Thursday, February 28, 2008

Boy ... are my arms tired


Airline Flight # Date Departure Arrival
Northwest Airlines NW0539 12/05/2006 New York Detroit
Northwest Airlines NW0025 12/05/2006 Detroit Tokyo
Asiana Airlines OZ1035 12/07/2006 Tokyo Seoul
Asiana Airlines OZ1025 12/12/2006 Seoul Tokyo
Northwest NW0005 12/26/2006 Tokyo Singapore
Cathay Pacific CX716 1/26/2007 Singapore Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific CX715 1/28/2007 Hong Kong Singapore
Tiger Airways TR112 2/16/2007 Singapore Bagkok
Tiger Airways TR119 2/17/2007 Bangkok Singapore
Singapore Airlines SQ176 03/08/2007 Singapore Hanoi
Singapore Airlines SQ175 03/12/2007 Hanoi Singapore
Singapore Airlines SQ26 05/01/2007 Singapore New York
Singapore Airlines SQ25 05/05/2007 New York Singapore
Tiger Airways TR716 5/18/2007 Singapore Perth
Tiger Airways TR717 5/20/2007 Perth Singapore
Valueair VF501 5/26/2007 Singapore Jakarta
Valueair VF506 5/27/2007 Jakarta Singapore
Singapore Airlines SQ424 7/15/07 Singapore Mumbai
Singapore Airlines SQ423 7/18/07 Mumbai Singapore
Thai Airlines TG410 7/25/07 Singapore Bangkok
Thai Airlines TG640 7/26/07 Bangkok Tokyo
Thai Airlines TG641 7/29/07 Tokyo Bangkok
Thai Airlines TG401 7/29/07 Bangkok Singapore
Northwest Airlines NW0006 08/04/2007 Singapore Tokyo
Northwest Airlines NW0012 08/04/2007 Tokyo Detroit
Northwest Airlines NW0536 08/04/2007 Detroit New York
Singapore Airlines *
SQ21 08/07/2007 Newark Singapore
Quantas Airways QF31 8/24/2007 Singapore London
British Airways BA208 08/25/2007 London Paris
Air France AF2318 10/25/2007 Paris Frankfurt
Air France AF2219 10/26/2007 Frankfurt Paris
Air France AF2322 11/16/2007 Paris Munich
Air France AF2023 11/18/2007 Munich Paris
Air France AF624 12/12/2007 Paris Guadaloup
Air France AF621 12/18/2007 Guadaloup Paris
British Airways BA309 12/31/2007 Paris London
British Airways BA189 12/31/2007 London Newark
Continental Airlines CO1762 1/13/2008 Newark San Jose
Continental Airlines CO1485 02/11/2008 San Jose Houston
Continental Airlines CO137 02/11/2008 Houston Los Angeles
Delta Airlies DL885 02/11/2008 Los Angeles Honolulu
Continental Airlines CO14 2/18/2008 Honolulu Newark

* longest non-stop flight in the world - link

Monday, February 25, 2008

Unorthodox Travel Advice in Hawai'i

Visit Chinatown in Honolulu's downtown district.  Unlike the rest of the city is is dirty, noisy and the buildings are rundown and old.  What you will discover that Chinatown is a misnomer.  Rather what is represented in this area is a hodgepodge of South East Asia.  Inhabitants and stores are Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino and Malaysian.  They have an amazing if ghetto footcourt which features a Filipino place, next to a Singaporean place, next to a Malaysian place, next to a Thai.  You'll never see that anywhere else in the States.  My (possibly racist) assumption is that new South East Asian immigrants account for a large portion of the manual labor that runs Oahu's tourism industry and thus this neighborhood has a distinctly blue-collar feel to it.  This place doesn't look to impress anyone and certainly not tourists. 

An interesting tidbit courtesy of Hideki Kinoshita.  Many of the Chinese who live in Hawaii came many years ago did so to flee the communist regime.  Hence you will see a plethora of ROC (Republic of China) flags in this neighborhood (also the Taiwanese flag).  Definitely pick up fresh Lychee at one of the grocery stores.  Like the $10 per bag coffee, it's grown on the island and it's damn good.

Scubadive the YO-257.  If you're not certified, get certified because you don't want to miss this.  Not only were there tons of beautiful fish and sea turtles around this WWII wreck, every once-in-a-while a miniature submarine called the Atlantis does a flyby.  It's just you in a scuba suit and a crustacean filled shipwreck in that deep blue sea and there's a whole crowd of little kids in a sub thinking you're part of some giant aquarium.  Definitely Captain Nemo 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea.   Also, disregard your scuba instructor and swim into the ship.  It's really cool inside.

Eat at McDonald's.  There are many fine eating establishments but if you're looking for something "Hawaii" and you're Grad student broke then head for the arches and get the Local Delux Breakfast - which consists of Spam, Portuguese Ham, and Rice.  They don't even sell rice at McDonald's in Japan.   It'll make you fat and comatose by the time you hit the sand.  Just like a beached whale.  Awesome.

Hawai'i - A Japanese-American Perspective

Hawaii is beautiful.  Hawaii is a specimen.  I've never been anywhere that has such a combination of:
  1. ridiculously nice weather
  2. crystal clear water
  3. abundant wildlife
  4. beautiful scenery
  5. convenient amenities 
Demographically, Hawaii is so different from the rest of the United States that it might as well be its own country.  There is a clear majority of Asians living on the Island.  When I first heard this I thought this was based on self-selecting anecdotal evidence - as in "There are HELLA Asians in LA" (really?) .  But the 2000 U.S. census numbers back it up.  What's more, the three most common ancestries on the 1.2 million person island are Japanese, Filipino, and Hawaiian at 21%, 18%, and 16% respectively.

To me, the surprising thing about Hawaii is how American the place is.  Seriously.  I do realize it's been a U.S. state since 1959.  But then again Puerto Rico is a lot closer, has been a commonwealth since 1952 and that place still speaks Spanish.  So, you would think that a place inundated with 3rd and 4th generation Asians isolated by thousands of miles with a historical trajectory differing greatly from the rest of the country would develop a culture abjectly unique. 

To be fair ... it's not like there are no differences.  Spam and rice are fondly incorporated into the local cuisine.  Hawaiian and Japanese words are spliced into the vocabulary.  Also, when someone points out a local Hawaiian accent you can tell a slightly different intonation on the English.  It's just that there just aren't the big over-arching cultural differences you'd expect  from this virtual petry dish and for me this is genuinely puzzling.  From what I can tell local Hawaiians shop at the same Best Buys, Sears, and Trader Joes that we do.  They eat at the same fast-food places and are into the same brands.  From what I can tell they more or less share the same gas guzzling, free spending, politically centrist, fiercely independent, racially tolerant, media crazed culture as the rest of America.

I can't really explain this turn of events which leads me to believe two things:

1) I'm right about Hawaiian culture.  It is basically the same as mainstream American culture at which point I'd really like someone who knows more about Hawaiian history and sociology to explain how things turned out this way.   I am at a loss.


2) I'm wrong.  Hawaiian culture is actually very different from the rest of American culture, it's just that my gringo tourist ass did not spend enough time there or didn't know where to look at which point, I need to go back.

Either way, Hawaii is a baffling place considering it's racial composition and history.  It's interesting to me not just because I myself am a 1st generation Japanese-American, but because if in 50 years Hawaii can go from an island nation filled with 1st generation Asians farming rice and sugar-cane into a tourist hot-spot for Leno-watching Americans, then who knows ... maybe McDonalds Iraq featuring the "Baghdad Burger" isn't as far away as people think.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Jerry and Connie's wedding

caption:  pelting the groom with a fistful of rose petals.  how poetic

Last week I was in Hawaii to see my fraternity brother Jerry "Sushi" Lee wed his lovely sorority girl Connie Everett.   He is a PhD Biochemist and she is a high-flying health care consultant, but in my mind's eye they are still the Johns Hopkins couple doing jello-shots in a sweaty basement grinding to "Make 'em say Ugggnnnn".  I see them now, they're older, they're successful, they love each other, but you know what?  They're still how I remember them at school.  They still know how to have a good time. 

Weather was fantastic, bridesmaids were rap-video hot, and life in Waikiki for a week was three o's smoooth.  Big ups to the ROC (Republic of China) for a fantastic hotel rate. 

Jerry and Connie I wish you the all best in marriage, in life, and in good fortune.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Tico Talk

The Costa Ricans have cool sayings which I'm tempted to use in real life but know I probably won't. 

"Pura Vida" - you say this when you meet someone or when you say goodbye.  You say it when something cool happens and you say it as an introspective comment when the laughter dies down.  Literally the phrase translates itself as a substantive "Pure Life" but in Costa Rica it's one of those swiss-army knife terms that seems to work for any occasion. 

The other one I wish I could take back with me is "Tranquillo" which is the same as the English "cool" or "chill".  The sun setting over the ocean?  Tranquillo.  Dude, stressed out?  Tranquillo.  I'm short 50 colones for the bill.  Tranquillo. 

I love words like these.  It breaks down all sense of "preciseness" that language is supposed to have.  It's all contextual.  To "get it" you have to be there.  You have to feel it.  The comedian Bernie Mac said in the movie Kings of Comedy

Let me break it down, what the word "mother-fucker" actually means. "Mother-fucker" is a word that black folks have been using for years. It's about expression. Don't be ashamed of the word "mother-fucker." Because "mother-fucker" is a noun: It describes a person, place or thing.

My guess, using "mother-fucker" every other word is not so much a sign of blackness as it is a sign of "Mac-ness".  The point is arbitrary words that mean nothing sometimes mean a whole lot depending on how how and when you say them.   Uppity language purists contend that people use such words because of some inherent lack of vocabulary.  Rather than use the correct terminology the speaker reverts to amaphorisms to make up for his inability to express himself. 

I'm no linguist but, I disagree to this line of thinking.  I think a person who speaks with contextual vocabulary does so not because he doesn't know any other way but rather because assumes a certain level of inclusiveness with his audience.  He actively known words like "Tranquillo" are prone to misinterpretation so when he uses them he trusts that you "get" him, and he "gets" you.

Goodbye Dominical.  Next week:  Hawaii for Connie and Jerry's wedding.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008



For the past week I have been in a small village on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica called Dominical. The impression I got about the place from Costa Ricans before I got there was that Dominical was very American. This turned out to be more or less true. You walk down the one street in Dominical and every shop sign is in English and there is a dearth of Spanish. On Dominical's single unpaved street there were 3 sports bars that played the Superbowl (thank god) with no shortage of white boys with their caps on backwards.

There is something to be said about the remoteness of the place however. To get there one needs to travel either through winding mountainous roads or take a ferry to the closest port Quepos and taxi it on perilous unpaved gravel. All in all it acts as an effective barrier from the "all-inclusive" crowd. You're surrounded by tourists but thankfully not the annoying ones.

That said, Dominical is beautiful. Being on the west side, I make it a daily ritual to see the sun set over the ocean. I think this about every place where I can see the sun set, but really this place has the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen.

Like many surf towns there is an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars and surf shops in operation which oddly enough features more asian restaurants (Japanese, Thai) than native Costa Rican. You'd be bored in the long run but for two weeks it's more than enough. The scene is decidedly young surfer. There doesn't seem to be as many boomer-hippies as on the Caribbean side. Beach-blonde couples lay by the ocean surf as their skin bronzed by the harsh afternoon sunlight blend into the dark grainy sand.

The shops themselves are mostly a collection of small businesses owned by other surfers, American and otherwise. There is a nice laid back attitude to businesses here which is less interested in making money as just having a good life. I sat in on a business meeting with a Canadian guy who started the lone diving school in Dominical drinking beers on the beach by an impromptu bonfire. Just another day at the office.

It's peaceful here and without a doubt I've fallen into the slow place of life by the beach. Days go quickly. My cabina is a minute walk away from the ocean. I stroll by it when I wake up, and I hear its vicious roar at night time as I go to bed. This is my first time to have a beach so close to where I live and it centers one like I could not have imagined. I am generally the kind of type-A personality who wants to get things done. Not here.

It feels good.

Monday, February 04, 2008


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