The Sophomore Slump

Home » writing

Category Archives: writing

Life is like a Japanese restaurant. You never know what you’re gonna get.

I know that every country is different, but Japan is from a whole ‘nother dimension. Japan has such distinctions from other countries. Their culture is so unique. Their attitude is like no other. I’ve been in and out of Japan; six months in Okinawa back in 2014 and now, residing on mainland Japan for another six, so far. And I’m very glad for having this opportunity to immense myself to their awesome country.

Disclaimer: These are based on my experience while living in Japan. Some of the lines here may sound like I’m poking fun of their country, but I’m really just drawing the differences of living in Japan from any other places I’ve been to.

1. I’m going to a castle!!!

I was so excited when I got invited to go to a castle. When I think of castles, I visualize those dreamy, grand castles I see in fairy tales of towering heights, sturdy constructions, and ornate architectural designs. When I got to the first Japanese castle I visited, all I see is wooden structures. Even the insides are empty spaces, and all wood.


When you go inside a Japanese castle, like it or not, you have to remove your shoes. You either leave your shoes outside or put it in a plastic; that way you are not spreading stench all over the castle like a skunk.:)


Japanese castles may not be those dream-like, magical, fairy tale castles, but they still are imposing, stunning, and magnificent looking castles.

2. Lost in Translation.


I was so ready to relax on this massage chair. I sat comfortably and smiling, but then I saw that they have a remote with Japanese writings on it! Man, I didn’t want to just press anything. I was afraid that if I press something, the chair would eject me to the roof.:)

Be prepared of the language barrier while here in Japan. Don’t worry, Japanese people are nice people; they will work with you if you ask for assistance.

3.Take a bow.


Japanese are the most polite, respecting and humble group of people I’ve encountered with. They have manners, and so much etiquette. They take a bow when they greet, when they say “hai (yes)”, when they say “arigato (thanks)” or when they say “gomenasai or sumimasen (sorry/excuse me)”.  Of course, they bow on shrines and temples. Right when you walk in a restaurant (or store, sometimes), they greet you immediately.  So, when you are already inside and sitting in a restaurant, you will constantly hear greetings, after greetings, after greetings, after greetings, after greetings, after greetings… If it is a busy restaurant, your ears will bleed after you’re done eating.:)


Japanese give such great customer service. Nobody tips in Japan, they don’t fake their politeness. There was this one time where a guy chased me out of the restaurant, down an escalator, just to give me back my change that I forgot to get. They are just the nicest people.

Japanese people like to say “konnichiwa” with a bow. It’s nice that they do that. When I hike, however, my eyes grow big, petrified like I’ve seen a ghost, whenever I see hordes of people coming towards my direction. That’s a lot of people to say “konnichiwa” and bow to. Konnichiwa and bow, konnichiwa and bow, konnichiwa and bow, konnichiwa and bow, konnichiwa and bow … I konnichiwa-ed and bow-ed more or less 716 times in one hike. By the time I was done with hiking, not only my feet are hurt but my back as well from being all bowed out.:)


4. Life is like a Japanese restaurant. You never know what you gonna get.

I once entered a restaurant where their menus are all in Japanese and no English translation, and not much pictures on it. I didn’t want to just leave the premise so I just got me an easy order of dumplings instead.


You may not know what you’re getting, but Japanese food are soooo delicious. They are incredibly cheap too! Even convenient stores have the best meals. Seriously, you can have a very decent lunch at a convenient store. Convenient stores here really are convenient.:)

I once entered a sushi carousel restaurant. I looked at a table on the opposite side of me, and they have gathered a jenga of sushi plates. I looked at them, and they are all skinny! I was in shock. I don’t quite understand how Japanese people maintain their bodies composition.


If you’re ever in Japan, do yourself a favor and give in to Dydo Melon Shake (picture above). It’s heaven in a can. It is so good. It is so so good. Consider it my best Japan recommendation. You may find this at vending machines. You can see vending machines in every corner in Japan, especially in Okinawa.


Care for some hot noddles?

It would not surprise me if I see a vending machine in the middle of a farm field.:)

5. Cute, Cute, Cute, Cute, Cute


Japanese TV shows, ads, billboards, even warning signs!, cars, anime, karaoke, pachinko, fashion, food,  … Everything looks all happy, colorful, lovable and cute! You know those times when you’re stressed out or having a bad day and someone else is being overly cheerful and trying to get you to smile even though you don’t feel like it. That is how ridiculous adorable and cute Japan is. Their positiveness and cheerfulness is infectious too.

Live While You're Woung

They are always smiling! They’re happy and festive.


Japanese people are “matsuri” people. There are countless of festivals in Japan. It’s ridiculous how many festivals they have that it’s overwhelming to pick which festival to go to.




I love Japan. I’m so grateful for living in such a “foreign” land. These are my moments, and I’m so ready for some more exploration and adventure. Japan is so unique that it is full of the unexpected and surprises. I’m more than happy to embrace more of their incredibly unique and rich culture.

FYI: Did you know that there is a Japanese book called Norwegian Wood that has the lines “Life is like a box of chocolates.”? The book was published in 1987, and the movie Forrest Gump was in 1994.😉

Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park / #323

This is like a 3D post.😉 My apology if it makes you dizzy.😀

The Sophomore Slump Recommends

Movie: Persepolis – This animated movie for adults is full of quirks amidst serious historical events. It follows the autobiography of Marjane from childhood during Islamic Revolution all the way to adulthood where she needed to find herself where to fit. It’s a film that is hard to forget.

Music: Sea Change – We all know Beck who gave us psychedelic music like 90’s hits “Loser” and “E-Pro”. But in the beginning of 2000’s, he surprised everyone when he did a complete 360 and gave us one of the most heartbreaking albums of the decade with “Sea Change”.

Here is one of my most favorite album-openers, “Golden Age”. Hear also, on your own, “Guess I’m Doing Fine”.

My schedule was early. I still had one day before I had to meet friends in Yosemite so I decided to drive ahead. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are on the way anyway.


What’s gotten to me when I drove all over California for 3 weeks was that traveling became a sign of success for me. This is what I love to do. So when I do it I feel more accomplished.


In life, school, work, etc, when all the glory things are in front of me I tend to ask myself, “How did I get here?”. I tend to look back the way I was.


You might not see it, but there are ancient writtings on this rock. It’s okay if you don’t see it. It’s misspelled anyways.:) I kid, i kid.

I was a scrawny little kid in the Philippines whose source of happiness came from simple things like just plain playing outside. I had no fancy toys, maybe except Lego. My shoes were my older borther’s old shoes. I had to walk more than a mile to get to my school. Things like that make me look the way I am now, and feel proud of myself.

General Sherman: THE largest tree of the world

It’s so cool to be in Sequoia National Park. You get to be among the giants of trees.:)


Tunnel Rock

Nobody, the people who knows and knew me, would not imagine me lasting on this job that I do now. I’m not the most serious, not the most responsible, and not even the most outspoken. I am at the tenth year of my work, and happily assigned currently in Greece.

image Whatever you do, never give up. By being prudent, practical or wise, you can give up on one thing but never surrender completely. Exhaust all your options, continue however silly you look and fight to the bitter end. When someone said you can’t, screw that person.:) Erase that. Go see and prove it yourself whether you can or cannot do something. But, I’m begging you, do not have a “never give up” mentality solely because of pride.

THE Largest Tree on Earth - Sequoia National Monument

General Sherman: THE Largest Tree on Earth

I know it’s not a diploma. It’s not a promotion. It’s not an ideal woman I get to be with.😀 Traveling is a big part of my accomplishments. I feel the high. I feel lucky. I feel successful when I travel.


And when you’re really really in dire situation and heavy things are weighing on you, forget about pride. Please, when you have a problem, seek other people. Don’t bury yourself by solving your problem just by your own because of your pride. I just want to throw it out there. Because a lot of people do dig themselves deeper all because of pride. We all have problems. We all make mistakes. People need people.


Kings Canyon is in conjunction to Sequoia National Park. I spent exploring most of the day in the latter. Most areas in Kings Canyon are inaccessible during winter.


High Sierra Mountains as seen from Kings Canyon Overlook

I have a strong desire for traveling. This one and the one 2-weeks travel around that I did 2 years ago, I Nike just do it. I made zero reservation. No concrete plans. I was budget traveling. You gotta take risks sometimes. Sometimes. And inconvenience is nothing on me. Been there, done that.

Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park

One last thing. If you think you have a problem, think that things can be worse. Tomorrow is a brighter day. If that next day tops yesterday, the next day is even brighter. Why? Because you are still there! You have hope. You got time to refocus, adjust, or change. Some times, laugh at your problems. Maybe that’s a solution. You can always look back at the things you’ve done and accomplished. Look around you and see what you have. Then think what others don’t have.

Never completely give up.

This post is part of Special Reports. For more of Special Reports, click (here).


Here it is! The moment that we’ve been waiting for. Wait! No. The moment I’ve been waiting for.

It took me a long time to put this all together. What you will see here are quotations that are typed into images. First of all, it was hard for me to come up with the quotes. I’m not as witty as I claim to be. This is one of rare posts where I came up with words first before the images. I tried different variations and combinations of words and images. Some of the images I have one or two or three more versions of. The major delay is the theater shot. I really want it to be the way it is now. In order for me to get that shot, first, I had to schedule the theater. I had to bribe the keeper some chocolates. Then, I politely kicked everyone out of the theater explaining that the picture is intended for blog purpose. They were not very cooperative as they were leaving.

For whatever it’s worth, I hope you enjoy.

This post is part of Special Reports.

Happy Thanksgiving week, next week.


Featured Blog

Do yourself a favor. Go and see some highly impressive frames by NW Frame of Mind.

The Sophomore Slump Recommends

Music: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga by Spoon – This album has my choice for the best album opener ever!
Movie: Spirited Away. An animated movie about a girl whose parents turned into pigs.😉 Now she must work to turn them back into human again. This one of Japan’s finest films will never leave the list of the best films of world cinema.

Union Station in LA / Unstoppable


This post is part of Special Report.


I’m infected. I am cursed! I am held captive by this powerful force.


The change of seasons, heat of passion, the cry of a baby upon entering this world. Something in me I cannot control.


I become invisible. I become free. I am a moving train. Unstoppable. No. Nobody. Nothing can just stop me.


Avoidance will only weaken me. Try tying me up in shackles and chains, but this raging urge will sum up all the strength to let me be.


Hyper. Caffienated. Androgenic. High-strung. Heated. Battery always in full charge. I am  …….. on fi—re!


Hercules. Superman. Goliath. Jessica Alba. No. All they can do is delay me. Nothing more, nothing less.


No drug can cure this disease. No shrink can fix this madness. No amount of electrity can measure up to this energy that is coursing through my veins.


And when my done is deed, it’s jubilation. A party inside my brain. Fireworks more spectacular than Macy’s in New York. Cerebral minions celebrating. Singing, dancing. Gallivanting. They’re boisterous and drunk!


I fed the hungry wolf inside me. My heart will sing. My body, rejuvenated. Satisfaction. I’ll sleep with a smile. Peace in my mind.


My passion is to travel. It is my obsession and it cannot be stopped.


See also: The Jelly Experience

Explosions in the Sky

Me and control, we have a love-hate relationship. You see, I’m a kind of person who let things be. I just let the nature and forces do whatever it is they want to do. I’m not one who plan things. I’m not one who grabs a hold of something. It has a lot of disadvantages being that way. But whatever the outcome is, whatever I’m given, I’ll take it! Happy-go-lucky. If it’s a good thing then I’m grateful. If it’s something bad then it’s a challenge, a lesson learned.


If the forces out there are taking too much time to provide me the thing that my heart desires, so be it! I’ll wait. I know patience can be so cruel. But when that time comes, victory and success will be delicious. It will be magnificent. It will be oh-so sweet.






















Many a New Year, 4th of July, and other hooplas have come and gone, and I never got the perfect opportunity to capture fireworks. It’s not really something I forward to, or chase. But I always wanted, or imagine, how I fare well with taking pictures of it. There was one time where I was in Santa Barbara and I picked a supposedly great vantage point to watch fireworks as it oversees the city. I waited and waited for the fireworks, but it ended up being an epic fail because the clouds were too thick that it was covering the fireworks. So many things I want to practice taking pictures of. Firework display is just something that is on occasions. So if I miss it or fail to be in a good spot then I have to wait a long time for the next one.

Ventura County Fair happened to be displaying fireworks every day, every 10 pm during its two-week operation. For three consecutive years I’ve been to the fair, this is the only time I found out they do firework shows at night. I went with a friend to the fair. We left the Fairground. She drove back home while I drove to a spot which I think is a great vantage point and waited there for the fireworks show. I was so content that after waiting I finally get to have decent shots of fireworks. I also went back to the same spot the night after. What I wanted was to capture is the fair and the fireworks together in the shots. As you can tell from the pictures, my sophomore attempt was mission unaccomplished. I didn’t capture anything worth presenting. Oh well, c’est la vie.:)

Also, it is always nice to look up in the sky but never forget to look down to earth.😉

Travel Themes

I’m making mini-posts of these 9 chosen Travel Themes into a post. I overkilled some of these images, and I loaded it with clichés.:)

I love walking outside and see the children play.

I actually see myself in them. Why? When they play outside, it reminds me that there’s more out there than the tube, video games, cellphone, or the comfort of our room.



It’s awaken by the wandering eyes, of curious minds, and with wild imaginations.

Statues are full of life.



It’s amazing to think how architecture can so define a place.

Did you know Frank Gehry failed an art class? Perhaps it’s because of his unconventional methods and weird ways of viewing things.


A lot of people leave their own hometown to come L.A. trying to fulfill their dreams in having a shot to fame. Their journey is not easy. A lot of these aspirations started with side jobs like waiting tables. Some only got their five minutes being extra, ending up in reality shows, or forgettable characters in one TV episode. Good thing Los Angeles has a lot to offer with these people with potentials and good ambitions. Of course, some shoot their way to stardom.

That’s a thing with possibilities, it’s daunting but exciting at the same time.




Frailty can be a very beautiful thing. It’s actually an attractive quality. Just like a flower, for instance.

But you should watch out, delicateness can be deceiving. It can be tricky. When you provoke it, it might be storing up power, come up strong and bite you in the back!





Meet me at a cliff somewhere, on a roof of an abandoned building, or suspended in the air in a balloon . Wherever is more secluded. I don’t care how inappropiate the location is. just wherever you feel more secure.

Unpredictability is fun. It makes life exciting. It’s when you see things in the most unexpected places.


Or when you find beauty and mystery in the most unlikely places.



The views are better when you’re on top.

But I’m a man who thrives on challenges. I love the moments when I’m looking forward and up to achieve my goals.

For when I achieve greatness, reach a certain height, meet a successful goal, at times, I just don’t know what to do with it. It’s hard to figure out what’s next. I don’t blame people for having too much ambition and greed. No one should judge me if I want to achieve things just within my reach.



When darkness befalls …

One light can warm a heart. Enlightenment. One light can cure a troubled mind. Clarity. One light can bring closure. Vision. One light can guide a lost soul.


One light can lit up someone’s entire world.


I’ll go ahead and feature the brain behind this Travel Theme operation, Where’s my backpack?. See if you can take on Ailsa’s weekly challenges.



To eat, or not to eat blowfish, that is the question –

There’s a Japanese phrase “Itsuyaruno? Imadesyo!” which roughly translates to “When are you going to do it? Now, right!?”

To eat or not to eat blowfish? For those of you who are unacquainted, eating fugu or blowfish can kill you if it’s not properly prepared. Only certified chefs can deal with this fish prepation.

There are plenty more things I’d like to do before I exit out. Plenty of places I still dream of going to. Realistically speaking, I like to see, amongst many, The Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and New York. I like to go back to Chicago and Texas since I didn’t really have the chance to explore it when I was there years ago. Hopefully by the end of this year I get to go to either Greece or mainland Japan. I hope to one day organize a big charity event. And if we’re talking brainstorms and daydream I’d like to have a dinner with my lifelong celebrity crush, Jessica Alba. I promise myself to get one or two college course done this year.

To eat, or not to eat blowfish? That question’s been “eating me alive” for months. Long I contemplated whether to do it or not. So much more I want to do in my blessed life, and I’m dancing on the razor’s edge for a single dish? It’s like diving into the deepest part of the ocean with only the hands of the supposedly expert stranger as my breathing apparatus. Eating a blowfish is not just a challenge on courage, it really is also an insanity test!

Then again, people do live dangerously. Some do it more adventurously like skydiving, swimming with whale shark or bunjee jumping. Most of us in our daily lives, it starts when we hop on our cars to when we enter a public restroom. Even a ride in the “happiest place on Earth”, Disneyland, is associated with risk that involves trusting others for our safety.

According to my friend Wiki…

Statistics from the Tokyo Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health indicate 20 to 44 incidents of fugu poisoning per year between 1996 and 2006 in Japan (a single incident may involve multiple diners). Each year, these incidents led to between 34 and 64 victims being hospitalized and zero to six deaths, an average fatality rate of 6.8%.

To eat or not to eat blowfish? That is the question. Not only it is deathly, it also raises moral dilemma for others. Fishing grounds for pufferfish are being depleted. However, there are regulations set in place. Most fugu are now harvested in the spring during spawning season and then culturing the fish on aquafarms.

Despite its danger and the ethical dilemma it imposes, brave and curious millions have bet their bottom dollar eating fugu.To be honest, my confidence in seeing the next daylight after eating blowfish was more and more greatly boosted by those I know who lived to tell the tale. They go out to eat blowfish with zero worry, and come back from a restaurant with bellies full and tastebuds satisfied. And I do live vicariously. I, personally, do feel that the fatality of eating fugu is like chancing to pick one country out of all the countries in the world.

I’m not a vegetarian and will never be one. No, I won’t ever eat shark fins because they really are endangered. I’ve eaten dog as a kid in the Philippines, but won’t ever do it again. Yes, the adventurous in me did try eating blowfish. It was satisfying and fulfilling, and it gave me a new lease on life. It is off my list, and off my mind. I won’t do it again as well. As long as I can stomach it, I want to try more exotic food and preparations. One day, I may eat an animal that I fear like a snake. There’s a ruling, stubborn, fat kid in me who basically eat whenever whatever. Remember when you were so young and you dropped a food on the ground and still ate it. That’s what my mindset is whenever I try more feared or unique dishes.

We really are savage indidviduals. Gluttony is our friend especially when we are down and blue. Sometimes it’s not even the flavor that we savor but the idea of eating. They have sailed seas to find spices and trades, which we continue to do. We will never run out of choices. All types of cuisines and gastronomy readily available for us. We explore food. We will never ran out of taste, of food to try out of our own preferences. Meals that were fit for the king are deduced down to lower level which we now eat as long as it’s accessible. And given the time and opportunity, we might eat whatever is in front of us. That’s whether it’s for survival or for guilty pleasure.


We eat just because. No longer it is just for necessity. It’s a pasttime, a craving, a habit. It’s for entertainment, an indulgence.

I did say upon arrival here in Japan that ‘these are my  moments’. I promised that I’m going to bask in the different experiences in this unique culture. I’ve tasted pig feet here as well as meats of kangaroo, crocodile and camel. I had some culture food and drink like octopus balls, habu sake (snake wine) and mochi (rice balls). I just couldn’t let go of this constant prodding temptation andnagging question of eating blowfish. I’m ready for more risks, opportunities and whatever adventure 2014 brings me.



Care to read?

I probably need some literacy lessons from this published writer, T. B. Markinson. Check out Book Reviews, Author Interviews, Cover Reveal, Guest postings, pointers on self-publishing, and more importantly, her own published books. I go ahead and take you to her two novels.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,054 other followers

%d bloggers like this: