Visiting Eliot in Okinawa - in the Ryukyus

I normally start the blog out a day or two in advance, giving some background information on where we are going, and what we hope to do while there.  Not so this time.  This past week has been very hectic, working 8-10 hours per day split between Professor Conway’s research, and doing work on a brief for an appeal going before the Intermediate Court of Appeals here in Hawaiʻi.  It’s an important case, hopefully it will be used to get further clarification on permanency placements here in Hawaiʻi, and further explain “the best interest of the child.”  Itʻs a tricky situation, and one that is fraught with poor outcomes at the Supreme Court of the United States.

But I digress.

Yesterday we spent fifteen hours traversing the Pacific Ocean, stopping first in Narita for a four hour layover, and then travelling another 3 hours to Naha, Okinawa.  The first leg was on a refurbished 747 - so old that it still had ashtrays in the restrooms.  The cabins’ seats had been upgraded to the new variety, but you could feel the shabbiness of the plane as a whole.  8 hours took a long time.  The bonus was that there was internet (for a price) and wifi based entertainment on your iPad/tablet (more available for the iPad than for the tablets, they haven’t upgraded the system to support Android or Windows just yet).  I ran into a number of folks on the plane from my contractor past, interesting how small the world really is.

As you can see, we had some very interesting questions as we were filling ou tthe customs forms for coming into Japan - my personal favorite was number three.  I never realized that carrying a sword was the equivalent of narcotics trade!  I guess it pays not to carry a Hittori Hansu with you wherever you go.  :)

When we arrived at the airport, I fired up the iPhone and Boingo (let me tell you that Boingo is a really nice investment if you are travelling overseas and don’t want to use your SIM card).  There are a number of networks out there where, if you launch Boingo (and there’s usually a notation under the network SSID that tells you to “Use this with Boingo!”), you are able to log in wtihout paying a fee.  We’ve been getting on to wifi with ease all around Naha so far.  We will see how it goes as we head north in a day or two.  Of course, I didn’t leave it to chance, I had two b-mobile 1 Gig data SIM cards delivered to the Best Western for Wayne and I to use in our iPhones.  We can tether our iPads and the MacBook Air, and cruise the web on 3G.  The cards are good for 2 weeks from the date of activation (which is the date of delivery).  We typically use less than 2 Gig per month, so I figured 1 Gig high speed would be good enough.  Plus, secondary redunancy with global roaming for the month (we are also headed to BVI in 2 weeks, so that function will come in hand).

The layover in Narita was pleasant, we were at the ANA arrival lounge (free for Star Alliance Gold), enjoying high speed wifi, a few beers, and pupus.  Of course, I was working on the appeal, going through the records on appeal, and finishing up the statement of facts.  

During the flight to OKA, we both fell asleep.  I could tell we were descending even in my sleep, because my ears told me so!

We were greeted at the baggage claim by what appeared to either be Shisas (click on the word to get a wikipedia description), or perhaps lions.  I have no idea!

Margaret was waiting in the parking lot for us, having graciously offered to pick us up and transport us to our hotel, which is the Best Western Naha Inn.  

She dropped us off, gave us lots of coins, and then headed back to Kadena.  It is so nice to have friends in all different parts of the world.

We were checked in, and then I asked if our room was non-smoking.  No, was the answer.  The desk manager asked if I would come up with him to the room, maybe stay in it overnight, and then get a non smoking room the next day.  Didn’t work.  He asked Wayne and me to wait for him in the room while he found us another room.  After about 8-10 minutes, we couldn’t take the smoke any more and we went back downstairs.  That apparently inspired the manager to really get us a new room, which is on a non smoking floor.  The elevator and the lobby reek of cigarettes, but this floor does not.  Blessedly, we had our home for the next five nights. It’s a typical Japanese sized room (read as small), but larger than our cabin on the Aggressor.  It’s lacking a second bunk where we can stow luggage, but that’s about it.  You would have to be either Wayne or me in the bathroom, with a sink that comes up to just over the kneecap!

This morning I was a soccer widow.  We didn’t get to sleep until about 12:30 am this morning, and Wayne was up and bouncing at 4 am for the World cup.  3 1/2 hours of sleep is just not enough!  Wayne, I think, was rooting for Argentina, but I had a suspicion that it would be the Germans.  And, in the second extra period, right near the end, it was.  I know many who are sad, but I’m pretty sure that a stoic German nation was ecstatic.  I vaguely remember something like that in 1992, when the recently unified Germany won their semi-final match in the UEFA cup.  There were fireworks and dancing in the streets, even in quiet Graben-Neudorf.

We picked up our rental car early this morning, taking off at around 9 am on the monorail.  I was struck once again by how quiet people are, but they are constantly texting on their phones, or maybe even surfing the internet.  There was one exception to the quiet, a toddler was crying and fussing, and his mother reacted by redirecting in a way not usually seen in most of the US (in my experience).  She was kind, and soothing.  I think that because of my work, I see a lot of the worst of parenting.  This was very pleasant to observe.

Wayne drove us back to the hotel.  I’m not quite ready to drive left hand side of the road just yet.  Maybe tomorrow.  As we left the hotel, I was thoroughly amazed at the decibel level of the cicadas right here in Naha city, under a monorail station stop.  I at first felt nostalgic, since we don’t have them in Hawaiʻi, but was glad to be on our way to the car rental agency.  Buzz marketing - we got a compact car at Hertz (the largest of their small cars) which is a five seater that actually fits our dive gear and suitcases.  Much better than expected!

While  Wayne went exploring along the Kokusai Dori (International Street), and had a nap, I spent the majority of today working on the Statement of Facts, with a break for lunch at a little hole in the wall that had tasty food, and another for dinner with Eliot at Sam’s Sailor Inn, a teppanyaki place.  We all had the sirloin, and we split prawns and a lobster.  Yummy.  We also went into Don Quijote (It’s in a 9 story building, and it occupies maybe six or seven of the floors).  They have two fish tanks outside near the pedestrian area of Kokusai Dori, and another tank inside the ground floor store area.  There are two gigantic eels (one, accurately enough, is called a giant moray; the other, white with black spots, is cleverly named a blackspotted moray).

Wayne and Eliot watched a little Men in Blazers before Eliot headed back up to school on the bus.  Wayne crashed and burned at 10 pm, and I finished up and emailed in the draft statement to our CASA lawyer and the CASA program manager, and I am now about to crash and burn.