It has been a little while since i’ve updated you on this little thang i’ve been trying to keep in contact with you on and i am so sorry. this experience is so much more time-consuming that i thought it would be…and that is so good. Currently [2:34 12 October] I am bunkered in the port of Singapore, Malaysia taking on fuel and chilling out @ around oh 1˚ 10.38 N and 103˚ 42.75E! That’s the closest I have ever ever ever been to the Equator. Soon we are supposed to get underway through the Strait of Malacca into the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean! The Indian Ocean! I will soon have tripled the oceans that I have traversed through. But honestly…couldn’t they just take us down two degrees latitude so that we could cross the equator. I yearn for it. Right now I am very busy with schoolwork, but multitudes of you [and my own conscience as well] have made me feel guilty enough to finish this post on Japan and start typing up my other entries for the rest of the countries that I have visited thus far. I can’t explain to you how hard it has been but I will truly try and do better and get a little less sleep in order to be able to post and keep you up to date. I totally promised to and I know that it really is the easiest and best way to keep all of you informed as well as connected. So…I truly apologize for the lack of posts and substance. This here is the first step in the right and a new direction.
right now [**then…which is a few days ago that I wrote the majority of this] i’m ripping myself away from figuring out my schedule for watching movies for my film class [which is So hard] for the at-sea dates in between ports. not an easy task i’m afraid. today i finished class at noon and at the current moment we are on Hanoi/Jakarta/Bangkok time. it is currently 4:37pm here whereas on the east coast of the States it is 5:37am. i’m getting closer and closer! the schedules for everything here are demanding. each port has been so significant and interesting that it is hard to catch up with yourself or friends on the ship. so far [and it looks as if that is how it will be for good while] we have only had two days between most of the ports [Japan-China, China-Hong Kong, Hong Kong-Vietnam]. Two Days:::
two days for resting up from the lack of sleep you get in-port
two days for resting up because you wake up so early to see the sun rise as you come in to Hong Kong harbor
two days to get All your work done for all the classes you have in those days
two days to see and catch up with everyone you want to in order to find out how they have been doing
clearly you can see how i feel about the two days. it makes organization easier and tougher at the same time. however, enough about that. i have many many more interesting things to discuss like Japanese amazingness, Chinese surprises, and Hong Kong delights. first on the agenda: Japan.
i have posted a few times since being in and leaving Japan promising that i would get a post up soon about how my time was there. to sum it up…excellent. i would go back to Japan right now. my agenda in Japan consisted of this:::
arrive in Yokohama, wander, get to train station and get to tokyo [by something like the commuter rail in boston] for only ¥540 [which is the equivalent of about $5 US]
do and see in tokyo, celebrate my mum’s birthday
do and see in tokyo, celebrate masha’s birthday
do and see in tokyo, get it out of my system a little, pack up
wake up, wake the traveling companion, scramble to figure out the shinkansen [bullet train] from tokyo station to kobe [in the south of japan], tool around rainy kobe, board the ship
Tokyo is incredible. I went with my roommate, Kat, and a friend, Jade, and we stayed in a very good hostel in the Asakusa area of Tokyo. i went with the initial plan of meeting up with a friend from school there. however, that meeting did not happen. though i am sad that we did not meet up i have to thank him anyway –more on that later. the first night in tokyo we met up with a few different people from the program to try and celebrate a birthday or two at a karaoke bar. that didn’t end up happening. however, we did celebrate at a different place and ended up making some interesting friends/companions for the night. they introduced themselves as Unicorn, Mafia, Bad Guy, Jeff, and [because none of us could remember we just referred to the last one as] Ringleader. these people were just a group of japanese people who seemed as intrigued as us to be in the social setting. so…naturally we all made friends and by the end of the night arm wrestling, pictures, jokes, and laughter were some interesting things we had shared with each other. the pictures of this night are so vivid and i can’t wait to show them to you all.
the next day, my companions and i woke up late for the first time[since before leaving from san diego] in weeks. it felt so good. we ran into someone from our program and we all decided to go grab a bite of food. one of the hardest things i have learned from this trip so far is to find a place to eat in a country where you cannot read, write or speak and they cannot understand you either. picture menus became a handy and necessary commodity when searching for a place to eat. after eating lunch we walked around our area of tokyo [asakusa]. it is really an interesting place to be, it struck me as a sort of city meets small town life sort of area. there was a huge main street but then tucked back in off that street were squeezed together apartment buildings, huge areas of tiny [grungy?] restaurants, minute coffee shops, a Beautiful temple, a small little amusement park, a little weird sports complex, and everything else in between.
later on that day i tried, again, to meet up with my friend and ended up walking with kat and jade around the Minami-Senju Tsukuba express station towards where my friend was supposed to be staying. we found his hotel but he wasn’t there so we walked back to the station and as we got there we saw a blonde guy walking around with a tiny Japanese guy in the station and we were the only other people there. all of a sudden the blonde guy walked up to us and asked us [in german] if we were speaking Swiss German. we responded with the obvious no and explained that we were americans. they could both understand English and we found out that they were not only headed to the same station as us but that they were actually going to meet someone at the hostel where we were staying. to top that: they were meeting the japanese guy’s, Nobu, friend who was also participating in Semester at Sea. what a windfall for us! to make matters short we went out with those two guys, the guy from Semester at Sea, as well as two other random Germans that night to try some local Japanese fare. we ended up hanging out the rest of the time in Tokyo with those guys we had met.
The next day kat and i decided to get our shopping kicks out. so we went to this crazy mall thing in Asakusa. it was a mall, but it was oddly different because the stores weren’t separated by walls and did not have storefronts. everything was just sort of open and you would walk through as if a department store would have separate sections but they are all pretty connected. the store was set up in that way and from what i noticed most of the smaller malls that i have since visited are set up similarly to that one in Asakusa unless they are big nice establishments, like in Hong Kong. after tooling around in asakusa, we took the subway to Shibuya….ahh….Shibuya. i am so in love with this area of tokyo. its crazier and more hectic and more hip than any place i’ve ever been to. to cross the huge big intersection everyone queues up on the corners but because there are so many people you can be fifteen yards back from the curb. it is like no place i’ve ever seen. i definitely felt the need to take subsequent trips back to this area of Tokyo because it was so huge and interesting. Shibuya made me realize just how small i am. humbling but in an very good way.
later that day we had made plans to meet up with our new friend Nobu to go “clubbing in Tokyo.” however the two other kids we were with, Damian [the swiss] and Jakob [die deutscher] were not yet 20 which is the legal age to drink and enter establishments of the sort in Japan. so instead, Nobu took us to a ridiculous area known as Roppongi which is still a major bar and clubbing area but it is also a central point for nightlife in general in Tokyo. The catch is that the Tokyo subway system closes at 00:30 and doesn’t reopen for business until around 5:30 and due to the area where we were located we all went out knowing full well that we would not be able to reach our beds until the following morning. Off we went and was that night interesting! We ended up finishing the night at this Japanese “burger” place called R [L] Burger. The tofu burger was um, interesting, but so was the fact that Kat could get an alcoholic drink at a fast food place or that there were slumbering little Japanese girls all around us in the upstairs dining area completely overshadowed that little veggie delight. Needless to say we made it home safe and sound and slept for a few hours.
The following…or same day if you prefer to think of it literally…Jakob and I did not want to waste our time in Japan. So we made plans to get up and have a late lunch around 13:30 and then go exploring. We found an amazing hole in the wall in Asakusa where I was treated to only the best tuna sashimi I have ever experienced served over a steaming bowl of sticky rice. Oh my god…that taste is burned into my taste buds forever. We then walked around the temple area and then, because he hadn’t been to Shibuya yet we decided to go down there and explore a bit more. This was a GREAT idea. The first time we went to Shibuya I was extremely overwhelmed. However, this time around I decided to grab it by the horns and we went exploring all over the place. It was impossible to lose each other as well since we were the only people with blonde/red hair as far as the eye could see. Explorations in such crowded places are so interesting [oh and ps, Bri/Topher/Anna…Camper bags are just as cool as the shoes…sorry I couldn’t take pics for you!]. So the day with Jakob was a good one and then all of us had our farewell night that night. It was really nice to be in such a nice hostel with such cool people and now I have a place to stay in Berlin! Really refreshing.
The next day was characterized by travel. Kat and I woke up and found our way to Tokyo Station and procured tickets for the next Shinkansen [bullet] train to Kobe where we had to meet the SHIP. It was a really smooth, beautiful ride as to be expected by Japanese technology and we made it to Kobe from Tokyo in about three hours which is ridiculously fast considering the distance that that covers! In Kobe it was raining so we split up and I tooled around by myself checking out the smaller [but still rather large] Japanese city and then made my way back to the ship where I dried out and rested.
from my first impression to my last, japan is an incredibly clean, friendly, respectable, cute, and exciting country. everywhere i looked [except for a few select areas in tokyo] there was little to no trash on the streets, people bike EVERYWHERE [so many bikes, sigh], and the toilets…oh the toilets. Japan is the only place I’ve visited thus far that had such a diversity of toilets. There were Western toilets, eastern “squats,” and Japanese technological marvels all over Tokyo. Without going into too much detail let’s just say that if even the toilets and their diversity can astound the pants off of me in Japan then imagine what the rest of the country was like.
signing out as always with a big smile and a reaching bronzed body.