Saturday, May 30, 2009

Trying to earn a good gig in the afterlife.

Here's a cute picture I found of John and me in Kyoto. That's our tour guide Yui, and her pet monkey. That little primate knew all the hottest spots in town.

So, I'm not too familiar with Buddhism - but isn't there some tenant that says that each time you are reincarnated, you are born to specific parents and put in specific life situations that really test a certain part of your personality that needs improvement? Like if you are a soul that latches on to very materialistic possessions, you will be born to a pauper. I haven't quite figured out the specific purpose of being born to my parents or my family - perhaps in a past life I was an attention-seeker, so in this life I was born as the oldest of 10 children, so as to put me in my place? Perhaps I was a lazy soul in a past life and therefore born to two incredible over-achieving parents so as to get my derrière in gear? Not sure, I'm still trying to figure it all out. I like the idea though.

One flaw I have started to discern in myself is an unfailing need to convince and persuade someone to my point of view. I don't like this tendency, as it always makes me feel really irritated for days after a confrontational conversation. What good does that do me? My most recent example was my (8 hour long) lecture today. By the end of the lecture, I was literally shaking with anger at about 9-10 things the professor had to say. Clearly we came from different view points, this is not unheard of - I have some unorthodox opinions. But I just couldn't wrap my head around (nor could I be quiet about) so much of what he was spouting (something about the innate beauty of a bomb when is is dropped from a B2, about Nixon being the best president of the 20th Century, Gandhi being a moron who destroyed India, and Sadam having somehow caused 9/11, among other pronouncements). Yet, something must be wrong with me that I cannot just let this person exist, in harmony with me, and accept that these are his opinions. They just... make me a little insane.

What do I know? I'm young and have not lived in the world half as long. It's absurd really - what makes me think that I could have any affect on this person's opinions? I just don't get how we could look at the same set of events and come to totally opposite conclusions. I should be able to learn, live and let live. But I can't, and it makes me crazy. See now I'm getting angry just writing about it. I really need to work on this. I should be doing homework, and instead I'm venting in the blogosphere. Ugh, that makes me even more mad.

So yes, my point: I think (or I would if I were Buddhist) that the Universe plucked me out of my Southern California pool house and plunked me right down on to an Air force base in the middle of Kansans and Arizonians and Nebraskans and Texans (oh so many Texans) to remind me that I do not have the monopoly on wisdom - not even close.

Oh it's hard, so very hard for me to get down off my high horse. But I'm going to sit through my second 8 hours of class tomorrow (I should get reincarnation bonus points) and meditate on the cushy gig I'm working towards in the next life.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A celebration and good-bye

In Okinawa, we have a great tradition called the Olympics. No, this does not involve javelins or lap pools, balance beams or 50-meter dashes. But it’s definitely NOT a spectator sport. The Olympics is the whirlwind of events preceding a PSC (Permanent Change of Station) that usually involves trips to as many Okinawan hot spots as you can squeeze into a 2-week period. Said PCS-er determines what restaurants, hikes, scuba spots, and tourist destinations they absolutely must see before they leave the island for good, and then all their friends make it happen.

Ironically, I believe the term Olympics found its origin because one particularly popular girl had about 12 going away dinners and someone compared it to the real Olympic ceremonies that, well, never seem to end. But now we cherish our Olympics. It’s our last chance to bid our friend farewell, and to get in our seasonal trips to Okuma beach, the Okinawa Aquarium, and Pizza in the Sky. During PSC season, it becomes an absolute marathon of activities, exhausting even the most energetic participants.

Today, we climbed Hiji Falls for the Becca Olympics. It was a beautiful May day, just cool enough to be able to breath without an inhaler. Becca is a flight nurse who has been on this island longer than any of us and most of her close friends have already gone. She was here when we arrived, and made us feel at home.

We’ve come to find military life (well, so far – this is only our first assignment) to be like college life. (Sometimes a little too much like college.) You arrive on the island, not knowing anyone, or what the heck all those darned acronyms mean.
Then, some kindly upperclassmen will take you out to lunch, show you the ropes. Tell you that the cafeteria food sucks, but happy hour at the local pub is a great time. You will feel part of the group – this amazing group of people that have been happily living in a foreign country and sucking the marrow from it. With each new year, a few more of those upperclassmen leave, and before you know it, you are the Seniors, ready to take on your final year. Senior year is great, but it’s never quite as good as those freshman days, when college life seemed never ending, and there was not where to go but up.

This is why it’s important to participate in the Olympics. It’s a proper send off to those who came before, who trekked through the jungle to find the best hikes, who ate at all the bad sushi restaurants so you could eat at the best. It’s a thank you for making this island so welcoming.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Good Friends, Good Bagels

What a beautiful day. It is starting to push the limits of my heat tolerability index, but sitting in my favorite shady cafe, reading a travel memoir, is just about the best way I can think of to offset the humidity. We have an amazing bagel shop here in Okinawa, called Cactus Eatrip. The interior is lovely and odd - wide, cool, cement floors, white stucco benches with scattered pops of brightly-colored pillows. It is staffed (and owned?) by three young Japanese - two men and one woman. They speak almost no english, but since I order the same bagel sandwich every time, it's never been an issue. The bagels are PHENOMenal. They boil them in a wok and then toast them in a pizza oven. They are never more than 1/2 hour old, and so incredibly soft. Could it be possible that the best bagel in the world is made by Okinawan hands? Think of the consequences of that....

I had lunch with a schoolmate of mine - a guy who's been in the Navy for 9 years. He did his undergraduate and graduate work since he's been in, very impressive. He's one of those wicked smart people that knows a little about everything. Definitely a good meal companion. Then I ran into another workout buddy of mine. This whole life here is so interesting - these are people I would have never met had we not taken this adventure. I'm not generally the type that seeks out new people, that's more John's department (although I reap the rewards). It's so easy, past a certain age, to stop making new friends. My closest friends are the ones I met in college - but I had just stopped there. That was 9 years ago! I find myself incredibly lucky to be surrounded by these fantastic new people. Some sadly moving along - we lost Cortney to the plains of New Mexico last month. Some to leave soon, Lauren's heading off to Los Angeles (JEALOUS!) Most sticking around. I am a lucky duck.

John is acting out his "ahoy matey!" fantasy right now as he is participating in a lawyer exchange with the Navy. Somehow I think that sleeping in a foldout bunk with 3000 other dudes is not quite as romantic as his 2001 voyage across the Atlantic on a 4 person sailboat. But John will make the best of it, he always does.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Happy Spring Welcome Summer!

You know you're a blogging disappointment when your blogging partner won't return your emails (at my other online home), your grandmother enlists your father's influence to get you to post more, and your sister says "oh you still write that internet thingy?"  Yes, I get the point.  I'm a bad bad girl.

The thing is, and I've stated this before, I have only so much capacity, and I generally put all efforts towards one project at a time.  This wouldn't be so bad if I didn't come up with a new project every day. I just finished my latest quarter of school work. My last paper was an examination of American unconditional foreign policy support for Israel and the resulting consequences...(I know you're begging me to post it cause you're DYING to read something so intriguing, but trust me on this.  I'm sparing you.)  

In April (seems like only days ago) my good friend Masumi and her boyfriend Scot came to visit.  I met them up in Tokyo and then they flew down to see our life here in Okinawa. 

It was a glorious spring in the capital city.

Here's a lovely one of Scot and Masumi.

Scot and Mas are rapacious foodies, much like myself. Scot came armed with a culinary itinerary that included Kyubei, what is considered the most famous sushi restaurant in Tokyo. They served the nigiri at room temperature which was surprisingly delightful and the subtle flavors were well worth the insane journey to actually find the place (the kindness of Tokyan strangers is not to be underestimated).

The Benito, with a subtle garlic, ginger flavoring was truly out of this world.  

Overall, it was a marvelous trip.

The day my friends left, I had a glance at my calendar and realized that from that moment until, oh about 2 hours ago, I had only barely enough time to finish all my papers and finals. So, in a nut shell, that's where I've been.

Now summer is upon us (the humidity fairy has struck) and I'm looking forward to enjoying our last summer in Japan!