Friday, April 11, 2014

Thoughts on the United States of America

I started making penpals, and have been describing America (and Japan). I have an inside/outside perspective of it, as a person living abroad.

Hi, you want to know about the US and Japan, eh? My description of the US changes the older I get. I've lived overseas almost 5 years now, and I realized that 'freedom' isn't all of our rights, like guns, driving and education. It's more the fact that mentally, most Americans I know don't trap ourselves with cultural/social limits. Living in Japan, I notice that people choose a career at age 19-20, and start working for (often the same) company until they retire at age 65. Other countries choose a skill and get highly specialized and never consider doing something else, because it's such a risk.

None of that applies to Americans. We change jobs, apartments, lovers, schools in a constant search of what's "better." I put that word in quotes because we often don't consider all the details, and end up with lots of problems in our new places, but it's such a large country that if you REALLY want to, you can create a new life in one of the 50 states, and not have to learn a new language. I have a feeling that foreigners consider us pretty reckless, with all this uncertain moving around jobs, schools, and houses, especially leaving your family when you're 18, but we are probably the most hopeful culture on the planet, and the majority of us have lots of room to both fail and succeed.

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That is a much better description of Saitama. Usually, I get the same enthusiastic reply from Japanese people that I'm from a city they've heard of, but no one REALLY knows what Seattle is like. It's not super exciting to visit for a week, unless you're American. As a foreigner, you don't really know what small cultural differences to look for between American cities, states and communities. That's why I'm so disappointed that most people I meet have only been to Hawaii, New York or Los Angeles. I think they just want to say 'I went to NYC or LA' because it's cool, not for any kind of cross-cultural exchange. Seattle is one of the best American cities to live, study, or work in. Something long-term. We have top-notch schools, an incredibly strong economy, and friendly citizens, and (outside of Downtown at night) it's very safe for an American city.


The biggest complaint of foreigners is that the bars close at 2am, and the busses stop running around 12am, but what foreigners DON'T know is that the good parties are house parties, which go later, and cost a whole lot less. Seattlites also tend to like other drugs than alcohol, and you can have a good quiet night on good marijuana, or a loud night of dancing on other stuff. Of course, if you don't drink or do drugs, you can still enjoy night life and live music at a lot of bars. My favorite part about Seattle is that people only judge racist or mysogynist people (皮膚と性別). So, you can talk about drugs, tatoos, religion, your romantic life, etc and people don't really have a problem with it. The older I get, the more I realize that THAT is true freedom.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

European Spring Break

Florence Duomo



Invited by a friend a few years ago, I decided to take a spring break in Italy this year, because there was a lot that I missed last time. Mainly, Florence, which turned out to be quite the sight. After two long flights and a quarter day inside of DXB, I took some more transportation to arrive at my bed and breakfast, a cozy private room with an incredibly friendly Italian.



Majestic as fuck. Brunelleschi hooked it up.
I'm gonna back up for a minute to that second flight, where we hit some violent turbulence, and the fucking amateur pilot decided to drop us rather abruptly to compensate. Maybe he avoided some North Korean target practice. I don't know, people screamed and a couple drinks were spilled. I was too busy swallowing my own asshole to make noise.


Prima - House-made noodles with ragu

But I digress. Ah yeah, Florence! My b&b host suggested where to go for my first dinner in Italy. He did the 90-degree semi-closed-palm-air-slice for effect of just how good I'd feel after eating. It was grippa awkward, being a sole eater in a restaurant with 3 other families, but then food came, and I blacked out from an intense orgasmic taste. 


Secondo - Florentine steak, arugula and parmesan
I felt like a douche taking a picture in a small restaurant of your food, so let me use words to amend this picture. First of all, triple the portion. Second, The cheese was about 10x as big, about 10 3-inch square pieces - fucking SHEETS of parmesan. I later asked if the dish was for 2 people and was rewarded with a "Si." I still ate the shit out of it. I left a few leaves.


The Arno River, mixin it up in Florence.

Right before I left this lovely place, I saw David's naked-ass body for a good 2 hours. It was raining that morning, so I got there with less than 10 other people. It took an hour or so to figure out the plan of attack - how to take a photo without being Captain Obvious about it. This is what I got, but we all know what David looks like:
Later, on day #3, I went to Pisa! Good weather made this pic possible.


You could see the Tower from my hostel's window.



Pisa had a really small-town feeling. And I accidentally ran into the tower while looking for my hostel. Speaking of hostel, I met some absolutely incredible young Germans there. A few backpacking, hitchhiking musicians, and some students. I actually ended up going to the next place with two of them. The place where we hiked between two of the five villages was called Cinque Terre.




Cinque Terre - 5 Lands. This is one of them, but the color of the water didn't come out. It's more like flowing jade.

 Ended up staying the night in Rapallo, a quiet coastal city, (though it was night and all the boats were tethered.) We cooked pasta in that hotel, but forgot to get olive oil and cheese. It was still darn tootin after a day of walking in the mountains with my stupid large-ass duffel bag. The ladies were hella buff and took shifts carrying it when Mark wasn't feeling so Strong.


This isn't Trento, but you get the idea of an Alps city.




Next day, I took a train hella far north to Trento to meet my earlier-mentioned friend!











I had to take a moment on the train to make sure I was lookin spiffy. Passed with flying colors, it would seem.
 At Trento, I did a day trip up into the Alps to a city called Arco. I thought the stop was a gas station for about 45 seconds. Shame cascaded me like the Waterfalls of Ignorance, but it was all good. Around midnight, my friend suggested I go to Munich München Monaco the next morning. So I hopped a train, booked a hostel, and BAM!

Marienplatz. Most popular square in Munich. Lookit that!

Me in a big ass park, The English Gardens, after watching a buncha people surf a rushing sewer grate.

The good stuff.

Outside my hostel on the last day. That's right, Japan. The wind blew your seeds pretty far!

Munich was the most impressive city I visited. The trains are newer, cleaner, more comfortable and cheaper than Japanese trains. The bike paths are woven into the sidewalks, and very wide. There are tons of bikers, lots of different colored people, everyone speaks English, and everyone drinks. It's super social, there's wifi everywhere, and food is about half of what it costs in both Japan and Italy for what I like. I made friends in a hostel that had a bar in it, with cheap locally produced Munich beer. I drank almost a gallon of it each of the 3 nights I stayed and had no hangovers.

Heading back to Yokohama was absolute hell. Waking up at the asscrack of dawn to take the metro, a 7 hour train from Bavaria to eastern Italy, fucking hurriedly find a bus from Venice city to the airport and get ripped off one last time. One 6 hour flight, an 8 hour layover, and a 9 hour flight later, I was in Handea waiting for my checked duffel bag. It took forever, but I was still able to make the last 2 trains home, and collapsed after an epic bath, 40 hours and 3 countries after I woke up that morning. Awesome trip, but glad to be home.













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