The following is a collection of emails from the road as I travelled from Singapore through Malaysia and Thailand to Japan over 6 weeks in spring of 2000:

Skip to a section:

Singapore 1

Singapore 2

Leaving Singapore for Malaysia

Krabi, Thailand

Phuket, Thailand

Chang Mai, Thailand

Kanchanaburi, Thailand (bridge at river kwai)

Japan

Hello from Singapore! Just a quick note to the family to let you know that everything is fine. I think my body is pretending to be OK at the moment but I have a feeling I could hit maximum density at any moment and pass out. After over 24 hours of travel yesterday (from leaving Mom's house to getting to my room) and only 3 hours of sleep I'm trying to force myself to catch up with the local time zone. I couldn't sleep past 6 this morning after making it to bed 3 local time, so needless to say I've had a long day and it is only 1:45 pm. I've walked about the whole city of Singapore. Haven't met any other travellers yet, none to speak of anyway. Carie and Dad: I don't know why you don't complain a little more when you make the trip to Japan. It could be worse, at least I wasn't coming from the east coast. For those without extra time, feel free to delete this email now knowing that I've arrived safe, because nothing below is of major consequence, just a story to tell. I'm not sure how much computer time I'll have in the future, so I am going to embellish a little on this one. Please read on... After leaving Mom's house just after 9 am Friday, I felt a twinge of anxiety in my stomach related to the trip. All of a sudden I realized that it really would be nice to have someone else to enjoy it with. But after a few minutes I forced it out, reminding myself that I will meet plenty of people and that I couldn't have found anyone else anyway. So upon arriving at the airport, Mom dropped me off with my 52 pound pack at the exact opposite side of the airport. Thanks Mom 8-). When I got to the NWA area, after a few breathers every few miles, I a nice lady pointed to a line that had noone in it and mentioned "international". Hah! I thought, that must be for international flights and those other saps waiting in the ten row long line are for domestic. But then I quickly realized that my empty line wrapped around into the back of those 1000 people or so in line ahead of me. Ugh. Carie, I now see why you suggested to get to the airport 3 hours early. Travel tip to those that don't know: apparently film can be destroyed by the powerful x-rays that NWA uses to spy into our personal goods. And I found out that usually when you learn that for the first time, your ten roles of film will be at the very bottom of a precisely packed backpack with a metal webbing locked around it and sitting in a locked airport back. I felt like hudini (sp?) as I got them out in record time as I felt the pressure of those 75 people behind me in line that we're frantic about missing their flight to Amsterdam. So Mom dropped me off to wait for my plane (I insisted) and handed me 6 one dollar bills for "bargain money". So after her kiss goodbye I bargained them on my last microbrew of the spring. After grabbing a quick $20 out of the ATM for inflight drinks (hey you can't get less than 20, I wasn't going to use the whole thing!) I soon learned (was reminded) that drinks are free on international flights (another travel tip!). My question to the stewar... I mean flight attendant was "hey, what's the catch? Is there a 2 drink limit? Though there is no limit, my bark was worse than my bite since I realized that I couldn't keep any kind of pace for 10.5 hours straight. The best I would do would be to manage a headache, which I did anyway after two drink. Hardy, my new chinese friend, sat next to me on the plane. We spent part of our trip unsuccessfully trying to bridge the language gap. It was a lot of work trying to explain my thoughts to him. It gets tiring after a while. Luckily there were two meals, two movis, and an ice cream sandwich which was so hard that I needed to break out my muti-tool to eat it to keep us entertained for the duration of the flight. Being on the aisle across from a very old guy and next to Hardy kept my options limited. I did convince Hardy to try a screwdriver and I let him try my 7&7. He liked them both and was out like a light within 15 minutes. Before he konked out, he explained that they don't mix drinks at all in China, it is either all or nothing, apparantly he chooses the latter. And he only had 1/2 his little vodka bottle! When he awoke from his slumber he invited me to stay with him in Yangzhou (near Canton/Hong Kong) if I ever come to China. Remember the old guy? He apparantly had some kind of stroke or something about 1/4 of the way into the trip. The crew kept him on the floor for a while and busted out the oxygen and various life saving devices as they paged overhead for a doctor, which luckily there was one available. The guy came to and seemed to be alright ,except for the bump the floor made on his forehead. For a while I was imagining what they would do if this guy passed away and we've still got 7 more hours to Narita airport. "sorry sir, you'll have to drink your sprite and Seagram's warm. All the ice on the plane is being used to keep the stench to a minimum." I only joke because the guy was totally fine and it was a happy ending. That wasn't over the line, was it? In japan, the drive from where the plane decides to stop to the airport was interesting, being the first time I've been in a left side of the road driving vehicle. As I'm about to tell the guy that he's about to get us killed, I realized that I was in a place where they don't necessarily do everything the way I'm used to. The weather in Japan was what I'm used to though: very gray and wet. It better clear up in the next two months. I expect sun as of June 1st. Carie and/or Morgan, can you work on that for me? Plane movies: Susan Sarandon in Anywhere but Here. Slow start, but very strong last five minutes or so. 1.5 stars (out of 5). Ralph Fiennes in a movie of which I didn't catch the name but it is not far from his role in English Patient: Guy meets married girl, guy gets married girl to cheat on her husband who is really just her friend not a real husband but that makes it all ok by Hollywood's standards, guy & married girl never ultimately get to be together due to circumstances outside of their control (like someone dieing). You know the bit, it was one of those movies. 2.5 stars. Travel tip #3: Earplugs and blinders have been the best investment trip-to- date. That crying baby two rows ahead of me didn't affect me at all. I was able to catch enough z's to supplement the three last night to keep me going today. (not to mention just to get to the hotel in a decent state of mind). For those that don't know: at 2:30 in the a.m., taxi's are the only option to get out of the Changi airport. And taxi's are required to double their fare after midnight (for real, I read it in the lonely planet, it isn't something the driver made up to take advantage of a tired traveller). He was a funny old guy who only knew a few words in English but insisted on repeating them over and over and over while he swerved all over the road. I was too tired to care. He was entertaining. The $22 for the cab ride was well worth it, considering it would be considered a thrill ride at some amusement parks. The taxi guy suggested a hotel that was $75S (US $50) and at that point I would have stayed at the Ritz Carlton if they would take me. It was worth the security of just getting somewhere! I wasn't sure if the hostels were open at the time and I didn't want to deal with trying to locate one, etc. I could also sort out my bag in private and get prepared now that I'm here. Speaking of my bag, somehow it went from 52 pounds to at least 75 pounds while in the bottom of the plane. Very strange. I was seriously questioning last night whether it was smart to bring all my climbing gear. Anyway, the Strand Hotel is in the middle of backpaker haven so today I found a good deal after looking around. I talked the guy down to $25 for a private locking room with shower and A/C! Unheard of. A guy stopped me on the street when I was walking over there to get me to stay at his place and when I asked him if he could beat the price he quickly walked away. Last night I wasn't sure whether to tip the bag guy or how much so I didn't. 30 minutes later my phone rang and someone hung up when I ansered. I was sure it was him. He was coming to get his money. But I was too tired to care. He never showed up. After pushups, a cold shower, and stretching out, my long day had finally come to an end. I got up before the sun today and waited for it to come out before I went exploring. I walked around for a few hours until dark clouds started to form. I was heading back to the Strand when I saw that they were moving very fast and I became sure that they would just blow over. I kept going. I got way the hell down to the other side of town and guess what? Yep, it came down in sheets. By the grace of God, I was just goind under a bridge checking some stuff out so I hung out for 30 minutes while the big stuff passed. After three hours of walking around I think I am actually pretty familiar with the city. Wow, it is beautiful. I can see why Carie and Morgan were captivated. And I haven't even started doing stuff yet. After getting a Starbucks coffee this morning (I'm not really that far from home, am I?) I was walking around this fancy mall and noticed a fashion show being practiced. I also noticed this internet cafe. The show started at 1 so I came back to see the women and here I am at the computer. This concludes this episode of Jason's travels, tune in next time when maybe there will be something exciting to report. Must go, one of the models just left her seat in the computer terminal next to me ;-). Love, Jason

Surgeon General's warning: the following email can be hazardous to your time. Only attempt to read the whole thing if you have nothing else to do. Jason is obviously still dealing with issues of alone-ness (not loneliness) and needs to plug into the lifeline back home more than he should. Besides, he is not sure if after this email he will be around a computer for a couple of weeks so he wants to get it all out now. Hello again! Today (Wednesday) is my last day in Singapore. I need to leave this money trap as soon as possible. It is a great city for a short vacation, I would reccommend it to anyone with the money to burn, but not for those on a budget. I'm having a great time though despite the fact that today makes four days out of four that it has rained buckets. The sun still makes it out for a while (I even went swimming yesterday!) but the old saying holds true "he who stuck in big rainy city without umbrella is a fool" (or something like that). Remember in my last email where I wondered if I would hit the wall (with my sleep)? Well I went back for to my little room (and I stress the word little) after writing that email and decided to take a small little nap... that turned out to be a 15 hour sleep fest. Anyway, I'm about adjusted finally but I still can't sleep past 7 am (can you believe that, Mom?). I spend my mornings walking around town checking stuff out and working up an appetite. My feet are done with that program though, as my tevas are starting to leave welts around the toe/foot/ankle region. I've been setting a frantic pace that I really don't hope to maintain for the rest of the trip. I'm sure if you add up all my steps I've climbed Everest at least once. I keep pretending like I am going to just sit down, relax, read a book, and enjoy my time doing nothing, but that never works out like I plan it. There are too many things to do. I went to the zoo nightwalk last night with a few people I met here. It was very cool. You take a tram through this thick rain forest and each animal has a little natural setting that you get very close to, some are even nibbling on things in the road right next to the tram as you pass! Might go back to the zoo again today to see the day stuff which according to Carie & Morgan (I'll use C&M from now on) is one of the best in the world, but like I said that would include walking. I did go see the crocidile feeding. I had gone the day before and the 200 or so crocs didn't move a muscle, but at feeding time it gets a little crazy! Mom, did you know they don't even chew their fish heads before swallowing them? They should have been embarrassed. I've gotten quite snap-happy over the last few days. I've gone through 1/5 of my film supply (2 rolls) over the course of 1/15 of my trip. That kind of ratio won't hold up for long! I've decided to stop trying to take it all home with me and start just soaking it up. Pictures from now on will only be taken if they have meaning. The people here in Singapore are very interesting. I had heard from a travelling friend that in this area (SE Asia) you just need to flash people a smile and they will respond to it with warm reception. So here I am on my first few days here, walking around smiling a big toothy grin at folks as I walk down the road. Just about all continue to keep walking straight ahead. I can only wonder what they are thinking. Come to find out that Singapore is not like most of Asia. The prices here are fixed, the inhabitants are from all over the world, and they are so smart, busy, and rich that they don't need my stupid American grin to make their day any better than it already is. And it is not a great place to meet other travellers, since there are some 50,000 "non- asian" people that reside here permanently (ex-pats). Though I have met some very nice people, apparently it only gets better (or worse, depending on the people)as I head into Malaysia. I did meet a local guy named "Peter" yesterday, or rather he met me. He approached me on the street and wanted to hang out and walk with me. I asked him why he was being so nice and he said he is just an old guy with nothing else to do and wants to be friendly. Travel tip #3: Nice locals don't exist, they want the money in your pocket. I did, however, want to beleive him and at first did, for like 1.5 seconds. I knew I was being hustled, but decided that I could get some information from him that would be worth the expense. After about an hour of walking around with me (and actually making me laugh, he was funny!) I had gotten what I needed and as he left he asked me to buy him a coffee. His time was well worth the $1 S I spent on him. Take it easy, slick. Singapore has been a good place to start for me though, despite the higher costs. I feel safer here than in some parts of Portland and most parts of Atlanta. I have not felt one bit threatened by anyone in any part of where I've gone, and I've stumbled into some dumpy areas. When I approach people, they are extremely helpful and courteous, even the ones that don't want a $1 for it. And I've had the chance to talk to other travellers about how things are in more "Asian" areas that I am about to head into. And everyone here speaks at least a little english. It has been a good "breaking in" for a green traveller finding his ground. The girls I went to the night zoo with helped me out quite a bit. One has been travelling for 14 months!!! and the other is on the 7th month of a 12 month around the world trip. Wow, can you imagine. Of course we all had lots to talk about but I actually got tired of talking about travelling so much. It gets to be like anything else you can get stuck on, like work or what have you. It is very clean here. There is a law for everything, as you've probably heard. I think one of the laws is "businesses must be cleaning something, just have cleaned something, or be preparing to clean something." I'm sure there is no unemployment in Singapore because there will always be another job wiping off the underside of a counter or mopping the sidewalk or wiping dry the tables just after it rains. I actually saw a guy picking the grass between the bricks in the sidewalk with his fingers. I thought about telling him about Roundup, but then what would he do? Another law you've heard of is the chewing gum ban and the spitting. Now, I haven't seen anyone chewing gum, probably because there is no access to it and the black market is busy with other things, but spit is readily available and I've seen people doing it! Whoa! Mostly it is old men and pregnant women who know that they probably won't be harrased. Don't tell the authorities here, but I spit the other day just to say I did (noone was around). I think they also have another law here. Here is how I think it reads: Law 5, section 6, subparagraph 35: All citizens shals own a cell phone. It shall be smaller than any cell phone that Jason has ever seen. Finally, all citizens must use this cell phone at least every 20 minutes. It is funny that they have all this technology but they still use brooms that look like they ran out to the forest to make. There is a McD's on every street corner here, like some sort of FDR social program. They also have this beer called Tiger beer, which they charge $7.50 ($5 us) and it tastes worse than any Bud I've ever had. I prefer the hawker stalls, or Kopatiam's, which I think is directly translated as "dumpy little place that serves food you can't recognize at very cheap prices". C&M: I ate some white squid looking thing with Mushrooms in it called (something) Cheong Fun... can you tell me what I'm currently digesting? Oh, and for the digestion report, lets just say that until yesterday I was worried a little... and now I'm not. No further details. Dad, you would like it here though. I've never seen so many places to eat good food. Apparantly the people here think food is awesome and brag about their cuisine, but I haven't seen one fat person yet. It is very un-American here. I'm not sure if it is a tourist put-on or if they all work out at night or if they all come with superiour metabolisms. I can tell you that the people here are not as short as I would think. I thought I would soar above everyone, but apparantly years of English cross-breeding since the 18th century has produced a healthy stock of people. Maybe that is where they get their digestive prowess. One more thing about the people here: the women are beautiful. My neck hasn't hurt this bad since my last trip to the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. Apparantly they recognize this fact as well: I saw an advertisement that read "The push-up bra... the lightbulb of our time". Wow, they really have their priorities straight here. The people here are very considerate though, they also have signs that promote things like confucious sayings for a good way of life (think first of the other man). I kept looking for an company logo or something, but I think they were just to get people fired up. The second smartest thing I've brought here is a hankerchief (thanks Morgan). It seems at times that I don't need to buy bottled water, I can just drink the water in the air! Also, I've already run out of battery juice once, but with Mom's help, I have enough batteries to last another 10.4 years before coming back to civilization (to get batteries anyway). Thanks, Mom! Last thing: I have a new roommate. Her name is Sally. She is thin and cute, doesn't complain, doesn't eat much except for other bad roommates, is kind of skiddish (I made a move on her and she bolted the other way), and she is a salamander. I think she was mad when I squished her friend the 5 inch long cockroach, but I've got rules to lay down. She'll have to get used to them. I noticed she came back last night after a short hiatus, so she must not be too mad. Told you this would be long! My time at the computer is up and I must go out and about for the day. I am going to try to find an indoor climbing gym I have heard of today to measure these guys up on the wall! Tommorrow I'm off to Tioman islands, over to Malaka, up to Penang and then into Thailand for a few weeks of climbing to make this heavy pack worth the lug. Take care, Jason

Hi everybody! I'm on my fourth day (6th if you count the two travel days, well ok 24 hours of travel and a 16 hour time change, but who's counting) here in Singapore and I'm off to Malaysia tommorrow morning. I'm not sure when I will be around a computer again so I wanted to drop you this note before I go. Hopefully I won't spend too long in Malaysia, as I have some climbing to do in Southern Thailand after that. Yes I hauled all my gear with me but I'm hoping it will pay off when I get to the mecca of all Asian climbing spots (with rope my pack is 55 pounds). Plus I hear that Japan has some climbing as well. Just wanted to say hi and rub it in that you are at work and I'm not. If you want to be on the detailed email list let me know and I can send you the priveleged inside info (yours for a low low $19 annual subscription). I didn't want to bore those people who might just want to know that all is going well. Take care! Jason ps see attached photo of Singapore - it hasn't been this sunny at all, don't let them fool you. It has rained four of four days, although before and after the rain it is somewhat sunny. Regardless it is most definately HOT and muggy.

From all the boys: Tane: Me and the guys are in Krabi on our way to Phi Phi. Wanted to catch you up on just a few of the things you missed: Carlsberg Eco-Challenge Day 2: Chris joined us on day two with his video camera. We headed over to Phra Nang for a climb. Found a sweet 15 meter climb and took pictures at the top. Just left of the climb was a cave, that we sooned realized went through to West Railey. The cave was 1/2 mile long with 4 bamboo ladders that we had to scale up with only one small torch. Chris also had some night vision on the video so we got some footage there as well. At the end was a 20 meter drop that we decided to absail down. Before going down we got some excellent pics and video that Chris will have available on the internet for us to download (along with the rest of our adventures). Details on Chris's site will come later. After the absail, we headed down the path to find a 30 meter drop to the water below. Not knowing if the rope would reach that far, we headed back up to the cave to figure out what we were going to do, since daylight was fading quickly. We considered climbing back up to the cave, but didn't think we had time to get us up there before dark. We searched around and found a small path that led to a bouldering trail down the side of the cliff and back to the west beach. We kissed the ground as we arrived just in time for another beautiful sunset on West Railey! We're thinking of making a video game about the Carlsberg challenge, with beers at the bottom that represent the number of lives we have left. Blayne and Jason added canoeing to the agenda the next day.  Take care, the fellas

Dear Mom: I'm having lots of fun, I miss you, please send money. Love Jason Hello all: I'm now in Krabi, Thailand on my way to Ko Phi Phi with some Aussies I met. I haven't worn a shirt for a long time and I stopped caring about my smell and hair a week ago. I haven't had much sleep and my hands hurt from all the climbing. I don't even know where to start this email. I don't think I will be keeping the precedent that I set with my first two. Believe it or not, I have been way too busy to keep track of all the details and then type out those one hour emails. (plus the email on at Phra Nang where I just have come from for 7 days was way too expensive) And if I did keep track of the details, the emails would be ten times longer than the others. So here are the highlights of what is turning out to be a most rightous adventure, and I'm just a third way through! Leaving Singapore was the best move I've made yet. I caught a bus from Johor Boru to Mersing and talked the whole three hours to an Aussie who is a world class parachuter and scuba diver with some great stories to tell. The non- airconditioned bus only broke down twice along the way. In Mersing I caught a ferry to Tioman, and on the way out of the bay we hit a few sandbars and things that tend to come about during low tide, so it took a few hours and many 360's to get out into the main waterway. I'm sure it would've helped to not pack the boat with so many travellers, but oh well. At the dock of the ferry I met a Swiss couple on a 10 day trip, along many other travellers that were there. I talked the whole way with them and we became friends. I made lots of friend on the island, including locals and other Malaysians from Kuala Lumpur, but I spent most of my time snorkelling and and trekking through the jungle with Leo and Bridgette. As we were taking a boat around the island, it hit me that it was a little wierd that I was hanging out on a beautiful island off the Malaysian coast with a guy named Leo (sound familiar) and his woman who I got along with great. But that is where the "Beach" analogy stopped. All three of us left there as good friends and noone was left out in the jungle to die. I now have a trip to Swizterland to make (apparantly the fondue there is excellent). Tioman was amazing; lots of sun, white beaches, huge lizards, red snakes, monkeys, lots of great coral snorkelling, Carlsberg beer, great food, and lots and lots of travellers. I did spend some of my time just relaxing by myself, which was good considering what I had ahead of me. After four days at Tioman I took a bus to Kuala Lumpur (KL) and talked most of the trip with a french family from Australia (they had their 8 year old daughter with them). It was interesting to hear lots of things I've never thought about, like the status of the Malaysian economy, making boats, etc. The conversation helped me to not worry about the fact that our bus driver was passing cars on a two lane road around blind corners, assuming that oncoming traffic would create three lanes out of two, which often was the case. I think I left a fingernail in the seat ahead of me. I wasn't that impressed with KL, and I was getting itchy to go climbing. I spent a night there checking out the twin towers (tallest twin buildings in the world... anyone see Entrapment?.. I stood right below them at 11 pm with huge lights shining up but without a camera... damn.) I met an indonesian girl at the hostel that was living there while she was studying English, and wanted to practice her English with all the travellers coming through. She took me around Chinatown and showed me where to get the best exchange, the cheapest food, and a the cheapest internet (though it was closing so I couldn't use it) No, it is not what you are thinking. KL is a dirty city with plenty of beggers and run down shops. I needed to leave. I took a bus the next day to Buttersworth and a ferry to Penang (Georgetown) where I stayed a few days. I went to a huge Budhist temple (Tek Lok See) and hung out on the north beach for a while where I got a good deal on a 10 minute Parasail ride, but it wasn't quite the adranaline rush I thought it would be. Back in the city I stopped by a small reggae bar where I met a local guy named Zany. By the end of the night we had about 20 travellers crammed into this tiny place playing tournament for money. I won one of the three and it payed for the pool and beer for the night! I was lucky though, the English guy ahead of me kept leaving me good shots. The next day I took a morning ferry to Langkawi, a small island off the East Malaysian coast near Thailand. Just after I payed for my motorcycle to cruise around the island the rain came. And it stayed. After an hour I decided I would push on through to Krabi... I was getting too eager to get on the limestone cliffs. Of course, as I was getting on the ferry to Sutan, Thailand, the sun came out and I could see how beautiful the island was that I would never see. But I would soon not care about whatever I missed at Langkawi. I met some Dutch travellers on the ferry and we got all got a taxi into the town to then catch a bus to Hat Yai. They too were extremely friendly. Hat Yai is a crappy little town. I found a large hostel there where I met an English guy with a shaved head. I was thinking of shaving mine, but after seeing his I changed my mind! When I was putting my bag in my room at the hostel, I passed a Thai girl in the hall who followed me to my room. The other girl in my room I think knew about this other local girl, because she smiled when she saw the Thai walk right into my room and sit down on the bed and start patting the bed. It took some coercing but I got the girl out of the room and I quickly ran down the hall to find my new English buddy. I spent the night checking out the crap they sell in the streets and I actually went to McDonald's that night (I'm only human, you know). My big mac tasted the same as it ever has. The next morning I took a mini-van bus ride to Krabi, the mainland pier that would eventually take me out to paradise on a one hour long boat ride. On the bus I met a Canadian guy named Rufus. Ruf and I got along pretty good, and he was trying to figure out what he wanted to do, so I suggested he come along and I could show him the ropes, so to speak, on the cliffs at Phra Nang. I'm sorry, but the boat to Ko Phi Phi is leaving in 15 minutes and I haven't got to the best part yet. Will try to finish this soon. Take care, Mom don't worry everything is awesome, and for everyone that has every considered travelling alone or with someone, I would highly reccomend it. It has been a great experience so far. Jason

5-13-00 1:30 pm PHUKET, THAILAND I'm sitting in the bus station waiting for the 1:50 bus to Surat Thani. Halfway there I should be dropped off at Khoa Sok National Park (tropical rainforest). I hope the bus driver understood what I was trying to tell him! The monsoons are just arriving here in Phuket as they roll down the east coast of Thailand and Malaysia. I am trying to escape them by heading across the peninsula and up to some islands in the Gulf of Thailand, where the rains shouldn't come for a while. By the time they arrive there I will have been through for the infamous "full moon party", up to Bangkok, meet Mai at the Irish Pub in Chang Mai for an elephant trek into hill tribe area, and back to Bangkok for my flight to Japan. We'll see if I can stay ahead of them, the less I can use that rainjacket the better my tan keeps! My path now diverges from my new Australian friends. They head south to KL and then to London with a two year working visa in hand. After two weeks, I leave them with new trips to Australia planned, new jokes to try on the friends back home, new memories and snapshots, new vocabulary words, but most important new friendships to appreciate. We never got the chance to teach me cricket, but there will be time for that later. Our new buddy Claire, a free spirited biker babe from New Zealand with a thing for tattoos and Thai whiskey, is off to Brunei and Bali to continue her adventures as well. I now go back into single traveller mode,making my own decisions and taking my own risks (like this bus ride). I'm still not sure what those tarot cards in New Orleans meant a few months ago when they suggested a trip in my near future that would involve spiritual and professional enlightenment. So far it's just been one big party! I think I left off the last email with Ruff and I heading from Krabi to Railey Beach on an old long tail boat. Ruff and I hung out for my first night and day at Railey taking a long tail boat out to another beach to an all night party (we only lasted till 2) and teaching him how to belay and climb (I think I've converted another one). The next day I was recovering back at the bungalow when our new neighbors walked up: Blayne and Jason from Australia and Tane from New Zealand. We all immediately got along and went out for Thai food and Carlsberg beers. We stayed up all night laughing and playing the name game, which is a challenge with four different countries being represented. The next day was rainy so I read and relaxed at our place. I'm glad I did though, because that night was crazy. After the fire show down at the Last Bar, we stuck around for buckets of Thai whiskey and red bull mixed with coke as well as rounds of Carlsbergs. By the end of the night we knew everyone in the bar and we were all dancing on the tables. The sun was just coming up as I went home to crash. The next two days we labelled the Carlsberg Eco Challenge 2000. We made our way down a muddy path with five 20 foot drops with only a slippery knotted rope to hold on to that ended in a beatiful green lagoon with a cave on the other end and sheer walls 100's of feet up. Then we went back up to a viewpoint overlooking all of Railey beach (east and west). Back at the beach I lost the Death Frisbee match as well as the hacky sack competition. Blayne and Archie joined the local Thais for a game of soccer (football), but I just had the energy to lift another Carlsberg. After dinner we were walking up to our bungalow and I noticed some people were sitting around playing the guitar and singing on a mic. During a lull in the singing, I picked up the mic and entertained the crowd with a little beatboxing. Blayne then picked up the guitar and spent 2 hours playing singalongs. Later, the barman put on a funcky English beat with no words and we all sat around making up songs or putting songs we knew to the beat. After I finished La-Di-Da-Di, noone would pick up the mic, I think there awe was because they thought I made the whole thing up on the spot. I didn't tell them the truth! Later I sang a Tracy Chapman duet with an English girl who had been residing at Railay for the past 8 months. It was a great, spontaneous night. The Carlsberg Challenge Day 2 started with some some rock climbing and taking pictures of the landscape at the top of the route. On our way home we decided to check out a cave just to the left of the climb. On the way into the cave, we met come climbers coming out that assured us that the cave continues on all the way through. With only a pencil flashlight, Blayne went ahead 10 feet and flashed it back for the rest of us to move forward. We traversed four bamboo ladders and I'm still not sure how far below the drop was, we couldn't see with the flashlight. Our swedish buddy Kris was taking infrared video. For the time we spent with him he would take 10 or 20 second videos and take the best picture from each set for us to look at as soon as our adventures where over. He is going to post them on the internet for us to download when we get home! He also had his entire 8 month trip to show us. Anyway, the mouth of the cave stopped at a 70 foot drop off that we had to rappel down. The roped off trail at the bottom led to a 100 foot or more drop off into the sea below. We panicked just a little because the sun was setting. We were about to climb back into the cave when I found a small trail that led down through some boulders to the sand below. We kissed the ground when we hit the beach. We had arrived just before another awesome sunset on West Railey. That night we "borrowed" a tuk-tuk (small cart) and went through a few local bars and around the peninsula. Kris got it on film, it was hilarious. We played some pool and caught another fire show back at our bungalow restaurant. To spare you all the unnecessary details, the rest of my time at Railey Beach was spent climbing spectacular limestone cliffs (I took a 15 foot fall, my biggest to date... everything was fine, Mom), meeting other climbers from around the world, watching sunsets that seemed to get better and better each time, eating meals and drinking Carlsbergs with all the other travellers we met and trying to find time to relax in between. I am on a vacation after all, you know. There is one funny story I should tell though.... For some reason in Thailand there are an over-abundance of she-boys; cross- dressing transvestites or actual converts. The adams apple always gives them away, though I've heard they sometimes get that removed as well. Anyway, after a few days of the Carlsberg Challenge, we all had been talking about getting a Thai massage. There are very respectable thai massage shops all over the place here, and they are supposed to be incredibly awesome. We were all joking around about having a she-boy for a thai massagist, since we had seen a guy lurking around the massage shop at Ya Ya's. He wasn't an official she-boy, but he definately had a feminine look to him. Ya Ya's couldn't fit the three of us in, so we went down the path to the next one. Once again, they too could only handle two at a time, so I volunteered to head back down to Ya Ya's. I carefully scoped the place out and talked with a female that said they could give me a massage then. As she led me to the area, I breathed a sigh of relief and asked her "Take my shirt off?". She nodded yes, so I took my shirt off and layed down on the mat. But just as I started to talk to the german girl next to me finishing her massage (with a female massagist!) I noticed my massage girl walk into the back room just as a massage guy walked out... THE massage guy... with a big smile on his face. "Oh shit" I panicked. I started to think to myself: "What to do? It was a public place, I had payed my money, should I be rude and insist on..." Before I could make my decision this guy jumps on top of me and pushes his palms right smack down into my groin, smiling down at me from a couple feet away (apparantly they all do this, to slow down the circulation to the legs, but I didn't know that at the time). I was trapped. I tried to enjoy my massage, but it was a very, very long hour. It definately helped to relieve the tension that rock climbing had created in my sore legs and arms, I'll admit that, but I couldn't help cringing at the expression on the faces of the people walking by the big windows in the front of the massage shop at Ya Ya's as this guy was crawling all over me. I decided to leave Railey earlier than I had planned. Blayne and Jason were heading to Ko Phi Phi, where the Beach was filmed, and they invited me to go along. I had just begun to put a dent in the 100's of routes to climb at Railey, but I had heard that some of Phi Phi's routes were safe to climb (the sea salt corrodes the bolts). I had met lots of climbers to hang out with in Railey so I faced a decision: spend quality time climbing or have some variety in my trip. I ultimately decided that I would be coming back to this peninsula again someday anyway, and that I would take the gamble of a new experience. I left on the long tail boat back to Krabi with the sun beating down and a huge smile on my face. I knew it was the right decision. After I finished the last email, I barely made it to the boat, running with my pack. As we boarded the boat to Phi Phi, we met Annie and Feather (Holland) as well as Sean, a local diving instructor and Steve, a music producer from London. We all got a bungalow near each other and headed out for dinner. The first night on Phi was a continuation of the partying at Railey. Live bands and buckets and dancing, etc. We all hung out together most of the time for the four days we spent at Phi Phi, snorkelling and laying on the beach and eating Thai food and drinking cocunut shakes. Phi Phi was much different than Railey: more commercialized, smaller beaches, more "tourists" rather than travellers. No less fun or exciting, just different. I have two stories from Phi Phi worth telling: Everywhere on the island you see these organised trips that supply full snorkel gear, lunch, and transportation on a big boat for a full day around the local islands. We found a pretty good deal on one and all decided to go together. We first headed out to Phi Phi Leh, the island that they actually shot "the Beach". We stopped at a big cave for a while and to check out the ancient markings (didn't see any) and headed off for some snorkelling at one of the many bays around the island. We then headed off for even more snorkelling at Maya bay, the site of the movie. It was relatively unimpressive, I think movie magic added a bit of pizzaz to the whole thing. I found an underwater hole in the rock that came up the other side to an opening... little bit of an adrenaline rush. We then went to yet another beach for, yes, even more snorkelling (and lunch). I hung out in the shade, as I was all snorkelled out. The bright colored fish start to look the same afte a while. We then headed over to Bamboo island, where we saw some dolphins swimming away from the boat. Blayne got in to swim after them, but it seemed obvious to me that there was no way he would catch to them, so I snokelled off to the island to lay on the beach. When I got back to the boat, Blayne was coming back with a huge smile on his face and his thumb in the air. The dolphins had turned around to come swim with him! He was pumped! I did get to snap a photo of them swimming along the front of the boat, but that paled in comparison to what I missed. Our final stop of the day was at Long Beach where the Coral Sharks live. The boatman pointed in the direction to swim in and I took off. Not seeing any, I snorkelled all the way around this big rock and back to the boat. Of course, Blayne came back to the boat after seeing four sharks near him. Uggh. My not getting what I wanted seemed to be a common theme which came up for a good laugh. Nevertheless, it was a good day. Another day we hike to a beach on the other end of the island to watch the half naked girls and drink coconut shakes in the shade. On the way back I decided to take a longtail in rather than hoof it in my tevas. I met a french lady that gave me some good tips on things around the island. The boat dropped me off in front of my bungalow. I showered, grabbed my pack and took off to find Suchard, the local climbing shop owner. I found him at his shop with Melanie, a climber from Quebec. Suchard gave me the inside scoop on which climbs had been rebolted three months ago, and even drew me a map for some climbs that were not in my climbing book. One rock was on a small secluded beach that I had to take a long tail out to and hope that he understood what I meant when I said "please be back at 5:30 to pick us up"! Melanie wanted to climb, since she needed a study break from her divemaster course. I was all set up! I left the shop to find internet access and just walked into the first one I found, assuming that they were all 3 baht per minute. Inside was air coniditoined.. what a bargain! Later the english girl next to me told me it was 2,not 3, baht. What a deal. It was almost worth that just to sit in the a/c'd room. On my way home I was smiling a content smile when I ran into Suchard as he was running out of his shop. He invited me to jog up to the viewpoint for sunset. Not able to think of a reason not to, I went with. After grabbing my camera (the guys were too wiped out to join us) we jogged up the huge stairway to the top of the mountain. I had to stop half way up and could barely walk the rest. Apparently Suchard does this every night! At the top I walked in front of the 100 or so people perched on top of the boulders and found a seat at the front. I apologized to the people behind me and this funny English guys said "you know, you are a massive man, but the horizon is mighty big after all"! We all talked as the sun put on yet another amazing performance. On the way down, I once again couldn't keep up with Suchard and stopped a third of the way down. I happened to stop next to a couple that I talked with on the way up so we hung out for the rest of the trip into town. It turns out Marc is a underground party/nightclub guy owner and event planner in San Francisco and Donna is a non-profit volunteer all over the Bay Area. We all got along great, especially since I still had the adrenaline of the day running through me. After we exchanged email and phone numbers (Woodley, Buoy and the crew: he is putting me on there event distribution list!) I walked back to my bungalow mulling over the meaning of the word serendipity. We decided to try out Phuket for a couple days together. On the boat ride I tried my rusty german on a french lady (our only common language). As we got off the boat we met up with Claire (New Zealand). She had just left her group and was on her own for a few months so we all got a taxi to Karon beach. The four of us hung out for three days there, celebrating Blayne's birthday (holy buckets!), eating bugs (literally, I have the pictures to prove it), watching a snake show and having cobras and pythons wrapped around our necks, dancing until daylight, playing pool and laughing. I'll have to come back to Phuket some day to actually see the place... I here it is quite nice. Today we all said goodbye and wished each other well. Now I start a new adventure! Until #5, take care, Jason

5-27-00 CHIANG MAI, THAILAND Hello all! Today I take the night bus back to Bangkok (10 hours) to live out the remainder of my time in Thailand. I continue to build layer upon layer of memorable experiences, all of which I wish I had the time to write about. June 1 I head off for Japan where Blake is waiting for me to be a back up singer in his band! Then down to Hiroshima to glean the year of Japanese experience that C&M have been gathering in anticipation of my arrival (that's why you are there, right, to scout the place out for me?) For the grand finale, Christina will join us for an all sibling get-together that I am very much looking forward to. Finally, back just in time to drive out to Montana for Paul's wedding on July 1. But that is the future... let's talk about the past. The bus driver did understand to drop me off at Khao Sok national park, though I might have wished he didn't. I was the only traveller in the jungle it seemed, and I had a very weird night. Art and his crew were great guys, we sat around after dinner drinking Thai whiskey and water (yuck) by candlelight, as there was no elecricity to speak of. We spent a few hours getting to now each other and I decided to get some rest around 10 and retire to my quarters, which were 1/2 mile down the path from the main hut... by myself.... in the middle of the jungle. It seemed as though all the animals, bugs, and whatever else that live in the rainforest all had microphones and amplifiers in order to keep me awake and freaked out and give my jungle experience its moneys worth. I hope they all got a good laugh out of it. I don't think I have ever had a hard time going to sleep, except this night. When I finally got to sleep, I had another "Larium" dream (my Malaria pills), but this one was especially strange. All the guys from the hut had come to my tree house to offer me more whiskey. When I refused, they sent in an old Thai warrior who did a dance hovering over my body. He started to point a knife down at my throat and I couldn't move. Finally, he tried to plunge the knife into my chest over and over. I was able to break free at which point I woke up. But because of the pitch blackness, I still had the images of this guy hovering over me burnt into my retina. Completely scared, and somewhere between sleep and awake, I kicked both feet up in the air at him, but the only thing I hit was the mosquito net above me. At this point I was fully awake and his image was slowly fading. I honestly thought for a moment that it was a ghost! I swear I only had half of one small glass of whiskey so unless the guys found entertainment in slipping something in my drink, it was just a combination of all the environmental factors. I couldn't go back to sleep for hours. Later in the night, still wide awake, I heard the windows start to shake. First one, then another. Then another. And I heard footsteps on the roof and sides of the hut. I was sure it sounded like monkeys trying to get in, so I grabbed my flashlight and jumped up in a panic to check the locks on the windows and found the middle one to not lock shut. I held it shut, wondering what to do. Finally I found a way to secure it, but then I noticed that the window in the bathroom had no shutters. I put the chair in front of the door of the bathroom, hoping it would hold. The shaking of the windows eventually stopped, but needless to say I couldn't sleep much that night. I decided to cut short my jungle stay and head up to the islands. I needed more beach and sun... and people. I only spent one day in Ko Samui. It is a big resort island for short stay tourists and Thais. I did meet some English and Swiss travellers at my bungalow and we went out dancing at a typical big dance club until 3 am. I walked home by myself, shrugging off all the she-boys and prostitutes that line the streets trying to filter off the scum of the night. I ran into Ruff the next day with his new Thai girlfriend, but we were going separate directions and we decided to try to meet at the full moon party. I took a ferry to Ko Pha Ngan two days before the Full Moon Party, thinking this would be plenty of time to avoid the rush of people. The Canadians I met in the Songthaew on the way over and I felt confident this would have been enough time, but we found ourselves walking to each bungalow saying, "Bungalow?" and each time getting "full, full!" Soon we just were walking up and saying "Full, full?" and everybody shook their heads yes. I was lucky to have someone offer to let me put my pack on her porch while I looked around, because I ended up going the distance of the beach and finding one last bungalow at the farthest place. When I got back to her place, she, and my pack, where gone. Oh #@$%! It ended up that she had her boyfriend drag it into her room for me and they were just at dinner. Whew. I ran into Ben and Ki from Railay and we all hung out that night playing guitar and singing and meeting all of Ben's friends that he had gathered since I last saw him. We then ate dinner together and spent the night dancing until 3. It was a great night, except for the fact that I lost my waste pack with all of my important belongings in it, like about $100us, my credit cards, and my Mini disc player. Technically I didn't lose it, it was officially stolen, but I could have prevented it. See, like everybody else, I too go to the bathroom every once in a while. And if you have ever been in a Thai bathroom, you know what kind of harrowing experience it can be. Most places charge 2 Baht to use them, but I feel they should be paying us to have to put up with this kind of experience. Basically, you've got a hole in the ground, which is emitting all kinds of foul odors, and a bucket of water next to it with a ladle... with no TP anywhere. I've actually done a series of scientific experiments that have produced the exact quantity of TP squares necessary to, well, you know. I make sure to keep this essential inventory item on me at all times. You never know. Anyway, so you have to take off all your clothes (to prevent the catastrophy a misfire would create), find something to hold on to, and lean back and aim. Usually there is a spider perched precariously directly over your head as well. It is such a frightening experience that the only thing your thinking about is getting the heck out of there. You can see how it would be very easy to leave behind a simple thing like a pack with all my important stuff in it. Well, I went back to dance and when I sat down 20 minutes later I realized the pack was not where it aught to be - around my waste. I ran back to the bathroom but I'm sure I was about 19.5 minutes too late. The next day I had Mom on defcon 5, ready to cancel the cards at a moments notice (I needed to call and say hi anyway), but I still had a very small amount of unjustified hope left. I went back that afternoon and all three guys at the bar gave me confused looks. I had completely given up hope and started to walk away when I saw one more guy making a sign for the big party that night. He smiled when I asked him and he led me to my bag. I was still not happy, I wanted to see inside. When I grabbed the bag, it was obviously mostly empty. I could tell right away the minidisc was gone (Noah, you were right) but the wallet was still there, less the 4000 baht of course. But my credit cards were all still in my wallet, and that was enough to make me a happy guy. It was a steep finders fee, but it could have been much worse. I saw a local guy walk by me on the path the next day with tattered clothes and what looked exactly like my headphones in his ears and the player hidden beneath his shirt (I'm sure though it's not the only pair of those earphones Sony has ever sold). I didn't have the energy to confront him... he wouldn't have spoken English anyway (at the time, for his convenience). Later I thought maybe I should have trailed him, zig zagging across the dirt path hiding behind walls at an optimum distance to see if he showed it off to his friends, but then what would I do? Then he would have all his friends with him. No, this would be another of those hard to swallow lessons. I got my cards back. Appreciate the silver lining, Jason. The full moon party is basically an all night dance-a-thon. People danced until 11 am! I saw one guy dancing so hard I thought for sure he would pull a hammy, but he kept on going and going and going (this email brought to you by Duracell). All the nonstop house mixes can be heard I'm sure by all the surrounding islands as well as the rest of the pacific ocean. Maybe you heard it as well on May 17th around lunch time? Notice any seismic activity? All the noise must be necessary for all the tripped out people on speed, or amphetamines (wait are those the same thing?) or whatever, who must have had their auditory nerves temporarily severed and need to dance at break neck speeds all night long to try to outrun the demons in their heads. Some of them looked like the demons caught up - more than one guy face down in the sand not moving a muscle with everyone dancing around them. Poor guys. I almost feel sorry for them, but not quite. I hear the mental facility at Surat Thani staffs up on all Full Moon nights to handle the caseload of OD's. Pretty sad. I myself shed 9 pounds of waterweight (which has mysteriously reappeared) over the course of the night and stumbled home around 8:30 pm... a new personal best I think. I left behind a swarm of people still raging on the beach with the sun fully up in the sky. I couldn't keep up. The next night I ate by myself at Coral Bungalows. Max, a local thai guy, sat down and struck up a conversation. It turns out that he is hanging out trying to learn English so he can become a trekking guide. He asked me about the statue of liberty and then had me write down its history on paper. I pretended like I knew exactly what I was talking about and make up a story about the French hating the English and sending her over hear as a gift to support our independence (I even threw in that the arms were facing towards england welcoming immigrants and that the book symbolized democracy). I'm sure some of that is not technically historically factual (Kaycee can you confirm?) but what was I supposed to do, tell him that I skipped that day of American History? (I didn't, Mom) Anyway, Max and I hung out for most of the night and all the people at the Coral were extremely friendly. The owner even waved to me yelling hello the next day as I passed by on the beach. You never know what you are going to get. All you can do is smile at everyone and see if they smile back. Surprisingly I don't get as many back as I thought I would. Like anywhere, there is a mix of all types of people... some willing to extend themselves to you and others who won't. I finally caved in and started acting like all the other cool travellers here: I wear a sarong around the waist... only, I pierced my lip, nose, all over the ears including a big tooth like thing that makes a .5 inch diameter hole, and belly (I think there are more as I haven't counted recently). I couldn't decide whether to shave my head bald or grow dredlocks, so I shaved a mohawk and stopped washing the rest. I grew a gottee which is now 8 inches long and braided. I'm taking speed in the morning and extacy at night, so I'm fully energized 24 hours a day and really maximizing my time... not to mention saving on accomodation charges. But I guess all the extra food I eat since I'm stoned the whole time makes up for the savings. Lets see, what else. Oh yeah, I've got a tattoo of a snake around my neck and a big dragon thing on my back. I don't remember getting the dragon, but it came out ok. I also wear jewelry on all fingers and toes and on my wrists and ankles. All the jewelry and sarong and clothes are Thai style so that I can really look like I am fitting into Thailand, except for my white sking and bleach blonde hair, but I think people will over look that. I got tired of standing out from the crowd, you know? I succumb to peer pressure too. (If Grandma ever gets hold of this please explain that this entire paragraph is littered with sarcasm) (Most of this is based on actual observation of other travellers that made me laugh) On the way home from Ko Pha Ngan the ferry was so packed with travellers I really was a little concerned. I made sure I was on top on the outside so that when the boat went vertical the most that would happen is that I would be flung into the wide open sea rather than go down in a small (but air conditioned) cabin. It was very hot that day. Trapped on the top of the boat, I got a healthy dose of good old fashioned Thai sunshine. Here in Thailand it gets very hot. It seems to hover around 90 degrees or so and cool off to just around 89 during the evening. There is no incentive to take a shower since you start sweating the minute you get out. As a matter of fact, I've come up with my own theory about the sun. I don't know a whole lot about too many things, but I do think that the closer you go to the equator, the hotter the sun gets! Don't tell all the scientists I've figured this out because I want to make sure I get credit for it. This is why Oregon only gets three days of sunshine per year... it is way too far from the equator. We need to do something about that. Oh yeah, and by the way, here's travellers tip #9: don't sit in the Thai sun crosslegged and hunched over for the better part of an afternoon, as you will come out looking like a vertical blind from where the rolls of fat hide certain parts of your stomach. I figured that one out on the ferry ride. The bus ride to Bangkok was bearable. I spent two days in Bangkok checking out the palace and Wat Pho, the largest reclining Buddha in all the land. I found out later that I wasn't supposed to take a picture of his feet, oops. I saw the girl from Ko Pha Ngan who kept my pack for me and we had dinner. I quickly grew tired of the fumes and the only locals I met where slick dudes with cell phones trying to get you to go some far off store to shop for precious gems during this once a year sale that happened to be going today. I took the night train north to Chiang Mai to get my jungle trek done before my time ran out. The train was fun, as it was raining and all the windows needed to be shut but they had no other ventilation, besides the fans that blew the same air around and around and around. I didn't sleep too well that night either. Chiang Mai was excellent. I was in the Irish pub (Mai wasn't there) getting breakfast when an American and Canadian came in to catch the final Knicks-Heat game. After the game we decided to meet the next day after doing research on all the different treks available. So that day I met Long Legs by advice of some English blokes I met in Ko Pha Ngan and got the scoop, along with other agencies which abound here. At one point I saw a western girl on the other side of the street so I crossed and tracked her down. She too was looking for a trek and told me about a group that was meeting that night at the same place I was staying. I went about my way with lots of options to figure out. I stopped by a Wat in town that afternoon and spent over an hour talking with the monk who was posted there to answer questions. He was very nice and wanted answer any question I had. I think maybe he hadn't many customers that day (I was the only one there). He filled me in on how Buddhism works and what he does and how he does it. It was very interesting. He has been a monk for 11 years already. That night I went to the meeting and knew right away that I would be taking this option. Something felt right about the group (ten people: an older german couple, two Norwegian girls, two Irish girls, a girl from Belgium, and a Danish couple), we all got along instantly. The leader introduced himself with a big smile as Joey, Joey Kangaroo. He spoke very good English, though with such a funny accent that we laughed every time he said something ("Down by the liver!"). And if he actually said something funny, which was often, we laughed twice as hard. We knew at that point we were gong to have fun. I went out to dinner by myself that night and asked the waiter to try the fried flying ants, just to see him do it. The English couple next to me struck a conversation and we spent the evening talking. I was so excited about everything when we were leaving that I said goodbye and ran out the door without paying my bill! I realized half way home and went back, but the couple had payed my bill. The guy had made a typical male remark about his wife shopping at the night market after dinner, so I walked as fast as I could to the market to find them. The market was huge and there was only about three feet of space to fit inbetween both sides of vendors yelling at me saying "hey mister, you want watch, huh? You can only politely say no so many times. Soon I just walked past them. I circled the place 2.5 times and finally gave up, though it wasn't a total waste because I saw some cool gifts to buy there. On my way home, I saw the two trek researchers in a restaurant and told them I had a plan. They decided to wait another few days. Leaving the restaurant, the two Irish girls from the meeting tapped me on the shoulder and we decided to get a beer and play pool. On the way, we heard a screech and looked over to see a tuk-tuk (three wheeled bike thing) smash into a moped. These girls had just completed medical school a week ago, so I sent them after him! He rolled about 8 times and came to a stop laying on the pavement. When we mentioned police and ambulance to some locals, the very very drunk westerner stopped puking and shot up to stumble off. He didn't appear to have anything besides some major skin rash, but you never know. Not sure what happened to him that night, as he was not cooperating with our offer of help. We played free pool that night until 2:30. These Irish girls were living up to their reputation... keeping me laughing and trying to keep me drinking. I had to practically run away from them to get home and rest up before the trip. The next morning I really did not want to get up at 8:00, but now I am grateful that I did. The whole group was laughing and getting to know each other as we sped off towards the jungles of NW Thailand. By the time the trek actually started we were all very comfortable with each other and I think most people sensed that we were in for a good time. We walked a few miles the first day with only small loaner packs (my pack wouldn't have made it all the way!) and then took an elephant ride at the end of the day. I actually got to sit on his head, rather than the boring little wooden chair on top. We ended up the day hiking into a Karen hill tribe. They cooked us the best chicken I have ever had, even KFC! That night we sampled the locally made hill tribe rice moonshine (Not so palatable, but better than some liquors) and sang songs by candlelight. A few Karen guys hung out with us and one we sang happy birthday to (twice). It was nice to really get to know Joey and David, the other guide. I think they appreciated it as well. We woke up to roosters crowing at 4:30 and the people of the tribe going their daily stuff. They are mostly completely self sufficient. No electricity, they raise all their own meat and eat a lot of rice from the fields nearby. They wear very bright clothes for some reason. I made a bracelet from some strands of their clothes that I found on the path. I made friends with Sipo and Vipo, a couple inquisitive Karen boys. They hid behind the wall peaking around at us. I got them to join the group and eventually ended up giving them my pen, my flashlight, and a powerbar (sucker). I hope I'm not spoiling them with my western stuff, but what the heck. I think his eyes lit up the most when I gave him the pen. I would love to know what he writes with it. The second day was all walking. And walking. And more walking. I stayed behind the group most of the time to help Peter, a 50 year old German guy who is scheduled for hip replacement surgery this year, across the streams with rocks. He was a warrior... everyone was routing him on, but he didn't much need it. He says he didn't realize the trip would be that tough, but he handled it well. At first he refused all help, but by the end of the day he had accepted that I was there for him and used it when he needed it. We all want to get him a medal for making it through (without one complaint!) At the end of the day we saw David at the trail head off the main road. We sent him back to camp so we could wait for the Irish girls. However, when they came, we couldn't exactly find the trail down to the camp. The trail he showed us seemed to lead back to the main trail. So we decided to keep going. After a mile or more we saw the trail continueing to go up, but we knew the camp was by the river. A few of the girls started to worry just a little bit, wondering what to do now. Talk of the Blair Witch Project was inevitable. We finally decided to go back and wait where we saw David. On the way we ran into a local guy that saw our foottracks on the trail and followed us. Joey was not far behind him and he was not happy, blaming David for the whole problem. Obviously, a trek guides worst nightmare would be to lose his troops, so I can see why he would worry. Wouldn't be great for the company's reputation, would it? We tried as hard as possible to make light of what was not a big deal anyway, saying that 7 hours was just not enough walking for us that day. We got the mood back soon and drank warm beers and had a great dinner with songs and stories and dancing to follow. The last day started with a raft trip on bamboo rafts made on the spot! We barely made it through some decent sized rapids. After a little more walking we made it to the truck, which took us to lunch and a spectacular waterfall on the way home. We had a great time on the trip home. I haven't laughed that hard in a while. We all went out for Pizza that night and afterwards we all gave big hugs goodbye. Now with a little experience under our belts, we meet again soon for Nepal! We all exchanged emails and Rikki is going to post all the scanned pictures that we send her to a new website she is creating. It was an excellent time that gave us all a ton of memories to take home. I spent the next day recouperating and hanging out with Rikki and her husband Peter (not the german guy). That night after a little shopping at the night market I bumped into Ben from Railay and Ko Pha Ngan and two other guys. We spent the night drinking beers and listening to live music. And here I am on my way to Bangkok and then Kanchanaburi to maybe meet the two Irish girls, see the Bridge at River Kwai and go to a very cool waterfall. Then a shrine at Ayuthaya and I'm done with Thailand! This has been a long one. It has been fun to document my journey like this. Hope you all aren't annoyed by the time it takes to consume this! Hope all is well with everybody back home. Can't wait to see you all again! Jason

I'd like to wrap-up my Thailand emails before heading off to Japan. I know you just received #5, especially those of you who get your email at work since I sent it just after you left on Friday, but I have a few more thoughts to share that I have run across. The bus to Bangkok was ok, as good as sleeping in only one fairly upright position can be. I had no idea in Bangkok where they dropped me off. I made my way to familiar ground and spent some time getting my pictures developed (it's cheap here) and hanging out with a few guys that I knew from Ko Phi Phi. I decided to walk to the bus station, since it didn't look too far and the lady at my hotel I had stayed at told me it was walking distance, and everyone I asked kept saying yeah, not far so I kept trudging on. Three miles and a sore back later, I gave up and got a taxi. It was a good thing because it was still another half mile further and the bus to Kanchanaburi was leaving a few minutes after I bought my ticket. These people have a different concept of "walking distance" and "not far" than I do, They might not have said that if they had tried on my backpack. On the bus ride the "trip attendant" offered me some of her dried mangos. They sucked. She asked me how they were and I said "mmm, good, thanks!" so she gave me the rest of her bag full. Uggh. I spent the rest of the two hours just eating enough to let her know I appreciated her gesture, but not enough to make me sick. In Kanchanaburi, I met a bicycle tuk-tuk driver who offered to take me to my place for 60 Baht. I scoffed and offered 20. We settled on 30. Grainne and Grace had told me that they were at Sam's. There were three different Sam's in the town and of course I had the guy take me to all three before finding my friends. Along the way the bike driver was so friendly and helpful, it really contrasted the guys in Bangkok. I gave him a 100 Baht bill ($3 us) and told him to keep the change. I haven't seen someone smile that wide in a while. I saw him the next day and he gave me a big wave. Grainne and Grace had a friend Jenny they had met up with... not ANOTHER Irish to party with! We hung out and made friends with the owner of a very small bar... ok we actually took over the bar: choosing the music, hanging out inside the bar, getting our own drinks, trying on all the hats she had made by hand, and basically driving away all her other customers. She seemed to be very ok with it though. It was a fun night. The next day we rented two scooters and headed off for Arawan falls (65 kilometers away). It was a little disconcerting driving in Thai traffic (which, though I've never been to New York, I would assume it is not unsimilar) especially considering that a policeman on a motorcycle was trying to drive next to Grainne and me and strike up a conversation (asking us where we were going, where are we from) Grainne finally kicked him and he fell off the bike and we sped away. Well not really but we wanted to as the broken down truck ahead of us was coming at us quickly. We had driving to do. The falls lived up to their billing as one of the most beautiful things I've in Thailand (in terms of landscape anyway!). I don't know how they get the water so blue. Ask for pictures when I see you next. I don't think I've taken so many pictures of any one thing in my life. The girls left that night and I finally got a relaxing evening. The next day I went to the Bridge at River Kwai, which was nothing special since the original is no longer there, a new one built there after the war. But the war memorial cemetary, that was powerful! Tens of thousands of Allied troops died in the construction of the Death Highway through Burma and Thailand at the hands of the Japanese in WWII. I'd like to share a few of the things that family and friends had inscripted on the graves that I passed: - Love knows no death in the garden of remembrance - Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends - In Gods good time, we shall be reunited. Sleep on my son, until we meet again. RIP - To live in the hearts of those we love, is not to die. - A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone, until our reunion. - So dearly loved, so sadly missed, so proudly remembered - There's some corner of a foreign field that is forever England - There is a link death cannot sever, love and remembrance last forever - Sweet is the memory silently kept, I smile with the world but never forget - Not goodbye, beloved, only good night. Some day I will understand. Mother. - His duty nobly done - always remembered (most Aussie graves) - Though parted we must be, side by side we will walk along the path of memory - To those who loved and lost you, your sweet memory will never grow old - My beloved son, I bless the years I had with you, and leave the rest to God - Though seas divide, fond memory clings - It may be in the better land we'll know the meaning of our tears, and understand - I often thnk of how you died and couldn't say goodbye before you closed your eyes - He left me with a heart so brave, he sleeps now in a hero's grave. I finished the city with a tour of the war museum and then came back to Bangkok. The rest of the trip is relaxing, reading, and shopping for last minute gifts that I can hopefully get through customs in Japan. My six weeks through Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand has been more than I ever imagined. People ask me if I've changed, but I don't think I have. I don't think it has to be that dramatic. I remember a few weeks ago when I was sweating in the afternoon sun and I looked down at my ankle. I'm not sure about anyone else, but I have an artery that runs through my ankle that, in a certain position, I can see my blood flow pulsating. I spent the better part of an afternoon just watching it and reflecting on things (rough life, huh?). I haven't changed the way I think or the way I see other people, but I reaffirmed that I want to make an effort to make the most of the next 60 years, or whatever I have left. But making the most of something doesn't have to be taking a big trip like this, it could take only a few minutes of the day, like calling a friend. It doesn't necessarily have to be for myself; it could be recognizing and taking the opportunity to tell someone they are appreciated. Helping someone before they ask me for help. Getting the education that I know I want. Not sitting in front of the TV for the weekend but going to visit a family member, or go camping with a friend. Making someone dinner. Read the news. Call Mom (for the record I'm pretty darn good at that!) Big things don't have to come in big packages (though it's nice when they do)! My artery started the thought and the war cemetary put it into perspective for me. Peace! Jason

Friday, June 23, 2000 Iwakuni, Japan My observations, analysis, and summary of my three weeks in Japan: there are way too many people on an island that is way too cold (for it being late June) and way too expensive (Japan is part of a rare group of countries where $30 for dinner is considered a bargain), but an excellent place to visit. Those of you who have more important things to do than read my emails feel free to skip the following useless information about my trip here, knowing that all is well in the Far East for me. See you very soon! My first week was with Blake, a good friend from the OSU days. Blake owns a bar in Yokohama (near Tokyo). Need I say more about that week? Actually, despite what you are thinking, I didn't spend the whole week on a barstool. Blake was my personal tour guide for Tokyo and Yokohama, which was very comforting being that this country is not as English-friendly as Thailand and he has gotten to know the area, as well as the language, pretty good over the past five years. It was also very nice to have a home base to come back to when I ventured out on my own. We did all the tourist stuff, including the Imperial Palace, the famed Tokyo train system, and trying out different foods. We went to a Ramen restaurant and ordered the Hot and Spicy noodles (I didn't learn my lesson in Thailand!) and lived to regret it. Blake swears he saw the guy put in an extra dollop of chili sauce. I'm sure that is why all the workers in the restaurant were peeking over the counters to see our reactions. They were testing out the Gaijins (foreigners) to see if we could handle it. We made it appear as though we could, but the next 24 hours were not very fun! Later that day we went to Tokyo's Ginza district (read as "the most overpriced, ego-tripping shopping center in the world") and I saw a melon on sale for $100. Yes, I said melon. I'm sure it's a darn good melon, but come-on. Speaking of expensive, I can tell you that Japan is more than seven times as expensive than Thailand. I know this because $100 could stretch a whole week over there, but can't make it past one day here. And I'm getting free accommodations! And because the currency is 105 times the US dollar and they don't have a bill less than 1000 yen, I end up carrying around loads of coins that weigh down my pants and give me plumbers butt. But at least I don't need to go to the gym, it's a workout enough carrying around my wallet. I never made it up on stage to play in Blake's band. I was thinking that the band was just a small group of guys screwing around on stage just to have fun, and that I would jump in and join them, but they ended up being very good! In fact, they put on a gig of four bands to play at the bar that Saturday night and they were the best one there. But then again, their name is the Boozerinis, so they try not too take themselves too seriously. That night, as well as most of the nights in Tokyo, was very fun. It was good to catch up with Blake and hang out with his friends. The tourist center pointed me to an indoor climbing gym not too far from where I was staying. I went there with Blake to accomplish two missions 1) to climb and 2) to find more places around Japan to climb. I was successful on both counts. The owner photocopied a ton of information on outdoor climbing areas, and some of the descriptions were even in English. A local climber named Kyoku gave us the inside scoop on the best places out of the bunch. One was called Takatori and was only a half-hour train ride from Blake's house. I left the gym with worn out arms and a bag full of information to last me the rest of my trip. We found the climbing area the next day despite some unnecessary wandering through a local neighborhood. On the way up the approach, we passed some kind of Shinto monument carved from a large stone (40 feet high). I wasn't sure if the statue was a sacred national treasure, but I couldn't resist the urge to get a picture of me bouldering the bottom section. As a tour group came down out of the hills above us I was yelling, "Blake Hurry!" I don't know if they saw me, but if they did they didn't seem to mind. I hope I'm not in hot Shinto water. For a weekday, there were quite a few people climbing, including Akiko and Tozabyo, an older couple who didn't climb like an older couple. They invited me to use their top ropes that were already set up (though I brought my own) and we communicated through Blake while I tried Left River, my first climb in Japan. This part of the wall was only a climbing wall because of the divots that someone had chipped out with an ice pick some time ago. Tozabyo made it look easy as he scaled up the wall so I felt confident hopping on. I quickly remembered how much of an intermediate climber I am when my hands refused to stay on the rock. I don't know what this guy was holding onto. I eventually made it all the way up after many falls and some cheating here and there. I felt like I had let down my country as their climbing ambassador. I climbed a second route to the right called Milky Way and found some good hand and foot holds that gave me back some of my confidence. After nailing all the sequences of the route, I shook my fist at the sky when I reached the top. In the land of saving face, I had saved my own to some degree. When we left that day, our new Japanese friends were making plans to come visit me on their trip to America in 2002 so I can take them to Smith Rock. Japan is a very efficient society. I guess after the bombing of WWII they were pretty much starting their infrastructure from scratch so they could really think out how they were going to stuff so many people in a place the size of California (but with volcanic mountains taking up most of the space). Everything is designed around the train system. The train stations are like mini cities. With so many people in such a small area, cars are for the most part out of the question… not to mention it costs days' wages to travel anywhere because of all the stiff tolls that accumulate over every mile of the highway. So everything converges on the stations. The bus systems, the businesses, and all the shopping centers are linked to the train stations. It makes it very efficient to get around once you have the whole thing figured out. The result, however, is the anthill effect with people travelling in every direction, especially at lunch and after work (I never got up early enough to see before work, but I'm sure it is the same). I had to learn Blake's technique of lowering the head and doing the Robocop walk, expecting the masses to part for a couple big Gaijins heading through. For the most part, it works! I never had any major collisions. The hard part about using the trains is when there are no Roman script names to go by. This is more common as you get out of the Tokyo area. There were times when I wondered if I was going the right direction on the train… trying to match up the Kanji characters; "ok, there should be a little railroad track next to a squid looking thing with a box around it. Yep, there it is". So far I haven't had any problems though. The Japanese seem to be very polite. Even if they are scowling at you under their breath (like at Takatori perhaps) they always smile and nod and say nice things (what they say in Japanese could be a different story!) As an example of their politeness, every attendant on the Shinkansen (bullet train) bows and says Hello and Thank you (in Japanese, of course) before and after entering each rail car, and there are usually eight cars. I was wondering what they would do if they forgot a bottle opener seven cars down? No wonder the lady opened my beer with her teeth, with a smile on her face, of course. I did get a guy pretty upset in the streets of Tokyo when I took a picture of his booth (I thought it was funny that he was selling Magic Mushrooms in the middle of downtown Tokyo not 50 yards from the police station). But he quickly changed his tune when Blake and I stood there laughing (we are, on average, a foot taller and 50 pounds heavier than most Japanese). But for all the formalities, manners, and proper behavior, there is a weird undercurrent of not-so-ethical industries like love hotels, comic picture books with nude girls in them, and an overall fixation on sex. Sounds like America! Though the outside is very different at times, I guess we are all human after all. By the way, did you know that it takes just over six weeks in the blazing sun of Thailand to turn a body from ghost white to a respectable brown, but only a mere six days in Japan to convert it back? It's true! It's not rational, but true nevertheless. No one is going to believe me that I have been on a trip in Asia!! But I guess it did prove my whole "Jason's Theory of Sun Relativity" mentioned a few updates ago. Maybe the Nobel Prize for Meteorology will relieve my bitterness. I've actually had to wear my fleece! But that was cool because then I got to take all of Carie's six pets with me everywhere I went. Maybe I can get Mom to make a sweater for me when I get home from all this pet hair. So after a week of Tokyo I was ready to see Carie and Morgan and the rest of Japan. Unfortunately, the night before I left, Blake kept me out until 6 in the morning, so I missed my reserved train ticket the next morning due to a need to continue sleeping. Then in my rush to the train station I left my bag with all my gifts in it on the subway system. Ugh. I'm cursed. I had Blake call the Subway for me but still no word. I still have a very small amount of hope that someone turned it in. The Japanese have a reputation for being very trustworthy and helpful. But maybe my luck ran out a few times ago. Anyway, I made it down to Iwakuni and we all had dinner and took off in a rented camper for Mt. Kuju, the tallest mountain in the southern Island of Kyushu. We drove all night on Friday, making it to base camp (don't get me wrong, these are not the mountains you think of in the Northwest) for a late start. Apparently, we came to find out later, the weekend we chose was the official Spring opening of the trail. There were hikers at every turn! It took five hours to hike what should have been a three-hour hike. Many times we had to wait up to twenty minutes to let the stream of hikers through the narrow passageways. It didn't help that we had the dogs with us, not because they held us up, but because everyone seemed to have a fascination with them. Granted, it was nice to have everyone be so friendly to us, but it got a little frustrating after a while. 99.9% of all the hikers made it a point of saying hi to us, stopping to see the dogs. All day long I was saying "Konichiwa (bow the head a little) Konichiwa (bow the head a little) Konichiwa (bow the head a little)". We made it to the top of the mountain just as clouds rolled in over the top, hiding the view of the valley below. It was very cool. In the distance were flumes of steam from the volcanic activity below and thick green meadows barely visible through the mist. We didn't have time to hike to the camping spot so we chose a patch of ground in a deep ravine at the top of the mountain. Just as we set up camp, the rain came hard, so we rushed to get in the tent and didn't come out till morning. No one had packed a lighter, so we had to forgo hot food, but luckily Morgan packed enough dry food to get us through the ordeal. It was an interesting night's sleep with three full sized humans, a very large dog and a medium dog packed into a 2-3 person tent. It was a little weird waking up to find myself spooning my brother in law, but it kept me warm! The tent was on a slightly downward grade, and I was at the "bottom" of the tent. More than once I woke up with my face in the side of the tent and Morgan flanked on my other side. And he doesn't wake up easily. The next day was a very nice walk down to the car to wrap up an awesome camping trip. On the way home we stopped at a Japanese hot spring (Onsen). Because of the availability of very hot volcanically heated water, Japan has tons of these Onsens all over, and I can see why they are so popular. After dinner and a long drive home we got back around 2:00 am. We got up for a luncheon in honor of the Army's 225th birthday and left again to go to Sasebo, on the same island of Kyushu, to spend the week while Carie did military vet stuff. It was a good week checking out all the restaurants and watching movies and relaxing. On Wednesday night Morgan called (he stayed behind to work) to tell me that a guy back in Iwakuni wanted to climb with me. Not about to waste an opportunity, I took the train back that night. The three of us headed up to Three Peaks, which is just outside Iwakuni city limits. I must say I was surprised at how much rock is around here. There are opportunities for all levels of climbing. Scott is an excellent climber and I learned some new techniques from him while working some of the basic routes. After Morgan went home to go to work, Scott took me up a grueling climb that followed a crack that headed diagonally up the wall. I had never climbed crack before (I know that sounds funny, but it is accepted terminology in the sport) so I wasn't aware of the torture and bodily abuse that I was getting myself into. The rock surface is as smooth as a cheesegrater and you're supposed to jam any part of your body (hands, feet, elbow, knee, head, etc) into these cracks and hope that they hold. It was very challenging and even rewarding when we reached the top, but the next day I looked like a very bad skateboarder who had eaten cement on several occasions. I'm definitely not convinced that this type of climbing is the way to go. From the top we repelled down the other side to an anchor where we set up a top rope for our last climb. Once again, I attempted the initial crack but couldn't do it. The blood from my hands was reducing the friction. I took the cheap starter route and finished ¾ of the official route. I was ready to go home and nurse my wounds by the time I got down. That night we all went out for dinner with Scott and his wife. As soon as the beers set in, Scott started with some intellectually innocent questions like "Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art?" I could see where this night was headed. After a while we were attempting to nail down whether meaning has meaning, and I knew that we were up to our waist in, well, mud. When my brain started to swell and create mini-hemorrhages, I voluntarily removed myself from the discussion and sat back to see what kind of conclusion would wrap the night up. We never quite got that far though. Morgan and I took the train back the next day to pick up Carie and we headed off to a campground to camp another night. We remembered the lighter this time. We found a sweet waterfall and a respectable rope swing below the falls. Though the dark was coming and the water was cold, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to see how high we could get before letting go of the rope. We even got Carie to jump in (ok, she volunteered herself, but she wouldn't have gone if we hadn't led the way). The next day we drove down to Nagasaki to see the A-Bomb Museum and the Peace Park. Much like the Hiroshima exhibits, it was haunting. (see below). We drove the 6 hours home that night trying to catch up on our sleep. On Monday I took the five hour trip (one way) to pick up Christina to start her six week stay here. Her friend will be joining her in a few weeks. She seems happy to be "free" for the summer (no offense, Mom and Dad, I'm sure you feel the same way). While Carie has been at work we've spent the week hanging out doing lots of tourist type stuff, including visiting the local castle as well as some nationally famous sites like a very old wooden bridge and Miyajima, the third most beautiful place in all of Japan. We couldn't really appreciate its beauty since the place was covered in clouds and mist, but they did have the best custard filled cakes I've ever had. Mmm. It was worth the trip. We've had some major bonding time and it has been great for the siblings to be together. We haven't had this much time together since 1990 when I went off to college. I had forgotten how to be a good brother (trying to play pranks, beating them up, challenging them to games of Indian leg wrestling (they chickened out), etc) I know about five words of Japanese now… just enough to look like an idiot when a local, who originally assumed (correctly) that I don't know any Japanese, hears me say a few words and is delighted to know, or think, that I am fluent so they start reeling off a slew of unidentified flying syllables in my direction while I stand in front of them with a big grin on my face, understanding nothing, and wondering what kind of message they are trying to get across to me (sorry about the run-on sentence). The good news is that most English originated words are directly translated by putting extra vowels at the end, as in Internet-o, or green salad-a, or even supercalafragalisticexpealadocious-o. Unfortunately, the word you need to say in any practical situation is not this kind of word (help-o, toilet-u, or come-here-often-a definitely do NOT work) so you get lots of hearty laughs from the Japanese when you hack apart their language. You get an even bigger laugh when you think you are pronouncing an innocent word, like Bank-o, but in reality it turns out that you are saying the person is ugly. I've given up trying in an effort to offend the least amount of people as possible. Plus it is hard to embrace a language when you are only going to use it for three weeks of your life. Finally got to ride the Harley today. I think Carie was remembering that flourish of car accidents that I was involved in a few years ago, but eventually changed her mind. I only came close to crashing it a few times and brought it back in one piece. It is a very cool, in the essence of the word cool, bike. Free tip: when developing your film, give the film developer your exposed film, not your unexposed "next roll" (ie check inside the black tube before handing it in). See because then, not only do you get the pictures back that you are so eagerly awaiting, but you also don't waste a whole roll of film at the same time. And you don't get so mad. Take my advice on this one. Morgan has been fun to hang out with, in the brother-in-law sense of the word. He does fun stuff like: calling me on the phone when he knows I'm the only one at home, speaking quick Japanese. I'm on the other side of the phone in a panic going through my five words and saying "Morgan… home… one hour" (big laugh on the other end of the line). And on the train he likes to play this fun game where he convinces you that you missed your stop, or are on the wrong train after it takes off. These things seem to keep him happy and in a good mood, his own personal form of Prozac. It is also especially fun to eat Japanese food with Morgan. He likes to lie about the kind of food he's making me eat when we are at the types of restaurants where I am completely at his and Carie's mercy for food identification, but I can usually call him on it when I notice the almost unnoticeable smirk on his face. After three or four of these types of tricks I've caught on to his game. Now I don't believe anything he says. Hey, the phone is ringing, I hope it's not really a Japanese friend of theirs this time! I took the train into Hiroshima just the other day. They left one building half standing as a reminder of what happened there. It was spooky. The park had loads of statues ripe for picture taking, and the museum was impressive. I learned a lot about WWII and how the bombings affected the country and brought the war to a quick close. Much of the museum focuses on the education of the current status of nuclear weapons and the issues there. The most vivid memory I'll take with me was the half torn clock that stopped at exactly 8:15 on August 6, 1945. Though they did have exhibits about the effect of the radiation on over 2 million people (75,000 died immediately) that were fairly grotesque, the focus of the entire museum was positive. The message is not about licking their wounds after the war or how triumphantly they've bounced back but on how we can all try to prevent this from happening to all of us. As I left I noticed a set of journals to write a departing message in. This was the same set of journals as Mother Theresa, the Pope, and many world leaders had written in. I wondered how my words, my thoughts could measure up to those who came before me? But then I saw a few other entries that inspired me, like "Bombs are so bad. I can't believe America did this to you guys. We should never fight a war again and all people should just love one another". Mine wouldn't be the most naive entry there. So, in an effort to bring myself onto the same page (no pun intended) as all these other people, I decided to give it a shot. I wrote: "A powerful lesson exists here: that from horrible circumstances we can all find it within ourselves to turn these experiences into opportunities to make good from bad" Of course, I won't now be tying myself to the top of a nuclear submarine or marching on Washington, but it did open my eyes to things I hadn't thought enough about. Last night we all went out for raw fish and karaoke! It doesn't get any more Japanese than this! I can still feel the slimy pieces of fish slipping down my throat. Major doses of teriyaki sauce helped. The only thing I really coudn't enjoy at all was Morgan's sea slug. Aren't there some things that just don't need to be eaten? The karaoke bars are not like the ones we've got in the States, where would-be Mariah Careys relive the glory of high school choir in a battle to impress the crowd, who doesn't really care and is most likely just a bunch of single guys trying to pick up chicks. The way it works is you rent a small room that has all the equipment including two mics and you sit around, order food and drinks, and sing till your throat hurts. It was very fun. Plus it was a good chance to practice my beat-boxing skills. Maybe some day all the work I put into it back in 8th grade will pay off for me. I've learned a few things about ettiquette in Japan. I've learned that Blake's girlfriend will laugh outloud if you step foot into a household with your shoes on (as I came in I was asking if I could put my pack down before taking off my shoes, the answer is most definately "no"). I also learned that when you get into an Ansen, you should perform the ritual of washing your body by squatting on little stools and pouring buckets of water over yourself. If you just jump in the water because you are so excited and looking forward to it, then all the other naked old guys will get up and leave. Finally, I learned that it is unnecessary to take a very cold shower just because you didn't ask where to turn on the water heating element that is nowhere near the bathroom (I thought maybe they all just took cold showers, how was I to know? And I was so looking forward to my first hot shower in six weeks!). So that is the condensed version of my three weeks in Japan. This weekend I am going to stop in Kyoto on my way back to Yokohama to see some classical Japanese gardens and then I'm outta here. I want to publicly thank Carie, Morgan, and Blake for helping me out so much... you guys are the best. Thanks for tuning in and until I talk with you next, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars (copyright 1985 Casey Casem). Jason