Louis Wai

Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Never too late for a first dance. Do you remember the first time you danced with someone of the opposite sex — and I don’t mean do-si-do’ing with your elementary school classmate while learning country dancing. I’m talking about walking across the room to ask a girl to dance, or when you waited while a boy walked towards you and your group of girlfriends as you wondered, “Is he going to ask me to dance?” Your young hearts were beating so fast as you walked onto the dance floor to embrace each other.

In Okinawa, rarely will you find people who have danced with someone of the opposite sex. At Sota’s 3-year-old birthday party, I asked everyone in the Nohara family — husbands-and-wives Daisuke and Riemi, and Ayao and Hisae

“Happy Birthday!” to Riemi, aka “Okaasan.” (Photos by Louis Wai)
“Happy Birthday!” to Riemi, aka “Okaasan.” (Photos by Louis Wai)

— if they had ever danced with each other. Both answered, “No.” So what do you think I made them do?

Cold and hot in Okinawa. On Jan. 24, the temperature in Okinawa was 3 degrees Celsius, or about 38 degrees Fahrenheit — it was the coldest day I had experienced since moving here. And then, less than a week later, on Jan. 30, the temperature was 25 degrees Celsius, or about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It was the warmest January day I have experienced here. Was it global warming?

IV smoke break. What do you do if you’re a smoker and a patient in the hospital who is connected to an intravenous line? I’ve seen this twice now, so I’m convinced that the policy at the Naha City Hospital, located near my house, is for patients to wheel their IV poles out to an unofficial “smoking area” outside the hospital. There, they can light up while connected to their IV line. Do they do the same thing in Hawai‘i?

The 6 p.m. announcement. We may live in an information technology age, with anything and everything you want or need to know just a fingertip away. However, I still find the good ’ol public address system a valuable tool here. When a warning is issued, speakers in the community make public announcements. If a loudspeaker is not available, then cars and trucks patrol the neighborhood, repeating the announcements. There is a park nearby called Shintoshin Koen, where updates are given every hour on its PA system. And here’s something that I’ve never seen done in Hawai‘i: At 6 p.m., the PA system at schools and community centers here make an announcement, informing you that it’s time to go home.

Acrorad in outer space. The electrical engineers that I teach in Uruma City crystallize cadmium and tellurium into CdTe (cadmium and telluride). On Feb. 17, CdTe was launched into outer space aboard a Japanese satellite named “Hitomi.” It is hoped that CdTe will detect X-rays and gamma rays and maybe things never before seen or detected, and from distances never before observed.

The Koko Head Café in Naha City serves up Hawai‘i-style local food and beers.
The Koko Head Café in Naha City serves up Hawai‘i-style local food and beers.

“Happy Birthday ‘two’ you!” This is what happens when you have a very close-knit family like the Noharas that doesn’t coordinate who is buying the birthday cake — you get two birthday cakes. But what are the odds that the two separately purchased cakes would be identical? It’s something that could only happen to the Noharas . . . bless their hearts! Only the characters on top of the cake were different: One read “Okaasan,” or “Mom,” which Daisuke bought for his wife Riemi, and the other cake, which read “Riemi,” was purchased by Daisuke’s sister, Sugako. When you buy the cake, you have a choice of saying “Happy Birthday” in either English or Japanese. They both picked English — must be in their Nohara DNA!

To the yen. Can you imagine any situation in which you deliver your income tax return to the Internal Revenue Service or state tax office and get a phone call back from them

The hospital IV smoking area.
The hospital IV smoking area.

two days later? I made a mistake on my tax return, which I had delivered to the tax office here on Feb. 16. Two days later, I received a phone call, giving me two options. I could either file a new return or they would do the tax return for me if I came in and “signed” (by inkan “seal”) the new return. What had I overlooked? A tax of 780 yen, equivalent to about $6.50. Imagine that . . .

Okinawan word of the week:Joonoo,” meaning tax; in Japanese, it is zeikin.


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