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Photos of the Week 2

October 8, 2011

For my days off I drove down to Los Angeles for my friend Roig’s birthday. It’s a five and a half hour drive from Mammoth to L.A., a very beautiful five and a half hour drive.

Boxcars with mountains in the background.

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Photos of the Week

October 2, 2011

Every week I’m going to try and post all the miscellaneous pictures I take. It’ll be a way to see what I’ve been up to that I isn’t covered in the big and meaty posts. I hope you enjoy them!

Mammoth Mountain in the summer

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The Great Pacific Northwest

September 27, 2011

On a recent return flight from Miami for my cousin Merrilyn’s wedding, I got bumped off of my flight due to a combination of overbooked and delayed flights. The best part was that I got 300 Delta Dollars out of it. Now, it just so happened that I had been speaking with my friends Jake, Michelle, James and Rebecca about planning a trip to Portland, Oregon, which is where Jake and Michelle live, not long after obtaining said Delta Dollars. It also turned out that that was the going rate for a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Portland was roughly $300. Booked.

I didn't even know that the whole stairway procedure was still a thing.

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I’ve Moved!

September 22, 2011

Since my last post in May, I’ve made a few moves. After staying with my parents in Miami for a few months, I packed up my things and drove across the country to Los Angeles where my friend Jonathan let me crash on his couch while I looked for work. Work was no more forthcoming there than in Miami. So after I while I broadened my search to outside the LA area. Part of that search was to a number of ski resorts, and to my surprise I was offered most of the jobs that I applied for (some that I wasn’t particularly qualified for either). Of those offers, I accept one in Mammoth Lakes, California at Tamarack Lodge.

Ever since I went snowboarding in Nagano I have been thinking about how much I’d like to live in a ski resort town and be able to enjoy both the drastic change in scenery from Florida as well as be able to go snowboarding whenever I’d like, no just for a few days. This is why after I kept running dry on my searches in Los Angeles I switched over to ski resorts.

Mammoth Lakes is a small town, population 8,000, one large grocery store, there is no door-to-door mail delivery (everyone in town as a P.O. box) and every one seems to to know everyone. A lot of people seem surprised that there are ski resorts in California, but not all of California is beaches and sun tans. There are mountains galore all over the state, just as well, the northern border of the state is more north of all of Colorado, Salt Lake City and even Chicago. There are actually more than 30 ski resorts all over the state of California.

My job here in Mammoth is that of Front Desk Clerk at Tamarack Lodge. Tamarack Lodge is located a few miles outside of town on Twin Lake. The main draw is our private cabins, ranging from studios to three bedrooms, a lot of people come to Tamarack to get away from the buzz of the main village and just relax next to the fireplace. In the winter we are a cross-country skiing resort with miles of trails and a staff of Olympic athletes. It’s honestly a very beautiful place.

A beutiful landscape, a meadow and lake in the foreground and mountains in the background.

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One last hurrah, 22 More Subtle Differences Between Japan and the USA

May 23, 2011

While I’ve been back in the US for nearly two months now, when I was still in Japan I kept a running list of differences that I would add to whenever I came across a new one. These are the last set that never made it out before I left the country, mostly small observations, but hopefully you can still find them interesting.

  1. Since an eye test using the Latin alphabet wouldn’t make much sense to use in Japan, one developed by Russians in 1923 using circles is used instead, seen on the right side of this picture.
  2. For the most part streets don’t have names or even numbers, but it is instead the blocks are numbered. Watch this video for a great explanation:
  3. Newspapers are far from in trouble, some even publish twice a day. Japan is second only to Iceland in newspapers published per 1,000 people (634.5 newspapers, source).
  4. Japan has 12 cities with a population of over 1,000,000 people, the U.S. has 9.
  5. Japan is approximately 4% the size of the U.S..
  6. You know how Philly has Cheesesteaks, New York and Chicago have Pizza and Louisiana has Gumbo and Jambalaya and not many other regions have their own signature dish? Well virtually all cities in Japan have their own signature dish. Part of this has to do with the tradition in Japanese culture to bring back gifts for friends and family when you go on a trip and those gifts are typically food. As a result, most train stations and gift shops have a huge selection of individually wrapped snacks for your loved ones. Fuji City’s signature food is boiled peanuts, I have no idea why.
  7. Light switches are typically horizontal.
  8. Most houses have car ports instead of garages
  9. Cream Soda is not a golden drink in Japan, instead it is actually a melon soda float with vanilla ice cream, and even though melon soda tastes nothing like cream soda (though equally as delicious) the added ice cream makes it taste exactly has the golden variety in the States.
  10. Valentine’s day gift giving is reserved solely for females to give the men in their lives as where a separate holiday, White Day on March 14th, is when men give chocolates and what not to their lady friends.
  11. Power outlets have 2 prongs instead of 3.
  12. The entire country of Japan is on a single time zone, even though eastern and western extremes of the country see the sunrise an hour apart.
  13. Trash is burned as there is no where to put it on such a small island.
  14. Very few kids, if any, bring lunch to school.
  15. Handicap access is not mandatory and quite scant.
  16. When you move into a new apartment you have to provide what is called “key money.” It’s usually one to three months rent you have to pay up front. However, unlike a security deposit, you will never see this money ever again. I personally believe this to be bullshit.
  17. Houses are typically pre-fabricated and modular.
  18. People tend to own small dogs. Popular breeds being Dachshund, Chihuahua and anything else tiny and super cutesy.
  19. Toothpicks are one sided.
  20. Convenience Stores have a “warm drink” section that keeps coffees and hot teas at a great temperature for the winter.
  21. Almost all cars have a GPS unit.
  22. Soda and beer cans have a little dimple under the top of the tab, making opening cans extremely easy.

Skyscrapers and Alleyways

April 12, 2011

After I bought my ticket back to the U.S. from Japan in December, I wanted to do one final jaunt. The cheapest and most interesting option from Japan was Shanghai, that’s when I decided on spending a solid seven days in the city.

The business capital of mainland China, Shanghai is a modern, world class city and immensely interesting. It has all the usual western amenities: Starbucks, McDonald’s, KFC, the Gap, malls, a subway system and art museums. Most interesting of all is how fast this city has grown in the past twenty years. Here’s a look at what the cityscape looked like in 1990:

via SkyscraperCity

And here’s what that same grassy plot of land looked like when I saw it 21 years later:

The Pudong Skyline

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Goodbye Japan

April 6, 2011

My year in Japan is over.

March 29th, 2010 I arrived in Japan to teach English in Fuji City with little to no expectations or even any real plans other than doing something interesting and different with my life. Exactly one year later, March 29th, 2011, I returned to the US.

My birthday is March 30th, so I spent the entirety of the age 23 living in Japan. 23 was an age for a lot of firsts. It was the first time that I lived by myself, in a foreign country and where I didn’t know anyone. My first time with a fulltime job and the longest time I’ve continuously held a job. I went surfing. I went to underground nightclubs. There was a newspaper article written about me. I experienced the largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history, whose effects are still being felt almost a month later.

I didn’t love Fuji City, but I loved my job. Taking the job as an English teacher was always just a way for me to travel and work abroad, there was never a specific reason for coming to Japan, and when people asked me why I was going I’d say “Why not?” But within a few months of starting work I was honestly surprised at  how much I enjoyed teaching. What’s most surprising about this is that I always used to say that I’d never become a teacher, the phrase “over my dead body” came up a lot in regards to the matter, due to all the second-hand experience I received from my mother, an elementary school teacher for the past 30 years.

My taking to the job has everything to do with Japanese culture and the school I taught at. My students were amazing, as were the teachers that I worked with. Japanese students are easier to handle in virtually every way and the relationships that teachers have with students is much closer to that of parents and children, or even friends. Students are left on their own in the classroom multiple times a day, they take initiative to do their work, they rarely ever fight (Through the entire year, I only witnessed a single fight, in middle school. Fights were a weekly, or even daily, occurrence at my own middle school in Miami.) and students would always help out if a peer didn’t quite grasp a concept in class.

Looking back, I’m amazed at how much I’ve done in Japan over the course of the one year. I’ve seen more of Japan than most Japanese get to in their entire lives. I made more new friends in my single year in Japan than my four years at university, and people from all of the world, not just Japan. I’ve learned so much of the Japanese language simply from speaking to friends and students (my Japanese is by no means good, I’d say my speaking level is equivalent to that of a 2 year old, at best).

There’s no doubt that I’ll return to Japan one day, hopefully getting a chance to see all of my friends again and maybe even some students. I’m going to miss a lot of things about Japan: my schools, my friends, Japanese food, the ease of train travel and so much more. But I look forward to what’s to come in the US: driving, affordable fruits, my family and my friends.

My first full day back in the United States was my 24th birthday. What I’ll be doing from 24 on I’m not really sure. But I’ll be sure to keep you updated along the way.

Sorry for the delay in posting a bit of a wrap of, as you can imagine things have been a bit crazy since the earthquake, then I went to China, then I moved back to US. My return had nothing to do with the recent Tohoku earthquake, or the current nuclear disaster in Fukushima, the plan was always to just do one year and I’ve bought my ticket back to the U.S. in December.

This isn’t the end of, I’ll be sure to keep posting any traveling I do or any interesting going ons in my life. Until then…