Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Trip to Beijing

Well, I have been back in the United States for almost a month, and still am having trouble readjusting to the Pacific Time Zone....It seemed like I had less trouble adjusting to Japan time than I have had readjusting here.

Anyway, my youngest son David (18 years old) and I took a 38 day long trip to Japan with a side trip to Beijing this year. I am planning on writing a book about our trip once my head clears and I am able to wrap my mind about the things that really mattered on this trip...mainly David's and my experiences and the things that we got to see.

Beijing is almost a four hour plane trip from Tokyo, and we waited to board ANA airlines for our trip. Since I have Multiple Sclerosis and walk with a cane, and David has Down Syndrome, they told us that we would load first. They called for the disabled folks, so we went forward. They sheepishly apologized...that they had called us in error. We sat back down. They called us again. We went forward. They seemed embarrassed and apologized again. This time the Gate attendant said that she would come and get us...a while later, I see the Gate attendant looking at us and I just looked back, not wanting to make a nuisance of ourselves. She finally came over and escorted us up, checking our passports and visas. Then she had us enter the plane directly behind the pilot.

They took us to our assigned seats, but then had us change to the seats ahead of us that were directly behind the partition that seperates business class from our economy seating (which apparently is where the crew sits to nap during their breaks).

It was a nice uneventful trip on the Airbus A321-200, and took almost four hours to arrive at the Beijing International Airport. The airport is large and beautiful. It definately took me by surprise. ANA arranged for a wheelchair for me and an attendant to wheel me around. The attendant was a pleasant and plump young woman who seemed to have difficulty wheeling me around. I encouraged her to take a break frequently as I didn't want her collapsing or dying while tending to me...she seemed to be having that much trouble. Finally we collected our luggage and after immigration and such we reached the main terminal. On our way, there stood a nice Chinese man with a sign that read "Welcome to Beijing Ronal". It was funny that in my email correspodence in planning this trip, I apparently had failed to type the "d" on my name, so it said "Ronal" that is what he wrote. This fellow was our private guide Anson. I had gone ahead and okayed a private guide, because I knew that I would never be able to keep up with a tour group. Anson would be with us every day while we were in China.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hiroshima DVD Reviews and Available e-Book

Well, I have taken a bit of a break from this blog and spent a week on vacation recuperating from my regular job, so I had time to view a few videos as well as observing what is going on in Japan from the distance of the United States.
The situation in Japan is very sad and they can use all the help that the other countries of the world can give them. They have had earthquakes and tsunamis throughout their history (as can be observed in the early art from their past), but this has been the most devestating in recorded history. The earthquake was bad enough, but with the tsunami that it caused and consequently the failures of the nuclear power plants  and expulsion of radioactive material, they really need our assistance. Many countries are rendering this aid, but anyone that is safely in their home countries can donate money to many legitimate charities that will disburse the funds to the Japanese people for food, water or whatever will best serve the needs of the people.

In my leisure time I purchased two DVD's about Hiroshima and the history of the atom bomb that was dropped on them on August 6th, 1945 and the events leading up to that horrible experience.

The first documentary was "White Light, Black Rain" from HBO. The DVD was barely viewable. This wasn't due to the quality of the video or the fact that none of the  language of the Japanese people was translated. It was incredibly difficult to watch because of the graphic pictures and videos of the survivors of the attack. It was not for the weak of heart. Perhaps this should be required viewing for High School students so that they realize the horrible seriousness of war and why the world should diminsh the stockpiles of their nuclear arsenals.

The second documentary is undoubtedly the finest film on Hiroshima that I have seen. It is "Hiroshima" from the BBC series on the Second World War. It is a compilation of archived footage, dramatic recreations of real events and detailed interviews (with translations) with people who survived the attack. I cannot recomment this DVD highly enough. I have included a link to on this page if you are intereted in purchasing it. It is that good.

Also on this page I have placed a link for a Kindle book called "Japan: Once In a Lifetime". It is a compilation of my experiences visiting my son and his family in Japan.

One thing I have discovered writing this blog is that while late evening is a great time to write due to everything being isn't necessarily a great time to type or spell...being late in the evening you may be really creative but your typing and spelling is really creative too...So I am going to try to be a little more watchful.

Have a good day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Observations of an American Dropped Into Japan (Part 16)

I had finished my packing last night and this morning I was getting geared up for catching my flight back to the states.I had a light breakfast, and gave Megan a hug, told her goodbye and that I really appreciated her allowing me to spend time with them. She had been a fantastic hostess, a really fine woman. My son did good when he found and married her, and I know that she feels the same about him. Adam hauled my luggage downstairs to the car, which is a really good thing as he is only 31 and very fit, and I am 53 and I struggle with stairs due to coordination issues with my Multiple Sclerosis, let alone hauling heavy luggage down them. Three year old Abigail was a wonderful granddaughter and held my hand as we worked our way down the stairs.

We got into the Honda Fit, and while it had been an entire month, I still could not believe that my trip was drawing to a close. I was eager to see my wife and son David again, but I really hated to leave my family that was here in Japan. We made a few quick stops to pick up a thing or two and realized that we were still awfully early for the shuttle to Narita International Airport, yes we learned not to attempt to drive to the airport yet since our last escapade. We decided to kill time by having an early lunch at the Burger King on the Base.

When it was time we headed for the shuttlebus and said our goodbyes with warm hugs and waves as the bus pulled away. It was still a long drive to the Airport, but I got to see more of Tokyo including a skyscaper with the name Amway on it! We buzzed through all of the tollbooths fairly quickly and I was let off at the airport with hours and hours to spare.

I dragged my poor old body around the airport carrying several luggages with cane in hand and finally found my check-in location, but it was closed for about an hour more. Finally they opened up and checked my large bag and asked if I needed assistance getting to the gate. I said "Probably not. Where is it?" The young lady gestured and said that it was way far away. At the other end of the airport. I hesitatingly said that yes. I would probably need assistance to find my gate, let alone walk that far. I expected a shuttle to come around, but the young Japanese woman came back with a wheelchair, I felt odd getting into it and hoped that I didn't get lost wheeling to the gate, but the young woman started pushing me in the chair. The sweet young lady must have pushed me for over fifteen or twenty minutes to get me to the gate. Then she said that I should stay near the chair. So I got up and sat on a bench close enough that I could see the chair. An hour later, she found me while she was looking for the wheelchair and I pointed to it. She trotted over and got the chair and brought it to me, wanting me to get in the chair. When the plane started to load, she wheeled me to the door of the plane. I advised her that I could get on without the chair and started to grab my carry-on. She snatched it and followed along behind me stowing it in the overhead above my seat. "Domo arigato" I thanked her very much. I never expected all of this, but it sure helped.

The flight was crowded in contrast to the flight over, and not quite as smooth, but not too bad. The flight attendant that gave me the most personalized service was a young man from Toronto that spent the extra time to ask about my trip, where I was headed and so on. He was also the voice on the loudspeaker that made the announcements in English, French and Japanese. Whenever I had a question I made sure to search him out  as he made sure that I was taken care of without questions left unanswered. Arriving in Vancouver, Canada I made sure to thank this flight attendant for the fine service that I had received and wish him a good day.

My flight to the states on the propeller plane was late coming in, so I had lots of time to Facebook my status to my wife and David. When the plane was finally ready for loading, it was back to the tarmac and onto the plane. Inside the plane I recognized my flight attendant. "You were here on my last flight!" It was the pleasant blonde woman from the last time I was on this plane. "That must have been a while ago" she said. I advised her it was a month ago, She acknowledged that was about right, so obviously she had been off work for a while. It was a nice flight about 35 minutes long, and she would ask me about where I had travelled to.

Upon arrival in Seattle, one of the men attending to the luggage on the plane asked if I needed transportation to the luggage area as they had an extra wheelchair sitting there. "How far away is the luggage area?" "Get in I'll take you there!" So I was carted to get my luggage. Wow! I really couldn't believe this! I hadn't asked for any special treatment, but these folks were sure providing it. Baggage Pickup was a long ways and a subway ride through the terminal, so I was really appreciative of the ride. The man was a retired marine who had been stationed at Mount Fuji for part of his career, so he was really interesting to talk to. After we got my luggage he asked if someone was coming to get me. I advised him I was taking the shuttlebus. "That is clear at the other end of the airport! I will get you there!" And he carted me to the bus area.

Everyone had been absolutely wonderful on this trip. I sat and waited for the bus, my reciept in hand and wondered if I was supposed to check in with somebody. I walked in and got in line and was behind a Hispanic woman with what seemed like six small kids. I heard the attendant at the counter trying to explain things to her and I hear him say that the bus is out their now. I essentially dropped everything and high-tailed it for the bus. The driver asked folks if anyone was going to my stop. "Yes. Me." and he put my luggage inside the bus and I hurried in. Everyone loaded onto the bus and then we saw the lady with six kids and a shopping cart full of luggage approach the bus. She was pretty irate when she was told that he didn;t have room for them let alone all that stuff that they had in the cart. I was very happy that I had hurried and gotten on the bus as I was there way ahead of time waiting outside before anyone else had arrived,

I called for a cab before I arrived at my drop off point and was promptly taken home. The cab driver took my luggage to the door and as he left David charged out the front door gripping me in a bear hug like I had never experienced. The kid wouldn't let go. Then when he did, he would grab me again. You could say that he was glad that I was finally home. I was too.

I took David to Fujiyama for dinner that night as he had requested. It just seemed odd that just that day I had actually been in Japan, and now I was here at a Japanese restaurant in Washington State with my son.

It was good to be home.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Observations of an American Dropped Into Japan (Part 15)

It had been a glorious full month visiting with my son Adam, his wife Megan and my three year old granddaughter Abigail. It was hard to believe that this was my last full day with them in Japan. It was a month of fun and fellowship, of exploring new places and having new experiences. I had been able to keep in touch back in the states with my family and friends through phone calls, Facebook and Skype. During online chat with my friend from school, Ralph, he had encouraged me to try backwards driving (driving on the left side of the road as opposed to the right side), notice the differences in society when I finally arrived back home after a month in Japan, and to try Tempura. He was very definite on this. Tempura. If he had no other advice for me, it was Tempura, Tempura, Tempura. And he was right. Ralph's advice meant a lot to me, and is one reason that I am documenting my time in Japan. I wanted to be sure that I remembered the experience and that I would continue to be aware of the differences.

When you arrive in Japan, you know that it will be different, so while it can be difficult dealing with the writing and realizing that suddenly you are totally illiterate, after you have been there for a while it achieves a sense of normalcy, so Ralph's advice "observe the differences when you return to the states" really hit home. While suddenly you can read the signs again and understand the language fluently, you begin to realize that life in the states is more hectic, more abrasive, more loud and just plain "more". The people I observed the day of my return demonstrated a sense of entitlement, e.g., "We were here first and we had reservations for 7:00!" "Maam, those folks had reservations for 7:00 also." "But we were here first!" You would never observe a public outburst like that in Japan. In the states on the day I arrived back, a young woman stuck her head out the door of a business and shouted "Katie is loud when she has sex!" Again, you would never see an outrageous public display like that in Japan. The examples go on and on.

Anyway, this was my last full day in Japan and we ran around doing last minute errands, picking up things for my trip home that I had forgotten and planning for the evening. We had dinner at a wonderful buffet in Fussa. We weren't sure what the restaurant was called, but it was awfully good. Burners to cook the food on were in the center of the tables, so you went around and collected the food that looked good to you (all of it), and then cooked it yourself at your table. My right hand was still giving me problems due to the Multiple Sclerosis that was affecting my right side, so I decided that if I wanted to eat I was going to have to learn to use chopsticks with my left hand. Adam has used chopsticks for years since he has been in the Pacific for a good portion of his life, but apparently was only able to use them with his right hand. Amazing, but I actually did pretty good. See what you can do when you have to? When we had entered the buffet they asked how old I was. I'm sure that I looked old enough to drink and I don't drink anyway, so I am not sure why they asked me that.

Upon leaving we finally passed a Costco. I could have replaced my defective camera! However they were closing for the night, I was going home tomorrow, and I'm not sure if they would have accepted my American membership card for entry.

I asked Adam about trying to drive his car. He said sure, but he dropped Abigail off at home first. I'm not sure if that was supposed to tell me anything or not. We made our way back out to the car. Now I had been trying to enter the wrong side of the car for a month as a passenger, and now I had to get in on that side as the driver! I was really, really cautious because it was a new car to me, everything seemed wrong, and I hadn't driven at all for a month. I backed out of the parking space...a little weird...and pulled onto the road on the left side...not too bad. The stop signs are triangular and look like a yield sign...still not too bad. Left turn on red...a little unnerving because I expected  oncoming traffic coming from my immediate left...nope..."I" was the oncoming traffic. Right turn on a divided highway, really difficult since I had to be left of the divider and I wanted to be on the right. The other annoying thing was that everytime I signaled my intention the windshield wipers would come on! That's right! The turn signal indicator was on the wrong side of the steering wheel! I never did get the hang of that! I ended up just sitting on my left hand, but I still attempted to reach for the windshield wiper stick! Adam asked if I wanted to drive to the train station. No! It was late at night, but the streets were narrow and I was uncomfortable with everything being backwards, so we went back to the apartment and I packed for my return flight.

Observations of an American Dropped Into Japan (Part 14)

We were right on time for the ferry, which was really nice because after the long walk in the high heat and humidity I was about done. We leisurely  rode the ferry down the Sumida River until we arrived at our destination. As we got off the boat, there were several more cruising downriver, some of them pretty unique looking. One of them parked at the next dock. I referred to it as a "party boat" because it just seemed like a more "fun" boat. Less traditional. Then coming off of that boat but what did I see? Oh my goodness! More of the scantily clad "feather" girls from the parade earlier! Perhaps it was the "party boat".
Adam, Megan and I discussed the best way to get to the Tokyo Tower, to see the sites. It was going to be another bunch of city blocks, and the way I felt, I was pretty sure that it wouldn't be a positive experience walking. We started to evaluate taking a cab. Done deal as far as I was concerned. A cab it was. The driver was very accommodating. He realized that we were tourists, so as soon as the Tokyo Tower was in site, he stopped his cab in the center of the street and motioned for me to snap a picture of the Tower. He was an awesome Cab driver and very affordable. Well worth the trip.
The driver let us off beside the Tower, Adam paid for our admission and we proceeded to wait in a long line for entry. The Tokyo Tower was inspired by the Eiffel Tower and does resemble it somewhat, although I felt that it bore a slight resemblance to Seattle's Space Needle as well, minus the flying -saucer shaped top of course. The Tower was incredibly crowded inside, everyone trying to get a peek out the windows at urban Tokyo and beyond. There are two observation floors. One way up, and the other really way up. Wandering around, I finally got my only glimpse of Mt. Fuji, as the horizon had always been overcast the entire rest of the trip. It was nearing sunset, so Fuji was a beautiful site, and the skyscrapers in Tokyo were turning on their lights. I also noticed an odd section of Plexiglas on the floor, allowing you to stand on it and look down to the ground. Kind of a strange feeling.
Megan suggested taking a picture of Adam, Abigail and myself in front of one of the windows, which was a splendid idea. After she took the picture, a young Australian couple approached Megan and asked if we would like a picture of the four of us together, We happily accepted their offer, and the pictures of us at the Tokyo Tower are among my favorite. We discovered that this nice young couple were newlyweds and that this was their honeymoon! Adam took several pictures for them and we wished them a wonderful time.
The Tokyo Tower has many different activities to do on many of their levels. They had a wax museum, an aquarium, gift shops and such, but I was so exhausted at that point that I was more than ready to head back. Yes, a taxi to the train station would be wonderful, again, well worth the money.
Waiting for our train, Abigail and I sat on a bench watching the various trains come and go. Before one train left, a waving motion caught my eye. It was two attractive young ladies on the train looking directly at me and waving to me wildly. They were definitely looking me straight in the eyes, so I decided that I should wave back. I nudged Abigail and suggested that she wave too. I mentioned this whole event to Megan and she explained "They like old white guys here." Suddenly her hand flew to her mouth..."I didn't mean it like that..." I thought that it was funny and  probably pretty darned accurate. I told her that it was okay, I understood what she meant, then I got to thinking about our visit to the Ueno Zoo. There was a grandfather there with his grandson, and he looked directly at me and waved also. I guess they do like old white guys in Japan!
We rode the train back to Fussa, and yes, I was still ready for another taxi ride! I was thoroughly wiped out. It had been an extremely hot, long day on my feet.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Observations of an American Dropped Into Japan (Part 13)

This was now my last weekend in Japan, and Megan arranged for us to go on a "Haunted Tokyo Tour"! Very cool! It was the last Saturday in August, and just like most of the other days, it included bright sunshine and record setting heat and humidity. Fortunately the trains and the subway cars are air conditioned, so the trip into Tokyo was pretty comfortable. We exited the train near a McDonald's where we were to meet "Lily" our "spirit guide" for the Tour. Turns out Lily is an American art dealer who has lived in Tokyo for quite a few years with her husband, but with the economy worldwide in total disarray the art business wasn't faring so well, so she decided to also pursue her personal interest in ghosts and Japanese history. Lily is a pleasant, personable host, but I couldn't help but wonder how she was getting by in the unbearble heat dressed in what appeared to be uncomfortably warm clothing. Either she had gotten acclimated to the heat or I am just an incredible wimp from the Pacific Northwest where temperatures are moderate almost year-round.

We waited outside the McDonalds for another of the registered guests to show up, and picked up a passerby along the way. Lily explained that the Japanese residents wouldn't take her tour for the most part because ghosts are very real to them, and they are concerned about evil spirits. Japan had just completed  Obon, the Festival of the Dead, where the spirits of the anscestors go back to their homes to visit their relatives. Obon demonstrates respect for parents and other anscestors. Many of the Japanese hold family reunions and celebrations during this time, with most outdoor activities taking place in the evening when the spirits are the most active.

Our tour began. It was a walking tour that encompassed a large part of "old Tokyo" and would take two to three hours to cover. We began walking, looking at many old apparently abandoned buildings, often squeezed between tall contemporary ones. We learned about high numbers of suicides from the distant past, associated plots and murders coupled with Japanese history and legends. It was fascinating. At one point we entered a gated yard where several small children were playing in a wading pool. I looked around, uncertain if our group should really be traipsing through this private yard and then entering another gate into a garden area. It soon became apparent that this was no garden area, but a type of cemetery. Lily stopped us in front of an old cement marker that was hollowed out for the burning of incense. She explained that this was the final resting place of the famous artist  Katsushika Hokusai. She opened the notebook that she was carrying and displayed some of his artwork. As we were leaving the small cemetary, the children were now accompanied by their mother. After some cordial greetings and smiles we were on our way. Obviously they were used to strangers coming into their yard to visit the grave of Hokusai,

A while later after a great deal of walking and seeing many more interesting buidings, gates and shrines we came to several houses that had two interesting statues out front in the garden. They appeared to be primates...naked primates...with human secondary sexual characteristics...very prominant characteristics I might add. After several in our group commented on this, Lily explained that they were statues of Kappa's. A Kappa being a mythological water creature  that would abduct small children, and do unmentionable things to any adult that it would encounter in the water. The one building appeared to be a museum dedicated to Kappa's, as it had artwork and exhibits related to them. One exhibit was purportedly a mummified hand of a Kappa. Undoubtedly this part of the city was enamored with Kappa lore as they would appear as artwork on the sidewalks, statues on the street, and banners on the light poles.

The city was modern and clean, but then we travelled a few more blocks and the whole atmosphere was changed. It was as if we had gone back to an earlier time in Tokyo's history. It turns out that we had entered a district called Asakusa. It was very crowded making it difficult to get around. There were Rickshaws available for rent, but they were rented for fifteen minutes at a time and were relatively expensive. The sad thing is that people would pay for their ride and only travel a short distance because their fifteen minutes were up due to the crowded streets. We turned off and entered a shrine with a few people in traditional Japanese clothing paying their respects. It was there that we saw "The God Tree". The people of the city say that the tree protected the shrine from the Allied fire bombings during World War II, while the rest of Tokyo burned.

After leaving the shrine, we went back out into the crowd. We went for a few more blocks. Most of the people in the crowd were dressed in contemporary clothing, but occasionally you would see a woman tradionally dressed in a beautiful Kimono, but then entering into the crowd were some Japanese men dressed in...chicken suits! That really got my attention! What in the world were these guys walking around in hundred degree temperatures in chicken suits? Oh. That's not all. Behind them they were being followed by lovely women wearing feathers! They looked like Vegas Show Girls! "What in the world is going on?" I asked Lily. Lily had been taken by surprise too, but then it dawned on her "It's the Samba Carnaval". A Brazilian festival in Japan? It was very strange, but still hadn't quite dawned on me exactly what she was talking about. It turns out that this district has a large Brazilian population. We followed along for a while and then turned off towards some old amusemnt park rides. When I say "old", I mean OLD. The amusement park Hanayashiki was opened in 1853, and is reportedly the oldest amusement park in all of Japan. Lily told us that Asakuksa was quite the trendy place to be in the late 1800's to early 1900's with places to go see Vaudevillian acts, listen to Jazz, watch female swordfights, or observe Bubble Bath Wrestling. Yessiree, sounds like the Sin City of it's time. Asakuska was also the city that introduced the Geisha to Japan, and still has about forty active Geisha's in the city. The firebombing in WWII all be entireley decimated the city, but while it has been rebuilt, the center for the pleasure seeker seems to have moved to Shinjuku.

We made our way past a large shrine and a five layered Pagoda that was built to honor comedians, and then the crowds got even worse. It was a standstill. Then, the oddest thing. Music. Not just any music, but there was a live Mariachi Band standing on a trailer in the middle of the street, and the barely dressed young women were dancing in the street. It was a parade! How fun! Totally random (as far as I knew) and everything came to a stop for various dancers while the band kept playing. At this point we lost one of our tour group as our tour had come to a sudden and unexpected stop, and she apparently didn't feel like waiting for the Samba Carnaval. After about thirty minutes of this the Japanese Police appeared. They weren't there to stop the festivities, just pause the parade for a few minutes so that people could walk across the street. I discovered after I got home that it was crowded because the Samba Carnaval attracted over 500,000 people! The Police parted the waters of people momentarily and we made our way across the street to a small vacant park that had a pond and a fenced off monument explaining something in Japanese. I sat beside the pond as Lily described the grisley mass murders that happened at this exact location many, many years before. She told us that it is really creepy there. "I like it!" I said. "You like it?" Lily asked, eyebrows raised. "I find it very peaceful." I did.

 It was a beautiful pond, and I found it very peaceful. It was probably my favorite spot in Asakusa. At this juncture the tour was officially over and we walked Lily towards her apartment as we were headed towards the ferry terminal for a ride down the Sumida River. When we were near the ferry, we noticed a building with a really odd structure on top of it. Apparently it was originally going to be a golden flame, but it was too high for the building code, so they had to lay it on it's side. It is now referred to as the "Golden Turd" because of the odd resemblance.

We were now at the ferry for a ride down the river and another long walk to see the Tokyo Tower.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Observations of an American Dropped Into Japan (Part 12)

The weekend was fast approaching, and with it the Friendship Festival. Every year Yokota Air Base opens their gates to the residents of Fussa, Japan to visit the Flightline, see the planes, listen to music, eat food and visit with the Americans. It is very similar to the County Fair in America except that it includes bombers and fighter jets. It was another incredibly hot and humid day, but bright and sunny. We parked a ways away from the festival area and then strolled down the street until we reached the hangar that was the entrance to the festivities. Upon entering the small backdoor of the hangar we were greeted by an American band playing top forty music. It was really crowded and really loud, but everyone was friendly and having a good time. We slowly made our way through the hangar and exited the large opening which brought us to the food and vendor area. Lots of booths offering various types of food and souvenir trinkets. The Sons of Hawaii had a booth selling shirts including ones autographed by Akebono, the first non-Japanese person in Sumo Wrestling to be elevated to yokozuna (Grand Champion). Akebono is from Hawaii and at the time would spend a lot of time at the Base Pool. Further down the flightline there were some really awsome tricked out muscle cars from the car club on base, and beyond that a Japanese Rock Band. They were really pretty good. Let's 40 at one end of the festival and Japanese Rock at the other end. The lead singer was pretty entertaining as he would say something between songs and the crowd (that was predominately Japanese) would burst into laughter.

Then there were the planes. American and Japanese, new and old. FA-18's and even two F-22's. The Japanese visitors would crowd near the planes so that they could get their pictures taken by family with the planes in the background. I did too. Adam was very thorough at making sure that he took lots of pictures of me in front of the planes and helicopters. Interesting observation about the Japanese: they love to raise their hands with two fingers extended in the traditional "peace" sign when they would get their pictures taken. The Airforce Pilots would stand next to their planes and helicopters and proudly show off their "rides". They also weren't shy about waving the young Japanese women closer to the planes so that they could pose with them for pictures, hands extended in a "peace" sign in just about every one, the male pilots grinning as they got to pose with the attractive Japanese women.

The Yokota Fire Department also had their Aid Truck out for display as well, putting small children on top for pictures and spraying water over the crowd at random times. It felt good due to the extreme heat, but I was busy trying to protect my camera which became difficult to do as there was no warning for when they were going to spray the crowd and suddenly there would be a breeze that would waft the mists of water right into me.

I inquired about the Japanese that were there and Adam told me that they loved to look at the planes and that during a normal day you could find Japanese Photographers peeking over the fence as the planes would come and go to get pictures. A while later we were approached by an older Japanese fellow with a camera and a smile who indicated that he asking if it would be okay if he could take a picture of Abigail enjoying the Friendship Festival.

All in all a very pleasant time. The only disconcerting experience was when I had a Funnel Cake for the first time. The Funnel Cake was wonderful, but as I attempted to move it towards my mouth I discovered that I couldn't do it. I tried several times without success. I didn't have use or control of my right hand. I couldn't even move my wrist. Okay. Obviously I needed to come up with an immediate solution, otherwise I would be carrying this cake around with me the rest of the evening. Okay. Shift to the left hand. Not ideal, but it would work for now. I realized that it was my Multiple Sclerosis, and that I was experiencing a relapse. I hadn't experienced a real relapse in about ten years, but extreme temperatures don't make for a happy MS experience. That is one of the reasons that I got rid of our Spa at home. Hot Tubs are bad for me. After finishing the Funnel Cake, we decided to head back to the Apartment. On the way back to the car, we saw a fireworks display in the distance and then continued our walk. It was then that I found that I had also lost some mobility in my right foot. Trying to walk, I at times felt like Lon Cheney Jr as the Mummy...walk with the left foot. The right foot would drag behind. It was very exhausting and a bit stressful, but we finally made it to the car.

Back at the apartment I dragged myself up the outer stairwell to reach Adam and Megan's door. I was really relieved to be back and able to relax. I sat down to chat with some friends back in the states on Facebook and discovered that I was unable to type with my right hand either. I hoped that when I returned to Washington State that the cooler temperatures would help bring my body some relief from the exacerbations that the MS had thrown my way. Time would tell.