Time to count some blessings. As I mentioned, we went to Okinawa for our Christmas break, and we were treated like kings! It was really cool. We took our first ferry trip to Naze and hung out there all day on Friday. It was a bit boring, actually... we didn't have a bunch of ideas, but we found a cool coffeehouse and did a little shopping and just kind of walked around. We stayed at our friend's house and then took the ferry the next morning. Only it turned out to be delayed 5 hours (original departure time was 6:30 am) b/c of, I guess, bad weather and high winds. Bummer. So we got on the ferry and it left around 11 am. For 8 hours we were pretty bored, but we got to spend time in prayer and reading and relaxing and stuff. This was a pretty big ship, and they even had a shower facility, so we enjoyed that!Once we got to Okinawa, our friend the pastor sent his son to pick us up and he drove us to the pastor's friend's house where we would stay the 1st night. It turned out to be a pretty nice house w/ a really nice bed and nice furniture and stuff. We felt like we were in a Bed and Breakfast! The next morning was Christmas morning, and the pastor's wife picked us up at 10 to go to church. Yay, church! Once at Koza Baptist Church, we found it to be a large Western-style building filled w/ mostly Americans, who seemed to be quite friendly. Many of them talked to us, and apparently quite a few knew who we were. Church was really great, and the pastor was nice enough, after the service was over, to preside over the ordinance of the Eucharist, which was our 1st time in 5 months. After the service was over, we went to one family's home, who was preparing a big Christmas feast to share w/ us and the pastor, his wife, and his son. This family also has two kids, 11 and like 8 or something, and they were really cool kids. We ate and ate and then played around and enjoyed coffee on their 2nd floor balcony. We really hit it off, and the kids also enjoyed my abilities in imitating the voices of Yoda and Gollum. Yes, my throat was hurting. That afternoon, Dad, Caleb and I played Risk, which was a Christmas present. The day after Christmas, we went onto a military base and we went to the Commissary, which is similar to a non-super Wal-Mart. We got some nice stuff there, including Chee-tos and American breakfast cereal! Mmmmmmmm. I also got me a meatball sub. All this time, it was really cool to be let into this family's life w/ such love and fellowship, and that was relaxing. Walking into this Commissary store was weird b/c there were so many Americans around. It was really crazy to say, "Excuse me" when I got in someone's way instead of "Gomen" as we must say in Japanese. I gotta tell you, you hear about missionaries who retire and go back to the States to live and never fit in again, and feel really strange until they can return to the country where they spent so much of their lives. I can relate, even after just 4 months... and I remember similar feelings when I came back from France. Just a fact of life for the international traveler, I guess.Later that day, we went to the other family's house. This family has 4 kids and the father is an officer in the Marine Corps; they live on one of the many military bases on Okinawa. I am accustomed to being a little taller than most people on Kikai (though not everyone) but found myself looking WAY up at the father, who is a big guy, and really nice. They made a really nice dinner for us including BANANA BREAD (that would be Alan's favorite!) and invited another cool couple from their church small group over to hang out.It may sound a bit boring since we didn't go anywhere special in terms of touristy stuff, but we really felt refreshed by the love and fellowship we experienced.The next day Kelly the mother was nice enough to corral all 4 kids in the minivan and take us the 1hr 15min drive into central Naha to drop us off on Kokusai Dori (International Street). The drive up was crazy, not from the driving per se, but rather from entertaining and being entertained by the 8, 6, 4, and 1 year old kids. I think my favorite part was when I videoed each kid and asked them random questions to see what they would say. The results were quite good. Also, the 8 year old took some time to explain quite reasonably why I couldn't eat the 4 year old even if I really was an alien. He made so much sense that I did not go thru w/ my plan... Kokusai Street was a pretty cool place w/ tons of shopping, and we enjoyed walking up and down it. We had some Indian tacos for lunch that were quite tasty, and later on we had some real Starbux coffee. I was SO glad that this Starbux had soymilk - I really enjoyed my almond latte, and Aubrey quite enjoyed her caramel frappuccino. We were able to do some post-Christmas shopping, mostly for Aubrey's family, and we found what seemed to be outstanding gifts for most everyone, which was encouraging since I think we were kind of in despair on that count. We also found a jeweler (out of the 12 we asked) who was able to engrave the kanji symbol of our baby's name (Sora) on a pendant, which I've wanted for a month. 4 hours later, Kelly the mother picked us back up and we drove to the Chili's Restaurant on base. Wow - a bloomin' onion and a cajun chicken sandwich did wonders for my tummy. Aubrey quite enjoyed her nachos and blackberry tea, while I was singing for joy at the taste of strawberry lemonade. I was REALLY full though - I forgot how big American portions typically are. Not always, but often.
So that was our trip. I hesitate to mention the 16 hour ferry ride on Wednesday to return to Kikai, but it coulda been worse - at least the ferries were on time and we got home by 11:30 pm on Wednesday (we had boarded the ferry at 6:45 am, just to give you an idea).
Many thanks, again, to the families who hosted us! We are so thankful for the love and welcome you showed us, and for your prayers.
At any rate, tomorrow Erica and Kaki join us in Kikai. Yet more coolness awaits!