The Best Part of My Trip.

This old calendar page hangs in my entryway. “Where Thou art, that is home.”

Dear Friends,

At the end of my trip, as I read a book that had nothing to do with Utah or Colorado or Japan, a wave of gratitude washed over me.

People all over this country (and counting Deanne, the world), took me in, fed me, bought me ice cream, gave me wifi passwords and comfortable beds. People dropped what they were doing in the middle of the day to meet me for lunch. People, after I’ve traveled all day, called and said “here’s what I want you to do–take the next exit and I’ll meet you halfway so you don’t have to drive all the way into town.” People gave me hugs and stayed up late talking.

And in some of those cases, the people who did these things hadn’t seen me in 4, 8, 10 years or more.

I am so humbled by the love and hospitality I felt while traveling. I’m even more humbled to think that if I had headed east instead of west, the story would have been identical–Chicago, Ohio, Massachusetts, North Carolina–I am keenly aware of the wonderful people I’ve met and grown to love in my lifetime.

And I cannot forget the dear friends in Omaha who were so happy to see me when I returned, and during the next few weeks, who will undoubtedly smile while suffering through my travel tales and bad photos.

This is a timely realization, two weeks before my birthday, a time when I tend to lament what I don’t have. This year it will be difficult for me to wallow in what I don’t have, when it’s so glaringly obvious that what I do have is so incredibly precious.

‘Til the next trip…



One Week Left.

I survived the 26-hour trip from Japan to Utah, but it’s 5:50 am local time and I’ve been awake for two hours. That’s jet lag, right? On the plus side, I did not nap yesterday, my first day back, and I’ve survived on 5 hours of sleep during the school year–and that means teaching 8 hours on that little sleep. All I have to do today is have meals with friends. Surely I can do that just fine!

Yesterday the travel stars aligned, and my sister Jennie and brother Brent and their families were also in Provo, so we all got together for dinner and spent some time on campus as BYU. 
These are the RB stairs, the stairs that I hated so much I made sure I never had classes in the buildings on that side of campus. Those three teeny blips at the top right of the stairs? All three of my nieces. Two of my nieces ran up those stairs 3 times, and the guy on the left was doing some sadistic workout on those stairs. All four of them are insane.
BYU has a small sports museum, so we went and looked at the exhibits. This here is an outline of Shawn Bradley’s body, and my niece Lauren is sizing up against her will.
She much preferred striking this pose, and I must have snapped the shutter a second too late, because she had quite the diva face going on.
That’s BYU’s only national championship trophy. Jennie said the last time they visited, this was not out. So we were lucky to see it!
What I loved most about the museum was its integration of sports–I’m not sure how it was organized, but I saw a cross country display next to Jim McMahon and Ty Detmer’s Heisman Trophies. I was also impressed with how much attention was paid to female athletes, a subject dear to my heart after some of the research I did in grad school. It was a nice way to kill some time wile waiting for my nephew to finish his basketball camp.
Exactly one week from today I’ll be driving home, and I’m ready for that. The past six weeks have been such a wonderful break from my life, have given me much to ponder and recalibrate some goals, and have reminded me how lucky I am to have the friends I do all over the country. 
And just like I’ve vacationed these past six weeks, I’m taking a week off from blogging as I prepare to return to “real life” and all of its demands.
So, I’ll see you, my dear tens of readers, in a week or so. Enjoy July!

Mt. Fuji. I Went To Mt. Fuji. Still Processing That…

For my last day in Japan, Deanne thought it would be a good idea to drive to Mt. Fuji. It’s about 60 km away from the base, which means on a clear day (which happened once during my visit) you can see it from the base.

But remember, dear readers, that 60 km means up to a 3 hour drive. 
We made it there in just under 2 hours (hit rush hour traffic coming home so it took a little longer).
The drive to Fuji was gorgeous. I never realized how mountainous Japan was. 
We passed several small towns on our way.
If you look to the center and a tidge right, you can see Mt. Fuji peeking through the clouds.
Fujikya is an amusement park with roller coasters that gave me vertigo by just looking. See that vertical drop? As in perpendicular to the ground? I’d have to be unconscious to be on something like that.
We stopped at a rest station about halfway up the mountain. My nephew did not want to take a selfie because he didn’t want his image on the internet. This from the kid who begged for a Facebook the minute he turned 13. He refused to smile, so I did too.
Instructions for how to use the toilet. I couldn’t resist.
It’s not climbing season yet, so we drove to the highest point we could–5th Station. Climbing season starts tomorrow, so the place was buzzing. Lots of picture-taking and souvenir-shopping and a little bit of gear-buying.
Here’s our feet on Mt. Fuji. Did you know it’s a volcano? So I’m standing on a volcano, which makes me pretty badass.
Chloe said, “put this on your blog and say ‘Julie and niece Chloe on Mountain Fuji. We are in the clouds.'” That’s a better caption than some of my students can write. And I’ve done zero filtering here, so all that while behind us? Clouds. We were literally IN THE CLOUDS.
A place to sleep and dine at Mt. Fuji. If you squint, you can also see they have wifi. On Mt.Fuji. I seriously marvel at what mankind can do sometimes. And then I flip by the E! network and that marveling goes away.

Proof I was there on this day, at that elevation. Ask Siri for the metric conversion to know how many feet high I was.
Another shot of Fuji on our way down the mountain. 
Deanne kept stopping on the way down because the clouds kept lifting, and here we have some blue skies even.
What a great way to spend my last day. We stopped at a 7-11 and grabbed some lunch, we stopped at a rest stop and grabbed Japanese snacks, and now it’s 8:45 and I’m going to try to stay up as late as possible because I need to sleep on the flight tomorrow if I have any hope of kicking the jet lag when I get back to Utah. Please feel free to share jet lag recovery tips, because it’s freaking me out. 

Order Restored!

I may never know why I lost access to my Google account on Friday afternoon (late Thursday night for you stateside people), but suffice it to say, I was panicked.

I was so worried that maybe my dad was right, and by blogging about my time here, someone in Omaha had broken into my apartment and stolen my computer to gain access to my account. (My parents checked. All is quiet on the western front.) Thought for sure I’d been hacked, and I’m not too proud to admit that I shed a few tears when I realized my blog was down and I hadn’t backed it up in much too long. 
Because if I couldn’t blog, I couldn’t share pictures like these…
All you can eat, make your own tempura! It’s not exactly all you can eat, because they kick you out after 90 minutes. But I very much was stuffed before we hit the time threshold.
You fry it at your table! Right in the middle of your table is a giant vat of burning hot oil! Deanne mentioned that there’s no way a place like this would exist in the US. Too many lawsuits.
How much tempura did we eat? Thiiiiiiiiiiis much. 
Isn’t your life so much better having seen these photos? 
I have no idea why my account was disabled. When I regained access and looked at the recent activity log (did you know you could do that?!?) all it noted was that my account was disabled, and then, after proving I owned the account, it was enabled again. 
I’m leaving off the 2-step authentication until I get back to the states…which is so soon my heart starts to hurt a little bit when I think about it. Wouldn’t yours if you were handed notes like these?

On A Wednesday.

My niece had been asking to eat at Route 16 since I arrived in Japan. I thought it had to be something amazing, so consistent were her requests to eat there.

It’s just a 50s themed burger joint on base. With a car in the wall. And the food was good, but after eating Japanese portions all month, I really felt sick when we left. There’s a lesson there, I just know it.
Later that night we went back to the Daiso and I took some really inappropriate pictures. On our way, we got stopped at the flight line. See, the base is designed around the flight line, so when driving across the base, we actually drive on the overrun. When planes land or take off, we have to wait. I’d love to take pictures of these planes, but base policy forbids it. Remember when I wrote about how close the base is to the city? Yeah. The base can’t do anything about locals taking photos. We got stopped at the flight line yesterday on our way to the Daiso, and since I couldn’t take a photo of the plane, I took a photo of a guy taking photos of the plane.
Then, to the Daiso:
It looks so friendly and clean, unlike most dollar stores in the U.S.
I’d like some motivation with my notebook, please!
His trousers are made of bamboo colander. I can’t imagine that’s comfy.
I coulda used this on more than one date…
Heheheheh check out the racks. I think this was the only really borderline inappropriate photo I actually took. I had ideas for several more.
Picked these up for my nephew. Just ’cause.
After the Daiso, we went to a grocery store. We needed various foodstuffs, including rice. We could not find the rice. Looked by the noodles, by the spices, by the canned goods, and then we passed this aisle:
Varying sorts of Japanese liquors, and wouldn’t you know…
In the same aisle as the booze, we found rice. Cue Rihanna: we found rice in a hopeless place…