The low-down: Where have I been?

It may be a bit narcissistic for me to think anyone missed me or even noticed I was gone, but for those of you that did notice heres the low-down.

Without a doubt, the time I spent working at Instructables last summer was the most fun I have ever had in my life. It was the perfect combination of working among smart creative individuals ( Eric, Christy, Tim, Paul, and Noah), having such an open ended job where I was actually paid to do what I love, and being in bright sunny free thinking northern California. The cherry on top of this summer of awesomeness was going to Burning Man (see pic below). It was something I had wanted to do ever since I had read about it online many years ago, and, as fate would have it, I ended up going the first year I was actually old enough to.

I don't think I am ever going to forget driving Tim's manual truck (I don't know how to drive stick) on a deserted road in Nevada, at 3:30 am Sunday morning, the energy drinks wearing off and Tim sleeping peacefully in the passenger seat, while it rained intermittently, with only a vague idea where I was going, and doing this all with just a NY state learners permit. Nor will I forget getting my first sight of the playa, just as the sun was coming up, with all the massive metallic sculptures glistening on the horizion. The week that followed was just pure surreal amazingness. Anything I wrote about my first Burning Man experience wouldn't give it justice, but Tim describes it nicely in his Burning Man instructable.

The most surprising thing about the summer though, was that by the end of it I actually looked forward to going back to school. I wanted to learn circuit building and other cool electrical engineering skills that I could incorporate into my future Instructables projects. I wanted to be able to post impressive electronic projects, instead of just minor circuit hacks like the tazer glove and capacitor charger. I wanted to master the movement of the electron.

One plane trip from SFO to JFK later, I'm back home. The contrast between Frisco and NY was staggering. If there was one word to describe how NY looked to me at that time it would be "gray". The experience was like watching the Wizard of Oz in reverse, going from the bright, colorful, surreal land of Oz back to black and white Kansas. Don't get me wrong, I love my hometown. I am of the opinion that NYC is the single greatest city in the world (California wins as a state, but in terms of a single city nothing can compare to NY). If you don't agree with me, stand in the center of the Brooklyn Bridge and turn around to get a full 360 degree perspective. Your opinion will be swayed if not changed.

Still, September 07 was a very gray month for me. It took me a few weeks to wade through the bureaucratic bullshit of Brooklyn Poly and finally get registered for classes. The classes I did get registered for were all prerequisites and nowhere near my area of interest. I know I am going to have to suck it up and complete them eventually (especially now that my school has merged with NYU, so I get to graduate with a much more impressive degree then the school I was originally accepted into), but at the time I was just too miserable and distracted to pay attention in class.

It was even hard for me to respond to e-mails from summertime coworkers because hearing about the activities at the tower brought back memories of a happier time. I was in a state of near-complete mental shutdown, my creativity was shot, and I was depressed. I decided that I needed to take a break from school, so I took a leave of absence for the Spring semester.

That leave of absence bought me a time period of 8 months to do whatever I wanted. I figure why not live out my weaboo fantasy, and travel to Japan. I can not say exactly when my obsession with Japanese culture began. Maybe it was subconsciously planted in my brain with the cherry tree in front of my childhood home, cultivated with anime, and brought to fruition when I actually started reading about their history and culture. Whatever the reason, it has been something I've always wanted to do, and what better time to "find myself" then while on a break from college (Its stereotypical-tastic!).

There was only one obstacle standing between me and the romantic imagery I had of bathing in hot-springs and meditating in front of Shinto shrines ... money, at least a few thousand dollars of it. Japan aint cheap, and even if I was going to get a job to support me while I was there, I would still need a butt-load of money for the initial travel and living investment. (On that note if any of you Instructablites knows someone in Japan who you could get me in touch with regarding job opportunities or living quarters, or has some advice for living cheaply while there, I'm all ears)

I spent most of January half-assedly looking for a job. I did not devote my whole ass to the task because, no matter how much I wanted to go to Japan, I wasn't too excited about the prospect of getting a minimum wage job which utilized none of my skills (I have very unique skills, so finding a job that used them would be next to impossible). It was looking as though my next few months would be filled with minimum wage menial labor. That is until I thought of throwing myself on the mercy of Eric and Christy, and asking for my old job back.

I lacked the testicular fortitude to ask them directly, and so reverting to grade school mentality (the one that figures rejection will hurt less through proxy), I asked Tim to test the waters and see if my old job was still available (grade school version: Psst Tim, I've got a crush on Eric & Christy ::school girl giggles:: can you ask if they like me). Tim was kind enough to oblige. A few e-mails later I found out I could come back as long as I promised to return to school in September. (This was no problem because I had already made the same promise to my parents, and myself because I didn't want to loose my 20k a year scholarship).

One plane trip at the end of February from JFK to OAK later, I'm back in California.

My longterm goal for the next few months is to live as cheaply as possible, learn Japanese, and try to acquire some work that I can do while in Japan. Living cheaply has been easier then expected. I quit smoking (something I thought would be much harder then it was, but after two months of lukewarm-turkey I was able to eliminate my nicotine cravings entirely). I am able to feed myself almost entirely off the excess of others, with the occasional purchased produce being the exception. I bike for transportation (that same yellow road bike in the picture below). I'd say that overall, it took more effort to stop being a consumer-whore then it did to quit smoking, but it feels equally good to be free of both of those bad habits.

Well thats my story. I should probably get back to work.

New instructables coming soon ...

Picture of The low-down: Where have I been?
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mg0930mg8 years ago
I read this. This is great story. I'm glad things worked out for you. :D
dr.light9 years ago
you also fail to take into account the big HUGE bummer that is decompression... i.e the blues associated with returning from the PLAYA... it actually just brought a tear to my eye remembering both my first years aftermath, as well as 07 (i returned from the playa to find my grandmother had passed). Its really hard to return to normal after being in the desert, let alone at Burningman. If you're playaside this summer (im guessing no, cause of the saving $$thing) come stop by the Kostume Kult (somewhere on esplanade) and check out my LED jumpsuit that will hopefully be finished by then...
Tetranitrate (author)  dr.light9 years ago
Yeah, returning to NY because it was the end of the summer would have been bad enough, but combined with decompression, it was just horrible. At least this time I know what to expect when I go back. I'm not going to be able to make it to BM this year because I have saved up enough money for my trip, so I'll be couchsurfing my way across Japan for the month of August.
you are quite a magical little lad. kudos to you for quitting smoking. in regards to employment in Japan... I would deem it wise to study up on your Japanese. i... unfortunately have to drop it and take Chinese next year for the IB and all the rest of it. but, you probably don't know what I'm talking about... carrying on, when travelling in japan, if you have a tourist visa, you get an unlimited pass on the Japan Rail (it's national). pretty nifty really. ehmm... food shouldn't be too big of a problem, you can pop into a supermarket and just pick what looks appetizing.( or not, which can actually turn out to be pretty good.) for housing... i dunno if you want to live in the city or what but there are these things called Gaijin no Uchi... "Foreigner's House" cheapo little {(and i mean little) but that shouldn't bother you seeing as i have read that you are not a consumerist whore} rooms with everything you need, fridge, pots, pans, little stove, futon, tv, internet, so yeah. a nice little crib. but... you share bathrooms and toilets, but it shouldn't be too bad. It'll b like living in the Sunset Arms Boarding House from Hey Arnold. better for somethign short term, no contracts, that type of thing. you could probably find some college kid willing to share an apt. with you... and maybe... if you're lucky... since you know english, you could haggle a bit and he/she might be willing to waive a bit of the rent for a "live-in-english-teacher". knowing english is key. oh. and if you know any other languages... use em. employment... is tricky. best left to you to figure out... but... if you're stumped... english speakers are needed in apple stores, stores in general, to cater to foreign customers and as tutors. you could make a nice living off tutoring people in English all day. College kids in the morning... elementary/middle/high school kids after 3. So after all the blahblahblah, i probably ended up reiterating what you know but in a bumbly jumble of mumbles. and. i feel obliged to say, that so far, you are the single most amzing instructabler. you have by far the highest ammount of damn good instructables amassed in one clump. so kudos do that too. oh yeah. just thought of this one. you're good at writing, or so it seems, your literary style is very amusing. if you get a job with a green living kind of magazine or something they might sponser you on a "green" trip through japan. because... japan's people generally live in small domiciles especially in the city. but everything's done very efficientley and they try not to consume too much. and in the countryside, like outside of nagoya, by toyota, people use compost in their gardens and reuse the plastic bags and bottles really creatively. so yeah. that's something else to chew on. good luck!
It says that I don't need a visa for trips under 90 days, would I still be able to get one (Ideally I would spend about three months in Japan before returning to the states)? If I had a tourist visa would I be able to do tutoring work, or would I need a work visa for that? Either way, I didn't know about that unlimited pass on the Japan Rail, which sounds extremely sweet. Food should definitely not be a problem. I will just buy an industrial sized bag'o'rice, and be good for weeks. The Gaijin no Uchi are also something I did not know about, and it sounds like they include more amenities then I even need. I would probably want to live on Honshu, because then I can use the rail system to get to do most of the sightseeing I want to accomplish on weekends. I think tutoring in English would be the best way for me to earn some money while I am there. That type of work wouldn't have a longterm commitment, so it would be something that I could do for just a few months. Thanks for the compliments on my writing. I've been told that I have a good writing ability and that I am fairly creative, which is why I think working at Instructables is the perfect job for me. It gives me the opportunity to materialize whatever crazy ideas pop into my head, and then convey those thoughts the same way my screwy brain perceives them.
hey. sorry about that... i didn't see your reply until just now...but yeah! good luck with everything. i don;t think you need a visa if you're just gonna do tutoring... only if you were to say... work for a large corporation or soemthing that would involve paperwork and contracts. Good luck with everything! Keep the instructables coming! }: )
in here you need a visa for everything
huh? where is "here"?
Turkey (the country,not the bird)
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