Japan – the land of chatty appliances and heated toilet seats; gas station sushi, seaweed snacks, and breakfast udon bowls; tiny hotel rooms and indoor slippers; inscrutable signs with dubious English and incomprehensible (to us) kana and kanji characters – has long been on our travel bucket list. In fact, before D landed an eleventh hour assignment that forced us into a three-month separation, we had planned to visit Japan during our transfer from Washington to Manila. It was only fitting that we’d make the land of the rising sun the first international destination during our first Asia tour.
Posts tagged ‘bucket list’
One wonders what the United States would look like now if the first colonists had landed on the shores of California instead of at Jamestown and Plymouth Bay. Would the lands comprising California’s nine national parks have survived in their pristine state if colonization and the War of Independence had played out on the West Coast? Would America’s eastern shore have been spared some of the ravages of industrialization?
TV screens tuned to CNN and Fox News trumpeted the impending government shutdown as we made our way to our gate two Fridays ago, boarding our flight to Phoenix hours before a lapse in appropriations, which is now in its 13th day and appears to have no immediate end in sight. Our automated furlough notices arrived the next morning, as we started our second Southwest road trip with an ambitious itinerary of national and state parks in Arizona and New Mexico.
Azure, still waters of an alpine lake, shimmering under the glare of the noontime sun, cold as the snow-melt that feeds it. The craggy contour of jagged mountains, dappled in snow, ringed by evergreens. The flutter of a bird-wing and its owner’s clarion song — nature’s calling cards, beckoning us toward adventure. These are the mementos from our home leave road trip this past summer, and the images that fill our imagination in planning our next sojourn out West over the winter holidays.
The mere sight of snow-capped peaks sets D’s heart aflutter, and the Tetons are quite spectacular as far as American mountain ranges go. There are myriad lakes and streams criss-crossing the valley beneath the peaks. On a clear morning – when the water’s surface is undisturbed by kayakers or paddle boarders – it is possible to capture the mountains’ reflection at one of the dozen turnouts along the main road that runs north from Jackson alongside the Snake River.
Sprawling across parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, not only is Yellowstone America’s oldest National Park, but it is also the only one in the continental United States whose establishment predates that of the states where it is located. Yellowstone’s National Park status dates back to 1872. Montana wasn’t admitted into the Union until 1889, and Idaho and Wyoming the year after.
We spent the last two weeks on the road in the western part of our country, reconnecting with friends in Salt Lake City, visiting a couple of national parks in Wyoming, soaking up Americana on July 4th, and exploring Idaho’s natural wonders – a beautiful state that had sneaked under our radar until now.
Every once in a while we like to look back at the bucket list we threw together at the beginning of our first Foreign Service tour, a few months into our marriage – to check if we can cross off any items and add a few new ones, but also to reflect on the time that has transpired and how it has changed both us and our goals.
The grass always seems greener on the other side, so the saying goes, but there are exceptions, and this was one of them. There was no doubt in D’s mind as he transited three airports over the course of 27 hours that the return alone from Portland to Kigali was going to be a bit of a downer. What he hadn’t quite counted on was to find the saying to have literal implications as well. Rwanda is a lush, verdant country for most of the year, but D returned during the height of the dry season to find the countryside sere, the grass wilting brown, and the air pregnant with dust.