Monday, March 12, 2012

The Restless Night

Yesterday marked one year since the earthquake struck Japan.

I still get "phantom shakes", as our group of international students used to call it, from time to time. I feel everything shaking around me, and I huddle down until the moment passes. To make sure it I know it's not a real earthquake, I look at dangling strings or lamps, watching them to see if they would join in the violent swinging my body is feeling. I had another friend who always kept bottles around, and he would watch the water when the shaking seized him to see if it was also disturbed.

About two days beforehand, we had felt an earthquake while at school. Most of us who had come to Japan, were well aware that earthquakes were quite prominent here, so we just shrugged it off. The day of, I was at home reading, laying down on my futon, when the big one hit. At first, I thought, oh, just another earthquake. But my glass sliding doors began to rattle against each other, and my hanging lamp was thrashing about. The noise was tremendous. And worse was the feeling of everything around me shaking out of my control. I can't really describe the feeling well, except to say that it is an experience that makes you feel small and helpless. It's like one of those moments when a person looks into the sky or at the ocean and realizes how insignificant they are in the vast universe. However, instead of feeling wonder, I was feeling terror as I wondered if the earth would decide whether to spare me or bury me under my creaking house.

Up until that point, I only knew how to deal tornadoes, being from Tennessee. I went to the corner of my apartment with less glass that could fall on me and threw the futon over my body. When the shaking slowed and faded, I still stayed under the futon. I wasn't sure what exactly to do.

I started getting a number of texts, all of us asking each other what had happened. Being in the dark, we students that lived in apartments gathered at the kaikan (a shortened name for the international dormitories...although ironically kaikan by itself means "meeting place") with the other international students to figure out what was going on. The Hirosaki University staff reassured us that everything was okay but let us know what had been happening.

We went to the store to grab some ramen and snacks for evening since I wouldn't be able to use my electric rice cooker to make my usual meals. I remember standing in a very long line, waiting for people to start acting rudely or something. It's the kind of things I would expect from my American kinsmen sadly. However, everyone seemed calm and kind. One lady even turned around in line and asked me if I had been scared by the earthquake, much like a mother.

When I went home, a friend came over and stayed. In Hirosaki, there was quite a bit of snow still on the ground, and it was freezing. In the darkness, two more friends emerged looking for somewhere to stay in the cold. I used my gas stove and boiled water just to get some heat into the air, and snuggled under the futon. My friends started receiving news from their families about the earthquake, which seemed grim. We kept feeling aftershocks and though we thought we wouldn't be able to sleep that night, I ended up actually going to bed early. Early in the morning, an aftershock shook the apartment so violently, everyone jumped awake and scrambled to find safe places. Luckily it was over as quickly as it had appeared.

Afterwards so many things happened, and maybe I'll add more later. But that was my experience that evening. And my experience pales in comparison to people who were devastated in Sendai and Fukushima. Nor did I have friends and family to worry about in those regions. All in all, we were really lucky in Hirosaki, and the power was out for little over 24 hours. My strongest memory is still remembering the Hirosaki staff working diligently in the office with the TV on. Every once in a while they would watch the TV intently, only to return to work within a few minutes. That normalcy in routine and their reassurances always astounded me during that experience, and made me want to be a person like that.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Well, it's been a year and a half...

Let me put it this way...

So much has happened o.O

And by so much, I mean I spent a year in Japan, survived the earthquake, met some friends I will never forget, and came back.

I apologize for not keeping this blog up like I promised. Once I got to Hirosaki, we hit the ground running and it was hard to get onto the internet for the first few weeks...and then I guess I had way too much fun and forgot to update it. Honestly though, it was one of the best experiences of my life. I really changed a great deal personally. Perhaps in later posts I'll right about some specific experiences ^_^

As I described it to a friend once, coming back was like Plato's Allegory of the Cave: Once you travel to a different place, you see and understand the world in a whole new way. However, for me, coming back to a place where people are ignorant of the world around them was like the prisoner having to return to the cave.

Luckily I have amazing friends here and abroad who are not ignorant and have wonderfully kept my sanity. Much love to them <3.

However, I'm being drawn to my next adventure. I definitely want to return to Japan either as a student or as an employee, but in the near future I may just be moving to someplace else. We will see~

MEANWHILE, I'm working on saving money and promoting my book *insert shameless book plug* BEETEEDUBZ GUYZ I WROTE A BOOK: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/127293 And until 11:59 pm on March 10, 2012 you can get it for FREE using this coupon code at check out: RE100

And on an unrelated note to the topic but totally related to this blog, I lost an additional 50 pounds while I was in Japan, and have been...maintaining...that since my return. However, I want to lose more to be healthy, so I'm working towards that ^_^

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Curry and Mazes

The Tokyo train system is like a magical labyrinth that sucks in foreigners, forcing them to be lost forever.

After crashing from the night before, we woke up around 10 and began planning out our next excursion. Initially I had wanted to go to Asakusa and then Akihabara, but after some thought, and leg pain from the plane ride, I figured Akihabara would suffice for now. When we made it outside around noon, we strolled down the street looking for places to eat. We found a little place with a menu out front and it had different types of udon, tempura, and curry dishes. Naturally I gravitated towards the curry with korokke that was only 500 yen (approx. $5), which both Mia and I ate.

I ate all my food in almost 5 minutes. It was a huge portion, but it was so delicious that I couldn’t stop myself. Mia was having a harder time finishing hers because she was already full, but we knew we’d have to finish our dishes otherwise it would seem rude. Mia did her best :D

After lunch we went to the hotel to ask for directions to the train station. After we got there, I couldn’t figure out where we were supposed to go from there. I remembered the kanji (Shinagawa: 品川) for the first train station that we would need to go to, but after that I was lost. Mia, being more confident in conversation than I, asked the man at the train station how to get to Akihabara. He gave us directions and we were able to buy the correct tickets. We almost got on the wrong train right off the bat, but luckily they stopped us and told us to go on the other side.

So we rode the first train until we saw a sign that said to Shinagawa and got off, but then realized we were not at Shinagawa yet. So we hoped on another train going to Shinagawa and got all the way to Kitashinagawa and got off again. We were a little confused, but luckily we found a map that showed us that the next station after Kitashinagawa would be Shinagawa
(よし!). So then we finally Shinagawa!

After Mia asked for more directions, we got on the Yamanote line, which luckily had bilingual trains. We then traveled all the way to Akihabara and finally got into Electric Town.

We stopped to take a ton of pictures and then looked into the duty-free shops. They had a ton of electronics, and while I wanted to buy a lot of things, I restricted myself to buying a plug converter and set of headphones. My old headphones would always fall out and were extremely uncomfortable, so these new ones (which I got for practically the same low price as my other headphones) were extremely comfortable and I could imagine walking with these in.

After more pictures and such, we decided to head back on the trains and get back to the hotel before rush hour. This time I bought the tickets, and luckily I remembered how much our tickets from before had cost. The Yamanote line was fairly straightforward again, but after we got off at Shinagawa, we couldn’t figure out which train to take. We finally found a train that would be stopping at Kitashinagawa because I knew if we got that train we would head in the right direction. However, I soon realized after studying the map that we would have to transfer to another train a station that I can’t even remember. We stayed on our train however to see if it would take us to Koyiji (sp?) which was the correct station or Zoushiki which was wrong. Low and behold, it took us to Zoushiki, so we got on another train to take us back to the other station and then spent about 20 minutes trying to find the right train. We were both tired by then and just wanted to get to the hotel.

Luckily we got on the right train and then got off at the right station and walked home in victory for conquering the train system. Our reward was the discovery of a Convenient Store (コンビニ) on our way home, and we bought dinner and snacks. I got an onigiri with fresh salmon in the middle, some sembei, some diet mitsuya cider, and the little puff balls with chocolate in the middle. I was kind of indulgent, but after such a long day I didn’t mind.

Then we got to the hotel, watched Japanese tv, uploaded photos to facebook, and just hung out. Mia fell asleep early and I decided to take a soaking bath, which I feel asleep in as well LOL. I woke up maybe 30 minutes or an hour later, I don’t know, but it was still pretty warm, and I was very relaxed. And now I’m here at 7:00 finishing nearly 2000 words that I’ve written. Not looking forward to another airplane today to Aomori, and then a bus to Hirosaki, but that’s life. Hopefully the charge for excessive baggage won’t be as bad as I think it’s going to be, but we’ll see. Hopefully I’ll let everyone how today goes soon.

The Day that Never Ended D:

Airplanes. Suck. No matter how nice the seats are or how good the food is, I think they always suck. And 16 hours of flying to boot x_x

Our first plane took us to Atlanta. My seat was snug, as was expected, but the plane itself kept bobbing up and down, which messed with my ears like nobody’s business. Plus, after we landed I felt bloated and tired already because I had decided that staying up the night before would be a great idea.

No, it wasn’t.

In fact it was such a sucky idea that I ended up getting maybe 2 or 3 hours total on both flights. But I digress…

So I get onto the second plane, and we sit down. Mia has her belt on, and I start to put mine on when I realized it was not happening. There was about an inch from the buckle the other piece and I could maybe get the metal to touch but not go through. I spent 10 maybe 15 minutes struggling to put them together, knowing that if I don’t, I was going to have to buy a new seat ticket or leave the plane. But finally, by some miracle and great strength, I got it to click. Suffice to say, I didn’t unbuckle my seat belt until about 7 hours into the flight. And thankfully after I came back, I was able to buckle it with less effort, but it was still extremely tight.

Luckily as a distraction, we had movie screens built into the back of the seats in front of us so I watched 9, Julie & Julia, Ghostbusters, and The House of Sand and Fog. It was pretty awesome, but about into Ghostbusters I started to fall asleep. So I thought, “Perfect, I can kill the last few hours sleeping before we get to Tokyo.” But no, even with sleep music, that wasn’t possible.

When we finally got off the plane, Mia and I ran to bathroom, and as I started looking through my stuff, I realized I had lost my wallet. In the panic of trying to put on my seat belt, I had thrown my wallet into the pocket in front of me. I ran back through the terminal with Narita employees stopping me every few seconds to say I was going the wrong way, only to tell them in a panic that I lost my wallet. When I finally got to the right plane, they went to the plane and looked in my seat number and found not only my wallet but a keychain that my mom had given me. I was so relieved and the Narita security people were so nice and thoughtful.

Then when we got our luggage and made it through customs, I got my cash exchanged over to yen, and then took our some yen from an ATM. Then we bought tickets for the limousine bus to the Haneda. After arriving there, we were kind of lost as to how to get to our next bus, but we finally made it to our hotel and then crashed. It was eventful day to say the least. But I’m marking it as an adventure if nothing else (^_^).

お久しぶり!

Well, Mia’s asleep although I am wide awake. Jet lag…such an amazing thing lol.

I haven’t updated this in a long time, and I thought since it’s 5:30 am right now (I woke up at 4:00) and we have until 11:00 to check out of our hotel that this would be a perfect time to update you on what’s going on. I think I will make three posts today, and possibly a fourth one tonight, just so that I can separate out what happened each day, but this first post will just be a reintroduction.

I’m a writer, and while I definitely intend to post pictures and possibly videos, more than likely I’m just going to write about my day. I will *try* to write everyday, but I probably will not once things start becoming more routine, but who knows? (^_^)

My total weight loss before Japan was 55 pounds. And as many people have already pointed out, hopefully I will lose a lot more now that I am in Japan. I did a low-carb diet with significant results, and I feel like I’ve also changed my eating habits. I would replace a lot of simple carbs like bread, pasta, rice, sugar etc, with vegetables. Often I would make my own version of mac n’ cheese with zucchini and squash, or I’d use eggplant for pizza crust instead of dough. In addition, I used Lent to quit eating fast food, and just that alone lost me 12 pounds in the first two weeks. Even though I did eat fast food some times after Lent, I reduced the amount from 3-4 times a week, to at the most once or twice in a month. In addition, after I moved in with Brittany over the summer, we would take walks everywhere, including one walk to Walmart and back that was the equivalent of 4 miles. I built up my endurance and stamina, and lost a lot of weight that way as well.

But I think the most important thing that happened was that I began to feel better. I no longer saw my “diet” as a way to lose weight, but as a way to live healthy. Any time I fell off the wagon, I started to feel sick and my body would say “WHY DID YOU DO THAT?” But I also feel that the other important thing I did was not let myself feel guilty when I ate something that didn’t follow my diet. Whenever I craved something, I ate it and then moved on with my life. I think what makes most diets fail is that people try to hold it in as much as they can and then they binge, feel guilty, and never get back on track.

And it helped that I had foot pain every morning when I woke up to remind me of the other reason I wanted to lose weight. I would hobble in the morning if I needed to go anywhere or hobble after an intense walk. Sometimes I was near tears, the pain was so immense, and it all started because I weighed too much. But my foot pain has decreased, and now I can walk for a great distance and still feel okay.

Well, that’s enough for an reintroduction. I will post more for the next day :D


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

1/25/2010

Another fail on exercise. After class today, I went straight home to take care of my sis. But that just means I resolve myself to getting exercise tomorrow! If I find suitable sweatpants, I think I actually might make a quick trip to the gym between work 1:00-3:00. If not, I'm going to try and DDR in the morning at least.

Breakfast: Cheese sticks and some grapes
Lunch: Usually chicken salad with grapes, cherries, and pita chips on the side
Dinner: A bowl of rice with green onion, garlic, rosemary, and a little bit of butter. I made the rice for my sister, but she just wanted it plain. So later I ate a cheese stick to have more protein. I thought about it later, and I really should have eaten some edamame instead for protein. Cheese sticks are kind of my go to for quick protein: I have the low fat variety with less sodium, but a green thing would have been better.

Off to bed!

Monday, January 25, 2010

1/24/2010

Quick update for today:
Didn't exercise today because of waking up late and finding the TV occupied. I think in the future these will be good chances to run over to the gym...

Breakfast/Lunch (yeah I woke up that late): Celery, tofu spinach dip (delicious!), and pita chips
Snack: Grapes and cherries (^_^)
Dinner: Salad with roasted garlic vinaigrette, chicken, almonds, and Parmesan cheese, plus two low-fat string cheese snacks before I went to my friends' house. Then I had chocolate cake there, and while I was offered multiple pieces, I only ate 1 piece (reward for math success!). Plus, a small chip with cheese dip (^_^)

I was hungry this evening after leaving my friends' so I bought some egg rolls from Walmart...they are actually really healthy compared to most food I find, surprisingly. There was 3.5 grams of fat per egg roll, and they had 10 grams of protein each. Not bad...I may learn how to make them from scratch and keep them around so I have a quick, hot meal to eat when I don't have a lot of time. Nom nom nomzzz

Well, I have to quickly finish up a final draft to turn in tomorrow. お休みい~ (-_-)Zzz

World Clock Red

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