Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge: Part 5

I've decided to take on this Popsugar Reading Challenge i found on Pinterest (follow me!). This is the fifth round of books i've read. Missed the last posts? Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

  • A book with bad reviews - If I Stay (Part 1) 
  • A book that made you cry - The Book Thief
  • A book set in another country - Above the East China Sea 

If I Stay was another book turned movie that i've been dying to watch but have restrained myself of doing, until i read the book. I looked it up on Amazon and read a small amount of reviews (something i always do before purchasing a book). It had TERRIBLE reviews but i really wanted to read it before watching the movie. Mia is a talented cellist who's life turns upside down (literally) when her family gets into a car crash that leaves her comatose and an orphan. She's in a sort of limbo, where she sees everything that is happening around her body. She also gets the chance to decide whether to live or die. It wasn't a terrible read (HA!). It was also pretty short and i'm still not sure why the author decided to divide it in two. I guess i'll have to pick up Part 2 soon. 

The Book Thief is a masterpiece! I think this is my absolute favorite read thus far. I was a little skeptical about reading another WWII story (so soon after reading All The Light We Cannot See), because of course these stories are heavy and sad. The story, set during WWII, follows Liesel a German girl who relies on the power of words to thrive and survive during this horrible era. Liesel is one of my favorite characters, EVER! She is so strong, intelligent and big-hearted. I especially loved her friendship with Max (the jew the Hubermannn's hide in their basement), so much that i actually bawled my eyes out more than once. If you haven't picked up this book you definitely should!! 

Above the East China Sea has my heart, because it's set in Okinawa! The book weaves the lives of Tamiko, an Okinawan girl alive during the Battle of Okinawa and Luz, an american girl living on Kadena Air Base. I loved being able to read a little about how the island was before the war and being able to compare it to Luz' experiences; which are a lot like mine. I also learned a lot about the Okinawan culture, for example, their views on the afterlife and family, etc. It was also fun reading about places/food/things i've experienced here on island!

It was hard though, to read about the horrors of the Battle of Okinawa, especially how the Japanese Imperial Army treated the island and it's people, but also the terrible stories they fed them about Americans. It gave me a different perspective of the War and my heart still hurts for the Okinawans. Can you believe i ended up reading yet another WWII book!! The reviews weren't all great but if you're in Okinawa i totally suggest ordering this book! 

Q: Have you read any of these book? If so, did you like them? Also do you have any books you'd recommend me? 

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Blogging To Do List + Reader Survey!

image by: Design Love Fest

Lately i've been thinking a lot about where i want this blog to go. I know i want it to continue to grow, but i'm still unsure as to the direction. I would love to turn Inspiration.Sparks into more of a travel blog, but let's be honest we don't really travel that often. I keep coming back to lifestyle blog, which i believe is sort of where i am at, currently. I do however want to add a few new topics to the mix, like style posts, vlogs, maybe some reviews (although not that many because i despise seeing review after review on a blogs feed), but you catch my drift. I think it's essential to sit down and think about these things maybe once a year. 

For now i have a to-do list in mind of things i want to achieve before this year ends. 
  1. Buy an external hard drive - i need to put my camera pictures elsewhere because my laptop has barely any space left and it's super slow. Plus it would be nice to know my pictures are safe outside my computer. 
  2. Buy Lightroom / Learn how to use it - Would you believe me if i tell you i use PicMonkey to edit my pictures? I'm embarrased to even type it but it's true. The website has been a godsend and it has served it's purpose, but it's definitely time to upgrade. 
  3. Create/Distribute a Reader Survey - started making one with Google docs but after some research i discovered Typeform and i love how easy and customizable it is. 
  4. Save up money to move from Blogger to Wordpress.org - This has been a goal of mine for quite some time and i believe it is time to make the big move.
  5. Get a new Blog design! - I love love love this design i won from Melyssa over at The Nectar Collective, but i really want something more interactive. 
  6. Order some Blog business cards - I would love to be able to have some business cards in my wallet, that way when i visit a shop/restaurant i plan on featuring i can easily leave my information or even to be able to pin it in a bulletin board, a lot of shops/cafes here have them.
Now if only i was made of money, am i right? HA! For now the first order of business is a reader survey! The goal of this survey is to learn more about you my lovely reader. It will help me narrow down the focus of the content i create. It'll also help me get to know my audience a little more in depth, especially what they enjoy reading, what they would like to see more, etc. Help me out - ->  The survey will be up for 2 weeks! Thanks in advance! ;) 

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Koinobori (鯉幟) over the Tengan River

Golden Week is a huge deal here in Japan, mostly because it is the longest vacation period of the year for most Japanese workers. The week consists of 7 major holidays, starting with the Emperor's Birthday and ending with Kodomo No Hi (こどもの日) or Children's Day. You can tell Golden Week is coming up when the beautiful Koi Carp Streamers make their colorful appearance outside homes, stores, and in even over the river! The Tengan River is just a few minutes from where we live and for a week or two it's decorated with these colorful streamers that signal the beginning of Summer. 

^^ the local elementary school also hangs these hand made koi fish and they are super kawaii! ^^
^^ the best part of walking around the river close to Children's Day is seeing all the cute little ones walking about ^^

I kept putting off writing this post, exactly like i did last year, i think it's because the pictures turned out soo bright and harsh because we walked around the river around 12pm on the brightest day! But anyways Happy Golden Week, even if it's a week late :P Haha! Click the links to read more about Golden Week and Children's Day

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Biking on Ie Island

I finally crossed a big activity off my Okinawa Bucket List, biking on Ie island with friends. We woke up super early and made it to Motobu Port for the 9am ferry to Ie-jima. The plan was to rent scooters and ride around the island, but of course sometimes things don't go as planned. Apparently we needed reservations to rent scooters especially during peak season (Lily Festival season), but it was either go on a tour or rent bikes. We decided to go with the bikes because we didn't want to be on a tight schedule and on a bus all day. It was an awesome experience, even if it nearly killed me, lol! 

Our first stop was the Ernie Pyle Monument, honoring the Pulitzer-Prize winning American journalist who worked as a travelling correspondent during WWII. He was killed in combat on this spot in Ie-jima during the Battle of Okinawa. Wanna know the craziest part? We visited his Monument on the 70th Anniversary of his death, and we had no idea!! While on the port we heard there was a memorial for him at 10:00am, so we wanted to make that our first stop. We parked our bikes and Ernie (another American visiting the Monument/not the deceased) was so happy to see us, he told us how it was the anniversary of his Ernie Pyle's death and he thought no one else was going to visit the Monument. The memorial was actually planned for the next day and we were kind of sad we were going to miss it.

We did a lot of stops, especially to take pictures, but mostly because there were tons of big hills on the first part of our day. Our second stop was the Houkon Memorial Tower, where 3,500 lives lost on Ie-jima during one of the fiercest fights of the Battle of Okinawa are commemorated. There is a memorial celebrated at the Memorial Tower every 21st of April and we also missed it by a couple of days.

^^ there's tons of signs and maps like the one above that make exploring the island super breezy ^^
^^ of course i had to get a picture at the cutest flower wall ^^

Next we stopped at Mt. Gusuku, the only mountain on the island, although it's more of a rock than a mountain. We thought it was going to be a nice hike, but actually it was more like super steep stairs all the way up. We stopped at got some Kakigōri (shaved ice) and we enjoyed them on the way up. The island consists mostly of farms and the beautiful view from the top of Mt. Gusuku was the whole reason i wanted to come back to Ie-jima.

^^ walking into this cave was incredibly surreal, because in 1945 150 villagers commited suicide inside ^^

Our next stop was the Ie-jima Country Club where we had the most delicious lunch. Sadly we were soo hungry/tired that i forgot to take any pictures, but trust me it was a feast! Next we paid a little fee to go into this pretty garden that had a beautiful variety of flowers; let's just say we got our flower fix.

Our last stop of the day was the Lily fields. Sure the whole point of coming to Ie island was to visit the Lily Festival, but sadly we came too early and the flowers weren't bloomed. We got some Ie Soda refreshments and walked around the cliffs instead.
^^ no trip to Ie island is complete without a little Ie Soda refreshments ^^ 

After walking around the cliffs for a few minutes we realized we had an hour to be back at the port; the last ferry leaves at 4:00. We were all so tired from biking that we actually thought we were going to miss it, but thankfully it only took us half an hour to get there.

^^ Ie-jima pothole ^^ 

^^ WE MADE IT!!! ^^
ps. i'm wearing these cuffed denim shorts, a kimono from Forever 21 and my trusty Salt Water Sandals
Other Ie Island adventures - > Lily Festival, Staycation at YYY Resort

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