It has been a bit since my last post, but I wanted to share some stories from my latest journey to Jamaica with my family. We spent 7 days in the Runaway Bay area. To get the all-inclusive deal (flights included in the price) we had to pick one city to depart from and of course everyone, but me lives in Philly. Lucky me had to fly an extra 5 hours both ways just to use the all-inclusive deal.
The flight attendant on my first flight, LAX to PHL, was the greatest. Not to mention I got a new plane with the screens and chargers. As drink service came around I ordered a simple coffee. She asked if I wanted something more fun. I asked her what would be more fun. She slipped me a mini Bailey’s coffee and some cookies. Then on the second time around, without even asking, she had a coffee with a Bailey’s already mixed in, waiting at my seat, as I went to the bathroom. It was truly amazing until my tipsy self went to terminal A East instead of A West and could not find my parent’s car.
The next morning, we flew to Jamaica and this time the flight did not even include a free beverage or water. We arrived at the resort and waited to be checked in. It was almost like a mini orientation. You must learn the map, eating times, rules, etc. The resort has a dining hall, open for every meal, but for three dinners, you can go to the special restaurants. Since we were jet lag we wanted to call it early and head to bed.
We got in the elevator and midway to the next floor up it stops. We checked to see if maybe we were there. My dad pried open the doors only to see concrete. Then the elevator dropped. The lights went out. We all screamed. The elevator stopped dropping. I tried to push the call button. We heard a women’s voice, but apparently, she could not hear us. The elevator jolted back to life after a minute and let us off on our floor. We ran out. I called the front desk from my room to warn them of the problem. The girl said she kept seeing the help button but could not hear us. She also told us we had to hold down the button to talk. I checked over and over again, but there was nothing to indicate that you had to hold the button down. Glad to know if there was an actual emergency we would have been stuck in there with no help. I do not want to harp on the elevator, but it was terrifying. We did not ride the elevator at all during the rest of our stay at the resort (for good reason). It is probably best for our health to take the stairs.
Another problem was the limited chairs at the pool areas. Our first morning, we slept in a bit, only to find that there was not one open chair by 8am. Apparently guests were waking up around 5am to start claiming chairs around the pool. If this does not make you lose faith in humanity, we had to take turns watching chairs to make sure they were not stolen. Soon we became part of the problem, also waking up early to claim 4 chairs. Again, I do not want to harp on the bad, since it was all minor compared to all the amazing moments of our trip.
On Tuesday, we took a half day trip to Dunn’s River Falls, a famous waterfall near Ocho Rios. The falls are about 180 feet high and 600 feet long. They run upwards like a giant natural stairway. You can climb up the falls by yourself, but like most tourists, we had a tour guide take us and a group up. I had my GoPro strapped to my chest. I would not suggest bringing anything on the falls that you do not plan to lose. Although it was strapped on, when I slid down a rock, the pressure of the water made the camera pop out of my strap. I really thought it was gone forever, till one of the tour guides found the camera with his foot a minute later. It was a miracle. Plus, now I have a very long experimental video of my GoPro sadly tumbling on rocks. With the right music overlaying it, it could be quite deep.
When I travel, I find that all roads lead to a gift shop. No matter, the tour, the country, or the hotel, all roads lead to a gift shop, full of chockskis, that I’ll end of throwing out years later after being stuffed in my junk drawer. When we were trying to get back to our bus from the Dunn’s River Falls tour, we had to go through blocks of gift stores and sellers constantly trying to pull us in. It was the like the scene in SpongeBob, where they have to make it through the perfume department. If you do not know the reference, please watch the first three season of SpongeBob on Amazon Prime and educate yourself.
On Wednesday, my mom and I woke up early for a sunrise yoga class. It was held in the marriage pavilion, which was nice and quiet. The class was a small group, led by instructor Owen. Owen was incredible and also led our morning stretch class on Friday. When we missed the morning stretch class on Saturday, he found my mom and I at the pool and offered a private lesson. He was a great teacher and I will miss his classes a lot. He also believes that one day I may be able to touch my toes.
Since my family is as white as can be, we ran out of sunscreen by day 3. We went to the hotel store to buy another tube, only to find that the sunscreens ranged in price from $20-$40. Smart business moves on their part, because we had to buy at least two more tubes to survive the week without sun rash.
We also met some amazing people around the pool and beach areas. Typically, people tend to be a lot nicer on vacation, which is always a plus.
The next day we went on a Segway tour of the surrounding area of the resort. The guide put on knee pads, elbow pads, and giant helmets. From the picture you see below, you can tell my family looked the coolest and in no way like the biggest dorks on the planet. The tour was a lot of fun (only scary to ride over speed bumps). Part of the tour included a stop at a beach bar for a drink and history lesson.
First, we talked about the flag and its meaning The flag was adopted on August 6th, 1962, the original Jamaican Independence Day, after the country gained independence from the British protected Federation of the West Indies. Gold represents the wealth of the country and the sunshine, and green represents the vegetation on the island. A lot of people, including myself at first, think the black stands for the people, but there is a deeper meaning. Black reflects the strength and creativity of the people which has allowed them to overcome the odds.
The resort was located in Runaway Bay, on the northern coast. It is slightly east of Discovery Bay, where Christopher Columbus landed (DID NOT DISCOVER SHIT – JUST STOLE IT cough, cough) in 1494. The original, native settlers of the land were the Arawaks. The Spanish explorers eventually overpowered the land and took the Arawaks as their slaves. The name Runaway Bay derives from its having been an escape route for the runaway slaves.
As we see the cycle of history repeating itself, Jamaica is captured by the English from Spain and made into an English colony in 1655. It was not until 1962 that Jamaica became independent. Our tour guide tells us that the Jamaican economy took a giant hit that they have yet to recover from. For example, a house that is worth millions of Jamaican dollars, is about $300,000 American dollars. It is a huge jump. He also mentions corruption in the governments. Of course, please do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Just wanted to share some the history I learned along the way. It’s always important to know about the country you are visiting and try to learn something every day.
As many of you know, I still look like I am 14 years old (even though I am a 25). Let’s add on the fact that I was constantly with my parents during this trip. Everyone at the resort assumed my age and either would talk down to me or not serve me alcohol without my parent’s permission. PSA – please people do not assume age and talk to everyone like an adult. Trust me I wish I was 14 and enjoying my vacation, but instead I am stressed about taking out extra money to get the dental PPO plan. Trust me, adulting sucks.
On Friday night we went to the luminous lagoon. The lagoon stretches along the marshlands of Trelawny, in the town of Falmouth. During the day it seems like a typical lagoon, but at night it is the sight of a natural phenomenon. The water is home to millions of micro-organisms, including the dinoflagellates. When these organisms are disturbed in the water, either by a human, fish, boat, or any moving object, they glow light blue for a second, almost like a firefly. The luminous lagoon is one of four places in the world where you can witness the phenomenon, but the only place you can experience it year-round. In order to see the glow, you have to take a boat out on the lagoon at night. You could see the outline of fish and a glow constantly surrounding the boat.
We docked and had the option to swim in the lagoon. At first, I was thinking there is no way in hell I am jumping into murky waters in the pitch darkness. Let’s be real, some creature is going to drag me to the depths of hell. I know this is hyperbole, but I have seen the movies. I know what happens when you can’t see what’s in the water. I decided to be brave and go for it. Luckily the water was only 4 feet deep, so it was not as scary as I thought. It was truly an amazing experience that I cannot even describe. As you moved your hands to swim, the blue glow would follow, as if you had super powers. As you lifted your hands from the water, they would sparkle blue for a second. Sadly because of the lighting, it was impossible to take photos of it with my phone or GoPro, so we had to buy the photos from the tour guide, which do not give it justice. Of course, as it is time to swim back to the boat, I felt something rub up against my arm and leg. Then it started to sting. I was stung by a moon jellyfish. My immediate thought was oh no, someone is going to have to pee on me. I got onto the boat, and the workers told me it was harmless and the sting would go away on its own. They sprayed me with vinegar (no one peed on me thankfully because I have been there before in Israel). After a couple hours the sting went away (I was partially right about diving into murky waters at night though).
Sadly, we only had one more day left at the resort before flying back. We decided to just relax for the last day and enjoy. We flew back to Philadelphia on Sunday early morning. I got crab fries from Chickie’s and Pete’s in South Philly before returning to the airport for my flight back to LAX.
Now it is back to work and next week I will start a sketch comedy writing class in my non-existent free time. Until next time, please enjoy this photo of some interesting “wooden” souvenirs…
As with any birthday over 21 years old, there is less to look forward to and more responsibility and pressures added on about what that age signifies in our life. I usually get the same question from friends and family: When you were younger, what did you think you would be doing at your age now? I turned 25 yesterday, so the question really is when I was younger, what did I think I’d be doing at 25. For myself, and I am sure for many others, the answer is far off from reality depending on how young I was when I made these assumptions.
At first, I thought about my career. I always wanted to move to Los Angeles. Originally, I wanted to be a broadcast journalist, and at 18 I thought I’d be a reporter on NBC or some big network. Then of course college happened and life happened after. For some reason I thought that people who are 25 are making plenty of money and definitely have their stuff together. I had no idea that I’d be sleeping on an air mattress for 3 years and purchase my first bed frame and dresser at the age of 25. If you had told me that at 18 I think I would have been really scared.
Second, I pondered on my love life. When I was younger I thought 25 was so old because that’s the age when people get married and have kids. I was completely off my rocker about this one. Not to say that I thought I’d be having kids, but maybe I imagined I’d be married with a house. I don’t know what kind of imaginary world I was in where journalism was paying the big bucks, but I was in it. Looking at it now, I can’t even imagine being in that place now. I mean I feel like I can’t buy my first bed and get married within the same year. That is crazy talk! Baby steps!
Lastly, I thought about all the other stuff that I was supposed to have by age 25. I did start my 401K this year and started to get health/dental insurance. I qualified for my first credit card and increased my credit score. On a side note, this is the first year I think I understand how credit scores work. Somehow, I had it in my head that I’d have a fancy apartment or house decorated to look like Anthropology stores with a dishwasher and in unit laundry with two dogs I could totally afford. In my head it was predetermined that all these things needed to be accounted for at age 25.
The only thing I seemed to let go by the wayside was my measurement of happiness. I had gone off about all of these things I imagined my life to be like by 25 based off what society and my peers claimed should be my goals. I never took a step back to think if these goals aligned with the goals that would be in my best interest and happiness. When I was younger had I hoped that I would be happy and fulfilled? It is not that I do not feel happy or fulfilled in this moment, but for me it was not the measurement of success and I believe it holds true for many others. Although, I still think a dishwasher and Dyson V10 cordless vacuum could change my outlook on life.
For some reason as human beings, when the Earth completes another rotation around the sun, we decide to wear glittery dresses, drink excessive champagne (okay there is never a reason not to drink excessive champagne and wear glittery dresses), and countdown to the New Year. We also like to take this time to reflect on the past year. We gather all of our accomplishments or disappointments and try to make goals that will make the next year better. It did not matter that this revolution happened, in our minds, it was the perfect amount of time to use to measure the meaning of life. Lucky for me, my birthday lands a couple days before the new year, meaning as the Earth completes a revolution around the sun, I, myself have also completed another revolution. Thus, I am left getting lost in my reflections about the past, especially as I hit a quarter century. Now I sit in an airport terminal, awaiting to board my delayed Frontier flight to Orlando, thinking how I got here and what it all means.
What is important? Is dental insurance important? After having cavities in all four of my wisdom teeth then getting them all removed after going to the dentist for the first time in 3 years – yes, yes, it is. But, is where I am at, at 25 and this new year, compared to what others deem as the standard, the important measurement of a revolution around the sun? Maybe it’s time to start thinking about the year in terms of health and happiness. Did I do things that made me happy? Did I do things with my best interest at heart? Did I do things only to appease everyone around me, while forgetting about my own needs? Is this where I want to be at 25 and not some life I imagined I needed to have at 25? Would a Dyson V10 make me happy? (yes, it would – someone please help me buy one)
I am now a quarter of a century old and I feel fine. Everything is fine. This year I may cut my hair and go on a random trip to Europe because I can’t not have a quarter life crisis, but I truly am fine. Here’s to another revolution around the sun and a happy and healthy new year!
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of me getting overjoyed to be in the presence of Pluto at Disneyland…
After Mount Fuji we were off to Kyoto. Remember we had just woke up at 2am, climbed to the summit of Mount Fuji for sunrise and climbed all the way back down before making the trek to Kyoto.
We had originally found a bus we were going to take to save time. In order to take trains, you have to go back to Tokyo and then go to Kyoto. If you look at a map, this does not make much sense. We got on the wrong bus and somehow ended up at Thomas the Train land theme park. The theme park is real. They have an entire theme park, full of Thomas the Train themed roller coasters. The metro line there is even filled with Thomas the train decorations. In order to get back to the station we came from (go back the other way) we had to cross the theme park. The workers were nice enough to let us cross the park without purchasing a theme park ticket. We marched with our full backpacks across Thomas land, back to the original metro station, only to end up going back to Tokyo in order to route to Kyoto. Turns out it is the faster way in the end.
We stayed in our first Ryokan in Kyoto. Ryokan’s are traditional Japanese guest inns that have existed since the 8th century. The rooms typically have tatami-matted rooms, communal baths and areas where you may wear your yukata around. Yukatas are like kimonos, typically made of cotton, almost like a robe. The room came with instructions on how to set up our bed and how to put on our yukatas. There was also a table and pillows to drink matcha green tea. If only I could wear that yukata everywhere. It was so comfortable and I just want to wear it to work.
The other place we stayed in Kyoto was a hot spring hotel. Japan is known for their natural hot springs, which they pump up to the ground into bath houses. Typically bath houses are split between genders, but we splurged to have a private one in the room, just so we could experience it together. There is a sink next to the bath because you must wash yourself off before getting into the hot spring. You are considered dirty and why would you want to sit in a tub of your dirt? It really does make sense.
Kyoto had some of my favorite sights. We went to the Golden Temple (Kinkaku-ji), which is a Zen Buddhist temple and a National Special Historic Site. After we went to the Red Gate (Fushimi Inari Taisha). Inari is actually the god of rice, but traditionally Inari is also worshiped as the patron of business. Fun fact: Each of the torii at Fushimi Inari Taisha has been donated by a Japanese business. You may recognize the site from it’s many popular red gates. Additionally we went to the Bamboo Forest (Arashiyama Bamboo Grove), which is a natural forest full of bamboo (as the name suggests).
After two days in Kyoto we were headed to a small stopover in Nara before headed to Osaka. Our main reason for going to Nara was the Nara Deer Park. The park is home to over 1,200 freely roaming wild deer over 1,240 acres. The deer here are friendly. You can actually pet and feed them (To be honest they don’t really approach you unless you have food). The deer are everywhere in town, simply roaming the streets among the people.
On a side note, Nara was the first town who had soap and hand driers in their bathrooms. Shout out to Nara!
On a different side note, there are no trash cans anywhere in Japan. There are signs everywhere asking you to take your trash home with you. For sure the cities looked cleaner, but also it was a bit annoying when you were given street food and then could not do anything with what you were given. Anyways just a strange thing I noticed.
Next we were off to Osaka. We stayed in our first Air BnB type place there. The original plan was to explore Osaka for the day and then head back to Tokyo to finish seeing some sites we could not fit in before flying out. Unfortunately we received news of the typhoon Jebi that morning and had to switch our flight last minute. We headed back for Tokyo for one last night out and then we were going to fly back to LAX the next day.
The rest of our adventure in Tokyo is in the first Japan blog (since I divided up by city) if you want to know more. It was very upsetting to have our dream trip cut short, especially since we had planned to do so many more things in Osaka and Tokyo. We were extremely lucky to get out in time because the storm was devastating and the worst typhoon in 25 years. I hope anyone in the area’s affected is okay and that anyone else traveling was able to make it home safely.
We enjoyed our time in Japan so much that we have already talked about another trip soon. It was an amazing experience and I am happy to have had the opportunity to visit!
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of us enjoying crab on a stick and tea flavored ice cream…
After Tokyo we headed to Mount Fuji. We had booked a hostel in a town nearby to the base of the mountain, but had nothing planned for the next two days accommodation wise.
We also learned that there is no easy way to get from Tokyo to Mount Fuji. I thought there might be a direct train or at least a specified way, but instead we spent hours trying to figure out train lines. We would get on a train headed the right direction and then suddenly it would start heading the wrong way. We would get off the train and get on going the other way, but alas would always get back to our starting point. It was one of the most frustrating situations, especially because I speak no Japanese and could not ask for help. The good news is that we made it to the hostel.
This hostel was one of my favorites, mainly because they had free endless hard boiled eggs and bread. I am not sure what type of bread this was, but it is thick cut and everywhere is Japan. It was great bread.
Before I go on an entire post about great bread, I’ll get into the actual hike. Originally the plan was to hike up and down the mountain in a day and then head to Kyoto. There is a bus in town that takes you directly to the 5th station (I’ll explain the stations in a bit) in about an hour. By the time we reached the 5th station it was noon. The stations were distance markers that had bathrooms, snacks and seats. The 5th station is the last station reachable by bus. The rest required you to hike up. All the stations also had inns you could stay at for the night. Reservations for the inns are required, but they also take walk-ins. Obviously the higher you go up, the harder it is to get a spot in the mountain huts.
From the 5th station to the summit is roughly 6 km. When we saw that we thought it would be no problem. Hike up and down. Piece of cake. Turns out it took us 4-5 hours just to reach the 7th station. There are 9 stations total before reaching the top. A worker at the 7th station who was serving us ramen (yes you can order ramen on top of Fuji) let us know that the last bus left at 21:00 sharp. This meant we had only two options:
- Immediately climb down from where we were and hope to make it to the 5th station before sundown and before the last bus departs and head onto Kyoto. This would mean not reaching the summit.
- Continue to climb, hope that there is space for 2 in one of the mountain inns around the 8th station, stay overnight and climb to the summit in the morning with nothing but the items on our back.
Keep in mind that we had thought this would be a one day hike. All we had were our day-pack backpacks, while majority of our things were being held at the hostel. The contents of mine consisted of a rain coat, headband, water bottle, wallet, and a baseball cap. I had no change of clothes or toiletries. Plus I got my period while hiking up the mountain and had no pads or tampons (or change of underwear). Also it was extremely hot and humid during the day, but once you reach the higher altitudes, it gets close to freezing. We had no layers or jackets.
BUT…WE ARE NOT QUITTERS! We had come all the way to Mount Fuji and by God we were not going to leave without making it to the top.
With our no traction Nike running shoes, we managed to make it to the 8th station. We were lucky enough to meet another American couple who gave me pads and Advil. Also they were staying at a mountain hut on the 8th station that had enough room to let us stay last minute. LIFE SAVERS!
Although the distance between the stations got shorter, they started to take more time as the hike became steeper and altitude increased. Also to be honest I don’t think my sciatica pain and idiopathic scoliosis helped. On top of all this, there were so many tour groups hiking through, that there would be traffic on the narrow paths. It was sometimes worse that the 101 or the 405 during the morning commute.
We made it to our mountain hut at the 8th station right before sundown. It was actually insane because even at this point in the climb you were among the clouds. When you looked off into the distance it looked like you were staring out of a plane window.
The mountain hut was not really an inn, but rather racks of wooden planks, stuffed with sleeping bags. It honestly looked like the barracks inside, but a step up. We were given two spots that were so tiny you had to sleep on your side to fit. The pillows provided were not pillows, but sacks of plastic beads wrapped in plastic. Needless to say we did not get any sleep.
You had a choice between the 2am wake up call room, or the 8am wake up call room. We chose the 2am room since we were not sleeping and we wanted to see the sunrise at the summit, meaning we would need to start hiking up by 3am latest.
On a side note, none of the bathrooms on the mountain had soap or towels. It was literally hole in the ground toilets and sometimes sinks. They also wanted you to pay 200 yen each time you used the toilet. There actually was not soap or towels in most public bathrooms in Japan, especially at the major tourist sites. Do people here not use soap? Was I supposed to bring my own? My OCD-self carried around hand sanitizer everywhere anyways, but still!
At 2am we received our wake up call, otherwise known as abruptly turning on the lights. I was wide awake anyways. Let’s be real, in a room of 100 people, there are bound to be a couple snorers and sleeping bag stealers.
We luckily were able to borrow flashlights for the trek up. It was amazing to look down and see the city lights. Also when looking up you could see a path of light snaking their way up to the summit as hundreds of other idiots also hiked to the summit at 2am.
After 4 hours of hiking we finally reached the summit. The sunrise was in 10 minutes and we scurried to find a place to watch. The last 4 hours were the worst, not only because of the altitude, but the cold. All I had on was a thin pair of leggings, a shirt with a rain jacket over and my baseball cap. The mountain inn had provided surgical masks for anyone sick, but instead we wore them for heat. Plus my running shoes were not doing my ankles or knees any favors as we scaled up the last parts. My hands were shaking so much I could barely take a photo of the sun rising. It was quite beautiful though. At the highest point there is a small wooden shrine that you can walk to.
Next we hit up the gift shop on top of the mountain, which was actually quite disappointing. After all our struggles, I was ready to spend money on some sick souvenirs, but instead only ended up with a key chain. I guess I should have figured the top of the mountain would not be the easiest place to bring souvenirs.
Then we started the trek down. I actually thought the way down was harder than the way up. The decline was steep and snaked around the mountain. The path itself was covered in rocks making the ground slippery. I fell on my butt pretty much every turn. Also we were not in hiking boots, so my foot would slide with every step. My knees and toes felt like I was 90 years old. Most importantly, we finished the hike and made it down around lunch time.
I am not sure I would suggest the hike to anyone unless you come prepared. You should be wearing hiking boots, pack for extremes in both hot and cold, as well as plan your accommodations beforehand. Also, bring snacks. They are expensive and cash only only the mountain. Not going to lie the expensive snickers bars we purchased at the 6th station saved my soul.
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of the most advanced train toilet with a button that automatically lowers the seat. This could save couples across the globe.
I just returned from a trip to Japan (actually an early return due to the typhoon, but I will get into that later). I will be splitting the blog posts into 3 parts based on locations. This one will be about Tokyo, where we stayed for our first and last nights in Japan. Next will be about Mount Fuji and the last one will be about Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka.
For this trip, we backpacked the entire time. We only had 3 night’s accommodations booked ahead of time, but everything else was on the fly. We both just carried giant backpacks around and went with the flow. Although it was fun, I would not suggest backpacking to anyone traveling to Japan. It is not the same as backpacking Europe and you are much better off planning most things ahead of time. I do suggest packing light though.
We quickly learned how difficult the language barrier would be in Japan. When we first landed we had no internet, no cash and no prior planning of how to get to our hostel. (I know we should have planned better, but life happened the weeks before). We easily found a shuttle between Tokyo-Narita Airport to Tokyo center, but once there I was literally lost in translation (also one of my favorite films).
Tokyo reminded me a lot of Los Angeles or even New York. It is very spread out and each pocket has it’s own vibe. One part feels like Wall Street, full of skyscrapers and business people in suits. The other is like Times Square on steroids filled with crane games and vending machines. This made traveling within the city a bit difficult since there were so many subway lines and major areas of town that were spread apart.
After asking several people, we were able to find a person with google maps to look up directions. We found the subway line, but of course you need a subway ticket. The ticket machines themselves had an English option, but the translation was hard to understand grammatically. Then we realized the machine only took cash, and we had not converted our money yet. I had been told by lots of people to use 7/11 ATMs in Japan. I understand that sentence sounds strange, but there are actually 7/11s on every corner of Japan. They have really good Japanese food options and international ATMs (Again Tokyo and Los Angeles are very similar). We ran out of the subway to the streets but of course there is no 7/11 or even an ATM in sight. (I swear the whole rest of the trip, we never went a block without seeing one). After an hour of running around town, we finally found an ATM to get cash using our American cards. Also we finally found our hostel for the night.
For the rest of the trip we purchased a Japanese SIM card for my phone so we could look up directions and translations. This was beyond helpful once we tried to navigate public transit to all the sights and getting from city to city. Our hostel was a co-ed shared dorm. Even in the hostel, everyone had to remove their shoes before entering the bedroom area and the shared bathrooms. The hostel (and pretty much everywhere else we stayed) provided slippers to wear once in the room. This kept everything clean and honestly I’d like to incorporate this way of life once I’m home. (Plus who doesn’t like wearing slippers around everywhere). There were also special slippers used only in the bathroom.
That night was also my first encounter with the Japanese toilets. I could really do a whole blog post about how amazing and confusing these toilets were, but I will spare you that and just go on for a paragraph. Each toilet has a side console with buttons controlling the bidet and it’s pressure. More fancy toilets had different bidet options such as height adjustment and intermittent patterns. Some toilets even had heated seats. The funniest feature was a sound button, that made the sound of running water. For the Japanese, this is a way to cover up the sound of your deification, but it honestly just made me have to pee more. I was scared to try the toilet at first, but by the second day I conquered my fear.
We spent the first two days mainly sightseeing in Tokyo. It was stupid hot and humid in Tokyo (this is coming from someone who lived in Alabama for 4 years). The girls fashion in Japan tends to be very conservative. Most girls wear skirts that cover the knees and tops that cover cleavage and shoulders. Also they all wore heels, or at least shoes that were a step up form sneakers. I do not know how they survive the heat in some of the outfits. I was drying wearing jean shorts and a spaghetti strap tank.
We went to Menji shrine, Shinjuku Gyo-en, the Tokyo tower, Hamarikyu Gardens and some more that I can’t even remember the names. Seeing shrines in Japan was like seeing churches in Europe, there are way too many to see in one trip and they are literally everywhere. We only had a limited time in Japan and of course there was way more we wanted to see, but also we wanted to spend some time enjoying the city, shopping, eating and drinking.
Our second night we stayed at the Hyatt because I love Lost in Translation and why not treat ourselves to a fancy night (we may have said the same thing in Kyoto for one night, but what the hell). We went to the restaurant in the hotel. I am not really sure what we ordered, but Chad’s dish came with a raw egg in a bowl on the side. We had no idea what to do with it. Do we scramble and cook it in the ramen like soup while it’s still hot? Do we our it over something? Slurp it straight? Turns out you scramble it and dip the meat into the raw egg like a sauce. It now has me thinking about salmonella and about how I could be eating raw cookie dough.
Our original plan was to come back to Tokyo for the last days of our trip since our flight out was from Narita. As you may know from the news, the strongest typhoon in 25 years hit Japan yesterday. We were given a heads up about the storm and decided it would be better to fly out the day before the storm instead of risking getting stuck and possibly ending up somewhere unsafe. This meant we lost our extra time in Tokyo, so we were unable to see some main sights. Again, I will come back to the other parts of our trip in the next posts, but for now I will skip ahead to our last part in Tokyo.
The last part we stayed in Shinjuku, which was definitely the part of town for nightlife. We first went to Shibuya Crossing, which is rumored to be the busiest intersection in the world. The backdrop is like Times Square, filled with bright lights, colors and people. The crosswalks in Japan are more efficient in my opinion. Instead of each street having their own time to cross dependent on lights, all of the lights go red and time is given for pedestrians to cross any which way they want (adjacent, across, diagonal). When it was crossing time at this intersection, you could not see the street. It’s like when you are a kid and the screen turns into white and black fuzz. Then the black overtakes the screen. (I think we used to call this the ants fighting as kids, but you get the point of how crowded it can get).
This intersection had a bit more meaning that just being an awesome place to visit and walk around. About a year ago, I was working a reception desk on the Sony Lot. There was giant (bigger than me) canvas of Shibuya crossing at night. It was overexposed so the neon lights were bright and swirly. The facilities workers said that the poster was not going to be used, and they were going to have to get rid of it. I asked if I could take it home and they said it is all mine if I can figure out how to get it home from the office. I knew that Chad had always wanted to go to Japan and that he studied the language and culture in college, so I figured it would be an awesome gift. We managed to get the canvas to his room and hang it up next to the bed. Every night we would stare at it and talk about how we would go to Japan and see it in person. Not even a year later, we made it to the same intersection. Unfortunately we did not have the right equipment to take the same photo as the canvas.
We also went out in an area called the Golden Gai. It looks as if you are walking the streets of Blade Runner, filled with tiny hole in the wall bars. There was also a sushi conveyor belt restaurant around the corner. The whole part of town was just weird and awesome.
After our first days in Tokyo, our next stop was Mount Fuji, which will be in the next post.
Until then, please enjoy this photo on how to use the Western-style toilet…
As you may be able to tell from my photos, I just got back from a vacation in Alaska. I traveled there with a friend from study abroad to stay with another friend from study abroad and have a mini reunion in the final frontier. To answer some quick questions, I know you are all dying to know…I did not see Russia from my backyard and I did not get eaten by a bear, nor did I see one (a little bummed about both these facts). Although it was beautiful in Alaska, my reasoning for going on the trip was to see old friends. If you have an opportunity to re-connect with friends, I highly suggest it. People are the most important thing in your life.
Alaska is the 3rd least populous and the most sparsely populated of the 50 states, but ironically it is the most populous territory located north of the 60th parallel. The estimated population is 738,432 (not even a million), with half of Alaska’s residents residing in Anchorage. I know you may not care, but I had a lot of time to read Wikipedia during my layover and thought it was interesting.
I arrived at Anchorage airport around 11:40pm and it was still daylight outside. It did not hit me right away how far north we were, practically close to the arctic circle. Science tells me that we did experience some darkness (since we were below arctic circle), but it felt like one continuous day.
Our first day we headed 2 hours south to Seward, Alaska. The drive itself was gorgeous and seemed like it was almost fake. The bright blue water mixed with the snow topped mountains was breath taking. It was only 15 minutes outside of Anchorage where the mountains started to overtake the view.
Some history on Seward first (and the Alaska Purchase). The Alaska Purchase was the United States’ acquisition of Alaska from Russia in 1867. Russia wanted to sell the land due to its difficult living conditions and lack of natural resources (the irony must have killed them later). Also, they did not want the United Kingdom to easily seize the territory in case of war. The town name of Seward comes from its actual purchaser, Secretary of State, William H Seward. Americans opposed the purchase and dubbed it “Seward’s Folly.” I guess those natural resources really showed them.
For the next two days we camped right by the sea in Seward. Every July 4th the town has a race up and down Mount Marathon, about 906 meters high. Also, the town in mile 0 of the historic Iditarod Trail. The trail began as a passage across several mountain ranges and valleys en route to Nome for Alaskan native peoples. When the gold rush hit in 1910, thousands of people began traveling the trail, populating along it. Today, it is the route for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race every year.
On our first day we went on a tour of the Iditarod Sled Dog facility. This is where they train the sled dogs until they race. The dogs will also train with their team, but remember we are in Alaska in the summer, so it is easier to train by pulling tourists. The trail, as mentioned earlier, goes all the way to Nome during the winter. It is a brutal course, that typically takes easily over 8 days, where you get no sleep and must travel alone while taking care of your 12-14 dogs. The girl giving us the tour came in 49th place this year, but keep in mind that not everyone finishes the race. Finishing is a feat. She was a total badass.
The tour started with a puppy cuddle session. I could have died happy in those moments. A lot of people assume these dogs are huskies, but they are all mutts. Most dogs were pulled by people in the gold rush and taken off the streets. Now the dogs are bred based on their racing qualities. After we were taught about the sled dogs attire and equipment (you can see a picture of Custard below with full get up). Then we were taken on a sled ride. The dogs love racing. They bark and howl if they must stop at any moment. All they want to do is run.
The dogs are attached at their side to another dog. When they stopped to take a pee break, they first went to the right side and all the right-side dogs peed. Then in sync they shifted to the left side, so the other half could pee. It was quite hilarious. Also, female dogs do not race because the male dogs were getting too distracted especially in heat. Another fun fact is that the term “mush” or “mushers” comes from the French verb, marcher, or to walk. We are simply mispronouncing the term and now because of movies/TV/culture, think it is the word to say to sled dogs.
Later that day we hiked up Exit Glacier. It is an active glacier located right outside Seward. We did not see any bears on the hike, but always remember to carry bear spray. It is like pepper spray on steroids. During the hike there are signs showing where the glacier used to be based on the year. For those who think climate change is not real…the below picture is taken at the sign that reads “Year 2010.” In just 8 years the glacier has shrunk significantly, and it is not getting any better. I am happy that I got to see this because who knows how long we will be able to hike and see it. Before I get myself on a rant and depressed, I’ll continue along with our trip.
The next day we took a 3.5-hour wildlife cruise through Resurrection Bay in Seward. The name has something to do with retreating during a bad storm. You can look it up if interested, I cannot recall. We got to see everything from a humpback whale, sea lions, sea otters, puffins and bald eagles (4th of July, freedom, America, etc…) Also, they gave us bloody mary’s on the cruise, so it was just perfect.
After Seward, we headed back to Anchorage for the rest of the trip. We started by going to the art museum. There was an underlying theme of current culture overtaking the native lands. This theme can be stretched throughout the entire US, but especially in areas such as Alaska, where there is still “untouched” land. One may view this lands as a place that is not be utilized, an economic opportunity, while one may see it for the beauty it holds and believe we must keep that land safe (think of it as Pocahontas I guess). Anyways, it was very interested to see.
Then we went to the bars of Anchorage. The downtown area was great and bigger than I had expected. I also did no research before coming to Alaska, so that is on me. We went to two speakeasy’s in town. The first one we had to leave (there was no rule about playing “Bad and Boujee” and not knowing it was heard by the actual fancy restaurant out front…opps).
For our last day we went to Crow Creek Mill. The town was established in 1896 and is still one of Alaska’s most renowned hydraulic gold mining operations. Walking through the town feels as if you are back in time, working in the mill yourself. Then we treated ourselves to dinner and drinks at the famous Double Musky Inn, located in Girdwood, Alaska. It is a cajun style restaurant built in 1962 and was originally an after ski bar stop.
Thank you Charlie for being a wonderful host (also to your roommate Nolan for letting us take over your place). Lizzy, thank you for agreeing to come with me. Being able to see you both again was a dream come true.
Until next time, please enjoy this tree with a donk (that is slang for big butt)
I don’t know why we take so much time to reflect during milestones, but here I am sitting at my new favorite coffee shop in Noho trying to decipher the last year I lived. Exactly two years ago, I had surgery and was unable to walk for 6 weeks. Fast forward to one year ago when I boarded a one way flight to LA without a job or place to live. Then yesterday I graduated from the UCLA Professional Program in television writing and have been working a full time job and possibly even upgrading to get air conditioning in my next apartment (okay that last one is a long shot, LA is expensive y’all).
Even with so much excitement leading up to big milestones, I still find myself unsure about a lot of things. I am only 24 years old and barely know anything. At times I feel like I have control of LA life. I wake up (in my adult bed that is not made of air) feeling like I understand what I am doing and what is next. Other days I feel like I am clueless about life and can’t even kill handle killing a cockroach in my room by myself.
For the past year, I had deadlines every week, where some beat sheet, outline, or draft of a script was due. Then each week I would get notes and support from my workshop. Now I am back on my own (well I still have my classmates for support and notes, but not a forced weekly meeting). I am struggling trying to map out how I will bring that writing structure back into my life, so I am doing what I do best, writing it all out on here in hopes of coming to some clarity.
A lot of people ask me how I like Los Angeles, but to be fair I have not even lived in the same city consistently for over a year in the past 5 years. For anyone else who grew up in northeastern cities, you may know how different the west coast can be. I am a big believer that it does not matter where you live, but the people you are with in that location. The other day, I overhead a man saying how much he originally hated living in LA, but then just realized he was lonely and it was not necessarily LA that he hated, but his loneliness while here. I am like most 24 year olds in these giant cities. Just wondering around trying to figure out how to not be lonely while chasing dreams. I have a feeling this lasts the rest of your life.
So much has happened over the past year! I finally got a real bed after sleeping on my air mattress for 2 years. I figured out car insurance (sorta) and that one red light ticket will cause the price to go up $50 every month. I got a 401K plan and I’m very close to understanding how it works and why it is important that I got one. Most importantly, I worked full time (and overtime) while taking night classes and finished strong with three new scripts!
At the UCLA graduation ceremony one of the guest speakers told us what will define our careers is what we end up doing on Monday night in lieu of class. Just because the program ended does not mean the work of the writer is over. If you have ever stared at a blinking cursor over a blank page for hours straight you may understand the anxiety we all feel graduating. On Monday, all of us must go out there and continue writing our stories on our own.
I think back to my first months here in LA, full of unknowns (like where is my next paycheck going to come from because rent is still due), but also just trying to find purpose after a year of recovery at home. I talked about this in a previous blog, but here goes again because I love it so much. As one of my favorite poems by David Wagoner says, “Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here, and you must treat it as a powerful stranger.” I am here and I am not lost, but just standing still to take it all in.
In other news, I also joined a co-ed flag football league. We play at Santa Monica beach on Saturdays. A couple weeks ago we played in the playoffs and actually won the championship! Hopefully the next season will be starting again soon.
I decided to be super adult and see a dentist for the first time in 2-3 years. Let me tell you it was a giant mistake. Now I have to go back and get a lot of cavities filled and I am terrified. Please send your thoughts and prayers!
As for the future, I do have some plans. I hope to go back and revise some scripts I worked on this year as well as start some new ones. Maybe even write and film a short. I keep saying I am going to update this blog more, but I promise I am working on it. Most importantly I am going back to Philly for a visit in 2 weeks.
Now that school has finished, I also decided to take some vacation time. I am taking a trip to Alaska to visit some friends from study abroad. Not sure on our plans, but I am sure pictures and blog posts are to come. Lastly, I purchased a 10 day roundtrip ticket to Japan over labor day weekend. More to come on that as we start to plan.
Thank you to my friends and family for being my biggest support system as I moved out to LA and continued on with school and working. My father who took a week off to help me apartment hunt and move in all my thrift store finds. My mother who was always available for a late night phone call and my biggest cheerleader. My sister for always being my best friend. My grandparents who helped me afford my Trader Joe’s addiction while at the UCLA program and believing in my writing. My room mate for passing off my rent checks to the landlord and making sure I was alive each week. My boyfriend for making me coffee everyday and giving me the space to always be creative. Also to all my friends who have shown so much support and love.
Until next time, please enjoy this photo of an inspiring quote from our new favorite North African taco joint…
Sorry for not writing any blog posts in the past couple months. I have been a tad busy, starting a new full time job, continuing night classes and trying to maintain everyday life things such as eating and showering. To start, let me give some updates.
At first I thought it would be simple. You go and pick out a bed frame and place the mattress on top…oh boy was I wrong. First of all, if you think you can remember everything in one IKEA trip, then you are mistaken. You will need to go multiple times. Second, you also need a support bar and stacks for the bed. Also, if you like to sleep high up like myself, then you have to purchase a box spring. Then on top of all this (puns intended) you need a mattress protector, sheets, comforter, pillows, pillow cases, etc…
I realize I have been slacking on my blog posts, but I have just been so busy the past weeks. So, here goes the next one:
This past week while eating lunch outside at Sony, I left my purse on a chair. I did not realize I had left my purse there until an hour later when facilities contacted me about a missing purse with my ID inside. Of course I was so thankful and a bit nervous that I did not even notice my purse was missing. They returned the purse to the front desk where I work. The security guard asked me to check the wallet because it looks as if some cash was stollen. She made note that there was only $2.00 in the wallet. I had to look her dead in the face and explain that at this point in time I only had $2.00 period. So that is how life is going.
Do not worry, that was the day all my bills were due and my pay check was late due to the holiday. I promise I have enough money to live…kinda.
This week has been filled with crazy overtime hours as well as a working Saturday. On top of this my last sketch comedy writing class is this Sunday. My UCLA screenwriting classes start the first week in October. I feel like I have not even had a second to breathe other than last night when I finally caught up on Bachelor in Paradise (go ahead and judge me).
Other than working and doing writing assignments, my life is not too interesting. I was able to go to the Alabama bar for the first football game. The bar had Gallettes cups with yellowhammers as well as Dreamland BBQ sauce. For all the people that don’t know what I am talking about, Gallettes is a famous Alabama bar on the strip that serves a famous drink known as yellowhammer in yellow plastic cups that you can take home. It was incredible to be surrounded by Alabama fans again. Back in Philadelphia, my mom and I would be the only ones cheering on the Tide, while everyone around us was rooting against them.
I also tried my first escape room, which we completed with 10 minutes to spare (yeah I’m kinda a big deal). They are super fun if you like puzzles. I am a total nerd who loves puzzles (well especially Sudoku).
Last week I attended one of the sketch comedy shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater. As a student, we can attend certain events for free. Usually it is sketch comedy, but in an amazing surprise turn of event, it was a puppet musical. The musical was about four friends who move to LA in hopes of making it in the entertainment industry, but of course learn the harsh realities of LA quickly. It may have hit a bit too close to home at times.
In a week it will have been three months since I have moved to LA. Some days it feels like I have been here for years and other it still feels like my first week. I think these moves have just become second nature to me. Over the past 5 years alone, I have lived in 6 different cities, each time starting over.
I have realized this is a pattern for our generation. Maybe it is just me who sees it, but most of my friends have scattered across the US for either jobs or school. It seems we are all just continuous nomads. Sure moving and finding your bearings in a new place can be hard, but I think the most challenging thing is starting relationships over. It is hard enough to make friends again in a whole new city, but it keeps getting harder once I have to leave a place, where I am already established. Life has a crazy way of moving you from place to place, so I guess I will have to see how long this journey will continue.
In other news, I purchased a flight home for Thanksgiving weekend. Sure I arrive in Philadelphia at 5:00am on Thursday, but at least I get to see some family and maybe attend my high school reunion on that Friday.
I understand this blog is short, but I just wanted to give some updates in the little free time I could find. Until next time please enjoy this photo of the biggest fire to ever hit LA from last weekend. This is fine. We are all going to be fine. Global warming can’t be real with all this proof.
I have officially hit the two month mark in LA as of August 17th. It really does not seem as if that much time has passed. I still feel like I moved here a week ago. Although there is not too much to report, I always enjoy sharing what’s happening in my week.
This weekend my room mate and I attended Brunch Con. Imagine Comic Con, but for brunch. It is exactly what you picture. There is an endless bloody mary and mimosa bar, multiple food stations (egg station, waffle station, bacon station), as well as photo booths. All my basic girl dreams came true!
I cannot rave about Brunch Con enough! If you want to go next year (it is annual) please let me know. I am planning on matching t-shirts and fanny packs so that I can easily access my fork.
We also went to brunch the next day at a place called Akasha in Culver City. They loved our matching Brunch Con shirts so much, they gave us free drinks and put our picture on their social media sites. It pays to brunch!
My most proud moment of the week was figuring out car insurance. Once my car was registered in California, I ]also had to switch over the insurance to California. The thought of limits and liability scared me (and still scares me), but after multiple phone calls and tons of research, I was able to get car insurance. It was the most adult I felt in a long time.
As always, I am keeping myself busy. I am guilty of something I think most of us are. I tend to spend too much time preparing for my next move that I forget to enjoy where I am in the moment. It is sometimes only when I look back on the past year that I realize it is all just a memory. From time to time I even wake up in a panic in my new room, forgetting that I had uprooted my entire life to Los Angeles.
A couple months ago, before moving to LA, my mom and I took some yoga classes together. We did one specifically that took place on the new moon. There are a myriad of groups and places that hold “moon circles,” or “women circles.” It is worth trying if you ever have the time.
Anyways during the class, we were doing a breathing exercise and the teacher read a poem during it. If you know me, then you know I am a literary nerd. Of course I went home, looked up the poem, dissected it and thought about it’s meaning all night. The poem is as follows:
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
Some of you may already know this poem. I had heard it before, but never really thought of it again until this class. It resonated with me and in the past week, it has come back into my thoughts.
I am learning to stand still (this is coming from the girl who spontaneously buys cheap flights on Skyscanner every couple months). It sounds like a simple concept, but it is harder than I imagined. I get so wrapped up in all the future talk, that I forget that I am here, in this moment, at this time. That is the beauty of literature though, the ability to make your mind wonder through words.
Sometimes I forget that I am only 23 years old and I do not need to have everything figured out. Where I am at right now is great. I am not lost. I am simply here.
I will wrap this up before I get too deep.
So on final thought…remember to stand still.
Until next time please enjoy this photo of the Jeopardy sound stage that I pass by on the way to my car everyday…