This weekend was filled with learning for the Guthries. Friday night kicked it off, when Rodney and I headed to the Dine like a Diplomat class the base hosted. It was geared toward teaching those of us associated with the base about basic business meal etiquette. It was taught by the station's protocol officer, Dave Garber, who is a certified etiquette instructor.We were required to dress in business attire, so we both had to dust off our suits...
We had an hour-long presentation, followed by a 6-course meal to practice what we learned and ask Dave questions for clarification.
As you can see from the photo above, Rodney did take the class seriously once he was there, taking notes and asking a few questions of his own. But like most men, he was more excited about the upcoming meal,which was quite tasty. Below was the first course, Tomato Basil Soup. Quick tip: Spoon the soup out of the bowl away from you and then sip it from the side of the spoon. Easier said than done with a thick soup like this one.
Bread was served with the soup course. Quick tip: Tear off a bite-sized chunk of bread and then butter it.
The complete menu, although the salad was served after the soup.
Sorbet was served after the fish dish to "cleanse the palate."
The main dish... a rib eye. Quick tip: If you are "resting" and not yet finished eating, cross your fork and knife across the plate in an "X". When you are finished, place your fork and knife in the "10:20" (as in time) position to silently signal to the serving staff that you are finished eating and they can take the plate away.
On Sunday, the Guthries were invited by some friends to head to Mt. Aso, an active volcano about 5 hours south of Iwakuni. It is the largest active volcano in Japan and has one of the world's largest calderas, at 18 by 25 kilometers. There are five peaks that make up the Aso region, The currently active crater is that of Mt. Naka, which emits steam and gas. Its last eruption was in 2011. Concrete bunkers, which we affectionately called bomb shelters, dot the areas around the volcano, so there is a place to run and hide in case of an unexpected eruption.
When we first arrived at the volcano, the wind was blowing in a way that kept the acidic gasses around the viewing area, so we could not look in to the mouth to see the blue-green, steaming water. While we were there, the winds changed and we were allowed along the observation paths to peer inside. According to one of the "volcano patrol" officers, this only happens about twice a week and we happened to be lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time.
The white smoke to the left is steam, while the blueish smoke to the right is gas.
The kids inside one of the "bomb shelters."
The dads inside the "bomb shelter." Clearly tall people were not involved in the design of the structure.
I took a picture of this because it is a small peak in between two of the volcanic craters. As you looked down the sheer wall below you and across the peak to the other side, it was an interesting illusion to your mind. Each of us felt slightly dizzy when we stood at this particular angle and gazed down and across. Bot recommended to those who have a fear of heights.
Of course, Mt. Aso is a very popular tourist location for the Japanese. One of the shopping and eating spots is called Aso Farmland, which is where we stopped to have lunch and check out the souveniers. With tourist sites comes marketing: Volcano-shaped dim sum at the buffet restaurant we had lunch at.
Rodney's meal, on a sectioned 9-dish plate:
The kids were thrilled with the Costco-like atmosphere in the shops... there were food samples to be had everywhere! I did get some citrus tea that had local honey in it in the hopes it might help my (and Rodney's) allergies as the flowers in the area begin to bloom.
The Aso area is also known for its milk, There was an entire shop dedicated to cheese there, and I looked high and low for cheese that had been made locally, but there wasn't any to be had. Most of the cheeses were from exotic locales such as Sweden and San Antonio, Texas.
They did have a squished penny machine! I was able to add a squished copper disc (the Japanese don't have pennies, and the 100-yen cost included the copper disk) featuring Hello Kitty in from of a smoking Mt. Aso to my collection of squished pennies in my "Penny Passport."
There were maps of Aso Farmland scattered around the area, which was very helpful. The round, beige spots are the igloo-like hotel-room huts the Farmland is famous for.
I never did find out what an Asian Claft was. ;)
A miniature example of the igloo-like hotel rooms. This one is the toilet dome, obviously.
And, of course, word of advice to travelers: Don't forget to do your group stretching at every scenic rest area where the bus stops...