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Beijing (April 2010)

(I went to Beijing in the April of 2010 and I had written about it, but never posted it. Today I found the draft and decided to finally post it. Sorry for the lateness)

Last week of April to the first week of May, I went to China with my friend Matt. In 11 days, we traveled a lot, but our journey began in Beijing.

In Beijing, we went to the usual tourist spots, which are the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and the Great Wall.

Our first full day out:

The Forbidden City is an interesting place to go, but it is also enormous. Plan to stay there for a couple of hours if you decide to go.
While I was there, a Chinese family ( a couple and an older lady) wanted to take pictures WITH me. At first I was a bit hesitant and even held on to my bag thinking that there had to be an ulterior motive. However, I did allow it and smiled with them for the picture. It got weirder when the lady asked her husband to take even more pictures of just me and her. We took a couple. Then, she changed shirts and took a couple more. After that, she grabbed the older lady and asked me to take a picture with her too. In the end, I guess all they really wanted was pictures with me. Lots and lots of pictures with me. I'm still not quite sure why, but they were nice and it was an interesting experience. Now I wish that I had taken a picture with my camera too.

After the Forbidden City, we had some lunch (yummy dumplings) and then went to the Temple of Heaven. When we arrived, we saw people dancing outside of the temple. Matt and I sat down and watched the performance. Regular Chinese tourists who were watching also began dancing with the performers. After watching the performance for awhile, we made our way to the temple, which was beautiful. We then walked around the grounds before making our way back to the hotel to rest and refresh a bit.

We weren't in the hotel for too long, before we hopped on a subway. We walked and shopped until we reached the Hou Hai area. In Hou Hai, we ate dinner at a restaurant called "No Name" and shopped some more. Hou Hai is a really nice area with lots of bars and lounges. If you want a nightime entertainment area, I recommend it.

Day 2:

On the second day, we went to the Summer Palace. Summer Palace is another beautiful place to go, but it is also huge. We didn't get to see everything there. We also took sandwiches and ate our lunch there. However, if you don't take food, there is an area inside that does sell food. There are also food vendors outside of the palace.

Then,  we went to the Olympic Stadium, looked around there for a bit, then caught a subway back to the hotel. After resting, we got in a taxi to watch a Chinese acrobatics show.  Although we paid for cheaper seats, the theater was a bit empty, so they put us close to the stage. The show was definitely entertaining.

We ended the night in a shopping, bar, entertainment area called Sanlitun. There were a lot of bars to choose from and also many foreigners, but I actually liked the Hou Hai area better.

Day 3:

This was our last full day in Beijing. It was also the day we went to the Great Wall. We booked our tour with the China Cultural Center   . We ended up going on a really beautiful day. Although I was walking on the Great Wall, I couldn't believe I was actually there. I ended up taking way too many pictures, but I had a good time.

Matt and I went back to our hotel, packed our bags, slept for a couple of hours and then at 2:23 AM we were on a train to Datong.

F4's Adventures in Kumamoto

This past weekend, my friends and I decided to go on a road trip. Everything was done pretty last minute. We just decided that week that we should go somewhere and we did. We all decided on Kumamoto, which is a neighboring prefecture to us. Since the only thing I had ever seen in Kumamoto was Mt. Aso, I was excited.

Matt, Asha, Kim and I  left on Friday night after work. Matt drove us to Kumamoto city. We checked into a hotel and walked around the downtown area.

The next morning, we went to Kumamoto castle. The castle looked beautiful with the cherry blossoms around it. We sat on a bench outside of the castle and ate our lunch. It was really relaxing and lovely.

We wanted to relax some more and maybe take a nap under some cherry blossoms, so we decided to go to Suizen-ji Park. We laid down in the sun and enjoyed the sights although truthfully, we were expected more from it.

After relaxing, we went back on the road. Our next stop was Kurokawa, an onsen village in Kumamoto prefecture. Onsens are hot spring baths that have many minerals. Japan has many onsens throughout the country and you have to follow certain rules when you go to them. For example, you must wash yourself before you get in. There are usually showers & soap for people to wash themselves well before they get into the onsen. You must also go in naked. You can take a small towel, but when you are in the onsen, you must put it to the side or on top of your head.

Kurokawa is a well known onsen village, so we were really excited to go there.

Before we even reached Kurokawa, we saw an interesting sight on the road. Literally, in the middle of nowhere, there were all these  shapes, like birds, bears, statue of liberty and so on cut out of plants. It was like Edward Scissorhands went there on vacation and spent a month making different pieces. It was the strangest thing ever. We had to stop and take pictures.

Kim was surprised when she noticed that this bear even had a set of...well you know.

When we finally arrived at Kurokawa, it was already almost 7 PM. We had to look for a place to stay because we didn't make a reservation. We soon found out that although there were many ryokans, they fill up pretty fast on the weekend. There were only a couple of places that had vacancy, which we learned about at the information center. We took down their numbers and parked the car in a little alley. Kim used her Japanese skills to make the calls for us. The first number didn't respond, but the 2nd number told us that there were rooms available and it would be 9000 yen per person. It seems like a high price but most places around there are more than 10,000 yen per person. We were extremely happy. When we went searching for the place, we realized that the car was parked right beside the ryokan. It was like fate.

We ate dinner there and then walked outside for a bit. Although it's a touristy village, it still looks like an old, small village that you are lucky to fall upon on your travels. Because of this, everything was closed at night, except for the convenience store. We also had to be back early because the ryokan's curfew time before they closed up was 10:30 PM.

Once we got back, we soaked in the private onsen of our ryokan and then we went to our rooms for some much needed sleep.

The next morning, I woke up and looked out the window. I felt like I was in the movie Spirited Away.

We checked out and made our way to the information center. At the information center, we were able to buy a pass for 1200 Yen that would allow us to go to 3 different onsens in the village. We also got a map with all of the different onsens, which included pictures of those onsens.

We sat down at a coffee/ ice cream shop and picked out the ones we wanted to go to. Once we picked the onsens, we began walking in the direction of the first one.

To tell you the truth, the first onsen didn't work out that well. We were about to walk inside the ryokan that had the onsen. The map said that there was a public onsen there and it even had a picture of it. Before we even got to the door, one of the guys that worked there ran out and he said in English "No Public Bath Here". We were kind of taken by surprise. We weren't even inside. The guy just ran outside to block us from going inside and to tell us that there was no public bath, which didn't even make sense because the map that the information desk gave us said that there was. When we said in Japanese that we had onsen passes. The guy responded in Japanese "Oh, you speak Japanese? Uhhhh...no  public bath here". We just walked away. The whole thing seemed strange and he probably did it because we were foreigners. We weren't too happy, but we walked to the onsen next to it and it was FABULOUS! We even thanked the jerk for turning us away because we had such a great experience in the other one.

Actually, all 3 onsens we went to that day were great. 

Onsen Picture:

One of my favorites was the last one we went to. It was called Yamamizuki ( 山みず木 )  .  There was an only female section and a mixed gender section. Matt went to the mixed gender onsen and Asha, Kim and I went to the only female onsen. There was an indoor onsen that didn't have a fourth wall. Because of that, we could look out to a water fall. There was also an outdoor onsen. It was so relaxing to be soaking in mineral rich water with nature all around you. The girls and I also chatted as we enjoyed our "spa" experience. We were only supposed to be there for half an hour, but we ended up staying there for an hour. I felt bad when we got out and we realized Matt had been waiting for us for  over half an hour. Oopps!

All in all, our road trip was one of my favorite trips this year in Kyushu. All of us really enjoyed Kurokawa and we want to go back.

If you would like to see more pictures of Kumamoto city & Kurokawa, you can go to my Flickr

Hiroshima & Miyajima Weekend

In March, I took a trip to Hiroshima & Miyajima with my friend Asha. 

We went from Miyazaki to Hiroshima by plane. Hiroshima has 2 airports, but we landed in the smaller, older airport that isn't used as much anymore - HIroshima Nishi AIrport. When we arrived, we were welcomed by Engrish signs at the bus stop.

We took a bus to HIroshima train station and then we walked to our hotel, which was the Unizo Hotel. Actually, we got a bit lost, but Asha used her iphone gps application to figure out where to go.

Since we arrived at the hotel around 6ish, we decided to just walk to the downtown area of Hiroshima in order to grab some dinner and check out the nightlife.

Since HIroshima is known for its okonomiyaki,  we decided that we had to eat some on our first night.  Okonomiyaki is kind of like a Japanese style pancake with whatever you want in it, like pork, squid, cabbage and even noodles. Of course, it was delicious.

Then, we walked to an area that seemed like it had many bars. We ended up at a salsa bar. It was fun to see people dance salsa, but we were too shy and embarrassed at our low to non-existent salsa skills to actually dance as well. We realized that the club had salsa lessons during the weekday, so the people hanging out there and dancing were regulars who also took lessons or taught there. It was interesting.

The next morning, we took the tram and then a ferry in order to get to Miyajima. Miyajima's Itsukushima Shrine's torii (shrine) gates on the water is one of Japan's top tourist sites. It's really a stunning site. There is also deer throughout the area and souvenir shops. Asha and I really loved the souvenir cake Momiji. They came in different flavors, like custard, chocolate, green tea and cheese. We bought some to eat that were really hot because they had just come out of the oven. We also bought boxes of cakes to take back to our school offices for our coworkers.

For lunch, we ate seafood okonomiaki and yakiudon. Yes, we ate A LOT of oknomiyaki on this trip.

Although we heard that it's beautiful to see the sunset on the torii gates, the sky was really cloudy. We could tell that rain was coming, so we decided to start going back to the city. Once we got back downtown, it was raining so much. We couldn't believe how heavy the downpour was. We were also happy that it didn't rain during the day while we were in Miyajima.

That night , we were trying to find another club or bar to dance and have fun. We learned about a club called Chinatown. We decided to give it a try. After walking around in circles for an hour, we were able to finally find it. However, it was not what we were expecting. The club looked really shady. Even the sign was busted. Only the "China" from Chinatown was even lit. I knew that the cover charge was a bit high, but I thought "Oh why not?". When we were about to go in, there was a scalper at the door. Yes, a scalper. He was telling us that he would let us into the club for cheaper. Huh...SHADY!!! We turned him down and then went inside. As we waited in line to pay to get in, the scalper followed us amd was trying to convince us again. I guess he didn't take "no" easily. When it was our turn to pay,  I put a 5,000 Yen down and I said I was paying for 2 people. They looked at me and then each other. Then they asked something about if we knew any of the djs. When we said no, they said that it would be 3000 yen each. WHAT??? I snatched back my 5000 bill and turned to walk away. I couldn't believe the price for that beat up club. When I turned, I saw Asha and remembered that she really wanted to go dancing. She had seen me snatch my money, but I still asked "Uhhhh...do you REALLY want to go in?". I was hoping she would say no, which she thankfully did. After that, we kept trying to find a lounge, club, bar, whatever around that area. All we saw were middle aged men with really dressed up women and Mama-sans. We ended up going back to the hotel a bit sad about how our night had turned out.

The next day was our museum day. We did both the A-Bomb Museum and the HIroshima Museum of Art.

The A-Bomb Museum (Peace Memorial Museum) was of course really sad, but also informative. I couldn't even look at many of the images displayed. The museum also has a lot of information about Hiroshima's history before & after the bombing. It also had information about the bomb itself. You really learn a lot by going to the museum. Close to the museum is also the Children's Peace Monument and the A-Bomb Dome. Everything is in the Peace Memorial Park.

This is the A-Bomb Dome:

The Hiroshima Museum of Art was Asha's suggestion. They had a special exhibition called Toulouse-Lautrec Connections, which she was really excited about. She seemed really happy about the exhibition and although I didn't know anything about it before going, I also found it interesting.

We then finished our sightseeing day at Hiroshima Castle (aka Carp Castle). This castle was rebuilt in 1958 after it was destroyed by the bomb. You can tell it's not that old.  Asha and I were able to enter before it closed. We went all the way to the top to take pictures. It was windy and Asha is really afraid of heights but we were able to take some pictures before we left.

That night we met up with 2 other Miyazaki JETS. They were in Hiroshima for the BOA concert and we were happy to see them. When we talked to one of them about our night before and how we were just looking for a nice club or bar, he pointed out that we were in the shady, red light district area of Hiroshima. After he said that, it all made sense. lol. With some dinner and drinks, we were able to enjoy our last night in Hiroshima.

If you would like to see more pictures of our Hiroshima & Miyajima Weekend, you can go to my Flickr

Trip to Taiwan (Part 2) - Days 3, 4 & 5

This is a continuation of my trip. If you haven't read Days 1 & 2, the link is here

Day 3 (February 13) National Palace Museum & Miramar Entertainment Park (Actually it's a Shopping Mall)

On my third day in Taipei, it rained all day. Since it was so nasty outside, I figured that it would be a good museum day. I went to the National Palace Museum. I recommend this museum for anyone who is interested in Chinese art and history because it has the largest collection of Chinese art in the world. My favorite gallery was the Painting & Calligraphy Gallery. If you enjoy visiting art museums, than this is the place to go. It has some really beautiful things to see.

Another great thing about the museum is that it has a free shuttle bus to the Miramar Shopping Center. For most people, this is just a mall with a big Ferris Wheel. However, for the Taiwanese Drama Lovers out there, like me, this is the setting for the drama Why Why Love (aka Huan Huan Ai) with Rainie Yang and Mike He. I feel like I have seen it in another drama too, but I can't remember. For all you drama lovers out there, was Miramar featured in another drama? 

Well, I know for sure it was in Why Why Love because it was one of the main settings of the drama. It was raining, but I was holding an umbrella with one hand and taking pictures of the mall with the other hand. I was so excited to personally see this Ferris wheel & mall. lol. I'm such a dweeb. A woman was passing by and she kept looking to try to figure out what I was taking a picture of. I think that she probably couldn't believe that the tourist was taking a picture of the mall. (^_^)

At the mall, I went to the music store and bought Fahrenheit's (Taiwanese boy band) Fantasy World Concert DVD and the soundtrack for the drama Autumn's Concerto.


I then took the MRT to a couple of places such as Ximending and Taipei City Hall, but everything seemed to be closing down early. Everywhere I went, the doors were closed and the lights were off. The night markets weren't even in business and there didn't seem to be much movement on the streets. I think it was because of New Years. I decided it was time to find something to eat and head back to the hostel. 

Day 4 (February 14)  Happy New Year!
Danshui, Beitou, Maokong & Shilin Night Market

Since it was my last full day in Taiwan, I tried to pack in as much sightseeing as possible.
I began in Danshui. Yes, I went back there and I'm happy that I did. The morning was warm and nice. It was a perfect day for boardwalk fun. There was food, ice cream and games. I couldn't believe how many people were there. I really enjoyed walking around the streets and going to the shops.


By the way, I recommend buying your souvenirs there. The shops have really cute things like keychains, phone straps, and trinkets. I bought a phone strap, Mario mirror, 2 keychains for myself and a bunch of keychains for my friends.

After spending a nice, relaxing morning in Danshui, I stopped by at Beitou (Xinbeitou MRT line). Beitou is known for its hot springs. It's like the Oita (Japan) of Taiwan. Although I didn't have time to go to a hot spring, I walked around Beitou Park. Then, it was time for my next stop, Maokong, which is known for tea growing. This area has many hiking trails and you can drink tea at the tea houses there.

To get there, first I took the MRT to Taiwan Zoo. The Maokong Gondola is not working at the moment, so they have free shuttle buses to take you up to Maokong. I took some pictures while I was there, but since I came too late (It was around 4:30) I couldn't explore as much as I wanted to. If I ever go back, I would like to get there early, walk around the area and drink some tea.

After Maokong, I took the MRT to Jiantan and went to Shilin Night Market. If there is only one night market you can visit while you are in Taipei, Shilin is the one you should go to. It has a bit of everything. There is food, drinks, games, accessories, clothes, etc. It's really fun for the whole family. However, there are a lot of people. I'm just warning you in case you happen to not like crowds.


DAY 5 (February 15) Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

On my last day, I checked out of the hostel and put my bags in a locker at Taipei Main Station. Since my plane only left in the evening, I had some time to do last minute sightseeing. I went to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. I looked around for about half an hour. Then, I went back to the station, had some lunch, bubble tea, grabbed my things and caught a bus to the airport.


On the bus, going to the airport from the station-

A little story about my flight to Fukuoka. The flight attendant's name was Icarus. For a flight attendant, that is not a good name to have.  lol If you don't know what I'm referring to, Icarus was the character from Greek  mythology who had wax wings so he wasn't supposed to fly too high (close to the sun). However, he was careless and didn't care so he flew too close to the sun, his wings melted and he fell to the ocean.

Anyway, when I saw the Flight Attendant's name- this was my face. First-  o_0   Next-  @_@  Then.  (T_T)

Advice: If you plan to go to Taiwan, a good blog that I recommend checking out is 12 Foot 3. They even explain how to use the city buses in case you need it.

If you want to see more pictures of my trip to Taiwan, you can go to my Flickr.


Trip to Taiwan - Days 1 & 2

"Honey, I'm Home!"

Ok, so I'm back from my vacation. I went to Taipei, Taiwan. For some of you, this is not a big shocker because I've been wanting to go there for awhile. It was a bit last minute, so I ended up going alone, but I still had fun.

Where do I begin? I guess from the top.

DAY 1 (February 11) : Taipei 101 & Shilin Station

I arrived in Taipei on the 11th. I basically checked into the hostel, dropped my bags and went sightseeing. First impression- WOW THERE ARE SOOOO MANY SCOOTERS! Yes, they are everywhere and you have to be carefully when crossing the streets. lol.

First Sightseeing Trip --  I caught the subway (MRT)  and went towards the City Hall Station. From there, I walked to Taipei 101 , which was the tallest building in the world until this year. This is a good place to begin because you get great views of Taipei on all sides. On the base of Taipei 101, there is also a shopping center with many popular & expensive stores, such as Dior and Tiffany's.


At night, I went on the subway again. I got off at Shilin station, thinking that the Shilin night market was there. Sadly, the night market was at the stop right before it, Jiantan .  Actually, when you arrive at Jiantan Station, the signs in the subway tell you to get off and walk towards Exit 1 in order to go to Shilin night market. I should have been more attentive. However, not all was lost. I walked around the area and took in Taipei city life.

Day 2 (February 12) Ximending, Quick stop at Danshui & Night Markets

Day 1 was sunny and warm. Day 2, however, was cloudy and chilly. It looked like it could rain at any moment. I ended up taking the MRT to Ximending, which is the place to go if you want to buy some cute clothes or accessories. It's also the perfect place to check out the latest trends. Ximending is like the Harajuku of Taiwan. It's full of young people hanging out and shopping. I arrived there early, so only a few stores were open at the time. However, after like half an hour, everything started opening and the crowds began arriving. I ended up buying 3 pairs of earrings, YES 3 Pairs of Earrings, and a Hello Kitty bracelet. Don't ask me why. I was on a shopping high. I also had a girl who was selling me one of the pairs of earrings who was so sweet and bubbly that I couldn't say no. Since it was chilly and I didn't have proper clothing for the weather, I also bought a sweater that I used for my entire trip. Oh and I  bought headphones and cute stickers for myself and my friends. Stickers? I know it sounds strange, but just look at how adorable they are:


I almost forgot the idol shop. Let me type that one more time: IDOL SHOP. There are shops full of posters, pillows, mugs, key chains, phone straps, etc with faces of idols on them. I kid you not. I also won't lie when I tell you that I must have spent almost an hour in that shop and I felt like an old lady because I was surrounded by teenage girls screeching "SHINEEEEEEEEEE" or "SUPER JUNIOR". Yes, k-pop is big there. I want to tell you that I walked away empty handed. That I didn't give in to the idol shop and buy goodies, but that just wouldn't be me. I ended up buying a Big Bang poster and pins with the faces of Taiwanese idols Rainie Yang and Jiro Wang. Hangs head down in shame. (o^_^o)

After spending a big chunk of my day in Ximending, I decided to go to Danshui. Truthfully, it was getting dark and drizzly, so it wasn't the best time to go. I wanted to see the sunset in the Taiwan Strait, but it was cloudy and the weather was just uggghhh. I did walk around and I realized that the shops there were full of cute things. Since I came at a bad time, I decided to go back on a better day. I went back on Day 4, so stay tuned to read about my return to Danshui.

Anyway, I ended the night by going to different night markets. I went to the Ningxia Road Night Market and the DiHua Chinese New Year Market (Chinese New Year was February 14). It was crowded, lively, crazy and really interesting.

This is a video of Dihua Market that I took.

If you want to see more pictures of my trip to Taiwan, you can go to my Flickr.


Mystery Trip & News of The Day

I have so much to do today, which includes semi-cleaning my apartment and packing. Yes, you read right - PACKING. I'm going on a trip. YAY!  It was all last minute. I took a couple of days off,  bought train & flight tickets and booked a hostel. Where am I going? Well, I'm going..... It's a secret. lol  Yes, I will be mysterious today (^_-) . ::Does BEAST's head move dance  to "Mystery, Mystery"::

Check in again to find out where I went.  Dun, Dun, Dun...

Anyway, I will give you some details. I'm going on the over night train from Miyazaki to Fukuoka. I'm in an "Only Female" carriage on the train. Cool, right? Then, I will catch the plane tomorrow in Fukuoka. I'm a bit nervous. I'm always a bit stressed when I travel alone.

Anyway, back to present. Today it's been so humid. The humidity hit out of nowhere. Everything is so wet. Even the floors and walls of the school are wet. The floor is a bit slippery to walk on and when I leaned against a wall, my bum got wet. Not a pretty sight.

I've also been giving interview tests today. I've had 2 this morning and I have 1 more this afternoon. Poor kids have been so nervous. I try to make them more at ease by giving them a smile and a cheerful "Hello!", but a test is a test, so they are freakin out on me. 

Generally, they have been doing well, so I'm happy.

Oh and today a local tv channel is going to film my English Debate Club doing a mock practice/ debate because they did so well this year. They got 2nd place in the Kyushu/ Okinawa Finals, which is a pretty big deal. I'm so proud of them. However, that means I have to stay later after school. I also kind of look like a mess. I really should wake up when my alarm clock tells me to wake up, so that I have more time to prepare myself calmly. Oh, I do like my sleep.

Last but not least, I just want to express my love for the group 2 AM. I'm so happy that they won a Mutizen. They totally deserve it. Their new single "I Can't  Let You Go Even If I Die" is so beautiful and well song. Watching them win was "WOW".  Keep on being amazing boys.

Anyway, hopefully my next post will be about my vacation.


Home and Back

I went home to America for the holidays and I have to admit that I had a lot of fun. I had missed spending time with my family and friends. In the 2 weeks I was there, I ate tons of food, watched a lot of late night reruns of shows, such as Bridezillas , & received and gave a lot of hugs. I also took pictures, so that I could show my students when I came back to Japan.

 The students loved seeing the pictures of Christmas decorations, my Christmas tree, snow (it doesn't really snow in this area) and a couple of pictures that I took in NYC when I went there with my mom to do some shopping. 

However, the picture that seemed the most popular was the one I took of our main dish on Christmas day. It was a picture of leitão (suckling pig), which is a popular dish in the region that my parents are from in Portugal,  which is known as Bairrada. Both teachers and students were amazed by this picture. There were all different reactions to it. Some were disgusted. Others were confused, amused and even interested in knowing more about it. I even heard some girls say "Kawaii" (cute). When I said that it was delicious, a lot of them looked at me incredulously and others giggled. lol. Yes, the picture was a hit among my students.

I've realized that a lot of people here take pictures of their food when the food looks really good, cute, or just different from the norm. I should have taken more pictures of the different foods I ate back home, both the American and Portuguese stuff. I think they would have liked that.

For more pictures, you can go to my Flickr Account
As many of you know, I went home to the US  for the holidays recently. I was with my family on New Years watching New Years Rockin Eve on tv. On the show, Selena Gomez sang two songs. That's when it hit me, Disney Channel is basically following the same procedure with their artists like Asian companies do, such as Johnny's in Japan or  SM Entertainment in Korea.

Entertainment companies here (Asia) will take in artists, train them in different things, such as singing, acting, modeling and so on. Then, they get them jobs in all of these different fields. That's why usually pop singers also appear in dramas, like Matsumoto Jun in Japan or Uee in Korea. It's also why they call them "talent" (meaning artists) and not simply "Singers" or "Models". It's like making the most out of one artist and they know their capabilities because usually they are training under the company since they are very young.

I feel like Disney lately has been doing that with their artists. I mean, just think about what they have done with Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and many others. I mean, they even make good singers do acting jobs when they can't act that well & they make good actors do singing jobs when they can't really sing. In the end, they make these teen stars successful in many fields and they hold on to them as long as they can while trying to make the most money out of them. It's ridiculously smart of Disney to do it, especially since they are involved in all fields of the entertainment business.

Actually, Disney takes it above and beyond. Not only are their artists in various fields of the entertainment business, but they are working within the Disney company in these various fields, so Disney is bringing in all of the money. For example, take Miley Cyrus. She became famous because of Hannah Montana, which is a Disney show. Through the show, she began her singing career. She is now an extremely famous singer. What's her record label? She is under Hollywood Records, which is owned by the Disney Company. Miley is also in movies. Her latest movie, which is coming out this year, is called The Last Song. Although Offspring Entertainment produced the film, it is being distributed by Touchstone Pictures, which is part of the Walt Disney Company as well. Even Miley's book, Miles to Go, was published under Disney-Hyperion Books. Wow!

I think that Disney is probably the closest thing that America has to Asian entertainment companies like SM or YG, since they do take young adults and place them in various media fields instead of only labeling them as "singers" or "actors".
Yet, there are still differences because of the great amount of power Disney has in all of the media outlets.

Anyway, if I wrote anything that is wrong, I'm sorry. This was just a connection I made while I was watching tv.

Snow Storm hits = Crazy Flight Home

So I went home in December and I have already returned back to Japan. First, I would like to post about my flight home.

I left Miyazaki on the 19th of December and because of the time difference, I was supposed to arrive on the same day (the 19th of December) at night in Jersey. It didn't quite work out that way because of the snow storm that hit the East Coast of the US.

Let me start from the beginning. I went from Miyazaki to Osaka Itami. From there, I caught an airport bus to Osaka Kansai airport, which took about 70 minutes. Then, I went from Osaka Kansai Airport to San Fransico airport. Once, I reached San Francisco, I was tired and couldn't wait to catch my last plane, which would take me to Jersey (home sweet home). However, it didn't quite work out that way.

In San Francisco, they basically told me that all of the flights going to Jersey and New York were canceled because of a snow storm. WHAT??? Then, I was told that the next available flight for me would be on the 21st. Remember, this was on the 19th. Oh dear! I was then given a list of times and gates for flights that I could wait on stand by for and I was told to take some clothes that I might need for the 2 days out of my luggage and then check in the bags. I couldn't believe it. I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my family for the 2 weeks we had together before I had to return back to Miyazaki and I was already being cut by 2 days. On top of that, I had just arrived from Japan, so I was already so tired.

I decided to wait for the stand-by flights, which of course is what most people were doing. The first one was at like 10 something at night. I ate, walked around the airport and tried to entertain myself. The flight was of course full and I had no chance to get on. Crap!

I ended up going to one of the gates that was empty and sleeping there. Truthfully, I could only sleep for a couple of hours. I was using my backpack as a pillow, but I was still afraid that someone would steal my things.

The next morning (December 20th) , I waited for the next stand-by flight. I was tired, sleepy, running on coffee, but I still had a bit of hope that I would make it home before the 21st. When I looked up on the stand-by list, my name wasn't there. Your name is supposed to automatically go into the next flight, but what I didn't know (and apparently many others didn't know) was that it refreshes the next day, so you have to put your name back on every day. I went to customer service where I saw many familiar faces from the day before. Each one was asking to put their names back on the list and asking if there were any flights to Jersey or New York. Of course, the answer was always "No".

I was lucky enough to get a man working there that instead of saying "No", like everyone else, he tried hard to find me a flight. He couldn't find anything, and then he told me, " I found one that leaves today". I was so happy. I felt like crying. I walked away with a smile on my face, but when I looked back down on my ticket, the name on it wasn't mine.

When I went back to him, he was helping out a boy with a ticket he had. He saw me and asked me what was wrong. When I told him, he realized that he had booked me for the day before's flight at 1 PM, which is what I originally was supposed to go on. As this was going on, he unlocked the kid's ticket and was able to help him out. He also realized that the kid was going to NY Laguardia Airport and there was another seat for me.

He told me if I was ok with NY. When I said YES, he told me that I was taking the same route as the kid before me. He gave me a bunch of tickets and an itinerary. He said you are going to Bozeman, then Chicago and then NY. I also had to run to the gate because they were boarding. I was so happy. I didn't even care that I had no idea where Bozeman was.

The plane I went on was tiny. We had to get on by going on the runway and getting up stairs. My backpack didn't even fit the upper compartment. I starting wondering "Where the heck is Bozeman?". I was too embarrassed to ask anyone, so I just kept quiet.

Once we arrived, I was surprised to see just snow and mountains. It was literally a tiny airport, snow, mountains and that's it. It was beautiful. Stunning! I just didn't know where I was. The airport has a small gift shop, so I decided to go there for clues to where I was. That's when I saw all of the Montana souvenirs. I thought, "Wow, I'm in Montana!". lol.

This is a picture I took from the airport in Bozeman.

Next, I went to Chicago. In Chicago, it was also chaos because of the snow storm. There were tons of people waiting on stand by. I felt bad for all of the people who were waiting for seats, but I also felt relieved that I finally had a ticket home. The flight from Chicago to NY Laguardia was super full and there were 120 people on stand- by. Wow! I was hoping that those people could get home somehow before Christmas Eve. It's a really sad sight to see people and families praying for a way to arrive home for the holidays. It broke my heart.

When I finally arrived at NY Laguardia, I was so happy to be in my mom and dad's arms. I hadn't seen them in a year and the trip home to see them felt like it took forever. I was really thankful that I was able to arrive home when so many people were still stuck in airports.
We drove from NY Laguardia to Newark Airport in Jersey because my luggage went there. Then, we finally went home.

It was a long trip, but I'm so happy that I was able to make it home & see my family.

Getting Ready for Christmas Vacation

I'm going to go home this Saturday. Well, kind of. I'm going back to Jersey for Christmas, but I will be going to a completely different house. Since I have been in Japan, my parents have moved from a small apartment in an urban area, where I was born and raised, to a bigger place in a suburban area. Truthfully, I think that this move was great for them. Their landlord is a friend of theirs and their neighbors are also good friends. The house looks nice and the area is much, much better from where we use to live. I'm actually really excited to see the new house and to put my imprint in my new room.

This will also be the first time I go back home since I have been here, so about a year and a half. I can't wait to see my family and friends and hang out in all of the places I have missed. I have a list of things to see, people to hang out with and things to buy, but I'm not sure if I can do half of what I want.

Although I'm super excited, I'm also a bit nervous. A lot has happened with people back home since I've left. Friends have gotten new jobs, become engaged and so on. I just wonder how people will interact with me and how they will react to my own changes. I think it should all be fine though.

My flight is also super crazy. I'm going from Miyazaki to Osaka. Then, in Osaka, I have to change airports (domestic to international). Then, I leave Osaka and go to San Francisco. From San Francisco, I finally go to Jersey. It's going to be a long flight.

Last year, I did a similar crazy flight, except I was going to see my family in Portugal. I went from Miyazaki to Tokyo Haneda (domestic). Then, I had to switch airports to fly out of the international airport, Narita. From Narita, I went to Germany. Finally, from Germany, I went to Lisbon. Whoah, tiring!

I have so many things that I want to take back home, but I don't want to make my bags heavy because of all of the airport changes.

Before even going, I have to buy gifts, clean, pack and see some of my friends here before I go.

For example, today I have a Japanese lesson at my house. We are going to play the Japanese version of Life (the board game). We began it last time, but we didn't finish. Yes, I am losing. lol. Most of the time, I have no idea what is going on. I really must improve my Japanese.

Then, I will try to end the lesson 10 minutes early, so that I can catch a bus to go downtown. I need to buy a Christmas cake to take to Lauren's house and some other things for tomorrow's class.

I also have to meet up with my friend Minjin. She is also part of the Jet program, except she is a CIR not ALT. When we can, we do conversation practice to help her improve her English. In return, she teaches me a bit of Korean. To get ready for today, I have been trying to memorize as much hangul, Korean alphabet, as I can. My memory is horrible by the way, but I really want to learn.

We are also meeting up because we have omiyage (souvenirs) that we still haven't exchanged with each other from places we went to in November. We wanted to do that before I left for America.

Edit- Minjin is not feeling well, so we are not meeting up. :( I hope she gets better soon. ::Drink Tea, Rest & Stay Warm Minjin::

Wow Japanese and then Korean in one day. My head will be super confused. I guess it usually is on most days. lol.

Anyway, after that, I will go to Lauren's house because 4 of my friends who live in the west side of the city are having a Christmas gathering. They are bringing the KFC and I will bring the Christmas cake - Oh yeah, Japanese Christmas (lol). However, they will start at 6:30 PM, but I will only be able to get there at 8 something. Ahhh...they might be kind of mad at me for that. Hopefully, not too mad. (-_^)

It sounds a bit chaotic, but I think it will be fun.

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