Posts tagged ‘travel’

March 27, 2013

Concrete Plans

Many apologies for the lack of update lately! I can’t really blame it on work, because I haven’t taught any classes since February 28th. I guess it was mostly because of a lack of things to report on? Winter was winter-y. There was snow. Lots of snow.

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But I am happy to report that the weather is now heading towards spring-like! It is now in the 40s (F) and quite sunny today! I am now able to ride my bike to work safely. It is still cold, but I can combat that with my jacket and scarf. And the days are much longer now, so I am able to see the sun more. Lastly, with the return of warmer temperatures… my chilblains foot condition has gotten better. My poor toes are no longer swollen and itchy, but they still retain their odd red/purple color. It’s quite strange. I wonder how long they will stay that color.

And now… I have a bit of unfortunate news (having to do with this blog post’s title).

I was not accepted to my first-choice graduate school. I received the news on March 3rd and was quite devastated. I really was praying hard for that one. I had already been accepted to my second choice in December, but when my FAFSA report came back… It just did not look like a financially feasible or smart decision. And in addition to that, my heart longed for Texas and to be closer to friends and family.

So I did a lot of thinking. A LOT.

I decided that I am going to postpone graduate school, move back to Austin, find work, and reapply to more graduate schools in Texas next fall. When I left for JET, I told myself that “Austin will always be there when I get back.” And it is. So that’s where I’m going. It’s a little scary going into uncertainty and being without a job, but you know… I’ve done it before. I moved to Texas in 2009, found work, worked hard, had fun… Did all that. I can do it again.

I will be back in the US by July 4th so I can spend the holiday with my parents and brother who will be in Chicago. My contract states that my return airfare will be paid by Aomori Prefecture, so they are going to arrange my travel for me. Nice, huh?

I also have a few exciting travel plans coming up…

First, I am going to Tokyo for a week! From April 6th to April 13th! I am going to be staying with my host mom at her house in Koenji again. I haven’t seen her in a year and a half, so it will be good to visit. I am also going to meet my host sister and her 1 year old son that I haven’t met yet. I am also planning to meet up with several old friends so I can see them one last time before I leave Japan. Looks like it is going to be a fun week. I am also looking forward to having free time to just walk around Tokyo and explore again, like I used to back when I was 20 and living there. Most of my friends will be working during the day, so I suspect I will have free time to just relax and walk around. I’m not scheduled to teach again until April 17th, so it certainly beats sitting in the office! Plus, it is already pretty warm in Tokyo (compared to Aomori), so that is another great bonus.

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Second, my mom and I are going to New York City! 2013 is turning out to be a big year for me! Rome, Tokyo, New York City… I am going to spend the 4th of July weekend at home with my parents, and then we are leaving on Monday, July 8th to spend a week in NYC. A week! A whole week! Words cannot describe how excited I am to see this great city I have heard so much about. The crazy thing is that a mere two weeks ago I was contemplating going to NYC alone for a few days… And then my mom said she would love to join me… The rest is history. The plane tickets are bought. The tickets to see The Lion King on Broadway are bought. Sightseeing and restaurant plans are being made.

So that is what’s happening with me.

I plan to enjoy my last three months here in Japan and prepare for the next stage in my life. I will probably be moving to Texas at the end of July and we will see how things will go from there.

Until next time!

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January 11, 2013

Italy Day 2, 3: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Italy Day 2

Monday, December 24th: Christmas Eve in the Vatican City and St. Peter’s Square

We didn’t want to see the Vatican museums with a tour, so we decided to be rebels and brave the line. We were out of the hostel early and made it to the infamous line (which wraps around the Vatican museum walls and can be hours long in the summer) around 8:15am. It wasn’t that long at all!

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We really lucked out, and were in the museum, tickets bought, by 9:10am. Score!

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What we saw inside was nothing short of breathtaking. My pictures don’t do it justice.

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January 9, 2013

Italy Day 0, 1: Aomori to Italy

Day 0

We (Kimberly, Tori, and I) left Hirosaki via Willer Express nightbus at 10pm on Friday, December 21st. We were all on the same bus because all of our flights were leaving from Tokyo the next day. Tori was headed home to Vancouver/Portland to see family and Kimberly and I were going to Italy. We were headed off in completely different directions, but we had to Narita Airport first.

I had been running around all day and battling nerves, so I was exhausted by the time we boarded the bus. Kyle drove us all to the bus stop, so it was nice that we didn’t have to haul our luggage in the snow. Kimberly and I, having bought our tickets on the same day, ended up in one row of two seats. Tori was right behind us. The trip actually went better than I expected; I actually slept (but in 2-hour intervals because the bus had no bathrooms and regularly stopped at service areas). It was sleep nonetheless. I finally found a comfy position on the bus and it worked pretty well! Thank God for that.

We arrived in front of Tokyo station around 8am and made our way there. They redesigned the station building recently and it is just gorgeous inside and out. We took a picture in front of it.

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Look how pretty we look after 10 hours on the nightbus! ;)

After that we took the Yamanote line to Ueno, bought Keisei express tickets to Narita, and were on our merry way. Keisei is a private, non-JR railway company and their limited express costs 1,000 yen from Ueno. It takes a little over an hour, whereas the JR Narita Express costs about 2,900 yen from Tokyo and takes 53 minutes. I think I’d rather take the cheaper option, thanks. The Keisei station is quite separated from the JR station in Ueno, so you have to walk a while. Note to self: Always change trains from Keisei to JR at Nippori Station. In Nippori, the Keisei and JR lines are in the same building.

When we got to the airport, we checked in and got boarding passes. Then we walked around the Narita shopping area for while. Tori and Kimberly got Starbucks for breakfast and I munched on food that I had brought. I didn’t want to buy any souvenirs or anything at the airport mall because then it would be just another thing for me to carry. Kimberly and I went through security after that because the line was really long. It went by reasonably fast, though. Didn’t even have to take off my shoes, ha. Immigration was even easier. The guy hardly looked at my passport and form before waving me on. It’s like he was almost saying, “Get outta this country already!”

I was really exhausted at this point and just wanted to chill out at the gate, so that’s exactly what I did. Charged my iDevices too. Tori and Kimberly went to walk around the duty-free area and get food while I manned the fort and guarded the bags.

The time until we were called to board the plane neared and I asked Tori to snap a pic of Kimberly and I as we waited in line. It marked the beginning of the second leg of our journey.

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Goodbye, Tori! See you in 2013!

We got to our seats, savored our last precious minutes of unlimited data on our iPhones (most with Facebook) and waited to take off. Kimberly told me that takeoff is her favorite part. She was super excited! I had kind of wasted all my nervous energy at that point, but I was excited too. I remembered how my dad would give me a piece of Wrigley’s gum at takeoffs and/or landings to help with cabin air pressure in my young ears. That was when we would fly together a lot as a family.

The weather outside was the “pouring cats and dogs” kind of rain, but our plane left without any delays. VROOOOM!

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August 20, 2012

Sendai, The City of Trees

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On my way home from the States, I had planned to stop over in Sendai for a couple days to see my friend Ayumi and break up my trip a little bit. I was really looking forward to seeing a new city!

So this was the plan: I would leave Austin on Thursday the 26th, arrive in Tokyo on Thursday, take a bus from Tokyo to Sendai (about 5.5 hours), and arrive at 10pm on Thursday night. I would spend Friday and Saturday in Sendai before bussing back to Hirosaki on Sunday morning. Before I left for Texas on July 11th, I bought both bus tickets and squared everything away. I was ready.

Anyone catch the huge glaring mistake in my plan?

Yeah, it was a pretty stupid one. I should have known better.

When you travel from Japan to the U.S., you are essentially “going back in time”. You arrive on the same day that you leave because the U.S. is behind Japan in time zones.

But when you go to Japan from the U.S., you lose a day traveling and arrive on the next day. So if I left Austin on Thursday, I would arrive on Friday in Japan.

I was still in Austin when the bus for Sendai left without me.

This meant that I was without a ride to Sendai on Friday night and that I had lost one of my days in Sendai. I was already  pretty stressed out at that point, so I kind of just threw my hands up in the air and decided to take the bullet train. Expensive, but it was the fastest way there. (And I don’t like buses anyways.)

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August 13, 2012

Come Back To Texas

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Here is my post about my trip to Austin, Texas. I was there from July 11th to July 26th. It was an awesome trip, like a dream.

This post isn’t well-written or anything… It’s mostly just an account of what I did in Austin, plus pictures. Lots of day-to-day things that make me happy.

And beware, this is VERY long.

I began this blog entry by writing in a notebook on the flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Tokyo Narita:

On the plane again. I think this is the first time that I havent been excited to go to Japan. I feel nervous. Sad. Worried. Anxious. Having Sam there in the mornings and evenings really helped. But now I go back to my life and job in Japan. One more year. I can do it. One more year to have more great experiences in Japan.

Being home in Texas was like being the old me again. I got mysummer skinback (my sun-tanned skin). I just feltFree. It kind of fortified my desire to live in Austin again. I need to work hard to get into the University of Texas. I need to give it my all. Good luck, me. 頑張って。

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May 26, 2012

Kyoto Spring 2012: Day 5, Uzuki Cooking Class

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Last Day.

When we woke up, it was raining. It rained and rained. I thought to myself, “Well, at least the weather held out while we got our most important sightseeing done.” And actually, it was a perfect day for rain. Any other day would have been disastrous, but it was actually okay on this day. It was our “do anything we didn’t get to do, etcetera” and Uzuki Cooking Class day.

So we lazed about our room at the guesthouse for a while (omg I watched the new Batman Rises trailer on my iPhone) and organized our things that morning.  It would save us time packing later.

Aunt Jan wrote her last few postcards and then we were ready to go. We asked where the nearest deposit box was and found one at the nearest Lawson. It was kind of funny because even the mail carrier did not know if he was supposed to pick up international mail from that location. He had to call someone and make sure it was okay.

From there we were off to the bank. We stopped at the huge Mitsubishi-UFJ on the corner of Karasuma and Shijo. The experience was painless! They didn’t even make us fill out where she was staying in Japan, phone numbers, etc, etc. She just showed her passport, filled out how much she wanted, and that was it.

I wanted to stop by Takashimaya since we were in the area and I love Takashimaya (also reminds me of my Singapore days). On the way to Takashimaya, Aunt Jan noticed a counter that was selling tickets and stuff. I read that they were selling theatre tickets, bus tickets, sports game tickets… and bus passes. We were planning to buy the 500 yen one-day unlimited bus pass anyway, so this was quite fortuitous. Good eye! And the passes even ended up being 490 yen each. Yay, 10 yen discount. ^^;;

We didn’t spend too long in Takashimaya, but decided to have a quick lunch in the downstairs deli area. It was, of course, absolutely delicious. Aunt Jan said that it was one of her favorite meals in Kyoto!

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May 12, 2012

Kyoto, Spring 2012: Days 0, 1

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The Golden Week is a collection of four national holidays within seven days. For many Japanese people, it is longest vacation period of the year. I have never traveled in Japan during Golden Week before, but I decided to take advantage of the national holidays and… my Aunt Jan came to visit! We had quite the adventure.

Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture: April 28-May 3
Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture: May 3-May 9

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