Returning to the Real World

I’ve now been home for about a week and a half.  In that time, I’ve reflected a lot on my experiences the past 8 months.  Overall I had an excellent first contract.  I was challenged in many ways, but also liberated.  I saw many new places and met some wonderful people.  Returning to “the real word”, normal life, has proven to be a bit of a challenge.  Right now, I don’t want to be in the real world.  I want to continue the adventures.  I want to seize the day, take chances, make mistakes, and live my life.  But more on that later…

Voyager of the Seas

Voyager of the Seas

First, I want to share a few of the highlights from my contract on the Voyager of the Seas.

Best Tours

Dancing on the Great Wall

Dancing on the Great Wall

Riding elephants in the rain

Riding elephants in the rain

I cuddled a koala!

I cuddled a koala!

Best Beaches

Bondi, famous for a reason!

Bondi, famous for a reason!

Relaxing, sunny spot!

Relaxing, sunny spot

Small and beautiful

Small and beautiful

Best Nightlife

Everybody in da club!

Everybody in da club!

Overnight = endless fun

Overnight = endless fun

Most Beautiful Countries

Milford Sound. No filter needed.

Milford Sound. No filter needed.

A little bit of everything. A lot of beauty!

A little bit of everything. A lot of beauty!

Favorite Overall Ports

Full of possibilities

Full of possibilities

Nagasaki Bridge

Nagasaki Bridge

Obviously, I had a pretty incredible time.

While working on the ship, many things were taken care of for me.  I felt more relaxed than usual, and loosening the reigns a bit allowed me to grow.  I was less stressed, more carefree.  I felt like a person, rather than a walking calendar.  I was less focused on budgeting, and more focused on experiencing.  It was wonderful.

San Francisco, my home sweet home

San Francisco, my home sweet home

When I returned to San Francisco, I felt like I never left.  While it was comforting to return to such a familiar environment, I expected to feel different.  I’ve changed, so why hasn’t the city?  Shouldn’t I be seeing things differently?  The longer I spend there, the more I feel myself slipping into my old skin.  I’m acting like the person my friends remember, rather than the person I’ve become.  The main challenge of this vacation will be learning how to blend the two versions of me.  I must learn to face reality without losing my sense of freedom.

Leaving the ship

Leaving the ship

Over the next few months, I’ll be traveling around the country to visit family and friends.  I was very isolated on the ship, so now there are a lot of people I want to reconnect with!  During this time, I will not be posting.  The blog will be up and running again at the end of April when I return to Florida to start rehearsing for my second contract.  Then, I’ll be embarking on a European tour on the Adventure of the Seas.

All smiles :-)

All smiles 🙂

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned!

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These Streets

View from Mount Inasa

View from Mount Inasa

On our last day in Nagasaki, I accompanied two friends to the Observation Deck on Mount Inasa.  The drive up the mountain was full of twists and turns, and more than once I was afraid we’d get pushed off the road!  We made it safely to the top, where despite overcast skies, the 360 degree views were stunning!

On the Observation Deck

On the Observation Deck

After spending a good amount of time wandering around the observation area, we hopped back in a cab to go to Chinatown.  It seems silly that we went to Chinatown in Japan (especially since we’d just stopped in China well over 10 times), but the area came highly recommended.  We stopped in some shops, got some very tasty mango frozen yogurt, and continued walking to a nearby shopping center.

Gate to Chinatown

Gate to Chinatown

Parade in the mall

Parade in the mall

There was a small parade inside the shopping area.  After snapping a few pictures, we decided to get away from the crowd.  There were street vendors outside the shops selling unique food items.  One friend ordered a fried potato on a stick, and the other got an omelet of sorts, also on a stick.

Street food

Street food

About an hour later, we came across a mall.  Our goal of the day, since it was our last day in Japan, was to find ramen noodles.  We obtained our goal inside the mall!  After a large late lunch, we made our way through another mass of street vendors outside.  They were selling everything from bananas on a stick to chicken legs.  Some food was very authentic Japanese, while other options were typical carnival goods.

Carnival

Carnival

Bananas!

Bananas!

After so much food, we were anxious for a bit of exercise.  We walked along the water towards the ship, stopping in a beautiful park.  Once on the ship, we went up to the pool deck to watch Sail Away.  Sailing under the Nagasaki Bridge was incredible!  The ship cleared the bridge by just one meter.  It was a beautiful ending to a fun day.  I have nothing but fond memories of my adventures in Nagasaki!

Sunset in the park

Sunset in the park

Sailing under the bridge

Sailing under the bridge

Tiptoe Through the Tulips

Nagasaki

Nagasaki

During our first 12-day cruise we stopped at 4 different Japanese ports.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make it off the ship the day we stopped in Tokyo.  I had to spot an ice show for some guests visiting from land, and didn’t feel up to rushing once I was done.  Instead, I had a movie day with my roommate and took a nice long nap before going to the crew talent show.  We surprised a cast member with a performance of “Seasons of Love” at the end of the show.  It was a great night, and I was glad I saved energy during the day.

"Seasons of Love"

“Seasons of Love”

Our last stop in Japan was in Nagasaki.  I woke up early to ensure that I could get off.  It was a warm, sunny day, and after a couple rocky nights on the ship, I was eager to be on land!  My friends and I had heard that there were nice gardens near the port, so we trekked over after disembarking.  The walk up to the gardens was lovely.  We had a great view of the ship, and enjoyed window shopping at the little shops that lined the street.

View of the ship

View of the ship

Just before the entrance to the gardens, we came across the Oura Cathedral, the oldest Catholic church in Nagasaki.  There were gorgeous statues outside, and a lovely altar inside.  It was an interesting mix of Eastern and Western styles.  The church was simultaneously foreign and familiar.

Oura Cathedral

Oura Cathedral

We walked out of the cathedral and into Glover Gardens, named after Thomas Glover, a coal miner and trader that assisted the modernization of Japan in the 19th century.  His home, as well as the homes of other Westerners in Nagasaki, were open to walk through.  There were also fountains, statues, and lovely flowers scattered throughout the gardens.

Sun room at Glover's home

Sun room at Glover’s home

Fountain at the gardens

Fountain at the gardens

There was also a heart stone at Glover Gardens.  Touching the stone is supposed to bring you luck in love.  You could purchase a paper heart to write a wish on and hang from the tree about the heart stone for extra luck.  I opted to simply touch the stone.  Only time will tell if it brings me luck!

At the heart stone

At the heart stone

We ended the day with some delicious Asian Pear ice cream and a light lunch.  It was another great day!  I’m looking forward to more Japan ports in the coming weeks.

Turning Japanese

In front of the Takaoka Mountain Zuiryuji temple

In front of the Takaoka Mountain Zuiryuji temple

About 2 weeks ago we stopped in Toyoma, Japan for the day.  I got off the ship with a few girl friends to find internet.  After failed attempts to get online at a mall, we made our way to the Takaoka Mountain Zuiryuji temple, a beautiful Buddhist temple built in 1659.

The altar

The altar

We unfortunately didn’t spend much time exploring the grounds, but I was happy to at least see the temple.  It reminded me of my trip to Japan last March.  I went to about 10 temples during that week long trip!  This one was smaller than most of the ones I saw last year, but was just as impressive.

Another view of the gate

Another view of the gate

Later in the same cruise we had an overnight stop near Sapporo.  I had to be back on the ship to do mob dance at 10pm, so I was unable to go into the city.  I got off the ship with the intention of getting dinner with friends, but our cabs got separated.  I was dropped off at a random shopping center, complete with a supermarket.

Supermarket in Sapporo

Supermarket in Sapporo

After wandering aimlessly with a couple friends, we ran into other cast mates.  We grabbed a snack, then decided to leave the shopping center and see what else we could find!  We passed some interesting looking restaurants and small shops, then came across an arcade.  Embracing our inner children, we went in to play!

Games!

Games!

The young woman working at the front desk told us in broken English that we needed to use on of the photo booths.  We ended up with some really cute pictures!  Our last stop of the night was a little restaurant where I had the best salmon sashimi I’ve ever tasted!

Our souvenir

Our souvenir photos

The next day I got off the ship again to find a bath house.  We arrived before it was open, so we walked up the street and found a little aquarium.

Outside the aquarium

Outside the aquarium

It was much smaller than aquariums I’ve been to at home, but had some really interesting fish!  There was even a tank that you could stick your hand inside and little fish would nibble off your dead skin.  It felt so weird!

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

Outside there were penguins and seals playing around.  The penguins seemed to have a choreographed act.  Anytime one started jumping, the whole tank would.  Then one would slow down and the others would follow suit.  Next they’d start racing, then it was back to jumps.  They were so fun to watch!

Penguin pal

Penguin pal

Also outside was a bounce house!  This was not just any bounce house… it was fish shaped!  I, of course, had to go in and play!

Bouncy!

Bouncy!

After bouncing around for a bit, we walked back to the bath house.  My friend and I were the only Westerners in the women’s area, and felt a little clueless.  We enjoyed a dip in an indoor hot tub and an outdoor hot tub, went in a sauna, cooled off in a cold bath, then joined our male companions in the sun room for lunch.  I had a delicious soba noodle soup, then headed back “home”.

This was a much more tame experience than my last overnight port, but was wonderful!  I have loved every port so far in Japan.  Next post: Nagasaki!

Finding Peace

Street in Nagasaki

Street in Nagasaki

Before this contract, Japan was the only country I’d visited in Asia.  About a year and a half ago I went to Tokyo and Kyoto and loved both cities.  I found the country to be clean, beautiful, culturally vibrant, and full of nice people and delicious food.  I’ve been looking forward to exploring more of Japan.

View from the Peace Park

View from the Peace Park

Last Sunday was my first opportunity.  We stopped in Nagasaki, and had an entire day to see the sights.  My dance captain took charge for the day, and helped guide a group of 9 clueless Westerners on the bus to reach the Peace Park.

Statue at the Peace Park

Statue at the Peace Park

The park pays tribute to the victims of the bombing in Nagasaki, and is intended to make an appeal for lasting world peace.  Information about the tragic bombing is scattered through the park.  There are also large statues that were donated by other countries.  Each statue represents peace.  It was beautiful to see the various depictions of the same theme.

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Donated statue

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A different style

The main attraction at the park is The Peace Statue by Seibo Kitamura.  It is a man with one finger pointing to the sky, a reminder of the threat of nuclear weapons, and the other hand outstretched to represent world peace.  One leg is folded in as though in meditation, while the other is poised for action in defending humanity.

The Peace Statue

The Peace Statue

From there, we walked to the Atomic Bomb Museum.  It was interesting to learn about the bombing, but was very emotional.  There were testimonials from victims that brought tears to my eyes.  Paper cranes were strung together all around the museum, giving a refreshing pop of color to the otherwise harsh museum.

Paper cranes

Paper cranes

Inside the museum

Inside the museum

Next we walked to ground zero and saw a remnant of the Ukami Cathedral wall.  The section was moved to ground zero to make way for the reconstructed church and to remind visitors to pray for the souls of the victims of the bombing.

Wall remnant

Wall remnant

We ended the outing with an authentic Japanese meal and a bit of shopping.  It was nice to lighten the mood a little, and have a break to process what we had seen.

Next week: more Korea!

My Bags Are Packed, I’m Ready to Go

I can’t believe I’m leaving Florida today!  I won’t return to U.S. soil until 2014.  How crazy is that?!

Farewell!

Farewell!

Over the weekend, I took advantage of my free time, and relaxed.  I had a movie night with a couple of the girls after rehearsal on Saturday, and Sunday treated myself to a “Princess Day”.  I slept in, ran a few errands, then went to a hotel on the beach for an afternoon at the spa!  I had a lovely “Heavenly Massage” at the new Heavenly Spa, enjoyed the steam room, sauna, and relaxation room, and after hydrating, sipped on a delicious ginger martini at the hotel bar.  It was great to have some time to myself to decompress.

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Lovely legs

Monday morning we had a late start time, a few hours of review and rehearsal, a send-off meeting, and most importantly, our office run!  Our performance of the Movies show went really well!  I loved performing with my cast.  A friend from another ship actually commented on how great our group dynamic was.  Most of the other feedback I received was about my legs.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thrilled about that.

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A great team

We went back to the Mexican restaurant downtown to kick back after a rather stressful afternoon.  I had a hard time winding down, so I was grateful to be able to sleep in on Tuesday!  I ran a bunch of errands, did final loads of laundry, and re-packed all my things!  Somehow, my luggage has gained 10 lbs in 5 weeks.  I’m hoping I can avoid overweight luggage fees, but they may be inevitable.

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Happy thoughts

We are leaving the apartments early in the morning, then flying from Miami to Tokyo, with a short stop in Dallas.  I wish we had a longer layover so I could see some of my friends from home!  We’ll be in Tokyo for a couple hours before flying to Gimhae in Korea.  We are going to spend Thursday night in a hotel, and will join the ship Friday afternoon in Busan.  It’s going to be a long trip, but I’m really excited!  I have a giant book and a Nook (on loan from my sister), so I should stay entertained on the plane.  Unfortunately, I’ll miss out on any 4th of July festivities.

Let me entertain you!

Let me entertain you!

Next time you hear from me, I’ll be on the ship!  Things are about to get interesting…