Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Futile Pursuit of Happiness

One thing I've learned from being in Japan is that it doesn't often do me much good to predict how I'll feel at a given point in the future. I thought not being home for Thanksgiving would totally bum me out, but I was okay. I thought buying a Nintendo DS would provide me with hour upon hour of gaming pleasure, but really it hasn't had nearly that impact. I thought having a car would merely be convenient; now I can't imagine what I'd do without one. I'd like to get a minidisk player for my car, but I have a feeling I'd soon adjust to that, too, and no longer appreciate it so much.

What's nice is that according to this article, I'm not alone.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

My Day in a Nutshell

Well, I just discovered that my refrigerator, washing machine, 1200W heater, telephone/fax machine, and toaster oven are all on the same circuit. Though the fridge, washer, heater, and phone were all on at the same time, this wasn't a problem until 10 seconds after I turned on the microwave. Yep, that's on the same circuit, too. Fortunately, it was just the breaker I had to flip, not a fuse I had to buy, so I turned off the heater, flipped the switch, and waited for my microwave tasties to finish cooking before I turned the washer back on.

Oh, and the modem, too. And since my laptop is now recharging, I guess that was also on the same circuit. I didn't test the TV, but if we assume that it also wouldn't have worked, then every electrical outlet in my apartment is on the same switch. There are three of them, so one must have been for the lights, since they didn't go out. The third one... maybe for the water heater? I dunno.

Edit 1/28/2005: The television plugs into the same outlet as my halogen lamp, which did get cut. And the water heater is on the same circuit as everything else, as I discovered when I later tried to wash my hands. Fortunately, it heats the water as it's needed, not stored in a big tank, so getting hot water to run again was just a matter of turning the heater back on and waiting 15 seconds.

I stayed home from school today with a cold. Yesterday, Tane-sensei and I discussed the next lesson for the san-nensei (third year students). There's a dialogue in the textbook between Mark, one of the recurring characters in the New Horizon textbooks, and a doctor. He goes in complaining of a headache; she looks in his throat, decides he has a cold, and gives him some medicine. Tane and I had a long conversation discussing this lesson, which digressed severely to my middle school days. After we wrapped things up, my throat felt sore, and I thought it was cos I'd just talked so much. How funny to show symptoms of a cold immediately after discussing a doctor's visit skit.

But it didn't go away, it got worse. So I went to the hospital this morning. Tane said I should go there, rather than the town doctor, cos they speak English at the hospital. That turned out to be not-quite-true, but they were able to help me with a bilingual manual. And they had a surgeon come down and examine me, because the regular ENT doctors don't speak English. I had my insurance card, which I carry with me all the time at the advice of our Prefectural Advisors, and the bill for the hospital visit was 970 yen (~$9.50), and the medicine the doctor prescribed me was 260 yen (~$2.50). It comes in little pouches of powder, and I'm supposed to take one at each meal for three days (nine pouches all together). You tear open the pouch, and swallow the powder with some water. And I think it's supposed to make me sleepy? I'm not sure I understood the pharmacist. I took a long nap after I got home, though I hadn't taken any medicine at that point. I took some about an hour ago, and I don't feel sleepy now.

I wouldn't have even bothered with the whole hospital/doctor thing—my cold isn't that bad—but I'm pretty sure I need to have seen a doctor in order to get paid sick leave.

Monday, January 24, 2005

What sucks about living between two countries:

Five minutes before my taiko drum lesson, I discover that the sports bra I bought at Kaufmann's back in Syracuse and had shipped to me with a host of other items that just arrived last Wednesday still has attached to it the plastic security thing that can only be removed by a Special Plastic Security Thing Remover. Angry!

Unless, of course, someone knows how to remove one of these things with Ordinary Japanese Household Items.

This just after I get an instant message from my brother telling me that a package, which should have been mailed to my apartment in Japan, has turned up on Meadowbrook.

This list of Things that Suck about Living Between Two Countries is by no means complete, but I'm late for taiko, so it'll have to do for now.

A word is born.

Props to Shambly for coining a new word and being the first to register it on Flickrazzi.

And he did it on Mom's birthday, too. That can't be mere coincidence.

Friday, January 21, 2005

You know the weather's bad...

when people actually follow the speed limit.

Normally, the folks around here tailgate like tricycles after the ice cream truck, but the last couple of days, everyone's kept their distance.

I'm in Yokota this week, and it started snowing hard yesterday during school. Since the sky had been sunny and the ground clear, I'd foolishly worn sneakers to school that morning. In the afternoon, one of the teachers came in from outside and said, "Emily's car... snow," gesturing that my car was covered with a pile of snow. Lovely.

When I was leaving the teachers room and saying my Osakinis ("osakini shitsureishimasu" means, roughly, "I'm leaving before you, please excuse me," which everyone within earshot generally follows with a Sayonara, or "otsukaresama deshita"—thank you for your hard work—regardless of how hard you've actually worked)... anyway, when I was leaving, Yoshida-sensei, the P.E. teacher, bravely tried, "May I help you?" Kusunoki-sensei, a special ed. teacher who speaks quite a lot of English, laughed. "Say yes!"
"Yes," I said tentatively, "but I'm sure I'll be fine."
If I got into any trouble, they told me, I should shout, "Yoshida-sensei! Help!"
"Okay," I smiled. And since I knew the ichi-nensei (1st-year students) were going skiing the next day, and their teachers with them, I said, "This snow is good for skiing. Have fun!" I'm not sure if I managed to hide my jealousy. I didn't try very hard.

Sure enough, a three-inch blanket of snow covered my car. So that's why everyone was parked underneath the building, I thought. I set to work brushing it all off and scraping the ice from the windows. About five minutes later, I heard behind me, "Are you okay?"

Ikeda-sensei was out without her coat. "Yeah, I'm fine," I said, "but you must be freezing!"
"Everyone is worried about you, if you can get out."
I chuckled. "I'm a little curious, myself." The parking lot was covered with the same three inches of snow. "I think I'll be okay."
"If you can't get out, I will dig," she said, motioning like she had a snow shovel.
"Well, I hope it won't come to that."

I'd just finished cleaning the car off, so I got in and backed out quite easily. Woo! Go little car! The way home was slow going since everyone was being careful, but I arrived at my apartment without incident.

This morning I'd forgotten all about the snow, so though I left exactly on time for a fair-weather day, I had to spend seven or eight minutes clearing off another three inches of snow from my car, and then discovered that they don't clear the roads here like they do in Syracuse. Imagine a little neighborhood street in Central New York that doesn't see a snowplow for a day or so after the storm. Now imagine that little neighborhood street is the only road between two neighboring towns. Now imagine that even when the snowplow does visit this road, it doesn't even scrape down to the level of the road, but leaves about a centimeter of snow where it passes. So I got to school fifteen minutes late, but I don't think anyone was too upset.

There was a small disturbance in the teachers room at the beginning of first period, with the teachers there talking excitedly. I put on my curiosity face and looked at Ueda-sensei, who sits immediately across from me. She's one of the volunteers for the Japanese course I attend, but her English is pretty poor. She drew me a picture of some kind of transportation vehicle (a bus, I thought), and drew some snow around it. These she annotated with "snow" and "stop," and showed the drawing to me. "Oh, it stopped in the snow," I said, and spun my arms around each other making a noise like wheels spinning in the snow. She laughed and nodded.
"This is a bus?" I asked.
"Train," she said.
"The train stopped in the snow!" I was quite surprised, because I know they have a plow for the train tracks (I've seen it), and I've always considered (and especially this morning) that if the snow were ever too deep to drive in, I'd just take the train. "Where did it stop?"
She didn't understand, so I outlined an imaginary train line on my desk. "Minari... Kamedake... Yokota?"
"Yakawa," she added, which is the station after Yokota, then "Minohara," which is the mountain in Yokota Town that has a ski slope.

I finally understood the hubbub. "Ichi-nensei?!"
So the poor ichi-nensei had taken the train to the mountain, and were now stuck in the snow. Further conversations between the teachers and on the phone mentioned a school bus ("sukuuru baasu"), so I'm guessing they've sent one by now. They'll have to send a few, since there are about 80 ichi-nensei, and maybe eight teachers. I haven't seen Kyoto-sensei today; that might be where he is.

So with a third of the school population on a field trip (cry), it's been a quiet day. I have only one class, which Watanabe-sensei rescheduled to sixth period, so I have a large chunk of time to study Japanese post a blog entry. And then maybe study Japanese read the Daily Yomiuri. And then maybe study Japanese.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


I'm not sure if any of you have noticed the little BlogShares banner near the bottom of the sidebar. Back in August, I noticed that Scott and Joe had signed up, so I looked into it, was mildly curious, and decided to sign up. It's a fantasy blog share market, where incoming links make your blog shares more valuable, and the more valuable the shares of the incoming links, the more valuable your blog becomes. I think that's how it works, anyway.

After signing up, I'd never been contacted by the folks at BlogShares until yesterday, when I received two e-mails from them. The first was welcome news:
Your 1000 shares in How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog <> were sold at B$19.98 ea. for a total of B$19,976.20. This brings your account balance to B$20,476.20 but the transaction will NOT be in your transaction history.
This was done because it was merged into How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog <>.

Nice. They're reorganizing, and I turn a profit.
But then I got another e-mail from them:
Your 1000 shares in How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog <> were sold at B$.20 ea. for a total of B$200.00. This brings your account balance to B$20,676.20 but the transaction will NOT be in your transaction history.
This was done because it was merged into How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog <>.

So, wait... they're merging A into B, and B into A, and autosold all of my shares in each?

I didn't understand it, but when I visited my BlogShares page, I noticed that a new blog had linked to mine: JAPAN BRATS-Gaijin Blogs. I have no idea who they are or what they want from me, but I don't mind the free press.



I never thought I'd hear Eminem's "Cleaning Out My Closet" played over the school's PA during lunchtime, but here I am, at Yokota JHS during lunchtime, and there it is, playing over the PA. It's not the clean version, either.

I had to control my urge to bust out laughing in the teachers room.

Sunday, January 16, 2005


So I'm back in Nita, in my messy apartment, and what do I think of my visit home?

For one thing, it's really weird visiting home. I've gotten used to visiting Mom and Kreg in Poughkeepsie, cos Pok never was home for me. Mom and Kreg were, but not the house, not the city. I got to Syracuse on the 28th, and Chris had long since taken over my bedroom (he's done good things with it--it looks cozy), so I stayed in the guest room. (Grammy, when she came over, stayed in Chris' old room in the basement.)

Reverse culture shock was minimal. The first thing I noticed was that 65mph is really fast when you've been stuck with 50km/h speed limits for months. (I don't think my car is physically capable of exceeding 110km/h—it gets very unhappy between 80 and 100.) They opened a new 24-hour Dunkin Donuts on Marshall Street, and P&C supermarket bought the old Peter's near Drumlins. I learned that President Clinton had had bypass surgery (not all US news makes the headlines in Japan, and I don't read the newspaper faithfully or thoroughly), and SU head football coach Paul Pasqualoni was recently fired. Of all these things, maybe the P&C/Peter's thing was the most startling, but it didn't affect me much.

I visited with some friends, saw some folks at church, and tried to think of new ways to answer the question, "How's Japan?" I'd forgotten a lot. Not really forgotten, but it felt like the previous five months had drifted behind me into a cloud of fog, recognizable only by its silhouette. I would remember funny stories or strange details one at a time, here and there, but they never amounted to what had felt like volumes of things I'd thought I'd be able to tell people about living in Japan. And while I missed friends back in Shimane, I didn't miss Japan, because I knew I'd be going back.

The guest room wasn't too bad, but all of my stuff had been packed up into boxes in the basement, and, I dunno, it was just weird to return to a place that I once called home, and not feel like it's home anymore.

In a way, when I was on the train back to Nita, I felt like I was returning home.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Location, location, location

Location, location, location

Back in Japan now, waiting in Osaka for the night bus to Shimane, so I thought I'd entertain my faithful readers with this photo.

Taken in the "Cash Corner" of the Sanin Godo Bank in Yokota, it appears to be a lottery advertisement.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

False Alarm

Maybe learning Japanese will help me get a job.

For fun, and cos I was kind of bored, I updated my resume at a few days ago. Though I'd never before received a cold e-mail from someone who'd read my resume, today I got one from a Ms. Araki of New York City, asking me to contact her to discuss my "interest in jobs."

It's not all that it seems, of course. Her e-mail was awfully vague, so I checked out the company, Tabata Oxford Personnel, LLC, and it's just another job placement agency. They offer positions in Japan (though none are currently listed on the site), so the new "Japan" in my resume was probably what caught the attention of the search they ran.

Meh. I'm not planning on leaving the JET Program for at least another 19 months, anyway. Just thought I'd get an idea of what might be available for me after I do leave.

Oh, and pretend that it's Monday, January 3rd, at 11:40pm. Cos it is.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

In America

If there's a way to change the time stamp's time zone for individual posts, I don't know it. I can only change the time zone for all of my posts. Right now my entire blog displays JST time stamps, even those posted before I moved to Japan. So rather than change the time stamp to EST, then change it back in a week and a half, just pretend with me that it's 5:30am here in Syracuse... cos it is.

I'm still on Japanese time, it would seem.

Getting to Kansai International Airport was much easier than I thought it would be, since I ran into Davina (a Matsue ALT) at the bus station in Matsue. She was taking the same bus as I, and also traveling to Kansai, so we stayed together till we parted ways in the terminal. This was great for me, cos Davina's a nice person, and she's been to Kansai before so she knew just how to get there. It was strange for me to see so many foreign faces in Osaka. I kept thinking maybe I knew them.

If you ever rent the DVD for The Triplets of Belleville, watch the music video included on the same disc. I swear, there's a reference in there to

In other news:
Everyone loves Magical Trevor,
Cos the tricks that he does are ever so clever.
Look at him now, disappearing the cow.
Where is the cow? Hidden right now.

Taking his bow it's Magical Trevor.
Everybody's seen that the trick is clever.
Look at him there with his leathery, leathery whip.
It's made of magic, and with a little flip,

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the cow is back!
Yeah, yeah, yeah, the cow is back!
Back, back, back from its magical journey!

What did he see in the parallel dimension?

He saw beans, lots of beans, lots of beans, lots of beans.
Saw beans, lots of beans, lots of beans, lots of beans, yeah, yeah!

That's my cue. Goodnight, everybody!