Monday, August 21, 2006

So near and yet so far. . .

Today I hauled my suitcase, laptop and tote bag over to a friend's apartment where I will be cat-sitting her two cats for the next three weeks. I kept procrastinating because it was so bleeping hot and humid that I didn't want to leave my apartment.

Finally, I went downstairs to ask my dear, sweet landladies if they would mind calling a taxi for me. Not speaking Japanese is really a pain sometimes, but I'm glad to have such nice landladies who are always so willing to help me. I feel bad asking them to do these kinds of things, but they always seem so willing to help.

I gave them a sheet of paper where I had very carefully written out the address where I needed to go. I also carefully explained that I would need to be dropped at the front door of the "mansion" (the word used by the Japanese to describe a brick, high-rise apartment building), and not at the back of the building which faces the main road.

It took an incrediby and unbelievably long time to get this information delivered in a way that they could expedite the instructions to the taxi driver. When he showed up, exactly on time, he got out his map and huddled with the landladies. After what seemed to be, I swear to gawd, another 15 minutes of instructions and intense studying of the map in the blistering heat, where sweat poured down my face and back, I explained that once we got in the general vicinity I could help direct him to the apartment building. My landladies reviewed "hidari" (left) and "miggi" (right) with me so I could tell him which direction to turn.

My destination was approximately 2.5 miles away.

Now, is it just me or do you think it's ok for an experienced taxi driver to not know how to find an address only 2.5 miles away? While I see GPS systems in many taxis and private cars, this taxi was equipped with only a book of maps.

When we got to the general vicinity, he started quizzing me in Japanese and I'm assuming he was hoping I could understand him and answer in perfect Japanese, even though the ladies told him that I didn't speak any Japanese. As he nervously drove around, I began to recognize the area and began giving him my simple and rehearsed directions, "hidari, hidari, kudasai!" One-way streets didn't help, but after a few minutes, we approached the eight-story building and we both saw it at the same time. I gave a hoot of recognition, "hai, hai, hai, hai" and he grinned with relief.

So, here I sit, with my two cat-pals, listening to Chopin's Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor on my computer, and life is good.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Roberto's Taco Shop!

The first thing I had to do when we arrived in Las Vegas was go to Roberto's Taco Shop for some tamales! Oh, were they delicious! And the Margarita (not pictured) that went with it was fab!

The food I always miss the most when I'm out of the U.S. is Mexican food. While it can be found in Japan, it takes some looking and costs a lot more. This tamale dinner (takeout) cost $5.

Reno, Nevada

On our way back from Seattle to Las Vegas, we stopped for the night in Reno. It's a small town plopped in the middle of nowhere. Here are a couple of photos, one daytime shot and a nighttime shot looking out our hotel window. Yes, that's a rainbow! There was a huge lightning and thunder storm and the sky turned yellow, typical in the desert. Then we were treated to a magnificent rainbow.

At night, Reno's casino-town look kicks in when the garish lights come on.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Back to Tokes

Here's a picture of Tokyo from the plane as I returned from my month-long vacation.

While I fully expected to post short blog entries while I was on vacation, there was never enough time! I'll have a bunch of pictures to post soon, especially the ones that go with my "26 Things" post a while back. I got to do almost everything on my list, so that was fun.

Why do vacations go so fast? There was such a lead-up to the "big event" and then it was gone in a flash! Well, it was fun while it lasted.

The day I got back felt like I had just walked into a sauna! After being in the dry southwest desert, it was a shock to the system to step off the plane and get hit by a blast of super-heated, steaming air! Did I ever tell you how much I hate hot, humid weather?

Anyway, it felt strange to go back to work after nearly a month off. I wondered if I'd still know how to teach, but it was like riding a bike -- you never forget.

Stay tuned for many more pictures soon!