What do we have to show for one year's worth of travel ? Incredible memories, a year's worth of writing and photography , and not much else. We don't buy anything for ourselves when we are on the road because we know that everything we purchase will end up in our storage facility gathering dust.
Our only tangible souvenirs are dog toys so that Chewy and Abby can experience a little bit of what we saw in our travels across the world. We thought y'all might like to see what we bought, where we found it, and what the dogs thought about our selections.
Australia . Well, obviously, we had to buy them a koala and a kangaroo . I mean, come on . . . they're cute, furry, and only found in Australia. Once upon a time, the kangaroo looked like it was ready for the Outback with a canteen, a little cowboy hat, a roo, and the boomerang and, when I pressed its belly, it played, "Waltzing Matilda." The dogs were big fans. They gutted the koala, pulled out the kangaroo's eye, and did gosh-knows-what to the roo. Poor little roo.
New Zealand. We kind of struggled to find the perfect New Zealand toy. We knew we wanted to get a sheep after our cuter-than-cute lamb-feeding experience but couldn't find a lamb toy, so settled on this ram toy. The funny looking bird is a kiwi which is New Zealand's national bird and how New Zealanders refer to themselves. Unfortunately, the dogs didn't find either toy to be particularly interesting or they could have gotten distracted with the awesomeness of their Australia toys.
Thailand. We knew we wanted to buy an elephant after our amazing experience training elephants at Patara Elephant Farm but finding a stuffed elephant proved to be a difficult task. In the end, we opted for this luxury item: an elephant made completely of silk. The dogs weren't impressed. Apparently, silk is not the optimal fabric for dog toys, according to our experts.
Cambodia. A cute hand-made patchwork monkey was the perfect find because we found monkeys roaming through a park in Phnom Penh . This was the winner amongst all the toys. Abby ripped the limbs from the body in about three minutes and Chewy mangled the body into an unrecognizable mash. I looked for some limbs for this picture but couldn't find any. RIP, Cambodian monkey.
Japan. We may have gone just a little overboard in Japan. We had to get the turtle because we kept seeing turtles in the Kyoto gardens And, the deer was from Nara which makes sense because Patrick and I both fed deer.
Then, we found this specialty dog purveyor who sold banana pudding dog treats, the exact sort of sweet and squishy desserts that we kept eating in Japan. Like true Americans, Chewy and Abby thought the treats were gross; much to our surprise, Chewy --- who is known for eating everything from olives to lettuce to whatever makes its way onto the floor --- turned his nose up at these dog treats. On the other hand, they are huge fans of the sushi and sashimi toys we found on our last day in Fukuoka . The green velvet nori around the sushi roll just kills me.
South Korea. South Korea proved to be a challenge. Despite an overabundance of dog stores, we kept finding the same old dog toys that they sell in the United States. The donut toy was Patrick's inspiration because, after a month in Japan, we were so excited to find Dunkin Donuts spread throughout South Korea. Unlike the ones in the States, the Dunkin Donuts in South Korea were SO SO good , and often included unique treats, like passion fruit and pineapple donuts.
The bulgogi was my idea. Bulgogi is a South Korean specialty of beef mixed with spices and vegetables. Patrick thought carrying a meat product all the way across China and Hong Kong and then smuggling it into the United States was a pretty stupid plan. I have to admit that, as we crossed over into Newark airport and I watched the drug beagle smelling everyone's luggage in Customs, I crossed my fingers, walked briskly around him, and purposefully lifted the bag higher on my back. Chewy and Abby were happy we smuggled it in because they both munched down the bulgogi, licked their chops, and then looked at us as if we should have brought them a second container.
China . The blue character on the right is Haibao, the official World Expo 2010 mascot. It seemed entirely correct that China would appropriate another country's copyrighted work and create this blue Gumby look-alike as its mascot so we had to buy one for the pups. The panda was a bit of a cop-out, I admit, because we didn't see any pandas while we were in China. But, pandas are so Chinese that I felt we had to buy one for the pups. So far, Chewy and Abby have been unimpressed with these Chinese toys, though given that everything seems to be made in China, all of their other toys might be Chinese, as well.
Out of Office Auto Reply : Akila and Patrick are currently camping in the middle of the Namibian desert, hoping to see hyenas and lions (but not in their tent), and will be unable to respond to comments for a few weeks. Play nicely please.