Monday, July 29, 2013

Sunday, Japan Day 6, 7/21/13 Brazilian Festival in Tokyo

We tried to squeeze so much into our last day in Tokyo.  Damian found out about a Brazilian Festival at Yoyogi Park.  We decided to meet up with more Japanese survivors.  I got a kick out of the fact that we were meeting up with:  Cancer survivors in Japan at a Brazilian Festival,  Random words that normally don’t go together!  We met a young Japanese Lymphoma survivor, a 30-year American born Lymphoma survivor residing in Tokyo, LiveSTRONG leaders:  Binzee with his son, and Anne from the Netherlands.  The Brazilian festival was A LOT of fun! There is something about the beating of drums.  It really connects the soul with something primal because it is so similar to a heartbeat.  Every culture uses drums.  To name a few: Native American culture, African culture, Asian culture, even the Hip Hop and Rock n’ Roll cultures uses drums! There is something about rhythmic thumping that penetrates my soul and makes me reflexively bob my head/sway my hips.  Brazilian music stirs that in me, but once I found out that capoeira is based on a martial art, I was intrigued.   It was so cool seeing Japanese people celebrating Brazilian culture.  In undergrad at the University of Michigan, some of my friends watched some movie with capoeira.  We use to chant “Far and Away” when we would pretend fight each other on the dance floors at local bars/clubs.  So funny!  We didn’t care what other people thought of us!  (That still hasn't changed!  ;) )
Before we stopped by the Brazilian festival, we dropped of our luggage at a hotel- pickup stop for the airport limo bus!  Our plan was to meet up with everyone at the festival for a couple hours then catch the bus to the airport. Of course we had to make things exciting.  We stayed a little longer than we expected, but we were still in time to get to the airport early.  I need to get to airports early because traveling with the mAss Kicker Mobile complicates things.  We lost track of time and missed the noon bus.  With new airlines, traveling becomes exciting because many of the airline front-counter-people don’t know how to check it in a person in a power chair/scooter.  Travel time for me is usually longer with security checks and mAss Kicker Mobile on-board plane storage/gate check.  I always try to get there early, a trait I picked up from my dad!  Punctuality is underrated in my book!  Punctuality always impresses me… especially in the land of “Filipino/Asian/California time”,  I digress. Damian was hungry, so he went off for a sandwich outside the hotel.  I deferred for a quick snack from the 7-11 in the hotel station.  I tried reconnecting with Damian, so I figured I’d go back to the luggage drop off and wait for him there!  Bags were being taken down as I waited patiently.  Poor Damian was stressing out outside waiting for me to come down.  He was out of breath and dripping with sweat from running around!  I felt horrible being the cause of his stress.  Once we were both safely on the bus, we both exhaled a huge sigh of relief.  The whole misunderstanding could have been avoided if we had walkie talkies or cell phones.  I think it would be fun to run around a foreign city with walkie talkies and "thriver call-signs" like in Top Gun.  That is something to think about for the next trip because there is potentially a larger group going.  Well, we got to Manila on a late flight arriving at 2230 and my nephew, Paolo and niece, Gela were waiting for us outside the terminal at Nino Aquino International Airport.  It was raining so it added moisture to the already thick and humid air.  I remembered the thick air from the last time I was in Manila.  We were exhausted!  We needed a good day of rest to explore the area around the hotel.

Stay tuned for more updates.  Please consider a donation tohelp us spread our message of post treatment “thrivership”.  And show people that you can still enjoy life after an intimidating tumor/cancer diagnosis! “Tumor/cancer thrivers” have the unique opportunity to step up and be the leaders in post treatment thrivership! Click here to support this mission and stay tuned for the next update.

Saturday, Japan Day 5, 7/20/13

After a good night's rest, I got up early again and headed down for breakfast.  This time I didn't have anyone to assist me.  I don't mind eating alone.  It's actually kinda peaceful. Anyways, this cool guy from Taiwan was there with his family and helped me grab a plate of breakfast. That was so cool! Stuff like that restores my faith in humanity.  Having a meal alone gives me time to organize my thoughts for the day and explore new ideas... That morning, I realized that in many Asian cultures, breakfast and lunch are the most important meals of the day.  Americans put a lot of emphasis on breakfast and dinner.  I try to eat an energizing breakfast and a small lunch, and a health dinner.  Dinner for me has been getting later and later.  This could pose a problem with weight gain from empty calories.  A late workout can justify a late meal. Empty calories late at night equals putting on the pounds!  On days there is no workout, it makes sense to eat a bigger lunch and a smaller dinner.  After eating in Tokyo, I've noticed that the meal portion sizes are A LOT smaller than American meals, but still enough to leave you satisfied.  I've watched news reports on TV that discuss the obesity epidemic in America, but to witness the life style in another culture was very humbling.  More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese. We can probably attribute this to a sedentary lifestyle and an abundance of fast food and junk food!  Anyways, I met up with another old friend from college for lunch.  Lynh has lived in Tokyo for over 10 years!  It was cool catching up with him, cause he'll always "tell me how it is"... I respect that.  We grabbed lunch at some tempura place at a mall.  I finally got the tempura I'd been craving the whole trip!  I was not disappointed! I decided to "crutch it" at the mall without the mAss Kicker Mobile because it wouldn't be a long walk.  The garage at the mall was so cool!  There was a mechanical conveyer belt that transports your car to a parking spot.  You just had to leave it with an attendant.  This song popped in my head!  People were so friendly!  I was very impressed by the hospitality in Tokyo.  I told Lynh that I wanted to check out the famous cross walk intersection in Shibuya.  Resident Evil: Afterlife sparked my interest in this site.  I got to view it from the car, but I don't think you can fully appreciate it from ground level.   So anyways, Lynh took me to the Imperial Palace. Unfortunately, you can't go in, but you can walk around the walls of the perimeter.  I didn't realize our hotel was so close to EVERYTHING!   We went back to the hotel and picked up the mAss Kicker Mobile!  There were a lot of groups running/training around the palace walls.  It was kinda cool to see fitness prevalent in another culture!  Out of all the big cities I've visited, Tokyo has been the cleanest and friendliest.  So much history here, but it manages to stay clean and modern.  I appreciate that.
When I got back to the room I found Damian crashed out on his bed.  He was saying that he had a really difficult time with the altitude and vowed to return to Mt. Fuji and finish his climb to the summit.  After a power siesta, we would head out to eat some ramen.  We found this little hole in the wall not too far from the hotel.  I think Damian found it online.  I played it safe with ramen and vegetables.  I was determined not to have gastro-intestinal issues in Tokyo!  So far, so good!  We walked around a little but we were both pretty popped, so we called it a night.  The following morning we would be going to a Brazilian Festival, meeting more Japanese survivors, then going back to the airport to start a new adventure in Manila, Philippines!


Stay tuned for more updates.  Please consider a donation to help us spread our message of post treatment “thrivership”.  We want to show people that you can still enjoy life after an intimidating tumor/cancer diagnosis! “Tumor/cancer thrivers” have the unique opportunity to step up and be the leaders in post treatment thrivership! Click here to support this mission and stay tuned for the next update.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Friday, Japan Day 4, 7/19/13:

Damian left for Mt Fuji with a group of Japanese Survivors from Over Cancer Together, a group of Japanese survivors whose mission is to unite Japanese people in the fight against cancer.   Sadly, I wasn't physically ready to take on this epic challenge so I stayed in the hotel and met up with old friends and new contacts from Japan.  I took a cab to Harajuku and met up with Mike Kato from Japan for LiveStrong for lunch.  He took me to a new type of restaurant: A Japanese “pancake” restaurant, an Okonomiaki.  You cook your food yourself at the table, very similar to the Korean BBQ.  Instead of grilling meat, you cook little “dough” chips of tempura batter and mix it with random stuff.  Meat, veggies, chicken… I’m sure you could think of more stuff.  I put kim chee and beef in mine.  So good.  Mike is a Japanese-American in Japan. He grew up in California and relocated to Japan.  There we ran into a bunch of Junior High kids having lunch.  They really liked the Tumors Suck sticker!  We snapped a group photo after our meal. Mike helped me flag down a taxi back to the hotel.  I crashed for a bit till I met up with my friend Josh for dinner.  Although it was relatively close to the hotel, we took a cab there! We ended up going to another skewer place in Roppongi.  This one was cool because they served bacon wrapped chicken and bacon wrapped shrimp!  It was interesting because we had to take a tiny elevator up to the third floor to get to the restaurant.  Then I had to park the mAss Kicker Mobile outside in the lobby and do an assisted walk to sit in the actual restaurant.  Josh handled all the ordering because I didn’t want any other raw chicken surprises!  HAHAHA! After dinner, we checked out the streets of Roppongi.  It reminded me of visiting one of the burroughs in New York City.  Tokyo is a huge metropolis like New York where people dress to impress and take public transit BUT everything is clean/everyone is so polite!  I need to learn more Japanese.  “Domo Arrigato”  is one of the few Japanese phrases I know. We ended up just walking back to hotel after we soaked in some evening sites at Roppungi.  10 years ago, I may have wanted to go out and check out the night life, but a "wiser" Galvez-San knew there was much to be done the following day and I didn't want to deal with all the curious stares at me in the mAss Kicker Mobile!  On Saturday, I'd get to meet up with another old college friend in Tokyo and scavenge for food at night with Damian.  


Stay tuned for more updates.  We will be blogging throughout the trip.  Please consider a donation to help us spread our message of post treatment “thrivership”throughout Japan and the Pacific Ocean.  Click here to support us and stay tuned for the next update.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thursday, Japan Day 3, 7/18/13

After our raw chicken escapade in Shinjuku, we wanted to check out more of Japan in the day time.  We were going to take the cabs and subways again, but this time we would attempt doing it on our own without seeking assistance from the people at the subway stations.  Damian did research and determined that it would be easier to take a cab from the hotel to Shinjuku station and then take the subway to Ueno Park. The Shinjuku station is huge and one of the busiest stations in Tokyo, but the elevators are small there.  The mAss Kicker Mobile is compact, but I can't imagine a full sized power wheelchair/scooter in there with one other person! Everywhere I go, I get stares and gawkers.  Luckily, I’ve learned to ignore the stares, but it was something Damian picked up on right away!  When I catch someone staring, I always respond with a “I-know-you-are-jealous smile.” HAHAHA! Watching their reaction is priceless!  It sure beats the looks of “pity” I received when I was being transported in my manual wheelchair.  If you try to make me feel uncomfortable, I'll return the favor and reflect your sentiments.  The stares were something my brother noticed when I went on a family trip shortly after my surgery.  Oh man, I'm just waiting for the right opportunity to go off on someone... HAHAHA!  I guess I've learned to ignore the stares.  Maybe I don't notice them because they start staring when they are out of my line of vision.

Anyways, the subway was exciting because you only have a set amount of time to board the train. With no ramps, we had to carry the mAss Kicker mobile onto the subway car in a small window in time with passengers de-boarding and new people getting on! We both eooxhaled a huge sigh of relief when we safely made it onto the subway train!  Poor Damian got a workout helping me get on and off the train.  Luckily we made sure to avoid the subway during rush hour.

We got off at this really cool area: Ueno Park!  Lots of street performers, a cool fountain, and a zoo! Pretty cool park to hang out when you get sick of the city!  We only stayed there for a little while before we hailed a cab into Asakusa.  It was cool seeing the Buddhist temple and the street vendors!  Getting a cab back to the Ueno Park subway station was a bit more exciting.  Language was a huge barrier! The taxi driver took us to the wrong subway station.  Damian suspected early on that something was wrong because we didn't recognize the buildings/scenery on the drive back.  When the driver finally realized his mistake, he turned off the meter and proceeded to Ueno Park.  Other than that this rest of the day was uneventful.

Later that evening, we met up with one of Damian's friend for dinner.  The restaurant he took us to served a bunch of skewered items with specialized dipping sauces.  Of course we had sake with the meal, but I will admit: I'm a light weight.  One of my many nicknames is "Deuce"... funny story for another time!  I would not make a good "off-duty businessman" because of my lack of skill in the tolerance department.  I still had a great time eating the different samples of skewers.  I don't think there was anything too exotic, but you can never go wrong with grilled meat, chicken, and seafood on skewers!  The trip to Japan was halfway over, but there is more in the works!


Stay tuned for more updates.  We will be blogging throughout the trip.  Please consider a donation to help us spread our message of post treatment “thrivership”throughout Japan and the Pacific Ocean.  Click here to support us and stay tuned for the next update.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pacific Tour Part 2, Day 2

Wednesday morning, we got up early and got breakfast at the hotel…  Bacon, sausage, eggs, rice, noodles, croissants, fruit, juice, and coffee.  Not bad!  It was so early, but we decided to explore the area! The mAss Kicker Mobile was all charged up and ready to roll! Most of the businesses were not open yet, but that would not deter us from seeing what was out there!  On our little scouting mission we sat down at a coffee shop at the subway station and shot the breeze.  I had this crazy idea to count the people in the subway who look at their reflections in a mirror.  I wanted to observe people checking themselves out in their reflection.  I enjoy conducting these "social experiments"... keeps me entertained...  The results found that young women were more likely than other gender or age demographic to spend more time checking themselves out in a reflection.  Can’t say I was surprised by the results, but we had a good laugh when we noticed random people spending extra time in front of a mirror. 

After we got bored of our little experiment, we continued our exploration of the area surrounding our hotel.  We must have walked a good 3 miles!  I found a bank to exchange my currency to Japanese yen.  It was kinda funny because luckily, the cute teller at the bank only knew a little bit of English.  She was very patient with me, and some we were able to get the transaction complete.  My knowledge of Japanese is limited to ”ari-gato” (thank you) and "kon-ichiwa" (hello.)  I was amazed by how we could communicate without language.  Communication is simple with short phrases, hand gestures, and a smile.  I should have learned more Japanese phrases before I left!  It was interesting being different in Japan though… I noticed that when talking with people, they wouldn’t directly talk to me unless I approached them.  Even the people passing out fliers on the street ignored me.  A disability is usually coupled with “shame” in most Asian-Pacific cultures.  It must have been shocking to them see this smart-ass guy in a scooter laughing at random stuff!  Anyways, we decided to stop by a grocery store to pick up some lunch.  I’ve gotten into the habit of eating a light lunch, so all I picked up was a salad and some sesame balls.  The hotel gave out complementary bottled waters, so we were good with drinks.  The hotel also hooked us up with kimonos to use instead of bath robs!

After a quick "siesta," an old friend from college that lives in Japan stopped by the hotel to catch up before we left for a Japanese Baseball game in Yokohama.  It was great to connect with someone I had not seen since before my surgery! (My "BS" life... hahaha!)  I was great to catch up and update each out on the news of our mutual friends.  Our friends from Japan for LiveSTRONG swung by the hotel and we embarked on our next adventure, a subway ride to the stadium.  The forecast called for rain that evening.  We took the train and the subway to Yokohama.  Public transit in Tokyo is great, but if you have mobility impairments, it is very time consuming. Going around the subway station was difficult because the signage was very difficult to find and not all trains have platforms that have elevators.  Couple that with the fact that boarding the subway would have been possible if I didn't have someone assisting me.  Along with the stigma of disability, I can understand why I have always been "blessed" with rain during events we plan, but part of me likes, but also got to meet some pretty cool people through Japan for LiveSTRONG. We got soaked, but it was interesting to witness a familiar game in a different environment.  There were so many coordinate cheers... that made the game fun to watch!

We took the train back from the stadium, but we were hungry.  Damian and I decided to get off the train a few stops early and explore Shinjuku district and grab some dinner...   We ended up exploring many narrow streets filled with little restaurants and shops.  There were plenty of authentic Japanese restaurants!   Problem was that we didn't understand the signage. I was a little nervous because I was in a scooter that draws a lot of attention in an unfamiliar country.  I figured that you only live once... It was kinda exciting because we didn't understand the signs so we relied on our "animal instincts" to find food!  We walked listlessly around for a good 30 minutes before Damian instictively put his nose in the air and literally smelled a restaurant he wanted to check out.  I was game cause I was hungry!  Damian said that he was familiar with "yakitoris" so we decided to go in.  First problem was that the scooter could go up the one step into the little street restaurant.  We ended up parking it outside and Damian and a waiter helped us in.  A "yakitori" restaurant is very similar to spanish tapas with small dishes.  There were some pretty interesting stuff on the menu!   After consulting with the waitress, we decided on a few items and we didn't get anything too exotic. We were WRONG!  Damian thought "yakitori" meant fish and chicken like it does in the states.  We ordered the "white meat with horse radish".  When it came, we quickly devoured the dish!  It was SO TENDER and fresh!  Turns out "yakitori" in japan is chicken only!  We had just eaten RAW chicken!  We couldn't believe it... Instead of saying "it taste like chicken" we were saying "it taste like fish"! ;P  Anyways, I kept the pepto bismal close by that night.... I'm happy to report that there were no "complications" from eating raw chicken!  I will probably never do that again!

Next up exploring Tokyo on our own!

Stay tuned for more updates.  We will be blogging throughout the trip.  Please consider a donation to help us spread our message of post treatment “thrivership”throughout Japan and the Pacific Ocean.  Click here to support us and stay tuned for the next update.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pacific Tour Part 2 - Japan Day 1

We got into Japan around 4PM.  The flight on Japan Air Lines was great!  We were served 2 great meals, with chicken, rice, salad, fruit, and yogurt!  I got to watch 3 movies GI Joe: Retaliation, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and Finding Nemo (dozing in and out.  I can’t seem to get good rest on flights… this was a 12 hour flight, so we were exhausted and hungry when we got to Tokyo.)  When we got to the airport, we had to navigate our way to baggage claim.  Thank God we had a wheel chair pusher to guide us because I’m sure we would have gotten lost!  Damian found a taxi bus that would take us to a hotel close to our hotel.  When we got there, we had to take a taxi from the hotel we were staying.  The catch was, it would be leaving in 20 mins!  It was kind of hectic making sure they would accommodate taking the scooter due to the language barrier.  Well, when we finally got to the hotel we were enthusiastically greeted by the front desk staff, and showed to our room.  It was a handicap accessible room with instructions in Japanese.  It was only 7PM and we were exhausted and hungry!  We decided to venture out of the hotel and try some local restaurants.  There was a place that caught our eye not too far from the hotel!  Very interesting… was a vending machine where you ordered your meal.  The catch was we didn’t understand ANYTHING because it was completely in Japanese. Didn’t know what we were ordering.  Luckily pictures and the guy behind us helped us out! We were hungry! We decided to try our luck with a picture of some chicken dish with some sides!  Consensus was that it was probably OK and that we should try it!  I figured that we were in a new country, so we needed to “live a little on the wild side”.  Well, I could not believe what a GREAT CHOICE WE MADE!  The chicken was tender, the salad was fresh, the miso soup was tasty, and rice was moist! The portions were just the right size to leave me satisfied, but not stuffed!  It was kinda funny cause we totally stuck out!  Mainly because we were slap happy from exhaustion and had no idea what we were doing.  After our delicious meal, we made our way back to the hotel and crashed at around 830 PM.  The next day we would be ready to see what kind of adventures Tokyo had to offer.

Stay tuned for more updates.  We will be blogging throughout the trip.  Please consider a donation to help us spread our message of post treatment “thrivership” throughout Japan and the Pacific Ocean.  Click here to support us and stay tuned for the next update.

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