New Zealand


McKinleyIt has been nearly a year since I last spoke of my travels. During that time, I don’t want to say that a lot has happened (though it did) but I will say that there were some major developments.

Last January, I found myself in Australia and New Zealand with my cousins. I wrote about my time in Sydney but not much about what came after and what came after was the most important part.

I met up with my cousins in s a place called Surfer’s Paradise which looks remarkably like Florida complete with peach colored high rise condos and beautiful beaches filled with bathing suits and flip flops. The weather was sunny and hot and being with my cousins gave me a lot of warmth and comfort.

It was here that I realized that I wanted to leave Japan and separate myself from it for a bit. Toying with this realization, we started on the next part of our journey: New Zealand.

I think during this time, it was rather difficult for me to appreciate everything I saw and did in New Zealand but I do remember this: despite my sad state of mind, this was still the most beautiful country I had ever seen.

I guess to have you understand just how beautiful it was, I need to explain something else first. My sad state of mind came from months of wondering how I was making a difference in Japan. I was starting to see my job as useless. I felt like the education system in Japan wasn’t supporting the struggles that English teachers faced. I felt my assertiveness and passion slipping away, nailed down like the proverb that gets repeated so much when talking about Japan. I was bound by obligation. Stifled by it. I was losing my creativity and needed to reconnect with myself and my own desires.

LakeMy mind was consumed by these thoughts. So much so that I found it hard to recognize the beauty that was all around me at the time but looking back, I realize some of what I may have missed.

New Zealand was that beautiful. The majestic walls of rock and the snow capped mountains. The beautiful lakes and roads snaking from the top of valleys to the bottom. The quaint architecture of an old gold rush town. It truly was like Middle Earth.

New Zealand stands for “the land of the long white clouds.” The clouds stretch far and long across the ever blue sky. The sun heats your skin despite the chill that is ever present when that close to the South Pole (I’m from Florida, ok?). The air is crisp and clear with nothing but nature and sheep to surround you.

This was how we traveled from Christchurch to Queenstown, surrounded by the spacious beauty of land hardly touched by construction. It was peaceful and calming. It was relaxed and simple.

FarmWe visited a relative’s sheep farm spanning as far as the eye could see. Thousands of sheared sheep roamed the lands. The new sheep dogs were undergoing their training, led by the older pack. They rounded up the sheep for feeding and nipped at each other as they played.

It was the first time I could appreciate the kind of work that goes into a farm. We continued our journey through mountains and came upon Arrowtown, an old mining town where the buildings are much the same as they were back in the late 1800’s. There is only one major road where all the shops are located and home to only 2000 or so residents.

Passing the old style candy shop and local inn, the road leads out towards Queenstown, a popular tourist destination where you can participate in all kinds of activities like parasailing, boating, and, my personal favorite, bungee jumping.

LugeQueenstown was vibrant, modern, and young. You could see franchise restaurants and banks nearby. The lakeside was rich with hotels. It was here that I struck off on my own again, interacting with other travelers and signing up for the bungee and luge at Bob’s Peak.

Here, it is common to take a gondola up the mountain side where you can see the lake and town fading below. At the top, there is a luge. It is basically sledding on asphalt. You have a plastic contraption with a handle bar that you either pull towards you to stop, effectively lifting up the front end or push away from you to speed up.

Along with the luge, there is also a ledge bungee which I had previously told a friend of mine that I would do. I was a bit nervous but mostly excited. I kept talking throughout the set up. I made sure to bend my knees so that they wouldn’t lock up when I got to the ledge. I smiled to the camera. The worker counted down.


I took a deep breath.


I bent my legs.


I stared straight ahead.


I lifted my legs for the first step.


I ran off the ledge.


It was the weirdest sensation. Your legs suddenly have nothing beneath them and your body slowly begins to tilt. Your field of vision is starting to turn towards the ground. Down, down, down and you’re flying.

Now I am careful here with my word choice. I could have said falling but I felt that falling has a bit of a scary element to it. But this, this wasn’t necessarily scary for me. It was beautiful. I felt the wind rushing through my hair and cooling my face. The lake and town looked beautiful from above as you traveled closer and closer and….

Then it was over.

After the jump was finished, I hopped on a plane to Auckland. I enjoyed fish and chips and burritos and walked to the site of a dormant volcano. Last but not least, I visited Hobbiton where I enjoyed a craft beer brewed only at the Green Dragon Inn.

When I boarded the plane from Auckland back to Japan, I was starting to feel more like myself. I felt more alive. I felt resolved. I decided that I would leave Japan in 2015 and go back to America.

Fast forward through February (finishing up classes, thanking teachers), March (packing up my apartment, moving out), April (saying goodbye to my friends in Japan), May (exploring San Francisco for job opportunities), June (resume updates and part time work), July (part time work and interviews), August (interviews and translation work), September (new job in Washington, D.C.), October (understanding my job duties), November (establishing a routine), and finally December (realizing a year has almost passed since New Zealand).

So why is it that I had a revival of interest in New Zealand?

Well, my cousin with whom I traveled to New Zealand with, will be getting married in New Zealand in a few months.



What does travel mean to me?


It is my past, present and future.


It is the context with which I can define home.


It is bravery, compassion and experience all rolled into one little word.




Living abroad was the start of my life. It began as a fourth year in college and since then I haven’t looked back.


Getting on the plane the first time and even the fifth time still sends tingles of excitement sliding down my spine. Who knows what will happen? You get into a metal box thousands of feet in the air and trust that someone will bring you back down safely. It is the ultimate trust fall and yet we make it every day and for different reasons.


For me, travel is adventure in a monotonous routine. It reminds me that I am but one in a huge world. It reminds me that there are beautiful works of arts just waiting to be discovered time and time again. It reminds me that I know next to nothing about the world and the people I share it with.


When I hear people say they have never been out of their country, I am confounded. There are so many things that travel makes clear. Your own culture, for example. Things you may have grown up thinking were unique may actually be a common trait in many cultures and vice versa things you thought meant nothing like standing on the escalator become telltale signs of those from your “world”.

If you want to open your heart, open your eyes and see the world you never knew existed.


$ydney, Auzzie land

I really lucked out again. After breezing through immigration (thank you self check out but why did I need a visa again?) my JET friend and I exited the airport where her family awaited. They lived in Melbourne, just fifteen minutes from the airport and offered to put me up for the four hour layover. The solid two hours of sleep really helped re-energize me for my day in Sydney. It was my only full day so I knew I would be walking around a lot trying to get in all the sights that I could.

131     On the flight over, I met a thirteen year old boy, the same age as my little brother. We talked about school and now his family moved a lot and his goal to be a personal trainer. I told him about studying foreign languages and traveling. I hope I was able to make him look at travel in a more positive light, as a way to build social skills rather than as a disruption to his current life. He mentioned it was hard leaving people behind and it was hard to make friends having been displaced from Perth to Sydney to Melbourne to Brisbane. Saying our goodbyes, I got my first taste of Australian life: confusing signs. I could have sworn one side said go upstairs to the trains but apparently I was wrong. Once I got my bearings, I bought a single ticket to Central Station in Sydney.

Thrill Seeking?     Thankfully the hostel was located right across the street. The staff embodied the Australian image of a fun-­loving, kindhearted, and adventure seeking people. Grabbing a complimentary map and dropping off my luggage, I set off on my day tour of Sydney CBD ( they say city or central business district rather than downtown).

First stop was Hyde Park. It was big and beautiful featuring a memorial in the center. People were strewn about the lawns and joggers made their rounds.101 It was wonderful. I miss seeing that kind of relaxed atmosphere. In Japan, not many people will sit on the ground for fear of dirtying their clothes. When I asked why, my Japanese friend said it was because clothes are so expensive. Well, let me tell you, clothes in Australia are way more expensive and you can still find Australians sprawled over the ground on a sunny day.

After Hyde Park, I walked down to the Sydney Harbor. Following the water, I started to worry when I couldn’t find the famous Opera House but I kept going until I rounded the corner and it appeared.

124     It was just like in Finding Nemo when the fish sing in vibrato, announcing the magical structure. After snapping pictures of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the worlds largest steel bridge, an Australian couple recommended simply following the water around to the Opera House and to do the Bridge Climb.

Following the harbor leads you to the Botanical Gardens. They had some nice flowers but since I am not very knowledgeable about flowers that’s all I am able to tell you. Though I really liked the juxtaposition between the green gardens and the Sydney tower and buildings. One thing that I love about Australia is that there are people of every race and ethnicity. If it wasn’t for the backpacks, cameras, and hats, you would never know who is Australian and who is not. Let’s not even mention that immigrants retain their native languages and speak their language freely on the streets.

152     Arriving at the Opera House, a Macedonian man helped take a picture for me. He has been living in Australia for over twenty years. His children and grandchildren lived near Sydney and he worked for the railroad company. His English was completely self taught and he wished me all the luck in the world, including some for my family.

I spent the next two hours exploring Circular Quay, full of ferries, cafes, and tourist shops, and the Rocks, the first settlement in Sydney which was built by convicts. I loved the Rocks area. It was quaint and full of history written on plaques throughout the area. I lucked out once again in that the Rocks’ Bazaar was open. Stalls of handmade crafts and food lined the street. Wooden watches, handmade trinkets, jewelry, intricate pop up paper cards and my favorite flattened beer bottle clocks and wine bottle cheese dishes. The ladies running the beer bottle stall were Japanese so we chatted and they gave me a discount.


I mentioned earlier that Australian clothes were expensive. Well, in Australia, everything is expensive. It’s almost ridiculous but I found it interesting that water could seem so expensive ($4) but a helicopter ride ($100) seemed so reasonable. Unfortunately the Bridge Climb wouldn’t fit in my schedule.

Knowing I was going to meet a friend in two hours, I headed down George Street enjoying the shops both familiar and not. I loved seeing Sephora but wouldn’t wait in the line, I’m sorry queue, to get in. There were also many workout shops. Australians seem to love he outdoors and embrace workout culture. It was wonderful to see. I know I need to be somewhere where walking around in workout clothes is acceptable.

I made my way down George Street, meandering through various shops and looking at the mix of modern and old(er) buildings until I met up with a Japanese friend. We had met in college but she moved to Australia to work. Together, we explored Darling Harbor and grabbed Sydney craft beers at the Three Monkey’s Pub. I even got fish and chips that went excellent with my pale ale.

Fish and Chips     Amidst drinking and catching up, we talked about drinking culture in Australia. Bars have a no reentry policy after 2:30, meaning, if you go out on a smoke break, you won’t be getting back in. Also, if you are noticeably drunk, they may refuse to serve you. Apparently, it is to help curb crime on the streets.

I’ve noticed that despite how kind and sociable Australians are, they are also forward and take no nonsense. For example, after Sydney, I hopped a train to Brisbane in order to surprise my cousins at the airport. On the train, the staff warned the passengers about smoking on the platforms. “There is no smoking on this train. If you would like to smoke, please grab your bags, exit onto the platform and feel free to smoke for as long as you’d like. We have instructed the staff to lock you out. We thank you for your cooperation on making sure this train is on time.”

Scenery from the Train     On the 14 hour train ride, I got to see a bit of the lush country side. There were pigs and cows and hills that reminded me of the scene in Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth and her Aunt and Uncle travel to Derbyshire. Seeing so much green was surprising. I had always thought that Australia was all desert. I was very much wrong. I guess they would have to have lots of grass to feed all of the cattle.

I arrived in Brisbane around four in the morning and made my way to the airport. I was in contact with my cousin’s boyfriend who had gotten permission for a “friend” to join them on the trip. That “friend” was of course me. I made a sign with their name and stood in front of arrivals. It was a fun surprise.

Afterwards, we all headed to Surfer’s Paradise. Yes that is the name of the city and yes, it really is a surfer’s paradise.

Off to the land Down Under

Whenever I travel with no plan, I always make it out better off.

I left the comfort of my friend’s apartment at 7:50 to make the two hour trip to the airport. There was an option to take a bus from the station closest to my friend’s apartment for 3100 Yen or take a train ride with four different changes for only 1600 Yen. I chose the trains.

Luggage!Of the four legs, two had over 20 minutes on the same train. With my backpack full of clothes and my purse with my iPad and other accessories, standing for a long period of time in a cramped space, didn’t seem very appealing. However, after passing one stop on the first twenty minute leg, a passenger got up and I claimed the coveted corner seat. Lucky!

After changing trains again, I managed to snag a seat on the hour long ride. I was in the center of the bench with an open seat next to me and the corner seat occupied. About thirty minutes in, the corner seat opened up, but a trio of ladies boarded and two of them took the seats beside me leaving one to sit in another section. Luckily, the corner seat across from us, opened up and the woman moved closer to her friends. In an act that can be deemed both kind and cunning, I offered to change my seat with the woman so she could sit with her friends.

Another corner seat until arrival at the airport at 10:15, exactly two hours before take off.

I traversed Narita and after looking up my flight information, headed to G gate to get my ticket only to find a line of what seemed like every passenger in the plane headed towards Melbourne and only four employees to check them all in. A little tired, very hungry and ready to sit down to call my mom, I waited rather patiently for nearly an hour.

A young Japanese man helped me in rather shaky English and we went through the routine, “Where do you live? How long will you be in the country? What seat would you like?” Just as he was about to hit print, he asked, “Do you have a visa?” I was a little thrown. I hadn’t realized you needed a visa. In broken English he directed me to the other side of the airport where we rush ordered a visa application. By that time it was 11:05, only 30 minutes until the time listed as the final time to be at the gate. I ran back to the counter and waited another ten minutes before being helped by the same guy.

I started to question his competency during the first visit but the second time was much worse now with a time limit looming over my head. He punched in my information agonizingly slowly with two fingers rather than using both hands to type. I waited another five minutes before my passes were printed and another minute as he ran over to his coworker to ask a question. As he handed over my ticket, he told me the gate number (written on the ticket) and the boarding time (also on the ticket). He says “You should get to the gate by 11:45.” We both know it’s 11:25 by then and he let’s out an embarrassed laugh as I call out an unenthusiastic thanks while running to security.

I made it through in record time, throwing off my two jackets. Thankfully I had prepared in advance, leaving my liquids and iPad in my purse for easy removal. Blowing through security and filling out my embarkation form like a pro, I raced towards immigration. There are lines as usual and only four or five stations open. In my line, a family was passing through but the three or four year old daughter decides she doesn’t want to go just yet. Seeing this as a potential problem, they open a new line but the people behind me have already rushed in. I’m at T-10 minutes by this point. The child is still refusing and the mother finally grabs her and pulls her through but there are still a few people ahead. Finally, it gets to my turn, and once again, being fully prepared with my boarding pass, visa, passport, and resident card, I breeze through. I begin my run towards gate 87.

Narita doesn’t seem big but when it counts, it will throw you for a loop. It turns out gate 87 is on a different wing. Running on moving sidewalks, dodging people, children, and suitcases, I glanced at the time displayed on the black boards hanging throughout the airport, 11:42. I’m by gate 85 at this point so I go full speed ahead, reach the counter and they’re like “Is something wrong?” A little winded, I show them my ticket and they say, “We’re just about to board!”


Turns out another JET was on the same flight. Recognizing each other, we chatted during boarding.

Can’t say my life isn’t exciting.


Today is a day…

Like any other. Yet, there is something different. Something powerful and propelling: the feeling of liberation, the feeling of freedom.

It is the feeling that you get when jumping off the cliff before crashing into the water. The jump that takes you plunging off the bridge before the bungee cord reels you back in. It is the feeling of excitement, danger and not knowing where you will go, only knowing you will end up somewhere.

It is the freedom of choice and today I chose.

Come August, I will be finding a new job.

Knowing that there is an end makes me want to try harder. I want to leave on a good note. I want to bring smiles to my students’ faces.

As a result of my own insecurities, I tend to waver in my decisions. However, today I stood strong. I declined the chance to stay another year teaching English. Despite words of encouragement, I decided I would not stay ‘safe’ in this job. I will try something new and different and hope doing my best is enough.

In this job, I faced setbacks and problems and I definitely think I could have handled situations better. The devil in me says I am running away. The angel in me says I am looking for what it is I love.

The great part of it is, neither the angel nor the devil matter. It’s my choice. I’m not guaranteed to succeed at what I want to do next but neither am I staying for someone else’s reasons.

I chose. On my own. Thank you for all of your support. I will continue to count on you in the future.

B is for Bread

I would like to write down my thoughts for on this matter because I found it quite amusing as I was pawing through the bread section at the supermarket. 

There were half loaves cut in various thicknesses, rye and a mixture of wheat and flour bread but no loaves of wheat. There were rolls filled with varying flavors: glob of butter, raisins, cream. There was a section of artisan bread: not crusty French bread and packaged croissants.

Then there were the lunch breads: ham and cheese filled un-crustable-like sandwiches, fried chicken sandwiches (no vegetables or cheese), egg salad buns and the like. Rather normal until you get to the fried minced vegetable patty stuffed inside bread, or the fried noodle bread. Carbs inside carbs? Yes please. 

Random traveling

Part one “why not?”

I have a saying called 適当料理 which means I basically throw a bunch of random ingredients together to make a dish. Sometimes it is a hit but sometimes it is a miss. Finally feeling a need to get away from my apartment, I decided to employ this concept with travel to give you 適当旅行. I packed my bags headed out for Tokyo.

Part two “Tokyo: the central gathering point”
In Tokyo I was going to meet a friend. However we could not find time so I decided to get on my way. Having no reservations to stay the night in Tokyo, and all the night buses to Shikoku booked, I did the next best thing: catch a night bus to Hiroshima.

In the end, it was a wonderful occurrence. Lucky even, I think. One of my friends from study abroad lives near Hiroshima so I gave her a call. As luck would have it she was free so I boarded the night bus and began my journey.

Part three “and then I woke up in Hiroshima”
Surprisingly I was able to sleep on the night bus even after vowing I would never take one again. Despite waking up at each rest stop, I felt refreshed when I arrived in Hiroshima after the 11 1/2 hour bus ride.

I headed to the bathroom to freshen up and then went on a search for my favorite momiji manjuu. Typically it is eaten as a dessert or snack but because I love it so much I would eat it even for breakfast.

Stationing myself in a café, I started planning the next looking my journey while waiting for my friend to appear. Sure enough she materialized right beside me and surprised me with a big hug. We chatted and called our friend before beginning our daytrip to see Hiroshima castle.

Surprisingly, neither of us had been inside before since the last time I came, I had arrived too early. Inside, the front desk held my bag (lucky!) and we enjoyed working through the history of the castle.

Afterwords we went to the famous Okonomiyaki village which is a five story tall building with a bunch of okonomiyaki restaurants in it. After devouring an entire Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, we shopped before going our separate ways.