Last Day in the UK

Location: Woolston, Southampton, England
Status: Alive and Healthy

I have been here since Thursday, and I catch a ferry this evening from Portsmouth to Le Havre, France. It is an overnight ferry, so tomorrow morning, I will be in France on my way to Rouen.

I left off in Winchester. I wound up staying there at Ali's place until Thursday, when I cycled down here. It wasn't that far of a ride. Ali, and just about everyone else there are art students at the Winchester School of art, and it was an interesting group of people to hang out with. Around 18:00 on Tuesday, the first year students had an exhibition of their work, and there was a lot of interesting stuff, as well as some not so interesting stuff. As I mentioned before, I don't usually "get" modern art. One which caught my eye was, I thought, as brilliant idea with a very simple implementation. It was a series of Google Image Searches for the various human emotions.

After that, we all hung out at the Student Union until it closed. The next day, Ali showed me around Winchester a little bit. We also did some shopping, and I bought a tent which will hopefully take care of me on those stretches where I don't have any couches to surf. She showed me the Winchester Cathedral, Jane Austin's house, a good bit of downtown, etc. It is a very pretty old town. Then she left me to wander on my own while she did some research in the library, and we met up later for Nick's exhibition. Again, some of the pieces were rather interesting and others were kind of... well, I'm not a modern art critic...

Anyway, on Thursday, Ali had to head up to London, but I stuck around taking care of things until the afternoon and then cycled down here.

I arrived in the evening and called my next host, Nick. He wasn't home, but his roommate was, and he gave me directions and then let me in. The time here in Southampton has mostly been spent relaxing. On Thursday night, Nick, Chris (his roommate), and I went to a local pub for a few pints and hung out talking. On Friday I pretty much lounged around while Nick was working, and then I cooked my increasingly popular Garlic Parmesan Shrimp pasta. Saturday, Nick and I went into town to his university where we booked ferry tickets and then walked around a bit. The area near the university is rather beautiful with a very large park running through most of it. That evening, Nick had to work at the pub, but near the end of the night, Chris and I went down and met him and had a few pints. It was Soul & Motown Disco night...woo! Sunday was another fairly lazy day finished off by an evening at the pub.

In just a few moments, we are going to drive down to Portsmouth, where Nick will drop me off at the ferry terminal, and then I will probably spend several hours writing in my journal.

Next time I post, I'll be in France.



Cycling to Winchester, etc / 自転車でウィンチェスターまでとかとか…

Location: Winchester, England
Status: Slight cold, but alive and well and enjoying life.


So, here I am, no longer in London. Quite a bit has happened, so I will try to pick up where I left off. I got my bike. It looks like junk, but it rides well enough. It is much better than the piece of junk I did my first bike trip (back in the US in the summer of '98) on, and it is a bit lighter than the bike I did my trip around Japan (summer of '03) on. It gets the job done.

Anyway, after I took care of stuff at John's house and went on to my next host, an Australian guy named Trent in Chiswick, on the west side of London, not far north of Kingston. I cycled out there to get used to my new bike. I must say that London traffic is a bit rough. Anyway, I met up with Trent at Gunnersbury Station and we headed back to his place to drop off my stuff. Trent doesn't have a computer at home, so I was unable to keep the blog up to date while there. No worries, though, right? Anyway, after I was hoping to meet up with Arun, but hadn't had a chance to email him and set everything up (Sorry, Arun!) so when I called him it was a bit too late. So, Trent and I went to a pub and had a few pints of London's Pride and some meat pies, which were surprisingly good... And people say that British food is bad!

The next day (Saturday), we lounged around the house for awhile while waiting for Trent's friend to fly in. When he got there, we all headed out to meet up with more friends in Hammersmith and hung out at a house there for awhile drinking and talking. Now, keep in mind, this was the first time I had met any of these people (including Trent the day before), but it felt really comfortable, like hanging out with old friends or something. That is how awesome everyone was. A little later, we went out into London to a pub for a pint or two, and then to a club called "Walkabout" and nicknamed "the Shafty Walky" by everyone in the group, due the location of that particular branch on a street called Shaftsomethingsomething (my memory is a little hazy). There we hung out, drank, danced, and had a pretty decent time. So, with that I got to experience a bit of the London night life.

The following day, we met up with some other friends in the afternoon for what would have been a barbecue had it not been raining (bloody English weather!). We hung out in a flat across the way from Trent's place having a few snacks and drinks. Then we went out to a nearby pub to meet up with some more friends and had a few pints. After that, we returned and cooked up a myriad of foods, ate them, drank some more, and just chilled out. All in all, it was another really good time with really cool people. Trent is one of the friendliest, easy-to-get-along-with people I have ever met.

The following morning (Monday) began my day of hell which ended in heaven. Trent saw me off in the morning and then went to work. I then began cycling, heading for Winchester. The weather was... British. Seriously, it changes every five minutes. I was basically heading southwest from London under very overcast skys which enjoyed spewing rain on me at every worst possible moment, and then stopping any time I found a bit of shelter from it. Those of you who know me and of my cycling experiences can probably guess which direction the wind was blowing. I must have pissed of Aeolus in a past life because it was nothing but headwind all day. I had a blowout near Feltham and had to stop. It turns out the guy who sold me the bike had put the wrong sized tube in the back tire and then over-inflated it. Luckily, there was a cycle shop in Feltham, so I bought the proper tube and got back up and running pretty quickly. For those of you keeping score, that was my second flat tire ever in my history of cycling like this (the first was just outside of New Orleans on the last day of that trip).

Anyway, I continued on, going up and down hills and in and out of rain. All in all, it was a fairly miserable ride, though it occasionally had its moments: the purple flowers growing in the undergrowth of the forests, the rabbits leaping into the brush as I approached, the wide, rolling fields, the tunnels of trees that I rode through...

I just want to take this opportunity to plug the Montane Featherlite Smock. This thing is awesome. It weighs 95g, rolls up to the size of a tennis ball, and does a fantastic job of keeping the wind and most of the rain out. Seriously, if you are ever considering doing any hiking, backpacking, cycling, etc. get one! It is absolutely worth it.

I am definitely not in shape...yet. My legs were jello by the time I reached Winchester. I actually had to sit down and take about a 20 minute break about 3km outside of town because I just couldn't ride. Anyway, I get a break today, and maybe even up until Friday, so my legs can recover. The next leg of my journey will be very short, so no problem.

Anyway, that brings us to Winchester and the excellent ending to a really rough day. I got to Winchester Station and called my next host, a really sweet girl named Ali who is an art student at the university here. It turned out that she was just settling down for dinner with a bunch of friends (including another couchsurfer) at an Indian restaurant in town. She invited me to join them, and I did. Again, it was like meeting friends I have already known. Everyone was super cool and super nice. I had just eaten the second half of a doner kebab I'd bought on the side of the highway, so I had a couple of pints while everyone ate. After dinner, Ali and Eli (the other couchsurfer...very cool guy) tooke me back to her place so I could get a shower and change clothes. That shower felt GOOD! After that, we headed out to meet back up with everyone for a few more beers at the Student Union on campus. After that, we all went back to Ali's place, a flat that she is sharing with several other very cool people, and had a bonfire in the back yard. Finally, I crashed, and that brings us to today.

The other couchsurfer, Eli, had become good friends with everyone and had been here for almost 2 weeks. He left today, off to the next stop on his trip: Poland. Most everyone else is in and out. One of Ali's roommates, Nick, has an exhibition tomorrow so he is getting ready for that. I may end up helping him out later. I've spend the day writing in my Journal and now this.

Anyway, I think my plans have changed. UK weather is just not good for cycling, since it changes every 37 seconds and most of the changes are just a slightly different form of dreary. Also, the UK is really expensive, and if I want to make this trip last, I should get out of here. So, rather than cycling around the UK before heading down to the rest of Europe, I think I am going to look into ferries now and head down to France sometime within the next week or so. I've certainly enjoyed my taste of the UK and am not finished yet, but it would kind of suck to run out of money without having seen any more of Europe. Anyway, I'll post the details of my next move when they are decided.

That seems like a good place to leave off. The rest of this post is in Japanese for my friends who can't read English (Ali has a Mac, so I can finally type in Japanese). Cheers. (^_^)v








Welcome to the UK.

Location: Kingston Upon Thames, London, England
Status: alive and well

The easier part of the beginning of my journey is just about over and the real journey is about to begin. I am about to go pick up my new bicycle which will hopefully take me all over Europe. However, let's bring things up to date first, shall we?

I flew out of Narita on the morning of the 16th of May after a few complications at the airport. Asiana Airlines wouldn't let me board a plane to London without a ticket showing that I was leaving the UK. They said I would have trouble at immigration and could be denied entry, so I was basically forced to buy a last minute ticket from London to Paris with the intent to cancel it and apply for a refund after I got through customs. That cost me about 75,000 yen. Ouch.

The flight itself was fairly uneventful and rather long. The meals were, of course, terrible. I got to watch King Kong, which wasn't bad at all, and Big Mama 2, which wasn't particularly good. Anyway, after a long time of fighting off sleep (I did doze off for an hour or two), I finally arrived in Heathrow and breezed through immigration. I went to get my ticket canceled and apply for a refund, and found out that it couldn't be done from the airport, and I had to go to the office in London.

From there I took the Tube to eastern London to meet up with my first CouchSurfing host, a young guy named Arun who, despite being busy with exams, gave me a place to sleep for the night and a lot of help and advice. He was a really great guy, and it is a shame that he was so busy with exams. However, we're meeting up tonight in Chiswick for a few pints. :D

The following day, I left Arun's place and headed into Central London to take care of my plane ticket. The office for Asiana Airlines is near Oxford Circus. It was a slightly rainy day and everything was grey...Welcome to London, eh? Anyway, I took care of that and then walked around a bit, making my way to Charing Cross, where there is a foot bridge that leads across the Thames river. On the way, I passed the National Gallery, which I had forgotten was free so didn't go in, and Trafalger Square. As I was crossing the river, I could see (Look, kids!) Big Ben, Parliament. I crossed the river and then found a cafe to kill some time in. My plans were to meet my next couchsurfing host in Kingston Upon Thames at 20:30, and it was a little early.

After time was successfully killed, I went to Waterloo Station to catch a train, and eventually made my way to Kingston Station where I met John, my host for that night and last night. He is another really great guy. When we got back to his house, he cooked up some dinner, we ate, hung out and talked, and then crashed.

Yesterday, I did a bit of bike shopping, but due to some difficulty in finding an ATM that would take my card, I couldn't buy one at the time, even though I went out to look at one. They guy, however, was nice enough to hold it for me until today, so I will go get it soon. After that, in the early afternoon, I went back into London. I was to meet up with John at Tate Modern, a modern art museum on the south bank of the Thames, at 16:00, so I walked around on my own and explored for a bit. I saw Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, the National Film Theatre, and several other cool shops, buildings, and bridges along the river. I also went into Tate Modern for a little and saw some "art"... I guess I will never understand Modern Art. A slightly curved railing attached to a wall is "art" showing how the supports in our lives are not always straight forward and are sometimes attached to walls... or something. I did get to see some really nice surrealistic pieces, such as Dali's Mountain Lake. That was pretty cool. And then there was the 2m by 3m canvas painted all the same color except for a single 5cm strip of a different color on one side. Sorry, I didn't get around to reading the in-depth description of that one, so I'm not sure what the message was.

Anyway, I met up with John, and he took me all around London, showing me some tourist-type sights and some rather out of the way sights. I couldn't tell you the route we took; London is rather confusing. We did stop by the oldest pub in London for a pint, ye olde Cheshire Cheese, est. 1667. It was a really cool place. We continued to wander, eventually stopped for dinner, and then made our way over towards parliament. There is something interesting going on in front of parliament: There is a man there, protesting the war in Iraq. He is the only person who is allowed to protest there after the British Government passed a law saying that no one could protest withing a certain distance of Parliament (Hello, "Free Speech Zones", anyone?). However, he was there a little before the law was passed and enacted, so he claims that it doesn't apply to him. For now, the courts agree, though the government it appealing. Anyway, hopefully I'll post some pictures of his protest when I get a chance.

Anyway, I'm running out of time and have to head out. Time to get my bike, and then later today I am moving on to another host, where I will stay until Sunday. I'll update when I can.



さようなら日本! / Goodbye Japan!

(can't read Japanese? Scroll down for English)



でも…I will miss Japan…だね。日本は本当に大好きで、ここで最高な友達ができたし、いい人にたくさん出会ったし、おいしい食べ物も食べたし、かっこういい音楽も聞けたし、美人もたくさん見れたし、最高な生徒にいろいろ教える事もできたし…





それでは、また帰ってくる時に! がんばりますよ! よろしくお願いします! (^_^)v


Alright. I'm about to leave Japan for the first time in nearly 4 years (after living here for almost 5 years). As the song says, "All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...I'm leavin' on a jet plane. Don't know when I'll be back again."

I'm really going to miss this place. I've been here long enough that I call it home. There is a lot that I will miss, more than time permits me to enter into this blog at the moment, but I will miss it: all the great friends I have made, all of the great people I have met, all of the wonderful students I have taught, all of the beautiful girls I have seen, all of the wonderful food I have eaten, etc.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I'm off to London and from there I intend to try to cycle around Europe. We'll see how far I can make it.

Anyway, this is my last entry from Japan. I'll be back again someday, so please remember me. Take care everyone, and wish me luck. (^_^)v


Plans have solidified / 予定ができました!


Well, it's official sports fans. In one week, I will be starting my journey. It will start in London on Tuesday, 16 May 2006. I bought my plane tickets today at Advance Travel (warning: link in Japanese) in Shibuya today. I fly out of Narita on the 16th at 10:00, arrive in Seoul at 12:25, fly out of Seoul at 13:45, and arrive at Heathrow at 17:20 (all times are local to those cities).

That is of course, assuming there are no snakes on the muthaf*ckin' plane! ;D

The plane ticket was super-cheap. Advance Travel had an advertised price of 42,800 yen, which didn't include airport taxes and such. People had told me that the airport tax for Narita could run up to 20,000 yen. This turned out to be a bald-faced lie.

The final price was 48,040 yen!

Thanks to CouchSurfing.Com I have had 3 offers for places to sleep in London when I arrive. My plans after arriving are to buy a bicycle, a helmet, and a road map and basically tour Europe for the next several months by bicycle. I've had experience with this sort of travel in both Japan and the USA, so I figured I should stick with what I know. I'm starting in the UK because it has been about 4 years since I have been to an English speaking country and it will be nice not to have to worry about the language for a little while (well, barring any problems with British accents ;p ). After the UK, my plans are not solidified. One idea is to head directly to France. A friend has offered to let me stay for up to a week at his place in Paris. Another thought is to cross the Channel into Belgium, and from there go to the Netherlands, Germany, and then into Eastern Europe. I really don't know yet.

Anyway, these plans are rather different from what some of you had already heard. My original plan was to take a ferry from Niigata to Vladivostok, take the Siberian Express to Moscow, and then take another train to somewhere in Europe. Well, it turned out to be too difficult to plan from this side, and I had to have all of my tickets purchased before I could apply for a transit visa or a tourist visa for Russia.

However, that may be the route I take to come back to Japan if it turns out that I cannot find a cheap way to get from Europe to South America or Central America. It will be much easier to actually get my tickets in advance because I will actually know what the last leg of the trip will be (Moscow -> Vladivostok -> Niigata). However, I have not even come close to planning that far ahead yet, so we'll see what happens.

I'll probably post one more entry before I leave about my last minute preparations and such.

Wish me luck.

(the remainder of this post is in Japanese for my friends who cannot read English).



という事で、16日の朝10:00に成田空港から出発で、12:25にソウルに着いて、13:45に出て、17:20にロンドンに着く予定なんだ。(その時間はすべてその場所の地域時刻) まぁ、それはもしヘビが飛行機に乗ってなかったら… (~_^)v