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Hi kiddies, 

Sorry, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged anything since I moved, but wanted to let you all know I recently started a blog based on whatshouldwecallme, about my life in Japan.  Though I am no longer in Japan, it’s fun to reminisce. Please check it out when you have a moment! 🙂 

http://soaomori.wordpress.com/

 

XOXO ^_~v

 

I’m back in amerICUH. And I am not going to lie it is WON.DER.FUL!  Don’t get me wrong, Japan will always have a special place in my heart, but there is no place like home.

Before I write about how awesome it is to be home, I want to write about a huge drama I had two days before my flight.  Okay, so I was at the Shinsetsunahito’s house, where I was staying for the past week, since my house was no longer my house, but my successor’s house now.  Anyway, my friend Hiroko came up to visit with her family and stayed for an evening.  The plan was to play around Misawa sleep over then go to Nebuta the next afternoon in Aomori City.  So I was cleaning the house for the Shinsetsunahitos, when I walked over to the windows to close them.  I squeezed the locks on the side of the first window which made it able for me to slide it down to close.  I went to the second window and did the same, squeezed the locks to push the window down, but instead of just becoming unlocked and staying stationary, like the first window, the second window became unhinged and fell directly onto my face.  The frame of the window hit me smack on the bridge of my nose.  It hit me so hard that I basically saw stars.  Hiroko came running from the bathroom because she could hear the window hit me.  I stumbled back and touched my nose to feel that it was bleeding.  I walked over to the mirror to see the top of my nose was swelling up with blood falling out.  I felt okay, but then suddenly, I felt blood rush to my head and felt light-headed.  I fell onto the couch and thought I was going to faint.  At this point, I thought my nose was broken.

Okay, so I was like, umm, maybe I should go to the hospital.  But there were two problems, first I didn’t have insurance anymore since my contract had just ended and second, I had no idea where the hospital was in Misawa.  So Hiroko and I went into the car and she put the hospital in her GPS system and we drove to the hospital.  Once we got there we realized the hospital had been demolished and all that was there was a piece of land where the hospital used to be.  Great.  So, after a few minutes of deliberation and searching on the GPS, we drove to a clinic. I walked into the clinic holding my bleeding nose with an ice pack to my face and asked to see a doctor while Hiroko was parking.  They looked at me blankly and told me that they don’t help with broken bones, this was a “colds and fevers” clinic.  What. the. heck.  Okay, fine, so I get in the car and we drove to another clinic.  Same thing happened, they were like umm, we can’t help her, she needs to go to the big hospital. OH MY GOSH.  Heaven forbid I have a cracked skull and need immediate attention or anything, seriously, I worry for JETs who get seriously injured in Japan.  They might be refused medical treatment because the clinic is only for “colds and fevers…” sigh. ANYWAY, we finally make it to the big hospital and the lady at the counter tells me that I have to pay 200% for an xray and to see the doctor because I no longer have insurance.

My friend Hiroko got upset at this news, and questioned them why 200% and not 100%, but they just told her, because that’s the rule.  Anyway, I figure its better to get the xray since I am flying home in two days and it would be better to make sure that nothing is really wrong with my head.

In the waiting room with Hiroko I finally lost it and started to cry, like huge sobs. I was like, “WAAAAAAHHH! I just wanna go hommeeeeee.” Lol.

Anyway, we finally see the doctor and they do an xray, and then we wait some more and he calls me back in and is like, “Your nose is not broken, just very, very, bruised.”

I wanted to cry again, but this time tears of joy.  I was like, Thank you JESUS.

So we get in the car, pick up Hiroko’s family and drive to Aomori City for Nebuta.  I am in the car listening to a message, because Lord knows I needed to hear some encouragement.  So, the message I listen to happens to be about the storms of life that can happen in an instant.  And this is the scripture the pastor uses:

Psalms 34 The righteous person faces many troubles,
but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.

I felt prompted by God to go to the Scripture in the Bible, so I go on my iPad and open my electronic Bible and go to the passage.  This is the rest of the passage, “20 For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!”

In that moment, I felt God’s peace and love and security and I knew everything was going to be fine– He is so real.  Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without Jesus, I don’t know how people can live without God’s help and love. I know I could not endure life, I’m sure. So that was the end of that drama and I made it home safe and sound, thank GOD.

So, for the past two weeks, I have basically been lounging around on my mom’s giant tempurpedic bed, watching OnDemand, eating every hamburger and steak I can get my hands on, which is fairly easy to do, as most of my family members are carnivores, and enjoying this earthquake free land, however despite these wonderful amenities of the America, I actually really do miss working.

(BTW, I just have a short rant, okay you know what I am SICK of?  Americans who complain about America, or think put themselves down just because other countries do it to us.  I feel like those kind of Americans have never lived outside of America…or/and people who make fun of America have never lived here…because let me tell you…America is freaking awesome.  Seriously.  I have lived in Europe and Asia, and spent a over a month in Africa and let me tell you, I am so grateful and humbled to live here.   So, if you are one of these Americans who puts yourself and your country down, I advise you to live somewhere else for awhile to get some perspective or take advice from me; America is a beautiful country.  The freedoms and efficiency we enjoy here are to be appreciated.  Okay, rant over…ANYWAY, back to my story about being back home.)

Seriously, I can only do this lounging around for so long…I want to get a job real soon…either that or I will hone my writing skills and finish that novel I started like 2 years ago.  Actually, isn’t that what writers do?  They sit around at home and write…that actually sounds really wonderful…hmmm.

Well, luckily for me a handful of my other friends also happen to be unemployed, not that they are lazy or anything, we all just happen to have gotten back from our world adventures in other places and are getting settled back into our American lives.  Tomorrow this Unemployed Club of Friends and I plan to go down to the docks of Seattle and hop on a boat to enjoy a free floating farmer’s market after a late brunch.  Unfortunately basically none of us have cars, so we all are busing it tomorrow, actually, I suppose we could change our name to the Unemployed and Car-less Club of Friends.  But I think it should be fun anyway.

Regardless of having no job and no car, I am super excited for the start of a new season and I am loving being home!

So this will probably be my second to last post.  I am due to leave the Blue Forest of Japan, Lord willing, in exactly 2 weeks!  

Today is my last day of work.  While the students are doing their cleaning time around my desk this morning, I have been thinking how weird it is that I will not be coming into this room anymore.

Anyway, it was my cousin’s wedding in Hawaii last week and I was her maid of honor.   Before I left Japan, I had a quick chat with the head of the office staff at my school.

Jimucho-san: You are going to Hawaii!

Me: Yes, I am really excited.  My cousin is getting married.

Jimucho-san: And your wedding?

Okay, this question kind of caught me by surprise, lol so I stifled my laugh and responded.

Me: Lol, I am not getting married.

Jimucho-san: Why not?

Me: Because I don’t have a boyfriend, and no one asked me.

Jimucho-san: But you are SO PRETTY!  Why not?? 

Me: (brief awkward silence) Ehe…umm

Jimucho-san: OH! I know why! It’s because…you…are…TALL!

I could almost see the lightbulb over her head go off when she had this thought, she might as well have smacked her forehead and went “EUREKA!” or “DUH!”, whichever colloquialism you prefer.  My response to this, was of course, as is my response to most things of the ridiculous, to laugh.  

My trip home and my cousin’s wedding can both be summed up with the word: WONDERFUL.  It was so great in fact, that I did something that I have never done before.  I cried twice in public in the bathroom stalls at the airport.  I did not want to come back to the Blue Forest.  I think it was mostly because it was so lovely to be with my family and spend everyday in the pristine blue waters of Hawaii’s beaches.  Seriously, everyday was filled with the good stuff of life, laughter and love and family, sun and waves and beauty. 

Luckily, by the time my flight had to depart, I was able to pull myself together and get a grip on my emotions and now that I returned to Japan, actually, I am glad I am here so I can say my goodbyes to the wonderful friends I have made here.   I think they are the thing I will miss the most about Japan.   

My time here has been unique in the sense that in my entire life, I don’t think I have felt such intense and varied emotions out of any place I have ever lived.  After two years of living here, I think Japan has become more of a mystery to me than when I arrived, thought I feel I understand the place in a way that many Westerners will never experience. 

I can’t talk about everything here because it would take too long, but I will always remember you Blue Forest. Your people and your visitors, your dysfunctions and your surprising delights,  your endless snow and spring blossoms, your frustrations and triumphs, your beauty and mystery.

Arigatou.

Sorry kids..its been a long time I know! Gomen, ne! I have been a little busy because (drumroll)….. my time in the Blue Forest is about to come to an end!  I have been preparing a bunch of things recently in order to come home, so basically its like errands galore! (Yuck.)  

The Shinsetsunahitos wanted to send me off with a brunch American style, so they had me invite a bunch of Nihonjin and JET friends to join in the festivities.  It was fun, but it was a hot mess as well, like signing people onto the military base for bruch was a little chaotic, but in the end it was a blast.  Also, my surrogate parents invited Arranged-Marriage-Mom, who was there in full force declaring to everyone that I was going to marry her son at the end of the brunch.

While were outside taking pictures, I tried auctioning off a few of my other friends who I thought would be more suitable, she ended up giving his number to one of my friend’s who already has a boyfriend.  Although unbeknowst to me  two of my other friends walked up to her and said they would be glad to go out with her son to which she replied, “Ummm no, you are not for my son.”

Oh. My. GOSH. What a woman lol.

Anyway, last week I went on an English Camping Adventure with one of my schools.  I had my reservations and felt some trepidation about going, since this is what happened last year:

We get to the campsite.

BlueForest-Sensei is in charge of the first activity with Hermit-sensei and decides to teach 50 students the human knot.

During the activity, which was outside, while checking on each group,  BlueForest-sensei falls into a hole.

Students laugh.

BFS tries to get help from one of the Japanese teachers who happens to pass by during the chaos of kids untangling themselves, because she can’t stand up. (I later learned this was because I tore 4 ligaments in my foot.)

Japanese teacher with poor English walks up to BFS in the hole smiling and points to the groups, “This is an interesting game-u!”

Walks off. 

What the hole was doing there, I wasn’t sure, however after I came back from the hospital, although I didn’t want to go, but they made me, the Camp-site director made sure to tell me, “LOOK! We filled the hole!!”

I stared at them blankly, wondering if I should snidely ask if they also created a time machine as well, but decided that probably would be poor international relations.  They placed me in a private room with a tv.  I think they were afraid I was going to sue them. Thankfully, however, I had 4 JET male teachers there to carry me around that summer, as I was the only female sensei.  This year, however one other girl teacher came to camp, so I was kind of excited not to be the only woman this time.  This teacher also happens to be from Hawaii, so double bonus points for BFS. 

Also this year, I noticed the grass was nice and smooth, no holes at all were to be seen anywhere.  This year I actually got to go to the bonfire, where students conglomerate around a giant raging flame and attempt to roast marshmellows.  After that one of the teachers, Fire-Dancing-Sensei entertains by literally dancing and eating fire for the students.  Then the students light fireworks.

Also random fact, speaking of fire: there are two things I have learned about Japanese people, is that many of them have no concept of danger when it comes to fire and/or road rules.   When my one of my friends came to visit, she was very surprised to see, as we turned a dangerous corner of a major freeway, a ba-chan (grandma/old lady), weeding.  I, however, am quite used to these shenanigans, and thought nothing of it..my friend however was horrified momentarily and scared for the woman’s safety.  I told her not to worry, since in Japan, most drivers pay extra attention to old people, drunk people, children, and people who don’t want to use the crosswalk.  These people who happen to be in the middle of the road at any time of day, are either playing in the street, walking their dogs, gardening, or stumbling drunk (better than driving, I say) in the dark, from a late night party.   Most of the time people don’t get hurt…(except for that one elementary school student who got hit by a driver this past year…she was okay, but flew a few feet in the air).

Anyway, Japanese people also face displays of fire and fireworks bravely, and at the camp the students were mesmerized by Fire-Dancing sensei, who had a long staff which he lit on fire and began twirling around like he was in a luau in Hawaii.  He was quite good at it and even managed to swallow a few of the flames.  

Then, Fire-Dancing sensei asked for a volunteer.   Other-Girl-Teacher-From-Hawaii and I stood next to each other and watched as Fire-Dancing Sensei hit Hermit-Sensei’s hand with a short stick lit on fire.  It did nothing, but when he did it on the other hand, Hermit-Sensei’s hand caught on fire.  All of the students, Other-Girl-Teacher-From-Hawaii and I watched as Hermit-Sensei’s hand became set ablaze.  We aren’t sure if this is supposed to happen or not, however I decide not when Hermit-Sensei fell on the ground so he could put out the flame in the dirt.  Fire-Dancing-Sensei continued and finished the show, but Other-Girl-Teacher-From-Hawaii and I went over to see if Hermit-sensei was okay.   He appeared fine, but told us that all the hair on his hand had been singed off.

The rest of the camp went without incident, and I didn’t fall into any holes, so I was pretty happy with the way things went this year.

Oh, so I also went to see Snow White and the Huntsman this weekend last minute with some friends.  I have only a few things to say in my review of this movie.  Firstly, this movie totally jacked scenes and animal characters from other films, namely Artax from The Neverending Story (Artax scene) and that crazy deer with a million horns from Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke). Ummm…total plagarism.

Secondly, the FAIRIES.   This is what happened when my friend sitting next to me (who I am convinced is secretly RANDALL from the Honeybadger video)  reacted when the fairies showed up:

On screen: Kristen Stewart and that Really Really Hot Actor who no one can ever remember his name, but everyone calls him Thor because that’s the movie they know him from, show up in the land of fairies.  A bird is shown.  Suddenly, a creature that looks like a miniature furry Golum sticks his head out of the birds side.

Friend-Who-Is-Secretly-RANDALL: EEeewww! That’s disgusting. (sound echoes throughout the theatre).

Chunky (American) Lady on the other side of me, gets angry as I try to contain my giggles.

AT the end of the movie RANDALL discusses his fear on the way to the bathroom. “OH my gosh, I shouldn’t have called that lady chunky (she had already left the theater when he had called her chunky)..what if when I get to the bathroom there is this guy who tells me, ‘THAT’S my chunky woman you are talking about!”

Why do random things happen to me in theaters? In London once, my guy friends wanted to go to the opening night of Terminator Salvation, but they also wanted to go to the cheap place in the ghetto part of Camden.  So we got on the Crazy Train (Route 29, AKA “Crazy Train” as it was dubbed by the London Police Department) and saw the movie.

This really big gangster looking guy in a hoodie sat next to me.  At the end of the film, I got up quickly without looking and headbutted him by mistake.  Maybe it was only my imagination, but I think I saw a pair of grills looking down at me when I looked up to see my victim.  I grabbed his beefy arm and asked, “Are you okay?” I mean, I had headbutted him pretty hard. He looked down at me for a second and held his chin, and while I thought I was going to die, he suddenly started laughing and shaking his head and walked off.  Phew.  Lesson learned: Being a compassionate person always pays off, even if you were the one who headbutted them!

I’ve been meaning to put this up for awhile, from last year’s hanami festival.Sakura Reflection

Sakura Night

Sakura Light Moments like these remind me why I moved to Japan.

When I woke up this morning, the light outside was mingled with darkness.  It looked like there was shade everywhere, similar to when the afternoon is buregoning on dusk, but not quite yet there.  It is the first solar eclipse to be in Japan since the year 1035.  It made me feel rather sleepy.

I don’t even know where to begin of how to explain this arranged marriage meeting thing, but I suppose I should start with the Shinsetsunahitos.

The Shinsetsunahitos, if you haven’t read my blogs before, are my surrogate American parents in the Blue Forest of Japan.  They actually are friends of my family in Hawaii, as we have been neighbors for the past three generations.  They are teachers on the American military Base.  By Providence, I happen to have been placed only an hour away from them.  I spend most of my weekends with them also, since my church is ten minutes away from their house.  

Last week, while visiting with them  in their living room, they asked me if I wanted to meet their friends, a Japanese couple, who were looking for a wife for their son.  Of course, I immediately dismissed the idea for a variety of reasons, however, after they also they showed me a picture of the mom, a Japanese professional artist, who had bright blonde curly hair and was wearing a sunny yellow outfit, I kind of just wanted to meet her, because she looked like she would be a fun person. 

Out of politeness, I said that Arranged-Marriage-Boy could add me as friends on facebook, if he felt inclined to do so.  I have no problem being friends with people.  Anyway, here is an email from my surrogate parents I recieved later that week (I’m not including names or pictures for privacy reasons):

BlueForestPrincess,
  Arranged-Marriage-Mom gave me these two pictures of her son, Arranged-Marriage-Boy.  The family picture shows Arranged-Marriage-Boy, Arranged-Marriage-Mom, Arranged-Marriage-Father, Arranged-Marriage-Sister, and her fiance from Mexico.  The other picture shows Arranged-Marriage-Boy at Hanauma Bay.
 
Arranged-Marriage-Boy works for Morgan Stanley in the Ebisu district of Tokyo.  He is just about your age.
 
This is his Facebook page: (link).
 
No pressure.  Arranged-Marriage-Boy just wanted me to share this with you. I sent him your Facebook page address.   Arranged-Marriage-Mom wanted you to have his phone number but I told her you would not be calling him. I told her you two can connect through Facebook and that’s the most we would do.   Have fun!

After some gentle persuasion, also partly because I thought it would be rather amusing, as well as educational about how other cultures did things, I agreed to meet Arranged-Marriage-Boy’s parents. 

My surrogate parents and I arrived at the restaurant just before Arranged-Marriage-Mom and Dad.  I had to use the restroom, and on my way out, I happened to pass the woman who was most certainly the lady from the photo I had been shown the week before.  She stopped, grabbed both my arms and looked at me and declared, “You look just like your photo! So pretty!”

I really wasn’t sure how to respond to this, I also, at this point did not realize that my photo had been shared with Arranged-Marriage-Mom.  I kind of laughed awkwardly and said, “Nice to meet you,” and darted to the bathroom, contemplating with myself on the way, what the heck had I been thinking meeting these people.

I sat down at the table, directly across from Arranged-Marriage-Mom and she started asking me a bunch of questions throughout the meal, telling me she was a very direct person and on a mission to find a “nice girl” for her son.  Her husband said little to nothing throughout the meal, but sat down with a smile on his face the whole time.

Arranged-Marriage-Mom stated that she was a straight-forward person, however when she asked me questions about myself I felt her conversation rather flowed with ease. In fact, she managed to carefully slide all the information about her family and her son in between asking me questions about myself in a rather delicate manner.  This, I thought, was a real art form of conversation.

  These questions included:

① How did you meet the Shinsetsunahitos?

My answer: Our families have lived next to each other in Hawaii, for the past three generations.  

Her response: Wow, sounds like something that was supposed to happen! Just like how we are meeting me right now.

②Do you have any brothers or sisters?  My son is very protective of his sister!

My answer: I have a younger brother and an older sister. 

③ How old are your parents?  What do they do?

My answer: 70 and 60, my dad works for Boeing and my mom is an Investigator for the government.

④Do you eat a lot?

My answer: Yes. (Seriously though, I have felt like such a pig lately…I didn’t say that of course but that day alone (not including the steak dinner I had the previous night), I had for breakfast Portugese Sausage and Cream of Wheat, with butter, cinnamon and a mocha, then chips and salsa, nabeyaki udon, a popsicle, then more chips and salsa, and of course, the dinner that we were having at that moment, which included 4 slices of pizza, gnocchi, a salad, then soft serve ice cream for dessert. OUT OF CONTROL.)

⑤Why….the Third Gate Town? What is it like, it must be kind of boring right?

My answer: I didn’t get to choose my placement.  Yes, everything pretty much closes early in my town, in fact we had a bowling alley, but it closed down.

⑤ Do you like to cook? My son loves to cook, exercise and clean!

I actually didn’t have to answer for this. My surrogate parents jumped in and told them I sometimes cook at their house.

⑥ What is your dream? (pause.) You want to travel right?

My answer: How did she know this, she must have some kind of gift of discernment or something.  I told her about how I would love to work for an NGO or IO or be a teacher with DODDs.

⑦ Do you like this shirt (She pointed to the shirt she was wearing, it was a picture of one of her pieces of artwork)?  What month is your birthday in? 

My answer: Yes, it’s very nice. I saw some of your artwork, it was beautiful. My birthday is in November.

Her response: Okay! I am going to give you an early birthday present. I’ll give you one of my shirts.

⑧ How tall are you?

My answer: 5’6.

Her response: My son is taller than you.  But everyone seems the same height because everyone is taller than me. (Which is true, this lady is like super petite).

⑧ So, what day is your birthday? My daughter’s November 6th.  

My answer: Umm..My birthday is November 6th.

(When I answered this, there was a kind of collective gasp at the table and her eyes kind of lit up, and I could already see the wheels turning in her head.   This also kind of reminded me of the time when one of my friends told me that her ex and her had met a few months later in public and they were wearing the exact same outfit, down to the shoes.  His eyes widdened and he looked at her and she said tersely, “This means nothing.”)

After the questioning, she leaned closer to me and grabbed a spoon and a napkin holder and went, “This spoon is friendship, and this napkin holder is boyfriend and girlfriend. See this space in the middle between the spoon and this napkin holder?  I want you to be in the middle. Do you think you can be in the middle? You should meet up with my son in Tokyo.”

I am about 98% certain I responded to this with mild laughter as well as, “I will be his friend.”  Mr. Shinsetsunahito, my surrogate dad, interrupted from across the table, “Arranged-Marriage-Mom, are you behaving yourself?”

“Yes, Computer-teacher!”

I should also mention that he is her computer teacher.  At the beginning of the meal, she told me, “I am afraid of computers.  Once, I touched a button and erased everything, so now your surrogate dad is my teacher.”

We were at the restaurant for about 2 to 3 hours, and I don’t remember all the questions she asked me, but I found the experience very educational, and I can totally see the value of arranged marriages in other countries now.  Not that I agree with forcing someone to be married, but for parents arranging the possibility of a meeting, I think, is actually not a horrible thing.  Not that I am going to date her son, ( in fact, I am 99.9% certain I will not be dating him.)  

Last question from Arranged-Marriage-Mom: You didn’t hate me right?

I answered with a smile and laugh: Of course not.

AT the risk of sounding totally unP.C., my father always told me that he thought “Koreans were the Latins of the Asian world.”  But before you judge my family for making this statement, keep in mind that we are both Asian and Latin, and thus are somewhat entitled to make these kinds of jokes (plus we are from Hawaii and as most people know Hawaiians and local people from Hawaii are certainly not afraid of ethnic jokes, in fact they are always encouraged, unless you are telling a big Samoan or Hawaiian a joke about themselves, which is probably not the best idea…just for your own safety…I hope you people who plan to travel to Hawaii are taking notes.)  Anyway, I never really understood what he meant by this statement until now,  having actually been to Korea for Golden Week. 

Koreans are…how should we say this, uninhibited, dramatic, and expressive, in other words HONEYBADGER* don’t care. *If you do not understand this expression, I highly suggest watching this video. Very different from the more reserved and polite Japanese culture I am continuously immersed in.  Although, I actually find these characteristics very entertaining and sometimes funny.

For example on the subway, Princess No1 and I watched a fight happen. Now despite having watched multiple Korean dramas, we were kind of surprised to see such antics displayed in public, BTW this fight consisted of the girlfriend smacking her boyfriend on the face and then giving him the EVIL eye, she seriously looked like she wanted to murder him.  Also the old ladiess who are called Ajimas, will push you out of the way, or run into you when they are walking.  I had one lady grab my waist and move me so she could get off the subway. PrincessNo1 likes to call this the spirit of the Ajima.

I am convinced these characteristics are why Koreans make the BEST dramas out of the Asian world.  Everyone who watches Asian dramas knows that Korean dramas have the best fight and romance scenes and  now I know the reason why, its because these dramas are an actual reflection of their lives as I have observed while being there.

Koreans also make the best food, but unfortunately because their food is so good, everyone smells.  Smells are EVERYWHERE in Korea…so you are certain to either smell one or more combinations of the following: kimchee, garlic and garbage.  I combated this by happily joining into the feasting…of course not feasting on garbage I mean, just the other two.  Ever since I watched the Korean drama Jewel of the Palace, I wanted to go there and eat my head off.  I finally got my chance since PrincessNo1 moved out of the Blue Forest last year to be with her OneTrueRabu who is now living in Korea.

But I am getting ahead of myself, let’s tell this tale in chronological order.

So I arrive in Korea amongst a group of Japanese tourists, almost everyone has black or dark brown hair and dark eyes, so I figure that PrincessNo1, who has blonde hair and green eyes will stick out.  I scanned the crowd for her at the arrivals area but I didn’t see any blonde hair anywhere.  Suddenly, however I heard a distinct clomping noise, and I for some reason knew it was her.  So basically, I heard PrincessNo1 before I saw her, my eyes moved into the direction of the pattering feet and I finally saw a figure behind the crowd jumping up and down like a fish out of water.  We both started cracking up, before we ran to hug each other.  Her hair had been up in a bun, so I that’s why I couldn’t find her at first.

We went back to her apartment via the underground, which interestingly had all of these gas masks in glass cases, in case of an invasion from North Korea.  From that stop, we took a cab who drove us the rest of the way, but not before having to stop before turning into the road to her apartment, where a girl with her dogs had stopped walking to turn around and GLARE at the cab driver daring him to run her and her dogs over. 

The foreign area where I stayed, actually kind of reminded me of Camden, where I used to live in London, smelly with a bunch of coffee and clothing shops and foreigners scattered throughout.   Anyhow, we stayed up pretty late watching FRIENDS episodes, since everything was basically closed and she had to work the next day.

The next day I explored the area alone, and walked around town.  One thing about Seoul, is that there are freaking hills everywhere, oh my gosh–my feet hurt and I was winded when I got back to the apartment.  PrincessNo1 returned and we went out to a traditional Korean dinner at CPK (yes, I mean California Pizza Kitchen) with her OneTrueRabu- who by the way, is a total gentleman and he paid for my meal since I was their guest-better hang on to that one PrincessNo1!  We caught a cab to the restaurant and when we got in the cab driver went in Korean, HURRY UP and tell me where you wanna go. Hurry, hurry!!

On Saturday, which happened to also be Children’s Day, we went to the Palace where they filmed Jangeum and Goong (two of my most favorite Korean dramas ever!!).  I was so excited and it was an absolutely beautiful, sunny, and cloudless day.  But before going to the Palace we met up with one of my Korean friends, Minhee, from college, who was working for the Danish Embassy in Korea.  We went to a traditional Korean restaurant where I ordered bulgogi in an earthen pot (so good) and ate Minhee’s soybean paste with rice dish. 

Before walking to the Palace, we decided to walk around the area, a shopping district where this ice cream vendor guy hit on me.  We were buying our cones and this dude shouts out to me, “Where are you from?”

“Hawaii.”

“Aloooha. Aloha. Aloooha!…I love you.”

So then, I laughed, of course and went to take my ice cream from him.  But when I went to grab the cone, he like grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go of me.  At this point, there is a small crowd of people cracking up watching this.  I tried to let go, but he kept pulling at my hand, then after he finally let me have my ice cream, and hid behind Minhee while everyone was laughing.

We went to the Palace and on our way out of one of the Exhibition Halls, this pretty Korean reporter, who ended up actually being from Texas and who strangely happened to be wearing the same pants as I was, grabbed PrincessNo1 and her OneTrueRabu and asked to do an interview with them about Korean politics. 

Minhee and I waited in the grass but then this old man came up with a camera and asked to take a picture of me.  It was kind of weird, but I let him, since I figured his chances of habitually stalking me were slim to none as I live in the Blue Forest of Japan anyway and at least he asked me without secretly taking pictures. 

The reported then grabbed me and Minhee as well and asked to do an interview with us about Korean food.  She happened to ask me if I had ever tried soybean paste, which was so weird, since I had just had it like a few hours earlier.  I said it had a strong taste, but I love trying new things and am used to Asian food since I grew up in Hawaii.  So, I guess we will be on some random television program in Korea like a month from now or something that I will probably never end up seeing.  

Not only was it Childrens Day in Korea, it was also Cinco de Mayo, so we headed back to the foreigner area and went to a party on the rooftop of one of PrincessNo1s friends.  We ate tacos and margaritas under the Supermoon, and Seoul Tower which was also visible from the rooftop.

Afterward the dinner, the Cinco de Mayo partygoers went to American Western style bar.  I didnt drink much, well, I never really do, but I did learn how to dance the Two-Step from a guy named John from Virginia.   Then a couple of us went to salsa dance in true Cinco de Mayo fashion.  I dont think I have mentioned this before in my blog, but I am a big salsa dancer, when I lived in Seattle, I used to go out once or twice a week.  I love salsa dancing so much!! I was so excited that I was able to go, because there is no salsa dancing in the Blue Forest, and I hadnt expected to go salsa dancing in Korea, so I was a happy camper.

The next day we went to eat the most favorite food of the BlueForestPrincess, Kalbi.  I was so excited and kept eating and eating, haha even when almost everyone else stopped.  After that we went to see the Avengers in 3D at a shopping center in Myeongdong.  I had made it my goal to see this movie while I was in Korea, because I knew that it wouldnt be out in Japan for a long while.  Waiting in the ticketing area, I felt like I was in the future.  There was a robot that moved around the room and sold tickets. PrincessNo1 kept jumping in front of it, though she wasnt buying any tickets because when you stepped in front of it, it would stop moving. Also there were these screens that would change if you stood right in front of them which told you more about the movie. In the bathrooms there were tvs and strangely mirrors, so you could see yourself sitting on the toilet.  I wasnt sure of the reason for this, but I did notice that Korean girls LOVE to primp, they love any kind of reflection and are constantly fixing themselves in the mirror so that must have been it.

PrincessNo1 and I then went back to her apartment and watched GOONG before falling asleep.  I took the plane early the next morning and watched a beautiful sunrise over the bridge in the cab on the way to the airport.  OneTrueRabus cab driver, whose name is JK, but not like just kidding, he said, drove me to the airport and tried to convince me to move to Seoul.

So all in all the trip was a success, filled with friends, food and fun! Thanks PrincessNo1!! Tanoshikata!!

LAST year when the sakura came in May, I felt a sort of cognitive dissonance with myself and my surroundings.  Suddenly,  myriads of trees were flourishing with the most precious pink flowers.  They spread their limbs so proudly throughout the entirety of the Blue Forest and all I kept thinking was, had it been only three months ago that the largest earthquake that Japan had ever experienced had happened and thousands of lives were swept away so viciously?  

While I never voiced it during that time, I felt that beauty of the season was such a sham, a kind of cruel joke.  The spring had come to soon, nature was celebrating new life, and had decided to move on, as if it had forgotten about the devastation it had left in its wake, leaving thousands of people still homeless and so many broken lives.  How could the changing of the seasons be so casual?  And I had felt slightly angered by the beautiful blossoms around me.

This year however, after one of the most longest winters I have ever experienced in my entire life, I had a feverish thirst for spring and the sakura to appear.  Only this time, spring refused to come, or perhaps it was winter that was prevailing, but over and over again winter teased us, refusing to let spring arrive, fighting with it through rebellious thunderstorms and lightning.  It would rain for a bit, and just when we thought it would get warmer, it would snowphoon, icing the streets of our towns once again. 

BUT, when I awoke this past Monday, there were blossoms everywhere.  Since it was a holiday, I made the decision to do ‘hanami’ (flower viewing) with or without people, but luckily for me Sassy-Australian-Fancy-Pants wanted to join.  We really didn’t have a set plan so we met up at Hachinohe station but missed the local train to Hirosaki by a few minutes.  In the end, we  decided to go to this place called Kabushima, where there are a plethora of seagulls.  I had actually heard about this place the week before and had never been so we went. 

I was not mentally prepared for what I was seeing. There were birds EVERYWHERE…there must have been a few thousand, and with birds comes lots of poop.  I know its sounds like weird, but I actually really enjoyed going there.  At one point I took my umbrella, like Sean Connery,  in that one Indiana Jones’ movie and ran through the flock of seagulls (to either the dismay or amusement of the Japanese people who were also there).  But I didn’t care because it was so fun!!  And I was really happy that no birds crapped on my head.  So it was an overall success, I thought. 

After that we decided to actually go and see some blossoms at Kodomo no Kuni koen (Children’s Country Park) in the Eighth Gate.   On our way, we got lost because our conversation was basically:

me: I don’t know my way around the Eighth Gate, so you have to direct me.

Sassy-Australian-Fancy-Pants:  Okay, turn left.  I mean right! TURN RIGHT!

me (jerking wheel): AHHHH!

Sassy-Australian-Fancy-Pants: I wonder where this road goes, oh well, it probably leads to the park.

me: What?!

Sassy-Australian-Fancy-Pants: Go right now.  I mean LEFT!

me: Okay. Is this the right road?

Sassy-Australian-Fancy-Pants: I don’t know.  I’m sure its fine. 

Anyway, we went up this one road that didn’t feel like it led anywhere except into residential neighborhoods, so we decided to turn around, so I pulled into a road to make a U-turn, but the I saw in the corner of my eye a row of cherry trees almost hidden by a bridge.  We decided to be adventurous and go under the passageway to get a better look. 

It totally paid off (even though the passageway smelled like poop- I think there was fertilizer coming from someone’s yard, and we were basically downwind of it),  I had no idea where we were, but there was this really cool walkway with giant cherry trees, that led up a hill to a park.  It was secluded with maybe just a few families in the park.   Anyway, we pranced around and made a really bad rap about sakura…I kind of forget but I think it sounded something like this:

Yo yo, yo yo yo, yo yo, yooo (we said this for awhile since we are not really good at rapping)

I’m at the park with my hommie

And we are watching hanami

and afterwards, we are gonna eat nabeyaki

udon

Sa-sa-sa kura Sa-sa-sa-kura.

I’m freestlying…yo…when I freestyle I get….nervous… (obviously Flight of the Concords reference)…Sa-sa-sa-sakura!

But then we stopped, because I think we felt stupid, and also because clearly we cannot rap.   

ANYWAY, after that we actually found the road to Children’s Country, but stopped to get popsicle first.  The car line to get into the parking lot of the park was reedickoulus.  BUT, we had some major favor, because this traffic guy called us over and was like come on in the back way, so we actually didn’t have to wait in line, AT ALL.  We basically just sailed into the park and passed everyone in line. <insert evil laugh and thank-you to Jesus for His favor>

As promised, the park was filled with sakura trees, entertainment, food stands, AND also a bunch of amusement park rides!   BUT, the rides were really only for children, nonetheless, Sassy-Australian-Fancy-Pants and I decided to go on a couple rides.

We first went on the Merry-Go-Round, but I think we both didn’t realize how slow the ride was going to be.  In Freeland, Merry-Go-Rounds are usually much faster and more jolting. This Merry-Go-Round however….was very gentle and not jarring in the least to its riders, who mostly happened to be around 8 years old or younger, with a few scattered parents.  Suddenly, I began to feel very awkward.   I think we made the Japanese parents feel awkward as well, who were watching from the sidelines and taking videos of their children. I highly doubt those parents woke up that morning expecting to take pictures of their children with strange gaijin in the background.

We really should have learned our lesson, but we saw this Skyway thing where people were in pedaling contraptions that were lifted high above the ground, so they could view cherry blossoms up high.  Sassy-Australian-Fancy-Pants started having second thoughts about the ride, but I forced her to go on it with me.  I guess we really didn’t think it through, since the seats and pedaling contraption was really built for 1. Japanese children. 2. Skinny Japanese parents.  Let’s just say that neither of us fit into our seats very well.

Midway through pedaling, whilst hovering over park goers and their families,  Sassy-Australian-Fancy-Pants had a panick attack and felt certain that we were going to keel over and plunge into some the meals of the picnickers below us.  She started yelling at me, “PEDDLE WOMAN PEDDLE!” in an effort to get across the stretch way.

So there we were, two oversized gaijin, one screaming at the other and the other laughing her head off (that would be me of course–I think at one point I could barely breathe I was laughing so hard) peddling like madwomen teetering precariously in the air above a crowd of stunned Japanese families, not enjoying the blossoms at all.

After we got off, I think Sassy-Australia-Fancy-Pants was kind of mad at me for making her ride with me, so I apologized.  Hindsight really is 20/20, in retrospect it probably wasn’t the most suitable ride for us to have gone on.

After that I dropped Fancy Pants at her house, and went back to the Third Gate to take a nap, and met Princess No. 2, Knitting-Nihonjin-Girl, Lt. Dan and Precious-Takko-Princess for dinner at Megu where they told me about their trip to Sendai for a rock concert.   So that concluded my weekend.

On a more serious note though, I wanted to end entry this with a literary passage. While gazing this morning at the blossoms, I was reminded of an excerpt from Song of Songs.  The Song of Songs one of the most beautiful books in the Bible about love and seasons, and this passage kept running through my mind with the coming of spring and blossoms, from the second chapter: 

10-14 Get up, my dear friend,
   fair and beautiful lover—come to me!
Look around you: Winter is over;
   the winter rains are over, gone!
Spring flowers are in blossom all over.
   The whole world’s a choir—and singing!
Spring warblers are filling the forest
   with sweet arpeggios.
Lilacs are exuberantly purple and perfumed,
   and cherry trees fragrant with blossoms. (Message Bible)

Anyway, I am so refreshed by the beauty of this season this year- I am a happy garu desu yo and looking forward to fun times ahead, yaay!   ^^v