100. Yokohama, Japan

And I finally fell asleep.  

Whatever sounds I faintly heard lulled me off into slumber. This time it wasn’t to the gentle, rocking feel of a boat afloat. However, in the early hours of the morning I involuntarily tuned into the reverberation of muffled drilling and various sounds of the many repairs our ship would undergo.  What?!  7:30 already?

There’s approximately a dozen officers entering the saloon at once. Chatter is all about the room; remaining ever-attentive to the crew’s needs, all the while I’m captivated by their tales, presented in a medley of perspectives.  

I have to admit, the earlier part of the previous 55 hours was well, so full of adrenaline the likes of which before, I had never known.  Perhaps only the shaking tree, the dark & rainy field at midnight, the near drowning and the Marines’ guns aimed at me would come close.

It was now my turn to enjoy breakfast.  By now all of you know how I ordered.  Once again, what a one man feast!  These days I can get full just thinking about how I would eat in my youth.  

Next the dining saloon was refreshed for lunchtime and that meant it was time for me to think about this evening… anticipation of what Japan might have in store for me.  

I was informed that so far, we had this 1st evening off and overnight in town was approved if we wanted it.  I wanted it!

Back home, I had heard that it was ideal to tell a taxicab driver what I wanted.  They would take us to the very best and so for whatever that was worth, I was going to give it a shot!

The cab driver took myself and a fellow crew friend whom I’ll name as ‘Bill’, to a fairly nice looking hotel. We were received warmly *(not for a single moment discounting Omotenashi) by the front desk staff.  Undeniably Americans have American dollars.  

💵 I mention this because during my months spent throughout the Pacific, American dollars were very much desired and it was a language most everybody spoke.  

Heck! I can remember how excited I was as a young lad back in Fiji when the American G.I.s would place silver dollar coins on to the palm of my hand.  In return they received my lunch; delectable rolled up rotis filled with veg curries which my sister-in-law had lovingly prepared, fresh every day.  Okay end flashback.

It was only in a moment when two lovely young Japanese ladies in bright-colored Kimonos approached the front desk clerk.  He gave them our room keys.  They briefly spoke something to one another in Japanese.  

They gently took our overnight bags and turned to face us with beautiful smiles, motioning that we follow them.  We were escorted up a flight of stairs to the 2nd floor.  They let us into our room.  We noticed quickly this was a room that was divided into 2 areas with paper walls.

At this point we both thought they’d bow their way out of our room.  Instead they went into the bathroom area and began drawing two baths.  Bill and I curiously peered in behind them to see what they were up to. They each added bath salts and scents into the bath waters.  Use your imagination for a bit here.  

I will admit to a bashful bit of part surprise and part expectation.  We glanced at one another.  One of the two girls came out and said in as few English words as possible, to undress.  She pointed over towards the bathroom and said, “Bath.”

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* Omotenashi defines Japanese hospitality; anticipation of their guests’ needs with an undeniable attention to details

2. 🏊🏽 the Sweet Water Pool and a Marconi – part 2 (from the Cinema)

My brother-in-law had a business where they built buses on to prebuilt motorized bases (something like a big-rig cab minus the trailer) which they bought from elsewhere.  At this garage they also tended to some cargo trucks, did general auto repair work, and the city taxis would sleep there every night.

It was located in Suva near the wharf where the big ships docked which was an especially perfect location as far as I was concerned; more on that later.

Every time his company completed the building of a new bus, a celebration was in order!  This consisted of taking the entire immediate family up to a beautiful place called 17 Mile Rubber Plantation for an outing devoted to a delicious picnic and play.  🌿 Think along the lines of ribbon-cutting ceremony and gratitude given in prayers, all rolled into a jovial time for all.  Oh the fun we would have there!

💧There was a natural fresh water pool, which was fed directly by the cascading waters from the above mountaintop.  This body of refreshing water, which we lovingly referred to as the sweet water pool was conveniently located center stage of the very tall rubber trees.

These wonderful giants (to me) provided excellent shade and the dappled sunlight called forth a leisurely spent afternoon.  Another highlight for me was the proximity of this picnic spot to the ocean allowing me to continuously hear the surf crashing on to the sand.

The family all together at various intervals sitting around the pool, the younger girls and boys either hiking around the area or in the pool splashing around happily, such joyful memories!  We would enjoy cool refreshing drinks savoring the likes of guava and coconut juice and there was always an inexhaustible supply of deep red 🍒 to snack on!

I remember the ladies always brought a deck of cards to play the favorite game of trump; one could say it was a part of our tradition, this game.

Meal production time and it was most often the men who would get busy cooking our picnic meal and it went something like this:  everyone had their place on the meal prep *assembly; someone to prepare the ingredients, another is adding said ingredients to the giant pots, one is standing by as the fire & pot watcher, stirring the mix, and another is the taster and contributing whatever else needs doing.

Synchronized like clockwork but a lot more fun. The menu was usually our favorites like curried chicken and veggies, roti and rice of course, and the must have tomato chutney.

After indulgence of a once-again perfect meal, ** we’d rest in the shade for a bit before heading out for a swim or more exploring.  Several of us would climb atop the giant rocks there to jump into the cool waters.

This particular time -as I had not previously attempted this maneuver- I wanted to share in the fun the rest of my family was having so I climbed up and jumped right in.  Well I guess I should’ve taken the time to think it over.

I really wasn’t an experienced swimmer by any stretch of my imagination and so I began to take in water.  A lot of water!  I was now drowning.  I surfaced two or three times, clearly struggling.  As my stars had planned, it wasn’t my time.

Luckily there was a scouting troop at the watering hole also enjoying the beauty of the day.  And so I am told, one of the young men, a Gujarati fellow noticed me and without a second thought I’m certain, jumped right in to save me!  The water was a bit murky and as I went under again, he had to search but he then felt my flailing hand touch his leg.  I had been found …and saved.

📻 I can remember when my brother brought home a Marconi shortwave radio.  🎶 I liked the music I was hearing and not until later did I realize it was country western music.  There were nice shows everybody enjoyed listening to; ‘Voice of America’ and ‘All India Radio’ to name a couple and these programs generally came in the early morning hours starting about five.  Good way to start my day as far as I was concerned.

This radio ran on batteries along with a couple of bamboo sticks & wire for reception.  My friends and I put together an antennae consisting of what we knew to be ‘special’ wire which we strung on to said bamboo sticks.  We then hoisted these sticks up, pounding them into the ground and running one of the wire streams into the house.

Listening to the radio programs further whet my appetite for adventures waiting to be had and I felt absolutely packed to the gills with such fervor; it was alive and ready to erupt inside of me like a volcano!  I knew that part of me needed to come out and explore, at the very least.

I may be incorrect in thought here but I felt there was no one else as interested in such foreign things as I was.  A display of overwhelming curiosity was oozing from every inch of me and I just had to find the answers to all of my questions.  The family seemed to be content with the way things were but I always wanted so much more.

At one point we also acquired a phonograph player and yes we played those old 78 rpm records and yes, I was fascinated by the picture of the dog attentively listening to … His Master’s Voice and I used to watch the little dog go round and around.

There was a once-removed uncle that at some point had looked at my palm, and told my mother something like, ‘…this guy can’t be held back, he’ll always be traveling the world.’  My mother loved me so much and she desperately tried to keep me safe at home with her.  Even that love didn’t stop me from breaking my security I had on my island home.

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* The picnic meal was always as fresh as can be.  At the Plantation there were fire pits ready to receive sticks and wood for the cooking fire.  Today the family still does things this way at the large get-togethers and many of our homes have 2nd kitchens, even if it is out back or in a garage due to snow and rain!  At any rate our meals were –and still are- top notch!

** In taking a retrospective look, I have realized, in the very act of being outdoors in the greatness of nature, how greatly my appetite is increased, how much better I feel –even if under the weather- and how divine a nap underneath a tree can be!

These days I go to my (very comfortable) bed and sometimes it takes most of the night to fall asleep, in fact, I usually don’t get into a deep sleep till the wee hours of the morning.  Yet camped on the beach or in the woods, sleep comes so easy and so soundly.

Nature – the way we were meant to be!