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It’s a Go!!!

It is official!!! I am running the Tokyo Marathon 2012!!!!

I received the notification this afternoon, thanks to Ice for informing me and asking me to check my mail.

Out of the 282,824 applicants, I have about 12 percent chance to get selected in the lottery. I really am bad in the game of chances. And I never get to win any cool stuff in rafles or even win in bingo. But this is really great. Just when it counts the most!!!
I can’t wait to buy a new pair of shoes for the event cause my 2 yr old lunars may not actually survive race day, some thermal clothing for winter and long hours of training.

So come February 26, 2012, with the finish time of about 5-5.5 hours, I will complete my first marathon, my first international event and probably the most expensive event I will ever join.

Let’s do this!!!! 行こう!!!

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MY LAST TWENTEEN

Somewhere in Tokyo
Along the Tobu-Isesaki Line

I am celebrating my 29th year on earth today. And for someone who wants to stay young forever, I am not so bothered anymore. First, I still look ridiculously young for my age. I was asked to show some identification to verify my age whether I am an adult or not several times this year. Another instance was when I visited my alma mater before leaving for Japan to get some important documents. The security guard asked me to file an excuse slip for supposedly forgetting my school id. I shyly told him that I graduated in ’04. Ok! It is not my fault, maybe the youth of today behaves and appears to be more mature than I am. Either that or I just really look young. Haha

Last year was my first birthday I celebrated with 3 out of 4 of my parents. Probably the only celebration I can remember with my family in Bataan. This time, it is my second birthday here in Japan. I spent yesterday night cleaning my room, talked with Ice for my midnight greeting and fell asleep. This morning, I woke up early for a quick run and just like every year, wherever I am, It rains briefly. There is a small belief in our province that when it rains on your birthday, it means a shower of blessings. I have always half-believed that. And thinking back I always have been blessed.

For this year, a prayer has been answered and for almost a year of carrying that burden, I feel that the worst is over. I am now here in Japan, working my ass off most of the time but I am enjoying it. I really couldn’t complain loving the Japanese culture and people. Although it sucks that there are still stereotypes regarding foreigners in their land, I know that the people I met here are not hypocrites in front of me.
Third, I finally had the chance to give back to my family all the support they gave me when I was a kid. I don’t really call myself an OFW cause I really don’t know my status but having these “duties” for my family makes me feel like a real adult. Fourth, I am just so thankful I met Ice and us being together for many months now.

Tomorrow I will be holding a small party in my apartment. A few drinks and food and probably some online gaming. A good friend told me in 2007 to celebrate your birthday no matter where you are or how sad you are, you have to celebrate with the people you are with. I did at that time in my apartment in Kozukue, Yokohama. And I am doing it again not because I am sad. Life for me now is too short to worry about the petty things, to get easily ticked off of something that didn’t go my way etc etc. I know I still am a work in progress. And yes I do miss my family and wish I am with them today.

I have two wishes in my heart right now. And it is just between God and me. There are a lot of things I want to achieve, to discover and to live for and I am looking forward to that bright future.

To everyone who greeted me today, I thank you for remembering me. I wish I can celebrate with everyone today but you are all with me in my heart and prayers. Thanks!!

After Work Addiction

Platform 2, Tamachi station
Waiting for the 21:06 train

So after a few months of planning and pushing myself to go to the gym after work, I finally did it. I usually run in Nishiarai along the Arakawa riverbank or do some routines in my room after work when I get to go home early (which hardly happens) from work. This morning, I went through the Tokyo morning rush hour with a large gym bag. Believe me, it wasn’t easy. I had to get off the train to make way for people exiting the train or else I’d be carried away by the current of people. I even opted to leave my bag in Ueno to make my morning commute easy.

The rest of the day at work was slow moving. I had an official project around 4pm and was praying to finish it before 6pm. Sadly I had to stay for another hour to confirm things with my officemates.

At exactly 7pm, I was already eating an energy bar and psyching myself for what I thought would be a gruesome evening. I changed and went to the training room which was full. I had never seen a gym that full before. I went to the track instead for my cardio workout, ran about 3km in less than 20 mins, out of breath and thirsty. I went back to the lockers to leave my phone and proceeded with my main goal for tonight. I just had one observation in my 45 minutes in the weights and machine area; people here are just damn polite. They would leave the machines to make way for those in line even though they are just catching a quick break. They would even say sorry if their set would take a long time. How come I never had that experience in my previous gym in Quezon city?

Then came the scary part… Shower time… Hmmmm. Let’s just say that I am not comfortable with people walking around the locker full naked and no doors in the shower cubicles. Hahaha…but this is something I had to do. I finished my shower and changed in less than 10 minutes, had my supplements and took the train home.

So here I am, looking for a new route home since my train to Kita Senju is so delayed.. but I feel good, never felt my body so alive. Must be the adrenaline but who cares, I need to do this more often.

And oh yeah, I lost 8lbs since I got back from my summer vacation. 🙂 I am somewhere along the Chiyoda line now.. until my next post, running_turtle wishes everyone a good night/day.

BER MONTHS….

Platform 2, Tamachi station
1815 to Nippori

Finally, the 3rd quarter of the year officially began last week. Aside from adding another year to my life on earth, it is my 10th month here in Japan (that was fast). Autumn is coming soon, and Christmas. 🙂 But before that, I just came back from a 10-day trip across SE Asia with my loved ones, registered for the Tokyo Marathon 2012, and managed to get through the busiest season in our company.

Now that I am finally registered for the marathon, I began training last week and I’m still having problems in motivating myself to go back into my running form physically and mentally. I added about 30lbs since I arrived Japan and nearing the obese section in the BMI index.

I started eating less and changed my eating habits and I believe it is working. I still need to buy a weighing scale to prove this. But according to my officemates, I look thinner compared before the summer vacation began. Honestly, I love eating… Plus the food here is really good. But even before then, when I was still running in Manila and even eons before that, I can practically eat anything without gaining weight. I guess this is part of ageing. I was alarmed when one day I was having a difficult time wearing my shoes and tying my shoelaces. Going up 5 floors would make me huff and puff. And if there was a point in your life when you felt stronger, body and mind functioning well as if anything is possible, you tend to get depressed for being too lazy to squeeze in a routine or two before the day ends.

So I am currently on the beginning stages in my pursuit of getting back what I lost a few months back and hoping I get picked at the lottery for the marathon. Yes! There is a lottery. The quota of 30k runners was met on the first day of registration and yearly around 300k hopeful marathoners apply. By October, the lottery results will be out but even if I won’t get picked, I have a target that by February 2012, I must be in my best form, and maybe run 42k on my own on race day.

4 Weeks After the Big One: Tohoku Earthquake March 11, 2011 (Part Two: The Long Walk Home and Morning After)

(note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and does not represent the rest of the foreigners he was with or met after the tragedy.)

We decided to leave the office and the only option we had was to walk home. After a light meal of crackers and a large cup of ramen, I looked for the fastest route from the office to my apartment with the use of GPS on my phone. Some of my Japanese officemates were a bit surprised that we decided to walk since it was already dark and that the situation was not normal. I had to explain to my boss that we were getting anxious with the frequent aftershocks and we would rather stay in the comfort of our home. After finalizing the route and making sure I had enough battery for the trip, I explained to my fellow Filipino workers that 17kms was no joke. As a runner and have trained for 2 half marathons in my 1.5years of joining running events, 15-17km of train runs was nothing. I can easily cover that distance in less than 2hrs. But after being here in Japan for almost 5 months now, and has been out of shape, I have doubt whether my legs will be fine the next day after this long walk.

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(sample map I had that night)

We left the office together with two other Japanese co-workers and went on our separate routes after 3 intersections. One of them will be walking about 30km plus going to Chiba and the other for about 25km to Saitama. We took the shortest route, passing by famous landmarks around Tokyo. There were a lot of people in the streets walking since the subways and other railways have stopped. Traffic was evident everywhere because major elevated hi-ways were closed for security reasons. There were policemen deployed everywhere showing directions to people who’re lost. Coffee shops and hotel lobbies became places of rest for most people who would rather stay put where they can watch the news. I even heard that Apple stores in Tokyo accepted people to use their wifi for free since the cellular networks were not working well. Apple has a partnership with Softbank telecoms because of their iphone, but even rival network users like NTT Docomo and Au were allowed to use their free wifi. A few kilometers from the office, we passed by Tokyo Tower. The proud and former tallest man-made structure that can be seen at the Tokyo skyline had no indications that it was damaged. The lights were still on as if like a beacon of hope for some of us that night.

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(Tokyo Tower March 11, 2011)

Almost all pay phones had long lines since calls from mobile phones would not connect. I was lucky that the 3G network for data was still working for my GPS. We passed by the Imperial Palace which was dark and the scene outside the walls is still the same. Traffic jam, people walking(happily
chatting with each other but with the sense of urgency), and the occasional sound of the siren of police cars, ambulances or fire trucks. After almost 2 hours of walking and covered about 7-8kms, we reached a very familiar street, Akihabara!!! We saw a kebab shop and took a quick bite for the road. I don’t know if I am just hungry but that was one of the best tasting kebab I had in years.

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When we had our fill, we continued our journey. By that time we were about midway to our apartment. I sensed my companions getting tired so I decided to check if the subways were working. We reached Ueno station hoping to get the Hibiya line subway. There were alot of stranded people in the subway. People were sitting on the floor waiting patiently for the trains to go running again. We had no choice but to continue walking. My GPS was starting to give false data because of the buildings around us but we were pretty sure we were still on-track. We reached Uguisudani and said goodbye to the main roads and went through the small alleys.

The next hour was halfway making guesses of where to go because of the interference on my phone. There were only 6 of us along the dark street. The houses around us were quiet. It was either the people who live there had not yet come home or they were sleeping soundly intently watching the news. A few more minutes we reached a main road and were glad to see cars and lots of pedestrians. I was running out of battery then so we stopped at a 7-11 store to buy water and use their comfort room. I talked to the cashier if it is possible to charge my phone for a few minutes. Sadly they can’t do that and I was offered to buy some external battery. I didn’t buy them cause it was too expensive. We walked on and asked my other companion to set up his GPS and I turned off my phone as soon as I saw a sign saying Arakawa.

We reached Arakawa river in a few minutes and I was quite sure we are almost home. My estimate was about 2-2 and a half kilometers to go. The street was beginning to look familiar because this has been one of my routes during my runs. I happily informed them that we were near and that only a bit more we would be home. And true enough, in less than an hour, we reached our street. The local bars were still open and there were still plenty of customers.

I went up my apartment thinking that my house was probably trashed by the quake. When I opened the door, I saw the pot that was hanging on the wall already on the floor. Tupperware of used oil for deep frying was scattered. I dressed up, charged my phone and started cleaning. When I was done, I took a quick shower and laid on my bed. I was still trembling and every aftershock would make me run for the door. A big aftershock made me dress up for going out and fixed a small luggage of clothes, travel documents and food. I stayed downstairs and watched the building and posts sway every aftershock. People in the bars would go out whenever it was a strong one. It was already around 4am when we decided to stay at one apartment only and in case of another emergency we can easily call each other. I fell asleep around 6am that morning, with my bag beside me and the rest snoring loudly in the other room. (to be continued)

4 Weeks After the Big One: Tohoku Earthquake March 11, 2011 (Part One: What the?!?)

(note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and does not represent the rest of the foreigners he was with or met after the tragedy)

March 11, 2011. Everthing was pretty much normal. I woke up late, dressed up for that day since it was a special occasion for me and Ice, ran to the train station and followed up on a delivery that I thought would be an epic fail because of the date formats in Japan and other countries. (instead of having it delivered on 11/03/11(Japan format of March 11, 2011) I thought it would be delivered on November 3, 2011. I spent the whole morning wondering if it would push through. Work was pretty much the same; support our office abroad and did my own designs. By that time, I have already forgotten about the strong quake we felt on March 9, 2011 near the 11th’s epicenter.

I was not too busy that day; chatting with Ice through skype when we felt the weak vibration. My boss and I were even smiling as if saying to just shrug it off. After 10secs or so, I began to feel nervous because the weak swaying did not stop and it seemed to be getting stronger. I informed Ice that an earthquake was happening that instant but still weak and long. The next few seconds made my knees weak. The office floor was violently shaking, CPUs toppling and the rumbling noise can be heard. By that time, I heard from the Japanese around me that something bad is happening. Japanese people are very used with the feeling of having earthquakes because of their geographic location. But remaining calm under these circumstances Is something very new to me. I was asked to hide under my table because the earthquake has not stopped. The rosary in one hand, my cellphone in the other, I was praying that everything would be ok and was already thinking that my family and friends would be really worried. It took about more than 2 minutes when it stopped. I’m not sure if that time frame includes the next 2 large aftershocks. People were calm in the office, and the earthquake drills we had proved to be effective. I wasn’t aware that I was trembling not until a Japanese friend told me on our way to the fire exit. My hands were shaking so hard that I can’t even dial on my phone. We spent a few minutes outside the building, chatting and nervously laughing when we noticed the dark smoke coming from Odaiba. There were still small aftershocks happening at that time but we are asked to return to the office since things seemed ok already. I have not sat for 10 minutes at my desk when another big aftershock happened. I was ready to duck under my table again but good thing it was a short one.

The next hours in the office were used to gather information where the epicenter hit; footages of the tsunami were already seen in tv thru the cellphones of my bosses. Tsunami warnings of about 10m height were issued at the north-eastern coast. I had no idea where Sendai or Miyagi-ken is but the thought of having a tsunami was scary.

By 7pm, we had not left the office since the railway systems stopped for safety purposes. We were given a packet of long flat brownies(about the size of a family size chocolate bar) and a 250ml bottle of water. After those were distributed, we went out to look for food. Surprisingly, there were alot of people in-queue at restaurants, 7-11 stores and groceries. People were starting to buy supplies and it was running out. But what struck me the most was that there were no signs of panic. People were polite and stayed in line. There was no rushing and no panic buying (buying more than what they cannot consume) then. It took us about 30 minutes to buy some crackers, a cup ramen and some water.
We were already geting anxious in the office because of the constant aftershocks we were feeling so we decided to go home and leave the office around 9pm. (to be continued..)

To see the number of earthquakes that happened since March 11, 2011 in Japan, please see this earthquake map.

I’m Back Nihon… Did you miss me?

It has been four months now since I arrived in Tokyo from Manila. As it is my second time to travel here, I really was not expecting much.

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(autumn 2010)

Three years ago, I was sent here by my company to undergo training in our main office. Our office then was in Shin-Yokohama. My apartment in Yokohama is about 15 mins walk to the office or a 4-minute ride to work by train. Things were different then. I can go sightseeing and buy stuff without worrying about cash. We even had a Japanese co-employee who treated us to different sight-seing places on weekends. We would seldom go to Tokyo because it was far but we had lots of fun in those times.

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(a small park in Roppongi 2010)

Now I am back. I now live in Tokyo, my office has also moved to Tokyo, I had to be careful with what I spend my money on cause right now, I am here as an employee and not as a trainee anymore. It would take me weeks to decide if there is something I wanted to buy. I’ve done a few sightseeing at my own expense, opted to have home-cooked food for dinner and lunch to save a bit more. In Manila, I hardly cook on weeknights for my lunchbox the next day. Pressure at work was more intense since I am a senior now. And responsibility towards my fellow Filipino workers also added to my daily stress. I fight my way through the crowd of people going to their destinations every morning. The famous rush hour scene of Tokyo wherein you see station employees pushing people into the trains is almost an everyday experience. Long commutes to and from the work, cold nights and tired nights. I have missed my stop several times on my way home too.

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(Another park near Harajuku, Winter 2010)

I run too. I still do. There were times in last autumn where I would run around 9-10pm in the streets. It is quite difficult to run during winter but as soon the temperature rises, I am ready to go.

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(screenshot of my run map in Arakawa)

I have experienced one of the coldest winters in Tokyo. I am lucky to have Filipino companions here who knows “pakikisama”. I am not sure if the word camaraderie is sufficient enough to cover that word. I have good Japanese friends and bosses. I have also met a few new ones.

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(Arakawa Riverbank)

This oppurtunity here is something not everybody had been given a chance to experience. I am making use of this deployment to a foreign country where people are honest, safe streets everywhere, hi-tech things, and independence as a chance for me to grow and have peace of mind. Don’t get me wrong. Of cource I miss my family and friends back home.

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(Just outside my apartment)

It has been only 4 months and just the thought of me leaving this lovely place is breaking my heart. I still have 2 years and 8 months to go. And as they call this as the land of the rising sun, I face my future with the sun rising brightly ahead.

Japan Japan

It has been five months since I last updated my blog. Four months since I arrived in Tokyo and a week after the great Tohoku earthquake.
Within the weekend I’ll do my best in writing a new post about the experiences I had here and the recent (on-going aftershocks) earthquakes and life during a crisis outside your homeland and other concerns..

God bless you all and thanks to those who remembered and asked how I was the past days.

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Tokyo tower the night of the earthquake…