. Wednesday, February 21, 2018 .

Finally, my flight home vlog is up! This took a long time to edit, mostly because my camera is having a lot of issues these days. Another big reason this vlog was delayed is because of the emotional content in this video. Amanda's plane left before mine, and I get pretty emotional. I didn't film the exact moment we parted, but I did film right before and after.
Also in this video is some footage of the JAL First Class lounge, and what it's like to fly first class! True to my words, I slept the entire time, but I did take footage of almost all my meals, so I hope you'll find that interesting!

Amanda as we were shopping! She ended up carrying her purchases on the plane, as we couldn't find a suitcase she liked.

This is my window view. I had 3 windows I could look out of, but I mostly kept these closed during the flight.
The first class seat! There were only 8 of them, and they were super comfy. This seat turned into a very comfortable bed, and when I said I wanted to sleep, the stewardesses gave me a small mattress and blanket to sleep with. I was also provided some slippers and pajamas! My hands were full when I was leaving the plane, so I couldn't take the PJs with me.

This was a really nice perk! Everyone in first class had free wifi, so I listened to relaxing music as I slept thanks to my great internet connection! Inside this envelope is a tiny promotion code you can use to get free wifi using the flights internet service.

These were the headphones we received and WOW, these impressed me a lot. We weren't' allowed to keep them, but the noise canceling abilities of these headphones was totally unreal

A freebie! This was filled with goodies (shown below)
Goodies: tissues, earplugs, a face mask, an eye mask, dental floss, a toothbrush, toothpaste, some lotion and face wash. 

These headphones were incredible! Check out the tiny switch, that's used to control the noise canceling function. Once I switched it on, the plane sounds completely disappeared. I slept like a baby with these on!

 The Food

I requested the Vegan meal for this flight a few days beforehand, and they did not disappoint! While I found JAL's Business Class meals to be a bit lacking, these really knocked it out of the park! I highly recommend taking the vegan track when flying JAL.

Appetizer, some cold veggies with a hint of lemon juice.

Different colored peppers served in a mini iceberg wedge, some kind of carrot gelatin? I wasn't sure what this was exactly but it had some body to it and had the familiar tang of carrot.  Lemon wedge on the side.
Salsa with various peppers, onion, and cucumber. Very refreshing, and I'm not really a salsa fan!

The INCREDIBLE bread! 

This was served with the bread. A light oil, some salt with black peppercorns and some whipped margarine. The bread on this flight was incredible, I even asked the stewardess for more. Unfortunately, this was the Vegan meal only bread so they didn't have extra in stock.

The view from outside my window! Incredible. 

I requested some rice with pickled plum (shown down below) because I got peckish waiting for my main course. I later regretted this choice only because the main dish was so filling.

The main course! Some melon, a grape, asparagus, a cold couscous salsa and roasted chickpeas and assorted legumes! I found it all really tasty, even though I'm usually not a fan of cold food!
Couscous salsa mixture. Had some lemon notes!

A side salad I received!

This is my seat! I got up to snap a quick photo before my bed was being made, hence the pillow on the side.

I don't remember exactly when I ate this! I wasn't hungry at all at that time, so I barely touched this. The rice tasted great but the 'burger' was very... interesting. It's made of kale and some grains but the kale flavor was super pronounced, which I wasn't a fan of. The sauce tasted very smoky, but there was no real flavor besides the smoke. This burger desperately needed sauce though, as it was very dry. 

I received this meal for breakfast! This is a vegan take on 'egg', which I really liked. I usually don't like vegan egg substitutes but this tasted super good!

This is part of the dessert set they gave me. I didn't take video footage of this because I was exhausted at this point! But I'm glad I had enough energy to snap a photo! 
This is the hidden gem of all my meals on the flight. This doesn't look like much, but the chocolate flavor was so rich and intense, it was the perfect contrast to the mellow sweetness of the fruit.

The morning sky approaching New York!  

This is truly the end of my journey. I had a lot of mixed feelings going back, but in my heart, I knew this was the right thing to do. Japan, you're never too far away! Amanda, I'll see you again soon!

. Monday, February 19, 2018 .
If you've been in the app store lately you might have seen the app Drops. The app icon is very pleasing to the eye, so naturally, I gave the app a click to see what it was all about. For IOS users, you can download the app hereThis is my referral link, so I do get extra minutes if you download the app through me, just wanted to be clear! 

 The app itself is very faithful to the color scheme in the icon, and I recently expressed that I wanted to start buckling down and studying Chinese on a consistent basis. With that in mind, I've been using this app for a week now and I wanted to share some of the best and worst features of Drops!

On their homepage, Drops boasts 'effortless, visual language learning'. With over 28 languages to choose from, Drops offers a relatively simple way to learn a language: with simple white graphics that you associate with new vocabulary. The concept isn't new, but it is tried and tested to work if you're consistent. 

Drops has a lot of different languages. To name a few: Korean, Chinese, Japanese, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Esperanto, Hindi, Swedish, etc! Not only can you learn different languages, but this app is amazing for those who are not native speakers of English who want a bomb language learning app! Drops is available in 29 languages, including some you don't see very often like Icelandic and Punjabi!

Drops approaches language learning with color, simple graphics, and floating text. The learning games are simple yet fun, mostly consisting of drag and drop bubbles that correspond to their word or meaning. I think this is pretty unique because there is 0 use of the keyboard. It can be intimidating to type in another language, and Drops eliminates the use of the Keyboard by offering letters in drag-able bubbles onscreen!

There are two modes: Beginner and Intermediate. You can adjust the difficulty in the settings, along with changing your native language.

The first stage is memorizing the new word, where you drag and drop the word into the persons head at the bottom. If you know the word, you can drag it up and choose not to 'learn' it, but it will still come up on tests regardless.

 Here's an example of one of the tests. This is part of the Chinese radical chapter, as you can see from my progress at the bottom. My only issue with these tests is that, if you get something wrong, it sets you back a pretty steep amount. I was at 99% and then misclicked an answer, so I got pushed back to 90. I'm not sure what number exactly, but I think once you've completed 70% of the course, you unlock the next lesson. Since I've only been using this app for a week, I can't say how many lessons they offer before asking for payment, but I'll keep this post updated with that information.

 These are two other common tests. You can drag the word to the meaning, or vice versa. 

Why Drops Works for Me:

I actually like that Drops only gives free users 5 minutes a day to use the app. In the beginning, I found this so frustrating because I was absorbing information quickly. I was itching for more minutes so I could study more, so I completed some minor tasks to help me get more time.

If you rate the game or share it with your friends, you get extra minutes. If someone downloads the game using your code, that time is permanent.  I learned that if you logged on consistently you were likely to get some form of time bonus. 

However, I really like the fact that I only have 5 minutes every day to study on Drops. Due to the limited amount of time I have, I feel motivated to study harder. I also feel as though the time limit stops me from learning too much and not retaining it for the next day. 5 minutes is a bite-sized lesson, so I don't feel overwhelmed when I get the notification that it's time to study. Other language learning apps would add up to a lot of work as you progressed, which in turn made me less likely to log on and do my daily reviews. I love the free version of Drops because it's consistent and juuuuuust enough time!

All that being said, Drops has a few paid features that you can see below.

This is the middle of the road package. I think this one is worth it if you're someone who only wants to study one specific language and focus that intensely. I personally wouldn't subscribe to the yearly or monthly subscriptions, especially right now when I'm being offered Lifetime at a much more affordable rate.

If you consistently use this app for more than 4 days, you'll be given a 55% discount towards a Lifetime membership.

This option is for those who aren't ready to lay out $50 on an app. At an approachable $17.99, you still get most of the good features, minus the Tough Word Dojo, and you keep a certain time limit. I'll explain a little later why it might be better to NOT have unlimited time.

This is the most expensive option, but not by much. For only $2 more than Genius price you get access to 28 different languages! For serious language learners who LOVE this app, I would say the Polyglot package is the best deal. While I personally don't like the idea of unlimited time, I think the offline access to 28 languages is a good trade-off for $50. The Chinese language track alone has 98 lessons, so assuming the other languages follow suit, that's over 2700 different lessons you can possibly unlock.
I don't think Drops realizes the value of having a time limit, but I can't deny that their content is consistent, fun and simple for a Chinese beginner like me. $50 is a lot to shell out for an app, so choose your subscriptions wisely. 

I truly don't feel like you need to pay for this app, so don't let these dollar signs scare you off!

I hope you give this app a try, they offer so many different languages and I truly believe it's an effective tool for beginner to intermediate language learners!

. Wednesday, February 14, 2018 .
I've been trying to get these vlogs out forever, I've had so many camera issues that it's been nearly impossible, but finally, I'm here with some vlogs! I can't say I have any photo's to go with this, but the vlogs are pretty long so I hope it compensates for that!

Amanda and I did a lot in my last few days. Here's a brief checklist of some of the wondrous activities taking place in these vlogs:

  •  Eating Korean shaved ice
  •  Playing MOMOLAND in an electronics store
  •  Buying several squishies
  •  Conveyer belt sushi
  •  Checking out a flower shop
  •  Moving out

... and much more! I hope you enjoy these vlogs, the conclusion to my Japan trip (aka my flight home) will be coming within the next week.



. Sunday, February 11, 2018 .

Today I'll be reviewing the Kanji app that I personally feel is the best app out there for studying Kanji. I'll start off by saying I've gone through a lot of Kanji apps looking for one that suited me, had an aesthetically pleasing interface, and offered effective ways to learn. With those criteria in mind, I picked KANJISTUDY. I've in no way been sponsored at all to review this app, just thought I would talk about it because I use it all the time in my KIP posts!

At first, I was hesitant to pay for the rest of the app. I'm not someone who usually spends money on apps, however I felt this app really showed me what it could do, and I encourage you to download it yourself and try it out. The price might seem hefty to some -- $9.99, but I personally feel it was worth it.

When you first open the app you'll have this chart at the top that charts if you meet your study requirement for the day. My daily study target is 10 minutes, which is the default, but it can be customized via the app settings.

This is the tab in which you can find all the Kanji and different levels. Beginner level is available for free with the base app, but in order to access the rest of the levels you'll have to pay. However, there's a lot of good content for free here to explore. You can learn radicals and all the kana if you haven't learned those yet. You can also mark certain kanji as 'Favorites' and create custom study groups!

This is the Basic level (N4), and some of the kanji that are included in this level. You can rank them based on a star system: New, Seen, Familiar and Known. I'm currently using 'Seen' as a way to keep track of all the kanji I learn in KIP.

When you long press any of these Kanji, you'll get a menu in which you can explore more settings.

For example, if you click free writing, you can practice writing Kanji!

When you click the 'Study' button, you're presented with 3 types of study sessions: Flashcard, Quizzes and Writing Challenges. I'll walk you through each of these. I'm not 100 percent sure how far these go in the free version, as I really only began using them after I paid for the app.

This is the front and back of a flashcard from the Flashcard Study option. The star system on the bottom is from how I ranked the Kanji (that I previously explained above). Whenever you study using the flashcard system, it counts towards your daily study target.

This is a Multi-Choice Question section. You can edit the preferences of the quizzes here as well, as you can see!

Here, you choose the Kanji to complete the word within a certain amount of time. As you go on and get the same kanji right multiple times, the app will give you less and less time to reply.

Finally, this is the Writing Challenge!


For the writing challenge, it's a test not only of your knowledge of the kanji readings, but also of the stroke order of the given kanji. 

 If you get the stroke order completely correct on the first try, you get this cute little flower with a swirly in the middle!  At the top, you can see a checkmark, x and question mark. The checkmark is all the strokes you get right. The X is how many you get wrong. The ? is how many hints the app has to give you.
The lightbulb at the top provides you a hint if you don't know which stroke to start with!

Also, as a side note, clicking the little palette sign before each type of study session will allow you to change the color of each study session. I chose green, blue and purple as the colors I wanted! I'm sure this is a paid only feature though, but it's a cute way to customize the app nonetheless!

Thanks for reading!