Sunday, April 23, 2006

Picnic Day

Given the fact that I am a non-drinker, one would think that I would be fairly bored on Picnic Day, and that the next day I would wake up relatively guilt free...unlike most of the other student aged residents of Davis. This, however, is not the case. My picnic day was fun. Finally.

So here it is, my short rendition of Picnic Day. This is a marching band.
This is Drake.
I don't even know this girl.
People watching "dog races".
Me as a cockroach.
The grass that I put in Lindsey's hair. Suprisingly, it looked good.
Boeun cooking for me, again. I will have to find some way to better show my gratitude.
Ralph with his medicinal corn bread. Boeun with her Tapokgi. The ingredients and flavors may differ, but there were other unmentionable similarities.
I promise my next bolg entry will depend less on images and more on text.

Monday, April 17, 2006

From Twinkie Tuesday To Easter

Last week, during dinner, Keiko brought it to my attention that she was always free on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Very free. Which means bored. So, last Tuesday Keiko and I went on a trip to Sacramento. As our tour guide we had Mr. Sacramento himself: Ralph Washington "Very Iron Man" Jr. Our first stop was Oto's Japanese Food Supermarket, and it was a total dud. No one really needed anything, and all of the cheap bento boxes were gone. So instead of eating Japanese food, we went and got pizza, the first of many unhealthy foods that we were to consume on that day.
Next, we went to Ralph's house and watched as Ralph's brother Jason's Pac-Man Frog devoured a fish. That frog is terrifying. It attacks almost anything that you put in it's tank.
Ralph's mom needed some leaves for her silk worms to eat, so we went to the grammar school where she works to get some. Ralph hopped the fence and grabbed some while I kept the security guard pacified with the power of my submissive apologies.
Next, the mall, where I got some new pants. Then, the Hostess Factory, where Keiko and I shared our first Twinkie. To my supprise, it actually tasted good while you were eating it. However, the after taste reminded me of the smell of Tilex, so I don't think I will ever eat a Twinkie again unless I have to.
Then, Costco, a must see for all exchange students.
Second to lastly, Fry's, where I played DDR and got my first D! I have never done so well!
Lastly, we went to L&L Hawaiian BBQ, where Keiko's first exposure to Hawaiian food was the most tasteless and fatty Lau Lau I have ever had.
On the car ride back to Davis, we all sang songs from The Backstreet Boys.

Skip to Friday. Well, the original plan for the weekend had been snowboarding, but it just didn't look like it was going to work. So, just before renting our equipment, I changed our plans. We'll go snowboarding some other time, but this weekend we went to the ranch. Dang it, I am getting ahead of myself. Before that happened, on Friday night Boeun, the girl on the far right of the picture below, cooked Blugolgi for us. It was quite good.
On Saturday we went to the Ranch, but not before making a lengthy stop at the Dollar Tree.
And here we are at the Ranch.
I was enlisted to cook burgers.
Which I did. See the perfect grill marks! I could qualify for a PHD in BBQ.
With all the rain we have been having, it is impossible to cross the crossing.
Oh, this is the part where I got caught in the fence, and when I asked for someone to please help me get free they laughed and took pictures. Shortly after this we saw a snake, and Keiko wasn't the same for the rest of the day.
Hal as a cowboy, posing for photographs.
Alright. Saturday complete. On to Sunday. Well, on Sunday I drove up to Napa to spend Easter with Grandma and Grandpa. I got there at 9:00am, and by 11:00am Zia, Oriana and Josh had shown up. Shortly after their arrival, we went to fetch supplies.
And cooked eggs.
And wrapped the trinkets that we were planning to hide...
And painted the eggs with Luccina...
And Vincezo.
The Egg that I painted.
perhaps by now you have realized what I am leading up to. This year, I was the Easter Bunny! And my goodness, Easter is waaaaay more fun for adults. Adults get to eat as much candy as they want, paint the eggs with greater skill, wrap tons of junk in tin foil, hide said junk and then act all smart because they know where everything is! I even got to make my own costume out of wire, towels and food coloring and chase my little cousins around the house pretending to be a rabid bunny! What incredible fun!
The only problem that I had this Easter was the fact that the wire that held my ears together really dug into my scalp.
Luccina looking for eggs.
We really had to help them find this one.
Uncle Vincent, who had to work, was extremely grateful that Oriana, Josh and I did this for his kids.
Vincenzo looking for something. Can you find it?
Here they both are at the end of the hunt. Very few tears this year, it was great.
Some more eggs.
This one was painted to look like Grandpa.
Me, with an entire egg in my mouth, and Vincenzo.
And here we are after dinner.
I stayed in Calistoga last night so that I could pick up Zia's tapes. I am trying to digitize everything before I go to Japan, and I start on the tapes today.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Another Mostly In Between Week

So, I have to say thank you to everybody who has been saying that JET is stupid for not taking me outright. I am flattered that you think I would be perfect for the job. However, I still want to do JET really, really badly. So I sent in my acceptance of my Alternate ALT position, and went looking for a Plan B. Plan B seems to be NOVA, a large Eikaiwa (Private English Institute) with branches all over Japan. After a lot of thinking, NOVA seems ok. It would not be my dream job, but the hours are good, housing is provided, there is more possibility for meeting people my own age, and the pay is comparable.

Anyway, aside from a lot of thinking, what happened this week? Well, here is Ralph's butt as he makes his Iron Man costume for a party on Saturday.
And here is my Coast Trip Crew over at Keiko's house after we cooked Kim Chee fried rice, Japanese home cooking, and Squid. I made the squid.
And here are all of Sung Eun's possessions! She moved today, and I helped her. I wish I had this little stuff. I am in the process of getting rid of all my things. I sold all my CDs on Tuesday and I have been organizing my books, deciding which ones to keep and which ones to sell.
So yeah, if anyone wants to buy a) a 40 GB generic iPod, b) a VCR, c) a broken scanner, d) a subwoofer, e) a 2.4 GHZ, 60GB HD, 512 MB RAM computer with 17 inch flat screen monitor or f) a 2000 Subaru Forester (maybe), please tell me.

Hey, by the way, "The 6 Billionth Voice" is nearing it's 1st birthday! One month from today it will be a year old! Be sure to check in a month from now for my Blog Birthday Extravaganza!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Is it Limbo or Purgatory

In the La Comedia Divina, Dante describes Limbo and Puratory. I can't decide which I just found myself in.

To get to the point, I heard back from JET. Here is what they had to say:

Dear Mr. McManus,
This letter is to inform you that you have been selected as an
ALTERNATE ALT short-list candidate for this year's JET Program.

Huh? Should I be happy, or should I prepare for things to get messy?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Epic Costal Journey

This could end up being the second longest post I have ever written, so please make sure that you have nothing else to do for a while. Alright, here we go.

So, I finished my trip down the California coast with Sung Eun (who is also called Grace), Sohyung (who is also called Shaun), Lindsey and Keiko. It was great. Really great. I could tell you why, but it is better just to tell the story.

On Tuesday of last week I cleaned and serviced my car. On Wednesday I went out to dinner with Drake and got some advice about what to do in southern California. On Thursday I packed my car, and that is where the adventure began. My plan was to have two people sleep in the car, and three people sleep in my small tent. I decided that, in order to make the tent comfortable, it was a good idea to bring a pad. So I brought the foam mattress from my bed.
As you can see, the mattress filled almost the entire car. Other necessary equipment filled the rest of the trunk, which left only enough space for everyone to bring approximately a plastic bag full of personal possessions. In total, making only the equipment fit it the car took me 3 hours. I packed and repacked 3 times. At 6pm, With the trunk bursting with stuff, I went to pick everyone else up. Here we are, once we finally managed to make everything fit. From left to right: Lindsey, Keiko, Sohyung, Sung Eun and Me.
Now that you have seen the picture of the group, I need to explain something. Frequently, when men found out that I was going camping with 4 girls, they congratulated me. When women found out, I was often on the receiving end of mild chastisement. The truth is that, before we started traveling, I was extremely nervous about being the only guy because I didn't want people making assumptions about me. I was also concerned because I know from previous experience that some more conservative Koreans would strongly disapprove of the girls coming on this trip to begin with. I had originally wanted Manabu to come so that we would not stand out in public as much, but Manabu went back to Japan too soon. Plus, then I met Keiko, who enthusiastically told me that she really wanted to travel around California. I am easily won over by enthusiasm. I tried to hide the fact that I was really worried about seeming sleazy by acting like it was no big deal. Admittedly, there was another, more sexist reason why I was a little nervous about camping with only girls: I know very few women who are any good at camping. However after maybe half an hour of driving Lindsey asked me how I felt about camping with only girls, so I told her, she understood, and I felt much better.
We left Davis at around 6:30 for Big Basin Redwoods State Park in San Mateo County. The drive was a lot of fun. Everyone was smashed into the car, the radio was playing loud Korean dance music, and everyone was taking turns eating and singing along. At around 8:30 we entered the San Mateo mountains and were met by a thick fog and rain. The drive took us through one lane roads surrounded by haunting oak trees, and somehow the conversation got turned to the movie "The Blair Witch Project". Some cars came up behind us, and I decided to let them pass by pulling off the road. My car stopped 5 feet short of hitting a deer which had been standing on the side of the road. It was the first wildlife of the trip. We continued on and finally got to Big Basin SP at 9:30 pm.
It was then that the last of my worries about camping with 4 girls was put to rest. It was raining, dark, cold and late, but everyone was still excited about camping. There were no complaints, only enthusiasm about trying something new. I was very impressed. I love that kind of attitude. Here are Keiko and Sung Eun making the tent.
And here are me, Sung Eun and Keiko in the (barely) three man tent the first night. We were packed very tight, and I ended up sleeping on my side for most of the night. Lindsey and Sohyung slept in the car, and before they went to bed, they laughed for 5 minutes straight for reasons that are still unexplained.
I slept very well. Keiko got a little wet. It was raining, and Keiko had the unfortunate luck of sleeping with part of her head in a puddle that formed on the side of the tent. Well rested, I got up at around 6 and took a walk around the beautiful Big Basin forest.
Everybody else slept for another hour, and then broke camp. While they may not have had much experience with camping, the girls learned very quickly.
Look at how packed the car is! We still had to fit the tent and several backpacks after this!
We drove to Santa Cruz, and when we found out that the boardwalk was closed we went to the wharf, where I finally saw a seal after not seeing any the last two times I have gone to the ocean.
Here we are on Santa Cruz beach. Beautiful day right? Remember that blue sky, it doesn't stick around.
Next, we drove to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which was terrific, awesome, fantastic, stupendous, etc. This is a Sea Otter.
A shark.
Me, in "The Splash Zone".
The aquarium was wonderful, and its message of conservation of marine life struck a cord with us. After leaving the aquarium, we made a bee-line for the nearest seafood restaurant: Bubba Gump's. The items at Bubba Gumps were really, really expensive, so we only ordered 3 things and shared. The food was good, and we had the best seat in the house. At $72, our meal at Bubba Gumps was our most lavish expenditure on an otherwise frugal trip.
We continued our drive down the coast to Kirk Creek Campground, a place that I had picked out because of it's beautiful location on the edge of sea cliffs in the middle of the central coast. Hmm, what happened to the blue sky?
When we got to the campground it was raining slightly. About as much as it had been it Big Basin. Sohyung suggested that we might want to consider going to a motel, but I said I thought it would be fine, as long as we made another tarp out of trash bags and duct tape. The girls spent 15 minutes making the most beautiful and precise trash bag and duct tape tarp ever, and just as we were getting ready to set up the tent, an incredible downpour started. I looked at everyone else, apologized profusely for being too macho, and announced that we were going to a motel. We packed the car lightning fast, and shut the doors just as the rain got even heavier! Here we are soaked to the bone. We had all been wearing raincoats and we were still this wet!
This is a picture of the rain that is about to hit the windshield. Visibility was 20 feet. I drove south at about 20 miles per hour, and watched small landslides inch their way onto the left lane.
We stopped for $4 a gallon gas at a town along the way, then went on the San Simeon, where we found a Motel 6. I went into the Motel 6 and, shivering, had the following dialogue with the receptionist. Me: "Can I have a room for 5." Her: "We only allow 4 people per room, sir." Me: "Is there a rolling bed we can get, or something?" Her: "You can get two rooms." Me: "That kind of breaks out budget..." *long silence* Her: "How many people do you have, sir?" Me: "5." Her: "No how many people (holding up 4 fingers) do you have sir?" Me: "Um, 4, and I can sleep in the car?" Her: "Yes, that's right, but it is very cold in the car, don't you think? Spend as much time as you can with your friends and get warm. It might take all night to get warm..."
And so I did just that. Here we are in the room of Motel 6. All 5 of us, all night.
The next day, we got up at 8:00 and just barely made it to the 9:00 tour of Hearst Castle.
Here is Lindsey, the movie star, looking like she belongs at Hearst Castle. We have a running joke that Lindsey is a Korean movie star and that we are her bodyguards.
The Neptune Pool.
Casa Grande.
Me and Keiko relaxing.
The indoor pool.
So, in an effort to make more space in the car, I decided to use the tarp and bungies to fasten the massive bed pad to the roof of the car. This is how it looked on day one.
We stopped at Morro Bay for a picnic lunch.
And to fly my kite.
Keiko was really good at flying the kite.
The wind was perfect, but I think I want to get a better kite, one that I can actually steer.
Well, by the time we were halfway between Morro Bay and Santa Barbara, the tarp had begun catching the wind and nearly fell off. We had to roll down the windows to keep it in place. We made two stops to repack it. The second time, we used duct tape to keep the front end from catching the wind.
Finally, after maybe half an hour of the tarp fiasco, we got to the Santa Barbara Mission.
First, we went to the restrooms, and when we got back, the mission was closed for the day.
Actually, these photos are a little misleading. I don't think there was anytime during the trip when we were not in high spirits.
So, instead we tried to sneak into the parts of the church that were still open.
The Korean girls, all Christian, snuck into the church during a mass and were kicked out. Having just left the church, one of the girls (who shall remain nameless), remarked "Alright, let's go to Chip 'n Dale's!" I was a little taken aback by this. I discovered that, in fact, no one knew what Chip 'n Dale's was, and in fact she was only repeating what she thought I said when I announced that we would be staying in Carpinteria.
When I explained what Chip 'n Dale's was, everyone understood why I had been laughing so hard. We got to Carpinteria State Beach (Drake's recommendation). I have never been in a campsite that was this crowded, but I guess in SoCal it can't be helped.
Here we are crossing another river. After the trip to the Redwoods, I have decided that a river crossing is a requirement for every trip.
Carpinteria is famous for natural asphalt, which can be found on the beach.
Here are some of our sunset pictures.
More sunset shots.
Speaking of S'mores, I should tell you about dinner. Sweet potatoes, hotdogs, tortillas, canned corn, garbanzo beans, and Smores. All cooked in tinfoil over charcoal. All eaten with chopsticks. Not your typical American camping experience.
Sunrise on Sunday morning.
Robatalle's Candy, also Drake's recommendation.
We left Carpinteria and drove north on the 5. Made a stop in Buttonwillow, went into Subway and saw the longest line on any Subway, ever.
Here is Keiko striking a 1920's sexy pose with a 1920's era car.
And us waiting for service at Denny's. Check out how annoyed Lindsey looks with me. I am sort of a Paparatizzi.
Here we are on the side of I-5 reattaching the tarp, which almost blew off again. Notice the tape. We used an entire Costco roll of Duct tape to hold that sucker down.
This picture shows well how tired everybody was by the end of the trip.

We got back to Davis at around 7:00, I think. Actually, I was really tired by that point, so I can't recall very much. But everybody got home safely, and hopefully got enough sleep before their 9 am classes.

I ended the trip happy. I really only knew Sung Eun before the trip, but after the trip I can say with great confidence that I really, really like all 4 of the girls. They all have great personalities, and are about my speed when it comes to travel. We travel very well together, because everyone has a different set of skills, and we all watch out for eachother. In other words, I'm planning another trip.