Saturday, December 24, 2011

Roadies in Switzerland


You may not believe it, but Nemo and I were an important part of this musical tour of Switzerland. We spent a very busy weekend there with the guys and our friends Chris and Florrie in November.


Here we are helping with the sound check in the small Swiss town of Lachen where we were all served a delicious special Swiss meal by a member of the Country and Western association.


After we introduced them Kevin, Keith, and Alex put on a fine show. Nemo and I have become quite blasé about introducing famous people after we introduced the mayor of Hachinohe Japan last May.


The second night of our trip they played in the charming town of Lupen Switzerland; this is not the Lupen where Florrie originally made our reservations. Apparently Lupen is sort of like Springfield in the US. See that parked car? Right in front of it is a bulkhead door that leads into a large barrel vault basement that is where we played. It was very cool and sort of like Jimmy’s Speak Easy in Michigan although bigger and not as nicely decorated.


Florrie was happy to see that there was an exit behind the stage. Ever since Japan she finds herself checking out exits in any new building she goes into. The guys gave another fine performance in Lupen; they have played there a number of times so they got to hang out with friends also.



Florrie and Chris were very happy to spend a little extra time with their son Alex. After chatting and visiting awhile we all headed back to Germany and Alex and the guys set out for their next gig.



Until next time…

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Well, we have finally made it to Germany, after a summer that was wonderful for Florrie and Chris but not so great for us. They only let us out of the suitcase once all summer!

They said it was to keep us safe, but I think they have a sadistic side. Why else would they have let us out just long enough to be attacked by Zombie preschoolers!


One of them even tried to eat Nemo’s brains. That’s totally ridiculous when you consider how few he actually has.


It took us all a few months to get settled into our new home. Florrie has adjusted to her new school and likes the people she is working with. Chris can probably get around the local Ikea blindfolded! We all still have days when we miss our home and friends in Japan and of course we are always thinking about our family and friends in the States. 



We have done a little exploring here. We went to a rather scary Viking fest

We enjoyed the more tame October fest in our little town of Winnweiler.



We imagine this says something like “Don’t let your pets poop on the grass”, but we aren’t sure.


They also took us to this freaky little town, there was a lot of yelling going on so we didn’t stay very long. We almost ran a very tall dude down on our way out of town.


Here we are at the Porta Negra of Trier which claims to be the oldest town in Germany, this gate has been around since before Caesar.

Here’s a another picture of the gates; it’s not nearly as good since you can’t see us.

This is it for now; we’ll write more later.  Have a good Thanksgiving!

Friday, June 17, 2011


Nemo and I have given Florrie permission to use our blog to give you all an update on the earthquake/tsunami. One of her students insists it’s not an earthquake it’s an earthquick “cause the earth moves really quick.” Florrie and her friend Susan camped in some coastal areas last summer over Memorial Day weekend and they and another friend, Ingrid, decided to check the area out this Memorial Day. Here is what they saw.


This is the  seacoast not to far south of us. This Memorial Day you can see was kind of overcast but the place is still beautiful. There was not much evidence of tsunami damage here.


This was the only clue that anything had happened here.



Not too much farther down the road we could see some damage to both the road and some buildings. Do you see the cute little guys that are supporting the barricades? They are all over the place here; sort of whimsical aren’t they.


This is one of the port areas on the way down.


This is close to Noda. Remember Noda? That’s the town we went to with our car full of rice and water. It wasn’t enough, it’s not possible to do enough here right now we can only keep trying.


Part of a tsunami gate, in many coastal areas the Japanese plant pine trees to help act as a buffer if there is a tsunami, that may be what the trees up above and in this picture are. I’m not sure.


This is Noda, parts of the town are still standing towards the back. Our kitchen cabinets live there now.


More of Noda.


There are huge trash heaps like this all over this part of the country now. To me this picture represents hope; notice the rice fields that have been planted here.


This is a sign pointing the way to the tsunami safe area.



Last year when we camped here we drove through this tsunami gate, which has some huge doors that are open in times of safety. This picture is the landward side of the gate; as you can see there was some damage on this side.


I climbed up the wall because the gate is closed on this side now. Last year most of this area was trees, bushes, and grass. A little farther down were so many trees you couldn’t see the ocean.



This is what you see now. You can tell clean up is going one because most of the downed trees have been cut and stacked. It’s overcast but there’s the ocean. I stood on top of the tsunami gate and cried. The gate did save many lives however. My new friend Akinori posted this story on facebook in response to a question from my sister Nancy:



The roof you see was on top of a nice little shelter down by the water. It had grills and running water. My friend and I slept there in our “camper cars” on the first night of our weekend last year. It was a beautiful area.


The next day (in 2010) we hiked for hours along the Kitayamazaki portion of the trail. It took way longer than it should have because the trail was totally washed away in places and most of the bridges were gone; but that’s another story! Any way we spent the day hiking and then went to an Onsen. I was supposed to head back to Misawa that afternoon but the mountain road was also washed away so I spent the night in order to be driving home during daylight hours. We slept in our cars in another beautiful area. My good friend Susan (a wild woman for sure) continued on with the adventure and I drove back up to Misawa.


Susan found this beautiful little “pocket beach” that you could only get to by going through this cave during low tide. This picture and the next are Susan’s from last summer.


She also met this very nice man who was gathering seaweed and sea urchins for his restaurant just up the road. When she asked him in Japanese if he spoke English he said something like, sure, I studied at Texas A&M! In case you haven’t guessed this is my new friend Akinori. He was actually at the beach doing a beach clean up when the earthquake hit. Part of the cliff fell but didn’t hit any of the high school students he was working with. Everyone got out safely and then because he is a volunteer fireman he went and helped with the rescue. He and a few other’s brought some wounded people down off a cliff and worked for over 24 hours straight saving who they could. His wife and daughter didn’t know whether he was alive or not since no cell phones worked. He is just one of the hundreds of heroes we never hear about in situations that require heroes. Just knowing that there are people who step up when needed gives me hope for the whole human race.


This Memorial Day weekend Susan, Ingrid, and I found Akinori again and had lunch at his restaurant. He has a little gift shop there. Business is not so great since the earthquake/tsunami because tourists are afraid and staying away. I want to encourage all my friends in Japan to go to his restaurant in Kitayamazaki; you can get good directions from Susan. Spend some money at the gift shop and eat some good food in the restaurant. The seaweed and uni are fresh, probably everything else is too.


After our lunch we went down to the beach where Susan showed us the cave that leads to the other beach. We didn’t go through it.



Last summer when Susan was here you walked up this little pathway on these rocks and stepped right onto the sand, this summer the sand is quite a ways down, it was rearranged by the tsunami.


This is what’s left of the road that goes down to the beach (we hiked in). That is my friend Cooper with Susan.



This is the way we hiked in, that yellow is Susan standing at a ribbon tied to show how high up the water went. You can’t really tel,l but I am standing at the bottom of the hill taking this picture.



I’ll turn the blog back over to Nemo and Jesus now, Before we leave here they are going to share some of the “unique” things we all love about Japan. This is them with a friend they met in Sendai in October when I took them to hear the Tao Taiko Drummers. Sayonara!

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Nemo and I had a great time in China. Our friends Chris and Florrie enjoyed themselves too; the Chinese were nice people. Nemo was excited because everyone recognized him; strangely enough many of them didn’t recognize me! We were all spoiled; we had a guide and a driver all to ourselves. This meant we didn’t have to spend time looking for parking places and doing what other people wanted to do. It was probably the best way to see a country that is as foreign to us as China. We started and ended our trip in Beijing.

First we went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City; the square is basically in front of the city. The square was sort of like a big piazza without the tables. The guards didn’t want their pictures taken but Florrie got this guy in her picture accidently.


The Forbidden City was a fascinating and beautiful place. Many of the buildings are empty now but some of them had furnished rooms.


We couldn’t go into the rooms though, we just had to do our best to see inside. I think this was Chris’s favorite part of the whole trip.


Here we are getting ready to try to peak into a room.


But as you can see, even the Monks had to wait their turn!DSCN3090

Our first day in China we also went to the Summer Palace and the Imperial Garden.



Both were wicked cool but not quite as cool as The Forbidden City.


That first day no matter where we went our friend Chris was really into taking our picture.

DSCN6581 After visiting a silk factory and seeing how silk was made we went  to an acrobatic story of Kung Fu show and a Peking Duck dinner. Both were not what we expected but were very good.

The next morning we all took a ride in a pedicab. DSCN3125

WE explored a hutong (an old Chinese neighborhood).


After a quick lunch and a visit to a pearl factory we jumped on a train and headed to Datong. We spent about six hours in a train with three Australians and two sets of bunk beds. They were nice people; we were all glad this was a late afternoon/evening trip not a night trip. Unfortunately we chose to eat on the train that night. Chris and Florrie had mostly onions and  our new friends had rice and eggs.


Our first full day in Datong was a little nerve racking. We climbed all over the hanging monastery. I enjoyed spending some time with like minded fellows.


It was just sort of built into this cliff! Florrie made Chris very nervous by leaning back on the railing trying to get a better picture.


In Datong we also went to some caves with thousands of Buddha statues. DSCN3410

I was a little concerned about mixing it up with many Buddha; so I enjoyed the place from the safety of Florrie’s purse!


After a few more adventures in Datong we all hopped the over night train for Xian and the Terracotta Warriors. This was a 16 hour trip. The beds were uncomfortable and the outside views were rather squalid for the evening part of the trip. We brought our own dinner but didn’t do much better than on our other train ride.  DSCN6747

We did discover you can “cook” these noodles with cold water. The next day we arrived in Xian where Nemo ran amok with some newly made terracotta warriors. DSCN3585

I tried to stop him but he just wouldn’t listen to me!


The real guys were just amazing. Florrie and Chris agreed that seeing them in the actual spot where they were found far outshone seeing the traveling exhibit they saw in Ohio years ago.


After the warriors we checked out the city wall around Xian.


Unlike the walls we have seen in Europe these walls were so wide we were able to take a bike ride down one side of the city wall.


Another over night train ride, this time in a luxury two bed cabin, with our own western style toilet, brought us back in Beijing.


After getting back to Beijing we went to the drum tower where we were lucky enough to see a performance on the great drums. Florrie really liked this as she is learning to play the Taiko drums in Japan. The ones she plays are not quite this big.



The last part of our trip was the Great Wall! We took a cable car up and went down on toboggan like sleds. We also walked a long section of it.


This was a high light of the trip for all of us.


We all enjoyed the fantastic views.


Even though you really can’t see the wall from space it’s truly an achievement. Oh! They really did bury the people who dies building the wall within it.

Once again Nemo ran amok! Some young Chinese men encouraged him to disregard the signs when they went farther along the wall then they were allowed. I think his popularity was giving him a big head. Chris and I had to go and rescue him.


IMG_0334Our last night in China we all walked to a place called food street where both Florrie and Chris tried some of the local cuisine. Nemo and I refused!


A few days after arriving back home to Japan Florrie got an email telling her that we are all off on another adventure. Next school year Florrie will be teaching in Germany. We all are sad to leave Japan but excited about having some new adventures to share.