Saturday, March 25, 2017

I lost my shit in Japan

Bangkok - visa

 
My biggest fear is being absolutely lost
unable to call anyone for help.

Of course what can go wrong will go wrong..so what happened?
I got lost in Japan and my phone doesn't do international calls!

Airport anxiety


Or rather what really happened was when I booked my flights I had no idea what I was doing so I booked a flight that landed in Narita, Japan. My flight to Thailand was departing from Haneda, Japan.
I only found this out when I tried to print my ticket at the airport in Chicago and it refused to print.

I of course went to the nice Japanese lady at the desk for my flight on JAL and asked why this was.
She informed me that they were two different airports.
I needed to get from Narita to Haneda.


Distance from Narita to Haneda

I panicked after connecting to the airport wifi and discovering how far Haneda was from Narita.
In this panic, I messaged my friend via Facebook and told her what was going on.
I was supposed to meet her in Bangkok the following day.

After talking me through it and telling me it wasn't the end of the world, she gave an amazing piece of advice I want to share.

Thousands of other people have taken this route, done this commute, before you. You are not the first and will not be the last.


Calm


Down.

Not calming down
This is me being calm. So calm

I breathed, went back to the JAL desk lady and asked how I would get to Haneda. She said there was an airport limousine bus that would drive the hour and a half route to the other airport.

Bus schedulesBus information


Once I arrived in Narita, I went through immigration, customs, found the desk for the airport limousine bus (not very difficult to find actually and they leave relatively frequently) and waited in line for my bus. 

Narita to Haneda bus pass

I slept most of the bus ride and upon arrival at Haneda I went back through customs, immigration and off to wait at my gate for Bangkok.

Things were not nearly as awful as my anxiety had allowed me to believe, and everything was okay.

No feet in toilet sign

If you are someone with severe anxiety like me, I want to let you know that if I can do this, you can.

I lost my shit in Japan.

But after I realized thousands of people more clueless than me have taken this route.. I allowed myself time to gather a plan.

So here I am, with my shit found.
Japan visa  

Let's talk paperwork. The majority of airport anxiety can come from being unsure where you are going, and what paperwork you need. Especially leaving or entering a foreign country. I can't speak for all countries, only the ones I have been in at the moment. I will tell you what I know about them though.

Japan was probably the hardest immigrations I went through. On the plane the staff for most airplanes will walk through with sheets of paper asking who needs them. You'll want this. It is the customs and immigrations paperwork.

Japan's asks questions like have you ever been arrested anywhere in the world. I had to answer yes to that, which ended up an entire fiasco but I made it through anyway. Both times going through Japan I was fine so if you have been arrested and it is for a misdemeanor, you are most likely fine.

They'll want to know where you're staying, or if you're just passing through. I was on my way to Thailand so I just put transit as my answer to where I was staying. If you're staying somewhere you'll want to put that in there. You'll hand your Passport, plane ticket, and the paper you filled out for customs/immigration to them.

Customs will be different for everyone depending on what you're carrying. I only had one backpack with minimal items in it. Because of this, I went through the green station (no items to declare) and continued on my way without them ever even looking in my bag. Keep in mind that if you are on certain prescriptions you will have to declare them and go through the red station. You can read up on these guidelines on the website for the ambassador's office of your country in Japan. (Just google ambassador for ___ in Japan)

Thailand

In Thailand immigrations and customs is very relaxed. No one really stops you for much of anything, there aren't any questions asked about prior arrests and everything went smoothly. When you get in line for immigration to receive your visa they will ask for your Passport and the form you filled out that states where you will be staying. I include my airplane ticket so that they know which flight I came off of, I just hand them the whole thing together with my Passport. 

To recap, the main things you want to have easy access to are your Passport, Customs sheet you filled out, Immigrations sheet you filled out, and your plane tickets.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

For the love of diving

New Heaven dive resort

I was very unsure of myself when I first arrived here. 
I had never gone swimming in deep water
I don't even hold my breath under water
How on earth will I handle diving?

New Heaven dive resort

The way down was scary because my ears wouldn't equalize properly
And what if.. what if something happened?
We couldn't just shoot up to the surface, because we would get decompression sickness.

White Rock dive site

But once my knees rested on the ocean floor
I realized that I could do this -- WAS doing this.
I was breathing calmly and was sitting on the ocean floor practicing skills
Like taking my oxygen supply out
Shutting my oxygen tank off
You know, just throwing my life line around while sitting on the ocean floor

White Rock dive site

You're now thinking -- wait what?
Taking your oxygen regulator out?
Shutting your oxygen tank off?
It sounds terrifying right?

White Rock dive site

But it's actually surprisingly calm.
The diving school I went to had such a patient and calm teacher
I could be sitting on the ocean floor doing these things
And it didn't bother me at all.

White Rock dive site

I was truly at peace in the great mother ocean
After each skill practice we would try to fit in a fun swim

White Rock dive site

It was pretty amazing but we didn't think we'd finish in time.
Between first day panic attacks (2 different people)
a broken mask
a broken BCD
trouble equalizing ears (20 minutes to descend!!)
....
I know we were all concerned that last day about whether we would all pass our class.

White Rock dive site

But we were determined and we decided we would all help each other.
We also agreed to be very patient with each other's individual needs.

White Rock dive site

We succeeded the final dive and all passed just fine.
This particular dive school does small groups for classes to ensure you get well trained.
That's why I recommend if you plan on diving in Koh Tao, Thailand
You should look up New Heaven.

White Rock dive site

Like any good student group that just graduated...
We all went out and bar hopped on the beach and got plastered after.
It was an island experience I'll never forget!



Monday, March 20, 2017

The lost heart

Koh Tao


I lost my heart to the sea a long time ago

Lompraya


When I was young
Before I had worries or cares
Before I lost my innocent views of the world

grouper


As an adult I could not understand the reason I was only able to sleep
When documentaries about the ocean played in the background

creek in Tennessee


I could not understand why the only time I was at peace
was near waterfalls and creeks, or any where that water spoke to me

beach walk


I strolled a beach in Rhode Island one day
and I heard it calling me
telling me to come home

Koh Tao


So I went to visit
far away in a foreign country
and when my knees rested on the ocean floor
I watched boats sail over me

group of grouper


I was a visitor to another world
and my heart said welcome home love
I have missed you terribly

Diving


Don't stay away so long
next time?

Moray Eel

Friday, March 17, 2017

Meditating in a Buddhist temple

Wat Pathum Wanaram


Thousands have come and gone from this same place


Wat Pathum Wanaram

Was the ground made holy by millions of prayers over a century, or had it always been sacred? A sacredness that would draw people to place a marker...a building to announce the energy present here

Wat Pathum Wanaram

I feel my mind at peace before ever entering the space reserved for prayer and meditation

Wat Pathum Wanaram

My walk is softer, my energy calmer

Wat Pathum Wanaram

I step through the door - gateway - and I have already left this plane of existence. As I sink to my feet I feel the earth reach her roots up towards me

Wat Pathum Wanaram

She wraps her warm tendrils around me and tugs me down into an ocean of serenity

Saturday, March 11, 2017

How I packed for Thailand

Asia: No shoes inside
.


I think that packing might be the most important part of any trip. Depending on what you are doing and how you plan on spending your time - what you pack can feel like it's breaking your back. The key is to pack only what you need. Try not to bring valuables because you will spend more time worrying about their safe-keeping than your vacation itself. My advice is bring 2-3 outfits and that's it. You can rearrange them to make new outfits and just hand-wash/hang-dry them each night if you're finicky.

I knew we would be walking a lot, potentially with me carrying my luggage this trip. Frankly, until we hit Koh Tao there would be no place to leave it. We had booked an overnight train from Bangkok to Chumphon and I was arriving in Bangkok at 5AM on Monday, the train left that evening. That would be an entire day of toting my belongings around on my back as well as the following week on my return to the US. I knew we would be able to hand wash our clothes and hang them to dry so I decided to bring less.

Thailand clothesline





















My list was as follows:

  • A very large and heavy underwater camera and charger borrowed from a coworker (I will not be doing this in the future. I learned my lesson.)
  • GoPro, some accessories & charger (going to stick with just this next time instead of two cameras)
  • Cellphone & charger
  • Earbuds/Headphones
  • 3 pairs underwear
  • 1 bra
  • 1 tank top
  • 1 pair pajama pants
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 1 pair yoga capri-pants
  • 1 sun dress
  • 1 scarf (do you know what all you can do with these??)
  • 1 lightweight jacket
  • Beach sandals
  • Baby wipes
  • 3oz bottle of shampoo
  • Razor
  • Pen & small journal
  • Collapsible water bottle
  • Makeup
  • Hair brush
  • Toothbrush
  • 3oz tooth paste
  • Clothes pins
  • Passport & Cash

All of this was neatly rolled into a small duffle bag. You can bring a small luggage lock too. I did and it made me feel a bit safer about the cameras not being snatched from my bag while I wasn't looking. The large borrowed camera was the heaviest thing I carried to Thailand.. I had just gotten my GoPro and had no idea how to use it properly. I still don't, but I'm learning. Therefore I won't be bringing any large clunky cameras in the future.

My belongings were regularly unattended, so really the only concern I had was for my money, cameras, and identification. I was mad at myself for even making it an issue to worry about that much. Dragging that lunky camera every where out of fear of theft was just ridiculous. My GoPro, cell phone, money, and passport could fit in a pocket. That thing took more work; but enough complaining about the camera brick. At least it took decent photos while underwater and wasn't that the entire point?


Under water camera pictures