Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Leaving Japan

People...

I'm getting excited for my trip!!!!!

The other day I was watching Elf followed by Home Alone, and I thought, "Oh my God:  I'm gonna get to listen to the radio, in English, in the car!" Those two things aren't connected, but somehow they were.  And I thought about how when I go shopping I can ask for exactly what I want!!!!!!  And how when I go to the grocery store I'm going to read the entirety of every label on every food and personal care product.  I don't know what is going to happen yet, but I can totally see myself sitting in the isle of some store crying either out of relief that I can read or out of pure resistance to the idea of returning to Japan, even though I love Japan.  Because my hobbies will always include "not being Japanese."  

Anyway, as I was saying, I'm getting excited.  I know that my immense joy for things like carpet and unlimited free BBQ sauce at Chik-fil-A will not be proportionate, but just let me bask in my culture in my own way.  Be a buffer between my giggles of over-jubilant glee and uninformed bystanders.  THEY don't know that where I've been, THERE ARE NO TURKEY SANDWICHES.     

You would think that this would be a good opportunity to bring some things home with me, but, I will be carrying Knox's luggage and mine on a train, on a walk to my friend's house to spend the night in Fukuoka, then on another train to the airport.  From there I will check stuff and have help, but on the way back it will be the same.  So... there is really no good time to do that.  Plus, I have a lot of fragile items that I'm scared to check.  We shall see.

As I've said in a previous Christmas blog, my mom goes CRAZY on Christmas.  She has 2 young grandsons now, so this year she will focus all her powers of Christmas joy-spreading on Knox (my 3 year old son) and Aiden (my 1 year old nephew). 

...skip two days...

I had a school party for English teachers the other night that ended up taking over 7 hours from leaving the house to getting home.  It's two days later and I still haven't caught up on sleep.  Somehow I got really busy and people needed me for all sorts of things.  I've been grading papers, calculating scores, gathering participants and planning for an English seminar in January, planning classes, gathering crafty things for Christmas card making, and the big one, deciding if I will stay in Japan any longer.   

I thought I would be deciding about Japan in late January/early February.  Because the Oita Prefecture Board of Education sets up a few more hoops to jump through for JETs wanting to enter into a 4th year, I would have to write a statement of purpose, provide proof of passing an official Japanese test, and have a letter of recommendation written on my behalf.  I knew about the extra business, but i didn't know the deadline for submission of those things was early next week.  I thought I would visit home in December/January and then have time to make a good, firm decision when I got back, but all of a sudden on Tuesday, I was asked what I'm going to do.  

I've been leaning toward repatriating, but I didn't have to settle on returning to the USA yet, so I hadn't.  But yesterday I wrote a short explanation and official statement that I will not pursue another year in Japan.  All of a sudden it really hit me that I'm leaving Japan.  All of this is going to be replaced by... a cloudy void of Ehhhhh, It'll work out.  It's not only that I don't know what's in store for me, it's also that I really enjoy my life here, I will be sad to say goodbye and I will miss it here.  

I am not getting much support for my decision yet... I am leaving a good salary, excellent health benefits, great hours, vacation time, sick time, a decent conversion rate, a spacious apartment, and some good friends for America.  America means family, a rest from the constant challenge of this language and culture, a rest from the walls with no insulation, and a return to my home.  I've had my adventure and I've had ample opportunity to save money, and I still have 8ish months to do so.  I've made good use of the health benefits by checking some things out and getting my wisdom teeth extracted for pennies on the dollar that I would've spent in America.  I can't put a monetary value on Knox knowing his family and growing up in his own culture.  He has benefited tremendously from this experience, in ways obvious and not at all obvious.  I could make a life here.  I really could stay here my whole life if I wanted to, and I think it would be a really wonderful life.  But I just don't belong here.  I feel certain that I will come back some day, maybe just to visit, or maybe to work, but right now I know in my heart that it's time to go. 

As for the future and all those things people are yappin' at me about... I believe... my intuition tells me, that my path is laid out for me.  I have faith that things will work out.  Worrying and struggling won't earn me a future.  I plan to save money and study while I'm still in Japan.  I plan to take the LSAT shortly after I return to the US, and by December, to get my applications in to Stetson Law in St. Petersburg, the University of Florida in Gainesville, and possibly 2 or 3 other law schools in Florida.  Maybe FSU, Miami, and Nova.  Between September and the following August (when I will presumably enter law school), I will teach dance and probably work another job as well.  You may scoff, but I really like working at Starbucks, and I might do that for the year.  Doesn't sound too bad to me.

Well, I have more tests to score, and that's that for now anyway.  Congratulations to my new slew of pregnant friends.  I'm so happy and excited for you... actually, one more story... I was interviewing students the other day and a student told me that after school right now she goes home every day and helps her sister with her newborn baby girl.  I dissolved into squeals.  Done.  A+.  Lol!

Have a good day!

From Japan,
Tiffany

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Zen Torture

A few weeks ago I participated in an intensive zen retreat.  The man I like to call the "Monk Master" starved me, hit me, forbade speaking and bathing, left me in a room so cold I could see my breath and told me I couldn't wear socks, and made me weed a grave site.  He instructed me to sit without moving a muscle for hours and hours, and I wasn't to move even when my feet fell asleep and my hips were aching, and my toes were turning red from cold.  He woke me with a hand-bell at 4am.  

And somehow, he convinced me to pay for this. 

I arrived at the Tetsugyuji Temple in Yufuin City, Oita Prefecture, on Friday night and sat on the tatami mats with 7 companions and the Monk Master (who's name is Paul.  He is the first Westerner to be named Head Abbot of a Zen Temple in Japan.  I guess he is a monk.  I'm not sure.).  The Monk Master gave us some preliminary teachings on what we were about to do; how to sit, why we sit, what we should think about while we sit...  

The big activity of the weekend, the reason we were there, was to learn zazen (literally seated meditation, in Japanese  坐禅).  In English, we called it just "sitting."

On this Friday evening and before each sitting, we got a square seat pillow and a round cushion.  Each of us was to put down the square pillow on the edge of the room, and line it up with the ribbon on the tatami mat.  Then we placed the round cushion on top and that's where we would sit, in lotus, half-lotus, Indian style, or seiza (to do seiza you get on your knees, put your feet flat on the floor behind you, and sit on your heels with your knees together.  All Japanese people can do this easily for long periods of time, whether they are young or old, thin or fat) for hours every day.  Many, many hours every day.  Many, and basically staring at the wall.   




On Friday night I think we only sat for 40 minutes, then did "kinhin," which is walking meditation.  The Monk Master rings this big bell and we get up, bow to our place, bow to the center of the room, and then prepare for walking.  Several times people fell and crashed into the walls because their legs were asleep.  Then we walk in a circle around the edge of the room twice, slowly and not stepping on the ribbons or creases between the tatami mats.  It takes 8-10 minutes to do this.  I think what happened was Buddha was like, "I'm gonna lose limbs here if I don't get up and shake it out," hence kinhin.  Usually we would settle back in for another 40 or 50 minutes after kinhin.  

After our brief sitting on Friday night, we prepared our beds.  We brought futons, blankets and pillows into the temple.  This had to be done fast... 

...Everything had to be done fast.  My mother would laugh so hard if she coulda seen me running around trying to keep up with the rigid disciplined schedule, the look on my face sometimes of disbelief and other times of misery.  I really don't know why, but it often takes me longer to do things and I'm always the last one ready.  The schedule and pace disagreed with me.  I'm an artsy type.  I like to float around, you know.  I do like to work fast, I like to tap dance fast, I like to think fast, but I like to wake up sloooooow.  I like to prepare food and eat at a reasonable but leisurely pace.  I like to stop sweeping and stare out the window for a few minutes.  Not at the temple...

...Once we got our beds ready we jumped in and went to sleep, this was around 8:30pm.  Lights out was 9pm, but we were all so tortured and tired we didn't worry about the 20 or 30 minutes.  Besides, in bed we were finally warm.

Then all of a sudden it was 4am and the blazing overhead lights came up quick after the ringing bell.  On the first day I tried to do what I would usually do on a Saturday morning:  Register that it was time to get up, then luxuriate for a few more minutes in the warmth of my squishy covers.  Then I would sit up and wiggle things out a little, take some deep breaths and moan some before finally opening my eyes... but by this time in zen-torture world people were already running around like chickens with their heads cut off and my brows were furrowed in resistance.  So, struggling, I got to my feet and started folding and lugging this big, heavy futon set back to the shelves, where I stood for a few precious minutes I didn't have wondering what I was gonna do cause I couldn't reach to put my stuff away.  A frustrated Jeff (this guy who had done this before and, although good-natured, was pretty serious about the whole thing) put my stuff away for me.  By that evening there was a step stool available.  Another thing about me being small is that I couldn't get my arms around my whole bedding set, so while everyone else could save time by taking their stuff in one trip, I had to take two trips.  See, sometimes I'm slow and inefficient, other times I'm just small.  Mom.

After putting the bedding away I had like 4 seconds to brush my teeth, go to the bathroom, add some layers to protect against the cold, and run to get my cushions and be ready to sit by the time the Monk Master rang the bell at 4:15am.  I didn't leave anything out.  I didn't have time to brush my hair, and I had to use breaks later in the day so I could change my underwear.  There were no showers even present.  And by the way, only Japanese squatty potties.  If you didn't realize, these are the toilets most widely available in Japan:

Japanese squatty potty




So after crazed waking up, I rushed to the temple, bowed on the way in "to my best self," and the gong rang.  Bow to the center, bow to my place, and sit.  Then I was to count my breaths and think of nothing else.  Commence hallucinations.  Naw, actually, I don't think I hallucinated until Sunday. 

Schedule:


-Wake up 4am
-Morning meditation 4:15 – 5:45am
- Cleaning/ Chanting 5:45 – 6:30
- Morning meal/juice 6:30
- Break until 7:30am
- Zazen meditation / Dokusan 7:30 – 10:30am
- Break 10:30 - 11am
- Meal/juice 11am.
- Break 11:30 – Noon.
- Chores Noon – 1pm
- Lecture 1pm – 2pm
- Break 2pm – 2:30pm
- Zazen meditation 2:30 – 4:30
- Macha break 4:30 – 5pm
- Break 5pm – 5:30
- Zazen meditation 5:30 – 7:30 pm
- Evening soup 7:30 – 8pm
- Preparation for bed
- Lights out 9pm.


 That's 7-8 hours of sitting and not moving each day.  To emphasize how torturous this can be, the schedule showed that on the last day we would only do the one-hour early meditation session.  When the Monk Master put up the schedule that showed an additional 3 hour session, one girl started crying.  In a previous intensive, a guy disappeared and wasn't found until the next day, having escaped in silence.  

And all those breaks shown on the schedule are BS.  When I was assigned to morning juice, I didn't get a break until 10:30am after the 2nd sitting, cause I was preparing before "breakfast" and cleaning up after.  I'd say I actually got two 30-minute breaks each day, during which I would take a nap on my electric blanket.  Yeah, bringing that thing was a stroke of genius.  I had my new friends snuggled up with me and tucking their feet under the edges.  You shoulda seen their faces when I brought that baby out.  Mmmm.

Meals were fast:  We brought out two long, low tables suitable for seiza sitting, drank our bowls of juice quickly, and then put everything away.  I'd guess that set up, drinking, and clean up took 30-minutes all together.

During cleaning we dusted the temple and the butsudan (statues), swept and mopped the floors, cleaned the toilets, and put the futons out to sun.  One day we weeded.  We juiced apples, pears, carrots, mikan (like tangerines), and did all the dishes.  All in silence.

Mostly.  We whispered a bit, and on Monday I had a full conversation in whisper.  And, well, I like comedy, I don't take life too seriously most of the time, I make a joke out of everything, and I have a gutter mind.  So how did I used those pillows during break time?  To play silent sumo.  How did I show that blue futons are for boys and pink futons are for girls?  Well, use your imagination. 

One last thing we learned about and experienced during the long weekend was "dokusan."  The Monk Master would ring a bell and then stand there like a samurai and bellow authoritatively, "DOKUSAN!"  Then he would go to the room down the hall and ring a bell.  At that time we could run and fight each other, in silence, for position in line to talk privately with the Monk Master.  When I heard the hand-bell I knew my turn had come, and I hit the small bell at the front of the line twice with a mallot, then ran down the hall, waited for the previous person to go, then entered another hallway.  I did a full bow on my knees with my forehead almost touching the ground, first at the end of the hallway, again after entering the room and closing the door, and again in front of the monk master, before dragging myself closer and into seiza.  Then we had a nice chat.  Since I was a beginner he was nice to me and didn't hit me with the "teaching stick."  After our chat, the only time I was allowed to speak, I reversed the bowing order, and made my egress.

I liked a few things about the intensive:  I liked the fresh juice fasting; it was healthy, yummy, and made me feel good.  I liked the silence, because I hide my social anxiety well but I really liked not having to worry about what to say to all these new people.  And I hesitate to say it, but I benefited from the glimpse of staunch discipline.  I now have a better idea of what I'm capable of in that arena.

The two things I can't forgive of that weekend in the Temple are the cold and the sleep deprivation.  I'm sensitive to cold and I need my sleep.  4am.  Pfaw.

After all, I was exhausted and I looked it, but my raging ocean of thoughts was calmed.  People asked me what I was thinking about and I could honestly say, "Nothing."  And I made a leap in my breathing technique.  I definitely discovered more space in my back and sides to get air into, which also improved my sitting posture.  I actually was able to use my breath to tell if I was sitting up straight.  It was cool.  

Oh, God, look at me.  And that's after I had been to the onsen!
 Honestly, I wouldn't do this particular retreat again, but I surely will do a different style at some point.  Something incorporating yoga, sauna, meditation, and nature would be ideal.  Somewhere warm.

From Japan,
Tiffany

   

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Mumps

Knox has the mumps.

I found out during a class.  My first reaction was, "Oh, my God."  I started sweating, and I couldn't concentrate.  Near the end of the class, while the students were doing a worksheet, I called the teacher out into the hall and told her.  She said that she had had the mumps when she was young.  I was really nervous, but hearing that made it a little better.

When class was over I went down to the staff room and told another woman who has two sons and strikes me as very practical and sensible.  I'm emotional, so I wanted to hear what she had to say.  She said that most people who get it are fine.  Two other English teachers joined in and said that they didn't get the vaccine, had gotten the mumps, and that they were fine.  I was starting to see that although the mumps is a serious virus, it doesn't incite the fear that I expected from people.  In Japan, many people get the vaccination, and many people don't.  It's not viewed as the end of the world.

When I got to Knox, he was playing with toys with as much energy as ever, except the right side of his face was swollen.  He looked like a fat boy on one side, with a half double chin.  The night before this, he went to the children's night clinic because he had been throwing up all his food.  He got medicine and a drip of nourishment, so I was surprised when we sat down to lunch and he munched it all up with no problem.  Thank goodness he has been eating all his meals, drinking lots, and hasn't thrown up again since that night.  He can only take his fever/pain medicine every six hours, and his fever has been up to 101 near the 6 hour mark.  Imagine what it would be without the medicine!  

He has been in really good spirits and had great energy, despite the virus.  I have to tell him to sit down, be calm, stop jumping, stop yelling, so he can save his energy for getting better.  But it's very encouraging to see him so genki (lively).  He sees TV and he becomes transfixed, zombie-like, so I have been subduing him with hours and hours of downloaded Dinosaur Train.  Today he's being subdued with Tom & Jerry.  We are keeping him inside; no stores, no other people... and I feel pretty good right now that he will recover just fine.  But, you know, it's THE MUMPS!!  So I'm still a little nervous.  

Last night it spread to his left side, but he woke up with only a low fever.  I was confused by that, but glad that he seems to be doing ok.

The boy LOVES blueberries.  I keep frozen blueberries in the freezer all the time.  He loves dinosaurs, and you should hear him babbling dinosaur names and time periods in the bath that he learned from books and Dino Train, while he's playing with his sea creatures (only sea creatures are allowed in the bath).  If anyone reading this gets Knox clothes for Christmas, he can fit into 3T, but at this point 4T would be best, and even 5T is ok for some things.  He wore a 5T button up shirt the other day and it wasn't really too big.  

The busy season has started, and I think I have several scheduled events every weekend until I leave for America.  I won't be able to go to all of it.  Also, I'm doing this Zen-Buddhist retreat in Yufuin, about an hour from my apartment.  It's Friday to Monday, and I'll be silent all day except for chanting, get up around 4:30am for 3 mornings, and eat only fruit.  It's all about mastery of the mind and body, with a spiritual aspect to it.  I've wanted to do something like this for a long time, so I'm really looking forward to it. 

That's all folks.

From Japan,
Tiffany

Monday, October 8, 2012

Coming to America

Hiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeee!  I'm  going to America!!

So, at first I was like noooo it's too expensive, and noooo I'm 99.9% sure I'm moving back to the US in July/August so why go now...

But then my friend Nichole was like, shut up with all that talk, GO.  Her rationale was that yeah, it's expensive, but the Japanese government will send me like 3 times that amount once I return to the US in pension, and that I NEED to go for my psyche.  She said that she isn't even that uncomfortable in Japan (she is pretty much fluent, so much so that she will be the first native English speaker to go to grad school in Oita starting in July, and these are not special classes for foreigners or anything, she is doing it in Japanese), but she STILL stood in Target for like an hour basking in the complete understanding she had of everything around her.

That sounds so awesome... at a Target with a Starbucks, obviously.

To sit at Barnes & Noble with a pile of books that I found perusing... a hobby of mine I haven't enjoyed in over 2 years... heaven. 

I think it will be healing and enlightening.  I think it will make the time I have in Japan after my trip even better.  I will see it with fresh eyes.

So, I leave Japan from Fukuoka on December 20th and after a change in Dallas, arrive in Tampa the same day at 2pm.  I'll be in Florida from December 20th until January 3rd.  I am looking forward to meeting my nephew Aiden, seeing my family that I haven't seen in 2 1/2 years, and seeing lots of friends.  I hope that my best friends from Miami and North Carolina can come to see me.  I miiiiight go to Gainesville, but I don't see myself doing much traveling within Florida once I get there from JAPAN.  I'm so looking forward to bringing Knox around to see everyone, and sharing my beautiful boy with so many family and friends that haven't seen him since he was 16 months old!!

I'm also looking forward to experiencing Christmas and New Year's, and bringing good presents back to people in Japan, now that I understand what good omiyage is.  Megan and I shall have a chai, but it looks like our lunch place isn't there anymore.  Ayne and I shall have wine while our boys sleep. 

I have something really special to look forward to.  I will not be sitting on my butt at school, feeling useless and bored.  There's more to life than money, and this trip is valuable to me in less calculable but very significant ways.  And I didn't pay for this trip with a credit card, I paid "cash," so I'm not creating debt, at least.  

I'm gonna connect, and while I'm there, I can talk to some brilliant and trusted friends and look around at that world and decide what to do next.  I think being there will give me confidence.  From so far away, it's hard to feel sure, but when I'm standing there, I think I will think to myself, I can do this.

Speaking of... 

My faith has grown recently.  I've been praying a lot, and I can really feel the difference in my body.  I pray for resolve, and for my resolve not to waiver.  I pray that I will remember that I don't have to know or do everything, that the path is laid out for me; I don't have to lean on my own understanding.  I pray for the guidance and strength to endure all that will come at me in the next year.  I pray for my life to be simple.  

Now let's do some pelvic thrusting with Neil.  Skip into 1:00 to skip the intro, and the good thrusting is at 1:14.  Sing into a hairbrush or a spatula.

Coming To America
Neil Diamond




From Japan,
Tiffany

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Before You Act: Hemingway

Before you act, listen...

I'm listening.  I'm listening to my heart, and consulting my mind.  I'm listening to the silence behind the sounds all around me.  I believe there are answers there, and in some moments, understanding dawns.  I'm finding calm.


Before you react, think...

At this, I have failed, so now I have less to react to, and that is healthy for me.  Simplicity heals.  A crowded mind has no space to think, so the reactions come... willy-nilly.  :-)  Willy-nilly, I think, is no way to conduct one's self.  Space in the mind allows for perspective.  In a cluttered mind, like on a cluttered desk, you can't find anything... everything is a scramble.  It's time for me to clear my space so I can think.


Before you spend, earn...

So I guess I'm not going to law school.  Ha!


Before you criticize, wait...

In my world growing up, there was no waiting on my behalf, so I didn't learn waiting.  But I have as an adult, and I'm getting much better.  Even the most constructive criticism is best given after some healthy, quiet discernment.  People, I've found, like to rest in their own truths.  And I've learned that truth is much more subjective than I always believed.  Again, space is a healthy answer; space to allow others to be as they are, even if their truths are a little different than yours.


Before you pray, forgive...

This is one of those wonderful things that seems hard to remember to do.  Forgiveness feels like a supernatural thing to me... Despite my doubts, when I seek it, it comes, and it dissolves pain.  When we don't forgive, it can be painful to others, but we mostly feel that pain ourselves.  


Before you quit, try...

If I'm seeing myself clearly, I'd say this isn't hard for me.  I'm not afraid to put myself out there.  I'm a great-big-huge-giant believer that the benefits always outweigh whatever pain or failure may come.  If you can hurt, you can love, and nothing is greater than love.

And in my life, at least once, quitting WAS trying... I wanted to do something, and I was scared.  Fear often keeps people from trying for what they want.  They are scared of what might happen.  I wanted to quit college.  But I was scared of what might happen.  I dreaded what resistance I would meet.  Just the same as moving to Los Angeles to audition and advance my performance skills, people had so many doubts and opinions to give as to why I shouldn't do it, why it was risky, and what I should or could do instead.  I knew it was a big decision, but I wanted to try it, so I quit college.  I am very proud of myself for quitting college.  It took huge cojones for me to follow through with that, and a lot of strength for me to deal with the extreme reactions I got from some family.  

You have to do things that take strength to be strong.

My dad accused me of being on drugs and sold my car out from under me.  It was so hard to follow through with what I wanted, but I was convicted, and nothing could stop me.  And because I didn't let fear guide me, I learned, experienced, and became stronger.  

And a side benefit is that I have a lot of great stories to tell about the many things I did (became a coffee aficionado, met and worked with Broadway/TV/Movie actors at a Tony Award winning theater festival, was friends with Mia Farrow's daughter and Lewis Black, got engaged, escaped a cult, lived in NYC, overcame severe depression and OCD) during that year and a half before I returned to college and graduated. 




   
That Hemingway was a smart dude.  Too bad he didn't take his own advice.

From Japan,
Tiffany







Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Dentist

Last week I needed a drink, so I found the vending machines on the 7th floor.  I surveyed the territory as my drink fell, and there shined a shiny dentist's office.  I like shiny things and I need a dentist, so I went in for a closer look.  It was like in the movies when certain words jump out at you from a secret document: 

Blah, blah, blah                                                  wa wa wa wa wa
New York University  ladi da di doo       
                         woo wooo wooooo             American Dental Association
yadda yadda yadda


I was like, yo, somebody around here has to speak English.  And the dentist did, so I made an appointment for the next week.

I had my appointment yesterday.  The dentist was really nice and funny and happens to be the husband of the daughter of the doctor that runs my local clinic, about a block from my apartment.  He took a quick look and a full 'round the head x-ray, and we talked about what I wanted, chiefly my wisdom teeth removed.  He had also mentioned a cleaning.  When I sat back in the chair we looked at the x-rays and he pointed out the teeth in the back of my mouth that I was told by American dentists may someday cause me problems.  He said, "Which one do you want out first?" I said, "I don't know..."  -I quickly considered my lower teeth crowding issues and chose the one on the side with the worst squeeze, not that I have any actual knowledge that those teeth will relax into the new space- "...the bottom left, I guess."  

The dentist: "OK, wanna do it?"
Tiffany: "What?  Right now?"
The dentist: "Yeah." 
Tiffany: "I thought this was kind of a big deal!"
The dentist: "No way, it's so easy."
Tiffany: (in shock) "OoOooO KaAaAy."

I was freaking out, and as he put some numbing gel in my mouth, my heart started pounding out of my chest.  The dentist was teasing me the whole time about being nervous and just kept telling me how easy it was to remove this tooth.  He was so chillaxed about the whole thing, it helped me relax and I was a little better after that.

I think he put the gel on so I wouldn't even feel the needle when he next did the local anesthetic.  Once the area was numb I think he screwed something into the tooth and then worked it out.  He had to pull so hard that I had to hold my jaw in place on the right side with my fist, but I didn't feel a thing.  It was done.  Easy.  Even now I've never had any pain, only a bit of discomfort.  He gave me my tooth in a cute little tooth-shaped case on a rubber band around my wrist.  Get this: Everything, including the procedure, antibiotics and the pain meds came to under $40.  And that's why I got it done in Japan.  I just saved a few THOUSAND dollars.

I have two more wisdom teeth which I will consider having out when this one is all healed up.  The one on top is fine, so I probably will leave it there.  The other one on the bottom does have a bit of gum just over the back, so when my current removal anxiety wears away I'll probs have that one out, too, although I read on a website that if you have had no problems by the age of 30 then you are probably ok.  Although, that doesn't really make sense to me.

My throat is REEEEAAAAAALY dry.  But I haven't had any pain- haven't even taken any of the pain meds.  I can feel it, but it doesn't really hurt, and I take enough pills without tossing that on top.  I latch onto news stories of old and never forget them.  The one that comes to mind now is the one about the Mexican guy who read his English language prescription wrong.  

It said take 1 2-times per day.  He took 12.  He died.

Not that anything like that is gonna happen, but I'd rather just not take something if I don't have to rather than worry about the interactions between things I got from four different sources.  But really, who takes 12 of anything?  

I'm going for a follow-up today.  I wish I had more interesting things to say.  But I don't.

From Japan,
Tiffany

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rump Shaker

The time has come for me to rouse remembrance of the anthem of '92, for us to call to mind that a wiggle and a jiggle can make the night complete, and for Rump Shaker to rise again.  I now take upon myself the responsibility of restoring hip-hop's Wreckx-N-Effect to the cultural awareness.  

Why?  Cause all I wanna do is zoom-a-zoom-zoom-zoom and a-boom-boom.
 
People got young, see, and they forgot the Rump Shaker.  My friends, heed the call of this #1 Billboard Hot Rap Single of 1992.  Without further ado, I present:

Rump Shaker


 



I don't think I need to say more.  Now let me see you shake your rump like a rump shaker.


From Japan,
Tiffany


Monday, August 27, 2012

PMS / Travel

Dude I was PMS-ing hard.core. yesterday.  I was trying to find people to talk to so I could bitch about stuff.  I wanted to pull somebody's hair and then tell them they were fat.  I wanted to walk out of work, I was so mad about sitting on my butt for 5 hours with no tasks but for those I assign myself.  I think I feel like telling you this because it serves as some kind of confession and atonement.

I recognized the self destructive qualities of my hopes and dreams of bitching, fighting, and deserting my post of English speaking glory, and I mostly succeeded in sparing myself the consequences of my cranky mood.  My super-awesome friend showed me patience and understanding, and cheered me up.

Today I feel sooo much better, partly cause I did two rounds of Spartacus before school today.  Feeling like a fat ass is about the surest-fire way to put me in a Negative Nancy state of mind.  Haven't been able to shake that since I was 8.  

I have sushi plans tonight, AND it's 10% off Tuesday at Sushi Meijin: Yay.  

...so I have an attention deficit right now.  I've been prescribed meditation to strengthen my focus.  I can look at my To-do list on my way out of work, and forget 1 of 3 things on my way home.  Last night I forgot to look at my list, so I forgot the stuff that I was supposed to bring to school today.  When I remember to do something, I do it as fast as I can so I don't forget to do it later.  And if I remember to do two things, I write the other one down next to me so I don't forget about it while I'm doing the first thing.  Sigh. 

I'm going to Korea!!  I haven't left the country of Japan.  Ever.  It's true.  I left America 6 or 7 times, if you count international waters and Canada, but I have never left Japan.  But I will!  We have a long weekend coming up and I'm planning to spend a few days in Korea.  I hope it's cool.  I'm sure it will be.

And I just want to take this moment, for no good reason, to say I never want to go to China... except it would be really cool to see that field of stone guys.     

But I do want to go to every continent.  Yes, Antarctica is a continent and I want to go there.  And yeah I want to go to Egypt and South Africa, but I also want to go to real Africa (I know, how ignorant), like Zimbabwe.  Do I have any middle school friends reading this blog?  ZIMBABWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!  And Russia, for ballet and architecture, and Europe anywhereIdon'tcare, but I want to see gardens and castles, and the Galapagos Islands, and Machu picchu, and of course Argentina with Natalia.  Australia.  I wanna fight a kangaroo.  Just kidding I just want to ride in the pouch.  

Sushi in 40 minutes.  Bye bye.

From Japan,
Tiffany   







 

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Child

Last night I lay next to Knox.  He had spent the previous 5 nights at Peter's house.  (Knox was just 2 and we were living in Japan when we decided to separate.)  On the 5th night I missed Knox so much, I thought about going over there and crawling into his futon with him.  Instead that night I went to sleep in my own bed, but last night I watched him sleep.  I really didn't want to close my eyes, cause then I wouldn't be looking at his sweet, radiant face.  One's own children truly are angels... when they're sleeping.  Ha!  

I watched him sleeping; watched him breathing.  I kissed him just gently and infrequently enough so that he wouldn't wake up.  And that Aerosmith song came to mind, cause the lyrics were my thoughts:

I could stay awake just to hear you breathing
Watch you smile while you are sleeping
While you're far away and dreaming
I could spend my life in this sweet surrender
I could stay lost in this moment forever
Where every moment spent with you is a moment I treasure

Don't want to close my eyes
I don't want to fall asleep
Cause I'd miss you babe
And I don't want to miss a thing...

No matter how I feel, I can look at him, my baby, my Knox, and fill my heart to overflowing... what is that when you look into a person's eyes and experience so much?  No words, no actions, just BEing.  Maybe it's that a greater portion of the temporal falls out of focus.  Maybe the eyes really are the windows to the soul, and the soul is whole, whereas nothing else is. 

I am puzzled though by the ache... am I alone in this?  I love him so much my heart aches.  Yes, he is important to me, and I miss him when he is away, and I always love him, but it's more than that...  he fills my heart to breaking.

I think I can't say it enough because it's so hard for me to understand:  Having a child is the most difficult and most rewarding thing I could ever have done; ever will do.

I didn't even think I wanted children.  I looked at this world and thought that I didn't want to expose a child to the pain.  I didn't want a child for any of those terrible things to happen to.  I knew that there were many children without parents that I could love instead of creating another one.  I didn't give it credit before, but also linguering in my thoughts was the love and beauty that we get to experience alongside the hurt.

I used to waste hours... days... wondering how to best fill my hours, wondering how to live a fulfilling life, wondering if I would, even if I gave my life to them, ever achieve my goals.  I read books and books and pondered.  These are worthy thoughts, but I think too much.  I would worry myself and despair.  Then I was inspired by a friend to think about having a child, and I knew that it was healthy for a woman to have a child before 30.  And I got pregnant easily.  First month.

And that was the last point in my life that I had time to worry about what I would do with my hours!!  Oh, I'm laughing, cause it's so true and because although parents complain about not having time, the demands of a child answered all of my questions and filled all of my empty places.  What a turn!  What a change!  Like they say, give God the best comedy by making plans.  Before I went to college I thought I would become independently wealthy, maybe get married around 35, and then probably adopt 2 or 3 children. And yet here I am.  I got married at 23, never got wealthy, had a baby, and changed my mind about most of my goals.  The world is such a different place out of these mother's eyes.  It's even more vast in its ephemeral beauty.

I stand in the dark, looking at my boy, wanting to stay where I can love at him, and feel the aching love he ignites in me.  He's so big.  Knox, sleeping, sprawled out and causing me surprise because he takes up so much of the bed.  But he's still so little, too.  His little leg with the big bug bite.  His little hand in mine.  He loves frozen blueberries.  I love that he loves blueberries.  He doesn't really like McDonald's or pizza, which I don't understand, but I'm glad for less things to say no to.  He LOVES ice cream, as I did as a kid.  He is coordinated and funny, and smart... he has a few books almost memorized, just like I did when I was little.  His biggest word is Carcharodontosaurus.  He is emotional and sensitive and gets angry a lot.  When he has been a terror and a stubborn brick of a little boy, I have tried to be gentle, and tried the methods I have read about for loving discipline, and I have been schooled.  My stubborn, angry little man is standing there and I take him to our calm down/talking spot and he expects to be disciplined or yelled at or maybe even spanked, and instead I ask him to give me a hug and snuggle with me, so we can calm down and talk about it... and he crumbles in my arms.  I wouldn't have known if I hadn't tried this.  He needs my love and understanding when he is feeling so sad and angry.  Maybe I think it's stupid for him to be angry about having to leave what he is doing so he can come eat dinner, but HE doesn't think it's stupid.  There is a time for tough love, but for us, that is not every day.  I'm no expert, but I know what my heart tells me.  When he uncrosses his arms and accepts my outstretched arms and I take him into a hug, I feel how alone he felt, and my heart grows ten sizes knowing that I removed that feeling of separation and healed him with gentleness.  I will spare the rod all day to see my child's anger and loneliness melt into my affection.  I lose my temper, get frustrated beyond measure, yell, and use my strength, too, against my own will and better judgment.  I do not want a spoiled child and I do not intend to raise a spoiled child.  But, I do intend to raise a child who knows there is more power in love than there is in pain.

These days feel uncertain to me.  I'm a future oriented person, as much as I try to focus on the present.  I have given my perception of time so much thought and study, but the truth of me is that the future is in my bones.  I live temporarily in a foreign country, I have a growing boy, and my personal circumstances have changed so drastically in the past 3 years... I do not feel settled about the future.  I have many questions.  But, luckily it is also in my nature to know that it will all work out, whether I worry about it or not.  

What I know is that Knox will be with me.  My Kocho Sensei -that's my Principal- started to ask me what my goals after Japan entail, then she stopped and answered the question herself with, "Well, of course, your child is your dream."  Although I would have started to talk about law school or something, she is right.  I do have ambitions, but all of it will come second to him.  I used to think I had to go to a certain law school, but now I'd just go wherever I am.  Thankfully, my reckless ambition has been tamed by the years.  The less important things have fallen away, like they do when I look in his pure blue eyes.   

From Japan,
Tiffany


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hofu High School Day 1

OK people, it's a new day.  I'm at a new school.

When I walked in yesterday, I thought it looked... less homey than my school.  Everything is cement, as opposed to Nishi where you see a lot of warm wood when you first walk in.  Not that Hofu doesn't have a welcoming feeling about it, cause it does.  Actually, everyone has been so friendly and helpful so far that I feel very comfortable.  Of course, I am comparing everything at Hofu to Oita Nishi.  The kitchen here is a little dingy; not really a place where I want to hang out.  But the copy room is attached to the staff room, which means I don't have to leave the air conditioned area to use it, and the supplies are nicely laid out and stocked well.  At Nishi you can find anything you need, but you've gotta kinda go on a search for it.  Also, and you may not understand this, but Hofu has an awesome array of chalk colors, which makes me really happy.  

My desk is more spacious, and I have this adorable little lap top... it might be 13in, but do they have 10in?  This might be 10in, and it's so cute.  It's so interesting to see how differently another person keeps their desk... when a JET takes over an ALT position, they inherit the desk of the previous ALT, usually over flowing with crap that you either leave there for eternity, or figure out how to throw away in the complicated system of Japanese recycling.  Seriously, so many JETs don't throw stuff away because they simply don't know how.  I, however, can't stand the clutter.  It takes a little effort and asking questions, but these 50 books in Japanese that I'll never look at if I work here for years just have to go.  Peace out, books n crap.  It's funny though, cause I'm not all that tidy of a person, in my opinion.  I mean, for the most part I try to keep things first, clean, and second, picked up, but pretty much all of my spaces are an absolute mess as we speak.  But I have good reasons... I just changed cars, so I haven't had a chance to organize all the crap that I willy-nilly threw from my former car into my new car.  I just changed schools, so I have messes of papers and books and things to be organized, taken to school, gotten rid of, etc.  My purse is a place that I allow to be a mess, and it is, and that's ok.  On occasion I do what I call "The Dump," where I find a space of open floor and I pour out all the contents of my purse.  I throw lots of stuff away, organize the rest, and it goes back in until entropy again makes the dump necessary.  It's amazing the quantity of stuff that fits into a woman's little purse, and if she has a big purse watch out, there may be animals and small children in there.

Anyway, back to Hofu:  Here are some examples of strange things left to me in my desk:  There's a little magnetic cactus that holds paper clips, a tiny pan and spatula on a rope, sunflower seeds, and a hippopotamus that sharpens pencils.  I left my replacement some funny stuff too, although I really tried to clean up, including practically-love letters from girls to the male ALT that was at my school before me.  I found them amusing, and I thought my successor might also.  I'm chagrined to discover that the vending machines are more expensive here.  For some reason, one of my great joys during the day is taking a walk to the vending machines and picking out a tea or coffee, or the rare vitamin drink.  (Well, the reason is pretty obvious: It allows me a reason to get off my ass for a few minutes.)  I already spend too much money on bottled drinks, and now that expenditure will rise, and I'll know it's happening, but I'll never be able to see it.

I miss the ladies "take a rest" room.  I fear, really fear, that I may never take a nap during exam week again.  Where will I paint my nails?  Where will I stretch and do crunches?  Where will I cry?  Although, I've done a helluvalot less crying lately and I don't expect to need a cry spot from now on.  Yeah.  That's good.  But where can I take phone calls and laugh raucously with my friends in time zones that make it really hard to talk with them at other times?  There are a bunch of picnic tables outside of the teacher's room, and I feel that things are relaxed enough that I can go there, but perhaps need to cut my calls off a little sooner.  

...I just went to lunch.  On my way out, I asked the nice people in the office if there was an Oita bank close by.  Now, you simply cannot understand the genuine kindness and helpfulness of the Japanese-especially to a newcomer-unless you experience it for yourself.  My mom experienced it on the first night of her travels here, when a cab driver who mistook the address insisted that we pay nothing because he took us a few blocks out of the way.  I put 500 yen on the money tray in the middle of the car and he practically tackled me to give it back.  Today in the office, I got the Japanese treatment.  The direction to the bank consisted of one right turn, bank on left.  After a man drew me a map, writing everything in Japanese and English AND highlighting the way, I had to sort of fend off the lady trying to sit me down with a city atlas.  They are so nice.  While I was out I noticed that the neighborhood surrounding school isn't as cozy as I'm accustomed to.  I had a giant park and residential neighborhoods, and now I have a kind of industrial surrounding.  Instead of Lawson and 7/11 convenience stores, I have Family Mart, which by the way, I just realized the glory of this very day.  I started out a Lawson girl.  There's just something about it.  But I liked Everyone for its bakery and that's the only place I could find the slightly healthier (I intuit) yogurt coffee.  I liked 7/11 for its ATM and convenient distance from my school.  But Family Mart!  So many options!  Mint chocolates!  Dark chocolates!  Choco covered raisins!  A whole line of yummies by that company that makes those awesome brownies!  AND my yogurt coffee.  Like the special chalk colors, there's something about perusing a Japanese konbini that makes me happy.  I guess, just like us, there's something special about each different konbini.  ;-)

New JETs arrived yesterday and I met my new neighbor Mary.  I'm responsible for there now being 5 JETs living in the Jonan Danchi KR, rather than 4, for several reasons.  That I'm not gonna tell you.  But, I did want to say- Oita JETs, there are quite a few empty apartments where I live, and it's pretty awesome up in Jonan.  But getting back to Mary.  She cool.  She down.  I'm quite excited to have a new friend, so excited that I gabbed her ears off last night.  Both of them. She's most likely gonna join me and Knox for dinner tonight.  Good times.   

This is a long post.  And it's maybe boring.  Ahhhhh well.  I've been wanting to write to you from the den.  I'm just occupied in other rooms at the moment.  Like the big mirrored room in Oasis Tower where I took a musical theater workshop over the past 4 days.  That was really fun, and almost infected me with the stage bug.  Almost.  

Anyway, I'm tired and I've got some other stuff to do, even though I feel like I could double the length of this post, I won't torture you.  I hate to do this... but look out for an announcement in the coming weeks.  Or not.  Maybe there will cease to be an announcement due to red tape.  And no, I'm absolutely not pregnant.

On that note...

From Japan,
Tiffany

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shock 'n Release

I sort of don't wanna share right now.  But, I keep wondering what to think about, what to do, and I can't seem to think of anything except writing it.

I'm in a little bit of shock from my mom's unexpected hospital stay.  It's making my mind blank.  For weeks, maybe months, I have been overwhelmed, and I have not been able to keep up with all of my responsibilities.  I have been happy, and in good spirits, but still overwhelmed.  Stress, good and bad, demands attention.  A person only has so much energy and focus to go around.  First, I have to take care of myself so I can take care of my son, although usually I take care of him before myself.  Then, certain things just have to be done.  The house has to be clean, food has to be on the table, bills have to be paid.  I have to be at work and teach my classes.  Then, and this is where I have started to get scatter-brained, there are the extra JET activities like English seminars and meetings, then festival rehearsals and performances to get ready for, then social events... being social is important.  I need people.  I need friends.  But in the hierarchy of responsibilities, that can't come before work preparedness, so I feel distant and left out.  It can't be helped.  I'm busy.

I'm overwhelmed because it seems like things never stop rolling my way...  I can't say everything that has happened, but since June 2008 I have experienced MANY major stress inducers.  Now, I'm changing schools to be in a healthier work environment (i.e., something bad enough happened that the JET program willingly let me change schools; not common) and when my mom came to Japan to visit me July 2nd, she got sick.  My mom's sickness is why I'm in shock.

I think she has only left the USA once to go to Mexico somewhere around 1985.  She came here on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and she spent 4 days in the hospital, and should have been there longer.  She was barely healthy enough to go home, and I was pretty worried because I couldn't talk to her while she was traveling.  I was so relieved to hear her sounding well when she reached Tampa, but within 2 days she was in a Florida hospital, and she's still there. 

That's all.  I have no more thoughts.  I don't know what to think.  I'm floating.  I feel kind of...pleasant, but that must be the shock.

...

Today, I made a speech in Japanese to my whole school.  I feel proud.  I don't know all that much Japanese, but I can read furigana and my pronunciation is very decent.  I've received over 100 messages from students and some gifts.  I am so touched by the notes, especially one I read today.  She said I changed her life.  I had no idea she felt that way about me, and it's amazing.  I will find ways to stay busy at Oita West High for the next two weeks since it's summer break and I have no classes, and on August 1st I will begin at Hofu High, where I hope I will have lots of contact with the students and build meaningful relationships.  I'm really looking forward to it.

In other areas of my life, I'm exploring and often receive wonderful, caring words from friends that provoke thought and others that inspire a comfortable kind of resolution.  I know that's vague, and I'm sorry, but as much as I just want to spit it all out, I don't want to infringe on the privacy of other people. 

I'm also the same as I've always been, meaning, I am very rarely entirely satisfied.  I always want something, usually improvement in some area of my life.  I never stop challenging my own being, or that of those around me.  It's partly a strength, but mostly a fault.  Right now, it's more information that I want.  But I try to realign my thoughts to find contentment and patience.  Time never lets me down:  Everything improved is done in time, and it always tells me everything.

From Japan,
Tiffany

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

iPhone, iPhone, Go Away

I have thought about throwing my phone into the ocean.

Well, first I thought about throwing it off a tall building.  I'd really like to see it smash into many pieces and bits.  I'd smile at the spray of sparkly glass.  But I don't want to hurt anyone.  Or clean up the mess.  Let's be practical, here.

So, I'd like to throw my phone into the ocean.

Then I thought, well, maybe I should just throw it under a friend's couch and not tell them.  With my busy-ness, I can't get to my friends' houses often.  My phone would be stuck there.  I would, by default, be left without it for days or weeks just out of inconvenience of retrieving it.

But I would know.  It would call to me.  I would still be a prisoner of its possibilities.  And what would happen?  Eventually, eventually, I would fold. 

Good and maybe bad, the ocean is a more permanent solution... to what problem, I know I haven't said.  It's how the thing seems to complicate my life.  It's a feeling. 

Of course, the smarter thing to do would be to sell it.  But then I would be robbed of the satisfaction of the wind up, the chuck, the arc as it flew threw the static-y air... the sleek little thing would probably just slip into the ocean without making a splash.  And I would be free. 

That's worth a couple hundred bucks.

From Japan,
Tiffany

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Bachelorette

You can hate, but I still like The Bachelorette.

You know those people who look at pictures of fat people, put fat people pictures on their fridge so they will think twice about that twinkie?  So they will spend a few minutes on the treadmill?  I'm not one of those people.  I don't want to look at what I don't want to be, I am inspired by looking at what I do want to be.  So one reason I like The Bachelorette is because the bachelorette herself is always HOT and in the best shape of her life, and that inspires me to work out more and harder.  And I like the fashion and make up.  Although, I will never be that tan unless I do some very unhealthy things.  Oh, well.  It's really nice to be free of tanning culture in Japan.  The foreigners who used to care don't care anymore, and the Japanese are always trying to get more pale, so I'm golden.  Ha. 

This season is my favorite of all seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette combined.  That's because Emily is awesome, and a lot like me in her character and convictions.  She's also a lot like me in her straight forward way of talking to people.  She's probably slightly more diplomatic than I am.  As I said before in my post The Bachelor, we don't usually get to listen in on private conversations like this.  We don't get to see how people navigate their private relationships.  I find it very interesting and informative to watch how people conduct their relationships; what they say to each other, what they say behind each others backs.  It's so interesting to see how people learn about each other, to hear the questions they ask, and to determine losers from people of character.  Emily also, like me, has a child.  Maybe the show is silly, but she's a good role model for me.  I have strong convictions and stand up for them, but it's still good for me to see someone else standing up for theirs.  It gives me the extra confidence and strength I sometimes need so that I never settle.

The Bachelorette also films all over the world.  I'd really like to go to Portugal, a gorgeous country with castles, palaces, beaches, and a fascinating history.  A country I never would've thought about if I hadn't seen it on the show.  Last night when I watched they were in Bermuda, and although I'm from Florida, so close to Bermuda and the Bahamas, I've never been to any of the islands.  The furthest I got was Key West when I was in elementary school.  The water looked intoxicatingly beautiful on last night's episode and I'm inspired to get there someday.

There's also the yucky love stuff and conflict.  There are moments of truth on The Bachelorette.  There are, sometimes, real exchanges, passionate debates, and moments of human connection.  Sometimes something happens, and I wish I had somebody to hug and kiss right then.  Often times the events on the show are thought provoking to me, and I wish I had someone to discuss ideas with. 

Yeah, it's a silly reality show, but I like it.

From Japan,
Tiffany    

 

Monday, June 18, 2012

So... you're saying I look like crap?

I'm totally used to being confused.  It happens every day in Japan.  In fact, I think it's going to be shocking when I get to America and I can understand everything again.  It will be sensory overload when I can understand all of the little conversations going on around me.  It will suck to have to sensor my conversation topics because people around me can understand that I'm talking about lascivious things in the family restaurant waiting area. 

Anyway, I was confused this morning.  A teacher I work with called me last night and said that the students would be staying home today because of a typhoon, but that teachers had to attend school.  I'm used to this strange system as well.  But when I got to school today, students were swarming into school and teachers were bustling about.  I went to a fellow English teacher to explain what I was told and to ask if that was still the plan.  She said that 1st period was cancelled, but that the rest of the day would be business as usual. 

And then she held my arm and said, "But you are sick."

"I'm not sick.  Do I look sick?"

"Mmmmmmmmmm, No."

"Ok.  Thank you."

I went back to my desk, where the teacher that had called me to tell me there were no classes was waiting for me to go teach 1st period with her, which I was just told again, was cancelled.  It wasn't.  All this confusion is common ground in Japan, due partly to my foreigner... -ness, and partly to the way business is conducted here.  If I understand correctly, last night close to 800 people called each other in a chain to notify that there was no school today, and then they called again this morning, chain-like, to cancel the cancellation.  I like Japan.  Things are so innocent. 

But, my main concern in all of this is... do I look like crap today?  I've been using my fancy new face cream for two nights and my fancy new Dior eye shadow for two days.  Sure, I'm no morning person and maybe my hair is a little fuzzy, but do I look so bad that people think I'm sick?  I mean, yeah, I'm wearing the T-shirt I slept in, but they don't know that (and I'm only wearing a T-shirt cause someone called me and told me I had no classes).  

I'm gonna go to the bathroom and assess the situation.  I'm gonna get some coffee. 

On the upside, I taught a class yesterday with a substitute JTE (Japanese Teacher of English).  Highly respected by the students, he is a very nice man who takes his job very seriously.  And, he's like 7-feet tall.  So, I was happy when we were walking back to the staff room after class and he paid me a compliment.  He said that there was a very good atmosphere in my classroom.  It meant a lot to me coming from him. 

In truth, I do resent the great deal of time I am expected to sit at my desk with so few classes to prepare for and so few tasks to complete.  But, when it comes to the work I do have, I want to do it well, and when it comes to being in the classroom, I intend to do and I think I do a great job.  I have learned the customs and attitudes in the classrooms at my school, and I have optimized my tactics for engaging the students and ensuring they learn as much as they can in the little time I have with them.  I not only want them to speak, I want to leave them with a lasting impression of foreigners and of English, so that they have a will of their own to keep learning, and to pay attention to learning opportunities when they encounter them in the world.  I'm a crap office worker, but I'm a really good ALT.

So, despite the chocolate stain I just noticed on the T-shirt that I wore to bed and am wearing to work, I taught a kick ass class this morning.  We laughed, we learned, and my clothes and my fuzzy hair didn't matter. 

You have a good day.  Yeah, YOU.

From Japan,
Tiffany

 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I Want to Live in the Country

I want to live in the country. 

Sometime during college, I think, I decided I wanted a cow.  And some chickens would be cool, too.  A goat.  Lots of cats running around.  Two horses, to keep each other company.  Dogs, I guess, if someone else wants to entertain them.  And I guess then I need another cow.  Cows need friends, too.

I had no context for these animals.  I have always loved animals and I just knew that I'd like to live around them and take care of them, be friends with them, learn from them...

Then, separately, I think, I decided that I wanted to grow some of my own food.  This happened because I feel the alienation that occurs from never experiencing where my food comes from.  I have never grown anything.  I have never killed anything.  I have never been part of the process.  I think that's wrong, and I want to grow at least some of my own food.  I want to connect to the Earth.  I want to rid myself of the disconnect I feel because I don't know how to take care of myself without a grocery store nearby.

I'm a tree hugger.  I have literally hugged trees.  I would do it more often if I weren't shy of passersby.  I believe in the power of nature.  On the other side of the card, I feel the danger of metal and wires.  I would like to get rid of my cell phone.  Once, the company took my phone for a week to fix some things, and I felt relieved to be without it.  In Gainesville I went more than a year without a cellphone and liked the experience.  I feel better when I spend time outside, in nature.  Studies show that people suffer less depression and have better focus when they spend time around trees, even showing higher test scores and productivity if they just have trees outside their windows.  I want less metal and plastic, more trees and water.

The city is what people complain it is; dirty, noisy, people are rude... dangerous, although there are dangers in any setting...

Knox loves movies.  He asks to watch movies almost every morning.  I give in on weekend mornings the most because I know when a picture is rolling he's absolutely glued to it and I can sleep longer.  I don't want him watching movies, I want him exploring, reading, playing.  I want him developing by the power of nature, not being numbed by the power of TV. 

There's a place in Summerville, Tennessee, called The Farm.  I heard about it from a book I read when I was pregnant, written by Ina May Gaskin, the most famous midwife in the world and a very well respected woman for her publications, perspectives, and teachings on the topics of pregnancy and birth.  Her home base is The Farm, an intentional Community.  When I found out about it, I felt strongly that I wanted to live there, for a few years at least.  I don't know if that'll ever happen, but the place is cool.  This Vanity Fair article is old, but still relevant enough to give a good idea of what The Farm is about. 

About The Farm:  http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/05/thefarm200705

It embodies everything I want; to get away from "normal" (crazy) society, to be around people with the cajones and the passion to do something about the shit state of things, to use advancements in technology and thoughts to live better lives and help people (not to just make more money), to be engaged with the world in a peaceful, positive way...

Anyway, I have to think about what I want to do when I get back to America.  I don't want the "same-old."  It doesn't work.  The people doing that aren't happy or thriving.  I've got more thinking to do.

From Japan,
Tiffany

Monday, June 11, 2012

Productive TV Visiting

I've got this kinda antsy feeling.  I think to myself, "What do I want to be doing?"  And I answer myself, "Something productive."  I'm studying Japanese.  That's productive.  But I still have the antsy feeling. 

What would I really like to be doing then?

...

Dancing.  I'd like to be in LA at Edge taking a contemporary jazz class.  Or ballet.  I'd cry if I took tap.  It's too sad to be rusty at my greatest talent.

Weight lifting.  I'd like to be at the Gainesville Health and Fitness Center doing a session with Alan.  It's hard to stay fit, but when I'm successful, I feel REALLY good.

Learning.  I'd like to be enrolled, somewhere, and going to learn Japanese for an hour everyday, like I did at UF, but at the time I didn't appreciate it or take it seriously.  I was drowning, and I had no practical application for the language, and I never dreamed I would even visit Japan.  Christina saved me.  But I didn't really learn.  I grabbed on with all my might, which is what it took for me to keep a tenuous grasp on the information.  After the tests I collapsed, and it slipped away.  But, it probably stuck with me more than I know.  The mind is a funny thing.

Anyway...

Game of Thrones is AWESOME.  How did it take me so long to figure this out?  I don't know, but now I'm on episode 10 of season 1 and I love it!!  And somehow I have figured out how to watch 10 hours of TV in the past week and still get everything done, and even more than usual, maybe.  Things happen fast in Game of Thrones.  On a lot of shows, they drag out one scenario for the whole season and you get the payoff after like 12 episodes.  Not on Game of Thrones.  It's like episode 3 and I'm like, they're not gonna kill THAT guy already, and then BAM:  That guy has no head!  Episode 10 and there have already been 3 different kings!  BAM!!

I also love So You Think You Can Dance, but my Internet is painfully slow and I don't have those downloaded, so I'm not caught up. 

I saw Black Swan last week.  I fall out of the moment with dance movies because they don't usually use actual dancers as the actors, and I cringe at their technique.  With Black Swan, Natalie Portman did a really good job, but Mila Kunis gave everything away with her hands.  Professional ballerinas do not spread their fingers like that.  Eww.

Knox is beautiful and perfect and gorgeous and heart breakingly adorable.  He slept extra long this morning and I was eating breakfast when he woke up.  I watched him start to wiggle around.  How can it be so wonderful just to watch someone wiggle their toes?  He stirred more and then jumped up on his knees and looked all over the bed for me.  I heard him make a little grunt when he decided I wasn't there.  He looked upset.  But then he looked up and saw me watching him from the table and he smiled.  His face is full of light.  I ran in there and hugged him and kissed him and tickled him. 

My mom is coming to visit.  I'm really excited.  She is ridiculously excited.  Of course she is!!  She's coming to Japan!  She's going to see her daughter for the first time in two years!!  She's going to see her grandson for the first time in two years!!!  He was only 1 year and 4 months when we left, and now he is 3 years old!  It's gonna be awesome.  We're staying 2 nights in Tokyo, then taking the train to Osaka.  We might be able to take in a castle before we embark on an overnight ferry ride to Beppu.  Then we will have 12 days in the greater Oita area before we head to Fukuoka and she returns to Florida.  I don't have a lot of confidence in my ability to navigate Tokyo and Osaka, but I'll do my best, and either way it's gonna be great.  I'm really excited to see Japan through new eyes.  I'm excited to see what she thinks is weird, cause I've gotten used to it all.  In Oita I want to do the regular stuff like Monkey Mountain and Umi Tamago Aquarium.  I also want to go to Suginoi Hotel to swim.  She will LOVE that.  I would like to go stay in the cabins at Zeai Camp Ground, but I don't know if I can manage to book that... Maybe I'll get some help.  I think we will go to Usuki to see the castle, and hopefully Mike will be able to hang out, and maybe even take us to the big staircases in the water.  I've never seen the stone Buddhas.  Maybe we will do that.  Me and my mom like to just go on a drive down the coast.  Every turn will be an adventure for her, which will be fun for me.  And of course it'll be great just to be together for the first time in too long.

Is good?  Is good.

From Japan,
Tiffany