I found a fantastic souvenir: a sanshin kit. The sanshin is a traditional (around 500 years old) Okinawan instrument. Its salient features are a squarish body covered with snakeskin, and a long thin neck with three strings. It is similar to the Japanese shamisen, which it predates; the shamisen, a slightly larger instrument, was apparently based on the sanshin.
I go away for a few days, and all hell breaks loose. Bush & co. are fighting to bring “democracy” to Iraq. I’d take that more seriously if it didn’t come from the mouth of an allegedly corrupt, second generation President who didn’t even win the election.