Friday, October 30, 2009

Adopt a Shelter Dog

So, let me 'fess up at the beginning of this blog. I totally stole the idea for this blog from Caitlin. I know the month of October is pretty much at an end, but any time is a good time to adopt a rescue dog. I got my first dog, Christi, from the animal shelter in Florida.
Christi was an awesome dog. She put up with anything (as illustrated by the princess outfit) and was even the flower girl in our wedding. I try to not compare Christi to Rana and Chris reminds me that Christi wasn't really perfect until she was six so we have time for improvement with Rana. I still miss my yellow dog.
However, while she is very different than Christi we were able to find another great dog, Rana. We adopted her from the Okinawa American Animal Rescue Society. While technically it's not a shelter because of all of the dogs are in foster homes, it's a great place to get rescue dogs while living in Okinawa.
We had a few years between Christi and Rana and we came to the island knowing exactly what we wanted. We wanted a full grown, 2-3 year old dog, weighing no more than 40 pounds with short hair. The only thing we stuck to on that list was the short hair! Oops! With Rana we wound up adopting a 16 week old puppy that grew into a 57 pound beast! And we love every pound of her.
Following Caitlin's great blog example, here are some fun facts about Rana:
1. We adopted Rana before we even had an apartment rented in Japan. We knew we were going to get a dog and the ones we liked online kept getting adopted so when we saw Rana's picture we called her foster parents immediately. They were kind enough to bring her to our billeting room on base and the rest is history. I mean, seriously, who can resist that face and those spots!
It was love at first sight for me and Chris.
2. She might look sweet, but she's a killer! Rana goes through more soft toys than any dog I know. We've spent big money on the toys that say "17X stronger" only to see Rana destroy them in an afternoon. We also give her the hard chewy bones and kongs, but she really just wants a soft toy so she can eat through its face and distribute fluff all around the apartment.
Those are the remains of her poor duck. After she annihilates an animal she'll bring you a scrap of the carcass so you can play tug of war with her.
3. She's a health nut! Ok, maybe not really, but she does love her apple cores and stretching with daddy after he's been running. (Side note: be careful when giving dogs apple cores. I've heard that the seeds have cyanide which can build up in their systems. I'm not sure if it's just an old wives' tail, but I take out the seeds.)
4. This dog has got spots everywhere! Seriously, from her nose to the inside of her mouth to her tummy - this dog is covered. We jokingly say that she gets a new spot every time she's naughty. :) My favorite spot is the almost perfect circle above her rear end. When we first got her we'd walk her and the locals would touch the spot and say something in Japanese that I couldn't understand. I made up fantastic stories in my head that the circle means wealth or good fortune. I thought maybe it was a good sign for the Japanese - you know since they have the big, red circle on their flag and everything. Well, one day we were walking her and some locals pet her, talked in Japanese, and then said to us in very clear English "big chocolate chip". So, maybe I was wrong with the good luck thing, but you can't go wrong with chocolate.
5. Rana loves the beach! Rana's favorite outings are to the beach. She loves running on the shore and swimming in the water:
But she especially loves digging!

6. Rana has quite the wardrobe, but hates getting dressed! I would like to say in my defense that all of these pieces are functional. What dog doesn't need a backpack, raincoat, or life jacket? I'm pretty sure they are all dog essentials. I really want to get her booties because the coral she runs across is so rough, but I'm pretty sure she'll just chew them off of her feet. We'll see...

So for anyone thinking about getting a dog, please check out your local shelters. There are plenty of great dogs out there that might not be pure breeds, but are adorable, sweet, and loyal! Remember, dogs are for life.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Forest Adventure, Sam's By The Sea, Cocok's, and CoCo's

So, in their last few days we needed to show Sheron and Sharon some fun, feed them some good food, and have them relax. Our first stop was Forest Adventure. I've been once before, but it was everyone else's first time. Sharon used to rock climb, but all four of us aren't overly fond of heights. After a brief review by a staff member we were free to start zipping.
Sheron and Sharon coming in for their first landings.
Besides forcing yourself off of the platform the landing is the hardest part. You've got to be facing forward or you'll really bite the mulch.
Chris was good at this right away and would perform while zipping. I just focused on nailing the landing - I was successful about half the time.
Along with the zip lines they have other rope bridges and obstacles to get across. Here's Chris on the rings:
The obstacle course was fun and we could all be on it at once.
The view from the top of the obstacle course was beautiful.
Here are some video clips of all of us as we zip:
Here we are at the finish with some sweet glasses I found along the way.
We relaxed that afternoon and then headed for a seafood dinner at Sam's -By-The-Sea.
At Sam's you've got to start with the drinks in the cool glasses.
They had a special appetizer for autumn and it was may be the best thing I've ever eaten.
They had a little won ton wrapper, avocado, shrimp, cheese, and a sweet chili sauce on the side. I don't know what they seasoned it with, but it was heaven!
The last time we came here I thought the food was good, but I swear it was even better this time. Sharon and Sheron ordered lobster so they had to bib up.
Sharon is ready to dig in:
We were all fat and happy when we left Sam's.
The next morning I took the ladies to Cocok's for some TLC. Cocok's is a nail salon that really treats you right. You get your usual foot treatment as well as a nice, long calf massage. Here we are relaxing:
The entire trip whenever we'd overindulge Sharon would say I feel like a "puffa puffa puffer fish". So, we went into Cocok's armed with this picture:
And Sharon came out with this:
Pretty cute, huh? You should have seen the look on the nail artist's face when we first showed her the picture. It was classic.
Sheron wanted a shisa dog, but her artist either didn't understand as much English or wasn't as willing to experiment with her art. So, Sheron picked a store design:
It's not what she came in for, but it sure is pretty.
I wasn't sure what I wanted, but really loved what I came home with:
Sea turtles!
Afterwards, Sharon said she was hooked and will do it again. While Sheron liked the results, she has super ticklish feet so probably won't be getting another pedicure.
Their final lunch out was at CoCo's Curry. This is another place that would be easy to get addicted to. You choose the curry you want, the spice level you want, and then select your add-ins (cheese, garlic chips, eggplant, etc.).
Like mother, like son on this one. Both Sheron and Chris ordered the level 5, sweated a little, and loved every bite.
I went for the level 1 and added eggplant. I love the eggplant here in Okinawa.
Overall, I think Sheron and Sharon had a fun and delicious trip. They want to come back and they're definitely more than welcome because they were some laid-back, easy guests!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Okinawa World

Sharon let it slip at some point that she really likes caves. Well, I had heard that there were some caves to explore here on Okinawa, but we hadn't discovered any yet. So, after a quick google search I found out that not only does Okinawa have some cool caves, but it has the second largest cave in Japan. Pretty sweet, huh? Plus, it gets even better. The cave is part of a place called Okinawa World, a place with performances, craft demonstrations, places where you can do your own crafts, a snake show, and more.
We had heard of Okinawa World, but had never really gotten any reviews. Let me be the first to say, it is awesome! We all loved Okinawa World. When we first got there we thought it was a little expensive (1600 yen = about $17), but we were there over 5 hours! So, if you divide it out it's really good value for money.
We got there just in time for the snake demonstration. It was like any other snake demonstration, but you were able to hold a big python before the show started if you dared! Well, Sharon and I dared. Snakes creep me out a little so this was a big step. I mainly did it because when I was 3 my parents took me to Silver Springs and I held a huge snake (I was way braver back then) so I thought this would be a nice reminder for them.
Yes, I know. Sharon looks way more comfortable than I do with the snake, but I swear that lady would be comfortable in any situation. I'm still working on that.
During the snake show the snake charmer worked with the local habu and a cobra.
Above, you can see him milking the snake. This whole thing gave me the willies.
The final part of the snake show was snake versus mongoose. The entire show was in Japanese so we couldn't really understand what was being said, but we caught on when he was taking a vote on who would win. Sharon and I, and a couple Japanese audience members, voted for the mongoose because we didn't want to see the cute, furry creature get killed. Everyone else voted for the snake. What a bunch of cold-blooded thugs. To see who won watch this:

Ok, ok, so it wasn't a fight at all. It was a swimming competition between a mongoose and a seasnake. I guess that just emphasizes that we should learn some Japanese!

After the snake house, we checked the schedule and it was time for the Eisa dancer show. I was very excited to see this because we enjoyed these dancers during the festival in August, but it's nice to know we have somewhere we can take our guests to see the dancers if they don't come during festival season. These pictures had to be taken on the sly because photography wasn't allowed, but I promise that even if I hadn't snuck my own pictures I wouldn't have bought the DVD.

This lady was awesome and stayed animated the entire show.

I'm not exactly sure what was happening here, but there was an old woman and her drunk old husband. Then a shisa dog came and stole the husband's sake jug!

At the end of the show they asked everyone to dance. You didn't have to ask Sheron and Sharon twice. Chris and I made the observation that all the Japanese people left all of their belongings on the benches while all the Americans gathered everything and took it with them. Either we have trust issues or the Japanese are just more honest.

After the show you could pose with the performers and they would use your camera to take a picture for free.

After the dancers we had a quick lunch and then made our way to what drew us here in the first place, the cave! It was absolutely amazing. I believe it's about 5km long and the public is allowed to walk through about 1 km of that. It is huge and open and I never once felt closed in. It's hard to take pictures in such darkness, but Chris was patient with the tripod and some slow shutter speed.

Some stalagmites near the beginning.

All of us in part of the cave. Their pamphlet says there are more stalactites here than any other cave. Plus, some of them were HUGE! They were too big to wrap your arms around. It was incredible.

The thing behind is called the Golden Cup. It is a stalagmite and it was awesome. It was probably my favorite feature. This picture doesn't do it justice, this formation was 31 m across.

I love this photo that Chris took. Yes, the lights are making the water look so blue, but it was still breath taking.

After the cave we went through the craft area. They had weaving, bingata, origami, and more. For a fee, you could try your hand at any of the crafts.

I loved these origami birds blowing in the breeze. They were made from a fine fabric rather than paper.

Our last stop before hitting the souvenir shop was at the photo house. For a small fee you can dress up and they'll take a picture that you can buy for an additional fee. However, they will also take as many photos as you want with as many cameras as you provide. Here are some of our favorite shots:

The formal family with our giant shisa.

Busting out the '80s style pose.

The happy couple.

Stay tuned because we still have Forest Adventure and Cocock's Nails left!