Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grammar Lessons with Elliot

I went to a club in the hilariously sketchy 西新宿二町目 district, where before long I was danced all up ons by a Brazilian. I was really hoping for a Nihonjin, but because this particular Brazilian lived in Japan and spoke Japanese fluently that was really my main criterion.

After dancing, I was told the following: ”やりたい”。([I/one] want(s) to do [X])

This statement included neither a subject nor an object of the verb, as Japanese speech is wont to do. But as I've gradually gotten better at understanding these sorts of things and filling in the blanks, I was pretty sure what was meant, but decided to clarify all the same.

"僕を?” (direct object: me?)

Yes, that is exactly what was meant. I discovered that night that not only has my speech progressed to the point where I can flirt in Japanese, I can also politely decline (adamantly refuse) night club intercourse. Hooray!

Back to America (FUCK YEAH) tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Hakodate had its annual summer port festival this weekend, which was tons of fun. Pictures on my facebook for any who care to stalk, although I have a ton more than I have yet to upload. in the meantime, I present this gem that I experienced (can you experience gems? I don't think so, but I'm too tired to care to reword my fail Engrish) among the many performance groups that paraded throughout the streets.

First, the traditional Ika Odori (Squid Dance) for which Hakodate is famous. You can just barely make out the words to the song. About a bajillion people danced about in the street to this song from 4:30-9 pm, and Elliot and I were allowed to join in the fun at 8 pm when we joined the Hakodate University students who were wasted beyond all belief and we all danced for an hour and half straight and bonded. And **** do my feet hurt right now. Anyway:


And the best for last:


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Marching and some ladies

So, I know we ostensibly don't march, right? But before my inner scatter-band badass was freed by the YPMB, I spent four years of my life in the depths of roll-step mark-time horn-swing hell, reined over by a merciless tyrant of questionable senility. And though I wear my YPMB schwee with the same pride that a recovering alcoholic puts into their AA badge, these things don't just leave you unscarred.

So I was participating in the Hakodate Harbor Festival, in a semi-historical costume parade. My part of the parade was sandwiched between not one, but TWO marching bands. They were playing JP Sousa. Stars and Stripes Forever. It was Amerika-tastic! Except they were marching with French Horns. Everyone knows you just don't do that. I missed my mellas.

But then the thing is, I couldn't not march in step. Samurais don't roll-step, but I still marked time every time we stopped. It was bad.

Can you spot the foreigners?

Also, please note that following the parade, having consumed two cups of legal drinking age beer I proceeded to acquire three girls. Subtract one from both sides of the equation and we have ourselves a winning combination.

We saw John Greenawalt today!

BHouse, after an impromptu celebration of Joe's 19th birthday (btw, 19th birthdays are seriously meaningless....srsly), ran into John Greenawalt!

Oh yea, it's Joe's birfday today (though I guess not anymore for those of you in DA ASIA)

Amurrika misses y'all.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Bon Jovi Wins in Any Language

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen (GALAG!!!),

I present Elliot Eaton and his rhetorical prowess as demonstrated by the speech he gave during our Japanese Culture and Language Program's annual speech contest.

It's entirely in Japanese, so for everybody who is not Michael Thornton, just bide your time until (2:00-2:15ish)--it'll be well worth it =). You can totally pick out the words "ABBA" and "Money Money Money" too a little before that.

Also, apologies for the bad quality, my camera fails, which is also why you miss the first 5 seconds of his speech because it wouldn't start recording.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Lemon Party

So one of the most popular bands in Mongolia is called the Lemons. They basically sound exactly like the Strokes except they sing in Mongolian. But they're quite good. Here's a little sample:

So anyways, I've seen them play a few times because there are only like 5 bands in Mongolia and they all put on concerts every week. And naturally, I've become bros with them. Because this is Monbrolia. The lead singer's name is Odnoo and he's a G. He never takes off his sunglasses. Some say it's because he has weird looking eyes. Most say it's because he's really freaking cool. A few days ago I went to a birthday party and the Lemons were there. So I guess it was a Lemonparty. Sorry. And then I told the birthday boy I was from Milwaukee and he asked me if I knew his friend Charlie Villanueva and I felt out of place. And long story short, I cockblocked Odnoo. As a bro, I felt terrible. As a protector of blackout girls, I felt chivalrous. I fear it may have irrevocably damaged our budding brolationship, but I guess I can deal with that.

And now for a shameless plug to support my summer's labors: check out this super groovy website! Isn't it cool?!?!?! And look, there are links to Facebook and Twitter at the bottom of the page!!!!! Wowee!!! How cool would it be to follow/fan those things!!! Go for it!!!~!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Dear YPMB,

The Studio Ghibli Museum is the greatest place ever.

End of every discussion ever.


Monday, July 20, 2009

I'm famous!!!

...well...not really. So my host brother, Yoshihisa, age 24, in addition to being really badass and being able to speak English (THANK GOD), is a DJ. Last night while I was diligently doing homework (no, really) he came to my room and asked if I could spare a moment. Seems he and his buddy are working on a new remix and they thought it would be cool to have a real English speaking person read a few lines as an introduction. I think you can see where this is going...

つまり, in a few days/weeks/don't know how long it'll take for edits, if you happen to be clubbing around the wonderfully exciting town of Hakodate, Japan, you can listen to yours truly introduce Yoshihisa & friend's reggae mix with the following lines of epic English (with special audio effects and a trance Europop-esque echo added too!):

"Hi! We are O. D. D., Out of Dance Hall. Original ragga session. This style is the one and only. We are the future. Listen and knock yourselves out. Let's break it down!"


Yoshihisa's in the top left with the dreadlocks (although he doesn't have them anymore). Also, I'm not sure why he's OBT here and O.D.D. elsewhere...Meh.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


It was entirely in Chinese.


Midnight showings here, unfortunately, are not a big affair (at least not for Harry Potter), but it was fun wandering the streets of Harbin while we waited for the movie to start. It was also fun/kind of head-hurting to hear all the Harry Potter vocabulary in Chinese. One of our Chinese friends told us the name of one spell that pretty literally translates to "put a frog in your shoe." My particular favorite was "Maerfo" - Malfoy - who was looking unexpectedly very handsome in this latest installment, having thought he always looked kind of awkward before. I also enjoyed how McGonagall kept calling Harry "Pot", making the "e" in the Chinese-ified "Potter" very silent. Oh, oh, and you know how Madame Maxime always calls Dumbledore "Dumblydore"? That IS his Chinese name. Ahaha.

Anyway. Homework time. I can't wait to see it again/in English.

Friday, July 10, 2009

You're Hot, Then You're Cold

Shower, must we do these things on a degrees per second basis?

(And since for some reason I can't post comments, Elliot, there's a Dreamcast game out there called "Typing of the Dead" which is House of the Dead 2, but you type phrases quickly to kill zombies.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Worst idea ever?

Yes. I think so.

The photo's not great, but look closely. This is a DS videogame called "English of the Dead". Like the House of the Dead series. But educational?

As far as I could tell from reading what I could of the case, this game is like a point and click adventure, where you use your brains to select the appropriate English grammar before the zombies can eat them. Your brains, that is.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Dear China,

Ponder this: alphabet. I'm just saying.


yi(2)-ge Zhong(1)wen(2) xue(2)sheng

Monday, July 6, 2009

There is a God

My office has a new intern. She's a 6-foot-tall Swedish model.

That is all.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Night at a College in China

So I'm sitting here trying (failing) to do homework and I hear some loud, male voices whooping and shouting outside. I wasn't really interested - there've been a lot of graduations at the school the past few days (I think different majors graduate on different days?), and a lot of celebrations - but then another voice shouted at them a few times. I went to the open window to see if I could decipher the Chinese equivalent of "shut up, you damn kids!" and was afforded a Rear Window-like view of all the rooms with lights in the buildings surrounding mine.

Because of the weird echo effects in the courtyard, I'm still not sure who was making all the noise. I'm thinking it might be connected to the room across the way full of naked boys flinging water at each other, though. Um. 好玩儿吗?

Finally found a proxy that will let me post here.

Not much to say now, though.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Reason # 6.022 x 10^23...

...why I love my host mom (okaasan).There was an open house today where our host families came and sat in for the last hour of class and had a chance to see us all fail spectacularly at Japanese. Anyway, today after dinner we went to "31" (more commonly known as Baskin Robbins in the USA) for ice cream and the following conversation took place:

Okaasan: ターインの友達。。。あのう、右隣の男の人。。。インド人ですねえ?いつもカレーライスを食べている?
Me: ....

Or, in English:

My amazing host-mom: Your friend, that is, the boy who sat on your right side...he's Indian, right? Is he always eating curry rice?
Me: ....

Somehow, I managed to mostly keep a straight face, although it was pretty hard. And...that's what she said. That's all folks. Over and out.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tokyo? More like Pokéyo

Hello, YPMB. I am theoretically a member of you. I played with you. And our friend Thanh invited me to contribute to your blog.

Yes, we all know that Tokyo has awesome Gundams (well, just the one), but perhaps more important is the fact that it's actually Pokemon. Where else do you have high speed rail, ubiquitous convenient stores that sell basically everything, ridiculous multistory department stores, lots of people walking around in underground pathways, aggressive cyclists, and big 'ol mysterious temples and shrines? Saffron City is in Pokemon's Kanto, Tokyo is in real-world Kanto (also, Goldenrod City is clearly an analogue to real-world Osaka). I'm living the Pocket Monster dream.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Follow-up to Saturday night

For those interested parties:
- party at Jason's friend's place; consume much alcohol
- by 1:30 am, pretty much only gay men left (plus Rich, the Yale Medical Fellow and requisite straight dude)
- went to Destination, the gay club of Beijing; paid ridiculous cover; drank more; danced
- arrived back at Jason's friend's place at 4:30 am; sun rising; pass out

Did I mention that I'm a teacher?


Friday, June 26, 2009

I've Got a Nautical Themed Pashmini Afghan!

Tomorrow, HIF is taking a trip to Onuma "quasi-national" Park. Tentative weekend activities will include general park activities, jungle gym shenanigans, various sports activities, karaoke, bowling, swimming, an onsen, and sake drinking (legal drinking age in Japan: 20!). Too bad I don't actually like sake...not that I've ever tried it. I was at a Seven-Eleven buying snacks, and I did actually purchase some sort of alcoholic beverage (8% "Arukooru") of a grapefruit variety because I'm a sucker for grapefruit juice and couldn't resist the shiny advertising.

Strong Zero: Double Grapefruit (or, "Sutorongu Zero: Daburu Gureepufurutsu")

Anyway, I have every intention of riding one of those rent-a-boat's that they promised us and singing "I'm on a Boat" at the top of my lungs tomorrow. And now, bed, because I'm tired and judo kind of kicked my butt today. Literally.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Update from Brongolia

Is Monbrolia a better word? I don't know. But this weekend I had a brotastic experience.

We were walking up to the Zaisan memorial, a wonderful Soviet construction with views of the whole city, when Kevin says "Hmm, I wonder what Blue Ribbon beer is. Probably some cheap crap from China." And I'm like whaaaaat? And he points to some umbrellas that say PABST BLUE RIBBON. And then I hyperventilated a bit. When I came to, I quickly explained to him that no, Pabst Blue Ribbon is not Chinese, and no, it is not crap, but yes, it is cheap. Figures a Columbia student wouldn't know about the beer of America's heartland. Anyways, we made our way over to the umbrellas, which were in the corner of a parking lot in front of a giant golden Buddha, an appropriate place for these holy icons. And there were some sketchy guys grilling meat. We approached them cautiously, but lo and behold, they were not Mongolians, but Uzbek kabob vendors! Oppressed minorities in this hostile country, they were more than happy to talk to some friendly Americans. Alas, they didn't have the nectar of life itself, but they obliged me with a picture in front of the umbrellas, and we thanked these Uzbek broskis by buying some of their overpriced and undercooked meat.

And then we saw a wonderful Soviet mosaic. God I love the Soviets.

Broski update: I saw the guy again last night! In a different place! With kabobs but no PBR, and we had a little broski greeting session.


So, my partner's (Jason, TC '05, Glee Clubber...I know, but forgive him for his wayward ways, as I have) best friend from Yale happens to be living in Beijing this summer (this best friend also happens to be Chinese and a graduate of Yali School Middle School, the school where Jason (Pe2 Jei2 Sen1) and I (Yang2 Jun4 Cheng2) will be teaching for the next two years). This best friend is also quite the partier, and considering he's living in China on a US salary (he's works for a Boston consulting firm), he has no qualms partying hard and bringing his friends along for the ride. I've been out with Jason and his bud a few times thus far, and we've had fun, but I think the shit's hitting the fan this weekend when he throws a Hawaiin-themed party. He's invited, like, the entire ex-pat community and is basically buying out a liquir store. I have a feeling it's going be uber-special.

I can't wait.

Love from Beijing, the future capital of the world,


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Creeper Fail

So, I have much practice being a creeper. My friend Claire from high school knows this, because we usually creep together.

But in trying to commemorate the interesting qualities of Chinese wangba, or internet bars, I sort of didn't turn off the front display of my phone whilst taking a picture of the shirtless smoking dude across from me.

I wondered why he was staring at me, so I actually started typing as if I was texting instead of just holding the phone in a texting position. Oops.

Anyway, that picture was for you, and when I get internet set up in my room (hopefully tomorrow!) I'll pass it along

We got to Harbin on Saturday morning, started our language pledge on Sunday, and started class yesterday. Only speaking Chinese makes me a much less interesting person, and my classes so far are enough to keep me very busy. But! I really, really like Harbin. The weather is wonderful, the skies much clearer than Beijing, and people here are nice in general. The area around the Harbin Institute of Technology, or Hagongda, where we're staying and studying, is full of interesting things to explore. And food here is so, so cheap. I love food. I am happy.

For China people: is the proxy I've been using to access Blogger, and even from wangba, it works great.

Also for China people: what vocab do you use to explain the YPMB?

Monday, June 22, 2009


It's official... videos of me spinning cats are a hit in any language.

The host family was even more impressed by the original Wiggy Spin, marveling that he doesn't even need a box to spin on the hardwood floors.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

WTF, China: Part 1 -- Showers that aren't

Look closely at this shower. "What shower?" you ask? Exactly.

Last summer in Japan I got used to unfamiliar bathing styles, but this is really something else. It's as if someone built a bathroom then added a shower head as an afterthought. The whole room gets all wet and slippery. I've taken to throwing my hand towel onto the ground in front of the sink as a little island of dryness after I shower, but this other student tells me he's rigged up a two-towel dam system around the drains that I might try tomorrow.

The only plus side to this set up is that if you forget something by the sink, you can totally just walk and get it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

SQUIDS (Part Two)

Squids are a huge deal in Hakodate, so expect tons more squid posts here in commemoration of the most badass section of band =)

Anyway, Chris Brown (I can never resist using his full name), Ashok, and I tried SQUID INK ICE CREAM the other day, aka Ikazumi. It's actually REALLY REALLY GOOD, OMD. Seriously. I had the vanilla-ikazumi, and mooched licks of Ashok's melon-ikazumi (om nom nom!), and I swear, we're going back there again sometime soon to try other flavors.

Sadly, I didn't have my camera that day and couldn't get a close up picture, so I'm stealing this picture from Chris' Light Fellowship Blog:

And...I'm not actually that short. I'm just standing on the lower part of the sloped street o_O

Eat babies!

Also, my address if anybody wants to write Elliot or me and send us stuff, because you're missing us so terribly much:

Thanh Tran (or Elliot Eaton, clearly)
c/o Hokkaido International Foundation
14-1 Motomachi, Hakodate, Hokkaido
040-0054 JAPAN

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Too badass for words...
If you notice Tasia and I are facing opposite directions, meaning that we begin the series on opposing sides of the conflict. However, it is likely that Tasia (the good one, as indicated by her outstretched hand) will convert me (the evil calculating one) to her side of justice.

The Golden Rule: If you yell "IT'S A GUNDAM!!!" in the presence of a Gundam, you will be annihilated shortly thereafter.

THe plan to brainwash them all

I am officially a rockstar. I went with my host mom to pick up the girls from their brass band practice (they play trumpet and clarinet). As the students filed out, several of them stopped dead in their tracks to stare at the tall blonde gaijin. I talked with two of the 6th graders (they thankfully spoke slower than Nozomi and Hikari) who squealed over my every word as I reigned over a sea of people half my size. They actually worshipped my feet to see how large they are. I was overwhelmed by the swarm as they pressed me against a wall and asked questions bursting with enthusiasm. Hakodate itself is a decently international tourist spot, but the neighboring city Kunebetsu where my family lives is pretty quiet and sees far fewer non-Japanese.

I also got an invitation to go back to the school and practice trumpet sometime- I'll have to show the children how to play and sing our Bulldog fight song sometime.

Little sis Hikari is far left in the second row.
Can you find me?
Once you do, notice the mild look of fear in my eyes.

This photo better captures the scale of the wave of babies.

And for mainly my own entertainment as I mentally plot how to indoctrinate the children of Japan with Yale spirit, a shoddy translation of Bulldog into Japanese:

ブル! Buru!
ブル! Buru!
ワンワンワン Wan wan wan
イライ・イエル Eri Yare

ブル! Buru!
ブル! Buru!
ワンワンワン Wan wan wan
チームは失敗するまい teemu ha shippai suru mai

イライの男児受けを割ると Irai no danji uke o waru to
あの全長留意ぞ!ano zenchou ryuui zo!

ブル! Buru!
ブル! Buru!
ワンワンワン Wan wan wan!
イライ・イエル Eri Yare!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I love life and its little coincidences.

Today, in the ginormous Beijing airport, China, a fellow pointed out a gal in a YPMB t-shirt to me.

That girl was Tasia. It was awesome.

Lovin' it,


Monday, June 15, 2009

Goodb-aaaaiiiii-eeeeeeeee America!

I'm out. I'm through. So long. Sianara (sp?).
It was lovely. It was lovely. It was lovely.
I've had my fun.
I did my dance.
And now, I bid adieu:
Adieu, adieu, to you, and you, and you.

Time for a break

Dear The Environment,

You know that I like you. You know that I'm a big fan of recycling and sustainable foods and not eating endangered animals. But it's not my fault that whales are so frickin' delicious. Maybe if you didn't make the things that I moralistically should not eat in good conscious so tasty, we could avoid this whole dilemma. It's not you, it's whales. Maybe we need to see other people for just a little bit until you can forgive me for ordering the fried kujira burger at Lucky Pierrot, the local hamburger chain that is ironically the most popular restaurant in all of Hakodate. But hey, I hope we can still be friends.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Leaving in 2.5 Hours

Even though I've traveled before, I'm vaguely terrified. Mostly because I didn't buy travelers checks and now I'm nervous.

Ahh! Goodbye California!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Eat Babies!

So my program takes place in Hakodate, a city on the northern island (and prefecture) of Hokkaido, Japan. It's really famous for its seafood, and in particular, its squid, Hell yeahs.

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's my birthday, bitch!

Were I still in the United States, I would be 19. I have not yet lived for 20 years. But according to my passport and my position relative to the international date line, I'm 20 a day early. It was a little anti-climactic because Japan basically never cards, but I obtained two bottles of personally, legally purchased sake that later partied with me in the hot springs. Aw yeah.
I think I was trying to look pimpin' here. I think I just look squinty instead.
Note the recently purchased Sake bottles and mochi cakes.

I spent my birthday afternoon and night hanging out with a bunch of naked guys in hot water, one of whom is apparently my Sigma Chi bro fromt the Harvard chapter. We were later joined by an older native guy, and we actually made some pretty good conversation with him. His lack of teeth was a major block to our understanding, but he gave us directions to a good ramen spot for dinner.

Did I mention that Japan sells sake in juice boxes?
Actually among the most un-delicious experiences of my life, but it was okay because it was in a juice box.

After a long ordeal of asking directions, we finally plotted out the right bus route to get to the いさりび間 Isaribikan Hot Springs. But the only way to make it there was to sprint from the hotel to the station. We received claps and cheers from a fishmonger on the streets as we raced to our destination.
Never have I been so pleased with myself to be on a bus.

List of fun things I've eaten:
~Salted squid guts. I could feel them for hours afterwards.

~Squid Somen (noodles). I thought this meant I'd have squid served with noodles, but then it was actually squid sliced into noodles.

When I received my dish, I kept on insisting that this was noodles and there would be squid beneath, but then it turned out the entire thing was just squid.
~Whole Squid. It was five inches long.
Not actually what I ate, but the most adorable manhole cover I've ever seen.
~Ramen. With squid in it.

But before that, I first celebrated my coming of age by running up a mountain at 5 am. I know, right? But my sleep schedule is still an epic fail from jet lag, and it was far too bright and pretty out in the morning. Over two hours, I conquered 函館山, which is more steep, tall, and confusing than I had expected. I spent a long time even trying to find a road that would get me there (apparently running straight towards the big rock doesn't work) because Japan's streets are whack. The signs along the way explain the history of the place in English, and the signs along the mountain trails explained about the local birds in the area (I was very excited to see this after complaining about there being nothing but the scariest crows I've ever encountered). I sadly didn't bring my camera for the incredible view.

Early in the afternoon, as we tried out some authentic Japanese gelato at a place called Saltimbocca (fun fact: most popular restaurant in Hakodate is a hamburger joint), we were asked by a Kyoto native to write our dreams on a large card and pose with him for a project. Through some horribly awkward questioning, we finally figured out he has a friend doing the same in Kyuushuu, to see how people's dreams vary between the north and south of Japan. Our dream, that fits into this weekend's goal setting homework for the weekend: 私達は日本語で上手になりたい!(We want to become good at Japanese. And pose in the most Asian fashion possible.)

I seduced two cats and a kitten with my sultry cat yodeling. My gathered audience didn't believe in my skills but I knew I would conquer.

Also, this hotel has MORE FREE JAMMIES. I love Japan.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mormons in Beijing?

I don't know yet, maybe there are. But there are Mormons here in cold, overcast Salt Lake City! Oh yeah, let's talk about the unsuccess that was my day of travel.

So this morning I wake up at 5:30 all packed and excited to go to China. I eat some toast and check the Northwest website for my itinerary and oh noes! my flight from Salt Lake to Tokyo is canceled! "Screw that!" I say, and check the Delta website for my itinerary. Alas! all flights are on time and most certainly not canceled. Phew.

La di da, epically long check in line, epically long security line (<3 style="font-style: italic;">ask the man at the counter about my maybe-cancelled flight, get an okay, board the plane, glare daggers at the baby in front of me (keep your food in your carry-on, people.) land in Salt Lake, and whoops, my flight actually is cancelled. Good job, Delta.

There's only one flight a day to Tokyo from Salt Lake. So I'm stuck here. It was either that or fly back home, which was really just too ridiculous to handle.

Actually it's pretty sweet now that I'm out of that god forsaken airport. I have a nice hotel room, free internets, and $21 in vouchers to spend on food. There's nothing to do, as Salt Lake's biggest attraction is the Mormon temple, and I've been there before. I'd rather be in China, but oh well.

Japan-ers: do you have time to visit Odaiba?

If so, view this:


More pictures:


The kids of those construction workers must think they have the coolest parents in the world (it might be true).


Elliot already uploaded the obligatory photo of the technologically advanced Japanese toilets, but his picture doesn't have Hermes the Hamster. Hermes has survived a surprisingly large number of traumatizing experiences (including the time Elliot threw him against the wall of my dorm room because he was upset that "the hamster a friend had sent me in the mail as a gift" wasn't actually a real, live hamster like he'd hoped) and has somehow survived mostly intact, minus his whiskers which are sitting at home on my desk in Texas. Don't ask.

Anyway, here's closer look at the epic toilet's various functions complete with illustrations follows--excuse the blurriness of the picture because my camera kind of fails: (Stop, Spray, Bidet, Water Pressure)


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's Hot.

I'm not a big fan of actually going on long rants of what I'm doing, but I just thought I should say that China blocks this blog. So that's pretty funny.
And it's freaking hot in Beijing.

Day One

Edit: I actually posted this the 1st morning because I fell asleep before a roommate was done with the internet, but whatever---off to the airport now, bye!

What’s going through my brain right now as I’m sitting in Japan a bajllion miles away from home? Well you see, my suitemates and I share the exceedingly useful ability to recite practically the entire dialogue of Disney’s Mulan among the four of us (complete with epic renditions of “Be a man, you must be swift as a raging fiiiire!”). What does Mulan have to do with Japan? Absolutely nothing. I’ve merely bestowed the (completely original) title of “Day One” on this gripping description of my first day in Japan, and I just have this reoccurring image of the scene in Mulan whereChi-Fu (sp?) grins at Chang right after threatening to send reports to the general about how the training of the new troops progresses, and Chi-Fu holds up his stylus/papyrus/whatever and says “Day One” in this really snide voice. Yes. Blame my rambling and Mulan stories on the jetlag exhaustion if you will. Also, now I have Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It” stuck in my head. Thanks a lot.

In more relevant news, Japan!!!1!!1one!! It’s growing one me, at least a little. In all honesty, I spent most of today being terrified out of my mind about everything, because the one thing I hate more than spiders is traveling. Do not want. Trying to work the public telephones in Chicago was bad enough (fail), and I hadn’t even left the States yet. Once in Japan, getting through quarantine, immigration, and customs wasn’t actually all that bad, and only took as long as it did due to my inability to decipher the Japanese instructions for everything. It really hit me how limited my ability to communicate is when despite the numerous applicable dialogues which we memorized and recited in class, the only Japanese I’ve managed to nervously squeeze out has been “Excuse me” and “Thank you very much.” Oh, and of course, “Do you have orange juice?”

Anyway, all the other inane details of today will go in my Light blog once I have time to actually think back on the past 24 hours (although since I’m in Japan, i.e. in the future, you could argue that it’s been more than 24 hours). I’m sure Elliot’s pictures speak volumes about Japan anyway, haha. The pajamas are indeed pretty cool, although mine goes completely down to my toes and I’m not sure I would want to be seen in public wearing it. Sadly, I think my camera may be dead (or just failing fantastically at the moment) so it may very well be that I’ll be mooching pictures from other people to post in the future.

Also, I SAW JOHN GREENAWALT TODAY. Granted, it was only for about 5 minutes when I got off the elevator on the 17th floor of our hotel to find him standing outside my room after I facebooked him our hotel and my room number. This whole not having a cell phone/reliable means of communication thing is also a real pain, although I’ll be renting one which should arrive next Wednesday. Anyway, I’m hoping that when HIF has our mid-semester break John can come up to Sapporo and party with Elliot and me! Anyway, that’s it for now. I should study for the 5+ hour long placement test of doom that we’ll be taking shortly after we get off our plane from Tokyo to Hakodate...for which we have to get up at 4:45 am. Gah. おやすみなさい

WTF I'm in Mongolia

So I got into Mongolia yesterday. A dude in a suit picked me up at the airport. And drove me to my apartment. But did he let me rest? No. We went to a pub. And drank beer and vodka tonics with some millionaire European investors and the son of one of the most powerful men in the Mongolian government. They make their vodka tonics here like you would normally except the ratios are reversed. So they fill up a cup with vodka and then add a shot of tonic. And then drink it in one go.

So anyway, what am I doing here? you might ask. Well, I am an intern with Asia Pacific Investment Partners, a Mongolian-based non-banking financial institution. Ask all you want, I have no idea what that means. Nor do I have any idea how I got myself into this. Nor do I have any idea what I'm going to be doing for the next two months.

I am learning so much already. Like if you step on someone's foot, you must immediately shake their hand, otherwise they'll beat the crap out of you. Also, it's easy for foreign investors to buy property in Mongolia. Fancy that! Also, the Soviets were terrible architects and my apartment smells like cigarettes and cheap hookers. Woot!

The first period of wakefulness and many hours of travel-induced crazy

Last night, or whatever period of time ago it was that I last went to bed, I played Plants Vs. Zombies. I played it as it is my sworn duty as an environmentally friendly foe of the undead. Normally when you're told "A HUGE WAVE OF ZOMBIES IS APPROACHING", and then you spud-ow those zombie mofos, you get a present, a new seed with new abilities. But then instead, I got a magically shiny note! I opened it up and this is what it said:
NOT ACCEPTABLE. So I hightailed it out of the country, to a place that would be more zombie free. Fortunately, after hitch-hiking my way down to San Francisco I managed to flag down a plane on the runway, conveniently enough heading for Narita, the Tokyo International Airport.

They had me write some things. I did a fair amount of it in Kanji, including the address of my stay, which after writing four different times on separate forms still makes no sense to me. Please don't notice the fact that I forgot how to write 勉強 or probably misspelled my middle name in the katakana alphabet.
But fancy that, I didn't make it very far.
At least my smooth-talking Japanese convinced them that Nyquil is a 医者が必要じゃなくてどこでも買える薬。Maybe my hot bod helped when they stuck the thermometer in my arm-pit.

Once I had gained my freedom, I encountered many strange and wonderful things, and failed at flushing this particular toilet.
Not pictured: the shower for babies on the other side of the personal space bubble stall.

But despite all the wonders I may come to find, this statue in the Tokyo airport reminded me just why I love America.

And it's not even Day 1 of the program. Tomorrow is the placement exam which requires waking up at 5 for travel.

EDIT: An update of the utmost importance. Holy crap guys. The hotel in Tokyo where I'm staying before heading to Hakodate tomorrow HAS FREE JAMMIES.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Capsule Hotels: Only in Japan...

John, you HAVE to stay in one of these while you're in Tokyo:

See also: wikipedia!

In other news, I'm flying to Japan tomorrow morning. AHHHHHHHHHHHH. So not ready for this.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

First thing's first

For all yall didn't know. When it comes to all things Japanese, Michael Thorton is strictly baller. Michael came in, hooked me up with a cell phone (would have been absolutely impossible without him, way too many complications), checked out some shops, and then shared a delicious meal with me. All the while he gave me the insides scoops about traveling around Japan, where I should go, and what food is good. He kept stressing that he doesn't even hang out in this area, but he just had everything in control.

Second thing: If you are reading this and are not my facebook friend, fix that. I have Harajuku pictures!!!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

500 yen addition to ticket price for the 1 drink minimum?!?

If this happens at every show, I might need to take up drinking so all the money doesn't go to waste. My first Tokyo show:

Friday, June 5, 2009


My visa arrived today.
It's so official now:
I'm moving to China.
It's really happening.




Having already packed all my belongings for Japan, I have progressed to procrastination tactic #2: figuring out how to use Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten (an electronic dictionary rom) on my Nintendo DS. There's a very handy FAQ walk-through-esque document online which I'm perusing, because the alternative would be using said dictionary to look up 95% of the words in its users' manual. However, I really like the whole character recognition dealie, so I can draw in kanji with my stylus and look them up. The rom also features an English-to-Japanese dictionary/vocabulary list, complete with sample sentences. I was going through it checking off the boxes for terms which I already know, and for the word "afternoon, " I came across the following example sentence:

She died yesterday afternoon.

If you think that's bizarre, I went further down the list and under "baby" I came across this entry:

I've got a knife here, baby!

Umm. What?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Swine flu is another story, but no threat of rabies.

So I'm not in Asia yet, but I did have my travel clinic appointment today (procrastinate much?),highlight of which was my wonderfully cheerful, wonderfully southern nurse. Her advice about rabies: "Don't pick up any small animals, but y'know that's not really a problem there because they eat them and stuff."

I love Atlanta.


I realized some of the most interesting parts of my story actually had to be left out, because I think my parents will end up reading that blog.

Main detail: The fact that the shopping district is also the red light district of Tokyo and I was given several offers for peep shows and the like.

Also I just remembered: The crows in Tokyo are HUGE and there have been reports of them attacking people.


For anyone who didn't get the memo, like me: Japan runs on two prong outlets. This means my computer charger was useless upon arrival. And this is how my adventure today began.

Go to my blog for the rest of the story.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Hello, Band!

So, I'm going to be going to Harbin, China this summer with funding from a Light Fellowship. Harbin is the capital of the northwestern most province of China - sandwiched between Russia and North Korea. I picked this program mostly for its location, to be quite honest. Because it's so far north, the summer temperatures aren't crazy hot & humid like most of the rest of China, and I figured being in a smaller city would force me to use my Chinese more than in a more cosmopolitan place like Beijing (I also wanted to escape the notoriously difficult-to-understand Beijing accent). However, I'm also really excited about the fact that with this program I'll have a Chinese roommate to get to know and to help me with my studies. Aaand on top of that, we got to pick a subject to study in addition to our basic Chinese classes - I chose comedic dialogue, because I thought that the tongue twisters and cultural references involved would bring my Chinese to another level.

Harbin, being so close to the northern border, has had a lot of Russian influence. On the other border, with all the junk North Korea's been up to recently I've been a little worried that a travel advisory might go up and my funding might get rescinded (like all those poor souls who were planning on traveling to Mexico this advisory = Yale can't legally fund their trips). So far it seems like everything's going smoothly, though, so hopefully I'll be there in a few short weeks.

I leave on the 14th, even though my program doesn't start until June 17th. I'm going to visit John in Tokyo for about 48 hours before I head to Beijing for orientation (thank you for agreeing to take me in, John)! I love Japan, and I love Japanese food. Harajuku is the only place I absolutely need to go: Jangarra Ramen + the most delicious crepes. Other than that, it'll be an adventure!

I really ought to crack my Chinese books again sometime before I leave. It's amazing how quickly it all slips away. Anyway, bedtime for me. I hope everyone's summer is going beautifully so far :)

For the record, I'm keeping a fellowship blog here.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Blogs! Everybody's blogging! What the heck? I don't really know what to write here that isn't already included in my Light Fellowship blog but I feel like I should say something since I just set this up. Also, thanks for starting off the posting, John =).

Next Tuesday I'm off to study Japanese for 2 months w/ the Hokkaido International Foundation (HIF), funded entirely by the Light Fellowship. We're supposed to keep blogs which they post up on a forum for future applicants to learn about the different programs, etc. Most of the stuff in my Light blog will go into great detail about program specific things. To quote my dear friend Kevin (no, Marcus, he's not my boyfriend), "You have these interesting/deep posts about mundane things." I'm pretty sure that he intended that to sound more flattering than it sounds right now.

Anyway, the less mundane, more interesting (and probably more politically incorrect) stuff will go here w/o all the extra eloquent descriptions relevant for Light fellows but not so much for anybody else (unless you have an unhealthy obsession with the minute details of my life). I'll be sure to keep the posting content of each blog unique so as not to bore you to tears and I promise to be equally exciting in both, so go ahead and check it out if you'd like. In the meantime, I'm going to try and get a tan in the Texas sun, eat lots of fried chicken (getting in touch with my dad's roots and all that) and drink lots of sweet tea, and play with the greatest dog in the whole world before I take off for good. Peace. in John Greenawalt

Just so no one is going "who the hell is that!?!" Greeno is my nickname. I picked it up somewhere around middle school. I never really spread it around band, but most of my Saybrook friends use it interchangeably with my actual name.

This is the blog I just made today:
I will probably put all my hardcore "research findings" up on that one, and just post all the awesome/hilarious things that will surely happen to me in Tokyo on YPMBasia.

I am so psyched. My plane is in 30 hours or so. I need to start packing right now!