2015 is nearly over. The winter solstice has passed, the days are getting longer, and the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar is nigh. And what would the New Year be without some reflection on the past 52 weeks?
This was an interesting year for me in that it was filled with some pretty remarkable failures, yet looking back, the year feels like anything but a failure. I had excellent times with friends (old and new) and family, learned and grew an incredible amount, saw interesting parts of the world I'd never been to, and accomplished at least a few things I'm proud of.
The year started off inauspiciously as progress with Levate, mine and Ethan's young startup, was at a standstill. In the meantime I went on a disastrous three month trip across Europe. After that, I took a job in Bangladesh with a local company there that, to put it briefly, went horridly.
Yet eventually the startup got funded, I turned the disastrous Euro-adventure into a new creative project, and travelling to Bangladesh allowed me to meet and get to know people and places I'd not have had the opportunity to see otherwise. Call it New Year's optimism, but what seemed like failure was really just part learning experience, part waiting game, and all entertainment (if only to be able to laugh at my mistakes in hindsight).
And there was plenty more for me to be thankful for. So in no particular order, here are some of my favorite things about this past year.
Thanks also to all the friends and family who have vastly enriched my life. Ana, Jessie, Madison, Mom, Dad, Lisa, Katsuya, Justin, Zach, Ethan, Michael, Ryan, Matt, Andrew, Blanca, Tristan, Eva, Elena, Nail, Su, Milad, Adrien, Pierre, Maha, Susan, Margherita, Laura, Leonardo, Saideed, Rhiday, and all the rest I'm leaving off without meaning to.
It's saddening to see both how so many college friendships have faded since I graduated in 2013 and how difficult it is to find truly meaningful friendships when one no longer has social institutions like universities or work environments to help. One of my goals in 2016 is to show my appreciation more often and more meaningfully to the friends in my life and to more consciously seek out new friendships.
Beyond that, I want to really dive deep into my writing and make that a regular, central part of my day-to-day life and work. I'm hoping to go on one big adventure early next year, then come back to Oklahoma to move our startup forward with Ethan right around the time our product, the wheelchair lift, will be ready to bring to market.
I'm excited about 2016. I feel focused and motivated to see my current projects and plans through in a way that I've never felt before, as I've typically been one to bounce around from idea to idea without ever finishing much. It took a lot of experimenting, trial and error, and exploration but I've found inspiring work that I enjoy and, hopefully, the maturity and experience necessary to make the most of those opportunities.
To a most excellent New Year,
Dillon Dakota Carroll
I came back about two weeks ago after spending a week and half in Japan with my family. One of my sisters lives in Chiba, and she got married on the 4th! It was a beautiful ceremony.
We spent a week before the wedding touring around some of Japan's most famous sights. Because there were 22 of us (a lot of the bride and grooms friends came from the US for the wedding, too!) we rented a charter bus to take us around for the week before the wedding. My sister and her fiancée planned the trip to a tee, so the whole thing went incredibly smoothly. And even though I'd been to visit my sister in Japan for Christmas 2012, it seemed like most of what we saw was completely new.
All in all, it was an awesome trip that we all had a blast on. So thanks to my sister and her new husband, and I wish them the best on their new life together! And in honor of the excellent trip they organized, here are my top five memories from the whole thing.
1. Fuji Sengen Shrine.
A 600-year-old Shinto shrine a short drive away from Fuji-san itself. Of all the temples and shrines we visited on the trip, this was definitely my favorite. It's not crowded like the Meiji temple (located in the heart of Tokyo) or Toshogu (a world heritage site), so I could enjoy the tranquility of the space more. And is it tranquil! To get to it, you pass under the first Shinto gateway and onto a long, unpaved footpath through a forest of Japanese cedars, flanked by mossy stone lanterns. The walk there seems to quiet the mind and prepare the spirit for the shrine itself. At the end of the footpath, a bridge takes you gently over a brook that flows so smoothly that it whispers rather than babbles. It is the perfect transition into the shrine complex itself, which seems so much at ease and in rapport with the forest and the stream that it would be hard to imagine one without the other. By the time you reach it, you're now attuned to the spirituality and majesty designed into the shrine. I'd say it is hard to visit the shrine and not feel spiritually cleansed afterwards. Traditional Japanese architecture and landscaping was truly genius in this respect.
2. Traditional Japanese inn and hot springs on the Angry Ogre River
About halfway through the trip we stayed for a night at an inn on the Kinugawa, or Angry Ogre, river. The place was both a traditional Japanese inn and a hot springs bath. It was an incredibly pleasant experience because, besides being relaxing, the whole thing was very immersive. The rooms don't have any Western-style furniture. Instead, guests sit on the floor on low tables and sleep on futons. They brought us Japanese-style robes to wear while we were at the inn . My sister told me what they were called, but I forgot to write down the names. Anyway, once we got checked in, we headed down to the hot springs baths. This being a Japanese hot springs, that meant segregated baths for men and women, as they can only be used while naked. Once you get used to it, it's pretty awesome- especially the views over the Angry Ogre river. When we arrived, it had just started to sprinkle, so we chose the outdoor bath over the indoor one. The softly cascading rain made a comfortable contrast to the hot springs.
After drying off and changing back into our robes, it was time for dinner, again in a very traditionally Japanese fashion. That meant again sitting on the floor as they brought out tray after tray of food: all kinds of raw fish, fermented vegetables, soups, and rice. Many in the group were turned off by how "weird" (to us) most of the food was, but this was easily my favorite meal because of the whole experience that went into it. All said, I could have easily spent a week at that place!
3. Singing karaoke in Chiba
This was the closest thing the groom got to a bachelor's party. Basically, all the guys went one night to sing Karaoke at an all-you-can-drink karaoke place. Unlike in the US, in Japan you rent a private room by the hour or half-hour for your party and they bring whatever snacks and drinks you order directly to you. And since it was all-you-can-drink, we kept the drinks coming. I lost count of how many rounds we ordered, but even without them we would have had a great time. The groom's friends visiting from the US, five guys in all, were old friends and had no problem letting go and just having a good time- one of the good things about having a private room! That set the mood for the whole night, and soon we were all dancing, crooning out lyrics, and laughing hysterically.
Afterwards we went back to the hotel around midnight, but somehow me and one of my brother-in-laws wound up at a late night Ramen restaurant just around the corner, where we had a surprisingly deep conversation about the meaning of life. I say that given how much we drank, to anyone who understood English at the restaurant we must have been pretty funny. He and I laughed about it the next morning (me with a horrendous hangover). But you know what? Our Ramen Shop Philosophizing was a great way to end the night.
4. Nikko Edo Wonderland park
Nikko Edo is a theme park made to look like a 17th century Japanese village. Though the park was aimed at kids, we still had a good time here! We went the day after the Inn & Hot Springs, and the weather was perfect: sunny, warm and breezy.
I liked it because of how interactive it was. We learned the basics of katana fighting, archery, shuriken-throwing, and even dueled with "samurai" in the streets. A couple of the girls in our party dressed up in Kimonos, and a few of us guys went on a ninja-training obstacle course that we failed miserably at.
It was also fun for me because I was finishing up Shogun, the book by James Clavell set in early 17th Century Japan. So I could actually walk through a "17th Century village"- in theme park form, granted, but fun and enjoyable nonetheless.
Since I mentioned Shogun- I started reading on the airplane to Japan and I'd say it made the whole trip more enjoyable. Besides being an excellent book in its own right, it also gave a lot of insight into the history of Japan and where modern Japanese culture evolved from. Highly recommended read, especially if you're planning on visiting Japan!
5. The wedding itself!
I'm running out of sisters to watch get married off. Plus, there's something about seeing a sister (or any loved one, for that matter) walking down the aisle that just makes the tears flow.
It was a Western-style wedding, which apparently are very popular in Japan, held at a place called Camelot Hills in Omiya. The place tries to be a replica of an old manor-house, which a decently large chapel inside for the actual wedding ceremony. I'm not sure how faithful of a replica it is, but it was a beautiful venue.
The wedding process, based on what my sister described, is very straightforward in Japan: you pay a lot of money to a place like Camelot Hills, and they basically take care of everything for you. For example, Camelot Hills took care of the catering, DJ and MC, photography and videography, the minister, set-up and clean-up, and more. They helped my sister find translators to interpret during the reception and after-party (the ceremony itself was only in English). It was the job of one staff member to follow my sister around the whole night and constantly fix her makeup, redo her hair, and adjust her dress for photos. They had shuttle buses going to-and-from Omiya, right near our hotel, to make it easy to get there.
All in all, I was impressed with how smooth the venue made the whole thing- Except for having a shuttle bus drive off at the end of the night with all my things on board! But to their credit, the venue was great about arranging to have the bus drop them back off to me.
One last thing worth mentioning that was fantastic about my sister's wedding- the desert bar they had at the afterparty. Besides having a station where guests could make smores (the bride and groom met at a bonfire in Oklahoma), they had a mouthwatering array of sweets that made me feel like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory- on top of the wedding cake, by the way.
My favorite? A chocolate mousse topped with strawberry sauce, covered in gold flakes (yes, real gold) with a stick of chocolate stuck in the top. The thought that I was eating real gold made the dish taste even more decadent.
Thanks again to my sister and her new husband for the amazing time we all had!
Dillon Dakota Carroll
After my previous article on the ten craziest things that have happened to me so far in Bangladesh, I wanted to write a follow-on top ten list of the good things about Dhaka. I did have to think outside the box quite a bit to come up with ten, but here they are:
After a half-year long hiatus from posting on this blog, I'm back at it! Though, to be fair, I have been writing- and editing- a lot, just on a new project. Hopefully I will be able to share it soon.
Since I last wrote a blog post, a lot's happened. Chiefly, I moved to Bangladesh for a 2-year long position with an economic development company. The job didn't work out, but it did give me quite a few memorable experiences. Here are ten of the crazier things that have happened so far!
If the list seems slanted towards the bad things, it's only because I wanted to share the crazy anecdotes and hard-to-believe occurrences that come with living in a new place and culture, before everything becomes normal and mundane.
I hope you enjoyed the list! I am having quite an interesting time here in Bangladesh- there are things both good and bad. More coming soon!
...sees much and knows much