Monday, January 31, 2011

Hot Springs

During my last weekend in Atsugi, I took a trip to Japanese hot springs.  A long standing tradition here, people go to these spa resorts and sit in a variety of hot tubs, all day!  It actually is pretty wonderful.  So the MWR on the base had a trip scheduled for this past Saturday, and I spent the entire day at the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun hot spring.

So during the day I sat in many many hot springs including: a red wine one (my favorite - it was aromatic and the perfect temperature), hot coals, sake, green tea, coffee, traditional barrel, roman style, and chocolate.  Also another tradition here is to sit around a pool of warm water and just dip your feet into the pool.  Because the pool is filled with little fishes, and the fish bite the dry skin off your feet...weird!!!  But since I was here, and it is a traditional sort of thing....I did it!  It was super weird!!

So here is the link to the website so you can check it out.  Since I did not take any pictures: Christine is already clumsy and water just didn't seem like a good combination.. :-)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

China Town & Enoshima

Adventures this weekend included (drum roll.....) trips to Yokohoma where I visited China Town and down to the coast to an island called Enoshima.  China town was fabulous with all the weird food vacuum sealed and puffy balls filled with anything and everything, and then smaller balls filled with soybean paste (see below).  Which I actually is yummy.  Very filling however.  They sell what my co-workers and I refer to as 'dangles.'  Basically small whatevers (animals, food, types of sushi, characters...etc) that hang on a string and you attach to your cell phone.  Apparently the more you have the cooler you are, oh and the bigger they are.  LOL  I have seen some big 'dangles!'

One of the 4 Entrance to  China Town

Temple in China Town

Puffy Ball - each individual one is filled with meat, soybean paste, squid, basically anything and everything.  They are steamed in each of these circular wooden containers.

Sesame Ball - D.E.L.I.O.U.S. filled with soy bean paste

The awesomeness of plastic food!  So outside of ALL the restaurants in Japan, in their front windows they have displays of all the dishes they serve.  Everything is represented with plastic food.  I think it's a great idea!  Especially since I can not read the menu, I have had to go outside before with the wait/waitress and point to the item I wanted.  Works every time ;-)


Another beautiful place.  It is an island located slightly south west of Kamakura and in the summer time the coast is filled with surfers although the weather here has been warmer, there were a few windsurfers out but not many.  I walked up the island and then down the other side of the mountain so I could sit out on the rocks that formed tidal pools out towards the ocean.  What a spectacular view!
 Tidal Pools
Tidal pools and view into ocean.

Dragon temple of some sort on the top of the mountain.

And finished out the day with some green tea ice cream...yummy!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tea Ceremony - 'Chado'

I finally made it to a tea ceremony.  Well, more of a tea ceremony training.  Tea ceremonies are actually pretty rare from what I understand, and do not occur very often to the public.  There are some in certain areas of the country (more tourist areas) where you can be an observer and sit and watch.  But here on base the Japanese woman (Sensei) who coordinates all activities that have to do with international relations between the base and Japanese culture teaches how to participate as the host and observer at a tea ceremony.

One of my co-workers who was here last found out a wife who works on base attends these and offered her information to me for this visit.  I touched base with her in the first week I was here and set it up.  She was so nice....she picked me up and drove me over to the class.  It was wonderful!  Such an appreciation of culture, enjoyment of others, and respect for tools and traditions.  Which is probably one of the biggest reasons I enjoy being over here (despite missing Cam).  Everyone is quiet and respectful on the trains, people do NOT walk around on their cell phones - although they are texting constantly it seems.  Anyway, more on the differences in another blog...this is about tea!

But back to the tea ceremony....I sat for 2 hours on my knees on a woven mat raised off the floor in a room in one of the Japanese buildings on base.  I thought to myself 'easy, I can totally sit on my knees forever!  I use to be a catcher.'  Oh Heck no!  LOL  I was hurting!  But I was the guest as the woman who brought me practiced her host skills in performing the ceremony.  It is very reverent and quiet, but since she is learning and I was curious.  We had plenty of conversation about the tradition of the ceremony and the culture. 

What I did not realize is that the ceremony and rituals differ depending on the season, holidays and Japanese calander.  For example the type of ceremony I was able to participate in was using 'matcha', powdered green tea.  Beginning on February 21st the seasons change with the holiday that falls on that day and the tea changes to 'Koicha' - thick tea.  I will not bore you with all the details, since I am no pro.  But basically every movement, every tool, every piece of the ceremony is a precise, respectful, intimate ritual.  It was fantastic!  I will get an opportunity to attend one more of these classes and the Sensei offered me the opportunity to learn how to make the tea!  YAY!!  And the woman who brought me offered to bring me to a store to buy a few of the tools so I can make my own tea when I go home...super cool!

In this image I found online, you can see the matcha tea which is a green tea that is meant to be served frothy.  The powder is the green tea mixture you place in the bowl and you use the whisk to stir it.  As you can see the whisk is super delicate and there is a process where the host softens it and checks to make sure nothing has broken or will get into the tea :-)

Anyway, I could certainly tell you more about everything I have learned in such a short amount of time...but I will spare you.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Interesting Encounters at Work

First off, I am the only woman in my division.  Second, I am the only person under the age of 38.  So right off the bat there are some obvious differences when I travel with my co-workers.  Despite these differences I truly enjoy working with 'the guys.'  They are easy to work with, pretty funny and have adopted me as one of 'the guys.'  This is a familiar role for me - middle school, high school, college.  Ya pretty much my whole

But the point of my story is that whenever they leave for even a minute!  Other men around us decide they need to talk to me.  And since I am a professional (whatever that means???) I banter back and forth, and am as polite as possible.  Which means talking sports, explaining my technical work, speaking geek, and probably the most annoying/entertaining - listening to bad pick-up lines. 

When I first started these site visits my partner at the time (you guessed it - another older man by about 14 yrs).  Gave me a heads up of these encounters that may occur when he left to use the restroom or was finishing up in the other room.  I shrugged my shoulders and said, 'Ok.  Thanks.'  Well it did not take long for this to start happening.

Just for a little background on what I do, in a nut shell: I walk from room to room measuring and documenting data using a laptop and a laser measuring device.  The laser measurer in and of itself is ALWAYS a conversation starter or the ever popular, 'So what exactly is this for?'  'What exactly are you doing?'  'Are you going to get us a new building?'  Sure dude, whatever you want.

Well yesterday while I was measuring a gentleman kept hearing my measurer beep.  It beeps everytime I take a measurement.  When I made my way around the room and was near his desk he proceed to say, and I qoute "I'm sorry that your stud finder keeps going off around me.  I've been hearing it all day."  WHAT??!!

At another time I had to sit at one end of a small secure building while my partner and his escort went into the rooms and came back to report the data.  While I was sitting at the end I also had an escort.  This gentleman was either lonely or a player...maybe both.  He asked me about my work, any traveling I had done...blah blah.  I mean its akward to sit and stare at someone while they work, so in an event to make things less weird I usually banter a little.  Small talk if you will.  Well after a couple of minutes he would begin questions in this way, 'So what does a beautiful girl like you do for fun?  Have you been to the clubs? You are too beautiful to not go out.  I know some great places to go.'  Now by this point I had specifically told him about my HUSBAND.  He was getting super creepy and I could not discretely tell my partner what was happening.  So when we were finished working and I just had some drawing clean up and such I closed my laptop and said ok lets go.  As so as we got out of the building and started to walk away I told my partner and he could not believe it!  We laughed about it and then decided that we needed a code word or something so that he would know next time.  lol  Just part of the job I guess.

But don't get me wrong being the only woman has its perks.  Such as people are usually more willing to let me into their facilities without being mean.  Offer a place for me to set down my things, hang up my coat.  Even offer up a beverage :-)  Oh, and one time we even got a special parking spot, sweet!  Oh, and don't forget the great stories!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Japan - I made it!!

I did in fact make it to Japan, although it was touch and go.  I was however, packed and ready to go several days before I left (Friday).  Which is pretty impressive for me :-)  Although the trek Friday morning to the airport was another flight was at being the intelligent woman that I am, thought I should be at the airport for 530....well on my boarding pass it said boarding - 539.  Hmmmm....guess I should have read the fine print.

Well I ran into the terminal, barely said good bye to Cam.  Luckily there was no line at the counter so I ran up and the man asked me questions like 'Why did you wait until the last minute Ms. Carlson.'  'Your bags may not make.  You may not make it.'  I was like - "you are shitting me right?"  So he checked me in, I ran my bags to the x-ray machine and preceded to run up the escalator to the concourse.  For those of you familiar with Norfolk Airport - lucky it is very small.  Comparable to Burlington, VT airport.

So there it was, the line of people waiting at security.  Oh crap!  I politely asked everyone in front of me if I could go in front of them since my plane was boarding in 10 minutes.  (I arrived at the airport at exactly 530)
Luckily everyone was feeling nice that morning and let me go in front of them.  Then I had to tackle the line to walk through the x-ray and my carry-ons.  I spotted this elderly couple taking their time, and after asking politely if I could jump in front they agreed.

Shoes off, laptop out, belt off, jacket off, put ID and ticket away - push things onto conveyor belt - walk through x-ray - pick everything up in my arms and throw my backpack on and RUN to the gate.  Yes I ran in my stocking feet holding my jacket, laptop, shoes and whatever else there was in my arms.  And then I ran from gate 13 or something to the very end of the hallway gate 28.  To walk up to my boss sitting there playing on his iPhone while I was sweating and not quite fulling clothed.  What a freaking sight I was!!  I only regret that I had no one to film it so I could watch later for my own entertainment :-D

Then I waited at the gate for about 15 minutes, boarded then waiting on the airplane for at least 30 minutes while they deiced the plane.  Then the flight attendant spilled orange juice on my arm.  :-/ womp...wompppp...

And I was off for Tokyo!!!  Good news only one screaming child on the flight who only burst out occasionally during the few minutes I had actually fallen asleep.  Unlike the last 13 hour flight with 12 hours of screaming child :-)

Hopefully more entertaining stories to come while I am over here for the next month!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year!

Welcome 2011!!  I am sure that you hold many more adventures for the Carlson Family :-)  What was most exciting about this New Years was that Cam and I got to spent New Years Eve TOGETHER!  Yes, in almost 5 years of us being a couple this was the first New Years Eve spent together.  And we shared the night with our Navy Family....eating to much food, enjoying adult beverages, playing the Michael Jackson Wii game and laughing - a LOT. 

Unfortunately, Cam did have to work on New Years Day.  So I ventured back over to the Miles for dinner...which was wonderful - as always ;-)  We also went shopping at Home Depot, which I know Cam is sad he missed, but I got a new chandelier for the dinning room....super excited!  And hopefully while I am gone Cam will put it up!  Yay!

Gone again...where am I  I am always gone these days.  Since we have been married, Cam is not the one leaving, it has been me.  We have been married almost 8 months and I have been gone for almost 3 of those months!  And by the time our 9th month wedding anniversary comes around it will be 4 months!  Almost half!  It does make me a little sad, but it also lets me know that we appreciate our time together more, that we support each others careers and that we can function independently of each other.  For those of you who have known me B.C. (Before Cami) you know how important my independence has always been to me.  And I can honestly say that Cameron has always support of the many reasons I love him!

So while I am gone this time - I have left him a Cami Do list....Please.  No 'Honey Do', I was told he would not respond to that.  Sometimes he is so when Leighanne and I baked cookies for Christmas and he told me if I made anything other than Gingerbread MEN he would bite their heads off.  Really Cami?  Sometimes you are so silly.  But that's why I love you!!

So more than likely my next Blog will be from good old Japan.