On Monday, May 5, the day finally arrived: Naha Hari Festival, a.k.a. dragon boat race day! The forecast: heavy thunderstorms, turning to heavy rain/wind. So it was a good thing we spent all of those hours practicing in the cold rain, wind, and waves. Plus, with our white shirts, even if we didn't win the race, we had a lock on the wet t-shirt contest.
We met on Kadena Air Base and received our custom-made tutus as we boarded the bus. At 9:00, we started heading down Highway 58 toward Naha in the pouring rain. Around 9:15, nowhere near the port yet, the bus made a turn. Our coaches stood up. "The race has been canceled."
Sea conditions were so bad that, for the first time in 38 years, the whole festival was shut down. People attempting to park were turned away. We headed back toward Kadena, waiting for word on when it would be rescheduled, people around us talking about having to get a babysitter or substitute for another day. Next Saturday would work well since we were all planning to be at our post-season party anyway. Then we got the really bad news: it wouldn't be rescheduled. At all. They have to shut down the Port of Naha for the festival and it would cost too much revenue to shut it down for another day.
Three months of training. Three months of standing in the sea, paddling to nowhere, or sitting on a never-moving dock, paddling off the side. And no chance to ever compete. By the time we heard, we were back at Kadena, a parked bus full of deeply unhappy women in tutus.
Naturally, our thoughts turned to alcohol.
Kadena has a Chili's, which I am proud to say I had not yet visited in the year we've lived here. We decided we'd go there. The problem was that it was only just 10am and Chili's didn't open until 11. Fortunately, a couple of our teammates happened to know that the bowling alley opened at 10.
They wouldn't serve liquor at 10am (outrageous!) but were happy to sell us beer. As it was Cinco de Mayo, a Corona felt like the obvious choice. Yes, we wore our tutus. Because when you're drinking in a bowling alley at 10am on a Monday, dressed just like 30 other women and drenched just from the dash from the car, you may as well be as ridiculous as possible.
The Chili's manager, contacted by our coach, agreed to let us in a little early, so at 10:50, we moved the party to their bar. Where we proceeded to become more drunk and disorderly for the next few hours. Bad decisions were made (i.e., shots). Good times were had. One coach's bikini top ended up on a lot of girls' heads, worn bonnet-style. Photos of this portion of the day will not be included here.
I will say one thing: when you have to walk through the entire restaurant side of Chili's to get to the bathroom, past all of the people in uniform having lunch with their coworkers and families, and you're wearing a tutu with a hoodie and spandex capris, it's nice to be a little bit tipsy.
Around 3:30 (I think?) the party moved to a teammate's house (via taxi) and around 5:00, our poor sober husbands started arriving to drive us home.
So, while we are undefeated in terms of dragon boat races by virtue of having never actually raced, I'm pretty sure we crushed all of the other teams at day drinking. No training required.