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The Benefits of Study Abroad


This is a column I wrote for my school's international studies newsletter for high school students.

When I was seven years old, my family moved to France and it changed my life. How could it not? I learned a new language, made new friends, and saw exciting places. My experiences living across the U.S., Europe, and Asia changed me as a person, and if you, too, can study in another country, it could be amazing.

When should you go abroad? Global health this year is a question mark, and who knows what next year will bring, but with any luck, you’ll have an opportunity in high school or university. You can probably find the time, but you also need to find the motivation. Why exactly would you want to go abroad? Everyone has different answers.

Maybe you want a challenge. Learning a foreign language and adapting to a new culture help you learn who you are. You might get homesick or have communication problems, but as you overcome those problems, you’ll gain strength and confidence.

Maybe you want to see the world. From food to fashion to music, experiencing new things is rewarding and exciting. People in different countries think and act in different ways, and when you live abroad, your own thoughts and actions will evolve. Also, perhaps you can make friends from around the world, and these connections could last a lifetime.

If you have the chance to study abroad, I hope you carefully consider it. There are so many interesting things to learn about yourself and the world. Be a global citizen. Go out and find them.


Western Japan


For summer vacation, I headed to western Japan. There are four prefectures I hadn't visited that were on the list: Yamaguchi, Shimane, Tottori, and Okayama.

7/23🚗 Tokyo → Mie.🚐 Rest area
7/24🚗 Mie → Yamaguchi. It was a long drive. Near the end, we had some heavy rain. My rental car is actually a small van, not designed for high speeds, and certainly not designed for high speeds in the rain. I went slow and took breaks. One advantage to the van is if you're hanging out or want to lie down for a nap, the back is big enough to make that comfortable.⛺ Shinpeigahara Park Camping Ground
7/25Various countryside sites and road walking in Kano. Yamaguchi is rural. It feels similar to Akita or northern Yamagata, with all of the overgrown mountains where nobody lives and then the rice fields in the valleys, with too many shades of green for the camera to do it justice.
7/26Tsunoshima Big Bridge (角島大橋). This is a famous road in a motorcycle magazine I read years ago. It's way the heck out there but worth the trip, either by car or bike. I had a tasty seafood lunch on the island. There was a giant downpour this afternoon, and I'm alone in the campground tonight.
7/27It rained again today, so I packed up my stuff and drove east. At lunch I drove down to Mito Onsen for a meal and a bath. In the afternoon I walked down to Hijiri Lake. The new campground is up in the mountains on the Hiroshima-Shimane border, and relatively exposed, so when the rain stops, it should dry out fairly quickly. Tonight there are two other groups in the campground, and we're happy enough with the pace and space of it all.⛺ Hijiriko Camping Ground
7/28Sandankyo is a famous gorge in northern Hiroshima. The touristy portion was closed due to heavy rain, but the upstream piece to Sandantaki, a big waterfall, was open. Today was another on-and-off rain day, but given the places and trails I hit up, it worked out fine. After lunch I climbed Shinnyuzan, and in the late afternoon downpour, I walked to the top of Osarakan, Hiroshima's highest mountain. There were no views from the summit.
7/29Today was a relaxing day. I did laundry at a laundromat and later visited the town of Masuda, Shimane. There's a nice little temple, Manpukuji, and the woman working there talked to me for twenty minutes about that sect's founder, how their garden was laid out, and various historical details.
7/30Russ Kabir, my successor as a Chokai JET, lives in Higashi Hiroshima. We got together for chatting and lunch. I haven't seen Russ since maybe 2014. Cool guy!⛺ Takataniya Campground
7/31I got up at 4:30 to see the sunrise. The campground is on top of a hill overlooking Miyoshi, Hiroshima, and it's famous for the "sea of clouds" you can often see in the early hours. This morning was beautiful. Later, I drove to Izumo to see the Izumo Grand Shrine. It's big, notable, cool.⛺ Daisenike Camping Ground
8/1I got up early today and went off to climb Mount Daisen, the highest point in Tottori Prefecture. It was cloudy most of the hike, a welcome change from the rain that lingered for the past week. In the afternoon I stopped by an onsen to take a bath and a laundromat to wash my clothes.
8/2Tsuyama is a city in Okayama. I stopped by to check out Shuraku-en, the garden, and Kakuzan Park, site of the former castle. It's a nice place to stroll around for an hour or two.🚐 Kannabekogen Rest Area
8/3🚗 Hyogo → Aichi.🚐 Rest area
8/4🚗 Aichi → Tokyo.

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Grand Forks


The other day I found some cool old maps of my home town, Grand Forks, North Dakota. Here are the maps, along with some pictures from the past few decades. Grand Forks is in the NE part of the state. The county is shown in green in this 1897 map.


The next two maps are from 1934 and 1963. The house I grew up in is located between Roosevelt School and South Junior High School, which are on the south edge of town in 1934. By 1963, the town had expanded in that direction, and growth to the south continues to this day.

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The next map is from 1994. You can see continued growth to the south and the west. Of course there's no growth to the east, because of the Red River, and also because you'd have to drive around 10 miles farther south to get to a bridge.


Here are two maps and two aerial photographs of Grand Forks created in 2020, although new road construction suggests the data is several years old. I've added two small black house icons. The one in the north is at 1112 Cottonwood Street where I grew up, and the one directly south of that is at 5571 Charlie Ray Drive where Betsy and Dex built their new house in 2019.

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1112 Cottonwood Street.

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Lewis & Clark Elementary School.

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South Junior High School.

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Central High School.

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5571 Charlie Ray Drive.

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Media and Politics


The following is a letter I wrote that appeared in the Grand Forks Herald on May 3, 2020. The title it was given is, "Piece about media is all about politics".


In an opinion piece two weeks ago, R.J. Ogaard claimed the left-wing media was running a smear campaign on President Trump, but at the same time, the letter he wrote was just that — a smear piece.

He would have you believe the mainstream news reporting is all highly biased garbage. Fortunately, this is just not true. Countless studies have investigated and found that news sources such as the AP, Bloomberg, Reuters, National Public Radio, ABC News, CBS news, Politico, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times generally report factual and responsible news. Some of these sources, like Politico, may be a bit liberal. Others, like the Wall Street Journal may be a bit conservative. Even so, they are reliable sources of information.

Ogaard claims that media outlets like the above are ignoring the facts and just lashing out at Trump because they don’t like him. He wrote, “Those same news sources are now scapegoating Trump, with a frame that he did not respond to COVID-19 quickly enough.” Well, it’s a fact that Trump’s response was too little too late. In late January, Trump said, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China.” In late February, just when Italy was locking down entire cities, Trump declared, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.” Clearly it wasn’t under control then, it still isn’t now, and these are critical issues that ought to be in the news.

One blatant omission from Ogaard’s piece is any mention of conservative media. He writes that corporate media is after three things: “Power. Money. Status.” Does that include Fox News? What about the Grand Forks Herald? He doesn’t say, and that highlights a big problem in his letter.

He says we should distrust corporate media, except for a few companies — the ones that match his extreme political views.

Douglas Perkins


Hiking in Japan


Kyūya Fukada wrote a book called 100 Famous Japanese Mountains. I'm not particularly hoping to climb them all, but it's fun to keep track of the list. If I have free time in the non-winter months, finding a new peak is a good way to get outdoors.




Chūbu region

Western Japan

Camping in Ibaraki


Spring break is a good time to travel. This year we had a longer break. School ended two weeks early because of COVID-19. That created a longer spring break, but it also limited what activities are reasonable. I decided to do a bit of car camping in Ibaraki, rented a car, packed my bags, and drove north.

The first destination was Mt. Tsukuba (筑波山). It's an easy hike, but it's also beautiful, and the spring ascent in the snow with only a handful of other hikers to be found was marvelous.

The second destination was the Hananuki Gorge (花貫渓谷). I chose it because there's a wonderful free campground (小滝沢キャンプ場) right by a stream. Many campgrounds in Japan are expensive, and many of them have sites right next to each other, and that's frustrating if you want to get out to nature but the people next door are boozing until midnight. This campground did not have that problem. There are maybe ten sites, they're shielded from each other by the hillside and river bank, and the noise of running water sounds nice in the background. Once I got there, I looked up some hiking trails. There's a 2km route to the summit of Tsuchigatake (土岳), and since that's really short, I hiked down the other side and on back roads for a few hours to make a big loop out of the thing.

Three nights, two full days, two half days, pretty fun. Some snow, some sun, some nature. Cold enough where most people wouldn't go camping, but warm enough for the few of us that did to feel good about it. I don't own a car, which is great, but from time to time it's also great to crank up the music and sing along with it while trucking along the roads for a few hours.

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