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Mar. 29th, 2011

Time flies

Wow...I can't believe it has been over two years since I've posted here.  I really did start my blog with the best of intentions, but then life kinda had its way with me for a bit and I lost motivation in writing.  I am happy to say (and I'm sure that all my friends here already know this) that life has really improved this last year.

I left the stressful job and found a new, wonderful job teaching in another international kindergarten, which is everything my previous school fell short of.  I get to be an actual teacher, deciding my own curriculum and how I want to teach it.  I have an awesome assistant, and my co-workers and boss are all wonderful, too.  And my students...are more amazing and smart than an kindergartener ought to be.  It always surprises me how much I can challenge these kids and how well they do with my challenges. They are doing stuff at levels way higher than I ever did at their age.  Every day is fun and I actually look forward to going to work, rather than just trudging through the day to get paid.  I can absolutely say I LOVE MY JOB, which is a blessing many people don't have.  I also love the area where I live.  As such, I plan on sticking around Japan for at least a couple more years. 
 
In addition to the great job, I also have found myself a Japanese boyfriend.  We've been dating for nearly 9 months now.  I wish I could say everything was perfect there, but that would definitely be an exaggeration.  It is challenging.  He doesn't speak much English, and my Japanese is still spotty, so communication can be frustrating at times.  Even simple things are frequently misunderstood.  I am trying to get him to work on his patience, since I really don't like arguing over stupid misunderstandings.   If things progress, he has mentioned that he would like to live in California some day.  We'll see.
 
The other major thing going on in my life right now is a bit more somber.  I'm sure everyone is aware by now of the devastating 9.0 earthquake and following tsunami that ravaged north-eastern Japan less than 3 weeks ago.  I am quite a ways from the major damage, but we definitely felt the earthquake strongly.  We had tsunami warnings going off, as well, being so close to the ocean, and it was not a comforting sound.  I spent that first night after the quake at my work, which is on higher ground than my apartment.  Fortunately, we didn't have any big waves hit us, but it definitely could have been worse, and I feel very lucky.  Every time I read stories about people swept away and see the horrifying footage on television, I think, that could have been me.  And now we have the Fukushima nuclear crisis to worry about.  I think it is going to take Japan a very long time to recover, but they are a resilient people, and I am sure they will all work together to come back from this.  I am currently visiting friends from the other side of Japan, far away from the affected area, but I plan on returning to my home in Kamakura (an hour south of Tokyo) in a couple days.  I would be lying if I said I didn't worry a little about the radiation issue, but I have read a lot of reassuring articles by experts in the field, advising people not to worry too much or overreact, and I am going to take that to heart.  I have no intention of fleeing Japan or abandoning my job, which starts up again next week.  It should be interesting, though, with the rolling blackouts occurring on nearly a daily basis.
 
I would urge all of my friends who are able, to please donate what you can to relief efforts, even if it is just a little, like the Japanese Red Cross.  There are still many people who are suffering in the cold without proper shelter, food, and medical treatment.  Every little bit helps.
 
Stay safe, be well, and hug your loved ones.

Feb. 28th, 2009

Japan Update...finally!

Ok, so it’s been forever since I last updated my blog.  A lot has happened and I just wasn’t feeling up to writing for a while.  I am indeed still alive in Japanland, but things have been a bit hectic since my trip back to the U.S. at the end of November.  It was a difficult trip that started out well, but ended with much of my time being spent in the hospital with my family.   For those who aren’t aware (which is probably most of you), my father’s health was rapidly declining due to ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease).  He went into a coma shortly before I arrived in Sacramento, and remained that way for the rest of my stay.  I did manage to make it out to my 10 year high school reunion for a bit, which was fun, although a little awkward.  It is strange seeing people again after 10 years of no contact.  My Facebook friends’ list has predictably swelled as a result.  Amidst the stress of being with my ailing father in the hospital, we found out that my younger sister and her husband are expecting their first child in July.  So at least the situation was relieved a bit by the happy news that I will become an aunt!  Unfortunately, the day after I arrived back in Japan at the beginning of December, the decision was made to take my father off of the respirator and he passed away.  The decision was one that all of us supported, since my father really had no chance at regaining any desirable quality of life in the remote chance that he would regain consciousness, and I thank my step-mother for making it.  I regret that I couldn’t be there with my family for the funeral, but was at least able to connect via my brother’s laptop and Skype and heard the entire service.  Amazing what we can do with technology these days!

 

When I went back to work, things were quite crazy with preparations for Christmas.  We held several parties for the various age groups and the whole process was stressful.  I celebrated my 29th birthday with my co-worker Noelle, whose birthday was 3 days before mine.  Shortly after that I got sick, and continued to be sick for over a month.  Every time I started to feel better, I got sick again.  It was quite frustrating.

 

I got to travel a bit during my winter vacation from school, and got to meet up with some online friends that I’d been chatting with for over a year, but had only known through the internet until then.  It was interesting getting to finally put voices (and accents!) to people I’ve been “talking” with for so long.  Most were foreigners who are also in Japan teaching English, who I’d gotten to know through the process of applying for the JET Program.

 

My travels took me to the Kansai area of Japan, which includes famous places like Osaka and Kyoto, and also Nara and Shiga.  I stayed with a couple friends in Nara, and they accompanied me to various places around.  I was able to feed the deer in Nara Park and see some famous temples and buildings.  I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Osaka with my friends, but I was feeling ill due to a bug that was making its rounds and left shortly after the countdown finished.  I spent most of the trip feeling sick, but still had a good time and definitely look forward to going back to that area for more exploring.

 

The first couple months of 2009 have really seemed to fly by.  I’ve been feeling better recently and the weather is slowly getting more tolerable, though we still have some pretty cold days.  I am looking forward to spring coming.  The trees are already starting to blossom.  A couple good things have happened for me so far this year:  I’ve bought an electric piano and I’ve started dating.  The piano cost me a good chunk of this month’s salary, so I’ve been living meagerly for a few weeks, but it’s nice to finally be able to play again.

 

As for the dating, it’s nothing serious yet, but I’ve been out a few times with a very nice Japanese man named Ichiro.  He is 34, tall for Japanese (nearly 6 feet), and used to play rugby, so he doesn’t look like a twig.  He went to university in Australia and is really good with English, so communication is no problem.  We got along really well on the occasions we’ve been out, so I am interested to see where this goes.  Even if he doesn’t become more than a casual dating partner, it is still nice to have someone to go out with, other than my co-workers.

 

Next weekend I am planning on going snowboarding for the first time.  I had tried to do that once before a few weeks back, but things didn’t go as planned.  This time I have already booked a room and a private lesson, so I am excited.  I hope all is well with all of my friends and family and that you are managing during the current difficult economic times.  I know several of my family members are struggling with job/money issues right now.  I will have to decide soon, myself, what to do about my future as well.  I’m still unsure whether I want to re-contract in my current job, but with things so unstable, it is becoming more of a possibility in my mind.  I will be sure to keep my blog updated more, now that I am feeling more like writing again, with my adventures here in Japan.

 

-Elisa

Nov. 22nd, 2008

Japan Update

Hello!

So I've been in Japan for 4 months now, and have just finished packing for my flight back to California tomorrow.  I only have a week and a half, but I am really looking forward to my time off!  I like it here, but I am excited at the prospect of having some of my favorite foods again, like Thai....and pizza without mayonnaise!  You can get various types of food here, but where I live is pretty country, so I have to travel a ways to find restaurants that serve non-Japanese cuisine.  The other day I went to the revolving sushi place, and was happily chatting with Noelle, until I happened to look over as I went to grab a plate from the conveyor belt.  Directly across the belt were a bunch of gigantic fish with their heads hacked off, but still sitting there with their bodies, eyes judging me.  I had to keep from looking over again in order to finish the meal!

Halloween was pretty fun.  It isn't widely celebrated in Japan, but there are costumes to be found and parties to go to.  We did trick-or-treating with the school, stopping at pre-arranged shops and houses.  The kids looked so cute in their little costumes.  I think half the girls went as princesses, but they all had different costumes, so we had a variety of princesses.  I wanted to go as a pirate, but was unable to find anything suitable in my size.  I ended up getting a costume last minute for a party my friend Fernando invited me to.  The only non-ugly thing I was able to find in a size XL (boo!) was a pink maid costume.  So that's what I was for Halloween, a pink maid.  I got it home and tried it on, and was shocked by how short the skirt was.  Much shorter than it looked in the picture.  I guess I didn't factor in that my legs are probably a bit longer than the Japanese model's in the photo.  I wore some leggings underneath so that it wouldn't be all leg, but I still felt a bit exposed.  Before going to the party, I had to change into the costume in a restroom in the train station.  I was quite embarrassed walking through the station and town like that to our destination, but at least I wasn't the only one in costume.  We took some pictures in one of those fancy photo booths they have here, so feel free to check them out on my photobucket page at http://s50.photobucket.com/albums/f348/trenody/Japan/Halloween%202008/ and laugh your head off.

The weather has taken a sharp turn for COLD!  Yesterday we got our first frost.  I woke up early to get some laundry done, and saw everything coated in ice as I was hanging my clothes.  Fortunately, it melted pretty quickly, so I didn't have to deal with scraping it off my windshield.  Unfortunately, my two electric heaters just aren't quite cutting it, now that it has gotten so cold.  I guess I will have to break out the kerosene heaters.  We haven't gotten snow yet (and thankfully aren't likely to get much), but other areas of Japan have had snow already.  I caught sight of snow on one of the distant mountain ranges.  I am definitely looking forward to bringing my winter clothes back from where they are stored in Mom's garage.  The worst thing is having to get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.  Noelle has one of those fancy toilet seats with the warmer, but I have no such luck.  I keep the heater on in my bedroom through the night now, so the dash from my warm room to the bathroom and back is not pleasant.  It's gotten to be under 40 degrees Fahrenheit in my house.  Brrrr!!

Things have been going much better with my boss.  She was out of the country for a good portion of October, which was nice.  And since she got back, she hasn't been mean to me and has actually treated me like a human.  (Yay!)  She also has me coming over to her house in the mornings to help her sons with math.  One of the other teachers was behaving irresponsibly while she was gone, and I think my boss saw how much more dependable and responsible I am to keep things going like they're supposed to.  Either that, or she's in one of the nicer cycles of menopause.  We think that is the case, but hopefully the better treatment continues.  It makes hard work so much more bearable when your boss doesn't treat you like you're an idiot on a daily basis!

I look forward to visiting with those I'll be able to see during my trip back.  For those of you I cannot see, take care and enjoy the holidays!  I have some fun plans for Christmas and New Year here in Japan when I return, but I'll talk about that later.  Stay safe!


-Elisa

Oct. 19th, 2008

Tokyo Fun

Hello!

So the weather has been just gorgeous this month so far.  Only a bit of rain here and there, with otherwise clear skies.  It has gotten cooler, but I much prefer that to the oppressing heat and humidity of the summer.  Today I stayed home and got things done around the house, like laundry and planting some flowers/herbs.  Last weekend was more lively, though.

I went to Tokyo last Sunday with Noelle and met up with various friends there for the Brazilian samba parade and show that was being held there.  Prior to going to the parade, we all ate at a nice Thai restaurant (my favorite!).  Lunch was excellent, and the parade was fun.  First there was an all-girls marching band, followed shortly after by the samba dancers.  The outfits, as could be expected for samba, were quite skimpy.  It was a good thing they were all dancing around because that day was rather cool.  Following the parade was a show by the same dancers, put on in a schoolyard.  There was also a sort of flea market going on at the same time there. 

We also had a bit of excitement at the samba show.  Right after the dancers finished and were parading off again, there was a commotion near us.  A man roughly pushed his way through and grabbed another man by the shirt and dragged him off.  We thought the first man was drunk at first, because of the way he was walking, but he turned out to be affiliated somehow with the police.  They were holding the man who was dragged off and talking loudly with him about something, and then the guy took off running!  We thought maybe he had stolen the big camera he was using or doing something sketchy with it.  The man was pretty fast, but he was mobbed by several men before he made it out of the school grounds, and was held in the dirt until a police car came through to pick him up. 

As we were walking away from there, we had the dubious fortune of seeing an old Japanese guy in a dress.  I'm talking a fancy ladies' gown with one of those little hats with the lacy veil thing.  And this was definitely a guy, not just some ugly, bald woman.  Our Japanese friends automatically assumed it was a woman, but all three of us foreigners agree that that dude did not look like a lady in any way.  The hilarious thing was the grin he gave us as he walked by, as if saying, "Yep, I'm a man, I'm in a dress, and I'm loving it!"

We continued on back towards the station, and ended up stopping at the Fire Museum that was on the way there.  My friend Masumi and her daughter wanted to check it out, so we all went in.  They had actual fire engines and helicopters from various parts of the previous century, as well as some historical displays on fire fighting in the Edo Period of Japan.  Pretty interesting, even without being able to read all of the descriptions.

Noelle and I had originally planned on staying overnight in Tokyo and exploring a bit more the next day, since we had a holiday that day.  By the time we were done with the museum, however, we were both tired and something Noelle had eaten wasn't agreeing with her, so we decided to call it a day and head back home.

The next day I went back out to Tokyo on my own to meet up with my friend Fernando and a friend of his in Akihabara, which is known as a haven to geeks due to the mass quantities of electronics, video games, comics, figurines, etc.  His friend was shooting her own documentary on the area and was specificallly wanting to go to a maid cafe.  We'd wanted to check out a butler cafe, but those are harder to find and you have to reserve in advance, so we settled for going to a popular maid cafe instead.  I must say, the whole experience seemed entirely overrated to me.  Sure, you have girls in cute maid outfits serving you, but the food was overpriced and not particularly outstanding, and we couldn't even take pictures of the cafe or the girls.  We were allowed to photograph the food, but that was about it.  Fernando and his friend decided to try out a special offer they had going of doing the voice acting for parts in a short anime clip.  There were three parts, but I'm afraid my spoken Japanese is nowhere near the level that would have been needed for keeping up the pace in the cartoon, so I refused.  One of the maids took the third part instead.  Once they started, I was really glad I'd taken the coward's road.  They didn't record it in a separate room or anything...they had to perform it right there in front of all of the other diners in the room!  It was very brave of them to do it, but I wonder if they still would have gone for it if they'd known in advance that they would be entertaining all the other guests at the cafe.    After the cafe, we walked around Akihabara for a while longer, looking at things that I don't have the money to buy, and then I went back home before it got too late.  Someday, I'll have to go back to Akihabara when I actually can spend a little!

See pics here:

Brazilian Samba Event  (video here too!)

Fire Museum

Akihabara


-Elisa

Oct. 4th, 2008

Summer has gone...

Hello again from Japan!

Things are going alright here.  The weather has taken a definite turn for the cooler.  We have had some nights so cold this past week that I've actually had to pull out the heavy blanket and a heater.  The weather shift was so abrupt that a lot of the kids at school have been getting sick...which doesn't bode well for us teachers, considering we are the ones wiping their noses...hopefully before they wipe them all over us!  Today was actually quite lovely, as far as the weather was concerned.  The temperature was nice and it wasn't overcast.  Too bad I had to spend all day working, instead of out enjoying what may be the last nice day for a while.  Oh well, at least work wasn't too terrible today.  No major dramas!

My trip down to Hamamatsu to meet an online friend went okay.  I had a nice enough time, but was disappointed.  This 'friend' was an older married man, with grown children.  I thought I had made it absolutely clear that there was romantic interest or expectations, but apparently he had his own ideas about that.  I'd had a feeling that might be the case, but I was hoping that it was just translation issues or cultural differences that were putting me on my guard.  Instead of taking me to see some of the sights of the area, he took me mostly to date-type activities.  He actually had a schedule printed out with everything he had planned for me!  After meeting me at the train station, and helping me get checked into my hotel, he drove me to a fragrance museum and had me make my own perfume.  That was nice enough, I guess, though I am not huge on fragrances due to allergies.  I actually like the scent I brought home though.  I had to enter a lot of information about myself into this computer, like age, body type, blood type, and then it gave me a recipe for my perfect perfume.  Then, we went to the adjacent tea shop and had some herbal tea.  I liked it a lot, but he wasn't really crazy about the herbal tea.  Next we went bowling.  That's right...bowling.  Now I don't mind bowling.  I actually enjoy it, despite the fact that I'm lousy, but I can go bowling here.  I didn't pay all that money on the bullet train ticket to come down and go bowling.  We played two games and then went on to lunch.

For lunch, we had okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese dish that involves making a pancake-like concoction out of mixed vegetables, seafood (or other meats), and egg.  After we got seated, I looked over at the table next to us and saw a middle-aged couple.  The husband was reading the paper and picking at his teeth, while his wife prepared the food.  Okonomiyaki is a type of food you usually prepare yourself at the table, which has a hot surface in the middle to cook on.  The staff just brings you the ingredients, and you do the rest.  Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that my friend didn't know what he was doing.  I realized that he WAS the guy at the next table.  He'd been to okonomiyaki many times with his wife, and it is very easy to make, but he didn't have a clue.  No wonder he was lonely.  He'd spent his entire marriage ignoring everything his wife did, and now has no relationship with her to show for it.  So, with a little advice from the woman at the next table, I made lunch. Hehe.

After lunch we went to karaoke.  For those of you who don't know, Japanese karaoke is very different from what I'd experienced in the U.S.  They take it very seriously here.  You rent a room with a karaoke set-up and can order food/drinks to enjoy while there.  He sang a bunch of mushy romantic songs.  I sang a lot of downer songs.  Didn't really want to send him any sort of mixed signals.  Following karaoke, he took me to pachinko.  Pachinko is a form of gambling here that involves these little balls.  Instead of winning money, you exchange your little balls for these lame prizes...which you then take next door to sell for money.  That way it isn't really gambling.  <rolls eyes> I really couldn't figure out the point of it.  My friend didn't explain it to me at all, and I was bored out of my mind the entire time.  Plus, the room was full of smoke, so my eyes started getting really irritated.  Lots of fun.

After pachinko we went to dinner.  Hamamatsu is famous for eel, so I told him that I wanted to try eel for dinner.  It has since become one of my favorite things!  It isn't just the eel, it is the sauce they prepare it with.  So yummy!  But expensive, so I won't be doing eel on a regular basis.  You can get it at the market a bit cheaper, though.  The restaurant experience really is a must though, for those visiting Japan.

After dinner, my friend took me to the beach.  But it was cloudy and we couldn't see anything...thank goodness.  I had a feeling I knew what was coming, and sure enough, he told me he wanted to kiss me.  I told him no, that I don't kiss married men.  (Not to mention men old enough to be my father!)  He didn't press the issue, but was quite sad, and said he was lonely and that Japanese men are such gentlemen if I gave them a chance.  I told him he should talk to his wife if he is lonely.  I think he cried a little as he took me back to the hotel.  I didn't make eye contact, but I could see in my peripheral that he lifted his glasses to wipe at his eye.  Upon dropping me off at the hotel, he canceled for the next day.  (We had plans to hang out that day, as well.)  So, I got to wander around Hamamatsu City on my own for a while that night, slept in an actual bed for the first time since coming to Japan, and enjoyed the city some more the next day.  It was too bad that he wasn't really interested in friendship, but I don't feel sorry for him in the slightest.  Maybe he should have paid more attention to his wife as she did things for him, instead of ignoring her the whole time.  I wish I could say that he was the only married man who showed interest in me...but so far, most of the men here who have shown interest have been married.  Gentlemen indeed!  :-P

I had several firsts on that trip.  I got to ride the bullet train (shinkansen) for the first time.  It was alright, but very expensive.  I paid well over $200 for the roundtrip ticket.  It was less than 3 hours each way.  And to top it off...my ticket did not guarantee me a seat because it was an unreserved ticket.  On the return trip, I sat in one of the reserved cars without realizing it (it wasn't marked reserved).  After about 40 minutes, a man came around to check tickets.  He then told me I had to go back to the unreserved cars, which were cars 1-5.  I was in car 12!  That was a lot of walking back, and as I approached car 5, I could see people crammed into the section between the cars.  There was no room to get into the car itself, so I had to stand there squished with everyone else until we made a stop where enough people got off to allow me to get to a seat.  Another first was trying eel.  I had actually had eel served in a baked sushi roll back in California, but this was the first time I'd actually had eel served in the Japanese fashion.  Another first was having to use an old-fashioned Japanese squat toilet.  I needed to use the bathroom at the bowling alley, and groaned to see the squat toilets.  You have to literally squat down until your butt is almost to your heels, and (as a woman), hold your pants/undies out of the way so they don't get splashed.  Not fun.  But I managed to make it through the ordeal without soiling my clothes, so yay for me. ;-)

I got to go to Tokyo to meet up with another friend recently.  He was about to move to Chicago, so I met up with him before he took off.  This trip was much more enjoyable, and the company more fun.  We had a lovely dinner at a Thai place, which he found especially for me because I said I liked Thai and hadn't seen any since coming to Japan.  We had nice conversation during dinner, walked around for a while, and then went to our separate hotel rooms.  The next day, he helped me find some books and flashcards to study for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test I am going to be taking in December.  After he had to leave for the airport, another friend, Fernando, came to meet me at Ueno, which is one of the big stations in Tokyo.  Fernando is a JET in the same prefecture as me, and we've become good friends.  We had a nice time putzing around the area immediately near the station, and then it was back home to go to work again the next day.  Holidays just don't last long enough.  Fortunately, we have another one coming up in a couple weeks.  Yay!


Until next time!


-Elisa

Sep. 13th, 2008

Japan Update


Hello again!

It's been a while since I updated my blog, so I apologize.  It always amazes me that people actually read what I write, but it makes me happy to be able to stay in touch this way.  This month we began the regular kindergarten schedule at the school, so things have been slightly less crazy.  The older kids that we had during camp are not going to their own schools and I only see them on Saturdays or at the after-school classes when I go.  The younger kids are cute, but we have some definite poster kids for birth control.  It is amazing how exhausted I can be after only 5-6 hours of work.

Healthwise, I've still been struggling with some issues.  It seems that I am allergic to the tatami mats (traditional Japanese flooring made of straw) in my house.  That is unfortunate because there is no way for me to escape that.  The result has been that my eyes have been constantly red and irritated.  It usually seems better when I at work (where there are no tatami mats) but then it worsens when I am home for long.  Today, however, they were irritated non-stop.  The itching is driving me crazy. I try not to mess with them, because I know that will just increase the irritation, but it so hard sometimes to keep  my hands off.  The allergy medication I brought with me is doing nothing for this problem.  On top of this, I discoverd upon coming home after work and changing clothes that I have developed a rash across half my back and part of my side.  Not sure exactly when that popped up and what caused it.  It certainly wasn't there this morning before work.  It doesn't itch too badly if I don't mess with it though, so hopefully it will go away quickly.  Allergies suck.  Those of you without allergies are so lucky.  I really like country living, but it seems it doesn't care for me much.

On to more fun topics:  I still have regular adventures with trains and getting lost driving.  I usually drive to another town with a bigger station, but a couple weeks ago I took a train from the tiny station in my town for the first time.   A co-worker of mine is in a band and they were playing at a club in a city not far away by train.  I was told by this co-worker that he got yelled at for parking at the station overnight, so I parked my car at my work, which is closer than my house to the station.  I had a train to catch that I timed badly and ended up having to full-out run a good 7 minutes in order to get to the station in time.  I heard the crossing guards lowering nearby just as I was coming up on the station, so I put on a burst of speed and made it through the gates just in time for the train to pull in...on the other side of the tracks.  It took a moment for my brain to acknowledge that this was indeed the train that I needed to be on and then to spur my body to action.  In order to get to the other side of the platform, I had to run up some stairs, across a bridge, and then back down.  I got to the train, and had a moment of panic when I saw that the doors were closed, but then I saw the button for opening the doors and thanked my lucky stars as I got onto the train barely in time.  Another couple seconds and I would have been out of luck.  I took a seat and tried not to notice the Japanese people pretending not to notice the strange foreign girl gasping for breath and sweating buckets.  Oh, and did I mention that it was lightly raining?  Yeah...needless to say, my makeup was fairly ruined.  But I made it and got to see my co-worker play, and that was what mattered.

Speaking of my co-worker (Eddie is his name), he finally gave me the television set he promised when I first arrived.  He had gotten a new flat screen and said I could have his old box set.  It turns on...but there are apparently no stations that come in here without cable.  Hehe, oh well...from what I've heard, Japanese television is not something to cry over missing.  When I get a region-free DVD player, I can at least watch movies (I brought my entire collection from home) on the television, instead of on my laptop.  That will be nice.  I think I'll actually get my mother (Hi Mom!) to send me my X-Box from back home, which will also suffice...and has the added benefit of playing games. ;-)

I have successfully learned how to use my microwave, including the oven function, and my rice cooker, which has way more buttons than my rice cooker back home did.  Unfortunately, it doesn't sing a song for me when the rice is done, like my co-worker/neighbor Noelle's does.  It just beeps.  So boring...  Another exciting kitchen addition:  I finally found a blender!  It has 5 speeds and can crush ice.  Yay!  I now have switched over to my banana/peanut butter/chocolate protein shakes for breakfast instead of chocolate corn flakes.

I got the blender at Costco, which was nice.  My Costco card works here in Japan, so I didn't have to sign up for a new one.  I took the train to get there, so I wasn't able to buy much this time around, but I mostly went to check out what they had and make note of items I would want.  The blender was too awesome a find for me to pass up, however, so I toted that thing back onto the train with me, along with a big bag of dried cranberries (yay!), a few small clothing items, and a jar of Nutella...which I devoured spoonful by spoonful all week and finished yesterday.  Probably gained weight as a result, but I don't care.  It was good!  Next time I go to Costco, I will drive, so that I can buy more.  I hear it is only about a 40 minute drive, so that would be much more convenient than the hour+ train ride and 30 minute bus ride to get to the shopping center.

I did have a driving adventure last weekend.  After work last Saturday, Noelle and I, along with another co-worker (Emi, who is Japanese) and a friend of Noelle (Claudette), decided to go out.  We ended up deciding to go to Tokyo, and Noelle's friend offered to drive.  Only problem:  she wasn't where we thought she'd be for the meeting place and we couldn't figure out where she was.  It was pouring rain and difficult to see and we'd just about given up finding her when Noelle heard a honk behind us and there she was!  She'd seen my obviously-not-Japanese face through the window and decided it had to be us.  Apparently my white face and green eyes were a shining beacon of hope on the dark, rainy night.  LOL!  :-P  So we meet up with Emi, transfer Emi's GPS system to Claudette's car, and drive to Tokyo.  The club itself was actually in Chiba Prefecture, not Tokyo, but we still drove through part of the city on our way there.   Tokyo is huge.  Even the suburbs of Tokyo are just one massive extension of the city itself.  There is no ground to be seen, just buildings as far as you can see.  It was close to midnight by the time we got to the club, but that is a normal time for going clubbing here.  Actually, it wasn't until about 1am that things really picked up, and then they stayed lively until about 4am, by which time most people that had found someone to pair off with had already left the club.  We stayed until 5am.  Although I've never been to one, the club seemed like what I've imagined rave parties to be.  All techno/trance music (which, frankly, gets boring after about 30 minutes for me).  No drugs allowed though, unlike what I've heard about raves in America.  They even confiscated the aspirin I had in my bag.  There was a lot of smoking there, but some areas were designated non-smoking, fortunately.  I had a nice enough time, but was quite tired by the time we were ready to go back to the car.  I've gotten used to going to bed before midnight, and staying up so late after a long day of work took its toll.  I'd thought the plan was to crash out in the car for a bit before driving back, but Claudette started talking like she wanted to drive back immediately, so I confiscated the keys (being the only one who hadn't been drinking) and drove us the 2+ hours home, with Emi helping me with the navigation.  I had to keep poking her awake because I really needed her help deciphering the directions.  But now I can say I've driven on the expressway from Tokyo without incident (granted it was 5:30am Sunday morning when we got started) and I feel way more confident in my driving capabilities here.

Tomorrow I will be taking the shinkansen (bullet train) for the first time, to go visit a Japanese friend I'd made online.  He lives in Hamamatsu, which is 2 1/2 hours south of here by shinkansen.  The train fare was expensive, but I am trying to utilize all the time off I get to explore and experience new things.  Monday is a national holiday, so I actually get 2 whole days off in a row (gasp!).  I'll be sure to take lots of photos and write about the experience afterward.  We get another national holiday in a couple weeks, but that one falls on a Tuesday, so we still have to work on Monday.  :-( 

Well it is getting late, and I think I've about written a novel here, so I will leave it there for now and get to bed so that I am rested for tomorrow.  I hope you all are doing well!


Updated photos can be found here:

http://s50.photobucket.com/albums/f348/trenody/Japan/

and here:

http://s50.photobucket.com/albums/f348/trenody/My%20Japanese%20Home/


-Elisa

Aug. 24th, 2008

A Day in the LIfe Of....

So I have survived over a month now in Japan.  This past week has been blissfully devoid of most personal dramas and craziness (had a little problem with my boss, but that blew over), so I thought I'd write a little about some of my normal day-to-day experiences here in Japan.  There are some things that we take for granted as being normal in America, that are quite different from what is normal here in Japan.  I've had to get used to several things, like driving on the opposite side of the street.  That is going pretty well for me, but I must confess that I've been occasionally known to invade the personal space of the curbs.  I'm getting better at judging the dimensions of the car from the other side, and I'm happy to say that I still haven't hit any other cars or pedestrians.  Yay!

Those who know me well probably know that I am a bit of a night owl and really don't care for early morning activities.  That is something that has had to change since coming to Japan, and not just because I have to be at work by 8:45am.  The sun starts coming out about 4:30am here, and it gets dark by about 7:00pm or so.  My house did not have curtains at first, and I actually only just got curtains for all of the rooms.  I first bought curtains for the room that got the most sun, because it would get so hot and stuff inside, but they were expensive and I didn't care for them all that well (My co-worker Noelle called them 'boy curtains'), so I decided to wait on putting curtains in the other two rooms.  What this meant is that the sun would come through first thing in the morning and wake me up.  I would usually then toss and turn for a while longer and finally give up around 6am.  Fortunately, I am able to stay in bed a little longer now, and tend to get up somewhere between 7:00 and 7:30.  The good thing about getting up early is it gives me time to browse the internet, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and make phone calls back to the U.S. before heading out to work.  It is afternoon on the West Coast when it is early morning for me, so that is sometimes a good chance for me to make calls back home.  I've also gotten a few gardening tools, and may start trying to my hand at a little gardening in the mornings.  I'll have to do some reading first before deciding which plants I want to try to not kill, but I am thinking a few herbs and vegetables and maybe some flowers.

Work has been a chaotic mess of trying to get the kids to behave, speak English, and trying in vain to not get filthy.  I always shower first thing upon getting home from work, because I just can't stand staying that gross for any longer than absolutely necessary.  Saturday was a little better than normal because it was rainy, so we had to keep all of the activities inside.  It's amazing how much cleaner you can keep when you don't have dirty children constantly climbing all over you.  I love the kids, and they can be fun, but they definitely are exhausting at times.

Usually, the weather is so hot that I add a good deal of sweat to the recipe for disgusting Elisa, but the last several days have been rainy and cool.  Normally I am not a huge fan of rain, because the clouds tend to drag my energy down, but I am finding the opposite to be true right now.  I always look forward to a storm coming through because it makes the temperature drop to a tolerable level.  This current storm is the longest-lasting one so far, and I am actually thinking I need to go shopping for some more pants and long-sleeved shirts soon because it's been getting quite cool.

In the evenings, I usually hang around the house, go shopping, or hang out with Noelle.  I just got paid again on Friday, so I was able to get some more much-needed items for my house, including a vacuum cleaner, curtains for the other rooms so that I can walk around naked to my heart's content, a food scale so that I can measure things in grams as the recipes call for, a small computer desk, a comfy legless chair to use when I sit at my low table, and a full-sized mirror so that I can actually see what I look like before leaving the house.  I am hoping that having something comfortable to sit on will make me more interested in reading or watching movies on my laptop.  I still don't have a television, so I haven't been able to catch the Olympics.  Of course, they would just show the Japanese events, so I wouldn't get to see the U.S. except as competition to Japan.

Having a limited knowledge of Japanese has been helpful when going anywhere.  At the school, we only speak English and the kids are supposed to only speak English, but I know when they are making crude comments or insulting me in Japanese, so it is fun to call them on it.  Being able to speak/read some Japanese has been invaluable when traveling by train because it has allowed me to confirm that I am getting on the correct train.  This week I am working a lot (I am on the schedule for 53 hours!), so I think I will use my evenings to explore a little and take a break from thinking about work.  The train system is great, so getting off at random stops to check out the area is easy, at least when it's not the last train of the night.  Then you get stuck, like I did on my first train adventure here.  Yesterday, I went back out to Saitama City to visit with another friend, a guy who came to Japan on the JET Program and was placed in the same prefecture as me.  We had been in touch and chatted online frequently beforehand, and were excited to hear we were both going to the same prefecture.  We had a nice day just walking around and stopping where we felt like it.  We spent a bit too much money playing video games in an arcade, wandered around a big book/CD/DVD store, and had udon for lunch.

As for cost of living, as with most other things here, fruits and vegetables are more expensive than back home.  I still make it a priority to eat plenty of both, though.  I don't want to make a habit of going to the local 7-Eleven to get something for lunch.  Gas is also expensive, though I'm not sure how it compares to prices in the States, since they sell it by the liter here and I haven't bothered to convert it to gallons for comparison.  Fortunately, I haven't had to fill my tank since getting here.  I will soon, but not yet, so I may make 6 weeks before it is time to fill.  I couldn't make 6 days without filling back home!

Well, I need to start getting ready for another fun day at work, so I will leave off here and write more when I think of it.  I know there were some other observations I wanted to include, but my sleepy brain can't think of them right now, so I'll just try to write them down next time and then type later with less brain-work involved.  Next time I'll also post new photos of my house, as it looks now, after having bought a few things for it.  Have a good week!


-Elisa

Aug. 13th, 2008

The adventure continues

Hello all,

So things have definitely improved over the past week for me.  I still can't shake the sore throat and occasional cough, but I guess that's too be expected, given that I haven't really had any time to give it a rest.  Otherwise, though, I am feeling way better. 

It has been very hot here, but at the moment we have a thunderstorm rolling through, so the temperature is quite comfortable this evening.  On some days, it has been so hot that my house feels like a sauna when I come back from work.  When this happens, I take a cool shower, and if it is truly unbearable, I escape by going shopping.  The stores usually have air conditioning, so it allows me to relax in the AC and to look for things I need.  It's been a hot week, so I've spent a lot of money!  But my house is finally starting to look like someone lives in it!  I don't have a lot of furniture or a phone yet, but I will take care of that after my next paycheck. 

Meanwhile, I have outfitted my kitchen with many items that I deem necessary...like spices and other favorite cooking ingredients.  I was able to put together a balsamic vinegarette that turned out so well that I am happily using it on everything.  I was able to find some whole wheat bread at the store, sold in small packages of about 4-5 slices.  Apparently people here don't really like it though, because I keep seeing them on clearance, so I grab them every time I see them and pop them in the freezer for future use.  My current favorite use is a sandwich I've eaten for dinner the past three nights running.  I put some sliced cherry tomatoes (so sweet!), lettuce, avocado (yes, Japan has avocado, though not quite as good as California's), pre-sliced white cheese (not really sure what kind it is...just white), and my balsamic dressing.  Mmmm!  Another must-have that I was able to track down for a price that was just flat-out indecent, was Skippy creamy peanut butter.  Japan's version of peanut butter is not like what I'm used to back home, and I was really wanting some of the real thing so that I could start making my protein shakes again.  With that mission completed successfully, all I have to do now is find a decent blender.  I have not found anything here with more speeds than 'On' and 'Off', and pretty much nothing under $100 can handle ice.  I refuse to settle for something that won't do the job, so I am going to have to be patient until I have the time to properly search.

On the mosquito front, my legs are still quite lovely with their splotchy markings, but I think I have finally found a spray that they don't like because I seem to be getting much fewer new bites now.  It will be nice when the hot, moist season is over.

Okay, now that I've described my basic situation, here are a few details of my latest social adventures.

Last week I was able to go to a gym.  Yay!  My boss had thrown a slow food party the Saturday before, and I met an ex-employee of the school there, along with her boyfriend.  We got to chatting, and it came up tha I had done personal training.  The boyfriend wants to lose 20kg and starts asking me for advice.  He tells me that there is a place they like to go called Mizutopia (mizu means water in Japanese), which has a small gym and a pool.  So several days later, we all go together.  The gym was small, but adequate and not expensive.  We did some cardio on the exercise bikes and I showed them some stretching and ab exercises.  His girlfriend speaks English and translated when it was necessary, but mostly I just told him to keep going, go faster, and the equivalent of' "You can do it!' in Japanese.  Unfortunately, he was quite out of shape and not up for much, so I decided it was time to go to the pool.  It was kind of fun training someone in Japanese.   The 'pool' ended up being a big pool area.  There was a lap pool, but also one of those lazy river pools, a couple water slides, and a big jacuzzi area that had many types of jets that could hit just about every area of your body, including some shooting straight up from the floor to get your feet.  Nice!  Afterwards, we went to a nice restaurant, where I tried many new things.  We started out with a shrimp and asparagus pizza, and a smoked salmon and avocado salad.  Both were excellent, though it took convincing to get me to eat the salmon.  It looked raw to me, and although I have compromised my diet so that it now includes seafood, I draw the line at raw fish.  I just can't do it.  After the salad we had tamogoyaki, which is a lot like omellete rolls, for you sushi officionados, but without the rice or seawood.  They were absolutely excellent!  Finally, we had a Japanese fish called sanma, which is cooked and served whole.  I was a little weirded out by it, but they insisted I try some and I am really trying to be more open-minded about the food.  I just tried not to look at it's eyes as I picked the flesh off it's bones with my chopsticks!  It was actually quite tasty.  I'm sorry little fish, please don't judge me!

My next adventure was this past weekend, when I took the train to another city to visit a friend and her daughter.  I was supposed to have gone a couple weeks ago, but the pink eye derailed those plans.  So I was all set to go right after I got out of work on Saturday.  I would shower, get my stuff, and catch the train.  One slight problem: apparently the small single platform that is the station here doesn't sell tickets, or if they do, they close really early.  I had decided to stop by the station before heading home after work, just to scope out the parking situation.  Good thing I did!  I get there and the windows are closed and no one is around.  A guy came by, so I asked him (in Japanese) where I could buy a ticket.  He got a little confused and it became apparent that I couldn't.  I would need to go to the next closest station, which is much larger.  Flustered, I went back home, hurriedly checked the train schedule for that station, and got cleaned up.  Only, I didn't know how to get to that station.  When she pulled into her driveway, I asked my co-worker/neighbor, but she didn't know either.  So, she had me call another co-worker on her phone, and he was able to give me some rather shaky directions over the phone. 

I left with plenty of time to spare, thinking that if I couldn't make the first train (which would have gotten me there a bit earlier than the original plan) I could get a later train (which would put me at the destination at the same time as originally planned).  I hadn't had time to contact my friend, and having no phone, it would have been difficult anyways.  I was shooting for the first train because it was a straight shot, whereas the later train required switching lines partway there.  Unfortunately, I got lost on the way, and ended up having to stop at a gas station to ask for directions (in Japanese).  All those classes pulled through for me, and I was able to understand well enough to make it to the station, way too late for the first train, but in just enough time for the second one.  I was a little nervous, because, seeing no station parking, I parked in the parking structure of a nearby shopping center, and wasn't sure if overnight parking was allowed.  I didn't see any signs saying otherwise, and didn't have time to inquire, so I risked it and hurried over to the station.  At first the ticketing guy was confused because he didn't realize that I was asking for a train that required switching lines, but after he understood, I got my ticket and rushed to the train with only a couple minutes to spare.  Whew!  Hurdle one down. 

Next hurdle: the train that I needed to switch to was scheduled to leave a scant 2 minutes after the one I was on arrived.  Prior to stopping at that station, I asked another passenger, who was standing at the door to get off, if he knew which train I needed to get onto.  He was reasonably sure it was the one that was right next to us when we arrived.  Problem was, I needed to race up the stairs, cross over to the other side, and then down those stairs to get to the train.  I made it, and was able to confirm that it was indeed the correct train for my final destination.  Finally I was able to relax, since it was smooth sailing from there.  This leg of the journey was the same as my original route (which would have required 2 train changes), so I arrived at the planned time, with my friend none-the-wiser to my little drama.  She took me back to her house, where we did some small fireworks with her 11 year-old daughter, and then the next day we spent a pleasant day shopping and sight-seeing in Kawagoe.  I got to see a small castle and a couple museums, and she took me to a street that is full of shops selling snacks and sweets.  Kawagoe is famous for sweet potatoes, so I tried some sweet potato soft serve ice-cream, which was fantastic!  Then, I found something funny in one of the shops.  In the middle of all these kids' toys and candy, there was a squishy, stress-ball thing designed as a boob.  It was flesh-toned and had a nipple poking out.  It seemed so out of place that I just had to buy it.  It will make a good gag gift for my brother, who tends to talk about boobs way more than a guy his age should (Joe, you know it's true, and everyone who knows you knows it's true!).  You can see it, along with other photos from the day, in my updated  photobucket album.  http://s50.photobucket.com/albums/f348/trenody/Japan/Kawagoe%20Aug2008/   Fortunately, the return trip was only one train, and was uneventful.  I made a new friend when a girl sitting next to me noticed me reading and asked if she could talk to me.  We chatted until I had to get off, and she gave me her information.  Then, my worries were alleved when I saw that my car was indeed still there and had not been ticketed.

I got to go see 'The Dark Knight' again the other night with my co-workers (I saw it the first time at a midnight showing the day it came out...and the day I left for Japan).  The screen was much smaller, but the Japanese subtitles didn't bother me as much as I thought they would.  Also, the theatre wasn't ridiculously cold like they are in the U.S., so that was nice.

I'm sure I will have plenty more adventures here in Japan, so stay tuned for more!

Aug. 3rd, 2008

What a week!

Ok, so there is a lot to talk about this week.  For those who have been wondering, my eyes are doing much better.  I am going to just lay out the week’s events in order, so here goes.  It’s a little long, sorry.  There are also updated photos in my photobucket album.

http://s50.photobucket.com/albums/f348/trenody/Japan/Takasaki%20Festival%20Aug2008/

 

Monday: 

I made it through several things this day.  First of all, I drove myself to the clinic to see a doctor.  This was my first attempt at driving in Japan, and I was very nervous, but I managed not to crash or kill anyone, so I am feeling much more confident about driving on the left side of the road now.  My boss had told me that the clinic had a doctor who spoke some English, but if that had ever been the case, it wasn’t so anymore.  I signed in at reception, and wrote out in my poor Japanese what the problem was.  Fortunately, I had brought my Japanese-English dictionary with me.  I was able to communicate with the doctor okay, and was sent off with a couple different medicinal drops for my eyes.  A couple days of that, and they were feeling much improved.  Now, they are back to normal.

I also managed to get into the town’s government office and apply for my Alien Registration Card, or as we foreigners call it, the Gaijin Card.  It is mandatory for all foreigners who are staying more than 90 days in Japan to get this card.  It is also required for all things like setting up a bank account and getting a cell phone.  While I was at the government office, my boss came in, quite flustered and was not happy with me.  I misunderstood her message telling me to come back to work as soon as possible to mean when I was feeling up to it.  I had thought she’d gotten that day covered, and figured while I was already out I might as well get the gaijin card taken care of too, but that was not her interpretation, so I ended up having to rush off to work afterwards.       Unfortunately, as soon as the pink eye symptoms started to ease, the cold symptoms became worse.

 

Tuesday:

            Eyes were much better, still a little irritated, but not swollen or gunky like they had been.  Sadly, having to go to work the previous day took its toll, and I ended up losing my voice.  This made work difficult, aside from the misery of feeling crappy, because you really have to raise your voice sometimes for the kids to hear you.

 

Wednesday:

           I woke up with a massage spasm in my shoulder/neck, which made it painful to move my head even.  Eyes were pretty much back to normal, but voice still mostly gone.  I was able to get out a slight rasp this day, so that one of the kids took to calling me Grandpa because I sounded like an old man to him.  It was kind of funny because one of the other kids, who is one of my loyal supporters, got all offended by this and responded angrily, “She’s NOT grandpa!”   Hehe, a few of the girls are so eager to please me that it is entertaining.  A low point of this day came when we were all sitting in the video room, watching a show, and my boss came up, completely disrupting the activity.  Several of the kids swarmed her, almost to the point where she fell over.  Once we got them all back into the room, one little girl (the youngest of this group) roughly pushed a little boy who was standing near me (I was sitting with my legs blocking the doorway) into the door jamb in her attempt to get out.  I said, “(girl’s name), don’t push please.”  My boss, overhearing this, pulled me aside and asked me not to discipline the children, and that I should use a lighter tone when talking to them.  Huh?  I had practically no voice that day, and the only tone I could get out was the raspy one.  There is no way I could do the sing-song “Oh let’s not push, you crazy kids!” that she wanted from me.  And since when is politely asking a child not to push another child a form of disciplining?  It’s not like I yelled at her or anything.  Apparently she felt that I really didn’t understand what she was saying, because she felt the need to call and rehash it all again for about 10 minutes, saying how she felt I was resisting her attempts to help me get used to the way things are done there, and that she wants me to have a more open mind.  Maybe I would be a little more open, if I wasn’t being forced to work while I am miserably ill and lie to the parents about why my voice is gone.  :-P

 

Thursday-Friday:

            Somewhat improved voice, but still raspy.  Sore sinus areas also seemed to indicate a possible sinus infection.  Shoulder/neck still hurting.  Work went more smoothly, and my eyes were no longer giving me any problems.  Friday, after work, I went with one of my co-workers to a nearby city to listen to his rock band practice.  It was in a small studio, so it was very loud, but I was so congested that my ears were fairly plugged anyways. 

Getting back home was somewhat of an adventure!  My co-worker was planning on staying in the city that night, so I needed to catch a train to get back home.  Problem was, it was his friend’s car that he had borrowed, and he had returned it to her already.  She was supposed to come pick us up at a certain time so that I could get to the train on time, but she was late.  We ended up having to run through the station because it was the last train for the night.  I managed to get on it, just barely before the doors closed.  Whew!

So, my co-worker had warned me to get off at Tansho station, which is right after Fujioka station.  I was paying attention, and looked out the window at one stop and saw Fujioka written on a sign.  I couldn’t read all of the kanji, but “Fujioka” was written in hiragana, which I could read.  Then, at the next stop, I heard the conductor say Tansho, so I got off.  I immediately realized something was wrong when I got out of the station, because it was not at all similar to the station that I had passed several times back home.  I asked a young man (probably a college student) which station it was, and he said it was Fujioka.   Whoops!  Turns out, there are two Fujioka stations, one in Gunma Prefecture, where the band practice was held, and one in Saitama Prefecture, which is where I live.  Prefectures are sort of like Japan’s version of counties.  I hadn’t heard everything the conductor had said because he spoke very softly, but he must have said that the NEXT station was Tansho.

So there I am, alone at the wrong station, with the last train of the night heading quickly away.  I tried to ask the young man about which way for me to go to get to my town, and how far it was.  He consulted with the station master, and they decided it would be a good hour’s walk at least.  I steeled myself for the long trudge home, but they nixed that idea immediately, and the young man offered to take me in his car…which ended up actually being his mother’s car.  She came and picked us up, and we chatted the entire way back to my town, after which I thanked her profusely for her help.  Lucky!  I was so glad not to have to make that walk alone in the dark.  I will not be making the mistake of getting of at that stop again.

 

Saturday:

            My boss is part of this club called Slow Food, which is supposed to be in response to fast food.  People grow vegetables and herbs and use them to cook meals.  She had a slow cook party on Saturday, so I didn’t have to work that day.  Normally, I have to work Mon-Sat, with only Sundays off, so this was nice.  However, I didn’t feel I had been there long enough to decline going to the party, so I committed myself, which also meant going out to the school’s garden for a couple hours of weeding prior to the party.  A lot of people showed, though, so we got a lot done in that time.  The garden looked so much more like a garden when we were done, and less like a jungle.

            The food was Mediterranean themed, and most of it was pretty tasty.  I stayed until I felt I could politely leave, and then left to go to the grocery store.  I had long since run out of food, and was tired of going to the 7-Eleven (they are all over!) for onigiri (seasoned rice balls) for lunch.  I also stopped at the 100 yen store, which is the equivalent of the dollar store back in the U.S., but they had much nicer stuff than we get in American dollar stores.  I spent a lot…

 

Sunday:

I have yet to regain my voice to its normal level, which is frustrating.  My shoulder/neck is also still sore, but better than it's been, so that is good. Today was so hot and humid!  With no air conditioning, my house was like a sauna, even with two fans blowing on me.  I bought some curtains for my windows so that I no longer have to change in the bathroom.  I’m not really too keen on giving the neighbors a free peep show.  Japanese tend to like gossip, and I’d really hate to have that particular conversation with my boss!

Tonight I went out with co-workers to a festival, held in the same city I had been to before for the band practice.  It was fun, but we didn’t stay very long.  There were many vendors selling food, but it was all very repetitive.  The same types of foods were being sold over and over, some of which I found to be of questionable edibility.  I wasn’t really all that hungry, because the heat kills my appetite, but I had some shaved ice and a Japanese version of Pad Thai.  It was good, though much different from what I was used to in California.  Aside from the food stalls, there were also some small games for the children, like catching goldfish or turtles to take home.  And of course, there were the people dressed in traditional Japanese clothing, some of which took part in the singing and dancing and carrying of the small shrine.  I felt a little sorry for some of the girls who got all dolled up in nice yukata (a light summer kimono) and were walking around with boyfriends who were dressed like slobs.  If your girlfriend goes to all that trouble, at least wear something nicer than cargo shorts and a t-shirt!

Jul. 25th, 2008

Is it tomorrow yet?

Today has been one of those days where things just don't go right.  I am ready for today to be over and for tomorrow to be better.  First off, I have developed what seems to be bacterial conjunctivitis (Pink Eye).  Yesterday I had a sore throat and some congestion, but I didn't think much about it, since I've been outside everyday yelling after kids, and my co-worker said she was coming down with a cold.  Then, in the evening, my right eye started bothering me.  One of the little girls had toss dirt over her shoulder accidentally into my face as she was sitting on my lap, so I figured maybe I still had some irritant from that.  It was also time to toss my disposable contacts anyways.  Later on in the night, the eye started getting more sore and really gunky.  That is when I realized that it could quite possible be pink eye.  I went to bed early (for me) around 10pm, and woke up close to 3 hours later with the eye glued shut!  I cleaned it out and went back to bed, and this process repeated a couple more time.  The eye was well and truly swollen when I finally gave up on sleeping and got  up about 5:30am.  I looked it up, and the symptoms are all typical of bacterial conjunctivitis, including the cold symptoms.  Apparently, bacterial pink eye is often associated with a sore throat and congestion.  I immediately emailed my boss (I still have no phone) to let her know of the situation, and she of course told me not to come to work. (Whew!)  But then she told me to try to get over it soon because she is very busy next week and needs me at work.  :-|   She directed me to a clinic about 20 minutes walk from my house, but when I arrived, sweaty from the heat, I found that the clinic is only open 9-5 Monday-Friday.  Today is Saturday.  Sigh.  I trudged home and emailed her back.  She said there is pharmacy that I might be able to get some kind of remedy from, back in the same area I just got back from, but I won't likely be able to get antibiotic drops without a prescription.  Not knowing their hours makes me loath to go back out into the heat again.  Meanwhile, my other eye has become infected as well, since I had rubbed at both of them yesterday before knowing what was actually going on.  I was supposed to be working today, and while I'm not sad to have gotten out of the Saturday class, I am bummed that I had to cancel my plans for later.  After work today, I was going to take the train to visit a Japanese friend I had made online and hang out with her tomorrow.  Obviously those plans got scrapped.

And to add insult to injury, I just added a little of what I thought my co-worker had said was fabric softener but became quite apparently bleach, into a load of darks prior to adding water.  Stupid, stupid, stupid!  Unfortunately, my congestion made me too slow to catch the tell-tale scent of bleach before I upended the bottle.  It wasn't a ton, but the clothes on top were ruined.  I will have to wait until the load finishes to see exactly what the extent of the damage is.   If my eyes weren't already sore and swollen, I think I might cry.  Instead I must sit here sulking. 

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