We have had a chance to get out and about yesterday (Friday)and today (Saturday). One of Tim's coworkers by chance had three vehicles. Tim thought to call him and ask if we could borrow one for the weekend, since we have our licenses now. He agreed! So we actually followed another friend up to his place for dinner last night, up in the central part of the island, which is actually north of the populated area. Dinner was simple Japanese home cooking. In the style of many small dishes, but actually served on large American style dinner plates: sashimi - raw squid, tuna and salmon, rice, goya stir fried with tofu, tempura of purple sweet potatoes and squash, also tempura battered onion, carrot and bell pepper mounds, also tuna and avocado mixed up like a salad, and seafood curry. There was cabbage and vinegar, maybe like coleslaw, on the side, and wasabi, which Sean explained is offered to help the stomach digest the raw fish and any bacteria that may be present. Also on the side, plain soy sauce, like kikkoman, and fish flavored soy sauce I have seen on Japanese television ads called Mizkan. Iced jasmine tea, and fresh strawberries and oranges for dessert. The kids ate at a low table on the tatami mats and watched Pokemon in Japanese as an icebreaker of sorts. By the end of the evening they were more comfortable and actually played with Sho and MoMo. MoMo is 8 years old and has been learning English for about 7 months. She brought me many picture albums of her and her friends and her brother, and explained to me as best she could with vocabulary help from her mother where the pictures were taken, church, aquarium, park, beach etc. Near the end of the evening I brought out my crochet hooks and yarn and asked her if she would like to learn how. She seemed interested as did her mother. Yoko-san's parents live downstairs, I believe the house used to be theirs. While Sean was showing us the views from their balconies, we saw her father arrived with his flat bed truck full of bright green papayas he had harvested from somewhere on the island. Apparently he is retired but farms and sells produce as a hobby.
At the end of the evening MoMo followed us out to the car, using her English phrases - Yeah see ya! and Bye! over and over again, then hopped in the van with Sean to lead us back to the town so we could get safely back to our lodge. MoMo and Sho take English lessons from a place called Kumon - much like Sylvan or Knowledge Points in the the States. Yoko-san says they pay 6000 yen per month - about $60US - for twice a week lessons, includes initial testing for placement, books with CDs, and homework. Chas over heard Tim and I talking about this as a possibility for our family and he piped up with 'um, mom? we already know English'.
This morning we ventured over to the park near our new house. Okinawan addresses go by some unknown logic so we knew if we could find the large park we could find the house. And we did! The kids and Tim played for a while on the giant slide, and I tried to converse with another mom, but she knew less English than I know of Japanese, so that didn't really work. I managed to tell her that Tim was military and I am a teacher. The concept of homeschool is not easily translated, very much unheard of here.
After they played for a while, we wandered over to the house and saw a little girl playing next door, and her very skinny cat who followed us over to our house. We asked a Japanese woman who had a housing agency sign plastered on her car where she got her lunch. She pointed us to a Japanese grocery called Union which had a bento stand in the front. We wandered through the tiny little grocery, marveled at all the produce and the fish selections, then went back outside to order lunch. The kok, or chef, who spoke a little bit of English, had a great time trying to help us choose something. He managed to tell me that what he was making was in the style of Osaka. We order 4 boxes to feed the 5 of us. Egg, some type of pancake batter, then sprinkled with veggies, seafood (shrimp or squid), and brushed with soy sauce and drizzled with some other white substance, consistency of mayonnaise but wasn't, then grilled until cooked through. It was quite rubbery, even the squid, octopus maybe. He even gave us 'sweets' for free, something like American pancakes wrapped around purple sweet potatoes.
I think, since we have a vehicle, we are going over to the best restaurant on the island, that I have heard of anyway, called Sam's by the Sea, near our new house. Tim's bonus arrive in our bank account, just a little celebration is in order.