Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No Place Like Home

Do you ever get over your childhood?  A few months ago. Bear had an assignment in school: bring pictures from home or the internet of 5 of the most beautiful places on earth to make a collage.  My mind immediately went to the Rocky Mountains and the Intermountain West.  THE most beautiful place on earth, if you ask me.  We have spent a good amount of time in the Rockies during summers of Bear's childhood.  Then there was Guam, and plenty of beautiful places we have visited in Japan.  And of course, Grandma & Grandpa N's farm.  Another beautiful place in my life.  Imagine my surprise when Bear announced that the only place he wanted a picture of was our house and yard in Illinois!

We are ten days from our one year anniversary in Japan.  Truly, I have loved every day of it.  Maybe not every minute, or even every hour, but every day I have been happy to be here.  I miss my family, of course, but I didn't see them much in the US either (even you - Will & Sam!  We saw you more than the others, but it was still only every few months).  Our one year anniversary means that I have now spent every season in Japan.  As sakura season comes to a close, and the warmth of spring begins to prevail, I am beginning a season in Japan for the second time.  Somehow, this makes it lose some of its newness and excitement.  I am feeling homesick.  I sang "America the Beautiful" and "My Country 'Tis of Thee" all the way home from Costco this morning.  I miss my garden in Illinois.  I miss buying seeds at Menard's and seedlings at Kelly Seed.  I miss the fire pit we dug two years ago and my little magnolia tree in bloom.  I miss grocery shopping at Kroger.  I miss Johnny, and he wasn't even really mine!  I miss the Wastach front in the springtime.  I miss feeling warmth in the air, but seeing Mt. Timpanogas still covered in snow.  I miss rollerblading on the Provo River trail.  And, most of all, I think, I miss our Idaho farm.  I miss the comforting smell of my horses and being covered in horse hair as they lost their winter coats.  I miss the velvety feel of their muzzles and the way they closed their eyes and dozed as I brushed them.  I miss the spring in their step as they also reveled in the glory of springtime.  I miss cantering along the dirt road through Shulsen's farm off the 200 East road.  I miss wandering the cow paths on the old farm and the the way the banks of the canals had eroded from years of cattle making their way down to drink.  I miss exploring in the Russian Olives.  I miss feeding the calves and the feeling of their rough tongues sucking my hand.  I miss the haystacks.  Springtime is a time of renewal and looking forward, but I find my heart aching for times long past.

When I thought about it for a moment, it made me happy that Bear thought of Illinois as one of the most beautiful places on earth.  That means he spent a happy seven years at our little midwestern homestead.  Illinois had not made my list, but to him, it was beautiful.  I suppose it is possible that southern Idaho is not so beautiful to those who do not know it well, but to me, the remembrance of it at least, will always feel like home.

I know that our time in Japan will go quickly.  When someday we leave, I will look back with longing again.  That is the problem, and the blessing, of living in many places.  You leave pieces of your heart wherever you go.  

Tell me, what do you miss from your childhood?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Clan in Japan

We have had a busy, fun-filled couple of weeks around here with our first visitors from overseas:  Mr. Mike's parents, two aunts, and their husbands.  The first couple of days Mike was working and they were still jet-lagged, so we took it pretty easy.  We walked around the cute neighborhood by our train station and I took them grocery shopping (an experience in itself!) and shopping at the great secondhand stores.  But beginning Saturday, we got down to the business of sight-seeing.  We went on some kind of excursion pretty much every day for the next two weeks.  It was fun for me to show them around and they were all so appreciative of everything about Japan.  I also enjoyed cooking some of the Japanese dishes I have learned for people who would actually eat and enjoy them, since my kids usually don't.  :)  We were able to have an enjoyable meal of okonomiyaki filled with compliments instead of complaints!  I would cook, and they would clean up, and I'm always quite happy with that arrangement.  The second week was Luke's spring break and Mike took the week off, so we went to Hiroshima and Miyajima and spent the night, and then spent a day in Kyoto later in the week.  Unfortunately, the weather has not been great, but we managed to see a lot and enjoy ourselves anyway.  Our house will seem pretty quiet and lonely when everyone leaves on Tuesday.

Now prepare for a long post with lots of pictures as I try to cover the highlights of the whole trip.

Down by the station

Grocery shopping

Secondhand shopping

Beaver bought this dragon thing.

I'm not sure what is actually happening here, but it looks like Mike is giving instructions for riding the train.

On the train

Getting on the ropeway

Up, up and away!

On top of the mountain

Downtown Kobe

We ran into the missionaries


The aquarium was Beaver's idea, but it turns out all he wanted to see was the dolphin show.  We went to that first thing, and then he was ready to go.

Enjoying okonomiyaki.

The Bakery Party!
This photo requires some explanation.  There are little bake shops full of all kinds of bread creations practically on every corner in Japan.  One train stop from our station is the only bakery where we have been able to find whole wheat bread.  One day we had been out sight-seeing all morning and we were all very hungry.  We had to pass by that station on our way home, so we stopped at the bakery to get some whole wheat bread, but everything in the shop looked so good to our empty stomachs that we started buying more than just bread.  By the time we left, I think we had purchased one of about everything in the store between us!  We took our goods home and divvied them up on platters so everyone could try a little of everything for lunch.  Beaver came in and announced, "It's a bakery party!"  And so, the Bakery Party was born.  A couple of days later we were passing that station again, so we repeated the process, but this time saved the party for dinner so Bear could join in as well.  After our meal, Bear declared, "That was the best dinner ever!"

Being a cattleman, Uncle Jim wanted to try some of the famous Kobe beef, so he bought some one night and treated us all to it the next day.  I actually haven't been crazy about the Kobe beef I have eaten so far, but this was good stuff!

In no time at all, G&G were fitting right in - sleeping on the trains and everything!

Our kids were delighted with the tame "wild" deer on Miyajima.  Until Bear got kicked, anyway.

The floating torii gate at Miyajima

Hiroshima - I didn't think I wanted to take the kids to the A-bomb museum, so Mike and I sent the gang off on their own and went on a tour of the Mazda factory instead.

When they were done at the museum, they were brave enough to go and get lunch by themselves!  Here is a restaurant employee showing Grandpa how to order his lunch from a vending machine.  I was impressed.  I don't think I have ever even ordered at a restaurant by myself!  I always take Mike with me!

Grandpa was getting pretty good at chopsticks!

Bear dressed as a samurai at Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima Castle

We were all tired out on Wednesday after our trip, so we took it easy in the morning, and then Mike took everyone to a nearby park in the afternoon.  It has beautiful gardens and an awesome ropes course for kids.

Thursday was Kyoto

And finally, the cherry blossoms really showed themselves!

It was wonderful to have visitors and to be able to share Japan with people we love!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Spring!

My first Sakura season in Japan!  

It is still cold, but our cherry trees are blooming beautifully at last.  Warm weather appears to be on its way next week - just in time for our guests to leave.  Boo.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Gang in Japan

At the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge

The Three Sister's shopping trip with the owners of the antiques store and our friend from church.  Colleen said she had always wanted pearls, so Jim bought her the lovely pearl necklace she is wearing!

Eating tempura at the Akashi Fish market.  Everyone was pretty fearless and willing to try all kinds of samples...
 ...even this!

On the ferry to Miyajima

Grandma & Grandpa at Miyajima

Grandma on the ropes course at Suma Rikyu park

Group photo at the Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto

We have been having a great time!  I hope to get more photos and info posted soon!