Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rainy Day Valentine

Rainy Day Valentine

We wake up to grey skies and rain. The weather matches our under the weather state of health and demands little of us. Art is now sick, but a day behind in the symptoms. He grimaces when I tell him he that he will feel worse tomorrow. I doubt if John will escape this bug but remains healthy so far. We spend a quiet morning in our apartment writing, doing homework and sending e-mail.

Last night was John’s first night with the beetles in his room and he tells me that they were really annoying. Apparently they are nocturnal and Frack kept pinching at a flange of plastic inside his cage and made a clicking sound all through the night. Frick scratched on the inside of her cage until John finally got up and threw some clothes over their cages. Nevertheless, John still seems to love his beetles and at this very moment is holding Frack and admonishing him gently for disturbing his sleep.

Art reads about a senior graduation art exhibition at the Ryukyu Arts University. It’s quite a distance to the Shurijo district and between our health and the rain a taxi seems to be in order. Our taxi driver is talkative and he converses with Art switching between English and Japanese. The streets are wet from rain and we pass through districts unfamiliar to me. It’s lovely to be speeding along in our taxi bubble. The rain lets up when we get to the University and we spend nearly two hours looking at the student exhibition. The show is spread between various rooms and exhibition halls and the art is remarkably good. John gets into it and has some good comments and asks good questions.

The University is below the Shuri Castle in the oldest and most picturesque part of the city. Art chooses a charming restaurant for our Valentines Day lunch. It is 2:00 P.M. and we are dining late. We remove our shoes and place them in covered cubbies before stepping up into the restaurant. The restaurant is an old, single story house with the traditional tile roof and open beam ceilings. Tatami mats cover the floors and shoji screens divide the rooms and open onto a lush and serene garden. The gravel in the garden is raked to perfection. There are no glossy pictures on the calligraphied menu and no plastic display food to choose from. Art does his best to translate the minimal menu. He orders me a tofu champuru (a mix of tofu and vegetables) and himself a bowl of soba with Okinawa pork. Our meals are delivered on simple trays with additional bowls of miso soup, cold seaweed noodles, rice and pickled vegetables. All is mindful and delicious. John has eaten three “American corn dogs” earlier and just nibbles off of our plates. Our two meals are only 1,750 yen or about $15.00.

I am feeling considerably worse but the misty day is beautiful and we take our time walking in the gardens below Shuri Castle. There are few people out today and we have the park almost to ourselves. We wind our way slowly down an old stone walkway that will eventually lead us back down to the bustle of modern Naha. The stonework is all hewn from Okinawan limestone. Stylish Mansions are on either side of the ancient stone street. We take a side path and find ourselves in an utaki. An utaki is a “spirit place,” a small, sweet and magical spot. This one is tucked behind several hillside mansions and there is a small grove of huge akagi trees (Bishofa Javanica) dripping with the morning’s rain. Sections of an old stone pathway and stone wall frame this magical spot.

We arrive at the bottom of the walkway and search for a post office and grocery store. It’s nearly 5:00 P.M. and both Art and I are feeling drained. We know that once we get back to our apartment we won’t want to leave to go out to dinner even if it is Valentines’ night. We take a taxi home and Art tells John that we will try to rent a movie for us to watch this evening. Art and John ride bicycles to the nearbye Tsutaya, a bookshop, music and video store in the Shintoshin district. They manage to sign up for a Tsutaya video card and return with two movies, Zoolander and Lost. We watch Zoolander with Japanese subtitles. Tadashi comes over at 8:00 P.M. with two cell phones for us. He has added us to his cell phone plan and we will pay him accordingly.

In spite of feeling poorly, today was a lovely day. I turn in but Art and John stay up and watch an episode of Lost. I hope I feel better in the morning.


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