"When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky"
-Guatama Siddharta

Over and under and up and down...sunshine and thunder...a laugh and a frown!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Beach Camping in Okinawa: The Keramas

8/12/17-8/14/17

So the Mister and I had the opportunity for a nice little staycation and I won't lie, I was shitting my pants a little thinking about it because camping really isn't my jam! When I think of camping I think of a 3 star hotel type setting! But, since the Mister loves the outdoors I figured I would give this a go. I'm so glad that I did, it was an amazing opportunity! Not only to just spend some good quality time together but the snorkeling that we were able to do was priceless!


Ok so the not so glamorous part of it: the bugs and the heat. I won't spend too much time on that because there is SO much positive to touch on that it truly outweighed these two things, yes even for me, the person who hates being too hot and doesn't like bugs!


I will never ever be able to properly describe the snorkeling. "Amazing" is doing it a disservice. When you have the ability to snorkel with sea turtles every single day, multiple times a day, you truly have to pinch yourself. Yes this was our reality!


We chose to bring way more shit than we probably should have, but in all honesty we used ALL off it! We had 2 (!!) beach wagons packed full of stuff. Things that we brought were our Pelican Cooler (packed full of our food for 2.5 days), our portable grill and small propane tank, snacks, snorkel gear, beach stuff, sunscreen, bug spray, our Eno portable hammocks, small camping eat wear, and I'm sure some other things that aren't getting mentioned. We chose to rent a tent at the campground (this worked perfectly). You don't HAVE to bring your own food, there are two small places to eat right at the campground then also a couple of restaurants near the port.


Zamami has the most turquoise water that even my pictures don't accurately represent.




I would love to go back and explore some of the smaller islands directly off of Zamami (uninhabited). I know that the Mister has said that he'll never do camping with me again (perhaps I complained a time or two about the 90 degrees and humidity or the infestation of ants and mosquitos...allegedly) but I just have a hunch that we've got plenty of Keramas exploring to do!


All of the details:

Where to stay
We stayed at Ama Beach Campground. Ama Beach is the beach where the sea turtles frequent and the one that happens to be the sandier of the two popular beaches on Zamami Island. The campground backs up unto Ama Beach so the location is perfection.
If camping isn't your cup of tea, then they do offer cabins for rent (but they're much more expensive, to the tune of approximately $200 a night). Camping is approximately 300 yen (less than $3) per person per night. The cabins sleep 10 people and have their own private showers/bathrooms, and AIR CONDITIONING!
Don't feel like shleping your crap to the island, you don't have to! They will rent you a tent, a sleeping bag, and an array of other items you may want/need.
The campground only accepts reservations via telephone, and they have limited English so be patient and respectful and you'll have no problem getting your reservation!
The phone number for reservations is: 098-987-3259

Getting there
From Okinawa you take the ferry from Tomari Port. There are two options, the slow boat or the high speed. The slow boat enables you to take your car (you don't need it) and it is cheaper if you just choose to ride that one, but it takes longer.
We took the high speed ferry for a few reasons (one being that I get sea sick and don't care to be on a boat longer than I have to, but also because we just wanted to get there!)
If you want to reserve online you can do so HERE
If you choose to stay at the Ama Beach Campground, there is a bus that goes from the port to the campground (and other stops). We chose to walk (because we had so much crap with us), it's approximately a one mile walk from the port to the campground, and it's almost entirely flat.

What to do
Snorkel! This is by far the best snorkeling I've done in Okinawa and probably anywhere. I've been to other islands in the Keramas and this has been the best. Every single day (multiple times a day) we were afforded the opportunity to snorkel with sea turtles. It was amazing. Some of the other things we saw in the water were: Sea snake, eel, a plethora of fish, jellyfish (yes they are there, yes we got stung, yes we also saw box jellyfish, no we didn't get stung by those, would we let the presence of jellyfish in the water get in the way of our experiences and ability to snorkel with such amazing wildlife, HELL TO THE NO!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

May monthly recap with VipKid, earnings, lessons learned, tips...

6/11/17

I meant to write this post a few days ago when I got my numbers for May. VipKid calculates your pay for the month on the 6th of the following month (so June 6th, my May payment was calculated, then I will be paid on June 15th). May was my first full month with VipKid so I wanted to see what was actually possible (keep in mind I'm doing this part time now as I'm still working full time)

Money

Cutting to the chase I earned $1108.75!! Not too shabby for part time work that I can do in my own home in addition to life! This is considered contract work so you do need to take your own taxes out. I'm not a tax professional so I won't be giving any advice on that, I personally set aside a percentage that works for me, and that way I'm not surprised at the end of the year! I've done this before as I've been in the contract work game for a while!



Lessons Learned

1. A lot of students won't leave feedback. You can have a really awesome lesson and then not get feedback for it, don't sweat it.
2. You can't please everyone! Some parents are savage with their feedback! You can put your all into a lesson and really be engaging with the child, and they will still leave you meh feedback. Don't get caught up in it!
3. Read the weekly updates! There is a lot of info in there; incentives that are being offered, tips and tricks, and promos that they have going on (the most recent two that I applied for were to record an audio of a bedtime story, and to become a mentor)
4. Some students love class and look forward to it, and some don't want to be there. I've had students who are totally engaged, and some who clearly flip to another tab/browser during lessons and it's like pulling teeth, just keep chugging along :)

Tips

1. Reiterating some of what was said above, read the Weekly Update!
2. Stay energized, your students will feed off of the energy that you are giving them!
3. Don't focus on the feedback it will drive you crazy! You can have 9 perfect feedbacks and then get one mediocre one and it will knock your score way down, they don't seem to be weighted evenly, it takes forever to pull the score back up (kind of like recouping after freshman year in college!)

If you want more information about doing this, teaching ESL (no I had no experience doing this before I started), or you would like to apply, you can do so HERE
I'm happy to answer any questions you might have! I was really inquisitive going into it, so I'm trying to provide as much info as I can by blogging my way through the journey!

Monday, May 29, 2017

VipKid 100th Class update...is it worth it?

5/30/17

And sometimes I teach as a Unicorn!

As of today I've taught 100 classes (just in the month of May)!! So is it worth it? I will say yes! I'm doing this part time (in addition to a full time job, and another part time job as an adjunct faculty at a University). So, had I been focusing on this full time and opening up more time slots, I could have made more money in May and taught even more classes.

Now, the money! WITHOUT incentives factored in, my totals today, for the 100 classes are $745.50. I still have two more days of teaching in the month, then the incentives to add in, so I anticipate being around $1000 for May...for PART TIME work! I didn't book classes for a couple of weekends, for various reasons (if I had my numbers would be even higher!)

Some other numbers for the month, I now have 32 "followers", several "regulars" that are very consistent in booking each week (some multiple times/week). The first few weeks of teaching I had mostly Trial Classes, but now I have mostly Master Classes, in fact I barely had any Trial Classes for the month of May!

If you're interested in more information I'm happy to answer questions, if you think this might be something that would interest you, you can apply HERE

Requirements:

  • Bachelors Degree (in anything)
  • Internet
  • Teaching experience (this doesn't have to be formal, get creative! Worked at a camp? This is teaching! Babysat? This is teaching! Homeschooled? This is teaching! Raised kids...this is teaching!)
  • Happy, positive, high energy!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

VipKid: 2 Week Update...MONEY!

5/8/17

April's stats (I started officially 4/24, so this was the first day that I opened my schedule)
I taught a total of 13 classes
I made $129, making my hourly rate approximately $17.20/hour

May is on target to be over $20 an hour with incentives, I just couldn't meet the April incentives fully because I had less than a week, and I didn't open up my weekends beyond an hour a day!

My schedule this week is filling up more steadily than my April week did.
I have 11 followers (students)
As of today I have taught 24 classes

I know that a lot of times it's hard to get an idea if something will be worthwhile or what you will actually make so I'm trying to be really transparent with how the process is going for me. Could I make more, yes, but I am not fully opening my evening hours, I'm also not fully opening weekends.

Want to get started on this journey too? Click HERE
No teaching experience necessary, no ESL experience necessary, you do need a Bachelor's degree.

I will update again when I get further along in the process!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

My journey to get hired to teach English with VipKid (aka: how to work from home/anywhere in the world, and get paid!)

Now is a great time to apply because you can build your student base while school is still in session in China, then have a good student base for summer when more time slots open up!

Requirements:

  • That you have be a native North American English Speaker (US/Canada, or Europe if you don't have an accent!)
  • You do not have to have ESL experience, or teaching experience, but you do need to like kids
  • Positive energy
  • Smile until your cheeks hurt during the interview/demo and Mock/s (they want good energy)


The hiring process (I will explain all of these in more detail after outlining):


  • Apply online HERE
  • You will receive an email indicating that you have been selected (assuming you have!) to proceed to the next step, the Interview and 10 minute Demo Lesson
  • Mock 1 (this is a full length 25 minute lesson with a current VipKid teacher in the US pretending to be a 5 year old student with very limited English) 
  • you receive an email within 24-48 hours letting you know if you have to do another mock, Mock 2, or if you have been hired and move on to complete the rest of the paperwork
What you need to know for the Interview and 10 Minute Demo Lesson: 
  • Sell yourself, this is when your pay is determined, don't leave details out!! I didn't do a good enough job of this and wish that I could go back! Ex: ANY work with kids that you have done that you can reformulate into something resembling teaching (babysitting, working in a daycare, working in a school in some fashion, ANYTHING, emphasize that you like kids!)
  • Use TPR (using your body and props to demonstrate things, and using the least amount of words possible!) The 5 year old has limited English so you don't want to confuse them! If you think you're using too much TPR, you aren't! Use more!
  • Speak slowly and don't use incidental language (again, as few words as possible!)
  • Don't get discouraged
  • SUPER important, make sure that the student speaks on every single slide!
  • Wear an orange shirt. It's not required but orange is the color of VipKid, it shows that you did your research
  • Some of the critiques from my Interview/10 minute demo were: make sure that you have a good background, something academic maybe on a whiteboard, or a map (I had a blank wall), reward more frequently (in the 10 minute demo I gave 5 teeth and my interviewer wanted me to reward more, he also said to leave the reward system visible for the students)

What you need to know for Mock 1:
  • Wear your orange shirt!
  • Prepare, practice, time yourself, KNOW THE MATERIAL. The teacher will be scoring you and timing is one of the things they are looking for
  • TPR. As I said above, when you think you're using too much, you're not!
  • Really look at the sheet that comes with your slides that shows the objectives and USE THOSE SENTENCES "what do you see?" "_____ starts with (sound)"
  • Make sure that the student speaks on every slide, it's the goal for the student to be speaking more than you!
  • For new material, you demo, you do it together, then you have the student do it (Me, we, you)
  • Try not to use incidental language! Use as few words as possible! The person is acting as a 5 year old with very limited language so you don't want to add words that confuse, focus on the words on the slide and use TPR for everything else!
  • Use props!
    I used flash cards for the "How are you" slide
    Emoticons flash cards can be found HERE (I printed then laminated and cut them so I could use them again)
    Robots emotions flash cards can be found HERE
  • Some of the critiques from my Mock 1 that I thought might help others were: make sure all demo materials are in the screen (at one point my whiteboard was out of the screen), use even more TPR (I thought I used a lot, see what I mean, use TONS!), time management (you have 23 slides to cover in 25 minutes that is approximately 1 minute per slide (don't underestimate the time it will take to elicit language and speaking from a 5 year old, I did!), use your fingers to represent words in a sentence you are trying to teach students (Ex: if you are trying to get a student to say "I see a panda" each word is a finger, thus 4 fingers are used), during activities don't be afraid to clear the screen so students know exactly which item you are focusing on, on the "matching slide" pair down the slide to reduce time (circle two, "which one starts with "P"?"), on the "point and reach" slide, use magnets, white board, or fingers to represent the letters as you work through the blend, when teaching new materials to a student, repeat 3 times and use it in a sentence (the more they practice the more they learn)
All of my props and sticky note reminders for Mock 1!

My backdrop and the gumball machine I used for a reward system for Mock 1


I was hired after finishing my Mock 1, so I didn't have to do a second mock. I've heard that this isn't common and most people have to do two mocks, so going into it I mentally prepared myself to have to do 2, so I was VERY pleasantly surprised to only have to do 1. This was probably the most stressful/nerve wracking part of it. After you complete these two part (demo lesson and Mock/s I swear it's way easier!)

It took me about half of a day to finish the paperwork and demo video that they need you to do before you can open up your schedule. I opened my schedule Monday afternoon and watched it like a hawk. I will admit I was depressed that I didn't instantly get booked. But, starting Tuesday I was booking students and I have been good to go since then! Be patient!

I do plan to do a YouTube video to discuss the hiring process, tips/tricks, my experience with my first week in the classroom, etc...but I've been busy teaching! I will get to it, eventually! In the meantime, I hope that this helps those in the pursuit of some extra income!

If you want more information about how to get started with the hiring process, click HERE

If you have questions please don't hesitate to ask! I'm happy to help how I can!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Climbing Mt Fuji (because you don't need a catchy title when you sleep on and summit a volcano)

7/13/16


I'm not sure how you begin a post about an experience like this so I think I'll start by giving a little background about the epic Fuji-san. A volcano in Japan, it was officially registered as a World Heritage Site in June of 2013. It stands 3776.24m (12,389 ft) high and is the highest peak in Japan. It is considered one of three holy mountains (along with Mt Tate and Mt Haku). More than 200,000 climb to the summit of Fuji each year. The last eruption was in 1707-08 but in 2000/2001 there was increased seismic activity under the volcano, raising concerns about a possible reawakening.

So let's get down to it! We arrived via highway express bus, it dumps you at the 5th station, where everyone starts their ascent. Now that I look back at that I had no idea what I was getting into (thankfully). It was pouring down rain when we got off of the bus so it was a quick dash into one of the shops to get our gear on and everything straightened out, purchase our sticks and can of air, then toward the trail we go (we took the Yoshida trail, after doing some research online this seemed like the best option, it's by no means easy but was said to be the easiest). We left the base of station 5 at 12:30pm knowing that we had to make it to our lodging at station 8 at a decent time to catch some rest before getting up super early to finish the ascent and catch sunrise on the summit.


For the first 50m or so we were happy and laughing, it was a nice gentle walk on a well packed dirt road. We've got this. Then we were smacked with reality (one of the many times on the trail). That changed quickly, the incline started, the footing changed, and well, we were in this.


Starting at station 5, and knowing you have to go to station 8 doesn't sound bad at all, then you see signage indicating that the summit is 6km away, which I calculated in my runners brain to be more than a 5k which is just over 3 miles, again, that didn't seem terrible. I will tell you it takes forever to climb. Forever. When you think you are almost there, you're not. There is signage throughout the hike, it lies. For about an hour and 6 different signs, it said the summit was 3.4km away.

The trail is crazy, you'll go from walking in gravely sand to full on rock climbing looking for holds, oh and did I mention it's raining and windy?! At times we were climbing on all 4's. For me altitude sickness kicked in pretty early on, starting with a massive headache, next was shortness of breath (crazy scary feeling like you were suffocating and just simply couldn't get enough air, combine that with the physical activity of climbing and it was really something mentally and physically to get over). I thought that staying at the hut would help acclimate my body and prepare it for the next day, but the headache was back all night and into the next day. I wasn't prepared to bust open the can of air for fear that I'd need it should things really take a turn for the worse. To deal with altitude sickness listen to your body. Take breaks, frequently.


Parts of the hike were so beautiful. The topography changed so drastically through all of it, starting off walking through the forest and losing greenery as you ascend. Sometimes the clouds and fog settle in so thickly that you just can't see anything. Sometimes this is better because you have no idea how much further you have to go.


The distance between station 5 and station 6 is pretty long. Don't miss your stamps. Station 6 is your first stamp (aside from the one your stick came with at station 5), they have a sign on the door that says no stamp if raining, it was raining and we still got our stamp, just open the door, use some basic Japanese courtesies and I'd bet they will be glad to take your yen in exchange for the stamp!

There are multiple station 7's, don't get your hopes up that you're almost at 8 when you see the next station in the distance, I started calling them 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, because we kept hitting station 7. They all have stamps, and one of the station 7's has more than one, I can't remember which but it's the one with the Torii shrine/museum stuff, there's a special torii stamp (sadly we missed this one because it's tucked back and we didn't know about it, only stamp we missed)
Station 7 is also where we were so lucky to have yet another mind F on the trail, this one courtesy of an American. She basically told us that we were nowhere near the top, that it takes forever to get there, and that we were also nowhere near station 8. If I had the energy I might have choked her.

Honestly at this point in the hike it was about going through the motions, convincing my mind to keep pushing...one step in front of the other. It was nice when you would see a station because it gave you motivation to keep going, not seeing a station ahead was a complete mind F. Collecting the stamps helps to soften the blow of what you're doing, it is like a fun Mt Fuji scavenger hunt, if there is such a thing!


We finally got to our 8th station (there are also many of those, conveniently ours was the last of 4...lucky us. I think I nearly died when the man at the first station 8 told me it was another hour and 15 minutes) just before it got dark. By that time we were drenched from sweat and the rain that had been so gracious to join us on the journey. We got checked in, got our meals (they gave us the breakfast bento then too so we could bring it in the morning to the summit or eat it before we left), they indicated that we would need to leave by 3am, we left just after 2:30am and that was actually perfect timing because there was serious hiker backlog on the trail near the summit, causing lots of stopping and slow climbing (good for altitude sickness).


The sleeping arrangement...how do I even describe this. On my pictures that were posted on Facebook I said it was like hostage sleeping arrangements, I stand by that. You get better accommodations in prison, no mom I don't know from personal experience. Basically a bunk bed that would normally fit 2 people was squished with sleeping bags and now 6 people lined up like dead bodies. I did not sleep. At all.

I think we changed and crawled into our assigned sleeping space around 6:30pm. I remember looking to my right at Nic and just laughing my ass off, and then I couldn't stop, the whole thing was ridiculous. us piled into this crammed sleeping quarter, communal sleeping, two introverts, who are both a wee bit high maintenance, but here we were doing the damn thing...then he laughed, then I laughed more and it got out of control and I couldn't stop, one of those laughing spells, and totally inappropriate because people were sleeping around us. Then I couldn't catch my breath (altitude) and thought I was going to choke to death. Nic just put his headphones in because he had started laughing at all of it too. Finally I was able to pull myself together...sort of...until the French couple sleeping to my left started, well, being French. Nothing like hearing the noises of people kissing when you're legit jammed up on the other side of her husband.

2am we got up, dressed, and attempted to eat our bento breakfast box. I couldn't do it, the meat packet looked and smelled like Alpo (and I can eat almost anything), I'll also admit that I was afraid that if I ate it I'd have some intestinal failure and the thought of using the bathrooms scared me enough to not. So I dined on the pickles and rice and called it a day. I had been trying to hydrate so I finally used the restroom, at this point I had gone one time in 2 days, terrible. I certainly did not want to die of dehydration on this mountain!

The bathrooms are the most disgusting things you'll have to experience. Even not using them will be the most disgusting thing. I legit gagged when walking past them because the smell that comes out of them, or blows down the mountain is putrid.


This part of the hike was crazy, sensory deprivation is a complete bitch. It's so dark, you can see nothing despite having a headlamp. It's dark, cold, and windy, all you see are the headlamps of others ahead of you, it lights up the mountain path in a really beautiful way, like a little Christmas tree. We left our lodging at 2:30am which worked out

About an hour and a half of this human shuffle later, we reached the summit. When I saw that shisa and torii gate I seriously started to get emotional. We had done this, we had climbed Mt Fuji.

I'm sad to report that despite being on the summit for sunrise, you couldn't see anything from the top. We started to descend and there would be breaks in the cloud when you would catch the most stunning sunrise over the lands below, including the lake. Stunning. My pics will never do it justice.


2:45 minutes later, and lots of stumbling, we reached the bottom, the 5th station, and I've never been so damn happy to be done...to take my shoes off, and to just sit! Looking at our sticks and the stamp collection of our journey, I'm so damn proud of us! Once in a lifetime opportunity for sure!


The details:

  • Where to stay: While in Tokyo we stayed at the New Sanno Hotel, super convenient and about a 15 minute cab right to the Shinjuku bus station where the highway express bus leaves from (approx 2500-2900 yen cab ride)
    On the mountain: We stayed at the Fuji-san Hotel on the 8th station (at 3400m) you can make reservations here
  • Getting there: from Tokyo you take the highway express bus from Shinjuku station directly to the 5th station. The cost was approximately 5000yen roundtrip, and reservations must be made in advance as it books up. You can make reservations online, our hotel had information on how to do this
  • At the 5th station base camp: get your gear all set up, purchase a can of air if you are worried about altitude sickness (I purchased one and never used it but did enjoy the sense of security in having it). This is also where you can purchase your stick (that you can get stamped along the way), shop around, the shops all offer different style ones, I wish I wouldn't have bought the first one I saw. Don't skip the stick, it's seriously my favorite souvenir and collecting the stamps was fun, the stick was also helpful as a walking stick throughout the trek
  • What to bring: water (i put a bladder in my backpack and that worked, I emptied it midway through the trek down), snacks that are small and easy to deal with and create minimal trash (you have to bring all of your trash down the mountain with you, yen (you need approximately 300 yen for each stamp and toilets are 200 yen if you need to use those along the way, stations also have hot beverages and snacks for purchase. For reference I probably have around 20 stamps on my stick), a change of clothes (I was soaked after hiking for the day so getting out of those sweaty/rain soaked clothes and into dry clothes was necessary to not get hypothermia!), a pack cover (this is important...it will rain, you want to keep your stuff dry, if your pack doesn't have a built in rain cover bring one with you, they sell them in the shops at station 5 if you forget), layering clothing (the weather on Fuji changes by the second and changes drastically), rain gear, an emergency blanket (I didn't bring this but sort of wished I had because when I got to our lodging at station 8 I was absolutely freezing from being soaking wet, an emergency blanket would have helped to regulate my body temp, recharger packs (you'll be hard pressed to find a plug to recharge electronics so bring something of your own to recharge them with!)
  • Do I need to book a tour? No! We did this totally on our own and I'm so glad that we did. A lot of the base sponsored tours bring you there for a one day up and down, if I had to do that in one day I think I would have taken a header off of the mountain. It's so easy to book and plan by yourself, you don't need to pay the extra money to go on a chartered tour, I highly recommend booking and planning on your own.
  • How long? It took us 7 hours total to climb from 5 to the summit (5.5 hours to get to our lodging at station 8, then another 1.5 hours in the morning to catch sunrise on the summit), it took us 2:45 to climb down. They say that it generally takes you half the time (from stations 5-8) to climb down

Mario Karting through the streets of Tokyo

7/12/16


When you think of touristy things to do in Tokyo you think of shrines, temples, the Tokyo Tower, and hitting all of the various areas that are a must see...but what you should be thinking about is getting your happy ass in a go kart, dressed in a costume, and cruising the streets. This was by far the best way to tour Tokyo, well worth every penny. We did the 3 hour option and it was 8000 yen (so about $80 at the time because of the exchange rate)
you can use their GoPro or other camera things they have to capture the experience, or of course bring your own, I didn't want to mess with bringing my own, so I used theirs.

You get a quick into, how to use the car, what to do, what not to do (ram bumpers and use the horn, except in Shibuya). Then we were off, which left me slightly nervous. Yes it drives like a normal car, sort if. Missing some safety features, like a seatbelt, and well, you're low to the ground, and mine was missing some working lights, minor detail.

We opted for the evening tour, leaving at 6pm, because we didn't want to be sitting in the carts, in costumes, in the blazing sun on pavement. It was a good choice, and seeing the city as the sun set on it, then as it was lit up for night, was gorgeous!


We cruised the streets of Tokyo like Fast and the Furious. At one point I think we went on the expressway. We most certainly were at speeds I don't even take a car often in Japan, I exceeded 70km in that little rickety cart (making it go "in the red")


We drove through the massive Shibuya crossing probably 4-5 times, stopping traffic as people dead stopped in the crosswalks to take our pictures. Japanese people LOVE seeing people in costumes in the carts.


You make a few stops along the way at some really beautiful sights, one being the Tokyo Tower, which at night is perhaps as beautiful as the Eiffel Tower. The tour guides will take your pictures for you, they also offer group pics


In addition to getting to see the city from an entirely different perspective, you also get to explore any potential alter egos you might have. I went with Princess Peach. Hey, if the crown fits!

At the end of the night, our tour guides gifted us with a nice little printed picture of the group at one of the places where we stopped. An amazing experience that had me laughing the entire time. This is definitely one of those experiences that leaves you with the feeling of, how the hell do I top that?!

With that being said, on to the summit of Fuji tomorrow.

Where to go:

  • Maricar's Facebook group here they also have a website here
  • Book by sending them a message, they will give you a discounted rate if you agree to write a review, I'm not usually one for bribery but I assure you it won't be hard to write a glowing review, or two!
  • BRING your SOFA license or International Driver's License (easily obtained from AAA before you leave USA for about $20), you can't drive without one
  • Cost: message them, they give you a discounted rate as indicated above, rates are different depending on the time, for us it was 8000 yen for 3 hours. They accept Yen or credit card.
  • Where: Shinagawa (they will send you the address and directions for subway and/or how to get there from your hotel)
**Update**

YouTube videos of the experience can be found here

Sunday, June 26, 2016

**Update** My daith piercing, 2+ months later

6/27/16

After about a week of swelling and pretty tender healing, things got MUCH better.
Granted, the healing is SUPER slow on this and still I am needing to clean 2 times a day (just with hot water and a q tip) to prevent build up and bump formation (technical term of course!)

I went in last week to have the center ball put back in, figuring they would pop it back in pinch things together and I'd be on my way. Unfortunately I was mistaken about how all of that was going to go down.

They removed the entire ring, sterilized (yes I'm thankful for that), re fitted for the new ball), then proceeded to put the ring back in with the piercing needle, straight needle in a round-ish hole, doesn't feel good. It took probably 15 minutes for everything but this piercing studio is meticulous.

He inspected the piercing and recommended that I continue 2 times a day cleaning to prevent bump formation (I have small ones at the top of the piercing because of some build up/not following my cleaning procedures 100%).

I think I was probably figuring that after a certain period of time it would be healed and I'd be good to go, this takes WAY longer than any piercing I've had to heal, so I just need to be patient with it. There is absolutely no pain (other than when he put the ring back in) at the site though.

Migraine update: I have had zero migraines since getting the piercing.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

My daith piercing experience (pain, after care, recommendations)

4/17/16

So a few days ago I got my daith pierced (4/13 actually). I had done a bit of research on it. Honestly just trying to figure out if this was going to be a breeze or the mother bitch of all piercings. I have several piercings but since my mom reads my blog I won't to into all those details here (you're welcome mom!). From what I read it sounded like it would be a breeze, similar to nose, which honestly I didn't feel until they put the jewelry in. Lies. Complete bullshit in fact. I will say that with a caveat, I think it completely depends on your anatomy, which in turn impacts how slowly or quickly the piercer can ram that piercing rod through there. I was a lucky little winner of the bad anatomy game apparently because as soon as I sat down and he started drawing he said "I'm going to have to go slow and you can't move" to which my response was "sweet Jesus please go as fast as possible". He did not. But I also understand that he needed to be cautious and get the piercing aligned. 

Pre piercing:
You can do all the research you want but you will never get a true understanding of what it feels like since everyone's anatomy is different. *side note: I have a pretty dang high pain tolerance*

Do your research on piercers. Don't try to save a buck and go for a $20 piercing. Go somewhere clean and reputable. If you can't eat off of the floor walk the F out. Seriously. I was lucky enough to be able to go to my favorite place in Okinawa, I would lick the floor it's so clean! They have pierced me before and I trust them. They don't rush anything. They sterilize everything. And they take forever to mark you and line things up to make sure it's perfect. This kind of attention to detail is important. 

Research your jewelry. You can go cheapest and get stainless or you can go safer (less chance of your body having a reaction to it) and get titanium. All personal decisions (you do you boo) but all decisions that you should be able to make and the piercing shop should be able to answer any questions. 

I spent a long time trying to pick out my jewelry. I'm indecisive and they have a lot of options. The piercer never once made me feel rushed and in fact offered suggestions when he got an idea of what I was looking for. 

Where did I go? Body Decoration Studio Truth (in Okinawa Japan). I can't recommend them enough for people in the area. 

In the chair/the piercing:
I anticipated laying down (which perhaps would have been more relaxing and comfortable) as that's what a lot of people wrote about their piercing experience. That wasn't what happened. The piercer kept me sitting up (and not leaning back against the chair)

No lie he spent at least 15 minutes marking, erasing, re marking, and making sure things were lined up. By this time I was ready to barf and crap my pants (too much waiting before the needle!)

He told me that he would have to go slow and that I could not move. Jesus this was starting to sound like a great time! I was also starting to think that maybe I should have taken a shot or two of the old Russian elixir before going in (no you should not drink before piercings. No I have not gotten pierced after drinking)

So I'm sitting up with my back not against the back of the chair. Trying to sit up straight (not move) and he says "ready" (too late if I'm not). I take a few breath and it starts. The piercing took about 15 seconds vs 2-5 seconds of ones where I've been clamped. The noise is disgusting. You can't prepare for that. And because this was so slow it pretty much felt like what it was. A metal 16 gauge needle going through my ear and cartilage. The first and end parts were the worst of the actual piercing. I assume through thicker cartilage. 

It was pretty uncomfortable when the piercing was finished and the needle was sitting in there (before he put the jewelry in) I knew the worst part would be coming. 

Putting he jewelry in hurt like hell. It felt like he was putting a 14 gauge barbell into a 16 gauge piercing hole. But it's quick. Much quicker than the piercing. Once that was situated it was smooth sailing. Putting the balls on the end of it then the gemstone in the middle were simple. 

After piercing/after care:
The day of the piercing I didn't really feel it after that. Things were fine. I followed my cleaning instructions. 

Yesterday it was pretty sore. Like a dull ache. The ear was a bit red (I had also caught myself in the night rolling to that side so I think it irritated it). 

Today it's still sore, a dull ache. I don't touch the jewelry and clean it following the instructions. The area around the piercing looks good but I will say, it's hard to see and clean. I use a hand mirror while looking in the bathroom mirror to make sure I'm getting it cleaned properly. 

Random:
I did intend on getting both done when I went in there but the piercer wouldn't do both at the same time as the healing is difficult and if you have both its really challenging to get them healed (with sleep g and day to day stuff). I'm glad I didn't 

Will I go back and get the other one done? Not sure. We will see if this one heals up nicely. Perhaps when I forget the initial pain I'll be a dumbass and go back for more!

Headache relief? Not sure. My ear has a constant ache right now as it's healing but hopefully it does help for headache relief. If not I have a really cute piercing as my consolation prize!

I will post an update later on when it has had more than a few days to heal!




Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A half marathon is 21+ km, did you know that? I'm glad I didn't, I would have quit!


1/11/16


I'll preface this by saying that I had great intentions when I signed up for this (and the Nago half marathon 1/24/16). I started a training plan, I stuck to it for the first half, etc.  somewhere along the way things fell off schedule. Then I had an unplanned trip to the US (and back to Japan) which resulted in severe jet lag. It also resulted in no running. Prior to leaving for the US I had been experiencing hip issues so I was not running, resting the hip. Flash forward to 1/4 when I returned to Japan. I ran 3.6 miles (my first run in almost a month) and it hurt. The following day I ran 3 again and was stifled by the hip pain. I took the rest of the days off until race day 

Getting there was an adventure. A 3 train 45 minute adventure. Which on the way back home with baby deer legs would prove quite the challenge. 


I was most certainly the only white person there; also likely the only person who couldn't read or speak Japanese. So when I was trying to figure out where to go for what, and what the route map was telling me, I was coming up with nothing. In hindsight I'm so glad that I couldn't properly read he route map because if I could it would have been a huge mental defeat to learn that the route was an out and back. Meaning I had to run way the hell out, only to turn around and run all that mess back. What makes that even more challenging is when you're at 3k and the leaders are already coming back from the loop, heading for the finish. Now that might be an exaggeration, but that is what it felt like. And those leaders are speedy. I can't even sprint a 100m at the speed they were running 13.1 miles. 
Let's talk about those shorts. I have no doubt that they are aerodynamic. Something I don't have to worry about at the speed that I run. Honestly though, how do they keep their bits in there?! Yes these are the things I think about while running 13.1 miles. Well that and my escape route from the course. 

At the start of the course they had kids doing taiko drumming, got me all pumped up...until I realized I hadn't even officially crossed the start yet, then I realized it was going to be a long ass run!
I surprised myself and ran the first 3 miles without stopping. I think it was the peer pressure of the runners around me, and my fear of creating an international incident by being the cause of a stamped should I stop running while in such a tight cluster of people. It felt a bit like the running of the bulls...very small Asian bulls. When the crowd finally dissipated a bit I allowed myself small moments to walk. I did try to keep the walking to brief clusters, enough to stretch my hip, take a drink, and gather my breath. Mile 5 was a big mind f*ck. This is when the leaders started whipping past on their way to the finish. I knew the turnaround wasn't anywhere close. I also had to pee. Really bad. I debated pissing my pants. If you've run you know there is nothing more disgusting than a race day port-o-potty; so you thought. Japanese ones are way more gross only because they are "squatties" so you literally have to get within inches of that nastiness rather than hovering feet above it in a western style. Also, if your legs/hip hurt, squatting below parallel (necessary so you don't piss down your leg or all over your shoe) isn't the easiest thing to do, add in the hydration pack, headphone wires, KT tape, other gear/accessories and you damn near have a Spartan Obstacle (shitty water and all!). 
I finally gave in to the bathroom around mile 6. I should get a medal for that. I'll say no more. You all are lucky that I didn't take a picture of that thing and subject you to it too! 

I ran I took short walk breaks. I tried to mentally pump myself up when I was feeling super weak and defeated. It rarely helped. 


Mile 10 was a big roadblock for me. Mentally and physically. My body was done. My hip was killing me. My feet were starting to really hurt, especially my arches (chronic PF sufferer). Each step I could feel the pavement literally fighting back against my body. 3.1 miles to go might not seem like much but damn it seems impossible to me. I experienced this again when I hit mile 12. I couldn't see the finish and just the thought of running 10-11 mins more (heck I was probably going so slow it was probably closer to 15 minutes!) was almost unbearable. I decided to just mind F myself. I looked down. I didn't want to see anything. Any of the KM market signs. The finish line. Anything. I just kept telling myself that if I kept running and moving that I would finish this shit sooner than if I walked. "Just keep moving" I kept repeating it almost like a chant. It gave me something to focus on, because let's face it Lady Gaga wasn't even helping at this point! 

When I looked up and saw the 900m sign (I honestly have no idea how far that shit is but I knew that I was going to push it and end this misery!) I accelerated. I was like horse heading to the barn for feed. A slow old dying horse maybe but you get the point. I found some speed and energy, I also damn near tripped on the gravel/uneven pavement. 

I had written down a time the day before. A goal time. It was actually my first half marathon time, my slowest time, but a time I got after being fully trained for the race, so I knew that it was still lofty, but I wanted to keep it as a goal. When I crossed the finish line I didn't even feel the disappointment of not accomplishing my goal time. I was able to celebrate my success. I finished. I didn't quit. I ran that bitch untrained, alone, jet lagged, with the goal of qualifying for Half Fanatics (which I will when I run Nago on 1/24/16!)


Yes I'm aware that this is a super crappy picture, no I do not care. This is the best you get with shaky hands (connected to shaky body and super shaky legs) that were being corralled by super kind Japanese volunteers bowing at me and encouraging me along through the corral, to the exit, but not before giving me what at the time was nectar of the Unicorns, an ice cold Aquarius. I was so happy to have it that I lunged and wrapped my sweaty arms around the kind Japanese man who gave it to me, gomenasai kind sir, but thank you for being, well Japanese, and just playing along :)