Sunday May 22, 2016
We made arrangements for lodging on the base on Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and Kadena AFB in Okinawa - the two locations on the flight docket for Sunday. The 5:00am roll call for the flight to Guam was delayed and then cancelled but we had to show up at 4:30am in the morning to learn this at 8:00am. A flight to Kadena AFB, Okinawa was on the docket for roll call at 3:00pm. Around 1:00 they told us it slipped 24 hours so we cancelled one night in Kadena leaving the balance of the reservation "just in case". Oh well, there was another flight to Guam at 5:00pm but only 17 seats which looked like poor odds for us. However with no other choices, we switched our names to the Guam flight. At 2:45 we noticed the Okinawa flight was still on the board. Sure enough, it did NOT slip and was still going. We moved our names back to Okinawa calling to add the night back in on Kadena. A huge list of people wanted on the Okinawa flight, but when told it slipped, they went home. Thus there were only a handful of people vying for the 73 available seats. We had the luxury of having three seats EACH to stretching out to sleep during on the 9 hour fight.
*Aside* Again the plane was freezing cold causing me difficulty getting any sleep. Tom at one point wrapped me up in blankets literally tucking me in so I slept about 3 hours. We also were able to buy what Tom calls "Boxed Nasties" or boxed in-flight meals. When I opened my box I could understand the nickname. There was a baloney and cheese sandwich wrapped in saran wrap; a cup of some kind of citrus drink, a cup of applesauce; a small bag of Doritos (although later I found out that Tom had salt and vinegar chips); a Rice Krispy treat; an orange and a bottle of water. But it only cost about $5.50, so I guess we got what we paid for?
We arrived in Okinawa to steamy heat at 12:45am Wednesday morning. Our room at the Shogun Inn on Kadena Air Force Base was a "mini suite" with a full kitchen, living room and separate bedroom. Nice digs for $62 a night.
Leaving the base required a trip to Immigration for passport stamps. The caveat is when we leave Okinawa, once we are manifested on a flight we will have return to immigration for an exit stamp via taxi to the tune of about $40 round trip. But we definitely wanted to get off base otherwise that kinda defeats the whole idea of the adventure.
Thursday May 26th, 2016
We headed out to the Kadena Marina to the base Scuba Shop searching for any employment opportunities available to Tom associated with the base. We went to the Shogun Inn front desk to order a taxi but were told we could use the shuttle. We were slightly dumbfounded as the answer to our question the day before concerning a shuttle was, "No we don' have one." As the driver let us out at the marina he told us the shuttle ran until 10:00pm. We decided to attempt a bus ride to Torii Station to visit the Army's Scuba Shop as well (we had changed dollars to yen for this purpose).
*Aside* There are no immediate positions available but Tom wouldn't want a position right now anyway. He's looking for something starting in July or August. They seemed to think something might open up by then.
We lunched at a Farmer's Market hunting for "traditional Okinawan" food choosing a plate of bitter melon stir-fry and Okinawan soba noodle soup. Egg drop soup and tea were included for about $14.
*Aside* The bitter melon stir-fry was mixed with eggs, something that looked like ham and served with rice. The best way I can describe the flavor of bitter melon is like an unripe fig, but without the extreme astringency that burns your mouth. Okinawan soba noodles are different from traditional Japanese noodles in that they do not contain buckwheat and resemble udon more than soba and the soup is more flavorful.
Our return to the base was much more challenging than we anticipated. We got on the bus from Torii with no problems, getting off at the Kadena Marina to catch the shuttle.
"Sorry, the shuttle stopped running at 4:00pm." It is now 4:10pm. Wish we had known that. Why did the driver tell us it ran until 10:00 pm? There's no answer for that. We decide to take the bus again, but rather than going back to the stop we had come from, we decide to walk forward to the next stop. All I can figure is that since the road runs immediately beside the AFB, they eliminated all stops to prevent people loitering outside the base fence. Be that as it may, the next bus stop was more than a mile away. We got on the bus, but it didn't go where we needed to go so we got back off and walked some more. We got on another bus but that one also didn't go where we needed to go. We kept walking. We walked about 4 miles when I saw a walkway over the road.
*Aside* High on our list of Okinawa "must do's" was dinner in Yoshihachi Sushi Restaurant. When Tom was in Okinawa about 15 years ago he ate at Yoshihachi. Yoshihachi was sushi maker to the stars in LA, California USA then returned to Okinawa for a simpler lifestyle. The walls of the restaurant are lined with pictures of him with the rich and famous including one of him with a very young Tiger Woods. We did some research to discover the name of the restaurant (Tom couldn't remember the name). The young man who helped us with the name gave us specific directions complete with land marks consisting of the over head walkway and a Starbucks.
I pointed to the walkway. A little further on Tom saw the Starbucks. Since it was 5:40 now, edging up on dinnertime anyway, even though we were near dropping in our tracks, we decided to chance a walk off the main road into the neighborhood to search for the spot. We found it. We were hot and sweaty and exhausted but we had the best sushi we could have imagined. We'll be going back, especially for more of the salmon. We called a taxi to take us back to the base. After a hot shower and a soak in the tub, we called it a day.
What I learned today:
Always go to the known bus stop.
Even well intended people give you the wrong information.
Don't forget to keep your eyes open for the better option.