Archive | August, 2008

Sticking out like a sore thumb

27 Aug

So since I last wrote, its been a little more chilled out thankfully, because I needed a rest. Being on the go for over a month is a little more than tiring, as much fun as it has been. I’ll just say I’m glad to have arrived at my main destination.

The weekend finally brought with it a chance to properly see Arcata (pronounced Ar-cai-da, something that I can’t seem to get my head around), and started off really well with the Farmers Market held in the town square every Saturday. It was just an incredible collection of stalls selling the most amazing fresh fruit, vegetables and local products… and every weekend! I think it was at that point that I really just relaxed, and realised that this is actually going to be quite a cool place to hang out for 5 months. The atmosphere was just so open and friendly, with groups of people socializing, locals juggling and spinning hoops, and everyone just felt like they were fully enjoying a weekend day out and about. I started to fall in love.

Anna and I had dinner that night with Spencer and his friends, who we’d spent the last few nights with at the pub. Arcata, while a small town, has a great collection of restaurants from all different cuisines, so we started off in one of the sushi restaurants, where I was shocked to discover they didn’t serve Terriaki Chicken sushi rolls! I contented myself with Tempura vegi rolls (still amazing) while poor Anna, who had never eaten sushi before, struggled through her meal. Still, she was better off than I, because she eats seafood! A small battle was won though – Spencer somehow convinced me to eat a piece of Tuna sushimi – something that my family and friends can all attest is almost impossible. And I didn’t hate it outright! Still, don’t go getting too many ideas…

Sunday consisted of free champagne breakfast at another local cafe (as I said, I’m falling in love with this town), then Spencer took Danielle, Anna and I out to one of the local beaches. It was very beautiful… what we could see of it! Just like San Francisco, the fog sits just off the shore, or in this case, just on the shore, so even though it was a bight sunny day, the beach was only visible for about 20 meters either way. We also dabbled in the water, and my god it was cold! There will be no swimming for me, even though Danielle, mad and wonderful girl that she is, went swimming with some of her friends yesterday! Madness… seriously.

Classes started on Monday, with a bit of a let down. Unfortunately, the advanced Public Relations class that would have been better for me is only offered next semester, so I had to sign up to the straight PR class – which is an Americanised (and therefore also shortened) intro to PR! The teacher, while lovely, hasn’t actually taught us anything in the two classes we’ve had so far. He’s older (I’ll put that nicely), and just rambles on about nothing, and tells really really bad, loooooong jokes. In our second class today, he finally got around to handing out some sheets with some PR terms on it and I perked up thinking that we might actually be getting somewhere. But no… the sheet had four terms on it, one of which was explaining in a sentence what PR was. I covered this in the first 5 minutes of my CSU class, and within the first week was being asked to write a report. I feel like we might only possibly get to where we were in my second week of university in Australia by the end of this semester. That is how bad it is.

Luckily, it perked up after that. My second class is studying Mass Media Messages using Marshall McCluhan and a guy called Lippman. While those of you who did Ray Harding’s class at CSU might say that that’s what I’ve already done, its not. This is going so much more in depth than anything I’ve done before into what media really is, and the way it has affected history and how is continues to affect us. I think I’m really going to like it. On Tuesday I had two communication classes (the other are from the journalism department), and they also promise to be full on but riveting. For the social advocacy class, people were basically fighting to get in the door to be a part of it, and sticking around for the class even though there are no spaces left, and the teacher won’t open it up to more. The teacher is this guy with dreads and hippy clothes, but so bloody passionate and he knows everything! We had no introductions, he just jumped straight into Martin Luther King, and a full on discussion about his death and the circumstances around it. I can already tell I’m going to love it!

So overall, its been a good start to uni. I still feel like I stick out like a sore thumb with my accent, and it doesn’t help at all that the few times I’ve felt passionate enough about what I wanted to say that I spoke out and risked exposure, at least half the class has turned around and looked at me. My roommate from Norway fits in more, because she speaks English with an American accent! Haven’t made any new friends from class yet either, everyone either seems to know people already, or just stick to themselves. I’m hoping this will change the further we get into our subjects, because I hate not having anyone in my class to chat to after!

The last 3 days have also been amazingly sunny, something that I’m told is very rare for this area. I’m trying to enjoy it as much as possible, but since none of my classes are before 1pm in the afternoon, I’m also struggling to get up early! I’m getting used to the stairs and hills that I’m forced to walk up and down around the university, and not complaining as much… again, it’s progress! The university is so pretty, with a view from one of my classrooms out over Arcata and Humboldt Bay. This should also give you a good idea of how high it is! At some point (maybe even now) I’ll get some of the photos off my camera and post them up. I’ve also put up two videos on Flickr, one of a comedian from the Comedy Club Jack and I went to, and another of a fire twirler in San Fran’s Union Square. Just to let you know! Also, I am planning to keep this blog going while I am at uni, even though I’m technically not still traveling. There just might be longer periods between posts (we’ll see how I go), so I might create a mailing list if I start updating only every few weeks, so people don’t have to check back (facebook people don’t need to worry, obviously!).

Hope everyone is doing okay,

-Tash

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And now from the remote reaches of Northern California…

23 Aug

Hello! I made it through my month of traveling (exactly a month celebrated on Monday, with an 8 hour bus trip), and am now chilling at Humboldt State University in Arcata, where I will stay for the next 5 months! Hard to believe I’m really here… but I am, and its been a fun few days getting to know the place a little bit. But before I get into that, I have a little of San Francisco to talk about!

My second day in San Francisco was pretty lazy for the most part… I spent most of the morning up dating this blog! Danielle was off doing Alcatraz and the wharves, so I wandered around Union Square for a bit, until Anna, my new roommate from Humboldt, called me, and I met up with her, and Jeff, her friend from when she stayed with his family a few years ago. She speaks perfect English, because when she was in high school she actually lived just outside of San Fran for a year (with Jeff’s family). She is so lovely! We then went down to the wharves, and saw the Sea Lions at Pier 39, then tried to find the crooked street (which Danielle actually has much better photos of). It was a lovely afternoon! That night Danielle and I headed to Height Ashbury with two girls from my hostel room, and had a lovely evening in a bar there.

The next day an old family friend of Danielle’s family picked us up from San Francisco in her white convertible, and drove us down the coast, and then inland to where she lived. It was wonderful to be able to see a bit more of California outside of the city, and amazing the temperature difference from the coast and inland just half an hour! The fog sits along the coast and makes it cold, but head inland, and it jumps 10 degrees, and becomes summer again! Amazing! On Sunday Danielle and I rented out bikes and despite the cold and misty weather, rode over the Golden Gate Bridge. It actually turned out to be a great day to do it, because by the time we made it to the bridge (after a lot more hills than I had signed up for!) the clouds had lifted enough for us to get a great view of the whole bridge, and it was almost sunny by the time we made it to the other side! Apparently thats reasonably rare. It was amazing on the bridge… very vertigo inducing, with great views back over to the city, and out to the ocean. I took a lot of photos of that bridge, from lots of different angles! It just looked so great! Once we were on the other side, we rode down into Sausalito, a gorgeous little town across the bay from San Francisco, where we got off our bikes with quite a lot of relief, and had some well deserved lunch. First time on a bike in about four years for me, so as you can imagine, soreness descended upon me pretty quickly!

After we caught the ferry back to San Fran and returned our bikes, we headed for the SF Museum of Modern Art, which was great. There was a wonderful modern art exhibition, and a moving and stunning exhibition of Lee Miller’s photography, an incredible woman photographer during World War Two. For our last evening in San Francisco we went to a lovely little French restaurant recommended by the Lonely Planet.

The next day we met up with Anna for breakfast, then made our way to the Greyhound station to catch our bus up to Arcata. The journey went pretty fast, but our arrival was an interesting introduction to the town. One of Anna’s bags hadn’t actually been put on the bus, our taxi driver turned up with an extra passenger in the front seat, a completely drunk girl who told us all her woes while we drove her home, and someone was being arrested by two police cars when we arrived! Hilarious, and the taxi driver Cedric, while a little strange, was very sweet, and had a really soft side, which was why he’d picked up the drunk girl first. Thankfully Arcata has since grown a lot on me, as I get to know it a little better!

On Tuesday, we made our way to Humboldt University, and got ourselves into our rooms with keys and everything. The place where Anna and I are staying is up this HUGE hill, but it’s lovely. The hill is the only problem! We’re in a building of apartments, so we share ours (living room, kitchen and bathroom) with three other guys, who seem nice. Great view out over the redwood trees from our living room. And as we’ve discovered, the nickname for this university is Hills and Stairs University (HSU… Humboldt State University is the official name). It’s just built over hills! So I won’t be gaining weight on the American food at least!

Danielle, Anna and I worked out the bus system (free for students!) and made our way later in the day to Eureka, a town about 20 minutes away which is bigger than Arcata, and has more shops. Big shop through Target for bedding, towels and essential items. More money spent than I would have liked, but unfortunately necessary. I have a bed and my stuff is unpacked for the first time in a month! It feels wonderful.

The last few days have mostly been getting to know the university, and working out classes and the system here. Huge learning curve about all things American! Anna and I met some older students who were helping us exchange students find our way around things, and went down to Arcata for a few beers in a pub there on Wednesday night. The student I.D that I got before I left, with a date of birth two months out, isn’t even questioned here, so I’m able to have a beer or two. I’ll just have to leave at least one pub unvisited (there’s only four) so that I can celebrate my 21st in style when it actually arrives in a month!

There is a lot more I’d like to write about Arcata and Humboldt, but Anna and I are meeting some people downtown soon, so I’m going to have to run! Promise I’ll write more about this place over the weekend, when I’ll finally be able to sit back and take a breath… as well as have a sleep in!

-Tash

Wandering the hills of San Francisco

15 Aug

Well… yes I realise it’s been too long since I wrote a good blog post! Since I touched down in America 12 days ago, I’ve been going non stop. Its been great fun, and I’m loving being here… but it’s very very different to Australia! Everyone is lovely and friendly though, so its been a good journey, and I’ve met some great people, if only for a night to share dinner with!

I’ll try and go through my time in New York, since I never blogged properly about the last few days. This may be a huge post! The day after my last proper blog it was raining when we woke up, so instead of heading to the Statue of Liberty, we headed uptown, and made our way (via a few shops!) to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). We got there at 11am, and there was already a huge queue, surprising us, since MoMA only opened at 10.30! Moved pretty quickly into the museum anyway, and I was quickly enchanted… it was amazing. The art work, the design, the classic we wandered by… it was incredible. I’ve put a few pictures up of some of the artwork we saw, but it’s nothing compared to how many pictures I’ve actually got on my computer now of all the artwork I loved! Because I loved so much! What a wonderful place.

We then explored 5th Avenue, with all the designer stores and the Rockerfeller center… good fun. Trump Tower was as glitzy as we’d expected! We made our way slowly down the street, then took a diversion further East to look at Grand Central terminal and the Chrysler Building. The next stop was the huge New York public library, which was an essential sight for me (Sex in the City fans will know why) and plus, I’m a book lover, so it was heaven! By then it was late afternoon, and with a side hour or two spent in the designer discount store Daffy’s on the way home, we were exhausted. Dinner we really went far out, and went to a little Thai place on the same block as our hostel! We were so tired.

The next day we woke early and made our way down to Battery Park to get the early bird tickets for the Statue of Liberty that would let us have a look inside the base of her. We got there at 8am… pretty good effort really! It was well worth it too, because being able to have a look around the museum inside the base, and then walk up the stairs inside till we reached the bottom of her feet and could actually see up the hollow inside, was awesome. We had a quick look at Ellis Island on the way back, which is where all immigrants came for checking before being allowed into the country, and was a fascinating look at some of American history. After we were back on Manhattan, we caught a subway train up to SoHo, which was a wonderfully trendy area, with great little cafes and designer stores slowly creeping in… but it still retained a lot of it’s little off beat stores, and some great gallerys. We found our way to the NY Apple store as well, where there was still a 3 hour queue of people waiting to buy iPhones! I took some very sneaky photos of the Prada store as well… but obviously wasn’t as sneaky as I thought, cause after two photos I was approached by security and told I wasn’t allowed! We got out of there pretty fast after that!

That night we went to see the Lion King… which completely lived up to all my expectations. It was stunning, the costumes, the familiar music, the actors and dancers, the puppets… it all swirled together to create this amazing show, which was so moving and visually amazing. I loved it! One of the best bits though, and one I couldn’t stop laughing at, was in the middle of Scar’s song about how he’ll be king, sung with all the hyena’s, they break away from the traditional song, and some bare chested guys as hyena’s come out and do this kinda club dance to club music, with the thrusting and posturing… it was hilarious! Yes Scar, definitely a fan of you becoming king now!

It was pouring with rain when we came out, literally bucketing down! We waited a few minutes, then just decided to walk in it anyway, and got completely soaked walking home! What a night! The next day we did another boat trip, this time on the Staten Island ferry, which was great. It was a weird day, all sun and then showers minutes later, so we tentively ventured out onto the Brooklyn Bridge when we got back, praying it would stay sunny for long enough for us to get to the middle and back! Somehow it did, and it was a lovely walk, with fantastic views, and an amazing bridge. Next we found the other discount designer store Century 21, which was even more packed than Daffy’s and had even more stuff… I was thinking a quick pop in and out, which turned into 2 hours spent wandering and trying things on! I thought I was going great, and almost out of the store without spending a thing because nothing looked good, until I tried on the two pairs of jeans I’d taken a stab at the size and brought in with me. Oh dear… I’d gotten it right, and they both looked amazing. What really tipped me was that one pair was Sass and Bide, normally $270 and down to $45, and the other Miss Sixty, from $170 to $50!! Designer jeans that fit me for nothing… I fell badly. But I don’t regret it!

We headed out that night with 3 French guys from our room, and Ivan from the bunk under me, and had a great night. It was Ivan’s birthday, so we got him rather drunk, then walked miles (he said it was a few blocks!) to the Meatpacking district where all the cool clubs are, and made it into a club (lucky for me they accepted my student I.D with the wrong D.O.B on it!). It was a good night, and I’m glad I got a chance to head out in New York while I was there!

The next day was devoted to the Guggenheim museum and Central Park. The Guggenheim was a very cool museum, though I wasn’t completely sure if I like the artist they were showcasing, Louise Bourgeois. I liked some, but some was very hard to get into and understand, and like… slightly confronting. I know that Jack hated it! But I’m still glad we went. Central Park was lovely, it was a sunny Saturday afternoon by the time we got there, and all the large grass area were packed with people lying around sun baking and reading, and all the baseball, basketball and tennis courts had people playing on them… it was really nice to see! We wandered down through the park, picked up crepes from a stall vendor, then lay on the grass for an hour or two and just chilled… it was great.

Sunday we did all the things we had left on our list… first of which was getting to a laundromat! We then wandered uptown and bought the requisite “I heart NY” T-shirts. After that we went with Ivan to the Museum of Natural History, which is huge! That took us a good 4 hours, and we didn’t see half of the stuff. That evening we went out to dinner at the Rockerfeller center, then took the elevator 44 floors up to the ‘Top of the Rock’ observation deck… or decks would be more correct. It was so amazing! They had three different levels you could go up through, and you were outside and leaning over the edge of this huge building, with New York at night spread out in front of you… incredible. While not as tall as the Empire State, it wasn’t half bad, and the view was a million times better without the high barbed wire barriers you get on top of the Empire State, and the millions of people you have to look through! I loved it, and spent most of the time trying to capture the amazingness of the view on my little digital camera. But nothing can capture that!

Monday was the day both Jack and I left New York, he was flying out earlier from a different airport, so after breakfast he made his way to a train out to the airport, and I hung out in New York. It was pouring with rain, so I decided the best thing to do with my time was to see a movie! The cinema’s were amazing, I think there were something like 20 screens, spread over 6 floors… and virtually empty! Kinda cool. Got a text from Jack telling me his plane had been canceled… so bad! He had to find a cheap hotel near the airport, to wait for his plane to fly out the next day… drama! Luckily there was nothing like that with me, everything went smoothly, and before I knew it I was sitting on a 747 Qantas plane headed for LA. Got out of LA airport really quickly, but the shuttle I grabbed took 2 hours to get to my place, because it was the last stop! Lovely driver, but I wasn’t really up for the in depth philosophical conversation we had at 2am, discussing issues like racism and governments etc… wow.

LA was… interesting. I wasn’t really sure if I liked it. Accidentally got up at 7am because I’d forgotten to reset my mobile to the new time. The streets in LA are really wide and the whole town feels so spread out… it was such a shock after NY! I wandered down Hollywood Blv, and went shopping, then came back in time to catch the pink carpet walk of the stars of the new Disney movie the Cheetah Girls (some Disney singers I think) which was fun but also kinda hilarious… all these teenage girls screaming out at these teenage stars who I’d never heard or seen of before! Good to see a semi red carpet situation while I was there though!

I grabbed dinner with this lovely girl from Perth who was staying at the hostel, then re-packed my bags and hopped into bed. Managed to turn off my alarm and go back to sleep in the morning, so it was a stressful time, as I thought I’d miss my bus, and therefore my train to San Francisco! Made it in time thankfully, and spent the rest of the day traveling… it’s a long way! Arrived in San Francisco about 5pm, and trudged my way through the streets with my HUGE heavy bag on my back, and my extra two bags I’d picked up and filled in the time I’ve been away… it was torture! Finally got to my hotel on strength of will alone, and found I was in the smallest room so far, with no room for my bags, and on the top bunk yet again! Someone has got something against me! Size of the room aside, the hostel is lovely, with a great common room with lots of couches and a kitchen downstairs where we get free bagels and toast for breakfast… not bad! Met up with Danielle, the other girl from Charles Sturt who is going to Humboldt University with me, and who arrived on the same day as me in San Francisco… so we’ve been discovering the city together. She’s staying in different hotel though, so we’re not spending every moment together… and she’s actually headed off this morning for a tour of Alcatraz. Yesterday we did the Golden Gate park and a museum, which was great. San Francisco is freezing… well, a lot colder than NY and LA anyway! Its back to scarves, lots of layers and shoes again! I already miss the 3 weeks of extra summer I got! Hopefully meeting the girl from Norway that I’m sharing a room with at Humboldt today, because she’s in San Fran right now, and probably coming up with us to Arcata on the same bus. She sounds lovely!

Shouldn’t be half as long until I update my blog again, and soon I’ll be in one place for longer than a week, and with reliable internet connection! Sorry for this huge thing all in one go… it’s my fault for being so slack! Till next time,

-Tash

11 Aug

So, I’m in New York JFK airport , waiting for my plane to LA, and I’m actually typing this on my iTouch! I thought I’d be able to get free net on my computer, but the free option if you watch a 30sec add, is only for mobile type devices apparently… So I’m working my fingers out on the touch pad, and gradually getting faster! This won’t be a long one at all though, cause its not THAT fast! I just wanted to at least post once from New York, since I’ve been so slack with this blog for a bit. When traveling alone you have oodles of time to do this stuff, but Jack and I were constantly doing something! It’s been great fun, I put a few photo’s up from New York on flickr… Yes, maybe a few (100) more than a few, but I dill cull! I took over 600 photos in the 7 days! Snap happy obviously.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get a chance to sit down and write a longer account of my days in New York, because I’ve been desperate to write about them! I’m afraid I’ll forget something if I leave it much longer! There’s so much to tell. But for now, I’ll hop on my flight to LA, and just have to write it in my head! I think I’ve done pretty well with this post considering it’s from a touch!

-Tash

New York New York

6 Aug

Just a quick one tonight… if I’m ever capable of writing a short anything! But I’m so buggered that I really don’t think I’ll have the energy to write much!

So yeah… made it to New York! It was a very very long flight, into which I managed to fit 3 movies and a bit of sleep… thats how long it was! New York airport was a bit of a trek, the cheap bag I’d bought in Thailand so I didn’t have to worry so much about space turned out to be just that… a cheap bag, and had actually split along the side when I got it off the baggage carasol. So I had to get through customs and pack everything back into 2 bags all over again! Then find my way to a different terminal to check my extra bag into left luggage. I was so exhausted I actually fell asleep on the bus into the city.

The hostel is in a great location, really near Penn station, Madison square garden and Times Square as well, in West Mid-town NY. Subway station just around the corner, and the place is clean and nice, so I’m pretty happy!

First day in New York, I headed downtown to where I thought I remembered shops were (turns out the majority of the shops are actually just a few avenues over from us!) and ended up in some random empty place, walking for ages to find anyone! Thats all you seem to do in New York… walk. I’ve got blisters from my thongs now, even though I’ve been wearing them constantly for the last two weeks, because I’m doing so much more walking! Eventually found Union Square and headed back uptown, and went shopping in Macy’s… just for a look, but ended up buying some shoes! Of course. I can’t help myself. Went out for dinner with a lovely Spanish guy from my hostel who is staying on the bottom bunk under me, and is here for a 3 week English course… his English is pretty hard to understand, but its also amazing how fast he’s picking it up… you could tell the difference at the end of the night! Or maybe I was just getting used to his accent! We had a beer or two (no one has asked me for I.D yet, thankfully. Seems a casual beer is okay to pass me off as over 21), then headed back to the hostel, where he went to bed, and I set about waiting for Jack, who was meant to arrive about 12. I knew his plane had been delayed, but I also knew that the trains stopped at 2am, so about 2.30am I thought I’d put in a pretty good effort, and finished my book, so I headed to bed. He turned up about 4.30am! Poor guy, he’d had a bit of trouble getting into town.

Today we went up to Times Square for breakfast, got scammed out of some money by these guys outside a record store, who put their C.D’s into our hands, all friendly, signed them, then said it’d be a small donation of $20! Got away with only $10, cause they wouldn’t take it back once they’d signed it, and they were so shitty that I just wanted to get away… left a really sour feeling in my mouth though. Such a scam. We then headed downtown to the World Trade Center site, which is now just more of a building site for the new Freedom tower they’re putting in, then wandered around the edge of the water to Battery Park and Wall street. Tonight we went to a really nice little place a few blocks up recommended by Lonely Planet, and had dinner. I’m so exhausted now, on very little sleep I feel like I’ve walked miles! New York is crazy busy… and so different to Tokyo. While Tokyo is packed with people too, New York is so much louder… Americans are so much louder! There’s constantly a rush, with people honking, building’s going up or down every few blocks, people talking loudly on their phones or with their friends… its such a frenzy! Great fun, but tiring!

Tomorrow we’ve planned that we’ll head back down to Battery Park, where apparently, if you arrive about 7.45am, you can get the boat ticket over to the Statue of Liberty island and Elis island for the same price, but get to go into the Statue! Then maybe explore Soho later on. We’ve been through the guide books today, and decided on a rough version of what we’ll see each day. Thursday we head to Broadway to see the Lion King musical, which will be amazing! Also got tickets to a local comedy club, so we’ll do that another night. New York is looking good! It’s great to see a familiar face and have Jack around, but funnily enough, I’m finding weird having someone else there, after being by myself for two weeks! It’s like what I felt at the beginning, but in reverse! Strange.

I also have a mobile now, so if anyone wants the number, shoot me an email and I’ll let you know what it is. I’d prefer not to put it out on the world wide web. But I love being connected to the world again! Now, I think the fact my eyes are shutting by themselves is a sign, and I should really sleep. So till next time…

-Tash

The end of my Tokyo days

3 Aug

Me at the top of the tower
Originally uploaded by tashhs

So I’m currently sitting in Tokyo airport, waiting for my plane which boards in an hour, for a 13 hour flight to New York! Also trying to juggle this keyboard, which is half Japanese, and if I hit any of those symbol keys, the whole thing reverts back to Japanese symbols… its very frustrating! Needless to say, this will probably be one of the shorter posts!

So, I’m actually quite sad to be leaving Tokyo… it is an amazing city with a mix of old and new cultures co-existing side by side. I loved my time here, and will definately have to come back again if the opportunity arrises, to explore it more… four days was not enough! Yesterday was my biggest so far… I made my way to Harajuku, which on a Saturday was just packed full of people. I wandered around through the crazy fashions for a while, then went back to the main bridge which on a Sunday is where the seriously dressed up Tokyo fruits go, but on a Saturday was quite quiet. On the other side of the bridge I could see this dense green mass, and went a bit closer to take a look. Before I knew it, I was in the middle of this forest, where the sounds of the city almost faded away, and the sun was blocked out by the dense trees overhead. It was magical. I’d just gone from intense pop culture to this quiet, very old feeling place, and it was amazing. I wandered through the paths, until I made it to the shrine in the center. I was just slowly ambleing along in sight of the shrine, when some guy coming out came up to me and said in halting English that I should hurry, because there was a wedding procession going by in the shrine right now. So I ran, and caught them crossing the courtyard in the middle… it was amazing. This Japanese bride, in the most intense white kimino with a hood, led by what I suppose were priests, and followed by the rest of the wedding party. I feel so lucky to have been able to see that! I wandered around the rest of the shrine once the wedding party had dissapeared off to some private area, and was facinated by the sacred prayer tree, with people from every cultures wishes and dreams and prayers hung around (see my photos if you want to look). It was 500 Yen to buy a board and write your wishes to be hung, but it was worth every penny… it felt really wonderful. I really hadn’t expected to be able to see this side of traditional Japan in the short time I was here!

I wandered back out, and went into the fabulous Laforet department store in Harajuku. I loved this place! It was done in a weird half half way, with half one side of the store lower than the other… I don’t know how else to describe it! It had everything… from big brands, to small unknown (at least to me) brands, but every shop was so unique, and they all kind of blended into each other… it was so much fun to window shop, though it wasn’t really window shopping cause they were all open! Every cool funky thing I had seen being worn on the streets of Tokyo could be found there.

I then caught the subway down to Shibuya, where the famous busy crossing was… I found it the moment I walked out! It was intense the amount of people around, just so so many, and all moving in different directions, constantly… very overwhelming! I could see people sitting a floor up in Starbucks, with a huge window looking down on the crossing, so putting aside all my adversion to going into foreign chains while in Tokyo, I went and sat and watched the tide of humans swarm the crossing every few minutes… really incredible. I also explored the bottom food halls of one of the big department stores that I had heard so much about, and it completely lived up to expectations… the most amazing range of fresh Japanese food in every form conceivable.

By then I’d pretty much exhausted my stamina, and went back to the hostel for a little bit. For dinner I headed into Shinjuku, and decided to head up the same tower I’d been up in the day, for a birds eye night time view of Tokyo. It was stunning, but as well, almost not as stunning as I’d expected. Here, the skyscrapers turn off their lights at night, unlike Sydney, so they were more big hulks with blinking lights on top, than shining beacons. Much better for the environment though!!! I explored Shinjuku more than I had the first time, and found a place with something that I thought I might like it in for dinner. I was planning for an early night, but once I got into my photos, I couldn’t stop! Packed up early this morning, and went into Shinjuku for one last meal, before heading back to my hostel, grabbing my bag, and heading for the airport. Nearly two hours later (the airport is SO far out of town) I made it, re-did my packing all over again, switching between my three bags, and checked in. Even though I was 2 and a half hours before my flight, there were still no aile seats left, nor any window! So unless my request for a transfer has been found when I get to the gate, I’ll be stuck… I hate not being able to get out when I want, especially on a long flight like this!

And next, New York! While I’m really quite sad to be leaving Tokyo, I also can’t wait for this section of the trip… nearly to uni! Also, finally a familiar face, when Jack arrives tomorrow night. I’ll also be getting a new SIM card tomorrow, so I’ll also have a mobile people can call me on. But for now, I think I’ll head to my gate, and try to grab something to eat with the 500 Yen I have left!

-Tash

Bright bright lights

1 Aug

Tokyo is still wonderful, and I’m still having a great time. Yesterday I mastered the subway, and went across town to have a look at the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, which was beautiful. I’d been very lazy that morning, and actually didn’t make it out until about 1pm, so by the time the I’d done the temple and some of the lanes around it, it was about 3, and I decided to head back into Shinjuku and try to find the government buildings, which I’d heard you could go up to the observation deck for free and have a look out over Tokyo. That was amazing… 42 floors up, and looking out over the vastness that is the city… it stretches forever! Apparently in winter when the air is more clear and crisp, you can see all the way to Mt Fugi from the top, but all I could glimpse was haze.

I then wandered into the heart of Shinjuku, and on a whim went into one of the big department stores to have a look. I got to the second floor, and suddenly it was crazy! There was some sort of sale on, and women were everywhere going through racks of clothes, while the shop assistants ran around, yelling something constantly, over and over, which I’ve since been told was just probably ‘Welcome’… but they weren’t looking at anyone, just yelling it to the clothes! Apparently thats good service if they are saying that all the time… it was so strange! I got drawn in, mostly because the clothes here are lovely, and I couldn’t help myself! I’d been feeling so daggy in the singlets I wore around Thailand, here in Tokyo everyone is so fashionable, or at least setting their own fashion, and I felt like I needed to find something that would make me stand out less! I found a lovely little dress, for about 3000 Yen (just under $30), found my way by trial and error to the checkout, and was there informed that it was two pieces for that price. So, resigned, I plunged back into the fray!

Once I got out of there, I worked my way through Shinjuku station, which is meant to be one of the busiest in the world, and made it back to the hostel. After I posted yesterday, I ran out and found my way to Roppongi, to meet Ed, someone I’d never seen before… I’d told him I was tall and blonde, figuring that here thats unusual enough that he’d spot me. Somehow we found each other, and I met some of his friends, a lot of whom were also English, but had been living here for years. It was a great night, we went to some restaurant where they all ordered lots of different things, and I tried everything. I think I may have even eaten prawns at some point! It was really useful, because everyone was explaining to me what everything was, and I now feel like I’ve got a bit more of a grasp on Japanese food. After the restaurant, we went to a few little bars in the area… bars in Japan are very cool, lots of tiny little ones up stairs or down in the basement… Tokyo is somewhere where you really need to know your way around, or be with someone who does, cause you’d never find these places otherwise! I didn’t mean to, but somehow I was matching the guys drink for drink, I have no idea how, and ended up pretty drunk. Yes mum and dad, I can see the looks you’re giving me! But all in all, it was a fun night out, and I saw a side of Tokyo that I wouldn’t have without that contact.

Today has been pretty lazy… I eventually made my way to Shinjuku for some very late lunch, then headed off to Ginza, where its all bright bright lights on big bill boards. Ginza is one of the upmarket area’s, with Louis Vuitton, Prada and many more scattered along the street. I even found the Apple store, and spent a blissful few minutes looking at all the wonderful things. The stuff of dreams! For dinner I headed to Akihabara, the electronics district, and wandered through this amazing store, where the mobile phones and gadgets abound. Anything electronic, and anything to decorate said electronic item can be found there… great fun. Great potential to spend a lot of money as well!

Tomorrow I’ll get up early for the first time since I arrived here, and head for Harajuku, to see if I can get a glimpse of the crazy fashions of the Harajuku kids. I’ve been wanting to see them ever since my art teacher showed us pictures of them in Year 10, so I hope they’re out and about! After that, I see how much else I can fit into my last day, and hopefully do some more shopping… since I’m still coming in under budget, I can blow a bit of money on myself! Tokyo is an amazing city to visit, its so so busy, but so organised. I also don’t feel that they’ve made any concessions to tourists, unlike Bangkok, and that I’m actually getting a glimpse into their lives. I can very much see why people fall in love with this city! I might try and get some photos up tomorrow also. Till next time…

-Tash