The Three Hour Tour


We landed in Okinawa, and I want to say thank you to the family who offered to drive us to our hotel after taking their own things home. I noticed that people on these flights really help one another out, and I think that comes with the camaraderie of being in the military life. We learned a long time ago that we can't do everything alone and really reach out to help a fellow soldier, shipmate, marine or airman. Pay it forward is all anyone ever asked me to do. We got to our hotel so late that not even the one place delivering food was open so we could order dinner. Instead, we settled for this nutritious schmorgasboard:

The flight we were trying to catch which would take us to Travis in CA kept canceling. There was an issue with the plane when it landed at its home base. The few flights that did pop up filled quickly with higher category people, or were canceled due to the typhoons happening South of us at the time. But that is the Space A game. You go to the terminal very early in the morning (usually about 0330 or 0400) to wait to either catch a flight or not catch a flight. It is best to stay the whole day unless they assure you all flights have been canceled just in case something pops up. The first day we didn't camp out all day, and after the early flight cancelled we decided to try and see some of the Island, since it had been the only flight not going to Mainland Japan.

Okinawa is a lot like Hawai'i, complete with high cost of living and virtually no public transportation. Aside from Sam, the awesome shuttle driver from Niece who spoke five languages (I totes got to flex my unused language skills!) we were stuck with taxis. Taxis on Okinawa are way expensive. The Kid and I headed out to American village, which was only a few minutes ride away, and we paid more for that ride than we do here for a fifteen minute ride to the base. More by double. Also, the whole driving on the other side of the road thing freaked me out, even though I knew about it. I just couldn't get it out of my head that we were driving on the left and not going to crash into oncoming traffic!

So we went to American Village, which is a shopping center full of souvenir like shops and restaurants sporting local Okinawan fare. Okinawa has a history all its own, with people descended mostly from Mongol and Malay and its own language and food. Soba, apparently, is a native Okinawa food, or so they would have me believe, as I didn't really have time to verify that. Like Hawai'i, Okinawans are very proud of being Okinawan and prefer you to know that they are not simply Japanese.

Kid pretty much had to pose with any and all statues of dragon or fu dog that we came upon. Luckily I like to indulge her need to be photographed.

At the Passenger Terminal.

At American Village.
At Sunset Beach.

There was a huge Ferris Wheel at American village and Kid begged for the first fifteen minutes that we were walking around to get to ride on it. We went inside and managed to find our way to the machine that sells tickets.

As we waited our turn to board I thought The Kid was going to 'asplode with excitement.

That soon changed, as this is apparently the world's slowest Ferris Wheel. About five minutes into the fifteen minute ride (which makes exactly one revolution) she was bored.

The view from the top was still rather lovely, and we were able to see the whole of the are and plot our next move, which was to go to Sunset Beach and relax there for a spell.

Sunset Beach is a cute little protected cove that is netted off to prevent some of the nasties, like box jellyfish and such, from coming to shore and bothering the people enjoying it. The sand is comprised mostly of crushed shells, and the water was as warm as a bath. Having not had the foresight to bring our bathing suits we settled for wading and enjoying the beach.

The walkway around the edge of the beach is lined with concrete dividers which have all been painted uniquely, and the beach itself has these things that resemble concrete Jax, some of which have also been painted. There were several which we found really fun.

My favorite one.

There is also no swimming, in any language, past the protective barriers.

Presumably, should you violate this rule a giant squid will eat you.

After a few hours on the beach we decided to head back, but oops! I forgot that I didn't have a working cell phone in Japan, so thank-you, random guy in a U of M t-shirt who dialed the cab company for us! It really is true that military people seem to stick together and not mind helping each other out.

The next three days we spent pretty much between the hotel and the terminal, checking in and out and waiting for flights that never arrived. Our spirits were still high, starting each morning off with a new drink from the vending machine:

We ended up meeting up with a really nice woman and her son, who was about Kid's age, who were also staying in the same lodge and also trying to get to the States. She is a teacher at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station in Yamaguchi on the Mainland, so she had a Japanese driver's license and rented a car for the day (the only thing that wasn't outrageously expensive) inviting us to join them. We went out to dinner and took the kids to see Up (which I found tragically sad and not overly enjoyable, but had cute moments). It was nice to have a playmate for Kid while we were at the terminal as well. More passenger terminals and commercial airports need kid rooms with toys. This was a blessing for bored children in terminals and for the parents who are stressed trying to find flights off the Island. After about the third day I felt like Gilligan (hence the affectionate name of this series of posts), thinking we would get off the Island only to have our hopes dashed about the shore when the flights filled with higher category travelers or were canceled altogether.

On the days that we didn't make flights we would venture to the Commissary to pick up supplies for camping at the terminal the next day. No parent should ever travel without a good supply of snacks, and since we were flying Space A we could have forbidden things on board, such as vegetables and cheese, so long as it was eaten or disposed of before we landed. I dare say we ate like royalty for a few days due to some creative planning and the USO microwave.

Finally, after being on what we referred to as The Surface of the Sun for almost five days we lucked into a plane that was headed for Elmendorf, Alaska, which not a lot of people were willing to take, but which we found out was going through to Charleston, SC. Usually we wouldn't have been able to get to the East Coast, but Alaska is considered "overseas" for military purposes, which entitled us to one connecting flight to the Lower 48, and this was the only one. Good enough for us!

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