This year, my trip home to see my family in America was very special because my son joined me from Tokyo. We made our reservations at completely different times but were pleasantly surprised to discover that we were on the same flight from Tokyo to Tallahassee. My son couldn't visit my parents during his last year of university because of COVID-19, so my parents were happy that he could finally see them.
Christmas Day, the entire family gathered at my sister-in-law's mother's house for a gift exchange. Everyone put an unwrapped gift on the table and we all chose the gift we liked best. I chose two jars of delicious homemade apple butter made by my sister-in-law's mother.
A few days after Christmas, we took a short trip to the seaside town of Carrabelle. On the way there, we visited a sea animal sanctuary for injured or rescued animals, the Gulf Specimen Aquarium.
The sanctuary was started by a woman who dedicated her life to studying horseshoe crabs. She wrote an article for National Geographic about these under-researched creatures.
It was incredible to watch the worker feed a tank full of nurse sharks! These sharks had been rescued from a tank in the lobby of a casino.
We learned so much and I was surprised to see a sign about "Blinky", an alligator that lived in my hometown. Blinky had a very tragic life. After losing an eye when hit by a car, he became too friendly with people who visited to feed him marshmallows. Usually, alligators are afraid of humans and stay away from them, but if humans feed them, they lose that fear. Blinky started leaving his lake and taking walks downtown, so they had to take him to an animal sanctuary. At the animal sanctuary, he was killed by another alligator. The moral of the story is, don't feed wild animals!
We also learned a lot about the lighthouses around there.
We pretended to get arrested at the "world's smallest police station" in downtown Carrabelle.
New Year's Eve was a lot of fun. The city of Tallahassee had a great event in a downtown park with a concert and fireworks.
Later, we went to a nearby hotel and my brother, son, and niece had a champagne toast at midnight.
A few days before we went home, my brother and my niece took us to a local ramen restaurant. We were very curious about what American ramen would be like. I am sure that it must be hard to get the ingredients. I tried the tonkotsu ramen. It was pretty good, but expensive at ¥2,000 a bowl!
Before I knew it, it was time to go back to Japan. I was greeted by a view of Mt. Fuji during sunset from my airplane window.
I'm looking forward to having a great 2024!