I had abit of a problem and needed antibiotics but it was night time and in a foreign country – so I called the front desk of the hotel we were staying and he told me that a doctor will come calling. Well, there was a kncok at the door and three German  paramedics plus the front desk guy came in. I was so glad Dave had just come back from work a few minutes before.

I ended up taking a ride in the ambulance to the nearest hospital, had a urine test, and saw a doctor. I said to Dave, brace yourself for the bill but when the bill came, we were so stunned – $84 for all those services! For the locals here it would be cheaper still as their medical insurance would pick  up some of the cost.  The doctor gave us a prescription and with the navigator in our rental car, we were able to find a pharmacy that was opened at 1 am. And the cost for antibiotics and another packet of meds – about $40!

So we ask ourselves what is wrong with the medical system in the US that so many people are without medical insurance. The ambulance  ride in Dresden was free to the patient. My daughter told me that when she broke her ankle roller skating, it cost $500 for the paramedic to cut her shoe laces! And any tests be it urine or bloodwork the cost in the US would be about $300 to $400 but I think I paid 5.60 euros (it was all included in the $80 I paid.)


The packers came Feb 10th to pack and ship our stuff back to the US. The real estate people came for a final walk through on Feb 13th and made a bee line for the small hole in the wood floor that I made when I dropped the iron one day. They may want to replace the whole flooring now at our cost because replacing one panel may not match the rest of the flooring!! Dave thought I should have left my foot there so the wood floor would not have been damaged!

The packers made a small hole in the wall when they accidently dropped the headboard. The apartment head honchos came to inspect it, took photos, made alot of fuss and at the end of the inspection told the packers that the whole wall will have to be replaced! Good luck to the packing company. I am worried about that hole in the floor now.

We left Aizu on Feb 13th, and spent the night at a hotel in Narita. We boarded Austrian Airline for Vienna on Valentine’s Day, then onto Berlin, From Berlin, we drove a rental for two hours to Dresden.

When I first entered the plane at Narita, I was struck by how colorful an Austrian plane was – the air stewards were all dressed in red, shoes, tights, dress or trousers. Then, when I entered the plane, I though OMG how bright! The seats were all green and the head rest covers were yellow, red and white. Amazing – what a change from United and COntinental planes!

The food was great too and the air stewardesses were constantly bringing drinks and rehydrating us all. That was really great.

Vienna and Berlin airports looked really old and aged when compared to the airport in Kuala Lumpur and Narita.

We now live in a lovely old hotel – the Radisson SAS Gerwnadhaus in Dresden, in the old town. Alot of Dresden was bombed by the Brits and the Americans and they are slowly rebuilding. The Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) was completely bombed out but now stood proud and beautiful after the rebuild.

Sayonara Aizu! Jan 2009

Two weeks after we returned from our Christmas Holidays, we found out that Spansion – the company that Dave was contracted to – was going to have a further  month of shutdown. The worsening world economy has hit the factory. Dave was told to start work on a solar panel factory in Dresden, Germany! He left Aizu end of January for two weeks. I stayed on to get things packed and wind down our stay in Aizu.

My friends from the gym organised goodbye lunches, teas etc. I was sad to leave my good friends.

My feet

My feet

Firstly, my friends and I had a nice lunch at a Japanese restaurant: tempura dipped in soy sauce and grated daikon, pickles, white rice, noodly seaweed, egg custard and miso soup with tiny mussels. Then, we went to a local spa to have our feet dipped in a fish tank to allow these tiny fish to nibble on our dead skin.

At the registration desk, we got a towel and a stop watch timed for 15 minutes and we paid $5 for this service. Of course, it took me about 5 or 6 minutes to take my socks off and to gather my courage before I was able to put my feet in the tank.

This article was copied from another blog about this type of fish:

Garra Rufa, a type of small tropical fish, also nicknamed Chinchin Yu, nibble fish or simply doctor fish, are put in hot springs. As they can live and swim freely in at least 43-degree-hot waters, they are naturally used for the treatment of skin diseases in such spas. When placed in the spa, these fish can feed themselves on the dead cells of the human body, since they only consume such cells, leaving the healthy skin of the human body to grow. The whole process is reportedly free of pain. It won’t hurt and the bather might feel a pleasant tingling on his or her skin.

Of course, we only had our feet in the tank but I could not stop giggling because it was very ticklish and painful at times when an over zealous fish nibbled on my ankle. I have terrible dry heels but the fish seemed intent to nibble my toes and my in step! What’s up with that?

My sister in Malaysia and daughter in New York told me that there are services like this over there too.

What happens when this fish gets bigger? There’s a restaurant next door, I hope they don’t get sold off as sushi !!!!


Today must have been a good day for viewing fall colors because there were throngs of cars and motor bikes snaking up the mountain road to Mount Bandai area. We had to fight our way  to a parking lot and on the trail we were with hundreds of people walking down to the river.

The senior citizens here in Japan are so sprightly and energetic and they manuevour their way down the steep trail ever so well. When we got to the river bed, they walked on rocks and scrambled down rock faces. They amazed us.

The colors were so awesome, oranges, burnt umber, browns and reds. Dave took the new header picture I just put up. There were some fantastic pictures from the lot Dave took with his Olympus E 410. I love the water pictures he took on slow setting. The pictures I took with my Olympus SP 350 were not as clear and the colors were not as bright and I kept running out of batteries! Grrrr…

The fall colors might peak next week and then totally gone. The mountain side looked so beautiful.

I uploaded some pictures on flikr. Check it out. http://www.flickr.com/photos/13044535@N04/sets/72157608179174789/

I went to the gym today. It was a cool and beautiful autumn day. Dave is better after a bout of tumminess the last three days. He had Malay chicken soup, leftover from last night’s dinner, for lunch. I decided to have a tuna sandwich and managed to slice my thumb opening the can. I was howling in pain as well as seeing all the blood. It took us a few minutes to find the bandaids. It was soaked as soon as Dave put it on but he told me to ignore the blood, even though it was dripping out of the bandaid. No sympathies from that one – he who had cuts from chainsaws and box cutters. Despite the cut thumb, I enjoyed my sandwich.

About 3pm we rode our bikes to the castle as my friend Junko san mentioned something about a festival. We were either too late or too early because nothing was going on over there. On the way back to the apartment, I noticed that the small shop selling imported clothings from India and Asia was opened for once. We went in and looked around and there were beautiful tables and beads and necklaces from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. There were beautiful silk skirts from Thailand and embroidered shirts as well.

The man behind the counter chatted with us and he pointed to pictures of mountains on the wall. Then he said I draw maps and he showed us what he was working on. He pointed to the pictures on the wall and he said, “I climbed K2 in 1977.” We  were stunned and so impressed! He spoke some English and proceeded to show us the maps of the Karakoram, which he had drawn and published. I told him that I had just finished reading  Three Cups of Tea, the book by Greg Mortenson and he had mentioned about the Karakoram and the Baltoro Glacier. Then, Tsuneo san opened up a beautiful map of the Baltoro Glacier that he had surveyed and published!! Dave and I was just so excited. You can check out this site formore info: http://www.jac.or.jp/english/jan/vol1/NEW.pdf

He told us that he is now 70 something (I think he said) but he still goes up to Northern Pakistan every summer and proceeded to show us pictures of his last trip, enormous beautiful mountains as the backdrop. I asked him for his business card and googled his name. That’s how I found out that he has labored for years to draw and publish Mountaineering maps of the Karakoram and Hindu Kush.

He took us to his second floor shop and showed us allthe artifacts he has brought home for sale. One item that intrigued me was wooden shoes from Afghanistan. The front and back were like horses’ hooves and the foot is placed on a small platform with leather thongs. He has pictures galore and he and his wife invited me back and I will definitely go back to the shop.

Meeting him has inspired Dave and I to get the Lonely Planet Book on Trekking the Karakoram and maybe do the trip one of these days. Tsuneo san, like Greg Mortenson, has had a hand in building schools in the Nepal mountains for kids. Every year when he goes there, he always brings school supplies for the children.

What a beautiful day and meeting Miyamori Tsuneo was a bonus!

My friend Junko took me to a kinder activity at a local elementary school. There must have been about 60 kids whose  ages range from about 4 to 5 years old. They were all seated on a turquoise colored tarpaulin, in their turquoise colored uniforms and little tiny turquoise colored shoes were all arranged on the edges of the tarp! What a sight. They all wore little tiny caps, yellow, white, red.. oh they are so cute!!

When the grown ups started the mochi process, they all stood up, put their shoes on and gathered round the huge wooden pounders chanting out songs. I am amazed how they knew which shoes belonged to them!

To make mochi, rice is cooked and then placed inside the huge wooden vessel. Then a couple of guys used big pounders and they took turns to pound the boiled rice until they are soft and gooey but pliable. Then, they are made into balls and some are soaked in soy sauce and wrapped in seaweed or dipped in soy powder and sugar. They are quite delicious, although, you could gag on one if you put too much in your mouth! I discovered that the hard way! You have to take small bites and chew slowly.

I forgot how cute kids are when they are all gathered together.