Sunday, September 28, 2008

lazy day

Slept in after the romp through Tenjin with students last night. Watched Extras with Paul. Dinner with Haruka who's the greatest.

welcome party

Only 4 low-qual pictures of the night, plus 2 sheets of crazy purikura (photo booth ) pictures, which I have no way of posting unless I happen upon a scanner. Just imagine a group of Japanese students, me in the middle, lots of bright colors, and a liberal amount of hearts and sparkles around the edges. That ought to give you a good idea. Oh, and one has a cartoon monster—which is supposed to be eating us—in the background. Yep, that’s it.

toshi posted billz:

The place was pretty great. Reggae themed and we sat up in a little loft area. Think top bunk.

Karaoke for dessert

Friday, September 26, 2008

on my mind

I have a bank account! The experience was surprisingly difficult. Not that it should be easy for an English speaker to open an account in a generally non-English speaking country. Surprising because I should have expected problems and did not. After all, I had with me a fluent Japanese speaker and bank account holder, Misa. They would not allow her to write my address in kanji on the application form, thus rendering her somewhat useless. She was able to explain my account's 5 million yen limit, which shouldn't be a problem.

We went back to Kurume school after a good 45 minutes of simple account opening. I ate the last chocolate in the box--not because I was really in the mood for chocolate (rarely, actually), but because I just couldn't stand that no one would eat it. "It's very Japanese, I hate it," Misa complained. "Well, then allow me!"

The train smelled like wet dog on the way home. A real treat.

I have created a list of very doable excursions that I would like to finish by Christmas.
It goes as follows:

Karatsu Kunchi Matsuri--Nov 2-4 festival (the pictures look like great fun!)
omoshiro-ichi--Dazaifu flea market (a flea market next to a shrine?? delightfully sacrilegious!)
Tachiarai Heiwa Kienenkan--small WWII memorial museum
Narita-san--climbable Buddha in Kurume (I feel it's my duty to find out exactly how this works)
Hiradoshima Issho-raku--400 year-old erotic drawings (a friend now refers to it as "ancient smut," but I would like to check it out)
Nagasaki--in December there's a Dutch area that apparently decorates a ton of huge Christmas trees... my friend Anna showed me pictures and it looks fantastic! Alex... want to come with? You're like Dutch n shit, right?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Autumn leaves

I woke up today and it was autumn. So lovely.

There was this girl named Autumn who I knew when I was younger. She was not very nice and prone to cold sores, which significantly reduced her eligibility for long-term friendship (sorry.) We used to swim together at the public pool near my house and I distinctly remember one day when we were practicing back dives into the deep end. Our conversation somehow led to my full name (Katelyn) and she made fun of me for it, and I actually felt bad. And her name was Autumn. And she had cold sores! Why did I let her make me feel bad, especially about a name as neutral as "Katelyn"? That summer, I began to learn that some people try to make other people feel bad just so they feel a little better about themselves. And I might add that my back dives were superb that year.

I just made eye contact with someone inside the coffee shop across the street. That was strange.
There's also a girl who's constructed an entire beauty salon on her table outside the window I'm sitting by. We're talking multiple hair brushes, magnifying mirrors, and multiple bags of sparkley shadows and gooey lip balms. I'm quite certain that the 20 plus minutes of preening I've witnessed so far have left her looking exactly the same as when she began.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

aso long weekend

i went to mt. aso with fellow teachers/friends this long weekend and it was beautiful.

this Walt Whitman line was in my head the whole weekend. it's the answer to the question, "what is grass?":
"I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven." how beautiful

andy packed light...

the place we stayed. called "pension boy" and endearingly referred to as "the boy." the owner was a huge beatles fan and piped it through the entire establishment during waking hours. he made us breakfast which included freshly baked bread and it was pretty wonderful.

the view of a volcano steaming after a long hike to an abandoned research lab (please no questions)

yoko sensei, mikuru sensei and i on a mossy bridge on the way to the abandoned building

andrea yelling at paul for something , clearly relaxed after an hour in an onsen (hot spring)

tourist stop against beautiful scenery

sun setting on a shrine

my secret garden

largest caldera in the world. it sounds pretty significant, but i found it really difficult to get into because i learned what a caldera was in transit to the marvel.

me and the caldera

in the general vicinity of the caldera. i sat here thinking for a good while.

the picture takes the person

the angriest can i've ever seen. rough translation: don't throw your fucking cans in this fucking drain!

Monday, September 15, 2008

a very merry anniversary

Today is officially the one-month anniversary of arriving in Japan. To celebrate, I overslept.

sunday bloody sunday

Here again at Seattle’s Best in Tenjin using internet and dreaming of the day when I can communicate like a modern girl (i.e. when I get internet at my apt AND a keitai). I’m meeting Paul and Sam for Mexican food (should be interesting—I have the fattest craving) in about a half hour, and it’s taking all of my self-control not to eat a green tea muffin at this coffee shop. They warm them and everything!
Yesterday I went to a birthday party for an adorable seven-year-old child I'd never met, whose father was the brother of a fellow I’d met just once. Paul brought me, but needless to say, there were a lot of new faces. The birthday boy Louis has Down’s, which I wasn’t expecting, and it was a bit emotional for me at first because of Rosemary. Rosemary is my aunt who died last year, and she also had Down’s...I started to get a little misty, but I didn’t say anything, because there’s a time and a place. I did like that Paul didn't “warn” me about it, like Down’s is something you need to prepare people to come in contact with.
It was really nice to go to someone’s house and hang out like a normal person, although the crowd was still not quite like home. There was a Scotsman, a few Australians, an Englishman, a Chinese professional badminton player, and an American who wasn’t really helping my image.
I got the third degree both from the womenfolk and the men, separately, as if they were making a conscious effort to prolong my anxiety. All the other “adults” were couples, and I came with the entire group’s honorary younger brother, so it was to be expected, and they were all very nice. Well, maybe except when one fellow got a little drunk and started hounding me about how Americans don’t know about the world. His triumph came when I could not articulate Papua New Guinea’s geographical location. Satisfied by reinforcing the generalizations he’s come to love, he went back to the men’s table to discuss the new Lexus coupe and the appropriate number of fingers to shove up a woman’s ass. He actually was a cool guy, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the assumption that I’m “one of those Americans.” After the birthday party chilled out (maybe 12 am), my favorite Aussie Jay and his wife were up for some karaoke, so the four of us went. The following are the only pictures I have of the entire day’s events:

paul y yo

paul singing a u2 song that someone accidentally punched in

so hilarious... jay singing his heart out while his wife sleeps

Thursday, September 11, 2008

today and this weekend

I pondered the significance of today's date more that I would have expected, and wondered if it crossed anyone’s mind over here. Surreal.

On a lighter note…(well actually, not really)
I haven't been eating much and I think it all caught up with me today…
11 am (home) pancakes
2 pm (supermarket) soba noodles and coffee
3 pm (Kasuga school) some tofu from this amazing boutique-type lunch store I've been eyeing since I got here and finally tried
6 pm (Kurume school) the rest of the tofu
10 pm (train station) 2 donuts by recommendation of Haruka—thanks a lot. And—this just in—Japanese donuts much tastier than American donuts
11 pm (apt) leftover pasta—this is really the kicker after the 2 donuts

It might not sound like so much (or maybe it does), but I've been eating maybe a soba noodle per day, so I really went for it this Thursday.
I'm really looking forward to this weekend, and the week is going by quickly, which is even better.

In the works: wedding crashing, 7-year-old's birthday partying, vegetarian restaurant scoping. Yip yip.

Japanese phrase of the day: o-mochikairi = to go (as in “for here or to go?”—used at Misuta Donatsu)
Haruka’s American English word of the day: bummer

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

good good good good day

Today was a really good day. I don't have a lesson until 4 on Wednesdays, so the day starts off pretty chill (I get made fun of quite often for using that word over here). I think a major highlight was having a student do a complete 180. My first lesson with her, she kept her cell phone out and kept checking it and being very obviously unhappy. And tonight we were talking and laughing and having fun with the other student in the class. Even better, they both came back to the school after leaving for the night to tell me they wanted to throw me a welcome party, which is such a really genuinely kind thing. I don't think I could have dreamt up a better turnaround. Today I also got to hear Paul fake an American accent again, which is always a treat. Good good good good day.

Here's the lobby of my school in Kasugabaru and my humble classroom (I effed up the rotating so just turn your head or something):

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Japanese phrase of the day: Otsukaresama desu/deshita
Every work email begins with this and it means “you must be tired” or something like that. You greet and goodbye people with it, I think. Still working on when it's appropriate, but my co-worker Kiyo's been eating it up so far.

Been missin' the fam a bit. I like talking to them and I can't really, so I just have to save up everything I want to say and either can it into emails, condense it into phone conversations or preserve it til Christmas.

Spoke to Laura on the phone (finally) with the remaining few minutes on my phone card. It was so nice to talk to her since I had kind of a bummer day (Tuesdays are functionally my Mondays, after all). And of course there were stories to tell—one free Red Sox ticket, two naked neighbors, and three friends in Bostontown.

We all knew this would happen, but just in case you had any doubts, she's also kicking the ass of every classically-trained, music-reading, song-writing, fame-chasing, guitar-picking, musician-dating, piano-pounding singer in that place.

Monday, September 8, 2008

keitai blues

I went to a wedding dress fashion show yesterday with my new friend Anna. We got in for free, and I didn't take pictures because I didn't care to. It was actually cooler than I anticipated. I'm a little frightened by the idea of a fashion show devoted to the "big day" because I'm certain every woman in that room pictured their day past or present. I don't even want to think about six months from now. I don't know how all the girlies do it.
I also decided later in the day that fashion might just be art for the unimaginative. When you think about it, there are some pretty damn artistic pieces, but the problem is that a functional element is required. That's what makes it fashion. And maybe I don't want something beautiful or interesting or provocative to be required to have sleeves. Just some bathtub philosophy, really.

Anna took me to get a phone (keitai), which was to be the highlight of the day. After about 30 minutes of back and forth from me to Anna to the store employee and back down the line with information about the phones, I decided to get one that lights up when you shake it. I just really wanted to go for functionality more than anything.

The wallet was out, my name (Keitorin An Surakku) was on the contract, the precious phone was in my hand, and then the news--"nearly legal alien" and "legal alien" are decidedly different, and I could not get a phone until I was a full-fledged legal alien. Effffffffffffff

Check out the phone that caused it all:

That screen opens up AND to the right. Again, functionality.

Great commerical featuring a zippy rendition of La Bamba:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

dazaifu & futsukaichi

His name is Paul. He's quite nice and we do nice things like walking and talking.
We went to the Dazaifu shrine yesterday, and after we’d had our fill of tourist spirituality, we walked 2 km to see the ruins of some government buildings, which turned out to be four circular stones in the middle of an overgrown field. Paul was very obviously disappointed, and I couldn’t help laughing. After the disappointment subsided, we walked the 2km back to civilization, found some snacks (I was actually starving but was being a girl about it and wouldn’t admit that to Paul) and caught the train to Futsukaichi. We very cleverly combined our limited knowledge of common Japanese phrases to get a taxi to an onsen (hot spring). That was an experience for me, considering you have to be nakey (men and women separate, of course) and the old Japanese women took a certain interest in my body type. It was pretty relaxing, I must admit, and I will most likely do it again. Maybe with a friend next time. Anyone?