Bullet train…cough, cough!

J is here! Christmas was awesome with lots of cool, albeit grown-up (no toys!), gifts. Then it was back to work for three days, which we managed rather well although it would have been nice if the leave schedule wasn’t so rigid. J slept in two of the three days. Then he came to Yokosuka, where we’d work out, eat lunch, do some work and leave for Yokohama.

We had a delicious meal in Motomachi the night before we left for Kyoto, where I am currently sitting in the Rhino hotel waiting to leave for a delightful day of temple gawking. Yesterday, we saw the Golden Pavillion (Kinkajugi). It was gorgeous! It is a three level shrine with each floor styled differently. The first floor is palace style. The top two are covered in thick gold leaf. The 2nd floor is samurai style and the 3rd is Zen temple style.

The restaurant last night was delicious. We had sashimi, yakatori (chicken on a stick), and yaki udon, a dish of thick white wheat noodles that are so good. It was cooked with a delicious sauce with lots of yummy grease (really!). It went perfectly with beer.

Ok, more later since we’re leaving for breakfast now. Keep your fingers crossed. There were eggs in the picture so hopefully, J’s day can get off to a good start!

[PS: The title? Here’s a few tips if you come to Japan. 1. Buy a Railpass. Seriously. Just do it if you are going to take a trip anywhere outside of your immediate area. 2. When taking the Bullet train on a holiday weekend, buy your tickets for a reserved seat. Because otherwise, you MAY end up STANDING in the smoking car ruing the fact that, you have actually paid a pretty penny for the privilege. J and I headed straight for the ticket counter when we got off and we now have lovely non-smoking reserved seats.]

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I love how just a few beautiful lights and familiar songs can cause a pleasant warmth of happiness. My toasty beverage- hello non-fat latte!- also helps, but overall I’m just so happy it’s Christmas.

I have my apartment slightly Christmas’d out. Some lights around the windows and a little, 8 inch Japanese conifer. It looks like a little tree. Two ornaments completely overwhelm it and it has an unfortunate similarity to a rosemary sprig when someone, ok me, forgets to water it.  I had slightly grander plans. I was going to get a foot and a half foot tall tree from Ikea, but ran out of motivation. When I thought about dragging a little tree around on the subway, it seemed tedious and very A Tree Grows in Brooklyn but less poignant.

I have two trips planned- one to Kyoto where we will see many a temple and a short visit to a Ryoken in the Hakone area. Hakone is supposed to be really beautiful with lots of different scenic treats, like a tram up the mountain, a boat across a lake, an extensive sculpture garden. And a Ryoken will be awesome- we’ll have a traditional kaseki meal for dinner where multiple small courses are brought into the room’s dining area. There’s also an onsen (hot tubs fed by natural hot springs) on site. Maybe it will even have a water slide like the last one I went to! That is definitely a story for another time, friends.

Wait, what does San Diego mean in Spanish?

I found out 2 days ago that I was selected for an Otolaryngology residency slot in San Diego- hooray! The results from the GME Selection Board were released at noon, EST on 12/12. I was really hoping that everything would work out. Taking my current assignment was something I really wanted, but was slightly risky since I ended up on 2 year orders. My job position, however, goes away once the Kitty Hawk decommissions in July so I’ll be freed up to pursue the next step in medical training.

If I hadn’t been selected, I would have been very sad because it would have meant that the detailer had a very!special!surprise! for me. But now, my tasty treat will be five (5) years in San Diego doing something I totally love. AND, I get to go to the location that has text pagers, robots in the basement, and dark blue scrubs that look quite nice (shallow, no?).

And I will get to see a lot of my USUHS friends when they come back after being hot shot flight docs! They will have cool jackets and nice tans offset by golden wings embellished by acorns.

BTW, even though I mentioned the release time above, I was actually in bed since it was 2 a.m. here. But I did find out at 0630 since I slept on the ship that night, not because of the results release but because I left my apartment keys on the ship. By the time I figured that out after getting a lovely haircut at Landmark tower and going out to the Kirin beer hall, it was 2300 and I was at my train stop. So, I switched platform sides and went into work a few hours early.

Cookies in a Wok!

Every party that J and I had usually had a Mexican fiesta theme. It’s just so easy to make Mexican food in bulk and it was so tasty. Fajitas were popular, although my favorite was when I made fish tacos on one of my birthdays. Dee-licious! I think it was Emeril’s crème fraiche that took it to the next level. Bam! (Please note, I have only watched Emeril once. And not even a whole show. But I do recommend his fish taco recipe with accompanying sauces on foodnetwork.com.)

But you know what I took for granted? My oven. Yes, baker of cookies, roaster of meats, warmer of hors d’oeuvres, essential part of almost 80% of the recipes ever invented! “What,” you ask, “is in your Japanese kitchen since your whiny babiness is hinting that you don’t have an oven?”

“Well,” says I, ignoring the slightly snooty tone of my imaginary inquisitor, “I’m glad you asked. I have a fish broiler.”

A fish broiler is a shoebox-size broiler for fish that is just under my stove top range. I’m slightly afraid to use it not because I’m avoiding fish, but because it looks too tiny to clean. It also has a huge potential for a mess. I’m picturing charred fish skin and smoldering fish juice hardening on the bottom like a new level of fossilized rock.

Sue and I are hosting a Christmas party this Saturday at my apartment. It should be fun, but not having a car is testing my strategery skills at how to take things home in a way that will not cause my arms to break off from pain. This lesson was learned the hard way after I thought it would be awesome to transport a 12 piece pots-and-pans set from the Exchange to my house. Eleventy billion pounds later, I was having serious regrets. Although it is nice to have now.

So! Focus! What should I serve? So far, I have come up with meatballs and samosas. I’m also planning on cheese, crackers, fruit, hummus, pita, crudites. For dessert, Rice Krispie treats are doable but again, room in my little bag is precious and RKs are bulky. Snap! Krackle! Pop!

I can’t read Kanji!

All the buttons on my blog page are in Kanji and Hiragana. Awesome! I’m trying to figure out which one I’ll need to press to post this at all. Fingers crossed!

So, yay! I’m back in Japan! The Kitty Hawk came back a few days early after the Chinese government said, “X-nay on the isit-vay” over Thanksgiving. Yes, that’s right. It was pig latin. The last few days people were almost climbing walls we wanted to get off the ship so badly.

The first night, we went out to celebrate Ken the Dentist’s (aka Herbie the Elf) birthday. We went to Korean BBQ, which was delicious. This gave J another chance to make fun of me since he asks if I’ve done anything truly Japanese since I’ve been here. The reason being that I’ve been to Yokohama Octoberfest (5 times! Pictures and story to follow!), a Spanish restaurant, an Indian restaurant where I was told what I wanted (I didn’t want the chicken platter. I wanted lamb rogan gosh dammit), an Indian Dewali festival, and Chinatown. But they were all really fun. And I have had a few bowls of Udon noodles (so tasty!).