Thursday, June 07, 2012

European Adventure: Honolulu to Dublin


As many of you know, I am on a European Adventure with my boyfriend, Kekoa, and some close friends, Reid and Lace, and Lace's sister, Marisa. The Adventure has been in the planning for over a year and has gone through approximately 3.8 billion^10 iterations, with our finalized plan being nothing like our original -- except for the fact that we made it to Dublin, Ireland. This entry covers the Plan to arrival in Dublin.


The Final Plan
We are here for Reid's sister's wedding. She's marrying an Irish-man here in Dublin. So, aside from the typical touristy stuff, we also have some "familial" obligations -- family drinking meet and greets, and the like. Our friends have a different itinerary than we do, since they're only here in Ireland, but Kekoa and I, however, have decided to take the Adventure to the next level. After a 9-ish day stint in Dublin, we'll be making a 1-week stop in Spain.


It took us more than 25 hours to get to Dublin. Thanks to Expedia, we had some kind of crazy route: Honolulu to Los Angeles to London to Dublin, with a 5 hour layover at LAX and a 3 hour layover at Heathrow. For the most part, travels went smoothly. 

Honolulu to Los Angeles 
Kekoa's sister, Lahi, was kind enough to drop us off at HNL at 5 am for our 7:20 am flight to LAX. The self check-in at American Airlines failed us. My middle name pulled up incorrectly and Kekoa's 4 middle names exceeded the character limit available to us on the check-in kiosk.   Security Check went okay, without much mishap. It was my first time going through a full-body scan and my hair clip showed up on the screen, indicating too much metal, so the officer checked if I had a metal plate in my head by just touching my hair and scalp lightly. No biggie. A quick breakfast at the airport food court, then we boarded and were on our way. 
Breakfast at LAX


The flight was crazy crowded. I was unable to select seats prior to the flight, so we were in that weird middle section of the plane that's not against any windows. It's been years since I sat in that section. On the one hand, I was lucky I had the aisle seat. Not only did we have more leg space in general, but having the aisle seat made up for the fact that our seats basically did not recline at all. 


We had an awesome flight attendant who made conversation, gave me ginger peach tea to help soothe my throat, and randomly gave Kekoa a free beer (this would not be shocking if it were already an international trip -- but domestic trips generally do not equal free booze). No food included, though. Thankfully, we had some chiliritos from home (chili in a tortilla). 


Los Angeles to Heathrow
We had a ridiculously long layover at LAX. We were hoping to meet up with friends, Kristel or Sumichu, but unfortunately, we couldn't make that happen. Instead, we spent most of the time camping the Recharge Station at the International Terminal. For those who've never been to the Tom Bradley Terminal -- you have to leave the main terminal and take a walk outside to get there. Food options are extremely limited -- we settled on Panda Express. When we finally went through the Security Check, I was full-body scanned for the second time in the same day. The woman i dealt with was rude and ended up patting me down. 
Recharging Station at LAX

We ended up spent the rest of our time at The Samuel Adams bar near our gate. Strangely enough, they were out of Sam Adams on tap, so we had Blue Moon and Kekoa had some celebratory Jameson Whiskey. We were shocked by the tinyness of the shot glass! We're certain it didn't even hold a full once unless you poured to the brim... and even then, maybe not.
Tiny shot of Jamesons


We made temporary friends with a Mike, from Utah, an ethnic mix of Japanese and Peruvian who spoke Mexican-Spanish. While making conversation with Mike and the mustachioed Mexican bartender, Jesus, we asked if there were any smoking areas nearby. Jesus had a hilarious response:
No, no smoking area inside the terminal. (in hushed tones) But! I have a Mexican idea. There's this spot downstairs that I know some Mexicans and a few Chinese guys smoke. It's indoors, there's no cameras, but you can't smoke a whole cigarette. Just 3 puffs and finish.
Kekoa and I thought this idea was awesome simply because it was posed to us as a "Mexican idea," although we didn't end up taking advantage of his insider information. Instead we boarded the plane and were on our way.


Twas our first time flying British Airways. Overall consensus: seats too narrow, good headrests, some nice extra amenities (toothbrushes and snacks and such), but crappy, unhelpful service from the flight attendants. We asked 3 different attendants to bring us a Landing Card for UK Customs and never got one at any point during our 10+ hour flight!


Heathrow to Dublin
The Heathrow Airport is a strange maze of criss-crossing pathways both in and outside the terminals. To get to the terminal that hosts flights to Ireland, you have to catch a tram to another section of the airport, leave the building, then catch a bus to a completely different area of the world, it seems! Pamphlets for the airport claim that the shortest recommended time for flight transfers if 90 minutes! They had a very interesting transfer, customs and security process that surely helped to expedite everything -- but the amount of traveling needed to get to your gate was insane and unnecessary. 
A $4 drink at Heathrow


We spent some time wandering the various terminals -- purchased some UK version of "passion orange drink," and shelled out $4 US for a teeny-tiny bottle! It should've just cost 1.49, but we were only carrying Euro and USD, so we took the hit.  We also spent some time watching live BBC news coverage of The Diamond Jubilee -- England's celebration of the Queen's ascension to the throne. 


Strange pathways at Heathrow
The next thing we knew, we were on the plane to Dublin. It was a short, uneventful flight -- just a bit over an hour -- and needless to say, we were both excited and exhausted, knowing that our travel to get to our destination was nearing an end. 


Coming Soon:
In my next post, I'll write about our arrival in Dublin and our arrival in Dublin and our first full day. This is certainly "to be continued."


/me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Back in Hawaii - 2012's Best Kept Secret

I was pretty sure, by now, most people who care to know would know that I am back in Hawaii. After all, it's been nearly 6 months since my return, and while I have not had fanfare triumphantly announcing my presence, I have not sequestered myself away into a hobbit hole and hidden from the world.

Apparently, my lack of official announcement over the digital space still has people baffled when they see me out and about. Even now, I run into friends and acquaintances, who immediately follow their greeting hugs with the question: "Wait... weren't you in Japan? Are you... back?!" A friend, Byron, after having witnessed this exchange a few times, jokingly began calling my return, "2012's Best Kept Secret."

So, to clear up all the confusion, here is my official announcement. Yes, Hawaii, I am back. For good? Well, for good... for now. Family reasons brought me home to the islands are for now, family reasons will keep me here.

It's been a mixed return, honestly. I do miss a lot about Japan -- although more than anything, I miss a few choice individuals who made my experience there an amazing one.

It has been great seeing the people here that I missed when I was gone... and it's become apparent that my ever-growing belly has been doing its fair share of meet-and-greet with the local fare. I've gained 20 lbs since my return and find myself disgusted by that fact.

Other than consuming ridiculous amounts of food, I also have two jobs and the occasional stint of Grandma-duty. Those of you who have been long-time readers of my blog may remember that there was a year's time where I moved in with my grandmother to aid in her care, since she had become bed-ridden. Well, she's onto year four of that lifestyle and still going strong!

The two jobs? Marketing and translating and marketing and...

I am currently working with Anthology Marketing Group in Hawaii and Oceans Inc. in Japan.

At Anthology Marketing Group, I am a Digital Marketer who specializes in social media and digital marketing strategy.

At Oceans, Inc., I am the Global Branding & Marketing Manager, specifically for a mobile application called Eyeland. [Warning: Shameless Plug] Version 2.0 is supposed to launch today for both the Android and iOS markets, so we've been translating and localizing and redesigning like crazy for the past 6 months, in preparation. Eyeland is a location-based, real-time communication app that I like to describe as my private mix of Twitter, Yelp and Facebook. It lets you zoom-in and zoom-out on anywhere in the world and listen to or join the conversations happening in whatever area you select. Heading into Waikiki or ... Shinjuku in an hour? Zoom-in to those areas and see what the people who are actually in that area are talking about. Traffic accidents or sales or cute puppies. I've only used the old version of it (which apparently was uber popular in Japan) and have only test-driven the version I was working on, but I am actually excited for its release. I feel like it has fantastic potential to grow in the US, and maybe the world, if all goes well. So... uh... download it today? [/Shameless Plug] 

Okay, enough of that.

Anyway, I'm back in Hawaii. No more confusion. No more secrets. No more mystery. I'm back and I'm staying for a while, so I'm sure I'll see you all around at some point.

/me.




Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dear Japan,

Dear Japan,

You and I have a love/hate relationship. I love the food, I love the sights, and there is something about you that keeps bringing me back despite all the various hates I have for you. But let me tell you, that hate list is long and it's a wonder, sometimes, that I want to continue to be here when the list of things I like is so short compared to the list of things that frustrate me, anger me, sadden me...

I am currently trying to leave you because of various things that are going on in the life I left behind in my home country. You really haven't done much to encourage me to stay. I am constantly reminded of how, really, I am not welcome here. And honestly, I often find that I ask myself, "Why do I stay? Am I nuts? Do I enjoy the heartache and punishment?" But I also realize that there must be some kind of magic here that makes me love you so much. There must be something to being here, sharing this experience with the people that I love, that somehow speaks to my mind or my soul or... my insanity. I'm leaning toward the last one. 

But I am leaving on December 25 -- and I have no plans, at least for now, to return any time soon. And gawddamn, Japan, are you making things difficult! You don't want me to be here, but you won't let me leave.

Let me go through the things that I must do in order to leave you.
  • Buy a ticket
  • Break my work contract 
  • Break my lease
  • Cancel my cellphones
  • Cancel my Internet
  • Cancel my water
  • Cancel my gas
  • Cancel my electricity
  • Find a home for Turtellini
  • Find a home for Bento
  • Get rid of my furniture, bikes, clothes, whatever.
  • Repair the damage to the apartment
  • Send my packages home
  • Pack my suitcases
  • Clean the apartment
  • Uh... And the list is longer, but I don't even know what else there is because my mind is so screwy.

I am grateful for what support I have received so far from various people for helping me out (Pam, Amy, Rafe, Jacob, Koohei and then some!), but I am very much breaking from the pressure of finishing everything with such a short timeline. I have less than 2 weeks to get my stuff together and get out of here. Granted, someone pointed out to me that even if I just up and left everything, while I would probably be fined like crazy, at least I'd be home with friends and family and loved ones (who don't fall under friends and family). 

For all the people who say that you have fantastic customer service, I would like to argue that they are either Japanese nationals who don't know any better or only visitors to this country. I don't care how honorific your language is, if you are uncompromising, cold, and unwilling to help or even try to find another way to accomplish things, that is not "good customer service". For everyone who claims that you are efficient, I would say they have never tried to cancel or change any contract or service.

Case in point: Just for me to cancel my Internet and make the final payment, I have called 5 telephone numbers, 2 companies, spent... I don't know how long on the phone, at this point, and still have accomplished next to nothing. All I have managed is to run up my cell phone bill and getting you to say that you will turn the Internet off on December 16, because for some reason, you cannot do it now. You don't know how to charge me since I am leaving the country. You, being you, half the time can't accept foreign credit cards, despite them being internationally recognized providers like Visa and Master Card. You can't send the bill to me in advance. You can't send the bill to me abroad. You can't even tell me how much I owe you, since it's not the right time for you to know that. 

I am going crazy trying to do the right thing. I want don't want to perpetuate the stereotype of the foreigners who skip town without taking responsibility and tying up the loose ends. But you know, Japan, you are pushing me to the point where perhaps I understand why these "bad foreigners" did so. Perhaps they all tried, like me, in good faith, to do what was right... to pay their bills and cancel things properly and pay their taxes and clean their places and throw away the trash per the Gomi-Matrix... and were met with so much bull**** and resistance and lack of help that they broke, they said f*** it and they went away.

Japan, I want to have a positive memory of you. Please stop now, so we can salvage our relationship. It's been 9 years since I came here the very first time, and years before that where I was enamored with your thought, but the scales are tipping from love/hate to just hate... and I would hate for us to have to give up all we've had.

Please, for us.

/chi.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Awakening

There was a time that I used to love to write. Whether it be poetry or prose, of import or of nonsense, writing was my way to express every emotion I experienced. In recent years, I find that I write for my own eyes -- afraid to share my thoughts for fear of hurting others or myself. I over-edit my writing, assuming that I can even bring the words through me onto paper or digital representation. 


Pain, anger, sadness... these are now the things that fuel a lot of what I write. But I don't want this to be how it always is. I would like to be able to harness the other emotions, as I once did before, to share with you who care to read my writing.


This morning, I had a long talk with my mother, through crappy "borrowed" Internet. The talk made me reflect on all the lives lost on March 11, here in Japan, when we were shaken to our very core by a huge earthquake unlike the modern world has ever seen. The earthquake heralded in a tsunami that stole the lives and livelihood from so many people -- and I, in Saitama, so far removed from the pain and fear and suffering of everyone there, could only watch on my 1-seg television on my cell phone, as everything up north was washed away.


I have thought about the lost lives off and on, of course, since March -- it has been 8, almost 9 months now, and today is the first time I felt like writing about the lost lives. I wrote a few months ago about my own experience of the earthquake, but that didn't at all address the true losses to this world.


I don't know what made me write what I did below, but this is for those who were directly affected by the tsunami on March 11. #PrayforJapan


Awakening


I wake up this morning, and roll over, wanting to enjoy the warmth from my blankets and from the body of the man I love, lying beside me. I pull close to my beloved and see the stillness of his breath. He is resting so peacefully, it seems as if he will be asleep forever. And so, as not to disturb him, I sit up quietly and let my eyes adjust to the day's brilliance. I gaze up at the sky and wonder why I can see it so clearly. Surely, there has never been such a sky as this, like water color come to life --  delicate and bright and beautiful. I look around me, out at the watery silence, at the skeletons of buildings and the chaos the previous day had brought. 

I find myself thinking about my life before I woke up today and I realize that perhaps this is a very poignant thought. "Am I dead?", I wonder, as I turn again toward the body of my one and only and immediately, I know the answer to my question. This morning, I did not wake up from the comfort of my dreams. Instead, I was never asleep -- I had experienced the living nightmare of Mother Nature sweeping away everything I knew. This morning, wrapped in sheets of water and debris, only my mind is awake as not only my beloved's body, but also my own, continue to rest under the ceiling of water, sunlight deflecting and rippling and sending out rays to cut through the darkness. 

As much as I try to roll over and go back to sleep, hoping that this is naught but a nightmare from which I can awaken, I know that when I open my eyes again, nothing will have changed. I know the truth. I am dead. And I will continue to sleep here, next to my love, forever. 

/chi.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanks.

This year, I spent Thanksgiving with an international group of friends. 11 people, hailing from Japan, Sweden, England and the US came together for an expensive little turkey, delicious stuffing, and  great company to celebrate the American tradition. It was lucky that Japan had a national holiday in the middle of the week that we could use to celebrate -- it wasn't Thanksgiving, but we were all thankful for the reprieve from school and work and to be eating some delicious food with good people.

While dessert was being passed around, we went around the room and said what we were thankful for. As I was in the middle of frying the apple won ton desserts, I didn't put much thought into what I said (frying and addressing a room of people at the same time is hard, you know!) and I thought I would put into writing the things for which I want to give thanks.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor do I list names or details -- but it's a start.

I am grateful for the life that I have, despite all the downs, it has an amazing amount of ups that makes being on this world amazing. 

I am thankful for my family -- not just the ones that are related to me by blood, but also the friends that I choose to keep closest to me. They put up with my mood swings and irrationality and while not always agreeing with my decisions, are there to wipe away tears, pick up my broken pieces and try to haphazardly super glue me back together. They are there to rejoice in my successes and share in the laughs and often, laugh at me instead of with me... but I guess that is what makes them endearing.

Even beyond my core group of besties who live all over the world, I am lucky to have friends and acquaintances, both online and IRL, who might not be there for everything, but still find a way to keep me moving forward. Without all of you, I am certain that I would be a much lonelier, much more misguided person. 

And I think more than anything, I am blessed for having so much love in my life. There are so many kinds of love, but regardless, I would say that many people spend their whole life wanting to be loved and to be able to love. And right now, at this moment, I can say with certainty that I am loved and that I do love. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. 

/chi.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nice to See You Again.

There are times when I pride myself on my ability to speak, to express, to capture a moment or an emotion or life in words.


And other times, I wish I could cut out my tongue to punish myself for my word choices that cause eruptions of flames and torrential rains and leaves me in a post-apocalyptic, self-admonishing hell.

In recent years, I find that I have become much more self-censored. What I would have said with little sugar or tact in the past, I coat in gallons of honey or simply don't say it at all. I have grown a type of filter that seems only to work when I least need it and when I need it most, manages to malfunction.

If only this filter had come with a control panel that would allow me to choose which situations or with whom it should shut me up. If only I had the self-control to hold my tongue before explaining or expressing something that I know will only result in devastation.


But instead, I find myself standing at a precipice, looking at the fall, and deciding it's worth jumping -- if it means that there is a chance someone can understand why I jumped.

So I jump, and I fall, and by the time I see the gathering clouds of smoke in the distance, giving evidence of the eruptions to come, it is too late.


Post-apocalyptic, self-admonishing hell, nice to see you again.

/chi.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Home: What is it?

What does it mean to be "home"?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately for a variety of reasons and haven't found an answer, yet. I thought I could put my stream-of-consciousness out there and get some opinions on the matter from all of you.

I have lived the majority of my life in Hawaii, in various places with various people. The other not-majority of my life, I have spent in Massachusetts and Japan. In each of these places, I have experienced wonders and met adversity and had my life touched by both beautiful and ugly people. All of these places carry fond memories for me, but also can evoke within me the deepest, most painful emotions one can feel. Each time I head to any of these places (although it's been years since I was in Massachusetts), I get giddy and excited to be back. Yet, I also find that the longer that I stay in these places, the more restless I become. I find reasons to leave and then wonder if leaving was, indeed, the right choice.

If any of these places were my "home", would I keep wanting to walk away from them? Is it not that I am displeased with the place itself, but rather, that I am unsatisfied with myself or my life in that place? Or is it that I simply haven't found, yet, where I need to be? That I need to travel more and seek out where it is that I can finally settle, drop anchor, make myself truly at home? Are there people out there who never find this personal utopia? 

And in another train of thought, is "home" not a physical place at all? Is it a state-of-mind or sense of contentment? Or is it simply an understanding of or proximity to "things of importance"? Love, good friends, family, food, faith (for some)... 

It seems that sitting alone with my thoughts hasn't led in any real direction, unless "around in a circle" is considered a direction. 

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on what "home" means or doesn't mean to you. Please, tell me. 

Home: What is it?

/me.