Shuri Castle, Okinawa
Lynn was satisfied with the tour of the Shuri Castle. As she walked out of the site, she skillfully took a selfie with the vermillion buildings peeking out from the stone walls, cropping and adjusting its lighting.
She shared it on Instagram with the caption:
“First day in #Okinawa and already visited this beautiful #UNESCO site!
The old palace of the once Ryukyu Kingdom~ Love it! #ShuriCastle”
She wondered if she should finally call home but decided first to get a drink. Her eyes searched the area, skipping past crowded gift shops and touristy cafes until she caught sight of a vending machine across the street. While making her way toward it, she fished from her coin pouch a hundred Japanese yen coin and wondered if she should have a bottle of cold water or oolong tea. She inserted the coin and pressed for cold water. Down fell the bottle of cold water, and with it came an unexpected beeping sound. She was caught off guard and wondered if she could have made a mistake during her purchase. In her limited understanding of Japanese, she tried to read the message on the vending machine screen, and to her amazement, as she was the 7777th customer of this vending machine, she won a free drink of her choice. Without hesitation, she pressed for oolong tea and was exuberant to share her luckiness with Instagram.
Dosing down the bottle of icy cold water, she made her way down the stone steps behind the vending machine carefully and threw herself and her backpack on a stone bench. She searched GoogleMap and checked the time to plan her route to the guesthouse when she saw a large black butterfly fluttering toward her. Her eyes followed it, and it flew behind her and up the stone steps from where she came down.
“HAI-YA!” An old lady steadied herself on the stone steps and swished and swashed her net several times in her attempts to catch the butterfly. Though the old lady was nimble, she was not quick enough to get hold of the little creature. Within seconds, it flew further up and disappeared. The old lady was relentless. She waited, and in a minute or two, the butterfly came back. She smiled and waited for the butterfly to come closer. Yet, it tactfully landed on a tree branch, entirely visually yet unreachable. It was mocking the old lady.
“Don’t just stare! Carry me up!”
Lynn looked around, and there was no one else but the old lady and herself.
“You! Yes! I am speaking to you! Come carry me up!”
Lynn hurried towards the old lady and carried the old lady on her shoulders. The old lady was barely half of Lynn’s height, so Lynn managed. She steadied herself as carefully as she could on the steps.
“Go nearer to the tree! Nearer! Yes! HAI-YA! WE GOT IT!”
The old lady caught the butterfly with one swish of her net. But in the process of coming down off Lynn’s shoulders, the butterfly found a chance to escape, and it did.
“Hmm…” The old lady pouted and panted, “Can’t be helped…”
Lynn knew she should not stare, but she found the whole scene amusing, and she laughed heartily. The old lady smiled too. She asked, “What’s your name? Where were you born?”
“I’m Lynn, and I am from Singapore.”
“Haisai! That means hello in Okinawan dialect!”
Seeing the old lady panting from her butterfly chase, she offered her the bottle of oolong tea.
“Thank you, but no thanks.”
“How may I address you?”
“You can call me Kinjo.”
“Haisai, Kinjo-san! It’s nice to meet you.”
“You speak very good Japanese.”
“Ohh, no, I don’t!”
“Have you eaten? Would you like some tea and desserts? I live just here.”
Lynn felt easy around the old lady, unlike other uneasy encounters she had. And so, she smiled widely, and in polite Japanese, she agreed and followed her home.