Saturday, April 29, 2006

heading to south Korea!

I'm off to Korea for a week. I leave tomorrow May 1st and return May 8th. and then teach May 9th

I'll hike some mountains and oggle some of the biggest Buddas in the world.

I'll eat some awesome spicy food after spending the day outside in fresh air.

I'll see some beach and visit a mountain tea plantaion.

I'll meet my long lost friend Mark, who I haven't seen in 8 years.

I'll report back with pictures when I return (not taking my laptop)


Monday, April 24, 2006

off the hook (OR a well deserved day of rest) part 1

off the hook
adj 1. very good, excellent; COOL. Also many variations such as off the heezy, off the fa-sheezy, off the clock, etc. ("Yo man, that movie was off the hook!") Submitted by Zain Ali, San Ramon, CA, USA, 09-12-2002. 2. wild or crazy. ("I had to leave that party. It was off the hook!") 3. extremely upset. ("Yo, since you told all her business, she's been acting off the hook.") Submitted by Mr. Notaplayah, Washington, DC, USA, 23-02-1998.

I plan to do nothing today (other than laundry, ironing, designing a good travel mixed CD, and planning my week long trip to S. Korea) and it’s about time I did nothing all day.

so I just cancelled my extra English lesson with Mick’s aunt, Betty, claiming that I have a cold, which is only about 20% true but I’m so exhausted one more event would push my sniffles over the edge for sure.

however, since I went out with Mick yesterday, I’m afraid he will think I’m a bad person for lying. But I’m betting that he’ll understand, I know I was looking tired yesterday.

We met in Ikebukuro, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite sections of Tokyo. It’s not as highbrow as the shopping in Shibuya and not as extreme as the high rises and redlight district of Shinjuku. It feels much younger than the Nihombashi area and much less surreal than Akihabara… ect ect.

ha.ha. ha. Tokyo really is becoming my home.

So Mick (called Mi-chan or Mitsuhiro back in the day) was one of my best friends back in Beppu during my exchange. He was my neighbor and we did a piano(him)/flute(me) duet in front of a thousand high schoolers for the school festival. I credit him as my original Japanese teacher and I may have just given up on the whole exchange if he hadn’t been such a solid and understanding friend.

He lived in the States (Illinois) for a year in 2003 and came and visited me then. We saw the entire Northwest in six days. It was an epic trip that included Seattle (with Holly), Portland, Astoria (with my parents), Eugene, and Crater Lake (with real camp fire cooked hot dogs).

We mainly speak English now but I hope I’ll get less lazy soon and my Japanese will improve so that we can switch back and forth. But that depends on how tired I am.

Even our initial friendship was when we were only sixteen and really awkward silly kids, we still hit it off smashingly. Makes me feel like there’s a little continuity in life. Which is always a good thing. I think.

so we went out shopping/hung out. we went into some little shop with another extra helpful sales clerk. who went on and on in Japanese. I asked Mick if I understood her correctly.

So she says I look like a Russian girl on some TV show?


a ‘talent’ TV show?


so she’s saying I look like a model?

yeah. does that make you happy?


and then I proceeded to explain that the night before (Saturday) my new coworker laughed at me and said, “it’s a good thing you’re cute. you’re obviously not smart enough to get by”


I think this is the first time in my whole life that someone has said that I’m not smart. The novelty still hasn’t worn off.

so apparently, I’m looking cute recently. apparently.

I glance in the mirror to see what the jabberbox sales clerk is talking about. I think I look completely frayed.

before meeting Mick at 4 in Ikebukuro, I was talked into going into work for a couple of hours (Sunday’s my day off) in my kids’ school for a new student recruiting event. They rented a large bear costume

Geora is our usual mascot but Geora was busy

and made a sign that said come for a free mini-lesson and do the “Head and Shoulders” dance with Kori-sensei.

you know you wanna

for the record: the Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes dance is the worst dance for a hangover and I’d been out till…. 3am the night before (see below)

so I promised to come and do mini lessons and hang out with an oversized stuft animal looking person from 1-3pm. I was a good teacher and got there at noon-thirty. I made some props, I got some games together, I changed in to work clothes—luckily I had been warned that the head of advertising was coming to visit and video tape our shenanigans. I was so cool and professional and ready to act like the extra “genki” pre-school English teacher I am.

six model lessons and over 20 fresh kids later, I was out of breath, dizzy, sweaty and running on an endorphin high similar to what I used to get when I used to run.

the lesson goes something like this:
hello song/dance
Sunday/Monday song/dance
“Hello my name is Kori! What’s your name?!” repeat
ABC song
phonic game- hopscotch or bowling depending on age
pick up the cards,

“Lion, please.” Kori
“Here you are” small child
“Thank you!” Kori
“You’re welcome” small child
“Nice job!!/ Well done!!”
repeat until infinity or madness is secure

Head and Shoulders’ dance

target vocab: skirt/shorts/blouse/T-shirt
target grammar: Kim put your blouse on. Hippo put your shorts on.

(I didn’t make this stuff up. I just modified it from last weeks lesson. It seems vaguely inappropriate but I can barely tell anymore)

game that uses target. run and slam type style

and the Goodbye song

new batch comes in for new lesson.

so by the time I got out of there and made it to Ikebukuro my hair was all frizzled, my make up had melted and I found it funny funny that the sales girl thought I looked like a model.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

off the hook (OR a well deserved day of rest) part 2

I did not find it so funny when the new teacher, Daniel (Brithish/London), said he didn’t think I was very smart.

at least am I amusing?, I ask

hahahahaha. yeah. do your cowgirl voice again. tell me about the groundsquirrel princess massacre again.

(I tried really hard to find a picture of said princess )

but just found a bunch of bloody ground squirrel pictures that made me ever so vaguely nostogic. it’s in horrible taste but I had to include this winner with it’s caption:

Here is a close up of the ground squirrel. No sissy here, this is a "bull" ground squirrel for sure. I bet he didn't need any Viagra! There is the box of 223 Ackley Improved rounds.)

well, if I’m funny then I can’t be stupid. stupid people don’t tell good stories.

other than the fact that he’s a little mean when drunk, we’re hitting it off well. Kevin was really easy to get along with so I was worried about who would replace him, but I think it’ll work out fine. the guy sure does like to drink, though.

and we’re up to Saturday. back to “Jackass” the nicest looking “Sports and Dining” place I’ve ever been too. Daniel, myself, Kantaro, and the manager Junko rounded off our week of work.

my new favorite drink (thank you Junko, you are entirely to blame) is TanTakaTan sochu.

This is Junko and Daniel. We are a fair number of TanTakaTan's into the night, and things are getting swell and sweller (swellest?) by the second.

This has only covered Sunday and Saturday. I'm not even back to Thursday when the entertainment centered around this man who called himself "Richard"

Richard is fed noodles. opps. we missed.

but I must stop writing and get some of my life (or at least laundry) sorted. much love all. I wish you were here for these adventures.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

little Mao (oh yes, I'm officially a kid's teacher)

コリーせんせい へ (to Kori-sensei)

こんにちは、おげんきですか? (Hello, how are you?)

まおのレッスンでは、いつも たのしく やさしく 

おしえてくれて ありがとうございました。 (Thank you for always teaching Mao fun and kind lessons)

ちいさい こどもたちを おしえることは たいへんですが

がんばって ください。(I'm sure it's tough teaching small children [Mao is 2yr 3m in this pic and started in August when she was... 1yr 8mo] but please keep trying your best)

まおと わたしも これからの レッスンを がんばります。(Mao and I will also keep trying our best in our future lessons)

では おげんきで・・・ (so take care of yourself)

this was a thank you letter from little Mao's mother (translated sloppily by me, for you). this little whirlwind was one of the reasons I came back to Japan. she'd just run laps all class sometimes or say hello 50 times in one lesson (the size of voice does not match the size of the kid) .

but she was cool too. really cool.

I'm such a freakish sucker!

anyway, her family is moving and she's changing to a different school and I currently have no more little girls called "Mao" Why is this such a popular name for small girls, I couldn't tell you. But there a few I know. and they are all whirlwinds but bright as wipper snappers.

I love these kids but the strain is obviously showing on my sanity. my adults are starting to ask if I'm OK.... last count 15 kids classes a week. 13 adult classes.

28 adult students. 49 kids (13 under 3yrs old). it's official. it's no wonder I'm feeling loopier and loopier every day. whoa!

Sunday, April 16, 2006


decisive is not a word I use to describe myself. in fact along with all the other grief symptoms I think the complete inability make any decisions, is pulling a lot of weight.

but I have made a few decisions. most important first.

I'm renewing my contract with Ye Ol' Eikaiwa. despite the uncertainty, anger, and frusteration. my students ROCK my world. my coworkers (including the new Brit) are cool. recent hilariousness.

"Ma! Chigaita!" in a cute high 6 year old voice fitting this tiny six year old, new to my class and way behind the other 6 kids. The target this week was "Who's that?" "That's my father." I kept pointing to his picture and asking "Who's that?" He'd look up kind of suprised and say "Ah! Chigaita!" or "Ah! it's a mistake!"

so we teach by modeling. not in the skimpy skirt catwalk way, but in the I do one first so you know what I mean. Here's one of my drawings of the beginning of my family tree.

the kids thought I was completely nuts. they're right but I try not to let on.

from the adults recently. one of my favorites who will skip class for a month at a time and then come back with all sorts of gems like

If animals could talk...

If animals could talk we should go dancing with them.


He won't understand you unless...

He won't understand you unless you're naked.

or from another in the same class:

I'll see you tomorrow unless I kill someone.

OTHER DECISIONS, I'm on a roll.

I'm going to Korea for a week. I'll get to see Mark! the Canadian Rotary student who I've been in touch with on and off for the last 8 years. rock. and do other cool things like celebrate Buddah's birthday. and relax.

I'm working really hard on my Japanese and looking for a school and a class and studying a lot recently.

also, The Boy is being demoted from whatever he was to someone less important for being consistently emotionally and logistically unavailable. sucks, but time to face the reality of the situation.

I'm making a real effort to find more chatty/communicative and generally female friends in Tokyo. some success. work in progress.

and that's life.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

thinking, pondering, exasperating myself

so, I need to decide if I'm renewing my contract with Ye Ol' Eikaiwa. I have one more week to decide.

I definitely want to stay in Japan a while longer. for lots of reasons. below are my two favorite pictures of late. it's just beautiful here.

renewing with Ye Ol' Eikaiwa would, at the very least, allow me to renew my work visa.

any thoughts?

this was from my random wandering last weekend. I stumbled on a cherry blossom veiwing part in an ancient cemetary attended by people nearly as ancient. they looked really happy.

kamakura at sunset

in response to Jim's questions, I'm posting this in comments and in here. Here are some more details of the situation:

I'll start with the most important question on there:

Teaching is what I want to be doing.

there are lots of other jobs offered in the papers and I'm better qualified than most other canidates other than that my visa expires in August.

the worst thing that will happen with Ye Ol' Eikaiwa is I renew and leave is loosing my end of contract bonus. They can't throw me in jail, revoke my visa, or kick me out of the country. the end of contract bonus is at most about $500 and I have to give 4 months notice to qualify for it.

so renewing is really less of a new year commitment and more of a commitment to give 4 month's notice before quitting.

and finally: Ye Ol' Eikaiwa does not let me pick my students/schedule/ect because I have more senority. In fact it is still likely that my position will be elliminated and I will have to move to another school. at that point I will have NO CHOICE (and I checked on that particular face) where I'm placed. could be out of the Tokyo area. could be in the sticks up in Hokkaido. or could be a big top school in Tokyo. but I have no say in what happens.

I have good students and a good schedule now (15 kids classes, 14 adult classes, but out early 3 days a week). so I'm leaning toward renewing for all of them and if I get moved somewhere I don't want to go quitting and loosing my bonus.

yeah... so that's where I am.

Monday, April 10, 2006

sakura (jizo temple)2

I wandered to Ueno park last weekend and then tried to head to see Tokyo University and find the library but ended up somewhere completely different. as usual. this is one of the cool, unexpected, places I found on in my wanderings

It's beautiful here but I miss you all sooo much
please say 'hi' and leave a comment if you're still reading. it'll totally make my day (so a special thanks to Kitty and Katie who have recently made my day.) come on, you know you wanna....

I'll even blow some of these petals your way!

Friday, April 07, 2006

sakura (cherry blossoms) 1

it's beautiful in Tokyo. here some more. these are all taken in Shinjuku Gyoen (national park) with two couch surfers from Sweden I hosted.

These two were great, and I'll probalby host them again when they come through Tokyo in the future. They are bumming around Japan for two months and I was the first to show them around. They were still really jet lagged but really nice and easy going. and I probalby wouldn't have gotten out so much that weekend if it wasn't for them. it was the best weekend for the sakura

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

not dead. Elvis just mutated.

I've heard you can find anything you could possibly want in Tokyo. you know, if money and imagination are no object, you should be able to find anything your heart imagine it wants.

I found Elvis. or some version thereof. well, multiple versions thereof.

Elvis was spotted by myself, the Swedish couple I was hosting, and hundreds (thousands?) of other passerbys through Harajuku on Sunday. In fact they play really loud music, attract a smattering of street food venders and are neighbors to the freakish Gothic Lolita girls.

All these impersonators and dress up afficionatos congregate here every Sunday. rain or shine. gawkers and onlookers or no. they line the sidewalks and pose for pictures. and it's just across the street from Meiji jingu park/shrine, one of the otherwise most peaceful places inside the Yamanote line.

what a strange life.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

purgatory for stillborn children

the Japanese, in my experience so far, are not as... forgiving? empathetic to the same things?

In Kamakura, in the Hasedera Temple, hundreds of statues are placed to comfort the souls of stillborn children. These stillborn children are caught in purgatory and not allowed to go to 'heaven' because they caused their parents/mothers so much grief by not being born alive...

so parents of stillborn children pray for their souls here. they pray that these tiny souls, represented by stones that the statues hold, will be forgiven and allowed into some version of heaven.

what a heart breaking belief.

some of the statues have tiny hand knit caps or hand sewn tiny shawls. hundreds are lined up like these but hundreds (thousands?) more are scattered up the hill.

there was a special statue that it seemed like maybe it was good luck for children to pour water over his head. maybe it protects them? I wish I had a Japanese speaker/culutral narrator sitting on my shoulder sometimes explaining things. these kids seemed to not be too heart broken by the hundreds of little statues surrounding them and enjoyed bathing this particular one.

'it's really not *that* big' ... or so they said

the naysayers may have decided that the big ol' Budda was't big enough for them, but I was impressed. I was really impressed. how cool is it to just hop a few trains and in under two hours arrive at the feet of a big Budda?

this is why I love living in Japan.

googleable! (and busy)

suddenly I went from hiding in a dark corner of the world wide web to getting found by the Google spiders. it makes me happy for no good reason. strangers can now sift through my ramblings searching for info that isn't what they're looking for. or maybe it is?

I've been so crazy busy. It's been exhausting but good. I have like six million picutures to post too.

I went to Kamakura on March 20th. beautiful. will post eventually.

spend the next weekend talking to strangers in parks and enjoying the cherry blossoms.

spent last week picking the brain of everyone who would stand still about what to do aobut my job. eventually decided to postpone all decisions until I meet the new Kaihin teacher. His name is Daniel and he arrives in 2 days. Then I have to return to that scary land of self reflection.

Had a quiet French couch surfer for a night.

had a couple beers with a nice NOVA chic teacher. we comiserated taht it's hard to find good girlfriends in Tokyo. they all seem to return much faster than the guys. nice talk.

getting to konw my neighbor better. also cool. English, but cool anyway.

arranging Japanese lessons. very excited.

had a sweet swedish couple stay on my floor for two nights. they left this morning. nice folks, they're trying to bum around Japan for 2 months. that's just awesome!

we went sightseeing Sunday to Meiji-jingu shrine and Shinjuku-gyoen.

I went by myself to Ueno park the next day. blew my mind.

went on a random walk and found really cool stuff. an old cemetary and other random small shrines ended up in Nippori, which is--aparently--fabric town, and that made me miss all my SCA friends and the sewing parties.

then I interviewed at this Japanese school and am trying to get a good lesson there with other Ye Ol' Eikaiwa teachers.

and then we went to Yaskuni Shrine for more cherry blossoms and street food and public drinking and it was gorgeous and awesome.

and now I'm finally home and hopefully will be able to get a good night sleep.

more on individual events as soon as I can.