Friday, August 29, 2008

spaghetti, apple juice and curb

This is what I want—all that I want—after a day with two schools, six classes, three trains and an indecipherable note from my landlord:

spaghetti, apple juice and Curb

I got my first paycheck tonight!!! But I don"t have a bank account so I have to figure out how to actually get my yenz. Time for the weekend!!!


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

follow the yellow brick road

Neither Glendora nor West Los Angeles is identified with vast
farmlands and frequent tornadoes. Still, during the past week—in the
smallest of ways—I've realized the worn-out quotation applies: "We're
not in Kansas anymore."

I braved my first solo izakaya experience… that is to say, I went to a
place with Japanese food and beer by myself late on a weeknight. And I
partook of the local fare. And I did it all in Japanese (so proud).
And I couldn't help but wonder why I was positioned at the bar in the
exact seat where the entire kitchen staff could stare. I'd been
wondering if I'm stared at as much as I think I am (I do live in a
small-ish town after all), or if maybe I think that normal glances
must be purposeful, because I'm so clearly foreign.

Either way, the kitchen staff very obviously crooked their necks to
catch a glimpse of how exactly I was ordering off the non-English menu
and whether I used a flurry of gestures. I ordered an omelette dish
because I was starving and knew they would top it with pizza sauce,
which sounded delicious. They served the modestly-sized omelette on a
designated family-style plate and I felt a little silly because I was
just one girl who was fairly certain she needed no family help to
finish the food.

I returned home to find that, for some godforsaken reason, the little
box near the stove that (I believe) controls my gas power was shouting
at me in Japanese every five minutes. I had no idea what she was
saying, but it sounded important. So, like a true escapist, I drew a
bath and shut the door to the kitchen. For those of you who don't
know, baths are my cure-all.

As I waited through the high-pitched Japanese instructions, the bath
was just about the only thing that resembled my Kansas. I read my book
like I always did, calculating the importance of its words in my life.
And after I felt a satisfactory amount of the day's toxins had escaped
my body, I opted to go to bed—shouting kitchen and all. Employing toes
still slippery with soap, I yanked the plug from the drain and brought
it closer to my face, curious to read the brand name on the stopper.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Why can’t I sleep??

Sunday, August 24, 2008


That's one week living in Japan. It went by really slowly--but not in a negative way. I work a lot, but most know I like working a lot, and if I didn't I would find a second job (and probably a third) anyway. Today we (Fuk area teachers--maybe eight of us) went to a beach in Nishijin area. I don't know what the beach was called, but it was beautiful. Not really what I expected a Japanese beach to look like, although I'm not really sure what I imagined. See for yourself:

The islands in the distance are my next adventure after Nagasaki this upcoming weekend.

I think the chapel is what threw me off from the Japanese beach I had imagined. The Speedo-clad fellow is not posing. He was stationed in that position for quite a while and was purposefully included in this photograph.

My new desktop picture. Photo credit: Andrea

2 gaijin and a sunset

Dinner at Ten Ten near Andrea's house. The sign for the restaurant featured a cartoon of people wearing turbans and standing next to camels, so we assumed the food would resemble Middle Eastern food. We ended up with two bowls of Italian pasta. To start they gave us little bowls of what we decided was some sort of sea vegetable. The flavor was great, but we couldn't get past what Andrea called the "hair in the drain" consistency.

Me and my goop


Here are pictures of my Saturday night. We went to curry (British people just use curry as an all-inclusive term for Indian food), then 4 of us girlies split for a yukata party (bizarre--more later), and then we met up with everyone nearby. We stayed out until the trains started up again at 5:30. It was like self-imposed jet lag.

I love this. This particular performance was the only one that had anything to do with yukatas (casual summer kimonos). The other performances were breakdancing.... a lot of breakdancing.

Girls passing out candy and definitely not wearing yukatas

The drink tickets said "Mid Night Patty" (as opposed to Midnight Party)

There was a 30-minute make-up applying "performance" that we were not into. Please notice the title of the whole event--"PURE BUT SEXY"

Friend Satomi wearing her yukata and recording a performance. She really pulled off that yukata. Our friend Mikuru came too, but sadly I have no pictures of her. I really like her.

Friday, August 22, 2008


My first day working at both schools--it's only on Thursdays and Fridays that I do this. There are three other teachers--1 Japanese--Haruka--she's super nice, and 2 "Native" teachers--James and Andy. J, A and I went to Magic Castle (the outside looks like an old carnival fun house, with ambiance set by paper maché-esque craggy rock). It cost 800 yen each for unlimited biiru, 2 kinds of food and an hour of karaoke. What a steal! Here are a couple photos:

Andy--I can't remember which song. The theme was '80s camp. James--he really went for it

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


All right--can I just say that I know what "gaijin" means (foreigner; literally "outside person") and I know when people are talking about me! I believe I'm one of the only gaijins in Kasuga, so I get a lot of *whisper whisper gaijin whisper gaijin*

Stephen (the Scottish expat with a friendly demeanor and a penchant for harsh Japanese phraseology) was my trainer again today. We went out for a smorgy dinner consisting of an omelette topped with spaghetti sauce, Korean chigae, potato salad (still figuring out how mayonnaise caught on here), "chips," and a suitable amount of nama biiru (draft beer). Stephen and I were accompanied by Kiyo, the Japanese English teacher at my Kasuga school and a prime example of "old Japan." Dinner is at 10 p.m. by the time work is finished. We're far away from the Americana table-side family watching the 6 o'clock news--although I'm not sure anyone does that anymore.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


The gas man came (hallelujah) and I had a really nice time listening to him explain the situation at length in Japanese and replying with a simple "Wakarimasen"-I don't understand. To help, he put me on the phone with a hopelessly persistent woman who also spoke no English and kept asking for my phone number. At the end he tried explaining that I'll be billed later for his services, using the American OK sign, which I later discovered was a gesture meaning "bag of money" over here. I just kept giving him the OK sign--whatever buddy. Whatever he did, I have hot water and a working stove, so I'm happy.

I met a Japanese girl named Anna on the subway. She approached me and asked if I spoke English and said we could help each other with languages. I'm all for it. So she's already emailed me and she's going to show me cool restaurants in Tenjin. This could end up being a good relationship. Japanese friends will be crucial if I am going to follow through with improving my Japanese conversation skills.

I'm still nowhere near unpacked, and I just got my suitcases yesterday. Honestly it feels like I’ll never be unpacked. I do have some cool ideas for decorating my apartment--highlights include local art and straw mats tacked to the walls.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I went to the supermarket (supaa) today and watermelon is 1198 yen. That's $12!!!
My shopping experience was greatly enhanced by 2 things: 1) noticing the video screens with commercials hooked to the shelves in supermarkets and thinking about how silly that was and 2) remembering the Japanese word for "apple" so I could order fresh juice from the little stand. So delicious.
I also found out my rice cooker sings the abc song when it's gearing up. What a treat.

I also spent the better part of my evening searching for an internet café in Tenjin. I look forward to being an expert on this city.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

my apartment!

I introduce you to: Royal Heights Kasuga. The most royal of them all.....

View from the entryway

Toire room. To the immediate right when you walk in.

Kitchen. Yeah, that's it. To the right, just after the toire room.

Shower room. On the left, opposite the kitchen.

Main room. The girl who stayed here before me kindly left her TV, soiled couch and the entire Dan Brown collection. Oh yeah, and "How to Make Out in Japanese."

View from the sliding door back to the entry way

The view

Another view

Saturday, August 16, 2008

just arrived

Some facts about the next year:
• Once I get my alien registration card, if I leave the country I can come back through immigration as a Japanese citizen. I really like that concept.
• I teach 27 classes per week. That’s a lot of lesson plans. To the right is my schedule. Plz excuse the irritating time stamp
• I have one class of 3-6 year olds, which I’m pretty excited about. Lots of singing and dancing and game playing. And there’s a puppet named Rocky Raccoon. Beatles wa suki desu.
• I work at two schools, so 2 days a week I teach a morning class then go to Kurume school for afternoon to evening
• I can’t take any days off until 3 months into my contract (Oct 15)
• I was told the neighbors at my apartment will shower me with gifts when I move in
• I really want to go to Tokyo Disney, because the more I think about it, the more I think it would be nuts

Sapporo, sticky rice, and false starts Part II

In Tokyo/Narita airport:
I just got to my gate for the connecting flight to Fukuoka airport, and I think my stay in Tokyo so far has been a series of small yet embarrassing mistakes. The one that really got me was when I bought a rice ball snack that needs to be unwrapped a certain way—I forgot how to do it and felt like a complete amateur. I have a feeling the next year is going to be one long string of moments like these.

Sapporo, sticky rice, and false starts Part I

7:13 a.m. Japan time
On the plane from Vancouver to Tokyo:
I’m in hour five of the plane ride to Narita, only to be followed by a six-hour layover with a girl I’ve nicknamed Debbie Downer and a one-hour flight to Fukuoka. When all is said and done, I’ll have left Vancouver at 12:45 p.m. on Friday afternoon and arrived in Fukuoka at 10 p.m. Saturday night. The time difference allows me to live in the future, which will surely prove helpful for Lotto numbers and stock market projections. I don’t know why nobody thought of this before.

I’ve already watched two movies, attempted to read every piece of Japanese literature I could find (mostly unsuccessfully—shit), and failed in convincing the polite yet stern Japanese flight attendant that I deserved a vegetarian meal. She got hers, though, when that same flight attendant clumsily turned a half-drunk Sapporo into a traveling man’s Old Faithful, spewing beer and foam over a good five rows of the plane. Luckily, and not surprisingly, I belonged to one of those rows. In fact, I’d count myself in the top three most soaked persons, and have smelled like beer for four hours now. The older woman next to me did enjoy my insistence that I was not よっぱらい (drunk), even though I smell like it. I’m going to have a good time explaining the odor to my boss who’s picking me up from the airport, but I do have two things going for me: 1) I brought him an unusually large (think foot-long) bar of chocolate as his おみやげ (gift). I’m counting on Sam from the UK to be a real sweet tooth. 2) I meet him in 10 hours, and I’m thinking I can air out by then. On the up side, the explosion and subsequent disaster relief was an amazing waste of time. Plus, I just got a voucher for a ¥2000 (approx. $20) clean up of the dress that cost me one dollar. If you were with me right now, you’d see my eyes are lit up with yen symbols.

A girl from my group was bumped to business class and was nice enough to come visit my humble economy seat, educating my peasant self on the wonders of her new environment. “The meals are served on real plates!” Bitch.

I don’t sound relaxed, but I really am.

Next entry will most likely be from the airport during the layover or even an Internet café once I get to Fukuoka, since it seems Japan never really jumped on the Wi-Fi bandwagon.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

vancouver arrival

Yesterday was my first evening in Vancouver, and I must say this city is gorgeous. There are trees! And I can breathe the air! I have two roommates at the hotel who are very sweet, one of which is hopelessly devoted to the Olympic swimming races--so much so that our trip to the pub across the street was made not so much for a pint, but a peek at NBC on the flat screens. At this point, though, I'm up for any distractions--the alternative is picturing myself standing in front of a classroom of eager Japanese students.
After the pub, we girlies met up with the fellas in our training (nice, but sadly not contenders for the Japan romance) and compared notes on Japanese proficiency, preparedness for training, etc. and all realized simultaneously that we were sure we would be the individual who was least qualified. I couldn't help but think I was more prepared than I thought.
We left the pub, had a quick struggle with "to jaywalk or not to jaywalk?" in a foreign country, and got back to the room just in time for a few more swim races. Then to sleep. As I lay in my firm Ramada bed, I reveled in my surprising saneness over the whole thing, and just as I began to drift asleep, I realized my jaw was locked tight and my hands clasped close to my chest. I think they call that anxiety.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

holiday--it would be so nice

I leave tomorrow @ 2pm for Vancouver, then to Fukuoka on 15th Aug, and I'll most likely have a few minutes (12+ airtime hours) to write in transit. Until then, here are all my holidays so you can plan on visiting me! ayayyayay

September 15
September 23
October 13
November 3
November 24
December 23
December 28-January 4
January 1
January 14
February 11
March 20
April 29-May 5
July 21