Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

Wow, the people here at the Outrigger really know how to party. Yasu and I on the other hand are not that good at it, or maybe we were too sober and sick. I’ve caught a major cold (those damn freezing restaurants) and during the last couple of days I’ve been fighting headaches, body aches, a horrible sick feeling and more with some over-the-counter drugs and painkillers. I just don’t want to give in when I’m on vacation! In any case, the noise and chaos was too much for us. So we got ourselves a bunch of drinks from the bar and escaped to the hotel’s beach deck. We just sat there, enjoyed the weather, the atmosphere, the view and summarized all the good and bad things that happened in 2009 to each other. It was the perfect way to end the year.
Just before midnight it got busier on the deck in anticipation of the fireworks show. Counting down wasn’t easy because the watches of dozens of strangers just can’t be synchronized. And instead of wishing each other a happy New Year, people asked each other “Happy New Year?” We were all waiting from some shouting from inside, where they had a huge countdown clock on the wall. But they turned out to be behind several long minutes. By the time we heard a loud “10, 9, 8...” coming from inside, us outside had already decided that 2010 was here and had finished yelling “Happy New Year!” to all friends and strangers in sight.
New Year's Eve 2010

Old Year's Day

Sadly, today was our last day on the beach. It was our first time on this stretch of beach near the Holiday Inn, because our regular hangout, Ypao beach, was closed to set up for tonight’s firework show. This beach was a bit more crowded, the lifeguard station had huge speakers playing music, and there was the occasional canoe race. All in all, a wonderful and different last day at the beach.

Before going to the beach we had brunch at Denny’s and Yasu finally ordered the huge plate of nachos he’d been checking out on the menu daily. He always deemed it to big to finish and wanted to order it when he was really hungry. But today he realized that may never happen, and just went ahead and ordered it. As expected it was way too big, he didn’t even finish a third. And I finally tried those ‘Moons over my Hammy’, which looked better on the menu than they tasted in real life.

We had our last meal this year at Planet Hollywood. I had fajitas and Yasu had a plate of different appetizers. Same old story, it was way too much, but at least this was a delicious meal! And so were the fruity virgin cocktails with which we toasted to all the good things we’ve experienced in good old 2009.

And now we’re off to the Outrigger for their New Year’s Eve party.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Just another day

Another day on the beach, but no pictures were taken. All we did was swim, snorkel, lie on the beach, nap, read and be jealous of all the local people with barbecues. All we had were our two-day old leftovers from lunch at Denny’s, which were disgusting and quickly ended up in the trash. Though, of course we didn’t go hungry. We are in America after all, there’s food everywhere.

We had breakfast at Kings, where they serve delicious fruit with their breakfast platters. And dinner at Lonestar Steakhouse again, where Yasu had a little admirer. A very cute 3-year-old girl named Ella who called him Mr. Special. After dinner Yasu really wanted some dessert which we got at Denny’s, but just a few bites later it all ended up in a doggy bag. It’s just physically impossible to eat dessert after an American sized dinner.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Goggles and snorkels

We were so happy this morning to discover that we were going to have another blissful day on the beach because the sun was back! The beaches here are really beautiful but also very peaceful, there are hardly any other people.

Even though the beach isn’t crowded with people, the ocean is crowded with tropical fish. Which is where our snorkel sets come in handy.

And here’s our daily food log. Our first meal was at a Wendy’s. Yasu really wanted to have some of their sweetened tea, which he had had once before many years ago. The food wasn’t that good, but the tea was exactly like Yasu remembered, so we were happy.

After that half-eaten brunch and an active day on the beach, we were very hungry at dinner time, so we had a feast at Ruby Tuesday’s.

Their salad bar and mashed potatoes are amazing, and the steak wasn’t bad either. Life on Guam in pretty good.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Rainy again

We woke up this morning mentally ready to spend another day on a beautiful white beach and chasing fish in a beautiful blue ocean, just to discover the rain had returned to our vacation paradise... So we went shopping again, and discovered some interesting things. Like my very own brand of peanut oil. And at our favorite store, the bookstore (filled to the rim with books written in a language I understand, how I’ve missed that in Japan), Yasu discovered a very interesting book that had a 3-legged man on the cover.

In Japan they sell onigiri a.k.a. musubi, rice balls with a filling (usually something fishy) wrapped in seaweed, and they’re delicious. But here they sell sausage and spam musubi, which we were too afraid to try... Something we did try was pink vitamin water, which also looked weird but tasted all right, but we prefer SoBe lifewater, which we’ve also discovered this week.

Of course we also ate today. This time we skipped breakfast and tried something new for lunch, at Denny’s. Guam fried rice and some chicken sandwich, which were of course impossible to finish and we took more than half with us in a doggy bag.

And this time we had dinner at TGIF’s. I had an enormous burger and Yasu’s meal included a complimentary dessert, which is officially our first dessert this trip. We’ve wanted to eat dessert before but we were always too stuffed after dinner to order after dinner. Anyway it was delicious.

We’re hoping that when we wake up tomorrow the sun will have returned...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Relaxing Guam

Another day on the beach. Ah, how relaxing can life be. I’m getting better at the snorkeling thing, as in the fish scare me less and less. Except those blue pointy knife-looking fish that like to surround you with all of their friends. And Yasu is good at spotting special fish, he showed me a small blowfish and a camouflaged flat fish.
After freshening up at the hotel, we headed for Tony Roma’s in Agana. We’d seen the place during one of our roadtrips but we weren’t hungry enough to try it out then. They say they’re famous for their ribs so that’s what we ordered.
It was freezing in there, what’s up with these over-air-conditioned restaurants? Hot outside, ice-cold inside, it’s a recipe for a severe cold... But at least the ribs were delicious and the Czech waitress was very entertaining. She advised us to have honey-mustard dressing with our fries, which wasn’t bad, but we’ll be sticking to mayonnaise. Which is considered weird enough in the States.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Beach and steak

In my country it’s still Christmas, we officially celebrate 2nd Christmas Day, but here in Guam Christmas is over. But the sunny weather isn’t! We spent the whole day on the beach.

Swimming, snorkeling (and following colorful fish around), sunbathing (and sunburning even though I used factor 50 sunblock), reading, napping and getting really hungry. So we went for dinner at Lonestar Steakhouse.

Their interior was very Texan and their menu was almost too good to choose from. Somehow we managed to eat our huge and delicious steaks, and I gave myself a couple of brain freezes with my gigantic Frozen Peach Cocktail. Something tells me we’ll be having dinner here again before we go home!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Jingle bells

We spent our first day on Ypao beach, one of Guam’s beautiful beaches! Surprisingly, quite a large number of people spent Christmas Day on the beach here, there were lots of barbecue parties and even live music. A very interesting Christmas tradition. Unfortunately, we didn’t take any pictures, because we weren’t sure how safe it would be to leave a camera on the beach, while we were swimming in the clear blue water. Yasu’s crappy goggles even allowed us to see some tropical fish, which scared and fascinated me at the same time. After dinner we stopped at our favorite shop, the 24 hour K-Mart, to buy ourselves some snorkel-sets to be able to see the fish better tomorrow.
We had Christmas dinner at the Outrigger hotel in Tumon Bay. Where they had huge Christmas trees and live music. We were lucky to be seated right in front of these musical brothers playing exactly our kind of music.
We really enjoyed the show and the free flowing drinks (champagne for me and iced tea for Yasu). We ate food from the extensive Christmas Day Buffet. Buffets are always interesting because you get to try things you would never order by itself. Like raw oysters and colorful cakes...
It was a very different Christmas this year, but it was merry nonetheless!
Christmas 2010

Sunny Christmas

Santa brought us sunshine for Christmas! Finally, it really feels like we’re on a tropical island. It’s hot and humid and we need sunglasses to see things! We’re definitely going swimming today but first we wanted to visit Two Lover’s Point. A place with a legend. A long deep cliff where once upon a time two lovers leapt to their deaths together, because they weren’t allowed to be together in life.

The legend is sad but we can think of better ways to escape a demanding father who doesn’t like your lover. Jumping of such a high and steep cliff just doesn’t seem like a good idea. In any case, the view of the ocean and Tumon Bay (with all its fancy hotels and beautiful beaches) was gorgeous.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Eating the rain away

Still on a tropical island in the Pacific, still driving around in the rain hoping for some sun. We spent most of the day driving around the south of the island, and consuming.

As the driver, obviously I was drinking red bull, but Yasu was drinking some too today... In a very weird mix of coke and red bull. It didn’t taste good. Lunch was had at Taco Bell, a place I’ve always wanted to try, and now having tried it, I’m over it. Too much fake cheese sauce gives me an icky feeling in my mouth. And before another visit to the movie theater, we had some dinner at a food court. Not a very tasty Christmas Eve dinner. By the way, the newspaper said that we might be getting some sunny weather tomorrow! Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Unbreakable

After a long day of driving and shopping we ended up at Ruby Tuesday’s. Many years ago we had our first real big date at Ruby Tuesday’s in Atlanta after we saw a baseball game (my first). Yasu choose a nacho dish again and I had my first American steak, which they called a ‘Petite Sirloin’ but was still pretty big to me.

But even better than our delicious dinner, was the Christmas gift my sweet boyfriend presented me with just before dinner.

I wasn’t surprised because he let me choose the ring myself at the jewelry store. But that only makes the ring more perfect and me love him more. As you can see, he made me a very happy lady.

Chamorro village

Chamorro Village's Wednesday Night Market is a popular attraction for tourists and locals here on Guam. Chamorro people are the indigenous people of Guam. The village offers a glimpse into the island’s culture, lifestyle and cuisine. Dozens of booths are spread over the little village selling local (often barbecued) foods and handicrafts. Chamorro boys and girls also perform dances on the stage.
The Chamorro kids dancing and singing to local music were really enchanting and a joy to watch. The food smells in the village were wonderful too, but we were still full from the huge American breakfast, and we have dinner plans for tonight. Still we wanted a small taste of Chamorro food so we both ate a truly tiny piece of barbecued spare rib, and it was delicious.

Wings

My energy drink of choice is red bull, always has been, always will be. Coffee doesn’t work for me, and drinking tea makes me feel so comfortable I usually drink it before bed. Red bull works. Well. I don’t even want to try to imagine the liters of red bull I drank as a student, especially when I was writing my thesis... But I’m sure it could fill a couple of lakes. Unfortunately, red bull is expensive. So in Japan (the land of everything tiny) I usually buy the small 200 ml cans, but in America (the land of everything huge) they sell 16 fl.oz. cans! Which is almost half a liter!

We’re driving around the island today, because it’s still rainy. And because I’m used to driving on the right (in Japan they drive on the left) and I’ve missed driving, I’m driving the whole time, unless I pass out, which will never happen with these huge red bulls!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Food

Something else one can easily do when it’s raining outside is eat, especially in America. We’ve already seen many interesting restaurants around the island we want to try. Our first meal on the island was breakfast at Denny’s.

We also have Denny’s in Japan, but it’s totally different in America. The interior and menu are nothing alike, but we like them both. Denny’s here is cheaper though and the portions are much larger. We were so full that we had to skip lunch. After a long process of choosing, dinner was finally had at Chili’s. Because Yasu loves nachos and Chili’s seemed like they’d serve them.

They did, but in some kind of salad version which Yasu loved. And I tried to finish a huge rack of ribs.

Rainy Guam

Even though Guam is a tropical island and we’re supposed to be in the middle of Guam’s dry season, so far all we’ve seen is rain... But that doesn’t stop us from enjoying our vacation.

We’ve been driving around the island in our big purple car, and I get to be the main driver because people drive on the right here. Oh, how I’ve missed driving!
We’ve also been enjoying all the sales just a few days before Christmas. Somehow, spending dollars seems more fun than spending yen.
And, then there’s the movie theater. We love movies, but going to the movies is ridiculously expensive in Japan and the selection of English-spoken movies is limited. But here, all movies are in English and the entrance fee is low, especially on ‘thrifty Tuesday’. And they sell buttered popcorn, which is really unhealthy but our absolute favorite.

Hotel

We arrived in Guam in the middle of the night and had a hotel shuttle takes us to our hotel where we had a very, very early check-in. Because we’re budget travelers and we’ll be here for two weeks, we needed a cheap hotel not an expensive resort hotel. So we’re staying at the Days Inn Tamuning.
And we’re very happy with our choice! The room is huge! My apartment can fit in here at least twice. And that kingsize bed is awesome, it’s so comfortable! At home we sleep in my tiny one person bed and we’re always squeezing for space and comfort, here we can dance in our sleep without bothering the other.
Only thing is the location, we were supposed to get our rental car on Christmas Eve, but the distances here are much larger than in Japan and we really need wheels to get to places. So we’ve decided to get the car earlier... Right now, to be more precise.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A very special day

Today was a very special day for us, so we had a pink heart-lock engraved with today’s date and our names at the Umeda Sky Building.

And the best part was that the day ended on a tropical island in the Pacific. Because we’ll be spending the holidays on Guam, where America’s day begins.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A bizarre horse and a tough bear

I have a few more new creatures to share. I made a Christmas/birthday present for my old roommate from Emory. A horse in a combination of colors that makes me think she stepped out of one of my frequent bizarre dreams. I hope she doesn't scare Jungwon...

The new bear is the first creature not made entirely out of felt. The shiny brown material is artificial leather. My mom sent over a whole bunch of artificial leather earlier this year, and I was excited to use it. But the thick fabric has been really tough to sew, and really painful on my fingers. Finally with the help of some leather needles I ordered online, Tully the Bear was born.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas creatures

It’s time for all things Christmassy again, my favorite time of the year. So I just had to make some Christmas themed creatures:

The snowman on the left is a typical Japanese snowman. Here they only use two snowballs for their snowmen, one for the head and one for the body. This snowman is a birthday gift for my friend from Inuyama who celebrates her 24th birthday today. Happy birthday, Maiko!

The regular 3-balled-snowman and reindeer ornaments on the right are presents for my mom and stepdad. To thank them for helping me out on something and to decorate their Christmas tree with a little bit of me. For the first time since I moved to Japan, I won’t be going home for Christmas, but at least through my creatures I’ll be there in spirit.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Banana pudding birthday roll cake

Even though it’s Yasu’s birthday today, I still had to work, of course. Unfortunately, for me work ends pretty late so we didn’t really have time for a real party. So instead Yasu picked me up after work and drove us to a Starbucks with a parking lot (which is actually quite hard to find in Japan). While he was getting us drinks inside, I quickly put some candles on his surprise birthday cake. The nice people at the cake store wrote my message to the birthday boy in chocolate on an edible cake decorator. And I lit all the candles.

It’s a bit challenging to light thirteen candles, especially outside with all the wind. All thirteen wicks took a while to catch fire, and soon the colored wax was dripping all over the roll cake. A quick verse of the Happy Birthday song and a strong blow from Yasu and the fire was gone. I totally forgot to tell him to make a wish, though... Still I hope all his dreams will come true this year.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Happy birthday Yasu!

The sweetest man in the world is turning 26 today!

Yesterday, I learned that he was born at 18:22 on December 9th in 1983. He weighed 3260 grams and was 50 cm tall. Little baby Yasu's head measured 33 cm around and he was 31 cm around his tiny chest. Doesn't he sound all cute and cuddly? Well, he still is! Happy birthday my love!

eleventh monkey in Kansai Scene Magazine

Kansai Scene Magazine is a monthly free magazine here in Kansai (region of Japan that includes Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara), published in English and packed with articles, reviews, listings and classifieds. It is one of the most popular free publications and provides information on places to go and things to do in Kansai.

Last month someone from Kansai Scene Magazine contacted me. They were planning to write an article about Etsy and wanted to use one of my pictures to illustrate the story. They ended up using four of my pictures, and I’m so happy!

The article is about people from Kansai selling their handmade products on Etsy, but the pictures aren’t from Kansai sellers (except mine of course). It’s because the guy searching for pictures on Etsy wasn’t shopping ‘locally’ when he found his favorites. And he was very surprised to find out I live in Osaka, because almost all the other sellers he contacted were from the States.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Koyo again

When we went to Kyoto last month to check out the autumn leaves we were too early, as most leaves hadn’t turned yet. And today we returned to find out we were too late, as most leaves had already fallen to the ground. But at least they were still beautifully colored.

We went to Nanzenji, the temple we intended to go to last year, when we unwittingly ended up at Eikandoji. This time we made sure to read the signs and we found the right temple. It charged no entrance even though it houses some nice sightseeing treasures.

There was even an aquaduct:

The most interesting sight we encountered at Nanzenji was a camera crew and a bunch of famous Japanese actors (who I don’t know, of course) recording scenes for some Japanese TV drama. It brought back memories of our own TV adventure.

Thanks to another early morning visit to the dentist (I’m getting better at it, I was almost relaxed...) we were up early. So after all that sightseeing we still had more than enough time left for a long walk to Ginkakuji. Kinkakuji’s sister temple which should have been silver plated, but they never finished it because they ran out of money. It’s under construction now though, so those silver plates might still be on the way.

Lots of things-still-to-see-in-Kyoto-before-we-leave-Japan were taken care of today. Good.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Djamo's audition

Right now in Belgium the auditions for the Absolut band are happening and Djamo is one of the lucky ones auditioning for a spot in that band. Here are some pictures of his personal interview and him showing his tricks on his guitar.

I'm waiting for them to post his video, because the live stream isn't really working out and I'm anxious to see his performance. I'm on the other side of the world, still I feel extremely nervous... Hope things are going well.

December 8 update:
They never posted Djamo's video and they never let him and 15 other finish their auditions because of bad planning. As expected, by everyone except the people that were organizing the event, they ran out of time and choose to send home all the popular entries voted for by the public and kept only the 9 entries auditioning on a wild card. Unfortunately, Djamo never got to jam as promised and spent a whole day waiting in Antwerpen for nothing.
But honestly, I think Djamo is better off starting his own band without Tim Vanhamel. I saw the jam sessions online and was unpleasantly surprised by Mr. Vanhamel, the singer of the band. Apparently, he can't sing, so he resorted to screaming with echo and jumping like a kangaroo and crawling on the floor. It was terrible to listen to and I couldn't even hear the music. I really wonder why that guy was sponsored by Absolut to find a band...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

My brother is a glorious bastard

Remember when I asked you to vote for my brother? Well, voting is over and he's through to the next round!! I'm so proud and so happy!

Second row in the middle is a close-up of Djamo's face! He and his amazing guitar skills gathered enough votes and he'll be joining the tryouts on Saturday! I'm already nervous, but I'm sure he'll dazzle everyone with his abilities! Good luck, Djaam! And thanks to those who voted for him!