This, my friends, is a common phrase you will hear from me if and when you come visit.
I jacked it from Leonardo DiCaprio (my boyfriend) in the movie Blood Diamond. It is so true and applies to the magic, wonder, and complete insanity that is Tokyo.
Having said that, there are lots of things I am going to post right now. It is going to be another "like woah" blog post, but hopefully it will be relatively interesting? At least, interesting enough until I come back from Uganda with a TON of amazing photos and stories. Yes, I am going back to Africa to work at the Engeye Health Clinic for a bit. I CAN'T WAIT!!!!
So, remember when I said that if you write something cool and send it to me, I will post it? Well, here is a lil taste of that. This message is from Marion Wise, one of the amazing residents who lived on 5N, better known as the "Women's Issues" floor.
Really, that was the name of our floor - the beloved all girls floor at UCLA. I was lucky enough to serve as the RA of this floor, which meant that I was essentially responsible for 92 amazing women. My boyfriend at the time just loooooved this ;)
We (the "Women's Issues" floor....what a name!) also created our own sorority - we called it Sigma Epsilon Chi (get it? Spell it out in latin....we were so clever!).
Don't even get me talking about the "Wall of Shame" that we had (wow, Marion, we really were an AWESOME floor, huh?)...or perhaps the time I stapled condoms all over our hall to encourage people to have safe sex and discovered them all missing (and probably used) in the morning. Good thing I stapled right through the condom to get those suckers to stay put! Wow....I don't want to even think about that. Yikes.
Long story short, here is a message from Marion about Obama's Inauguration. She was actually there! Lucky!!!
"Dear Family and Friends,
I had the fortunate opportunity to attend the Inauguration celebration in Washington, DC over the past few days, which was phenomenal. I think what struck me the most was that everyone in DC - locals, visitors, blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, young, elderly, families, gays, straights - had such a feeling of camaraderie and community, a genuine sense of unity. We knew we were witness to something much bigger than us. The impromptu community we formed was proof that we believe in Obama's message of change and hope and that we were bringing it to life. Our country has the opportunity, the ability, and the responsibility to move forward in our race relations, in our relationships with our countries, as well as to work together towards a "new birth of freedom" (in the words of Abraham Lincoln).
On Sunday I attended the Opening Inauguration Celebration, the "We Are One" concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, featuring many celebrities and musical artists, with performances interspersed with historical videos and texts from our nation's historic leaders. One of the most inspirational moments for me was when Queen Latifah told the story of how Marian Anderson was refused the opportunity to perform because she was black. In response, Eleanor Roosevelt arranged to have her perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and she opened this concert with "My Country Tis of Thee." In honor of her, Josh Groban and Heather Headley sang "My Country Tis of Thee," with the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington DC. It was an incredible moment to see 100 gay men on such a major stage, honored for their musical ability. It was also pretty cool to personally know people who are a part of that Chorus' community. :) (You can watch a You Tube video of this performance here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5SOCgADQhk) I was also moved by Rev. Gene Robinson's incredible Invocation Address (text here http://www.advocate.com/news_detail_ektid71114.asp).
The Inauguration Ceremony on Tuesday morning was amazing. We arrived at the Mall at 7 am, in time to watch the sun rise over the Capitol. We parked ourselves in front of a jumbotron screen, about 3/4 of a mile from the Capitol building and we spent the next six hours in a sea people with such a spirit of goodwill, excitement, and joy. The roar was deafening when Obama entered - and even more so after he took the Oath of Office. What a magical experience! The audience could not have been more gracious (except toward Bush). In spite of the cold weather, there was a sense of togetherness, of brotherhood & sisterhood that is uncommon among such large crowds. The positive energy in the crowd and throughout the city all weekend was infectious and inspiring; it is evident that change has come.
Blessings to you and to our country. Hope has won indeed! Marion"
Thanks SO much, Marion! Wow wow wow.
So, remember when I said that if you MADE something cool, I would post it? Remember? Ha! Cause I never actually said that - but I was thinking it. And now I am doing it. So, much to Obama's delight, I am turning my ideas into a reality. All before your very eyes. Check it.
John Leisure - YOU DA MAN! This video inspires! Oprah, here YOU come (I'll be cheering you on!)
So, now to nicely transition into...hair extensions (HE)...and fake eyelashes (FE). Ain't no way I can properly transition into that one, but I can tell you that it fits with the whole randomness that is Tokyo, so I am going to roll with it. Seriously, this is the only place in the world where you can buy purple fishnets and a Paris Hilton Flash Drive all in the same aisle (yes, Paris Hilton). Not to mention the lacy bras here that look like the most tricked out doilies your Obaasan could have ever made while on an acid trip. No joke. I have three of them. Just kidding. Well.
Here are some pics of the HE and FE in action! Oh, and me in some yellow tights for fun (yikes!)
Erika-san and I rockin' the HE and FE ;)
Gaijin dudes stuck with us Gaijin ladies - but secretly (or not so secretly) scoping out the Japanese ladies....
Hahaha! This picture is PRICELESS. We all have completely different expressions goin' on...
Hello, Dr. Seuss.
How is work, you ask? Intense. But that is a gimme at this point, as I am currently living and working in one of the most efficient and intense countries in the world. Yatta! Got a lotta different things that are keeping me busy right now - can't wait to smell the Cherry Blossoms!
What would this post be without a slide show as well? So, here is a slide show of the most INCREDIBLE shirts I have ever seen in my life. They are truly a wonder. And I bought them all for my homies in Uganda. I hope they love them as much as I do. I hope you do too.
Now, what are we doing in Africa, you ask? Here is our tentative schedule below:
Feb 1 - by late evening everybody has arrived to Backpacker's
Feb 2 - 2 vans to pick up crew at 9am to journey to village 1. exchange money 2. stop by JMS for meds
- unpack - dinner: introductions, general goal setting for group (as a group), discuss itinerary
Feb 3 - work in clinic, lab
- schedule Technology 4 Tomorrow to come give us training on the high temperature incinerator
- Bryan gets a translator so she can journey around the village
- call Aidchild to confirm Feb 9th appointment with their lab
+256 712403715 (Patricia Wagana, lab coordinator)
- 4:30pm : 2 hour meeting with John and Joseph - first hour: Joseph and John discuss clinic - ups, downs, hopes, goals, changes. second hour: Anny discusses her landscaping/design plan, we talk about what we'd each like to see incorporated
- schedule first movie night with projector
- david hwang's b'day
Feb 4 - work in clinic, lab
- 4:30 pm: craft sale from village women (hopefully) - group journey around village, say hi to Kawooya (John's dad)
- afternoon: Group meeting to discuss salaries: one meeting with John, one meeting with Joseph
2. FINCA (Kampala) 1pm Robert Lule at FINCA in Kampala, February 5th
Fabian Kasi/Country Director FINCA Uganda Plot 22 Ben Kiwanuka Street Post Office Box 24450 Kampala, Uganda Tel: +256-41-4-231134 Fax: +256-41-340-078
Feb 6 (Sat)
Feb 7 (Sun) - church, wear nice clothing
- Bryan sets up stage for photographs
Feb 9 Dr. Kajubi at Mulago Hospital (Kampala) Morning?
AIDS Information Center (Masaka) Dr. Raymond Byaruhanga 4 PM
SCHEDULE AID CHILD LAB VISIT
Feb 11 - Consider moving to Extracurricular Activities
Feb 14 1. Craft Village (Kampala) - Dr. Bob's b'day - fly out
Finally, what is my favorite quote of all time, you ask? What quote empowers me to get up everyday and begin all over again with the hope that each day will present something new, something important? What quote makes me want to give my all and helps me remember to liberate my mind through my actions? Perhaps a quote by my favorite author of all time -Ayn Rand.
Atlas Shrugged will change your life, folks. Here goes:
“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.”
I also like what I heard from our 44th president late, late last night.
Despite my delirium, I still got teary -eyed, pumped my fist in the air, shouted "Yes!" several times at the TV - all of this in the privacy of my home by myself ;)
I have NEVER been this into politics in my life. NEVER. Obama makes me want to be better. He makes me want to challenge myself. He makes me want to challenge others around me. He makes me want to challenge our nation to make better, wiser decisions and to rise above our urge to be indifferent. An amazing medical student friend of mine once said something that I think will set the pace for the next 4 years - "There is more to lose in indifference than with action." Can I get a "So desu ne!!!??" We are already better.
It is incredible to believe that one person can literally unite a world. People from all different cultures, lands, perspectives and religions were glued to whatever form of media they could find to hang onto EVERY word this man uttered. EVERY WORD. Why? Because he is real. Because he does not fit the standard cookie-cutter mold of a US president. Obama not only broke the mold, but he showed the world that sometimes problems need to be solved by thinking differently. Sometimes the best solutions are born on top of a foundation of compassion, determination, and love - not behind a wall of smoke, guns, and hand waving. We are simultaneously part of as well as witnessing history. Man, it is beautiful.
Below is his speech. My favorite parts are highlighted (which caused the multiple fist pumps in the air as well as the "Hell yas!"). What an incredibly INTENTIONAL speech.
Feels so good right now. I am skipping.
And, dad, my toes are tapping ;)
My fellow citizens
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and co-operation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.
The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.
Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and travelled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and ploughed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished.
But our time of standing flat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed.
Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans.
Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favours only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.
And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan.
With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the spectre of a warming planet. We will not apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the fire-fighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have travelled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.
At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people: “Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”
America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come.
Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
YES WE CAN!!!! (Sorry, had to do it). I am so excited guys ;)
But before I share pics of this grand adventure with you, I want to share THE BEST card I have ever received from anyone. Seriously. Erika spent a RIDICULOUS amount of time making some of her friends this lovely "Christmas Cake Club" card (pictures are coming up). What is almost as cool is the story BEHIND the card. I will write down Erika's words verbatim so you can laugh just as loud as I did with her awesome humor. Bring it, Erika.
"What is Christmas Cake?
In Japan, Christmas has special significance for couples. Without the baggage of spirituality or baby Jesus, new meanings and unique traditions have developed around the holiday. It's a time to shower your sweetheart with LAVISH GIFTS...a time to eat a KFC-catered chicken dinner...and most importantly, a time to eat strawberry and whipped cream cake, topped with a Santa-shaped chocolate. KURISUMASU KEEKI! "But what if I'm not part of a couple?" you ask. There's something for you too! Double meaning is embedded in this tradition. When an unmarried or unengaged woman turns 26, she too is called a CHRISTMAS CAKE...because, as one blogger eloquently paraphrased: It may still be sweet and delicious, but no one really wants any after the 25th. That's right girls, in Japan our shelf like is up! (Comment from Misty: Does that officially make us cougar-status?!!!) With my own special group of Christmas Cakes in mind (that's me), I have lovingly created this card for you. Happy Holidays! Yours proudly,
Founding member of the Christmas Cake Club (Erika!)"
....and, at the bottom of the card it reads, "To those who claim the age has risen to 30: Stop ruining the holiday spirit! Who still wants a cake on the 29th anyway? This is a nondenominational card."
AND - I have an official membership card! I am gonna cherish this puppy! (note to all my friends: If you write something cool, I am slapping it up on this thing! Watch out now.)
Here is a quote from Erika about Japan that I thought was RIGHT ON:
"A few of the themes in Japan include play within rigid social structures, the emphasis on surface in Japanese culture, and the importance of wrapping, which can take precedence over the wrapped object itself. Oh yeah, and finger nail art!" Hahaha. SO DESU NE.
Now onto Taipei.
One word - AMAZING. It was special on so many levels. NYE was fantastical, as we watched fireworks shoot out from all around the tallest building in the world - the 101 Building. It is, literally, Taipei's pride and joy.
I am an MD/MS student recently back from the lovely Tokyo.
I am a friggen dreamer. Like WOAH. I truly believe that we can do whatever it is that we want in this world and that we should GO FOR IT. No regrets.
I love challenges and people who aren't afraid to think outside the box. Honestly, I love it when I meet people who fight for what they believe in while maintaining the ability to learn from others.
I try to live my life according to the quote below. Though I am not always successful, I am usually smiling as I crash and burn ;0)
(1) "Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours."
~ Ayn Rand