Beware the x-shot...
If you didn't know, the x-shot is an extendable camera arm that allows you to take pictures of yourself and the scenery behind you with ease. It also allows everyone to be in the picture because no one has to physically hold the camera. What they didn't tell you on their website (x-shot.com) is that airport security will assume you are a threat and search your bag. Not just one TSA member, but three. They will hold it up and confer amongst themselves about what you have attempted to enter the gate with. The security staff at South Korea was very suspicious about the x-shot, almost to the point of fearing it. Leave it to the kind people at the Chicago airport to tell me that it looks like a large knife when conceiled in your backpack. The guy said, "Do yourself a favor, and put it directly on the bin next time, that way it doesn't look like you are trying to hide a large knife in the bottom of your backpack.
So get on that x-shot, put a disclaimer about how dangerous your camera-extender-arm appears to be when put under an x-ray machine.
Sitting in Seoul...
Well, the trip is all done and I have to say that it exceeded my expectations. Not only did I manage to immerse myself in Japan for a 11 days, but I also managed to learn a few things about myself. I will have to wait until I have a clear-head to write out a few more posts about miscellaneous adventures in Japan, but I definitely want to live in Japan for a year sometime in the near future.
I do feel different too. I managed to get lost many times and find myself in the end.
I decided to take a chance...
Tomorrow is my last full day in Japan, and I decided to roll the dice. I went out to the Namba/scary district for a dose of the night-life. I made sure to only bring $120 worth of yen, and leave my wallet and everything else behind. I ended up partying like a crazy man for a bit and then making sure that I called it an early night and made the last train by 11:30PM. I'm glad I made it because a local assured me that I would be jumped if I was walking by myself. Anywho, I had a blast! I'm glad I got to party it up...SAFELY. There are many other minute details about the evening, just ask and I will tell.
Drinking brings out the all the Japanese words you thought you forgot...
I just got back from an evening out at the local izakaya (pub and restaurant). At around 10PM I met Megumi, Yakun, and Saori at a local 711 and we walked a few blocks to a restaurant that I didn't know existed. I have walked by the sign for this place at least 6 times now, and didn't realize that it was an izakaya. Leave it to the locals to give you the inside scoop on things you wouldn't find as a tourist. We went in and sat down, I immediately asked Yakun for his recommendations on sake. See the video/pic for the interesting "Japanese Style" way of serving the sake. We then had sushi (with wasabi) and several side dishes. One of the most noteable dishes was the octopus and wasabi mixture. They told me that it is very popular among people that are drinking, which I was. This was my first time in Japan consuming more than 1 drink during a meal. I had 2 large glasses of sake and a strong side-glass of some sort of potato alcohol that Yakun recommended. We then proceeded to talk about random dinner things and laugh a lot. Yakun is hilarious! One thing I did notice. After a few drinks, I was able to throw out fluent Japanese sentences in the mixture of everyone's conversation and they could actually comprehend what I was saying. As opposed to my earlier experience at Yoshinoya (famous Gyuudon chain) where I spoke correct Japanese and they still didn't understand me (American accent?). All-in-all, the time out tonight was defninitely one of my key highlights for the trip. Not only did I finally get to try several different amazing sake drinks, I also comprehended about 80% of the conversations the whole night. They also would not let me pay for my meal, which was a nice surprise. The total amout was around $100 USD. See the pictures from the 20081124 album, there are many.
When in doubt..."Kore onegaishimasu"
I was planning on going to Chuo Ichiban (my favorite sushi restaurant) tonight but they were closed because of the holiday (today is Thanksgiving holiday here). Talk about slow, I went to the Umeda district today to go to the top of the Umeda Sky Building again, and it was much less hectic. After finding that my place was closed, I walked around until I found "Shi-Ten-Noh". I walked in, was greeted, and took a seat. The waitress came over as I was looking at the menu and I had no idea what anything was. One picture looked like a bowl with some sort of meat and ramen noodles, so I pointed at that and said, "Kore onegaishimasu" (this please). It's pretty awesome when you can revert back to the old days of pointing and saying "This". Needless to say, the dish was delicious, and I also ordered a nama biru (draft beer).
To party or not to party? That is the question.
I was planning on hitting up a few pubs and clubs while in Osaka, but now I am apprehensive. After speaking with Megumi and then googling about it, I am not sure that I want to party in the Namba district. One, it is the home for the yakuza and the most bums in Osaka. Two, I read that it has the most crime second to Tokyo. So, the question is...bring just $150 bucks with me and try it out, or go to a local izakaya by my house and drink alongside 5 other salarymen? I have no idea what I will do yet, so maybe I will just go out and karaoke the US national anthem at a local pub....Just kidding
--Update from 8 hours later--
I went to the Namba district with Megumi to eat and shop. On the way out from eating and walking around, we stopped in an arcade and ended up playing the coin games for about 2 hours! I thought it was about 10PM so when I looked at my watch and it was midnight...oh crap! The subway back to my house is now closed, so we decided to walk back halfway through a very creepy, desolate namba area. There were bums, drunk people, and what looked like 'ladies of the evening' everywhere. I should have thrown together some quick newspaper armor and made a shank, but decided to get out of there instead. So, if you are wondering/worried about me drinking in the Namba area, dont worry about it. The only way I would party there is if I had a few of my friends/wingmen with me.
Pop demo Gyuunu...
Pop and milk? You say gross, I say 'Try it'. Holy crap is it good. The brand is called Skal pronouced (skoal), and it isn't as terrible as you may think. I was a little apprehensive to buy this new drink, but I'm glad I did. So if you ever have a chance, try out some Skal, or just mix up some skim-milk and pop at your place!
Also, try the Coffee shake from Mos Burger if you ever get a chance...ridiculous!
If you want to learn Japanese...
I'd like to share some advice for people that wish to learn Japanese or wish to visit Japan in the future. If you want to learn Japanese and don't have enough time to go through a 6-month course, I would recommend the Pimsleur Japanese audio CDs. These CDs go right in to it by giving you real conversations that you will have in Japan, and how to have a general conversation. Maybe I did something wrong, but Rosetta Stone seems like it is for generally learning about a language than to actually use it. Sure, I know how to say 'car, horse, cat, dog, colors, numbers, man, woman, cook, swimming, walking, running' from the Rosetta Stone, but I didn't get how to have a conversation from that software.
So to summarize:
-If you have less than 6 months of time before you go to Japan, get the Pimsleur CDs
-If you have more than 6 months of time, buy Rosetta Stone
-Even better, find a penpal and combine weekly emails with one of the above methods
I fell asleep on the subway...
I fell asleep on the subway after a non-stop day of traveling to Kyoto, shopping, eating, visiting temples, shopping, and more eating. LOL, I'll write about it tomorrow morning.
I fell asleep on the subway because yesterday was the first non-stop mentally and physically demanding day. I woke up at a normal time, got ready, and was headed out for Awaji eki at 9:30AM. Then, Megumi and I hopped on the limited express train to Kyoto. Kyoto is very beautiful and has much more English-speaking people there because it is a gaijin spot. So far, in Osaka I have seen 3 white people. In Kyoto I must have seen 200. I'm glad I chose Osaka though, because that allowed me to delve deeper into the immersion experience. I managed to get almost everyone's souvenirs in Kyoto. Today I also tried gyuudon for the first time (beef bowl). Let me tell you, gyuudon is incredible! Throw a little ginger on there, combine it with Miso soup and Japanese pickles, and you have a great (inexpensive) meal. After shopping we walked about an hour to the first temple (golden temple). Then went to a hideaway restaraunt that only local Kyoto residents know about. We ate gratin (rice patty, potatoe, cheese), a tomato and fried anchovy salad, and nachos(per my recommendation)! Then we walked to another temple and went in to the heart of the temple (basement). We were required to take our shoes off and walk down these stairs to a pitch black hallway. We had to hold on to a guide rope so you dont fall or get lost. Then, in the middle of the basement-walk through the temple, there is a lit up symbol that everyone hits as they walk by. Very interesting when you dont know why you are walking in to a pitch black basement with your shoes off! My ankle was hurting pretty bad around 9PM for some reason, so we decided to head back on the 45 minute walk to the train station for Osaka. On the train there were many people packed together, and I managed to pass out for about 30 minutes!
I wonder how much weight I lost so far living here?
What has two thumbs and takes pictures of a futuristic toilet when going to a museum? This guy.
I almost forgot to write about this. When visiting the Osaka Museum of History today I had to use the restroom. As soon as I walked in to the bathroom, I noticed something was different. The amount of technology they put in to this toilet is amazing. It had lights, 2 control panels, and some sort of advanced seat design. It reminded me of supercomputers from the movies, with the blinking lights and slight hum too. You can see the pictures in the 2008-11-19 album. I just had to pee (thank god), so I did my thing and when it was time to flush, hesitated. One, because I didn't know where the flush button was. Two, the pictures on the control panel looked like it has a built-in bidet feature. I instantly imagined water squirting up in the air soaking me when all I was trying to do was flush. So, if you are reading this museum employees or guy that used the restroom after I did. I didn't flush, not because I'm a slob, but because I had too much respect for your toilet.
A typical awesome dinner party...some good eats, beer, magic tricks, knife tricks, and Baba-Nuki
What an experience, I would have never thought that I would get to experience an authentic home-cooked meal/dinner party with friends in Japan. I did have to subway-hop to get to Megumi's place, but it was well worth it. When I arrived I was greeted by her best-friend and then her best-friends boyfriend showed up. Everyone was incredibly nice! We had a type of open sushi with Unagi and tamago, a stew, a specialty of Osaka (batter with octopus, crispy rice, and something else), only Kansai-area noodles, and a few other dishes that I didn't know the ingredients to. EVERY single dish was oishee (delicious), I had a blast. We all sat around what looked like 2 coffee tables joined together and sat on floor cushions. After dinner, we proceeded to play with the knife/hand game, card/coin magic tricks, uno, and Baba-Nuki. Baba-Nuki is the card game 'old maid' if you are curious. It was a very cool night. Tomorrow morning we are going to Kyoto to see the Aquarium and temple. Kyoto is about an hour by train.
If you know me, you know I like to use the word 'awesome'. Well, I was hanging out yesterday with Megumi and I replied to her sentence with 'awesome'. She looked and me funny and explained that awesome=saying it's cold outside, perfect! It was very cold last night, so I then played out the joke for the rest of the night by walking outside and yelling awesome, then walking in to a warmer area and saying 'awesome' in the American sense of the word. I guess you have to be here to get it, but I will never forget that Japanese word for the rest of my life, guaranteed.
Another fun and exhausting day...
Today was great. I went to Starbucks for breakfast again, which is my last time eating there. Megumi came to my area in Osaka and showed me all of the famous/good restaurants. After Starbucks I went to Osaka Castle to actually go in and view the history of the castle, it was very interesting. While I was there, there were many students on field trips (hundreds), so I was actually interrupted a few times by students that wanted to practice their English (which I didn't mind at all). After they would ask me some questions, they would all giggle, and look through their books to ask me another question. In between questions though, they would stare at me like I was one of the exhibits behind the glass. I surprised them a few times when I would ask questions back in nihongo-ga (Japanese language). They would jump around and though it was very impressive that I knew some of their language. I do have one picture of one of the groups that I talked to in today's album. The other groups were very busy, so I did not bother to get their pictures. I think there were about 6 total groups of students that asked me if I could be in a picture with them, which was pretty cool. It gave me a chance to flash the peace sign and represent for Americans. I spent a few hours at the Osaka Castle, and the view from the top was beautiful. Today I actually asked many strangers to take my picture, because the x-shot is frowned upon very much here for some reason. After leaving the castle I asked a student to take my picture in the Samurai cutout, little did I know that all 200 kids were going to laugh and watch the picture-taking. I got the shot nonetheless, so it was worth it.
At around 2:30 I met up with Megumi for a teriyaki burger and some shopping. I bought souvenirs for: Andy H, Amanda, Dave, Mike, Mom, and Dad. I figured out what I am getting Adam, and that is in Kyoto. And sorry Mike, I did not get you a new wife in a suitcase. After shopping, we went and saw 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead' (not recommended). I really wanted to see the new James Bond movie, but Megumi said it will be in Japan in a month or so. I realized that some releases are slow to get to Japan when I asked her if she liked the new Batman, and she said, "Batman Begins is very good." Why so serious?? If you ever come to Osaka, check out the Yodobashicamera building by the Umeda station, it is 9 floors of shopping, electronics, and food goodness. After the movie Megumi found me my first energy drink, which is Japan-wide famous. Then we walked around my hotel area so she could recommend some restaurants. It turns out, I am in a very good area! There is the most famous gyudon (beef bowl) shop just down the street from me, and another great food chain as well. This way I can have a typical Japanese breakfast tomorrow. Breakfast will be: rice, miso soup, and egg (usually raw, but I am going to have scrambled). I told her I would try the raw egg in the rice before I leave though. Tomorrow night, I am going to Megumi's house for a homecooked Japanese dinner with her and her friends. That is going to be an interesting experience. I think I should study up on my manners and bring my jisho (dictionary).
One last thing I just remembered. When we were at the Yodobashicamera building, I asked her to play piano at a music store. She was very modest and asked me to play first. She took video of me struggling through the first 2 bars of the Fur Elise and then totally owned me on every song. Way to be a tool, Gregg. If you watch the video, you can see how bad I got owned.
Ok, I am super tired. I still cant sleep past 5AM.
Chuo Ichiba - I could eat there everyday.
It turns out, the first place I went to eat on Day 0 in Osaka, is my favorite. Tonight for dinner, was my 3rd time eating at Chuo Ichiba. During the week the prices are even lower, I couldn't believe it! I walked in (this time without my notepad for phrases) and was instantly greeted and remembered by the staff. I sat down, washed my hands with the oshibori and ordered water and tea (O-mizo wo kudasai, ocha). Then the server came up later and asked what I would like to eat. "Roku unagi maki-zuishi, miso soup kudasai (6 piece Eel rolled sushi and miso soup please)" I replied.
It turns out that during the week their prices are much cheaper, it only cost me around 8 dollars for that meal. Hence, I could eat there everyday and be content.
Afterwards I went to bar Skippy, what an experience. I walked in, and instantly smelled smoke and heard American Country music. The bartender was dressed like a cowboy, it was pretty interesting. He asked what I would like, I replied, "nama biru". He only had Heineken on tap so he picked up a small and big glass and asked which. I said "oki desu" obviously (big glass). After I was done conversating and drinking my beer I paid and left my first tip in Japan. The bartender was very suprised.
Day 3 - Osaka Castle
I usually head to Starbucks in the morning for coffee and their high-speed internet to upload my videos/pictures. On my way back from my morning stop, I saw a street sign that pointed east and said Osaka Castle was .3 Kilometers. I had not made any plans for Day 3, so I decided to check out the castle. Talk about awe-inspiring, I became a neck-strap-wearing camera-happy American immediately. I am glad that my old camera was stolen from me this last Halloween in Rockford, because that would not have represented how beautiful everything was. I figured that I had enough good pictures by time I got to the entrance of the main building, so I didn't pay the admission to get in. Well, after reading on the internet that there is a 'museum' type display of the history of the castle inside, as well as a sky-deck to see Osaka, I will be going back soon. I used the phrase, "Sumimasen, totte moraemasuka?" frequently. (Excuse me, will you please take my picture)
Day 2 - Pulling an all-nighter by staying up until Midnight
Today was incredible. I woke up early again (the usual 10PM sleep - 3:30AM wake, 5AM sleep - 7AM wake sleep schedule), but I felt awake for the entire day for some reason. I went to Mos Burger for breakfast (lol) around 10AM after getting ready and had myself a burger and fries and some coke. The burger was more like a sausage patty, so I guess that constitutes as a breakfast sandwhich? Then I headed out to Starbucks for my morning coffee and internet uploads. By the way, I love getting up early here because Ohaiyo Gozaimasu is so fun to say to everyone with a smile! After my uploads were all done, I busted out my Central Osaka map and marked down all of the locations on the map I wanted to visit. Since I can tell which direction I am going and dont feel lost anymore based on reference points, I decided to walk to America Mura and see what that's all about (American village). I think it took me at least 45 minutes to walk to the entrance.
I did notice something along the way though. When there are side streets with walk or dont walk lights that people will wait up to 4 minutes for the sign to turn green (midori), even though there are no cars around and it is a side street. Occasionally, some people bike through or walk through the intersection, but I can tell that it isn't proper. Being that I am a foreigner, I decided that (no matter what) I am going to obey the red (akai) and green (midori) lights. The last thing I need is a police officer giving me a hard time or a local thinking I don't respect their laws/rules.
America Mura is huge! If you have a fear of crowds I wouldn't recommend it. I am not afraid of crowds at all and the initial shock of how many people that were in such a small space gave me some anxiety for about 10 seconds. I walked the tunnel of shops that seemed to be about 2 miles long, ridiculous! One funny thing that happened when I was in America Mura was when I stopped at an arcade to demonstrate my skills. The only game that looked fun was the 'Rambo' shooter game. So many people though it was hilarious that an America-jean was playing a Rambo shooter game, and owning it! I pretty much gave those people the impression that all Americans have awesome game skills, haha. After the arcade I stopped at a music store and looked at some fancy-looking pianos. In the music store they actually had a DJ section, this was an unexpected and great surprise. I saw that they have Serato Scratch Live for sale (DJ program with MP3 control over Vinyl turn tables) and asked the DJ/salesperson if he could give me a demo of the program. I have the video of his beat-juggling and scratching skills on the site. After the music store I walked through the rest of the shopping tunnel and continued on to my Mansion/Apt.
Once I got to my Mansion I uploaded some pics and relaxed my feet for an hour or so. At around 5PM I received a text message from Megumi saying that I should come to the Yodobashicamera building to meet her. I busted out the trusty map and found the nearest subway station (Tonnimachi 4 Chono) and went down the stairs to my first scary subway experience. After walking through the maze of tunnels I found the ticketing station. Whats that? No English at all, no English button on the ticketing machine. I look around and ask an elderly lady with a kind face, "Sumimasen, umeda eki doko desu ka? (Excuse me, where is umeda station?)" and point to my map, then point to the machine and say, "Wakarimasen (I don't understand)". She looks at me and motions for me to follow her to the machine, puts her hand out, I give her ichi-sen en(1,000 yen=$10) and she buys the ticket for me and gives me my change. She then motions for me to follow her. On our way walking to the subway car, I say, "Sumimasen, Watashiwa eigo-ga sukoshi wakarimasu" (I only know a little Japanese, sorry). She replies that it is ok and we board the subway. On the subway, I ask her what exit I am supposed to get off for Umeda station, she does not know the English to reply so she asks a girl next to her if she knows English. Meet Haruka, who made my day by being the first person to speak English that I have come across in Osaka. I talk to her on the train and she happens to be getting off at the same exit as me. We talk about the usual small stuff (work?, graduated?, degree?, where are you from?, why Osaka?) and we finally get outside the train station. She then asks me if I would like to have dinner with her and her boyfriend because he is also trying to study English. I say sure and we exchange numbers, and snap a picture together with the X-shot!
I get to the Yodobashicamera building, and while waiting for Megumi, meet two Americans from Texas. They were very nice and had a lot of advice to offer. After about 15 minutes of conversating I received a phone call from Megumi and go meet her at the entrance of the building. We talk for a few minutes and decide to go get something to eat. If it weren't for Megumi, I wouldn't have ever found this place, and it was great (sugoi)! It reminded me of J.M.K Nippons in Rockford, IL (hometown) where they cook the food in front of you on the table. The only difference is the table is a standard booth-size and they have one individual chef for each table that cooks just for you. I take advantage of the situation because I now have a semi English-speaking native to help me struggle through my Japanese. "Osusume no ryouri wa nan desu ka? (Can you recommend some dishes?)" and I order a beer, "Nama birui kudasai". I get a nod of approval from Megumi that my nihongo-ga is sugoi. Then she orders a dish that has scallops, noodles, eel, octopus, egg, and a side of noodles. You can see from the pic that it looks like some sort of seafood quishe. It was oishee (delicious). After enjoying a lovely dinner and getting to know one another we left and I said, "Gochi so sama" to our chef (thanks for the meal).
Megumi and I then went to the Umeda Sky Building (see video) and enjoyed the view of Osaka at night. Then we went to Bar Kaptain Kangaroo for some biru and I met her friends, they were very nice. The night ended with us laughing histerically about random things and me muttering "umhmmm", "Ahaaa" and they though it was hilarious (omoshiroi). They walked me to my subway (last run) and helped me buy my ticket (I get it now). I waved and said, "Sayonara".
What a great day.
The 3:30 wake-up
I haven't experienced serious jet-lag in a long time (9 years ago), but I am trying my best to adjust to the time difference here. The first day I got here, I was only able to stay up until 6:30PM. Last night I stayed up till 10PM (much better). But no matter what I seem to wake up at 3:30AM exactly every morning. Yesterday I stayed up from 3:30AM till 5:30AM, then slept till 7AM. As of right now it is almost 5AM and I'm not feeling tired at all.
Today I am going to get out around 9-ish and see the sites. I am possibly meeting up with a local to show me around and hang out, but we'll see.
Some things that are on the agenda for the next few days:
-Worlds largest ferris wheel ~200M
-Umeda Sky building
-Osaka War Museum
-Maybe Universal Studios
Then I am off to one of the following for a day:
Communicating like a 5-year old
After getting my notebook yesterday and writing 'situational' phrases I went out to eat at my new favorite sushi bar. What an improvement this experience was.
Let me describe the 1st time at the sushi bar:
I walk in and I'm immediately greeted by an attentive host that walks me to the bar and pulls out a couch-style chair for me to sit down. Then a server walks up to me and hands me a Oshibori (hot-towel) to wash my hands. I look at him and stumble out what I can remember. Mizu o kudasai (please give me a water), then say Sake?, and the server looks at me confused. Hmm, Biiru (beer) Sapporo? He then nods (Hai) and brings back a bottle of Sapporo malt-beer. Here is the part where I feel really ignorant. I forgot the term for eel (Unagi), so I am like, "Eel sushi?". Obviously they have no idea. I point to the menu and say, "Eel roku sushi", the server looks at the chef behind the bar and the chef nods (Hai). I feel like a dumb American now, so I console myself with my beer.
1 Day later...
Here is the new experience:
I had just had my peacoat drycleaned and dressed up a bit. Walked into the sushi bar and was greeted by everyone. I don't remember if I said Konbanwa or what, but it appeared that they understood me. They took my coat and I was seated in the exact same seat as the night before. A waitress approached and gave me my Oshibori and asked what I would like. I replied, "O-mizu wo kudasai, and nama biiru" (Please give me a water...and draft beer). She replied, "Hai" and brought me my beer moments later. Then she asked me what I would like to eat, I said, "Maki-zushi Unagi" (rolled Eel sushi), she pointed at the menu asking which, I said, "Kore onegaishimasu" (This please and pointed to what looked like a 6(rokku)-piece sushi). She asked the chef if he had Eel and he replied (Hai). I also orderd some Miso soup. After eating I stood up and everyone said 'gozaimas', I looked at the chef and said,"oishii, gochi so sama" (delicious, thanks for the meal), he nodded. I paid (12 bucks!), and asked the checkout-person "izakaya doko desu ka?" (where is a pub?), he pointed for me to go up one block and left one block. After arriving at the bar, it was empty, so I went home. Either I'm looking in the wrong place, or my area doesn't have any popular bars.
I'm starting to feel like I know where I am at within a 4 - mile radius now from my Apt. It could be that I have weaved the blocks and walked for hours and hours the last day and a half. My guess is about 15/20 miles. This brings me to my next point, I have a new fad diet coming out. It is comprised of walking 10 miles a day, eating whenever you are hungry (but only the portions they give you), and drinking all the beer you want. I am curious to see how much I weigh when I get back to Rockford.
I went to a 711 and bought a pen and notepad. Now that I have 'usable' internet I have been writing pages of notes and phrases that I can use in Japanese on a situational basis. Big surprise, my first page of notes is about food.
Here are some of my favorites that I will be using quite often:
-I want to order something to eat = tabemono no chuumon wo onegai shimasu
-Please give me the menu = Menyuu wo kudasai
-Can you recommend some dishes = Osusume no ryouri wa nan desu ka?
-I'm Hungry = Onaka ga heri mashita
-Do you have any beer? = Birru wa ari masu ka?
-How do I eat this? = Kono ryouri wa dou yatte taberu no desuka?
-Delicious = oishii
-What is your specialty = Nani ka oishii mono wa ari masuka?
Oh, and by the way, I've hit my head on 3 doorways so far in Japan. They tend to be about 6 feet tall. I'll post a pic I took next to my Apt. doorway.
I'll use my US - DNS servers. Arigatou Gozaimasu
After messing around to get the ultra-high-speed internet at Starbucks today, I decided to try out the SSH tunnel-proxy for browsing on the ultra-slow-speed internet at my mansion/apt. What do you know? They don't seem to throttle the traffic going out/in on port 22 TCP. That means I can upload, download, and browse using the max upstream throughput of my house in IL internet connection (55KBPS). That is <b>way</b> better than the laggy DNS lookups and downloads I am getting here.
Yesssss! Time to go out for some Maki-zuishi/Unagi and Biru
Starbuckz Interwebz is teh Pwnd'
If you are in to tech stuff, I posted an article about the interwebz on www.thiscoolsite.com
Where are all the fat people?
At 9:40AM 20081115 I decided to walk around and walk until I have no idea where I am at. On this journey I payed attention to every minute detail possible in my surroundings.
Here is what I found:
-No one wears sunglasses when it is bright outside
-You can smell a curry shop from 100ft away and closer
-Ramen has a distinct smell that can be picked up from 75ft away and closer
-There are no fat people in my area of Osaka. Ok, well I saw one girl that was overweight, but she's working on it (biking on her jitensha)
-If you are within 50 ft of someone, they will not make eye contact with you
-If you are >= 50ft from someone, they will stare at you until 50ft
-Walking down a busy street with >= 100 people, you can hear no-one talking
-Here is a matching statistic...I saw the first white person in Osaka while on my walk. So far, white people, other than myself, are as scarce as fat people.
-Tommy Lee Jones' face is on at least 1 vending machine per block (Coffee Boss Machine)
More to come later, I am just resting for a few and writing new phrases in my notebook. I am heading to America Mura sometime today.
Living the Studio-apartment bachelor life.
Lol, I just got here about 30 minutes ago, got unpacked, and I smell terrible. I rented a cell phone with free incoming calls (international too), so if you have skype or international service call me up.
My cell number is 090-1795-1220
I'm off to get some food and groceries, many updates uploading right now on this hella-slow 15-sec DNS lookup internet connection I have.
Almost messed up the whole deal...
I did a cool little video update at Ohare and planned on doing a subsequent update at each airport. BUT, my flight out to LA was delayed by an hour an a half. Let me just say that surprised myself by keeping my cool, although I was hella nervous! So I got to LA at 11:45PST on the 12th. That leaves me 45 minutes from the plane landing to get to my connecting international flight! I get to the terminal bus that takes me on a 15-minute trip to the IT terminal then run in to find construction workers cleaning the floors, and an empty check-in. I look around frantically, where the hell is Asiana Airlines? No one is behind any of the counters. I then walk up to a security-woman. She said, 'Do you have a boarding pass?'. I was like wtf, where is Asiana Airlines? She said 'Oh, over there, but they are closed and you need a boarding pass.' I am starting to get frustrated because my 14-hour flight to Seoul is leaving in 25 minutes and no-one will help me. Finally, I ask a random worker where it is, she says that Asiana is closing for the night, but there is a back office door open over there (Points). I run to the office to find a Korean woman closing up for the night. She immediately knew who I was after looking at my passport though! This is the positive part of the story. She frantically gets on the walkie speaking Korean to have my bag re-routed to the airline and escorts (runs) me to through security to the gate. There I find 3 gentlemen (that look like they are the bad guys from a Jackie-Chan Rush-hour movie) and 2 Flight-Attendants (who are beautiful). They tell me to hand them my passport and sit-down. I do so and stare at the ground patiently. After 4 minutes, they walk out of the gate door quickly, then run back and motion for me to follow (as the girls laugh at me). They open the side-door of a van and motion for me to get it (LOLS). That provided me with some levity to the situation, since I already pictured them as the bad guys from a movie. The entire experience was very unreal. So they drove on the actual airport taxi-ways and got me to the plane, where I boarded and was assaulted by 5-Pretty-Korean Flight attendants for my Seat-assignment/Ticket, which took me 5-minutes to find in my backpack. All-in-all, I got a sweet offset aisle seat so I could stretch out my legs the whole 14 hours. And the meals, they were incredible.
I have been sitting for about 30 minutes at gate C17 waiting for my flight to LAX at 8:30.
Airports have changed significantly in the last 5 years. I give you the self check-in. Now I can understand
having the assistance of a terminal to replace an airport employee, but not for international flights. Most
of the people in line around me cannot speak any English, this is a problem. To make matters worse,
the two employees that they have staffed for the United Airlines international section are just standing around
waiting for people to use the 'self-serve' check-in terminals. They will say nonchalantly, 'please step up to the
self check-in terminals. Obviously, no one is moving. Finally, I just walk up to an available terminal
and scan my passport, after 8 failed reads it goes through. Then it says 'processing' and flashes to a screen
that says 'please provide the United Airlines employee with this confirmation number, "kqk232" for forwarding
and return.' I wait 15 minutes for one of the employees to finish checking in someone, and tell them the
message that I got (because it flashed on the screen for 30 seconds and then went away). They have this look
on their face like I messed something up and they've never heard of that message. Finally, the gentleman takes
my passport, and after 10 minutes, gets my boarding pass ready.
I am all for technology, but come on, really? Anywho, that didn't discourage me because I have
all three of 'The Lord of The Rings' movies in extended edition on my iPod with an extra battery pack.
Booya! 14 hours of plane flight to Seoul will be nothing with 'the fellowship' to keep me entertained.
On a side note, I really like the $15 neck pillows for sleeping on the plane. I bought one at an airport store
along with 4 AAA batteries to charge my iPod. While putting in the batteries I set the neck pillow aside,
then got up and walked away. 5 minutes later I realized that my brand-new grey neck pillow was not with me at
the terminal. I walked back to the side-area I was at when I set it down, and gone. So yeah, the nice girl at
the airport store and I are friends after having conversations about how people will steal anything if they
feel they can get away with it. No worries though, nothing can get me down about this trip, unless someone steals
my passport in South Korea! It's kind of like I paid $30 dollars for a new friend AND a neck pillow.
Nervous and Illiterate
It is just 28 days until I will be sitting in Japan sipping on some sake enjoying the sweet-broken conversation of some natives trying to practice their English with me. This got me thinking. The amount of Japanese I can speak directly affects how much I will be able to interact with the locals (Unless I find a fluent English-speaking individual, but where's the fun in that?). Thankfully, I have the Rosetta stone and "Talking Dirty in Japanese" provided by a friend in FL. Hopefully, I will be able to speak broken Japanese in 4 weeks. Enough to convey the essentials, like:
Would you like to have a drink with me?
Where is the restroom?
How do I get to this place?
How much is that?
Is this all the portion size I get?
Would you take a picture?
Where is the arcade?
American? No no no, I'm Canadian...From Canada, heh....eh?
So I will post my first official Journal entry from each Airport on the 12th of November.
Ohare -> LAX -> SEOUL South Korea -> Osaka Kansai
I am stoked!