Saturday, February 23, 2008

ICEBAR TOKYO

videoWay cool! -5 degrees!

We spent the weekend up in Tokyo again this weekend. We ate teppanyaki the first evening, and had Wellington's night with our friends David and Ginny, and Brendon and Aska. Being February, it was a Romance theme, with pink champagne, and an assortment of romantic choices. Melody had the quail, and I stuck with the filet of beef. It was all excellent, as usual. We even had the private party room, which was a nice touch.

We spent the afternoon wandering around a nearby park, watching the ducks and dogs. We saw a Schipperke (the first time I've seen one in the fur), and decided that it looked like a small black bear cub or a pig. Really cute. The highlight of the park, though was a cormorant that ducked down in the water and came up with a big fish in his mouth which somehow, he choked down. Wild Kingdom couldn't have done better...all we needed was Marlin Perkins there to narrate.

We also sat a while in a Segafredo's coffee shop. We started outside, but it was quite windy, and the yellow dust from China seemed to be drifting our way, so we adjourned inside. We had a nice conversation with an Indian lady and her three year old son about US politics. I think we sometimes forget that the election is not just important to Americans, but others around the world, since what we do as a country has wide ranging impacts. We were on different sides of the debate, but had a good time chatting. Then, back to the hotel for a nap, and eventually downstairs to Wellingtons for our reservation.

After supper, Brendon, Aska and I (Melody fell asleep) went out to the Ice Bar, as seen above. Really cool place, made entirely out of ice that was imported from Sweden. It was an Absolut-ly interesting and fun (if freezing) experience.


As you walk in, you pay your Y3500 for entrance, which includes a big poncho with a furry hood, and gloves hanging off the end. As you go into the -5 degree Celsius room, entirely crafted from ice, you belly up to the bar to place your order. Vodka drinks were the order of the day in various shades of green, purple, red, and a myriad tastes. I opted for the Absolut Boogie, a banana and berry flavored drink. The bartender fixes it and hands it to you in your glass, also made from ice. Then you put it to your lips to sip the delicious concoction, and then try to get it unstuck from your face. Remember the movie A Christmas Story? Yeah...like that.

It didn't take too long for the experience to go from cool to "geez, what do you say we get out of here? I can't feel my feet!" So we headed back to the hotel, I tucked Melody into bed, and drifted off myself.

This morning, we met another bunch of friends for brunch. Toshi came up with his daughters Miri and Akane, and Ed and Kersten and Mike from work all came. We had a great time just relaxing over good food and lingering in conversation...these are things we'll miss about living here. We'll have one more opportunity in a month or so...then, it's back to the US.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008

San Antonio (2)

A few pictures from the stay in SATX....

















Felipe

















The Alam0













Memorial to Davey Crockett

















Old and New

















Fountain at Torres del Americas

















Top of the Tower


















The Riverwalk

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

San Antonio

I've been in San Antonio for about a week and a half now. I came to escort some Japanese to some military medical sites around the area, and stayed to do a little house hunting. I even squeezed in a weekend trip to Houston to see Melody's Mom and Dad.

So far, it's been a good week, if a bit busy. The time with my Japanese counterparts went well. We had a chance to visit the new Center for the Intrepid, a rehabilitation center for our Wounded Warriors. It was a humbling experience to walk around and see the guys and girls there who have sacrificed themselves for our country. Funded totally by private donations, the Center was completed in about 18 months, and then turned over to the Department of Defense, to avoid the incessant red tape and bureaucracy that comes with military construction projects.

The Center has a full range of state of the art rehabilitation facilities, including an indoor pool and Flowrider (like a perpetual wave for surfing or body boarding, a fun and effective rehab technique), and even a rock climbing wall. Many of the Wounded Warriors are from the "younger" generation, and are into extreme sports. Judging from the facilities, losing a leg or two doesn't stop them or even slow them down.

They also have simulators to replicate daily tasks like walking in traffic, or even shooting a weapon, essential to regaining soldiering skills for those staying in the military (a surprisingly high number).

We saw the world-class burn center at Brooke Army Medical Center, as well as spent a short bit of time at the Fisher House, sort of a home away from home for family members and Wounded Warriors who are in an outpatient status.

Part of the week we spent up at Fort Hood, talking with Soldiers who served in and treated combat casualties in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Japanese Soldiers really enjoyed hearing some of the "war stories" because it validated that the skills taught really work and save lives. Part of the tour included a medical simulation center styled after a Baghdad street. Realistic situational training in treating patients under fire is a lot different than the training I received when I was in troop assignments, and much, much better.

All in all, it was a very successful trip.

The past few days, I have been looking at house after house, searching for a place for us to live. Melody has spent the past seven or eight months on every real estate website in San Antonio, and has showed me countless homes as well. We almost went back to a property that we had placed a bid on (and subsequently pulled based on the home inspection), and finally settled on one that we think will work. We've placed an offer, and are waiting to hear what they say. Hopefully, the long search is over, and we'll have a home when we arrive in April.

We'll let everyone know.