the august cocktail hour: return from japan to a parallel universe

Thursday, August 31:  Cheers and welcome to our August happy hour! Come right in to our screened-in porch, make yourself comfortable and I’ll mix you up a drink. I can offer you wine or beer.  I can also offer soda or seltzer water with lime if you prefer a non-alcoholic beverage.

Luckily the weather since I returned from Japan on August 8 hasn’t been bad.  The first week it was quite hot and humid, not much different from what I experienced in Japan.  But on Wednesday, the 23rd, the weather improved and dropped to temperatures of my liking, around 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23C). This is perfect weather; my mood lifts considerably when I can feel a hint of fall in the air. 🙂

I’m so happy to see you.  We can mingle or we can sit, whatever is to your liking.  How have you been since I’ve been gone?  What kind of music are you listening to?  Have you indulged in any daydreams? Have you changed jobs or gone into retirement?  Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners? Have you tried out any new restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home?  Have you had any special family gatherings?  Have you gone on a holiday or had a stay-cation?

Many of you haven’t followed my trip to Japan, so maybe you don’t know that I spent the last 4 months (1 semester) teaching at Aoyama Gakuin University – Sagamihara campus with Westgate Corporation.  I taught 2nd year university students majoring in Global Studies and Collaboration who were preparing for a study abroad in Thailand or Malaysia.  I worked 9-hour days five days a week, and every weekend I went out exploring.  I believe I had about two days of rest the whole time I was there!  If you like, you can check out my time in Japan here: catbird in japan.  I still haven’t finished writing about my time there, but more posts will follow, slowly, slowly….

Upon my return, I also found my son Adam has boomeranged back home from Hawaii and has settled into our basement.  One of our agreements since he returned home is that he will hold a job, which he has done so far.  He’s been working hard, so hard in fact that he ended up with some kind of flu over the last week.  He seems to be doing well overall, and I’m happy to have him stay temporarily as long as he’s working.  He has been saving money to take a trip to Australia to see his Australian girlfriend Maddy, who he met in Hawaii. He’ll be gone for nearly a month beginning September 20. On my second night back from Japan, he and I enjoyed a nice dinner together at the Whole Foods Seafood Bar.

the seafood bar at Whole Foods

Things have felt strange since I returned. I feel that I’ve returned to a parallel universe, and one not much to my liking.  The very weekend after my return, I watched on TV a despicable white supremacy march in Charlottesville, about two hours from where I live in northern Virginia; in shock, I then had to listen to our “president” fanning the flames of hatred and arguing that there is moral equivalency between neo-Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists and the “alt-left,” a made-up term lumping counter-protestors and Antifa, or anti-fascists, into one big boat. Granted, there should be no violence in protests, but the white supremacists marching openly with weapons in one of the most peaceful college towns in our state was a frightening display and one that almost begs violence from counter-protestors.  I am disheartened by what our country is coming to, and it is hard to be back after being in a culture where people greet each other with respect and bow to each other in nearly every interaction!

I didn’t watch any movies the whole time I was in Japan (I didn’t even know where any movie theaters were, except in downtown Tokyo).  In an effort to catch up, I have gone to several movies since I returned: The Big Sick and The Glass Castle, both of which I enjoyed. While I was in Japan, I watched three full seasons of The Good Wife, which I was totally hooked on.

The first weekend I was home, I took 4-hour naps each day as I tried to reverse my internal clock.  In Japan, nighttime was daytime here, and daytime was nighttime here, so no wonder my body is confused.  I haven’t gotten much of anything done. As a matter of fact, I feel somewhat paralyzed with indecision.  I never had a spare minute in Japan, and now I seem to have too much time on my hands.  I don’t know how to focus my attention with so much time.  I think it will take me a while to become acclimated to this parallel universe.

On Wednesday morning, August 16, I found out my daughter Sarah had taken a fall the evening before while running on a muddy path in the woods.  She cut her knee wide open. She didn’t have her phone with her and had to walk with an open gaping wound until she found someone.  Using a stranger’s phone, she called for an ambulance and was admitted to the emergency room where she had to have 25 stitches across her knee. She’s been immobilized ever since, as the cut was so deep it still hasn’t healed.  As a waitress/bartender, she’s losing valuable work time; I plan to visit her soon, but she’s been putting me off until she feels a little better. I’ve been constantly worried about her, as a mother’s work as chief worrier is never over.

Adam has been taking a course about podcasts and posted his first podcast on the same day I heard about Sarah, so there was a bit of good news as he’s wanted to do this for some time.

On August 19, after I started to feel more like a human being, Mike and I went out to see the movie Wind River, which I enjoyed, and had dinner at Coyote Grill, where I had my favorite chili rellenos.

me at Coyote Grill
chili rellenos at Coyote Grill

On Monday, August 21, I went at 2:00 to Kalypso’s at Lake Anne to watch the partial solar eclipse at 2:40 pm.  It was a festive atmosphere, with people enjoying the beautiful day outdoors, drinking wine, wearing the funny eclipse glasses.  I had seen a total eclipse in 1970 in southern Virginia, so I didn’t feel the need to travel a long distance to see the total eclipse, but Adam drove 10 hours to Tennessee, where he loved seeing a total eclipse for the first time in his life.

Mike and I are planning a holiday from September 22-October 7 to Budapest, Sopron, Vienna, Český Krumlov, and Prague.  We spent many days this month plotting out our trip and making all our reservations.  I can’t wait to go!  In preparation, I’ve been reading guidebooks on Hungary, Austria and Czech Republic.

To get in the mindset for Prague I just finished reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.  I loved it! Here’s my short review from Goodreads: I really enjoyed this book that takes place in Prague before and during the Russian occupation. Besides being a love story, it also ties in the political realities of living under an oppressive occupying regime. Tomas, a successful surgeon at the beginning of the occupation, meets and falls in love with Tereza, who is like a child brought to him by a series of odd circumstances. Despite his love for Tereza, Tomas cannot stop his incorrigible womanizing; neither does he want to stop. In a parallel story, Tomas’s mistress Sabina and her other lover, Franz, a professor with noble ideals, try to work out their own love affair, a mere shadow and weak immitation of her affair with Tomas.

I love how the author wanes philosophical at times without abandoning the story of these characters and their backgrounds, histories that they can never excise and that influence them every day of their lives.

Upon my return from Japan, I found out when I weighed myself for the first time in four months, that I lost 8 pounds while in Japan.  I guess it was a combination of the healthy diet there and all the walking I did. 🙂

My walks while home have been sporadic, and I’m rarely hitting 10,000 steps a day.  In Japan, I met my goal of 10,000 steps every day just by walking 30 minutes each way to work and being on my feet teaching.  On weekends, I often walked 10-20,000 steps.  Needless to say, the pounds have started creeping back on since I’m not exercising as much here.  It’s frustrating because I get bored walking around in circles in the same old places without any destination.  My heart just isn’t into walking, but I will have to get back to my regular exercise routine soon.  Below is a picture of part of a walk around Lake Anne in Reston on August 28.

walk around Lake Anne

Last Monday, after Adam had been working non-stop for days, he came down with a stomach flu and has been sleeping in the basement trying to recover.  He’s been working so hard trying to save money for his trip to Australia, that he’s overdone it and is now paying the price.

Alex came up from Richmond to visit and spent two days here. It was so nice to see him after my time in Japan.  He, his dog Freya, and I took a walk on the Fairfax Cross County Trail on Wednesday, August 30.  As we were walking, I felt a sting on my right wrist and looked down to see something small and black on my wrist. I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t tell what it was, but I don’t think it looked like a bee.  I thought it might be a spider.  Anyway, the second I felt the sting, I knocked the creature away with my left hand, and immediately felt a sting on my left middle finger.  Whatever it was, it got me in two places, on both hands, and they hurt like hell!   I watched as the sting areas reddened and spread into a hard and hot raised area up over my hand and around my wrist.  The next day, I went to see the doctor, who advised me to take Benadryl and gave me an antibiotic.

a walk with Alex on the Fairfax Cross County Trail
Fairfax Cross County Trail
Alex, master of calisthenics
mushrooms on the Fairfax Cross County Trail
mushrooms on the Fairfax Cross County Trail
mushrooms on the Fairfax Cross County Trail

It’s been a rough time coming back into this parallel universe, but overall I’m glad to be home with my family, even though we seem to all be falling apart due to nasty falls, stomach bugs, and spider bites.

Please let me know how you’re doing, and what exciting, or even quiet, things you’ve been up to.  I need to get back into a routine where I start following people again on their blogs more regularly; I hope to keep in touch more now that I have plenty of time on my hands. 🙂

27 thoughts on “the august cocktail hour: return from japan to a parallel universe

  1. I don’t know why I never followed you in Japan – but I’m happy to hear you enjoyed your stay there and that it went well. It must be amazingly different to return to what our country has become – hopefully the pendulum will swing again soon. My time has been quiet – Gep and Kat were here for their summer visits. Gep is now in Santa Barbara, CA teaching Spanish and working on getting a sports photography business going. Kat is back in Thailand. We’re talking about a possible trip to Paris in the spring, dependent on my discipline in restricting extraneous spending during the coming months. Paris has never been on my list, but I find I’m excited about the possibility of a trip there. I would probably be excited about the possibility of a trip anywhere, in reality.
    Give yourself time, you’ll adjust to this life too. Having a trip with Mike to look forward to will help, I’m sure.

    1. I hope you’re right that the pendulum will swing the other way; I certainly do think it’s gathering momentum.

      I’m sure you loved your visit with Gep and Kat. How great for you that Gep will now be in California. I see many visits in store for you. Wish him best of luck with his sports photography venture. Kat is so far away, but luckily you can travel together, and Paris will be fabulous! I’ve been there twice and could go back infinite times. Even if it’s not on your list, it won’t disappoint. And you’ll be there with Kat, so it will be wonderful no matter what. I hope you can pull it off. Do you think you would ever visit her in Thailand? I love Asia because it’s so different from anything we know here.

      I’m sure I will adjust soon; I’ll finally have time to get back to blogging and writing and taking pictures, as well as visiting with my children and exploring with Mike. I never had a minute for anything except being on the go in Japan. That being said, I do look forward to more travels in Europe during the fall, my favorite time of year. Keep us posted on your plans for Paris. 🙂

  2. Eek! Ups and downs for sure, Cathy! 😦 😦 It’s bound to take you a while to acclimatise and get back on track. Good that you’ve got the upcoming trip to plan for. 🙂 🙂 Sounds lke Adam is sorting himself out and it’s a shame about the bug.
    I’ve had a patchy summer, with pockets of excitement here and there. James is very happy with Lauren and we’ve been down to Leeds a time or two. Major financial worries for them, and that never helps, does it? Lisa and Leo had a wonderful time at the wedding in Slovakia and then meeting a bit more of our family in Krakow. If one’s ‘up’ the other’s sometimes ‘down’ when it comes to kids. 3 is more than I could handel worry-wise. 🙂 Take care, Cathy! Catch you later.

    1. I think I’m finally getting back to normal, except for that spider bite, which caused a lot of pain and now my muscles and joints are aching. Yes, at least Adam is sorting himself out, but he still could be more serious about figuring out a long-term path.

      I’m glad James has found a girlfriend who makes him happy; I’m sorry about his financial worries. We have the same thing here with Adam still living under our roof, and now, with Sarah missing so much work, I’m sure we’ll have to give her some money to help her out too. I’m glad Lisa and Leo are doing well; she looks so amazing in her costume picture you posted on Facebook.

      It’s funny, when I was in Japan, I could compartmentalize. Maybe that’s why I like going abroad; for some reason, I’m able to put my worries about my kids on the back burner. When I’m back home, the worries come back with a vengeance. I really hope for a day when they’re well on their way and my worries are over. I’m not sure when, or if, that day will come. 🙂

      1. I suppose when you’re away working you don’t have time to worry, Cathy. Have you started to think long term for yourself yet? A lady of leisure 🙂 🙂

  3. Glad you are back home, Cathy, even though things are crazy and nasty and despicable on so many levels. I, too, missed your Japan posts (along with most every blog I am following); just too many fires to tend to these days. Have fun planning your Eastern Europe trip and being away.

    1. I’m glad to be back too, Annette, despite the nastiness I keep reading and hearing about. I haven’t had to confront it head on, but I imagine it won’t be long before I do. I haven’t kept up with blogs at all, especially during the time I was in Japan. With 9 hour work days 5 days/week, plus going out to explore every weekend, I was exhausted and barely kept up with anyone. I hope to be better now that I’m home and have some time on my hands. 🙂

    1. Yes, I’m very excited about our upcoming adventure, although I don’t really feel prepared to get on a plane again so soon after just getting home. How many days till your caravan trip? What does that mean exactly, “caravan trip?” Is it camping with an RV?

      1. Oh, now that is interesting, Carol. It’s funny, I’m thinking about doing a trip to the Four Corners area, SW USA, in the spring of 2018 and I told Mike it would be great to do it with one of those cute trailers. I wish we owned one because they’re quite expensive to rent. Do you own one? That sounds like a fun way to travel.

      2. Yes, we do own one. It’s a great way to travel – less expensive and very independent. When we retire we’re planning to upgrade to one with solar power so we can free camp. Australia has many free camp sites.

      3. I keep telling Mike we need to invest in one of these. Once he retires, maybe he’ll consider it. 🙂 How nice about the free camp sites. 🙂 And the solar power upgrade sounds perfect.

  4. “Parallel universe” – you describe that very well. I can see how it must be hard to re-enter life at home. Sorry about the mixed family fortunes: hope everyone’s difficulties resolve themselves. Can’t do anything but agree about the political difficulties. I haven’t felt this unsafe since the 80s when the Cold War was at its height. Anyway, to turn to more cheerful things, you have your European adventure coming up. I love the planning / reservation stage too – such anticipation!

    1. Thanks, Anabel. I’m hoping to hear that the doctor pulls out the last of Sarah’s stitches today. She’s missed work now for three weeks, but she’s also in the midst of applying for a job as a food writer for Richmond Magazine. I guess the timing is good for her to be waylaid, as she’s had to write several articles in the job application process. Her last one’s due on Monday. Adam is well now too, but I’m having joint pain from that bite, so I have a follow up visit to the doctor tomorrow. As for the political stuff, I seem to wake up every day to a new thing to be disgusted about.

      As for our trip, I also love the planning and anticipation. It’s not long now. You know how i love to be on a journey. 🙂

  5. Good to see you back home Cathy, but I’m sorry to hear about all the ups and downs the family are going through. It is hard being a parent, no matter how old they are! Luckily we all seem to be on an even keel now. I’m hoping to do a few more walks with my son whilst he is down here. He is good company and it is nice to get out of the house. The OH is not so keen on walking any more even though I nag him about getting some exercise. You can’t force people though 😦 No plans here. I was going to go to Madrid in October, but decided to stay home and make the most of having time with the littlest grandsons whilst they are here. Still deciding whether or not to go to the wedding in New Zealand next February. I’d love to go, but the flight does put me off.

    1. Thanks, Jude. I’m glad you’re on an even keel now with family matters. It’s nice to take quiet and communicative walks with our children. If you canceled your trip to Madrid, you must have good reason for it, and it sounds like the grandsons are a great reason. Whose wedding is in New Zealand? I missed that somewhere along the way. It would be such a long flight. I’m figuring on doing a US road trip next spring. It will be nice not to have to fly anywhere. 🙂

      1. The wedding is my eldest son’s who lives in Australia (Perth). He’s the one coming over with the two boys (Lorenzo the one who was born prematurely, and his brother Luca whom we haven’t yet seen). Road trips in the US are great. We’ve done a few and there are so many wonderful places to go. Not flying is such a bonus, which is why I like holidays in the UK.

      2. Oh, I hope you will go for your son’s wedding. I know it’s a hassle to fly, but I hope you won’t have to miss it. It will be fun to see the grandson you haven’t yet met.

        I’m really ready for some US road trips. We have our flight to Budapest coming up soon, and I dread that flight, but at least it’s shorter than the one to Japan. 🙂

  6. It’s good to have you back, even though I am a little late in arriving at this cocktail hour! I’d like a seltzer and lime please. You probably feel as though you were never away by now! I enjoyed following along with your trip to Japan and am amazed at how many temples and shrines they have – there seems to be at least one around every corner. I’m sorry to hear about the trails and tribulations with knees, flu and bites and hope they are all cleared up now. My August was fairly busy with the trip to my mum’s house to do the final clear out, family visitors here and a special birthday celebration for my daughter with a trip to Paris. Now summer is over, which is sad.

    1. Thanks for coming, Elaine, even if you arrived late. A seltzer and lime it is. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed following parts of my trip to Japan; it is a fascinating country so it was all a great experience. As for our trials and tribulations, they do seem to be cleared up now, but my daughter’s knee will still take some time to heal. It will be nice when she is back to normal.

      I hope your visit to your mum’s house was productive. It sounds like you had a fantastic time on your birthday celebration with your daughter in Paris! How exciting! I for one am glad summer is over; it’s my least favorite season. I know I differ with most Brits in that way! 🙂

      1. I’m glad your trials and tribulations are mostly over. Yes, the day trip to Paris was exciting. It was a long day, but to spend it in such an iconic place was great fun. We might have wished for nicer weather if we were being picky, but the dull weather didn’t dampen our spirits.

  7. I did follow you in Japan, but have not been able to keep up with commenting. A belated (or overdue) welcome back! It surely must be a parallel universe for you. Things are so weird here in the U.S. that even I have moments of wishing I could flee and live elsewhere. Nova Scotia would be nice. It’s not as hot there, either. 😀

    1. How nice to know you did follow me in Japan, Robin. I had a busy time there, between work and being on the go every weekend. Thanks for the welcome back. Part of the reason I felt the need to escape was because of the election, but in the end, I had to come back. After all, my gig was only for one semester. I’ve returned to the same weirdness I left behind. You and I would both enjoy Nova Scotia with our affinity for cold weather. 🙂

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