I've had a quiet vacation so far - not that I haven't done anything, but I definitely haven't been travelling as much as popping up to Tokyo to wander around the city with friends, and catching up on sleep and quiet time and just ... resting the mental reserves. Cooking.
The friday of our break I had people over again to breathe a sigh of relief about our lack of classes - Sam made fish tacos to start us out, and I introduced his girlfriend and our friend Kat to the wonders of eating at a kotatsu ... your feet stay warm and food is brought to you :D. People came over after for drinks, Stephanie got pretty tipsy and started punching Marc (who can take it, because he literally has abs of steel, except when her swing went wild and almost grazed his package). No one got too drunk though, and everybody headed off before 12:30 except for Marc, who hung out with me until about 3 in the morning, just talking. He needed an ear, I think, and I don't mind giving him one.
For Christmas instead of cooking, I went out with Marc and Skyler. We were on a mission to have KFC (which is apparently a Japanese christmas tradition) and watch a movie, but ended up at TGI Fridays for a dose of too big hamburgers and sadly not as tasty as they looked on the menu fried mac-and-cheese. BUT, the company was good, the drinks were plentiful, and after that we armed ourselves for the movie by getting a bottle of vodka, some baily's irish cream, and a ton of snacks, all hidden in Skyler's purse. It was kind of hilarious and silly all at the same time. But nice to be out, even if it wasn't in the most Christmas-y of celebrations.
Sam and Katie swept me up in their jaunts to Tokyo a couple of days running - which meant a hell of a lot of walking, and visits to Akiba (short for Akihabara, the eletronics district) where we looked for cameras, played video games, and got lost in this massive ... I don't even know what you call it, a little bit of everything store called Don Quiote. Literally floors of halloween costumes, but also home electronics, kitchen supplies, makeup, etc. Very weird but very entertaining - it was light when we went into the building and full dark when we got out. And after searching in myriad little shops for a new camera for Sam, Katie and I declared we must be fed, so we did one of my FAVORITE types of eating - Yakiniku - which is where they bring a charcoal brazier to your table and you grill meat over it. MMMMM. We had tongue, liver, and then a whole lot of little strip and skirt steak-type things that were marinaded in a variety of sauces. That day ended with Sam finding the exact camera he wanted at the price he wanted at the store *right* next to the train station! Which is, of course, what happens when you spend all day tromping around.
And since we'd satisfied our electronic side that day, the next was spent in Harajuku wandering into clothing stores, looking for new fashion and family gifts and treasures. Sadly no pictures taken on either of these days because I've been to these places before and believe me, they're much the same. Amusing, for sure, but in that silly way where you tease the people you're with. I was on a mission to find the most hideously ugly but touchable fabric in each store and OMG let me tell you - I found some of the most frightening sweaters and jackets you've ever seen. Touchably soft, but in strange colors and fuzzes and styles. And I managed to resist buying them all *is proud* When our feet felt like they were beginning to fall off we finally ended up at a ramen restaurant that was literally all counter... but at each seat had fold-able walls you could choose to fold back so you could make a private-like booth for yourself and your friends. The ramen itself wasn't good, but the 18 rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom all displayed beautifully in their own holder (Sam took the pic, I'll see if I can get it from him at some point) almost made it worth it.
What did make it worth it was getting done with dinner and running up to Meiji Jingu after. It's the Imperial shrine built during the Meiji period at the heart of Yoyogi Park, and my strongest memories of Tokyo include it, since we went there so often that first summer. It was raining and near closing time, but we made it inside and poked around as much as we were able. There's just something really cool about getting away from the city and still being dead center in the city to do it - surrounded by trees and forest-type-stuff but also this almost-modernist structure where people don't necessarily come to pray (but they do!). Anyway, good fun.
In between I've been cooking all kinds of things - potato cakes with cumin, a cumin-soy-garlic chicken that I devised myself, cod okonomiyaki, japanese fried chicken (actually called chicken karaage), rice cooker coffee cake, a cucumber salad I've made like three times, and this morning simple, but tasty, sweet potato hashbrowns to have with my egg and english muffin.
And last night? Last night was fun. A bunch of us got together at Lee's apartment (he lives one floor down from where we did Thanksgiving), and Sam made mulled wine (again in buckets). Lee made homemade chili that was super tasty, and we sat around goofing with each other, smoking too much, and playing with a Russian Roulette Balloon Gun (far more fun than the real thing, promise). OH, and I played beer pong. I lost, sadly, but I played!! And luckily since we were trying to keep the apartment from not being entirely wrecked, I didn't even have to drink beer to do it :D The trains were running, though a bit higgelety-piggletedly last night, so we hopped on a train at 3 am, but had to catch our connection at 4 am. I think I fell asleep at 5:30ish and slept myself out today.
You know how they say whatever you're doing on New Year's / New Year's day will shape the rest of your year? Well, I have been a total sloth, so I guess my year will be filled with talking to my mom on skype, cooking, folding laundry, and rewatching Suits. It could be worse. (either that or it's going to be a year of beer pong, which could be very strange... )
I was feeling sorta like I hadn't accomplished much this last year, because this last week has been pretty quiet and I still have a lot of homework to get done. Then I realized -- I QUALIFIED TO BE A PHD CANDIDATE this year, spent the summer taking one of the hardest Japanese classes of my life, and have spent the last four months in JAPAN, and told myself I was being silly. It's good to look back sometimes!
And that, I think, is about it. I'm going to go scrounge some leftovers, make myself some hot chocolate, and find another movie to watch. Tomorrow is another day.
Happy New Year to you all, dear flist. I hope you had a good year in 2012, and are looking forward to 2013. I don't know what the future year will bring, but I believe there will always be a little good in it.
also posted to katekat on dreamwidth | you can reply here or there