September 8-12, 2014

I travel lots of weeks for work.  I’ve been close to home, all over the US and have set foot in 7 different countries in the past 4 years.  I always say my life is filled with abundance because of the amazing opportunities I have had, the wonderful people I have met, the food and local beauty I have been able to enjoy.  Even if it’s just an hour or two here or there,  I do my best to stuff a little joy and adventure into my life.

I have a list on the vision board in my office of places I would like to one day visit, places I would like to see if even just for work.  There are a few of them that have check marks next to them this year.  Some are big dreams, some are small dreams, some just seem like a place I would like to see.

My parents divorced when I was 12.  My mom remarried a high school football coach, Ken Funk, who had a great deal of influence in my life, my formative years.  He was also a math teacher, and I had him for my math teacher in the 8th grade.  He played semi-professional baseball in Texas in his much younger days.  I can’t remember how far back he started talking about Brownsville, Texas.  I can remember as an adult he would suggest that instead of going to Florida that we needed to go to Brownsville for vacation.

Last week I found myself in that corner of the world working with an office.  I did my normal stop in at the office, and I really didn’t plan on sitting in a hotel room for the afternoon.  Pharr and Edinburg, Texas were my home for the week, and though a friendly sort of place, not too many scenic vistas there. So I headed south, way south.

Brownsville is a big Texas sized city, close to the Mexican border.  I was pretty sure when he told me to go to Brownsville that he meant the beach.  I had done some Google searching before leaving home and decided to check out Boca Chica beach.  It was about 45 minutes from Brownsville.  It was a long road with not all that much traffic for 15 miles of the drive.  The road ended at the beach..right on the beach.  I decided it probably was not a good idea to drive the rental car on the beach.  I turned the car around, and jumped out to do some sand doodling.

I found a stick and wrote my step-father’s name in the sand and a note underneath.

madeit

I spent a little time there, watching the waves and thinking about this man that was such a positive influence in my life.  I could write a book just of the memories of growing up in a crazy household that always seemed to be filled with people.  Football players, parents, friends, family–it always seemed like there was a party going on in that household.  He was greatly admired by the people that he influenced on the football field.  I never played football, the closest I came to being on the field with him was as the scorekeeper for his high school baseball team while I was in high school.  Riding the bus with a baseball team as the only girl had it’s pros and cons to be sure.

Alzheimer’s took his mind far too young.  I am thankful that while he still had his facilities about him, that I was able to tell him what he meant to me, to my life and to say thank you.  Divorce is tough, and as a child I know that I put him through some pretty rough times, but he hung in there with me.  Of course I was way out of my teens when I realized what an influence he had been, and how he probably changed the direction and the path of my life.

Since I made a stop at South Padre Island and Port Isabel and enjoyed the view, bought some post cards and a few Christmas gifts in a great nautical shop I found. It was a Monday, so most places were closed–part of being a Road Warrior Princess, most places are closed on the one day you have a few hours, or the shops are all closed by the time I finish my day with the office.  Most nights I’m in the hotel room after work getting things ready for the next day.  It’s far from glamorous and exciting, it’s what I do each week, and it’s my routine just like your routine may be getting in your car and driving to work.

The visit to the office this week, was another special one for me.  They taught me phrases like ah, chihuhua, hasta mañana and reminded me why I made the decision to move to Texas, there are some very wonderful people here.  Don’t believe all that you see on the news, read in the paper or see streaming across your Facebook wall.  It’s a big state with lots of people and I think that those good kind people balance out the crazy ones.  I was stopped by the border patrol coming back from the beach.  They asked me if I was a US Citizen and I told them yes, and not only that I was a citizen of the state of Texas.  I am proud to be a citizen of Texas and I’m grateful this week for a chance to finally get to see another part of this state that I love.

Photos Tokyo, Japan

Posted: August 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

https://flic.kr/s/aHsjZEyWCq

August 9, 2014

I woke up after the best night’s rest since leaving Texas.  What a great feeling, and with the cooler temperatures here I’m almost feeling myself again.  We started the day with a latte and orange juice not far from our hotel.  I had some delicious orange marmalade and we just enjoyed the people watching a the 30 minutes of free wifi.  We have been very spoiled by the wifi in Japan.  In Australia, you pay any internet, and it’s not the best.

We packed an overnight bag and headed to Cotton Tree, Australia. That Linda impresses me with her skills driving on the wrong side of the road.  It takes a lot of thought and turning is the opposite of what you need to do in the US.  The slow lane is the left lane.  With the help of the GPS we wound our way north to the location for our training tomorrow.  Along the way we found a cut off that took us to Steve Irvin drive, I of course had to jump out of the car and take a picture.  

We found a spot not too far off the beaten path that had a scenic view.  We made a quick exit and arrived at the Wild Horse Mountain Lookout.  It was 700 meters STRAIGHT UP and I had to take lots of breaks along the walk.  I kept telling myself that the view would be well worth the effort.  It was a 360 degree view of Australian beauty.  

Back on the road we were heading to our home away from our home away from home for the week.  We turned off the highway and within a few minutes we could see the beach and the ocean.  It looked a lot like the beaches and the oceanfronts in California.  We checked into our hotel and walked toward the water for a little lunch.

Our first stop was a beach club along the ocean, membership was required, but you could also gain access with proper ID.  Evidently an American accent also serves as proper ID.  They didn’t serve lunch until 3, and we were going to need to sit inside.  Who goes to the ocean and sits inside?  We went back across the street to a small fish and burger spot.  What a great place to pick up lunch to have a the beach.  We both ordered the Dory and calimari.  I know…WE ATE DORY today.  I hope Nemo forgives us.  The gentleman that waited on us told us it was the best calimari in the world.  Hmmmm…we just had the best calimari in the world in Tokyo. When he asked where we were from of course we said the states, Texas and Ohio and he had no clue where that was.  It’s all about perspective.

The food was freshly cooked.  Great fires and Dory and he was right it was the tenderest best calimari we both had ever had.  It was fantastic, and so were the fries and the Dory.  Maybe in part due to the view and the sound of the ocean.  We walked up a path along the beach the restaurant owner told us there was a marina there.  No sign of a marina, but we did see some sailboats out sailing in water.  We passed an Australian turkey along the path and one of the locals told us if you put a turkey in a pot, cook it for 3 days and toss out the turkey you might have some good soup. 

We made our way to the beach and the water’s edge. You know I found a stick and doodled in the sand.  We saw people fishing, wading out to nearly waist deep—-brr the water was cold just putting our toes in during our walk.  There was a tree near the skateboard park that had shoes hanging from all of the branches that gave us quite a giggle.

It was a beautiful calming way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  It will make an 8 am start tomorrow much easier without an hour and 20 minute drive and getting up super early and having no idea where we are heading, or the traffic that time of the day..  I am sure there was less traffic today and no pressure or stress on our drive here.  We’ll take our time driving home tomorrow back to Brisbane.

We walked down to our favorite restaurant on the beach to have a hamburger for dinner.  We told the owner that he in fact does have the best calimari in the world.  I had a burger, Linda had a steak burger.  Both were piled high with cheese, tomatoes, beets, grilled onions, lettuce and bbq sauce. It definitely required several napkins.  He drew a smiley face on the box and tossed in some more calimari on the house.  After dinner we walked a few blocks and found the office tomorrow.  Right along the beach..oh my.

Feeling the abundance and joy that being near the beach and the ocean can bring.

August 11, 2014

It was a back to work day for us today.  The office was just around the corner from our hotel and we started our day at 8:00 a.m.  The office is just across the street from the beach and the view was incredible.  We both agreed we would be hard-pressed to get any work done if we had that view all day.  We accomplished our mission and had a great learning time with out trainees. This part of Australia reminds me of the coast of San Diego.

We took one more walk along the beach at the end of the day and found the marina.  The boats were huge, a few yachts and the sailboats were catamarans.  I’m sure there were a few smaller boats tucked in here and there but they were dwarfed by the big boats.

The drive back to Brisbane took close to 2 hours.  There was a traffic jam and we were bumper to bumper traffic for at least 30 minutes.  It was dark by the time we got back to Brisbane, we took a wrong turn and had a spectacular view of the city, the ferris wheel and the performance area we had visited on Saturday.  We were too busy trying to find the correct way home so no photos, but lots of ooohs and aahhhs from both of us.

We changed and headed out to Queen’s Street in search of dinner.  We found a restaurant on the second level of the shopping area and ate at Jo Jo’s tonight.  It was a beautiful view, and we both enjoyed our dinner selections.  We did a little walking and found at the end of one of the streets a walkway with a view of the city and a bridge all decked out in lights.  There were some sailboats there but too dark for a good photo.  There looked to be some people living aboard.  We may pass that way tomorrow for a few more photos.

We are settled in on the couch tonight, working and watching golf.  We’ll make a visit to our next office tomorrow and we start again.  New place, new people, new office…and a new country.

August 12, 2014

We stated our day with a visit to the office we will be training Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Our quick 15 minute visit to say hello turned into 2 hours of sorting out logistics in the office of where the training would be held.  It also ended up helping the office sort out some network issues that involved calling in their IT person while we were there.  Hey, it’s part of the job and will make our Thursday morning go much more smoothly with these issues resolved.  It’s a big group this week—22 people but you know we’ve got this. We dropped off a few things at our hotel room and it was time for a little adventure.

When we arrived on Saturday we found that there was a river cruise that ran twice a day, at 10:30 and 12:30. Even with the extra time we spent at the office we were able to make the 12:30 cruise.  Quite a few of the cruisers headed up to the top section of the boat.  You know Linda and I were not going to sit in the glassed in area.  We were up on top enjoying the view.  By the end of the cruise, most of the people had moved to the enclosed area.  Sissies!  

Linda headed down to the main cabin and ordered a latte for her and a cup of tea for me.  They delivered the tea on a little tray and I felt like a lady of leisure sipping my tea and enjoying the ride.  It was one of those fill your bucket kind of moments.  In this job you give and give and give some more.  It’s all part of that nurturing overachieving sort of personality.  It felt good just to sit back and enjoy the ride.  

The captain of the boat gave a running commentary as the boat moved down the river.  It was a bit of a history lesson as well as a tour of the city from the water.  There were boats parked next to houses and sailboats bobbing in the water.  It was a slice of paradise and we enjoyed every minute of our 90 minutes motoring around the river.  I thought for a moment they would have to drag us off the boat at the end, we enjoyed it that much.

We decided to have lunch in our room on our scenic vista patio.  We planned to make a stop at Woolworth’s, but Linda saw the 50% off sign at the shoe store.  We found a sassy pair of boots with a gold stiletto heel, but they just had one boot in her size.  The sales clerk suggested we try the store next door.  We found an even sassier pair of boots, but the price was a little higher than the first store.  I convinced Linda to try them on, and take full responsibility for strongly encouraging her to buy the boots.  She was delighted when she paid for them and found that the price marked on the boots was 50% off of the price marked.  Whoooo Hooooo!!!! I am pretty sure I was as excited for her to buy them as she was.  They are wild and crazy with a silver heel and a zipper detail that is very classy looking.  I told her that she would regret not buying them and we giggled all the way back to the hotel.

Our next stop on the way to Woolworth’s was the Apple Store we had seen the night before.  It had large beautiful ceilings.  It is housed in a very old building.  We went in and asked if it was ok to take photos.  Of course….yes, we were Mac geeks, and darn proud of it.

Yes, we finally made it to Woolworth’s and bought some fresh rolls.  I had some turkey at the apartment and Linda has a stash of spicy hot dogs.  Linda bought our second bag of cheese and bacon balls.  Yep, she’s hooked on them too.  We had such a nice lunch and talked and laughed and enjoyed our time in this corner of the world. 

After lunch, we jumped in the car and made our way to visit a current customer that Linda had trained in Brisbane 2 years ago.  Somehow, we managed to find the office and got there 30 minutes before the doctor started his evening hours.  We were waiting on the sidewalk when he walked up and no doubt he thought we were a little crazy.  He finally realized who Linda was and was very happy that she came to say high.  Yes, we were the customer relations officers for one office today in Australia.  It’s not often that we get to go back and visit an office we have trained in the states, let alone on the other side of the world.  We saw a rainbow on our drive over, I told Linda I thought the rainbow was leading us to the office. 

We made our way back in the rain and the dark.  Linda really is a driving on the wrong side of the road Ninja.  It’s not easy and our Tom Tom GPS seems to lag behind and there’s some recalculating involved.  With patience and persistence we always seem to make it back where we need to be.

Tonight we walked a few blocks down the street and had dinner at the Pancake Manor.  We’ve driven by there a few times and decided breakfast for dinner was a great idea.  The Pancake Manor is in an old building-talk about atmosphere.  Large beamed ceilings and curved arches and filled with booths and tables. The booths looked like church pews that had been cut into sections.  I had the white macadamia nut pancakes and Linda had the strawberry pancakes.  It’s the first time I’ve had pancakes topped with ice cream.  Linda started with a salad, I told her I needed to keep my palate clean for pancakes.

We’re in for the night, doing a little work with Mrs. Doubtfire on the tv.  It was a sad moment to hear of Robin Williams passing.  We really haven’t heard much of the news in the states since leaving the country.  We talked today that we left our homes on July 31.  Since that time every day we have either been on a plane flying to an office, in the car driving to an office, stopping by and checking in on an office for a few hours and spending 8 hours in an office working.  So tomorrow, a bank holiday in Australia, we are going to try to take the day off.  I’m not quite sure that will happen.  But three days to work after that and we are on a plane headed for home on Sunday.  

From the very start we’ve called this the epic adventure, it’s certainly proved to be that and so much more. 

August 13, 2014

It’s a bank holiday today in Brisbane, so there’s no work happening today.  For the first day since leaving on the epic adventure on July 31 Linda and I took a day off.  I know you’ve been seeing the photos of the fun we’ve been having.  Many of you have told me how jealous you are of our adventure.  You know I love to write about the fun we are having, all the good parts.  Because that’s how I live my life each and every day, focusing on the good stuff.  

I’m not mentioning the fact that I have only really had two good night’s sleep in 2 weeks of being away, that for three weekends in a row we will be making 15 hour plane rides to a new part of the world. I didn’t mention how messed up my stomach was from eating all those interesting and strange foods in Japan.  The exhaustion, the bags under our eyes and the nights we struggle to stay awake late enough to make Skype calls home. While we are here we are missing family birthdays and celebrations and dancing and fun with our loved ones and friends.  That’s all part of this too.  It’s a trade off, and it comes with the job.  In reality if you put all of our wild and crazy time together that are not working hours…we might be able to stretch it into one day of fun, two counting today.  You know I’ve had my camera out recording all the good stuff and doing my best PollyAnna view of the world. I know that it looks like we are jet setting and having the time of our lives.  If you travel only for vacation and don’t do this for work every week, you might feel think that’s the way it is.  But anyone who is a road warrior will tell you, this is hard, REALLY hard.

I woke up this morning…and I just wanted to go home….

*gasp*

I wanted to sleep in my own bed, walk to my mailbox and get my mail, go to my new gym, take a walk around the neighborhood, go out to eat with That Guy, catch up on the DVR , pick up my phone to call or text a friend, I want to eat when I want to eat and get in my car and run to the store for something and do those normal things that we all take for granted every day.  You know those boring unappreciated sort of days. 

Well suck it up Buttercup, you have a few more days to get through until your 15 hour plane ride home on Sunday.  

So today, when we boarded the ferry I looked at Linda and said until we are back in our hotel in Brisbane, there will be no talk of work.  It’s a bank holiday for us too.  We did a great job of making that happen.

Now, the good stuff, what you like to read about. 🙂

Linda Andretti got us to the ferry with five minutes to spare today.  The parking lot was full—it’s the holiday you know and we had to park sort of far away and run to make the ferry.  When it’s time to go, that ferry isn’t waiting for anyone.  We climbed up to the open level and one loved the wind in our hair and the sea spray.  It was beautiful and exhilarating and that ferry zoomed across to the North Stradbbork Island.  When we arrived at the island we took a bus to Point Lookout.  The bus was packed, all of the seats were filled and there was standing room only.  It was a bit of Mr. Toad’s wild ride, but I held on tight and no crashes or falls. 

On the drive up I caught glimpses of the sea.  In many ways it reminded me of the coast of Northern California, one of my favorite spots in the world.  We picked up something to eat as we walked along hugging the stuffing out of Mother Nature.  There was a board walk around the gorge and the view of the water and the rocks was magnificent.  I wasn’t prepared to see the whales.  It took me a bit to tell the difference between whales and the white caps.  We stopped along the path and enjoyed watching the tails and the fins above water.  We did get to see a bit more of some of the whale bodies.  We were hoping for a giant jump out of the water type event but that didn’t happen.  The water was crystal clear, and aquamarine color—so very beautiful.  After we made the complete circle we sat at a picnic table just enjoying the view and a few more whale sightings.  Rest…relax…recharge.

We caught the bus back to the ferry station just as the ferry pulled in.  We were the only two sitting outside for the ride back.  It was windy, crazy sea spray and we quickly found that Linda was in the splash zone when a wave came up and gave her a good splashing.  We made it back to the hotel with minimal recalculating by the gps and enjoyed our last lunch on the balcony.  We walked back down to the river area, I had a hot chocolate, Linda had a latte and just reflected on the great day.

Back in our room tonight I have my shirts ironed and ready for the next three days.  We have reviewed things for the practice this week and we are ready to go in the morning.  The three days with them will go fast, there’s lots to do and when we walk into that office we will give them all we have to give all smiles and full of energy.  It’s who we are, and what we do.  

3 pairs of pants in the closet and counting!

August 14, 2015

A really short note today….it was our first day with the new office.  There is a staff of 22 and I spent my time with the clinical team and the doctors today.  Linda and I were both impressed at how hard, they worked, how well they did and that the day zoomed by.  Large offices can sometimes be challenging, this one surprised us both in a very good way.

They invited us to dinner tonight, one of the staff was retiring.  We were treated like one of the family and had a great meal with lots of laughter and conversation.  Today at the morning tea break they had Tim Tams and two other varieties of Australian biscuits aka cookies in the US.  We had also had Anzac biscuits, which I loved and another type–that I’ve forgotten the name of that started with an L.  I have a feeling there will be some more Aussie goodies for us in the morning.

On the walk to dinner one of the doctors told me that he had recently been in Amarillo to see Joe Bonamasso–a small world indeed.  

Short but sweet, life is good and one day closer to heading for home.  We are going to have a delightful 3 days with these Aussies. 

Photos Australia 2014

Posted: August 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

https://flic.kr/s/aHsk24Msnc

Tokyo, Japan August 2014

Posted: August 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

August 1, 2014

My oh my it’s a long journey from Dallas to Tokyo. There was a slight delay in taking off, but the flight was mostly uneventful.  I was surprised how well we were fed on the American flight.  There was a crazy family across the aisle with 2 rambunctious boys that never slept.  They were loud and were bouncing all over that plane.  I felt bad for the people that were sitting in front of them.  One of them had a small baby.

When I got off the plane my first stop was the ladies room.  I looked into the stalls and wasn’t quite sure which one to go into.  There was a regular looking toilet at the end, a toilet in the floor and one that looks like it should be on a space ship with all sorts of buttons and controls.  I resisted the urge to take a photo—at first. But then I just had to go back and snap a few pictures.

Before leaving the states my traveling, teaching buddy, friend and I had made a plan to meet in the American Airlines baggage claim.  There was a problem with that plan, we both flew into different terminals.  After checking with someone I made my way through customs and out to meet up with Linda-san.  That is the smoothest and quickest I have ever made it through customs.  No line, no hassle, they didn’t care if I was coming to Japan on business.  

We found that a taxi from the airport to the hotel was going to be very pricey, so we opted for the more economical limousine.  In reality it was a giant bus.  When the bus arrived and left the airport the staff at the pick up station would bow.  Thankfully there was a monitor on the bus to let us know which stop we needed to take—stop number 2.  They assured us that our hotel was a short 10 minute walk from the limousine drop off station.

When we met at the airport, Linda and I were both excited and fired up—even after our long flight.  But that long 60 kilometer bus ride, with very little air conditioning seemed to suck the wind out of our sails.  It’s warm and humid here, think Miami, Florida in the summer after a rain.  We agreed that we would settle in, take a shower and then head out to find some dinner.  At the hotel where the bus dropped us off, we asked for directions to our hotel.  The desk clerk was very nice, and printed a map out for us in Japanese and highlighted the path we needed to take.  We were each lugging suitcases, computer cases and back packs and thoroughly confused.  I made the executive decision to take a taxi to our hotel.  

At the front desk they offered us a cool wash cloth to wipe our faces and proceeded to check us into the hotel.  We have a real key to the room instead of a magnetic card.  When we leave, we drop the key at the front desk and pick it back up when we are back at the hotel.  The room is nice, small in comparison to rooms in the US.  I like to unpack my clothes, and there’s not much space for that.  There’s a mini fridge aka mini bar.  A tv with all Japanese stations…one of the toilets from outer space.

When we walked out of the hotel into the street it was a mass of people.  Our drop off point was near the train station.  There were so many people it was overwhelming.  Our taxi driver was nice, spoke very little english but when I handed him our hotel info he put the address into his gps and we were on our way.  Wow…we were feeling relieved when we saw the hotel sign.  Finally we were at our destination.

Showered, settled, we were off in search of dinner.  We are in a great location, lots of excitement and places to eat within walking distance of our hotel.  Honestly, it’s all very overwhelming.  The people, the places, the city—it’s so much to take in.  Our senses are definitely on overload.  We saw all sorts of dinner options but held back on making a final decision.  We found a tapioca drink stand and asked for a menu in english and were able to order something to drink.  We kept walking venturing out a little further.  I was taking photos like the tourist that I am.  We didn’t leave breadcrumbs behind.  But we did take photos of landmarks to try to keep us from getting lost. 

There are some people here wearing masks, but fewer than I expected.  It’s interesting to see how the people dress.  They younger girls wear little short baby doll looking dresses with heels high enough that they make Linda-san’s stilettos look to be the norm here.  

After all of our walking around, we decided to have dinner in the restaurant across the street from our hotel.  We wanted authentic Japanese.  The menu was not in english.  It was Linda’s turn to make a When Harry Met Sally executive decision.  She pointed at a table across the room and said, “We’re having what they’re having.”  The meal was wonderful.  Thinly sliced beef that we grilled at the table.  We also ordered a salad and the meal came with a broccoli salad and another bean sprout type salad. They were all excellent.  The rice was amazing and I ate the entire meal with chopsticks.  Even after our waitress brought us forks to use.  

….I looked a the card I picked up from the restaurant on the way out the door….ummm, I’m going to have to tell Linda that our authentic Japanese meal was in fact Korean.  At least that’s what the card says.  It doesn’t matter, it was spectacular.  It’s just about 9 here. and the bed is calling my name.  More adventures tomorrow, it’s been one very long day.  

One thing we weren’t expecting were all of the people smoking in restaurants.  Whew…I’m glad we’ve eliminated that in most of the US.  They have all sorts of people on the street corners trying to get you to come not their business and buy.  They pretty much ignore Linda and I.  I guess we stand out a bit as we walk along the streets.

 

August 2, 2014

It was an off and on sleeping kind of night.  I was so exhausted that I was under the covers asleep by 9.  I woke up at 4:30 and made myself stay in bed and slept very deeply until 8:30 a.m.  At one point during the night I thought I could get to the bathroom without turning on a light.  That was pretty, easy, but the flashing lights from the crazy toilet turned the bathroom into a scene from Saturday Night Fever.  It made me giggle—and you know I’m all about sharing the funny stuff that happens to me.

After a shower I connected with Linda who had mapped out a few sights for us to see today.  When we asked ad the front desk, they told us the train would be the best way to get there.  We knew where the train station was located, that was the easy part.  We wound our way down stairs and escalators and found the ticket purchase area.  We tried to map out our route and decided it probably would not be a bad idea to ask for help.  There was a section at the Shibuya Train Station and the gentleman gave us a subway map and walked us over and showed us that we needed to buy a 280 yen ticket. 

While buying out tickets we connected with two young Asian girls that were heading to the Tsukiji Market as well.  They offered to help us find our way to the market.  SCORE!  As we waited for the train we found out that one of them was from China, the other from a different part of Japan.  The funny part, they were both students at UT Dallas—yep they were from my corner of the world.  There seems to always be a little bit of Texas popping up when I am on my adventures.

The subway was packed but quite a few people got off.  Linda and I held onto the straps and navigated our way off the train, made the connection to the next line with the help of our friends and were soon at the market.  Oh my word did it smell fishy!

We walked around a bit, both of us not really all that impressed.  We then realized that we hadn’t actually gotten to the good part of the market.  We thought our senses had been on overload on day 1.  Day 2—-wow did we see all sorts of things.  Linda tasted samples.  I passed on that option.  I took pictures instead.  It is very hot and humid here and I was feeling overheated and decided that tasting some strange food might not be the best idea.  There are people who speak english here, but communication is not quite what you would think—or expect.  We’re both speaking english, but we’re not always understanding each other.  That should make for an interesting week at the practice. 

Just outside of the market we found a shaved ice truck and had a green tea shaved ice.  That’s become our Japanese obsession.  It was refreshing and the ice is shaved much finer than what we are used to in the US. 

Are next stop was a walk to the Hamarikya Gardens.  We spent most of our time there sitting on a bench in the shade trying to recover from the heat and humidity on our walk.  It was a chance to talk, to catch up, but mostly to catch our breath.  We strolled around the park and decided to head back to the hotel.  We were headed toward the train station and Linda spotted someone getting out of a cab and we jumped in.  Yes, it was not as adventurous as the train ride, but the air conditioning was wonderful and we had a car ride through some parts of Tokyo we had not yet seen.  

We decided to find a place close to the hotel for lunch.  There were a number of tables and counters, but it didn’t look as if anyone was taking orders.  They weren’t standing at the counter to order either.  Then we spotted the machine that sells tickets to purchase the food.  It was all in Japanese with a number on the selection button.  Well, we could figure out the cost, but had no idea what to order.  One of the people came behind the counter and took us outside to a case with food items and a corresponding number.  We put in our yen, punched the numbers and took our tickets up to the counter.  We honestly had no clue what we were ordering and they tried to explain to us in that english/english conversation that doesn’t go all that well.  Hey, it’s an adventure, we went with it.  I had rice and some sort of curry that was wonderful. I have no idea what Linda had at the food-o-mat but hers was good as well.  For my friends that encouraged me to try new things, that’s happening. Don’t ask me what I have eaten, but it’s all been good so far. Linda warns me when there are texturing things going on and I don’t eat those particular things. 

Back to the hotel for the second shower of the day and to change to meet the office we will be working with on Monday. It’s a taxi drive away to the office, not within walking distance even if it wasn’t hot and humid and we could read the street signs.  We were greeted warmly by the staff at the front desk and were led downstairs to meet the doctor.  This office is a combination pediatric dentist and orthodontist.  So there were kids in there of all ages.  We spent about an hour with them talking about the training, the things we would need and getting our bearings for our 3 days with them.  This is our first office in Japan.  It was interesting to see their charts all in Japanese, and to still sort of understand what was going on. The doctor and the staff seem to have a great attitude which will help all of us get through our time working with them. 

We returned to the hotel and made our way out into our little corner of the world the Shibuya section.  When we arrived in Japan we came through a mall type area close to the bus drop off.  It was air conditioned and seemed like a place to cool off and look inside a few stores.  We took the escalator down and Linda found her food Nirvanna spot and says she’s never leaving Tokyo.  We made a few rounds and decided on items for our dinner.  We purchased a bento box, she picked some sushi, I bought some chicken on a stick, we had some sort of onion fried things that were cold. a dim sung assortment and a salad made with corn, and shrimp and I’m not sure what else.  For dessert we picked up a lemon sticky bun and a muffin that had oreos sticking out of the top of it.

There’s not a lot of parks and green space in this part of Shibuya.  We decided to find a bench and to lay out our picnic and eat and people watch.  I’m sure people were thinking those crazy Americans.  There are swarms of people here, but we certainly stand out in the crowd.  We did a bit more walking and exploring and found another shaved ice place to top off our night.  This shaved ice isn’t the syrupy colored stuff we have back in the states, I had mango/berry and there were actual mangoes and berries in the shaved ice. 

The people we have encountered here have all been very nice, and have tried to be very helpful.  There have been conversations we have had with front desk staff that we both kind of walk away from each other wondering…what did they say.  I have a feeling that’s been preparing us for our time at the office this week.  It’s clear that this is going to take some extra patience on all sides of this training process.  Tomorrow we will visit the second site for this training and make sure that we are on track for work on Monday.

I’ve lost all sense of time while here.  My fitbit is still on Dallas time, and I’m leaving it there.  We are walking a lot, but it’s short bursts of energy.  I don’t think either of us were prepared for the stifling heat we are encountering here.  But we are loving the adventure and are rolling with the situations as they come up.  

August 3, 2014

Linda and I are just about to start our day today. I was awake at 6, trying to make some sort of order out of my room. It’s big enough, but small in comparison to most hotel rooms in the US. I’ll try to take a photo tonight after the maid has come in and tidied things up a bit. I write my posts at the end of the day before heading off to bed. I’m usually really tired by then. We seem to have bursts of energy followed by a total crash and exhaustion. It’s probably a combination of things, the heat, the humidity, the jet lag, the change in diet and the sensory overload. This is definitely for me one of the biggest travel experiences I have had. The fact that there are two of us along for this ride is an incredible bonus. I think we both have a little more confidence because this time is being shared.

Some general observations, there are people everywhere. A few times we have found ourselves far from the maddening crowd and it’s been refreshing. There’s no way to capture in photos the feeling of being surrounded by so many people all of the time. When you cross at the crosswalks, it is a mob of people going in every different direction. It’s not just a straight shot across the street, in some places the crosswalk is a giant X that intersects at the intersection and you have 4 streams of pedestrians crossing the street at the same time.

Many women carry umbrellas and have long sleeves to cover up their arms and to protect them from the sun when they are out walking. Seeing how they dress has been very interesting to me. The young girls dress in heels and either short skirts or dresses. We’ve seen crazy high heels and platforms and hose and a lot of anklets. I’ve seen some girls that look like they stepped out of an Anime movie. The young men have a very eclectic sense of style. They all stand out, and you see very few of them dressed casually. I’ve not seen a pair of baggie pants and boxer shorts any place we have been.

We have a bit of a key ceremony with the front desk staff. We have real keys and when you go out you drop your key at the front desk and pick it up on the way out. When they see us walk in the door of the lobby they rush to hand us our keys. There’s always a little bowing involved…and since the first day they know us and which keys belong to us. Their kindness is heart warming.

In the restaurants of course you are given chopsticks to use to eat. On the first night at the Korean restaurant they brought us each a fork that we didn’t use. Instead of a napkin you are given a wet wash cloth. You use it to wipe your hands before, during and after the meal. There’s no salt or pepper on the tables. This salt crazy chick has had to not put salt on all of her food. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

This morning we walked to the Meiji Shrine, about 20 minutes from our hotel. The doctor had suggested that we visit at least one shrine while in Japan. It was a very spiritual experience, one that I will take away long after I leave Japan. I Googled some information about the Meijie Shrine to share.

The Meiji Shrine is located in a forest that covers an area of 700,000 square-meters (about 175 acres). This area is covered by an evergreen forest that consists of 120,000 trees of 365 different species, which were donated by people from all parts of Japan when the shrine was established. The forest is visited by many as a recreation and relaxation area in the center of Tokyo.
We found the park that is located near the shrine and after walking for a bit Linda did her best Pointer Sister impression and asked a gentleman riding a bike for directions. He didn’t speak english, but did his way to try to point out to us on the map where we had gone wrong in locating the shrine. We understood a little, but stopped to ask a second person for directions. He told us he spoke a little english, once again not 100% clear.

We walked to the front of the park and were about to make a turn on what we thought was the correct path. We neither one had noticed that the guy on the bike had been following us and stopped to tell us that was not the right spot to turn. He led us out of the park and right to where we needed to enter the shrine. Linda and I are both convinced we’ve had some guardian angels helping us navigate around Tokyo. This was by far the sweetest thing, this man stopped what he was doing to make sure we found where we needed to be.

As we entered the area of the park where the shrine was located those Japanese style gates that we see in pictures and at the movies came into view. Wow, they were so very tall and just beautiful. At the entrance to the shrine area was a type of cleansing area with little ladles. The instructions said to pour the water into your left hand, then into your write hand and finally into your left hand and to drink from your hand. The reason behind this was to cleanse your hands and your mouth to pray.

We walked through the gates and there were two giant beautiful trees. To our right we saw a Japanese couple in ceremonial garb getting their photos taken. We sat on the bench and watched the photo taking. There were two ladies dressed in traditional kimonos helping the photographer and the bride and groom. Had we not lost our way, we might have totally missed out on this experience.

Around the base of one of the beautiful trees were little wooden prayer plaques. For 5 yen you were to write your prayer, hang it on the tree and during the morning ceremony your prayers would be shared. There were also slips of paper to write prayers on, and you included a coin in the envelope with your prayer and those too would be offered up. At the main building of the shrine there were places to pray. You tossed a few coins in the offering, bowed twice, clapped two times and bowed again before saying your prayer. I’ve been in cathedrals in the US, in Ireland and in Australia, I can’t describe the magical feeling of this place. It was a very zen like stop in our week. We saw another wedding party, and the bride was beautiful. We were sweating like crazy I can only imagine how hot she was in full dress. It was incredible to see.

We headed back to the hotel and made our way to the subway station again. We had a shorter train ride. Our destination was the Tokyo Imperial Palace. The Tokyo Imperial Palace, known as Kokyo which literally means the Imperial Residence, is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan (the Japanese head of state). The actual Tokyo Imperial Palace building is located within the grounds of what was Edo Castle. Today some of Edo Castle’s moats, defensive walls, gate houses and turrents still remain.

When we walked up to the palace gates they were coming out to do a changing of the guards. It was interesting to watch, and once again our timing seemed to be perfect for this very special experience. We made our way from there to the Imperial Palace East Gardens. The heat got the best of us and we decided to head back to the hotel to recover. We were able to navigate the train back to our hotel and were quite proud of ourselves.

We took a taxi to the second location for this week’s office. We verified some information with the office, answered questions for them, located our training spot for tomorrow and we are all set. Both office locations are quite beautiful. The doctor told us that we would be having Bento boxes for lunch. Linda told him that she was all into that, and I had to confess that for me it would be a new experience. To doctor asked if there was anything I couldn’t eat. I told him I would at least try everything. I know, I’ve scared myself on this trip with the things I have already eaten.

It was back to the hotel to get the goodie bags ready for our 17 trainees for the week. I think we are both ready for tomorrow to get started and do what we do best. We assured our contact person that we want to make this a good experience. We encouraged them to tell us to slow down if we are talking too fast, or speed up if we are talking too slow. It’s important that they let us know if they feel we need to go over things again. We are as prepared as we can possibly be for this, and ready to make it work for them.

For dinner, Linda let me pick and I told her I was ready for some non-Asian food. We found a sign for a restaurant below street level that had little buckets filled with food. There was a bar and three or four small tables. There are lots of these small hole in the wall type restaurants in the area we are staying. Linda had the vegetable bucket, I had the shrimp and we had some REALLY amazing fries with red chili sauce. It was a small meal, and just right for both of us. In Linda’s little vegetable bucket she had vegetables we have not seen before. It came with a warm hummus type dipping sauce and she was in food heaven again.

We walked to a new area of Shibuya and found a Thai restaurant we want to try one night. There was a crazy place where they were hacking ham off of a ham leg, and Linda needs to go back and try that ham! Yesterday we logged 28,783 steps on the Fitbit. My Fitbit is on Texas time, so the steps are some on the right date, some not, but we are counting it as a whole lot of steps walked. We decided to check out one of the arcade looking places and discovered it was slot machines and gambling machines. The noise was deafening. I snapped a few photos and we made a quick exit.

The night before we had walked by a big Krispy Kreme restaurant that was packed. Linda spotted a donut covered with green tea ice cream and she said we had to go back at least one night for dessert. When I scooped my spoon in for the first bite I found that the doughnut was still warm. They had also cut the doughnut in bite size pieces so it was easy to eat. It came with some sort of green tea jelly-slime which I left in the bottom of the cup. Linda is far braver than I am, I think she nearly licked the bowl clean.

I’ve learned many lessons so far on this trip. I think that I was meant to learn those lessons to do a better job with the Japanese office this week. Everyone has gone out of their way to help us even when we don’t understand a word that the other person is saying. I think I will be more cognizant of that when teaching this week. We’ll go slow, we will make sure that they understand what they need to do. It’s a learning opportunity for all of us.

The next three days will be filled with working at the practice. Our day will run from 10:30 in the morning until 7:00 at night. Those are the normal working hours for the practice. I think we’ve adjusted to the time difference and I am sure that the 3 days will zip by for all of us.

….and now, the real adventure begins.

August 4, 2014

This morning I was wide awake at 4:00 am again.  I’m not sure why that keeps happening.  I made it past 9 last night, almost to 11 yet I was still awake at 4.  I really wanted to fall asleep at 9, but I had a baby sweater that just needed to have one sleeve finished-perfect incentive to stay awake.

I was awake again at 7 and jumped out of bed to have a morning walk before starting work today.  As we’ve walked around the area, we notice different feels and vibes in the neighborhoods we pass through. Monday morning on the streets of Tokyo was an all together different feel.  One of the first things we noticed when we arrived here was how clean everything looked.  We just talked about last night how you never see anyone cleaning.  Monday morning must be both trash day and cleaning day.  I passed workers everywhere sweeping the streets, hosing down sidewalks preparing the city for another week.  The people I passed as they were going to work were dressed differently than what we have been seeing on the streets since our arrival.  They are for the most part dressed very conservatively and intent on their destinations as they walked by me this morning.  Of course I’m taking photos of the people I see going about doing their Monday morning jobs.  One of the guys hosing down the streets knew I was taking his picture and I felt some water aimed at my feet.  I giggled, but I’m to sure he found it all that amusing.

There were garbage trucks everywhere this morning.  They are smaller than the garbage trucks we have in the US.  It’s no wonder because in some parts of our corner of the world the streets are very narrow and cars also seem to have to share the street with people.  We have both decided we are glad that we are not trying to navigate around this city.  We rely on taxis to get us back and forth to work.  Some of the taxis have a lever inside of the car that opens and closes the rear passenger side door.  

I’ve seen a few homeless people here and there, but now what you might expect in a big city.  That might be in part to the part of the city we are staying in.  It’s located about in between the two offices for the week.  There is so much to see and do within walking distance, and if it’s further out there is a train station close by.  I marveled this morning during my morning walk how  we have seemed to have gotten our bearings.  Like most women we navigate by landmarks.  We know there’s an Outback Steakhouse on the street that leads to our hotel.  We know if he are headed toward High Tower Records we are heading away from the hotel—but still know our way back home.  There are lots of convenience stores, 7/11, Lawsons and the Family Mart. 

Another observation, when making a purchase, you don’t hand your cash or your credit card to the cashier.  There’s always a small tray there to place the money or the card and when the transaction has been completed they put your change or card back on the little tray.  I even noticed those little trays at the office yesterday.  When we left to walk to the taxi after our visit our office contact, Shiori gave us a fan to use for the short walk to the car.  The taxi driver was waiting for us by the time we got there and asked if one of us was Linda-san.  All of the busses and taxis we have been have white doily covers on the seats, the seat backs and also in the back of the cab.  The drivers are all dressed in suits and ties, and we’ve seen a few of them wearing white gloves.  It’s a far different experience from the Irish taxi drivers who wanted to talk and share your whole life story.  They are all business, and for the most part we get where we need to go by having our address in hand and pointing to what we need and where we need to go. 

Finally, it’s showtime!  I don’t usually write about the trainings or the offices, they are all wonderful and each one is special to me in a different way.  I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a happier bunch of people.  They told me they were nervous, I told them I was a little nervous too, but we would get through this.  It was a mixture of both english and Japanese for computer entry today.  The keyboard has both english and Japanese characters, in the Mac set up the menus are all in Japanese as are all of the words under the icons.  Pictures help, memory helps and when I couldn’t figure out where we needed to be I asked them to translate for me.  My favorite part of this office was their excitement when learning something new.  They made sort of an oooohhhh and ahhh sound-a bit like watching fireworks.  It tickled me, and it tickle them when they made me giggle.  I think they are as interested in Linda and I and our life in the US as we are about their Japanese culture.  No international incidents today.

We had lunch on the third floor of the office.  Every day the staff eats lunch together, bento boxes.  I’m going to confess the lunch thing had me a little nervous.  My tastes have grown and evolved but I wasn’t sure what would be waiting for me.  We all took our shoes off at the top of the stairs and they explained to me that is a Japanese tradition.  Linda and I were set places at the head of the table.  The staff sat at the far end, but moved up closer to where I was sitting before we started to eat.  

The bento box was lovely.  There was a box filled with the main part of the meal and a box filled with white rice.  They politely were trying to not watch me eat, and I was trying my darnedest to eat with chopsticks and not drop anything in my lap.  I mostly did that, with only a small spill on my shirt.  It was a lively conversation at lunch.  On the top of my bento box it looked like a fried egg and I put it to the side, not sure I wanted to bite into the sort of unknown.  They told me it was an egg, I should try it—and it was delicious.  I passed on the seaweed and beans dish and ate some sort of mystery square that I had to chew really really fast and take a gulp of tea.  

Like most ortho offices they had a variety of candies and cookies and sweets for dessert.  There was a lovely little cup, a frozen delight that was meant to be slurped from the container.  Maybe I can snap a picture tomorrow.  I felt like a celebrity today, they were taking photos during the training.  The office walls are lined with pictures and I’m sure that one day there will be pictures of Linda and I posted there too.  If one pops up on their Facebook page I will be sure to share.

It was a full day of learning and we didn’t leave the office until well after 7:30.

Tonight for dinner we had Shabu-Shabu.  Those of you who were like me, clueless I did a little Google search.  Shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ , also spelled shyabu-shyabu?) is a Japanese dish featuring thinly sliced beef boiled in water. The term is an onomatopœia, derived from the sound emitted when the ingredients are stirred in the cooking pot. The dish is related to sukiyaki in style: Both consist of thinly sliced meat and vegetables and served with dipping sauces. However, Shabu-shabu is considered to be more savory and less sweetthan sukiyaki.

The dish is prepared by submerging a thin slice of meat or a piece of vegetable in a pot of boiling water or dashi (broth) made with konbu (kelp) and stirring it. Cooked meat and vegetables are usually dipped in ponzu or goma (sesame seed) sauce before eating, and served with a bowl of steamed white rice. Once the meat and vegetables have been eaten, leftover broth from the pot is customarily combined with the remaining rice, and the resulting soup is usually eaten last.

If you would have asked me 5 years ago if I would have ever had such a meal I would have laughed and thought you quite crazy.  But here I sat at a table with a copper pot of boiling water in the middle with a bib around my neck open to this new experience.  I took a few photos, then put my camera away to savor the taste, the ceremony and being in the moment.  

We were served by a waitress in traditional Japanese dress, kimono and all.  We were brought warm washcloths to wash before eating.  I had iced green tea to drink.  The sauces were brought out first in small bowels.  There were bowls of additions to the sauce, scallions and radish, I passed on the hot sauce option.  

The water was boiling in the copper bowl and the server brought out trays of very thinly sliced beef and another tray with mushrooms and vegetables.  Our host explained the history of the dish and we asked lots of questions about the culture and the dining experience.  The meat was dipped in the boiling water and it cooked very quickly.  The meat was then placed in the dipping sauce and then popped into the mouth.  I quickly realized why I was wearing a bib.  I looked like a two year old with all sorts of drips down the front of the bib by the time we were finished. 

This was more than a meal, it was an experience.  When we left the restaurant the hostesses and the waitresses followed us out the door and thanked us for coming.  Magical to be sure.

It’s nearly midnight here. It’s been a long day, the game plan is in order for tomorrow, my trip report notes for today are done.  Doing what we do is exhausting when we are at an office.  I was back and forth from one end of the clinic to the other and up and down three flights of stairs all day.  I am very grateful to have the opportunity to be here—but this job is far from easy, one of the most challenging I have ever had. 

August 5, 2014

I’m in bed jammies on, feet up, trip report of today’s activities done and hoping to stay awake until 11.  It was a good day today.  There was lots of laughter with my trainees and with Linda’s group upstairs today.  I worried that my sense of humor would not be appreciated by the Japanese, but this afternoon they were saying funny things to me to make me laugh.  I think they have all relaxed and are enjoying their time with us.  One of the trainees today said “perfect!” after I showed her how to do something today.  They are all now giving me the two thumbs up sign and a big smile when I ask them if they are doing ok.  

As an instructor you swoop in for 3 days, hope that they get at least part of what you are showing them and you are out the door.  I like to check in on my offices now and then just to make sure things are going well.  For those three days we are their lifeline, their answer person and then we hand them over to the really smart people the support team.  We build a connection—if only for 3 days at a time.

I’ve worked training adults for a number of years.  First at the elementary school working with the teachers when computers were first being introduced, as an adjunct instructor at Edison Community College, as a call center trainer at Monitronics and now at my present job.  Today when I was working with one of the clinical staff she looked at me and said, “Ann-san I don’t understand, can you explain that to me again?”  I sat down next to her, looked her in the eyes and started again to help her understand in a way that made sense to her.  It was one of those great moments as an instructor/teacher/trainer.  Those of us in this type of job do what we do because of our nurturing nature.  I had so much respect for this woman for not acting like she understood and asking for help.  It was a big day brightener for me.  It also shows the amount of trust we have established with this staff.

Ok..now the fun stuff.  I started my day with a walk at 7:00 am.  I know, right? I’m not that much of a morning person. I ventured off in a new direction in a residential area and took some photos of houses.  The architecture here is very different than my corner of the world in Texas.  It’s a small space, they need to make the most of it.  There was a nice cool breeze when I started out, but that didn’t last for long.  I found a small park with a pond, there were people sitting on benches enjoying the weather.  There was a playground there, and it stood out to me that the playground was on bare dirt.  There were no wood chips, or specially created material as a playground surface…this was the sort of playground that I played on growing up.  The grass was long since beaten away by tiny feet running from slide to swing and back again.  We’ve noticed in a few of the green space areas we have visited there aren’t manicured type grassy areas, in some spots the grass looks a little wild and untamed.  There are areas where there is no grass, but just dirt.  

I decided that my photo theme for today would be houses and street signs.  I took some photos of the signs I saw along the way on my walk.  The sign that said Krispy Kreme seemed to get the most attention.  I stopped in there for their lemon tea donut and my favorite chocolate cake donut.  I used the point and order method and paid for my breakfast with a 1000 yen bill.  I snapped a photo of one of the trays that cash is transferred on to share with you.  I also laugh at the music they were playing at the Krispy Kreme.  As I walked out the door they played that oldie but goodie, “Big John”

Today’s bento box for lunch had a new kind of rice, they told me it’s healthier for me.  There were a few interesting things—some sort of raw okra salad that was very nice and a piece of chicken.  Later in the afternoon my trainees had a bag of candy and asked me if I would like to try a piece.  I told them I would try at least once, unless it was some sort of worm or slimey.  They told me it was the finest Japanese chocolate.  Who can say  no to a taste of chocolate?  We’ve noticed that in general desserts and sweet here are not overly sugary sweet like they are in the US. It’s a nice change.

Dinner tonight was another treat.  I had a wonderful chicken cutlet with plum rice and a few things that I let Linda nibble for me.  I thought it was raw tuna but it ended up being some sort of tomato.  Linda had a cold noodle dish that was really quite tasty.  Yes there was some sharing involved.  There was a Japanese lasagna appetizer that tasted nothing like what you would expect but it was very tasty. We capped the meal off with shaved ice.  I had green tea, she had mango and we shared a few samples with each other.  That shaved ice was nearly as big as my head!

The cornfield girl came out tonight when we drove the car into the elevator and took it up to the roof to park.  I kidded our host that I felt like I was in the bat mobile and we were in the carvator making our way to the top.  What a hoot.  I’m sure that they find Linda and I both quite amusing at the office.  We work them really hard, but we also try to make it a fun experience for them as well.  Today I had to go to the other office for a short bit.  When I came back I paraded through the main lobby like a rock star. There were giggles all around and there was applause.  When I made it downstairs and my trainees were having a discussion about a process for the clinic I jokingly scolded them for not working while I was away.  They laughed and understand now that we are just having fun with them.  

Today is my Texiversary.  I never though 6 years ago when I packed up my car and drove from Ohio to Texas that I would be sitting here in a hotel room in Japan and on my way to Australia at the end of the week.  Never in my wildest imagination did I ever dream this big.  I look at the new friends I have made, the nights I’ve spent dancing, learning to sail and of course all of the travel and adventure that have given me a chance to connect with friends all over the world. 

…this time in Japan and working with this office is an experience that will never be forgotten…my life is filled with abundance each and every day.

August 6, 2014

It’s the last official day with the office.  I’m going to admit we are both exhausted, we talked about that this morning as we walked around the city and planned out our day.  We are both at the same office, but we’ve each worked with a different part of the office this week.  It’s a plan that has worked well, but when you do this as a solo gig most weeks you like to be sure that the other person has covered what you would normally cover.  It’s an overachiever sort of thing, and Linda and I both understand that need with each other. 

….and when we walk into that office today, they will not have any idea how tired we are.  We shift into instructor mode and are our bright and cheery selves.

I love the late starts, the long nights not so much.  It’s great to wake up without an alarm clock and to get in an hour walk around the city to start the day.  The streets are filled with people heading to work, getting shops ready to open but much more laid back than later in the day.  I see some of the same people every morning sweeping up the leaves and the trash in the street keeping Tokyo clean.

I think this is the land of steps and my right knee has been protesting as I’ve walked up and down 3 flights of stairs the past few days at the offices.  There are also parts of the city that are just too busy for all of the pedestrian crossings, so it’s up several flights of steps and across to your destination.  At one point today we were in a new area of Tokyo and nothing looked familiar.  We were walking and talking and I guess I wasn’t paying attention.  So we did as all women do, we went to our landmarks—big pedestrian crossing, dancing balls, Outback restaurant and Lawson’s.  Today I tried to take pictures of bikes.  It may be a two day project-there are bikes everywhere here and I need to capture some of the more unusual ones we see everyday.

I found the most delightful breakfast treat at 7/11 today.  There’s a section with freshly prepared salads, fruits, pastries and things I’m not quite sure of.  They also have hotdogs and corny dogs.  Today’s treat was a sponge cake wrapped around some whipped cream concoction with fruit beautifully decorating the top. I found out that the name of this delight is rolled cake-makes sense.  The clerk at 7/11 told me that I needed a spoon and reached down and handed me a fork.  Wow, I said, that’s great!  He then said, that’s great.  They often repeat back to us what we say to them.  I don’t know if it’s because it’s a new term to them, but it makes me chuckle.

It was a hectic last day at the office.  For the first time in my life I realized I was tall.  I know that was news to me too.  I was on a mission with the doctor and as I walked out the door I’m not sure why I didn’t realize that I needed to duck and I ran smack into the metal bar that holds the door open.  It caught me just above the bridge of the nose and I have a lovely bump there now and I can only imagine the colors of the rainbow it will turn in the next few days.  I’m pretty sure it didn’t knock any sense into me.  Dang that hurt.  

The day went by way too fast.  That happens quite often with three day trainings, we were late getting out at the end of the day. Tonight was an outing with the staff and the doctor.  We went to a Japanese restaurant and just like in the movies we sat in little pillows around the table eating our dinner.  It was course after course of wonderful food and I thought I was going to pop.  Someone asked me if I wanted to use a fork, heck no, I didn’t come all this way to eat with a fork.  The main course consisted of these round pancake type dishes covered in amazing sauces.  Each base had a different flavor and texture.  The food kept coming and coming and I finally had to say enough.  We had Japanese iced tea to drink.  They gave me the honor of pressing the button for the waiter and waitress to bring us more tea.  There was an iced tea toast at the beginning of the meal with glasses clinking and lots of laughter.  I decided it was so much fun we needed to have another round of glass clinking.  There were photos taken of the food, our new Japanese friends and the table and cushions.  Linda and I weren’t quite sure how to put our legs, and several times over the course of the evening I just wanted to stretch my legs out across the table—but didn’t, we didn’t need an international incident at this point in the trip.

We’ve not had much time to talk with our trainees this week about their personal lives.  One of the doctors leaves tomorrow for Hawaii to be married, another staff member is getting married soon too.  The warmth and the kindness around the table was quite overwhelming, and no, I did not cry but a few times I was wavering with a bit of a teary eye.  I knew before I left Texas that this would be a challenging, exciting, unique experience.  It’s been that and so much more.  They were so honored when I presented them with my business card today.  One of the assistants gave me her card and I promised that I would keep in touch through email.  She said I would be her first American friend.  That’s pretty special.

I was concerned when I got to the office that my humor might not be appreciated by the Japanese.  I always like to add a bit of fun to my training.  It still worked with them and I always hug my trainees at the end of a week.  Tonight after dinner there were hugs all around.  I know that I will miss spending time with them and their enthusiasm.  

After dinner they presented each of us with a fan with personal notes written by the staff we had worked with, some special gifts from the office so we would not forget them.  I’m pretty sure this will be an adventure that I will treasure and remember for the rest of my life.  I learned a lot about the culture, the people and myself in the process of this trip.  There are things that I ate that were wonderful—and I still have no idea what most of them were.  There were times that the only way we had to get from place to place was to point on a map and use hand gestures to find our way-we travelled on the subway and jumped in taxis every day with people who didn’t speak English at all, but we pointed to the address of the office on a piece of paper, they punch it into the GPS and off we went.  Much of our time here we had conversations in Japanese going on all around us with no idea of what was being said.  I would stand back, let them discuss their processes and wait for them to ask me for help.

The doctor told us on the way home that he was surprised at how much fun the training had been this week.  I told him that we go out and teach the same thing every week, if it wasn’t fun for us, why would we continue to do this job.  Life is meant to be enjoyed each and every day.  It’s kind of like having a baby.  After the pregnancy, the stress of the delivery and you hold that newborn baby in your arms, you forget all the bad stuff.  At the end of the training, you move on to the next office and the memories of the good things that happened at the office are what stay with you.  Or that’s how it works for me. 

…my life is filled with abundance and joy, and now a little more bowing and happy memories of my first Japanese experience.

August 7, 2014

I just realized this morning that the days I have used for all of my notes have been wrong.  I’ve been using the date on my computer—that means it’s actually tomorrow.  I know it’s kinda sorta math and it’s fairly early in the day.

I am worn out…this morning my head was feeling congested, my voice is all raspy, but I think it’s from 3 days of non-stop talking, repeating and a little bit of laughter tossed in.  This morning while I was in the shower I thought about these posts I have been writing every day.  I write them for myself, a reminder when I am sitting in that nursing home at age 100 of what an incredible life I have.  But it’s not all fun—there are days when not much is fun, but how interesting would that be to read about.  I’m not here on a vacation, but we have managed to find ways to squeeze in some fun and to experience this place where we are.  Today, we could have just said good luck to the office and spent a day doing something fun. But that overachieving nurturing responsible adult side of us says spend the morning at the office, help them ease into this transition.  No matter how tired we are, how many times we’ve explained that, the pressure of having patients in the office and doing what we have taught them can be a bit daunting that first day.  It’s all about giving them as good of an experience as is possible for us.  Enough of that, on to some funny stuff.

The office doesn’t start work until 10.  That has given us a little time in the morning to call home, get some paper work done, try to read emails, the normal things on the road.  Linda and I have been starting our morning with a walk around the Shibuya area, where we are staying in Tokyo.  We are both in the same place, the same office but we haven’t seen all that much of each other this week.  I’ve been with the clinical staff on one floor of the office, she’s been working with the administrative staff on another floor.  There are times when it’s necessary for our paths to cross, but in general we really are like ships passing in the night. The walks have given us a chance to debrief on the day before and to talk about our plan for the day ahead.

I’m sure anyone following us would wonder if we ever shut up.  We are talking 90 miles a minute and making our path basically upon, ohhhhh shiny, let’s go that way.  This morning we got a bit turned around, ok we were lost.  Tokyo is a very big city, we knew we hadn’t walked that far, and both of us are geographically challenged.  We started to make our way back, but none of our familiar landmarks were there. Street signs aren’t much help to us and we were in an area that we didn’t see a lot of cabs.  I had my wallet with me, we could have taken a taxi back to the hotel.  But what adventure would that be?

We would have missed out on the Japanese pottery shop, it wasn’t open but I took a picture of the sign and we hope to take a taxi back there and make a few purchases before we leave Tokyo.  We would have missed out on the guy sitting outside on a bench that just lit up with the biggest smile as we headed his way.  He said, “OHIO! “  (I have no idea how we knew we were from Ohio, neither one of us had a buckeye shirt on or a necklace of buckeyes.)  Oh, he meant Ohayo 🙂  He then leaned forward on the bench and in his best Arnold Schwarzenegger body builder arm flex said, “Nice body,”  It took us a few minutes to realize what he said, but when we did we laughed so hard walking down the sidewalk.  Linda had been hit on by the Japanese benchwarmer.  PRICELESS!!!

We only needed the gps for a few blocks, we really weren’t that far from the paths we have been walking every day.  We didn’t panic, in our minds we stared formulating plan B options.  A bit like what we do all day long when we are at an office. That’s not just an Ann & Linda thing, that’s what people who do our job do each and every day.  We made it back to the hotel with plenty of time to shower and it made for one heck of a story to share with you.  

We spend the morning at the office, and you can’t imaging two prouder people as we watched our students interact with their patients and the software.  I was in the clinic and they gave me a seat just off to the edge of the action and brought me a cup of tea—-we’ll call you if we need you.  There were a few minor questions here and there, there were no nerves, the did what they had been trained to do for the last three days.  We left after our final bento box lunch with a few hugs and a taxi back to our hotel.  

Free and clear, where to go, we decided to treat ourselves to a mojito shaved ice.  Linda had a great idea to send the office flowers for their kindness to us.  There are lots of little flower shops in Shibuya and we thought this would be easy enough.  Not so much…the first lady cowered in terror of us and our strange english ways.  She just shook her head no and sent us on our way.  We tried one of the malls and found a shop with gorgeous flowers, but no one spoke english there either.  I even fired up my Google translator and we tried to ask if they delivered, and we got lots of bowing and smiles—well that wasn’t going to work either.  I’m not sure if it was the heat, the tiredness but we hit a brick wall and headed back to the hotel to cool off.  I had a shower, a nap and headed down to the lobby to meet Linda, she had sushi on her mind for dinner and I was along for the ride.

When I got to the lobby three of our favorite key ceremony guys at the front desk were behind the counter.  I asked them if I could take a picture, they thought I wanted a picture of me.  They asked me to wait a minute and they retrieved the sweet young woman that had also been so helpful this week.  They told me she was shy.  We have thanked them over and over again for their kindness to us.  This hotel has been a wonderful experience.

We headed to the central area where all the action is happening in search of sushi.  There was a small place that we had passed everyday.  The pictures out front looked great, they had menus in english and it looked to be a spot where the locals were eating.  It wasn’t a five star restaurant, and probably not the cleanest we had been in but we both loved the atmosphere.  There was sushi for Linda and options for the non-sushi girl to try as well. 

We thumbed through the menu and decided on tuna for Linda, edamame to share, and incredible crab fried rice that was light and flavorful.  They had little grills on the table so I decided to order the shrimp to grill.  We found some drinks that sounded tasty and placed our order by doing the usual point and smile technique.  The area we sat in was a bar that had stools on three sides, so you were sitting close to other diners.  We were in heaven.

When the party next to us got the calimari and the waitress made a show of stretching it out and cutting it in front of us, we had to place our own order.  When I took the photo we could not stop laughing at our table mates and their peace signs in the picture.  It was one of those funny moments that we will remember for a very long time.  Our food began appearing from the kitchen and we were loving life.  At one point the party next to us asked if they could take our picture.  We were the only caucasians in the restaurant, I am sure we did stand out to them.  We smiled, no peace signs and got a giggle out of the fact that they wanted a picture of us. The food was light and fresh, the calimari, though fried didn’t have a greasy taste at all.  They don’t use nearly as much oil and grease when cooking here.  

We started noticing that one of the men in the party next to us was drinking heavily.  He tried to get up a few times and there was some swaying going on.  A heated argument began, we had no idea what was being said but heads all over the restaurant were turning to look.  At one point they went outside and continued their argument.  There was a lady with them, we surmised the wife of the non-drunk gentleman.  When they left there were slamming doors, staggering men and raised eyebrows around the room.  The sober gentleman came back in fo retrieve his brief case and told us he was sorry, and bowed to all corners of the room in apology.  Dinner and a show, can you beat that? It was just about as good as breakfast at Waffle House!

I wanted to make a visit to the Starbucks near the train station to try to capture the crazy street crossing.  I decided a video might give you a better feel of what we are walking in the middle of every day.  There were a lot of people but we’ve walked in much bigger crowds in the cross walk.  We passed a waffle place on the way to Starbucks and decided to stop back there for dessert on our way back to the hotel. 

We’re just about finished here in Japan, there are just a few key ceremonies left at the hotel.  Tonight they could see us coming and they had our keys ready before we were even in the door.  We took a step back, teasing them that we really weren’t coming in.  When we got to the desk to retrieve our key, Elvis took a step back and then handed us our keys.  I think they are going to miss us as much as we are going to miss them.

I’ve got my suitcase packed and organized for tomorrow.  I was able to fit my treasures in and all of my yarn and knitting supplies are in my backpack.  We have a 7 hour flight to Singapore and then an 8 hour flight to Brisbane.  We’ve heard very positive things about Singapore Airlines and we are looking forward to another new experience.  We have aisle seats across from each other on both flights.  We leave the hot and steamy weather of Japan for the cool late winter weather of Australia….ahh the life of the Road Warrior Princess.  I look a bit like a warrior this trip.  I have the beginnings of two black eyes from the crash my head had yesterday.  Hopefully that will be short-lived.

My mind is filled with all kinds of thoughts on the eve of our departure from Tokyo.  I found the Japanese people to be kind, sweet, helpful and they have a great sense of humor and love to laugh.  I will miss the new friends I have made here this week.  This is a place filled with memories that will forever fill my heart.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to have this experience.  As always I’m focusing on the positive and savoring every moment.

No clue, a few of these days seem to have run together

August 8-9,  2014

Today is the day we begin phase two of the epic adventure.  We will make our way by taxi to the hotel and the limousine aka bus ride to the airport that we used on the way in.  We will fly out of the Haneda airport to Singapore and then on to Brisbane.  Brisbane will be a new part of Australia for me to see. The weather will be much cooler there with highs hovering right around 70.  I will miss Japan, but not the heat and the humidity.  About an hour out in that weather was all you could take and it would immediately drain you and kick you in the behind.

This morning we slept in a bit, and took a walk to stretch out the kinks.  We started out the same route as yesterday—we call that Lawson Street because there is a Lawson store on the corner.  There’s also Krispy Creme Street and Dancing Balls Avenue.  It’s all part of our navigational system in Shibuya.  This morning we reflected on our week, and laughed at some of the funny moments. I’m sure the locals find us quite mad.  That’s ok, maybe you need to be a little crazy to do this job.

We passed by a small bakery with some wonderful looking pastries in the window.  On the way back we stopped and were drooling over the items there.  The smell of the bakery was heavenly.  The lady behind the counter pointed us in the direction of the trays and the tongs to select our baked goods.  Linda was able to point and smile to get two bags for us to put our pastries in.  There was another lady in the back and she brought out a tray of freshly baked goods—-they were still warm.  I was conservative, selected the chocolate croissant, Linda opted for the mystery of the just place on the shelf item.  We bought two bottles of grape juice—seriously, when is the last time you actually drank grape juice?  We talked to the clerk, she had no idea what we were saying.  She talked to us, we had no idea what she was saying, but there was smiling and bowing involved.  As we left the store she said, Namaste, we replied namaste back and did a little bow.  Then we struggled with opening the door so our exit wasn’t quite as smooth as you would think. (grin)

We had a picnic in a little park just outside of our hotel.  It was probably a good thing that we were far away from the population as we oohed and ahhhed and said OMG this is amazing.  Yep, we’re the nutty tourists to be sure. 

Some observations today. The area we were in had huge industrial strength looking power.  It’s not something that you would see in a downtown or suburb of any US city. With all of the lights and neon I guess it takes a lot of power—it looked like a remnant from a long ago time.  Last night at dinner our orders were taken on an electronic pad, very high tech looking and seamless—yet the restaurant was far from modern.  

We both turned on the tv on our first day here and knew that was something that we would not be doing while in Japan.  At dinner last night the tv was on, it looked like a version of the Price is Right. There were lots of bright colors and twirling things.  We thought we saw the weather report, but for some reason there was a dressed up cartoon character on with the weather man.  In our hotel room the headboard has a control panel that turns off the lights and has a soothing background noise sort of station happening.  It’s been great to fall asleep with the soothing sounds in the background.  

We made it to the bus stop with time to spare and watched the bus Merry Go Round.  Our bus was set to leave at 12:05 and it had to keep circling until the three other buses moved into pace.  I wanted to wave at the bus driver.  We seemed to be in lots of traffic on the way to the airport, but we were there super early, so no worries.  We had to wait 30 minutes for the Singapore airlines desk to open, so we found a seat and settled in for a little people watching.

From one of the closed windows we noticed some raised voices.  In general we found the Japanese people to be very calm and quiet.  This lady was going crazy-we aren’t sure why but she was very loud and screeching.  At one point she walked away from the ticket counter and was yelling and pointing, there were 6 police officers surrounding her and making a wide circle around her.  She went back to the counter and started in yelling again.  One of the police officers took her by the arm and the screaming lady fell to the floor.  That set her off even more, and finally the police officers surrounded her and led her to the elevator.  You could still hear her screaming from the floor below.  When the lights came on at the ticket counter, it was Air Canada.  Crazy times, and it would not have happened that way in the US.  She would have probably been pinned to the floor and handcuffed if not much worse.

We made it through security with no issues. Japan seemed the easiest country for us to get both in and out of.  We had lunch close to our gate, Japanese food of course.  Linda was pretty sad that she passed up a chance at the hot dog stand for her final Japanese meal.  There were some interesting items in the Japanese souvenir shop.  There were some anatomically correct dolls that looked like miniature versions of kewpie dolls…don’t get your hopes up, none of yo will be finding any in your Christmas stocking this year. 

Our flight out of Japan was delayed, but we were promised we would make our connection in Singapore.  The plane was showing a little wear, we were in the very last seat on the plane and managed to get a little sleep on the flight.  I watched the Other Woman and found it hysterically funny.  That might have had something to do with flying and the crazy time warp we continue to be in.  A plus, the Singapore Airlines served Singapore Slings—you know we had to try that.  

We arrived at Singapore with just enough time to make our next flight.  No time to stop in the shops, we wanted to be on that plane to Brisbane.  We arrived in Brisbane right on schedule.  It was my easiest entry into Australia.  I slipped my passport into the reader and was given a ticket.  I proceeded to the next machine, slid my ticket in and smiled for the camera.  It was time to pick up the luggage and head for the exit.  

Linda is the brave one, we have a rental car on this trip and she is my chauffeur for the week.  I am the reassuring cheerleader and boss her around now and then what lane she needs to be in according to the GPS.  We found our hotel around 1 but needed to wait for our room to be ready.  So we sat in the lobby and did our best to keep awake and shake off the cobwebs from 2 very long flights.  Once in our room-which is a two bedroom apartment.  We unpacked and settled in.  We are on the 17th floor with a great view of the city and it’s going to be nice to have a little room to sit on the couch, sit at a table to eat and best of all a washer and dryer.  I had one set of clothes to wear.  

We are in a great area of the city and walked to an area just a few blocks away that has shops and places to eat.  We walked across the bridge over the river and enjoyed some time stretching out legs after so many hours on the plane.  I bought a tater tornado and we shared it outside sipping some great iced tea. There was a street festival going on and we enjoyed looking at the items for sale by the local crafters.  The weather is pleasant in the upper 60’s so walking and exploring is actually fun.  We stopped at a Coles grocery store and had dinner in our little apartment.  We have a full size fridge, and a nice kitchen area.  We have a view of the city lights from our little dining/patio area.  It’s delightful.

Tomorrow we head even further north as we will be working with an existing customer on Monday.  It’s 70 plus miles and driving up on Monday to be there at 8:00 a.m. sounds like a bit much.  We’re sitting on the couch, feet up, watching a little tv and the washer and dryer are going.  I’m about to pull out my knitting.  Resting…relaxing and recharging.

Dunedin, New Zealand

Posted: July 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

Saturday 7:30 pm

Finally I am at my hotel, hot shower, dinner and snuggled into a giant king sized bed. I’ve set myself a goal to at least stay up until 8. I’ll take a melatonin and sleep until morning. My oh my it was an adventure getting here…

The flight to LAX was pretty uneventful. LAX is probably my least favorite airport in the world—at least in the US. I waited 20 minutes on the shuttle bus to take me to the appropriate terminal. I made it through security and arrived at my gate with 20 minutes to spare before boarding. This was my first trip on Air New Zealand. I’m usually a Quantas girl. It was really tough to hear at the gate, but when they started loading the plane from the back, it wasn’t long until it was my turn.

I walked past those great bed/seats in first class and business class, one day I’ll make a long trip like that in the high dollar seats. I made my way back to the economy seats and was thrilled that I had an aisle seat. A couple squeezed in next to me and they were not happy that they had the middle seats. They grumbled, complained, but I was not giving up my seat. At one point the wife leaned over to me and said “You are going to have to let my husband out every hour he has issues with blood clots.” Great….

It wasn’t every hour, but it was several times during the night. There was never a please, a thank you or an excuse me. It was a nudging me out of a sleep and saying telling me to get up now. Sigh…I was patient, and understanding. I think I dozed most of the flight over, I watched one movie, The Great Budapest Hotel. Meh, not a fan, I kept waiting for it to get good, and that never happened. The dinner was good on the flight-and there was an option to order drinks and snacks during the night. It wasn’t quite the spoiling that they give you on Quantas, but it was adequate. 🙂

We arrived in Auckland and it was a zoo. There were people everywhere. It seemed that several flights converged on security and customs at the same time and they were not prepared for such a large group. It took me almost 2 hours to make my way through the maze and by that point I had missed my flight. I went to the help desk—after asking someone if I was in the right place, yes he assured me I was. After nearly an hour of waiting I was told that my ticket was not transferrable to another flight-I would need to go to ticketing and they would make the decision to charge me or not.

HELLO! That was a first. I quickly emailed my travel agent, she was a shocked by this as I was. When I made it to the front of the ticket line, there was no issue with me getting a new ticket. I could leave in 3 hours and take a flight to another airport and then on to Dunedin, or I could wait 6 hours and have a direct flight. I opted for the direct flight and it was a long day at the airport trying to stay awake. I read, I played mah jong, I did some knitting I even did laps around the airport. I felt myself sinking into whining mode, and I even fought back a few tears. Yes, even Road Warrior Princesses have meltdowns now and then.

Finally my plane boarded for Dunedin and I fell asleep and felt a little more rested when I arrived in Dunedin. I was overwhelmed by all of the people there greeting people, there were hugs and kisses and wow what a reception—not for me of course, I only know one person in Dunedin.

….and there she was. Standing there waiting for my arrival, my doctor for the week. She gave me the biggest hug and I told her I had been through quite a bit to get to her. I knew that the two of us were going to have an immediate connection from our conversations before I arrived in New Zealand. We retrieved my bag and headed for her car. She took me the scenic route and we went down along the ocean so I could see the waves and the surfers. She took me to the harbor and let me get out at both stops to take photos. She gave me a quick tour of the downtown area. I’m staying about two blocks from her office. By 5:00 it was dark.

She offered a night out of classical music, but I declined. I told her I was going to have a hot shower, some food and then head off to bed. I unpacked, ironed my clothes for the week and went downstairs to the hotel restaurant. I was going to have a bowl of soup, but the thought of cream of pea soup just did not appeal to me. I decided to have the pork wellington. I’ve never had beef wellington in my life so I thought why not. The crust on the outside was perfect, what a treat for my first night here. I struggled to stay awake waiting for my dinner to arrive. When I looked in the mirror tonight I saw one very tired looking woman looking back at me.

I have one hour of free internet a day. I’ll post this and settle into this great big comfortable bed. I have a cab scheduled for 8:30 tomorrow morning. For my get my bearings day I’m going on a train ride into the countryside. You can bet there will be photos and a story. The train station here is supposed to be quite spectacular.

My life truly is filled with abundance. I never thought I would ever visit New Zealand. As we made our landing in Dunedin today I was struck by how much it reminds me of Ireland. It’s very lush and green and I saw cows and sheep on the drive to the hotel from the airport. I’ve not seen much of the area, but I have a feeling that tomorrow is going to be a day filled with memories. I just got here and I’m already looking forward to my next trip—delays and all.

Sunday, June 29, 2014 Dunedin Day 2

I was asleep by a little after 8 last night and slept mostly through the night.  I was ready to get up when the wake up call came through at 7:30.  Today was my adjust to being half way around the world day and I had arranged for a trip on the Taeieri Gorge Railway from Dunedin to Middle march.  I love trains, my high school mascot was a railroader, I was looking forward to this adventure.  I had done a Mapquest from the hotel to the railway station before I left the US.  It indicated that the train station was 10 miles from the center of Dunedin where I am staying.  That’s why I arranged for a cab.  I worried a bit about how I would get back from the train station, but figured if nothing else I could use a pay phone and find a ride home.

My cab driver was a very sweet elderly gentleman.  He must have thought me to be a lazy American when the cab ride consisted of about 5 blocks.  I had even asked him for a card so I could call for a return taxi before I realized the railway station was just around the corner from my hotel.  I had close to an hour before the train left the station.  You know me I’m taking photos, buying postcards in the gift shop and walking around a bit getting in a few steps.

The train was like taking a step back in time.  The cars were wooden on the inside with the original seats—which had been reupholstered and were in great shape.  The ceilings were little squares, one of the riders on the train told me that it looked just like the cars she had ridden in as a girl.  I was little kid on Christmas Eve excited to start this trip.  The train wasn’t overly full, and I picked a seat by the window and settled in to be in the moment and to enjoy the view.

They told us it was ok to stand on the train platforms between the cars to take photos.  When we were heading toward the first bridge across a gorge you can bet I was out of my seat standing outside letting the wind blow through my hair and loving the view.  It’s pretty chilly here, in the 50’s I was glad to find my gloves in my coat pocket.  The views were stunning and no amount of photos take will ever create what I saw and what I felt.  It was one of those days that will forever be stamped in my memory.  We made a stop on the way to Middlemarch to stop and take photos of the gorge.  The plan was to arrive in Middlemarch and be there for an hour so they could turn the train around—as in move the engine to the opposite end of the train.

Middlemarch was not much more than a railroad crossing.  There was a hotel there, a restaurant, an ice cream shop, ladies selling handmade local crafts in the train station and about 2 blocks from the train a little shop selling a variety of items.  An hour was more than enough time to explore the town.  I had pre-ordered a box lunch on the train but one of the passengers told me about the lovely restaurant in town that had a vegetable soup special for the day.  I couldn’t resist and the creamy soup and the warm bread with butter were sooooooo good.

When I boarded the trip to return to Dunedin I picked up my box lunch.  A sandwich, some fruit, a pudding fruit mixture, some sort of egg and cheese pie and a great piece of chocolate cake.  The soup was just an appetizer and I munched on my box lunch on the train ride home.  We stopped at a place called the Reefs which had a breath taking view of the gorge.  Both ways on the trip there was a running commentary by a gentleman named John Henry.  He told us stories along the route that really added to the experience.  He showed us Katie’s Gate, a spot where a young girl used to catch the train into Dunedin for school everyday.  I was lucky enough to be standing out on the platform as we passed by and snapped a picture.

It was a beautiful ride that gave me an opportunity to see the beauty of this country.  I think when I come back to visit again it will be in the summer time.  Even with the cold weather, and the trees with no leaves it is quite beautiful.  On the ride we saw lots of sheep, a few mountain goats, herds of cattle, alpacas and horses.  There’s a spot not far outside of Dunedin that has produced some horse racing champions in this corner of the world.  There’s also a race track just out of town that also features a steeple jumping track.

Train

When we returned, right on time at 3:30 I made the very LONG journey back to my hotel.  I called the doctor at  4 and we made plans for her to pick me up for a quick and fun dinner tonight at 6.  I still needed about 2,000 steps so I took a walk around the downtown area.  It’s Sunday, a lot of shops are closed and most of them will be closed this week by 5.  That’s part of this, you can be in wonderful places, but they close about the time you have finished work for the day.  I will have a bit of time on Thursday before making my flight home and I’ve scouted out a few places I plan to visit.

There’s an art museum two blocks from my hotel and it was open until 5 today.  I had about 20 minutes to walk around and enjoy the art.  On the second floor they have a lego exhibit.  It’s a huge table filled with all white legos and people that visit the museum go there and actually are constructing the exhibit.  There were 5 people gathered around the table putting legos together and building all sorts of castles and towers.

The doctor met me at my hotel at 6 and we walked a few blocks and had dinner together.  It was a combination conversation about life, travel, family and details about our next three days together.  I’m really looking forward to my time with this office.  What a fantastic day.

Dunedin Day 3 June 30, 2014

Today it was time to go to work.  The office I am training is just a few blocks from my hotel.  The doctor walked down to pick me up this morning. She didn’t actually pick me up but she did want to make sure I didn’t get lost.  The office has a spectacular overview of the downtown area and the harbor.  When I got there this morning at 8 it was still dark outside and the twinkling lights were quite beautiful.  As the day went on and the sun came out I was able to see how truly spectacular the view was from this office.

I’ve worked in Australia and Ireland and I know that there are tea breaks built into the schedule for the day.  This office even pencils them into the appointment book.  So we settled on 10:00 am for the morning tea break.  I’ve had offices where we had to leave the building for tea…this office *put the jug on* as in heated up the water and we made tea at the office.

There were two hysterical instances today in terminology.  Both stopped me dead in my tracks with no idea how to respond—but to laugh.  When we were moving appointments around in the appointment book they said, “Brilliant!  We won’t need rubbers any more!” Ummmm…they explained to me that rubbers are what they call erasers. You can imagine where my mind went when they said rubbers-it wasn’t boots.

Later in the day the doctor asked, “Ann, do you have zits?”  Ummmm…well, er—. That time they laughed at me, and pulled a book off of their bookshelf.  It’s an American book they told me filled with comic strips about orthodontists.  I’ve brought it back to the hotel to read and giggle tonight.

For lunch I visited a vegetarian restaurant and had a baked potato.  It came with your choice of toppings and I picked garlic butter, sour cream and cheese.  Oh my did I have garlic breath after that!  The sour cream tasted a little different and I’m not sure what sort of grated cheese it was.  It didn’t taste like cheddar and was a white cheese.  The doctor pointed out a few shops that might be great to buy Christmas gifts, or things for my present drawer at home.  Two of them I had completely missed while taking my walk about town.  One has some wonderful looking pottery.  We finished about 10 minutes before 5 tonight and I did some browsing in a Merino Wool shop.  They had some beautiful things, but a bit pricey.  I may go back for another look before I head back to the US at the end of the week.

I had dinner tonight with the doctor, her husband and a colleague of hers from the dental school.  We had carrot soup with vegetables grown from her garden, mashed potatoes from potatoes they had grown, lamb shakes and an interesting chopped brussels sprouts salad.  It was a lively conversation, and I love hearing stories about their adventures and their travels.  I should sleep like a log after all of that great food tonight.

July 1, 2014

How in the heck did it get to be July?  It’s really hard to believe it is July when it felt so cold and damp today.  I had on my hat, my gloves and my scarf and tomorrow I think I’ll wear a sweater under my coat.  Brrrrr…. The staff told me that I’m going to experience some winter tomorrow—there may even be snow!  I’m thinking warm thoughts tonight.  I could see my breath walking to work this morning.  It’s just a few blocks and I am enjoying walking with the locals as they make their way to work too.

I’ve decided that I need to have tea breaks for all of my trainings. At 10 and 3 every day we stop what we are doing—put on the jug and take a 10 minute break to sip a cup of tea.  It gives everyone time to take a deep breath and then start back again.  They asked me what we do in the states.  I said we work through and if they are lucky I might give them a bathroom break.  There is lots of good natured teasing back and forth with each other.  When they saw the word check-(cheque for them) they told me that you spell that funny.  I of course told them that they spell it funnier.

I was on my own for lunch today so I walked around the corner to the Sugar Cafe.  There are all sorts of tiny little cafes around the octagon, the middle of downtown Dunedin where I am working.  I had a bowl of potato leek soup with some crusty warm bread.  I decided to have a ginger slice for dessert which tasted a lot like a ginger snap with caramel icing that was so sweet I thing it gave me a cavity.  My biggest chuckle of the day was the menu board posted in the cafe that had one of their features of the day as Texas style pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw.  Ahhh…even in New Zealand they want to have a little bit of Texas!

I had a little time after lunch to take a quick look in a few of the gift shops.  There’s a merino wool shop around the corner, a few wonderful pottery shops and the usual tourist type shops.  I have my eye on a few things to pick up on Thursday before I head for home.  I walked pretty close to the Cadbury factory it’s 3 blocks from where I am working.  I’m going to do my best to take the tour on Thursday if time allows.  I at least snapped a photo today so I can say I was there.

This afternoon I rode herd over my trainees sitting on one of the saddle type chairs that they use in the clinic in this part of the world.  I’ve seen a few in the US, but the first one I sat on was my first training in Australia.  Thankfully I have no saddle sores to report and I was not thrown by that wild saddle chair.

It was a long day, the second day of the training is always the most challenging.  At the end of the day after everyone left the doctor and I sat and talked for about an hour about the day, but mostly about life, family, relationships and a variety of topics.  I told her I could see she was tired and I was going to pick up some take away on the way home and she suggested a thai place just around the corner from my hotel.  (Take awake, not to go, not carry out-it’s take away here.)

I had dinner, worked on my report of the day and took a long hot shower.  I in my pajamas and writing this from bed and it’s not even 7.  I’m going to settle in and watch some tv and do a little knitting on a baby sweater project I brought along.

When I left today, the doctor opened the door to let me out and she shared one of those great big between friends hugs.  She told me that I was a marvelous trainer and I joked with her that she might need to tell my boss that so they’ll keep me and we both had a chuckle.  This week has been wonderful even with the ups and downs and challenges.  I love what I do and I love it most when I leave an office knowing that I have made a difference.

Dunedin Day 5

Texas on the horizon….

Three days, no more pants in the closet, it’s time to go home tomorrow day.  I’d love to stay for much much longer.  I’ve had the best experience this week.   Maybe because it’s my first New Zealand office, maybe its the doctor, maybe it’s the staff—maybe it’s all of the above.  I’ve felt a connection here all week, even before I arrived in Dunedin.  I’m not sure I can adequately put the feelings into word or capture with a photo.  It has been magical for me, and recharging on a professional level.  That may change when I’m right back out on an airplane on Monday working with a new office in Houston.  For now, I’m going to savor the afterglow of a wonderful week.

Today was cold and wet.  That kind of cold that goes right through you as you are walking down the windy street.  Most of the buildings have awnings, so you are in and out of the rain, but it’s still bone chilling.  I was happy to get into the warmth of the office today.  When I went out for lunch it was still cold, and when I came out after lunch it had started to rain.  I had lunch at a small hole in the wall tucked away kind of cafe called Strictly Coffee.  It was a really small place, but I found a table out of the air of the opening door and settled in to enjoy my bowl of chicken and vegetable soup.  Of course it came with warm crusty bread and butter.  I’m going to have to avoid the scales for awhile when I get home.  I may need to go paleo to detox from all these luscious carbs.

I had some time after lunch to head to the two pottery shops I have been scouting this week.  I wanted to buy the pottery tonight so I could cushion it between my clothes.  I put a few things into my laptop case trying to spread the weight around.  There are a few things I still would like to pick up tomorrow.  I’ve asked the hotel for a late check out at noon so I can pack the rest of my treasures for the trip home.

I had dinner at a charming Italian restaurant just around the corner from my hotel.  I walked up a set of stairs and loved the old world feel of the place.  There was a fireplace with a warm fire on one wall. The furniture, the wooden walls, it was just a great way to celebrate the week and my last night in Dunedin.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to get to travel here for work.  I know in my heart that I will visit New Zealand again.  The next time it will be in the summer time and I’ll get to explore more of the coast and the wildlife in this area.  Dunedin will forever hold a place in my heart.  This was office number 99 for me.  I would have loved to it to have been office number 100, but even if it was office 32 it would still have been a memorable experience for me.

Tonight is a night to pack, write some postcards and knit the last sleeve on the baby sweater project I brought along for the trip.  This may be THE baby sweater pattern I have been looking for.  It’s quick, easy and I plan to knit a few more to tuck away for baby gifts.   Tomorrow I’m booked at 9:00 a.m. for the Cadbury Factory tour.  I read the info, there is no jewelry permitted and the cellphone doesn’t get to be a part of the tour.  I’m sure I’ll still find a few photos to take and of course share.  I’ll have a few hours to get into mischief before I head to the airport at 4 to begin that long journey home.  I’m sending a ripple out to the Universe, let’s make this trip home totally uneventful with no delays, no long lines—smooth flying.  One of my trainees has been training me all week that it will snow tomorrow and I won’t be able to fly out.  I told her she’d better plan on moving over because I was sleeping at her house tomorrow night!

One more night in Dunedin..and one more day to appreciate this fantastic place.

Dunedin Day 6

July 3, 2014

I’m sitting in the hotel lobby until my ride arrives at 4 to take me to the airport.  I have my backpack and my laptop case and I’ve found an outlet to charge my phone.  I’ve got a lot of hours of sitting ahead of me, but it’s too cold to be wandering outside any longer today.  I’ve taken a few more photos, I have possibly worn a few numbers off of my credit card, it’s been a good day.  I even made a brief stop at the office to check on the staff I worked with all week to see if there were any questions.

The Cadbury Factory tour was better than expected.  In my travels I’ve toured the Guiness Brewery, the Waterford Crystal Factory and the Jelly Belly Factory in California.  None of them were actually doing any sort of production when I was there until today.  For the tour we wore little hats to cover our hair, there were no bags permitted, all jewelry had to be removed and any sort of cameras and cellphones were locked away in a closet. So, there are no photos of the chocolate stream or Charlie or Willy Wonka.

As you would expect the smell of chocolate was heavy in the air.  We saw chocolate buttons being made and saw tons of chocolate and thousands of pieces of chocolate.  I found out later that one of my trainees worked at the factory for a time right out of high school.  There were no Cadbury egg sitings, I’m pretty sure those aren’t even made in New Zealand.  They do make Easter candy there for 6 months from December until June.  All of the Easter candy made in New Zealand is eaten right here in New Zealand.

It was like Halloween with little bags and candy samples being dropped in them all day.  There are a few types of candies that are just made in New Zealand that I’ve never heard of before.  I packed all of the chocolate in my backpack, I don’t want to take any chances that things will melt in my suitcase on the journey home.  It’s not going to be winter like temperatures when I land in Dallas.

I have been looking at a few items to buy all week. Today was the day to make the final purchases.  To the pottery I have already purchased I added some merino wool items, some touristy type things, some things at the Cadbury shop other than chocolate.  I have four trainees next week and I bought them each a chocolate scented ink pen.  It might be different if I had 20 people but I think they will get a kick out of my little gift for them from New Zealand.

They sold postcard stamps at the Cadbury Factory and I bought enough to mail 10 post cards at $1.90 each.  The other 30 post cards I bought will get a good old fashioned purchased in the US post card stamp on them.  I love all of you..but 🙂  I found a mailbox not far from my hotel and hopefully those post cards will make their way to the 10 lucky recipients.

Ahhh…I feel myself shifting back into Texas mode.  I’m looking forward to the warmth of the weather and of the people who surround me in that corner of the world.  I’ll have 3 days off to recover from this adventure and then back out again to Houston.  I’m the Road Warrior Princess, that shouldn’t be a problem, right?

…and I might have taken a few photos along the way.

https://flic.kr/s/aHsjZkfMVy

I love the time change when it means that I have a few extra daylight hours at the end of a day of training.  My original plan was to drive back to the hotel and then drive back to downtown Trinidad to get my 10,000 steps in for the day.  I checked my GPS and found that Trinidad Lake State Park was less than a mile from my hotel.  How much more fun would it be to walk outside and hug the stuffin’ out of Mother Nature?  I decided that I needed to put some gas in my car, so $20 just about filled up the car.  I headed to the park and paid the $7 day pass fee and began to drive around to take photos and to explore the trails.  This was after all about getting my steps in.  There were quite a few trails that were closed, and there was a trail where I stopped and said no, that’s probably not a good idea. I was being cautious. 

I figured I had paid my $7 I was going to keep going and explore more areas of the park.  There was a canyon road that looked interesting and wound it’s way around the lake.  I would drive a ways, stop and take pictures and jump back in the car to drive a little further.  I made it to the lake and turned around to head back.  I got out to take a photo and the wind caught the door and slammed it REALLY hard.  You guessed it, the door locked and the engine was running.  OH SHIT! I pulled out my cellphone, it had a bit of life in it–about enough to shut itself off completely while I was trying to decide what to do.  Ok my dear, you are going to need to walk to the highway.  

First, I walked back to the port a potty I had seen when I turned around.  I wasn’t sure how far I would have to walk, and having to go to the bathroom was not going to make that any easier.  As I was walking back to the car my Fitbit vibrated—10,000 steps.  That made me chuckle.  I tried all 4 doors–all locked.  My purse was locked in the trunk so I had 2 cough drops, chapstick, a dead cellphone and my hotel room key in my pocket.  I started to make my way back to the highway.  I’m going to say it was about 5 miles…but really my Fitbit only recorded 3,000 steps.  So not that far.

The walk gave me a chance to try to formulate a strategy.  I have AAA and I was hoping that there was AAA available in this remote location.  When I arrived at the highway I tried to wave down a driver, they buzzed right past me.  A second driver pulled up across the road from me and asked if I needed help.  Yes…I told them my problem and they agreed to drive me back down to the Holiday Inn for some help.  They were delightful and had lived in the area for 18 years.  They were retired and were heading into town for their weekly Bingo game.  They had a monster truck and I crawled into the back seat with their black Lab Inky.  Inky and I bonded and I had a very nice conversation with the couple about the area. 

At the Holiday Inn they got AAA on the phone and let me use their phone.  I can’t say enough about how nice AAA was.  The operator wasn’t sure how this was going to work since I needed to be at my car when the AAA driver arrived and I was at the hotel.  He contacted his supervisor and they called the local AAA.  They agreed to pick me up at my hotel and to take me to my car.  Charlie was the AAA driver, and we had a great conversation on the drive to my car.  He told me it is quite common for the wind to slam doors shut and lock them in the area. He said he always carries his car unlocking tools with him.  That might have been to make me feel a little better.

When we arrived at the Canyon Charlie told me that as a teenager he had helped to build some of the trails around where my car was stranded.  He told me that he was taught by his grandmother about having a strong work ethic.  He told me about those watching over him.  I told him that today was my mom’s birthday and I had quite a conversation with her when that door locked behind me.  I trusted that things would work out….and they did.

It took a short amount of time for him to unlock my door.  I am so grateful that this story turned out with a happy ending, and only took a few hours.  On my way back I found a great place to take a photo of the sunset.  The couple told me that for some reason they left 15 minutes earlier than normal for bingo–that put them at the intersection at the exact time that I walked there.  My life is filled with abundance and I felt all of those good ripples that I send out to the world coming back to me.  I feel incredibly lucky that I did not panic, that I was healthy enough to walk those 3,000 steps and that the weather was warm and sunny. 

…lessons learned for sure.  If I leave the keys in the car I will roll the window down.  I’ve always said that they way I will die will be on the side of the road jumping out to take a photo of some sort of scenic vista. 

 

 

…and after all the walking in the crazy Colorado wind this is what I saw in the mirror when I returned.  Oh MY!

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