Monday, October 31, 2011

...but it might just be a lunatic your looking for.

My eyes are open, but I think I might actually be sleeping. 

My mind is blank except for this thing I did yesterday that I remember I wanted to tell you.

I went to the post office with Knox, my back pack, and two packages, and we had to catch the bus to downtown after that.  I don't know if you know, but it's not that easy to go anywhere with a 2-year old, much less with so much stuff in tow, and public transportation thrown into the mix. 

I got to the post office and successfully mailed off my return to Victoria's Secret (the fuckers).  The other package was a present to my nephew, but I stupidly was honest about what was inside, and apparently you are not actually allowed to mail shochu (or any alcohol) to the United States.  So, I left the post office only one package lighter.  The post office is very close to my apartment, BUT the bus stop is in between the two.  If I were alone, I could've run back to the apartment and dropped off the package, but with Knox dawdling along with me, we would have missed the bus if I had tried to make it.  But I was not taking that package any further. 

What to do, what to do?

My neighborhood post wouldn't take it.  I couldn't bring it home.  I thought to myself that if I took it to the downtown office and tried to send it from there, lying about the contents, I would be caught.  I couldn't discount the possibility that every post office in town was already aware that a foreign woman with a child was trying to mail shochu to the US, in a memorable baby pink package, no less.  The woman had contacted a call center to ask for me about it, and I couldn't be sure that she wasn't talking to the main downtown branch that I would've tried next.  So, I knew that I would have to re wrap it in a different color and have someone else go lie about it.  That meant I couldn't get rid of it fast. 

That meant I had to leave it at the bus stop.

Oh, is it so crazy?  This is Japan.  People don't steal things in Japan.  Plus, I have two significant first hand experiences leaving things in public spaces and having them returned to me.  I thought it was more likely that someone would mail it for me than that someone would steal it.  I figured I had at least a 90% chance of it still being there when I returned, approximately three hours later.  I thought, "Who will pass by here in the next three hours?  A few old ladies?  Some school kids?  Some dudes walking their dogs?  The risk is smaller than the pain I would suffer from either lugging it around or waiting for the next bus.  I'm leaving it."

So, I tucked it behind the bus bench, still in very plain view, and went about my day. 

I arrived back at the bus stop a few hours later, and there it was... in a different spot.  Still, I wasn't concerned.  I got to it and could see that it had been gone through.  The pink, plastic wrapping had been nicely replaced, but the tape was pulled off, indicating that someone had rummaged about inside.  Still, I wasn't concerned.  I didn't even stop to look.  I just picked it up and took it home.  I checked it out when I got home and everything was accounted for.  I figure someone, maybe even law enforcement, had just wanted to make sure it wasn't something dangerous.  I'm sure once they saw the contents, they thought someone had misplaced it and would return for it. 

You may be right.  I may be crazy.  I left a few bottles of alcohol and a box of cookies at the bus stop.  But, all's well that ends well.  Hey, you should be impressed:  I bet YOU'VE never written a blog post while you were asleep.

From Japan,

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Keep on Truckin'


I've had a pretty productive day.  I taught a Halloween lesson, and I brought my Halloween lights to class that my mom sent me.  They are skulls that flash and they are attached to a box that plays creepy music and screams.  It was cool to bring them in and see the student's reactions.  I did not get my pumpkin carved in time for class today, but I will have this class next Tuesday and I will have my Jack-o-Lantern then.  Contrary to popular belief, you can totally carve the green Japanese pumpkins if you find one that is big enough, and it really doesn't have to be that big. 

I also got a stack of essays corrected.  These essays have become a bi-weekly occurrence, and they are really shakin' up my weekly routine of blogging and arranging my social calendar, ya know what I mean?  I have barely had time to manage my e-mails, and I simply have not had the time to correct and re-order from Victoria's Secret.  How dare my school delay my enjoyment of new unmentionables, eh?  (PS: I'm totally kidding.) 

As for VS, they jacked up my order royally, and their error with my address delayed my package over a month.  Tiffy not happiness.  I got on the phone and said, "Please be very nice to me, because I am very disappointed by you."  They asked me what I wanted, and I said that all I wanted was for them to pay my return shipping in addition to giving me free express shipping on my new order, so that this panty mayhem can be smoothed out as quickly as possible.  They complied, but I haven't had time to reorder yet.

You see, you can't get normal bras in Japan.  They are all super frilly and weird.  I think they can wear stuff like that here because many Japanese women wear at least two layers, so the smoothness of the bra isn't really an issue.  I don't know.  All I know is that bra and underwear satisfaction levels are reaching a critical low.  And I want the one perfume that I have ever liked; Heavenly.

In other shopping news, I got an iPhone4.  I'm always angry at a new phone for at least a week, and it has only been 4 days.  We are learning to trust each other.  We are adjusting each others settings and expectations.  We should be on good terms by the weekend.  My iPhone4 and I actually had a lovely morning together.  I took photos of my students on the very decent camera, and I looked up an acronym that one of my students used, without leaving my seat in the agora.  I've figured out the messaging and e-mail quirks, and I'm working on getting an application that will make my emoticons compatible with other phones.  I think we'll be friends, we just need time.

Now I'm finishing up a mochi と anko and a latte.  Yum.

I have to be honest and tell you that I have been hovering at my stress threshold, and at times spilling over.  I can tell you that now because I've settled a little.  This is why I haven't been keeping up with my posts as reliably.  I haven't been able to organize my thoughts, and I would've said something crazy.  Even today's post is a little forced, but I have to keep writing.  I have to!  Sometimes I wonder if my emotions aren't exceeding the severity of my circumstances.  Sometimes I'd really like to disappear.  I am reminded by friends and loved ones that I am not different or alone, and that I am in an extraordinary circumstance, so I'm allowed a little leeway.  One of my friends asserted that all we friends in Japan haven't known each other for long, haven't spent all that much time with each other, and that we are really all still strangers.  We have been here for over a year now, and I think some of my relationships are moving past that, but for the most part, it's pretty true.  Also, more than one person has said that they would've been packed and gone by now.  I'm certainly not packing.  I like it and I want to stay...  In this foreign world, where we are all so far from our usual supporters, we have to be here for each other, and luckily for the most part, we are.  I'm glad I got dropped into the pot with a lot of motivated and social people.  I'm really grateful for them. 

I am faced with so much uncertainty right now.  I am faced with a loss of security.  It's not so much what is happening that is so stressful, but it is the contrast of what is happening in comparison to what I have come to expect.  For a long time, a certain vision of my future has persisted.  It has been etched into me.  But the etching no longer represents what is in store for me.  That kind of thing is hard to remove.  It's hard to adjust.  My strength of spirit is remarkable, but sometimes I wonder if my mind and body can keep up.  My friends give me perspective and assure me that they can and will.  To those who have sent messages, called, and prayed for me, and to those who have shared time with me in recent weeks, thank you.  I'm a little too good at looking like I'm calm and collected all the time.  I blame it on acting lessons.

Seriously though, we all put on a strong face for the world.  When someone asks us how we are we say, basically, that we are fine.  We just have to do our best and keep on truckin'.  In the mean time I'll keep adjusting, and enjoying this foreign world.

From Japan,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Picture Window

You know about the den.  If you don't know about the den, you can learn about it here and here.  Let me tell you about the breakfast room.

This morning, it's a veritable monsoon outdoors.  It's beautiful and cozy.  I love the rain.  The breakfast room features a huge window, almost from floor to ceiling, and wider than my arms can go.  I know, I know, that isn't saying that much, but still, it's a nice window.  The breakfast table sits right up next to the window, coming out longways; The view is breathtaking in the winter when it's snowing, especially from time to time when a quail or some deer wander by.  I always sit on the kitchen side of the table, closest to the window, and I read.  This morning, I read the New York Times.  I like the New York Times.  It's gone through some interesting changes in the past year or so, but it's more raw and honest than most papers, and reflects the artsy mind of the city it hails from.  I like that.  And you don't win that many Pulitzers for nothin.

So anyway, I had The Times at the table, and I was snacking on lots of fruit and a cheese danish.  I'm crazy with drinks.  I had water, orange juice, tea, and coffee this morning.  I just can't decide!  And even if I don't want coffee, I love the process of the French Press, so I make it anyway.  I wasn't doing a great job getting through the paper.  I was staring out into the grey rain, aware of the drops dripping from the overhang, looking through the streaks of water on the glass.  The watery window distorted the world, gently pulled it out of focus.  It was easy for me to daze and daydream, to think about the world and reflect, to check in with myself.  Maybe that's why I like rainy days, because I like to sit and think.  Because I like to write.

The breakfast room is a lot less indulgent of a room than the den.  Just a farmhouse table with a pine plank top.  The chair seats match the distressed wood of the table, and the legs of both are painted white.  I painted them myself.  I like to have a hand in my things like that, but if you look closely, it's not a good job.  I pretend to be crafty sometimes, but I'm not.  I've never been good at making things with my hands.  I can dance, write, talk... but I can't make physical things.  I have some pottery I can show you to prove it.  The room is simple, but Tiffany things sit throughout the house.  My favorite Tiffany crystal vase stays on the breakfast table, whether there are flowers or not.  Today, there are not, but maybe when I go to the store tomorrow I'll get Irises. 

Today is a lazy day.  I have the whole house to myself.  I'll probably stay in this spot most of the day with my favorite throw wrapped around me.  I'll get up to get my Stephen King novel, the one I just can't seem to get through, not because I don't like it, but because I never seem to have enough time.  I'll finish it today, move on to the next in the series, and then not have enough time for that one.  That's ok.  That's life.

From Japan,

Monday, October 17, 2011

Recent Happenings and My Dream Day

So, the other day I wanted to wear this T shirt, but it was dirty, so I rinsed it out in the bath tub and hung it up in front of a fan in the bathroom.  There's this little knob that you switch back and forth for bath and shower, and when I went back in the bathroom to rinse a juice soaked towel (courtesy of Knox), the knob was turned to shower and I soaked my almost-dry shirt.  And myself.  Dang it.  I couldn't wear the shirt that night.  And guess what?  I did it again the next day.  I wore the damn shirt anyway, damp. 

I catch tid bits of radiation news in Japan from time to time.  I keep being reminded of the presence of radiation and the uncertainty of where it really is and in what quantities.  It's definitely in the back of my mind for Knox's sake.  I was thinking about it, and I will have to decide in January or February if I am staying in Japan any longer, so the last time we were at the pediatrician's office, I asked about testing Knox to be certain that he hasn't been affected.  If Knox's thyroid levels were at all awry, I'd have to peace out pronto.  The doctor said that the radiation in Oita is at normal levels and that there is nothing to worry about.  Maybe it's a flaw, but assurances like that are rarely good enough for me.  I asked if any children in Oita had been tested, and he said no.  I was really surprised that NO ONE had been tested.  That meant that I had no hard evidence to go off of, but lots of news stories noting cover-ups and inaccuracies.  So, I got Knox a thyroid test.  The poor little guy had to get a nasty poke in his hand, and he had to do it twice cause the nursed botched the first go.  But now, a few weeks later, his test has come back normal, and I have been freed of those worries.  And when the time comes to re contract, I can make a decision one way or another with a clear conscience.

I saw some live music on the beach the other night.  The strongest impression I left with is that people in this part of Japan don't know how to party.  I'll give them the benefit of the doubt; It WAS a Sunday.  Anyway, any live music is usually better than no live music, and it was still a really good time.  The lights were pretty.  This white guy was the last act.  OMG.  He got up there speaking some English and lots of Japanese and rapped in a sweater vest.  He did the "Hey, Ho" arm.  He did his best to rock the 30 people clustered by the stage, but something about him rang very artificial to me.  The night provided good people watching, and by the end of the night I had visited at least 3 konbinis, so all was well. 

I saw these advertisements in Beppu for some event where they set the mountain on fire.  I have seen the beer ads featuring the flaming mountain, but I just thought it was an advertising thing.  Whenever this great pyrotechnic event happens next, I want to see it.  Beppu people!!  Keep us informed!

Knox and I had a great day Monday.  I had the day off, so we went to his favorite play area at Youme Town, a mall in Beppu.  In Japanese, Yume means "dream."  "Yu" is pronounced in both English and Japanese like the English "you," but "me" is pronounced like the month of May.  So, when you look at the name of the mall, you see "you" and "me," which indicates togetherness, but you pronounce it like the Japanese word "dream."  Monday morning, we started at Starbucks where Peter and I had our regulars - iced soy chai, and Knox had a juice.  Then Peter went off to do some stuff and I took Knox on an adventure to get to Youme Town!  We went under the street!  Knox kept saying, "Mommy, we are going under!"  There are murals painted along the corridor under the street, and Knox recognized the Sunflower Ferry, the big boat that I rode to Osaka, in a painting.  I taught him Pegasus, as there was a painting of angels and winged horses.  We skipped over the witch.  I'm sure he saw it, but neither of us mentioned it.  Then we walked through a little park and played a game where if he walked on this certain plant, I would take him down with tickles.  He loved it.  I love his face when he intentionally steps on the right spot so I will tickle him.  Finally, we got there.  Mommy got very sidetracked on the way to the play area, as we had to pass through many floors of potential shopping on the way.  I contemplated ruffled socks for a few minutes.  Eventually, we made it.  This part was great, cause I got to sit and chill watching some Japanese cartoon they had on while Knox ran his booty off.  Whenever I can save energy and he can get rid of energy, things are in balance.  We took a train and a bus to get home - It was a miracle:  My bus pulled up right as I walked out of the train station.  By then I was tired, and I was grateful for that.  We finished the day with dinner at Surya, the best Indian/Nepali restaurant ever, and I went to bed with Knox at 9pm.  Nice.

My dream is to wake up without an alarm clock, slither to the couch, and watch TV all day, falling asleep intermittently whenever I want to.  Then, once it starts to get dark, I want to go out for dinner; maybe Sushi Meijin or something else that's relaxing, not fast food, and requires relatively little English translation.  Then I want to get some beers and mochi-with-anko from a konbini, and lay out under a sky not polluted by light, awash with stars.  And while I'm looking at the stars, I want to have some gooood conversation.  That would be refreshing.

From Japan,

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The other day, I asked a student if I could come to judo with her, and she gave me the big crossed arms signal (they do this in Japan: they cross their forearms to make an x meaning no, wrong, or bad) and said, "No, no."  I said, "Why not?!"  She pointed at my arms and shook her head, indicating that I'm too weak, which pissed me off in a good-humoured sort of way.  Like I have said, I'm competitive and fueled by adversity, so I dropped to the classroom floor, did some push ups, in my black pinstriped pants and button up shirt, and then got up and gave her an air karate kick to the head.  Then I circled the class, threatening to bow people in the face.  Everyone got a good laugh, and I left knowing they had a different opinion of how strong I might be.   When the bell rang, the students were all filing into the hall and pointing at me saying, "Strong, strong."  Who's weak now?

From Japan,

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Fine Line

Hi everybody.  I'm feeling a little shy today, after I've been gently admonished for perhaps saying a bit much regarding my life with Peter.  Peter doesn't mind anything I have written, and I think that's what matters most, but he says that other people are talking.  I never mean to cause bad feelings, so if I have, I'm sorry. 

I am walking a fine line with unpracticed feet:  I want to express myself, but I also want to respect the privacy of the other people involved.  We are doing a good job with this, but that doesn't mean it's not difficult, and that doesn't undo the years of what led us here.  All of that makes for a lot to let go of; a lot to say.  I guess I'll just have to find a better place to say it.  Forgive me.

We are doing well.  Knox is great - 4 hands full, at least.  We had to clean poo off carpets and tatami mats last night right after Knox's bath.  He told me he had to go and he went on the potty, but I didn't know that he had already made a deposit, and then tracked it from the living room to the bathroom.  Is that a better brand of TMI?!  I hope so!  ;-)

From Japan,

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


First, some business:  Family!!  Knox needs winter clothes.  Feel free to send footed pajamas, 2T, if you have a hankerin,' cause I haven't seen those here.

And now to the shopping...

Millions of people can't stop smoking.  Some people have issues with alcohol, some with drugs, others with sex.  A few get thrills by doing dangerous things like jumping out of airplanes.  Some people steal for an adrenaline high.  I shop.

I don't know what it is... I guess every person has an emptiness to fill, at some point or another, but whatever your vice is, the desire is always there.  I LOVE shopping.

I have asked for shopping as a present:  "Tiffany, what do you want for your birthday?"  "I want to go shopping.  Give me some money and 4 or 5 free hours, and my birthday fantasies will be fulfilled."  One time I asked every person in my family and Peter's to give me Banana Republic gift cards for Christmas.  Oh, God, it was glorious.  I shopped there whenever I wanted and could get there for 6 months.

I know one indication of being an alcoholic is drinking alone.  I don't know if it's the same with shopping, but I prefer to shop alone.  If people are with me, I feel too much pressure to get out of the dressing room quickly, and I can't browse with focus:  STOP TALKING TO ME.  I AM SHOPPING.  Oh, you want to go get a smoothie, that's cool... but in my head, I'm whining, "But look at all the stores we are passing and not going in to.  I know I'm not that good of a cook, but Williams Sonoma is right there and I want to see it." 

In LA, I got really into grocery shopping because I was exposed to Trader Joe's and my fav, Whole Foods.  There is no need for justifications or the after shopping guilt.  I mean, IT'S FOOD, right?  Well, not quite.  It's not just shopping that feeds my need, it's QUALITY shopping.  Maybe I didn't need the Raw, Organic, 16oz Live Granola for 13 dollars.  But it was really good for me!!  And I feel really good about eating organic, grass fed beef, and if I have to eat something quick, organic whole grain pancakes or a prepared vegan box is really nice.  I like chocolate.  Organic chocolate from the Alps.  Wahahahahahahaha!!!  Yeah.  I really like gourmet shopping.

Luckily, I had a better handle on the meaning of money by the time I moved to LA.  But, I still ended up with my first Citizens of Humanity and 7 for all mankind jeans.  Dang Nordstrom coupons.  But I must defend the quality stuff.  I keep my clothes forever.  Right now, I am wearing a Banana Republic skirt that I got before I met Peter.  That means I have had it for more than 10 years.  It's beautiful and in perfect condition.  I firmly believe that investing in quality is worth it.  Sure, you get like ten times more stuff from Forever 21 for less, but it falls apart the 3rd time you wash it and your money is gone.

So, I bring up shopping because, over the past 4 or 5 years, I have buckled down pretty seriously.  There have been entire months when I did not go shopping at all.  Yeah, I know.  Crazy.  (And probably not true, lol!  If I'm dying, but trying to be good, a tank top from American Eagle can tame the beast.)  But, really, I was much, much more frugal.  I became a fan of Goodwill, where I often found some of my favorite brands for 2 dollars instead of 50.  I have no trouble with the store name or the price, as long as I get the shopping experience.  Especially during the time post-pregnancy, pre-regular body, I needed interim clothes that I knew I would only wear for a month or three.  Goodwill!  But, I did really well for the past few years, rarely ever splurging, except on fancy food.  Which is ok, cause it's food, which I will defend by saying that healthier people don't have to spend as much on medical stuff.  Eh?

Yesterday, I went shopping.  It was fun.  I tried to order an electric blanket on Amazon, but it wouldn't ship to Japan, so I got myself one from Muji, our local... I guess it's kind of like IKEA/Target, except tiny compared to them, and completely neutral (colors).  As I understand, that's what Muji means- something like "plain" or "neutral."  It's pretty cool.  I needed the blanket because I am not messing around with the cold weather this year, so I got bootie slippers and the electric blanket before the time comes that I can see my breath in the kitchen.  I might order some serious gloves, too.  My coat is nice, but the feathers are starting to pop out of it and stick to my clothes, so a new coat might be in order.  I also got some organizational things for the closets that I am trying to clean out and organize.  In cleaning, I scored a PlayStation and some ankle weights, found in some dark dusty corner, left by my predecessor.  The ankle weights already improved my ab and leg exercises.  Awesome.

I also got some fun girly stuff:  A dress, some nail polish, some hair thingies... I went just a little crazy, but not too crazy.  Since college I graduated from credit to cash, so I can't get myself into too much trouble. 

I want to take some pictures of funny things around here that we don't have in the US- like this umbrella gadget I saw yesterday at Starbucks.  Since it was raining, they put this thing out by the front door...  It's about hip high and about 16 inches wide.  You stick your umbrella in to the top, push it down, and then pull it out the front, and your umbrella comes out with a plastic cover on, containing all of the mess a wet umbrella can cause.  Speaking of Starbucks, I have a mug collection, and on Monday night I saw two 15th Anniversary (of Starbucks in Japan) mugs.  I thought, oh those are cool, I'm going to get them tomorrow.  They were important to my collection, as they are unique to Japan.  On Tuesday, they were sold out, and apparently they are sold out all over Oita.  Grrrrrr.

Ok, enough of my ramblings.  Have a great day!

From Japan,