Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Rodent Returns!

Mary and Jack at Naha Airport
Naha to Narita

Narita to San Diego

Out the back door - Jack is coming in to land


Closing in on the runway

Powering off to land

The Rodent has landed!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The End of the Journey begins!

Mary Thomas brought Jack to Okinawa's Naha Airport:

JAL 3098 departed about 30 minutes late at 12:54 JST headed for Narita Airport near Tokyo.  Right now he is expected to be about 7 minutes behind schedule on arrival at Narita.  No problems, that was built into the schedule by Current Operations.  He has a 2+45 layover in Narita which allows for plenty of slippage.

So, once he is on the ground in Narita, he will make his way to Gate 81 joining up with Denise to board JAL 66 for San Diego with a scheduled 17:25 departure, which has slipped as of this writing to 17:35 JST.  Then, once airborne, due to winds, they will be on a southerly route with a currently planned 9+50 flight time to San Diego.  Stand by for an update!

Monday's Activities!

Yesterday we had our usual breakfast and coffee routine! We decided to go to the Yomitan Pottery Village and then go to Zakimi Castle with Denise to show her the castle and possibly locate any geocaches that would be nearby!

With these two locations, we would not be straying too far from home! Our first stop was Yomitan Pottery Village. It was a nice scenic drive through the town to the Pottery Village! The Pottery Village is a series of pottery makers who also sell their goods. They had some beautiful blown glass at one place, and a lot of gorgeous glass and cups and bowls!

The next stop was Zakimi Castle! It was still just as amazing as the first time! It turned out that there was a geocache near the Castle! After we toured the castle again, Denise and I went on the hunt for the geocache!

It turned out to be quite a hike through the steep hills outside of the castle wall, until we finally found the cache by looking around!

After we found it, we returned back to the house and hung out around the house and relaxed! For dinner, we had egg rolls and rice, which was yummy! I went to bed around 2115!


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Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Emperor's House at Shuri Castle

A relaxing Sunday

Sunday was a pretty relaxing day. I woke up in the morning and got dressed then headed upstairs to have breakfast. We did not have anything planned for the day. I had cereal and coffee and then I had the Order of Morning Prayer Palm Sunday Service, and then came back in and had toast for breakfast. The rest of the day, I did the occasional studying, reading and relaxing. Mary and Denise left the house in the evening, and I stayed home and hung out with the girls and watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, and had some Chow Mein noodles for dinner. When Denise and Mary returned they brought us some nigiri, which is the seaweed and rice wrap that I have talked about earlier. This time,instead of tuna, I had two different favors, one with something dark liquid inside, and another a lighter color. I am still not quite sure what flavors they were! I turned in early and went to bed around 2100. It was a wonderful and relaxing day with the Thomas family!


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Whale Shark at Aquarium

A relaxing day!

Yesterday was a really laid back day, compared to the past couple of days. We did not really do much other than I stayed home with the girls,while Mary and Denise got their hair done. I mostly did a bit of studying, read some books, and played the Wii. After Mary and Denise returned, we went out to check a geocaching spot, only to find that we had missed low tide! Oh well, perhaps today sometime! We had some cool ice cream treats that Denise bought us. Mine was an ice cream cone, in a protective plastic cover! Dinner was the delicious seaweed wrapped rice and tuna that we often get as snacks! All in all, it was a terrific day!


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Friday, April 11, 2014

Bull Shark

An awesome day at the aquarium!

Yesterday was an awesomely epic day! It was again an early rise for me, as I was getting up early in preparation for our trip to the Okinawan Aquarium on the northern part of the island. We had oatmeal with blueberries mixed in for our main breakfast, then we finished getting ready, then we all piled in the Goan and hit the road at 0815!

We took the scenic route up the coast, and boy it was a pretty view! It reminded me in many ways of Hawaii! It was definitely less populated than the southern portion of the island! It would be about over an hour drive from the Thomases house to the aquarium, but it would be well worth it! Mary had packed PB and J and PB and Nutella sandwiches for lunch! which were very delicious! Along with some BBQ flavored Pringles, it was very yummy!

After only one pit stop, we finally made it to the aquarium and parked in the parking garage. We then rounded the gang up and headed to the museum, but first stopped at the net to let the kids okay their energy off and have lunch! We met up with Mary's friends Angie and Greg and their son.

After lunch we headed into the aquarium, which was absolutely stupendous! It had a wide variety of fish, and the highlights of the aquarium were the large tank with the whale sharks, sting rays and dolphins too! After looking at the fish and other aquatic creatures for a while. We stopped at the cafe, and we ordered some taco balls (a taco rolled into a nice crusty ball basically!) and the kids had ice cream floats and I had a coffee float! It was absolutely yummy and delicious!

After the snack, we walked back to the shark tank, which had lemon and bull sharks! All very impressive! We then headed out and parted ways with our friends, and went over and saw the sea turtle exhibit, which had an underwater viewing area (via a tunnel for access), hand then saw the dolphin show there, which reminded me of the shoes I saw at sea world! The dolphins did awesome tricks, such as jumping high, diving down and twisting their tails above water, moving hula hoops on their tail!

After the show, we headed back to the playground and let the kids burn off their energy before we headed home, which would be an hour long drive, which while pretty, seems long to all of us, due to the 60 m.p.h speed limit! When we finally left, I was impressed with the Okinawan Aquarium, which was different from our aquariums back home, with the large water tank for the whale sharks!

We left the park around 1700 or so and arrived home at 1805, where I relaxed and watched a movie before headed to bed, to conclude my epically awesome day!


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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Taco Rice and Soup for lunch!

Palm Trees and Castle Wall

View of Naha from Shuri Castle

Sundial at Shuri Castle

At the Emperors House

An extremely long and epic day at Shuri Castle!

Today was a superbly epic day! I got up around 0615 and got ready for the long and awesome day ahead! Today was the day that we would be going to Shuri Castle, which, though it is only 13 miles from the Thomases, is an hour long drive, thanks to the max speed limit on the Okinawa Expressway of 60 miles per hour, and busy and crowded city streets! We had a breakfast of scrambled eggs which were very delicious! We were scheduled to depart for Shuri at 0800, with a brief stop to drop off Kristyna, then meet up with Mary's friends Angie and Greg and their son Peyton! then we would head to Shuri!

After we got all situated and met up with the group, we headed to Shuri! It was a pleasant hour long drive through the Okinawan countryside, with tombs galore, dotting the countryside! There were old and new tombs whichever ranged from thousands of years old, to brand new tombs that cost approximately $10,000! Also I noticed a bunch of farm land along the way for a good portion of the drive, before we arrived at the Shuri Castle/Heights.

Shuri Castle was the Imperial Japanese Army headquarter's during the battle for Okinawa, and the sight of some fighting, though the IJA had retreated from the castle by the time U.S Forces arrived in May of 1945. We got parked in the parking structure, by the Japanese parking structure guiders. They have people back into parking spots, in a double single row arrangement, which I thought was rather interesting. We arrived at 0915 and left the house at 0806, which meant an hour and six minutes.

We then made our way to the Castle, through the visitors's center to acquire maps of the castle. It is a large and impressive, starting with the walls, made of coral! We made our way through the gateway, which led us on a path, which took us towards the Emperors house, which was an impressive large red house with Japanese styling! We could have entered the house for 820 yen ($8.20) for adults and 320 yen ($3.20) for children! We also made our way to various overlooks, which gave impressive views of Naha and the surrounding areas, and reminded me why the IJA used this location as their Okinawan headquarters.

After a couple of hours touring the castle and acquiring ice cream (iI had a tri colored ice cream, cherry, vanilla and ube (sweet potato), we decided to head to lunch. It was at a traditional Japanese restaurant, where you could either sit kneeling or Indian style, like a Japanese traditional restaurant, or sit in a chair like a regular restaurant. We got a sorbe meal, which was beef with noodles, and also taco rice, which is like taco salad but instead of lettuce, we had rice!

It was extremely delicious! After lunch, we said goodbye to our friends, and we headed to Camp Foster and went to the Post Office and the PX, and then returned back to the house for a relaxing evening with Wii games and quesadillas with chicken! It was absolutely delicious! It has been an extremely epic day! I will get pictures up from the past couple of days tomorrow! Tomorrow, we are going to an awesome aquarium!


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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Yesterday's epic events!

Today was a lot of fun. I got up at the same time as usual, and I was back on my morning coffee routine with Mary, and now Denise joined us for the morning routine. We sat and had lively small talk on the porch. For breakfast we had cinnamon rolls, which were very good,and we discussed our plans for the day. We would be going to a new park that had mostly roller blade slides. It was exciting! On our way to the park, we stopped at Camp Foster to get Denise a visitor's pass, and to check the post office for mail.

Unfortunately, the Post Office is closed on Wednesdays! Oh well, perhaps tomorrow! So we then went on to the park, which was a lovely 40-45 minute drive. The park itself was near Urasoe Castle Park, which some of the castle walls ere nearby the playground. Like almost everywhere else on Okinawa, it was also surrounded by tombs!

The slides were to put it in on single word "AWESOME!". The one that was my favorite was a very long and tall roller blade slide, that required three flights of stairs up the old castle walls to get too! Once on, it was an awesome thrill ride, and once I learned to lean back! I occult go very fast! Landing was easy, I was able to catch myself in motion and stand. I did that slide about 15-20 times that day, even while the rain came down pouring upon us! I then joined the kids in the obstacle course!

Of course, by the end of our visit at the park, we were completely soaked! Mary's solution was to put towels on our seats, so that we didn't completely soak up the seats! We then headed home, with a stop at FamilyMarg to get some nigtti (tuna and rice wrapped in a triangular seaweed paper) for all of us.

We then arrived at home and ate said nigtti! Then we went out on a walk with the kids and Denise to try and locate some geocaches. All of the places we went to on our hour and a half long walk, we struck out! But it was a lovely evening walk, and I saw some cool sights! such as the Toya Fishing port, cats at the fishing port, what appears to be a Japanese pillbox at the fishing port, and at Sobe, a really ancient Okinawan tomb and a newer tomb, by the playground!

So, not all was lost! We then headed back home to a dinner of chicken! It was absolutely delicious! I then played the Wii with Nyah and Jaiden for an hour before headed to bed! We will have to get up early tomorrow, because we are headed to Shuri Castle!


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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Denise's arrival

Yesterday was a pretty quiet and relaxing day. Not much happened, except for the arrival of Denise! She originally was going to arrive yesterday, but she got stuck in customs for an hour and thus missed her flight. She had to spend the night in Tokyo and then caught a flight that would arrive in Okinawa at 0610.

While Mary was off waiting to pick Denise up, I had some toast for breakfast and I hung out with the girls and watched them play a bit of Wii. I read some books, did a bit of studying and generally relaxed the rest of the day. Mary and Denise returned around 1030 or so and after we got introduced, we relaxed with the girls the rest of the day.

I played some Wii games with the girls, and we watched the Princess Bride a bit after our dinner of chicken, mac and cheese and cauliflower, and after our dinner we walked to the local FamilyMart and got ice cream Popsicles, green tea, and cookies and cream! And I had the cookies and cream one, which is very delicious!

After the movie, I headed straight to bed at 2100! While it wasn't a very busy day, it was very nice and relaxing!


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Monday, April 7, 2014

Cool horse statue!

Yesterday's wonderful adventures

Yesterday was an absolutely wonderful day! I woke up and had a drink of water and then later some eggs that Mary made. Then a friend of Mary's called and told her about this awesome playground that we could take the kids too, they had big slides that I could slide down on too.

After Mary made our lunches and packed them, and Jaiden came back from her sleepover, we got ready and got ready to go to the park! On our drive there, we made a stop at Navel Kadena, and got "sleds", which are like chair bottoms with handles, so that your clothes are saved from being all beat up from sliding down the slides.

Once done with that, we headed back to the car and resumed our journey to the park. When we finally got there, we were met by the sight of several flights of stairs up the hill! Then we figured it was on the other side of the hill. We crossed over the hill and down another flight of stairs and finally arrived at the park. There were several slides, a big blue roller slide, a giant white slide, and a smaller green, red and a bigger red slide. We got there and met up with Mary's friends and I had my ham sandwich and goldfish for lunch.

After lunch, I got up and got one of the sleds and slid down the white slide. Which was a really fast slide! My legs got kind of beat up on the landing. I then slid on the white slide again, and the landing was easier this time!

After hanging out for a couple of hours, we packed up and headed home. For the rest of the day we just hung out. We watched Disney's Hercules, which I had not seen for a long time! We watched another movie, then we had spicy chicken nuggets with Japanese ranch sauce for dinner (Rango), then another movie (Monsters vs Aliens.) I went to bed around 2045. It was a really wonderful day!


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Sunday, April 6, 2014

A relaxing day (short update)

Yesterday started off the same as the various days. The only difference is that Kurt and Kristyna are gone for a few days. The day was mostly a relaxing day, which was a nice change of pace from the previous days activities. I had church out on the balcony area again, reading the Order of Morning Prayer, then after I finished! I had breakfast of scrambled eggs and coffee. The rest of the day I just pretty much read books and relaxed. In the evening we watched The Legend of Hercules. Which was a pretty good movie, I thought! After the movie, I got ready and headed for bed!


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Saturday, April 5, 2014

View from Hacksaw Ridge

Sugar Loaf Hill monument

On top of Sugar Loaf

First view of Sugar Loaf Hill

The Hill today!

The Hill in 1945.

Navy HQ Sally Point

Officers' Command Post

Suicide room 1

Yamato ship painting and model

Kunishi Ridge (bus view)

Itoman Harbor

Gen Ushijima's temp grave marker

General Ushijima Temporary Grave Marker

Hill 89 Japanese Army Command Post Cave

Ocean View from Hill 89

Okinawan National Cemetary

Okinawa Peace Memorial

A very busy and epic day!

Today started off with the same routine as the previous days at the Thomas household. I was excited today for I was going to go on a tour of Okinawa Battle sites from World War II. We also were busy getting ready for leave at 0745 to arrive at Kadena Information, Tickets, and Travel (ITT) for an 0815 show time. We left the house around 0746, and we then arrived at Kadena at 0806, and we then realized that I had not had any breakfast, so I ran into the exchange and bought a blueberry muffin at the coffee shop and made my way over to the ITT to check in and board the bus for the Battlefield Tour.

When I boarded, I found out our tour guide had actually lived through the Battle, she was born on 7 January 1945, so she was four months old when the battle began. She said we would first head to the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park, and Hill 89 where the Japanese forces made their final stand on Okinawa and also where the Japanese Commanding General Mitsuru Ushijima committed ritual suicide on 22 June 1945. Our guide showed us the exact spot where he committed suicide.

Then after lunch we would be headed to the Japanese Navy Underground Tunnel near Naha, then Sugar Loaf Hill. And finally we would wrap up the tour with Hacksaw Ridge. When we arrived at the Peace Memorial, we debarked the bus and headed to the Okinawa Peace Memorial Museum, which discussed about Okinawa history from the Ryukuku Kings to the Japanese aggression in the early 1900s to World War II battle history.

Then, we headed out to the Peace Memorial and saw the cornerstone which was placed on the 50th anniversary of the ending of the Battle for Okinawa. We then walked up the hill, passed all the prefunctures's various monuments, and the monument for the American and Japanese soldiers who died in the Battle. At the top, I saw the spot where General Ushijima committed ritual suicide. It was a moving place, to think of all the fighting that took place over 69 years ago this month. It was peaceful and calm and emitted a sense of historic nostalgia.

We then headed back to the bus and headed to the Southern Okinawan Beach Island Resort Hotel for an all you can eat buffet. I had some mushrooms, shrimp, salad and fish for buffet and two servings of Beni Emo ice cream! And aceltone juice! I only wish I had a second serving of the food! We then headed to the imperial Japanese navy headquarters, located in Hill 74 near Naha. It is located in a large underground tunnel system, first constructed by Korean laborers in August of 1944, as the main HQ for the navy forces on Okinawa. During the Battle, about 2,400 Japanese naval soldiers were killed in this tunnel, as their remains were found in and around the tunnel.

The commanding officers and petty officers killed themselves in their rooms. I saw in one room the remains of the hand grenade fragment impact points from the ritual suicide. It was haunting to imagine the last moments of these soldiers, despondent and wanting to join their "Emperor". It was an eerie feeling and unsettling to be in that same room. It was as if a dark cloud was within that room, trapped from 1945.

The complex was steep at times, sometimes the light was dim and it was damp, as an underground tunnel system should be. It was a very impressive place! After we finished touring, we headed back to the bus. Our next stop.., Sugar Loaf hill!
Sugar Loaf Hill in 1945

Sugar Loaf Hill was one of the most hard fought battles on Okinawa. The Japanese were well entrenched on this hill, and a good 2,200 + Americans were killed taking this hill. Today, it is surrounded by a shopping center, the other hills of Horseshoe, and Half a moon which were on either side of Sugar Loaf, are now mostly gone. They have been replaced by a commercial zone. There is a large water container on top, but what is left of Sugar Loaf, is tall and intimidating. I could tell that the battle for this hill had to have been particularly awful. The steepness of the hill to climb, made me think of the Marines who climbed under enemy fire. The Marine who Camp Courtney was named after, Maj Henry Courtney was killed on the crest of this hill. He had been wounded not long before, and with bandages still on, charged up the hill and was killed not long after he reached the crest. He received the Medal of Honor posthumously.

I reflected on the stories of Henry and James Day who the tour guide told us about, who fought on the hill that I was now standing on. The feeling was almost overpowering at times, when I realized I stood on ground that many Marines had fought, bled and died on, that I would be free. It was impressive to see the sheer size of Sugar Loaf Hill, the part that remained.

We then headed for the last stop of the tour, Hacksaw Ridge. It was near an ancient castle that in ancient times was the capital of the Ryukuku Kingdom, before it moved to Shuri castle. There was a formidable defense system the IJA put in place around the ancient tombs at the castle, with the walls, made a rather difficult fight for the U.S Marines, with the steep hills, bunkers and pillboxes everywhere presented a challenge for our troops that were advancing towards Shuri.

The engineers who made the walls originally came from China, at least if I understood the tour guide correctly. This is why the walls look rather similar to the Great Wall. We also saw a Buddha statue with a reverse swatizka, that is a Buddhist symbol commissioned by a Japanese veteran of the Okinawa Battle. Finally, it was time to leave and head back.  As we finished the tour, I reflected on what I had seen and the history of all the sights I had seen. When I met back up with Mary, I got a bottle of water, then we got pizza and I had a donut! Then we returned home, where I am current relaxing, and hydrating with more water. It is a challenge to stay hydrated here!

I am having a ton of fun and having an epic time!


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Friday, April 4, 2014

A busy day!

Yesterday started off with the same routine, I got up and got my coffee with Kurt and Mary, and we had eggs for breakfast, I had my eggs in toast. I then got ready to go to work with Kurt, as I was going to play dodgeball with some of Kurt's buddies and then watch a baton/martial arts demonstration.

We had a very nice ride into work. I am still in a bit if a culture shock at being in Japan, but I am now getting more used to being on the wrong side of the road. We arrived at his office and I met up with his friends and we hopped into a car and drove over to the gym to play dodgeball. We got to the gym and awaited the other team to arrive and then we headed into the gym to warm up, explain the rules and then begin playing. The balls were almost like small nerd balls. When you did get hit by one though, they hurt..

The game went by quickly, it was intense, fun, and I was breaking into a sweat by the end of it. We then finished the game and moved into the martial arts section, where Scott, Kurt's friend began showing us some baton moves and aikido disarm moves. It was very awesome! After the demonstration, we headed back up and I waited in Kurt's office for Mary to arrive. Once she did, we had a yummy ham sandwich in tortilla lunch, and then I went with her and the kids to the ITT to see if we could get me a spot on the Battle for Okinawa tour.

When we got there, we found out their only tour was on April 19, three days after I leave! I was a bit bummed, but then Mary thought of going to the Kadena ITT. And lo and behold, they had one, in Saturday and had exactly one spot left! I got the spot, paid for the tour, got my voucher and we headed back home, dropping Nyah off at a friend's house for a sleep over!

Most of the day I just hung out and rested. We had barbecue sauce meat balls and white rice for dinner! It was very delicious! We found the guitar, so I tuned it up and played it a little bit and then went to bed, for Saturday will be an early day!


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Thursday, April 3, 2014

The divers and their gear..

A great day to dive!

A really really epic day!

Today started out with my usual routine of waking up and joining Kurt and Mary and the kids for coffee and breakfast, which was the usual oatmeal with honey. We discussed our plans for the today which was mostly going to be Kurt and I diving, and a friend of Kurt's who is a dive master had offered to come along and help me on my refresher dive. We ate breakfast, which was very delicious, the we began to get ready to get ready to leave.w e would first go drop Mary and Emme off at the Kadena Track for Mary's workout, then Kurt and I went around and ran some errands before headed back to pickup Mary.

We then headed over to the Kadena Marina, where we would rent our tanks for the dive and for my scuba gear, as it is very cheap for full gear rental, around $25.00 in total and if you return the gear before 1700 that day, you get half off. I believe therefore I paid $12.50 for all my gear, fins, scuba mask, tank, wetsuit, BCD, boots and weights. This is a smoking good deal! We then got all ready and were awaiting the arrival of Kurt's friend Shannon who would be accompanying us and had offered to give me help as she knew I had. Or done diving for a while.

We piled our dive gear into her car and we headed to the dive site, we parked by stairs and began unloading our gear, when Kurt realized that he had brought Mary's regulator and was not compatible with his BCD. So he had to go and acquire (rent) another regulator and then we finished unloading the gear. I got a safety and procedures brief from Shannon with gear tips from Kurt. Then began the arduous process of putting on the wetsuit. I had the misfortune of watching Kurt out his on the first time, so I followed suit. We ended up both putting on our wet suits backwards! I only found this out when Shannon pointed it out to me. ARGHHHH!

After I got my wetsuit on, we suited up with our tanks and headed out. The stairs were steep, and the wetsuit with tank on does not offer a lot of mobility. Once we got situated in the water, fins on, we snorkeled out to the small drop off where we would be doing my refresher dive. We went over procedures again, and then we began our descent. The water was cold, at about 70 degrees, it was about 18 degrees difference from Guam water temperatures.

The descent was slow as I wanted to be relaxed and had to adjust to the pressure underwater by equalizing. I made it down to 20 feet and we began swimming around. The water visibility was perfect and there was an abundant amount of wildlife to be seen. I saw one puffer fish, a school of many fish, two star fish and sea urchin shells! We hung out down there and went to our maximum depth of 31 feet for the dive. Once my tank hit 1500 psi,(started with 3100) we turned around and then swam around a bit before ascending to the surface and snorkeling back. When we returned to the car, I felt quite tired and decided not to do another dive.

I divested myself of my gear and wetsuit, which was as challenging to get off as to get on! We concluded that I had done really well for not having done any diving in a year. Shannon did a great job in taking care of me underwater. It was a lot of fun! We then waited for Mary and the kids, and we then returned all the gear I rented. We then returned home, where I took a shower as soon as I was able! Boy did that feel great! A nice hot shower, after an epic dive!

We then watched two movies (Twins and Gravity) had dinner of Ramen noodles! and I had a bunch of water and tea! then we are calling it quits for the day. It has been an extremely epic day here, and week. And I am only one week into my epic three week adventure!

Thank you all for reading!


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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Yesterday's events

Dear all,

There was not much to report from yesterday, other than I studied a bit in my Cost accounting for dummies book, and watched August Rush, Frozen and Monsters University and relaxed. But it was a nice restful day yesterday, with yummy food that Mary made. Oh and I had some more Japanese ice cream, with beans in it too, which was very good!


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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A not so busy day

Yesterday was not as busy as the previous days. Therefore this post will be rather brief. The same morning routine happened and the girls went to school. I had my coffee and breakfast and then after relaxing a bit, I joined Mary on her Tuesday workout with her group. It was quite a challenging workout that is for sure, my upper thighs are still sore! Then we ran some simple errands and had lunch at Kurt's office, then we drove to the money exchange and exchanged some dollars for yen! Then we headed home, where I stayed for the rest of the day, playing Wii with the girls and having chicken and rice for dinner, and played Wii some more before giving up and calling it a day.


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