Sunday, April 23, 2006

Posting from LAX right now, where we're waiting for our return fligt to Tokyo. It's been a great visit here in the US, but we're ready to get back home.

We stayed overnight in LA last night at a hotel near the Airport. At supper, we tried some strage beers from the brewery in the hotel, including a Belgian beer flavored with dandelion. A touch sweet, it was pretty good, if a bit strong.

We've really enjoyed our time in the to see a lot of family and friends, and we're looking forward to our next trip back.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Coffee Shop Blogging

Virginia Countryside

We're in Birmingham, AL now, and are at the coffee shop where my brother works. Called La Reunion, it's a hip, funky little place on the south side of town. It has great coffee, and art from local artists on the gold colored walls. It's a nice, relaxed place, with free wireless to boot. There are about 4 other folks in here, all working on computers as well.

One of my (and my brother's) pet peeves though...if you're going to stay for free internet, make sure that you buy something at least once per hour. It's the least you can do. Yesterday while we were here, we sat next to a lady who had been in the shop for the entire day. She bought a Caffe Americano in the morning ($2.95), ate lunch with her husband (who brought in food from somewhere else) at noon, and bought a latte later on in the afternoon. Basically, she used the shop as her office, making calls on her cell phone, and shooting emails back and forth. And then, she had the audacity to snap at my brother when he reset the server because some of the other customers couldn't get on. I made a point of asking Melody in a loud voice, "Let's see...we had lunch, 2 coffees, and 2 bottles of water...Do you want anything else? I'm going to go buy something to avoid seeming like a moocher." To the lady's credit, she did apologize for snapping at him, saying that her patience runs thin after 8 hours of working on the computer.

Birmingham has been a fun time, as we finally got to meet our newest nephew, Thomas. He's a cutie, and is nearly as big as his 3 y/o brother, Charlie. We had a great time playing with them, and hanging out with my sister and mom and dad. Robert, my sister's husband, couldn't come due to work. Last night, we had a few of my friends from high school and college come over for pizza and beer, and had a great time catching up with some of the folks that I'd not seen in 10 years. While a long time, we all were able to just catch up where we left off. It was also fun to meet all the kids that had come along in the meantime.

We're going up to the boat on Friday, and will have a chance to see my cousin up there whose wife just had a baby. Another cousin who lives in Nashville was down for Easter supper. All in all, it's been a great few days.

This is Boris (AKA "Uncle B."), my cousin's mother-in-law's dog. He's a Bassett/Black Lab mix, and has a "flipper" for a front left foot. He's a nice fellow, but a tad bit spoiled.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Alexandria, VA

Now we're sitting in another coffee shop...seems to be the place to be while your on holiday to check mail. This time, we're in Alexandria, VA. We just got through checking on our rental property, and verbally discussed some updates to our condo once the current tenants leave in the summer time. We'll paint, of course, but we're going to update the counters in the kitchen, replace the stove, and we're kicking around the idea of moving the washer and dryer out of the kitchen and into a'll be a bit of investment, but worth it in the long run. Should add considerable value to the place, and of course, is write-offable.

DC doesn't seem to have changed fact, it feels like we never left in a way. We've been making the rounds seeing our old friends, the 7-11 staff, our drycleaner, our's been a lot of fun so far. Our friends Colin and Mel are throwing a little supper for us tonight as well. The best part will be seeing our god-dog, Charlie. We basically have dibs on him if his parents ever have to give him away.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

On Vacation

We're in Houston right now, sitting in a coffee shop near Melody's parent's house. We've come here the past few days to get access to email and stuff, as well as veg. It is, after all, vacation. It's been great to be back in the States, but it's a little bit wierd to be able to read the street signs and stuff. And, of course, try finding a vending machine with beer in it! Impossible!

We head off to DC tomorrow for a few days, and will move on to Alabama to visit my parents following that. We'll head back to Japan in about a week and a half. Strangely, we miss Japan. It's really become home, and being here feels like we're tourists or something. But, we're adjusting.

We spent some time with our friends (and frequenters of the blog) Jerry and Stephanie the other night, along with their kids. I had them going that the restaurant we had supper at was serving monkey. But, the waitress, after initially going along with it, fessed up, and let them in on the joke. Oh well. It was a great time with some dear friends, though.

DC will be fun, and will be partially business, as we'll do some routine checking on the rental property we have there. We'll also get to see our buddies and some family there as well. We're excited to get back there after 2 years.

We'll likely post more, and hopefully some pictures as well. We plan on playing tourist for a little bit...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


This Just In…


It’s been a while since we’ve had anything from the “Sand” part of Sand and Tsunamis…so, here’s something from the Arab News.


Saudi Arabia Plans New Tourism Initiatives


Arab News - 04/04/2006




JEDDAH, 4 April 2006 — With plans under way of granting tourist visas to visitors, Saudi Arabia is considering the introduction of new tourism initiatives, a Gulf expert on tourism said on Sunday.

"The Kingdom, under the direction of Supreme Commission of Tourism and its Secretary General Prince Sultan ibn Salman, is soon launching a new initiative to focus on the country's diverse cultural and geographical attractions." David Rose, managing director of Dubai-based Action, part of Action global Communications Group, founder member of the Middle East PR Association, told a press conference at Jeddah Hilton.

Rose, whose main emphasis was on the upcoming Arabian Travel Market 2006 being held at the Dubai World Trade Center from May 2-5, said Prince Sultan would be participating in the ATM where the Kingdom would unveil a range of new tourism initiatives.

The last four years have seen significant investment in the Kingdom's tourism infrastructure with the opening of new hotels, resorts and tourist apartments. Increasing attention is being paid to sports tourism including swimming, diving, parachuting and even bungee jumping. Modern shopping malls and traditional old markets are part of the Kingdom's heritage and history.

The Kingdom's tourism industry is an effective competitor in a very crowded global market. "Its inbound tourism alone generated more than $5.6 billion in 2005," Rose said, adding that nearly eight million trips were made to this part of the world, generating more than 99 million visitor nights. "It's expected that tourism revenues will double over the next 20 years," Rose added.

The SCT is sharing its exhibition stand with at least six companies including Ajyad Makkah Makarim Hotel, Al Jazirah Transport, Dar Al-Manasek Tourism & Umrah, Elaf Travel & Tourism, Rifada Global Investment & Development and the Unique Choice.

The Saudi outbound market, with national and expatriates making more than 7.9 million international trips with an annual spend of more than $15 billion, will be highly sought after at the ATM.

"Many of the destinations taking part this year are actively looking for networking opportunities with Saudi travel agents and tour operators," Rose said on behalf of Reed Travel Exhibitions, which organizes ATM. Its exhibitors are from 47 countries including 46 national and regional pavilions. "The show's growth is being fueled by a substantial influx of new-to-market destinations and products," he added.



 I think this is a great idea…Technically, after oil, tourism is already the main money maker for Saudi Arabia, but it’s primarily related to the Hajj.  If they decide to open up the country to true tourism, that would be a great thing.  There’s a lot to see, from Nabataean ruins (like Petra) in the north, to diving in the Red Sea around Jeddah, rock climbing in the mountains along the western part of the country, and my own personal favorite, the Empty Quarter.  Go here for the tale of 5 days in the desert in late 2004.  There really is a great deal of interesting sights and the culture is really fascinating…

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Pizza Pizza Pizza

When you live in a foreign country, sometimes the simplest of things become adventures. Last night, we decieded to try to order a pizza over the phone. Just like in the US, we get frequent junk mail from places like Pizza La, and Pizza Hut. Digging one out, we made our choice of the "Meat Paradise" pizza, and I made the call.

Pizza Hut: "[something in Japanese...] Pizza Hut [something in Japanese]."
Me: "Uhh....Pizza kudasai." (Pizza please)
Pizza Hut: "Hai. [something in Japanese]."
Me: "Uhh...Meato Paradaisu, onegaishimasu." (Meat Paradise, please)
Pizza Hut: "[something in Japanese]."
Me: "Sumimasen?" (Pardon me?)
Pizza Hut: "[something in Japanese]."
Me: " Sumimasen?" (Pardon me?_
Pizza Hut: "[something in Japanese]."
Me: "Uhh....sanjurok shichirigahama?" (address...)
Pizza Hut: "[something in Japanese]."
Me: "Sumimasen?" (Pardon me?)
Pizza Hut: "[something in Japanese]."
Me: "Uhh...gomenasai...Nihongo ga jozu jarimasen." (I'm sorry, I don't speak Japanese well)
Pizza Hut: "[something in Japanese] nomitai?."
Me: "Uhh...sumimasen?"
Pizza Hut: "[something in Japanese] nomitai." (something in Japanese "drink")?
Me: "Oh! Nomitai! Iie...ii desu." (Oh, That's ok.)
Pizza Hut: "[something in Japanese]."
Me: "Uhh...sumimasen?"
Pizza Hut: "[something in Japanese] yen."
Me: "Oh...Hai. Ii desu." (Oh. OK. That's fine.)
Pizza Hut: "[something in Japanese]."
Me: "Uh...OK desu...bye bye."

Whatever transpired, it must have worked, because about 30 minutes later, some pizza guy showed up at the door with the Meat Paraidise Pizza. We chose that one over some of the others, such as "Sea Urchin Glory" or "Idaho Special." And we definitely passed on the "Mayo Q." I'm not a fan of mayo, due to some deep seated childhood traumas when my sister would chase me around the house trying to smear it on me with a spoon, or would eat it straight out of the jar. Bad memories