Sayonara, Okinawa!


“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Recently Jody and I had to say our goodbyes to our beloved Okinawa, a land that we called home for the last 3.5 years.  I’ve written extensively about saying goodbyes during our last couple of international shifts.  One when we left Pensacola, Florida, the only place I really ever planted some roots since leaving my childhood home for college in 1984 (see Sayonara Amerika).  And just recently when we left Japan for our return to the states once again (see Goodbye).

Jody’s Hospital Crowd

Saying a proper “goodbye” to people, places, and even things has become more and more important to me as time has passed.  We marked our departure for the Orient back in 2013 with an Asian costume themed party to indelibly mark that occasion.  And we decided to do the same upon leaving Asia for ‘Murica just last month.

Terrace at Sea Garden

Renting out one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants Sea Garden, we invited a slew of our closest friends and coworkers.  Unfortunately for everyone, it seems that just the notion of wearing a costume kept more than a few people from attending.  But then again, in such a setting you get to see just who your closest friends and coworkers really are.  It IS important to say goodbye, and express it properly, a concept lost on so many people today who remain eternally rushed in their lives, taking things much too seriously as they neglect the things that really matter.  In any case, we had a wonderful time, and will cherish these bookend parties to our Far East Fling for the rest of our lives!

Party Goers

So, as I sit here in our pet-friendly hotel room in Jacksonville, North Carolina, passing the time until we can sign a lease and move into our temporary home for the next 20 months, I look fondly back on my latest time in Okinawa…and slowly shift my gaze to the future here in the coastal Carolinas.  But I’m already starting to scheme about the party we will throw upon our return to the Florida Panhandle in  late 2018.

Dorthy Says There’s No Place Like Home!

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tropical Troubles: Living with Mold in Okinawa, Japan


I would rather be inundated with these types of molds.  Is she really sitting on the pot??

I would rather be inundated with these types of molds. Is she really sitting on the pot??

 “You can mold a mannerism, but must chisel a character.”  ~ Unknown

“Oooooooh,” our housing agent coos upon seeing the pictures of the pink invader in our master bedroom.  I scroll to the next, and it’s immediately followed by an all-konwing “Ahhhhhhhhhh…”.

At least this mold is a colorful addition to our paper's pattern....

At least this mold is a colorful addition to our paper’s pattern….

“Very bad,” I say, continuing to scroll through the ten-odd photos on my Sony POS camera.  “Much worse since typhoon.”  She acknowledges this last point with an interesting grunt that the Japanese favor as a receiver in conversations:  “Ungh.”

At this point of infestation, our air purifier is probably overwhelmed.

At this point of infestation, our air purifier is probably overwhelmed.

“Wallpaper,” comes her flat reply.

I pause for a moment, expecting this response. We were told when we moved in that our condo bedroom had to be repaired due to mold problems around our sit-in picture window; the military requires such disclosures here on the island.  Mainly because here in Okinawa mold is almost a constant and continuous battle that must be waged without quarter or pause.  It is one of the more interesting but annoying faces of living literally in an ocean-front condo…of Japanese design and construction.

DSC00614

But given the humid history of our particular unit, combined with just having the wallpaper replaced about six or eight weeks ago (due to mold), I thought maybe (and naively hopefully) that there might be a better and more permanent fix for our particular predicament.  In other words, maybe they should try treating the disease rather than the symptoms!

I think about my words carefully now. I do not want to be so much trouble that our lease will not be renewed, but I also want to avoid health issues related to living with…or more to the point, breathing In mold spores.  Our housing agency recently told a friend of ours, who inquired about a vacate unit on our floor, that they are starting to rent to Japanese since the Americans have so much trouble with mold. Maybe it’s our culture of fear, or maybe the Japanese are just heartier people, but no one should have co-habitat with a fungus…among us.

DSC00616

“Uh…problem…in wall,” I start slowly and warily, dealing concurrently with both the mold and the language barrier between us.

“Hai!” comes her excited reply in perfect synch with an acknowledging head nod.

But nothing more.

“Uh, open wall and fix?” I gently urge.

“Hai, new wallpaper,” comes the same reply….

Step 2:  thoroughly clean once the paper is gone (Step 1).

Step 2: thoroughly clean once the paper is gone (Step 1).

Fine.  New wallpaper it is.  Here’s our of attack in what appears to be this losing biological warfare:  renew our lease in August (when it is up for renewal) for another year, and then just have the paper replaced every time the pink-spotted invader makes an appearance. Surely sooner or latter the owner and/or our housing agency will get the message.  Or at least figure out that the time and materials spent on new wallpaper actually will start to cost more than an actual, permanent fix.  I have previously touched on the particular Japanese fetish with wallpaper; see a write-up about the quirkiness of our condo.  Heck, we even have it – “wall” paper – on our ceiling.  Now I know why….

DSC00726

For us, however, this whole ordeal is quite an inconvenience.  First, the infected paper comes down, followed almost immediately by the strong order of mildew. Next, the Japanese spray and scrub down the exposed drywall with a very popular chemical solution sold in droves in their DIY stores, which, by my uncalibrated smell-o-meter, is at least 50% bleach, and 50% equally deadly “stuff.” I can only imagine the warnings and MSDS that accompany this stuff if sold in at home….  So the condo smells as strongly as I imagine a disinfected African Ebola ward would.

This Chemical should require some increased level of MOPP!

This Chemical should require some increased level of MOPP!

The walls remain bare while they dry, which means at least four days of camping and sleeping in our living room while the AC blasts our bedroom, windows open, bathroom exhaust fan on, and air intake handler running on high.  We literally brought too much schtick with us to have a guest room, and besides, we only have one bed at present.  The abusive smell slowly trails off with each passing day, and the walls dry before our very eyes.  This time around, in an effort to avoid having to do this again in two months, I actually caulked the screws, holes, old repairs, and seams in the drywall, all of which were never taped, mudded or sealed properly in the first place.  For a domicile on the waterfront, there certainly isn’t a lot of attention paid to waterproofing….

I was not shy with the caulking.

I was not shy with the caulking.

So it’s Saturday as I write.  The paper came down this past Thursday afternoon, and this coming Monday we get our new wallpaper. Followed necessarily by a deep cleaning of the bedroom and a change of bedding.  But then there’s the bane of my existence as a domestic engineer:  the dreaded dusting of all our bedroom’s horizontal surfaces!

Old and poor patches, evidence of leaks in the past.

Old and poor patches, evidence of leaks in the past.

dampness-fig2dampness-fig1So hopefully in a mere 48-odd hours this round of tropical troubles will be over.  Mold here is viewed as a by-product of the environment, as opposed to something that is harmful and which can be defeated at the start by better engineering and construction practices.  In other words, I lived on the Inter-coastal Waterway in Florida for five years, and mold wasn’t even something I ever remotely worried about.  While the Japanese seem rather dismissive of the health impacts of mold and mildew, there is pretty ding-dang clear evidence that either (or both) increase the risk of respiratory illness, particular in those with pre-existing conditions (like asthma), and for the very young and very old.

 

On the other hand, the structures here are well-engineered against earthquakes and typhoons, both of which we have uncomfortably experienced first-hand and without issue.  So maybe, just maybe, we should accept the new wallpaper graciously.

At least we're not dealing with this!

At least we’re not dealing with this!

My lungs and throat, however, compel the fight against the marauding mold.  Our tactical victories may continue, but stay tuned for any strategic surprises later this summer and fall.

Running Men: Charming Characters Home and Abroad


“門前の小僧習わぬ経を読む。 Mon zen no kozō narawanu kyō wo yomu, or literally: “An apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures untaught.”

Wherever we find ourselves, there is a truth that the environment which envelops us makes our character. As an extension, a locale’s surrounds also helps to fashion local iconic characters.

Randy, Pensacola's "Running Man" is clearly an inspiration!

Randy, Pensacola’s “Running Man” is clearly an inspiration!

1185909_620104331354794_621811454_nPensacola has “Randy the Running Man.” The older gentlemen, probably at least in his mid-to-late 60s, who runs all over West Pensacola. But this really isn’t what sets him apart: he dresses in patriotic, flag-covered shirts, always wears his United States Flag ball cap, but most importantly, he not only waves to passersby, but he waves numerous American flags he carries on a short flagpole. Suffering from leathery sun-soaked skin from running so much in the Florida sun, he is seen at all times of the day, rain or shine, warm or cold. He simply keeps on running, although he has gotten slower and slower with the passing years….

tumblr_mql3qhGmE81r8hv2uo2_500“My name is Randy, but people call me ‘The Running Man’ because I really love to run. I have worked as a maintenance man at the Pensacola Naval Air Station for 36 years. I run by the hours so I don’t know how far I run, I just run for America. I carry two U.S. flags. The flag on the top is for all of the living Americans and the flag on the bottom is in honor of those who have died. I always wear my flag hat. If a fire truck, police car, or bus full of kids comes by I always give a salute!”

Pensacola’s “Running Man” receives numerous honks and waves from motorists, and he appreciates the responses he elicits. “Yes, sir, everyone is my friend. The best thing is, if a funeral comes by, I give them a salute and a bow because everyone has a soul you can appreciate and I run for them too.”

This Chinaman would fit right in with Pensacola's Bible Belt!

This “iconic” Chinaman would fit right in with Pensacola’s Bible Belt!

But Okinawa also offers a Far East flirtation with such characters. Two in our local neighborhood called “Miyagi,” a roughly 10 square block area of the town of Chatan-Cho, which Jody and I have quite innocently labelled “The Dog Shuffler” and “Sasquatch.” While these two men don’t run, they are still running quite well.  Which is really the point in the end.

Okinawa's "Dog Shuffler"

Okinawa’s “Dog Shuffler”

Okinawa Apr 2014, Dog Shuffler 1The Dog Shuffler is an old man who obviously lives somewhere in the neighborhood, who walks his dog a few times a day along the Sunabe Seawall which serves as our condominium’s front yard. But he just doesn’t walk; he shuffles in a distinct way, always wearing his fisherman’s hat. This particularly pairing between man and dog is almost divine. This man’s dog is clearly an older mutt, but a perfectly well-behaved one. While he (and there’s no doubt the dog is a boy) is on a leash while walking the streets of Miyagi, when the pair ascends the stairs to the seawall, The Shuffler sets his four-legged best-friend free and the dog walks up ahead, mimicking owner with his own aged canine cantor. The dog will shuffle ahead only so far; after a few steps, the dog will pause, then turn and check on his master, waiting for his human companion to catch up. In this way, man and best friend leap-frog down the seawall, stopping for numerous sit-down breaks along the way.

Okinawa Apr 2014, Sasquatch Man 2Okinawa Apr 2014, Sasquatch Man 1Our other character, somewhat coarsely called “Sasquatch,” is a very old Okinawan gentlemen indeed who we see walking the neighborhood almost every day, often more than once a day. Okinawans, like most Asians of the Far East, often appear younger than they actually are, often by a decade or more. While this man may appear 70-75, I would hazard a guess that he very well may be his in mid-80s, which means that he was a teenager here on Okinawa when the allies invaded in 1945 during WWII.  Just considering what this man has lived through makes me stop and pause every single time I see him, each wrinkle ripe with a story of old. And seeing him shuffle in his own particularly practice all over the streets of our neighborhod, always dressed in slacks and a long-sleeved shirt (the Okinawans have long recognized the danger of the sun), I can only be inspired to be so active at that advanced age. So, what about the “Squatch” branding? Well, this man sports a rather interesting but disheveled array of facial and head hair, and combined with what appears to be a rather animalistic thousand-yard stare, it seemed not an all inappropriate nickname…at the time. Clearly no disrespect is intended!

Far East fashion does NOT make a running man.  In fact, it can be downright criminal....

Far East fashion does NOT make a running man. In fact, it can be downright criminal….

These personalities in our far-removed Far East neighborhood help to offer a comforting embrace of a reminder of home. People, like Pensacola’s Running Man and Okinawan’s Dog Shuffler and Sasquatch, can be found in any and all milieu, and all help to bridge gulfs of time, culture, distance, language, and space. Our Far Eastern folks outwardly flirt with all things that bind otherwise disparate peoples together, rather than highlight the obvious differences which most people find themselves caught up in….  I’m happy to have them both here, each and every day.

Luckily there isn't a Far East equivalent of Pensacola's armless prostitute, "Flipper"

Luckily there isn’t a Far East equivalent of Pensacola’s armless prostitute, “Flipper”

What local personalities do YOU have where YOU live?

See more about Pensacola’s Randy the Running Man here:

http://www.progresspromise.com/blog/the-running-man

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Randy-the-running-man-of-West-Pensacola/180821275283104

Our Home: “Kwuirky” with a K!


"Kegger" with a K - this would be the coolest home.  Ever.

“Kegger” with a K – this would be the coolest home. Ever.

予測できない, Yosoku dekinai = “quirky” in Japanese

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” ~Bashō, born Matsuo Kinsaku (1644-1694), then Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa, the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan

“Home is where the heart is.” ~Pliny the Elder

This home was, unfortunately, not available

This home was, unfortunately, not available

Our home away from home in Okinawa is, shall we say, quirky.  Well, it’s a wee-tad more than the standard American idea of quirkiness, so I’ve decided to characterize and name our domicile Kwuirky.  Yep, that’s right:  Quirky with a Kapital “K.”

It’s hard to easily explain and fully capture the vast gulfs between the ideals of aesthetic design, comfortable outfitting, and tasteful decorating that Americans have honed into high art, contrasted with the cultural paradigm that I believe the Japanese hold of how such aspects of style and layout render across the vast Pacific ocean.  In other words, like most other qualities of life in Japan for a Gaijin, there is something “lost in translation” between here and there.

Sadly our home did not come furnished with these pillows.

Sadly our home did not come furnished with these pillows.

In the case of our condo conundrum, there is a LOT lost in translation!

But in order to even begin to attempt capturing such charming idiosyncrasies and trinkets of traits gone awry, I’ll provide a simple explanation surrounded by imagery.  Which, in these cases, speaks volumes more than a quantified thousand-word cliché.

Find the handles.  On the outside.  I dare you.

Find the handles. On the outside. I dare you.

A.  Grand View Balcony.  Our “front” balcony is what sold this condo about all the other properties that we considered.  Even through the hassle of high-rise living, through the rectangular, boxy layout of this particular space, the view provided here is, in a word, stunning.  That is, until you exit the condo to stand on the balcony.  And close the sliding glass doors behind you.  And then you realize there are absolutely no handles or other hardware on the outside that allow for easy or any opening of the sliding glass.  Yes, the glass is already covered with fingerprints from our attempts at griping purchase for opening, and will remain so for the next three years.  Who designs doors without handles for their most basic manipulation?

Find the kwuirkily-placed quad light switch!!

Find the kwuirkily-placed quad light switch!!

B. Light Switches.  Light switch placement is critically important.  Those of you that have ever designed a home or re-walled or rewired a room know of what I speak.  Not only is there concern for logical and easy access given traffic flow and the fixture(s) operated, but there must be consideration for their impact on the space itself.  One of the limiting factors in placement is that most switches feed into an electrical box located in the wall that has to be stud-mounted.  But, for the love of gawd, the placement of this quad light switch in our condo simply exceeds any and all reason.  Put some bookshelves there?  No – would block access to the lights.  Couch?  Maybe, but one would be reaching over those seated…awkward.  Picture on the wall?  Sure, off-center of course….

Lighting:  options without functionality

Lighting: options without functionality

C. Lighting.  Lighting is much more than pragmatic light.  Lighting provides functionality, but more so, creates ambiance.  It also must make sense.  Most of the overhead fixtures in our home act in a very odd 4-way fashion.  Click the rocker switch and the lights come on where the sequence last left off.  And that sequence goes a little something like this:  all lights on; two lights on; overhead nightlight on; and all off.  So, say, for instance, you want to read at night and rock the rocker but only two of the lights illuminate.  You have one of two solutions:  rock the rocker three more times to get all the lights on, OR, walk over to the light fixture in question and pull the lighting chain…yep, you guessed it, three times.  This holds true for all the bedrooms, our office, and our kitchen.  I hope the switch mean-time-between-failure ratings are much higher than those in America.  Each operation could actually be three.

An ugly, expensive, but necessary transformer for our American stove.

An ugly, expensive, but necessary transformer for our American stove.

D. Power.  Japan is different.  Some say the capital of all things “weird.”  But I like different, and am enthralled by weird, so I’m right at home here…in our home.  But my toaster is not.  You see the 100VAC (50-60hz) used in Japan is just enough different than our standard and highly controlled 110VAC (60hz) to make a tremendous difference to our machine brethren.  The toaster takes at least two, if not three cycles to “toast” properly.  Our hotpot will boil water, albeit at a slower pace, but seems to not roil enough to kick the darn thing off.  Microwave popcorn?  Add at least 30% more pop time….  These issues are all solved through the use of heavy, ugly transformers; alas, they are hard to come by from the base housing office, and are expensive to purchase.

Grounded Plugs - some o the only ones.

Grounded Plugs – some of the only ones.

E. Power, but this time more grounded.  I cannot figure the distribution of grounded versus non-grounded outlets in this condo.  Obviously the ones in the kitchen (but not all of them even there are grounded) and the ones in the baths make sense.  However, it seems that only one bedroom has a duplex box that offers a standard 3-prong female fitting.  Darn the luck; of course the two extension cords we brought – and I knew we would need them – are both grounded.  Hopefully the base Exchange sells the 3-to-2 prong adapters…which defeat the whole purpose of grounded power to begin with!  I guess I should be happy that our plugs work here without all those obtrusive and funky shaped adapters.

Common floor, tub and sink drain in our waterproof bathrooms.

Common floor, tub and sink drain in our waterproof bathrooms.

F.  Bathroom plumbing.  The most essential element of any bathroom, if you stop and think about it, is running water.  Water runs a little differently in Japan than it does back home.  Still downhill powered by gravity, but otherwise differently.  Aside from the toilet having two options for flushing (half and full) – and believe me, a full Japanese flush is already a short American rinse (I had to purchase a plunger as a result), the most interesting aspect of bathroom drains is that the sink and the tub both feed to a single open floor drain.  I guess this makes cleaning the floors a bit easier (more on that later), and during construction there is one less drain to worry about.  It’s just…quirky.

Bathroom by Tupperware.  At least it's waterproof.

Bathroom by Tupperware. Even the floor is plastic tiling.  At least it’s waterproof.

G.  Plastic bathrooms.  So about cleaning those bathrooms!  The Japanese design bathrooms as literally waterproof rooms.  Which is a neat concept.  Until you realize that what results is a bathroom by Tupperware, unless one was really to splurge and put in, dare we say, TILE.  On the one hand, no worries about water going anywhere; on the other hand, water goes everywhere.  There certainly is no luxury in Japanese bathrooms (besides the deep soak tubs), even in the higher-end properties we considered.

A really bad patch...in the wallpaper on the ceiling.

A really bad patch…in the wallpaper…on the ceiling.

H.  Wallpaper on the ceiling.  ‘Nough said.

Flamboyant doesn't even begin to describe this level of opulence....

Flamboyant doesn’t even begin to describe this level of opulence….

I.  Liberace’s Ceiling Fan.  I don’t know how the owners imported such an American treasure (probably eBay), but yes music and flamboyant-gay-man musical fans, there it is, in all its glory, sitting in an ornate coffer ceiling (of sorts), a thing of immeasurable beauty that we gawk at in bed every night until we literally are mesmerized off into deep, hypnotic slumber.  I’m waiting for the plethora of nightmares to begin.  We may come home with PTSD from this exposure.

Crown Molding.  Not quite fit or royalty.

Crown Molding. Not quite fit for royalty.

J.  Crown molding and baseboards.  Okay, they’ve really tried here.  But, the road to poorly adorned homes is usually paved with good intentions.  The ceiling molding is offset from the ceiling, something like 1/8th inch or so.  Just enough to notice, but not enough to do anything with or about.  I could see a rope strand of LED lighting perhaps….  Do they have to leave room, you know, for the ceiling-paper seams?  The molding is joined, at the ceiling and floor, like how I would imagine about a 10 year old would do the job…without any training or help.  The seams are not overcut and adjoined “seamlessly;” rather, there is a drastic 90 degree straight cut with large visible gaps between pieces.  At the baseboard, where it meets a door-jam, the baseboard sticks out about 1/8th and shows a wholly unfinished edge.  In the final coup de grace of fashion faux pas, the finishing nails are not finishing nails, and neither are they finished.

Kitchen cabinets...or giants.

Kitchen cabinets…for giants.

K.  Kitchen cabinets.  Our kitchen is the best kitchen we saw, not by a lot, but by enough.  Like Japanese bathrooms, they don’t seem to “get it” here when it comes to a well-designed, functionally sound kitchen.  For starters, the upper cabinets are for nothing less than giants.  This said by an American that is already something like four inches taller than the standard Okinawan.  And the cabinet finishing?  Well, let’s just say that we pay a little more attention to such details.  I’m not sure I want my guests to be able to inventory my canned goods, either.

Yes, we have a garbage disposal.  The Japanese kind.

Yes, we have a garbage disposal. The Japanese kind.

L.  Okinawan Garbage Disposal.  It will never break.  Well, I guess it could, but it would take an awful lot….  Most trash is burned on Okinawa, and even though many Americans think of a garbage disposal as a “magical” way to get rid of food waste, it really doesn’t – and there is absolutely no magic.  It just transfers that trash to the water stream, something already burdened on Okinawa.

Powder room.  Soon to be a linen closet.

Powder room. Soon to be a linen closet.

M.  Powder Room.  The condo is advertised as a 4/2.5, which is technically true, but it takes some looking to find that “point-five.”  There is a toilet room, opposite the washer/dryer area, and immediately adjacent to one of the full baths.  Although I understand that theoretically one person from one of the 4 bedrooms could be in the full bath taking a full bath, and another person from one of the remaining 3 bedrooms could be in the other full bath taking a partial shower, and this half bath could allow for yet another person to use the john, there is still the problem of the 4th person from the 4th bedroom who is stuck using the kitchen sink.  No, this space would have been MUCH better suited as a linen closet, something it will become during our tenure here.

Uber kwool Okinawan door curtain.

Uber kwool Okinawan door curtain.

N.  Awkward Openings.  Remember that wall with the misplaced quad light switch plate?  Well, it gets worse.  There is a door to the utility room/powder room/2nd bathroom which opens outward against this wall.  That settles it; either the wall is completely unusable, or the door has to go.  The door has gone.  We have hung a traditional Japanese indoor curtain in its place, with a famous image of a tsunami.  It actually is amazing how well this simple curtain acts as an air conditioning break, and how much ambiance it provides already to our unfurnished, undecorated living room.

Redneck run plumbing solutions.

“Redneck Run, Inc.” plumbing solutions

O.  Outdoor Plumbing.  Okay, it’s bad enough that the power in Japan is just different enough to cause a few issues here and there.  However, a much more serious issue is the different outdoor plumbing standards used here!  How an island that was under US administration until 1972 wound up using a British standard is beyond me.  I will tell you this – there is no easy way on the island to bridge this gulf.  I might as well be trying to build a moon rocket.  So, being Americans from the Florida panhandle, we used a little elbow grease and a lot of brute force, resulting in a Redneck Run of hose so that we have water access to the street (down 60’), and to our side balcony where our scuba gear will be washed (laterally 60’).

Tiling fit for the government.

Tiling fit for the government.

P.  Office Tiling.  I would be proud of the flooring in the condo.  If we were hosting government administrative offices here.  Yes, it is that exact same kind of office building tile.  Now, it is laid well, and there is actually a pattern in most rooms.  However, the patterns are neither centered on the rooms themselves, nor or they centered on the coffer ceilings and ceiling fans where applicable.  This makes for an odd appearance, one that we decided quickly that could, should, and would be covered up with more appropriate – and comfortable floor options.  Believe me, the “amoeba” rugs were not my first choice, but they are “growing” (pun intended) on me with time.

The Bar that Almost Was

The Bar that Almost Was

Q.  Kitchen Eat-At Bar.  It’s really cool, except it’s at table height.  So, instead of having really quirky circular swivel bar stools for people to sit at and entertain the chef(s) pretty much eye-to-eye, said chef(s) will be forever talking down to his (or her) guests…seated in regular dining room chairs.  We are exploring a few creative solutions to help deal with this bar, hopefully, without bruising our guests knees while making it all…functional.

Figure this out!!

Figure this out!!

R.  Central A/C:  Not.  The Japanese have a totally different philosophy when it comes to conditioning the air in their homes:  room by room.  Each room.  Almost every room.  So, in our condo, there are five air conditioners.  Right now, we are running three:  living room, master bedroom, and office, the latter of which is located at the other end of the condominium from the first two units.  I have to crank one or two up when we cook (with gas!).  And each unit is remote controlled, which are, as you probably guessed it, completely in Japanese.  That’s bad enough, but it gets worse; we have three different remote controls….  The cool thing about these units is that they have a “dehumidifier” setting, which allows for massively reduced power consumption when the weather is more pleasant.  Also provided in each room is two circulation aids; one in the ceiling which operates 24/7, and an additional wall unit that is user-controlled.  These aids pull air from the inside and exhaust it externally, helping to exchange the air inside the condo, rather than having it recirculated over and over again.  We were told that the latter is “bad air, no good.”  Perhaps there is a lesson there for America??

Our main A/C in our Living Room.

Our main A/C in our Living Room.

S.  Covered Parking.  But with an uncovered building entrance!  One of the decision points we used to select this residence was covered parking.  It is really nice to have your vehicle’s interior only, say, about 85 degrees, rather than the 120 it would be if exposed to the tropical sun here.  Equally important, the driving monsoon-like rains make the to-and-fro from the car a potentially drenching experience.  So, we thought, “great!”  This place had it all.  EXCEPT the building’s entrances – stairwells and elevator lobby – are accessed from the street, not the parking garage, and necessitate a small but importantly uncovered passage.  Oh, and did I mention that our assigned parking slots are at the other end of the building next door?  It’s not too bad; just on the other side of the central elevator shaft…just quirky.

T.  Bedroom Closets.  I’m not sure what the Japanese do with their clothes.  A key indication is the vast number of portable hanging-closet solutions sold at the local “Make-Man” DIY stores on the island.  Jody uses the one in our bedroom; we are sharing the largest one in our designated office.  One of the “bedrooms” doesn’t have a closet at all; it will be our store room.  Our guest room has two, oddly shaped and not very functional closets.  We brought waaaaaay too many clothes….

Tiny, and in Japanese, but Gas-Powered!

Tiny, and in Japanese, but Gas-Powered!

U.  Japanese Dryer.  We have a gas dryer, a Japanese model, that is, like the AC remotes, completely in Japanese!  The translation I have covers only about half the options, from which I deduce that the other half are not that important.  Or just may be Japanese state secrets not privy to gaijin.  The dryer’s capacity is tiny, easily half that of our American-provided washing machine, but it actually is pretty “hot” at drying clothes.  I will be adding a Japanese clothesline on our side balcony when funds and opportunity permit.

You can still peer over the privacy treatment....

You can still peer over the privacy treatment….

V.  Window Privacy.  Since this is high-rise living, our windows necessarily overlook a condo unit on one side.  We wouldn’t have taken this unit, however, if it wasn’t the end unit of a building.  This provides a significant amount of standoff from our neighbors, especially since the two building sit ajar from each other.  Still, and even though curtains and drapes are provided on all windows, most are treated with graphic overlay.  So much for the view…of another condo unit.  Although we didn’t appreciate this treatment at first, it works pretty ding-dang well; our bedroom windows – that ones that count with an ocean view – have clear glass.

Reading light placement.  Go figure.

Reading light placement. Go figure.

W.  Reading Lights.  The master bedroom has some nice reading lights, placed on the wall where the bed makes the most sense.  However, the light is neither centered on the wall, nor centered on how a bed could/would be placed there.  So, it’s just a little strange when you examine the aesthetic appeal of this room.  Oh, and the CFL bulbs in the fixture cannot be read by, at least not by this aging-reading-glass-wearer.

Internal Windows??

Internal Windows??

X.  Portholes!  Would be great in an aquatically themed space…if they truly were portholes.  I’m not sure what to call them.  Every room door in our condo, less those to the baths, has an oval “window,” made of some cheesy frosted plastic.  And all of them are scratched, probably by previous guests attempting to cover them up (as we will, but more creatively and without damage).  This treatment, I’m sorry to report, just makes the door feel and look “cheap,” and certainly does nothing to dampen sound transmission.

Our Place isn't Quite this Kwuirky!

Our Place isn’t Quite this Kwuirky!

Okay, so I can’t talk all this smack without explaining the more charming aspects of living here!  All these quirky attributes of Kwuirky is typical of Japanese “mansion” style, a word used here to describe a large building with multiple units.  Remember, their culture and cultural philosophy in designing and furnishing a space are vastly different than ours.  Couple this with perhaps an aim to appeal to Americans, and what results, I imagine, is exactly something like our condominium:  a near-miss across the domestic domicile domain.  All these little things mentioned above – and they are indeed little in the bigger scheme of our existence on Okinawa – are easily acknowledged with a shoulder shrug and a coy smile.  Most will be creatively incorporated into a very comfortable and inviting home once we are finished furnishing our place how we wish.

Sunset from our Bedroom

Sunset from our Bedroom

Every day is indeed a journey, and the journey itself can be home.  To truly understand, you must make your own journey and come see, first-hand.  We have a guestroom.  Complete with a full-sized bed, oddly shaped and small closets, bizarre lighting, privacy glass, and an odd oval non-transparent window on the door.  Come visit, and help us enjoy our home away from home!

Even Cleo Approves!

Even Cleo Approves!

Leaving Home for Home


You Never Really Leave Okinawa....

You Never Really Leave Okinawa….

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”~Matsuo Bashō (born Matsuo Kinsaku [1644-1694], then Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa, was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan)

“Home is where the heart is.” ~Pliny the Elder

These are two different impressions on the essence of home, clearly different, but in many ways closely related.  Both apply equally to our upcoming international move to Okinawa, happening now in a period of time measured only in hours, instead of what used to be months, then weeks, and most recently days, which sometimes is more aptly referred to as “daze” (you now, for the double entendre).

Japanese Tree House

Japanese Tree House

The idea of the journey being so important is lost on most.  A standard and central biker creed, something one learns quickly on a long-distance motorcycle trip, is exactly what Busho so elegantly states:  it’s seldom about the destination, but always about the voyage.  The point is, the journeys we take in life are precisely what life is made of, and such cognizance can lead to such a fuller, deeper, more rich life, the kind worth reflecting back upon.

Japanese Housing Agencies

Japanese Housing Agencies

But perhaps there is yet a more apropos characterization of home that fits me personally:  “Home is not where you live, but where they understand you,” ~ Christian Morganstern.

Okinawan Soba House

Okinawan Soba House

When I fell for my wife Jody, the prettiest nurse in the Navy, I knew that more vagabond days may be in my future.  In fact, I was probably and primarily the reason behind this imminent Far Eastern foray.  Jody was all set to retire in Pensacola in 2014, but between the marvelous odds of making full Commander (and its associated massive spike in retirement pay), intersected with the idea that the government would pay (mostly and with much hassle) for what we would make to be an epic international adventure, we both decided that one last tour overseas was in order.  Although we both initially wanted Europe as the station of her duty, Okinawa was what was finally successfully negotiated, happily so mind you.

Traditional Okinawan Home

Traditional Okinawan Home

Jody has not travel nearly as extensively as I, nor has she lived in Asia (and specifically) Okinawa as I have for four years previously.  I find that Okinawa, as opposed to other places overseas I have lived, leaves an indelible mark on many peoples’ psyches, and for me personally – although I am positive my children would agree – Okinawa quickly became quite literally a second home.  I feel I understand Okinawa, and I know that Jody understand me.  These profound insights are what make my idea of “home” easily migratory back and forth across the great expanse of the Pacific.

My son's Sunabe Seawall-inspired painting titled simply "GOAL"

My son’s Sunabe Seawall-inspired painting titled simply “GOAL”

A fellow Okinawan-centric blogger Okinawa Blue perhaps captures this idea most appropriately in the form of Japanese haiku:

Always in longing

for the other half of me

whether here or there

This, in my opinion, captures perfectly the dichotomy between longing for what you miss, and appreciating where you are.  In the states, we live such easy, comfortable lives.  And most Americans don’t realize the breadth of that statement, at least, not until they leave their homes…and homeland.  Of course I will miss and even long for elements of America during my three years on Okinawa, but at the same time, in unison, I feel even more comfortable in some respects living in Okinawa as “home.”  I hope that in blogging over the next three years that I’ll be able to capture just a few of the reasons why Okinawa became and remains so very special to me and many people that I know.

My cat's nightmare of Anti-Home

My cat’s nightmare of Anti-Home

My cat's idea of "Home"

My cat’s idea of “Home”

“Where thou art, that is home.” ~Emily Dickinson

But there is an even more important constituent of “home” that counts the most.  That is, quite simply, what I told Jody early in our relationship:  that my home is wherever Jody can be found.  I knew that Jody would be re-posted, and had no illusions or compunction about following her across the globe.  And I’m happy, if not in anxious anticipation, to be part of this grand adventure with her!

Household Divorce

Household Divorce

Moving Daze

Moving Daze

“Home is any four walls that enclose the right person.” ~Helen Rowland

Although our vehicles are put away, and we have temporarily divorced ourselves of our house in Pensacola (where renters move in Thursday), in the final analysis, for each of us, home is where we are as long as we are together.  A house is a thing, and things inside of that house can make it warm, comfortable, and even inviting.  But a house is not a home; home is in the heart, and my heart is with Jody, who will soon be in Okinawa….

Idle Wheels

Idle Wheels

Journey-less Bike

Journey-less Bike

Together we are ready to take on Okinawa.  I just hope she falls in love with this most special of places as I have, and will too over time consider it a second home as much as I do.

An Idyllic Okinawan Neighborhood Awaits!

An Idyllic Okinawan Neighborhood Awaits!