A Self Titled Life- Black and White Re-runs (Day 9)

I woke up this morning with the goal of ditching the city life in Tokyo. It’s a cool city, don’t get me wrong, but it’s too much like any other city. It’s has lots of people, buildings, cars, but not the dirt. I realized the other day that the streets don’t even have as much as a cigarette butt on them. There also is an extreme lack of garbage cans. And by extreme lack I mean none. Another side note- there are hardly any benches here. There’s nowhere to just sit and rest for a minute. Sometimes I’m so tired I genuinely consider laying on the sidewalk 1. because there’s nowhere else for me to go 2. it’s clean and 3. no one can stop me.

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This entire country looks like ‘Divergent’. I won’t let it go. I refuse, I refuse, I refuse.


Out of ten days, today was the only day it rained. We got pretty lucky.













IMG_1004 This is a video of what the train station music is. The little jingle I talked about. It sounds like it’s straight out of Mario Cart. It works best if you right-click the link and open the link in a new window.

So we went to Old Tokyo (at the request of the bassist we met last night in Starbucks.) It really was the raddest place. It was local shops and bakeries that lined the streets. Walking around was like going back to what Tokyo would have been like 40-50 years ago. The first shop we went into was dedicated to cats. Excuse me, it was fantastic. I went into a bakery and ate this asparagus and bacon pizza that probably changed my life for the greater good. Old Tokyo was filled with all the things I hoped I would find while in Japan. I found vases, tea cups, and even wooden painted earrings (which I didn’t exactly imagine prior to coming to Japan, but what are you going to do.) It was filled with things that are a little out-of-place and unique. Walking around the streets was like escaping what is to become apart of what was.


We were in this little tea shop and found Twisty the clown.

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There is one vending machine for every four people in Japan. I just happened to stumble upon one with Dr. Pepper.


This was someone’s walkway up to their front door.

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Stopped in this delicious bakery (with the pizza) and it had all of these superhero figurines. Lights would love it here.


Passed by this shop with hundreds of lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Geez, it was beautiful.

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The cemeteries are just really impressive here.

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This sweet woman worked in the bakery we stopped in. When we asked for her picture she just giggled and couldn’t believe we wanted her picture.























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Street view of Old Tokyo.

After leaving the 1950s, we took a train to Takeshita Dori which was this giant outdoor shopping mall/street/hoopla of people. I think a lot of the things you could buy there you could probably find in a lot of places. It was more for commercial shopping. BUT they did have a sweet sock store where I did, in fact, buy some pretty nifty sick ass socks. I’m pretty stoked about them.


Just a casual street sign.


We stepped foot in the most MASSIVE Starbucks I have ever seen. It was enormous. This was just a small section of the outdoor patio. Claire, we’re moving.


The view for the customers was of the downtown city. We saw the store because of the logo imprinted on the windows six stories up.











What I liked about Takeshita Dori wasn’t the shopping, but the place itself. It seemed like the only place I’ve seen in Japan where people seem to let their hair down. People seemed to walk a little more to their own beat instead of the same beat as everyone else. Also, their was a lot of street art all around. Street art is my favorite kind of art, especially to take pictures of. It was almost like visiting a little piece of America while still being in Japan.


It’s hard to tell but this sign looked like it was made out of thousands of balloons.


This is amazing to me.

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This actually might have been in Old Tokyo but I’m not positive.


This was actually the first piece of art I saw.


IMG_0981 Walked by a store and I was SO excited to hear Fifth Harmony all the way in Japan. That’s all this video is. If you open it I would again,be best to open the link in a new window.

It’s pretty hard to believe this was my last full day here. Sometimes I go on trips and they fly by so fast I feel like I never even left home at all. This trip wasn’t that way at all. We’ve been gone for ten days but it feels more like 10 months. It seems like 30 years ago that I spoke at the symposium which is crazy because I’m only 20. On the other hand, it seems like just yesterday I was on that airplane pretending I wasn’t crying over every movie I watched. I feel like I was able to see so many incredible things, meet so many people, and learn so much about a new place that I didn’t have time to think about all the time passing by. This trip and this place was worth every second of time spent feeling like coming to Japan was just a simple thought or a shot in the dark.


My people in Japan.

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Google Japan. It’ll be so strange not to see this for a long time.


Took a shower and the window of mirror in front of the sink was designed to resist fog. Japan is on point 300% of the time.


Stay Weird.


Current temperature- I’m sweating to death in this sweatshirt.


My Final Weeks in Australia

These last few weeks that I was abroad were definitely the hardest. Everyone began to study for finals about 2 weeks before they actually started. We were given a reading week, basically used just to study, which was very nice because we don’t have that at Oswego. It definitely gave me a lot more time to understand all of the material throughout the whole semester. Even though this was useful for schoolwork, it meant that everyone was hidden away in their rooms or the library for a majority of the time. At the time I wanted to see everyone the most, it was that much harder to do so. Studying was really important but I wanted to see all of my friends before I left.

My first final was on the first Saturday. SATURDAY! I didn’t know that ever happened. It was nice to get one out-of-the-way though. My other two finals were on Monday and Wednesday so there was a good chunk of time in between each to continue studying. As I finished my last final on Wednesday, November 12th, I couldn’t have been more excited! In the morning I was heading to Tasmania for a week to travel around the island. I quickly packed my bag so that I could get a couple of hours of sleep because my flight was at 6 AM. But before all of this happened, I sadly had to say goodbye to my friend Arj who lived in Canberra. He was leaving for home while I was in Tasmania so I had to say my final goodbyes. It was a lot harder than I had expected but I knew we would see each other again.

At 5 AM my friend Scott drove me to the airport for my final vacation in Australia. Tired but excited, I boarded my plane (alone!) that would take 8 hours to take me to Hobart, Tasmania (that included a stopover and an hours time difference). It was exciting to be able to travel on my own for once but it is always more fun to travel with a friend however all of them still had finals. I knew this would be an amazing experience to meet new people from around the world and to see one last part of this amazing country. Once I landed in Hobart, I boarded a bus that took me to my hostel. It was such a beautiful place and I ended up getting a room all to myself for the night! I put all of my bags down and decided to take a walk around the city before everything closed at 5 PM! It is a small city, only 200,000 people in total but the largest in all of Tasmania. It has a lot of older buildings with a lot of history. Dinnertime came around and I decided to get some Chinese food from the restaurant next to my hostel. I ate and was exhausted from all of my travelling so I headed to bed because my tour guide was picking me up at 7 AM the next morning for a 5-day tour around the island.


Welcome to Hobart!









I woke up the next morning and met my tour guide, Rhen, and boarded our bus. Another woman, Felicity from Germany, was already on the bus. We then picked up 5 more people, an older couple from San Francisco, Nicklas from Germany, and Yannick and Axel from France. As we left Hobart, we all got to know each other. We rode to a few waterfalls in the rainforest on the western coast of Tasmania to begin with. It was a lovely and cold walk through the forest. The western coast of Tasmania was extremely cold compared to Townsville. Townsville was constantly humid and at least 90 degrees Fahrenheit while Tasmania was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a good thing I brought a few pairs of pants and long-sleeved shirts with me! One the same day we stopped at Lake St Clair for lunch. I had bought a loaf of bread and PB&J for the week and the first thing I hear is, “you are so American.” We arrived in the small town of Strahan which had about 500 residents and settled into our rooms at our hostel. We all made a barbecue dinner together and ate outside while we talked more. Bedtime came early again but not before I video chatted with my parents so they could feel a little better about me travelling by myself.

Lake St Clair

Lake St Clair

Tasmanian waterfall

Tasmanian waterfall







Saturday was boat cruise day. We boarded the Eagle run by World Heritage Cruises and sailed towards the Southern Ocean and through Hell’s Gates. This was where prisoner’s from the mainland came through on their way to Sarah Island, the place where the prisoner’s were kept and were worked many years ago. The boat stopped here and our fantastic tour guide told us all about the island and prisoners and the stories of all of their lives. We also saw aquaculture pens for salmon and trout at Liberty Point and sailed down Gordon River. We were served lunch on the boat as well while the captain shared history about the area. The ship returned to Strahan by stopping at the Morrison’s Huon Pine Sawmill so the family could do a demonstration and tell us about their business. To end this relaxing day, Rhen took us to the longest beach in Tasmania where we played Frisbee and went for a walk.

Rhen and Nicklas playing Frisbee

Rhen and Nicklas playing Frisbee

Such a beautiful cruise!

Such a beautiful cruise!







The next day was a hiking day!! It was one of my favorites. We left Strahan and headed to Lake St Clair National Park where we saw the beautiful Cradle Mountain. The hike up to the top of the mountain next to it was fantastic. There were chains along the way to help you pull yourself up and the hike was only about an hour to the top with amazing views of the surrounding park area. This was probably my favorite day out of the 5-day tour. It made me realize the type of environment I want to live in when I’m out on my own. The mountains and the lakes were stunning and I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing view. This long day in the park lead to us driving to Launceston, the second largest city in Tasmania, where we checked into our hostel and relaxed for the night. Sadly, Nicklas and Felicity had to leave but we picked up 3 new people; Tiffany was from Arizona and we also picked up a Danish couple, Jan and Meredithe.

Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain







In the morning, before Felicity left, we all went on a nice walk through Cataract Gorge in Launceston. It was such a beautiful sunny day filled with flowers, peacocks and a beautiful walk. From here, Rhen drove us to the Bay of Fires! This area is on the east coast of Tasmania and is basically a large area of beaches with sand that squeaks and extremely blue waters. So, this day was a beach day. I collected some shells, saw a wild echidna and platypus and took so many photographs. Although the east coast was so much warmer than the west, sadly it was still not warm enough to go swimming.

Wild Echidna!

Wild Echidna!

Launceston Cataract Gorge

Launceston Cataract Gorge

Bay of Fires

Bay of Fires





The final day on the tour was another hiking day. We entered Freycinet National Park, home of Wineglass Bay. Rhen had mentioned that the hike up to the top of Mount Amos, which overlooked the bay at its highest point, was really difficult. I had done quite a bit of hiking back home so I was excited to give it a go. The only other person who wanted to try the hike was Yannick so we headed up the mountain together while the rest headed towards the lower spot that led down to the beach. The hike was a lot more difficult than I expected! It was a flat rock face for a majority of the hike and it was extremely steep! We had to put our feet and hands in cracks in the rocks so that there was something to hold onto. The hike although difficult was not very long and we reached the top of the mountain in about 1 hour and it was absolutely worth it. The views were unbelievable and made for some wonderful pictures and memories. From here, we climbed back down which took a bit longer. It was actually really scary because it was so steep. We both slipped a few times and after sliding down the rocks on my butt, we made it to the bottom where we met the rest of the group. After Freycinet, we drove to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary where we met some furry animals and fed some kangaroos. Our tour guide gave us a talk about each animal, most of which were rescued from the wild while some were born at the sanctuary. Sadly, this was the last stop on the trip. The drive back to Hobart took a couple of hours because the Chinese President was in town, making for a bit more traffic than usual. But we finally made it back and I said farewell to all of my new friends. I checked back in at my hostel (I stayed at the same one I had the first night in Hobart) and met my roommates. One girl flew from Sydney just to see the Chinese President (she was from China and studying in Sydney). She said that everyone had lined up along the road on the sidewalk so they could simply have a glimpse of their president however they sadly never saw him. Another roommate was from Denmark and had just arrived to Tasmania and was trying to find things to do. I shared my experiences with her and hoped she got the opportunity to enjoy her trip.

Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary: Wombats

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary: Wombats

Kangaroo mob

A group of kangaroos is a mob








The next day I boarded a bus back to the airport. My flight was at 1 PM and went from Hobart to Melbourne to Brisbane and finally to Townsville. It took me 10 hours of travelling to reach uni where I would only stay for another 30 hours before I left for good. My final day was relaxing. I took one last walk around campus picking up papers and getting a few souvenirs to bring home. I spent quite a bit of time with friends that day. We had dinner together and eventually went out to town to celebrate the end of such a great semester. I couldn’t help but get emotional a few times throughout the night. I was the first one to leave which made it so much harder. I did not want to go AT ALL. I knew it would be hard to say good-bye but I never thought it would be that hard. I made such good friends over the 4 months I spent abroad and that’s what was the hardest to leave behind. They are all such amazing people who I hope I get to see again one day. It’s very cliché, but I know that this was more of a see you later.

I have been home in the USA for about 3 weeks now. It has taken me this long to finish my last blog about my travels because I knew once it was written that it would be the very end of it all. There is no amount of words that could explain what I got to experience abroad and it can only truly be understood if you take the opportunity to do so yourself. So, take advantage of all of these opportunities given to you now. This is the time to see the world, meet new people and make amazing memories. I have grown so much as a person and travelling has taught me to be more independent and more comfortable being myself. If you want to experience something truly breathtaking, all you have to do is travel.

A Self Titled Life- Safest Haven (Day 7)

I think so far every blog has been about ‘my favorite day’ and then I get to the next day and have a new favorite thing. Well, I’m keeping the trend. Today was my favorite day. We went back to Kyoto (there were no deer, praise the heavens) and visited two of the most beautiful and peaceful places I have ever stepped foot in.



How does one even caption this picture?


This looks like a little smurf house by a stream!


The leaves on most of the trees are so small compared to a lot of the leaves in America. They’re like mini leaves.


I could live in these gardens. Also- there were no bugs and/or spiders. So honestly.. I could live here.


The first place was called Kinkaku-Ji which was the temple of the Golden Pavilion. The second was the Ryoanji Temple. Both of these places were these beautiful outdoor garden/trails filled with nature. It reminded me a little of central park and how there’s this big, bustling city a few feet away but in the park, you’re almost in another world removed from the rest. Even though it’s winter here, it looks like fall. It’s really hard to go on and on about this because there’s nothing to really describe if someone has never seen it. I think it’s one of those see it for yourself to understand it type of things.


I think the scenery around the building was more impressive than the actual pavilion itself.


I’m hands down the worst selfie taker. I really haven’t had a lot of practice.


This place was seriously amazing.


There was this little cluster of statues with a metal bowl in the middle and I banked a coil into the bowl on the first shot. It’s not as impressive unless you know that I have not a drop of aim. I’m hoping it means my wish will come true because I liked what I wished for.


What not to wear- Guard edition.
























I feel like this blog post would be kind of short if I ended it there, so I made a list of all the different things that are unique in Japanese hotels. One thing is that there are full-sized shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles in the bathroom. When I asked why (because in America there is no way this would happen) it’s because the Japanese people know that no one will steal them. This is a very honorable and trusting culture. Also, the peephole in the door is a good 5-6inches lower than it is in American hotels. It is probably to accommodate any height differences. In both the hotels we’ve stayed in, they provide pajamas for you to sleep in. Hmm.. what else. Oh! You also get a packaged toothbrush, toothpaste, and q-tips in the bathrooms. Last thing- they take care of the stuffed friends you bring along on your trip. (These are just my perspectives/observations from the two hotels I’ve stayed in, so I can’t say this about all hotels in Japan but just for these particular ones.)



I look forward to coming back to the hotel to see Hillary. I can’t get over how cute this is.















Side note- There is a different song that plays when the train comes into the station and the very beginning sounds like the opening scene in ‘The Fault In Our Stars’. Most people wouldn’t remember that, but I’ve seen the movie seven times. It’s getting ridiculous.


So apparently on Christmas there are lines and lines of people at KFC. That’s certainly one way to celebrate the holidays.


The Costanza’s play the ‘punch bug game’ but finding a yellow punch bug automatically means you win for the day. My mother finds one in Japan. She won. She smoked us all for the rest of eternity.














We’re heading to Tokyo tomorrow morning but I’m honestly sad to leave Osaka. I’ve had so much fun here and met quite a few unforgettable people. I really hope to come back here someday. I know that when I do I’ll have people to visit as well as places I know I’ll want to go. I really don’t want to leave just yet.

Bye Osaka. I’ll miss you dearly.

Stay Weird.


Current wish- That my suitcase would repack itself.

A Self Titled Life- Some Time (Day 6)

We explored a city called Nara today. Compared to Osaka and Kyoto, it was a more residential area. It was quieter and had a slower pace to it. When we got to the city we walked down this street full of shops and visited two different temples. The first place was Kofukuji temple. It had a gigantic five tier pagoda and when I tried to get a picture in front of it, I looked like an ant. Just a teeny weenie tiny little human. What’s really crazy is that it was built and restored BEFORE the thought of America even existed.


See what I mean? Peanuts. The entire temple didn’t even make it into the picture.


One of the streets in Nara. Really cool place.














Before climbing the stairs to the temple grounds, there was a cemetery and each headstone had a cup of tea in front of it.


There was another purification station at the temple but tell me this doesn’t look like Mushu from Mulan!














The pagoda was honestly a really impressive structure.

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Serious. Very serious people.


The temple of  Kofukuji. There are a lot of orange temples in Japan.












The second place we visited was the shrine of one of the biggest Buddhas in Japan. Let me tell you, it was enormous. The temple was called Todai-ji and for the record, seeing a giant Buddha was the entire reason I was stoked for this trip. It was mammoth. The temple itself is the largest wooden structure in the world. Basically, there was nothing about this temple that wasn’t impressive. The statue of the Buddha was probably taller than a football field. I’m going to put some pictures but they’re not even close to how incredible it was. I’m telling you- if you ever make it to Japan, you have got to make it apparent to see the temple of a thousand Buddhas in Kyoto and the Buddha statue in Todai-ji temple in Nara. Point, blank, period.


The largest wooden structure in the world was renovated to be 33% smaller than the original. Believe me, you would never know.

This was my favorite. My entire life has led up to this Buddha.


This is the scale of the actual buddha’s hand on the statue.















I cannot get over this Buddha.


Even the decor statues around the Buddha were incredible.













Nara was such a chill place that these two enormous structures just rest in the middle of the city. That seems nuts to me to just live by these incredible places and see them everyday. Okay, but the equal best/worst part of this city is the deer. Yeah, the deer. Probably hundreds of deer run amuck throughout the city. I’m not kidding, people buy biscuits and feed the deer. They pet the deer. They take pictures with the deer. They get bullied by the deer when they run out of food. Then the deer go wild and shred your bag to get into the food you didn’t even know you had. Besides the dirt, aggressive behavior, and mass amounts of poop, the deer are just grand.


The deer booked it into the streets and the cars slammed their breaks. There are powerful creatures ruling Nara, without an iron fist (deer don’t have thumbs.)


Throughout all of Japan the sewer heads have been so intricate. Nara included.













I seem to be a little angry about the deer- I’d say we aren’t friends. I tried to pet a deer and I was almost died in the process. It’s like the episode of Spongebob when Gary hangs out with Patrick to get the cookie in his shorts. “HE ONLY LIKED ME FOR MY SHORTS.” That was my day with the deer.


I worked up the guts to pet the deer, and it tried to kill me.


I’m not kidding when I say that beast gnawed a hole through my bag..and my heart.













I’m really banking on there being no deer tomorrow. Although, when we were standing in Nara park all of a sudden ALL of the deer just took off together in a herd towards the forest. It was like a combination of an olympic marathon and the stampede in the Lion King. Truthfully, if I never see a deer up close again, I wouldn’t be too upset about it.


They sell shampoo in bags at the drug store.


Just hanging’ out with the boyfriend.




Maybe it’s because I think regular cemeteries are cool, but the cemeteries in Japan are a whole new level of amazing.











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These guys were slamming these huge wooden hammers into this green candy dough while chanting. The candy has an acquired taste and it’s one that I don’t have.














Stay weird.


Current snack- peanut butter and crackers

A Self Titled Life- Make Up Your Own Steps (Day 5)

Hi. Guess what? So much has happened today I don’t know where to even begin. I’ll start with an edit from yesterdays blog. I have made an incredible amount of friends and met so many new people but I did not mention everyone in the blog post from yesterday. I kind of felt bad about that. I also didn’t mention my FAVORITE part of the symposium which was when I found out Manami (our partner) listens to Paramore and Fall Out Boy. I’m aware these could be average facts for most humans, but for the human, (me) they’re game changers. Manami and I are now best friends. It happened. It’s real. She might not even know.

I'm going to throw away all of my clothes and pack my suitcase with these candies. You don't understand. I'll be bringing so many home.

I’m going to throw away all of my clothes and pack my suitcase with these chocolates. You don’t understand. I’ll be bringing so many home.

I have no idea what we are doing but I really love this picture.

I have no idea what we are doing but I really love this picture. Taken across the tracks of the subway station.











Moving swiftly along. TODAY we did some pretty incredible things. First, we went to Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto which was like a temple trail. I’m not entirely sure how to explain this without being incredible disrespectful but there was this orange temple and then smaller ones all around it. Then you could follow these trials that slowly worked itself up a mountain with more private and serene temples. I guess they could be compared to checkpoints on the way to the top. What was really cool was the bamboo growing in the forest alongside the trail. We actually never made it to the top but what are you going to do.

A lot of the walking paths i the beginning of the trail were under these tall orange beams.

A lot of the walking paths at the beginning of the trail were under these tall orange beams.


The opening building to the Fushimi Inari shrine. The color was so bright, I loved it.


After a tsunami hit Japan, people from around the world sent paper cranes and they were hung around the walls in one of the shrines.

People could make wishes to the whomever then believe will hear their private wishes.

People could make wishes to the whomever they believe will hear their private wishes.

Before you enter the shrine you are asked to purify yourself with these instructions.

Before you enter the shrine you are asked to purify yourself with these instructions.

This was the purifying station.

This was the purifying station.

The architecture was incredible. We didn't even make it inside before we took a million pictures.

The architecture was incredible. We didn’t even make it inside before we took a million pictures.

The water was so cold..or maybe that was the purification working.

The water was so cold..or maybe that was the purification working.









































After that we took a train to a different part of Kyoto to see the temple of one thousand Buddhas. This was easily the most amazing thing we’ve seen on this trip. You have to take your shoes off at the door and put on slippers that the shrine provides for all the guests. You walk into this long room and there are seriously no less than a thousand gold statues lined up for what goes on for what seems like 70 miles. They’re all a little bit different from the one next to it, but the rustic look and the detail is incomparable to anything I’ve ever seen before. The first thing that immediately popped into my head when I saw them was the chess game in the Harry Potter movie. Totally different, but that’s the vibe I got. In front of the rows and rows of statues, there are I think 12 different stone statues of the deities with descriptions of where they are believed to have come from and what they symbolize in the Buddhist religion. Some of the statues had crystals for eyes and it made it look like they were living people trapped inside stone cases. (A little like Mr Krabs when he’s trapped in the ice in The Spongebob Movie.) Anyways, in the middle of the 12 statues there is this enormous Buddha that looks like it is floating in the air. It was easily two stories tall. The entire thing in unable to be described with pictures or in words. If anyone wants to ever see it, I’ll just have to bring you back to Kyoto. It’s worth the flight, I swear.


In both the temples I was so intrigued by the way beliefs brought people from all walks of life together.


The slippers we wore in the shrine. If anyone walked past my boots I took off they probably died on the spot from the smell.














While I loved the two places we were able to explore, my favorite part of this day was afterwards when we were lost on the train So we board a train back to Osaka (where the hotel is) and until we get off the train, I honestly had no idea if we were even heading remotely in the right direction. Long story short- 4 hours later we made it back home. It was supposed to be a thirty minute trip. Between you & I, I thought I was going to die in the Japan train station. I could see my end and I’m lucky to be alive. You’re lucky I’m dramatic, otherwise this blog would be all about facts. The thought bores me.

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In the Kyoto train station there was a Christmas celebration with a massive tree, music, and a holiday lights show.

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This tree in the Kyoto train station was probably over 8 eight stories tall. We kind of stumbled along this display unintentionally. I’m so thrilled that we did though.

All in all, it was a good one. I’ve been throwing around the idea, in my own head, that I could see myself one day living in Japan. It’s such a stunning country filled with the kindest people. I don’t have to take into consideration the fact that I dress differently because I would stick out anyways so why try to avoid it. I do think there are a lot of things in the culture and society that would clash with my own personality and beliefs. Honestly, who knows. Right now my number one place to live is Africa where I can ride a giraffe all day, everyday. THAT would be the life.

I shouldn't be invited anywhere professional. I'm just not cutout for the serious life.

I shouldn’t be invited anywhere professional. I’m just not cutout for the serious life.

MY FAVORITE SNIPE OF THE TRIP. Even in spiritual places, cracks are invited.

MY FAVORITE SNIPE OF THE TRIP. Even in spiritual places, cracks are invited.











Get ready for whatever lies ahead tomorrow.

Stay weird.


Current seating arrangement- tucked in bed.


Marissa’s Japan adventure Blog post #2

Day 2: Osaka

Everyone. is. so. nice. SERIOUSLY EVERYONE. Take our waitress for example- I asked her how to say “water” in Japanese and because she wasn’t too sure of her English, she found someone to help her and she drew a picture to explain it to me! She really went out of her way to try and help me, something I’ve noticed many people here do, especially in Osaka. We are also having a difficult time with the trains here because everything is basically written in Japanese characters… and no one in our group can read any of it. Problematic, yes I know. Every single person I have asked directions from on the trains can’t speak a word of English, yet they all go completely out of their way to try and help you! We have had people walk us right over to the platform we needed because they couldn’t figure out how to say it in English. Slightly different from the train stations in New York, huh?!

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Now today was the day we got to actually meet the Japanese students, so needless to say I was pretty excited! In all honestly, I was kind of nervous as well, because I didn’t know what they thought of our students, or Americans in general. As a culture, Japanese people are pretty polite and they are not blatant at all in what they say (generally unlike many Americans). Sometimes this is kind of nerve-racking because you aren’t sure whether they actually like you or if they are just being nice… I am much more equipped to deal with people who tell it like it is I think! However, I could not get over the overwhelmingly positive response we got from the Kansai students!! It was such a relief. They aren’t really a hugging kind of culture… it is actually part of their culture to bow when they meet people. But after we introduced ourselves formally they came running over to meet us and hug us! I physically couldn’t stop smiling because it was such a warm feeling. Everyone was also so excited to talk to us and practice their English!

With some of the Kansai students today at the university!

Kansai University

Kansai University

Ally and I were invited to stay and have dinner with the students on campus, and they were so awesome that we ended up staying for two hours talking, getting to know one another and our cultures, and just having a good time. Best part of the day? The Kansai students wrote my name for me in Japanese characters!! What I didn’t know is that there are actually two different ways to write it in Japanese, and a third way to write it in Chinese Kanji. (what they call the characters.) So here is a picture of all three! COOL RIGHT?!?! They made my day!


It was pretty incredible to see how infectious all of the smiling and laughing was as we got to know each other and the different things about our cultures. It really goes to show that no matter what language you speak, some emotions are just universally understood! Stay tuned…


Marissa Sarbak

A Self Titled Life- Find the Words (Day 4)


The symposium was today so we headed over to the University at about 9 am. (I’m getting really good at using the subway. I probably could get to somewhere really cool then get lost and never find my way home.) The symposium went well and we had about seven Kansai students present with us on stage. The audience really took an interest in the student responses and thoughts on our personal COIL experiences. I think our participation might have really influenced some of the other attending professors to participate in COIL themselves, which I love. I mean without COIL I wouldn’t be sitting next to Marissa on a hotel bed in Japan typing this blog post. (For the record, Marissa is only pretending to type hers next to me.)

Made it to the University! Its pretty beautiful.

Made it to the University! It’s a pretty beautiful place.

At the Symposium with Maho and Marissa.

At the Symposium with Maho and Marissa.











Thats a fine looking crew.

That’s a fine-looking crew.


List of the student presenters at the symposium.

List of the student presenters at the symposium. It’s no big deal.






I felt like a very big deal. My name tag paper was even taped to the table. (I did steal it. I'm bringing it home)

I felt like a very big deal. My name tag paper was even taped to the table. (I did steal it. I’m bringing it home






After the presentation we took a tour of the University with some of the students in the class we worked with. The campus is so big compared to Oswego and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s winter in Japan but it’s about 50 degrees and most of the trees look like it’s fall, so the campus is full of color. We passed by students outside who were interpretive dancing in a group on the sidewalk. Also, there were students with their instruments just jamming in front of one of the buildings. Kansai has around 27,00 students. I feel like if most of the Japanese students didn’t commute like they do, the lines for the showers would take about thirty-seven years.

The holiday drinks at Starbucks are unique in Japan too. (Also apparently they are really very sweet.

The holiday drinks at Starbucks are unique in Japan too. (Also, apparently they are really very sweet.

PAULINE AND MEG. I FOUND A MCDONALDS. too bad its in Japanese and  I couldn't read it!

PAULINE AND MEG. I FOUND A MCDONALD’S. Too bad it’s in Japanese and I couldn’t read it!


We left the University and headed down to the ShinSaiBashi-Suji which is an ENORMOUS outdoor shopping mall. The beginning of it looks like the Time Square of Japan. There were these Christmas lights that hung from the beginning of the street all the way down to the end. By the time we got there I was wearing these high heel dress shoes. (Let me give you some background info- I don’t wear heels. That’s enough background.) The problem was that I couldn’t buy a cheep pair of shoes to change into because most shoes come in three sizes- small, medium, and large. So it’s safe to say I bought no shoes. Also, most of the traditional Japanese clothing stores have sizes called feminine and male. It’s just one size for each. So again, I bought no clothing. But that’s okay! I bought two cool pairs of socks and a blueberry face mask. We put the face masks on and we looked like we are on our way to our Blue Man group auditions.

ShinSaiBashi-Suji was incredible. Almost better than New York.

ShinSaiBashi-Suji was incredible. Almost better than Time Square in New York, but not quite.

I had sushi for the very first time tonight with Sophia! If I'm going to have it anywhere, might as well be in Japan!

I had sushi for the very first time tonight with Sofia! I figured if I’m going to have it anywhere, might as well be in Japan!

This donut is the reason for my existence on this earth. It was some some sort of salted caramel nut slice of heaven.

This donut is the reason for my existence on this earth. It was some sort of salted caramel nut slice of heaven.

These boots were in a sm, md, lg store and they made me think of Hayley Williams. So naturally, I took a picture.

These boots were in a sm, md, lg store and they made me think of Hayley Williams. So naturally, I took this picture.

The international gang. (left to right) Maho, Jenni, Marissa, Me, & Sophia.

The international gang. (left to right) Maho, Jenni, Marissa, Me, & Sofia.













We went to the shopping center with Maho, Jenni, and Sofia which were three of the Kansai Students. (Maho is from Japan, Jenni is on exchange from Australia, and Sofia is on exchange from England.) I truly feel like meeting them was the entire reason COIL should be brought to other classrooms and people. You not only learn about cultures and whatnot, but it gives you the opportunity to meet and create relationships with people you would otherwise never meet. If I never took this class or participated in COIL I wouldn’t have made these friends or learned as much as I did. I’ve taken more away from this single class and this single experience than I have from anything else I have done in my entire educational career. This experience has given me such a wider perspective on the world and a better understanding of the people who live in it. Maybe it’s fair to say it didn’t give me the understanding, but really the curiosity to learn by going places to talk and ask questions. There’s so much to learn that can’t be found on google, which seems insane, but I think it’s true. I said it yesterday but I’m going say it again (because this is my blog and no one can stop me) I am so grateful for this experience. I have international friends that I can talk to and meet up with one day in the future. Or they can come to America and stay with me. If it wasn’t for COIL I would have never had the opportunity to meet these remarkable people. This semester might be finished but I think the doors and relationships that this experience has opened up to me are going to stay with me for a long, long time. I’m hopeful it will be forever.

Did you think I'd forget my favorite day of the week? Happy Sick Ass Sock Saturday- Japan Edition! #SASS

Did you think I’d forget my favorite day of the week?! Happy Sick Ass Sock Saturday- Japan Edition! #SASS Japanese socks are like mittens for your feet.

Every day the nice lady that cleans our room tucks Hillary into my bed. She's probably such a sweetheart.

Everyday the nice lady that cleans our room tucks Hillary into my bed. She’s probably such a sweetheart.












Stay Weird.


Current face smell- Catastrophe Cosmetic Blueberry


A Self Titled Life- Leaving A Key (Day 3)

Today was by far, hands down, no questions asked, my favorite day of this trip. Point, blank, period. We got to meet with the Kansai University students today and they were so sweet and excited to meet us that I just don’t know how to form a coherent sentence about how happy this entire experience has made me. Wow. I’m so incredibly grateful to be here.


There was an entire Christmas village outside of the floating gardens. This was part of the carousel. Unfortunately, Jimmy Darling was’t there. I found out from the students that while a lot of Japanese people do not celebrate the religious aspect of Christmas, a lot of people are enthusiastic about the decorations that come with the season.

He was in the Christmas village. He's adorable.

He was in the Christmas village. He’s adorable.










We started off the day by going into downtown Osaka to visit the floating gardens (spoiler alert- it actually is not even a garden.) It’s a giant building that you ride up in a glass elevator to the 39th floor. When you buy your ticket it comes with a blank silver paper star. It’s actually an ornament and you can write a wish on the back and hang it anywhere in the room. There were easily thousands of stars hanging on the windows, trees, and tables from all over the world. It was like adding your wish to the story of thousands before you. That was a pretty awesome thing.

You get to walk along the floor of the building which opens into a 365 degree open walk with a view of Osaka in its entirety. It was incredible. The view was unbelievable. I really had no idea how enormous Osaka was until I saw it from all the way up there. I’m sure I have a picture or thirty to add but I swear it doesn’t do it justice. Most of the buildings here (at least in Osaka) are modern but also not modern looking. I’m convinced that this city looks like the set of ‘Divergent’. (Again, I don’t have a good enough picture to prove that either.)

This picture just doesn't do justice to the view on the top of the floating gardens. This is just a little section of Osaka.

This picture just doesn’t do justice to the view on the top of the floating gardens. This is just a little section of Osaka.


My silver star in the floating  gardens.

My silver star in the floating gardens.

A little section of the silver stars in the floating gardens.

A little section of the silver stars in the floating gardens.

Amy hanging up the stars with the rest.

Amy hanging up the stars with the rest.

This was the shot while we were coming down the escalator at the floating gardens.

This was the shot while we were coming down the escalator at the floating gardens.



















So after that we made our way to the Osaka Castle, which was stunning. The amount of detail and beauty in the building is honestly breathtaking. We had to hike up to the castle and I was certain I was going to die before I made it to the top. I would have gone out with one of those dramatic lines like “save yourselves” then layed on the pavement with one arm stretched in the air…I watch too many movies.

The Osaka Castle from the walk up to it. The stones and land around the castle is so beautiful. Its also fall here which makes everything look more incredible.

The Osaka Castle from the walk up to it. The stones and land around the castle is so beautiful. It’s also fall here which makes everything look that much more beautiful.

I'm so convinced this city looks like the 'Divergent' set.

I’m so convinced this city looks like the ‘Divergent’ set.

I'm not kidding when I said I took thirty pictures of this castle.

I’m not kidding when I said I took thirty pictures of this castle.


Again, the Osaka castle.













What was really funny is that when we were in the castle there were quite a few grade school  aged students looking around the inside of the castle. Side note- its not really the kind of castle you probably thing of when you think ‘castle’. The inside was totally renovated and it just looked like an ordinary museum. For me it was the outside that I really loved. So anyways, the students all had different color hats on and I was thinking maybe they wear different color hats for different grade levels? Or maybe it has to do with different schools. I have no idea, but its a unique idea to have the different hats. The kids kept staring at us and they were almost mesmerized with how we looked because we look different. If you would wave or smile at them and they would get so excited and giggle. It really was so cute.


A pond outside of the castle. It looked so peaceful.

A pond outside of the castle. It looked so peaceful.

I'm no entirely sure what these are but I thought they were interesting.

I’m no entirely sure what these are but I thought they were interesting.


Some art on the walk to the top of the castle.

The walk towards the castle.

The walk towards the castle.



















NOW the best for last. We visited Kansai University today to meet with the students we’ve been working with for the first time. As we were walking over there, I was so excited to meet them and then when I actually did it blew all of my expectations to smithereens. All of the students were so friendly and excited to talk to us, I felt like a celebrity. They took us on a quick tour of the university and one of the girls interrupted the tour to ask if she could take a selfie with me. I felt like a big deal! Afterwards we got to hang out with the students for hours and have dinner with them. I’ve learned so much about Japan, the culture, the city, and everything else from them all. Things I couldn’t learn from any book. They told us where to go for all you can eat ramen and how to say things in Japanese (including my name). I actually took a picture of it because I would have never remembered how to say everything.

With some of the Kansai students today at the university!

With some of the Kansai students today at the university!

In the box is three different ways to say 'Ally'

In the box are three different ways to say ‘Ally’

Some of the words I learned tonight in Japanese.

Some of the words I learned tonight in Japanese.

They're so sweet i just can't even.

They’re so sweet I just can’t even.





















Most of the students were from Japan, but a few of them were exchange students from Australia and England. I loved talking with them all. Every last second. I came home tonight with 5 Facebook friend requests. Honestly, I loved today so much and I have international friends now. *flips hair* yeah, it’s no big deal.

Found this bridge type thing over shallow water. It was really neat to walk over.

Found this bridge type thing over shallow water. It was really neat to walk over.


Japan has wild cats just walking around. Moral of the story I am moving to Japan.

I'm telling you. Divergent.

I’m telling you. ‘Divergent’.

Tomorrow is the symposium and I am excited to see all of these students again. We’re all set to go for tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to the presentation. Plus, we have plans with our new friends tomorrow night, so whats not to be excited about? I’m really so thankful to be on this trip and just don’t think I can say it enough no matter how many times I say it. Also, Osaka looks like Divergent. I can’t stop saying that either.

Stay Weird.


Current jam- “Little Machines’ by Lights

A Self Titled Life- Sleepless People (Day 2)

Made it to day 2! Its 4:36 pm in Osaka, Japan on December 4. It’s very strange to be around 11 hours ahead of everyone back home. We also kind of lost a day when we got here because of the time difference. On the bright side it’s almost 5 am in New York but I feel like I am pretty adjusted to the time difference. Going home on the other hand and readjusting, is going to be a killer..

These signs are imprinted all over the streets in Tokyo. It seems like a really clean, eco-friendly city to be in. Theres a lot of people but not like New York City.

These signs are imprinted all over the streets in Tokyo. It seems like a really clean, eco-friendly city to be in. Theres a lot of people but not like New York City.

After walking around last night and walking back to the train station this morning, I realized everything is so clean here. The streets, trains, subways, stations, and the people too! Everyone also seems to dress in nicer clothing. Maybe that’s because it’s a Thursday morning and people are on their way to work but nevertheless, there have been quite a few dress shoes and heels. Oh and a lot of black clothing. I should fit in here.


Some of the signs in the Tokyo train station. There actually is a lot more written and spoken English than I thought there would be!


I swear these were pulled right off the set of ‘The Giver’



On the train into Tokyo last night and getting on the train this morning, first of all, there always seems to be a million people. Second, the doors open and this little Mario Cart or Wii game sounding jingle  plays in the stations. Everyone is frantically running in different directions trying to get on the train and off all at the same time and there is the adventure jingle playing in the background. If it had words they would say “on your mark. Get set. GET ON THE TRAIN MORE IT OR LOST IT” I almost want to give the people I’m with a high-five for leveling up in the game of getting on the train and not being left behind. It always makes me think of ‘Home Alone’ when they’re booking it though the airport to make their flight. Also, I sat next to this man on the train  into Osaka this morning and it turns out he lived in Minneapolis for 7 years! I’m not from Minneapolis nor have I ever been there, but I thought it was pretty exciting.


just some casual tubes of cream cheese


I thought this was so interesting. Its cream of pumpkin soup. I didn’t know this even existed.











Besides being impeccably clean, it seems like a lot of the advertising is in the stations and on the subways. Tokyo seems like an average city (comparable to New York City..sort of) but there is so little advertising on the streets and on the buildings. It’s all inside the stations which is kind of interesting. There’s also vending machines on the streets. Just free-standing machines every few feet filled with teas, waters, and other kinds of things.


I’m surprised at the number of Christmas trees and decorations I’ve seen. There was a giant tree outside of the Tokyo train station. Not as big as the Rockefeller tree, but what is?

We’re on the train heading to Osaka (where the students and the symposium is) and the homes that are all along the side of the mountains have an islandy vibe to them. There were also quite a few baseball fields along the way.




Visited a grocery store in Osaka. Melon is like an edible treasure. These cantaloupe were around $30 and there were ones with gold bows in individual boxes for $50.


Rice crispy treat tubes.


There was no way I would have passed up the opportunity to take a picture of the packaged octopus. I wish I could come up with some kind of octopus pun for this caption.


There is dried squid in the grocery store! That’s really cool.











We visited this rad little grocery store (I wish I could remember the name) but they had some of the coolest things in there. It’s so crazy to think how different things are for people around the world. Like in New York how going to the store and picking up a watermelon is no big deal but how for people in Japan, watermelon is a rarity. Or how there is such an abundance and variety of fresh sea food to buy here, as compared to other places that only have a limited packaged variety to choose from. It’s not really ‘how the other half lives’ its more along the lines of you don’t truly understand something until you experience it for yourself. I feel like it’s not until you see somewhere new that you find a new appreciation for it. Maybe it took for me to fly halfway across the world to realize that people aren’t really all that different. Sure we have different cultures, customs, and foods in our grocery stores, but we’re really not all that different as people. As soon as you stop looking at all the little things that make people different, you can finally see that we’re not. There’s a bigger picture out there and its much bigger that I could have ever imagine.


Stay Weird.


Current read- ‘The Bell Jar‘ by Sylvia Plath

A Self Titled Life- Head In The Clouds (Day 1)

Dec. 2, 2014

We’ve reached the 8 hour mark. Well 8 hours and 9 minutes to be exact. There is this nifty little clock that counts down to the time of arrival. Whoever thought of this deserves a round of applause. It seems like a lifetime ago that the we were on the runway in Detroit and the countdown was at 12 hours and 2 minutes until we arrived.

I’ve watched two movies so far ( actually the first was a documentary but details, details) The problem is that I cried through both films. Okay, maybe that’s dramatic. It wasn’t like hiccupy constant whale cries, more like little sniffles and eye rivers here and there. The poor man next to me must think I’m a loony tune which honestly matches the past two weeks I’ve had trying to prepare for this trip. Moral of the story, I guess I can’t argue with the guy. He has some gripping examples to support his claim.

You know, it’s not even fair to say these past few weeks have had me acting like a lunatic. It wasn’t like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, it was more like I was a chicken born without a head  in the first place. Mass chaos. I can’t argue that it was like the calm before the storm, because it’s actually clear weather. I didn’t think these few weeks would end, let alone I would ever be sitting on a plane on my way to explore and present at a symposium in Japan. That’s bananas.

Maybe I should introduce myself- hi. I’m Ally and I’m using a giraffe neck pillow right now. If you’re going to be reading these blog posts you may want to know more than my name and my wildlife neck support. So here’s 7 facts that have nothing to do with anything at all:

1. my favorite season is winter

2. breakfast for dinner is a top-notch meal

3. my favorite holiday is Halloween

4. cats are fantastic

5. my favorite movie is The Breakfast Club

6. my initials are ACDC

7. 7 is my favorite number

To get into some serious business, the reason I am on my way to Japan is to present at an international COIL symposium that is held in Osaka, Japan. This semester I took Intercultural Communication (COM 422) and we participated in COIL which is Collaborative Online International Learning. We were able to Skype and work on a project with a class of students that attend Kansai University in Japan. At the beginning of the class if someone had told me I would be boarding a plane and meeting the students, let alone presenting at an international symposium I wouldn’t have believe it. I don’t believe that I’m sitting on this plane right now. It’s the real deal. Who would have guessed it?


I think that’s all i have to say for now. Since I won’t be posting this until later tonight or whenever I have wi-fi, I might add some more later. HEY! 7 hours and 53 minutes until the time of arrival!! WE’VE MADE IT TO 7! (which is still my favorite number if you didn’t remember.)

Stay Weird.


Current Jam- ‘White Noise’ by Pvris. The entire album. Highly recommend.