Do you know the way to San Jose?

North America ~ United States of America ~ California ~ San Jose

A big howdy to everyone from the sunny state of California! Yep, I finally made it here. Plane trip was long and tiring. It all began when we had all just gotten ourselves onto the plane. The pilot announced that someone had checked in their luggage but failed to show up for the flight, so they had to take their luggage off the plane. That should have been the warning sign… Half an hour later, once we had been taxi’d out onto the runway, the pilot announced that the warning light had come up on one of the jets. Three hours later we were taken off the plane, whilst a new plane and crew was found. We finally left Heathrow seven hours after the original departure time, with a cheer rising from the plane. Arrival in San Francisco was interesting as well. At immigration I had my fingerprints taken with an ‘inkless’ pad (really more like a mini scanner), and I also had my photo taken!

California is the same as it’s always been, yet so different from all the places that I’ve been in the past couple of months. The streets around San Jose are so quiet, of a weekday there are very few cars on the road. A lucky thing too, since I’ve been driving around, trying to stay on the right side of the road! In the morning, squirrels play in the trees outside my Granpoppa’s house and of a day you can hear all the leaf blowers going. My Grandpoppa’s golden retriever, Traveller, is absolutely gorgeous. He loves to have his ball thrown for him, day and night. Of a day he sits at the gate, waiting patiently for someone to walk past the bottom of the driveway. When he does spot someone, he rolls his ball under the gate and down the driveway to the unsuspecting stranger. As a result, Traveller is always making friends who come back through-out the day just to throw his ball for him. The other day, mum and I decided to give him a bath. I went and changed into my old clothes, thinking of how difficult it is to wash our dogs back home. To my shock, Traveller walked into the bathroom, jumped into the bath and proceeded to lie down. Mum has trained him so that, provided the water is just right (not too hot, not too cold), he is more than willing to jump into the bath. The only problem is keeping him out of the water when she is running the bath for herself!!!

I’ve been out and about all week, seeing the ‘sites’ of San Jose. The other day, mum took me to one of the Asian supermarkets (they’re huge over here, not like the tiny little stores in Australia). This particular supermarket stocks everything, including a huge range of fresh seafood in tanks up the back. It’s as fresh as can be – you take it home still breathing. They also have the largest range of frozen dumplings I’ve seen outside of Asia, and as a result I’ve eaten Japanese dumplings for breakfast ever since. Last night we went out to a barbecue restaurant with Grandpoppa and some of his friends. Had a great time, munching away on beef sandwiches and jiving to real western tunes. I’m in my element over here – California has a huge range of Mexican restaurants, they’re dotted all over the place. The guy around the corner from the shop sells hot dogs and burritos, yum!

Mum took me to the famous San Jose Flea Market the other day, and we had a great day. The market was full of little Mexican kids racing around speaking Spanish, and stalls that sold burritos and tacos. Unfortunately we both got extremely burnt, so I’m a walking lobster at the moment… Another of my nights was spent down at the Indian Movie Center with my Granpoppa and second cousin. We saw an Indian movie, Avunna Kadana, which I’m sure would have been really interesting, had we been able to understand. Although there were no subtitles I managed to make up a dialogue in my own head…

Most of my days have been spent down at my Uncles shop, helping mum and the girls pack everything up. We’ve spent the week (and they’ve spent the past couple of months) selling presses, computers and other printing equipment. This week we’ve had schools and other organisations coming in to collect donations of card and paper. It’s hard seeing so much of my family’s history going out the door, but it’s very rewarding when you have someone who truly appreciates what they are being given. Even more rewarding is talking to my Uncle’s friends and business partners who come in to chat and tell their stories. Everyone has something funny and nice to say about Dave, it really makes me smile, hearing these stories. It’s so great to realise that Dave made such a positive difference in so many people’s lives.

Take care all, and let me know how you’re going.

xo bobs

Life is like a game of monopoly

Europe ~ United Kingdom ~ London

So long Asia, now we’re back to the land of English – or rather the Motherland… Arrival was full on, we got into the airport and lined up for immigration. We haven’t had any problems in any other countries getting through, but after 12 hours on a flight from Hong Kong, they decided to be difficult. After getting through the line (took about 2 hours), we got to the front, only to be questioned and then sent off for a health check!!! Turns out that as we had travelled through ‘tropical’ countries (Thailand and India), there was a possibility we had TB, so they had to check us out. In the end we didnt need to get X-rays or the like, as the nurses decided it wasnt worth it!

Our hostel is in Earl’s Court, nicknamed ‘Kangaroo Court’, due to the abundance of Aussies who have made it their home. The hostel is full of Aussies, Kiwi’s and South Africans. Most people are friendly, but there are a lot of politics flying around the hostel – such as who gets the kitchen first and so forth. We’re at the very top of the stairs – five flights up, everyone else complains about the climb, but we reckon its nothing – compared to Huang Shan!!! We’re sharing a room with a South African guy and an Aussie guy. Both are long termers and the room is decidedly male – from the sign on the door (‘MEN!!!’), to their choice in posters. All day they have a fan going, pointed at their shoe collection… But they’re nice enough, and the room is alot cleaner than some of the ones we’ve been in.

On our first day we caught a train (‘the tube’, hehe) down to Westminster, to wander around. Imagine us, we’ve just stepped off a plane from Hong Kong, tired and jetlagged, and we’re wandering around London, seeing famous sights such us Big Ben and chasing pigeons through Trafalgar Square. I feel as if I’m trapped on a Monopoly board!!! After wandering around the National Gallery for a couple of hours we set off back home to plan our next day. Ended up teaming up with a pair of Kiwi girls and a pair of South African girls and made plans to go out the next day. We sat on the steps of our hostel drinking the local drinks – we like to think that we looked like the old guys on Sesame Street…

2nd day was spent SHOPPING on Oxford Circus, and then we toodled off to the Tower of London, to see the sights. The Tower of London has a 900 year history as a Royal Palace and fortress, prison and place of execution, mint and jewel house. Lucky us got to see the crown jewels, and even sit on a royal gardenrobe (read: loo!)

Since then we’re been to many wonderful and amazing places – and of course done our fair share of shopping. By shopping I of course mean browsing, as the prices over here are so so so expensive that we can only afford to look! We went to Westminster Abbey to see all the famous graves – such as Queen Elizabeth I, Mary I, Mary Queen of Scots, Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell, and Thomas Parr, a guy who lived to age 152 (?!). Also went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard, lots of red guards with fluffy black hats running around. The London Dungeon was a bit different, bit like a horrorhouse, we got to see the more spooky history of London, from the black plague to Jack the Ripper. King’s Cross Station was worthwhile, we all got our pics taken standing in front of ‘Platform 9 3/4’, pushing a trolly through to the platform where Harry Potter caught his train to Hogwarts.

Shopping has been fun, we’ve wandered around the main shopping districts – Picadilly Circus, Oxford Circus (All have ‘circus’ attatched, any ideas?), and even Camden Town. Camden Town was interesting, magic mushrooms and marujana lollypops are sold everywhere. The mushrooms come in many different types (flavours?!) – from Cuban ones to good ol’ Tassie ones!

Apart from the sightseeing and shopping we’ve just been chilling in the hostel, and partying with our fellow backpackers. Nightlife is great, and everyone is so friendly. Only trouble I’m having is wrestling the remote control off the Aussie boys on the weekends – no-one here seems to care how much I HATE watching sports – oh well, they’ll learn quick enough. Take care all, am about to jetset off to the U.S., so if you’ve over there, watch out for me!!!