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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Everyday Okinawan People, Meet Milano


Meet Milano

Two and half years of mapping places on Okinawa, you get to meet a lot of people from different walks of life. I met Milano 2 years ago at a local cafe where she was working as a barista. She was just a happy-go-lucky gal, cheerful and eager to serve anyone a fresh brew of coffee. She always laughed and always had a smile. There was never a day I saw her otherwise.

Two years later she is still that same smiley and cheerful girl I met when I first walked in. Milano, is the quintessential Okinawan girl – nice heart and great attitude, all with an endearing personality. So it was a bitter-sweet moment for me when I heard she was leaving for the mainland. I know a bigger and brighter future awaits Milano, but the cafe will be a little less brighter without her.

I sat down with her a few days before she left. She was excited, yet I could tell she was going to miss her friends and family. I had asked Milano, “How do you do it?” “How do stay upbeat everyday?” She talked for a few minutes and despite the language barrier, I knew what she was trying to say. She likes to make people happy. It is in her nature, it a kind smile, a funny laugh, or a welcoming “hello”. That is who Milano is.

So I asked if I could share this picture of her to at least give others a dose of what I was talking about. Her smile says it all, and it truly represents that quintessential Okinawan girl. Sharing it was also my way of saying “thank you” to Milano and to a larger degree, a way of preserving her in my memory.

Okinawans, like Milano, have a certain magic in their personalities. It becomes contagious. Nothing you can fully grasp, just admire. It's just there... a mystery all to itself. And like Milano, Okinawans have a certain kindness about them. You see it when they are children till the time they become parents, to that moment they finally become that Obaa-chan or Ojii-chan. Milano is but one, but there are many just like her. Good people with good hearts – the true treasures of Okinawa.

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