Dear Kerstin,

When I first arrived in Japan this time last year, I was incredibly apprehensive. About the situation, yes, but about the people even more. I already understood that Japan seems to attract both the best and the worst people, and although we had chatted a bit on Facebook and you seemed mostly normal, I wasn't really sure what to expect when I actually got here. And while I was hopeful that maybe my new neighbor would be someone who could show me around and maybe even be a friend, never in a million years could I have imagined forming the kind of friendship that we did - and so quickly too!

Read More
Year One on JET: A Summary

Today, August 3, marks one year since first arriving in Hyogo to start work on the JET Program. And while I won't say it's crazy how much I've done in that time (because really, a year is quite a bit of time), or that it's been life changing, I will say that it has been so much more than I ever could have imagined. I'll probably do a long, sappy post about my JET experience at the end of my second (and final) year, but for now, since I'm still in the midst of it and not feeling particularly nostalgic yet, here's a list.

Read More
Sunrise

Whenever I'm home, I make it a point to do a sunrise hike at least once. Oahu being a volcanic island, it's not hard to find an east-facing mountain from which to get a good view. Normally I'll choose the Lanikai pillboxes or the Makapu'u lighthouse trails since they're relatively fast and don't require missing out on too much sleep. During this little jaunt home, however, I was feeling up to a challenge, and with my sister and a few of our cousins did a harder trail that normally takes about three hours start to finish.

Read More
On Nature.

When most people hear the word "camping," they probably think of tents in the forest, dirt underfoot, the smell of pine in the air. But to my family, camping is something a little different. The word gets passed around the house in the week preceding a calm, clear Saturday, normally no earlier than May and no later than September. Dad asks Mom for permission to whisk away her two daughters for a day and a night, to drive the hour and a half to the farthest point of the island from our home and set up camp on the wide, white sands of the North Shore. To us, camping means long hours swimming in the deep ocean chasing after sea turtles; afternoons with hand poles scouring tide pools for bait; falling asleep under dark, star-filled skies.

Read More