I am honored to be amongst such a kind, happy, goofy, loving, funny, giving and peaceful culture. The Okinawans are polite. They are quiet, calm. They are extremely generous. But most of all they are peaceful.
Everywhere I go, I see them making a peace sign with their hands. For pictures, just saying hello to one another or to those who they know don't speak their language....a peace sign. It is universal and says so much.
I was unsure how they felt about our massive presence on this island and around the world, as a military wife. They seem to love us and just want to spread their love and peace.
I love Okinawa.
We met a Japanese/Okinawan family at a festival one lovely evening recently. Our children smiled at one another and the father of the family of 6 keeled down, let our children communicate in their toddler way and he proceeded to speak with us, as best he could in broken English for about 30 minutes. We were complete strangers! We were foreigners at one of their festivals. And they welcomed us into their conversation, lives and later, their homes. I have never met a nicer man and family.
The husband's exchanged phone numbers that night. He expressed to us he wanted to learn fluent English. We expressed the same about wanting to learn Japanese. About 3 or 4 days after the festival, we received a call from the Okinawan father/husband/super nice guy and he invited us to his house for a "house party." We knew that he probably did not mean house party as in, kegger-frat boys-hundreds of people packed into a house-party like we referred to it. And it was most certainly not that.
About 2 weeks after meeting our first Japanese friends, we found ourselves driving to their home, removing our shoes at their front door and walking in on the already fully prepared, most beautiful spread of foods in front of us.
Their dining table sat about two feet off of the floor. The plate wear was all in earthy tones. A set of chop sticks and a soy sauce dish were placed lovingly by each setting. We enjoyed eggplant seaweed rolls, raw soba noodle rolls, mashed pumpkin salad, white and black rice cakes with jasmine and seaweed, seafood salad with sea grapes on top and a soy-vinegar dressing, a seafood omelet with mayonnaise and tea, Okinawan beer and Okinawan Sake. It was quite the spread. I wish I could go back and eat it all over again and again.
The wife cooked the hot food on a hot grill right at the table. It is customary to do this with guests in Japan so as to not miss one moment of visiting with them, no trips to the kitchen for serving the food. They gave my daughter plastic silver wear and fully expected her to eat what their children ate, which was what the adults ate, at that very table. To my embarrassment, she opted not to eat any of it. So they lovingly gave her lolly pops and popsicles, lucky baby.
Our children played, we tried to speak to one another as best we could. They had a few other friends and family stop by and we continually got a thank you from the man of the house. He kept saying how happy he was that we came to join them and were learning to communicate together with him.
I have never felt such love from a stranger in a strange land. We plan to have them over to our home for dinner as well and I continue to admire and feel grateful to be around the way of the Okinawans.