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Month: May 2014

what we saw

what we saw

Japan. Japan is what we saw. We didn’t go there with a plan, exactly. We didn’t have a list of things we needed to see. Just a list of cities to travel to and a loose schedule of when we wanted to come and go from each place.

We were a little nervous about doing things that way. What if we were so indecisive that we didn’t do anything? What if we missed all the best stuff? What if we ended up so frustrated with each other that by the end of the trip we were hardly on speaking terms?

Ha. Ha ha ha.

It was awesome. It turned out pretty much as well as we could have hoped for. We saw so many great things, went to so many beautiful places. By 10:00 nearly every morning we would turn to each other and say: “Well, if we see nothing more today, it has already been worth it.”

There was the Christmas Hotel we ran across on our way to the temple in Narita. The Castle we stayed across the street from in Nagoya. The thousands and thousands of orange gates (and the breathtaking hike we took — off the beaten path — to get to the top of the shrine that they led to.

We ran to the Golden Temple in Kyoto and rubbed shoulders with all the uniformed school kids there. We bumped into some sister missionaries on the ferry to Sado Island and they caught us up on what’s been going on in Micah’s mission over the past decade or so. We spent our second Sunday at the Tokyo English speaking ward and made friends with a family there who invited us over for dinner that night.

And we walked until our legs hurt. Our unofficial motto was “Climb every staircase.” It served us well as we biked around Sado and stopped at every trail that looked interesting. One time we climbed 300 steps to the top of a hill, only to find a couple of burnt out buildings. Then we turned around and saw the most amazing view of rice fields and mountains. Three hundred steps well worth it.

It was technically my first international experience, but I have to say that even though we were in a foreign country, it felt very much like home. Home like Hawaii, because the landscape and architecture were very similar. And home like New York, because big cities and public transit is how we roll these days. Even though I don’t speak the language (yet) Micah and I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe someday we actually will make our home there for a little while. It’s something we’ve talked about often, and this trip made it seem like an idea worth pursuing. Maybe not right away, but not never.

what we read

what we read

Fun thing about Japan: all the English that just isn’t quite right. I love it. It’s so great. So I took pics of it whenever I thought to. Not all of these are Engrish. Some are just amusing signs and symbols. But I thought others of you may enjoy it as well.

And then there was the photo booth. Micah mentioned that Japanese photo booths were fun because you could add stickers and stuff, but we were unprepared for the giant leap forward they have taken in the past 13 years. We spent a good amount of time decking out our pictures in the re-touching room. I would like to note, however, that the size of my eyes and the thinness of our bodies were all done before we even got to the retouching room. The camera itself makes us look like anime characters.

what we ate

what we ate

Most of the Japanese food that was on our list of things to eat were things that I’d had before. Even made before: okonomiyaki, onigiris, udon, soba, tempura, tonkatsu, katsu kare, ramen. I was looking forward to trying it out in its native habitat.

But in addition to those stand-bys there were some new things: tako-yaki, shabu-shabu, black sesame ice cream. And lots and lots of Japanese pastries — which we had for breakfast nearly every day — and drinks (like Pocari Sweat).

Favorites included the kare (curry) ramen we had on Sado Island. The cute little ba-chan that made it for us after we spent several hours biking around in the rain totally made my day. She and her cute husband (who made the same thing for me again the next day) made me feel like if we moved there, we’d have family.

I also liked the okonomiyaki. I make it at home all the time, but it was so much different in Japan. So many different toppings! Ginger! Noodles! Corn! But the Bulldog sauce and mayo were the same. Also: mayo and Bulldog on the tako-yaki too. Excellent.

I’m a big fan of the melon-pan pastries. I had a melon-flavored melon-pan, filled with melon curd and whipped cream. And another with chocolate chips. I may be looking into making those at home.

The shabu-shabu was fun. Thin strips of raw meat delivered to our table where we swished it in boiling liquid for a few seconds until it was cooked. So fun. Especially since we didn’t necessarily know what we were doing. It was an adventure.

And the udon made me think that I need to learn that better. Good udon is . . . really good.

We could have passed on the sesame ice cream, and I did have a rather odd “salad” at some hole-in-the-wall in Nagoya. It had cold noodles and ice in it. Very odd.

Oh, and though they were both not-fantastic, there were a couple of fish-y things that were fun to look at: a fish-shaped corn cake filled with pastry cream, and topped with bananas and chocolate, and a funny looking fish “cookie” with anko (sweet red bean paste).

(Anxiously awaiting my first bowl of real ramen in Japan.)

what we did

what we did

We got on a plane. We flew across the country, then got on another plane and flew across the ocean. We flew from New York to Tokyo. Just because. Because we’ve been together for 10 years and that’s cool. We wanted to celebrate. And because Micah has been talking about showing me Japan for as long as we’ve been married, it seemed like it was about time to finally do it.

It wasn’t easy of course. I spent a couple of weeks before we left imagining every worst case scenario. I wrote a letter the night before we left telling our families what they should do with our kids if we didn’t return. And I cried as we rode on the train from our place to the airport. But after we boarded the plane and got in the air — as we took the next step — I felt more peaceful.

And the trip itself was heaven. Every place we went, everything we saw, every day was full of good things. We walked and walked and walked. We ran. We rode bikes. We took the shinkansen (bullet train). We took a ferry. And for 11 days Micah and I had nobody else to talk to but each other. Perfect.

There’s more to tell, of course. More to show. What we saw, what we ate, the people we met, the Engrish we took such joy in. I’ll share it all as soon as I can.

But for now, we’re happy to be home, back with our kids and in our own apartment (at least until next week, when we move to a new one), with that letter I wrote undisturbed in the top drawer of our dresser.

moving . . . over in the world

moving . . . over in the world

We’ve been looking for an apartment for a long time now. Seven months intensely, ten months less intensely. And we finally found one. We’ll be moving at the end of the month, and we are quite excited about it. Even though it isn’t necessarily bigger. Even though it isn’t really any closer to the boys’ school.

But it is closer to the park, where we spend so much time. It is closer to our friends, and that is important to us. It does have an “outdoor space” (meaning a balcony we share with our neighbors). It has five closets. And the bedrooms are equal sized so the kids can all share one. It has an open layout, so I can keep an eye on the kids while I’m making dinner. It has bike storage.

What more could we ask?

Not much, actually. We feel very blessed and lucky. This experience, more than any other in my life so far, has shown me the process of studying things out in my mind and coming to The Lord with my own conclusions and asking for help in reaching those conclusions.

Over the past several months as we’ve been searching, we came up with some very specific things we needed in an apartment. We came across apartments that had most of those things, but not all of them. We turned down an apartment that had more than we could have even imagined because it wasn’t in the right place. And we trusted that the list we had come up with was not only what we wanted, but what was actually best for our family. There were some tense moments that we waited out, but I feel like we stayed true to what we knew and it seems like we’re in a good place now.

And now we’re looking forward to the end of the month, and dreaming about what it will be like to have a balcony. Not to mention a bedroom without a child in it.