Food and Karaoke.

Friday night my sister took me and 14 of her other friends to a karaoke place not far from her home. I should’ve taken pictures but it was raining (it’s been raining for three straight days with no end in sight) and I still feel awkward taking photos anyway. 

Again, go listen to “3×5” by. John Mayer for a better explanation of my aversion to nonstop photos.
This karaoke place looked like a Motel 6, except the color scheme was bright yellow and pink, and its mascot is a small kitty face (not much unlike Hello Kitty) holding a microphone.
The reason it looks like a Motel 6 is because the venue has 10 or so individual rooms for groups to sing in. So we all piled into the largest room they offered and sang for three hours.
I was a karaoke DJ in college as one of my many jobs, but even that did not prepare me for Japanese karaoke. The best part, hands down, is the music videos. In the states, all the karaoke I’ve ever done is facilitated by a black screen with words that scroll by. In Japan, the music is accompanied by story arcs, psychedelic images, and/or the most random action ever. More than one song featured women baking. Just in a kitchen, smiling, and baking. 
I enjoyed just sitting back watching the videos, though I did get up and sing a couple of songs with my sister. I realized early into the whole experience that I’m much more introverted than I ever thought. 
Saturday we went to a bakery called Chateraise. It is stocked with ice cream treats in addition to the bakery items, and everything I tried was delicious. As a lover of all things waffle, I was happy to see small waffles dipped in chocolate. I’ll be taking some of those home.

(This was my lunch earlier this week–amazing almonds, spicy chicken and noodles, and my new favorite, onigiri. All courtesy of the 7-11.)
I’m trying to be adventurous in my dining choices when we go out, so I also tried ice cream wrapped mochi, which is finely pounded rice. Its consistency is a bit chewy, so that took some getting used to, but it was definitely tasty. My favorite though, was a sweet bread with two different types of cream filling. Not Hostess creme filling, but it tasted like real, legit dairy-based cream.
Not much else to report–80% of the reason I’m here is to just be with my sister, so I don’t care what I see or don’t see. Like I told someone at church today: if my sister was at Minot, I’d spend a month there too. 
That said, we are still going to try and make it to Tokyo Disney. 

The Day We Went to Costco.

Today’s adventure took us off the base and into the civilian world. I’m getting used to sitting in the left side of the car and not driving, but I’m not used to how close everyone is just yet.

Photo taken right outside my window. No zoom. If I had reached my hand out the window, I could have touched that tire.

See how close the traffic is? Super close. I did not take photos of the one lane road she drove on…I was too busy covering my eyes for fear of crashing into oncoming traffic. I will say that Deanne’s driving skills have improved immensely since high school.

We arrived at Costco and I should’ve taken photos of the outside, because it is huge. I like to compare all Costco experiences to that of the Orem, Utah Costco because that particular Costco is more soul crushing than others. It’s just always. so. busy. I sometimes wonder if that Costco hires people to literally crawl out of the woodwork to make it more crowded.
Well, this Costco makes the Orem Costco look like a ghost town. 
First, there is a parking garage attached to the Costco in Japan. At first I felt that added to the magnitude of the building, but then I realized it has to be a garage because land is at a premium, so building ‘up’ appears to be the only option. 
Here’s where I was going to include a video of the stairless escalator that we took to actually get up to the store, but I’m blogging from my iPad and video uploads aren’t an option. So I tried using Safari and getting to blogger that way, but then I remembered that I have 2-step verification enabled on my Google account, and Google owns Blogger, and when you enable 2-step verification, it sends a text message to your phone with a code. But I’m not getting text messages while in Japan so….

Just imagine a giant escalator that’s like the moving sidewalks on airports. So it looks like an escalator but without stairs. Here’s a screenshot of the trip back with our cart. 

This Costco really was like most others–everything is in bulk and at reduced prices, but every now and then something would remind me I was not in Orem.

Cooked octopus. Wasn’t really on our list, though.
I felt weird sneaking photos–I didn’t want to offend. So this is the only photo I took inside the Costco. Plus, the place was packed with people. This was not 6 pm on a Saturday night (that’s when those Utah Costcos are at their craziest). It was 11 am on a Friday. Usually, I’d expect most people are at work. And maybe most people were at work, but most people were also at Costco.
What was most different, though? No one was screaming at anyone else. As crowded as it was, we were all in long lines even just to glance at certain products. And no one looked irritated. Deanne told me that after checkout, when many people head to the concessions stand for lunch or a snack, they simply park their carts, save a seat, and LEAVE THEIR THINGS AND NO ONE TAKES THEM. 
Oh, they did have samples, but I am not yet feeling very adventurous. Even though my 7-11 lunch yesterday was delicious and was all completely new to me. The first sample we hit up was seaweed and I just wasn’t feeling it. 
If all goes according to plan, tomorrow’s post will be all about karaoke.  


Off the Continent.

I’ve been in Japan now for one full day, and so far, I’ve kept to the base. So it hasn’t felt much different from visiting my sister at any other military installation, or other bases I lived on growing up.

Except for driving on the left. I keep trying to look in the rear view mirror out of habit. And turning left freaks me out, but it’s the same as turning right in the states, so it really shouldn’t. 
Also different: a simple fence separating the base and civilians. Seriously–a fence, and on the other side, not six inches from the fence are farms, homes, streets. So different from every other base I’ve been on. Also–apparently in Japan, I can’t take photos without my finger in the way. Sorry about that. 
Point is, no zoom on that photo. That’s from the passenger side, while stopped at a stop sign. That farm is off the base.

We are making sure we’ve fully recovered from the jet lag before embarking on any grand adventures. I was wide awake at 3:30 this morning. I willed myself back to sleep for three more hours, but I’ve been awake ever since. I’m pretty sure I’ll crash around 2. 
The base itself requires its own post, but I need to clear it or redact some of it before posting, I’m sure. Suffice it to say for now that it is unlike any base I’ve ever been on while at the same time feeling rather familiar. 
Today’s big adventure is going off to Pass and ID to get my first military ID paperwork in nearly 20 years. So I should go make myself presentable…I’m thinking my Marvel tshirt is a good call for that photo, don’t you? 

On Traveling Alone.

Monday and Tuesday I drove from Omaha to Provo. I split it into two days, so Monday night I stopped in Laramie, Wyoming and then tackled the rest of the way on Tuesday. 

Omaha to Provo in a car takes about 14 hours. 15 years ago, making a drive like this was easy. In 1999, I drove from Omaha to Bozeman, Montana and then to Provo and didn’t think twice about it.
Monday, somewhere around Ogallala, I told myself I could not make this drive alone ever again. 
It’s not that I’m afraid of anything–flat tires, hitchhikers, skeezy hotel rooms–it’s that when I travel alone, I know I’m missing things. 
I can’t take photos of the hilarious religious billboards across western Nebraska or the DUI billboards in Wyoming. I can’t adequately describe the family of smokers at the Pilot station in between Kearney and North Platte that made me think, “the family that smokes together stays together?” I am less apt to explore downtown Laramie–again, not out of fear, but because to experience a small town greasy spoon and try to describe its sassy waitress and oddball cuisine to others just often doesn’t cut it. 
In short, I’m tired of traveling alone because it is, well, lonely.
And then there is the issue of not having anyone to talk to, and for someone who is mildly narcissistic and lives in her head a little too much as it is, shutting off the brain is no easy task. I listen to music, and I will hear a song that reminds me of something happy, but no one is around to hear the story. Or worse, I hear a song that reminds me of something sad, and before I know it, I’m reliving every failed relationship ever and I might as well just become a Lot Lizard at Little America for want of any semblance of intimacy. 
I made it to Provo just fine, and my friend Peggy is an amazing hostess and we never run out of conversations. And she takes me out on walks through her neighborhood and I start to feel like Utah is home again, a home I miss regularly when I allow myself to feel it. 

In a little over a month I’ll be making the drive back to Omaha, but I’ll be taking a different route. On one hand, this will be good–seeing new sights, driving through different canyons, and stopping in Colorado to see old friends. But on the other hand, I’ll see these new sights and have no one to talk to about them, no one to mock new billboards with, and no one to keep my brain from turning against me. 
Next trip, I need to see about hiring a squire to go with me. 

Test Run.

I’m typing this on my iPad mini, even though my laptop is two feet away. I’m not taking the laptop with me on my grand summer adventure, so I’m curious how blogging is going to work on the tablet. 

First world problem, I know.

I am all packed except for a handful of items, and Monday morning I hit the road. I’m still exhausted from the school year but I’m excited to see friends in Utah and get a stamp in my passport. 
I won’t have phone access while I’m in Japan, nor will my phone be an email leash like it is here–that will take some getting used to. My phone and iPad are brimming with content to keep me occupied on the 11 hour flight, even though I hope to sleep for most of it. 
So if this post worked out well, I’ll continue to blog my adventures here, and post photos when I think to take them. I’m really bad about taking photos…go listen to John Mayer’s song “3×5” and you’ll hear where I’m coming from.