Monday, December 7, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
subway is at Tokyo's core, running miles upon miles beneath the concrete metropolis and became a intellectual game to Bets and I. (Betsy was obviously the brains of our operation.)
Tokyo Tower which is identical to the Eiffel Tower except orange and ten meters taller. Following that fantastic view, the tour took us to a huge Shinto Shrine which was an amazing tribute to creation and mother nature and then to the Imperial Palace where Japan's emperor and empress live by themselves. I should note that the palace is twice the size of the White House estate and the emperor holds no political power whatsoever. The rest of the tour included; a pearl demonstration, a Buddhist Temple and the electronics block. While in Tokyo, we also got to see Mt. Fuji from the Tokyo Government Building's 45th floor, a national park's beauty of the fall and the famous Ginza shopping district (which closes its streets on the weekend to make it the "shoppers' paradise!")
Tokyo was an experience and a half. Constant movement is the best way to describe its flow and feeling. Upon returning home to the small mountain village of Norikura, I felt oddly at peace in such a remote location yet missed the city's fervor and spirit. I would venture to say that one would go crazy living so close to so many people and moving at the rate at which they move but 12 million people do it everyday... my hat is off to them. See ya, wouldn't want to be ya.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Days are long and filled with nonstop movement of serving, playing, cleaning, instructing and hanging out with our newly made friends. Days are 12 hours plus but the reward is great and worth it. The reward is smiling faces as kids leave and exclamations of having had the best couple of days of their lives are heard. God is moving here at Northstar and is at the heart of everything we do. The amazing attitudes and service shown in the face of "lost in translation" type situations and endless service are all testaments to God at work in all the N* Staff's lives.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
So off we went; following this relative stranger into the wild with the hope of mushroom magic outweighing the fear of wet under-roos. If slow and steady wins the race, then Reicho-san must be undefeated. Our patience did payoff however as mushrooms the size of rabbit heads began to fill the plastic bags like Tad Hamilton at Piggly Wiggly. The search went as follows;
It started with the invention of karaoke in 1910 by Alexander Karok in Belgium and ended last night with the local strays howling along as many American classics were covered, butchered and screeched. In the lot were Elton John's "Tiny Dancer", Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" and the always infamous "Sexy Back" by JT. Duets Seiya Harada and yours truly stole the show and hearts with a Japanese'ie rendition of Armageddon's love song "I Dont Wanna Miss a Thing!"
As the staff headed home for much needed slumber, Pappa Reicho and I bonded as "gang bei" (aka cheers) was turned to 11 and on repeat; lost in translation took on a whole new meaning. His Japanese and my English were no match for true friendship. After more drinks, more off key singing and more antics, Reicho-san called me a bear, stole my beanie and danced with me to "Sexy Back" sealing our fate as "brothers from different mothers."
Confusion only happened when I tried to leave and he insistently said "NO" along with 150 other Japanese words. David Bowie's labyrinth of languages was made straight after Michai, fellow staff, informed me that Reicho-san was inviting me over to stay the night. We have video of this whole interaction. It is an emphatic yelling of "slumber party" followed by an overly friendly embrace of a village elder, who has probably forgotten more about life than I will ever know, and a American mountain man who allegedly looks like a bear.
Here's to new experiences, new traditions and new friendships... Gang Bei!!!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monday, Northstar was home to our first annual Livestrong Century Challenge. The race covered 100 miles and had four major climbs. The weather changed as often as the elevation, but at the end of the day only 10 riders persevered through the elements and the miles to claim victory. Stokley, an American rider from a military base, was overheard saying "this was the hardest damn race I have ever ridden. Those climbs were epic. And this is what I do."
The race/ride is meant for more than just completing 100 miles; it is a way to lend support for the fight against cancer. On the eve of the event, Dan Junker (head boss at Northstar) gave a tear jerking speech about his victory over cancer and the effects it has had on not only his life but those nearest and dearest his heart. He explained a country afraid or embarrassed to speak up if cancer was present and further stated that the Livestrong challenge was about the fight. "Because if you fight for something, you usually think you have a chance to win. And in that case there is hope. Hope is what we all need. I want to LIVE and I want to HOPE." Dan's story is one of inspiration and hope. His words brought memories of loved ones with cancer, who are still fighting or have passed away, to the forefront of our hearts; prayers, thoughts and tears were shared by all. Cancer is being fought and I am stoked to be apart of the movement.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
Motsumoto, a city of 500,000, was shiny and distracting. Cars, people and advertisements competed for my attention. The first victor was a sushi place that may be THE GREATEST SUSHI in the world. The atmosphere was super fun with "hello kitty" apparel as the star. Woot Woot. Here comes the sushi train. Plates floated by us with relative ease while we drooled over the saucers of unknown tastes and origins. Shrimp, Eel, Squid, Sea Shell, Tuna, Clam added to rice, sprinkled with heaven and wrapped in love, were not only on the menu but available in large quantities. Seiya, Brad and I took full advantage of this advantageous fact. Digestion was a cinch. We allowed the full body massage chairs to do most of the work with "rodeo boy III" finishing the job.
Grocery store for milk tea, Starbucks (not me) for coffee and then off to do as the natives do. Procuring local shops that were home to hilarious hats and grammatically incorrect t-shirts. We capped the day off with a stunt walking sesh' in front of the eight story clothing mall (Seiya said the mall was just like Target. Seiya is a liar.) The rail sesh' consisted of Brad, Seiya and myself balancing and tricking on a bendy rail about twenty feet long. The joy was cut short as an even shorter bowing machine, known as the mall cop, confidently crept out to do his job of policing the fun. I then asked Seiya if he smelled bacon but the humor was lost to Japanese ears.
Please check in for video highlights in the near future!
* Shout out to my little bro Scotty and all the other mules who are solidifying the base.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Here are my notes on research I have been gathering in Japan for the last five days. . .
1. Though counterintuitive, one peace is never enough. If you ever find yourself in a quick fix, (aka a picture of you as ready to be taken) please remember the old adages "one is the loneliest number that you'll ever see" and "say cheese". If you can remember these you will fit in quickly. Two fingers are better than one. More peace is better than one peace. And never forget to ham it up with a cheese-ball grin.
2. When spoken to, repetition and redundancy are your friend. When spoken to, repetition and redundancy are your friend. Take this to the bank. If a Japanese person speaks to you, bow and say hai (pronounced hi). Thats it. Please do not be fooled by the overwhelming speed and strength of their words. Stick to what works. Head bows and "hai's!"
3. Please refer to suggestions one and two.
I will continue to rigorously dissect the Japanese culture and language in an attempt to add a fourth step for you all but until then please stick to the basics.
* i have attached two photos to further prove my point. which one looks more japanese? Betsy was close but forget to give peace a chance.
**while driving in Japan, there is no left or right turn on red. Just stop. It makes for a less interesting story but is much safer in the long run.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
"Death shows us who we are and what our priorities are." - Dan Junker
His main point is this... LOVE, LIVE and CELEBRATE. Do not let life pass you by. Be the person today, you have always wanted to be tomorrow. Forgive. Dance and sing and laugh more. Watch less TV and go on more walks and bike rides. Drink more coffee with friends and play more board games with family. It is this moment that matters. It is the ones you love and the little joys in life that make it all worth while. Tell them, hug them and even celebrate them. LIVE LIFE!
Monday, September 7, 2009
Japan or Bust...
The flights were all for the most part uneventful. Kansas City to Chicago. Chicago to Seattle. And Seattle to Tokyo. Highlights include; meeting a military man named Bryan who just happened to be a crossword genius, sitting within five feet of a dog that did not bark once and getting a Japan or bust chant going with our back half of the Boeing.
Narita International (located in Tokyo) is one crazy melting pot for styles, cultures and hair-dos. After getting off the plane, we followed the well mark chicken/anime signs to customs where I was taken into a back room for what seemed like hours and told that I had to leave the day I was planning on leaving. They also encouraged me to get my passport a haircut and a sponsor.
The next part seemed to us more difficult than retrieving our kid brother back from the creepy grasps of the one and only David Bowie. Instructions were as follows…
1. Get through customs. (Check)
2. Reacquire our luggage that should probably have a blog of their own. (Check)
3. Evade the photo police (too numerous to underestimate) as you try to find the eight foot happy hotdog. (Check)
4. Walk 12 paces north and then 6 east of west to a pay phone. And pay the phone. (Check)
*it should be noted that steps 4 and 5 should be swapped.
5. Exchange cash for yen (Check)
6. It is advised that shiny vending machines and aggressive asian haircuts will hinder your success if you do not keep your eyes on the prize. (Check…kinda)
7. After calling base camp, please wonder aimlessly until you happen across a glass automatic door with "S2" on it in grey letters. (Check)
8. Go through the portal, over two walks for crossing, and await your chariot.
*Chariot is Japanese for taxi van driven by an overly friendly Japanese man hosting a red flag and a lack of understanding and knowledge of the English language. (Check)
And that brings me to the present. I am sitting in the back of this van peering through the uncommonly clean windows at a city that yesterday was on the other side of the world. Its green. Deep green. The kind of green that those zany people tell us all to "GO" to. And its big and shiny. My eyes are tired because the focal point of this moving painting changes as the wheels on the van go round and round.
One final note. Tomorrow has become today. The wrong side of the road has become the right. And that side of the world has become this side of the world. So greetings from the future…it is bright!