Monday, May 26, 2014

To those who serve

Its hard to be a part but not a part of the military life. There’s so much I don’t know and am outside of given I’m not married to a military man, but only dating him; however, its still very much a real aspect that affects every day of my life. Being honored to know and love someone who willingly joined our US military to serve our country is just that, a real honor.

He endures more than the average man his age, and faces many hardships and uncertainties that are more than some people could bare, but he does it because he wanted to be in the military and he’s proud of that. He knew the risks before joining and knows them now and still chooses to serve. Many men and women have sacrificed their lives and when people say it was a waste, it makes me sad. No one who joins the United States military would ever believe losing their life for their country was wasteful.

With that I’m forever grateful to G-man for willingly and unselfishly serving our country each and every day and to all of those who bravely gave their lives so I could sit here in my freedom to write and say what I want. I remember you today and every day.

                                                                                USS George Washington em165

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Weekend happenings

Its almost the end of my Monday and I sit here quietly as the sun drops lower in the sky. G is working away and I’m about to start Call the Midwife on my laptop. This weekend was once again a quiet one with G-man and me going on a walk and playing endless Wii. Are you a video game person? I’m not normally but playing Yahtzee and Battleship on Wii is our thing and we love beating each other. We’re a bit competitive.

I’ve been working on my night shots and took some of the harbor the other night. Its quite a challenge and I have to hand it to all night photographers who are skilled in this area. I have a lot to learn, but am currently happy with how this one turned out. I wanted to have the USS George Washington be clear and in focus (which is what proved most challenging), so I’m glad I was able to pull one off. If you can’t tell exactly, USS GW is below all of the cranes.
Per G-man’s instruction, I took a photo of his perfect grits he made one morning. They really were quite perfect. They were the slow cooked kind, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Since being with this Southern man of mine, I’ve come to appreciate and enjoy good grits. And I’ve come to learn, not all grits are created equal.
Along our walk we took, we found a set of stairs that are at least eight sets of {steep} stairs rolled into one. I accepted G’s halfhearted challenge to run them, and I almost died half way up, and practically died at the very top. They were incredibly hard and I was doubled over catching my breath for quite awhile at the top. But naturally, I loved them, and can see running them more and more. Speaking of stairs, Japan has a thing with letting them become practically covered in weeds. These stairs are both very much used by the residences and yet they almost look abandoned.
      photo 1 (12) photo 2 (9)

My math class officially starts today, and anyone who knows me knows I do not like math. I’m nervous and thrilled at the same time to take this class. Ok, that’s a lie. I’m not thrilled at all. The only thrill I have is at the prospect of being done with it in six short weeks. Thankfully its my only class, so I can put all my focus on it to do everything possible to understand what the heck I’m supposed to learn. I only have to take this one math class for my major, so knowing this is helping me through the next few weeks.

I wish you all a wonderful Monday and here’s hoping your weekends were nothing but fun.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

They say getting lost is good for the brain

The other day I set out to locate the park where the white Shogun’s memorial was displayed. If you aren’t familiar with it, its William Adams, and the book “Shogun” was written about him. It turns out his monument is actually in the town I’m staying in. I looked it up and discovered it was a simple 15 minute walk from the apartment.

This was great news, so I made sure to map it out and have it on my phone to follow, since I may or may not have a hard time locating things here.

At one point I came to a fork in the road (you may see where this is leading…). If you looked at my map, it showed that I would need to veer to the right, but the right had me go down the hill, when I knew that where I would eventually end up was up the hill. However, following my map and knowing I was 85% sure I was going the wrong way, I went right and walked down a steep slope to the base of the hill. I can’t quite say why when being 85% sure I was going the wrong way I kept going, but I did. I figured if anything else, it would let me explore the little town I’m in and see what it has to offer. I admit, the whole time I’ve been here I haven’t gone beyond the apartment and the train station (which is a straight shot), so I was okay going the wrong way.

I walked and walked and as I passed old rickety homes, I saw through overgrown weeds and limbs a shrine gate at the top of a lot of stairs built into the hill.
The stairs were blocked by flower boxes, but undeterred, I stepped over them and made the climb to the top to see what and why it was there. The whole way had a bit of a spooky vibe to it. It was eerily quiet except for the sound of the bugs humming and the closer I got to the top, the more the brush thickened. I passed through the gate and there sat stones protected by two fox or animal statues on each side; at least I think they were there as if to protect. There were no signs or descriptions, so I had no way of knowing what or who it was for.
After a short time I felt uncomfortable and oddly vulnerable and began making me descent back to the street. It was a long street. At the very start of my walk, there was an old man sitting, hunched over his walker. I passed him and made my way down the long road and when I came to the very end of the road, there were more stairs. This time, even steeper than the previous ones I found. They started out and veered to the left, but also continued into nowhere. I can only imagine what used to be at the top of these stairs.

I went left and climbed up up up along the hillside never once coming across anyone. I felt a bit uncomfortable the whole time. Partly because I was in a dress and sandals (not the best hiking gear), partly because I had just read a blog post about all the deadly bugs in Japan, and partly because no one else was around and I was nervous I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. But I kept on.  After climbing and winding my way along the pathway for a good 20 minutes, I figured I had to be close to the park even if I came in from the wrong direction, but then I saw a guy and I got nervous I was going to get in trouble, so I high-tailed it before he could see me and made my way back down. Call me a scaredy cat.

After making the long trek back down the road, I passed the old man making his way inch by shuffled inch down the road. It must take him hours to walk what would take a normal person twenty.

I finally accepted defeat and went back to the fork to go left, but even then I wasn’t sure where this park was. I walked for another 15 minutes unable to find it and at that point I called a truce. I’d been walking in flat sandals for almost two hours in all types of terrain, and my feet couldn’t take anymore. On my way back to the apartment, I stopped to take a (terrible) picture of the view.

..and of the beautiful flower bushes.

..before finally getting back safely to the apartment. I looked up online where I was in relation to the park, and it supposedly claimed I was just mere steps from the entrance. All I had to do was round a corner. hmm we’ll see next time I go if that’s true. This park boasts spectacular views of the Yokosuka harbor along with beautiful grounds and Shogun’s monument, so I plan on finding it; I’ll just be sure I’m wearing hiking gear next time in case I take one of my famous wrong turns.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A day of birthday fun

Last month was G-man’s birthday and what was great about it was I actually got to celebrate it with him. This is rare, as we’re usually apart. I never know what to do or what to get him for his birthday, and I know I’m not alone on the “what to get a man” for x,y,z, but I wanted it to be special without going crazy. He’s not a “go crazy” kind of guy, so balance was essential.

After making him breakfast, giving him a card and taking it easy, we jumped on the train and went off to explore. A few days earlier as we were coming back from Mt. Fuji, we had stopped at a train station and I watched this old man stand up, turn to the door facing a hill, and begin crossing his hands over his head and face clearly worshipping something. I craned my neck to see if I could see whatever it was he was seeing and there was this enormous white face at the top of this hill. It was massive and imposing. I didn’t know what it was so G looked it up when we got back to the apartment, and it turned out to be the Kannon Temple; a statue of a goddess, in Ofuna. Once we found out this site had relics from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, we decided we wanted to see it.

Not too many tourists know about this temple so beyond a couple Japanese people, we had it virtually to ourselves. The flame inside the stones is an actual flame from the Hiroshima atomic bomb. They took it from one of the many fires and have kept it going to this day. You can just barely see it in the circle window.

The cherry blossoms were near the end but we still got to enjoy what was left of them as we explored the grounds.

G-man took this so I had to share. He’s been using my camera more and more and it’s nice seeing him want to use it since I’ve been the “photo taker” these days.em157em159
The temple itself is so imposing as you can see. It was created to symbolize peace and the statue is hollow and in the back you can go inside it. G-man wasn’t feeling that too much, so I peeked inside and it had a bunch of buddha statues and candles in the room which I read is where people go to pray.
Run! Run! kiddingem162
Afterward, we decided to continue on to Yokohama to see the Cup Noodle Museum. Can we talk about how it isn’t Cup O’ Noodle?? Simply “Cup Noodle”?! This is mind blowing, but any way, we decided we wanted to make our own noodles and bought the tickets. We were told we had to hurry as it was going to start in three minutes, so we raced up the stairs and got in line. As we’re getting our cups from the vending machine, we see through glass this class going on making noodles. We remark how fun that looked and talk about if we’re going in there next as we get ushered to our table to begin drawing on our cups. We’re a little confused but watch others and see we’re supposed to draw whatever we want to make our cups our own.

We’re lost at this point. Neither of us are crafty or creative for that matter and we have no idea what to draw. After lots of thought, I drew a sakura tree with blossoms flying in the wind and G-man drew a plane from America to Japan. Once we were done, we got in line to have our ingredients put in, and again we looked through the window and watched the group making their own noodles and again remarked on how fun it looked. As we got closer to the front of the line, we watched children excitedly turning the nob which puts their noodles into their cup and it was hands down the cutest thing. Naturally we had to join in on the fun, and document our turn.
Once our cups were sealed, we began to make our way out and that was when G-man commented that he thought we got in the wrong line. We realized then, that we should have been inside that room making those noodles with the class. We even paid for the tickets and didn’t even realize it. I think its funny we talked about it the entire time never thinking we should have been inside. I felt bad, but we decided we would just come back another time to do it. The museum is definitely geared toward children but adults can have just as much fun and we were glad we went. It was a nice way to spend his birthday.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Girl babble

Happy Monday to all. My Monday started out getting up before the Japanese Navy blasted their ship’s horns, so that’s a victory in my book. I actually managed to video it to capture just how loud their horns are at 6am, and maybe I’ll eventually share it because really, it makes no sense to do it every single morning with them pointed into town.

Any way, switching to girly things. The girls here wear dresses for every type of weather. In the winter, I felt the odd man out always being in boots and jeans where they would be in the smallest of skirts and bare legs. I felt like a downright wimp as I shivered and they stood still. I couldn’t understand how they could wear dresses in the freezing wind and snow, but they did. In Spring, I fully expected to see the dresses and shorts but I’m even more confused because a lot of them are in pants. One time I was the only one on the train in shorts, and once again, I felt like the odd man out. Like I’m clearly missing the memo that described what is worn when, but apparently its pants weather and all I want to do is wear dresses and shorts! I’m on the brink of having a complex.


I still decide to wear shorts or a dress even when the majority aren’t. I offer proof from today as I’m in my dress, everyone is in pants, and its been a beautiful day.
photo (10)and me…
Over the weekend, it was nice and slow. G-man and I took to playing Yahtzee and Battleship and making really odd fruit smoothies that happened to turn out delicious. Who knew a can of peaches, almonds, peanut butter, oatmeal, and a bunch of other things would turn out good? We also watched the movie Gravity and let me tell you, that was one of the worst movies we’ve seen. We couldn’t help but have a running commentary throughout the whole film, it was that horrible. And then the ending? Biggest joke. How that movie was up for best picture award is beyond me. Someone must have paid the academy to be put on the list.

I was able to call my momma yesterday to wish her a happy day; hopefully everyone got to love on their moms a little extra yesterday. They deserve some extra lovin’.

While I was out the other day, I stopped to look through some clothes and couldn’t resist snapping a shot of this “engrish” shirt. As one friend suggested, the mustache wearer is clearly drunk.
photo 1 (11)
If you’ve been around the blogging/instagram worlds you’ll have heard of macarons. Not “macaroons” but macarons; the French kind. Well, they’re loved by many and I couldn’t get all the hype with them (never having tasted one) and almost didn’t want to because they were starting to become trendy (I’m not a trend follower). However, when I was in Napa with my sister, we stopped at a bakery and I finally tasted them. They were good, but they weren’t fall on the ground in amazement, fabulous.

When I was at LAX, another bakery was selling them, and I gave it another chance. Both the vanilla and pistachio tasted exactly the same; bland and nasty, and I was convinced either I was nuts for hating these, or people just talked them up too much for fear of being ostracized for admitting they weren’t delicious.

Then I was walking around Yokohama mall and happened to come upon another bakery from Paris, selling nothing but French pastries, and for what I agreed would be the last time, I went for a macaron-pistachio. The woman wrapped it in plastic, then wrapped a cold pack in a cloth to place in my bag for the macaron to remain cold, and at that point, I knew this was going to be a different experience. And it was. I got home, took my first bite, and I finally got a taste of a real macaron. It was good, really good. All the other ones were poor imitations to this one. I finally feel like (though I’m not a die hard fan), I at least have an understanding what the big deal is with them.
photo 2 (8)
Have you had one? Are you a big fan of them?

What did you get to do over the weekend?

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Unexpected visitors

Japan has one thing over anywhere else I’ve been: unexpected visitors.

9/10 times it’s a maintenance worker, or electrician, or plumber, or police officer…you name it, they’ll randomly ring the bell announcing their arrival. I never have a clue anyone is coming at all until the intercom on the wall announces someone is at the gate.

That’s another thing that’s different here. There’s two intercom bells. The first one is attached to the video feed that lights up when someone is downstairs needing to be rang up (much like an apartment in New York (for instance)). The other intercom bell goes off when that person is at the gate. Not the front door, but the gate that is about 10ft from the front door. They won’t come to the front door until you open it and allow them to pass the gate (which is unlocked). Its odd, and to be truthful, I don’t even know if I’m doing it right, but I always go out the front door to grant them access to pass the gate.

They always step in, take off their shoes, and proceed to attempt to explain with hand gestures why they’re needing in the apt, and I’ll always step back and let them do their thing. Like I said, I never know when they’re coming, so being “presentable” is almost always essential. I’m not always presentable, mind you.

The other day, at around 7:30am, G-man and I were on the couch, drinking our coffees, playing on our computers when I think I hear someone at the door. No one rang the gate bell, so this was odd. I almost chalked it up to being the wind, but then I heard more noise at the door, so I started snapping my fingers at G (all secret squirrel, someone is at the door, be quiet like), and am watching the door as if someone is going to barge in with guns blazing.

At this point, its obvious someone is definitely trying to get in as they are pulling on the door handle, and sticking their key into the keyhole repeatedly. G jumped up and opened the door just at the woman who finally realized she was in fact NOT at her apt, was walking away. She was apologizing over and over, completely embarrassed and we had the biggest chuckle over it all. This is Japan. The whole idea of someone barging in early in the morning to steal or wreak havoc just doesn’t happen like in America.

Ironically, the next day the gate bell rang and when I answered the door, there stood a cop; just out of the blue. We invited him in, and he had G fill out a resident card, but its these kinds of things I have to be prepared for. Thankfully I had already showered, had my makeup on, and G had done the breakfast dishes, so we had everything presentable for visitors, but they just show up unannounced!

All of this had me think of something my mom told me awhile ago. When she was a new mom in her 20’s and they had moved to a new neighborhood, the neighbors just showed up unannounced to welcome her, and her house was a mess. She said she was so embarrassed by that fact that from that moment on, she always made sure it was in order just in case those visitors arrived. It takes a lot of stress off us when things are tidy. Even if they aren’t deep cleaned, just having them be tidy saves us from such unnecessary stress. I’ve followed that school of thought for awhile and I’m glad for it, especially since I get so many surprise drop ins here. Even living in the states, I hold to this because dirty just gives me anxiety.

Talking about this makes me see I need to roll up my workout mat, wash the dishes and take my johnny one sock that’s in the living room to the laundry.

How do you handle unexpected visitors?

Do you keep a tidy home for this reason?

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I can read

It wasn’t until I started going to other countries, and Japan in particular that I really began appreciating the fact that I can read. Granted its only English, but I’m struck often times with how thankful I am that I can easily read my own language and not even give it a thought as I scan pages or signs.

Since being in Japan as often as I have, the words, “I don’t know how to read” have been said in my head over and over and if I’m completely honest, its very humbling saying those words; borderline embarrassing. Kanji is darn near impossible to read (for me), and no matter how much I think I’ll memorize a particular symbol for a word, its gone out of my memory the moment I step on the train or close down the app that has it. Its hard stuff.

I saw a girl on the train yesterday with a book that said “I Can Read” in English, and it was a story of a fox named Pierre and his cheese, and I couldn’t help but silently commend her for taking the steps to learn English, to the point of reading it. She wasn’t embarrassed to have a very basic elementary children’s book visible, she held it up high and then went for the next one when she was done with Pierre. I hope at some point that I don’t just learn a few key phrases and words in Japanese but also get to learn to read a bit of it as well, no matter how hard it will be.

We finally ventured out yesterday and made our way to the Ebisu Museum (beer museum) and due to a “passenger accident” (I’m thinking someone might have jumped in front of the train), the train was delayed 45 minutes, and by the time it got to our station, it was jam packed.
photo 1 (10)
We got to the museum and naturally it was closed due to the holidays here. Golden Week at its finest; so we grabbed a random bite, stopped to get a massage (best choice of the day) and made the long trek back to the apartment. *not the apartment, but wouldn’t it be neat to live there!?*
photo 2 (7)

G-man goes back to work today so I’ll be putting my tourist legs on and heading out to explore the sites. I’m not sure where I’ll be going, but it’ll be somewhere.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Rise and Shine

I didn’t think I’d ever utter these words, but 5am wakeup calls are becoming enjoyable. I wanted to say “becoming my jam”, but I’m not 20…or a hipster, so “enjoyable” it is. I was out within minutes of getting to the apartment in Japan Friday. I didn’t sleep at all the entire ten hour flight. I’ve never been a good sleeper on planes; the whole sitting upright thing doesn’t work for me, so instead I watched movies, played games, and learned how to count to ten in Japanese (something I’ve wanted to learn for awhile now). When I got really bored, I took my phone with me and took pictures pretended I was going to climb the stairs to the second level to take a peek (yes, I was really bored). I asked one of the flight attendants if I could go up but she gave me the “can I get back to you?” speech and never heard from her again. Maybe next time.
stairsme and stairs

When I went to L.A. my friend (unexpectedly) asked if I could babysit her daughter beginning at 6, which is why I all of a sudden had a deadline; and with originally thinking my flight was at 1:45, the only time my friend was going to be able to take me to the airport was at 8:30am. I was not looking forward to that!

Since all the times got worked out, I was able to get up with my friend at 7, and workout with her (the Brazilian Butt DVD is no joke, my friends). Then after she dropped me off at the airport, I hopped on the bus and within five minutes of being on the road, I realized I forgot an entire bag of clothes for G-man AND my iPad at my friend’s house. I was so upset. So so upset. Thanks to my dear friend, Amanda, she gave me five minutes to beat myself up over it (after about 30 minutes of constant complaining) and then ordered me not to think about it again. True friend right there putting me in my place. It actually did the trick and though I was worried telling G-man since I felt horrible about it, he actually gave me a lot of grace, and felt bad that I beat myself up over it so much.

The entire weekend has been nothing but relaxation. Though I’m waking up at 5 every morning, it has let me see the sun shine bright, and has given me the opportunity to take naps during the day. Plus, spending some good time with G has been nothing short of great. He made breakfast (steak, eggs, and grits) on Saturday and I made breakfast (crepes and eggs) on Sunday and all we’ve been doing is relaxing in the living room watching movies.

Let me talk about movies. If you want to cry, and I don’t mean “shed a single tear” but “bawl your eyes out” cry, then watch My Life with Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman; because oh my gosh, you will cry and cry and cry. Then once the movie is over, you’ll keep crying and be unable to talk for a good thirty minutes after because, “how could you possibly talk about ANYTHING after that movie?!” When all emotions were (thought to be) in check a couple hours later, we began to bring it up and I had to demand we stop because I started getting emotional again. My advice to anyone is give it a good solid 24 hours after watching to even remotely consider discussing the movie.

I wish I were joking.
my life
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty however is a happy movie that I would recommend watching next. It’ll help bring your spirits back up. G-man was miraculously given a couple days off this week, so we’re hoping to either catch a baseball game or maybe even a sumo match! We’re kind of dying to see one, so if we do, you can count I’ll have my camera with me.

What did you all do this weekend?

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

It always works out

No matter what, God always takes care of everything. What I thought would be a crazy morning today instead turned out to be perfect. I have to say yesterday where I said I will sacrifice all things in order to enjoy my coffee turned out to be more true than I meant. Well, I guess I did mean it, but I ended up leaving two hours later then I meant which had me scrambling out the door.

Then the entire way there (it’s a 5 hour drive) was nothing but heavy traffic and bad drivers. Cue the stressed driving. By the time I made it more than half way there I realized I still had plenty of time to get to LA, and began relaxing a bit and lo and behold, I arrived just a few minutes before 6pm, which was when I needed to get there.

Now, the whole time I thought my flight left at 1:45pm. This.whole.time. But then I looked (for probably the tenth time) and FINALLY noticed it said 3:45pm! That (thankfully) changed EVERYTHING, because that meant that I didn’t have to be at the first airport at 8:30am like I thought, but instead could be there at 12:45pm. I can’t tell you how much of a relief this was because I had my final exam to take, that was a two hour exam, and no matter what, I couldn’t figure out when I was going to be able to take it (and I only had two days!). SO, since I had all morning, I was able to get it done (in just over an hour, I might add), and now I’m completely, officially done with my Spring classes! YAY!

God just has it all figured out, He really does. I think of Him sitting there patiently waiting for me to realize my correct flight time, and that it all will come together.

With all that, I am now going to get ready, rearrange my two suitcases…yes, I had to bring both suitcases and they’re both SO heavy! and get my little fanny out that door for my ride. Next time you hear from me, I’ll be in Japan! Woot!

((my “I’m two hours late but finally on the road” face))
photo (9)

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