Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Last week in Sapporo

Souhei and I went ice skating at this sports center place.  Who knew I would have the opportunity to go ice skating in Japan? I love ice skating and Japan so this was, obviously, like the best thing ever.  They even played the Frozen theme song while we skated around so it kind of made the moment perfect.  Also, despite the fact that I took that ice skating class, I'm really not that good. The extent of my abilities generally tend to include not falling down (which is more than I can say for some other skills..like walking and running.) But compared to Souhei, who had never skated before, I actually didn't look half bad.  (That's a good trick to remember-just always skate with complete beginners.)

After skating, we stopped by a bento store for my first time, and I was actually surprised by how delicious the bento was.  Definitely something I should not have put off until my last week in Sapporo.  Lesson learned. (A little late though, huh?) I guess a part of that could be that I was really hungry, but honestly I thought it was just good food.  Next time I go to Japan I'll keep that in mind. 

Next to talk about was the big trip to Otaru!  It was a ton of fun and had lots of pretty sights to see. I don't even think I need to do much explaining for these pictures-just look at how gorgeous they are. 

Ok actually these two might need some explaining. Apparently these boys were swimming around and catching these sea urchins so they were just hanging out on the shore all disgusting and pathetic like that.  Then, the boys just cracked them open and ate them. it was so gross and crazy and yet apparently they were super delicious.

The day was full or touristy stuff, eating delicious food like this, seeing the sights, eating Dippin Dots (Dippin Dots in Japan, who knew, right?) walking around stores, eating free samples, and just having a blast.  This took pretty much the entire day but it was such a fun trip. Souhei and Adrian came with Momo, Papa, and I and the 5 of us explored the town. 

This is Souhei, Adrian, and I at a festival where we went through my first haunted house in Japan. It was actually pretty short and not really too scary, but still fun.  Just walking around and looking at the stands and food is fun because it's all so different from America.

Adrian and I even decided to do this fish catching stall because it was so Japanese. You had these little nets and your bowls and you tried to catch the fish and then you could keep them.  It's difficult though because the nets break super easily.  I attribute my fish catching success to years of practice while waiting to go canoeing with my family.  I considered keeping the fish, but I wasn't sure how my family would react to me bringing home 2 goldfish. Well I'm sure Momo would have loved it, but I'm not sure about the parents. Anyway, I ended up letting them go, but it was a lot of fun to experience it.

This was a fun day after class. Adrian, Souhei, and I biked around to Susukino which is a pretty strange part of the city, but I had a goal to ride the ferris wheel, and that is where it was located.  Anyway, on our way there we stopped and ate at a ramen shop and I ordered my first bowl of cold ramen, which I actually really liked. I like it more than the warm bowls I have tried.

        Here's my first boba that I bought before going to ride the ferris wheel. I've been craving one of these since Hannah visited but I could not find any that didn't contain milk tea so this was my first.  It was even chocolate banana boba, which I didn't even know was a thing until I had it. Mmmmm.

If any of you know me, you know I love ferris wheels.  It was so fantastic, and it's cool seeing cities at night-especially from such a good vantage point.  The downside was, trying to get home from the ferris wheel we could not remember where we had left our bikes. But once we found them, we just biked home next to the river and it was actually very pretty.

This is Adrian and I trying to play Smash Brothers on his computer. I say 'try' because have any of you tried to play a video game with someone else while sharing the keyboard?  Actually, it was pretty dang fun and part of that was because it was so ridiculous.

Even though I actually had plans to go eat dinner with another family on this particular Sunday, I was extremely sad to be missing out on this delicious looking meal.  I can't believe they would eat sushi without me.  But look how great my family is.  

Speaking of how great they are, here's another picture of them. One of the missionaries had written their names in fancy calligraphy and so we took a picture with everyone below their names. I'd like everyone to notice how gnarly my mom is in this photo. 

The last adventure to write about is when Souhei, Adrian, and I went to see the lavendar fields at Todai university. They weren't quite as purple as the pictures promised but still a cool sight to see. Plus, while we died going up all the hills to get there, it was a (somewhat terrifying) blast to go back home.

We even randomly ran into the missionaries up there which was funny because we were all getting ready to go to a members baptism.  Where I had been asked to give the prayer.  Not that I mind giving prayers, but in Japanese I feel like I have to write it all out before hand so I don't sound like such a foreigner and then I was all nervous.  Bah...it went well though and I was glad I had participated even though I had never even met this man before.

Ok, I'm done trying to play catch up with my blog. Sorry for the overload here.

But also, seeing as it's the last time I'll be posting about Japan in who knows how long, I feel like I should reminisce on that one time that Hannah and I went to Jozankei and saw a bottle of juice at the gift shop which was called "Pure Pungency." I'm loving whatever translation error caused this to be a thing.  I know, it is extremely disappointing that I forgot to take a picture, but the least I can do is share this golden nugget of goodness.   

Well, later Japan. 

Remember that one time...?

So...Japan is officially over. That time of my life where I was living the dream and doing everything I ever wanted in life has come to a close. (No, I'm not bitter. Just heart broken.) Also, somehow my last blog which I spent a long time finishing, is like gone, so I either have to re-write that or give up. Blah.
Anyway, my last week in Japan was stinkin fantastic so it deserves it's own post at least.

First, let's keep in mind that I tend to have awful luck when it comes to..well actually just awful luck in general. In this case, it has to do with traveling. Johnny and I met at the train station to leave Sapporo and everyone has come to see us off. (He has his friends and my whole family came.) But, even though we went an hour early to activate my rail pass, turns out the information desk was closed so I couldn't activate my rail pass. That means that I'm stuck in Sapporo for another night.  Johnny decided to stay another night and leave with me in the morning. So, after making everyone come say goodbye to me, I ended up just anticlimactically going home with them again. 

Take 2-Johnny and I got up early and my mom dropped us off at the station once again. This time it wasn't a big event, which was fine since I didn't want to inconvenience anyone again. My mom dropped us off and it was pretty sad because she seemed sad, which made me sad.  But I had said goodbye to everyone else this morning as they left for school and work. So, Johnny and I were at the station alone and after waiting in line a while I finally made it to the counter to activate my rail pass. That's when my bad luck struck again. Turns out the fancy rail pass that I had received from my professor had an expiration date...Who knew? There was a 3 month window to use this pass from the date it was purchased......and my last day was yesterday. So...now I have no rail pass at all. (Did I ever mention that I hate traveling? Even if I love being in other places.) Long story short, I ended up just buying a ticket out of pocket because I didn't know what else to do and Johnny and I had places to be. But that puts a damper on my travel plans the rest of the week (traveling in Japan is pretty dang expensive on the trains-which is why the rail pass is such a sweet deal.)

Anyway, eventually we really were on our way and waiting to board our first train when my dad shows up at the station too. (He must have bought a fake ticket to somewhere to get to this point-he's so sweet!) He even brought a bag of sweets that I like, such as cocoa for our trip.  Man, I can't believe I'm leaving this family.  Who knows if I'll ever see them again. But, man would I love to.

Johnny and I: 11 hours, 3 transfers, lots of card games, and 2 bentos later, we arrived at Sabina's house. She is Johnny's friend from his Japanese class who offered to let us stay at her house. Hooray-rest! It felt incredible to have some American food, take a hot shower, and climb into a comfty bed after all that travel.  However, I didn't even stay at her house a full day.  Originally, I should have left for Kyoto with Johnny and Johnathan this morning on the sinkansen. But, since my rail pass is not a thing anymore, my travel plans were kind of spoiled. While I was rather frustrated about that, I decided that it's not a bad alternative to head to Souhei's house early and spend extra time with him and Minami. (Update: Minami is my penpal that I met at Girl's Camp when I was like 15 and we've been friends since then.) So I began the ridiculously long trip from Sabina to Souhei's house. It took me over 3 hours and 3 different train transfers before I made it to Souhei's station, and this trip felt even more awful than it actually was because the 2 main wheels on my suitcase had somehow collapsed and no longer worked so I had to be creative with getting my 50+ lb luggage through all the stations. But, at least the train rides were rather pretty. I love Japan and it's greenness.

But once I made it there it was totally worth it. That night his mom cooked delicious Japanese food for dinner. (My remaining Japanese meals are numbered...that is heartbreaking.) Then she surprised us with some fireworks she had bought. So Souhei and I went outside and did fireworks. Japanese fireworks are so cute and small. It was pretty fun. Then we went on a walk around his neighborhood with his dog, Gon-kun.

The next day we woke up super early (like 5 am) and got ready to go to Fuji Kyu! Which is this really awesome amusement park.  Downside-it's like a 3 hour drive away. But still totally worth it. Because the day was cloudy and depressing and threatening rain (and when I say that, keep in mind that I love that kind of weather) hardly anyone was at the amusement park. Most rides had very reasonable wait times. It was such a fun day. Souhei was looking forward to me being terrified of the roller coasters even though I told him many times that I love them. So it was extremely funny when, after one of the rides, I look at his face and it's pure terror. If I had had my phone on me I would have had a picture in a heart beat. I really liked this amusement park because it was kind of small and so it was easy to get around everywhere. Plus, they had an awesome haunted house which took us a long time to get through. Also, it rained on us on the drive home, so really the day couldn't get much better.

The next day I met up with Minami, who I have not seen in way too many years. It was kind of weird meeting up with her again after exchanging letters for so long. But weird in the best way.  We got lunch at this Italian place and then just walked around Tokyo talking. How often do I get to just casually hang out in Tokyo with a friend? Um...never. Even though I only saw her for a few hours, it was a lot of fun and I'm so glad I got to see her at all.

When I got home that night Souhei and I decided to go to the sea because it's only 10 minutes from his house by car. So we changed into our swim suits and drove over, even though it was cloudy and cold outside. Let's be honest, the sea is always cold, so I guess it doesn't matter much if it's sunny or cloudy outside.  Ok, so if I'm being really honest I was freezing and hesitant to go in past my ankles, but then Souhei tackled me and we were both soaked. So...after that it wasn't AS bad. Nah, the waves were actually a ton of fun to play in. And who knew I would get to play in the sea in Japan? We played for a while and then Souhei's face got this concerned look. He started checking the pockets of his shorts and then he looked at me with this 'please don't get mad at me face.'
 "I've lost the car keys."
While I still don't understand why on earth he would go into the ocean with his keys still in his pockets, I actually wasn't mad at all. I thought it was pretty funny and it really just makes the story that much more interesting.  Especially because we ended up walking home from the ocean because both of our phones were in the car.  It was a long walk home but I started laughing when it started raining on us during our walk.   Once we finally made it home all I really wanted was a hot shower and a warm meal because it had been hours since the last time I ate and I had sand in places that you would only understand if you had also been beaten up by waves.

The next day was Sunday and I went to Souhei's ward in Chiba for the first and last time.  One of the sister missionaries came up to me and said "Where are you from?" When I told her BYU she said "no, before that." So then I told her AR and she was like "I knew it! We're from the same stake!"  And, as crazy as it was, we really were both from the same Springfield MO South Stake.  So, how random is it that I would run into her in this tiny Japanese ward?
After church I ended up participating in choir practice because I was waiting for Souhei's family and I didn't know a polite way to get out of it. But it was actually super amusing because the choir director was hilarious. Not in a 'on purpose' kind of way though. Mainly she kept stopping us every few lines and giving more instructions and I'm sure half of them weren't even right. So I was cracking up, but not really because that would have been kind of rude.

Anyway, once we made it home the rest of the day was pretty chill. Souhei's mom randomly asked me if I wanted to wear a kimono and so I said yes, because I couldn't pass up an opportunity like that. Even though it was kind of embarrassing because I was dressing up for no other reason than to take pictures, she convinced me when she told me that they had a real katana (the sword.) So, clearly, these pictures needed to happen.

Besides that, the rest of the day was chill. We had okonomiyaki for dinner, which was great (and quite possibly my last okonomiyaki in Japan.) then we had a lesson for FHE and played games. It was pretty fun playing with his family and I even taught them how to play Hearts. (Since Adrian taught me, I've been playing it with everyone.)  Besides that, I watched part of a Disney movie with Souhei and that was pretty much my Sunday.

Monday also started early, but not as early as Friday. Today was my last full day in Japan and Souhei and I planned to spend it at Disney Sea. So this is us at the entrance.
The day was full of ups and downs-my emotions were kind of all over the place because it would randomly hit me (again and again) that it was my last day in Japan.  I was out of time.  So even though I know that I should have been doing my best to enjoy this, I sometimes found myself being a party pooper.  Overall though, the day was fun. Although, compared to Fuji Kyu, which was just rides, I needed to know a bit more Japanese to enjoy some of the attractions here at Disney Sea.  Here are some pictures from Disney Sea.

This is the sea world (mermaid lagoon or something) where you could go meet Ariel. At night it actually looked super pretty.  

We went to ride the gondola which gave us a mini tour around the park and was super cool at night because all the lights from the park reflected off the water. Plus the Japanese boat man sang us a song in Italian and everyone was saying 'arrivederci.'  And if you have never heard Japanese people speaking Italian while riding a gondola, you are missing out.  Let me tell you. 

Getting home from Disney Sea was a bit of a disaster, but in a not-really-that-awful kind of way. We walked the wrong direction multiple times just trying to get out of the park and back to the train station. When we finally got directions and made it to the station, we ended up on the wrong train and then had to wait a while to get back on the right one.  After that we still had a layover but since it was so late the periods between the trains were longer.  Then we made it back to our station but we had to walk back to our car and then drive home (15 minutes) from there.  Even though I was so tired at the point, it was still super adorable when we found these kittens on the side of the road.

The next morning was also an early one, but for a completely different reason. It was coming down to my last hours in Japan and I had a lot to do to prepare to go.  Even up until the very end, Souhei's mom was so fantastic though. She took us all to sushi for my last meal in Japan and then even showed me this cool shrine in Narita. I was a bit worried we wouldn't make it back to the car after the shrine because, since no one else seemed to remember the way, we had to rely on my directional sense. (If you know me at all then you know that this is a problem.) But, surprisingly, I got us back ok and then his mom got me to the airport.
Saying goodbye was pretty difficult. Not only was I saying goodbye to Souhei and his family, but it was like I had to say goodbye t everything I've loved for the past 3 months. This is officially the end of my Japanese experience and I was sooooooo not ready for the end. But all good things must end. Or I go back to Japan again. (Yet, even if I do return later, it will not be the same experience.) Hard to beat the perfect time.

The trip home was full of cheesy movies like The Lindsay Lohan version of the Parent Trap and airplane food. I arrived in Calgary about 10 hours later only to remember I had an 8 hour layover. So..that sucked. But I flew over these mountains, so that's cool, right?

When I finally made it to Americana Whitney picked me up and gave me a royal welcome. Which means that she instagrammed a picture of my backpack to announce my return and took me to In & Out to get some American food. 
It's pretty sad that I didn't even have a full 24 hours with her before I had to be back at the airport again to head to AZ but we used our time wisely. (As she and I always do.) Oh and that's her little sister Erin, who happened to be celebrating her birthday the same day I was there. How thoughtful am I to come in for her birthday?
After that I spent the next few days in AR in the White mountains for a family reunion. These days are filled with kids in large quantities, food in even larger quantities, and card games late into the night (which is now like 10 pm latest since everyone has to get to bed with their kids.) 
I love these reunions because it's a chance to see everyone. Generally, these reunions are a fun get together every other year, but this year it also represented my last time getting to see Becca and Derek for a while.  This is the first year that they wont' be returning to BYU with me and I'm a little heartbroken over that fact. Luckily, they left me some cute pictures on my phone to look at on those lonely days that I know are coming. 

After the reunion I ended up driving home with Emily and her 3 kids, which was an adventure, but really not as bad as you think it would be. The kids handled the trip like a champ and I got to see Tucker's road trip face. It looks shockingly like his not-road trip face, but don't be fooled, we had been in the car for hours already when I took this.  The trip took us 2 days of about 7-8 hours of driving each.  Emily handled the driving like a pro, the kids were excellent passengers (especially when they were sleeping), and I was extremely useful in my efforts to bond with Tucker during this time. 
I spent the next week at Emily's chilling and it was really nice and relaxing. Granted, I should have been doing things with my life, like preparing for my Japanese test, writing in my journal, catching up in my blog, or really anything productive, BUT she has a seemingly unlimited collection of books I need to read on her kindle and her 3 adorable kids to play with.  At least we got a chick flick and junk food in one night-that definitely needed to happen. 
After Bailey Boo's big birthday party I finally headed to good ole Mountain Home with the rents and I made it home after my longest period away up to this point in my 22 year old life. Of course, there are still plenty of chances to change that, but for now, I'm content.