Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Coming Home

Due to a lot of reasons but mainly health (both physical and mental), Archie and I have chosen to come home a year early from Japan. It's a mixed bag of emotions for me. There are so many wonderful things and places and people that I have experienced here that I wouldn't have experienced otherwise. I'm truly grateful for that. This was a chance of a lifetime and yet we are coming home early.

Japan is a beautiful country. We've seen so many places. Hiroshima has been an interesting place to live. I've met some great friends and I've tried and loved so many fun foods and drinks. Gabe has also enjoyed his time here. He's had fun at school and has learned to read. He's been swimming twice a week and has earned two badges. He can always say he's lived in Japan and experienced that. As he gets older, I'm hoping it'll be something he can draw on for inspiration and openness to new ideas and people.

So for me, I can walk away with a lot great experiences and memories.

But it's been tough on all of us with the nature of the work that Archie signed up for. It hasn't been a great work environment and that has taken its toll on all of us. Especially Archie.

We look forward to a healthier year as we come home. A little less stress all around will be wonderful.

With the time we have left we are really excited to see what we can and do what we can. We are planning on a trip to Okinawa next month. The cherry blossom season is right around the corner and Hiroshima will be beautiful. We are planning a small day trip to Kyoto as well as some more local weekend getaways. Golden Week is in a month and that is one of the biggest week-long festival/holiday in Japan. We weren't here for that last year and we are looking forward to experiencing that before we go home.

We hope to end on a bright note and we hope to take the good with us as we look back on our year in Japan. But we also know this is the best decision all around for our family.

I'm hoping to add some more detailed posts about the best spots and memories we've had here in Japan. I'll probably do that a bit more as it gets closer to leaving.

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But here are some place we've been to this past month. Last week was really fun with the "chicken shack" or properly knows as Sanzoko (bandit in Japanese). They are famous for their yakitori or chicken on a stick. The sauce is amazing! I tried a giant rice ball with seaweed, plum, and salmon in the middle. Gabe tried their udon bowl and Archie had their yakiniku or meat BBQ.

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Then it was off to Kimawa Valley for their underground mystery treasure hunt. We went with another family and enjoyed a small park afterward. It's an old gold mine that they converted with statues and mystery doors and places that are reminiscent of Indiana Jones.

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I've taken a few walks on my own now that it's getting warmer.

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The cherry blossom trees!

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This is my favorite!

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This was on a special walk of their famous shrines and temples. The last stop.

Friday, March 6, 2015

February Recap 2015

The highlight of February was going to Tokyo for Gabe's birthday. We got to ride the Shinkansen and see Tokyo Disney, Legoland, and Studio Ghibili.

I could only make it once on the teacups. Gabe loved them and forced Archie on them at least 3 times! They even talked me into going on Space Mountain...not a big fan. Gabe was unsure how to feel afterward. But I think he'd go on it again!

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Riding the bullet train is the way to go. I wish the States invested in America's infrastructure a bit more. Maybe we could get a couple of bullet trains--one for up north and one for the south! Sweet.

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Trains are great because you don't have to get felt up by the TSA and you can move around, no seatbelts, and the children (Gabe) can get up and walk around and look out the window and see stuff. They even have a trolley that comes around. It's not quite "Harry Potter" anything off the trolley, dears? but close enough.

The second coolest thing was going to the Akeyoshido caves. Beautiful. I really enjoy hitting the natural sites in Japan. Everywhere, obviously, but truly getting around to the natural sites is on my list.

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Gabe loved Legoland the best. It was full of Legos and more legos. A couple of rides and even a workshop. He raced Lego cars with Archie. They even sold a big bowl of spaghetti.

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Studio Ghibli Museum

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My favorite spot was the museum. I'm a big fan of Totoro from My Neighbor Totoro. We accidentally bought the tickets for the wrong day but they were nice enough to still let us in. It's small and really crowded so they are pretty strict about crowds and times.

It's an adorable museum that pays homage to all the wonderful movies for children that are made by the studio.

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Our spoils

The rest of the time we walked around a lot from place to place and train to train. So I took some pics!

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Here are my favorite shots from Akeyoshido...

Akeyoshido Caverns collage

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

January 2015 Recap

January was cold just like February is...but we are seeing the sun a bit more here in Hiroshima. So if I can grab a sunspot like a cat, it warms up quite nicely.

We enjoyed Japanese New Year, the Oshougatsu. It lasts for a few days. Everything pretty much shuts down, which is nice, unless you need to actually get food...

We stood in line to make it the temple. You make a wish or a prayer to start off the new year. There are lots of festivals and food and all sorts of fun things. This year is the year of the sheep. We ended up grabbing some sheep-related items as a momento.

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A lot of people put these types of signage up during Shougatsu. I think some make their own but mostly you can just buy them at any convenience store or grocery store. They're pretty and we put ours up a bit longer than the actual holiday.

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We visited one of the more famous shrines that weekend too. We bought a few trinkets that celebrate the year of the sheep from this place...gems and rocks and some charms.

We had a great hike up to the Peace Pagoda. It was a very mild day; sweating ensued while hiking up there!

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We also got terribly sick in January. The influenza went rampant through Hiroshima and Gabe's school. They had to close the school down for 3 days in order to contain it the best they could. Gabe got it and then I got it. Then I got bronchitis. It was not fun. I never get enough sleep which means my immune system is shot most of the time. Boo. But we're healthy now....

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We visited the cat cafe again and they had a new kitten! So we got to play around with her for a bit.

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And as with any language, you put it in Google translate and you never know what craziness will ensue on the other end. I've taken a few pics now and then of some interesting English translation signs. This one was particularly funny!

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We were sick half the month but we still managed to get out and do a few things. Archie started on nights again for January and February, but his schedule ends at the end of the month and during this night shift he works Sun-Thurs nights so we can at least have some family time on Saturday that is uninterrupted. But the rough work hours have been pretty rough.

Archie took a few days off so we could head up to Tokyo for Gabe's birthday. I'll post pics of that little adventure soon.

I'll end on a beautiful sunset.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

December 2014 Recap

I admit December was a bit tough for all of us for various reasons. Archie was alone for the holidays and was pretty sad about it. He did get to take care of a friend who tripped and dislodged his pinky finger in the middle of the night...got him to the emergency room using his awesome Japanese while his friend was in agony. He's a do-gooder! Gabe and I were also sad to leave Archie behind. The plane flights over to the States were pretty unbearable and confusing but we made it.

We stayed with our good friends Stacie and Dan and their two kids for the first couple of days. But I couldn't get any sleep with Gabe in the same bed so after almost losing my mind, I checked us into a hotel room and my parents took Gabe for a night so I could sleep. Sleep I did for 16 hours, off and on.

We visited with my parents and family, we had our family Christmas party. I watched movies and ate good food that I'd been missing. I got to feel a bit whole again after being able to drive and speak in my own language. I felt useful again. Gabe enjoyed seeing old friends.

We even spent time with our kitties Wolfy, Frodo, and Shadow. They're doing just find without us but we are both looking forward to the time we get them back.

I even got to see lots of my friends at a nice gathering.

The next week we headed up to a timeshare that Stacie and Dan own up at Bear Lake. It was secluded and fun to just relax for a bit. Dan and Stacie both got the flu so they ended up staying in bed most of the week but we still ate some good food and opened up presents on Christmas and talked with Archie.

Then it was time for the plane ride home. Another unbearable experience....I hate flying. It's the worst. It was sad to leave Utah but it was great to be back with Archie and in our own beds.

Overall, I'm glad we went. I needed it. But I don't know I'd do it again if I don't have a travelling companion!

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

November 2014 Recap

It's 2015 and my goal is to write consistently in this blog! Good luck to me :)

Gabe and I headed back home to Utah to spend time with family and friends over the holidays in December. We got back in time to spend New Year's with Archie, though. He was pretty lonely. But it was nice to see home again. I'll post more pics of December and January soon.

Gabe is enjoying the International School here. He has lots of friends he tells me about plus all the fun stuff at school like rube goldberg contraptions and fun PE games. He's even reading now! He reads me a small book or two every night before bed.

He is still swimming and recently passed his first test and received the Octupus award. Archie sewed it on his backpack too.

It's pretty cold in Hiroshima during the winter. I think Northern Utah is still a bit colder but considering it's an island and so hot and humid during the summer, I thought it would be a bit more mild. The nice days get into the 50s.

Gabe also loves sushi. On his days off or on the weekends we end up heading over to the local store and pickup some sushi. He likes the soy sauce and using his chopsticks to eat it!

Archie works nights every other month which is hard on him and all of us. The workload in Japan wasn't quite what we expected. Long hours make it pretty tough sometimes.

February we're heading up to Tokyo to see Disneyland and Legoland and whatever else we can fit in during that time. Gabe's birthday is that week and we wanted him to really remember it. The big 6 is coming up soon!

My days consist of cleaning, planning, and studying with a few bits of fun with fellow expats thrown in every other week or so. I'm studying some HTML, reading a lot, planning meals and shopping, keeping the place respectableish, and getting out when I can. Looks like this will continue to be my schedule for a bit.

Japan is a beautiful country and love getting out on the weekends with Gabe and Archie so we can enjoy it. We hope to get to a few more faraway spots in Japan before we come back to Utah.

Here's a recap of November:

We went to some outlying islands and visited some famous gardens and shrines. I also found cat cafes! I got to visit the sweet moggies. We hiked Sandankyo, enjoyed a picnic by the castle and enjoyed the Fall leaves. We also took a stroll along their Dreamination lights and a mini Thanksgiving meal.

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Well, that was about it for us in November!