Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Our Days, Besides Traveling

The hardest part about traveling around the world is not the jet lag or the walking 5 miles a day or seeing Japanese temples over and over (most of them similar enough to be boring to those of us who are not fascinated by temples): it's being stuck with four other people, most of whom have wildly different ideas of what is interesting or not, what makes good music, how one should spend leisure time, etc.

So far, the basic idea has been the same: sleep on the wonderful tatami mats until whenever I wake up (6-7am), and then migrate downstairs to sit and read NaNoWriMo posts or plan the NaNoWriMo novel to save as much time as possible during November. Dad is usually awake at this time, either reading blogs or studying today's activities or reading the new Steve Jobs book that is out.

When everyone is downstairs, in the living/ dining room, and we've just settled down into the 'zone,' we realize that we should eat breakfast, and everything is swept up off the table for a breakfast of bread or packaged croissants, with large amounts of butter slathered on top, and a beverage: tea, coffee, milk, or orange juice are our current preferences (in order: Mom, Dad, Ioan/Ileana, Maria).

When breakfast is over, there is a hectic period in which children try to get back into the 'zone' and parents try to get as far away from the house as possible. We children are still not sure why adults exhibit this phenomenon.

Once we are on the street, walking towards our destination, we settle into a normal pace of walking— these paces may differ between people, so that someone is quite behind (either taking pictures or absorbing the scenery of red buckets and interesting sidewalk cracks) and someone is quite ahead.

At the stoplights, we generally group again for the next stretch of sidewalk. While this method of walking may seem wonderful, we have to work on it: not all countries are as 'civilized' as Japan, and we have to get used to walking in a close group for those 'uncivilized' countries where you can't leave your backpack alone for half a second.

Everyone else has already explained about the amazing destinations we have seen so far (my favorites are the gardens and roadside stands that offer free sweet tastings), so I'll pass over that— suffice it to say that whenever there is a long stretch of stairs or we stop to catch a breather/figure out where we're going, I'll run ahead and then sit down to read something on the iPod Touch. I've managed to read 2 books so far using this method. (Or the equivalent: I also used the time to plan the novel.)

When we get home, it's usually with 8 to 19,000 steps under our belts: the equivalent of 4 to 9.5 miles. By the time we get back, I anticipate terrible abdominal/upper body strength and legs of steel.

Once we get home, everyone either finds an electrical leisure item (read laptop, iPod Touch, iPad, Kindle, or nook), and begins writing, reading, or watching various things. This is our leisure time, we all seem to say, it is sacred.

Dinner tends to be rice (cooked in a wonderful invention dubbed rice cooker) and noodles with pork and something green. For dessert (which seems to be a welcome development of travel), ice cream or yatsuhashi— a Japanese sweet made of rice flour, shaped like a triangle, and stuffed with chestnut purée, sweet bean paste, chocolate, strawberry, banana (and the list goes ON…) or other delicious fillings. They're not sweet like American candy— rather, their taste is subtle— just sweet enough to satisfy the taste buds, but not sweet enough to make you want to eat something salty.

After dinner, we either take a bath or migrate back to the 'zone.'

Baths in Japan are something that should have pervaded the rest of the world. To the right of the entrance there is the toilet with a warmed toilet seat that, when flushed, turns on a sink that simultaneously fills the water basin and can be used to wash hands. While this isn't prevalent in all of Japan, it should be— super space-saver!

To the left there is the shower/bath. It is a folding door with insulation to make sure that no water escapes. As you go in, there is a small bench to the right, with a mirror and body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. There is also a small stool, usually on the floor. Just in front is the very deep bath tub. You turn on the bath tub so that it automatically fills itself to 80% with water of 113°F /45°C. As the bath tub is filling, you use the small shower head to wash— all soapy activity is done OUTSIDE the tub. I THINK you sit on the stool, but I'm not sure. Once you're all rinsed, you get into the tub and RELAX.

I tried to do this. It all worked fine up until I got in the tub. After less than five minutes of relaxation in the tub, I got bored. I'm sure this is a very rare problem, however— especially for those over 18.

After a bath, we'll all migrate upstairs— except for Dad, who has to sleep in the living room— he simply goes and gets his tatami mat and moves the table and then sleeps on the heated carpet.

The tatami mats are ridiculously comfortable— there are two (maybe three? layers— one hard(ish) one, and another sort of mattress. There is also a very downy comforter that is light as air and very warming. The pillow is small and dense. In short… paradise!

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