November 21, 2015

We hopped on the motos and started to make our way out of town. I was riding on the back of guido’s since he had more space. I had my back pack on and foolishly had my phone in the open side pocket. We were in thick traffic at a light when I felt my pack move and I knew instantly someone was getting into it. I turned just in time to see the guy on the bike next to me pull my phone out of the pocket. I yelled and as he accelerated away I punched his arm. I was lucky enough that that caused him to drop the phone into the roadway. Without even thinking I jumped off the bike to retrieve it and jumped back on as the traffic moved around me. It all happened so fast I couldn’t believe it really happened except that my phone was dirty from the roadway. Guido wanted to go after the guy but I didn’t want to instigate anything further. We continued heading out of town as my pulse attempted to calm down and I waited for my hands to stop shaking. The boys were making jokes about me being a secret agent and were blown away at my reaction and the result of it.

We made a stop at a roadside stand for some water. We put on more sunscreen and continued on our way to Ba vi stopping every 45 mins or so to give our asses a break. It was so so hot out and we decided to grab food somewhere before heading to the national park down the road. We drove through the town until we found a place full of locals (always a good sign) and filed in to find a cool spot in the shade. The locals were happy to welcome us and we ordered our pho and some waters. I look over and two the the older men are laughing and trying to slyly snap a photo of us “foreigners” and we laugh and make peace signs/wave at the camera. That was the only encouragement they needed and next thing I know one has his arm around me and we are taking a selfie. I was laughing and played along until two minutes later we’ve taken 40 different poses and space between us is non existent. The boys think it’s funny and I’m over it at this point. They bring out the rice wine and we’re now doing shots with them and finally our food arrives. Guido speaks Vietnamese and the old guys are insisting we come back tonight and party all night with them. No chance I say and the boys agree, but they still think it’s hilarious. I wave apologetically at their (I think) wives and we pay our bill and move on.

Ba vi national park is LOVELY and we’ve come during the off season. We practically have the place to ourselves. We’re unsure of what exactly there is to see so just drive around stopping here and their to snap a few photos. One more side road before turning back and we take a side road that led further up mountain. We come into a clearing and we all audibly gasped at the sight of this old abandoned limestone church completely overgrown just tucked into the trees. Haha.. Such a chance finding as the park is huge and we’re all stoked at the discovery. We are glad to head back now as the sun is setting and we still have a 2 hour drive ahead of us.

Halfway back we Stopped off for a quick coffee at this families roadside shop. They were just sitting down for dinner and welcomed us in regardless. I managed to order through some charades I requested three coffees as they spoke no english. We drank our coffees slowly and chatted and then I remembered I had all those candies in my bag. I pulled them out and gave them around. Their baby had woken up and was so cute I grabbed the Polaroid. One with dad and baby. Another one with grandma and baby, then I motioned for everyone to jump in for a family/group shot. They were all so excited, dad even put a shirt on for the photo and smoothed down his hair in the mirror. Everyone was laughing. They were so grateful they refused to let us pay for our coffees and asked for us to visit again soon. All ten of them were at the door waving good bye as we drove away. I as best as possible tried to keep the massive grin off my face for sake of keeping the bugs out of my teeth as we drove away but I couldn’t help but laugh at this day and all the little things that had happened. Deep satisfaction hugged me and a small voice roaring in my ear saying ” you’re doing it right!!” as we made it back to Hanoi.

November 20, 2015

According to my hostel there was only one bus to Ninh Binh and it left at 6pm. That put me arriving at 9pm and I didn’t want to wait that long and miss out on seeing the place in the daytime. At this point I know their goal is to sell, not assist, and so I dug a little further and found out I can take a bus from Giap Ba bus station and that busses leave every hour.

I take a taxi to the station and the second I get out there is a guy yelling ninh Binh at me and motioning for me to follow. I instantly do t trust him but he is headed to the ticket office so I follow. My ticket cost 40,000 dong and the lady selling me the ticket is all smiles and motions for me to follow him. He leads me out to a bus and we put my big bag in the back. i climb on to three other people on a 25 person bus. I grab a seat and we sit there for 30 mins. I wonder if I should ask what time we’re leaving.. Another person arrives. I’m watching the station entrance as we sit there and I’m beginning to understand the process a little. Guys stand out near the entrance finding passengers hustling their bus. Even as we inch towards the exit of the station they are literally grabbing people and putting them on the bus. Slowly but surely every seat is being filled as we now circle the station. 40 mins later we are on the main road and the hustler for our bus is standing at the open door of the bus as we move yelling at people. We’ve now packed the aisle way 30+ people on board a few packages as well. I’m sharing my row with a pregnant woman. I realize now I’m fully vested in this new venture and I saw a small prayer. If my pack in the back of the bus is still there when (and if?) I arrive to ninh binh it may be a small miracle. I have my most precious belongings with me. It’s just clothes and toiletries in the back. Worst case scenario.. Well, a scenario would be I have to buy clothes and do without my creature comforts.

I offer a piece of candy to the pregnant lady beside me. She smiles and declines. We make a few stops (barely actually stopping) once we’ve exited the city and make a stop halfway to ninh to use the bathroom. I don’t leave the bus but a few people jump off quickly to buy food etc. the pregnant lady returns and offers me a share of her bread and rice rolls that have seseme seeds on the outside and either cooked egg or beans on the inside. It’s slightly warm and delicious.

We are arriving into town now and the bus is barely stopping to let people off here and there. there was no announcement or notification when we actually made it to the bus stop. I only realized it when I saw the sign outside the terminal and started yelling at the guy to get out and open the back to get my bag that hopefully was there. It was but the secod I stepped out I was mobbed by atleast three guys offring me a taxi. I knew I needed to find a phone to call my homestay so I headed inside to see if there was one I could use. No luck but one of the taxi drivers offers me his and he talks to them and then says he will take me for half he price. I didn;t know what else to do but since we already agreed on a price I figured I might as well. We head outside and he pulls up his moto. I start to protest since I have my big back pack and he insists that he can balance it in front of him. Ive seen worse at this point so I finally agree. again I am saying little prayers for my safety and for my trust in mankind that he will in fact take me to where I am supposed to go.

9 km bike ride later and weird roads through a tiny village outside of ninh binh I arrive as the sun is setting behind the limestone hills. i am welcomed by the staff to the palm/bamboo huts along the edge of a private lake. They have a pet goat, pig, little dog and all the staff are very very frindly. They have an english class for the local children every night at 5pm and ask me if I might be interested in teaching the following evening. They also have already seen my new ukelele sticking out of my bag and have excitedly asked me to play. Ny room is comfy and has a balcony oer the water with a hammock. I dump my things and head to their open air lobby to have dinner. The food here is amazing. I just can’t even.

My body has been freaking out since yesterday. I think the adreniline rush of the phone jacking caused too much stress and I am sick. My plan is to sleep and rest and let my body recover before the next location and adventure of Hue/Hoi An.

November 20, 2015

I arrived into Sapa and saw the view from my hostel and went straight to the reception desk and extended my stay extra two days. The mountains and valleys were just like the photos I had found an the vibe at the hostel was friendly and chill. I made friends with a finnish girl who had taken the mongolian expressway through russia/china down into asia and my eyes grew bigger as she told me about it. Fuck. I have to do this.
I settled into some food and a walk around the small mountain town and then spent the rest of the evening gettin to know the other travelers and comparing notes on locations to visit and how to get there. I meet about 10 new people a day. It’s always the same list of questions, “where you from, how long are you traveling, where did you go/where are you going?”.

We left early the next morning for our hike through the valley and I knew I had signed up for the longer trek but no one could really tell me what exactly the itinerary was. Our guide was a local and we were joined by a few of the woman from the black hmong tribe that live in the valley. They assisted us down the mountain in their sandals and packs and we struggled in our tennies and trainers over the rough unfamiliar terrain. My pockets were full of candies and I as glad I had the forethought to do this as we passed so many kids along the way. 24 km for the first day we started at 8:30am and arrived to our homestay at the top of a mountain around 5:30pm. My group I am with all met in Thailand and their paths kept overlapping so they booked this trek together. I was the odd man out and easily 8 years older. Our host family spoke almost no english but they thanked us for coming by doing shots of rice wine with each of us and shaking hands afterwards. They had prepared the most amazing dinner and joined us while we played drinking games the rest of the evening. I took polaroids of the kids and the mom went and got their traditional outfits out and get them dressed for one more. The morning was rough post drinking and had we known what we were in for on this day we may not have drank at all. 1.5 hours straight vertical climb up the side of the muddy rough path to the top of the mountain. My phone says it was 115 floors. I was cussing the last 10 minutes and every single one of us was soaked through from swet at the top. Once we got the the village on the other side we had another amazing meal and then van took us back to our hostel in SaPa. I was so beyond exhausted I lounged around the rest of the day. I even treated myself to a massage that was so odd that I can’t even.. hahaha…

I got back into Hanoi with the mindset that I would catch up on emails and prepare a few things for the next coming weeks. I showered, grabbed my note book and phone and set out of the hostel to find a quiet cafe somewhere. I heard my name being called and turned to find irish clark kent and a buddy sharing a beer at the bar I was passing. I joined them for one and told them about my trek and next thing I know we are headed to the next bar for another and a few other expats join us. It’s midnight now and the cops come and shut everything down. We head to a local bar called toms where they pulled down the garage doors and make it look like the place is closed as we have a few more beers and dance for a while. Danny and Guido invite me to join them on a ride in the morning. They want to get out of town for some fresh air and their is a national park called Ba Vi about 1.5 hour away. I happily accept and we agree to meet up in the morning and head out.

November 18, 2015

Just finished a 30 km hike through and over the Sapa valley and mountains. I’m so exhausted I can’t even type a proper caption. My eyes can’t contain everything I’ve seen.. Tiered rice patties, buffalo, local tribes and their villages, waterfalls, bamboo forests, ate bananas freshly picked from the trees, slept in a homestay on the floor, drank their homemade rice wine, gave polaroid photos to families, woke up to misty mountains, climbed bottom to top a mountain so tall the peak was in the clouds. So stunning. My legs are jello. My heart is full.

November 17, 2015

things –

Vietnamese night market vs Taiwan night market :: Taiwan for the win.

Ate dinner in an alley sitting at children’s size plastic tables and chairs. The people around me were all locals. Not a foreigner in sight. Ice for my warm beer and opted for a veggie bbq plate where I cook my food in front of me and assemble my own spring rolls. The food was good and I couldn’t help but laugh at the continued re adjustment of how a quality establishment is defined.

My time in Ha long was good. The views where stunning but I didn’t realize I signed up for a tourist trap tour and had the company of a bunch of old German men and and a young German couple that were complaining the whole time and only speaking German to each other. The tour took us to places where we should buy things and I’m tired of seeing things that are cultivated towards tourists.
Maybe that’s as good as it gets here? I want to dig a bit deeper. I’m going to a smaller town on Tuesday next week and then down to hoi an (crossing my fingers for good weather) and will continue my way south from there. Everyone at the hostel I meet is just doing the happy hour/ booze beach party / pub crawl. I didn’t come all the way here to get shit faced. I am so irritated today. I woke up to horrible news in Paris and I’m concerned for those I haven’t heard from yet. I’m on my next bus group to “hike” Sapa and half of the bus is old Chinese tourists and I’m thinking I was mislead in my tour description again.

I haven’t slept well since arriving (oh hostel life!) and I may just splurge on a hotel in Hoi an or nha trang.
I am so glad I packed as light as I did and I’m also really glad I shipped my jeans/sweater/scarf home from Taiwan. I do not need them here.

I am so showing my age! Oh how I have adjusted my version of travel and priorities! I may rent a moto once I get outside of Hanoi. No more of this tourist shit. Ugh. I miss my real camera. I miss my lipstick. I miss my 15 lbs lighter body. I’m really done complaining now. I just needed to remove those things from my mind.

November 16, 2015

Vietnam –

So incredibly overwhelmed.

Maybe because I chose a hostel in the old quarter as my beginning point. Like all touristic traps it’s a cluster fuck of people / Tourists plus those catering to the tourists. Not at all a glimpse of what is the real version of the culture.

I dumped my stuff on my bunk and after greeting the gals in my room I decided to check out the city. The roads are packed with people, buses, motos motos motos motos motos. In reality I probably walked less than a quarter of a mile… And it took me almost an hour to do so. I was starving and still unsure how to maneuver through the chaos so I ducked in a small shop and ordered a banh mi sandwich. I munched and peeked out the door as I did, almost is if to see it transform into a rhythm that made sense or that all of a sudden it had calmed down. I walked again around the area and since the blocks all felt the same I decided to head back to the hostel to get a map. I saw a two story bar with a balcony on my way and abandoned the idea of walking around until I had daylight to assist me and proceeded to pop in to claim my quiet perch with a view and a promise of beer. My seat was everything I hoped for and I found I wasn’t the only one that had the idea. I made a joke and unashamedly announced i was hiding to the tall Irish guy that looked like Clark Kent. He passed no judgement as he smoked his cigarette and gave me a smile. An hour, a beer and long conversation later I say good bye and laughing to myself. I’ll see him in the morning as he’s offered to drive me around the city on his moto to see the sights.

I share another beer with other internationals staying at the hostel. I’m amazed at how many of them have been traveling for months and months (or years) on end. Some teaching English, some just living on daddy’s dime. As much as I have in common with their wanderlust I also don’t. I do desire home and the challenge of making it in life. Most of these kids are just floating. I wonder how long they can last this way. I say that in both admiration/envy and judgement. I desire more than their version of life.

I roll out of bed the next morning and grab my cameras (iPhone/Om-d/polaroid). I know I need to “just walk” and explore before I loose my edge and get overwhelmed again, and so I set out. The old quarter is quite large and it reminds me of the medinas in Morocco. Busy, chaotic and everyone wanting to make money off of you.

I see two local girls in a coffee shop and I pop over to attempt to order a coffee. it takes three people to figure out what I’m ordering and we all share smiles and awkward laughs in the process. I get an iced coffee and it is great. I take in the morning chaos and a new girl shows up and greats me in english with a “good morning and how are you?” before long I am answering questions that she is translating for the other girls, “how old am I, am I married/boyfriend? traveling alone? what do I do back in California? ” I think she only understands half of what I say but we are smiling and laughing all the while. I bring out my polaroid and offer to take a photo of them and they happily oblige. Their smiles are huge as the photo develops in their hand and they pass it all around inspecting it. She disapears in the back and returns with mangos and starts pealing them and offers the slices to me. We munch our mangos and I remember I have candies I brought from the US in my bag and I dig out them out and share them around. all sitting around these tiny plastic chairs chatting watching as the road gets busier with the waking morning. I finally decide it’s time to move on and say good bye to my new friends and head out to rendezvous with Danny Boy and the next adventure – Hanoi by moto.

About half way through the day I sort of realize the stupidity of climbing on the back of this moto. Maybe it was the intersections of 100’s of motos trying to get through the same light from 4 different directions. Add in the pedestrians somehow walking through the myrad of vehicles without batting an eye. So many opportunities for injury. we made a few stops at the larger sights, took a coffee (OMG SO GOOD!) walked around a gorgeous lake, got lost, got lost some more, criss crossed and asked for directions from three different people
(all of which gave us the wrong direction and all different).. my ass was numb and aching as we finally found the big lake and starting making our way around the edge of it as it started to rain. It’s warm out an the rain and breeze is welcome. We find a place at stop for beer. He smokes his ciggies and we talk about his plans for staying two years in Hanoi/Vietnam. He’s just arrived (3 weeks in) and is as kind as pie. Im guessing he was raised catholic and has mentioned his family a lot. I know he’s young.. and I hope that my being older doesn’t make this awkward. I try not to mention things that reference my 20’s or mention my other lifetimes. Not that it matters, he is being friendly, but not pushy or hitting on me. but, it’s not like a guy jus offers to take a girl around just for funsys. There is always the unasked question in the air of “could there be more?” and of course only if there is chemistry. More than anything it’s about the camradery, and seeing each other as the same or equal — and being older brakes that spell.

We stop for bananas, we stop for pho bo, we stop for double dragons at the top of the lake. We start to make our way back and the sun is setting and rush hour is beginning. The roads are slick now and we see a few turned over motos as the traffic backs up. I stopped watching where we are going because I would just react to what I saw and it just added to the stress in sure he was already feeling. We try to find the old quarter and ended up in the largest intersection instead. Literally a couple hundred motos crossing all at once. I don’t think I stopped say “omgomgomgomgomg” the entire way through which felt like an eternity. I got back to my hostel and we both exhaustedly agreed to a beer later and I passed out on my bed for an hour. More hostel friendliness and I meet up and grab dinner and beers with Danny boy. I slipped up and he asked the question.. I laughed and tried to blow it off.. But there was no way. Even hearing the words come out of my mouth I realize that I no longer belong in this window/phase of life that I’m currently am in. Except that I am and I don’t know what to do with it but embrace it. He responds as I suspected he would.. Shocked and said ” I thought you were 24! Like, my age! I didn’t realize you were so old!!”. I wince and half joking saying “hey now ..” with a laugh trying to recover. He try’s to take it back and throws a couple different things like ” I mean THAT age”.. It’s ok. My ego or feelings are already bruised.

I laugh with the comedy of it but I feel the rejection/judgement of it none the less.

November 14, 2015

Japan – final days

I think my health app said I walked 18 miles that day? Jessica and I grabbed dinner at hot pot/ Shabu shabu place with the most amazing meat I’ve ever eaten. EVER.
Turns out our lives had similar catalysts over the past few years but with different outcomes. When you find someone who knows and understands your journey the comraduary and conversation is affirming and comforting. You feel less alone in your pain and journey. We talked a lot of this over the next few days.
We visited a couple of the local shrines that were lovely and found a vintage/second hand shop where I bought the most beautiful robe/kimono. We walked around Tokyo and saw the main sites that were left to be seen. I feel that I hardly scratched the surface of Tokyo. and Japan for that matter. I loved it so much and I desperately would like to return and continue to explore (specifically the mountains!). My last night there a friend of a friend was in contact with me and arranged for to meet up. Dad and daughter both japanese and so I grabbed dinner with them. Turns out he is a professionally marathon runner and has ran over 160 marathons all over the world. We talked a great deal about this as it has been on my thoughts a lot more lately. I really think 2016 is the year for this for me… We shall see.

November 12, 2015

Heda Ryokan

I’m having trouble finding the words that aptly express my time in this place. I was there for less than 24 hours. Although what I felt within one hour of arriving didn’t leave me until I stepped back off the train in Mushima.

5 hours of travel time to get there. The JR ticket girl did her best to explain to me how to get there and then asked me “why” I was going to this obscure little town. I was doubting my decision when I finally made it to the bus and we started this windy 50 minute trip through the mountains. It wasn’t until we reached the peak and all of a sudden mount fuji’s peak was staring me in the face I decided the bus ride was worth it. As we started our descent into the port of Heda I got my first glance at it’s tiny cove hugged by small weathered buildings and small fishing vessels speckling the seafoam green ( i never understood the true meaning of the name for this color until now) water. My car sent from the Ryokan was waiting for me and the driver asked simply “Sarah-san?” And motioned to the car with a head nod and turn.

The very short drive to the other side of the port gave me the full view of this little town. As we drove past the marina I saw the perfectly framed view of the peak and I knew I would come back for this photo.

I had arrived in time for sunset and my favorite time of day. Dinner was scheduled for 6pm and so I had two hours to explore and enjoy the perfect fall weather. I walked along the beach through the marina and was greeted by a few locals enjoying the lazy Sunday afternoon. A small boat full of men pulls in and they carry their day’s catch ashore. An old woman hanging her peeled persimmons to dry on the same line share by her laundry. Two older woman stopped talking mid sentence to watch me pass and I greeted them with a “Kernichiwa” and a smile and they giggled and replied in kind. I sat on the sea wall taking it all in as couples walked hand in hand past me to the lighthouse. I was giddy and couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. “Pinch me” and photo sent to my gfs back home.

Complimentary whiskey and ocean view in the lobby with the most comfortable chairs I’ve ever sat in. I look around and almost everyone (maybe 20 people total) is i the summer kimono that I saw in my closet. I go to the bus boy who speaks great english and ask him if I’m supposed to wear it. “It is as you like” he says and I press him and ask him what is normal. “yes, it is normal to wear it” and I happily bounce back to my room to get dressed. I feel a little silly when i see myself in my mirror but I’m loving it too. I can’t help laugh at myself with each new encounter with a custom I’m unsure how to maneuver through and I knew dinner would be so as well. I was grateful for the private cubicles that each party was allotted because I’m sure watching me try to eat would have been pure comedy. I was laughing my whole way through it anyhow and despite almost everything being outside my comfort zone I ate pretty much everything of the 12 courses that were served. (Except the things with eyes or mouths, they got quietly set aside).

After dinner I retired to the lobby for another hour and then decided to try the onsen out. It was inevitable and as much as I dislike the idea of being naked with a group I didn’t want to miss out on a cultural experience. I got to the ladies room and found it empty. I wasn’t expecting this and after a few minutes of trying to figure the place out and the lack of signage I could understand I picked up the phone for the lobby asking if the onsen was even open.. Thinking i had come after hours. I had expecting a room full of woman and when i found it empty i was relieved for the sake of privacy.. But then i realized i didn’t know what to do based on expecting to watch and copy others. The lobby sent a woman from the front desk to my embarrassed rescue as we determined to how and what do in the onsen. Again i laughed to myself at how they must be amused at this lost american.

I wake up to the sound of heavy rain out my window and my view confirms it. I dress and go back to the lobby for wifi and those cozy chairs to have a cup of coffee with my view. There is something so comforting about this moment. I really can’t find the words. It was peaceful. A sweet text from my dear momma d pushed me over the edge and happy tears fell down my cheeks.

My 7 course traditional breakfast is served in the same fashion as dinner was and while it was fun to sample all these things I found it too salty for a breakfast. I massacred the fried fish trying to debone it and then realized there was a simple trick to slipping the meat off. ::sigh::

I packed, said good by to my yakata and hopped the bus+train back to Yokusuka. It was rainy and cloudy so there were no views of the Fuji peak today. I again am grateful I had the fore thought to arrive early in the day before so I had that view during the daylight. More than grateful, it would have changed everything.

November 6, 2015

The slow regard for silent things or Things I never thought I’d say – “You’re french, celebrating an american holiday, in an irish pub in Kyoto.”

At 7pm I was laying in my hotel bed (royoken futon on tutami matt floors), exhausted but not tired. I didn’t want to eat, it was very cold out, I didn’t pack winter clothes, and the sun had said good bye for two hours already.

I had tackled another lovely hike to the top of mount Inari and the 1000 vermilion gates that lead you to the shrine. This might have been my favorite thing so far.

I had already walked the city for some time but it was cold out and my back pack was heavy. I checked into my Japanese hotel and found my traditional room charming until I realized there were no showers and the cleansing option as the public baths in the basement. (the men and woman bathe separately.) I found I didn’t have it in me for this last adventure/new experience. I needed my cleansing process to be restorative and I anticipated this to be more exhausting with yet another comfort zone being challenged.

It was only 5pm and I opted to find a massage parlor as my pack and all the walking made me body ache.

First of all, of note – I feel that I need to showcase the manor of which I travel. My goal when visiting a city is to absorb, be respectful and participate. I usually try to dress like I am a local, I take public transportation, and do as I am able, understand. In Europe I have been able to get by with these ideals quite well. Here in Japan, I stick out like a sore thumb. It is literally impossible for me to blend in. Kyoto has had a lot more tourists then what I saw in Tokyo, but most days I am the only anglo saxon person I see all day. The culteral differences are just that. It is a whole new world. And while it is delightful and intriguing I find I do not know “how to be” at any given moment.

So I walked into the massage parlor and pointed to a picture of a woman having her bare back massaged. Somehow I agreed to a certain amount of time and after a few minutes I was shown into a room and given a pair of weird panties, a pair of drawstring shorts an a tshirt to put on. At this point Im wondering what kind of massage I’m going to get or if at all as someone comes in with a bowl of hot water for my feet to be put in. I of course am just enjoying the ride but I really do want a massage so I ask the girl who doesn’t understand me. she disappears and another girl shows up and then tells me to undress and keep my weird panties on and lay face down through a version of charades and giggles from both of us. She leaves the room and I undress. I realize their tables are not like our tables back at home and I’m unsure if I’m supposed to be on top of the sheets, under the sheer sheet or under the towel on the bare bench. I struggle for a moment with how to proceed and then decide on under the sheer sheet since all I have is my weird undies on. I guessed wrong. She came in and gasped a little (at least I think. I was laying facedown with my bare backside+ weird panties to be viewed) and added a towel on top of me. I wanted to laugh so hard but it was an open air parlor and didn’t want to disturb anyone. As I held in my laughter it slowly turned into tears and I lost my control to keep them in as she began to massage aching back.
I lay there for the next eternity letting each tear take acknowledgments of my discomforts for the last 5 days of not knowing, the expenditure of energy in figuring things out and being careful to be gracious and kind to everyone around me. Let me tell you, this takes it out of you.

Post massage (which proved to be great) I popped into a restaurant where I was able to figure out the touch screen ordering system and leaned on the example photos and guessed as to the ingredients of what exactly I just ordered. Except french fries. I know it’s cheating to order these when I should be trying new things but I needed a comfort good. As I sat down I noticed a anglo saxon man sitting two seats over looking tired and ragged as myself. Without words I felt I understood his exhaustion and in my head I found myself wanting to ask him to join me for a beer. There was no way for me to conveniently do this because of the layout of the seats and the noise level of the place. So I sat at my seat staring at the wall in front of me waiting for my food to arrive. I felt that he noticed me too and for a second our camradary was shared – ” the look book for ‘lost in translation’ Two foreigners meet and find consolation with each and proceed together with their na├»vety of the culture and language”. I felt his gaze again as I dug through my pocket and hoped he would say something. I gave him a half glance and smile that said ” I too am traveling alone in this foreign place. While I am brave and embracing all these things, I welcome your camradary ” … At that moment my french fries were plopped in front of my face and I feel their presence broke the spell between us. I was no longer the wayfarer pioneer but the young lost thing ordering french fries for dinner. Before I even popped a fry into my mouth he was at the door hat in hand and as the door shut my fish head soup and what I think is chicken over rice is also placed in front of my face.

I didn’t want to go out drinking, which is a sure way to meet people. But I also didn’t want to call it a night at only 7pm. I knew if I had a travel partner I would be in a bar somewhere drinking sake or the like so I decided to just do it. It is hard traveling alone as a female! You are either perceived as hitting on people when you interact with the or being hit on. Maybe It’s just my perspective.. maybe. I found a bar and ordered a Japanese beer. I sat there for awhile listening to the couple next to me speaking english. Expats.. but for some reason I didn’t feel like intruding into their catching up session. Not long after I heard someone ask “where are you from?” and I turned to find a geeky looking Japanese guy asking inquisitively. His name is Jun he comes to this area to practice his english on foreigners. He had many questions and each time I answered his eyes would pop wide with excitement (which made me laugh). I got to ask him how to say “cheers” and “lets take a selfie” and it felt nice to chat with someone as I realized it had been a few days since I had had that ability. I finished my beer and said good bye. It was stil only 9:30pm and Halloween night. They city was bustling with the Saturday night fever and despite the cold the youth were out in force.
I opted for one more stop since it was on the way and I found myself walking into a very packed, halloween filled irish pub. I made my way to the bar and ordered a beer and then found a corner to observe. There was a costume contest and I had arrived just in time for the judging. There was a white guy trying to get past me and I was tired of waiting for conversations to happen and this point and so I jumped in and asked him where he was from. “I am french” he says and I laugh myself silly….

October 27, 2015

thank god for wifi on my flight from SFO>NRT.I was so ill prepared for this very first segment of my journey. I was able to spend the 10 hours of flight time researching even how to get about once I landed. 2.5 hours of train time and I arrived Tuesday the following day that I had departed to the small town of Yokosuka (Yokuska) and climbed in the car of my dear friend and older sister to my best friends growing up. She has been here 3 years with her family while her husband is stationed here with the navy.  
I woke up at 4am Monday morning hungover as hell with my intended belongings strewn all over the floor. My roommate had had a dinner party at our place the night before and I had been away in Sacramento for the weekend hugging dear ones and photographing my final fall wedding. I still had many projects still to deal with but at this point with 4 hours until I needed to leave for the airport I had to decide what my priorities were going to be. I made it to the airport with 20 minutes to spare.  
The train system here is crazy. Maybe that is mostly because I don’t read Japanese characters and so there is little chance to really interpret or guess as you go along. I need to find myself a map today… that may really help me out in my intentional wanderings. So thankful for the kind japanese people who have helped me unasked along the way so far. I guess my confusion was evident.
It’s a funny feeling being the only anglo-saxon on the train, let alone the only one you’ve seen all day.  I must remember to smile.  I noticed two girls sneakily snapping my photo on the trai. haha..  I stick out like a sore thumb.
Tomorrow I head to Kyoto/Osaka and really dig into Tokyo next week.
until then.. day 2 begins.