Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vacation Time After 1 Yr on the Road

My vacation continued after I returned from Tokyo.  I went to Wisconsin to visit the parents - well actually more so to see my cat, Bode.  My parents have been able to visit me on my assignments so it's not as though I hadn't seen them in a year - still love y'all though :)  Tax is substantially cheaper in WI/MN than Chicago so I wanted to run a few errands before jetting down to see my sister.
After a visit with the folks, I flew down to Texas to meet up with my friend Kyle, whom I have known since 2nd grade.  Of course, I had to go to Sonic while down south.  If you know Sonic you'll understand - he took me to the only one he and I know to be a sit inside and drive through but no drive up. That evening we went to a really nice wine shop where you could taste wine - I had red and he had port, yum!  Next was a sports bar which was really neat but by this time I could hardly keep my eyes open because I had been going on 3-4 hours of sleep a night for the past few days.  I was in bed by 10pm - glorious!
Oh it tasted so good!
Me and Kyle at the Wine Shop.
The next day I drove up to my sister's in Oklahoma.  I was greeted with a warm welcome from my niece and shy one from my nephew.  He was only 10 days old when I last saw him but it did not take him long to warm up to me!  It was a nice relaxing visit with Ryan, Tina and the kids.  Again, I ended up falling asleep at 8pm the night I arrived because I was so exhausted and I had a little bit of a cold.  They took me to a nice hole in the wall place on the reserve to have delicious Longhorn burgers.  I played Candyland and Pretty Pretty Princess for hours with my niece.  My sister was super excited when we went shopping together and she had no kids - we had fun in the dressing room together making fun of the clothes that didn't fit us properly.  I ended up getting the same sweater as her and we both picked up sunglasses - the same kind no less.  My sister was nice enough to set up an appointment to get my hair done with her hair dresser - it was definitely in need of a cut/color; now we shall see how long it will be until I am able to get it cut again :)
Pretty Pretty Princess - it's like I was in Japan again :-)
My sister, Tina, and I after my hair was done.

More pictures can be found at my Picasa page if you click HERE.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Katie Invades Tokyo

At the Base of the Tokyo Tower
Alright, well I didn't really invade Tokyo rather I leisurely toured by myself and with my friend/co-worker Suzuki, who is Japanese.  I have probably mentioned this before but I love this job because of all the connections world wide you make.  I was able to have a personal tour guide one day of Tokyo - thanks Suzuki!  He took me to the Tokyo Tower; the day was fairly clear but not clear enough to see Mt. Fuji from the tower which would have been cool.  I wanted to find the look-down window they advertised in the brochure and....
We thought this was the look down window....a little disappointed

But then we found the one advertised...happier

I am a HUGE sushi lover and the one thing I really wanted to do above anything else was eat Sushi while in Tokyo.  Suzuki was planning to take me to this place that was very popular but had great quality sushi.  It was definitely popular - a line out the door and curved around the side of the building.  Needless to say, I was excited to have sushi but was not willing to wait in that line...my time was precious and I wouldn't be able to tell a difference anyways.  We walked through the ever popular Shinjuku area and found a yummy Sushi place that you stood while eating.

Shinjuku Area - I made sure to cross diagonally in the crosswalk cause it's legal!
After lunch, he took me to a coffee shop that is the most unique shop I have been at.  Apparently they are gaining popularity where Japanese girls can go and practice English while having afternoon tea.  There were butlers - with penguin flaps on their jackets, rules where we could use our camera but don't capture the butlers.  We both agreed that this shop would be perfect to little girls because they treat you 'like' a princess....I felt more awkward at time - I don't need a butler to escort me to and from the bathroom....go about your business thanks.  The best part was when you rang a bell for the butler, they would stop what they were doing and say "Yes My Princess" loudly...I laughed so hard every time!  Although the tea they had there was fabulous and treats were delicious!

Yes, Yes I am wearing a Tiara
After being completely full from sushi, tea and treats, we walked for a few hours around Tokyo.  We visited the Meji Shrine, although I didn't go to far inside because it would take forever with the crowds of people, took me to a market place that also were full of people so I just looked...didn't have any space to take stuff back anyways.  The next day I walked for hours around the Imperial grounds and gardens.  I could tell that in the Spring time it would be beautiful however it was Winter and everything was brown.  
I liked the Old to New perspective!

My favorite spot in the gardens.
Luckily, Suzuki was able to meet up for dinner again as well as Junpei, another co-worker I had yet to meet who is Japanese.  We went to a traditional Japanese restaurant and I of course had traditional Japan beer with dinner.  I miss the food from Japan!  
Me, Suzuki, Junpei

Shinjuku at night
The short time I spent in Tokyo makes me want to go back and explore more of Japan, I loved it!  More pictures can be found HERE.

Christmas in China and Bringing in the New Year in Seoul, S. Korea

We were RELEASED = China job completed.  No one thought a release would happen in time for Christmas though.  Many people were able to make it back to see families.  Me, on the other hand, well I decided to take advantage of being on the other side of the world to see Seoul and Tokyo before heading back to the States.  I knew I would be able to see my family when I got back - love y'all; thanks for understanding :-) 

Christmas Day was spent in China.  Tom and I had a quite relaxing evening in the lounge at the hotel drinking wine, eating yummy h'ordeuvres and desserts while watching CSI: Las Vegas, and movies Death Race and Four Christmases on TV.

I had never been to S. Korea so I was super excited to see Seoul for New Years.  However, we ended up staying up until 4am each night causing a early afternoon wake up...not the best for seeing the sights but we were still able to enjoy some.  The weather there definitely prepared me for the cold blast I was expecting back home.  The 1988 summer Olympics were held in Seoul and I wanted to see the Olympic park.  Being freezing cold and windy to me who did not have winter clothes, we didn't end up walking around the park but warming up in the free museum - which was really neat and modern however we did find many mis-spellings in the English translations....even mis-spelled Beijing as Beijinf.
The Flame's Still Lite
In front of the Entrance to Olympic Park
In trying to find the Seoul Tower cable car entrance we came across this area that appeared to be an old traditional Korean village complete with an ice sculpture. It was really neat to look at and crawl around.... 
Our New Years was spent bar hopping all night in the area of Itaewon, the foreigners street.  It didn't really feel like I was in a foreign country because everywhere we went was not really Korean.  It was fun and I made sure to eat a late night burger at Uncle Kim's street food!!  Dominic and Luis, who have already been there for a few weeks on assignment, met up with Tom and me in Seoul for new years.
Luis, Dominic, Me, Tom
More pictures of my time in S. Korea can be found on my Picasa page,  HERE.