Monday, March 19, 2007

Goya Weekend

Goya Weekend

It’s Saturday morning and we have been here 6 weeks. What is there left for us to do on a drizzly Saturday? Art and I can always find work to do. I can carve waxes and Art can work on his web site, but it’s not so easy for John. We hoped that he would make friends but that hasn’t happened and it looks like John will spend much of today playing computer games

Art walks up to the One or Eight Internet Café. I start my Okinawan Charm Collection by carving a “Goya” charm. Goya is a popular Okinawan vegetable. It’s translation in English is “bitter melon” and is thought to be one of the secrets of Okinawan longevity. It is of the gourd family, shaped a bit like a large fat ridged cucumber. It has high vitamin C content and a bitter taste. Goya and Tofu Champuru (stir-fry) is a traditional Okinawan dish that I do my best to avoid. This funny vegetable has become an Okinawan icon. Every tourist shop sells green plastic goya key rings, costume jewelry and goya printed T shirts with ridiculous sayings. This unsuspecting vegetable has been given a face and usually wears a hat and shoes. Think of it as the Okinawan version of Mr. Potato Head. No Okinawan charm collection would be complete without a sterling silver version of the goya. While I work on my goya charm, John plays Fable and Halo in a contented daze. I cook a very early diner at home.

Around 9:30 P.M, antsy from being home all day and slightly hungry, I suggest that we (Art and I) walk out to a nearby Izikaya that we stumbled upon earlier this week. John, still glued to his computer game is oblivious to our leaving. The air is freshly washed from the rain earlier and we walk a dozen blocks to the Izikaya. Earlier this week, Art and I ate here for lunch and we and feel like “regulars” as we duck in and seat ourselves at the tiny counter. This Izikaya is owned by two women who I suspect are mother and daughter. The older of the two women is in her 70’s. There are three Japanese style tables along one wall, and 7 or 8 chairs at the counter. A group of men sit eating, drinking and smoking at one of the low tables. Art studies the menu boards strung along the wall and orders several dishes and a small flask of awamori for us to share. I relax into the experience and watch the two women cook as I sip the icy awamori and water. Awamori is distilled rice liquor unique to the Ryukyu Islands. Other than beer, it is the beverage of choice for the locals. Most Americans are familiar with Japanese sake which is fermented from rice, just as wine is fermented from grapes but awamori is distilled liquor, comparable to whiskey and unique to these islands. We nibble on gukuten, a taro fritter; teriyaki chicken and an Okinawan stew with daikon, tofu and kelp. Our bill is only 2,800. Yen, or about $25.00. John is disappointed to see us return since it means the end of his computer game marathon but he wants me to write in my blog that he has beaten Halo. (He may not get into Stanford, but he is dam good at computer games!)


The sun is out this morning and the three of us ride bicycles up to Shintoshin for our “Starbuck Sunday” morning. I wish we were going to the Bonny Doon Church instead. I am feeling homesick today. As we sit and sip coffee, Art practices writing kanji, John works on homework and I type a short travel article for There is a free 1:00 P.M. concert just outside the doors to the Naha Main Place Mall and we stick around to listen. For three weeks running a different musical group has been featured. Last week, a sanshin folk musician preformed and I enjoyed his energetic style. Today’s featured group is not my taste and John wears that “suffering” look, that only a 14 year old can achieve. It is a small audience and I poke at John and whisper to him to at least try to look enthusiastic.

We eat a late lunch together and afterwards, at John’s suggestion, we bicycle to Kokosai Dori to watch the Sunday street scene. Kokosai Dori is closed to traffic on Sundays and throngs of people are out; families and children everywhere. Small but official stages are set up along this long shopping street. We stop to watch several musical groups and a troop of “hip hop break dancers” perform. The dancers are especially awesome! Unfortunately, we are not a particularly harmonious family this afternoon, so we cut John free to ride his bicycle back home. (My suspicion is that the newly arrived computer games have taken John under their spell.)

Art and I take our time meandering back and I cook a simple dinner at home. I am in a melancholy mood and after dinner I get lost working on a puffer fish charm.

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