Cruising around Seattle

Uplake on Lake Union
If you follow any Seattleites on any social media channels, you probably already know that it was absolutely gorgeous this last weekend (see “summer” in this comic). It wasn’t just sunny. It was sunny, just warm enough, but cool enough to wear your beloved jeans and light jacket and so clear that all of the mountains were out. It was one of those days that makes you forget that it ever rains here and reminds you why you love living here.

South Lake Union Cruise

I took advantage of the beautiful weather by laying on a dock in South Lake Union, reading a book and basking in the sun. I was soon joined by some friends, and we hopped onto the Ice Cream Cruise. Was it touristy? Sure. But did I also have the biggest grin on my face the whole time? Definitely. Continue reading

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Cherry Blossom Festival in NYC

Ah, spring.

When you live in a city of planters, spring is undoubtedly the best season. Like many cities, there are cherry blossoms sprinkled about and like many cities, the cherry blossom festival committee struggles to find the right weekend where the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. And who can blame them? With the climate changing, rather drastically at times, it’s becoming harder and harder to predict. Continue reading

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Japanese Culture in NYC

Taxi in NYC
One does not need to leave their home country to travel. In fact, sometimes you don’t even have to leave your city. A particular melting pot of cultures even within the US, the residents of New York City live among a myriad of cultures. In fact, some maps have been illustrated to show the trends of where ethnic populations congregate. The recent presence of Japanese culture in New York City is evident through a stroll down St Marks in the East Village and the constant flow of Japanese tourists in Times Square.

The history of the Japanese in New York goes as far back as 1860, when the Tokugawa shogunate sent samurai to New York City, where they were received by a parade that stretched up Broadway from the Battery. This was Japan’s first diplomatic mission to Japan and was more recently celebrated with an exhibition titled “Samurai in New York” and the Museum of the City of New York in 2010, 150 years after the voyage. Furthermore, 100 years after this commemorative date, New York became Tokyo’s first sister city. Continue reading

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Cherry Blossom Season

up close_small
Well folks, it’s almost here. Cherry Blossom season is almost gracing us with its presence. Well, now days it’s not as predictable as it used to be with all these changes in weather patterns and such. Regardless, it’s one of my favorite times of year. Not only because the trees themselves are beautiful, but because they make everyone so happy and it means that the warmth of spring is just a step away.

Around March every year, I get all nostalgic about the cherry blossoms in Japan, particularly those that I saw at night (with thousands of other people, squeezing onto a walkway that barely sees anyone any other time of the year).

I’m lucky to be in Seattle, where the cherry blossoms are a famous attraction themselves. Continue reading

Posted in NATURE, SEATTLE | 6 Comments

5 reasons to enjoy SeaTac Airport

SeaTac UA plane
Not many people get excited about airports- myself included. Airports are most commonly associated with the frustration that comes from getting stuck in unexpected drop-off traffic (it’s 2pm!), delays, being asked to get naked and then scanned, and paying $20 for a burger.

When I was leaving for my last trip to Europe, a miracle happened- I had the most amazing airport experience. At security, I was sorted into a line where I wasn’t asked to remove any clothing or the contents of my bags, everything went quickly and where the TSA agents seemed *gasp* happy. Maybe that put some rose-colored glasses on me, but I just had a great time at the airport that day… Continue reading

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Ookawa Elementary School

Author’s Note: This was intended to be the last part of my Tohoku series, when I went to the region 2 years after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. However, it wasn’t an easy series to write, and I’m going to leave it unfinished - much like the work in Eastern Japan.

There was one many among the group of volunteers who was clearly a little different- he was silent and looked at us with weary eyes. One of the volunteers introduced us and in that introduction, we learned that he was one of the survivors from that town. It took some time, but he eventually warmed to us, seeing that we weren’t just there for the money shot, to do unhelpful volunteer work for self-satisfaction and definitely not on a disaster area tour like many of the others he had seen pass through the town. In the interest of full disclosure, I was chatting with some of the volunteers, the following is what was relayed to me from other members of my group.

The following vignettes are this local man’s concerns:

  • There are volunteer groups who charge the participants money to go to Ookawa Elementary School and do things like, plant sunflower seeds. This is done with the intention of lifting the spirits of the locals. What it actually does, is give the locals yet another thing to worry about- who’s going to water the seeds everyday after the volunteers leave? Further, it pressures them into spending time every day watering those sunflowers.
  • There are many disaster area tours who come by just to see the school, take pictures, and leave flowers/burn incense without bothering to venture further to see the actual state of the town, or to ask how the residents are doing. Some people have even started vandalizing the school. He is the one that cleans up after all of this, and the flowers that had started to rot.
Posted in EASTERN JAPAN | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The WORST food I’ve ever had!

You probably know that I’m a bit of a foodie. In fact, many people ask about my food blog, not my travel blog, and I can’t blame them. I will tell a little white lie to get the best Okinawan ramen, try tomato flavored chocolate and even somehow acquired a taste for shirako. However, there are some foods that are borderline offensive to my taste buds. The first, is papaya. Yes, the fruit. I like it mixed in with things, and as a juice, but when I bit into the flesh of a papaya fruit in Nicaragua back in 2009, there just wasn’t enough flavor per density and… well, I just had an involuntary shiver go up my spine.

jamaican flag
Ah Jamaica. How I was excited to dock there. Jerk chicken heaven! AND I was on a tour that was going to talk about marine conservation in Jamaica (I’m a marine bio nerd). Continue reading

Posted in FOOD, JAMAICA, PEACE BOAT | 4 Comments

Off Roading in Las Palmas

Las Palmas was a beautiful port to pull into.

Pulling into Las Palmas

And even moreso because I was about to go on a really bad*** tour. My tour group gathered in one of the main event spaces and walked off the boat… and into one of four off-roading vehicles. My greatest source of worry on this group wasn’t a difficult tour guide, or technical and colloquial terms to interpret. It was the 85 year old passenger who relied on a walking stick who’d signed up for this tour. And it wasn’t just me. The driver looked at me with a questioning expression as he gingerly helped this gentleman into the car. Even the rowdy 20-somethings that comprised the rest of the group just hopped in, respectfully reserving the passenger seat for this man. Continue reading

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The M’s of Morocco

AKA Mosques, Mausoleums and Markets (and tiles. lots of tiles.)
Moroccan Tiles
I was particularly excited for Casablanca. Probably because I’d romanticized it so much prior to our docking there from that one movie by the same name. I’ve never actually seen the movie, but it seems romantic, so I’d assumed that the city would be as well. The vibe left me unsure of what to think, but the monuments definitely delivered.

Hassan II Mosque

Hassan II Mosque Minaret Continue reading

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Solo Travel in Okinawa

Particularly when the weather is not so hot, I enjoy reminiscing about my sunnier travels. Today I’m going to take a look back at my 2 trips to Okinawa as a solo traveler.

New Year's Blog Resolution: Post more inevitably awkward photos of myself.

New Year’s Blog Resolution: Post more inevitably awkward photos of myself.

I was really worried about traveling alone in Okinawa. It was my first time traveling to a destination with no set plans aside from flights. I find that safety is not as much of an issue in Japan as it is in other parts of the world. However, I also find that the Japanese tend to be culturally less likely to become friendly with strangers.

It turns out that Okinawa is both very much “Japan” and very much not. Most of all, in Okinawa, they don’t let you travel alone. Solo, perhaps, but never alone. I’d even go as far as to say that going without a travel buddy actually enhanced my trip. Continue reading

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