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Wednesday, March 26


Mope, mope, mope. But I’m done with that. I think. Or should I say that I know I need to be.

Since returning Japan-side, there has been absolutely nothing of interest going on. We tried to have a nice Easter dinner, but Kimono Hubby and half the guests (okay, only one other person, but at a mere table of six, that is damn significant) worked from six to six so dinner was late and dry, leaving many guests eager to not pass go and head directly to bed instead of partaking in the after-dinner chatting or game playing that my family likes to do. Other days have been spent working (boring), zoning to the boob tube (boring) and napping (boring, but oh so decadent).

But it is spring here! A gorgeous spring filled with bright pink ume (plum) blossoms and the paler pink to white sakura (cherry) blossoms! Temperatures ranging from 12-13 degrees Celsius (mid 50’s Fahrenheit) are warm enough that only a light spring coat is needed, and not even on a daily basis. The rainy part of this season hasn’t hit in earnest, although there have been quite a few days of heavy rain, which surely contributed to my moodiness. This only makes the in-between sunshine-y days even more gorgeous and longed for. These days alone are enough to help me shake my sad thoughts off and get back out there.

Until I do so, I will just have to share the last day of our time in sunny Florida, spent kayaking through the mangroves. The warm sun freckled through the tangled web of roots as our party of fifteen or so kayaks, both tandems and singles, maneuvered their way through a coastal route. At times, the roots above and below tightened so much on each kayak that paddling was not always the best option, leaving we merry wedding revelers to use their hands to propel forward through the mangroves. Leaving the mangroves put us into open waters where manatees are sometimes seen, though more often in an area a bit further away, just out of reach for the time we had allotted for the day’s trip. I must admit that not seeing a manatee in the wild was my one true sadness from our trip to Florida. Hailing from this area, the bride is very involved with protecting these marine mammals and I had heard so much about them from her. Indeed, part of the guest’s wedding favors was for their names to be included collectively in a donation for the protection of the manatee. But manatees are now included on a list I keep of things that people say exist in large scales, yet I have never seen, despite repeated attempts to do so. Whales and now manatees… no such thing in my book. Hopefully I will one day be proven wrong.

Next post, back to my regularly scheduled Japan programming.

Wednesday, March 19

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

If I were a game, you would have just tracked me from Tokyo to Washington, DC to Philadelphia to Tampa to Anna Maria Island and back again. Man of the legs of this crazy worldwide trip went outstandingly less than smooth. Damn, I’m tired.

But I’m back. Catching up on jet lag. Catching up on email. Catching up on blog reading. Catching up on laundry. Oh, and trying to do some work here and there.

While the result of flying home is that I get to see family and friends, I can’t even begin to voice how much I hate that flight. I don’t sleep on planes so with 12 hours one way and 14 the other, I am solidly up, no matter the time of day. Every time I make the trip, I ruminate over why they make car seats with back support and yet plane seats are made so deeply concave that your spine is permanently distorted in the wrong direction. To get off that flight is sheer liberation. Unfortunately, connections didn’t end up going smoothly for us. After traveling for 17 hours, we arrived in DC only to discover that no connecting flights were going to Philadelphia. Four and a half hours in the DC airport and my brother took pity on us and began to drive south to pick us up and drive us there himself.

The next days there went by much too quickly with visiting the family and my rambunctiously adorable niece and nephew. Every moment was perfect, despite the efforts of the windy northern weather that whipped through our too thin jackets. Before we knew it, we were back on a plane and headed south for a wedding that some beloved DC friends had kindly asked us to be a part of. Fortunately for one who loves a nice warm breeze, they chose the location of Anna Maria Island, FL off the Gulf of Mexico.

Rumor has it that the beach house we stayed in on the island was once occupied by both Cameron Diaz and Morgan Freeman, as well as being designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Sprawling on its own waterfront location where manatees are rumored to be sometimes seen, we were living the life of high rollers.

The wedding in a word… gorgeous. The bride truly looked like an ethereal goddess and the perpetually smiling groom like a man so deeply in love. The tears in his eyes reflected in the eyes of everyone else around him as they took their vows. The wedding did not go off without a hitch nor without a lot of work leading up to it, but every moment of late night decision making was worth it to make the day as truly magnificent as it was. When the day of the wedding arrived, we woke to the grayest skies of the week. By afternoon, the heavens had let loose marring the excitement of the couple who had long envisioned their wedding on the beach where she grew up. Last minute adjustments were made allowing the wedding to occur under the pavilion where the reception was to occur… the backdrop the ocean beyond them. While my heart broke for the bride not having her day just the way she wanted it, it was healed quickly about an hour after the ceremony, when the dark, cloudy skies broke open to reveal a few rays of dusk sunlight spinning down to touch the water. Regrouping the 16 people in the wedding party wasn’t easy, especially not when it was necessary to pry their beer bottles from their hands, but a last minute photo shoot should have provided the pictures that every beach bride dreams of.

After the hectic pace of the week past, it seemed only moments before it was over and we were saying goodbye to our friends before catching the early morning Sunday flight out of Tampa and back to Tokyo. Monday night found us finally home and collapsing into bed, even skipping the obligatory shower always needed after that long trip.

Now it’s back to readjusting my inner time, doctor’s appointments, Ikebana International events, subbing and dealing with this morning’s sad news of my grandfather’s death. His life was long and just what he wanted, but saying goodbye is hard from 6,753 miles away, where I can’t put my arms around my grandmother, my mom and the rest of my family whom I love so much. I’m feeling more than guilty about not planning another flight home tomorrow, but there are so many reasons that it can’t happen. Hopefully my Pappy heard the words I spoke to the heavens this morning. He is so loved. He is so missed.

These past weeks have been filled with the very happy and the very sad. A bittersweet testament to the wonderful gift of life we have all been given. My grandfather is a glorious reminder to me of how a life should be lived. His stories will be carried in my heart forever. May he know that the true distance between us was never further than a thought away.

Thursday, March 6

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Did you ever notice that the end of February seems to be the part of the year when there is honestly absolutely nothing of any real interest going on? No big holidays to celebrate with lots of family and friends around you. The weather is definitely warming up, but really in a so-so kind of way. Sure, I’ve been out and about, but do you want to hear about work, volunteer obligations and the occasional dinner here and there? Probably not.

The best thing recently to talk about is that spring is starting in Japan. The ume blossoms are showing and in a few weeks, we should have sakura blossoms in full bloom. When I haven’t had work to do, I’ve taken a walk to and fro the markets in Zushi just to feel the warmth of the spring sun. Dressing is a little awkward these days. I’m not much for the layers thing, which is so incredibly… almost excessively… popular here, but it is a necessary evil. Mornings, you may still find frosty windshields, but by afternoon, a spring jacket is completely sufficient. That doesn’t stop the Japanese on the streets from wearing their padded warm winter coats still. I wonder if they stay so skinny because they wear all those layers when it isn’t necessary and therefore are sweating out any possible weight gain?

We are preparing for more travel. To a very warm part of the states. Not only is that an added bonus, but we will see many friends and family on this trip. I guess this upcoming travel is why I have been a bit low key lately. My few free weekends, I really wanted to get a lot of relaxing in. And shopping. Spring always fills me with a necessity to shop. Oh, who am I kidding… I don’t even need an excuse to shop! This time I went big ticket, though, and bought a gorgeously carved tansu. The tansu is a Japanese chest which previously was used for storage function and portability. They are made in pieces so they can be shaped in a variety of ways and easily transported. For now, I’m going with the step design version. I’m sure it won’t be long before I change my mind and try something else with it.

As the weather gets nicer, I have been wishing for one more thing, although it has gotten repeated vetoes by KH. I really want a scooter. This scooter, actually. The metallic lavender one with the tan seat.

Everyone here drives them and they make any travel not done by train so zippy and fun as you can zoom in and out of lanes instead of waiting in long lines of traffic. Like this guy who has one of the newer models. I’m not sure they were meant for laying down while driving like this guy is, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they indeed were. Then there are so many different kinds of people on scooters – the delivery guys, the business men, women in skirts and there is such a variety of styles of scooters – some with coverings and some with large baskets for hauling products which sway as the driver maneuvers through traffic. It’s the zooming for which KH holds his veto ticket. Sadly, he isn’t looking like he will willingly change his mind any time soon.

The good thing is that my back up costs about 90,000 yen less. There is a Japanese bicycle I also have my eye on. Not the mountain bike variety we think of in the states, but one of those leisure bikes with the higher handle bars and baskets in the front and back. They seem so utterly old-fashioned to me, but that’s the quality I admire in them. And they are quite popular here for their convenience and design. Of course, I could always go for the style with three wheels that also is often seen on the streets of Japan. Although, these are a bit granny-like if you ask me.