Sunday, August 13, 2006

Getting Back Out There

Erik Trinidad, globetrotter extraordinaire, proprietor of the "Global Trip 2004" and a recent trip to Timbuktu, is headed back out on the road starting August 26. This time, it's another trip to Europe, starting in Spain for the Tomatilla, then to Greece, and finally Germany for Oktoberfest.

If this trip is anything like his others, it'll be filled with fun, frivolity, and something unpredictable. Be sure to check it out.

There's a sort of community that has sprung up with his blogs. Regular readers check in daily, and usually, a running conversation starts up in his comments section. Definitely, though, it's never a dull time with him.

Melody and I, along with our friend Lori, are planning a trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in the next few's in the embryonic stages now, but the basic plan is a week long overland trip to visit those three countries. Much of the time will be spent at Angkor Wat. We'll arrrived a couple of days early in Thailand to have a little time to kick around on our own before starting the group trip, and likewise on the end, we'll spend a couple of extra days in Saigon before heading back to Tokyo.

The trip will be something like the trip I took to Morocco back in '99, only this time, instead of a truck, the group will take different forms of local transport. It will be a bit less refined than the last trip (cruise in and around Tahiti) we took, but should be a great time.

Friday, August 11, 2006

More Fireworks

Thursday evening, Melody, our friend Lori, and I all met to go see the fireworks down in Kamakura. They really put on a good show, with multiple firing points out in the bay. We could see a boat going back and forth as they were shooting off the mortars, probably controlling the show. It went on for quite a while, too...probably almost an hour.

We basically just sat on the beach, ate some yakisoba noodles, and had a couple of beers. I set up my tripod and camera and took over 300 pictures. Experimenting with different exposures, I ended up with a few really good ones....It was a great show.

Once it got through, we packed up our mats and picked up our trash and headed home. On the way, we saw a guy dressed up in a thobe and shemagh looking like the typical guy in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. Intrigued, I started speaking to him in Arabic, and he, being Japanese, said in English, "Come with me."

He led us up some stairs and introduced us to some of his friends who were up on his roof having their own little party. We sat down, and had a couple of glasses of beer with the group. We had fun talking to them, and probably will get involved helping him teach some conversational English.

All in all, a really fun night.

Monday, August 07, 2006

What I've Been Listening To

With the long commute every day, whether or not I take the train, I've gotten pretty adept at sniffing out good podcasts to keep my mind on something other than the pain in my backside and numb legs from sitting down for an hour and a half.

So, besides the daily dose of Rush Limbaugh, what else am I listening to?

First of all, there are a few good travel podcasts.

1. Hotel Coffee Podcast: This is a mostly weekly podcast by a Horizon Air pilot, Dan O'Leary. It's an interesting look at the life of a pilot who commutes to his work. One of our good friends, Greg, does just that, so it's interesting to imagine that his life might be somewhat similar. In addition to his musings, he also provides a steady diet of Podsafe music.

2. Travelcommons: This is a blog "brought to you from hotel bathrooms around the country." Due to the good reverb found in the tiles bathrooms of the hotels that he stays in, Mark Peacock, a grizzled road warrior, brings to his listening audience an entertaining look at the life of a weekly traveling commuter.

3. Made In Japan Podcast: This is done semi-weekly by a long term expatriot living in Japan. Since we live in Japan as well, it is particularly entertaining to listen to and commiserate (on the rare occasion) as well as get an expat's view of the news of the day here in Japan.

4. Sahara: Though not a podcast, it is a book on tape that we downloaded from iTunes. It's by Michael Palin of Monty Python fame, and is an account of his travels around the Sahara. Interesting to me because it covers some of the same ground that I did in previous travels in Morocco.

So that's it. I highly recommend any one or all of them. Follow the links, and download them as you like. I think you'll appreciate them as much as I.

Where Have You Been?

Sorry, sorry, sorry...been gone, been busy, and now things are sorting themselves out a little bit and have slowed down enough to get a long overdue post in. In a nutshell, here's what's been keeping us so occupied.
  1. TDY to Hawaii: I was in HI for about 10 days. I know, that doesn't sound so bad, but it isn't much fun when all you have time to do is work. We got there on a Monday, and had that day free, and spent most of it wandering around Waikiki sort of like homeless (we couldn't check in to the hotel for about 8 hours), grubby and feeling gross from the previous 15 hours of travel. The next 9 days were all work. Get up at 6:00, get on the bus at 7:30. Get stuck in traffic. Get to work. Work. Eat lunch. Work. Get on the bus at 4:30. Get stuck in traffic. Get off the bus at 5:30. Eat supper. Go back to the hotel. Go to bed. Get up. Repeat. I was able to see some friends a couple of evenings, Cary, Stacy, Becky and Brady from my days in Louisiana, and Ginger and Mike, our friends from DC, now living there. That was fun. Otherwise, it was a good trip, just no time for goofing off. Last year, I had a day between conferences and spent it tramping around the island. This time, I had to content myself with a few stolen evenings to go out and take pics of the sunsets. Next year, though, I think I'm going to fly Melody out for the last few days. That way, we can enjoy it together.
  2. Selling a house: Just before I left to go to HI, we decided to sell our place in VA and upgrade. That has meant a lot of time spent on the phone and email working to get all the financing, condo docs, powers of attorney, and a myriad other things taken care of. One nice thing about being in HI was that I was several time zones closer and it was a whole lot easier to get that paperwork stuff done. Not so easy from Japan, but not as difficult as we'd initially believed. We've got absolutely awesome realtors, John and John, who helped us out 5 years ago, and are helping us out again now.
  3. Buying a house: Along with selling our place, we're also buying the place of one of our realtors, David. He was the guy who helped me buy my original place, lived down the street, and decided to sell. So, since we were in the market, we worked a sweet deal with him. Or rather, him with us. The timing is great, with the sale of our place finishing up about 5 days before the purchase of his. We'll have a slightly bigger mortgage, but will be able to rent at a price that will cover it. Of course, the whole process has been a bit stressful, but in the end, we'll have a great house that we'll be able to live in (our original would be a bit on the small size...we're hoping to go back with a little one).
  4. Work: Lots going on here with planning medical support for multiple exercises, units, and other things, as well as increased responsibilities with planning space utilization for our building. The last guy to have this job was an engineer...I'm in the medical field. Still, it's interesting, if a bit like one of those puzzles where you have to line up the numbers in order, except with people who are used to having huge offices (myself included) who will now have to share space. Oh well...they're not in my food chain, so I won't worry too much.
  5. Travel (Local): In spite of all that, we've tried to get out and see some stuff. I've decided to take up Body Boarding (don't think I've got the time to devote to actually figuring out how to surf), and we've thusly spent a bit more time at the beach than normal. In fact, we were down there the other day, and ran into one of our friends, Lori, who was out on a bike ride. We convinced her to stop her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle and join us for a cold one at one of the beach houses that get set up every summer. As we walked up to the coolest looking one (sort of thatched roof beach hut style) an American said, "You guys can sit here with us if you want." We consented, since there were no other seats, and joined him and his Japanese lady friend. As we sat there and chatted, and cooled ourselves down with some cold drinks, he regaled us with stories of his girlfriend, Miss Japan. Don't know if he was pulling our legs, but he seemed pretty convinced of it. The lady he was sitting with seemed to back him up. Who knows, perhaps we had a 2nd hand brush with Miss Japan.
  6. Yakatabune: Later, after we got done talking with the possible Mr. Boyfriend of Miss Japan, Melody and I hopped on the train for Tokyo. True to form, we got slightly lost enroute, but ultimately linked up with some friends to go ride a dinner boat on Tokyo Bay This was a lot of fun, as it was all you can eat and drink. We thought we coined a new phrase that muffs, the sensation that that drunk guy is actually singing well when he's not...but apparently, it's not so original, as there are over 100,000 Google hits on it. Oh well. Still, it was a lot of fun.
  7. Fireworks: Learning a hard lesson last year after I spent 4 hours in the car driving back from work, Melody and I took the train from our respective works last week to rendezvous at home and go see the fireworks by the beach. When we got to the station by our home, we ran into some friends who invited us to come along to a Hanabi Party. Hanabi, or "fire flowers" are quite popular here, and fireworks parties have been happening all summer long. This was our first time to go to a "real" hanabi party, though, and it was really fun. We sat, ate, drank a couple of beers, and I got to use the tripod and cable release that I picked up a few weeks ago. And, fooling around with the aperture speed, I managaed to get some good pictures. We also met some really nice folks who made us feel really welcome.
So, that about does it...A month's worth of posting in one session. Will continue to try to get more regular in the posting. Keep checking back when you can...we'll still be here.