Travel -

Thoughts and shots from the road.


If you’re not aware of my little sleep adjustment experiment I’ve been doing, please first read the post below this one, There and back again, or how to outlast the Jet Lag

2/20/08 ~ 1:45 PM (San Francisco):
Status: Mission Accomplished
To all the nay sayers out there, it can and HAS been done. I got into SF at 10am, was a little drowsy by 10-11 PM, but slept well that night and haven’t looked back. There has been nothing even remotely close to the sleep/wake cycle reversal that usually accompanies distant global jet lag, and I was ready to go, on my feet all day, from Day 1. In conclusion, it looks like my theory of offsetting the misery with a few uncomfortable days pre-adjusting for the trip paid off handily, and I should be nice and completely on California time by the time I head right back into Tokyo.

2/17/08 ~ 12:00 PM (Tokyo):
Status: Mildly strained
This will probably be the last update I do before heading to SF. It’s about T-minus 6 hours till the plane takes off, and about 2 hours till I have to head out the door. I’m feeling pretty tired, bleary, and strained, all of which should make it that much easier to fall fast asleep after take off. I’m also not nearly done packing, so I think I’m going to get to that…

2/16/08 ~ 7:45 AM (Tokyo):
Status: Enthused
Major development! So as not to miss out on a networking opportunity here in Tokyo, I have for no charge altered my reservation, now set to depart exactly 24 hours later, on Sunday. In terms of adjusting my schedule, this extra day is a boon. I won’t be able to incrementally adjust my schedule any further (or I’d sleep right through what I changed the flight for), but being given another day and night that’s 3/4 adjusted to San Francisco time will make the last bit that much easier. In terms of my condition, it’s now almost the same time I went to bed at two “night”s ago, and I’m feeling just dandy.

2/15/08 ~ 8:50 PM (Tokyo):
Status: Ready to fight
No more Benadryl, so dramamine had to do. But regardless of the sleep aid, I got a great night’s sleep, even later than my schedule planned. My plane leaves in just over 21 hours and I need to pack, but I’m quite pleased with how things are going on.

2/15/08 ~ 11:00 AM (Tokyo):
Status: A little cranky
From 3 PM yesterday now is just about 20 hours, and so far so good. I hit a wall at about 9 o’clock when my energy bottomed out and I began to feel like I was just pulling an all-nighter, though it’s nothing in the realm of “suffering.” Just one more hour to go until sleep, where I plan to sleep as long as possible and see if I can’t cut into tomorrow’s 23 hour day.

2/14/08 ~ 3:20 PM (Tokyo):
Status: Surprisingly rested
Wow, Benadryl knocks me the @#$% out! This has been an excellent development, as I slept solidly from 8am until now, and really only got up because I actually have to DO some things during the day today. But this bodes extremely well as we go into the more difficult days ahead…

2/14/08 ~ 7:00 AM (Tokyo):
Status: Sleepy
If this is the worst it gets, I’ll be fine in the long run, though I am feeling a bit tired at this point. My biggest concern isn’t my ability to shut my eyes in about an hour. It’s whether my body will let me sleep a full “night” after I do so. Still, much as I’d like to lay down right now, I can plow through one more hour. I hope this pays off…

2/14/08 ~ 4:00 AM (Tokyo):
Status: Fine
So far so good. I wrote the intro post not long ago, and not much has changed. I’m a little tired, but being up and chatting with people back home is passing the time plenty fast.


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I’m back in Japan again (not that anyone reading this most likely doesn’t already know), living in Tokyo for what should be my final semester of law school. I have been here just over a month, and the time has come for me to briefly head back to the States. This Saturday, just over three days from now, I fly to San Francisco via Japan Airlines’ only non-stop flight to attend the Game Developers’ Conference. On the one hand, it’s an exciting opportunity to network and get my résumé into the hands of numerous would-be employers. But at times it feels like a nearly futile effort to break into the industry that interests me more than any other. I’m not going to give up on it, but with graduation and real life responsibilities waiting in the wings, at some point the practical side of me requires an alternative course of action. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there yet, and certainly not the focal point of this post.

It’s nearly 3 AM here in Tokyo, which corresponds to 10 AM Pacific Standard Time. I’ll only be in SF for one week, during which I’ll be required to go pretty full steam from as early as 8 in the morning till however late I can at night. I only have one law class before leaving, from 6:30 PM tomorrow night, and nothing at all on Friday. Thus, my thinking is to do whatever I can to minimize the effects of jet lag upon my arrival, and ease my transition (however brief) back into a U.S. time zone.

I searched online for any reports of others who have tried to implement a plan similar to mine, but to no avail. I’m certainly not first, but not finding anything solid, felt a need to document my experience here. Most suggestions went in the form of trying to fall asleep an hour or so a night earlier, as much as needed. That course won’t work for my situation for a number of reasons… Nearly all my classes, including tomorrow night’s, stretch from early evening until after 9 PM, and I can’t well hit the hay in the middle of a class, now can I? I’d need to go to bed in Tokyo at 8 o’clock at night to be hitting a cool 3 AM bed time in California, so even assuming I could go home right after class and immediately sleep (pretending for a moment I’d actually get to sleep), I’d still be staring down a 5 AM goodnight on the west coast. Much more likely, I’d lie in bed and gaze unproductively at the ceiling, and come out not significantly closer to my goal. By pushing myself to stay up, I force a certain level of cooperation from my body. I’m not hoping for complete success, but that’s what this documentation is meant to keep track of.

Starting out on this voyage through the Tokyo after hours, I project my ideal sleep schedule to go like this:


Current (Average)
  Tokyo San Francisco
Sleep at 2:00 AM 9:00 AM
Wake at 10:00 AM 5:00 PM


Weds./Thurs. Night
  Tokyo San Francisco
Sleep at 8:00 AM 3:00 PM
Wake at 3:00 PM 10:00 PM


Thurs./Fri. Night
  Tokyo San Francisco
Sleep at 1:00 PM 8:00 PM
Wake at 8:00 PM 3:00 AM


Fri./Sat. Night
  Tokyo San Francisco
Sleep at 7:00 PM 2:00 AM
Wake at 2:00 AM 9:00 AM

 

That schedule shouldn’t be too difficult, but a couple points are worth mentioning.

  • As you can see, my current sleep schedule is almost the opposite of what I’ll be needing in the U.S., so there is a lot of work to be done.
  • The hardest segment will undoubtedly be the push from Friday into Saturday, where if all goes according to plan, my already sleep-discombobulated body will need to stay awake a full 23 hours. This problem can’t be easily remedied, since my plane leaves Japan at 6 PM local time, so to attempt a “night’s” sleep before that would mean I’d be wide awake on the plane, through the wee hours by California time, and much of my work would be undone. It’ll be tough, but if I can make it…
  • …by the last day of the schedule, I’ll effectively be on San Francisco time. For the first three tables, it’s the Tokyo time that really matters, since that’s where I’ll be living. But look to the San Francisco time on the final table — that’s where I cross over the Pacific. Incidentally, my plane lands in SF at 10 AM PST.

Bear in mind, this schedule is optimistic at best. Even if I can force myself to it, there’s no guarantee my circadian rhythm will adjust at the same pace. Frankly, I’m really not sure how or if it will work, but only one way to find out, and if the alternative is to certainly be dead on my feet for 1/3 or more of my trip, I’m game to give it a try.

I’ll also keep a log in a second post of how things are going, how I’m feeling generally, and hopefully a wrap up post when it’s all through. Anyone have any thoughts?


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It was about two o’clock in the morning, mid February, with the snow sliding slowly down the windshield, illuminated by the street lamps of the parking lot. I was wearing my maroon dress shirt with dark slacks, black loafers, and my creased leather jacket, shivering in spite of my silver car’s steamy interior. It was time for me to be heading home, nothing more to be done here. She was out of my car, out of my life. Now I just had to pick up the pieces and say good-bye.

I had always wanted to go to Japan. Ever since I could remember, I somehow knew I’d find a life for myself there. So I learned to read, learned to write, all over again, and packed everything up my sophomore year. I flew out on September eleventh, and little did I know when I started that day that when I returned, my world would never be the same.

I went to live in Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capitol, a city bathed in the new age neon glow and old age cherry blossom. It takes some adjusting. She was there too, a kimono-clad beauty wasting her days away selling Star Wars merchandise in a tiny collector’s shop. I met her in a downstairs night club on Kawaramachi as she left behind drunken friends to bum a smoke on the club’s grimy steps before the last train home. She was twenty-one or so, small and gracefully put together. She didn’t speak much English and I didn’t speak much Japanese, but I was the only gaijin who’d give her a fix, and from that moment on, I was her gaijin.

We said our good-byes in the bustle of a hundred people in the center of Kyoto’s main station, a tearful embrace and a hunger to see the road ahead. We promised things that could never be. We wished for things that could have been, but were not. I left her that day for home, and I think my heart left with me. That was until she showed up here.

She closed her moist eyes and bit her lip, turning her head into the passenger window frame. Her world had changed and so had mine. The warm air of the interior fell silent as her fragmented voice died in her mouth, and I put my arm around her in a final, bittersweet embrace. She started to tell me if I ever came back again, but stopped. Squeezing my arm, she stepped out of the car and into the falling snow, a rush of cold air hitting my face like a castigation. You can never go back, I told myself, and started the engine.


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Well, the last dive is done, and we enter the closing phase of the trip.

The last dive, at Trinity Caves, was just a short ways from the dock where we began the trip, and consisted almost entirely of — you guessed it — a network of caves and swim-throughs. Dr. Noriega decided not to come on this dive, which I feel a little guilty about but I suppose it’s up to him (and I shouldn’t be so egotistical to think it is entirely due to our disagreement), meaning that it was Ramon, Ric and I down into the caverns. While perhaps not a highlight of the trip, the dive was certainly a change of pace, from the earlier sealife-oriented dives to dimly lit and sparsely populated nooks and crannies. We did find a sleeping octopus, however, and Ramon was able to shoot pictures of him to his hearts delight. The three of us ducked in and out of the shallow tunnels, bumping and scraping through but being careful not to be too adventurous in our choice of passageways. I think Ramon, who shares none of my enthusiasm for caves and swim-throughs, got a little tired of it by the end, but as a capstone on the week’s dives I thought it was great! When I get home, I fully intend to check out cave diving and see what kinds of gear, training, and like-minded divers are available.

Some things I’ve discovered on this trip:

  1. I need a soda gun.
  2. I’ve been drinking Diet Coke here like water and it still hasn’t run out. The cost of setting up a fountain of my own might be high, but if this is the standard length one of those syrup boxes lasts, I’ll make up the cost of not having to buy from Albertson’s in short order!

  3. I need underwater audio.
  4. Thinking back, I’m still not sure what my aversion was to the H2O Audio player. Maybe I was so set on an iPod player and so disappointed not to find one, I just got lazy towards the end of the summer’s gear hunt. Regardless of the reason, it’s one of the best parts of my dives now, so iRiver, you’ll be getting a little of my business at long last!

  5. I need Spit.
  6. Divers try any number of methods to try to keep their masks from fogging while underwater. And most can attest to how worthless many of the commercially products like Absolute Clear and 500 PSI are. Spit, one of a couple brands of product the Noriegas brought with them, is not only the best name solution for foggy masks I’ve found on this trip, it has worked every single time I coat the inside of my mask with it. It seems to only reliably last two or so dives, so I’ll need a couple bottles of it, but it doesn’t take much and the bottles hold a heck of a lot (relatively speaking).


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Just for the sake of record, we had another dive at Marilyn’s Cut yesterday afternoon. While not quite as bad as below, it basically falls into the same category…

I think I’m beginning to figure out which dives will result in some contention. Apply this simple formula:

1) A dive briefing laying out “two dive sites in one”, both consisting of large networks of swim-throughs, caves, and everything starting below 45 feet

+

2) Dr. Noriega

Now, that’s not to say that he is the sole reason that this dive was the low-point in the trip. General fatigue with spending close quarters with just about anyone for an entire week will make you a little more likely to annoy each other. Also, this particular dive site was distinguished in having virtually nothing appealing EXCEPT for a large network of swim-throughs and caves (other than a lot of small, brown-ish sealife and sand).

That made things a bit awkward when we begin heading towards, as explained, the ONLY attraction of the site and we are pulled back by Ramon and Ric’s father with the rather frustrating parental reprimand:

“Don’t Play Games.”

Now, the general merits of that statement aside, I’m assuming he was in one action accusing me of being reckless, not listening to his warnings from previous dives, and expressing a paternal, if unnecessary, concern for my safety. Of course, this aggressive parenting tactic swiftly curtailed any straying by his younglings more than 20 feet from his side and made me feel like a 10 year old who had broken the rules in Lower School again. Concern for my safety is perfectly appreciated, but at 25 years old I am ultimately responsible for my own safety, and his attitude serves only to frighten his own children out of engaging in (one more time) the express purpose of the dive site.

I have no idea what we’ll find at the coming site for our final dive, or if Dr. Noriega will join us (I hope he will, this has been too good of a trip to end it in a spat), but he’s kicking me off the computer right now, so I’ll be back with a (hopefully more cheerful) wrap up in a little bit.


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I made a friend!

Just as the sun’s coming out this afternoon made for warm air and clear water, this dive site was as much an improvement over the last two. It features a small trench cum network of caves (a.k.a. “Marilyn’s Cut”) which empty to a sheer wall. Such a description in and of itself might not differentiate it much from our past sites, but this one has more energy and life, brought on I’m sure in no small part by the sun’s glowing rays. Ramon, Ric and I took off for the Cut, which we found with ease. Leading the way, I noticed a darkened, person-sized nook in the wall just before hitting a chimney (vertical tunnel leading out of the trench). Dashing a little ahead of my companions, I proceeded to concealing myself in the shadows like a red and black ninja of the deep. Then, like a stereotypical Japanese tourist, I snapped pictures of the oblivious fools, then sat back and waited to be found. For a moment, I was afraid they might not see me at all and just continue on, but sure enough they found me, crouched in inky blackness.

After ascending to the main sea floor at around 30 feet, we skirted the wall in a lopsided figure-eight around the boat. That’s where we encountered by far the most friendly creature I’ve met thus far. He was a rather large grouper with some evil-looking nostril flares, but he was all nudges and cuddles (a phrase I hope I never have to repeat about ANYONE besides an amiable fish). Ramon caught video of me petting him, but had swum off when the fish, who measured in at about the size of a small dog, actually let me wrap my arms around him for a full-on hug! It was great! Though I think he took that to be formal adoption procedures, because he and a buddy of his tailed us all the way back to the wall and almost to the boat.

We’ll be going back in at this same spot in just a little bit, so I’ll see if I can’t find him again.


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I don’t have much to say at this moment, but I’m blogging anyway. Not because I have to, though. I’m just extremely tired (probably from that 5:45 wake-up).

Our second dive to Nancy’s Cup of Tea was about the same as the first, but this time confirming that it wasn’t just the morning light that accounted for the general drab color of that area — it was the area itself. So it was myself and the Noriegas, swimming around and seeing the same overall fish we had seen a hundred times so far.

The next dive, before lunch, was far better. The drawing of the dive site during the briefing was a little lacking compared to the others, but it conveyed all we needed to know: 20 feet of water below the boat, and just next to it, a 6000 foot drop off! We only stayed for one dive, but it was a return to the kinds of bustling sealife we had seen earlier in the trip. The cameras were back out in full force and Pirates of the Caribbean on the mp3 player. We dove down the the side of the wall a few dozen feet and watched in awe as Leesa (our resident expert photographer) guided her massive camera rig snapping what I’m sure are far better pictures than our small, sub-$500 cameras would be capable of.

Lunch was some kind of tropical/asian assortment of rice and chicken and shrimp, pretty tasty but nothing to the hot dogs and hamburgers we had yesterday (god, I need more serious things to talk about, don’t I?).

Oh well, I’ll think of something as we go on our next dive. The sun is back our and we are at Marilyn’s Cut (whatever that means). I’ll report back if Marilyn makes it or not.


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Okay, they must just pull these dive site names out of their asses… Nancy’s Cup of Tea…

A knock on our door woke Ramon and I up at 5:45 this morning. Fortunately the wake-up call was for me, not Ramon, and while he rolled over and went back to bed, Ricardo and I descended for a (very) early morning dive. Diving just before sun up felt to me like I would imagine diving in a light fog would be. Colors for the most part were muted, visibility down but not so low that it hampered the experience. Being that you’re supposed to make your first dive of the day your deepest (and get progressively more shallow with each successive dive), Ric and I went down an even 100 feet or so. For the most part it was uneventful, but we did encounter a smallish reef shark (they all look like great whites to me), and I had a bullfight-esque showdown with an erksome stingray. Of course, for this dive I forgot to bring my camera.

I am beginning to feel familiar with the sorts of dive sites around the Cayman Islands, the kinds of coral formations to expect, the typical fish you’ll see on every dive. I think that means it’s about time to move on. They showed us a DVD of the Aggressor fleet’s newest addition, a boat at North Sulawesi a little off the coast of Singapore. Black sands, creatures that look like something out of a sci-fi movie, now THAT would be an experience.

Now that the sun’s up as well as most of the other divers, we head back to try to find that Cup of Tea poor Nancy seems to have left somewhere down there. Oh, there are supposed to be some cool anchors too.


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Tonight’s dive is the first I’ve had mildly mixed feelings about. The rest have been inarguably good times. This night dive at the Bus Stop felt wrong somehow…

Our group was Ramon, Ricardo, their father, and myself. In the unusually close quarters that night dives seem to promote, four cooks certainly seemed to spoil the broth. In particular, Dr. Noriega seemed to be possessed by a paranoia at straying too far from the boat or too far from each other, to such a level that it felt less like a night dive and more like an evening circling the boat.

I’m sure my choice of music didn’t encourage happy feelings, but the most depressing moment for me on the dive was when Dr. Noriega fought for a couple minutes to extract his slate (used to write notes underwater) and proceeded to write “STICK TOGETHER,” a message he aimed at Ramon. I happened to catch it from a distance, but then was surprised to see the two of them head off in the direction of Ricardo without a backwards glance. I hung back a dozen or so feet to make sure it was not a mistake, but they never seemed to notice. I suppose the line of overprotective parenting stops at inconveniencing others for the (sole) sake of your blood.

That’s not to say I’m in a bad mood, it’s just a mellow evening here on the boat. Tomorrow morning, Ric and I are getting up for a “pre-dawn” dive at 5:45 AM in lieu of a night dive tomorrow night, so I should probably get some sleep.


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They say Ireland has a hundred shades of green. If that’s true, then the sea has the monopoly on yellows and blues. For our afternoon stop, we went back to Little Cayman to a busy dive site on the coast aptly named the Bus Stop. Like many of the places we have gone, it is populated with sandy pockets broken up by coral formations and swim-throughs.

On the first dive, I went down with the whole Noriega clan and, while we did see some good creatures, the group of four seemed a little bit crowded. Between Ramon and I taking pictures, Dr. Noriega not wanting to venture too far off the beaten path, and Ricardo agreeable to just about anything, we ended up not doing all that much.

Resurfacing, I engaged in what has become my routine rush through tech — updating my blog, swapping out the mp3 player with new audio, leaving relatively little time for the relaxation that others seem to jump right into. Oh well, maybe I am becoming my Dad, forcing himself to stay busy even on vacation. That seemed to be the case this afternoon especially, as all three of the Noriegas declined to do the afternoon dive. Insistent that I do my level best to dive every single dive, however, that would not do. After finally establishing that I wouldn’t be diving with anyone I knew (and everyone else I DIDN’T know having already departed) I shrugged it off, shouldered my mp3 player, and went for my first solo dive.

As an experience, it was again very different from going it with one or more buddies, though not as dramatic a change as the night dives. On the positive side, I no longer had to come to consensus on where to go, what to do, or how long to spend in any place. But that freedom has a serious price — you must be doubly vigilent of your surroundings, your depth, and how much air you have left. Done too much, I suspect it could also be a bit lonely. But as a diversion when no one else wants to go, it amounted to another new style of diving in my log book of experiences on this trip.

Now time for what I’m sure will be a crowded night dive back to the Bus Stop. Tonight’s music: Silent Hill!


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