Thursday, December 4, 2008


So... I’ve been here for 2 full months now... it feels longer because it’s been so packed with newness, etc. Well, it’s been a good two months. To be cliché, it’s been a good two months. And of course, I’m still adjusting to some things. So, here are a few:

- sorting my trash. Here, you sort all your trash between burnable garbage, plastics, and recyclables (glass and aluminum), put them in different specially marked bags that you buy at the supermarket, and then set them out to be picked up on the designated days of each. The guys tell me just try a little, but everyone mixes. Just don’t leave anything in your garbage with your address on it, or they’ll come pounding on your door to yell at you. Seriously.

- driving. I actually drove a car for the first time last weekend! Ah! Not only do they drive on the wrong :) side of the road, but I hadn’t driven anything in 2 months, and my car back home was a manual. :/ So I was kinda nervous. But then I started getting used to it. Not as bad as I thought it could be... of course, right hand turns is the worst. And I think I freaked out the people riding with me because I was turning when some people and a dog were crossing the road. I’ve been riding my bike everywhere, though, and I think that’s helped me get used to the right side of the road...

- karasu, crows. They are creepy. They are everywhere. They get in the garbage. They’re smart. They make the creepiest noises ever. I shudder when I walk nearby.

- cockroaches. I caught one and kept in a jar and named it Bob. I taught him English and then indoctrinated him with my no-cockroaches-in-the-house propaganda. I just let him loose last Friday to go forth and spread these new mind-opening ideas of liberation. I also made it clear that rebels will squeezed in a kleenax and flushed into the watery abyss. So, we’ll see how it goes.

- Nihongo. Japanese language. I study. And watch TV. And try to talk with people. Of course opportunities to try to talk and to read surround me. It takes me like two whole minutes just to try to ask, What did you do today? But I’m trying. And I am getting better. I can read a little, too. It’s SUCH a great feeling to be able to read. Oh my word. It’s quite a peculiar sensation to be having class with my 5th grade student and asking him, Oh what it this? And him answering, Oh, it’s.... See? It’s written write here. And then I just say, Oh, I see. I can’t read. So much relief in being able to read.

- boy bands. You thought the 5-piece dancing-singing boy bands died with Nsync and the Backstreet Boys when we were in high school, but you were wrong. And it scares me that I might actually like them. A little ok? I’m not obsessed ok? Really. Ok? Arashi is my favorite :) But I like Tohoshinki, too... and they have a lot more talent.

- speaking s. l. o. w. l. y. It’s pretty tiring. But it’s not so bad. I’m not complaining.. I’m just still trying to get used to it, that’s all.

- defining words without a vocabulary. Or a big one. Defining words like ‘interesting’ without using any word above a.. maybe second grade reading level is a little difficult. Of course, direct translation is sometimes advantageous, but in the case of 'interesting,' the Japanese word for it and 'fun' are the same, so it's still confusing. Or my favorite so far is trying to explain the difference between ‘hope’ and ‘wish.’ Uh-huh. I dare you to try. Remember to use small words.

- taking care of myself. If I don’t cook, there is no food. If I don’t shop, there is no food. If I don’t clean, I get dust bunnies in my shoes. I picked up a Japanese cookbook in Nagoya awhile ago… I’m going to try to cook something as soon as I figure what daishi powder looks like in the store. I cooked the most AMAZING breakfast for myself this morning... I fried an apple and scrambled some eggs. The apple was from the apple orchard we went to a couple of weeks ago. It was SO good. I know it’s super simple, but I was proud.

- coins. In America, we usually reserve coins for vending machines and the penny jar, which sits on our shelf until we know some kid doing Jar Wars for a charity and then we give it to him. Here, coins are a staple that comes in the equivalents of as much as one and five dollars, plus all the other little coins. So, I’m getting used to paying for my lunch and stuff in coins. My wallet is usually full of coins.

- trains. I love them. When I’m out with my student Mika-san and the shinkansen, bullet train goes by... I turn five for a couple of seconds. Taking the train can be a little nerve-wracking. I haven’t tried taking it by myself yet. I went to Nagoya—big city about the size of Chicago about an hour north of us—last Saturday (and went to the castle there.. fabulous!) with a student, and we took the train so I could get used to it. I think I’m getting the hang of it… it’s so nice going with someone who knows Japanese though :/ But I want to try to take it by myself this winter break.

- Attention! Gaijin-wa o-hashi-o sukate tabete imasu! Foreigner eating with chopsticks! You’d think some people want to yell this every time you pick up a pair. Often, the first time you take a bite, it’s to the proclamations of Sugoii, ne! Awesome, huh! It only just started to bug me, I’m sure I’ll get used to it...

- shy boys. I don’t understand it yet. I can’t say all the boys are shy. But most of the ones I have met are. It’s just really different from back home.

Well that’s a start :) Most everything is different here somehow... It’s good though! For the most part. Of course I miss some things about home. And Christmas is making me a little sad. It's pretty much all commercial here.

The picture at the top is from a nearby city called Gamagori. There is a long bridge that connects the land to an island called takeshima (literally bamboo island.. though I'm told there isn't actually any bamboo on it...), which is completely a shrine. Women who want to have a baby pray here. Also, it's a popular date sopt, but the legend is that dating couples that go there that eventually get married, will end up having divorces! We saw many couples :) I wanted to jump in front of them and yell No! Go back now while you have a chance! :)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The joys of hand-me-downs

I've had the past three days off work. It was pretty nice.

Thursday, I decided to try to take my bike up to Mt. Yatsuomote, which is not too far from my home.

So off I go on my bike, following a map I got from the community center or something. I had just gotten to an area of Nishio I hadn't been to, when I hear someone coming up behind me fast. Well, I can't tell if he's running or maybe on bike or what, but I slow down and get pretty far over so he can pass me, and then, I hear someone bellowing something over an intercom in Japanese, and when I look, it's coming from a police squad car that's stopping beside me. And when I turn around, there's two police officers booking it after me! What in the world! So yeah, I stopped.
So they come up, and start saying stuff in Japanese, and somehow, I understood maybe they wanted some i.d. and stuff, so I start throwing my passport, and my international drivers license at them, though of course I have no idea what's going on... did i run a light or something? or am i supposed to have a license or something and no one told me??

so after 5 minutes or so of standing there and them radioing in my name and all my other information, through one of the officers limited English and my very limited Japanese, we somehow got communicated that, well, they thought I had stolen the bike.

Apparently, this red sticker on the back of my bike is a registration for high school students, and so when they saw it, and saw that I wasn't a high school student, they thought I had stolen it from somewhere. So they wrote down all the numbers, and found out it was registered to a girl named Chihiro... I tried to explain how the bike was given to me by my boss... and so they wanted all her information and stuff. Gosh, I wish I had a cell phone then.

Apparently, this Chihiro is the niece of one of the staff at MEC, who gave the bike to Hiromi, who gave it to me... so Yuka (the staff who gave it to Hiromi) said they called Chihiro, and anyway, it's all cleared up now.... And I definitely went home and scraped off those stickers... and decided not to go to the mountain that day afterall.... Lol.

Cullen, one of the teachers, said that he's heard of that before, and they stop foreigners especially... I guess Garry (one of the other teachers) has gotten stopped, too, and his bike never belonged to a high schooler... whatever. My red stickers are gone now, so *hopefully*... I won't be chased down again... :\ lol.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

「I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike」 and being Number One in Japan

Yesterday, I went around town on my bike :) It was really my first look at the Nishio that is not within a 10 minute bike ride from my apartment. It was great. And I found a little music shop where I finally got new guitar strings! I popped one the first time I tried tuning it after getting it out of its case for the first time here. So I've been able to commune with my guitar again! It's wonderful.

I wish I could upload pictures, but it seems I have the wrong cable with me.. I hope Rachel didn't take mine with her!! She and Marley may be back some time this week or next.. I hope so!

So, Tuesday in my class at a company called Otics (which has a branch in Indiana and some of the students may actually be transferring there! cool, huh??) we got into a dicsussion about Japanese culture versus American culture. As you may know, they are pretty community-minded here, and it's not part of the culture to bring a lot of attention to the individual...

So the lesson was about personalities... learning some vocab and stuff... and then one of the activities was reading a conversation (from the text) between two people about what kind of girls they like... lol. Person A asked, Do you like girls that are smart and clever or do you like girls that are average? or something like that. And one of the guys in the class said, that the last part, being average or the same as everyone else, is pretty much the Japanese ideal. And You don't really want to be number one, you don't want to stick out.

Once we got that communicated, I asked why? And one guy said, well, we have a Japanese proverb, so he drew it on the whiteboard. Basically, it's, The nail that sticks out gets hammered. So I aksed, But isn't it good to be number on in school? and on a test? and at work? and to be the greatest rock star and stuff? and well, they said yes... So I asked when is it not good to be number one? and they basically said, well, it's case by case. And I asked if they agreed with this philosophy, and again, they just said case by case. I asked our school manager on the way back to school from Otics, and she couldn't give me any circumstances when it wouldn't be good to be number one either.

I've heard of this proverb before, but never really understood how it works in life... I thought maybe I'd get it once I'd lived here. So now I wonder if it is maybe an ideal that all Japanese people sort of hold to, but maybe it's never really applied in real life... maybe similar to our, Hard work pays off, or brings success ideal in America... we all know it, and sort of believe it, but we all know it doesn't work out that way in real life all the time. Maybe similar?

I told them how in America, we would say that the nail that sticks out gets chosen for something good. Isn't that what we follow? Make sure you are in leadership roles and do lots of interesting community service in high school so you stick out in college applications. Make sure your resume looks good so stick out in interviews... have your own style, be your own person.... but it seems to me they think the same way... that's why English is so important... so they can get good test scores and get into good universities...

So anyway, interesting class. Sometimes we have really interesting discussions in class. It's such an awesome way to get to know people! and Japan!

The pic is a manhole cover in the historical area of nishio. Cool, huh? I love how thier covers are like pieces of art here.. it's awesome...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The past three weeks...

Hello hello!

I know it's terrible it's been so long since I've posted! So much has happened there's no way I can catch up either! Well, I'm between classes right now... this is my last class before my weekend starts. I have off Sunday and Monday. Classes are going pretty well... I'm getting the hang of things for the most part... I was in Osaka--about 4 hours away by train from here--last weekend for a training seminar for the program we use for the elementary school-age kids called Pacific Learning System (PLS). It was alright, I met some cool people, other English teachers.. but I was so happy when I was finally back in Nishio.

I like Japan so far! Food is super great, and the people are great. My students are fun, for the most part, and people in the stores are nice, even though I can't speak Japanese. My Japanese is not improving very fast, but as soon as I get on the ball it will. My vocab has definitely multiplied since I've been here though.

Some things are a little annoying.. like we must sort our trash between burnables, plastics, recyclables, and cans and glass. SO annoying. And they barely have a cereal selection. Frosted flakes is about it, and it's these puny bags that serve like one and a half people. But it's ok i'm adjusting.

The pic above is Rache and I eating okonomiyaki at a place in Nishio with two our our students, Mika and Chie. Wonderful ladies. :) It was so good. mm mm.
K! Hope everyone back home is great!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Tiny Space!

The director of the school, Hiromi, sent me a couple of pictures of my apartment. It's so tiny but it'll be so wonderful! I'm not really sure where the bed is... hopefully the photographer is standing in front of it... otherwise it might fold down from that closet in the right hand corner.... They say the apartment is only about a 5/10 minute walk from both the school and the best sushi place in town :) I can hardly wait to eat some Japanese food!

This is the connection

Hello! Konnichiwa! This is my blog to keep up with everyone! We'll see what it turns into... Please please respond to posts every now and then!

Here's the low down... I leave from Indianapolis this Sunday morning (September 28) and will arrive in Nagoya, Japan Monday evening. It's going to be a looong day :) Glad my sis is coming with me :)

I'll be teaching English as a second language (yes, ESL or TESOL or whatever other acronym you want to give it...) in Nishio, Japan at the MEC English School. Here's the web site! You can click the "English" button on the home page, or google translate it... my profile is under the staff! So surreal....

Nishio is a town of about 100,000 people, so not tiny, not big. It's about four hours by train southwest of Tokyo.

Also, my phone is not going to work over there, so I'm leaving it here. I'll still have access to e-mail ( and facebook and this blog!

I'm very excited and can't wait to get over there! And I'm really going to miss everyone...
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