Have I mentioned Today How Much I Love My Students?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

So today was spent a Yamada High. I had an extra few classes just because everyone wants to do Christmas stuff and that's always fun so I can't very well say no :)

One of the teachers asked me to teach her 2nd years. I hadn't taught those students since last year so I was pretty excited to work with them again and see how they had improved. They were equally happy to see me because it meant that they could play games and not do any book work. Fun was had by all in English! I thought that maybe I should bring some candy for the winners seeing as it's a holiday lesson and all but in then end I forgot. Really though, it didn't seem to matter much because it didn't need to motivate them. The idea that it was a free day was good enough!

And then, as I was racing out of the building on my lunch break to get some much need prep work done before I leave for Australia, a student stuck his head out the window and called me over. He actually thanked me for coming to his class. He said he had a really good time. I told him I had a really good time too.

It almost brings tears to my eyes.

What a mix of students and experiences!

This is one of the reasons why I'll probably stick around for a third year (^^)

I'd Rather Have Nothing

Monday, December 17, 2007

There is a Japanese trait that I both admire and hate. It is the concept of "what I need".

I remember reading about this sort of thing in one of my language books. A Japanese person and a gaijin walk up to a vending machine. There are two bottles of coke, one normal sized and one extra large. The extra large one is exactly the same price as the normal sized one. So the gaijin (probably from America) goes for the bigger one and the Japanese guy chooses the normal sized one. The gaijin says "Why did you choose that one? You get way more with the bigger one and the price is the same! It's a great deal!" and the Japanese guy replies, "Yeah but I don't need that much coke."

The American mentality is that regardless of if we need it or not, it's a better value and that's what's important to many of us. For the Japanese, in an exaggerated case, they would almost pay more for the smaller one because really, that's all they need and "もったいない" (don't be wasteful)

At first, I thought this was great. I thought it was a good way to live. It makes you a better person for not being wasteful because lord knows I can't drink a normal amount of coke and I'd probably have bought the bigger one too!

And that's all well and good until you get a bunch of (irritating) high school seniors and you try to give them FREE stuff.

I've talked about it before. At Oodochi high school I have a special Nina Dollar reward system. If the students do something right, they get various amounts of Nina Dollars as payment. I then collect them and put them into their Nina Bank Accounts (seriously). And at the end of the term, I hold an auction where they can buy things with their Nina Dollars.

Let me remind you of the obvious: These dollars have been accumulating for months and they're completely useless outside of my classes.


Today is the last day I'll see my Seniors forever. I like the third years. Just not the ones that I teach. I happen to teach the lower of the two levels (why, I'll never know) and this means that not only are they way below average but they're lazy on top of it. They have to try to get scores that low.

(Seriously guys, I'm not making this up. The school is closing because there aren't enough students to fill it. You have to be THAT SPECIAL to get in)

The last time I did an auction, I brought in some pretty junky stuff but still more than I had originally planned. I originally was just going to give them candy. But the Largo exchange group had given me all their extra gifts so I had plenty to auction off.

This time around, I had TONs of really cool things that I brought back from my August trip to the states! I had stickers and bags and candy and toys ! It was such a pain in the ass to get it here too! And it wasn't cheap either!!! And let me give you a hint, the school didn't pay for my excursion to America, they didn't pay for the stuff I'm giving away to my kids and they didn't pay the extra baggage charge when it was overweight.

and my students paid with Nina Dollars. Meaning that really, it was free for them.

Well. Do you know what their response was to me?

*unimpressed glares* ".....seriously? You want $15 Nina Dollars for that? Pshh.. I don't need it"

It wasn't even an "I don't need it, but thanks." It was just a flat out, "I don't want your junk Nina. Leave me alone, I'd like to put my head down until class is over."

At least in America the students would have grabbed for it just because it was free.

There are these bags that I'm trying to get rid of from the Largo group. They're the plastic "back packs" that have a draw string as both the opening to the bag and then they come down to make the straps for your arms. No one actually wants them regardless of if they're American, Japanese or from anywhere else, but I've seen many a time that people have grabbed for them just because they were being given away for free as a promotional item.

But still, my students turned their nose at them.

I could understand it when I did the auction the first time. I did actually have some junk. But I put a lot of effort and thought into this one.

I even gave one veeeeery special student an extra $5 just because he had $0 and I didn't want him to go empty handed. It wasn't hard to get these bucks either. They just needed to participate. And the students that fought me tooth and nail about that STILL got more than $5!!! But regardless, I'm pretty sure this kid walked away with nothing. He didn't even want the super cheap $5 candy that I had priced just for him.

*bitter rant begin*
You know, sometimes I just really hate those students for being such ungrateful brats. They have no idea that the only reason why the government pays for me to be here is to teach their sorry asses. What a waste of money. What a waste of my time.

Honestly, I applaud anyone who enjoys being a teacher and I give a standing ovation to anyone who's good at it. There are plenty of people who love teaching and are good at their job. I work with a number of them!

But I am not one of them. And I hope to all that is holy that I don't end up doing this for the rest of my life.

But hey it could be worse. I could be teaching middle school! HAHAHAHAHHAHAHA...hmmmm

Freefalling from one event to the next until New Years!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thank god the JLPT is over!!! I can't promise anyone that I passed. Whenever I was practicing I always tallied the points wrong without realizing it so I was actually doing worse than I thought.

See, the test is broken into 3 parts. The first 2 I always do pretty well with but the last part, grammar and reading, I do so poorly in that it usually brings me down to just barely passing. What I didn't realize until the day of the test was that the third section is actually worth twice as much as the others. :P I think I did pretty well on those parts but we'll see when I get the results in February.

Now I'm in auto pilot as I bounce from one event to the next. This past Wednesday, without anytime to really recover from the test, I hosted an International Day at my school, 3 other ALTs from around the prefecture came over and we internationalized 20 of my students to their breaking point! Let's just say that Vegemite and PB&J are two snacks that Japanese students most certainly don't enjoy (for the most part) but the hip hop dancing was quite well received ;)

Tomorrow, I'll be off to the city to host a present exchange party for those of us who celebrate giving presents to friends around December. Saturday, I'll be volunteering at a Children's English Language Christmas Party but I'll be leaving early to go to a film festival which will be showing and judging movies that have been made by the people of the prefecture. The contest was to create a movie that represented Japan through the eyes of Kochi prefecture. Sunday will be spent making a ginger bread house with Wakako and the family and that'll then begin my next week where I'll be going through similar things all over again until I leave for Australia on the 21st.


But when do I get to breathe?!?!? As soon as I get back from Australia, I'll be hitting the ground running! With the new year comes the start of the Genki Musical!!! Stay tuned for the shenanigans which are sure to ensue ;)

Bad Luck Driving

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Forgot about this in the last post.

So yesterday Nick, Dave and the other CIRs all over Japan went to Tokyo to have a mid-year conference. On Sunday, Nick stayed the night at my place while I was in Odochi (Japanese language makes everything complicated) and Dave picked him up on Monday morning and they were off to the airport!

Only they didn't get that far. At least not how they planned.

I must be giving off unlucky vibes or something!!!

After Dave got Nick, he was backing up his enormous and beautifully powerful machine out of the parking area of my apartment complex, when he got too close to a large ditch/sewer system and his two right side tires fell in. The ditch is about three feet wide and four feet deep. He thought for sure that entire car would fall in!

But it didn't. Instead, he told my land lady, handed her the keys and raced off to the airport to catch their flight. I got a nice call that afternoon from Nick as their were waiting for the plane. I came home and was kindly handed the keys to a very nice car that was sitting in my parking spot. The Landlady called some friends of hers and they fished it out of the ditch after the guys left.

She really is a very kind woman. I wish I could speak more Japanese to her!!! (ToT)

And really, through this whole thing, no one thought to take a picture :P

I Don't Want To Study for the JLPT Right Now

So instead I'll write out a post :)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating in a Murder Mystery game with about ten other people. I was given a character profile, I dressed in costume and played the part to try and figure out who the killer was while not getting caught red handed with my own scandals. It was loads of fun!!!

I was Madam MeMe Wannabe married to the host of the evening Don Wannabe. My story was that I had been brought up in brothels only to move my way up the ranks to own my own string of them. I'm a classy businesswoman who treats her woman and clients well. The evening began with my husband and I holding a grand opening party for our new Speakeasy club (right?)

Don and I were doing the bookkeeping for "Big Jim" the head of the fo-mafia in Chicago. This everyone knew. But what was a secret was that his estate was worth about $4,000,000 until we skimmed a little bit off the top. After that, it was only worth about $40,000. But no one needed to know...until he was murdered and he left his daughter, mother and new wife the inheritance.

But I'm not gonna tell who dun it ;)

There's an article I'd like to discuss that I'd seriously like to share with the world at large.

As of today the Japanese government has put into effect new policies for entering the country if you are not a Japanese citizen. It used to be that if you held a visa and a re-entry permit (which I do) then you could just go through customs in Japan as if you were actually Japanese. (pretty nice) Now however, they have a new system where all foreigners must be finger printed and photographed.

Ok, whatever. To me this only means that it'll take longer to go through customs. I didn't think much of it until I read this article.

Please note before you read this article, there's some information you might want to know about the NOVA group.

See, NOVA was the biggest English conversation school in Japan. It was known for being cheap on all sides. It wasn't a good school for students to go to or foreigners to work at. It was just an easy way for the Japanese to practice English and it was an easy way for foreigners to get to Japan.

Well, about a month ago NOVA finally went bankrupt. It was a bad company all around. Thousands of foreigners were without a job for a couple of days later another company snatched it up. Basically, everyone saw it coming.

NOW, you may read this article ;)

And these are my questions because I seriously think I'm missing something here:

1. Is there something that is "restrictive" about photographing and finger printing every foreigner that goes to Japan? How will this keep people from entering the country? How will this deter people from living here?

2. Does this man think that if a few foreigners leave Japan that the need to be able to speak and understand English will just magically disappear?

3. This man makes it sound like he wants to close off the borders of Japan! How does finger printing and photographing people do that?!?!??! Doesn't the US do the same thing?!!? I don't see that stopping anyone! I just see it making you late to get to your connecting flight!

4. Does this man SERIOUSLY think that foreigners had ANYTHING to do with NOVA's collapse? NOVA is known for it's by the books, telling you exactly what to say and when to say it kind of teaching program. It was fail proof. The easiest no brainer job ever. Just read from the card.

And the felling I'm left with is something I've gotten used to since coming to Japan; the sense that I'm missing something important.

Ya wanna know what I bet it is, this "high ranking official" is probably just a nobody pulling opinions out of his ass. Either that, or there's finally some hard evidence that the Japanese are as self centered, bigoted and "wanting to stay unique as only an Island Nation can provide" as the stereotype says.

PLUS!!! Rumor has it that the birth rate is soooooo bad that the Japanese government is thinking of changing some immigration laws to bring in more foreigners into the workforce! But that's another can of worms that I won't go into. Every gaijin girl has her own opinion about Japanese men. ;)

Other than that, it's gotten significantly colder here. Which makes me hungrier than ever which is so NOT cool! I don't want to gain absolutely ANY winter weight!!

News Flash: PANTS

Friday, November 2, 2007

I was just going through the switch between summer and winter clothes when I came across my favorite Target pants that I stopped fitting into by October of last year thanks to the stress and over eating that was had in my early months here in Japan.

I decided to try them on just for giggles and guess what??!!??!?!



Just thought I'd let you in on that little update ;)

For now, it's back to studying. I have school culture days, international days, lessons, parties, and a Japanese Language Proficiency test to do before I go to Australia for Christmas! WHOO!

Three Nina Style Issues and Visitors from home

Thursday, October 25, 2007

And starting from the beginning:

The first weekend of October was the Muroto English camp. (See previous post #4) The day after, I found a good sized bug bite on my inner thigh. I thought nothing of it but two days later it had more than doubled in size. Not only had it starting growing however, it also started finding veins and was traveling in two strips up my thigh in the direction of a very important place to every woman.

I made an absent minded comment about this on facebook and immediately I got a reply from an old acquaintance telling me about how she once got a very nasty bug bite which started doing the same thing as mine. She had gone to the doctor only to be told that it was just an allergic reaction. 5 days later she was in the hospital having the wound drained of poison. Apparently it was a super poisonous spider that had bit her and if it had been on her foot rather than her ass they would have had to amputate it.

With that email, I was off to the doctor. He told me it was just an allergic reaction and sent me on my way with some nice super strength, could kill a horse, Japanese meds.

It's been a little over two weeks since that time and the spot has turned into a faint bruise and nothing more. Let's hope it stays that way.
(Issue #1: solved)

The day after I went to the doctor, Christina and Chrissy, my two good friends from Uni came out to visit me! We had a blast! And it was so cool to watch their eyes bug out as they tried to take in all the things that I've come to take for granted. Mountains for example ;)

The first thing we did was have a party at Nicks and then we were off to Kagawa for the weekend. We made Udon, saw some great sites and came home in time for me to go to school for a little bit and then take them site seeing some more around Kochi. Friday we were off again to Hiroshima where we visited the very intense A-Bomb Dome and Museum. After that we took the typical trip to Tokyo which no visit to Japan is complete without. I flew back into Kochi last night and they were off back to Florida this afternoon.

All in all it was a nice and somewhat relaxing vacation. The girls were not all about rushing to the next tourist site. Instead they enjoyed taking their time and if we didn't happen to get to do everything that was on our list that was ok. As long as they were enjoying themselves there was no reason to worry. :)

Unfortunately 4 days into their vacation I got into a car accident.

I was driving down a back road that I don't normally take (sounds just like Nick's story...creepy). I was turning right at a blind intersection. Instead of coming to a full and complete stop like I should have, I rolled through while looking at the two mirrors that they have placed across the intersection so that you can see oncoming traffic. Only after the accident did I come to realize that the mirror showing the right side of the street was tilted so I couldn't actually see much of anything in it.

So I looked in the mirrors and saw that there were no cars. As I pulled into the intersection I looked to my left and saw no cars. By the time I was in the middle of the intersection I looked to my right and saw that there was a car RIGHT THERE!!! So I sped up so as not to be hit by the car, I underestimated the width of the street, over shot the turn and drove up onto the curve and over a pedestrian crossing sign.

It could have been worse. I could have hit a pedestrian.

The cops came out almost immediately, everyone was very kind even the passers by who asked me if everything was alright while I waited at the scene and cried to myself.

In fact, while I was talking to the very kind police, my old host mother, Mari drove by.

Now this is not my current Japanese mum, Kae. This is the woman that I stayed with the last time I came here with the Largo crew. She is the woman who introduced me to Kae in the first place who was actually hosting a different Largo student at that time.

Mari was shocked to see me and instantly stopped her car to make sure everything was alright. Before I could blink my eyes she already had her family mechanic on the line and within an hour of the accident my car was picked up and replaced by a free rental. (oxymoron?)

The repairs are costing me about $1000 and honestly I sat and really thought about how much this car was worth to me. I realized that I had gotten a very good deal when I payed only $2000 for it in the first place and it's a good car that I have bonded with even if only over the past 5 or 6 months. Besides, I won't find a better car for less or equal that price.

I do actually have insurance and it'll pay for the pole but it won't pay for the damage to the car. If the damage were over $2000 then they would pay for it but then my rate would go up $2000 so it really doesn't matter in the end. Needless to say, I never thought I'd hit a pole. I mean honestly.

Thankfully it didn't ruin Christina or Chrissy's vacation.
(Issue #2: solved)

We were still able to drive around to the places we wanted to go but we weren't able to drive as comfortably to Hiroshima as we had planned. My car is huge when in comparison to other Kei (small style) cars in Japan. We were planning to drive it north about 5 hours to Hiroshima and Nick would drive it home. Instead, we took Nick's car which is much smaller and much more manual so it was a little bit of a pain in the ass since Nick is the only person able and authorized to drive said car. Poor Nick.

This past Sunday night we said our goodbyes to Nick and took a night bus to Tokyo where I thoughtfully left my cell phone (on the bus not the entirety of Tokyo)

I swore up and down that I left it on the bus but it took them 2 days to actually locate it (turns out they couldn't locate the bus I was on. The bus driver actually found it immediately but didn't think to contact anyone about it)

Now I'm waiting for my cellphone to be shipped back to me and then maybe I'll finally be able to get into touch with people. For example, the mechanic working on my car. He said he'd have it done by today but there's really no way for anyone to get into contact with me so...

Well, things could be worse.
(Issue #3: being solved)

And this is the story of my life.

Post and a half!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lot's has happened in the past monthish. Mostly, all you need to know is that I've updated my gallery (link to the right) and if I get some time to put captions with the pics then you might actually understand all the things that are going on!!!

1. Kagawa and Naoshima

On one of the two three day weekends in September, Nick and I took a road trip (I drove of course) up to the very northern prefecture in Shikoku, aka Kagawa. From there we took a ferry to the beautiful island of Naoshima where we spent the day looking at various art museums. It was breathtaking and I highly recommend it. I wish I could have taken pictures of most of the things we saw but well, you know museums ;)

After going to Naoshima, we popped a tent on a beautifully deserted beach where we spent probably the worst night of my life here in Japan. The beach is meant for camping so it's not like we were trespassing or anything. But the weather forecast failed to mention typhoon style winds coming from the sea and the brochure failed to mention the wild dogs that liked to sneak up right next to your tent and then decide to get into a fight with each other. Jerks!!! I would have roasted those dogs if I weren't afraid of contracting some despicable Japanese dog disease!!!

After waking with the sun, we took down what was still standing of our tent thanks to the high winds and went off to do some sea kayaking. River kayaking is pretty relaxing. Sea kayaking combined with high winds makes for a tough trip. We rightfully thought that it would be pretty easy but well, the high waves combined with very little sleep left me feeling less than up to par by the time we were finished. With that, we decided to drive the two hours home and cut our trip short. But it was an excellent adventure and I recommend everything!!! (except the camping, a good nights sleep totally beats FREE)

2. The following week was Taikusai at Yamada high school! (sports day) Lot's of games and injuries were had!!!! Check out the pics for the highlights!

Personally, it was quite interesting at times but honestly, I don't like sports and I doubt I ever will. I didn't actually enjoy watching ALL DAY for TWO WHOLE DAYS. I would have rather studied Japanese at my desk.

3. Dodge ball!!!

Some friends decided that we all weren't quite busy enough with our normal lives so we all got together in a borrowed elementary school gym and we played a few rounds of dodge ball. It was fun and I spared myself the carnage by dubbing myself camera woman! I'm sure you'll love my excellent camera skillz ;)

4. Muroto English Camp!

Probably the best English camp yet! It was exactly what I wanted! There were actually more ALTs than campers which was awesome. And the focus was more on internationalization rather than English. We played lot's of games that all used English but were not focused on it. Lot's of leadership things. We played lot's of games that got my competitive spirit up and I loved every tiring hour of it! Plus, I got three vacation days out of it. Gawd I love playing and getting payed for it!

Check out the pics!!!

I Passed My Test!!!!!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

So this is how it happened. I didn't pass on Monday and so I went crying to my supervisor that I needed help. Instead of anything useful, he said "Do you're best and I'm sure you'll pass next time" All the while knowing that if I don't actually improve, I'll be taking this test up 12 or 13 times! No one is going to pass me just because I show up. They'll just feel bad failing me every time.

So I went home crying to Nick. The next day (because his Japanese is much better than mine) he called up the testing center, then called up some driving schools and finally called up a few private tutors that could help me out. After pulling a few strings he set me up with a very nice teacher for Thursday afternoon (more time off of work...bleh)

However, there was a problem that I'd been having since about my 5th time taking the test. As I kept improving, the proctors kept giving me more and more specific information for how to improve. My Japanese limits me to basic stuff so even though I was getting the gist of what they were saying, I couldn't understand the very specifics and that frustrated me even more. I told this to Nick and he decided to come all the way from Kitagawa* to translate what the tutor was saying to me while we drove around.

*Ino is where the testing center is. It's about 30 minutes west of Kochi city. I live about 40 minutes East of Kochi city and Nick lives about 2 hours East of Kochi city. Just to put things into perspective. He also had to take a little bit of time off of work as well. He gets more vacation time than I do but still.

On Thursday, I went to work until 2pm then hopped on a train to Kochi city where I met up with Nick who then drove me to the testing center.

Actually, right as Nick was leaving work early that day, he decided to take a back road home. He'd done this before, it was normal. Earlier in the week he had a close call with almost getting run over by a car. He missed it and nothing really happened. But on Thursday, as he was riding his bike home from work, he actually did get hit by a car.

It was some old woman who went through a blind turn too quickly. She hit Nick and he bounced back off the car only so that the car could keep going forward and drag him a few feet. His right foot has a pretty big scrape on it but if he hadn't been wearing sneakers, I'd say that a good chunk of it would have gone missing. Other than that, there are a few scrapes on his back and arm but nothing very serious. The bike is completely shot.

And he still made it into Kochi city in time to pick me up and take me to my tutor.

We practiced there for a few hours and that was about it. I took the test on Friday and everyone at the testing center was very proud. They were so happy to see how much I had improved. They really were all rooting for me. :)

And I honestly don't know how I can make it up to Nick. He knows it's a big deal what he did but the gratitude I feel is immeasurable.

And that's my story! I'll be driving like crazy for the next few weeks!!!!

More Driving Frustrations

Monday, September 10, 2007

I still haven't passed the driving test. Today was my 6th attempt. That's 6 vacation days wasted. That's more than 36300 yen (just about $350) down the drain. That's 18 days of worrying about all of this. I'm talking lot's of dreams about driving. Lots.

And still what feels like no progress.

The test is hard and they grade me accordingly. It wasn't made to be an easy test. I've heard everyones opinion about it too. It's not fair the way they expect us to pass this test without ever taking a Japanese course in it. It's not right to have such a ridiculously difficult test. There's no way you can drive like this is real life! Why would they want you to drive that way on the course? They're just out to get your money. They're jerks. They want to break you before they'll pass you. Make sure they see you cry. Let them think they've won and you'll get your license and be done with all this bs.

This is the sort of thing that people say. And it's easy to believe it too. I've cried three times now over this test. The last one was actually in front of someone as my pride couldn't hold the tears back any more. It is true that I've spent a lot of money on this. But not as much money and time and energy if I had actually taken the course which is about 8 weeks of intense study and testing as well as around $3000. I know because a friend of mine actually had to take it. He past on the first attempt but I wouldn't expect anything less. One of his class sessions actually covered which finger he should use to turn on the blinker.

This is how asinine this test is.

But the truth is that no one's out to get me. This is just how the system works and none of my instructors are trying to break me or take my money. They don't see an single extra yen if I pass or fail.

In fact, they've actually made the test easier for foreigners. I sat in the car one attempt with a Japanese man who was also taking the test that day. I watched him drive "the same course" as I did that day. His was much more difficult. It was longer and had more hoops to jump through. He didn't pass that day. I saw him again today actually. He's on his 4th take. I don't know if he took the driving course in the first place. I also don't know if he passed. I hope he did. No one should go through this hell more than once.

But for me, it seems I've been giving more help than any other JET this year from what I've heard. One girl passed on the first try out of sheer luck. One girl took it 5 times and had to pay for two super expensive lessons where the instructor drove around with her and told her all the tricks for how to pass. One girl took it 8 times and every time no one told her what she had done wrong which is slightly unusual. Normally they'll tell you at least one thing that you did wrong. They never told her a single time for some reason. Her school ended up paying for a $300 tutor to help her out.

But as for me, I seem to be a bit different. First, I am one of the only JETs who was never accompanied to a test by anyone from school. I had to beg to get someone to take me to the paperwork day when they had to make copies of my passport and American drivers license and interview me about my driving record. After that, there has been nothing. This is highly unusual though it's definitely not required that anyone accompany me. That's certainly not in anyones job description.

Aside from that one HUGE set back (am I bitter? We'll see when this is all over) I've actually been given a lot of help outside of all that. The first take I did miserably. The second take I did only slightly better. But the amazing thing was that my proctor took me aside and brought me into the classroom where he proceeded to show me how I should be driving on the course, where I should turn on my blinkers, etc etc. After he calculated my results (failure) he actually wrote down a note to have translated so that I could understand exactly what he was saying. This is one of the most amazing things ever done in the history of the Kochi Driving Exam. Many a JET has begged their proctor to write down exactly what they did wrong only to be refused in the end. My proctor did it out of the kindness of his heart without even being asked.

The third take I left before my very kind proctor could see me cry. The fourth....is a haze. I can't actually remember anything about it except that I was sure of myself. The 5th I thought I had it down. I was sure that I passed more than ever before! And my proctor was an ass in the end and I didn't pass. He was an ass because for the first time I was treated the way that everyone else had been treated. He told me one thing that I had done wrong (I turned too slowly on the curves...which, personally I don't think is not worth a failing grade for) and when I failed he said nothing. I wasn't even sure I had failed in the first place! He just gave me back my papers and walked away. I cried that day too. Snot everywhere ;)

Today, I was sure I would pass again. I stressed so much before that coming into the test today I couldn't have even cared less. I knew the courses by heart. I knew what to do and where to do them. I had done an excellent job before and the only reason why I didn't pass was because my proctor was a jerk.

Usually I get to the test site about an hour and a half early. The trains work that way (BITTER!!!) and it gives me a chance to study in the right environment. Almost every time I've tested I see this one motorcycle instructor. She's talked to me a couple of times before and she's always really nice. We talk about things like how many times I've taken the test, where I'm from, what I'm doing here. I look forward to seeing her and she always says "do your best!" whenever she leaves. I know she's rooting for me.

And so, today when I saw her, I smiled and said this was definitely the last time I would be taking the test. It was my 6th try and I was very sure of myself. She said her usual "do your best" and that was it. Then about 10 minutes later, an elderly man came up to me and said "what course are you taking?" Just like that. In Japanese, of course, but just as matter of fact. I told him and he pulled me into the classroom and told me everything that I could ever know about the course I was testing on today. It was just as if I had paid him to teach me only it didn't cost me a cent. I know that it was the motorcycle instructor pulling a favor for me.

In the end, the man didn't tell me much of what I didn't already know. He gave me a few tips but for the most part, I had it down. He helped with my confidence boost and he helped me with little things that I might get a few points off on. Hey, in this test, every point counts!!!

When the bell rang, I got one of the nicest proctors yet. There were two times when there were problems completely outside of my control and I don't think he marked me off for them! (A man walked out onto the course and I had to stop or hit him and another time a different car on the course was in my way so I had to stop where I was as well which is, of course, a no no in real life. But then again, no one said this was reality. It's Japan) He was the first proctor to actually talk to me like a normal human being instead of god talking down to his subjects. I thought for sure he would take pity on me. But in the end, I failed just like I had before.

I cried right in front of him when he told me this. He actually stuck around too to give me more pointers.

When I got home, I went straight to school and cried for my supervisor too. I told him I didn't understand the Japanese. I didn't know what else to improve upon. I just don't know what else to do!!! I'll never pass this if I don't do something different!!!

His answer:

"hmmmm, you know, Japanese people are lucky if they pass after 6 attempts. Do your best, I'm sure you'll get it next time!"

Thanks a lot.

I'm going to see if I can bribe him to call up the testing center and figure out just why I haven't passed. Something. ANYTHING from him would help. He's supposed to be taking care of me! This is his JOB!!!!


Driving Frustrations

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Today was my third go at the driving test. The result was another failure.

So I went home and cleaned my apartment. I pulled everything off of their shelves and wiped everything down. I am now in the process of recategorizing all my food and utensils and putting them away.

This test is driving me to my breaking point. What's going to happen when I have nothing more to clean?

This is absolutely insane.


And if you'd like to know just why I have been so agitated, here's a copy of course A of the Ino driving test. I'm going to leave the picture large so you can read the notes that the person I got this from wrote on them. And don't take these notes lightly. If you don't do them exactly as they're written, you'll fail.

In fact, today I failed because my blinker turned off automatically in the middle of an intersection while I was turning. My problem was that I didn't turn it back on so I lost points. My proctor told me that if I had been on the real roads, a police officer could have given me a ticket for that.

Well LA TI DA!

Adventures in Driving Land

Monday, August 27, 2007

I'm in the process of getting my drivers license. It's a horrible process. The rules for driving on the course are strict and people have been known to go a bit mental after taking the test more than twice. Some have been known to pass it on their first try but most take it an average of 6.

Each time is at least $40 and an entire day of vacation wasted from the few I'm given in the first place.

As of today, I have taken the test twice.

Here's an email I sent to a friend that pretty much sums things up:

Last Friday was total crap. I studied my ass off and I knew what I needed to do. I didn't even get confused on the course! But what I did do was drive like I was drunk! (compared to what they actually wanted me to do) I was all over the place in my lane because I just didn't know how to move from the right or left of each lane before turning and all that jazz. I just didn't have enough time. I should have been going about 10kmh instead of like 25.

Sunday, I went down with Stevo and he sat shotgun while I drove for an hour on the course ($60). This morning, I went into the course and I was the only one there! I got this really nice old guy.

When I was practicing with Stevo, we kept making jokes and I said "ok, yoshi, and hai" so many times that I started getting this really weird teacher/girly tone to my voice when I said anything. So on the test today, I totally kept doing the same thing! I was like "hajimemashyo" *cute smirk and a wink* and went on my way. It was almost sing song! And I think the guy really liked that. Besides that, I kept saying things as I felt like it. For example, after stopping completely, I'd say "ikimashyo" etc etc.

In the end, he called me into the classroom and used the chalk on the map to show me exactly what I had done wrong with details!!! He said that I changed lanes really well but I need to check my blind spots when taking turns and I need to change lanes at THESE SPECIFIC LOCATIONS. It was amazing (^u^)v

I still failed in the end but I'm really confident about it for this Wednesday. That man probably just saved my life!


Florida '07 The Run Down

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Cherries and TV

Olives and cheese

Babies and dogs

Matsuri Fish

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Exactly one week ago there was a matsuri (festival) directly on the street in front of my apartment. It lasted from Tuesday to Wednesday. As with most matsuri, there were various stalls for all kinds of fried/grilled foods, ice cream, and games.

There was one game in particular that I had seen in a number of anime and I just had to try it out. It's a special fish catching game. It's so popular that at the tiny matsuri at my place, they had three different stalls for it. Pretty much, there is a long and shallow tank with millions of gold fish in it. The fish are usually all gold but some are the black variety and even fewer are white with black spots. Pretty much, you pay $3 for a little plastic wand that looks like you could blow bubbles with it. It's about 2 1/2" across. Covering the wand is a thin layer of rice paper so as soon as it hits the water it breaks apart. Which means that you have to be pretty quick about scooping up the fish with it.

But I didn't know all of this at the time. So I called up Adam who was relaxing at home and I made him come over and win me a fish. I only wanted one black one and nothing else. Keep that in mind please. I only wanted ONE BLACK FISH.

On his first try, Adam caught both a black fish and a crappy gold fish. "Huh, that was pretty easy! I'm totally going to try that again!", he says. Welp, the next time he didn't have quite as good of luck. But the woman felt bad for him/us so she scooped up three more gold fish and added them to my bag. Adam then decided to try it again with the same result. In the end, I walked home with 6 gold fish and ONE BLACK FISH.

I had about an hour before I needed to be anywhere so Adam and I then went out to the local hardware store to pick up a tank. We farted around looking at tanks and thinking seriously about how much these fish are worth in the first place. I have heard that Matsuri fish are notorious for dying quickly so I was hoping that at least 4 of the goldfish would die leaving me with only 3 fish, meaning that I wouldn't need such a big tank.

However, as with all things, I got a little distracted. Instead of leaving with a plain plastic tank, I ended up with a glass tank (size M for whatever that's worth), a filter, rocks, fish food, a Big Beautiful Black Fish and a Ping Pong Ball shaped gold fish. (o^u^o)

I couldn't resist!!! The big black fish was gorgeous! He was so beautifully dark I couldn't possibly describe him better than by stealing the name of my good friend Dave (I'm sure you all remember Dave). Dave goes by the internet alias as "Daribold Blackerton" and I thought that it fit perfectly.

Second was the ping pong ball fish. I learned through this ordeal that it's actually called a pearl fish in English and it's native to Japan (Darkibold is native to China). Pretty much, this fish looks like it swallowed a ping pong ball. It's the cutest thing I've ever seen because the whole body jiggles when it swims around. I bought the genkiest (most active) fish in the tank because he would press his face against the glass and just jiggle back and forth. I couldn't resit. His name was Mikan which is the Japanese word for a small Chinese orange.

In the picture is Mikan, Daribold and the ONE BLACK FISH I set out to get when this whole thing began.

Let's recap just a bit, shall we:

Attempt 1: $3
Attempt 2: $3
Attempt 3: $3
Tank w/ filter: $10
Darkibold: $2
Mikan: $5

9 fish and $26 later, I was quite smitten.

Since I'm leaving for America in a week I decided that I would have Nick take the fish and when I come back he would keep most of the gold fish and maybe even the ONE BLACK FISH. I hadn't decided yet.

However, not all was well in the Nina Fish Tank where Darkibold reigned supreme. By Sunday morning I noticed that my luscious beauty was looking a bit lethargic and kind of keeping to the bottom of the tank. All the other fish seemed healthy enough so I thought maybe it was just too early in the morning for poor Mr. Blackerton. That night however, I realized all was not well.

I had heard rumors that goldfish have very acidic urine and it can kill the other fish in the tank if it builds up too much. Thing is, Darkibold is in the goldfish family! Whatever, I took him out of the tank and put him in a water pitcher filled with 2 day old distilled water. I wasn't sure it would work but it was 9pm by this time and nothing was open so I couldn't very well get those little drops for fish water. I then called up everyone I knew and the only person who was available was Dave himself. "DAVE!! DAVE!! My fish is dying and I never even got to tell you my joke about him!!!!" I screamed. "Dude, Nina. I know nothing about fish. Why are you calling me?" I then watched in agony as my fish sat on the bottom of the water for the rest of the night.

In the morning, Dorkibold seemed a little better so I left him and went along with my business. Erinn came over at one point and mentioned just how cute Mikan was and I convinced her to get one as a gift for her boyfriend. You just can't look at him without smiling if not flat out giggling. I told her that of any of my fish, I was hoping that the crappy goldfish would die and certainly not any of the ones I had actually named!

Tuesday morning came and Darkibold was doing worse than ever. I then took him to the store that I had bought him at and because I wasn't really able to communicate, I just held up the pitcher and gave the woman big puppy eyes hoping she would understand.

"Yup, he's definitely not doing well, huh!" She commented.

She gave me some medicine for him, water drops and I vowed that if he didn't pull through this I would flush those gold fish if it was the last thing I ever did!!!

I went home and administered the meds.

It turned the water a dark teal and made the room smell like fish. But I had hopes that it would work. I couldn't see Mr. Blackerton through it but I had faith that he would get better.

That night, I came home to check out how things were doing and before I could even look into the murky water, I noticed that Mikan had wedged himself between the filter and the side of the tank. He was breathing but his eyes had the dead fish look to them. I went to the kitchen to get a chopstick to poke him with. I figured I would just put him into the other tank with Darkibold and maybe it wouldn't be too late for the both of them!

I hadn't turned on the light in the kitchen but the light of the moon was enough for see just to get a chopstick. When I grabbed it from the sink, I saw a small shadow move. Thinking it was nothing and probably just something I did, I moved my hand in the same way just to see if I could make the shadow again (to reassure myself that it was in fact nothing). I ended up in a 7 minute battle against the first and biggest roach I have ever seen in my apartment.

By the time I got back to Mikan, I was thoroughly pumped with adrenaline and still silently freaking out. I poked him with the chopstick to get him out of the corner of the tank and instantly he floated to the top. He was still breathing so I threw him in with Darkibold and waited.

One hour later, I looked into the tank and knew that Mikan was dead.

WHY?!?!!? God WHY?!?! I was so angry! Mikan hadn't even looked like he was getting sick! He was just less genki than when I had bought him but that just meant that he was acting like all the rest of the bastard gold fish! The crappy gold fish that gave both my favorite fish a disease in the first place! Filthy Matsuri fish!!! ARG!

I took the pitcher to the toilet and threw mikan in. I then looked through the water and saw that Darkibold was still on the bottom and not moving at all. I gave up. After all this agony and effort I went through to take care of fish that cost me more than they were worth in the end, I was ready to give up. I threw him into the toilet as well. He just swirled around with the water. I was hoping maybe he would make one last effort to survive but there was nothing. He wasn't moving voluntarily at all.

I flushed.

And at the very last second before everything went down the drain, I saw Darkibold make his best effort to come to life and swim against the current. In less than a split second I realized that I had made the worst mistake ever and I completely burst into tears. Poor Darkibold! He wasn't even DEAD!!!

I finally got a hold of Nick around 11:30pm. I told him he could keep the tank and everything. For now, I'm done with the whole business. I can't handle this much stress from fish. I have enough to worry about.

This morning, I saw the ONE BLACK FISH, showing the same signs that Darkibold did on Sunday. I don't think I'm going to try and save him. It doesn't matter that I still have expensive medicine left.


Help! Help! I'm being opressed!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The heat here is absolutely amazing. It's the most opressive thing I have ever experienced! I'm sure I wrote about this when I had first come here but I just can't get over it. I wake up around 6:30 and just going to the bathroom has me drenched in sweat. I can't keep my apartment cool either!

It's time for Nina to buy an industrial sized fan.

In other news, I'm sitting at my desk of this fine Sunday morning. 'Why' you ask? Because this weekend has been devoted to parent teacher meetings which means that all teachers must report for duty both Saturday and Sunday. For me, I had no meetings to attend but Monday and Tuesday are mandatory vacation days so I could either take off of work and have a 4 day weekend or save my free days and come into work.

Obviously, I chose the latter.

It's when a whirlwind of excitement let me tell you. I'm now half way through Harry Potter 6 (again) and I've begun studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (hence forth known as the JLTP) Level 3. I really don't think I'll pass but I'm going to try my best.

Also, in the news today, I have finally recieved my new used computer!!!

I came in the other day and practically threw a tantrum at my old machine. The teachers saw this and decided to finally help me out in this department and the Network Admin finally hooked me up. I am now running XP and I am very VERY pleased.

The only problem is that I am no longer an administrator myself (I have mommy and daddy controls) so I can no longer install software which means if I want to install:

MS updates
Google Toolbar
Change the time on the clock which is annoyingly 15 minutes off
Whatever else sparks my fancy...

I have to get the network admin in here to do it for me.

Words can not describe how much of a pain in the ass that is. I think I'll learn to live without. For now, my computer no longer crashes when I close MSWord (o^u^o) I couldn't ask for more!

I'll be in the states in 8 days!!!

Say What Who?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Once again I've waited too long to update my blog. So instead of going on with a long winded description of a single event, I'm going to write about a bunch (and I use the phrase loosely) of things that have happend starting from most recent to least recent and I'll put in extra details when I feel like it.



As of this afternoon, I'll be completely done with teaching classes until September.


I have this special thing with the students at Odochi where if they do something I think is special, I give them 1 or 2 Nina Dollars. They look like this:

For the most part, I don't think the students actually knew what they were for but I had in mind that I would hold an auction maybe every term (there are three total) and I would let them buy candy and maybe one really expensive but pretty cool American toy.

Well, when the Largo guys came, they left me with a bunch of really cool presents to give to people. The had so many donations for people in America (such as the devil rays, Eckerd college and Disney) that they had too much to give to people. So I got the leftovers. On top of all that really cool stuff, Adam decided that since he's leaving he needed to clean out his apartment and I got some more cool stuff!!!

So needless to say, when I held my auction yesterday, the kids got spoiled rotten.

However, the best prize out of all the prizes was an old nasty box of Jelly Belly Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. It was absolutely hilarious to see the students stick a bean in their mouth and cringe. After a while, I asked one girl if maybe it was just too sweet for her and that was why she was cringing. I thought maybe it was actually a good bean but the American flavor was just too much for her. She turned to me with the most disgusted face ever and said, "No. This is definitely NOT sweet". Hahaha, she was eating a grass flavored bean too.


An earthquake hit on Monday. I didn't know about it. I didn't feel it. I've had at least 3 people email me about it. But no one seemed to notice the typhoon that directly hit my area. (Not that I expect anyone to!)


Monday we had a holiday so that made it a three day weekend. I had some major plans to go camping with some friends but Saturday started out with the first typhoon of the season. It's pretty funny actually. Everyone was really sort of scared but from what I could tell, it was just a tiny thing. Nothing like what we get in Florida!

HA! I laugh in the face of a numbered typhoon. It is nothing like our hurricanes with human names!

At 9pm it was set to hit my town exactly and by 9:30 the rain stopped and suddenly....nothing. It just decided to die right then and there. And that was the end of it. Sunday was beautiful and that is the end of that disappointing story.


I had originally planned to go camping with Nick and a girl named Son. She's a Korean CIR and came on JET in April. I first met her at the Sayonara Party. She was talking to a few people so I walked over to join the conversation. She was sitting down where as I was standing and she looked up with the most puppy dog eyes and fervently told me in Japanese, "I'm not Japanese. Everyone thinks I'm Japanese. I'm not. I'm Korean. I came in April," and then turned back to the other people and kept the conversation going.

Basically she could pass as being Japanese. Her Japanese is amazing. She doesn't know a lot of English but we still get along pretty well.

On Sunday the would-be-camping crew went out to Katsurahama (the beach) to see what had washed up on shore. But the conversations we were having must have looked so interesting! Nick (also a CIR) would be chatting away with Son in Japanese and I would pipe in with English and Son would understand enough to comment back in Japanese. It really is a very ethnic group! A Korean, American and Australian!


This is how I've been feeling most of the time:

Completely smitten with life now that I have a car.

And btw, don't ask how that's going. On the 6th my license will expire. On the 7th, I'll be on my way home for 2 weeks. When I get back, I'll have a hellava time getting that damn Japanese license. Don't ask because I'm stressing as it is and I'll bite your head off with a whole explanation of what a bs system the Japanese have going here. And trust me, knowing the craptastic Japanese system should be on a need to know basis only and believe me when I tell you, you don't need to know!

It doesn't matter.

Whoo! I've got a car!!!!

Cars, Parties and Bottoms!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

This past weekend was the Sayonara Party for all the JETs that are leaving in July and August. It was on top of a hotel at a beer garden. The theme was Good vs. Evil and I have some excellent pictures that I'll post later. I went as an angel because I'm cheap and knew that I'd be staying sober. That's right folks, I bought my car from a leaving JET who was attending the party. She drove it in and I drove it out.

But before that, on my way to the actual party, dressed in said costume, about a 40 minute ride by train from home, I got a call from the Theif.

Theif: Nina, did you meet up with your supervisor?
Nina: .........no....why?
T: Because you're 20 minutes late and he was supposed to pick you up.
N:.... huh?
T: The party is tonight! You know, the drinking party that we have after doing something important. This time, it's to thank everyone for doing such a good job with the Largo Exchange. The principal really wants you to come!
N: ......
T: I guess Twitchy-sensei forgot to tell you.
N:Yeah I guess so.

I could kill. I'm talkin' first degree murder. They will see it coming and no one will be able to stop me. I even TALKED TO MY SUPERVISOR THAT SAME DAY about how I had this really cool Sayonara party to go to. Does anyone ANYONE mention a party for the Largo exchange? Not a one. Not a single fucking one. Out of 6 JTEs and a principal, vice principal, and office lady, whom I know all attended because they were all very involved, no one said a word.


Switching gears!

I got my car!!! And I'll post pictures later. For now, I'm too busy trying to figure out how to drive on the left side of the road. You'd think it would be easy enough to think left lane, left lane, left lane. But there's a whole lot more that goes into driving on the wrong side of the road. My entire car is mirrored! I tried to turn on the blinker and the windshield wipers go. I turn around to back up and I have to turn to my left, not my right. It's kind of a weird feeling to say the least. All my muscle memory is now wrong!

But I'm getting the hang of it I think.

I decided that I wanted to go and do things that I couldn't before I had a car so I took Erinn around to a few places. We went shopping at a great Jeans place, had dinner at an American style steak house called Bikuri Donkey (Surprise Donkey...as in Donkey Kong) which is only a chain in Japan but was cute anyway (^_~)v

She also had a coupon for a spa so we decided to go in and get a massage. Everything in the place was from Indonesia and they specialized in aroma therapy. I chose a scent called Power and smelled like citrus and sandalwood. Very nice. So I got the complete naked rub down which included my butt!!!! She asked if it was alright before we started but I was still surprised anyway. I walked home with sandalwood oil all over and it felt and smelled so nice (^^) I think I'll go back but...well, at $50 a pop, maybe not so often.

For now, I'll continue driving like a madwoman down the road at 30 miles an hour! (speed limit is 40 at the best of times. Whoo I'll be flyin!)


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I get my car this Friday!!! Which kind of sucks but is really awesome nonetheless. See, this Friday is the Sayonara Party for all the leaving JETs and it will be held at a beer garden which means all you can eat and drink! But for the new DD, it'll just be eating for me (^^)


In other news, here's a great post I got on the local mailing list that I thought you'd all find interesting. I love this country!!!


I was teaching a lesson today to some pretty high level students...I do teach occasionally! And one of my students came out with a pearler of a sentence:

"How much underwear have you been stolen from your balcony?"

Where else but in Japan would you hear that!! But I had no idea how to explain the grammatical error.

Why do we have to say 'have had stolen'? I couldn't work out for the life of me any way of having it make sense to them.

HELP! I look forward to your explanations



Monday, June 25, 2007

I don't think I want to make a habit out of writing so little on this blog. Life has been both ridiculously busy and not as interesting and I think it should be to write about it.

But that's not true of course. Everything I do is interesting enough to write about!!!

So, let's see. Two weekends ago I went to Muroto where I spent Saturday snorkeling with about 20 other JETs. That evening we drove up into the mountains and had a Japanese style BBQ.

Mmmm meat.

That night, we all camped together in preprepared tents that fit about 6 people in each. It was quite cozy (^_~)v

The next morning, we woke up to some beautiful drizzly skies. But that didn't stop us from kayaking for a good hour or so! It wasn't exactly white water rafting, but we had loads of fun. With two per boat, people were all over the place! I eventually made it into the water when an ALT from another group jumped in and flipped the kayak. The water felt really warm because it was raining too, so it was all good!

That night, I was off with the Japanese fam again. And that was a great beginning for the week (^^)

Friday (3 days ago) I went out to a cafe where I saw Hercules (Dave) and the Kappa (Nick) play some tunes for about 40 or so people in candle light. Very romantic.

Saturday was the GEEK WEEKEND!!! (finally! Nick and I have only been planning it for two months!) We gathered some of the most geeky of JETs and spent an entire day and night playing video, card and mind games, watching DVDs, listening to geeky music and enjoying plenty of geeky conversation. It was jawesome!

Unfortunately, I had to duck out early on Sunday to catch the hour train home so I could be in time to meet up with the Japanese Fam. When I get my car this friday (holds breath) I don't think that will be a problem again (^u^)b


Monday, June 18, 2007

I wrote this at work last week and well...maybe I'll write a little later just how busy I've been (^^)v

I suppose I should take this lull to sit down and write about the Largo exchange.

It was quite eventful! The students that came over this time were the best I could have hoped for. They had a good attitude towards everything and they really followed all the rules! I was really impressed with everything they did (^^)

The students were also joined by Deborah (history teacher) and her husband, Guy. As well as the Principal of Largo, Mr. Haynes and his wife Alice.

So we last left off when I had come back to Tosayamada with the Largo kids in tow. It was awesome seeing my students so excited and nervous to meet them all. 5 minutes after getting off the train, everyone joined their host families and they were off! And I went home to relax in my apartment for a few minutes.

After about 5, I was off again to party with the Principals host family! This would be Thursday night. Friday was the welcome party. Saturday was the Lions club welcome party. Sunday was Nina day. Monday...is hazy. Tuesday was a bunch of meetings with the high ups in Kochi prefectural board of education and that night was another small party. Wednesday we went up to the mountains and cooked the famous Katsuo Tataki (only in Kochi prefecture). We cut it out, cleaned it, grilled it, and ate! mmmm it was good. Afterwards we all got nekkid in the onsen next door. That's right, I got nekkid with 7 high school girls, Deborah and April. I love Japan (^^)

That night I went to a goodbye party with the Lions club (those people really know how to drink!) The party started at 6 and I was drunk by 7 when I left to catch the train to another party that Nick was having for his parents. I got home around 11 and was out like a light.

Thursday, the principal and wife were off to Honduras. The rest of the students had a day packed with classes. Friday were more classes and one of the Largo kids got a stomach ache! oooo gas can be a problem. Whereas Deborah and I weren't too worried, everyone at Yamada insisted we take him to the hospital. I somehow convinced them that he was probably fine and just needed to rest. Thank god for that too. Can you imagine if we had taken him to the hospital? Gotten meds for an illness he didn't really have and then getting insurance involved and all that jazz. Bleh. No thank you.

That afternoon was the goodbye party from the students and Saturday morning they were off. There was much flirting and crying. Just the way it should be :) I think in the end everyone had a great time. I'd say out of the three experiences, this one was by far the best!

For now, I'm getting back to work, getting angry at the Thief over and over and over again. Still in the process of getting a car which I should have by the end of this month (holding breath) and tonight I'm off to go hang out with friends then tomorrow I'm snorkeling and kiaking and camping in the mountains of Muroto!

Life is good even if it is the rainy season!

Kobe, hospital visits and Largo

Sunday, June 3, 2007

This is a very long overdue post. I have so much to say and putting it off is just making the list longer and longer!!!

Sunday I spent with Nick and Company over in Katagawa for the first ever Australian Culture Festival!!! Complete with Lamb sausages and Kangaroo Burgers. Mmmm I'm sure they were delicious but I wouldn't know because I woke up with the most horrible stomach ache of my life. I tried to down play it as much as possible but in the end I had to sit out of a good chunk of the festivities even though I was supposed to be helping run the thing! (Despite being American. It's a minor detail that I'm sure all the Japanese didn't even notice)

That night I went home assuming it was just a bout of food poisoning and it'd be gone by the time I went to sleep.

The next morning I was off to Kobe for the recontracting conference! Just FYI people, if they tell you they're going to take attendance, they're fibbing!! They only took it twice on the same day and I made a serious effort to be at almost all the meetings!!! I rushed back from the hospital thinking they were going to report me to my supervisor!!!

That's right. By the middle of Monday afternoon, I was off to the hospital. I've heard so many horror stories of Japanese doctors that I was thoroughly freaked out. But in the end it was a very good experience. I had someone from CLAIR take me and the doctor was very good. He diagnosed me with an intestinal virus and sent me on my way with some medicine that was to keep me from feeling so nauseous but he wasn't going to give me anything for vomiting or diarrhea since that's the only real way to cure it. Up to that point I had had neither but I had the symptoms that led me to believe that my body was threatening me with them.

That night was the worst of my life here in Japan. I woke up multiple times to toss my cookies and the saying goes. It was actually to doctors meds that threw me over the edge I believe. But in the morning I was feeling better and by that night I was able to go out and eat some famous Kobe beef!!! At $1 a piece that stuff was gold! Delicious and highly recommended but I'll never eat it again at that price (^^)v


I skipped out of Kobe early so I could meet up with the Largo kids in Tokyo. They had been there since Monday morning and had been touring around having a great time from what I hear. Who couldn't? It's Tokyo!!!

I stayed one night with them in a gorgeous hostel and in the morning we were on our way to Tosayamada. Since getting back it has been one party after another. It's great to see how these things work from the other side of the cultural exchange. And I feel like a god for being able to translate. I guess I really wasn't giving myself enough credit but I've really gotten pretty decent about learning the ropes of the Japanese language! It's a total ego boost (^u^)

For now, I'm off to some more parties!!! WHOO

A Friendly Lot

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I have this habit of cleaning only under specific conditions. It must be a weekend and I have to start right after I get out of bed. I can usually get some pretty extensive cleaning done too which is a must since I don't clean any other time of the week!

So I was going through my routine today and finally getting the grit from between the floor boards! I went out to hang my laundry for the first time since October when I hear below me "Good morning!" I look down and there on the street are two people staring up at me. I say Hello and continue on with what I was doing. It's not abnormal for random people to just greet you in English and go on their way. It was a beautiful morning and they were probably just taking a walk.

Then they waved at me and in their hand was Largo High School's 2001 yearbook. I smiled and tried not to imagine where the hell they had gotten that book or why they even had it. I really should have put it together by now but...ok, it's about 9:30 in the morning and I'm still in my slightly revealing PJs. I didn't think I would be seeing anyone until 4 and when I say that I need to start cleaning as soon as I get out of bed, I mean before I put on normal clothes, brush my teeth, or even eat breakfast.

So yeah. I eventually got the hint that they wanted to talk so I threw on some clothes and went down stairs. It turns out that they are the couple that will be host family for the Largo Principal and his wife. They were worried about what they should be doing in preparation and they knew that I lived in the area so they stopped by. I think it was just luck that I walked out onto the balcony just then. Lord knows how long they were hanging out there!

We talked about the different foods that the principal might want to eat and how exactly he wants to take a shower. See in Japan, it's a big deal to clean yourself. You can't just lazily walk into the shower in the morning like so many Americans. Instead, you specially heat the bathtub in preparation for the evening's bath and it's more of a ritual than just something you do to make yourself clean.

They went home feeling a lot more relief after our simple conversation of
meat = good
Fermented smelly soy beans = bad


So remember that gorilla boy from way back when? Welp, I finally got my blind date with him. And it was just like every blind date known to men and women everywhere. It was awkward as hell and I'm just thankful that my friend Erinn and her boyfriend as well as another couple went with us. We had okonomiyaki which I have to admit I don't particularly like. And for the record, he doesn't look like a gorilla at all!!! But that still doesn't mean he was interesting or cute. I think we're all going to hang out some more for the new Pirates movie but after that...I don't see it going much further.

And I'm back where I started (^u^)v

Osaka and ATMs from hell

Friday, May 4, 2007

I went to Osaka this past week with Aozora. Long story short, I was a little less than impressed. The city was dirty and seemed needlessly large and busy. It probably would have been better to go during any other time other than Golden Week but...eh, what can I say.

I went to Universal Studios Japan where it thankfully rained all day. See, from what I hear, Universal is usually packed on a normal day but during GW you might as well not go because the lines will be anywhere from 2 to 3 hours long. And fast passes are $30 for 4 tickets! Ooo less than $10 each, that's a steal.

But because of the rain, we only had to wait 50 minutes at max which was quite nice. Incidently, all the rides that we went on were exactly like the ones back in Florida. However, most of the rides I went on in Osaka were new where as the ones in Florida are either super old or have been taken down by now. It was like walking into the past! I went on Terminator 3D the way it was way back when! (just in Japanese) I also went on E.T. and they actually said my name at the end! Not only did the one in Florida stop saying your name about 10 years ago, but they've also taken it down if I recall correctly! Other than that, it was nothing super special.

The next best thing was Spa World. It was a public bath (separated by genders) that was like a Love Hotel (from what people tell me. I don't know, I've never been to a Love Hotel...*bitter*) I really wanted to take pictures but since it was a bath....well, you understand.

They had Greek Gods poring water into a bath on top of a fish tank. They had hot baths, cold baths, saunas, and a cafe! As in, you would walk around naked, take a stop off at the cafe, get a drink and sit down at a table while soaking your feet in the pools underneath. There were about 10 baths all together and it was the most wonderful place I've been to yet. It's almost worth going back to Osaka for!


As for ATM hell... well....

Ok so we all know that Japanese ATMs are crap. They don't open until 10am and they close around 7 if your lucky. They close early on Fridays and weekends. On holidays, they are notoriously closed. In fact, it is a super common thing to be completely stranded during GW since it's an ENTIRE WEEK HOLIDAY!!!

Why the Japanese decide to close ATMs at all is completely beyond me. Maybe it's just to make me squirm.

Whatever, I've never gone on a vacation where I ran out of money but I guess I had to choose GW to start. Thank God for Visa!

Finally, Aozora and I wanted to kill some time in Osaka since we kind of ran out of things to do (running out of money will do that. And most places, even in a big city, don't actually take credit) so we decided to pop into an overpriced theater and check out Spider Man 3.

For anyone who hasn't seen this movie, I won't give any spoilers so read on!

There were parts of this movie that I'm sorry to say I ruined for some people in the theater because I started audibly giggling but at one point, I almost fell out of my chair and had to restrain my laughter or risk getting kicked out of the theater!

The joke, for anyone who knows it, was:

"I am a wise. Old. Dog. I have watched you two grow from baby horses into adult horse. I have watched you two grow from baby race horses into adult race horses. The best of race horses. I have watched you grow from baby friends into adult friends. The best of friends. You two became like two peas in a pod, two fish in the sea. You guys were like THIS! *tear* and I know that's hard for horses. Because I am a wise. Old. Dog."

Watch the movie and laugh. If you don't get the joke, get me seriously drunk and I might, might tell you. But remember, you asked for it!

It's only 9:30!

Monday, April 30, 2007

A few emails from Thursday of last week. I don't have time to write the whole thing out but I gotta post this before I go off to Osaka and forget everything!


To mom:

So..... This day has gotten to an interesting start and it's only 9:30.

Today, Tegan, from high school is coming to visit me. She was studying in Tokyo and wanted to see Yamada now that her classes are done. She'll be here until Sunday. My Apartment is a mess. I've gotten into the habit of saying "I don't want to do it" so I don't. It's really easy to continue to be lazy once you start. So not cool.

I got into school today late.

English club will be early today because school will end early today because the X-ray bus is coming into town.


Yeah, every year the teachers have to get X-rayed to see if they have TB or something. I had to do this when I was in America, remember? Welp, I'm doin it again. This is total bs. I told them I didn't want to because taking too many x-rays is bad for you. Especially if it's needless like this is! They said, well everyones doing it.... peer pressure is a way of life here.

Then...at 9:02, I was talking to the thief about today's lesson when suddenly the ground started shaking and there was this rumbling sound all around. And then it got worse and the walls started shaking and the desks were swaying!

Mom, it was a category 4 or 5 (whatever that means) and I swear I thought I was going to die. My heart totally jumped into my throat and it hasn't moved! The thief said it was really rare. Something like that hadn't happened for 6 years now. But still!!!!

Tegan's coming later this afternoon and I'm going to leave school to get her things and then return here for the club.

Thank god for that break! (when it comes) Lord knows if I'll survive this day!


Later that day, I emailed my PA to see if there was any way I could get out of doing the X-ray and not piss anyone off.

Hey Nina,

This has been a topic of conversation on the PA mailing list recently, so I am actually up to speed on this one! It seems that all public employees, including JETS, must have a yearly check up to ensure you don't have TB. Why the hell they are worried about TB I have no idea, but there you have it. So in effect, the X-Ray is compulsory. The only way out of it is to write a formal letter, and have another test that involving sputum and blood testing, but this does not necessarily yield a conclusive diagnosis, so your school may not accept it and force you to have one anyway - maybe at your expense that time.

So, you could always just try and whine your way out of it, but the official line is that it is compulsory for JETs along with all other employees. Sux. Plus I agree with you. I think that the risk of TB is minuscule compared to the increased risk of cancer from radiating EVERY public employee in the country. It is completely irrational. But since when does rationality win arguments here? This is how it is done, so that is how it will continue to be done.

Sorry to be so unhelpful

-Your Friendly PA


I took the x-ray and bitched the entire way through. Curse that stupid machine!!

Genki: Pictures

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pictures are up on my gallery

They are from our practices, tour weekends and after party. I'm kind of annoyed with my camera at the moment so I never brought it with me. All the pictures you see were taken by other people....about 5 to be exact ;)

Also, this is a band that was introduced to me on the tour weekend and I thought that it really represented our time together.

It was fun and now it's over!!!

Ok, so maybe the video doesn't really fit. But the inside jokes that none of you know fit completely!!! Regardless, the song is awesome (^u^)v

Genki: Kappa and Purple Panties

In the Genki play, there were quite a number of interesting characters. I was one of the sexy ones as I mentioned before. There were also towns people (whom I also played a part of) who just wore yakatta. There were the Henro who are pilgrims of Kochi and they wore all white with straw hats (you know the rice picker hats). The Neo, aka cyclops, who had the most elaborate masks! And finally, there was the Kappa.

A kappa is a Japanese mythical creature which is a cross between a frog and a turtle. He is a water spirit that, if you get on his good side by giving him a cucumber, will be very kind and help your crops grow. He was said to have taught the Japanese how to irrigate their fields. However, if you get on his bad side which seems easy to do, he'll steal your life essence through your ass.

I don't make this crap up folks!

So one of my favorite characters was the Kappa. Instead of stealing the life force of Hercules however, he decided to use the Kancho as his favorite attack.

Kancho is an old prank still used by elementary and middle school children to this day. Pretty much, they stick their fingers up their victims ass when he's not suspecting it.

ANYWAY to make a long story short, the dance and dialog were quite on the perverted side but since the game is actually played strictly by children (seeing as adults would have some serious legal problems if they chose to join in) it wasn't a major problem for children to watch!

The guy who played the Kappa, Nick, also decided that he wanted to the Kappa to have a little flare as well. He almost stole the show every time! (until I came out that is) It started with him just acting a bit on the flamboyant side but slowly he added more and more quirks to his character. First, got more and more into character making the Kappa seem a bit perverted himself. Then, Michelle taught him how to snap his fingers in a "talk to the hand" sort of way and on the last performance, he added purple panties to the costume!!!

The Kappa's costume was very elaborate like most of the other characters. But for some reason, he wore a really short green skirt. You could always see his underwear! So finally, he just borrowed a fellow cast members frilly purple panties. The costume was complete, and I almost pissed myself laughing!

Kitsune and the Shameless Flirt

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I have very little time before work to write this out but I won't have much time after this and well.....I lose all motivation to do anything when I go into work. Bleh

So, Kitsune is Japanese for fox. I played the part of a fox/muse that seduced Hercules so that we could take him back to our lair, have our way with him and never let him see the light of day again. Muahahahahahaha! In the story, we had already done this with the mayors daughter. Poor girl ;)

So yeah the costumes were kind of crap but in the end, with the lighting and our dance, we managed to make them pretty sexy! I was impressed every time I saw the pictures of us. I have yet to see our actual dance though. I'll post it if I get the option.

Anyway, the kitsune lure Hercules into their mitts and he ends up being surrounded by about 8 women hanging all over him. At his feet, arms, chest, back, side, everywhere! And somehow I managed to get the prime spot of his chest. Chest and face, that was my area!

As we kept doing the productions, I got more and more confident with my pawing and....well, as suggested by one of my students* I started rubbing his cheek and face and by the last one, I actually gave him a huge kiss with the reddest lipstick I could find! And that sucker didn't come off easily! Either that or Herc didn't want to wash it off ;) Whatever, his face smelled like sweat and makeup. Yummm

*My student didn't actually suggest anything. Almost none of my students came out cept for one awesome girl in the English club. The truth is that I was watching this one dude in my class. He's a Senior this year and I had him last year in my advanced English class. I don't know if he's dating this one girl in the class but he always pairs up with her and sleeps while she does the work. I've never seen him be anything more than quiet, shy and sleepy.

On the first day of class last week, since all the same students from last years Advanced English were in this years Advanced English, I went straight to work! No need for more introductions. I split them into groups and got them started on a project for the Largo students that will be here in a few weeks.

This one student sat around with his girl friend (just friends? I'll never know) and when I told him he needed to be in a bigger group they split up and she went into the all girl group and he went to the all boy group. Hey, I let them choose themselves, that's just the way Japanese teens are.

As the class continued I spotted something odd in the corner of my eye. Is that shy sleepy boy?
Is he playing with the hair of another male classmate? Is he toying with the guys side burns? HE IS!!!!

The guy was totally all over his teammate in the most flirtatious way I have ever seen a straight man flirt!!!! I have no doubt that these boys are straight and strictly friends! But...then again I've been in Japan way too long if I can tell that and he's still being more flirtatious than I have ever been with even my boyfriends!

I was telling Hercules (David) about this and he told me I should try it on him in the play. Ahhhh Dave you lucky duck you (^^)

And that's how I won the award for Shameless Flirt.

The Final Performance

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Genki Sei Nen Kai Tosa-ben musical

It's over now. It's nice to have time again to actually do things like clean and relax.* But I think I'm more sad that it's come to a close. I had a lot of fun getting to know all of the genki-ites.

See, normally, when a group of people get together every weekend for three months and then go touring for the last two weekends, there's usually a lot of drama that ensues. But with out group, we worked so well together that every time we got together we just grew closer and closer as friends. It was an amazing feeling!

And I know I'm not the only who's sad to see it end. Sure it's nice to have time again, but that also means we don't get to see each other as often. Some people came from all the way out in BFE like Nick and David who I got to know but live at least an hour away! I guess I'll just have to get a car soon! (>.<)

* So this whole idea of having more time is a total load of crap. Sure, I don't have genki anymore but....my next free weekend will be in about three weeks. And by that time, who knows what else I'll have planned. Perhaps the great charity race!

But back to genki, at first, we were a bit shaky with our lines but by the final performance we had it down! And we kept adding more and more to each one! Body language, tone of voice and purple panties all helped to built the experience. Maybe I'll tell more specific stories later but for now, I'm concentrating my efforts into getting everyones pictures and posting them on my gallery so you all can check it out.


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