Nama being cuddly
Ben had last Monday-Tuesday off because of Labor Day, so we went to Tokashiki Island! We left for Tokashiki early on Sunday morning without a plan, but brought a backpack, tent, and cooler. We took the 10:00 a.m. ferry from Naha to Tokashiki, and what a ferry ride it was! Apparently, there was a typhoon happening somewhere in the ocean that made our ride extremely rocky and nauseating. I remembered my only other ferry ride from the coast of California to Catalina Islands for Julie's wedding as calm and scenic (minus the wedding party feeling completely hungover from the night before), so I chose to sit outside and we gave up Ben's seat inside so that we could watch the ocean. Well, shortly after the ferry passed the no-wake zone I realized that this wasn't going to be a calm ride. The first few waves that the ferry went over were kind of fun, it felt almost like being on a roller coaster--don't get me wrong, I love roller coasters--but I would never voluntarily continuously ride the same roller coaster for an hour! I started feeling really sick, and Ben just kept telling me to look at the horizon. At one point, the waves started crashing over the side of the ferry. Let's just say it wasn't the ferry ride I was picturing or hoping for. By the time we arrived at the island, not only was I sick to my stomach, but I was also tasting salt water, and I had dry skin.
Ben happened to grab a pamphlet for Tokashiki Island so we knew that the two beaches that we had as options were on the opposite of the island from where the ferry dropped us off. We weren't exactly sure how we would get there, but we were confident that we would find a way. When we got off the ferry, we were met by half a dozen buses with the drivers holding up signs in Japanese. Ben figured out that these signs probably told the destination of each bus, so I brought the pamphlet to a few of the drivers and pointed to one of the beaches, Aharen beach, and he pointed us in the right direction. We had to sit in the aisle on the bus, each end seat had a fold-over seat for the aisle, but besides that, it wasn't that bad of a ride.
Aharen beach is absolutely gorgeous, definitely the most beautiful beach I have ever been on. The water is so clear that you can see any fish that is swimming near you, and the fish are tropical! We (Ben) set up our tent on the beach, and then we headed to the small shops to buy some snorkeling gear. Ben and I spent the rest of the day snorkeling in the ocean and taking underwater pictures of the beautiful fish. People around us were feeding the fish, which made them crowd around us. This made me kind of nervous, because the fish would no longer swim away if I started splashing. One even bit both Ben's and my toe! Yikes!
We couldn't believe how close to the shore these tropical fish swim, and it was really cool seeing a lot of the same fish snorkeling that we did at the aquarium. Ben has the underwater pictures on his computer so I will have to post those later.
The majority of the people that we rode the bus with to Aharen beach got back on the return ferry at 4:00 p.m., which meant that they took the 3:00 bus back to the port....which meant that these people paid 60 dollars for a round trip ferry ticket, took a 1 hour ferry ride there, a 1 hour ferry ride back, only for a 3 1/2 hour day at the beach! Ben and I were shocked at all of the people who left at 3:00...but the more we swam/snorkeled, the more we realized that this beach is definitely worth taking a day trip to visit, if that's the only time you have. We decided to clean up around 4 and try to find something to eat, and we ended up paying 1,000 yen ($10.00) to shower. It seemed a little expensive, but it was the only place that we knew of that had running, clean water. We left our tent on the beach and decided to walk around the small town surrounding the beach to see if there were any restaurants open, only to find that the two restaurants we came across were both closed. I spotted a sign in a building that said "Information" in English, so we went in there and a little 4 yr. old girl came out from behind the counter. It was pretty funny, because besides her, the place seemed empty. An older man came out after a while and informed us that the restaurants close from 4-6, and he also said that we weren't allowed to camp on the beach. He showed us a camping ground that was literally right behind the beach in the forest, so we moved our tent into this little patch of campground behind the beach that was nicely shaded, and only had to pay 500 yen a person ($5.00) to sleep there.
While we were lying out on the beach, Ben and I met a nice couple who could speak English that stayed even after the 3:00 bus left the beach, so we knew they were staying the night on the island. We invited them to dinner and had a really fun evening with them. It turned out they were staying in Naha only about 5 minutes from my apartment, so we ended up making dinner plans with them in Naha the following night!
Ben and I were expecting to wake up Monday morning to the blistering hot sun, but our campground was kept cool by the tall trees so we ended up sleeping in until that day's bus arrived with the newest batch of tourists. We spent the day on the beach and took the 3:00 bus back to the port and the 4:00 ferry back to Okinawa. This ferry ride was much smoother, and we stayed outside the entire time.
Monday night, Ben and I met our new friends in Naha for dinner at a really interesting restaurant called Naha Harbor Diner. The restaurant is located in the top of a big banyan tree! So the tree isn't real, but it was still really neat to eat outside while overlooking Naha City. Alex and Julia (our new friends) were really good company, and we had another fun night with them. They both can fluently speak 3-4 languages and love traveling. Julia is from Germany and Alex Belgium. Julia's native language is German, Alex's Dutch. They both speak each others' native language, but use French to communicate with one another. They can also speak English, and either 1 or both of them can speak Latin! They were a really nice couple, and I think Julia got Ben seriously interested in Germany's Octoberfest! Is anyone interested in a trip to Germany next October?? Rebekah, Dave?? John, Beth?? Julie, Ryan?? Andy, Theoni?? Sarah, Steven?? Karen, Sam?? Katie, Ella?? Kathy, Ashton?? Matt, Mel?? Donnie, Hannah?? Sahej, flavor of the month?? Amanda, new guy who you already plan on marrying that I still haven't received an e-mail about?? Christie, Ryan?? Ewa, Natalia?? Mark, Jesse?? Susan, Leslie?? Oops, I mean, Leslie, Ben?? Thomas, Kevin?? Heather, Andy?? Rachel, Emily, Laurie, & Kristin?? Tiffany, Ben?? Carly, Emma, Damien and Austin?? Mr. and Mrs. Howard Martin?? Hahhaa, okay sorry, I will stop.
Julia also informed us that my Grandmother's famous cucumber salad originates from Germany, which explains why I have never known anyone to make it besides my Grandma.
It is official, Ben's sister Sarah is getting married! Congratulations Sarah!! I am so happy for her and Steven, and I cannnnnnnnooot wait for the wedding! They have set the date for late December so it looks like I will be home for Christmas. How wonderful! I will be able to see my family for a couple of days, witness Sarah and Steven profess their love for each other in front of all of the people they love, and spend another New Years in Highland with Ben's family! It is going to be a great trip.
Well, today is Tuesday, which means it is the start of my work-week. I had a nice, relaxing weekend and even spent the day shopping with Maki yesterday (Maki is the secretary at our school). I can't believe how fast the weeks are flying by, and how the weekends are flying by even faster. This experience will be over before I know it, hopefully it doesn't go by too fast!
Hope all is well back in the States!