That Thing About Collaboration

In a company there are buzzwords going around once in a while, one year it’s “we need to take care of our efficiency” and everybody is talking that topic to death, next year it’s better quality, the year after its strategy and so forth. This year it’s collaboration in the area I work at. We have “collaboration days” events in the engineering area, a month later in sales, since March some initiative on a division-wide global level, trying to get 7000 people to collaborate over all continents… good luck with that!
When I look at the tiny section of 90 people where I’m working at at the moment in Japan – not even we manage to collaborate.
I don’t want to blame my male colleagues but collaboration does not seem to be their thing really, because, let’s face it, there is a constant game going on in the background of who gets promoted and gets a “career” and who doesn’t. Alliances are formed and shift, people are sidelined. For a while it’s the German expats against the Japanese local staff, then a mixed gang against another mixed gang and so forth.

It would be fun to watch if I wasn’t half a part of the silly game. I’m an outsider in the game simply because I’m a woman, and man, am I happy about that, pun intended. When I see my male colleagues at their pissing contests, I’m glad I’m not really a part of the game anyway.
I don’t think women work like that. Don’t get me wrong, the ladies can be super mean to each other but we are mean in a different way, lol.
Last week there so much of “my dick is longer than yours” going on at the office, it was fascinating. It’s exhausting and does not help the matters at hand. A bunch of alpha animals fighting for the best spot is surely not the best model of collaboration. Concepts like collaboration globally and “we are all nice to each other and respect each other” are nice, but in my humble opinion an illusion, since in the end we are all still animals and act much less rational than we think we do, which shows itself in those unnerving alpha male pissing contests… that was a little corporate working life report for a change. Cheers!

Suomi Feast 2018

It’s been a while since I went to the Suomi Feast. In the past it was called Loud and Metal Attack. I don’t know when the name changed.
One way or the other, it’s a mini heavy metal festival with Finnish bands (also sponsored by the Finnish embassy in Japan ;-)) and this year we had six of them with the headliner being Turisas.
The opening act in the cozy 800 people venue Shinjuku Blaze right in the middle of the nightly amusement center Kabukicho, was Noumena, a death metal act with a clear female vocal and a rough male vocal.

Next up was Mors Subita, the hardest and most death metal act of the evening. They had a great sound but the growling vocal was a bit too high for my taste 😉

Frosttide was more akin to folk metal. I must admit that I don’t remember much about them, sorry! 😉
S-Tool was easier to remember, since they are old school heavy metal and reminded very much of the 80ties. Some of their members seem to have migrated from Poisonblack to S-Tool. It was cool to see these 50+ guys rocking hard (at least they looked like 50+ ;-))

Then something interesting, Beast in Black, a lovely, intentionally over-dramatic power metal act. They even had a ballad and made us get out our iPhones for lights. They were great fun to watch, but again I had a bit of trouble with the too high vocals, I definitely prefer baritone or bass!

Then it was Turisas’ turn. I think I saw them for the first time in 2013 or something like that and it was nice to see them again. Even though I have not kept up with them, I knew most of the songs they played, which surprised me, nothing much new in 5 years? Or did they play the old stuff on purpose for the Japan fans? I especially like the electronic violin of Turisas, that’s an instrument you see quite rarely with a heavy metal band.

Even though there was not a “favorite” band playing at this year’s Suomi Feast, I had a great time and it was very relaxing to hear some live metal. Just was the doctor ordered 😉

New Caledonian Diary – Part 4: Lookouts and Maitre Island

On my last day in New Caledonia I rode a local bus again to the last stop before a presumed look-out point. Nothing much was marked and I just followed instinct walking up a mountain road for a bit. Then finally I came across a sign telling me I was on the right way. I took the off-road trail and much like at the Isle of Pines the trail soon lost itself more or less entirely, but since it couldn’t be far, I walked on and indeed managed to get onto the top of what is called Ouen Toro. There is a small military base there, which is off limits and two Australian cannons from WW2 times are right before the fenced off military area. The spot gives a great view over the atoll and also Noumea. It was well worth the hike.

After climbing down from the mountain, I went back to the taxi boat, because there was a second island it sometimes goes to, further out beyond the Duck island, called Ilot Matire. The taxi boat only goes there once per hour, if at all. The high speed ride there was less than funny, because the surf was quite strong and the boat was swaying badly but I arrived after all. The island is much bigger than the Duck island and sports a luxury hotel with real houses on the island and also right above the water. The island is only a hundred meters wide but quite long and on its sea-side it has a fantastic beach, which, for the most part, I had entirely to myself. I encountered a sea snake wriggling up the beach towards the hotel, unaware that they are apparently very poisonous, and happily shot pictures of it instead of running away 😉
As soon as the sun hides behind clouds the pretty beach turns a bit ghastly and it made me aware that this “paradise” is actually a damn harsh paradise. There is nothing but the sea, sand and a few trees and in times of old the local people lived off nothing but fishing and coconuts.
I greatly enjoyed the visit to the island though and to see that beach is well worth the scary boat ride. The ride back wasn’t less scary and bumpy and I have to admit, I was glad to be back on Grand Terre.

All in all New Caledonia is of great natural beauty and well worth a visit. It’s remote location lets only a limited amount of tourists find their way to the islands and leaves the atoll intact. With a car, a boat, or more money, I would have seen even more beautiful harsh nature, but even the few corners I could go to were more than impressive. I’m not in the habit of going anywhere twice, but in New Caledonia’s case let me say: never say never again 😉

New Caledonian Diary – Part 3: Ducks and Culture

On my fourth day in New Caledonia, I walked around the beaches of Anse Vata and Lemon Bay again, then took a taxi boat to the tiny Duck Island right across from the Anse Vata Bay. The taxi boat there goes every fifteen minutes and the short ride is loud (thanks to the monstrous outboard engine of the boat) and fun. The tiny island has a lovely beach, and a bar and a restaurant in the middle. That day saw the more typical weather for the region and the time of year, rain showers every few hours. It was like that every day except for the day of my arrival and the day on the Isle of pines. Lucky me!

The showers are usually not long, just fifteen minutes or so, but they can be quite intense. During one of the showers I stayed under the roof of the bar and chatted with Australian cruise people. Three elderly guys, one wearing a captains hat, who looked like they have a constantly high level of alcohol in them 😉 The dude with the captains hat said his boat was the Lollipop 😉 they were on a ten day cruise and had visited one of the the Loyalty islands first, then Isle of Pines, now Noumea, before going back to Sydney.
While there are no ducks on the island, there were plenty of seagulls who were also nesting and a part of the island is fenced off. You can walk around the island in a ten minute stroll. It’s a lovely little spot and fun to get there via taxi boat.

Day five of my stay was a culture day.
I wanted to visit the Jean-Marie Tjibaou culture center and that day seemed good for it because of not so nice weather with many clouds and those occasional showers. But, how to get there… there is a public bus system in Noumea and I decided to try that out. To get to the culture center I had to take a bus to the city, then change to another. Funnily the buses reminded me of the buses in Los Angeles, where the only people who ride buses are either too old to drive a car, too young to drive a car or to poor to own a car… in contrast to Los Angeles though, the buses felt safer and more civilized. But the divide between rich French and not so rich locals was saddening. The culture center was the last stop of the route and I was the last passenger to get off. The museum did not have many visitors… which is too bad, because it is very beautiful. I wonder why they needed an Italian architect for the building and not a local one, but nevertheless, he did a great job, the building is amazing.

The culture center has art displays from local artists, a library, some tribal houses and a photography display with photos from Noumea in the 1880ties. The museum is named after the local Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who fought for New Caledonia’s independence from France and was assassinated by another (even more radical?) local. I heard next year or so there will be another referendum deciding about the question of independence from France.

New Caledonian Diary – Part 2: Isle of Pines

On my second day, a Sunday, the weather wasn’t as glorious as on day one and several showers interrupted things. I wandered along the Lemon Bay and the neighboring bay called Anse Vata, and visited the small but excellent aquarium showing the local fish world. A lovely slow day at wonderful beaches. Those two beaches are the main beaches of Noumea and luckily my hotel was at one of them. I don’t think my stay would have been as nice, had I stayed in a hotel downtown.

The biggest adventure came on day three. I wanted to go by boat but that was even more expensive and the boat sailed only once per week in contrast to several flights a day to the Isle of Pines, south-east of Noumea.
It’s mostly famous for something called the Piscine Naturelle, a natural pool surrounded by pine trees where you can see fish like in an aquarium only that it’s live and real.
The twenty minute flight there was fantastic, with aerial views as stunning as out of a picture book. The mighty atoll around Grand Terre with its many tiny islands looks almost unreal.

The airport of Isle of Pines is of course tiny and I had a small problem after arrival, being: how to get around? There are only 2500 people living on the island and there is no public transport. I asked for a taxi at the airport information desk and after a 15 minute wait, a guy called Mayu picked me up. The rest of the people on the plane were picked up by hotel shuttles.
Mayu drove me through forest without a single settlement to the end of the road trying to speak French to me and we hobbled along with my broken French and his broken English until he dropped me off, pointing to the right, go there. All right. I expected at least some tourists like me but there was not a single soul around, except for a lady collecting 200 Pacific Francs of toll. The start of the Piscine Naturelle is already amazing and it was super hot and super lonely.

I changed into my reef walker shoes and started splashing. After a few meters you kind of get desensibilized against stepping on star fish… hya! They are every few centimeters. Interestingly they are the same kind as 7000 km to the north. I saw plenty of them on Amami Oshima in Japan too. Millions of smaller and bigger crabs also walk around and indeed there are fish in the pool wherever you look.
I was born in Europe where people don’t really know how intense the sun can be. I got used to the sun in Japan, which is several degrees more intense than in Europe, but nothing in comparison to New Caledonia. You gotta be careful about that sun down there, man. The light is so harsh, it makes things look blacker than they are on photos. I walked around very clothed, but got sunburnt at every exposed bit, despite sun cream. Although it’s rather sun allergy than burning.
When the water got too deep, I continued on a trampled land path until the real Piscine Naturelle which is absolutely breathtaking. Steel blue sky, very green trees, white sand, very blue water. It’s one of the most beautiful places I have seen so far.

There were a few people there, but not a crowd and there was no problem to get a quiet moment with nature. Despite going into the water only for 30 centimeters depth due to clothing, you can see all sorts of fish. Deeper in the pool it must be truly like an aquarium, but considering my skin conditions, I was content with what I got. I walked down a dried river bed, or rather sea arm, which floods during high tide, feeding the pool, to the open ocean. Also that coast is stunningly beautiful.

There is a restaurant at the beach and around the corner in a small Bay is the vicinity of the Le Meridian Isle of Pines hotel where I ditched the reef walkers and got back into normal shoes. One day when I’m old 😉 I might stay in that hotel for a few days and do nothing but walk to the Piscine Naturelle and back 😉
I walked back to the place where Mayu dropped me off and this time headed into the jungle, the goal was ch another Bay on foot. But… there are holes in the ground all over the place, small holes at first but venturing further into the jungle the holes got bigger and bigger. Further, the path became less and less obvious. Then I got a look into a fist sized hole and saw this….

that part of the crab is fist sized, the rest of the crab… uh. There are thousands of holes! When the way seemed to all but disappear, I got scared of getting lost and being attacked by monster crabs! And thus decided to return. The crabs are a form of coconut crab and can get pretty damn big. I don’t think they attack humans, but I don’t want to have to walk through a few hundred of them!
After wandering around more the inner part of the Piscine Naturelle and watching the tide come in, it was time to return to the airport. I ordered a taxi at the front desk of the Meridian hotel and got a ride back with the driver asking me in good English whether New Caledonia is more expensive than Japan. Yes, it is! Back at the airport I was the first passenger and wandered around there a bit at utterly lonely roads, then flew back to Noumea.

Usually I am not in the habit of going anywhere twice, but maybe I will return to the Isle of Pines, since Piscine Naturelle is worth more than one visit and there are other nature points to see on the island, which I haven’t been to yet.

New Caledonian Diary – Part 1: Noumea

I think to remember that I got aware of the existence of New Caledonia for the first time around 2003, when I made my first trip to Australia. Some totally relaxed French people in light summer clothes were boarding a flight to a place called Noumea and I never heard of that place before or knew where it was. A quick Internet search revealed the island of New Caledonia and since I reportedly have a strong interest in Pacific Islands you’ve never heard of, I vowed to go there one day. It took a few years to realize the plan but now it happened.
The flight from Tokyo to Noumea takes eight hours and a bit. I arrived at about 23:00 and had ordered an airport shuttle bus. That bus drove a long while through a thoroughly dark countryside before arriving in Noumea. The La Tontouta airport is an astonishing 47 km from Noumea. New Caledonia is also probably one of the biggest islands you’ve never heard of. From Noumea at the south to the most northern town of Poum it is a whopping 425 km. New Caledonia has literally thousands of islands. The Grand Terre, which is the main island, north of it the main three Loyalty islands and the Isle of Pines to the south-west, plus thousands of tiny islands around the big atoll region. The mini bus dropped of some five parties before it was finally my turn as the last passenger and I arrived at my hotel only at 0:30. It was a boutique hotel three minutes from the Baie des Citrons and nobody was there at this time. They arranged to have my key in a safe and emailed me the number beforehand. Luckily everything went well and I got into my room all right.
On the first morning I inspected the Lemon Bay shortly, which has a lovely beach and promenade, then walked some 45 min into “downtown”.

The weather was glorious and the sun super intense. Without my full sun gear including Japanese long sun-protection gloves, I would have been burned in ten minutes. Downtown Noumea is a bit sleepy, but has a lovely Central Park. I’m not overly surprised that there are tensions between the French, the former colony overlords, and the local Kanak people. There are many more or less homeless looking locals while there is not a single French-looking homeless person. Also local youngsters hang out in troves, making the impression they have not much money to spend or things to do. Despite the big size of the island, the population is sparse, some 270,000 it seems and about 104,000 of them are Kanak people.

A cruise ship was parked right next door and a bunch of Australians swarmed town. The cruise ship looked nice but was several leagues smaller than the Independence of the Seas, which I boarded twice so far 😉 Apparently an Australian cruise ship arrives in town more or less every day and there are many places where you can pay with Australian dollars. The local currency is, however, the fancy Pacific Franc.
On the way back to the hotel I stopped by a shopping mall and bought a bunch of groceries, since my hotel room luckily had a kitchenette. Prices are amazing in New Caledonia, a few categories more expensive than in Japan and no wonder the locals have trouble making a living. After a magnificent sunset I called it a day.

Too Much Work

I missed a couple of Saturdays’ blog entries due to too much work and not enough energy left to write for the blog. People are too busy these days. I would very much like to know what life was like before TV and Internet, when you had nothing but a newspaper to read. Also working life has become too busy with global telephone conferences where the lucky Europeans get away with having the conference during midday, but the poor East Asians have to sacrifice their evenings and the poor North Americans their early mornings.
In private life there are too many distractions and also too many obligations “to keep in touch” thanks to the modern forms of communication at our disposal.

Then I hear about a sad case of a co-worker and that puts the busy and hectic business life into perspective again and that reduces its importance and the amount of emotions invested. My colleague has two sons and the older one has a mental health problem. He is 17 but has not attended school for the past year. He dropped out of high school after the first year and has not returned to school since. I don’t know what kind of mental health problem he has, but if he was and is unable to attend any form of schooling for a year, it must be bad. Compulsory education is until the age of 16, so luckily he made that, but all in all the kid’s future looks quite bleak, since he is missing some very important years of his education. One can only hope that he gets back on track soon and finds the energy to resume learning. Even if he does not return to school, he will have to learn some trade to support himself one day. I cannot imagine what it’s like for the parents to see their kid struggle so much.
Things like that put life into perspective again and make the personal bit of stress smaller.

Especially, since in a week from now I will be on the southern hemisphere of our one and only planet because it’ll be “golden week” in Japan (an accumulation of holidays) and I booked a week of getaway to New Caledonia. I will report about my island adventures as usual 😉

Bored by Sarcasm

I am not sure whether this is a German specialty or whether it is more universal, but since I am encountering mostly Germans who practice sarcasm and irony, let me presume it is a feature mostly to be found in that species, and let me add, mostly in German males. Maybe it also comes so much to my attention, because, while irony and sarcasm does of course exist in Japan, it is however rarely used and certainly not for “sport”.
Among an astonishing number of German males whom I’m encountering in business life, sarcasm and irony are a very popular form of expression. Some guys use it in every bloody sentence. It gets immensely on my nerves. While a bit of spice in form of sarcasm does have the capacity to lighten things up; it, dears sirs, used in every sentence, becomes a nuisance and is annoying, useless and tiring.
I seriously wonder why some German males are so attracted to sarcasm. Do they think it makes them sound cool? Apparently. Is it a kind of pissing contest? Do they want to impress me? Dudes, it ain’t working, just leave out the damned sarcasm and have normal conversations with people. If you use irony, do so sparingly and strategically, then it might be funny and interesting. Otherwise, just shut up, please…

Dumb and Dumber

I suppose there are studies and papers being done on the topic by whatsoever professionals, but I don’t care, I just want to state my opinion. It is my firm belief that the number of dumb, uneducated, idiotic people in the “first” world has neither significantly increased or decreased over the past ten or twenty years. Trouble is, twenty years ago, idiots didn’t have a big platform at their disposal to voice their opinions.
If, for example, a flat earth idiocy existed twenty years ago, the educated part of the world did not know too much about it, because all the members of the club of morons could do, was maybe print leaflets and leave them at their local Mac Donald’s.
Nowadays, unfortunately, these idiots do have a global platform and that is social media, which reaches millions and millions… While social media are a great way to connect people from all over the world, unfortunately they also connect the idiots from all over the world and give them a stage. I don’t know what the cure for that could be, since in most cases, idiocy is unfortunately a quite incurable disease. I shall try my best to ignore them and shall try my best to not let them disturb my questionable and endangered peace. Cheers!

70,000 Tons of Metal – Part 4

Last Day of the 70,000 Tons of Metal 2018
The way back to Florida saw better and hotter weather than the way to the Grand Turk and after the infamous belly flop contest (which is great fun) I hit the pool myself, if without belly flopping 😉 I also watched parts of the gig for Leaves Eyes from one of the hot tubs. Watching live heavy metal from a Jacuzzi is quite a unique experience 😉

The highlights of the day were the Dark Tranquility and Sabaton gigs in the Alhambra. Mikael Stanne got familiar with the crowd again, the sound was pretty damn good and I thoroughly enjoyed the gig from the first row. Getting some water, revoked my space in the first row and I had to retreat to the very edge of the stage but that also had the advantage to avoid the constant flow of crowd surfers for Sabaton 😉

I rushed back to my room to pack my suitcase, then hurried to catch the rest of Kreator and the announcement of the skipper (the inventor/organizer) of the 70,000 tons of metal. I thought the skipper would make his announcement at the end of the Kreator gig but he did the announcement rather in the last quarter and I missed the beginning of it. I got that much that we broke the previous record and he said that there were people from 75 nations on board 🙂 Our next goal 2019 will again be Haiti, which was a bit of a disappointment to me. I like to go to new places and apart from that they don’t let you out of the Royal Caribbean leased compound and you actually get to see nothing of the real Haiti. We will again be sailing on the Independence of the Seas next year. But the skipper also said that for the year after, there would be a surprise. Since it will be the 10th anniversary of the 70,000 tons of metal, I have the hunch that we might get a bigger boat. It can’t get much bigger but there apparently is the “quantum” class of Royal Caribbean’s ships, which is even bigger than the “freedom” class to which the Independence belongs. Well, we’ll see what happens. If possible I will be back on the boat next year as well, since it’s a bloody awesome thing to have a heavy metal festival on a luxury cruise ship 😉

The last gig of Alestorm was great fun too and we destroyed the duck! At least the air left the beast 😉 Alestorm was a great way to end the cruise. The night was extremely short, since we arrived early in Florida and I was off the ship at around eight in the morning and back in the hotel at ten. They let me into a room at noon which was very decent of them and instead of going to a shopping mall, I preferred to get some shut-eye. Departure happened early the next day and I was up at four in the morning to catch the bus to the airport at five.
Getting to Florida is quite a pain from Japan, but the trip is worth it! Fingers crossed that I will make it onto the lovely boat also in 2019! 😉

70,000 Tons of Metal 2018 – Part 3

A Day at the Grand Turk Island
When we went to Haiti in 2017, we were confined to the patch of land that Royal Caribbean has leased there. To my great pleasure, on the Grand Turk island though, we got to see the real thing. First of all, the island is tiny! There are apparently some 3000 people living there.

I left the boat at around ten in the morning and wandered up and down the amazing beach next to the ship for a bit before resting from the super intense sun at a beach bar.

Then I had booked what Royal Caribbean calls an excursion. In my case a bus tour in an open bus/jeep around the island. It was sold as one of the excursions where members of a band attend and in our case it was the band Wolfchant, folk metal from Germany. However, there were three buses and no band member was on mine 😉
Our local driver and guide drove us around the island explaining things and we saw the entirety of the Grand Turk island within two hours. That’s it, the island is that small. It’s highest elevation is lower than the ship, making the ship the biggest and tallest structure on the island as long as it is there.

In colonial times the main industry of the island was the production of salt from artificial sea water basins. Those are now abandoned and apart from fishing, the only industry on the island is tourism. It is a British protectorate. I’ve been on plenty of islands, but I’ve never seen an ocean so blue and turquoise as on the Grand Turk. The ocean was absolutely amazing.

The island was hit heavily by two of the hurricanes of the 2017 hurricane season and about half of the roofs of the island were still under repair, some houses looked abandoned. It’s hard to imagine what this paradise looks like during a hurricane and I’m almost surprised the island is still there! It’s so flat and small! Amazing that it emerged from the waves again…

At the end of the tour I happily did some souvenir shopping, with the thought in mind to support the locals.
Back on the boat, the gigs stared again at 17:00, our departure time. I wandered around deck twelve mostly filming the island, the incredible ocean and our departure while Germany’s Apokalyptischen Reiter were playing on the pool deck.

A few miles out I spotted some dolphins who were playing with the draft of the ship and were wildly jumping around. Heavy metal dolphins! 😉
Music wise the highlight of that day was my second discovery, again melodic death metal from Finland, a rather new band called Wolfheart. I shall check them out soon!

70,000 Tons of Metal 2018 – Part 2

Day 1 and 2 of 70,000 Tons of Metal
A first highlight of the gigs for me was the Finnish band Insomnium, a melodic death metal act, which seems to be my preferred heavy metal sub genre at the moment 😉 Their gig in the ice rink was especially nice because for one song Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquility came to support them. An awesome gig and the band is one of my two “discoveries” from the cruise. I shall check out their stuff in more detail once I’m back home. Trash giants Kreator were a must and I watched them from a safe distance in the Alhambra filming a nice “wall of death”, difficult to achieve in the Alhambra 😉

A word about the stages. There is the pool deck, which only operates from day two onwards and is being constructed in record time. It’s built over two pools on deck eleven and as soon as the boat arrives from its previous voyage, the pool is drained and the work crew constructs the beast within some 24 hours. The Alhambra is the in-built theater of the boat. The ice rink is quickly covered and the smallest stage is the pyramid lounge, the boat’s biggest bar on a normal cruise.
The boat leaves at 17:00 on a Thursday, sails the entirety of Friday and arrives at the destination port on Saturday morning.

Friday is a super busy day, the pool deck stage is ready for action and there are also all “meet and greet” sessions on that day. I was up and about from around 9:00, chasing from one gig to the other and I squeezed four meet and greets into the schedule. The first one wasn’t planned, but after seeing Alestorm on the pool deck in the morning in the first row, I decided to get my banana duck t-shirt signed 😉 for the other three target bands I had brought album booklets, Dark Tranquility, Sabaton and Primal Fear. I also like the meet and greets because you get to chat with the people waiting in line around you. We broke a record again this year with 75 nations on board!

While the Sabaton guys seemed a bit stressed by all the attention and the crew allowed pictures with only three people at a time, the other bands were more “personal” and you got to take pictures with them on your own, nicely provided by 70,000 tons staff.
The gig highlights of the day were Sabaton on the pool deck, followed by Dark Tranquility on the pool deck as well. I managed to get my favorite first row both times, if at the edge of the stage. One downer was that it was raining quite heavily during the Sabaton gig, but thankfully the rain stopped for Dark Tranquility. I had seen Dark Tranquility twice before, once at Japan’s Loud Park and once at Finland’s Nummirock. Both times the stages were far away from the audience. It also depends on the festival rules I suppose, but neither time did Mikael Stanne jump off stage into the audience. He did so happily at 70,000 tons and was singing right in front of us bathing in the crowd and helping out with the crowd surfers. Wow! What a day, all meet and greets done and first rows for three of the gigs. 🙂

70,000 Tons of Metal 2018 – Part 1

After having been on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise for the first time in 2017 and having thoroughly enjoyed it, I decided to do this again and off I went to Florida once more. After a long but uneventful flight to Dallas and Fort Lauderdale, I arrived at the airport at about 14:00 local time and phoned my hotel asking for the complementary shuttle bus to pick me up. The hotel… last year I stayed at the Ramada Airport and Cruise port Fort Lauderdale and had wanted to book it again. When I went on booking dot com, something saying Ramada came up and the photo looked like the entrance of the Ramada I know and I booked it last year. Then, in January, I had to fill in the ESTA to get into the US and they ask for your address in the US and I noticed something was odd. The hotel I had booked said Ramada Plaza something. Uh? Wasn’t it supposed to say something about airport and cruise? I went back on booking dot com and realized I had booked the wrong hotel! The Plaza something is far away from the airport and everything else… Luckily I managed to change the booking. But, two of my friends from last year made the same mistake! They ended up having to go to the other Ramada and had to pay 50 USD with an Uber and 120 USD with a taxi to bloody get there! Uah! I’m damn lucky that I noticed something was wrong about the name of the hotel.

Trying to stay awake a bit, I hung out with other metal heads at the bar in the garden of the hotel, nicely getting in the mood 🙂
After a jet lagged night, off we went to the boat! What a pleasant sight to see the Independence of the Seas again towering over the Port of the Everglades 🙂
Last year the boat came in late apparently and they made us wait in the big waiting area of the cruise port, but this year it was a smooth going on board and after the check in and photo we could wander on board just like that. The staterooms (I still don’t know why they are not called cabins) were not ready yet, so everyone met at the Windjammer cafe.

It felt like home coming, really. Last year, I was overwhelmed by the size of the ship and gaping at everything and exploring everything, this time it was like, yeah, back on the boat! Everything is still there, the car on the promenade, the ice cream dispenser on the pool deck ;-).

After lunch in the Windjammer, they let us into our rooms by 13:00 and luggage could be dumped. At 16:00 we had the security drill and then off to the stern of the boat. First time around I did not find the access to the stern on the first day and witnessed our leaving from deck 12, this time, I knew the way and headed straight to the stern at deck 4 and watched out departure. I just love that sound of the mighty horn blowing signaling that the big, fat boat is leaving harbor!

The departure was at 17:00 and at 17:00 also the first band was supposed to play and it was Primal Fear who had the honor to open the musical part of the 70,000 tons of metal 2018. Primal Fear happens to be an old favorite of mine and after we left port I rushed to the venue. Luckily they were running a bit late and I arrived just in time for Primal Fear to start 🙂 here we go!

Things You Can’t Buy with Money

I have many passions: writing, heavy metal music, movies, traveling, to name the most important ones. There are some smaller passions too like riding my bicycle, playing the piano, chocolate, a tiny bit of gardening and so forth.
At work I do not talk about writing and my books, but since I’m a talkative person, I am making no secret out of being a big heavy metal fan and traveling around the world for concerts and festivals. Thus I am talking about Wacken and 70,000 tons of metal when I go for lunch with colleagues, or I tell one of the colleagues who already knows that I’m a metal head enthusiastically on the way home that Amon Amarth is coming to Japan again for the first time in four years (and I missed them four years ago). The lady’s comment struck me quite a bit as she said, “ah, I wish I had a passion like you”.
My sister and I are calling it the “fan gene” and I am sure I have made a blog entry about this topic in the past as well, but who cares. I honestly feel sad for people who do not have a “fan gene” or a passion that makes their blood boil. It is ridiculously important to have your blood boil in a positive way from time to time! It releases stress, it keeps your mind healthy and sane! When you look forward like a little kid to getting on the boat again (70,000 tons of metal in five days, baby) despite being over forty, that is goddamn necessary and I kid you not, a key to happiness. When you look forward to seeing another country, another island, going on an adventure, you can take on more stuff with a smile on your face. If you have no passions like that, man, how dull must life be.
But the thing is, if you don’t have the “fan gene” you simply don’t have it, you can’t force it, either you love it or you don’t. Learning to love something is in my humble opinion only possible to a limited extent.
The passion can cost a lot of money, but the experience you get out of it is priceless and I regret nothing. Do what you wanna do, as long as you can do it, before old age, illness, or crazy politicians put an end to the fun.
I shall meet another 4000 people or so who think the same way in a couple of days if the planes don’t crash or the doomsday clock doesn’t advance to midnight.
Cheers! And in the picture – that’s my gear for the coming week 😉

Amami Oshima Report – Part 3 – Fishing Villages and Habu Snakes

On the first of January I made a bicycle day again and had a lovely time on a very fine day riding around and going critter photo hunting on the beach. I came across numerous starfish and sea urchins. The full moon for New Year also gave a wonderful display over the ocean that night.

On the second of January I thought I had to appreciate the full size of the island and rode with two busses (one had to change busses in Naze) to the southern end of Amami, a town called Koniya. The entire ride took two hours one way. One guy from the hotel said, oh in the past it took even longer to get there because there were no tunnels yet. Indeed there are several new looking tunnels close to the southern end, the longest of them 4200 meters. In nearly every corner that has decent access to the sea there is a fishing village comprised out of twenty, thirty houses, even inland there are several villages like that mostly to farm citrus fruits. Koniya turned out to be a super sleepy place, all very Showa-era. The beaches and landscape are utterly beautiful but the towns are fishing and not tourist towns, since they are too far away from the airport and in the north of the island. Closer to the airport are as beautiful beaches and landscape as well. It was interesting to see the difference of the tourist side of the island, the north, and the working side of the island far from the airport. From my island study point of view (looking for the perfect island to retire to) it was an important trip to make this bus ride to the south.

On my last half day before flying back to Tokyo and Yokohama I borrowed a bicycle again and discovered also a sleepy fishing village in the north before spending some more time at my favorite beach on the Pacific side.
One of the hotel staff was bringing me by free shuttle to the airport and we were chatting during the ride. He was in his thirties, was born on Amami but lived in Tokyo for ten years and now he returned. Somehow the conversation came back to the Habu snakes. He said that if you catch a Habu and bring it to a pharmacy they give you 3000 yen for it. Especially kids are making a sport out of Habu hunting/catching. In the past you got 5000 yen for one snake, but that resulted in too many caught snakes, so they reduced the price money! When he was a kid a Habu entered the bed room of his parents and his dad killed the beast! Kya! Last but not least he personally knows only of one guy who got his leg amputated because a snake bit him and that was an elderly man back when he was a kid. I still don’t know how to kill a Habu 😉 Personal Habu sightings during my trip? Zero 😉

It was a lovely trip to Amami and the next target is already fixed too, Tokonoshima south of Amami, between Amami and Okinawa, which is much smaller and apparently more of a “real” tourist island. Let’s see when I’ll be able to get there, not for golden week this year, that’s already booked for a bigger and more exotic island, New Caledonia 😉