"" Writer's Wanderings: August 2019

Friday, August 30, 2019

How Do You Clean A Lion's Teeth?

In answer to the question, you clean a lion's teeth very carefully and with the lion completely sedated. I think they used more than "happy gas" on him as you can see.

Since we have a zoo pass for the Metroparks Zoo, we often go just to get out of the house and get some exercise walking around. One of our stops for a peek in is always the Sarah Allison Stefee Center for Zoological Medicine. The last time we were fortunate enough to catch the veterinarians at work, we watched a root canal on a Mandrill monkey. This day, our attention was directed to the procedure they were doing on the male lion of the zoo.

The Center is a hands on learning place for children who can don a lab coat and pretend to be a vet while learning about the animals and their diets and health. There are several viewing areas where you can watch them work on some of the zoo animals when it's appropriate.

The lion was definitely out of it but I had to laugh when one of the guys got his arm tangled in the IV tubing and almost pulled out the IV. That could have been a rude awakening not only for the lion but the team of eight or so working in there on him as I'm sure that's what was keeping him sleeping peacefully.

We weren't sure what all they were doing. One zoo volunteer said they were just giving him a checkup. They were definitely cleaning his teeth though and we were able to watch the close up action on a video screen. I don't want to know what they were doing at the other end with his leg up in the air. Do male lions get a prostate exam?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Are You A Souvenir Shopper?

True confession: I hate shopping. I know. I feel like I'm a traitor to my gender but I've never much cared for shopping of any kind. I joke that I'd rather stay home and clean toilets than go grocery shopping. And shopping for clothes? I hate the trying on and the thumbing through racks of stuff that rarely looks good to me. So when it comes to souvenir shopping, well, I did it as a chore for a while.

I do on occasion buy a souvenir though when we travel. For a while I decided that I should collect something special. After all, everyone else had all sorts of collections--dolls, Lladro figurines, bells, spoons, etc. I was feeling the peer pressure. That was when I decided to combine my love of wood with starting a collection of wooden souvenirs from the places we visited.

Along the way I accumulated enough wooden pieces to get a good bonfire going. I did set limits though. The piece had to be from wood native to the country and made by an artisan of the place. I found a boomerang made by an Aborigine in Australia, a canoe carved by a fellow in Papua New Guinea, two wooden shepherd carvings (one for each trip) from Oberammergau, Germany, a knot of wood that looks like a heron from Mexico, a vase of mahogany from an island in the Caribbean (can't remember which one now) and the list goes on with much less impressive pieces.

I knew I was getting into trouble when in a rush to buy a wooden souvenir from one of the Caribbean islands I found later, when I turned it over, it bore the mark "Made in Costa Rica." A few years later we actually visited Costa Rica. I decided I didn't need a souvenir. Already had one.

Today, I have started discarding some of the less meaningful wooden souvenirs. They were purchased because, well, I had to have a souvenir. Didn't everyone? I no longer buy souvenirs just to have something from each place we visit. I'm not home enough to look at them. I don't need the extra work dusting them off. And since they don't really mean much to my kids, I could envision them starting their own bonfire with them.

Pass the marshmallows, please.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Can You Pass Muster?

Recent reports from a team of researchers that went down to the wreck of the Titanic show that it is deteriorating more rapidly than first thought. Bacteria in the water is actually eating away the metal and the projection is that in around 25 years it will be reduced to sandy "dust". While our fascination with the whole story of the Titanic is at times romantic or shockingly disastrous, it is often overlooked that many of the rules we have for voyages at sea come from the experience of that ship's sinking.

One of the things we don't necessarily think about when we are required to report to muster stations for a drill at the beginning of any cruise is that this is a result of the Titanic disaster. After all who wants to think about a ship sinking when we're about to spend a week or more on one. We all know the story about not enough life boats. The requirement for sufficient lifeboats for passengers and crew is now set.

Also set is the requirement of the muster or lifeboat drill within 24 hours of the beginning of a cruise.The usual procedure is to warn passengers after all have embarked that there will be a drill. We all tend to groan about it especially if we have cruised numerous times. And who wants to don a bulky lifejacket and stand on the deck outside for fifteen minutes or more while roll call is taken? You do. Why? Because if you don't, you won't be allowed to sail and more importantly because you need to know if there are any procedures that you may not have realized are changed since the last time you cruised.

Every ship is different and every crew conducts the drill just a little bit differently. Most of them have it down to a quick and orderly procedure. What slows it down? Those guests who decide they don't need to report or report late or create havoc because they know it all and have done it all before. To those I say, "Great! Then you are prepared to help the ones who haven't done it countless times before and in an emergency (while rare, they do happen) you can help others." In a perfect world that would happen.

My question to you if you are set to cruise: Will you pass muster? Will you measure up to the standard required of you when it's time to drill and practice donning those lifejackets? I'm sure the passengers on the Titanic would have liked the opportunity that is afforded us today because of their experience.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Long Flight? What To Do To Keep Sanity

We're all different and we all need different things to keep our sanity when it comes to long flights. Facing a thirteen hour flight from Toronto to Tokyo soon, I was exploring what others might do to keep from going crazy sitting in one place that long.

First of all, it is always suggested that several times during your flight you get up and walk the aisle a bit. This usually works for me when nature calls. Good excuse to get up and walk and avoid the dangers of deep vein thrombosis. While we're on the subject, it is also helpful to keep hydrated. Hmm. Now that I think about it the hydration makes you get up for a trip to the rest room. I also had a doctor tell me that just before getting on the plane you might want to take an aspirin (if it's not in your regimen already). It thins the blood a bit and helps prevent DVT as well.

Moving on to the more mental exercise, I always load my Kindle with lots of books. On a trip this long, I can run through two if I don't get sleepy or there's a movie I want to see on the inflight entertainment system. Usually on long flights you will find individual TV screens in the back of the seat in front of you. It will have lots of free movies, TV reruns, and music choices as well as games you can play. The most exciting choice we had on one huge airbus was a view from a camera placed on the undercarriage of the plane that allowed us to watch the landing.

Bob likes to sleep, especially when the hours coincide with our sleep cycle. He will take two Tylenol PM and be out like a light. I can't seem to fall asleep, pills or no pills. My best hope is getting sleepy from reading and dozing off and on. If you plan to sleep and are considering medication, be sure to try it out before you fly. Some medications that are meant to put you to sleep actually react differently with some people and may keep you awake instead. It's also helpful to not have any caffeine in your drinks (remember some sodas contain it as well as coffee and chocolate). Alcohol is not helpful either they say.

Plan ahead. Don't carry more than you need on the plane and plan to put your carry-on in the overhead bin. Your legs will thank you for the extra room under the seat in front of you. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes (guaranteed your feet will swell a bit), something that you can wear off the plane when you land. You can't plan to change into pjs and back to clothes in the tiny little bathroom on the plane.

Of course if you should be so lucky to snag an upgrade to first class, it will be a whole lot easier to whittle away those hours in the air. Good luck.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Bidding On Travel Upgrades

Anticipating the long flight we will be taking to and from Japan soon, I wondered if we might be able to upgrade to business or first class. Once before we found that we could upgrade on a flight to New Zealand. It was a bidding process. You submit a bid and if it's accepted, you get the upgrade. There are lots of rules and auctions are not available to all airlines so I looked up the possibilities.

The auction site I found is called Plusgrade. It has seventy participating travel partners. I say partners because to my astonishment there are also several cruise lines listed as well. Who knew?

Once you have booked your flight (or your stateroom) you can register with your airline if they are partnered with Plusgrade. After you've learned that your flight is eligible, you can submit a bid. Don't expect to submit a one dollar bid however. The site will suggest a bid and most bids that are accepted are between 20-40% of the regular cost to upgrade. So say your economy ticket is  $400 dollars and the upgrade is $2000. The difference is $1600. Your bid should be somewhere between $320 and $640.

If your bid is accepted, you will be notified 24-72 hours before your flight. The worse that can happen is that you are left with your original seats if you lose the auction. The reason they wait so long to notify you is that they are still trying to sell those business/first class seats at the full price.

The only other problem is that if you are traveling with someone else, you may not be able to upgrade both seats. There may only be one available or you may not be sitting together. Not sitting together in business class is okay but I figure we either draw straws for the upgraded seat or we switch seats halfway through the flight.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday Funny --Lost in Translation?

Let's face it. Traveling to Asian countries without knowing any of the language is a challenge. Thankfully most tourist areas and guides speak enough English (often very well) that you can get along. When we are traveling with our grandchildren who are proficient in Japanese thanks to their mother (our son speaks it but the kids correct him), we rely on them to help us out since many times when we are with them we are not necessarily in tourist areas.

When we visited a couple of years ago and we all decided on climbing Mount Fuji, our tour guide spoke relatively good English but he was only getting us to the mountain where he handed over the guide responsibilities to a man who spoke little English. Since we were with mostly Japanese, the mountain guide spoke all of the instructions to our group before setting out in Japanese. He rattled on in a fascinating melodic cacophony of Japanese for about ten minutes or more.

Our granddaughter stood next to us the whole time but if I remember correctly, she may have been fingering her phone. When our guide was all done and nodded his head and waved his arm for us to follow, Bob turned to our granddaughter and asked, "So what did he say?"

She shrugged her shoulder and wrapped up fifteen minutes of instruction in two English words. "Be Careful."

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Ishigaki For Foodies

Knowing our son who has become quite a foodie since moving to Tokyo and traveling the world I've tried to get a little heads-up before our trip to Ishigaki, said to be a haven for foodies. On our very first trip to Japan years ago when he got married in Sapporo, our daughter-in-law's father who has quite a sense of humor, took the eleven of us Americans to a soba restaurant and sat across the room from all of  so he could watch how we ate the soba. Now soba comes in a broth usually and it is most politely eaten by slurping. He wanted to see if we could do it. I still remember his smile.

Soba noodles, unlike udon noodles, are made from buckwheat and are thinner. Usually they are served either cold with a dipping sauce or in hot broth. They are wonderful either way. When we get to Ishigaki however, they make their noodles a bit differently. The Yaeyama soba, made from flour, is a little like Ramen and is served in a sweeter broth than the buckwheat soba usually is. The broth and noodles are topped with thin sliced pork, fish cakes and green onions. Locals are said to spice it up a bit with some of their own spices and peppers.

We have had several versions of seaweed, a staple in Japan, but have never had what is called sea grapes. Now this sound interesting. The seaweed grows only in warm waters and the leaves are like little bubbles resembling clusters of small grapes.

I'm a lover of pork. Unfortunately the more delicious fat the better. I love pork belly and when my mother would make a "fresh ham" as she called it, my brother and I would fight over the crispy fat skin. Another on my list of must tries is rafute, Okinawan pork ribs. They sound delicious. Rafute is made from skin on pork sweetened and spiced before stewing and is tender enough to pull apart with chopsticks.

Of course the number one thing my son commented on was the Ishigaki beef. I'm sure we will be tasting that.

If you are intrigued and curious, here is a site I found with many of the local dishes described. Okay, I'm hungry.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Surfing Ishigaki On The Internet

When I began to explore what might be interesting to see for our trip to Ishigaki, I decided I must be out of the travel loop. How did I not know about this place? There is a ton of information about it to read and absorb.

I'm not so much interested in beaches. We don't usually spend much time on them unless there's a good reason to other than lounging and getting sunburned. It appears that there are quite a few beaches on the island and they are mostly white sand consisting of broken coral. The island is surrounded by coral reefs, thus the snorkeling and diving activities I mentioned in my previous post.

The best and most scenic beach area is said to be Kabira Bay. There is an iconic picture that pops up in all of the travel sites that shows a white beach and blue green water. Unfortunately you are not allowed to swim in the bay. They say the currents there make it unsafe and it is also one of only two places in Japan where black pearls are cultivated. You can however take a glass bottom boat trip to see the marine life. Not my favorite choice but better than nothing. There are also kayak adventures to some deserted islands nearby where you can snorkel.

Ah, but read on farther in the descriptions and you get to the really good stuff--the food. Lots of restaurants nearby and some feature Ishigaki beef which is said to rival Kobe beef in flavor. We'll see about that for sure. Another offering is soba noodles, a little different in that they are green and made with a plant that comes from the area and served in a conch shell.

Anywhere you go in Japan there are temples. Near Kabira Bay's observation point is the Kannon Temple. The story is that a young boy was on a ship that anchored in the bay sometime in the seventeenth century and he went ashore to explore. When he returned he found the ship had sailed. He went back to the hillside and began to pray. A great North wind blew in and forced the ship to return to the bay. The boy was able to get back to the ship and years later, returned to the island and the bay as a monk and built the temple.

Okay, pearls, scenery, a walk on the beach and great food. Sounds like a must see place to me.

Monday, August 12, 2019

We're Going To Ishigaki--What?

When your grandkids live in Japan, it's a little more work to get to see them. Long flights and jet lag and immersion into a very different culture and tradition. We've made the trip several times now including a trip before they were even born when their mother and father got married in Sapporo.

Their home base while in Japan has been both Tokyo and Sapporo. The kids attend international school and there are several breaks throughout the year to accommodate both US and Japanese holidays. Last year they were with us for our golden wedding anniversary celebration so it's been a year since we've seen them in person--Facetime fills in. It was time for us to plan a visit.

Since we knew they usually take their fall break away from home, we asked if we could join them. This fall they had decided to book accommodations in the south of Japan, Ishigaki Island. When you think of Japan, you don't normally think of sunny beaches and surf and snorkeling but in the south of Japan there is a group of islands that provide just that.

On our first visit to Okinawa when our cruise ship stopped there for a day, I was surprised to see that it was very much like a beach town. This island, Ishigaki, is even further south and promises to be an exciting experience. Our son has booked a house for our stay and our daughter-in-law is already looking into activities and the all important food places to visit.

My initial look into where we're going revealed some scuba diving. The giant manta rays are in the area and we're taking our dive cards (certification that we are divers) just in case we have the opportunity. Over the next few days, I'm going to see what else is going on there--just to level up the anticipation. Of course seeing my son and his family are exciting enough. All the rest is icing.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Friday Funny--Speechless Again

Two more funnies from my speaking experiences. Just before it was time for me to speak at a women's function at a church, I went into the restroom to freshen up a bit. Deciding to use the toilet, I picked a stall, entered, closed the door and sat down. When I looked up I was staring at myself. The planning committee had decided that the best place to advertise the event was on the back of the stall doors in the ladies' room. While I was startled, I had to smile. Yup. Best place to advertise.

My other story involves my husband. I was invited to speak at a campground for a women's retreat and since it was quite a drive from our home, he volunteered to drive for me. Usually, I went on my own. This would be his first experience helping me with my book sales at the engagement.

The campground was beautiful nestled among scenic mountains. The drive had been very nice. As we pulled into the campground we saw lots of cabins where most of the women were staying and in the middle of the park like setting was a huge building which I took to be a large gym. When I spoke with the chairperson she had said we would be in the chapel. I didn't see anything that looked like a chapel so we parked and got out of the car to look around and find someone to ask where to set up.

A lady came out of a door to the "gym" and stopped to greet us. When we asked, she pointed over her shoulder. "The chapel is held in the tabernacle," she said. "Just go right through that door."

Following her direction, we opened a door to a huge auditorium, a tabernacle in every description of the word. It was like the kind you see huge revivals being held in. I'm guessing it would seat 2,000 people comfortably. I hadn't asked the chairperson how many women she expected. I gulped. Well, if God wanted me to speak to a group this large, I thought, He'd better stop my knees from knocking.

I walked to the middle of the room in front of the stage and looked back to see if Bob was behind me. He was still standing there, mouth gaping, as he stared at all the seats. I can't imagine what he was thinking. When I turned around again, the chairperson was approaching me. I tried to act nonchalant as I asked her how many she expected to attend.

"At last count," she said, "we had about 150 registered."

I tried not to look too relieved. It was still a good sized group but certainly not as intimidating as 2,000 would have been. I laughed when Bob carried in the first box of books. "Do you think we have enough books?" he asked as his eyes roamed over the cavernous room again.

"Plenty," I assured him. "There's only 150 registered." He almost looked as relieved as I did.

By the way, Bob charmed all the ladies who visited the book table and when I was invited back a couple years later, the chairperson wanted to know if he was coming back too. He did, Only this time he didn't stand speechless as we entered the tabernacle.

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