Natalie Goes to Japan

40 year old very married blonde woman having a midlife crisis who heads to Japan alone to follow her dreams. Be careful what you wish for ... you just may get it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Japan: The Land of a Million Point Cards

Japan has points cards for everything. I'm given several every week, and most the time I don't know what the points apply to. But I have held onto a fair share of them. I have the world reknown Subway card, which once filled will get you 200 yen off your next sub, not a free sub. I have a Drink Card from Freshness Burger, and have actually recieved a free drink with the filled card. Everytime I go to Yamada Electronics I get a points card, and then give it to the Suzukis cuz I don't know what it does, nor do I think I shop there enough to ever recieve the pot at the end of that rainbow. I even have points cards to the 2 grocery stores I shop at the most. But these are a little different as I get points for bringing my own shopping bags. And then I just got what I consider the craziest one yet. It's for the vending machine on my corner. I have no clue how many points I have on the card, or how many it takes to get the baseball hat that says DyoDyo, or the cute little bear holding a red heart, or the poster of the Japanese pop star. But it just seems like a waste not to accumulate some points everytime I buy another Mystio or the drink with the orange circles on the front.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Don'tcha Just Love Email?

I got this great email from one of my students today, whom I emailed study questions to earlier in the day.


Thank you for questions. See you on Thursday.
Are you interested in belly dance?


Monday, August 28, 2006

Watching Goldfish Die

I let the Suzukis talk me into taking a bunch of goldfish off their hands. The best I can understand it is their is some sort of carnival style game here in Japan where you try and catch goldfish with a paper net. Yuma went through 30 of these nets and caught 3 goldfish. But Yoko has the touch. With only 3 nets she caught nearly 20. So they had all these goldfish and didn't know what to do with them. So they gave me 7. I knew better. But there was this part of me that really liked the idea of having some cute little faces swimming around in my apartment. And since I had the post-vacation blues and was missing my hubby I didn't seem to be able to put up a good fight. I even went out and bought an aquarium. But it took them less than a week to die. And watching them die, or finding them dead, did not help my mood any. I just don't know why people consider getting animals in a game fun...we all know how it's going to end.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Land of Beer and Chocolate

The last leg of the trip was Brugge, Belgium. I don't think I knew anything about Brugge before this trip. But what a wonder it is. It was one of the wealthiest cities in the world during the first half of the last millenium, and then the harbor silted up and it was forgotten by the world. What a blessing that was. It's a world heritage site and the city center has been beautifully preserved. You walk around, spiralling here and there, never quite sure where you are, but the architecture continues to astound you. It's incredible how much has survived. And not a convience store or gas station to be found. It's almost like Disneyland, only it's not's the real thing. The Hotel Adornes we stayed at was perfect. We climbed the old city bell tower, which would never happen in America. The stairs spriral up and up and are incredibly dangerous and narrow, and yet it handles two-way traffic. The view was lovely, even if it was raining and the wind was blowing us around mercilessly. We also did the brewery tour...of course. And ate Belgian Waffles while walking the streets. We viewed some churches and an art museum. And Mark drank lots of beer and I ate and drank lots of chocolate. On our last full day the rain finally cleared long enough for us to take the hotel bikes and rode along a canal to the small city of Damme. The city was cute and had a wonderful gothic(?)church and lots of restaurants, but that was it. But we continued to ride around the countryside which was wonderful. After we returned to town we headed out for some dinner, but decided to take the long route. However, a sudden storm came along. It absolutely poured, and we were quite unprepared. We had to take sanctuary in a carriage way. For something akin to 45 minutes. I was quite chilly, but Mark volunteered to keep me warm. It was a truly romantic city.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Getting Luxembourg Out of My System

We had a night between Amsterdam and Brugge with no hotel reservation, so I begged to go to Luxembourg. It was completely out of the way, but I just had it in my head that I wanted to go to Luxembourg. I don't know why? Mark reluctantly agreed, just so I could get it out of my system. We rode on the train for about 5 hours, and it was a wonderful train ride. We went first class, and it was roomy and quiet. And the countryside was just too quaint. We didn't have much time to do anything after arriving, except take a pathetic little tour on this fake train. The system kept resetting itself randomly, so our earplugs would change from English to German with no warning. But what we saw was a treat. Luxembourg is an extremely wealthy country, with stately new buildings, built to match the stately old buildings nicely. The way it is settled on the landscape has ensured that there is lots of park land. It really is a jewel of a city. After walking around and just looking at the city we finally settled on eating at Chi-Chi's. Yes, the lousy American chain for Mexican food restaurants, only the menus include French and German translations. The food was sub-par, but hit the spot. Early the next morning we wandered around the city taking more pics in the sleepy Sunday sunshine and then had to catch an early train back North to our next destination. We both agreed that Luxembourg was more than worth the trouble, and turned out to be surprising treat.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Dutch Treat

Really stupid title, but it was too easy not to use. We stayed at a B&B in a really convenient location and were able to walk everywhere. We did all they things that you are supposed to do, we weren't terribly original in that aspect. We went to the Van Gogh Museum and paid are respects to "Sunflowers". We went to the Rijk's Museum and saw "Night Watch" and dozens of other Rembrandts. And more importantly I got to see 4 of the 35 Vermeers in existence. We took a boat tour of the canals. And we wandered the Red Light District. It smelled slightly of pot and had pretty ladies in bikini's sitting in windows as they filed their nails or talked on their cell phones. The one day trip we made was to Delft, which was a delightful little town. It rained everyday on our trip and was pretty chilly. But we decided that was much preferrable to the heat wave they had had earlier in the year. We also just walked and walked. And took pics. And stopped every couple of hours at a sidewalk cafe so I could drink hot chocolate to warm up. My favorite moment of the whole Netherlands leg of our trip, was while Mark and I were walking and gawking through the Red Light District and Mark sees a Belgian Fries stand and gets really excited. There were were, surounded by half naked attractive women, and he wants French Fries. Lord, I love that man.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Computer Got Drunk

Why no posts? Several reasons. First my darling hubby came to we have been smooching and cuddling too much for me to bother with posts. Second, after his two week trip to Japan we flew off to Europe. We have already been to Amsterdam and Luxembourg and are currently in Brugge. But most importantly my computer got drunk. A glass of CC Lemon and sake got spilled into the computer. I thought I got it all mopped up and when I fired it up the next morning everything seemed to be working okay...until I actually needed to type something using the keyboard. Then nada. I should have it back in a week or so. But in the meantime there is bicycling, beer drinking and the eating of more chocolate to be done on our last day in Belgium.