Step Seven: Pay-Up on Step Six’s Promise

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The beautiful thing about other cultures and other languages is that everyone sounds the same when they are on a roller coaster. The squeals of anticipation, the screams of enjoyment (or terror) the nervous laughter as you find yourself hanging upside-down, and waiting for the breaks to release and send you 90 degrees straight down.

Yes, we are all the same when we ride roller coasters.

I learned this lesson on Day 5 of my excursion into Japan. (Look – I am determined to finish this darn travel essay, so you are just going to have to bear with me, and deal with it. There will be shiny, more up to date things, once I am done here, I promise. So just shoo if you need to and come back later. )

Bright and early, Nathan and I struck out to the famed Fuji-Q Highland amusement park, because the only logical thing to do while you are in Japan is to go view Mt. Fuji from the top of one of the highest roller coasters in existence. So we ventured out from Ōme, Tokyo to Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi, a little over 80km away, with a traveling breakfast, as one is supposed to in these situations.

A steamed pork bun

How do they fit so much tasty in such a small package?

How do they fit so much tasty in such a small package?

and pancake sandwiches

I am made by sandwiching syrup and butter between two pancakes. I am delicious. See how happy I make the car?

I am made by sandwiching syrup and butter between two pancakes. I am delicious. See how happy I make the car?

…perfect for making your way to a fun-filled day of “Do I really want to go on this ride?” and “ Oh god, why did I want to go on this ride?” And lastly, “ LETS GO BACK ON THAT RIDE!” Because this is how I approach all roller coasters, and important life choices in general. I became more and more excited as we got closer to our destination and I could see the great feat of nature that the park took its name from.

I am going to dominate your viewing area for the remainder of your day.

OH HAI THAR! I am going to dominate your viewing area for the remainder of your day.

At the time of year that we were currently in, there was still a think blanket of snow covering its top, and being the non-skier that I am, I imagined how fun it would be to ski down Mt. Fuji in a completely safe and not-at-all-dangerous way. Because snow.

Eventually, the ultimate FUN ZONE appeared upon the horizon.

ARE WE THERE YET!!1!!!!

ARE WE THERE YET!!1!!!!

We walked up to its gates.

An unimposing gate, for the adventure that lies within.

An unimposing gate, for the adventure that lies within.

And we faced our First Opponent.

Fear not. Just make sure you have secured all of your belongings.

Fear not. Just make sure you have secured all of your belongings.

It was wind-y  ……   It was tall.

Tall coaster is tall!

Tall coaster is tall!

First ride of the day!

First ride of the day!

This is how I gear myself up to be rapidly dropped from a great height.

This is how I gear myself up to be rapidly dropped from a great height.

It was AWESOME!

Now that we were warmed up, we decided to go for SPEED over height.

They all survived... Barely

They all survived… Barely

Unfortunately, I was far too focused on OMGFUNTIME! that I did not take as many detailed pictures. So you are stuck with words.  Words of power and awe. Words that defy description!

OK, perhaps not that last part.

So, as previously alluded to, the next big coaster we rode was Dodonpa.

It is the hot-rod of roller coasters, with its, ” Hey, Watch this!” attitude as it counts down, and then launches you through a chute at over 170km/h. Or not. Sometimes it tricks you, and makes you think that there is a problem with the launch, only to shoot you out in a surprise move of mechanical prankishness. Because it can.

Next was Takabisha.

That hump? Yeah - you pause there. At 90 degrees. Looking straight down. BEFORE THEY RELEASE YOU.

That hump? Yeah – you pause there. At 90 degrees. Looking straight down. BEFORE THEY RELEASE YOU.

I think this was my favorite of all the coasters we rode, for two reasons. 1) Because even if you know that it is going to pause you on that hump, you still find yourself yelling, ” Why?! Why must you do this?!” to the gods and roller coaster engineers alike.

Steep would be an understatement here.

Steep would be an understatement here.

And 2) because this coaster is EVEN SNEAKIER than Dodonpa. “How?” you might ask…. Simple:

Just because that rise you see coming up from the ride is the first thing you can see,does NOT mean it is the first part of the ride…. Oh No. It is not

No, the first part of the ride is in the dark. After a neck-breaking turn. Away from what you think is going to be the beginning of the ride. With many twists. THEN you get to the outside part. Thinking back on it, my first reason is probably directly caused by the second reason. I now have a third reason.

So before venturing off to the final coaster of the day, I shall share with you some other views of the rest of the park.

There were ants.

I felt like Godzilla.

I felt like Godzilla.

There were Zombies.

Nathan kept trying to convince me that I really, really wanted to go in here. I did not.

Nathan kept trying to convince me that I really, really wanted to go in here. I did not.

 There were Nekos.

It was cold, and water rides did not appeal to me at the moment.

It was cold, and water rides did not appeal to me at the moment.

And there were Angels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OK, now that we’ve seen the place a bit more, let’s move on the the big kahuna. The white whale. The ghost pepper hot wing challenge.

Eejanaika

This is the mother of all coasters here at Fuji-Q. This is the coaster that you seriously question your life choices before, during, and for some, after riding this marvel of mad engineering.

4-D Coaster... Closest I will probably ever get to a time machine.

4-D Coaster… Closest I will probably ever get to a time machine.

I tried to get a good picture, but the entire platform insisted on rattling the whole time.

This might have been why.

There was so much screaming.

There was so much screaming.

But we went on the ride. We survived. We did not throw-up.

I did not regret this life choice at all.

And that ended day 5. It was a wonderful way to enjoy that part of Japan, that many outside travelers do not take the time to do. If you get the opportunity, seize it.

I leave you with motivational posters. Or advertisements. Or both.

There is much delight nestled inside of this doughnut.

There is much delight nestled inside of this doughnut.

This watermelon got off easy.

This watermelon got off easy.

I never considered this application of awesome spiked watermelon power.

I never considered this application of awesome spiked watermelon power.

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Living with Cats Is a Poor Rehersal for Dog-Sitting

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There are times when you find yourself in situations where you are flooded with apprehension and anxiety. You wonder, “ How will I possibly endeavor to make it through this?” You may even find yourself becoming irritated at the person who placed you in that situation, only to take a step back and realize that you had a big part in getting yourself into that uncomfortable position.

My most recent example of this convoluted situation involves taking care of a dog. Growing up, I have never had a dog. In fact, even when my friends that had dogs, I wasn’t in the neighborhood long enough to get to know them all that well. For a time, as a child, I was actually scared of bigger dogs. I eventually became comfortable with them, and even to want a snuggle or two, but I’ve never been in a position where I was taking care of a dog. This goes double for taking care of a dog SOLO.

Even as a teenager or adult, I’ve never been asked to look after another’s dog for more than a few hours, and that was more-or-less on a passive level. None of my past relationships had an active roll in the family dog’s life, and so I did not either.  Did I mention that I grew up as a cat person? Yep- totally a cat person.

If this does not prove how much of a cat person I am, then I don't know what will.

If this does not prove how much of a cat person I am, then I don’t know what will.

So when my fiancé asked me to dog-sit the dog that he and his ex share joint custody over while he was away for a week, it was natural that I would be flooded with apprehension and anxiety. What if I do something wrong? What if something happens to her on my watch? To heighten the situation, this sweet dog has a terminal illness and has gone blind. So she is completely dependent on the humans taking care of her.  But I agreed to take care of her on my own, because sometimes you just have to face your own negative feelings (and it doesn’t hurt that she is so freaking sweet and adorable that you just cannot say “no” to her face.)

This face defies any chance of "No" being said. It's a good thing she's never unreasonable.

This face defies any chance of “No” being said. It’s a good thing she’s never unreasonable.

Well, the week is almost up, and I am happy to report that the dog has been very patient with my learning curve.  She has been training me to notice when she needs to do her business (as slow as I have been in picking up her cues, she’s only had one big accident), and that I spend too much time on the computer (I needed a new power cord anyway).

No really- I wasn't going to use that cord at all this week. Seriously.

No really- I wasn’t going to use that cord at all this week. Seriously.

I’ve also learned that I am willing to sit outside in the cold for hours so that she can sniff the dirt and enjoy sleeping on the grass.

So yes, I started out this week in a situation that I was not entirely comfortable with. But I was reminded that if you embrace those situations, and make the most of them, you can wind up making a new (and sometimes fuzzy) friend. Plus, now I can never say that I have not dog-sat.

(Were she a parrot, I’d seriously have no idea what to do- except perhaps, “Don’t let the cats eat her.”)