Saturday, December 04, 2010
Just over a month ago Aya arrived in Shanghai. I brought a photo with just to make sure it was her (pictured). As usual I was surprised by how small she is. More than that I was so accustomed to a silent house that having my little chatter box back has changed my world here. She has changed my world in many other ways too. It has been a year now since we were married in Hawaii and in some regards that seems like only yesterday. To celebrate one year together we took a trip to Hangzhou. It’s a scenic town not far from Shanghai. I expected a smaller town with nice scenery since it had been hyped up that way by people I had talked to and the research I had done. There were supposed to be some nice hiking and running trails surrounding that a scenic lake. I was very much looking forward to that as Shanghai is a busy place with lots of people, thick air, and few places that are quiet and people free.
We departed Shanghai on a bullet train which zipped through the country side at 350kmph. The train ride was nice enough, but as I looked out the window I kept thinking, “Ok, we are getting further into the country side, when are we going to get to a place where the smog parts and the blue sky shows itself?” I kept reassuring myself that Hangzhou and blue skies were just around the corner. I was sorely disappointed.
Hangzhou has some nice scenery, but like every other place I have been to in China it was packed with people and very polluted. As we arrived at the train station and hailed a taxi it was obvious that this place was not a smaller city. Sky scrapers could be seen nearby through a haze of smog. The train station was brimming with people coming and going from Hangzhou. I was immediately crestfallen as I realized this was not going to be a weekend where I got away from the city atmosphere.
Indeed, there were mountains and scenic pagodas. There were nice views and old structures. There were hiking trails and running trails that wound through nice patches of mountain side and scenic lakeside landscaping. It had all the potential for a nice place to be for a weekend. At one point after climbing a pagoda we spent some quiet time in a tea garden, the tea was really good, and for a moment we escaped the city. We walked about a lot and saw some sights, but the first feeling of being in a smoggy crowded place was prevalent. We made the best of it and enjoyed our time just being together and relaxing. At one point we had wandered down a side street and the strangest feeling fell over us. It took us a few minutes to realize what it was; we weren’t surrounded by people, traffic, smog, and noise. It felt great.
Since then I have had none of that silence, back here in Shanghai. There has been no silence outside and none inside either. Aya has been waiting for me when I come home each day as we continue our lives here. I enjoy my job immensely and she says she enjoys her life here too learning Chinese and tending house. There are certainly things that we don’t like, but it seems that we have found enough things we do like to keep us here a bit longer. I think part of that is just having each other. Three months without her was too much and I could tell that my stress level was higher before she was here. While I still value my private time I am growing more and more appreciative of having a partner to share my life with, someone to unburden my concerns to, share a laugh with, to be perfectly honest, to share in my triumphs and my defeats no matter how mundane. Our futures are now tied together and each step we take is together.
Recently one of my dear friends passed away. I have followed some of his widow’s thoughts as she tries to make sense of such a sudden change of her life and the impact it has had is one that is obvious. Once you have committed your life to one person and built towards the future together, what happens when one day they disappear? I try to never think about it, yet think of it all the time. I wonder what Aya would do if I suddenly died. While it pains me to picture her as a widow it pains me even more to know that I won’t be there anymore. In my own selfish way I think the worst part of my death won’t be that I can no longer experience the world, but that I will no longer have the company of my wife. On our trip I remarked to Aya that we had, “One year down...” To which she replied, “…and 59 to go". I hope that is true.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
369,300; that is how many people went to the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai on the same day I did which seems like a lot until compared to the Expo’s peak day, the 15th of June, which saw 518,000 people attend.
The exhibition, which opened on 1st May and runs until the end of October, has been seen as Shanghai's chance to showcase itself to the rest of the world. In spending a reported $46 billion spent on the Expo, China has invested more money in it than the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Official figures have predicted 70 million visitors will flock to the 240 pavilions and exhibitions staged by participating countries and organizations, spread out over 2.5 miles of Shanghai's Huangpu riverbank. So far 58,386,600 visitors have visited the Shanghai expo. While most come from China itself some, like me (technically), are overseas visitors.
I had gone to the expo briefly with Aya in June when we were here for a couple of days, but because of time constraints we only went in for a couple of hours and saw just two pavilions. I only remember one, Israel, which I thought was rather disappointing. The building itself looked very cool from the outside, but the main portion of the inside was dedicated to a movie showing the advancements in technology Israel has made and connections with China. In my eyes both subjects were forced and not very interesting.
This time around I went alone. I intended to spend a whole day, but arrived a bit late around 10am and then left a bit early at 4pm because me feet were starting to hurt and lines were getting monstrously long. This time around I went to 5 pavilions, the African Shared Pavilion, the South American shared Pavilion, the Cuban pavilion, the USA pavilion, and the New Zealand pavilion.
The Cuban pavilion was terribly depressing and the only thing I remember from it is that there was a man selling bottles of rum, or some kind of liquor. There wasn’t even a line, just two open doors leading in and out of the pavilion. I guess you can’t have a line if there is nothing to wait for. The African shared pavilion and the South American shared pavilion had some interesting points, but also some very shabbily put together areas. At some times I imagined that a class of 6th graders had been put to task setting up displays. The New Zealand pavilion was neat. There was a giant green stone in front for visitors to touch, nice displays of NZ life and overall a cool design. The USA pavilion was by far my favorite, which feels boastful for me to say because I took pride in what the USA pavilion focused on in contrast to what other pavilions focused on. In every other pavilion I saw the focus was on physical achievements like mining, exports, advancements in technology, or the unique regions of a country. All those are fine things to be proud of and showcase, but America’s pavilion focused on something intangible.
Yes, I can barely believe it myself, American’s did not focused on the goods they make, the land they have, or the advancements in technology. Rather they were focused on ideas. Yes, ideas. As the pavilion’s site says, “The Pavilion presents the U.S. as a place of opportunity and diversity where people come together to change their communities for the better.” There were three films in three different rooms of the pavilion as a group of a couple hundred people we were moved from room to room. The first film had an array of ordinary and not so ordinary Americans, including Kobe Bryant, Tony Hawk, and Michelle Kwan, attempting to speak to visitors in Chinese(for the record Kwan has no trouble speaking Chinese). The takes are not perfect and visitors get to see the many mistakes that people make trying to say something in Chinese. It was great. It set the audience in a playful mood and got everyone smiling. Next visitors are led to see a second film featuring the likes of U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Here they and a group of children talk about the innovative ideas that Americans will come up with in the future. Kind of a ‘Promise of Tomorrow’ type film. The third film features a story on urban landscapes with moving seats for thunder and a sprinkling of water for rain when those parts come up in the narrative.
At the end of the second film the audience cheered! Can you believe that? Cheered! I never saw anything like that at the other pavilions. No one cheered the guy selling rum in Cuba. The Green stone of New Zealand was cool, but no one laughed. Pointing out the connection between Israelis and Chinese was nice, but didn’t get any applause.
I could feel the emotion from the films and the emotion from the audience around me and I could see, for the first time here, the way that some Chinese people look at the United States. Outside waiting in line I met a young girl who I talked to for the 30 minutes or so it took for us to get through the line. She told me about her family, her upbringing and her desire to study in the U.S. Inside the pavilion I met two young men who were anxious to speak to me about what I thought of the US pavilion. Listening to them I was put into the perfect mindset for what I was about to see.
The Expo’s slogan is ‘Better City, Better Life’ and I have to imagine that if the estimated 70,000,000 visitors come to Shanghai in the course of 6 months that indeed the city will become better. The government will be forced to clean up, for at least 6 months, and the economic activity visitors bring with them will improve the city of Shanghai. No matter what happens, I can take away a little peace of mind. A reminder to myself that even with all the wealth of land and achievements that America has the potential of America's future might be more valuable than all of that.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
The red button is located just inside the door of my new apartment. The first time I saw it I was with the guy who was inspecting my apartment. He was running around, flipping switches and opening doors just to make sure everything was working ok. I saw the button as we entered the apartment and was waiting to see when he would flip it, but as it turns out he didn't. Later that day as I was moving in furniture I again paused to look at the red button. What could it possibly do? There was no clear indication and so I thought it best to just let it be. For the next couple of days I would look at that button on my way in and out of the apartment and wonder what it was for. Finally, one morning, I decided to push it. Bracing myself I gave it a quick sharp jab. I stood stock still for a moment listening to for any detectable sound and watching for movement, but nothing happened. The button stuck in and didn't come out so i gave it another jab to try to dislodge it, but it didn't move. As the anticipation I built up slowly deflated I sat back down on the couch to read. About 5 minutes later I heard some keys jangling at my front door. I was supposed to have some repairs done, the ones the initial inspection had uncovered, so I got up to let in the repairman. However, when I opened the door there was no repair man, but a security guard. I motioned for him to come in and then he showed me a key. For a split second I didn't know what he was doing there, and then it dawned on me. The red button had a small key hole, like shape of the key he was holding, below the button. The red button turned out to be a security button in case of trouble.
Moving to Shanghai has been an experience. This past week I have spent cobbling together what I could for my new apartment and basically keeping myself alive and well. These may seem like mundane tasks, but take that task and put it in a setting where you barely know where you are and don't speak the language and you might get a better sense of just how challenging it can be. Thankfully many people can speak some English, so many tasks are not terribly hard to complete, but it is hard to work up the motivation each day to go into a world where you don't fit in, but still find your way. I am naturally prone to try to work things out on my own before asking someone else. Some may even say I am reluctant to ask for help. This isn't so bad in a place where I can largely help myself, but here it is not the case. I have to ask for help. I have to make a fool of myself trying to explain what I need. I have to trust. I have to do things because they need to be done. I have to know, I can't wait to see what happens. I have to push the red button.
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
In July Aya and I went to an art show called Body Worlds in Niigata. I have known about Body Worlds for about 5 years, and have wanted to go for just as long, but was never able to be in the same city as one of the rotating exhibits. Luckily for me, Aya got some free tickets through work. I have always been interested in anatomy, my favorite part about creating art is exploring the human body. Seems only natural that as a human I am interested in what is inside of me. However, many people don't feel this way and would label that kind of curiousity as morbid or grotesque. I can see why people feel that way, but I don't share their opinion as art, and inherintly this exhibit, are not meant to disgust, but educate.
Most of the bodies in the exhibits are human, though animals do make an occasional appearance. The bodies in the exhibits are preserved by plastination. Plastination, in a nutshell, replaces the fats and water in tissue with polymers. The person to popularize the show and invent the technique of plastinization is Gunther Von Hagens. Currently there are 5 shows touring the world. All cadavers are donated and if you are interested in making a donatoin you can go here (http://www.bodyworlds.com/en/body_donation.html)
I expected this show to be breathtaking and I admit that it was very interesting, but there seemed to be something missing for me. Perhaps, life? But really I think what was missing was a true sense that these models were human. Even though the evidence was right before my eyes it was hard for me to believe that these were real human beings. I enjoyed looking at slices of people, a smokers vs. non-smokers lungs, women and men, brains with alzeimers, holding a brain in my hands, and seeing the blood vessels of the human body displayed independant of the torso in what looked like red hanging moss. I think its an important exhibit and I think most people, rather than leaving uneasy or deomoralized, leave feeling the real beauty and fragility of the human body.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Imagine if you will that you have put your ear to a seashell and are listening to the sounds it makes, that is kind of what the Maglev from Pudong airport to Shanghai proper sounds like at full speed. Maglev stands for Magnetic Levitation. Cars and tracks are designed to levitate the cars and for propulsion through magnitics. Some people refer to these trains as a linear motor car, but I don't think that is correct as linear motor car refers to the mode of propulsion (propulsion coils) rather than to the tracks and cars. Then again we call one train a steam engine and another a diesel even though they may run on the same track, so as you like.
The one in Shanghai is currently the most famous although there are other famous maglev trains such as those in Germany and Japan. The top speed ever recorded for a maglev train was in Japan at 581 kilometers per hour which in miles is something like 360.
This particular one transports people 30 km (18.6 miles) to the airport in just 7 minutes 20 seconds, achieving a top speed of 431 km/h (268 mph), averaging 250 km/h (160 mph). It is the fastest commercial train currently in use. I have to say that at the moments during which the train achieved top speed it didn't feel like it. It was suprisingly smooth.
We took the train both in and out of Shanghai, it was not so expensive, about 50 rmb which comes out to a little less than 10 dollars a ticket. I suppose if you had the time you would take a normal subway into the city, but we wanted to ride the special train. We thought it would be fun and it was.
The reason for being in Shanghai was to visit a school to see if I could get a job there and I did, so next year I can ride the maglev quite often if I like. I am sure with the number of people that said they would visit we will be riding it a few times at least. I am hoping the ride, in Shanghai next year, will be suprisingly smooth.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Last weekend before heading off for China Aya, her parents, and I went to a concert for a group called Kodo. This group is very interesting for a number of reasons. First is that the name Kodo can interestingly have two meanings that both fit the group very well. The first meaning is "heartbeat" which is easy enough to see fits a drumming group and the second means "children of the drum" which is even more obvious. Second, the group is based on an island in the Sea of Japan/East Sea called Sado. Sado is about a 1 hour ferry ride from the mainland and if you go back to a post I wrote in September you will see that I have visited Sado. It is interesting that the group is based there because there is not a whole lot of anything on Sado, which makes it easy for them to live a secluded and spartan lifestyle. Also very interesting is that apprentices who hope to be players spend two years living together communally in what was once an abandoned schoolhouse. After this period, apprentices who have been selected to become junior members spend one more year training and practicing in the hope that at the end of the year they will be chosen to become part of the Kodo organization. Members are very dedicated! The most visually interesting thing is the players endurance. Members will at times strip down to fundoshi, which is like underwear, and play. When this happens you can see the physical strength it takes in the contours of the players well muscled bodies.
The performance was beautiful and I was very glad to have seen it. There were songs that sounded like falling rain, traditional songs, and some that were very intense. The endurance of the players was quite impressive! It made me miss Japan even though I still have another 2 months here. If I ever get a chance to see Kodo again I will leap at the opportunity. If you would like to learn more about Kodo or hear some of their music you can visit their website here.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Last weekend Aya and I went with her parents to local honey/bee farm to do some bee keeping. This place offered to show people the colonies and let them try honey, we were pretty sure it was meant for kids, but sounded so fun. So off we went.
When we arrived we had to don some funky net hats to make sure that we didn’t get stung on the face, but our hands were left exposed. As the woman guiding us got her smoker going she was telling us about the bees and that we shouldn’t stand in front of the openings of the hives because the bees would feel threatened. There were maybe a dozen boxes each containing its own colony with its own queen. She led us into the middle of the hives, or apiary, and I must admit that I was pretty nervous. There were bees landing all over me and the noise a bit unnerving. Plus, I thought, “Can bees smell fear? Didn’t I hear that once? Oh no, … don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, stay calm.” That isn’t exactly true. Bees can smell pheromones, but they can’t smell “fear”.
Anyways, as we stood there our guide pulled out a board from the hive and showed us some honey comb, pointed out the queen, then punctured a hole in the honey comb exposing some fresh honey and told us to put our fingers in to taste some. I was the last to put my finger in and I must admit it was awfully hard not to poke a bee as I was trying to get some honey, but it was really good. Our guide explained to us about workers and drones and told us that essentially males are used just for breeding and once their purpose has been served they get kicked out of the hive where they starve to death. In some ways I feel bad for them, but not really. There lives may be shorter than other bees, but all they do is eat and breed. Sorry guy, I don’t feel bad for you. So I was thinking about whether or not I would actually want to be a male honey bee when Aya got stung. The strap from her camera and squeezed a bee between it and her hand and it panicked and stung her. Of course then our guide got to tell us about how when a bee stings and they lose their stinger they also lose their lives.
Other than that though we had a good experience and after went into the honey shop to taste some different kinds of honey like mikan, caramel, shiroka, soba, etc. They were all pretty interesting. We also read about some of the other uses of honey such as for medicine, shampoo, and other things. So that is the buzz on my honey bee experience.
Thursday, May 06, 2010
That is a picture of what I call the "stranger danger pole". This name is the name used by the foreign teachers that I know here in Japan. The real name is sasumata, which translates as something like "pushing fork" As you can see it is a long pole with a semi-circular shape on one end. The user grasps the pole on the other end and uses the semi-circle to pin someone by the waist to a wall or basically to push them away, all the while the user can keep a safe distance from the person being pinned.
In Japanese schools, as in every school, there are school drills that are conducted at fairly random times to make sure that the students are prepared in the case of a real event.
Fire drills at my school are pretty cool actually. One of the staff sets off big smoke bombs in a certain part of the building, say the upper west hallway, and then the fire alarm is pulled. Teachers and students have to figure out how, based on the smoke, they should evacuate. I think this is brilliant, but there is one major flaw. At my school the gymnasium is the evacuation area. The gymnasium is attached to the rest of the school.
There is another drill where we practice what to do if an intruder comes into the building. In this scenario, again, no warning is given. Across the anouncements the principal announces that there is an intruder. Students then have to, again, figure out how to get to the gym and avoid the intruder. The kids get to the gym and then the intruder (a teacher wearing a partial face mask and hat) enters by a side door and proceeds to hurl insults at the students and teachers and basically to act mean and threatening. At this point the intruder is subdued. Teachers surround the intruder and try to talk them down, eventually someone physically subdues the intruder. The "stranger danger" poles are always on hand and occasionally used. I have never used one myself, never even been in the act of subdueing the intruder. The closest I got was running around the school with the secretary, each of us with various office equipment as weapons, try to flush out the intruder.
The funniest part about the intruder poles is that they sit in a closet except for the day that they are brought out to subdue the intruder. They are not even handy should someone come in. On top of that, there have been numerous times when I have seen people just wander into school. Its always some nice old guy selling flowers or something, but the point is that there is no barrier to them coming in nor is there much concern when a stranger is seen in the hallways. The doors are unlocked and really anyone could get in at anytime that school is in secession. I don't mean to belittle the Japanese school system for trying to protect the students, but perhaps more should be done to ensure the safety of schools.
I actually asked Aya if she had these in school when she was young and she said no. The reason being that they came about because of violence in schools here, especially the Osaka massacre in which 8 elementary children were stabbed to death. In America and some other parts of the world there has been similar desires to respond to school violence. While I agree that measures need to be taken in schools I think Japan's most appropriate response is to examine the country's social policies regarding the treatment of mental illness. Often I hear people say that times have changed and usually I think that times really haven't changed, just the amount of people and therefore the amount of exposure to atrocity. However, when I hear about things like the Osaka massacre I have to wonder if maybe they are right.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
It is usually this time of year in Japan when most foreign people sigh and think; I really like Japan. It is also this time of year when most Japanese people think, I am Japanese.
The reason for this is hanami, or flower viewing, which really means the viewing of the cherry blossoms. From late March to May cherry trees in Japan begin to bloom. It is also this time of year that weather starts to become warmer. The sakura (cherry blossoms) because of the variations in latitudes and therefore climates, bloom first in the south of Japan and then creep northward ending in Hokkaido in May. Sometimes on the news you can even watch the “hanami front” as it creeps northward like some lovely pink army.
The flowers are very beautiful and many people like to picnic under them. At times the places with many cherry trees can look like a giant party as many groups will be picnicking at the same time. Unfortunately the flowers only last for about 2 weeks before they fall off. This also can be a beautiful time as flower petals falling resemble snow and hanafubuki, or flower blizzards, occur in high density areas.
I took the picture above in Ueno Park about one month ago. I had just arrived back from Australia and had time to kill before my bus. I thought the park would have some good flower viewing and I was right. There were lots of people there, everyone having a good time. I bought myself a beer and some yakisoba, a noodle dish, and sat under the trees enjoying my food and the view. As I sat beneath the trees I thought to myself that this might be the last time I see these trees for a while. If all goes to plan I will return to the US in August. So, with that in mind I sighed and thought; I really like Japan.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
As usual reading has brought me a wealth of information. While in Tokyo the other weekend I picked up a couple of books, one was ‘Earth in Balance’ written by Al Gore back in 1991. At first, I didn’t know the publish date, I just picked a random passage, liked it, and bought the book. It wasn’t until later that I figured out how old it was, but I decided to give it a go anyways and I am now glad I did. It offered me many things to think about and explore. What really interested me was that, writing in 1991, Gore had many of the same concerns that the public at large today has about the environment. It made me laugh a little bit. I have great respect for Mr. Gore and I have always thought that he is miles ahead of anyone else when it comes to the environment. However, I am getting away from the point of what I wanted to write here. I wanted to write about water. All water really, but fresh water specifically.
In his book Mr. Gore identifies global warming, and specifically access to clean water, as being one of the major environmental changes happening on our planet, but of course the book is almost 20 years old. That got me to thinking about water and if the situation had changed since 1991. It also got me doing some research and I think what I found is pretty interesting.
Water obviously makes up a huge portion of our planet’s surface, roughly 2/3. It also makes up a large part of our body, roughly 2/3. Of the world’s fresh water roughly 2/3 is locked up in ice. Of the fresh water we use roughly 2/3 goes towards growing food. See a pattern here? I just thought that was interesting and would grab your curiosity. Now that I did (I did right?) let’s go a little deeper.
Of that 2/3 of the planet covered in water a meager 2.5% is fresh, and of that 2/3 is locked up in ice, leaving only 1% of Earth’s total water at our disposal. Of that 1% at our disposal we use 2/3 of it to grow food. Now when I say ‘grow food’ I bet you all got a picture of a plant in a field receiving water. Maybe you even got a picture of biting into a nice juicy tomato or something. I know I did when I first heard that statistic, but that isn’t exactly correct. Remember that after all the grain and veggies in the world are grown we still have billions of livestock to give water, and grain, to and there are far more livestock than there are human beings. So here comes the part where all the numbers start to paint a picture for change.
To make one pound of beef it takes about 1,857 gallons of water to grow and process it. To make one pound of beans it takes 43. Ok, yes, beef and beans are not exactly the same things, but I think you see where I am going with this. Pork is 756 and corn 109. Chicken is 469, potatoes are 31. Animal’s non-meat products like cheese and eggs fit more in the middle averaging 250-400 gallons per pound. I got all those numbers from National Geographic, which proved to be conservative in their estimates compared to other sources. I hope I am making the point that meat takes a lot more water to produce than veggies. To quote the most recent National Geographic, “A human diet that regularly includes meat requires 60% more water than a diet that’s predominantly vegetarian.”
I think that illustrates that point well enough, but I would also bet that most people reading this blog feel pretty secure in getting enough clean drinking water, along with all other water needs, to not be too concerned about how much water it takes to grow food. Most of my readers don’t live near the Yangtze, Ganges, Indus, Yellow, or Mekong rivers, but about 2 billion people do live close enough that they get their water from those rivers. Himalayan glaciers, which supply the bulk of those rivers, are melting faster than they can be replenished which soon will leave hordes of people without water, likely within the next 50 years. I will also assume that none of you have a relative among the 3.3 million people who died from water related diseases last year or that any of you have to walk the average 3.7 miles to fetch water that most women in developing nations do everyday. On average an American home used 100 gallons a day so you probably aren’t living on less than 10 gallons a day like billions or other people do.
However, I think I can assume that you live in Europe, Japan, or North America and therefore I have something for you to think about. It terms of virtual water, which is water used to produce and process products, Japan imports 15 times more water than it exports. North America is a net exporter of water while Europe is a net importer, like Japan but not nearly as much. That means, North Americans, that you have access to more water than you know what to do with. It also means, Europeans, that you don’t, and that of course also means in the near future that it could become a big problem considering some of the places where your virtual water comes from, like Africa and SE Asia. Not that North America is in the clear. California, which supports the U.S. by providing half of its nuts, fruits, and veggies, is facing a water crisis. I may also mention, while I am at it, that California has the world’s 10th largest economy, and therefore a large chunk of the overall U.S. economy as well as the world’s. That should be a concern given its recent and lasting drought. North Americans should also be concerned for other reasons having to do with fresh water. Of the animals on the threatened and endangered list in the U.S. most of them live in fresh water and those are going extinct at a rate 4-6 times faster than those who don’t. Species diversity is a key to most healthy environments and the loss of that diversity should be a big concern. The great Ogallala aquifer is the largest body of fresh water on Earth, and it lies underneath some of the richest farmland in the world, the American grain belt. But things are changing. The Ogallala is a fossil aquifer, which means the water in it is left from the melted glaciers of the last Ice Age. It's not like a reservoir or river, which is replenished regularly from rainfall. When the water in the aquifer is gone, it's gone.
So what can you and I do about it? Well it seems simple enough, but just think, the amount of moisture on the earth has not changed. The water that the dinosaurs drank falls as rain today. We aren’t likely to find new major sources of water anytime soon (although the moon has our hopes up), so we have to figure out how to live more efficiently with the water we have. Desalination plants process water consumed by 300 million people annually in 150 countries and that number is growing. That is one possible solution. Another solution is to repair aging infrastructure so that water that is piped for direct human or agricultural consumption use isn’t lost along the way to leaks and evaporation. The water piped into N.Y. City, for example, loses tens of millions of gallons a day to leaks. We can take many small personal measures as well. Everywhere you look today, particularly in the western United States, people are seeking to conserve water. You see people washing their cars less often. People are installing low-flow showerheads and sink fixtures and low-flow toilets. You see people using drought-resistant landscaping. The vigilant turn off the water at the sink when brushing their teeth, except to rinse the brush, and when shaving, except to rinse the blade. Perhaps they are even using grey water in their homes or cities.
These measures are prudent and helpful, but all of them combined don't save anywhere near the amount of water you would save by shifting toward a plant-based diet.
Of course not all livestock is raised off the Ogallala aquifer, and of course meat isn’t the only source of wasteful water practices, but it is a very powerful one and it is one that is easily within our own power to change and quickly. Remember what I had quoted from National Geographic? It said, “A human diet that regularly includes meat requires 60% more water than a diet that’s predominantly vegetarian.” The words used are regularly and predominantly. You don’t have to give up meat entirely, but eating a diet that is largely vegetarian is a huge step towards water conservation. So much in fact that it would save more water than if you never showered all year.
To quote what I am told is an old Chinese proverb, “Unless you change directions you’re apt to end up where you’re headed.” Well, it seems that I am getting more and more concerned about the direction we are headed so I wrote another post about the environment in the hopes that we can change directions. I say we because we are sharing the same boat. Many of the people that I end up talking to about environmental issues get defensive. I don’t really understand this. Isn’t this our environment? Shouldn’t we all be concerned? I never provoke a discussion and never make efforts to put people on the defensive. I am not pointing any fingers that I don’t readily point at myself. This is meant to be a discussion, not a debate. I would never say, you can do better, but we can do better. I think that is fair, but people still feel defensive. Maybe it is the idea of change more than anything else that puts people on the back foot. I think what people want to defend is nothing, or rather, doing nothing because that is more comfortable and less scary than confronting reality and making changes. I understand that feeling, but I just can’t do that any longer. When my kids or other future generations look back at me I want to be able to say, I did something. I was open to change and concerned about the future. So I will continue to explore how to make positive changes and to write about what I find in the hope that you, my dear readers, will read this and think to yourself, maybe I too can make some of these changes. For honestly, I have found that these changes are not as scary as they seem.
So here I am again, asking you all, please find ways to conserve and look out for the future. Don’t use as much and the water you do use, try to recycle before dumping it down the drain and please cut down on the amount of meat you eat. I have been eating vegetarian for 4 months now and I don’t regret it. I don’t think you would regret giving up meat a couple days a week to help conserve water, but maybe you, and certainly I, would regret you not showering all year.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
What to say about Sydney? It seemed like a really nice city and Aya and I enjoyed our time there. Before coming to Australia I read a history of Sydney, which is really the history of the beginning of European settlement of Australia. It was quite interesting. I enjoyed much of the story, but was quick to note two pieces of trivia about the name Sydney. First, the city is named after a lord Sydney of England. This is funny to me for two reasons. First, he never saw Australia and second it wasn't even his real name. He had changed his name mid-life. The second bit of trivia is that the city was not intentioned to be called as such, it was supposed to be called Albion. Sydney was just the name of that particular cove, but the name caught on.
We decided to stay somewhere nicer than usual and booked into the Lord Nelson Hotel. Located in the neighborhood of the Rocks, in a building that was about 150 years old. Coincidentally it was really close to the original site of the first settlement.The hotel was nice. Our rooms were small, but comfortable and there was a bar on the first floor serving delicious beer and a barista on the second floor with some tasty food.
Since we only had 1 full day in Sydney, the first day we got there in the early afternoon, we decided to make the most of it. On the first day we just wandered around the Rocks neighborhood which had great views of the majestic Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. That night we caught a night cruise on board a Captain Cook dinner cruise. I was unsure if the cruise would be worth it since it was about 80 dollars each, but it turned out pretty good. We had a 3 course meal that was well made and we could drink as much as we wanted. We also had a nice view of Sydney Harbor as we made our way first to Darling Harbor and then out to Port Jackson. When we started it was dusk, but by the time we returned 2 hours later it was dark. Both evening and night views were great.
On the second day we walked around some parts of Sydney going to the Aquarium and China town in the morning. I had found a walking guide online and although we didn’t follow it to the letter we took some of the directions found therein to make our way around. In the afternoon we made our way the Australian National Museum. It was pretty cool. They had an exhibit where various animals were displayed as only a set of re-constructed bones. I think bones are fascinating. There was also a nice exhibit on Aborigine culture and displays of Australian mega fauna that I quite liked since mega fauna is really interesting to me. It was a good walk, but by the evening our feet were getting tired so we took a subway back to Circular Quay. We managed enough energy to walk midway across the Harbor Bridge, which had a great view. That night we ate at the bar in the hotel, having some pizza and olives that were delicious, along with some delicious beer made on property. Unfortunately we didn’t have much more time and the next morning I was off to New Zealand and Aya back to Cairns to catch her flight home.
A few of my friends, jokingly, have said that it’s a bit strange that I posted first on New Zealand and it has taken me so long to post this one. Perhaps that I didn’t say much about Aya is what they find strange. Aya is becoming like my right arm. It just seems normal to have her around and when I went to New Zealand I was a bit lonely. Traveling was still fun, but not having someone to share the views with didn’t feel quite right. Coming back to Japan and finally meeting up with Aya was a bit of a relief. As much as I grumble about not having enough alone time it seems that I have come to enjoy her company.
Thursday, April 01, 2010
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest reef system and is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 sq mi). If you are like me then when you see those numbers it is pretty hard to imagine the exact magnitude of that area, but gosh it seems big. To give you a little perspective to think about this my dear readers. The state I was born in, Wisconsin, which most of you know, has an area of approximately 169,639 km (65,498 sq mi)Meaning that the reef is more than twice the size of Wisconsin. Pretty darn big. The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms.
This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. These polyps secrete calcium carbonate which becomes what we think of as coral, that skeletal type substance. Over time coral grows quite large and needless to say (yet I am saying it) the environment around them grows with them which also makes the reef one of the most active places for aqautic life.
The Great Barrier reef, being enormous, supports an enormous diversity of life, which is why every year hordes of people flock to the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia which is just near where we happened to land.
I guess "happened to land" isn't exactly accurate. It didn't just happen by accident, Jetstar chose it for us. You see Jetstar is a budget airline and hence they service places where lots of people go or places where they want lots of people to go like Cairns, former or latter if you like.
We flew into Cairns from Narita airport and spent 4 days in the region. Sometime was spent relaxing and some riding a train into the nearby village of Kuranda, but the main day was the one we spent on the reef, or rather on Franklin Island. We had booked into a tour that would take us to Franklin Island, just a bit off the coast. Here there would be lots of coral and beaches to be enjoyed. The island is actually part of many along the coast. Often, after long periods of time the coral grows, the sands shift and bang! In the blink of the Geological eye an island/cay is formed. The tour company did a good job in getting us there nicely and servicing us with lunch. They even provided a very good quiche for the vegetarians! They also provided guided snorkeling and a guided island walk. Both were good. The seed pod seen in Aya's hands above, for example, was pointed out by our guide. It's designed to float and thereby get to other island where the tree can sprout. Nature is so good at that! Our guide seemed very well versed in his job and he pointed out many things that I found intriguing.
The downside to this magical adventure is that at the time there was a cyclone south of our location in Queensland and so the water was not clear. Snorkeling was a bust, to see the reef at all you had to dive down about 2 meters. However, on the leeward side of the island we did see some sea turtles poking about among schools of fish, so that was cool and really we just had a good day swimming about and enjoying the pristine beach. At the end of the day we returned satisfied and I, because of my snow white skin, returned back to Cairns burned a shade more red.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
The Franz Josef Glacier is big…and it is a glacier… and it is a World Heritage site. It is unique because it’s one of the only glaciers in the world to be located in a rainforest. It is also one of the only glaciers left in the world that is growing.
I went with a tour company because it promised to be the only ones allowed on the glacier. As we got to the glacier this seemed to be true as there were ropes where others had to stop, but our tour got to go on. We walked to the foot of the glacier and then put on crampons to walk on the ice. For the briefest of instances the sun came out, then it rained, then the sun came out, then it stopped, then it rained again.
The Second part of my trip took me alone to New Zealand. I arrived in Christchurch on the afternoon of the 25th and picked up my campervan near the airport. It was a bit relaxed compared to places in the states. The van came with a sink, stove, cooler, table and bench/double bed. The front seat was also quite wide and could probably sit three people without too much hassle. But alas, I was alone!
So after getting some gas and eats, checking my maps, and making a couple wrong turns I was on my way out of Christchurch and into the mountains. The first day I just drove and drove as long as I could. The fact that the scenery was quite amazing, all highways were one lane affairs(2lanes, one each way), and I wasn’t yet comfortable driving the van meant that I was going a bit slower than I would end up doing on the way back. Also, bridges were one single lane! One! At first I was confused, but as it turns out many of the bridges in the region are like that. The reason I will explain later, but basically you come barreling up to this bridge at 100k and make a quick check to see if someone is coming the other way. If no one is coming you can go across, if someone is coming you have to wait on the other side of the bridge. This example should clearly illustrate just how few people there are in the country that one lane will suffice for a bridge.
I put the pedal down as much as I could and only stopped once for about 3 minutes that day. I made it through Arthur’s Pass and on to the west coast just as the sun was starting to get low. That wasn’t going to stop me however. I pushed on as far as I could and around 730 noticed with a bit of panic that my gas was very low. In New Zealand there aren’t that many people and hence not a whole lot of gas stations. As I made my way through a town called Hari Hari I spotted one and shot in determined to fill up and press on with the last precious few minutes of day light, Franz Josef was only about 50k away. The station was closed. So I turned back into town and went to the only place that I could make out as a business which turned out to be a bar/liquor store/ restaurant/ hotel/ camper park. So I paid for a parking spot and then went inside for a meal and a beer. No one was unfriendly to me, but there was a feeling that I was set apart. So I finished up quick and asked the bar tender what time the station opened before heading to my van, 8am. I thought, “No worries”. The station opens at 8, I have to be to Franz Josef at 845 and I was making an average of 90kph so I could make it.
The next morning I got up at 7, showered and waited for the gas station to open. The guy showed up at 805 and I was filled by 810. I jetted out of there and made it to Franz Josef at 850 being one of the last to show up for the scheduled tour. I got outfitted with boots, pants, and jacket and we were on our way to the glacier. The hike was quite beautiful as I will describe in another short post, but on the hike I felt like the smartest man alive, or at least the smartest one on the glacier. As we made our way up the glacier our guide would ask us various question like do you know why the ice is blue? (Compacted ice and light refraction) How far away is the glacier from where we are? (About 2k at the time) why are bridges in the region built with 1 lane? (Building costs, floods a lot which washes the bridges away) And the like and every question I answered I got right while no one else seemed to get one. After a quick tour of the glacier it was back down and I was back in the van all gassed up by 2pm, back on the road. This day I decided that I would try to make my way back to Arthur’s Pass where I had read about some decent half day hikes located near some camper parks. I arrived at my desired spot, Klondike, about 6pm and so had roughly 2 hours till sunset so I walked around the area and discovered two young guys camping a fair distance away, but by NZ terms pretty close. As dusk settled in I went back to my camper to get ready for bed. After hiking around I was feeling a little unsettled about the place so, when I heard a very strange noise very close to my camper while I was brushing my teeth, I decided to get the hell out of there. I zoomed up the road a bit and stopped where I saw a few other vans parked at a wayside. I thought, “ah, peace at last” but it was not so. I fell asleep just before 10, but at 130am was awoken. At first I didn’t know why I had woken up, but then I heard a sound; the sound of a plastic bag being moved. I suddenly realized that I had a plastic bag next to my feet in bed and something must have gotten in to get after it. As quickly as I could I sprang up and banged on the light to see who was there, but saw nothing. After staring for a few seconds I decided I was dreaming, but just in case grabbed my flashlight. Sure enough, a few minutes later I heard the noise again only a bit louder. I flashed on the light and caught what I thought was the tiniest bit of brown fur dipping off the edge of my bed before all was still again. This time I got up and put the food in the cooler in back of the van and searched the rest of the van to see if I could find the bugger. No luck. I thought perhaps now that the food was inaccessible the mouse would stop. I was wrong. He tried scratching into the cooler and failing that made his way to the front seat where I had a bag of garbage. I banged on the light again to see if I could catch him but this time he didn’t stop moving. He was IN the bag. So I just opened the door to the front, tied up the bag, walked about 50 paces from my van and tossed the bag into a trash bin. I thought that was that until 4am when the mouse returned! However, this time I was not quite as upset and just let him be. He woke me a few more times, but by the time I got up around 630 he was nowhere to be found. Little bugger ruined my sleep and left me a few little round presents on the front seat.
Morning in the mountains was great and by 730 I was on the Beally Spur trail. I hiked for about 5 hours then got back in the van and made for Christchurch. After returning my van I walked into town and booked into the Riccarton Inn and after talking to the desk clerk figured out that I had to leave pretty darn early to make my fight out. Since it took me about 1.5 hours to walk to the hotel from the rental place I figured it would take 2 to make it to the airport which meant if I walked I would have had to get up at 3am at the latest. Despite being low on cash I thought bollocks to that and paid for a cab at 4am, not like that was much better.
New Zealand was great! There are so few people there it is amazing. I can’t wait to go again, with Dan, and make it a real hiking trip.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Today at work I had a discussion with a co-worker about bluefin tuna. This was especially interesting because this is a hot issue in Japan. Friction has been created from the differing sides of the issue taken by Japan and China in opposition to many western nations, including the U.S. My co-worker asked me if I ate maguro sushi, which is tuna. I could easily answer no because I don’t eat any type of animal, but the brief discussion that ensued would be typical even if I had answered yes.
He asked why the U.S. would put a ban on bluefin tuna. I told him that scientists that have monitored bluefin tuna populations for decades have seen precipitous decline and are recommending a ban on Bluefin. He said that the U.S. didn’t eat much tuna and so shouldn’t have a say in the tuna population’s control. I told him that despite that the U.S. doesn’t eat a lot of tuna that doesn’t change that the population is going extinct. We went around in circles like this for a few minutes before he was called away, but it was an interesting conversation. Just about everyone I have talked to in Japan holds much of the same opinion: Don’t mess with my maguro sushi.
While I am sympathetic, maguro is a really popular and traditional food here; I don’t understand why Japan would fight so hard to oppose the ban. I started to think, is it true that the Bluefin population facing collapse? What does this ban entail? Perhaps there was something that I was missing because surely any reasonable adult would be willing to give up something in the short term in order to ensure having it available in the long term. Surely.
So the first question I asked myself was; what exactly is tuna? I had better define it before I figure out if it is endangered and worth protecting. I think most of us know that it is a very large fish that inhabits the oceans of the world. Beyond that most people are pressed for details other than it comes in a handy little can in most grocery stores. Tuna is found all over the world, but it is misleading to think that means they are plentiful because there are lots of different kinds of tuna like Yellowfin tuna, Albacore, Bigeye, Black fin, Skipjack, etc. These are all slight variations on “Tuna” and they all inhabit different regions of the oceans based on their bodies, diets, etc. and in turn inhabit unique niches in their eco-systems. Hence the loss of these unique tuna means a drastic and possibly unknown change in the eco-system. So, Bluefin tuna, the one in question where does it come from and what is it like? There are, according to Wikipedia, three groups of Bluefin. They reside in the North Atlantic (and Mediterranean), Southern Atlantic, and Pacific.
So with this information came my second big question; are these three populations all endangered and would they all be included in the ban? Yes and yes. Suffice it to say that all three stocks have suffered a decline in population of 75% or more since the early 1960’s and all are considered in danger of collapse.
So then I asked my next question; why are they endangered? It turns out that Bluefin is hugely sought after, especially in Japan which consumes about 80% of the harvested stock each year. In fact the record for the highest price paid for a single Bluefin tuna is here in Japan. On the average they can sell for the equivalent of 10,000 dollars, but this one in particular sold for over 175,000 dollars. One fish, dead, to be eaten, for over 175,000 dollars. To put that in perspective, Bluefin tuna are quite large. They can exceed 1000lbs in weight, though I think this one was a bit less than that, around 600lbs. Did that put it in prospective or are you still saying “That’s expensive!” like I am?
So that led me to my next huge important question; could the Bluefin tuna reasonably be replaced by another tuna stock, now to save the Bluefin population from collapse or in the future if it does collapse? The answer is yes. Although there are other populations of tuna that are listed as endangered such as Pacific Bigeye and Indian Ocean Yellowfin, there are still other populations that are not endangered. Skipjack, which supplies 60% of the worlds consumed tuna, is not endangered.
So finally this led me to my final and perhaps most important question surrounding this ban on Bluefin tuna; what will the ban do? It appears that the ban will NOT stop the fishing of Bluefin tuna. What it will do is stop the International trade of Bluefin tuna, which is where Japan gets a kink in the neck. Most of the Bluefin that Japan eats comes from somewhere else and hence if an international ban is set their supply will be drastically cut.
For now that ban is being discussed, now, at the CITES meeting in Qatar where 175 member nations will discuss this ban among other things. It needs a ¾ vote to carry and for now it seems that it might do so. The U.S. and the EU (largely) are behind the ban and Japan and China are opposed. Soon enough we will see what happens. Now, more than before, I am left thinking, “What exactly is Japan thinking by blocking the ban?”
Monday, March 15, 2010
In a few days I fly to Australia with Aya. This is to be our honeymoon. First we are going to Cairns on Australia's NE coast, then a few days in Sydney. After that she is coming back to Japan because she has to work early. I am going on to New Zealand for a few days more.
I was thinking about this trip and feeling that there was something special, like some kind of marker that I would be passing by going here. At first I thought that it was going to make my 19th and 20th countries that I have traveled to, breaking me out of the teens. So I got out a piece of scrap paper and jotted down what countries I have been to. That was not it, they will be 18th and 19th. That seems like a lot when I say it, but when you compare it to people like Charles Veley (http://www.mosttraveledpeople.com/) it's not that much.
Then I thought this will be my longest flight ever. It is quite a ways from Japan to Australia since unlike a lot of other flights the pilots don't have the "by the pole" option that has saved me so much time before. This flight will actually not even be close to the longest, that was Tokyo to Minneapolis at about 10,000 miles. So it's not the 20th country and it's not the longest flight, but I thought it might be since it's in the souther hemisphere and... oh yes, they are in the southern hemisphere!
This will be my first trip south of the Equator. First time, that sounds strange to me considering that, you know, there is this whole half of the planet that I have never set foot it. There are some reasons for that like the difference in landmass between the northern hemisphere and the southern, roughly 2/3 of the continents' landmass is in the north. When you consider that there are also population considerations. About 85% of the world's population lives in the northern hemisphere.That is quite a difference.
So there you have it. I am headed to the other half of the globe and a new continent! I remember that my grandfather said there was some ceremony that he did with his ship mates when they crossed the equator on their destroyer in WWII. Something about making a gift to Neptune. I wonder, if I am flying, if I should give a gift to Jupiter instead.
Monday, March 01, 2010
DNF. That is an acronym used in the world of foot races that I thought I may have to title this blog with. Even during the race I thought that perhaps this would brand my experience, but once I went past the 30k marker I knew that even if I walked I wouldn't have to use Did Not Finish as a description of this experience.
My Tokyo Marathon run ended Sunday at about 2pm, around 5 hours after I crossed the start line. I say about because I really don't know. There were so many people that, despite the start gun I didn't even get to the start until 10 minutes after the race had started, and the people were so thick for the first 10k that I didn't make good time (1hr 10min) and the lines for the bathrooms were so long that each of the two times I went cost me 10-15 minutes. So of my time for the marathon I can't say definitively. I don't know the official and I don't know what I really 'ran' but the time on my watch said 5hr 5min. In the end, I don't care. Sure, it would have been nice to run a faster time, like I expected, but I am really really happy just to have finished the race.
At 6am Sunday morning I woke up to take a shower and get my gear on. I was out the door to the train station, Aya guiding, by 730 and by 800 I was in the race area. Here I departed from Aya and awaited my start. By 850 I was in my 'block'(H) waiting to start the race. It was raining, windy and about 6C (43F ) which are not exactly ideal conditions for running, but at least I had 30,000 other people to share my discomfort with, which makes things a bit more bearable. At 9:12 I heard the official gun and the ensuing fireworks and everyone started to cheer. Slowly my group started to move. By the time we crossed the start 10 minutes had gone by and looking ahead and behind there was no end of runners. The first 10k seemed like a breeze. At this point the 10k runners split off (there was a 10k race attached to the first part) and the marathoners went on. It was also at this point that Aya and I had set up our first meet point, and there she was with her parents. Unfortunately because of the 10K runner's chute I could not go talk to them, but just wave, yell, and run on. Shortly after I took my first bathroom break and started to shiver as I cooled down in the line.
Starting off at 10.5k with my watch reading 1hr 20min was a little discouraging. I thought I would be making better time, but unlike in training I had to deal with people around me and could not just pee by the side of the path like usual. At about 13k I started to develop some trouble on my left ankle, it was sore and that had been a worry spot in training so I was careful to take it easy. Thankfully by 16k the pain was drifting into the background among a number of new pains. At 17k, as the course was doubling back on itself I got to see the back of the pack and realized that about 5k behind me the pack was thinning to almost no one. I was falling behind. It was here that I again took another bathroom break, the second and last of the race. At 20K I again saw Aya and her mother at our planned point, I am told her dad was somewhat beforehand yelling my name, but among the hundreds of people yelling from the sides I never heard him. At this point I thought, this race could go either way. I was feeling fairly good, but that ankle was hurting me and I was hoping that it and my finicky knee didn't decide to go foul.
Going into 21k I felt pretty good. I was into the race, my pace was evening out, and the race was evening out too. As I passed by the 26k marker and then again at 33k I noticed the back of the pack like I had at 17k, but this time it was a lot thicker, people were slowing down and dropping back. This was to be expected as this was the time for "the wall". I can't say exactly that I felt like I hit a wall, but at about 24k I started to get what I would like to dub the 'unending pain'. I never got really tired, but I did experience increasing pain in my knees. I had experienced this before in training, but only briefly. I was to know it on a new level this day. At 30k I marked my time at 3hr 20min which I thought was not so far behind my predicted goal of 3hrs, with the two bathroom breaks I took the extra 20min was to be expected. On pace and happy.
Going into 31k I was ecstatic. I knew I had already finished so to speak. I could technically walk the rest of the race and make it before the course closed, which if worse came to worse I would do. Things were getting rough and I took a couple brief walking/stretching breaks between here and 35k because my hams especially were getting tight and tired. There was also a building pain in my knees which I did my best to stretch out. By this point, among the runners I was among, about 1 out of 10 were dropping to walk. I was sympathetic, I too wanted to walk, but I was so afraid to walk for any amount of time that I kept going. At 35k, at the appointed spot, I found Aya and her parents. It was so good to see them. Dad gave me a tea and quick massage on the back while mom and I talked. 7k left to go, I couldn't fail.
Just as I was saying my goodbyes and turning to go I realized that my legs were no longer functioning. I tried to run, but hard as I might my legs would not rise properly. Slowly, like a train building steam, I went from a walk to a slow jog to a little faster to a little faster and finally a slow plod.
Going into the last 7k was such a strange experience. I was there, I could taste it, and yet the pain was so heavy I seriously considered stopping. As some cruel joke the planners of the race had set the course of the race to end with a series of hills. Many people, about 1/2 had started to merely walk up the hills, but at this point I recalled some advice given in an article I read. "keep running, if you stop to walk, you may never run again." After my little surprise at 35k I was apt to believe that and I only stopped to walk one time after I had mounted most of the hills and was going into a flat stretch. There is not much to say about that point on. I saw the family one more time at 41.5k, hit the finish, and then walked through the various check points as fast as I was able (really really slowly to be truthful). I met with the family and that is where one of the above pictures was taken as they helped me get my pants back on. I was freezing (calorie loss?) and my legs hurt so much I could not bend to put my pants on nor raise my legs to hand level. So, naturally I suppose, my parents helped me put my pants on and get me on the train to the hotel.
Everyone along the race was very helpful. People poured out in incredible numbers to cheer on the participants, there was hardly a bare spot along the entire 42k of the roadway's sidewalks and sometimes 5 thick. Some people had sugary treats for the runners, some tea, some miso soup, bananas, plums, coffee, beer (yes! one beer guy), rice balls, and more. There were many acts along the way from taiko drummers to dancers, hula girls, high school bands, musicians, cheerleaders and race groupies. There were lots of official tables for sports drinks, bananas, peanut butter sandwiches, and water. Besides all that, the racers that surrounded me were all polite. I was bumped quite a few times, but more often than not I received an apology and sometimes even encouragement. I have to thank all these people for making my race an enjoyable experience.
I have also have to thank especially Aya and her parents for coming all the way to Tokyo to see me run and cheer me on (not to mention massage me). I also want to thank Dan for trading running stories with me and encouraging me along the way. I did it. I did it Dan.
So, when is the next one and who is with me?