Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Top experiences of 2012 (in no strict order):

While some things have always powered me through, like chats with the family, repeated listenings to Gorillaz, BT and M83, good coffee and drinking nights with friends, there are some experiences that really stand out this year. I'm sure there were more, but I want to get this up before 1/1 is over!

(July, December) Playing Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. All of the signature Zelda-isms: Mute hero, cinematic shots, great score, instrument, animals, and a buttload of quests. My end game time was 50hours, and I still had a few things left. You know, they could add a hard mode where you hold the wand in your left hand (Link used to be a leftie before the Wii).

The answer in Twilight Princess was to mirror the entire mode, but the challenge would be that you're a leftie fighting mostly right-handed enemies. That's a different strategy...they'd really only need to change Link's handedness back to the original.

But I digress. The game was filled with classic moments like retrieving the Master Sword and finding the Triforce pieces, but my favorite sequence was this:
Learning your first harp song

(December) Coming back to see friends after 3 months. A close friend told me that with real friends, regardless of time, you pick up where you left off, chiding and talking like you just saw the person. It was nice to run off to Japan and experience so much difference, and come back and hug everyone. It's true that I had business to take care of in Seattle, as I transition my life to overseas. However, any financial and stress cost of logistics is worth being with my own. Apologies to Bruce and Candice for the lack of photographic presence! You can see Candice's red hair in the bridge photo.

 [Lake 22]

[Chloe's Birthday@Din Tai Fung]

(December) Re-experiencing Kyoto after 10 years.

[Every 20 minutes, you'd think they'd be cheaper than $120/way]
This was actually a lot of awesome rolled into one: I took the bullet train,

 got to stay in a really nice hotel, and went with my awesome friend, Ran. 
[What's crackin', monkey-monks?]

 In my 11 years of overseas travels, most of it has been alone. There are tons of benefits: moving at my own pace, being as frugal as I want, and the communication challenge. Most of that time, though, I felt like the experience was discounted without sharing it with someone, and I don't mean sending a photo. It's all about the look on someone's face, and the 'Remember that one time...'s.

[Kinkakuji - yes, it's like the Empire State Building in that you've seen it 100000 times]
[Kiyomizudera - after praying to the god of business and fiscal matters]

 Shopping was great, the food was awesome, and our lunch [yakisoba and okonomiyaki] was a lot more flavorful than its Kanto equivalent.

Movies: (August) AVENGERS! I missed out on this movie for a few weeks, and finally saw this movie with Chloe, Sam and Jaaron. That movie was really well done, had tons of WOW moments, great comedy, looked sweet, and I thought it was really sweet that Jaaron and Sam saved another viewing for me.

(July) The Dark Knight Rises midnight showing. Say what you want to say about the movie (lord knows I've heard it all), but you just can't beat that rising tension with fellow nerds when the lights jam off, and you hear the IMAX emcee say some cheap nerdy quip. This year, they even had some trivia about stuff in the Batman universe and gave out comics! I came late and ended up alone at the back of the line until about 30 minutes til, and we were all together, excitedly chatting about whatever came to mind. We got to experience that movie purely, without the baggage of the unfortunate shooting that happened the same night.

[Nature rocks!]
(February). San Francisco and Yosemite. During Aki's last week in the US, her mom came, and the 3 of us went to California. The first destination was Yosemite - a 5-hour drive from SFO. 

 [Half-Dome, I taught a lesson on this!]

After the day at Yosemite, we drove back to San Francisco to have clam chowder, see the bridge, Ben and Jerry's and make a hurried photo attempt at Lombardi Street, which we never saw.

[Cross-cultural drinking!]
(April). Return to Japan A - Chiba.
Aki and her family hosted me in the province east of Tokyo. For 2.5 weeks, I ate great food, saw famous Japanese sights, and got frightened by trembles of earthquakes.

[Sensouji, on a hella rainy day after some awesome kibidango]

[Tokyo/Tsukiji - The hella famous fish market, having some fresh-ass seafood]


(September). Tokyo Game Show 2012. I'd read about it for more than 10 years, and happen to come to Japan just in time. My friend Wei-Ming is 100% responsible because I never would have looked. Either way, after a few subway transfers and a 20 minute walk to Makuhari Messe, I took this picture:

[Ohh yeah, there are videogames at TGS...]

(April) Radiohead concert. Elizabeth and I went into a warm Key Arena, after some bad security decisions. We were all stopped at one of 4 door entrances to give our tickets to be given a receipt, and sent a quarter turn around Key Arena to get bracelets. With the bracelets, you can enter the arena. You know, instead of having the ticket scanner do BOTH JOBS. Anyway, once you entered, you couldn't exit for security / preventing smoking of any kind protocols. Alas, I forgot my camera that night! Alas....earwax!

(December 11th) Becoming an uncle! J and Ash had a baby. I haven't met Ella Taylor Strong, yet, but she looks cute enough.

(September) Japan B The long-awaited return to Japan. 20 years of videogaming, 8 years of Japanese study, 2 years in university training to become certified, and 6 years of teaching experience later, I've finally made a professional appearance in Chiba. May's trip had a lot to do with me choosing Chiba, and I couldn't be happier with the experience. I taught university students conversational English, and got to meet some incredible people, Japanese and non-!
[Left-to-right: Me, Eda, Raul, Martyn, Kim, Lori, and Wei-Ming. A fine set of teachers, indeed! ]
[My students at a nomikai-gathering]

[Ramen - my new favorite food]

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