Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Grace, God, Gifts

Lately I have been overwhelmed with the grace of God. In so many ways. I'm relearning it and being reminded of it and seeing its practicality walked out in day to day life.

Over the last two weeks, I have been overwhelmed with God's incredible miracle of life. And His gift of it to us. One of my dear friends just had her third child and the road that brought them to have this little treasure was a long one, but here she is and she is precious. And loved. And perfect. I am reminded that in all the storms, God is there, as the one who anchors us, the one who makes sense of things. And no, we might not have the answers or understanding to everything, but suddenly we receive this incredible gift amidst it. And we cling to the fact that we know God must be good. God must be love. Because even though most of the world around us doesn't make sense, this does and it is proof of God's goodness.

So I have been enjoying snuggling with this precious little babe. And seeing her siblings enjoy having a new little sister as well. Life is so fragile, yet so incredible precious. The thought of it makes me marvel in awe of having such an incredible God.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Decade, Day, Died

Today marks a decade since my brother passed away suddenly.

I am baffled to think it was 10 years ago that he left this earth, because it honestly feels like it could have been yesterday.

So today I am going to take the day to remember and celebrate his life.

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Canucks, Cup, Cheering

Since the day I came home, I have been enjoying everything about the Canucks playoffs. I was sad to miss the first few weeks, but excited that they have been playing amazingly and that I could join in with the cheering fan base.

There's something about being at a game that cannot be fully explained, until you are there and hear the thunderous roar of the crowd, feel the towel lint irritating your eyes, jumping up at every goal and good play.

And Round 3, Game 5 was exceptionally exciting. My heart was racing most of the time, my cheeks were rosy and I was on the edge of my seat.

And we WON! For the first time in 17 years, we are off to the 4th round once again. SO exciting! I remember going to the playoffs 17 years ago when I was 10 and so I am excited to go again and appreciate it through new eyes.

And even being in downtown Vancouver is exhilarating. Horns honking, giving everybody high five, cheering loudly, waving your towel around... so great! There's something special about when everyone gathers together and cheers for a common thing. It is unifying and bonding in a unique way.

Now we will just wait to see who we play in Round 4 and until then I will keep my evenings open so I can continue cheering until the end! Hope you are also enjoying the playoff run!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tokyo, Temples, Tasteless

Our final three nights were spent in Tokyo, a city of 13 million people. Sometimes when I think about population and amount of people, my brain can't quite comprehend the number of people that actually live in one place.

Saw a few more temples and different sites in and around Tokyo. Once again, the crowds were absolutely crazy because of the holiday. But interesting to see the locals and once again people watch.

And here's another shot of a cherry blossom in the middle of greenery on the mountainside-so stunning!

At the temples, sake companies often donate sake to be used for offerings. So in response they line up the barrels as advertisement. Interesting to see the cross of business and religion.

whenever you see a gateway like this, you know there is a shinto shrine behind it. According to the people I talked to, Japanese people are born as Shintoists and die as Buddhists. There is definitely a synchrotism between the two religions. And no one seems to be able to fully explain the religions they follow, which is also interesting.

Every temple has a washing/cleansing area. There is a specific routine to adhere to when washing.

Asakusa Kannon Temple is one of the oldest and most well known Buddhist temples in Tokyo. It has a lot of shops and food spots on the streets along the side. We had some of the local food and it was so tasty! I also learned here that the Canon camera was actually named after the Buddhist god, Kannon, but he changed the spelling so that it would be more acceptable in western culture. Not sure how I feel about my camera being named after a buddhist god mind you...

After seeing a few more temples, we decided to check out Tokyo DisneyLand. Turns out they have two parks, so we decided to check out then one we knew nothing about: DisneySea. First we went to see Disney's Cirque de Soleil, 'Zed'. It was amazing-such a cool stage setup as well!

DisneySea was fantastic! So fun to go on totally new rides! And we were the only white people in the park which was funny.

Our last full day was spent travelling to Mt. Fuji and Hakone. So beautiful. Went to the visitor's center and the 5th station of Mt. Fuji. The surrounding area is really beautiful too. Took a cable car up a mountain and it had stunning views.

Ah.. and the food. Now i know japanese food came from japan, but I did not like it much. It was all right, but did not have too much taste and was all kind of the same. Presentation was incredible mind you. But after a week of eating japanese food, I was excited to return to my western style of japanese. :)

The hotel we stayed at had really cool views off the top floor at night.

And thus concludes my trip. Hope you have enjoyed coming along for the journey. Thanks to my one faithful reader, Elsie for all her comments-have enjoyed reading your comments on the different posts.

Now back to regular day to day life!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Temples, Trees, Teeming

We took our first bullet train from Kobe to Kyoto. Was fantastic to see the countryside as you flew by in the train at 250 kms/hr.

Saw a few more temples that day, but these ones had some unique features in them. You weren't allowed taking pictures of the insides of a lot of them, but the picture below is one I stole offline to show you what the inside was like.

We saw a lot of buildings and inside statues that were part of the national treasure. The most fascinating was the temple that had the 1001 Kannon statues. And the buddha in the middle had 1001 arms.

We got to see the golden palace which was a beautiful site to see in the middle of the lake. The reflections of the building and the gardens on the lake were beautiful.

There is something absolutely stunning about the simplicity of a Japanese garden. Loved it.

Bright orange temple

Pretty sure the sign below says "watch your head".. Although for all I could know it could be calling me a silly goose or something.

The temples were packed with people. Because it was their week of national holidays, locals were out on their holidays as well and a lot of them were paying their respects at the temple. This particular fountain is where they wash themselves and each fountain represents something you might want in life (wealth, etc.). Crazy to see how incredibly long the line up was.

A glimpse of the crowds we had to walk through.

View of Kyoto

And there you have Kyoto. Next stop: Tokyo!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Carp, Cherry, Children

Our first port stop in Japan was Nagasaki, which was the second and last (as of today) place to experience a nuclear attack, as a result of the atomic bombings in World War II. Seeing the effects of the war on a lot of these places was interesting, moreso in speaking with the locals. '

When asked about the war and their view on it, you received a few different responses, some which were preceded with "I wouldn't say this very loud or to many people..." Interesting observations and dialogues around that for sure. I'm not much up on my history, but this makes me want to study up on it a bit more.

In Nagasaki, we visited and old castle where the shoguns used to live during the times of the samurai. We also visited some Samurai homes. I loved seeing all the different colored carp. Our first day in Japan was the first day of their week long holiday, 'The Golden Week', which is full of holidays. The one I can remember easiest was children's day. Any family with a son would hang carp streamers from their home.

Our last port stop with the ship was in Kobe where we disembarked from our ship. Kobe is the sixth-largest city in Japan. It is a prominent port city with a population of about 1.5 million. In Kobe, we drove up to Mt. Rokko, where you could enjoy full views of the city. After walking around up top, we took a tram down, and enjoyed remnants of the cherry blossoms scattered throughout the trees on the mountainside. I can only imagine what it would have looked like with all the trees in full bloom. Funny how when people think of Japan, they have views of tons of cherry blossom trees. Which makes sense when I could see how many there were everywhere and all the different types.

We also took a tour of a famous sake factory and got to try a lot of different kinds after. Not a huge fan of sake, but loved the plum sake- really tasty!

I didn't take many pictures in our last couple stops, partly because I felt like I had seen enough temples and buddhas to last me a lifetime, so why take another photo? And my camera card was filling up.

Next stop: Kyoto!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sea, Ship, Shananigans

We had a few sea days on our cruise in between all the port stops. One reason why I love cruising so much is that I love to meet new people. And on cruises, you get to travel with all these people and enjoy new experiences with them that bond you in a special way. Love it!

On every sea day, we enjoyed participating in 'The Olympics'. There were three events each day and they varied from basketball shooting, beanbag toss, putting, ring toss and so forth. It was a lot of fun and got to meet some great people. And I won second overall in the women's category!

John and Sharron are some friends I met who are from nearby, so I am excited to go visit them and see them again! They were my Olympics buddies and those I could chat about the Canucks with during the beginnings of the playoffs. And some great conversations as well of course.

Will and Charlie were honeymooners from Australia. We hung out a lot and I did in fact teach them how to play Yahtzee. Because everyone should probably know how to play yahtzee in their lifetime...

I got to be the judge in the ship-building competition. So fun to see everyone's creativity!

Tuddy, Leanne, Garth and Joanne were all from Australia and they were my fan club for karaoke as well as great people to hang out with in the evenings.

Greg was the DJ on the ship and I actually met him a year and a half ago on my cruise to South America and Antarctica and so it was really fun to see him again and hang out a bit during the different events.

Paul and Vicki were members of my fabulous trivia team 'All In'. Everyone hated us by the end because we usually won. Sometimes they'd boo when we'd come in. But we figured we were just giving them some good competition. I'm not so great at trivia, but I love getting to know people on my team. Once again, a unique way to get to know others.

Some of the other things we did whilst aboard the ship included: cooking classes, playing bingo, the Olympics, dancing, trivia, eating, playing yahtzee, game shows, karaoke, reading, walking on the deck and much more. So great!

Next stop is Japan!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shanghai, Serenade, Silk

China! A country I would return to solely to see the Great Wall of China. Being in Shanghai for two days was an experience and it was interesting to see the culture, meet people and enjoy some amazing dimsum (so good!). I love the Chinese architecture when it is used, hated the smog that seemed to always be hovering, loved the bright reds of the maples and the watertown we went to.

The contrast of colours in trees was fantastic. So pretty!

We were told by a few different people that this man was a philosopher, or a doctor, or a teacher... not really sure who he was in the end, but I snapped a photo of him nonetheless.

In the pharmacy, you could see the different bottles resting.. Some had snakes in them and others had things that I'm not sure about.

The women were absolutely amazing at preparing the local food. The way the wrapped them with three different pieces of twine was incredible. I think I would have finished making one in the time she made twenty.


We went to a watertown that I could not pronounce or recall for the life of me. But it started with a zed.

Woman washing her clothes in the water.

I don't know why I thought this sign was funny. Perhaps because I would not want to play in that water under any circumstance.

Took a little boat ride through the canals. Very cool to see how they live. Felt a bit like I was in Venice. Except my boat steerer/driver kept hoarking. That's kind of like serenading, right?

This is their main bridge in town and I love it. There's something about it that just captures your attention.

Stopped at a silkworm factory on the way back to the ship. Fascinating! So crazy how those little worms make silk that turns into amazing blankets.

I did get myself some sheets. I figure I will have a new sized bed in Quebec and should probably have some sheets to go with it.

The lights at night in Shanghai were also quite impressive.

In Shanghai, we celebrated Mark's birthday at Pub Trivia. Mark and Cathy were two of the people on my Pub Trivia team. I suck at trivia, but love getting to know people while playing trivia!

Part of me just wanted to stay on the boat deck and watch the lights all night long. And then they turned them off at 10pm so I couldn't.

The next day my mom and I sought out one of the best known dim sum places in Shanghai (according to a woman we met who spoke English). It took us an incredibly long time to find, but the food and the experience were both magnificent! So tasty! And they did in fact bring us English instruction sheets. Guess we looked confused. haha

Forget the name of this street, but it had crazy shopping everywhere. We went in a department store where they had the most massive floor of shoes you've ever seen. Shoes everywhere. My favorite was when an irate Chinese man started yelling as loud as he could and throwing shoes everywhere. No idea what he was yelling, but everyone was standing around him just watching, so I figured it was okay.

And thus concludes Shanghai. Next stop: Nagasaki, Japan