shape the opening of the cup. You start out squeezing the tongs together and then gradually open them up as you roll the glass back and forth so the opening gets bigger.

Sorry Liz, this is the only picture of me on here :) I realized when I was sorting through the pictures that I'm wearing the exact same outfit I wore the day we went to Shuri Castle and Shikina-En. I do have more than one outfit, I promise!!

Here's Lee with the glassblower who helped him. We're supposed to pick up the pieces we made on the 6th, I bet ours are all funky looking :) I'll post a picture of those when we get them.

Because I'm mean and it's my blog so I get to make all the decisions, I'm going to post the pictures from the glass factory store tomorrow. You won't believe all the colors and pretty things they make with this stuff, so check back later :D

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

Spongebob Squarepants! And if he ever needs a new house, I know where he should go. More on that in a minute; for now, how about pictures from the restaurant where we ate lunch on Saturday, Yanbaru Tropical Garden. This was a Yakiniku place, which is apparently Japanese for "Cook it yourself, dude!" The restaurant is set up with big long tables that have cooking surfaces in the middle, and they were all set up with the ingredients:

The big platter covered with plastic wrap was the meat (beef) and vegetables (cabbage?, onions, and that long skinny stringy lookin' thing my parents used to eat when I was little but Adam and I wouldn't touch it). You've got a bowl of noodle soup--our tour guide reminded us that it is perfectly acceptable in Japan to pick up the bowl and slurp the noodles :) plus the obligatory sticky white rice, some dipping sauce, a small cup for water, and then some little slices of pineapple. You sit down, grab your bib (no really, they had the type of napkins that you're supposed to tie around your neck but I wouldn't wear it) and get to cooking!

Lee just dumped all the beef and veggies on the cooking surface at one time, maybe we should have done this gradually but oh well! It was really good, especially with the dipping sauce. We just let it cook and then grabbed out bits with our chopsticks. The tour guide said that they have bigger (and presumably better) Yakiniku restaurants in Naha, where you go through a buffet line and they have a large selection of meats and veggies, then you take it back to the table and cook it. You know, Mongolian barbecue works the same way but THEY cook it for you!

Anyway, after lunch we headed out to the Nago Pineapple Winery. You don't have to guess what they have here given what's standing out in front of the building:

Ok, so usually *I* am not standing out in front of the building, but the pineapple is! (Liz, I got in the picture just for you so that I could prove I was there...and now that I look at it I'm all tiny in the picture so it could be Lee in my clothes and you'd never know. But it isn't, it's me. More pics of me when we get the the glass factory stuff.) It was still kind of drizzly when we got here, so we opted not to walk through the pineapple fields. Maybe we'll go back sometime and do that. Anyway, you can go into the winery itself which is basically a big shop that winds around the building, and they encourage you to taste just about everything. You start off tasting the pineapple wine...

Lee liked it better than I did, I apparently just don't like alcohol. They had sweet wine, dry wine, and "Kiss" wine! I just thought the name was funny, and when we walked around the corner and saw this rack of Kiss wine bottles, I had to take a picture of them. Really, I had to take six before I got the shot that I wanted, so here's another one of my attempts to be an artsy photographer:

Not too terrible, huh? In addition to the wine, they sell pineapple cakes of several varieties (including, of course, a pineapple wine cake), several varieties of pineapple cookies, pineapple chocolate--which is, I'm guessing, white chocolate with pineapple flavoring added to it--just about anything you can imagine. And check out the pineapple chocolate fountain!

Yeah, that picture is definitely not the best since I forgot to compensate for the fluorescent lights and I didn't want the lady to think I was insane by taking a zillion pictures of her. She had a plate full of cookie bits that you could dip in the pineapple chocolate. I kind of wished I hadn't eaten so much at lunch with all this pineappley goodness available! :) Actually I'm not one much for fresh pineapple, but I love it dried or else cooked in with my Mongolian barbecue. Grilled pineapple, mmmm!

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention--the pineapple winery is FREE to get in, so I may haul Lee back there again to try to take some better pictures. Plus I might want to buy some pineapple cake to go with the cookies and chocolate I already bought :) Tomorrow it's pictures of the glass factory, I promise that those are really cool!