Friday, October 9, 2009

Typhoon Day?

You may ask what a typhoon day is and I am here to tell you. Now, I've had snow days, ice days, birthdays (that's today), played hookie and days off to honor the death of the Pope. But, I had never had day off work for a typhoon. Thursday morning I woke to an Email saying "school is closed due to Typhoon 18 or Melor, the English name. That means no kids but I still have to try and make it in if it is safe. You see Tokyo has not been directly hit by a typhoon since 2007. That year there was enough rain to flood several metro tubes and shut down several train lines. This typhoon missed Tokyo by a 100 miles of so. So, it was not a direct hit but is was some nasty weather when I was on my way to work. I saw limbs down and people walking sideways to keep from falling over. > Umbrellas were mangled and destroyed on curbs or flying down the road. I had not experienced something like this since a stiff wind blew threw the flat plains of Kansas. Lots of schools, trains and all of Tokyo's factories were closed to prevent injuries and keep people safe.
I went to work and I was one do 4 people who showed up. It was quiet, peaceful and ended up being a beautiful day after the storm. It went from being a cold, dark and grey Polish day to a wonder, warm and blue Japanese morning. How the weather can change in a moment. I was happy to be alone in my room with the sounds of Dave Matthews, Bob Marley and friends. I worked on my room and this blog too. Anyway, just some thoughts for the day and now I am off to celebrate my 34th B-day in Manila. Thank you Mom for giving birth to me 34 years at 11:58am. I love you, Mom.

Talk to you all soon.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Oh My What a Day!!!

This weekend was one of the most amazing weekends while living in Japan. Yesterday I had the opportunity to watch the next to last day of the Sumo Grand Tournament. We had great seats and great friends to sit with and enjoy good Sumo. Today, however was the Grand Sumo Final and it came down to Asashoryu (Asa) who is a Yokozuna and Hakuho also a Yokozuna. Yokozuna is the highest level of wrestler and to have two at the same time is extremely rare. Asa has been champion 23 times and his record is 14-0 until today. Hakuho's record was 13-1 and they had to go head to head today. If Hakuho wins they go into a playoff round. Hakuho beat Asa today making their records equal. Both Hakuho and Asa leave the arena and get their hair fixed. Yes, get their hair fixed. I believe it is the only sport where you get your hair done before fighting again. So Asa came out ready to become one a legend of the sport. He was defeated in the first round by Haku quite easily but the second round, the playoff, was to be Asa's round. Hakuho didn't have a chance and Asa walked away the Sumo Grand Champion for the 24th Time. Things legends are made of. He raised his hands in victory in the Dohyo (ring), which is very disrespectful, and expressed his joy. He most likely will retire because to be so disrespectful to the traditions and ways of sumo by pumping his fists after winner could cause some problems for him. But who knows. He is a Mongolian fighter and he has left the dohyo the best of his time.

To make this night even better was to be invited to a party to celebrate and contribute to another Sumo stable called Shikoroyama stable. Homasho is the most famous and best wrestler in the stable and his coach Terao "iron man" as he as knows as for 23 years of wrestling. I was lucky enough to meet them both tonight and talk them him briefly. They are huge. We drank, excepted gift and donated money to help the stable continue to function and grow. Especially to feed the big boys.

After leaving the party we happened to be in the same hotel as the Grand Champion. Yes, Asa was there. We saw him and I was only two feet from him. Being this close to Asa in Japan is like being next to Michael Jordan after winning the Final. Asa is a legend and the best and turned 29 today. How about that? Winning Grand Sumo Champion for the 24th time on your birthday and I was right next to him. Here is the video of him and me. It is a short one but a good one. A Yokozuna only 5 feet away. Pretty amazing.

Great day. Happy to be in Japan and experience these things. Please come visit when you can.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The 1st Stop of the Summer

Well, it has been a long time for me to write and update the Wayfaring
Writer. Traveling around the world during the months of June, July
and August limited my computer access. Plus, I really just didn’t
want to sit in front of the computer for a couple hours wasting
valuable time instead of being with friends and family. However, now
being back in Tokyo, I have a lot of time to think back and reflect
upon my

I left Tokyo on June 13 for my around the world flight stopping in
Warsaw, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Dallas and Kansas. Then
returning to Tokyo to add up 18,940 miles or 30,480 Km. But there
would be some changes in there and adjustments to my plan and more
miles added to my frequent flyer miles.

Finally I arrived in Warsaw after a 15-hour flight and landing at 9:30pm I was met by my good friend Mr. G at the airport with a warm LECH, just the way I like them. We jumped in with my old taxi driver, Marek and headed of to change so I could make it to the Schaffner wedding. With little planning and a map. We were able to find the wedding hall and begin
what would be the first night of craziness for me and would last two
months. Seeing friends and surprising those who didn’t know I was
coming was a great way to begin the summer and kick off the 1st of my
4 weddings for the summer. After partying till the wee morning hours
of 5 and 6 I finally woke to find myself on the floor between two
friends past out. What a way to start the summer.


The following days I met up with several friends from ASW and met some
new ones. While sitting at the beer tents by the Metro Wilonowska
many faces, bodies and smiles kept walking up. Plus, the beers kept
going down. Somewhere in the evening of one of the nights I thought
it would be a good idea to go to London with one of the new teachers
from ASW. So, with my around the world trip ticket in
hand I call the airline and add London to my trip. Adding the flight
to the list cost me nickels and dimes so why not, and so began my
first jaunt and detour of my planned summer. It was only a two-day
trip but it was a good one. Saw many things I had never seen before.
It was my first trip to London (I will write about London in next post) and won’t be the last.

However, after the trip I realized I did a bad thing. I missed out having those two days with Mr. G. I look back now and wish I had my thinking cap on instead of my drinking cap. Sorry G!! I will make it up to you when you make it to Japan.

I returned from London in time to get ready for Tim and Ania’s
wedding. We had a couple of days to prepare Tim for his walk down
the aisle. Several friends gathered at the Eagles stadium for Tim’s
American football game. Yes, they play in Poland. We had so much fun
together and getting back together with those people who are so close
to me. It was wonderful seeing Tim’s daughters Ali, Gilli and Katie.
I couldn’t believe how big they had gotten and how tall Ali was. She
was just as tall as me and now she is taller for sure. I hadn’t seen
them in years. Sitting with them at Tim’s football game was so much
fun. Talking to them about school and Kansas felt like I had not even
left Warsaw. Other friends later joined the gathering at the football
game and it turned into a great day.

For this wedding I would be standing in front of the guest as a
groomsman and the reader of the Paul’s first letter to the
Corinthians. The wedding went of so well and it was truly beautiful.
Leading up to the wedding I had moved in with Solli and spent so much
time hanging out with him and Andrew. We wondered the city and went
to some old places I used to frequent while living in Poland. We were
out to the early morning hours again and got back in time to get some
rest before the 5pm wedding. I knew I needed some sleep because Tim and
Ania’s party would be another all nighter. I prepared myself for
getting less than 6 hours asleep and would continue that for the rest
of the summer. My body was feeling the pressure and the results of
what was now 9 days of boozing, with another wedding to come the
following weekend.


Fletcher and Iza were having their wedding making my third Polish
wedding in three consecutive weekends. This is not an easy thing to
do. I don’t know if you have ever been to a Polish wedding but for
those who have you know how long and crazy they can get. So, for
those who don’t know, let me give you an idea. To get straight to the
point there is a lot of Vodka.

Usually it’s a given that there will
be 1 bottle of vodka for every person at the party. However, since
all three were mixed Polish weddings there was a bottle for every two
people, give or take a few. To go along with the vodka there is more
food than you can imagine. It just keeps coming out all night and
then usually stops with some soups at 5am. Oh, I forgot to mention
the beer. There is plenty of beer, dancing and singing and stops at
5,6 or 7ish. Depending on the couple and often there will be one of
two grandma and grandpas still there.

So much more happened and I hope these photos will give an idea of who
else I got to see and spend time with. Unplanned BBQ’s with friends
like, Iain, Alex, Bas and so many others made my trip back to Warsaw
worth every Zloty, Yen or Dollar I spent and the time it took to get
there. I know there were so many other people I wish I could have
seen but it was so hard to be everywhere at once. So, to those I
missed I say I hope all is well and we have to do better at staying in touch. Miss you all.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New iMac

Sorry I have been away so long. I have been traveling and getting back to Tokyo to begin a new year with kids. I had some problems with my computer and had difficulties everyday logging on. But I am Back with a new iMac 24 inch screen.
I like it..a lot. I really just hooked it an hour ago and this is the first thing on have done with it.

I have started writing about the Summer and only completed the trip to Warsaw but hope to have it up soon. Here`s a picture of me from my new computer. All I got now until I update my photos from the summer. Doing it after this posts.

Miss you all but finally back.

Talk soon,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dancing Elvises

Yes it's true. Elvis and his multiples are alive and well in Tokyo. This is a short but I believe a quality entry. I was out biking in Yoyogi Park and there they were. Dancing away to 1950's Rock'n Roll with a Japanese twist. It was pretty amazing. These guys perform for themselves, and the King of course. With cameras flashing and videos recording they don't ask for money or applause, but they get it. They have a pile of empty beer cans and take a break when needed. So, if you go to see them make sure to bring them a beer or two for a tip and watch what happens.
!Notice the boots in the clips below!. They look as if they've been dragged behind and 1952 Buick after a cheap wedding in Vegas. Then taped back together with beautiful black electrical tape. Nothing beats a shine like a fresh coat of tape. And if the boots don't get you wanting to join this elite club. You get a matching red comb to keep that ultra smooth look to go along with the painted on black pants. So enough typing and trying to be witty. I will let you enjoy.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tokyo Happenings


I feel it's about time to let you all know what's going on here in Tokyo. I've been writing about my travels and forgot to tell you about the great time I am having in Tokyo. About two weeks ago my good friends Ken, Rhonda, Kat and Cole Schwartz showed up from Hong Kong to hang out in Tokyo. They arrived on a beautiful day and were ready for some good sushi and great Saki. But, first we had to deal with Rhonda losing some of her documents and train passes. She forgot to take them out of the back of the seat and realized it as the train pulled away. We were there in the station for about an hour trying to figure out how to explain to the station men that we left them on the train that just left. They working so hard to help us and so friendly even though they didn't speak any English. But, it didn't matter at all. They understood what happened from my broken Japanese... and the help from an English speaking operator on the phone. It all worked out and we would pick them up 2 days later.
So, we got back to my place and immediately took the children to the metro to send them away with some friends they knew from Warsaw. We had a night alone without kids and ate some great sushi just around the corner from my place. I go there quite often and was greeted boastfully from the staff, well as boastful as the Japanese can be that is. We ate and ate some great food and toasted to friendship with some great saki and beer. Then a little more beer. There is a great place called Popeye's. It's a bar that prides itself on good beer at a good price. They have about 70 beers on tap. We sat, talked and enjoyed some great local and international brews. It was a good night to have friends in Tokyo. You know, I might end up there tonight.
Ken, Rhonda and I went out for a walk in my area of Tokyo called Tsukishimida. It is right just across the river Samida from me. It was a good walk that ended about 7 km (that's about 4.3 miles) from my house at the Emperor's Palace. We were lucky enough to come by a Omochi Party. Omochi is pounded cooked rice. It was mostly older Japanese men and women celebrating the blossoming of the cherry trees. Ken was asked by the elders to pound some omochi. It was great. He picked up this heavy wooden mallet and reach backed almost touching the ground and smacked the ball of rice over and over. I thought he was going to hit the old man moving the omochi in the head. Luckily, we didn't have to rush anyone to the hospital. But, we did have to rush in line to get some of that fresh omochi.
I could go on and on about the wonderful times the Schwartz Family and I had together. It was a pretty great week of fun, food and most of all friends. Ken, Rhonda, Kat and Cole made my year so far. I felt for the first time while living in Tokyo that I was home. It revived me from the winter and set me up for some great adventures to come.
I ask all of you readers out there if you feel like visiting please contact me. I love having friends, family or friends of friends. Like you, Dana Mason from Independence, Mo. I hear your daughter is thinking of international teaching. If so have her drop me a message and you must have her read my good friends blog. He and I taught together in Poland and he puts together a good argument for traveling. The Keilbasa Chronicle - Wanted: Teachers willing to relocate to faraway lands

After the Schwartskis left Tokyo I started getting out enjoying the lovely weather of Spring. It's so beautiful here and I can't wait to finish writing so I can head out again. But first I need to talk about the boat ride. I was out with my friend Kristy. She and I like to go on adventures in Tokyo and do anything we can. This trip came about after watching a beautiful concert in Hamarikyu Garden.

Kristy and I started walking around and she decided she wanted to go on a boat ride up the Samida to Asakusa. These boats go right by my house. I see them everyday and had always wanted to take a trip so I said why not. Let's go. It only cost 700 yen which is about 7 USD. Pretty cheap and it brings you back if you want and we wanted. So we had some beers, and some food and laughed all along the way. It was a great day for a boat ride and really enjoyed seeing my place from the waters. We came back to the park and checked out he great Japanese gardens and sat back to watch the people. As Jack Johnson says,
I like people watching the other people watching me. We're all people watching the other people watching we.

The gardens in this park are amazing. The ground they sit on were known as the hunting grounds for the Shoguns in the 1700's. It's now lined with tea houses and gives attractive views of the large metropolitan city surroundings from the middle of this peaceful garden.

This past Friday and Saturday were two highlights of my adventures in Tokyo. One of the parents of a child in my class asked me if I like baseball. Of course I do!! He had two tickets to the Yomuiri Giants, known as Tokyo Giants to many people around the world. Our tickets were amazing with ideal seats on the 20th row behind and behind home plate. The game is played the same obviously but the fans and food make it so much more fun and interesting. Hordes of fans dressed in white stand and cheer for the Giants while at bat singing songs and chanting for there favorite player. It's like nothing I had every seen before. I thought going into the game I would be distracted from the the noise and cheering. But it was the opposite. I was drawn into the cheering and yelling. It was entertainment at it's best. Topped off with food and beer girls. Yes, beer girl strapped with kegs of beer on their backs ready to top your glass off with a cold and refreshing Bier. Every where you looked there was another girl coming up the aisle. After the beer goes by you have your choice of food too. Not hot dogs or pretzels, though you can get hot dogs at the concession stand, but soup, rice bowls and sushi boxes. Nothing like enjoying game with beer and sushi. You gotta love Japan.

Sumo practice was on my agenda for yesterday. It' so hard to put into words and describe everything I saw. To make it easier I have included some videos instead. We were very lucky to be able to video and take photos. Rarely is that allowed and complete respect for the fighters is required or you must leave. No flashes, no talking, no sounds and your feet may never point to the ring. You must sit cross legged or with your feet to the side. It is a matter of respect and tradition. There are anywhere between 12 and 18 men in at the stables. I like the use of the word stables for the description of where these massive men workout. Before watching the videos keep in mind that these men are very big. Most much taller than I an weigh about 165 kilograms, that is 363 pounds!!! Try pushing that around while getting smacked in the face several times. The color of their Mawashi, the belt worn around their waist, indicates their level of rank. The sumo with black mawashi is very young and known as Amasumo or amateur Sumo. Often they are only teens in training. The dark grey mawashi are worn my the more experience fighters. Then the white mawashi are worn by the top fighters and these men compete at the highest level of competition. Enjoy the action and training. I know I did and I hope to bring you to see them in action when you come to visit.
Sumo Training

More Sumo

Highest Level of Sumo Training

It's been fun for me to relive my last few weeks. I hope you enjoyed. See you back here soon.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Kota Kinabalu

It's hard to begin writing about a wonderful Work/Spring Break Vacation. Sounds funny doesn't it? My school thought it would it be a great idea to plan our Spring Break during the
EARCOS Confernce in Kota Kinabualu (aka KK), Borneo. Yes, I know, it's Borneo what am I whining about? But still I had to work 3 out of the 10 days on vacation. So i decided that the conference is all on my terms. I left Tokyo on the 21st of March and planned to stay until the 29th. How I needed that break. I felt I was going to explode if had to spend another day in the massive city without a feeling of being lost in nature. So it was on a plane to Borneo.

I knew it was going to be a great time because I was going to see some good old friends from Warsaw. I knew I would see Jeremy, Jill, Chip and Lillian, Paul and Amanda Jacob and to my suprise Sally. I had not seen most of them for two years and having a great reunion together in the middle of the Malaysia was an ideal location. We met out for drinks and spent some good times together as well. It made me really miss Poland and my friends who are still there. So to those of you reading, lots of love for you.

For the first day I sat at the pool side and drank up some beer and relaxed. I met some nice new people from my school. I hadn't met many from the main campus but did meet Steve, Peter and Glenda. I had a great time with them and hope to keep seeing them. But, the main campus is so far away it's tough but i will make it happen. Later on I met others from all over the world and had a wonderful time talking, laughing, singing and being happy. Most of you know me pretty well and are saying "figures, you always meet so many people". I am a social butterfly and I was feeling very good buzzing around talking and enjoying life. I hadn't done that in a long time.

Now, one of my highlights of the trip was going to dive on Mantanani Island. Oh my! If this place isn't heaven then I don't know what is. We took a nice skid across the bay for about an hour to arrive on a dive shop, restaurant and rooms to rent stilted in the middle of the ocean. Not on the beach. Just out in the middle surrounded by water and islands. So amazing. If I had known about that before I left Tokyo I would have stayed there for 3 days diving and living the life without electricity, phones and computers. If you want to know where the place is and feel the need to get away send me a message and I will give you the contact. I don't want to put up a link cause it needs to stay secluded and peaceful. I hope it never changes. The diving was good and I saw some wonderful creatures. I am so happy I took the classes in Bali. It's changed my life and my outlook on life. Being out in the middle of nowhere was so wonderful. Blue skies, blue water, beautiful people, wonderful food and Peace and Quiet. Maybe the best place I'd been in a long time...OK 4 months. I hope to be there again or someplace like it soon.
When I was out on the Mari Mari Lodge I met this great traveler name Carlo. He was out there hanging out for a few days and just relaxing. We talked and enjoyed traveling stories and laughed about how crazy people are in the cities. Getting away from the world and life outside of nature is something I need as often as possible. We said our farewells and said to each other "I hope to see you again."

About two day later I decided to take a trip to Mount Kota Kinabalu to do some birding and hiking alone with a guide. Before I go on I must say this was the first time going birding on my own and I am so happy my friends Ken, Rhonda, Kat and Coletrain turned me onto this wonderful world. A lot of you know I am from Kansas and born and raised as a hunter. Listen, looking for birds and not shootin' them was hard and a very different for me, but realized now that my hunting life is over thanks to these wonderful friends. Well, at least until i get back to Kansas in the Fall, which may never happen. Anyway, this guide I hired, CK is an amazing guide. You can reach him at Borneo Birds if you are in the area and need to get out. I won't go into the names and species but I did some some amazing birds that can only be found on that mountain. I really enjoyed my time in the mountains and wished I had more time. Hoping for more time will become a repeated pattern in this post. After finishing up hike and heading to the truck for another site who do I see walking down the stairs? Carlo!!
There is was again just as we said to each other meeting again. Funny how life works and throws good people back your way. It's proves what I have said many times to many poeple "Whenever I look over my shoulder to the places I have left, I always know someone has helped change my outlook on life."

People People and more People on my vacation. I have a friend, Ellen in Bangkok who told me some good people were coming to the conference. She told me I should try to find them. So one day out in the pool I see 5 lovely ladies swimming and decide to approach and see what's going on and sure enough, it' Ellen's friends from Bangkok. We talked, drank, laughed and made plans for the Happy Hour evening provided by the conference. We all met up and planned a night out after the free drinks and set out for a good time on the city of KK. When getting out of the taxi and going to the bar I hear from behind, "Hey, do you know Heidi Laffey?" Heidi is a friend who works in Warsaw. After some searching through my brain and talking I realize this is Nancy from Zagreb who worked with Heidi in Mexico. We had met 4 years before at a conference in Croatia. Crazy huh? We talked and she introduced me to a great person, Jen. Soon after meeing I learned Jen worked with the Schwartz family in Hong Kong and was new in Bangkok. We had a great time together for a few days and once again I hoped I had more time but i had to catch a flight back. I hope to see Jen and Nancy again in Bangkok real soon. It might be sooner than they think it could be tomorrow so be ready ladies.

This international world of teaching is a very small world and I love it. If you have ever thought about getting out of you routine and day to day life then CHANGE IT. I beg you to do it. If it's not traveling then it needs to be something. Just make the change. It was the best choice of my life. Look at this view. Could I have ever seen it if I was still teaching in Kansas? Glad I never had to find out.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

It's Return to Korea 60 Years Later.

I must say that I am getting pretty bad and updating. I need to get reminders from you faithful readers to drop me a line and tell me to get off my but and start telling stories.

So here's one from a month ago.

I had a few days off in February and decided to take a break from Tokyo.  It was a tough choice at first to decide where to go but by the title of this post I am sure you can figure out on your own where I went.  I decided to go see my good friend Dawn Melarvie who teachers in Seoul.  She and I worked together in Warsaw and have stayed in touch over the years. My final decision was influenced by another important person in my as well. My Uncle Gene who, to me, is what a man' man is all about. I could go off on many stories about how amazing he was and how much he taught me throughout my life. But, I think I will stick to this story today.
My Uncle Gene passed away 2 years ago. This is My Aunt Seenie and Uncle Gene. How I miss them so much. I hope to see Seenie when I am home this summer. Uncle Gene was a retired Air Force Master Sargent fought in the Korean War. Besides being in the Air Force he also served in the Army and the Navy before finding his place in the Air Force. I don't know many stories about Uncle Gene and the war. I wish I had talked to him about it but it was something I felt should be left alone. War was a hard thing for him. During the Vietnam Conflict his only son Keith was killed and it was a major blow to him. So, bringing up any type of war stories would bring on memories of Keith and I didn't want him to have to show me the pain.

The thing that made my decision for me besides Gene and Dawn was an old Air Force Parka. This parka, which I have now, belonged to my Grandfather. My Grandfather, Ira Bughman, wore it during the winter time on the farm in Kansas. To this day it still has grain from Grandpa's farm in the pockets. It really brings me back to my childhood and fishing on the farm. Well, this parka was a gift from Uncle Gene to Grandpa. Gene told him it would keep him warm on the cold winter days in January. When Grandpa died I remember saying I want to have that coat. It's something that is very important to me and I feel like I am wrapped up grips of the two strongest men I've known, Grandpa and Uncle Gene.

I decided to bring this parka along with me to Korea to makes it return 60 years later. First, took a trip to the DMZ. Yes, the Demilitarized Zone. The line that separates North and South Korea. I coming from the South headed up to the boarder with a group of people from Japan and the US. When we finally reached the DMZ, we were searched, checked by armed guards and had our pictures taken for security and personal safety reasons. This place is really the most heavily armed place I have ever scene. Bunkers on both sides with anti-aircraft guns ready to fire. Soldiers, tanks, trucks and explosives ready to detonate in case of an attack. Which is possible with the testing of the "satellite missiles" in North Korea. Which most of the world believes its for NUCLEAR Weapons testing. Either way when I was up there on the border you felt that it could happen and any minute.

We were able to go into a building with highly trained hand to hand combat soldiers. weapons. In this room you could walk around the other side of the table and be in North Korea. One side has South Korea soldiers. The other, North Korea Soldiers. It is a very tense place. We are asked not to smile, wave, laugh, point and make any gestures or faces that may be used by the North Koreas as propaganda to show their people either how bad we Americans are or how bad we want to be in North Korea. It was a surreal experience and something I am glad I saw.

While walking around wearing Gene's coat I was stopped and asked where I got it. I told this older South Korean couple that it was my Uncle's from the War and they asked if they could touch it. It was was shocking to hear that question and I said of course. They spoke in Korean, smiled and stroked my coat for a moment. It was really a good feeling. They told others about it and they all showed happiness and a sort of thankfulness. It was a very interesting place. Something I will always remember. Whenever I think about Korea it will always bring me back to Gene. I hope I can post some more stories about Uncle Gene and Aunt Seenie. Maybe I'll go back to the summer of 1987 in Seguin, Texas to write about catfish contests and skinning snakes. Ok time to go. Miss you buddy. L