Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Quest for Bananas

Last week while I was waiting for the solar eclipse in a remote corner of Zamami, I spotted these 'wild' banana trees:

I went back Sunday to try and get myself a bunch.

I checked nearly every tree, including many a short distance up a steep hill, but I only found two bunches that were possibly harvestable. I mounted a kitchen knife on the end of a three-meter bamboo pole I found on the beach and went to cutting.

It's a small bunch, but I think these banana trees are well beyond their prime and I was lucky with what I got.

After coming back and looking up what to do next (hang them, I know, but is there more to it?), I got nervous that I had harvested these bananas too early. But not too nervous because it was either me or the birds.

But this is how they look four days later. I'm pretty psyched to get to eating tomorrow or Saturday. On Saturday I am leaving for Naha to leave for Osaka on Sunday to be there for my Monday flight to Palau (three freakin' days to go 1400 miles!), so I may end up taking the bananas to the friends I'm staying with in Osaka.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Zamami From Within

[Homestay families, are you out there?]

[Zamami's 105 Store gets a surprising amount of business]

[The store's parking lot. Bikes and scooters are really popular here because they are easy for short trips, they are fuel efficient, and the roads are tight]

[One of the half-dozen restaurants on Zamami]

[The main intersection in the middle of the village]

[Zamami's post office]

[The school]

[Orion beer is Okinawa's beer and there is a lot of pride in it - one of the most famous eisa (Okinawan drumming) songs is about this beer]

[A new pension/hotel - there are probably 20+ guesthouses on Zamami]


Monday, July 27, 2009

Zamami From the Water

[Homestay families: scroll down for more pictures of Zamami, Aka, and Geruma.]

[from Agenashiku island]

Zamami is surrounded on the east, north, and west sides by tall hills (the tallest at 436'). This means reasonable climbs to get up and over the ridge to Asa, the smaller community to the north, or to the observatories out the rear of the village. This also means the village has reasonable protection from all storms that don't come from the south. Unfortunately all typhoons come from the south. And fortunately, since I don't have air-conditioning but I do have a waterfront apartment, the summer winds also come from the south.

[yesterday's 'above' views are better, aren't they?]

[this is the Queen Zamami 3, the high-speed passenger ferry]

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Zamami From Above

[Homestay families: Pictures of Aka and Geruma are below. More pictures of Zamami will be coming over the next two days. If you are reading this, please leave a comment so I know you got your letter!]

Zamami has a population of 593: 278 females and 313 males. An aerial view of Zamami (and the Keramas) can be seen here. Zamami has the main village, seen below, and two smaller communities around the corners in both directions. It's really beautiful here, as you can see.

[Zamami at 7am]

[Many of those multi-story buildings are hotels/pensions and are easily the primary income source for the community. The school is at the bottom of the photograph]

[From the road that leads to the famed Furuzamami Beach. The school is on the right]

[Furuzamami Beach]

[From behind the village. That's Aka straight ahead, Geruma is to the left]

[From within the village]

[Looking east]

[Looking east over the marina]

Saturday, July 25, 2009


(Canada homestay families: Scroll down to see photos of Aka and Geruma. I'll post Zamami photos tomorrow.)

As of July, 2009, Aka has a population of 297 people: 157 males and 140 females. There are roads to a famous beach on the north side and another that crosses the island to the west. Much of the land to the NW is inaccessible except by water. Tourism and fishing are important to Aka's economy, just as they are on Geruma and Zamami. This time of year the hotels are quite full and the dive boats are out every day.

[Aka's port: the ferries stop at both Zamami and Aka]

[Aka village, as seen from the bridge]

[Aka school - about 37 students attend]

[Aka village as seen from a southerly observatory]

[Shisa: an Okinawan traditional sculpture that is supposed to keep away spirits - they come in a male/female pair and the male's mouth is always open]

[Aka's post office]

[Aka's store]

[the ferry leaving Aka; there's also a smaller passenger ferry that makes two-three trips/day]

Friday, July 24, 2009

Welcome Homestay Families

Today four junior high school students from Aka and Zamami flew to Vancouver, Canada for a couple-week homestay/English-immersion trip. I was on the ball this year and wrote letters to the families of each of my four students, detailing what life is like here, who I am, and a little about their respective student and her English level. I also included my blog address with a promise to post some pictures of the three villages here. So, with that, here's Geruma, the smallest of the three islands in Zamami-son (which is like a county):

[the road leading into the village of Geruma]

[Geruma school]

[Geruma village, looking north. Zamami village can be seen straight above the boat wake]

[Takara's house - a famous (I don't know why), well-kept traditional Okinawan house open to tourists]

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Solar Eclipse

For four/five months I've been looking forward to photographing today's solar eclipse, the longest of this century. I plotted for the last few days where I wanted to be - basing this on my preferred foreground - and this morning I left 2 hours early to get there. I kayaked out to a small island off the NW coast of Zamami, then waited.

Unfortunately Zamami was a little bit off from the 'full eclipse' route, so, although it dimmed, the sun was still a pretty bright force. Also, I don't really know how to photograph a solar eclipse (last night's Google search revealed I am also lacking a key filter).

[that ring - a signature of the eclipse - was about as much as I could get]

But while I was waiting for the eclipse, I looked over at the shore and spotted some rogue banana trees up a remote ravine. Who knows how they got there, but I know nobody's checking on them. So afterwards I kayaked over and crawled through the brush. They're a bit old (4-5m tall), but they're still producing! Most of the bananas weren't big enough to be edible, but I spied two bunches that I thought might be worth the effort. Now.. to figure out how to get them down.

On my way back through the forest I found a glass fishing float just sitting in the brush. My fourth this year!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Healthy Reward

I've been delaying it for no good reason at all, but this morning I finally went on my first run of the year (2008/2009 season). It was a very good decision.

At the beginning of my run there is are some 40m wide steps down to the ocean. Many tourists hang out there nightly lighting fireworks, drinking, and listening to the waves lap. As I was running through I glanced down and saw that folded paper above. I initially ran past, but then thought "wait, I know what that is!" and I went back and grabbed it.

It's a 1δΈ‡ or 10,000 yen note, loosely valued around $100USD. I thought all morning about what a bummer it must have been to have lost it. I asked a few people and ultimately told the village office, but it seemed a foregone conclusion among all consulted that the money is mine to keep. This makes up for the $6 in coins I lost out of my pocket last Friday.