After enjoying the historical and beautiful city of Kyoto, Japan, Angela and I were all set to travel into the mountains. We were traveling to the mountains west of Tokyo, often referred to as the ‘Japanese Alps‘. Up to this point, I had navigated our train travels throughout Japan with great success using an extremely convenient app called Hyperdia (a must-have for Japanese rail travelers). I became a little complacent with my skills, assuming that I was just awesome at this and little to no effort was required. We were traveling to Nozawa Onsen, and so I punched in the name of the town into Hyperdia, and was rewarded with the train station called Nozawa appearing as a valid location. I thought “must be close enough, same name!”. And so we happily boarded the JR Shinkansen and departed Kyoto for Nozawa. We found it odd that our train ride took us all of the way to the western coast, when Nozawa Onsen is in the mountains, but we chalked this up to being the only route available, but once we started going far to the north of where we should have been, Angela started to get worried. I was filled with faith in the system, and believed that we would soon turn south and somehow arrive conveniently at the door of our guest house. It wasn’t until I had the idea that maybe there was a Nozawa train station that was actually nowhere near Nozawa Onsen that I became worried enough to look it up on Googlemaps, and finally realized that there was indeed a Nozawa station far to the north of where we wanted to be. It was a terrible feeling as travel-panic washed over me, and I had no idea what to do. We decided that we had better jump off sooner than later, as the further north we went, the further away from our destination we would be. We ended up at a small, rural town that the train happened to stop at, and tried to ask the ticket man how we could book tickets to the right place. With some fancy internet skills, we found that we were not so far away, but had maybe overshot our destination by three hours or so. The extremely efficient and convenient system of booking tickets with my JR rail pass soon melted away as it was clear that the Japanese man in the ticket booth had never seen a JR pass before, and was frantically looking through his manual. He also spoke zero English, which was solely our problem because we did not speak any Japanese. Thanks to Angela’s researching skills, we jumped on a train without a ticket (totally possible with the JR pass) and after a stressful, but incident-free three hour train ride and a fifteen minute cab ride, we arrived in Nozawa Onsen. I was sweating a lot.
After spending a week exploring Chengdu and Shanghai with Angela’s brother and sister-in-law, we flew back to where our hearts are:
Iowa, USA! It is always such a pleasant feeling to exchange big city life with rural Iowa for a month. My dad met us at O’Hare, and took us home from there. It worked well, and probably saved us some time rather than trying to fly to Iowa from Chicago (although it cost my father some extra time…). We spent the first few days enjoying some of the things that we miss most about our home state. We will often talk with our friends about the meals that we have to eat while we are home. Below is Angela’s staple must-have, purchased from That Place near Marshalltown, Iowa.
At the end of June, Jason and I had the pleasure of hosting my brother Jon and sister in-law Rachel in Shanghai. After spending a week in Beijing, Jon and Rachel flew in to Shanghai the day after our school let out. Before heading to Chengdu we fit as much in as we could as the weather was pleasant and the air quality was good.
On the day that they arrived, we took Jon and Rachel to our go-to tailor Tony and Helen at the local fake market that we frequent as they were interested in making some cheap tailored clothes. On our way home, we stopped for lunch at a delicious Muslim pulled noodles restaurant near our metro stop (S. Shaanxi) on line 10. For less than 40RMB we ate some tasty hand pulled noodles.
Wow what a crazy week of highs and lows! First off, we have to give a huge THANK YOU to the Shanghai Bloggers and all the companies for the amazing goodie bag! Fields (an online grocery store) was very creative and gave us product that related to our blog! Can you guess what it was? Corn! So if you’re looking for a way to keep up with all the Shanghai bloggers, download the app! Besides the amazing party, I had my week of concerts. It was stressful and exhausting but well worth it! This year Sean and I did 2 mini-musicals for grade 4/5 and 2/3. Both concerts went extremely well and the kids had a blast! The past 2 years have flown by, but I have to say Sean and I have done a pretty good job! Continue reading