Hello from Hawaii! I actually got to spend time on two islands, well kind of.
My first day was in Honolulu. Unfortunately I did not get to get off in Honolulu. The ship just had to refuel and the people on board went through immigration. The ship decided to do it this way to give us more time in Hilo the next day. When I was going through immigration I had to wait in what seemed like the longest line. When I got up to the immigration officer her stoic face was almost intimidating. She thumbed through my passport and stamped it with a Hawaii stamp. AS she handed me back my passport her face brightened up and said “Welcome Home.” WHAT! I had not even thought about that; I was home. I was back in my home country. It was a very strange feeling simply because it was a moment when I realized this journey was almost over.
The next day I spent in Hilo. There were soft hills, breath taking blue oceans, and distant outlines of nearby islands all for me to gaze at during the day. The rain clouds did not hinder my ability to participate in anything while I was here. The weather was about 70 degrees and it rained off and on all day.
I managed to find a way into the heart of downtown Hilo. I was dropped off at the farmers market where I got one of the best smoothies of my life. The fresh fruit made the smoothie so enjoyable. Of course I also did a little shopping. I bought all local art which was something I have really grown accustom to while traveling. Then, some friends and I went to a local grocery store and bought our lunch to have a picnic on the beach. We then took a taxi out a black sand beach called Richardson’s beach. We spent the day here just hanging out and relaxing on the beach. We had a picnic ( lunchables and carrot sticks YUM) and then in the afternoon we went snorkeling.
I think snorkeling was my favorite part of the day. While the Pacific Ocean was cold, my body got used the water temperature. The reef was so alive! Richardson’s is known for some of the best snorkeling on the whole big island. I saw rainbow fish, brain coral (it looks like a brain), lots of angel fish, and a numerous amount of brightly colored fish that I didn’t recognize. One of the coolest things that I snorkeled with was 2 eels! They swam right under me! It was awesome. Another cool or gross thing that happened was one of the rainbow fish had strayed from its school and was swimming alone. Well it got scared and wanted to hid, so it hid in coral. Except that it wasn’t really coral, it was my swimsuit! This rainbow fish was trying to hid in my bright swimsuit thinking it was coral, so I guess you could say I danced with a rainbow fish!AS my last port I just wanted to relax a little. I enjoyed spending time away from the ship and away from other voyagers. This quiet beach was away from all other people. There were only a few locals at the beach which made for a great day. I can’t believe that my journey is coming to a close. I have only a few more weeks before I am back to Ohio and back to regular life. I can’t wait to come back and sharing my experiences with everyone.
Monday, April 30, 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
This morning Hannah and I woke up, got ready, and left for downtown Tokyo just after rush hour. It is interesting to say just after rush hour because it is always busy in the subway station. I mean, their slow periods are some cities in the states very busy periods. It is just so strange. Anyway…we took the subway back to downtown Tokyo and then caught the JR line to Yokohama. The trains are so quiet. When I think of subways I think of the subways in New York where it is always loud and people are always talking on their phones or to one another. Here though, you could hear a pin drop it is so quiet. No one talks to one another or on their phones. Everyone just keeps to themselves.
Once we got to Yokohama we found our way to the ship where we were overjoyed to take showers and eat a free meal. Once we did those few hygiene things we set back out to see Yokohama. On the way out we ran into our friend Emily. So the three of us went on an exploration, and we found the coolest thing! We happened upon an Eco-friendly fair. This fair was all about ways to keep our earth healthy and clean. So, we could have bought tulips and orchids (which we couldn’t because we live on a ship), learn about ways to be more sustainable (we couldn’t read the brochures), and makes some crafts about sustainability (BINGO).
The three of us made head bands with giant tulips and owls and other nature things on them. We also made weird necklace things that we gave to random kids who wanted them, and then we also made these weird water conservation milk carton things. It was this really cool thing that took 2 milk cartons and these poster board time table things. So when you put it all together it tells the story of how Japan turns rain water into usable drinking water. It was awesome! I think the best part was trying to understand the directions from a person who did not speak any English. It was a really great learning experience. We also got to take the things “home” with us! What an awesome souvenir.
After we walked around the fair we made our way over to the line for our baseball tickets…yes I said baseball! We wanted to get pretty good seats so we sat in line for about 45 minutes. It was weird because for a long time we were the only girls, only foreigners, and only people who spoke English. The strangest part was when the police type people were making announcements we would sit there and say what, huh, wait…..we were so confused. We just sat there and decided if people just got up and left that we would leave also. Haha Well we got our tickets after a struggle of communication. So we decided to head back to the ship with one more stop.
We stopped at a dollar store. I know that sounds weird, but it was an entire floor in a mall. It was huge by any dollar store in the states. It literally had everything you could think of! I bought some Japanese origami paper. I’m so excited to use it when I get back! Okay, now we went back to the ship just to drop off our stuff and change into the team t-shirts we bought for the game.
Once at the game we had a whole new struggle. Emily uses a wheel chair. The only reason why I am mentioning it is because it provided a hilarious start to the game! Our seats were not high up but the people who worked at the game were so confused and didn’t know what to do with it. So, we just took charge and pointed to a place where they could put it. Then we started to walk down to our seats. We kept walking and walking and walking. Finally we reach our seats and realize we are in the 4th row!!!!! We could not believe it! We were going to enjoy this game and really experience a Japanese baseball game!
Well, there are a few things that are really different about baseball games in Japan than in the states. First, each team has a pep band which is very small but loud. Second, the home team has cheerleaders like teams do in football. Third, they have these weird half time shows. So, after the 5th inning there was a bubble show where the field has bubble machines all over the stadium and then they play the song Take Me Out to the Ball Game. The sad thing was that no one sings the song, so the three of us were the only ones who sang. It was a very strange feeling to be in a stadium where no one sings the song. The rest of the game was pretty similar. We watched the Baystars ( the home team) play the Giants. Needless to say, despite our greatest tries we lost terribly. When we left at the bottom of the 8th we were losing 6-0 which was the final score as well. We left early because it rained the whole time! I could not believe it. It had been so nice all day and then when we decide to sit outside for a game it decides to pour. UGH Oh well it was still a blast!
The next day I had my last FDP. I went to Tokyo where it rained all day again. I went back to Imperial Gardens and Asakusa. My FDP also went to the Tokyo Tower which gives you a 360 view of downtown Tokyo but because of the rain was not really worth seeing because there was nothing to see. There were only two things that were really cool. The first was this very odd art exhibit. It was not very good and I was confused through most of it but I’m glad that I went and saw it. The other cool thing was yet another temple. This temple was in the center of Tokyo. While the temple itself was interesting the part that was so unique was I got to see a wedding procession. This was so cool! The bride was beautiful in a traditional white Kimono. She looked so elegant. Then me and my friend Marty went walking in the park that was attached. This was a very beautiful park that was a quiet space away from the city. Even though it was raining it was still beautiful.
After my FDP I went through immigration and got back on the ship. Now I am heading towards the states. I will be back in the states in just under two weeks (well from the day I left Japan). I really enjoyed Japan but I am ready to come home. I am ready to have a semi-normal life again, at least for a little bit.
Well, we got off the train at 7am. When we first got off the train station we had to figure out how to get out of the train station. It was only difficult because we didn’t know where we were going at 7am. So, we decided the best thing to do was to just leave and start walking.
The first thing that we did was find a place with internet. I was having dinner with a friend later and needed to check my email. So we found a hotel and sat in the lobby and used the internet. I was really lucky that my mom was online and I was able to Skype with my parents! It was such a nice surprise simply because I didn’t think I would get to talk to them until I got back into the states and could use my phone again.
After that we just walked around for a little while. The beginning to our day was kind of a bust. We went to this water fountain park but all the fountains were off. Then we went to a statue gallery road that really had like 3 statues and that was it. Hannah and I were getting really discouraged so we decided to go and get some breakfast. We found this really cool little bakery that some of the best croissants I have ever tasted. After breakfast we were rejuvenated and ready to try again.
We set out for the Imperial Garden. This garden surrounds the Imperial Palace where the Emperor and his family live. While no one can see the palace for obvious safety reasons we could go in to the garden. The garden is something similar to that of Central Park in New York. It is this beautiful park full of trees, flowers, and open green space for people to come and spend the day. Honestly we could have spent from dusk to dawn in this park exploring. There are miles of trails and park walkways to explore. One of the most beautiful things about this park are the Cherry Blossoms. They were incredible! I still cannot believe how lucky we were to be there right at the end of the Cherry Blossom season. In fact there was a whole island called Cherry Blossom Island; literally filled with nothing but cherry blossoms. This park was just beautiful!
After spending the afternoon here, Hannah and I took a subway to Asakusa. This is like a suburb of Tokyo and is more of the “college town” atmosphere, and this was where our hostel was. So, once we arrived we went and checked into our hostel and then set out to explore Asakusa. One of the main focal points was a temple. This temple has a hidden Buddha. So when people go there to worship they cannot actually see the Buddha which is something unique. There is also a five story Pagoda near it. Most Pagodas are only two or three stories, so again a very unique place of worship. After doing some shopping and exploring we decided to go a little further away and see a new building that had just been built. This building was called the Tokyo Tree Tower. This is the world’s tallest free standing broadcasting tower. It is so new that people are not yet allowed to go up and see the 360 degree view. This tower will open to the public in May of this year. It was cool to stand right there near it and say that we had been there. It is not very often we get to say that we have stood next to the world’s anything…..
One of my favorite parts about today was this cool little café we found. It was a hole in wall café called Sunny Café. We were the only foreigners there and we just sat in the corner and drank coke floats soaking in the daily life of the café. I could defintley tell when a regular walked in. As soon as they sat down the owner of the café or his wife would bring out their regular beverage and would take their order. The patron would never look at a menu and appeared to sit in a place that they sat in every day. It was a great experience. It really made me think about my own hometown and the local restaurants I support. I thought about the same couple that sits in the same spot at Kathy’s every Sunday, or the same woman who sits in coffee shop every Saturday morning, or even the families who come into Eikenberry’s and order the same thing every time. I couldn’t help but smile and miss those faces. I really began to realize just how long I have been gone. I know that I am at school all the time, but I still come home for some holidays and long weekends. I just realized how long it had been since I had seen a place like this. Even though it was so different from anything like Greenville (mostly because I didn’t recognize anyone and the language barrier) it felt a little like home.
After exploring for the afternoon and early evening we headed back to the hostel to get ready for dinner. First, the hostel we stayed at was so cool! It was a capsule hotel. So this is where each person gets a locker to keep your things in and lock it. Then you sleep in these things that look like torpedo shells from the war. They are literally these off yellow torpedo shaped boxes with an egg carton mattress, very basic reading light, and an alarm clock. That’s it! It is so cool! Why pay for luxury when this is all you really need! You share a room with about 10 people give or take a few depending on the hostel and you have a common bathroom like a college dorm. It was just really fun! Unfortunately there were not really any other people in our room so it was quiet and I didn’t really get to meet new people.
However, tonight I would get to have one of my favorite nights in Japan. I met my mom‘s friend from college Joe. Joe lives in downtown Tokyo. He has lived there for 2 years now, and when he heard I was coming he insisted on meeting me and taking me out to dinner. So I went into the heart of Tokyo and met Joe for dinner. He showed me where he lives because it is known as one of the most beautiful Cherry Blossom areas and I would agree. The street he lives on is absolutely breath taking. In the midst of all of this modernization is a street covered in Cherry Blossom Trees. Once he showed me the area he took me to his favorite restaurant. He ordered for us and honestly all I can tell you is that I ate some form of miso noodle with bean sprouts and pork, and some really delicious thing with garlic. Haha…whatever it was was by far my favorite meal on this entire voyage! I really enjoyed getting to know him and just engage in great conversation. I was very sad when we parted ways, but I know that I will meet him again especially if my mother has anything to say about it!
Once I got back to the hostel it was getting late and I was exhausted so Hannah and I called it a night. We knew that we had some traveling to do one last time to meet the ship in Yokohama.
days away from our last port. So, to reward the students on SAS the
shipboard head honchos threw us a dance party! So for the last 3 hours I
have been dancing the night away with my fellow shipmates. We danced to
an array of music but most of our beat came from the rocking of the
ship. I had a blast! It is night like these that I will remember
forever! This was one of those nights that makes me not want this
journey to end :-)
Friday, April 20, 2012
changes. Well, something really cool is about to happen....
At midnight my time which is 9am Eastern time I will change my clock
ahead one more hour. I know that this does not sound like a lot but here
is the catch. When I change my clock at midnight we, meaning the ship,
will be crossing the international dateline. When we cross this line we
will have gone so far around the world that we have to relive a day
twice! So tomorrow will be yet again Friday April 20th.
So, right now as I write this I am currently living in the future
compared to Eastern time. However, at midnight I will suddenly jump to
living in the past by about 24 hours. HOW COOL IS THIS?!?!?!?!
Fun Fact: this is the only chance someone who had a crappy day could
ever say "If I could live it over again I would..." and really mean it.
So happy April 20th.....again :-)
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Well the first day was pretty uneventful. We came alongside Japan at 8am. However, Japan’s immigration process is very rigorous. First, we had to walk in front of a machine to have our temperatures taken. Then we had to wait in line to get out passports from the ship. Then we had to wait to be called by sea (or floor) to leave the ship and go through actual immigration. The Japanese government makes us have our picture and finger prints taken. The immigration process took so long that I was not allowed into Japan until noon. So Hannah and I went and got some lunch and money and headed back to the ship for our music Field program.
Needless to say our field program was not good. We took the subway to the Bunraku Theatre. The Bunraku Theatre is a traditional Japanese puppet show. Here each puppet is almost life like and requires three puppeteers to control it. On the right side of the stage there are two men who are also performers. One of them plays the Shamisen, something similar to that of a guitar, and the other one sings, is the narrator, and speaks for all characters. While this is a very interesting set up and seems entertaining. However, when the shows are as long as full length operas and there are no English sub titles it becomes very difficult and boring to watch. In fact, within the first ten minutes or so everyone had fallen asleep. The show was so hard to follow that even our professor was having trouble. She let all of us leave at the intermission. So, we all went back to the ship and had dinner.
Hannah was not really feeling well and we both had a long couple of days ahead of us so we decided to call it an early night.
The next morning we both woke up for another field program. We both went to Kyoto, but on different trips. The trip I went on was to visit four scared temples and gardens for my religion class. I went and saw a Zen Garden, the Golden Temple, and two other temples. My two favorite are the two that I remember the most. Well, the first one we visited was a temple that had 1,000 statues of Buddha’s. This was intense simply because at a glance they all look so similar, but when I looked harder I could find subtle differences between each and every one of them. The second garden we went to was a Zen garden. This is when the rain started to really pick up. The garden was beautiful though; full of luscious trees, tulips, and cherry blossom trees. Even through the rain I could see the intense colors of the petals from the cherry blossoms and tulips. The third temple we went to was the Golden Temple. Here we saw a temple that sits on a small island like land mass in the middle of a small lake. The temple is covered in gold plate with a dark tin roof. This temple was beautiful, the rain hitting the temple made the little bit of sun reflect the gold plate against the water. This was one of my favorite temples I have seen on my whole journey.
To be honest though, in the eleven countries that I have visited I have seen nearly twenty temples and they have all begun to morph together in my brain. While I have enjoyed all of the temples, in the end of my voyage it has become difficult to keep them all straight in my brain.
In between the gardens and temples the group went to the city to eat lunch. I went with some friends: Mike, Josh, and Doug to this random restaurant that none of us knew the name. I ate some random meal that contained beef, rice, soup, and corn. It was good and very filling. The best part about lunch was that none of us had any idea what we ordered. We literally looked at this menu and just pointed to something. We all enjoyed are lunches though. On our way back to the bus we stopped at a local 7-eleven and I found this candy that I absolutely love! Now this candy that I like is a Japanese candy that is like a long lasting starburst. This candy is really expensive in the states and really hard to find, so when I found it I got so excited! My favorite souvenir to buy in a country is a native candy.
Well, after all the temples our trip took us back to the ship. The ship was going to be leaving that night to transit to Yokohama. Hannah and I had decided to transit on land so we were not allowed on the ship. The time at this moment is 6pm and our overnight train was at midnight. So what do you do for six hours in Kobe? Well…
1. You spend an hour and a half or so randomly walking around the city during rush hour. This was interesting to see all the people rushing around trying to get home. In this moment I realized that I had become one of those people that I laugh at. As I walked around the city I realized that I had become a back packer. I never understood why so many people enjoyed back packing until now. This made Hannah and I crack up which of course made everyone look at us because Japan is a very quiet country.
2. You walk into random restaurants and try to read the menu to see if you want to eat there.
3. You finally find some restaurant that says they have the best burger in Japan and try it. This was so interesting simply because it tasted nothing like a burger in the states.
4. You walk around again experiencing a very silent 8pm city. Everyone is at home with their families or still at work.
5. Find a Baskin Robbins and try all the cool ice creams that are here. While trying them you try to decide if these flavors are new or just something that exists only in Japan. Fun Fact: Baskin Robbins are like coffee shops in Japan. People go to ice cream parlors and just hang out. It was so cool to hang out in this random place with a bunch of locals.
6. Finally, get on the train at midnight!
Once midnight came Hannah and I got on our overnight train. This train was AWESOME!!!! We really had no idea what to expect when we got on the train. So, we walked onto the train and walked through the sliding door and could not believe our eyes. This car was a bunk bed like community room. There were two levels of long plans of wood. On each level there were about 15 bed like areas. The only way each “bed” was separated was by a small divider by the window where I would lay my head down that night. We each also got this cool sheet like sleeping bag that was actually warm! While this was not the most comfortable place to sleep I am so glad that I was able to experience it. I think that the states should definitely consider these! What a great way to stay sustainable and save money!