People wonder how in the world my parents maneuvered a family of eleven all over the place, and I’ll be honest, sometimes so do I. I mean, man alive, in theory that would sure be a fun thing to do with my kids. Who wouldn’t want to jump on a plane and head over for an “exotic” trip to Asia? But the more I talk to my parents about it the more I realize it didn’t just happen (of course it didn’t!!), but sometimes it’s easy in hindsight not to understand all the legwork involved…the sacrifices and serious effort it took to make these things happen. My parents had a ton of frequent flyer miles from their “book tours” they did as authors. And from so much flying experience they knew how to work the system for their benefit. And they wrote books so they could do that from a lot of places, not just their home office. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. I’m sure it was a sacrifice as far as other things we would all miss out on at home and other things we may not have the funds for because so much went into these trips. But they made it a big priority. They willed it to happen.
And it did.
And now I’m grateful for these unique experiences. With all my heart. I stress the “now” part because I sure wasn’t over-the-moon about it at the time. (I’m not sure how everyone else felt, but my sister wrote her more detailed rendition is here.)
En route to Japan we stopped off for a few days in the Philippines. I think it was just a layover they extended because they could, and my parents had a good friend who lived there. We stayed with he and his wife.
I remember walking out of the airport to the most intensely heavy, hot air I could imagine.There we are on the left up there, in awe of how jumbled and chaotic the streets were, and how loud and often the horns on those colorful bus things were going off.
(Excuse these somewhat blurry pictures of pictures I’m posting…they’re all I’ve got.)
Lots of things sure hit me there. How big the world is. How people lived. My parents’ friends lived in a beautiful house with a driver and a cook. One day we drove past a place called “Smokey Mountain:” a huge mountain (more like a whole mountain range) of garbage where people lived. They made these little hovels out of trash and had babies there and cooked their food there and raised children there. They collected things to recycle. And it was smoky. I don’t know if it was just steamy from the heat or that it was partly burning, but it was sure an eye-opener for my 18-year-old mind.
So as you can imagine, when I read this book recently it sure hit home to me.
(It’s about a family who lives in a dump in Cambodia similar to Smokey Mountain in the Philippines and although the writing style wasn’t favorite I’d totally recommend it…so much of it spoke to me…more about that book here
We visited the American War Memorial there in the Philippines and soaked in as much culture as we could.(Gotta love my home-made gigantic floral skirt…)
Then we headed to Japan.
My parents somehow figured out how to finagle a house swap or some kind of deal with this American couple who lived in Japan (I don’t know how they came to ever be in touch with them in the first place) so we could stay in their house in Kamakura, Japan for a month. All the girls slept in one room on mats on their tatami floor, and the boys slept in another.
We all just rolled out on these mats at night. (Not sure if I was posing or sleeping with a smile there…)
We had lessons on putting on how to wear a Kimono:
(It is complicated, I tell you.)
We attended a Japanese Tea Ceremony.
I don’t have a picture of that but boy I remember it. The exactness in how they sat, how they composed themselves, how many quarter-turns they made with the cup in the palm of their hand, etc. I remember thinking it would last forever as I knelt there on that mat, trying to pay attention as my feet were falling asleep.
One of my favorite things we did was volunteer in some kind of preschool. I adored it because I loved working with kids so much.
My parents also finagled some kind of way for us to go to Japanese schools for one day. I don’t remember much except that I was in awe of how even the little toddlers could speak Japanese so beautifully.
We took a day trip to Mount Fuji.
And visited what felt like a bazillion shrines:(complete with fanny packs, of course.)
The city where we stayed was known for it’s “Big Buddha.” I think we visited there a lot.(I love how intensely my sister is studying that map of hers.)
And fed the birds there…
My Dad took us three oldest on a day trip to Kyoto too.
We have grand stories of the singing toilets that still make my Mom laugh so hard she gets giant tears rolling down her cheeks. And I still think about the $100 perfectly round watermelons lining the shelves of the grocery stories there when I pick mine up at Costco for $4.99. My mind flashes back to Japan each time I see plastic food in restaurant windows here in the States.
And every time something here reminds me of that great country over there, a part of my heart rejoices that I got to be there. Even just for a little while. And that I got to reach outside of my teenage self to see another corner of the world.