Around Bangkok

Now we’ve decided to go do something cultural–so we went to the National Museum which was about 10 minutes from the grand palace. On our way there, we saw several tourists, along with the little ripoff tourist shops selling all sorts of souvenirs. We passed several little streets that looked like typical Bangkok streets–some standing with water, with the people just walking bare foot in it, others, just with food stands throughout the street. We finally arrived at the museum, after asking someone teaching at a University we passed–turning out to be the University that some of the Thai students at ICU are from. So, we saw a lot of interesting architecture, elephant seats, old buddhas and so forth. Really too much to take in in one day, but we tried! After leaving the museum, we took our first ride on the Tuk Tuk, which turned out to be quite an experience! For just 30 bat (90 cents), we got our own Tuk Tuk, with driver, to take us all around Bangkok for how ever long we wanted. These guys were so cool too, and took us first to the huge golden buddha. Something that some of the locals sell is a cage with birds, and Julia bought a cage to set free–that is the reason they are selling them–it gives good luck to the one who sets then free. The buddha was huge, and it was interesting to see the houses that surrounded the beautiful statue. After leaving the buddha, we got back to our TukTuks, where we passed several pictures of the King–his birthday is on the 5th of December, so all of Bangkok was decorated with his pictures–many posed, others not. We then went to a small temple located next to a school, where we met the nicest English teacher wanting to practice his English. He told us a lot of interesting things about the temple we were at, so we all had a good time there. We then returned to the Tuk Tuks ready to eat, so we went to McDonald’s just so curious of how cheap, or how good it was. Exact same! They do have some different sauces available though=) The Tuk Tuk drivers then took us to a stop that they have to give all foreigners…to the handmade suit shoppe. They make handmade suits fit to your body, and keep your measurements for 5 years, so you can have them sent back to your home if you want some more made. Of course, I don’t need a suit, so I didn’t get one, but Maya and Julia both had some made. We then went back to the hotel to find finally a good place to eat some traditional Thai food. The bellboy told us of a really good place to go on the river, and it really turned out to be the greatest meal. I had some satay, and all sorts of food. It was so good. We then went back to the hotel to sleep.

Bangkok, Thailand

We woke up after a great night’s sleep well rested and ready to explore Bangkok! So, we find a great mall to shop at for the girls–it had the Japanese stores Isetan, which was a nice find, because then we could buy some Japanese stuff for cheap! We spend most of the day there, and then walk across the street to Planet Hollywood–you know a real traditional Thai dinner. Actually, it was an awesome dinner, and cheap, so that pleased us all. That night we still just wandered around the place, and we found a shrine that several people were at–with a traditional Thai dance going on. After that, we went back to the mall again and sat down for a drink. After a while of talking and listening to the live bands, we decided to call it a night and go back to the hotel. There we watched tv–finally a place with MTV!! We then went to bed, after planning what we should do the next day.

All around Bangkok

PALACE1The next morning, we went to a big department store to shop around and did a lot of “American Touristy” things, such as eating dinner at Planet Hollywood of Bangkok. The following morning was doing a city tour, visiting the grand palace, the art museums, and the large golden Buddha. These 3 or 4 hours of touring, we used the transport of a tuk-tuk, at the going rate of $.75. We bought the driver’s McDonald’s after our tours and they were very much excited. Tuk-Tuk is definitely the cheapest way around Bangkok, but also it’s difficult to breathe–Bangkok is very polluted, and tuk-tuks have no guard against the foul air. That night we went out for a nice seafood restaurant, that allowed us to pick what we wanted to eat–as in go to the aquarium, pick which crab you like running around, and they’ll cook it for you! The palace in the center of Bangkok is amazing. The architecture and lines of the temples are gaudy, but with its own unique charm.

mayamethailandGold is definitely the style, along with green, orange and blue. At the palace, we met a group of English students who were doing an “interview” consisting of what my name was and where I was from. They were very excited to meet us, due to being American, and we all took pictures together. Another incident at the palace was running into one of our friends–who we didn’t even know was going to Thailand!! She was from our university in Tokyo, and we knew her from the Judo club. That was an interesting experience! The world really is a small place!

Off to Thailand

Well, I can’t believe that I am on my way to Thailand now! So, after weeks of long preparation, I am finally on the plane! Maya and I went to school to take care of some business–Post Office, money exchange etc. So, finally we were off at 1:30 to the airport–We took the cheap way which leaves from Nippori, and takes about an hour and a half. So, we went, happened to meet someone we knew on the bus, then happened to meet people who were leaving the same day at the station, and they rode with us to the airport. Talk about coincidences. Then, the funniest episode from Maya happened–she had her orange juice set on top of her luggage while we were riding the train, and the train stopped a little bit, and she went for her juice, but misjudged a bit and threw the entire carton on the girl sitting in front of us! It was funny, but sad at the same time. .. So, then we finally arrived at the airport, shopped around a little bit since we had some time to spare. Through immigrations, we coincidently saw Cindy, she was heading out for about Coincidences happening!! Found our gate and then boarded the plane. It was dark by that time, so it was nice to see Tokyo from above. The flight took about 7 hours. Flying into Bangkok, it was interesting to see rows of gold lights, which I still don’t know what it was. Anyhow, we landed and got off the plane to meet a HOT Bangkok! It was like summer!! So I am glad that I didn’t pack a lot of warm clothes! Anyhow, we get out, go through customs and then are off to find a cheap taxi to take us to our hotel. The taxi took us to our hotel in about 40 minutes. It was so interesting to see this place! It really reminded me of Russia–by its development and such. So we finally arrive to the hotel, and go to the desk, and there’s a note from Julia and Mike, who came earlier that day. We get into our rooms, and they’ve got beautiful views of the city–from the 17th floor! It was gorgeous. We saw Mike and Julia, and were glad they had made it safely as well. Then, we pretty much just hit the sack, and got ready to go out the next day.

My Valedictory Speech — Citizen of the World

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow graduates, we are here to celebrate a big step in our lives. Let’s look back with warm memories and look forward with anticipation.

During the 4, or 5, years at Hixson High School, the class of 1998 has learned what it takes to be a citizen of Hixson High.

We learned not to catapult corn across the cafeteria, or not to smoke in the bathrooms during our 5-minute breaks. Most of us have learned to not believe everything we hear in the halls, or read in notes. These lessons learned have made us citizens of Hixson High School.

Now that we are leaving Hixson High though, we must focus not only becoming good US Citizens, but citizens of the world as well.

Socrates once said, “I’m not an Athenian or a Greek, but a Citizen of the World.”

To become good citizens of the world, we must be creative, set new goals, be open-minded and travel outside what we know. In the words of SI Hayakawa, “Creativity is the act of bringing something new into the world.” A person who is afraid of being laughed at for stupid or ridiculous ideas will always have the satisfaction of having everyone agree with him. But he will not be creative, because creativity means to take a chance, to go out on a limb.

Open-mindedness is probably one of the best traits we can have. I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “A mind is like a parachute, it only functions when open.”

We must understand that to communicate our ideas, we must be willing to open our minds. For our ideas to be heard, we can’t expect everyone to understand them in the English Language. Or have everyone come to Hixson, TN to talk about them. We must expand our knowledge to accommodate the world community. We must travel outside what we know.

I traveled to both Japan and Russia during my high school education and by doing so have learned the requirements of becoming a world citizen. I have learned not to slow myself down in fear of what others think of me, and I have learned to be open minded and sensitive to other cultures. I am able to communicate my ideas in not only the English language but the Japanese language as well.

I have set a new goal for myself as well to expand my knowledge and see the world. While studying the Japanese culture I found the Buddhist way of thinking to be appropriate for today’s graduation. What we do now, right this second, is a result of a past preparation in our lives. That same instant, is a preparation for a future result.

Today we are here for our graduation. This ceremony is a result of previous years of hard work and determination. This ceremony is also a preparation for our future lives as citizens of the world.

Thank you, and Sayonara class of 1998.

Russia– A country of magnificent beauty and culture, and a huge learning experience for me

apartments ARBAT  russiatrainRussia is such a fascinating country, that one can’t even begin to describe it. The moment I stepped off the plane at the Sheremetyevo II Airport near Moscow, I knew I was going to have a great experience. The trip originated in Atlanta, where my friend and I flew off to New York one summer day. That evening, we boarded a flight nonstop to Russia. I was so scared about going to such a “hidden” country. I had always heard of hunger, waiting, and other stories about the Russia way of life. What I found in Russia was something quite different. A way of life which is like ours, yet with several inconveniences. The most vivid memory of Russia for me is the potpourri of smells throughout the city. I’m not saying they were good, but I’m not saying they were bad either. They were just so unfamiliar, and sometimes, when I smell something similar to it, I am flashbacked into my time in Russia.

While in Moscow for the first hour, I was able to stop and see the Grand St. Basil’s Cathedral located in Red Square. To see this masterpiece in real-life was amazing. This surreal image of Russia that had been forever etched in my mind as the symbol of the U.S.S.R. and to see it was an emotional experience in itself. Standing where great communist leaders stood, where great revolutions were fought, and where beheadings took place opened my eyes to a whole nother world around me. After sightseeing for a couple of hours, it was time to board the train for a small city on the Volga, past Ulyanovsk, the home of Ulyanov, Lenin. This train ride was 20 hours long, and was interesting. Seeing different villages on the way brought the rural way of life to my attention. I have never seen such “farm” lands before. What was truly amazing though, was to look out the window, and see a small onion dome of a church way out in the country. So strange that so many beautiful churches were still standing because of the hardships the people had to go through to worship with an athiest government being so prominent in their lives. By visiting Russia, I have learned so many things that have affected my life, and have shaped my personality. During my stay in the small town of Dimitrovgrad, I was able to see the rural way of life. There were so many new things to me, and different methods of accomplishing similar tasks as we, that it kept me busy every minute of the day. I was filled with wonder and excitement. After a while in Dimitrovgrad, I went on the 20 hour train ride again to Moscow. We toured for the entire day, and then returned to the train station to board an over night train to St. Petersburg, previously called Leningrad.

St. Petersburg was so beautiful with its European style of architecture, rich history, and friendly people. St. Petersburg was initiated by Lenin, who wanted it to be a city that showed peace between the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, so he insisted on the use of European architecture, to make the Europeans feel more at home. While in St. Petersburg, I was able to see the magnificent Summer Home of the Czars. After a couple of days in St. Petersburg, we rode the over night train again back to Moscow. I went inside St. Basil’s Cathedral, saw the actual Ulyanov Lenin body preserved since 1924, Red Square, GUM, the famous Worker & Farmgirl Monument, and the Bolshoi Theater. These famous landmarks will never be forgotten, and I hope to see them again one day.

Penpal Meeting in Japan!

I was finally able to meet my penpal for the first time in Harajuku, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan.

That year was one of the best years of my life. For so many years, I had spent reading, studying, and learing about Japan that to go to Japan was like an apocolypse for me. It was the Summer of 1994, and I flew off to Chicago to meet up with my friend’s family. We left from Chicago for a nonstop flight to Tokyo. We used Japan Airlines, which is one of the best in the world. I loved every minute of the flight, which meant that I was up for 12 hours after take off. After landing in Tokyo, we headed for a bus that lead up to Omiya, Saitama. After the 2-hour bus ride, we took a train to Honjyo, Saitama, about 2 and a half hours away. That evening we reached our destination–evening as in Japan time which is 14 hours ahead of EST.

I had been awake for nearly 26 hours straight, and I didn’t have a good night of sleep beforehand because of my anxiety of the trip. I was exhausted when we reached the house. We ate a small dinner and collapsed on our futons. The next day, I was awake at 5:00am because of the sun shining in my eyes. Day break is a lot earlier there, but nightfall is early too. We went to McDonalds, but I just couldn’t eat anything.

I had such jet lag, that I was really upset about not eating. I began to get homesick, I was just 15, and I had never experienced jet lag before. That week we went to see Kabuki, the ancient art of drama of Japan. This was so interesting because of the brightly colored costumes they wore. I was able to meet my penpal of 3 years (at that time; now 8 years) at a town called Harajuku, which is a town filled with teenagers. It was so cool to see the person who was behind all the letters I wrote. We spent the entire day together, and I will never forget it. We then went to Tokyo Tower, Ginza, Asakusa, and other landmarks around Tokyo. I saw Mt. Fuji from atop Tokyo Tower. During my stay, I was also able to watch a Japanese Festival in Kumagaya. The Kumagaya Matsuri was a Buddhist festival filled with floats brilliantly decorated, marching to the beats of drums. These cultural events have affected me in many ways, and have shaped my personality.