Saturday, August 25, 2012

Japan: First Updates

Day 5 Hey y'all.

John and I are still patronizing the Large Smiling Frog Comic and Internet Cafe for all outbound communications -- hopefully, we'll have internet "constructed" (installed, I presume they mean) at the apartment within the week. But we might not. Here's a thing to know about Japan: do not count on being able to find free wifi anywhere, ever. Not even at the one Starbucks in Ichihara, which we were still damn THRILLED to find. So, a handful of updates:

* READING - We can't. Japanese text uses a combination of three scripts, some of which are icono(picto-?)graphic, some which represent entirely alien phonemes. Complicating matters, symbols the icono(picto-?)graphic script -- that would be Kanji -- can have wildly different meanings depending upon context. For instance: the character that represents "book" can also mean "present," or "central," or "true," or "origin," or "counter for long cylindrical things." To write this character, write the character for "person," then add two horizontal lines. If you only add the first horizontal line, you have written the character for "large." (Add a small apostrophe-looking mark to that character and you have written "dog.") Be careful of where you place your horizontal lines when writing "book," however, because if you misplace a line, you will have written "husband."

Don't even get me started on Katakana and Hiragana.

In summary, not only is John a jobless (soon-to-be) illegal immigrant and (probable) victim of racism, we are also illiterate. But progress progresses: I understood my first street sign yesterday. Symbol for [insert] + symbol for [mouth] = "Entrance." And speaking of progress...

* IMMIGRATION - good news on this front. Suzuki Sensei (my boss, and new favorite person on the face of the planet) drove us to the immigration office in Chiba city yesterday and helped John fill out paperwork for a dependent visa. While I have no idea how long it may take to process the paperwork, he told me us would more than likely be granted visa permission well within his 90 days of legal tourist residency. If and when he finds a job -- Catch 22! Can't work without a visa, can't get a visa without work! -- he`ll have to return to Chiba to change his status. Hopefully Suzuki Sensei will be free that day. * ERRATA - We met with the Mayor of Ichihara Friday morning, and hopefully didn't humiliate ourselves or America by proxy. We've pretty well mastered the immediate vicinity on bikes, including the Super Megalithic Wal-esque Mart (Cainz Home, pronounced "Kines"), the Not Quite Best Buy (K's, pronounced "Kays Deenkay"), and the Extremely Fishy Smelling Because All The Fish Grocery Store (Shigenoya, pronounced capably by others).

Here's a brief anecdote representative of our initial experience here: We missed the delivery of our bikes to the apartment Thursday. We knew this because we got a notice in the mailbox that had my name on it, the logo of the delivery carrier, and great heaps of inscrutable text. There was a phone number, we think, but we weren't sure, had no way to make an outgoing call even if we were sure, no way to speak to anyone over the phone even if we could make a call, and no one around to beg for help. Would our bikes be redelivered? Ha ha! Who knows? (Spoiler alert: they were, the next day. Thankfully, we were home.)

Yesterday, we figured out the trains. Took a local to a transfer to Funabashi, which has a.) the largest damn mall I've ever seen, and b.) an IKEA. The mall has, among other gaijin stalwarts, a KFC and a Krispy Kreme. (It also has a children's store called "Daddy Oh Daddy," which, well, I'm not sure they're doing that right.)

Even our little section of Ichihara (called Goi) has a Denny's and the aforementioned Starbucks. The neat thing about the larger train stations, as you get closer to Tokyo, is that they are themselves kind of malls, often with stores that offer imported goods. This is how we finally found real, honest to goodness Skippy peanut butter, and not that peanut cream bullshit we bought the first day here. (Similarly, be careful when buying bread! That's not a wheat loaf; it's chocolate white bread!) Another comfort of home: Cainz has Johnny Walker Red for 15 bucks a liter...John`s best birthday present other than the bicycles.

Pictures soon.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Los Angeles

I left my birthplace and 24-year hometown on August 16 to go spend a few days in LA before the big move. It felt like I was in LA for much longer than 3 days and 4 nights. I completely fell in love with the city of angels. Too bad it's going to fall into the ocean someday.
My first day I complained about the lack of historical architecture. By the second, I was swearing I'd live there right away.

Day 1: Wednesday, August 16: arrived LA @ 11:00 AM. Got to friend's apartment around 1:00 PM. We went to this great coffee shop/ vegan lunch spot called Muse. I wanted to go there everyday forever. For those of you from Mobile, it was my Satori coffeehouse. Forever a place in my heart.

That night, we ate some good Indian food and hung out with some new, but very dear friends who live in LA. He is a professor @ USC. She is a public librarian. They absolutely rock.

August 17: I met my cousin who I haven't seen in about a decade in Hollywood. We walked and talked all the way to Amoeba records...the greatest music store of all time. I have to say that Hollywood is way more glamorous on television. I was not impressed.

August 18: First to Los Angeles County Museum of Art. AMAZING! Here's proof:

me in spaghetti.

There are multiple buildings and outside spaces that make up LACMA. There is even a hanging Boulder outside! One of the buildings housed a Japanese exhibit, which I felt a need to enter due to the recent relocation. Here is me posing with some Shinto festival masks:

Next was Griffith Observatory Husband and I drove to the top of some hills to visit this amazing space center...full of cosmological and scientific wonders! me outside:

me with Einstein:

homage to Pluto:

Next to Santa Monica beach, where I finally got to dip my feet in the Pacific:

Favorite Hippie things I did in LA:
ate here
did yoga here

 Love to all on this beautiful planet!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Another City by the Bay

The french expression a gogo means "in abundance" or galore. I begin this blog as a new woman, yogi, and teacher, abundant with senses adventure, msytery, and love. After graduating with a dual degree in Social Studies and Education from a state school in Mobile, AL last December, I knew I did not want to stay in the Southeastern United States for the rest of my life. In all actuality, that is the only certainty I've had since 7 years old.

The wind, always chuckling with ironic turns, pulled me from my path of attending Naropa University in Boulder, CO this fall. I was planning to study Indo-Tibetan Buddhism- a philosophy forever close to my heart, but never closer than when I was in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India, earlier this year. This beautiful Himalayan town is rich with history and enchantment, and ignited a deep interest in Buddhist thought, history, and religion.

That wind, a force sometimes sweet or forceful, but always steady, bumped me right into a man who would change the course of my life drastically. I was temping at a magnet middle school here in Alabama's "city by the bay" when I met G. G's daytime job is a traveling gifted educator, but his unofficial post remains as a recruiter for the Mobile Ichihara Sister City Association (MISCA). Every 3 years (now 2) Mobile, AL sends someone to Ichihara, Chiba, Japan, to act as a cultural representative of Mobile, AL and to assist teaching middle school students English. When asked if I'd like to take this wonderful opportunity, all my dreams of traveling the world and teaching abroad resurfaced, as if seeds planted and never watered could grow. This would forever be my one regret if I was scared enough to say no.

So I said yes, and in two weeks I'm leaping to LA, then Tokyo, and landing in Ichihara, an hour outside of Tokyo across the beautiful bay. For many years I've loathed Mobile, Alabama, and all they've stood for. It has not been until the past 2-3 years that I've grown to appreciate the beauty, culture, and history that this locale maintains, and all that I maintain within it. THIS is my home, for better or worse, and I see people everyday striving to make it a city they want to live in.

I remember my roots as I earn my wings, and fly around the world to someone else's city by the bay. A sister city, mind you, with shipping and refinery infrastructure, baydwelling sentient beings, and soon, a traveling yogi, eager to begin an adventerous chapter. Funny too, that my desire to dive deeper into Buddhist philosophy takes me to the Zen capital of the world.

It is my intention to become a soldier of peace. In teaching, practicing, and living, I will seek truth, knowledge, and wisdom. I want to experience, as yoga teaches us, that service is its own reward.

"Truth is like a vast tree, which yields more and more fruit, the more your nurture it. The deeper the search in the mine of truth, the richer the discovery of the gem burried there, in the shape of openings or an even greater variety of service." -Ghandi

In peace and service,