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Okinawa: The Final Frontier (Day 3)

The three days in Okinawa really flew by. Today we were more sane, and slept in, ate a leisurely breakfast and then checked out of the hotel. Then we piled into the car for one last, long drive to a place that was called "Okinawa World". Go figure. It was a park complex that had a cave, some traditional culture and crafts, and a snake museum for Okinawaian snakes.

First we watched an Eisa dance demonstration. Eisa is a dance form practiced in the Ryukyu islands, and is usually performed at the end of the Japanese Obon Festival in Summer. It's a very energetic dance, with drums and jumping. (What I mean is, the people with the drums are jumping while beating them and yelling...it looks exhausting.) We weren't allowed to take photos during the dance, so credit to whoever took this. (Actually, from what I can tell...it's from the same place I was at, so someone was cheating at some point...)

Then we walked around the crafts area. The Ryukyu islands are known for th…

Okinawa Day 2

On Day 2 of 3 in Okinawa, we once again woke at 6 a.m. Had a breakfast buffet courtesy of the hotel, and then because it was only 8 a.m. by the time we were done, we returned to our room. I fell asleep again for another hour.

Then we headed to the hotel's private beach, where we got on a boat with a glass bottom, made for viewing fish.



The water was so clear that you could see all the way to the ocean floor, and yes, all the fish and plants swimming below. They were obviously smart fish: they knew what the boat meant. At one point the guide tossed some food off the side to illustrate that point and it was torn apart in a few seconds.


If I wanted to, I could have reached down and touched a fish.

After the boat ride, we bought lunch from a nearby convenience store (when AREN'T you nearby to a conveniance store? or a vending machine for that matter...) to eat at our next destination, which after another hour of driving turned out to be the Churaumi Aquarium.



It was a concrete s…

Okinawa Day 1

It was Christmas Day and I was up by six a.m. per usual.
The reason I was up, however, was a little bit different. Instead of waking up with my brother in order to rush down the stairs and open our stockings while we impatiently waited for our parents to arise, I was blearily making sure I had everything for a three-day trip to Okinawa. The four of us: my host mother, sister, grandmother and I left our apartment at seven a.m. sharp and caught a train at 7:07. That train took us to another train, which took us to another train, which eventually got us to Haneda International airport with an hour to spare.

Traveling...airports and flights are airports and flights. For once I slept on the plane, and I never do that. So it was before I knew it we had arrived in Okinawa, which was warmer than Tokyo, albeit threatening to rain. More travel logistics ensued, mainly consisting of finding our rental car. We started driving and I fell alseep again...

...and woke up when we arrived at a castle…

メリクリスマス

That, for those who don't know, says "meri kurisumasu" which is the romanji spelling of "Merry Christmas".

The presents, if you recall the previous image of the tree I put up have, uh, multiplied.

And here is where I would like to get some mushy stuff out of the way before I bring in the funny.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to spend the holidays with your family, be very grateful for that. Even if Great Uncle Ned chews with his mouth open or your Aunt Sally persists in showing you pictures of her dozen cats over and over again, they're still your family. And you don't really realize what not being around them is like until, well, you're not. So to all of you at home, from the bottom of my heart I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Go enjoy the holidays with family and friends: live it up! Relax over break! Eat too much! Curl up with a good book, stare at the light of a Christmas tree...just enjoy being together. That's wh…

Tennis

So. Tennis. Or rather, lack thereof. After playing once a week for three and a half months (mid-August-December) I stopped. Partly because my Mondays were insane with club after school, the hour commute home, and the fact that the tennis didn't start until 8:30 at night. So I wouldn't get home until 10:20 pm, then I'd have to shower, and if I still had schoolwork after that...well, I pushed 2:00 am nights a couple times. Not fun. The other part was because the classes themselves are just not what I'm used to. Midtown's stellar coaching has definitely spoiled me.

So I went one last Monday to say goodbye to everyone.

The man in the blue is Coah Oomura. The two guys are Kosei and Kohei (gah, names...so similar...) and the girl is Kaho. After this photo, they all wanted to take individual shots with their cameras, so I was like, "Ok, sure, no problem".

The next thing they asked was how Americans took photos, since I said that, in general, we don't do the …

It was a Giant Family Reunion

Hip hip hooray for AFS events! Today was the Jenesys Festival, an event marking the end of the five-year program that brings people from Asia and the Pacific to Japan. (It was sponsored by the Japanese government, and the contract expires this year.) Most AFSers from around Japan and all of the Jenesys students on the two-week summer program gathered in one large room for this festival. All 1500 of us.


That made for a very crowded and hot room.
But I got to see people I hadn't seen in a long time (as much as four months). It made for a lot of shrieking--"AAAH, I haven't seen you in FOREVER! HISASHIBURI!" type screaming. It was a large family reunion. Everyone hit it off great, which put worries that most of us would have grown apart, to rest.

The festival itself wasn't the most interesting. Mostly speeches by important government officials affiliatd with Jenesys, AFS people, and short statements by representatives from each of the thirteen Jenesys countries.



Ther…

Tokyo Disney--The Land Where Dreams Come True; Epic Weekend Part 2

On Monday a group of seven Jenesys scholarship students (Jenesys is a program that lets highschoolers come to Japan from Asia/Australia/New Zealand etc.) came to Saitama. They are in their second week in Japan, and as part of their trip they would be spending two days at a school.

My school.

So AFS and Jenesys coordinated to have us spend Monday at Tokyo Disney (and they paid for everything...train fare, admissions ticket, lunch...it was incredibly generous). AFS also called my school and got permission for me to be absent, so I was literally all set to go. I took a train or two down to Nerima station, where I met up with my LP and three of the people; two girls (one from Australia and one from Malaysia) and the unofficial chaperone, a teacher (also from Australia). Also present was Hiroshi Tanda, who is going to be an AFS exchange student next year, and as such has been to lots of the events this year.

(I take one moment to brag: easily the most fluent non-native speaker, I felt so…