Hawaii of the East: 72 Hours in Okinawa

 

Okinawa has been referred to as the “Hawaii of the East.” As Japan’s southern most prefecture, the island of Okinawa offers a tropical climate that can be an easy escape from the more northern parts of the country. Memorial Day weekend gave my family a couple of days to take the quick trip and do a little exploring ourselves.

We booked our trip through our base’s IACE Travel department, which made things so easy from the start. The flight and car rental were arranged, and we were given a choice from a variety of hotels. We chose the Rizzan Sea Park Hotel Tancha Bay. Our plan was to arrive on Saturday afternoon, have two full days Sunday and Monday, and then head back Tuesday.

The plane was only about half full, so both Jesse and I had our own row. We split the kids, and we had landed in Okinawa in what felt like just a few minutes. For a relatively small island, Okinawa has a decent sized airport. After we departed, we hopped a shuttle bus that carried us to our baggage claim. Within a few minutes, we had our items (as stated in one of my earlier blogs, Navigating Tokyo , Americans always stand out because of our immense amount of luggage. My family is working on downgrading with each trip) and on board another shuttle headed to get our rental car. Since our three suitcases, two carry ons, two car seats, a camera bag, and a double stroller didn’t fit in the first car, we had to upgrade to the next sized vehicle. But once we were all settled in, we were off to the Rizzan.

The drive from the rental car agency to the Rizzan was about an hour, but was completely worth it. I made Jesse pull over at one point so I could snap a picture of the emerald waters with the mountains in the background. Pictures truly don’t do it justice.

We don’t like to waste too much time in hotel rooms while we travel, so once we were checked in, we turned right around and jumped back into the car. It was already the afternoon, so we knew we couldn’t adventure too long, but being the military family that we are, we wanted to check out the Kadena Air Force Base. We spent some time shopping at the Exchange, which is much larger than the one we are used to, grabbed some dinner, and headed back. We ended our evening splashing around in the hotel’s indoor pool.

On Sunday, I wanted to head to the Mihama American Village. This American themed area is filled with restaurants, shops, and entertainment. The main spot in the village is called the American depot. The maze-like area is massive and filled with shop after shop. We spent several hours shopping and dining, and there was still so much we just couldn’t cover. If you want a touch of American food and clothes, the American Village is definitely a place to visit.

It may sound strange to some, but one of my little bucket list items is to one day get a fish pedicure. I planned on doing this (and still do) in Thailand or Vietnam, but the American Depot gave me a a little glimpse into how it would be. Although not a full pedicure, we did find an area that allowed customers to sit and have doctor fish (a family member of the Carp)  eat away at your feet. I, for one, could not wait to do this. We paid 500 yen for 5 minutes, and I honestly loved every minute.  I had no idea if it would hurt, but I quickly found out it simply tickles in the beginning. After a minute or so, it just feels strange. As for my feet after the 5 minutes? They actually were really smooth.  As soon as I was done, Jesse was throwing down another 500 yen and giving it a go as well.

Part of our travel package was a free dinner at the hotel. With five resort restaurants to choose from, we instantly decided on one of our favorites: Yakiniku. Popular in Japan, Yakiniku restaurants allow guests to cook their own meats and vegetables on top of the flame grill located in the table. We were seated right on the ocean and surrounded by tiki torches. It definitely closed the evening with the tropical feel we were seeking.

After breakfast on Monday morning, we decided we needed some beach time. There was no way we were going to a tropical island and not spend some time on the beach. We rented an umbrella and stretched out for a bit. I was so excited to get Maddox in the ocean that I had purchased a cute life vest, beach ball, a float in the shape of a jet, and a pail and bucket. Unfortunately for me, Maddox may not yet share my love of the beach. Other than the pail and bucket, he wasn’t having any of it. He threw a fit when sand touched his feet, so an hour and 800 yen later, we packed everything up and headed to the pool. He enjoyed that scene a bit more, so at least the float got some use.

Early afternoon, we headed back to the room from the pool to get cleaned up. Fifteen minutes later, we were on the road and headed  to the end of the island to explore the Okinawa Churami Aquarium. The kids were asleep, and it really allowed us to take in the beauty of this island on the hour drive. Jesse even commented just how much Okinawa is similar to Hawaii in both beauty and culture. Aquarium passes were included in our package, and when we arrived, we couldn’t wait to see the heavily advertised whale sharks. Once we parked, we followed a long trail pass intricate hedges and cafes before entering the actual aquarium. Once inside, some of the most beautiful fish were displayed, many native only to Okinawa. Maddox had never been to an aquarium and was completely fascinated with the fish in the smaller tanks. We kept explaining there were big fish and sharks to be seen, but he was perfectly content where he was. After some coercing, we managed to bring him into the aquarium’s main attraction: the whale shark tank. There were small tables set up on the side where a guest could grab a snack or coffee and sit. I mentioned to Jesse that I was grateful none were available, because I would never leave that spot. We just sat with Maddox as he screamed and pointed to each shark, fish, and manta ray that swam by. The size of each of these species was incredible to see in person but we had to move on to the rest of the aquarium.

Before exiting the main building, we went through an exhibit which displayed skeletons and activities geared towards teaching more about underwater creatures. Maddox tended to pound on the glass too much, so we could only stay there for a short time. Once we left, we went across the trail into the next portion where we saw manatees and sea turtles in their underground viewing room. We had just missed the dolphin show, but were able to see several of them playing in the pool at the end of the trail. After exploring what all there was to see, we started to make our way back to the car. We did let Maddox play a bit in the fountain before our drive home, which must have worked because he fell asleep rather quickly on the drive.By the time we arrived back at the hotel, we were completely exhausted.

The next morning, we packed up our things, had some breakfast and headed back to the rental car agency. Okinawa is only about 466 square miles, but there is quite an abundance of activities. A 72 hour trip to this tropical destination was the perfect getaway for Memorial Day Weekend, but Jesse and I are already talking about when we would get to visit this beautiful island again.

View from a coffee shop at the American Depot.
Trying the soda flavored iced candy. Advertised as the “only one in the world.”
Trying some hard iced candy
Toy Kitchen rainbow snow cone
Coffee stop in the American Village
Only a small portion of the American Village
Yakiniku at the Rizzan
Baby Asher
Our personal Yakiniku chef
Very upset with sand getting on his toes
Finally playing in the sand-on a towel
Pool time went over better
Sea turtles
Massive whale shark
Aquarium
Small fish tank
Aquarium
Entrance into the Aquarium
View of the ocean from the aquarium
Intricately designed hedges along path to aquarium
Intricately designed hedges along path to aquarium
Playing in the fountains

MCAS Air Show pleases crowd of thousands


Written for Eat, Sleep, Play, Beaufort

The bi-annual MCAS Beaufort Air Show officially kicked off on Saturday and by the time it’s over it will bring nearly 100,000 spectators to get a closer look at the myriad of historic military aircraft, modern jets, and of course the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.


The much-anticipated event was free to the public with gates opening at 9am and the fun began the moment the public began to flood the entrance. Families could stroll along the tarmac to learn about various helicopters, planes, and even cars. Many, such as the WWII-era C-54/R4D, could even be toured. Others could still be viewed up close. Pilots were more than willing to provide history of the aircraft and answer questions and there was even an opportunity to take a helicopter ride in a UH-1H Huey and an AH-1F Cobra.

 

 

 

 

Off to the side of the static displays was a designated children’s area. Kids were found jumping on one of the more than 20 bounce houses, or creating colorful masterpieces on a 20 X 6 mural. Older kids weren’t left out either. As long as they were height eligible, they could enjoy the two inflatable obstacle courses and large slides. Also available are items that could be purchased such as clothing apparel, souvenirs, or model planes, and of course food.

The Parris Island Marine Band led the opening ceremonies and was immediately followed by the USMC Legacy pass, which featured the F-35B, F/A-18, AV-8B, and the MARSOC Parachute Jump. The show continued with various gravity-defying stunts by Rob Holland in his Extra 300 and Gary Ward and his MX2 before shifting gears to the heart-pounding jet noise of the F-16 Viper Demonstration flown by Major Waters. At 2:25, Major Peppers demonstrated the capabilities of the F-35B by conducting a vertical climb on takeoff, a series of high-speed passes, an impressive hover sequence, and a slow landing. Afterward, the onlookers enjoyed the GEICO Skytypers before the highly anticipated U.S. Navy Blue Angels took flight. Their incredible maneuvers, often only 18 inches from each other, had the audience captivated as they roared over top of the crowd.

By opening the gates to the public, it allows MCAS to continue to educate the Lowcountry on the mission of the Air Station, along with showcasing all branches of the military service. With a full day of fun for the entire family, the Beaufort Air Show, once again, did not disappoint.


If you couldn’t make the air show on Saturday, you still have an opportunity to come out on Sunday! With the predicted low cloud bases, not only will the temperature be comfortable, the show is guaranteed to be packed with multiple low-altitude, high-speed maneuvers.

Don’t forget your sunscreen, a chair… and some hearing protection.
– See more at: http://eatsleepplaybeaufort.com/mcas-beaufort-air-show-pleases-crowd-of-thousands/#sthash.xT2zsyKb.dpuf

The Strength of a Military Spouse

On a recent Friday, I had a hometown friend tell me that her husband was leaving the next day for a work conference, and she would not see him again until the following Tuesday. I gave her a moment to vent a little, and I could hear a bit of sadness in her voice, but the truth was, I was annoyed. What I would give to have my husband leave for only three nights. When my husband leaves for a work related event, I will be lucky if I see him in six months. I am a military spouse.

The strength of a “milspouse” is second-to-none, and the military lifestyle is truly not for everyone. The women I have met are strong, independent, and adaptive to change. We all handle this lifestyle differently: the deployments, the detachments, the moves, and the ever-changing work hours. Some spouses find distractions such as throwing themselves into their own careers, while others are stay-at-home moms. However, there is one thing that stands firm – our comfort in each other. There is a reason that milspouses become so close. Unless someone has physically lived this lifestyle, most civilians will never truly understand, and because of this, we milspouses have a core connection to each other and where words often are not necessary.

The ladies of 115

We naturally bond in countless ways. Our husbands’ careers may have brought us together, but it is our love for each other that keeps us close. We compare the number of times each person has moved, and all the personal items that have been destroyed by movers. We talk about cities where we have lived and what we have loved (and loathed) about each one. We find that we know many of the same people, because even though the military can seem immense to outsiders, in our community, it is quite small. We make fun of our husbands’ jargon and how they gesticulate when telling stories. We also have to share with each other the birth names of our husbands, since they only use call signs. Quite honestly, I do not always know who “Twinkie”, “Omaha”, and “Broke” are! We even make sure to tell each other where our military discounts can be used! But none of this is not what sets military spouses apart from others. It is the connection we have with each other when the unexpected happens. Without asking what to do, or being nervous about what to say, a military spouse will step in to help another during the worst of times.

Secret Sister Reveal

On December 8th at 6:40 pm, F-18 fighter pilot, Jake “Red Stripe” Frederick, who was stationed in Beaufort, was killed while performing a routine mission off the coast of Japan. The last words the crew heard over the radio were, “I am ejecting.” His body was found 20 hours later. He left behind his eight months pregnant wife, Kiley, and his three-year-old son. Within a few short hours after Kiley was notified, her squadron’s wives started pouring into her home. For the next several days, they stayed right by her side, bringing food, helping pack up her house, praying and comforting her in any way she needed – even if she did not say anything specifically.

News of Jake’s death spread quickly through our military community, and within a couple of days hundreds of Facebook profile pictures had been changed across our nation with the VMFA-115 logo (Jake’s squadron), a Go-Fund Me page had been created by one of Kiley’s closest friends in the squadron, and pages with updates of different suggestions for helping Jake’s family were being shared thousands of times.

It was no secret that Jake and Kiley were Christians, and her faith carried her through these dark days. On the Sunday after Jake’s death, Kiley and Jake’s families gathered in her home, along with dozens of spouses to hold a small service. Songs were sung, stories were told, and prayers were lifted. Several days later, Jake was laid to rest in his home state of Texas. Kiley made a specific request: she wanted her military spouse sisters to sit with the family at the funeral.

Photo Credit: Paul Nurnberg Photography

This is the strength of a spouse. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, and when your husband is a United States’ Marine, there is an extra concern for his safety, but you will rarely hear complaints. In a way, we chose this life. We knew this life would not be easy; we could have walked away, chosen a different path, but we stayed. We became military spouses, through the good times and bad. We know we have each other to lean on, and we make each other strong.

In Memory of Jake “Red Stripe” Frederick

 

 

 

 

 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.”

Hello, President Trump

gop

I’m waking up this morning to the news that Donald Trump will be our new president.  Although our country is completed divided on this announcement, I am actually relieved to hear this.  I voted for Donald Trump.

The truth is I was never sold on Trump as a person. I still have my own personal reservations with him; however, I decided to vote for the candidate who was most aligned with my values and ultimately against the Clinton Administration.

I’ve heard many times that we should separate church and state.  As a Christian, I disagree. I will always put Him first in all my decisions including who to vote for as my Commander in Chief. When I was 18, I went with my Government class to the local voting precinct to register.  Our teacher had spent months teaching us of the various stances of each party that would prepare us to make a decision on which party to affiliate ourselves.  The Republican Party resonated with me most.  I was and still am pro-life, a supporter of the 2nd Amendment, a believer in a strong military, a proponent of small business, etc. I could go in detail about why I feel the way I feel about each of these stances, but that is not why I’m writing this.  What is needed to know is these are my values and beliefs, and they line up perfectly with conservatism.  So, that day in my government class, I registered as a Republican and never looked back.

president-as-maddox

Maddox’s 2016 Halloween Costume
“Third Party Candidate Nominee”
He was endorsed quite a bit that night.

I didn’t vote for Obama in 2008 nor 2012.  I didn’t think he was a bad guy (still don’t). I just didn’t vote at all in 2008, and in 2012, I liked Romney better, but these last eight years, I’ve seen our country go down-economically and morally. Being a military spouse, I started to fear ISIS more than just an average American.  We would hear about attacks on Americans or a possible threats on the military base where my husband worked.  We were told families of military were getting targeted and to change our social media names, don’t post any pictures military related, and even possibly take down our American flags that hung outside our homes so that we didn’t bring attention to ourselves.

Aside from possible terrorism attacks, I would speak to my father about the rising cost of Obamacare that he didn’t even want, but was forced to have.  I watched our country start getting more racially divided.  There was an increase in mass shootings, while trustworthy Americans were being threatened that their 2nd Amendment right was going to be taken away. The influx of illegal immigrants was beginning to get out of hand. I believe that with a Clinton Administration, these things would only not get better, they would actually get worse.

I need to be able to trust my President, and I do not trust Hillary Clinton.  I do not need nor desire to get into the various reasons I find her untrustworthy. I honestly feel it is a bit of a rhetorical statement, since much of America feels the same way I do. I do not like her plans for our country.  Those who work hard should reap the benefits and not be forced to pay for those who chose a different path. Looking at how I feel about her character, and then following my own personal values, I knew I was going to stick with the Republican nominee.

I’m nervous about Trump. He runs at the mouth, is arrogant, and a bit of a loose canon, but I’m still willing to take my chances with him knowing what I would get with Clinton. I like that he’s not a politician.  I am very impressed with Governor Pence, along with some the advisors Trump has. If this is any inkling of the type of decisions he will make while in the White House, I will feel great about my decision to cast my vote for him. I  truly hope Trump does his best to keep his promises.

And…I really like Ivanka!