Alternative Spring Break Iowa 2015

One of the perks of selecting the spring semester as my exchange semester was that I would be able to experience the famous, Spring Break. Growing up in Australia, I would frequently watch American teen TV shows and films which would depicted college students during Spring Break. Thus it was a concept I was familiar with and excited about. Back in Australia we have a “mid-semester break” but this is generally a week where students catch up on their studies, study for exams and rest. Prior to researching my options for Spring Break I assumed that most students went to Florida and partied similar to the film Spring Breakers. This option didn’t really appeal to me because of financial reasons, so I went on the search for alternatives which would still allow me to have fun whilst seeing more of the United States. One of my friends was taking a communications class and her teacher informed her about the alternative spring break trips. She then discussed it with me, we looked at all the different locations which were offered, and we signed up. Prior to arriving in the United States I had no intention of travelling to the MidWest as I did not think the opportunity would arise and in addition to this, it is not exactly the typical tourist destination. We were both excited about the idea of the trip but did not know what to expect.

Our home for the week

Our home for the week

SUNY Oswego’s alternative spring break’s are organised through Habitat for Humanity, which is a non-profit organisation. I had heard of this organisation and the worthwhile work they do, so I felt comfortable and safe embarking on this trip. Our group was going to Iowa so we were volunteering with the Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity. This specific location builds between 10-12 homes a year which is an incredible movement to be part of.

Day 1

We travelled through the night in an attempt to preserve whatever sleep patterns we had prior to the trip, and arrived refreshed and ready to explore our new home for the week. We were staying in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in a United Methodist Church, this church was more like a community centre rather than a church. It had modern facilities that we were able to utilise including a basketball court, cinema, games room, three kitchens and general common areas. We spent the day unpacking, becoming familiar with our new setting, preparing for the week ahead and getting to know each other.

Community service project

Community service project

Day 2

Day 2 marked the beginning of our work week and thus our routines were established. We woke at around 7:30am, ate breakfast as a team, travelled to the site and commenced work at 8:30am. This first day we completed a project in the community. We pulled down a fence which surrounded the oldest property in the area. This was a sensational effort on our part, as initially we were predicted to complete the job in three days, we did it in one. We left the site at 3:30pm and spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the main street in Cedar Falls and visited the University of Northern Iowa. Our evening traditions emerged which consisted of watching a crazy number of The Cleveland Show episodes, whilst playing trivia board games, before bed at 11pm.

Day 3

Once we arrived on site, we were advised that we would be working in the warehouse and creating the exterior frames of a house. I was clueless about framing but fortunately we had an excellent instructor. Framing is reading a wall plan, following the measurements, doing

St Paddy's Day!

St Paddy’s Day!

some basic calculations, cutting the wood to size, fitting the wood together, and nailing the wood together. It’s quite a process. The first day it took each team all day just to complete one wall each as we were all still learning. It was actually St. Patrick’s Day, so after we had finished work for the day, we decided as a team to celebrate by getting a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake – we do not have these in Australia so I was very excited. In the early evening we attended a dinner which the church was hosting, this was great as we were able to interact with and meet some community members. Several of us decided to go for a jog in the later afternoon – it was beautiful. I really enjoyed being in the fresh air and seeing more of the town.

Day 4

Once agin we were framing, we became slightly better and each team



managed to complete either two or three frames, we saw this as a significant improvement. I discovered that I am allergic to saw dust as even with a ventilator my throat was still irritated. This was annoying but didn’t put a damper on my day as I knew I just had to endure several more days. After we had finished work for the day we went to the local sports complex which was fantastic. We worked-out individually for around half the time, before coming together and having an epic volleyball game.

Day 5

Day 5 was the last day of framing and by this point we were serious pros. At the end of the day, we had actually completed the entirety of the exterior walls of a home. We were really proud of this effort as not only had all of our construction skills improved, we were the ones responsible for these frames being completed which a family in need would eventually live in. Once we left the site we returned to the church where we had Brinner (breakfast for dinner – duh); it was incredible. We then went downtown to explore the main street more, purchased specialty popcorn and checked out the local ice-cream parlour where we devoured some tasty treats.



Day 6

Day 6 marked our last day working for Habitat and it was bittersweet. We spent the morning doing another community service project which consisted of pulling down a handicap ramp, and then spent the rest of the day assisting with cleaning up the warehouse and yard before finally doing a photoshoot as a team and saying our goodbyes to the Habitat team. We spent the afternoon packing our bags and napping before heading out for a Mexican dinner and attending a semi-professional Ice hockey game. The Ice hockey game was like nothing I had ever witnessed before. The fans were all shaking their cow bells when their team had possession, and the hosts were engaging with the audience through shouting and dancing competitions. My seat was apparently lucky as I won a coupon for a local ribs outlet.

Day 7



We hit the road at 7am, Chicago bound. We arrived in Chicago around noon and driving into the city was sensational as we were able to see the skyline and the Willis (Sears) tower very clearly. My first impression of Chicago was that the city is a smaller version of New York City. We explored Millennium Park and I was in awe the entire time. I was so excited to see the Big Bean and couldn’t wait to see what else the city offered. We passed the Chicago river which was still a hint of green from St. Patrick’s Day, and also walked down the Navy Pier. I was amazed by the pier, and Lake Michigan’s beauty. It was one of the most beautiful shades of blue I had ever seen. We had intentions of walking down the magnificent mile and shopping, however our stomach’s interfered with this plan and instead we went to Pizzeria Uno to eat the original Chicago-style deep-dish. We waited around an hour and a half for this pizza, but in my opinion, it was worth it. The pizza had a fruit pie-like base with fresh toppings. After two slices I was uncomfortably full. By this point it was around 5pm and it was time to go. We once again drove through the night and arrived back at campus at approximately 5:20am. Although it was a long day, this day was one of the best days of my life.

The group

The group

Final thoughts

We all agreed that the trip was a very worthwhile experience and I would certainly recommend it to students looking to do something different during their break. Working for Habitat put life into perspective for me, and allowed me to see how fortunate, blessed and lucky I am. I want to give back where I can, and prior to this trip I found it difficult to discover these kinds of organisations which were inline with my visions and values. Habitat provides this opportunity in a safe environment with the chance to learn useful, valuable skills. The kinds of people that you meet on these alternative trips are a special kind, I feel it takes a certain type of person to be willing to sacrifice their break in order to go and do community service. I am sure that the friendships which were formed during this trip will last in years to come.

Thankyou SUNY Oswego for providing me with this opportunity, thankyou to the incredible group I was able to experience this with, and a massive thank-you to Scott Ball for being an incredible leader and role model.

Peace Out


Ozzie scored a job at Cooper!

Working in Cooper

Working in Cooper

SUNY Oswego has 13 residency halls as around half of the enrolled students live on campus. To accommodate this large volume of students, Oswego has 5 dining halls. As an international student living in Hart Hall, I eat approximately 80% of my meals in Cooper Dining Hall. Because I was spending a large proportion of my time in this dining hall, I was able to witness the culture and attitude of Cooper and its employees – I wanted in. Whenever I was being served a meal the staff were always smiley, friendly and wanting to strike up a conversation; I loved it. I was also motivated to earn some pocket money due to the AUD being weak.

So I did the next logical thing, I applied for a position. Initially I didn’t hear back as there were no openings, however several weeks later I received a call asking if I was still looking for a position. I started two days later. So far I have only worked as a server (dishing out and serving students food) and in the deli section (making wraps and sandwiches) but I am enjoying the work and grateful for all the new friends I have made so far.

I have a positive attitude towards this job as that’s exactly what it is, a job, it’s not a career, and it’s a way for me to make friends whilst earning some cash. Being employed has forced me to setup a US bank account and obtain a Social Security number, both which put me in good stead if I decide to return to the states in the future for work purposes.

Hard work is good for the soul,

Peace out

K xx

Snowshoeing in the Adirondacks – an Aussies POV

Early start

Early start

Since I began my semester abroad, my new friends would always speak of travelling to the Adirondacks on weekends and hiking, fishing and camping. The word Adirondacks itself sounded like some foreign language and I could barely even pronounce it initially. I had heard of snowshoeing but only on TV and in movies and I was under the impression snowshoeing was when someone straps a tennis racquet-like head to their shoe and walks through snow. Technically I was correct, but those were the “old school” style of snowshoes – they are more sophisticated these days.

I joined the SUNY Oswego Outdoor club with some friends and signed up for this snowshoeing adventure to Lake Placid, Adirondacks. I honestly had no idea what to expect or what it would entail but I was very eager to see part of the Adirondacks.

Beautiful snow capped trees

Beautiful snow capped trees

Lake Placid is located roughly 5 hours from SUNY Oswego so we left at 3am on Saturday to begin our journey. We stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts and various convenience stores on the way to use the bathrooms and stock-up on snacks. I found it remarkable that convenience stores in the U.S are reasonably priced and items are priced almost identical to their prices in Walmart. In Australia the prices are approximately 2-3 times higher in convenience stores.

Fortunately enough I was able to get several hours of sleep through the night during our travels so by the time we arrived I was refreshed, excited and ready to snowshoe. Once we arrived at the Adirondacks we layered up, fastened out snowshoes and set out on the trail. We were chasing Tabletop Mountain which is one of the 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks. It was approximately a 7 mile hike with snow literally everywhere.



The hike up was difficult to say the least. It started off okay as it was mostly flat with small inclines but as we progressed the trees became thicker, the trailer thinned out and the inclines were steeper. About a mile before the peak was when the real inclines began and it was a struggle. In several places we resorted to getting down on all fours and climbing (scrambling) up the mountain as it was too steep to walk. The whole climb we were regularly stopping to take off layers as we were sweating, however once we reached the peak the wind had a strong chill and all these layers needed to be put back on to essentially prevent hyperthermia.

The view from the peak was breathtaking in my opinion. It was grey, cloudy and snowing heavily so it was hard to capture the outlook on camera, however I thought the view suited the atmosphere of the day and exceeded my expectations.



Once we had admired the scene for long enough we proceeded to slide down the mountain and go back to base. We had begun the hike at around 9:30am and were all back at the lodge by 5pm; it was a long day. Because it had snowed so much during the day it was a longer trip home, but I mostly slept so was not phased. When we arrived back to campus, myself and two friends went to late-night and ate our hearts out – it was fantastic.

I feel so lucky, blessed and privileged that I was able to go on this trip as it is so different to anything I had ever experienced or imagined I would do in my life.

Peace Out

K xx

The Oscars! In Hart Hall



Being from Australia an all, I had never actually watched the Oscars – only ever the highlights. This is because the timezones are so out of whack. Anyway! This year because I am in the U.S.A I was fortunate enough to not only watch the oscars, but also attend a party organised by my hall. It was so much fun! The Oscars reminded me of the Logies but on a bigger scale as all the big stars were there, lame jokes were cracked, award winners made moving speeches and all the celebrities looked incredible. My highlight of the evening was seeing Lady Gaga perform a tribute to the Sound of Music, as I grew up watching this film with my Mum and Ba, so this was really special to me.

death2At our event in Hart Hall, there was a red carpet setup to make us feel fabulous as we entered, big cardboard images of cinema film reels and stars dangling from the ceiling and walls, posters on the walls, and food. Lots and lots and lots of food.

We all watched (and cheered) the Oscars and participated in mini competitions whilst continuously stuffing our faces with food. I did not win anything but one of my friends won a Walmart voucher which we all thought was pretty neat. I had a great evening and really enjoyed watching the Oscars all the way through as it’s something I probably will not be able to do again.


Peace Out

K xx





My first Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year decorations

Chinese New Year decorations

In Australia Chinese New Year is recognised and celebrated but because I do not have many ties to China, I had never really embraced it before… this year was different!

Because I live in Hart Hall (where most international students reside), I meet many different students from all over the world, many being from China and Taiwan. To respect their traditions and for something fun to do, our residency hall threw a Chinese New Year Party! There was food from China, Taiwan & Korea (Korean New Year is typically on the same day as Chinese

New Year except when a new moon appears) and many students chatting, having fun and celebrating this occasion.

Goodluck gift

Goodluck gift

I was very fortunate that two of my new friends who are from Taiwan and China, both gave me red envelopes which symbolise good luck. One of the envelopes contained One New Taiwanese dollar coin, and the other was a rectangular shaped red purse with embroidery.

I love living in Hart because I am exposed to so many different cultures and traditions, it really is unique and special.

Peace out

K xx

University in Australia vs. College in the States

On my decision to come to SUNY Oswego for an exchange semester, I knew that things would be different, but I assumed that more or less Australian and American university life and culture would be very similar. I was wrong. I have outlined the main differences below. Enjoy.

College is love

College is love

1. College is love, college is life. Literally. Since beginning college my days typically consist of eating all my meals with friends, going to class, going to the gym with friends, doing homework with friends, watching Netflix with friends, and sleeping. This is vastly different to my university days at QUT as everyday would always be completely different. In Brisbane some days I would go to work, others I would have class, and others I would do absolutely nothing but hang out with friends. I like the structured format of college in the states because I am forced to be more dedicated to my studies and I actually feel like I have time for things (such as working out) because everything is on campus.

2. Homework and pass grades. At QUT in my course, to pass a subject you simply need to get 50% or higher, which is simple and makes sense to me… Here it varies on the subject. For instance one of my subjects is 60% and another is 70%. However it is easier to get marks here (from my recent experience anyway) as professors tend to give out marks for attendance and small homework tasks. Which brings me to my next point; homework. Per subject at QUT I would have two exams during a semester and 1-3 large assignments, and class work/homework is completely optional. Whereas at SUNY Oswego I actually have to keep up to date on course work by submitting graded homework tasks weekly. I like the feelings of always being on top of my course work here, and it gives me reassurance that I will pass and do well, but I do miss weeks of procrastination and doing things last minute as I work well under pressure.

3. Structure of classes. At QUT all of my weekly classes are made up of two parts: one being a lecture which takes place in a hall and is run by a professor, and the other is a practical session in a classroom environment which may be run by a professor or a researcher. At SUNY Oswego all my subjects are in a classroom environment. I feel as though I am back in high school at times. I prefer my university’s style of teaching because a lecture might be one day, and the practical session the next, so it gives me time to digest the information. However I feel as though I have the potential to develop closer, more meaningful relationships with professors here as the contact is more personal and regular.

Snow storm

Snow storm

4. Classes are cancelled if there is a snow storm. This is vastly different to what I am used to. It doesn’t snow in Brisbane, but when we do have extreme weather, scheduled activities are rarely postponed (the exception being sporting events). I was surprised that classes were cancelled when there was a blizzard because most students live on campus and have the warm clothes needed to withstand these conditions anyway.

5. Not everything will kill you in the states. I was bitten by a spider two nights ago and I did not die; I initially thought it was a mosquito bite as it was itchy, small and hard, but turned out it was a spider bite. If this had happened in Australia I probably would have gone straight to the ER. I am enjoying the fact that I do not need to fear for my life when I encounter bugs and reptiles here.

6. American’s have awesome accents. I am always interested in what my peers and professors have to say because I cannot get enough of the accent.

7. American’s have a different definition of thong. I was telling some new friends about my regular encounters with spiders and how I kill them with my thongs (flip flops), and they thought this was hilarious because they were imagining me killing them with a g-string. Lol.

College food

College food

8. Dining halls. At QUT we do not have any dining halls, rather we have food courts, cafes and bars, where items must be purchased in $AUD. When I arrived at Oswego the whole dining hall and dining dollars thing was so foreign, amazing & like something from an American movie. I love that there are so many dining halls on campus and their hours are long and flexible. I wish we had this culture at QUT.


Peace Out


My first impressions of Walmart

For years I had always heard Walmart referenced in movies and pop culture and I was always so intrigued as we have nothing quite like it in Australia. The college is really well serviced with public transport so getting to Walmart was not an issue. My friends also had never been to Walmart before so we decided to make a day of it.

As expected it was huge. I had built it up so big in my mind, however it really wasn’t as incredible and exciting as I had expected. It was underwhelming to be completely honest. It was just like several stores in Australia combined (Woolworths and Big W). I was really impressed by how inexpensive everything was, especially makeup. I was able to pick up lipsticks which are usually around $17 in Australia, for $6 at Walmart. I also loved how friendly and willing to help all the folks there were and the great range of cheap, American candy.

Sweet selfie we took

Sweet selfie we took

A Self Titled Life- Everyone’s Story (Day 10) ((It’s the final countdown))

Welcome to my last blog post. I will get home today by way of trains, planes and automobiles. I’m on the airplane right now that left from the Narita airport in Japan and is headed for JFK in New York. The arrival countdown reads 3 hours and 4 minutes until we touch back down to Earth. Believe it or not, we shaved some time off this trip compared to the last one. A whole 5 minutes. When we took off the countdown was 11 hours and 57 minutes so look at all that progress! I’ve watched a few movies, wrote a final paper, and about two hours ago I tried to write this blog post. Then I gave up and watched another movie. I finally got around to watching the Amazing SpiderMan Movies- highly recommend. Anyways, I have just enough time to write a blog post before I watch the last movie I’ve been saving. That’s the great thing about these posts- all you get to see is the final product so it doesn’t matter how long it takes me to muster up the words to write these posts or how many personal early morning dance breaks I take in between paragraphs. So for this post I’m throwing in all the honorable mentioned photos that didn’t make the cut the first time around.  I laughed while picking most of them out.

the devil

HI. LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THIS LITTLE MONSTER. One day I bought these individually wrapped cookies and I kept them in my pocket to eat throughout the day, so I called them pocket cookies. This little boy’s mom took our picture and he threw such a temper tantrum (throwing rocks) so I tried to present him with an extraordinary pocket cookie and he hung his head so low that it almost snapped off his neck. Then he finally took the cookie AND VIOLENTLY HAULED IT FULL FORCED INTO THE GROUND. I actually gasped out loud. I just, I had to walk away. I had to leave the scene. I couldn’t control myself around that kind of inexcusable behavior. wow. Just WOW. (breathe, Ally, breathe.)


This was the shrine of a thousand and one buddhas. I got the picture the day after that blog was posted and well here you go.


According to my Mom, one needs a college education to work this toilet. It looks like you could use the bathroom while participating in a medieval torture chamber.


This was a vending machine full of crepes. What more do you need to know.

I’m having a hard time trying to figure out exactly what it is that I want to say or how I want to sum up all of these blogs along with all the things I’ve done in the past ten days. I’ve put a pretty substantial amount of time and effort into these blogs. I’ve dedicated a few hours a night to writing them all and I’m really happy that I did. On the bright side I know my mom reads them all so at least I have an audience other than myself. I have this tendency to buy a journal before a trip so I can write about all that happens and then I get on the trip and never open the book. At least I’m consistent. Well, the same thing happened on this trip. (In all fairness I had the journal long before I knew I was going to be blogging the trip. I’ll save the journal for spring break so I can neglect to use it then too.) I’ll admit though, I always did these posts late at night and sometimes the thought of having to stay up and write a blog as well as find pictures was enough to make me reconsider all of my life choices. However, I would remember nothing about this trip if I didn’t have this blog. Squat. We just did so much it was hard to keep up with it all so it’s really cool to have it all in one place with pictures. How nifty. Maybe even swifty.


I have absolutely no idea what is going on.


Somebody call Vogue.


The Kabuki Theater. The theater, the lovely theater. The picture was better but there is actually a bus that barged into my picture.

Today was a pretty nonchalant day. Although we did participate in a traditional tea ceremony and we got to wear kimono, drink green tea- the whole shabang. We wore these socks that look like goat feet. There one little part for your big toe and then another little part for your other toes with a divider in the middle. It’s like wearing mittens on your feet. (side note- thank the heavens for spellcheck because I spelled kimono ‘camono’. I had to google it to figure it out. Hello, I go to college.) It was interesting to see/ participate in all of these traditional customs that are part of the Japanese culture. Not just the tea ceremony, but also to visit places like Old Tokyo or any of the temples. America is such a young country and we don’t have a lot of these kinds of long-standing traditions. At the same time, that’s what I love about America. We don’t have a lot of traditions. It’s kind of a make-it-up-as-you-go society. In my family we have this birthday hat that looks like a cake with candles on the top. It’s not an American tradition , but in my family you are obligated to wear this hat on your birthday when you blow out the candles. These are the kinds of traditions that I love. You get to create your own traditional origins and pass them down to whomever you please. I really took the time on this trip to appreciate the world that I live in just a little bit more. I really think that going somewhere new and learning about someone different teaches you more about yourself than anything else. I like that America is loud and that we have rules but generally ignore all of them. I like that no one is the same and people aren’t afraid of being bold just because they want to be. I feel like America is made of a lot of brave people. We tend to look at differences as a positive attribute rather than a negative divide between people. Okay, hi. The plane is rocking back and forth and it’s getting hard to type so I’m going to finish this in the JFK airport. (See what I mean? You would have no idea I even stopped writing. The internet is a magical place.)

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Mamacita, donde esta Santa Claus.


I’m wearing the goat socks in this picture.


To the windooow, To the wall! (to the wall). Stop singing I’m with my Mother.













IMG_1098 -PLEASE right-click this video and open it in a new tab. You’ll understand. I promise. It’s legendary.


Guess who’s back, back again? I’m in the airport and determined to finish this blog. I don’t really have a favorite part or thing that happened. Although my least favorite was the deer that tried to mull me to death. Besides that I think the people I met were my favorite part. It was just so exciting. So get this- I was able to visit Japan, present at an international symposium, make international friends, escape an almost tragic wildlife death, wear a kimono, and create my own blog all because I took a class by accident. It wasn’t so much an accident as it was ‘i couldn’t get into any of the classes I needed and this class happened to be open at the time so I took it’. That’s pretty bananas.


The animals from hell.


STOP. My American is showing.











There were purple trees on the streets. Like, hypothermia trees.

These past ten days have been some of the most incredible times in my life. I don’t really know how to say thank you for all that has happened. I’m so grateful to have gone to Japan. I’m also so grateful to all the students at Kansai University who were so sweet I still don’t believe they’re real. I’m so incredibly grateful that my Mom was able to come on this adventure because frankly, she’s a wizard. I’m so so so grateful I was on this trip with people who were not only willing to try new things, but excited to do everything possible. I’m also grateful she had a camera that took beautiful pictures and then emailed them to me every night. I’m so thankful that the Japanese people were so kind and willing to help in any way that they could. I’m grateful all the plane rides (thus far) have been solid trips and safe trips. And finally I’m thankful for all the sock stores that Japan had. I’m telling you, my future sick ass sock Saturdays are going to be killer.

IMG_1126 _This video is of the doorbell in out hotel room in Tokyo. First, I don’t think I have ever stayed in a hotel room with a doorbell. Second, this doorbell sounds nicer than the doorbell to my house at school, which sounds like a taser. Right click the link and open the link in a new tab!



My one true talent in this world is snipping terrible pictures of my Mother. She fought back on this trip.


But so did I.


Then she kicked my ass. (If I’m being honest, I actually prevailed in this battle, but the picture I took is so great I refuse to put it on the internet. I’m keeping it forever. Mom, you can have this one. Congratulations. You’ve come far, young grasshopper.















I don’t really know what else to say here. I’m excited to have had the experience because had I not taken this class, none of this would have ever happened. This experience has made me a more conscious communicator and a more educated international traveler. The most important thing I have gained from this experience is that there is no rule book to life. You can plan and plan and plan some more but, there is no way to know what is going to happen. The world is a crazy place and there’s no way it’s ever going to make sense. Maybe it shouldn’t. I like not knowing what is going to happen in an hour, or tomorrow, or in fifty years. All I know is that I’ll always be Ally, I’ll always have sick ass socks, and I went to Japan.

It’s been real. It’s been fun. It’s also been ten days.

Thanks Japan for all the adventures. I’ll miss you dearly, but hello America, I’ve missed you more!!

Stay weird forever more.


Ally Costanza

Current wish- that Tyler Oakley would be my best friend.


International traveler

Feral wildlife survivor

Sock enthusiast

Future cat lady.

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.


A Self Titled Life- All the Possibilities (Day 8)

We looked like a bunch of loony tunes traipsing through the train station, dragging all of our luggage with us. It probably looked like the scene from Home Alone when they’re barreling through the airport at a full sprint, except we were not running. Nobody has time for that. We took the bullet train to Tokyo and it was about a three-hour ride at 200 mph. Pretty slow. To be quite honest, I enjoyed the trip. I was jamming to The Fray’s album and watching the people around me. The train has a way of lulling people to sleep especially the longer you are aboard. It takes people out like bowling pins. One at a time. You watch and watch and then sooner or later heads start to fall forward until everyone is asleep. I sometimes get worried people are going to fall out of their seats or miss their stops, but they always wake up in time. They pick up their stuff, wipe their drool, and head out into the world like they weren’t conked out thirty seconds ago. I think it’s impressive.


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The manhole covers just keep getting better and better.

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Met some ninjas today. Just soak in this picture. This happened.


Okay this was the sink in the bathroom today. The right nozzle was for water. The left was for soap. The bar in the sink by where you would stand is the drying fan. It was an all included piece of technology. The world is a crazy place.

It was a gift to have a slower paced day today. I feel like my feet are going to disintegrate into the ground when I walk, they’re so tired. We did check out the Tokyo Tower and the Zojoji Temple. The temple was another outdoor temple but what was cool and probably morbid in the minds of most humans, was the hundreds of stone children statues. Each statue had a name engraved on the back, a shawl, a knitted bonnet, and a windmill placed in front of it. We found out later it was a memorial for children who had passed away. I wish I knew because of what or why the statues were their. The statues were so colorful in the middle of all the bleak surroundings. Each statue looked a little different from the ones next to it. I’ll have to google it and find more information out about this memorial.

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These were the little statues. I just really loved them.

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Each of the names of the children were engraved in the back. Some looked older and some newer.


They all seemed to embody their own personality.













This one was so sad. It looks so loved.

The Tokyo Tower was described in one of the guide books somewhere along the lines of an ugly metal thing in the middle of the capital building. From far away and up close during the daytime, that is exactly what it is. It’s this big red and white Eiffel tower mimic in the day time. It’s also not all that appealing to the eye because it almost looks like a cell phone tower. When you go up into the tower, it’s not so unimpressive anymore. The view is incredible. Tokyo is an enormous city. It could easy swallow New York City three times and probably have room for dessert. The top of the tower is all enclosed and you can walk around to view the city below from a 360 degree angle. The best part was the sunset. We were able to see the city in the afternoon, during the sun set, and when it was all lit up. We got the whole progression of time in about twenty minutes. When we came down the tower  it was bright orange and the glass elevator allowed you to look out at the tower and the sleepy city as you approached the ground again. It really was a cool place.

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Tokyo before the sunset.


Tokyo during the sunset.


..The sunset. That’s Mount Fuji in the background, the little nub. I guess I could say I saw Mount Fuji twice. Once on the train and once in the tower.

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Tokyo at night. This is my favorite view of the city.

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I wanted a picture with the city and pieces of the tower showing. I liked the perspective.













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The tower took on a whole new life at night. All it took was for the lights to go out.

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This guy was in the tower so obviously we’re best friends.


There was a Christmas village outside of the tower. I’m still surprised at all the Christmas excitement here. 













After that we acted like bananas and split. The rest of the group went on their way into a different part of the city for dinner and I walked around the city with my mother. It has the same vibe as New York City but not as vicious. People still wait for the cross walk signs to turn green before making any sudden movements. We met this man outside of a Starbucks who lived in New York, Canada, and San Fransisco as a traveling musician. He played the bass guitar and had quite the love and knack for jamming. That’s the biggest thing I miss about the US. I enjoy talking to new people and approaching people I don’t know. It seems like a lot of the people, at least in the cities, are much more serious and seldom talk to the people around them. While they’re more than willing to help you if you ask for it, a lot of the people keep to themselves. I like the loud, mixed cultures of America. I like the encouragement of embracing differences and backgrounds. When you shove people through a cookie cutter you’re cutting off all the little things that make them so special in this world.


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This feels ripe. 


Tell me. Would you believe this was a McDonald’s if I told you? It’s fancier than my house.


There was a single seating option. McLonely.












We’re hoping to visit Old Tokyo tomorrow (at the recommendation of my jamming bassist friend.) The pictures look incredible so hopefully the real deal will be extraordinary.

Stay Weird.


Current jam- ‘Helios’ by The Fray