Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall Break Trip

A few weekends ago we had Fall Break. This shouldn't even be counted a real break since we only get one extra day off from class, but hey, I'll take whatever I can get. Since I live out of state I usually just stay at school while all my friends go home for these breaks. However, this year I actually went somewhere! I went with one of my roommates and best friends, Amy, to her family's farm in Mt. Carroll. 

We spent the weekend hanging out with her family, exploring the adorable antique stores in town and riding around the property looking at the beautiful fall colors! Even though it was only a few days, it was really nice to get off campus. Since coming back from Japan my travel bug has been itching like crazy! I don't have a car so it is difficult for me to get away when I want to. Fall Break definitely helped with that!

I had a super fun time at the farm, but I realized once again that I am definitely not a country girl! As if I needed reminding ^_^

P.S. the tea of the day is ginger tea ^_^

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Slowing Life Down

Sometimes it's good to just take a minute and slow down. I've realized recently that I feel like my life is going nowhere. There is so much pressure on uni students to excel in everything we do. We get so much work that all we feel like we do is study. During our junior and senior years at uni we are also supposed to get internships or jobs that could be related to our future. At the same time there is this pressure to join the clubs that could be connected to our future. Additionally, we are supposed to have this amazing social life, spending every spare second we have building lifelong friendships. Can someone please tell me where in this we are supposed to have time for ourselves? 

For me, this all just started to add up and I really didn't understand what I was doing. Sure, I do well in school and I have an internship now, but I haven't even thought about taking the GRE and I have absolutely no idea what to do when I graduate. After coming back from Japan I wasn't in any clubs so I tried to find one that would be perfect for me. I was also trying really hard to spend as much time with my friends as I could, even if it meant spending a night out when I really just needed to relax.

 This really started to cut into my life. I stopped practicing yoga, something that has kept me grounded since I started doing it a few years ago. I didn't read for pleasure, which is something I use to de-stress. I wasn't thinking about future blog posts, one of my favorite hobbies since I started blogging last year. I became very moody and I took offense to many things people said to me, even if they didn't mean it in a bad way. I just didn't have the time or energy to process what they were really trying to say to me. 

So, to all the uni students out there, SLOW DOWN. Yes, you want to do your best in school, but don't kill yourself for all A's. If you have a job or internship, work a feasible amount of work time into your schedule. If you want to join clubs, do it! However, if clubs aren't your cup of tea, don't worry about it. As for friends, your friends will understand if one night you just want to hang out at home. If you have a few solid friendships, that's all that matters and those people will understand if you can't make it to the party one night. Something I think we should all do more is just take some time for ourselves. It will make us happier and more successful people in the long run. 

P.S. the tea of the day is ginger tea ^_^

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Coming Home

It has been almost a month since I returned home from my time studying abroad in Japan. Before I left Japan I was extremely worried about coming back. I thought that it would be so difficult and that I would hate it. While I'm not saying that the transition has been easy, it has definitely not been as difficult as I was anticipating. Coming back to the states, staying with my family for a few weeks and then returning to my home university, it all seems strangely normal. Everything looks the same, peoples habits are all the same, and it is so easy for me to fall into my old routines. At the same time I feel like everything is different. I compare everything to the way it was in Japan and it is hard for me to connect to the conversations people are having. The normalcy of my life here in the US is very disarming. Everything about my life in Japan, although I can remember it so clearly, seems so far away. The people I met in Japan and I are all in different time zones now and when I see posts of what they are doing in whatever countries they are from it seems so bizarre. I have no connection to this life that they have back home, so if I want to talk to them about things it is hard to find the time and what to say. Going to Japan was really easy because I knew that I would see everyone again. There was a fixed timeline of how long I would be away, so even if we drifted apart a little bit, I knew everything would be normal once I returned home. With my friends I made in Japan there isn't that certainty. I don't see myself going back to Asia or taking a tour of Europe any time in my immediate future, and I know everyone's schedules are just as busy as mine. Even though it's scary to think that some of the people I met I might never see again, I know that it will be fine. I will find a way to see the people I became closest with again, even if it takes a few years for that to happen. Thus, while it is strange being back in the US it feels nice getting back to a more normal place for my last year in uni. My year in Japan really gave me a lot of direction for my future, so for now I am happy to be here. There are a lot of things I need to do before I can travel extensively again. I know the memories I have of Japan and everything I learned will be exceedingly helpful in my future endeavors. 

Now that I am home I won't be doing any travel blogs for a while. I hope to still update my blog frequently though, so keep an eye out for more posts. I'm not positive what I will write about but it will be an adventure for everyone as I figure that out. 

P.S. the tea of the day is strawberry grapefruit green tea ^_^

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kyoto Day 3

Our first stop on the last day in Kyoto was Sanjusangen Temple. The actual name of this temple is Rengeo Temple, but everyone just calls it Sanjusangen. This Buddhist temple did not seem very well known by anyone other than Japanese, but it is definitely the best temple I have ever visited in Japan. This temple is dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon. You are not allowed to take pictures on the inside of the hall, but I stole a picture off the internet so you could see! The main attraction of the temple is a huge Kannon statue covered in gold leaf. In the room that she sits are also 1,000 other small Kannon statues, also covered in gold leaf. In front of these statues are other Buddhist deities set to protect all the Kannon's. This temple was so amazing due to the sheer amount of statues in the building. I would definitely recommend anyone going to Kyoto to definitely take a trip to this temple.

The next stop Siobhan and I made was to Ginkaku Temple, or the Silver Pavilion. This zen temple is a sister to Kinkaku Temple, the Golden Pavilion, which we visited on our second day. The pavilion isn't actually covered with silver foil, and no one is positive where the temple got its name. Possibly it is just to contrast with the Golden Pavilion since they are in a straight line on opposite sides of Kyoto or maybe it was just never finished. Despite the fact that it is not actually silver, I still found it really beautiful. There is a route through the temple grounds which is very secluded. I felt like were were out in the wilderness, but once you leave the temple grounds you are automatically in the town again. 

Our last stop of the day was to Shimogamo Shrine. This is one of the oldest shrines in Japan. The day that we went there was a festival happening so we didn't get to see too much of the shrine. However, I could see how it would be a really good tourist stop on a less busy day. After seeing as much of the shrine as we could, we bought some festival food and went down to the river area to snack and rest before we made our way to Kyoto station and back to Tokyo. 

That's all for our Kyoto trip! I loved Kyoto and I would love to go back and see more aspects of the city that aren't so touristy. 

I am currently writing this from the cafeteria in my dorm. I have been kicked out of my room and am stealing the ethernet port down in our cafeteria ^^ I'm flying out of Japan tomorrow and heading to Singapore for a little vacation before I go back to the US! I've had an amazing time here in Japan and I really appreciate everyone who read my blogs! I hope that you will continue to read even though I am not taking you around Japan with me anymore ^_^

P.S. the tea of the night is apple tea ^_^

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kyoto Day 2

Our first stop on the second day in Kyoto was to Kinkaku Temple to see the Golden Pavilion. Kinkaku Temple is a Zen Buddhism temple which is famous for the pavilion that is completely covered in gold leaf. This was one of the places I was most excited to visit in Kyoto, as it is very famous and I had seen so many pictures from other people visiting. I absolutely loved it and I kept wishing I could be a monk in the 16th Century or something so I could live here!

Our second stop of the day was also a zen temple, called Ryoan Temple. This is the home of the most famous zen rock garden in Japan. While the rock garden didn't impress me that much, I thought it looked rather barren and not necessarily pretty, it was still a cool temple to visit! 

Our final stop of the day was to yet another zen temple, Tenryu Temple. This temple is in the Arashiyama district of Kyoto, and has the cutest station ever. I would recommend going to see this temple purely so you can see the station and walk around the shops! Don't get me wrong though, the temple is also worth seeing! It is the home of an absolutely gorgeous dragon painting and a beautiful zen garden. I liked this zen garden since it did not look barren at all. I thought there was much more life to this garden compared to the rock garden at Ryoan Temple. The final must see if you are at Tenryu Temple is the bamboo grove. I had never been to a bamboo grove and I was amazed by this one! The bamboo is so tall, and it is much harder than I thought it would be. Walking through the grove made me wish I could go to a bigger grove and weave my way through the trees.

That is all we did on our second day in Kyoto! I have one more post coming for you guys, hopefully I will post that later today or tomorrow!

P.S. the tea of the day is lemon tea ^_^

Monday, July 28, 2014

Kyoto Day 1

This past weekend I spent 3 days exploring Kyoto with my friend Siobhan. This was our last adventure together in Japan and I have to say, it was the best!

Our first stop on Friday was to Fushimi Inari Shrine. Inari is the god of rice in the Japanese Shinto religion and this is one of the most important shrines dedicated to the god. The shrine is by Mount Inari, so the main thing to do is walk up the mountain. The path is marked by thousands of torii gates (the big, red gates) and there are multiple shrines on the way up the mountain. Siobhan and I didn't walk all the way up, but we probably got halfway before we decided to head back down. This shrine is amazing, and the farther up the mountain you climb the quieter it gets. It seemed to me like only Japanese people intent on making a pilgrimage to the top shrine continued to the top. Most foreign tourists turn back after the first or second shrine. At the base of the mountain where the main shrine stands, the streets are lined with small restaurants and souvenir shops. It was here that I discovered one of my favorite parts about Kyoto. All the Japanese people seemed so impressed by how well we could speak Japanese, and they really seemed to appreciate it. Siobhan and I received a few free gifts during our trip simply because of the fact that we spoke as much Japanese as we possibly could.

Our next stop was to Kiyomizu Temple. This Buddhist temple is dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon. It is one of the main pilgrimage temples for Kannon worshipers all over Japan. This temple is also on a mountain, the same as Fushimi Inari Shrine, so we definitely got our exercise in! At the temple they had a wishing stone in a little basement part of one of the temple buildings. You have to take off your shoes and then walk along a completely black passage, guided only by a railing. When you reach the stone, a small light is shining on it, and after you make your wish you proceed along the railing until you reach the stairs to take you back to ground level. This was definitely one of the coolest yet scariest things I have ever done at a temple! 

Our last sightseeing stop of the day was to Gion. Gion is the most famous Geisha district in Kyoto. The streets are lined with restaurants, small shrines, cafes, and little shops. We had a great time wandering the streets and looking at all the Geisha inspired cosmetics that are sold. I didn't even know that there was a need for half the things we saw! Our final stop in Gion was a small Okonomiyaki shop. The walls were covered with hilarious drawings and they had mannequins sitting at some of the tables! This restaurant was definitely the quirkiest place I have ever eaten at.

P.S. the tea of the day is apple tea ^_^