One of my favorite things about the bus ride to work was the view outside the window. This may sound a bit mundane, but the bus passes through a road with a lot of trees, which is surprisingly relaxing. When the weather is good, it was possible to see the nearby mountain, Mount Tsukuba. When I first saw it on the map, I knew I wanted to go at least once. The weather in Japan in June isn’t exactly great, however, so any plans of going could easily be ruined by rain.
A few days after my first trip to Tokyo, Shin-sanasked me if I wanted to go somewhere else in Tsukuba during the weekend with her and Chou-san, one of the more senior employees at work. Shin-san had yet to go to Mount Tsukuba, so we decided where to go pretty quickly. (Assuming that the weather wasn’t horrible, of course.) When Saturday came, it was somewhat cloudy; to us, that was good enough. Chou-san had a car, so we drove there. The way to Mount Tsukuba was the same as the way to work, except you had to drive an extra 13 kilometers or so. After finding parking, we followed the crowd, which first led us to Tsukuba-san-jinja:
Afterwards, we headed to the cable car station, which would take us to a higher point of the mountain. There were a couple of suggested hiking paths, but those would have taken several hours and none of us really wanted to do it. (Also, Chou-san was wearing flats.)
We ate at this revolving restaurant.
Rule of thumb: when in doubt, get the recommended dish (おすすめ), budget permitting. The restaurant's recommended dish was kenchin udon; you have three chances to guess what this is! :P
After eating, we went to the floor above the restaurant. The sky was less cloudy than it was when we got off the cable car, so we could see the plains surrounding the mountain.
Afterwards, to the peak we went! It wasn't very steep, but I can't really claim that I was physically prepared for it. We made it though, so it's all good.
Chou-san and I. Success!
My co-workers told me that on a good day, it was possible to see Tokyo Tower from the peak. Unfortunately, the clouds made it impossible to see anything, so I would have to wait another day to see Tokyo Tower. After taking a few more pictures, we hiked back down and bought a few things at the souvenir shops. I wasn't very hungry then, but I somehow ended up buying *dango*, partly because I wanted something warm, but mostly for the sake of being able to eat *dango*.
The yellow one is kabocha (squash?) flavor. I ended up getting the white ones, though I don't remember what flavor they were.
After I finished eating *dango*, we started walking towards the trail leading to... another peak. Wait, what? Apparently, Mount Tsukuba has two peaks called Nyotai-san (female) and Nantai-san (male); we had already reached the former. Nantai-san is supposedly a few meters lower, so we thought it wasn't going to be as bad. We may have taken a wrong turn though, since getting to the peak required climbing a bunch of rocks:
After seeing that, we balked and called it a day. We went back to the cable car station, stamped our tickets (large stamps seem to be a common memorabilia for a lot of tourist places) and went back down. After some more window shopping and and evilly eyeing the soft cream shop (at that time, I was legitimately concerned that I wasn't going to pass by any more soft cream shops in Japan, which couldn't be further from reality), we drove back to the dormitory...
...And *then* it started getting sunny. Good job, weather.
Starting college can be a big transition. You’re moving to a new place, starting a new school and classes, and faced with making new friends in an unfamiliar environment. And, of course, there’s that whole “becoming an adult” thing. But, you’re also leaving a lot behind. Every new beginning means that an old chapter must come to an end. Leaving behind our friends at home may seem difficult, especially if they’re going to be a long distance away from you during the school year. Something I made sure to do was to spend a lot of time with them during the summer after high school. Of course, going to college doesn’t mean you’ll never see your friends again, or that you will no longer be friends with them. Good friendships will last if you put effort into them. It may seem hard initially. Coming into Caltech, it’s a sharp adjustment and many are caught up in the excitement of Orientation, Rotation, and starting classes. It may be hard to remember to check your phone frequently and to make time for phone calls and such. Rest assured that if you have other friends going to college, they’re probably going to go through similar things you will. In this transition period, it can feel like you’re going to immediately lose touch with people that mean a lot to you.
Let’s face it: the US loves being just a little different from everyone else. The obvious example? Units of measurement. As an international student from Canada, even I have no clue what’s going on half the time when my friends talk to me and use these weird nonsensical units. And I’ve literally lived on the border between Canada and the States for all my life. After a year here, I’ve finally got a sense of how the two systems of measurement compare and how you can more easily get your bearings with these weird units.
After a year spent in “soft-lockdown” at home in Atlanta, and as Caltech students prepared to finally return to campus, I was aboard an eight hour flight towards Edinburgh, Scotland. Since my junior year plans were interrupted by the virus who shall not be named, I’m spending my first term of senior year studying abroad through the Caltech - Edinburgh University International Exchange program. I’ve only been here just over a week yet have been exposed to so many new people, perspectives, foods, and classes.
When the announcement was first made that fall term was going to be online, I started talking to friends and looking for places to live. We were debating locations around the country: California, Florida, New York, etc.. there were plenty of options. Then it suddenly hit me, what is stopping us from going to Hawaii, covid numbers were better and a two week quarentine would ensure that numbers stayed down… I proposed this to my friend and we agreed it would be an amazing experience, but we didn’t want to get out hopes up. A month or so later we still haven’t decided where to live, Hawaii seemed too far and too difficult to plan. But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads. We spent some time looking into plane tickets, places to stay, etc… and it actually didn’t seem so impossible after all. A couple weeks later and we were arriving here on the big island!