Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lunch date with the hubster and trying to get our summer vacation plans sorted out...

Yesterday, Noboru and I had a lunch date. We went and had Indian food for lunch, at our favorite restaurant, in the small city, nearest our town. I had the kobocha curry (of course, my fave) it was a combo/set. Noboru picked the pork keema curry set. It was a very nice lunch. And we got to chit chat, enjoy each others company. And try to figure... this vacation stuff out. : )

What else have I done this week, went for my walks....cleaned the shower/tub area. Scrubbed the toilets, vacuumed upstairs, and dusted upstairs. Washed the kids bedding. Just regular ol' boring things. : ) I also went and picked up a weeks worth of groceries. Let me grab my menu real quick and fill you all in, brb (be right back) Tonight/Thursday, we are having, ginger pork, yep we had it last Saturday, was it Saturday?...I know it was within the last week though, but we love it and so we will have it tonight, with salad and veggies and stuff and rice of course too, Friday/tomorrow, we will be having yakisoba (already have the cabbage and bean sprouts). Saturday....will be comfort food city for us....we're having southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and broccoli on the side (yumm) And the last 3 meals we are having and which I already have the meat and ingredients for....is chicken teriyaki, chicken paremsan and that chicken fettuccine alfredo dish with broccoli, do you know which one I mean...I use those packets I brought back from Guam, it's really super good and fairly easy to make. The last 3 meals I am unsure which days or order we will have those.

Vacation. Where to go, what to decide. Here's the nitty gritty. And again..I often wonder. Should I keep this stuff private or should I share this. But in any case, here you go. Of course only read this if you're interested or curious if not, no worries.

If I lived in my home country. Our vacations would...I would hope they would be...of us going to far off places. Exotic countries. Having new experiences. And whatnot. You know what I mean, I hope. However...since I am living in a foreign country. And I live in a far off land. And while I am busy all year long doing...mommy stuff...life stuff. I do get homesick every once in a while. I do miss being in my home country. I miss walking in a Target or shopping mall. And hear English everywhere. To walk into a Chik-fil-A and appreciate how good those are. Or go to a movie without wondering...is this movie available in English. It is those tiny minute details. That I miss. For example...When you are standing in line at a Target and can have a conversation no matter how brief with the person checking out in front of you or the cashier. In your native language. So...while I do pretty good in Japan. Often it's just easier for us to go to the US during our summer vacation. It's familiar. It's comfortable. I "get" the people. They get me.  It's just like a huge exhale type of..... Phew! So...in that respect... we don't venture to too many far off places. Because it's that 1 time of year we can just all let our hair down to speak. And not worry. Omg... did they understand me fully and completely. We are also water people and beach people. So for us it seems Hawaii is most comfortable. and we go there for the most part... every single summer. In fact we can go this year if we decide in the end too. However...here's the new updated thoughts, we have been debating.

We have been wanting to go to California since last year. Do you remember how we originally last year... wanted to go to Universal Studios Hollywood. That was our #1 goal of last years summer vacation but...since I was a VP of the yakuin last year... I had ZERO flexibility in my schedule so...the only available days for me...was a very small window of days and so we tried for those days and we didn't get on the flight and the long drive back from Haneda airport. The huge disappointment and last minute hotel booking and the very next day we zipped off to Hawaii. Hawaii has never let us down. Hahaha. Oahu is the best. : ) However...we want to try getting to Universal Studios in California again this year.  that is one of our hopeful places. But let me tell you all the positives for us going and all the negatives. #1, I have gone to Universal Studios when I was a child. Younger than Branden is now, but I think a year older than Noah is right now. I was maybe in the 5th or 6th grade maybe. @_@ So, I went to Universal Studios about a billion years ago, I know it has changed a ton. Hello...I saw KITT from Knight Rider there, lol. Noboru meanwhile went once about a million years ago too. Noboru and I have never been to Universal Studios Hollywood together before. We have gone to USJ twice, once with only Branden (pre-Noah being born) and once when Noah was super duper little. Neither son has any memory of USJ at all. But, both have seen pictures. : ) If we go to California. The positive is we go to my home country. Noboru lived there for 12-13 years so he's comfortable in America too. We 4 are all very comfortable in California. We have In N Out Burger. We have El Pollo Loco. Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits. They have China Town, Olvera Street (I blogged about that street before)...Target, Walmart. Shopping malls. Factory Outlet malls. Beaches are sorta ugly compared to Hawaii, so am not sure if we'd go. We could go to movies. On top of that, we'd hit Universal Studios. So, we'd have a very fantastic vacation in California. Another plus is the 9 hour or so flight...do you know how many free movies we can watch on the airplane, in that amount of time back and forth, to and from, tons. Plus that hot fudge or strawberry sundae dessert cart they roll around. Amazing. Okay get ready for the cons.

Will the lines be super long at Universal Studios? It will be summer in America too. And if the lines are super long... we might have to spring for those expensive front of the line passes which pretty much doubles your entrance fee. Which we really do not want to pay double. So the long lines are a huge worry. Also crime. Noboru feels Japan is very safe. He feels pretty safe-ish in Hawaii too. He also feels totally safe in Guam. However...don't ask me why. Whenever we go to California Noboru is on super extreme high alert. He feels or worries... we will be robbed...killed. Shot in a drive by. @_@ Lock the doors, lock the doors. I mean this guy...though wonderful... is on super level red... level 10 out of 10...type alert when we go to California (he doesn't worry in Denver and didn't worry when we went to Oregon either). When in California...he is constantly telling me to keep my bag in the front of my body, lol. Another thing...the US dollar and Japanese yen exchange rate at the moment, is terrible. Not good! Perfect time for Americans to come to Japan. Horrendous time for us from Japan, to go to the US. Granted, we can most definitely go, we wait all year for this trip, we're ready. It's just not the best time for the yen. Exchange rate wise. However, we would be staying at a crew hotel in a very nice suburb area. So that would probably ease Noboru's worry of crime. OMG, lol. @_@ : )  We'd fly Delta, so it's obviously for us...going to be a pretty much free flight for us 4, round trip. And since we'd be staying at an amazing hotel...meaning high rating via Trip Advisor and Expedia, the regular rate is $100 US a night... but with our airline discount it would be like $60 a night. Very affordable for us. And we like affordable! : ) So flight and hotel costs... for us would be super cheap even considering the exchange rate. So this trip is still very easily doable. And with us taking our own airline versus taking an OA (other airline) it means we can find out if the flight is full, switch flights and whatnot. Plus there's like 2 flights via Narita and 1 flight via Haneda. So us getting there... would be easy with so many flights daily and with me not being yakuin this year... we are super flexible schedule wise.

So would the kids love Universal Studios...heck yes. However will we be in huge hours upon hours long lines, per each ride. Biggest worry for me. Gosh, I really hope not. And that's 1 thing, the lines...wait times for each ride... that's really worrying us. So we have been watching videos of families on vacation there in July. We look for on videos...are they in long crowds??? Is it like a huge long wait time??? So those are some of our thoughts on California.

2nd destination thought. South Korea. #1 you have to know how HUGELY popular Korea is right now. If you are in the US, Just a walk into your closest Neiman Marcus or Nordies and you'll notice the famous brand....Sulwhasoo being sold there. For those of you who do not know. Think of Sulwhasoo as Korea's Chanel for skincare and cosmetics. It's owned by Amore Pacific. They sell many many brands. From high end brands, like Amore and Sulwhasoo and Hera (those are Amore Pacific's top 3 high end brands). The mid brands like Laneige (you may recognize that brand being sold in the US at Target.) They also sell Aritaum, mid range brand Innisfree too.... all the way down to the more affordable Etude House which yes..is also owned by Amorepacific. They own Iope (the first brand to come out with the cushion foundation. Anyway...what I want to say is Korea is huge right now. Hella huge! Popular. Walk into a Sephora and spot all the Korean brands now being sold there. Anyway here's the pros for us going to Korea. Noboru and I, took the kids to Korea when Noah was about 1 or under 1. I know it was in like November. I know I blogged about it. Noah was super tiny. Branden was like 3 or 4 years old. Neither of the kids obviously have any memory of going there. Also at the time I went, I was not into skincare or cosmetics really at all. Doh me!!! I walked right passed all those great shops that now...I can just kick myself for not going into. Hahaha. : ) The biggest pro..for me is...remember how that 1 time we went to Bangkok Thailand? The kids clearly remember going there.. for what it's worth hahaha. However, I'm not from Bangkok neither is Noboru, obviously...and for us going to a 3rd country (neither of our home country's)...was so exciting and fun for us as a family. A country none of us speak the language. Were... we daring enough to go and order this or that? I tell ya...our trip was very fun going to Bangkok. We couldn't read the signs. At the supermarket while most stuff was clear what it was...some stuff was a guess and that was fun! If we went to Korea...we would have that same excitement....the whole...neither of us speaks Korean or is from Korea. But it's so exciting...who is going to order our breakfast today...should I try? Should we send Noboru to go and order some food? Should we put Branden to the test and let him try ordering in Korea? I do have a Korean phrase book from our last trip. Which we left the phrasebook at home. LOL. But it is that whole...going to a 3rd country (neither his nor mine)...that excitement and fun, vibe you get. Where you REALLY REALLY feel like...wow... we are so totally on vacation here. Also South Korea is very safe. It's about as safe as Japan. So again...no fear of being robbed or shot in a drive by there. @_@ You know what I mean. Of course as always, we will always...be careful. Also the exchange rate between Korea and Japan is pretty much... dollar for dollar. Yen for won. So we wouldn't lose 20 cents to each dollar. That sort of thing. Also...they have amusement parks. We would like very much to go to Everland. They also have the world's biggest indoor amusement park called Lotte World. However we would like to go to Everland. Also I think the lines would probably be less than...Universal Studios hahaha. though, I could be wrong about the lines. All those fabulous skincare and cosmetic shops. Innisfree, Nature Republic, Aritaum, Skinfood, Missha, The Saem, Banila Co, Sulwhasoo, Clio, It's Skin. Plus...all those one of a kind shops that sell cool purses and bags. And accessories and whatnot. Plus, since this is vacation...we could walk all over the food markets. We could ride the subways and trains and sight see. And eat street food (vendors selling food at stalls all over)...the whole buzz and vibe of being in a 3rd country, is very cool. Having absolute zero familiarity there. Making mistakes. Did we...just order the wrong thing? What a laugh we'd get! It would flat out feel like...a very fun vacation. We'd be there for a full week. I'd probably only use 1 day to shop for cool skincare and cosmetics...I shop quick... so the rest of our days would be...just really cool. Just bumming around and eating new foods...taking tons of pics. Going to a new to us, amusement park.

The cons for going to Korea. We would not be using Delta. However we would use our miles and we'd use the mileage and on top of that...we would only pay around 10,000 yen ($100 US...that would be the extra cash our mileage would not cover, so again cheap for us) however they would be confirmed seats. Granted crappy economy seats, but at least we'd get there, so no worries. And...the flight is very short. So that would be fine. No time for tons of movies in flight, bummer. Hotels are slightly higher in cost in Korea because...in Asia...most hotel rooms have twin beds. In America it is common to get a room with 2 double beds or sometimes even 2 queen beds. But in Korea and even Japan too. It is common to see rooms with only 2 twin beds,  You can't fit Noboru, me, Bran and Noah in 2 tiny twin beds 
you want to move around in bed and stretch too, ykwim. And so we have to get a larger room with an extra bed and so the cost is about 10,000-12,000 yen a night. So higher yes...but nothing you can do... really about it... since rooms with 2 double beds are uncommon. Also...we worry..what if Everland is a lame amusement park. Though it doesn't look too terribly lame by the videos we've seen. So again...we crank up YouTube.....any videos. And we look and see. No real cons really about going to Korea. Except bed issues... so the hotels are slightly more expensive. And again we want a clean place/hotel with great reviews off Trip Advisor and Expedia, and we have so far 2 hotels we'd like to pick from. And they have 3 twin beds in each room and the kids would share 1 twin bed, which would be acceptable. Wish we could fly Delta. But other than that... no real huge...blinking reason not to go. Again we went to Bangkok and didn't go to *any* amusement park and we didn't care...we also didn't hit the beach but you know what...we had a BLAST being in Bangkok, and I sorta think no matter what...we'd have a blast in Korea too.

So...do we stick with familiar and go to California. Or do we spice things up and take a leap of faith and head to South Korea. Both places have many pros and many cons. Also, you may not enter Korea without having at least 6 months left on your passport (expiration), meaning if your passport expires within 6 months while entering Korea, you may not enter. So...we know the boys do not have 6 months left on their passports, which is why we need to run to the US Embassy. Going to America, on the other hand, with an American passport, that will expire at the end of summer, would not matter for the boys, because they are American citizens, and are most welcome anytime, regardless, when their passport expires, whether it be, in 1 month, 1 week. And same for them entering Japan, because they are citizens of both. However...the kids entering Korea with less than 6 months on their passports, since they are just visitors, would cause major problems. So...the passports have to get done. Even though we are unsure of which country right now...it's best either way... to get their passports done now.  Sigh. This is a really hard decision you guys. Some days we go...we're going to California. All the delicious food, the familiarity, Universal Studios, movies etc. And then 2 days later we'll be like...screw it...let's go to Korea and see what we think...I mean...we haven't been there in like 10 years. And what do the kids think? Noah wants to go to Korea. Branden prefers California. But both really honestly don't care...one way or the other...they're just glad to be going someplace. Before we went to Bangkok 2 years ago, the kids were like..."meh Bangkok." Not to make them sound ungrateful or anything, because they're not. They appreciate how lucky they are. But the reason I mention it is... after leaving Bangkok, they were like..."Bangkok is so cool!!!" They learned *so* much from that trip and saw so much. Even now 2 years later, they still sometimes will bring up Bangkok. So...I imagine...they'd learn new stuff....too, if we went to Korea. Well... as for right now...we have not decided which place to go. When would we be going...First, 2nd or at the latest the 3rd week of July. We will go before school lets out in Japan. Because...all Noboru's coworkers battle it out...for those vacation weeks when school is on break here in Japan. but nobody requests days off... before school lets out. This way....if we can avoid...battling and vying for vacation days with his coworkers... fantastic and all the better for us.  Last year...I was only available after the summer festival was over and after school was on summer break. Which really boxed in our days. Now we can go any day. Huge difference since last year. : )  Should we go to California and hit Universal Studios. The Transformers ride, Despicable Me ride, The Simpsons ride, etc, hit Sephora and Target, etc etc. Or go to a new and exciting country. And see many many new things, have many new experiences, try many new and delicious foods. Noboru and I have never taken this long to decide before...like ever. We're always really good at deciding and moving on. The problem this time...both places sound so freaking good, we can't really decide which place to try. There's also always plan C....and we can say forget both places and just go to Honolulu. LOL. Anyways...we are having 1 heck of a hard time trying to get this all figured out, you guys.

Anything else left to add...I have an appointment next Thursday, for a haircut and color. : )