Day 36-37: The Long Trip Home

Here it is...the last post in my series for this trip to Israel and around Europe.  Can you believe I was away for 37 days?  I can't!  It was quite an adventure.

To get back to Japan from Israel wasn't the easiest, but I liked having an extra night in Spain with less travel hours on the actual day I headed home.

From Madrid I boarded a plane to Beijing.  Amazingly on time!  I was convinced that by this time, with only 1 cancelled flight and no delays, I was bound to have something go wrong at the end.
As usual, I ordered a vegetarian meal.  Sometimes it is nice because I get more fruits and veggies.  Seeing as I was on Air China, I knew whatever I got would come with rice.  I was right!
But wait!  For the second meal on this flight, I got more veggies and fruits, but this time there was no rice!  And they didn't even give me a roll.  Thankfully all I had to do was ask and I was served a nice, warm roll.
When I arrived in Beijing it was just before 6 am and extremely quiet in the airport.  I decided to get set up with internet (free, but you have to scan your passport to get an access code) and do some work.  I had papers to grade and things to get caught up with, so the quiet early morning hours in the airport provided me just the right environment to focus and get work done.

I still had some time before my flight to Tokyo so I headed to Starbucks for a coffee and an egg and cheese sandwich.  I have no idea what meal I was really supposed to be eating, but with the sun just rising, breakfast seemed like a good choice.  
Then I made the exceptionally long trek to find my gate.  Didn't realize this airport was massive!  It didn't help that I was all the way at the far end of a long hallway.  Next stop: Tokyo!  Luckily I was able to book a flight into the International terminal at Haneda Airport.  Narita is the main International airport and Haneda is the domestic airport, but they do have a small international terminal too.  This is preferred for me because it saves me money and time by not having to take a shuttle bus from one airport to the other.  I can only get home from Haneda, so if I don't have to go to Narita, I am much better off, and happier.
More food?  Once in Tokyo I realized I was hungry again and it was around dinner time.  I ordered some pasta with mushrooms.  It felt good to be back in Japan and able to speak a little in Japanese.
Finally!  I boarded my flight to Misawa and headed home to see my husband.
All went smoothly and I was home right on time!  It's a miracle I didn't have more issues than I did while away.  The biggest things were a cancelled flight and a lost camera.

It felt good to be back.  I unpacked a little.  I really just wanted to give my husband the things that I bought for him and show him the magnets I picked up along the way.  We collect magnets, so I made sure to pick one up from all places that I went that we didn't already have one from.  These made a nice addition to our collection on the fridge.
Whew!  That was a lot of travel.  I am back home for now, but I actually do have some more travel in the near future.  Again, professional conferences will lead me to a new and exciting location to explore the local culture and learn more in my field (at the conference).  Where am I heading next?  Australia!

QUESTIONS:  What is the longest you have ever travelled away from home?  What is the highest number of flights you have taken in order to get from point A to point B? What kinds of souvenirs do you collect? 

Day 35: One Last Hoorah in Madrid Before Heading East

I am no stranger to early morning flights out of Tel Aviv, but this time I made sure I was prepared.  Even though I had to check out of my hotel at 2 am, I made sure that I kept a hotel room for that time.  I have done the "sleep in the airport overnight" thing and after 5 weeks of travel, that just didn't sound appealing at all.  So I went to bed around 10 pm and made sure I was up and ready to head to the airport at 2 am.  Security leaving Israel is no joke, so it is a smart idea to get there 3 hours in advance to get through security and relax a little on the other side by the gates.

After going through security, I realized I was hungry.  This wasn't surprising because by then I had been awake for nearly 3 hours without eating anything.  It may not have been a usual meal time, but I was definitely feeling the need for food.  I decided to grab a coffee and one of these cream cheese and smoked salmon (AKA lox) sandwiches.
Alright, flights on time!  I was headed to Madrid for one last night of European fun before heading back to Asia.
I am sure you are wondering why on earth I flew all the way in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go.  Here is why: For the price I was looking to pay I had just a few options (most other flights were about $1000 more and I just wasn't willing to pay that, even for convenience), and of these, Madrid was the most stable.  What do I mean by stable?  My other two options were airlines from Greece and Turkey, and while I didn't think it would be an issue, there was always the chance for a cancelled flight.  First, I am sure Greece would have been fine, but given their financial issues and the possibility of strikes (I know this is a somewhat exaggerated fear), I decided against this.  Then comes Turkey, which is always a concern leaving Israel.  Again, it may be an exaggerated concern, but there is always a risk of a cancelled flight when it comes to Israel and any country that they potentially could have a conflict with.  So, in the essence of knowing my flight was "stable", I went with Madrid.  Well, there is that, and then of course I just love Spain!  Plus, this made it easier for me to know what to do with my 24 hour layover.

Here is the meal I was served on the flight to Madrid.
The omelets are usually pretty good.
Like I said, going to Madrid made it easy to know what to do during my 24 hour layover.  I picked a hotel in an area that I knew would be convenient to what I wanted to do- shop and eat.
It was a small room, but the price was right, the location was superb, the internet was free, and it was only for 1 night.
First on my agenda was the Hard Rock.  I have a HR Madrid shirt, but it was from 2001 and just worn out.  It was definitely time for a new one.

I took the subway here, but then enjoyed the city sights as I walked back to the hotel along the Gran Via, which is one of the main streets in Madrid, especially for shopping.

So the plan was to eat and shop, right?  Well, here is some of the food I started with since I needed some fuel before shopping.  I stopped at 100 Montaditos, which serves small sandwiches and cheap beer.
Did someone say cheap beer?  Let me clarify.  The beer itself is quality beer, it is just sold at an extremely cheap price.  This nice sized beer cost me just 1 Euro.
Then for my snack I had this little shrimp and pineapple sandwich and some potato chips. 
It was just enough for a snack before shopping.  Just across the way I spotted a Dunkin's, so I stopped in for a coffee since I felt some caffeine was in order for shopping too.
After my shopping adventures at stores like Mango and H&M, I rested in the hotel before heading out for dinner.

Actually, I had one more very cool surprise while in Madrid.  Keri, who was my roommie on the Contiki trip, was in Madrid that night for her birthday, and she was with some of her friends that were visiting her from South Africa.  Her plan was to go to a Flamenco show at a restaurant and have dinner there, but that was later on, and I wasn't sure what they would have for me to eat, so I made sure when I was hungry to grab a little something.

I was really surprised to discover that the place we were going for the show was just behind the hotel where I stayed the month before with my family.  This meant I was familiar with the area, which was helpful, and it also meant it was really close to my current hotel.

It gave me a chance to see how well this little market had developed over the last 4 weeks.  We happened to be there the first day they were getting things set up.

I decided to grab a bite to eat here at O'Faro Finisterre, which I believe was one of the places I tried with my family.  It was directly across from the hotel we stayed at last month, so I am almost certain we ate here, but I think we sat on the other side of the place, and this is why I am not 100% sure.
I definitely ordered some sangria.
They brought me some bread, which is to be expected at a tapas bar.
I ordered some olives.  I needed to make sure to get them in one last time before heading back to Japan.
I also got some patatas bravas.
This is shrimp and mushrooms in olive oil.
That did it for me!  I was stuffed, but thankfully to have gotten in some tapas before it was time to go.

Then the time came to meet up with Keri and her friends at Cafe Chinitas.
Sorry, some pictures are blurry.  At this place they put on a Flamenco show during dinner and have 2 showings a night.  While Flamenco is traditional to the southern regions, you can pretty much see a Flamenco show anywhere in Spain (ok, maybe not Basque country or Barcelona).  Since Madrid is the capital of Spain, you can imagine that there are plenty of tourist spots to catch a show.

More sangria?  Don't mind if I do!
Happy Birthday Keri!
Then we watched a little more of the show.
More bread and olives?  Of course!

I ended up ordering a goat cheese appetizer, but when it came it was presented with ham on top, so I sent it back.  Pretty much the entire staff had poor English and my Spanish was not good enough to explain exactly what I wanted (remake the dish without meat), so I passed and didn't order anything else.  No problem at all because I had eaten a little before hand just in case something like this happened.  At least Keri and her friends (no of whom had ever been to Spain) got to try the paella.
The dancing and singing continued throughout the meal.  Overall, it was a pretty good show that they put on here.  The food is certainly overpriced and not top quality, but the experience is great for tourists.

Here I am with Keri and one of the Flamenco dancers after the show.
After the show ended we walked around the shopping area and looked at all of the excitement going on since it was a Friday night and just before midnight.  This is definitely a busy time in Spain.  

One last food item for me:
Frozen yogurt with strawberries, kiwi and chocolate.  The perfect end to my time in Spain and my evening with friends.

I was sad my time in Europe was coming to a close, but boy was I happy to know that after 5 weeks away I was finally on my way back home to see my husband.  Obviously I would have liked for him to go with me, but because of his work schedule and not knowing if he can get off until the last minute (or just about), it was difficult to plan for him to join me, and it just didn't work out this time.  Maybe next time!  Actually, we do have a trip planned together coming up.  Nothing major, but certainly fun, so hopefully nothing changes with his days off.  Cross you fingers!

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever been to a Flamenco performance?  What foreign city (or city other than your hometown/where you live) have you visited the most?  What is your favorite city for shopping?

Day 34: AODA Represents in the Mediterranean

Don't you just love the display set up when you first enter the convention center where Israel Nutrition Week was being held.
You may wonder how I knew about the conference or why I made sure to attend, other than the interesting topic of focus.  This was a conference that was supported by AODA (American Overseas Dietetic Association, the overseas/international affiliate of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) and was our regional conference.  It was in conjunction with the Israeli dietitians conference.  I happen to be involved with AODA and looking to become more active, so I make sure to participate whenever I can.  At this time I am the Nominating Committee Chair and I really enjoy being involved with the amazing dietitians that are members of AODA.  Certainly the many US dietitians are doing great things, but with AODA you would be amazed to know what some of our members are doing.  

The reason why this is so amazing is because some of our members are dietitians (and citizens) of other countries, not just US dietitians living abroad (like me).  They are actively involved in setting nutrition policies in their own countries, some of which are still developing and still gaining a grasp of human health and science in general.  We have dietitians working in developing countries to help stop malnutrition and make sure they have adequate food supplies.  We have dietitians making sure foods are safe in many areas of the world.  We have dietitians working with local governments.  We have dietitians that speak so many languages, that alone is enough to impress you.  We have dietitians working in top universities in their home countries.  Plus, we have many RDs still living in the US making a difference both at home and in communities abroad.  I am truly amazed by everything all my colleagues are involved in, whether they are an AODA member or not, so please do not think I do not appreciate and value all the hard work that each and every RD out there does.  I just think that many US dietitians are not aware of the many roles that RDs (trained in the US and living abroad or just trained in their home countries) have taken on in other countries.  Just to give you an idea how many dietitians are AODA members, we have around 900 members and these live in around 70 different countries.  Did you even know the Academy had members in that many countries?  I sure didn't until I moved overseas and joined AODA.  For more information on AODA CLICK HERE.

Some AODA members were speakers at this conference, and I was so excited to hear what each of them had to say.

This is Julie Meyer.  She spoke about workplace wellness.  Her company, Eat Well Global, just launched it's app (iPhone and Android) for workplace wellness and how to eat well while traveling for work.  Obviously this is a company that I just adore since I did write the Eat Well Japan app (check it out now on iTunes, along with a few other countries, including Eat Well Israel).  I will also mention she is the Fundraising Committee Chair 
She gave a great presentation.
Next up was Maria Bovill.  I also love listening to Maria talk on this topic.  Her last duty station was at a research center in Kenya.  She is in the army so she gives a lot of good information about the various roles dietitians hold in the Army, and the military in general.  It is such a  fascinating topic to see where these dietitians hold roles in the military and what locations they are being sent to.  Maria is the Past President (as of June 1).

The last speaker spoke in Hebrew and I didn't have a translator headset with me, so my friend Elena and I (she is the current President Elect) headed out to see some of the foods in the expo.  She has a great website called Olive Tomato that provides a wealth of information on the Mediterranean diet.  Elena studied in the US, but now lives in Greece and is not only an expert in this diet, but also very knowledgable about olive oil, as she also writes for the Olive Oil Times.  She was also at the conference as a speaker on the status of the Mediterranean diet in Greece.  So, without our headsets and being unable to understand the speaker, we decided to check out the expo hall.

I thought this was an interesting product.  They were yogurt products that were flavored, and of course the flavor goes right along with traditional foods from this area.  For example, this is dill and cucumber.

Next up, we stopped to look at a booth that had dates.  Dates, as we learned at the conference, are wonderful for CVD prevention.  These are native to the region, and go back many years in history here since they are one of the seven species.  The seven species are fruits and grains that date back to biblical times, so you can imagine they remain popular in Israel.  This includes barley, wheat, pomegranates, dates, grapes, figs, and olives.  My favorite comment from one of the professors that spoke about dates and health was- dates are not for people with diabetes.  He said it so many times it also makes me think he personally knew someone that had eaten a few too many and head blood sugars shoot through the roof.  But, if you have ever eaten a date you know these are exceptionally sweet, so therefore probably not the best choice for a diabetic, even if they have some benefits in general (and contain fiber too).

Another food that was available to sample was a couscous based salad.
The next product I looked at was super cool.  At first I almost didn't try it because I don't like root beer and I thought it would be like root beer.  It is a non-alcoholic beer, like a soda.  It comes in both regular and diet.  This is why I was thinking root beer.  The thing that makes this even cooler is that these tubes here, filled with barley, are what turn into the beverage and the plastic tube turns into the bottle.  They are made right in here.  I have no idea how the process works because of the language barrier, but this is the best of what I could understand this product was all about.  Plus, I gave it a try, and it was fantastic!  Not at all like a root beer flavor.
Plus, I gave it a try, and it was fantastic!  Not at all like a root beer flavor.  I can't find their website online, but the name in English comes out to Nesher.
This is a picture of samples put out by a dietitian that now sells very healthy and very tasty treats.  Her booth was next to the booth for Eat Well Global, so you can imagine I had a few samples.  This company is called Mamale, and even though the website is in Hebrew, you can still get an idea of how good her products are.  Everything is made from spelt flour and I believe she uses olive oil too.  It is just nice to see an RD that has a healthy snack company and made all the recipes herself and basically does all the baking herself too.
The next presentation I went to was also given by an AODA member.  This is Dr. Marianella Herrera from Venezuela and she is a top expert in her country on childhood obesity.  She is also working on developing nutrition guidelines to help improve the health of the Venezuelan people.
Here she is giving a great presentation titled "Socioeconomic Determinants of Childhood Obesity: Where the Industrialized and Developing World Meets".
Next up was Camella Rising, who was the Past President of AODA up until the new year started just a few weeks ago.  She is an amazing dietitian and leader, both in the US and internationally.  Her presentation was titled "Building an International Action Plan to Help Kids Eat Right".  This was a nice presentation because it showcased our American campaign for Kids Eat Right to the International Community and let them see how they can help the next generation develop healthy eating habits early on.

After another great day of sessions, it was time to draw this conference to a close and say goodbye to my friends.  I went back to my room, packed up, did some work, and then headed to find a place for dinner.  I picked this place called Jeremiah, but I can honestly say that even though the food may have tasted good, it was probably not the best choice of restaurants.
Here is why:

1) The hostess asked if I wanted smoking or non-smoking on the outside patio.  I know it is outside, so I thought this was odd, but I still said non and was shown to my table.  Almost immediately I noticed that the guy sitting directly next to me was smoking.  Not just smoking, but I realized he was chain smoking.  To make it worse, the manager was sitting at their table smoking as well, so I didn't think complaining any would help.  It was weird because there was a natural divide (aisle way) made where the front door was.  It would make sense to use that wider aisle as a way to separate smoking and non, but instead they made one table on just the other side of this as a smoking table, so there was one table of smokers in the non-smoking side.  I have no idea how that makes any sense but my guess is that the managers friends showed up and wanted a smoking table but all were taken so they thought if they just put them on the far end of the non smoking section it would be ok.  Yes, in the end, I moved tables.

2) No server could figure out who had my table.  I watched 3 servers come by my table and stare at me before walking off.  After about 15 minutes I asked the hostess if the wait staff had been given assignments for the evening because it seemed no one knew whose section I was sitting in.  In the end a server did come over and take my order but she genuinely seemed like she wanted to be anywhere other than at work.  I have never had a server before that disinterested in serving someone.

But, like I said, thankfully, the food tasted good.  I ordered a grilled cheese with tomato and hardboiled egg.  It also came with a nice sized salad.
As soon as the meal was over I paid (no easy task, mind you, since my server then had friends come to eat and she was busy catching up with them) and left as fast as I could.  So, where did I go in my last few minutes in Israel before heading home?  To get ice cream of course!
QUESTIONS:  Have you ever been to a professional conference?  Have you ever been a speaker at a conference?  What was the most fun conference location you have ever been to?