Sunday, June 25, 2006

The 200th Post! Aka: I live to dive another day!

Sure enough, this is the 200th post of The 6 Billionth Voice. It is quite amazing to me that I have only had this blog for a little over a year and I have already posted 200 times. Admittedly, many of those initial posts consist of single pictures (I have a much cleaner method these days), but it is still quite a feat, I think.

Anyway, I am in Hawaii right now. I don't know if I will be able to come back to Hawaii for a while once I start my job in Japan (still no news, by the way), so I figure that I need to really fill up on Hawaii before I go. However, there is a problem: I hate to travel alone these days. Since, in the end, only Drake decided to come and visit me in Hawaii (tickets are actually not too expensive right now and I'll be here till July 11th, if anybody changes their minds), until he comes on the 27th I am mostly sitting around the house doing one of four things: lifting weights (so that it will take longer to get out of shape once I get to Japan) visiting with Grandma Mary and Grandpa Clay, scanning family pictures (self-imposed torture, but I'm up to 2,000), or trying to learn more Japanese.

In order to learn more Japanese, I have been especially active on Mixi (Japanese equivalent of Facebook or MySpace) lately. I have also begun to listen to the JapanesePod101 podcasts (which are fantastic!) while I scan pictures. But it isn't enough. I want to speak. I want to converse with real people. To this end, last Wednesday I went to The King Shops at Waikoloa and went trolling for Japanese people. The King Shops are a group of fancy, brand name stores very close to the Hilton (the hotel with the most Japanese visitors on this side of the island). As a result, I have never been to The King Shops and not seen Japanese visitors. So sometimes I go there and look for men who are shopping with their wives and, clearly, would rather be golfing. These are my usual targets for conversation, since they are glad to do anything but shop with their wife. Well, on the day I went to The King Shops, there were no bored husbands. In fact, there were no Japanese visitors at all! I wondered where they could be...
So I walked to the Hilton Hotel. Aside from 4 honeymooners (who I don't talk to because it just feels uncomfortable for everyone involved), I saw no Japanese visitors. Finally, an hour later, I took the hotel bus back to the King Shops so that I could get in my car and go home. On my way through the mall, I saw 2 women puzzling over a menu. I could not see their faces, but I summoned my courage and decided to give it a shot anyway. I asked them if they needed help. Sure enough, the menu had them totally perplexed. What followed was perhaps my best Japanese conversation ever. 15 minutes with few major mistakes. A great confidence booster, to be sure. Total accident, I'm sure.

Well, on Thursday Dad asked me if I wanted to go diving. Prepare yourself for a story. Here comes the turquoise. I learned to dive at the age of 13. It was cool. I got to hang out with my dad and my friend Dan, which was nice. Knowing how to dive was nice, too. Very big ego boost for a 13 year old who wasn't really good at, well, activities. However, I never really got into SCUBA diving. I wore glasses, so basically, even though I was wearing a mask it was like I wasn't. Basically, I sat at 60 feet, my sinuses in pain because of the pressure, but I saw none of the beauty of the ocean. What is more, I almost accidentally killed my father about 8 times.

Well, I finally got contacts this year, so I tried diving again. After 10 years of not diving I was a little rusty, so rather than almost killing my dad for the 9th time, I decided to do a refresher course in this pool.
It's like riding a bike.

That evening Vincenzo and Vincent came over for dinner. Vincenzo and I accidentally disturbed a wasp nest and both got stung. Then we went to hang out with the turtle that sleeps on our beach at sunset.
The next day dad and I got up and got ready for diving. Here was my power breakfast. Soymilk with Instant Breakfast, a Bannana, Orange Juice, Kim Chee, Granola and non-fat yoghurt. An infant could bend steel after this breakfast!
We boarded the boat around 8 o'clock, just in time to see my High School math teacher, Howard Hall, come around the corner in an outrigger and totally biff it. I didn't realize it was him at first. The guy sails around the Pacific in his spare time, you don't expect him to eat it in an outrigger in a harbor on the calmest day of the year! It was good to see him again.
We passed a huge school of baby tuna that were jumping out of the water. I have never seen tuna jump before. Could have been another fish, but they looked an awful lot like tuna. Oh, and as you can see, it was very calm.
The dive was good. Saw nothing special, but saw everything I had never seen before. Very cool.
Afterwards I was done diving and had taken my gear off I tried to free dive down to the decompressing divers. Almost made it. Next time.
I don't know how this guy could blow air rings.
So as I was swimming around in the open ocean, somebody on the boat saw a jellyfish. Since I was in the water, with a camera, I swam up and took a picture. Jellyfish are actually kind of uncommon in Hawaiian waters, so this was a special treat. I especially liked the part where this kind was not dangerous, since I was about 3 feet away.
So, the conclusion: yeah, diving is fun. I hope to do it more often in the future. I found out today that Drake is a certified rescue diver, so maybe we'll go.
Hmm, actually, a rescue diver sounds really, really useful. He might help us avoid near miss number 9.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Week I Graduated for Real

And as a result my schedule was full. Sorry if this post seems brief. I had a lot to say to the people in these pictures, but retelling the various ways in which I tried to convey that I loved them would take a really long time.

Monday was my farewell dinner with Grace, Sohyun, Lindsey and Keiko. I will really, really miss giving them tours of California and just hanging out with them in general. They all became such good friends. I am already planning a trip to Korea to visit all of my Korean friends. And hopefully Keiko and I will get to spend a lot more time together in Japan.
Tuesday I drove down to San Francisco to pick up Ryan, and then drove to San Jose to have dinner with Lisa, who was in town on business.
This is the part where I taught Ryan not to jump on the bed while taking pictures of us. Hee hee.
Me and my cousins.
Wednesday was dinner with Professor Roddy and Diane. Went to the Mustard Seed, a fantastic recommendation. Played in the Telephone booth before they came...
And posed next to it when we were leaving. I am very pleased that my parents were finally able to meet them since I have spent so much time talking about them.
David also came up and stayed this week. He showed me his award-winning film and helped me chop through some of my own writers block.
Thursday night was dinner with Sakakibara Sensei and Jonathan. Here is a photo of my Mom that is so good I had to publish it.
Our Thursday night dinner party. We went to "Lemon Grass" in Sacramento. Also fabulous. Sakakibara Sensei's family and our family have a relationship that goes back three generations, and we didn't even realize it until recently. Sakakibara Sensei mentioned that she might be going to Japan in September, so we'll see if we can meet up over there.
Kira took me out to dinner on Friday.
And then we went around campus taking all of the photos I had always wanted to take with the UC Davis sculptures. This is me pretending to be Gollum.
Saturday morning was graduation. Here is me with the other Medieval Studies majors: Tom, Anselm (who customized his robes to make them look like authentic Scottish Highland clothing), Greg and Sharon. Later, Bethany, who is a minor but walked with us because she has been in so many classes with us, joined our group.
Me, before our sign. It has been a wonderful major. We wanted to use the sign as a banner, but the officials wouldn't let us. Oh, somehow I ended up as the Student Marshal.
The ceremony. Boring. Thousands of people to get through. Felt like they were taking roll. Here is my name.
Post walk. Very bored, so I started to take pictures of myself.
Me, sister, parents and grandparents after the ceremony.
So, after that hectic but pleasant week, Bryn, Rick and I headed up to Calistoga to join the rest of the family for dinner on Saturday night. Played in the pool.
Rick with Chickee.
Bacci and the Ball.
Josh playing Marco Polo with Luccina and Vincenzo.
Underwater photography in the hot tub.
Bryn underwater.
The cake (which was good, despite the frosting). Definitely better than the cake Grandma brought, which was moldy.
Me, trying to improve the cake.
Movie after dinner. Rick shoots a great look.
Sunday was Father's Day. I woke up my dad at 6:30 to give him this.
Hee hee. I wonder if he got the joke. You see, I loved to play with flashlights as a kid, so dad always blamed me when the flashlights went dead. As a result, my standard Father's Day gift is a flashlight. I thought this wrapping was ingenious, but it may have been too early in the morning.
Went to pond on Sunday morning, and once again met Louie the Snake.
Josh's splash.
Rick's dive.
Rick and Josh.
Bryn in the boat.
Oriana trying to put up a hanging chair.
She was didn't give up.
Kira and Dag.
Thank you, everyone.
You gave me a great week, and more.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Last Trip with the Girls in California

Well, I need to do a quick summary of this week because there was a lot of stuff that happened before Saturday that I will want to remember later on. To begin, on Monday and Tuesday, I helped Keiko write her Political Geography paper. She had what was probably the coolest assignment that I have ever heard of: make up a fictional country and write about it.

Henceforth, flashbacks will be written in turquoise. I didn't exactly have that many friends in middle school. I was beginning to try to be more outgoing, but was still terribly shy at the heart of my personality. My attempts at being outgoing were restricted to public displays of weirdness. I was still terrified of intimacy with other individuals. I rarely made an effort to make friends. As a result, I spent most of my time after school alone. While I fear that spending that much time alone nowadays would kill me, at the time I honestly didn't mind it that much. To occupy myself, I drew maps of fictional countries and made up histories for these countries. I ofthen took breaks from my map drawing to think about the girls that I liked, and wished that I could spend time with them. But that was impossible, I thought, so I went back to my cartography.

Now, fastforward 10 years. Keiko invites me over to her place to help her make up a fictional country. Who would have thought that all that time I spent making up imaginary nations would actually help me live out one of my middle school fantasies. Life is weird.

Well, by now you probably want to see some pictures. I'll start with the Epic Quad Battle, which happened on Wednesday while I was meeting Jerry for lunch.

The Epic Quad Battle, for those who do not know, is becoming a UC Davis tradition, thanks in part to Tom, the man fighting the tree in the picture below. Tom is a fellow Medieval Studies Peer Advisor, and will be graduating with me on Saturday.
Ah graduation. That means I am leaving. But before I leave, all of my friends that are international students are leaving. The first to go was Boeun. We met up on Friday for the last time (till August, I hope), and went to Redrum (pronounced "Murder") Burger. Both of us had Ostrich Burgers. Like all our conversations before, eventually our last meeting devolved into us telling eachother secrets. I may have gotten a little choked up when we were saying goodbye to eachother, but that is also a secret. By the way, let me briefly justify my photo taking method. Sometimes I may surprise you and take your photo when you are not ready. Most of the time this leads to closed eyes, open mouths and stoned expressions, but sometimes it yields priceless results. Observe the photo below. Taken by surprise while drinking vanilla milkshake, and doesn't she look fantastic?
The other girls are heading home as well. On Saturday, before we set off for the mountains, I took Sung Eun and Sohyun to the Post Office to mail some of their things. What a line.
Alright, so at 1:00 we finally had everybody in the car: Sohyun, Keiko, Sung Eun and Lindsey. Oh, and I shoud give you a little bit of an introduction to Lindsey since she was not able to come to Napa last week. Lindsey has the smallest appetite of any adult that I have ever met. She ate one third of an average sized salad on this trip and positively could not eat anymore that day. Her way of speaking and accent are both very cute. She has made many friends in America, so this is a tough week for her. Finally, she is our movie star.

After an hour of driving, we arrived in Placerville. I assure you, this picture was not intentional.
The day we went to Placerville was Founder's Day. So it was a big festival with people in period costumes. It also happened to be the day of the national gold panning championships at the Gold Bug Mine, so we went there too.
It was not a good day to go gold panning because of the crowds, so we went into the mine instead.
Sohyun and Keiko in the mine.
The mine was really small, so we were out within 5 minutes. We went to a refining demonstration, then got back on the Trolley Car bus which took us back to town.
Some of the characters in period costume. We just missed the gunfight.
After seeing what the festival was like, we left Placerville as quickly as possible and headed up into the Sierra Nevada mountains. Our next destination was Grover Hot Springs, where we were greeted with a line that took half and hour to get through. Beautiful scenery, at least.
Actually, Keiko and Lindsey have wanted to go to an American hot spring ever since I first mentioned their existence. Keiko's comment after first setting eyes on the hot pool at Grover Hot Springs: "Still, it's OK." I have no doubt that Japanese and Korean hot springs and very different.
After the hot springs, we went to set up camp at Turtle Rock Campground, but since the kitchen at Wolf Creek (the restaurant next to the Cutthroat Saloon) was only open till 9, we decided to go to dinner first.
We were all famished. Grace finished an entire plate overflowing with ribs, and Keiko finished most of a 14oz steak, Sohyun cleaned her ate all the components of her hamburger except the bread (which she didn't eat because it wasn't whole wheat), I ate my chicken sandwich, a cup of soup and and extra plate of fries, and Lindsey ate about a third of her salad.
Markleeville at night. Beautiful full moon.
Having stuffed ourselves, especially Lindsey, we returned to Turtle Rock and made camp...
Slept though an uneventful night, attested the pad to the top of the car...
And left Markleeville.
Even though we were behind schedule, there was one final stop I had to make.
So, we arrived at Camp Lotus, put in spot for our whitewater rafting trip, just on time.
Everyone else was running a little late, though, so we had time to go to the river and experience just how cold it actually was. We had to leave this spot when a grumpy goose showed up.
About half an hour later, we began to suit up. Poor Keiko. She had so much trouble with the wet suit. Her height and weight indicated that she should be a small, but while the bottom portion of the wet suit fit perfectly, the top was WAY too tight for her. It was very uncomfortable for her. Finally, we decided just to put on the wetsuit half-way, cover up with these orange shells, and not tell the guides. This is Keiko resting after the exhausting battle with her gear.
My gear was no problem.
Here we are, ready before all the other groups.
And here is our guide, Dale, with Lindsey and Sohyun on the river.
Keiko and Sung Eun.
We all had to jump in the river at the beginning, and to Keiko's dismay, the guide discovered her lifevest was not tight enough.
Lunch, sure enough, it was crushed.
Me at lunch, feeling good.
Keiko and grace after going down the best rapids of the river. According to Dale, we were one of the 3 best crews he had ever had. We were not strong, but we worked together and always followed instructions. We got into one really bad situation where the entire boat was flooded (according to Dale, a situation that usually results in the boat capsizing) but we worked together and got out of the situation unharmed. Another time we accidentally floated through some really bad branches, but, again we emerged unharmed.
By the end of the trip, we all wanted to go down bigger rapids. Sadly, the South Fork of the American River is really for beginners. Instead we chose to go swimming.
Lindsey posing on the boat, in a very dangerous position.
Me in the water.
Keiko got pulled in by the guide, and then she tried to get out on her own. No luck. We pulled her in.
We got a tow to the take out point.
Then went to the Argonaut in Coloma for some ice cream.
Walked around Coloma and went home. On Monday I am going to go have dinner with Sung Eun, Sohyun, Keiko and Lindsey for the last time (until August, hopefully). I am not looking forward to saying goodbye.