06 July, 2014

We go to Tokyo: Catchup #1

I was going to skip most of 2012 and 2013, but Viking Man complained.


We went to Tokyo in February 2012 for the Tokyo Marathon. Aside from a visa run to Osaka when we lived in Korea, I hadn't been to Japan since I lived there in 2003-2004, and even then, I hadn't spent much time in Tokyo. So I was excited to go.

The marathon was fun. The Japanese, and runners in general, really know how to do a good costume. Viking Man, not wearing a costume, ran well, and I was able to see him at several points along the course. I wanted to see him finish as well, but as it was quite a trek by train for me to get out to the finish line, I wasn't sure if I would make it by the time he did.

I waited and waited and waited until I thought, 'Surely he wasn't that slow,' and then I went to the reunion area where we had agreed to meet afterwards.

I can tell you right now that we didn't think that one through very well.

Take 36,000 runners, times by the number of spectators per runner, minus five or six people who had already left, and you have the finish area. It was vast and overwhelming and teeming with everyone but VM. There were large numbered balloons for our meeting convenience, but we hadn't known about the balloons. So I decided to try a 'wait in one spot' approach. Then I tried a 'walk in a systematic grid' approach. My 'slump dejectedly against a wall' approach yielded nothing.

In a final act of desperation, I flagged down a volunteer who helped me navigate a phone book and pay phone, to no success. She eventually took pity on me and called our hotel on her own cell phone. VM answered the phone in our room. I wasn't sure whether to cry in relief or launch into a tirade about being abandoned. VM sounded genuinely sorry for leaving, but it probably had been the best idea under the circumstances.

Later when we compared notes about which costumed runners we had seen (Full Suit and Tie Guy, Hello Kitty Ninja, Tokyo Tower, Barefoot Jesus) and when we had seen them, we came to the conclusion that I probably hadn't made it to the finish line in time. Moral of the story: always choose a numbered balloon.

Some of the highlights:

Our hotel was in this vibrant area, just up the street from the pulsating Shibuya Crossing.

Edo Tokyo Museum
I spent an entire morning in this massive edifice housing the city's history while VM worked in the Tokyo Office.

This was a charming area with traditional shopping streets and a beautiful temple.

Tsukiji Fish Market
One of things on VM's wish list, he convinced me to get up at a ridiculous hour so we could see the market at its freshest. I'll admit that it was worth it. Giant tuna!

Meiji Shrine
The shrine had gorgeous cypress gates, and we saw a wedding procession.

Roppongi Hills/Mori Art Museum/Roof Deck
First we went to Tokyo Tower but changed our minds (possibly because of the price?) and continued walking to Roppongi Hills. Tickets for the roof deck at Mori Tower came with free access to the museum (and vice versa, so win-win for both of us), and we could see Tokyo Tower from there which ended up being better anyway.

26 June, 2014

Mother's Day and Memories of Korea

Jeju, March 2008
In February/March 2008, Viking Man went to Jeju-do, Korea on business and I joined him later in a last minute decision. It was a beautiful and unique trip and a fitting way to say goodbye to Korea (see the original post). Ever since, we have regretted not buying ourselves a souvenir dolharubang, a mushroom-like statue made from the porous volcanic rock of the island.

This Mother's Day, Viking Man announced a cryptic present he said I would never be able to guess. When two large crates showed up in the carport last week, I was still stumped. I have to admit that I was pretty stunned to see a giant dolharubang when we hacked open the first crate! Six years and three countries later, we have our Jeju souvenirs.

The packing slip declared each crate to be 400 kg. With one stacked on the other, it looked like a good chance that we now had a pair of decorative crates for the carport. Even my handy Viking had to think this one through for a couple of days. Today, he was finally able to execute 'Plan D', in which he rented a chain hoist, pried a board out of the carport ceiling, manipulated a couple of straps around the statue, then lifted it like it was nothing. The bottom crate followed easily. A quick jaunt on the dolly, and they are now guarding our house and garden.

Thanks to our friend Ho in Korea for arranging the shipment, and happy Mother's Day to me.

23 June, 2014

We move to Denmark, and I start Language School

I still have a monkey eating my brain. I've asked her to stop, but she just laughs and throws a handful of squashed brains on the floor. Darn you, Monkey Baby.

I originally started this blog so family and friends could keep up with what I was doing when I moved to Korea. To date, my years in Korea have been my best blogging years. China's disapproval of free speech slowed me down, and I've never really recovered.  Whether or not to continue is always a question, but I'm going to give it a go. We've moved yet again, so I have decided to continue documenting my life as it goes 'here, there, and everywhere'.

We moved to Denmark, by the way. It's windy and cold. People are nice but reserved. I ride a bike and am still trying to figure out what life here is all about. Eight years in Asia did nothing to prepare me for life in Scandinavia.

In May, my application for social registration was finally approved. I am now under obligation to 'integrate'. I have a case worker who is in charge of my integration program, and I have to check in with her now and then to assess how things are going.

In order to retain permission to stay, I have to pass several language tests. They are not hard, but I've enrolled at the language school all the same. It's a good way to meet people, it gives me something to do, I'll acquire a skill, and it's free. Good deal all around.

The school has more than 500 students from more than 60 countries. Study is broken down into three different education levels, each with six modules. I have started in module one of the third and highest education level. As of now, I have four classmates who come from Syria, Ukraine, Hungary, and Ghana.

Last Thursday, all the education three modules went on a field trip to Himmelbjerget (Sky Mountain) and the Asger Jorn Museum in Silkeborg. At 482 feet, Himmelbjerget is one of the highest points in Denmark. We 'hiked' to the top and enjoyed the view in spite of a biting wind. The museum was interesting though slightly tedious as I maybe understood 5% of what the docent was saying. Thanks to one of my classmates for the photos. Some blockhead forgot to put the memory card back in my camera.

12 November, 2013

Borneo and Brain-eating Monkeys

It has been more than a year since I've written anything. I am pretty sure it is because Monkey Baby has eaten my brain. I had no idea that monkeys even liked brains, but the more I've checked around, the more it seems that brain is standard fare for the wily creatures.

Anyway, earlier today I found part of my brain in a corner of the dining room next to a dried broccoli floret. It appeared still to be usable, so I brushed it off and put it where Monkey Baby couldn't reach it. In order to protect its future usability, I have to use this remaining piece of brain sparingly. Hence, this will be short and make use of many pictures.

We went to Malaysian Borneo with Viking Man's parents in October 2011. The bit of rainforest that is left in Borneo is full of the most spectacular wildlife imaginable. From insects to elephants, Borneo has it all, including more than 1,000 species of ants. Ants! Large and lumbering, small and industrious, they were everywhere. We also saw proboscis and red leaf monkeys, a crocodile, regal birds of all kinds, deer, lizards, a marble cat, and a bunch of other things that I made note of somewhere.

My brain fragment is starting to overheat, so I will finish by making a list of recollections from this trip followed by a slideshow.

  • I had to deal with Air Asia which is like being stabbed in the eye with a hot poker. 
  • I really liked watching wildlife from a boat. 
  • The orangutan sanctuary was good, but seeing a man of the forest in the wild gave me goosebumps.
  • The drive to Borneo Rainforest Lodge was long and jarring and totally worth it. 
  • One of our guides saw an animal he had only previously seen in a zoo. 
  • Leech socks may have been overkill, but they kept out the leeches. 
  • Getting up early to hear the rainforest wake up was also worth it (it almost killed me to just admit that). 
  • Viking Man can totally pull off wearing a sarong.