Friday, December 24, 2010

Hawaii 5-0 baby!




Ok, well I thought that since I'm leaving the land of rice tomorrow, I may as well post of the wonderful things I have done, and unfortunately, seen in the past few weeks...

First of all - I know that I've talked about earthquakes in the past - not a very scary thing anymore...they are kinda like hitting bumps on your bicycle - no one seems to notice unless you want to...They are pretty frequent and I feel as though I have become pretty aware of any shaking, hitting the floor or diving for the nearest door frame - it's kinda funny in class since I'm the only one who still starts sweating when the rooms starts vibrating...

I have no idea why there are any unemployed people in japan - there seems to be a job for everyone for every little thing! Seriously, if there is a pot hole, no doubt - there will be a man in a reflective vest holding a Star Wars light saber waving people around it. It's very helpful, but if just makes he so confused why there are so many unemployed young people - I think they are following the mentality of the lazy american and not wanting to join in the working party...

Now, its pretty cold here in Japan - the exact opposite of the summer when I melted like the wicked witch of the west. The cold burns here...it's piercing. One thing Japanese haven't figure out yet in their whole technology endeavor is how to use the fricking thermostat. If it's not frigid int he shops, it's burning like a pottery kiln!

The awful fur trend is still in full force here - and you literally cannot get away from it. The leg warmers, the earrings, the purses and the shawls made out of millions of little bunny butts! I think the worst is when a girl decides to deck herself out with a white fur vest, white furry leg warmers, white stilettos, a short mini shirts and then tops it off with white furry ear muffs - she looks like the slutty sister of the Ice queen from Narnia...Someone needs to do a PSA immediately and save this country!!!

Let's explore two holidays quickly - Thanksgiving and Christmas..

Christmas is upon us and it's a time to enjoy family and friends - and apparently in Japan KFC! All my students have their reservations at KFC for their chicken dinner and are super pumped for it - I actually laughed out loud at one of my students - but the worst part is they think that's actually what Americans eat on Christmas! We have become a society of fat ass, fast food eating lazy boogers - and its translating to other cultures - this is sad - someone call Obama and get a press conference in the works! Presents aren't popular - but they are for forgin teachers - I've been given lots of gifts thus far - mostly food since they don't know what to give - but it's great!
So, the good thing about Xmas - besides the presents and what not - the the fact that there the a infamous Ugly Sweater party - and we did it up right in Tokyo this year. Some of us switched names and made our own since, surprisingly, there aren't very many options of ugly xmas sweaters to choose from in the bargain bin in Kasukabe...We hit up the town in full force with 10 people in tow - ranging from regular sweaters to a strand of lights connected to a real car battery in a backpack with a fully functional car horn...We had a great night on our 12 bars of Christmas bar crawl all over the city - walking and laughing - and the best part was most people thought our sweaters were cute....lol - aww you silly japanese fashion rejects! Definitely a night where people were pointing saying - check out those crazy foreigners - and we owned it!!

Let's talk turkey for a second. I had the worst Thanksgiving I've ever been apart of, but I couldn't help but laugh the whole time for the sincere effort made. We had talked with a local bar about making turkey - well when we showed up on Turkey day, there was a giant indian stove making naan bread - our first red flag, since last time I checked naan bread isn't a staple in turkey day. We then saw them pull out these sad little pathetic excuses for fowl from the oven. Thinking they were turkey, we dug in - only to find out they were actually curry spiced chickens! They didn't even have the turkey! So, instead we ate our feelings worth of chicken curry broth, tandoori chunks of mini chicken and naan. I think the beer was the most gratifying part o the whole meal...but we did appreciate the acknowledgement of our national holiday in a different country and the attempt to make it for us foreigners.

On a funny last note - Erin and I decided to take part in the 80's night put on by one of the bigger event groups in the Tokyo area. We have RSVP'd and gone to Don Quixotes for our outrageous costumes. We were totally pumped to rock out in true 80's style - Cyndi Lauper would have been proud of what we found - our inspiration ranged from flashdance to Cher....
Well, we got all gussied up and took the last train down to Roppongi and we decided to have a few road sodas on the way down, so we were feeling ready to peacock it out on the dance floor. We after my spidey sense found the place, we oddly didn't see anyone else around in crazy outfits, though we were a little late, we assumed we'd hear the crazy drunk americans and flow the trail. We instead, we got the entrance only to find that it was closed - with no explanation! We go no email telling everyone that the party was canceled! Well Erin and I had 2 options - buy an outfit and stumble around Roppongi for the next five hours and wait of the first train or own it in al our ugly outfit glory and rock out like true 80's rock stars - clearly the latter was the option chosen and we had the best night - everyone loved our style and wanted pics! It was a stellar night - we totally turned lemons into lemoncello!

Well I'm out and off to Hawaii - will post pics of all the crazy trouble I'm about to get into! Aloha bitches!!




Monday, November 8, 2010

I'm dreamin' of a deep fried Christmas...?



Well it's that time of year when usually store windows are plastered with pictures of Holiday classics - Santa Claus, Christmas trees, Thanksgiving Turkeys and snowmen....well in Tokyo, it's a little different. Not only are all the decorations up and sparkling, but they have been up since before Halloween! The holiday Starbucks cups were even out!
It's exciting to see all these people with crazy holiday fever, but let's take on one holiday at a time...
We have managed to persuade one of our local bars that we are patrons of to make a Thanksgiving feast - complete with an actual turkey! I'm so excited - I offered to help, since I miss cooking so much, and I think I will get to get my hands dirty in the prep for the dinner!
Well the funny thing about Xmas in Tokyo is that compared to the US, it's not a big holiday. Stores are open, trains run like normal every still eats rice...well that's not entirely true - on Christmas here in Tokyo, it has become a tradition to eat KFC for dinner with the family. I'm absolutely serious - people make reservations to pick up their KFC family packs on Christmas day and enjoy deep fried, greasy protein sticks accompanies by soggy coleslaw and lumpy mashers - all in the name of the "favorite American Holiday" Christmas - plus the funny part is that's what they think we all eat on Christmas and they dress up the mascot for KFC in a santa outfit - ooh the skewed views of translating holiday tradition to another culture is hysterical!

Don't buy moisturizer in Japan unless you like the look of the dearly departed Michael Jackson - they all have bleachings agents in them. I kept seeing this weird symbol on the containers of moisturizers and I thought I was lookin at the toothpaste aisle with all the whitening references. Good thing I didn't use that to brush my teeth - though maybe it would have been a cheaper alternative to the over priced Crest strips...

The winters here are pretty crisp and refreshing - if your an Emperor penguin! They don't believe in insulation in this country, so none of the walls retain any heat - in fact, they seem to suck more cold into the homes and offices here! I literally have to bundle up when I go from my room to my computer - and I love it cold normally...
They are expecting snow this year since it's been such a weird weather the past few seasons - which would probably explain why everyone has loading up on fur accessories...These fashion flubs have hit the ground running here...It's like people want to look like a forest creatures. They actually have fox tails hanging from belt loops or purses - I have yet to figure out the appeal of these things...Um, excuse me - There's a dead animal hanging from your cell phone...
Most all of the jackets have fur somewhere on them, the carry all bags are dripping with rabbit tails and even shoes have fur balls dangling from the heels...PETA would have an aneurism!

Oh, btw - you know how none of us have AC in Seattle - well in Tokyo you need one, which was a god send this summer cause it was so scorching hot! Well once the weather turned chilly - I was frantically searching around my apartment for any type of heating source that would keep my toes from falling off - only to find that there wasn't anything here! I was so confused how the last teacher was able to keep from inflicting hypothermia to herself. Well, I gave in and had to ask my students how they keep warm in the winter - most told me that they buy these big over stuffed heating blankets that they sleep in - or they just turn on the heater - that is built into the AC unit!!! Eureka - I found it! I'm not longer darting around my apartment with snotsicicles..


Let me tell you all about the exciting Halloween adventure that I had here in Tokyo...
In the US, Halloween is a holiday where basically anything goes - boys can be girls, girls and be hookers and I can be tragically stuck in between both options...but nonetheless - it's my favorite holiday!
Well Tokyo has yet to jump onto that bandwagon - which is so unfortunate. Some of the children dressed up at school, but most just stared...a few cried when Matthew, my coworker, showed up with a variety of different masks. There's nothing like the shrill, ear piercing scream of that child totally freaked out by a 6 foot 5 man in a gorilla mask lunging at you. I think I peed my pants a little the first time I saw him too and I'm a grown ass man - I'm afraid of masks, thanks to the movie It..
Well for my costume I had to make sure to make quite an impression. I wanted to be a Japanese school girl at first, but I found the skirts didn't come in white man size. So, instead, I had the help of my mother and the US post service to send me a costume direct from America - the famous blue Avatar! I had told all of my students about it and they were so excited. I had everything ready to go - and then on Halloween - a typhoon decided to roll into Japan. Downpour all day, wind like crazy and me terrified that my makeup was gonna run!!!
Luckily, the Halloween gods smiled upon me and the rain let up right before we needed to go downtown. Well since I had to order my costume from home, I had to guess on the size. I'm usually a small in ladies attire - but since it was a lycra cat suit, I thought I would go a little bigger and just hope - well let's just say there's was no hiding anything on it - I couldn't even wear underwear it was that tight fitting! I actually couldn't sit down - so the whole train ride into the city, I had to stand...People on the train had one of 2 reactions - pure terror or genuine interest. The latter ones generally asked for photos and then stared the rest of the time - the freaked out group either moved train cars, or just decided to back away slowly from me not quite understanding if they were on a spoof TV show or if they were actually living a nightmare. One guy actually recoiled and fell into the sliding door and another looked at me and backed off the train and waited for the next one!
Once we got into the city - we hit up a few different parties - which were mostly chalked full of foreigners - which was fun and entertaining. I took maybe around 500 pictures, mostly with asians fascinated with my costume choice.
But the best part was, at the first party - after a long night of judging and flaunting - I won first place in the best costume in Tokyo category!! It was awesome - I beat out Mad Max for first! Such a fun evening and then the rest of the night was just a constant party..
Finally, when the parties died down, it was time to go home, but I didn't want to get back onto the train looking like a giant haggard smurf - so I decided to change in the McDonalds in Roppongi - which was a disaster, because I had forgotten that I had to be zipped into my outfit with help and there was no way in hell I was gonna be able to get out of it alone! So, I'm in the bathroom struggling to unzip this beast of a costume, which after ten minutes and 8 angry people at the door - I was able to wash the blue off my face, put real clothes on and stumble back to the train station and sit down for the first time in 8 hours!
All and all a great night and the first Halloween spent abroad - and I did it up right by living up to my personal anthem - Go Big or Go Home! :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Japanese Vampires?

Well I must say that I'm very thankful for the weather being cooler - but I guess I thanked the weather gods a little too early - now we have massive floods goin on - I swear I'm on the third floor I feel like there is gonna be a massive flash flood down my hallway...The rain here is different than in seattle - I know that sounds weird - but it actually stings here - it's big, heavy and cold - so it's not fun...plus the city needs to work on their drainage issues - just cause you have a drain doesn't mean the water is gonna go in it - the road needs to be level first!

2 things I've noticed more than before are bad breath and cauliflower ears...
I'm not really sure how cauliflower ears comes about - I just knew it was from wrestlers in High school who spent too much time face down on the mat - but here's its very common - and very distracting. People sit next to me on the trains and I can't help but stare since it looks like their ear lost a battle with the garbage disposal...I'm curious if it hurts? Can they hear well? Is it due to inbreeding?
Also, bad breath is very prevalent in Tokyo and I have a theory - rice. I have noticed that my body has changed since eating so much rice - my natural smell has altered itself. I think that people who eat rice 3 times a day start to process it differently and their body just uses the carbs and dumps the rest. The breath smells a little like a stale rice cake...it's really awful when are you either stuffed next to them on a busy train ride home or at a store where they feel the need to be right up close and personal when asking you for help.

Speaking of sales people - I have found a new level of annoyance with them - it seems as though most of them not only yell once you are in their shop - but now they start yelling when there are sales. They have special power hour sales - but instead of just posting a sign - they make sure everyone in the western hemisphere can hear it! Even though my maxed volume Ipod - I can still hear the shrill, soul shaking announcement about 2 for 1 on scrunchies...

So, when you miss the last train in Japan - you have 2 options - take a taxi and be broke for a month or just wait it out at the station you are stuck at. Well I did that yesterday on my way home from a lovely day of looking at beautiful shrines in Asakusa. I was stuck at the end of the line in a city that is a hub for the area I'm in - so I was thinking that there would be things like Karaoke places open - nope, wrong....Instead, I was haggled by 4 hookers when I went to the 7-11 for water and then ran past them into the Denny's and hid there for 3 hours until my the first train started. Again, Tokyo is the safest place in the world, and my only fear was what airborne diseases I would get from these poor Philippino hookers that kept asking me about having a 'good time'...

oh, btw - pigeons - grossest birds in the world - I think those flying rats could easily be exterminated and no one would miss them...

It's always funny when we go out to an Izakaiya, they have things on the menu that are supposed to reflect a semblance of American or Italian cuisine. Instead, what they do is they just make it as close as they can with the ingredients they have on hand...
Here's a few examples...
Margarita Pizza - classically tomato, mozzarella and basil...Well last time it was ketchup, string cheese and dried oregano...
Club Sandwich - usually turkey, bacon, lettuce, cheese and other good things - the one we had last time was a fried egg, ketchup, mustard, deli meat and greens...
If it's called cheesecake - it doesn't count if you stick a piece of cheese on top of sweet cake and toast it...

So I have found out a reason why so many places in Japan ask for your blood type. At first, I thought that it was because they were worried that if I were to get hurt, they would be able to know what kind of blood to supply me with - nope, not the case. Apparently, the reason that asking someone their blood type is not a personal question is because it tells a lot about the persons character - much like we say Zodiac signs do. People in Japan actually discriminate against other types of blood - like A and B don't get along and O is the best for the workplace. So, I wonder how many people have lied or lost jobs because of this strange plasmic segregation? It's not uncommon for someone to ask on a first date what your blood type is because families will reject the suitor or future inlaw because of their blood type, they only want the best lines for their family and will be vocal about it. Wow, and we thought we had it rough in America with interracial dating..:P

Well on Saturday, I had quite the adventure - and not a preplanned fun one...
During class on Friday, I had quite a strange episode that can really only be described as a small stroke. Now, normally if something strange happens, I just shake it off, but this time - it was abnormal...I wasn't able to see, which was followed by the loss of the ability to read or understand words. Oh yeah, and on top of that my breathing made me sound like a 20 year emphysema patient...
So, after deciding to followup with a doctor - I made the trek to the local hospital. Now, in America, we have private insurance, which has it's goods and bads, but in Japan - they are on National insurance, so there's really no difference in patient treatment - you could have hay fever or you could be holding your severed left arm and you'd still be in line behind the sneezing guy...
The hospitals weren't as newly updated as I would have thought and they were chocked full of geriatrics and snot rags...After you check in - it becomes musical chairs for the gifted - they have 5 different waiting areas for different procedures. I met the doctor after waiting for an hour, only to have him tell me to not worry about the head thing and to move to the next waiting line for the x-rays and blood work. The area that this was to happen in felt like it was a TV stage area from M*A*S*H - there were no partitions and everyone was lined up with their arms out looking like they were waiting of the heroin fairy to make a visit. And, of course, she asked my blood type, which is just shrugged my shoulders and asked if she would be able to test and tell me so that I could stop making up a different blood type each time.
The x-ray place reminded me of a fallout shelter. There were these huge metal sheets on the ceiling, a CT scanner that looked more like a coffin and the x-ray machine made me think of a dart board.
After all 20 people helped me through the process, we then sat and waited around for another hour to pay! Now, in the US, you wait for insurance to take care of it and pay your deductible and so on....well in Japan, you pay when you are at the doctors - so the woman behind the counter is adding up numbers longer than most grocery lists to see what the damage is...Surprisingly, it only cost 35 bucks to get everything and all the tests - so it looks as though National Insurance isn't half bad - now if we can just work on the expediency of it all so next time I go I don't have to worry about dying before I'm diagnosed....


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

it's Xmas in July!

Well not really, but Japanese have the hardest time with getting the holidays on the right days, or even months for that matter! I know that you are a whole day in the future to the rest of the western world, but seriously - let's check out the calendar since you are planning on ripping off the American holidays, do it with some dignity!
Let's look at example A - Halloween is a holiday at the end of October - not for the middle of September - yesterday, I found out that all the Halloween decorations for the office must be up by today, the 22nd of September...Also, haunted houses don't seem that scary when it's still light out at 7pm, aka - don't start them until October! September is the time for students to bitch and moan about classes and having to go back to school from their summer vacations - I can't make a bulletin board with pencils, rulers and witches hats - it's screws up the whole fung shui of it!
Example B - Valentines is the 14th of February - not the 14th of March - it's a overly romanticized holiday where everyone is supposed to be googlie-eyed for a special someone and you shower them with chocolates and flowers...well, in Japan, the ladies get the men a gift on the 14th and then a month later the men reciprocate...why would you want to prolong the world's cheesiest holiday!?
Example C - Christmas is on the 25th - there is no way around that - it's a holiday that has been brilliantly designed by the business masters of the 20th century who figured out that the only good time to shop is when it's cold out since malls are warm. Not only do they not have stockings in Japan - they feel the need to go to KFC and buy chicken, since there is no turkey available, and pretend to live in the holiday spirit that wafts over from America...Let's just say if I get rice in my stocking I won't be a happy camper..oh and don't even get me started on not having cranberry sauce for my substitute Thanksgiving this year...:P

So, another funny food thing is when there are foods that have the same name but are actually something totally different. I learned this over the past week from a student when we decided to discuss tapioca pudding. It went from a simple, light conversation about a yummy american snack into a full on debate over what the hell tapioca is - complete with diagrams and hand gestures....basically, we both agreed to disagree...:)

I would like to point out some basics in foreign gym etiquette...
If I'm on a machine, don't stand next to me waiting for me to finish - because I'm probably not goin to move any faster, I will grunt louder and I will try to sweat on all the parts that you will have to touch next..:)
If I put my Ipod ear phones back in, that's my non verbal communicative way of telling you that I'm done speaking to you in broken Japanese....
Please don't stretch out naked in the locker room after you are done with your work outs - it's already an awkward enough place for me to be stuck in a small room with naked asian men...
Passing gas on a treadmill is inappropriate, period...
If you are in an aerobics class wearing raver pants, a leopard print tube top, pink air force one sneakers and a sweatband that says 'eat me' - I'm gonna stare - get over it!

FYI - my new food love - vanilla bean custard cream puffs - oohh, how skinny of me!

Back at the ranch -
I have a student that is destined to be the next Regina George from Mean girls - she's 3 1/2 and she's already kickin ass and takin names. This little firecracker has spunk - she gives me attitude pretty much every time she's in class ,she hits me with her little stiletto - and her newest thing is to try and steal extra stickers when I specifically tell her only one...Today she thought it was funny to give me a wet willy...except she decided to forego the finger in the mouth and went right for the nasal cavity instead...
We have these get togethers at work when a teacher leaves, but unfortunately its just a time when we all get to talk about all the terrors that we each have - it's kinda like seeing who has the most ridiculous, awful, hopeless and difficult students...makes some feel better - for others, like me, it's just like a free therapy session....oh and the smiles on the faces of the teachers who are leaving is priceless - you can pretty much see a neon sign flashing above with an arrow pointing to the rest of us saying "suckers!!"

The fall is a very special time for me - it makes me really nostalgic for things that I miss back home - like friends in college, walks around 23rd street in portland, Pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks that I can special order and big maple leaves...
The fall has yet to come to Kasukabe, but when it does, I'm sure I'll be a mess...but the good thing is I will be sweating less, I can break out my pashminas and it's only a few months until I get to be in Hawaii!

I will say on a final funny note that I get my clothes dry cleaned here since I can't use the iron in my house because it makes my circuit breaker trip. Well I was at work all day with a busy schedule and instead of some telling me that there was a dry cleaning tag on my butt all day, I got to walk around with a giant stapled number through 10 lessons, a trip to the grocery store and a march through the local mall..god bless those far-too-polite Japanese....

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jurassic Park

So Japan is much harder on students than I previously thought. Now, we all know that the poor children have to go to school 6 days and then have to deal with awful English teachers like me after their long days in public school...but what I found out today is not only do they have to study all the time - they actually have to take a test to get into high school - High school!? I told one of my students that we just go to the school in the area we live and she almost lost her mind - she's been studying for almost a year just to get into the high school she wants. Cheers to them, but if I was a student in Japan with my track record for studying - this little one would be a grade A burger flipper for sure!

Don't ever try to learn Japanese while listening to people on the phone in Japan - not only do they sound like broken records, they really only use like 4 words....It's hysterical to eavesdrop on a conversation thinking that it'll be a good learning experience, but instead - all you hear is hi, hi, hi, hi, so, so, so, so, so, hi, so, hi, hi...omg, it's awful....I actually asked one of my friends if she even had a conversation or just listened to someone state their grocery store list...

So, news from around the watering hole...
I have a new student who apparently farts whenever he gets nervous or frustrated - so basically I have decided that he will only be repeating the ABC's until he's 50..
There is an older student that has an arm thing goin on where she holds her hand like a swan neck when she talks to me and I can't keep my eyes off of it - it's so distracting.
I have a two year old starting this week and I'm not sure what to do with a child of that age - but I think I've narrowed her first lesson down to two things - how to make the perfect martini or Sarah Jessica Parker's shoes from Sex and the City...it's a toss up...
I have a new nick name for the mangers at work - The Seagulls...You know that absolutely obnoxious sound seagulls make when you stop throwing them french fries at the pier - well that's the sound they make when they are greeting students or sending them off - it's not a wonder the students make a run for the elevator when their are done with class - I'd avoid that verbal tonal abuse at all costs too!

As we all know, the hair in Japan is pretty horrendous - but the newest fashion flub to attack Tokyo are fingernails! They are long, mulit-colored digit messes. Oh, and they aren't short by any means - they are Velocraptor claw length stretching outward just waiting to attack...They have reflective fake gems the size of bike reflectors on them and even have chains with charms hanging from them. I kid you not - there was girl with a Hello Kitty hanging from her middle finger - barf! It's like they tried to dress their nails with their eyes closed - they are just a mess! Watching girls struggle with texting on their phones with their giant surfboard nail extensions is fun - though the best is when their gems get snagged on their hair as they primp - awesome! Remember when press on's were actually cool - I think Tokyo is where press on nails go to die! And of course, it's not the ladies that have the nice, tailored, conservative outfits who rock these god awful finger accessories - it's the ones that wear the skanky-Miami meets Indie-80's-rocker clothes, so the whole ensemble is just a complete visual tragic monstrosity!

Side note - I don't care how long, annoying, in-the-way or tangled your hair is - Men should not have pig tails!

If their outfits weren't bad enough - they have another accessory - and these ones pee, whimper and creep me out - little purse dogs. I know that Tokyo is an over crowded city, so there's no room for normal dogs, like Labs or Golden Retrievers - but for god sakes, get rid of the ugly tea cup, miniature, genetically flawed, oversized rats - and especially don't ruin a perfectly good Gucci bag by shoving one of these hairy rodents into it! They have them everywhere - in the elevators, in lunch places, department stores, in bike baskets and hair salons. Dogs are meant to dig in the dirt, wrestle and bark at cats - not quiver in fear when they see a bird or falling leaves...I do find it funny that when you see a guy walking a small dog in America, he is either a) gay or b) walking it for his prissy girlfriend while she talks on the phone to her obnoxious girlfriends...Here - it's just a Tuesday night...no butch points are subtracted for walking your mini-yorkie - but be warned - if I'm not within kicking distance to boot it in to the upper stratosphere - I will be judging your ass!!!

Sunday, August 29, 2010





video
So, the hike up Mt Fuji was pretty damn cool...not only was it a beautiful evening out without rain, wind or lines - we were able to hike up by moonlight! I felt so very authentic and rustic Japanese....
It took us about 6 hours to get to the top from the 5th station on the mountain. If you remember last time, we were pelted by rain, hail and wind that actually forced us down early and kept up from the top. This time we were able to get all the way to the top without any problems. We did run into many annoying Americans, some of which thought I was Japanese and were talking about me as I was hiking - I giggled the whole time and they were so embarrassed at the top when I turned to Erin, my hiking partner, and said, "Im pretty sure they thought I didn't speak any English", which they then went white and ran away...lol
We were there at the top way before we shoulda been - almost 3 hours to wait for the sunrise - which normally would have been fine - but because it was zero degrees - and I only had a jacket and sweatshirt on - I shivered and bitched the whole time waiting....We made a nest to keep warm by a big rock and had the most perfect viewing position - so we rotated turns going down to the little hut below that had a bathroom and souvenirs. There were probably about 1000 people on the hill with us to view, which was awesome to watch people hiking up below us because it looked like a airport runway all the way down the mountain - insane! All these little ants marching up the hill at 3 am in the dark to reach the summit - unfortunately, some people didn't make it because the line was so long and some people aren't as quick and nimble, some had to enjoy the sunrise from the side of the trail.

I had packed 2 special things in my bag - sake to cheers with a cucumber...
I know, a cucumber?! Well the story goes that when you hike up Fuji, you are much closer to the heavens, so you are able to communicate with your ancestors. So, while you are up there, they come down and you bring the cucumber with you and a pair of chopsticks to build what looks like a horse. This is so that the spirits of your ancestors are able to ride back to heaven. During Obon, the really big holiday weekend in Japan, the top of the mountain is littered with these. It was kinda a special moment - all until I cheersed my sake and spilled it all over! I think that the lack of oxygen made my head psyche itself out and i think "loopy" is the only word to describe my actions. :)

It was the last chance this year to be able to go and hike up Mt. Fuji since the season closed this weekend - because it starts to get too cold, icy, rainy and dangerous. I'm so glad that I was able to conquer that beast! It was one of those special moments that you keep with you forever, even though I'm sure all the people on the train home would rather of us not shared with them since we smelled like all the worst parts of a rodeo or sewer treatment plant - but, hey - you can't win em all....I just winked at them and said, "when was the last time you climbed Fuji-san eh?" :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bugzilla!

I thought that Godzilla was killed by a fictitious moth thing - but it turns out those things actually live here! They are huge - I would have thought for a small island country like Japan that the bugs would have been small and scarce..um, no...
This morning I woke up to the largest praying mantis on my door and I actually squealed a little - I thought it was gonna go right for my jugular! The moths here are also nothing to gawk at...They can be up to 6 inches and apparently they are actually poisonous - what?!
My least favorite, of course, are the spiders - which thank god I have not had the opportunity to run into yet...but the other creepy crawlies here are the large cockroaches that live everywhere...They are black, big and have wings - they are basically the grim reaper in bug form. My managers at work are so scared of them that they will interrupt my class to make me get one out of the hallway....Oh and if you are not used to cicadas - don't move here in the summer time - I am still confused in the morning when I keep trying to shut off my alarm clock, only to realize that it's a dying cicada in my window...

Ok - so I know there is doctors without borders - but can someone please start a dentists without borders and begin with Japan. The teeth here are awful! Between the yellow, crooked, snaggled tooth or the non flossers - I can't figure it out...there are more fake teeth here than all of Boca Raton and Scotsdale combined! And it's not just old people, young people have faces chocked full of messed up chewers too...

Let's talk about some basics in biking rules. Yes, I still have it and No, I haven't killed anyone while riding yet....
If you are a walker and you choose to walk in a fish tale pattern like a drunk sailor - then you are eligible for being run over - it's almost like you are a giant bullseye - so don't complain when I barely clip your shoulder..
If your bike has a squeaky brake - get it fixed or give up on using it and play kamikaze at the intersection, cause I can't handle that sound anymore!
Bikes are not like cars - it's not as funny to try and see how many drunk people you can fit on one bike at a time...
Just like driving - don't text and bike - it doesn't work and you ultimately end up sending inappropriate texts thanks to autocorrect
If I park my bike somewhere over night - that doesn't automatically mean that it becomes a garbage station - so stop putting your empty beer cans in my mommy basket!

Let me tell you about some of the parents that show up to work everyday. Some of these moms are gorgeous - yet they have the most horrendous children. These are the ones that hurl candy shrapnel out of their noses at me when they sneeze or think it's funny to kick me in the shins while I'm talking to their parents....I wanna ask them if they have bad vaginal karma at some point and popped out the anti-christ...
My other favorite is the moms that dress their children to match them - and I mean down to the bracelets...it's almost creepy - I can't tell if it's the mom that wants to stay young or the daughter who wants to grow up - but either way, it tends to freak me out and I hide in my room...

I swear if I have to play one more game of UNO, I might actually pitch myself out my 4th story window! I really wish that we could somehow make UNO a drinking game at work - it would make it so much more enjoyable. It's also funny to see how many different variations of the rules there are for my little ones....not only do I have to remember their non-genderfied names, now I also have to remember if they play doubles, stacking or single picks...uggh!
I am looking for other games that they actually understand - but I can't seem to get the idea of Old maid or rummy - way too complicated and I just don't have the patience to teach them yet- especially when a majority of them end up getting distracted and pick their friends noses instead - which reminds me to pick up some more purell and to laminate the cards so I can soak them in bleach at night...
I haven't had the heart to tell my coworker that he smells like a dirty rag - but I think it will be imperative in the next week before I pass out cold at work from the overwhelming rankness that looms in the hallways when he walks by. The smell can only be described to those who have worked in a bar before and know that smell that a bar towel gets after a crazy night, full of drunken college kids and it's the only cloth left and you'd rather not wipe up the spill then potentially get let the stench penetrate your skin - yeah, it's that times 10...I absolutely love my coworker because he's the simplest man ever. He's so kind you can't hate anything he does - though he is probably the most socially awkward person you will ever run into, he means well and is pretty cute with the kids....

So, I know that I'm an english teacher and I should be teaching them all the correct things to say and what not, but when you have said the same word 100 times in a row and then need to say it in the next class 100 times again - you want to change it up to keep yourself sane. I've learned a new trick to keep myself entertained - last week I had a young child that I decided to hold a fork up and I told her to say "spoon"...I giggled until I saw her the next week and she had her lunch with her and she looked at her mom with her fork in her hand and said 'spoon' - the mother speaks perfect english...crap! I rushed away with my head down, karmatically kicking my own ass...oh but today, there was a funny moment with an older lady that I have who read the book Anne of Green Gables during the past week and decided to tell me about it - while she was trying to describe the title of the book - she asked me how to say 'gables', so we worked it out phonetically....by the time I realized how I had split the word up - I was already trying to hold back the tears - I looked up on the white board and I had written "gay bulls"...which she nodded and wrote down in her daily file...great, now she thinks that the book is an animal version of Brokeback mountain....

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Gays on Parade...





literally...

Today was gay pride in Tokyo - which is kind of the funniest oxymoron I've found in Japan so far - even more so than the phrase "good drivers"...
If you have ever been to a Pride parade in a large city - like Seattle, New York or Sydney - Tokyo pales in comparison. It was kinda like that cute attempt the 5 years old does when riding a bike for the first time, falls over and you pat them on the head and say 'try it again love..'
We all gathered (by all, I mean like 3000 people) in the big park in Shinjuku area - very fun park area, but we were very confused at first since there was also a music festival, which at first made me think that there were hundreds more people attending - nope, they were there to listen to some version on paid karaoke.
So we all queued up at the beginning and we were assigned a color band that corresponded to a group of parade participants - well we couldn't find our group - so we made our own. :)
Oh, and they don't call it a parade - it's a demonstration, since you cannot dance or sign without a permit and you are only allowed to have one motorized float per demonstration - and you can only use 1/4 of the street - so not only were we marching in protest, we were shoved on the side of the street while traffic continued to whizz by...lol
It was fun to see all the people dressed up in crazy anime costumes and even funnier to see the parade onlookers' reactions. People in Japan don't really know what to do with gay people, so instead of discrimination - they just kinda ignore and let them do their own thing. There were tons of foreigners in and around the parade - many of them were disappointed due to the lack of energy wince it was just basically a walk in the streets with rainbows - so nothing different from a normal Tuesday...;) Next year - I'm gonna need to be in charge and step this whole event up - we need some glitter, boys in spandex, thumpa thump music and the sister of perpetual indulgence...

There is this very strange business concept that has become a mecca for the losers in high school who never had girlfriends to come and hangout and have someone dode on you....it's call a Maid Cafe. It's probably the most uncomfortable experience for a gay man ever! YOu are escorted into the cafe and all the little 'maids' start giggling and squealing and talking to you - they make a big fuss about everything - they like to touch your hair and your clothes. Then they come over and they get on their knees and take your orders - mine was for a iced cappuccino - something that I thought would be pretty harmless. The little girl skipped off with her pig tails bouncing like she was on a trampoline. Her outfit was the classic french maid style - but pink and she kept squeaking when she talked...
I literally downed the cappuccino so that I could get the hell outta there - since I felt as though my absence of hallucinogens in my system were going to be a problem if I stayed there any longer...Note to the world - only go there if you think you have missed out on play time as a 3 year old...

Shopping in Ginza is quite the fun experience. The best part is you can pretend that you are some jet setter because all you have to do is wear your sunglasses inside each store - even though I think all the employees know that you are only in their store because they have the AC cranked up to the Antarctic setting. Abercrombie and Fitch has a giant 9 story flagship store and it's more like a ride at Disneyland than a shopping facility. When you walk in - there are shirtless men to take pictures with you - heavenly!
Then you are squished into an elevator - which we all know I hate - and then you are dropped off on the top floor - only to fight your way down to the bottom - which seems as though you are pinball bouncing from A&F salesperson to A&F salesperson - there are actually 4 per floor! They offered me a job when I was there, which was flattering, but I did my classic diva move - which involves the lowering of my sunglasses just enough for me to wink and tell them, I don't do retail hours....

When you eat in Japan - don't expect to be polite like we are in America and wait for everyone to receive something eat before digging in. Here, the first thing up comes to the table, so you get more of a broken progressive dinner than a coursed meal. It's very strange to be with a group and your food comes first and you wait for everyone else - so your food gets ice cold and the server keeps asking if anything is wrong. This is why so many tables just end up staring all the food instead of eating their own. Plus, never stack your plates - they find it rude - whereas those of us who have worked in the industry, think it's a nice gesture...

So, since my last train home is so early, I'm usually forced to stay out all night until the first train - which is the best time to really see the city. I went to Tsukiji market, which is the largest seafood market in the world. This place is so famous because of it's tuna auctions in the mornings. Well, they start at about 4 am for this - so those of us that are still stumbling around the city can find themselves at some of the best sushi places in Tokyo. You literally cannot get fresher sushi - the fish comes in from the boat and goes right to the plate. The tuna was like butter!
The market itself is absolutely crazy - there is no room for error in maneuvering yourself around the endless stalls - there are these crazy electric carts that transport the 1/2 ton tuna from here to their and they don't really have driving rules inside the market. There are hundreds of stalls and open with the fruits of the sea pouring in every few minutes. This place is 5 times the size of Pike Place Market and is absolute chaos - tourists would for surely die if this was in the states - plus the stall people are friendly to tourists since we are ultimately just in the way and customer service is not on their radar since we are not going to drag around 10 pounds of squid or 50 eels...

The national holiday is this week called Obon. It's a celebration for those who have died - similar to Dia del Muerto in Mexico - where the family goes to the grave, brings flowers and offerings and hangs out with the tombstones. Here, the whole city shuts down since everyone is supposed to be with their family - which of course is also gay pride since none of the asian men want to be with their families here...;)
So today, say a little prayer and remember the ones we have lost and cheers them with what's in hand....kampai!

Monday, July 26, 2010

drool and sweat

Wow - Tokyo is one hot place....
I can't even tell you all the crazy amounts of buckets of sweat I have lost...since this morning!!!
It's about 90 with 10000% humidity - its basically what I envision hell to be like - except with way more rice and less bad drivers...
It's only going to get hotter - which means I have another 12 weeks of sweating from pores that I didn't know existed..
My advice, unless your cold blooded creature - stay away from Tokyo when the sun is shining! It's funny cause I don't even mind that I have sweat streaks running down my back since the only thing I'm concerned with is the next stop off with AC!!
There actually are different levels of sweating I've decided - starts with the mild, healthy glow that you get when it's warm...then it moves into the small beads of sweat that accumulate on your head - much like on a first date or an awkward encounter with an ex...Then you start to get the back sweat, the kind that makes it awful to wear a shirt that has the ability to change colors like gray to dark gray - it's like putting a bullseye on your back for the butt end of jokes on the train...then, when the damn sun is in full force - you get the waterfall - the uncontrollable face, back, leg, arm leakage that just makes you the most unattractive person in the world - at this point you either need to just assuming the position and walk with your head high or find a nice boutique with an arctic blast goin on and pretend to show until you are dry - I won't mention that today I spent an hour in a lingerie shop cause it was colder than the skater shop next door - thank god for being gay!!

There is something fun that we don't have in America - Summer festivals! There is a festival every weekend in Japan. They are full of drunk people banging drums and bouncing portable shrines on their shoulders. The best part is these festivals are kind of just an excuse for more public drunkenness. I went to festival for the morning glory last week - wtf?!! who has a party over a plant?! The parties don't last long and everyone gets dressed up, which is fun - all except for the men in the traditional gear - let me explain the meaning of butt floss....It's like a diaper cut in half in the back and shoved in between ones butt cheeks - now it wouldn't be bad if these people all looked like Mario Lopez or someone with ass for days, but instead, we get to witness the horror of a drunk salary man running around like a giant kindergartener thinking he looks decent. Don't even get me started on the whistle blowing during these events - my ear drums are still recovering.

Though the good thing about summer is the food changes with the seasons - there are all new kinds of wonders to try at the store. Some good, some to pass on - but all worth a try. Many of the fruits are in full swing at this point and they are mixed into most desserts - very delicious. Along with food - I have learned that there are different ways to hold chopsticks - I thought there was just a universal way to get the food from plate to mouth - oh, no - there is a finesse that makes me green with envy...I have watched people eat with their finger towards the ends, others with this claw like position, some with the finely engineered positioning to get the optimal leverage...it's crazy - so I have been trying to mimic these over the last week - lets just say that I've stained 4 shirts, 2 pairs of pants and crushed my pride.

Earth quakes are common in japan - the only thing is I wish we could time them correctly. I was totally asleep in my sauna of an apartment finally, and then I am awoken to the rumbling of a minute long earthquake. Normally I would be fine with these - but you know that time when you are just waking up and you don't remember even you own name. Well my instinct was to grab something and run for the hills - well apparently the only thing close to me was a hand towel and I couldn't decide whether to run for the squeaky screen door or the front door. I chose the later and ended up saying hello to my new neighbors with just a hand towel - classy Dain...

The beaches in Tokyo are actually really fun - they are clean and there aren't many people at them since Japanese find tan skin repulsive. I liked the fact that there were 2 people in 500 feet of beach this weekend and it was hot as hell - where as in Seattle, I'd either have to bride someone with beer or sexual favors to cough up a small square of grass to sit on at Madison Beach. Too bad I look like Sebastian from the Little Mermaid now....:P

Omg, Let me tell you about the newest hair thing that scares the hell outta me - My good friend Erin calls it the super bun. This is a mess of hair properly arranged on the tops of ones head ranging from the size of a baseball to a small soccer ball. These things are dangerous since they are full of secrets and would probably do damage if fallen on...
Today, I saw one of the best specimens yet - she was sitting next to me so I couldn't take an photographic proof - but I crap you not, this thing was probably the size of a healthy watermelon precariously perched on top of her streaked blonde hair. The best part was that in between me attempting to touch it to see if it was actually a raccoon on her head - a beetle fell from the rack above onto the giant beehive mess and she didn't even notice - it was the first time that though I might actually have to get off the train to pee!!!

On a negative note about trains - it's the beginning of jumper season in Tokyo. I've already been to a station that was closed because someone thought it was better to jump in front a train then continue on with life. It's very sad - but unfortunately a very common occurrence here in Tokyo - pretty much weekly - it's covered by the national Japanese Insurance apparently, which is good cause it costs so much for clean up and the time lost for all the passengers - but it's so sad to think that someone is so sad that they can't go on - I want all those people to come and talk to me and hopefully some of my sparkly glitter will rub off on them!

Better news about the train today - I was coming home from Shibuya and there was the funnest thing I've seen yet on the trains. This woman, who looked normal and like a regular everyday business lady, sits down on the train across from me, pulls out a small blue hand towel, proceeds to place it gingerly around her neck like ones does with a bib to a child, puts her head down and sleeps - now this may not seems strange, but when when the woman is a natural drooling waterfall - one can't help but giggle - I could see the spittle in the sunshine and it was pretty much like a faucet dripping in full force...She literally was asleep in her drool on the train, in the middle of the day, she got up - folded up her towel and got off at the stop before me - now at this point I had laughed so hard I thought I was going to throw up!!!

Oh, let me tell you about some of my new students. There was a little girl who is newer to my Friday afternoon class - she has an amazing trick that she likes to perform, I think unconsciously during my class. She blows snot bubbles as she talks!!! It's awkward cause I laugh the whole time and I think she doesn't know why - I'm like a big 10 year old when she comes to class cause I wanna see if she's able to do it again each week. Too bad she's adorable and like 6...uggh - I'm awful...lol
So, I also have this new ritual with the hellian of a child and it's driving me nuts - not only am I not able to eat in peace when he's there - he has decided that it's awesome or ransack my room while I"m on my lunch and come over and stick his finger in each of my food items and ask what they are = if I don't get the bird flu - I will be shocked!!!

On a final note, a story that cannot be missed - so I have told you in the past about the garbage situation in Japan - everything is separated and organized...everything goes on different days - it's all greek to me - I can't figure out what the damn sign says so I usually just wait until I see what's supposed to be thrown away, run downstairs with my garbage and pray that I don't get yelled at by the little old ladies...We'll I've learned that easier then that is just to throw it away late at night when no one can spy on me so that I don't have to figure out which days to separate since some little magic elf does it anyways whenever i leave it...Well I guess I'm busted since last week, I pulled my usual CIA undercover spy move and ran it to the communal garbage spot and stealthily walked away - only to find the garbage piled neatly back up - ON MY PORCH! I've been spotted, tagged and labeled by the neighbors - damn - the honeymoon period is over!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fuji 1 - Dain 0




Mother Nature won again on our recent trip up to Fuji...

Here's what went down....

So, we started our fun journey early in the morning in Shinjuku station - many of us coming from far stations. We actually all made it in time, which for this group of people, was very surprising.
We loaded ourselves onto the bus and made our way south forwards Fujisan.
Well lets just say that we didn't make any friends on the bus - we were very excited - so naturally we were talkative - which apparently most people wanted to sleep and didn't care about us swapping horror stories of our crazy children in class. 2 1/2 hours later - we finally pulled into the 5h station - where most of the tourists come to snap a quick photo and they say they've been on Fuji. I can see why - this station stop was fully supplied with every type of knock knack needed to prove you have climbed that beast. I'm pretty sure my favorite was the girl in patent leather pink peep toe stilettos walking down the beginning of the hike with her Chloe shades and Gucci bag - gripping her Starbucks since it was about 43 degrees. We acclimated pretty quick and decided to start ahead on the hike up the hill.
Started out great - we were making great time - and then we came to the 7th station stop. The hike went from flat smoothed out gravel into Bolle style hiking where chains and handgrips are required to traverse up the lava flow. This is where the weaklings turned around...;)
This is about where my shoes were officially Lake Erie. We where slowly being pelted by rain as if mother nature was warning us to turning around and get our butts back to the land of luxury coaches with heaters - but oh no, our stubborn butts decided to flip her the bird and continue on..bad idea...

So after another 2 hours of climbing, bitching, slipping and swearing - we made it to our mountain hut. Now those of us who are used to staying in hotels or at least fancy RV's, would have been shocked and appalled by the ancient accommodations that lay before us. It was a huge room with some tables to eat at and dry our clothes - beyond that there were bunk bed rooms - similar to the ones you were forced to go to a a child for summer camp - you know the musty smell those had - now multiple that by 130 years, add waterlogged boots and sweat soaked jackets littered all over the walkways. Oh, and no heat..only blankets on top of elongated bunk beds. We were given our 6 'slots' to sleep - so basically we were spooning like unwilling sardines....I was just hoping that I wouldn't catch some kind of head lice from the pillows or bed bugs from the covers...

We brought our wet wares to the giant, airplane engine looking heater that was in the middle of the main room. Let me explain this situation - we only had a few hours to get to dry our clothes since the energy for the mountain hut runs on a generator and needed to be turned off at some point. The scene was a bit of a cluster - it looked as though a garage sale had thrown up on the floor - and not a good one - the kind that the left overs wouldn't even be taken by the Goodwill. People held their dripping socks and soaked gloves in front of the heater - and if you stood back it looked as though they were refugees receiving their first food ration from the Red Cross. Everyone rotated - much like penguins - to maintain heat - which, in turn, turn lead to conversations with strangers. We met a few english speakers - since Fuji is primarily a tourist trap for the adventurous.

After some Chicken curry and a few round of cards - we decided to hit the sack and let the cuddle fest begin. You know that person that comes in the group that has to have the last word - well we had two that decided to fight for that title. After many "shhhh's" and "will you shut up"s- we got to rest...all until the wind started to pick up. This is where the little boy in me needed a blanky and a bed time story. It sounded as though giant dragons where landing around our hut, howling and shaking the ground. The wind was so strong there were times that we were afraid the roof was going to rip off - instead, the wind just picked up rocks from the mountainside and hurled them at our hut's metal roof - causing this metallic clang every 15 seconds or so. There was very little sleep to be had need less to say...
We were planning on being up at 2am to hike to the summit on the last 2 hour trek upwards - but we were told that it was too dangerous and we should not attempt. Well, we took their advice and slept a little longer. We were awoken at 5 to them telling us that we were basically forbidden to go to the top and they were actually evacuating us to the bottom of the mountain with a professional guide and we had 30 minutes to get our stuff together and join the parade - let's just say that was a one conga line I was not gonna miss....

Our trek down was pretty harmless - lots of strong gusts and a few moments of silence as we watched our pride slowly chip away as we descended to the green trees below. We all talked about going up again so that we could see the damn sunrise - but as the Japanese proverb goes, "He who climbs Fuji once is wise, he who climbs it twice is a fool."
Well as for you I was never much of a rule follower - so I think I'm going to pray to the weather gods, grab some better rain gear, pack some more chocolate and head up the beast one more time to see why Japan is actually called the land of the rising sun.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Damn Birds

Happy Fourth of July
It's strange to be in a city where there aren't big firework shows - since that's what I've grown up with and definitely missed this weekend. I love the outdoor BBQ's and the endless flow of beer - followed up with some off key national antheming and watching dumb boys see who can get the closest to the firework without it blowing their eyebrows off.

I have learned that I don't need an alarm clock in the morning since recently the neighborhood pests have moved into my block - where instead of hearing cooing from the pigeons in the morning - I hear them trying to procreate instead - sounds a bit like when you accidentally step on a cats tail and it yelps - well try that for an hour in the morning - not all that romantic.

The farther out you go into the countryside the less english people speak - no let me rephrase that - they turn what they think is english into Japanglish. Let's look at a menu for example. Would you want to order the assorted fried chicken cartilage on the menu? Or maybe the excess pork fat lumps? How about the raw chicken sashimi - Salmonella anyone?

There is really only one main street in Kasukabe that goes from the freeway right to the train station. Its nice since they just repaved the road and biking is easier there now, the only thing that they haven't fixed are the birds that hang out in the trees above. Everyday, biking home is like a sparrow poop russian roulette. The trees overhang onto the street and there are thousands of birds in the trees - the noise is unreal - the high pitched squawking sounds like my class of 5 year olds on Tuesdays...

Speaking of class, let me tell you about some of the students and what things they have accomplished this week...
My whale child still picks his nose heavily in class, but I have gotten him to at least stay near his seat. The sneezing girl decided that she wanted to draw all over her friend in class - so I gave her a permanent marker...ooops
One of my older student has issues with his teeth - each class he is missing a different tooth and the one missing from the class prior has found it's way back into his mouth. It's like oral dominos...
Afternoons have become daycare at work - the parents drop them off, they terrorize us for an hour and then we send them on their way - I really wish we had a playground to send them to since I have become the official new jungle gym and I swear if more child tries to pants me while they others are hangin on like bats - I'll loose it!

The only good thing about the parents is the tend to bring us gifts - probably as a pleading thank you for taking care of the little monsters for an hour so they can breathe....but they are pretty good snacks - I must say Japanese women are pretty good bakers. It funny though since every girl in Japan seems to be on somekind of diet, the managers give me all the food and make sure that I eat it so it looks as though we all have partaken in the gifts. Let's just say that Godiva gets old after a while..

I have found that Japanese people are seriously hypercondriatic....every time they get a bump - see the doctor, have a head ache - see a doctor, have a hangnail - see a doctor. It's almost on the verge of being ridiculous - and the funny part is they tell me to go all the time, but I won't have any idea what the doctor is telling me anyways....He will probably tell me it's just a cold, but with my lack of Japanese skills - I'll probably think he's tell me I have Leukemia...

I was pretty bummed last week when Pride happened in Seattle - it's pretty much my favorite holiday weekend (yes, I made it a national holiday) because I can be ridiculous, dance until the wee hours of the morning, drink myself crazy, do unladylike things out in public and wear whatever I think is appropriate clothing. The pride in Tokyo is going to be a lot less exciting I'm sure - I'm guessin the crowd might swell to 50 by the middle of the event - they will have floats made of rice, rainbow kimonos, asian tourists and me...on a float...alone...in my underwear...happy Pride/Fourth!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'm backkkkk!

Ok, so I know that it's been a while, and really - not too much has happened - but let me tell you about life thus far in the rice patty fields of Kasukabe...:)

Well work is quite something else - I didn't plan on having so many children running around me - since I'm pretty sure I would have had my tubes tied (if I had em) after the first week of kids lessons. I have a number of unruly children - who funny enough, talk to me in Japanese thinking I understand them - so when I don't - instead I get a finger full of snot instead. There's something odd about Japanese children and their nasal passages - it's kinda disgusting. I have one child - we call him the whale for a couple of reasons - one he decides to sit in the back of the room and pretend that he's a whale, swimming on the floor and all - then, when he is finally done - he decides to stick both his fingers in his nose and proceed to talk the rest of the class while nose mining to the maximum! I'm not sure how he can get those pudgy little fingers all the way up there - but he's good...
I also have another child who, on the first day, instead of telling me her name - she sneezed in my face! So, while I was busy purelling my face - I had to entertain the children with a round of the ABC song - which after about 50 times looses its allure.
Work is super busy - some days I feel like a hooker standing by my door yelling "next!!" - which then 40 minutes later, I have another group of way-to-eager students waiting to see if I buckle under the pressure of me trying to explain "my pen vs. your pen" I never realized how complicated English is until I try to explain why rules exists - so instead my go to is - 'don't worry about it, just memorize it!'
My managers love me - I can do no wrong - I could probably pee on a child and they would think it's adorable. I think I'm still in the honeymoon period - so I'm gonna milk it for all its worth!

My apartment is much bigger than my old room - which I inconveniently shared with a strange Japanese student - so I feel much better - but the one thing I can't stand is the heat! I feel so though I've stepped into a Swedish sauna each time I come home..it's awful - I feel like I'm constantly dripping from places that I didn't think I could sweat from! Thank god I can break all the rules at work and not have to worry about wearing a tie - since that would just make me a giant walking toaster.

Oh, side note - if someone from America could please make some kind of advertisement showing asians that deodorant is a good thing - that would be amazeballs since I feel as though I'm walking into the wrong side of laundry day each time I step into a train car...

Bills are a funny thing in Japan. Now at home, you usually pay for things the good old fashioned way - with a letter, check and a stamp - but oh no, not in Japan...They proceed to stick a funny little slip of paper in one of your three mail spots in your house and then you take that bill to the 7 eleven (yes, that's not a typo) and you pay your bills there...The biggest problem is since Japan likes to think that it's super efficient.. so instead of just giving you one bill - you get a weekly update...now for a local, that's probably great - but for a foreigner, it makes me worried that I'm going to get up in the morning and have to take a cold shower cause they have turned off my hot water...

I know that nature and I haven't always been the best of friends - but recently, nature shocked me yet again....I was walking by the river when I heard this god awful low burp ribbit thing, and I literally recoiled and ran - only to find out that it's a bull frog...These things sound like prehistoric rabid donkeys with strep throat - it's the scariest thing at night! Who ever said you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince was seriously not lockin lips with one of these behemoth things! Nature 1 - Dain 0

Well since you all know that I am prone to judge - I have found a few more faults of Japanese women...So, it seems as though there are only 2 kinds of women in Japan - the ones that people call exotic, who belong in magazines or on tv - and all the rest - who look as though they have fallen from the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. To make matters worse - there is some kind of genetic defect with people being pigeon toed...it's not just a little bit, I'm talking about tripping over your left big toe as you walk - it's awful and it looks painful. So instead of hiding these flaws as a normal person would - the lovely young girls wear hooker thigh highs and Mary Janes and strut their lopsided selves down the street. You go gurl!

Oh and let me tell you about the garbage nazis...So, being that Japan is only technically an island - there's not a lot of places to put garbage - so the Japanese have gotten creative by doing things like burning it, sinking it or burying it. Well, each day there is a different pick up for each type of item. Now, in the states, there is a day for recycle and garbage - but Japan takes it one step farther - you must separate out the glass, the plastic bottles, the cans, the cardboard, the combustible, the non combustible and the compost. Now, according to the calendar, downstairs, in Japanese, that I can't read - each day has a different color. Well I haven't gotten that pattern down yet, so I just take everything and put in into the designated area for the waste. Usually in the morning, I come to see that someone has gone through my trash and separated out everything, placing some outside as though I should come back and get it. This is why I have to pull my stealthy ninja type move at night so none of the neighbors know that it's me that's putting the waste out on the wrong day, so I usually pretend like I'm going somewhere one my bike - make one pass by - then like a bat outta hell - I throw everything into the cement landing under the netting and make a run for it! I'm just waiting for the day that there is either a) a little old lady waiting with a tazer gun outside the garbage area or b) all of my lovely discards are piled neatly back onto my front door...

Saw Cirque du Soleil here in Tokyo - what an amazing show - the music was the best yet and the performers were pretty attractive I must say - too bad the first thing I though was - wow, I guess I need to start going to the gym twice a day...:P

And lastly, in America we tend to feel that some things are kept private - like social security numbers, sexual history and the number of times you've inadvertently peed your pants - well in Japan, there are no rules against what kind of things they ask for, which I have come to find that the strangest thing I have been asked for is my blood type - at the bank! I'm not sure how this works - but I'm guessing that in case I either slit my wrists on an ATM withdraw or get shot during a hold up - they would be able to tell the hospital what bag to fix me up with. I guess I'm just hoping that when I sign up for my grocery discount card next week that they don't ask me for a stool sample...:P

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fat man in a little suit...


Wow, there's nothing like seeing a giant 6 foot flubbery asian man squished into an oversized diaper...it's kinda like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube..it's a scary mess...
Although, it is a very time honored past time of Japanese culture, Sumo wrestling is not glamorous - I'm not exactly sure who started the rumor that Sumo wrestlers are "sexy", but they should be tarred and feathered. Watching two walruses fight on the discovery channel is about the closest description of what I witnessed in real life at the big stadium dedicated just to Sumo in Tokyo. Fights last about 5 seconds and there's a mass of cellulite thrown around a ring until someone gets winded or uncoordinated and fall. People have their favorites who get these funny chants from the crowd similar to baseball hassling chants. They also get paid after each fight - so once you get done bashing each other, you get a stack of cash. One thing I don't get is why people pay so much for the floor seats....Here's my thoughts on that - if you have floor seats at the Lakers game - you would want someone like Kobe Bryant to fall in your lap - or maybe at a concert - you'd hope that the lead singer would crowd surf right into you - but there's no way in hell I want a 300 pound, sweaty, stinky, half naked Sumo man falling on me! I'd take that thousand dollar floor seat and cash it in - grab a nose bleed seat - far from the fat rolls, kick back with a beer and learn the funny chants...

So, when it's sunny out usually people wear sunglasses - but apparently in Japan like like to suffer from ocular migraines - since no one wears sunglasses during the day. I don't quite understand this since I know that I don't like to squint for hours on end....Though, it does make me look more like a celebrity when I rock the shades even in the train station...:)

I'm glad that I don't get pee shy, since urinals are placed about 3 inches from the next...I'm so used to the ones in the states that have partitions or separate dividers - unlike Tokyo - you have a place to hang your umbrella and put your bags above the urinal and bump elbows with the guy next to you...but the funniest part isn't that Japanese bathrooms would be a politicians' nightmare for a scandal in the states - but more that the people who clean the bathrooms are little old ladies and they has absolutely problem throwing a smelly stick into your urinal as your peeing. For a conservative country as Japan - I'm shocked that I'm able to pee with grandma...

Let's talk about work real quick...let's see where do I start....:P
So, I've been training to start next week with my new company - let's just say I'd rather chew on glass or sit on hot coals....It has to be the most degrading thing...for the trainers! Not only did we do the same lesson plans - we had to do them twice since I trained with someone - and the poor trainer had to pretend to be a 4 year old child...Im Japan, it's very important to pretend to like whatever you are doing even if you hate it!
At work, you are supposed to show up early, leave late and smile the whole time...I'm not shocked now why salary men in Tokyo drink every night, pass out on the trains home and then get up and do it all again...

Sharehouse rules 101 - let me enlighten you..
1. If you buy a carton of eggs - it doesn't mean that just taking one won't go unnoticed!
2. When you bring someone home with you, please make sure they have decent hygiene - I have to live here and don't want to smell them after they have left
3. Do not put porn on the background of the public computer that we all share - I don't need that awful surprise when I'm checking my email at 3 am!
4. The shower room is meant for what its called- to shower - its not a sauna, its not a nail salon, its not a barber shop - so please don't use it in other ways - oh and don't think that I haven't noticed someone using my expensive shampoo!
5. If there is a new person moving in - don't be an ass and scare them with all the horror stories of who's lived here in the past or other strange thing - let them work it in with baby steps...
6. If you are an early riser - please remember that not all of us share your enthusiasm about sunrises and birds chirping since many of us have just come home from all night of partying and just need to pass out and start our awful hangovers in peace!
7. Don't discuss politics and religion - much like you wouldn't do it with your new in-laws - unless there's a large bottle of Whiskey on the table - then it's fair game....
8. If you're sick - please put yourself in quarantine - I don't want your strange bird flu!
9. The laundry room is not meant for the holy grail of places "not to get caught" while messing around with the new drunk mess you brought from the bar last night - I want to know that my clothes are going to go in dirty and come out clean!
10. Lastly, remember that we are all here to learn about each other and share our experiences about the past - don't play the TMI game with me cause I'm probably going to remember when you tell me about "....the one time that I got crabs..."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Attention: please put your seats up in their full and upright position...


And finish ur damn cocktail!!! I'm pretty sure that Megan and I decided that it was a good idea to drink to take the edge off our fear of flying at 8 am....;) Thank god Japanese people drink at all times of the day!
So, we went to Okinawa and it was not exactly how we planned it. To start off - we were drowned rats for the first 2 days...Now I know that when you are on a tropical island, that it's gonna rain pretty much everyday...well by rain, I mean torrential downpour, like the gods were peeing directly on the island...it's was crazy how much water just appeared - I felt like I was in some crazy fish tank!
We bought our own dinner to be cooked on spot - which we felt horrible about since the body was still moving as the guy made sashimi out of his body - but it was so damn good, we just turned the head the other way..:(

Yogurtland is our new best friend - let me tell you about this glorious establishment! Its a self-serve, 12 flavor, 25 topping slice of heaven frozen yogurt place - and it makes my world go round! Literally we would wake up from naps and blurt out "yogurtland" and neither of us had a problem giving into temptation! :) Most expensive cups of FroYo ever though - since it's on weight and I don't think I could fit anymore into the cups - thank god I have good spacial skills and could stack up those oreos and poundcake like a Jenga tower!!

We did end up hangin out with some military boys that I had met and thank god, cause they showed us around the island via car - since apparently you need one to get around, otherwise you are stuck walking here and there...
It's funny - the package thing we were on gave us tickets to the aquarium....so one would assume that it's an aquarium that you can get to - oh no..what a mistake that was! The aquarium was like 3 hours at the top of the island in the middle of nowhere - so there was no hope for us getting to see those giant whale sharks! So, instead we just went to the base and I saw them there! It was awful on the biggest of the military bases - it felt like I had never left the states - there were Burger Kings, Popeyes and a Walmart - full outfitted with all the lovely large characters that tend to fill the stores back home. Apparently, base wives have nothing else to do besides pop out kids, eat fast food, watch the latest movies and increase their belly circumference. The only plus was Megan and I were able to eat cereal! Let me tell you how exciting it was to stare at an aisle of cereal options - I kinda started twitching with excitement!
All in all, the trip was fun - it was warm, we made new friends, I gained about 3 pounds and I'm pretty sure that next time I visit - I'm taking an extra rollie bag to pack full of cereal, nutella and Gatorade! Okinawa - you aren't done with me yet...:)

Back at the ranch - I started work yesterday - and let me tell you - training feels like Kindergarten without naptime...I was sitting there staring a laminated cards reciting the alphabet - I felt like I am Sam...

So, this morning when I was making my way home from a night out - I was stopped by the Police...it was interesting since they asked to check my bag and then they padded me down. Now, mind you there are many other people around in the area, but I was the only one they targeted. I think I put the pieces together as to why...
So, Japan has a zero tolerance drug policy, and yesterday, I had to write a notice for my work reminding all the employees that we are drug free zone - though the President laughed when he asked if we had ever tried pot before, and I accidentally giggled...he gave me the thumbs up - god bless fun asian bosses...:) So, work got a call from the Police reminding them to let all foreigners about this rule - which makes sense as to why they stopped me - they are trying to make sure that we are not partaking in illicit activities - I just wish that the guys padding me down was a 6 foot swedish man with large hands...I guess I can always dream right? ;)


Friday, May 14, 2010

The jelly filled kind...

After partying with some boys from the Navy, I have learned why Americans have such a stellar reputation around the world...Boys in the military party - hard. There's no doubt about it, but it's funny since it's not like they are going to battle and need a last hurrah - it's more like - it's Wednesday, what the hell are we gonna do? Their dorm rooms resemble college dorms of the grossest kind - the ones that girls normally would run from even if they were 5 wine coolers deep and wearing blue eyeshadow...I guess it's allowed since the average age of the boys here is 19 - so it's kinda like their college time...but in college we had to study - and here, the boys are disgraceful about knowing another culture...they can't make sense of what to do in the city, how to get around or ask simple questions in japanese...its embarrassing...

I have learned that this summer I'm going to be gross - I mean gross - a sweaty ball of uncomfortable misery, and it hasn't even hit the high 80's yet...It gets humid and sticky and people don't really like deodorant here, so basically I'm gonna be stuck in a stinky, wet, awful metal tube every time I take the train this summer....

You would think that in a country known for it's flip flops that they would be on everyone's feet all time in the nice weather - big mistake! I haven't seen a single Japanese person wearing flip flops yet! I live in mine normally, but I feel like everyone is staring at my feet on the train - thank god I don't have fugly feet! I'm gonna need to start a flip flop revolution so I can proudly wear my flip flops where ever, when ever!

Banking here is a bitch - like most things that require paperwork - everything is a process that usually ends up with a confused asian person on one side of the counter and a irritated me on the other. THey tend to give you all the paper work you need, but the issue is that they don't tell you all the things that you need to coincide with that paper work - like random stamps, copies of cards, blood samples, promissory notes of first born children...crap like that...I'm hoping that after I just through all the hoops that I actually have a bank account set up with a card that will work in this country, but right now I'm not counting on it...

Chivalry needs to come back into fashion - I'm demanding it of all young people! I'm calling our first meeting to order right now and you will all need to pay attention to your first task...giving up your seat on the damn train to older people! I hate seeing that in the recent days - young people on their cells or pretending to sleep while and older person with a bag holds on for dear life to the hand guards. I get so annoyed that I actually closed a young guys phone and told him in the best Japanglish I could to give his seat to this adorable old lady who had just come back from grocery shopping. It's karma bitches - do your part!

So, on a funny side note - I was out one night for an all-nighter and I realized that I was starving but for something very specific - a doughnut! I know that Japan has this weird obsession with pastry things, so I figured there was one open early in the morning. As I was stumbling around, I came upon an occupied cop car. Now the cop cars here are funny because the lights are always on and they don't really mean anything...they have this xylophone siren that jingles and they say 'hi' whenever they pass you on the street - all in all - not very menacing. Anyways, so I went up to this car in a bit of a drunken state assuming they would know where the doughnut shop was, based on my knowledge of police back home, and joked with them by asking "So....do Japanese cops love jelly filled doughnuts as much as the popo back home?" They looked confused and I was ready to jog away when they got out of their car...My first college instinct would have been to bolt, but instead they walked me to the nearest doughnut shop and bowed and walked back to their cars - I stood shocked, bowed back and headed towards the diabetic bliss that awaited me...:)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hold the mayo....please

I have always considered myself a good judge of someone's age - but after coming to Tokyo, I've learned that actually - I suck. I couldn't tell you if a person was 16 or 36 here - Asians age so damn well! I guess that's the one shout out for my dad - thanks for the genes...I'll look like a 12 year old until I'm 50...:) But seriously - Japanese people just don't get wrinkles and they seem to be pretty mobile until way past most of the AARP kids at home...

Beauty is an interesting thing in Japan. There are different levels and specifics of what constitutes "beauty" in Tokyo. There is surprisingly a very specific look for the ideal Japanese girl - she must have those giant doe eyes, long black shiny hair, perfect teeth (which most in Japan don't have - kinda like Brits....), size negative 32 and has beautiful milky smooth skin...Every photo on the train has some version of this - which I don't understand because for the most part, you can find girls like that on the streets of Shibuya - so I guess the models in Japan are more attainable and relatable - unlike ones from NY or Brazil - damn that gorgeous Gisele...Make up is a big thing here too...I try not to stand too close to most younger asian girls because I'm afraid that I'm going to be adhesively stuck to them - all parts of young Japanese girls are glue on - their eye lashes, their nails, their bedazzled phones...Make up is applied liberally whilst on the train and it apparently doesn't matter if they are busy knocking you with their elbows while they put on mascara since fashion comes first here...I swear I saw a girl take out a full length mirror and a flat iron on the subway last night...

I just spent the afternoon at different modeling agencies, which was kind of a fun adventure because it's nothing like being at home or what we see and dream of it being like on TV...
There were no hunks serving chilled kumquat water in crystal goblets (damn) or long legged human hangers bounding around in the newest D&G swimwear...instead it was a cramped office with too many workers, listening to American techno and clacking away at computers. The funny part was when you get sized and photographed - you basically have to sit on the person at the desk next to you - god knows my angles are gonna look awful on my closeup film! ;) Watch out girls - this one's gonna be on a billboard! haha jk

Oh, never ask anyone in Japan about national holidays - they are clueless! They have no idea what the national holidays are, what they are for, who they celebrate, what you celebrate with, or what days they are...it's hilarious! It's almost like it's a surprise each time they get a holiday off, since they don't pay any attention to days of the weeks anyways cause they work like 364 of the year...poor saps....

One thing I have noticed in Tokyo is that married people don't have very extravagant rings....unlike the giant iceskating rinks trophy wives in the states wear. It must be part of that whole Japanese mentality of being apart of the group and not standing out...even the Tiffany's here only had small diamonds in their windows - I wanted to go and ask "where the hell the bling is?!" I guess it's nice since there is no need to announce to the world that your married - but I'll have to move before I get married because I want a rock so big thats gonna drag my left arm down so I'm total Quazimodo style!

oh god, I've learned one thing that I really don't like in Japan - Mayo! I didn't like it before I left and now I fake seizures so that people don't put it on things that I order...it's a strange mix of US mayo and sugar paste...it's so strange...plus, they put it on everything - want a burger? Mayo...Want an omelette? Mayo...want a waffle? mayo! I swear they think anything white makes it all better....lol - but that's a different story for a different time kids! Nightynight!