There is something about the Okinawans… I am half Okinawan. My grandparents from my father side moved to Brasil before WWII. Last month I visited Okinawa’s main island, Naha, to meet my aunties and uncles that were coming from Brasil to participate in the 6th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival. Okinawan descendants from all over the world meet every 5 years in Okinawa to celebrate their traditions, delicious food, unique dance, music and culture. But my main reason to be there was to spend time with my dear aunties that I haven’t seen for a while. And I was also interested to learn a little more why the Okinawans are known to live a long and healthy life–the centenarians!
Our first morning in our ancestor’s land, we spent at the Makishi Public Market, buying gifts and treats, and grazing all day, from fresh fruits, to super bitter healthy goya, to famous andaguis, and sipping “longevity” tea, as the friendly vendor told us. In the afternoon, we marched and danced with 5,000 other passionate Okinawan descendants in the main street of Naha, while hundreds of thousands of spectators, mostly the local community, greeted us with warm and huge smiles.
At night, instead of going to a restaurant we decided to buy food at the grocery store and eat all together at the hotel room, since the grocery stores are full with fresh and delightful meals. This allowed us to slowly enjoy the food while catching up with each other all night long. We liked that experienced so much, that we did that for all of our following breakfasts and dinners.
Everyday we went sightseeing, and when you are traveling with a group of 13 adults and 2 babies, things can get messy and disorganized, no matter how much you plan. One day we were all super hungry and tired, so we desperately found a tiny little restaurant with only one item on the menu: Okinawan ramen. And they just had enough food for 11 people. Instead of being frustrated, we celebrated and we were thankful they had the food ready to be served! When the bowls of ramen came, we caused a scene in the restaurant with bowls being tossed from one table to another table. A few of my aunties wanted to make sure that everyone was going to have enough food. And somehow we all had more than enough to eat.
And that’s pretty much how the trip was: a delightful mess with everyone kindly taking care of each other all the time. By the end of this trip I realized that I didn’t need to spend this time in Okinawa to learn why Okinawans have great longevity, because everything was already very familiar to me and it felt like home. This visit, watching the dynamic of my family made me aware that I was raised in a family where the Okinawan lifestyle was the norm.
We were raised to be kind with each other, to listen with compassion, and to talk with respect, especially with the elders; to be loving and generous with everything and everyone; to make delicious food to be shared in a party that can last all day; to laugh about the most silly little things; to sing karaoke even if you are a terrible singer; to work to have a purpose in life and to serve others; to take care of yourself to feel good; to play outside with your friends and family, enjoying the sunshine; to share old stories and wise experiences; to be positive specially when things are not so great; to be thankful for the visible and invisible things; and to pray for all the blessings and challenges because they also make us stronger.
What the centenarians do to live longer & healthier life:
move, love, stay lean, eat less, graze,
eat pure, laugh, plan, stay flexible, serve others,
enjoy music, swim, think, go slow, have fun, sleep,
be positive, work, stay sexy, & pray.
Because of my family’s lifestyle since I was born, especially the influence of my dear and beautiful aunties, I have a pretty good chance of living a long life. It might not be a 100 years, but it will definitely be years full of health, happiness and joy!
some dreams are worth sharing…