Tuesday, January 31, 2006

when do I get to be grown up yet?

wow, I can pay the heating bill AND my student loans in one month? in the winter?

impossible.

I feel like an adult.

and I would have taken a picture of the gas bill that arrive today all written in Japanese with extra bar codes and stuff, except that I haven't bought new batteries for my camera and I don't know how to replace the main light that illumnates my apartment....

ok, so the adult thing is coming slowly.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

on NOT winning, and bloggies

It's true. I can't claim that I'm not a competetive person with a straight face. Or at least not with out a cold cold gleam in my eye.

I play card games with my kids and I laugh at the 5 year olds when they lose.
When my students make too many special annoying requests, I make the class too hard on purpose.
I resent the substitute teacher who didn't keep MY paperwork in it's anal retentive perfectionistic compulsive state.
I enjoy group therapy because it makes me feel superiour to the other crazies.

Deep down I have a very cold mean streak that wants to be better than everyone else. To feel better about this major personality flaw, I tell myself that everyone has a mean streak. But since mine is way better, the justification doesn't really console me. funny that.

So I found out today that, like the Grammies and Emmies, there are "Bloggies." Its a yearly competition where they find the best of the best. Currently there is voting. Check it out at http://2006.bloggies.com/ , if you like.

Now I know that my blog isn't SO special. My pictures are low quality. My writing is hit and miss. My topics aren't so unique. But then I checked out the finalists for "Best Asian Weblog." I'd seen "Tokyo Girl" before and been amused but it wasn't so good that I check back with her and her daily trials. And I looked at teh others too... my blog is way better. I rock so much more.

Now, if "http://www.myprivatetokyo.com/fotoblog/index.php" was one of the top five, I wouldn't feel so bad. I think his pictures and site is awesome (and not just because he has some stunning nudes). But no! What kinda cracked up competition is this!

So now I will go back to being a kind and caring teacher, friend, and expat. I will smile at the old ladies and offer my seat to them on the train. I'll say "Hello!" five katrillion times a day to the muchkins like I mean it. I will return to the lovely and patient person that you once knew.

This was just a blip in reality.

and I did have to check out the finalists in the other categories and a lot of them are pretty cool. These are my picks
Austrillian/New Zeland: http://www.bencruachan.org/blog/
African/Middle Eastern: http://sleeplessinsudan.blogspot.com
European: http://unkemptwomen.blogspot.com/
British/Irish: http://girlwithaonetrackmind.blogspot.com
Latin America: http://sapodilla.blogspot.com/
(partially because I can't read the ones in Spanish)
I'll finsih the list later. need a break from the computer screen. Postsecret.blogspot.com is nominated a bunch of times and I'm sure I'll end up voting for them a bunch too. This week is especially good.

knitting update



OK, OK. so this may be super boring for some of you. but for the other knitting enthusiasts, I'll give a little update on the progress of my huge knots.

1. My scarf is done! Akemi asked me who I was going to give it to and I laughed and told her I'm keeping it for myself, of course.
It was good practice and turned out alright. I added a bit of dark red to off set the massive grayness. It's kinda funky and nice. I practiced all sorts of patterns I'm interested in attempting in the future. Good fun, and it's really warm too.










and now I've started on a hat too. It will be a magic hat that will protect me from sickness(literally) and cold feet(figuratively). I'm not quite sure how you knit magic into a hat... but I'm giving it a shot. That's why I have two types of yarn. for the magic. at the very least it'll be warm and will hopefully have earflaps too!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

paying in snot

despite the vitamins, the alcohol hand wipes, the hand washing, the prayers,

I've gotten sick again (and this week we learn about passive voice and how we like to use it to avoid assigning blame. eg. it's not MY fault that I got sick)

in a post below there are pics of a beautiful snowy Saturday morning but that was just the start of it.

Saturdays are busy and I taught and talked and listened like crazy all day. Many students were late or canceled because of the snow but I was still busy busy. topics included: making hotel reservations, "It's a giraffe in English!" sumarrizing and talking aobut resturants, the recent sucess and optimism over Japan's economy, and a good long group discussion of friendships.

so at 9:30 Kevin, Yoshi, Akemi and I head out for food and drinks. we end up at a place that serves this awesome stew called "nabe." hot and good and soooo nice on a cold day. so good that we (Akemi has moved to an apartment on the same train line as me) missed the last train home. by a minute. figures.

so we figure we'll head the other direction into Chiba looking for relvery and entertainment. There's a strange club called Stage Two (seach the blog for it for more info) that we thought we'd head to. Yoshi headed home, claiming that he was too old (blah) so we were down to three rowdy partiers and a very cold night.

A short train ride and some friendly ribbing towards Yoshi and the three of us arrive at Chiba (Sparks is to Reno as Chiba is to Tokyo). as we pull our coats and scarves close and skid down the icy side walks in the direction we think is Stage 2 and we find



so we go in. spontaenity and relvery go hand in hand, right? plus it's really freakin' cold. and low and behold "K's Club" is kinda cool. There's the obligitory Japanese guy passed out in the corner. There's a 6ft by 4ft karaoke room for us. and there are darts. and! it's a cheap all night price. so we play darts for an hour. we sing like fools for a while. more darts (they are these electronic machines so the bars can trust the drunks with the darts.) the strange passed out Japanese guys begin to pile up in the lobby as we stumble back and forth to the bathroom. eventually we sing more and fall asleep in the karaoke room. fall asleep being a euphemism for pass out, I suppose. but whatever. it's warm. the manager wakes us up at 5am. we check for our belongings and stumble across the slick as snot sidewalks in the dark to catch the first train home.

we're groggy and our voices are evidence of a night of loud ungainly singing. We plop down on the train and huddle together like small children to keep warm. Kevin gets off first, after a groggy 10min or so. Akemi and I fall asleep, as is common for the first Sunday morning train riders, and wake up after her station but before mine. She switches trains, I head home.





But then I look up. The grogginess has worn off, in part because of the cold but also in part because the sky is so beautiful. Shinkoiwa is glowing in the morning light. The sky above is a chilly blue but along the horizon, zigzagging between the icicles and low powerlines a pink color is spreading. A color of embers and frost kissed cheeks is hugging the earth, cradling it from the cold sky and welcoming the early risers into a new day. I stumble and slip I am so transfixed with this beautiful color.





My favorite poetess professes that all men look like princes when they sleep.
In that same way, my little burg looks so full of youthful hope this morning. The cigarette butts are buried beneath the snow, the drunks have made their way home off the streets, the dirt is covered with ice glimmering in the rising sun. The windows are lit with the dawn. The steps of the inhabitants are careful and crisp. The sky smiles with warmth down on us. Our breath hangs in the air like an honest compliment. The tenderness of the dawn has won over the chill of the night. It feels great to be alive on such a morning.



Monday, January 23, 2006

so much to say: only pictures for you!



I can only hope these pics are worth enough words to last till I have more time to write.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

saturday morning snow


Even after staring gleefully out the window, soon after waking up Saturday morning, and walking through it to get to the subway, when the train sped from the depths under Tokyo out into the winter landscape, my smile glowed and a happy warmth spread inside me, as if to counteract the inch of snow on the ground. The other train passengers did not seem so impressed, despite the rarity of proper snow in Tokyo. There were three women sitting opposite me, I tried not to stare but they fascinated. Each was a solid description of Tokyo winter fashion but strikingly different.

Directly across from me sat a lady in her 50s or 60s. She wore a black gortex type puffy jacket, black tights, black shoes, a dark textured heavy long skirt and a dark brown fur vest over her jacket. Her hair was styled simply in the fashion of older women. She clutched her bag to her chest and as closed her eyes and began to drift to sleep, I nearly laughed out loud at the plentiful bright pale blue eye shadow. Otherwise drab and respectable she had the blue of a September pre dawn sky contrasting her dark browns and blacks. A memory of childhood was painted over her wrinkled eyes.

Next, in a semi-traditional winter kimono sat a woman in her thirties. Her hair was smoothed and pulled back. She did not glow with joy for the snow or whatever her destination may have been. She sat up straight, as a snug kimono forces you to do, her feet, in traditional open Japanese shoes and split socks were covered with plastic bags to protect against the snow. Her kimono was black and white checks and looked like wool. Her make up was simple and elegant. Her eyes wandered without focusing as she sat stiffly, embodying the fight to retain the grace and honor of traditional Japan against all reason and convenience.

Finally, a woman in her twenties in high fashion sat, glancing from the floor to the window, to the train map. She appeared eager for some small Saturday adventure. With high healed boots, a modest but cute knee-length skirt and a trendy jacket, I could only assume she was meeting a friend to go shopping. Her hair was dramatically layered and highlighted, her makeup was heavy but well crafted. She was maybe a student or an office worker. She probably still lived with her parents. It was Saturday and the snow was not going to prevent her from indulgence and consumerism with high fashion friends.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Direction

My apartment is a mess. I feel like I'm not completely unpacked. I still haven't figured out a good system to deal with the trash sorting. All sorts of things are spread out on the floor. I don't have a good place to hang my coat. My bike is STILL in its box in my 'kitchen.' I have laundry hanging up inside. By the look of it, my life would appear a mess.

but I am feeling great.

I tell myself that I should stop being so 'goal oriented' and be happier just hangin' in the moment, ect. but after this little job offer, my life has gained it's missing direction (even if it's short term). I feel like I have soemthing more concrete to work toward. and I'm really excited. and feel more stable and grounded than I have in a while. I feel like I have a plan.

this plan involves:
learning Japanese. including the reading and writing. not just the casual coversation stuff. all of it. I want to do it right. I want to take the same test I did when I was an exchange student next december. 3rd level JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) in December. It a plan. ambitious and exciting.

I'll have to move eventually. depending on what kind of work situation developes determines the location. but it's exciting looking at the neighborhoods and evaluating standard of living vs commute vs cost of living. also the possiblility of stealing some of my current students and where would be convient for them. so I'm thinking a lot and that's fun.

all in all, it's a good time. it's good to have a direction, even if it's only for the next year or two. it's a hell a lot better than before.

(also, this company is opening up an office in Boston and possibly in Europe soon. They have some really ambitious projects and therefore a great ride to jump on.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

opprotunity knocking

the excitement of tango was soon trumped this week by a tennative job offer from the biotech company I've been flirting with. I wouldn't change jobs until I finish my contract with Ye Ol' Eikaiwa (for a number of reasons) in August. But negociations are officially underway.

A JOB OFFER!

I'm so thrilled. and totally inspired to study Japanese more. I need both the speaking and the reading and writing now. I'm all a tingle.

more on these developments later, I have to run off to my proper job now.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Tango in Tokyo



yes! I went! and it was cool and the people were really good. I have never been to a milonga (dance) where EVERY- BODY was of such high calibar. everybody looked like they had been doing it for at least 2 years. technique was very good but musicality was not at the same level. still good, but not compared to the crazy footwork and moves.

I'm definitely going back too. not as bad to get there as I feared either. Kind of an unassuming building but they propped this little sign outside. and POOF! there was a tango scene.

there are classes almost every night of the week! amazing. I'm totally psyched.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

LaLa Port


LaLa Port is the reputed to be the largest mall in teh greater Tokyo Metropolitan area. Considering the 30million some people that call this metropolis home. I think the reputation as the biggest mall is therefore impressive. It's only four stories tall but stretches on and on. It's out in Funabashi (between Chiba and Tokyo proper) so the land is a little cheaper but it's still and impressive feat.




They made it all purdy with lights and palm trees too. There's a big theater with 5 screens or so at the top. They are playing "Memories of a Geisha" but have retitled it (a common phenomena) "Sayuri"

I didn't get much of a chance to explore, as it was after work for me and late for the rest of the world. It's deffinitely going to be worth a day trip... or three back. It's a good thing that I don't fit into anything Japanesed sized, it makes window shopping less painful and more fun.

Plus, it's called "La La Port" How can you go wrong with that?

Monday, January 09, 2006

theme song

The pictures are copied from the la puta site. I think they are the beautiful work of our talented Kat. Thanks Kat! sorry for stealing...
(for my family: left to right- Olivia, Tara/Mavelle, Michael/The Bard, me, Krys/Serena)

It's been a year of upheavals and big decisions and saying lot of goodbyes. there are a few songs that float through my brain as I try and figure out where home is and what I'm doing with my life. One, that I fell in love with this summer on my final SCA galavant, is Ramblin' Rover. There are lots of versions out there and I'm trying to find a good one but none compares with the way it is in my memory, with a chorus of friends and firelight and cloaks and good beer. plus I think Michael the Bard does a way better version than Silly Wizards or any of the other recordings I've found. does anyone have a good recorded version?

here's the words for those who don't know:


Chorus:
Oh, there're sober men in plenty,
And drunkards barely twenty,
There are men of over ninety
That have never yet kissed a girl.
But gie me a ramblin' rover,
And fae Orkney down to Dover.
We will roam the country over
And together we'll face the world.

There's many that feign enjoyment
From merciless employment,
Their ambition was this deployment
From the minute they left the school.
And they save and scrape and ponder
While the rest go out and squander,
See the world and rove and wander
And are happier as a rule.

I've roamed through all the nations
Ta'en delight in all creation,
And I've tried a wee sensation
Where the company, did prove kind.
And when partin' was no pleasure,
I've drunk another measure
To the good friends that were treasure
For they always are in our minds.

If you're bent wi' arth-i-ritis,
Your bowels have got colitis,
You've gallopin' with bollockitis
And you're thinkin' it's time you died,
If you been a man of action,
Though you're lying there in traction,
You will get some satisfaction
Thinkin', "Jesus, at least I tried."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

kaihin makuhari park





first of all: I now have hot water and have had two nice long hot showers.

but on to the adventures.

today was so beautiful. clear and just a little warmer than yesterday. it was so nice that I went back to chiba/kaihin makuhari to my school to get my old ratty tennis shoes that I forgot in my hurry to meet my students for drinks last night. for reasons that are beyond all logical reason, I never really explored or wandered around the area of my school before. on work days I was always too worried about my classes or my schedule and on weekends I never wanted to take an hour to get there. but it’s actually a really neat place. I’d heard about the outlet stores, which were swarmed with rabid shoppers. according to my students, rather than get a lot of Christmas presents most young adults just get a bunch of money from relatives and parents for New Years. They seemed intent to spend it all today. you know, while the sunshine lasted.

there’s also a nice big park, tucked between skyscrapers and filled with kids trying to fly kites, that leads down to the beach. there’s even sand on the beach. something the Japanese didn’t pave! it was really nice. there’s a big Japanese garden that was closed but, peaking through the cracks in the fence, it looks like the type of place I’ll definitely have to come back to.

to think that I worked just a few minutes away from all this and somehow didn’t look before! I’m so dumb sometimes. I find it too easy to find an awesome place and just go back, over and over again, rather than find new places. it’s a tendency that I fight already and have to keep fighting harder.

Friday, January 06, 2006

plumber?




some random pics. hopefully they'll inspire dan to make at least one small comment. I know these aren't great but I'll just have to post better ones in the future.


oh, yeah! that's a "Pick up cube" you're riding in baby




a funny day. my hot water still isn't working and I'm too cold to take a cold shower. aw well, they'll just have to deal with my funk some more. ha ha.

I suppose it was a good thing that I didn't have a single class today. totally weird. apparently Ye Ol' Eikaiwa head office didn't tell my kids school (shinonome-shnm) that I was coming back today. the managers were super surprised but also really happy. so I spend the day, all dressed up in my suit and makeup coloring phonics cards.

hopefully the right hot water guy will come tomorrow morn. the one today, after explaining the problem in Japanese (which I mostly got) added, in English, "I am a plumber" and then continued in Japanese that the meter was broken and he couldn't do anything for me. so somebody else will show up bright and early tomorrow.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

the 14 hour trip that took 31



these are the holiday lights outside the Kaihin Makuhari school (in the future abrv. KM or kaihin). aren't they festive?

ah time zones. ah jet lag. luckily I have a super weak circadian rythym and felt completely over the jet lag the next day. I slept most of the flight. I nearly slept though my gate call in LA to my connecting flight, but everything was ok. Not so surprisingly, the planes weren't full and I had lots of room to spread out and knit and relax and sleep and sleep.

other than the time change, adjustment is going well, I realized that one reason I love living in Japan is the tremendous sense of accomplishment for doing day to day things.

I set up my cell phone by myself. by speaking Japanese. I'm still proud of myself.

I left my bike at the airport overnight at a holding/storage place and decided to mail it to myself when I went back the next day. in Japanese.

I suppose I'm a sucker for inflating my own ego, but I'm having fun with it. I'm sure I'll get knocked down to size again real real soon.

well, today was a good knock down when I gave up and realized that I was giong to need the help of a native speaker to get my hot water turned on. that's right, it cold here and although my heater is in the olympic running, I don't even have slightly warm water. nada. but, I think the gas guy is coming tomorrow morning and will crank that goodness way up.

cross your fingers for me.

in other news, the first day of teaching went well. I really missed it. my students are awesome. my co-workers are awesome. and EFL students say the darndest things. one commented that the top ten New Year's resolutions only aplicable to the affluent. I think he was showing off his vocab but I cracked up laughing. I'm super lucky.

even if I'm coooold!

at least the heater works really well. and I have plenty of blankets.