Tuesday, October 20, 2009

11 and 2

Today we're celebrating 2 years of marriage and over a DECADE (11 years to be exact) of being together as a couple!  I wasn't quite sure when we started this whole Japanese adventure that we'd be spending two anniversaries here, but I couldn't be happier that we get to be sharing this whole saga together!

Who would have thought, back in 1998 when this photo was taken, that we would have so many adventures, travel-tales, and such a collection of amazing friends met along the way:

Getting ready for our walk down a beachy isle in Mexico...our engagement, 2007:

And, here we are in Sapporo, living, laughing, and loving after all these years:

I can only imagine, with all we've experienced together in our late teens and 20s, the things that lie ahead for us!  Thank you to everyone who has supported us, befriended us, and inspired us all along the way!  And happy anniversary, Jacob!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

World O' Kit Kats

Last spring, I posted about the crazy flavor-phenomenon of Kit Kats here in Japan (you can also see my subsequent flavor reviews here and here), and let me tell you folks, the flavors keep a rollin' on out! It's been awhile since I've given a Kit Kat flavor update, but luckily for you (and to the slight dismay of my husband), my collection (hoarding?) keeps on growing. Just a few of the recent flavors:

Sports Drink flavor...tasted vaguely like Pocari Sweat.

Modeled after a popular Apple and Carrot Juice Drink here in Japan, this flavor is pretty addictive!

Hokkaido Azuki (Sweet) Beans...light, sweet, and tastes like cake (you know, of the sweet bean variety)!

One of the first I've had in the new "Calorie-Control Series," Apple Cider Vinegar!  Imagine delicious apple pie flavor in your mouth...yummers!

Umesho (Japanese Plum Wine) is also in the Calorie Control Series...amazing!

A Special Edition from Tokyo (can only be found there):  Soy Sauce!!  I know what you're thinking, but these taste just like wedding cake and are perhaps one of my most favorite flavors!

A Hokkaido Special Edition flavor (can only be found here):  Roasted Sweet Corn!   Love it! 

A bit of a bizarre flavor, Chocolate and Rose!  It was kind of like eating perfume...

Imagine my disappointment when, after purchasing what I believed to be a new Kit Kat Drink from the vending machine, I actually got regular mini Kit Kats in a glass jar!  They were caramel custard flavor though, so not a total loss!

Can't wait to see what fall and winter have in store for us in the kooky world of Japanese Kit Kats!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

And All I Got Was This T-shirt...

It's that time of year again...

The inappropriately-named annual Sapporo Marathon (there's only a half, 10k, 5k, and 2k) was held last weekend on a clear, sunny, windy, cloudy, rainy (yes, all of those) Fall day!  Last year, like every year, our entire school's student-body had to run this thing for their PE credit (guys 10k and girls 5 or 10k).  This year, the Great Swine Flu Judgement (affecting all common-sense, fun, and the like) had different plans and the school cancelled the run for all students.

Luckily (unluckily?) Jacob and I were signed up separately and got to enjoy our first race EVER together!  I ran the 10k and he ran the half-marathon, and I think we both did pretty decently:

Excuse me if I'm just a little proud of my hubby!  A half-marathon for your first (post-high school) race is quite a feat:

Joining us this year was the new South African ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) at my school, John, and his lovely wife, Natalie.  They prefer the au-natural, organic-route of race-running...that is, absolutely no preparation or training beforehand!   Natural talent?  Craziness?  Who cares...they finished and it was awesome: 

The only thing that stands out more than a lanky, white gaijin (foreigner) in Japan is a running, lanky, white gaijin in Japan!  Works perfect for those "distract-then-pass" strategies!

Our number-one (only?) fan, Steph, could definitely NOT be missed in her sweet race-cheering get-up...quite possibly one of the best highlights from the day (aside from sprinting towards the finish-line to the sound of taiko drums, that is):

Finished, happy, race-shirts earned, and on our way to inhaling some American-sized burgers for our post-race therapy:

I'm hoping that this won't be the last race Jacob and I do together, but as the cold is starting to settle in here in Sapporo, this will definitely be the last race of the year.  Okay, okay...so it was the only race of the year...details.  Let the winter food-gathering and hibernation begin...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Silver Week Vacay in Beijing, China--Part II

Mornings during my week in Beijing usually began something like this:

A "backpackers" breakfast (included free with the hostel price) of toast, eggs, bacon, fruit and coffee, all enjoyed next to a fabulous screen-free window opened to the world, sights, and sounds of the hutongs coming to life in the morning.

Strolling through any of the numerous parks in Beijing, its possible to see how much of the rest of the city wakes up on an average day. Group exercise routines, ballroom dancing, tai chi practices, singing, visiting, writing water calligraphy...I can't think of a better way to get going in the am:

Besides magnificent people-watching opportunities, the parks in Beijing are just lovely places to stroll, lolly-gag, and eat Mooncakes:

Rumor has it that there's this supposedly famous wall that you're supposed to go and see while you're in China:

I didn't just see this fabled wall...I hiked the thing. Ten and a half kilometers (6.5 miles) and 30 watchtowers to be exact! The section that runs from Jinshanling to Simatai is NOT the restored and tour-bus-heavy section of Badaling, where there's vendors, hotels, and I believe even a Starbucks! This section is largely un-restored...in fact, even crumbling and overgrown in many areas. The views, especially on the day I was there, however were incredible! It's really a magical thing, hiking this Great Wall...

And, dipping your feet in the cool, refreshing Simatai River afterwards...magical!

(In other words, throw away your trash!)

During my time in the capital, everyone was in a decorating-frenzy in preparation for the 60th Anniversary of Mao's proclamation of the People's Republic of China (which, incidentally, was 60 years ago today). Seeing red? Well, that was a little bit of an understatement...

The Lama Temple, converted from a palace to a place of worship in the 18th century, is said to be Beijing's sweetest Buddhist temple. With all of the incense that's burned there, it's definitely one of the best smelling places in the city, that's for sure:

Don't be confused by the demanding use of all-caps...Buddha-homage is purely optional...

...and smells good too!

Chugging along my extra-heavy tripod (something I rarely do on overseas excursions), and keeping with my self-assigned photography week, I was able to get quite a few nice evening shots of our hutong. I think these, more than anything of my other photos, really give a sense of what it's like to meander through these alleyways once the sun drops down:

Mail, Chinese-style:

Coke and dumplings...my ever-reliable and ALWAYS-justifiable ultimate "Chinese" snack:

As a first trip to China, my Beijing-base was a nice little "teaser-sampler" to Chinese culture, food, people, and general city-life. Next time, I hope to enjoy some more countryside-courses with perhaps a little Hong Kong/Tibetan dessert thrown in!

From me on this side of the pond, Beijing comes highly recommended! I should have more of my Beijing photos up soon in our Flicker photo pool, but check out my photography blog for some of my selected favorites of the trip!