Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Day in the Park

Its been raining so much the past couple of weeks and so when there was finally a day of good full on sunshine the kids and I headed down to the park for an hour or so! It was LOVELY!!!! To sit outside and soak up some vitamin D was just heavenly...I took my camp chair along and my Stampin' Up! Catalogue but spent most of my time snapping pictures of the kids. Here are just a few...

This was such a happy day - the kids so enjoyed being outside. Madson was pedalling like there was no tomorrow, and little West - who has had an aversion to his bike ever since we bought it for him in February - has all of a sudden taken to it and rides it like a pro - that is, until its time to brake. Then he just jumps off rather than actually braking. It is hilarious to watch unless the bike carries on into the side of the car!?!?!?!! :)

Can't wait for some sunshine on the weekend - then we're definitley hitting the beach!!!!

Japan stories will resume soon - when I can find the energy...:)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day Three of Japan

Day Three saw us leaving Osaka and heading to our second stop - Kyoto. We packed up early in the morning and headed to the train station to leave our luggage in coin lockers while spent the day at Nara Park and Todaji Temple (which houses the largest statue of Buddah in Japan). It was a really beautiful place, where deer roam free and you can purchase food to feed them - though they will chase you for it once they see that you have it!!!! :) We got off the train at Nara and then started the walk (trek!) to Nara Park - we walked down an awesome street of shops which we ALL would have loved to look in but time didn't permit. We DID find a Mr Donuts (similar to Dreamy Doughnuts) and buy our morning tea though which compensated just a little...Ystyn and I bought 5 between us and they were AMAZING!!!! They had this awesome curry one - I enjoyed a plain old glazed one (which only cost 125 yen - less than $2???) and a custard filled one. Can't really remember Ystyn's apart from the curry one but they were great!

At the entrance to the temple area there was this big pond with all these turtles in it - so of course we had to take some photo's for the kids...

This was just a beautiful a tree that I thought was really really beautiful - we walked down this great wide avenue lined with trees and filled with deer - they were so picturesque and I loved how ancient everything looked - ancient except for the drinks vending machines that you find EVERYWHERE in Japan - filled with delicacies like Grape/Peach/Mixed Fruits Fanta, Fanta with jelly pieces in it, and Ystyn's favourite - Calpis - say that out loud and you'll understand why I was a little reluctant to give it a try :)...

 When we saw this pulled carriage we all marveled at the drivers/pullers strength!! How hard would this be...and of course we ALL wanted to have a go. We weren't sure if 'gaijin' (foreigners) would be allowed considering our size!!! hehehehhe)

 One of the beautiful deer that were all over the place...they were really docile (most of them) and would allow you to pet them and pose with them...look at their gorgeous eyes...

This was just the gate!!! These kind of gates were at the entrance of every important place we saw and are just amazing - they're made without any nails and pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle - and they're hundreds of years old - just amazing...

Inside these gates were two of these statues - they were the Guardians and stood guard over the entrance. They were MASSIVE!!! Made from wood as well and the detail was exquisite...we thought West would enjoy their scary faces...:)

This was the Todaji Temple which was just so big - it had these steep as stairs at the front ( I can't remember if we had to take our shoes off here or not, I think we did - they provide plastic bags for you to put your shoes in to carry while you walk around the place on tatami mats (flax (??) mats that are used for floor coverings - very very cool and comfortable on the feet).

This is the huge statue of the Buddha - it is really really big! It sits in the centre and is flanked by two smaller statues - again, its about 600 years old...

This last one was one of four statues inside the temple - they stand in each of the four corners of the so stunning and amazing in their detail - it was such an interesting day and we thoroughly enjoyed it...

We left Nara after grabbing lunch at the 7-Eleven (they're STOCKED with ready made meals, sushi and sandwiches where we bought many of our meals and so so cheap - to buy food over there was really really inexpensive - to get a meal, drink and something for dessert each would cost Ystyn and I about 1000 yen which is probably just a little more than $10 - lets just say we didn't starve!!! :)) We grabbed our luggage and jumped on a train to Kyoto. We were scheduled to attend something called the 'Maiko Experience' and even though we were running late they kindly urged us to come along anyway. This was a new stop on the itinerary so neither Ystyn or Cheryl had seen it before it... and we were all keen to see it too, but once we experience our mode of transport to get there I wasn't so sure at all. We had to catch the public bus to the tea house with ALL OUR LUGGAGE!!!! 18 of us crammed in. You've all heard the stories of packed trains - I guess I didn't really think about it, but I think being crammed into a train would be better than being crammed on a bus. I'm sure they don't have any capacity limits either - the driver would stop at EVERY stop no matter how much there was NO exisitng room, and people would just shove shove shove till they could get their bodies inside the doors. I hated it with a passion. This was my least enjoyable experience the whole trip. Its actually a little ironic - Ystyn WILL NOT catch public transport here in Australia unless its free to sporting events, but he didn't even blink an eye at this horribleness. I probably had a really bad attitude, but I hate hate hate crowds of people and feeling like I'm in everyone's way and like there's no way out...uggghhh.

So anyway - we had to catch this crowded crowded bus to this tiny little tea house where we were able to watch a 'Maiko' or Geisha-in-training perform a tea ceremony. She was beautiful. So delicate and precious. And it was so interesting to hear that 'Geisha' and 'Maiko' is still a profession that girls choose...I'm pretty sure its just for entertaining purposes - Maiko train for years to become Geisha and they practice singing, playing their instrument, and dancing till they qualify to be promoted to Geisha. Its all really interesting.

By the time we caught the bus (yes, the crowded public one) back to the hotel I was smashed!!!! Ystyn and I walked around (for ages!!!!!!!) trying to find somewhere to eat and also to scope out a restaurant for us all to eat at the next night, and he made me walk around the block 4 times at least! :) I really liked Kyoto - it felt a lot more lively than what we saw at Osaka and is the ancient capital so there was always lots to see.

Anyway I think that's more than enough writing till tomorrow, or the next day for Day Four of Japan! :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Japan!!!! So, anyone that reads this blog will know that recently Ystyn and I had a 2 week stay in Japan. Ystyn's a high school teacher and every two years the Japanese Language students and add on's go on a Japan trip, and since Ystyn can speak Japanese pretty damn well, he was asked to go along. (When Ystyn was 19 he served as a missionary for our church in Japan where he spent 2 years trying to share our beliefs with the Japanese people). Ystyn went on the trip 2 years ago and had a really hard time being away from us all for so long, so it was suggested next time I accompany him. Its been something to look forward to and has always seemed in the FAR distant future, but all of a sudden it was here and we were packed and all ready to go! We must have been really keen because we arrived at the pick up point a whole 45 minutes before anyone else did!!! hehehehe This is a photo of us at 5am in the morning - it was still dark and very cool - and we look hammered which we were - I don't think I got to bed till after midnight and then got up again at 3? I think I may have spent a couple of hours (not really, but I could have) just looking at our kids - I couldn't believe I had ever agreed to leave them for a whole 2 weeks...

Anyway - we were on our way and missing our kids so much already. We met at Ystyn's school and took a bus to Coolangatta Airport where we caught our plane to Osaka. I slept so much on the way over - I was done, so so tired! Good way to start a trip hey! :)

We stayed in Osaka at a Youth Hostel - we didn't get in till really late that night after catching the train from the airport and walking through the rain (!!!!) to the hostel. We were so grateful to be able to have a hot meal waiting (3 course I might add - sashimi, beans and spring rolls, rice, salad and chicken and dessert) and then fall into bed. I was ecstatic that we had our own bathroom - I'd heard horror stories of the shared facilities in youth hostels running along the same lines as the Tree of Life showers in the MTC, so to see that I had my very own bathroom, was exciting!!!! Look how tiny it was though - all the bathrooms we had in Japan were this compact - so cute!

This was the view from our window - or one of them. It was just a cement jungle - buildings for as far as the eye could see - no end in site. I think we took this photo because there was actually some green, but there wasn't much of it from our view.

Then the next day was a full day at Universal Studios which is brand new theme park. I can still hear the music they had on loop the WHOLE day!!! hehehehe. This is a photo of the train that they have running to get to the Studio's which we thought the boys would love. I can't remember how many trains we had to catch to get here - it could have been as few as 2, maybe 3, but trains became our best friends during our stay! :)

This is the first ride of the day for me. With Cheryl - the Japanese teacher who had organised the trip. Cheryl is the loveliest lady ever, a mother with grown children - her youngest is in year 10 or 11 I think, and she was EXCITED to go on this mega big roller coaster!!!!!! I wouldn't have gone on it, and nothing was going to get Ystyn on it, but Cheryl needed a partner right??? hehehhe. It was scary scary scary - your arms and legs were left totally free and it really felt like you were being held by nothing. It was awesome getting off though - Cheryl and I looked at each other and laughed because our HAIR was sticking up in all directions like crazy professors or something! :)

Just some random photos from the day - we took a stack on this day but they're not very exciting. Ystyn and I walked around a lot (A LOT) - Ystyn's totally not a ride's person so he would stand outside while Cheryl and I went on a few, but by lunch time I was feeling really ill from lack of food and over tiredness. We looked for a place to eat for ages and settled on a burgers place. Ystyn was really disappointed - they had this burger on their menu called the Tower Burger and seriously, it had 15 meat patties on it - it was HUGE!!! It cost almost $30 and that was almost our whole days budget so he restrained himself but it was his one regret! :)

This was the Waterworld Show that Ystyn wanted to see. He at least got to have a laugh because he could mostly understand what was being said, whereas I just got to watch people get wet and pretend to shoot each other and ride jetskis - it was pretty cool though when this plane came crashing through the walls of the set...lots of fire and noise and water!!! Very testosterone fueled...

This photo was mainly for Kinley - there was Hello Kitty stuff everywhere!!!! We spent most of the afternoon trying to find stuff to buy for the kids - it took us FOREVER to decide and we walked almost over the WHOLE park trying to find something that would work. Ystyn bought West this short sleeved Spiderman hoodie - West LOVES hoodies and even in hot weather will be wearing his hoodie jumpers with the hood up??? (As opposed to last spring/summer when we couldn't get hime to wear clothes at all!?!?!?!). Anyway, we'd bought West this shirt and decided Madson and McKinley needed something similar so off we went in wearch of shirts. We were gobbsmacked when paying for the stuff tho - they didn't check our signatures AT ALL which we found a little odd - we're new to the whole credit card thing and a little cautious about stuff like that (I make sales people here CHECK my damn signature) but we dealt with it....

My big regret of the day was also food associated!!! They were selling these massive drumsticks of some animal that I saw people munching on all afternoon. At first I thought it looked really wierd and I didn't think it was cool to be seen gorging on this massive piece of meat, but by the afternoon I'd seen enough people eating them to realise it wasn't just for bogun me (hehehe) and really really wanted one. It turns out they were turkey legs and were sold in stalls outside the Jurassic Park ride (figures right?) but by the time I decided I wanted one we were all the way over on the other side of the park and my feet were killing so I didn't get my turkey leg! :)

A loooong day, which the (high school) kids LOVED but was rather tiring for boring old me! On the trip there were also 3 other teachers from Ystyn's school apart from himself and Cheryl - Liz, Kristy and Deb, who are seriously the funnest, sweetest ladies ever!!! I stuck with Ystyn the whole day and we really ARE a boring old married couple (seriously, theme parks aren't really our thing????) and felt really old while we watched Liz, Deb and Kristy running around with limitless energy getting on every ride and being into everything. Late in the afternoon when my stomach was churning from all the to-ing and fro-ing I'd already subjected it to, and after I'd decided I was totally done with rides for the day because I was going to puke, these lovely 3 ladies came and GRABBED me and HUSSLED me and GUILTED me into going on this 'beautiful, gorgeous ride that you just have to have to have to go on'!!!!! They're pulling me along and Ystyn's trailing along behind us trying to tell me that I didn't HAVE to go on it if I didn't want to and I shouldn't let anyone guilt me into getting on, which was falling on deaf ears (and I don't mean MY deaf ears!!!)...I couldn't have NOT gone with them even if I wanted to - I had one on each arm pulling me along!!! heheheh It was so so funny - and I did feel really really sick but I didn't want to be a bad sport and yank my arms away (it would have taken much yanking!!!) so I let myself be taken along making no apologies if I hurled on any of them. From what they were telling me I thought this was just a nice, pretty, slow ride in carriages through a space themed room or something - something nice and gentle that I'd really enjoy. It wasn't until we were actually in the line that I finally got them to admit that it was actually a rollercoaster!!!!!!! You should have seen their faces when they'd realised that I was serious about being sick and being scared - it was sooo funny!!! hehehehehe. Anyway - needless to say I survived the rollercoaster (even tho I think I may have deafened Debbie with my gut-wrenching shrieking!!!!) and it WAS beautiful and I'm really really glad I let myself be 'pursuaded'!!! hehehehe. I have a feeling my day may have been a little (lot) different if I'd stuck with them? :)

So that was Day 2 down!!!! Back to the hotel for the deepest bath I have ever had and a well earned sleep, ready to tackle day 3!!! But I might 'tackle' writing about Day 3 tomorrow....:)