Alright, who put the bullet in the furnace?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

  • It seems I will be going to Thailand after all. The airports are open and the protesting has stopped. Overall, it seems "safe"
  • Today is the coldest day of the year so far. It rained two days ago making it QUITE warm then suddenly the temperature just dropped down into the negatives. No snow...yet.
  • On my way to the Winter Summer Festival, I spotted what looked like my bike parked at the Circle K just down the street from my apartment. I did the check I always do when passing any red bike: Is it red? Yes. Does it have the right kind of basket? Yes. Does it have my lock around the base of the seat? Yes. YES!!! It's my bike!!! I made the fastest (and safest) U turn and booked it back to the convenience store. I looked around and saw two middle school girls lounging around looking "idle". I'd blame them but I have no proof. They seemed mildly amused as I left. Either because I took the bike they planned to use or because they were surprised to see a foreigner. It could be either. Surprisingly though, I don't feel happy about this. I feel really angry. Like, really angry. To ride my bike home, I had to leave my car there. I was actually worried that those girls might key it. This is Japan!!!! *sigh* I guess there are jerks in every country :P
  • I've been trying to find a good recipe for "microwave cake" aka: the most dangerous cake. I've come to the conclusion that any cake in the microwave, regardless of how much sugar or baking powder it does or does not have, will always come out like crap. Cakes were never meant to be nuked.
  • I can tell I've been in Japan too long because every time I watch an American TV program, my first reaction to a beautiful girl is to marvel at how large her eyes are. No joke. Is it me? Or are Summer Glau's eyes REALLY big? Does she does that on purpose?! I think she does that on purpose.
  • I've been really getting into some American TV shows recently. I can't get enough! The Office, 30 Rock, The Terminator Sarah Conner Chronicles. I love it :)
  • I wore a skirt on the coldest day of the year and only my hands were cold. I've really been here too long.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Just when you think that ALL Japanese people are jerks because ONE Japanese person stole my bike (probably a Japanese person) suddenly you turn around and change your mind because ONE Japanese person did something nice. Now, you know that truly, ALL Japanese people are wonderful ;)

How's that for a generalization.

Which brings me to a list I have started compiling in my head since Sunday last week.

First, the short list. All the crap that I think makes the Japanese mean:
1. Some jerk stole my bike. Which isn't uncommon to hear of.
2. Umbrellas get stolen quite often as well.
3. Bratty students who do crap in class and get away with it.
4. Recycle-Nazis who refuse to take your trash when you make a mistake sorting it all out
5. paperwork

Now, the longer list. Things that makes the Japanese seem insanely nice:
1. School bikes, free to use for a short time
2. Company umbrellas, free to use for a short time
3. Inside slippers, placed at the door with me in mind
4. Good students who, no matter how bratty, will never talk back to me or really do anything VERY wrong (as far as I can see)
5. Customer service...

Good lord I could go on for days about how amazing customer service is here in Japan.

Let's see, let's see, here are some good examples:

Hair cut: I asked my hair dresser if I should make an appointment before coming in. She said that I could just walk in and I'd be fine. But the other day, I drove all the way there and she had just left on her break. When I told them I didn't have time to wait (I'll be attempting again...2 weeks later!) they gave me a $10 off coupon for the next time.

Convenience store: I would never THINK to get something to eat from a convenience store back in America unless it was a drink or otherwise prepackaged and even then it's a long shot. But convenience stores here in Japan are probably the cleanest places you can be. The toilets are always spotless and smelling fresh. The food for sale is fresh and always at its best. Some people been known to live on the stuff

Mistakes: Not too long ago I went shopping for some new winter clothes and I accidentally bought two red shirts when I only meant to get one. I came back the next day trying to think about how to word what I wanted to say. The woman not only remembered me, but completely understood the problem and apologized for not realizing the mistake when I was checking out the day before. When I told her it was my fault for having put them in the basket in the first place, she said " no no, it was all my fault, I should have noticed sooner!" I guess it's kind of annoying because she really wasn't at fault but it was so nice of her to treat me that way!

Bar service: I went to a Korean restaurant with some friends of mine the other day. My one friend said he only drank Guinness but I saw that it wasn't on the menu. I decided to ask the waiter anyway but just as I expected, he said there was none. (it's not a common drink in Japan anyway) So the guy took our orders without writing anything down! And about 10 minutes later he came by and said that he had managed to find 2 bottles of Guinness, just for my friend. That dude must have gone down the street and somehow tracked down a couple bottles of Guinness and no extra charge!!! And we couldn't even tip the guy for doing something like that!!! Those are the times you want to tip someone more than the actual price of the food; he went so far above and beyond what was required. It was amazing.

I'm going to really miss stuff like this!

The bike a student gave me after hearing me bitch about my stolen one. I made her chocolate pudding as a thank you gift.

He had a good reason

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It was two years ago to the day. When a Japanese man, let us call him Taro, made a mistake. A mistake that would cost him his life.

Taro was of average intelligence. Barely a man but still a boy in many ways, he had just entered university. His major: The Science of Concrete. He was what most women would call "cute like a retarded puppy". Though always falling short of the mark, he forever tried his best and had somehow managed to save enough money to rent an apartment and pay for classes. He worked as a bagger at the local Value Super Market.

His mistake was to fall in love with a woman. A woman!.... of ill repute.

This woman, we shall call her Reiko, was a woman of very little virtue. She was beautiful beyond limit and used her beauty for personal and immoral gain. Unfortunately, her limitless beauty lead her down roads well traveled, resulting in a massive debt to the local Yakuza. Not just any Yakuza either! Oh no. The debt was to THE Yakuza boss...and it was personal.

Reiko was frightened and drowning in a torrential sea of worry when she first met Taro. She was fruitlessly struggling to pay back her massive debt by working in various bars, when she looked across the room and saw Taro. It was truly love at first sight. Their eyes met and fireworks burst above their heads.

Despite Reiko's baggage and Taro's many short comings, from that day forth, they were inseparable.

Over the next two years, Taro and Reiko's love grew stronger and stronger every day. They moved in together and created a cramped by welcoming home. Taro quite school and began working full time to help Reiko pay off her debt. Unfortunately, Yakuza debt, like quicksand, can have you sinking to your neck before you realize that you're most likely in over your head.

Still, Taro and Reiko kept their heads high despite their debt growing steadily larger and larger. As was mentioned previously, the debt was to THE Yakuza boss. And also as previously mentioned, it was personal. THE Yakuza boss would regularly check on the couple to collect his money. After the two years, he had become more and more demanding until finally he began to make death threats.

On one particular day in early winter, let's say November 16th, 2008, THE Yakuza boss condescended a visit upon Taro and Reiko. When Taro said that he would have the money in a day or so, an excuse he always gave, THE Yakuza boss, in a fit of rage, grabbed Reiko and held a gun to her head. In very colorful Japanese, he demanded his money in 30 minutes or Reiko would be tortured and killed as per Yakuza policy.

Taro, fearing for the future of Reiko and his happiness, bolted out the door to barrow money from his parents. Unfortunately, they lived across town and Taro was too poor to own a car or bike.

In utter frustration he spotted an old red bicycle with a basket in the front and a cute little black bell on the handle bars to warn pedestrians of it's approach. He could tell the brakes were most likely shot and the light no longer worked properly. He knew it to belong to the local foreigner whom he had seen happily riding it every so often. She always seemed to have a smile whenever she sat upon this red bicycle's seat.

Hurriedly, he borrowed the bike without permission and silently vowed to bring it back to it's rightful owner. He raced to his parents house where he found two Yakuza thugs waiting for him. In an instant, he was down on the ground, bleeding to death from three shots to the chest. What Taro had never known was that THE Yakuza boss was truly infatuated with Reiko and when he no longer cared to collect any more petty money from the unfortunate Taro, he had him killed. Poor Taro, he had been played with like a toy.

And no one ever knew of the borrowed red bicycle that belonged to the happy foreign girl. It was never returned and she never saw it again...


Which is how I'm sure it really happened because there is no other better excuse for some dickhead to steal my bike while it was parked safely at my own apartment.

The stolen bike

Now that I chose to stay...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Holy cow Batman, KIMCHI NABE!!!! I love it (-^u^-)

I was rereading my January post about if I should stay in Japan a third year or go back home.

I decided to stay (obviously) so I've decided to address all the things in my original post that were up in the air.

1. Income - I have a pretty decent income here. I don't have to pay taxes. But in my third year I was told that I would have to start paying them but rumor had it that my school would give me a raise to help me out with that. Well, they didn't give me the raise. Instead, they just took the tax and paid it themselves. I see no change in any of the money that comes to me. SCORE

2. PA - I decided that I would apply to be a prefectural advisor. I was hoping it would give me a sense of purpose for being here in Japan since all my other reasons for being here seemed worthless. Well, I didn't get it. And now that I'm not a PA I can't be more thrilled. Something changed in August when a lot of my good friends left and suddenly I want nothing to do with anyone new. The last thing on my mind is helping others...seriously ;)

3. New Friends - which brings me to my next point. I said that all my good friends left in August and that I was hoping to meet new ones when the new crew came in right after them. Well, that didn't really happen. Instead, I'm now focusing on myself. I've never been more antisocial and loving it. I have no desire to meet anyone new. I have no desire to go to any more parties. I've become the most selfish person in the world. My time is my own and spending it on meeting new people is not how I want to enjoy it.

4. Japanese Study - I am having a hard time believing it but I actually wrote in my last post that I didn't see myself going back to school to study Japanese. Well, that is completely the opposite of what I plan to do now. I am now studying Japanese with a private tutor twice a week and loving it. I have plans to apply for a Japanese school in Sendai (way up in the cold cold north) and study for at least 6 months. I hope that by focusing on Japanese and devoting 0% of my time on English teaching, I'll learn as quickly as I had originally thought I would 2 years ago!

5. Teaching life - I was wrong about working my way up in this business. No, I haven't gotten a raise and my title is still "English Speaking Monkey" but now that I know what I'm doing, now that I understand how to work with the Japanese teachers even better than I did in January, I've really improved on...well, absolutely everything! My classes are more interesting and HEY! they're even more informative! I know that with most of my classes, those students leave knowing more English than when they left! HA! What a concept! Plus, I now have three classes under my control (more or less) and one of those classes was actually designed by me! I wrote the class! I am THE TEACHER! Which is an oddity all together! Granted, it's not the best class ever, but this is my first time ever writing a full years curriculum and I'm really impressed with myself (^u^)

6. So was it the right choice? - I can not be more emphatic when I say "yes". I am so glad I chose to stay. I'm doing better than ever. Life here has hit it's peak. It doesn't get much better than this :) Ok, maybe a little better. But as for Tosayamada, this is the best it's got and I'm loving it.

7. Will you stay a 4th year? - I think I'm 95% sure I will NOT stay a 4th year. I think I accomplished everything I set out for here and much more. I'm reaching my objectives and I see the end in sight. It's time to move on to the next goal.

Fall to Winter

Sunday, November 9, 2008

October is over! And November is here. For Halloween I was a cute purple kitty (cuz I couldn't be bothered spending money on anything) with my friend Steven (you may remember him from my Kyushu post) as Marimokkori and my friend Hisae as...a maid with cute pink cow ears. Yeah!

Anywho, it's that time of year again. When I change all my summer clothes with winter clothes. Put the fans away and pull out the heaters. Bring out the blankets and find a place inside for the plants to go lest they freeze to death.

This is only the third time in MY LIFE that I've done this sort of thing, but it seems to come naturally ;)

Anyway, I'm writing this post to procrastinate the whole thing. I actually REALLY want to go shopping for some winter clothes but I'd be wasting tons of money by doing that before I pull out what I've already got. Lord knows I don't need any more turtle necks :P

So let's see...what can I blog about...

Well, today I was actually supposed to be dancing in the final ever Kokadai Team Yosakoi dance. Many teams will continue dancing after the big summer festival just to give other people a nice show. Plus, we all put so much work into it! It'd be a shame not to dance again and again!

Unfortunately, it's been raining the past two days plus it's the middle of November which means it's cold. So they decided to cancel the dance and now I'm at home disappointed and with the lights turned on since it's so dark outside. (TnT) Oh well, beats getting a cold from dancing in freezing rain.

SO what else is there...I'm planning a trip to Thailand for the winter vacation. All in all, I'll be gone 20 days! Woo!!! And taking malaria pills just to be on the safe side. A lot of people say I don't need them but hey, taking the pills is WAY BETTER than getting it in the end.

Other than that, I'm pretty much throwing out the idea of not being busy this month. I just have too much stuff going on to NOT do anything. I'm got a party to celebrate Obama's winning. It's depressing not to be in America right now so this is the best we can do (Americans AND everyone else cuz let's face it, the entire world is thrilled that Obama won...I think...) After that I've got a trip to Tokyo for a friends birthday and then begins the end of the year parties that EVERYONE will be having. (both schools, English conversation students, friends, and any other group I happen to belong to)

PLUS I'm saving money for Uni that I will hopefully be attending in October. *crosses fingers*

And that's all for now, tune in later for more on the life of Nina.

Thinking Backwards

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It took a little bit of backwards thinking to realize how ridiculous some of the things I see every day are. Things that you would just NEVER see in America but yet I see everyday here in Japan.

A student from the mountain school got in a small bit of trouble today. I wouldn't say so much "trouble" as really just getting made fun of by the teachers.

Apparently, in art class, he took a nice big chunk of molding clay and fashioned himself a penis. I don't know what he did with it in class, but it ended up on one of the teachers desks. When I asked one of them what everyone was laughing at, she couldn't actually put it into words. She told me to just go over and look for myself. I thought it was kind of funny really. And so did all the other teachers. They made jokes about how the poor art teacher must feel like he's been sexually harassed! In the end, no one saw it as more than a joke and they told him not to do it again and sent him on his way.

Then I got to thinking, what would the teachers do in America? It's hard to say. No one I knew in high school ever did anything like that, lest they be called a raging pervert who needed therapy. And in fact, I think that's what they would do! I think if an American student molded a penis out of clay like my Japanese student did, the teacher would send him straight to the counselors office!

I mean really, for a Japanese student to do something like this is not a big deal. But it's just not a part of American culture. There's probably something very wrong with you if you do something like that!

Which then got me thinking, what else is in Japanese culture that is so common but would put you right into a straight jacket back home.

Well, let's see, most of my students will doodle on their worksheets and I'd say about 65% are of anime characters, 10% are notes to their friends and the, 5% is random and the other 20% is of pooh! And not the Disney character! Think about it! That's more pooh doodles than notes to their friends!

Just search for "unchi" or rather "うんち" and you'll see what I'm talking about.

But that's not all, they have whole products devoted to pooh. Pooh hats, pooh necklaces, pooh dish bowls, pooh WHATEVER!

Next we have Marimokkori man. Marimo is a green ball of algae. Mokkori means crotch. Put those two together and you get the ever popular Marimokkori Man!!!

I don't see this behavior as being wrong. I just finally realized how DIFFERENT it is from American culture. An American doctor would have a field day with the Japanese....especially one who is a fan of Freud's work ;)

Not ME!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

So I finally got a recording of my dance!!!

...because I wasn't in it (ToT)

After the Yosakoi festival, the teams generally continue to dance a couple a times a year at special events. I was pretty burned out by the end of it so I didn't sign up for any of these extra dances but I'm really regretting that now!!!

Anyway, this past weekend was the Kokadai festival so got a chance to see how we actually looked from the audience point of view.

Please keep in mind that the remaining team members (less than half of the original count) only practiced once before the performance. As apposed to practicing for 2 months before the big day. Also, try to watch the main leader of the group. He's a little hard to spot at first but after they really get into the dance he's very easy to see. He's in the front row of adult dancers and he's holding lanterns, not naruko (clackers) He's very dramatic and cool looking (^^)v

To Korea! Hiroshima! THE DENTIST!!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

I haven't been busy. I have been close to bored...but not quite there yet. It's exactly where I want to be!
(Happy Nina on her couch in front of the TV)
These days I spend my weeks "teaching" and studying Japanese. I go to Japanese class twice a week and I LOVE IT! My teacher is awesome and we joke around and have a great time. The lessons are supposed to last an hour but always go over. I'm just having too much fun speaking in Japanese! Things are FINALLY clicking...and it only took....years (O.o;)

SO, other than being relaxed on my couch, this past month I have been all over the place.

FIRST, I went to Korea! I took a four day weekend, spend two of them traveling :P and spent the other two in Seoul where I ate tons of Kimchi and met some super friendly Korean men ;) It makes me bitter that Japanese men aren't as at outgoing (T.T)

NEXT, last weekend I went to Hiroshima...yet again. Hiroshima isn't exactly that close to where I am and it's not the best city in all of Japan either. But for some reason I've been there three times and two of those times were in the last 4 months :P Go figure. The reason I went to Hiroshima was for the yummy Sake Festival! They had sake from all over Japan and for $20 I bought myself a commemorative sake cup and drank to my hearts content!

I decided that before drinking though, I'd see if there wasn't a way to prevent a horrible hang over. Sake is HORRIBLE for hang overs :P

The Japanese have this little ginger drink in a tiny gold bottle that can be found at any convenience store. I was told it would help so I drank one before going into the sake pool. I didn't end up getting home until 4 in the morning! But by 8am I was awake and ready to conquer the day. Granted, I went to bed the next night around 9pm...still, I think I'll be drinking much more of that gold ginger magic in the future :D

FINALLY, today I had a holiday from work because I worked on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago. So I took this time to finally go to the dentist. I've had this problem with my teeth from brushing too much, the wrong way and with the wrong tooth brush :P I was afraid that the dentists here would pull the teeth or do something crazy! I've heard of too many horror stories about dentists both in Japan AND America!!!

So I bit the bullet and went in with my supervisor in tow. The dentist looked at my teeth and said "huh, you've been brushing the wrong way". 5 minutes into his examination of my teeth I realized that he wasn't examining them at all! He was putting some sort of SOMETHING all over them!!!

And that was it. My supervisor didn't really do much. The dentist didn't do much. My teeth feel great and I'm only 710yen the poorer...that's about $7. I lurv Japan!

In conclusion, I have heard far too many horror doctor stories to feel comfortable about going to one here in Japan. However, of all my doctor visits, which have been many, they have all been amazingly productive and pleasant. I highly recommend getting sick in Japan. They take good care of you (^^)v

Oh, and my garden has grown...

And so has that bean...

East Side Kochi Video

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This is what I spent a good chunk of my summer editing together. It was more work than it was worth. Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

I plan to have more free time...maybe

Friday, August 29, 2008

I'm sure everyone's tired about hearing how I can't do anything because I'm always so busy. Sorry I couldn't answer your email until now. Sorry I didn't answer your call. Sorry I've been busy...

Well not anymore!!! I'm staying home! Cooking, cleaning, gardening and feeling sorry for myself that all my friends have left after their second year on JET (TuT)

Well, kinda anyway.

Point 1. I have a garden now!
Check out those yummy herbs. Basil, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. "Remember meeeee to one who lives ther-rrr, she once was a true love of mine".

And for $7 from a place called "Loft" (not found in Kochi prefecture :P) I got a cute little bean plant that has the word smile on one side and a smiley face on the other! It's only about a week and a half old though and it's already starting to die. I figured that was because it was sitting inside the egg that it hatched from (seriously) so I transferred it to a pot that my predecessor (from 2 years ago) left me. She didn't necessarily leave me just a pot. There was a plant in it at one time...and it's dead carcass was still there until I moved it just about an hour ago, BUT now it's finally been put to use and I suppose I can call myself a gardener now. We'll see if these plants fare any better than my fish :'( RIP

Next, from a leaving JET *sobs* I bought a microwave/oven/toaster all in one machine. Tiny by oven standards but massive by toaster standards so I guess it evens out ;) hahaha.

But I've gone on a cooking spree! Even for things I need neither a microwave, oven OR toaster for! Like Hummus. Another leaving set *sobs more* left me his dried chick peas so the first thing I did was make myself some hummus. But I underestimated how far those chick peas would go and now I have three frozen bowls of the stuff and one in my fridge for eating.

Next I made oatmeal cookies. I don't even LIKE oatmeal cookies. And oatmeal is hard to find around here!!! But I decided I wanted to try something new because I wanted to give a gift to one of my favorite JTEs. Today was her last day at school. She's due to have a baby in a couple of months so she'll be gone for a year on maternity leave *sobs*

Do we see a theme here??!?! It's a wonder I haven't curled up in a ball under my desk.

And the last thing I made was focaccia bread. I'd have taken a picture of it but I ate it too quickly. This is all that remains.


From the same JET who sold me his oven, I also got this super sweet big screen TV, Satellite and Satellite box. Took me a while to figure out how it works but I finally figured it out and as soon I call the company and get a contract with them, I will be the proud viewer of magical TV. Oh how I have missed you Discovery Channel (;u;)

Problem is, I have a cord that goes from the satellite to the TV. Who knew it needed to do that?! I mean, I thought it was a freakin satellite! Can't it just connect to the TV via wireless connection? Not so. Instead, ya see that pipe off to the right side of the picture? Yeah, that goes to my AC unit in the wall. I have to take the AC wall box off my wall, slide the cord through there and then out to the satellite. Either that, or my window stays open a crack for the rest of it's life letting not only the heat and cold in but the bugs as well. No thank you.

Finally, things I forgot to take pictures of:
1. I got a new camera - Canon IXY, pink
2. I installed a new faucet into my sink. The old one had a plastic bit at the end of the faucet which broke from old age, like plastic things have a tendency of doing (idiot idea!). Thus, water was squirting all over my wall, all over my clothes and needless to say, doing the dishes was EVEN MORE of a pain in the ass than it was before. But, I went over the hardware store looking for super strength glue when I found a new faucet instead. It was only $14! Here I thought I'd have to pay over $100 to install an entirely new unit. Score Nina! I went home, unscrewed the old and one screwed in the new one. Took me like 3 minutes and only because I was sure that there was something more difficult involved. I kept double checking myself. It was that easy? Yes. I'm done already? Yes. Now do the smelly dishes. OK!

3. I'm thinking of picking up Aikido. I don't really care about the fighting style but I thought it would be a good way to make some Japanese friends. Plus, it'll be good exercise :)

Other than that, I'm becoming more and more antisocial and loving it. Staying home is great!

Yosakoi Day 2 (and then some)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Yosakoi was hot!!! Both literally and figuratively. It feels like a million years ago so I'm really trying hard to remember the highlights.

We took a bus from the university into the city and danced at various locations. We would usually stand around for about an hour or so waiting in line until we finally reached the beginning point of the dance. Then we'd dance down the street for about 20 minutes then run to our next location to stand in line again.

In the picture above you can see two red straps. Those are two different medals that I won on the first day and this picture was taken on the second day. Not too long later, I ended up getting my third. A few people didn't get any medals. A lot of people got one and a bunch got two. I got three. Go me!!!

(And that's not including the medal I got for the local Tosayamada Festival that we danced at the week before!)

(right to left in order of importance: Yosakoi Day 1, first dance location. Tosayamada Festival, Harimayabashi Yosakoi Day 2, Sunday Market street Yosakoi Day 1.)

The last two are the most important medals because they were really big deal locations. They were both televised! It's really too bad. I've been on TV so much. So many people took pictures right in my face making me mess up and everything! But I don't have any of those to show you guys.

We were usually late for each location to dance in (which was to be expected) and not many of my friends were able to see me! And I still haven't heard from my team about the official DVD and accompanying pictures. I'll be sure to post the video when I get it.


I had plans for friends to visit the night after Yosakoi but they came in a day early. So in the middle of dancing Yosakoi, I was having friends moving into my apartment where they stayed for about a week.

We drove together to Hiroshima where we saw the amazing Miyajima Fireworks Festival. They were the most amazing fireworks I've ever seen.

After that, we came home, relaxed for a day then went back north to camp and go white water rafting!

I was in the front at first which was fine but they moved me to the back which has a lot more bounce. I almost fell out a number of times and about half way through the trip I thought I lost a tooth...

But no worries! I'm fine!

In between all of this time, I made a movie about the East Side of Kochi for all the new JETs and said goodbye to the ones who have left. I'm sad to see them go. Very sad. But I keep myself busy to keep from thinking of it. (TuT)v

I'll upload the video if I find the time...

Yosakoi Day 1

Monday, August 11, 2008

I think the flower medal is the best you can get in the Kochi Yosakoi....and I got it :) My third medal in all, will tell more when I have time!!!

I love Chives

Saturday, August 2, 2008

So remember those little beetles that I couldn't figure out where they were coming from? I said that I kind of didn't mind them so much because they didn't bite anyway...welp, I found them!

I was searching frantically looking for something to eat for breakfast because I'm about to go and dance Yosakoi at the Tosayamada Masturi (festival) which is not the official Yosakoi Matsuri. It's just a local one, but a big deal none the less.

So I found this bottle of chives way in the back and thought, YEAH!!! I'll put chives on my mediocre tomato and cheese bagel! It'll be great. But when I pulled out the container I found ALL of my chives had been eaten by said beetles that were now lazily lounging in their own byproduct. It was hilarious. My poor chives!!!

And ironically enough, it wasn't because I had done something blatently stupid like leaving food out on the counter and the windows open. *sigh* can't win em all!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I went blueberry picking


Dead of Summer

Friday, July 18, 2008

The cicadas are finally here which marks the beginning of the dead of summer. I rather like it. At least I'm not freezing! And I'm already dreading winter (ToT) it'll be nice to cool off but I just hate winter so much!

Maybe the truth is, I just like walking around nekkid...

So today was my last day of teaching until the beginning of fall. I've been sitting at my desk for more than a week now with nothing to do. I had one class today as a final hurrah and now I get to continue sitting at my desk for another 6 weeks!

But I have boredom fighting plans. Oh yes.

As for Yosakoi, we finally finished learning the entire dance! It took us exactly 7 days. This is not an easy dance! But it's much more fun now that I'm perfecting the moves I already know and not having to learn new things on top of it. Now I have to make hair appointments and figure out how to do my makeup! Ack! I have no idea what I'm doing!!!

And I can't wait to figure it all out o(^w^)o

Strike Three

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Guess who's dating one of my Yosakoi instructors!!! That's right, you guessed it, the cute little girl at my mountain school!!!


She's 17, he's 19. No, not such a big difference. But I freaked when I found out one of my high schoolers was dating a college student. And then I freaked out again because that college student was only 19. I've never felt old in my life until I heard that. I'm probably the oldest person on the team!

But still, this high school student isn't just any student. Oh no. I've watched her grow up since she was still a little 1st year. Now, 2 years later, I watched her flirt and date almost every boy in the school (there's only 25ish students now) PLUS some of the boys at my base school. And sometimes she didn't even wait to break up with the last before she started with the next.

Now slut is a strong word to use for this girl but...

This is what I get for living in inaka Kochi. Everybody knows everybody and even more know who I am just because I am the ONE of THREE gaijin women living in this area. Clearly, this instructor brought it up to my student that he saw me because I never brought it up to her that I was on the KUT team. Why would I even come up in conversation?! Did he know that I was her teacher? Or did he just bring it up as a conversation piece. "Btw, there's a gaijin girl on my team. Huh, imagine that!"

In the end, I didn't really want to know that she was dating this guy (needless to say I think he could do better...AND NOT ME if that's what you're thinking!!!) and it's kind of beyond me that not only did she tell me and show me pictures on her phone but tonight he thought it would be neat if he walked over and introduced himself again to remind me that he was dating my student.

I joined yosakoi to make friends. Not to meet my students boyfriends. It's not that I have a problem with hanging out with my students outside of school but 1. that breaks the teacher/student relationship and 2. I don't want to hang out with this student.


Anyway, the dance is much harder than I expected but that just makes it more enjoyable when I finally get a step that I thought I would never understand. 3 hours a day is pretty intense but it's good fun. I'm really enjoying myself!!!

Yosakoi and my poor damaged brain

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Forget making friends. Forget sweating to death in the hot unairconditioned gym. I can't remember one move to the next!!!

I don't know if it's because I haven't used my brain in quite some time but honest to god, I can't remember what comes next in the sequence. So if we're doing things really slowly and I can sloooowly see what's coming next, I can do it pretty well. But as soon as we get a little fast I start messing up and as soon as we get to the actual speed of the song I just stand there drooling on myself saying "daaaaaa"

Tomorrow we have a break so I'm going to use that time to just go over what comes next in the sequence! Good golly we're only a minute into the song and we're not even close to being half way yet (ToT)

BTW, here's the official video for my team from last year.

And this is the song we're using this year. If you think it's a slow song you'd be wrong.

Yosakoi Start!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Today I finally started Yosakoi practice. I decided that I wanted to be more involved in my area and make more Japanese friends so I joined the Kochi University of Technology Yosakoi Team. They happen to be right down the street from me and since it's a technical college, I get the extra added bonus of the 75-80% male population. Score.

So in a nut shell, Yosakoi is a traditional dance started around 1954 where teams of no more than 150 people each will get together in the city and dance to their own variation of the Yosakoi song. I found a video of it but it doesn't do it justice. This event can be very overwhelming. In fact, my eikaiwa ladies told me that they would love to see me dance but wouldn't actually come out the event because it made their heart race too much. They'll stick with the live feed on NHK TV.

So here's the vid. I'll keep you guys posted as I progress. I will be practicing every day from now until August 12th, 6-9pm.

Nina Wants...

Nina wants to start spending less time at work starting next week when classes end for the summer and she will be forced to sit at her desk all day for around 60 days.

Nina wants to clean her apartment. She wants to finally pick up the clothes off the floor, categorize them and find some place else for them to go.

Nina wants to heal from the tiny sun burn blotches she got from the beach Olympics. What's up with Japan and not being able to find waterproof sunscreen? Is it too much to ask if she wants it to smell like coconuts?

Nina wants to gain some weight healthily but can't seem to find any (real) cheese or whole wheat bread outside of the Internet. Even half wheat bread would be ok.

Nina wants Yosakoi practice to start. Some exercise would be good for her.

Nina wants to make a plan for her future but keeps procrastinating because it's easier than confronting her fears.

Nina wants to continue working with her third year students who are really showing signs of improvement. It gives her chills to see how much they've learned in such a short time.

Nina wants the heat, or at least the humidity, to die down just a little.

Nina wants to air out her apartment because it smells like fish. That's what she gets for making salmon in the summer. Unfortunately, it's too hot to open the windows for too long.

Nina wants to figure out what those tiny little beetles are doing in her apartment and how to get rid of them. They aren't attracted to light so her strategically placed fly strip doesn't work on them and they're everywhere. But the don't bite....

Nina wants to figure out how to get rid of her strategically placed fly strip. It was only 100yen ($1) and now it is stuck to her kitchen wall permanently. If the strip goes, all the stickum will stay...and then she'll have flies stuck to the wall where the strip once was! That wasn't what she was going for.

Nina wants to make plans to travel to some other Asian countries but is afraid of spending money and precious vacation days.

Nina wants to just be


Thursday, June 19, 2008

It goes to show how much I've been paying attention to the things around me recently. It gets to a point, I'm sure, that everything continues to be new or rather you continue to not understand everything around you so you just start ignoring anything you don't really NEED to know. Granted, back in the states where I have the ability to understand most everything, I still ignore most of it. It's just a normal thing I guess.

But I digress (had I even started making a point?)

I've been reading some pretty good blogs recently and one link led to another and before I knew it, I was here and I started reading about the wonderful world of Umeshu making! Umeshu is pretty much Japanese plums (apricots) that have been thrown into some liquor. Give it about 3 months to a year and you have some super sweet ume liquor!

So I decided to try some myself. (I'm feeling pretty domestic recently)

Day 1

Day 2

It doesn't look so bad! The website said after the second day it would look pretty nasty. Maybe I didn't do it right....
I saw my friends umeshu about a week ago and hers looked pretty nasty. It had probably only been sitting around for a few days too. Hmmm, I'll let you guys know how it turns out in about three months. Just remind me!

Anyway, the point I was trying to make in the beginning was that after reading that blog, I went to the grocery store only to discover the exact ingredients that were posted. I mean, down to a T. (whatever that means) And it occurred to me that there are probably some really AWESOME things in my local grocery store that I just never know anything about. I just...don't understand. *sigh* Nothing new there. But whatever, I have my umeshu and that's all that matters. If it's good enough, I'll figure out a way to ship some home. Here's to shipping Japanese moonshine home to the states!

Now I'm off to bed. It's late, hot and humid. It's the rainy season now and that means water. Everywhere. And it also means restless sticky nights and hot lethargic days. Wee!!!

Watermelon, Beans and Chicken Skin

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Must be some of my favorite things!

So the seasons have changed and summer is here. That means watermelon is in season! woo!!

It also means that edamame are in season as well. Edamame are those green beans that you shell and eat with beer. You can buy them frozen year round but I can only assume they're best fresh like everything else.
But today while I was perusing the fresh made food section of my local grocery store I discovered something that clearly, they made with me in mind. They must have been thinking to themselves, "my. I haven't seen Nina in here for a while. You know what she would love? Fried Chicken Skin. Now that will make her day."

And it has :)


Monday, June 9, 2008

Kochi Football Club
(nothing to do with chicken)

That's right guys, I played soccer and had more fun playing than I did socializing. How backasswards is that?!

Girls team:
1 lose
1 win
2 draws

Race Horses

Sunday, June 1, 2008

So I was watching the third episode of Heroes and just about 4o or so minutes into the program, you hear the end of a cut off conversation. The guy says "...and he says 'holy cow, a talking dog!'"

I don't know why I never looked up that joke online until now, but it turns out, there are a number of different versions but mine seems to be the only one that is quite so long.

One (irritating) variation is:

Two race horses have just been worked out on the practice track, and are being led back into the stable.

After the stable boy leads them into their stalls, the first race horse tells the second, "Hey, did you notice something odd about that guy? I don't know, he just doesn't seem right to me".

The second race horse responds, "No, he's just like all the other stable boys, and the grooms, and the trainers, and the jockeys – just another short, smelly guy with a bad attitude, 'Push, push, push, run harder…We don't care if you break down, just move it, eat this crap, and get back to your stall".

The first race horse says, "Yeah, I know what you mean! This game is just a big rat race, and I'm really tired of it."
A stable dog has been watching the two of them talk, and he can't contain himself.

"Fellas", he says. "I don't believe this! You guys are RACEHORSES. I don't care what they say about lions, YOU GUYS are the kings of the animal world! You get the best digs, you get the best food, you get the best health care, and when you run and win, you get roses and universal adulation. Even when you lose, people still think you're great and give you sugar cubes. And if you have a great career, you get put out to stud, and have an unimaginable blast better than anything Hugh Hefner ever imagined. Even if you're not in demand as a stud, you still get put out to pasture, which is a mighty fine way to spend your life, if you ask me. I mean, you guys just don't appreciate how good you have it!"

To which, the first race horse turns to the second race horse and says, "Would you look at this! A talking dog!"

Just thought ya'll would be interested to know...for any of those who understand what I'm talking about. For those who don't, trust me, you don't want to know so just don't ask.

Eating for a Cause

Monday, May 26, 2008

Parsley really is a funny plant. It was all wilted and kind of limp this afternoon from not being watered for more than three days. I drowned(ed) it right as the sun was setting and now suddenly it's alive and healthy again.

Huh...go figure.

So recently, I've been noticing that I've continued to lose weight. Others have noticed too. I'm again accused of having an eating disorder. Though no one would flat out say it to my face. Instead I catch it through hearsay and Freuden slips.

The truth is though that I haven't been eating very healthily recently. In fact, I haven't been eating much of anything. The end result is that now, I am under 100lbs. And remember those pants I was so happy I could fit into again? Well, they don't fit anymore. They're too big.

But the worst came last Wednesday what I was sitting at my desk really trying hard to work on a 500 word essay for the PA position which I am applying for. I was staring at my computer screen and just wanted to fall asleep. I could barely read what was on the screen. I couldn't think clearly. The mind felt like sludge.

And so I decided I needed some drastic changes. My life has now gone into full on eat mode. No meals will be skipped. High carbs are what's on the menu. I've started (as of Thursday) waking up early before work and riding my bike to help wake myself up enough to not feel sick when I eat breakfast. Because now I'm eating breakfast! Haven't done that since 9th grade.

On top of that, I've joined a soccer team.

What? Nina? Playing sports?

Yeah. It's true. But it's only for 3 weeks. ;)

Still, the exercise gives me an appetite like a horse and I really pack it in after a good 2 hours of sweating it out in the park.

But now, thanks to the carbs and the exercise, I suddenly had crap tons of energy! Which means that midnight rolls around and I'm still wide awake! What do I do with this time?! I blog of course :D

Let's hope that I keep this regime up. But most importantly, let's hope I get the weight up too!


Saturday, May 24, 2008

For once I have a single morning free to do as I please and you can thank your lucky stars I'm finally writing about something interesting!

Golden week - a time when there are so many national holidays all at once, the week turns into a golden vacation of one day off after another. I took 3 vacation days and took an 11 day trip! I love it (^^)v

This year I took some friends as we camped all over the beautiful island of Kyushu. We drove my tiny K-car all the way there and back and didn't kill ourselves on the way!

The navigator

The driver

The innocent bystandard

The fake hot springs in Beppu! They're naturally hot but not naturally blue. It cost $4 just to look at this place and we couldn't even go in! Granted, it probably would have naturally burned all of our skin leaving us stripped and tinted blue.

So we decided to get our money's worth in pictures.

Our second night camping! It was a beautiful place to pop tent and the weather was always on our side the entire trip! It rained for only two days both of which we had made no plans to go hiking or site seeing. The first day we stayed inside a museum all day and the second was the last day of our trip which consisted of us driving home! Score :)

Helicopter ride to see the inside of a magnificent LIVE crater in the mountains of Aso.

Said crater. We later hiked up an inactive one which was probably one of the best hikes I've ever been on. And it was amazingly beautiful. Something right out of Lord of the Rings. Pictures could never come close to describing it's beauty.

Kumamoto Castle or something such thing. I can't ever remember names :P But it was a magnificent castle anyway.

Then as we were driving through the mountains, we saw REAL volcanic activity. This was just on the side of the road! We couldn't believe our eyes. It was smoking all over and it smelled like rotten eggs. That's a sure sign that there is a hot spring near by. Directly in front of us is a tiny rest stop that had park benches to relax on (in the middle of nowhere) but it was all roped off. The entire thing was corroded and rotting. Turns out, the hot volcanic spring waters got a little out of control and bubbled over making the entire place unsafe. It was awesome!

Heat rash: 0 Nina: 1
I was driving so much and the sun was so intense at times that I started developing heat rash. I decided to break down and buy these expensive gloves that I see lot's of women wearing here in Japan. They look kinda weird, huh! But I LOVE them! I didn't really want to wear them but I wanted heat rash even less. Once I put them on, I didn't stop wearing them for the rest of the trip. They are so damn cool!!!

One of the many waterfalls on one of the many hikes we went on. Worth every moment of exhaustion :)

We later made it to the southern island of Yakushima. Not too many people make it that far. It was pretty isolated but one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The trees were lush and green.

Something straight out of a movie. Oh wait, what does this sign say? Mononoke no hime no mori? The Princess Mononoke Forest? That's right folks. I was there. And it was awesome.

We later got to soak in this $1 onsen. Natural. Unmanned. Throw your coin in a box and get naked on the beach. Bathe in all the glory of naturally heated water right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean as the sun sets to create the perfect end to the most perfect trip I've taken.

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