Good morning everyone! I am back in Georgia (and now back in Nagoya…sorry ya’ll!!!!) and it feels pretty good! I haven’t posted about Okinawa and the end of school yet, so I will get on that! The grade 2 team took off for the Kerama Islands…a chain off the main island, Okinawa. Katiria flew out on Friday so she could see the aquarium and Lindsay and I headed out Saturday morning. We found super cheap flights (like $59 one way) but there was only one departure a day, so we had to make the most of our time.
Flying in on Saturday morning was smooth (as usual for travel in Japan). Katiria met us at the airport wearing a lovely blue lei and holding signs with our names and a smile in welcome…too bad we got there before her and missed her grand gesture 😦 It was still sweet though and we had to get a photo anyway!!
We grabbed a taxi for the port to catch the high speed ferry that would whisk us away to paradise on Zamami island. It took about an hour 10 minutes and the ride (though a little bumpy) was beautiful. The water was a sapphire blue and the green cliffs we sped through made everything gorgeous. The girls were getting sea sick so they had to relax above deck and I kept on drinking my wine downstairs in the AC.
Once we docked, it was a short walk to our hotel/guesthouse. The island is tiny, mostly jungle, and maybe has a population of 500. The island of Aka, which we made a stop at before arriving, has only 300 residents. I am not sure, but I do believe I have never been to a place with so few people living there. It’s kind of nice actually. We had a cheap room ($60 per person, for 2 nights). Tatami style futons and both a public shower and a small private bathroom. Our room was so small that our futons touched each other’s as we laid them out! But, who cares, we weren’t there to stay in the room (though when we were, at least it had good ac and a fan!)
We changed into our suits and walked about a kilometer to one of the beaches to try to catch the sunset. It was a bit cloudy and overcast so we could barely see the amazing colours the sky presented us, but it was actually perfect. We were the ONLY people on the beach. We had all the water, all the rocks (the sand was rocks and shells, OUCH) to ourselves. We were surrounded by clear teal water, cliffs, and moonlight. It was beautiful. We swam into the sunset for a little bit, just long enough to swim by moonlight and see some stars before we decided that we had better find dinner before everything closes.
We found a place called La Toque which had an interesting menu, and a lovely atmosphere. Feta cheese and olives to start, a Caesar salad (with weird raw egg on top, not cool) and some ramen was my meal. The girls struggled for find something they thought looked good and Katiria ended up not eating most of her tofu dish. We did end the night with a delicious dessert…french toast with locally made ice cream and it was so oishi!!!! During dinner the table started shaking and Lindsay mentioned that the world was shaking. We laughed it off thinking we were drunk and finished our food, paid, and went to the hotel to shower and go to bed. I did look into it later, and realized we felt the earthquake that the entire country felt from Hokkaido (northern island) to us, in the southern islands!! Though it was deep in the ocean it was probably the strongest quake I’ve felt yet.
Next morning we went to breakfast next door at this cute place we had coffee in the night before. We had to make a reservation for breakfast, place our order and pay the night before, but it was worth it. The food was delicious and ready when we walked in the door. Of course, Lindsay and Katiria thought they ordered scrambled eggs, but of course it was egg salad. I offered to trade my eggs, bacon, and toast but they suffered on.
So after breakfast we went to our kayak tour. We got registered, paid, fitted in fins/mask and piled into the truck which took us the beach we were at the night before. There we got a quick tutorial on how to use the kayaks (which were a bit different that we had seen before). They were huge tandem ocean kayaks that you squeezed into. Not open like the ones I have used before. They also had a rudder and pedal that the person in the back used to help steer. This was very different for Lindsay, but once we got the hang of it, it really did help us navigate the waves better. Katiria shared a kayak with one of the instructors, there were two girls from Hokkaido in the other kayak, and the English speaking instructor was by himself in a one person.
Lindsay and I saying hello!
Can spot all the wildlife???
We kayaked around a small jetty of rocks into a small cove around the corner and parked in the sand (rocks). We geared up for our first snorkel of the day. I have snorkeled many times, but no one has ever shown me how to walk backwards into the water and on the rocks so you don’t fall. I guess that makes sense because I have seen scuba divers walking backwards on boats and falling backwards into the water, but never knew why. Now I do! I have learned so much in Japan 🙂 We snorkeled for about an hour I think (our whole trip was from 10-4). The water was the perfect temperature and the sun was hidden behind clouds most of the day. This was nice while kayaking as it wasn’t so hot and bright…but I would have liked to see more of the sun’s rays through the water. The coral down here was unbelievable. I snorkeled in Thailand and saw brilliant coral and fish…the most I have ever seen. In Zamami I saw even more than that…and it was perfect.
We swam so close to the coral at times because it was so shallow that you could barely move your arms or legs for fear of hitting the reef. I have never been so close before and it was like I was a part of the coral. I did feel a bit like Ariel 🙂 A part of their world (hehe).
We saw so many fish, starfish, puffers, spiky fish, a huge variety of coral, sea snakes, slugs, and TURTLES!!! In this area we actually swam with about 5 huge sea turtles. I have never seen sea turtles while swimming before and it was magical. Once I didn’t realize one was below me and I looked down just in time to see it starting to surface and I swam out of it’s way. That’s how close we were! The water was the most brilliant of colors and we swam out to the edge of the reef….where it drops down deeeep below. I hovered around the edge for a long time just looking out into the deep blue (which was still the gorgeous sapphire blue) and longed to see what was out there. Hopefully soon I will get my scuba license so I can explore that beautiful deep blue sea. I kept hoping for a larger marine animal to appear…or be just beyond my sight-but I didn’t see anything… 😦 much to Katiria and Lindsay’s appreciation. I was hoping to see a shark at least!!
Our guides had an underwater camera and took pictures for us. As part of our package, we apparently got a cd of images from our snorkeling! I am so happy to have the photos to share with you!!
We got back into our kayaks and went across that cove to another island, which is uninhabited *unless you count the thousands of hermit crabs and a couple of goats). Here, the guides made us lunch (Okinawan noodles) and cold Jasmine tea (delicious-both of them). We collected shells, some took naps, chatted, suntanned (Lindsay sunburned) and rested for about an hour or so before we went snorkeling again in this area. The water was ideal here too and though we didn’t see anymore turtles, we had another array of sea creatures to look at and hold!
We took a tour of the island and shared the space with the thousands of hermit crabs which moved together at once making the ground look as if it were moving. They lived in these bushes of strange orange fruits and you could hear them skittering about.
After that last snorkel we kayaked back to the original beach we started at, and the girls all took turns learning to paddle board. There weren’t enough for all of us so I sat this one out. The girls offered to get off so I could have a turn, but I didn’t want to fall into the water with my contacts in, so I just collected shells and watched them doing yoga on the boards. It was a nice end to the day.
For dinner we attempted to walk to the other beach since we couldn’t find transpo. That was sooo far (1.2 kilometers) and up and down hills. I know I walked 1 km the night before, but that was flat. This…this was terrible! We passed a small wild pack of feral cats who acted like trolls when we passed them. Growling and spitting…very interesting. The beach was beautiful and sandy and picture perfect. There was supposed to be a restaurant…but it was closed. Go figure. We bought water from a machine then tried to call a cab. They didn’t answer. So we took the terrible walk back and tried to find food. We went to a popular restaurant (the whole town was there, including the cabby I am sure) and had tonkatsu (fried pork, one of my favs) and shared a bottle of wine. It was a nice evening. We went back to our room, played some games, drank more wine and went to bed. We had to (barely) catch the ferry at 10am so we could catch our flight (one ferry means we can’t miss it or we miss our flight). With just enough time to get on board we headed back to Okinawa where we played around in the airport, shopped, and drank nomnom coffee until we flew home.
End of school (no pictures 😦 lost off my computer I suppose!)
The end of the school year was a busy one. We had parties, gift exchanges, goodbyes, games…it was very exciting, and quite peaceful actually. The last week was really nice because we were able to finish our final unit with a bang-and I know I don’t talk much about what I teach and How (inquiry, PYP, IB..very daunting stuff) but we basically have 6 units a year that focus on concepts-and our final unit, How the World Works: Toys in Motion was about forces and motion. Our kids decided to build their own Rube Golberg Machine using toys, recycled materials, and classroom stuff and we had a huge celebration to see if they worked. And the did, kind of! It was a LOT of work and I found myself getting toooo involved as a kid kicked over something we worked on I wanted to scream WATCH WHERE YOU ARE GOING! lol-simmer down teacher, not your work. But I did get seriously invested in this one….:) We had our celebration and with that, we had 3 days of school left to wind down. The last day of school was perfect-I did something I hadn’t tried before, and it was so perfect I (and some of my co-workers) will do it again this year!
What did we do? Well other teachers were starting to schedule their parties and I got to thinking (We have to talk about them because if families are invited then parking is very limited)…if everyone is doing a party in the afternoon…why not do it in the morning? I am used to afternoon parties, the last hour of the day and they are hectic and dirty and I am left cleaning up after school (before, we weren’t allowed to party until the last hour). So this year I said we would do a breakfast! We also did R.A.D-read all day. The kids came in pjs, brought books, sleeping bags, pillows, games, blankets, ipads/gameboys/whatever…we began the day making waffles with my waffle iron (parents brought heaps of toppings and food), and had a lovely meal. After that the kids settled into their spots for the day. We alternated electronic time with regular book time, so the boys weren’t on the devices all day. They made forts and snuggled in tight. We read Jumanji and watched the movie (kids could tune into their device if they didn’t want to watch or it was too scary). That was pretty much it, we had snacks left all day-and it was calm and fun and peaceful. We started cleaning up, said our goodbyes, and that was it. I had loads of lovely gifts, cards, and well wishes. It was a perfect ending to a great first year abroad. NIS is a special place.
UPDATE: So I intended to post this when I got back to GA this summer and I didn’t have my laptop with pictures, so I am posting it now…though I am back in Japan….oops!
I will have another post soon about Greece!!!! You don’t want to miss that!!!! 🙂
Here are some pictures from our anniversary and time back home! I apologize in advance for the onslaught of London pictures, but I missed my boy so much!!