I ended up getting less than 5 hours of sleep last night, after I realized that I indeed did not have the Halloween mix CD from the year before, and stayed up till 2 AM scrambling to collect enough tracks of music and sound effects to put another one together. I know I did have it, but it’s vanished.

My elementary class this morning went pretty well–everyone was really amused by my wings and hat and black/purple striped socks, and the surprised/bewildered/amused look on the face of the teacher who watches over the class while I teach was priceless. The kids enjoyed trick-or-treating (instead of wearing costumes, they drew them, and then told me what they were in order to score a couple of pieces of chocolate) and jack-o-lantern designing…I wish I had something like the masks last year, though, which they really got into, but oh well. They loved the costume and were really eager to try on the huge witch’s hat after class.

When I was leaving, the vice-principal walked out with me to the genkan the way one or two teachers from that school usually do, and she asked me how many more years I was planning to stay in Japan for. It surprised me that she was thinking in terms of years and not months. I told her that I was planning to leave next summer, which made her surprised and a little dismayed, and she asked me if I’d already decided for sure. I then explained that I really wanted to return to grad school, and that was what I’d gone to Osaka this weekend for, to take a standardized test for entrance into a graduate studies program.

She then brought up the upcoming start of mandatory English classes in elementary schools (I don’t remember exactly when, but it’s definitely a pressing issue and happening relatively soon), and said that she hoped I would still be there once those classes started, and that if I was interested in staying longer, I would be welcome there.

I was really surprised by that–she’s only been at this school since April, due to the annual staff switch, so for her to say that was a really big surprise and a very unexpected compliment. If not for the rather compelling factors that have made me decide almost certainly that this is my final year on JET, I might consider staying on, especially since they’ve changed the recontracting guidelines this year and ALTs can now be full-time elementary school ALTs and stay up to 5 years, instead of the three-plus-two deal from before.

At the same time, on the bus yesterday, I was witness to a really beautiful sunset over the coastlines of both Awaji-shima and Shikoku, and I couldn’t help but think, “I can’t imagine leaving this.”

I’ve already decided, though. I haven’t turned in my recontracting papers with the “I will not renew my contract” option circled, but I told my supervisor as much already, and she already knew anyway. It’s crazy to think about leaving when it’s nearly a year away–but time’s slipping by so quickly. It’s almost November–I have less than 9 months now until the end of this JET year. In thinking about the grad school application process, I’m forced to concede that I’m leaving Japan. Besides the things I know I won’t miss so much (vegetarian food situation being the biggest), there’s a lot of good I’m leaving behind. It’ll be difficult to put it behind me when the time comes.

Not quite

I’m exhausted. The GRE didn’t go well–my verbal only improved by 10 points, and it’s still nowhere near what I need it at in order to qualify for the grad programs I want to apply for. I bought a lot of nice things this weekend (Loft + Lush = ♥) and ate some good Mexican and Turkish food, but when left to myself with nothing to distract me, I got pretty depressed. I went by Brian’s for a while tonight, which made me feel good, and a really cute and sweet guy working as a Starbucks barista struck up a really cute conversation with me very shyly, which also made me feel good at a time when I really wasn’t feeling good about myself.

I was about to head to sleep, but my dad called just after midnight because he forgot that Japan doesn’t do Daylight Savings Time, so 10 AM for him no longer equals 11 PM for me. As soon as I hung up with him, I got an IM from a friend saying he had a nervous breakdown this weekend when a delusional passenger on his flight made the baseless accusation that he (my friend) wanted to kill the other passengers on the plane with some kind of chemical weapon (which, of course, got him in big trouble with the TSA–couple that with the massive amount of stress/anxiety his job has put him under, and…yeah).

My friend’s okay, though–he has a big 2-week trip coming up this week, and the project that has been stressing him out so much should be finished by the time he returns. Hopefully he’ll be able to take it easy at work once he starts up again. No clue what happened to the guy who accused him, though.

This weekend has been…mixed. I failed to achieve the objective of the weekend, which feels even worse because of this seasonal slump and my exhaustion, but I had fun. I know I want/need to go back to Osaka/Kobe to do more holiday shopping…but whether or not I retake the GRE at that time still remains to be seen. I just physically do not know how I can improve my verbal score.

I’m not completely prepared for my Halloween lesson tomorrow. I hope my students are okay with my repeating activities from years past as a last resort. Maybe the chocolate will make up for it…that, and the witch’s hat and purple wings and scary music. I hope I can find the Halloween mix CD…

Seasonal ups and downs

I’m entering another of those seasonal slumps, I think. The first of it started to hit me last night, when I was hanging out with my friends (Chalice wanted one last night of karaoke to tide her over before her first trip to the US since arriving in Japan). So, yeah, Julie and Brian, if I seemed like I was really freezing up or clamming up near the end, that’s what it was.

I went into work today and just felt miserable all day. I started to get really frustrated over the stupid mistakes I was making while doing practice GRE problem sets, and I just felt this really heavy weight settling in. I was pretty quiet, though I’m usually fairly quiet at work anyway, but I guess something clued my JTE in, because she noticed that I was gloomy, and asked me if I was okay, but I just brushed it off as stress, not really wanting to get into it right there.

This evening, while walking home from running errands, my phone rang, and it was her, calling to make sure I was all right. I didn’t get to say goodbye to her because the prefectural BOE was doing their annual tour of our school and she was in her individual interview when I left. She actually had thought that something at school had stressed me out (which surprised me, but I finally told her about the fight that broke out after one of my solo classes at the end of spring term, after a nearly identical incident happened Monday–maybe she had that in mind), and she just wanted to make sure I was all right. I reassured her that I was okay, and then explained that it was homesickness (I guess it is…? It’s the easiest way to sum this all up), and nothing really started it, that it started last night, and that it just comes out of nowhere sometimes and you can’t really do anything but ride it out. She told me that she’d begun to understand how I felt after her two months in England this summer, when she’d had similarly homesick days.

I was really touched that she went out of her way to check up on me–she has an extremely busy schedule, personally and professionally, so I’ve tried hard to make sure I didn’t add to her load this past year. Part of my emotional “complex” with all these ups and downs is that I feel like I bug the people around me sometimes (it doesn’t help that my actual supervisor at the BOE has been more distant and less friendly lately with me–granted, I’ve tried to not ask her for much after the whole car thing, so maybe that’s kind of backfired and she thinks I’m being distant), so I do feel guilty when people interrupt their own very involved lives to check up on me or come cheer me up. My eikaiwa ladies, particularly the two younger ones who speak the better English from that crowd, have told me that I can call them anytime if I need someone to talk to–I’m close enough to all my eikaiwa students now that I know I can go to them any time for anything, and in the early summer when I made the decision to take that weeklong trip home, there was a class where I finally admitted to them that I was really homesick, just because I’d been upset at work earlier and wasn’t sure I’d remain completely composed through class. It was the first time in my entire year here that I admitted that it wasn’t a completely smooth ride. I’d feel really bad about actually approaching them, though, since they have their own families and businesses and whatnot to run. The last thing I want is to be a burden.

Anyway…it’s funny how “are you okay?” is the one phrase that really makes you realize you aren’t okay. When we hung up, I was blinking back tears for the remainder of my walk home. You just need a good cry every now and then, you know? I think this is one of those nights. I’m borrowing Ashley’s copy of Office Space to give myself a chance to relax, I think, though I can’t afford that luxury tomorrow or Friday. I’m under 72 hours away from the test now.

Mosquitoes, Indian food, and the weekend

I wonder sometimes if this blog is still fulfilling its initial purpose of serving as a good view of the life of a JET in Japan, or if it’s just evolved into a “this is what I did today” entity. I feel like I haven’t had much insight or speculation to provide lately…I think after a certain point, it’s easy to gloss over all the differences, because you’ve been here for so long, doing the same thing, that it just loses its novelty and becomes a little more ordinary. It’s definitely not an ordinary experience, but…driving on the right doesn’t faze me, bowing and the scent of fish in the air don’t faze me, walking everywhere in my town and driving almost nowhere don’t faze me, my work situation and the fact that I barely use English at work don’t faze me…it’s just what I do. I guess that in itself is something to think about, though.

Anyway…I somehow totally neglected to mention the Mosquito From Hell that bit me (read: mauled my face) overnight on Monday, so when I woke up Tuesday, I honestly looked like I either had been in an accident or like somebody had hit me across the face (I was thinking of taking a photo, and just didn’t–I sort of regret it now). My left eyelid was swollen and that eye wasn’t opening all the way, my right upper cheek was puffy, and my chin to the right of the cleft was noticeably bigger than the left side. It thankfully receded by that evening, but I got plenty of horrified looks and lots of sympathy at school.

Today, a teacher suddenly clapped her hands in the air as she tried to get a mosquito, and explained that one bit her arm several times. I then asked her if she by any chance saw my face last Tuesday, and she admitted, a little abashedly, that she honestly thought I had either been in an accident or that someone hit me across the face, and so she didn’t want to ask me about it initially in case it was a touchy subject–but when she thought about it later, she realized the areas were puffy but not red/bloodied, and that my face wouldn’t have healed as quickly as it did as the day went on if I’d actually incurred an injury, so she figured it had to be a mosquito.

Luckily, that night after school, I managed to kill the offending mosquito–but not before it bit me on my finger, with enough venom in that sting to make my entire arm start itching and to make my finger start tingling. Either that was one incredibly nasty mosquito, or I’m developing an allergy. I think it’s a bit of both. A friend suggested I look into an epi-pen, in case my reaction gets worse with each bite…I doubt it’s to that point, but I do have mosquitoes in my apartment and the plug-in mosquito repellant thing I have that worked well for Hannah has done nothing to kill them, so I need to do something.

Hmm, what else…my order from AmbikaJapan came in tonight! (Well, 20% mine, 80% Brian’s.) That means I have samosas and frozen parathas and all this other Indian grocery GOODNESS. I’m really excited! I just wish I could remember the recipe for this awesome, awesome chick-pea curry with some kind of brown base that my mom makes to go with the parathas. Oh, and with the order, I also got a coupon from Yamato/KuroNeko Takkyuubin (the delivery company) that gets me discounted rates on international shipping, and it has no expiration date! That’s going to be extremely handy when I’m shipping stuff home next year, especially for the stuff I’ll need until the end and again soon after I return to the US, but that I can’t pack into my suitcases.

I’ve also been studying hard for the GRE, and I think it’s coming along really well (heh, jinx)–I didn’t get to do much this weekend, since we had part of our Mid-Year Conference on Saturday (it used to be an optional English camp at a large high school just outside Tokushima City, but they decided to make it required for all ALTs this year and refer to it as a “seminar,” though it really wasn’t–it was fun working with high school kids, but we’ll never be in a situation where there’s a team of ALTs working in a classroom like that, so we really didn’t get anything out of it), and the first 2007 Tokushima AJET Musical planning meeting yesterday. (We’re doing Pinocchio, and the way Chris pitched it, it sounds like it has a lot of promise.) In the process, though, I bought some new classical CDs at Art Records (the proprieter actually ordered me a cup of coffee from Cha-Cha Coffee down the street) and several discount CDs from BookOff (Spice Girls “Spice” and two Sting CDs–I’ve been shamelessly singing along to “Wannabe,” “2 Become 1,” and “If You Can’t Dance” at the top of my lungs for the past 2 days’ worth of car rides).

Okay, I’m off to eat some samosas. SAMOSAS!

Special needs

I forgot how much I dislike studying for standardized tests. The math isn’t a big deal–it’s like a fun brain teaser. But crunching all this vocabulary…at least the root word/etymological aspect is interesting, but it’s still painful and fairly dry. Oh, well–I just have to pull off a good performance in a couple of weeks and I should be set.

I’m buzzing with Travel Fever again–I have my hotel booked, and bus tickets to Osaka and from Kobe for next weekend. (I’m staying in Kobe for the jazz clubs.) I also have my hotel for Hiroshima, though I have to decide how to get there (find a way to Matsuyama and catch a ferry for novelty’s sake, or catch a Shinkansen and be there in far less time?) and start setting up an itinerary. I’ll worry more about that after the GRE’s done with, though.

The Hindi lessons have been going really well so far, but I’ll honestly be a little relieved when they’re done with–while I’ve enjoyed how much the kids have enjoyed it, it’s almost easier to repeat normal material 6 times in a week than it is to repeat something meant to be new and fun and have it still be equally new and fun with every additional repetition. It’s time to start planning the Halloween activities.

The only real “snag” I’ve had with these lessons is one thing that has kept slipping my mind every single week for the past 14 months that I’ve been here, though it’s pretty much out of my control. In the second of my two Thursday elementary schools, I have a special-needs child with mental disabilities. I don’t exactly know what her condition is–she isn’t autistic, but she can’t really do anything unless someone tells her to do something, at which point she’ll do it, slowly and haltingly, even with games I know she’s really familiar with, like Fruits Basket and the like. The supervising teacher and other students take care of her and walk her through everything, but it’s always completely over her head, and this week was no exception. I did try to sit with her and walk her through how to write a Hindi “a,” and wanted to come back, but time ran out far more quickly than I anticipated. I just really have no idea how I can include her while keeping the rest of the class going.

I may have mentioned this a long time ago, but the way the system works here is that until junior high, special-needs kids aren’t put into a separate class. From junior high onwards, there’s a special-needs class for students with minor issues (we have two boys at my junior high in that special Homeroom C–I think they probably just have social anxiety issues of some kind where they can’t handle being in a typical 25-student classroom situation, because they’re just fine otherwise), and in Ikeda there’s also a special-needs school, for students with mental and/or physical disabilities. We visited it on our Christmas caroling rounds last year and are really eager to go back this year–the kids are really sweet and were so thrilled to see us, and I think the teachers and staff were really happy as well, because the ALTs hadn’t included that school in their caroling rounds for years.

Anyway, yeah–it was really surprising for me to see that young children with special needs don’t have special classes that tend to them, and they only receive that attention starting in junior high. I can only wonder what happens in situations where the kids aren’t as well taken care of by their classmates and teachers. The little girl in my situation is fortunate, but I still feel really horrible that English always ends up being such a discouraging experience for her because I don’t have the qualification or experience to know how to make it better for her.


This week, I’m going to be pretending that I know Hindi. I’m not so much doing a Diwali/Deepavali presentation as I am rehashing parts of the India culture lesson I did in January (I doubt they’ll remember a lot anyway, and there are new kids in 5 out of my 6 classes) and teaching the kids how to write their names in Hindi (thanks, Ankur!). I think that for little kids, it’d be a lot easier for them to write in Hindi than in Tamil–and their mouths can handle Hindi sounds far more easily than Tamil (my mouth, too, regretfully–I wish I could handle the pronunciation, but it’s really difficult). It also helps that Hindi matches up with Japanese sounds remarkably well.

I also finally made it to Hashikura Temple today (I left a little too late yesterday, and tried to hike, but by the time I made it halfway up the mountain, about 30-40 minutes after I started, I realized that I would have no time to actually see the temple before I’d have to leave again, so I gave up and came back down)…I now understand why its Lindsay’s favorite. It’s gorgeous! I almost wonder why it isn’t one of the 88, since Kobo Daishi was so impressed by how mystical the area felt that he decided to have a temple built there…but it kind of feels more like western Tokushima’s little secret this way, and I like that. The 88 temples are, as far as tourist attractions go, very much not–but Hashikura-ji still felt a lot more intimate. I guess the lack of tour buses and being on top of a mountain will do that.

And my Amazon package came tonight! I’m really pleased with Yamato/Kuroneko’s service. My shoulder bag will be quite heavy tomorrow…various folders full of notebooks and papers with Hindi characters and Deepavali images, some of my usual phonics stuff in case we inexplicably have a ton of free time, and my brand-new Kaplan GRE Verbal prep book. And, maybe after lunch, my laptop, to use the PDF-format GRE Quantitative prep materials. It’s really time to get in gear.

It’s also time to get to sleep. Starting a week off with under 6 hours of sleep isn’t really smart…but oh well, I’ll manage.


I’m heading out relatively soon to (FINALLY) head to Hashikura, the non-pilgrimage temple in Ikeda (in a Google search I couldn’t really find info, but I did come across Lindsay’s photo gallery, which I’ll link to). I’ve been feeling on-and-off ill all week (I had to skip a concert yesterday of a group of touring Vietnamese musicians that actually came to Ikeda–I’m really disappointed that I had to miss it, but I just didn’t feel well, though after a long nap and something to eat, I felt a lot better), but I want to try to hike it…and if I can’t, I’ll come back down and drive it or catch the ropeway car instead. It’s nice to have options.

(I have to spend a nice chunk of time this weekend planning a Diwali/Deepavali class. It’s October 21 this year, so this week is the best time to do it, since I have all 6 of my elementary school classes this week. I was only able to do it at my Double-Length Class of DOOM last year, and it was just some hasty storytelling and having them try to draw rangoli/kolam, which is tough for little kids, so I have to come up with something more fun and interactive this year. It also gives me an excuse to wear the kurti I bought in India! After this, I have to get started on my Halloween lesson/party plans. I think my kids will definitely appreciate the change from the phonics worksheets we’ve done since the start of the term–while I’ve made those as fun as I can, this is where the kokusai kouryou comes into play as well, and sometimes that can be the most fun thing.)

Next week, I can’t do much sightseeing–we have the first portion of our midyear conference (it was an optional English camp in years past at a high school that was a SELHI until this year, but now it’s become a mandatory event for all ALTs) on Saturday, and the first meeting for the 2007 musical on Sunday.

The week after, though, I’m hoping to head to Osaka to take the GRE (now that my Amazon order, with my GRE Verbal prep book, has finally shipped!). I probably won’t make a full weekend out of it; I’ll just catch the first bus early Saturday morning and the last bus home on Saturday night. But at the same time, maybe I’ll hang around through Sunday afternoon…we’ll see, though.

The reason I’m thinking I won’t stay for more than a day is that the following weekend is a 3-day one. If I can combine that with the day of daikyuu I get for the English camp, I can make a 4-day trip, hopefully to Hiroshima and Miyajima, and/or maybe Nagasaki. It’s going to be a very last-minute trip, since it’s only 3 weeks off, so I have to start planning it really soon.

But for now, I’m finally going to check out Hashikura! Knowing my luck, though, it’ll probably be closed just to spite me, since something’s come up every other time I’ve tried to make it out there so far. I’m really looking forward to checking this out.

Lengthy recap

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything truly substantial in here. I’ve been trying to compile a mental list of things I should mention that have happened, but every time I start, I get distracted and it becomes all scattered again.

(I’m sure you guys have missed these novella-length messages, haven’t you? They’re baaaaack!)

I went with Brian and Jane to see The Marriage of Figaro in Tokushima City two Thursdays ago. It was actually my first opera (I’m really not a fan of Mozart or opera in general), but it was interesting. It was nice to hear a live orchestra again, certainly.

The following week, I just felt really tired, and ended up taking Wednesday and Thursday off, as mentioned in the last post. I was still out of it Friday, but I felt better over the weekend.

On Saturday, I booked my plane tickets back to Atlanta for the holidays. I’ll be there from December 20 to January 5–I’m flying in and out of Tokyo-Narita, instead of Kansai. They offered me an incredible deal on domestic airfare (roughly 50% off), between Tokyo-Haneda and Takamatsu, but I need to look into what other options I have, like an overnight bus or overnight train. Another nice thing is that I’m arriving on the Saturday of a long weekend, so provided I’m not incredibly jetlagged (and I probably will be–I remember fighting to stay awake until 6:45 PM, waiting for the baggage deliveryman to arrive the day after I returned to Japan this summer), I have almost 2 days to spend in Tokyo if I want.

That evening, we had an impromptu Animation Night at Brian’s house (“we” meaning Brian, his adorable but overly rambunctious kitten Yukino, and me), where we caught up on the last 4 episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender and watched a subtitled copy of Howl’s Moving Castle/Hauru no Ugokushiro. There was also a major comedy of errors as we tried to tell the Pizza Royal Hat delivery people exactly how to get to his house, as my Japanese skills proceeded to go completely out the window for the duration of the phone call.

Sunday, I went up to Zentsuji, #75 on the 88-temple pilgrimage and well into Kagawa Prefecture. I caught the train there (first time in a while) and spent a couple of hours at the temple complex–it was really beautiful. There were a surprising number of henro, but quite a few of them were heading towards a large chartered bus when I caught a glimpse of the parking lot, so they weren’t all the hard-core, see-the-88-on-foot pilgrims. I was really taken by this complex, and I know that if I do have friends come visit me, I’ll definitely take them there.

Another really awesome find in the area was an Indian restaurant–Tonari no Indo-jin, which I’d heard about from other ALTs, but which I’d also heard had closed. It totally hadn’t! Unfortunately, I got there just a bit too late for lunch, so I ate at another local cafe and then caught a train back into town.

That evening, I decided to go for a drive to find the parking lot for the Hashikura Temple, another non-pilgrimage temple in Ikeda. I found it and then figured I’d just keep driving a little more…except “a little more” ended up carrying me a lot further north than I realized, and by the time I finally pulled over, I was most of the way to Kotohira, the town south of Zentsuji. It was dinnertime, so I figured, why not? and continued to head up north and had dinner at the Indian restaurant. It ended up being the BEST Indian food I’ve had in Japan so far! They had authentic samosas, which were even better than some I’ve eaten in the US. (That pretty much settles its awesomeness right there. It helps that the chef offered me real mint chutney to go with them!) It was surprisingly full, so I was seated right next to the kitchen area, and ended up chatting with the Indian chef (a guy from Delhi, who’d worked in bigger restaurants in the Kansai area before deciding he wanted to work in a small town, so he came here 3 months ago–I was his first South Asian customer, and he was thrilled) and the Japanese waitress (and owner? I was absolutely astonished to learn that she spoke fluent Hindi, and had traveled all over South Asia, and that the salwar she was wearing was one of 10 she owned!). She and I traded e-mail and cellphone e-mail addresses.

On Monday, I had another stomach attack. I kind of brought it on myself by not eating too well last week while I was sick, though, and then overdoing the not-exactly-best-for-my-stomach-lining foods on Sunday.

And today, after a rather insomniac night of lying down to get over 7 hours of sleep and only getting less than 5 instead, I discovered that it is indeed possible to make rasam that still tastes good when all you have are water, tomatoes, coriander, and rasam powder, and no lentils or tamarind. It had no real health value, but it tasted good and was soothing on my stomach.

I’m also still waiting on my books from–the very first order I placed, about a year ago, shipped within two days. It’s been over a week and this order’s status is still listed as “Not yet shipped!” It figures, since these books are actual necessities–a GRE verbal prep guide and several media studies texts. If possible, I’d love to take the GRE during the last weekend of this month, though I know that’s pretty soon. (The weekend before, we have part 1 of our midyear conference and the initial planning meeting for the 2007 musical, and the weekend after is a long weekend, during which I want to go somewhere–maybe even back to Kyushu, to give Unzen and Aso their due attention, weather permitting, of course. Maybe I’ll just put them off till the spring and go somewhere else.)

The evenings are getting chilly now–well, low 60s (Fahrenheit). But my hands and feet are cold, and I’m really tempted to pull out my kotatsubuton It’s definitely colder than it was last year, so I foresee a colder winter season than last year. Even though I know the coldest weather won’t come until January or even February, I still feel glad that I can experience central heating and insulation for at least part of this winter vacation.

Sick days

I’ve been home sick since yesterday (that’s “home sick,” as in, “I’ve fallen ill,” not “homesick”), though I’ll probably be well enough to go back to work tomorrow. I had flulike symptoms yesterday, minus the sneezing and coughing, and I’ve just been pretty weak and achey. I only realized yesterday after the local clinic closed for the day that this was more than just fatigue, so I went in today and am on meds for the next few days. And just as the doctor predicted, these meds are giving me a fever, but that’s a known side effect. (Ugh.) Hopefully I can make it in tomorrow.

‘Tis the season, I guess–quite a few of my kids have been out sick this week as well. The change in weather came suddenly and sharply. Chalice and Ashley both are feeling under the weather, too.

I also discovered yesterday that even if you sling a full plastic grocery bag several feet, it’s possible for everything inside to remain intact. I was walking home from the grocery store and felt something ticklish on my bag-toting hand. I glanced down and saw something neon green and big on my wrist and hand, and before I could stop myself, I let out a yell and let the bag fly. Luckily, nobody was around to stare/point and laugh/what-have-you, even though it happened right in front of the cafe/karaoke bar of one of my eikaiwa students.

The crappy side effect of being sick with fatigue, though, is that even though you’re at home, you’re too sluggish to get up and do anything, like clean, or do any of the around-the-apartment stuff you’ve been meaning to do. I spent several hours last weekend assembling a couple of new bookshelves, and I could have organized the clutter on my desk and kotatsu into those, but I just sat in my tatami room all day and putzed around.

So yeah, this was yet another Pointless Blog Post. I really have nothing of note, besides, “I’m sick,” and I somehow spent 4 paragraphs on that. Wow.