A Typhoon Won't Stop Me From Going to FNCE

First off, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and enjoyed time with family and friends.  For those that celebrate Hanukkah, like me, I hope you are having a great holiday so far.  I know I am!  For the first night my husband bought me an awesome new camera.  Hoping with a camera that works a bit better I will have more inspiration to take photos and write about them.  Besides being busy, it seems I have lost a desire to take pictures and a desire to blog about them.  Can you blame me?  Blogging about blurry pictures just don't seem worth what little time I have.

But I do want to share my photos from my last trip to the States with everyone.  It starts with Typhoon Wipha.  I was alerted to the storm by a coworker down in Tokyo.  He asked if we had any warnings yet and I told him it was the first I heard of the storm.  A few hours later the airline called to tell me my morning flight to Tokyo was cancelled.  The storm would be passing from Tokyo all the way up to where I live.  I couldn't believe I was going to possibly miss my flight out of Tokyo back to the states.  I was headed to Houston for FNCE, and although I gave myself an extra day in Houston before I needed to be there, I planned to use that day to recover and adjust to the new time zone.  

Instead of taking a flight to Tokyo, I decided to try the train.  I was determined.  As far as I could tell, it looked like the bullet train was running.  I got on the local to head to a nearby city to catch the bullet train.  No problems there either and it was easy to get on the train.  About half way through the ride, we stopped in Sendai.  And then we didn't move.  For 30 minutes we sat there.  I was unsure what the issue was because nothing was said in English.  Finally an announcement was made and we discovered that we were stopped due to strong winds.  Thankfully we started up again and were on our way.  I still had plenty of time at this point.

About 30 minutes later we made an unscheduled stop at a station that I was unfamiliar with (we usually blow by it very quickly).  We sat there...forever!  Yes, nearly 2 hours.  For some reason I didn't check where we were until about 1.5 hours in.  That's when I realized we were sitting in Fukushima (yes, that Fukushima).  Of course the irony was when the announcement was made that we were stopped due to a power outage.  Well, we started up just in time.  Looking at the clock I could see that if we left right at that moment it was the very last possible time I could get in to Tokyo station and take the train to the airport.

All would have gone well with the Narita Express was running on time, or at all for that matter!  My self and another American kindly convinced the ticket agent that we needed the 2 pm train instead of the 3 pm, which was the only one with space, so he somehow gave us 2 pm tickets, and I assume this was for standing room.  Two came and went.  No train.  I was willing to hold out for 2:30, but with a 4 pm international flight and a 1 hour train ride to get there, it was really cutting it close.  I called the airline and they were able to get me on a 5 pm flight, which bought me some time.  At 2:30 the train came but on the side opposite of where we were lined up (same platform).  People ran.  I have never seen such chaos in Japan.  People pushed, people kicked, people screamed.  I almost got on, but I decided to stay safe instead and backed up.  I sighed, and I won't lie, I could feel tears building up.  I contemplated a cab but someone said the highway to the airport was closed.  That is why everything was pretty much a mess at the train station.

I heard a 3 pm train was coming and stood for a little bit.  But then something happened.  I realized the stress was too much and I needed to escape.  I heard someone say they didn't even know if the 3 pm was coming.  I knew from my earlier call to the airline that the 4 pm the next day (a non-stop) was full and I would have to take the 5 pm (not non-stop).  But this was not going to work because I would be still in transit when I had to teach a class online.  I couldn't do that.  I didn't want to have to wait 2 more days.  That was really what stressed me out the most.  I would end up being late to FNCE, which is the big annual nutrition conference for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  But it didn't matter.  I had fought hard but knew I had to give up.  So I went upstairs, found a corner, cried for about 15 minutes because I needed a release of some sort if I wanted to be calm by the time I spoke to the airline, and then I called.  Somehow a miracle happened.  In that hour, 1 seat opened up on the 4 pm flight the next day.  Yes!  I was relieved and able to finally take a deep breath and let some of the stress go.

The next step was finding myself something fun to do with my unexpected night in Tokyo.  One option was stay overnight at the airport.  But I was at Tokyo Station and pretty much in the city already.  Instead, I booked a hotel room at the last minute in my favorite neighborhood, right next to my favorite tapas restaurant in Tokyo.  I hopped on the subway and headed to the hotel.  It was such a relief to know that I had a flight the next day and I was headed to an area I knew well in a city that I love more and more each time I visit.  I'm not kidding.  I am in love with Tokyo.  

After checking in to the hotel, I headed to a shopping center I was familiar with and decided to try out an Italian restaurant.  First thing, I ordered a glass of wine.  I battled that typhoon hard, but in the end, Wipha beat me.  But, my consolation prize wasn't too bad. ;)

Yummy bread
This was awesome.  It was a breaded and fried, mozzarella stuffed, zucchini flower.  I had never eaten a zucchini flower before.  I loved it.
I had some pasta for my entree.  Pretty good.  Actually, I find that the Japanese do Italian food pretty well.
Yeah, I splurged on dessert.  A nice chocolate cake.
I went back to my room for a little bit and then around 11 pm I went to the tapas bar next door for another glass of wine and some garlic shrimp.
The next morning I went to my favorite coffee shop, strolled around the neighborhood, and then headed out for the airport.  The morning was quiet and calm, as expected since the storm had finally passed.

I was exhausted by the time I got to my hotel in Houston.  Way more space than I needed, but perfectly fine with me.  I didn't mind spreading out!
I went to a nearby restaurant for dinner.  I found one that wasn't Japanese (it was next to it instead).  Too bad the place was poorly lit and my camera couldn't get a decent shot of my food.  It was fish.
The next morning I bumped into a friend of mine and we headed out to check out the conference center and explore a little.  Here is a sculpture from in front of the convention center.
Of course you know I HAD to stop by the Hard Rock Cafe for a shirt.
We stopped for lunch at Irma's Southwest Grill, which I heard in advance was a great restaurant so I was glad we had some time to check it out.  We started off with chips and salsa.
I also wanted to try out their guacamole, seeing as we were in Texas.  It was good, but spicier than I expected.
The owner came over to tell us about the menu and we had all kinds of questions.  I know, seems typical from a couple of dietitians!  But without a written menu, it made it hard to know what had what in it.  So after sharing our preferences, he proclaimed "I got it!" and went off to prepare lunch for us himself.  We were not only pleasantly surprised, but also in awe.  It looked wonderful and met our needs.

My friend had a salad topped with grilled salmon.
I had vegetarian enchiladas with a salad because the rice and beans weren't vegetarian.
For dinner that night, another friend joined us.  Being an international group, picking out food was actually a bit difficult.  See, ethnic cuisine is popular in the US, but coming from those countries, that's the last thing we would want to see.  And we did Tex Mex for lunch.  First we passed Japanese and I had to decline.  Then right after we came across Mediterranean, to which we all laughed and kept moving.  See my one friend is from Greece and the other is from Israel.  In the end, we agreed on Italian.  You can't go wrong with that!

I had a nice pasta dish with vegetables.
I believe this was lasagna.
The next day started FNCE, which I know so many people have posted about and is long in the past.  But I will share just a little from my experience.  I did a pre-FNCE workshop at Texas Children's Hospital.  The topic was infant feeding, including breastfeeding and formula, primarily in the critically ill newborn.  The information was great and I loved learning about their milk bank.  They have a neat machine that can analyze breast milk and provide the nutritional content, which helps RDs better calculate what each infant is getting since not all breast milk is the same.

For lunch they served us boxed meals, but mine wasn't really too good, even though it looks pretty.
Saturday night was one I was really looking forward to.  It was the American Overseas Dietetic Association international reception.  I was excited because it was a time when I knew all of my friends from AODA would be together in one place and I would get to catch up with everyone.  Oh, and I also received an award, which I was truly honored to receive.  I was selected as the Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year for AODA.
Here I am with Editha, a former AODA president, just after I received my award.
You weren't supposed to take pictures on the expo floor, so I passed on that, and they asked not to take pictures in sessions either, so I gave up on that idea.  Although I did take this picture of the first slide of Aurora's presentation.  She is my former intern and remains a good friend of mine.  We really only get to see each other at FNCE but I am glad that we still keep in touch.  I also love that through another RD group she is friends with an AODA friend of mine.  I was so surprised to discover that they knew each other.  Although it makes sense as Aurora is originally from Mexico and my other friend is a dietitian in Mexico.  Naturally they have crossed paths.  Even more so, I loved that they were FNCE roommates.  Small world!
After a long day of sessions and receptions, I met up with Aurora and some other friends to have a drink in the hotel lobby bar.  I also ate dinner here since I didn't find too much at the other receptions.  I had fish tacos.
Oh, and I had some cake too!
Monday morning was the AODA breakfast, which was another event I was looking forward to because I got to see my friends from all over the world again.  This time I got to meet one of the RDs from Japan.  I have only chatted with her via email so hopefully the next time I head to Tokyo we can meet up.
I managed to get a picture with the laughing cow.
The last pictures I have are from my last group dinner out with friends.  

One of friends ordered the beet salad and was surprised to find all this bacon on top.
I split this calamari with a few friends.
For dinner I had the crab stuffed salmon, which was really good.
Then some dessert to share.  They ran out of the chocolate cake so I settled for the tres leches cake, but it just wasn't what I wanted.  I took a few bites, but that was it.
I know I did not have a whole lot to share about the conference.  It ended up being more social for me than anything because some people I had not seen in 2 years since the last time I was at FNCE.  I went to a few sessions, but some stuff just didn't interest me.  The sessions I did go to, however, were excellent.  I enjoyed all of those that I selected to attend that were of interest to me.  Mostly I stuck with topics on writing and media.  So I hope between those and the new camera I will have a renewed love for blogging.

QUESTIONS: Have you ever had weather stop you from your travel plans?  If you have a blog, have you ever lost your desire to keep up with it?  What was the last conference you attended?  Have you ever been to Texas?

Tasty Japanese food and Statue of Liberty Park (yes, in Japan)

One of my favorite places to eat when I am in Tokyo is Soup Stock.  They have the most amazing soups and for the most part they are on the healthy side (some are cream based).  The quality is wonderful and flavors are so amazing.  In fact, I love it so much you can find it featured in my Eat Well Japan.  

Imagine my surprise to learn that I can order frozen soup online and have it delivered to my door!  I was all over that!  Seriously, I HAD to have my soup.  I love that it came delivered to my door, frozen, and so nicely packaged.
Inside I was not surprised to see that the care in packaging continued.  These were well frozen and very nicely packed.  I love that they can fit so easily into my freezer.  I ordered a variety of soups, both vegetarian and non vegetarian, which Ryan could enjoy.
A few weeks back, before I went to the US, Ryan and I headed to the nearby town of Hachinohe.  We go here often.  Now, since we go here often, I was shocked to find out that Hachinohe has a downtown area.  We have been all over (except the port/beach area) and never managed to actually realize that there was a decent downtown area.  In 2 years we did not come across this!  OK, we actually crossed over the street once, but never looked down the street to realize that there were all these hotels and restaurants, plus a ton of shopping options.  Boy was I glad we finally discovered this.

We stumbled into an awesome Japanese restaurant.  This is the kind of traditional place where no one speaks English, you take your shoes off at the door, and you sit in a tiny private room on the floor.  Seriously a fun way to dine!

We started off with a salad. 
And I also started off with some tofu.  Yes, just some plain tofu covered with dried bonito flakes.  Pretty fresh tofu too and it was awesome!
Ryan had this dish, with I don't know what, but he liked it!
Some edamame, of course.  This is Japan, right?!?!
Then I had some tomatoes and mozzarella.
Next came Ryan's okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese pancake.  He said it was awesome.
I had some shrimp.  No idea what this really is, but the picture in the menu looked good.
Ryan also ordered these, which had meat in it, but beyond that I couldn't tell you what these are.  Gotta love menus with no English and a server that doesn't speak English either.  Good thing we are somewhat adventurous!
After dinner we walked around a bit.  We found a museum of all things local, but it was closing up.  We took a quick peek inside and found this fun "vending machine".  You take out the soda, drink it, and then put the glass bottle in the crate for recycling.  I believe the soda is made locally.  Actually, I have had this kind before.  Pretty good.
Well, that was it for our fun night out discovering downtown Hach.  Can't wait to go back there again and explore some more.

Next up is dinner I shared with one of my best friends here in Japan.  Actually, this was our farewell dinner because she is moving.  There are pros and cons to military life and this covers both.  The pro is meeting awesome people you would not have met otherwise, but the con is always having to say farewell.  Kathryn worked with me at WIC and even after the birth of her cute little boy, we stayed friends.  One of our favorite places to eat is at an Indian restaurant near the base, so we headed there for our final dinner date.

We went all out, ordering a bunch of stuff, splitting it, and then each taking some leftover home.

These are the tandoori fish pieces we tried out.  I think we let them sit there a little too long waiting for other food and chatting away.  They had cooled off by the time we got to them.  Not bad, but I probably won't order this again.
These are pakora veggies.  Yummy spices.
Also some cheese pakora, which I always love to get.
I had never had their vegetable biryani before, so I thought this was a good dish to try.  I was right!  Definitely ordering this again.
Of course no Indian meal is complete without the naan.  Yum!
And then we also shared the vegetable curry dish.
A wonderful with a wonderful person.  I will really miss having Kathryn around, but hopefully I will go visit her in her new location...cause she is headed to Italy!  Maybe we can follow her there.  I can dream, right?!?!

On one of the last really great days I got to experience here before it got too cold (today was way too cold, but mostly because of the wind), Ryan and I visited Statue of Liberty Park.  This is not too far from where we live and is a nice park area, with what is apparently the largest Statue of Liberty replica in Japan.  Here you can see it in the distance.
It really was a beautiful day to be outside.
The sun was shining and the lake was glittering.
Yep, there is a Statue of Liberty here.
We took a nice long walk around the park, passing by the lake.

Getting closer to the Statue of Liberty.
Some info about the statue...in Japanese of course!
Alright, here we are as close as we can get.  Right at the bottom of the statue.  Pretty interesting to see that they have this here.
There is also a great view of the lake from the base of the statue.
And here I am enjoying the nice weather and great scenery.
Looking forward to more fun times in Japan...but the winter is quickly approaching.  Maybe I will learn to ski this year.  

I still have pictures from my US trip to share, which includes sharing my story with everyone about getting caught in a typhoon trying to make it back to the states.  Not something I thought I would ever get to say!  Crazy!

QUESTIONS:  Do you live near a "downtown" area?  Any unexpected replicas in your town?  What's your weather like this time of year?