Tuesday, October 31, 2006

For the past few days I have just felt absolutely exhausted. I take it as a good sign that I'm pushing myself more to learn Japanese.

Anyway, I wanted to write a few random things before I leave for about a week to go visit Aozora in Nagoya.

First, I was rereading some of my blog entries as well as my picture comments in my gallery and I am shocked at the number of errors and just weird grammar that I use! I can't blame learning Japanese because I'm not speaking it enough to be making mistakes like that! But at the same time, I can't find any other reason for it. Just know, I have noticed but I have no intentions of going back and fixing most of them because there are just too many!

I was talking to my mom the other day and she asked if the people that I meet are fascinated by my hair. I told her that surprisingly no one seemed to care about my curls except a few people here and there that ask if it's a perm. I was really surprised just because I hear so many westerners talking about how Japanese people, specifically girls, will come up and freak out of the persons hair, touching it and playing with etc. And those people only had wavy hair!

Well, my time came.

Last week when I was at Odochi, I was wearing my hair down and the girls for whatever reason decided 3 months was long enough and they couldn't wait any longer, they just had to play with my hair. And they did too. Pulling on the curls and fluffing it up. It was so different from the way Americans try to play with my hair! The first thing Americans do is pull all the curls apart so it turns into a fro. These girls just pulled on the strands. Yesterday they did the same thing only one girl, I'm pretty sure, stuck her head in my hair and went on and on about how good it smelled. It was hard to tell because it's the back of my head but nonetheless, the girls were thrilled to be able to play with it.

Today, at Tosayamada, some girls did the same thing. I guess it just took three months for the students to get more comfortable with me.

Also, my secret is out in the first year class at Odochi. Even though I kinda hinted at it when I first arrived, they have just now discovered that I like anime and manga and were thrilled that I actually understood what they were talking about. The Otaku boy was much more well behaved as well when he found out. That, and I gave him candy for his good drawing in the last class. He's warming up to me :)

Finally, I will leave you with a comment that my mom sent me this afternoon:

P.S. I do NOT understand why ANYONE would want to be genderless. Or WHY any reasonably prestigious social institution like a school would encourage something so inane. Don't these kids have anything more productive to do? I mean, I just don't get the point of that Culture thing. Where was the culture? I'm thinking music, dance, traditional foods, whatever. But genderless? What's up with that? Surely the Japanese are not genderless...eunuchs...whatever. Makes no sense to me. But then, that's why you're there and I'm here I guess. I just have one eyebrow in the air. Sorry.


Happy Halloween

Monday, October 30, 2006

I spent Saturday at Day 2 of the Culture festival. It was much more enjoyable the second day. Many more people showed up and the students put on a better display since there were more people to watch. I saw people from all over the place. I told Kae and she came out for a little while. After that Adam and his girlfriend Casandra came to take a look too. I saw crazy outfits of "normal" people who just wanted to be fashionable (the 80's are back!!!...NOT).

Finally, I saw a bunch of my kids from Odochi. Talk about a shock! I would be walking by a bunch of my kids and they would say hello and then I would stop dead in my tracks...wait....are you....do I...where am I?! It totally threw me off to see these kids outside of school and out of their uniforms! I started second guessing everything. Where do I know this person from, what is my relationship with them. Are they good or annoying?! I got a few pictures of the them too. They were either all bad kids or girls ;)

Also, Kae totally hooked me up! We were sitting down to lunch when she looks over at these guys that were sitting next to us and just begins a conversation that starts with one of those "OOOOOOH! So and so! How aaaaare you?!" So I assumed she knew them ;)

It turns out that the two guys that we were sitting next to were Sou's friends from high school. They had a pleasant conversation of which I zoned out of (lot's of tosa-ben/dialect) and then when I came back into it, she was inviting me to hang out with the guys to do Karaoke. SWEET! She totally hooked me up with these guys! I exchanged numbers and I don't plan to hear from them again unless I bug Kae about it which I think I should (^_^)v

After that I went home and took a quick nap before heading out into the city. The Halloween party started at midnight which was a problem since my last train leaves at 10:30 but I wasn't about to miss it on a technicality. I got in around 7 thinking that there might be a pre-party but I was wrong. Instead I hung out, got dinner and looked for some interesting people to start a conversation with (gaijin of course) I found a few and eventually Adam and Casandra joined me. We shared drinks and sat around having interesting conversation when a little girl struck up a conversation with us.

Only children and old people have the guts to strike up a conversation with strangers. Pshhhh!

This girl was named Karen (Japanese name) and she was 6 years old. Her English was fantastic as well. I guess her parents liked to teach her certain words because she had a great vocabulary. She knew all the names of body parts and different things around the area like light, table, chair, etc. Her parents started talking to use as well and then a couple of college guys who were sitting next to them also joined in. The college guys were interesting because one in particular started hitting on Casandra who doesn't know any Japanese. He stopped once he found out that she was the one dating Adam and not me. The two westerners are always assumed to be together. Ahhhhh Adam is killing my groove!!!

Anyway, the guys were quite pink in the face from probably only one beer but were eager to talk. The one guy told us that he was studying to be an English teacher. Poor guy couldn't hold a conversation unless it was in Japanese! HA! And that's the way that things are here. He's probably been studying English nonstop since middle school but he can't speak it. Why is that? I really don't get it. I understand that some kids just don't care but if you're around it so much, how is it that they know nothing?!

Once that was over, we waited around until 11:30 when the doors opened. There were probably 200 people and half of them were gaijin. It was amazing, I didn't know there were so many of us! But it is a western holiday after all. Of those gaijin, about half of them came to the party already smashed. I on the other hand, had only one drink the entire party (and a beer before that) and I went home feeling just fine. That is a good time my friends.

There was dancing and costumes and contests and celebration! Ikuo and Sayuri came as well but weren't dressed up. They said that it was cheaper to spend the extra $5 on the entrance fee than it was to go out and buy a costume. I have to agree but wearing a costume is way more fun and totally worth it!!!

I was planning to either stay at the Internet cafe until 5am (which I didn't really want to do) or share a taxi with Adam and Casandra which would have come out to about $17. Instead, Ikuo offered to drive me home and Adam and Casandra stayed in the city until morning. It's their type of thing, not mine :)

I woke up late the next morning (didn't go to bed until 3ish) and got a very slow start to the day. The dishes were still piled in the sink from when I made fish for Adam and Casandra (how long ago was that anyway?) and I had to make an American Style salad for a picnic I was going to!

I ended up not having time to do anything but make the croutons and salad (croutons really really don't take a lot of time) before Ikuo arrived to pick me up. We met up with Sayuri and Fumi (very fast talking wonderful person) and headed of to the Kasturahama park. It is dedicated to the Japanese hero Sakamoto Ryoma who brought English to Japan. Yeah!!

The beach was...beautiful in it's own way. It was a no swimming beach because the waves are so strong and apparently it just drops off after three steps. "Ichi, ni, san, DON!" Don, being the sound it makes when you fall in. The sand was more like little stones and not like the ones on the east coast of Florida. Those are more like broken shells that stick to you and never come off. These were tiny tiny stones.

We hiked up part of a short cliff and got to see the view which wasn't all that great but the area was really beautiful in it's own way. I really liked it.

On a different note, the entire time I kept wondering why these people wanted to hang out with me. I was convinced before that it had something to do with Amway but they never once brought it up (to me, they talked about it a little among themselves) But now, I'm not so sure.

They took the time to invite me out specially to be there because I had never been there before and they were patient as I tried my best to speak Japanese. I just feel like this relationship is only benefiting me! I love the company and I love hanging out with them but I can't imagine how I'm interesting to these people or why they would want to go out of their way to help me. I love it all the same.

At one point, I had zoned out and when I came to, Fumi was asking if we had all gone to the Halloween party together. I chimed in and said yes we did. She was surprised that I understood because I usually don't but Ikuo informed her that I really didn't understand I was just saying yes. I always say yes even when I don't understand and it's only when he asks "really?" that I say "maybe".


Ikuo: FasttalkingJapanesecan'tunderstandwhathe'ssaying. Ok?
Ikuo: Good! MorefasttalkingJapanesethatIcan'tunderstand. Ok?
Nina: Yes! (stop talking, I really don't get it!)
Ikuo: ...Really?
Nina: ummmm, maybe :) (no I don't get any of it)

So he's now convinced that I don't understand anything! I promptly corrected his error by proving that I did in fact understand what Fumi was talking about and I also understood what he was saying as well! So there HA!

Later when he was driving me to his home (it is Sunday night after all) I told him that I really really like hanging out with his friends. He was a little surprised I think. He probably thinks that I don't like them because I can't really talk them and I usually just listen or zone out. I'm glad I got to tell him though. I do really like them and I would like to hang out more. So he and I made some loose plans to see a special waterfall in Odochi and check out the changing leaves.

I'm still movin' up!

Culture Festival Day 1

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The culture festival was all day yesterday and it was an amazingly fun time! My camera wasn't doing so well but we'll see if it'll do a better job today. Today is the second day of the culture festival when all the students will do exactly what they did yesterday only this time people from all over the town can come and enjoy the festivities.

Check out my gallery for pictures and more details.

In other news, I had Adam and Casandra (his girlfriend from Malaysia) come over for dinner last night. It's the first time I've ever cooked dinner for someone without their help as well. I cooked Salmon with American seasonings (garlic, lemon herb, and dill) that my mom sent me from home. I completed it with rice and a salad that had homemade croutons (the Japanese are not about the bread in salad it seems) and my very special Italian dressing that I have been living without until now (thanks mom!!)

Through this experience I also figured out why my food always comes out strange in my toaster oven. It's because it's not an oven at all. It's a glorified toaster....period. It has three settings which mean absolutely nothing to me: 500watts, 7500watts, and 1000watts. I thought that maybe 1000watts would be too much for the salmon but it turned out to be too little in the end. After trying to cook a 15 minute recipe for 30 minutes I finally got some tinfoil out and ghetto rigged my pan so that when the coil at the top turned on (there is no broil setting) the fish would be right underneath it. That helped...but nothing will fix a bad toasteroven except a new once which frankly I don't want to buy. But what else am I going to do?

Deal with it.

Everyday Party Party

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Yesterday I was completely exhausted! Tuesday night I stayed up early talking to David (remember black Dave from back in September?) It was the first time I got to sit down and talk to him via Skype since he came to Japan over a month ago. The guys been doing really well too. Check out his LJ on the left!

So I stayed up late and then woke up early to go to Odochi where I sat around for most of the day. I pretended to study Japanese but it's just not clicking.

I then stayed after school an hour later to make turkey jars with the one English Club student. The sun was down by the time I got home at 6pm. I had enough time to get something to eat before I had my English conversation class at 7:30. I was totally beat but I didn't skip out or anything.

When I got there, it was a big surprise Halloween party! I was so enjoyable, I was completely blown away! One of the women had made pumpkin masks for everyone as well as bought a few nice feather masks for a few people. She then made a witch costume herself! She took her reading glasses and added a witches nose to them. She had a shall and even a homemade hat! On top of everything, she brought a nice desert and coffee for everyone. I was completely blown away!

Again, we never actually got around to the lesson that I had (the one left over from last week) which I was surprised about because I was so tired that I just couldn't keep up the conversation like I normally do. But the group has opened up so much that they can keep it going with their own conversation which is sometimes in English!

This morning I went to Tosayamada and found it in complete Chaos. It was beautiful.

Half of yesterday and all of today was devoted to setting up for the two day culture festival. Every school has a culture festival. It is a time when all the classes stop and each homeroom and club join together to transform the school into whatever they want. The English club is putting on a production of a classic Japanese story in English (of course). One class is making a haunted house, another is doing magic tricks and about half of all the groups are selling food. One Senior class is selling Mochi which is sticky rice that's been pounded by a mallet until it's a dough (very tasty and chewy) others are selling snacks or drinks or other various foods. They are really getting into it and it's amazing to see the students so dedicated to something!

I sat at my desk for the most part of the morning before I decided to take a break and check out what was going on. Within 30 seconds I was back in the teachers room looking for my camera which I was thankful that I actually brought. These kids were doing crazy things and I didn't want to miss it!

I went around to the different classrooms sneaking up on students, saying SURPRISE! and *click* it was too late ;) I have all those pics up in my gallery and I'll be adding more tomorrow and Saturday.

Seeing With Happy Eyes

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My mother has a little figuring by the door in the living room. It's of a woman in a long red dress with her hands up above her head and she's singing to the sky with the biggest smile on her face. My mom told me that when she saw it, she had to buy it because the woman was so joyous that you couldn't help but smile as well when you saw it.

It's true too. I'm not a big fan of the figurine myself but I know exactly what she's talking about. The woman looks genuinely happy.

There was a blog that I started reading right before I left for Japan. It was written by an ALT who had a gift for taking pictures. He was living in Hiroshima for only a year and the pictures he took were absolutely amazing. When I looked at them I saw Japan as it was in my mind. This beautiful perfect place where nature, warmth and calm were everywhere waiting for me with open arms. http://beninjapan.blogspot.com/

I found another photographer today who struck me the same way as that guy did. This guy happens to be Japan and I guess he just views his life in the most beautiful way. http://flickr.com/photos/underline/

These three things make sense to me. I can't explain what I'm thinking (I've been deleting sentence after sentence trying to explain it. I just can't) but I hope some of you get an idea of what's going on in my mind.

A Note About My School

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I don't know if I've mentioned this before but my desk just happens to be right in front of one of the doors into the teacher's room. Incidentally, when it is a bit windy, my desk is the spot that receives the grand majority of it. No one else is plagued by flying papers, cold flashes, or general irritations that are brought on by this wind. In the summer, it was much appreciated. But now, I hate it.

Next, I remember reading in a Japanese culture book that seating arrangement is very important and it represents seniority. Well, there are about three different rooms for teachers at Tosayamada. There is the main one where I am which has about 12 teachers and the vice principal. There is a second one down the hall that has that has about 7 teachers and some small meeting rooms as well as a desk area for students to work at. Finally there is a third one across the courtyard that has two teachers, my supervisor (female) and another very nice male teacher (he always says Good Morning and then Okayo Gozaimasu. Very nice guy). The reason why there are only two teachers in that room is because it is similar to a counselors room. It has a nice little couch where students can come by and just talk about what's on their minds and discuss problems they are having.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I only now recognized some of the seating arrangements! In the main teachers room, all the female teachers are in one cluster and the men are in another with a row of computers separating the two. The vice principal is on the men's side by the window (coveted place apparently, even though his back is facing it)

I don't know enough about the whole seating arrangements to figure out how important they really think I am. I can tell you though that I sit right next to the newest teacher who typically has the least seniority and status. She doesn't have a computer either for whatever that's worth. She's the only one without and though mine is still a piece of crap, it's still better than nothing.

Random Pictures

Monday, October 23, 2006

The first person I talk to once I got internet was Kevin from the computer lab. He was a person that for whatever reason I couldn't take enough pictures of with my new camera. I had actually forgotten this until he asked me if I was still taking pictures like crazy. I told him that I actually hadn't gotten around to taking a whole lot of pics. It was just too cumbersome to take my camera around with me. Well, I got a bigger purse :)

AND NOW for some pictures that are too random for my gallery but should have been put in this blog a long long time ago:

This is the day I got my couch. I love it too! I'd like to say that my roommate Christina took this picture but that would only be true if I were still living on campus in Orlando. Instead, I cried bitter tears and figured out the timer feature on my camera.

This is where I park my bike in the city. This night, there happened to be someone sleeping there as well. I thought it was interesting enough to take a picture of. Actually, this isn't even a 5th of the bike space in front of the train station. I should take a picture of it one day...

My Amway crew! Ikuo is on the left then Sayuri and some people who's names I can't remember except the girl second to the right who is named Shizuka which means quiet and she is just that.

Wakako and Co. after her Kendo match. She is the girl on the very left. The tall girl in the back is the daughter of one of the teachers at Odochi. (He's not an English teacher so I never talk to him...eh) Incidentally, that same girl has a sister who's about one year old. Her name is Mei which is also the same name for niece which I ended up learning the same day that I first saw Mei. So I got to say hello to Mei and tell everyone that I had a Mei too :)

I Wasn't Finished

Goes to show you just how busy I am. On Sunday, I got back from the camp with an hour to repack my things, blog really fast, and head on out to my second home.

I was planning to upload my pics but this has been the first chance I've gotten. So check my gallery for English Camp pics!

So, I went over to Kae's place and it turns out it was Shinji's (dad's) Birthday!!! NO ONE TOLD ME! I didn't have a present. I felt bad. But on the way home we picked up what I can only imagine was an ungodly expensive cake that was...well it was small. No where near the size of an American cake. It would probably feed 4 people in America and I bet you anything it was around $30. It was really good though. It had was covered with thick whipped cream and had all sorts of fruits on top that were glazed. It was really beautiful. More beautiful than anything we have in America I think (for everyday events that is). We sang Happy Birthday in English which I was only a little surprised at. I wonder if they celebrated Birthdays before Japanese was so westernized....I bet they did.

I've been studying Japanese from a book that I picked up at AEON. It looked really helpful though it was only a review. Up until now, everything that I've studied, even simple stuff has helped me. But as much as I love this book...it's too easy, and I'm not learning enough. *sigh* Back to the drawing board. I get done with a chapter in about a half hour and there are only 10 so I might as well keep it up. I've got nothing to lose.

In fact, I just learned today that I really have much less to lose than I thought. Originally I was upset because I was learning Japanese so slowly and I only had three years to be here. I thought there was no way that I could learn enough in three years to be able to take a serious test to pove that I was fluent (Kanji is difficult people! If I don't have time to blog, what makes you think I have time to learn 10,000 kanji?!) But I just learned today that they are changing the rules of JET. I can now recontract up to 4 times instead of two. That means I can stay with JET for up to 5 years.

Now, if I plan to stay that long is up to fate. 5 years is a long long time to be living in Inaka (the country)

Anyway, I went over to Oodochi today and I really like those kids but I'll be damned if sometimes they don't do some of the dumbest things. I'm flat out giving them the answer in Japanese and they don't listen or care. I can't do it for them!!!

Actually...today I did. I took two kids papers and just wrote down one of the answers to prove it was easy. They didn't care. It made no difference.

*sigh* Why do I like that school again? Dunno. Not gonna argue with it.

This afternoon, I came home with enough time to get some dinner and then head over to my first Yoga class. MAN did I need that! I feel great!

Well....I was still a little sore from running up and down the mountain Saturday and my body just feels tired now but it's a good tired. I can tell that the rice everyday is taking a toll on my stomach and I really need to watch it. I might be more active but nothing compaires to the amount of carbs that I'm taking in everyday. Not to mention the drinking which I am also doing less of. I think a healthier lifestlye in general will do me good. :)

And I Thought I Would Never Be Happy Again

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I posted some old entries from October 9th, 10th and 11th. Go back and read!!

Seriously, there were times when I thought I would never feel this way again. I would never be Euphoric Nina again. But it's finally happened and I finally become happy where I am. I blame the Internet :)

And that doesn't mean that I don't have low moments but they are much less frequent. I'm slowly getting my unstoppable confidence back and man did I miss it!

Anyway, let's see...where did I last leave off?

So I got the Internet and things have just been flying uphill in ways of improvement since. I have gotten a huge drive to study Japanese even when I'm tired, I've started talking more and more to the teachers in my office and I just feel better overall!

Something happened at my English conversation class that I never thought would: We sat around and talked about random things for the entire class and I never actually got to use my lesson plan. WOW that's fantastic! If this keeps up, I'll never have to plan anything ever again! I'll just be able to converse with the class easily which really is the point in the end.

I also decided to start taking Yoga on Mondays. Tomorrow is my first day so we'll see how it works out. I could always use the relaxing exercise and maybe I'll make some friends too!

It's like a domino effect. When I was unhappy, everything seemed to follow. I couldn't do anything and it just started to layer up until I almost couldn't handle it. But now that things are improving, they are just compounding and everything seems to be going my way!

The better I feel, the more Japanese I speak even when I don't have to. The more Japanese I speak, the more the other teachers want to talk to me (even though we still use English). I guess it makes them feel more comfortable around me. They don't feel so spastic around me. I should start using the phrase "zen zen kaman" which means "it's totally OK" in slang.

Friday night, I went to a drinking party with the first year teachers. It was a small party but the teachers enjoyed teaching my some Japanese and I really REALLY think we are all starting to enjoy each others company :)

Saturday I went to an English camp with Minami High School again. This time, it was Junior High School instead of Senior High. The students were significantly different. They were way more open to talk about anything and to do wacky things.

For example:

In both camps, we were given stickers to give the kids when they spoke English outside of activities. The Senior High students didn't really make an effort to get the stickers and it didn't seem to matter to them. On the other hand, the Junior High students kept coming up to me and saying "Nina, you pretty!" "Nina, you are beautiful, the best, you are genius!" and they always ended with "Give me sticker!" I couldn't help but shower them with stickers. :)

Also at this event, I got to run up and down a mountain. My legs hate me right now. Nina needs to work on that a bit more. I also played a bigger role this time around because I felt like I knew what I was doing and I wasn't afraid to stand out like I'm supposed to. The students were really a pleasure to work with this time around.

I stayed one night up in Ino where the camp was held and I'm back home now. The school festival is this weekend and so are the many Halloween parties that are going to be held in the city. I can't wait!!! I have a costume and everything!

I Have a Pair of White Lacy Panty Socks

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

As I've said time and time again, things are getting better but still at a snails pace. This past week has been pretty good and a lot of things have happened that I wanted to write about but I just haven't gotten around to it.

First of all, this week at work has been an immense help. Last Thursday, I pretty much freaked out and told my supervisor that I wanted less work. She looked at me like I was crazy (in a polite, Japanese, stoic sort of way) Friday I had off (as I wrote about) and the weekend happened (get to that later). Midterms were this week so I didn't go to Oodochi and instead I went to Tosayamada where for these past three days I have been sitting at my desk getting all the work done that I have wanted to do for a long time. I now have basic lesson plans for the next few weeks and I feel much better about the whole thing in general. Also, since I have internet at home now…wow, that's a whole other topic.

I got internet for 15 minutes on Monday and that's clearly not long enough to get reacquainted with my dear old friend (my best friend, my lover, my one and only, my computer) but going to work on Monday (besides not having classes) just felt so much better. I just felt so much more calm and organized. Just the IDEA of having internet sent such a wave of relief through me. I had no idea that it would be that strong of a reaction. I was actually thinking that once I got the internet I would realize that all my problems are not going to go away mystically….but they did, and then some!

Also, last night was the first time that I spoke to my mom on the phone. I thought that email was pretty good and once I actually got her on the phone, I was afraid there wouldn't be anything to talk about because I wrote so much on this blog! (long long pages! Sorry guys) but I ended up talking at her for about 2 1/2 hours. It was 8:30pm here and 7:30am there. She put me on speaker phone and just let me talk away. It felt so good to speak fast and just go on and on about all the things on my mind to someone who thinks the same way I do. To someone who understands me completely!!! AH I can't wait until I get to talk to all my other friends! But this time difference thing is making it quite difficult. Poo

So anyway, back to the weekend. So, when last we left Nina in her adventures, she was on her way to have dinner with Sayuri. She was tired and sick since she had been so unkind to her stomach the day earlier.

Sayuri picked me up and it was the first time that I felt uncomfortable being quiet. In America, if I was sitting next to someone in a car I always got a little uncomfortable if no one was talking. Not so much when I was driving but just in general, I always felt awkward. Here, however, since it takes so much effort to have conversations that usually involve reading a dictionary, I've really gotten over that silence thing. However, when I got in the car with Sayuri, I really felt like we should have been talking.

I think my feelings were that we should be talking because we should become good friends…kinda. I'm not sure exactly. Basically it stems down to that she invited me out for no real reason which is strange in the ALT Gaijin world. So maybe she was expecting something from me...

Allow me to explain:

Adam and I had a long discussion about why it is so difficult for ALTs to make Japanese friends (people who are not ALTs themselves and Japanese people who are not obsessed with learning English, both of which make good friends but do not promote Japanese living and language learning) In normal situations, when people meet for the first time a couple of things can happen. 1. They hate each other and agree to never call one another. 2. They get along but nothing so special that they would hang out again without a specific reason or invitation 3. they get along so well that they exchange numbers and become best friends. Hanging out all the time.

In the ALT world, it's difficult to do anything more than #2. The language and culture barrier makes it really difficult to hit it off with someone to the point that they want to see you all the time and hang out just for enjoying the other persons company. Usually, when you meet someone, they find you interesting because you're gaijin and you're probably full of fun facts and adventures (and who are we kidding, my life is totally interesting!!!) but there is no real way to express all of this because of the wall that is dividing the two people. So, you hang out with this friend when you want to go somewhere like a movie or a bar but you don't call them just to chat or hang out. Usually, there needs to be some sort of entertainment to keep the friendship going otherwise it because difficult and awkward.

Which is why I was surprised that Sayuri invited me to dinner. To her, I am just another person but to me, she is very important because she is the only girl friend I have made who is my age and not another ALT. I don't think she realizes that since most people don't. But she invited me nonetheless and I wasn't going to say no.

She picked me up and we went to an apartment*. Once there, things were a little bit awkward at first. There were two other girls there and pretty much no one knew any English which is very good for me, though difficult most of the time. I have been learning that if I want things to work better, I need to do it myself. I can't wait around for someone to invite me to talk. I used to know this in America...oh GOD did I know this in America. But in Japan, things are much more difficult. I can't just start a conversation so easily. So I've ended up relearning to do simple things like be personable which is something I never had a problem with before!

As the evening went on, we got along better and better. Conversation was going, though bumpily. It was nice because it was just the three of us hanging out. Nothing more. Then a few more people showed up and again, it was just hanging out with friends. It was such a nice and relaxing feeling.

Actually, people kept coming all throughout the night. It just kept getting better. I ended up going home before 11 and there was no drinking or craziness and it was really nice. *ahhh I need more days like that :)

*this apartment. Hmmmmm interesting tid bits there. So, I knew that the apartment wasn't Sayuri's. I assumed it was one of the girls that was at the apartment when I got there. In Japan, when someone goes into a home that is not their own that always say "I'm sorry for intruding". However, Sayuri didn't say that. And no one else who came in said that. It was strange because no one announced they had walked in. None of them even rang the doorbell! They just…came in. So I asked who's apartment it was. They said "everyones".

Alright, over the course of the night I learned that all of these people were Amway people. Apparently, they all pay a little bit for the rent of this apartment…there were about 11 people by the end of the night too! As I looked around, I noticed that it was obvious that no one lived there and all the products and gadgets that were there were all Amway!!!

Sayuri tried to get me interested in some of her products but when she saw that I wasn't really interested she kinda dropped it.

I really like these people. They are so nice and they really seem like friends that I could get used to having around. But this brings me back to the reason why I'm there in the first place. Why did Sayuri invite me? Was it because she wanted to sell me stuff? Was it because she really thinks I'm an interesting person and wants me around just for my company? Does she want me to join Amway?

I don't know. I'm hoping to bypass all of this business stuff and make friends with them and their friends and their friend's friends. I want nothing to do with Amway. I just want friends. So where do I draw the line?

I don't know. But I'm going to continue hanging out with these people. If the Amway stuff persists then I'll think about a different strategy. Until then, I'll keep on keepin' on!

Oh right! The title! So, I have found the joy of these little lacy socks that everyone seems to wear around here. There is something about Japanese women and lace that I just don't understand. But these socks are like really nice knee highs that don't go up past my heel! I hate pantie hoes and this totally eliminated the need for them! I tried one pair out. They were the most simple black lace I could find. I fell in love so last night I bought a few more. The one's I'm wearing now are white and can be seen outside my shoes. I feel like my white lacy panties are showing or something! Oooo scandalous!

I Have Internet

Monday, October 16, 2006

At 7:30 this morning, my landlord dropped off my modem which had come Friday but I didn't know until last night. It is now 7:45 and I have internet. No installations yet. No real problems yet. I just plugged it in and saw what happened....

I have to go to work in 15 minutes........

That's so not fair.

Back at the Internet Cafe

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Maybe next time I'm here, I'll think to remember my USB drive and post all my back logs (about three or four since the last time) but this was an unscheduled stop as I ended up having extra time in the city.

So, yesterday I saw Wakako compete in a special Kendo competition. Her family is very big into Kendo. I know that her father was a big Kendo champion and so is Sou. Wakako is just following in the footsteps of her family. (not sure about the two older boys). Unfortunately, she lost three matches. Poor Wakako.

After that we all went back to Oodochi and I stayed the night there. Usually I stay on Sunday nights but I don't have school on Monday (at Oodochi, instead I'm going to Tosayamada) so we changed plans. Last week, the schedule was also strange and I wasn't going to Oodochi Monday so I didn't stay at Kae's. I think that was a big mistake as I didn't realize how much it helped my sanity to go there and be apart of a family (kinda).

This is the beginning of my poor stomachs woes.

For lunch earlier yesterday, I didn't feel like cooking anything so I had some instant ramen. Not bad but by far not good for me or my stomach. Later, before we leave for Kae's place, I snuck a few snacks which ended up mixing poorly and also upset my stomach a little. Shinji (dad) was driving home and that man loves to speed up and slam on the brakes! So by the time we got home my stomach was not doing well.

For dinner, Kae was tired so she made some very easy Okonomiyaki. Now, there is something about the Okonomiyaki sauce that just doesn't agree with me. I don't know what it is. I ate some of that and had half of a chu-hi (really sweet wine cooler)

Before I knew it, I was whisked away to a party at a friends house where it felt like the entire city was gathered. It was a rather large apartment (for Japanese standards). I sat at the adult table were a very drunk man decided I wasn't eating enough so he gave me a tiny place piled with lots of food. I love eating, especially Japanese food so I couldn't very well refuse regardless of how badly my stomach was feeling. They then gave me another Chu-hi because Kae has this idea that I really prefer it to beer. I then see that the drunken man is drinking some sake. Now my interest is peeked. I am always looking for new sake and it's much easier to try someone else’s then to buy some of my own and find out I don't like it (the stuff is not cheap).

I then down the rest of my chu-hi and ask to try the Sake. The guy is ecstatic at the idea that someone else wants to drink his Sake. Which btw is in a nice big carton, I would say a gallons worth. He then busts out two different sake sets and proceeds to heat it up on the stove. I try it, and it's pretty good. I unfortunately didn't realize how much alcohol it had.

Hey! You can't blame me for getting sloshed all the time! I can't gauge how much I've had with the tiny glasses and the constant refills!!!

So, he pours me a small cups worth and then keeps pouring and pouring. He then tried to hempai me (drinking game) and I always refused because, like I said before, I enjoy sake and there's no reason to drink it fast when you want to savor it. When I got up to go to the bathroom close to the end of the night, it finally hit me just how much I had to drink. I came back, finished my tiny glass and turned it upside down. No more, thank you.

Unfortunately, it was too little too late. I laid down on the floor, next to another woman who had fallen asleep earlier in the night (It's only about 11 btw) and I try to sleep myself. Unfortunately, every time I close my eyes, I feel like I'm going to vomit. It got really bad too.

I walked myself to the car and once back at home, I went straight to bed. I was surprised that I actually changed my clothes before I got into bed. I didn't wash my face, I didn't brush my teeth!!! Now, for anyone who knows me, they will understand that that is a big sign that I wasn't doing well.

I woke up this morning still feeling sick. I cleaned up, took a shower, had the best hang over breakfast Kae always makes after a night like that. Miso soup with lots of rice in it so it's more like a miso stew than soup.

Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough to fix my stomach problems.

By 10am, Kae, Wakako and I hopped in the car and we were off for the day. The driving didn't improve my sick feeling and so we stopped at McDonalds to eat lunch (ugh)

Afterwards, we went to see Finding Nemo on Ice where we ate lot's of tasty caramel popcorn! (ugh again)

On a different note, apparently one Kae's friends had three tickets to Finding Nemo but had to cancel so she got them. NICE! They ended up spending almost $50 on souvenirs though. That crap was crazy overpriced!!! $18 for a snow cone in a commemorative cup!!!!

Anyway, we got lost on the way back and that really really didn't improve my stomach.

And here I am now, at the internet cafe where I really just want to sleep but I have plans with Sayuri to "cook Japanese food" at 6.

Tomorrow, there are no classes and I'm looking forward to preplanning my next few lessons.

Speaking of which, you know, I don't think a single week has gone by when I actually teach for everyday of it. There's always one day when I am doing something special and I don't teach. This week, there are major midterms going on so I won't be teaching until Thursday and Friday. I need the extra time too.

Definitely Going To Kill Someone

Friday, October 13, 2006

Please place curses in every possible place in this post. They are appropriate and the only reason why I left them out was because my grandmother might be reading. But trust me, they're there in spirit.

So, today was supposed to be the glorious day when the internet fairy would finally make it to my humble abode and grant my one and only wish for internet access at my apartment.

No such luck.

Remember how I had to pry the information out of the teacher who was helping me with my internet problem about a week or so ago? Remember how I was so frustrated because it took me so much time to get out the information I wanted when all she had to say was that the modem was going to be sent to my apartment and later a man would come by to hook it up.


it turns out that I didn't ask exactly the right questions because the truth of the matter was that a man was going to come by today and make sure my phone line was working properly. My modem will be sent Wednesday and then I can hook it up myself and try to figure out the Japanese Kanji enough to just get some *@#%&! Internet!!!

When I figured this out, I just about strangled the poor man standing in my doorway. I left my apartment in a huff and went to the city. There, I found an internet cafe and that's where I am now. Thank god for this place! It's going to be my new hang out! Internet, manga, food, games. I am in heaven. It's cheaper than a bar too! HA! There are also no slow connection or blocks. I can do whatever I feel like and it's cheap!

At the same time, I am still super pissed about my internet. I have not been doing well this week in relation to work or culture shock. It's so difficult to be here sometimes. I kept thinking that if I get internet, I would feel a lot better about everything. I think it's true more and more. I can translate everything in my computer. I can shop online. I can write lesson plans super fast and I can talk to my family and friends.

Oh yes. You read me. I haven't been able to really talk to my family or friends. Yes, I'm making friends here but nothing compares to home. Nothing. And I need to talk to them. It's painful how badly I need this internet. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that it's really killing me inside. No matter how well I do here, no matter how much better things are getting day by day, I only feel worse and worse with every passing moment. I need to talk to my family. I can't take this anymore.

Nina, why don't you get a calling card and call them? Ok, and call on what? My cellphone? That's much more expensive than calling with a calling card on a payphone. And then what, stand around in full view of public while I pour my heart and soul out to my family and probably shed a few tears while I do it.

No no my friend. I need to god damn fucking internet!

This Probably Isn’t Good

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Just fyi, I wasn't planning to actually post this entry because it's so mean. But at the same time, I do want to vent my frustrations. As of right now, I haven't been back to Odochi but things overall have gotten better for me. The more that time passes, the better things get and this was at one of my peaks of anger. I can't say that I don't feel this way anymore but at least now I'm not so angry ;)

So just be warned, this is a mean post. It wasn't written to be nice either.

I am not having a good week. It seems to keep going down hill. I know this is culture shock but…..I don’t know if I can handle this.

Yesterday was quite hectic. All of the teachers are getting ready for midterms of sorts that are happening next week. In fact, one teacher got so caught up in his reviewing that he forgot that I was supposed to teach with him. He left without coming to get me and when I walked to his class he had already started and had a tape player which means he didn’t need me to read the dialogue. I thought it was all for the better. It’s probably the last class that the students are going to have before their midterms and since no one tells me what’s not the test NOR AM I A QUALIFIED TEACHER they would probably be better off with his lesson.

I went back to my desk to work on another lesson and the teacher came in later and apologized (freaked out) because he had forgotten me. It was really truly ok. I didn’t want to do my lesson anyway.

And on that note, what the hell!?! I talk to so many other ALTs who tell me how bored they are because they don’t write their own lessons and they don’t do anything except sit at their desk. I don’t want to be bored but why the hell are they relying on me so much!?! The lesson I write is for the entire class. There is close to no real teacher input. If I want to play a game, we play a game. If I don’t know what we are doing, no one knows what we are doing. It’s totally BULLSHIT!

By the end of the day I was stressing. I really don’t like this job at all. Not only do I not enjoy the work but no one really talks to me either. If they do, they start sounding really nervous, ok? Ok? Is that ok? Alright? Sure? Hai! Yes! No one over there relaxes and it’s stressing me out.

I went up to one of my teachers and told her that I didn’t have time to write a lesson for her class and I didn’t want to tell her right before the class that I was going to play a game when the students really need to work for the review. She looked at me and said “I don’t have any ideas, what lesson do you want to write?”

No no, Nina can’t write jack shit. I’m telling you now, please god, I can’t do this.

She convinced me to write part of it which I did at Oodochi today.

I was looking forward to going to Oodochi today. I really like the laid back atmosphere there. It’s a nice break. I don’t know if I want to be there everyday but a lot of things are much better there.

First, I can talk to the teachers. People smile when they see me and no one worries about…anything. Next, I have time to just think about what I want to write and enjoy actually working on a creative lesson. I can also work on my Japanese!

However, the students are another thing.

Personally, I like the students as people. When I see them in the hall or outside of the school, they are good people….for the most part. I like pretty much most of them. However, I am starting to think that they are retarded. I don’t mean that in a nice way in the least.

Sometimes they are so damn stupid it baffles me!

Today, I decided to play Halloween Bingo. I gave them a blank Bingo sheet that was 5x5 and a free space in the middle. I then put Halloween words on the board and had them fill in the blanks. It took them almost 20 minutes to do this. One of my teachers told me later that there were too many blanks on the board. I needed to make out the cards before hand….alright, do I need to spoon feed these kids too? I already give them the answers to every damn assignment I make, and those are ridiculously easy!!!

The reason it took them 20 minutes: they couldn’t tell what words they had already written down. They would randomly pick a word on the board and randomly place it on the card. Uh huh, instead, they should have gone down the line of words on the board and placed them randomly on their card. It’s not rocket science kids! I can’t help but get frustrated. This sort of thing happens all the damn time at least when the kids aren’t snoring, passing notes, talking, or generally being the rudest bastards I have ever seen in my life.

I seriously contemplated leaving JET and working with a different company. At least with ANY OTHER COMPANY I would be in a bigger city and with students who actually wanted to be there.

Could I be Doing This in America?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Last night was interesting but not thrilling. I went to the party that Sayuri had invited me to last week. I was afraid that it would have something to do with that makeup business but I asked her (via Adam on my cell phone) if it had anything to do with that and she told me no. All she said was that it was a party with Japanese style so jeans were a no. I asked if Adam could go and she said yes. I was debating if I wanted to invite him because I really want to work on my Japanese and I have this mind set that when he’s around that I only speak English. But I thought he might enjoy it, so I invited him.

I was really curious what the party was going to be because it didn’t seem like a normal event. We met up with Sayuri at 5:30 and headed off to AEON. There, we met up with her two friends and Adams friend Yushin and his two friends. It made 8 all together. The more the merrier!

We had a fantastic dinner at which time one of the girls who seemed so awesome came up and in beautiful English said that she wanted me to teach her.


That is getting so old. First of all, why do these people want to learn English so badly anyway? They’ll have almost no opportunity to use it! Second, it’s not even true! They don’t actually want to learn anything more than a few phrases or words that makes them feel like they’re learning and then they get over it. Which really, is all the better for me because I (1) don’t want to be teaching anyway and (2) would rather be trying my Japanese which btw is way easier said than done. I feel like a complete dumb ass the grand majority of times. I can’t make jokes and I can’t even say much more than “that looks interesting/delicious/scary” Which, just fyi, is not enough to get you by when it comes to making friends.

So anyway, I brushed off yet another request for English instruction and gave her my number. I think she’s a good person and I’d like to hang out sometime.

Afterwards, we finally got to the party which turned out to be a café/restaurant grand opening party. Nothing big deal actually. It was $15 to get in and everyone was dressed nicely (term used loosely) and it seemed more like an art gallery viewing than anything else. The Japanese are all about networking. It’s all about who you know. If you meet anyone from Japan they’ll always tell you about some person they know that can handle blah blah. And the truth of the matter is that most of these people aren’t very close friends but it’s more of, I’m happy to do the favor for you because it makes me feel good and I’m sure you’ll help me out one day too. So it’s all good in the end and this party was put on with almost the soul purpose of networking. Of which I could do close to none because Nina doesn’t speak enough Japanese. (can you tell I’m bitter?)

Anyway, after the party, 11pm. DoCoMo called me. He said he wanted to hang out. I was trying to think of a way to get out of it because I had work the next morning. But Adam said he wanted to go and I wanted him to meet the guy and I couldn’t think of when a situation like this would arise again (when Adam and I were out at night and DoCoMo invited me to go somewhere) So I agreed but said I would leave at 1.

Sayuri, who was my ride home, was a little worried but I told her it would be ok. Three of her friends tagged along because they invited Adam (whom they were smitten with) to go out with them and instead he invited them with us. Along the way, a creepy English teacher that we met (through a friend) at the party tagged along as well (without being invited). This whole time I was hoping that DoCoMo would get annoyed with me bringing so many friends along and never invite me again but at the same time, I do always have fun with him.

We get to this place which is way nicer than the host bar we always went to with Monique. I think we only go there because Monique likes lively (and cheapish) entertainment. It doesn’t seem to be DoCoMos style but he likes to be the one providing the good time. This time, we went to a hostess club. It was very nice. There were so many different types of girls!! First, the main waitress was in a playboy bunny outfit complete with ears and tail. There were three women dressed in nice dresses (almost prom like) and the last girl was dressed in a Kimono. They were all very nice and did their job very well. The three girls who tagged along were not prepared for where they were and the tension among them was so thick you could cut it. But the Kimono girl made them feel much better just through interesting conversation. It’s an art!

Anyway, DoCoMo was with his friend who is a chef (male) and another woman. He ended up hitting it off with Adam and I hit it off with a woman in formal dress who spoke perfect English. She was a very interesting person. By the time 1 rolled around I wanted to go home to bed because I had work but truly I wanted to do what Adam did. He stuck around and called in sick the next day. I have yet to hear what became of him in the evening. But I can only hope he had a good time.

I woke up fine this morning but I really didn’t want to go to work. Today was a bad bad day. I woke up wishing I were waking up in my American home with my family.

I then sat between lesson writing thinking about what it is exactly about Japan that made it so damn special to me when I was in America. What am I doing here that I couldn’t do in America?

I’ll find the answer to that question. It’ll be a good one too. I know there’s something here that is important to me. There’s something keeping me here and I just need to find it!

Btw, if you’re wondering about the creepy English teacher, personally, I think he was just around to get in the pants of one of the three girls that came from the party. By the end of the night he was totally smashed and he somehow made it home…I assume. Also, he spoke worse Japanese than the woman I was speaking with the entire night and that was before he drank anything!

I gotta learn Japanese faster than this.

Who’s That Knocking at my Door?

Monday, October 9, 2006

Why, it’s a Jehovah’s Witness!

So, I kept waking myself up this morning thinking that the guys were going to be there any minute with my couch but 9am finally rolled around and I realized that I was only dreaming. I got up and started cleaning so they would have a place to put it once they got here. I actually did more than necessary. Because I had bought so many clothes yesterday, I went through all of my drawers and got rid of the tank tops and shorts and put them in storage. I’m going to really need to work on the storage issue but that is for another time.

Just as I was finishing I got the call from the sofa guys. They spoke really fast but I got the idea that they had my couch and was it ok? YES! OK DESU!

So I sit back and wait. I knew it would be about an hour before they got here. I started cleaning some more and after about a half hour I heard the door bell. WHOO my couch!!!!

No such luck. It was a Jehovah’s witness. Somehow, just seeing him I knew he was one of four things:

1. a politician though that seemed unlikely because the elections are over
2. a sales person though that was also unlikely because he didn’t have anything to sell
3. a person asking for donations, this seemed likely because he had a little booklet with a dirty and crying child on it
4. a Jehovah’s Witness

I just somehow knew. He asked me if I could speak Japanese and I told him that I understood only a little. He asked me if I could read Japanese…no…but I didn’t tell him that. He then asked me where I was from. America. Ahhhh, America…hmmmm…and he starts flipping through his booklet and read, AH English…(I thought that was obvious) he then flips some more and get’s to the English speech he’s supposed to read but instead he hand’s it to me. Lo and behold he is in fact a Jehovah’s Witness. I got two Japanese pamphlet’s telling me how I can make a difference. He was a nice guy :) but not for me.

So I was disappointed and went back to cleaning some more. This boredom thing has really improved my apartment!

5 minutes later the movers came in, plopped the couch down and were off. Almost no Japanese needed.

Hi, we have the sofa, where do you want it? Here is ok? Ok bye.

\(^v^) I have my sofa (^v^)/

Back Logs!!!

Sunday, October 8, 2006


I just posted the past months worth of back logs. Very interesting stuff this time around! Please, don't be disturbed by any strange behavior I might be exhibiting. Remember, this is Japan, and we do things differently here ;)

As for today:

I just spent $160 on clothes. Hmmmmm, a bit much but, ahhhh Nina how many articles of clothing did you get?



I can't even do that at Wal-Mart and these clothes were way more stylish! And that's saying something because their Japanese!! (^_~)v

Anyway, I was so happy that I almost started spending more money at the store. It is by far the most perfect store I have ever seen in my life. It's close to my apartment so I don't have to go into the city and truck everything back, but it's also super cheap, has clothes, shoes, bathroom items, futons and blankets, towels and pillows, etc etc (even baby stuff, watch out SJ!)

I am so in love! Now all I need to do is find some ridiculously cold weather clothes like scarves and mittens and I'm good to go! Long sleeved shirts and pants, I'm covered :)

I get my fantastic sofa tomorrow and Internet on Firday!!! WHA HOO!!!

PS, I updated my pictures

Cleaning Makes My Apartment Messier

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Not necessarily dirtier, on the contrary! Of course cleaning should always do some good but every time I get around to doing some serious work on this apartment it always seems to look worse.

But finally! This place is looking great! I vacuumed 5 times yesterday, bought two floor chairs which I love, got speakers for my computer (finally) and spent a little less than $200 none of which went towards winter clothing. Ouch.

First, I vacuumed 5 times yesterday because I had my windows open…ahhhhh that should explain everything! But it somehow doesn’t. See, even though I have screens over my windows, for some reason dirt get’s into my apartment anyway and I just can’t seem to keep my tatami clean! Also, I noticed more dirt because everything was off the floor. My futon was either airing out on the porch or folded up in the corner, the couch is gone and the chairs don’t take up much space on the floor. Also, a typhoon recently skimmed Japan and though there was no rain, for the past two days there has been a freak wind that has been blowing crap all over my apartment!

Speaking of wind, so, I’ve actually started enjoying riding my bike with a skirt. I usually have to keep pulling it down past my knees because I feel slutty if I don’t (Japanese culture is ruining my style) but there is this one skirt that I really like (on sale, $5 and Uni Qlo) that is so breezy and comfortable that I’ve started wearing it a lot. Because it’s white, I usually wear a slip underneath it. Kills the effect but is completely necessary. Anyway, yesterday as I was riding my bike, a big gust of wind blew up my skirt and a man driving by actually made an “oooo” sound. Thing was, he couldn’t see my panties. All he saw was my slip!

Back to cleaning, I went through one of my closets because I had the faint idea that I saw a box for a Christmas tree in the back of it. There was in fact a small plastic Christmas tree as well as three electric heats, one electric blanket (which I bought from a previous JET) a badminton set, my vacuum, a random back pack, and about 20 old boxes for appliances. So, I vacuumed, went through the boxes, broke them down and separated them into their recycling sections, and vacuumed again. I was about to put away a little paper bag under the sink when I noticed something (can’t remember what, and truly it’s not important) I then ended up going through my entire cabinet unit! I threw away 4 bottle openers, strainers I will never use, old cooking tins (the disposable kind) and I was left with a taco yaki maker that I just don’t know what to do with! I don’t want to throw it away but Geez! I’m don’t want it here!

Adam came over later and helped me shop at some of the local stores. We picked out some good reclining floor chairs ($30 each) and then decided to cook dinner with Tsubasa instead of going out because we wanted to save money. Problem was, I ended up buying a bunch of things that my apartment needed so the bill was really high! $40 for an “easy” meal. It was easy too but still!

While Adam was here, I told him about the badminton set and the taco yaki maker. He told me to sell the maker and give the badminton set to my neighbors. The thing is, that I haven’t actually spoken to my neighbors yet. I say “hi” when I see them…but I never see them. Yesterday, one of the girls and her friend were making a lot of noise playing in front of the apartment. They would ride on their rollerblades across the hall and I looked through the tiny window on my bedroom floor and saw them skate by. Adam then got down on the floor, stuck his head through the window, and started waving around badminton rackets. When one of the girls was curious enough to come over and look he told them to take it. They tried to return it later and I just don’t know how to say in Japanese “I don’t want them, dear God take them off my hands, I can’t keep it here for a month until the next garbage day!”

Which, incidentally, I totally missed the metal day this past Friday so I’m going to have to wait ANOTHER month to throw away that crap. GUH! Although…Tsubasa told me that he would help take my couch and stereo to the dump (they don’t pick that crap up, I have to drop it off) so maybe I can just take all my other garbage with it! Adam has a lot of stuff he’s been hording away on his porch as well. It’ll be an exciting garbagey trip!

Me Maintenance

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Thursday evening and I finally did most of the cleaning that I planned to do Saturday but was too sloshed to get around to it. I not only cleaned a bit but I also stuck my god awful couch in the closet. I know, I was surprised that it fit too. My living room has gotten significantly bigger. But I can’t wait until my new one comes! AH I’m so excited!!!

Nothing really interesting happened today….so I think I’ll finally get around to writing what I’ve been hording away for such occasions: Japanese culture tid bits.

1. They hire men to actually move bikes. At every major station (bus, train, etc) there are huge parking lots for bikes. Because there are so many bikes and the locks are usually these tiny little things that keep one wheel from moving much, they actually move them around so that they can get more in. When I go to Kochi this weekend, my bike is guaranteed to be in a new spot. Too bad I’m not the only pink bike. I’m going to have a hell of a time looking for it!

2. In the ladies bathroom (more so than in the mens bathroom, so I am told) it is becoming increasingly popular to have a little sound box next on the wall so that when you push a button or wave your hand over it, it starts playing the sounds of a waterfall so you can pee without anyone else hearing you. I never use it.

3. On the toilet point, I was very happy to find that the main Tosayamada ladies room has recently installed a new western toilet (complete with sound box). When I had visited before (both times) they only had eastern style toilets and I had to sneak into the gym (way in bfe) to use a regular one.

4. Another point about toilets, every now and then, usually in restaurants and bars, there will be kanji on the toilet handle indicating that the handle will pull in both directions. One side says “big” and the other says “small”. You push the handle in the appropriate direction so as to save water when possible. (personally, I can’t usually tell the difference in the amount of water that flows when I use the big side)

5. For some reason it’s really popular for books to have the first and last page stuck to the covers….I don’t know why.

6. There are a lot of restaurants that are based around the idea of sharing food with friends. It makes it very depressing when you want to eat…oh, say, yakiniku (my favorite) alone.

7. At restaurants, the tab/bill sits in a little compartment at the table. When you are finished, you bring it to the cashier and pay the bill. No tip (I so don’t miss that!)

8. Also at absolutely any place you want to buy something, the price that is showing is automatically included with tax. The price you see is what you are going to pay. It makes life very easy.

9. I don’t remember if I have mentioned this, but there is the tradition in Japan that other people will poor drinks for you. It makes you look like a glutton if you poor for yourself (this is strictly for alcohol as well). So I was told that if I was done drinking and really couldn’t take anymore then I needed to leave my glass full that way no one would offer to fill it up again. Unfortunately, in Kochi, there is the newer tradition that when someone offers to fill up your glass, if it’s not empty, you down it really fast. This includes if your glass is completely full. So much for the trick of staying sober enough to walk home.

10. Finally, this is a story when I actually got insulted about a sexist rule I finally found in Japan. But it’s not what you’d expect.

Purikura is Japanglish for Picture Crop. They are these booths in gaming centers where all the girls go. They take a bunch of pictures of themselves and then draw all over them, print them out and they get little centimeter sized stickers. They are about $5 per sheet which can be anywhere from 2 large pictures to 20 tiny ones. I love them personally and can’t get enough!

One thing that I always took note of was that there is usually a sign at the entrance to the purikura section of the gaming center that says that boys are not allowed by themselves. They always need to be accompanied by a woman. Most Japanese people that I asked about this either never noticed that there was a sign to begin with or really don’t have much of an idea as to why the rule exists except that Japanese men have a tendency of having strange fetishes.

I asked Adam about it and he too had never noticed. At the same time, he is a guy and it’s not very popular with guys to do purikura unless it’s with their girlfriends. It’s really a very girly thing.

So when I was in Tokyo, I was hanging out in Akihabara in my last few hours with Tomoe and Hiiro. We had a bit of extra time so I told them I wanted to do purikura. When we went up there, we started looking around for one that we liked (they usually have at least 10 to choose from) and at one point, a staff member came over and told Hiiro that he needed to leave that section of the purikura stalls. He was a guy so he was only allowed access to ones that were on the other side of the room. He didn’t seem to mind but I got really insulted. He was with two other girls, why couldn’t he stay? He didn’t even look suspicious! I’m not sure exactly why but it really irked me. I haven’t forgotten about it and it still get’s me a little upset thinking about it. What the hell?

Boardwalk is the Death before Life

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Yesterday was a ridiculously good day but I still had a really bad moment.

First the bad moment.

My supervisor didn’t show yesterday, not sure why. Instead, I asked the very nice teacher next to me if she could help. She is very good with English but I could never put my finger on just why she always sounds so strange to me. The problem is that despite her English proficiency, she never took any sort of western culture class which should always accompany a western language class. She speaks in a Japanese style which makes her English very frustrating to listen to. If she were saying the exact same thing in Japanese, there would be no problem.

Let me give you an example of this. My friend Aozora told me about a person that she had a small problem with. I asked her why she just didn’t flat out tell the person that there was a small problem with what they were doing instead of letting it bug her so much. Her answer “I was speaking in Japanese”

Culture and language go hand in hand. You can’t separate them.

Anyway, so I asked the woman next to me to help me out. I finally got the appointment papers for my internet. Should be coming on the 13th (Friday…the 13th). In the end, it turns out that they are going to ship the modem to my apartment when I am most likely not going to be here. They’ll leave a note and I’ll call them and wait patiently like a dog next to the door for them to deliver it between the hours of 5-9pm when I tell them I’ll be home. After that, I will take a precious and coveted vacation day so I can again wait like an obedient dog next to the door between the hours of 1-5pm for the person to come and install and trouble shoot my internet. He probably won’t know what to do with my English computer either.

In the end, it’s actually not all that bad. It just took so long for me to get this information out of the teacher that was helping me that I almost got really sarcastic and rude. I checked myself, but I was still really upset by the whole thing. If someone had just flat out told me exactly what the situation was, I wouldn’t have been in such shock I guess. But it took such effort to get the information that by the end of it, I was….upset.

Afterwards, I went to talk to my principal about something completely unrelated. He asked me, like he always does, if I was adjusting well. This was the first time that I really gave him a decent answer. I never wanted to complain, my problems aren’t all that bad. It’s just the culture shock that is blowing them out of proportion. But I told him about what was on my mind. He then told me his story.

He said that he understood what I was going through and how difficult it was to live in a foreign country. He said that he lived in California for 5 years. He was going to be a business man. He then moved to Tokyo where he was probably doing really well for himself. But because he was the first born son, he came back to Kochi and took care of his parents. Instead of being a businessman, he became a teacher. He also told me that 60 is the age of retirement in Japan (it’s set?) and he’ll be leaving school in March.

Ah, that depressed me. How sad that he had to leave his dream and all that? And then in March he’ll be leaving me!!! He is such a good principal!!! AH, I can just imagine the next guy totally not caring about Largo or the exchange or anything!

I’ll worry about it when the time comes.

Then, he asked me how my Japanese was coming. I told him it was really going well but I don’t feel like I’m learning it fast enough. He asked “why don’t you speak more”? *sigh* I try so hard all the time. I’m too embarrassed sometimes to speak Japanese to people who know English so well. It’s just easier to speak English. I know, I know, that shouldn’t stop me from speaking Japanese…but it does.

The next thing was the class that I taught right after that. I started talking to one of the students and she looked at me and asked “everyday happy?” “no, not everyday. You?” “No, not everyday happy”. I told her it was because we are human. She asked me what something was in English so I pulled out my dictionary. Depression. She said that this school was depression.

That broke my heart.

But in the end, it was a really good day. The lesson that I stole from my predecessor worked amazingly. I’ve finally gotten a good mind set for the class too! If the students do their work, fantastic! If they don’t, that’s ok too. I can use the time to practice my Japanese! There’s no reason to stress myself out about it. There is nothing I can do. Instead of rolling with the punches, I’m ducking them entirely. Why worry? It makes no difference in the end.

I had class with the teacher that I don’t like. He happens to be the only teacher that tells his students to sit down and shut up which I totally admire because guess what?! They actually listen to him! HA! For some reason the kids don’t really listen to the other teachers but at the same time, the other teachers don’t really do much to try and stop the kids in the first place. Note, I used to get frustrated. I just needed to stop caring, like I said before.

Afterwards, I team taught with a new English teacher for Junior High School students that were coming to visit the school. No one told me so, but I got the impression that I really needed to sell Tosayamada so that the students would want to go there. I think I did well :) The teacher ended up taking too much time to do his lesson and I hardly had any time for my part, but that was ok. I’m getting over this sort of ….disappointment? nah. Change is schedule. It’s no big deal.

I then played monopoly with my English club students. I had so much fun. I’m finally singing in class! I’m bouncing around and singing my phrases like I used to do back in America! It feels great to be this happy again! The students give me great reactions too! They start laughing and smiling even if they don’t like the lesson (^0^)/ Things really are getting better.

Finished Bridget Jones Diary, am moving on to Terry Pratchett’s “The Color of Magic”

High Risk Behavior

Monday, October 2, 2006

I realized over the weekend that it might not be the safest thing to be friends with DoCoMo guy. I never felt unsafe or harassed in the least. I always felt like he was just a nice guy who enjoyed the company of many women. Huh… I’ll think twice about going out again. But it’s always so much fun!!!

SO lot’s of stuff happened this weekend!

First, I woke up Saturday morning and cleaned just a little since I woke up late and wasn’t in the mood. I wrote the blog entry and then headed over to Adams place. From there, we rode my little pink bike all the way to Kochi.

Alright, let’s put this into perspective. First, I have two bikes at the apartment (had). I wanted one in Kochi city (20min train ride, 15min car ride) so I could ride it around there. Since Adam knew the way, I renounced my loner status and had him pedal the bike while I sat on the back. We ended up taking the long way though because I wanted to do a little bit of shopping. Instead of going diagonally to Kochi we went down and then over. It added about an hour to the trip. Meandering as we went, it took us about three hours.

On the way, we passed the same furniture store that I had seen that awesome but overpriced couch in. We decided to check it out and lo and behold it was still there! I asked Adam if he might be able to haggle the price down. $200 was just way too much for the display model couch which was clearly dirty from too many people sitting on it.

It turns out that the couch was half price to begin with. After shipping costs, it was only $110. I was sold the instant I heard it. So, next weekend, I’ll be getting a new couch!!!! I CAN’T WAIT!!!

Back to the bike ride. It was so enjoyable. Since being here, I have done a few things that I had fantasized about. You know, when I’m in Japan I’ll eat a bento lunch and I’ll sit on the roof of the school in spring when the weather is beautiful and I’ll shoot off fireworks with friends and wear a Yukata at the obon festival! Well, I did about half of those but they never had the same fantasy feeling.

The bike ride this weekend felt like a fantasy. The weather was beautiful and we were listening to music and just enjoying the ride. With the mountains in the background and me waving and smiling at the people staring (and waving and smiling back) it was completely breathtaking.

As soon as we got into Kochi city, we got some water and ice cream and took a rest. I wasn’t up to par since I didn’t get a great nights sleep to begin with. After about a half hour I got on the train back to Tosayamada where I met Kae. I stayed the night in Odochi one day early because Wakako’s (9yr old daughter) sports day was Sunday. Sports day is when all the students get together and just play a bunch of relay races and games outside all day long and everyone including teachers are involved. It always looked like a lot of fun!

But Sunday came and so did the rain. So Sports day was postponed. Instead, I spent a lazy day at the Shinozaki’s. I got some decent studying in too. It helps immensely when I actually find time to study. I don’t spend nearly as much on it as I did in college but the amount of knowledge that I am retaining is amazing. Unfortunately, it’s still not good enough.

Ikuo invited me to Karaoke around 3. He said that it was from 3 to about 11 at night. I thought, hmmm strange that we would be partying for all the time but whatever. He’s my age and he said his friends are coming and by golly I want to meet more people my age!!! So I accepted.

As I was on the door out, I stopped in front of the mirror and noticed three new pimples on my face. Not a good first impression but no worries, there’s nothing I can do about them anyway. And we were off.

In the car, Ikuo asked me if I knew of a company called Amway. He said it was pretty popular in America. I don’t know where this guy get’s his information from. I’ve never heard of it in my life. He then starts talking about “Network Business” of which I understand practically nothing so I just kept nodding my head and smiling.

We ended up heading to Kochi city and there we sat around for about 15 minutes waiting for his friends. While we were waiting he asked me if I knew how to apply makeup. It took a little while to actually get the question out but as I was realizing what he was asking me, I was slowly getting more and more insulted. What the hell does he mean by that? Is he implying that I should be wearing makeup like the rest of all Japanese women so I can cover up those three pesky pimples? He can go to hell!!!!

But that wasn’t the case.

After 15 minutes, instead of actually meeting his friends, we went up into some building and that’s where I spent an hour of the afternoon at a cosmetic party.

You heard me.

The same as a Mary Kay-Tupperwear-Candle-WhateverSparksYourFancy-Party. It just wasn’t at a persons house and there were about 50 to 90 people crammed into a room that didn’t have enough chairs for everyone. Oh, and half the people (men and women alike) had notepads.

I tried desperately not to fall asleep. It wasn’t nearly as interesting as a real Mary Kay party. It was just some woman talking about the different products and why they’re good for you. I heard “America” a couple of times and I’m sure she was saying that her products are popular there but whatever. Who am I to tell her she’s wrong. At one point, Ikuo leaned over and showed me some pictures in the catalogue of vitamin extracts and herbal supplements and told me that they were also popular in America. Ok, if you say so! Sure we have them and some people take them but….ok whatever.

Afterwards, he told me not to tell his mom where we had gone. He said that there was some misunderstanding and she doesn’t like Amway.

So instead of actually going to Karaoke, I got to pretend I did and lie to someone that I really care about!

Whatever, I met some of his friends and I really like them. I also ended up getting invited to a party next weekend which should turn out to be very nice. All people my age and no other gaijin! It should be interesting to say the least.


The sports day was rescheduled for today. But I had work today! So, during lunch I ducked out and walked the half a block to the Junior High School where the Elementary school students were having their sports day. I ate delicious food and watched some fun games that had it not rained on Sunday, I would have actually been able to participate in. Classes went well too. I think Oodochi is turning out to be my favorite school, dare I speak too soon!

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