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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 8--Japan and Home

Saturday, Nov. 28th we woke up and packed our bags and prepared to leave Japan and all the adventures behind. We have mixed emotions about leaving...sad to leave family we miss so much when we're away and happy to return to family we've missed while we've been away.

Luckily, we got to have one more Japanese experience before we left. Ethan Shion Shumway was starring as the Tin Woodsman in the Kindergarten Play, The Wizard of Oz so we walked over to his school and watched the performance. Even without understanding the language it was an amazing show because all of those little six-year-olds spoke out their lines and acted their parts so well. It was cute! They had darling costumes and were so excited to perform for their parents and grandparents. I give the show five stars!

Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow and Flying Monkeys

Wicked Witch of the West

Our star and his parents following the show.
After the play, Mark caught a taxi and took us to the train station to catch a Bullet Train to Narita, one of Tokyo's airports. Mark walked us through the immense maze of the station and waited with us for our train.
We found our way through the airport and checked our bags, went through security and had a few minutes to spare. The noodle shop we chose for lunch took a long time to prepare our food and Kevin and Bryan had to gulp and slurp hot noodles in hurry for us to make our flight, so with scalded tongues we got on board and made another incredible journey across the sea. This flight was actually five hours shorter than our flight to Inchon not only because of less space to cover but also because we had tailwinds instead of headwinds.

Bry and Kev slurping noodles before leaving Japan.

We got through customs at Seattle/Tacoma airport and had a couple of hours to doze while we waited for the last leg of our journey home. The last flight was uneventful too and Rob was waiting for us at the airport. We were so happy to see him and to hear that all was well at home while we were away.
Cami was at home and was thrilled with the gifts we brought home, especially the beautiful hat her Aunt Nana purchased for her at a swank Tokyo shop.

Cami in her fashionable hat Nana purchased for her.

I spent the rest of the evening doing laundry, paying bills, sending the indexing reports to all the Bishops, Stake Presidency and ward newsletter editors. Then I crashed and slept until noon on Sunday. It is nice to be back and now I'll try to get back into a routine, but I'm definitely a different person, traveling changes a person and gives us a different view of the world. I feel so blessed to have been able to make this journey.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Days 5, 6 and 7 in Japan

I’ve been delayed in getting the last few days of our trip onto my blog…mostly because we’ve been so involved in enjoying our trip and our family here in Tokyo.

We had a full day (and I do mean a full 24 hour day) of travel as we left Gwanju, South Korea at 7:00 a.m. Tuesday morning to 8:30 a.m. Wednesday morning when we finally arrived in Tokyo. The ferry ride across the Yellow Sea was a blast. Our boat was called a “Beetle” and it was a hydrofoil, which means it rises up on blades and uses water jetting though the system to race across the top of the water. Our first difficulty of the day was when we arrived at customs in Fukuoka, Japan. Apparently they had not had any US citizens enter Japan this way and it really aroused suspicion about us. Since we also couldn’t answer the questions they were posing to us in Japanese (Kevin was trying to speak Korean, but no one understood that either), we were held up for quite awhile at customs while they located an English speaking agent to question us and finally stamp our passports and let us through into the country. That was a little nerve racking. Then we had to get ourselves to the rail station and trade our rail vouchers for the actual passes we would use while in the country. We figured out a bus schedule well enough to get on the right bus, but were anxious to not miss our stop and to become lost in Hakata. It was such a relief to get off that bus and find ourselves in the right place, but our relief turned to concern when we finally got our passes and then discovered there were no more trains to Tokyo that night and we could only get as far as Osaka.

Ready to ride the Beetle
In The Harbor
We ended up finding a friendly rail worker in Osaka who took pity on us poor Americans and got us bus tickets to travel from Osaka to Tokyo. We phoned Mark and told him our plans and waited anxiously in the rain for our bus which departed at 11:50 p.m. When we finally were seated, we were so exhausted we fell into a stupor as this bus trundled us all through the night towards Tokyo. During the rainy night we would awake and listen to the names of the stops and try to guess how much closer we were to our destination.

I’ve always loved my brother, Mark, but I have to admit I’ve never been so happy to hear his voice as I was Wednesday morning as we wrestled our luggage off that bus and he said, “Can I help you?” I almost burst into tears of joy to turn around and see his sweet face. We put ourselves in his very capable hands and trusted in his skills of navigation and language and have had a fabulous time ever since.

The inside of Mark's & Nana's Apt. Bldg.

The outside view of their Apt. Bldg (Tokyo Towers)

After getting us to his apartment, we were shown to the spectacular guest lodging Nana had reserved for us. It was on the 26th floor of their building and had a spectacular view of the city and the huge river running through Tokyo. We freshened up and started to feel human again. Then Mark, Nana and Avery took us to the Imperial Palace and gardens and gave us a tour of that part of Tokyo. We ate a delicious Japanese lunch and dinner and enjoyed an evening with Eric, Ethan and Avery before calling it a day (what a day!) at about 8:00 p.m.

Views from the Imperial Grounds

We needed the sleep because the next morning (Thursday) we took the train to Kyoto and had the most amazing day seeing many cultural and historical sights. Kyoto is truly a Japanese treasure! We rode taxis and walked all over the city having such an incredible day seeing Buddhist Temples, Shogun Palaces, Pagodas, Zen Gardens, Etc. The three hour train ride home that evening was even special for me because I was seated next to an American from San Francisco named Vivien and we became friends during that journey and I look forward to hearing from her by email so we can continue to become better acquainted.

Nana had pizza and pasta ordered when we got home. It was delivered just moments after our arrival. After that delicious meal we retired to attempt to catch up on so many hours of lost sleep.

Friday morning was another gorgeous day in Japan. The weather has been spectacular. It feels like September here instead of November and the leaves are so incredibly beautiful. I’ve collected several bright colored Japanese Maple, Ginko and Elm leaves that are just a sampling of the amazing fall colors showing here now. Our day in Kyoto was made even more memorable with the spectacular fall foliage at every place we visited. I kept thinking a tree couldn't be more beautiful than one I was looking at and then we would turn a corner and see an even more amazing combination of colors.

Just a small sampling of the Foilage of Kyoto

Friday Mark and Nana took us to several shopping districts in the city. Cami wanted us to bring her some true ‘Tokyo Street Fashion’ so they took us to Shibuya. It was like Broadway in Manhattan only more people and more shops and more crazy. Nana bought Cam the cutest hat and I found her a skirt. If she’ll add her own black tights, cute top, scarf and boots, she will look like a Tokyo Girl!

The main intersection at Shibuya
Mark took us to a special place in Shibuya for lunch where we had teriyaki eel for lunch. Then we walked through the sensory overload area known as Akihurba where every kind of digital, electronic, 'gadgety' item known to man can be found. We collected the boys after school and all of had a traditional dinner eating Sushi while seated on mats on the floor. I’ve had the California rolls before but this was my first experience eating the raw slices of mackerel, yellow tail, tuna, etc. The thing that really amazed me was watching three little boys eating all the raw fish, fish eggs and other things many adults, let alone children wouldn't even try.

Sushi Eaters!

Japan in truly an amazing country and we have amazing relatives who live here and who have made this trip so incredibly wonderful in every way. We will never be able to thank Mark, Nana and their boys enough for all their hospitality and generosity in making this trip possible and the most memorable time I’ve ever had.

Monday, November 23, 2009

S. Korea to Japan Day 4

I shouldn't really be naming my posts after the day we are here, rather the day that has just past and I don't have time this early morning to write about the wonderful day the guys and I had yesterday in Naju and Gwanju Korea. We were able to see several of Kevin's mission areas and felt like celebrities everywhere we went. There is a distinct lack of foreigners in this land and Kevin was able to tell us about many of the comments people would make about us (not thinking we could understand what they were saying). It was so fun. The day was absolutely a blast and I will have to write more about it another time since we are on our way out the door to catch a taxi to catch a bus to catch a subway to catch a ferry to get to Japan.
Bryan and Kevin at Buddist Shrine in Naju

Downtown Naju

A long day is ahead of us and I will try to attach photos and write all about it later or tomorrow or maybe after we get back. It seems like every day is too full to really give a sense of all the amazing adventures we are having and sights we are seeing.
Marketstreet in Gwanju

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day 3 South Korea

Kevin's Missionary Apartment in Gwanju Riding the Korean Rail System
Gwanju's city center

This morning we are in Gwanju. We had a nice day yesterday riding the very comfortable rail system in Korea. (Why can't the airlines make their seats as nice, roomy and comfortable as the railway?)

Our next hotel did indeed make and KEEP the reservation Kevin made and had a room ready for us. What welcome news that was because it was the address we left with Korean Airlines to return the missing luggage. Sometime in the night after we were asleep, the phone rang and we were informed that the bag was here. First thing this morning Kevin went down and retrieved it for me from the front desk. Happy day!

So today, we are on our way out for more Korean adventures. We will walk downtown and take the subway system to visit some of Kevin's old mission areas. We found the Gwanju Stake Center yesterday and Kevin reminisced about attending church, bringing investigators, and spending P-Days playing ping pong there.

He says many things seem different and other things haven't changed at all. It is a strange feeling to come back to a place you've been away from for several years.

Tomorrow we will have to check out the hotel really early to catch the train to Pussan to catch the ferry to Fukuoka, Japan. So today is really our last day in Korea and we will try to make the most of today.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Day 2--South Korea

The Korean Airliner we flew on for 16 hours!

Inchon International Airport was absolutely gorgeous!
A quaint rail station on our way to Daecheon

Hello from Daecheon, South Korea to my faithful two or three blog followers!

Kevin, Bryan and I made the long and arduous journey from Salt Lake International Airport to the Inchon International Airport as we flew through a day and a night and right through Bryan's 19th Birthday. Unfortunately, not all of our luggage made the voyage with us. My suitcase is sitting somewhere in this vast world where I'm not...I'm realizing what a material girl I am as I shower and put on the same clothes and don't have my toothbrush, hair gel, hair spray, makeup, etc. to prepare for the day.

The second setback came when we finally made our way through 3 subway transfers, a mad dash to make our reserved rail car, finally found a taxi driver who knew which hotel we were to stay at and finally upon arrival discovered that the hotel reservation didn't match up with anything at the Best Western Inn AND that they didn't have a single room available for the night. I for the first time in my life had an inkling of what Mary and Joseph must have felt as they were turned away in a strange place into a cold night without a room to stay in.

We pulled our remaining suitcases down the sidewalk and around the corner to another hotel and felt extremely blessed to find lodgings there. Thank goodness we didn't have to locate a stable, although a bed of straw may have been a little more comfortable than the rock-hard beds we slept on last night. But even with with the uncomfortable beds, the place was warm (too warm actually and how do you turn down the heat in here?) and there was bottled water in a little fridge (at only $2.00 per bottle on the provided list). Kevin went out this morning and bought us orange juice, fruit and crackers from a corner store so we had a little breakfast and now we are off on our next adventure.

As often as possible, I will post an update so those who know and care about us can keep track of where we are and what we are up to. Please also keep us in your prayers (I could use all the help possible so my suitcase will somehow find its way back to us.) Thanks!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

19 Years Wasn't That Long Ago!

19 years ago our little family was living in Bountiful and was involved in a very extensive house-hunt. I was very pregnant--in fact I was so huge, strangers would always comment to me that I must be having twins and when I would say, "no, just one very big boy", they would act shocked.

19 years ago, I lugged little 3-year-old Dani through two feet of snow as we followed a realtor to look at six more houses. It was an exhausting day and when I returned home, I had to get out of the car and lift the old garage door to park. It continued to snow throughout the day and I couldn't quite bring myself to drive to the hospital even though I was definitely in labor. I spent the rest of the afternoon doing laundry, scrubbing the floors and making Thanksgiving pies for the feast I would be hostessing in two days.
By 6:00 pm there was another foot of snow on the ground and there was no denying that we had to leave for the hospital. I labored for a few more hours and dilated to a 10 by 10:00 p.m., but still no baby. Finally the doctor decided to break my water and as soon as he did, the cord compressed and an emergency Cesarean had to be performed. As soon as Bryan made his appearance, the doctor's response was, "Well, no wonder he wouldn't come...look at the size of that head!" My 9 pound baby boy was perfect in every way! I couldn't stop smiling even though I'm sure I was in shock over the fastest slice-and-dice delivery on record. Bryan's birth took place just minutes before midnight on November 20, 1990.

Bryan and I got to spend Thanksgiving Day in the hospital. The next day Bryan weighed in at an even 10 pounds; I got a dozen metal staples removed from my belly; and Rob, Kevin and Dani came to take us home.

19 years later, Bryan, Kevin and I are packing for our great voyage to Asia. We need to leave in the wee hours of Bryan's 19th birthday so tonight I wish my wonderful, talented, and amazingly intelligent baby boy a very happy birthday!

Nineteen things you might or might not know about Bryan:
1. He graduated from high school with a perfect 4.0 GPA and a 34 on his ACT
2. He earned a "full-ride" scholarship to every university in the state and several outside of Utah.
3. Bryan accepted the offer from the University of Utah and is majoring in Computer Science.
4. Bryan is anxiously awaiting a mission call!
5. He works for Weber School District Technical Support, setting up and maintaining the computers in every school in the district.
6. He doesn't like to shave, but will soon have to do it every single day!
7. Bryan is fearless when it comes to heights; he has rappelled down many cliffs and explored many canyons over the last few years.
8. He loves his own style of music...none of the rest of us can figure it out.
9. Bryan is very musical, he plays trumpet, baritone, bass and piano.
10. But he does not sing.
11. Bryan loves Larissa!
12. Bryan doesn't like football, basketball or baseball.
13. But he has a blue belt in karate.
14. Bryan has acted in two plays and played in four pit orchestras for musicals. He was also drum major for the marching band and played in symphonic and jazz bands.
15. Bryan is hilariously funny. If you want to laugh, spend a few minutes talking with him.
16. Bryan collects strange band shirts.
17. He is buying a footlocker to protect all of his band shirts and expensive electronics from the family during his mission.
18. Bry gets to tour part of South Korea and Japan over the next week and a half.
19. Bryan is very loyal to his friends and family.