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My move to San Francisco aka the Internet

13/03/2012

I moved to San Francisco last last Thursday. So, thoughts.

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Thought #1: The gargoyles here are all hipsters.

I feel like I’m inside one of those dreams featuring you and all your friends in some magical definitely-not-real-yet-oddly-familiar location (partially constructed from somewhere you once lived, and partially constructed from Monterey Pop videos and partially from watching the Shit Silicon Valley Says videos 9 times before bed. One of those dreams where you keep running around doing things and seeing these people over and over, but if you were to wake up, you’d realize that it really doesn’t make sense for all of those people to be in the same place at the same time because they are from totally disjoint parts of your life and oh my god why is any of this happening.

But mostly I don’t live in the real world anymore because I actually live in the Internet.

Here’s how to move to San Francisco, Mo-style:

1 week before pre-move – start to think about facebook messaging your friends asking them if you can sleep on their couch while you look for an apartment. Instead, your friend Bhargav (who just moved out there and is in the couch-sleeping phase as well) asks you to move in with a third guy you’ve never met but is allegedly cool and Good Roommate Material. At this point it’s only been roughly five days since you were hanging out with Bhargav in Hong Kong and Singapore together, duh.

Crawl Padmapper for about 3 hours together, and have your on-location roomies check out the place, make you a FB album and take video. Beat out the other potential tenants and just fucking sign already, because you snagged an enormous sweet-ass place a couple doors down from Janis Joplin.

Pack your bags, er, boxes, and take them to the post office. Feel really good about this distributed-computing approach to moving across the country, fire up a fb event and throw yourself a going away barcrawl and party with everyone, except for the 50% of everyone from UIUC Computer Science who has already moved to San Francisco in the past year.

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Farewell of #Champs

Day of move – Hop in a plane, feel weird that this is the first time you’re doing a permanent move in the 23 years of your life, despite having lived in every continental time zone in the US and a country each in Europe and Asia. While drinking tea in O’Hare, receive the first of many future texts that go like:

“Hey Mo, I’m flying in to SF from Philly with a couple friends this weekend. Wanna hang/show us around?”

Consider the ridiculousness of “showing someone around” a city you’ve been a resident of for under 24 hours, but of course accept enthusiastically and hop on your next flight.

Arrive at the airport and meet your new roommate for the first time IRL. Go home and dump your suitcase in a completely empty room and roll out the sleeping bag for later. See the 4 friends you have who are living within a 15-minute walk of you and give them the grand tour of your apartment, once you practice and work out which way is the kitchen and which way is the living room.

Barhop to half the places within a 5-minute walk of your place and witness more and more people show up throughout the evening. Meet some more internet friends IRL for the first time and talk to your friends about the web-tech companies they work at and the crazy and/or gorgeous people they have recently been talking to on OKCupid.

Coin the term #IPOIPA, and tweet it.

Friday

Wake up to find your roomies have already gone to work. Wander around the various empty large rooms of the apartment, playing music and wondering what to do with yourself. Tweet something about the Haight and make brunch plans with an internet friend who apparently lives in the neighborhood. Again, brunch spot is a 5 minute walk away. Wonder why all the other people at brunch don’t have jobs.

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Post-brunch, wander around the neighborhood for a while and find out that yes actually EVERYTHING is a five minute walk away, and learn which street to walk on to avoid the hills. Shop your way around Haight Ashbury and see tourists taking pictures by Ben & Jerry’s and hear street performers and the Beatles kind of everywhere.

Go home and find the roof.

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Receive a phone call from your new roommate at 4:26 PM. “Yelp IPO party. Get downtown now. Harlot. 2nd and Mission. I have a wristband for you. I can’t hear you, bye.”

Run for the nearest MUNI stop and get your ass to SoMa. Talk to the friendliest bouncer ever and walk in and instantly see Evan in the sea of 500 people at this bar. Talk to everyone and realize you recognize at least 10 people at this party. Congratulate them all on their IPO and confuse them by not being a Yelp employee, and then score mad points when you mention who your roommates are.

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Follow a crowd of 20 people back to Yelp HQ so they can drop off / pick up their stuff. Start barcrawling your way around SoMa and wait way too long at Eat Box for 3 orders of window bar-food, that take at least 40 minutes longer to arrive than you were promised. Wonder if this could potentially result in some bad Yelp reviews (apparently, it didn’t). Hang out in Tempest for an hour and then follow some French dudes to The Mission.

Notice Yelp people peel off as you head around the Mission to random bars, meeting up with more new and old friends from school and previous internships and the internet using your roommate’s phone once yours has died.

Realize everything is working out FLAWLESSLY.
Realize via bathroom graffiti you’ve been hanging out at some classy venues this evening.
Decide IPOs are fun and clearly a normal part of life.

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Saturday

Walk around the Haights, smell lots of weed when you walk by Buena Vista Park.

Meet up with people in Dolores Park and watch the hipsters. Check Instagram occasionally and realize everyone else you know in the entire city is also somewhere in this hipster swarm beach. Don’t try to meet up with them though because that would be impossible.

Wait for your south bay friends to arrive on your doorstep. Spend a while naming the Facebook group for this friend group. Try to get Ramen at Izakaya Sozai but fail because people take forever to eat ramen, apparently. Go to a nearby chinese place and call it done.

Go back to your place and sit on the floor because there is no furniture yet and make drinks and call cabs.

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Realize getting out of the Haight on a Saturday night is an incredible challenge (but don’t learn from this anytime soon). Finally find a couple of cabs to take you club-wards and go hang out in Butter and receive a text along the lines of “be right there I just need to take four shots.” Meet internet friends and go to Bootie across the street. Dance your ass off for many hours and tweet about it mid-dancefloor. Hope your friend does not sustain injuries from falling off one of the dancing blocks.

Wind up under the golden gate at 4:30 AM and decide it’s probably time to go home, though nothing is particularly stopping you at this point.

Sunday

Wake up the forces. Go get some crepes.

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Use your party people for good, not evil, and move the entire contents of Evan’s U-Haul into the apartment. Get it done in under an hour. High five and enjoy the breakfast nook.

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Go to Sleep Train and buy beds and feel like the Princess and the Pea. Go to IKEA and feel like Zooey Deschanel. Pick out a rug whose color is optimal for spilling a variety of everything on it (red).

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Meet up with Yelpers at night at the local brewpub and listen to their startup idea and call them out on it being Silicon Valley Bullshit.

(But still tell them to make the app because you would use it).

Discuss the Foursquare names for each of your respective apartments.

Hang out in your brand new living room and spill drinks on your new rug, just as promised. HOME.

The weekend is over, but don’t let the internetyness stop there. Get San Francisco blog recommendations from your barista on an iPad in a cafe where each and every patron is on an Apple device. Make Friday night plans on Path and in reaction to Foursquare notifications. Don’t hit up the club for your favorite swedish DJs until 11:30 PM because they tweeted they wouldn’t be going on until midnight. Sit in your friend’s living room with her cat and troll OKCupid and have the cat Skype your friend who lives a mile away. Sit in Mission bars and bitch about particularly pretentious Instagram feeds.



HOME SWEET HOME, INTERNETS.

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How I Nearly Got Kicked Out of Japan

30/04/2010

It’s been three years, I think this story deserves to be told by now.

It was April 2007. I had been studying abroad in Japan for 8 months now. I had lived with several host families, but unfortunately, this fourth and final family was a little bit full of crazy. Host mom had her own physical and mental issues, and in general just had a stick up her ass about, well, everything. She was hyper-obsessed with a fear of me doing something wrong and getting her (or worse, her daughter, who wasn’t even in the country at the time) in trouble. So I would get reprimanded for many horrible things I did, such as using Kansai-ben (the dialect of the area I had lived in for the past 8 months) instead of standard Japanese (not offensive language, mind you, just the dialect, typical conversation, the same way she and everyone else in a 50 mile radius spoke).

Adding onto whatever fundamental issues my host mom and I had with each other, the house did not have internet that I could reliably use, which became a point of contention. For quick things I would borrow their computer, but as my laptop would not connect, I would often go to downtown Kobe (Sannomiya) and sit in a cafe with wifi to blog, contact my family, etc.

I always sensed my host mom had issues with this activity, mostly because a) she would say strange things when I left the house, such as “it’s springtime, so all the perverts are coming out this time of year!” (I guess they hibernate like bears?) and b) I found out she was notifying my school administration I was doing this horrible thing. (It wasn’t even an internet cafe… it was a cafe with wireless!)
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Springtime, the season for perverts in Japan

If you’re wondering why the high school would even care… let’s just say it was a pretty ritzy private all girls’ school with its own extensive set of rules including:
• No going out in your uniform to any store after school (to prevent you from misbehaving and giving the school a bad rap)
• No going to karaoke EVER (one of the most common pastimes for middle schoolers and high schoolers in Japan, and clearly the cause of a lot of social disruption in Japan)
• No net-cafes either, apparently
• A slew of things that have to do with hair accessories (No wearing hair accessories that were not black hairties) that aren’t really relevant here
• No printing things at school (never really figured this one out. Not a single page, ever.)

Some of these rules are typical for Japan, some of these rules are excessive, even for Japan. I knew something was up when I confronted host mom about reporting my wifi-related-activities to the school and she got defensive and accused me of engaging in enjo kousai (often translated as “compensated dating” or “schoolgirl prostitution”) since that’s the main thing that apparently goes on at net-cafes.
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The infamous cafe where most of my illicit behavior occurred

So things were a little fishy, but generally going fine.

Until April 17th, when I awoke to find an email from my Japanese teacher in America stating that there were apparently some issues with my host family and they were very angry at me for breaking the rules AND for what I had written on my blog.

What?? Angry? No one ever told me… and what about my blog now?

It turns out that a couple of posts I had written doing some mild complaining about things like the lack of internet had gotten around, particularly back to America, where host family’s older daughter was studying. Some of her friends decided to tell my host family about it, and intentionally skew it to sound worse than it actually was.

So now I was left with no choice but to confront the issue, or risk being thrown out of Japan a month early.

What ensued was a lengthy crying-session by my host mom about how much I had hurt her with my activities and my blog, and the allegation that all this stress I had put them under forced her not to eat for a week (she never ate–how was I supposed to know this time was my fault?) I really had to ask, what words were exactly that hurtful?

Completely seriously, she says, “You use some really bad language on there. I heard it says the word ‘pissed’… now, I don’t speak English, so I don’t know what that word means, but I hear it’s a vulgar term for PEE!!”

This was the moment when I realized all was lost. This miscommunication was never ever to be solved, no matter how many times I told her that pissed=annoyed/angry. Instead, I apologized profusely, and put a password on my blog.

Things simmer down for a couple of awkward weeks with the host fam. Until one day at school, where I get pulled out of class, taken to the library, and the teachers in charge of exchange students sit me down at a computer and tell me to delete my blog. Now.

??!?!

Apparently, having a password on it makes it LOOK like I have something to hide, and people will be curious about it, because that’s human nature. Thus, the blog must be deleted. The school also made up a new rule about blogs and how students can’t make any that talk about people or have pictures that are “too big” or “too clear”.

After that blew over (moving my blog to a slightly different address seemed to do the trick), my host family decided to notify me they wouldn’t be hosting me after the next week. I had 3 weeks left in Japan. Host mom seemed to get a kick out of telling me I would probably be homeless for the last two weeks of my exchange. To her dismay, I emailed a previous host mom, and in under 5 minutes, I had a futon waiting for me. So much for me being the scum exchange student of the universe.

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Sometimes I felt rebellious enough to take my indoor school shoes out on the town

So I’m not sure what the take-home message is here… probably the following:
1) Living with host families sucks sometimes.
2) It’s better to have either your host family or your school on your side. When they both gang up on you, you’d better comply or your days are numbered. Also, pay attention to the subtlest clues that something strange is afoot, since neither party may mention that you’re in trouble.
3) Perverts come out in the spring, cafes are for prostitution, and pissed always means pee.

This post was a submission for the April 2010 Japan Blog Matsuriall about ‘Secret Japan’ hosted at Gakuranman.

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Seijin-shiki Part 2: Crowds in Kobe, or, Nice Guys
Don’t Wear Hakama

24/01/2010

…Noriko and I were all dolled up, seijin-shiki-style, and met up at the Hotel Okura in Kobe where Noriko had been dressed, and take some nice photos, courtesy of ojiichan’s nice camera and photography skillz, plus extra help from host mom and obaachan.

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Noriko & Mo

Met up with Noriko’s friend Sayuri and her family. Good to see them for the first time in several years too.

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Sayuri’s family, seijin-girls, and ojiichan, obaachan, and host mom on the right

Next stop: photography in the conveniently-placed Japanese garden right behind the hotel. It was not very cold, but you can tell it’s winter because there would probably be more leaves on the trees otherwise…?

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And here’s the photo that makes me feel like a tall-ass gaijin:

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It probably doesn’t show in these photos, but we were all feeling extremely rushed and stressed out (except for ojiichan, who insisted on taking hundreds of photos from all different angles, and then later remarked to Noriko that she’s kinda running late!)

But the actual seijin-shiki event was going to start soon…

So Noriko and I packed our giant obi-enhanced selves into the car with host mom, ojiichan, and obaachan, headed for Kobe’s Home’s Stadium, where the ceremony was held. Met up with Kana and another friend from high school, Nijika:

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Nijika, Kana, Noriko

As we approached the stadium, we were surrounded by every single other 20-year old in Kobe. That’s a freaking lot of people.

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In front of Home’s Stadium

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Quite a crowd in front of the convenience store. Traffic: disrupted

On seijin day, girls wear furisode and guys typically wear suits. Some guys, however, choose to wear something more traditional and go with the male version of a hakama, like what I’m wearing. However, as Noriko pointed out, those are usually the kinda guys who are really 調子乗る, or think they’re bad-boys and can pull anything off. As a result, nice-boys specifically avoid being seen in hakama on this day because they don’t want people to think they’re trying to look badass.

And as it turned out, most of the guys who showed up in hakama did have that “I wanna be baaaad” edge.

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Girls in warm fluffy white shawls

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I didn’t have a fluffy white shawl – this was almost worse than not having a kimono ;)

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Above-mentioned boys in hakama. Or at least suits and white sneakers.

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This hakama guy doesn’t look so bad… wonder what gives

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Noriko and Kana in their fuzzy-white-shawls

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White hakama boy is kinda awesome

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The rare blonde hair and sunglasses look.

I’m not sure where he falls on the spectrum of hakama vs. classy suited boys.

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ossans and photographers watch from the bridge.

The main thing going on was just to stand around in this giant crowd of kimono and suit wearing 20-year-olds. The event is held town-by-town, so my friends kept running into people they knew from elementary school, since most people go to nearby schools when they are little, and then farther away for middle/high school.

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More photography going on.

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Nijika kept finding old classmates

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Dude amidst many ladies in kimono and those white furry things.

Eventually, the massive crowd began to make its way slowly into the stadium…

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The crowd moves in…

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View from the front of the line!

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You have to show your invitation to the ceremony at the door (proof you’re a new seijin, I guess).

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Eventually found a place to sit

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About half the stadium was full

This is the part where this whole ceremony is a bit of a mystery to me. Some dude welcomed us, there were people standing at the bottom of the stadium, but nothing of interest was going on. There was about a 5 minute dance performance, aaaand that was about it. We decided we were bored after about half an hour and left.

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On the way out

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Finally, across the street from that massive crowd.

Noriko’s mom came to pick the four of us up, and we headed to their apartment in Sannomiya to chill out for a few hours before the high school reunion. I went shopping for a last-minute gift (this was the day before I left Japan). However, in Sannomiya, unlike by the stadium in Kobe, most people were NOT dressed up in kimonos, so I stuck out like no other. The stares were the normal amount of staring (due to my foreign-ness) multiplied by a factor of 1000. I even got verbal response (this is extremely rare). Some kids complimented me (they were about 13), and later I came upon a middle-aged dude who saw me and completely stopped in his tracks. Speechless.

I stared back, and eventually he realized he’d been staring long and intensely enough that some kind of verbal interaction was required. He stammered 似合う (looks good on you) and got out of there.

I came back to the apartment in time to snack, attempt to go to the bathroom in my hakama (not an easy task), get Noriko to put her custom-made nails on me:

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And take the most fabulous picture I’ve ever been a part of:

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Sad as it was to break up this powwow, it was HIGH SCHOOL REUNION TIME. So once again, we piled into the car and headed for Hotel Okura.

To be continued…

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