Around February this year my feet were getting itching and I felt the need to do some traveling to see family and friends. Checking out likely destinations, the U.S.A. came out on top of my Golden Week travel list as my sister and her family were preparing to relocate to Okinawa and I thought I could lend a hand packing and orienting them to Japanese life, not to mention their proximity to Washington D.C. made for some interesting sightseeing. On top of those good reasons, a good friend from my early days here in Tsuyama had himself just relocated to a new life in Texas, and a former teacher from this school and his wife, a former student here at Wright, had just had their first baby, and they lived just a short drive from my sister’s. So the itinerary was set; Japan to San Antonio, Texas for three days with Steve, then on to Virginia for five days with my sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew, and to catch up with Jeremy, Motoko and Laird.
San Antonio, TexasMy first impression of this South Texas metropolis was how much it reminded me of home; isolated, flat, dry and something of a big, glossy, friendly country town are similar impressions I hold of my own hometown of Perth, Western Australia. When I arrived, San Antonio was in the middle of its annual fiesta, held to honor the memory of the heroes of its most famous landmark and cradle of Texas independence, the Alamo. Street parties, parades, loads of tourists and Texas hospitality were in abundance. I don’t think I could have been luckier to have visited there at any other time. My good friend Steve, a teacher here in Tsuyama about ten years ago, had recently moved there and we were both able to experience the warmth of the festival and the proud San Antonians for the first time. Great food, including Texas beef and genuine Mexican fare, sightseeing in the historical Spanish missions, taking the downtown river walk and knocking back a little too much tequila and beer rounded out a great, but too short a stay.
Virginia & Washington D.C.On to the historical, leafy state that seemingly serves as a feeder for the hungry offices of the capital just north of it, and the to capital itself. This was my first chance to visit my younger sister Monica in the U.S. since she started her stateside residence after getting married over twelve years ago. One brief rendezvous almost six years ago back home in Perth since then is all I have seen of her and her two wonderful kids so this was a great chance to do some catching up, and to get to know my brother-in-law a little better. The holidays here in Japan unfortunately didn’t coincide with any there, but it was great to fit in with their regular, busy schedules and see how they live day-to-day.
I was privileged to witness my sister at work as a pre-school teacher and see a true pro at work. She was inspirational in how she conducted her classes, creatively stimulating the students to the maximum, maintaining order and respect for and amongst all the students in her class. The best teaching lesson I have ever had. Myniece and nephew are bright and busy elementary schoolers with strong interests and commitments to sporting and cultural pursuits. It was great to see my niece on the soccer field, to shoot hoops with my nephew on the basketball court, and to share Cinco de Mayo day with them both at their school with their friends and teachers. My brother-in-law is a very busy man and maintains a tiring schedule. The chances I had to chat with him proved enlightening insights into life in the States and current world affairs.
Just one day for sightseeing in D.C. and a full day it was. Ever the one for tech gadgets, I chose a tour of the downtown area on a Segway, taking in the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol, the Vietnam War memorial and gliding down the avenues and streets home to some of the world’s greatest museums and centers of governance. That afternoon it was on to the Pentagon for a guided tour of the ultimate symbol of military power in the world. Hard to believe what looked like a regular calm, office building on the inside, controls the motions of the strongest military force on Earth.
I spent a nostalgic last night with a former Wright teacher, Jeremy and the next day before my flight back to Japan with him, his wife Motoko and their newborn son, Laird. (See insert). A delightfully friendly end to my brief U.S. sojourn.
It really was a great trip, hectic, but relaxing and really enlightening for me. Thanks to all those who made it possible for me, most importantly the students whose schedules were changed to accommodate my flights, and Justen Allard for filling in for me.