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Today some of my 5 and 6-year old kids were coloring pictures of people in uniforms for different occupation, including a fire fighter. I was coloring my own picture along with the kids. The kids are always chatting away merrily to me in Japanese. I can understand most of what they say, especially when they're so young, but I always reply in English.

Yuto, a little boy, looked at my picture and asked (in Japanese) "Teacher, why is the fire fighter's face brown?"

Me, in English: "His face is dirty. He was in the fire!"

Seiya, another little boy, to Yuto: "What did she say?"

Yuto to Seiya: "She said his face is brown because he's a foreigner."

LOL! Stay hilarious, kids! (Not as funny as a girl I know whose student (quite innocently) wrote in his book report that a character had "homosexual brown hair," but it made me giggle. :D)
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Sometimes, I leave work so utterly drained from dealing with either A) kids who seem to be on crack or B) kids who seem to be zombies or C) kids who seem to have made it their life's mission to make the lesson, and therefore my life for that one to two-point-five hours a living hell, that I wonder what the point of it is. Why should I put any effort into my job if neither I nor the kids get any return? (I always DO put effort in, though... damn me and my strong work ethic, ha ha. I rarely show up less than two hours early, and always overplan.)



But then there are also little moments that... well, I won't say, "make it all worthwhile," because that's both trite and untrue... but perhaps make it seem that I am doing something that isn't totally worthless. Let's not kid ourselves... I don't consider myself a proper teacher. I don't have a teaching degree, nor do I work in a "real" school. Often what I do is just babysitting in English. Very few of my students can actually use English to any useful degree. We are all about preparing them for passing the English exams in school, so they can place into good high schools. I'm not speaking ill of my company... this is just how it is in Japan, if you work at the kind of place I do. It's what my last job was like. It's what any job I have here will be like, unless I get an actual teacher's degree and can work in a real, English-immersion school. I understand that, and accept it. But still, it is nice to feel useful at work, once in a while.



Last night, I had a group of 9-11 year olds for a one-hour lesson. They are the kind of kids I guess you could call "impish." Good-hearted kids, smart, not what I would consider "problem kids," but still a bit cheeky, and with a tendancy to get "all over themselves," as my mom would say, when they get excited. One kid, let's call him S-kun (kun being a friendly term to add to little boy's name's here,) always starts the lesson trying his best to be good, helping me clean up, etc, but nine times out of ten he can't restrain his natural cheekiness for the whole hour, LOL. So at the start of the lesson, he's talking to the other kids (in Japanese, of course,) telling them that he saw Tara-sensei on her mama-chari ("granny bike," like a bike with a basket for carrying stuff,) eating a banana last week. While I don't recall this, he's probably right... that sounds like me, ha ha.



A few minutes later, we've settled in and are doing some review on prepositions. I'm doing a memory game where I lay out some stuff, count to ten, cover it, then ask questions like, "Where's the pen?" "Where's the book?" and the kids have to say, "Under the CD," or whatever. So we've done a few questions, and I asked, "Where's the banana?" as a joke, because there is no banana. Usually, the kids would just yell, "NO BANANA!" and maybe giggle a little.



So I ask, "Where's the banana?" Another kid, let's call him K-kun, has an "Ah-ha!" moment... his face lights up, he grins this huge grin, and says, "In the Tara!!!" S-kun cracks up, and K-kun just looks SO PROUD of himself to have made a joke in English. His face was just totally lit up... so effing cute. I started laughing... and then all the kids started laughing... and man, K-kun just looked SO CUTE, he was soooo proud of himself... then I totally got the giggles, and couldn't stop laughing. I hid my face behind a book for a minute, then tried to end the game and be serious again, only to start cracking up all over again... which of course made the kids totally lose it. My Japanese co-teacher, who normally isn't there during my lessons, happened to be in the back doing some paperwork, and I'm sure she thought we had lost our minds. HOLY CRAP. SO FUNNY. SO CUTE. I guess you have to know these kids to appreciate how funny it was, but man... SO FUNNY. I felt like I bonded with them that night, ha ha.



Then tonight, I had a class of older junior high and high school kids, who are normally pretty Zombie-ish. It's supposed to be an adult-style conversation class, where they work in groups to discuss things in English... but NO ONE WILL TALK. No matter how I arrange the groups, no matter how much prompting, no matter what I do, they just WILL NOT TALK to each other, not even in Japanese... AWWWWKWAAAAARD... Plus, three of the kids have pretty excellent English, while the other five are totally not on the same level, and find the lesson to be very hard. Ugh. So awkward.



So, after our hour of awkward silence, I'm seeing the kids off. One girl, K-chan (one of the older ones with good English,) stops and asks me why I came to Japan. I told her the usual, "Because I like to travel, because I wanted to try out a different culture," answer. Then she asks me what kind of visa I have, which is not a question a Japanese high school student would usually think to ask. Then she told me, "I will go to Canada next year, with a working holiday visa." WOW! Holy crap! That is awesome! Totally did not see that one coming! If you aren't familiar with Japanese students, you may not realize what a big deal that is. Usually kids here have zero interest in travelling, especially right after high school. The fact that her parents are letting her go to Canada for a year, instead of going straight to university, is really, really cool. Very unusual for Japanese parents! Now I feel really bad... because the class is soooo quiet, and she probably doesn't have many chances to speak English outside of her weekly lesson. I wish I could just take her out for some coffee and have a chat. That would do her so much more good than sitting through an hour of me trying to get 7 other silent kids to talk...



So yeah... this was a pretty exhausting week for me... new classes started, which is always stressful, plus it added an extra work day to my week... but those two little moments put a little light back into my working life. I still don't feel like a proper teacher, but maybe, just maybe, my efforts at work aren't 100 percent in vain. Stay awesome, kids. Tara-sensei LOVES when you make her laugh! :D
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ゴキブリ, "gokiburi." A Japanese word. Sounds cute, right? Try saying it. "Go-ki-bu-ri!" Adorable. It should mean something cute, like bunny or kitten.

But it means cockroach.

But I just love the sound so much, I say it all the time. :D
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Grey-ish sky, with the temperature anywhere between Cool and Frigid!

OMFG y'all, autumn has FINALLY arrived. For the first weekend in a long time, I actually felt like getting up and doing stuff, instead of just laying in bed all day, and I'm 100 percent sure it's all because the weather finally cooled off. :D *HAPPY DANCE!*


Mikan oranges are starting to arrive in the supermarket, persimmon trees are blooming, and I finally got to sleep in my loft last night. :D It was too effing hot up there in the summer.

Spent the weekend riding around on my bicycle, shopping and killing time, because I COULD! Because I could actually go outside without fear of passing out! It was FABULOUS.

Happy autumn!
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I posted this in some miniature-collecting communities I'm in, but I'd be interested to hear your opinions, too:

Hi guys,

Looking for honest advice from people who appreciate the cuteness of miniatures!

Five years ago, I lived in England for a year. (I'm fom the US.) I was looking around a toy shop and saw Sylvanian Families for the first time. I don't remember ever having them in the US, and totally lost my mind over how CUUUUUTE they are! I bought a single baby bunny figure as a souvenir, but nothing else.

I moved to Japan about four years ago. Upon moving here, I started collecting miniatures in earnest for the first time. I finally had the disposable income to do so, and LOVE getting the "mystery boxes" of miniatures that are popular here. I figure they're cute, usually Japanese-ish, will make great souvenirs for myself when I return home, and will be easy to bring with me, since they're so small. I display them in shadowboxes hung in my apartment.

Sylvanian families are really popular here. Not only that, but they have special Japanese sets I'm pretty sure you wouldn't find in other countries... Japanese-style lunch sets, etc. Every time I go to a toy shop, I squee over how stinkin' CUUUUUTE they are! Particularly the little accessories. (My local supermarket is in a big department store with a toy section, and I always make a special trip to the toys to squee over them!)

But... I'm 30 years old. I don't have any kids. I'm running out of places to display stuff. (My apartment is TINY!) But dammit... the Sylvanian stuff is just so CUUUUUUUTE! My boyfriend often offers to buy the sets for me, and I always tell him no, I'm too old for it, what am I gonna do with it, blah blah blah.

Do you think it would be silly of me to start collecting Sylvanian family stuff? I'm mostly interested in the accessories, not so much the actual dolls. (Though the dolls are very cute.) Is it creepy or weird for a grown woman to have such a collection? I find my mystery-box minis to be more of a kitschy, grown-up type thing. The Sylvanian stuff isn't so kitschy, just really stinkin' cute. I know it is silly, but I waaaaaant it! Ha ha.

Halp! Your opinion is appreciated! :)


ETA: Seriously, just look at how effing CUTE they are!


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File this one under the "Mind Your Own Damn Business" tag!

A friend of mine from back home, Christy, is having her second baby soon. She posted on Facebook asking if anyone knew where she could get a "Belly Bandit," which is apparently some kind of girdle/belt thing you can wear after giving birth to support your abdomen.

I replied jokingly that "Belly Bandit" sounded like some guy was gonna show up in a Zorro mask and steal her baby-fat away. This somehow turned into my friend, me, and my mom joking about how I should have kids with Liam, so we could raise them in England and my mom could have grandbabies with cute British accents.

My mother has NEVER pressured me into marriage or kids. She always told me to do the opposite... go to college, become able to take care of myself, travel, see the world, live my life before thinking about having kids. I know the whole thing about babies with British accents was just a joke. So I replied that I'd happily start shooting out kids, if anyone wanted to support us all financially. Til then, no way. LOLs all around from the three of us.

Today when I checked my Facebook, some random woman on Christy's friend list, whom I have never met in my life, sent me a long-ass message basically telling me I should go ahead and have as many kids as I want, and not worry about being able to support them financially; if I didn't have the money, it doesn't matter... because the Lord will provide!

Seriously? Who sends this kind of message to a complete stranger, based on a few facetious Facebook comments?

Here is the message she sent. )


Really? REALLY? That is just so friggin' weird... I don't know this woman at all. She knows absolutely nothing about me, except that I'm Christy's friend. My Facebook profile doesn't show any information to anyone not on my friends list. Why the hell would you send a complete stranger such a message?

I guess maybe she thinks she is doing her Christian duty? With 10 kids, maybe she believes in that Quiverfull thing, where Christians don't use birth control, so they can have a ton of kids so as to put more Christians in the world?

I haven't replied yet. I wonder if I should tell her the truth... that I'm an atheist, and think all her talk of "the Lord providing" sounds childish and silly. That I think having kids you can't support is a really selfish, stupid thing to do. That I have no desire to be a drain on society that way. That I grew up really poor, and the Lord never miraculously showed up when my mom couldn't afford to feed us or take us to the doctor. That growing up poor SUCKS, and I have always promised to never willingly inflict that on my own kids. That I think it is totally out of line to message a random stranger on Facebook and suggest they have kids they cannot afford. That her sending me such a message really creeped me out.

I guess I should be nice, and just send a polite "thanks, but no thanks" type response? Or should I just totally ignore it?

The whole thing is so weird!!! What say ye, LJ peeps?
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Posting these on Facebook got such a reaction from my friends and family back home, it reminded me of how overwhelmed I was by the sheer oddness of Japan when I first got here. My first few months, I was always tired, from the constant overstimulation and barrage of weird stuff everywhere I went. Even a trip to the supermarket was like a trip to Wonderland.

Nearly four years later, it takes a LOT more to make me stop and think, "Wow, that's odd..." Fully grown man in a Pikachu costume dancing in the park? Meh. Sushi ordered via touchscreen, which arrives at your table on a plastic space shuttle? No big deal. Port-a-potty in a town stricken by a massive tsunami three weeks earlier, stocked with pink Hello Kitty toilet paper? Yeah, so?

Liam and I were at Don Quijote the other night, looking at camping gear and shopping for groceries. Don Quijote is a huge store which sells EVERYTHING. It's like Wal-Mart on acid. My local one sells everything from groceries, to adult costumes and "novelty items," to cell phones, to cars, and literally everything in between. When I first moved to Ota, our local Don Qui was quite small. Only one level, with only a small corner for selling non-perishable food, and was packed to the gills with stuff. I remember getting hopelessly lost in there one night, trying to find my way out of the labyrinth of boxes and random merchandise. I turned around and got smacked in the face with a hanging pillow shaped like boobs. Lost among the boob pillows...

About two years after I arrived, our local Don Qui expanded. HOOO BOY did they expand! They now have an entire supermarket, and cover two huge floors of the shopping center by Ota Station. Because it's just "spittin' distance" from my new pet kennel--oops, sorry, I mean apartment, I usually shop there for groceries, toiletries, make-up, household goods, office supplies, and pretty much anything else I might need. Liam and I took a few pics the other night. Seeing how my Facebook friends reacted reminded me how weird Japan truly is. We saw this stuff at the place we shop for groceries. (Also a few unrelated pics included.)

Make with the clickety! )
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My first job was at a shitty local restaurant called Carson's Country Kitchen. I was 15. I worked with a girl named Anna, who was a high school senior, and her boyfriend DeWayne, the fry cook. A few weeks before Anna's graduation, she was in a bad car accident, and was in a coma for months. I quit working there when I turned 16 that November, and at that time, she was still in the coma.

I remember that we'd write "Pray for Anna!" on all our menus each day. Local businesses had the sentiment on their marquees. I remember seeing how DeWayne dealt with the situation, being really depressed for the first few months, visiting her in the hospital every day, then slowly growing distant as time passed and Anna made little progress. I remember him telling me that the doctors said she'd likely have a lot of brain damage and need tons of rehab if she ever woke up. I remember being FURIOUS when I learned that he was fucking around with one of the skanky waitresses not long before I quit. Looking back, I guess I shouldn't have judged him. He was a grown man, and who am I to tell someone how to deal with such a tragic situation.

Anyway, over the years, I have often wondered about Anna; wondered if she ever came out of the coma, and what kind of life she was left with if she did. The local news quit reporting it after a while, and I eventually went to college, then moved away.

About a week ago, someone started a group on Facebook for people to post their memories from our high school. On a lark, I asked if anyone knew anything about Anna. Less than 5 minutes later, someone replied that she was on their friend list! WOW. Technology is amazing.

I sent her a friend request, explaining who I am, since she probably doesn't remember me. From what I can see of her profile, it looks like she is leading a pretty normal life. That makes me really happy. I didn't ask her about the accident, as it is probably the last thing she wants to talk about, but I did say that I was happy to see her on Facebook, and glad she was doing okay.

Nearly 15 years of wondering, and all it took was 5 minutes and a Facebook post to find out. Wow.

I'm so glad to hear that she made it. Who knows, she might even remember teaching me how to make bathtub liquor for parties! Ha ha.

Aaaaand... a few random pics )
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OMG, just get national healthcare already!!! I really don't know what people are so scared of... having now lived in two countries with socialized medicine, I can say from experience that it is a WONDERFUL thing. The problem is that the US will never do it RIGHT. Obama's original ideas were great, but due to America's fear of "socialism," they've been watered down so much that they really aren't going to make the system work like it should. People should have affordable healthcare, period. It is a basic human right. It is one of the main reasons I have no plans to leave Japan any time soon, and hope to return to England rather than back home to the US if I ever do.
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Ugh. Every time I think "this summer isn't so bad," I have to do something like cycle a whole whopping two blocks to get groceries, end up sweating profusely, and remember why I always say summer can lick my sweaty ass. Oh, winter, why hast thou forsaken me so????

Not much of interest to report, but I've added so many new people lately, I feel bad for not posting more often.

Spent the last week doing "summer school" lessons... maaaaan, that sucked. I'm totally spoiled, and not used to doing more than 4 lessons in a day any more. We have up to 8, back to back, during our summer school days. I'm soooo glad its over, ha ha. We have a meeting tomorrow in Kiryu, and are supposed to do an "office day" after, but I'm pretty sure my manager has hooked it up so that instead of sitting around a random classroom for 5 hours, we can check out the Kiryu summer festival instead. :D That will be nice. After three years of the same stuff, the Ota matsuri has gotten kinda dull, ha ha. I'll try to take lots of pics!

Going up north for the first time in quite a while August 13-15th for a volunteer trip. It'll be my first time staying overnight. I'm hoping to be able to spend some time at the ocean, at night after our work is done. It will probably be pretty weird, knowing what the sea did a few months ago... but I'd like to spend some time there, and haven't had a chance during any of the day trips.

We're gonna be helping Mr. Fujita, the guy from the video in my last post, clean the mud out of his house, and apparently he needs some walls knocked down. Might be doing sludge-shovelling duty as well. The city drains are still all backed up and need cleaning out.

I'm pretty worried about how I will hold up working in the hot sun. My last few trips were all while the weather was still cool, and even then I sweated myself to death. I do NOT do well with heat. The last thing I want is to become too weak and pass out, and be a drain on the group instead of helping. So... we'll see. The work itself doesn't scare me, even though I often have issues with my knees and with bending over. (Getting older SUCKS, yo.) I just work at a steady pace, and take breaks when I need to. It's working in the Heat and Humidity of Doom that I'm worried about.... がんばります!

In other news, I recently got my first smart phone; a purty pink Android. Had it a week, and all I can figure out how to do with it is Rickroll myself. The phone is definitely smarter than I am...

Fujita-san

Jul. 12th, 2011 11:39 pm
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This is Fujita-san, one of the local survivors from Ishinomaki, where my volunteer group has been working. He's made a series of videos asking people to come volunteer in his city. The response from the local government has been slow and unsatisfactory, to say the least.

It's all in Japanese, but he's showing his house (seen behind him) which was destroyed in the earthquake, then washed out by the tsunami. He says that he lost both his mother and his aunt in the tsunami.

I met him during my last trip to Ishinomaki. I had been working at a dentist's office all day, with a group of locals and Mizuho, a Japanese girl from Ota (my town.) I'd spent the morning helping clear out debris and mud from a house, then spent the afternoon wiping mud off of a HUGE stack of dental records, so that the dentist could re-open his business the following week. About 15,000 files in all, most with multiple pages. Much harder than it sounds, yo. I think I actually prefer the hard physical labor, ha ha. But I digress...

In the late afternoon, Fujita-san (who helps lead the local volunteer group, and works with groups like ours,) came to pick Mizuho and I up, and return us to our friends. He spent some time talking with the dentist before we left. I made an offhand comment to Mizuho that I was hungry.

"Oh, you're hungry?" Fujita-san asked me. Then he lept into action, offering me a big jelly roll and soda which he'd clearly bought for himself. Then he put some cardboard on the floor for me to sit on, telling me it was a "Japanese sofa," ha ha. Much as I wanted to refuse, you really can't refuse things like that in Japanese culture, and especially from the tsunami victims, who are in a fragile state of mind, to say the least.

I felt horrible eating his food. I mean, the man lost his home and his family; shouldn't I be giving HIM food? The generosity of the people of Ishinomaki is overwhelming. They never fail to offer us food and drinks when we are working there. Some of the homeowners whose houses we've cleaned have made home-cooked lunches for us, even when there are a dozen of us working together. Can you imagine losing everything you own, having no running water or electricity, having had your stove, fridge, etc. totally washed away, and yet still finding a way to feed 12 strangers a hot meal??? The locals we worked with at the dentists office ordered take-out ramen, drinks, and dessert for us, even though we told them we'd already had lunch.

After leaving the dentist's, Fujita-san took us to his neighborhood. He showed us a building across the street from his house, completely washed out, but still standing, which he is now using as the local volunteer center. He showed us his house, and told us a little about what the tsunami was like... how fast the water came in, how high it was, how long it stayed. I can't even begin to imagine the things he didn't tell us... about losing his mother and aunt, about probably watching his neighbors die in front of him...

He was so chipper and upbeat, making jokes and trying to talk with me in English.

I haven't been able to go back since then, as the trips up always seem to fall on the weeks where I don't have full weekends off. But I wanted to share my little story about Fujita-san. I will never forget him giving his food to a random gaijin girl whom he'd never met. I hope I can return soon. There is still sooooo much more to be done, and as he says in the video, what they need most of all is simply manpower.

Tanabata

Jul. 3rd, 2011 10:22 pm
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Today is Tanabata, or "Star Festival." One of my lessons for the past month, which I prolly taught about a thousand times, involved me reading a passage about Tanabata and the kids taking notes. So, from memory, here is the story of Tanabata, as written by the bigwigs at my company:

July 3rd is the Star Festival in Japan. The festival is from an old Chinese story, where two lovers can only meet once a year. For the Star Festival, people decorate special bamboo branches with beautiful pieces of paper. On the paper, they write their wishes for the future.

Ha ha ha. Anyway, an NPO where Liam teaches (and where I occasionally taught when I was at my old job) had a little Tanabata festival for the kids. We stopped by to check it out.

Here are what the bamboo branches look like. I love Tanabata trees. So colorful and cute.


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More crappy pics here; old camera plus cloudy weather equals bad pics... )
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Well, I can't deny it any longer. Summer is here, with all the loathsome heat and humidity it brings to this region of Japan. As I have mentioned numerous times, I absolutely HATE summer. and yet I keep moving to hot places. I went to colleg in Charleston, SC. When I was in England, they had their hottest summer on record. Now I'm here, veeeery close to the cities which normally have the highest summer temps in all of Japan (Kumagaya and either Isesaki, Takasaki, or Tatebayashi... can't remember which one, as they all sound similar, heh.)

I very much want to avoid a repeat of last summer. I found myself in a horrible depressive funk from June until October, when it finally started cooling down. I blamed it on the heat at the time. Truthfully, the heat WAS the biggest part of it. Feeling like you are literally going to die any time you leave your apartment will do that to you. With the sun beating down on me, burning my skin within 5 minutes, and the heat and humidity of DOOM making me feel like I can't breathe, I felt thisclose to fainting nearly every day. I do NOT take heat well. Simply eating a bowl of ramen in a stuffy restaurant was enough to make me pass out back in, oh what was that, Feb, March? I woke up face down on the pavement, with a mouth full of dirt. So Japanese summer and I do not mix very well.

However, I was also working a very high-stress job last summer. I'd been there for three years and was just DONE. Then I switched jobs, and found myself VERY broke for a few months.

This year, I'm in a much better job, with a MUCH lighter work schedule. I've since re-discovered my old hobbies (crafting, sewing, embroidery, etc.) My financial status is pretty stable, even if I'm not exactly flush. I've joined a gym and can now go swimming any time I want. :D Liam and I are doing great. It's now been a total of 4.5 years (WOW!) and we've actually lived in the same country for the last 1.5 years, lol. We have our squabbles, but overall things are pretty smooth. I'm eating better (or trying to, at least!) and getting more exercise. I'm going up to Ishinomaki with my friends when I can, doing volunteer work that makes me feel like I'm actually being useful as a human, for once.

So, if I can just try to not let the heat and humidity get to me, I'll hopefully avoid a repeat of last summer. I live in JAPAN, for Pete's sake! I should be enjoying it more than I have been recently.

So, がんばります。

I'd also like to exhume my journal from the dead. Post more often. More pics and stories from Japan. Maybe something about my misadventures in cooking. Maybe about my rediscovered crafting hobbies? So tell me, how would you feel if I sometimes posted about my crafting or cooking? Not all the time, not every day, not even every week. I don't have the time or motivation to craft THAT prolifically, ha ha. Hopefully, posting that stuff occasionally wouldn't bore you all to tears. What say ye?

Random bunch o' pics... )
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Day 2 of a 3-day weekend, hell yeah! Too bad my allergies made me spend most of yesterday in a drug-induced sleep...

Rainy season is here, and I am dreading the end of it. When it ends, the never-ending, soul-crushing Humidity of DOOM will arrive. Yaaaaadaaaa... And I will sweat profusely until November.

I'm pretty sure I have backwards SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder.) Sunshine and heat, and ESPECIALLY humidity make me sluggish, frustrated, unmotivated, pissed off, and overall depressed. Last summer was AWFUL. This summer will probably be even worse, with everyone trying to conserve energy and refusing to turn on the AC. Even today was bad. I wanted to have a nice, leisurely look around the stores and shop for some things I desperately need (leggings, flip-flops, and other summer clothes) but ended up just grabbing whatever I found in my size as quickly as possible. Trying on clothes when you're sticky and sweaty both sucks AND blows.

I don't even think they are using the AC at my gym yet. It's getting ridiculous. It's a fucking GYM, come on! People are working out, for Pete's sake. So the whole place is one big sweaty, humid, B.O. bomb, and I literally drip sweat when I'm working out. So nasty.

So yeah, there's my rant about summer. I fucking hate it. One of these days, I will move to Hokkaido, so I won't have to sweat any more.

I'll leave you with this picture of something I saw in Don Quijote tonight... fake goatees and mustaches for men. LOL. They were in the beauty section, next to the mascara and nail polish... Ohhhhh, Japan!

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During my first trip to Tohoku with the tsunami-relief group, we drove into the coastal town of Onagawa. After working in Ishinomaki all day, seeing the destruction there, I wondered how it could possibly get any worse. Needless to say, it did.

Onagawa is a city nestled in a kind of valley, in an inlet on the coast. (Forgive me if I'm getting my earth science terms wrong, ha ha.) Because of the way the mountains sit, the tsunami hit the city even harder than most other places. I'd say the water was 6 to 8 stories high.

The word that comes to mind when walking around Onagawa now is "Necropolis." Complete and utter destruction. No one lives there any more. There is nothing our group can do to help. All that can be done is to dynamite what is left, and rebuild anew. IF anyone even wants to rebuild.

Because of the location's geography, the water was condensed in a rather small area. As we drove through, everything looked perfectly normal at first. Then we rounded a corner, and there was just... nothing. Nothing but twisted metal and busted concrete. 4-story concrete apartment buildings had been pushed over, their foundations still attached. All that was left of homes were a few floor tiles which managed to hang on.

There is a hospital on a high hill. I'd say the hill was about 5 stories high. This was supposed to the the town's evacuation spot during a tsunami warning. However, the water came in so fast and so high that even this spot wasn't safe. The first floor of the hospital was washed out. Only people who lived on, or ran to, even higher ground survived. I stood in the parking lot of that hospital, looking out on the lovely, calm sea, and wondering how in the hell that beautiful water could do what it did.

It was the worst thing I have ever seen in my life, but, though it sounds strange, I'm glad I had the chance to see it. It was mind-blowing, perception-altering, and well... cliche as this sounds, it was life-changing. I truly appreciate everything and everyone in my life now. Don't sweat the small stuff, guys. Take care of your loved ones while you can.

Pics of Onagawa this way. )
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Golden Week! Yatta! 7 days off. :D Today I've been giving my apartment a well-needed cleaning.

Last Sunday, I went to Ishinomaki, a coastal town hit by the tsunami, to do what little I could to help clean up. It was a horrifying, amazing, perception-altering trip. I wrote about it on Facebook, and posted two albums of pics. One of Ishinomaki, and one of a town called Onagawa, which was hit much worse. Here is a copy of my Facebook post. I'll try to get some pics up here when I can. There are tons, so it may take a while. Feel free to friend me on Facebook if you haven't already. I post all my pics there nowadays. I don't really post personal stuff on lj that much anymore. Just use it for the communities, and for stalking all of you, muah ha HA!

Tsunami cleanup story here. )
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Life is pretty much back to normal after the big earthquake. I'm lucky to live in a safe area. Today was the start of my first full week back at work.

Short, sweet, kinda boring. No warnings.

Photobucket





Come on down... )
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I'm sure most of you have heard about the big earthquake we had here in Japan today. Yes, I'm okay. Yes, I most certainly DID feel it. Still am, 12 hours later.

I got up early this morning and took a train to Isesaki, about 25 minutes away, for a staff meeting. After taking the train home a few hours later, I had the whole afternoon to kill before the single class I was scheduled to teach tonight. A one-hour junior high lesson, which would involve me taking the train one stop from Ota. Whoo-hoo! Easy day, then the following three days off.

So I get home after the meeting, put on my comfy pajama bottoms, make some lunch, and settle in to watch a movie (the Kenneth Branagh production of Much Ado About Nothing, if you are curious.) Eating, chilling, hey nonny nonny-ing, when the floor starts trembling slightly. Meh, earthquake, whatevs. Happens all the time. Keep on ogling Denzel Washington as he recites Shakespeare (siiigh!)... and the floor keeps trembling. Weird, earthquakes don't usually last this long... whoa, hold up, why are things actually SHAKING? Why are my neighbors screaming? HOLY SHIT. Did my picture just fall off the wall? I jumped up and got the fuck out. Ran out into the cold in my pjs and socks. No shoes. No coat. Nothing in hand but my cell phone. The shaking intensified more and more. The family next door was on their knees in their gravel yard, clutching their baby and crying. I could see and hear my apartment building swaying and creaking. Little bits of plaster started falling from buildings. All the bikes parked under the garage fell over. Everything was wobbling; the buildings, the light poles, even the road. I crazily thought of old rap videos when I saw cars bouncing on their wheels. Dogs and cats were going apeshit. I screamed, then stated crying. Then screamed again.

I stood in the middle of the street, figuring that was safer than being near any tall buildings. Tried to call, then text, Liam. Couldn't get through either way. Not wanting to go back inside my apartment, and not knowing where else to go, I walked to my former office (five minutes away) and checked on them. They were okay, but some big cracks had appeared in the building, and the ground below was littered with bits of plaster and brick that had dislodged in the quake. They told me that the power was out in Oizumi, where Liam was working.

I was so disoriented. I walked back home, went back inside. As soon as I was in, another tremor hit, nearly as big as the first. Back outside... A postman pulled up on his scooter while I was waiting, and went right on delivering mail like normal. While he was up on the second floor of my building, a third tremor happened... he was just totally calm, like it was no big deal. I told him to be careful as he scootered off. Rain, sleet, snow, hail, MASSIVE EFFING EARTHQUAKE... nothing can stop the Japanese mail! Heh.

At this point, I wasn't sure if I should even try to go into work later. We'd just had a meeting where they harped on about how we can never, ever, ever be late, except for "unpreventable" things. Was a huge fucking earthquake enough to warrant a cancelled lesson? Phones were down, so I couldn't get through to my office. I decided I'd try and at least get to the school if I could, and worry about getting home later.

So I went back inside, put on real clothes, and threw my family photos, my few pieces of real jewelry (all given to me by Liam,) and my Snuggle bear in my bag, along with my lesson plans (just in case) and my computer/internet hookup.

At the train station, guards were standing by the entrance, not letting anyone go through. There was a sign with a lot of Japanese I couldn't read, and a guy on the intercom whom I could tell was saying the trains were stopped due to the earthquake. No taxis were outside. People were still standing in the streets, not wanting to go back into their offices and homes. So I decided to just hang out at my old office, where I could at least be around people who spoke English should anything even worse happen.

Luckily, my internet was working fine. I got in touch with Liam, then e-mailed both our mothers to let them know we were safe. Got e-mails from my manager and from head office, saying that all lessons were cancelled and that they were in the midst of trying to contact everyone. The TV was showing BBC footage of the tsunami and quake. My god. That tsunami... it was like a kid playing with Legos in the bath. Effing HOUSES were just swept away.

A guy from my job training group was placed in Sendai, where the tsunami hit. I have yet to hear from him. No idea if he is okay. I'm not sure how close to the coast he lives.

After navigating roads with no street lights or signals, Liam returned from work. I just threw myself at him. Never in my life have I been happier to see him, nor felt so alone as I did when the big quake hit.

It is now 12 hours after the big quake, and we are still getting aftershock tremors every ten minutes or so. Many of them are strong enough to make my dishes rattle. I know it is silly of me, but I begged Liam to sleep over at mine tonight, even though he has to be up super early for work. He is up in the loft, happily snoring away. I have been up since 8 a.m. (and got only three hours sleep the night before) and just. can't. sleep. Every time I doze off, the building shakes again. I can't get the picture of swaying buildings, and the family next door huddled together crying, out of my mind. We weren't the worst hit by any means, but myyyyyy god, it was scary. I have tons of damage control to do tomorrow. Lots of stuff fell off the walls and shelves. I will be picking up my collection of minatures for days.

And seriously, the ground will not stop shaking.

Anyway, I'm okay, just very shaken up. Sorry for rambling. Just wanted to get this all out.
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I love pretty much everything about Southern holiday food. But I guess my all-time favorite would be the macaroni pie. It's not really a holiday dish, as we ate it pretty regularly when I was growing up, but it WAS always served at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

I also LOVE AND ADORE those canned Hostess hams! LOL. That was the Christmas and Easter tradition at my house. Ha ha. Serve it with mashed taters, macaroni pie, pole-beans cooked with hamhocks, and of course, my Granny's CORNBREAD. Sweet tea to drink. Ooooh, and of course, collard greens and black-eyed peas for New Year!!! OMFG... collard greeeeeens... *drool*

Things I don't like would be anything made with Jell-o, Watergate salad (I think it's sometimes called Ambrosia?) and pecan pie. And ewww, eggnog. *gag*

I'm honestly not too fond of many of the traditional British Christmas food, especially the sweet stuff. I was lucky enough to spend Christmas 2006 with Liam's family. His mother is an AMAAAAAAZING cook. The dinner was ridiculously delicious. But the desserts... ha ha. "Christmas pudding," which is basically a brandy-soaked brick of fruitcake, served drowned in heavy cream. Ugh... I'm not really a fan of cream with cake or pie, to be honest. The first time I was asked, "Would you like cream with your cake?" in England, I assumed they meant whipped cream, and said yes. I was really confused when I was served what appeard to be cake-soup.

Mince-meat pies would be the other British thing I don't like. Liam got a big care package containing both from his parents this year, and he is soooo excited, LOL. Me, I'd rather have a big slice of my Granny's cornbread.

I once went to a Christmas party hosted by a Swedish girl, and she served something called Glogg. (sp?) It was warm red wine, mixed with spices. Dunno if it's a holiday thing, but DAMN it was yummy.

This is my fourth Christmas in Japan. It really has become just another day to me. I'm not religious, so that aspect of it doesn't mean anything to me. I've been away from home for so many Christmases now, it doesn't even phase me. No matter how much Japan tries to be Christmassy, it just seems awkward and weird. (What's up with them celebrating a Christian holiday, anyway? It just seems weird to me. Yeah, there are some Christians here, but most of the population isn't. It would be like if the US suddenly decided that Tanabata or Obon was really cool, and tried to celebrate it. LOL.) This is the first year in ages I haven't had to work on Christmas day. I'm pretty sure it's gonna be just another day for me. Though I WILL be thinking jealously of my family, and all the good food they'll be eating...
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