My sister visited me in March and my first suggestion was to see Tokyo Disneyland. My friend lives in Chiba, and was only 30 minutes away. Unfortunately, my sister and I had to travel from Utsunomiya - about two hours with the Shinkansen. Still, a really nice ride if you're willing to spend the money.
We were both super psyched since neither of us had been to Disneyland before. After speaking with my friend, and doing a little research, we discovered that Disney Sea was the better alternative. You see, there is Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. Disneyland is the more classic theme park and features rides designed for children, while Disney Sea features more adult rides. Obviously, Disney Sea is the better alternative.
The first step in visiting Disneyland is getting there. You need to catch a train to Maihama station, and before you wonder how you'll know which stop is the right one, let me just say that you'll recognize it when you see it. That's exactly what my friend said to me and it was very true. You could see the resort sprawled out beside the station, and more importantly, elaborately decorated with Mickey Mouse. If you don't notice all of that, then you'll definitely notice the throngs of people with Disney merchandise.
Now, if you want to get to Disney Sea, that means taking the Disney train. You purchase a ticket (or use your suica card) like anywhere else. The train is adorned with Mickey's iconic silhouette. (I do indeed have more photos of things like the gate, and the train, but I'm respecting the privacy of my friend and sister.)
Disney Sea is split into 7 sections and each section is clearly delineated with a particular theme.
Lost River Delta
For full details and a cost breakdown, read on!
Sooo...a little while ago I attended a Bikram Yoga session (otherwise known as "Hot Yoga", for good reason) with my sister. She had gone to a previous class and enjoyed it. So she wanted to share it with me. I was touched by her invitation since we don't have a lot in common, nor does she invite me out often. Although if you knew my sister, then you would also know there is ALWAYS an ulterior motive. Perhaps she believes it to be well hidden, but she doesn't often do things without considering what she's getting out of it. I knew she wanted a Yoga partner, and she's made it obvious to me that she would prefer me if I was slimmer. Don't get me wrong, I could lose a few pounds (who couldn't) but I'm not exactly in the WORST shape. Anyway...
The day started at 6 in the morning, when I woke up. Much earlier than usual - I usually wake up by 9. Why was I getting up so early? Well, it all started when my sister offered me a ride to my boyfriend's. This was a treat since it's a) freezing outside, and b) I usually take the bus. Yes, the bus. Motorcycles don't drive in snow. When my sister offered a ride, I was excited and said yes. I thanked her. She then said that she needed to renew her passport and go to Hot Yoga - since those places were not too far from my boyfriend's place...
Ugh. Yes. Exactly. Every favour comes with a price. She was very willing to drive me - as long as I woke up early, went with her to renew her passport, and attended Hot Yoga. The price was high but I felt a little pinch from my super-ego, telling me to go with my sister. So I agreed once more. You see, she had already trapped me with the first "yes". Clever girl. She knows I have a guilty conscience about everything.
Right - so I woke up at 6 a.m. and we left at 7 to get to Canada Place early (a magical, wondrous, beaurucratic place filled with government offices - mostly about taxes and what not). We arrived, parked out front (very lucky since it's downtown) and went inside. Despite being around 8 in the morning, there were people already waiting in the passport office. Seriously - days start way too early. Anyway, we got it done. It wasn't even 9 in the morning and our yoga session wasn't until noon. We had some time to kill.
What did we do? I was like, why don't we just go for a walk? Since we were downtown and there are connecting pedways between the buildings which allows pedestrians to stay warm. We wandered over to City Centre mall, then back to Canada Place before we left. We waited a bit more until we finally drove to a yoga studio located outside of China town, and beneath an attorney's office. Somehow, it seemed really funny to me - and now, it seems even funnier.
I don't usually give names for specific vendors for numerous reasons - mainly that I want to remain objective and I don't feel like I should influence people to frequent a place if I don't feel convinced. Well in this instance, I will mention the name of the place for many, very good reasons. The yoga studio is called "Bē". I have decided to mention it by name because it was incredibly professional, clean, and overall had a terrific atmosphere and ambiance. If Bikram Yoga is something you're interested in (and you live in the area), I'd look in to it. The prices are reasonable, and the schedule is filled with classes at different times. It's a perfect place for beginners since the first time is free. Very handy for a quick try.
The place was immaculate. There was handy shoe rack at the front door (along with a bench to sit on - it's the little things). Participants sign in with an account, using a tablet at the front desk. This makes it easy to track who attends what, since most of the pricing deals in numbers of classes you want to take. That sort of thing. There are enormous change rooms with hooks for jackets, cubbies for items, and of course attached bathrooms and showers. Everything was painted, tiled and designed to bring a sense of zen.
The yoga instructor informed my sister and I that she was starting to warm up the room, and we could wait inside - acclimatize so-to-speak. I nodded, agreeing that it was probably a good idea. It was warm and moist, but not quite there yet. I immediately noticed the interesting floor, it was so bizarre - like rubber coated string glued together. It's a special type of non-porous, water-proof, non-slip yoga flooring - ideal for use in Bikram Yoga where there is A LOT of "moisture".
Now, I'm no stranger to Yoga. In fact, my mother has been doing Yoga for something like 40 years. So she's definitely an expert. Of course, that means that I've also done some Yoga here and there. I've even done Yoga using Wii Fit. I'm fairly familiar with stances and what-not. However, I was not prepared for the inconceivable heat and humidity involved in Bikram Yoga. Let it be known that I've never been a lover of heat. I like warm sunshine, don't get me wrong, but there is a limit before I completely break down as a human being.
What is this all leading up to? What is all this preamble for? Well, I'll tell you. Hot Yoga is basically Hell. Not the fun kind of "just-suffering", almost acquiescent Hell - the kind where you're forced to work past your limit in stifling, choking heat. I have NEVER experienced anything like that before. I felt like I was dying.
In fact, I was so convinced that I was going to pass out from heat exhaustion or water intoxication, or something worse, that I felt suddenly grateful for my sister being present. If something happened, at least she was there, and even better, I had given the yoga studio my emergency contact information. Suddenly, it made sense why such information was vital.
I thought, if these are my last moments before death, I can at least be rest assured that wherever I'm going will be better. At least it'll be cooler. It would have to be.
The class dragged on and on and on. I was beginning to wonder why it hadn't ended yet. Even by my internal clock it was past an hour. What was going on? How was I going to be able to stay in there any longer? I had to - despite every inch of my body desperately clawing to get out of the room, I had to stay in there. It's a sibling thing largely. If my sister wasn't there, it would have been much easier for my ego to allow me to leave. Instead, I suffered while I performed slippery, strenuous yoga moves.
Finally, the instructor told us to lie down while she turned on the de-humidifier (whoever knew that could be a good thing, I live in a dry climate). Then she turned off the lights and said that we could remain relaxed and quiet for as long we liked. I was like - "fuck this shit" and immediately informed my sister that we needed to leave. I rolled up the rented mat so quickly there was a cooling breeze and waited in anguish while my sister dawdled. Eventually we got out and I breathed the biggest, most grateful breath I've ever breathed. That's when my dear, loving sister informed me that we took part in an 85 minute class (although I think she meant either 75 or 90 minutes). I was exhausted. She asked if I felt "refreshed". I was like, who feels refreshed after working out in the smelliest, sweatiest place ever?
To summarize, Bikram Yoga or "Hot" Yoga should actually be referred to as HELL Yoga - in all caps just as I've written. That name more aptly portrays the true torturous nature of performing difficult moves in an even more arduous climate. If you dislike the heat - stay the HELL away from this type of yoga. You will die. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but I do it to save your life. However, if you enjoy the heat and like being stretched like taffy - please feel free to enjoy the many...pungent wonders of HELL Yoga. If the heat doesn't kill you, the smell will.
Friday (November 22) evening I had gone out for pizza and drinks with my best friend and my partner. It was a momentous occasion, since it was the first time both of them were meeting. We were enjoying bulgogi pizza with shots of Soju while my phone was ringing silently. It wasn't until we were all in my friend's car after eating, that I checked my phone. Several missed calls, a voice mail and a few text messages were waiting for me. My sister's message was urgent. This was only somewhat typical - it was the missed call from my father and mother that set me off. I hadn't spoken much to my father since October 25. We had a falling out, so to speak (parents just don't understand). So it must have been important for him to breach the awkward tension to call me.
I called my sister first. She gave me the news. My grandmother is dead. Just like that. Now, just imagine for a moment, a person who is akin to a Nazi, dying. Are you sad? No, not really. Actually, you probably feel elated. Like, finally. One of the most evil people in the world died - no great loss. I know it's a horrible thing to say - people say you should never celebrate someone's death. Well, perhaps if it was a regular person or even if they weren't, as long as they weren't bitter and cruel to their dying days. Unfortunately, my grandmother was like a Nazi. She hated everyone - every sexuality, every colour, every nationality, everyone. She hated her friends, her family and her peers. I don't remember her saying anything nice about a single person - except herself. She always had praise for herself. How kind she was - how smart she was - sadly, all delusions. She may have been steeped in denial and lost all objectivity. Either way, she was not a good person.
I dislike this fact however my opinion isn't necessarily shared. My sister was broken up about it. She was crying. She actually felt sad. I was surprised. I mean, my sister never visited - if anything, I visited much more frequently (to my chagrin). Nor did she speak kindly of her or to her - she would openly mock my grandmother, but in a way that my grandmother didn't know it was happening. It was embarrassing. I never dared to behave that way, despite not liking her. Yet, my sister was broken up about it. My father's reaction was expected - he was sad, but sad for different reasons. He felt like it was a life wasted - she didn't learn anything and she died alone, with no one who loved her. Perhaps she could have arguably deserved some pity if it wasn't for the fact she lived her entire life abusing others. I have zero tolerance for abuse.
So here I am, contemplating. My grandmother was 91 when she died. My father told me that she was found standing up, leaning on her walker with her eyes open. I hate to have been the one to find her. It must have been terrifying. The workers knew my grandmother and did their best to avoid dealing with her except when mandatory. She was in an assisted living facility where they had to check on her twice a day. So there she was, still moving, still stubbornly pushing - she died mid-movement. I can't think of many people who do that. That was her though - she was incredibly stubborn. So stubborn in fact, we were all convinced she would never go. She had already defied the odds years ago when she walked again, after doctors said she wouldn't. She had disc surgery in her back, and in more recent years, both hips replaced. Yet, she walked. Nothing stopped her.
While it's obvious there's no love lost between my grandmother and I, I can admire her tenacity. I have never known another woman so fierce, so stubborn, and so determined. Maybe I have her to thank for those attributes in myself. Either way, she's now gone. There's no point in belaboring the same point again and again, she's dead now.
Yet, it does leave me with some curious questions. How am I supposed to feel? Despite not liking her, I had visited her frequently throughout my entire childhood, adolescence and adulthood. I knew her closely. My father, sister and I played cards with my grandmother. We ate at the same restaurant for years and years and years. This Chinese buffet she preferred going to - she was also incredibly cheap and refused to eat anywhere else. We had gone so frequently, I recognized all the staff and knew exactly what food was served where. I had a preferred route!
So I was "close" to her. Although no one was truly close to her. She didn't have depth - she had layers of manipulative abuse. How do I feel about her death? I was honestly happy. I thought, finally. She's no longer a burden to my father. He often complained about how difficult it was for him to take care of her, and her affairs. She was stressful and demanding. If he didn't answer the phone, she would call the police and have them search for him - from another province! Controlling is a word that describes her. Yet, is that okay? Is it okay not to care about the death of a close family member? If one of your relatives was a "Nazi", would you feel bad upon their death? I will say that she was one of the last remaining ties to my father's side of the family. That part is sad.
Regardless, I wanted to update the Blog with what's going on in my life. I moved in October to a different place, so it's taken a long time to transition and organize everything. I've only begun to get settled in. I apologize for my absence but hopefully there will be more updates coming soon.
I jumped from a plane today! That's right, out of choice.
My sister and I have been thinking about skydiving for years. We finally decided to do it about three weeks ago. We made the reservation and next thing I know, the day is today and we're in a plane.
We drive out to the place, it's almost an hour out of town. I had already went to the bathroom about 6 times but of course, I needed to go again. So my sister and I rushed off to the bathroom before checking in. After that, we filled out waivers and watched a short orientation video on jumping and landing.
Then off to get ready. We meet our instructors. My sister's? A man about her height (she's 5'11") and not only an experienced jumper but also a pilot. What's my sister? A pilot. Skydiving was the next logical step apparently.
My tandem instructor? A tall, Danish man with over 4000 jumps under his belt. I felt like I was in very safe hands. Although he didn't let on he was experienced until much later. He certainly liked to play up some very dark humour while the plane was climbing, I digress.
Sig (my instructor) picked out a jumpsuit and helped me into the harness. At one point he asked me to spread my legs so he could tighten the harness around my crotch. Then he stood and adjusted the ones around my chest. That was all very intimate but of course absolutely necessary. I want it as tight as possible - I'm pretty sure that's the point.
After a brief explanation on the harness and what to expect, we meet our videographers and head out to the field. It's not only the two videographers, instructors, my sister and I, but three professional skydivers. Each one had their own custom jumpsuit and chute. One guy had a purple jumpsuit with the golden lettering, "Curious Chris" (a Curious George reference, no doubt).
The little plane starts up. The propeller whirrs loudly. They set up a little ladder to get inside the large bay door but it's quite steep and very windy, so I require the assistance of my instructor in order to get into the plane. I get inside and sit down, straddling a sort of long bench. A clear shutter is brought down, blocking the large exit and we start going down the runway. I haven't had any time in small planes, so the take off is quite different from a large plane. Of course, my sister is used to even smaller planes than this one, so she handles it like a pro the whole way up.
The ground shrinks away. The climbing is steep and takes a long time. My sister chats up the people around her easily, talking about learning to be a pilot and her flying experience. I watch the view, I can't help but enjoy the plane ride itself. Sig points out familiar landmarks. It was like having a tour guide, I really enjoyed that. I look at my videographer's wrist and see the altimeter rising. We're getting closer to our altitude.
Finally, we reach 12, 500 feet. The giant, clear shutter is opened up and all that's left is sky. The professional solo divers go first. I watch them. Two men and a woman. I can't believe they just did that. My videographer climbs out on to the bar, waiting for me to come out. My instructor helps march me to the door. I crouch, like taught, and look out. Oh god. My instructor reminds me to cross my arms over my chest and look at the camera guy.
Scariest moment of my entire life.
I scream. Apparently my sister says she can hear me scream after I jump (she jumps after me). I want to scream more but there's so much air filling my mouth that I can't dispel any. Instead I look around me. Holy fuck. Everything is so far and beautiful. A perspective I've never had. The weather is perfect, absolutely perfect. Not a cloud in sight and it's warm, and I'm falling. Actually falling. I can feel gravity pulling me down. The view is so awe inspiring that I don't know how to feel but to be amazed. I actually flail around a bit, kicking my legs and such - only because I'm so excited that I don't know how to express myself (since I can't talk).
Then he pulls the chute. We instantly shoot up into the sky. It was at that moment that I realized how fast we were falling because I watched as the videographer fell to the Earth like a comet. I was frightened for his life!
The first thing that happens when he pulls the chute is my legs fly up like I'm sitting. The same thing happened to my sister. The force is so great that it sucks you up.
That's when you really get to enjoy the view. Wow. I've never seen anything like that. All I could say was, "Wow" mostly. My instructor was holding on to the...oh gosh, what's the word? Well, they're handles that control the parachute. He asked me, "would you like to hold them?" I said, "sure!" Next thing I know, I'm steering the parachute! We did a couple 360s for fun (with his help of course)! Wow! So fun!
Finally, it was time for the landing. He brought us in easily and we landed softly. He unhooked me and I jumped up, incredibly excited. My first words, "I want to do it again!"
Obviously, I had the time of my life. I feel like a whole new person. Would I recommend? Oh yes I fucking would.
P.S. What did I wear? I wore my green Paris, France t-shirt my father bought when he was there years ago. I thought it was the perfect symbol.
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