Friday, March 21, 2014

In Hawaii: time with family and little culture shock surprises

Today’s coffee: Ethiopia (and panna cotta!)

We’ve made a brief visit to our home country, although not “home” to either Seattle or North Dakota. We were on holiday in Hawaii for 10 days. It’s been 2 years since we last left Japan, and over a year since I last met my parents. Leaving Japan, I joyfully anticipated rest and uninterrupted family time; coming home, I joyfully anticipated starting my work afresh with renewed energy. This vacation was a huge blessing.

With the family at a luau!
Tea ceremony on the beach
On a crazy hike to the Blue Hole (Waialeale)
Yukata for everyone
Playing with Dad's underwater camera

Having been away for 2 years, the longest I’d ever been outside my home country, there were a lot of little surprises. Sitting in Honolulu airport with Keith waiting for our connecting flight, I started a private conversation with him in English… and then I realized that I was surrounded by Americans. Oops. Later that evening in the hot tub at our hotel, I barely caught myself before making a similar mistake. I hadn’t realized the extent to which English has become my language of “private conversations” while Japanese has become the language I use in public. Another surprise: hearing American accents all around us, I kept thinking I was hearing someone I knew. Weird.

I remember leaving Japan four years ago and being surprised by American portion sizes; I felt full almost all the time for the first month or so I was home. That memory did not stop me from being surprised again. I don’t remember the last time I brought leftovers home from a restaurant; having leftovers from a restaurant in Japan is practically unheard of. In the last week we have had both tempura and ramen; both of these are fairly oily, but this time I didn’t really notice. :)

While in Hawaii, we enjoyed tropical fruit and pizza and delicious pork and cottage cheese. I made some banana caramel sauce which turned out well. Still, we missed Japanese food. The soba and tempura we had the day after we came home tasted like heaven. Oddly enough, we also missed Japanese milk. I still can’t figure out how the milk here is so good while the cheese and ice cream are boring.

Banana caramel sauce and macadamia nuts over vanilla ice cream
If you’ve been reading my blog regularly, you’ve probably realized that I’ve become something of a coffee addict. I was surprised to discover that I want my coffee quite a bit stronger than it is typically served in American coffee shops. One shop won me over by giving me an extra shot in my cappuccino for free. At Tokumitsu, I can choose to try any of about 20 varieties of coffee, roasted here in the shop, and ground and hand-poured immediately before serving. I was surprised that in the coffee shops I visited in Hawaii, I could choose between at most 3 varieties.

Searching for coffee with Mom and Dad
In Japan, at 5’5” (165 cm), I tend of be quite a bit larger than other women. I’m normally not bothered by this, but it was nice to have a short period of being average height and weight. :)

Bits of reverse-culture-shock here and there kept things interesting, but that didn’t hamper the joy of relaxed time with my family. I’ve included some favorite photos with this post; if you want to see more, I’ve uploaded others to a picasa web album, with a preview collage below. (There are a lot of food pictures.) Enjoy!

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