Wednesday, August 31, 2005

one of those...

one of those stupid foriegners who says 'hi' to every white person they see.

it's funny to me that despite choosing to live abroad we all gravitate to each other. part of it is the language, of course, but also the cultural humor is very different. it's about everything being a little too small.

but all that said, it's much easier to live in Tokyo (proper and greater) than in Beppu. There's more English on the signs. More English news. More likely that the shop clerk can help you in English ect. More foriegn food. But more than that, you don't get stared at as much. Kids aren't fascinated by you and your blue eyes and blond hair. So really, I think I stare more at the other foriegners than the Japanese people do.

so, despite trying not to, I seem to instantly judge people. not as good or bad, per se, but as worthy of a follow-up call or not. so there is another E. teacher in my apartment complex. met him at the super market, walked home and chatted but... not particulary excited to follow up.

Met an assie at the supermarket (open 24 hours and right by the train station... its the happenign place to be at 11 pm) and more intrigued. why? don't know. maybe reminded me me of friends back 'home'

I don't really talk to strange Japanese people, ever. I feel bad that my Japanese is so horrible and I don't want to trouble them to speak English... and in Am. I don't really speak to strangers that much (canvassing non-withstanding) and yet, I am one of those foreigners who will pick another whitie out of a crowd and say 'hi.'

top questions on first meeting another whitie are:
name (usually just first)
are you teaching -- if yes, with whom and/or where
where are you living (answered with the name of the closest train station)
how long have you been here
do you speak any Japanese (usually no, even if they've been here for years)
where are you from

and the million, 5.4 katrillion dollar question
why'd ya come here???

August is the month in which:

In which I come to Japan with shiny eager eyes but a fear that I won't find it to be home.

In which I begin to teach and find I like it.

In which I have many adventures that involve getting lost and eating strange things.

In which I learn to be on time (mostly) and start to enjoy taking the train.

In which I visit the Joypolis with my Japanese freind that was best friend and neighbor when I was on exchange eight years ago.

In which I start to feel like I'm settling in.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

past bed time

but a good day, for sure.

all on my own in KM. first private lesson... somewhat of a mess because the person I prepared for didn't show but someone else did. so I talked to her, instead.

kids running around like banshees. what is it? ba ba ba banshee!!!!!!

went out after work and got a big fat burger..... tastes so good but sits so heavy in the stomach. but it's good to go out with the teachers and manager. I really like them all and they are really helping me out.

explaing paperwork, and my mail, and the rules, and sheltering me from interviews with prospective students, and helping me call or fax the other school or head office... ect ect ect

it's a warm fuzzy feeling

Monday, August 29, 2005


I went sight-seeing on Sunday with Mick (I'm not really sure what to call him. He was one of my best friends when I was an exchange student in 97/98. I called him Mit-chan in high school, but he signs his emails 'mick' ---so if you're reading this, please tell me. what should I call you?)

We went to an island in Tokyo bay which has a big building called "JoyPolis"

What do you think? I think it sounds either like Joy Police or some sort of porno factory... please, every one who reads this should comment. I love reading the comments and I'm sure you have an opinion about this one. Would you visit a JoyPolis? I'm thinking foreign strippers in Japanese school girl outfits dancing. but maybe its just an arcade.... pachinko (Japanese slot machines) like crazy. both? maybe some little kid version thereof???

On this island there was also the statue of liberty. a miniature one, maybe only 50 feet high. also given by France, according to Mick. I should have asked the date; I'm wondering if it was supposed to be some statement that the US doesn't get the only one because we are a bunch of war mongering assholes and so the French give Statues of Liberty to all sorts of other countries.... maybe my imagination is overtaking my sensibility.

We also went to Shibuku, famous for lots of foreigners and shopping. I got a book of maps!!!! finally. with tables of subway maps. lots of people watching and walked through a pretty park and saw a shrine that was under police watch because it is also a memorial to soldiers who died in wars between Japan and Korea and China. so there are sometimes protests if the prime minister goes... or so I understood.

but it was really really great to spend the day talking with an old friend and feeling like...
feeling like I don't have re-invent the wheel.
feeling like I don't give up my friends every time I move
feeling like I don't have to be a new person all the time
like I can be a good person with a past
like I can be a happy person with a past
like I can both come from somewhere and go somewhere at once
like I don't have to abandon everything to keep moving and growing
like I can gather moss and keep rolling

and right now, that's the hardest part of life is figuring out who I am and what I want to be in this Japanese society.

where wearing a suit and makeup everyday is not a contradiction to my personality (ok, its true that I was happy when I found out I didn't have to wear heals to the childrens' school)

where fitting in is good too

where I can figure out how to have only 1 or 2 drinks

where I can have my own space and both love it and miss the tresspasses of cats/roomates/boyfriends on my space/time/energy

where I'm illiterate and out of control and trying to be calm
(I mean, so what if I miss the last train and need to wander around till the first 5am train.... is that sooooooo bad? so what if I buy something that I don't like because I can't read the ingredients? so what if I need to ask for help because I can't read my mail??? it's hard for me, but it's good)

where on time means late. where 20 min early means lazy. where one hour early for class is considered normal. where 2 min late is completely unacceptable (imagine that Darimont lab folk!! no wonder everyone's going crazy)

it's hard, on a fundamental level. but I think it's really good too. If I can create a home in Tokyo, I think I can go anywhere. If I can find myself, when I'm surrounded by such contradiction and confusion, I'll be a stronger, more grounded person. If I can figure out where I stand, I'll know what I need to do next.

and I think that's the answer to the million dollar question...."so why did you give up grad school to teach in Japan?"

clarification on relaxing

everyone here is very suspicious if you don't go out and drink with them (on Sat.) though, drinking is a euphamism for hanging out... you could nurse half a drink all night and probably still be cool enough. but it's kinda weird if you don't go out.

so I've gone back to being a guintonicu girl (gin and tonic, right?) -- which began on my 17th birthday in Japan. but it's easy to order and I like the taste of pine-needles.

you have to be careful about bringing enough money because no one uses cards, just cash and after a couple of hours of ordering drinks and food usually people split the bill in equal parts. and since there is never any tipping the bill is divided exactly. $21 each, for example.

but it feels good to socialize with my students and collegues. it makes me feel like I can have a sucessfull life here--not just with lesson planing or not getting lost but also fitting into a group. I like my fellow teachers, they are friendly and seem to have a good sense of humor. At the KM school (formally called Chiba or Kaihin Makuharu) there are two other NETs (Native English Teachers), Kevin is from Illinois and Angela is from Toronto. There are two JETs (Japanese English Teachers) Kantaro lived in Kentuky for a couple of years and Yoshi lived in Austrilia for (maybe)3 years and they are a lot of fun too. My manager is from Oita!!! small world (Oita is the city right by Beppu, where I did my exchange) She's very nice and cool. Her English is pretty good and I think I can eventually get her to give me some real critique--she won't tell me anything bad yet, other than that my students think I'm nervous. true, of course.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

too tired

first day 100% on my own. 315 min of lessons. went well. maybe not great, but well.

to practice disagreeing with opinions did a roleplay with an inventor pitching an idea to a hesitant boss. My student invented a little crab to be the perfect pet... and smell like lavender.

practicing free v flee

getting through 2 solid hours with 4 adults talking about Japanese and American culture. including Japanese weddings, holidays invented by shopping centers--like valentines day, learning that a zipper is prounced 'fastener' in Japanese, hearing from teh Manager that this class would like to go out with me to relax

and now sleeping
tomorrow, more adventures

Friday, August 26, 2005

what piss???

I had to try it eventually. Not so bad, really. the 'cal' is for calcium, as is the milky color... aparently the 'pis' just sounded good to some rep at the time. too bad they didn't have an English consultant.

I try and get something different everyday. yesterday it's "calpis" today it's "c.c. lemon"

but now back to prep for classes. Saturdays are the busiest.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


yeah, if getting lost everyday and not speaking the language wasn't enough of a challenge... now we get a little taifu! (or typhoon, as you weird people like to say)

It's pouring outside and will continue for the next couple of days, or so I'm told. Theoretically, class could be canceled, but apparently that's super unlikely. But maybe none of my little little kids tomorrow will brave the storm.

tomorrow, my first class is kids between the ages of 18months and 2 years!! they can't even speak Japanese and I'm teaching them O O O Octopus. O O O Otter.

This is the youngest class offered but apparently there is demand for even younger classes. We turn down parents with kids that are 15 month, for example. I'm sorry, you have to WAIT until your child is 18months before we will teach them. I'm sorry but 18 months is the youngest.

I know the parents mean well. They're paying about $50 and hour (45 min classes) for me to teach these little munckins. They want there kids to get a jump on... their classmates ...academic life ....??? but I find it kinda scary that they are so ambitious for their kids. These kids definitely have other classes too. English class may be on Tuesdays but they probably have piano or swimming or tennis or cram school or ...... on Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Mon

I'm told that parents of 8 year olds will come in and be very worried that it's too late for their kids to start. They are afraid that at EIGHT YEARS OLD their kid has missed the boat.

and I just keep thinking how my dear mother held me back from kindergarden so that I could play in the dirt one more year.

love you mom!!!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

a bit more like home

yep. my place is a mess. I'm trying to keep it under control but it's hard because it is so small and because you can only take out certain types of trash on different days. But it's all good.

I got my first junk mail today!!! Check it out!

and it's way past my bed time....

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

and off to work I go....

In case you were curious, here's what part of the train map looks like. To go to the Chiba (from here on out called Kaihan Makura) school, I follow the yellow line 6 stops to the right and then get off and take a bus for another 15 minutes. The Shinonome commute is more difficult and on another map.

wouldn't it be great if I wasn't illiterate.....

Monday, August 22, 2005

I may have eaten raw horse…

I’m getting the feeling that one of the things they must look for in the interviews is an ability to be happy even when you are not in control of your immediate destiny.

I find it funny that in the past I’ve had problems being content and out of control at the same time, but here I’m doing just fine. I still don’t like it. I don’t like being taken care of because I’m helpless, but think I’m dealing with it well.

OK, so Friday I arrive, Saturday I work. Saturday night everyone goes out to dinner both for a “Goodbye to Marco” and “Welcome Kori” dinner. Excellent. For some small stroke of luck/ miracle I’m not particularly jet lagged or tired. So dinner with teachers and students sounds good. It’s yaki niku. Someone else orders for the table. It’s interactive dinning where you roast one little piece at a time, kinda like fondue crossed with barbeque. It’s delicious.

check out this yakiniku link:

Afterwards most people were going to a ‘dance bar.’ I would have liked to go but I was worried about catching the last train home. So Marco and three or four of the students whip out their cell phones to check the train schedules and start discussing how to get me home. It’s decided that one of my students (my age, I don’t remember his name…) will drive me to a intermediate station. I can get home on my own from there. OK

Sure enough, I get to my station with out any trouble. and now the adventure… I can’t quite remember how to get from the station (Shinkoiwa, if anyone’s curious) to my apartment. I know it’s about a fifteen minute walk and I’m still in my working heels. But that’s OK. I have a good idea how to get there. … I think.

Now, I only arrived yesterday, so I only walked from the station to my apartment once before. Unfortunately for me, I got lost on the way to the station in the morning, so my frame of reference is limited. But that’s OK, I can do this.

I shift my backpack, stand up straight and think to myself, “I’m a fucking rockstar, I can do this.”

So, I start walking down what I think might be my street. The streets don’t have easily identifiable names or signs, so what I think may be my street is based on a reference to the station and major buildings… I see things like a dry cleaners or a convenience store and keep trying to comfort myself that they look familiar. Sure, there may be a dry cleaning shop every two blocks on any street, but I want to believe. It’s now after midnight so most of the trains have stopped running. This means that there are groups of drunken Japanese men walking home. and while there is no hope of me ever ‘blending in’ my heals clunking down the street aren’t helping. I remind myself that Japan is a very crime-free country.

As much as I may try and deceive myself, I am not on my street. Things are looking hopelessly unfamiliar… so my choices are turn around or try to cut across to another street. Against my better judgment, I cut over to the next street. I think I’m going in the right direction… maybe.

clunk clunk clunk. my feet hurt. I’ve been in heels all day and this little trek isn’t a happy thing for my feet. I have a pair of flat dressy shoes in my backpack. I want to stop to change my shoes but I don’t want to draw any more attention to myself.

I turn again, still walking away from the station, on a parallel street to the one I started on. Something’s got to look familiar soon right…. It’s now 12:30am.

I find the edge of a park. I’m so lost and tired and hungry. But, I will not give up (and then what?). I change my shoes, which helps a little but not much. Fine. I’ll go back to the station and see if I can get a better bearing on things….

So I head back, nothing looks familiar this direction either. I get back to the station no problem. Thank god for a mild sense of direction!! Cavassing and field managing was good for something!

OK, back at the station (12:45). I can find my way from here…. But nothing looks familiar anymore. Every street looks wrong. I’m trying not to panic. So, I come to a brilliant plan. I’ll take a cab home. Sure, they’re expensive but I’d give my first born child to be home and collapsed in my bed. OK. OK. I can do this. I need to remember some Japanese for this…. but OK. So I take out my papers with my address written on it and ask the cab driver if he knows where it is.

He says he can’t help me.

OK. OK. OK. OK. It’s OK. It’s 1AM but I can do this. I’m a fucking rockstar, right? So, I start wandering around again, looking for a familiar sight… I can’t find one. I consider calling Marco but he lives somewhere probably far away; doesn’t know where I live; can’t get to me; is probably drunk. I have to figure this out….by myself.

So I decide to ask another cab driver, maybe the next one will be smarter. On the way to the line of waiting cabs, I see a map. a map!! I can read maps… sorta. So, I’m standing staring at the map. I’m scowling and trying to calm myself down so that I can think straight. I keep looking down at my written address and back at the map. WTF!!! I see a 38 on my paper and a 38 on the map… could be the same. I’m trying to memorize the map enough that I can start trekking out again. Dear god my feet hurt, but I have to keep moving.

And then, a strange Japanese man walks up and asks if I need help—in English.

I consider: No (he could be an ax murder, right?) Yes (the desperate truth).
I smile real purdy and say ‘yes.”

He looks at my address and then the map and back and forth a few times. He suggests that we ask the police men, as they have a box right across the street. He asks the police men and they bring out books of maps to explain how to get there. After much discussion (of which I maybe followed 15%), he says he knows how to get there and we start walking.

Before long things look familiar, I think…. we make small talk. he studied in America once ect ect. He says people were very nice to him in America, but I can’t think of anyone so nice as to go 15 minutes (30 round trip) out of their way for a stanger after 1AM on a Saturday night. I owe some serious Karma.

Sure enough I see my apartment building! I thank this stranger profusely and disappear upstairs. Within 10 minutes I’m fast asleep, nasty shoes discarded by my locked door.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

apt pics and address correction

The welcome mat that greated me...

I live in "Leo Palace" (though 'leo place' may be more accruate) and my apartment is #205 NOT 202.
Also, if you wanted to send me a package you can send it to my Chiba school but keep in mind I have a 30 minute train ride home with 2 or 3 transfers, so please don't send any large animals, cactuses, or anything really hard to carry. (my other school (Shinonome School in Tokyo) is an hour train ride with 3-5 transfers...)

more updates on life soon. here are some pics of my 'Palace'
***my kitchen (the size of a medium sized American closet--one burner, no oven, tiny fridge that I haven't gotten to work yet...)
***my main living /sleeping /dining /studying /working room. I also have a loft but it is too hot to spend much time in right now.

and I have air conditioning!!! thank god! I didn't get home till after 1am last night (story to come) and it was probably still 80 F and 80+% humidity.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

saying goodbye

These are some of my cousins. I'm smack in the middle of the ages, Holly (in red) and Elena (in black) are 8 or 9 years older than I and Colin is just about to start college.

and I still haven't figured out how to say goodbye. In some ways I feel like I'm embarking on a new life and even when I come back to visit I'll be a wiser grown-up version of my current self. In which case, I want to say goodbye with dramatic gestures and tearing eyes. On the other hand, I will probably come back to visit around Christmas time. That's only 4 months away and I probably wouldn't have visited any sooner than if I was in Cali or Wisc. So, in that case I mean more of a "ja--mata" than a "sigh-a-nora."

In the same way, I alternately feel terrified (like when I realized that I can't read the name of the neighborhood I'm living in so that I can't follow signs home--that'll be my first, of a couple hundred, question to my trainer who's picking me up at the airport), and also very nan-shalant (I'm not even attempting spelling this late/early). Part of me feels like... not that'll it'll feel like home, by any means but...

When I left Japan, I remember driving with my family to the train station and my host mother made one of the only nice comments of my year stay (though it did sound a little forced). She said that when I come back to Japan it will be using the word "kaeru" and not "kuru" or "iku." the difference, my English speaking friends ask? "Kuru" means come, "iku" means go, very simple. but "kaeru" means "return home." we don't have a single equivalent word. It was probably the nicest thing she ever said to me.

So while I was in the States and planning this move to Japan, Paul was reading "Another Roadside Attraction" to me, out loud. and one of the main characters says that wherever he travels he is "always voyaging back to the source."

really, the more I think about it the less I know what the hell it means. but it appeals to my sensibilities and belief that if I try hard enough I can make any place feel like home.

and if I can make Tokyo home, I can go anywhere. I can make anywhere home.
and if I can make Tokyo home, I shouldn't be afraid right?????

Monday, August 15, 2005

missing my kitty...

There's nothing like a little warm furball curled up on your head, trying to suffocate you in the middle of the night...

I've been playing with Kitty and Jim's kitties and they are sweet things. It amazes me sometimes (and not at all in other times) that animals have so many different personalities.

I miss my Goobercat: the fearless gubix cube...

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Pertinent information

[edit: pertinent information is no longer accurate and I'm scared of stalkers, so it's been removed. sorry]

After 100 pages or workbooks and four days of training up in Vancouver BC, I'm now qualified to teach English Conversation at on of the most expensive schools in Japan!!! Wooo hooo!!!!

I arrive on the 18th of August. The adventure begins.

Here are some much awaited addresses:

my apartment:
Kori Beyer
Shinkoiwa Katsushika-ku
Tokyo, Japan

my school:
Kori Beyer

Kaihin Makuhari

Chiba 261-0023

or my other school:
Kori Beyer,
Shinonome Shopping Center 2F


I'll keep you posted on the best place to send any packages. probably to my Chiba school, but I'm not sure