Hawaii

Goodbye 2016. Hello 2017!

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Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. After my last post, I started my final year in my Master’s program and things just got crazy busy. I was also working at the same time and just somehow allowed a lot of the fun things to slip through the cracks, including this blog. But it’s a new year and that means a fresh start, right? I’m ready! So here is a brief summary of where I’ve been the past few months and what lies ahead in 2017!

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Things I’m Loving – October 2014

October was such a busy month for me and I’ve been taking the last couple days just to relax and recuperate as I prepare for November. It’s been fun to jump back into grad school and that atmosphere of constantly learning new things but it’s also been a little difficult to make the adjustment from having tons of free time to schedule activities as I like to having to hunt for time in my schedule just to study. Through September I was adding things into my schedule slowly so it wasn’t too shocking to my system. During October though, I just jumped into anything that came my way and unfortunately that meant that there was a two week period where I was spending every moment in class, getting into my new job (which definitely didn’t allow me to ease into the position but went more the “trial by fire” approach), helping plan an event, writing papers, or studying for midterms. Thus the need for absolute relaxation and laziness the past couple days. 😉 But as busy and sometimes stressful as the past month was, there were still lots of things I loved.

1. Rilakkuma Nara charm

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This little guy was a constant reminder to just relax. In case you don’t recognize him, this is Rilakkuma, a character popular in Japan. His name says everything you need to know about him: “Rilakusu” is the Japanese pronunciation of “relax,” while “kuma” is the Japanese word for “bear.” He loves to just sit around eating snacks and relaxing. This particular phone charm was one I got while touring around Nara. You can see Rilakkuma is wearing little horns like the deer who live there and eating the senbei snacks those deer love so much. So cute! And so relaxed! Sometimes while studying, I’d look over and see this charm and remember to just breathe and relax. It’s good to have that kind of reminder around.

2. Dragonfly paperclips

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These little dragonfly-shaped paperclips were another strategy I used to improve my study environment. At one point I had stacks of papers I was using to help prepare for a biostatistics midterm sitting all over the counter. Disorganization can actually stress me out, especially when I have something else stressing me (like midterms!) so I just wanted to organize everything. These cute little paperclips didn’t just help me organize but always made me smile, even hours into studying.

3. Rainy weekends

This may seem like a strange thing to add but when you’re stuck inside studying and it’s a beautiful, sunny day outside…well, that can just seem cruel sometimes. 😉 The weekend when I had the most studying and paper writing to do also just happened to be the weekend a hurricane passed south of Hawaii and drenched the islands. We didn’t get much wind but we had steady rain the entire weekend and it made for the perfect study weather. Maybe there is a silver lining in every cloud!

4. One-man Kabuki Storyteller

We had the opportunity to see a rather unique event hosted by the Japan Foundation this past month. This event was a shamisen demonstration and a kabuki play reorganized to be sung and played completely by one man, Kunitoshi Kineya. If you’ve ever seen a kabuki play before, it is heavily stylized form of Japanese theater known for elaborate costumes and very dramatic movement. For this version, Kunitoshi played the shamisen and played all the vocal roles…singing narration and changing his pitch and tone for each of the different characters. Instead of dressing in elaborate costumes and moving around the stage, he sat in the middle of the stage with his shamisen for the entire performance. It was very different from any kabuki play I’ve ever seen and it gave me a new perspective on kabuki. While most kabuki plays I’ve seen have captured my attention with the dramatic movement and costumes, that was stripped from this performance and allowed me to focus on the auditory piece that I don’t usually focus on. It really gave me a new appreciation for the work the actors and musicians put into the musical aspect of the play. And during the shamisen demonstration, he even sang and played an arrangement of The Star-Spangled Banner on his shimasen! He was quite a talented performer and we had a great time.

5. Cold Stone Creamery’s Midnight Delight ice cream cake

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My husband’s birthday was this past month and since ice cream is his favorite dessert, I got him an ice cream cake from Cold Stone Creamery. Chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream with fudge, chocolate shavings, and chocolate ganache…what’s not to like?! He was very happy with it and I have to say it was delicious. The portions they sliced were way too much for a single person though. And you know how much I like chocolate so if I’m saying it, it must be true. 😉

Now that it’s November and I’ve survived the midterm crunch, I’m really hoping to settle into my new schedule a bit more so I don’t feel quite so tired at the end of the next month. I’m setting myself a goal for November: integrate self-care time into my schedule so I make sure to relax, whether that time is used to meditate, watch some TV, hit the gym…whatever will allow me to take a few moments to relax and keep things in perspective. Okay November, here I come!

Night -blooming Cereus

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I’m back! It has been such a busy couple of weeks…I organized an event on campus, started a new job, and had midterms. I’ve had a lot of fun while being busy because these are all things that will give me great experience and help me figure out my career path but it has been exhausting. I just finished my last midterm exam this morning so I wanted to celebrate with a post of something happy and light. Thus, I present to you the night-blooming cereus! (more…)

Taking a Walk to Fight Breast Cancer

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this year I decided to join the fight and participate in a walk put on by the American Cancer Society here in Honolulu. Like a lot of people out there, I have family members who have fought and some who are still fighting this disease. Leading up to the walk, I learned a lot about what the American Cancer Society does with the money raised, including making mammograms available to women who need them and funding research to not only find better ways to fight the disease, but to hopefully one day prevent it from ever occurring. That is something I will definitely get out and walk for! (more…)

Things I’m Loving – September 2014

It’s that time again! It’s time to look back and reflect on September. I’d say it was definitely a month of settling into my new role as a student. If it’s been a while since you’ve been a full-time student (and it had been for me!), then it takes some time to really get back into that mindset. But after a month of classes, spending lots of time at the library studying, and completing two midterms already, I’m definitely feeling like a legitimate student. ^_~ Here are a few of the things this student has been loving in September!

1. The Hamilton Library

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The Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii has become like a second home for me. Just about every day I find a study carrel in a quiet corner and spend a few hours studying there. And really, what better place to spend your time studying than surrounded by books, right? I was spending so much time in the library that I even applied for and received a graduate student locker! That is quite useful since it means I don’t have to lug every book back and forth between campus and home every day. Now if I can just remember to take a warm jacket to store there since they keep it so cold!

2. The Warrior Recreation Center

The brand new fitness center on campus is fantastic! The machines are all shiny and new and so much more high-tech than machines I’ve used in other fitness centers. And since it’s conveniently located right in the middle of campus, I can get a quick workout every day before heading home. If I’m not taking one of the free fitness classes they offer, I usually hop on one of the high-tech treadmills. Each has it’s own touch screen so you can watch TV or select a coaching program to guide you through your workout. It’s so nice that it just keeps me coming back!

3. Bento lunch breaks

Since my husband and I both spend a lot of time on campus, we try to meet each day between classes and studying to grab lunch together. As grad students, packing lunch is definitely the economical option and I’ve had a lot of fun making bentos this past month for us to enjoy (like a salmon and rice bento and a chicken and veggie bento). It gives us a nice break to relax during our busy days and enjoy each other’s company. ^_^

4. Sunny Beadz bracelet

This bracelet has carved wooden beads interspersed with beads that change color when they encounter ultraviolet light. You can see that inside the beads are all white (between the brown wooden beads), but then as soon as you step into the sun they start changing color to alert you that UV rays are reaching you. I’ve noticed that under a shade tree, you can barely see a little color but out in direct sunlight, they can get very bright.

5. Dark chocolate covered pomegranate candies

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I know you were waiting for the dessert portion of this list and I won’t let you down! ^_~ I’d seen these dark chocolate covered pomegranate candies in the grocery store but they were really expensive for just a small bag. So when I saw a huge bag in Sam’s Club for the same price as a small bag in the grocery store, I had to buy them. It was a bit of a gamble since I wasn’t sure I’d like them, but I love them so it paid off! I’ve been keeping the bag in the fridge since it’s been so hot here and I love how it makes the fruit center chewy. Add dark chocolate and you have a winner! They’re so flavorful that just a few satisfy my dessert craving so I feel like it’s a low-guilt treat (especially since I’m hitting the gym regularly!) and that is always a plus.

That sums up a few of my favorite items from September. What will October bring? I can’t wait to find out! ^_^

Things I’m Loving – August 2014

This past month has been so very busy. At the end of July we’d pretty much just arrived in Hawaii and were staying with a friend while we looked for an apartment. Now that it’s the end of August, I’m happy to say we are settled into our very own apartment and starting to get into our new routines. The past few weeks have been packed full of buying furniture, moving things out of storage, and then of course the dreaded unpacking. I cannot believe it but I still have one box to unpack! >_< There were also two hurricanes that threatened the islands and threw us into “secure everything” mode and really delayed our settling into the new apartment. Thankfully the hurricanes turned and didn’t affect our area though they did do damage on the Big Island to the east of us. Now that things seem to be settling down, it’s time to share some of the things I’ve been loving this past month!

1. Friends

 

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Okay, so this could really be on the list every month but it has just been so great to see our Hawaii friends again. We had a lot of fun with friends in Japan of course and I do miss them but we’ve been having a lot of fun catching up with friends we haven’t seen for so long. (And I am trying to convince friends in Japan to come visit us in Hawaii. ^_~) Our change in time zones has also meant it’s been easier to find convenient times to talk to friends and family elsewhere in the US. That’s definitely a plus! And remember how I mentioned we stayed with a friend until we found an apartment? This was the view from our temporary home! (In case you are wondering…no, our own apartment has no such view.)

2. Wind maps

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One of my friends showed me a website where you can see current (within a few hours I think) wind patterns for the entire world. You can get a wide view of the earth or zoom in for a closer look at your own location. The photo is a screenshot of the wind patterns here in Hawaii after hurricane Iselle had already passed and we were waiting to see which way hurricane Julio turned. See those little dots to the left of the hurricane at the center of the picture? Yep, that’s Hawaii. I found this absolutely mesmerizing to watch!

3. Hiking

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You might have noticed from the many posts I’ve done on visits to parks that I really enjoy surrounding myself with nature. One of the things I’ve really been enjoying this past month is that I have only a short drive to so many great hikes. And unlike the manicured parks I mostly visited in Japan, these are hikes through wild rainforest. There is just something about being surrounded by nature and getting away from the sound of civilization that is so relaxing and energizing to me. I love it!

4. University of Hawaii campus

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That’s right. I’m a student once again! Classes have just begun but I spent some time on campus even before classes started just to take care of some admin items and reacquaint myself with where everything is. The campus is really beautiful with many tropical plants and a Japanese garden, too. They even have a map of various spots with botanical points of interest so you can take your own walking tour. I have a feeling I’m going to get to know the campus really well by the end of the semester.

5. Dark chocolate covered macadamia nuts

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I have such a weakness for these! As soon as we went grocery shopping, I was hunting these out to add to our shopping basket. They come in several different varieties but the dark chocolate is my favorite by far. It’s dark chocolate and macadamia nuts. What’s not to love about that?! The only danger is that once I’ve opened the bag, I don’t want to stop. It’s a serious exercise in will power.

So that is my update for now. I’m going to seriously carve out chunks of blog time in my calendar so I don’t come back at the end of September only to discover I’ve barely posted anything. I still have a lot of things from Japan I want to share and I’m already thinking of lots of good stuff from my adventures here in Hawaii that I’ll be sharing, too. Look out September, here I come!

Returning to Hawaii & Reverse Culture Shock

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Just a little over a week ago, I returned to the US after living in Japan for two years. I really loved my time in Japan and the move back was somewhat bittersweet. I expected that I would miss all the things I loved about Japan (friends I’d made, delicious Japanese foods, exploring the country and culture, etc.) but I was also really looking forward to seeing friends and family, eating all the foods I’d missed, and just generally being home. And I was returning to Hawaii, a gorgeous place to visit and to live, so really there were a lot of positives, too. What I did not expect was to return to Hawaii only to feel completely out of place and almost a bit like I was visiting a new foreign country. I was completely surprised to feel this way and more than a little dismayed. This is what is known as reverse culture shock. I just read a very interesting post on the topic by Tokyo Five and posted my initial thoughts there in the comments but here are my thoughts after a few more days back in Hawaii. (more…)