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Wow, a lot of people faved the super quick tutorial I posted O_O - would people be interested in me doing more of those? 
hi All! 
it's been a bit of a crazy year so far. The studio I was working for closed in Jan a few weeks before I left on my honeymoon (Skiing for 2 weeks at Whistler/Blakcomb...best honeymoon ever!) and a I had a crazy few months of contracting. I finally found a stable gig in the industry which is awesome (as stable it gets anyway... the games industry is quite volatile). I've been pretty bad at making art for myself as of late, I'm going to try to carve out some time to do a few pieces here and there :) 

Thanks to everyone who has been following me and for faving my work!! I don't get to check in here daily so I often can't thank everyone for the faves >_< Wish deviant art had a "like" button like Facebook so at least I could let people know I appreciate it (^_^)b

Time to get back to work!
Cheers
-Katie
I'm going to be at NY ComicCon again this year (woo!), I'll be at table D17 if anyone wants to stop by and say hi :D
I'll be at NY ComicCon this weekend... my table is C15 in the artist alley if anyone wants to stop by :)
Earlier in the year I got the Lead Artist position for "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" on Facebook at Blue Fang Games.. which was pretty sweet! I got to make a lot of (art)design decisions and had a blast working on the game. Unfortunately, like a lot of Facebook games, it didn't do well (mainly because of some design decisions) >_< and the Learning Company (which owns it) decided to discontinue development. bummer (T_T) Normally I'd be super bummed, but I got some good news right before that happened which took the sting out of it:

My Good News:
Sooo at the end of June, I finally took a vacation. My Boyfriend and I went hiking up in the White Mountains, we did the Presidential Traverse. For those of you who don't know the Presidential Traverse is a challenging hike in the white mountains were you summit Mt. Madison, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Clay, Mt Washington, Mt. Monroe, Mt. Franklin, Mt. Eisenhower and Mt. Pierce (in that order). All and All it's about 19 miles of hiking with about 9,000 feet of elevation gain. This was an amazing hike... what made it suck is that we decided that we were going to camp instead of stay at the huts. This was a bad idea. my pack was 25+lbs (which is a lot for me!!) and my boyfriends was 40+lbs.  The weight made the hike really difficult, especially Adams and Jefferson where you had to use your hands a lot to traverse all of the large rocks. All of the mountains are rock.. your feet never get a break from the rocks. We decided to start at 4am... it was a long day (but beautiful out!)- we hiked for 14 hours with only small (1-10min) breaks for food and water . By the time we got to Washington my feet were in so much pain from the weight of the pack and the rocks. I got blisters .9 miles into the hike too >_<. Amazingly... I though Mt Washington, the tallest of the peaks, was by far one of the easier ones to climb. By the time we got to Washington I was in so much pain... and we still had 4 more peaks to go, Although to be fair the last 4 peaks are the easiest - Madison through Washington are the most difficult- and my knee was starting to swell from the strain (I have a bad knee). about half way up I turned around to check out the view and pointed out to Dan that you could see all of the peaks we just summited... he said it was a great spot for a picture. He took out his tripod, set up the shot, set the timer and went to stand next to me. Except he didn't stand next to me... instead he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him :D So... I'm getting married!!! yay!! Dan is the love of my life and I had been hoping that he would ask me, and he did it in the most romantic way :D I'd love to say that after this I got a burst of energy and powered though the rest of the hike... but I"d be lying. By the time we reached the top of Washington I could barely walk. Us and another couple (who also brought camping equipment) got a ride down Washington and back to our cars. Lame I know... but one of the guys was in the Canadian Army... which made me feel a lot less wussy. And besides... I've done several peaks that are higher that 6,000 feet - including Mt Fuji and Mt Yari (Mt Yari started at 200 ft above sea level and went to 12,000). And whatever, I got engaged :D Dan and I are going to do the traverse again, but next time we're doing day packs! Oh! I know you might be thinking... why didn't you just camp? Well in the White Mountains you can't camp until you're below the tree line... turns out you don't go back below the tree line until after you summit Mt Pierce... at the end of the trek >_<


about 4:30am at the beginning of the hike - we look so awake don't we?:


As you reach the top of the tree line you get this nice little warning - for those who don't know the weather on these mountains can change REALLY quickly:


Us on My Madison (Madison, Adams and Jefferson were covered in large rocks like the one we're standing on...you rarely step off a rock onto solid ground:


Panorama just before Dan proposed to me:D :
We started up the back side of Mount Madison (really it's in between Madison and Adams)- we're about 10 miles in at this point and have probably done about 7,000 feet of vertical gain


View up to the summit of Mount Washington (that tower at the top there is at the peak)



Now comes the fun of wedding planning :D
As always thanks to anyone who reads my ramblings! And please excuse any spelling errors, typos etc.... I type with my toes!!
so after months of working on a project that I couldn't tell anyone about.. it's finally out!!

I've been working on "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" on facebook. Nichole Kelley (another artist I work with) and myself did the majority of the artwork so please check it out :D

apps.facebook.com/csandiego/
Aww man I can't wait for this rain to stop >_< I know we totally needed it (and we really did) but I'm itching to cycle and it's just not as much fun in the rain

I'm crossing my fingers for sunshine tomorrow! :D
I have an interview with a new game company (I'm currently working at a different game company) tomorrow... crossing my fingers that i get the job!  Wish me luck! :D

::UPDATE:: I got the job!! In 2 weeks I start as a flash artist at Blue Fang Games :D. Thanks everyone for wishing me luck!!

I'm going to have to tell GSN Digital that I'm leaving on Monday, which I'm not looking forward too >_<  my boss there was really great... But my job morphed into more of a production artist job when they decided to port all of our existing games to flash. Smart move for them, but it means that I wouldn't be making any original artwork for atleast a year, if not 2. I'm really looking forward to this new job:)
Ben and Jerry's now makes "cookies and milk" ice cream...i had some the other night... and I REALLY want some now...(O_O) ::drool::

I have nothing major to share.. I'm on my lunch break at work and am bored.

I'm going to bitch about DA a for a min.... why do people have a hard time organizing their artwork into the correct category? Every time I go into the comics and cartoons category it's loaded with manga... their is a separate category for that! not that I have anything against manga (obviously).Same goes for the Game Development art... if you're not designing it for a game it's not game development art (o >_<)o      okay that's the end of my bitch session : )
So as it turns out I now officially hate the new way DA displays my messages. At the moment I have 1,458 messages waiting for me and I have no way to efficiently go through them all. Because I only pop in from time to time I often have quite a few messages waiting for me... too many for me to say thanks for each fave. But I always made a point to say thanks to people who faved multiple images and now I can't do that b/c I can't see them all together (T__T) so to anyone who faved my work (and happens to be reading this) thanks for all of the faves! Looks like Im going to have to make a point to check in more frequently so I can keep up. Maybe that was DA's master plan all along!  :::EDIT::: okay ignore that rant... apparently I can change the settings (fairly easily as it turns out). Thanks for pointing that out : ) ... I hate DA much less now ^__^  

      Enough about that : ) So things have generally been good for me... I met someone that I've been dating since November and I'm quite smitten with him (^__^) I'll have to wait and see where this relationship goes... though the only thing I can say now (without jinxing myself) is that it's VERY different (in a good way) from all of my pervious relationships : ) I spent most of the winter skiing... this was my first year skiing and apparently I'm not too shabby at it! I pretty much went every weekend and as it turns out skiing can be a great workout (yay for strength training!).

       I've also been going to the gym a lot... well not a lot but regularly...I try for at least 3 days a week and then I usually do something active (skiing, hiking etc on the weekend). I gained 10 lbs when I came back from Japan (and lost muscle.. so ultimately I probably gained more than 10 lbs) and have been trying to work it off since. I'm happy to report that I lost 7lbs and gained quite a bit of muscle... I'm 3lbs away from my goal! For once in my life I'm trying to focus on being healthy and not getting fixated on  my body issues. Even though I've always been thin (too thin actually... though I didn't see it at the time)... I certainly had/have my body image issues. I'm not really sure where my issues came from... but I've been trying really hard to dismiss them (which is not always easy). I think it was in the fall that I had had enough.... It takes wayyy to much effort and makes me miserable to worry so much about being thin. Instead I went out and bought clothes that fit (nothing makes you feel bad about yourself like wearing clothes that are too small and too tight) and started telling myself that I'm beautiful... even when I didn't feel like I was. ESPECIALLY when I didn't feel like it. After a while I became less concerned about the few pounds i gained and more concerned about being healthy. I started to eat healthier too though I cannot give up mountain dew.. as it turns out I think I'm actually addicted to the stuff. If I give it up I will binge... hardcore binge.... so I just have to watch how much I have (hey we all need our guilty pleasures right?). I actually signed up for the corporate challenge this year... it's a 5k (3.5 mile) run. I am NOT a runner! At the moment can only run about a mile before my knees start to hurt. I'm working on strengthening them so I can run farther. After a mile I have to do a combo of run/walk for the rest of the duration. I have until mid june so we'll see how it goes. I'll be dammed if I'm going to walk it so I'm going to run it either way (^__-)

  I'm at work now so I can't write more... I'll have to update later with other stuff. I'm hoping to have some new artwork up soon... I'm working on an indy video game so I'll put some of the concept work up when I flesh it out more. As always thanks to anyone who reads this! Cheers!
  • Watching: Family Guy
Well it's now been over a year since I came back from Japan... and a very emotional year at that.  When I first came back I was Japan-sick and jumped right into grad school to be an art-ed teacher... I enjoy teaching. but I hate everything else that comes with teaching so in the end that was not the best career choice for me. I was INCREDIBLY depressed and had a VERY rough first half of the year. I dropped out of grad school to reevaluate what I wanted to do - initially I was thinking of just switching schools and got accepted to SVA's program.. but then I had an epiphany and realized that I really didn't want to teach. (I can get into my views on education and how the song and dance teachers are meant to do to get students to learn is absolute bull s*** and how students no longer have any accountability or their education, not to mention how teaching is thankless job that's extremely underpaid... but that's a whole other rant (^_-)

I also broke up with my boyfriend just after my gallery opening in January... we had a strange relationship and while I knew he wasn't my "forever" (mainly b/c we have VERY different goals and priorities in life.. plus he really likes to go out and drink.. and I don't. Once and a while is fine but not nearly as often as he did) I still loved him... well the person he used to be at least. See I was dating him before I went to Japan.. and while we weren't really together while I was Japan (we both saw other people) we still talked to each other like we were. So when I came home and he was dating someone else it was hard on me. but then they broke up and we got back together... but he wasn't the same person.... well maybe he was... but I started to see a side of him I really didn't like. But then again.. I'm sure I wasn't the same person either. Also.. the girl he was dating is completely psycho... and did everything she could to make my life hell. Did I mention that she worked at the hotel as well?   And while our breakup was pretty much mutual... it still made me sad. To make things worse he started dating another co-worker... who worked underneath me! who was one of the most incompetent, attitude problem employees I think we've ever had at the Front Desk! Now before you go thinking I'm just being vindictive... you must understand that I recommended that she be let go about 7 months before they started dating... if it wasn't that we HAD to have someone in that position and that that job is a pain in the neck to fill (try finding a quality person to work a minimum wage job .. it's REALLY hard) she would have been let go. But now I"m not there so I don't care what they do!

Yup that's right I have a new job! Which btw.. completely pulled me out of my depression. Btw.. a lot of people expect you to be able to get a great job in your field immediately after college... and when you can't... people have a way of making you feel like a failure. so if anyone reading this is going through the same thing.. you're not alone... luckily 2 of my sisters went through the same thing... both of them honor students as well... so at least I had someone telling me that it was okay. Anyway, I'm now working as an Associate Game Design Artist and UI Designer for GSN Digital/WorldWinner.. I make video games! I LOVE my job and work with some really cool people who are just as geeky as I am ^__^ While I do miss a lot of my coworkers from the hotel I'm really enjoying my new career and wouldn't trade it for anything. So I just moved up to Boston last month... I have small studio apartment... it's small but it's mine ^__^  and I no longer have to drive 4 hours (2 each way) to work everyday (I was commuting from CT for about 3 months).

I'm getting used to living on my own again (after what happened in Japan I get jumpy sometimes). though I dad have a night terror on Friday. They really suck. I can only remember part of it but I woke up hyperventilating and unable to move for a min. I only remember part of the dream but it was REALLY scary.

Today I bought a fish to keep me company.... his name is Caligula  



BTW... I'm looking for a recipe for how to make (Nagoya) Ramen.. like real ramen and not the instant stuff..if anyone has one please let me know!!! Cheers!!
Well.. I've been back in the states since September...

Shelley and I had a blast traveling around Japan... I never realized how "at home" I felt after being there for a year and a half until I was traveling with my sister. We climbed Mt.Fuji which was pretty fun. Though If I was going to do it again I would try to grab a hotel room for the day.... We had to leave the capsule hotel at 10 am so we spent the day walking around Harajuku before catching the bus to Fuji... I don't recommend doing this.... by the time we reached the summit at 4 am I was so tired I hopped off the trail and took a half hour nap on the rocks so I could continue on ^_- The way up was great.... the way down totally sucked... don't go the way the suggest.... the whole way down is an endless windy trail of sand and loose rock which you can't run on because you'll break an ankle and sucks to walk on because your toes are being smooshed into the front of your boots. My sister had blisters so bad by the end that we had to cut our 2nd hiking trip short and take a day off. We then climbed the 2nd highest mountain in Japan,槍ヶ岳 (yarigadake- Mt. Yari) in the Kita Alps. It was tough climb but it was way fun.... Although I've come to realize that my thermals are just not warm enough for below freezing weather... and neither was my sleeping bag >_<.. I totally froze at night! But the mountain was is full bloom and it was totally beautiful.....but all the flowers meant that me and the bees were waging war.... they wouldn't leave me alone! They kept landing on me and flying in my face... not my sister.... not anyone else.. JUST ME! I had temper tantrum once or twice because of it.  so anyway.. hiking was great and we had a blast traveling. My sister did in fact  do karaoke with me... I wasn't sure she would be up for it but the karaoke demon has claimed yet another victim!  lots more to share about that trip but I'll bore you all to tears with the details ^_-

After Shelley went home (and I cried a bit... how lame is that I was going to see her again in a month!)  I went to Shikoku

I had a great time cycling in Shikoku.... Although I wasn't able to make it all the way around (ran out of time and $) I was able to cycle over 500 miles. My friend Katy (from England) and I became  おへんろさん (o-henro or pilgrim) and did the 88 Temple Pilgrimage (八十八ヶ所巡り). We had an awesome time and met some great people along the way. Cycling was pretty hard (why are all of the temples on top of mountains O_o?!) so I anyone decides to try the pilgrimage by bike I don't recommend doing it on a standard japanese bike (no gears... but it has a basket... and a bell!). We gave our bikes away at the end so we couldn't afford to buy a decent bike (even cheap mountain bikes are pretty expensive)

It's been a little crazy since I got back to the states... had a rough couple of months >_< Between class, homework, classroom observation and working full time I could only find an hour here and there to myself... which thanks to so medicine I was taking I usually spent sleeping (>_o) But It's all good now! I can't believe how much I actually miss Japan... when I left I didn't think I'd want to go back anytime soon but I totally do.

Schools been.. okayish... I really don't like Central CT State Uni...so I'm transfering out. I don't feel like I've learned anything. One of my instructors had work from the beginning of the semester that she still hadn't graded by the end of the semester... and her grading was wicked arbitrary (no one could figure out how she judged your work). Then I had another teacher that spent the semester giving us these socialist rants about how we need to take down "the Man" instead of teaching us about educational psychology (which is what he was meant to be teaching ^_^). Then another class I had was "Educational Technology" which is using powerpoint etc. For our first real class the instructor had us bring in our cameras so he could show us how to take pictures from our camera and put them on the computer...... really O_o... the sad part is that there were some people who really didn't know how to do it O_O! The only class I really liked and actually learned something from was my Developmental Psychology class... I really enjoyed that one. Even though I got all A's, between my crappy classes and the fact that there telling me it's going to take me 2.5 years to get my certification (with summer classes) even though I have 180 college credits as it is... I'm transfering out. I didn't make it in time for the spring semester (MA makes you take a test before you can enter and my results didn't come in in time) I'm going to go to Westfield State College in the fall. I did duel enrollment there, that's where my sister got her certification from and it's the best "teacher" school in MA so it should be good.

Sorry for the rant.... onto more cheerful news... Maya (my niece) is doing great.... (^_^) She's so big... she is using so many more sentences than when I first came home...she calls me "Aunty ti"... some times she gets the "kay" out with it but it's usually just "Auntie ti". She has stolen all of the stuffed animals I bough back from Japan... I'm going to have to see if I can get more >_< Bad news is that my sister and her husband are getting a divorce... he has some weird commitment issues.. she's upset but she's doing okay.

I'm back at the Sheraton Hotel...they got rid of the Assistant Manager position so I'm just a supervisor now. Even though I get paid more than before I still wish I had the title.... although most people still refer to me as a manager anyway. The hotel went all non-smoking so I'm yelled at by guests a lot less frequently now, which is great(^_^)

Just bough a car! Yay (^_^)b It's a Toyota Solara.. siver and very cute!

I just had a gallery opening on the 16th! It went really well.. it was an all women's show called "The Wandering Uterus"... a name which everyone loved! Apparently shelley and I were the hit of the show... I'll have to wait and see if I actually sold anything (::crossing fingers::) either way it was a lot of fun and it made me realize that I have to do it more often (^_^)b

I really miss Japan... way more than I thought I would... If anyone who reads this gets the opportunity to go I can only give you this advice: hang around with people who like it there.  I had a great time with my friend Katy... but she really didn't like Japan... and when you spent your time with someone who isn't happy where they are is can rub off on you without you being aware of it. I wasn't until I was traveling with my sister that I realized how much I really did like it there... and by then it was too late... I only had 2 months left before I was heading home...
I'm not sure If I'll get the chance to do it again... but I'm strongly considering it
cheers for listening (^_-)b
I start my travels tomorrow night... I'll be back stateside in September and I hope to have some good stories to share ^_~



(btw... I do the dance that my Mood Emoticon is doing all the time XD hahaha)
My time in Japan is drawing to an end... I've got 3 days left of work, YAY!

My sister is arriving in Tokyo on Friday and then her and I are going to travel for 2 weeks. We're gonna climb Mt. Fuji and then we're gonna spend some time hiking in the Northern Japan Alps before heading back to Nagoya(provided the weather is good and that we don't die of exhaustion). Then we're gonna head to Kyoto, Nara, Osaka (briefly) and Hiroshima. I haven't seen my sister in over a year so I'm really excited about it. I know it's kinda cliche but my (twin) sister is kinda my best friend so it's been really hard not being able to talk to her like I usually would. Thank God for Skype. I think she's gonna have a tough time being away from my niece for so long though- she's never been apart from her for more than 2 days- and she had a hard time with that ^_^

After my sister takes off I'm going to bike the island of Shikoku (the 88 Temple Pilgrimage)with my friend Katy. And then I head home!!

I know a lot of people that read this might not understand.. but I'm really ready to go home. Going to Japan has been a great experience, and if I could do it again I wouldn't change anything... but I'm honestly not very here. The realization that I don't really like it here has been a tough one to cope with as I've dreamed of coming to Japan since I was 12. That's not to say that I 'hate' Japan, because I don't. there are things I like and there are things I don't like... and it's the same in America... but the difference here is that the stuff I don't like greatly out weighs the stuff I like. And of course, America is my home... while I'd never describe myself as being overly patriotic, I didn't realize how much I loved my home until I came here.

Mind you, I don't speak Japanese... not much anyway (took a year in university and haven't really learned much here since I spend my day speaking English... and well,lets be honest- I don't study). Sometimes I kinda feel like if I spoke a bit more Japanese I might have had a different experience, but then again the things that bother me don't really have anything to do with language- Japan is just a lonely place for me...

I think if I was still working for NOVA I might have stayed longer... but that was because I was working with all foreigners... so I always had someone to talk to and hang out with. Now I work in an Japanese office and my co-workers, while friendly, keep to themselves most of the time and don't really hang out together. They're also generally quite a bit older than Katy and me so that adds to it. When I was at NOVA I also had a flatmate so I never came home to an empty apartment.. AND I was lucky enough to have 6 other teachers all living in the same complex. Since NOVA went under everyone had to move.. and although we're not SUPER far apart from each other... it's enough where I only get to hang out with my friends like once a month... and that's if I'm lucky and we all have a day off together. And while I've made Japanese fiends my age they're generally working too so it's tough. If I were to live abroad again I think I'd want to bring someone with me... seems to be the best way to go.

So yeah long story short... I'm not happy here... I don't hate it, but I'm I don't love it either.

I have met a lot of great people here though and parts of Japan are amazing so as I said earlier I am glad I came. Coming here has made me want to travel a lot more... I'm determined that I'm going to backpack Europe.

sorry to be whining about my time here... I usually try to keep my journals upbeat if I can... but I think I just needed to get that off of my chest >_o It's been tough for me to talk about it because everyone expects me to tell them how much I love Japan (and parts of it I do). anyway that's all for now... Looking forward to seeing my twin sister! 3 more days left of work!!!

As always thanks for anyone who takes the time to read this
went to Kyoto over the weekend.... I quite like Kyoto... kinda wish I lived there >_< But then again, after visiting Fukuoka I REALLY wished I lived there... Wouldn't be as convenient as Nagoya or Kyoto for traveling though ^_^;;

wow that was one long run-on sentence!

Anyway Kyoto was great... only spent 2 days there. first day was nice and sunny! My friend Katy and I took the bus at 7am (yuck!) and arrived about 9:30. After grabbing some breakfast we went to the Kinkakuji (Golden Temple). Their were tons of school kids there. I couldn't help but think how nice of a place it would be if they weren't there >_<. Would have been so much more peaceful! The temple itself was nice... but looked much more striking from a distance. Up close you can see where the gold was guilded onto it.

From there we went to Ryoanji Temple. Cool place with a nice rock garden. The garden itself does not photograph well btw... it's too long to get in 1 shot and too empty to look good in 2 ^_^;; but it was really nice to look at it while we were there.

then we headed over to Ginkakuji (Silver Temple.... but unlike the Golden Temple it's not covered in silver). Unfortunately the temple was undergoing renovations (seriously... it was stripped down to the structure and covered in plastic) which was a bit disappointing... but the good news is that the temple grounds were quite nice to walk about.
From there we took the Philosopher's Path to Gion.... oh and we totally made sure to philosophize along the way (Katy went to uni for ancient history so we had a nice discussion about ancient Roman and Greek sculpture).

Gion is pretty boring during the day.... I suggest going at night.

We checked into the youth hostel after that. and then headed out for dinner. After dinner we were both pretty beat so we headed back and chilled out with some of the girls bunking with us.


At some point during the discussion a woman from the Philippines made the comment that all Americans are obese..... now I of course 1) being an American 2) not being (nor have I ever been) anywhere near overweight   Felt that I needed to set the record straight on this.

Now for anyone here who has heard or made this statement listen up..... America has the highest OBESITY rate. OBESITY MEANS EXTREMLY FAT; GROSSLY OVERWEIGHT (according to the American Heritage dictionary). Now what that DOES NOT mean is that all Americans are fat. In fact most Americans are no bigger than anyone from any other western country such as the UK, Germany Australia etc.  And while most westerners do tend to have a bit more weight on them than some other countries that doesn't quality them by any means as being obese.
There... I've had my rant and now I'm done... moving along.....



The next day we went to Fushimi Inari Shrine. If you don't know what that place is seriously look it up... and if you have the chance go. It was an amazing place! if it wasn't for the fact that it was raining we could have spent longer there!
then we went to Sanjusangendo and saw the 1000 statues of Kannon... also a cool place! then we headed off to the Manga Museum. Very nice place.... If I lived in Kyoto and could read Japanese it could be an awesome place to read manga.... they have a HUGE library. It was nice to see that the drawings they had from the 'best' mangaka in Japan were really unique and only a few of them had that stereotypical 'anime' look.  Also a great international illustration exhibit going on there. After that we caught the bus and headed home.

back at work now.... should probably do something productive... ^_^

as always thanks for reading and sorry for any and all typos and spelling errors!

-Katie
I'm at work and I'm inbetween lessons and I have nothing to do..... I'm so freaking bored.

Just thought I'd share that..... o(>_<)o
Hello All!
Well spring is here in Japan (Yay!) and Golden Week has just passed. I still don't really know what Golden Week is all about other than it seems to be when nearly every Japanese person gets a bit of time off and travels (generally they travel domestically so the trains were PACKED with people). I got a 2 extra days off as well (super yay!) so my co-corker Katy and I decided to go mountain climbing (no rockfaces... just REALLY steep cliffs... so really it was more like a really difficult hike).

We were initially going to do a 4 day hike in Nara.. but then we found out one of the mountains (Mt. Omine) doesn't allow women on the mountain at all. Unfortunately, as sexist and completely infuriating as that is their is no exception to it. In fact I read somewhere about a woman (westerner) who tried to climb it and the men on the mountain were so angry that she actually had to fear for her safety. So needless to say those plans went by the wayside. Then we decided to hear out by Kyoto and hike one of the mountains there.. but upon checking the weather we learned that 2 of the days would have rain and this hike would have been quite dangerous in the rain.

So after all that we had to settle for a 2 day hike in Nara. But actually it turned out to be AMAZING!!
We decided to climb Mt. Hakken (Hakken ga dake) which is the tallest mountain in Kansai.
bags So we packed out bags and prepared to catch the 6:30 train headed for Nara. We estimated about 3 hours or so to get to our destination.  My bag is the red one! In retrospect, I should have bought a slightly larger bag.... however that means I would also have had to CARRY that larger bag. Maybe I'll get a new one for x-mas or my birthday ^_-.

Anyway.. so we caught the train which went all right until we got to our first transfer... the next train was PACKED with people!! Did I mention that I'm SLIGHTLY claustrophobic? O_o  
If the insane amount of people crammed on this train wasn't enough to make me uncomfortable, the fact that the guy standing next to me had rank fish breath certainly was. Maybe it was all of that or maybe it was that this express train seemed to stop at EVERY station that led me to believe that we were in some sort of time vortex. After that seemingly unending train  we had 2 more transfers and then a bus ride to get to our destination. We didn't get to Tenkawa-kawai until after 12.... 5 FREAKIN' hours on that train!!!  
Then we had to walk to the base of the mountain... it's about a 30 min car ride to where you can begin the climb... it's suggested that you either take a taxi (which will cost about $80)  or you can try to hitch a ride. We walked it for about 2 hours before we were able to hitch a ride (my first time hitchhiking!) .  Now their must not be a lot of foreigners in this area because we were getting an exceptional amount of stares (and waves for middle school kids). Doesn't usually bother me, but when you're trying to hitch a ride and people slow down to stare at you and you get your hopes up that they're going to give you a ride only for them to speed away... it's quite irratating!   But we did eventually get a ride. When we were first planning the trip we were hoping to have arrived about 2 hours earlier in which case we would have walked it, but we didn't and we really only had until 6:30 before the sun went down. mt hakken in the background   <-- that's the mountain we climbed in the background... this is right before we hitched a ride.... still 15 min car ride to get there

We made it to the base of the mountain just before 3 and started out. The first part of the mountain was a series of steep inclines (ranging from 50-70 degree angles I would guess) which you navigated by utalizing rocks and tree roots. This part seemed to go on forever.. and lord knows I'm not in the best shape.... so on the tough parts I'd often have to stop for 5 seconds and catch my breath. As we were going up most people were heading down... So we got a lot of "the sun goes down at 6:30" comments(in Japanese). Since foreigners don't travel here often everyone was really friendly and wanted to talk to us and find out where we were from.  We finally made it  past the steep slopes to where we got to do a bit of ridge-walking before we headed up again. I rather enjoy ridge-walking ^_^. We met 2 other guys here that were trying to make it to the camp near the top as well... so we weren't quite a worried knowing we weren't the only ones heading up there this late.  The mountain got quite muddy as we got higher... turns out there were still spots of snow here and there that were melting  snow   
After a series of steps we did make it to the base near the top. Although we packed heavy clothing we did underestimate how cold it really got up there at night. It wasn't just cold.... it was cold and clammy >_<  
me   <-- here's me trying to keep warm ^_^;;
sign We woke up about 5:30 or so and after breakfast headed to the peak which was about 25 min for camp.  For those of you (like me) who don't use meters that's 6282.48 Feet.  The view from here was AMAZING!!
looking down into the valley <--- looking down into the valley
view2 <-- we had to climb that part of the mountain next
view3<-- another view
Their were lots of dead trees up there... not sure why O_o

From there we had about 6 hours of ridge walking down the mountain (mind you it's really ups and downs... there are still more smaller peaks you have to navigate around)
here's a view of the larger mountain I took on the way down --->view4
After hours of walking (and being wee bit unsure of where we actually were) we finally spotted the town town This was enough to celebrate on it's own!!
we still had another hour to make our way down to the town itself.... this area was quite steep
although it's really hard to tell how steep it is from the picture >_<
katy near the end <--- I took the picture, that's my co-worker Katy down at the bottom.  Although it this area was steep it was nothing compared with some of the other ridge ways that were only about a foot wide with a steep slope up on one side and a steep slope down on the other. If you fell off you'd roll for a really long time (well unless you were lucky and hit a tree)XD
So after another endless train ride we finally made it back... tired and blistered but it was totally worth it, I can't wait to do it again!


Thanks to anyone who reads this! As always, sorry for all of the typos and spelling errors>_<!!!


NOTE: I lokked at this at work and their is something really funky going on with the spacing O_o I can't find a reason for it and I can't seem to fix it... super sorry
AAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGG!!!!! o (>_< ) o

I'm trying to file my taxes in Japan.... the US tax forms are hard enough for me to fill out let alone ones that are COMPLETLY in Japanese (which I can't read).

I did find a site that walks me through how to actually fill out the form... but lets face it.... if it has to do with taxes it's not going to be written in clear, plain english (>_O)

check this out:

"If the payer has already withheld income tax, such tax is deductible. But as for income from interests or dividends subject to seperate taxation at source, or as for dividends etc. (see "income from dividends" on page 26), which you have opted not to report in your final return, you cannot deduct the withholding tax on such income, since taxation is completed by withholding at source"


...


...


WHAT DOES THAT MEAN!!!!!!! (O_o)/


Now I know someone has just read that and went "oh that's easy"... well good for you (o ¬_¬ )b

but seriously even talking about taxes/money stresses the hell out of me and the language in tax forms/help and legal documents tends to confuse me more o(>_< )o

well now that I've had my rant I feel better...(o ^_-)b    I've also given up on trying to figure it out and am going to go to the International Center on Monday (the day taxes are due) and make them help me.  Then after all of this I still have to file my US tax return which should be a treat because I can't use the 1040ez form (for those of you not in the US that's the simplest form you can use) because I have income from Japan.

anyway, as always... thanks for listening (^_^)
I really need to blog more frequently >_<
here's what's been happening so far...


XMAS


I made it through x-mas... I had a serious bout of homesickness just before x-mas so I was quite glad when it was over. This was the first x-mas  I didn't spent with my family so it was tough. Luckily I had friends here who were all going though the same. So x-mas eve we all went out to an izakaiya (pub) and ate and drank. We did a secret Santa as well... but we were all broke so the deal was you had to buy it from the 100yen store (for those who don't know 100yen is roughly $1). I got a juice box of cheap sake... blech >_< but it was fun none the less. X-mas day I spent with my friends Jake and Jill (yes... seriously, those are their names... they're a married couple from Oregon). Jill made Alfredo for dinner and we watched moves... it was a nice quiet day ^_^.For New Years we went to our favorite pub and partied all night... I was so hung over the next day =_=.


JANUARY


January was a tough month....
My friend Dave from Australia went home. I've been lucky that none of the people I met here have gone home yet. And only my flatmate moved away (she's near Tokyo now.. Saitama I think). Dave has been such a good friend to me that I was pretty upset about him leaving. Dave, you see, is a bit older than me... so besides being my drinking/traveling buddy... he's been someone that has given me advice and support when I've needed it. See the problem with a lot of the foreign men that come to Japan is that they're only into Japanese girls. and most Japanese men are way too shy to talk to you and the ones that are are weird... like seriously crazy.
This is how a conversation with one of these weirdo's goes:

Them: "Where are you from?"
me: "America"
Them:"do you like Japanese boys?"
me: "uhhhhhh.... yeah I guess so"
Them:"do you have a boyfriend?"

now here's where the conversation can go one of two ways...

way #1:
me: "no"
Them: "would you like one?"

way#2:
me: "yes"
them:"you should have a Japanese boyfriend, would you like one?"

Now granted... if I had been talking to this person for some time this convo might not seem so strange... but that's THE FIRST thing they say O_o I know western men are more forward but I think they misunderstand how forward they really are. Ok, now that I've wandered off topic... anyway Japan isn't a great place for someone who isn't totally confident in themselves anyway in that your complexes are likely to be magnified here. The good-looks/weight/fashion obsession here is uncanny.
Dave was someone who always seemed to know when I could really use an encouraging word to help boost my self-esteem and was always happy to give it.
Actually... he kinda broke his finger punching someone out for me once too...
this jerk from New Zealand wouldn't leave me alone... seriously he was being a pig. I told him like 15 times that I wasn't interested and he wouldn't leave me alone. So I got pissed and went and sat next to Dave. Well this guy apparently thought that Dave was trying to hit on me. This is especially funny because nearly everyone knows that Dave isn't into women. Well this guy came up and said something to Dave and then kinda tapped him in the chin with his fist (it wasn't a punch... but it was a VERY disrespectful thing to do). Dave was pissed. Our friend Larry (from New Zealand as well) was friends with both and was totally trying to mediate and brought the guy back in to apologize to Dave. Well he said sorry and then did it again O_o Now at this point I got up to use the ladies room and when I came back out the New Zealand guy had blood down his front that was leaking out of his nose. Now Dave isn't the type of guy who enjoys fighting so he was just as upset about the whole thing... and then 2 weeks later had to go to the hospital because his finger was swollen and couldn't bend. Lo and behold it was fractured.
Damn that was a much longer story than I realized O_< sorry.
Well the moral is that Dave was a really good friend to me and so when it was time for him to go back to Australia on January 14th I was pretty broken up about it.

For anyone who hasn't lived abroad I might have to explain this a little. When you're away from your family, friends and frankly everything that's familiar you rely a lot on the friends that you make. Whether they're other foreigners or Japanese these are the people you relay on when you're having a rough time. And then in turn do the same for you. It can be a really strong bond if you've met someone  you really get along well with. And for us, since we all kinda shared all of the good times and the bad (yay for bankruptcy!) we all were really close. And when someone goes home it feels more like a funeral than just a goodbye. Although everyone promises to write and visit and all that stuff... we all know that sometimes things just don't work out. So even though we all make the same promises, in the back of your mind you know you might never see this person again... So needless to say I cried my eyes out. Thank God for sites like “facebook” which make it sooo much easier to keep in touch. I also gave Dave the original for the Zelda painting (check out my gallery to see it). I rarely  give away originals but he really liked it and was such a good friend to me that I thought I'd make an exception in this case ^_^


Other than that things have been the same.... my friend Remy moved to another part of Japan and so we had a night out for her.... I of course had wayyy too much to drink and ended up lying on the bathroom floor (which I was too drunk to realize how minging it really was) in the karaoke bar wishing I could throw up (because I knew I would feel soo much better if I did) and dreading the fact that it was now 3am and I have work at 9:30am. Thank God I didn't have lessons.  


FEBRUARY

KABUKI

Katy and I (yes we're both named Katie.... I prefer to think of us as Katie²) went to see Kabuki. Neither of us had any idea what was going on but neither did the the Japanese. Kabuki is sung in an old form of Japanese and is mush more sing-songy than the modern language. But the Japanese people attending were given a translation so they could follow the story at least. Damn my inability to read Japanese!!! Though we were able to figure out the gist of it. Kabuki is also REALLY long... nearly 4 hours. It's quite beautiful though. Our party had about 9 people when it started... but the end only 4 of us stayed behind. Hell I paid 5000yen (~$50) to see it so I was gonna get my money's worth.


THE SUPERBOWL


I watched the Superbowl this year as well. I actually enjoyed it enough to want to watch football and try to figure out what's going on. I went with Katy, Jake and Jill to a local gaijin (foreigner) bar to watch it. For 4 brief hours it was like we were back in America. It was a lot of fun. Katy is from England so this was her first time watching American football and she was secretly excited about it (her inner cheerleader was cheering!). Although, she makes fun of me quite a bit for the fact that at one point during high school I was a cheerleader... so she had to pretend that he wasn't excited... but I knew the truth. I was glad that she was there because she asked Jake a lot of the questions that I had.  As an American I'm apparently supposed to know a lot about football. Jake was really patient and cool about answering everything too ^_^


FIRE FESTIVAL


Last weekend Katy and I went to a fire festival in Tobu, Aichi. You really have to see this festival to really appreciate how amazing it really was...
Basically there were giant haystack like things (made of dried grass and weeds and such) that were as tall as a regular sized telephone pole. People light the top of this thing on fire.. which makes a giant bone fire. After which 2 teams of men proceed to pull apart these haystacks looking for a giant “sacred branch” located inside. Again.. this thing is ON FIRE!!! so while they're vigorously trying to shake this stack apart  large and small bits of burning brush are raining down upon them. At the same time there are people on the sides flinging water on them using giant ladles in a effort to stop them from catching on fire. The whole ordeal lasts about 20-30 minutes and is meant to predict the harvest for the coming season. It was brilliant.... you'd never see such a thing in the US. Katy and I decided that it was definitely a man who came up with the idea... and he was probably drunk. We were also interviewed by Aichi TV because we were one of the few gaijin that were there. We also me a kid from England who was there as a volunteer worker. He works with nearly all Japanese people so he was super excited to have someone else to talk to. We ended up hanging out with him the next day as well. He seemed so young (was only 18) and was just so excited to be there... it was amazing ^_^  Next weekend he's gonna come with us to a club... and he's very excited about it.



TOKYO



Today I got back from my weekend trip to Tokyo:

We took the overnight bus from Nagoya at about 11pm. The bus was okay....standard coach bus. The seats never quite recline enough to be comfortable so you automatically wake up every few hours when some part of your ass is in severe pain from lack of blood. We were meant to arrive about 7am... we actually arrived at 5:30!! do you know what's open at 5:30am on a Sunday in Tokyo? NOTHING!!! So not only were we sleep deprived but we were stuck to wander Tokyo in the wee hours when is was easily below freezing. OMG it was so freaking cold. We wondered into Shinjuku station to keep warm.

One of the most striking things I found in Tokyo had nothing to do with culture, architecture, sites or anything of the sort. It was the amount of homeless people that can be found throughout the city. When we walked into Shinjuku station their were about 15 or so homeless men trying to keep warm (same as us really). After wandering about the station for a bit we ventured back out into the cold in search of someplace we could eat, sit and keep warm... we ended up in a little 24 hour restaurant that serves rice bowls. Mmmm.... pork on top of rice for breakfast with miso soup. Not my first choice for breakfast (it's pretty typical for a Japanese breakfast but it's a little heavy for my taste), but I was quite happy to be someplace warm. After that we headed down the red-light district... got to see all of the pimps and hoes getting off work  ^_^ We stopped for tea a local place and watched the Tokyo marathon go by.... then we wonder about the city a bit more looking for the government building which was meant to have a good view of the city. We eventually found it. Tokyo is HUGE. Like Nagoya is pretty big too.... from Nagoya tower it's difficult to see exactly where the city ends in any given direction..... but Tokyo seemed to way bigger. They subway is way more complicated too. At least in Nagoya if you change lines you don't have to leave and reenter with another ticket. After the tower we headed to Harajuku. It's a trendy little place. In the park near the temple you can see the famous Harajuku girls... I had my picture taken with some of them. But I've been to comic book conventions so the whole ordeal didn't strike me as all that odd. Though there were so many others there that seemed utterly perplexed by the madness of it all. Now there are quite a few foreigners in Nagoya.... it's not uncommon to see them but it was quite strange to see so many in one place. Of course Tokyo is where most of the tourists go in Japan. I couldn't help but thinking that if you're one of the gaijin actually living in Tokyo you must really hate all of the tourists because people automatically assume that you are one.  After that we went to the temple there and then wondered about the park for a bit. The park is like a circus... anyone with something different comes out on Sunday to show it off. There were of course the Harajuku girls, The 1950's dancers (guys with bouffant hair who are dressed like the Fonz and lip singing), jugglers, various musicians, people dancing... it was great.  After that we wondered about Harajuku for a bit and then decided to head to the hotel. Thanks to my previous job I was able to score us a room at the Miyako Sheraton pretty cheap. The room was wicked posh too. By the time we go to the hotel we were both pretty exhausted (remember... few hours sleep, 5:20am wakeup walking all day). So we had dinner in the hotel and chilled out there for the rest of the night. I was out by 10:30.. I NEVER go to bed before 1am. We slept in the morning and at about noon headed to the Imperial Palace. We wondered about the outer gardens. Again.... about 12 or so homeless people could be found camped out in the park (and it was the same at nearly every park... though some had less than others). The actual palace was closed (apparently they're closed on Monday's). then we walked into Ginza and headed for the Sony building. But apparently that day, and only that day it was closed for some type of maintenance... so much for out luck. We wanted to go window shopping (a lot of Tokyo is shopping) but most of the stores were designer department stores. We were hoping for little boutiques. So we headed back to Harajuku and spent the day window shopping there. We later walked back to Shinjuku and stopped at Denny's for dinner. Before anyone gives me crap about eating at a foreign restaurant keep in mind that I LIVE in Japan so the novelty of eating Japanese food everyday has long since worn off. And besides... it wasn't anything like the Denny's back home. Then we walked around Shinjuku a bit more before catching the overnight bus home. I got home around 7:30am and went right to sleep.... I didn't wake up until 2:30(half hour before I had to leave for work) I'm looking forward to a good night sleep tonight ^_~

well I spent the better part of work typing this out..... kudos to anyone who actually reads it (o ^_-)b
hugs to everyone!!
Ello everyone!
it's been a long time since I've been able to pop in here.....
Well I've started my new job.... it's a lot of fun and everyone I work with is cool.... so all around good times.
I don't have internet yet at my new flat so I really can't check my mail and whatnot often. I've done a bit of new work... I'm hopeing to get a scanner after xmas so I can update and whatnot.
well I'm at work and can get introuble for doing this so I'm gonna run for now.....

In case I don't pop back in intime...
Merry Christmas everyone! d(^-^)b