Summer 2016

Summer 2016
Summer in Tsukahara

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gkimbal's Spring in Tsukahara album on Photobucket

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I'm back!

First day in Japan. Mt. Yufu in the background.
It’s great to be home! I missed my wife, dogs, and most important…the volcano. In my previous post, I wrote that I had a surprise to disclose. What’s the surprise, George? My mom flew back with me to Japan. She will be visiting for a month. Believe it or not, she just celebrated her 85th birthday. I was worried about her enduring the long flight from San Francisco. She ended up having more energy than me after we arrived in Fukuoka. She is an amazing woman. She has been here for about a week. Her older sister, niece and her son has been showing my mom the Yufuin/ Beppu area in style. You know…fancy hotels, hot springs, 11 course dinners. It has been a fantastic experience for her…so far. Thank you, Megumi and Nao, for taking great care of my mom. I think the most important part of the trip has been the time that she could spend with her sister. Sadly, they both believe that it will be their last.
Which one is my mom?

What did you do while you were in the U.S.? Not much. Before I left, my mom had not renewed her driver’s license. I was ready to help her prepare for a life without a car. I wanted to spend as much time as I could getting her used to using public transportation. As it turned out, she passed her driver’s test on the first try. She said that she couldn’t have done it without my help, but I disagree. She studied very hard on her own. Needless to say, she was ecstatic when she received her test score. I was grateful that I could be there to share that with her.

Jelly Belly Factory entrance


Jelly Belly bus
Jelly Belly mascot

Jelly Belly VW

Guess what it is? It's a Jelly Belly motorcycle

Made with 25,000 jelly beans
What else did you do?  Honestly, after being away from the hustle and bustle of the city, I was hesitant to get out and explore. I could not believe how much everything had grown. The cars and the roads seemed to be enormous after experiencing Japan for a few years. Traffic congestion was the norm. I didn’t know where everyone was going, but they were certainly in a hurry to get there. The speed limit is about 140kph on the freeway. It’s called a “freeway” because there are no toll booths except for the bridges. I’m used to driving at 60kph. I stayed in the slow lane for most of my driving excursions. There are six lanes of traffic in each direction. It didn’t take long to get used to driving on the right side of the road, but I often turned the windshield wiper on instead of the turn signals. Besides visiting the Factory Stores, which I hate to do, I visited the Jelly Belly Factory to pick up some gifts.

New homes near the park boundaries
I spent some time hiking in Rockville Hills Park. I have fond memories of the park. I used to walk my other dogs there. Even the park has grown. It used to be a place that was hidden away from the public’s eye. Now it is surrounded by million dollar homes and patrolled by park rangers making sure the park entrance fee is paid. Rockville Park is still a nice place to visit and it’s good to know that it’s being protected from future development. My mom and I ate at all of the local restaurants. I satisfied any cravings I had for pizza and fast food. I learned that things (fast food and pizza) don’t taste as well as I remembered them. I can live without that kind of junk food for the rest of my life. I sorely missed Erika’s home cooking.
Beautiful spring day at Rockville Hills Park

Here’s what I learned from my recent trip to the states: Living in California is convenient. The convenience comes with a high price tag. I’m convinced that the everyday stress of commuting back and forth to the bay area had taken many precious years from my life. It’s nice to be able to go to the mall and buy whatever you want. I learned that what I want and what I need are two entirely different things. Lightening the load has brought me a greater appreciation for the things I have rather than the things I want. It’s nice to live in a gated community full of stucco homes and manicured lawns. I’d rather live in Japan in a broken down log home on the side of a volcano. Peace and quiet are priceless. It’s nice to be in a familiar English environment. Perhaps, but not understanding what people are saying behind your back has its advantages. California does have great weather. Yep, there’s no denying that. Will I ever move back to the U.S.? What do you think?     George