There are absolutely conveniences to having access to an American base: salsa, cheap(er) gas, contract translators, language classes… and did I mention the availability of salsa? However, amidst all of the benefits of living in a mini-America, it’s kept us from feeling fully immersed in this new culture. In fact, nothing has been feeling foreign at all. We recently found out that we will be living off base, so that will be a huge help, but so far, things haven’t felt that different than they did back in the States.
We’ve been dying to get out and see the island, but have been so busy keeping appointments: medical, legal, finance, housing, etc. that we haven’t had the chance to get more than a few miles from base. We finally had the chance to change that yesterday. We took a drive along the Pacific side of the island looking for a secret beach, planning to stop for lunch along the way. I had imagined we would discover tons of cute little restaurants, but as picturesque as it all was, restaurants seemed to be the only thing lacking. Or maybe they weren’t and we just couldn’t read the signs. We finally stumbled upon a building with a banner that depicted a bowl of soup. Seemed like a good sign.
We slipped off our shoes and stepped inside, waiting for the one woman who worked there to point us to a table. We sat down as she brought us menus. And for the first time, we finally started feeling the foreign. The menu was all in Japanese characters, with the exception of the word “drink” and the word “dolce”. No pictures. No translations. Ever the Americans (or maybe conditioned after being so close to base since arrival), we flipped the menus over, expecting some kind of clue, but there was no catering to non-Japanese speakers at this cute little joint.
When the waitress came back we asked if she spoke any English or had any English menus available. She shook her head and smiled. I will confidently say that, although my Spanish and French education is minimal, I can translate enough of a menu to at least order in any romance language. But when it comes to Japanese characters… there was no way. We just looked at the prices and tried to order in the moderate range.
“Soup?” I asked her, pretending to sip from a bowl. She pointed to the menu, but not to any specific item. I just nodded and gave her an enthusiastic thumbs up. “Shrimp” she said, pointing to another section. Then she said “Sashimi” as she pointed to the word “Dolce”. Either dolce does not mean dessert here, or sashimi does not mean sushi. As confused as ever, we both just smiled at her and continued to nod. Without another word, she walked away.
We had absolutley no idea what we were going to be served, but both secretly hoped nothing would be alive. We aren’t picky eaters… but ordering blind is a risk anywhere. Especially on the coastline of Japan.
We got lucky. Dane got shrimp. I got soup. And we both got a new language app. I guess time will tell if it can really “detect” characters and translate them accurately, and until then, it’s all just an adventure.
Oh.. and here is the menu we were going on:
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.