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Lucky, lucky, lucky

Day 4 in Japan

The morning broke clear and sunny. Oh no! How could our sightseeing day, Day 3, be overcast and wet. Yet the day we were to visit the Catholic school, the day we were spending time in classrooms and conference rooms, the day we would be inside, be clear and bright?

As we travelled by bus, we all cheered. A glimpse of Mt Fuji, sighted between buildings. No, lost it. We kept peering for a view between buildings. No, we were surrounded by buildings.

At the school, we all kept craning our necks to see Fujisan.

And then! Surprise! The principal arranged for us to go onto the school’s roof.

Wanting a global focus and to develop their students’ speaking skills, the school employed lots of English speaking teachers and teachers aides, from America, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. One of the teachers told us we were lucky as he’d never been up on the roof before. That’d be a rule I would break. Fancy not breaking rules! Do you know what bared the way up the stairs? A plastic chain strung across from railing to railing! Pfft.

We were lucky indeed!

And the view! Oh, the view!

Unobstructed by buildings.

Lucky. Lucky. Lucky.

Mount Fuji

Apparently it brings luck to see Mt Fuji.

Sightings are not a given. Fog, cloud, smog, rain. All get in the way. So if you do get to see it, you are already lucky.

Before I left Australia, I told people we were going to My Fuji. Partypoopers told me not to expect to see it, not to have my hopes up.

We visited the Mt Fuji World Heritage Centre. The building and it’s reflection imitates Fujisan.

Inside, you spiral up, learning about the mountain – it’s geology, importance, mythology.

Up to the viewing platform to see a view of ….

Nothing. It was raining. We saw nothing. The partypoopers were right. I won’t see it. It’s meant to rain all day. Well, I will just have to come back to Japan one day!

We walked to another shrine. And were lucky to see early cherry blossoms – if not cherry, then some sort of beautiful blossoms.

And we learnt how to cleanse prior to entering the shrine. I didn’t do it. COVID.

We were lucky to see a ceremony for a baby’s first visit to the shrine. Drums sounded by nuns in white. The big sister was beyond gorgeous.

We strolled around the beautiful gardens.

Then off to a fabulous lunch, served by the friendliest of owners. The hot pot was boiling in a paper bag with a flame below!

We went to another scenic spot – Nihondaira – but no luck. Fujisan would not show itself. It was overcast.

Oh well. I did get to smell daphne for the first time ever. And I always like garden art.

Such a disappointment, despite the wonders and fun and new sights of the day. I did see a mythical-looking, hazy Mt Fiji, almost the same colour as the smog and sky, from my Tokyo hotel room on my last visit to Japan. And we did catch a glimpse when we were driving from the airport to Tokyo when the sky was clear and sunny. Now, on the day we spent at lookout, Mt Fuji alluded is.

Visiting schools in Japan

Most of our second day was spent visiting a large public primary (elementary) school in Tokyo.

It is always interesting to see other cultures in action. Nothing shows you the values and norms of a society more than a primary school in action. What is valued? How do they train up (inculcate) their young? Where’s the money spent?

The building put most Australian public primary schools to shame. Although everything is enclosed, it was large, open and airy; clean and tidy; no graffiti or damage; wide corridors. The building itself was new, so that helped. But the government clearly values their young and schools.

We had to take our shoes off at every school we visited. Teachers and students do too. They have lockers as they walk in and swap to their inside shoes. We put on slippers they have for visitors. I tried not to think whose feet had been in the slippers before me.

The slippers were one size fits all. Unless you are a large Anglo man.

They had specialist rooms our primary schools do not have. Joint science, textiles and food technology rooms with tables that flipped to be multipurpose. Australian primary kids look forward to high school to access Science and food tech. They mightn’t want to come if they already had them at primary school!

Others, like the library, were not good. Of course, being a city school, space is a premium so there was no natural outside play areas. There were two large play/sporting area with artificial turf and netting or high fencing to stop balls flying off. One court was on the fourth or fifth floor. Eye-opening was the pool. The teacher with us said every primary school has a pool as swimming is part of the curriculum. The entrance to the pool had several rows of outdoor showers so the students could be cleaned before they entered the pool. The toilets were nothing like the horrid things we give students in Australian schools.

By mid-morning, I was desperate for a cup of tea. Maybe a bikkie. I’d even settle for a cup of green tea. When the recess bell went, I spiked up, eyes alert for any sign of morning tea.

No. Nothing. Turns out they don’t snack like us. The students may have a drink of water. But they don’t snack! They eat a decent breakfast and a hearty lunch. If we followed this, we’d end our obesity problem. But I do look forward to cups of tea!

Lunch is eaten together in the classroom, with students taking turns to serve. They all wait until everyone is served, say thanks, and then eat.

We had a bento box. A work of art in packaging – but I’d rather have eaten the rice and chicken dish the kids and teachers had. (We had to separate all the plastic so I think it may be recycled.)

After lunch, everyone cleans the school. Corridors are swept and mopped. Shelves wiped down.

All the Australians were waiting to witness the cleaning in action. “Imagine bringing this in at home.”

Ah, there’s the rub! You can’t bring in bits of a culture, of a society. They clean, not only because they have done this from early years of primary. They wait to eat, not only because it is the school rule. It’s part of bigger values.

  • Cleanliness and order
  • Group over individual
  • Structure
  • Conformity

These are clearly the values.

Parents don’t come up and complain. Demanding rights for their child. Parents don’t say, “My child will not pick up rubbish.”

Apparently they found some of my questions confronting. You don’t ask questions. (Yes, I am considered “direct” in Australia too. But my questions were not challenging at all by Australian standards. We were here to learn; how does one learn without asking questions? But one does not ask questions so directly. Apparently.)

They definitely didn’t understand our questions about students with disabilities and integration. When they showed us the room for “special” kids, those with learning difficulties, we were all shocked into silence. It was an almost bare room. A few seats. No posters. No life.

We visited two English classes. The students had to talk with us and write our answers for a later task. The questions were the same. And were the same ones I’d heard from school groups that had visited my school. (What’s your favourite colour?) As were the greetings. Clearly they all learn from the same hymn book, the same set texts. The words and phrases also seem set. There is one way to say and do things. “Pleased to me you.” Don’t confuse things with “Nice to meet you.”

Conformity.

There were a couple of European students. I wanted to know what it felt like growing up in a homogeneous mono-culture, with largely one race, when you were visually different. Was there acceptance? Racism? A cultural divide? Coming from a multicultural society, we are so used to diversity. Yes, we have racism and inequality but we also accept and celebrate diversity. We couldn’t ask the students and the concepts were beyond understanding of the translator. One of our tour leaders said my questions, eg on gender equity at a high school we visited, were not translated properly. So we got answers to totally different questions. Still, I also think, if you live in a homogeneous culture, it is hard to step outside of it. Just as it is hard for all of us to step outside ourselves, our lives, our society.

We also visited a private Catholic school in the shadow of Mt Fuji. The school went from pre-school to high school. Its buildings were not as flash as the government school, nor the private secondary school we visited. But of all the schools it had the warmest, friendliest vibe. It may be strange to have a Catholic school in a Buddhist Shinto country. Not many of the students or teachers were Catholic. Apparently it is the ethos parents like. Whether the warmth and friendliness was due to the origins of the school or the principal, I’m not sure. He was the nicest principal we met. Smiled and joked. (In the video you will hear one little boy, who is offscreen, really getting into the singing. I hope his enthusiasm and quirkiness is encouraged.)

Still, the very strict and hierarchical nature of Japanese society was evident. The principal gets the floor. No one less speaks unless spoken to. All the other staff had to stand around the room while the principal and guests sat. This happened at all the schools we visited. None of the staff sat at the tables we were sitting at, no one went out to get spare chairs so they could sit too when there were no spare seats. They stood formally to attention. (At one school, the Deputy and another leader it two also got to sit. But the rest were spread around the room, standing formally.)

The buildings in the Catholic school were not as flash. The student lunch not as elaborate. But I’d rather be at a place where staff and students smile. To see the kids get into the singing was a joy.

Schools and schooling are both a product and a tool of society. I’m. It sure how the quirky kid goes in Japan.

Watching the Tokyo primary students go home, the uniformity and conformity is evident in the uniform, hats and bags. And yet what’s not to like about the building of independence? Imagine infants and primary students being allowed to walk home in Sydney!

Hows this for a bike shed?

It was at the private secondary school we visited. Such infrastructure!!

My trip to 🇯🇵

Just before COVID, I visited Japan. Actually, not just before. It was in Japan and people were nervous. It affected our trip in some ways – crowds and queues were way down; we couldn’t visit some of the places on our itinerary; masks and sanitising were mandatory.

As everyone knows, the situation moved quickly so by the end of our week long trip, number of cases had escalated and tourism had tanked. Which meant the flight home was empty. Largely only the group I was with. Many of us had three to four seats to ourselves. I stretched out and slept the whole flight home.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to the trip.

It was sponsored by the Japan Foundation, a Japanese government initiative to support the study of Japanese language and culture. My fellow travellers were primary and secondary principals from across Australia.

The most popular language to study in schools in Australia is Japanese. Getting school leaders to see the benefits of Japanese study and getting them onside by giving them a wonderful and free trip is a clever way to promote further study. Principals talk with other principals. We share ideas and successes. We can change what courses are studied at our schools. We can promote or relegate courses. We can locally fund and encourage a program.

Every day was packed with cultural experiences and visits to schools.

Day 1

We arrived very early. But no rest. Surely you did that on the 10 hour flight!

Straight off to visit a Shinto shrine, a shrine to an emperor. We were instructed on the correct way to approach the shrine – claps and bows; on different Shinto symbols such as the lightening strikes; and on leaving messages on the Rat boards. (It’s the Year of the Rat. Probably my least favourite animal.)

We were lucky to see a wedding photo shoot. The bride had two changes of clothes. It was all very stylised.

Our next stop was the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple, the oldest one in Tokyo. Leading up to it is the Nakamise-dōri, the shopping alley of little shops. Some with tacky tourist tat and some with beautiful arts and craft. I bought a print of cats. The alley was packed. I can’t imagine how crowded it would be if COVID wasn’t keeping crowds down!

We stopped for lunch just off the alley (why did I take no photos? Maybe I was too hungry?) and then headed for the Tokyo Skytree, with a visit to Chiba Institute of Technology which has a campus in the Skytree. The robotics and technology displays were interesting. But my feet were weary, actually the whole of my body was.

Off to dinner. Lots of little bits served in little pots.

Definitely a jam packed day.

Packing for a week in Japan

My trip calls for several days of business wear and several days of casual wear.

The weather will range from 10 to 16°, maybe even 17°, in the day with sunny and rainy days. It’ll be down to 2° overnight, though I’ll be tucked in bed then. It’s meant to be winter but global warming, which RWNJs say doesn’t exist, is giving Japan a warm winter.

I need shoes I can walk in and slip on and off easily for when visiting shrines and the like. I need shoes that look businessy but that I stay the whole day in. (Side bar: at the end of the day at work, I’ve been known to walk around the office in bare feet. Can’t do that in Japan.)

I need comfy clothes for the 10 hour flight and then be able to hit the road with a day’s worth of activity.

It’s summer here, so I have to check out my cold weather clothes. Blurgh!

Add in I find cold countries overheat indoors…

Not so easy to pack for!

I will wear 7/8 pants with a t-shirt to the airport with slip on sketchers. My feet and ankles swell terribly On flights so I put on some glamorous white post-surgery long socks when I’m seated. On arrival in Tokyo I will put on knee-high stockings and then pop the sketchers back on. Bam, turns my 7/8 pants into a long look with all flesh covered. I am taking a coat, gloves, polar fleece jacket, poncho and hat on plane. Will help me cope with the vagaries of temperature on the plane and meet the cold of 6am at Tokyo. And the changing weather of the day.

The coat will be my main coat for the week. I was going to toss this coat in Germany. It’s past it’s prime – worn and with a tear in the lining. But I’m glad I didn’t. It may even come on it’s second trip to England.

Here’s the coat and hat in Hampton Court in 2015.

I’ve packed a skirt and two tops and a dress for the business wear. A little black cardie to go over inside. The poncho also looks good over the dress. Both the skirt and dress will be worn with tights and ankle boots (the best ever boots I bought at Liberty’s in London five years ago. Haven’t seen any since as well made and comfy and stylish.) For the reception dinner I will swap the boots for a pair of kitten heels.

The casual days will be black jeans and t-shirts. Either with a rugby jersey or the polar fleece. And either the coat or a rain jacket – the one I bought to take to Germany and wore a lot there.

I’m being a little optimistic – in terms of time and my choices – but I’m packing some shorts in case I go to a gym in one or all of the hotels for a workout. I might throw in my cosies for a swim! Will check out the hotels first. Of course, I won’t need cosies if I brave the Japanese bath.

Then there’s makeup and jewellery. When travelling overseas I tend to wear three silver bangles and take one necklace and one set of earrings. Easy to remember to grab them every day. I have a morning “check off” when I leave my accommodation – passport, wallet, phone and bangles. Those four things and I am good. Everything else can be replaced or aren’t really needed.

I like the look of long boots but really, they take up too much space in luggage. I tend to over pack shoes – this time I am throwing in a pair of thongs and ballet flats. You never know if you want to quickly run out of your room to grab something and can’t be bothered with shoes and socks or heels.

Last thing: tea bags. I like s nice cup of tea in the morning and can’t be trusting other interpretations of what that means.

A “free” trip

2020 was going to be an overseas travel free year. Well except for the January trip to California but that doesn’t count, starting, and the flights being paid for, in 2019, right?

I think you can guess where this post is going. Especially as I wrote it “was” going to be an overseas travel free year.

Yes, I’m heading overseas. But not on a holiday.

Last year, a colleague who teaches Japanese at my school sent me a link to an opportunity to travel with other educational leaders to Japan, organised by The Japan Foundation which is sponsored by the Japanese government. It’s aims are to promote the study of Japanese and cultural understanding.

Successful applicants (and I was successful) visit schools, cultural places and educational facilities in Japan for a week. Flights, travel insurance, accommodation, meals, internal travel and sightseeing is all paid for.

My employer would not grant me special or study leave – well, they might but a business case has to go to the Minister of Education and it is unlikely to be supported. (Given how much pollies travel, and in business class, it is a bit annoying.) Luckily I have enough Long Service Leave to cover this week.

Here’s my itinerary. It is packed. Straight off the plane after a 10 hour overnight flight to visit places.

Day 1: Tokyo, morning tour on a chartered bus, visiting Meiji Shrine, Sensoji Temple, Nakamise shopping street. After lunch, tour Chiba Institute of Technology, visit Tokyo Skytree and Solamachi shopping street.

Day 2: Tokyo, 9am-2pm: School visit, including lunch. Afternoon: tour around the Shinjuku area. Evening: visiting The Japan Foundation with reception dinner.

Day 3; morning depart for Shin-Fuji, visit Mt Fuji World Heritage Centre and a shrine. Afternoon: Nihondaira Yume Terrace.

Day 4: morning and early afternoon: 2 school visits. Afternoon: depart for Osaka, sightseeing and free-time

Day 5: morning: school visit. Afternoon: tour of Japanese Language Institute and a language lesson

Day 6: morning: Kyoto, cultural experience (I have chosen to wear a kimono, visit Kodaiji Temple and have a tea ceremony. Afternoon: visit a shrine, sushi making

Day 7: travel to Himeji, visit castle, lunch at Sake brewery, afternoon: visit cup noodle museum, check in at Osaka airport for Haneda airport, depart for night flight to Sydney

I’m exhausted reading the itinerary. There’s very little down time.

Shopping is the opium of the masses

The main thing I was looking forward to in the US was going shopping.

With a huge market, and variety of choice, I knew I’d want to shop.

Even with our pathetic dollar, I knew/hoped the prices in the US would make for cheaper goods.

I was really looking forward to shoes! Sand shoes. Dressy shoes that come in different colours and designs.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

The US really is a shopping paradise. Choices! Lots of choices!

And cheap. But why did the dress and coat I really want in Bloomingdales cost over $400 and $2,000 respectively? They WERE gorgeous. But I resisted.

On my first full day in the States (after visiting Old Sacramento, I didn’t just shop), I hit Maceys.

Mr S said, “Don’t buy at the first shop you visit. Look around. We can come back.” But I know we don’t do that. Too many places to visit. And anyway this was The Post Christmas sales. (As it turns out, I did return as there was a stuff up with a pair of shoes – they gave me two different shoes, not a matching pair in a box, so I took them back. Luckily they found the left shoe of the right shoe I wanted. And while I was there, I bought the watch I saw and which spoke to me but didn’t buy on the first visit. No watch has called me in years.)

On that first visit to Maceys I bought:

  • Boots for $30. (Maybe I should have 10 pairs?)
  • Nike runners.
  • Some other brand of runners.
  • A Calvin Klein coat in the most divine blue.
  • Micheal Kor shoes.
  • A pair of green sling backs.
  • Two pairs of active wear leggings. (I need these now I am a regular gym goer.)
  • Mr S bought me two blingy costume jewellery bangles.

I could have gone really mad with dresses. So much cheaper than at home. But I have enough dresses.

In San Fran we hit the discount stores that take remaindered stock. Ross is my fav. Also visited the shopping centres which has Bloomingdales. The shopping centre had curved escalators!

In San Fran I picked up:

  • Pair of red loafers
  • Pair of blue Sketchers (With all my walking and exercising, I need new sand shoes. My current pair are wearing out and are ready for the bin. I was putting off buying new ones until our trip to America.)
  • A gold Calvin Klein cardie. I have one in black and one in white at home. This will be perfect with all my navy work dresses that don’t suit the black or white.)
  • Another pair of exercise tights
  • A black top.

I also popped into several shops, including new and secondhand book shop, Costco and supermarkets. I always love checking out bookshops and supermarkets in other countries. I had to find a diary and some mascara I’d bought years ago but then the importers stopped bringing it into Australia. Both of which I bought. And:

  • 1.75 litres of my favourite vodka at $US32 – less than half the price here.
  • A lovely little Christmas tray
  • Several different types of melanin. We can only get this by prescription. In the US it is on the shelf at Costco.
  • Four books, including two I was so glad to find from a second hand book store as they are out of print and I couldn’t find in Australia.
  • A double lined water bottle
  • Foot cream
  • Pens that write on glass
  • Little place setting nutcrackers for Christmas (Second hand. They only had five.)
  • Two Hamilton t-shirts
  • Reading glasses.

Oh dear. I should have listened to friends who said to go over with an empty suitcase.

I had to buy a second suitcase. Luckily it will be very useful as it opens like an old fashioned suitcase, not one that has two halves. Easier to use when travelling.

  • So what else?
  • On the way to the airport we stopped off at a factory outlet shopping centre where I bought:

    • A pair of lined crocs
    • Kate Spade handbag
    • Pink sandals.

    It is truely amazing the choice that comes with a big market. I saw some amazing variety in taps and furniture and electronic goods. But you know choice doesn’t make you happy and choice isn’t the same thing as freedom. It’s just more variety, “more permutations of the same meaningless shit”.

    (I’m sorry. I can’t just revel, can’t take simple joy, in buying heaps of stuff. I have to question and interrogate my actions – a life unexamined is not worth living and all that. I’m reading a book about hope and may post on its message soon.)

    I know I’ve bought a lot, and it seems incongruous with my posts about decluttering, but all these things will be used.

    Now to make room for the new stuff!

    A day at Yosemite

    A day at Yosemite is not enough. But it is all we had.

    Fortunately it was a full day as we spent the night before at Oakhurst just outside the park. (Mr S loved the receptionist at the hotel. When asked about a place to drink she said that there wasn’t a place, saying, “We’s just a small place. We’s roll up the red carpet early.” Mr S loved it so much, he kept saying that line for days!)

    I like the teeny tiny hut that is a hairdressers next to a mechanic’s garage on the main street with hills rolling behind.

    The day was packed with moments of open-mouth wonder and awe-inspiring views.

    This valley has been impressing people for centuries.

    I saw my first frozen waterfall. (Oh yes, it was cold! But later in the sun, it was lovely.)

    Better waterfall views were to come. We got right under this partially frozen one. As we walked towards it, we could hear the thunderous explosion from ice cracking away. The video is only 6 seconds – didn’t manage to capture the sound of ice cracking.

    We visited the First Nation’s museum and village. Their treatment by the white settlers was horrendous. Their continued cultural survival shows the power of human spirit.

    On the way into the park, I was chanting about wanting to see a bear and calling bears. “Come on, bear. Come out of the trees! Wake up! Stop hibernating!”

    No bears emerged from the trees. But …

    As we were leaving, we saw a deer. And what was that behind the deer?

    A coyote. Crouching and tracking the deer.

    We pulled over. I got out of the car for a closer look. Neither animal cared that there were several cars stopped to watch, nor a bus driving by, nor people excitedly snapping photos.

    The deer was not perturbed by the coyote at all. The coyote tracked a bit. Then rolled in the snow. Then tracked a bit more.

    I think the deer knew the coyote wasn’t really interested.

    We drove off (before there was an unhappy-for-the-deer ending). We stopped for a toilet stop. I didn’t need to go do waited in the car. And what ran right by my door?

    A coyote!

    I don’t think the day could have been better. The end of the visit certainly couldn’t have been topped.

    If I were to return to Northern California, it would be to spend a few days in Yosemite and take some hikes. Such an amazing place!

    Eating out in America

    Things I expected or knew.

    1. The serving sizes are HUGE.

    Look at the size of these chicken wings! They were massive. Must have some huge chickens around!

    And the serving of Mexican food.

    And this ice cream from an ice cream parlour straight out of Grease. This was the “small” serving. I should have bought the tiny, and shared it with Mr S.

    Mr S got the large. Look at it again! It is the height of 2/3 of his torso!!!

    2. There’s a lot of deep fried food.

    3. There’s a lot of meat.

    Mr S’s paella had a huge lobster tail.

    In the restaurant called Texas, Mr S’s steak came with a side of chilli beef and The Dreamer’s main dish was chicken with a steak. (OK, we’ll occasionally serve up several kinds of meat – at Christmas and BBQs, but I’m sure we don’t do it in restaurants.)

    4. Salads are served before your main course. Unless you having salad for your main course. The main course is called an entree. Entrees are called appetisers.

    Things I didn’t realise.

    1. Creamy style dressings are the go. For salads. For chicken. For everything. Add some more fats to your deep fried food! And lots and lots of cheese and cheesy sauce with added cheese on pasta.

    2. The food is sweeter. Hurt your teeth sweeter.

    I had a Thai beef salad. It was lovely – except could have done with half the very sweet dressing. By the end my mouth and teeth were sore and I had to give up on the lettuce. Now I know why people in movies ask for the dressing on the side. I wouldn’t dare ask for that in France, where they have a light hand.

    3. The fancy supermarkets are beautiful. And huge! Look at this fruit and veg display.

    And how clever to have a kitchen set to display the kitchen items?

    4. The sourdough bread is actually sour.

    5. All the drinks come with masses of ice. In one restaurant, my Coke was like a slushy; the ice towering over the rim of the glass.

    6. Soft drinks are refilled for free. Sugar overload or what?!?

    7. I know there is a lot of people but the restaurants are HUGE. And there are a lot of them.

    Look at this Mexican one.

    Americans eat out more than we do. There were always queues outside the restaurants as people waited for a table. Places didn’t seem to take bookings as we do here.

    Mr S’s cousins hardly ever cook at home. They did not cook at home the whole time we were with them. Mr S actually cooked three times for them. (Partly as a thank you, partly to show them how easy it is to cook at home and how homecooked is much better.) They say it is easier and cheap to eat out. I disagree. Which brings me to the next point.

    8. Eating out is not cheap. Even without the state tax and the mandatory tip, it isn’t cheap. I can eat out cheaper at home. Maybe the restaurants are factoring the continuous soft drink refills? We paid $100AU for four burgers with chips, two beers and two cokes.

    I really became to resent the expense of eating out by the end of our trip. The food just wasn’t worth the cost. I wasn’t enjoying the experience.

    9. Americans can’t cook chips, or fries, or French fries, or whatever you want to call them. Either over cooked or powdery in the middle. Often flavourless.

    10. A lot of the food is soft and mooshy. Like the Mexican above. Or like the soft buns on Maccas burgers. And messy in presentation. The places our cousins chose seem to go for quantity, not appearance. Look back at the ice creams! How are you meant to eat them? With a lot of mess, that’s how; they flop over the glass and run on the saucer. It was yucky and I gave up. Never again!

    All up, no wonder they have an obesity issue. And no wonder I saw a massive dialysis centre, a multi storey block only for kidney dialysis!

    We talked about doing a return trip, next time to Southern California with the cousins. I will have to make it clear that while I am most happy for them to eat out once or twice a day, Mr S and I will not. We will buy the beautiful fresh foods and pack sandwiches and snacks when out and about.

    The smoked salmon was divine. The fruit soooo good. Lovely cheeses.

    11. There are interminable questions from waiters as there are unending list of choices – sizes, dressing, how the meat is cooked, accompaniments. No just saying, “I will have the chicken salad and he will have the burger.”

    One last thing

    My favourite dish, and Mr S’s favourite, was a a bowl of chilli. I swear it was like I used to cook it before Mr S said he didn’t like my chilli beans to be so sloppy. Anyway, we had several bowls and will experiment with different recipes at home. I bought some chilli vegetable soup from a supermarket. It was soooo good. Our supermarkets do not sell hot, ready to eat vegetable soup. Oh, the power of a large market!

    Last meal was a “light lunch” at the Texas Roadhouse, where you crack open free peanuts and drop the shells on the floor! (Took me quite a bit to do that. Just seems so wrong.) Anyway my light lunch was a salad and bowl of chilli. And unlimited sweet bread rolls with cinnamon butter.

    I’m young, scrappy and hungry

    I saw Hamilton in San Francisco!

    I’m not a fan of hip hop or rap. Can’t stand listening to it. And I don’t know a lot about early USA history.

    But I loved the musical.

    Oh the dancing!

    Oh the singing!

    It is amazing.

    I want to see it again in Australia, to see if we can do it as good as the Americans.

    Oh dear! I’ve joined the cult!

    Bought two t-shirts to prove it. I will walk around emblazoned with my new religion.