Category Archives: adventure

The Waiting Marathon

I find myself hovering on the edge of a knife, trying desperately not to topple over into the Land of Schizophrenia. How am I supposed to sit quietly and continue recovering when paradise is waiting for me just a hop and a skip across the Pacific Ocean?

my papaya

This is the first papaya I harvested from one of the trees in my new garden. I had to wash some sort of white goo off its skin (Gekko guano? I don’t wanna know.) and artfully place some chunks of lemon to hide its blemishes, but it smelled like fairy breath and tasted like the first blossoms of dawn. The garden is young; in time there will also be avocados and lemons.

We did all the fancy tap dancing required to get the cats past quarantine. Their microchip numbers are listed on the Holy List of the Acceptable and now we have to wait 120 days. I don’t understand why. They have all been vaccinated and their blood examined by the People Who Decide These Things. They do not have rabies. They cannot get rabies. But we are told to wait and so we do, while visions of tropical fruit dance in our heads. Each night, we toast each other saying, “I don’t want to be here.”

Perhaps it is as it should be. The next three months will give us time to sort slowly and lingeringly through the detritus of 32 years of living on this tiny, delightful island. It’s harder than I realized it would be. The new house is light and airy and I want to keep it that way, so I will bring an absolute minimum of junk with me. I’ve gotten down to two small photo albums, three favorite reference books and a couple of novels. I’m picking out special items to send to people who matter, saying sayonara to things that don’t matter, making peace with separation, making peace with myself.

Everything points to this being the right move to make. A lot of things have come together in a final-feeling sort of way, almost as if Japan is giving us a gentle nudge toward the airport, tearfully waving a handkerchief at us from the departure gate. It’s been a good run, but to quote Douglas Adams, “So long and thanks for all the fish.”

I’m trading in a tiny island for an even tinier one, earthquakes for volcanoes, power tools for coqui frogs, nomiyas for luaus, salarymen for aging hippies, bicycles for surfboards, konnichiwa for aloha, Amaterasu for Pele. I’ve been making a mental list of things I will and won’t miss. The won’t list is longer.

I can’t wait to see how all of this is going to unfold.

Me on triceratops

 

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The Path to Heaven is Paved with Blueberries

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In my opinion, there are few alimentary pleasures in the world greater than the almighty blueberry. It is a perfect little orb of delightful sweetness. Its delicate skin resists the teeth ever so slightly, teasing the palate and then exploding with juicy joy.

For many years, I had to live without them. They just weren’t available except at high end department stores where they cost just over the total of Greece’s national debt. You’d occasionally get a piece of cake with a blueberry or two on it but that was the extent of it.

Then a few years ago, they started becoming available all year. They travel well and it’s always mid-summer somewhere. I’ve bought blueberries from Chile, Argentina, Canada, New Zealand, the US. But even those come in tiny boxes and cost…let’s say the national debt of Romania.

I sigh for American supermarkets where they practically give the dear things away.

blueberries in USPhoto by Marcellie  Used with permission.

So when I saw that Rodger was leading a Meet Up to pick blueberries, I jumped on the bandwagon.

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There were about twenty of us, a very nice group of people from all over.

blueberry crew

That’s me at the front crouched over, wearing my Cookie Monster hat and very cool retro RayBan shades.

Three trains and a bus got us to the “Yours Garden” farm where we paid about $20 to eat as many of the spherical delights as we could manage as well as pick about a kilo of them to take home. We were each given a plastic basket and then the farmer parted the mesh gates to heaven.

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It was blistering hot but it had rained the day before so the little round morsels of perfection were plump and juicy. Row after row of ripening perfection stretched into the distance. As I approached each new bush the lovely purple gems practically called out: “Pick me! Pick me!” It was gym class for fruit. The berries flew off the stems, half into my basket and half into my mouth, the occasional tart one easily forgiven by the next bite of sweet perfection.

When my basket was full, my lips starting to pucker and I looked like this…

Violet blueberry…I decided I was done.

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The fruit of my labor. Nyar nyar nyar.

There were blueberry pancakes for Sunday breakfast and a lovely blueberry cobbler is cobbling in the oven as I type.

Ah, rapture. Thy name is blueberry.

Forager Hike: Wild Mulberry Hunt and Ramen Museum Getaway

A few weeks ago, I joined a Meetup to go foraging for mulberries. I am a great lover of new experiences and when I saw the posting, I jumped at it. The thought of actually seeking out the humble mulberry had never occurred to me. Where I come from, we eat them, of course, but mostly they are a sign of summer that stains the sidewalks and soles of our feet.

So we headed for the Tsurumigawa river in the wilds of Yokohama, a group of about a dozen of us, hard on the heels of our fearless leader, renaissance man Rodger Sono. I had gone on his blueberry hike last fall and ate the luscious little devils until my lips and tongue were burning, so had worked myself into a berry anticipative mood. (See what I did there?)

That's Rodger at the far left, looking leaderful. When asked why he organizes these events, he said, "I like foraging."
That’s Rodger at the far left, looking leaderful. When asked why he organizes these events, he said, “I like foraging.” Good enough.

Unfortunately, the late spring weather had taken a turn for the predictably unpredictable and most of the berries were dried out, but it was fun talking to new people and a friendly old guy on a bicycle gave me some bamboo shoots.

Our final destination was the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum, which really doesn’t have any business calling itself a museum. The pamphlet actually calls it “the world’s first food-themed amusement park” but it’s really just an excuse to sell ramen. There’s also, inexplicably, slot car racing. The only “museum” aspect is that the ramen shops are replications of those of 1958 Japan. The atmosphere is pretty cool except for the busloads of tourists eager to slurp their way to ramen nirvana.

ramen museum

Incidentally, they chose 1958 because that was the year instant ramen was invented. There’s also an instant ramen museum in Osaka. It seems that the father of instant ramen, Momofuku Ando, didn’t sleep for a year or take a day off while he dedicated his life to creating Chicken Ramen, at the time known as “magic ramen”.

Ramen is very much a part of Japanese culture. People of all ages consume it, breakfast, lunch or dinner. No proper evening of drinking and carousing would be complete without a visit to a ramen shop, which isn’t difficult. Most neighborhoods have several; mine has dozens. And instant ramen has achieved a status of nearly mythical proportions.Go to any supermarket or convenience store and there will be an entire aisle devoted to these dried nibbles, a mind boggling array of brightly colored, cheerful packages, which is odd because while the traditional Japanese diet is one of the healthiest on the planet, instant ramen is almost exclusively fat, salt and refined white flour.

I love ramen but can’t eat the instant stuff. A Japanese guy who spoke a little English once asked me, “What’s the difference between stupid and crazy?” I said that stupid is eating a McDonald’s hamburger and crazy is eating the paper it was wrapped in. I feel pretty much the same way about instant noodles and the styrofoam cups they come in. But I’m not judging. I love Kraft mac and cheese, and that stuff has about as much to do with real cheese as fish have to do with bicycles.

To each his own. We all have our comfort foods. For me, mulberries is one of them.