A Patriot Abroad

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This past weekend, Craig and I joined some friends (one of which is also an American) for some delicious barbecue and craft beer to toast Independence Day. It seemed many of our fellow Americans living abroad had the same idea — the restaurant was bursting with English.

One of the most important lessons living abroad has taught me is to put my home country in perspective. What I mean by that is remembering the bigger picture and learning to appreciate the differences that make each country unique. I’ve always been proud to be an American — and always will be — but having a greater, a wider view on the world in which I live can only help me be a better citizen of that world.

I do my best to represent America well to all people I meet here in Japan and when we travel. Stereotypes abound and no culture is free of them. By conducting myself in a respectful fashion, as someone open to learning and growing, I believe I’m doing my part and not taking this experience for granted.

I certainly missed being on a lake back in Michigan, but we had no shortage of fun (or food and drink). I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend celebrating with friends and family. Happy 239th birthday, USA!

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Sharing the Expat Experience

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I’m so happy to share a big project I’ve been working on for the past month or so. A friend and fellow journalist (she blogs HERE) introduced me to the team at WSJ Expat, one of the blogs for the Wall Street Journal, and I was given the opportunity to share my experiences as a “trailing spouse.”

This piece was by far one of the most emotional things I’ve written in a while, but I hope it will be helpful to anyone living in a new place — trailing spouse or not — to know their feelings (good and bad) are valid.

Another huge thank you must go to my amazing husband, who told me I was free to use this time as I wanted to and, more importantly, needed to. A journo as well, he knows the blood, sweat and tears (lots, sometimes) that can go into sharing your voice with the world. He strengthens mine every single day.

You can read the article HERE and I look forward to sharing more with you soon!

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Japanese Beauty Buy: Benefiance WrinkleResist24

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At what age should you really start using an anti-aging night cream? As someone who’s squeamish when it comes to needles and the idea of surgery, I decided 22 was the time to start thinking ahead and taking my skincare routine more seriously. Ever since, I’ve been looking for the right night cream to nourish and protect my skin to hopefully hold off some of the signs of aging.

After trying several formulations and running out of my most recent favorite, I decided to take the plunge for the colder months and go with Benefiance WrinkleResist24 Night Cream from Shiseido. This line is all about preventing wrinkles and other signs of aging, so I was all about it. I don’t normally go for heavy creams, since I look like an oil slick when I wake up, so I was a bit disheartened when I opened the package at first and saw how rich it was. However, after a few months of use, I won’t go back.

This stuff helped me avoid the dry patches on my chin and cheeks I normally get in the winter, when I was also adjusting to some new topical acne meds. My skin looks more even toned, smooth and, dare and I saw it, glowing. Just use a small amount (a precious little spatula is included) of Benefiance WrinkleResist24 Night Cream and you’ll have more than enough for your face and neck. I can’t say it’s made my face less oily, but I’m definitely less mad about it.

This product isn’t drugstore affordable but it it’s well below $100, which is a plus. I’ve had it since the new year and am about halfway through the jar. Here’s to complexion insurance!

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Weekly Web Tacks

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Rainy season is underway here in Tokyo and I’m already transiting to my beat-the-humidity strategy (see my tips here, here and here). The summer certainly isn’t the most comfortable time of year, which has me sticking indoors a lot more than I should. Time to buck up, forget about my hair looking good for the next few months and get back to exploring.

Here are my favorite web tacks for the week:

  1. Looking for a reason to visit Tokyo? Here are 50 — No. 6 may be hard to believe, but I can attest it’s true. [TimeOut Tokyo]
  2. Now this is quite a way to bring expats back home. [BBC]
  3. See what Japan is spending 252 billion yen ($2.1 billion) on. [Japan Today]
  4. This may change how you search from now on. [The Washington Post]
  5. Get to know the Japanese “Queen of Subtitles.” [The Japan Times]
  6. A new Instagram account for all the romantics out there. [Science of Us]
  7. Business meets ballet. [Bloomberg]
  8. Of course, I knew Michigan was the best state. [Thrillest]
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6 Happy Sights

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I hope your week is off to a great start. I cannot believe it’s almost July already! Between work projects, traveling and visiting family, this summer is flying by and I know it’s kept me away from this space more than I would like. These sights made me smile this past week (starting with this beautifully illuminated corridor) and I’m looking forward to more adventures and projects coming together so I can share them with you.

Why have one dessert when you can have five?

Why have one dessert when you can have five?

A torii, spotted in ??.

A torii, spotted in Nihonbashi.

One of my favorite Japanese treats, the melon soda float, is now in a CAN. I searched for this for an embarrassing amount of time.

One of my favorite Japanese treats, the melon soda float, is now in a CAN. I searched for this for an embarrassing amount of time.

A special meal of clams and stir-fried veggies after some exciting work news.

A special meal of steamed clams and stir-fried veggies after some exciting work news.

New favorite ice cream flavor. Banana milk!

New favorite ice cream flavor. Banana milk!

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On the Edge of Glory

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One of the highlights of our trip to Taiwan last month was the hike along the Zhuilu Old Trail in the Taroko National Park. It was a day that still gives me chills to think about — I can now cross “crying out of fear” off my list of emotions to experience — but I’m so glad we did it. Everyone needs experiences that push limits. As far as voluntary, recreational activities go, this was mine.

I’m not a hiker. I’m not even remotely outdoorsy. So when our friend Jason suggested this hike, one Google image search was all it took to nearly shit my pants. Look up more photos after you’re done reading this and you’ll see what I mean.

I spent the weeks and days leading up to the trip trying not to think about it. When a typhoon rolled into town at the start of our trip, I admittedly breathed a sigh of relief thinking it would be cancelled. No such luck. Our guide picked us up in the morning and we spent the next six hours scaling the Zhuilu Old Trail, the fog providing a welcome mental security blanket, even if it did obscure the view.

The hike is pretty intense on the way up with lots of stairs, so I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who isn’t very athletic. But once you get to the top, the sweating, and in my case the wheezing, are well worth it.

We were 500 meters above ground at the highest point of the trail, walking along a path only about 70 cm wide. The way down was a bit scary for me. I’m not afraid of heights per se, but I am afraid of tripping and falling over the edge to my death. Same thing?

Let’s put it this way, I’m a former dancer and I know I’m clumsy. They say dancers don’t know how to use their own two feet without choreography. But I kept Lady Gaga’s anthem in my head and kept going.

I had one bad slip that, to me, felt like it was my turn to sign off and prepare for the eternal nap. Thankfully, my brave and selfless husband jumped over to stop me and all was well, even if I did cry about it for a few minutes. He maintains this wasn’t as close a call as I remember.

All in all, I’m still glad we did it. As I told my friends and family, I can check Taroko National Park and the Zhuilu Old Trail off the bucket list I didn’t know I had, and that’s why traveling with other people is such a blessing. They invite you on new experiences and help you make memories you’ll never forget.

The moral of the story? Be brave. Go outside your comfort zone. And invest in some damn hiking boots.

P.S.
A big thank you to Jason for his amazing shots! Those are his feet in the top pic.

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Weekly Web Tacks

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Lots of fun things to share this week in my web tacks, including a behind-the-scenes look at Japan’s famous bullet train, the Shinkansen. Be sure to check back later today for more photos from our hike of Taroko Gorge in Taiwan last month. Enjoy!

  1. Japan’s infamous dancing ban is changing. Time to get crazy. [The Telegraph]
  2. Some fascinating portraits of Romania’s witches. [VICE]
  3. Japanese food emojis 101. [The Kitchn]
  4. A great read on perceived physical standards for women. [The Cut]
  5. I may also be allowed in more onsens soon. [The Japan Times]
  6. Some seriously amazing beaches to add to your travel wish list. [MY DOMAINE]
  7. See how the Shinkansen stays so spic and span. [The Wall Street Journal]
  8. You don’t know crowded until you ride the subway in Tokyo during rush hour. [Bloomberg]
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6 Happy Sights

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While the cat’s away, the mice . . . eat tempura and hit the batting cages.

Craig was on his own for more than two weeks while I was back in the states, so I asked him to share some of his favorite photos from his brief time as a bachelor. I wasn’t worried he would lack things to do while I was gone. All I can do is be jealous of how many carbs that skinny boy can eat.

Have a great week!

The Japanese love a mascot. This friendly guy was spotted at ??.

The Japanese love their mascots. Craig crossed paths with this one after devouring the bowl of fried deliciousness in the first photo, taken at Kaneko Hannosuke in Nihonbashi.

Enjoying one of his favorite late-night activities, hitting a few balls at ??.

Craig squares up on a fastball at the Shinjuku batting cages. Note the helmet — safety first.

Looking up at ??.

Sometimes, Japanese office architecture all looks the same. Then you cross paths with a building like this.

Went back for seconds at Mutekiya in Minamiikebukuro.

Making a return trip for seconds at Mutekiya in Minamiikebukuro, one of our favorite ramen joints.

Craig first went to ?? while I was away and loved the soup dumplings so much, he took me back.

Craig first went to this Chinese restaurant in Ginza while I was away. He loved the soup dumplings so much, he took me back.

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Back In the Air Again

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I’m off to Tokyo! I had such a wonderful time in the U.S. but it’s time to get back to business and, most importantly, my husband. It’s never easy to say goodbye, but knowing I’ll be back in the fall makes it just a hair easier.

As always, there were people I didn’t get too see or have as much time with as I would like, but each and every day was filled with reasons to smile. I got to end my trip celebrating the wedding shower of my best friend, which made me appreciate how far we’ve come in our lives and just how special it is we can be there for each other to celebrate these milestones.

All I can do now is count down the days until my next visit. In the meantime, we have my mother-in-law’s visit to Japan to look forward to in August and a beach vacation before that.

Hopefully that plate of biscuits and gravy and hash browns will help me sleep on the plane. Stay tuned for more!

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6 Happy Sights

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As usual, I can’t believe it’s already my last night in Michigan. Tomorrow afternoon, my parents will take me out for one last taste of the states (torn between biscuits and gravy and coney dogs) and then it’s off to the airport and back to Tokyo.

There were so many happy sights during this trip, it was hard to narrow them down, but here’s a snapshot of the past two-plus weeks. I’m heading back with a hoarse voice from so many wonderful chats and a happy heart.

The Samoritos from my favorite local Italian spot. Deep fried, garlic-salt covers pillows of joy.

The Samoritos from my favorite local Italian spot. Deep fried, garlic-salt covers pillows of joy.

The Pinterest-worthy setting for my cousin's nuptials.

The Pinterest-worthy setting for my cousin’s nuptials.

The perfect spring afternoon.

The perfect spring afternoon.

Had to steal a squeeze with this one. Our niece is the sweet little girl enjoying the bubbles.

Had to steal a squeeze with this one. Our niece is the sweet little girl enjoying the bubbles.

Couldn't resist sharing another pic of my little buddy.

Couldn’t resist sharing another pic of my little buddy.

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