Friday, December 25, 2009

seoulful christmas

christmas in seoul began with mexican food. so far so good right?

then we went to a jimjilbang--a korean bath house that sounded like, and probably would have mirrored a japanese onsen. but zach took us to "dragon hill," where families queue up for their chance to bathe, play simulated golf, participate in dance contests, game in arcades, hang out in PC rooms, get massages, and eat ice cream together. quite possibly the most over programmed relaxation space on the globe. but it was nice nonetheless.

lisa and i got body scrubs, which was less luxurious and more laborious. the tables were inside the women's bathing area, so we approached them in the nude, figured out the price and were each assigned a 60-something woman wearing lacy lingerie and a dour expression. the lusty pensioners left no inch of skin unscrubbed, and the whole thing was in keeping with the rest of the establishment--off-color, bewildering, and still somehow pleasant. and we're smooth as silk. that's what really matters.

so after we finished our surrealist bathing experience, we walked around seoul for a bit, and got some street food. the fried food went fast. pictured is the soup (flavor so-so, but warmth appreciated in subzero weather) and a rice cake and sauce concoction that is just as spicy as it looks.

then we stopped in a coffee shop in an effort to cure our post-bath lethargy. when we came back outside, the coffee kicked in just in time for our white christmas dreams to come true. frolicking ensued.

and then, as if it couldn't get any better, santa and his friends shook their asses in celebration of the lord's birth.

the joy of the snow and sexy christmas characters was only increased by the sea of young koreans offering free hugs outside the train station.

very merry indeed.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

family purikura

i did purikura ("print club" photos) 3 times yesterday. it was very pink.

first, ayaka and i went, then later i went to the mall with her whole family. we ate baskin robbins. it was all very american, except for the red bean-flavored ice cream.

so naturally we had to document our evening with more purikura. then, ayaka and her sister haruka proposed a girl time one. how could i refuse?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

8 months of cell phone photos

for all you math geniuses...i've been here 10 months, but had a phone since october.

minimal captions=maximum imagination

school poster

now time, thailand

didn't pay electricity bill


fudge tupee

matcha magic

biore love (for marian + bern)



haruka + we made school goal = cake devoured

dinner date

i made a pancake

sent from sam after i had to go home early

"i want to stay for the sunset"
"meh, i've seen it before"

train station sammich, thailand

american dinner? (w/ haruka)

sexy & cute R&B section

cat infestation

jessica rabbit's brother

this is what happens when you stay for 8 years

some got more into the kids christmas lesson than others

first snow

a kego park christmas, with deer and flamingos

cream puff (for laura)

anna sent this from hawaii--a slight departure from the standard beach photo

portrait of katie sensei (artist credit: naoki, age 9)

spider in kurume

and this is just the beginning...............

Saturday, May 2, 2009

holy travel batman!

sitting in an internet cafe in chumporn, thailand, realizing how crazy today was--and with an 8-hour overnight train ride to bangkok in just three hours, realizing it's not even close to being over.

false start.
location: ko samui (island, 5 hour boat ride away from chumporn). ferry to catch @ 8 am. wake up at 6:45 for taxi or tuk tuk to the pier. nadine's phone alarm is an hour off thai time. back to sleep.

6:45 am. snooze. 7:00 am.
us: "taxi! how much to mae nam?"
driver: "500 baht"
us: "no way, too expensive. it's close! we'll pay 300 baht."
driver: "no it's on the other side of the island. price is 500."
us: "ok bye."
driver: "ok ok 2 person 300 baht."

first two hours were ok. american film was played to pass the time, and visions of passing islands were enough to keep us occupied, despite gloomy weather. but the ferry stopped at 3 islands before arriving at our destination on the mainland, and nadine and i managed to pick up a pack of hungry, uppity children who feasted on potato chips, yelled in our ears and pulled our hair. for three hours. and the boat played a thai pop showcase dvd, which at first was an interesting look at thai culture, but seven costume changes and 2 hours later became downright tedious. and there was something about the husky voice of the woman making port announcements that really irked me.

to the train station.
despite having exhausted our friends' thailand travel book the night before, transport from the pier to the vicinity of the train station proved to be the most difficult twenty kilometers we will ever travel. having suffered a total of 80 mosquito bites on a gnarly hike yesterday, i had resigned myself to leprosy and hoped nadine would take the reigns when we arrived at the pier. she came through and found out we could get a bus there, but the crowd's stares were making my welts throb, so when i saw a motorbike taxi driver pull up, i jumped at the opportunity to leave judgemental eyes in the dust. after haggling a suitable price, we locked in like lincoln logs and set off for chumporn station. if only it were that simple.

five km in, he stopped the bike on the side of the road, pointed to a section of his bike, pointed at nadine, pointed back at his bike, and spoke thai. confusion. luckily he had stopped at a little shop/shack housing an english speaker, who told us he would go fix his bike and come back in 15 minutes. we could wait in their hut. so nadine got a snack, i silently cursed my failed insect repellent, and we both kept our eyes on the road, sure he would return for his 300 baht.

after 15 minutes, our hero returned--and right on schedule for the thunder storm, which was in full force no more than 5 km after our return to the road. our man pulled over yet again, this time to show us it was raining (clearly, as the motorbike is uncovered) and settle into his poncho. i put on a jacket, knowing it wouldn't help, and all nadine needed was her jamaica tank to brave the storm. so we set off for the third time amidst thunder, lightning and a torrential downpour fast-forwarded by the forwardness of our motorbike. soaked to the bone, polka-dotted and unsure if we would ever reach our destination, i couldn't help but smile--because i knew despite all the beautiful beaches, sugary-sweet mangoes, and friendly people we've met, this day, that moment, was what we would remember first.

chumporn station.
so we finally arrived, sopping wet, at chumporn station. changed clothes, found out the next available train was at 11:30 p.m. (it was 2 p.m.) and asked for directions to the nearest restaurant. we were directed to a cafe, which ended up serving only dessert and coffee, so we vowed to return after a proper meal. just down the dirt road we ate a delicious meal that we figured out cost 50 cents each--our cheapest yet--and headed back to the cafe for cake and shelter. our original plan of staking out at the cafe for the next 7 hours quickly became unimaginable, as the aircon was too high and we could not envision eating anymore cake.

guest house.
nadine and i found out about a guest house near the station, which is costing us a few dollars to seek refuge before our next trek. luckily it's also near a mall with $3 jeans, which i desperately needed due to my previously-mentioned leprosy. they're men's mustard-colored cords, but combine the right price with desperation and you've got yourself a deal. so we've been relaxing in the minimalist guest house compound all day, nadine ipod-ing and me rubbing my legs with anti-inflammatory cream.

so that's our day. starting off on the southern coast of thailand at 8 a.m. and (hopefully) ending hundreds of miles north at the nation's capital exactly 24 hours later. what's next for us in bangkok? a hotel, a shower, laundry, a thai massage, and a high five for finally making it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

dinner party conversation topics: japan edition

i've come to realize that i ( like most people who have lived in a place) possess a wealth of facts about life in japan, and to keep them to myself would be a crime against my country, my blog, and my current place of residence. but they're mine if i'm ever stuck in a rut during a dinner party.

  • ask any Japanese person over the age of 10 and they'll be able to tell you the weather forecast for the next week (generalization). surprising for me, and likely most southern californians, who can barely muster the strength to look out the window before deciding on shorts and sandals (again.)

  • fortunes (based on blood type) are included daily in TV weather forecasts

  • punishment in the japanese education system involves more school, not less. (for american punishments, see: suspension, explusion). additionally, parents are required to drive delinquent high schoolers to and from school during the punishment period. AND their homeroom teacher visits them at home every day they're not at school, just to make sure they're not having any fun.

  • *downer alert* in japan, the most popular form of suicide is jumping in front of a moving train. april is the beginning of japan's fiscal year, which means businessmen are working extra hard (my student has worked 10+ hour days, with zero days off the entire month), which means increased desperation, thus more suicides. there have been four that i know of on just one train line in the past three weeks. these suicides obviously throw off the train schedule (which is usually insanely accurate), costing transit companies millions of yen and possible lawsuits for missed flights, etc. who pays these millions of yen in damages? as if it wasn't already bad enough, the families of the deceased do.

  • most japanese people consider america the land of obama, disneyland, and people who want to shoot you.

  • every major japanese area is know for a famous food. try me.

fukuoka: mentaiko (fish eggs... lucky me)

hiroshima: okonomiyaki (egg, flour, veg, grilled)

yamaguchi: fugu (poisonous puffer fish)

osaka: takoyaki (octopus, etc. rolled and grilled)

the first thing someone says about visiting place references the food. now i do it too! "you went to nagasaki? did you eat champon??"

you might wonder why i think this is interesting, considering every country has famous foods... but when was the last time someone said "i went to philadelphia" and you said, first thing, "oh shit! did you eat a cheese steak?!?

Monday, April 20, 2009

i'm coming home

i put in my 4 months notice this week. it's required if you want to leave after the year's up, and although my plan has always been to stay a year and then move on, i must say i am a bit sad to be leaving this beautiful country. my dad was in town the past 2 weekends for work, which was lucky, and i took him to all my favorite places in fukuoka. in doing so i reminded myself how good i have it here.

shrines. hot springs. gorgeous scenery. nice cafes. good friends.

reverse culture shock should be interesting, too. so far i think i'll be "shocked" by the ability to eavesdrop, the inability to have anything gift wrapped, driving, not speaking Japanese with friends, English media, English menus...yeah, English everything.

Monday, March 30, 2009


yanagawa: a sleepy town with an uncanny number of shrines and a gorgeous canal, which during cherry blossom season, is just the thing you need to appreciate life all the more.