First Message From The Land Of The Rising Sun
luckybastard84
Hello Everyone,
It's been a quite a long while!
Wooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!

Let's get right down to it, shall we?
Japan has been, and is, a wonderful place. The people always have smiles on their faces when they're at work.. All the time!
Growing up in the U.S. there are only rare moments that you notice someone actually enjoying their work, or faking it and smiling as much as they can. The places... It's another world entirely here; the large assortment of different types of architecture, the shrines, and the temples are built with such care and made to last. The history here is truly rich. The weather is great. I live in Kamagaya, and it is currently the fall season. It's not too bad at all, and I'm grateful that I was born and raised in MI.. I have missed the change of seasons and am grateful that I can experience that in this country. It won't be snowing that much here at all, but it'll be cold enough to wear a scarf and a jacket at least. A few days ago, I experienced my first typhoon. I've been in tornado weather before and it was totally different. It wasn't warm and humid outside, it was cool and breezy. The only thing they both have in common was the windy factor. Nothing bad happened to me, and most people were all safe. I read that four people died in Nagoya, but that was the extent of casualties. 

I arrived here on the 15th of August, at night. I was wearing pants and a long sleeved shirt, everyone else was wearing t-shirts and shorts... The scruffy ALT that was picking me up looked at me and said, "You're definitely wearing the wrong clothes right now." I didn't want to offend anyone, especially I had tattoos. Better to be safe than sorry when it's my first time in a country that has true stigmas against tattoos. We arrived at the hotel (Narita Hotel) and it was quite nice. I was just super tired though, and wanted to go to sleep.
The next day, I woke up and had the first training seminar. It was nice to meet all the other people from all over that were undergoing this adventure too. There were all different types of people and it's always great to meet new people. While there, we all met Cedric. Cedric... A man of many words. Haha! He's a good guy, but he will definitely tear you down and rebuild you back up. The other officials were nice, but they were definitely a little weird. One guy kept on moving damn eyebrows around like was in 50's black and white cartoon. It was fucking ridiculous at times and a lot of jokes were running through my head. I had a smile every time. People that truly know me know when I have a smirk on my face when no one has said anything that it's something inapproriately hilarious that I'm thinking. Training seminar was great.

After a week of meeting new people and experiencing/learning how the company (Interac) works, it was time to move in to my place in Kamagaya. 

Kamagaya is a great place and people have accepted with open arms here. The second day I was here I decided to go running. While running, a little kid ran up to me and gave me a high five. It was pretty cool and put a huge smile on my face. This town is definitely a family orientated place, which isn't bad, but I do have to travel if I want to do any drinking or such. Even that's not a hassle since it only takes about 15min to get somewhere by train.
There are other ALTs that live close to me, but it's still a little bit of a journey. It seems that most people have other ALTs that live close to them, and I'm happy that I don't. Some nights are lonely, but overall I'm experiencing much more by throwing myself in to situations and finding things out for myself. After having most people show me the ropes around Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I finally got my wish and had to do all the scouting for myself. It's been rewarding, and I've talked to some amazing Japanese people. Hell! I met an old lady at a grocery store that wanted me to tutor her. Her name is, Michi. She's a very genuine person, and she told me to call her my adopted Japanese grandmother. While I'm tutoring in English, she'll be teaching Japanese. She always stops by my place to drop off random food. Japanese food is so good. And, the people... Nothing but smiles on my face with every interaction I've had with these people.

Work has been great! I work at four high schools; Shiroi High School, Inba Meisei High School, Funabashi Kita High School, Matsudo Koyo High School. The last two high schools I only work at one-two times a month. I start my first day at Funabashi Kita on Tue., and I'm excited to see what that school is like. Shrioi has been great so far. The students and the teachers are wonderful, and I even have a fan club at that school. It's still weird to think about that, but it's quite a compliment too. Every time, Rina and Chizuru come in to see me, they always yell, "I Love You!" All I can do is start laughing and say, "Thank you for that wonderful compliment." Inba Meisei has been breath of fresh air too. I've joined a Kendo class there, the students and teachers are amazing there, and the teachers invite me to lift weights with them after school all the time. I've showed them different lifting techniques and they've helped me out. This coming weekend, I'll be enjoying my first enkai. Enka: a social drinking meeting. I'm excited, and I also have my first date. Her name is, Natsumi Narushima. She's an English teacher at Inba Meisei, and we just hit it off. We meet each other at Shin Kamagaya Train Station and walk to school together, also leave school together. This Sat., we're both going on an adventure during the day/night and I'm really looking forward to it. It's always special to see through the eyes of a native in any country. Next year, she's heading to the US to work at an internship. She doesn't know what state she'll be in yet, but she's hoping it's a sunny place. At Inba Meisei, I just finished a Sport's Festival Day. It was tremendously entertaining to see everyone have such a good time. This festival had the student classes competing in basketball, soccer, dodge ball, and baseball. All of the students had such a big smile on their face. Classes are difficult for them, so it's great to see that they have days where there job is to just simply enjoy themselves. 

To keep in the tradition of being healthy, I've been gearing up and organizing my running event schedule. I have three marathons that I'm doing so far. There is the Nagoya City 1/2 Marathon. I'm doing this marathon with my friend, Erin Mathias (Snow Flake). After that, it is the Mt. Fuji Marathon... You actually get to run up fucking Mt. Fuji!!! This will be a full marathon. Last, but probably not least, is the Great Wall Marathon. This will be in China and during the summer. It won't be easy, because there will be no shade other than the random clouds in the sky, but I'm going to do it. I've been training hardcore for these three events and feeling great each time I run. 

Japan is my new home. I'm planning on living here for quite a long while, and I don't know when I'll want to move away. This country is great and I love it here. Others are more than welcome to visit, and you'll have a place to stay. I am now settled and done moving from country to country for a while. For those that are not able to visit me, I'll back in the US visiting people next summer. 

My late friend, Rodger Swan, loved this country beyond words. I'm happy that I finally got to fulfill my promise to him long ago and seeing/experiencing what he did.

Take care of yourselves and each other. 

A Promise That Lasts a Lifetime
luckybastard84
 Hello Everyone,

It has been quite a long while and I owe you all an apology.... I now take this moment to say, I'm sorry.... Alright, now that we have that little ordeal out of the way lets get started!

Writing this journal feels quite different from what it felt like a couple of years ago. Over the course of two years, I've grown up quite a bit. Shall we start at the beginning?

It's been a little over a year since one of my best friends passed away. Rodger Swan was, and will always will be, a great man that strived for what he wanted in life. Seeing him open up to life was such a beautiful thing. It has been little over a year since his passing, but I find myself inspired by him. I had dinner with my friend, Jason Elkins, and we agreed that it's tragic that both of us were inspired after his passing to truly live life and strive for what we wanted. There are probably countless others out there that feel the same way or have probably experienced something similar, and my heart goes out to you all. Since that conversation, my dreams have been goals and each are manifesting in to reality. It hasn't been easy and there have been hard times, but I'm happy. Happier than I have ever been. Soon, I would realize that those trying times of achieving a goal will have bumps.

Unfortunately, I have experienced loss again. My grandfather has passed away about a week ago. While in Michigan this summer, I stopped by his house, and the hospice, two times a week. I talked to him about everything; life, death, national problems, international problems, sports, family, and personal goals. On a Wednesday (of the second month that I was in Michigan), he told me something amazing. He said,

"Stephen, I'm not afraid of death. Now, I'm just tired and I've lived long enough. Everything that I've seen has been both, good and bad, but one thing that I'm proud of is you, your mom, and brother... Promise me one thing. Promise me that you'll see everything that life has to offer. I can tell you love traveling. Never give it up."
This promise is one that I will keep forever. I don't know where my life will take me, but this adventure that I'm living will never stop. It can't... My life, and everyones, has a beautiful aesthetic that their eyes view everyday. Life is a changing portrait with so many moments that truly define who we are... There is no telling when I'll be done experiencing everything that which is out there in world, and when it is my time to pass, I will be able to say that everything has been amazing. I love my grandfather and my good friend, Rodger Swan. They have forever inspired me and they will always be with me wherever I go.

This vacation that I took was very long and training for triathlons took up a lot of my time. While I was training, I started to notice that my friends were changing. It true that things don't stay the same, but I was being selfish in the matter that I didn't want my friends to change, but it was alright if I did. I almost lost a good friend named, Mark Crider. There comes a time when you start to see friendships change the older you get. I know that some friendships don't last as long as what one would originally think, and I took that personally. This is where I was becoming selfish. We all change and I wasn't understanding that. We all have our own baggage of problems, jobs to make us busy, and overall different priorities. Why did I take this personally? Mark and I sat down twice to talk about this. The second meeting we had is when I had my epiphany. Hahaha!!! Sometimes you need to beat your head against the wall to see why you, an individual,  act (think) a certain way. The reason was because I was scared. Let me tell you, life moves very fast and when it comes to truly relocating somewhere, not only physically but also mentally, you want to hold on to everything that you remember in the most positive light. You never want to let it seep through your hands. That is what I was feeling with some of my friendships so I became selfish in trying not to let those people progress. I know... It's a pretty dick move. I realized I was doing this though. Especially with my friend, Mark, more than anyone. The future is uncertain with everything. There are an infinite number of possibilities that could happen in an individuals life. This is what scared me. The fact that people wouldn't be in my life as they were in the past. Maybe I'll be the one that doesn't talk to a certain friend, I really don't know. Only time will tell. I am excited for the future, but the next chapter will always be scary because there is no way of knowing how life will play out. So, rather than having a grim outlook on my friendships, I just need to take a step back and enjoy my friends. I thank you, Mark Crider. You will always be a brother to me and if anything, that conversation has made our friendship that much stronger. 

As many of you know from my past photos online, I was recently in Cologne, Germany. I was visiting my friend, Sarah Lutze. She's a great person and we are not boyfriend and girlfriend anymore, but it was for good reason why we split. We were just too different. That's not a bad thing at all, it's just a realization that actually made us realize that we are better as friends. I'm still traveling everywhere (probably will for a long time) and she's standing firm in Cologne. The conversation we had was great. It was just being honest, and it's interesting that that is the hardest thing for people to do with another but you end up feeling good when you say everything that you want to say. I highly suggest that you (whomever is reading this) start practicing that if you haven't already. 
While in Germany, I of course saw Cologne. Cologne is an amazing place with so much beauty and wide range of individuals. We also went to Hamburg and Munich. Bother equally as great and the food. The fucking food!!!! So good! Beer is not a drink that care for that much, but while there in Germany, I had some great beer. The beer tastes so different from city to city. Haxen! You need to try this if you are anywhere in Germany. It reminds me of the monstrous meat that's still on the bone on Flintstones cartoons. Divine and filling... Ha! It was great and Germany is a beautiful place with so much life. Everyone is outside having a picnic, simply walking, cycling, running, or just lying around enjoying the day. Simply beautiful. We also were able to go to Paris, France. When people have the right away to walk between blocks cars do not like that rule. They will still act like they have the right away. There were a couple of close calls. The French people though are very nice. I didn't a rude person at all and wondering where that stereotype really came from. All that I met were actually very helpful and cool. Life is never what you expect sometimes which is why things are better perceived once you personally experience it.


Now, I'm about to start my next adventure/chapter. I'm leaving for Tokyo, Japan, today. I'll be there for a week until I leave for Funabashi, Japan. In Funabashi, I'll be working at a high school and I am excited yet scared. It's only natural, but overall I know it's my nerves just being overly excited for something so new.
I promised Rodger that I would meet him there, and I always keep my promises.
This is an experience that I've been waiting for for a long while. Everything that I've experienced led me to this point. What waits for me in Japan is a mystery, but I'll be sure to keep you all updated. Plus, my pictures will let you be my eyes in viewing what I have seen.

I love you all and hope that you're dreams are being pursued to the fullest. We all have different points of self-realization, and I wish you all the luck in finding out what makes you happy. Once you find it, never let go and pursue it furiously.


My blog will be updated the first week of every new month. I promise.

Take care of yourselves and each other.

Best Wishes,

~Stephen Jackson

What is in a name?
luckybastard84
Wooooooooo!
First off, let me apologize for writing an entry so late. I needed to be inspired and that has finally happened.

Since I was a baby, my mom (Brenda Jackson), has always told me that my name means, Dreamer. In late '10 to present, I have finally came to the conclusion that this is true. Just within this past year I've been striving for everything that I dreamt about. I see the big picture now, and it's the best feeling that I've ever felt. I've dived in to life itself and am surrounded by positive energy. This new chapter that I find myself in is what I've been waiting for. I've been told, by Sarah Lutze, "Why question everything why things are good? Just live life."

I'll be working in Japan in September, taking photographs is now a passion of mine, and achieved becoming a man in the process. There is nothing that can stop me from reaching my next goal, and that realization is what guides me through this crazy world. Now, there are some things that happen in life that act as a bump in the road. I'll be getting to all of those in a little bit, but the way I see things now is to keep on striving for what I know I need to do... And, achieve.

It's been a little over a year since one of my best friends has passed away. Rodger Swan was one of the greatest friends that I've ever had. He was a brother to me. I still don't have total closure over his death, and I know I never will. Personally, I feel that I need to go to Japan to feel closer to him. I wish I could've been there at the funeral because it would've helped with me coping. None the less,  I'm keeping my promise to him.
This year brings some heartache, but towards someone that is in my family. My grandfather, Blan Hayes, is a person that helped raise me. My grandmother passed in 2009 and it seems that my grandfather will be passing sometime soon; though, my grandfather is so stubborn that even death will find it hard to shut him up. His willingness to live life to the fullest has been a shining light for me. He truly knows that life is short, yet he's still living everyday the best he can. He's dying from cancer, but he doesn't let that get him down. He now tells me a lot of stories from his past. They're always quite enjoyable to listen to. He was definitely a true adventure seeker and it makes me feel closer to him that much more. Just last year was the first time that he told me that he loved me and was proud of the man that I've become. I did cry when I got back in to my rental car... To just hear that from a man that has a mentality of a 1950's man, a true man's man, was a  true honor. I love my grandfather and am really looking forward to seeing him next week. I have pictures of the world that I need to show him.

In '08 and early '09 I thought my world was falling apart. I just didn't really have any direction that I was fond of or... Shit! I just didn't know what the hell I was doing. Now, I'm completely in control. I'm striving for something special, and I'm living life to the fullest while traveling to my destination. This world is filled with self doubt and too many pessimistic views, and I'm just done with it all. These are the words of a true dreamer...The words of never surrendering and never giving up. I can officially say that the word, "can't," is no longer in my vocabulary anymore.

The journey to get back in to the states was nothing short from an adventure... Ha!
That journey can only be explained as fucking ridiculous. 
I arrived at the airport at 3:30am, and I was super tired. I go up to check in window, and the man tells me that their computers are down so they have to give me plane tickets manually rather than printing something out from the computer system. I only had one question for him, "Is my luggage going all the way to San Diego?"
The Man: "Yes, your luggage is going all the way to San Francisco!"
Me: "Excuse me... It should be going to San Diego."
The Man: "Oh yes!... It's going to San Diego, Sir."

Right away, I knew this guy was full of shit; though, I trusted him and just went with it.

I get on the plane and just sink in to the somewhat uncomfortable flight seat. Half hour later, I was still there. The captain comes on the intercom and says, "Sorry folks the luggage crew is having trouble putting some of the luggage in the bottom of the plane."
I started to become nervous because I had a connecting flight in England that was leaving in 30min once I landed. Yeah, by the time we got to England, I had to rush to a different part of the airport with only 2mins to spare. The woman looked at me and said, "You must be Stephen Jackson." 
Me: "Yes, and I'm so sorry for cutting it so close. I swear this wasn't my fault at all."

I arrive in New York, and I think all my problems/troubles are behind me. Nope!
You know when you get that feeling to look behind you? It's just an internal voice saying, "You should really turn around right now."
I turn around and see my luggage on the luggage conveyer. I couldn't believe it. That man in Saudi's international airport didn't know what the hell he was talking about. Ha!
I checked my luggage once again, and I was happy that listened to my gut on this one. 

Now, I officially think it's smooth sailing. Yet, I was wrong again. Flights to San Diego out of New York were being cancelled. This was because the weather was too terrible for flights to take off. My flight was on time though, so I thought. When people with first class tickets started boarding the plane I was going to be on within 2mins people started coming off of the plane and yelling, "The goddamn plane is broken!"
My face just became sunken and I just wanted to get back to San Diego. The trouble was something to do with one of the engines. We switched flights and I left New York at 12:30am. This was by far the longest journey I've taken on plane. As soon as I got back to San Diego I just slept like a baby.
Right away I had to smile though, because these are the type of adventures that keep me on my toes. Deep down, I know I wouldn't want it any other way. Just another adventure for this new chapter.

Itinerary before Japan:
Michigan
Georgia
Chicago
Germany (Sarah Lutze)
Netherlands
Belgium

Alright everybody.
Till next time, take care of yourselves and each other.

Life is too short people; so, start believing in yourselves. 

~Stephen Jackson


The Ending of the Chapter.
luckybastard84
 There are many things that I've been grateful for, but this experience of traveling the world has changed me. My mind has become more open, my senses seem heightened, I'm healthier, and I have a great outlook on life, in general, that can't be broken down by anyone or anything... I'm truly centered. 

The experiences that I've had in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia have been tough at times and extremely good. The good definitely outweighs the bad, but that's what we all hope for, in that life will steer us in a direction where we will find true happiness. The problems that seem like boulders, but are truly tiny problems, look like pebbles. I now know what matters in my life and what things that I'll take a leap for. I haven't been an angel to many people, and I've come to terms with that; though, I know it's never too late to regain what I once was. I was a child with sparks of adventure in my eyes when I was born, and now I'm a man that has a burning truthful heart on my sleeve, with rekindled sparks in my eyes. I know that there will be bumps in the road, but nothing will make me miss a step or question who I know I am. My soul is the strongest it's ever been, and the amazing thing is that it's still growing at a fast pace.

This month coming to a close I look back on the students that I've had a privilege in meeting. My group one has been tremendously amazing; they work hard, they're interested in learning about the world, they have a burning heart for adventure, and they're modest. They are perfect representatives of their country. I have no doubt that they will go far in whatever they decide. I told my good friend, Sarah Lutze, about my group one students, and I told her that I can see major changes happening in KSA because these students are going to bring upon the changes. To see that desire/hunger in someone's eyes is second to none. It sticks with you throughout your life. Seeing this also rekindled my desire to forever go for what makes me happy. My second group is unfortunately nothing like my first. There is no desire and they want the easy way out of everything. Definitely polar opposites... For example, one of my students from my first came in to my second group to ask a question about a test. The students in my second group amazingly surprised that he could speak English so well, they just marveled at what they just witnessed. You could probably guess what they did right after that, they just started their same routine of not caring and doing everything but learning. My second group and I had quite real conversation on Sunday. Ha! Story time...
I was giving them a practice quiz over unit 5 to help them prepare for the final that's in a few days, and all they were doing was getting on their cell phones, yelling at each other, reading the news paper... Pretty much doing everything other than learning. So, asked them to do a matching exercise that would help write a complete sentence. All they did was just guess... I was just so frustrated that I decided to stop class and have a regular conversation with them. I asked, "What do you think you'll get on the final next week?"
Their response, "Very bad grade teacher." 
Me,"Why do you think that?"
Them, "It's teacher Asif's fault."
Mind you, Asif told me that to be a teacher here you need to be a doormat. Hmmm... Some people just should just not be teachers at all. Asif tells the students that he'll mark them present and that they can go home after that, so, the students learn nothing from their main teacher. I understand that Asif is to blame for only 50%, but the rest of the 50% lies on the shoulders of the students. I told them that, and they said no it's not. I then continued asking them, "When I ask you if you have any questions before class, do you say anything? When I'm teaching you new things do any you bother paying attention?" 
The class was dead silent. I wasn't yelling them, on the contrary, I was being calm, collective, and stern, because it was the reality of the entire situation. They knew it was partially their fault and you could see it on their faces, that realization that they let themselves down. None of the students in my second group belong in the university. They belong in high school and I told them that. I've had the privilege of knowing a Saudi student from high school named, Mohammed, and he almost speak English fluently and has a desire in learning Spanish. Mohammed puts them to shame. I asked the simple question of what is a verb and none of them could answer it. One student after 2 minutes of waiting said the word "the". I just looked at them in astonishment and said we went over this at least eight times, utilizing at least ten different practice sheets that would help them. I told them to bring a review sheet that we didn't finish the day before and none them brought it. I felt sorry for them, because they let themselves down, and they realized that. If they had a different main teacher it might've made a difference, but the cards weren't in their favor. When the cards were in their hands they decided to throw them down. It's sad, but sometimes we need to learn a lesson harshly to move on. I wish them all the luck and I truly hope they learned a lesson. The face of letting yourself down is universal and I remember when I had that face before. Looking in a mirror and wishing that I made, or went a different direction in my life at a certain time. All these students need to know is that  they have the power to change for the better, and appreciate the effort that a stranger is going through to help them better themselves.

This seems like I'm slandering everything here, but believe me, I'm not doing that at all. It's just something that I hope they all figure out sometime later in their life... Hopefully, sooner rather than later.

The swan song of this entire experience was spending the night in Thumamah. Spending the night in the desert was an incredible experience that everyone should accomplish at some point in their life. It isn't like spending the night in a forest. You feel changed after spending the night in the desert... You see every star in the sky, dim lights from the city miles away, and yourself. For a place that is scarce for supporting life, it's contradicting because I just became full circle after the experience. The only technology I had with me was my computer to skype Sarah Lutze (a promise is a promise). After that, nothing but the fire, great food, and great company. Thank you to Saad and his cousins for showing me the true culture of Saudi Arabia. I'll never forget it and I'm deeply grateful.

I've met amazing people and have had great adventures. There are a lot of people to thank so let's get to it: Brian P., Przemek, the two Daves, Bilal, Brendon, Charlie, Staci, Corrie, Peter H., Pierre, Kasia, Shish, Nicole, Saad, Anthony, Nassar, Dr. P., Jason, Michael, Robin, Shuab, Jackson, Dawud, Chris W., CJ, Muneer, Morgan K., Zac, Hamoud,  Josh, Tammi, Tracy, and the others that I forgot, I apologize and thank you for helping me stay sane. I wish you all the luck and happiness in whatever adventure you choose to live. A special thank you to the always wonderful, Sarah Lutze, for keeping in touch and leading me down another fantastic adventure in the future.
Now, I'm training for two sprint triathlons, going to California, Georgia, Chicago, Michigan, Germany, and then Japan. In Germany, I'll be with Sarah Lutze having many adventures that will stick with me forever...

Yep, it's time for a new beginning. I am eager to see what new adventures await in the newest chapter of my life.

Go out there to have an adventure everybody, that is the best advice that offer you all.
Life is just too precious and too short.

Be the person that you always desired in becoming.

~Stephen W. Jackson

Lost+Found=Joy
luckybastard84
Hola!
Wow!!! What adventure it has been so far. From landing in Riyadh, to soon getting on another plane to Barcelona, and traveling to Madrid just to get back to Riyadh. Hahahaha... You can say I just needed a few days to become a vegetable. 

Through the mind set of losing things that are not attached to you by blood there are two routes; you could bitch/moan/complain about how your backpack was stolen, or you could realize those are materialistic things that you're able to purchase later on. I chose the latter. 

While purchasing the ticket, I should've realized that traveling to, and staying in Barcelona, was not going to be any simple trip.
I arrived in Barcelona, Spain, at 5am. I'm not fluent in Spanish, nor in Catalan (language only indigenous to Barcelona). Right away the signs were there saying, "Stephen you should've done some research!". In all fairness, it wouldn't be me if I decided to do research. It's fun just to get lost sometimes; all though, in this sense it probably wasn't the best idea.

I took the Blue Bus from Barcelona's international airport. Right away, I could tell everyone was tired, including myself. There is a universal physical sign of being tired: slobbering, snoring, rubbing both eyes profusely, etc. Everyone that was on the flight was doing this. The Blue Bus stopped at its last stop, Plaza Catalunya. Plaza Catalunya, is the center of Barcelona. The structures surrounding the Catalunya Plaza are gorgeous, especially when the sun is rising. There's literally nothing like it. Haunting statues that have been there for ages mixed with contemporary  buildings, a subway, and of course the always curious pick pocketers/thieves. I didn't know that this was the place that they thrive in. I was wondering around to look for my friend, Ashley Babcock. Ashley is a friend from San Diego, and she is an English tutor in Barcelona. I walked around Plaza Catalunya two times, before I decided to sit down, and relax. I figured that she was on her way. A couple hours had passed and then I started to become worried. Reality started setting in and I didn't know what the hell to do. I started asking random people if the was for sure Plaza Catalunya, and they all replied with, "yes", "si",  or a simple shake up-n-down of the head. Then, I made the dreadful mistake of setting my backpack down next to my leg.. Definitely the wrong move. Within thirty minutes a random man came up, sat down next to me, and started speaking in Spanish (or possibly Catalan). To talk to him I had to turn my head. When I turned my bag was in my blind spot, so I couldn't tell what was going on. I told him, "I'm sorry I don't speak Spanish." He then looked very perplexed, and said something again in Spanish while facing me. Again, I said, "I don't speak Spanish." The distractor then said, "Ok", and went on his merry way. I looked down at my bag and then it was nowhere to be found. If my mouth could relate to what I was thinking at that very moment it was this, "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!". For about ten minutes I was thinking of what to do, then I calmed myself down. All that was in my backpack were a towel and washcloth, international input adaptor, and my cell phone. As I said before, this is when I just decided to say, "Fuck it.", If they want those things so badly they can take them. I have my wallet and my passport, those are the major things. And, it's not like they stole one of my family members, so everything was replaceable. I know I can get those things back in good time. It was one of those moments when you realize what is truly important in life. I still had everything with me, just not a few materialistic items. I knew I would be fine. I talked to stranger later who let me barrow her cell phone, and I called Ashley. Ashley let me know that she sent me message on my phone that she has a student, and she can't come to meet me for a few hours. I quickly told her what happened and she felt so terrible. I was actually alright with it. Shit happens. I started walking around, and I just fell in love with scenery. The sun was out, everyone was venturing everywhere, and with so many different languages that my ears were picking up, I was in heaven. I decided to sit back down after a couple of hours, and that's when I saw Ashley walking my way. She quickly gave me a big hug, and apologized for my stuff being stolen. She truly felt bad, but it wasn't her fault at all. I should've known to watch my stuff more vigorously. After all of this, the true aspect of seeing Barcelona began.

Ashley and I, hopped on the train to go to her place. The train went from underground to exposing a huge beach that over looked the Mediterranean Sea. It was magnificent. The sun shimmered off of the water of the sea, and you saw people walking, dogs playing. I just never seen people that at peace before. It really was a sight to behold. I quickly became really tired, because my body was trying to get used to everything around me, and being on a plane for a day-n-half didn't help. Ashley told me that she had another tutoring session that she had to go to, and when she left, I just quickly fell on her bed and took a well deserved nap. When you hear the ocean and wind rolling by you sleep like a baby.

An hour went by, Ashley came back and she took me to see what Barcelona has to offer. We walked and walked for hours. There was just so many things to see.  She took me to the famous hotel, Casa Batllo and Casa Mila. They both were the most beautiful abstract hotels that I've seen. Both were built sometime in the 1800's and they definitely are standing the test of time. The hotels aren't up and running anymore, and both are a big a tourist attraction. Things that have been built in the past have an issue of looking dated, but both of Gaudi's hotels defies that logic. They look contemporary and fresh. Antoni Gaudi was a an artist/architect that was definitely ahead of his generation. Even now, he stands alone in what he had created. We went inside Casa Miila, and it was breathtaking: the deep hallways, the amazing chandeliers, diverse door designs, secret rooms, and wide roof top patios. While on top of the patio on the roof, there was a statue a good distance away that was showcasing a man riding a giant bird, with his fist in the air. That was the perfect description of my life.  I've never seen anything like it till then. After, we became lost in the winding cobble stone roads of Barcelona and found, La Cathedral. I took many pictures of this place. I always find it to be grateful to be inside a place that was built on an idea that is bigger than any individual. We found our way  to the rooftop and it was a true sight to behold, you could see all of Barcelona. It was at night too and the city resembled the night sky, all the stars were lit up, and music was playing everywhere; in every nook and cranny around this amazing city. I only understood about five percent why Ashley fell in love with the city, and I was very interested to find out about the amazing lasting effects of Barcelona, Spain.

The next day brought on a new journey. Ashley had students to tutor so I took the opportunity and decided to go out around her neighborhood on my own with camera in hand. The beach is only a few feet away from her apartment, in which the Mediterranean Sea dances. I walked on the beach first while listening to my ipod. It was one of the happiest moments in my life. If you asked a few years ago if I ever thought I would be in Barcelona, Spain, visiting a friend, it would just be wishful thinking. The clouds and the sky were so different from anything that I've seen before. Everyone was out walking, jogging, and sitting while contemplating about life... Possibly, life choices. After that, I decided to journey up hill to find a better view that showcased the beach with the sail boats on the horizon. It was one moment that I was happy to witness such a sight.
When Ashely came back, we went out towards the center of Barcelona again. This time we took the time to see all the little shops, amazing buildings, statues, and an amazing arch structure. This arch type structure was the entrance to Citeu Edellu Park. There was a stunning statue that was in front of the entrance to the park titled, A Rius Y Taulet. We decided to wait to go to the park on a different day, because the weather wasn't all that great. 
I almost forgot to tell you, it was Ashley's birthday. Her roommates, some of the most amazing people that I've ever met, are not originally from Spain, they're actually Argentinian. Helga, and her cousin were over and eating tapas were underway. I've never liked sardines... Actually, I can't really say that, it's just that I haven't given them a try. Believe me, putting sardines on a toothpick with green olives is bliss, it was so good. We had raw clams as well. Needless to say, you can probably already guess what I thought. I love see food and being in a country that was bordering the Mediterranean Sea, you can only imagine how happy I was.
Later, Helga's cousin started telling me about his travels around the world. He told me that he traveled to Scotland without knowing any English at all, just for sheer passion of wanting to go there. He now speaks really well, but he told me how nervous he was and how unsure of himself about traveling to a place that he didn't know the language of, but he stuck it out. After hearing this, I knew my travels weren't going to end sometime soon. He told me that wanted to travel around Asia soon. He didn't know where he was going to end up, but he just has a passion to see what else is out there. We both  agreed that this world is too big to only see, or experience, one place. 

Around ten to ten thirty, dinner time was about to start. Helga's brother, Noel, and his girlfriend, Christina, made traditional Argentinian dishes... I wish I could tell you the names of the dishes, but I can't remember for the life of me. Ha! Sorry.  I know if I asked Ashley she would know, but oh well. The journal entry must go on. While eating we started talking about tv shows. Noel told us that he and Christina liked watching, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia". I just started laughing hysterically. I was so surprised and I thought it was really cool to hear. We started sharing the episodes that we enjoyed. Talked about, 'Green Man'. It was an awesome night. I could tell that Ashley truly enjoyed her birthday. They told Ashley and I that sitcoms, and other shows in Barcelona, aren't that good. The shows are are very juvenile and don't have any substance to them. Drinking so much red wine, eating a lot of food, and reminiscing about things of our past, it was definitely time to get some well deserved for such a great day.

The day after the birthday, I was feeling a little bit groggy, but I wasn't going to let that get me down. Ashely asked me if I would like to go to the Chocolate Museum. My response was yes, and I really wasn't putting the name together. I mean... I was literally thinking that the Chocolate Museum was just a museum with art in it. I really wasn't thinking of  anything chocolaty being in a museum. Ha! I was very much wrong. There were chocolate statues inside. Not like small, child like, chocolate statues, but major, well detailed statues. My two favorite statues were the, "Tin TIn" statuettes, and the, "Dragon Slayer". I had no idea that people could create these magnificent pieces of art with chocolate. I felt more embarrassed that I didn't put it together that I would be seeing chocolate and a museum together. Just one of those moments of being absent minded. Later that night, we went to the greatest bar ever made. It was a Pirate Bar, and it was fucking awesome. The entire theme was about pirates. Amazingly decorative in every possible way, with everyone drinking in good spirits. Hands down, best bar I've been to. Shortly after this, it was bed time because I knew the next day had more sights.

Now, it's Citeu Edellu Park time. It was amazingly bright out, and I knew it was time to see what Citeu Edellu had to offer. While entering the park, you saw all the faces of people smiling, and in good spirits. It was a day that showed that happiness can be universal. Simple smile of either venturing on your own, or with a friend/s. We turned a corner and saw this magnificent fountain. It was called, Gaudi Cascade. Seriously speaking, or in this case writing, this was a sight to behold. The fountain looked like something from a dream. It shows Antoni Gaudi's diverse talent, because there were no abstract shapes whatsoever. It was very monumental and I can only imagine what type of imagination he had, but it's one that we all strive to have. It shows that anything is possible. After staring at the talent of a genius, we went to Museu Picasso. Oh man, nothing can compare to that. I didn't take pictures while inside because I thought it would be in bad taste. I only had a few days before it was time to travel back to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

I knew that I had more things to see and little time to do it. Ashley took me to an amazing beach, to an amazing castle, and then before I knew it, it was time to leave. The process of me leaving was very interesting. Needless to say, it was definitely an adventure. I had missed my flight, because I arrived a little late. The plane was on the ground, but the  booking window was closed. Automatically, I thought, "Oh Shit!". I'm stuck in Barcelona, Spain, which was very true. In all, it wasn't that bad of a thing. I mean, I'm stuck in Barcelona. There are many other places that would be bad to be stuck in. I traveled back to Ashley and told her the bad news. Things happen for a reason I suppose. She helped me purchase another ticket, and I know I owe her big time. When she visits me in Japan I will treat her like queen. I owe her big, and will never forget the amazing gestures that she laid upon me. While waiting for my second time out, she took me to a flamenco show. All I can say is that Spanish women are a different breed all together. I don't mean this as an insult, but as a compliment. The way they move on stage, and how demanding there body is on giving a true performance. There is no show like a flamenco show. Later, Ashley introduced me to Paellas. Fuckin' Delicious!!!! I had octopus ink in mine, and it I thought it would be very bitter. Wow, was I wrong! It had a citrusy, yolk taste to it. Yes, very surprising and ver good. Nothing like being wrong on how things will taste in a positive light. As we all know, some good things must come to an end. 

I made sure not to miss this flight. Nothing too interesting happened while venturing back to RIyadh, Saudi Arabia. Although, Madrid's airport is a ridiculous maze. Nothing is straight forward, and that place resembles life in general. All arrows pointing every which way, with turn arounds, roundabouts, unknown wonders/horrors, and people just trying to keep their sanity. This is probably reflected in most airports, some more than others. 

Through me being lost, found, and then happy, life is a crazy and sometimes painful ride... but I do love it. Through all of this I gained the passion and understanding of Barcelona, Spain. Thank you to my friend, Ashley Babcock, for showing me everything and being one of the best hosts ever. When I'm in Japan it will be tough to out do her on being a great host.

Something I noticed most about this adventure in my life is that things have a working out. No matter how tragic the situation, things work out. Time is definitely something that will come in to play, but realizing what is in your hands, heart, and knowing what truly matters in life will overrule and show any individual things have a way, sometimes a very unique way, of working out.

Take care of yourselves and each other.
Till next month.

Cheers,

~Stephen W. Jackson

This Is What Happens When Traveling...
luckybastard84

Hello Everybody,

A while back ago, I stopped wondering why interesting things happen to me. My mother always told me that, “All three of us are very special and that’s why special things happen to us,” (all three of us being herself, my brother, and myself). I always thought that was just something mothers say... Now, I’m 26 years old and I’m starting to realize that what she’s saying is true. Ha! I couldn’t comprehend why so many interesting things happened to the three of us, and I probably never will. This is why I just came to the conclusion to just accept the specialness that has been bestowed upon my family and I. For those of you that truly know me, you know that interesting situations/circumstances find it comforting in searching me out. I agree with you that these adventures are quite entertaining, and more than overly ridiculous. In some cases I am left speechless. As you guessed it, my second going to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia would be far from normal. 


The day started like any ordinary day; I ate a fantastic bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats, got naked, took a shower, brushed my teeth, washed my face, put the lotion on the skin (Silence of the Lambs reference), packed what little clothes I had out, called a cab, and I was on my way. I did skip over a precious detail. I apologize for that. While packing, both zippers on my large black suitcase broke. Without being able to rectify the situation because of the time frame, and not being able to purchase a new suitcase right away. I decided to use my mother’s large suitcase. Let me give you a detailed description of her large suitcase. The suitcase has a plentiful assortment of flowers scattered all over it... The dull colors ranging form pink, red, green with a golden trim around them , gold zippers, and a deep navy blue background. This was complemented by my small black suitcase that was good to go... Right then, I should have realized that this was going to be an interesting adventure. In the cab, the cab driver and I were conversing and he was telling my about his country, Lebanon. I’ve always known that Lebanon is supposed to be the true essence of pure beauty. While getting out of the cab, I received many strange looks for my varied degree of non matching luggage. I had my dark brown laptop bag that has a neon red strap, a black/grey backpack, a little black suitcase, and of course the assorted flower decor navy blue suitcase. Even I had a goofy ass smile on my face. 


Getting on the plane was good, and my itinerary consisted of three layovers. The Itinerary: San Diego, Denver, Frankfurt, and then Riyadh. I was on United Airlines from San Diego to Denver, and then the rest of the way I was traveling on Lufthansa Airline. So far, my favorite airline is Lufthansa. This German airline is fucking brilliant. The movie selection, the food, and the crew are awesome. It’s the second time that I flew on that airline and it keeps on getting better. My seat neighbor on Lufthansa was a man named, Simar. Simar, is from Delhi, India and he was pretty cool. Since it was an 8hr. flight between Denver and Frankfurt, we had a lot of good discussions. With these conversations you usually start out with your name, and then occupation. That’s how most of my conversations start out when I first get in to a conversation with a stranger. He’s a casting agent and is nine days away from getting married. I could tell that he genuinely loved his future wife, because he had nothing but the world to speak of her. Our best conversation was talking about stereotypes of our culture. Me being African American and him being from India, we had a lot of fun poking at the absurdity of stereotypes within our culture. Simar told me that the Halloween craze has hit India. Everyone dresses up and eats a wide assortment of candy. He then asked me, “What is Halloween truly about?” Me, “I really have no fucking clue; other than it being a reason to get dressed up in a costume, eat candy for the youngsters, party for the older crowd, and to overall let debauchery/madness ensue.” Simar shook his head in agreement. Then, he brought up how Indian people shake their head back and forth, and how foreigners think that they are doing that in showing skepticism about a given idea, or statement (the head shake being a person will tilt their head a little to the left and right, vice versa). I have always realized that but I never thought anything of it. Simar then tells me that is the Indian way of saying they understand. I thought that was interesting to find out. After this conversation we were in Frankfurt. Simar and I both parted ways, and then he said if I was ever in India I would have a place to stay with him, and his wife. I thought that was an amazing gesture. India is on my list of places to visit, and now that I have a contact there it’s even better. 


Alright, now if you’ve ever been to Frankfurt’s airport you would know it’s a huge, and very busy airport. Everyone looks like a fucking model in that airport... Even the random woman that was slushing a mop around was beautiful. Either way, while going through a security check, they wanted to check my backpack. Right away, I knew what they wanted to see too. My friend, Anthony, forgot a few things in the US, and I told him that I could bring those things to him. Now, of those things was an amazing 4-5lb bag of assorted candy. Yes, even I thought it was absurd; though, it’s not my candy and I don’t mind doing things for friends. At the security checkpoint, they asked if they can open my backpack and I said yes, and then it happened. I’ve never seen anyone’s eyes get so big with joyous amazement. They weren’t just astonished that I fit this humungous bag in to my, already full, backpack, but they’ve never seen anyone with a lot of kick ass candy either. Hahah... This very attractive security woman came up to me and said, “I’m going to take this.” My reply, “You can take anything you want.” We both laughed at how cheesy we were. I go in the back room with her and she tells me they just have to check if anything else is in the bag; in which, I totally understood. We had a little bit of small talk, nothing extensive. Then it hit me, in an odd way she’s flirting with me. She started blushing when I started asking more about herself, and I did it in return. While leaving she said, “I hope our paths cross again.” Then the kicker, she pinched my ass, and started giggling. I think there is good and bad sexual harassment, and this would be the good kind. This world is a crazy place. 


Now, confirming, yet again, that this world is a crazy place I found a way to make things more interesting for myself. While on the plane to Riaydh, I bent down to get my ipod out of my laptop bag and then I decided to stretch. This is when I heard a big ripping sound. Somehow, I managed to rip the back of my plaid shirt open while stretching. It was weird, and I didn’t understand how it was possible with the shirt being my size-n-all. When something like that happens all I can do is smile and shake my head. 


Now, I have this large hole in the back of my plaid shirt, and I made it to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I should’ve known that this security check point was going to be an adventure. It started while I was waiting in line for my passport to be checked, and making sure I had an updated current visa inside the book. The security guard that told me to go in a random line didn’t know English at all, and I don’t know enough Arabic to have a conversation. I asked him, “Is this is the correct line that I’m supposed be in?” He replied with a waving of the hand in a random, direction. I smiled in annoyance and I asked three more times, again I received the same gesture. I just figured he knew what he was doing. I was wrong. The person at the passport check said, (in broken English) “In wrong line, go over there.” One would think that when a person says, “ Go over there.” there would be direction that the given person would motion towards, be it, by hand/s or head. None of that happened. Another random security guard comes up and says come here and puts me in front of a line of at least 48-50 people behind me. This is where things became very interesting. There was an instigator of the these 40-50 some odd people that started saying that I cut in front of them. As you can guess that didn’t sit well with those waiting in line. At first, they were just saying insults in Arabic with an aggressive voice. At this moment, I decided to turn around and say, “Security put me here, and I’m not cutting in front of you.” All of them looked at me with a questionable face, which then I knew they didn’t understand a word that I just said. Then things became worse. The instigator started yelling at me harsher and louder, and then that’s when he and other people started grabbing me and trying to forcefully pull me back. I pushed them back and some of them fell like a coupling of dominos. It was funny, but when there is security around with AK’s, one should tread wisely. Then the security guard stood up very quickly and said, “Come here!” I didn’t know what to expect, and I was a bit nervous. He looked at my passport and asked if I was American. I shook my head yes, and then he asked the instigator to come up. Yes, the one that first fell on the ground when I pushed him and the others. He gave me the dirtiest glare when he came up, and it made me grin (I have a knack for pushing people’s buttons). He and the security guard had words, and both were insulting each other. The security guard started pounding on his chest and started yelling something. Then the instigator just walked back mumbling sweet nothings. The security guard stamped my passport, and I was officially in. 


Through all of this it’s amazing that life is still this colorful for me. It’s true that there is no way of knowing what life will bring you from day to day, but damn is it a good adventure and feeling. 
As for now, I’m enjoying the fall/winter season of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I live for these moments.


For the next adventure, I have my eyes set on Barcelona, Spain. I have promised my amazingly rad friend, Ashely Babcock, that I would visit. Since I don’t break my promises, I’ll be there as soon as I can.


Till next time,


~Stephen


P.S. 

I know that I said I would only write one once a month, but it’s merely impossible for me not to share this adventure with all of you. Yes... I’ll now be going back to writing one once a month, unless something interesting happens between now and then.

 


Things Have a Way of Working Out
luckybastard84
Hello, everybody.
My apologies for not writing anything for a while, I have been very busy living life. Now, there have been times of rest that I could've wrote for mere minute/s, but I decided not to. Since I haven't, I wouldn't have so much to write now...Which is good for you the reader.

Let's begin with the summer. When I was on summer vacation it was amazing. I was determined to make this the best summer that I could ever have. Oh, I did succeed. Summer for any individual should include these things: freedom, leniency, recognition in one's self, meeting new people, opening of the mind, courages towards trying new things (triathlon), visiting as many people as possible, trying to not get hit by a car (failed, but I'm alright), experiences that force you to grow up, finding the true meaning of friendship, loss, and adventures. When I saw my mother at the airport I did not cry, but it was amazing to see how well she was doing. I could tell in her eyes that she was happy to see that I was back safely. More important, she's happy that I'm traveling the world. She's always told me that I was meant to see the world. While I was back in San Diego I went on a burrito binge.... It was crazy... I don't know what I was thinking,  but I do know that all, some ridiculous number, were good. I quenched my taste of burritos for quite a while. Ha! This was only the beginning of my trip. 

After staying for a week in San Diego, I had to make my way to visit my brother and a few people in Chicago. Chicago has already held a special place in my heart.  I am a tremendous lover of open plains and big cities. Diversity is great for me when it comes to geography. Visiting my brother was amazing. He showed me a movie theater where you can drink... I mean that should be happiness for any living person. Just to sit back with a drink in your hand, popcorn/candy in you other hand, and a comical movie that you don't have to pay that much attention to. The theater is called, The Vic Theater, and if you're in Chicago next time you should go. They also have live concerts there. My brother, his friend, and myself went to go see the band, Hole. I thought Courtney Love was going to be falling all over the stage and slurring words while in a drunken stupor. I was unfortunately wrong. Yet, that's what makes Courtney Love great. The fact that you don't know what she's going to do next adds a lot of excitement/anticipation of finding out how she's going to act; overall, though, I was mainly there for the music and she did a great job. I'm not a huge fan of that band, Hole, but they did do a great job. Before I went to the concert I caught up with a friend from high school.  Jenn Reed is a friend from high school that is one of the coolest, and impressive, people that I've reconnected with. I'm proud of her, because she's had to go through tremendous hardships and she made it out a great. We caught up, and she showed me a side of Chicago that I've never seen. I know that we'll see each other next time that I'm in Chicago. I also went to the beach the beach with my brother, a few days before catching up with Jenn. It was really nice to jump in the water, but if you didn't know take a shower afterwards. Lake Michigan is contaminated with a lot of bacteria. I guess that some people get sick from it. I didn't feel tingly, or anything, so I got that going for me. 

The next place was Michigan. To travel between Chicago and Michigan, or vice-versa, the train reigns supreme. It being inexpensive and quick enough, you really can't go wrong. I met a wonderful older woman that sat next to me on the train. Her name was, Lisa. I found quite interesting because she literally told me everything about her. She even told me about how she's going to break up with her boyfriend, because in her words, "He's just too clingy." It makes me happy that complete strangers feel comfortable enough to confide in with everything that is going on their life. She got off of the train three stops earlier than me, and told me that she hopes that our paths will cross again. In this world, if there is one thing that I know, it is that there is nothing but possibilities. Sorry for digressing from the story at hand. While approaching Battle Creek I found myself overwhelmed with emotions. I haven't been back for two years and it's the place that I grew up. I still have many friends that live in Michigan that I grew up with. Plus, I needed to visit my late friend, Rodger, and my Grandma's grave. This visit was going to be emotionally draining and superbly great at the same time. I know.... It's a very odd combination. My friend, Briggs picked me up from the train station, and it was amazing to see him (Briggs, is an amazing tattoo artist that helped me come up with a concept tattoo that's dedicated to Rodger Swan). I quickly saw more of my friends. It was moment that was truly nostalgic, because it brought me back to a time when things were simpler. It was great moving around. I did have an unfortunate adventure in the means of looking for a car to rent. The car rental places in Battle Creek are fucking stupid. All of them have told me that they don't accept debit cards, yet I had a debit/credit card. They looked at me and said,"No, sir. This is a debit cared." I had to journey to find help with getting a damn car. I mean, I had people that were spread all over Michigan that I needed to visit. My Aunt Brenda ended up helping me out. She's always been there for me. My mother and her have been friends since high school, and my brother and I have just been raised to see her as part of the family. She's truly great. Once I had this holy automobile, I had to journey to Ann Arbor. Visit my friends from sixth grade. Tony DeRuiter, has been a friend for a long time. He's definitely another brother for me. It was great visit, and good to see that he and Kage, are doing so well. They're a great couple. Later, I traveled back to Battle Creek. This time I spent time with my friend, Samantha Ann Wilkinson. She's the coolest southerner I know. Yet, I knew these were going to be the emotionally tasking days ahead of me. I started training for the Triathlon with my friend, Mark, visited my Grandfather that is battling liver cancer, visited my friend Rodger Swan, went to visit my Grandma, and also managed to get hit by a car while cycling. Now you know how emotionally draining it was. Visiting my friend, Rodger Swan, was tough. I couldn't go to his funeral because I just arrived in Riyadh at the time, and the company that I worked for wouldn't let me go. I was ashamed with myself that I couldn't be there. When I saw his urn I just completely broke down. There's no words that can comfort a person when they lose a good friend.

Shortly after that, I was cycling and was hit by a car... Ha! Just another adventure that seemed to find its way to me. This was a few days before the triathlon. I still did the triathlon to the best of my abilities and it was tough. My good friend, Mark Crider asked me I still wanted to do it. My reply was,"Yeah! I want to do it." You need not say more... I have some screws loose. The triathlons are events that I will do annually. I enjoyed it, and I hopefully won't be healing from a car hitting me next time. 

Before the triathlon, I visited my Grandma. It's been two years since her death, and it doesn't get easier. The one thing she told a few weeks before she passed, was to enjoy life and do what makes me happy. Only now, have I been doing that. These words helped me cope with Rodger Swan being gone. Rodger loved how all of us, his friends, lived life. Getting in to ridiculous adventures is what I enjoy while traveling. They say, when one life ends another begins, and that is definitely true. I know I don't have to say this but I'm going to anyway. Life is short. We waste so much energy/time doing things that have no meaning to us. I'm happy that I finally woke up, and becoming the man that my Mother and Brother saw me as. I know I'm not perfect, but I'm happy that I'm not. I'm simply just me, and feels really good.

While realizing who I am, I also figured that I needed to burn bridges with people. There's a group of people that I know I'll never see again. They're living in the past and doing things that are just meaningless. A part of me loved to do the things they did, at one point. There's a realization that we all have to come to while growing up, and that means giving up on things that aren't a part of how you view the world at large. I truly felt that these group of people were holding me back from becoming who I'm destined to become. This is why I decided to burn that bridge. I'm not saying that I'm better than them, but the way of life they still live isn't for me anymore. I realized that when I went to a party at their place. I won't name their names, but I wish them the best and hope they find in whatever they're looking for. 

I stayed with my friends, Ezra and Sarah, in Kalamazoo next. I was grateful that they opened their house for me. I had a great time there. While there, I met some cool people, and some very interesting people I never thought that I would meet before. That's why life is fun. There's nothing that is certain. 

With all of these things going on, and moving around the world, I know that I'm not supposed to settle yet. I can't perceive when I'll be ready to just settle, but it's going to be a long time from now, because I'm only happy when I'm traveling and right now, I like thinking that a plane is more home for me than anything else. When I land I have more homes. I have places in San Diego, Chicago, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, for right now Riyadh, and soon to be a home in Japan. This is my life and I'm enjoying the hell out of it. The only thing that has changed in me is that I finally understand what makes me happy, and that is life. 

I decided to write this because my next journey is about to begin. I'm going to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to finish my contract. When I arrive there I'm then off to Barcelona, Spain to visit my friend Ashley, and then back to Riyadh to finish my contract. After my contract awaits California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, and then Japan. Adventures are what I live for and what makes me happy. I wish I realized this earlier, but it's never to late either. I have a tremendous amount of appreciation towards my friends and family. I thank you all, because I wouldn't of come to the conclusion of my self.

Cheers,

~Stephen Jackson

A NEW PLACE!
luckybastard84
 Hello to everyone out there in the world,

Where to begin this message? I'm almost kind of lost because there is so much going on, I just don't know where to begin. Lets start at the first day of school/job. From hearing all the horror stories that went on in the realm of KSU (King Saud University), I really didn't know what to think. I wasn't nervous at all, for my first day, but I was eagerly anticipating it. Haha! To say the least! So I'm walking to my class, not really knowing what to expect and then I walk in to my classroom.  I see seven students sitting down, of course, trying to figure me out. This isn't what bothered, it was the fact that they were students from another country, trying to figure me out. It was very interesting. After I said that I came from Michigan, to California, and finally to Riyadh, their faces just lit up and started asking me a million questions... Of course, in broken English. It felt good, yet there was something lurking around the corner. If you've ever taught a class in the US, you know there is such a thing as classroom etiquette. Needless to say, that was not here at all. They don't know how to act in classrooms and their parents (some parents) haven't even gone through any type of school setting. Basically, your teaching them classroom etiquette. Believe me, it's no walk in the park... It takes patience that you didn't even know you had. Sometimes, you lose yourself, but the trick is to remember they simply don't know any better. There have been times that I've freaked out, but the students are quick to apologize, because the last thing they want is to make someone angry ,that they respect. So yes, I'm happy that they actually like me. They want me to try everything Riyadh has to offer. I'm game for anything here, expect Camel's Milk. Camel's Milk, is a very super strong laxative... If you know some of my adventures in life, this would definitely be a bad idea to drink. Hahaha!

Overall, things have been great. I think the administration is more messed up then the students. The students know that the university program is fucked. My own students have told me that its ridiculous. How the administration handles the students is an entirely different story. The administration just marches the students blindly in to the big world. I've been hearing that its the Saudi way, but I think that is bullshit and fucked. The students appreciate me, because they realize that I care about their future. I want them to travel the world, because these students are amazing and there are a lot of negative views of the Muslim religion. I know they could help clear the air. They are truly amazing and I'm a lucky teacher.

I am going to be an international teacher. This will be my profession for a long while time. My mom always said that she knew she would have to share me with the world. Now more than ever, I feel free. 

I'm happy that I can be a positive inspiration towards my students. I know that a lot of them will move on to move mountains... Now, they just need to know how not to be brutally honest.... Hahaha!

Next, I will talk about the class trip to Jenadriyah.

Alright all!
That's all I have for now. 

Take care of yourselves and each other.


~Stephen W. Jackson

Chapter#2: Always Looking...
luckybastard84
 Hello Everybody,

It seems that everywhere I look, something interesting happens... Sometimes good and bad. I don't know much, but I'm taking the time to learn everything that I've always been curious about. Also, there are somethings we can't help, that happen to us that is lurking in the vast darkness of life. Lets face it; there are some situations that are fucking ridiculous, but it keeps you interested to see what happens next. That's why I title this entry, 'Always Looking....'


My first day on job, at King Saud University, was very interesting and nostalgic, in a kind of negative way. The university doesn't really know what works and what doesn't. The way to solve problems here is to throw money at it. This is nostalgic, in the negative sense, because I worked at a bar, in San Diego, and that's how problems were solved there. These people that own the schools are adults... Much older than myself, but they do not know what they're doing. For those of you that worked at a bar, I'm sure you can agree that it feels like your babysitting adults, especially when they get in to petty fucking fights. I'm digressing from my story!  The university is slightly silly, in the frame that they don't know what they're doing. I've gone to meetings and had became a cynical person about this entire experience. Our bosses have changed the grades of students, just to say "Its being generous."  It's clearly ridiculous! Students show up late and do what they want. The culture here revolves around religion and nothing else. There are no rules to anything else. Anything goes, goes, as long as its going along with the Qua ran. Later, I started to realize what was really happening.

I started forming a positive view from all of this. Education in Saudi Arabia is very low, they're a developing country with trillions of dollars. Before it was a rich country, people actually lived in tents and there weren't any schools at all, that taught English. Parents here are also illiterate in not only English, but also Arabic. Education is the new thing here. No one knows the proper etiquette of learning anything. This is what kicked my ass in the positive way, of thinking again. The people are super generous and very non-confrontational, they might act like they will do something, but nothing will ever happen. The only thing that was a, super, trip was driving.... There are no rules, whatsoever. You cut people off, drive on the curb and pass four cars while turning left on to on coming traffic. Its insane here, but also kind of fun, because there are no rules. I know that I'll need to relearn how to drive, when I go back to the U.S., this summer. The students were the ones that prepared me for all of this.

The students that I have are amazing. I always need to keep in mind, that they're having more education than there parents ever did. Sometimes, it is definitely tough! This why I just have to keep on reminding myself where I am. You have to show them the etiquette of what a classroom should be. From this week alone, I truly needed a vacation. 

This leads me to my visit to Milan, Italy. Milan, is one the northern city's of Italy. It was beautiful to be there. It was just simply amazing! I was visiting my good friend, Alessandra Clerle, she was my trusty guide. We walked and drove, all over Milan. You've probably seen a lot of pictures of Milan, on my facebook page. One thing that I noticed, is that people do like to smile in Milan. Everyone just looks so serious, maybe their in deep thought. I remember when I went running, one morning, everyone was looking at me like I was fucking crazy. I'm used to that look, but its funnier when its in a different country. I did get lost a few times, when I was trying to get to Ale's place. I managed, but it felt good to be lost, for a little while. We went to Duomo Cathedral, and was out of sight. We scaled the top of it and went inside. Before Ale and I went in side, security told us that we couldn't take any pictures, at all. Yet, what do I see when I walk inside? Answer: 100's of people taking pictures... Needless to say, my mind set was in the, fuck this mode, and I started taking pictures (with the flash off, of course).
I did find my happy place, and its called lake Como, in Lombardy, Italy. All the words, that defines beauty, won't come close to describe what it was really like. I'm currently saving up money to live there. I think, within five years, I'll be able to live there. I'm going to work hard for it. 


That's good for now. Next, I will talk about more adventures moments discovering the culture and education behind Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Take care of yourselves and each other.

Sincerely,

Stephen W. Jackson

Adventures?
luckybastard84

Journal# 1.2

 

Sometimes, one can be surprised when traveling. This can go in a positive and a negative way. This experience led me in to the negative lane of traveling. None the less, I do love adventures.

 

A brief review: I was dropped off at the wrong hotel with, at least, $5.00 US to my name… 

So there I am, in country that I've never been in before, not really knowing what to do next. I remember my friend, Brian Perkins (Brian P.), gave me a phone number to a man named James. I quickly went back in to the boat hotel. I was able to use their phone, since I didn't have an international, unlocked phone with me. The man named James picked up and I told him the story. He quickly came by to pick me up with an entourage of 4 people. At this point, I'm hoping that this is a person that I can trust and not a person that is going to fuck me over. I was actually correct in thinking I could trust this person. 

 

I went to this hotel called, Al Fonzaquia, and it was really nice. The manager of the hotel is Egyptian and his name is, Osama. He's a pretty cool person, and when he said that I would get free dinner this night, everything that happened prior was swept from the slate. I can honestly say, I probably wouldn't have liked hummus as much, if I didn't travel here. Hummus is ridiculously good with any type of bread. The dinner, not only came with bread/hummus, but also came with chicken, a mad amount of rice, and various vegetables. If you ever travel to Saudi Arabia, just remember that portions of food here are like eating a holiday feast everyday. At the end of the night, I started to remember what my Mother told me; "When you start to think everything is calm, always be aware of that there is an incident waiting around the corner."

Sometimes I forget to remember that, but since I've been here I make it apparent that I remember that everyday… Just so there are no negative surprises.

 

The next day was the weekend. Now the weekend here is totally different from anything that I've heard in my life, so far. The weekend starts on Wednesday and ends on Friday. Yeah… I know… It's weird. Considering Sat-Wed, weekdays took a while for me to get used to. My friend, Brian P., told me that he's going ATV'ing and was wondering if I would like to come along. I've never been ATV'ing before, so this was definitely a first. Since I've never done it before, of course I decided to do it. Before we went ATV'ing, I met Brian P.'s friend, Hani. We all went out to lunch at this Lebanese restaurant. It was really good! The food was, literally, never ending. It was hard to think that this was lunch and not dinner. I didn't eat that much, because we were about to ride fast machines through the desert, and I don't feel like throwing up. Let me just say, ATV'ing was so much fun. I've never drove anything like a motorcycle, let alone an ATV. Needless to say, I learned quickly. I had a couple of really good jumps off of some good dirt hills. It really does get your blood pumping when your going so fast and jumping through the air. As you can probably  guess, I became too eager. Let's just say, gravel and pavement is an unforgiving surface. When I fell the first time, I rolled the ATV and it was not good. I cut myself up a little bit, on my elbows. Then came the second, third, and finally the fourth time. Hahah! It was terrible, but I've been told as a child that I have a hard head when comes time to let something go. I'm the poster child for not knowing when to quit something that is fun. The last jump, I went straight in the air and when I landed, I actually bounced off of the pavement. Bouncing off of the pavement, isn't supposed to happen. Brian P., still insist, to this day, that I hit the top of my head on the pavement. To this day, he still talks about how I face planted in to the ground. My reasoning for why he's wrong is that I would scratches or gashes all over my face, just like I had on my hands, knees, and elbows. The day after, I had two big gashes on both of my palms, two bad bruises on my elbows, a bad bruise on my right coccyx, and a huge welt/bruise on my right calf. I could hardly walk at all. It was hard for me to walk up steps. I'm totally healed now, but it was terrible. My right palm's wound kept on opening up whenever I shook someone's hand. HA! Life is fun, especially when your meeting your co-workers and bosses.

 

The next day was the adventure of working at school.

 

This is a good spot to stop and say…. You guessed it…

 

To be continued….

 

I'll be writing about my adventures with the first couple of weeks at the university I work at and also, the trip to Milan/Como, Italy.

 

Have a good one all and take care of yourselves/each other. 

~Stephen W. Jackson


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