I’m back in Japan after a wonderful Obon week spent back home in the Netherlands. My vacation started last Thursday at Chubu airport when I got on this relatively small plane for a 12-hour-flight across half the globe.
It was nice to have a straight flight, but 12 hours is a really long time and one’s ass really starts to hurt after half a day of just sitting around in an uncomfortable economy class seat. After my plane landed in Frankfurt, I basically ran through the airport from the gate to customs to baggage claim and into the arrivals hall, because I couldn’t wait to see my parents again and it really feels great after being cooped up for way too long in that cylinder with wings. They were a little late due to heavy traffic and extremely bad weather conditions, but I could be patient a little longer. And then finally seeing them again was so good that I almost hugged all the air out of them!
After a long way back home from Frankfurt to Veldhoven (next time I’m going to try and fly to Amsterdam Airport), we got home and it was omiyage (souvenir) time. After everybody admired their little gifts and snacks, I took out the yukata Jo gave me before she left. My mother asked me to bring it with me to the Netherlands so she could try it on… doesn’t she look beautiful?!
There were also presents waiting for me at home: a ‘welcome home’ bouquet of my favorite flowers in the Dutch national color, Dutch candy sticks, a decorative, colorful and tiny Italian perfume bottle (to be filled with whatever smelly substance I prefer) from my parent’s honeymoon in Rome, and loads of daily products that I haven’t been able to find in a Japanese store.
The next morning, I went grocery shopping with my stepdad and it was simply awesome to browse around aisles of products which are all so familiar to me and all have Dutch descriptions on them! I found my brand of shampoo in a second, without having to try (usually unsuccesfully by the way) to figure out what the combination of weird characters on a bottle might possibly mean. Anyway, I did some shopping there for Japan, I brought back several of my favorite herbs and the almighty Dutch cheese! There was much more I wanted to bring, but most of those thing would not have survived the trip to Japan. What I wouldn’t give for an Albert Heijn (Dutch grocery store) around the corner here in Inuyama…
To my surprise they sold one of my favorite kinds of seafood in the store (it’s supposed to out of season in the summer): mussles! So we packed up 4 kg of those delicious black clams and brought them back home, where Guido made us a delicious steamed mussle dinner!
On the morning of my birthday, my siblings and parents surprised (not really because it’s an old tradition in out family) me with presents and breakfast in (my makeshift but still superior to my futon in Inuyama) bed in my stepdad’s attic office. It was just great to celebrate my birthday with my family even though I live in Japan these days.
After breakfast we went cake-and-bread-shopping and Guido treated me to another one of my favorite kinds of seafood (and like the mussles also not available in seafood-crazy-Japan) raw herring with onions! Jurre doesn’t really like it, but I love this typical Dutch treat!
Normally, I prefer to celebrate my birthday away from home, and this was the first time in many years that we basically did all the celebrating at home and it was the best! But hey then again, I did spend my birthday away from my Japanese home :). Here are some of the people that made my birthday very special:
Myra, Minke & me
Gyano & me
Guido & me
Chantal (my mother’s sister), my sweet mother & me
New guy in the family Henk (Chantal’s new boyfriend) & me
Our cooks are getting used to the Japanese way of posing for pictures
Latenight bonfire fun with Myra and Negin
Up until the 11th the weather hadn’t been great in the Netherlands, but like every year on my birthday the sun shines its ass off and it was hot, so perfect for our BBQ. The next day, it was significantly cooler and rainy… but that worked out perfectly because we all headed to Eindhoven to see Harry Potter 5 (yes again, and it’s still a terrific). For dinner we went to a Dutch snackbar, where I ate a frikandel speciaal (a sausage made out of cow udders among other things, which looks like a big turd according to Adrik) and it was delicious as always!
Monday was shopping spree day, yay! I went to Eindhoven with my mom and Gy, don’t they look all summery and tanned compared to me, who has been living in scorching hot and sunny Japan… weird. Well, it probably has something to do with that I shy away from the sun and am not blessed with easily tannable skin like they are.
It truly felt like shopping spree madness as I bought myself silly with my birthday money! I bought new clothes, new shoes, new crocs, Dutch magazines, stuff to put in my Japanese apartment like tiny green and blue garbage cans and kitchen utensils, omiyage and more. In Japan, I thought I lost the art of shopping, but when you’re back home running around shops you know and that sell things you understand things are much easier!
Of course, we also occasionally took a break to recover from the shopping absurdity.
Gy discovered this alien disguised as a metal traffic stopper pole.
I used to work at this EXPO shop, which is now under construction… I wonder what it will look like in December when I return for another visit.
These days, Gyano works at the restaurant of a hotel in Veldhoven. On the last night of my Dutch getaway extravaganza, we went for dinner at that restaurant while he was working and he was our server. He loves the whole etiquette thing and he really seems to be in his element there. After about 30 minutes his coworkers decided to give him the rest of the evening off so that he could enjoy dinner with his family.
After a delicious steak dinner, I tried to decline dessert but was unsuccesful as the cook showed up to bring me his improvised (it’s not on the menu) grand dessert with a blue blob in the whipped cream. Before dinner I joked that Gyano might put his delayed birthday present for me in my dessert, little did I know that he had in act arranged that a couple of hours earlier with the cook. Of course he didn’t ask me to marry him ;), but he has seen many American shows and movies and he just loves all the (romantic) drama and traditions. So after dinner I found a blue gemstone amulet (I forgot the name of the stone) in my whipped cream. Gy told me the stone will help me in my love relationships and keep my teeth healthy, which is good because I have a sickening fear of all dentists!
This picture was taken in Frankfurt, on Tuesday morning right before we said goodbye and went off to hop on another tiny Lufthansa flight. It was sad saying goodbye again, I didn’t expect any less, but it was in no way comparable to my departure in May. This time it was ok and not mind-numbingly painful to say goodbye. I was a little afraid that my trip home would ignite a desire in me to stay in Europe, but that didn’t happen. The trip did exactly what I hoped it would do, it gave me a wonderful and loving recharge so that I can easily last another 4.5 months in Japan before I go back for Christmas. And when I sat on the train back to Inuyama this morning, all was well, even though I missed my family it was actually kind of fun to be in Japan again.