Stuff and Relationships

I don't think you could find one person that enjoys moving. Sure, living in a new city, navigating new streets, and experiencing new challenges has it's draws. But I'm talking about the packing up of belongings, putting them on a truck, and physically taking them someplace else. That part's not fun. 

On this eve of a new adventure I'm thinking about tons of things, but what I just can't get out of my mind is how much I dislike stuff.  People who know me, know I'm not a lover of stuff. I feel bogged down by too much of it and quickly want to weed through what is necessary and what is dead weight. However, there's nothing quite like moving to truly make to stare down all your stuff in the face. Right now, I feel like my stuff is against me, and we just aren't getting along. 

Being the way I am, 30, single, frugal and a free spirit, means that most of my stuff are hand-me-downs. Much of the stuff that I own doesn't have much value and I'm sure I only use about 10% of it on a regular basis. I realize I may be being overly dramatic, but it's all relative. I just filled a 10x5 room with my stuff of a lifetime and the thought of it sitting there gets under my skin. I realize people have entire houses full plus basements and attics and even storage units. For me, though I'm thankful for that room, it's also my own personal hell. 

The way I am feeling about this stuff finally helps me to solidify what I had been trying to solidify for a long time. The stuff you collect in life has such little value, what is valuable is your  numerous relationships. This leads me to the second thing I have been thinking a lot about. I can hardly comprehend the outpouring of love that has come my way by all the people in my life when hearing that I am making this journey. Those are the things I will be missing the most, are the toughest to leave, and will be most eager to get back to when it's time to come home. While I find myself wanting to chuck away almost all of my belongings, I find myself wanting to hold onto those relationships with every fiber of my being.

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Cash's Corner Goes to Japan

For the past 10 months I have been on a road toward moving to Japan. Now, in just days time I will be finally making the leap. 

When I returned from Morocco, settling back into life in Jackson was comfortable and safe. I loved being near family again, I made some incredible new friends, and had a wide range of personal and professional experience to add to my list. Though, something in me always wanted to go abroad again. There were times I thought more seriously about it and others that it seemed like a distant pipe dream. I knew there would be a perpetual voice within that would not quiet until I lived abroad again. Over time, I thought maybe it would diminish, but fear that it would not has been driving me down a path toward Japan. 

In October 2015 I officially applied for the JET Program. Standing for Japanese Exchange and Teaching this  30-year-old program brings native English speakers from 40 countries into Japan to live and work in public schools. They work as assistant language teachers, or ALTs, alongside Japanese born English teachers to teach students in a natural way. 

I will be living and working in a city called Kanazawa in the county or prefecture of Ishikawa. My students will be in high school aged and I am told I will be teaching 3-4 classes per day between the hours of 8:30 and 4:15. I am encouraged to participate in after school English club activities as well. Participants in the JET Program are extremely valued and treated with respect in Japan. I will be enjoying a comfortable lifestyle coupled with a rewarding job. 

Some other perks of the job:
-35 hour work week
-Salary of about $31,000 USD per year (paid in local currency)
-A fully furnished, beautiful apartment with rent subsidized in half by my employer
-Tax free status in Japan for up to 2 years
-Enrollment in nation wide health care plan and teacher pension program, money which may be withdrawn when I return to the US
-A supportive and respected network
-Chance to live without a vehicle again
-Ability to work with teens

I'm excited about the unique experiences that will be coming my way. My contract is for one year and may be renewed for up to five. I have no idea right now how long I will stay, it's only something I can decide once experiencing life in Japan. 

I've grown a lot in the past six months. This decision to go to Japan was not the easiest for me. Over the course of the 10 month waiting period I was put through a few tests that tested my patience, dedication, and commitment. Ultimately, I stuck it out and I think I will be rewarded for that. I had to come to a place that I would be going to Japan for the right reasons. Not to prove to anyone how cool I am, not even to prove something to myself. Really just to feed a desire in me that I would regret if I hadn't. I've been gifted a wonderful opportunity. Japan is a wonderful country and it can't be a bad way to spend a year. 

Be on the lookout for the numerous entries that will come out of Cash's Corner from Japan. Come one, come all, it's going to be an interesting ride! 

Please stay in contact!


Postal address in Japan:
Alex Cash
Grand Heights Yayoi #205
Yayoi 3-7-14
Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa-ken
Japan 921-8036

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John F. Kennedy for President

My final day: Boston. I tried to sleep in as long as I could and enjoy the privacy and quiet of my hostel until check-out at 11 a.m. I wouldn't be catching my flight until 9:10 p.m. so I had a long day ahead of me. I packed my things up, put them in the storage room at the hostel, and set off for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. It was one of those things I decided to do once arriving in Boston and I'm  glad I did. It was a bit of a journey, but well worth the trip. 

This is when my historical journey fast forwards to the 1960s. I have always loved the Kennedy family and the 60s is a decade that I am often obsessed with. Seeing the museum that is dedicated to the short lived presidency of JFK,was extremely intriguing to me. Typically, I go through museums at a pretty quick speed, but not this one. I stopped to watch nearly every video playing and read every bit of information. It filled me with pride and admiration of President Kennedy. I especially enjoyed the Office of the Attorney General exhibit, because it was for Bobby. I love JFK, but at times I love RFK more. I, like many Americans, love to wonder what may have happened in our nation's history if Bobby would have been able to run for president in 1968.
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is a small journey from downtown Boston, but can be serviced by public transportation. In it, you will go through a short journey in time as JFK campaigned for president, won the election, and served in the White House. The museum sits 1.5 miles from the nearest subway stop and when arriving there I walked that distance to the museum. Later I found out I could have taken a free shuttle, oh well, I did it on the way back.

This blog is not typically very political, but in light of the recent Republican National Convention followed by the Democratic National Convention I want to make one or two comments. I think it's fitting within this post, which looks at a  time that is being mimicked by our current state of international and domestic affairs. Also a president who's energy and sentiment is being channeled by our current democratic leadership.

What is clear to see is that the recent RNC was filled with high amounts of hate, fear, cynicism, and individualism. While the DNC seemed to be a place full of love, hope, and togetherness. Sitting here, just a few shorts weeks before I plan to leave the country for a year or two, my American pride is reinvigorated. I've not been more hopeful about this country for many years. Despite all the hateful acts going on here, and dealing with that embarrassment, the DNC has made me more hopeful than ever. I will be casting my vote for president this year, though from afar, but I can't miss this opportunity to make my mark on this historic election.

Democracy is not a spectator sport. I know many people do not want to engage in political conversation because it happens to be a topic that is very polarized in the United States. Somebody always has to walk away mad. I find this unfortunate, because a democracy is for the people, by the people. It should not be a taboo subject or something you are afraid to bring up. It is our lives. The fact that we have the right to vote for our leadership is a privilege, especially for minorities and women, who have not always been so fortunate. Furthermore, it is a duty. Informed voting is what is most important of all. I do not care what your political views are, I do not care if we disagree, I only care that you have taken the time to research issues and candidates on reputable sources so you are making choices based on facts and unbiased opinions. Be cognizant of what information you are taking in, question things, and never be a slave to media sensationalism. I know politics can be frustrating with the banter, mudslinging, and gridlock. However, lets be thankful that we live in a country where issues can be argued over, scrutinized, and we don't have to accept what we don't agree with without putting up a fight.

Your politicians are working for you. Take time to remind them of that. Write letters, contact them, and realize that at the state and local level is where most of the decisions are being made that will effect your life.

Visit Project Vote Smart online to find a wealth of information on most all elected officials. Hundreds of dedicated individuals put in countless hours gathering information about their political stances, views on issues, and voting records. Also find addresses to write them letters and tell them exactly what you want from them.

If you don't know who represents you in congress, look them up here.

Travel details
What: The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Where: Columbia Point, Boston, MA
Cost: $14 for an adult
Why go: If you enjoy learning about the early 1960s and John F. Kennedy.

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Freedom on Independence

It's was now day five in Boston and my day trip goals had ended. At this point exhaustion was beginning to hit me as I was walking most of my days in mid-80s sunny weather. I tried my best to stay as hydrated as possible. At times I struggled with this because I knew my options for finding a public restroom would be limited and I hate walking around with a full bladder. True to my frugal spirit, I likely wasn't taking in the amount of calories that I should have for the amount of traveling I was doing. I wanted to spend less that $20 per day on food so this meant at times I often skipped dinner hoping a large lunch would sustain me. On day five it was Independence Day in Boston and I was eager to hit the Freedom Trail. 

The Boston Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile long path winding through downtown Boston and into neighboring Charlestown marked by either a brick line or a red painted line depending where you are. It leads walkers past 16 locations significant to history of the United States. Good thing about this path was I couldn't get lost! Or could I? The path got confusing just in one or two spots but for the most part I found assurance in following the red brick road. Since there are 16 stops, I'll let you research it for yourself by checking out the Freedom Trail website. For now I'll tell you a bit about my own personal experience in a couple of spots.

The first stop  that I really loved was the Granary Burying Ground. Some 5,000 Bostonians have made this their final resting place since 1660, but a few notable residents are Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and family members of Benjamin Franklin. Since it was 4th of July, Boston began filling up quickly. I had overheard that the mayor would be stopping by this place after some time, but I got out and continued down the trail, anxious to see what laid head.

As I came upon what would be my 8th stop I noticed hundreds of people were gathering. I stopped and asked someone standing around and I was informed that there would be an annual reading of the Declaration of Independence from this stop which was the Old State House.

Though I understood being a part of this would be cool, I was really on a mission and frankly impatient. I began trying to traverse my way through the tight crowd. When I got nearly all the way out I realized there were barricades protecting the crowd from traffic. It became clear I wouldn't be able to get out, so of course I embraced it and tried to get the best view possible. Due to my short stature, this was no easy task. 

After the reading there was a small parade, none of which I could experience with my eyes. Confetti was shot off and since I was down wind I was showers in little red, white, and blue bits of paper. 

As I continued on I was nearing the edge of downtown Boston. The trail crosses the Charles River and concludes in the nearby Charlestown (the oldest neighborhood of Boston) with the Bunker Hill Monument and the USS Constitution. By the time I got to Bunker Hill I was hot, dehydrated, and in need of a restroom. When I saw the accompanying museum with restrooms I was happy and finally was able to rest by weary feet while sitting on the side of the hill. It became known to me that the public could in fact climb to the top of the monument, a decision that I weighed out over my rest period. I knew I could do it physically and thought it would be another thing to do to fill time. When I took my first step I didn't know how many were ahead of me. Instead I was given this information a third of the way up by someone descending in the compact two-way traffic. There were 294 winding stairs. 

After decending I made my way to the only subway station in Charlestown to journey back to Boston, where I wanted to attempt eating lunch at Union Oyster House, America's oldest continuously operated restaurant.  It was during lunch time and it was a holiday so I figured I may experience an extremely long wait at this landmark. Much to my surprise the restaurant was much larger than it appeared from the street and I walked right up to the bar to sit down. I was sitting next to another single gentleman and the bartender had the idea we were together. The two of us joked about that and I told him he was more than welcome to pay for me! He didn't bite. I had a cup of clam chowder, a salad, and a Sam Adams Colonial Ale, a beer made especially for this establishment.

I was pretty tired by this point and slightly tipsy from the one beer but I wanted to check out Quincy Market for its street performers, so I did that for a bit. I was beginning to feel claustrophobic around the large crowds so I walked to Boston Commons, the large public park, and knew some rest under a shady tree was just what I needed. When I finally chose the tree I wanted I looked to my right and of all the trees in Boston, there were sitting two of my German hostel room mates. We quickly acknowledged  this chance encounter and got to talking about everything from Brexit, to their careers, and the fireworks that would take place later that night. We agreed to go together which made me happy to not have to navigate Boston streets alone at night. My day ended with a bang, literally. Many heart shaking ones as we watched the fireworks display after the Boston Pops concert. We had an incredible view that was just 10 minutes from our hostel on the Charles River. 

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Lizzie Borden Took an Axe

Holy axe! Ever since my 7th grade math teacher so interestingly told our class how Lizzie Borden took an axe I've been intrigued by this story. For as long as I have wanted to go to Boston, I've wanted to go to her home in Fall River, just an hour south.

My journey began at Boston South Station with a bus ticket toward Fall River. Round trip cost me $49 on Peter Pan and I would only be spending three hours there before returning. I was a bit discouraged at how steep this was, but it was worth it for me. It took just over one hour to arrive in Fall River at the Louis Pettine Transportation Center. Fall River was larger than I though but fortunately my ultimate destination was just around the block from this bus station. When arriving at the house I bought my $18 ticket for a 45-minute full tour. A bit steep again, but I knew what I was in for long ahead of time. The Lizzie Borden House is a working bed and breakfast, but guests may not be in between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to allow for public tours of all rooms. This is one piece of history that I knew a ton about. I enjoyed listening to the narration the guide gave of the Bordens' life and the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden. We got a play by play of the crime, just as if we were watching a documentary, but were really there. We sat on the furniture, which surprised me, but quickly I learned nothing of the current contents every belonged to the Bordens. Everything had been recreated from pictures using authentic period pieces. This is because after Lizzie and her sister Emma moved from the house, their belongings went temporarily into storage. All of their belongings were destroyed in storage by either fire or flood. 

Maybe one of my favorite moments was walking up the staircase and getting the view under the bed of the guest room of where the murdered Abby Borden lay.
After hitting the gift shop, and buying my mom earring with axes on them, I took the written directions to Oak Grove Cemetery, the Bordens' final resting place. The tour guide, Debbie, said it was just five minutes away-but as I walked, looking at my Google map I realized she had left out the "by car" part. It was a two mile walk. I began to get nervous because I had to catch the last bus back to Boston and had 1.5 hours left. I was hot (85 degree sun), hungry (only ate a Clif Bar), and thirsty (drank all my water), but I kept on trucking toward that cemetery. 

When I reached the cemetery I followed the white arrows leading to their grave, just as I was told. In no time I found the plot, took some pictures, then headed back in the direction of the bus station. I had 40 minutes to spare so I needed to grab some quick food. I did, and in the nick of time hopped back on the cushy bus to Boston.
If you don't know what I am talking about, and you want to know, you can read about Lizzie Borden's life here.

Travel details
What: The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast
Where: 230 Second Street Fall River, Mass.
Cost: $18 for a hour tour, between $200-$250 for an overnight stay
Why go: If you find yourself being intrigued by the Lizzie Borden case.

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