Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Yep, Palau was our first stop on our short voyage around the Pacific. Unfortunately I had spent so much money on uniforms and stuff for the trip that I only had about $70 to spend. Luckily for me, the downtown area was only about half a mile along one road so there wasn't much to spend money on. With its gorgeous beaches, amazingly wooded shoreline, and clear waters, the island is a photographer's dream. With the reef nearby, steep cliffs for diving, and many resorts, it is also a tourist's dream. However, the downtown of Koror had a few souvenir shops, a few burger joints with outside seating, two grocery stores, and two malls that were two stories tall. Not much for spending a day in the downtown area, especailly on a rainy day. We rode a speed boat into the small harbor that didn't cater to anything bigger and decided to ignore the nice smelling bar to find food in town. We'd barely left the parking lot when it started to downpour. When we got off the bus it was barely misting. A minute later it was downpouring. I had brought an umbrella and we were dressed for the rain so we kept walking. Ten minutes we were walking back to try the other direction and my thin capris were soaked and my foot was slpping out of one sandal. We kept walking about a block and a half to an international cafe I'd seen on the way in to find it was closed for renovations so we headed back to the bus for the bar on the pier. We stopped quick at a souvenir shop for a few pieces then hurried to the bus. Including the wait, we spent maybe an hour downtown and were soaked through. The thing about the rain was that it didn't stop but it went from mist to downpour to pelting rain to mist to start again in anything from five to twenty minute cycles. Not good for aimless wandering, especailly when the food joints were few and had no real variety on the menu.
Finally we got to the bar and she ordered a cheeseburger and I got a seafood noodle dish and we shared a fried calamari appetizer. We were nearly finished with our food when two of the three guys we'd hung out with in Russia showed up and we invited them to pull up chairs. All night the service was really slow but they likely weren't used to such crowds on the small island, especailly ordering food. However, the four of us spent the next three hours asking each other random questions and drinking when stuff showed up. I definitely got some off the wall stories to remember (some may show up in a story some day...) and laughed most the night. All in all it wasn't a bad night and I still have twenty dollars left for my next port.
Well, that's all for now, this is Li'l B wishing you all a lovely week and signing off for now.

Trip home

Ah, home sweet home, how I wish I had seen more of you. This past July I took a trip home to Minneapolis, Minnesota for two weeks. I got on a plane in the Narita airport in Yokyo and got back to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport about 7 pm on the second. There I was met by my parents and a strange bald guy that stood up with them. It took me a moment to realize the guy was my now bald older brother who was home for the summer from school. I hadn't seen him in person since at least the july before, probably the christmas of '08. I hadn't expected him to come with so it really did take me a moment to recognize him. Well, after that surprise we headed to Davanni's, the main pizza place on my list to visit while home. Hmm...Divanni's pizza. There just aren't any good pizza joints out here in Asia, at least not American pizza. one place makes the crust too thick so it's more bread than pizza and another always burns the cheese so it's all brown and rather crunchy by the time I get it. And Japanese piza just is not the same thing as good old American pizza. The next day we headed out to the Mall of America to look for shoes for the coming wedding, accessories, and I wanted to hit a few specific stores and the bead store for a bead book. (It's kinda hard for me to read the ones they sell in Japan or anywhere in Asia as they tend to be in the local language. :) ) I picked up some hair stuff, though the one product I was actually lookinf for, the Clipdini, I'll have to buy online. I loaned it to my friend for clubbing in Tokyo on my birthday and she lost it. It was one of my favorites and I was not happy but I found where to order it so I'll do that soon. I also found my sandals for the wedding and some earings as well as a pretty flower for my hair and we got Arby's for lunch before we left. My mom was having trouble walking that day and I was still suffering from jetlag so we only stayed there about two hours but we got all we wanted. The next day was church and Sonic for lunch (Hmm...) and we went out to Rosedale to watch the fireworks. It's always fun to sit somewhere in the relative darkness with misqitoes biting you and see fireworks from all directions before the ones shot off by where you are go off. It was also fun watching the kids. one mom behind us had brought her daughter who was around one or two that did not want to sit still while a couple in front of us had brough sparklers for their granddaughters who were about four and five or six. The next day I spent unpacking my monster suitcase, going through the stuff my sister had put in the attic, especailly pulling down all my old stories I DID NOT want up there (grumble, grumble), and packing for the coming trip. However, I got to spend a few hours with one of my highschool friends and her family and adorable son. It was nice I managed to see her, I had forgotten how much fun it is to just sit and talk to someone my age with the same background as me. I don't have that out in Japan as I am likely the most sheltered person on my boat.
Anyways, the next day we headed up to Manitowok, Wisconsin (I think I spelled that right...) so my dad could do the lighting on my sister's play of Willie Wonka. We got there Tuesday night, the first play was on Thursday night and we had to be in Tomah, Wisconsin by noon Friday so the guys could pick up tuxes for my brother's wedding on Saturday. While in my sister's town I helped paint some blacklight paint that showed during on of the scenes, fetched a number of last minute things from the house to the attached exchurh/theater, went to Bernstein's for delicious chocolate and a sandwich, and thumbed through the dvd collection my sister and her husband have acquired. I also saw the dress rehearsals on Wednesday night, the one for the kids fourth grade and under and the one for the kids fourth grade and older. Both were pretty good but I realized I am far too spoiled on Hollywood acting and effects that I was a horrible judge of real life stuff. Anyways, I never did see the first performance of the older kids show on Thursday, though I heard it was awesome, because I opted to take the silent house as my chance to finally write in my story. I knew that it probably hurt or offended my sister that I wasn't there but the only real plan I had for that two week trip was to finish my story, which at that point only had three rather large scenes left and I only had until Sunday night. So I missed the play but got where I wanted to be done by that night. After the play we went out to eat at a good restaurant and I got some sleep.
The next day my parents, my brother, and I headed down to Tomah, getting there about ten to fifteen minutes late but the group of my oldest brother, his best man, the bride, and her family had waited for them so we checked into the room, they drove up to where the tux shop was and me and my mom went to Perkins for brunch before returning to the hotel for a nap and more story writing. That night was the wedding rehearsal where we saw more of her family and a cousin of ours that was an usher and my last brother showed up. After that was the rehearsal dinner and the brothers went off to the bar attached to the hotel for a "bachelor party" (it doesn't quite work well when the groom refuses more than five drinks but the bride was also there so it may be excused...) and my parents and I headed up to watch some tv and go to bed. The next day was the wedding and I went for an Asian theme. I had bought an outfit in Vietnam that looked like a floor length dress with a tightskirt and the typical Asian collar. In reality it was clth that made the skirt but had slits up both sides nearly to the bottom rib and pants that are worn under it. With it I wore my new sandals, some twisted earrings I noticed were similar to the bride's, my hair in a bun under an Asian hair assessory, and a flower pinned above the bun. The hair assessory is very common in Asia, one I picked up in Singapore and the rest I picked up in a Claire's inn Hakata, Japan. It is made of two combs connected decoatively by seed beads on elastic string. The vendor in Singapore gave a dvd on different uses of the piece which I finally watched Saturday morning so I can finally use them with comfort.
Well, we got to the church in time to see the wedding pictures and stand in for some of them. The bride and her bride's maids looked gorgeous and though the groom looked dashing in his tux, my bald brother said it was a once in a lifetime event to see him in a tux, it would never happen again. We'll see about that... Anyway, the wedding was gorgeous and every sibling of my mother's was represented: two of her sister's came, one with her family, one of her brother's came with his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter,and the other two brothers each had a kid there. Not bad for how spread out that family is. The reseption was fun, no one seemed to notice that I slipped from my "glass slippers" into not nearly as fancy flipflops. I got to hold my cousin's baby a while as they sat next to me, I got to talk to almost all my cousins for a long time as well as the aunts and uncles there, I got to dance with two of my brothers, and I got lots of pictures. Not a bad night, even though the headache I had earlier at the church came back and I decided to leave early for bed. My brothers decided to stay the whole time and when the party ended at midnight they merely moved to the bar with a few others of the younger generation. They were not too happy in the morning when they needed to drive a few hours to drop one off at the airport and the other was driving on to Minneapolis. Oh well, they survived and we got brunch at Perkins before going to the bride's parent's house to watch them open presents. It was mid afternoon before we headed for home, stopping for supper at Culver's, the last food place on my list of must haves. I wrote all the way home and only had a few lines to finish when we pulled in the driveway. I didn't sleep that night, other than about an hour after laundry and the last of my errands were done. We left the house about five in the morning Monday and I finally got back to my room in Yokosuka about nine at night on Tuesday.
I had an awesome time in the US but would like to say this. To those I don't see every day, it takes me time to warm up to them. My parents and the two younger brothers are kind of an exception because I call my parents almost every week and me and my brothers are always picking on each other over Facebook so it's easy to do the same in person. To other people, like cousins or the people at church, it takes me time to talk to people and I hope no one during this trip thought I didn't like them. I know I probably seemed to ignore my brother-in-law and possibly a few cousins I don't know well anymore, maybe even some of the bride's family, but that was not the intent. I'm not good with people and have only a few friends over here who actually hear what's on my mind. Often I just don't talk because I don't know if my sense of humor will insult or cause an awkward silence. Anyways, I hope that made sense, it was a worry for me on the way home.
Well, this is Li'l B wishing you all a lovely day and signing off.

The Japanese Imperial Palace

First off, I realize I haven't blogged in a while and I apologize. This was meant to be a travel journal and I don't travel by boat all year long. When I'm in Yokosuka it is often just easier to stay indoors online or with a good book then to decide on a place to go and what to do. I need to work on that. I also haven't been doing much on my projects although I have finally finished a very rough draft of the book I hope to send out to publishers by the end of the year. Now I have set that aside while we travel again and need to catch up on my blogging. The first blog is my trip to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
Although, to be more accurate, I should say the grounds of the Palace. Nobody other than workers get beyond the moat except for on two days of each year: New Year's Day and the Emperor's birthday. However, outside the moat is a large park used mostly by runners, bikers, and tourists. I got a lovely picture of Tokyo skyline over a river as I left the subway station and got pictures of a number of gatehouses but nothing really of the stuff inside the high walls.
I also got a picture of a bridge over the moat and noticed that there is a wire just out of the water on short black poles on the grassy shore that is used to sense if people jump in the moat and try to climb the grassy bank under the bridge. Definitely a sign of the modern era. Another thing I noticed was that one of the gaurdhouses seemed to have a gaurd where the street was cordaned off and statues of gaurds by the gate itself that I thought amusing and very detailed. As I watched, the statues ddn't seem to move. It wasn't until a few minutes later when I was looking from the side that I realized they were actually real gaurds!! the one on the right seemed to be going up and down from heel to toe of his feet to aleviate the pains of standing for so long. It wasn't obvious but if I stared at the gaurd long enough I could see the movement. Next I sat down on one of the benches to eat my lunch. One of the things I love about Japan is its convienience stores, like the gas station stores in America. They sell things like sushi rolls or salads, all sorts of native dishes that were made that morning or that afternoon and just ready to be unwrapped and eaten as well as selling drinks. I can get a whole meal, enough to fill me for hours, for under five dollars easy. One of my favorite things, and one I have only found in such stores, are triangles of sticky rice stuck together so I can hold it in my hand by a corner and not really have it crumble. there are two types of rice cakes I've seen, the type where the flavor maker is mixed in with the rice, like my favorite version with tuna mixed throughout the cake, or the tyupe where the flavor was only in the middle, such as the version I had that day which was seaweed. I've also found some awesome drinks such as the peach mango tea that I can only find at the stores. The rice cakes are wrapped in plastic to keep them moist and the plastic is wrapped around a flat sheet of seaweed I'm supposed to eat the rice cake with but I rarely do that, I prefer the rice without the dry seaweed flavor Anyways, my breakfast had been a roll of the sushi with rice wrapped in seaweed that Americans are so familiar with and my lunch was a rice cake while I sipped from a few drinks all day. It turned out rather nice.
After lunch I went through the East Gardens. There I saw a number of green trees and bushes that all looked alike. I definitely came in the wrong season but I was also getting grumpy. The day had not statred out lovely, a friend had kept me talking a number of hours after I had planned to start out, by then I had probably walked well over two miles in flipflops, and I had a backpack on that must have weighed at least thirty pounds that I had been carrying for going on four hours by then. Also, I was sightseeing alone, it was hot and sunny, and my mind barely registered the music coming in from my I-pod any longer. It was time to head back and relax so the Gardens were not all that interesting for me. I did manage to see two long gaurd houses the old samuris used to live in to keep an eye on all the old courtiers travelling through the East Gardens to or from the Palace. I also saw a break in the wall that showed into the Palace grounds but all I saw was a modern looking street. Above one of the gaurd houses I saw satellites so the royal family or their servants apparently get satellite and dish hook ups. Other than that I decided was too much so I headed back to the subway station. On the way I stopped at a square area of fountains. There was one fountain near me that sprayed water high into the air from a number of sprouts and one on the other side that rained down water in a sheer wall or a light mist above a fountain that formed a ball of water. Each fountain worked in harmony so each one was the focus at a different time and created quite the show.I sat down and rested my bag on a seat for about a half hour watching the fountains and a pigeon that had no fear of humans. After that I managed my way through the subway and finally got to my bed for a welcomed shower and rest.
And that was my day in Tokyo so this is Li'l B signing off until the next post.