Life and It's Twists

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Problem 1: The Bed

I've decided that I am totally over sleeping on the floor. I don't like worrying about my futon and if I'm airing it out enough so it doesn't grow mold or get too dirty. I'm tired of worrying if my tatami going to get moldy and start making my sick. I'm tired of being next to all the dust that the tatami doesn't absorb like carpet and I'm tired of….well, having to get up and down off the floor!

I told Kae that I wanted to buy a bed and this past Sunday she took me out all day looking at different mattresses and frames. As we moved through different stores, the prices slowly got cheaper and cheaper but then so did the mattresses. I finally settled on a crappy frame that I saw in a catalogue for $100 and a nice mattress for $200 (and that's a steal since the mattress that I really wanted was $400).

I then went to Kae's house to stay the night as per usual and decided that while I was there I would peruse one of her catalogues that she claims has some of the best prices in it. In it, I found some super cute sheets!! (Will show you when I get them) and a frame for $200 that is to die for. I love it.

The problem: The frame comes with the mattress. The price remains at $200 so that can only mean that the mattress is crap.

Kae told me that I should get the frame if I really wanted it especially since I was willing to buy it at $200 even without the mattress included and if I still don't like the mattress when I get it, sell it to another ALT. (what if there are no buyers? Will deal with that when it comes)

After hemming and hawing all night, I decided to do that. The frame is back ordered so it won't come in for a few weeks but the sheets are reading to go! ;)

Kae ordered everything Monday morning. On Monday night, I got an email from the Kochi JET mailing list and it turns out that an ALT is leaving and wants to get rid of her bed for $50…

Damn it all to hell.

I emailed her and got a random picture of her bed that doesn't tell me if I want it at all. It's meant for a futon though I certainly could put a mattress on it though it might be higher than the head board in the end (also, the Japanese don't believe in box springs, just fyi) but the mattress I want is a single and her bed is a semi-double…. My final problem is that she doesn't live anywhere close and that means trying to figure out how to ship it over to my place and still have the final price be worth my while. I mean, I really like the $200 frame but it's still doesn't beat $50!!!

What to do……….

Problem 2: The Infamous Tosayamada Computer (classic win 98)

I call it "jii-chan" for "old man"

Last week I came into work and started up my computer. It of course took it's good old time as it usually does and I've learned that hating my computer is of little consequence so I just live with it. There's a phrase in Japanese for "It can't be helped" and that's really how I look at that machine.

Well, on this day (Thursday) as soon as I was done checking my mail, I left it to work at my desk and do other things when it suddenly started making a purring sound, as if it were ringing only someone had set it to vibrate mode. For a while I couldn't figure out what it was but then I stuck my ear underneath the desk and figured it out. Thank god the room was quiet and the teacher across from me also heard it otherwise I'd be in danger of looking insane.

It did it a few more times over the course of the morning and finally the teacher called the computer tech to check it out. He pulled the old man out from under the desk and did a once over. He scanned the case a bit and finally restarted it. The case was dirty and the restart took a long time but nothing out of the ordinary. He said there was no problem.

Thanks. I hope that dirty case helped you figure that one out buddy.

The next day (Friday) it continued it sporatic humming and I just let it go hoping I could back up my files before it's too late. Personally, I don't think it's the hard drive that's going but rather something else and I certainly hope I'm right. I have a grand total of 66mb that I need to save of the most important lesson plans of my life but unfortunately, this computer is so old that the only option open to me is to steal the hard drive and plug it into my lap top!

Here's how it goes:

1. Save the info via floppy – too big. I would need over 100 floppys
2. Burn it to a disc – no burner
3. USB storage – though I am shocked to find that it has a bunch of USB ports, windows 98 doesn't come with the same drivers for USB storage that windows 2000 and XP come with. Therefore, even though I can plug it in, nothing happens.
4. Email yourself the info – that would take about 7 or 8 emails which I am willing to do but unfortunately, if the email is over….2 word documents without pictures, it won't send. Not through fault of the email provider. It's just that this computer can't seem to send that much data at once.
5. Online storage such as – same problem as #4

Which leaves me with no other alternative. I want that hard drive.

Either that or maybe I can network the computers together……..They do have a network…but I don't think I'm on it….questions….


When I was working in the computer lab at UCF, I could always tell a person's personality by how they asked me for help.

Type A: "Someone's broken my computer, it won't work"
Jerk who knows nothing about computers but thinks he's always right.
Type B: "Something's wrong with my computer, it won't work"
Knows a few things and is realistic about life. Is a good person and is willing to learn.
Type C: "I think I broke my computer, it won't work"
Poor guy has no self esteem or simply knows when he is completely computer illiterate.

I like the last two though type B is my favorite.

With that in mind, I came into school today to see that my computer had been tampered with. It was twisted around slightly and the wires underneath my desk were all moved around. When I tried to turn it on, nothing happened.

And this is what I say

It seems as though someone has broken my computer though I wish it had been me. I wish I had thrown that Old Piece of Junk out the window a long time ago! However, the truth is that it most like wasn't anyone who broke it but simply time itself. I wish it would die already.

And so what type of person does that make me?

Type D: Evil

So I let it sit for a while and did nothing. I had no classes today and had nothing to do but all the other teachers were running around like crazy so I didn't want to bother anyone with my petty problems. (Dear lord I can't survive without my computer! There's nothing petty about it!)

Towards the late morning I finally mentioned it to the same teacher who had heard the purring on the first day. She tried to called the tech guy but he was busy with other things so I was to wait until the next day. Eh, whatever, I sat around at my desk and played old word search games.

That afternoon, the techy came in and checked out my computer…again. The man is a button masher!!! It irks the hell outta me.

He fiddled with everything on the computer. Is everything plugged in? Yes, already went through that. Well the monitor turns on, why isn't it working? Because the monitor is not the computer. What if I pull on the wires until they snap? Whatever man, just don't kill my hard drive!

In the end, it turned out that the power cord was bad…odd but I'm not arguing. I was pleased however to hear the humming not too long after it was first powered up. I'm debating throwing a small magnet down the back of the computer. Far enough away from the HD that it's still safe but enough that I can humanely do away with an old unwanted piece of junk.

Nah, too risky to the HD and my credibility.

In the end, I am thankful that I am given a computer. If I didn't have one, I just might go out of my mind. But when something's gotta die, it's best not to tamper with nature. Retire the damn thing already!

And for the record, it's about 10 or 12 years old so the techy says.

Problem 3: Pregnancy

My supervisor is pregnant. She won't be coming back when the new year begins in April. She's the best teacher I've ever worked with and her kids always do well because she is so awesome. I don't know if I can do this so well without her……

Damn it I wish she were staying.

Yutanpo is my best friend

Sunday, January 28, 2007

This is a post about random junk of little importance.

I don't remember if I mentioned it or not, but I was given a Yutanpo for Christmas/New Years from one of the women that I give private English lessons to. It has been the coolest thing I have ever experienced! She gave me a cute little pig cover to put it in :)

Anyway, because I have that cool little hot water holder (which I fill with boiling water so it stays pretty warm until....ohhhhh the next afternoon) I don't need to use my heater at night. Usually I stick it on a timer so when I wake up I'm usually sweating from the yutanpo but the room is warm nonetheless. However, this is the weekend and I don't have to wake up early so I haven't put the heater on since, lord knows when I'll be getting up and もたいない! (don't be wasteful!)

Well I didn't realize just how cold it gets in the mornings here and the cold air around me and the warmth of my futon makes sleeping such a joyous activity. I was laying in my futon this morning just fantasizing about how wonderful it was to be sleeping so comfortably. That is until someone rang my doorbell, stupid jerk.


So I was riding my bike to the mall when I saw a young Japanese couple. They were quite a cute pair riding their bikes together and laughing. As I came closer towards them, the boy reached over and took the girls arm to help her steer out of my way. (Personally I would have shot my boyfriend for doing something like that, but in the moment, I thought it was sweet.) The girl was cute but I was mostly looking at the guy in this split second of an event and I could help but notice that he had berets in his hair in a very girly fashion way. And that's what some of these guys do! They look absolutely ridiculous! I started giggling about it as they passed and then I just burst into full laughter. Which was worse, that he looked ridiculous or that I wanted to be the girl he was with?!


Hopefully Kae will be helping me pick out a bed sometime soon. I'm so over sleeping on the floor!


My internet connection has been pissing me off to no end. If I use it as wireless then I get a huge firewall I can't seem to disable. If I plug it in I get an ungodly fast upload speed and a super slow download speed unless I'm directly connected (a rare occurance) and then the speeds are through the roof....wft (0.o)


Incidently, I've been looking through all my bills and from what I can gather, I have yet to pay for internet or water.

Both are still running as they should so....should I be worried?


I'll kill the person that woke me this morning. It's freakin cold!


I hope you enjoyed the post. I have nothing more to say.

I'm, like, crazy exhausted

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

After the fiasco of the three day hang over, I decided to spend all of Saturday inside. I was only going to go outside if I needed to buy something which in the end, I didn't need to. You don't need to eat as much when all you do is lounge around. Who knew?

I finally got half the stuff done in my apartment that I'd been meaning to do for weeks! It was the first time in a long time since I've actually spent more than 2 hours in this place and I wasn't sleeping! I finished packing a box to be sent home, I put together a purikura scrap book, called home, wrote that long blog post, talked to Dave for a few hours, and around the early evening I finally found time to break out FFXII!

And I would have spent the entire day in my apartment too if Adam hadn't called me.

"Nina, could you come to the train station at 11:00 and lend me 350yen?"

He had run out of money but the truth was that I owed him 2,000yen anyway.

What was I gonna say, no?!

Anyway, I don't know what happened but somehow the all day relaxing seemed to have messed with my body because the next day I woke up completely exhausted.

Kae convinced me to ride the bus up to Odochi Sunday morning at 9am and go to Wakako's Elementary school to do flower pressing. I was thinking of skipping out because I was really keen on relaxing some more but she easily convinced me that it would be a good cultural experience. Fine, whatever, why am I here anyway? If I wanted to sleep all day I could do that in America. So I dragged myself out of bed and went up into the mountains.

The flower pressing was actually very cool. The flowers were pre-pressed and you simply picked a bunch of them, arranged them on a piece of paper and then laminated it. I made two and they came out pretty well! They even gave me a picture frame for one of them. I'm glad I went.

But the rest of the day I spent fighting off sleep. I mean, I was falling into a deep slumber every chance I got.

The next day (Monday) wasn't any better. I spent the majority of the day trying not to fall asleep at my desk. I wasn't given much work either so it made things even more difficult.

That night I decided to drag myself to yoga as it would probably do me some good. And it did too. Tuesday I was feeling great! Alive and awake and well! I even got to play two solid hours of FFXII! (that's a lie. I had a 45 minute phone call in between)

My newest goal btw, in case you hadn't noticed, is to find enough time to play FFXII. It's not like a book that I can just pick up and put down. I need to set aside at least 2 hours before I can whip it out. Lord knows when I'll find a save point!

Anyway, this morning (Wednesday) I woke up at 6am and left the house by 7. It wasn't until 9:30pm that I actually got home.

Seriously, my body is not handling this lifestyle well.

AND, even though it's freakishly warm this winter, it's still colder than I'm used to. My bones ache in funny place and my skin is starting to dry out like a prune. Actually, Yoga doesn't help any of this! I woke up this morning with funny aches in my back as if someone had punched me and I realized later it was because my yoga instructor had us rolling around on the floor all night! You might not think that sounds difficult but I'd like to see you try and then continue doing it for like 15 minutes. I must have bruised my ribs or something. It just took three days for the pain to set in.

Also, I am so over this cold weather! I wanna wear shorts again! I'm tired of wearing coats that make it difficult for me to bend my arms! I'm tired of having to remember all my different articles of clothing. And most importantly, I'm tired of my legs looking like blue worms swimming in skim milk! I am that pale and those aren't spider veins people! They're the normal ones that I'm looking at! (mmmmm skim milk) How's that for food for thought ;)

Of Course I'm Going To Heaven, I Floss Everyday!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I recently got in contact with the current president of the Japanese Friendship club at Largo High School. She had some interesting questions about Japan and I had some interesting answers for her as well. I thought it would make for a good post:

Have you gotten a chance to wear a kimono?

Yes, I've worn a kimono...well...a yukatta. Those are the summer ones and the’re hot as hell. Actually, I own one. My family hosted a college student when I was in 5th grade and she made a Yukatta and gave it to my mom. She didn't know what to do with it so I took it. I wore it at the o-bon festival this past summer. (O-bon - festival of lights. It's shown a lot in anime but it's actually not as popular as they make it out to be. But then again, all festivals look exactly the same. They are exactly the way they appear in anime except that most people don't wear Yukatta anymore. It's just too damn hot!) And it was hot too! In the summer here, I was sweating something awful! I enjoyed wearing the Yukatta and I'd do it again in a heart beat, but I'd put on more antiperspirant though...speaking of which, they don't do the antiperspirant thing. It's all deodorant.

Where have you been in Japan?

I've been to Tokyo a couple of times (never saw the same place twice), Kyoto, Nagoya, a bit around Kochi since I live here and....I transferred trains in Okayama once. (only saw the inside of the station ;))

Are the schools in Japan like in Manga?

The schools in Japan are just like the manga BUT (big BUT) first, and I shouldn't have to tell you, nothing magical nor remotely interesting happens in them. First, the schools all pretty much look the same. The classrooms look the same in every school all over Japan and that is reflected in manga and anime. Next, the students aren't allowed to wear jewelry, have funky hair, or wear anything really strange. So you're not going to see any of that. Third, the kids don't really have a life outside of school which is why there is so much anime and manga about it. They come to school around 8am. It's over at 4pm but most students stick around for clubs and sports. Most don't leave the school until after 6 or 7 at night. It's kinda depressing actually. Some go home and do cram school but no one does homework. If you're not in class studying or in cram school studying, you're not studying. Which is why they're always somewhere else other than at home. When they go home, it's to relax and not think about all the crap you have to do....kinda. That's it basically in a nut shell.

Can they buy bread? (common food in School based manga)

Bread? It's really funny that you ask that because I was wondering the same thing when I got here. Yes they have bread. You should know that from Anime and manga. It's mostly white though and a lot of gaijin have a problem finding wheat bread or anything that's not from bleached flower. They have all sorts of white bread rolls as well. Most HS students will eat curry bread or melon bread or jam bread. They have all sorts of breads. Some more tasty than others. Incidentally, there is a child's anime character made out of bread. Kinda like the ginger bread man. His name is AnPan Man and you should check it out. It's famous all over Japan but the artist came from Kochi. There's a children's museum here too for it. Read up on it just a little before you come here because if you don't, you won't notice that Anpanman is absolutely everywhere you look. It's the little things that I never noticed the first two times I came here with Largo.

Do they have a swimming pool? (also a common theme in school manga)

The school has a swimming pool. It's kinda nasty right now because it's winter and they aren't cleaning it. I wouldn't have even known it either if I hadn't looked out one of the windows of a particular classroom one day. It's in the back where I never have any reason to go so I never see it.

Do you walk to school?

I don't have a car so I ride my bike everywhere. I really like this but my thighs have gotten kinda fat because I'm gaining so much muscle. I'm a pretty thin person but I never exercised in America so the muscle is growing under the bit of fat I never knew I had. I take the train or bus whenever I want to go somewhere far away.

Do the students bow to you?

The kids bowing to me is a relative thing. If you come here you'll see that people are constantly bowing to each other. It's something I picked up the very first time I came here in Japan and was never able to shake after that. I kinda like it but sometimes if you get into a 'Thank you' fight with someone, you can get a little bit of a headache. A thank you fight is when someone thanks you and bows a little and you say thank you too and bow a little and it goes back and forth with little compliments for about a minute or so and since you're being so kind, you keep bowing a little so the back and forth motion becomes similar to head banging. Totally not used to it.

Anyway, at the beginning of every class, we can't do jack crap until one of the students says "shi sei!" for sit straight and "rei" for bow. I always bow to my students but it depends on the class if they bow back to me. These kids aren't as polite as they're made out to be. Teenagers are teenagers, regardless of country.

Is there a big teachers office thingy with all the teachers desks?

Yup. In Tosayamada, there are about 3 or 4 teachers offices that I've come across but I sit in the main one. You wouldn't know it but there is a hierarchy system that runs in the office. The most senior teacher gets the best seat and as teachers come and go, desks move around. Every time a student walks in they have to say "shitsureishimasu" which means I'm sorry for intruding...basically.

Are there ramen stands?

Ramen stands galore. But not just ramen, there's also Yakitori and most popular is takoyaki. I see them everywhere but the ramen places usually only come out at night and not in Tosayamada. I usually don't go to them because my last train from the city leaves at 10:30 and at that time the ramen shops are just opening! Though there are ramen shops that I go to. It's currently my new favorite food. It's way better than in America!

Do they show anime?

They show anime. However, the same anime that's popular in Japan in not popular here. Inuyasha is a bit old but Bleach and Nartuto are still going strong here. Everyone knows about Ranma, DBZ and Sailor Moon. Those are all still shown on TV regularly. But just know, that anime here is like watching regular tv at home. Asking someone if they like Bleach is like asking someone if they like the show Grey’s Anatomy. You'll get the same reaction. Where as in America if someone likes Bleach you know you automatically have a new best friend because you both like anime, it's just not the same here. Always remember, if someone came up to you and asked if you liked Lost then yes you have something in common but it's not a major hobby of yours to watch it like you would anime. Kids here are really nonchalant about it. But they like it all the same.

If you like any horror movies, the Japanese seem to really be into horror. Death Note recently came out in a live action movie. All the kids loved it. The ring is also a particular favorite.

Do you guys go on school trips?

They go on school trips but I know nothing about it. They don't take me (ToT) Though they do take little excursions every now and then depending on the school and depending on the class. For example, Odochi kids are constantly going up further into the mountains to work in a garden or bbq or do something! Or they go into the city to get on hands experience in the work force. They aren't an academic school so most of the kids aren't going to college. They're training them to go straight to work after HS. Tosayamada on the other hand doesn't go out nearly as much. In September they had a homeroom day where all the homerooms went out to do something fun for the day. Some went bowling but most went for bbq (yakiniku, fantastic stuff) in different locations. Some went to the "beach" others went to different parks and the place I went was way up in the mountains. It was beautiful. There was an onsen too which I also took full advantage of :)

What do you normally eat?

I usually eat whatever I can find. Granola bars for breakfast (because I don't feel like making miso or rice; too much work. I learned to stop eating breakfast a long time ago) bento for lunch (school provided) and whatever for dinner. Ramen, udon, spaghetti (japanese style) yakiniku (a bit pricey) or gyu don (beef rice. love that stuff) They have stuff like Omu rice (omelet rice) which is like rice cooked in ketchup and then covered with egg. And just fyi, the Japanese love mayonnaise and fried food. Don't be fooled, the stuff here isn't as healthy as they make it out to be. Oh, and corn. Mmmmm corn and mayo is a big favorite here found even on pizza! (Not bad but the mayo is a bit much at on the teryaki burger at McDonalds. They smother that thing is Mayo, but you should try it. It’s good)

Mid-Year Conference and the Three Day Hang Over

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Wednesday marked the beginning of the Mid-Year Conference. This is a time when all the JETs (CIRs and ALTs) get together in Kochi city to discuss...issues for three days. JTE/JTLs (Japanese Language teachers/Japanese Teachers of were also invited but only about 20 showed up and let's put it this way, there are about 100 total ALTs and CIRs and I alone have a total of 8 JTEs. One of them showed up to the conference which I was very pleased about but let's begin at the beginning, shall we?

As you all know, I am now finished teaching my third year students. To tell you the truth, this is really their last week of classes but I only taught on Monday and Tuesday of this week, so I missed out of the last three days that I had with them because of this conference. I'm not complaining, it's just a fact.

Wednesday morning I hopped an 8:13 train to Kochi city. I told Adam that the train would be leaving at 8:15 but them emailed him back and told him it was really 8:13. Why would I do such a ridiculous thing, you ask? Because at exactly 8:13 I saw Adam running through the gates just as the train was about to leave the station and I knew this was normal.

We got into Kochi at 8:42 but had about 45 minutes to get to where we needed to be so we took our time getting there. It was surprisingly warm for a January morning so it really wasn't that bad wandering around the city that was still waking up. We watched the famous Kochi clock which chimes every hour and lasts for about 10 minutes of song and dance. We walked into a convenience store and saw a whole muji section! Muji is a hipster store that sells just about everything from furniture to snacks, to clothes and it's all in a grey and black shade. The convenience store had socks, underwear, undershirts, ties, and chocolate covered banana chips. I got the latter ;)

We got to the conference just in time (because I was following Adam) and enjoyed a day of daydreaming and lesson planning. Actually, in the second half of the day, we were split into groups of school types (3 groups of Junior High School and 1 group of Senior High School) and then split into smaller groups. Every group had 2 JTEs and 4 ALTs. We had more JTEs than the JHS because all our JTEs were SHS anyway!

So we were given a scenario of a classroom and lesson idea (20 boys, medium level, well behaved, lesson idea: directions) and told we had one hour to make a lesson plan and create materials for it. A person in our group decided to use a lesson idea that she had just used and had worked well which was basically a Dance Dance Revolution way of teaching the different directions (turn left/right, stop, go straight, etc). The dance was so much fun that we ended up winning the award for best lesson among SHS and got to perform our whole thing in front of the entire conference. And you know we made them dance too!

The end of the day rolled around and everyone was released to party. It was a huge gaijin fest and I wanted to be a part of it but unfortunately I had to go home to teach my English Conversation class. I could have killed someone at that moment but Matt (the PA) decided to save the official party for Thursday since it seemed that so many ALTs couldn't make it for Wednesday (Yesssssssss) and everyone went off and did their own thing.

Keep in mind that these are all the ALTs and CIRs from all over Kochi. Half these people I never see because they are too far away to come into the city more than a few times in the year. I really wanted to hang out!

So I went home instead. By the time I got there, I had about 30 minutes to prepare my lesson and get going. That meant no time for food. I got to the class and didn't even use my lesson. At 9pm, I hopped into a taxi and rode $10 up the road to an Izakaya (drinking restaurant) to meet up with Ikuo, Sayuri, Fumiko and whomever else they decided they wanted to invite.

They had already eaten by the time I had gotten there and I assumed since it was so late that they were probably going to be leaving soon, so I didn't order any food. I was given a ChuHi and sat in for a very nice evening where I tried not to fall asleep (I was exhausted by this time and it was a very bad idea not to have eaten)

12:30 rolled around and we finally went home with me starving, tired, and drunk on one drink (hind sight it always 20/20)

Day 1 of Mid-Year Conference and the Three Day hang over: End

I woke up the next morning again and hopped the 8:13 train. As it was pulling out of the station, I waved to Adam who was just 20 seconds too late.

Once at the conference, we sat around and listened to lectures and did more lesson planning. At the end of it all, I went out and got dinner with a couple of people and waited around until 7:30 went the Nomihodai began.

The word Nomihodai sounds like a Japanese Texan word. Ho-dai (hoe-dah-ee) sounds like a ho-down, aka a party. And Nomi is for drinking. So it was a drinking ho-down. HAHAHAHAHA

Basically a Nomihodai is a flat fee where you can drink all you want for 2 hours. The place was full of ALTs and CIRs only and the room could fit about 25 people comfortably. The bar was also a little understaffed so it took about 30 seconds to get a beer (of which they had Heineken and Corona, wee) and 20 minutes to get a mixed drink.

In the course of two hours and on a full stomach, I drank 3 1/2 drinks (one beer, baileys Irish cream on the rocks, coconut run on the rocks, and half of someones beer that I stole from them in a flirtatious manner). I got quite drunk. But I must say, it's the first time that I have really REALLY enjoyed myself while inebriated.

I decided to go home at 10 since the train leaves at 10:30. It doesn't take a half hour to bike there but I didn't trust myself to make it there in a decent time. Adam decided to stay the night in the city since there was still Karaoke planned and more drinking.

On the train home, I realized that I couldn't see straight and if I didn't do something drastic I was going to throw up. So I read my emails via Keitai.

In a desperate attempt to waste time, I emailed Dave and sent him a lovely drunken email that went along the lines of "I love you, I miss you, I'm drunk" blah blah, you know the drill.

Got home at 11:00pm and was asleep by 11:10.

Day 2 of Mid-Year Conference and the Three Day hang over: End

I woke up Friday morning at 5am to use the toilet and get some water and still couldn't walk straight. I went back to sleep and woke up with enough time to get to the train in a zombie like state. But instead of biking my way to the meeting, an ALT tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I wanted to share a cab so I did. (which means I was gonna have to walk back to the station (20~30 min walk...what was I thinking?)

This day of the conference was for ALTs and CIRs only. The JTE/JTLs were not invited to come. This day was known in history as the Infamous Yearly Bitchfest. It is a day when all the JETs can come together and talk about their problems with their schools, Japanese culture, and general culture shock.

Luckily this year, the PAs decided to make it a little more constructive and told us that if we had something to bitch about, we also needed to come up with a number of solutions. In the end, it was very constructive and I was quite pleased with it. They did a really good job. They also convinced me to try out for the Kochi JET annual production called Genki. More on that later as it happens.

When the conference was over, I was a little torn. I wanted to hang out with all those cool ALTs but everyone (including myself) just wanted to go home and sleep. I decided on the latter and made my way to the station.

Actually, I saw Adam earlier in the morning and he looked alright but a little glassy eyed. He said he stayed out drinking until 3am until he crashed at a friends house. After lunch I didn't see him so I called him. Turns out, he spent the whole 45 minute lunch break in the McDonald's bathroom and decided to take a cab home.

Which meant I got to ride his bike around and didn't have to walk home!!

Somewhere along the way though, I never made it home early like I had originally planned. Instead, I hung with Monique until she went on a date with some guy she wasn't even interested in. This was about 8:30 but my train didn't leave till 9:30 (cuz they suck) so I figured I was just going to have to wait at the station until then. Joy.

On my way, I ended up finding a huge group of ALT boys (about 6) and decided that I could use the male attention for once so I tagged along with them to the food court in the shopping area of Kochi city.

Unfortunately, I was not the center of attention. That was quite strange for me. I was the only girl in a group of 6 guys. I'm not hideous. They should have all been flirting with me. Instead, they got drunk and started bitching about their jobs.

I gladly left at 10 to catch my train home.

Day 3 of Mid-Year Conference and the Three Day hang over: End

It's the end of the school year!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

....3 months early.....

I'm not sure exactly why but I've finished teaching my 3rd years at both schools. School doesn't end until early April-ish but something about practicing, studying, testing and training is the reason why my seniors are finished with classes already.

I'm kinda sad to see them go especially since I didn't even know it was coming! I thought I still had another 3 months to hang out in class with them!!!

And that really is what I do too. I'm so for group activities that have me walking around the class helping students so I can practice my Japanese and finally answer their questions decently. My Japanese has gotten good enough that I can understand what they're asking or what they're trying to say and I can finally help teach them the proper way to say it in English!!

I'm admitting it right here, I have my favorites and though I try to hide it, it still shows. It's a bit difficult not to! The kids that are not my favorite want nothing to do with me. They don't want to talk, they don't want my help, all they want is to sleep in class. Well fine. I can't stop them anyway so I might as well hang out with the kids that are as interested in talking to me as as I am in talking to them!

The only exception to this is a kid in my 1st year class at Odochi. He's a very nice boy who is always eager to try and speak English...kinda. He always wants to talk to me but also constantly overestimates my Japanese ability. The reason why he does not follow my "favorites" trend is because....he smells.

The kid is dirty, ok! He's just.........I don't know. He's a good kid and I don't ignore him by any means, he's just not my favorite. Luckily for that class, there are only 7 students so I actually have the ability to spend enough time with every student and still talk with my favorites :)

Incidentally, Odochi has my number 1 favorite student. Unfortunately for me, he's a senior which means I'm done teaching his class forever. Unfortunately for me, he decided to skip out on my very last class just because he was bored.

Hey, he might be my favoritist student, but that doesn't mean he's smart, ambitious, modest, or anything other than a punk kid! I can't tell you why he's my favorite, I don't know myself. But he's definitely not the brightest crayon if you follow me.

Anyway, I caught him in the hall and told him I was disappointed that he didn't come. He gave me the blank stare of a person who doesn't understand English but is really curious as to what I'm saying but at the same time is tired of trying to figure it out because he's always freakin curious and he never knows what I'm saying! (that's a fantastic face if you ever see it) So I tried my best in Japanese and left it as "I'll miss you. You are my favorite" and I walked away. He was probably surprised.

Is it against teacher rules to tell a student that you like them best? Good thing for me I'm not a real teacher. And besides, I'm not teaching his class anymore anyway so what does it matter?

In other school news, I was teaching today with my least favorite teacher at Tosayamada and he did something that I absolutely loved. A girl was sleeping in his class and instead of letting her sleep or trying gently to wake her up just to have her go back to sleep, he walked over and slammed his palm on the desk. She was completely shocked and sat straight up. No one was sleeping in class after that. His students, though technically some of the worst 1st years, always behave in his class. It's probably because he pulls a bit of authority on them. He tells them when to stop talking and he makes them wake up. No one argues with him because they're Japanese and he's the teacher! It's the way is should be!!!

He's still my least favorite teacher though.

In other other news, I am so over the cold. This winter has been incredibly warm all over the world and I don't care. I'm tired of wearing turtle necks and doubling up my pants. I want to wear shorts, tanks tops and flip flops!!!

At the same time, it's nice not to be so hot that I stick to myself. My hair looks better without the humidity, and sometimes, I look pretty good in my winter get up. But I'm a Florida girl nonetheless!

Emails are better than nothing

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I'm posting a bunch of emails that I sent back and forth with my mom telling her about my trip. I'll add comments too...

Dec 31, 2006 11:55 AM

I'm doing fantastic here in Sendai with Aozoras family. They are wonderful people! And Aozoras mom says a big thank you with a very deep bow for taking care of Aozora that last month she was in America. She's very grateful.

Since it's super cold here, (being in the north of Japan and all) I've started getting really exhausted the way I did in Chicago. But check this! There's this special vitamin drink that you drink right before you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning you feel totally awake and refreshed. The stuff is pure gold!!!! And it's just a bunch of vitamins!! It's probably laced with crack for all I know but Aozora swears by it and I trust her. Besides, I woke up feeling fantastic this morning and that's all I need to be convinced! I should send you some ;)

I've got pictures and all that good stuff and I'll be posting them when I get back home. Just wanted to give you an fyi.

Oh, one thing that I doubt I'm going to post but you might find interesting:

I gave a cheeseball to Aozoras family and they loved it. They loved it a lot. They were shocked that they finished half of it in the first sitting! I told them that was normal. I also gave them the poppycock because it was so big and Aozora told me that her dad and her brother eat like....well, like boys! Her brother is over 6' so I can only assume he has an American style appetite, which so far, I haven't been proven wrong on. They guys only 16 btw.

Anyway, so as I was on my way to Nagoya to meet up with Aozora, Kae emailed me and asked for the cheeseball recipe. I told her I would send it to her when I was with Aozora as she could just translate it really easily for me (that's not true btw) but I kept putting it off and putting it off and finally Kae was like, PLEASE send me the recipe, I'm going to the store tomorrow!!! And so I finally got Aozora to translate it for me which took much longer to translate than you would think because "medium heat" doesn't really work in Japanese. (Though I had assumed it would have). I also told her that since she can't buy the cheddar in Japan, she could cut the recipe in half, ask the land lady for the key to my apartment and get the one block I have out of my freezer. I told her this because, 1. I think she'll enjoy eating that cheese with the family more than I will by myself and 2. This is the only time that she's really bugged me for something so I assumed it was really important to her. She must have finished off the last one already! Which is sad because I gave a big cheeseball a friend of mine just because I didn't want it to go to waste!

In hind sight, I should have given two to Kae but I wasn't even sure she was going to like it!
I mean, flavors here are so damn different that I can never assume that anyone will like anything! But I was shocked and amazed that the Japanese love those cheeseballs just as much as Americans do! Mom, you really made a winner there.

But I digress.

So she emailed me back a little later and said that it sounded too hard to make and would wait until I come back.

Hmmmm...this woman is an accomplished cook. She's not new to any of this sort of thing. Maybe it's the western style of cooking that she doesn't really understand. Maybe it's that getting that frozen block of cheese out of my freezer is a little more impossible than I think it is. I dunno...

And that also makes me wonder why it was so important for her to make it in the first place! Right now, she's with her entire family. They're doing a traditional New Years which is the biggest holiday in Japan. I don't see why she would want to make it so desperately and then just drop it......... Maybe she thinks that because I took so long to give her the recipe that she thinks I don't want to give up the cheese....Eh, I'll give it to her anyway when I get back. I really would rather enjoy it with her than by myself. ya know?

So, I can't read her all that well but being with Aozora helps a whole lot! Maybe that's why I enjoy her family so much, because Aozora translates everything we say! It's so nice :)
And that's my update. I hope things are going well with you guys!!!


Jan 2, 2007 6:52 PM

New Years holiday time is quite similar to after Thanksgiving dinner. You sit around, eat, drink, sleep, watch tv, sleep, eat, sleep, drink, bathe...and that's about it. After the third day, I'm ready to get back into action.

Though I've really had a lot of fun here.

I'll make the cheeseball at Kae's probably this coming weekend, assuming she has time. And I doubt that I'll be making the biscotti. It's just so damn difficult to find ingredients and utensils around here. Everyone makes it out to be the small kitchens but it's just that Japan doesn't have the stuff I need readily available! Gah, I'm tired of running around looking for some random ingredients. For right now, I'm done baking. I'll probably change my mind next week though. Who knows.


Jan 3, 2007 9:42 PM

Aozora just came over and told me that her parents just agreed to let her go to SPC to get her AA. Wow. I told her that when she goes in February, she should hop over to SPC and ask them how she goes about getting everything done. This is a big deal. I think the hardest thing she's going to have to do is get her students visa and also take the English proficiency test. We'll see how things go. I think I'll make a list of the things that she needs to ask the people at SPC. Hmmmmm, this is gonna be difficult, the more I think about it.

Anyway, could you check and see if anyone you know and trust is willing to let out a room for an exchange student?

Thanks. I'll keep you posted.

Jan 7, 2007 10:44 PM

I was debating if I wanted to post this letter. A couple of people that I know don't like to put this sort of thing on their blog but honestly...when I was back in America, I would have liked to have known about stuff like this. Culture shock is hard. JET doesn't take it lightly which I'm happy about but they also don't advertise about it and I think it's something people should know about. Basically, it's depression caused by being out of place. It's depression in all senses of the word the only reason why it's titled "culture shock" is because that's the cause. But that only makes me feel better about it too. I know this will pass. It's not like real depression that doesn't go away.

Culture shock sucks. As I originally thought, this time around doesn't seem to be as bad as the first one but the first one lasted a really long time and I don't think I really started feeling fantastic about my situation until right before I left to go to Aozora's place. After I got there, things just slowly went down hill and here I am.

I mean, when I was at Aozora's place, it wasn't bad. I was in a fantastic mood the majority of the time which was a big step up from the last time I saw her which was me just kinda sorta getting used to things around here. The problem that started at Aozora's place this time around was that I started acting really unhealthy which is never good for my mind. I slept 8 hours a night and took two hour naps. I was sleeping constantly, snacking constantly, and sitting around constantly. It's not that I was bored, it's just that sitting in one place and eating and sleeping is never really healthy. Not when I was just getting down a routine here!

In fact, I had started exercising regularly, I was eating healthy (for the most part) with proper portion sizes and everything. I was taking vitamins and I was just all around feeling pretty good. I felt like my body was looking healthier every day. And then after my trip to Aozora's place, suddenly my butt seemed large all over again and then I discovered under arm fat!!!! Mom, my body's falling apart! I feel like I'm getting super old super fast and I'm only 22!!! The cold weather is killing me. My bones start to hurt in funny places and my muscles ache too. I didn't think it was all that bad. I don't actually mind it all that much but my body doesn't seem to agree with me. And it's not that I'm constantly cold, it's just that my body's not used to this!!

So anyway, back to culture shock, so I should have left Aozora's place about 4 days earlier than I did. I knew it too. The first day I should have left I knew it but I stuck it out. I mean, it's a bit difficult to change plans and it's something I needed to deal with. At least that's what I thought. But everyday kept getting worse and worse and in the end, it didn't help me at all. I should have gone home. But then at the same time, what would I have done here? Sat around in my apartment avoided Kae and Co. and wait for the break to be over so I can go back to school.

The reason why I would have avoided Kae was because her entire family is home for the holidays and I just don't have the confidence right now to try and deal with everyone. I'm just too scared to speak my poor Japanese or to try and understand everything that's buzzing around me! I have do doubt that:

1. As soon as I go back, I'll have the same if not more confidence in myself
2. I'll gain that confidence back even before I come home!

Either way, I'll get it back but for right now, I'm just....well, scared of everything.

I'm reminded of when I was a teenager and I wanted to order pizza but I didn't want to call the pizza place. I was too scared. Of what, no one knows. But I just didn't want to do it. After a while, I figured out that it wasn't so bad and I dialed the number and got my pizza. Well, that's how I feel now only a million times worse. Not only can I not call for pizza (or anything else for that matter) I can't even form coherent conversations! In Japanese or English!! I start babbling like an idiot! That's what I get for not opening my mouth for the majority of the day.

It's strange, I started talking to someone this afternoon and even though I had been with people all day, it was just at the moment that I realized I had said close to nothing the entire time and my voice sounded strange to me.
No wonder people think I'm shy.

And all this does is make me hate myself more. This isn't me. I'm not a shy, timid, scared person. I'm outgoing, charismatic and I'll take on a challenge any day! So then who is this person that I've become and why?


This is the place that I chose to be! Why should I be having so much trouble here? This was supposed to be like some magical land where all my dreams would come true! Where I'd be happy just like I was in America only in a different way.

And once culture shock really hits, not just in small waves but in a big boom, I suddenly feel like I'll never be happy again. As if my happiest days were in college and I'll never feel that way again. I'll never be as happy and the rest of my life I'll spend trying to recreate that joy that is impossible to obtain.

It's one thing to know that's not true. It's another to believe it.

And so that's how it is with me right now.

And ya know what, even though I say that the big culture shock boom is hitting me right now, I don't believe that I ever really got over the first one. I was never really very thrilled once. I was never as happy as I had been in America. It was more of that I was actually surviving and that was enough. But now, it's all caving in again and I just have to ride it out. I know this'll pass and I know I'll be happy here one day which is why I'm still planning to recontract for another year. I'm not giving up. I'm not going to work this hard to make it just to end it all after one year. If I didn't plan to stay, I doubt I would feel this way. I'd just let it pass over me and not let it bother me that I can't speak Japanese, that I haven't made as many friends as I would like or that the friends I have made don't actually know who I really am because there's no way for me to communicate it to them. None of that would really bother me. But the fact is that I am staying, and these people do mean something to me and that's why I'm so upset. That's why I have to get over this and get better and do better.

I'll survive this. But it's really not going to be easy...


Jan 8, 2007 5:17 PM

Yeah, it sounds like I'm ok...and honestly I don't know anymore. This morning I woke up with tears in my eyes for no reason. I was having a small panic attack when I woke up but I didn't feel particularly bad besides that. I wasn't beating myself up or feeling sad or anything. And then when I sat up in bed, tears were coming from my eyes! It sounds like something right out of a book. And once I got up out of bed, I was ok again. I feel pretty good right now.

I went off with Kae to go to Yuumi's house (my yuumi) to put on her kimono. It was awesome, but that's beside the point.

I've come to the conclusion that Yuumi is evil and she get's it from her very evil mother.

That mom has done some very nice things for me but she has also said some very mean things as well. I can't believe that it's a cultural thing.

Yesterday, I went to the coming of age party and since I was so used to the Sendai cold and because it wasn't supposed to be all that cold yesterday, I only brought a light jacket. It, in fact, wasn't that cold but the wind was crazy so it felt much colder than I had expected. But I wasn't dying or anything! At one point, someone asked me why I was wearing such a light jacket. Yuumi's mother promptly joked that it was because I was poor. (lit. "She doesn't have money")

Later, someone asked me if I had a boyfriend and when I told her no, Yuumi's mother called me a liar (in a joking sort of way, but a liar nonetheless). I told her that truly, I'm single. She was a bit surprised. And this means one of two things, either she's stupid about the whole Sou thing or she thinks I'm a slut. Either way, it makes her look bad in my book. I mean, she was freakin there in the room when it was announced to the world that Sou and I were not a thing anymore. How could she just forget that or think it wasn't true?!

Then, to put icing on the cake, today, when they were putting the kimono on, Yuumi's mother made the nice comment that I've really gained some weight since I've been here. When they were putting the kimono on me way back when, they kept commenting how thin I was. She wasted no time in telling me her thoughts about this to me.
I don't like her. And I don't like Yuumi who finds pleasure in other's misery as if everyone else's life is her entertainment. She's gained a little weight too and has two ugly moles on her neck, so Poo Poo to her!

Ahhh, when did I become so shallow?

It doesn't matter, I looked good in that kimono ;)

Pictures later.


Jan 9, 2007 10:19 AM

Oh, no no, she knew I knew what she was saying. When she said I was poor, it was very simple Japanese. Though for that one, she might have thought I didn't get it, but for the boyfriend one and the fat one, she knew I knew.

People are people regardless of the culture. There are some people who are just naturally more arrogant, rude, selfish, etc than other people. Yuumi's family is quite well off which might make them think that it's ok to act the way that do, but I think most people don't like them, they are just polite and tolerate it. One thing about the Japanese culture is that if you don't like something, you generally don't speak up about it. Depending on what that thing is of course. When it comes to people you don't like, you don't say anything to them but in small circles of friends, you gossip about them. Sometimes it gets back to the original person which then teaches them that they need to stop what they're doing but mostly, the gossip stays as gossip and from what I've seen, either it never gets back to the original person, or the original person doesn't care enough about it to actually change. i dunno, but most people here want to be accepted by others and that means they need to be polite all the time. Apparently, Yuumi and her mother are secure enough with themselves to easily put others down. Maybe people are afraid of them. I don't know....

Kae's the one who first told me that Yuumi's mother was selfish but they're still friends so.....I don't know.

And as for hearing what people are saying about you when they think you don't understand, it gets old. I'm starting to understand what people say when they mean that they're tired of standing out and never being accepted. I figured as long as they had friends, why would it matter if they were accepted by everyone else? Well, this past week, I met a lot of new people. I was usually with a friend of mine, Aozora, Kae, Aozora's mom, whomever, and they would start talking to a friend and that friend would turn their head slightly towards me and ask whomever I was with "so who's the foreigner?" always in a very polite and formal tone, never condescending or rude but they always used the word "foreigner". Why couldn't they use friend, person, whatever.

I remember hearing people tell me about this sort of thing even before I got here. I always thought, what's the problem? I am a foreigner! So why should I dislike the label so much? I don't know but it's bothering me more and more.

Honestly, gaijin are so rare here that there's never going to be an uproar or anything of people trying to educate the Japanese on the proper etiquette when speaking to someone of a different race. They don't understand the political correctness thing. Can you imagine what would happen in America if someone did that? So who's your Mexican friend? When he's standing right there assuming he only speaks Spanish!


I talked to Aozora about all of this. She said that Yuumi's mom must be a real bitch and it's not normal for Japanese people to say that kind of crap. Eh, you win some, you lose some.

Calling All Comments

Friday, January 12, 2007

I've been trying to figure out why I have such a lack of motivation for updating recently. I mean...there's a lot of stuff I need to write about! But I really don't feel like doing it. I think the reason for this is that I've been getting the impression from...well, quite a few of you that no one's been reading this thing.

"Sorry Nina, haven't been keeping up with the blog. How ya been?"

Sound familiar?

So I need some reassurance that I'm not just writing to a giant void. I need to know that someone other than the anonymous Internet is reading this. If you're a friend of mine, an avid reader in Idaho or just passing through, please comment and let me know what you think. Am I even remotely interesting to anyone? I mean, I know my mom reads it...but I could just write emails to her if I really thought she was the only one reading!

And That's How They Made Me Their Captain

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Sorry guys. I've been back for a few days now and events are only accumulating but I have no motivation to write about it. In fact, I have such a lack of motivation, I flat out don't want to!

I posted some pictures in my gallery but that's only about half of what I've got. And there are no comments or stories yet. Enjoy!

So this is just to let you know I'm not dead and I had a good time dressing up like Rei-chan ;)

I'm the spitting image ;)

Spreading Nina Love All Over the World - by Templates para novo blogger