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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sakura Clinic

Learning the Russian language can be demanding at times. I've seen the doctor recently about heartburn and gastrointestinal discomfort, which she said is most likely related to the stress that comes from studying. Stress was also given as the reason as for why I've been feeling lethargic lately, for which she prescribed a certain kind of medication that I''m somewhat apprehensive about using over a long period of time. The kitchen counter in our apartment now resembles a mini-pharmacy, with all the different medicines and supplements that I've been prescribed or recommended to take. The upside to this is that I now have a valid(-sounding) excuse reason for when I won't be able to reach the required level of Russian proficiency, a sort of get-out-of-FSI-and-go-to-your-next-assignment-at once card. 

If the above photo of my daughter and wife looks as if were taken in an airport, there's a good reason: it was. The girls left last Saturday on a trip back to Taiwan, taking advantage of Amber's spring break. They'll be there for about nine days, and leaving me here all alone with my Russian textbooks. I would've liked to have gone back to Formosa as well, but language students are not permitted to take regular leave during training. It's a good opportunity for Amber and Pamela to see the Taiwanese side of the family before we go to Eastern Europe, but at this point in my life the "freedom" that comes from "being single again" is not something to relish. 

But with spring upon this region, it's possible to set aside the emotional and physical challenges, and get out and enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of the new season. Taking advantage of today being an administrative day (meaning I only had two classes in the morning, leaving the rest of the afternoon free; this happens twice a month), and the weather being sunny and warm, I went into the District to see Washington's famed cherry blossoms. After lunch I boarded the shuttle that leaves from the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, and rode the bus to the main State Department building in Foggy Bottom. From the Harry S. Truman Building, I walked toward the Tidal Basin, pausing for a moment to watch kids clambering on the Albert Einstein Memorial outside the National Academy of Sciences:

My route also took me past the Korean War Veterans Memorial, where it appeared that some South Korean military officers were presenting a wreath:

The cherry trees around the Tidal Basin haven't reached their peak bloom yet, but they were a lot more colorful this afternoon compared to our visit there a week-and-a-half ago. The blossoms and good weather brought out a lot of visitors for a weekday afternoon, and I joined the throngs as I made my way around the water, going from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and past the Jefferson Memorial, before moving off in the direction of the Smithsonian Metro station. When in Rome, do as the tourists, and so I snapped a few pictures:

In Japan, the blooming of the cherry blossoms is an excuse occasion for celebration, a time to join family, friends or coworkers under the trees, and consume mass quantities of food and alcohol. In the U.S., "keep off the grass" signs and regulations on drinking alcoholic beverages in public places make for a more sedate outing. 

Needless to say, I miss 花見. 

The girls will be back next Tuesday. Before then, they'll probably have their own sakura-viewing excursion later this week, when they're planning to go on a day trip with family members to Alishan 阿里山, Taiwan's premier (and therefore horrendously crowded) cherry blossom spot. 

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