Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Day 1 of sight seeing. Successful.

July 18, 2004

I got up at 7.30 am because we had to get to the bridge on the intersection of the road I normally take to Sojo and road to downtown Kumamoto. Ben got up later after I got done with my shower and got ready. We walked down to our meeting place at 8.30. We got there a few minutes early and saw Masao get there right on time.

We walked to the Kumamoto castle. It was about 15 minutes away with most of the walk being uphill because the castle is built on a hill. The surrounding areas near the castle are flanked by stone walls and a moat. While walking, it started pouring! I was getting wet and was worried about my camera. We hurried to the KKR Hotel Kumamoto, and Masao bought us a couple of umbrellas to use. That was good so that we could still keep walking. The castle walls were multi-tiered. The outer walls with the towers were original and not renovated. We entered the tower and had to take out shoes off and carry them and our umbrella in a plastic bag. We were not to soil the floors with dirt from outside. We saw the different rooms and the wood from the time the tower was built. The castle is 400 years old. We then went to the main tower. This was destroyed in a fire in the 20th century. We could keep our shoes on to enter this tower. There was a girl in a samurai costume at the gate who was sitting still the way the guards in London stood. The tower was air conditioned! But it felt good after the humidity. There was a museum of sorts inside about the castle. I took a couple of pictures inside the museum without flash. We made our way up to the top to see a spectacular view of the city. The city seemed to spawn out from the castle. It had a wonderful view of the green hills nearby too. Masao told us that there are more Japanese tourists in Japan than foreigners. I think it sounds about right but even in India there would be some other nationalities around.
Here�s an excerpt from the official Kumamoto City website about the Kumamoto Castle:
�Kumamoto Castle (Kumamoto-jo)
Dominating the center of town is Kumamoto Castle. It is considered to be one of the three most famous castles in Japan along with the Osaka and Nagoya Castles. This castle was built by Kiyomasa Kato, a feudal lord of Kumamoto, about 400 years ago and took seven years to complete (1601-1608). The castle is approximately 8 miles in circumference, with a main tower, a secondary tower, 49 turrets, 29 castle gates and numerous other structures, such as extremely steep walls with a backward curve called 'Mushagaeshi'--thus preventing even a skillful warrior from climbing it. The castle was reconstructed after it was damaged by the Seinan Rebellion in 1877
Uto Yagura (Turret)
Considered the third donjon of Kumamoto Castle, Uto Yagura (Turret) is the only tower to escape destruction during the castle's 400-year history. All of the structural materials inside date back about 400 years.�

We then decided to visit the residence of Lord Hosogawa which was nearby. While walking there, we saw a good picture taking area where we could see both the towers of Kumamoto Castle clearly. We took a couple of funny pictures. In a span of 20 mins, the sky went from cloudy to clear. Now, the humidity was even worse if that�s possible. We heard Japanese folk music with percussion instruments nearby from a museum. We would have investigated it if we had more time.

The entrance to the house was surrounded by Japanese style gardens with wave impressions in the pebbles around the walkway. There was a small entry fee and we got our own English tour guide. We had to take our shoes off again and they took our umbrellas. They explained the structure of the house and the history of different rooms. They had two entrances, one for the Lord and his important guests and the other for the rest of the people coming to the house including the ordinary guests with lower titles. The floors were made of a high quality bamboo woven mat. She took us around to the room and explained the functions of different rooms. All the rooms have low beams which thwarted sword attacks because the attacking style of the Japanese swordsmen was vertical. We saw some cool and interesting things especially the blanket that people wore to sleep to prevent the shoulders to get cold. It�s pretty ingenious actually. I put up a picture of this on my picture blog. We also saw the servant quarters which was located on a lower level to the rest of the house signifying their low position in the house. So, we could clearly see the hierarchical class structure in play. We also saw the inequality between men and women in the styles of the rooms and approach to the house. In the end, we had to get a quicker tour because we had to leave soon to the Kami-Kumamoto station to take the train down to Kagoshima. They called us a taxi and while waiting we took a picture outside the house as well for keep sake and proof that we were there. The girl who gave us the tour spoke good English. We asked her where she was educated and she said that she had been in Berkeley, NY for a couple of years for business school. The job market must be bad in Japan because she was working as a tour guide of this house instead of working in a business firm or something.

We took our taxi and got to the station in time for the Relay-Tsubame down to Kagoshima which changed trains midway. We used the brand new Shinkansen line which was just constructed a few months back. It was a very luxurious ride down to Kagoshima. Most of the journey was in tunnels unfortunately, so we couldn�t see much of the scenery. Some of the journey was by the ocean which was pretty cool. The country side however momentary was beautiful.  The operating speed of this Shinkansen was 280 kmph as well! It was moving fast alright.

When we reached Kagoshima, we took a tram to the bay area. There were some nice shopping areas in the downtown area along with some big shopping plazas just like the ones at Kumamoto. When we reached the bay, we just stood and watched Mt. Sakurajima. It was a great sight with a perpetual cloud of ash over the crater. We walked over to the ferry station to get to the Sakurajima Island. Before getting on the ferry, we had a quick lunch. I had fried pork on noodles along with a soup. It was pretty good and I finished most of it using just my chopsticks. This ferry carried both people and cars across to the island. We stood out in front to check out the view. It was nice and sunny and the wind was cool. It was a relatively short and inexpensive trip to the island. It took 15 minutes and cost 300 �.

Once we got to the island and the humidity brought us back to the harsh reality of the weather in Japan, we decided to walk alongside the sea on existing pathways. We ate some yellow and red watermelons when we made a rest stop. There were a lot of ladies sitting and handing them out to people walking by. They were really sweet and juicy. This is also something that I would do only in Japan because everyone can be trusted. It�s unthinkable to eat anything from a stranger in any other country even the US! We walked on a bit more while Ben took his shirt off as he was getting sunburned on his neck and decided to get burned everywhere. hehe. We got to take some very nice photographs and I attempted my first panorama on the A80. I have to see if it worked after I install the panorama software on my computer. We saw an interesting looking tree which seemed like bonsai but we were sure it was growing naturally. We walked a bit more when we decided that it was best to turn back and get back so that we could reach Kumamoto before it got too late.

After the ferry ride back while sipping on fluid refreshments, we took a last look at the volcano. I wish we could have gotten closer to the mountain but we didn�t have enough time. You need more time to do these things! We asked Masao how much of time did people get for advance warning before it erupted and he said a day or so. It has a big eruption every 50 years or so. He didn�t see the last one but he was young when it happened. I think it would be exciting to see the volcano erupt from a distance of course. We walked back to the train station because we wanted to check the shopping centre out. They had some nice shops. We met an Israeli who had just gotten there the last night and she was already peddling cheap jewellery. I wonder how she communicated with the Japanese who didn�t know any English. We saw people from all classes and walks of life. The punk style must be catching up here because I have seen a lot of girls and guys with black styling along with spiked hair. People kept staring at us because I was brown and Ben was white. Sometime it got a bit old and I felt like embarrassing them by sending them flying kisses or something to say that I could notice them looking at us weird. By the time we got back to the station; my feet were aching because my shoes weren�t built for long distance walking as it doesn�t have as much cushioning as sports shoes. But hey, we saved 140 �. I wonder if Masao made Doc and Barbara walk around this much. Somehow I seriously doubt it. It however did help me to tone up my muscles from all the exercise I got during traveling and stuff.

We talked some more on the way back. We asked him to give us recommendations for the Japanese alcohol we could carry back with us. He said that the shochu and sake were the best things to take back because they were distinctive Japanese. And after Masao showed us the sizes best to carry, we decided to walk back instead of the taxi to save 12 bucks. We also went through the shopping plaza so that Ben could see what it was like. It was pretty late so most of the shops had already closed. However there were a few handful stores open, so we ended up browsing for weird things. We went into a jewellery store which had an interesting mishmash of fashion and scaled down jewellery. I liked some of the stuff I saw and almost bought it. But I resisted. We walked back using the side of downtown where the trams ran.

When we did get back, we decided to do a small dinner and then sleep early. So, we went down to the handimart to get some sandwiches and stuff and didn�t find any. So we went to the bigger store and didn�t see any there either. So when we got back to the handimart, we just had some more curry stuff with couple of fried things. We watched some Sumo wrestling while eating. We discussed the next day�s plan of attack to sight see. We thought about stopping at Hiroshima and going to the spot where the bomb was dropped because it has now been converted into a tourist center. It called the peace memorial park or something of that sort. And then we contemplated about stopping in Kyoto for an hour or so. But we cancelled that out for tomorrow because he had already been there. So I planned on doing it on the way back to Kumamoto. And finally decided to try Mt. Fuji for a few hours and do the gondola ride and take the scenic route. I had also thought of the stuff I needed for the trip in the next couple of days and decided to take a change of clothes, a book, and my camera with batteries in my back pack. I wanted to travel light because I thought that we might do a lot of walking and stuff. So with some idea in mind, we went to bed around 11.30 because we had to get up really early to start the long journey.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Final set of pictures from Japan

Sorry about the delay but I had a lot of pictures to sort through and put up. For people who use Hello!, they know how long it takes. I wish Hello! did multiple pictures.
Anyway, check out my picture blog Joy's Odds N' Ends for all the pictures from Japan. Have fun browsing and feel free to save any picture you want.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

A night out with Masao's family

July 17, 2004
I had to get to work a bit earlier because we had to do a DSC run in the morning. So, I got into my last day of work at 8.45 am to use the internet before Masao got to work at 9.30. I posted my blog stuff and pictures from last night. I took pictures of my apartments because I knew had to do it sometime. I also got to test the low light photographing in my camera. There is a bit of blurriness in the pictures due to the camera shaking. But yeah, that was last night before I went to sleep.
But instead of me doing the DSC run, Masao did the whole thing again. At least I know the process involved. All I did was email, chat, and browse random blogs again. I also saw that there were a lot of hits from random people. That was kinda exciting. And yeah, I got a reply from Bhav after quite some time. And yeah, as usual I missed Andi online again. But I got to talk to her mum. We did a quick lunch at the Chinese place and got back. I packed the glass and precipitates for the trip. I also googled time tables for my trip back to Kumamoto from Tokyo on July 20. I have it sort of figured out. I hope that�s good enough.
I left for Kami-Kumamoto station to pick up Ben. I had to wait for about 30 mins because he was taking a later train. We got a taxi to take to the apartment to drop off Ben�s baggage and then took the same taxi to Sojo. The fare was not that bad, just $22. I paid for it with my credit card which was really cool. They have it set up to a wireless internet thing I think or maybe satellite internet. It was pretty hi-tech. And when I buy my car, I will equip it with a powerful GPS unit because it will be sweet! Well, what can I say, I am a technophile. Seeing the how nice the GPS units in Japanese cars are makes me want them even more. Ben was taking about the GPS unit in the car that came to pick him up from the airport. It would tell you when you take a wrong turn and point you back in the right direction. It also gives you a perspective of what the scene should look out of the front windshield. Talk about how far ahead of the US that Japan is in technology.
While Masao was showing Ben around, I checked my emails again. And I read some of the current affairs occurring around the world. I try to keep up with the news as far as possible because I would be utterly clueless otherwise. I am still following the Birla fortune dispute going on in India. It�s like a soap opera since it has to deal with billions. Some of the Birlas left their estate and financial resources to a chartered accountant in their company to which they seemed to have no ties. It should be interesting ahead and as far as I know, the whole country is watching as the drama unfolds. It�s national news! By the way, in case you were wondering who the Birla�s are. Just think Indian version of the Rockerfellers. The Birlas own the largest conglomerate in India which produces practically everything. I tried to find out the situation with the Pakistan�s scheduled mother-of-all-nuclear test either late this month or early next month. Stability in that region is probably a far fetched dream. And the most likely spot for the emergence of WWIII if it ever happens.
Around 6.15 pm, we left Sojo University to go to the hotel where we were having dinner with Masao and his family. We took a taxi there instead of walking. Thank god! I was in no mood to walk in my jeans and knowing Masao, he would have probably made us walk there. The hotel was about 10 minutes away and near Kumamoto castle. We waited for his family to get there for a while. We browsed around in the souvenir shop in the hotel and found better postcards than what I had sent. I wish I had seen ones like these earlier because I liked them much better. Masao bought us some food thing which Ben was carrying him. I need to ask him later what he gave us. And when Masao went to check if his family was waiting upstairs, they walked in and recognized us immediately because we were the odd ones out waiting in the lobby. Of course we were the out of place there as me with my chocolate skin and Ben with his vanilla flavored appeanance was bound to stand out in an oriental dominated ethnic population. His wife and younger daughter came to dine with us. They were dressed very well! They gave us a bag of gifts. I haven�t opened it yet but I think it has fans. I don�t know. His wife is a divorce counselor but can�t speak any English. But she is a very elegant lady and beautiful even at her age. And then Ben and I introduced each other to Chiori. She was dressed in a semi-formal one piece with a short skirt. And she probably applied her make-up in haste because her lip-gloss (or lip stick?) was all over. She is educated in the US at a big university but I can�t recollect the location. She was a pre-med and math major. That was very interesting to hear. She has varied interests but she doesn�t want to go into research but obtain a medical degree in Japan since she says that there are no international admissions in state medical schools which are more affordable that private med schools like John Hopkins. Masao and Chiori are not talking to each other presently due to the clash of future goals that he has in mind for his daughter and that she has planned. She is 28 years old and I was extremely surprised to hear that she was that old because she looked like she was 21-22 years old! But back to the point, she is pretty old and starting med school that late. She doesn�t have any plans of getting married any time soon. She also had a lot of schooling ahead of her. But I wish her good luck ahead. I hope she goes through with it though.
And yeah, family dynamics. This was the first and only Japanese family I have seen. First thing she told us when we told her that he was looking for them upstairs was that he is weird. I was kinda surprised that she would talk about her father like that to complete strangers. I later realized that the culture here was different. I also told her that I had asked him to introduce me to her so that she could show me around the city and my evenings would be more entertaining. She told me that he never told her. I always wondered about that, and now father-daughter not talking explained it. Him being an alcoholic and wife beater early in her childhood came up as well. That instantly showed a completely different view of his personality to his professional life. I don�t know how their marriage is going on now, but I doubt if there is any love left in the marital relationship. They had an arranged marriage because it was really common during that time. Just like India. When she was telling us stuff about her father, her mom just smiled which told us that she agreed with most of what Chiori was telling us. Well, I assume as much because she was pretty smart and was picking up on the context of our conversations mostly from my reactions.
Now onto the actual dinner. We went upstairs and found Masao. We were seated overlooking the Kumamoto castle towers. It was a beautiful sight. Chiori acted as a translator between us and her mom. We were handed menus but they were all in Japanese script. So, Chiori translated the menu with the constituents of the different dishes. We were asked to choose 2 appetizers, an entr�e and a dessert. All I could make out were the prices since they were in English numerals and I realized that this was going to be a $50+ meal per head because it was an opulent restaurant catering to people with money to spend. So I ordered Sashimi which is raw meat. I asked for raw horsemeat because I was feeling adventurous and I was told that it was a Kumamoto delicacy. I had a full grilled sea fish and fruit for dessert. I also tried Masao�s wife�s� sashimi of fish. I really liked the raw meats! They were very surprised to hear that I liked it. The horse meat was red but not bleeding and it was chewy. It was my first memorable brush with delicacies which I normally couldn�t afford. And the fish was also good. Ben didn�t like it as much but I must have been conditioned with fish eating at home because we ate fish every day. We ate the sashimi with soy sauce. And then arrived the entr�e which was a complete fish. I tried tearing the flesh with the chopsticks but it didn�t work. So I asked for a knife and a fork to tear the meat. After stripping the bone for meat, I used chopsticks to eat the meat. Chiori dived in to eat the eye balls of the fish because she loves it. I like the skin of the fish for some odd reason; I always have. It�s weird because I was the only one in my family who loved skin. I also was offered to try the beef dish that Chiori was having. It was sweet, and like the way the meat was marinated and cooked. And yeah, we were having beer while eating this fantastic meal. And to end it, I had fruit salad which wasn�t particularly Japanese. We left soon after that and they offered to drive us back to my apartment.
En route, they stopped by the gates of the Kumamoto castle and showed us how it looked in the night up close and personal. And then, we got back and I showed them the apartment I had been living in. I don�t know if they have ever done any living in this sort of a place. They were amused when they saw how small it was. If I thought Masao was a gracious host, they were even more gracious by offering to drive me early in the morning to the Kami-Kumamoto station on Wednesday so that I didn�t have to take a taxi. I went to bed around mid night after talking for a while to Ben. While talking, Chiori�s incessant flirting came up. He said that he had read its normal in Japanese culture for girls to be friendly. But all the slight touches? I would say that it was blatant flirting. I guess I was �friendly� too but not blatantly to return the favor. But then I am always �friendly�. Hehe. So, it didn�t really require a lot of play acting. In other places, guys would assume that the girl was interested in them. It�s called �letting on� in slang terms in the US.

Saturday, July 17, 2004


I will be travelling and sight seeing from Sunday morning to Tuesday evening. I don't think I will have internet access for the next couple of days. So, I want to sign off for a couple of days and will get back online for sure when I reach Andi's . I will also be back on the cell phone, so you can call as well. I get into Chicago at 4.40 pm on July 21.
As to what I have done so far today. Not much again. I came in early around 8.30 am and  packed up the last two precursors and right now am packing up to leave. I also figured how to get back from Tokyo back to Kumamoto on Tuesday. I have some written Japanese from Masao so that I can reserve a taxi for monday morning and wednesday morning.
Well, sayonara for a few days!

Friday, July 16, 2004

Due to popular demand

I took pictures of my apartment last night. Now you can see where I have been sleeping since I've been in Japan.
They are at Joy's Odds N' Ends.

100 bucks a day to surf the net and chat!

July 16, 2004
For the first time, I had solid sleep till 7.45 am when my alarm went off. I must have been pretty tired because I slept through my ritual dawn awakening. Apart from a minor glitch in biking, the ride was smooth. I jumped too many gears together and the chain came off. I had to dismount and get my hands dirty while putting it back on. It was pretty easy except my hands were now smeared with grease. I tried to rub it off on a nearby mossy tree and succeeded to get most of it off.
When I got on the net and onto blogger, I noticed that they now allowed formatting which is really cool because now I can try different colors. I checked random blogs and they all mentioned this upgrade. The blogger community is pretty excited about it now. Before that, I just used html formatting and it�s more convenient. I also got an email from Barbara who is the ESL Department head. She said that there were 10 more boys coming which got the boy�s tally upto 17 now! She wanted to hire someone else to help me with them because it would make my job easier. So, now there are 27 Japanese students coming for the 2 week orientation period from 3 different Japanese universities! I still have to tell Andi about this development but I think she�ll get it off my journal before I can tell her. I recommended Fumi because I knew he had applied for the RA thing as well and I thought he would have time to help. Plus he also is paid $150 a week with free room and board. Not a bad deal. I also spent a lot of time on Vanderbilt University�s website because that feels like my best bet for grad school so far. I like what I see so far. I know they have a good nanotech program and now it seems like they have a good college life experience too.
Masao got to work and we checked up on the solutions and they were still not done. These are taking longer than usual. They were now to be taken out tomorrow. We don�t have time to make these glasses so I will just carry the precursors with me. I also typed up a letter that Masao later signed talking about the contents of my sample bags in case I was questioned at the airport during baggage checks. So I hope I don�t have any troubles during travel now. After that he said that we would do a DSC run on one of his sodium borate glass. And about an hour later, he tells that he had a faculty meeting at 1.30. He said that it might go for a while but he�ll try to get out if its goes too long. And we could do the test after that. So, we did another quick lunch with stuff we bought at the handimart.
And then he left. I waited and waited. While waiting for him to come back, I was on the net. A couple of hours in, Doll got online. What ensued was a pretty long discussion about gay marriages. I wanted to know what people thought when they said no to this issue because I think gay marriages should be allowed and made legal. This has been a major controversy in US politics and society for sometime now. We chatted about this for a couple of hours and didn�t conclude on anything. So, we decided to carry on the conversation after I got to the US. While random blog viewing, I found a website of a Jennifer Smith from Buffalo, NY. I also saw that she blogged about this issue. So I sent her a comment and then we emailed back and forth about some issues. I wonder if more conversation will ensue tomorrow. I also chatted with Mammi for a while and realized that she was planning to move to UK with her hubby. I am excited about this new development which means that I have more than one reason to visit England! I wish they were coming to US because then they would be easier to get to and in the same country! She told me that grandmom and my cousin were reading my journal. Her hubby saw my picture blog which was cool! And then finally, I got to chat with mum around 5 pm. It was good because I was missing them a lot. I haven�t chatted with papa yet but that might be remedied tomorrow because he has weekends off. She told me about Tubldi�s miscarriage and that made me very gloomy. I was looking forward to seeing the baby next year when I went to visit them. But on the other hand, they had a successful Dubai stopover. And then I decided to leave for my apartments. So today, I did absolutely no work. I was on the internet all day! Is this what I am getting paid a hundred bucks a day for? I feel like working here but things move really slowly. I don�t think Doc will be particularly happy but it�s not my fault.
I got back to the apartment and bought a sandwich and another local beer. I am attempting to sample some of the Japanese beer because they are supposed to be very good. I showered and ate my small dinner. I also finished one of my yogurts. I now have one yogurt left along with some jam, Pepsi Blue, and the rice alcohol. I need to finish all of it before I leave. Today�s entry is considerably shorter because I didn�t do much today.
I guess I can talk a bit about the younger Japanese generations and some observations I have made. Guys and girls are into fashion here. I see them sport trendy outer wear. The girls are always immaculately dressed and surprisingly most of the Japanese girls are pretty cute. However they are usually little with an average height around 5�2�.  The only thing that mars the look is their teeth. But on the other side of the spectrum of dress fashion, I did see a lot of punk fashion which was a refreshing sight in a conservative culture. And then there are Japanese boys. They define the term metrosexual. At a distance, they seem like girls with their delicate features and long-er hair. They also carry large hand bags which are in for male Japanese fashion. I remember talking to Masao about this and he didn�t like that the guys didn�t look like guys anymore. He attributed this to all the junk food that young people eat instead of a balanced diet. It makes their body weaker. One thing that ties them together is that all of them have cell phones. People on bicycles, scooters, cars, buses, trains. Everyone, everywhere is connected. It is amazing to see everyone having a cellphone which is 3G enabled which means that they all have internet access and can do practically anything on the phone. Rich, poor, middle class. Cell phones are a unifying factor in Japan. My apartment doesn�t have a phone because they assume that everyone has a cell phone. And oh yeah, almost everyone smokes. People smoke in class rooms, labs, restaurants, public areas. There are no smoking/non-smoking sections anywhere. Most of the time while eating, I had to eat with cigarette fumes floating around. A lot of them however use bicycles to get around. Only the richer young people can afford cars. And the car dwelling people are dressed in haute couture. They have the best of the best. The people who work in offices are always dressed in suits even the women! It�s a funny sight to see a formally dressed man traveling using a bicycle. About the English proficiency of the general populace if I were to make an educated guess is less than 10%. I have talked in English only with 5 people so far. Most of the young people I have met cannot understand spoken English and can understand some written English. Well, they don�t really need to know English except they learn some in school but never use it. So, teaching them English has null effect. Masao was kind of sad due to that because his students took a whole day to read one page of scientific literature. I saw a girl sitting with her dictionary and she has Japanese translation on top of the English word on the paper. That is also a reason he never sends a student to Coe. I spoke to some of his students and they didn�t speak a word of English. I usually don�t hear a word of English when I go out. They have a few word vocabulary because they understand hello and thank you. It is sad if the only sustained English conversation has been with Masao and I have been here for about a week. By sustained, I mean more than a few minutes. I suppose it�s the same way in France or Germany or someplace where English is not used in everyday life.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

More money for sustance in Japan!

July 15, 2004

I woke up the morning not feeling fully rested even though I fell asleep at 11.30 last night. I had a mild headache in the morning but that went away after my shower. I decided to carry my map in case I did anymore off road stuff. And today�s bike ride wasn�t as smooth as usual. I had to brake for the �impediments� several times which annoyed me. If you are walking and hear a ringing, you are supposed to look back and register than someone wants to come through. Apparently this logic is lost here. And cars don�t watch for traffic in the sidewalk when they want onto the road. Idiots! I had to swerve to avoid cars getting onto traffic without looking. Granted they were moving pretty slow, but I wouldn�t be affected. They were the ones who would have dings on the bumpers.

When I got to work and hooked on the net, the computer this time worked flawlessly which pleased me greatly. I was very happy to get an email from Sunny which said that she was transferring to Minneapolis�s AI. This means she�s closer and we can see each other more. Because anytime Kevin goes up to Minneapolis and I have time, I can go up to see her. And she is extremely lucky to have Alex because he offered to move there so that they can be together. She gets the one she loves and her friends and family simultaneously. She missed home a lot when she was at Seattle. I also talked to Robi again and I was told that my journals were being scrutinized at home. Hehe. I wonder what�s in my journals to pick apart. Need to talk to mum and dad to see if anything is worrying them because I haven�t done anything illegal. Haha. And he is corresponding with a bong from Kettering. I feel good that he will be in the same country now and I don�t need a visa to visit him. And he isn�t very far away. He has a very interesting phase of life coming up. The boundaries seem limitless but to stay in control, limitations will be needed. He will have to learn to compromise and it�s a good thing that he has a running start from Woodstock. I had to learn from scratch because I have had a relatively sheltered childhood. I learnt from my mistakes and I seem to be doing just fine now.

After Masao got in and my Vit D drink, we discussed the plan of attack for today�s work. He reminded me that I still had to go to the bank. So after extracting the glass cylinders from the carbon cast using a vacuum cleaner and labeling them, I left to go to the bank. I thought about carrying my camera with me if I wanted to take a few pictures of downtown and they realized that this was a quick trip because I had to be back soon. I broke 70 bucks to Yen hoping it would be enough to sustain me for another few days. But I was still worried about needing cash to buy my souvenirs. I hope most of them take credit cards. Otherwise I will have to find an ATM which allows withdrawls from international cards. I think I might end up spending a couple of hundred dollars on stuff for other people and me this weekend. I guess I�ll keep my fingers crossed. I already know what I will be getting for some of my friends. Hehe. One of them might be very surprised because I can just imagine the look on the person�s face. There are so many things here! I have to make tough decisions. I will prefer handicrafts over mass-manufactured stuff.

When I got back, we decided to do a quick lunch so that we could make a glass sample and a couple of precursors. We went to a handimart within the campus and bought a curry filled thing, strawberry milk, and a couple of rice triangles in seaweed. I also took a bag of chocolate chip bread sticks. They looked healthy and good snack food. This total was 680 Y which was a bit more than usual but still pretty cheap. And I bought lunch for myself for a change. Masao got some of his fruits out. I had a peach and a couple of bananas before digging into my lunch. I told him that at my house, we had a couple of mango trees that produced 3000 mangoes in a year and banana trees that gave about 900 bananas. He was amazed because he thought Nigeria had a lot of desert land because it was a major oil producing nations. A common misconception that all oil comes from desert lands.

After the quick 30 min lunch, I checked traffic on my blogs. I saw that I missed Andi again because she came during my lunch but at least she reads my journals and got to see the pictures. It really sucks that I haven�t been able to chat with her since the first time on Monday. I really miss her.. I sent her an email telling her that I was thinking about her. I haven�t gotten any reply from Pat or Deanna yet. They got my email though. Hopefully, I would get some correspondence about the Diplomat thing soon. Traffic on my blog has surged. Some one from Jamaica viewed it which was cool. I have random views all the time now. I also posted up pictures from yesterday too. Doll now agrees that I have been to Japan because these pictures featured me. Hehe. I missed chatting with Doll by a few minutes but it was pretty late there already, so she went to bed. She left a couple of messages which was sweet. I also got some messages from Bul but she had to leave quickly.

We made our second glass sample today. I don�t think we will be doing any of the characteristic testing here since I don�t have much time. I will be carrying these samples back with me. I will also get a letter from Masao giving details about the materials I am carrying in case I am questioned during baggage check. I might keep it in my carry on because I don�t want anyone to open my checked in suit case. I might be deemed a terrorist and a threat to National Security with deadly chemical weapons if I don�t have the necessary official documentation. Actually, that might be a thrill and they�d feel dumb when they realized it was completely harmless. But I don�t want to tempt fate and get delayed in the process.

And on and off, I kept chatting and browsing during the little breathers. I also found out about something really big and I can�t disclose what I found out. If I talked about it, it would make some people very unhappy. I had a heart to heart conversation with Pallavi which started with Abhiram. They have become stead fast friends and their friendship parallels mine and Doll�s. When they were in school, they weren�t good friends but have gotten closer since undergrad. But now they pretty dependent on each other. I am glad to see that some old school ties are still going on and getting stronger as time goes by. Ever since I have been in the US, I have lost touch with some of my best friends from DAV. I have also reached the point of no return after 4 years. I am content keeping in touch with the people who want to stay in contact. I also talked to mammi for a bit and sent her my journals so that she can take it home for them to read because she�s at her parent�s house now. She feels old now and she�s only 23! I couldn�t help but smile. She sent me some of her pictures and I liked the one with her and Robi. I might get a print of that from home if they have it. I might ask Robi to be useful and send me photographs or post them online. I want to see how things went in India. I have seriously been out of the loop with family happenings because I don�t get any news unless my parents tell me or I chat with Mammi. I like these chats I have with Piu now, and it helps that we are on more manageable time zones.

After making today�s glass, I made solutions to make more glasses! I made a couple of precursor solutions to dry overnight. I messed up the first one, so we had to dispose all the chemicals and start over again. Since there is no mixing involved, this takes about 15 minutes compared to the 30 minutes at Coe. I also like the prep room because it is air conditioned and I like being cool and dry! We took a early drink break around 3.30 instead of 5 pm. That was because we had about an hour to kill.

I figured out more stuff with Ben about our upcoming weekend. He will be coming in at 4.10 and I will be picking him up from the Kami-Kumamoto station which is closer to Sojo. We take a taxi to my apartment, ask him to wait and then take us to Sojo so that Ben can see Masao and his lab. And then we have been invited to dinner by Masao�s wife at a restaurant near Kumamoto Castle. And then, the next day we explore Kumamoto Castle with Masao and then he might take us to another tourist spot which is also supposed to be picturesque. And then we leave on Monday morning to Kyoto where we spend an afternoon and then onto Tokyo. We will be at a hotel overnight. I might see some of my friends that night too. Then I will be going to a fish market early in the morning because Ben says that it�s an amazing experience. And then I will leave to get back down to Kumamoto and stay in my apartments over night after packing to leave by train again the next morning. Masao and I figured out our plans after work today. I have to leave Kumamoto at 9 in the morning to reach Kansai International Airport by 3.30 which is 2 hours before I depart for Chicago. So clearly evident, I will be doing a shit load of traveling and sightseeing which easily compensates for the past week. I have train travel for 3 days in a row and then a 12.5 hour flight back to Chicago. I will probably be worn thin by the time I get back to Andi�s and possibly jet lagged since I wasn�t jet lagged when I got into Japan. I do have a lot of time before we both have to get back to Coe. I can relax before I enter next year�s chaos.

I got done with work around much later than usual. I left for the apartment at 7.30 after I got done with the last solution. I had a leisurely ride back with a few gear glitches. I bought a couple of curry filled bread. I took a quick shower and ate my dinner while watching a segment on one of the female Japanese volleyball players. They train hard! They do blind goal keeping with medicine balls! Ouch! I had my other Japanese beer. I like these beers because they are very smooth. I still have to finish the rice liquor. I might do that with Ben because I don�t want to drink that much of alcohol. I also ate up the remains of my cake from last night. And then, I journaled so that you can read about today�s experiences.. It seems like more of a work and internet journal to me. It will be more exciting for me to write about the exploring the country this weekend. I might not get to post the pictures and journal entries till I reach Chicago because I won�t have internet access for long enough to do it in Japan. I�ll try to do some if I get back to Kumamoto early enough. I guess that�s it for today and I am actually done early today. It�s only 10.20. I might read some because I haven�t done any reading here so far. I haven�t been able to make time for it. I am normally tired and need to go to bed by 11 pm. Japan is making me something I am not, an early sleeper..

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Just put up more pictures

Make your way to Joy's Odds N' Ends if you want to see some new pictures I took yesterday. Most of these have me in them.

Burning off extra energy!

July 14, 2004

Today�s dream kept me engaged through the ritual 4.30 awakening, so I didn�t even look at my watch to see the time. And I woke up a few minutes before 8 am and waited for the alarm to go off but it never did. I got up to check the computer to see what went wrong. After a few minutes of tinkering around, I noticed that after the time had automatically changed when it was connected to the internet, I forgot to change the AM to PM! So, since the alarm was set to activate at 8 AM, it never went off. I took a leisurely shower in the morning because I knew that I had to stop by the post office and it opened at 9 am. I wanted to lighten my bag and I removed the book I carried everyday that I hoped to read. And I decided to go bright with today�s outer wear. I wore the red San Francisco t-shirt Andi gave me. I think this is the first time I�ve worn it and I liked the way it looked on me. And this time I remembered to get the Nalgene out of the freezer and hooked onto my bag! The ride was much better today with less strain on my back. Still, the laptop�s pretty heavy and not really meant for portability during physical exertion. After a quick stop at the post office, I got to the office at 9.10 instead of my usual 8.50. So, it wasn�t too much of a delay.

This time there was something wrong in the morning because Yahoo! Mail or Google mail wouldn�t open on the laptop. So, after talking to Robi, I restarted the computer in hopes that it would fix whatever was wrong but it didn�t. So, I just posted my journal and checked hotmail. I got a short email from Tara telling me that she was getting back to the US soon and would tell me about the experiences later when she had more time. And then Masao got to work, and I checked my other emails on his computer after he was done. I got an email from mum and dad telling me that they got online but I wasn�t there. Well, I was at lunch unfortunately.. And then they tried calling me at work but simultaneously I was trying to call them from the office downstairs. We just kept crossing each other! What luck!

And then I started work finally! We took our solutions out today morning and after it cooled down, we bottled it. These precipitates are sticking to the Teflon beaker which never happened at Coe. It�s strange.. We did all the work without gloves and I usually had powder adhere to my hand while attempting to scrape out as much of the precursor as possible. After we bottled both the preps, we were done for lunch. I waited while Masao cleaned all the stuff we just used. He won�t let me clean it! Anyway, I just went back hoping that the mail things were working now and there were. Hail Mary (Magdelene or the original?)! If you didn�t get that, Mary Magdelene was Jesus�s alleged �wife� and you know his mum of course. I didn�t get many replies to my ton of emails that went out. Anyway, I know there is usually a week long waiting period except when it comes to Inga who emails me right away. I usually have a reply waiting for me the next day.

We went to eat at noon to the Chinese restaurant to try their other options. We opted for their pork option. We sat at the same table the first time that we went there. When the entr�e got there, I knew that I would be eating the right amount again. This dish has a strong garlic taste to it just like most of the other Chinese stuff I�ve tried. It was very tasty, as Masao puts it. I was much quicker with the chop sticks today because before eating, I watched one of the men use theirs and copied his technique which worked wonders. I am proud of my mimicking skills.. hehe. Now that I think about it, my hand writing is a specimen of mimicked handwriting combinations of some friends in sixth grade. I wanted to change my hand writing because I thought my old handwriting was shabby. And when I perfected my style that was influenced by others, I decided to keep it. And I have been complimented on my hand writing ever since.. Modesty don�t come too easy.. On the way back, Masao took some pictures of me with the hills as a back ground. They came out well and would have been better if the Sun was not over head. I look pretty dark in the shadows of the contours of my face. I like the pix anyway.

We started the process of making our glass for today. The time factor involved in doing research is lax. The only thing they are not lax about is the composition and it�s accuracy to the theoretically predicted values. Masao is a stickler for procedure. We had to make about 20 g of glass and only 6 grams of precursors normally fits in the crucible. But we put it only around 4 g and melted it and then put 4 g in again. We repeated this process 5 times! The reason we do so many steps is to prevent overflow and bubbles in the melt. The addition of the sample was a two person operation with one person switching off the furnace and taking the cover off while the other person removed the ceramic cover off the crucible and then put in more sample in the hot furnace which was still around 800 �C when the addition was going on. I think my hand got burnt quite a few times because the gloves weren�t enough protection against the high temperature. His glass making process is different. His takes about 2.5 hours to make the melt. After we had all the prep in, we waited for 1 hour for it to heat at 1000�C stirring the melt once with a platinum wire. And around 5 pm, the melt was ready to be poured into the carbon mould and kept at 300�C for another hour and then left overnight to cool at 1K/min. So, when I come back tomorrow, it will be ready to be tested.

We took our drink break. This time I bought the drinks. I carried my camera along and I got someone to take a picture with me and Masao on our drink break. The pic came out very well. I also met some English speaking faculty members. It may seem mundane to you but after speaking English only to Masao for a week, this was a refreshing change when I didn�t have to play dumb when Masao spoke to someone in Japanese. I told him that a few of our students were doing NASA research when he mentioned that one of the professors I talked to taught aerospace science. I also told him that Bhavya was doing aeronautical engg in India. He also told me that he would show me and Ben around Kumamoto Castle on Sunday which is good because it would be nice to have a tour guide.

As I was working, I was also chatting with different people. I talked to Eun Hyung because she is back at South Korea and I hadn�t talked to her since she left for home in May. She didn�t know that I was going to Japan so I stunned her when I told her that I had been in Japan for about a week already. I also chatted with Namee after quite some time. I am excited to see her again early September when she comes to Coe to visit her friends. I chatted with mammi and Doll again for a while. This time Doll had a robotics question involving mechanics and mathematics.

Today, I didn�t want to stay at work accessing the internet because I didn�t see a point to wait for people since they never show up. So, I asked Masao for options to do stuff in the evening instead of just staying in my apartment. He told me that there was a lake about 30 mins by bike which was supposed to be picturesque. I might go there tomorrow. For today, he showed me a bike trail that I was supposed to follow. But it joined back to the bike path on the main road. So, I decided to head back home because I felt like running. I felt like running for the first time since I�ve been here. My bike ride at a higher resistance level seemed easy which was weird. When I got back to my apartment, I met my next door neighbour and she could speak English! I talked to her for a few minutes and told her that I might come knocking looking for some conversation later. I introduced myself and told her what I was doing here. Her name�s Kaye and she�s a student at Kumamoto University. I wish I met her earlier, then the evenings might not have been so mundane.

Anyway, I quickly changed into running gear. I traced out a path on the map and then decided to stay on populated roads. I ran for 32 minutes sprinting the last minute. For some odd reason, I felt like I had a lot of energy to use. Must have been all the drinks during the day.. I ran on the sidewalk adjoining 4 lane traffic with a tram service in the middle. And since, I didn�t want a break in my running; I just cut through all the pedestrian lights watching traffic. Usually, cars stopped for me when they saw that I was running. I don�t know how I ran for so long in 100% humidity. I could have run for about 40 minutes if not for the stickiness and moisture. So, I ended up walking 10 minutes when I began intending to run 40 minutes. Anyway, it�s my first run in about 15 days. So I think the 4 miles is good enough in the non-running conditions. So, I had a lot of physical activity today only differing in my inability to do weights since I haven�t found a gym facility yet that I can use.

When I got back, I realized that the place adjacent to the convenience store was a cake shop. So, I quickly went up and got money because I wanted to try some of the cake. I bought one which has wafers on the side, with custard filling and peach toppings. I got a sandwich and a body electrolyte rejuvenator to replenish me after all the sweating and dehydration. I got back upstairs and took a long cold shower after the run to wash away all the dirt from my skin after a full day�s exposure to the humidity and pollution. Now, while writing this journal, I feel immaculately fresh and clean. For another10 hours anyway.. So, I had a small dinner with my dessert being more expensive that the main thing. The dessert was 340 Y which is about $3.25 and the sandwich and drink cost 320 Y. Its 11.15 now and it�s time to let my body rest. I can�t believe that I just ate most of the calories I burnt while running.. Maybe I didn�t gain all that I lost.. Hope lingers. I am here to enjoy and I can watch calories later. I also need to make a pit stop at the bank to break more USD into Yen. Will do that at noon. I guess that�s all I can remember now. This is Joy signing off for today.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

All play no work!

July 13, 2004

For some reason, I have to wake up at the crack of dawn everyday. I have not been able to figure this out yet! Another mighty weird dream, this time about Misuk�s room mate Sara. I don�t know why she would be such a prominent feature in my dream because I don�t know her really. We have at most exchanged a few sentences the once I was up in Misuk�s room. Anyway, I was up again at 7.30 waiting for the alarm to go off at 8 am. This time I actually shaved in the morning finally! I decided that Masao should see my clean face sometime. Hehe. I don�t feel like cleaning up in the morning because I feel yucky by the time I get to work anyway. It doesn�t even feel like I have showered or anything. I wish he had his air conditioners running. I left for work around 8.30 after a few glasses of milk as breakfast. At least I am getting my everyday calcium. This time I remembered to stop by the post office and sent my postcards. I am going to send some more since I got a few more addresses. Sending postcards were only 70 yen each which is surprisingly cheap! I was assuming it would be atleast 200 Y each. Good for me I suppose. I rode a bit easier today so that I didn�t perspire as much. Usually I zip through pedestrian lights if there is no traffic on the road. I also keep as much as possible on the road instead of the side walk because walking people are impediments!

When I got to university, I hooked up the laptop and got it running. I got an email from Andi. I wrote her the email yesterday thinking that I would make it short but it turned out to be pretty long. She�s roller blading and having a lot of fun with it. I sent her a reply. She�s lucky that she gets to see her friends from home. I wish I could that:(. When I hear her tell me the fun she is having with her home friends, I miss my friends back home even more. At least I still have some correspondence running primarily by email or instant messaging. I chatted with Britta for quite sometime which was great because I haven�t talked to her for about a week. There is some excitement headed her way with the bachelorette party. I think the bride wants strippers but she wants alcohol more. So, I think alcohol won this round. She actually read in between the lines in my journal which made me happy. I miss hanging out with her. We saw a lot of each other since April especially in May term. She being around made May term bearable. I�ll get to see her in about a month when she comes in early for the Diplomat thing. Which reminds me that I have to still get the Diplomat info from Pat or Deanna because I have to assign the incoming international students to the volunteers. I have to remember to email them. I also talked to Robi because he was online pretty late in the night. He also read my journal entries in the email that I sent them. He got a 30 GB Nomad Zen jukebox for graduation! Lucky guy! He has changed! I hope I recognize his scrawny ass when I see him in December. He is planning on getting his hair dyed red. My mum agreed because it was either hair coloring or body piercing. I don�t know if my brother can handle body piercing actually.. hehe. I told him to tell mum and dad to get online to chat with me.

And then Masao got to work at 10 am and we checked up on the solutions from yesterday. They were still not done which meant that I was not making any glasses today. So, my work is delayed till tomorrow. I then gave him the present I got for him, the elephant inside the elephant. He was very happy to get this from me. He was amazed at the intricacy of the work involved. He has been getting me a Vitamin D drink which tastes pretty good and not medicinal like I expected. For good health he says. Later, he started checking his results, so I was back on my computer since I had nothing to do all morning. I sent more emails. I got a couple of emails today from people. Inga always sends me a quick reply which is awesome! I really miss her because I got attached to her during the short 4 months she was here. She also gave me some very valuable advice. She is preparing for her examinations and I hope she does well. I sent an email to Greg updating him to stuff happening here. I also asked him to get an update about my paper from Doc. I have a lot of time in the evening to make corrections in my paper. I showed Masao our research results from Coe and he was impressed. He was interested to see our results from an extension of his method and wants read my paper after it�s fully corrected and stuff. I told him that I might get to present this paper later if I get more data for the glasses. I need to get a complete Tg picture of the high alkali content borates. While talking to him later, he suggested doing some electrical conductivity tests for high alkali borates because they should be good ionic conductors. The stuff I am doing might actually have some real world applications. We have to been told that conductive glasses are the best bet for light weight batteries which are not toxic. A possible use would be in space missions. But that�s in the distant future. People at Iowa State are doing research in glasses for this application and they are getting funded by NASA as far I know.

We head out to lunch at noon to go to a curry place about 15 minutes away. It was my first Japanese version of curry and cost 850 Y which translates to about $8. It tasted very good and I was pretty hungry at that point. I had a chicken and sausage curry with cheese on top. It had rice on the bottom of the plate. It was piping hot and kept me lingering for more after I finished it. This time it was the right amount of food and I didn�t over eat.

We head straight back to work because we were going to do a DSC run on one of his borates. Except as it turned out, the software was in Japanese. So, I couldn�t use it and I just watched Masao use it. The prep involving this DSC equipment was different from Coe�s. He ran the sample through 3 chemical cleans to remove the moisture contamination from the surface. First distilled water with vigorous shaking, then ethanol, and finally acetone. He normally doesn�t use acetone to clean his metallic equipment because he thinks it can also contaminate the glass. And since gloves are not used here for any chemical processes, ethanol is safer to use. And then he broke the glass into small pieces because he only needed a 30 mg sample. He used an analytical weighing balance which was sensitive upto 10 �g. I think it is amazing sensitivity because this balance is affected by even a minor temperature change. The most sensitive balance at Coe has an error in 1 mg or 1000 �g. This is the reason he has really accurate results and intricacies can be seen in his data. He then annealed the glass in the platinum DSC pan at 1000 �C for 5 minutes. He used a hand built furnace for this. It seems like antiquity but it works great for his purposes. And it�s cheaper, by a few orders of magnitude! He does two runs because the first run is usually the bad run and the second run gives better results. Each run takes 80 minutes while compared to 15 minutes at Coe. He had done a thorough analysis of the change in results due to varying heating/cooling rates. We heat/cool at 40 K/min and he does it at 10 K/min. I never knew about differing results due to different rates of cooling/heating, and I don�t know if Doc has thought about this. I think we would get better results with finer data with a slower heating/cooling rate because it would give the glass more time to respond. But it could be that at Coe, we don�t need such accurate results. Or maybe we do, and we just don�t know about it. A 10% error is normally considered ok but that�s not the case in Japan. While he was doing his runs, I was free to use the internet again. I also tried calling home again and failed to make a proper connection. I thought it connected at home but it disconnected as soon as it connected. I don�t know if they can call me, so I plan on waiting to talk to them till I get back into the US. For now IM or email is fine although they haven�t replied to my email yet.

I did more mailing and browsing. I think I am caught up with people I can mail because I emailed most people I normally email in India. I checked on incoming traffic on my blog and it has increased since I have been telling people to check it out. I am writing pretty long journal entries but I like to do it. People can read it completely if they feel like it. I know a couple of my friends are reading it fully. I got to chat with Doll for a long time and caught up with stuff happening on her end. She really liked the Terminal when she watched it yesterday. It�s a very well made romantic comedy. At least I think so. I chatted with Abhiram for a bit because it was his birthday and I sent him an ecard. He says that it made his day :)! He turned 20 and got 20 bday bumps. His butt hurts. Hehe. I talked to tubldi and mammi for a while too. Actually, I chatted with a lot of people today! Tubldi is having her bouts of preginess and she just fractured her right foot! That really sucks because she has to wear a cast for 6 weeks. For some reason, this laptop refuses to load my picture blog. So odd. But other people can view it. As Doll puts it, I need more pictures with me in it. True. I will get some with me in it this weekend.

After another drink break, I went into my last stretch of internet access for tonight. I noticed that spymac has changed its interface and I like the new version. And around 8.30, I packed up to leave. Both I and Masao left at the same time, so we walked till he had to deviate to go towards home. Before that, we stopped at a convenience store and he bought me some food again but this time I bought the alcohol. I got a fermented distilled rice alcohol called Shochu which differs from Sake which is just fermented rice alcohol not distilled. I got back home around 9 and opened my freezer to remove my frozen Nalgene because I forgot to take it out of the freezer to take with me to work. It took me around 10 minutes under hot water to un-freeze my bottle so that I could use it again. I took a shower and ate my small dinner with my usual couple of glasses of Vitamin C carbonated drink. The dinner was a curry filled bread thing and then for dessert, a Japanese sweet bean filled thing. It was a 250 Y meal which is really cheap! I watched a bit of a soccer match between Japan and Serbia. Japan was kicking Serbia�s ass. And then I continued my journaling from work. I will head to bed soon but before that I want to write about some other stuff that I thought about after talking to Masao.

I am working at a Chemistry department without gloves!?! It is very strange after coming from the US where the usage of gloves is always stressed on. I splashed some of the barium hydroxide onto my skin yesterday but Masao said that it didn�t have any bad effects with our physiology. This seems exactly like India because I never used gloves there as well. Actually, when I asked the lab assistants for gloves, they just laughed at me. In the US, we are so health conscious in labs due to the potential lawsuits. Coe has to be very careful in these legal aspects. To make sure our hands are not contaminated here, we wash our hands with soap! Different worlds, different time zones, different rationales. Masao was joking about keeping me here for a year to do research with him. Well, I am the Solution Guru in the US because I don�t think anyone in the US is using this method. He was also stunned to hear that we use 18 platinum crucibles at $800 a pop at Coe and we have to clean crucibles at least twice a day to keep them in circulation. Hehe. He knows that we are a high cost facility. We get a shit load of money to do research. I saw the list of the equipments the physics department has and its mind boggling that a school as small as ours has so much of stuff. Our floor may be worth close to three quarters of a million and we are getting some more 100 Grand + equipment. We also have a lot of students doing research for an undergrad school of our size. I must say that I am extremely lucky to have such wonderful experiences!

Monday, July 12, 2004

This picture is wonderful. I think the both of us look pretty good. Isn't Andi pretty?!? Posted by Hello

surfin' the wave of the net!

July 12, 2004

I have been having the weirdest dream everyday since I have been here. I am with some Japanese girl and we seem to be going around a city entering buildings and stuff. I always wake up at 4.30 am because it relates to some part of my dream. And then I am fully awake past 7.30. I basically lay down in my bed till 8 so that I could hear my alarm go off. I thought I might shave in the morning but when I got up, I didn�t feel like shaving any more. So, I had a relatively quick shower and got ready for work. I planned on getting there about an hour early so that I use the internet before I had to start working. I took some of the postcards with the intention of posting them en route.

When I got out and before I started pedaling, it was so nice out.. At least my skin was not sticky. And then within 5 minutes of biking, I felt the stickiness setting in. It took me 15 minutes to get there. I wore shorts because I did not want to be sweating in my trousers. But I carried along a pair of jeans in case Masao didn�t want me to work in shorts with chemicals. By the time, I got there, I felt yucky because I was sweating and I had showered less than 30 minutes ago! I also think I might have to use the longer extension for the seat because I feel like I am cramped for space. And of course, my butt hurts. I think if I had more leg extension space, the ride might be easier. It�s hard on my back with the heavy back pack, and then bending towards the handle bar to steer.

This time when I reached the university, I didn�t find Masao at his office. So, I could use the internet calmly. For some reason, I always check Coe email first. And I did get a reply from Britta with her address. I wonder if any more wild happenings have occurred. She did tell me that she was going to be sober and un-wild for the rest of the summer when I talked to her at Andi�s house. We�ll see about that prediction..hehe.. Also got an email from Sara updating us to what was going on there. I also chatted with Andi�s mum for a while. She was asking me about how things were going here and about the country and stuff. Andi realized late that I was chatting with her mum, and they had to go eat. So, we chatted for a couple of minutes and then she was off. I think she might hang out as much as possible with Urs before he leaves for Germany. There�s hardly anyone left at the Ziffer residence with Magaret gone as well. I wonder what Andi does all day apart from see her friends. I might get to chat with Andi a bit more after Urs leaves. I ended up chatting with a lot of people actually. I also chatted with Doll for a while before she had to leave to hang out with Meghna because she was in town. They are going to see The Terminal. I saw that movie with Andi and we liked it. It�s a different romantic comedy and doesn�t end the way you normally would assume. I also got a hold of Miho and told her that I was going to come up to Tokyo sometime this weekend. I told her to alert my other friends there. I talked to Ben early and he sent me an email with his travel plans for this weekend�s trip down here. I sent an email to my parents telling them I got here safe and sound and they could call me at work only because my room phone can�t send or receive calls. I also told most of the people to check my blogs out because I put my Japan journals and pictures up there.

Masao got to the office around 10 am and told me that I was going to make some barium borates. We were to make some glasses in the bulk glass formation range first for test runs and then try to extend the glass formation of barium and calcium borates while I am here. But first I was supposed to do the calculations for the preparation of the precipitate. I decided to use my old spreadsheets and edit the info from there. First, I had to balance the equation which I eventually got help in because my balancing was incorrect due to a mis-write of a chemical. And then it took me about 20 minutes to go through every single calculation and edit everything. And then finally, the spreadsheet was ready and the tough part of the glass making procedure had finished.

We went out to eat for lunch again. We first tried the Chinese restaurant again to taste some other Chinese food but they were too crowded. So, he decided to take me somewhere else. We walked for about 20 minutes till we got to a traditional Japanese -restaurant. It was another sit-on-the-floor place. Masao suggested that I try Dango soup. Dango is made from wheat flour and is chewy. We had some iced tea and a sort of fruit wine called Zacuro in a really small glass. The wine quantity was like that of a shot glass. We had salad before the main course. The salad was really good. We had to use chop sticks for the salad. They don�t have any silverware. So, we first ground up sesame seeds to garnish the Dango soup. While eating this meal, I got hit on (read flirting) by some old Japanese women. That was sooo funny! The soup had boiled veggies, eggs and a shrimp. And after I was done with that, I could have stopped there. But nooo..there was more food to be eaten. The chopsticks were slowing down my otherwise brisk eating pace. I had a sweet piece of eggplant. I also had my first full fish in Japan. It was pretty small and was supposed to be eaten fully. It was very tasty! I think it had a ginger after taste to it. Then we had boiled corn and other boiled veggies. There was a sort of pickle made from young bamboo which was good. And the coup de grace was a gelatinous dessert which had beans in it. I wish I had taken my camera with me so that I could have photo graphed my first authentic Japanese food.

I was unbelievably stuffed yet again. What, it�s the third or fourth time? We still had a relatively uphill walk back to the university. My tummy was tight..hehe.. I am mighty lucky I haven�t puked yet. It�s a darn good thing that I eat so much at lunch which allows for a light dinner. We got back and we talked about the nuclear situation in the present day world. He pointed out that Japan although highly developed had no plans on nuclear weapon production. He was surprised by the budget consumption of the defense every year in India and Pakistan. He knew about the nuclear information supply by the Pakistani scientist to Iran and North Korea. He didn�t know that Pakistan is planning a massive nuclear test in the next month.

So, after the 2 hour lunch, I got back and started making the two solutions for tomorrow�s glasses. I got to be in the cool A/c room for an hour. The method for the solutions is different from the alkali metal prep. All we do this time is weigh the two powders separately and then put them into a Teflon beaker and pour in distilled water slowly. The weighing was done to a much greater accuracy. I think this is the reason why he gets such amazing results. The reaction occurs in the drying oven while the water boils and evaporates. After I made the solutions, I was done with work for today.

So, while he was cleaning up, I wrote up the process and aims for the stay here in my notebook. I was done by 5 pm. I think I would normally work till 6 pm. I talked to Mammi and Ben for quite some time. Me and Masao tried calling Nigeria but we never got through to anyone. I think I will try to call mum and dad tomorrow a bit earlier so that they call me back. The operator has to connect calls coming in for Sojo. I don�t think they have an extension system. He bought me a drink to rehydrate me. My cold water was almost done. And then he worked on a paper while I started sending emails. I sent Inga, Britta, Jessi, Bhavya, and Andi emails. I also replied to Kit to tell him that I got here. And then I chatted with Nastasha and Ben till I left. Tash sent me her prom pictures. She looks so mature, and beautiful. Both the girls are growing into beautiful creatures.

I spent a lot of my free time in between stuff posting all my pictures online. I posted about 33 pictures and gave brief descriptions.. Well, since I am sending this word doc to other people I could list the blog site. Its http://joyzpixie.blogspot.com and as I keep taking more pictures I will be putting them up. I hope people can access this website.

I left for my apartments at 8.45 pm. I thought I had been there for about 12 hours, and I was sticky, so I just want to get back to the cool and dry bed room. Before I got to my room, I bought a small pair of shampoo and conditioner for $3. I might as well buy it since I don�t want my hair to be yucky. I thought I might shave tonight before sleeping but I�ll do it in the morning hopefully and not put it off anymore. I don�t look that bad, but I should keep myself groomed here. At least a bit..hehe.. I took a shower to get the much needed feel of clean and then ate a small dinner because I was still full from lunch. Well, I think it�s time to head to bed.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Japanese alimento italiano?

July 11, 2004

I got up at 11.30 today. I then all I did was journal all afternoon. I think I will go out in the evening and grab some dinner when I am out.

Well, I thought I was being lazy staying in the apartment all day. So I decided that I would get some ready to eat dinner from the FamilyMart downstairs. I got some Japanese vermicelli kind of stuff which was a bit spicy. I also got a filled puff of some kind. So, it was a 500 Y meal which I supposed was decent. I wanted to get on the internet and didn�t want to spend 400 yen again. So, I biked down to Sojo University so that I could use the internet for free there. It was also the first time I biked down there. It took me about 15 minutes compared to the 60 minute walk. It would have taken me lesser time if I didn�t have to stop at the crossroads. It was nice and cool before I started biking and halfway through it felt that it had suddenly gotten humid. Musta have been the exertion because I was biking pretty hard. This was also the first time in a long time that I have biked hard, so my muscles were getting tired easily. It should get better soon.

I got to Sojo and found Masao at his office reviewing a paper that he was sent from a journal. I used the net for a while to check some of my email and post the blogs I have been writing offline. They are pretty long and will take some patience to read. I still have to post most of my pictures. I am going to use the new blog I set up specifically for pictures. I was there for about an hour and then Masao asked me if I had eaten dinner. I told him that I had a little something. So, he took me out to eat. I left the office planning on coming in early the next day to do a bit of emailing.

We walked down and saw that the curry place was closed and then we went down further to a pasta and pizza place. We ordered two large specialty pizzas which had sausage, pepperoni and strands of a pepper. It was a thin crust, and the dough was soft. It was a bit oily but pretty good. Masao is trying out stuff with me which makes me happy. I took a sneak peek at the bill total. $40 for 2 people! Holy Shit! Well, I guess it�s not that bad, I have paid that much before. But that was a once in a while kind of eating out. I told him that beer and pizza was an American staple and we should try it. He didn�t want me to imbibe alcohol before my bike ride back to my apt. Sound decision.. I got back around 9.45 and did some journaling to catch up with today�s happening. I feel sleepy already so I�ll probably hit the sack soon.

A day of exploration

July 10, 2004

I woke up again at 4.30 am and then at 7.30 and then at 9. It�s weird for it repeat in the exact same way as the previous morning. I finished up the journey part of my dairy so that I could post it on my blog when I went out to explore. I left around noon to downtown Kumamoto to walk around the mall. I carried the laptop, with maps and my cd player to listen to. I parked my bike somewhere in the middle of the mall and then walked to the end to start exploring. I wanted to buy Kumamoto postcards so that I could send them to my friends. I will also send one home.

After an hour of browsing, I start looking for some place I could get some grub. It was expensive everywhere. I thought about McDonalds but after looking at the size of the burgers, I knew that it wouldn�t fill me. So I looked at KFC and came to the same conclusion. I then found a smaller eating joint where I could get a chicken curry with rice, soup and salad for 490 Yen which was about $4.60. It was plenty food and moderately priced. I went in to see that I had to use some machine to get a ticket for the food. I told the lady there I couldn�t read Japanese but I knew what I wanted. I took her outside to the picture of the food I wanted and she took me inside and told me which buttons to press. It all worked out. My first all Japanese encounter. The service was very quick because she had the food ready in a couple of minutes. I ate the salad with chopsticks because there was no fork. But she had given me a spoon for the soup and rice and curry. It was the right amount of food and after a satisfied stomach, I did more exploring.

I went into this electronics store to look at prices of stuff there. Everything was about 50-75% more expensive than the US. I looked at digital cameras and CD players. If I find a good deal on an mp3-CD player, I�ll buy it. I went it a store which sold sharp objects. There was a knife with a sheath that I wanted to buy but it wasn�t sharpened. I asked him how much a longer sharpened knife/sword cost and he told me that it would be $700. By the way, by asking I mean writing down on a piece of paper in English. I carried a small notebook and a pen in case I needed it and I apparently needed it quite a lot. It was pretty expensive but I felt like I could spend that much because I wanted a sword because it would be cool. But I don�t think I will buy it, I much rather spend it on other stuff here. I was looking around for souvenirs to take back. I kept seeing these chopsticks or it could be hair pins.. I dunno.. I know that badminton is pretty big here. So I went searching for badminton equipment. I found them but Yonex racquets were $200+! Damn! I quickly found my way out. I went into a few more stores but didn�t really find anything that I wanted to buy then. Last but not the least, I entered this mege department store. This was bigger than the Marshall Field�s in downtown Chicago. It housed every haute couture brand name imaginable. I knew that I wasn�t really going to buy anything in this store unless something was moderately priced. I think I need to go shopping with someone who knows where to get the best deals. I wanted Masao to introduce me to his daughter because she was home on vacation and apparently had a lot of free time. I thought she could show me around since she should know her home city pretty well. But I haven�t met her yet. She just graduated from an American university and is now prepping for her medical exams in Japan. So, I assume she can speak good English. I went to the bottom two floors of the super store and saw it had food. I tried several tasters they had put out. I just walked around looking for tasters. They also had whole section devoted to desserts. After this store, I went to the cyber caf� to check email and stuff. I used my laptop there because I could. They have free drinks at this place which was cool. I put up the first of the blogs and sent a few emails. I was there for an hour and then decided to head back to my apartment.

I got back around 6.30 and ate dinner. I tried the grapefruit juice but it was too bitter for me. So, I think I am going to throw it away. I finished Digital Fortress by Dan Brown in a single sitting last evening. It was pretty good. It�s scary to realize that we do not have any privacy in our lives and Big Brother is always watching. I watched a bit of TV, wrote my journal and then went to bed.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Walking the distance

July 9, 2004

About the next day.. I woke up first at 4.30 am when dawn first broke and then at 6.30 am and then finally at 8 am. After I showered and got ready, I started writing about my journey so that I could put it on my blog. I wrote till 9.50 when I packed up to leave and wait for him downstairs in front of the handimart. He came in right on time. I think the Japanese are very punctual or maybe it�s just him. We first had to go to the apartment office because they wanted a photocopy of my passport. From there he asked me if it was ok that we walked to the university today. I said yeah assuming it wasn�t a long walk. While walking I asked him how long a walk it was to the university, he said that it was about an hour. We didn�t head straight there either because we had to make a pit stop at a bank to break some of my dollars into yen. I got 60 dollars worth of yen. And then we took another detour while he showed me where a highly western mall was in case I was interested to come back to it and look around. We went into a few shops and then we head to his university. While at a book store, he started flipping through a soft porn Japanese magazine equivalent of Playboy in the US. He then started doing ooo�s and aah�s and asked me if I wanted him to buy it for me. He thought that kids my age love this kind of stuff. I suppose for the most part, but then there are exceptions. I don�t particularly like porn. It was a surreal experience; I had never expected this from him. But then I have realized that pornography is not a big deal for them. It was absurdly humid out there and I was getting worn out pretty easily with my heavy backpack. I checked later and my shirt underneath my back pack straps was completely wet. Yuck! The air here is so incredibly sticky. He asked me to keep track of the route we were talking so that I would make it back to apartments.

The route that we took was pretty scenic which was cool. We reached Sojo and I noticed it was located on a hill. Masao said that since we had been walking for so long, we would take the elevator up. I was very happy with that suggestion. We took this really cool elevator that moved side and up at about 45 degrees. I can�t recall what Masao called the elevator. We walked by Sojo�s cafeteria and he said that most of the students hated its food. He bought me a drink when we got up to his office. They have these cool vending machines everywhere which is a great business idea with people getting dehydrated due to the weather.

We got to his office and I checked my mail for the first time after I left Chicago. There were a few mails waiting for me. Bhavya sent me a late bon voyage, and I got an email from Andi saying that my call right before I took off made her think about me. I also got an offline message from Doll telling me that she missed me. It�s nice to know that I am important to some people. I guess I like to hear it sometimes. I hooked up Komal�s laptop to the internet and kept it running the rest of the afternoon so that people could message me. I got an email from Ben about his trip down here the second weekend.

After I sent an email to Doc telling him that I got here safe and sound, Masao took me out to eat. He gave me a running commentary about the different departments. We also talked about what I was going at Coe and basically a bit of research related stuff. He also asked me about the places I had been to. He was basically trying to get to know me better. We walked over to a nearby Chinese restaurant. This one actually had the sit on the floor seating which was very cool. Both of us tried the spicy meal which had tofu and pork in it. It was excellent. We had soup and rice with it. I was beyond stuffed!
We got back and started talking research. He was going to present a paper on sodium borates and their anharmonic properties. He printed the paper out and I started reading it trying to understand what anharmonic properties were. He then showed me around his lab and the different methods he employed to determine the physical properties of the glasses he made. He specialized in velocity of sound measurements on painfully homogenous cylinders of glass. He got extremely accurate data; his data was many times better than data we got at Coe. He had an air conditioned room for chemical and physical analysis of the glasses. He used the Archimedes principle to determine density of the glass cylinders he made while we at Coe use Boyle�s law. Using this method was trickier than using a pyc. He also had acoustic stuff to measure the speed of sound. Most of his equipment was custom built at Sojo University. That was interesting to see. It�s different from Coe because most of the things we have is manufactured and not custom built for us except the glove boxes and roller quenchers. I told him how we plate quenched our glasses and he thought that it was better than his plate quenching process. Ours was definitely quicker and cooled the glass more rapidly. The glasses he makes are easy to make and don�t crystallize. So he doesn�t have to worry about quicker cooling processes really because he makes glass in the bulk glass forming range. I have to use quicker quenching methods because I am making glasses outside the bulk glass forming range trying to extend glass formation range. I think I will be making Barium and Calcium borates while I am here because he thinks that will use the short time I have here best. I didn�t know July 20 was a national holiday which means that I don�t work on that day too. Which means that I have an extended weekend when Ben comes over. I am contemplating going to Tokyo to visit some of my friends that weekend too.

Masao wanted to buy me a bicycle so that I didn�t have to walk an hour everyday to get to work. He bought me an all terrain bike which had shimano gears for $100. He thought that was cheap and he didn�t mind buying it for me. I am lucky! We also found a cyber caf� that I can use after work if I want to use the internet. It was in the mall area which was close to my apartment. So I could go over if I felt like it. I could use it if I wanted to chat with anyone at Coe or family elsewhere. I wish I had internet at my apartment but I suppose this also works. Using the caf� is about $4 an hour. After that I rode back to my apartment and went grocery shopping so that I could eat in my room sometimes. I bought some liquids and bread and jelly and yogurt. I also wanted to try some Japanese beer, so I bought a couple of cans of local beer. I smiled when I saw Budweiser in the beer section. So I had bread and jelly and yogurt for dinner that night. While eating, I watched a women volleyball match between Japan and Italy. I wrote for the rest of the night before I went to bed at 10 pm because I was tired and sleepy by then already. I don�t think I have slept this early in a long time. Actually I can�t remember the last time I went to bed that early.

Friday, July 09, 2004

The first night in Japan

Post Journey 8 July

I started looking around for Masao even though I didn�t know what he looked like. I hoped he would recognize me. After waiting for 10 mins, I decided to move around on the platform. I saw a man sitting through 2 trains so I walked towards him. I think he finally recognized me with the Coe shirt and foreign looking Indian appearance. Masao is a relatively short man who looks like he is in his sixties. I also realized that he might have arthritis like my grandmom because his hand�s deformities resemble that of my grandma. We took a taxi to my apartments and it was conveniently placed above a handimart. He bought sandwiches, yogurt, an apple filled something and OJ. He showed me some things in the apt like how to operate the AC and stuff. And then he left saying that he will be back tomorrow morning at 10 in front of the Handimart to take me to the university.

I went down and bought a soap to shower with next day. I also walked a bit further to buy a towel. I should have brought these with me. Too bad because a single soap was $1.5 and the towel was 10 bucks. I realized how expensive this place was pretty soon. After getting back from my brief shopping, I unpacked and made sure everything was ready for tomorrow morning. I also hoped to God I would be able to wake up before 10 without an alarm. I think my exhaustion was the only reason why I fell asleep that easily even though my bio clock read 9 am.

Before I start on the next day�s experiences, I wanna talk about the apartment. On the first floor, there is a glass door that opens up with a special card. This is to keep unwanted people out of the apartments. And the door of the apt opens with the actual key. When I first looked in the apartment, it looked like the size of an apt in a big city in Japan like Tokyo. It was narrow and deep. The walk to the bedroom was about 3-4 feet across. And then the bedroom was about 15x13 sq.ft. There were separate rooms for the pot and shower. And there was a small kitchen on the left of the walkway. In Japan, people don�t wear shoes in the main part of the house. So, I had to take my shoes off to walk towards the bedroom. There is a washing machine to but the instructions are in Japanese. I don�t know if I want to mess with that, but eventually who knows, I might play around with it to figure it out. The kitchen had a small stove. It was stocked with utensils and stuff. The pot was the most interesting part of the toilet. When flushed, a tap on the top on the tank opened and poured water into the tank through a hole on the top to fill it up. The water pouring in doesn�t overflow because the top is shaped like a bowl. The tap�s present so that we can wash our hands after we are done. Ingenious! The bedroom had a table, bed, shelves, a huge closet, a TV and VCR. Beyond the bedroom was a small balcony. After figuring out how to keep the air conditioning running, the room�s humidity level dropped by several magnitudes! Now, after I get drenched in the humidity, I can cool off here because it�s dry and cool in the bedroom. And I am thankful I got the laptop because apart from this and reading books there is nothing else I can do in the apartment. The programming on TV is in Japanese. I can watch the occasional sports I guess. The telephone doesn�t allow for incoming or outgoing calls. It�s a phone that people can use if they are waiting downstairs and they want you to come down and let them in. So, essentially nobody can call me when I am in my apt. So in conclusion, the apartment is small and cozy and the right size for one person. I asked Masao the next day about the cost of renting an apartment like the one I have. He said that it was about $600 for 2 weeks with deposit. Pretty expensive, I know I couldn�t afford that!

Joy the Traveller

July 7, 2004

Andi and her mum came to drop me off at the airport. We left at 9.10 because they assumed that the worst of the rush hour traffic would be over and they were right because we got there in plenty of time since there were no traffic congestions or anything. The topic of discussion in the ride to the airport was prices of the houses in Batavia. I was amazed to hear what some houses were sold at. Although, I do think Batavia being a relatively safe neighbourhood especially near Andi�s home is a reason for the high prices. I think there was something wrong with Andi because when we said good-bye something didn�t seem right but I didn�t have time to talk to her about it since her mom was waiting for her outside. Andi couldn�t stay with me at the airport because they have to get back home since Felix was leaving the same afternoon. I guess that worked out since I didn�t really have to wait to board the plane. I got an express check-in and then the security check was a breeze. I got to the departure gate in 10 minutes.

I called Kristin while I was checking in to see where she was and what she was doing. Unfortunately, she was in Terminal 5 while I was in Terminal 1. And there wasn�t time for her to come and see me since her flight departed 55 minutes after mine and she wouldn�t have enough time to get back. She was with a large group of 15 people going to Hong Kong outskirts to do volunteer work. I hope she had a safe flight. I also blogged while waiting to board. I actually did a 5 min blog which maxed the amount of time I could audioblog. I filled up on the last few days since I couldn�t sit down for a sustained period of time to do a long blog. I talked to Doll for a bit just to tell her that I was boarding the flight was going to leave in some time. I also called Komal because I hadn�t talked to her for a long time and wanted to tell her that I was going to Japan for a couple of weeks. I also messaged my parents and they called me back immediately and we talked for a few minutes. They were also leaving for Nigeria the next day with a day�s worth of stopover at Dubai. They will do some shopping. I wish I could also go through Dubai and see the shopping malls and arcades it�s famous for. Robi�s schooling in India has commenced too. Now, he is a non-resident Indian where ever he goes.

We were allowed to board the flight at 11.40 am but the plane did not take off till 12.20. I assumed at that point that we were running a bit late. I actually talked to my parents while I was in my seat. And then I shut my phone off, and that would be the last time in a couple of weeks that I would be able to use it. I didn�t feel as nauseous while take off as I normally feel but then that could have been due to the different posture I was in. And there begun the 13 hour non stop flight to Osaka, Japan. We were served two lunches and a snack during the flight. Actually, the food was pretty good and I was hungry. The snack was Chinese noodles which were really tasty and the smell lingered on for some time after they were served. I slept for a while although it was partial sleep most of the time. I did watch a couple of movies: The Whole Ten Yards and Jersey Girl. I think I am going to junk my cd player when I get back. It hardly recognized any of my cds again. So, I had to listen to the music on the channels in the plane. Actually, most of the music was popular tunes so it wasn�t all bad. 7 hours into the flight, I decided that I needed to get up and stretch. So, I stood and walked around for the next hour. I read a couple of magazines while standing. One of them was Runner�s World which had a lot of interesting things I needed to know while running. It had a lot of good tips and new techniques.

The plane arrived early which was amazing because we apparently made fantastic time while in air. When I saw out of the window it seemed all sunny and bright so I assumed that it was warm outside. The humidity level took me by surprise while exiting the plane. Luckily the airport was airconditioned, so I was dry for the next 15 minutes while I went through customs and baggage claims. I was really surprised to the efficiency of the custom officials because I was in a long line yet I got through in less than 10 minutes. I only had to wait for the bags for 5 minutes and they were out and carts in Japan were still free so I decided to use it while I still could.
Now, the apprehension about the train travel had returned because that was the next thing to do. I went out to search for some place to use my japan rail pass exchange order to change to a rail pass. Luckily the JR place was right outside the door so that was easy and the girl who handled my pass knew enough English to communicate. She gave me directions to the train station and an English map of their rail lines in Japan. It was a good thing that I wore cargo pants for the journey because all these things were going into its many pockets. It was particularly convenient because I had to flash the pass all the time to get through the gates. I got to the right platform because there were English being flashed along with Japanese on all the signs. And I would point to the name of the city I wanted to go to and the people there could guide me to the right spot. Since, I got to Kansai International earlier than expected, the train schedule that Masao sent me did not have the right times. I decided to take the risk and extrapolate the times from the existing schedule I had and from the overhead information LCDs. The first train was the Airport Express Haruka from Osaka-Kansai International Airport to Shin-Osaka Station. The airport was pretty far from Osaka. It was a 50 minute journey. I remember being very excited to be on the trains and on the last leg of the journey. I took some pictures on this train. I also noticed that the train conductors and everyone else were very respectful to each other and they bowed all the time. The seats were very comfortable; actually they were better than the ones on the planes. And 50 minutes later, we arrived at Shin-Osaka station. I had to take the Shinkansen Bullet train called the Hikari Rail Star from Shin-Osaka to Hakata. This was the longest of the individual train travel times. It was a 2 hour and 45 minute journey. I was excited because this was my first bullet train journey. I managed to get my 3 bags from the first train to the next in 7 minutes because the train left pretty soon. I got there just in time. And by that time, I was sweating due to the humidity. It took me some time to cool down after I got on the train. I was trying really hard to stay awake but it wasn�t working because I was tired and it was night time in the US. So, I did have a bit of jet lag. I did nap for a while but never for too long. I liked the country side of Japan with the paddy fields and interesting houses. They also had a mesh sort of thing going on in the hills; I couldn�t ascertain what they were. These trains don�t stop at all stations and they are fast! I remember trying to take pictures of the country side and we were zipping by too fast. We finally arrived at Hakata and I had to get off quickly because they would stop at the stations very briefly. And then I found the last platform for Kumamoto. This time I took the Ariake express train. By this time, it was dark here already. And this was the last train to my destination. I slept through most of this train journey too because I couldn�t keep my eyes open. And finally, I got to Kumamoto and got off the train.

I started looking around for Masao even though I didn�t know what he looked like. I hoped he would recognize me. After waiting for 10 mins, I decided to move around on the platform. I saw a man sitting through 2 trains so I walked towards him. I think he finally recognized me with the Coe shirt and foreign looking Indian appearance. Masao is a relatively short man who looks like he is in his sixties. I also realized that he might have arthritis like my grandmom because his hand�s deformities resemble that of my grandma. We took a taxi to my apartments and it was conveniently placed above a handimart. He bought sandwiches, yogurt, an apple filled something and OJ. He showed me some things in the apt like how to operate the AC and stuff. And then he left saying that he will be back tomorrow morning at 10 in front of the Handimart to take me to the university.

I went down and bought a soap to shower with next day. I also went a bit further to buy a towel. I should have brought these with me. Too bad because a single soap was $1.5 and the towel was 10 bucks. I realized how expensive this place was pretty soon.