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My life is not an adventure, it’s a JOURNEY

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately. Time well needed and well spent. One of the things that I thought about is a phrase that so many people have said to me since I decided to temporarily leave the country. ” Wow, your life is an adventure” or ” You are going on an adventure!”  I honestly cringe when people say that to me. Now I know exactly why…….

“Living life in another country is no walk in the park.” 

When you are visiting another country it’s all fun and games. It’s exploring, relaxing,  and eating good food. It’s all about finding the beauty in a place with a limited amount of time to do it. It’s about making connections with yourself and what’s familiar and unfamiliar to you. Ahhh, now that’s the life! That’s the dream some people must imagine my life to be like. NOPE! Not exactly. It’s a little more intense…..

  • Like walking around hungry for hours because I can’t find a restuarant to eat at that I can actually understand what’s on the menu. Can I have SOME English, pictures, ANYTHING! I’m hungry!

  • Not having a good day? Too bad, the stares don’t stop, the sad attempts to have basic conversations in English don’t stop, the jaw dropping expressions don’t stop, the questions don’t stop!

  • Have banking needs? Good luck getting English assistance and don’t be in a rush to send money home, it’s going to take time. Lots of time.

  • When are my clothes gonna dry?? In southeast Asia, most people don’t have dryers in thier homes. I’m apart of the “most” group, so that means sometimes waiting countless hours and days for clothes to dry in the humidity and in the cold.

  • Mold has completly taken over my life! Moisture is such a big problem due to humidity and climate that you just have to surrender to the Gods!!

  • I don’t remember what life was like without google translate! I use it to talk to people in the stores, read my mail, read street signs, read posters on the street, and the list goes on! It has become a way of life.

  • Grocery shopping is like “Pick and Pray!” Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t.  When in doubt, leave without!

I must admit that the major struggle comes with the language barrier. I have found that even if you know the language there is still a barrier if you are not a native. Some things just simply can’t be translated. Everyone’s experience living abroad is different based on the country you live in and the individual situation.

“THE JOURNEY”

I view life in general as a journey. What I am doing by living abroad is apart of my destiny. It goes far beyond the “adventure” of it all. Sure, I expereince some adventures along the way but there is a method to my madness. An order in which things have happened and will happen. Each step is calculated, considered, and contoured to directly influence myself and others. I want to be responsible for conducting a life that I can be proud of. A life that will inspire those around me. Each day is different, each expereince is motivating, each cycle changes. It’s a series of ups and downs, ins and outs. Through the happy times, the sad times, and the devestating times I find strength. I’m choosing to live life on my own terms. To navigate the path that God has given me, as he leads and guides me along the way. I’m loving every minute of it! I couldn’t always say that, so I’m grateful I can today. This journey, with some adventures, is the best of life as I know it. I stand proud and accept the challenge!

 

I did it! ……Aoba-Matsuri Festival 2017

After being in Japan for just two short months I attended a festival with my co-teacher. We got word that one of our students would be dancing in the festival and we wanted to support her.  Festive it was! So many people, colors, and rich culture. As I enjoyed watching the people dance and chant I noticed a great number of foreigners were also participating in the festival. So me being the ambitious woman that I am, I had this crazy idea that I would make this one of my goals during my time in Japan.

Fast forward 1 year later. My dream did’nt come true within my first year. My original plan was to only be in Japan for 1 year. Well, that plan changed, and as I prepared to stay another year I immediately got to work on finding out how to dance in this very same festival.

It happened! With the help of my co-worker and the sweet parent of my student myself and my co-teacher were invited to dance with my students group in the Aoba-Matsuri this May! It got even better. Not only did my co-teacher and I participate, but every teacher in my school joined the fun! The more the better!  Here is the proof!! LOL

All smiles before the action began!

We had about 30 min to learn the “sparrow dance.” We had no idea what we were doing but we were excited!

Waiting for the dance to begin.

This precious little girl gave her all in the rehearsal! When it came time to actually do the dance, this is what happened! LOL! She woke up as soon as we finished. All praise to her mother who carried her the entire time and still managed to dance!

We were focused and ready to give it our all! Don’t we look like it?? Good job Michelle and Lindsey!

At this point I decided to give it my all! I was in my zone. All smiles!

The Sendai Sparrow dance was reconstructed by a dance company from a traditional entertainment that had been lost for a long time. The original sparrow dance is derived from the dance improvised by the stonemasons at the feast for the construction of Sendail Castle about 400 years ago.  You can read about the dance here.

Two of my students parents alongside of me helping me to blend in! lol

Moving through the parade to continue our dance to the other side of the crowd!

Yup! We were still trying to figure it out without looking too obvious.

My student in front of me. It was his first time dancing as well!

Before…….

……and After!

We had the best time! It really made the difference to have some many wonderful people to share it with. Mission Accomplished!

Magic in Okinawa!

I must admit I was a little underwhelmed with Okinawa. I found it to be very much like Sendai with the beach. The beaches I visited were “ok” at best. Apparently there were many other beaches but I doubt they would meet my expectations. Nightlife seemed to be suffering outside of the touristy areas. Getting information on the internet was difficult. However, it was a charming place with great weather and you definitely felt the island life as you walked the streets. This is a place you should research extensively before arriving. There are several islands you can visit which are a short flight away from the main island.  Make sure you know what you want to see and do before deciding. We were on Naha, the main island.

The catch! (2)

Let’s getaway!

This was a short getaway for a couple of friends and I. We wanted to enjoy the beach, so for this  purpose, it did not disappoint. We stayed in a comfortable Airbnb that proved to be a good location for the area. We laughed, we ate, and we soaked up some sun!

The story

I have found that during every trip I take something magical happens that reminds me why I love to travel and makes that particular trip memorable. This moment was amazing mainly because it was so unpredictable!  So let me try to put into words this experience and what I felt during this “moment.”

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We were heading back to Naha after a fun trip to the aquarium. ( I love aquariums so yes I visit them everywhere I go if there is one!) We desperately wanted to go to the beach before heading back to Naha. We wanted to see as many of the beaches in the surrounding area that we could. Let me back up a little bit. We started our day early and headed out to catch a bus to Motobu where the aquarium was located. About two hours away from Naha. We got in a cab to take us to the bus terminal. During our ride we somehow negotiated a deal with the taxi driver (who spoke little to no English) to take us to Motobu for the day at a significantly cheaper rate than we were prepared to pay for the bus. We were so relieved and grateful. Due to this we had a very comfortable carefree ride for the day. So, as the sun was going down we tried to communicate to the driver which beach we wanted him to take us to. This was no easy task. We almost gave up when we started passing by the beach and asked him to “please stop here!” He kept saying “no shower, no shower!” I guess he didn’t want us pretty brown girls to get sand in his well kept taxi! LOL! What he didn’t know, is that we were more than prepared for our beach stop!

The magical moment

As we walked the beach, talking, laughing, and posing for pictures I noticed a man sitting on the rocks just above where we dumped our things. He had a small cooler with him and some other things I didn’t recognize. He sat there for quite sometime just watching. I wasn’t bothered by him at all but I immediately noticed when he jumped up, grabbed this huge net, and hurried out to the ocean. He seemed to walk on water with his tall rain boots and overalls as he shuffled deeper into the water. I started yelling ” he sees something” as I ran behind him so excited to observe what would happen next. Then, I watched him cast his net into the ocean and he pulled it back with great strength to find a net full of fish!!!! Small sardines I believe. I was so engaged in this moment at I started jumping up and down cheering like my favorite team just scored a touchdown!!  All I could say was “I told you he saw something, I told you!” This was one of the most amazing things I had seen in a long time! My friends were just as amazed as I was. We all ran over to him to get a better look when he brought the fish on the sand. We watched him draw a circle around the net in the sand and pour all the fish out to slowly die. The puzzling thing was that I couldn’t figure out how he saw the fish. I wasn’t convinced at this point that he did but something told me he had to. It was just the way he got up and ran to the water that made me believe. Lesson #1 Sometimes we don’t have all the answers and we can’t figure out the process, but if we just hold on and believe God will allow it to be revealed in due time.

 The catch! (1)

The magic behind the magic

So after the initial catch, the fisherman, in which my friend affectionately named Roy, had found three new fishing partners for the day! We spent the next 30 min or so taking turns learning how to cast his net speaking no English to do so. We actually thought we were going to catch something. What we didn’t know, was that we had not figured out how to see the fish in those waters like fisherman Roy. He knew we wouldn’t catch anything all along, but he continue to patiently show us the process. Lesson #2 Often times we think we know but we’re unaware that we have no idea.

After a little time Roy went at it again! He grabbed the net and began running into the water. Again, we got so excited! Running behind him, jumping up and down and cheering him on! “Go, go Roy!” This was all so exciting and simply amazing! This time he didn’t catch anything but he saw them. He kept smiling and pointing to this place in the water. Finally we saw a large dark circle in the water!! ” That’s it, OMG I can see them!” We stood there amazed at the discovery. But not for long, soon the most magical thing happened. The large circle we were watching began to quickly move towards us and suddenly hundreds of fish surfaced jumping in and out of the water!!! I could not contain myself!! This was truly unbelievable!! “Roy, Roy get the net,  OMG look at all these fish, I can’t believe this!” We shouted. Fisherman Roy got his net and pulled in a HUGE net full of fish! Lesson #3 Sometimes waiting will give you more than you initially imagined.

 

What an incredible process and lesson this experience was for each of us. We all got different things from it. The one thing we definitely agreed on was how magical it was! We left fisherman Roy running into the sunset looking for more fish to catch.  So our trip to Okinawa was complete and what a great way to end it! Remember, just wait for the right moment!

 

What living abroad has taught me.

When I made the decision to live and teach abroad I was looking to fully emerge in the culture in which I was living, travel, and experience the world hands on! I had never set foot outside of the good ole USA and this was my opportunity to embrace all the world had to offer me. Naturally, I had some expectations and some fears of what this would actually be like. I knew what I wanted to get out of this but the reality of what it gave me was what I wasn’t prepared for. These lessons have helped redefine me as a person. They have increased my knowledge and built my character. Living abroad has taught me….

I AM THE SPOKESPERSON FOR AMERICA ESPECIALLY BLACK AMERICA

I have often heard celebrities say they are not role models. I respectively disagree with this statement. I believe you don’t chose to be a role model. If you are in a position for people to look up to you and value your actions and opinions, then you may be a role model for them. It’s a matter of personal view, not personal choice. When I moved to China I realized that people watched me. Not just Chinese and Asian people but everyone that wasn’t from America. They made judgments and reassurances about Americans based on MY behavior. They asked questions about being “Black in America” and wanted confirmation on their preconceived ideas. I understood very quickly that I had influence in the groups I entertained and with the people I befriended. I can say that this is true today as I am here in Japan. Now I don’t have all the answers, and I am not AMERICA. I am however a representation of that which I came from, whether I like it or not.

TO APPRECIATE THE COMFORTS OF HOME

First of all home sickness is real! Whew, it hits you at times when you least expect it. You’re fine one day and the next day you feel like you’re not going to make it! I have realized that many aspects of home sickness is simply just missing the comforts of home. Oh how I took for granted SO many things! Just being able to walk into a store and ask somebody for help with the things I need, or walking into a restaurant to order dinner from a menu. When you are used to a certain way of life, everything that is not ordinary challenges you. You quickly began to appreciate the comforts of the place you call home.

Dinner

TO VALUE CULTURE, ESPECIALLY MY OWN

I have always been obsessed with culture! I find it so intriguing how people all over the world do things so differently. I find it amazing what things different people value and traditions they keep. Culture is undeniably one of the most fascinating social behaviors on this planet! I value every experience of culture that I have and can learn while I am living abroad. As I learn about other cultures, I also take pride in appreciating my own.

THE PRIVILEGE OF KNOWING HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH

You know, I never thought I would be as proud as I am now to be able to fluently speak English! When you see so many people around the world going through great lengths to learn this oh so complicated language, you realize how important it is. When I travel, I see how countries cater to the English language. People realize that although they are perfectly fine in their country speaking their native language, they understand the power that the English language gives them outside and within their country. Hats off to all those that seek to learn English and become fluent. Especially those that have taught themselves! English is one of the most difficult languages to learn. I definitely feel privileged.

HOW PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD VIEW AMERICANS

WOW! I had no idea! Some of the comments I have received and conversations I have been in about people’s views of Americans have been unbelievable! Here are just a few of the comments I have received:

“You Americans are so optimistic!”

“You’re from America, ahhh BANG, BANG!”

“We just sit around and wait for the next mass shooting to happen there!”

“I am so scared to go to America!”

“I’m surprised at how nice you are!”

Although some of these comments are not surprising, it is however surprising to hear them from people. I have learned so much about how people see Americans. Things I would have never known before.

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HOW TO LIVE IN THE MOMENT

I have experienced some breathtaking situations. Some moments that caused me to take a step back and really think about what is happening around me at that particular time. Sometimes I get lost behind my camera and I find myself putting it away and reminding myself to take in this moment! To breath that air, to capture that feeling, and to embrace that experience. I have especially found this with meeting people along this journey. It’s hard for me at times because I tend to have a hard time saying “goodbye” and understanding that I may only have the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful person I met for a very short time. This causes me to really take in each moment and cherish it. To not think about the past or the future, but to only consider the present.

HOW MUCH AMERICAN CULTURE, ESPECIALLY MUSIC CULTURE EFFECTS THE WORLD

American music is everywhere!! Everyone also expects you to want to hear American music. I have been in restaurants that have changed the music to HARD CORE rap, and OLD SCHOOL R&B when I walk in the door. Almost all stores I go in here in Japan are already playing American music. I have a friend who is from South Africa who tells me about how the American music culture affects the culture in her hometown. They refer to hairstyles by music celebrity names, like “I want isidabrats” (thick braids like Da Brat) and “I want Isisnoopy” (refers to cornrows like Snoop Dog). I have found in general that American culture is copied and highly sought after. Everyone is truly watching the U.S.A.!!

HOW TO LOVE MYSELF

I have watched so many people trying to be like someone else. These days, I’m just interested in learning how to make myself happy and doing what I am purposed to do. Traveling alone and living abroad alone has taught me to really love myself and enjoy my own company.

HOW TO SURVIVE

I can’t even begin to explain the survival of living in another country in which you don’t speak the language. Somehow, I have learned how to maneuver and get things done! I have found that there is always another way to do something. There is always a yes to that no! I’ve become clever with communicating and patient with processes. All in all I have learned to survive. I have learned that I am a survivor!

 

WAIT! Please don’t kick me out of Japan!

I could be embarrassed but I’m not! Living in another country is far from glamorous. Yes, there are those moments that amaze you and make you say “This is why I moved here!” Then, there are moments when you say “What in the world was I thinking!!” These days, I am just glad they have not kicked me out of the country yet! So, let me just tell you about some of my “blooper” moments since my Japan arrival…..

 

HOW DO I FLUSH THIS DARN TOILET??!!

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This may seem like a stupid question. Yes, I would have thought so to until I moved here. I mean, how hard can this be?? I was in the subway one day on my way to do some sightseeing, feeling good and confident that I made it to my destination. Well, please don’t live in the celebration! I decided it was a good idea to stop at the TOILET before leaving the station. (Let me add, if you ask someone where the “bathroom or restroom” is they will look at you in complete confusion! So, get use to using the word toilet.) Back to the story…I did my business and looked around to flush the toilet. I saw one button and one leaver. All writing was in Japanese! Oh boy! So, I took a chance and pushed the button. Nothing happened. I looked at the leaver and said, “This doesn’t look right but I’ll try anyway.” Nothing happened. I decided to just forget about it and began to walk out of the stall when this loud alarm sounded! I went to the sink to wash my hands and I thought… “Hmm, I bet that was me that did that!” I began to hurry and I quickly walked out as a guard was walking in yelling in Japanese!! He passed right by me when I realized that the leaver was probably the “I’m falling and can’t get up lever!”  LOL!! As long as I make it out of here without being stopped I’m safe! SEE YA!!!

 

OH! THERE IS ACTUALLY A LINE?

sendai bus

Many may know that living in China and queuing don’t go in the same sentence. I had become very accustomed to pushing my way through subways and gathering in a bunch to get where I needed to go. That behavior is not gonna fly in Japan!!! So, I know not to push and skip line. I’m ok with that. I’m actually great with that. However, things are sooooo organized and systematic here! There is a line for everything, and I sometimes forget. I was waiting on the bus one day and I was the only one there. I was listening to my music having my own little concert.  After about 10 minutes of waiting and upon the arrival of the bus, this old lady taps me on the shoulder and points behind me to the loooong queue!! What?? I’m completely defeated! They looked like they were ready to call the police! Not only are all these older Japanese people glaring at me, but I now had to get to the end of a line that wasn’t even there when I arrived! What do I do? Bow in my ignorance and keep bowing and apologizing until I get to the end of the God forsaken line!

LET’S PLAY THE GUESSING GAME!

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Let me tell you, the guessing game is no fun when you are spending money and you are trying to eat! Trips to the grocery store are always so much fun! Hooray! I get to analyze foods by smelling them, moving them around in the bag, pulling them close to my eyes, pulling them far from my eyes, shaking them, pairing them with something else, or whatever ridiculous tactic I can use to figure out what the heck it REALLY is!! Some, and I do mean just some, things have some English on them. Others absolutely do not! I really believe someone is getting a kick out of watching foreigners like me who don’t know much spoken Japanese and no written Japanese try and grocery shop each week. Well, I was doing ok until this week. I wanted to buy a small bottle of cooking oil because I wanted to treat myself to a meal that I rarely have, hamburgers and fries! I generally use olive oil to pan sear vegetables so I didn’t want to use my olive oil to fry potatoes in.  This shouldn’t be hard, I just need a small bottle of cooking oil. Well, after reviewing the selection I decided on a small bottle of cooking oil and went home to start cooking! I poured the oil in the skillet and immediately I thought things were looking a little funny. When it started heating up, it began to bubble and I mean bubble like suds bubble! I knew something wasn’t’ right but I had come too far to give up now! I put in the potatoes and waited. After a few minutes the “oil” began to disappear! Huh? Ok, I don’t know what this is but this is not oil!! UGH! I removed it from the heat and let it cool to be thrown away. As I looked at potato masterpiece, I decided to taste whatever this mystery oil was…..CORN SYRUP!! I had just boiled my “fries” in corn syrup!! The joke was definitely on me!

 

“TOTO, I DON’T THINK WE’RE IN KANSAS ANYMORE”

crow

To the citizens of Sendai: I am sorry if you hear me running and screaming some mornings, things like: “Please don’t take my life it’s not my time!” or my favorite “Go, go gadget go!” as I sprint through a host of human size crows lined up along the power lines above my head! Hoping that my tennis shoes will burst into turbo action and take me far away from this madness!! I swear these crows are out to get me. Their hawk sounds like a human crying and their claws are as long as my forearm! I JUST CAN’T!! I’m sure the daddy one calls more of the family over when he sees me coming. I often imagine myself being scooped up by one or two of them just like in the movie The Wizard of Oz! They may not have to kick me out, the crows will carry me out! Just take me to my momma! JESUS FIX IT!

 

How I spent Golden Week!

 

 

The Golden Week holiday celebrated in Japan used to be celebrated as the birthday of Emperor Showa, who passed away in 1989.  It is now celebrated as Greenery Day, a day for nature and appreciation. I can say I did just that! I took some time to enjoy the beauty of Sendai and relax.

Fish

Aquarium

There were many things on my list “to do” here in the city but I ended up doing a lot more relaxing than planned. Its ok, it was well worth it! I started the week with a trip to the Aquarium! It wasn’t the nicest Aquarium I have been to, but it was definitely worth the reasonable price! The highlight of the aquarium was the penguins and the dolphins. I love sea turtles, so those babies had me blushing! There were two animals that were new to me, the Commerson’s dolphin, which is the black and white dolphin pictured and another animal whom name remains unknown to me! It was just weird! I spent quite some time staring at him. He is the huge odd shaped animal floating in the water. I really can’t even say he was swimming. Lol  All in all, very nice relaxing trip!

River

Bike riding

My second outing for the week was one that surprised me! A few weeks ago I decided that I should give this bike riding thing a try. There are so many bikes on the roads here. Very bike friendly city. So I borrowed my co-workers bike and decided to give it a shot! One of my new friends here in the city took me on what turned out to be a 3 hour bike tour of the city! WHOA! I couldn’t believe I did that, and I didn’t even complain once! Ha! It was so fun and relaxing to see the city that way. I also learned a lot about the city and how to get around. Elise was a wonderful tour guide and she showed me some of the popular spots in the city.

My new Bike!!

Buying my bike

I loved it so much that two days later; I went out and purchased my own bike!! Who knew it would be like buying a car!! I picked out my bike, and there was a ton of paperwork to complete. The bike has to be registered complete with a registration sticker. Then, I was told “come back in two hours” What??? You mean I can’t just take this thing and go home now? Oooook! Upon returning, I was led to the back lot where my shiny new bike was sitting waiting on me! They walked me through the few gadgets, adjusted my seat and watched me ride off into the sunset!! Lol Honestly, pretty exciting! I got very familiar with my bike, going on at least two to three more bike rides to explore the area.

Geta

Akiu hot springs

Finally, I ended the week with a trip to Akiu Hot Springs! Yes, yes, yes!!! It was just amazing! Tucked away in the mountains about 45 min away from the city, I was able to enjoy a beautiful sunny day of beautiful scenery. We started with lunch at a Soba Japanese restaurant. My first time enjoying these noodles but it won’t be my last! Delicious and authentic. Then, off to the hot springs! It was a perfect day for the open air bath. Just enough breeze to be totally calming. Although there were several hotels to choose from, I think we choose one of the best! Very nice facility with four hot spring baths. I will definitely be back. I feel so relaxed to start my week with my students.

Yay for Golden Week!!!

Welcome to my TINY home!

Welcome to my home away from home! When I first arrived, this tiny little treasure needed a lot of TLC! I was thankful there were a few things already in the apartment that I could use so that was a plus. I got busy right away cleaning up and making this place my own. Most space in Japan is small and my apartment is no exception. It’s ok though, it really teaches you to keep only what you need. It also shows you how you don’t really need a lot of space and things to survive and be content! (I almost spelled that with a “K” for all of my Diamond sisters and Kappa bruhs! lol)  Valuable lesson!  This place is not as modern as my China apartment was. I was actually in a new building in China. However, I love the character that this place has! I never want to invest too much into my temporary homes; just enough to make me comfortable. I stick with the basic needs and maybe a few wants.  So let me show you what the end result is…..

 

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This is the main room. Equipped with a desk, small couch, and futon bed.  Futon beds are typical in Japan due to lack of space. One of the first things I did was pull up all the area carpets and rugs that were covering these beautiful hardwood floors! I really didn’t want to put down any rugs, but I knew it would feel really cozy if I did. I got some curtains, threw down and rug and added some pillows! Oh and my map will always be with me from now on! I purchased this in China and I would feel lost without it!

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So yeah, then there is this little area I can prepare meals in! Lol! This takes a lot of creativity to deal with some days. The tiny pans are hung above the stove due to lack of storage. I did purchase one large pot for cooking soups and stews in. I couldn’t resist! I found a spot to tuck it away. I actually do pretty good making this space work for me. I’m just glad to have “fire” to cook with!! (Gas)

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This is the rest of my cooking area. Mixed in, is my laundry area. Yes, just a washing machine. Most people don’t have dyers in Japan either. I find it a little more difficult to dry clothes here because I don’t have a covered patio like I did in China. So, when it rains, like it does every other day, I can’t hang things outside! Plus, it’s still cold outside and rainy season has yet to make its arrival. Sigh…..  There is no central heat in this place! This is also pretty common throughout Japan!!! I just don’t understand it for the northern areas, I just don’t! So, pictured, you see one of my heaters.

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This shows the length of the entire hallway that includes the kitchen and bathroom.

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That cute little nook in the right hand corner is for shoes you must remove before you step up! (You get kicked out of Japan if you don’t! LOL)

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The toilet is in its on room separate from the shower. Mainly because the entire shower area is the shower! The toilet seat heats up and the temperature is adjustable. A sink above the toilet allows you to wash your hands! The water comes on automatically when you flush! I can’t with this feature!!

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This whole room is the shower! It also has a bathtub but as you can see it is really tiny!!! Not at all glamorous but it does the job. In and out! Ha!

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Finally, my Gerber daisies I added for a sweet touch! I love a space with fresh flowers!

 

 

 

Not so Cherry Blossom

I was told the best place to see cherry blossoms in the north was in Ogawara. It’s about a 30min ride on the train from Sendai so I packed my camera and headed to the JR station.
As soon as I got on the train I became sleepy. It’s so quiet on these trains and peaceful. Nice scenery, consistent movement, I dozed right off. I had a short dream about this juicy hamburger I was enjoying. It was quite delightful. To my surprise, when I woke up I was physically going through the motions of eating my imaginary burger! Uh! I was so embarrassed! Thank goodness I only had about two people side eyeing me. Anyway, I had no time to focus on that because I didn’t want to miss my stop. I was hoping I had not already. Turns out I didn’t miss my stop. I was two stops away. Perfect!

When I got off the train I was greeted with materials about the area. When I stopped to look at a map, the same guy that gave me the materials asked if I would like to join a free guided tour through the area. “Sure! Why not!” So I was taken to the area where others were gathering. The people were so nice and accommodating. The downfall was that the night before it was very windy so all of the cherry blossom trees were empty. No big grand scenery I was hoping to see. Although, the natural beauty of the area was worth the trip alone. There were a few trees still in bloom and the back drop of the snow capped mountains was amazing! I learned a lot about the area and I enjoyed seeing the farming the locals had accomplished.

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We walked up this mountain to see the view of the cherry blossoms and mountains from there. Just beautiful. We were given a ride down in a bus and I met this college student who seemed very eager to speak to me and practice her English. She had a lot of questions. Lol she was very sweet. She told me ” You are so friendly!” I replied, ” I try to be.” She was from Taiwan. When I walked away to take the train back to Sendai, she ran after me and gave me a hug. “Good luck to you in Sendai, it was so nice to meet you!” It’s true when they say you never know the affect you have on the people you meet.

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My first Hanami

 

 

IMG_6067     Its Cherry blossom season and I am in the perfect place to enjoy the beautiful Cherry Blossoms!! Cherry blossoms, which are commonly called “Sakura” in Japan are typically in bloom several days before the peak bloom and can last up to 14 days. So it is highly popular to have a “Hanami” as close to the peak day as possible and before the blossoms fall. A Hanami is a picnic under the Cherry blossom tree. It’s more like a festival that includes a picnic! There is lots of entertainment and fun.

I experienced my first Hanami last Sunday and it was quite an awesome experience! It was so great to see families and friends come together to celebrate. There was lots of traditional dancing and foods. The Japanese attire was beautiful and it was so fun to watch them in their element. Sitting under these beautiful old Cherry Blossom trees, eating, and spending time with friends was so relaxing. It was a bit cold, but it was worth the experience. I watched a couple of groups play sports games I have never seen before, and enjoyed trying to figure out the rules of the game. Everyone was having fun in a relaxing, carefree, safe environment. So peaceful!

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I was invited by my coworker to join their Hanami. She is Turkish and there is a quite large Turkish society here in Sendai! So, this Hanami was filled with delicious Turkish foods and beautiful, friendly Turkish people! It was so fun getting to know these ladies and posing for photos. They treated me as part of the family, such an enjoyable moment.

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I am so glad I made it to Sendai in time to experience this great part of the Japanese culture! I was told about another place that has awesome scenery full of Sakura trees. I will try to make it this weekend before they fall. I’ll be sure to update you with some beautiful photos if I do!

Ty

P.S. About the peace sign in all the poses…..It’s a Chinese and Japanese thing. You get kicked out the country if you don’t do it! Hahaha!

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I lost my Beyonce status…… my first week in Japan

 

You heard me right, my stock has dropped and my status has declined! I can no longer tell people I am Beyoncé and pose for a photo opt! The paparazzi has disappeared and let me tell you I couldn’t be HAPPIER!!!! I have only seen two other people of color and nobody seems to care.  No stares, no pictures, no pointing, no laughing, NOTHING! I was actually surprised. I was told that it would be better here, but I should still expect it.  Well, so far so good!

My first week has gone very well. Japan really cannot be compared to China at all.  It is the polar opposite! However, I will share with you a few of the difference I have noticed in just one week!

  • It’s so quiet!!!!- I am almost afraid to speak in public. If you do speak, especially on public transportation, make sure you bring it down to about a whisper to avoid any unwanted looks. In China, people spoke loudly and aggressively.
  • No hawking and spitting!!- Now this made me wanna break down and do a dance bare foot in the streets!
  • It’s so clean and organized!-Streets are clean and bathrooms are spotless. If you are  going into someone’s home or a place where you will spend time, you must remove your shoes. Have indoor shoes ready.
  • No more squat toilets!- As a matter of fact the toilets are top of the line! They have remote controls for use of the bidet, they sing, talk, and warm when you sit on them!!
  • People actually line up and wait their turn!

Weekend exploration

I decided to explore a little bit of the city Saturday.  Very peaceful journey and it was very easy to get around the city. I must say that I have been very impressed with my sense of direction since I arrived here.  Usually, it is very bad. I ventured out of my comfort zone of riding the subway and I managed to take the bus to my destination.  I know I looked like a deer in headlights the whole ride there! LOL, I was so scared I was going to be lost and never arrive to my destination. I went to see the sixth tallest statue in the world! The Japanese Buddhist Bodhisattva Kannon.

The Trip

I did my research via google on how to get to my destination.  Thank goodness for no internet restrictions like I had in China. For those who don’t know, China monitors everything coming into the country and that includes the internet. Favorites such as You Tube, Google, and Facebook are blocked and cannot be accessed without a VPN. (Ty travel tip: it is good to purchase a VPN- Virtual Private Network, while traveling abroad no matter what country you are traveling to.) The directions were very clear, one bus from Sendai Station to the statue. The ride was expected to take about 40min. Great! What I didn’t anticipate was the different bus riding procedure. So, apparently the entire front half of the bus is reserved for handicapped and disable individuals. Where do I sit, in the front of the bus! I was so worried about not missing my stop that I didn’t even pay attention. Since everything was in Japanese except a quick flash of English that listed each stop, my focus was on that screen! No one said a word to me about it either. Once I realized it, I sat there proudly and said to myself “There is no way I’m moving now!” As I carefully watched all of my surroundings, we turned a corner and there was this huge statue directly in my face! Scared the day lights out of me. I nearly jumped out my handicapped seat! I have recently discovered that I have a slight fear, (ok well maybe a little more than slight) of things that are considerably larger than me! This was no exception. As I walked up to it I was in awe and a little taken back. The views of the city from inside were amazing!  Breathtaking! An elevator takes you up to the 12th floor for the views of the city. You can stop at three other floors to view the Buddha’s and pray.

During the ride back I realized another procedure that was different from China.  You have to get a ticket when you enter the bus.  You enter the back of the bus. I didn’t get a ticket so I just had to pay whatever the driver told me. In China, there is a lady that comes to your seat, asks where you are going and collects your fare.  Well at least I know next time!  Great trip, can’t wait for the next one!

Ty