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One World in One Lifetime

Archive for June, 2010

5 Greyhounds

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 30, 2010

June 19-21, 2010

All Pictures

Ice cream stop

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Our final hour in Flint was spent waiting for a Greyhound bus. Mark and I had a lot more luggage than everyone else. We had 2 suitcases, 2 backpacks, a duffel bag, and a computer bag stuffed with 2 computers. We had to rearrange the contents of those bags a couple of times to avoid paying overweight charges.

I was very excited to take the Greyhound across my country, since I had never been on one before. Overall, it wasn’t too bad. But I think that Greyhound is better for short trips with very little luggage. For long trips, there’s just too many transfers.

The seats with the extra legroom

Greyhound: the inside scoop

On most Greyhound buses, there are good seats and bad seats. The best seats, the ones with the most legroom, are towards the front. They are the ones across the aisle from the emergency escape windows or handicapped seats.  They are about row 5 on the driver’s side.

These seats are so spacious that Mark and I were able to put our bags under our seats and stretch our legs out. Our bags couldn’t fit in the overhead space or under any of the seats at the back of the bus. The seats are not assigned so if they are available, take them!

The closer you are to the back of the bus, the less leg room you will have. Plus, you don’t want to sit near the bathroom. Every time someone needs to do their thing, they will bump your leg or arm, going there and going back to their seat. Then, sometimes they will forget to close the bathroom door when they’re done. Get in line first and fight for the front seats!

You can pay $5 extra and get priority seating. This means that you will get to board first even if you are last in line and therefore will have first choice of the seats. But it’s not really worth it most of the time. If you are getting on a bus that started somewhere else most of the seats will be taken already and you would have paid $5 to be the first to choose from whatever is left.

They let us off the bus every now and then.

There is a bathroom on every bus, but you don’t have to use them. All 5 buses that we were on stopped about once every 2 hours at either Greyhound bus station or at truck stops. Sometimes, the stop was for only 10 minutes, giving you just enough time to use the bathroom. Other times, we stopped for 20 minutes, with enough time for a meal. I don’t know if the driver did a head count before continuing on the journey, but I think no one was ever left behind.

trying to sleep

The ride itself was unadventurous. All the drivers we saw drove as if he or she enjoyed their time in this world and wanted to stay in it. No crazy Thai-styled swerving. You can sleep on the bus with no worries of a car accident.

The other passengers, on the other hand, were a cause for concern. Most of them seemed like normal people, but there were a few colorful characters that made the trip memorable. I guess maybe I had been riding with some strange people when I was on buses in Asia too, but since I didn’t speak the language I couldn’t eavesdrop very well.

There was Mr. I-need-a-cigarette who talked way too loudly. Apparently there were no cigarettes to be bought at any of the stops between Detroit and Nashville. Every time we re-boarded the bus we all had to listen to his 15 minute rant about the lack of cigarettes for sale. “I’m gown complain at the next stop if there ain’t no cig-O-rents! I’m gown complain!”

Then, there was Mr. Laptop. He was so worried about his laptop that at every stop when he plugged in his computer at the charging station he had to announce to the world that if anyone touched or stole his computer he would hurt, kill, and maim them. “I’m not from a big city like this one, but if any o’ y’all touch my computer…” Then he would walk outside to smoke leaving his precious laptop unattended.

Not once did I see this computer in any type of case. He carried it under his arm like a Frenchman carrying a baguette. I think he just wanted to let everyone know that he was civilized enough to own a computer even if he wasn’t from a big city.

By the way, Mr. Laptop was from Tampa. Well, I saw a guy with a cowboy hat and a southern accent yelling about how he wasn’t from a big city like this one. Since we were in Savannah, Georgia at the time I had to ask. Where could this guy possibly be from to think that Savannah, Georgia was a big city? He said he was from Tampa and I figured that he was either lying or he just didn’t understand my question.

The scariest one was Mr. and Mrs. Domestic-Violence. Mark and I were in front of them in line in Atlanta. She was trying to dump him, but failing miserably.

From what I heard, because privacy was not what they really wanted, he had beaten her on a number of occasions and she wanted him to get out of her life. She had kids and she thought that they shouldn’t see someone beating up on their mother.

I was really rooting for her. But then I thought, if I was going to break up with a guy I wouldn’t take a trip with him. I would be taking that trip to get away from him. I hope she does leave that guy someday, even if it is just for her kids. No one should be with someone who beats them. No one.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Greyhound

Website

Notes:

Sometimes taking the bus is cheaper than flying, sometimes. Before you buy bus tickets, check out orbitz, other discount airfare sites, or discount airlines.

  • You get a huge discount if you buy your tickets 21 days ahead of time. You will need to either go pick up your tickets from the bus station or have them mailed to a US/Canadian address.
  • This is great for short journeys that last under 4 hours. It is very hard to sleep on the bus. This is because when the bus stops, the driver makes announcements to wake everyone up so that no one sleeps past their stop.
  • At many stops everyone has to get off, wait 5-10 minutes, then get back on again.

Map:

Posted in United States, The | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Sleeping Bear

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 25, 2010

June 12-15, 2010

All Pictures

Brothers who like to match with their hammocks

Fire and a Fish!

Mark’s brother Matt planned this whole trip. Matt is a hunter/ fisher/ camper. Although Mark and I go camping more often than Matt does, he is a more hard-core man-of-the-land type camper. But I outsmarted him in fire making. …Well actually I cheated.

Mark and Matt had just finished pitching the tents and were starting on making a fire. Mark and I brought with us a brand new piece of flint so we could make fire, Survivor style. Matt gathered kindling and sticks that he hoped would be ignited with a strike of the flint.

Fire!

Matt couldn’t get the fire started, so he went off into the woods to look for some dryer kindling. I looked at the flint and the packaging it came in and thought I would give it a try. I tore up the cardboard and scraped a knife across the flint. The fire started in three strokes.

The fish I caught!

Okay. So my method would never work on Survivor. And I still don’t know if I could actually start a fire if I was on a deserted island all by myself. But I know that could, theoretically.

Cleaning my own fish

Matt had friends who lived in the area and we were able to borrow a canoe from them. We rowed down a little river that emptied into Lake Michigan. While Mark and I got into a good rowing rhythm, Matt cast his line. Not long afterward he caught a fish.

Happy with his fish, he offered to lend Mark and me his rod. I took him up on his offer first. I tortured a little worm with the hook and tossed the line into the water. I was more concerned with not getting the line caught on anything than with getting a fish.

When I felt a slight tug on the line I assumed that the line was snagged on some drift wood. But as I pulled in the line, I noticed that the “drift wood” was wiggling. Matt helped me to reel in the fish. Then he showed me how to fillet and cook it.

Matt feeling sexy

Drive-in

One of the things that I’ve always wanted to do was to go to a drive in movie theater. But, they have mostly died out in the US. The Cherry Bowl Drive-in had a very nostalgic feeling to it.

Wikipedia used to have a list of the ones that are still in operation around the world, but that died too.

excited for outdoor movies

We played putt-putt before watching The Karate Kid. It was a double feature with Iron Man 2, but I fell asleep in the car before the second movie even started.

the cartoon before the real movie begins

I really enjoyed the experience. I just hope that there are still drive in Theaters in the states when ever I decide to move back home. I would go just about every weekend!

Never go down the dune

The Dunes

On our last day we stopped by the Sleeping Bear Dunes before heading back to Flint. Matt drove us to the highest dune and challenged us to walk down.

I was a bit apprehensive. There was a group of college kids struggling at the bottom. After five minutes of climbing, they didn’t look like they made any progress. But then I thought, “We came a long way, so we might as well.”

Never again!

Going down the dune was quite easy. You almost slide down with the occasional step. As we passed the college kids still close to the bottom, they warned us that we would regret coming down. Their eyes were dead with exhaustion.

The water was really cold, yet clear. But no matter how beautiful the water appeared, the thought of climbing back up the dune made me fear my future. We were lucky that Matt made sure that we all brought water down with us. I had to take many breaks up the sand hill. For every step I took I would slide backwards half a step. No exaggeration here! I was dead tired by the time we made it back to the top of the dune.

They should make this sign bigger and with more exclamation points.

That sign is not a lie.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Platte River Campground

How to get there:

  • 44°42’46.9″N 86°07’04.4″W

Directions

Phone:

  • 1-877-444-6777

Website

Download

Cost:

Hours:

Paul A. Hart Visitor Center (Empire, MI)

  • Summer 8:00 – 18:00
  • Fall, Winter, Spring 8:15 -16:00

Closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Notes:


Cherry Bowl Drive-in

How to get there:

  • 44°40’04.6″N 86°02’36.1″W

Address:

9812 Honor Highway
Honor, MI 49640

Phone:

  • 231-325-3413

Website

e-mail

Cost:

  • 9USD for an adult ticket for a double feature

Hours:

  • movies begin at sunset

Notes:

  • There is a 19 hole put-put course right next to the theater. It’s not that great of a mini-golf course, but it’s only 3 bucks and you can kill some time while you wait for the movie to start.
  • There is also a place next door that sells sandwiches, pizza, and desserts.

Sleeping Bear Dunes

How to get there:

By car –

  • Take M-72 west to Empire,
  • then the western leg of M-22 and/or M-109 to access most areas of the park

Phone:

  • 1-877-444-6777

Website

Download

Cost:

Hours:

Paul A. Hart Visitor Center (Empire, MI)

  • Summer 8:00 – 18:00
  • Fall, Winter, Spring 8:15 -16:00

Closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Notes:

Map:

Posted in Benzie County, Empire, Honor, Michigan, United States, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Detour Detroit

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 18, 2010

June 12, 2010

All Pictures

Bring Your Passport in Case We Go to Canada

It’s not everyday that you can just go to another country for breakfast and head back to your home country once the meal is finished… unless you live on the US/ Canadian border. Even more unique is to head south from the US and end up in Canada. But that is the miracle that is Detroit.

I don’t remember if the Canadian border guard even looked at our passports. They asked us our nationality and where we were heading. They were more concern about our bringing fruit into Canada than matching up IDs.

Re-entering the US took a long time though. There was a 10 minute question and answer session, a thorough check of our passports, and some friendly conversation before we were let back in. Ironically, from our little chat with the border guard, I found out he did not own a passport himself.

Canada looks bazaarly just like the US. Sorry Canadians. I know you work so hard to set yourselves apart. But after we put an American quarter into a parking meter and it gave us 15 minutes of parking time, I just didn’t feel like I was “abroad”.

Cheating a Canadian Parking meter by using a US quarter

Detroit Grown

After breakfast, Mark’s brother, Matt, gave us a tour of Detroit. Our first stop was at the Eastern Market to get some goodies for our camping trip.

The Eastern Market is a parade of fresh fruits, vegetables, plants, and flowers. Most of the produce are grown in Michigan; some even grown right in Detroit. In fact, there is a push to tear down some of the old burnt out abandoned buildings downtown and replace them with little farms.

Feels like I’m back in Thailand…

Swimming in Detroit

The next stop on Matt’s tour was Bella Isle. It’s a great place to watch or play a game of cricket, have a picnic or bar-B-Q, go swimming, or just go for a run. Mark and I wanted to swim, but we didn’t have swimsuits.

playing cricket

Street Art

Then we went to see some socially aware art in Detroit. The Heidelberg Project started as a veteran’s protest of the decline of his neighborhood. It is now a protest against the war, America’s oil dependence, drugs, and apathy towards the environment.

You can walk around most of the art. But there are some houses included in the project  in which people live. You can view the outside of the homes, but you should stay off the property unless invited.

Art

The Piano Men

The end of our time in Detroit was actually in Pontiac, another city in Michigan. JD’s Key Club is a favorite spot of Mark and his friends. JDKC is a place where two or three guys sing songs by paid request and urge the audience to join in.

For some extra bucks they will serenade your friend with a dirty version of a song that seems to fit the occasion. According to Matt, because the singers and the patrons are a little older, late 30’s early 40’s, they don’t do many recent pop songs. There were requests for Lady GaGa’s Poker Face that were completely ignored.

Dueling Pianos

After living in Korea where I paid good money to sing the latest pop songs with my friends, it seemed odd to pay to have someone else do the singing.

All Pictures


 

Canada

How to get there:

You can enter Canada by land, air, or sea. But you’ll probably fly in unless you live near the border.

Go to the US and head north. Well, sometimes you will need to head south.

Needed Documents:

As a US citizen you will need either:

  1. a passport
  2. Passport Card
  3. Enhanced Driver’s License
  • Technically, you need one of these documents or just a passport to get into Canada, but in actuality the Canadian border control doesn’t always check them. You will need one to re-enter the US.  The US border control does a thorough check on each and everyone coming into the country.
  • Be prepared to wait in a long line to get back into the US.
  • You are not allowed to carry fruit from one country into the other.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Windsor

How to get there:

Go to DetroitMichigan and head south through the tunnel.

Website:

Cost:

Hours:

  • The tunnel is always open, through it does have heavier traffic at rush hours.

Notes:

  • No motorbikes or scooters are allowed in the tunnel.
  • Windsor is one of the many Greyhound stops in Canada.

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Eastern Market

How to get there:

  • 42°20’54.9″N 83°02’25.0″W

The Eastern Market is about 1.6km northeast of downtown Detroit, surrounded by Winder street, Riopelle street, Wilkins street, and Russell street.

You can get to it by going on I-75 and getting off at the Chrysler Freeway. Check the link above for more details.

Address:

2934 Russell Street
Detroit, MI 48207

Phone:

  • 313-833-9300
  • 313-833-9309 (fax)

Website

e-mail: admin@detroiteasternmarket.com

Hours

Map


Belle Isle

How to get there:

  • 42°20’35.2″N 82°58’26.8″W
  • Take East Grand Blvd to the island.

Address:

Belle Isle Park
Detroit, MI 48243

Phone:

  • 1-(313) 628-2081

Website

Download:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Access to the island is always available, but some of the facilities may close.

Map:


The Heidelberg Project

How to get there:

Address:

3600 Block of Heidelberg Street
Detroit, MI 48207

Phone:

  • 1-313.974.6894

Website

e-mail: information@heidelberg.org

Cost:

  • Free, but donations are welcomed

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

  • People live in some of the houses. Be careful not to trespass on private property.


How to get there:

Take I-75 exit 77B.

By Train –

According to Wikitravel.org  you can take the Amtrak from Chicago to Pontiac. The trip takes 5 to 6 hours and costs $25-$50 with the weekend special. You can buy a weekend special ticket only between Tuesdays and Fridays.

Website:

Notes:

  • What’s there to do in Pontiac?
  • Not sure, but how could you not want to visit a town named after a car? 🙂

JD’s Key Club

How to get there:

Address:

1 North Saginaw
Pontiac, MI 48342

Phone:

  • 1-248-338-7337

Website

Download:

Cost:

  • 6USD

Hours:

  • 8pm-2am – Wed
  • 7pm-2am – Thu-Sat

Notes:

  • The more you pay the more likely the song you request will be played.
  • If they hate your song, they will not play it, unless you tip very, very well.

Map:

Posted in Canada, Detroit, Michigan, Ontario, Pontiac, United States, The, Windsor | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Viva La Revolución

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 8, 2010

June 8, 2010

All Pictures

So many papers to grade…

Just like in that Patriot movie!

Mark and I are visiting his sister who lives in South Carolina. On our way to her place Mark and I saw a sign for Historic Brattonsville. The next day we went to see it.

Brattonsville was the site of a Revolutionary War battle called Huck’s defeat. In this battle, although only one soldier in the American militia was killed, a large majority of the British were slaughtered. This battle was not close. I won’t tell you how the whole war ended.

Brattonsville was also the place where a lot of the movie The Patriot was filmed. Many of the houses on the property were used in the film, including the main house in the first picture.

yummy!

There really wasn’t a lot going on in Brattonsville the day we went. There were no performances scheduled. I hear, though, that this is a great place to spend the fourth of July!

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Historic Brattonsville

How to get there:

  • 34°51’53.2″N 81°10’33.9″W
  • map

Address:

1444 Brattonsville Rd
McConnells, SC 29726

Phone:

  • 1-803-684-2327

Website:

e-mail: information@chmuseums.org

Cost:

  • Adults – 6USD
  • Kids     – 3USD
  • Seniors – 5USD

Hours:

  • M-Sa 10:00 ~ 17:00
  • Su 13:00 ~ 17:00

Video:

Notes:

  • I recommend going when there is a performance to see. Otherwise you’re just walking around with no one to answer your questions.

Map:

Posted in Rock Hill, South Carolina, United States, The | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

An Old Timey Time

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 7, 2010

June 3, 2010

All Pictures

Would you like to get your tooth pulled in an old-timey way?

What’s there to do in Flint?

When I got to Michigan I asked Mark, “What’s there to do in Flint?”

Mark: “Do you like beer?”

Me: “no.”

Mark: “Then there’s nothing to do.”

How is this possible? How can you have a city with living people and have nothing to do there other than going to bars?

One week after my stay in Michigan I told Mark. “Look I need to blog about this place. There has to be something to do here; something I can blog about.”

Mark: “Well there is one thing…  We could ride on the Huckleberry Railroad.”

I don’t even know what a huckleberry is or how a railroad can be made from one, but I said, “Great. I’ll get my camera!”

Crossroads Village is a place that is kept like it was in the 1800’s. The people who work there wear clothes of the period and act like they are living in the olden days.

Downtown 1800’s

When Mark and I got there, we noticed that we were the only adults in the village without any kids. In fact some grown ups had 8 or 9 kids with them. I wasn’t jealous at all.

The place was filled with children. Many of them were dressed in old timey clothes. This I was a bit jealous about. Most of them came on field trips from school. They all seemed to be having fun.

But around 15:00 all the kids cleared out. It became a ghost town. Mark and I had the village all to ourselves, except for a couple other people.

We walked around going from one demonstration to another. The villagers were very friendly and talkative. I think they were just happy to talk to an adult.

There is an old train that runs on the oldest train tracks in Michigan, a Ferris Wheel, and other rides.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Crossroads Village

How to get there:

  • 43°05’37.3″N 83°39’07.9″W
  • directions from their website
  • Follow I-475 off either I-75 or I-69 to Saginaw Street (Exit 13).
  • Take Saginaw Street north to Stanley Road,
  • then go east on Stanley Road to Bray Road.
  • Take Bray Road south to Village entrance.

Address:

6140 Bray Rd.
Flint, MI 48505-1807

Phone:

  • 1-800-648-PARK

Website

Download:

Cost:

  • Adult – 10USD/ 13USD with train ride
  • Kids – 8UDS/ 10USD with train ride

Hours:

  • Changes with the season.

Notes:

  • This is mainly for kids, but what else is there to do in Flint?

Map:

Posted in Flint, Michigan, United States, The | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chicago-Chicago

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 3, 2010

May 28, 2010 (again)*

All Pictures

in front of Lake Michigan

The Curse of O’Hare

This was my first time in Chicago, sort of. I’ve been to Chicago countlessly many times. I think that I have spent more time at O’Hare than at any other airport in the world. (And, I have spent the night at several airports.) Things just never work out for me there.

I’ve passed through O’Hare only once or twice without having a delay, overbooked flight, or some other disaster that kept me in this airport’s clutches longer than I had planned.

The most blog-worthy episode in the Josie Stuck at O’Hare saga happened when I was 17 years old. My mom had just gotten married and moved to Port Charlotte, Florida. I was going to Fort Myers, Florida from Columbus, with a transfer at O’Hare and Miami International to see her. My brother booked my flight with plenty of time at O’Hare to make sure that I wouldn’t miss my connecting flight.

We didn’t get to see much of Chicago, so we did most of our sightseeing at the airport.

I think I spent 3 restless hours at O’Hare waiting for my Miami flight before they called for boarding to begin. I was really tired and wanted to get on the plane so that I could sleep. Back then I was a bit shy about sleeping in public and would not sleep in the seats in the terminal.

Since I was a minor and travelling by myself, I was allowed to board first, but I don’t remember if I did or not. This was not my first time flying alone, but it was the first time flying alone on a domestic flight. I do remember buckling in and falling asleep only to be woken up by a flight attendant 45 minutes later telling me that we needed to deplane.

a food court at O’Hare

Once off the plane they made an announcement that they just needed to fix something and that once it was fixed we would all get back on the plane and be on our merry way. Since I had another connection in Miami I needed to see if I would still make that flight. But it turned out that I had another really long layover in Miami too, so as long as this flight made it out of Chicago in the next 3 hours I would be alright.

Two  hours later they announce that our plane was ready to fly. We re-boarded. Then about 45 minutes we all re-de-planed. Something was still wrong with the plane, and they had just given up trying to fix it that day.

All the passengers had to go to the American Airlines desk and find new flights to Miami.  This one was flat-out canceled. I was 17 years old. I started the day with about $30 cash that my brother gave me for lunch money; most of it I had already spent. I had no credit cards. I didn’t even know my mother’s new phone number.

I walked up to the counter and was told that there were no seats left on any of the flights out today to Miami. They wanted me to come back the following day. “But I have no money. Where would I stay?”

clerk – “The airline will put you up in a hotel.”

me – “But I still have no money for food. I only have $10 left in my pocket.”

clerk – “The airline will give you restaurant coupons.”

I felt as if I was going to cry. The thought of spending the night alone in a hotel in a city I’d never been to before would excite me now, but back then it was not very appealing. “I’m only 17 years old. I haven’t seen my mother in a long time. I just want to go home.”

clerk – “Well, let me check again… I am sorry, it seems that the only seat have left is in first class. Is that okay?”

I was about to let the tears flow… Wait, did she say first class? “If that’s all you have…”

I took my new ticket with a new connection in Miami and went to the gate. I waited 2 more hours for the next flight. I boarded before everyone else, but this time it was because I was a first class passenger, not because I was a minor.

I buckled in and was given a snack and some juice. I was so hypnotized by the first class seat that I didn’t even notice an hour had gone by without the plane moving an inch. Then there was another announcement. Damn it! For the first time in my life I was in first class and now we have to get off the plane.

In the terminal once again, I went back to the American Airlines desk. I talked with the same lady as before. I was really worried this time. Not only was I in jeopardy of losing my first class ticket, but now there were 2 planes full of people trying to get to Miami, the first canceled flight and this one.

She reassured me that everything was okay. She already had a new ticket for me that she put together when she heard about the second canceled flight. With this 3rd delay I would miss my connection to Fort Myers for sure. But, the nice lady at the American Airlines counter made some calls and assured me that the last Fort Myers flight that evening would wait an extra 15 minutes just for me. I would still be flying first class and I didn’t have to worry about the connection.

The 4th time actually worked. I spent more than 15 hours at O’Hare that day, but I left in first class! Someone from the airline contacted my mom and told her when I would get into Fort Myers. Even though I wasn’t responsible enough to remember my mom’s new number, apparently it was on my emergency contact list.

All our luggage

Chicago-Chicago

This time the flight delay was in Narita. We landed in Chicago 2 hours late. Mark and I planned to check our luggage through to Flint then wonder around downtown Chicago. We would spend the night either at the airport or at a diner somewhere eating pancakes.

But, we could not check our luggage through. Our Flint flight wasn’t until noon the next day and it wasn’t allowed. Because of 9-11, all lockers and left luggage offices in the airport were taken out or closed. We were stuck with our stuff.

We had to get a hotel. In the arrival area there are kiosks with tourist information and free phones to call taxis, car rental companies, and hotels. We called several hotels and found the cheapest one, then took their shuttle.

Where is the Magnificent Mile?

By the time we got checked in and headed off to see downtown Chicago, everything was closed. We walked down the Magnificent Mile and saw all the wonderful things we could have seen if we had just gotten there just a bit earlier. Damn you O’Hare Narita!!

*Crossing the international date line put us in Chicago at 17:30 on May 28, 2010 even though we left Japan at 19:30 on May 28, 2010. So we had 2 Fridays.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

The Magnificent Mile

How to get there:

  • 41°54’03.7″N 87°37’21.9″W

From the O’Hare airport –

  • Get on the subway until you reach Jackson station.
  • Transfer to the red line. Then go to Chicago station.
  • Don’t get off at Chicago station on the blue line.
    • There are many Chicago stations, but only one on the red line.
  • From the red line Chicago station just go towards Michigan street.

Address:

The Greater North Michigan Avenue Association
625 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 401

Chicago, IL  60611

Phone:

  • 1-(312) 409-5560

Website

Download:

Hours:

  • It’s best to go between 9:00 and 20:00 when most of the shops are open.

Notes:

  • The Magnificent Mile is on North Michigan Avenue from the Chicago River to Oat Street.

Map:

Posted in Chicago, Illinois, United States, The | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

¥5,000 in 日本

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 2, 2010

May 28, 2010

All Pictures

excited for ramen

おつかれさまでした (Otsukaresama deshita/Good Work)

When Mark and I left Thailand we pooled together all our baht. It came up to roughly 235USD. This was going to be all the money we would spend in Japan. This was great since I thought that we really only needed about 100USD each for a day in Tokyo. I thought maybe we could even save some of that for Chicago.

All our luggage couldn’t fit in the taxi.

As you might already know, we had some problems getting Mark’s passport back. During the time the office was closed because of the protests, Mark’s visa had expired. The lady at our company said that it would be alright. It wasn’t.

Mark had overstayed his visa. When we got to the airport the authorities wanted him to pay a fine. Mark tried calling the lady at the office who told us that it was “no big deal” but she didn’t pick up her phone. When Mark explained why he was still in Thailand past the visa’s end date the officer offered two solutions. He could pay the fine or he could cancel his flight and stay in Thailand one more day.

How would that help? Mark overstays his visa and to fix it, he just overstays it a little more?

We paid 75USD to keep Mark from going to Thai prison. If this were the Philippians I would have let them take him away and hoped that he ended up at the Cebu prison I’ve seen on YouTube so often. But from what I know, Thai prison is far from being that wonderful.

Leaving Thailand

Once the fine was paid, they let us on our way. About 10 hours later we were in Japan, the country in which I first overstayed a visa. And yes, the immigration officer did threaten to drive me down to Tokyo and throw me in jail, but I didn’t believe him for a second. But that’s a story for another day… or later on in this entry.

Tokyo Subway

We had about 17,000YEN after paying Mark’s fine, but it didn’t really matter. We only used 10,000YEN of it between the both of us. If things were cheaper we might have spent more money, but since they were kind of expensive we hoarded most of our cash.

Once in Japan we hopped on a train and went to Akihabara. I’m not exactly sure where the best part of Akihabara is, but we were wandering around for while. Rather than waste all our time at one spot we decided to go to Shibuya to look for Hachiko.

Hachiko, you waited for me?!

Once we found the metal dog, the plan was to walk to Harijuku and find one of the biggest 100-yen shops in Tokyo. A 100-yen shop is basically a dollar store, but way better. I love 100-yen shops in Japan. They are one of the greatest things that this country has brought to the world.

Harijuku = Shopping!

We did get lost a few times, and had a little trouble figuring out the best way to get back to Narita but we made it in time for our flight. We could have stay out a little longer because the flight was delayed for 2 hours.

Don’t look so happy. This is serious!

Okay, here’s the story

I had just finished up my one year contract working in Japan. My last day of work was November 15, 2006 and my visa expired November 15, 2006. My flight was the next day.

It never even occurred to me to check the date on my visa since I was leaving the day following my last day of work. Usually when you get a visa, you are either given more time than you need or there is a grace period in which you can overstay.

When I was stopped at Narita’s passport control, the lady informed me that my visa had expired 6 hours ago. My first reaction was, “that’s not a big deal, right? I’m obviously leaving.” As I was  escorted to a little office on the side, I realized that it was, indeed, a big deal.

You could go to jail!

No one at GEOS, the company that I worked for, mentioned this. There was no memo saying, “By the way, you might want to stop by the immigration office at least a week before your last day and get an extension on your visa, so you don’t get in trouble.” And GEOS loved faxing over stupid memos!

One of the guys at the head office even asked me if I planned to do any travelling around Japan before I went back home. He never mentioned that I needed to get an extension on my visa if I planned to work on my last contract day. Mind you, that I have to work on my last contract day…

My last class ended at 22:00. Narita airport was 1.5 hours away from my town, Togane. The last train out of Togane leaves a little past 22:00. There was no way I could have made it to the airport in time to not overstay my visa.

I asked an officer who spoke a little English what happens next and he told me that I needed to pay a 5,000YEN fine. No big deal. I pulled the money out of my wallet and put a 5,000YEN note on the table. An older,  higher ranking officer came out from the back room and handed my money back to me. “No. This Serious! You maybe go jail”

What? Me in Jail?

The first officer disappeared into a back room leaving me to listen to the older officer’s jail ranting on my own. He held up my passport, pointing to the expired visa. He nodded at it and shook his finger as if it had been a naughty little visa. “This Serious!” He took my passport and the offending visa into a back office. I thought it was very funny.

I looked around at the other people in the room. “He can’t be serious? My plane leaves in 45 minutes. It’s not like I was trying to stay in the country.” No one around me spoke English. Most of them seemed to be doing worse than I was. One lady was crying hysterically. Maybe she was actually going to be sent to jail or at least thought she was.

I’m to pretty for jail!

The older officer came back out with my passport and another man. They discussed my passport in Japanese passing it back and forth as if there were something completely unbelievable on it. Every now and then the older officer would look up at me to remind me that, “This serious!”

How long should we keep her in jail?

It had become too over the top. With all the theatrics, there was no way I could actually be heading to jail. I figured that it might help if I played along. As long as they got this show over with in time for me to get on my plane, I guess I could join in. I stopped smiling and looked at my feet. “Golly gee, I can’t believe that I might be going to jail. Woe is me!”

Please have mercy on me. I am but a wretch with an expired visa.

“Okay. Okay.” The older officer said to me. “You first time. Pay goh-sen-en.” I handed him the ¥5,000 that I had given him half an hour ago. He took out a little visa stamp and placed it in my passport. Then he wrote a little note on the page and handed the book back to me. “Now, may stay 15 day more!”

(The pictures are actually of Seodaemun Prison in Seoul and do not reflect the Japanese immigration office at Narita Airport in any way unless you have a sense of humor.)

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Tokyo
(東京)

How to get there:

  • 35°40’53.0″N 139°45’58.1″E

From Narita Airport –

There are many ways to go from Narita Airport to downtown Tokyo. The way we chose was the cheapest yet slowest way.

Buy a ticket on the Keisai line (京成本線, Keisei Honsen) to Nippori (日暮里駅). This will cost less than 1100YEN and take about 1.5 hours.

You can buy a ticket to Nippori and then buy another ticket to another station in Tokyo or you can buy a ticket all the way to what ever station you want to go. You will check out of the Keisai line and then check back into the subway system. If you don’t have any money left on your ticket you will not get it back.

If you are lucky you will be able to get on a rapid train that skips a few stations.

Website

Cost:

  • Everything is expensive!

Map:


Akihabara
(秋葉原)

How to get there:

  • 35°41’55.6″N 139°46’27.1″E

From Nippori Station (日暮里駅) –

Check out of the Keisai line (京成本線, Keisei Honsen) and go to the Yamanote Line (山手線, Yamanote-sen). It’s the green subway line to Akihabara.

To buy tickets:

  • Look for the English subway map and find Akihabara.
  • The number next to the station is the amount of money you need to get there from the station in which you are in currently.
  • Find a machine and press the English button.
  • Specify how many people you are buying tickets for and how much money you want on each ticket.
  • Put you money in the machine and take your ticket(s) and change.

Website

Notes:

Map


The Statue of Hachiko
(chūken Hachikō)
(忠犬ハチ公)

How to get there:

  • 35°39’32.7″N 139°42’02.1″E

By Public Transportation –

Go to Shibuya Station (渋谷駅) on the Yamanote Line (山手線). The are many signs telling you which exit is the Hachiko exit or “Hachikō-guchi”.

There will many people getting their picture taken with Hachiko. Just stand in line and wait your turn.

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:


Harajuku’s Daiso
(ダイソー)

How to get there:

  • 35°40’17.1″N 139°42’13.4″E
By Public Transportation –
Go to Harajuku Station (原宿駅) on the Yamanote Line (山手線). Once you exit the station go straight passed the Family Mart. Soon you will see the Daiso on your left.

Website:

Cost:

Hours:

  • Usually 9:00 – 21:00

Notes:

  • Be careful when entering Diaso. I always go in to just look and come out with hands full of things I didn’t know I needed.

Map:

Posted in Chiba 県, Honshū, Japan, Narita 市, Tokyo 都, Tōgane 市 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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