Archive for August, 2009

England & Scotland

Sunday, August 30th, 2009 by Chris

Trip update: we’ve just completed the UK portion of our trip, spending some lovely time with the wonderful Brits we met in Noshiro during our first two years there.

The first week was in London, where we stayed with Francis, saw the sights (including the wonderfully quirky sport of Bike Polo) and gradually acclimated to life in the big city after three years outside of it.

After that, Frank accompanied us for a weekend in Oxford, where we hung out with Andy, who was coincidentally doing a summer program there as part of his law degree at the Ohio State.

Then it was a week Yorkshire to see Claire, with whom we overlapped during our first year in Japan. This portion of the trip involved visiting the eponymous York, and healthy portions of rambling and croquet. Yorkshire has been described to us as “the Texas of England” in that it has a strong independent streak and resists being characterized as part of a larger country. We are interested to see what Claire, a native Yorkshire girl, has to say about that!

Now we set out on our own to the great repressed nation of Scotland. August is festival month in Edinburgh, wherein the entire city is swamped for the ironically named Fringe Festival (which now dwarfs all the “mainstream” festivals it meant to mock when it started in the 1960s). Edinburgh is a lovely city, managing to feel ancient and modern at the same time. We spent a busy Monday through Friday cramming in as many off-the-wall performances and comedy shows as possible, with about a 50% hit rate for satisfying shows.

We had intended to spend a whole week in Edinburgh, but it was clear that five days were going to be enough. Fortunately, we were able to make a last-minute change in plans by renting a camper van from (we had seen tons of these vans in Australia last Christmas and remembered their quirky and very effective self-advertising) for about the same price that we would have been paying anyway for our Edinburgh hostel. So we spent three nights and four days driving ourselves around the Scottish Highlands, pulling off the side of the road to sleep wherever was convenient, and boy are we glad we did. This country is bursting at the seams with gorgeous hills and a truly unbelievable number of waterfalls, and not a few castles as well.

Now we are in Berlin until the end of September, and you can expect a report about that later on!

The Plan

Sunday, August 16th, 2009 by Chris

Some of you may be aware that we no longer live in Japan. Hello from the suburbs of Leeds, England! I thought I’d present a brief roundup of our current situation for those not “lucky” enough to be privy to all the messy daily evolutions of our “plans.”

The most common question, of course, is: Where next?

The short answer is: We don’t know. In fact, Steph came up with a brilliant scheme to postpone that very question: travel around the world until Christmas.

Over the years we have been lucky to befriend many lovely people with penchants for world travel. So now we’re visiting them, in this rough order:

  1. UK (August): London, Oxford, Yorkshire, Edinburgh, plus brief highland road trip
  2. Europe (September): based in Berlin + side trips to Italy and Spain
  3. Moldova (October): to visit my friend all the way back to junior high, Erin!
  4. Cambodia (November): to visit our college friend Katherine!

This is a mixed work-play holiday. I called in a “favor” at work (not really, but this is actually to the day, I think my tenth anniversary of being hired) and got a couple months off to spread over the rest of this year. The idea is to follow a pattern of a few weeks of travel and vacation, followed by a month of “settling down” somewhere where I will get some work done and Steph will do some volunteering and planning for her own future.

Right now we’re in the UK portion of the trip. We spent a week in London, a weekend in Oxford, and are now in Yorkshire staying with our friend and fellow Noshiro ALT, Claire. Next week it’s off to Edinburgh and after that, a month in Berlin, staying in a lovely cheap apartment found on Craigslist!

In the long term, we’ll be home for Christmas probably in California, but who knows. After that, the book is completely unwritten. Where we end up is mostly down to Steph’s job prospects, so I’ll let her write about that!

We’ll try to keep you up to date as the trip progresses!