Sunday, August 28, 2011

Week 35

A bit of a rough week adjusting back to work this week but a challenge of my own choosing.

I decided to do a couple of days of overtime instead of taking my usual days off this week. It helps out the company and will provide a bit of extra cash next month for a planned trip up to Tokyo.

After said overtime, my normal work week start turned into the mid-point of ten straight days of work. Fortunately today is the last day of that long stretch and I'll get some much deserved R&R tomorrow and Wednesday.

This week's date night with my girlfriend was spoiled a bit by a torrential rainstorm that canceled the candle light-up event at Osaka castle we planned on going to. Instead we searched out a restaurant that we'd seen on TV a few months prior that served hamburgs (hamburgers without the buns) made from Kobe Beef. It was surprisingly reasonable and incredibly delicious.

A bunch of people are going to a local amusement park on Wednesday which should be fun and give me a chance to relax and recover beforehand on Tuesday. Then it's back to the grind on Thursday. Thank goodness the next vacation period is less than a month away.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Week 34

This week whizzed by but also seemed exceedingly long. I was sad to have to leave one home but it feels good to be back to the other home.

After finishing last week's update mom and I headed down to Eastern Market in search of a giant Toblarone for my girlfriend. Unfortunately it seems that Eastern Market is closed on Mondays. Fortunately, however, (after a few stops at some thrift shops downtown) the elusive candy bar was found in a neighborhood grocery store near mom's house. Lunch that day was Taco Bell, dinner, Buddy's Pizza, thus crossing the last two restaurants I wanted to visit while home off my list. In the evening I met up with some old friends one more time.

Tuesday had an early start to a very long "day". After checking in at the airport I had breakfast with mom and dad before saying fare-well and heading through security. Two hours wait by the gate, an hour flight, two hours by the gate, a twelve hour flight, two hours by the gate, an hour flight is how the rest of my "day" went. I decided to upgrade the long section of the trip to "economy plus" for an extra 5" of leg room (which was nice) and as a bomus, seemed to get upgraded to business class for the last flight into Osaka. The middle section was bumpy the whole way (the captain hardly ever turned off the fasten-seatbelt sign) and we had to fly around a thunderstorm on the way to Osaka (though that was cool to watch.) Safely in Osaka my girlfriend met me at the baggage claim. It gets a little fuzzy after that. I think dinner was involved. I do know that I crashed had when I got back to my apartment and slept late into the next day.

Thursday my girlfriend took the day off work so we went together to Costco in Amagasaki (between Kobe and Osaka) and I signed up for a member ship. There were an amazing numer of people in the store for a weekday buy we managed to wander around for most of the afternoon. In the evening we went out for sushi at the local sushi-go-round place.

Friday I had one last day off before going back to work and took the opportunity to clean my apartment, do laundry, and get my hair cut. In the evening a bunch of my friends came over and we played some of the board games I had brought back from the States.

Saturday was my first day back at work and wasn't too bad. After managing to stay awake all through the work day I had some long awaited curry for dinner. After dinner I caught up on a bunch of the stuff I "Tivo-ed" while I was gone.

Sunday, as with Friday and Saturday, I was up at the crack of dawn and ended up with a few hour to kill before my early shift at work (so watched more TV.) In the evening I had some friends over again and we played some more of the games we hadn't gotten to play earlier in the week.

Again, while it's sad to leave home, it's nice to be home.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Week 33

It's hard to believe that another week has sped by. I guess time flies when you're having fun and I have really enjoyed my vacation here in Detroit. That being said I've also been a bit homesick for Osaka, in particular, missing my girlfriend (though thank goodness for Skype.) Anyways, with today as my last full day before I go back, I'll probably be too busy to think about all that.

After finishing my update last week I cleaned up and walked downtown to watch the new "Planet of the Apes" movie (not bad for five bucks) after which I stopped off and saw my old boss at the city parking garage. I met up with one old friend in the late afternoon who dropped me off at home just in time to meet two more friends from a long time ago. It was nice to see everyone after all these years and to know that everyone's doing alright for themselves.

Tuesday, I managed to sleep in a bit. When I did finally rise I joined my mother for a long day of outings. Our retail adventures took us from thrift shops to Best Buy to Toys 'R' Us and finally to a little local hobby store with a great board game selection. Mid-afternoon we both had dental appointments. At mine I found out that I needed a bit of additional dental work done (which mucked up my plans later in the week, but more on that later.) After dinner at one of my favorite burrito places I napped and watched TV for the rest of the evening.

Probably due to the previous day's napping I was wide awake before seven on Wednesday. I had scheduled a Skype session with my girlfriend at eight and surfed the internet until it was time. We had a nice hour long conversation which eased some of my homesickness. After that, donuts were the breakfast of the day, followed by some light shopping and a trip to AAA to renew my international driver's license. In the afternoon my father drove out and we went to get the last of the 'big ticket' items on my shopping list (shoes!) This was followed by dinner at a great pizza place on the East side.

Thursday was yet another early one, but this time it was good, as I wanted to get across the state early in the day. I borrowed mom's car, picked up a friend in Ann Arbor, and headed off to my old college town of Kalamazoo. Our first stop was the local comic book shop where we saw the first of a series of people who I hadn't seen since I left four years earlier. After lunch at at mediocre Japanese restaurant we went and picked up another friend from his apartment, stopped by 'The Discount Den' party store to say "hi" to my old boss, and headed back to the comic shop. We played games at the comic shop until yet another friend got off work and we all adjourned to his apartment. There we played more games and ate pizza long into the night. That friend was also kind enough to let me and my friend from Ann Arbor crash at his place for the night. Again, it was to see how people were doing, all these years later.

Friday morning we had to hustle back across the state early in the morning so I could make the noon dental appointment I had made earlier in the week (the original plan calling for two days in Kalamazoo.) Fortunately traffic was good and I arrived with time to spare. Getting fillings is always fun and this time I needed one on each side of my mouth so most of my face was numb for the rest of the day. In the late afternoon (actually most of the antithetic had worn off by this point) I went to see a matinee of "30 minutes or less". It feels good to have seen three movies in the past two weeks while paying less than the cost of a single movie back in Japan.

Saturday morning I went to the Detroit Zoo with my mother. Detroit has a really nice, large zoo that puts the Osaka (Tennoji) Zoo to shame. In the evening I had dinner with the dads again (a delicious turkey breast with all of my favorite sides) before watching a summer storm roll in and wash off the heat of the day.

Yesterday's big adventure was going out to the mall for just a bit more shopping. Most of the rest of the day was spent absorbing as much American culture as I could, parked in front of the TV. Even more culture was absorbed (as well as copious ammounts of grease) at the local White Castle at dinner.

Finally, with today being my last full day before returning to Japan, I should probably start thinking about packing... oh, and maybe buying a few souvenirs too.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Week 32

This post brought to you live from the land of the free and the home of the brave, the good ole' USA. This week not only being summer vacation but being back in America there was a lot of excitement.

But not to get ahead of myself, there was some drama last Monday, the day before I left for the States. My apartment has a tiny bike-parking area which I (and other tenants) pay $15.00 a month to use. To this point there haven't been any problems. However, after lunch last Monday I parked my bike, went upstairs and prepared for work, and when I came out again someone had moved by bike to the park across the street. "Odd," I thought, moved it back, and went to work. When I got home from work my bike was gone again, this time it wasn't in the park either. I looked around for a bit before giving up and going to bed. I had a plane to catch the next day after all. I got up early Tuesday morning and went around the neighborhood two more times before deciding that I should probably file a police report. On my way into my building to get my bike registration I saw the cleaning guy and asked if he had seen my bike. Surprisingly he led me to the fire-escape where my bike was hiding. I'm not really sure who's got a problem with my bike being where it's been for the last two years but I stashed my bike in my apartment while I'm out of the country... I'll deal with that drama when I get back.

My travel back to Michigan was fairly uneventful. I did arrive at Osaka's Itami (city) airport 20 minutes before the international check-in gate opened and had to wait around a bit. Also, when transferring at Narita I got through security just as the last boarding call was made for my flight to Chicago, resulting in a mad dash across the airport. In Chicago, however, customs and immigration was a breeze and I had time to stop and get some fries and a shake from the airport McD's before my plane boarded. In Detroit I met my parents by the luggage carousel and we hopped in the car and headed to my favorite Mexican restaurant for what may have been the most delicious burrito ever.

Being dog tired from the 36 hour day Tuesday, I managed to sleep in until nine in the morning on Wednesday. After getting (real!) bagels for breakfast I came home and napped for a bit. This was followed by a trip to Sears to restock my wardrobe which in turn was followed by another nap. In the evening my mother and I headed down to Comerica Park to watch the Tigers play the Rangers. In addition to having great sears down close to the infield the Tigers even managed to win.

Thursday I was wide awake at six. I killed some time watching cable before getting dressed and heading to Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast. After donuts I headed over to Costco to pick up some much needed bulk provisions (my American deodorant ran out a month ago and I was on my last razor blade.) In the afternoon I went to A&W for 25cent coney dogs (on sale because one of the Tigers' players got a home run the night before.) Back at the house I fulled the ole' bike's tires with air and rode over to the local theater to watch "Captain America". I was blown away by the cheap matinee price, paying only a quarter of what I usually pay in Osaka. I cycled home just in time to meet my dads for dinner.

Friday I intentionally got up at six so I could join my mom in driving out to Ann Arbor. After dropping mom off at a conference I took the car and headed into town. I was there pretty early so took some time to take some photos before spending a fruitless hour searching for a payphone to call the friend I was supposed to meet. In the end I found a Starbucks and used their wifi to Facebook message my friend and let him know where I was. After meeting up we checked out a bunch of the cool shops in downtown Ann Arbor before stopping for lunch and a nice pizza place. We had to part ways in the afternoon as I went to pick up my mother. Most of the rest of the day was spent napping and watching TV at home, with a short break to have dinner (Mmm, baked salmon.)

Saturday I was unintentionally up really early again (this time at five!) After playing with my Lego collection for a few hours, waiting for my mother to get up, we drove over the boarder to Canada. I took a bunch of pictures along the waterfront (Detroit looks really good from Canada) before we went to the Caesar's Palace Windsor for lunch. Tired from the morning's activities (and blowing $20 at the casino) we returned home and I took yet another nap. In the evening my father came and got my and took me down to his house for the weekend. Saturday night's dinner was my father's awesome spaghetti sauce with salad, fresh baked bread, and garden-fresh green beans. To top things off we drove out to my favorite ice-cream parlor for dessert.

Sunday morning I managed, once again, to sleep in a bit. This was followed by a lazy morning reading the New York Times and eating blueberry pancakes. Mid-afternoon my father took me out to the suit store in town and I ordered 3 new pairs of dress pants (to replace the three that I've totally worn out since I was last home.) In the evening my Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin came over for ribs and we had a nice time visiting with them. Late in the evening the dads drove me back out to mom's house where I watched some TV before going to bed.

For whatever reason I was wide awake at four this morning and could not get back to sleep. I once again dove into my Legos for a while before checking my e-mail, Skyping my girlfriend, and writing this post.

I'm scheduled to meet a few friends that I haven't seen since high-school today, so that should be fun. Also, later in the week I might take a road trip over to my old university to meet some other friends. It seems like this week might just be as exciting as last.