Category Archives: Travel

Man Uses Google Maps to Walk 5,000 Miles Across Asia

In the summer of 2010, my brother Ryan and I drove from Miami to Los Angeles using only the Google Maps on my iPhone3G (in a Mini Cooper).  I thought that was impressive until I just heard about U.S. Marine Sgt. Winston Fiore, who used Google Maps to walk 5,000 miles across Asia.

Using an Android phone running Maps, Fiore walked across Brunei, China, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam to raise money and awareness for the International Children’s Surgical Foundation, a charity that provides free facial reconstructive surgery for kids with cleft palates in developing countries.  He began walking last October and finished Monday.

In this journey that he dubbed the “Smile Trek,” Fiore said Google Maps was “the hub” of his entire trip.  He used it to find the most accurate and easy walking directions and it guided him through remote villages and along dirt roads.

“Walking directions in Google Maps were critical to my trek. The directions were accurate and efficient — it’s essential to take the shortest route when you’re walking 20-25 miles each day,” Fiore told Google. “But the best part was being routed onto roads and trails through areas I otherwise never would have discovered with, say, driving directions, or even a physical map.”

During Smile Trek, Fiore also used other Google products including Google Latitude, which allows you to find your friends and family on a map and share where you are with the people you choose, My Tracks, which records GPS tracks and shows live statistics such as time, speed, distance, and elevation and Google Translate.

In 408 days, Fiore raised more than $65,000 for the International Children’s Surgical Foundation.

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My South Florida Stay-Cation

After spending my last two weekends away in Pittsburgh (one for business, one for fun), it felt good to stay local this weekend.  I didn’t end up sitting on the couch and doing nothing except have a big Dexter marathon like I originally planned; instead I had a good time getting out, eating and enjoying the simple things in my native South Florida.

Friday evening after work, I went to one of my favorite happy hours- a 90-minute vinyasa flow class at Yoga Fox in Delray Beach.  After yoga, Jeremy and I decided to go out for dinner and I was set on trying something new.  We ended up at Fish Shack in Pompano Beach, a restaurant that was recommended to us by a friend.  If she had never checked in and posted an awesome review of it on Facebook, I would’ve never known the place existed.  It’s a little hole in the wall, tucked away in a residential neighborhood in an old, beat-up plaza next door to a convenience store.  If I hadn’t been forewarned about what it looks like on the outside, I’m not sure I would have gone in.

Fish Shack may be a little sketchy on the outside, but I’m really glad we went in because the food was incredible.  The menu mostly consists of local, fresh seafood dishes at extremely reasonable prices.  We ordered buffalo shrimp, fried Ipswich clams and the catch of the day, a red snapper.  At our server’s recommendation, we got it garlic butter-style lightly blackened.  Everything was fresh and delicious, and it only came to about $46.  That same meal would have easily cost $100 in downtown Delray Beach.  I am now a big fan of Fish Shack and I’m looking forward to going back and trying the rest of the items on the menu.

Saturday morning was the kickoff to this season’s Delray Beach Green Market, which is now held in Old School Square each week.  Jeremy came home with two baskets full of fresh local produce, and we had the most incredible brunch- cinnamon buns and Caprese sandwiches of fresh bread, basil, Roma tomatoes and handcrafted burrata mozzarella.

Last Saturday night was also the second Saturday of the month, which means that it was Art Walk in the Wynwood district of Miami.  Each month thousands of people come to Wynwood for a night of art, food, drinks and music in the streets.  The galleries and local businesses stay open later than usual, and dozens of food trucks are parked in a huge lot near NW 21st Street and NW 2nd Avenue. I personally go because I enjoy sampling lots of little snacks from the trucks (unfortunately I have yet to see more than one food truck in Delray at a time) and being inspired by all of the incredible art, both in the galleries and on the streets.  The people-watching is pretty intellectually stimulating as well.

Before heading to Wynwood, Jeremy and I stopped by one of my old stomping grounds, Lincoln Road. I went to “Lincoln” almost daily for the five years that I lived in South Beach and I really miss it sometimes. It felt great to visit one of my favorite book stores/ happy places in the world, Taschen, and to eat the sweet and spicy edamame from Doraku that I always seem to crave.  While I don’t really miss living in Miami, I miss the little things like that.  My friend Nadia, who was my first roommate in Miami, also happened to be in town for the weekend (she now lives in Orlando) and she met us at Doraku.  It was nice to sip lychee martinis just like old times and catch up with her.

Maybe it was the all the food I ate, or maybe it was the lychee martini (most likely the martini), but I did not want to wake up early on Sunday morning at all.  I had originally wanted to so I could join and support Jeremy for part of his long run.  He’s currently training for the New York City marathon, and he wakes up around 4 a.m. every Sunday to do his long run of the week along A1A.  Last week he ran 20 miles!  Instead I slept until 9:30, went to the gym and put the treadmill on the 5k setting.  Once I got warmed up, I ran the 5k with no problem, and kept running until I had gone six miles.  Not too bad for waking up feeling rough.

The rest of my Sunday was spent just taking it easy.  Jer and I went to visit my grandfather and have dinner with him, and then over to visit his grandmother.  When we got home I finally had my Dexter marathon on the couch, went to bed early and started my week off feeling fantastic.  Here’s to a great and productive week!

Jeremy after running 20 miles!

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Seattle, Portland & Willamette Valley

I just returned back to South Florida from an incredible Labor Day weekend spent exploring Seattle, Portland and the town of Dundee, Oregon (located in Willamette Valley).  The northwest was the only part of the country that I had never really been and I liked it a lot more than I expected to.  There’s lot of trees and beautiful scenery, fresh food and friendly, happy people everywhere.

Whenever we talk about the other places we would like to live, my boyfriend Jeremy often mentions Seattle.  The only thing I knew about the city before this trip was that it doesn’t have an NBA team and that it’s cold, rainy and gray for about seven months of the year.  I am a Floridian who loves my sunshine and Heat, so I was a little unsure.

We decided to check it out for the long weekend, which also happened to be Jeremy’s birthday.    The long, deal breaking winters are a damn shame because I really fell in love.  I loved the way Seattle is a colorful, diverse, big walking city without being overwhelming like NYC or Chicago.  It’s the perfect sized city for me.  While we were there we had six days of sunshine, and if it could be like that for a little longer than three months I could see myself living there.

Portland, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment.  The people (hippies) were nice, the farmer’s market at the university was huge and impressive and the fresh food was delicious, but the city is just sooooo damn sloooooow.  Service, although pleasant, took forever and nobody seemed to be in any sort of rush to accomplish anything.  We actually walked into a business hoping to get a drink early in the evening, only to be told that they were closing early because they were tired. Seriously?  I know this is only one small example, but this pretty much sums up the overall vibe that I got from the people in Portland, and I need to be surrounded by a little more motivation than that.

Here are some of my favorite places and things that we ate/saw/drank/did:

Seattle

Pike’s Place Market. Probably the biggest tourist attraction in the city, but for a good reason.  Fresh, local food everywhere and some of the best restaurants and happy hour deals around (we loved The Athenian).

Matt’s in The Market. Our dinner spot for the first night in town.  It’s on the third floor of a building facing the market, and being seated next to the huge open windows provided some of the most beautiful views of the sun setting over the water.  My favorites were the Dungeness crab ceviche and guacamole and foie gras with chocolate doughnuts.  Service-A, Ambiance- A, Food- B.

Matts%20in%20the%20Market.jpg

Art of The Table. The perfect place for a date or celebration.  There are only six tables and a small bar in the place, and five employees.  The menu changes weekly and for $80 gets you a 10-course sampling of most of it.  This is what we did, and I can honestly say that every single thing I tried was delicious.  Service- A, Ambiance- A, Food- A+!

Bathtub Gin & Co.  A cozy little speakeasy that was not so easy to find.  We were lost in an alley for almost 10 minutes before we spotted the entrance, but I’m so glad we didn’t give up. The bartender Matt’s mixology skills were one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen.  He didn’t make a single vodka and cranberry or rum and coke- everything was a carefully-mixed specialty drink, crafted with so many different types of fresh fruit, bitters and mixers.  Even the way he cut fruit and crafted twists was impressive, and he had some awesome jokes.  Every night Jeremy and I joked that instead of going out and exploring new places, we just wanted to go hang out with Matt again.

Kerry Park.  We were instructed by a local to check out this park for the most amazing view of the city.  We were not disappointed with what we saw when we got to this little gem in the West Queen Anne neighborhood.

Capitol Hill.  The “gayborhood.” Lots of cool little restaurants, bars and shops with character.  Jeremy scored a sweet new little party shirt from a vintage shop.

The Escala.  Ladies, the Escala is not fiction.  I wonder if Mr. Grey is.

Lola.  Across the street from the Escala is Lola, a breakfast spot that was recommended to us by Matt the Bartender.  After a long night of drinking, Lola’s fresh powdered doughnuts with homemade cream and blueberry jam and omelets hit the spot.  Service- B, Ambiance- A, Food- A

Toulosse Petit.  This Lousiana-style cajun restaurant was so yummy that we visited twice.  Service- A, Ambiance- A, Food- A+

 

Cougar Mountain.  We took a nice hike about 30 minutes east of downtown Seattle.  Lots of little trails and beautiful greenery!

Portland

Farmer’s Market.  We hit the biggest one at Portland State University.  The amount of amazing fresh food was overwhelming.  Just look at how many different-colored tomatoes there were!  Walked around for about two hours, ate breakfast from the Verde Cocina stand and bought enough fresh food for a small feast, which we enjoyed that night.

Aviary.  A newer, tapas-style restaurant on Alberta, one of Portland’s more “happening” streets.  We had a nice outdoor table that overlooked the block.  Pleasant but extremely slow service (15 minutes just to get a cocktail).  Luckily we were in good company and in no rush.  Service- C, Ambiance- B, Food- B

 

Willamette Valley. 

All three vineyards and wineries that we visited were at the top of the hills, so we had some of the most beautiful views.

Erath Winery

Bella Vida Vineyard

White Rose Vineyard

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If You’re Going to Jamaica

Jamaica is one of the most beautiful places I have been.  From the beach sunsets to the lush forests to the bright culture, color is everywhere you look.  Add some reggae music and spicy jerk food and it’s sure to be one of the best vacations you’ll ever take.

I went to the northwest coast last May with two of my girlfriends.  It’s only an hour and twenty minute plane ride from Miami, and even the flight is beautiful.  Our plane flew low enough the entire time that we were able to look down and see the beaches of Cuba and the reefs below the crystal clear water.

When we got there, we took a 45-minute shuttle ride to our resort in Lucea, which is located between Montego Bay and Negril.  Our resort was the biggest in the area- it was literally the size of a small town.  We could’ve went the entire trip without even leaving, but after exploring for about an hour I knew I needed to get out of that Americanized resort and experience real Jamaica.  We went to the lobby where the cab drivers hang out and met Locke, a local who seemed to know where all the spots to be were.  He told us that for a total of $75 a day he would drive us around in his cab and show us the island.

It was possibly the best $25 a day I have ever spent.  Locke picked us up each morning around 9 a.m. and would bring us back after we had watched the sun set somewhere.  He took us everywhere we wanted to go, plus some of the best little spots to eat, drink and shop that only the locals know about.  I highly recommend finding a legit local chauffer if you want to do those things.  We loved Locke!

Here are my other thoughts and recommendations on what to do and see in Jamaica.

-Eat at the little hole-in-the-wall restaurants.  They will most likely have the best food.

-I drank tap water the whole time I was there and did not get sick.

-Eat jerk everything

-Eat curried everything

-Eat the rum cake

-If you are driving, be careful.  The roads are narrow, steep and scary.

-As with most second and third world countries, there is a chicken and stray dog problem.  They are everywhere and often end up as road-kill.  Once again, drive carefully.

-Stop and check out some of the little shacks along the roads.  Some are not much bigger than a port-a-potty, but it’s a great way to buy unique souvenirs and meet some locals.  Most also sell coconuts and will crack them open for you.  Fresh coconut water!

-Check out the Rasta shacks.

Negril

-Go to Rick’s.  Jump off the cliffs!

-For a little cash the locals will climb really high and do some pretty awesome jumps/dives.

-Next to Rick’s is also a little underwater cave that you can explore.  It’s not too big and only takes about 15 minutes.  Ask a local.

-Negril is where some of the best nightlife is.  But it’s a little sketchy at night so be careful.

Montego Bay

-Drive about 35 minutes up into the mountains to Jamaica Zipline Adventure Tours.  They have the longest zipline in the Caribbean there.

-If you’re going to go zip lining there, I recommend doing it with a small group (don’t go through the hotel).  We were the only appointment that afternoon, so had the staff’s undivided attention.  They took us on an outside hike to show us some goats and a weed farm and made a pit-stop to pick, cut and eat some fresh mango and pineapple.

-If you want to do the touristy thing, Margaritaville is here and it’s on a street full of souvenir shops.

-At the end of the street is a beautiful place to watch the sunset (see below).

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Sunscreen- What The SPF?

Yesterday was one of the most beautiful summer days at Delray Beach.  There was a cool breeze, not a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining brightly.  I quickly sprayed on some Neutrogena sunblock and laid down to bake.  My boyfriend meticulously piled on his 70 SPF sunscreen and I laughed at the thick white layer on his skin that just didn’t seem to fade no matter how hard he rubbed it in.

Jeremy got the last laugh though.  My face is bright red today and it hurts.  In addition to not putting enough sunscreen on my face, I also missed random spots on my chest, arms and stomach.

After a bad sunburn a few weeks ago, Jeremy refuses to use that Neutrogena spray that I used.  He now swears by the thick, sticky lotions with the highest SPF possible.  Four, 8, 15, 30, 45, 70, SPF, UVA, UVB- WTF?  What do all those numbers mean, and what should you consider when shopping for sunscreen?  I always feel a little overwhelmed when trying to decide which one might be best for me, so I have done a little research to figure out what it all means.

We use sunscreen to block ultraviolet light from damaging the skin. There are two categories of UV light- UVB causes sunburn, and UVA has more long-term damaging effects on the skin, like premature aging.  Too much sun exposure over time can take quite a toll, but sunscreen plays an important role in protecting your skin against sunburn, wrinkles, premature aging and skin cancer.  It should be applied anytime you plan on being outdoors, even just for a little while.  You don’t want to end up looking like this lady:

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, but the higher the number does not necessarily mean that it’s better.  The SPF number is simply a standard for how long you can tolerate the sun without burning.  For example, if you can stay in the sun for 10 minutes without burning, an SPF of 15 should allow you to spend 150 minutes out in the sun before burning.  This is assuming that you are using the ideal amount of sunscreen, which is enough to fill a shot glass.

Before you grab your calculator and head to the beach, you should know that this equation is not always accurate and doesn’t cover everything.  A higher SPF number may mean more sun-exposure time, but UVB absorption must be considered as well.  People get confused because the absorption number does not increase exponentially with a higher SPF.  For example, an SPF of 15 absorbs 93.3 percent of UVB rays, but an SPF of 30 absorbs 96.7 percent. The SPF number has doubled, but the absorption rate has increased by only 3.4 percent.

Because of this, according to the FDA, anything higher than 30 SPF is not much better than 30.  The bottom line is that you should be wearing enough SPF 30 with broad-spectrum UVA/ UVB protection and reapplying often.  Remember to reapply after going swimming or sweating a lot, because despite being advertised as waterproof, all sunscreens decrease in effectiveness when exposed to water.

Sunscreen use alone will not prevent all of the possible harmful effects of the sun.  It is also important to limit your time in the sun and wear protective clothing and a hat to protect your face.  Here are a few other random facts that will help you protect your skin:

  • The sun’s rays are the strongest from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m, especially during the late spring and summer.
  • Reflected glare from water and snow also can increase your exposure to UV radiation.
  • Sunscreen typically maintains its strength for about 3 years. After that time period, it is less effective.
  • Apply sunscreen at least a half-hour before you go outside.
  • Up to 80% of your total lifetime sun exposure is likely to take place before you reach the age of 18.
  • Make-up with SPF isn’t enough to protect your skin.
  • Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. It accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States.

Stay safe, my friends!

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If You Happen to Be Going To Israel

I toured Israel as part of a birthright group in July 2010.  I was there for 13 days, and we tried to cram in as much as possible, waking up each day at 6:30 a.m. and not stopping until after the sun had set.  Here are the notes I took based on my experience in the Holy Land:

NORTHERN ISRAEL

Considered the “country” area, it’s got a lot of mountains, hills and cool hiking trails. I hiked Mount Mehron and somewhere in the Golan Heights that led to an amazing waterfall. The water was freezing even though it was July and about 85 degrees out.  It was very close to the Syria and Jordan borders.  A few places and things to check out:
Syrian bunkers– old army bunkers that were once occupied by the Syrian army.  From there you can get great pictures of the Syrian border. There are still huge areas gated off because of possible land mines, which was a little scary.
Caesarea- a ritzy beach town with beautiful houses and ancient Roman ruins right on the beach.
Tzfat/Zefat– a very old, historic religious town built on the side of a mountain. Make sure your shoulders and elbows are covered when you go here because they are so crazy religious that there are certain places you won’t be able to go inside without doing so. Since it was hot I wore a tank top and just covered myself with a scarf when necessary. It’s very pretty and “old Israel” style. There are lots of good places to eat and shop for art and cheap souvenirs.
Haifa- a big, modern city. Kind of dirty.  It’s called the “New Jersey of Israel” for a reason.  We went to Panorama Street which gives amazing views.  From there you can see the city, port, bays, and the Bahai Gardens, which is acres of the prettiest landscape overlooking the city.
CENTRAL/SOUTHERN ISRAEL
Tel Aviv- what I saw to be the most modern city in Israel. Not sure of the real name, but “Cheech Beach” is a hot spot to lay out and go swim in the Mediterranean. Also check out the market. It’s hot, smelly and REALLY packed, but it’s an experience. Watch the vendors and locals argue and haggle and try to haggle for anything you may want to buy.  It’s a good place to buy fresh baked goods (especially challah bread), local produce and souvenirs.

Jaffa/Yaffa- located just outside of Tel Aviv, another old historic city by the beach. It’s where I did my best shopping. It’s a REALLY good place to buy unique souvenirs, art and antiques. The vendors don’t just offer the same crap as everywhere else in the country, which was nice.  And you can haggle everything.  Here’s a picture of my favorite store:

Things to see in Jerusalem-
Another crazy marketplace– not as crowded or dirty as the one in Tel Aviv.
Old city/Western Wall- Write prayers/wishes/ideas on a sheet of paper and place in the cracks of the walls.  If you are a woman, make sure your knees and elbows or covered.  If not, a shawl will be provided.
Ben Yahuda- a touristy street of shops where you can haggle and buy all sorts of crap.  A good time to go is Saturday evening after Shabbat has ended.  Everyone is out and about.
Mount Herzel- the soldier cemetery.  It’s really sad but well-maintained and beautiful.
Yad Vashem- The Holocaust museum- It will take at least half a day to get through it, and that’s if you rush.  It is really graphic and sad.  Bring tissues!

The street art- not just some awesome graffiti, but there are the sides of some old buildings painted with scenes from the city.  They portray real members of the community.


Dead Sea- Spend the $5 and buy the mud!  Girls, I wouldn’t shave the morning of going in the Dead Sea because it will sting.

Masada- an ancient Roman fortress community that overlooks the Dead Sea. There’s three ways to get to the top: hike the Snake Path (hard) or Roman Ramp (easy) or take the cable car.  We hiked up the Roman Ramp in the pitch black darkness before sunrise and watched it rise from the top.  Absolutely beautiful.  We took the Snake Path down which was extremely hard on the ankles and knees.  My suggestion would be to take the Snake Path up if you’re looking for a challenge, and the Roman Ramp down.

Negev Desert- While driving through we’d pass a small town here and there, but there wasn’t much to see except orange sand.  There’s not much to do here besides hike in extreme heat (the temperature got to about 105 degrees in July), but this is where I rode the camels. They were at a Bedouin camping ground. In the desert there is also something called a maktesh (pronounced mock-tesh). It’s a giant hole in the earth, similar to the Grand Canyon.  It’s considered a wonder because there’s only three in the world, all in Israel.

OTHER THINGS TO KNOW

Shabbat- from sundown on Friday to Saturday evening, the entire country observes Shabbat.  There is NOTHING to do during this time.  Every business will be closed, so stock up on anything you may need beforehand and use the day to relax.

Food- Israel is big on ice cream bars.  Lots of fancy frozen things on sticks.

Apparently Israelites are not that into international cuisine because it was hard to find.  I thought their food was pretty good, but there was not a lot of variety.  By the fifth or sixth day I was craving anything other than hummus, falafel and schwarma.  I was told that when we arrived in Tev Aviv (a more modern city) there would be sushi, cheeseburgers and pizza.  Go figure that when we arrived it was a Friday evening and everything was closed.  Here’s the “24-hour” restaurant closed for Shabbat:

Also remember that Jews do not mix meat and dairy together.  No meat lovers pizza, no cheeseburgers and no sandwiches with cheese.  In fact, many restaurants that serve meat will not even serve dairy in the same establishment, and vice versa.  One deli that did sell ice cream only sold it out of a little cooler outside, and I was not allowed to bring my ice cream bar to a table inside.

Stray cats- the country, Jerusalem especially, has quite a problem.  I saw a lot more dead kittens in the streets than I would’ve liked to.

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Japanese Media One Year Ago

At this time last year I was in Japan, just three months after the big earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima meltdown.  I just found these notes that I wrote about the country’s situation, media and state of mind during my visit:

Things in Nagoya seem pretty normal, much more normal than I would’ve expected from a country that just went through what they did.  The only reminders I have seen of the disaster are the occasional store that sells a product to donate the proceeds and the ways that the country is trying to conserve electricity. After the Fukushima disaster, the local power plant was shut down in fear of aftershocks or another big earthquake. The country is now trying to use less electricity.  Many hand driers in public restrooms are turned off, some streets are only using every other street lamp and the temperature in many public buildings is now set to about 77 degrees.  It’s humid as hell outside and it’s not much better indoors, especially underground.   Businessmen are currently allowed to skip wearing their jackets and ties for a cooler “business casual” look.

As for the Japanese media (television, radio, print), I am not exactly sure what information is given because it is all in Japanese.  But from seeing pictures they do seem to have taken quite an interest in the whole Anthony Wiener drama.  They must think so highly of us classy Americans.

To get my news information, I have mostly been checking BBC.com and nytimes.com.  From there I learned about how the radiation levels may be much higher than the Japanese government originally reported.  I read that Shizuoka, which is only about an hour north of where I am in Nagoya, has stopped exporting its green tea because higher levels of radiation were found in it.  This is also how I found out about the thousands of people who protested in Tokyo last week.

What I find interesting is that when my friend (an English teacher) brought up these issues as a discussion in her adult class on the day of the protest, nobody even knew about it.  They were shocked to be told what was taking place just three hours away.  My friend said it stunned them to hear that their people were protesting.  Protesting is something that is almost unheard of in Japan, as people here are extremely obedient and peaceful.  I can believe this due to the fact that I have witnessed that these people don’t even jaywalk or lock up their bicycles on the streets, even in a big city like Tokyo.  They cross streets when they are told to by a crossing guard and the country has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.   The class didn’t even understand what the word “protest” meant at first.  My friend had to pull up pictures on her laptop to give them a visual and explain.

What shocked me is that while a huge protest had just taken place, none of the ten people in the class knew about it.  In America, that would be breaking news.  This leads me to believe that there is a lot that the Japanese government is hiding, or at least downplaying, to avoid panic. For a country that is facing such major issues, the people are eerily calm.  You would never guess that a tragedy to that magnitude just took places three months ago here.

Other countries, particularly China and European ones, are talking a lot about how the Japanese government is not doing enough testing for radiation levels.  It almost seems like Japan is trying to avoid the problem because they know that the results are not pretty. I have read that the media has been told to avoid using the word “meltdown.”  The Japanese people seem the most in the dark and I wish they would read more news from sources in countries other than Japan.   I don’t exactly know what kind of censorship regulations Japan uses, but I do know this isn’t China.  Find a way to get the information translated, people!

Since that day of the protests, my friend’s class has been asking her for new information about what America is reporting.  I sense a growing distrust of their country’s media, and these people need to demand more radiation tests and answers.  Their health depends on it. I think the protest in Tokyo was a step in the right direction, and hopefully Japan gets it together soon.

Here are a few other articles which relate to mine that I found interesting:

http://trumanfactor.com/2011/japanese-media-and-the-aftermath-of-fukushima/

http://www.spiral16.com/blog/2011/08/smart-social-media-monitoring-or-government-censorship/

http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/did-the-japanese-government-censor-twitter-during-nuclear-plant-meltdown_b12115

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If you happen to be going to Japan…

Japan was the most amazingly weird place I have ever been.  Totally worth the 21 hour solo flight around the world and $4,000 credit card debt that took almost a year to pay off (I underestimated the value of the yen vs. the U.S. dollar- oops).  Here is an overview of some random thoughts I jotted down throughout the trip, before I forgot anything.

-Go to the pet stores- they sell monkeys, kangaroos and other exoticness there.

-Ride the Shinkansen (bullet trains that travel up to 186 mph).  Recline all the way and enjoy the wi-fi.

-Check out a baseball game. Weird but awesome.

-Watch a game show on TV.  I had no idea what they were saying, but they looked so happy that it made me feel happy.

-Sing karaoke!!! Use the tambourines!

-Go to an onsen. Outdoor ones are better.  Bring your own towel.

-Eat the pastries and  ice cream.  Try the crazy flavors (tofu, curry, sesame, sweet potato, wasabi to name a few).

-Eat ramen.

-Eat udon.

-Eat yakitori.

-Eat oni nomi naki.

-Eat at a conveyor sushi place.

-Eat tako yaki from the street vendors (extra great when you’re drunk!)

-Sakuraniku= raw horse meat.  Just know that before you order.

-Check out the Don Quixote store. It’s like Wal-Mart on acid. You can buy toilet paper, whiskey and a kangaroo at the same check-out counter.

-Clubs have lockers in them.

-Kids typically speak better English than adults.  Ask them for help/directions.

Kyoto

-Shrines and temples on every street

-Go to the monkey park. Take the  hike and feed the monkeys at the top. Also a great view of the city.

-Check out the Gion district.  Lots of cool temples, shopping, and this is where you could see a real geisha.  They come out at night.

-The subway system is mostly hidden/non-existent. Unless you figure out the secret, the bus is the best way to get around.

Tokyo

-Party in Shibuya. Lots of great little bars and clubs.

Club Womb supposedly has the biggest disco ball in a club, but you’ve gotta like heavy house music to enjoy it.

-Great shopping in Shibuya as well as Harajuku.

Takeshita Dori: this is where the Harajuku girls hang out. BEST. PEOPLE WATCHING. EVER.

-Omotensando Hills: great street in Harajuku for high end shopping and awesome boutiques (birdbath rings!)

-Don’t bother with the Imperial Palace. Nice gardens, but you can’t even see the palace because there are huge walls around it.

Nagoya

-Check out Nagoya Castle and the park just north of it.

-Shop in Sakae and Aeon for nice stuff and Osu Kannon for cheap souvenirs.

-Takashimaya (in Nagoya Station) also is a great department store. They randomly have the Vivienne Westwood wedding dress that Carrie Bradshaw wore.

-Check out the Osu Kannon Temple.  Watch out for the thousands of pigeons who are not afraid to mob humans with food.

-Club id in Sakae- five-stories and ran by an American. His name is Thomas.

-Don’t waste your money at the aquarium at Nagoyako (Nagoya port). The ones in Osaka and Okinawa are supposedly much better.

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