Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nara

To answer questions from my previous post, I will just simply say that the yogurt marination happened that day and I was so sicked out by it, for some reason. I still ate the yogurt but couldn't shake the feeling that I was eating hints of puppy waste...and that got me thinking about other things I've been grossed out by, or should have been grossed out by. I've decided germs are 98% mental, because none of us are consistent in what we're averse to.

Anyway! Ready for another Japan story?! I know I am! Roll the tape!!!!

In fair Japan lies a city named Nara, famed for only 2 things: A giant Buddha, and lots of deer. I don't know about you, but when I picture(d) Japan, deer had nothing to do with it. But...proud citizens always capitalize on whatever they can, so Nara has become Deer Town. Many signs, trinkets, and mascots lined the path to the park where Big Buddha is enshrined, promising us many delights to be had with mostly-domesticated deer.



I had been fed full of deer tales on our way, including one in which Chizu's friend was supposedly punched by a deer, right in the face. No, I thought, Bambi? I resolved inwardly that she must be mistaken. My experience with deer has placed them in the fantastical realm of myth up to this point--I 've seen them as elusive, docile, meadow-frolicking creatures who occasionally demonstrate roadside paralysis, or...mystical powers of flight and/or bewitchment (There's a story there, but it's not this one).
So I was ready to be enchanted.

Do you think this deterred me?



Heavens, no. If anything, the red lightning bolts only served to further entrench my fantastical notions about them. Besides, the sign was in Japanese.

And there we were! In the Land of Plentiful Deer! It was everything I'd ever imagined but hadn't ever imagined because who freaking thinks about deer, ever?!



Oh, it was magical. They were so kind, and gentle, walking right up to you and giving you a friendly nudge! I felt like Snow White, or Sleeping Beauty or whatever.

And then I saw this:


Deer fight. This unnerved me a little, I suppose. I made a mental note to steer clear of the big, mean-looking ones. They probably weren't deer anyway, since everyone knows deer are peace-loving animals.

I purchased packs of rice crackers and strolled to a slightly wooded area to begin some new friendships. My senses were buzzing, all six of them. One pretty little fawn came my way and pushed her nose into my hand for a treat. I happily obliged, giggling with delight at the human/deer physical contact. Then, to my surprise and slight unease, I noticed several deer trotting my way. Many, in fact. Trotting sort of fast. Snow White started feeling a bit, um, outnumbered.

And then, far too late, I saw one of the "mean-looking" ones approaching. And by approaching, I mean right next to me, snarling and staring at my bag of crackers with fire coming out of his eyes. I realized with horror that this was one of the "mean-looking" ones I had seen fighting earlier. Remember them?

Several things happened then. 1) I tried to convince myself that this, though angry, was still just a deer. Peace-loving, docile, enchanting, right? Right. 2) I contemplated running. But I never can keep the animal rules straight: Is it run when you see a bear and play dead when you see a skunk, or the other way around? I envisioned myself running and an angry deer chasing me, and we all know who would win that little footrace (Hint: Deer have 4 feet. Simple math). 3) In the absence of an escape plan, I instinctively withheld my bag of crackers from the approaching deer. You know, that whole give-a-mouse-a-cookie thing. Apparently I think I can subdue nature with tough love. BAD. IDEA.

Large angry deer circles me. Snorts. Nudges, real unfriendly-like, at my crackers. And then he freaking tries to gore me in the pelvic region. Remember this?



Yeah, more like this:



The evil deer threatened my loins, broke my favorite lens, bruised my inner/upper thigh, smudged weird deer goo all over that region, and left me with a mortal fear of the gentlest of God's creatures. Hit it and quit it. If that sucker had horns, he would have taken my unborn children.

Shudder.
So, yeah. That was Nara. We saw a really big Buddha there. And somehow, at the end of the day, I still felt a little bit like Snow White.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Germs

If your yogurt fell into a dirty gutter and marinated in sprinkler runoff for awhile before you noticed it, would you still eat it? Even if it's one of those Activia yogurts where the packaging seems alarmingly permeable? Would you?!

Would you rather walk barefoot through a mile of poop or lick a toilet clean?

Do you believe in the 10-second rule? Really and truly, do you think that when your food falls on the ground you have a quantifiable window of time before the army of germs finds out about it and swarms?

How often do you wash your sheets?

Do you set your purse on the ground everywhere you go? And then set it on your kitchen counter when you get home?

If you and your friends were on a train in Germany and found half-eaten candy bar (this is amazing German chocolate, remember), would you, under any circumstances, eat the remaining half, starting from the unopened end?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chizu hoops

I taught the Big Cheeze how to jump rope with a hula hoop. She adds a decidedly gazelle-esque quality to it that I can't stop laughing at.

video

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It seems I am slated for Asian relations in this life. I haven't really sought them out (not that I wouldn't...um, I love Asians...I love all people...), but I have found many delightful people of Asian descent in my path through life. First, there were various exchange students my parents brought into the home. One of them, named Sei, is still the scapegoat for anything that goes wrong in the house ("Sei did it!"). I guess he wasn't a favorite. Then, there was Ai. She lived with me for a semester of my freshman year. My interactions with her consisted of witnessing hangovers (hers) and smelling strange stir fry in the morning (also hers). She was a good time. The real Asian influence started happening in Italy, of all places. My roommates were Chizu (Japan), Ko Ko (Taiwan), and Cindy (American, for good measure...but she also had really dark hair). Later I dated The Asian (Korean), who my nephew mistakenly called The African. He served as the pied piper in bringing many Asians into my acquaintance.

I tell you this as a way to laboriously introduce my latest adventure, which was, of course, a trip to Asia. Most people who heard I booked a trip to Japan asked me one question: Why? I'm here to show and tell you why. And hopefully you'll see why you should go there too!

First of all, the Chizu. This girl is probably my favorite person alive at the moment. She moved into my bedroom in Florence, when I foolishly thought that I didn't want a roommate. She's me if I were Japanese, but about 18 times cooler. I say we are soul mates and I mean that in the least gay way possible. Gay way. Pei Wei. See, Asia again. It's everywhere.
Anyway, I love her and haven't seen her in about 3 years, so it was time for a visit. Cheap flight + half-Japanese traveling companion = Tokyo!

This is Chizu and the crew. They were a blast to hang out with. Also below are pictures of Koenji, the city where Chizu lives and where we stayed and enjoyed karaoke. Karaoke was one of my only requests of the entire trip.





Karaoke bonded us. We spent a lot of time in Koenji with these friends, and I loved how entertained they were by my attempts at speaking Japanese. I felt like their puppet and happily danced on command. I like that kind of attention, you know. Brayden, my travel mate, spoke Japanese so I don't know if he was nearly so entertaining to them, but he entertained me thoroughly 24/7, so I shall call him my puppet from here on out.

I'm tired of uploading photos already....but I shall persevere. I think I have one story in me for today, and it's a good one.

We traveled south to Kyoto, which is old world Japanese. Think pointy temples, scary demon statues, paper lanterns....and geishas.

That's right, I saw geishas. What's more, I became one.

Not in every sense of the word, mind you. I'm not sure geishas still exist in every sense of the word, but there is a geisha district called Gion where Chizu surprised me with a special appointment. We selected kimonos and wigs and were subjected to a startling transformation that resulted in each of us falling on the floor from laughing so hard. I present to you my female-escort alter-ego, Kiki:



What? You want to see my face?



This look is scary on all human beings, but considerably scarier on those humans not Asian. Stupid round eyes.

Anyway, we danced around and passed out from heatstroke due to the many layers of fabric and paint on us. And we laughed. Chizu probably pulled muscles from laughing so hard at me.

Here are a few more pictures of Gion and surrounding areas--Really cool. This is how I imagine Japan. Sadly, I don't really know what any of these things are. Welcome to how I travel.



More to come!

Coming soon...

Stay tuned for a story about why this:



And this:



...are responsible for one of the best times I've ever had.
The Japan report is forthcoming!