Then and now: Things I’ve learned in moving to another country

Comment 1 Standard

It’s May. Damn.

It’s actually the end of May and I’m realizing that I haven’t posted on here in some time.

The last time you heard from me, I was talking something bout buying gifts for your travel-minded family member or distant friend. Wowzers!

Anyway…In case you’ve been wondering, I’ve been busy getting my life together and preparing to move to another country. Yes, you read right! We’re moving away from Japan to Ethiopia! (No worries, I’ll probably back date a post or two about that dark and desolate time in my life later on)

Continue reading

There is pee in my boot.

Leave a comment Standard

This past week, I went on a field trip with the grade 11 students from my school. We went to Gunma Prefecture to do some outdoorsy stuff and be at one with nature. Now, I am not the most outdoorsy type of person so I had my reservations initially, but it ended up being really awesome.

The camp is about 3 hours outside of Tokyo, so I put on my headphones and got some work done on the ride with about 35 talkative girls. No biggie. The scenery was amazing on the way up and you could just smell that mountain air once we arrived. We dropped our bags and put on our swim suits to get ready to go rafting not moments after we stepped off the bus. I had been rafting before, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

They suit us up in uncomfortable wet suits, life vests, and helmets and we head off to the river. They put all the teachers in the “cool raft” and we are given brief instructions on how not to die while in the raft. It was comforting. We set off and did pretty well. The scenery was amazing and I often found myself looking around, rather than looking at what was ahead of me. The river was at a 1 or 2 grade, so it wasn’t that bad and often we could get out to swim in the water. At one point, we all docked and jumped off a big rock. It was really incredible out there.

So, fast forward to day 2 where we were to go canyoning. For anyone who doesn’t know what canyoning is, it’s basically you are wading through a rocky river and sliding down waterfalls. Not sure why it’s called canyoning rather than waterfalling, but whatevs. We did that. I even did the ones where I was upside down getting tossed over (I have this thing about doing anything that requires me to go head first). I was proud of myself.

On this day, we had to wear more gear than we did the first day because we would be in the water most of the time and the water is colder up in the mountains. We were given socks, and extra jacket, and gloves to wear. And the water was COLD! We were also told to go pee before we put on our wetsuits because “the wetsuits are not toilets”. So I did and instructed the girls to go as well. All was well until about halfway through the course.

I’m sitting there waiting my turn and after one of the jumps or whatever, my body is like “Um…we gotta pee! All this cold water isn’t working well with out ability to hold our bladder.”

And I’m like “Um…ya’ll gonna need to hold it because I can’t go pee in this thing.”

And they were all “Right.”

So about halfway during the course I did one of the slides or jumps and my body said “fuck that” and just started to pee. I was trying to remain calm as the stream just continued to fill up my suit, but my face was like “ohshitohshitohshit” and I just had to go with it because it was a little too late at this point. I figure, it’s a wetsuit, maybe if I linger in the water a bit, it will flush all of it out some kinda way.

Nope.

It’s a wetsuit, doing what wetsuits do. So my bodily fluids just hung around and I had to open up a leg so that it could move elsewhere. I figure I could get it out some kinda way and just keep jumping and eventually it all would flush out. “Ain’t no way I’m getting back on that bus smelling like pee”, I kept repeating to myself in a panic.

So we’re moving along and I’m trying to stay in the pools of water as long as possible to get some of the pee out and all of a sudden, I feel this flush of warm liquid around my left foot as we’re walking.

Yep. There’s pee in my boot.

Despite my best efforts, the pee did not filter out of the wet suit as I had hoped. But rather, found its way into my left boot and settled. It was funny, walking with one cold foot and one warm one, slushing my way up the creek. Conveniently putting my foot into puddles to try to dilute the solution before heading back up the hill to the bus. It was quite comical.

Thankful for the open windows on the bus, my anxiety decreased when I realized that I might not be sniffed out. After we got back to camp, I tucked into separate shower area from the girls to strip off my suit and quickly chucked it into the wash area to avoid anyone else smelling me out.

Funny enough, this isn’t the first time I’ve lost control of my bladder. I mean, my son was huge, weighing at almost 9 lbs, so they tell me this is expected, right? But this was the first time it’s happened in a massive amount and with a group of people for which I could be forever ridiculed. Teenagers are harsh, yo.

Pee incident aside, the trip was really fun. I was able to chaperone and participate without having to really do anything. I challenged myself in ways I never would have without the security and encouragement that the staff at Canyons gave. The guides were amazing and really took care of us. I definitely am going to try and get the boy back here and have some fun in nature.

If you’re ever in Japan and have some time on your hands, look them up. It’s really a great place to experience and the staff are super helpful and have the greatest sense of humor. I think had they known I wet myself, they would have found a way to make it funny and a little less embarrassing. Maybe.

But I couldn’t take that chance.

Just for kicks and giggles, here is a video montage of the canyoning ūüôā

Have any of you had any embarrassing incidents like this? How did you recover or save yourself from complete humiliation? Let me know in the comments!

5 things you need to know before traveling to Tokyo.

Comments 6 Standard

I’ve been living in Tokyo for a year now and it’s a beautiful and exciting place to visit. I’m often asked a lot of questions from people interested in visiting and I thought I’d put together a few things that I think are important to know before coming to visit.

Here they are…

There are no public trash cans.¬†Or very few,¬†rather. There are bins that collect bottles and cans near vending machines and sometimes outside of conbinis (convenience stores). But don’t bank on these being everywhere. It’s not uncommon to¬†have bags of trash in your¬†book bag because there is nowhere to put it. Sometimes it’s left for days because I forget it’s in there.

Remember:¬†Suica or Pasmo.¬†Tokyo hosts one of the most efficient and reliable mass transit systems in the world. And with 13 million residents, traffic can be insane and frustrating. Therefore it’s best to buy a Suica or Pasmo when you get here. Not only can you use it on the 158¬†number of trains and regional lines and 41 bus routes, you can also use it at convenience stores to buy food and beer and at some vending machines. You can even use them when you miss the last train and have to take a taxi home. (But I wouldn’t recommend this) It’s a convenient way to reach all corners of the city and cuts down on the hassle of buying tickets and guessing the fare.

Also to note: The trains trains will be crowded. People will squeeze in as much as possible. No way around it during certain times of day. It’s all part of the experience.

Do not take a taxi if you can avoid it.¬†Simply put: Taxis in Tokyo are expensive. The flag rate is 730 yen for the first two kilometers and rapidly increases from there. It’s also important to note that rates increase between 11pm and 5am. This is important to remember if you happen to miss the last train home.

Trains and busses usually stop from midnight to 5am, so if you end up at a random bar in Rippongi and your hotel is in Omotesando, you might end up paying close to 100¬†bucks to get back to your hotel. Just avoid it if you can. Pay attention to the last train information or plan to make it an all-nighter. It’s Tokyo, so it’s pretty easy to do if you’re a rockstar.

Never leave tips.¬†I know in a lot of parts of the world, tips are considered customary. However here in Japan, they can be interpreted as an insult. Something about pride and whatnot. Just remember, most of the things you pay for not only include the service charge, but also the taxes. Expect to get your change back when paying at a bar or restaurant and remember to take it with you. You will get chased down and they will insist you take it back. And speaking of restaurants…

No, the service is not bad.¬†With restaurants in Japan, you have to flag them down to order. Someone will seat you, bring you water, and even might ask for your drink order. But when it’s time to order, you will need to flag them down with a polite¬†sumimasen¬†and someone will rush over to take your order.

It’s also important to know that they may not come back to check on you unless your plate is empty. Unlike in the States, where they come back every 5-10 minutes to see if everything is okay. I think it might be that they just want you to enjoy your meal without constant pestering and they figure if you wanted them, you will let them know. It took some time for me to get used to this as well. No worries.

Best time to go.¬†For the most part, you can visit Tokyo any time of the year. My recommendation is to come during Sakura season (mid-late¬†March through¬†early April). This is the best time to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, participate in a hanami party, and eat all the wonderful food and drinks that are sakura themed and flavored. It’s my favorite time of year here and the weather is really amazing. The summers are horrid and¬†humid and frankly, unbearable. The winters are mild, but makes for really bad sight-seeing if you’re looking for outdoor activities. I would absolutely avoid Tokyo during typhoon¬†season, which is end of August¬†until early October. If it gets really bad, everything closes to avoid damage and injury.¬†Don’t let a typhoon, or even really bad humidity, ruin your vacation. Come during the spring or fall for the best weather.

Plan ahead and do you research.¬†I would never suggest someone coming here and winging it. I can’t even really do weekend activities without some kind of plan. Between navigating the transportation to beating the crowds, you really need to know what you’re doing and where. And also search where things are. Tokyo has a lot of nooks and crannies to discover and although it’s fun getting lost in a new city, getting lost here is a whole nother beast. I would say, make room for impulsivity. You can definitely end up in a random bar in¬†Shibuya¬†and find yourself in a middle of a karaoke battle with locals or smack dab in the middle of a Brazilian festival in Asakusa. It happens. Embrace it, but do plan ahead just in case. You can lose a couple of days if you get lost in Shinjuku station. Seriously.

Tokyo is a vast land of tradition, fashion, food, and entertainment. You can find almost anything under the sun to do and experience while you are here, but it’s not one of those places you can just stumble through. Because of its deep roots in traditions, there are things you should know before coming, to avoid being a stereotypical gaijin¬†or foreigner.

Respect the customs, enjoy the history, and interact with the people. Tokyo is an amazing place and I hope you enjoy your experience if you ever find yourself here.

(and yes, I know those were more than 5 things. I’m a rebel and I do what I want)