I got back last night at around 11:30, because we got lost on the way back from the airport. We had a midnight snack (bread with brie and guacamole, plus some peanut butter), I took a shower, and then I went to bed.

And slept until 2:30 in the afternoon.

Oops. The worst part was that I was convinced it couldn't be later than 10. Off by four hours ... Anyway, I slept for fourteen hours, which kind of makes sense given that I was awake for 27 straight hours the day before, due to the time change.

So, the day is almost over and I have been awake for ... what, less than five hours at the moment? Time for lunch! Actually, luckily, I'm kind of tired anyway, so I'll hopefully go to bed around midnight and then kind of be back on a normal schedule ...
So, I attempted to find the Finnish aviation history museum, but I failed. :'( I attempted to follow the instructions, but basically just walked around the airport parking lot. It was a nice walk, at least—it is very cold here, so I appreciated getting a good winter chill in my bones before heading back to the Land of Heat. There was snow, too, so I will at least have seen some snow before going back to school!

I have a few pictures, but my only real impression of Finland is that it is a lot flatter than I anticipated. At least, the airport is flat ... unsurprisingly, since it is an airport. That's about all I've got.
I arrived safe and sound in Helsinki, and checked into my hotel, and it is nice. Rather small, but that's good. It doesn't have a window, but that's fine. Unfortunately, I discovered that I 1) have to pay eight euros to go to the aviation museum, 2) would have to walk 20 minutes to get there, or 3) would have to take the bus. Obviously, the walking bit would be fun, except for the part where it's dark out.

I did go walk around the airport a bit before it got completely dark, though. THERE IS SNOW. SO MUCH SNOW. Actually, not much snow, but it was snowing when we landed and it hasn't stopped. \o/ I GOT SNOW ON MY BIRTHDAY YAY!!!!! SNOW SNOW SNOW SNOW SNOW!!!!!!!

I also got myself a piece of chocolate cake instead of dinner. It was delicious. It was a great birthday present, but I am looking forward to some real birthday food on Sunday.

Also, I only noticed that it was Friday the 13th some time this morning. How could I possibly not have been extremely prepared for the fact that my birthday was on Friday the 13th this year??? HOW DID I NOT KNOW???

So anyway ... I read more than 100 pages of my biogeography textbook on the plane, and spent a while working on my 2012 project. I am getting very excited about it. I like the characters I have so far, and the world has much promise. I just have to decide how much like Shinto I want it to be, versus how much I am willing to modify it and/or make it a sort of dark Shinto. I rather like Shinto, so I don't really want to make it dark; but on the other hand, I really like the idea that I have at the moment ...

I must have taken the slowest possible train to get to the airport this morning, but I made it in time. Plus, getting through the airport (the Nagoya airport) was extremely breeze-like.

Also, I finished editing the Vampire's thing for her, as well as the other thing from the con lang listserv. But both of those were a few days ago.
So, on Wednesday we went to the Nagoya port area. We didn't see much of the port, but we did stop at two museum-like places: a spinning top museum and the aquarium.

The spinning top museum was ... extremely weird. Basically, the person who ran it put her ENTIRE COLLECTION of spinning tops on the shelves of the building, and then labeled them by country of origin. That was it. Except that there were ungodly numbers of spinning tops. Yeah ... her curatorial skills were lacking, but it was still pretty cool—we saw more tops than I have ever seen before in my entire life. There were enormous ones and tiny ones, ones made from acorns and ones that were tops with other tops stuck in, and so on and so forth. Sadly, I don't have any pictures, because I felt really awkward taking pictures in the middle of this random museum/store place; but it was exciting, mostly because it was so odd. According to the Vampire, I pick the sketchiest places to go to, but I thought it was fun.

Then we went to the aquarium, where we totally did not have enough time. We spent a long time looking at whale skeletons, which were really cool, but we didn't look at many actual live cetaceans. I find it really depressing to put a dolphin into a tank, because perhaps even more than large terrestrial mammals, they need SPACE. Anyway, we got to see lots of fish, and turtles, and coral, and it was fun. I have many pictures, too.


Yesterday, Thursday, we went to Osu Kannon, where we saw a big temple, and walked around, and saw a small temple, and saw a kofun (burial mound, pre-AD), and tried to find another kofun only to discover that a shrine had been built on top of the kofun. We walked around some more, and got food. Lunch was ... very dispersed, since we basically ate like this:

11:30 — Amazing orange things from Valor that I will miss SO MUCH when I get back to the States.
12:35 — Delicious vegetable buns that were basically steamed bread around vegetables.
1:30ish — Parfait, with matcha ice cream, rice krispie-like things, dango. Good.
3:15ish — Another of the vegetable buns, because they were so good the first time.

I think I am missing something in there, but anyway.

Osu Kannon was basically a huge shopping district (a teramachi, it seemed) where there were lots of small shops all lining a large indoor building. It was huge, and we kind of got lost (in the sense of, where exactly are we in this ginormous structure?), but we saw a lot of interesting shops, including an Asian Style place (infused with ASIAN!), a bike shop that was advertised as a shooting range, and a zombie store.

After Osu Kannon, we walked around for a while before deciding to go to the Nagoya science museum. As students we got an amazing discount, but unfortunately we only had about an hour and a half there—and we hadn't even finished the first floor (out of five) within an hour. My brother and the Vampire are going back there today, while I am flying off to Helsinki ... Alas. It was pretty awesome; they had a sand table where they had sound vibrating the table, and depending on the resonant frequency the sand made variable patterns. They had a pendulum with a bucket on the bottom that sand could drain out of, so you filled up the bucket and then let it swing around the table and make patterns. They had a pin-based music turntable thing where you set the pins and then could compose a song (or have it make whatever tune you wanted). They had a water wheel that climbed a ramp as the water flowed down, and optical illusions. It was pretty awesome, and that was just the first floor. We went up to the fifth floor for the last half hour to look at elasticity and the weights of various types of substances, but unfortunately they kicked us out. :P

That's about it. I am now in the airport, having finished my frappuccino, and am enjoying the free wireless. I am getting obsessed with Akemi, and the world is looking good!
I am now at the NGO airport, and it was the easiest, fastest, most pleasant airport experience I've ever had. That might be an exaggeration, but at the moment I can't think of a better airport.  An extremely detailed account of my NGO experience. )

If only the US had airports like this, flying would be so much less stressful.

I think I have missed talking about the last couple of days, so I will do that in a separate post after I figure out what I've left out.  But be prepared:  science museums and vegetable buns!  Also, fish!
We got back to Nagoya on ... Monday night? I think? Anyway, it's now Wednesday morning, and yesterday we pretty much didn't do anything. In the morning, my brother and I caught up on work we hadn't been doing, though I personally still have REU application essays to write. Around noon, we tried to go to the Nagoya TV tower in Sakae, but it turned out they were doing construction on it so it was closed. Alas. We've already been up the Higashiyama sky tower, so we've gotten to see the cityscape, at least. (But—big towers = fun!) Instead, we went shopping for gifts for people at home in the underground malls of Sakae, but we didn't find much.

Afterwards, we went and played Bananagrams with the Vampire, and then went to her Japanese class. It was exciting ... there was a really obnoxious girl from Germany, who just kept shouting out in the middle of class and talked like she was on the streets (apparently, she may have gone to high school in Japan but didn't know much about fancy/polite Japanese?). The rest of the class was interesting, though; we talked to the sensei in English for a little while, and then the Vampire's language partner in French for a little while, and then we talked in Spanish and French in the back of the classroom while everyone else was trying to read kanji. We tried to read kanji, too, but we were happy if we knew about five of them.
Today we went to Fushimi Inari, and it was AMAZING. There were Inari torii everywhere, and they were all bright orange. It was allegedly the "path of the 1000 torii", but there were definitely way more than 1000 torii. We walked all the way up the mountain, but we didn't go around the mountain, so we didn't even see all of the torii.

Then, this afternoon, we hung out with two of my brother's girlfriend's fellow Fulbrighters. They were ... not my kind of people. They weren't geeky, and seemed to really like shopping. One of them seemed interested in improving his Japanese, but the other didn't seem to care, and also didn't seem to be interested in much of anything except shopping. Hopefully they are getting a lot out of their experiences; at the very least, I got a decent idea of what not to do when (hopefully when, not if!) I do a Fulbright as well.

One important lesson: don't get a dorm room, get an apartment. That would make life so much nicer, and I don't really want to force myself to meet people anyway.
So after we went to Ise, and I dragged a huge suitcase up the mountain because my brother and his girlfriend could fit theirs into lockers in the station, but mine was too big. It actually wasn't too big, it was just that the lockers large enough to accomodate mine were already taken, because there weren't very many of them. Anyway, Ise was really cool, but I was sick and carrying my luggage, so it could have been a lot more interesting if I had been a little less put-upon.

We got in to Kyoto that night (three days ago) and checked into our hostel, which is SO much better than the one in Nagoya. It has lots of space, comfortable futons, and our own private bathroom. It's a little annoying because my brother and his girlfriend are both here, and they keep rolling over and sleeping next to each other—which isn't a problem, except last night they almost rolled on top of my futon, which was a little annoying.

Two days ago we went to see Kiyomizu-dera, an enormous temple; it was awesome. I have tons of pictures. We also ate sesame ice cream, which was delicious. And had really good parfaits, which in Japan involve ice cream and cake and whipped cream. I have decided that matcha ice cream is good, but pure matcha ice cream is a little too strongly flavored on the bitter end for me ... Anyway, Kiyomizu-dera was amazing. It had lots of little shrines, and a jumping wall where people jump off and pray (and die, unfortunately), and a water fall with separate streams that were supposed to give you wisdom, love, or longevity depending on which one you drank from.

Yesterday we went to Nara, which was AWESOME. There were sacred deer everywhere, and they were very friendly, in general; you could just reach over and pet them. We also saw the largest wooden structure in the world, Toudaiji, which was basically an enormous temple with a massive Buddha in it (and a pole with a hole in it that was the size of the Buddha's nostril, which you could climb through if you fit!). It was really cool, and we also walked around a lot afterwards and saw many, many tiny shrines, including one devoted to breast cancer and ovarian cancer (which was a new thing for my brother's girlfriend).

We've walked at least 70 miles since we got to Japan, which is pretty awesome.

Also, we watched Sherlock last night and the night before ... A Scandal in Belgravia. It was ... extremely weird, and I felt like Irene Adler had no character and no independence, and was basically a Sexy Damsel in Distress rather than someone who could actually do things for herself. Oh well. I hope next week's episode is much better, because that was pretty pathetic. This is my least favorite episode by far.
Today we went to Nagoya Castle. It was pretty cool, though a little cold, and since most of the signage was in Japanese, I didn't get quite as much out of it as I could have. But the castle itself was really cool, and the paintings very pretty; I have lots of pictures of the Nagoya skyline, too, because the castle was seven stories tall. We also walked around the gardens for a little while, which was nice, though it got really cold.

After, we had to find a place to withdraw money from so we could pay for our Kyoto hostel place, which took forever. The Family Mart allegedly had an ATM that took Visa, but it actually only took Visa that was issued in Japan. So, we finally traipsed around and found a 7 Eleven that took Visa, and possibly also took 50,000 yen more from my mom's card. Oops. (しまった!) Hopefully that didn't actually happen. Anyway, it worked out, after a bit of stress, so.

Then we started playing Dominion and creating a Doctor Who Dominion set. Yay! I am so totally making this happen! Which means I need to learn how to use Photoshop, but whatever!
Yesterday we went to Higashiyama Koen, a park with a zoo, botanical garden, park, amusement park, sky tower, and probably other things I don't know about, and walked around a lot. (On a random note, we've walked about 40 miles since we got to Nagoya, which is pretty impressive, especially since we've only been here for six days!) The zoo was pretty depressing, since the large mammals (an elephant, rhinoceros, polar bears) had the tiniest spaces ever, and there were a bunch of large birds in tiny cages, too; but the botanical garden was really cool, lots of interesting plants. No ice plants, sadly, but many many cacti, agave, aloe, and a bunch of monocots, too (including some commelinoid monocots!). I've got lots of pictures of those that I'm going to try to sort through to figure out what the plants are.

The day before we pretty much just went to shrines; since it was おしょうがつ(お正月)absolutely nothing was open, and everyone was just hanging out with their families. This means that when we tried to go get dinner, we walked through several completely vacant malls and eventually ended up at a CoCoIchibanya, which we'd already eaten at. But at least we knew the food was good; and more importantly, we actually found food. My brother and I learned our lesson and bought lots of melon bread for emergency meal situations, though now that お正月 is mostly over (or at least, the stores are opening up again) we probably won't have any trouble finding food. I am a little disappointed in our hostel, because it's very difficult to cook in there; for one, it's freezing in the kitchen, and for two, there are no chairs to sit on while cooking. I think they mostly expect us to heat things up rather than actually cook, which we weren't fully aware of when we booked this place.

Anyway ... I'm getting a little concerned about how much money we've spent, though a lot of that money has gone to hostel. But we've probably been spending about $10-15 a meal (except for breakfast), which isn't what I was expecting to pay. I wish my brother and his girlfriend seemed more excited about going to panya for lunch, because I personally would TOTALLY be happy just eating pan for lunch. They don't seem to consider it a real meal, which it probably isn't; but at the same time, I can get a delicious, amazing lunch for less than three dollars rather than for $13. What's even better about the panya is that when we go together, we can buy six different types of bread for about 115-130 yen each, and then we get to try ALL OF THE DELICIOUSNESS.

In the last few days, we've basically been going to tons and tons of shrines. We went to Susanoo, Kawahara, Atsuta, Gosha ... probably more that I am forgetting. We also went to a few temples, including one with an enormous green Buddha. It was pretty awesome.

On a completely unrelated note, I had a huge story idea this morning while I was attempting to sleep but failing. It is only in the very earliest of stages, but so far I am liking it. It might even be my 2012 project!


Dec. 28th, 2011 04:25 pm
Okay, so today has been a very interesting day. Or whatever a day counts as when it's currently 4:15pm and completely dark and I'm not entirely sure which day of the week it is much less what time zone I'm in much less how many hours I have slept in the past … some unknown number of hours. Also, I really need a shower and would love to change my clothes, but my bag is not, apparently, actually going to emerge in the Helsinki baggage claim.

I arrived at my gate going to Nagoya, and the guy there said that my bag would be in the belly of the aircraft, and that I could pick it up in Nagoya. Normally this would reassure me, but when I asked if he could check the number of my luggage to see whether it was on the plane, he said 1) he couldn't do that yet, because they hadn't loaded the luggage on, and 2) the two numbers I already had were, neither one, correct, so he gave me a third number. And then he said if I couldn't find my bag in Nagoya I should give them that third number in the hopes of finding it.

All of a sudden, I am seriously hoping that I have clothes to wear when I get to Japan.

Also, I randomly got the chance to translate. It was exciting. He was a native Chinese speaker (or so I assume, since he spoke Chinese to his son; Cantonese, I think, though I suppose it could have been Thai or Vietnamese or Cambodian. It definitely had tones, and it definitely wasn't Mandarin, and he definitely looked East Asian.) who also knew Spanish and was coming from Madrid; I translated his Spanish into English for the Finnish-speaking (and English-speaking) agent at the ticket booth. It was like language telephone except with only three people!

Also, the Helsinki airport is leagues ahead of all other airports I have ever been to because it has completely free wireless.
Yesterday (today? two days ago?) I had the greatest flying adventure that I have ever had. By which I mean that I missed the first of three flights to Japan, and thus had to be rerouted from the very beginning. The plane to JFK was a good two hours late, but they only told us it would be late 15 minutes before the flight was due to take off; and then they said they would call people's names up who had connecting flights they might miss to sort everything out. But then they never called people's names, probably because two ticket agents (plus a whole cohort of support staff!) spent literally two hours helping three people. And one of them was going to Spain—Madrid! Meaning there had to be a million flights a day, and it couldn't possibly be that difficult. On the other hand, I (for example) was due to have a layover in Helsinki, and there most definitely are not a million flights a day from North Carolina to Helsinki.

Anyway, they eventually rerouted me through London Heathrow instead of JFK, and theoretically I will be able to take the same flight from Helsinki to Nagoya that I would have taken had the JFK flight been on time. It remains to be seen whether my luggage will make it through all of this, though I tried extremely hard to make sure that someone was keeping track of it. It seems that perhaps my luggage never got taken off of the JFK plane that I never got on, and so it will hopefully end up in Nagoya … But I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

So basically this means I will be taking three flights to three different countries within the space of 32 hours. Hopefully I will sleep enough to be partially coherent when I arrive in Nagoya and it is day. It is 8:20am in London as I write this, and it was most definitely still dark without even a hint of sunrise when I landed about an hour ago—so when, exactly, does the sun rise around here? Not that I care, I'll practically be flying back into darkness when I finally get my flight to Finland; but I am curious, I didn't think England was this much farther north than New Hampshire, yet the sunrise is significantly later.



July 2012

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