E-mail Update - 2006-06-07

Past 3 months and Next Trip Leaving June 25

Hey Everyone,

Well it has been quite the busy past 3+ months since Sayoko came. Here is the "quick" update on that before getting into my new trip plans. Sayoko arrived on March 9, which is when things are brown & cold here. By that time I was already well into my business classes I was taking at SWTC, as well as developing websites for several local clients. The week after she arrived I had spring break so we went on our first of 3 big trips. This trip was mainly to Tennessee & North Carolina, although we did things in other states as well. Some of the highlights of the trip include:

- Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky & Tennessee (Elk & Bison Prairie & seeing green trees/grass/plants for the first time)
- The hiking, animals & waterfalls in Tennessee of Burgess Falls State Natural Area & Fall Creek Falls State Park
- City attractions in Chattanooga including the aquarium, rock city gardens, the lost sea & Sayoko's first American buffet
- The Cherohala Skyway of the lower Appalachian Mountains & the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
- The waterfalls & nature of Nantahala National Forest & Wayah Road area of North Carolina
- Chimney Rock in North Carolina
- The Smoky (& at the time snow covered) Mountains, where we had a snow ball fight & Sayoko made her first snow angel
- Eating KFC in Kentucky :)

I didn't even mention some the small or new things we were able to do, but this lists some of the top highlights from that trip.

2 weeks later was the event that Sayoko always mentions as her favorite from this trip, which was my brother's wedding to Kristy (pictures & video available online - http://www.genextsoftware.com/travel/pictures_tk.htm).
Sayoko got to help make the 11 cakes needed for this, see some of the preparation needed for this, attend a wedding rehearsal, take wedding party pictures, witness (& photograph) the wedding, attend the reception/dance to see how big of a party it was (over 400 people) & lastly see the gift opening the next day. Things are pretty different in Japan as it is a small closed ceremony & "party". Here we invite anyone who wants to come in the newspaper :)

The next weekend we were off to Chicago to use the long Easter weekend.
We got a room at the Palmer House Hilton (pretty glamorous for a backpacker), but it reality it was the cheapest hotel in downtown Chicago. We only stayed for 3 nights & 4 days, but it ended up costing as much as the first trip which was for 9 days. It was an eye opening experience for Sayoko & myself & was the first time I had staying in downtown Chicago or went to any of the attractions. You get such a big city feel as it is a distinctly different from the country life we live here. Here is a quick list of the highlights:

- Jamba juice, ever since boost in Australia I am hooked on these drinks :)
- Art Institute of Chicago
- The Sears Tower & Hancock Observatory
- Field Museum (could have really done without the hundreds of screaming kids though)
- Supper at Giordano's Pizza, quite the pizza
- Planetarium & Shedd Aquarium

After that I did not have days to travel until just before she left. In the mean time she was still working on her drawings some of which she sells on her website (www.yamori.biz) & doing new things like:

- Running, hiking & biking the local area (like around my house & at Governor Dodge State Park in Dodgeville)
- Getting a tour of Lumberland (my parents business), learning what they did & seeing our land
- Riding a motorcycle, trike (motorcycle with 2 wheels in the back) & horse
- Seeing dozen's of different types of birds including her favorites - hummingbirds & owls
- Attending family events like my mom & dad's birthdays & my great aunt's funeral, my cousin's wedding shower, & seeing a few day old baby
- Trying morel mushrooms, cheese curds & countless other new foods
- Confusing our taste buds by cooking Japanese dishes like curry, okonome-yaki (Japanese Pizza), sushi & countless others
- Meeting lots of my friends & family & attending the Mother's day celebration held at my parent's house
- Visiting local attractions like House on the Rock, Pendarvis & Merry Christmas mining hill, plus shopping in the local stores
- Making the Boscobel Dial's front page in an article about her stay with in the US & our past traveling experiences
- Learning English & teaching me more Japanese

During the this time I was attending school at SWTC. I worked hard to complete my classes early so that I could have more days to go traveling with Sayoko in the Midwest. I was able to do this, as well as getting prepared for the Midwest trip. The funny thing is that I didn't really know much about Wisconsin & specifically outside of the southwest area.
So I needed to do research on Wisconsin (WI)& Minnesota (MN) for the trip. We left for this trip on May 22 and traveled until May 31. It was a great trip & it was very diverse in the things we saw. We enjoyed great timing which allowed us to see numerous animals (several of which were even first for me) & learn about how things work. Here is the quick list from that trip:

- Seeing animals - chipmunks, squirrels, coyote, 1-2 day old baby deer (fawn), older deer, turkey, owl, dragonflies, eels, snakes, frogs, ducks, heron, geese, cranes & many more
- The Mississippi river including Pikes Peak State Park in Iowa, watching a boat go through a lock, Perrot State Park in WI
- Mall of America in Minnesota (I actually just researched the trip while Sayoko shopped)
- Waterfalls, views & nature at Willow River State Park, Stillwater, Osceola & Interstate State Park in near the WI/MN border
- Learning about animals & seeing the baby fawn (in the wild) at Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary in WI
- Seeing numerous eels (and even saving one) at Amnicon Falls State Park
- Waterfalls at Amnicon Falls State Park, Pattison State Park (has largest falls in Wisconsin), & numerous others in Northern WI
- Visiting the Apostle Islands
- Great views like St. Peters Dome & Timm's Hill (highest point in WI)
- Wisconsin Dells Duck boat/land tour
- And my personal favorite, Devil's Lake State Park

After getting home Sayoko had 5 days left but even then she was able to visit my great aunt & grandma, shoot a gun for the first time, go fishing & catch fish for the first time & attend my cousin's wedding & rehearsal supper (as I was an usher at this wedding). She also got pack & sent a box home of things she had bought while here. The last full day here she spent with my mom, dad & I eating breakfast in her favorite local restaurant, learning about corn & even playing a board game she liked to play. In the time she had been here the land had came alive with grass & dandelions, farmer's crops & green fields & trees filled with new leaves.
Her flight left early this past Monday morning & she is back in Japan now safe & sound, but a bit tired :) Also hopefully this explains why I have sent almost no e-mail to anyone in the past 3 weeks.

----------- My travel plans ---------------

Onto the second part of this e-mail which is my new travel plans. Here is the link to the list of my flights - www.genextsoftware.com/travel/itinerary.htm. The flights will stay the same on the way to Peru since I am meeting Nina there to travel with her for the first 3 weeks. After that I am going to travel around South America for a while. I really don't know how long even though the plane tickets are set out about 9 months. I am not really committed to any date. I will be looking more into South America in the next few weeks as the time until I leave is dedicated to getting ready to go. There is so much more to do than people think when you go traveling for this long. I am also going to try to be getting the rest of the pictures online from the last trip before I go, even if I am not able to add commentary to them all. I will probably send one more group e-mail before I leave or after the first 3-4 weeks I have traveled with a little better idea of my plans.

If anyone knows anything about South America or possibly getting work as a PADI Dive Instructor there let me know :)

Peace & Love!