My very first Hanami was near the Kudanshita Station with friends and yes I was a little tipsy from a few highballs and strong zeros… but all was well and it was absolutely beautiful. Yes, at night it’s a little different thus a slightly different experience but well worth the trip. If you scroll down…
…I also went to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Park. Where it was crowded on a Tuesday afternoon at Disneyland. Granted, you have to pay 200 yen to get into the park and yes they check your bags for alcohol. I got pretty lucky at security thus pretty tipsy under cherry blossoms. Shh. A picnic under these beauties is tradition during this semi-one week season, which is why you see just a nanoscopic part of the picnic partakers partaking.
And of course, I went to the Nakameguro river that all tourists and locals know about just to see these babies bloom. The river runs almost 8 kilometers (if you’re metric) or 5 miles (if you’re imperial) and you can see and absorb the beauty nature generously gives to us selfish human beings alongside the entire river. Going to all these different places really makes me appreciate the one thing of many that we often forget and that many others don’t have: time.
I was more excited than a kid on Christmas morning or a fat kid eating cake or whatever cliché you can think of about kids. I was in Japan for only three and a half months before I got to go home again. I was homesick about a month in and I was wondering why that was? It was probably because I had actually entered the realm of responsibility for the first time where “BILLS” and “TAXES” (and everything else that explains why adults hate being adults) became part of my vocabulary. Fresh out of college and pampered for a summer didn’t exactly prep my adolescent chicken tenders or lady fingers or whatever food you want to compare my **** to for the real world.
Imagine a corner of the living room where there’s a six-tier shelf. Good. Now imagine that Santa Claus yakked in that corner from ingesting too much milk and cookies so that all the presents were perfectly placed on that shelf to form a discombobulated Christmas tree that somehow melted into the carpet. Nice image? Thanks. That’s exactly how our “Christmas tree” is every year… and I love it.
It’s funny how the older you get the less you want for Christmas. And I’m about to get real cheesy but you really do begin to understand what’s really important during the holidays. All I wanted was to be with my family…and a MEGA 3000 RV23 J—just kidding.
As always, my mom forces me and my sister to watch the Hallmark Christmas movies with her (to be honest, I love those movies. Don’t tell my mom) and yes, we drink hot cocoa while doing so. It’s one of my favorite things to do during the holidays just because it’s family time and the hot cocoa from a box is amazeballs.
This hot cup of chocolate was made with a little half and half and extra mini marshmallows just to make it that much more fattening for the heart and soul.
2017 came to an end just as these fireworks were going off. I didn’t really think or reflect on the past year until now. I had gone through a break up, struggled through the last quarter of college, got certified, graduated with a B.A., traveled to the Philippines, and had an amazing last summer back home before moving to Japan and meeting some great people. It was a tough yet rewarding and transitional year for me and I’m so grateful for what each year brings me. 2018 will be spontaneous, adventurous, unpredictable and I can’t wait for the challenges.
18 hours later and I finally arrive to Japan! But let’s rewind real quick…
If I can remember correctly, it was a 7-hour flight to Guam and I had an 8-hour layover where I re-entered a world without wifi and kids played with sticks. I continued to live in a wifi-free world (yes, I said that correctly, wifi-free, not free wifi) for 3 months. The final stretch was a 3-hour flight to Narita and my new home was just a 45-min train ride away.
If my natural asianic mathematic abilities haven’t failed me, I spent almost 19 hours traveling, which any recent broke college grad (or anyone, really) can understand, was my cheapest route.
The first or second month after such a drastic change is always the hardest. I’m sure many of you can empathize. But I had brought with me only $450 in cash to last me a month and a half before I got paid. To say “it was tough” is a sickening understatement. Starving was the only option for a couple nights but I’m not here to complain.
Starving was one of the reasons why and how I met who I consider one of my closest friends here in Japan. She treated me to what some of you may know as Yakitori or an izakaya. Basically cheap beer and appetizers. I met some of her friends and their friends’ friends and it all went uphill from there.
After living here for five months now, maybe some of you would like to hear my verdict…
I love it here! I already knew the food was phenomenal but when I actually tried it here in the flesh, it honestly exceeded my expectations. I’ll definitely post about the food in detail later. And the people are so civil, polite, and well behaved…something I am not used to back in the states…
From what I’ve been told, Tokyo is equivalent to the east coast where everyone is kind of impersonal and on the go, while Osaka is like the west coast where they’re more laid back and friendly. I have yet to experience the difference myself.
If you were wondering, I’m living in a very small one person apartment in Tokyo near Ikebukuro and I love it! It’s super cute and cozy and relatively cheap 🙂
RLB JustUs3. That’s been my mom’s motto since as long as I can remember. It’s always just been my mom, sister, and I for the longest. Us against the world. We ventured from Manila to Alaminos then Baguio then Ilocos Norte and finally El Nido. I’ve never experienced a more life threatening taxi drive for one and I’ve never experienced a more beautiful place with beautiful people.
I flew in, got off the plane, and the only thing I remember was the extreme humidity that slithered through my pores and soaked my tank and shorts with sweat. It was incredibly hot and I could feel the sun laughing at me with every sun ray that beat down on my “pale” back. I entered the airport and if I’m not mistaken, I hear loud buzzing sounds that filter the room while I go to the correct baggage claim conveyor belt. They’re fans…the size of a transport truck tires in corners of the room to cool down the sweaty tourists collecting their bags.
I remember enjoying the air conditioning every time a pair of sliding doors opened, much like my esophagus, whenever we walked into a mall or hotel or restaurant. And my god was the food amazing. I had some Longaniza, Tocino, Pancit, Sisig, alongside the traditional eggs and rice with almost every meal. Even eating Filipino food growing up, it still didn’t do it justice when I feasted in the Philippines. The food was incredible and after a few days, I got used to the deathly humidity.
The beautiful Alaminos hotel we stayed in that served the traditional Filipino breakfast: Longaniza/Tocino with eggs and rice.
I can’t remember the name of this hotel but it’s a family owned business which is a few minutes away from the Hundred Islands Tour boat arena/pier.
The owner of the hotel was very welcoming and catered to us whenever we needed anything.
We got to go on the Hundred Islands Tour thanks to this little man and his dad who push and pull these boats all day for tourists to enjoy their land ❤
My mom, sister, and I went to maybe five or six different little islands, each having different trails, diving cliffs, and views of the ocean. This guy to the right of your screen jumped into the water from the boat to help me and my sister spot gigantic clams sitting at the bottom of this sand hill in the ocean. They were the size of a three-year-old kid! If that kid were to curl into a ball… I could actually feed the clam a three-year-old kid…
Of course my mom stayed on the beach but me and my sister jumped off this cliff (about 15 feet) in a cave FILLED with bats screeching from the top. It was terrifyingly amazing.
My photogenic sister and her strawberries in La Trinidad, Benguet, Baguio City ❤ We wore bags on our feet as we walked through the ginormous strawberry fields to our little section for picking the vibrant red dots of deliciousness. You can hear the mud squish below your slippers and pull your trend setting plastic shoes with each step in between the rows and rows of fresh fruit. Of course, we couldn’t eat all five kilos of those strawberries we picked so we left it for the hotel staff as we checked out.
Baguio was much cooler than the hot and humid Manila or Alaminos City. It actually rained our first day in Baguio while we sipped on freshly squeezed mango juice for breakfast and mango shakes for dessert. When I say fresh, I mean every sense of the word and I don’t mean young or over ripened Mango either. This was by far the best mango beverage I’ve ever ingested. I beg you, if you go to the Philippines, you have to try the mango.
My maternal grandparents and their parents grew up here before moving to Hawaii. They worked hard for their money and took care of the land they once claimed. They built a resort that me and my family stayed in of course, and I soaked it all in from the top of the hill. The land I stand upon, the infamous sun crisping my face, the thick, humid air coating the walls of my lungs, in that second alone, I felt one thing: happiness.
As you can tell, I’m a little chocolate drop by the end of our trip. But other than that, the water is the clearest and warmest I’ve ever experienced in all 23 years of my life. Like in Alaminos, we took a little tour to other islands where we spent anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple hours on each getting sunburnt or snorkeling. It was my first time zip lining and it was from one island to another. So yes, I was soaring over the water with my arms spread out like Cristo Redentor. And yes, I thought about going the artistic, clichéd route and saying “like a bird” or “like a plane” in case you wanted to know. El Nido was the perfect end to our adventure as RLBJustUs3.
I know I haven’t written in awhile but I’ve been a busy girl. So let’s start about one year ago…
I’m finishing up my last quarter of college and like some kids (hopefully I’m not the only one), I don’t know what to do with my life…still. I’m about to have an English degree officially next month and my butt can’t live on campus anymore. One month until the end of the line and I have no job, no place to live, and no money saved because I’m very irresponsible to say the least. I’m staining the only pillow I have crying myself to sleep, stress eating the free crappy food from the cafeteria, and living vicariously through actors and actresses by binge watching Netflix to numb my problems away. I talk to my family and do a little research but nothing helps. I feel so lost and alone, I really don’t know what else to do anymore at this point. While the internal turmoil boiled, I’m applying for odd jobs just so I can feel like I have some form of financial security. Nothing. To buy myself some time I ask my only family in the Bay Area if I can live with them just for a couple months until I get a job and move into a place of my own. I will forever be grateful that my uncle and aunty allowed themselves to shelter my broke-lost-dog ass.
I just moved in, got a teaching/tutoring job for kids, and had training that week! Things are starting to look up and the internal turmoil goes down to a simmer. During that week I come across a career path that will forever change my life. I just finished up some online training and type into that search bar we all know too well: Google. I type something I had been typing for months now: “careers for English majors” and come across Teaching House. For those who don’t know, Teaching House is a school that teaches teachers how to teach English. But not the English Lit class you took with that weirdly cool teacher who wore high socks with velcro sandals, or the English Comp class you dreaded with that awesome professor who worshiped Marvel and Shakespeare. I’m talking about teaching English as a second language.
I do some research on their site and people are talking about traveling all over the world and teaching while gaining a phenomenal experience in another culture. I instantly fall in love with the idea. Teaching House has many locations, one of them being in San Francisco, so I call my sister for consultation. I tell her I’m going to do this program and she offers the choice to do the program in New York. At first, I don’t want to go all the way to New York, because of the whole… family vacay in the Philippines in April, moving to New York from April to May, then coming back for grad in June, then going home to Hawaii by the end of June… was a bit overwhelming and I had all two luggages worth of crap to worry about. But I came to my senses and I thought, WHY NOT NEW YORK? Why? because you’re too lazy to figure out logistics? Wimp. So my lovely sister flies down to help me organize and take care of some stuff.
I’m set to do the intensive one month program with Teaching House starting April 24-May 20 that my dad generously paid for; all three G’s of it as my graduation gift. I fly to the Philippines on the eighth to meet up with my mom who’s flying from Hawaii and my sister coming from New York. It was a birthday gift for my mom and a grad gift for me from my sister to fly us both down and enjoy the Philippines. I will definitely put up a post about that trip, but for now…
I fly from the Philippines straight to New York the day before my first day of school…mind you school started at 9:00 AM and ended at 5:00 PM and jet lag was agonizingly nauseating. I will post my NYC experience at another time guys…sorry!
I graduate with a CELTA Certification on my resume and I immediately apply to at least five or six schools in Brazil, Japan, Turkey, and China. I just couldn’t wait to get out into the world and experience what it had to offer. Japan offers me a job first so I take it. And this all happens within a weekend. I’m now set to fly to Japan by the end of August and start training a few days after that. But first, it’s time to relax and enjoy the summer back home in Hawaii. For once, I actually enjoy doing absolutely nothing from the comfort of my parents’ couch, knowing I have a job waiting for me in another country. The internal turmoil simmer had officially stopped and everything was going to be okay.
I’m now sitting in my one person apartment in Tokyo, where I pay all my bills on time with the income I earn from a company that allows me to meet amazing people to teach and teach along with. The teachers here have become some of my closest friends and they come from all over: The UK, Canada, Australia, The US, France, China, and Germany! So if you’re reading this and you feel lost and alone, worry not my friend, everything will be okay. I would not be here if it weren’t for my family and friends that never stopped supporting me through all the sweat and tears. I love you all ❤
Because I am a traveller I can look down on the birds and up at the fishes. I collect moments and can venture back in time to lost worlds. I seize life and simultaneously escape it at will. Because I am a traveller I envy no man at home.