Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hello, Konichiwa, Very Nice to Meet'cha

Spent all last week and some of this one in Okinawa, Japan. It was so, so great being back in Japan. Husband and I have long debated whether or not we'd be willing to bid on a Japan post sometime in the future, and this trip really drove home the point that, yes, we would fucking bid on Japan in a heartbeat!* Everything about Japan is pretty much awesome. The food, the cleanliness, the order, the polite yet distant people. Oh, and I didn't even get to vending machine hot coffee yet. Japan freaking rocks.

Anyway, I was actually there for work purposes since I somehow managed to score a sweet TDY to help out at the Consulate there. It was really cool to experience such an incredibly different environment - small Consulate vs. large Embassy. I got to do a little of everything, and I really felt like my presence made a difference, which I guess is to be expected in a post with just a handful of officers. Every one is needed! I also got to attend a citizenship ceremony**, which is one of the coolest things I've ever witnessed. As Consular officers we see people at the start of their journey towards citizenship. We see them through the craziness that is American immigration law and get them to the point where they can legally enter the U.S. as intending immigrants, but that's pretty much where our role ends. So it was super cool to see the swearing in of some 30+ new American citizens.*** Bonus - the key note speaker was a Marine Corps O-4 Fil-Am who achieved his citizenship through the military. Then they played "Proud to be an American" (natch), and I was pretty much a sloppy mess. God, I love that patriotic shit.

So after my week of work, Husband flew out and we made a long weekend of it by pretty much seeing everything the island of Okinawa has to offer, and then spending an entire paycheck at the BX (one of the benefits of still being part of the military!). The weather cooperated for the most part, and we managed to avoid getting rained on even during the periods of occasional downpour.

The Ocean Expo Park and Aquarium is interesting, and the grounds are lovely, but we thought it was overpriced considering the rest of the island is pretty cheap (compared with mainland Japan, that is). Plus, the main draw of the aquarium are their pair of whale sharks and, well, we've already seen those up close and personal. :)

My favorite part of our visit? The various off-the-beaten-path castles. What can I say? It's in the genes. Stuff that hasn't been restored yet is always more interesting to me.

My other favorite part? The Okinawa Peace Park and the Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters. World War II stuff is always interesting to me, and it's even more interesting to see it from a different cultural perspective. The Okinawans really got screwed - caught between the Japanese and the Americans. Seeing some of those pictures and reading the testimonials made me tear up. No one likes war, but I think it is important for all of us to be reminded of its consequences every so often.

We also just generally enjoyed the food and the ambiance (and the vending machines!) :)

*We're booked through at least 2016, so the point is moot for now.
**Where I was one of the guests of honor! No, seriously!! They even said my name and made me make a little wave.
**Plus, that oath they take? It is no fucking joke! All citizens should have to take that oath when they hit 18, IMHO.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Fitness Friday: Burn Out

Oh mah gah, haven't done a fitness Friday in foh-evah. I know, you're all devastated. Well, tough shit. I can't blog about worky work* so you're stuck with this. Still pretty fucking awesome, huh? 102 and kickin' ass. What's your excuse?

Ok, so I've actually toned it down a bit lately. After all the marathon training, I was sooooooo burnt out that I kinds just didn't want to do anything. I actually ended up gaining a few pounds following our race because I just didn't feel like getting my butt out of bed yet I was still eating like I was in training mode. Not a good combination! Anyway, I've kind of been muddling through the last couple of month just doing whatever I felt like, which mostly wasn't cardio (especially after my AF pt test - now I had nothing to motivate me to keep the cardio going!). So when I tried to do an old tried and true HIIT workout a few days ago and I just about died, it hit me that I need to get back on the cardio train. The heart is like any muscle - it needs to be trained appropriately in order to keep functioning at its peak.

So, how do you get back in the saddle again after a major burn out? For me it's all about shaking up my routine and getting out of my comfort zone. After much cajoling, I sucked it up and overcame my fear of being trapped under the water and took up scuba diving. Turns out that I'm pretty fucking good at it and the fear is nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. We've finished our pool classes, so now it's on to underwater dives. It doesn't seem like you're moving around the much when you're under the water like that, but I am ravenously hungry after our lessons, so I must be burning some pretty good calories. I also decided to take my on-land fitness back in an old, familiar, and much-loved direction by adding dance back into my regime. I managed to score a used set of Dream Body workouts from Fitness Fusion. I think in conjunction with my Buti classes, these are seriously going to kick me in the ass. I need a little funk in my fitness to keep me happy! Plus, these are the perfect workouts to keep me company while I galavant off on my mini-tour of SE Asia. First up? Japan. Konichiwa, bitches!

 *that just auto-corrected to wormy work, hah!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Don't Panic!

Still getting out of our comfort zone. Stay tuned for more video when we go for our first open water dive in April!

*Sorry, can't figure out how to flip the picture the right way up, so you'll just have to tilt your heads!

Saturday, March 02, 2013


Well, I can definitely say that Husband and I are stepping it up in the getting out-of-the-house department. We spent a lovely evening out last night at the historic Manila Hotel with some friends from work. Our friend P did such a great write-up, that I'm just going to link to her post in hopes that it distracts you from my lazy-ass refusal to write my own synopsis. We've been on a foodie roll lately. The Champagne Room at the Manila Hotel had excellent service, good drinks (at least I thought the signature cocktail was pretty good, and we were impressed to see a 2006 Chilean wine on the menu considering this is the land of Yellow Tail). I enjoyed my main course, which was a mixed seafood grill over risotto (the rice was not great but certainly the closest thing I've had to real risotto in the Philippines, while the seafood was excellent). The only real disappointment for me was the foie gras starter, which originally emerged from the kitchen doused in some kind of sugared coating similar to the crust of a creme brûlée but even sweeter. It was so overpowering that I couldn't even taste the foie gras, so I sent it back. They asked if I would like it without the sweet toppings, and I agreed, so they ended up bringing me out a cold version that basically tasted like the canned foie gras that you can get at the market. All in all, most of the food came out a winner (the rest of our party seemed pretty pleased with their choices) and the ambiance and service were really nice, so I would recommend a stop at the Champagne Room. Too bad we didn't get a chance to see the MacArthur Room!

This morning we had quite the adventure trying to find the Philippines version of the DMV. In order to get a rental car for my TDY to Japan, I need to score myself an international drivers license. I'm got an American one and a Filipino one, but no international license for me. Apparently all that's required is filling up a form (that's right, filling up not filling out), paying a fee, and voila! international drivers license. Unfortunately, this simple process is made less simple by the fact that the DMV is hidden using some kind of invisibility spell and guarded by security who turn you away when you are hot on its trail. We spent a good two and a half hours driving around Manila on the hunt. We actually found it within the first half hour but were foiled by the security guard at the front desk who informed us that "this is just offices" and turned us away. Then we tried to locate the address on the actual form, which was on the other side of Manila, and it turned out to be the old address that the DMV had moved from some months or years ago (it was not clear given the dinginess and fading of the old sign we managed to find hanging above the brand new drug store that had taken its place). In spite of our relative failure (still no license), I was actually pretty proud of our navigation skills considering that we actually found both buildings.

We spent the rest of the day shopping (oh the money I dropped at S&R today) and doing some spring cleaning. So I am pretty much wiped out. We were supposed to meet up with some other friends of ours in the Fort for dinner at a tapas restaurant called Las Flores, but I was just too damn tired after our crazy day. Baby steps, people, baby steps. Tomorrow I think we'll hit the Legazpi Market early and then spend the rest of the day just relaxing in the pool. Summer is full on here now, and it is freakin' hot!