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Sunday, January 28

Finals Prayer

Finals begin in exactly five hours. One today. One Wednesday and the last on Thursday. I wish I had a lucky shirt. Or hat. Or even some stupid socks. Instead all I have are one of those big ‘ole invisible dunce caps stuck firmly to my noggin.

This is the first time I have taken a final in six years! I’ve had a perpetual headache for about a week and my stomach has decided to voice its apprehension into the mounting complexities. I certainly hope this trauma is worth it in the end.

Please send “happy, happy, joy, joy” thoughts my way!

Or if you are extra kind, perhaps a simple flask of vodka that would fit into my unlucky socks and improve their fortune?

Saturday, January 27

The Story of Nagauta Musume Doujyogi

Last Saturday (yes, I am totally behind in just about everything these days) found Kimono Hubby and myself at the January Kamakura Chapter Ikebana International event. This time it wasn’t about flowers as I will definitely never brooch the subject of him joining me for an Ikebana demonstration again. This time… it was all about dance! A much more manly activity. Er. Well. He liked it anyway. Totally beside the point! The event was the “Musume Doujyoji” Performance and one of our Chapter members, Junko Katano who is usually the daily interpreter (seriously multi-talented, this one) had been bestowed the honor of performing the dance. And I do mean honor. It was described to us that if you were a dancer and there was one dance in all of your life that you wanted to perform, this would be that dance. The interpretation of how she asked her sensei to perform… “oh, please, please, please, pleeeease!” Begging works because there she was when we arrived, in full white face laying in wait for the finishing touches.

As the crowd settled into the room, the costume Junko would wear hung grandly on a rack for all to gasp over. This was no ordinary kimono costume. When all pieces of the kimono were adorned, including a head piece made of real hair and a hat on top of that, the outfit is said to weigh over fifty pounds. Remember this is a dance and therefore she will have to move in this get-up. Once she is dressed, Junko is sat down and the crowd is shown how her face is painted. Different colors lining the eyes are meant to represent the age of the character. Junko donned a deep red telling us that she was going to be playing the part of a teenager. The results of the intense red and black makeup was truly profound and dramatic. From the entire time we had seen her, not once had any expression crossed Junko’s face. She was a picture of serenity and she was ready to perform for the crowd before her. That is, if she could stand up.

The legend behind the dance goes something like this:

The story of Nagauta Musume Doujyoji is about love, murder, action and rescue. As legend goes, Princess Kiyohime transformed herself into a snake in order to kill her lover, Anchin, who has decided he no longer wants or loves her. Anchin thinks he has escaped the Princess by hiding in the bell of Doujyoji. She finds him and encircles the bell, aiming to crush the bell and Anchin hiding inside. Noh and Kabuki theaters have taken this legend and written the dance of Musume Doujyogi around it. We saw an abbreviated version because in a theater, the dance is typically 80 minutes long. After the performance, I am eager to get myself to Tokyo for a kabuki theater performance.

During the dance, a man would quietly come onto the stage and provide the Princess with her various props including a Japanese fan, towel, small drum and hand drums. He would also have the responsibility of changing her costume without her leaving the stage for a second and he did so with much gusto when the bright red, outer layer of her kimono was stripped from her back displaying another gorgeous, pale yellow layer underneath. Not a single fake hair on her head was disturbed in the magical process.

What strikes me most about this type of performance is how very calm it seems. Even in the height of the action, moves are made quite methodically. Music plays in the background emphasizing the story but no words are spoken. It is strictly the movement of the performed that tells the viewer about the story. The effect is mesmerizing. The performance was another reminder of how the Japanese in their everyday life seem to always move with such vigilance and grace.

While I can’t see Hollywood ever grasping on to this art form and turning it on to the mainstream, it possesses beautiful merit. If nothing else, I’m hooked!

Wednesday, January 24

Are not diamonds the gift to give at the six month mark?

My sixth month anniversary of living here in Japan came and went quietly on Tuesday. I spent my day substituting at the elementary school and my night studying for finals while Kimono Hubby worked until well after midnight. I can’t help but think it should have been better acknowledged than it was. After all, these past six months have been some of the most eye-opening, frustrating, lonely, changing times of my life and I feel almost entirely like a different person from the person I was on the day our plane touched down at Narita.

I was told to expect a multitude of emotions. I braced myself for those emotions. However, no state of readiness could have prepared me for those first months. I was so supremely confident in our decision to move halfway around the world and all that lay waiting for me to experience. How incredibly naïve I was despite all of my planning and preparation both physically and mentally.

Our first days were filled with obvious and overwhelming excitement. Yet, it would only be a few weeks before denial firmly set in. Never had I been so disappointed in myself. My over-eagerness to experience this life has caused me to do some pretty spontaneously, stupid things before, but nothing on such a level as this. In the back of my head, I knew it had been a carefully thought out decision that KH and I had discussed for years but I couldn’t let go of the idea that somehow my impulsivity had let me down again. It would take many teary tantrums and then simply moving on to the next stage to remind myself of the reasons I had obscured in the deepest recesses of my thoughts as to why we chose to move so far away. This was not merely some faddish idea we had concocted.

Gratefully, I can say that no longer does that blue moon shine down on me as it first did. Only rarely do I revert back to those teary tantrums and even then they are more the voice of my frustrations at not being able to fulfill some silly perceived need. I am still frequently misunderstood and often misunderstand. But the fault is my own that I haven’t conquered more of the language. Even more importantly, I’ve learned to recognize the distinctions of a need versus a want. When I so often can’t get what I want, I just move on and do without. Because of this, my life has developed a straightforward quality, a much more effortless way of being.

The moments when tears do arise are often because I start thinking of someone. Not that I want to run home and be by their side anymore… I just miss them. The tears purely signify my love for them. But I can call or email every single person I love and miss on a daily basis if I wish to. Of course, that may be in the middle of the night for them, but keeping in contact is so marvelously easy in this age of computer technology. Even on my lonely days, I am never truly alone.

The one thing that I just cannot seem to fathom yet is the biggest change of all. Japan has truly become my home. The States will always be my true home, but Japan is where my heart is these days and I respect the credo that “home is where the heart is.” Startlingly, it is. We are making new roots every day that we wake up in the Land of the Rising Sun. Beyond all of the initial sadness, beyond my constant questioning of our decision to move here, I would never have imagined that life in Japan would ever feel so familiar. And so right.

In six months, I have soaked up the days spent here in many ways. Even sometimes in no way at all beyond what I viewed from my couch. As I keep evolving through the transition, Japan is a more and more beautiful place that has come to be a blessed with a new understanding of home.

I truly wish I could better express the feelings I have about the past six months but sadly words are failing me today.

Life has changed and shared with me both its highest ups and its lowest downs, bestowing invaluable lessons on me. What more could a girl ask for of a six month anniversary?

Friday, January 19

A Little Tip

Should you ever be so inclined to not pass up those adorable blue-green Ralph Lauren cargo pants thinking they would be great to wear for subbing... And should you be so inclined to not wash them before wearing them because you just know they are clean and you are very lazy like that… Do not be surprised when you are walking around the classroom with your hands stuffed in your pockets for warmth and you pull them out to point to something for a student only to you realize that you are smurf-matizing right in front of an entire class of freshmen’s eyes.

Once your new blush has stopped competing with the color of your hands, calmly shove your hands into your armpits and keep them there for the next hour. You can wash them once the laughter subsides, as the students are leaving the room after the bell.

A tip from me to you… just don’t buy the damn blue-green pants no matter how damn cheap you think they are.

Oh and when you go home that night? You can say a prayer that you were wearing matching blue-green underwear as you spend the next half hour scrubbing die off the length of your very stupid legs.

Tuesday, January 16

Proper Techniques To Be Used For Superior Avoidance Skills

One more paper to go. And I’ll be damned if I can find any motivation to start. With three down (and pretty darn good, I might add… particularly the one on the 1920s being a decade of downfall rather than the commonly held prosperity notions), I just can’t stand the thought of writing anything more than emails to my friend BB about the new Japanese socks I just sent her. Pretty, no?

*socks chillin'

*socks getting ready to eat some rice

*socks giving their Arlington gang sign

I am open to suggestions as to any other activities that I could do in place of starting on this last paper which will have me evaluating the crisis management and wartime leadership of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Nixon. So far I have cleaned out my file cabinet and done all the shredding that has laid on the floor for two months, made the bed and then lay there spacing on it for a good twenty minutes, hung up all of the clothes laying on the floor in my closet that didn’t make the final suitcase cut on our trip to the states in mid-December, done the laundry which should have been done last week, read all of my favorite blogs, researched for my upcoming trip to Sapporo, tried to get a few people to chat on Skype with me so my hands would not be free for paper typing and revised my resume to be ready for that job in two more years I will need to hunt for. I've even cleaned the toilets. Who does that to avoid writing a simple paper?

Now I sit here pouring more gratuitous drivel into the internet, the last thing that the monster ever needs. But I am brain dead and that is just going to have to suffice for today.

I can tell you a story about subbing yesterday. First grader asks to go to the restroom and I agree as we are inbetween activities. Minutes tick by and she doesn’t return which not only I noticed but a few other very helpful students have as well and have reminded me every ten seconds. Just when I am about to send one of the other students on the manhunt, a teacher comes by with our missing citizen. Seems she was hiding behind the bathroom door. When I pulled her aside and asked her why she told me that she couldn’t “find a way to explain it to me.” Thanks, kid. I knew my days were often largely filled with confusion, pointedly fixed with blank stares, but I didn’t know a 6-year-old would be able to point that state of bewilderment out.

I think I have finally run out of things to do as avoidance and am now going to attempt this paper. If anyone in the states can’t sleep tonight, I will keep my Skype open… just in case you feel like talking.

*images and their descriptions thanks to the lovely BB

Sunday, January 14


Everyone needs that place where everybody knows your name. I’ve been missing that since our move. Back in good ole Old Town Alexandria there was Union Street, the Bayou Room, Southside, Shooter McGees, Mango Mikes, Flying Fish… okay so no one ever said there should be only one. But getting that status has been slow here. While well known at the yakitori stand (the husband even went last week and they asked for me to come around – so getting there on the Norm status in Yokosuka at least) but in our new little home town of Zushi, we haven’t made much stride. Until this weekend that is.

Friends called and asked if we wanted to meet them for dinner. I needed the drinks more than the food after working on a paper for over nine hours so we gladly accepted the invite. At 7, we left our house and took the fifteen minute walk to a place we have been before called Matchpoint. Great bar and they make extraordinary drinks where the bartender has taken more than three minutes of tender loving care preparing one drink (I’ve timed it). The food is a cross of pasta dishes, curry dishes and raw dishes. The best thing on the menu is the appetizer of garlic potatoes. They take the fat, homemade French fries and slather oil and garlic on them. Not good for a date and I know it sounds simple but they are better than any fry you have ever had and I will guarantee that statement. The décor is one of the most interesting things… American Indian. How does a bar in small town Japan get an American Indian theme going? Have they even seen an Indian? There is a large, feathery headdress, some dream catchers and colorful weavings lining the walls. Not to be left unnoticed is the antique bow and arrow above the door. An upright piano lines the back wall where an Indian drum lays waiting for the eager drunk. On top of the piano is where the theme falls apart slightly… a wooden statue of Jim Brown grins out. Leaning against him is one of Stevie Wonder’s early records. Let me not forget to mention the large collection of miniatures… miniature dragons and snakes… as well as the large stuffed snake that sits across from Jim.

This was not the first or even the second time we have been there. The food is a draw and the fact that the menu attempts English translations on all dishes although some I simply would never eat thanks to that same translation. The bartender/servers have a good grasp of English and like to chat. The bar menu is extensive. I’ve said this one already but this is a very important point to make in a town where bar often means simply forty varieties of beer and sake and not a single bottle of my dear friend, the Captain, in the house. And there was something else this time when we walked in the door… that lovely, warm Norm feeling. We don’t have the shouting of names thing down quite yet but by next visit, it will be a sure thing.

Thursday, January 11

Care For A Spot Of Tea?

Just what would one do if they found out that the class research paper deadline got move back a whole week? They would pack up for the day and head over to hang out with their friend Russia eating a lunch topped with imported chocolates and drinking tea! A lunch that included homemade bread and cucumbers done the Japanese way by slicing them lengthwise, splashing soy on them and topped with dried fish bits – much better than you probably think it sounds.

Now I am back home and debating if I should simply call it a day and go start dinner or if I actually should write at least a paragraph of my paper. I’m opting towards dinner.

Where precisely did this procrastination come from and how can I make it go back to wherever it came from? Well?

Guess I’ll have to worry about that tomorrow.

One other thing that procrastinator would do? She would schedule that trip to Sapporo for the 58th Ice Festival to celebrate the successful completion of the classes she has yet to successfully complete. How can anyone honestly expect her to focus for the next three weeks with that light at the end of the tunnel?

Wednesday, January 10

Problem Solved.

Still possibly in need of a tight, white jacket but there is now a confirmed diagnoses for at least some of the issues.

Thinking I think I can, I think I can, I think I can the whole time, I actually left the house yesterday. There were many stops to make and many errands to run but most importantly, beyond my good judgment, I made an appointment at the Naval Hospital to look into my various recent annoyances. Due to past experiences, I have found that nurse practitioners tend to be much more thorough and concerned than doctors and upon the question as to whether I would mind seeing one at the hospital, I jumped at the chance.

Forty minutes this woman spent with me! What doctor do you know does that for simple cold and fatigue symptoms? When she walked in, I was consumed in one of my books for school which peaked her interest. Not many people you meet are instantly drawn to a title like Major Problems in American Foreign Relations but this woman certainly was one of the rare few. And she knew her stuff! So, perhaps my entire visit was not medically oriented but it certainly reinforced my praises of the nurse practitioner.

At the end of our time and her tests, she confirmed my fears that I had quite a nasty little inner ear infection which was the cause of pretty much all of my silly symptoms. Oh, and a discovery was made that a hair had gotten stuck in the infected ear but luckily wasn’t growing into the lining of my inner ear. Gross. Could have lived without knowing that and probably so could you. Anyway, the prescription… antibiotic ear drops (which hurt so much I actually bawled when KH first put them in but it was more that my eardrums couldn’t handle anymore pressure on them rather than KH did it too roughly or that drops of water could actually hurt a person - such a pansy) and a few shots that were missing from my records. Joy.

Over to immunization with my records and while I waited as lucky number 17, I read my chart. Who doesn’t do that? Admit it… you know you would to.

Upon my closer reading, I discovered four shots that I was going to be lucky enough to receive! Two in one arm and two in the other. A flu shot (not too late they say especially with those buggy little kids I deal with), a tetanus shot, a Hepatitis A (only the first of two) and an easy-peasy PPD. When asked if I wanted it fast or slow on the Hep A, I went with fast only to nearly faint at the pain and let loose a scream like the babies around me. Slow wasn’t much better but I made it like the big girl I was trying to be. Now a full 29 hours later, I still can’t lay on either side due to the muscle pain that has settled in. And don’t tell me to swing my arms around to get those muscles moving or I will swing on over to you and knock you in the head.

I did survive the whole tragic ordeal and decided that only one thing could help ease the pain… retail therapy. Now I haven’t much engaged in this practice lately frankly because it was just too darn hard when I got here and I hated being told that it wouldn’t fit my big ass in such not-open-for-discussion terms. Even now, I cringe at clothes shopping here in Japan despite my smaller bum. No, this retail therapy was all about buying for others. And I truly had a blast! I actually lost track of time and was late meeting KH for dinner. I found this little stationary shop that made me want to cry with all of its beauty as well as an actual Body Shop with only some products of unrecognizable names!

Oh and I did my research for the trip we are planning in February to the Sapporo Ice Festival. Unfortunately, I come home today to hear that KH might have to head out of town in February and that I won’t know any details for a day or two. Which makes planning a trip that should have been booked a month ago rather… impossible. Hotels are filling up quickly so it is with both hands and both feet that I cross fingers and toes that the two trips do not coincide.

See how very productive my day was? I have broken the pattern! Okay, not so much. Today it was back to my lazy hygienic ways and too many hours spent in front of the computer writing about Kennedy’s miscalculations in the Cuban Missile Crisis. While it is so very hard, try not to envy me too much. Tomorrow is another paper on the prosperity and despair that riddled the Roaring Twenties prior to the Depression and I will welcome anyone who would like to throw out a page or two for me. Only three more weeks until the end of the semester and I truly cannot wait to have my freedom and my time back to get out and explore more than I have recently. I’m sure that the minute my finals are completed, all of that misplaced motivation will come flying back into my body and I will go out and tell you more about my glory days in Japan.

Now the time has come again for ear drugs, melatonin and an extra heavy dose of Nyquil.

Sunday, January 7


I’m in a funk. At least that is my assessment. KH thinks I actually have something physically wrong with me. I can’t remember a time where I have felt this fatigued, had so many low grade fevers and headaches or had ear pain like that which has settled into my left ear.

Like I said, I think it is just a funk. I feel overwhelmed with school work which I can’t seem to get any initiative going to do and get out of the way and it just isn’t like me to procrastinate. Plus, I just want to nap every half hour and feel seriously taxed if I have to walk up and down the stairs more than twice a day. I’m sleeping a bit better these days and even go to bed usually by midnight now and force myself up by 8. Not the best sleeping pattern but a definite improvement. And I am taking the melatonin. Every night. As directed. KH didn’t even have to and fell back into his normal sleep pattern only three days after returning home. I sometimes have take a booster sleep aid to get myself through the initial knockout. I had a great time in the states but I am glad to be home and back to what has now grown to be quite “normal” to me. So why am I procrastinating and dragging? A funk surely is the cause.

Kimono Hubby is still firmly planted on the side of me making a doctors appointment to fix whatever seems to be the problem. After the horror stories I have heard about that place, I would rather not and will continue to treat my symptoms on a case by case basis with my myriad of at home remedies combined with my new addiction to all sorts of cold drugs.

The bad part of this funk is that I really have nothing interesting to share. I barely dragged myself out of the house for a dinner party this past weekend and they probably wished I hadn’t bothered as I yelled every other response back to them due to the blockage that has recently ensconced itself in my ears. Other than that, I chose to remain in stretchy pants and t-shirts emblazoned with slogans that I would not dare wear in public in the comfort of my own home.

The rather interesting thing that I recently discovered as a result of my self-inflicted house arrest is that I just don’t care anymore if I am running around all day anymore. I even have begun to realize that all of the excessive running I used to do was really just to make myself feel like I had some sort of purpose in this world. Lately, purpose can be found while I am sitting at home with sometimes not even a single sound spoken or heard and not a single thing getting done. Have I just gotten lazy, you ask? Or maybe just old? I really don’t think it is that and I have instead just gotten… calm. Who knew that was inside of me? I am certainly not complaining as I am pretty fond of my new, found calmness. Even the thought of not writing something of interest to anyone hasn’t necessarily wrangled me away from my new friend. It will eventually. I think. I hope. But just not for now.

Perhaps it isn’t a funk but more of a combination of an illness that has overextended its stay sharing space with the plain fact that I am finding I am pretty happy just being quiet. For today anyway.

There’s still so much to see and do here and of course I will let you know about all of that. I actually need to start planning a trip we are making in February and need to go talk to a Japanese travel agent. I’m so sure that will be as easy of a task as every other has so far been. That task is actually on my schedule for tomorrow even though my calm and quiet ego is digging its heels in at the thought of cleaning up and leaving the house. I promised it ice cream if it was good and behaved in public which should help get me out of the door tomorrow morning. Errr… afternoon probably.

Thursday, January 4


The worst thing about traveling such long distances, worse than the hellish-ly long flight, is the jet lag. It smacks you both there and back.

It's 2:35 a.m. and I am very wide awake. Someone else you might know has been asleep since 9 p.m. tonight and every other night since we got back. He has woken up twice to tell me not to click so loudly. Grr.

Wednesday, January 3

Belatedly Ringing in the New Year

Arriving at home from our travels on the eve of New Years Eve, we walked in to our house to discover cold like cold has never been before. Solid matter in the house had amazingly frozen solid in our absence. Touch anything with your tongue would surely stick it to it for good. Not that I go around licking my furniture. But damn. It was cold. See, most Japanese homes do not have a little thing we call insulation. Ours is obviously no exception. Only seven hours of running the wall heaters on high improved the situation to any reasonable degree of temperature. In the wait, I retreated to bed in as many layers as I could pull out of the closet before my nose went entirely numb. Napping felt like it would be the only good course to pass the time and improve the health situation I was still in until the year end festivities started several hours later.

This being our first New Years Eve in Japan, we felt like we should do as the natives do. Forgetting the flu situation, we arose around 11:15 and bundled ourselves into yet a few more layers as our flesh now seemed to have begun its own freezing process. Traipsing onto the dark streets, we headed to the closest temple we knew of as we had heard it was the place to be in Japan on New Years.

Now I am not entirely sure what I was expecting but what was happening definitely wasn’t it. I’m sure festivities in Tokyo are more worldly (Read: drunken) but the town of Zushi simply is not party central.

Entering through the gates of the temple was a line that snaked around the tiny parking lot and poured back out onto the sidewalks outside of the gate. The people in the line... almost entirely silent. The head of the line ended at a tiny structure up several stairs that housed a large bell and a wooden post covered in red and white decorations. Each person quietly stepped up, rang the bell once with the wooden post which was then held before it swung back into the bell for a second ring as the person left back down the stairs. My understanding of the bell ringing is that Buddha taught that there are 108 attachments to our egos that we must rid ourselves of prior to the start of a New Year. Hence the bell is rung 108 times to symbolize the purging of these attachments. Quite a beautiful idea. I do have some confusion about this however as there were well over 108 people there to ring that bell. Do they cut them off? Or just keep going and ridding attachments on a basis of Round 2?

We stood and watched people go into the main temple, say their prayers, ring the bell and then leave for enough minutes that it was beginning to feel uncomfortable as the people stared at these obviously out of place gaijin (foreigners). Somewhere along the time that we stood like the obvious peeping toms we were being, we realized that it was past midnight. No grand displays. No hugs and kisses and shouts of excitement… just a hundred some people waiting quietly in a line to ring a bell. Realizing that this was all that there was to the ceremony (again, this is a small town so I am absolutely certain things are different in larger cities), we said our own quiet happy new years and started the short walk back towards our icy home.

On our way, we took note of the varied New Years decorations, some made of pine, bamboo, straw and even tangerines, that hung on front doors and gates throughout our neighborhood. Each has its own specific meaning but most are meant for some sort of good luck, longevity or good fortune. Our friend at Thanksgiving had brought us a New Years decoration for inside the house although I am not entirely certain what the meaning is. I am pretty sure she didn’t put a hex on us with its presentation or anything so we felt rather secure in displaying it. On our walk home, we also heard a short fireworks production but we couldn’t be certain of the direction it was coming from and neither of us had the energy to go hunting it.

Jet lag still playing its role, we quietly said good night with promises to celebrate American style the next day on home-Eastern-standard time.

New Years morning came and went and the flu had taken its death grip on me. I couldn’t move and only barely woke up for the planned glass of champagne (it took only the tiniest of sips to realize that champagne was not a wise idea at that present time) and to send some happy wishes to family back home over the Skype lines.

Tradition in my family requires a meal of pork and sauerkraut over mashed potatoes on New Years Day to bring good luck throughout the year. Some old German tradition from the maternal side of my family. In our house this year, I had forgotten to buy the kraut… or the pork… or the potatoes. As everything shuts down in Japan for about a week for the New Years holiday, being the biggest and most important of the year, we couldn’t get the supplies even if I could have gotten out of bed to make it. I spent the entire day in sleepy-drugged dazes and have no idea what poor Kimono Hubby ended up eating. I know he tried to force two pieces of toast into me which I fought with all the strength my pinkies could muster.

By the second of January, I was feeling much improved and even managed to get out of bed for the day… however, refusing to leave those same poor pj's that had molded onto me the past delirious days. KH made a quick trip to the base in the morning and got the last two lonely cans of sauerkraut on the shelves and the other needed supplies and rushed them home to me so I could prepare a meal before 2 pm. See 2 pm our time is midnight your time so we figured that as long as we ate the kraut and fixings before then, we were still in the clear for getting our yearly fix of good luck. Kind of like when you start drinking with breakfast and you figure its 5 o’clock somewhere. Oh… you’ve never done that?

So that is what one does when they want to have the best of both holiday worlds. Minus the whole flu death part. Many had never heard of the sauerkraut tradition. In the South, I hear it is all about collard greens. So what is your tradition? Maybe next year we can come over to your place and try it with you!

Monday, January 1

Blink, Blink… And Another Christmas Is Gone

We’re back in Japan and I know I never did write like I said I would. I planned on it! But when it came right down to it, I was usually visiting with family and friends, too jet lagged at other times, too sick at others and just too plain brain dead in any leftover time.

To give you an idea of the travel itself… we left our house in Japan at 6:30 am on December 21st. Adding all the driving time, waiting in airport time and flying time (13 hours total), we arrived in Massachusetts in just under a 24 hour trip. Thanks to the genius of time zones, that calculated out to be a 3:30 pm arrival time on the same day we left, 12/21. That can mess with a person’s mind. I was so very sick the whole way and exactly the kind of person you dread having to sit next to on the plane. Although the rude, little Korean lady in our row of seats didn’t seem to mind when she stole my own personal neck pillow to nap on… the neck pillow I brought to hold my head up straight so the snot would not accumulate to heartily in my head in bouts of unconsciousness. I went to the bathroom and returned to find her with it securely under her head and laying down across her own and Kimono Hubby’s seat, hear feet up the wall of the plane and taking a nap. First of all, I was totally grossed out because I can’t stand touching things that other people have touched on the plane so I brought my own pillow and blanket – especially needed with my illness. Second, I hadn’t the energy to do anything about it and sat there whimpering for twenty minutes until I finally got up and walked back to KH who was stretching and talking with others doing the same and whined loudly and repeatedly about how she stole my pillow until he came up and took it from under her head. He was my hero!

Upon arriving in the States, we said our hellos and then stretched out for a nice long cat nap. The jet lag was already doing its number. Later in the week, we were told what horrible company we were because we were so off our times, generally going to bed at midnight and waking up at 3:30 am. I’d like to see anyone else try that trip and not do the same. Do you have any idea what a combo of exhaustion and insomnia feel like?

The time in Massachusetts was wonderful though. On our first day there, I was escorted to the mall I had missed for so long so I could replenish on several items I needed. I had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and truly thought I had died and gone to heaven even if it made me really sick later that night. We had dinner at a friend’s house (Cornish hens – delicious! – even after some difficulty in the kitchen) and on the drive there discovered we had forgotten that we no longer carry any insurance in the U.S., essentially ending any further trips planned unless someone was willing to drive us to our destinations. The food on this leg of the trip was enough to make me want to never leave the U.S. again. We spent Christmas day quietly at home (topped with the cherry of a prime rib dinner)… the perfect last day in Massachusetts.

The next morning, another flight brought us to Pennsylvania and more family and friends. More food and more shopping. I met my niece for the first time as she was born not long after we moved to Japan. I also met one of my best friend’s little girls who also entered the world not long after we left. My parent’s house was inundated with people at all hours. Even though my exhaustion was nearly killing me, I refused to miss a moment of it and just kept going. Both KH and I were blessed with friends who made the trip up from DC and other not so close locales to Pennsylvania just to see us for a few hours. Just the thought of those visits from our busy family and friends will fulfill me for a long time to come. They were the best presents I could have asked for.

In the blink of an eye, the time had all passed and we were sadly back on the road to another long trip, this one just over 24 hours of travel time. San Francisco almost ensnared us when our flight came in late, and boarding time for our flight to Tokyo had already begun. Not a soul would help us get a faster shuttle and we heard the final boarding call while we were only just entering the international gates. With a final run for it and an intense wheezing from me causing one woman to voice her concern and check if I was going to be okay, we were the last passengers to arrive on the flight. We will never fly through San Francisco again. At least this time the woman in our row was Japanese was very kind even though the conversation was limited. She never once stole my pillow and even offered for me to lay my head down in the empty seat between us. Fearing germs, I didn’t but the offer was a generous one.

I’m so happy to be home but also so sad to be missing the other home. It sounds like I left a legacy of sickness in the path behind me. For anyone that caught my Japanese cold, consider it yet another foreign present that I shared with you and maybe it won’t seem so bad.

And for the little ones who decided to share the flu with me to bring back to Japan… thanks. That was just what I wanted for Christmas.

Hope all of you had a great Christmas! It’s just about 4 a.m. now and I need to try to force myself back to sleep so tomorrow I can tell you all about New Years Eve in Japan!