Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chasing the Rising Sun: 13 Tokyo Japan Return to Namja

Hey guys I have been back for a few weeks and too lazy to post some of my last videos from Japan. But here is one!

Monday, July 21, 2014



   A taboo for some; introversion, or someone who is introverted, has become a kind of naughty word. In school we are now taught to work together and socialize. More and more single desks are being replaced by round, 4 person, open tables in 4th grade math class. Math, writing, and reading class are no longer solitary activities but rather group social environments. Work places encourage working as a team on any one task instead of as an individual.

   For others it has become a kind of "cool" label to ignorantly place upon oneself or another person. These people do so without fully understanding introversion, and more importantly themselves.

   The thing is, at least from my point of view, introversion isn't really understood on a wide scale. Even harder is to be able to classify someone as introverted or extroverted (or ambiverted) and I feel that many people classify themselves as one or the other incorrectly. Likewise schools and workplaces seem to misunderstand introversion as well. So much that it is often discouraged and labeled as "anti-social."

   I don't really like to label myself as one particular thing or another but some labels are accurate whether you like them or not. At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, I will confidently say that I see myself as an introverted person.

   Introversion isn't a curse nor a gift. It's not a disease and it's not an endowment. Neither is it being shy, or anti-social. Shyness and antisocialism are often labels put upon people who are introverted for lack of understanding. They are different things regardless of whether or not they are often also experienced by an introverted person.

   So what is introversion and what is it not?

   Simply put, introverted people draw their energy to socialize and interact with others from within themselves. Extroverts,(extravert same thing different spelling) on the other hand, seem to gather their energy from those around them. For example, everyone is having a good time so your mood reflects that. If everyone around you is stressed or just not in a pleasant mood, you are quite sensitive to that and emulate these feelings to an extent. This isn't to say that every time someone is completely bummed so are you, but an extrovert would find it quite hard to be sunny and bright in such a situation. Extroverts are also seen as being very talkative and outgoing, often making conversation with anyone they meet. They do this because that's where their energy comes from. In my case I find it really tough to look and sound like I am sympathizing with a person. I do not normally feel gloomy if someone else does, and I can feel gloomy in the middle of a party. That is just an example... but the point is my energy, my chi if you will, is completely independent of the aura others are giving off. So often when people come to me for advice, my advice can seem cold and indifferent. I really do sympathize with people, but not in the way they are used to.

   For those who are introverted it's a bit harder to speak to people because they are their own source of energy. Speaking to someone takes a lot of effort, and at least in my case, it's quite a daunting task to try and have a conversation with people. Because of that we are a little bit more reserved because we want to save that energy for the right conversation...so to speak. I have heard so many times, "I always wanted to talk to you before but you always seemed so stand-offish." Actually, however, it is more likely that I do want to speak with people, but starting a conversation is incredibly hard for me. Imagine if all you could do is speak to one person per day before you just absolutely fell over like you had ran 30 miles. That is quite extreme, but when looking at it like that, you can see why I would rather be very selective in who I speak to.

   It's a double edged sword at times though. I can actually be quite a chatty person. I love to have long, deep, one on one conversations with people. At times I start to feel bad for the person I am speaking to. Either because they are too polite to end the conversation, or because they are actually quite into what we are speaking about, I have been known to keep people up way past their bed times. But it really is an exhaustive process. Okay, I am not sweating profusely after I speak to someone, (that happens because I actually do tend to be shy and nervous with new people and has nothing to do with introversion) but the energy expended in having a conversation with someone actually does make me physically and mentally tired. Because I choose to save this energy until I find the right person to use it on, I often end up not speaking to anyone at all. This is a bit disappointing because I am sure there are more introverted people like myself out there who enjoy having conversations, but we simply cannot find anyone to speak to. I am sure that more times than not our body language and quiet demeanor gives the sense that we don't wish to be bothered at all. Usually that is not the case at all and is quite far from the truth. With that being said, think twice about the quiet person sitting the next table over from you. It's more likely that they really do want to speak with you than you may think. Help them out and say, "Hello," you never know what kind of friend you will make. Introverted people can be some of the most intelligent people you will ever meet because we spend a lot of time thinking through things.

   Back to the way we discourage introversion though. It's actually quite sad to discourage people who are more inclined to work on projects by themselves. I have a very hard time with this. Some of the best work a human being is capable of comes from being left to their own devices with an issue or idea. True, there is value in group work, but I am much more comfortable working a problem out by myself. I value other opinions and ideas, but at the end of the day I need to be left alone to concentrate. So why on applications and interviews are we forced to paint ourselves out to be the person who works great in a group environment? Why must we all be machines and think alike? Why must we assimilate into the workplace? Instead, let's learn to value a person who can solve a problem by way of peaceful solitude.

   When I was younger I did not know I was such an introverted person. Looking back now it would make sense though. When I was in high school I only had very few friends even though many people seemed to like what I had to say about things. At lunches I would usually hang out with just one person and stay away from the crowds of people as much as possible. After I graduated so many people started telling me they always wanted to speak to me but I was "too quiet," or, "scary," whatever that meant. I think it just came from me being reserved which may have been perceived as arrogance. Now that I am older it has not gotten much better. In fact it has gotten worse because I am no longer forced into a whole class room full of chatty teenagers. Classrooms now are my worst enemy. I know there are so many intellectuals in my college courses I would love to have a conversation with, but I cannot simply gather the energy. If by chance friendships do form, they are often not kept because of my lack of socialization with said person. Not many people understand why I can't go out to the club every Friday night, or go out with a bunch of friends every night. My comfort is going out to dinner with just one person and having a long conversation. Even then, however, I cannot do that very often.

   My first job out of high school was a call center. Now, saying what I just said, you can probably figure out that this was one of the worst jobs for me. I am not joking when I say that I had nightmares where I had to answer calls. That is a serious statement, the nightmares were so bad that they would wake me up at night. I didn't understand it, but now I do. For one I was forced to speak to hundreds of complete strangers in an eight hour day. We were encouraged to seek out help from coworkers we had never met before when we were stuck, and group events like potlucks were in some ways mandatory. I realize now that I was under a lot of stress in this type of environment. I was doing exactly what my body and mind were telling me not to do. I am sure there are plenty of introverts who have overcome this or do not feel the same, and to them I have to say, "You are much stronger than I am." I did try though, and not just once either. At first I thought it was just that particular call center. So later down the line I tried another... and another... all with the same result. Being asked to answer that phone was like asking me to stab myself over and over again. I'm really not kidding about any of this, it may be hard to understand but believe me this is all true.

   Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining about the way I am. It has taken me a long time to arrive at this conclusion. I have only done so because I have learned a lot about myself and I am quite comfortable with the knowledge obtained. There are many people out there who have overcome their introversion, at least enough to obtain the relationships or status they need and want. I know I am no exception to the case, I just have no need or desire yet to do so. Sometimes it is a little tough though. I like being inside my own head, but sometimes my thoughts need to be shared. That is precisely why I have this blog.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Not really much of a blog post but more of an FYI for those who read my blog.

While I was in Japan I was using my lap top to edit my photos. The monitor on this lap top is smaller, darker, and has unreliable color representation. Therefor some of my edits, upon looking at them on my desktop monitor, came out in ways I did not intend them to.

So I will be re-editing and reuploading many of the photos that are currently in past blog posts. Just an FYI in case you are wondering why they look different if you go back to them. Examples of re-edits are as follows:
Before(too red)
After(more accurate)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Capturing the Scene

    At times photography is more about failure than success. As I have said before you can go out with a goal of capturing a full story worth of photos and come back with nothing. Other times the whole story is summed up in one photo. In a kind of backwards irony, if you can capture everything in that one photo it is far better, and more rare, than capturing everything in multiple photos.

   As for me, I struggle with that one photo every day. It's hard enough trying to capture everything you need to say in multiple photos let alone just one. But that one photo is kind of like the crowning jewel. At times unobtainable, but through hard work and perseverance, sometimes you can get your hand around it.

   In Japan I challenged myself to take one roll of film with me and be as selective as I could with it to record a photo I am proud of. Please understand that my favorite style of photography is photojournalism or more specifically, "street photography." I feel I must preface this photograph with that bit of information because street photography is not the glamorous, highly polished stuff that comes from a studio with flawless models. Instead street photography is candid, real, and aims to preserve a fleeting moment in time that will never happen again. Street photography is rarely perfect because it's quick and reflexive, it's rarely beautiful, but it is always interesting.

   This photograph absolutely made my trip. If nothing else had gone right during this trip, and actually the trip was pretty difficult, I really was hoping this photograph had come out the way I thought it did.

   So, the story, that's what we are all here for right? On this particular day I was walking around in Ginza. Ginza is named after a silver coin mint built there in the Edo period. Many years later it became the most expensive part of Tokyo, kind of fitting for a place that once minted silver coins right? So walking around Ginza, the very air smelled of money. I felt I needed to pay 500 yen just to breath there. But just as I am getting sick of the smell, I see the most out of place character imaginable. I saw a homeless person sitting on the sidewalk with a pair of drumsticks. I watched him for a bit from a distance. He didn't ask for money from passersby. In fact he was sitting in an area where you really couldn't walk past him. He was simply sitting there minding his own business. So seeing how interestingly out of place he was, I couldn't resist taking a photo. I walked up, crouched down and prepared to take the photo before he noticed me. But something startling happened. Right as I pressed the shutter button, he looked straight at me and I caught this photo.

   His look was not of surprise or anger. It was simply pure curiosity. As curious as I was of him, he was curious of me. In that moment I felt so much respect from him, and a certain sadness that only comes from looking straight into a defeated man's eyes. It was clear to me that, regardless of why he was on those streets, Tokyo had taken it's toll on him. I don't often give homeless people money, and the people who are in my photos I do not pay either. But this man was different. I walked up to him said, "ありがとうございます," and gave him a few coins from my pocket. It was not much, but he gave me everything I was hoping for from my trip, and I gave him a meal for the night.

   But in that one look we spoke to each other. Two fish out of water, meeting for the first time with completely different situations, and understanding each other without speaking a word. To be defeated so completely must be an unimaginably sorrowful fate. Hopefully you can understand him as I did through this photo.

There and Back Again

If you right click my photos and select "open in new tab" you can see them in their original size which looks much better.
   I am back from Japan! I must say it is great to be back home. I have a lot to talk about. I suppose much of it I will cover in this post, but more of it will come out in future posts as it crosses my mind. For those of you wondering about any remaining videos, I do have more recorded and I am debating which ones to edit together and upload. I will upload some more in the near future so do look out for those.

   Going to another country is definitely a learning experience for many reasons. Not just because of the trip either. You learn a lot about yourself in the process too. For instance, I learned that I am much more of a Southerner than I thought. If you are from the U.S. you have probably heard of "Southern hospitality." I never believed much in that, I just figured it was on a case by case basis and my case was not one of them. But when I was living in my share house in Japan I always wanted to show good hospitality to my roommates around me as if they were guests. I don't know what it was. I always wanted to cook for them, or share things with them, or just include them in any activity I was participating in. It was like an automatic reflex that I couldn't shake. On one of my last days I cooked stuffed bell peppers for my share mates and it just hit me that southern hospitality seems to run in the blood and I was no exception to the rule. I don't know, it's hard to explain but that's the way I felt.

   Oddly enough you also learn a lot about your country while being abroad. You learn how that country views yours, what they like, what they don't, where the popular spots for foreigners to visit are (spoiler: it's LA and New York) and much more. It's like crossing the street and looking at your house from your neighbors point of view. It's a different perspective... seriously try it. Getting that point of view opens your eyes to your home country in a way.

   Sort of on that same point, you also learn a whole lot about your culture. Especially if you go to Asia. I really don't think there is a more contrary culture to ours on this planet than Asian cultures. It's not something you can really explain in a single blog post, but it's something that makes you view your culture differently. At the risk of sounding like a cynic, it makes you really hate a lot of things about your culture. Especially when comparing it to Japanese culture. Now don't get me wrong, Japanese culture has it's downsides as well and no one is perfect. But there are a lot of things I like about the Japanese.

   For instance, McDonald's. When was the last time you have gone into a McDonald's and the cashier is bright and smiling, the place is perfectly spotless, the cooks run when the frier beeps, and if more than two people line up someone from the back drops what they are doing and grabs an open cash register? When was the last time you stood in line for 2 minutes or less on a busy day at the grocery store? How about being led to where you need to go by a complete stranger without even asking? All of this stuff and more is completely normal for Japan. So normal in fact that this stuff goes basically unnoticed as being courteous or good service. My first 2 days back in the U.S. I got rude service from multiple cashiers, stood in a line for countless minutes at Wal-Mart, and witnessed a guy yelling and cussing at a store clerk because he didn't have enough money on his bank card for something he wanted. To me that paints a bit of a picture in my mind about our cultures flaws. Again, don't get me wrong, Japanese culture has many flaws. I can't deny them, and some of them stem from their mentality to constantly please.

   With my cynical talk out of the way, I really did miss the U.S. The minute I saw U.S. soil from the plane, I couldn't help but smile. That very soil is the soil I played in as a child and for all it's flaws, this country is where I am from and one that I love. That's really something else you learn while abroad. Simply how much you love your home country. It doesn't mean that you will have to live there forever. But it makes you appreciate all it has to offer you.

   I already miss Japan though. I really loved that place, I loved their traditions, their women of course, and their way of thinking. It just makes sense to me. I think many foreigners have a hard time adjusting to their mind set, and I can honestly say it's a bit hard at some points, but it just clicks. There are so many things they do and say that just make you think, "Why the hell don't we do it like that in the U.S.?" That country has a certain appeal for me that I can't place my finger on, but is strong enough to call to me like the scent of a breakfast that smells so good it wakes you up from a dead sleep. The place is amazing I can't stress that enough. You have to see it for yourself.

   As far as the trip itself goes though, for many reasons it was a horrible experience. It really had nothing to do with Japan. It would have been the same if I had gone to Bangladesh, Mexico, or the next town over. My trip just sucked horribly.

   However, there was one thing I was hoping for from my trip and it was something happened by complete accident. You see, I went to Japan with three cameras. My Nikon J1 to record my blogs, my Nikon D5000 for still photos, and my Honeywell Pentax 35mm film camera with ONE roll of film. The challenge I set for myself was to take that one roll of film and capture at least one moment that I was completely proud of. I will show you in another post that photo and I will tell you the story behind it as well.

   Seriously though, if you get nothing from my blog at all, I hope you understand that travel is important. This is our world, all of ours. Yours, mine, your neighbors, your dog's... It's everyone's world. So get out there and see what your world has to offer you. If you need a suggestion on where to start, I suggest Japan. If nothing else go for the food!