Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quotes: Lost and Found

I was looking through the e-sticky notes on my computer and found an interesting set of quotes:

“Love is saying 'I feel differently' instead of 'You're wrong.'”

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
Robert McCloskey

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Carl Gustav Jung

“Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”
Elbert Hubbard

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.”
Dale Carnegie

“Everyone hears only what he understands.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Monday, July 26, 2010


Hi Everyone!

FYI, I am a bit behind on my blogging because I am doing TOO MUCH AWESOME STUUUUFFFFF!!!!!
I promise I will update on what I have been up to in detail, but for now this will have to suffice. In the past two and a half weeks:

*A TON of good food has been eaten.
*Lots of bike miles have been logged.
*One dress and several gifts have been bartered for.
*One book (East of Eden) has been keeping me captivated past my bedtime.
*Three incredible POCs have been befriended.
*One rock island has been planned to be explored, climbed and jumped off of. :)
*100+ kids have been introduced to the wonderful world of Destination ImagiNation!!!!!
*I met the first camper that I actually miss.
*I have been nearly attacked by bats with 2-3 foot wingspans.
*I did some major "edgework" by sticking my (extremely ticklish) feet in a pool of tiny carp (I hate fish) to have them nibble dead skin cells off my feet.
*I danced in a bar to a cover band with a tiny woman from Guam.
*I rode through charming streets along the painted sea wall and saw stray cats, hippy musicians, kids playing soccer in the street, dogs on the roof, cute old men and gorgeous clouds on the horizon.

I like Japan. :)

I will be back in the States and accepting phone calls next week!
I love and miss you all!!!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Music: Can't Take It In by Imogen Heap

Can't close my eyes
They're wide awake
Every hair on my body
has got a thing for this place
Oh empty my heart
I've got to make room for this feeling
so much bigger than me

It couldn't be any more beautiful - I can't take it in.

Weightless in love...unraveling
For all that's to come
and all that's ever been
We're back to the board
with every shade under the sun
Let's make it a good one

It couldn't be any more beautiful x2 - I can't take it in x3

It couldn't be any more beautiful x2 - I can't take it in.

All that I wanted. All that I ever needed.
All that I wonder. So beautiful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Excerpt: East of Eden, Chapter 13, Section 1

By John Steinbeck

SOMETIMES A KIND OF GLORY lights up the mind of a man. It happens to nearly everyone. You can feel it growing or preparing like a fuse burning toward dynamite. It is a feeling in the stomach, a delight of the nerves, of the forearms. The skin tastes the air, and every deep-drawn breathe is sweet. Its beginning has the pleasure of a great stretching yawn; it flashes in the brain and the whole world glows outside your eyes. A man may have lived all of his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then--the glory-- so that a cricket song sweetens his ears, the smell of the earth rises chanting to his nose, and dappling light under a tree blesses his eyes. Then a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished. And I guess a man's importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories. It is a lonely thing but it relates us to the world. It is the mother of all creativeness, and it sets each man separate from all other men.
I don't know how it will be in the years to come. There are monstrous changes taking place in the world, forces shaping a future whose face we do not know. Some of these forces seem evil to us, perhaps not in themselves but because their tendency is to eliminate other things we hold good. It is true that two men can lift a bigger stone than one man, a group can build automobiles quicker and better than one man, and bread from a factory is cheaper and more uniform. When our food and clothing and housing are all born in the complication of mass production, mass method is bound to get into our thinking and to eliminate all other thinking. In our time mass or collective production has entered our economics, our politics, and even our religion, so that some nations have substituted the idea collective for the idea God. This in my time is the danger. There is great tension in the world, tension toward breaking point, and men are unhappy and confused.
At such a time it seems natural and good to me to ask myself these questions. What do I believe in? What must I fight for and what must I fight against?
Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.
And now the forces marshaled around the concept of the group have declared a war of extermination on that preciousness, the mind of man. By disparagement, by starvation, by repression, forced direction, and the stunning hammerblows of conditioning, the free, roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged. It is a sad suicidal course our species seems to have taken.
And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for that is one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost.

Monday, July 12, 2010

This summer:10: Ahhhhdventure :)

FINALLY I got to get my adventure on. :)
People kept warning us that Misawa might be boring since it's so far away from anything. But I guess it's the country girl in me, because I absolutely loved it.

Picture mainland Japan as a banana.
Misawa is at the top of the stem.

Saturday: We flew in from Tokyo on the most nauseating plane ride of my life. Luckily no barf bag was needed, but man was I glad to touch ground. When we landed it was already pretty dark and the sea fog had rolled in, so after a tour of the base, Charles and I hit the sack.
Sunday: Sunday was pretty chill. There were some 4th of July festivities around base, but all in all, that day was pretty chill. I was hoping to watch the fireworks at the beach, but alas, the elusive sea fog spoiled those plans, and the fireworks were rescheduled.
Monday: We didn't have camp on Monday because of the holiday, so we spent the afternoon prepping for the rest of the week. After that, our POC Lynn invited Charles and I to dinner in a town an hour away, and of course we obliged. The drive ended up being 2 hours (!!!) but through the most gorgeous countryside. I loved to watch the breath-taking mountains, coastline, farms and faces pass by the window. Dinner was fun, and it was cool to watch the base's fireworks from the highway on our way home.
Tuesday: Camp began. I also decided to rent a bike this day. BEST DECISION YET. This was the first time I was able to get a pass that would grant me the ability to travel on and off the base by myself. HEAVEN. This was the first time I have felt like I was able to actually explore and be free.

When I saw this sign, it all clicked:
I realized just how important it is for me to have this kind of freedom. I was going nuts being stuck on the base or right on the side of Charles or our POC. It was so wonderful to just ride around Misawa and do my thing. I need balance between my job and my me-time. This makes me so much more like myself and much less like angry monster Audrey. whew! Luckily, Charles and I were able to talk about this and both decided "Audrey's Solo Exploration Time" is a good idea to allow each day. Bring it on!

Wednesday: This day Lynn and her husband John took Charles and I to a shrine where we were able to walk around and take pictures. It was really beautiful and quiet--much better than the temple in Tokyo we went to before that was so commercialized. Then we went to the super market, laughed at the funny English translation on tshirts, and had the most tasty dessert of all--crepe cones. Observe the creamy deliciousness complimented by kiwi, strawberry and banana:

After the supermarket we went to the SUPER market... That's right, we went to the fish market. It was seriously a piece from my perfect day. We just walked through the market, and I tried SO MANY crazy foods. Every stand had multiple sample bowls where you would take the chopsticks and drop the bizarre food into your other hand before eating it. I ate squid ink pastries, tons of dried fish, dried fish skin chips, several types of salmon eggs, chewy tentacles and much, much more. haha It was so awesome. The vendors kept laughing at me because I was so excited to try everything. One woman that spoke English told Charles that I could travel anywhere with the enthusiasm I had eating that food.
The funniest thing was after eating so much fish, I wanted something sweet to wash the taste out of my mouth, so I bought what looked like a fruit roll-up. Yeeeaaah... It turned out to be a squid roll-up. So nasty, but I ended up eating the whole thing so that I didn't have to smell it in the car anymore. haha Why on earth would they put squid candy next to the gum at the register?!? Silly Japan.
Thursday: This was our Family Camp day. It was so perfect! Honestly, this was the Family Camp I look forward to having in Heaven. It just went so well. We sent our RSVP invitations at the beginning of the week, and ended up having a great turn out. The night was full of non-stop laughter, and even the Lieutenant Colonel cracked a smile. :) It really makes me look forward to our future Family Camps now that we have a seemingly successful formula.
Friday: We finished up camp and staff training then headed to the Oirase Gorge. I was really hoping to get a little bouldering (rock climbing) in, but alas, my climbing shoes stayed in by bag. It was alright though, because we got to see some really cool waterfalls and mountain sights. I was surprised how much the forest looked like the woods in southern Indiana and Kentucky. The ridges were a little steeper, but for the most part it was a good reminder of home. :)
On the way home from the gorge, we stopped at a Two Turtles. This is one of those conveyor belt sushi restaurants that you see in the movies. It was so, so fun. I would just see some funky-looking thing roll by, and I could grab it and eat it! haha As usually, you get some stinkers and some gems, but the experience always wins out over the flavors. :)
Saturday: This morning we had to leave at 9am to catch our plane, but I was determined to visit the ocean. So, I woke up at 6am, hoped on my rental bike, and rode through the rain on my search for the sea. A girl at the youth center told me all I had to do was drive out the gate and keep going. I rode and rode and rode for half an hour and still didn't reach the ocean. It was still such an amazing ride though. I passed by tiny farm houses with chickens clucking from their barns; I passed a secluded shrine tucked in a patch of tree; ...I also passed a man peeing in the street. ha It's socially acceptable for a man to just go for it right in the street, which I found rather shocking, but mildly hilarious at the same time.
I was about to turn around and head back when I thought I heard waves crashing over the sound of rain! YAYAYAYAYA! I made it to the ocean, but I had to keep searching to find an access point that wasn't covered with threatening looking signs. Eventually I found one that at least looked like no one would be able to see me going back to the beach. I remembered hearing how expensive it is to own a gun in Japan, so I figured I would chance it and take that path. I walked though what looked like a Christmas tree farm and wound up on a beautiful dark sand beach. It was stunning. I took a few minutes to run around on the beach and sing and laugh and twirl in the rain. Then I realized some people were watching me, so I gave them a wave then high tailed it out of there. :)
The perfect end to a great week.

Well, that was last week! Keep it here for updates on this week at Yakota Air Base back in Fussa City!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

This summer:9: The Strange Happenings of Week 3

Monday/Tuesday: Lots and lots and lots of flying. Refer to previous post for details.

Wednesday: Charles was sick, and I did not have access back onto the base without him as my escort, so I decided to explore within the base gates on my own. My travels were short-lived due to my jet lag sleepiness, but I did manage to explore the huge Community Center which included the Commissary (grocery store), BX (K-Mart), several gift shops, fast food restaurants, antique stores and my favorite, the 100 yen store. I bought myself some sushi and pink ginger ale for lunch and some fruit, rice, milk and honey for breakfast.
BTW the milk here in Japan is heavenly. I kept looking for the secret ingredient that makes it taste so strangely wonderful, but alas, it was listed as only including milk. It has a sort of creamy nutty flavor, so maybe the cows eat a strict diet of cashews. ha

Thursday: Charles was still a little on edge health-wise so we decided it would be best to stick around Fussa City (just outside the base gates) for the day. Fussa (population 60,000) is an hour train ride from downtown Tokyo, but is still considered part of the city. It comprises mostly of little day-to-day shops, restaurants and apartments. There are random little gardens spattering the city, which I was told have belonged to families for many generations as the city has been built up around them.
Much of the day was spent searching for the allusive temple we saw on the train station map but to no avail. A very nice woman with a name something like Ayuku and her friend Akiku (or something like that) actually gave us a ride to a shrine in the middle of the city, but it was kinda nasty. I did really love walking around the mausoleum-style cemetery there though. Many of the graves had ornate gravestones with tea cup offerings set upon them (one had a beer can. ha) as well as a bowl full of burning or burnt incense.
We also had our first Japanese restaurant experience, which was an experience indeed. I had a super delicious fried fish/veggie/rice/miso soup/weird stuff meal, and Charles had beef stew with mashed potatoes. The beef was actually just beef fat, so needless to say, I made the more appeasing choice. haha It was at the restaurant that I also got my first look at a bidet. haha hilarious. The Japanese love these things. Some are complete with "Powerful Deodorant" buttons, fake flushing sounds (to muffle spraying sound) and temperature controls! I haven't used the spraying features yet, but don't think it won't happen sometime in the next month! The bathroom also had a toilet seat cleaner dispenser, rice paper for oily faces, mouthwash, mini toilet paper packets, and a myriad of other complementaries that I can't recall. Yeah, the bathrooms here are great.
Fussa City showed us our first mega arcade too. Charles and I had an epic photobooth session, and we found out I am a natural at first person shooter arcade games. I then spilled half a Nalgene of water and 3/4 of an ice cream cone on the floor (which I cleaned up with massive wads of toilet paper from the, again spectacular, bathroom), and we decided it was time to move on.
Just when we were about to give up on our search for the temple and our feet were about to give out on us, we spotted some kids venturing out into the Tama River to have some fun. Considering it was about 5 million degrees Celsius, we though, "what the hay?" and decided to join them. How refreshing! The water felt so good on our feet, and the kids were of course adorable. Then they started to jump off a ledge into the water, which looked like way too much fun to pass up. Charles made the decision to jump first considering he had packed extra clothes, and these things always seem to be easier for guys to pull off. But, my adventurous spirit wouldn't let me stand by the wayside, and despite wearing light colored shorts (I just decided to wrap my jacket around my waist for the rest of the day) I took the plunge. This was a good way to end the journey.
From there, Charles and I walked back to the base, grabbed some dinner from the Commissary, watched GI Joe and went to bed exhausted.
I am very glad for the experience that I had that first real day in Japan, but I know that I did not make the most of it. A lot of the time I was wishing that the experiences I was having would be more like my high expectations I had envisioned, and that cheapened the experiences that I did have. I will learn from this in the future.

Friday: The day we braved the train. I think we both built up the complexity of riding the train much more than it was worth. Since most of the train stations are connected to downtown Tokyo, they incorporated both English and Japanese, which was a huge relief. Once we figured out the color system (our map was black and white), it was a big help too.
We took the train to the neighborhood Akihabara aka Electric City. This is the comic book/anime/nerd capital of the world. There are tons of arcades and pachinko palaces, computer stores and maid cafes. Our first stop, though, was a temple just outside of this area of town. Once again, my expectations were challenged when we entered the temple gates. I was hoping for a very serene atmosphere where I could just be still, but I realized this wasn't going to happen when I saw the vending machines, Tom Hank's Big inspired fortune machines and a gift shop. Yes, there were people paying their respects to the statues, but I found all the crap along with it interesting but a big turn off. I guess you get that a lot of places you go though. I mean, most churches I go to have a doughnut and coffee bar, which many people would find disgraceful. To each is own, I guess.
My favorite part of Friday was definitely dinner. We went to a famous "maid cafe" in Akihabara, which is a modern play on the Geisha. Sickly cute girls dressed in maid outfits serve you over-priced, mediocre food while occasionally singing, dancing and having you pay to play games for discounts and prizes. I asked our maid what she recommended and got the dish called "Cheep cheep cheep rice". It included a main dish of seasoned rice with an over-easy omelet that the maid drew a ketchup anime bunny on. Then there was a dollop of potato salad and a couple pieces of iceberg lettuce. haha hilarious and mildly gross, but totally worth the experience.
Charles didn't realize the extent of the "Japan runs mainly on cash" rule and spent most of the dinner running around town looking for an ATM that took Master Card. Meanwhile I had a ball with the maid and watching the creepy dudes that actually believed the maids liked them and didn't just want their money. Unfortunately, they didn't allow photographs (you could buy one for 700 yen), so you will just have to imagine the ridiculousness. :) It was called @home-cafe

Saturday: This was travel day. Since we have 500 million pounds of luggage we had to take the circuitous route to the airport. Instead of being about to pay 1200 yen to ride the train from Fussa City to Haneda Airport in time for our flight, we had to ride a shuttle first to Narita Airport and the Haneda, which took 4 1/2 hours and cost 8000 yen. Then we had to wait in the airport for 4 more hours for our plane. Oh well. I got the chance to eat a bizarre bento box and a sort of Japanese flan. I also got to use a "Japanese style" toilet, which basically means peeing into a hole in the floor while a sensor beside you makes fake flushing noises. (again to muffle the sounds. haha)
The plane ride nearly made me vomit, but we made it to Misawa unscathed. Our rooms don't have internet or air conditioning, but it is alright. Charles says that that is the biggest culture shock he has experienced so far. ;)

Okay, I am off to discover the base's Fourth of July activities. I think I am going to go to the beach tonight for fireworks, so I'm sure there will be pictures and stories to come!

The Internet is too slow here, so you'll have to wait for pictures until next week. Check facebook if you're interested!


This summer:8: Big Fish and Brainwriting Reflection Week 3

I wouldn't say that I have many favorites. I like a lot of things... a lot. But, picking just one and sticking with it just isn't my style. Where this trend dissolves, though, is in the category of movies. My favorite movie of all time has to be Big Fish. I am constantly finding ways to relate this movie to my life. Much of the film comprises of the tall tale memories of Edward Bloom's life. Bloom's life was one big fish story. He grew up the "biggest thing" his town had ever seen; he was the smartest, the best athlete, the most ambitious and so on. He was a goldfish in a tiny bowl that longed for the sea, a place more suited for his size.

"It occurred to me then, that perhaps the reason for my growth was that I was intended for
larger things. After all, a giant man can't have an ordinary-sized life."

He decided to leave his town, ready for the adventure of a lifetime. But, on his first adventure (taking a scary, mysterious short cut instead of the wide, long road with his friend Karl, an actual giant) he managed to get lost, be attacked by giant spiders, and end up in the Utopian town of Spectre.
Upon being greeted at the town's entrance, the mayor looked at his list and told Bloom that he wasn't scheduled to arrive in Spectre for many more years, but they were glad to have him anyway. Now in Spectre there are no streets or sidewalks, just a pristine bed of grass perfect for dancing, so there is no need for shoes. In fact, all residents of Spectre throw their shoes over a power line at the entrance to the town because there is no point in wearing them because no one ever leaves Spectre--no one except Edward Bloom. He decided that Spectre would be the perfect place to settle down... eventually. But he was only at the beginning of his adventure and had so much more to explore and discover. He fought back out of the treacherous path shoeless and eventually made it back to Karl on the main road.

Karl: "Friend, what happened to your shoes?"
Young Ed Bloom: [Looking down at his feet] "They kinda got ahead of me."

This past week, I think I let my shoes get ahead of me.

I have such great expectations for my life and the travel and adventures that I am going to experience. I have detailed pictures mapped out in my mind of me concurring the world, one big fish story at a time... but there are still seasons to life. Not every ambition and every goal is meant to be met now.
This week, my expectations did not match up with reality, and this left me feeling wrongly disappointed and incomplete. It wasn't fair of me to expect to be wandering the streets of Japan, eyes filled with wonder, following every impulse that tickled my spirit. It wasn't fair for me to long to be sleeping in hostels, befriending the locals, and not having a care when the last time I changed my clothes was. (I know to many this sounds strange, but to me it sounds magical :) )

Why? Because this trip is not just about me. I am traveling with another person with quite different expectations and desires for a week in Japan and with a completely different worldview and set of values. It isn't fair for me to selfishly disregard his experience and place my own before his. That's not how life should work.

Would I prefer to take on the roll of a rouge world traveler for a week in another country? Heck yes; without a doubt.
Is my time for that now? Perhaps not.
Will I get my chance eventually? Lord willing, yes.

Right now is the time for me to be introduced to my first foreign travel experience. It is a chance for me to slowly get oriented so I am better prepared for my future, more adventurous travel; travel where I am not staying at a secure Air Force base hotel complete with armed guards; travel where I do not have an itinerary and my direction is decided by the roll of a die; travel where I am responsible for me and not the desires of anyone else.

Needless to say, this week was very difficult for me. I felt very restricted and did not feel at all like I expected to feel. Jet lag sure didn't help my emotions either.

And that's okay.

What have I learned this week?

1) Take things as they come with an open mind. I need to do a better job at just lightening up when reality doesn't line up with my expectations. I am a big fish that sets my expectations extremely high. Sometimes life has different plans and wants me to wait for the right time for my big dreams to come true.

2) Be nice and embrace teachable moments. I admit that I got rather short with Charles this week because I felt like the two of our expectations for the week didn't match up. He was experiencing a lot of things for the first time--things that I have learned to take for granted--and it frustrated me to have to wait for him to have those experiences. That was selfish and unfair. Truth is that there are things that I have to learn from him and things that I can eagerly teach him.

3) Application, application, application. If I don't apply what I have learned from this difficult week, the rest of my trip in Japan will just keep getting harder, and I will eventually breakdown. If I do enter the rest of this trip with a fresh step and new attitude, the only way it can go is up.

So, I am going to choose to keep my feet in my shoes and my head on my shoulders. I am going to embrace the pace that this trip presents and look at everything as a learning experience for the future that may be applied to my life beyond this summer.

Above is this week's Brainwriting (an activitiy we usually do with the kids to reflect on things learned over the week). The picture on the right is an illustration of the grand expectations that I set for myself--cliff jumping in an exotic location complete with bonsai tree and sunny skies. The picture in the middle illustrates a rather cool experience Charles and I had where we were able to swim in the Tama River with some local youth. It wasn't exactly how I would have liked it to be, but it was still fresh and new. The picture on the left illustrates where I let my mind go after being poisoned by my unrealistic and unfair expectations. I might as well have been standing in a puddle in the rain with the sour attitude I had. The shoes and footprints at the bottom show how I let my shoes get ahead of me.
I have learned a lot, and am going to make the most of the rest of my summer.