Sunday, September 3, 2017

USA: Solo to DC and MD

It was my great fortune to have a TON of leave to burn this year, about two weeks more than Adam, due to not being able to take all of my leave from the previous years due to work obligations. Employment really gets in the way sometimes!

Since moving to Abu Dhabi in 2014, I had only been back to the US twice: Once in 2015 for a week to see my parents in NH and then once in 2016 for 36 hours to escort my parents from NH to Abu Dhabi....so less than 2 weeks in 3 years, and only to see my parents and immediate family in NH, I was really due for a HUGE catch up on my personal US life. And to be honest, I really NEEDED the time off from work and to recharge my soul spending time with the incredible people that fill my life with all of its awesomeness...albeit from a great distance.

That, and for some reason, people aren't so excited about coming to visit us in the Middle East. Living in Hawaii, there were ALWAYS visitors :)

My trip from Abu Dhabi to the US was the most eventful (not in a good way) trip of all time. We were boarded on the plane, and backing away from the gate EARLY (which I was taking as an excellent sign and start to the trip!) when we came to a screeching halt, the pilot took us back to the jetway, and calmly, but very urgently, demanded that we disembark the plane with all of our carry-on immediately and efficiently. Walking back up the jet-way, looking out over the plane, our plane was surrounding by police and military vehicles, and they already were pulling out dogs to scout the plane. When we get back into the concourse, we are locked into the gate area, instructed to sit down, and to not talk...with no explanation. We were then surrounded by military and police personnel, just standing there and watching us...with no explanation. After about 30 minutes, the boarding attendant comes on the overhead system to tell us that we are safe, precautions are in place, and that we can expect updates in 30 minute intervals. Yeah, this was going to be a while.

I was getting frustrated because I had a friend picking me up at the airport, and friends getting together to hang out for the evening. I really wanted/NEEDED to get there for that experience, and to not inconvenience everyone. I was coming in on a weeknight and they all had to work the next day! Needless to say, we did NOT get updates at regular intervals. After about 2 hours, they unlocked the doors to allow people to use the restroom. About 3.5 hours later, we are told that we will commence the re-boarding process shortly, with no explanation of why we waited. About 4.5 hours later, we were boarded and airborne, being told that we "would make up 3-3.5 hours" in the air due to re-routing, and them not loading the cargo to lighten the load. Cheers!

Just as the seat-belt sign lifted and I laid down to get comfortable (I am notoriously amazing at sleeping on planes!), the overhead announcement comes: "If there are any American-board certified health care providers on the plane, please activate your call bell." There are usually enough of us on a plane, that I don't worry about it, but this was the first time I have ever heard them qualify the request with "American-board certified". Knowing the dynamic of the travelers aboard, I was doubtful that there were many of us. I was correct. There was 2 of us, total. And the airline staff would not tell us what was going on until we showed them proof of licensure. Even when I have helped on airline emergencies before, I have never had to show proof.

Long story short, I ended up managing two emergencies the entire flight because my other certified provider was delusionally tired from her 2 previous days of travel and no sleep, and that is what it took for us not to emergently land (and stay grounded) in Spain or turn back around to Abu Dhabi. I seriously did not sit in my seat again until it was time to land...12 hours later.

Safe and sound, I arrived in DC to wonderfulness of our Abu Dhabi crew who all moved back to DC in 2016. Thankfully, and graciously, friends stayed up and waited, and we had a wonderful evening until the wee hours of the morning. Albeit a tumultuous start to the trip, having these incredible people on the receiving end of the journey, was absolutely the most incredible and wonderful thing in the world (Shout out and THANK YOU to the Greenhalghs, Chris, and Sara...you are amazing).

And now: The entire purpose of my trip.
Filling all of my conscious moments with amazing people!

Dave playing hooky so we can scout out their new neighborhood. Score, an awesome coffee place!

While in the DC region, I was graciously housed by the incredible Greenhalgh's and helped them break-in their brand new (and gorgeous) house. Fortunately, for me, it was also only a mile from my Uncle's place!

Afternoon chill and libation with Uncle Neal

Making it a family affair with cousin Jason and his wonderful fiancee Kayla

Uncle Neal and I decided to invite family and friends over for a dinner, where we cooked, caught up over glorious drinks, and watch the beautiful and perfect day come to an end.



The favorite aspects of my life merging together: Friends + Family = Completeness

I finally started catching up with Rosewood Family (there were several of us that lived in the same building, but we are the only ones who remain), by hanging out with the McGovern/Bergenas clan in there also new and amazing condo, and meeting my new favorite tiny human on the planet! The first baby in our gang....we are getting older I suppose!

Cuddling with the newest love of my life: Welcome to the world Noah Bergenas <3

Lunch with my office mate of 3 years at NIH: Hi Heidi!

And just like that, the time in DC was over. Off to Maryland I went to catch up with my wonderful Pennock clan (who we have known since the Hawaii days, back to Maryland, and then to Abu Dhabi). They are also who adopted me when Adam moved out to Abu Dhabi 3 months ahead of me, and I fell in love with their child.

Loving time catching back up with my Qbaby...now Qtoddler

And I was fortunate enough to have friend willing to travel to meet up for the day. Allyson and I have been friend since nursing school, when we were part of a trio that thought everyone else was dumb and would make our grades suffer if we had to work with them :) The only difference between now and when I last saw her, was she had TWINS! More baby love to be had in my life.

The day spent with Allyson and half of her gorgeous babies, finally meeting them (her)!!!

Dinner with my beloved Penncok clan at the first place that made me fall in love with sushi!


Heart melting of the trip, Q sneaking out of his room to crash in my bed <3

And just like that, my whirlwind 72 hours in the Mid-Atlantic were over. Though expedited, my soul was starting to feel nourished and recharged. To NH we go!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Japan: The Tsukiji Fish Market!!!!!!

Good Morning! 

We were up at 0215 in morning to make it to secure a limited access stop to see the Tsukiji Market tuna auctions in action. We caught an Uber, since public transportation does not run at this time, and we did not want to risk it with a taxi. We arrived just in time to survive the most torrential downpour I have seen in a really long time, and we were soaked from a dead sprint to a 24hr convenience store to buy umbrellas. 

There are only 120 people allowed in per day, and the auction starts at 0515. We arrived at 0330, and we were in the second batch of 60 people (first wave of got green mesh vests, and the second batch received blue). All of the vests were gone by 0400.



Adam and I had differing opinions about the early hour of this experience!

Despite the early arrival, we did not go in until 0545, and it was insanely busy. We were kept under close watch within tight reigns. No one wanted us to interfere with or interrupt the delicate balance of the controlled chaos.




There were people everywhere, examining and analyzing the massive tunas. What I didn’t realize is that most tuna is frozen (which it can be for up to two years), and this is the “fresh tuna” that everyone is fighting for as their “fresh sushi” and “fresh sashimi" (sushi minus the rice, just the meat). There are fresh tuna also auction, but typically the frozen is more expensive. 
Now you know
As soon as the auction for a particular batch of tuna is about to being, the auctioneer starts ringing a hand-bell furiously, and has a little dance that he does. It is all quite fascinating to watch.






After 20 minutes of thoroughly enjoying the fish auction, we were ushered out of the refrigerator and our tour was complete. 

Was it worth it? 
Depends on who you ask…. 
For me, ABSOLUTELY! 
For Adam, nope. 
For him, it was too early and too many people. But he loves me, and perseveres.






The fish auction is a very small part of the action, as the market is not only about tuna. The Tsukiji Market is a huge complex spanning many blocks to include the sales of all things seafood, fruits, vegetables, kitchen items, and a ton of small counters selling food, all to wander and explore. Which we definitely did! We sat down a small place with only 5 tables and enjoyed fresh sashimi bowls for breakfast at 0630. It was incredible. It also came with a steep price, which was worth it for the experience.






Our breakfast!

Our breakfast!




After a mid-morning nap, we ventured out to explore the Ginza area of Tokyo. This included Chiyoda Park, another massive park system within the city to provide expansive greenery, and also house the current Imperial Palace and is the site of the ancient Edo Castle.









And this brings us to the close of an absolutely epic trip. It was action packed and exhausting, in all the most wonderful of ways. Now we just need to get back to this beautiful country to explore all of the areas north of Tokyo, as this trip on accomplished Tokyo and south!