Archives of Memory: Haifa, Israel (1999)

ISR01Haifa was the first “real” stop that we made on our Mediterranean cruise. I say cruise because that’s the military terminology, but the reality of it is that we were on a big grey boat with communal sleeping areas, working 12-15 hours a day minimum while underway… which is, in civilian speak, not in a port. Anyway… we ended up being in Israel for two weeks or so, which left plenty of time for exploration and discovery.

So, first day in port me and a co-worker… his last name started with an N, I think, but I cannot recall… the first day, we decided to go out… but we decided to walk up the big hill versus taking the bus because… why not? So we ended up walking up the hill (it took an hour or two as I recall) and arriving at the military welcome party after the sun set.

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Cultural Disconnect (Japan)

The conversation:

Japanese Guy: Oh, what are you doing in Tokyo?
Me: I’m here as a student. I study law.
Guy: Wow, awesome! *thinks* Wait, how old are you?
Me: 38.
Guy: …I don’t understand. You STUDY law?
Me: Yes.
Guy: I don’t… I don’t understand.

Explanation – In America, you can decide that your chosen career path is no longer suitable, and you’re not breaking any cultural assumptions that would prevent you from succeeding. People somewhat expect a percentage of Americans to swap career paths… it’s part of who we are. We’re all about re-inventing ourselves.. and indeed, we often look up to people who do so successfully.

In Japan, though, your path is pretty much set early on. Your future is dependent on the choices you make along the way, and there’s no real “redo” option. You can’t just roll back and re-train… you’re looked on as an oddity in Japanese culture at best, it seems, if you swap careers.

So… when I chat with a Japanese person who is only passingly familiar with America, and who does not understand this difference, they get confused. They hear that a 38 year old is in SCHOOL, they assume that they’re interpreting my American terminology wrong because the idea that I’d ditch a career and move into a new one is such a foreign concept.

At least, that’s how my American mind read the situation. I could just be bad at communicating, I suppose. 😉

Week in Review

Blah blah blah. I was going to write something on Fuchu prison, but I don’t feel like it.

So… Tokyo is an interesting experience. I’ve settled in quite well, as is the norm… it feels like I’ve been here for years. I don’t understand the language very well (I’m getting by) and I do lament the lack of some of my favorite foodstuffs, but other than that… I’m about as integrated as an illiterate expat with no grasp of the local language can be.

Last week in a nutshell:

  1. I visited Fuchu prison, Tokyo’s model prison. It was quite clean, and reminded me more than a little bit (in a good way) of my time in Afghanistan and Iraq. I was skeptical of Fuchu, though, because I (rightly) suspected that it was cleaner and shinier than it ought to have been because… and let’s be honest… one does not show off the dangerous, icky prison to foreign visitors.
  2. I ended up dropping one of my classes for reasons that I’d rather not go into in public print. Suffice to say that sometimes, one must make a judgment call on whether a class’ value is outweighed by its negative factors.
  3. I wandered the back streets near Shibuya, finding the semi-sketchy areas and the “Love Hotel” district. My initial western inclination is to roll my eyes at the idea of per-hour hotels… but having experienced the close quarters that a share house forces on many younger Tokyo-ites, I do somewhat understand the need for occasional privacy. Even so… Hotel Cassanova? Really, Tokyo? Really? (Pictures on Instagram.)
  4. I did my taxes. I have a sad. My refund is usually much nicer. Oh, the struggles of a vow of temporary poverty.
  5. I started setting up my post-law plans A-D, and some mid-law plans just in case. I’m qualified for government jobs if I like (and they pay well,) I’m considering reserve service if I can get a point of contact, I’m looking at some other options… I’m not sure what I’ll do exactly, but I am paring down my focus to figure that out.
  6. I moved into a new room. Same house, better light. My mood has improved significantly. Joking aside, I think I need sunlight… thus my greater levels of grumpiness in the winter months.
  7. I started writing about my (ancient) travels. I’ve not had success finding my old journal entries (after 20 years or so) so I’m reconstituting things from memory.

The “I Cook Stuff” Project: Israel (Hummus)

I recently decided to master learn how to make one dish from each country I’ve visited.

First up, Israel. The dish? Hummus.

I’m really only reacquainting myself with hummus, here. After all, I’m a hummus hipster; I was eating hummus well before it became the go-to dish for faux fitness freaks and work parties. Anyway…

Ingredients:

  • Chickpeas (2 boxes of cooked)
  • Tahini (substitute a Japanese sesame butter)
  • Lemon Juice (from lemons!)
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic (fresh)
  • ….and I forgot the salt.

Procedure: 

Chad: “Am I going to have to mash this by hand? I said I might but that sounds crap. *rummage, rummage* Oh, hi, my share house has a blender. It’s a cheap one, but it should do.”

Step 1: Dump chickpeas into blender after draining. Turn on blender on “on” setting because it does not have another setting.

Chad: “And here we go! Will it blend?”
Blender: “*coff coff* Ow, need liquid to make this work.:
Chad: *sigh* *squeezes lemons* *dumps juice into blender*
Blender: “Better.”

Step 2: Add Tahini & Oil & Garlic.

Chad: “So, this… *tastes* is just Tahini that is named something in Japanese. *dumps in Japhini* It’ll work. Garlic… *mush mush chop chop* done. And oil… hey. Wait. Blender!”
Blender: Waaaaaaa?”
Chad: “You’re not blending.”
Blender: “This is hard work!”
Chad: “Fine, fine, have the oil too.”

Step 3: Sample.

Chad: *samples* Nope.

Step 4: Sample!

Chad: *samples* “Needs more lemon. And salt. Damn it. Whatever. Done.”

Verdict – Try using a non-mental recipe next time. Didn’t do horribly with the mental recipe, but my ratios may have been off. I also shopped from memory… had I had a recipe to work from, I’d have had salt. The ultimate product is tasty, but it needs salt and maybe more lemon. Tahini substitute worked well. Also, shelf chickpeas aren’t as good. 6/10.

 

Archives of Memory: Antalya, Turkey (1999)

I forgot my disclaimer last time. I’m writing these archaeological stories because people often ask about my travel, but I’m also writing them because it helps me remember things that my brain archived long ago. Indeed, that second purpose is the primary purpose… so if you find them disjointed or difficult to follow, well, deal with it.

So… Turkey.

I was not in Turkey very long… really, I think I was there for a day, max. After landing and heading across Turkey in a bus with no air conditioning, I arrived at the USS Bataan’s pier, where I… well, memory here is fuzzy. I do remember riding through Turkey, in bits and pieces… I was pretty impressed with the landscape. I just remembered that bit… rolling through the countryside. I think we crosses some mountains, but I’m not quite sure. I want to say yes, though.

Anyway…

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Archives of Memory: Catania, Italy (1999)

This series is my long-intended recap of my journeys of days gone by. I’ve not thought about them beyond mere acknowledgement that they happened for years. As I write, I remember details that I’d filed away. Rather than polish the results, I’ve left them somewhat disjointed because that’s how they came out. Enjoy.

Back in 1999, I was a foreign travel newbie. Despite my enlistment in the Navy, I’d not been further west than Minnesota, nor further east than the Atlantic Ocean. With my first duty station complete, though, I was scheduled to meet the USS Bataan abroad after a quick month or so of additional technical training at Corry Station, Pensacola, Florida.

I don’t remember much about the pre-flight preparation or the flight itself. I recall being annoyed at the 3am sunrise, I recall that the food was no good, and I recall that I connected through Frankfurt Germany to get to Catania, Italy. As I write this, though, I remember more.

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Icebreaker.

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 3.22.11 PMI hate to run in the cold.  In fact, I hate it so much that from around Thanksgiving until the thaw in March / April, I tend to drop running from my fitness plans, instead suffering through winter chub and loss of endurance.

This winter, though, I’m pushing on through. I’ve decided that the Tokyo freeze isn’t a valid excuse to avoid running. Sure, I may hate it and I may end up half frozen… seeing as I tend to layer as light as I possibly can… but I’ve been running.

Take that, Grandfather Winter.

If I seem to be slacking, do me a favor. Remind me that I said I’d run on through to spring. 😉

A Catty Sort of Day

12573813_1687364508179124_65345914574341000_nI’d heard of cat cafes before, but I did not know that they had them in Japan. Girlfriend was aware, though. As she knows I am a fan of cats, she suggested I visit one while I’m in Tokyo.

So, mission accomplished. I headed over to the Cat Cafe Nyanny in Ueno, Tokyo.

What is a cat café? Well…

…it’s a café. With cats in it. Sometimes, lots of cats. The idea is that a) people like to be around cats and b) pets can be hard to keep in the city, or if you move around a lot, or if you’re working typical Japanese hours. So instead of keeping your own cats, you go visit a cat café and say hello to the café kitties.

So, what did I think?

Well. The cats seemed to have a good life, and they seemed to enjoy being around the other cats. They weren’t particularly engaged with the people, though… understandable if people are always in their business, but if you’re going to go to a cat café, you kind of want cat interaction. To be fair, though, I went later in the day. Perhaps they’re more active earlier.

My only irk were the people who were clueless about cat body language. Look, I get it, you / your child loves cats. But you need to keep yourself / your child from manhandling the cats and harassing the ones that sense the “leave me alone” signals. If you attempt to pet the cat and it goes away and goes up onto a perch, perhaps… I don’t know… it would like some alone time. Respect it.

Overall, though, I found it to be a positive experience. I’ll probably not go back (though I may try a different café) but it is worth a stop, if only because it will make people ask you what the heck a cat cafe is,

Just Do It. Study Abroad.

IMG_20150912_103919I recommend that you study abroad.

Okay, look. I’ve covered practical considerations elsewhere (coming soon to a law school newsletter near you!) but today, I’m going to be completely and utterly subjective. I’m going to tell you why, despite the annoyances and the frustrations, that you should absolutely study abroad during your US law school stint.

An arbitrary list of reasons:

  1. Your grades abroad don’t matter. On exchange, your grades (usually) transfer as pass-fail credits. While this is somewhat unfortunate if you do really well, it relieves a lot of the stress of studying. For the first (and likely only) time in your law school experience, you can choose to be satisfied with “good enough.” And your GPA will remain frozen, so if you’re on scholarship and that scholarship is dependent on your GPA, well, congrats. You’ve just made sure you’re good for a little bit longer.
  2. The classes are (usually) easier (for US students.) I’m sorry, EU friends. But your classes are nowhere near as challenging as the US law courses. I came into the EU knowing very little EU law and I did fine in a course that was meant to have 3 years of EU prerequisite courses. You can take time to pursue those hobbies you’ve been neglecting, you can get in shape, you can eat and drink all of the things, you can play video games… point being, you can do whatever you like with that extra time.
  3. You’ll end up with a broader perspective. I’m a world traveling vagabond with a danger fetish, but I still value my experience in Milan because it gave me a perspective of the law that I was not likely to get from the US. It also forces you to look at your own legal system from an international perspective, which can be valuable if you, like me, want to design a better system.
  4. You end up with interesting connections. I mean, sure, ERASMUS students are the equivalent of out of state students in the USA. But you also get people in your classes from Russia, China, Australia… you name it, there’s probably a law student from there. And unlike you at your home school, you’re both transplants… neither of you can fall back on familiar territory.
  5. You can break free of the Monolithic Tower of Legal Studies. I took classes that conformed to ABA standard, but those classes included graduate students from other programs as well. Unlike US law school, law in the EU is structured more like a regular graduate degree. Cross-discipline study is encouraged. I felt more connected to the world.
  6. You’ll make connections that no one else at your home school is likely to have. I mean, just saying. Your study abroad professors will be yours; you’ll not need to compete with the rest of your law school for a recommendation or advice. (I had to throw the gunners in my meager readership a bone, here. 😉

Self-Quarantine

12522965_1685154441733464_3049120173534583461_n

I often forget how to relax. I say this half-jokingly, but there’s a kernel of truth in the statement. Case in point? My restlessness over being deathly ill.

Okay, okay… I’m lying. On the scale of “oh, a sniffle” to “my head fell off,” I am decidedly in the former category. Past experience has taught me, though, that even slight sickness is likely to get worse if I overdo it… if I carry the caloric deficit that I generally carry when I’m trying to slim down. So… to my chagrin and begrudging delight both… I’ve dropped off of the fitness train for a day or two to allow my body to recover.

I’m happy to eat whatever I please in whatever quantity I please, for sure. But… I feel grumpy and sloppy and restless because I’m missing my workout. Maybe just a small one…

…no. No. Okay. No. I’ll wait. Ugh.

The thing is, I knew this was likely to happen. I managed to dodge 10-14 day after flight sickness Thanks, business class travel! I knew it was a matter of time, though… my classmates flew in last week and with them, brought the last six months of viruses that I, on my European adventure, had managed to avoid.

I suppose, however, that they’ll be exposed to my European diseases too. Good luck to them; the one I caught pre-Berlin lasted a bit over a week. At least we’re early in the semester, when it doesn’t really matter as much, right?

Anyway, unless this takes a turn for the worse I’ll break free of my hermitage tomorrow for some lightweight exploration. If that goes well, I can resume my quest to be super fit by May on Monday.

In the meantime, someone bring me a pizza and a movie. 😉