One of the cooler things I got to experience in Japan was 回転寿司 (kaiten-zushi, also known as conveyor belt sushi). There is conveyor belt sushi in America (and, recently, Boston!) but I never had the chance to try it before.
Conveyor belt sushi is exactly what it sounds like: sushi on, well, a conveyor belt. Basically, the restaurant has a giant circular conveyor belt that is constantly moving. On the inside of the circle, sushi chefs are constantly making new maki and sashimi and placing their completed plates on the belt. Patrons sit on the outside, watching the plates go by and nabbing the ones that they want. It’s a strange combo between a fast-food and a sit-down restaurant.
You can get whatever and however many plates you’d like (each plate only had two pieces of sushi) but in the end, you will have to pay for them. At our restaurant, the plates were color-coded according to price like so:
So I had to be careful not to eat too much. And given the number of strange and enticing sushi rolling by, this was hard to do.
If you’re not careful, the cost can add up quickly! My group, comprised of only poor college kids, was cautious. We were pretty amazed by our fellow Japanese diners, though.
At the end of your meal, you call over one of the servers to tally up your plates. I’m not sure how this worked, but our servers has some awesome scanning device that did this automatically!
I admit that I’m not the bravest sushi eater. I’ll eat my raw salmon, my raw tuna, my eel and shrimp. But I’ve never found sea urchin or roe or squid to be particularly tasty. This time, however, I was feeling adventurous. I decided to grab this plate:
In case you’re unfamiliar with it, that’s natto– a popular and traditional Japanese food. It’s really just fermented soybeans. Looks harmless, right?
Now look at this picture of natto.
And this one.
And– uh, I don’t know what Google Images is trying to tell me, but you can look at this one too.
So now you somewhat have a sense of the texture of natto: half slimy, half sticky, viscous enough to form strings when it is mixed. I can’t really demonstrate natto’s flavor, but I can give you a description from Wikipedia: “nutty, savory, and slightly salty,” with a smell “somewhat akin to a pungent cheese.”
Japanese natives enjoy asking foreigners if they’re able to eat natto or not, since it has a very strong scent and flavor. It’s like a test. A test of… Japanese-ness. Natto is an acquired taste, they say, obtained only by the Japanese natives who grew up with it. Well, I was determined to take this test. As an exchange student, I had to try ALL the foods!
That’s one taste I was never meant to acquire.
Anyone who I’ve come in contact with for the last week knows: I’m in panic mode.
Why? Well, I called my academic advisor the other day to clear my classes for next semester. I’m trying to study abroad. All the classes I chose were fine, they would count for credit, okay. But then, at the end of the conversation, she said something very unsettling.
In about a year, I would have to get cleared for graduation? Say what now? My brain short-circuited. For the next minute, I could only form one thought.
I didn’t know what to do. I’ve only been in college for two years, or four semesters. And I’ve only taken classes for three of those semesters. I’m graduating in 5 semesters– 2 and a half years of schooling– which means I’ll be out and about in the real world before I turn 21.
I freaked out.
I’m just completely and utterly bewildered. Do I start looking at grad schools now? Do I start studying for the GRE’s? I’ve never befriended a professor, so I’m in no position to get good recommendations. I want to do something that I will like, will love, even, something that will make me happy. But if I knew what that was– well, I wouldn’t be writing this now.
My impending graduation feels some sort of giant freight train that is inevitably going to smash me to pieces.
Am I really supposed to know what I want to do? Is anyone supposed to know? All my friends seem to be pre-med or computer science or engineering or pharmacy and they all have their lives planned out in a neat little Excel spreadsheet. My family always urges me to have a plan. A plan for success. A plan to ensure your financial stability. Having a plan helps secure your future, I don’t doubt that.
But how do you have a plan when you don’t have some higher calling? How do you have a plan when you haven’t “found yourself?” How do you have a plan when you have no particular, spectacular talents?
I’ve been freaking out to everyone. My friends are probably sick of my complaining by now. I told my sister. Now, my readers. I called my dad.
I guess the only way to move is forward.
Last weekend, Boston was hit by a historic snow storm.
Starting Friday afternoon, Winter Storm Nemo dumped 24.9 inches of snow on the city. That is (according to Wikipedia) the fifth-highest amount of snow Boston has had… ever. All of New England was in a state of emergency. My workplace, for the first time in years, decided to shut down on Friday. Northeastern closed as well. The whole city braced itself for the storm.
As did I. Since I didn’t want to be snowed in my suburban house alone, I decided to beat the snow and go to Northeastern Thursday night. That way, I could stick out the storm with my friends!
I use the subway to get to Northeastern, and it was closing down on Friday afternoon. But that was okay, too. Because the T would be back by Sunday, right? I would be able to get back home, right?
I was stranded. I had work the next day. To get to work, I needed my car. My car was back in the suburbs. I had to get home!
I wasn’t going to be stuck in Boston! There had to be a way. I realized that, though the T was closed, the roads were not. I’m a member of Hertz on Demand, an hourly rent-a-car service that has cars stationed around Northeastern. If I could only rent a car and nab a friend, I could drive home and have my friend return the car. It could work.
I’m lucky enough to have awesome friends, especially the super-awesome friend who offered to drive me.
Not all cars are created equal, and Hertz knows it. Therefore, different car models rent for different prices. As a poor college student, I rented the cheapest car– a Fiat 500.
It’s a petite car. Trying to drive it on the highway is a harrowing experience. It’s also front-wheel drive only. Therefore, it rents out for a little over $5 an hour.
My friend and I reserved the car and made our way to the parking lot, where we were greeted by this:
We were snowed in. We were more than snowed in. Like, we needed a snowplow to get us out of this.
My friend and I failed to wave down a snowplow. But, maybe we could drive our way out of the snowdrift?
So, I had a couple of options at this point. I could have called a cab and had a very expensive taxi ride. I could have waited to see if the T would eventually open. I could have simply accepted defeat, and called in work late the next day.
I have a problem. In the face of things that are so dumb, I respond equally idiotically. And so I told my friend:
Why did I decide this? I have no idea. I started trying to plow the snow out of the way.
My friend joined in. We spent a couple of minutes trying to clear the snow with our hands…
We called in some help.
Our friends came…
…and we proceeded to try to dig out the car with frying pans.
We managed to dig out the wheels. We tried backing the car out again…
The front wheels, the only wheels powered by the engine, didn’t have enough traction. We tried sticking some baking pans under the wheels to give it grip…
We were making progress, though! Little by little, we were getting this car out of here. We threw sand under the wheels. We drove the car back and forth, hoping the tires could gradually clear the snow. And, finally, after an hour of digging…
The power of teamwork cannot be underestimated. Thanks to the help of my friends, I could finally go home!
So now I’m down ten bucks and owe four hungry dudes lunch.
This snowstorm was crazy, though! Even crazier was that my friends and I went outside during it. Blizzards sting! Here are some photos I snapped of the aftermath:
My lifestyle is at a weird in-between right now.
It’s because I’m not taking classes. I’m on co-op, working the typical 40 hours a week. I don’t live in a dorm anymore– I’m living in a house out in the suburbs. I drive a car, pay my own rent, buy groceries and cook my own meals.
No, at the moment, my vibrant college life has been put on hold. Instead, I’m getting a taste of… of…
It’s a terrifying prospect. Yet, I think this must be what being “settled down” and “old” feels like?
What is this?
WHAT IS MY LIFE RIGHT NOW?
I’m so used to being super-busy, all the time. Well, I’m still pretty busy, all the time. But instead of my schedule being
How can this be? I’m still a teenager! I’m still entitled to do things like
But instead, I’m just all like
So I’m living with a family I randomly found on Craigslist.
I didn’t ask for this, mind you. I didn’t want to resort to Craigslist. But– as I soon discovered– Northeastern is no help at all in this particular situation.
Here’s the problem: I’m on co-op right now. My co-op is in Waltham, a suburb about a half hour out of Boston. In traffic, maybe longer. Here’s another problem: I need a car to get to my job, since the commuter rail station is a pretty far walk from my work. The final problem: Since I’m working full-time, I’m paying all my living expenses myself.
To live on campus, then, would be impractical. I would be farther from work than I’d need to be. I’d have to pay the (very high) Boston rent. I’d have to pay for the expensive parking pass.
I love living with my friends (and miss it, to be honest) but remaining there would have been unreasonable.
I needed somewhere else to live.
So, after I was hired last October, I decided that the best course of action would be to use Northeastern’s off-campus services. I couldn’t be the first kid with this problem. I know kids doing co-op in Allston, Framingham, Everett, Newton… all suburban areas that are not quite T-accessable.
To the Off-Campus office I went.
Next, I decided to look into Northeastern’s Co-op Connections office, supposedly designed to serve off-campus co-ops. The office only consists of two people, but I hoped that they could help.
What about the kids who had previously worked where I would be working? They had to find a place to live, right? What if I contacted them, saw their living situation, perhaps took over an apartment when they left?
I contacted my co-op advisor to see if she could help.
Finally, I turned to my hiring company. They have a LinkedIn group exclusively for co-ops. If I could get on that group, I could get in touch with kids who could help!
I was cornered. Thus, I had to turn to…
Craigslist is an website that works like the classified advertisments in a newspaper. Anyone can post listings for housing, jobs, services… even dating! Most of the users are well-intentioned people with genuine needs. However, Craigslist has become notorious for the large amount of scammers that also roam the site. Most infamous is Phillip Markoff, the so-called Craigslist Killer.
You can see why I wanted to avoid it. Now you see why I had to resort to it. I started browsing the housing section, looking for available apartments or sublets. Here’s an example of one of the more dubious posts I found:
And I started e-mailing people. And calling. But all the results were a little dubious…
I ended up putting up my own ad on Craigslist asking for housing, resulting in people e-mailing me their places themselves. I set up appointments to go look at my options. With a friend, of course– meeting people on the internet alone is never the best idea.
I mean, I had options. Reasonably priced options, close to my work. None of them seemed great, though. And then I got a last minute call…
After we both confirmed each other’s identities on Facebook, I jumped on the T to meet this family. They were looking to rent a room in their home that seemed to have it all: a nice house, a safe neighborhood, parking, and utilities included.
But, I’d be living with a family. Wouldn’t it be awkward? Could I get along with them?
Well, I know what being an exchange student is like. And then it pretty much decided itself for me after this conversation.
And that’s how I ended up living with a random family I found on Craigslist.
(They’re pretty awesome)