Monday, November 29, 2010

Today

Ugh.  Uuuuuuuuuuuugggggggggghhhhh.  I am sick.  Again.  Fukuoka was fine.  I'm glad I went because I really like most of my JET comrades, and it was an opportunity to get to see them and know them better.  I wasn't the best company thanks to my sickness and lack of energy, but I'm sure they will forgive me.  Fukuoka seemed to me like a bigger Oita.  Granted, I didn't get to experience all that much of it, but it looked and felt very similar.  The city had a bunch more stores than we have in Oita, but I'm not planning many trips to Prada or LV, and a Banana Republic with no petites and no sale rack is no Banana Republic for me.

Snugglefest in Fukuoka
Lisa, Claire, Tiffany, Melissa, Tomek


We have been making plans for a trip to the Hokkaido Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival) since September, I think.  Flights, hotels, group rates, baby rates, transportation, tours, lessons, etc.  I prefer to do things in a more spur-of-the-moment fashion, but I'm happy to align myself with more organized peeps who help us go on cool trips like this and ensure that we get good rates and have activity options.  We might get snowboarding lessons and will most likely attend a nomi/tabehodai (all you can drink/eat) at the Sapporo beer factory.  Rock on.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the week.  Tomorrow, I took the morning off, and I took Thursday and Friday off as well.  The students have 4 exam days, so I won't be missing any classes.  I hope that by coming in late tomorrow I will feel a little better.  I get a chest cold every single time I get a head cold.  A few days in the head followed by a few days in the chest.  I don't know how to prevent it.

Peter starts tennis lessons on Thursday, and I will be able to spend time with Knox since I don't work.  Things are very busy.  On Friday, I have an end of year school party at the Oita Hotel, and possibly a Japanese lesson after, on Saturday we are having a wine and cheese party with my conversation group, and in the next three weeks we have a JET end of year party, Christmas caroling, an orphanage visit, the 12 Konbinis of Christmas, a date with a sitter so we can go to see Harry Potter, a possible tap dance workshop, tickets to a dance show, and tiks to my school's brass band concert.  We are VERY busy.  Sleep, will thy ne'er come to me?  Why dost thou elude me?

What else?  ... Time lapse...  I had a coughing fit and I have been in the nurse's office being pampered for about an hour.  They were amazed that we don't have kerosine heaters everywhere in the US like they do here.  They weren't allowed oil until tomorrow, but they used my coughing as an excuse, so now they are all toasty and chatting in the nurse's room.  Now I have to wash my mug and go home!!

From Japan,
Tiff 


       

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This One's For You

You know who you are.

Ahhhhh, this week...  Knox is getting, like, all 32 teeth in this week, which means I've gotten about 2 hours of sleep in a row for a few nights and I look like I'm 40.  A bunch of us JETs are going to Fukuoka this weekend, and due to a whole bunch of changes in plans, I am going sans Knox and Peter.  Or should I say, "Peter and Knox?"  Anyway, part of me doesn't really want to go to Fukuoka, but I am highly motivated by the possibility of sleeping through an entire night.  However, this night of sleep, since I will be in another city with a bunch of JET participants, will likely not begin until the wee hours.  What to do.  I'm also physically adverse to being more than approximately 20 minutes from Knox, but I think I will live.  I often feel this way, like I don't want to be away from the fam, and as though I would rather save money than go on a little trip, but I'm usually refreshed and happy that I did once I am done.  So, to Fukuoka I go.

I will take the train on Saturday morning with a JET pal - you get a discount if you buy 4 tickets, 2 going and 2 returning, so we are buying them together - and then we will see the great city of Fukuoka.  By the way, if anyone I'll be hanging out with reads this, I want to see the green building.  It looks amazing.  It looks like a regular building on one side, and like a tiered park trying to climb into the sky on the other side.  Ikimasho, yo!

Also this week, Knox has been running a fever and his nose has been super runny from teething, and then on top of all that he got sick.  He has a nasty cough, but he went to the doc's today and got medicine and he'll be ship-shape in a couple of days.  Oh, if the fam is reading, Knox had his 18 month check up yesterday, and he passed everything with flying colors.  All of the babies in this area that were born within a week of each other go at the same time, and they have a series of rooms set up for check ups of the teeth, weight and height, body, and mental and physical development.  They had him point at pictures on a page to see if he could recognize the words and identify the picture, and he did so awesome!  He pointed at (and repeated the words) for banana, car, Anpanman, and some other things (I was at work so I am telling this 2nd hand, but I'm totally going next time!).  The room where they have to be in only a diaper was really warm, Peter said.  He is about 23.3 lbs and 32 inches.  He was such a good boy that we got him a treat.  I said, "Do you want a new toy or ice cream?"  He said,"Iceream."  So, we got some iceream.  That was the first time we went out for a special treat together to celebrate Knox being a good boy.  He is such a good boy all of the time.  He makes me so happy.  Sleepy, but happy.

As for me, I am suddenly improving from the culture shock.  On Tuesday of this week I felt a noticeable change in my mental and emotional state, and I am not so... puffy.  I don't know what that means, but I was puffy, I think.  I CAN'T FIND MY BOOKS.  I brought two books to Japan.  Do you know how I feel about books?  I love them.  I chose 2.  AND I CAN'T FIND THEM!!!  Tomorrow I am going to the Hofu Jr. High English Seminar, which I am happy about because I like doing anything that is different from what I am usually doing.  We are planning to go to Universal studios in Osaka over Christmas break, probably around January 1st, because they have tons of Elmo stuff, and Knox loves Elmo.  I took a tap class last night that was decent, especially since I haven't tapped since June, which means that I am rusty.  I'm trying a ballet class on Monday.

Happy Thanksgiving, Americanos!!

From Japan,
Tiffany  



     

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Dexter Moment

Sometimes Dexter gets upset.  Even more rare, sometimes Dexter lashes out in public... but only in his head.  One of the best scenes depicting a Dexter freak out is when he finds out that Prado is using him.  Dexter throws a chair through the lab window, chucks his computer into some other equipment, and generally destroys the office with his bare hands.  But he doesn't, really, because a moment later the object of his passion peeks his head in and asks Dexter for a round of golf, and Dexter, in a calm manner, swivels around on his chair in his unharmed office to say, "You bet."

A couple of things are causing me to have a Dexter freak out right now.  #1:  My computer at school.  It's a useless hunk of grey mass and it infuriates me.  I really think the only reason people keep buying PCs is because people are masochists.  They would rather do what is comfortable rather than what is good for them.  Every morning I go through a kind of strategy with my computer.  I open it right away, sometimes before I sit down, and press the power button.  Then I put my phone, Japanese dictionary, lunch, and chapstick on my desk and take my coat off.  By this time the password prompt is available and I put mine in and press enter.  This is when I need a longer activity, like going to get a cup of tea or coffee, or organizing my folder for that day's classes.  When I get back, I have to close several new word documents that have opened themselves, and reopen the word document that I wanted to see.  Shortly after getting my document open, I open an Internet Explorer window, just so she's getting warmed up for me when I need her later.  That's all for my first routine of the day, but throughout the day, the entire day, every single time I save or open something, I have to wait.  And wait.  Sometimes I time how long it takes for a program to open, or even just an e-mail composition window.  45 seconds... a minute 20... one time I got up to around 4 minutes when I finally just killed it and started over.  I usually don't torture myself with timing.  Anyway, I usually end up physically threatening my computer once or twice a day, and I often have Dexter freak outs, where I see myself punching my computer in its stupid Windows face and smashing it repeatedly into the desk and the ground.

Frustration #2:  Lack of physical activity.  I'm not a sitter.  I'm a mover.  I do like to sit for long periods of time; I could read for hours.  However, this sitting must be balanced with, or outdone by, some serious running and jumping around.  I have such a dilemma because my time for shakin' what my momma gave me is after school, but that conflicts with the three and a half to four hours that I get with Knox each day.  I don't want to leave him and I feel strongly about being there for bedtime.  My preferred activity is dance, but all of the classes I know about start before 8:45 or so when I would ideally like to get there.  I wonder if the gym would be open after that, if I were willing to pay $60 a month for that access?  Anyway, I get really antsy at work and sometimes just take a stroll around the school because my butt is asleep.  Again.  This also brings me to why I am writing this blog at 4:30 in the morning.  I woke up around 2:45, I think, and I had to pee, then I needed some chapstick and a drink of water, then my back hurt and I made peter rub it a little, but he never really rubs it, he just starts to and then falls back asleep, and then I started to have what I refer to as crazy legs, but I had it all over.  Crazy Legs is a condition similar to RLS, or restless leg syndrome.  Crazy legs happen sometimes for no reason, or when I am am beyond tired, or apparently, when my body simply will not take it anymore and must move, despite the complete inappropriateness of the hour.

So, this is freak out number two.  I had Crazy Body and had to get up and pace my apartment and do some jumping jacks.  And write a blog, apparently.    

From Japan,
Tiffany

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

The Room
Today was Thanksgiving for some JETs, and we have one more Thanksgiving coming up.  We rented a kitchen at a community center that had 6 ovens.  If you haven't heard, we JETs don't typically have ovens, and even those who do report that they don't work very well and are smaller than American ovens.  One day in my Cross Cultural Communications class I described the size of an American oven and drew a picture on the board to a chorus of, "Ehhhh?"  My team teacher drew an approximation of her oven next to mine, and I told them that if we have an oven like that in the U.S., then we have two.  We JETs have toaster ovens and some have convection ovens, and we get very creative with rice cookers.  You know you can cook a cake in a rice cooker?  Who knew?

Kangaroo Meat





So, today we got to the kitchen at about 9:30 and got our quiches going.  We were Team Quiche, and we made 4 quiches; they were all different configurations of broccoli, ham, greens, cheddar, and feta.  Cooking in Japan takes quite a bit of effort, especially if you want to cook something foreign, like quiche, turkey, pumpkin pie, or kangaroo curry.  Coordinator Katie and Team Potato Brandy drove two hours to a Costco to pick up ingredients for everyone.  Convenience foods aren't as easy to find in Japan, so we had to make our own crust from scratch.  It was fun and made me feel more capable and less dependent on others.  Team Dessert, which ended up being only Katie, pretty much, made their own pie crusts from graham crackers and ginger snap cookies.  I'll have to find out where the kangaroo came from.  I took Knox home for a nap in the middle of the day, so I missed some interesting details.

Peter and Pete

Beer Pong 
The turkeys were ordered from a website called "The Meat Guy" and were delivered prior.  Three guys had to go get the turkeys from Lee's apartment around noon.  Picture three guys walking down the street, each holding a 10 pound turkey.  Thirty people eat a lot of turkey.  The turkeys were named Rodney, Pete, and ?.  We ended up having carrots, 2 kinds of potatoes, quiche, roasted vegetables, 3 varieties of stuffing - made from scratch - including plain stuffing, sausage stuffing, and oyster stuffing, turkey, mushroom gravy, giblet gravy, and turkey neck gravy, kangaroo curry, applesauce, green bean casserole, garlic/seasoned bread, spiced tea, hot chocolate, coffee, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, and a few other things.  We all cooked together, ate together, and cleaned up together.  There were dishes done in 5 or 6 sinks, people packed up tons of left-overs, and we rounded things out with a beer pong tournament.


Peter Doing Conversions.  Danged Metric System.  
Knox and Masa chased each other around until mid morning when Masa hit his eyebrow/forehead area and had to go for a butterfly.  I drove Yuko and Masa to the clinic and then went to retrieve their insurance card.  Knox also got to run around with everyone when we went out for a 4 o'clock game of football.  He had a great time all day and had lots of  attention and babysitters.

Yuko, and Knox Giving Masa a Hug
I really felt like it was Thanksgiving.  I even was thinking that traffic was the way it was because it was Thanksgiving.  The day was a huge success, apart from not getting one great big group photo.  Thank you to everyone who contributed, and for inviting us.      

From Japan,
Tiffany

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Culture Shock

So, I just consulted my culture shock graph, and I see my state of being confirmed.  I am in month four, which means I've been dealing with less than positive feelings, about being illiterate, mostly.



According to the graph, I will feel hostile for the next several weeks, and then start to improve.  I should be feeling fine by Christmas.  I don't actually feel hostile.  If you were to look at me, I just look like something smells kinda funny. 

There are lots of great and fun things going on, too.  We have a lot of really generous people around us who have invited us to dinner and offered to help with Japanese.  Our JET friends are awesome.  We are lucky to be surrounded by great friends who invite us to their apartments and shower us with movies, American football, and familiar candy purchased in Guam.  Our neighbors are awesome and we share rides, dinners, the internet, good conversation, and now Dexter.  We love having friends from distant towns crash on our couch and our floor, and we love returning the favor.  We are very slowly and painfully figuring out places that have what we want, and I am trying out a tap class soon, which I hope will be challenging.

Peter is doing fine, but I think Knox misses his mommy.  He wakes up around 5 am everyday crying for me, crying for the beeboos.  I think it's his way of spending more time with me.  Don't worry though, he has lots of fun playing at the parks and at kids groups and the Mommy Monster gets him when she gets home.

From Japan,
Tiffany

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween

Halloween was so freaking awesome this year, I can hardly believe it.  My Halloween week started last Sunday when I prepared my Jack-O-Lantern for my Halloween lessons.  Basically, I put aside all other lessons and dubbed the whole week "Halloween Week."   I gave a Jack-O-Lantern 'How-To' lesson.  At the beginning of each class we turned the lights out and I lit mine.  Then I gave them a worksheet I made with costume names and pictures, and they had to match the costume with the name.  They all thought the mummy was the zombie, so I had to just start telling them at the beginning that the mummy was ミイラ  We had fun reciting words like alien, werewolf, and vampire.  Then we unscrambled Halloween related words and in the midst of that learned about the Boogie Man.  We rounded out each lesson with a rousing game of Halloween Criss Cross.  Lots of candy was flying all over the place.  It was glorious.

I dressed as a frog all week in class, which was just me placing a headband with frog eyes atop my head.  I added a green dress when I went out on Saturday night, but I was unhappy with my costume, so we stopped by this big crazy store called Don Quixote and I got a new costume.  I knew what I was looking for;  A girl in one of my classes had a Stitch costume and I asked her where she got it.  She told me, "Don Qi's."  I found it not in the costume section, but in the pajama section. 

We went to another hectic Japanese dinner... dinner in Japan always entails us having to physically hold Knox in his seat while waiting for our mystery dishes to arrive because we can't read the menu or speak to the servers, and because the child seats in this country don't have seat belts.  WTF?

Anyway, dinner was mostly good.  Then we headed to a Halloween party where I saw several ladies that are in the English conversation class that I hold on Wednesdays.  I learned about Gloomy Bear at the party.  Tomek was gloomy bear for Halloween.  Gloomy Bear is a really cute bear that attacked his owner so he has blood all over him.  If you look Gloomy Bear up on Wiki, you will find that he is the artists answer to the super cutesy bears that the Japanese find irresistible.  Gloomy is like a real bear who is rescued as a cub, but is a wild animal, so he grows up and attacks his keeper.  Besides being Gloomy Bear, Tomek did unmentionable things to a cream puff for a few minutes, then I, the nun, and a zombie left for the PEI Pub.

PEI stands for Prince Edward Island.  It's a gaijin, that is, foreigner bar, that was founded by a guy from Canada and passed through the hands of a few different native English speakers, as far as I have heard.  They have a very decent club sandwich and other American type food.  PEI is pretty popular amongst JETs in Oita.  They have a dance party about once a month, and this month's Haze, as they call it, happened on Halloween weekend.  It's about $10 for entry and one drink, or $30 for all you can drink.  I had tons of fun dancing and talking and running around in the park.  Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you;  You cannot take a sip of alcohol in Japan and drive, but there are no open container laws, so you can walk around anywhere with drinks, and passengers in cars can drink away with no problem.  For the pub, which has a park with fountains outside, this means that people leave and get drinks at the convenience store, drink in the park, and go back for more fun and dancing.  I got my groove on at PEI for about 5 hours, got home at 3:30a, and slept till 7:30a when I got up with Knox and Peter.

But Halloween had only just begun!  We went to a kids party from 10a to 1p, had naps/second party prep from 1:30p to 4p, then arrived at our evening kids party at 4:30p.  We went trick or treating to the other kids houses, had a traditional Japanese winter dinner, the kids played and examined their Halloween take, we had cake, and enjoyed ourselves all around.  Knox got to bed on time at 8p and we performed our final Halloween act of setting the Jack-O-Lantern out on the porch, scaring or thrilling the natives, we know not.  

I never thought we would have such a great time on a holiday that isn't officially celebrated in Japan.  Next up, Thanksgiving!

From Japan,
Tiffany