Sunday, April 29, 2007

It's been far too long since the last blogging episode.

Life's been really busy here lately. In addition to the work routine, we've been blessed to have had several sets of visitors as well during the month of April.

In the first week, we had our friends Paul and Karen, and their two daughters, Rhiannon and Chloe come from England. I met Paul and Karen back in 1999 while on a trip to Morocco with Encounter Overland, a now defunct (absorbed into Dragoman, actually) overland travel company. There were 12 of us on the trip for two weeks in the back of a 10 ton truck driving around the country. It was a fantastic trip, and several of us have kept in touch over the years. Melody and I went to Paul and Karen's wedding, and in turn, they came to ours a few years ago. And, forgoing their annual trip to Spain, this year they came to Japan for a visit.

We had them stay at the lodge at Zama which is a lot cheaper than comparable lodging out in town. It also provided an easy point to start out on different trips around the area. We went to Hakone, the foothills leading to Mt. Fuji, the Beach at Enoshima, went to view the cherry blossoms at the on post festival, and visited with another Morocco trip alumnus, Nicole, in Tokyo. Later, Melody accompanied them to Kyoto for an overnight stay and touring around the historic city. All told, it was a great trip for them, and us getting to spend time with old friends. The kids are really sweet, and drew all sorts of attention from Japanese who would exclaim, "Kawaii!" (Cute!). Traveling with kids is never easy, and coming to Japan was quite a daunting endeavor. Somehow, though, Paul and Karen almost made it look easy.

Last week, my Mother, Father and Aunt came for 1o days. We spent a few days up in Tokyo at the New Sanno, enjoying the great accommodations and a classy dinner at Wellington's Restaurant. Melody set up a tour on the Kitty Hawk for everyone, which may have been the highlight of the trip for them. We also got a chance to see Leonardo Da Vinci's "The Annunciation" on display at the Tokyo Museum of Art. During a couple of days at our home in Kamakura, we discovered the Onsen hot spring spa down the street, and all went for a dip. Quite the Japanese experience, that was....for more info on a Japanese Onsen experience, see the entry from 26 Jan 06.

On Monday, Mom, Dad, Aunt Frannie and I took the train up to Tokyo Station. The first leg was fine, but as we got closer , we got a first hand look at the Tokyo commuter's life, crammed into the car like so many sardines. As Aunt Frannie said, 50 people would get off, and 60 would get on...incredible. Once at Tokyo Station, we had some breakfast, and I got them linked up with their tour to Kyoto and Nara. After that, I went on to meet my co-workers for a business trip up to Sendai. I spent two days up there before heading back to Tokyo to meet my folks again and head home. We had a brief scare when the train made an emergency stop and stayed still for about 15 minutes. None of the other passengers seemed to be panicking, though, so we didn't worry about it too much. Still not sure what happened.

Their visit ended on Friday, when I took them up to work with me and put them on a bus to the airport. We really had a great time, and enjoyed seeing family after more than a year. We discovered that yes, our house can survive having 5 adults in it, and it was great impetus to finally go through boxes that have sat idle for a long while. So, it was fun, and productive. The parental units and Aunt Frannie did great, despite the "death march" that was the tour around Kyoto ("OK! You have 5 minutes to get back to the bus!! Next stop is the Imperial Palace! We will have 30 seconds there, and then will go on to Nijo Castle!"). Aunt Frannie's new knee held up well, though, and everyone returned safely back to the States. At least we think so...we haven't heard from them yet. But, they were stopping in Seattle to see our cousin, and planning a side trip to Victoria, so we'll hear from them sometime.

Will be slowing down for a week or so, with just work to worry about. But, the week after next, I got a kitchen pass as an early birthday present, and will be traveling to China for about 2 1/2 weeks with a buddy of mine following the Silk Road from Beijing to Xian, and all the way out to Kashgar which is closer to Afghanistan than the next major town, Urumqi. Should be fun...Won't be able to blog much while on the trip, but I'll do what I can.

Sorry again for the long absence. It's been nutty busy around here, but things are returning to normal for a short while. Thanks for your patience.

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