Monday, December 28, 2009

Hannah Comes to Town part 6


This was Kyoto day. Our morning was pretty lazy. Hannah and I ate breakfast and messed around, trying to create as Japanese an outfit for her as possible.

Notice the dress worn over an already-complete outfit, the hat, and the abundant accessories. The cell phone needed a few charms hanging from the end. A conversation that I believe centered around America’s Next Top Model and trying to look good in pictures lead to our picture story for the day. Hannah claimed that the trick to looking good in all those waist-up pictures was to thrust one’s chest and chin forward. Naturally, we exaggerated, giggling at each other, then the elbows came up…There is no title for our silliness, but photographs do show a theme.

I spent 880 at the post office sending packages to the U.S. I hope my earrings reached Texas. Hannah sent some postcards to her family and we were off to Kyoto (400 yen).

I should preface by saying that I had scheduled another stop by Chion-in, which is an old and cool temple that operates as a monk training center. I failed to check hours of operation for our destinations, though, and a fairly lazy morning meant a cutting Chion-in from the agenda.

Our first stop was Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion. There’s a lot of history that goes into it. It was built to match Kinkakuji, or the Gold Pavilion, a temple (or something) that really is covered in gold. Ginkakuji was supposed to be covered with silver (kin and gin mean gold and silver, respectively) but someone had died, or something something money, and it was left in its pure wooden glory. I’d heard and read that Kinkakuji was overrated, but that Ginkakuji was an absolute must-see. Silver Pavilion it was.

There are public sightseeing buses that run through Kyoto. They’re usually green and there is a voice that announces the stops in English after the Japanese. They’re also really cheap—210 to Ginkakuji, which is the last stop before the bus turns around and heads in the other direction.

The first of the silliness appears on our way into Ginkakuji.

It costs 500 yen to experience Ginkakuji’s tranquil gardens. The roof of the pavilion was in the process of being re-thatched, so we couldn’t enter it or get really breathtaking photos, but it was still pretty.

There’s a sizeable rock garden, featuring the Sacred Mound and the silhouette of silliness. Silhouette, by the way, is an incredibly difficult word to spell off the top of one’s head.
I took a lot of pictures of the large moss garden as we walked around, mostly because it seemed like the setting for a movie about woodland spirits.

The coins in the pond are centered around the rock on the lower left. The goal, it seems, is to land a coin on the submerged rock. Hannah went first and succeeded. I failed twice.

Kyoto as viewed from where the people in the previous picture stood.
Ginkakuji from the inside.

This area, as many Japanese gardens are, has likely been landscaped to resemble something in miniature. The sea, perhaps, or the Steppes of Central Asia. Borodin reference done-zo. I don't know what it was supposed to represent exactly, but it was fascinating. It was like Middle Earth in miniature. This whole garden made me want to sit down and write a fantasy novel about faeries and magick.

I also tried my darndest to think of a way to practice my French on a couple of francophone tourists, but failed. Instead, Hannah took this picture.
I don't know what my hands are doing.

Hannah and I hopped back on the city bus (another 210) to get to Kiyomizudera. Kiyomizudera (KEE-yo-MEE-zoo-DEH-rah) is one of the top tourist spots in Japan because of its amazing views, weird history, and holy water. Side note: anything labeled “dera” is a temple, all “jinja” are shrines. Guidebooks that call it “Kiyomizudera temple,” are redundant repeaters.

Kiyomizu is a hike from the bus stop. I’ve already posted pictures LINK (fixed, thanks to Gillian's eyes) from when I went with my teacher. Hannah pondered the purchase of souvenirs. Then sun began to set. Life was a bowl of cherries.

See the big gate on the left? Behind the lattices are guardians, also known as bare chested, beer bellied, pop-eyed half-giants. Ladies, don't count them out just yet. I hear they're really funny and have great personalities.
This was the first time that I had taken the opportunity to look closely. "Hey, Hannah," said I in adult fashion, "look at his nipples!"
Hey, Japan, here's a tip: if you want your guardian statues to be intimidating, don't carve marshmallow flowers where the nipples should be.
Otherwise, little girls might come along and take coins from around your feet. Get your hand outta there, Hannah Rose. (Don't worry, she threw it back in a pond somewhere in the temple)
Kiyomizudera is, as previously mentioned (I think), one the most popular tourist spots in Japan. There's the old deck from which to jump for love, the water with which to purify your innards, and maybe some other stuff that's a lot more important to you if you're Buddhist.

Oh, but I'm so happy to be aliiiiiiiive.
Shoulders back, chin and chest out, and leap. This shot took so many tries. At one point I asked Hannah, "Are you just telling me to do it again to see me jump around?" and some stranger walking past said, "Yeah, I think she is."
I'm guessing this is a one-person bell, maximum.
Hannah nails the model pose. Someone's been practicing on pathways to historic sites.

The hills of Kyoto. Anyone who wants to visit, raise your hand. Okay, now use that hand to quit spending money on dumb stuff like food, and buy a plane ticket.
These flowers bloomed in profusion along the pathways of Kiyomizu temple.
I think, though I am no longer sure, that it was around here where Hannah returned the half-giant's treasure. It was probably better off in the holy water. No one wants a dirty coin.

The sun began to set around the time we were leaving. Kyomizu temple can be a pretty quick trip, depending on how many temples you've visited beforehand. You'll notice a sharp decrease in pictures during this day and the following.

Nothing like seeing the sun set over the mountains.

Hannah may need to confirm the timing of the following event, but I believe it was on the way back down from Kiyomizudera that we stopped for ice cream bread. What is ice cream bread? Why, I'll tell you (since I didn't think to take a picture). It's ice cream sandwiched between two halves of a round, crusty roll. Think of a bread bowl for soup, but smaller and with Japanese green tea ice cream instead of soup. Dang tasty.

The streets on the way up and down from Kiyomizudera are full of shops and stalls, mostly catering to tourists. Hannah bought some souvenirs for family members and I tried to lead us over to Maruyama park, which is just west of Kiyomizudera.

I got us lost.

That was pretty much it. I paid 147 for coffee on the way to Sanjo street. We paid 210 to get from Sanjo Keihan station to Nijo, then 360 to reach Kameoka. While on the train I received a call from Margaret, telling me that my rabbit had been spotted (we all know how that ended, so I won't tell you how that felt). I had skipped aikido the week prior to prep for Hannah's visit, so I went that night, leaving Hannah to her own devices. I know, I was a terrible host. I paid my dues at aikido, got thrown around, and the teacher told me in English that I have "wonderful hips." Don't get your onesie in a twist, kids. He was talking about my steady stance.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Goodbye, Rabbit. Hello, America.

The ladies at the kindergarten were very nice and spoke to me in a lot of rapid Japanese while I pretended to understand ("Hm, so desu ne," will cover just about anything). I know Kuma is going to be in good hands, so outside:
but inside:

See y'all 'mericans tamorry.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Who the Heck is Christopher Honold?

This week is stupid busy. I hate it. My back hurts even when I'm not moving, I have a constant headache, and I've spent a fortune on baking supplies for pumpkin pies. A fortune! I just want to sit at home, do nothing, and eat a lot of junk food. Unfortunately, that won't happen anytime soon.

I usually look forward to getting home and checking my email. I read all those forwards my family sends, check my Facebook messages and any comments on my blog posts. Today, however, was not so pleasant. In fact, it was downright puzzling. When I got home late from a long day at work I was notified of this lovely Facebook message:
do u know my fiance/ father of our unborn child? bc if u do back off and leave him alone. Im one pissed off pregant lady and I dont care if you got ur a** beat bc im coming over there and I will f**k u up worse than u already were...

oh yea my fiance is chris honold. hes in the marines.. u met him at a club i do believe. BACK OFF..

If this isnt the right laurel... sorry


The asterisks are my addition. The account from which it was sent is one Christopher Honold, the fiancé/father of our (mine and hers?) unborn child (in our shared womb?). Naturally, I clicked on the dude's profile to make sure. No recognition. I must say, in all of my time here I don't believe that I've met any Marines. An Air Force member, yes, but no Marine men. So, I told her that she had the wrong beat-up fiancé-stealer, congratulated her on her (our) pregnancy, and wished her a happy holiday season.

I don't even know if "over there" is Japan. Nothing conclusive popped up on Google.

Out of curiosity, I did a Facebook search on my name. I am the only Laurel Ryan who lists Japan as a location. If Nicole knew the last name of the evil Laurel, she probably wouldn't have sent me the threat. So I tried again. When I searched for the name Laurel alone, 104 people popped up. Adding Japan narrowed it to thirty-four. I wonder if Nicole will try again with the other 34 when she reads my response. Scary. I will say that her sweet, very pretty profile picture does not match her angry text/chat speak. She looks educated. That's if the Nicole who popped up when I clicked on the father of our unborn child's profile is the right Nicole.

if that wasnt the right nicole... sorry

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Christmas List

I learned a lot from my trip home last year. I learned that a visit to my hometown is expensive, that life without a cell phone is nigh impossible when I have friends tardier than I, and that I cannot continue to pack or request gifts that don't lie completely flat. I learned that I don't need more than three outfits (one for dressy occasions. I'm no slouch) and that no one cares if I wear the same shirt twice in a row. I learned that I didn't really care what people gave me, even though I demanded gifts and accolades for traveling so far. I was just happy to be home.

This is not to say that my goals for this year are entirely different. Sure, I do need to go shopping when I get home. I've discovered that biking everywhere means a pair of jeans only last for one year. That coin laundry theft from earlier left some holes in my wardrobe. Last time around I also had a lot of food goals. I was going to eat Mexican food, waffles, something that Grandma made, and drink my weight in my mom's citrus tea. Turned out that Japan and jet-lag had shrunk my appetite, and corn syrup-filled sweets were quick to overwhelm.

My trip this year will shorter by at least a week, so that's 11 full days at home (add 2 days of traveling to each end). Very little of that time will be spend vacationing (a.k.a. resting and relaxing). I do want to taste Hideaway pizza, real Mexican food, a filet mignon, and citrus tea is no joke. Now when I think about going home I think more about my family, and how I want to spend all my time with them. Family friends like the Wilkins, Aunt Jan, Nana, the Posts, the Moseleys, Tranbergs/Tangrens and the Hamilton's (this could be a forever-long list, so I shall pause here) are high on the must-see list. Of course, Nina, Hannah and any of my work/college/high school buddies who happen to be in town go up on the list of Do Not Leave Before Seeing.

However, family is my number one priority. I’ll only have so many lucid waking hours. After 6 p.m. the jetlag crazies take over I won’t know what I’m saying anymore. I gotta get quality time in while I can make sense of it. Also, I won't have a car or a mobile phone, so everything and everyone will have to come to me. I don't hate it. If I get stir crazy I will force Barron to take me to Red Robin for a cheeseburger. Otherwise, I officially invite everyone ever to my parents' house for Christmas, or pre-Christmas, or post-Christmas, or brunch.

Nevertheless, I realize that some people like to prove their love for me with stuff they bought. I will help these people by making a list of flat things at which I would not turn up my nose (let’s pretend that I’ve ever turned up my nose at a gift, save for when Gillian wrapped hand-me-downs and I cried):

· Laptop sleeve

· Laptop bag

Here are my favorites on Etsy. I have a wallet in the same print as the beige/brown/orange bird bags. I want to be able to carry my laptop and school papers in one bag. I would be using the sleeve/bag every. Single. Day.

  • Gift certificates to:
    • ITunes, because most of my spending money goes there anyway. I moved my music file to an external hard drive and subsequently regained all of my laptop storage. I have enough music to listen for 7:04:52:23 and still have an ever growing list of albums to buy. Right now I’m working on my collection of religious music, for when the Spirit says “Sing.” And yes, I listen to all of it.
    • Express. Due to being the massive amounts of tag I play and bike-riding I do for work, dark jeans have become an indispensable part of my professional wardrobe. Also due to the massive amounts of tag and cycling, holes in awkward places have become part of every single pair of my jeans. I know the jeans at Express fit me and I won’t be stepping on the hem all the time. That way, if I absolutely must go to the store, I can run in, grab some jeans in my size, and skeedaddle. As little as possible TAFF (Time Away From Family/Friends). The link is here.
    • Fire Mountain Gems and Beads, which can be found here.
      • I’m low on supplies, folks. Shipping from places like Etsy and Ebay can kill a healthy bank account.

So that’s my grown-up Christmas list. Three items. I’m also taking requests from the good folk at home. I’ve only one requirement: Lies mostly flat. I take it back; one more requirement: Won’t get me stopped at customs.

So, tell me. Oshiete kudasai. What do you want for Christmas?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hannah Comes to Town part 5


I should mention that Hannah and I managed to stay awake until 3:00 a.m. I didn’t include that in the Tuesday blog because 3:00 a.m. is no longer Tuesday. Let that preface everything you read and see in this post, because it hit us all in waves. Oh, Japan! Oh, we’re tired. Japan! Tired. And so on.

I had originally planned to take Hannah to Nara on Thursday. Wednesday was still a holiday and therefore would be packed with tourists. I had wanted Hannah to see the oldest capital when there weren’t so many people around. I also wanted for the deer to be impressed when we held crackers in their direction. Unlike Miyajima, Nara hold its deer sacred, which I guess means making them a tourist attraction. One can purchase a stack of deer crackers (which I’ve seen babies eat. DON’T GIVE THEM TO SMALL CHILDREN) and feed the deer as much as you want. However, after the deer harassment on Miyajima, Hannah and I changed our plans to escape the wrath of hungry woodland beasts.

Dara joined us this day for our tour of Nara. We took a train to Kyoto (400 yen) and grabbed breakfast and lunch at a deli in Kyoto station (846 yen for me, because my sandwich had Brie on it. Brie). Then I spent 147 yen on a coffee drink. Three a.m.

There are two lines that go to Nara, the Japan Railroad (JR) line and the Kintetsu line. The JR is faster, the Kintetsu is cheaper. We opted for cheaper. I had taken the JR last time with Liz, and we had missed two trains because we were too afraid to cram our bodies into the overstuffed trains. The Kintetsu was far less crowded and cost only 610 yen. Hannah, Dara and I all sat down, I ate my breakfast, and I think we might have done some sleeping (obviously, I don’t remember).

We arrived in Nara without a hitch. After exiting the station we headed to our right to find the park. The main attractions in Nara are mostly clustered on a giant park. What may or may not be the same park begins long before one ever reaches a site of historical significance. Sure there’s a museum, blah blah.

We entered the history part at the pagoda

which apparently houses something important, but I’m ninety percent sure that the pagodas of Japan are ninety-five percent decorative. We decided (I decided) that our picture story for the day would be twofold given that there was another model in the mix. The story for the day: Bored by History and Angry. The latter wasn’t hard, since we were all sleepy, especially Hannah (jetlag, remember?).

We also found the time to look fabulous as a trio.

We found deer not long after.

Neither Hannah nor this antler-less buck was impressed.

See, even the deer is bored.

The place was packed, as we had expected.
Still, the fat, well-fed deer were out for blood. Children cried and grown men and women fled. I’m not exaggerating.
That dude (?) literally ran away from the three does. I didn't blame him; they were all up in his grill, biting at stuff.

We decided to pause for an ice cream and kakigori break. Kakigori is the Japanese snow cone, and they usually allow the customer to put as much syrup on those suckers as he or she desires. The self-service snow cone. I wanted Hannah to experience the refreshing, slightly different snow cone, so I coughed up 600 yen for two large sizes. Hannah and I had many desires, and our desires were beautiful.

Can you see that rainbow in a cup. Can you?

Here’s Hannah out of character as we pass approach the guardian gate to Todaiji:

Todaiji is the biggest wooden building in the world, for those who’ve forgotten. Still, it’s a bit smaller than the original (earthquakes and fires and such. It has been rebuilt a couple of times).

I like to think he's offering a really enthusiastic high five.

These figures may be imposing to some, but Hannah is nonplussed. Dara sees his abs and raises him one fist.

This guard dog looks surprised. Guess he didn’t figure out that you have to catch people on their way into the temple.

Looking good, as always.

Ah, the leaves begin to change. But you know how we feel about that?

Hey, "gorgeous" scenery. Yeah, you. We're gonna sucker punch you in the leaves, but we'll yawn to prove just how easy it is.

Who’s better looking that an ancient temple?

Dang skippy.

It costs 500 yen to enter Todaiji itself. There’s a pretty massive courtyard that leads up to the massive building. I was sticking my hand through the outside gate to take the above picture.

I withdrew my hand.

We entered the temple and wandered around. I should note that we walked really, really slowly this whole day. Hannah claimed it was more tiring that a brisk pace, but I tend to disagree. Walking slowly means taking in more of the details. It also means finding opportunities to express our feelings through film.

We are too cool to care about history. Temple. Pfft. We will punch you right between those shiny horns, temple.
You think you're so zen.We will punch your zen in the face. And then we will take a nap.
I see your angry face, and raise you one empty fist. Oh, you have a scroll in your fist? Then I raise you biceps like arm potatoes.

I mentioned before ( I think) that in one of the pillars a hole has been cut. This hole is supposed to be the same size as the giant Buddha’s nostril, and wiggling through it results in good luck. Most of the good luck-booger wannabes are children and their fathers, or younger couples on a date (the girl takes the pictures, the guy goes through). Hannah and I decided to wiggle or wedge ourselves into that narrow opening on principle of I May Never Come Here Again. Hannah went first:

The trick for adults is to turn on one’s side so as not to get caught by the muffin top. I watched, learned, and followed.

On the approach.

Laugh it up, natives. Imma getting through.

Dara was taking pictures, and kept telling me to wait while she got a good shot. People were laughing out loud and I feigned deafness.

I always think of The King and I when I see this, and the Siamese court production of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Outside the temple sits a amazingly toothy, weathered statue of a monk in a shower cap. The idea is to touch whatever part of his body that also hurts on yours. Touch and be healed and creeped out.

Whatever, Getting A Perm Monk. I don't care about you.

After Todaiji we headed to the left (I don’t know which cordinal direction. South, probably).

I henceforth discovered parts of Nara I hadn’t known to exist. This bell tower, for example, was a new discovery.

A traditional temple/shrine bell is shaped like the church bells we know (without the flare at the bottom). However, there’s no tongue on the inside. Instead there is what looks like a battering ram hung near the pole. When the bell is rung the rope restraints are removed from the log. One or more people swing the log back, then forward to hit the bell. There are some bells and ringers so large that it takes seventeen monks to make the sound.

This bell looks like a two or three person job.

It does take two to shake a fist at a bell this size.

We stopped here for our lunch, mostly because there were no deer in sight. Lesson learned, Miyajima.

This picture took forever to set up properly.

After our repasts we stumbled upon this temple.

The one on the left.

Some people might be impressed. They might say, "Ooh, what a cool temple, what awesome details. Oh, wow, I'm such a fan of these cool details. Wow, I like fountains with dragons and stuff. Ooh."

Other people are just too cool for that.
The rest of us just don't know what we're doing.
This was really slow.
Really, really slow.
As in, "Come on already."
Wait, I started sliding again. Get there, get there.
We paid 130 yen for ice cream on the way to Kasuga Taisha shrine. Kasuga Taisha is famous for its stone lanterns, and was one of my favorite places when I visited last year with Liz. There are at least 1,000 lanterns leading to the shrine. We walked into the main entrance
and opted to keep our yen in our pockets. I think it would have been between 300 and 500 yen to go farther into the shrine, but after a while a shrine is a shrine. We continued.
You think you're so cool, lanterns.
By this time we were really tired. My fatigue made me a little slap-happy. I crawled through a hole in a tree (peer pressure), ran around like a crazy-face, leapt from short pole to short pole while Hannah played Rolf to my Leisle, and postulated that some of the stranger trees could be used as daybeds.

It was another 610yen on our sleepy way back from Nara. Then 400 back from Kyoto. Hannah and I opted to go straight home, though we did make another stop at Seiyu for what I wrote as, “1600 cookie groceries and such.” I’m not sure anymore what this means, but I blame my case of the sleepies. Maybe Hannah can clarify.

Again, it was a good day.