travel

Choosing an adventure

My cousin Becky and her husband, Andrew, have a lovely Airstream named Rosie and wanderlust to match. They’re planning a cross-country adventure, which you can read about on their blog, Silverlinings.me. They’ve invited Tim and me to meet up with them along the way. Here are their planned stops: http://silverlinings.me/silver/?p=1072

We’re leaning toward the later part of the year, when they’re in the southwest. I’d love to see New Mexico–our friend Lisa loves it and she has good judgment, but the timing doesn’t work for us. We’re thinking Arizona’s a good place to connect. Any other suggestions?

Welcome to Arizona

Welcome to Arizona

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Packing Apathy

Normally, I am a very prepared traveler. About a week before I leave, I start making a list of what I want to pack and start doing laundry to ensure that everything is clean and available. I run errands to buy everything I need for my trip. Two days before departure, I pack everything except my makeup and things I’ll need the day I leave. I have a system, and it works.

Except for this trip.

I actually have two back to back work trips coming up, and I’m completely unprepared.

Which kind of sucks, as I leave tomorrow morning and the only thing I’ve packed are pajamas and a belt. Not helpful for a business trip. Also, my go-to black strappy cute retro-feel heels have broken. Grrrr.

I’m going to go mow the lawn. Maybe outfits will magically appear in my head while I labor. Wish me luck.

outfit

Style errors I made on our trip.

I haven’t travelled much before: Japan was my first overseas experience. And I definitely made some mistakes in packing for the trip–errors I will not make again.

1. I didn’t bring any heels.

I knew we’d be walking all over the place. And the Japanese are short. And my cousin we stayed with is (maybe?) 5′ tall…I wanted to be comfortable and avoid towering over people more than necessary. Good ideas, but it meant that a lot of the time, I was frustrated with my footwear and didn’t really feel like myself when we went out to dinner.

2. I wore things that were appropriate for the weather, but that I wouldn’t typically wear out.

In the summer, I wear a lot of vintage ’60s and ’70s wrap skirts for things like running to the store, gardening, etc. But they’re not really what I wear for going anywhere else. It was also too disgustingly hot for jeans, and I’m a huge fan of rolled-up jeans with cute shoes. So again, I didn’t really feel like myself.

3. I forgot to bring my sunglasses.

Squinting is never attractive.

4. I brought a modern, practical bag instead of the teeny vintage things I normally carry.

Yes, it was practical–great for traipsing around a foreign country during the day with maps, camera, bus passes, passport, bottled water, sunscreen, etc. Less great for popping down the street to the store or heading out for a quick bite to eat. Next time, I will bring a vintage purse for evening adventures.

5. I overpacked, but with things I didn’t really want to wear.

Lame.

outfit

Wouldn’t this have looked so much better with cute wedges?

Things I did right: remembered to bring–and apply–sunscreen so I didn’t get burned. Had multiple lipstick options, which helped me feel at least a little like myself. Brought several cute sundresses, which I love. Reminded myself that none of these people are ever going to see me again, so who cares what I look like, anyway? Stop being vain!

Kyoto_view

Roughly translated…

The literal translation of the Japanese word “gaijin” is “foreigner.”

Traditional Japanese women

Two women stroll through Kyoto in traditional dress.

During my trip to Japan, I learned that many Japanese use it the same way Americans use “gay” to mean “happy” or “bitch” to mean “female dog.” In the older section of Tokyo in particular, which Tim and I encountered one morning searching for a section of the Tokaido Road, gaijin implies “asshole Western tourist.”Old women gave me the evil eye and muttered at me. I found this both disconcerting and dismaying, as I like and respect the elderly. Tim and I were walking quietly along the side of the road. We weren’t doing anything rude or disrespectful. I may have been wearing something that exposed my shoulders, but that’s about as risqué as I got. Still, these women clearly found my presence offensive. In Kyoto, an older man glared and growled at me a we were leaving Starbuck’s. I didn’t cut him off, step in his way, or make any other sort of jerk move to illicit that sort of response. Many Japanese also refused to sit next to us on busses and trains–they’d rather stand in a ridiculously packed car than take a seat next to me or Tim. It was a very surreal experience, realizing that large numbers of people disliked me for factors beyond my control.

Enough on that–the rest of our Japanese experience was lovely and thought-provoking. Plenty of people were really nice to us, and I’m sure I’ll reflect on this trip for years to come.

The women wear an amazing variety of different styles. We saw everything: traditional kimonos, schoolgirl outfits, sundresses, formal workwear, sheer playsuits, mixed-up patterns, tons of layers, and something my cousin calls “the doily look” which is kind of super-prim Laura Ashley ultra lace buttoned up unnaturally high. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such diversity in fashion before–even in New York City.

The majority of the Japanese people we saw were very slim. I attributed this to two main factors: 1. They walk everywhere. 2. Tokyo’s heat and humidity in August makes the mere idea of food insane. We ate a lot of lighter fare…mostly yakitori. Who doesn’t love meat on a stick?

Seriously, it’s so hot that most people carry around handkerchiefs to wipe the sweat off periodically. And for drying their hands, because restrooms lack paper towels. Speaking of restrooms, I did encounter a Japanese pit toilet–it was the first restroom I visited in Japan, as soon as we got to the airport. People kept warning me that the Japanese toilets were essentially holes in the floor. The one I visted was actually more like a small-scale urinal, as though you took part of a men’s room wall, shrunk it and made it into the floor. It really wasn’t that bad.

We also saw tons of things with cats on them. Tim and I love cats, so that was cool. Surprisingly enough, we didn’t see any actual cats on our visit. Maybe they were all hiding.

While we visited quite a few temples and shrines, Kiyomizu-dera stood out as the most visually appealing to me. It’s set at the top of a hill over Kyoto–you’re standing in a complex of powerfully spiritual temple buildings, looking down on a sea of skyscrapers. The juxtaposition of old and new really resonated with me. I’ll start the series of random photos here with some pictures of Kiyomizu in an effort to make things somewhat less random. Enjoy.

Kyoto_view

The view from Kiyomizu.

Kiyomizu

Some of the buildings at Kiyomizu.

Nijo Castle

Part of Nijo Castle, also in Kyoto.

Paris Madonna

Tim and I walked by this cute little shop on an adventure one morning – I was disappointed they weren’t open!

Soul Food

Interesting variations on Soul Food.

cat/kitten

I have no idea what this sign means, but we saw the same image of the cat carrying a kitten all over the place.

Meiji

The doors to Meiji Shrine, another of my favorites.

Tokyo adventures

We’ve managed to see many different parts of the city so far, which is quite an accomplishment since Tokyo is HUGE. My cousin and her husband live just five minutes from the Shinagawa station, so we have easy access to trains and subways. Rippongi, Harajuku, Ginza, Akihabara…all have very different feels to them. So far, my favorite experience has been the Meiji Jingu shrine: very tranquil, despite its location in a bustling shopping district.

Funny things about Japan

People dress up more than in the U.S. They wear a lot of black and white. And ridiculous heels and lots of matching sets, where the top and skirt match. It’s odd to me. Also, taxi cabs are lined with doilies. For real… I will take photos. Kabuki is awesome. Long, but awesome. Crunky bars rock. More observations in a few days when I’ve had more processing time.

clothing swap dress

I’m home!

I got home last night and can’t even describe how glad I am to be back. While the conference went well and I got a lot of important work done, I missed Tim and the cats. And poking around online each morning with a liesurely cup of coffee. Thankfully, my boss granted us a marketing holiday today so I can recuperate and blog over my coffee this morning.

While I spent most of the day running around like a mad woman, evenings were a bit more relaxing. Tuesday night we had an awards gala and I got to wear my clothing swap dress.

clothing swap dress

People gave me wonderful compliments on this dress.

I apologize for the blurry photo – iPhone, low lighting, and exhaustion aren’t the best recipe for quality self-portraits. But you can see that it’s a pretty dress. I felt ultra-glamorous, and it must have showed because a number of people complimented me and told me I looked great. One person even told me I looked like I stepped out of the 1920s, which made my night.

The hotel was stunning. This place could have fit in during the early part of the 20th century when the rich and famous lived in hotels. Just beyond the lobby on the way to the elevators there was a large birdcage with a family of zebra finches in it…that struck me as an interesting and somewhat odd detail. The birds made cheerful little chirping noises. While birds normally render me slightly uncomfortable up close, these made me smile.

Wednesday evening my company rented out a section of Universal Studios for several hours. Everyone at the conference got to go on rides for free. I discovered that a number of my coworkers are roller coaster fanatics. I love roller coasters, but have passed the age where I can ride repeatedly without suffering nausea. I did go on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit twice (with a looong break between rides) and Revenge of The Mummy. I loved both.

While I was away, all kinds of goodies arrived in the mail:

  • the lovely little purse I bought on etsy
  • the banner Bernadette made for me
  • our passports, in plenty of time for our trip to Japan this summer.

Good stuff. Today I’ll unpack, do some sort of exercise (because really, it’s been way too long), tidy up the house, and catch up on Powder Keg photography and posting. Ahhh. So nice to be home.