The car-free debate


I am still working on my curtains, but I have run into a few hiccoughs I am working through.  In the meantime, I find myself in the midst of a huge decision that has really been challenging me.

Moving to a downtown apartment in a large city, I was surprised to learn that parking was going to cost around $200/month. I was shocked, to say the least. I’m sure things are worse in really big cities like New York or Los Angeles, but I simply could not stomach the $200 price tag; the most I have ever paid for parking is $50/month.

Luckily, I had a temporary solution. Just before moving, my sister Clara came back from overseas to stay at my mom’s for several months while she finalizes another adoption (yay!).  She brought Harrison with her!  To help her out, I lent her my car for the time she was in the country, allowing me to try the car-free life for a while.

About 1 week ago, Clara called me about the car. Apparently, she was driving it to the mechanic to change the oil, when out of nowhere, there was a huge bang.  Luckily, she was only minutes away from the mechanic, who was able to diagnose it immediately. Apparently, my dear car had suffered from “rod knock,” also known as “the death knell” of an engine. This post I found explains the condition really well (if you care about that sort of thing). In short, it seems my car was not getting enough oil for who knows how long.

Regardless of what happened, the relevant part of the story is the end: I need to replace the engine or say goodbye to my little Camry. After factoring in the cost of labor, replacing an engine ends up being a very expensive proposition.  Depending on what type I choose (new, rebuilt, or used; 60000 miles or 80000 miles on a used, etc.), the price can run from $5000-$7000 (I already decided against a new).

I have been car-free for over 2 months now. I have to admit, it would be nice to have one around, mostly to go grocery shopping, but other then that, I don’t miss it all that much. I live within a mile of work, and there is a small market around the corner from my house. There is a library up the street, as well as many other downtown attractions within easy walking distance.  The nearest full-blown grocery store is about 2 miles away. If I ever want to go there, it is easy to get to on my bike, which I also ride to work everyday.

Five benefits of being car-free:

  1. I am saving a ton of money (see below for more details)!
  2. I get to work faster on the bike than driving (I run red lights on occasion).
  3. I spend less money because I don’t “swing by the store” as often.
  4. Commuting is a lot more enjoyable.
  5. Riding a bike is safer than driving a car, not to mention healthier.

Will I be able to maintain my car-free lifestyle long term? In a city, a lot of people can get by without a car, though a lot of my friends seem disturbed by the prospect of living without a car. How will I feel about no car once it gets cooler outside in a couple of months? Will I feel as safe on a bike then? Will I be comfortable riding my bike to and from work when the days are shorter and it is dark both ways? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but when I think about it logically, I don’t know that it matters all that much when I live less than a mile from work. In fact, I’ll possibly suffer less while biking to work instead of driving because I’ll actually be moving, instead of sitting in a frigid vehicle, waiting for lights to change.

To help in my decision making process, I did a quick estimate on the cost of owning a car:Car ownershipIn short, it would cost approximately $4000/year to continue to run my car. Luckily, I own the car out-right, but if I didn’t, this price would be even higher! Even after owning my own car for 6 years, I never realized how expensive it actually is to maintain.

Some caveats: these are very rough estimates. I don’t know if I found all the fees for re-licensing and titling in my state or not, and I don’t actually plan on spending $300 on repairs (I just think guessing high is safer than low).  Additionally, I don’t know if the insurance price is accurate; I just used the cost of my last insurance bill (I pay in 6 month intervals), but it usually goes up a little every year.  Even without the exorbitant cost of parking, it would still cost me about $1500/year to keep a car.

Although I could afford it, do I want to? At $4000/year, that is over $300 per month!  The main task I would use the car for would be grocery shopping (at most a once weekly affair), but I could easily add an extra $100/month to my grocery budget to finance delivery, and still save money.

Right now I’m leaning very heavily towards not keeping the car; I plan on putting in a new engine, letting me sister use it until she goes home, and then trying to sell it. What do you think I should do?



Dressing a Large Window


I have successfully moved into my new studio!  It was quite an ordeal, as well as expensive (…as moving often is), but I am settling in quite nicely.  I have recently been focusing on a new project, which I didn’t anticipate a need for until living in the apartment for a bit (isn’t that always how it goes?).

My last apartment was a basement walkout, so when I was looking for the perfect apartment to move into, I was ready for a brighter, more spacious living area.  So, when I found this unit, I was absolutely enchanted with the high ceilings (12 feet!) and the large window (9 ft x 9 ft).  The behemoth window is fitted with a lovely, custom-made roller shade, which I thought would be adequate.  Although I thought about window treatments, I decided they weren’t necessary since the shade would provide privacy, and the light was something I craved.

Unfortunately, as a medical resident, I occasionally need to sleep during the day and learned very quickly after moving in that I need complete darkness in order to sleep comfortably.  I seldom had difficulty sleeping during the day in my old apartment, since I had room darkening (though not total blackout) curtains.  These were enough to make my room comfortable enough to sleep in, given the small amount of light that entered the north-facing windows.  My new apartment is east-facing, and with no foliage to help block the light, a lot brighter than my basement digs.  My initial plan of using a face mask was not all that successful, so I have been working on dressing the window with new blackout curtains.  I have made my plans and am currently in the stage of waiting for all my shipments to come in.

Let me share my plans with you!

This is the window in question; sorry for the poor lighting, it was hard to photograph with all the back light.


You can see the roller shade at the top (when open it looks like a projector screen! Not really my style, but maybe useful at some point in the future?).  Below are some drawings I did of the window.  On the left is the schematic with the measurements, while on the right are my plans.  I’m not an artist, but this is the best I could do. :)


Blackout Panels

These are the blackout panels I chose for the window.  I chose the ivory colorway because I thought they would be most versatile for future apartments (I figured I could hem them if needed).  They are 100% blackout, which was super important to me. If you are shopping for blackout curtains, be careful to find 100% blackouts; many that are labeled blackout are really just room darkening.

When I am shopping for the best items for my home, I often start at The Sweethome or Wirecutter websites.  I find that they are a great introduction to the world of whatever item I am shopping for, teaching me important points to consider before buying.  I honestly usually end up buying their #1 choices because the articles are so well-written and comprehensive.  Here is the Sweethome article on blackout curtains.  I ended up opting for their #1 choice.

The blackout panels will go from the ceiling to the sill (108″ curtains).  I chose that length because as the largest option on this page, I initially thought they were the longest I could get.  Just in case you’re looking for longer panels, I eventually encountered a 144″ version of this same curtain on the Bed, Bath, & Beyond website.  Unfortunately, the 144″ version does not have as many color options.  In addition to the fewer colors, I also ultimately decided against the longer panels because with my desk underneath the window, it would be very difficult to draw them closed.  The panels are 50″ wide, so I decided to go with 4 panels for my 106″ window.

As a side note, if you are buying something from Bed, Bath, & Beyond, you can give them an e-mail address and they will send you a 20% off code!  That, in addition to a few codes that my mother had (she always seems to have BB&B coupons lying around), I ended up getting 20% off all of my panels.  Moral of the story: never pay full price at Bed, Bath, & Beyond!

Decorative Panels

After deciding on the 108″ blackouts, I realized I needed some decorative panels as well.  My idea is that they will hang on the side of the windows because 1. floor-length curtains will look better than sill-length curtains, and 2. they will hide the blackout panels when not in use.

I was hoping to find some 144″ panels online, but all I could find that were long enough had grommet attachments, which I kind of hate. :/  I prefer back-tab panels because of the simple pleats they create when hung.  Ultimately, I decided to make my own so I could have the color and fabric I wanted.  The following links are tutorials that I plan on following once the fabric arrives.

  1. View Along the Way: This is one of the most comprehensive tutorials I found.  Her instructions were useful, and her post helped me consider everything I needed to as I was planning my project.
  2. Freshly Handmade: I liked this tutorial because it had very clear stitching/hemming directions. Additionally, it showed me how to best hang my blackout panels (which are rod-pocket style).
  3. Dans le Lakehouse:  I liked this tutorial because the back-tabs style she used seemed more durable than the ribbon ones that The View Along the Way used.

I shopped for my curtain fabric online at  They had a great selection and reasonable prices.  Additionally, they have discounted prices if you order above a certain yardage.  I ordered several samples (each were $3).  They arrived within 1 week, and they were super helpful when choosing a color. One word of caution: I would provide them with an e-mail address you don’t check regularly (in other words, a junk e-mail), because they send a lot of promotional e-mails.  Regardless of how many times I unsubscribed, they continued sending the e-mails. Eventually g-mail was able to get me off the list, but it was annoying to deal with for a week.

Below, you can see the main fabric I chose, “European 100% Linen Cadet Grey.”  I also ordered a standard white drapery lining, “Roc-Lon White Drapery Lining.”


The grey is a nice medium-weight linen that is more of a grey-blue, not a grey-brown like the image shows.  Additionally, the image looks almost velvety/suede-y, but it is definitely a nicely woven, yet slub-y linen. The drapery lining is nice and heavy and I think it is going to help the panels hang very nicely.

Curtain Rod

This was one of the most difficult-to-find items of the project.  I wanted the curtains to be easy to open and close, but I also wanted the rod to be attractive. Ultimately, I found this rod from Lowes.  It is perfect!

680656134818Not only is it attractive, it is also a traverse rod, which will allow me to easily open and close the blackout curtains, despite their length.  I love how the rollers run underneath the supports, allowing me to use as many supports as needed without interfering with the curtain’s movement.  The rollers have rings on them (below left), which will allow me to hang the blackouts with drapery pins (below right), based on the “Freshly Handmade” tutorial.

The only problem I had to solve was how to hang the blackouts and the decorative panels at the same time.  I started shopping around for different options, and thought this rod could work with these rings:

Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure the back rod would support the weight of the blackouts (4.37lbs each, for a total of 17.5lbs).  Additionally, adding extra supports would prevent me from sliding the blackouts all the way to the edge of the rod.  I put it on the back burner and continued to shop.  Then, I found this picture:680656134795It’s a double version of the single traverse rod I already selected!  Unfortunately, it is no longer available, but I discovered this bracket (below).   The two C-shaped spaces are equal in size, allowing two single rods to be hung on these brackets.680656134900Unfortunately, the whole project ends up being a lot more expensive because I have to buy two rods, as well as 5 supports (just to make sure the weight is well-supported).

The Final Breakdown

I have to warn you, this isn’t pretty.  Given the fact that I was in a hurry to put this project together, it ended up costing a lot more then I would have liked.  Here is the breakdown, for those who are interested.


Ultimately, it is a lot more than I wanted to spend, but I’m not sure I could have put curtains up on this window for much cheaper (it’s just too big). I considered holding off on the decorative panels until I earn a few more paychecks, but decided it was worth it to just arrange the entire set-up at once, since it will be a pain to install them.

Now, just to find someone to hang the whole apparatus. I’m crossing my fingers that the apartment maintenance team will come and do it for me, given my tall ceilings.  If not, I’ll need to get a little more creative. :/



Moving yet again


It has been a crazy 4 years since I went to visit Clara, Armistead, and Harrison in Japan.  I was just going over my posts about my Japan trip and I’m so happy I wrote about it!  There were some things that I had completely forgotten about.  I would love to go back to Japan sometime, but alas, they have moved twice since living in Japan and now live in the middle east.

In the time since I last posted, I too have moved twice: first to Virginia and then again within Virginia, and now I will be moving yet again.  I am graduating from medical school in less than a month (!) and will be staying in the midatlantic region for my internship/residency.  I plan to live/work here for at least the next 4 years.

Although moving isn’t my favorite, making a space my own has proven to be the most enjoyable part of the process, and I am really excited to settle into a new apartment and make myself a new home.  Here is a copy of my new floor plan:Floorplan Baltimore

*sigh* I know it doesn’t look like much, but it is in fact an upgrade from my most recent 2 living situations, and I think I will enjoy it a lot.  I sure wish it had a bedroom, but the dishwasher, disposal, and in-unit laundry will just have to do for now. :/  Also, my window is quite large, which is also great, and my ceilings are pretty high.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it is different, so that’s fun.

I would love to keep you updated on the progression of the apartment from generic “unit 924” to home, but I make no promises. :)



ps. Can I still be an adult, even though I’m going into my 5th year of studio living? eek and blah.

Emma Approved.


Remember how I got excited about the “Welcome to Sanditon” series on YouTube?  Yeah.  That didn’t turn out so great.  Boo.  Honestly though?  I did watch the entire series…but mostly just to see if a plot ever developed.  *Spoiler Alert*: never happened.  A plot, that is.  It was disappointing.

But this new one looks different!  It is called Emma Approved, and it features Emma Woodhouse, who is a “life coach and matchmaker”.  I’m excited for this one, because it looks promising…mostly because it seems like a plot is guaranteed just because it is based on a story that already has a plot!  Yay!  Check out the first episode here:



The one downside to this series that I currently perceive: Emma’s personality.  She is a little bit too self-assured…in a bad way, that is.  Which I don’t really like.  In all fairness though, from what I understand this could just be an attempt at the modernization of Austen’s original character of Emma, about whom she herself wrote the following:

“I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” – Jane Austen

And why would no one else like her?  Because, though time has certainly softened the perceived severity of Emma’s qualities, she was written as:

“…rather spoiled, headstrong, and self-satisfied; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people’s lives; and her imagination and perceptions often lead her astray.” – Wikipedia, Emma

Of course, this is the wiki opinion on the topic, so take that as you may.  I have never disliked Emma (though I’ve known of Austen’s quote about her for some time).  In fact: I’ve always loved her character!  The Emma in this series though, is especially irritating.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be a great series though!  I’m very excited about it.  Posting of new videos will be Monday and Thursdays at 9am pacific time.  Check it out and let me know what you think!




ps. What did you think of “Sanditon”?  Did you stick it out to the end?

A Most Adorable Story


I know it has been a while.  I am going to finish telling about my Japan trip someday, I promise!  (Maybe tomorrow?!)  I think I could finish the last days pretty quickly since I probably can’t remember them too well now (it has been a while!)…sad face.  Oh well.

I stumbled over this absolutely adorable story of an old man writing a love song for his recently deceased wife that I wanted to share with you.  It made my eyes water (a fairly rare and therefore significant experience).  So sweet.  It is always sad to think about growing old and leaving, but at the same time, so happy to consider the happy times he and his love had together.  I absolutely loved the pictures they showed and the simple purity of the song he wrote for her.  The song begins around 5:55, if you want to skip the (long-ish) background story.

In other news: I moved!  Over 2,000 miles away!  Of course, we had to complicate things and take the almost 3,000 mile route…but it was fun!  There will be more on that later…because it turns out to actually be a part of my New Year’s Resolutions (where did those go…?  I need to find a copy and have a follow-up post, I think! :)  I will fill everyone in once I finish up my Japan posts.  I would love to continue posting at least a couple times a month, even though I haven’t been very good lately.

What absolutely adorable stories have you encountered lately?



ps. Wait until you hear the news about Harrison I have to share!  I am so excited about recent developments in Japan!  :)

Japan Trip Day 12


Um.  So, yeah.  It’s been a while.  Not to worry; I did, in fact, make it back to mainland Japan…and then I even made it back to the US!  Needless to say, things really picked up here (at home) kind of quickly, so I neglected the blog for a while.

“But why didn’t you blog from Kyoto, etc?” you ask.  I’ll tell you.

I was staying in an American hotel in Tokyo and then an American home in Okinawa.  I didn’t even realize I wouldn’t be able to charge the lappy when I got back to mainland and began staying in Japanese establishments.  So, I didn’t update the blog.  And then I just kept putting it off when I got back to the good ‘ole US of A.

Anyway.  The pictures have been ready and waiting on my desktop for a couple of weeks.  And since I am ready to clean them off of there, I thought I’d get going on blogging them.  I hope I remember everything that happened!

Here we go…Japan Trip Day 12!

Gigi saying goodbye to Harrison

Here I am saying “Goodbye” to the cutest little boy in the world.  It was so, so, so fun to meet Harrison, and I can’t wait until I can see him again!

Doors at Kobe Airport

Ok.  Is this not the cutest airport you’ve ever seen!?  Kobe was pretty cool because the city had like, a nautical theme.  There were anchors on all their signs.  Needless to say, I was impressed.  Seriously though, look at those little pictures!  There are little bunnies and birds and adorable humans!  And you can’t see this, but the other side of these doors are painted yellow.  Yellow!  So cheery!  I loved this place; it was just plain cute.

Kobe Train RideOk, so the train from the Kobe airport into Kobe central was completely independent…as in there were no humans running it.  We got to sit right in the front of the train, just like we were driving (we were right behind the windshield).  I liked Kobe because of the nice, green mountains right behind the city.  Beautiful!

Do Not Rush sign, JapanThere are a lot of signs in Japan warning people to not rush, especially in the train stations.  One of my favorite signs (which I didn’t get a picture of) was in Osaka, outside the Osaka Castle.  That sign requested people not rush, and then had the following explanation: “A calm mind is the first step towards world peace.”  Haha.  It made me giggle.  As did this sign:

Bowling Advert, Kobe, JapanWe saw this sign on a building near the train in Kobe.  I missed it (I had just put away my camera), so I actually went back on the train to snap a picture for posterity’s sake.  If you can’t read it, let me transcribe below.

“You Can Do it!!  Do you like bowling?  Let’s play bowling.  Breaking down the pins and get hot communication.”

What does it mean?  I don’t think anyone knows.  But that is what makes it so absolutely wonderful!

Japanese Sports DrinkHere is an ad for the sports drink Pocari Sweat.  It is like the cousin of Aquarius (which I discussed in this post), still a pretty light flavor, but a little more concentrated.  Not my favorite.  Not to mention the visual you get while you’re drinking “sweat,” which was a little too much for me to handle.

Stamp BookingHere I am in the Osaka (?) train station stamping my book.  This is a pretty big deal in Japan.  Lots of places (tourist attractions) have stamps that you can add to a book.  I bought my book at my first stop (Tokyo Tower) and continued to add stamps throughout my trip.  Maybe I’ll do a little overview of that later.  I also taped as many of my tickets in there as possible…so I have a little scrapbook of my trip now.  I asked my sister to take a picture of me stamping the book because it was such a big part of my trip.

Hostel EngrishIn Osaka, we stayed in a hostel called “Hotel Mikado.”  It was a pretty nice place (for my first hostel stay), and there was lots of Engrish around.  It was cool.  I really liked this sign about the free umbrellas.

Bikes in Osaka, JapanI took this picture of the bikes in Osaka because so many people, all over Japan travel by biking around.  There are always large banks of bikes near train stations, etc.  I also really like the visual effect of repetition…which is maybe one of the reasons I like Japan so much (there is lots of repetition).

Osaka Castle
Here is Osaka Castle, one of the first places we went in Osaka.  I liked the outside, but the inside was just a boring-ish museum.  I wish they had made some of the floors more like how they may have been when it was being used as a residence, but it was still cool.

Gigi in Front of Osaka CastleI like this picture because it has the entire castle in it; you can see the stone base really well (of which I have a close-up below).  Do you see the balcony at the top?  We climbed all the way up there and took some pictures (see below).

Stone base of Osaka CastleAgain, I like the repetition.  I think it is really pretty.

From the Top of Osaka CastleI really like the gold dragon things you can see at the top of the castle.  The building in the background is the Osaka Museum of History, which had an exhibit on “Japanese Ghosts and Eerie Creatures.”  It is an interesting building because it looks like there is a ball rolling between the two towers (which is the atrium).

Japanese Ghosts and Eerie Creatures at Osaka Museum of History Here is the poster for the Ghosts and Eerie Creatures exhibit.

Osaka Museum of Natural History…and here is the ball atrium between the two buildings.  Cool, huh?  We went there after we were done with castle, but they had already closed for the day. :(  But, it was interesting because there were a ton of people there dressed in matching shirts (it kind of looked like different teams)…like for a reality TV show or something?  We couldn’t figure out what was going on, but it looked interesting!

Okay.  Back to the castle.

Couple of Osaka Castle groundsHere is a garden at the Osaka Castle.  I thought it was pretty, and then I saw this absolutely adorable couple siting on the bench.  Had to take a picture.  Aws.

Gigi in front of large stone at Osaka CastleHere I am standing in front of a large stone that is part of the Osaka Castle walls.  There are many large stones like this.  They were simply enormous!  They aren’t very deep though, because then they wouldn’t have been able to get them up to the castle.

Osaka Castle Moat and Red BikeHere is a photograph of the Osaka Castle most (well, I should say one of the moats…for there are several…as in two).  I really liked the ride bike that added a pop of color to the picture.

Japanese CemetarySo, one of the problems with writing this so late is that I can’t remember everything!  I am pretty sure this was at the Shitenno-ji Shrine in Osaka.  It is a typical cemetery, where individuals are simply recognized with small posts.  The following pictures are also from this shrine:

Many statues at Shintenno-ji Shrine, Osaka, Japan

Laughing Buddha, Shitenno-ji Shrine, Osaka, Japan

Turtles at Shitenno-ji Shrine, Osaka, Japan

There were a ton, but a ton of turtles in a small pool there.  It was so strange.  Kind of cool though; I’ve never seen so many turtles before!

Pergola at Shitenno-ji Shrine, Osaka, Japan

Pathway at Shitenno-ji Shrine, Osaka, Japan

Hundreds of Small Buddha at Shitenno-ji Shrine, Osaka, Japan

When we got to Shitenno-ji Shrine, we got to see a concert going on (unfortunately this means we didn’t get to enter the main building, which is an awful shame).  It was an interesting concert though.  The group was called “Permanent Fish” (?), and as far as I can tell, is a Japanese version of N*Sync.  It was simply amazing.  Here are some photos of the concert:

Permanent Fish Concert Poster

Permanent Fish Concert, Shitenno-ji Shrine, Osaka, Japan

It was pretty amazing, to say the least.  Although, it seemed a rather odd choice of venue.  A rock concert in front of a Buddhist Temple.  Hmm.  Not sure.  The picture above was taken during a slow love song, and you can see everyone is sitting quietly and respectfully on the ground, listening to their talented voices.  Loved it.

We went to Dotonbori that night, which is kind of like Osaka’s version of Shinjuku (which I visited with Armistead in Tokyo).  We saw lots of interesting things there, and had some delicious food.

Welcome to Dotonbori!

Here is a Dotonbori sign.  There were so many lights and mechanical signs there it was almost overwhelming!  It was such a fun place though!

Elevator/Rock-climbing wall

I thought this looked pretty awesome.  If you can’t tell, it is a large building that has a rock-climbing wall on the front, and the wall is on a track so it can go up-and-down like an elevator.  Pretty awesome, huh?

Gigi in Dotonbori

Dotonbori MenuSo, I took a picture of this menu because I want to know if you all know the difference (taste-wise) between the 1st, 4th, and 3rd stomach?  I’m not really sure, but I just thought I’d throw that question out there).

So, I took a picture of this intersection because I’ve seen them all over, but I haven’t taken a picture yet.  There are many intersections that are just painted as a large crosswalk, so traffic will stop in both directions, and pedestrians can simply walk wherever they want in the road.  It seems like an intelligent solution to the street-crossing problem.

This is before:

Street Crossing, Dotonbori, Osaka, Japan

And during:

Street Crossing, Dotonbori, Osaka, Japan

We went to a restaurant in Dotonbori where there is a grill in the middle of your table and then they bring you out raw meat and you simply grill it yourself.  It was a lot of fun (although I’m really not such a great griller…so I think mine didn’t turn out great…but it was still edible, at least).

Osaka RestaurantSo, the pictures on the top left and middle are to show how they have fairly private booths in which to dine.  The picture on the top right is me washing my hands with a moist wash cloth.  They have these at all the restaurants in Japan!  The nice ones will give you a cloth washcloth (like above) and the regular ones will give you moist towelettes (think KFC?).  It is really nice to be able to clean your hands off so well before eating.  Unfortunately, virtually no restaurants seem to provide napkins, so these kind of double as napkins.

Christian Rock Band Street Performance

We ran into a Christian Rock Band Performing on the streets of Dotonbori.  It was pretty interesting.  We talked to some people there…like one girl who was from Peru!  It was totally random, but enjoyable nonetheless.

We went to the 100 yen store next, which was totally awesome!  Seriously.  There was some good quality stuff there.  I got a bell for my bike and a great clip for my hair (which I still use), and a really cute pencil holder.  Each only cost 100 yen…which is approximately one dollar.  It was the most amazing dollar store I’ve ever been to.

Japanese Fabric

And one of the last stops of the evening was at a Japanese Fabric Store, where I found this treasure.  I should have purchased some, because I didn’t realize the power of simply cherishing the earth, grasses and flowers.  I need to teach this to my children.

That is about it for Osaka!  The next day we went on to Kyoto, which I absolutely loved!  Kyoto was an amazing place, and I feel like we didn’t have nearly enough time there.  I’ll share my adventures there with you later!




ps. Have you ever been to a rock concert that occurred in an unorthodox location, such as a street corner or a Buddhist Shrine?




Japan Trip Days 10 and 11


So, something very interesting has happened, and I honestly don’t know what to make of it.  Yesterday, views of my blog exploded to over 2,000 a day.  Most of the hits are from Japan…and I even got a comment on “Japan Trip Day 2“.  It says:

今日、日本のニュースで、日本旅行をする人が世界的に見ても低いと言ってました。 遠いし、物価が高いのもあるようです。しかし、あなたの記事を数多くの人が見て 日本に旅行に来るか、または興味を持ってもらえるととても嬉しいです。 ありがとうございます.

Well, it turns out I don’t know that much (erm…any, I mean) Japanese…so with the help of Google Translate, I can see the comment says:

Today, the news of Japan, I was saying that low people to Japan travel even in the world. Far, and prices to be high seems to be. However, I am very happy and be of interest, or come on a trip to Japan a number of people to see your article. Thank you

Yeah.  Thanks Google Translate (please watch this video to see the googs in action…or if you really like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air)…I guess it is a little more intelligible…but still not perfectly clear.  At first, it kind of freaked me out, but I guess one of my pictures just went viral over here or something!  So weird!

Anyway.  Greetings to my friends from Japan!  I love your country and your culture!  I am having a blast exploring both and meeting lots and lots of Japanese friends!  Thank you so much for being so hospitable!

Now, back to my regularly scheduled update…

Day 10 was a very interesting day.  Again, it was very relaxed, but we also went to two museums about the history of Okinawa, but the day started with a trip to the beach.  As I have mentioned previously, it has been raining the entire time I’ve been here, but on Thursday morning it wasn’t raining, so we ran off to the beach.  It was of course sprinkling by the time we got there, and the water was cold, but I did it!  I got in the ocean (well…sea actually.  The East China Sea, to be exact.)!  Here are some shots of the beach:

Okinawa Swimming Beach

Gigi made it to the edge!

Exfoliating sand on Okinawa, Japan

Warning sign on Okinawa beach

The swimming area was completely blocked off.  Just as we were arriving, Clara was telling me how many Japanese seem very frightened of the ocean (and that is why it is blocked and netted off like that), and just talking about it kind of freaked me out a little…so it was a big deal when I made it all the way out to the edge of the net (second picture).  Also, this sand was super exfoliating!  And I found that what Daphne’s mother said in “What a Girl Wants” to be completely true:

“Mom says if you can walk on a beach and you have a steady hand with nail polish… there’s no reason to ever pay for a pedicure.” – Daphne Reynolds, What a Girl Wants

I really love that movie, by-the-way.  It is one of the only movies that makes me tear up at the end!  It is so amazing.  And yeah…my feet are so, so, so smooth now!  It was wonderful!

Anyway.  The last picture is just of a sign about how the police need to protect us foolish English-speaking-glass-carriers from our own stupidity.  I thought it was fairly amusing.  No Engrish,  just funny.

Japanese Stop Sign, Okinawa Japan

Did I mention that the stop signs here are triangular?  So cool!

The two museums we went to were:

  1. The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Museum
  2. Himeyuri Peace Museum

Thers were both amazing exhibits.  They talked about the experience of Okinawans during WWII.  Over 90,000 civilians were killed in the crossfire on Okinawa.  There were some amazing stories.  The parts that I most loved were testimony rooms near the end of the exhibits where there were real testimonies recorded by people who lived through the fighting.  There were obviously a lot of testimonies in Japanese, but there were two binders in each museum with some translated into English.  Some of the things these people endured were just unbelievable.

The second museum was about how two girls schools were essentially recruited into the Japanese army to serve as nurses during the war.  Interestingly, the field hospitals were typically housed in caves (apparently there are many, many, many caves on the island), so these students were essentially stuck indefinitely in the caves caring for wounded Japanese soldiers.

The story is especially tragic because Japan essentially sacrificed Okinawa to buy time to build up their defense on mainland Japan, because they assumed the US would be using Oki. as a jump off point to launch their attack on mainland.  They just tried to make the war last as long as possible on the island to buy more time.  I guess they weren’t planning on the atomic bombs….

In short, the museums were amazing.  I don’t know why we don’t get a lot of education in the states about the war in the Pacific (I didn’t, anyway), because there are some amazingly haunting stories about the war out here that I think could have just as much impact as learning about the holocaust does.

Anyway, here are some pictures from these two museums:

Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum

Beach at Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum

Memorial Monuments at Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum

Unexploded  bombs at Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum

Harrison at Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum

Beach at Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum

Cranes at Himeyuri Peace Museum

Cranes at Himeyuri Peace Museum

Cranes at Himeyuri Peace Museum

Flowers at Himeyuri Peace Museum

The museum was right on the coast, and there was some beautiful foliage just down the cliffs, so I took a couple pictures of that.  There were rows and rows and rows of names carved onto these monuments outside of the museum.  Obviously, I don’t know what the names are for (because I can’t read Japanese), but I imagine it has something to do with WWII.  The window I’m standing on has a number of unexploded bombs underneath (Armistead assures me they were probably deactivated…so don’t worry!  It isn’t dangerous!).

And look at that picture of the cute little family!  Harrison was getting very tired, so he was getting pretty silly…so he was all giggly.  They are looking out huge windows onto the beautiful coastline.  Harrison liked it!

The last photos are of thousands of cranes and lots of flowers at the Himeyuri Peace Museum.  The cranes were simply stunning, and I really couldn’t get a great picture, but they were totally awesome.  Both are in honor of the students and teachers who died in the war effort.

Bowing Construction sign Okinawa Japan

So, some of the construction signs here have a bowing stick figure, which I think is pretty funny!  The people here are so respectful!

On Thursday night, we watched “Memoirs of a Geisha,” because it takes place in Kyoto and we’re going there tomorrow!  The movie’s photography was simply stunning, and the acting was really quite excellent.  All-in-all, I liked it.

Gigi and Harrison hangin' out at home :)

Here I am just hangin’ out with Harrison.  This kid is so adorable!

And Day 11 was just boring.  I stayed home all day and hung out with Harrison while his parents went to meetings.  Once they came home, Armistead and I played “Pandemic” while Clara went and did business stuff.  We also ate some “crappy fast-food curry” (their words, not mine), which I actually thought was pretty good!

We then watched some of the final episodes of “The Office” (which I haven’t seen since season 4…so I didn’t know entirely what was going on…but Dwight and Angela are getting married!  Woohoo!  I’m happy for the crazy couple. :), even though the finale wasn’t up yet.  We went to “the best sushi restaurant ever” (according to Clara and Armistead) for dinner (it was indeed pretty delicious) and then came home and watched “Young Victoria” to wrap up the night.  It was a lot of fun.

I feel fully rested in preparation for our trip back up to mainland.  It’s going to be great!

Clara and Armistead fell asleep during the movie tonight, so I got to do Harrison’s 11pm feeding, and it was so sweet.  He doesn’t wake up…you just feed him while he is sleeping, and it was perhaps the sweetest thing ever.  He just cuddles right up to you and drinks that milk like there is no tomorrow.  I sure do love this kid, and I’m sure going to miss him so much when we leave!



ps. Have you seen “Memoirs?”  What did you think?  I am so, so, so excited to go to that temple where she is running through all the red arches…it actually exists!  Prepare yourselves for pictures!