deralte: (Default)
( Jul. 5th, 2016 07:54 am)
Had a dream where I was adopted by the youngest of a dragon clan (mother and daughter and son) who lived in a canyon full of abandoned Elven machinery. I lived... hmm, somewhere far away but there was a magic portal shortcut or something to get to the canyon and I'd visit and stay with them. I heard that the elves would be starting up mining again so I high tailed it to the canyon and found the mother lurking on the cliffs (they're brown so they blend in). She told me that they had hidden deeper and it was unusual that the elves had restarted their mining but she wasn't as worried as I was. She had me write down my... draconic family tree I guess so I knew who I could claim sanctuary with if something did happen to her and her children.

Fun dream. Means I finally got enough sleep last night lol.
Had a great time over Golden Week when I headed to Lake Biwa. I stayed in an amazing hotel with a view of the castle in Hikone. I tried Omi wagyu beef and local delicacies at their restaurant (the beef was so flavourful) and took advantage of their free bikes to bike around the castle and go inside one of the few remaining castles in Japan that has never been destroyed and rebuilt. That evening, after a disappointing shabu shabu meal, I enjoyed the hotel's onsen which had a view of the castle and moat which was lit up red at night. I probably spent an hour in their silk bath even though without my glasses the castle was a red blur lol. The next day, I enjoyed the restaurant's excellent breakfast buffet (gotta love roast duck in the morning) then headed down south to the town of Otsu. There I visited Miidera temple which holds a lot of national treasure Buddhist statues, a famous bell and has an amazing view of Lake Biwa (plus they filmed some of the Rurouni Kenshin live action film there). I then caught a train up into the mountains to this little town whose only claim to fame is their famous eel restaurant, Kaneyo. It was supposed to be some of the best eel in Japan and since I love eel, I figured I might as well go. They also serve omlettes with it for some reason so this is what I ended up with. I enjoyed it but I have had better eel before and I think the smokey taste from their grill was actually a little overwhelming of the natural eel flavour. That photo is killing it on google maps amusingly enough. (I've since done some research and it seems they only smoke eel in the kansai region whereas in the kanto region they smoke and steam them... I probably prefer the later.)

After lunch, I headed back out of the mountains and had to catch a bus (which was chronically 15min late) up the other side of the lake to the Ogoto onsen area, ie the hot springs. I had researched before hand about various hotels/ryokan there and picked one that seemed to have a good variety of hot spring pools to try - Yumotokan. I went in and had to pay a special fee, and then I was just told which floors the onsen were on. That was perhaps the worst part - the three hot springs that were open to women that day where on the 8th, 5th, and 2nd floor. People who were staying at the hotel just had to pull on their yukata (hotel robes) to go between them but I had to laboriously get dressed and undressed. I headed to the 8th floor first where there was an infinity pool looking out over the lake and a quite comfy outdoor pool, also with a view. There was a sauna as well. All were a tad bit too hot so I couldn't stay forever and decided to head down to the 2nd floor. This turned out to be a good choice because it was nearly empty probably because it was obviously decorated in the 80s and in need of a bit of an update. What I did love was the steam sauna and the foot massage/bath. Now ridiculously clean, I once again headed up to the 5th floor where they had a very impressive outdoor bath made from artistically arranged rocks - some made an arch, some to perch on, some for a natural spring and waterfall. It was really gorgeous. Unfortunately, it was also getting towards evening so there were a bit too many bugs out for me to fully relax plus the water was too hot to soak for long. I almost had the place to myself though since everyone was getting ready for dinner. I headed back to catch the bus, then ran to catch the train back up to Hikone.

After another good sleep and a great breakfast I decided to make my slow way back to my apartment in Nara prefecture. Since everyone has off during Golden Week the trains and stations were ridiculously crowded. I felt pretty overwhelmed passing through Kyoto station but better when I stopped at a station near an Aeon mall which I knew had a theatre in it. There I payed the exorbitant ticket price ($20 for a movie at noon!) and got to see Captain America Civil War. I enjoyed it in general, but it was kinda predictable and I have a bunch of nitpicks. Even so, 100 times better than Age of Ultron. I then decided to wander around the huge mall, bought some socks and went to the huge grocery store. My local stores are fine but are somewhat lacking in variety so it's nice to hit the bigger stores in the cities for a change. I found the best chuhai flavour ever too - cherry lime from Okinawa. It's so good but I have yet to find it locally. Shopping done, I headed back to my apartment and spent the rest of the holiday recovering from my vacation.
deralte: (Default)
( Apr. 14th, 2016 01:21 pm)
So I went to Bujinkan training last night, and I'm happy to report that I found a solution for having bruised knees after every class. Namely, I wore a knee pad on the knee I normally use to get up and voila, no more bruised knees. Training on a hard floor like that is a bitch on the knees.

But my training was not a lot of fun otherwise since I had the training partner from hell. He was friendly, I'll give him that but had so many bad habits, it was a nightmare to train with him. First, he couldn't shut up. He would narrate what he wanted you to do while you were doing a technique. It was insanely distracting especially to me since it takes more of my concentration to pay attention to someone giving me orders in Japanese and I can't exactly ignore him since my mind automatically tries to translate. So I was not operating at my best and him treating me like a newbie who needs to be narrated through every technique was not helping at all. Then this asshole gets annoyed because his techniques don't work automatically on me - not because I'm trying to mess with him but because he just tries to power through everything and doesn't consider space and movement, plus he ignored me when I told him how to throw me when he'd get stuck. So somewhere in his little brain, he decided I was deliberately fucking with him so from then on, I was not allowed to do a single technique.

See, in Bujinkan, the whole point is that you and your training partner are supposed to be replicating real life conditions. This means that you react when someone throws a punch at you and you pretend you don't know what they're going to do next. This asshole just decided to pretend he was god and would walk away from me or strand straight up even though he had just been hit by a punch to the stomach etc. so I couldn't do any of the techniques properly. Really frustrating. Even worse, he started to give up on doing anything to me but hurt me. Like, nearly crush my wrist rather than the throw we were supposed to do. Or even tried to strangle me once which wasn't even close to the technique. And he didn't react when I tapped out when he tried crushing my shoulder (you let the person go or at least let up when someone taps... he went for more pain). I was resolved to punch him in the nuts next time he tried that and had started not being so nice (punching him upside the head rather than ignoring the opening, etc.) when I noticed all these smudges on the floor. He goes and pulls off his sock and his foot is covered by a plastic bag that is filled with blood. And it was leaking through his sock so there was blood everywhere that I'd been rolling in (ick). Instead of stopping training then, after he was gross enough to come while actively bleeding in the first place, he just put on another plastic bag and got a new sock.

I took the opportunity to switch partners and trained with a nice 5dan for the rest of class who was about my level of skill so we had fun. But asshole's sock leaked a second time 20min later and he still didn't stop training. I went home and washed myself and all my training gear to get all the blood off.

I am 100% refusing to ever train with that man again. He is very likely to injure me through his lack of skill (more than the bruises and sore spots I already have). It's going to be annoying to explain in Japanese and it may lead to them treating me like glass but I do not need to be put in the hospital while I'm here because some idiot broke my wrist and didn't listen when I told him to stop.
deralte: (Default)
( Mar. 14th, 2016 09:35 pm)
I decided to do a day trip to Kyoto on Saturday. I wanted to see the Ryozen Museum (ie the one dedicated to the bakumatsu) because I've been pretty much everywhere else in the country that's relevant to the bakumatsu. (For those who don't know, the bakumatsu was the fall of the shongunate right before the meiji restoration). The museum is pretty small, but not bad. There was a focus on individuals during the bakumatsu, some hilariously bloody dioramas (the Ikedaya inn incident was particularly gruesome), a weird 3D movie, and a place where you could try on shinsengumi costumes. I didn't partake but only because I already dressed as a shinsengmi member for Halloween the last time I lived in Japan and nothing can top shocking drunken japanese men and yakuza by walking through the drinking district as a samurai. Unfortunately, they didn't allow photos elsewhere in the museum which is a shame since I really wanted a selfie with an actual shinsengumi banner. I had a good time but I really really don't recommend this museum to anyone who hasn't done extensive research into the bakumatsu or is fluent in Japanese. I wrote my MA thesis on the bakumatsu and am pretty good at Japanese so I was able to follow along, but I still got stymied in places because I didn't know everyone's names as well as I did years ago when I wrote the thesis and also because they change bloody names (I'm looking at you Katsura Koguryo!) What I didn't know about the museum until I got there was that the main shishi (supporters of the restoration of the emperor ie the winners of the revolution) cemetery was in the shrine across the road from the museum. I thought there were only a few graves but actually there were hundreds and also memorials for the different prefectures who fought. The big grave to visit is Sakamoto Ryoma's and there's quite a nice view of the city from there since you have to climb up the side of the mountain to reach it.

I headed back down the mountain then and turned left when I hit the more traditional streets, heading towards Kiyomizudera. There are tons of shops along there selling traditional crafts and food though I mostly just window shopped. I did stop to buy nama yatsuhashi, the traditional triangle shaped soft sweet dough with some type of bean paste inside - a staple of the Kyoto omiyage trade. I didn't mean to do so, but they had these amazing sesame flavoured ones which were awesome. One set was white and the other was pure black and both were delicious. I ate one set myself then shared the rest with my office mates like a good Japanese traveler. (The Koreans loved them and even took down the address so they could buy some, but the poor Chinese guy was obviously freaked out by it being pure black.) I had no urge to visit kiyomizudera again so when I got to the base of the hill where it's located and I turned around and headed back to visit Kodaiji. Otherwise known as one of the few major temples in Kyoto I hadn't visited. A couple of cherry trees were blooming early but the main ones hadn't started yet so it was less crowded than it could have been. The temple was quite nice to see, and then I wandered out towards the nearby Maruyama park, and then to Yasaka shrine. I'm not sure if they do this every weekend but there were some floats set out and typical stalls with Japanese festival food. I almost bought some roasted bamboo shoots but then I spotted grilled crab skewers which I had to try. I then headed back towards the Gin district to do some shopping at Book Off and see if the body shop here has hand sanitizer (alas, no luck). By that point, it was about 6pm and I was starting to limp so I made my way back to the trains and headed home.

I kinda want to go back in a week or two and see the cherry blossoms in full bloom but it was so crowded already I'm not sure if I'm up for it. There were a lot of people out in yukata or full kimono in the streets which was lovely to see but I can't imagine how anyone would manage pics if it was more crowded than it already was.
deralte: (ariana print club (by me))
( Mar. 2nd, 2016 11:35 pm)
Just had my first Osaka bujinkan class. It's actually quite convenient for me because there's an express train into the city which I can catch to get there perfectly on time. I went early today just to make sure I knew where it was, and so I could stop in and get some plain black t-shirts from uniqlo for training. I brought one with me, but it's always better to have extra, especially since I didn't have room to pack a gi.

So I got there and introduced myself to the guy who I was pretty sure was the sensei. We have a nice chat. I let him know where I live and he says he comes from that area. I think nothing of it, but I'm excited because he says there's no one to train with when he goes to the training hall which is right next to the arch center where I work. I give him my phone number and tell him to invite me because ancient training halls are awesome. I let him know how long I'll be there and by then it's five minutes past and no one else is there so he says let's start. We just do some basic freestyle punches and response then. I think I might have tired him out because he called a break, and then we switched to throwing shuriken. I got a 10 min personal lesson on throwing shuriken and now I know how to throw a spread which is neat! And how to defend against a barrage of shuriken with my short sword. Cause, you know, I live in feudal Japan. lol.

We had switched to training with a sai when someone finally came in, followed by his wife, and two more stragglers came in several minutes later. I didn't protect my face well enough while training with one of them cause when they flailed with their wooden short sword, it smacked me right on the nose. It hurt quite a lot but there wasn't any blood. It's tender to the touch now and swelling a bit, but at least it's not broken. I'm curious if it will bruise. I can add it to my collection then since there's no padding in the room we train in so bruises are to be expected. I ended up training with a French guy who trains there which was good since I could give him advice in English, but I do hope I get to train with the others as well.

We trained for two hours, then I headed back to the station because if you don't get to the express train back early enough, you don't get a seat and then you have to stand for 20min until people get off at the first stop which my feet were very much not up to. So I do the usual rigmarole of transferring to a local train at the last minute because my station isn't on the express line (it really only adds 5min to the journey... it's just a pain), and the train empties out as it usually does since my stop is one stop before the express stop. I go to get off and lo and behold, the bujinkan sensei is getting off at the same time and was in the same car. We're the only people who get off and he does a doubletake when he sees me. He asks how I get to the arch center everyday and I tell him I bike. We keep walking, both going in the same direction. It turns out we live on the same street, just a block away from each other!

So I hope I get an invite to train in the ancient training hall near here eventually. He seemed pretty satisfied with my skill level (how do I know? he paid me the bujinkan 'compliment' of letting me be uke occasionally and get beat up by him).
deralte: (Default)
( Feb. 23rd, 2016 04:57 pm)
I have pretty much been sick for the past three weeks - ever since I left Tokyo. I wavered between 'just sniffly' and' coughing up my lungs' until I finally gave up and started taking some antibiotics I had. I'm still sniffly but I feel like I finally have my energy back and have been getting things done. The problem with trying to get better here is a) you have no heat at night so you're breathing in cold air (you can turn the heater on but it's as expensive as running an air conditioner and I can't cover my mouth due to my asthma) and b) despite not being paid, I'm pretty much expected to work 9-5/6 every weekday after biking for 15 minutes in the cold to get there and back. Plus, I had to go through a ton of site reports and photocopy relevant bits and the photocopier was out in the unheated hallways and the library itself wasn't much warmer. It's a lot warmer than Wisconsin here but I'm used to having regular heating available. *sigh*

So the archaeological center I work with found me an apartment. It's a typical one room with a single hob, closet and a tiny bathroom. It's a 15 min bike ride away through a major shinto shrine and past a lake full of birds. Quite a peaceful ride, but I look forward to it being about 10 degrees (F) warmer. I have a lovely bamboo grove behind my apartment. This is the view from my balcony. It's not very good for getting my laundry to dry but it's excellent for keeping the sunlight out of my apartment (I can't sleep when it's too bright so really it's ideal). I live about 30 seconds from a 7-11 so it's always convenient to get things even though I wish I were closer to some of the more major stores. I am on a major train line into Osaka though so it's easy to get places if I need to.

When not languishing from the colds, I have been getting things I need and seeing what I can and can't cook in available space and with available ingredients. I'm happy to say my repertoire has grown since last I lived in Japan. And kimchi is readily available so I can do Korean dishes as well. Despite eating well, my pants are getting loose. Thankfully, I anticipated this and brought a belt. Entertainment wise, I've been rereading the Star Wars Thrawn trilogy and considering what might have been. Been watching the new X-files which has so far been one good episode, two okay ones and two bad. We shall see how the finale is.

Two weekends ago, I needed to go to Ikea so I caught the train into Osaka and the free bus to Ikea. Then since I was at the proper station, I went to Den Den Town which is Osaka's Akihabara. It's smaller but that made it easier to find things and things were much cheaper in places. I ended up picking up two Natsume Yuujinchou statues for 1/3 the price I saw them for in Tokyo. I totally recommend it but it was rather hard to find, especially since it was pouring rain. Also, I somehow stumbled on a whole store of doujinshi for women that wasn't mandarake... I really need to stop buying doujinshi lol. But they had some ones from rarer series so I had to indulge.

Over the past few weeks, I have gone through every Kofun period site report for Nara prefecture, photocopied relevant bits and compiled a list of all their stone beads in Japanese. Then I started researching mineral localities. I should get at the actual beads this week or the next. They like to take us (ie the foreign researchers - two Koreans, one Chinese and me) on archaeology field trips every Friday. So the first one we ended up climbing all over one kofun tomb, then climbing into another one and visiting a nearby museum for a third. Last Friday, we ended up being brought around the prefecture to look at all the current excavations. Nothing too relevant to my research but it was cool to see Yayoi period rice paddies and a Nara period palace. Oh, and we visited another museum. I've actually been to all the museums around here before but it's relaxing and a good break so oh well. This week or the next we head to hyoruji temple and another museum. I've visited them both before but it'll be nice to see the tombs at the museum in the winter and I haven't been to hyoruji in over a decade. Ja ne!
deralte: (Default)
( Jan. 24th, 2016 07:56 pm)
So I have been having a blast here in Tokyo despite jetlag and the pain of walking up and down subway steps (this is the reason I lost so much weight in Korea... you just have to live with the pain for the first few days). I have been hitting the communal bath on the top floor to compensate for all the aches but soaking in hot water can only do so much.

I went to see Star Wars in 4D and it was utterly amazing that way. Having your seat tilt down following the slow pan of the opening shot was really thrilling, as were all the space battles. They sprayed mesquite into the room whenever there were things burning which I liked but it also made me a bit hungry. It was actually a little weird to have something hitting your legs at the same time as a tentacle monster attacking Finn. Japanese 4D theaters have more seats and they tilt forward more. So much so that if they had gone slightly more angled, I'd have slid off. No wonder they suggest you put your bags in free lockers before you go in. Incidentally, to get the tickets, I had to go to the roppongi hills cinema several hours before the show and buy one of the last four tickets for the 3pm showing. They sold out insanely quickly but this was unsurprising considering the weekend was already sold out when I went on Friday. By virtue of seeing it alone, I actually had a really nice center seat.

I made it to Mandarake in Shibuya to check out the "doujinshi for women" as they put it. There's not a lot of series I'm interested in atm (I already have tons of doujinshi that I've only flipped through at home) but I love to look at the western series doujin because it's rather fascinating to compare to the western fandoms. Usually, the focus of pairings is quite different. So for example, the Avengers fandom is still being dominated by Tony/Jarvis with science bros not too far behind. Stucky was a rare pair and I only saw a few Stony. I have yet to figure out too why the Boondock Saints fandom is still going strong in Japan. Anybody? But much to my surprise The Hobbit fandom was really fascinating because the doujin almost exactly reflected the western fandom. Bagginshield dominated (it was nonexistent in Japan in 2013 when I last checked) and Bard/Thranduil had become popular since the last movie, with a couple of rare pairs and gen thrown in for good measure.

I also made it to Akihabara. I checked out animate first as I usually do but my interests in anime don't currently line up with anything that is showing atm (except One Punch Man), so I headed over the building with the mandarake cafe in it. The lower four floors there have recent doujin, electronics, and an astonishing collection of figurines and memorabilia. There's one shop on the third floor I believe which consistently sells all the figures about 20% cheaper than anyone else so it's worth checking out. I first tried to find a new battery for my lenova pad but I was told they don't make anything like it in Japan so I'd have to get one from the US. Oh well. I then set out to find memorabilia and figurines from Natsume Yuujinchou and Star Wars. I particularly wanted some action figures of Rey and BB-8 but she was almost as hard to find here as in the US. I did get a cute 3-inch figure of Rey which was made for the Japanese market only and looks great but there were no BB-8 figurines to be found, or the larger Rey figurine which the internet tells me exists but I have yet to see. My capsule luck held and I got an awesome looking tengu from a gegege kitaro machine. Turns out it's one of the rarer expensive ones so I was doubly pleased. (You can tell by how they price them in other nearby stores that sell figurines individually. Mine was the most expensive, therefore it was pretty rare.) I picked up some tiny Natsume yuujinchou figurines like one of Madara as a daruma. I then headed out and north to another store which was advertising for Star Wars. They did have a BB=8 figurine there but it came with R2D2 and I wouldn't have been able to fit him in my bag. So I bought a cute set of BB-8 stationary and headed back to my hotel.

I have been eating out on occasion but mostly living on the hotel breakfast (which is quite nice) and convenience store food. The thrill of meat buns and onigiri for a buck will not wear off for awhile. I also tried some famous Asakusa pudding which was amazing until I hit the burnt sugar at the bottom which totally ruined the rest of the pudding for me. I also had some famous maple melon bread and a delicious sweet potato paste thingy.

Today, I headed out of Tokyo to attend Bujinkan training at the Hombu dojo. Nobody told me, but they knocked down the old dojo and built a new, larger one with better facilities. It was a bit difficult to find at first until I started looking for the kanji. The other dojo was quite stereotypical looking so it was easier to find, though I suppose you could always just follow all the foreigners on a Sunday morning. There were a ton of Australians there and I made friends. I trained with one of them, M. who was my height and a bit of a beginner, plus she had a leg injury, so we took it easy. I don't mind teaching someone since it helps me learn as well (it's only frustrating if they're not trying and this was not the case). Despite the dojo being bigger, it was still crowded so when we switched over to sword, there wasn't really enough room to do anything. But it was fun. Hatsumi soke has a wicked sense of humour (that Jack definitely gets from him). For example, he took a guy down, let him go and then when he thought he could escape, put him in an even worse lock, and all with a smile on his face. It's interesting to be able to understand enough Japanese to know what he was talking about. He talked about intent and convincing your opponent that they took a hit, even though they didn't. We then got a gruesome story about Japanese executions and people getting their heads chopped off. Apparently, heads being chopped sounds like a wet towel being snapped so they went down a line and at the last person, they snapped a towel instead and the person died of fright. He's also still talking about things that Jack passed on like spiraling in to the proper point while taking people down and of course, taking the right space and distance and moving. I liked his point of using both sides of the chest to take someone out (catching on one hand, then bringing that shoulder down before taking the space around the opposite elbow and letting the rebound from the shoulder you pressed down send the other shoulder up). I ended up with a few more bruises and tired but I found out where there's training in Osaka and made a lot of new friends. Plus I got some calligraphy painted by the soke.

I headed back to Asakusa afterwards and wandered through the markets looking for a place to eat lunch (it was 2pm by this point). Everywhere I tried had people waiting outside in the cold for a seat so I bought some snacks and wandered out of the tourist areas until I found a ramen place for lunch. I haven't had proper ramen in ages so that was nice. I then headed out, bought some food for my dinner and stopped at a cat cafe near by hotel, Cafe Calaugh. This one was set up a bit differently than ones I've been to before. They served food and drinks and didn't cover anything but the cats seemed to mostly ignore the food. I found a snuggle buddy who huddled next to me for warmth and then inherited a lap cat from someone else. That cat just didn't want to do anything other than sleep in people's laps. I had to pass her on myself after my hour of time was up. She did give me a kiss when she first came to my lap - probably to smell the hot chocolate on my lips.

I head down to Nara tomorrow so I'm getting ready. Ja ne!
deralte: (Default)
( Jan. 21st, 2016 09:21 pm)
So I arrived in Japan today after a pretty crazy trip. My first flight got delayed so I missed my flight to Japan. As a result, they rerouted me through Detroit and I had to run through the airport to catch my flight. This triggered an asthma attack but at least there was absolutely no reason for me to to not just go to sleep when the exhaustion from the inhaler over took me. On the plus side, I was on a newer plan with excellent on flight entertainment and I had a window seat with only one person next to me. That made the flight quite bearable as I used it for the opportunity to catch up on movies I've missed. I ended up watching Inside Out which was cute but I don't get why it was called such a great pixar movie. I'd rate it about the same as Brave. Then I watched both Attack on Titan live action movies which really improved on the manga by removing all the excess that the manga lingered on. Not bad acting and special effects too. Then I watched A Little Chaos in honor of Alan Rickman which was a nice, quiet movie, and then I finally got around to watching Antman. In between those, I napped a lot.

Once I got to Tokyo (only a half hour later than my original flight), I got my things. I'm impressed they just give you your printed foreigner id card at immigration these days. Then I caught the train in and made my way to my hotel. I picked it for the location but I seem to have really lucked out. It has a tiny hot spring on the top floor (1 sauna, two hot pools, one cool pool), but there is an outdoor hot pool and a view of the Tokyo river and Sky Tree. I picked up some dinner at a conbini and then rushed up to enjoy the onsen for an hour (and get interrogated in Japanese by the old lady there) before heading back down. So far, this is the softest bed in a hotel in Japan that I've ever experienced. Also, they have an air purifier in the room. Not sure how much longer I can stay awake but I wanted to update in real time for once. Oh, and the sim card I ordered while in the US seems to be working in my hilariously see through, gold Firefox phone. Oh Japan.

I fly to Osaka on Monday and start looking for apartments. Non-smoking is not a thing here so I am not holding my breath (joke not intended) but I need a smoke free place so my asthma doesn't kill me so I have to put my foot down.
deralte: (Default)
( Aug. 13th, 2015 05:29 pm)
I dreamt last night that I was born into a low caste on a massive ship traveling through space who had instituted illegal population restrictions by banishing any non-planned children to a lower cast of servants, so despite being smart and having my talents (in computer programming, amongst other things) being utilized well by the aristocrats I served, I was denied going any further in society (there were a lot of seemingly arbitrary reasons someone could be relegated to a lower caste). This pissed me off and I started searching for ways to change the system (literally by changing the computer system) which drew the attention of the rebellious underground who were made up of various high ranking ninja from Naruto. Tsunade was unsure if she should employ me, but Kakashi persuaded her to give me a chance to demonstrate my skills, so I snuck into the central computer chamber which kinda looked like Darth Vader's meditation chamber only with really low gravity and planted some of the commands they wanted in the computers. I woke up around the time when they were pointing out that there were a lot more rebels than I knew of and it was going to stay that way in case any of us were captured.

Dad and I are off to visit my family in the midwest tomorrow. My car needed to be returned to Wisconsin anyway, so we're combining it with seeing my family who I haven't visited since before I started my Phd.
deralte: (Default)
( Jul. 12th, 2015 10:58 pm)
Some pics here.

So on Friday, I took the day off and decided to go to Gonju. It was just an hour and a half from Seoul by bus so it seemed like a good day trip if I didn't push it. My only problem is that I've developed a bit of plantar fasciitis from all the walking I do and because I have low arches so I've been trying to rest, but I also have tons of places I need to go. I won't be able to rest until I get back to the US basically. Anyway, getting to the express bus terminal was a pain in the arse, but catching the bus was easy enough. I got to Gongju around noon and had some shrimp fried rice (bokkumbap) for lunch. Then I bought some chesnut pastries. I was looking for ice cream but they didn't have me but the shop owner heard me muttering about it and gave me a different kind of chilled chesnut pastry. I then tried to find the bus that went to the archaeological sites but I couldn't figure out where it was so I gave up and took a taxi.

I went to the Songsan-ri tombs and the site of King Muryeong's tomb (who is probably the most famous of the Paekche kings). The weather outside was gorgeous if rather hot so it was nice to be inside the museum on site and explore their fake tomb sites. I then headed up to the tombs. The path was being reworked so I'm not sure if we were supposed to walk on it but a group of Japanese tourists were so I blended in with them. I climbed all the way up the hill, had an amazing view (see pics), and then saw a sign to the Gonju National Museum which was the other place I wanted to visit. Rather than going back down the hill and walking around it, I just followed the path down the other side of the big hill. Thus accidentally going up and over a small mountain. Oops. On the way down, I saw a unified Silla tomb and a deer that was so overheated it just sat there while I walked by. The path was steep going up and going down but it really did bring me out right next to the museum. I headed inside, refilled my water bottle and headed to the second floor because a huge, noisy school group was there and I wanted to look at King Muryeong's tomb artifacts in peace. I passed them going by while making my way to the first floor and going backwards through the exhibit. This worked rather well since it's not like I don't know a lot about the artifacts anyway.

From there, I headed out towards the parking lot, hoping to find some taxis loitering. None were to be seen, so I accidentally wandered into a replica of the Chosun administrative areas and then into the Gonju Hanok village full of old traditional houses. Everyone was lingering inside to avoid the heat so I almost gave up and tried walking back towards the station but my feet were killing me and after wandering for a bit I spotted a convenience store. I bought an ice cream, a sports drink to replenish my electrolytes and asked for the local number for a taxi. I then sat in the shade, enjoying the village and my ice cream before calling a taxi. One came quite quickly and picked me up and brought me back to the bus terminal. 20 minutes later and I was back on a bus towards Seoul. I was exhausted by the time we hit the express bus terminal so I stopped to have some Myeongdong kalkuksu, which is meat and noodles soup, presumably in the myeong dong style (or from the famous store there). That replenished my electrolytes some more before I made the long journey home, pretty much limping from all the subway line changes. But I made it home by 7pm. Not bad for a day trip.

My feet hurt, but it really was a lovely trip and such a beautiful day.
We had to wake up pretty early to get to the airport which was not the best since I did not sleep well. We woke up to freshly fried dosas (kinda like crepes) with masala dipping sauce for breakfast which we scarfed down before paying for the room and catching our taxi. The flight back to Delhi was interesting only because we were on one of the new 787s and the smartglass on the windows plus the slightly redefined layout were interesting to see. I mostly read the Visni Puri novel and R. read her own.

Once in Delhi we took the taxi back to the Fulbright house and stored my luggage there (though we were later informed we weren’t supposed to do that *shrugs*). We then walked for about ten minutes to the Jantar Mantar which I always wanted to see. It’s a series of observatories which were built in 1724 to examine various celestial phenomenon but it looks like a modern art display. It didn’t take long to visit and disappointingly, you can’t climb up any of the steps you can see. Oh well. From there we caught a rickshaw to do the one other thing I wanted to do while in India – namely, see an Ashokan pillar. I’d been hoping one had been brought to Delhi so I could see one and R. found out where it was. It was over in old Delhi at Feroz Shah Kotla Fort, which was part of a city founded by a Shah in 1354.

We were expecting to explore an old fort and see the pillar. Instead, the place was teaming with people, birds (kites I believe), and smoke. There wasn’t a ticket taker in sight but we were once again the center of attention. I had to hold my breath even to get in since there was a massive fire being burnt right near the front. Once through there, we wandered, admiring how thick the walls were until we found our way to the foot of the building the pillar perched on. It was even more crowded here since everyone had to fit into the ancient walkways and stairs to get anywhere. Opposite it was a mosque which although in ruins was still being used for worship. I had to hold my breath and dash around a lot because in every single alcove they were burning flowers and incense and saying prayers. R. and I were really confused. It also took us awhile to find the steps up to the pillar since they were cleverly hidden. R. bailed out on the lower level so I headed up on my own after actually finding the proper stairs. Once up there, the pillar was amazing to see even if it is a little broken. I liked that someone had carved an elephant into it at some point. The people meanwhile, were tying letters to the pillar, leaving offerings and reaching in to touch it. I was also mobbed by children as I always seemed to be when left alone (kids just really like me, go figure). Once I took their pictures and made my way down, I told R. it was easier to get up then we thought so we went up again. Some cheeky kids kept getting closer and closer to us while we were up there and even poked my bum at one point. *sigh*

We made our way out of there, with me holding my breath and dashing through smoke filled areas, though I figured an asthma attack due to smoke was inevitable at this point (and I was right though it held off until I was on the plane). We headed back to the Fulbright building and in the half hour before my taxi to the airport arrived, looked up what was going on. Turns out my ability to stumble on festivals is ridiculously good. On Thursdays, and only Thursdays, Indian Muslims go to that site to ask the djinn which are thought to inhabit the stones, with the head djinn being in the pillar to grant their wishes. We had a 1 in 7 chance of encountering them but since it was Thursday the 11th, we got in free and got to experience the djinn worship. Turns out it’s a pretty interesting phenomena which only started in 1977 and one of R.’s friend’s friends wrote their Phd thesis on it. Small world, huh?

We said goodbye and I caught my taxi who got me to the airport in good time. Once there, I bought a few more souveniers since I didn’t feel like changing my money and a surprisingly tasty and colourful meal from Curry Kitchen. I managed to get a few hours of sleep on the plane back, which stood me in good stead for the ridiculously long transfer procedure at Shanghai Dupong airport. Our gate was freezing due to improperly closed doors, and even with all my layers just sitting there for an hour and a half waiting for my plane had me shivering. (I couldn’t really buy anything since I only had enough Chinese money left to buy some water.) I watched some of Twin Peaks but kept getting distracted so I was glad when our plane finally loaded. The flight was quick, and I was on the airport train back to my apartment within a half hour of landing. Of course, it was snowing when I got off the subway so I was freezing since I hadn’t been able to pack a winter coat but I rushed home. I took a shower and did my laundry, hoped my sore throat wasn’t an actual cold and went to sleep. Turns out it was a cold (the same one R. got in the last days of our trip, I’d wager) which I am still recovering from, so I’ve spent my time hibernating.

(It took me about two weeks to recover from the cold and the trip in general. Had a great time though.)
I estimate that about 10% of the population are wearing masks because of MERS. Not only is this weird to see considering it isn't spread by air unless in hospital conditions, but it pisses me off how many of them are wearing them improperly. I have to wear a mask whenever the air quality is poor so I've gone through a lot of masks finding one that works against the yellow dust and pollution. These people buy cheap masks which don't even seal to the sides of their mouth and somehow think that it's any use whatsoever. Then there's the idiots who pull down the masks so their noses are exposed. And let's not forget the woman who got on the train next to me, while not wearing a mask, then put on the mask for the duration of the ride, only to take it off before she got off the train. In what world would that have been helpful? It makes me want to not wear a mask in order to not be lumped in to the 'paranoid and stupid about MERS' crowd.

So, I went down to Daegu and Gyeongju this past week to do some research. I'd been to Daegu and the museum before and was just taking impressions of the drill holes of beads which I had already examined. This took a few hours, then I caught the express bus to Gyeongju (which only takes about an hour). Gyeongju was the former center of the Silla Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms Period and this was my first chance to visit. I took another short bus ride and checked into my hotel. This hotel, called Mini Hotel 141 is the only one I could find in Gyeongju that was explicitly non-smoking. Considering my asthma is highly triggered by smoking, it was necessary to pay whatever it took to stay in a hotel that was smoke free. Luckily, this one was only about ten dollars more than the cheaper hotels and it's location close to the train station put it close to a lot of the attractions. I got there and discovered that it was also a really nice hotel which provides toiletry kits, and even had a western style towel (this is amazing, believe me). I headed out then to find the mounded tomb park, which, since there was a tomb viewable from the corner near the hotel, I assumed wouldn't be too hard. As luck would have it, I just followed the trail of tombs to hit the park right around the sunset.

I headed inside of the actual park and just wandered around the tombs. I checked out the inside of the Cheonmacheong tomb, which was full of replicas but fun to see laid out. I ended up explaining what was there to a Korean family who was there and who didn't understand the layout and what was what. I then wandered to the far end of the park and did a giant circle before heading back out of the gate I entered in. I then headed back into town proper, ending up on the fashion streets. I got some spicy beef fried rice for dinner and an ice cream which I ate when I got back to the hotel. I watched Korean tv for a bit, marveling about how there are two channels for watching pro Go players and two channels for watching pro video game players. (At one point they were playing a game which hilariously looked like Yugioh as played by Kaiba and his holograms.) Then I went to sleep early because I had to be up early to get to the archaeological center.
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deralte: (Default)
( May. 29th, 2015 02:50 pm)
So far I have a trip to Busan next week and two museums to visit, with a possible third still pending. I plan to visit the Busan national museum while I’m down there just to see it and, of course, Busan Spa Land (because I am a sucker for jjimjilbang).

Then the next week I visit a museum in Daegu and an archaeological research centre in Gyeongju. I’m really excited about seeing Gyeongju for the first time since it’s got such amazing archaeological and historical sites. I think I’ll stay an extra day or two and see the sights.

Once those are all done, I only have 2-3 more museum visits to schedule and they have to be done after June 15th because the artifacts are not available until after then, so not bad.

I am pleased to say I have had to start my second fieldwork notebook. 75 artifacts down. Who knows how many more to go?
I wouldn't read this review if you really enjoyed Age of Ultron fyi. Avengers: Age of Ultron )

Kingsmen:Kingsmen Secret Service )

Jupiter Ascending: Jupiter Ascending )
I forgot I wrote a quick fic for Daredevil.
In the Ring - PG - Matt wants to get in the ring.
I am so behind on updating anything related to recording my life like this journal and sauronchan's tumblr. *sigh* I really need to write about the rest of my India trip and about how awesome my New Zealand trip was, but I'm not sure if I can find the time. I still have tons of things to do before my grant ends. So maybe I can fit in a summary here at least.

So, my New Zealand trip was amazing. For the first time in my life, almost nothing went wrong on my trip. One of my buses was late but that's pretty much it. I saw all the things I wanted to see from a Maori village to the glow worm caves to Weta cave. I bathed in volcanic hot springs in Rotorua and hiked up Mt. Victoria in Wellington to see where LOTR was filmed. I had some amazing food and lived off of cheap avocados when I wasn't splurging. The flight in on a new 787 was very comfortable, and my flight out through Thailand allowed me to stop for some delicious pad thai with river prawns and a massage before heading back to Korea.

I got back and discovered that Spring in Korea brings the yellow dust or hwang sa which comes over from China on the wind. Turns out that with my asthma, I can't deal with an air quality index over 100 and Seoul was hitting that three or four times a week at one point (it's down to 1-2 right now), so I became a hermit after going to the hospital and being told that going from one asthma attack a week to one a day wasn't an escalation of symptoms *headdesk* Went on singulair, started tracking the aqi religiously via an app on my phone and I now carry a mask around to wear, plus showering as soon as I get home seems to have brought me back to one attack a week, but it took me about two months to get to that point.

In the middle of all this, pretty much every single thing I needed to do become urgent. I had three different conference presentations to prepare for and present at, a 5000 word paper to write, a major scholarship application which I had to write and submit (plus get references and fill out multiple other documents), and my mother and little brother came to visit for a week. So there was about a solid month of stress even if I did enjoy my family's visit.

Probably the most interesting thing I did during that month is I went to Jeju to present at the Fulbright conference. Jeju is an island off the south coast of Korea and is kinda their Hawaii. It's a volcanic, tropical island where I had some amazing sea food. I had a seafood smorgusboard with amazing abalone cooked right in its' shell so you had to cut it out with scissors. So tender. The island is famous for oranges, particularly ones with a rather knobby end called halla-bo which are amazing. My friend and I bought a crate of 18 and ate half of them before we left. They taste like sweeter, less citrus tangerines. We also explored a lava tube which was pretty cool to see. Of course, then I caught a cold and had to give my second conference/forum presentation while coughing up my lungs. There is a hilarious video of it online (which I am not going to link to, but if you want to hear an hour long talk about Korean archaeology, leave a comment and I'll send you the link).

I've just requested an extension of my grant period for an extra six weeks so I can get to more museums. So it's back to spending my time analyzing data and trying to look at as many artifacts as possible before I run out of time. Ja ne!
deralte: (Default)
( Mar. 28th, 2015 08:17 am)
I had a dream last night that I went to this coastal town to help with some sort of clean up. I was directed by the locals to stay at this boarding house run by a fairly strict middle aged woman. There were a lot of young women arriving and they were with a different group than the one I was supposed to be working with but it seemed a nice enough place to stay. After laying down the rules and socializing a bit, I went to claim a bed. This was rather hard to do since none of the beds were pristinely tucked in so I had to look around a bit before I found one that, although not tucked in, had no belongings around it. I presumed it was free and settled in for a long sleep (I was awake for hours today resetting my sleep schedule so even my subconscious was obsessed with sleep).

I woke up and found an unfamiliar young man sitting on the bed which was next to mine. He complained that I'd slept in his bed and I responded he should have claimed it better. We bantered a bit and he told me he liked me so I should enjoy my present and gestured at a massive thunderstorm out the window which was encroaching on the nearby city. I rolled my eyes and got dressed and went downstairs where I was dragged with all the other young women to a massive warehouse where we were going to practice our duties or something. Once we were in order, the young man appeared again and scolded the woman who owned the house for her lack of respect and that she was lucky he liked me. She then proceeded to tell us that he was a ghost who haunted the boarding house and that anyone who slept in his bed suffered and she probably should have warned us. For some reason I wasn't worried and instead pointed out his present of a storm. Everyone panicked and headed back to the boarding house. Once I got there, I was in a bit of a trance and went back to my bed and grabbed a gray cloak which I only vaguely remembered bringing off a peg then headed outside. The young man was with me and he urged me to imagine the cloak growing larger and covering me from the storm. I did and was suddenly in the heart of the storm, floating and enjoying myself. It gets a bit hazy after that but once the storm passed the young man explained that he wasn't a ghost but one of the fey like Robin Goodfellow and I was one of the fey in disguise with my powers and former life hidden and dormant in order to experience a mortal life. Also, we were going to have a lot of fun now that I was here. I went thoughtfully back to the boarding house to gather my things, finding the bed I'd slept in was gone and the people there hadn't realized I'd been out riding the storm. Then the dream sunk deeper and I can't remember anymore.

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. I've really got to finish my India diary and post my trip to New Zealand as well but I've run out of free time and have a ton of things to do before mid April. So maybe I'll be able to post more then. Ja ne!
We were unwilling to brave the sleeper train again so instead we stayed the extra night in the hotel and caught a taxi to Bangalore the next day. This cost us $50 each instead of the $20 for the sleeper train so it really wasn’t a bad deal and we would have had to waste most of the day recovering from the sleeper train in Bangalore anyway so a six hour drive in the morning wasn’t too bad. We stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant whose power was out for most of our meal. They had really tasty vegetables which were kinda curried and pickled a bit. Might have been ocra but I’m not sure. Didn’t like their sauces much, but I had a fresh orange juice there which was really odd because it was an Indian orange which are more creamy and less citrusy. We then headed onwards and got into Bangalore around 4 and eventually found the little B&B we were staying in. We settled in, enjoyed the free and fast internet (internet in Hampi was 50 cents an hour for one device which wasn’t much but wasn’t worth the effort to get a passcode for more than an hour each night) to find a place to eat then went out shopping. I picked up the ‘unusual’ spices requested by my little brother as a present and picked up some chai spices and almond tea mix for me since that way I can make it non-caffeinated.

We ate at this great brew pub (which may well be India’s only brew pub) called Toit. It was my last night in India so we indulged. We had two appetizers of breaded and fried mushrooms and onion rings (a rarity in India). Both of us had two beers, and I was surprised to find one I really liked (I’m picky about beer) called the Tintin Toit which was a Belgian style beer. For dinner, R. ordered the hamburger with bacon and it was so massive she couldn’t finish it. I, after much deliberation, ordered the steak because how often do you get a steak for $6? It turned out to be an amazing choice. Whatever they did to marinate it and tenderize and cook it was just perfection. This was seriously one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life. After that, we ordered the desert fondue plate. We hadn’t realized how huge it would be (I think it was meant to be for four people) so we just had to pick our way, mostly devouring all the fruit dipped in chocolate and ignoring the cake bites. The marshmallows were pretty good though. The entire meal set up back about $25 each which is nothing compared to what it would have cost us in the US so we were pretty pleased, and a bit tipsy *L*

We went back to our B&B and took our showers. I repacked since I was leaving India the next day and we settled in for the night.
This was my favourite day of the trip. My digestive troubles were gone and we’d seen about half of the main places to see in Hampi so we could take it easy (the travel guides tell you that you need a week to see Hampi but I’m not sure how because even if you go to see the temples across the river we would have managed it in 3-4 days. And I’d suspect your average tourist would get a lot more bored of yet more temples than we did.) We hired another taxi driver for the day and this one only spoke some basic Hindi and even less English.

He took us first to the first of two Ganesha images in the area. It was surrounded by huge boulder so I left R. and her leg to rest and hiked over to see them and take silly pics. After that, he took us to a nearby temple which I think was the Sri Krishna temple. It was uncrowded for a bit until a massive group of school children arrived. Around the corner we walked down a pleasant path beside a stream to see the Ugra Narasimha image which was awesome and impressively intact for something carved in 1528 and left out in the elements. Right next door to it was Hampi’s 3m tall Shivalinga, surrounded by water because everyone needs to see a massive penis and vagina at least once in their life. We took a break then to have some fresh coconut juice (which I don’t like but R. enjoyed it) and get some freshly pressed sugar cane juice. When I was a kid, I once helped harvest sugar cane and make sourgum molasses so I must have tried the cane juice then, but I sure don’t remember it tasting so amazing. Might be the different type of cane too.

From there, he took us to the Hazara Rama temple which was on the other side of the King’s Palace complex. It had some decent sculptures including some black pillars inside, and the Ramayana was depicted along the exterior inner walls, though they were weirdly built over in places. From there, we asked him to take us to the Underground Shiva temple so called because it pretty much sits below ground level at this point. It was still a bit flooded from the monsoon which made it cool to explore, but didn’t have any of the beautiful carvings that the other temples boast.
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deralte: (luffy world (by me))
( Dec. 27th, 2014 08:45 pm)
Went to Seoul ComicWorld today. It's $4 to get in, which is like, nothing compared to conventions in the US. And of course ComicWorld is held every month so I plan on heading back at least a few more times before I leave Korea. There is a main stage and changing rooms where people change for their cosplays. There was a pretty standard amount of cosplayers around though most were huddled in winter coats. I didn't get any pictures because you have to ask for and gain permission to take a cosplayers photo, and the people's whose cosplays I wanted a pic of (a whole group doing all the Inuyasha cast and an impressive looking Kisame from Naruto) were busy with other things.

There's a main stage at ComicWorld which was playing Slam Dunk and Sgt Frog in Korean when I walked by, and I think there's events which I paid no attention too. This is because they have a huge amount of space devoted to what would be called an Artist's Alley and I pretty much spent three hours going down rows and rows of artists. I should have probably gotten there an hour earlier since people were starting to pack up a lot after 4pm but I wanted to sleep in since it's the holidays and I don't think I missed anybody I really needed to see.

What surprised me is how creative the Korean artists are in merchandising (possibly because doing this stuff is really cheap in Korea somehow?). Everything was printed out on glossy cards, some with sparkles embedded in them. There were hand mirrors, cell phone dangles, playing cards, tarot cards, stickers, mugs, mini-pillows, mini-body pillows(I laugh at these a lot. Who are they for? Dolls?), glasses cleaning clothes, wall scrolls, etc. That is a really impressive array for fan artists, and it was all pretty cheap too. One tarot card or card cost about 50 cents. I got two mini posters - each cost 2 dollars. The glasses cleaning clothes were $1.50, etc. I probably only spent about $20 but I got a lot of stuff. I got Hobbit and How to Train Your Dragon stickers. Cards for Natsume Yuujinchou, One Piece, and the Hobbit. A couple of tarot cards (I found a whole deck which had a bunch of different anime representing the cards, but they weren't selling them as sets and some were sold out so I just bought some of the coolest ones - Natsume from Natsume Yuujinchou as The World, Lelouch as The Emperor, and Kakashi as the Hierophant. They're really pretty and I don't even like tarots. *L* I got a One Piece transparent folder, and one of my posters is One Piece and other is from Natsume Yuujinchou. My two glasses cleaning clothes are Natsume Yuujinchou as well since I couldn't decide between the seven this one artist had *L* And finally, I picked up an adorable Thor doujinshi in Korean, which is called The Asgardian brothers go to a Jjimjilbang (ie bathhouse). And it is just adorable. It immediately has Thor walking out into the public areas naked and Loki pushing him back into the men's area. And Thor freaking out by how efficient the body scrubbers are. And Loki wearing the towels sheep style. And brotherly bonding of course. It is sickeningly cute.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much Natsume Yuujinchou stuff there was hidden amongst other things. I saw a good range of the most popular recent anime (though the craze for Attack on Titan is finally dying down, thank the gods). Gintama and One Piece were well represented. There were some series I didn't recognize, and a surprising amount of art of cute women as well as cute men which shows why the attendance looked about evenly divided between men and women though the artists were almost invariably women. I picked up some flyers for a How to Train Your dragon con (which adorably has the gang and Toothless wishing us a Happy Snoggletog!) and another meet up for Guardians of the Galaxy. I might even attend the How to Train Your Dragon one *L*

Overall, it was a lot of fun and pretty much the cheapest trip to a con I've ever had despite there being fantastic artists and their stuff everywhere.