Flash Update

Sunday, March 25, 2007

So, I have a whole lot to talk about but......I should have been in bed an hour ago so I'm going to make this fast.

1. I'm leaving for Tokyo tomorrow morning. Waking up at 6:30. It should be interesting and I'll think about writing about it when I get back.

2. Last week I made friends with a very nice (and quite pretty) Japanese girl who's only one year younger then me. I then got angry at her a few days later for dropping the "Can you give me private lessons and I'll pay you" bomb because I actually thought we could be friends and even though I knew deep down that she only wanted to learn English, it was still a low blow. Then I got over it once I realized that I was just tired and really worrying about:

3. Having dinner with my principal and my two male JTEs Sleepy (formerly Lazy but I thought that was overly mean) and Twitchy. It turns out that it was a whole lot of fun and my principal had such a good time that he actually giggled...again.

4. The Friday before I had dinner with my principal, I heard about a party that was being held for his retirement. Thing was, the deadline to RSVP was that Monday and I was only hearing about it the day of. Eh, whatever. I don't mind being left out...(bitter). Actually, it's really helping me learn Japanese and reading Japanese. I've started to read the schedule board a lot more and it helps me figure out when people just "happen to forget". I mean, it should be a routine by now!!! I know NO JAPANESE this isn't new people!!!

5. I got my hair cut. Erinn (whom I'm going to Tokyo with) suggested a place and so I got my pictures and got one of my JTEs to translate some instructions for me, went to the place, got a fantastic discount and I have to say, I think the woman did a better job than the woman in America!!! I died of happiness, AND they gave me the most fantastic head massage and then afterwards said "thanks for working so hard" hahahhaa

6. I'm in the process of planning a huge birthday bash with two other ALTs who also have similar birthdays, Adam being one of them (his bday is the 5th) It'll be at a beergarden which is usually an all you can eat and drink place on top of a hotel. We're expecting more than 40 people but no one has yet to RSVP and I sent the invites out three days ago.....they still have two weeks

7. I just bought some new face wash since I realized that my American stash has somehow run out (go figure). I saw it on a cute Biore commercial and thought, why not. What I didn't know was that it was called "Marshmallow Whip". No seriously, that's not even a translation error! So after using it just now...I've gotta say, there's just something about it's smell and texture that makes me strangely happy ;)

8. After suppressing my Otaku-ness, I started letting it out a little and realized that a. everyone around me is an otaku-wannabe. They all want to watch anime, they just don't know what's good and they suddenly looked to me not as a dork but as a master in the anime/manga world. And b. I totally forgot how much I love anime and manga. I am now planning a very special anime night.

9. Kae's husband was quite drunk last night and when someone commented on how slim I was he said in Japanese "Yeah yeah, she's totally slim. She's like really skinny at the top (using hand gestures) and then you go down a little bit and suddenly it's like BAM (Emeral style) there's this HUGE ASS!

10. I got a box from Christina with my bday presents in it. The fourth book of the traveling pants trilogy (say what?), the first volume of the offical companion to the Firefly series (still pains me to know it's been canceled....2 years ago!) and a fantastic card telling me how fabulous I am. Ahhhh I miss my friends!

RIGHT, now I'm off to bed! Just be happy that I wrote it out like this, lord knows if I had time I would have written a novelette!!

Remember Who You Represent

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Growing up, Sunday was church day. I would wake up every morning...somewhat reluctantly and go to church. As an elementary school student, I waited for about 20 minutes of singing and praying then was called to the front of the altar with the other kids, prayed some more and then leave for Sunday school until the church service was over. Lo to the days that Sunday school was cancelled. Those days were few and far between and for good reason too. My mother has horror stories.

Once I got into middle school, Sundays became an all day affair. Sunday morning service, Sunday morning bible study, go home and change, hang out with my church buddies in the afternoon and then go to Sunday evening youth group. Not too long after, I was doing Wednesday morning bible study and Friday morning church breakfast. I joined the Christian club in high school and walked around with such articles as:

CK T-shirts (Christ is King)
WWWJD shoe laces
A footprints key chain that was so worn after the years that you couldn't read it anymore

Summers were another event entirely.When I was but an elementary student, I went to camp almost every week of the summer. Vacation Bible School, Camp Heritage 1 and 2 and I'm sure there was a sleep away camp in there too. Once I got into middle school, I started working as camp councilor to said camps as well as participated in Youth week and the various (and I'm talking VARIOUS) retreats.

I can still remember the "Big Blue Bus". It was a huge blue school bus that maxed at 60 mph. the ac was controled by the windows and the cruise control was a broken broomstick that they wedged between the gas pedal and the drivers seat. You think I'm joking?

Above ol' blues door, it read "Remember Whom You Represent" so that we knew how to behave as we were getting off the bus each time. The Youth Leader always made a big point of this. He always wanted us to make a good impression on people. He wanted people to know that we were Christians and therefore different in a better way. Every time we left that bus together, we were representing God and no one likes a hypocrite.

Sometimes the sign worked. Sometimes it didn't. But for me, I always saw that sign and knew that people were watching me, not just God and how could I possibly make a difference in this world if I didn't hold myself accountable?

Well, I don't do so much of that now. I can't say that I really miss the Sunday morning Church either. I miss the fellowship and I don't regret any of the ridiculous things I did while "on fire for god". But now, I wonder, after all that time and energy as a child and young adult, how could I ever assume that it hadn't made a long lasting effect on me?

This weekend, I joined the other Genki-ites on the Genki retreat up in the mountains of Kochi prefecture. We of course got off to a late start but, as gaijin, it has to be expected. We all run on gaijin time.

We drove up to the mountains where it was cold and by evening began raining with hurricane force winds. I didn't think that happened in the mountains!!!

I was one of three people to get there on time which incidentelly was an hour before everyone else. There were 19 people total and to their credit they got stuck at a roadblock that kept them on a nice slope for a good half hour. We missed the block by 5 minutes.

We stayed at a youth camp which is everything that you would expect it to be. It had bunk beds on the second floor and hot running water with communal showers in the basement. On the first floor were the common area, dinning room, and rehearsal room and off to the side of the building were the garbage cans (about 6 total for all the different varieties) and the non-heated gym.

Because we had gotten there "early" and because everyone else was going to be so late, we decided to listen to the orientation meeting about how things worked at the camp and the rules we needed to follow while staying there.

1. As gaijin, they were being very nice to us. Check out time is at 10am but we were allowed to stay until 5 in the afternoon.
2. Lunch was promptly at noon. We got a tray and one dish of food. There was tea and rice for every table. When we were finished, we were required to separate our trash (food, liquid, plastic, paper) and put the trays and dishes in a large sink.
3. Free coffee (nasty stuff) as well as a vending machine was in the front which had a variety of cold and hot drinks.
4. The morning bell chimed promptly at 7am. Breakfast was at 8am.
5. Each room was furnished with 4 bunk beds (8 beds total). They came with one matress, a mattress pad, one bean filled pillow and three fleece blankets. In the hallway, we found sheets.
a. take two large white sheets.
b. take one pillow case.
c. lay out the mattress pad on top of the mattress.
d. take one large white sheet and tuck it under the mattress with the mattress pad between the sheet and the bed.
e. place another white sheet on top of the other white sheet. I slept between these two sheets.
f. lay the three fleece blankets on top of the white sheet and fold the top of the white sheet over the three blankets.
g. put the pillow inside the pillow case.
6. We were required to make the beds in the morning
a. Fold the fleece blankets lengthwise a total of four times. For every fold, make sure that you pull the corners tight so that the folds are crisp.
b. Fold the large white sheets and place them on the bench outside. Fold them lengthwise a total of 5 times.
c. Remove the pillow from the pillowcase. Do not fold the pillowcase. Place it in a neat pile beside the folded white sheets on the bench outside the room.
d. Fold the mattress pad twice in the same direction both times starting with lengthwise.
e. Place the mattress pad on the bed with the main edge facing the door. Then place the folded fleece blankets on top so that the largest fold is facing the door. Place the pillow on top of the fleece blankets.

You might think this tedious but then again you weren't there and I'm sorry to say that I didn't take a picture of the drawn diagram that he showed us for this entire procedure. It took about a half hour to explain which they say was better than the hour long lecture they were given last year. We promised him that we would translate all of this to the rest of the group when they arrived. He (being the head of the camp) didn't need to go through it all again since most of them didn't speak Japanese anyway.

We went through it in just under three minutes.

We spent the entire first day learning dances in the gym with an apple laptop and external speakers. It wasn't a real problem hearing the song though. The main problems were that the dances were complicated but most importantly it was cold. I didn't think to bring inside shoes and needless to say, I can't very well dance in blue rubber slippers. Even if I had brought shoes, I wouldn't have been able to dance in them. Instead, I wandered around in my socks and my feet froze. It was nice that we were dancing though, by the end of the night I was actually able to take off my jacket and expose my three layers of cute shirts !! HA!

Saturday night I was too tired to join my fellow gaijin in drinking at the evening drinking party but I did give them a run for their money when we played cranium. Someone was smart enough to bring it and with about 15 people playing, we all had a fantastic time!

By 11, I was in bed and by 4am, the noises had stopped. Or so I'm told. Thank god I slept through it all!

And I suppose that I really should thank god for that. This past weekend was nothing different than any of the church retreats I had been to as a teenager. Even without counselors none of the girls slept in the same room as the boys* and everyone respected each other!

*This is except for dating couples and Matt who's gay so it doesn't count. Not even if he was cuddling up to the breasts of the head dancer!!! (which probably happened but that's beside the point)

In the morning, we had an early wake up call, as per usual, and it was first come first serve to the showers. As a veteran of sorts, I stayed out of the morning bitchfest about how crappy the beds were or the strange noises that kept everyone awake from slamming doors to howling wind. It was just the same old to me.

So because I got out of bed on time, I was a little early to gather in the dinning room. I decided to lounge in the common area where it looked like a gaijin had just exploded culture all over the room. There was trash and paraphernalia all over the place!

Let's put this into perspective shall we?

Thanks to the many official gatherings I have had with the JETs over the past 7 months (it's been that long) I've learned to ask one question first. One question before "when do we break" and "where are the bathrooms". One question before "is there any free food"! That one question, the question to rule them all is:

Can we throw away our trash?

See, gaijin are notorious for having issues with Japanese culture. Ironically, the biggest problem rivaled only by our illiteracy is our inability to correctly sort trash. Trash is a big deal here. You don't get a giant black garbage can and the option of recycling once a week if you get the kinky inclination to do so. Instead, you are required to separate trash into burnable (small bits of paper and food), plastic, plastic bottles, paper cartons, cans, glass, broken glass, large chunks of paper, and other (which incidentally can also be categorized into at least three more categories depending on material and size).

The system is not easy and garbage cans are no where close to being readily available. Instead, gaijin decide after a short while that they'll just gaijin smash their way through the issue. Instead of separating and cleaning their trash (did I forget to mention that we have to wash our trash?) we'll usually hang on to it and throw it away at a convenience store where they aren't OCD about sorting trash. We'll hold onto it until we get home where we can just hide it in with our normal burnable trash hoping no one finds it. And trust me, if they do, they'll take it out of the bag and leave it on the street for all to see that you (because they know it's you) clearly don't know what you're doing.

But because carrying around trash and hiding it can be tedious and annoying, we generally like to throw it away like most other Japanese people. However, whenever we come together for an official meeting, many times the first rule for the day will not be the schedule or where the bathrooms are but mainly if we are able to throw away our trash at the meeting facility. More times than not, we aren't actually allowed to throw away our trash.

I can't blame them either. When we all get together, we have a tendency of forgetting where we are and who we're dealing with. Besides, the office workers at the meeting place or usually the ones to go through the trash after us and separate our crap. No one wants to do that.

So where was I…?

Oh right, so that morning, I got up early and saw everyones trash and I thought "remember who you represent".

Gaijin get a really bad name for being messy, noisy, disorderly and late. When my friends from America get together it's known as Hurricane Florida because we are so ridiculous with the messes that we make! But, we always leave it clean….promise!

But the gaijin here aren't always the best at cleaning (or being on time or quiet) to Japanese standards and when it comes down to the last few minutes before we leave, no one wants to stick around sorting trash.

And on top of everything, it's not just the one God looking down and judging us. It's the whole of Japan. Like, absolutely everyone will hear about absolutely everything that we do. The more gaijin in a group, the greater the radius that the information flows through! I mean, there's only 4 gaijin in my town and someone way up in the mountains heard about the one other girl gaijin who got into a car accident. It went through about 4 or 5 different people before getting to Kae who then emailed to see if I was dead or not. I've told you guys this story before. It's not all out of the oridinary either. These people love to watch and judge gaijin. A ll gaijin are messy. All gaijin are loud and obnoxious. All gaijin have guns. Say what?! Yeah.

With that in mind, I took the extra bit of morning time I had and started piling up the trash in their own categories. I tidied up a bit and then I left when people started stirring. I'm a hypocrite now for saying it, but I didn't want anyone to thank me for it. It was something nice I did because that's what Christians do. They're nice people who are better because of what they believe.

I can't help but giggle a little. I don't call myself a Christian anymore and I can't say that I did it for any other reason other than that's just what I had always been taught to do. The moment just struck me. I felt like I was in my old church group again. Before all the drama. No one was a hypocrite. No one thought they were a better gaijin than the others. We were all working together because we had come together for a common purpose.

I wasn't in a foreign country anymore. I wasn't a crazy adult with crazy responsibilities. I was back in middle school again on a retreat from the world where there was only us and we all had something in common that stuck us together as a close knit group. We were 仲間* if only for a weekend. (nakama – comrades, a fellowship of people)

Later in the morning, as we all sat down for breakfast, I saw what I thought was sand being blown wildly in the wind. It turns out, it was snow....kind of. It wasn't the kind of the snow that piles up but more of tiny specs of ice and since the wind was blowing so strongly the ice never really ever touched the ground anyway. By mid day, it the pieces had gotten bigger, but the ground was still dry. Wild.

That day we learned one more song and then ran through the ones we had done the day before. We're quite rusty on all of them but we still have a few more weeks to practice. We even skipped learning one (there are 7 total though I only dance in 5) because we were all just too exhausted to think of one more step!

Because of that, we finished one hour early at which time I hitched a ride to the station in the city, hopped the train, and got there with a good ten minutes to hop on the bus to Odochi to spend some quality time with the family. I don't know if I mentioned it or not but I'm not teaching at Odochi all this month nor half of next (I think). So this morning, I had to get a ride with Ikuo as he drove to work at 6 in the morning.

Dear god I need a break!

I like the Word Nekkid

Monday, March 5, 2007

....I think I'll try and use it more.

Operation Spring Break: Tokyo

So I'm off to Tokyo again only this time it's for spring break, I'll be going with a friend, I'll be staying in a hostel instead of with a Japanese friend (though I do plan to visit said Japanese friend) and I actually know what I'm doing!

Well for the most part anyway.

I will be gone from March 26 - 31. Spring break baby!!!

It's going to kind of stick a thorn in my genki practice schedule but I'll have to deal. I've been really good about saving my money and I'm starting to wonder why I even have it in the first place if I never spend it!!! Besides, I gotta get outta here.

This time around, I have three groups of people to visit with and many more sights to take in. I've spent a large part of today just looking up different things to do which really makes me wonder:

1. Why didn't I do this when I went the first time instead of relying on my Japanese buddy to take care of everything for me
2. Why the hell were those losers from Lost in Translation bored in Tokyo? It's FREAKIN' TOKYO!!!! (Gah, one of the worst movies I have ever seen which incidentally was written and/or directed by the same woman who did Marie Antoinette. Another wretched movie but I probably should have seen that coming.)


Oh man, oh man, oh man! Spring is totally here totally early and not only am I thrilled to be wearing tank tops again I'm also scared to death that this summer is going to be the death of me.

Yes, it's true, Nina has changed her mind yet again and ironically instead of worrying about death by winter weather, now I am worrying about death by summer weather.

This winter brought nothing more than a poor excuse for frost instead of the predicted blah blah inches of snow. Which only means that this summer is going to be record breakingly hot and I just might drown in my own sweat. I'm happy to be wearing practically nothing again but....my skin might be too hot to wear in the end. What do you do when being nekkid is just not good enough?


So I had Thia over last Friday for some dinner and Final Fantasy fun. She had only heard of the game so I enjoyed watching her learn how to use the controls and wandering around the world that is surely of a fantasy nature...in a final sort of way....

Yeah ok

So before we got to the gaming goodness we decided it would be best if we made dinner. We hemmed and hawed over what we should eat and we finally settled on good ol' salmon. Personally, when I eat a good fish I generally like to have rice with it. Thia wasn't a big fan seeing as we both eat an abundance of rice on an everyday basis.

I decided that since rice takes an annoyingly long time to cook I would start cooking it now while we went grocery shopping. And here's how it went:

Thia: Ya know, I eat way to much rice as it is, I'd rather have some good Italian bread
Nina: Ahh man! I could go for some too. There's actually this really awesome bakery down the street. Let me just put the rice on before we go.
Thia: Alright, no problem.
Nina: (walking over to the rice cooker) Ya know, it's been life forever since I've used this thing. That's so ironic because in America I was a rice cooking fiend. I just couldn't get enoug...HOLY %&$#@MOTHERINHEAVEN*&$^#!!!!

This inside of my rice cooker was green and yellow like the Green Bay Packers. Apparently, the last time I used the rice cooker I was too preoccupied to actually eat the last bit...oops

The whole this was like a big green and yellow fuzz ball. I was so freaked out by it that I just cowered in a corner until Thia told me that it wasn't exactly going to bite me. No no, instead I according to her scientific opinion, (She's some science major) I had to leave it in the rice cooker for another three days until it was actually trash day when I should throw it into a garbage bag (bin bag as she calls it) as fast as I can otherwise everything organic in the kitchen, including the water, will start growing mold.

Ok so the water won't grow mold but the Italian bread that we were about to buy would. It supposedly would just burst into moldy flames further contaminating everything else in my entire apartment! The tatami would be ruined!!!!

So I left it in there. Every time I walked past that machine I inwardly cringed. This morning I cleaned it out but I don't know when I'll ever use it again.....maybe never......maybe...

Around November, I started preparing a box to send home for Christmas. It is now officially on it's way via surface mail. WHOOO!

Do we see a trend?

*singing* Procrastination is like masturbation, in the end you're only screwing yourseeeeelf!

Also, remember that bed I wanted oooooooh sometime in January? Well I ordered it the same day that I posted about it and it has yet to get here!!! I've got the sheets and they're cute as hell but...what's the point if I'm still on the damn floor?!

I asked Kae about it and she called up the place. Turns out that it was backordered (knew that already) and it took a while to get here. It was finally shipped to the closest shipping office here in Tosayamada and somehow never made it's way to my apartment. It sat around for so long that they finally sent it back around which time Kae called. They are now shipping it again and it should be here by the end of the month. I don't know when they think they're going to deliver it cuz....I'm never here! Even less so now that I have genki practice!


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