Monday, February 15, 2010

So Long Sweetness

    Our last day in Japan was one of relaxation and bliss.  When we woke up in the morning we went to a hot spring bathhouse in Kobe.  This was slightly outside the city tucked away in the hills and off a few small roads.  When we walked inside we needed serious assistance from the woman working the house because this was a system we had never worked.
    Public bathhouses are a common experience in Japan.  In fact when we were actually in the bath I saw a few pairs of mother daughters and many women came with friends.
    But let’s backtrack.  We were required to leave our shoes in a locker by the entrance, since you cannot walk into a home or certain spaces with shoes on.  We bought towels that were about the size of a dishtowel and walked upstairs where there were two curtains, one blue and one red.  We went in the red one and were luckily correct.  This led to a locker room filled with naked Japanese women.  So okay, we knew this, and we all came because we don’t really have any issues with nudity, but at the same time we had never done this before.
    So slowly we began to take off our clothes until we were left in our bras and underwear.  Then there was about a five second pause in which we all looked around for the person who would be first with the big reveal.  We sucked it up and stripped down.  Within five more seconds it wasn’t weird anymore that we were naked.  In fact I was watching so much around me for what I was supposed to be doing that I didn’t even realize we were all naked anymore.
   First we had to shower off before getting into the bath, which was a process of sitting down on a seat, filling a bucket with water, and a series of knobs that released water.  Apparently I must have looked lost because the Japanese woman next to me pointed out the soap to me.  Loves it.
    Eventually we stepped into the bath that was filled with steaming hot, brown water.  It was immediately comfortable but we didn’t really know where to sit or what to do so we just sort of picked a corner and watched all the other women.  They were all staring at us and we were all staring at them.  Basically, Japanese and Americans have very different body shapes and body habits.   But once we got over the beginning awkwardness it was a very leveling experience.  I wanted to talk to all the women in there because when it came down to it we were all women and we all can understand each other.  In that moment I really felt like a woman in my own skin and proud to be so.
    Eventually we had to get out because we were over steamed and pruned.  Another Japanese woman had to help me figure out how to dry myself off with the towel that we used to shower in the beginning.  But at that point I was less embarrassed because my body was so relaxed and warm.  I felt like my muscles were melted inside me.  Heading back out into the cold weather was actually enjoyable after being so warm.
    Our next stop was to get lunch at a steak restaurant to get Kobe steak.  This was the most expensive meal I have ever personally purchased in my life but man was it worth it.  First of all the anticipation of this meal was amazing and made it feel like we were really getting a full meal out of our purchase.  The chef was cooking in front of us with such precision and care with everything he cooked-from garlic slices, to vegetables, and finally the big finale-our steak.
    This steak needed nothing.  You pick it up, you put it ever so gently into your mouth, and BAM HEAVEN ON YOUR TASTE BUDS!  This steak melted in your mouth—literally.  We ate the steaks with our eyes closed because we wanted to focus solely on the taste.  Bite after bite of orgasmic flavor.  I never wanted it to end.  But it had to somewhere and I just tried to savor that feeling for the rest of the day.
    We had to head back to the ship that night and leave Japan.  It was sad to leave our first international port that was already so important to us.  At least we had the opportunity for a day of luxury before we shipped out.
    And with only two days at sea we are docking in China tomorrow morning.

More adventures to come.

I hope you savor your moments as well.

Never Again

Hiroshima is an event that has been haunting me and my image of the U.S. for years now.  Being able to visit the site was an incredible and eerie experience.
    We left Kyoto for Hiroshima early in the morning and I was shocked to see that when we got out of the train station we were not in an abandoned, empty space.  So, we had to navigate ourselves around a city that we thought would be purely for the purposes of memorial.  Luckily, by this day in the trip my Japanese had improved enough to ask where the bus station was-by the way my friends were teasing me that if I got an asian haircut I could basically be Japanese because I was the one continuously trying to speak the language and learn different words-it was great—point is we found the bus station and made our way to the A-bomb dome and the peace memorial park.
    The moment we stepped out of the bus we could see the dome and the image was breathtaking.  The fact that we were in a flourishing city with tons of restaurants and shopping and then could take the bus a stop away and witness the remains of the city that was before was terrifying and quite honestly embarrassing.  We were stopped by a few Japanese people asking us if we were Americans-and this was a place I did not want to admit that-but we did.  It was difficult to talk to people who lived there and had families who were a part of this catastrophe that we as Americans caused.  But the Japanese are forgiving-and I can only give them endless credit for that.  I don’t think I could forgive anyone who could do such a thing to a community.  The atomic bomb on Hiroshima was a sick joke.  One that the U.S. did not think too hard on and did not understand the full consequences of their actions.  We caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people, knocking out an entire city, but torturing them first.  People’s skin melted off their bodies, maggots began emerging from their open wounds, and with limited medical supplies since the hospitals were bombed as well, people were left to sit and watch their families decay before them.  I can’t describe all the pictures, the scorched bicycles, the burned clothing, anything that was left behind and now on display.  All I know is if I wasn’t in a museum full of strangers I probably would have thrown up.
    We just sat down on a bench and processed for a while after we left the museum.  We looked out upon the memorial and were haunted by what was gone.  It was bizarre to think we were staring out into a city that was once entirely different, then nothing, and now new.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Confusion and Love

  Japan looks like the U.S.  Honestly, if the signs were in English I could believe that I was in Chicago or New York.  Japan is so westernized-beyond the U.S.-but it is totally the people and the culture that makes Japan an entirely different universe for Americans.
  I spent my first two days in Yokohama and Tokyo almost entirely by myself and it was probably the greatest thing I could have done to break myself into Japanese life.  First of all, I thought since Japan has such a strong culture and importance on intelligence, school, and success, that most people would also speak English.   I was wrong.  I didn’t even eat lunch the first day because I couldn’t figure out how to ask for something to eat nonetheless how much currency I needed.
  Despite the language barrier people did try to communicate regardless.  A man by the harbor mimed to me to ask if I wanted to feed the birds with him, a man playing in a park with a remote control car rolled the car up to me and my favorite, a woman in an art gallery who tried to talk to me about her work.  I walked past her gallery that had sculptures of mystical creatures-some fish, dragons, hippos, etc in different colors and most of them only had one eye.  I was super intrigued by these so when I walked into the gallery I wanted to speak to the woman and she began babbling off Japanese to me, looking at me like I could respond.  I shook my head saying I don’t speak Japanese.  She said some more Japanese and finally said in English “Spiritual Monsters” in regards to her sculptures.  All I could do was hope she understood when I said they were beautiful.
 Once I got into Tokyo I found my way to some friends and it got a little easier.  A 21 year old Japanese couple approached us on the street on our way out and immediately asked if they could come out with us.  Laka, a student at a Japanese language school, spoke enough English for us to communicate.  She showed us around Tokyo and helped us talk to people and showed us some bars and clubs and while we were around the neighborhood some love hotels.
  These people definitely helped us adjust to this beginning but the real Japan love started when my friends Bailey, Elle, Traci, and I went to Kyoto.  Bailey and Traci had a friend-Erika-from home who is now living in Kyoto teaching English.  Erika was our inside to Japanese life and from then on my Japanese experience was magical!  Erika took us to the best restaurants where I ate my new fave meal Okonomiyaki, which is sort of like an omelette but really not at all even though it is made with eggs, vegetables, meat, and fish scales.  Also-get ready for this Mom and Dad-and I also feel like Manda would be really proud-I tried sushi-twice-and loved it! Hopefully I can find that good of sushi in the U.S. Ha. Here’s to hopin.
  Also got some good dirt on the Japanese romantic system, which obviously I took an interest in.  The courting process is totally different than our own.  My favorite ritual is with over a hundred teenagers that meet in a dried out river bed.  They all get into a giant circle and then one at a time the guys step into the circle and call out the name of the girl they like.  The girl then enters the circle and if she likes him she takes his hand and the two go off together.  If she doesn’t like him she says sorry and walks back to her friends. I love it.
  On my own personal love note Erika took us to a bunch of Shinto and Buddhist shrines.  One of the shrines was a love shrine that inside had two large rocks spaced about 20 or 30 feet apart.   There is a myth that is said that if you can close your eyes and walk from one stone to the other you will find your love soon.  You are allowed one person to talk you through it so I had Erika direct me-oh and by the way, it was POURING rain that day, like at this point in the day my shoes were soaked, my jeans were wet up to my knees and my camera was fogging up-but I made it through the rain and through the mass of people to the other stone.  So look out world, I’m destined for love, rain or shine, in Japanese or English, even if I’m halfway around the globe.  If nothing else, I fell in love with Japan.

More to write…will write later.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Time Traveler's Life (Delayed)

Hello hello after so long! FYI our email was messed up on the ship for a while so I couldn't blog.  I am about to update so many times since I just got back from Japan! AMAZING! So check more over the next two days before China.

Here is a blog I wrote when we crossed the international dateline about a week and a half ago!

Hope you're still reading! Love!


 I have officially reached my biggest dream...time traveling.
 I mean honestly, it's time traveling, teleportation, and then having a moderated temperature bubble (Caitlin remind John endlessly).

  So I did it-Success! But I kind of cheated by crossing the international dateline. The craziest concept ever.  We crossed it and then we lost a day-we just lost it-left it somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

  The international dateline is a concept we are all familiar with but when you think about it you can not make sense of it.  Everyone on our ship has been talking about it for weeks-mostly because Don, our global studies prof, made a contest for a fifty dollar gift certificate to the school store to whoever could best define the international dateline.  So last night we held the contest in the union and discussed about ten different ways the international dateline might make sense.  Singing it like Lady Gaga, rapping it like the fresh prince, or even just a simple definition didn't do it.  Instead the best definition (or maybe just the most entertaining) was told by a kid named Zack and it was a story about the pain of loss and the joy of recovery.  Zack's story was as follows:

"This story has to do with two paths that never cross.  One path begins on a ship in the Pacific Ocean heading west. The other path is that of a creature called an anole (which Zack explained he didn't know exactly what an anole was but most importantly it has a tail).  This anole's name was Carl and he lived in Peru with his tail.  Both the ship and Carl have been going on about their lives normally when all of a sudden down in Peru Carl is walking across the street, gets hit by a car, and tragically loses his tail! Coincidentally the same day the ship is crossing the international dateline and loses a day!  So both Carl and the ship are sad that they have lost a part of their lives.  But, as the ship keeps moving westward on its path it gains an hour every 15 degrees and with each hour it starts to feel a little better.  Luckily for Carl, his tail has the capability of growing back slowly, 1/24 at a time.  And as time passes Carl's tail grows back to its full length and the ship goes entirely around the world and gains all of its twenty four hours back.  So with the passage of time everyone lives happily ever after."

 Did that make sense? Probably not.  It simply does not make sense that just because we are going west means we should lose a day entirely.  However I have come to the conclusion that it is for pure convenience.  On the ship we are gaining an hour every 15 degrees due to the fact that the Earth is spinning and thus time zones exist and we are selfishly taking 25 hour days.  So if we had continued to take an hour to stay on track with the countries we are visiting we would be 24 hours ahead of everyone else when we docked in Ft. Lauderdale in May.  So in order to stay in the same world as everyone else we must trade in our day somewhere for all the hours we're stealing.  So here it is.  And February 3, 2010 will never exist for me.

  If it were up to me I would always live in another world but instead I am now about seventeen hours ahead of east coast time (sixteen hours tomorrow).  Weeeeeiiiiiirrrrrddddd.  But at least I know what the future looks like. Muahahaha.