Ventura California

After a day of shopping at an outlet mall, we spent a couple of hours on Ventura Beach, located in the city of Ventura. It is located just northwest of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. We enjoyed a bit a swimming and playing on the beach. The water was quite cool and the cold breeze kept most people away so we had lots of space to run around.

Ventura is famous for its agriculture because two rivers empty to the sea nearby and it created super fertile soil. It is still today one of the biggest citrus growing regions in the world. We saw some of the migrant workers in the fields as we headed from Caramillo to Ventura. It is far enough out of LA to feel a bit like the desert west and had a much different feel than the city.

It was nice to get a taste of California surfing beach culture. Traffic also was not too bad on the way home, something that is always a concern in LA.

Arrival to Los Angeles

Posing in front of the Universal Studios Hollywood gate

After a long flight over the Pacific, we arrived at LAX on a hot sunny Tuesday afternoon. We are staying in the San Fernando Valley suburb of Studio City in greater Los Angeles for a couple of days before heading to Bolivia. My uncle lives near Universal Studios, so in trying to stay awake we went out to dinner and soaked up some of the atmosphere. As you may have read in a previous blog post, I had horrible experience at Universal Studios Japan because of the immense crowds. It was nice to see the original theme park in Hollywood. We didn’t go inside, and at $100 per person, I don’t think it is worth it. Since Comcast bought NBCUniversal, the park has turned its finances around with 6.1 million visitors in 2013 and over 1.3 billion dollars in revenue at the Florida/California parks.

California reminds of Spain and Cyprus, a typical Mediterranean climate. The state is going through a multi-year drought and it did look very dry from the airplane. Water rationing is in full force for the people of LA, and we needed to take short showers and not rinse dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. Big fees are given to heavy water users and all consumers were asked to cut their water use by 25%. California agriculture however, uses most of the water and the “world’s garden” may need to come to terms to using so much water. Above is a photo I took tonight of the moon behind some palm trees. LA is known for its palms, but there is only 1 species of palm native to here.

We are looking forward to exploring one of the world’s great cities some more in the next few days.

School Pictures 2014-2015

 

 

Owen – Grade 6

I received the school photos yesterday that were taken last month. I am glad schools still do this in the digital age. There is something about opening the envelope and seeing your children in a formal school photo. You notice how they change from year-to-year. Owen still looks like a boy, but is on the verge of becoming teenager. Oliver, below is such a typical “Dennis the Menace” mischievous little guy with a heart of gold.

Oliver – Grade 3

Finally, my angel-princess Ocean (below), the best of the Kralovecs, is so beautiful! I know I am biased, but I appreciate her intelligence and calm demeanor more and more everyday. Nadia and I are so fortunate to have three children. I feel so lucky!

Ocean – Grade 1

 

Father’s Day 2015

I had a really nice day Father’s day with the kids. The only negative was Nadia was traveling today and couldn’t be there with us. I did go to the airport with her in the morning and see her off. She is chaperoning the World Scholar’s Cup team that is competing this week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I spent father’s day exactly how I wanted to, with my children. We played basketball in the school gym and then went to Starbuck’s for a light brunch.

After a nap, the kids and I rode our bikes to Park Golf, a “mini-golf” course in Expo ’70 Park. I have never seen a course like it before. Each hole is around 40-60 meters in length. We used sticks resembling wooden drivers and the ball was similar to a croquet ball. The par 66 course is a total of almost a kilometer. The kids loved it because a variety of skill levels can enjoy the course. For serious golfers, one can work on the short putting game and for kids, they can just  whack the ball as many times as they want.

I shot a 71, Owen a 78, Oliver a “110” and Ocean a 139. To play is costs 400 yen ($3.20) for kids and a 200 yen to rent a ball. You can play for as long as you want. The course was not crowded either. It is a nice thing to do for a morning or afternoon for a family.

We finished the day off with dinner and a couple of episodes of Modern Family. The kids are being nice and pretending the pasta I prepared was delicious. It was just a super nice day – what a privilege it is to be a father!

A final thought – I miss my father – here is a photo from 2007 with all of the Kralovec men!

Growing Rice

Our suburb of Minoh is full of rice paddies and gardens. You can find them scattered between residential and business districts. Often there are several fields together. The method of rice cultivation here requires standing water and so coming from the hills of the Minoh quasi national park down into the city, there is a system of  irrigation canals and reservoirs for capturing rainwater and storing and directing it towards the fields. The field above, as you can see in the another photo below of the field, has an reservoir right next to it. The reservoirs are a great place to see and hear wildlife. I’ve taken many photographs of ducks and herons.

There are canals everywhere, mostly on the sides of roads. In a safety conscious country like Japan, this is unexpected because they are easy to fall into on a bicycle or car.

The rice paddies are mostly tended to by older people, which there are a lot of in Japan. The government subsidizes the production of rice in the name of national culture. Small, private  farms are not economical, but it is nice to see agriculture everyday and the Japanese practicing this facet of their culture. I wonder if the younger generation will continue this practice? I also would like to know how much the government spends on this.

The last week in May and first week in June is when rice if first planted. The seedlings are started indoors and then brought out to the fields. You can see the seedlings in the photo above, they are next to the man.  Most of the planting I saw was by a machine that looked a little bigger than a riding lawnmower. The Minoh city office organized a community planting for families and they did it by hand. The fields are then flooded and farmers watch to make sure the water levels remain static. The water blocks out other weeds from outcompeting the rice.

When I get back from summer holiday and August, the rice will look as it does below. The rice is harvested in mid to late September and I hope to participate in a harvest this year. It would be interesting to see how it goes from field to the store. I have no idea.

Shirahama Beach

Yesterday we got out of the city and headed south of Osaka, towards the end of the Kii Peninsula. Our destination was the beach resort town of Shirahama (white beach). The city of 23,000 people, is a popular summer destination for people from Kansai. I can see why because the beach was beautiful and there is lots to do in the area. We will definitely go again.

We stopped at the Tore Tore Ichiba, which is a large market. It was the best fish market I have ever seen. The Japanese know seafood and do it right, and it was amazing that the place did not smell like fish in the least bit. Other seafood markets I have been to around the world have that strong smell of fish, but this one, nothing. That tells me the it is fresh! We had an interesting “tour” of the market and the workers were quite friendly, answering our questions the best they could with limited English. We bought some fresh Red Sea Bream for tonight. I also bought a whale steak. I was surprised at the large section of whale meat and I will blog on that experience in a later post. The kids enjoyed the spectacle of the live aquariums. I recommend a visit and it was quite popular with tourists.

It was an overcast, rainy day but that did not stop us from enjoying the beach. The white sands are imported from Australia and the water was clean and cool, but not cold. In Japan, people only swim in the ocean from July to August, so outside of those times, the beaches are pretty much empty. There were three people swimming and two other families/couples on the beach. The coastline is supposed to be beautifully rugged with lots of cliffs, rocks and small beaches. We are looking forward to exploring more when we get back in August.

It is about a 2 and 1/2 hour drive from Minoh. Most of the way is four-lane expressway and the tolls are expensive (4,000 Yen one way) but it is a smooth pleasant drive.

Owen’s Band Concert

I have been pleased with Owen learning the trumpet this year. The school has a quality instrumental music program and all students either learn a wind or string instrument or sing in the choir. Owen chose the trumpet and last week, he performed in the middle school band concert. This was his first concert with a full band and I am happy that he is getting this experience. Currently, he is in the beginning band, but next year he will move up to the concert band. I would like to thank his music teacher, Mr. Mark Elshout for his work with Owen!  We will have to take him to the home of the greatest trumpet players, New Orleans someday!