Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fuji Pics!

Hoping this pic does justice... Above the clouds and the tree-line here...
Getting closer to the Summit of Mt. Fuji!

My Chinese hiking bus-best friend! He went summiting, I was underprepared (see my last blog and see above for more Fuji pics!)

A 5K Away, but a good day

What do you get when you mix a funster, his newly found Chinese hiking friend, and a millions of years old, 12,000 plus-foot inactive volcano? My August 11, 2010 (Happy Birthday Dad!).

I woke early today and headed for a three hour train ride from Fussa (the small suburb-esque town in which Yokota Air Base is located) away from Tokyo towards the mountains. After transfering four times, and hopping a bus to Mount Fuji (Japan's zenith) at its 5th station, which was another hour up a windy, scary road (especially when the buses coming the other direction came careening down the right side of the road, well, their left, our right), I was ready to summit!

Unfortunately, as I hopped off the bus, still talking to my new Chinese bus-friend Yeoung-si (seriously guessing at this spelling people) he informed me that to summit the mountain was another 5 to 6 hour hike from the 5th station which is 2,030 meters up. In other words, I had spent 4.5 hours in transit to get 1/2 the way up the mountain, vertically. So, of course, I second guessed Yeoung-si. After all, he was the guy I had helped get onto the correct bus at the train station because he didn't ready english or Japanese very well. I decided I still might try to summit.

As odd-bus new best friends, the two of us spent about 10 minutes walking the 5th station (full of shops and some serious looking hikers and equipment. Then we set off for the trail. We made it to 6th station, about a 1K walk (45 minutes), but still close to 2,000 meters. Apparently you need to go across the majority of Mount Fuji to the trail before you actually start to hike UP it. ALSO, apparently, you need winter gear, water, serious hiking boots, poles, pants, hats, gloves, the whole deal to make it to the summit. There was even a pre-recorded announcement just past 6th station that said, "if you are only traveling with light summer clothes don't even think about trying to make it to the absolute top". I was wearing jeans and had a long sleeve shirt in my backpack. I was severely underprepared. Meanwhile, Yeoung-si pulled out his hat with a hiking flashlight on it, a water camel-back, gloves, and everything.

So, about 10 minutes past 6th station, I told him I was heading back down, a 5K away (vertically) from the summit of Mount Fuji, but told him to go on without me and that I hoped the fog that choked most of the mountain-side and most of our view would clear for him, as he was staying on the summit for the sunrise the next morning.

On my descent, the clouds did clear away for portions of my down-hike and I will attach some pictures as my next few entries so you can see just how magnificent (hoping they do justice) and imposing Mount Fuji can be.

Fuji: 1, Nat: 0

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Times I Remember I'm in Korea

Living at the US Air Force Base, my first week on the road, has mostly seemed simply like a trip to a small US city. Add the American electric-plugs, US currency, Chilli's, Subway, and Taco Bell restaurants and most days at Osan simply feel like being in the states. However, there have been a few experiences, and times that I've remembered where I really am in the world. Here they are;

1. A Night at the Movies
Last night (Thursday night) I went to the on-base theater for an "American night" to see the new Angelina Jolie movie, Salt. The film was good. The theater was great. But, the major difference was that at the beginning of the picture, instead of the lights dimming, the entire house went light. Soon, the entire audience (myself included as not to stand out, were standing singing both the Korean and US National Anthems before the movie started).

2. My Room Without a View
Though my hotel room itself doesn't quite have a spectacular view. Walk out the door, out the front of the hotel, up the hill towards the gym and pool, and you can see the true landscape of South Korea. Just beyond the walls of Osan is a mountainous, rain-forest-like jungle. Sometimes, spending so much time with the people around the base, you forget you are staying on a site that was once 5 Korean villages.

3. 65 Years Since Hiroshima
It is not an anniversary that we necessarily remember, or even stop to recognize back home. However, here in Asia and especially among the base, today (August 6, 2010) marks the day that the first atom bomb in world history was dropped, 65 years ago, on Hiromshima, Japan. All of the newspapers, online articles, and on-base publications here mention the anniversary in a solemn manner, understanding its serious impact not only for our country and for Japan, but for the rest of the world. For us, most often December is the time we stop to remember the attacks on Pearl Harbor. However, 3 years and 8 months later, the events at Hiroshima changed the course of World War II and the landscape of the ancient land. So today I, who was again reminded today that I am in Korea, will stop to remember. In three days, I will do the same for Nagasaki, as I'll be only about 1,200 kilometers away.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Korean Military: Cup Stacking Already

REPORT #2 (August 2, 2010) 8:26 p.m. local time: The Korean Military: Cup Stacking Already

It took me about 2 hours from arrival at base to get into Osan Air Force Base, here in Korea on Sunday morning. Paper work needed to be filed. My escort was in church. No one could get a hold of anyone else. It was a Sunday after all.

It took about 5 minutes from arrival at base to convince an armed Korean guard at the check-in post (Main Gate at Osan) to challenge me to a cup stacking match. One of the American guards (there were 4 of them and 2 Korean, all in full uniform, guns included) asked why I was visiting the base. When I told her cup stacking and pulled out the set of plastic sport cups, the second Korean guard's eyes lit up. He shook his head no when I asked if he had seen them before. I showed him two patterns and his hands left his M4 and immediately started to play. I showed him one more and challenged him. The Main Gate was in hysterics. Maybe cup stacking is some form of a universal language. PS, I won!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

I'm a Seoul-man, Almost

Ok, first official post of the trip. Here's how the blog is going to work. Keep updated on my quick quips about my trip. Why quips, beacasue I'm going to do my best to keep you entertained (as master of fun) through humor and inclusion of not only cups but puns. Why quick? Because long boring blogs are NO FUN (trust me, remember, master of it?!).

REPORT #1 (August 1, 2010, 1:47 a.m.): "I'm a Seoul-man, Almost"

Only 35 hours after a beautiful girl dropped off at the airport in Newark, NJ, I find myself, after one 3 hour delay in Shanghai's PuDong airport (where I had my first real Chinese food (see attached photo)), here in Seoul's Incheon airport. I missed the last shuttle to the first Air Force base (Osan), but fear not. I am taking a quick nap in a Korean "Spa" over night (inquire within for details, heads out of the gutters people, it's a beautiful shower and hostel type environment) and will be on base, meeting my bosses, participants, and other military connectors for the week early tomorrow. 안녕히 주무십시요 (Good Night for now). I told you short and sweet and fun. Cheers.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Fun Department Goes Global!!!

On July 30th I'm off to Korea/ Japan for five weeks to host cup stacking camps on behalf of the Fun Department at four different US Air Force bases.

Keep updated on my travels and thoughts here and on!

Preparations for Travel

On July 30th, I take off for Chicago (US) for Beijing (China), for Seoul (Korea) to start yet another grand adventure, facilitating weekly sport stacking camps for seven US Air Force bases!