Monday, September 29, 2003
Pictures! Yay...

Downtown Kobe, Sannomiya area...

Myohoji... the view from my apartment.

I've just uploaded two new blog entries... wow, Blogger is great. Once again, I'm back at the Comic Cafe... I guess I'm a sucker for free soda and juice. I initially had problems using my USB flashdrive because they gave me an older computer, but all I had to do was go up to the front desk and the attendant, with much apologies, hooked me up with a brand new computer, no questions asked... ah, Japanese customer service rocks so hard! I love it. =)

It's currently about 9:30pm local time. Today was my "first day at work´┐Ż, going all the way to Osaka for orientation and preliminary training. I use term "first day at work" rather loosely, because it turns out, I and none of the other new teachers will be getting paid jack-squat for it. Sucks, especially considering it took me two hours during morning rush hour to get down to their office, along with about 700 yen (6.75)... and yes, that's all one way.

To add to crappy-ness: information was generally presented cut & dry, nothing very valuable, and a lot of paperwork filled out, but the only paperwork actually finished was mostly stuff for the company. The two items I was hoping the most to get taken care of - setting up a bank account and getting a cellphone - those didn't happen. They only basically guided us thru the process of writing down our name on the bank applications; I have to take the application myself, on my own time, down to the bank, along with no guarantees I'll have English help at the bank. And the company will not deposit my salary or salary advance until the account is set up.

As for the cellphone, turns out there was some sort of problem with my VISA, so I'll have to wait for my Japanese bank account to be set up before I can get a phone. Not to mention, I'll have to go to a Japanese cellphone shop, haggle with them and hope they speak English. Riiiiiight.

So not getting paid for 8+ hours of training, not getting my bank account set-up, and not getting a cellphone... that left me in a near pissy mood. The kicker was getting my training school assignment and my work school assignment - I was hoping my training would be in Sannomiya, which is only 20 minutes from my apartment by train... and I was happy to read "Sannomiya" when they handed me my papers. Halfway through the session though, I received new papers and was told that my training school had been moved to Nishinomiya-Kitaguchi - with is 30 minutes from Sannomiya. Now I have a one hour commute during the morning rush hour, since I have to be at training at 9:00AM in the morning. Sheisty.

Back to the bank problem... most bank branches are only open 8:30AM - 3PM here in Japan. Guess what time my training shifts are? 9AM to 5:30PM. Bah... guess I won't be opening an account until this Friday, since Thursday is my last training day.

For the branch I've been sent to work at, it's close to a place called Ashiya, which also is about 30 minutes from Sannomiya. Wonderful. At least the majority of my shifts are in the evening.

The whole day would have been pretty frustating, but I guess the good Lord sough to ease my pain by providing a couple of new (fun friends, who I met during orientation and hung out with. The first I met is a Korean Canadian girl named Michelle, who's from Vancouver, BC and whose family used to run a coffee shop. The other is SoCal guy named Kain (rhymes Deon or Neon), who's half-Brit and half-Kyrgyzstani (sp?). I don't know why, but maybe because the three of us of bonded and commiserated over our company's short comings, especially Kain and me. It was hilarious to be able to kick jokes, slang, and complaints with a fellow American, especially a Cali native. Michelle was fun to talk to too, just 'case it was nice to have another Asian American/Canadian to relate my experiences too in Japan.

Too bad we weren't placed together as apartment roommates... we'd have a blast. Michelle and I were only 2 of 3 total Asian people in a group of about 40 new teachers, so I we had fun busting cracks about Korean people and of course, Chinese people, since she's from BC. Kain too was down with Asian stuff too, having lived in OC and gone to UCSD.

So yeah, meeting Kain and Michelle pretty much salvaged a rather bleh day. After we escaped orientation, we walked around Osaka for a bit until we found a cheap diner we could grab dinner at. The diner had a cool vending/cashier machine, so you put your money in the machine, hit the button of the meal you want + drinks, and it spits out a ticket. You hand the ticket to one of the chefs and they get right to work on your meal. Nice.

Over dinner, there were more jokes, laughs, and general goofy-ness, enough to make me feel almost like I wasn't in Japan and I was back home in Seattle. Ah, the joys of colloqial jokes and crass West Coast American humor... I think Michelle probably was wondering how she got stuck hanging out with Kain and I, hahaha.

Sample conversation:

Kain: I always tell people my name is sorta like Keanu Reeves, but without the "oooh".
Michelle: Without the "oooh"?
Kain: Yeah... I always tell the ladies, 'Yeah baby, the 'ooooooh' comes later...', k'naw I mean?
Michelle: Wha?!?!
Me: Puwahahahahaha

Did I already mention that Japan has some Godzilla-esque insecta running around? My friend Mel wasn't joking at all when he came back from Osaka and spun tails of fat-finger sized bugs... funky.

Well, the hour grows late and I need to sleep for tomorrow's hour long commute. Gotta get up probably around 7:30AM just to get dressed, eat breakfast, and catch the 8:00AM train from Myohoji to Sannomiya.

Damn, mornings... bleh.

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Sunday, September 28, 2003
gaikoku-jin. foreigner, lit. "outside country person".
chugoku-jin. chinese, lit . "middle kingdom person".
amerika-jin. american, lit. "american person"

So when I was on AIM yesterday, many people asked me what it was like being in Japan so far. Honestly, in many ways, it was what I expected. For one thing, coming to Japan, as a Chinese American/Asian American, I knew that automatically I would be different from your average Japanese citizen.

I thought people would identify me readily as a foreigner from the way I dress and the way I look, but since I'm Asian, everyone automatically assumes I'm Japanese. But as soon as I speak more than handful of Japanese words or phrases, or a Japanese person tries to carry on a full conversation with me... that's when they realize I'm not Japanese. This is quite confusing to them until I bust out this sentence which often helps to clear up confusion...

Sumimasen... watashi-wa chugoku-jin to amerika-jin desu.
(My apologies... I'm American and Chinese.)

I guess the irony is that in America, I'm a minority because of my physical appearance, even when I speak English, the language of the majority. While here in Japan my physical appearance may make seem to be a part of the majority, but I'm a minority in the fact that I can't speak Japanese (well).

Minority status from one part of the world to the other... too funny.

I guess if you're Asian American, you really don't have a "home" where everybody looks Asian and speaks English. I guess the only places I can think of like that are Hawai'i or Singapore.

But I digress... looking Asian/Japanese does have its advantages. Unlike America, I don't get maddogged when I walk around the street or followed around in malls because I'm non-white. Here, people just treat me the same as they would any other average person. Equal treatment given to me simply because of the way I look - it's experience I used to only get going to Chinatown back in Seattle.

Supposedly, the Japanese are notorious xenophobes, but so far my experiences here in Kobe have been pretty nice. I guess it could be a number of factors - the large amounts of foreigners here in Kobe, the fact that I look Japanese (they assume I'm Nikkei), or heck, maybe it's just the good customer service Japan is famous for (so far the majority of Japanese I've dealt with are train station personnel, shopkeepers, restaurant workers).

But yeah... after four days, my judgement so far: being a minority here in Japan has been much better for day-to-day living than being a minority in the US. I'm sure I'll have more stories later.

Latest different things I've noticed about Japan (compared to the US):

1. Most toliets have two flush modes: small flush and BIG flush. The big flush is pretty big... definitely it'll take care of any thermonuclear, ELE b0mbs a person might drop.

2. Lamps seem to have multiple settings: a lot of light, some light, night light, and no light. At least all the lights in my apartment are like this.

3. Japanese TV: It's definitely as wacky and exaggerated as everyone thinks it is. THe oddest thing I've noticed: they love to have pop-up subtitles emphasizing phrases and words, as the speaker is speaking them. Big, colorful subtitles in bright colors like pink and yello. Like whoa.

4. Cars: Like everything else in Japan versus America, most of the cars are really small. This is the land of sub-compacts and hatchbacks. Scooters/Vespas are very popular here too, while the amount of motorcyles seems to be around the same percent as the US. Very rarely do I see sedans or large cars... so far, I haven't seen a single SUV! Awesome.

5. Clean streets: Maybe I just haven't visited the ghetto here in Japan, but the streets are almost devoid of litter - no old newspapers, bottles, plastic bags, wrappers... everyone is pretty good at dumping their stuff. I guess it helps that waste cans are easy to find and are everywhere.

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Saturday, September 27, 2003
Still alive...

Dear blog,

Sorry for the irregular blogging, but as my friend Mel predicted, getting internet access here in Japan via a computer is a serious pain in the butt. Right now, it's Saturday 4 PM local time and I'm chilling in downtown Kobe, in an area called Sannomiya.

Oh, I finally found the apostrophe key... SHIFT 7. Weird.

Anyways, the past few days here in Japan have been a bit crazy, as I don't have a set schedule. I don't officially start work until Monday, so I've been given free time until then.

As it turns out, I'm not living in the middle of the city as I hoped. I actually live in a suburb of Kobe called Suma, near this station called Myohoji. It's actually a lot like Renton back home... houses, apartment buildings, and lots of trees. Very family-esque, almost even rural. My 3-bed apartment is ontop of this awfully steep hill; I predict significant weight loss in the months to come from climbing the darn thing.

So what have I been up to?

Friday, one of my roommates, this Canadian guy named Ryan, was nice enough to take me around a little bit before he started his shift. I had to go down to the Kobe Ward office to do my required registration - all foreigners living in Japan are required by law to register with the Alien Office. Yeah... funny word, alien. After registering, I wandered around the shopping mall area, stopping at a cool 100 yen (dollar store) to buy hangers for my clothes. I had to be home promptly around 8:00 pm, because the rest of my airport luggage was being dropped off, all 100 pounds of it.

Today, I've been exploring downtown Sannomiya, my main mission being going to this huge electronics store called Seiden to buy a power adapter. It turns out that Japanese power outlets only have 2 slots, not the 2 slots and a hole (3 prong) like American ones, so I couldn't use the laptop... suckage. Anyways, I did manage to find a powerstrip/surge protector at the electronics store with the American outlet, but the strip of 6 outlets was around $14. Not too bad, I suppose... I just hope it works.

After that, I came to where I'm at now... this internet cafe called 'Comic Cafe' - people pay money to chill here, read manga, and surf the internet. Access is costing me $3 an hour, pretty reasonable... plus all the soft drinks I can drink. Mmmm. Now if only they had a regular US keyboard and ran Windows in English... that'd be good. Hopefully, I can figure out an FTP solution soon, so I can upload some pics I've taken. Next time, I'll bring the laptop.

So, random things I've noticed about Japan so far that are different than home...

1.?@People drive on the left side of the road
2. Almost every girl has her hair dyed orange or brown
3. Almost every guy around here smokes
5. Crowds, and crowds of people

I wish I could put some pictures up... maybe it's time to find a place with wireless internet access? Hrmmm.

Also on the list of things to do: find a church to go to. Might be tough, though... especially since I don't know my work schedule yet.

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Friday, September 26, 2003
Blog entries from the plane...

Wednesday... 3:15 PST

I've just completed the first leg of my trip and I'm chilling here in the airport in Hawai'i. Flight from Seattle wasn't too bad, I had my aisle all to myself, so I got to stretch out, couch-stylee. Total flight time was about 5 hours, so between napping, reading my book, and eating/drinking whatever food happened to pass my way, it went by relatively quick.

So how does it feel to be away from home? I guess I knew already I'd be sad... it didn't hit me until the middle of my flight, sitting alone in my seat, that I started to miss home. I can remember when I was in Brasil, the same thing didn't happen until I was on the plane, the sadness and longing for home.

Yet with that feeling is again, a sense that this is what God has called me do at this time in my life. My discomfort with it could probably be related itself to my own unsureness in my relationship with Him.

On a side note, I think I just might be the only American heading to Kansai International Right now... I'm completely surrounded by people speaking Japanese. Call me silly, but I think my silence at the moment gives me away as being non-Japanese... heh.

More later. No luck yet finding internet access, so I'll upload this entry as soon as I can find a terminal.

Wednesday... 8:38 PST

Well, I've been on the plane for awhile now... I think all sense of the passing of time has left me since being on this flight. It's very, very odd. I downloaded this cool World Clock utility that lets me track multiple time zones - I can know the time in Seattle, New York, Kobe, etc... but the time in that respect is pretty much just a number.
I remember flying to Brasil, I had the same feeling of losing time. I guess when you're a small, enclosed, and mostly dark space, that's the way it goes.

But yeah... anyways, this flight has been pretty nice too. I have an empty seat next to me again, so it serves as extra space to dump stuff. I'm in aisle seat again in a 3 person row, on the left hand side of 3-5-3 style airplane cabin. There's a Japanese guy on left who seems pretty nice... he's wearing a medical mask, so I'm guessing he's sick and doing the Asian thing of not spreading germs? Who knows.

There's a Japanese girl to my right named Momo (Peach) who I've talked a little bit with. Her family's from Kobe, but she lives in Osaka and works three (!) part-time jobs to make ends meet - aerobics instructor, ramen shop, and a clerk at an auction house. She's returning to Japan after a two week vacation to Hawai'i.

Our conversation started after I ordered a good 'ol screwdriver from the beverage cart.

"Good choice!" she exclaimed.

They didn't have any vodka though, so I got gin for my orange juice. Ah, gin and juice... heh. I thought I'd have to pay for my drink, but it was free... guess the liquor comes complementary on Japanese flights, wh00t.

I think I'm gonna be seriously jetlagged when to get to Osaka.

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Thursday, September 25, 2003
Welcome to Japan...

So after who knows how many hours of flight, Ive finally arrived here in Osaka. Its a bit disorienting to come off a plane, all dark and cramped, to the bright lights of a big city and an airport.

Now Im hunting around this crazy Japanese keyboard for the apostrophe. I cant find it though... damn!

Stories later about the plane trip... gotta find my company peoples.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003
More pics from weekend...

The cake Cassie made me for me on Saturday... looked and tasted great.

Me, Shiv, Dave, Josh, Val and Kristie at McCormick's.

Kristie and Shiv.

Another cake... this one made by Auntie Helen for me and the choir folks. Note the fancy map of Japan made with frosting. Whoa!

Two of the top ladies in my ladies in my life... Shiv and my moi-moi Ginger.

My best friend Josh and myself... whoa, a normal picture! Unreal. =)

Mom made dinner for me last night... homemade fried panko cod, cornbread, and mixed greens. Yum.

OK, back to work... no more procrastinating on packing!

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So I neglected to mention how busy and action-packed this last weekend (for awhile) in Seattle has been.

Saturday morning, I got up early to meet my sister in the U-Village to have breakfast, but because of my fantastic (read: not really fantastic) planning skills, breakfast turned into brunch, thanks to the traffic from the UW football game. We ate at Atlas and just talked, something we don't get to do much. Turns out that the crappy job market has my sister of thinking of moving to New York to live with a girl friend and look for work. She mentioned my mother wasn't too fond of the idea, but I thought it wasn't bad and I tried to encourage her... after all, living in New York would be a good change from West Coast living. Besides, I know she'd never want to raise a family there, so I know if she went there, she'd be back in Seattle someday.

Saturday night I had my last meeting at BASIC. Jeff Lam spoke for the first time, Josh did a food relay for games (heh heh)... lots of fun, and we had pretty big amount of kids. The group is starting to push up around 50 high schoolers, which is pretty big considering last year, average attendance was around 30-ish. Since it was my last night at BASIC, I shared a little bit about my trip, Dave prayed for me, and we had yummy homemade chocolate fudge cake, courtesy of Cassie. Later, we went out for cheap happy hour appetizers at every Asian's favorite Irish bar in Seattle, McCormick's. Went home and crashed around midnight.

Sunday morning, I had to get up early to go to choir practice... no excuse for being late, since I had to sing a solo for the day's anthem. Turned out there was a small last minute change, and the number of verses in the song that I had to sing solo went from 2 to 3, but it wasn't a big deal, since every verse followed the same basic tune - only the lyrics were different. Fittingly, the name of the song was "Guide My Feet" and talked about seeking God's guidance for this little trip called life.

After first service, I went out to eat yumcha (dim sum) with my old homie Jason. Something about Chinese food on Sunday... it just seems to taste better on Sunday. We got to catch up, talk, and I also got some long distance relationship advice, haha (Jason's GF is going to medical school in Guam right now, for more than 2 years now).

I then came back from lunch just in time to go to choir practice. I didn't have to go since I won't be here next Sunday, but it was good singing the songs with the rest of the choir and having a chance to say goodbye to people. Auntie Helen cooked a b0mb mocha cake with a good decoration in frosting. I'll have to post pics later.

Sunday night I reserved for a family dinner at Cheesecake Factory with just my Mom and sister, but my Mom asked if more people could come and I didn't mind... so Shiv, Josh, Val, Jay Fong, the Tam family, the Fong family, and Auntie Deanna came too. I was still feeling a little full from afternoon dim sum, but I decided to get the meatloaf anyways. Lots of smiles and laughs spending time with everybody, and to add to the meatloaf in my belly, they somehow convinced the waiter it was my birthday and got me a mudd pie with a candle. Good pie... but so rich. Oof, probably not a good idea eating more at that point, but I did... food overload.

After dinner, Shiv and I went to watch Underworld... pretty interesting movie. I was kind of hoping for a large amount of crazy gun-battle action like Blade 2 or Equilibrium, but there turned out to be a lot of just biting, bashing, slashing, and chuck'n guys - since the characters in the movie are mostly either vampires or werewolves, it makes for some monster-style violence. The werewolves especially seem to prefer using their supernatural powers to... just to hit or claw things. The vampires on the other hand, get pimpin' black leather trenchcoats with high collars, and pretty firearms like the Walther P99, H&K USP .45 and the H&K G36. The Underworld website has a cool section I like... in the character descriptions, they show all the weapons. Nifty. But yeah... the movie was a lot better than I thought it would be. The story had me interested at least, plus Kate Beckingsdale and guns... can't go wrong with pretty dark haired girl and firearms.

So I'm a completely unrelated note, I took some funny pics in Chinatown while waiting for Jason. Ah, to be young again...

Watch out for the Seattle Police, kid... they like arresting colored folks' children.

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Monday, September 22, 2003
Damn, where did the days go?

Still much to pack...

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Saturday, September 20, 2003
The Northwest Asian Weekly has a cover story on my 3 kids from my church's high school youth group... poor guys.

Stupid Seattle police... this whole situation just makes me mad. If all they have as evidence is some flimsy eye witness testimony and they don't even have the old lady involved... what a load of bull. At this point, even if they're found innocent, the fact that this incident has be drawn out has already seriously affected their lives.

Makes me want to blare NWA right in front of the police station. Grrr.

In less enraging news, Steph posted some pics of last weekend's BBQ on her blog. Funny, I'm so ridiculously unphotogenic...

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Thursday, September 18, 2003
It was an interesting day today.

I went into the eye clinic in Chinatown to get my eyes checked out and order some more contacts. Since my mom is working there at the moment, the eye doctors there are giving a small hook-up. Nice.

It was pretty normal appointment for the most part, until the optometrist found something... I had to take this "field of vision" test several times in a row and it turns out that in my left eye, there's a very small blind spot, sort of to the center and down, toward my nose. The doctor said it's probably never been noticed before by me because my right eye is so strong and compensates for it (I've always known my right eye has been dominant... when I go shooting, I close my left eye and line up the sights with my right).

The doctor said he's sure it's something minor, but he wants me to come in again on Monday so the other doctors at the office can take a look too. There's a remote chance that loss of that field of vision is a symptom of glaucoma. Hrmm, that would suck.

So while I was in the Chinatown, I also took a trip to Uwajimaya's, with the main purpose being to buy a spam musubi maker to take with me to Japan. I also happened to see some interesting books, and being the bookworm I am, I grabbed 'em... one of them is on the company recommended reading list and is about Japanese culture from a psychological perspective (Anatomy of Dependence, by Takeo Doi) and the other is about Japanese organized crime (Confessions of Yakuza, Junichi Saga).

As I was purchasing the books, I struck up a funny conversation with the cashier, this elderly Japanese lady who approved of my book choices. I told her I was going to be going to Japan for the year, and she remarked how the Takeo Doi book made sense, but why a buy a book on the yakuza? I told her it was just for fun and as a sidenote, I told her that maybe learning about the yakuza could help me understand the Japanese social stigma attached to tattoos, since I had one. Her eyes widened a little and she asked what sort of tattoo I had, and I told her it was the kanji/Chinese character for faith or devotion, "xin" or shinko in Japanese. She smiled and commented in her lJapanese-accented English...

"At least you know what it mean... all these hakujin (white ppl) these days walking around with kanji as tattoo and they don't know what it says."

We both laughed... old people are so funny.

Went to work, and it was long. Not fun, but Mel is learning fast... he'll be next employee of the month, heh.

Bible study was at night and it was great. Very chill... ate pizza, talked, shared about recent happenings, and prayed for all the drama going on at the church.

Wow, tomorrow's here. Sleep time.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Nothing like being riled from bed the ring of a telemarketer's phone call... riiiight.

Hrmph, seven days.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2003

It's odd when the small things seem to converge. As my last days in Seattle here in the year 2003 draw short, tonight I was zoning out on Cartoon Network and they happened to show the last episodes of two of my favorite series of anime - Cowboy Bebop and Trigun. For those of you fortunate to have cable TV, you know what I'm talking about... Cartoon Network's Adult Swim (named for the fact that it carries "mature" cartoons: cartoons depicting violence, people getting shot, blood, smoking cigs, drinking booze, and the occasional sexual innuendo... all stuff not for the kiddies).

The picture of above is one of my favorite characters, the priest/bounty hunter Nicolas Wolfwood from Trigun... as someone else has noted, there's some interesting insights into both Christianity and the Japanese understanding of Christianity, from his character.

Anyways... as I reflect on the changing of the seasons in my life, there's always that interesting mix of excitement, fear, melancholy, and hope - it's an odd combination, like eating french fries with mayo or pouring ketchup on white rice. I don't know how else to explain it, except that when something is completed, there's a feeling of satisfaction... but at the same time, there's that feeling of floating, that odd discomfort as you anticipate the beginning of something new.

I suddenly have an urge to dig out my old journal I kept when I went to Brasil back in 2000 and see what I wrote then, as I was leaving off into another foreign land and culture.

Human nature has an odd affinity for closure. We don't always get even when we seek it, but for once in my life, I feel blessed that God is granting a portion of it. I forgot to mention that this past Sunday, Shiv, Dennis, Josh, and bunch of my friends organized an informal going away party / BBQ for me at Carkeek Park.

Not that I think ill of my friends or anything (haha), but I really was humbled and honored by the large amount of people who came. I felt very loved. Even my sister, the ninja she is, made a surprise appearance and debunked the common joke my friends have that she's just a figment of imagination, being that I and everyone else see so little of her. It was great to spend time with my moi-moi, Shiv, Maplewood gang, CBC people, and AACF friends. Lots of good eating as Mel Lu was grill master, lording over the burgers, sausages, and chicken.

I even got some exercise! We played a nice game of playground-style, 7-on-7, two-hand touch football... we played for about a whole hour, final score: 63-56 (9 touchdowns to 8). My body's still ache'n from all the running... probably more exercise than I get in a whole month, heh.

But yeah... closure. I'm glad I'm getting it these next few days until I fly out on the 24th. The week is already starting to fill up with appointments, lunches, dinners, and trips out to eat. Of course, part of me is sad that I'm leaving, but I know deep down in my soul, that this what I'm being called to do for a little awhile. A year to grow under a different sky, learn new lessons, and see things with different eyes...

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Monday, September 15, 2003
G-rated pics from Friday night...

At the range...

Dave says... Watch cha self! Notice the spread... neck area (me)... torso (Dave)... crotch and lower right (Ryan). hahaha... funny stuff.

Dave and the cool Filipino range staff guy, plus the "hand cannon". Notice the pinky-sized magnum cartridge. Whoa son!

Dennis bust'n caps with the AR-15 carbine.

Dave's special outfit... notice the ball & chain with his bride-to-be's name written on it.

Ryan lends a hand. Sharing is caring? hahaha.

Cleavage being flashed at the bachelor during dinner...

...But it's not the waitress this time.

Myself, chill'n back at Ryan's pad... Hennessy, no rocks. Ms. Sojin would be proud.

Playing cards... Mark takes a turn grabbing at the future Mrs. Leong.

Noah dealing a hand... lucky for us, alcohol increases his mathematical skills.

No more cards, no more drinks... time to watch TV. (insert Homer impression) Mmm, television...

Morning after.

My artsy-farty picture of some of the remaining drinks.

Cheers! Congrats to Dave and our condolences to the end of your bachelor-hood. ;)

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Saturday, September 13, 2003
Guns, gin, cards, and gas...

Having been to two different bachelor parties in the past 3 months, I can honestly say that it's almost more fun than the wedding itself. heh heh...

Friday was Dave's bachelor party, so after work, I drove over to Ryan's place to meet up with the rest of the groomsmen. The plan was for all of us to meet and then carpool to the first evening's activity: bustin' caps at the shooting range. The guys were running a bit late, so only Ryan, Dave, and myself carpooled - we ended up meeting Dennis, Mark, Abe, and Noah there.

The place we went to was called Wade's. I'd never been there before, but after shooting there, it's pretty nice place. Friendly staff, and prices weren't too obscene. We rented 3 lanes, and started off with a nice set of semis in 9mm: a SIG Sauer 226, a Springfield XD-9, and a Glock 19 (don't remember what model exactly, but I think it was a 19).

All the guns were fun (shooting the XD-9 was definitely eye opening), but I especially loved shooting the SIG 226. The controls and fit were exactly the same as the airsoft pistol I have... plus, the 226 we rented had been customized with a integral red dot laser, activated by the middle finger area in the grip. Laser on a 226... so sexy. The gun itself handled like a dream and I was pretty much able to hit almost dead-on anything I aimed at. Man... I really, really want to buy a 226 now... I can see why my Dad loved it.

We also wanted to shoot a carbine, so Dennis managed to score us an AR-15 chambered for 9mm - good deal, so we didn't have plunk down more money for a different kind of ammo. This friendly Filipino dude on staff also helped out in honor of the bachelor party festivities - he had Dave shoot this freak'n hand-cannon revolver, with a barrel almost as long as my forearm, chambered for some crazy magnum caliber. The boom on that piece was hard to miss.

After the shooting range, we ate a late dinner and then went back to chill at Ryan's condo... played a lot of cards, while Mark, our professional bartender, mixed up some drinks with all the high-class booze they got for the special occasion: Henessey, Tanqueray, Skyy vodka... lots of laughs.

Did I mention Dave had a special outfit the whole night? Nothing too shame-inducing, except for maybe the ball & chain with "CHRIS" written in big letters on it. Heh heh.

Today, we hit up a go kart racing place to fuel the male compulsion for speed. The karts actually were pretty powerful and low to ground with like zero suspension, which made zipping around the track and around corners a pretty hair-raising experience. Lots of fun.

Getting sleepy... gotta wake up for choir tomorrow. At least my solo got pushed back to next weekend. I'll post the G-rated pics (heh heh) from the bachelor party later.

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Friday, September 12, 2003

Above pic is from yesterday... went out to eat Hosoonyi's and chilled at Justin's for a bit. It was fun, but in retrospect, I probably should have stayed home to marinate more on my lesson. It's been a bit tough getting all my ideas out and organized as much as want. Besides, should have saved money... paying for good Korean food and some soju ain't cheap.

In any case, tonight is Dave's bachelor party. I'm looking forward to the fun... heh.

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Thursday, September 11, 2003
It's September 11th... hard to believe it's already just the 2nd anniversary since the attacks. The world's still a crazy, strange, and dangerous place, but it's interesting to note that life here in the US is now is obsessed as security and anti-terrorism more than anywhere else in the world. Ah, the groanings and pains, of American Hegemony.

As someone on the news noted, people are probably already starting to forget WTC attacks. I'm sure it won't be long before more silly merchandise, bad t-shirts, and long-winded talkshow specials reduce September 11th to a mere commercial holiday. What a sad day that'll be in.

A moment of silence for all the innocents who lost their lives...


Enough about Thursday...

Wednesday was good. After work, I went with Shiv to see So Close, a HK/Chinese flick with Shu Qi from The Transporter and Karen Mok (like whoa) from Shaolin Soccer. My sister got us into the screening for free, thanks again to her PR/marketing firm internship. Score! Thanks, moi-moi.

So the movie wasn't high art, but it was entertaining. Beautiful Chinese girls with guns, goofy hi-tech gadgets, and a car chase... what more can a guy like me ask for? =) Siobhan even liked it... ah, the Charlie's Angels / Tombraider -spawned "girl power" trend continues.

Another odd cameo: the movie even had the cool Japanese dude from Jet Li's Fist of Legend playing a bad-azz security enforcer with a talent for swinging a sword. Then again, I think So Close and Fist of Legend both have Corey Yuen behind the scenes.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Brief fortune cookie-esque thought of the day:

I'm a man, an highly introverted man, whose understanding of other human beings is quite limited. However, as I grow older, much of my insight into what makes other people tick revolves around this principle:

Nothing so harshly shapes the heart of a human being as their pain, their hurt, and their suffering. Understand the truth of a person's pain, and you'll know great deal about who that person is and how they act in situations.

In a completely unrelated note, I'm supposed to give this week's lesson at BASIC. Hrmmm, it's slow going, but I have some ideas. Just have to organize them.

Anyways... back to work.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2003
You have ever have those nights where you stay up reading when you know you should go to bed?


Anyways, some interesting bits I've been reading...

Korean American Christians Flock to Fullerton

The city of Fullerton in Orange County, Calif. is emerging as a mecca for Korean Christian churches. In the city's 10-mile radius, there are approximately 50 Korean churches and counting, according to the Korea Daily in Los Angeles.

Korean Christian churches are considered a foundation of the Korean American community. The number of churches has grown with the Korean population in the area. In 2000, the number of Koreans in Orange County jumped 48 percent to roughly 56,000 from 30,000, according to census data. Local Koreans, however, say the number is much higher, around 130,000. Many fled Los Angeles following the riots in 1992.

Fullerton is also considered attractive because of its convenient location at the crossroads of Los Angeles, the Inland Empire counties of Riverside and San Bernardino and Irvine, according to the report.

The Grace Korean Church, which moved to Fullerton last year, now has more than 3,000 members. The Korean Church of Love has 7,000 parishioners. Others like the Samsung Presbyterian Church, which has 1,000 members in Rowland Heights, are also planning to open a church in the city.

"Many fled Los Angeles following the riots in 1992." Amazing how an injustice that occurred to the LA Korean American community over 10 years ago still has ramifications today.

Speaking of injustice... those of you who e-mailed Lifeway have probably noticed they haven't done jack squat about the website or their VBS program. Disappointing, eh?

I guess the irony is several Asian American Christian friends of mine have been apathetic about the issue, commenting it's so typical of mainstream America. I guess I can understand that on some level, but even worst, some other people have told me that they see nothing wrong with the site. Aiyah.

This website has a very informative FAQ that I think anybody who's not clear about the issues involved should read. It's written by a Korean American pastor and is a pretty good read.

As no substantive action has been taken yet, I encourage everybody to keep expressing their displeasure to the company. Contact them and forward their information to your friends / local churches.

Their contact info:

Jerry Vogel
Director of VBS Curriculum

Louis Hanks
Director of Publications

LifeWay Customer Service

LifeWay Church Resources
c/o Your VBS
MSN 136
One LifeWay Plaza
Nashville, TN 37234-0136
Phone: 1-800-458-2772
(615) 251-2000.

If you do nothing and at the next national, non-denominational Christian conference XYZ, somebody compliments you on your "good English", you have nobody to blame but yourself...

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Monday, September 08, 2003
It's the little things, the small, seemingly insignificant events...

...sometimes they really do make the difference.

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Sunday, September 07, 2003

So I forgot to mention that I saw "A Man Apart" on Friday with Shiv and her family. I hadn't seen it yet, so I was interested in checking it out. I'm not a Vin Diesel fanatic by any stretch of the imagination, but I enjoyed watching his characters in Pitch Black and xXx (Triple X)... gotta respect a mean bald guy, haha.

Anyways, the movie was aight... the plot started out well, but seemed to drop off toward the end. Blame it on the bad writing. The movie's redeeming quality however, was the characters... central to the movie is the friendship between the main character Sean (Vin Diesel) and his best friend Demetrius (Larenz Tate). The plot of the movie basically goes like this: Sean and Demetrius are undercover DEA cops who help to takedown a major cartel by arresting its boss and sending him to prison. They return home happy, but as a new, ruthless cartel takes over, Sean is attacked at his house and his beloved wife is killed. The rest of the movie follows Sean's path of vengeance against the people that killed his wife... not a very mindbending plot, eh?

Like I said, the characters and their friendship is what saves this movie from being a complete waste of time. As Sean quite visibly sinks deeper and deeper into depression and rage over the loss of his wife, his actions become more and more dangerous to those around him. In the meantime, Demetrius struggles with the dilema of doing his duty as a cop and helping his friend.

Diesel and Tate have a good chemistry and are completely believable as friends... the defining scene happens when Sean has been kicked out of the DEA and comes to Demetrius house to ask for his help to raid the club of one of the men he believes responsible for his wife's death. With passion, grief, and anger, Sean shouts the line most often seen in the trailer...

"Once you turn your back on me, I have no one... what would you do if it were you?! What would you do if she DIED!!!"

It makes you think about friendship, and what lengths a man would go to help a friend, especially one in such grief. True friends are tough to come by in an age where popular culture has loyalty reduced to a situational moral law - depending on circumstances, friendship may or may not apply. I'm pretty introspective person, the sort with only a few close friends... but I'm thankful for the ones I do have.

I'd consider myself of the old school of thought, a bygone time where a good friend is a blood brother, a pallet-bearer who will help to carry you when you're down. I think my friend Mel Lu once commented in unique terms that my personal beliefs in loyalty and honor in such things makes me a relic... haha.

Sure, it's easy to share in someone's happiness - that's why weddings are big events. But to share in someone's grief, their pain and suffering? You'll notice funerals and memorial services rarely have the same amount of people attending as a wedding.

God forbid, if something were to ever happen to a good friend like Josh or Chris or J-Tong or anyone from the Maplewood family, like having spouse or loved one murdered, and the perpetrator roamed free... you could can count on me being the first one to roll out with them to seek justice and take care of the vermin who did it. If a good friend died and left behind children, those kids would stay with me whenever they wanted, eat a hot meal and I'd tell them stories that would honor their parent's memory. People might consider these things extraordinary or heroic things to do... I don't.

To me, they only seem like one thing: the right thing. A good friend is always family. Period. people who betray their friends, disloyalty, betrayers... it all disgusts me. It makes me ill. I'd rather have 1 true friend than a 1000 wishy-washy, fake "friends".

'A man of too many friends comes to ruin,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.' -Proverbs 18:24

I think Siobhan thinks it weird that in a certain week, I'll maybe only hang out with friends every once in awhile, or talk to them via e-mail or IM on occasion. Maybe it's just because I'm an introverted person, but I think more than that, guys view friendships differently then girls. I can't really explain it that well, except that men, especially Asian men, being of the generally level-headed, unemotional sort... we remember and keep our bonds with each other without calling each other 24-7 on cellphones like girls do. Our maybe, it's just typical male approach to relationships that boggles the mind. Ha.

On a less serious note...

Tonight (Saturday) was good - the first kick-off meeting for both the high school and junior high fellowship groups at my church. It's nice to see some of the kids again, and hey - we got new help. Jeff Lam is now helping out as part of his internship at CBC, and Kenny is feeling healthier again and is back... praise God.

And of course, Josh, Cassie, Kristie, and Dave are all back. It's great to serve with friends.

I'm teaching next week's lesson. Choir starts back up tomorrow, and somehow, I've already been grabbed to sing a solo for next week's choir performance. Like whoa... guess it'll be a busy next weekend at church.

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Saturday, September 06, 2003

Shiv's Uncle and Aunt are in town visiting Seattle for the first time. Went out to eat dinner with them last night at one of Siobhan's favorite restaurants, Agua Verde... a nice hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint. What makes this place popular here in "liberal" Seattle, is that it only uses only organic/natural foods in all the dishes they serve - free range chicken, shade grown coffee, etc. I'm not sure it taste that much better, but at least it's healthier.

I had the house special homemade tacos ( barbeque lamb with onions and cilantro) plus some sides of rice and beans. Good stuff.

Not much else to say but... eat, drink, and be merry...

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Friday, September 05, 2003

The above picture has nothing to do with my blog entry... it's just a picture of my friend Joe's sexy new airsoft gun, a custom PSG-1/MSG sniper rifle with real steel parts. He photochopped the picture himself... maybe he's gonna start advertising his own hitman business? haha.


It's hard to believe the first week of September is already gone. The more I think about traveling to Japan, the more I think of how odd it is that somebody like me, someone who's always so content to just stay home, is venturing out into the world. I guess the wanderlust/travelbug I've had since going to Brasil in 2000 is still a part of me... as well as other reasons.

Seems like a lot of people have gone off on trips. Been following a friend's Peruvian odyssey myself.

T-minus 19 days until it's bye-bye, USA...

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Thursday, September 04, 2003

Just heard today that they locked up 3 of my high school kids (all of them good kids) from my church and made them spend the night at county, all because some idiotic eye witness fingered them.

Two of them are out on bail now, but one of them is still jail with their bail set at $25,000! Supposedly, he's the "ringleader" and yep, you guessed it... he's black. Just because two of them are Chinese and the other guy is black, all of a sudden they're "gang affiliated". Somebody call up the NAACP ASAP and get Al Sharpton down here.

The ironic thing is not only did they do nothing wrong, they did something RIGHT. They were in Chinatown during the day and witnessed some punk trying to snatch this old lady's purse. My kids chased him off, but they weren't able to catch him. They did stop the guy from taking her purse, though. The lady only spoke Mandarin, but luckily one of my kids is fluent and was able to make sure she was OK. She thanked the guys and before my kids drove off, they pulled around again to check on the lady again and make sure she was OK.

As they were driving home later, they got pulled over by the cops, and arrested, all because some witness gave the police their license plate. The police claimed they were the perps... the hell. Stupid racist cops... learn to speak Mandarin or hire a translator so you can get the facts straight. Bastards.


At least nothing happened to them while they were in county. Turns out the older guys looked out for them (they're all just high scool kids) and the kids were even able to pray together to stay calm.

The arraignment of the guy still in jail is today downtown. Several of the youth counselors from my church like Dave and Cassie are looking into ways they can give a statement / write letters to the judge to help clear up this mess.

Stupid Seattle Police... and you wonder why all us "colored folks" dislike you. You harass even our innocent children.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Song in my head right now: Norah Jones' "The Long Day Is Over." No insight or philosophical musings here; just a boring summary of the day's events.

I think as the 24th and my departure to Japan approaches, I feel this new impulse in me to try and get as much accomplished as I can before I leave. This of course clashes with my familar impulse of just laying back and taking things easy, AKA slacking.

Oh, the conflict.

Part 1

Anyways, I left the house early this morning around 9:15 AM to try and go to the Japanese Consulate-General's office in downtown Seattle to finish up some travel paperwork. I was hoping traffic would be better around that time, but much to my disgust, the crap-tastic traffic was backed up on I-5 early and by the time I was near the Swift & Albro exit, it was already around 10:00 AM. This is an important detail because the consulate office is closed 11-1 for lunch... who knew those ambassadorial folks like 2 hours lunches? Since I had no idea how long the paperwork would take, I diverted to CBC instead.

In any case, I was supposed to meet with Dave at CBC to help get the ball rolling on some video filming and editing - Dave got the church to purchase a digital video camera for future ministry projects. The plan was to meet around 11, so I hung out in the church library for a bit, trying to prep some paperwork for my trip to the consulate later in the day. Dave came around 12... apparently the Mrs. caused him to be late. He still needed buy some DDR-RAM for the editing computer and some mini-DV tapes for the camera, so we went to Costco... where we encountered checkout lines from Hell. Not as bad as when I went to the opening of Fry's, but still bad. Of course, the worst line happens to be the one Dave gets stuck in... some idiot lady buys over $1200 worth of stuff and when it's rung up, she decides she wants to return $200 of it. Geez, Costco needs moron screening at the door.

Dave eventually escapes the line and our anger and rage are calmed by the most excellent Costco meal of a $1.50 Polish sausage and drink... with free refills. While Dave was enduring the lines of Satan, I jumped into the food line to score us the grub.

We got back to the church around 1:30 PM, but again we were foiled... turns out his user account on the computer we were to use for editing was not given privileges for installing Adobe Premiere or the drivers for the camera. On top of that, our church's computer guy was nowhere to be found via phone. Bah! Dave and I pretty much agreed to meet another day and nix our efforts for the day... this is around 2:15ish.

Part 2

I drive down to the city and find that downtown Seattle's traffic is still crap-tastic at 2 in the afternoon. In retrospect, I should have drafted a friend who was free, so I could just get dropped off at the consulate and not worry about parking. I try to hunt for street parking, but the cause is as lost and gone as Britney Spear's virginity. It's close to 3:00 pm and I'm getting antsy because the Consulate closes at 4, so I resign myself to parking in the building's underground parking lot, knowing those greedy bastards are gonna charge me all I got.

It takes a little bit of navigating around the building's lobby, but eventually I find my way to an elevator that takes me to the 5th floor, where the consulate is at. The place is completely empty, so I'm relieved to not have to wait in any lines. I step up to the window, pass the paperwork, answer some questions, and get a ticket to pick-up the finalized work visa on Friday. Yay... the time: 3:20 pm.

I'm exiting the parking garage and right when I'm turning into the pay booth, handling the steering wheel with both hands, I drop my parking ticket, losing into the car. I scramble around looking for it for like 5 minutes while pissed up people honk behind me. Not wanting to get lynched in the parking garage, I manage to pull over to the side to look for the ticket. In the dimly lit garage, I can't see very well, so I end up having to dig my trusty flashlight out of my glove compartment to find the stupid little parking ticket. Thoroughly embarassed, I pull up again to the booth, wondering how much it's gonna cost me for parking in this building for about 20 minutes.

Seven dollars?!! The hell... I rolled my eyes and paid without whining. Some days, you just have to bend over and accept the unavoidable facts that you're getting molested. Navigating out of downtown to get back to the freeway sucked another 15 minutes of life from me.

Part 3

The crowded lanes I-5 and 520 are somewhat crappy, but I manage to make it to work in Bellevue around 4pm. Work is pretty busy, and there's a lot to do, but I think somehow, my low energy keeps me from being as productive as possible. My boss has to leave early for his honey moon, so everyone bounces around 7:30pm, me with a backlog still to do. Man, I hate being behind at work.

One bright spot of the day: reading amusing e-mails from the wedding party about plans for Dave's Wedding Party. Best quote: I don't invite all of Dave's Ex-Girlfriends to strip... they're my exs too. Puwahahaha.

So I got home about an hour ago. I'm beat. Time to OD on war-crack before tomorrow comes to soon. I hate being this kind of busy... hrmph.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2003
It's not been a good day...

Got word late last night there was an accident involving our church's van, with several people seriously injured and one fatality... my friend's grandma. Apparently the left rear tire blew out and the van hit the ditch on the side of the road and flipped several time. There's a news stories here and here about it already.

I guess what's really sad to me is that pretty much everybody in the accident is older / elderly and they're from our church's Yum Fook ministry, which is a special ministry to Chinese restaurant workers here in Seattle, many of whom can't attend church on Sunday because Sunday is a busy day for business. Our church has outings all the time to Vancouver BC because the Chinese food up there good and cheap.

Man... I really hate Mondays. =(

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Top 7 List of Dreams I Hate

  • 7 'Choke On My Own Blood' - Those who know me, know I have a sensitive neck. In this dream, I'm in fight with knives, swords... something sharp. I end up getting my throat cut and I fall to the ground, laying there as I choke on my own blood. Beautiful, right?

  • 6 'Speaking' - I'm in front of a large crowd and I'm supposed to say something, but I don't know what it is. They end staring me down and I just give them a blank look.

  • 5 'Falling' - Pretty self-explanatory. I always wake up after I hit the ground. They say that's a bad omen.

  • 4 'Drowning' - Another self-explanatory one. Summers of forced swimming lessons and being thrown into the deep end as a child is probably the root of this one. I still suck at swimming.

  • 3 'High School' - I'm back at Kentridge, and for some reason, I can't leave. If that isn't Hell on Earth, I don't know what is.

  • 2 'The Good Life' - Sort of like journeying to alternate realities of me, where I seem to view from a 3rd-person perspective the lives of all these other "me". Of course, every other me is doing something great or fun or meaningful, all while enjoying a perfect life. We meet and the alternate me always seems to laugh and mock me when I tell him about my reality. A variation I had once of this dream that I liked (in a sick way): I killed an alternate me so I could take his place. Wacky.

  • 1 'The Wound' - Memories of the day I saw my father collapse into a coma and the surreal month afterwards of in-and-out hospital visits leading up to his death. As the years go on, the details become less and less exact while the feelings still are as intense. Frequently pops up the most around holidays, March, or if I'm not feeling good in general.

Oof, I wonder if it was the homemade enchiladas I ate for dinner... =/

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Monday, September 01, 2003
It's Labor Day... hrmm.

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in?scrip?tion (n-skrip-shun)n.
1. The act or an instance of inscribing.
2. Something, such as the wording on a coin, medal, monument, or seal, that is inscribed.
3. A short, signed message in a book or on a photograph given as a gift.
4. The usually informal dedication of an artistic work.
5. Jeremiah 31:33

the facts.
name. Gar AKA "that Chinese guy" "Sleepy.McSleeping"
ethnicity/nationality. Chinese/American, 4th gen.
location. Sea-Town, WA, USA Kawanishi, JAPAN
occupation. less-cynical poor grad student
age. younger than you think, older than you know



UnseenGC @ AIM
(myname) @



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