Read: My 25th Birthday

I made it to 25! I can’t believe I’m here, really. Feels like not too long ago I was 19 and moving to Portland with not much more than a snowboard bag and a dorm-room number. That seems like the marking point for me where I started really growing up; prior to then I’d always been pretty close (if not at) home, and even though I wouldn’t always stay there, I knew I could go back there very easily. Moving to Oregon suddenly put 3,000 miles between myself and anything I had known up until then. It was scary, and I honestly kind of hated portland for the first 4-5 months of living there. However, once I joined the PSU Snowboard Club my life was changed. Being a part of this group and finding people (like Chris and Eddy Barnhart) who were immediately so friendly and inclusive and FUN made me realize this was a place I wanted to be and that snowboarding was something I needed to keep doing. So that was it. I continued my push to finish my Environmental Studies degree, all while working paid (and unpaid) jobs and internships that allowed me to get that much closer to this fantastic new family of riders I’d discovered. I didn’t consciously realize that I was slowly shaping my whole life around this ‘sport’ (activity? passion? fun thing to do with friends?) but it happened all the same. Sometimes I get nervous that I should be out working a 9-5 job that pays more than $10k/year (actually I made less than that this year, according to my tax returns and W-2’s) but then I think about what that would really entail and I immediately feel better about where I’m at.

Last year I celebrated my birthday in the snowy mountains of Alaska, and this year I was in the rather warm Salt Lake City with a few more friends and a lot less snow. On my actual birthday I was taken through my first runs of (baby) chutes at Brighton,

Oh shoot
Oh shoot

followed by a gorgeous hike in to Diamond Fork Hot Springs,

Just dang gorgeous, and only an hour hike in.
Just dang gorgeous, and only an hour hike in.

and finishing with a less-than-pleasant four-police-car-pullover and drug-dog search of Tyler’s van.

Yep that pooch sniffed all over this sketchy van. I was sneakily shooting photos of this whole ordeal. Oops.
Yep that pooch sniffed all over this sketchy van. I was sneakily shooting photos of this whole ordeal. Oops.

Apparently there was a color festival happening the same weekend as my birthday and cops were staking out the hotsprings in hopes of catching out-of-town drugged-up hippies coming out from a relaxing soak. They didn’t find anything (of course), kept us there for about 2 hours, made me dump the rest of my closed bottle of sake (that was in my backpack) out into the dirt and charged us with open containers because we had chosen to carry out our empties instead of leave them in the hot springs for future visitors.

Oh yeah, and one of the cops wished me a happy birthday. Gee, thanks.

My second birthday celebration involved fewer police but was just as fun. My friend Laura R. works at a high-end restaurant in Park City and took myself and a few others out for one of the BEST meals of our lives. Although the plans were a little confusing to everyone (probably my fault for changing from telling everyone it was going to be a nail party to dinner party) we all had an amazing time.

I didn't eat the meats, but the cheese and that honey (oh the honey!) was amazing.
I didn’t eat the meats, but the cheese and that honey (oh the honey!) was amazing.

I will remember that meal for the rest of my life, it was that good (seriously). There were dishes such as winter fruit salad, champagne covered lemon sorbet, filet mignon and finally a richly liquored-up desert coffee that tied the whole thing together perfectly.

We had so many drinks we didn't know which ones to drink when.
We had so many drinks we didn’t know which ones to drink when.

Those chefs know how to make people happy.

Pickled onions and chevre. These chefs knew the way to my heart.
Pickled onions and chevre. They knew the way to my heart.

I think turning 24 scared me more than 25; when this birthday rolled around it felt like most of the other ones I’ve had throughout my life; another year older without any kind of life crisis. Maybe that means my life is more together than it was last year? Though I find that a little hard to believe. Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity. Either way, I don’t really care; I’m just grateful to have amazing friends, family and some good stories to share. I’m gunning for another adventurous 25 years to come (and, you know, maybe a few more ;)).

Here's to birthdays everywhere!
Here’s to birthdays everywhere!

 

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Reflection: Coming Back From Japan

I slept for the first two days after getting back to Salt Lake from Japan. Literally. Ok, I was up for a few hours in the afternoon and stayed up til about 3am each night, but I felt like I had the flu or something and had to sleep it off. Adjusting to being back home is a lot harder than adjusting to a new place. My friend Andy said he usually gets his culture shock when he returns to the states from Japan rather when he first gets out to the foreign country. I have to agree with him there; Japan is totally different and definitely has a distinct culture we don’t have here in the states, but it’s all fascinating. I’m enthralled the whole time observing how people live their daily lives over there. But because my brain is curious and looking at EVERYTHING the entire month of being there, when I got back to something familiar it just had to shut down. When I was awake and walking around again back here in the states, it was as if I was seeing everything around me for the first time again. Shopping was a new experience once again because my eyes looked at packaging and ads as if they had to decifer them. I was looking at EVERYTHING here, as I had in Japan. It was kind of cool actually. I gained a new perspective not only on a foreign culture that I’d never had a true glimpse into, but also found a new way to look at everything that was familiar to me at home as well. It’s also nice to feel like I’m not in danger of getting horribly lost all the time if I’m on my own, and that store clerks understand exactly what I say to them and they respond back to me in perfect english (well, culturally perfect anyway).

Made it back just in time for Spring; my favorite!
Made it back just in time for Spring; my favorite!

And Then There Was One

Those cloud behind me near the ground? Sulfurous steam spewing from the active volcano that is Asahidake.

It’s March 16th (I’m talking to you from the future, biches) and I am the last one from our group that traveled from the U.S. to Japan about a month ago. I can’t believe it’s been three weeks already! It feels like time flew by, I don’t know if I’m ready to go back to the states. Although, I do still have another three days here, so I don’t have to come to terms with it quite yet.

At first I was getting nervous about being the last one to go- I’m in a foreign country, with a giant snowboard bag and I hardly know how to speak the language (it’s getting better but my vocab is still at the point where the three year olds know way more words than I do. However, I’ve probably learned the most from the three-year olds so I guess I should be thanking them. They assume I know everything because I’m a big adult. Who’s winning here? Everyone).

Now, I’m excited. The main staff of Niseko Negula (the pension where our group was based from over the last two weeks) are headed to another resort on Hokkaido; Kiroro, for a few days of snowboard vacation time and they’re graciously stringing me along for the outing. I love the people here already and enjoy helping out around the place with chores. Interacting and working with everyone after the guests have all left is priceless to me. I got to paint one of the three-year old’s nails this morning (her name is Kokoro and it means, “heart”) after eating a home-made breakfast in the common room. That’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. Anywhere that there is snow you can snowboard and have fun. What you can’t find just anywhere are people of a completely different culture that welcome you into their family and home. Hanging out and bonding with everyone here is something I can never duplicate. It means so much to me that I’m getting to do this right now.

I’m already thinking about how I can come back to Japan some day…

Alright, next on the agenda- load up the cars and drive to Kiroro! Wataru also mentioned we’re stopping somewhere along the way for seafood lunch and a tour of a WHISKEY FACTORY WITH FREE TASTINGS. I had to ask him how to say, “I really like whiskey!” in japanese because I was so excited when he told me that. Whiskey daisuki des! Afterwards we’ll head on to some hotel(I don’t have my international driver’s license so I won’t be driving; that will be good) near the resort and get some snowboarding in over the next two days.

Everything’s working out and I’m so excited that I get this extra time to explore Hokkaido. Things don’t always turn out the way you think they will, but if you go with the weird flow of things it’s bound to work out fantastically in a way you never could have planned for.

I’ll be posting another entry or so on japansnoboarding.com to round out the story, but for the most part I’m going back to writing mainly on Gofer. I reposted my highlight entries from Japan Snowboarding to this blog so you can get a feel for how my life has been going since I started posting on that site.

I hope you enjoy this adventure’s story, and I can’t wait to share what happens next! (I think it’ll be pretty good.) Here’s to these awesome guys who made this trip to Hokkaido possible-

Gotta love those Toto's
Colby just loves those Totos.
Tyler's so ethnic.
Tyler’s so ethnic.
Andy and Dubs show you that if you have two hands, you usually need to two drinks.
Andy and Dubs show you that if you have two hands, you usually need to two drinks.

Hope you all had safe flights and I’ll see you again when I get back to the states!

Matane~

Home Away From Home- Niseko Negula

Reblog from my posting on japansnowboarding.com March 10th

photos by Jeremy Dubs

When we dropped in to Niseko Negula we had no idea that we were not only going to be staying at a great pension (a pension is a cross between a nice hostel and a bed and breakfast) location but that we were about to become a part of Negula’s fantastic community itself too. Wataru (the owner) initially impressed us by being a warm and welcoming person and then surprised us by being a great musician with extremely musically-gifted friends as well.

Wataru Miyazaki, the owner of Niseko Negula
Wataru Miyazaki, the owner of Niseko Negula

Twice now we’ve had nights that have ended in full-blown group music jams; where staff and guests alike are dancing, playing music and laughing together. Both times they’ve happened directly following a meal Colby prepared in the kitchen for everyone, all-in-all being a real community event.

The Negula living room is always full of excitement. The atmosphere is electric and its great to meet people of various cultures in such a great atmosphere.
The Negula living room is always full of excitement. The atmosphere is electric and its great to meet people of various cultures in such a great atmosphere.

We were each sitting around in the Negula common room, finishing the last bits of delicious yakisoba, mashed potatoes, cabbage salad or fried chicken (depending on which meal night it was) and then Yui (or Masato, or Yasue) sat down in front of a mic with an instrument and simply started jamming out.

The first night Yui and his wife Maico played a beautiful set that included renditions of a few Beatles songs, some tunes sung in japanese and a mongolian song that as far as has been explained to us is meant to mean anything from Happy Birthday to wishing someone good health in general. Once the music started up, everyone who could grab an instrument and play coherently did so.

Masato-San and Band
Masato-San and Band

The second night, Masato and Keita grabbed guitars and began playing that same Mongolian good-health song. I think they played it about four different times; I’m not too confident Masato knows any other songs on guitar (which was actually a great thing, because none of us knew the song at first but by the end of their session we’d all learned the words and were singing along. I was loving it). From there, Yuki (a visiting/traveling musician) grabbed his violin, blew us all away with his talents on that stringed instrument and the rest, they say, is history.

Negula Jam Band
The Negula Jam Band – Maico, Wataru, Macun, Iku

I don’t know how long we played for each night, but it was nothing short of at least an hour, though you had no idea what kind of time was passing. We were a group of American, Australian, Cambodian, Japanese and more, having the best time we possibly could. Everywhere you looked there were ecstatic ear-to-ear grins. People couldn’t help but clap or sing along when they caught the tune. Being in a foreign country where communication is limited to fragments of either english or japanese, it’s amazing the type of connection you can feel with others when you’re laughing and creating music together.

Yui Akimichi - Resident chef and musician at Negula
Yui Akimichi – Resident chef and musician at Negula

 

I think it’s safe to say these nights of gathering for delicious food creating spectacular music together have added more depth to our experience out here in Niseko, Japan. We’re approximately 5,000 miles from the closest place any one of us might call home, but with things like this being a part of our trip, that distance hasn’t been too much of a problem for us being able to relax and feel right at home out here.

Its a Negula Party Night
Its a Negula Party Night. Kampai!

 

Matane~

Until Next Time!

Mix Nuts Bowl Session at Rusutsu Resort

Reblog from my posting on japansnowboarding.com from March 4th

 

Japan is full of surprises. Did you know they have an event at Rusutsu Resort called “Mixed Nuts Bowl”? Neither did we. Ever heard of the Holy Bowly? Mixed Nuts was like that; a whole course of snow shaped like a set of downhill skatepark bowls, hips and a transfer or two.

Our friend Yuki at Negula pulled one of us aside Thursday night and showed us an edit from last year’s Mixed Nuts Bowl. It turned out to be at a resort not far from where we were staying and happening the next day. Snow had been a bit lacking for us lately, so we were all excited to have the chance to get out and ride in something.

We loaded our five-person car with six people plus all of our snowboard/photo/film gear (it was cozy) and drove off towards Rusutsu. After hanging out in a closed amusement park-

Colby found an octupus to surprise.
Colby found an octupus to surprise. Photo- Jenna Kuklinski

-we made our way over to the resort. As per the usual, we didn’t really know what we were supposed to do once we got there, so we asked a couple kids in a lift line. As soon as they realized we needed help finding where to sign up for the event, they unstrapped from their boards, jumped out of line, grabbed a flyer from a liftee and walked us the 100 yards or so over to the tent where we could sign up. Once we’d gotten things sorted and waivers signed the two kids strapped back in and rode off. They weren’t even doing the event themselves. People here are really too nice.

The event itself was super fun; as Madison Ellsworth put it, “It’s like skating a bowl but I’m on a snowboard and actually good at it.”

A rider starts carving down the course at Rusutsu's Mixed Nuts Bowl Photo- Jenna Kuklinski
A rider starts carving down the course at Rusutsu’s Mixed Nuts Bowl Photo- Jenna Kuklinski
Jenna Kuklinski Hiking the Course
Jenna hiking the course. So nice of them to think to add steps. Photo- Jeremy Dubs

The riding was one thing and then the announcer for the event was another. This dude was something else; at first he merely called out tricks people were doing, most of them in english. Then; and I don’t know if people switched off here or if it was the same guy, but the person on the mic was suddenly rapping for a good solid hour and a half. It was mostly in Japanese, but every now and then he’d get on a kick of just shouting, “Mix Nuts Bowl! Mix nuts! Mix Nuts! Ride, ride, ride, ride! Mix nuts! Ya! Ride! Microphone! 1, 2, 3! group 247 we here! Mix Nuts! Mix Nuts Bowl!”; it was amazing.

You can just tell he's staring at the camera thinking of new ways to remix "Mix Nuts" on the mic. Photo- Jeremy Dubs
You can just tell he’s staring at the camera thinking of new ways to remix “Mix Nuts” on the mic. Photo- Jeremy Dubs

Towards the end of the night we still didn’t know if the event was a contest or something they were just doing for fun; but we didn’t really care either way. We’d gotten out on our boards and just rode in a group full of Japanese shredders. Watching those guys on their surfy carving boards fly around the banks was a reminder of how tricks aren’t everything; if you have great style anything you do, down to simply carving, will look unique.

We walked back to the car, loaded everything up again and headed back to Niseko Negula, our home away from home. There was more riding to be done tomorrow.

Good Times all around; Colby hanging out with Yuki, Keita, Yasue and Nimo on the side of the bowls. Photo-Jenna Kuklinski
Good Times all around; Colby hanging out with Yuki, Keita, Yasue and Nimo on the side of the bowls. Photo- Jenna Kuklinski
Mixed Nuts Rusutsu Flyer
Mixed Nuts Rusutsu Flyer