Saturday, December 19, 2009

first days part 2

The next day was my first day of work as the ship got underway. For the next three days I was constantly reminded of the old cartoon showing goofy as a sailor. The only part I remember was the scene where he was trying to walk across the main deck to dump out two pails of water as the deck was moving. I remember that his face, shoulders, and arms stayed at the same spot on screen while the deck tilted all over the screen and his legs moved with the deck. At one point the deck showed at the top of the screen so his feet were twisted over his head, but the water barely spilled. As much as my ship didn’t tilt over my head, I learned that walking in a straight line like one can on land is not possible on a moving ship. It’s disorienting at first, but my body adapted, I just had a continuous headache for a few days. Since then I’ve learned that my coworkers and boss are really laid back. As long as we’re at the right place on time and the job gets done correctly on time, I don’t get in trouble. Then again, my job is to be around if my system breaks and it’s best if I’m not visible while waiting. The whole out of sight, out of mind thing is quite true in my job and best for a good relationship with my coworkers. Unfortunately, I have yet to learn that art but it should work nicely for college work and all my various projects. I should be able to get a lot of things done by the time I leave which works well for me. I may have most of my bachelors done before I even get back to the States, possibly have a degree before I become a fulltime student. Cool. J

The next stop on my tour was Malaysia. It’s a lovely blend of Chinese, Arabic, and Western cultures in clothes but the road rules are crazy. Apparently tail lights are mere decoration there and not used. The speed is high and the drivers are yet again driving on the wrong side of the road but we all survived. Most places there were wide shoulders on the road that often had cars pulled over to create roadside stands selling any number of things that could fit in a car. Another thing you might see on the highways of Malaysia are the motor bikes. I found it interesting that there was a lane cut off from the rest of the street, similar to our car pool lanes that go over the normal lanes, only these were lanes cordoned off from the rest of the roads and just for motor bikes. Also, it was rather hot those days but the bikers still wore coats. Okay, so they wore them backwards with the full back protecting their front from the wind and the fronts were left open to flap behind and cool the backs. Also, about now I was realizing that the US is quite possibly the only country that drives as we do. Every other country I visited seemed to drive on the opposite side of the roads than us.

While, that’s all for now. Come back soon as I will soon have more on my trip.

first days

Well, it’s been a while but I finally got around to writing about the trip I took in October and November. Sorry this is so late but I think you’ll all enjoy reading this and seeing the pictures. Here goes:

When I arrived at the airport in Narita where I would fly from Japan to Cairns, Australia with two guy friends and was surprised at how many Caucasians were walking about. I wouldn’t have been expecting so many white people at an Asian airport but it was an international airport. When I finally got on the flight, I had a window seat and wound up sleeping most of the trip, as I usually do. Luckily I woke up and my first view of Australia was looking down over clear blue water with the light green coral reefs just barely visible under the water. After we landed and finally got through customs, we got outside into the hot, smoky air of Cairns. The air was tinged with smoke because the there had been bush fires there. I got to the ship and saw my rack and the two small lockers I was given and started to panic. I was really worried that being on a ship would make me too claustrophobic to work. Luckily I realized that once I got to work the next day and wasn’t thinking about the space or roll of the ship. Anyways, a girl that slept kitty-corner to me in the room took me out with two other friends for supper so I can truly say I was in Australia. We wound up eating at a pub, which, to add a side note, is where I often get some really food. Usually one goes to a pub to drink, but I find their food is usually pretty good. Anyways, I had a local fish and we stopped by a convenience store and I picked up some kangaroo jerky, which turned out to be rather chewy. I found a bead store and picked up a pretty heart pendant and it occurred to me how many bead stores are run by hippies or “new age” believers. I find it amusing that apparently the owners of ever bead store I’ve gone into think that necklaces are the modern tussie-mussies: if you want to use stones, you obviously want the necklace to send a message like “get well soon” or “wear this and you’ll get extra strength” or some other special quality. Sorry if you’re one of those people, but I base my ideas on style, color, who will wear it, rarely do I try to send a message with my jewelry. Okay, tangent over, back to Australia. It was so hot there that almost all the natives were wearing wife-beaters or tank tops and short shorts, some were only wearing swimsuit tops instead of shirts. What I found gorgeous was that there was a lovely lagoon, man-made but still lovely. It was a pool the shape of a peanut with water nearly ankle deep that ended in a walkway that the ocean waves lapped against. It was a lovely view and a lovely pool for the kids to play in that sat in the middle of the city of Cairns. After a few pictures by the lagoon and what little beach there was, we headed across the street to the Night Market where they sold everything from trinkets to fake tattoos to expensive opal jewelry local food. My group all got ten minute massages for twenty bucks, about, in a stand obviously set up there nightly and well visited. Unfortunately, by then it was getting late so we all headed back to the ship for a good sleep, or as good a one as a person can get on those springs lightly wrapped in cloth they call mattresses.

does this work? it won't post...


Just thought i'd let you all know what's going on. i wrote out nearly a page and a half for my blog, but i wrote it on Word and aparently i can't copy and paste from something else to here so i'll probably need to rewrite it all. sorry but i'll try to get this up to date as soon as possible.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I need to learn Japanese

Yeah, so I went shopping today, finally got a phone, and found a beading store. At least I thought that's what it was until I found a board saying: Pick the stones and pendent, then tell us the design and come back in thirty minutes. The store was a smart way to get the accessory the buyer wants, the colors the buyer wants. However, it took me twenty minutes to get accross that I only wanted a pretty clasp, not a full necklace. I really need to learn Japanese. :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How exciting

7 October, 2009
I was thinking earlier today that it feels like the world is shutting down around me and it kind of is. A typhoon is set to hit land around here tomorrow and everything will be closed. There will be no work tomorrow, no stores, no restaurants, no offices. Everything will be closed and if anyone is caught outside in my neighborhood, they will be given a ticket. (Which means I guess the cops will be out. Hmm…) Anyways, they told us to stock up on food as even the cafeteria will be closed, at least for Friday. Everyone’s acting like this is serious but of no real concern, it happens all the time and never does any damage, they’re just happy to have a day off from work. No one is even thinking there will be a power outage, although they warned us to get food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or microwaved. Easy enough. I’m fully stocked and ready with my laptop, Kindle, Nintendo DS, lots of paper, and plenty of beads. I’ll be just fine if the power goes out. If all else fails, I can curl up in my sweats and sleep, or daydream. (I tend to do that a lot, daydream. J )
Well, that was all I really wanted to say. More later, I have a date with destiny. Okay, so it’s really just another window on my laptop with my story on it, but that sounded more interesting. JOne last thought before I go: typhoon party, potluck style. Hey if we’re stuck inside for an unknown amount of time, might as well have fun. Everyone bring some food and snack, a pillow and blanket, a movie, and a fully charged laptop and all fit into the largest room (soon I’ll be in four people rooms so it’ll work nicely) and it’s a slumber party til the lights come on and they put us to work. Just think of it. About ten girls over twenty years old in a room with a variety of snacks and movies with nowhere to go and no boys allowed. Partay. :D

8 October 2009
Well, that was anticlamactic. I woke up to bright sky and wind. yay. wind is the only thing that has happened all day. Turns out my "typhoon" was really a tropical storm. not even any rain all day and the wind didn't even look dangerous. yet the town shut down till 4 pm. oh well, no work today and no real clean up tomarrow. not too bad. boring but, hey, it was a day off from work for no reason and I'm stucked up on food. Not gonna complain. Well, talk to you later.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Well, I finally got to try the famous Japanese train system. Part of my Introduction to Japan class that everyone here is supposed to take upon arrival was a partly guided tour to Kamakura. Kamakura was the capital of Japan during the first Shogun era, which ended about a thousand years ago. I found it interesting how history is divided in Japanese history. According to my class, Japanese history starts with the first Emperor. The Emperor was the supreme ruler for a thousand years, during which there are three eras. After those thousand years a powerful samurai took control of the kingdom, calling himself a shogun and moving the capital to Kamakura where it stayed for a few generations until the next samurai family became shogun and the capital moved again. A few generations later the shogun position was won by another family and yet again the capital was moved. This time the capital was moved to Edo. It was during this shogun era that Perry forced Japan to open again and the shogun at that time handed Edo Castle over to the figures of the Emperor and his family. For the last thousand years the royal family had been completely powerless, symbols but without any influence. When the Edo Castle was given to the Emperor, so was ruling authority. For a while the Emperor and Diet(like a Congress of sorts) ruled together with shared power until WW2. After WW2 the American general set up a government that had a Prime Minister and the Royal Family again became mere figureheads. Now they are trotted out for special events and other than that they stay in the Imperial Palace, hidden from the world and in complete privacy. Now for the disclaimer: I’m no expert on Japanese history and am not writing this with any real reference. This is my understanding of what I learned this week and I apologize if I misunderstood something or completely forgot something.
Now, the point of that was how history is recorded. Tradition states that the Emperor was at one time the direct descendent of the god that created Japan so I assume the same Royal Family has been protected since the first Emperor. Somehow the first thousand years of royal was divided into three eras and the three families that held the power as shoguns each have an era named after their family name. However, once the shogun eras ended, the eras were named for who was Emperor at the time, ending at the death and beginning the new era. There have been three Emperors since Edo Castle was given up and three eras. Just a comment. Oh, and Edo was renamed Tokyo and is still the capital, the Castle became the Imperial Palace. Just an FYI.
Now, my trip: we met at the gate and walked to Mikasa park. The park is gorgeous but I must say, there is something to be said about the beauty of the old sailing ships back when they were made of wood. These days ships are made for efficiency and power. There is no beauty in the metal structures with tubes of all size hanging out in most directions, although the sizes are impressive.
After the park, we went on a walk through downtown that ended at the train station. After we got on the train it was about a twenty minute ride to Kamakura and we were released for lunch. I should at this time apologize to friends and possibly family who’ve been with me in unfamiliar places. On this trip I picked up a clingon and learned how annoying I’ve been to others. Whenever I wasn’t with the group a guy from my class was two steps behind me, not directly behind me but off to the side in what would be my blindspot if I could drive and he was refusing to make decisions. Grr. I never realized how annoying I was. We wound up finding a hole-in-the-wall traditional Japanese restaurant that was good until all I had left was the sticky rice. That’s when I found out that I can only eat so much when I lose my appetite. Sticky rice is fine as part of the meal, but not as all that’s left of the meal.
Anyways, after the meal we went on a guided tour of Kamakura ending at the oldest temple in the area. It was gorgeous and rather interesting learning about the customs. The purifying ritual is very precise: ladle water with your right hand, then rinse your left hand, rinse your right hand, pour some water in your left hand to purify your mouth, then pour the water out the back of the ladle to purify the handle before returning it for the next person to use. I was struck by how precise everything was, all the old traditions. I’m a Lutheran so church isn’t as rooted in tradition as much as the Catholic church, for instance, so it was interesting to watch all the traditions in the temple. The purification ritual, the way they pray for anything from a good test grade to a happy marriage, even the fortune telling tradition where they tie the fortune to string at the temple to leave the bad luck there if they don’t like the fortune. Their prayer was clap twice to get their god’s attention, bow in petition, then throw in a coin to bribe the gods, in my opinion. I believe they said the coin was in gratitude traditionally.
After the temple we headed back to Yokosuka and I got to rest from a long day of walking. The next day I was planning to go to Tokyo by train as it’s less than two hours away, but it’s been raining on and off since Thursday so I didn’t want to go that far. However, I did get some other sneak peaks at Japanese culture for all of you. One picture is in front of the mall just outside the gate. What was once a large plaza has been turned into a parking lot for every version of bicycle: from motorcycles to mopeds to regular bicycles. The next picture is trash bags covered in green mesh. That’s how they put out the blocks’ trash each day so the cats and birds don’t make a mess of it. Each day is a different thing, that day it was plastics for recycling, another day would be burnable stuff like food waste, another day the non-burnable things, another day papers, and so on. Japan is huge on recycling and cutting down on waste. The last picture is a Japanese fire hydrant. They have a pole by the street pointing to the man-hole cover and when they lift the cover, they just connect the hose and go. Very space efficient.
Well, as a wise bunny once said: “that’s all, folks.” This is Li’l B signing out.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Out on the town

Greetings from Yokosuka, Japan.
Unfortunately, the pictures were posted backwards so my trip will be viewed from the bottom up. sorry. Bon voyage.
Well, I finally left my little neighborhood and saw some of the town. What sucks about being in a “gated community” like mine is that there are only a few gates to exit the place. The other is that I forgot my map. Yeah, I learned a little more about my community on the way out. Well, that was fun. Anyways, I finally got out the back gate and turned left. There was a fountain I’d seen through the fence and thought it was really close. I was wrong. It wound up being what felt like at least a mile. My pamphlet says it was only 15 minutes. I must have been tired from getting to the gate to begin with. What I’ve found fascinating of the country I’ve seen so far is how much the Japanese love their fountains. I followed a continuous fountain down the city street for at least 10 of the 15 minutes; the first picture is part of the fountain. I guess fountain wouldn’t be a good term since there were places that were barely moving, but I don’t know what would be an accurate word. The park itself was cool. I learned from my pamphlet (back in my room at that time) that the park was named Mikasa Park and was the sight of the “famous Mikasa flagship”. I took a picture of the ship but didn’t go there. I did see the people exploring the ship but I was looking for the fountain. The fountain was dormant when I got to it but every hour it is a fountain choreographed to music and what I caught on my escape was cool.(the third picture is the fountain. It looks like a pond but if you look close and see the black spigots, it really is a fountain) However, I was bored and not in the mood to sit and wait in the sun for a half hour so I left and returned to the gate.
Instead of going in the gate, I decided to continue on and see what I could see. As expected, I passed numerous Japanese stores, like two spas and a few restaurants, but I also passed way too many American stores. Grr. Eventually I passed the main gate (with, surprise, surprise: another fountain. Still, something must be said for the genius of each fountain. ) and found a mall obviously meant to cater to the Americans next door with all its English. Still, it held all types of Japanese stuff. New traditional kimonos are worth over a hundred thousand yen. A thousand yen is about 11 dollars, for those of you interested. Sorry, but that’s a little expensive for a gift. Used ones are less expensive but I need to get to a flea market for those. I quickly noticed how expensive everything was there. It was hard to find anything, other than food, for under a thousand yen.
Anyway, the mall itself was odd. It was almost like a department store with little stores in a circle in the middle of each story. It also had a lovely size food court and theater. Also, the department store area was different. Picture Macys or the old Dayton store. In each section (teen, petit, plus sizes…) are divisions for separate designers. Now imagine each designer having their own cashier. It almost seemed like each square area was another store without a title. It was kind of interesting, almost like each department store is its own mall. Odd. I also noticed that apparently jewelrymaking is quite popular over here. There were two stores with a large selection of beads just in the mall. The store was mostly stones and the other part of the mall appeared to be part of the department store similar to Hobby Lobby or Micheals. I picked up some awesome seed beads in small quantities and discovered it’s hard to pick up random, unplanned beads when I know I have limited space and each thing is more expensive than in the States. Also, most of the jewelry sold in the little designer sections looked homemade. Like I said, it was interesting.
I decided to try out the Wendys outside the mall, which was not a good idea. The burger was fine, the potatoes slightly off since they use different potatoes here and the tea was not one I’ll repeat. However, the problem was that I’d been on my feet for about four hours straight and just wanted to lay down with an awesome drink. Eating something that isn’t spectacular for the sake of eating is rarely a good idea. Interesting though, they don’t serve sugar to go with tea. They serve small cups of gum syrup, handed out in containers like creamer is served in. The syrup is super sweet and u should only have used half of the container, if only the tea hadn’t been so bitter. As it was I forced myself to finish the drink as I needed liquid after walking so long. I than headed back to my room. I used the main gate. Now remember I left through the back gate and had no map with me. Yes, I got lost again. I managed to find rather select maps that gave a general idea of where I was and got back to my room after dark after having been walking for an hour. Yes, I turned on my tv, grabbed an awesome drink, and sank onto my couch. Thank God I still have no roommate.
Now, some random facts about Japan. First, sunrise is before 6 am and sunset is before 6 pm. Yea. Also, the UK is not the only kingdom that drives on the wrong side of the road. That’s right, they do it over here as well. I’m suddenly quite glad I can’t drive. Another tip: don’t drink matcha tea. It’s a common drink here and I tried the Starbucks version. I won’t make that mistake again. It tastes like near pure seaweed. Blah
And now, i'll leave you with one last thought: When did Lady Liberty become a goddess? :)
Well, that’s it for now, here’s to wishing you all an awesome week (or more, till I write again).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Journey #1

Greetings from Yokosuka, Japan.
I left the Midwest on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 and landed in Seattle to spend a day with my sister who was visiting her boyfriend’s family. I had fun meeting the family (I’m the first of my sister’s family to meet the guy or his family so bragging rights. :P ) and trying to get a good picture of the Space Needle. Oddly, even though they’ve lived less than an hour from the city much of their lives, that was the only tourist thing they could think of. What else is there out there, non-natural. They did suggest hiking Mount Ranier and I saw Puget Sound. Although the hike would’ve been fun, I didn’t have enough time to hike and get to the plane. Boo but I saw the Space Needle. (and sadly, this is the best pic of me and the Needle. Don't worry, I have better ones I'm not in.)
I got to the airport hours before we left but right when they told me. (Boo on international flights) and we left at 3 am the 17th and I slept the first two hours til we landed to refuel in Alaska. From there I slept on and off for a few hours until we were over the Arctic and the turbulence kept me awake. I didn’t mind, though, because I had a widow seat and got to see the glaciers and watch the sun come up. I remember looking down at the endless mounds of snow and thinking I’d describe it as endless hills of white occasionally broken by winding rivers, threads of an ocean that refused to be conquered. I wish I’d had my camera accessible so I could show you just how gorgeous it was to watch the rays of pink and faint purple followed by bright yellow chase the dark purple from the soft, faint clouds above the endless mounds of white. It’s a view I’ll always treasure and I wish I hadn’t put my camera in a bin that would’ve meant waking up too many people to get into it.
Anyway, I landed in Japan a little before 6 am and was at the airport for hours. We finally got on the bus destined for my new home and it left about 8 am for a three hour ride, mostly through towns that were very space efficient. I remember my first impression of Japan from the air was the incredible difference between the US and this tiny island. The US is so spread out from above. True, it’s often a patchwork of varying greens or obvious wild lands but Japan is a study of precise land use. The only land not used is too steep or rocky to be any good for farming, the rest is put to use and very efficient. As I flew over head the land was a patchwork quilt with small pieces, each acre appearing a different color or many colors, and the cities reminded me of my childhood times playing with legos. The houses were every different color imaginable and appeared built with no space between them. When I rode through the towns, I realized the best yard most houses could dream of were the potted plants lining the street. Businesses were lucky to have a walking space between the next building and houses could’ve been built onto each other for all the space between them that there was.
Another thing I quickly noticed is that machine dryers are apparently unheard of around here. Every porch or patio I saw had at least one clothesline full of clothes drying in the wind. Usually there were three lines hung diagonal from each other and at about waist height so they were mostly hidden by the railings. Apparently people don’t want to be able to look up from the street and see other people’s drying laundry. I also had the impression of how cheerful Japan appears to be. Every banner is a bright, cheery color and buildings are pastel shades. Where the States prefer bold, simple colors, the Japanese obviously prefer softer, cheerier colors and images. In fact, I’d forgotten how childish the Japanese animation was and was surprised to see that only about ten percent of the images on buildings were realistic looking. In America we like a cat to look like a cat to show the store is a pet store. In Japan they prefer a child’s happy rendition waving at everyone with soft lines, not realistic colors and lines. Makes me wonder if that’s how they prefer to view things, at least in public: soft and gentle, not looking at the real emotions or meanings as long as everyone seems happy. Interesting thought.
Anyways, sorry that I don’t have pictures yet. I plan to get pictures tomorrow when I finally go exploring the city. I’ve slept so much these past few days that I barely know my way around the place I’m living.
Well, as a funny little bunny often says: “That’s all, folks.” Stick around for more adventures and I’ll try not to disappoint.

This is Li'l B, and I'm signing out.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

About me

For those of you who know me, this blog will come as no surprise. For those of you who don't know me, this is a basic explaination. I'm a 20-year-old midwestern girl about to embark on the adventure of my life. In three days I will leave the US of A for the first time in my life to spend 3 years overseas. I'll be spending a lot of time in and around Japan but I'm gonna be travelling all over Asia and the Pacific. One never knows where I'll end up. I thought this would be a good way to keep my family up to date with my travels. I'm also likely to use this site as a bragging tool. See, I also make jewellry, mostly seed beads and wire working, so I'm likely to be posting pictures and telling everyone about my latest baby/toy/creation. Oh yeah, and before I start I should really warn anyone who reads this something. There is a reason this blog is called "ramblings". I tend to ramble on and on, often way off track and occassionally am able to find the original track sometime later. what can I say? I'm a writer and my brain goes in many, many directions.