To the person searching on Google about extinct volcanoes in Japan

Yes, there are indeed many. Ashley downstairs–her father’s a geologist (which I didn’t learn until after he’d left–aww, man) and said that the rocks that some area mountains are composed of lead him to believe that there are many extinct volcanoes around. Shikoku has no active or dormant volcanoes currently.

I just got back from a trip to the grocery store. I knew I’d be carrying a lot, and it was a cold night, so I drove for 5 minutes instead of walking for 15. (It would’ve been shorter than 5, but I went to one grocery store, realized they were closing in 5 minutes, and then drove to the other one.) Well, in those 5 minutes, when I was stopped at a red light, these two guys in their 30s started to walk past my car, realized I was a foreigner, started grinning and elbowing each other and saying stuff to each other, and proceeded to stare at me and keep up a running commentary. They even bent over at the waist so they could keep staring at me through my rear windows. It was like I was this spectacle, and they were acting so that I could totally tell they were making a big deal out of my gaijin status, and they wanted to make sure I knew it.

I normally never do this, but this pissed me off enough that I gave them a really rude look and kind of threw up my hands in a, “What the hell is your problem?” way. They finally looked away (still grinning all the while) as they got further from my car, and the light changed and I drove off. I mean, not that glaring is a big deal–it’s not like I actually said anything rude, but normally I’d never even think about being impolite/rude to anyone for staring at me. (I may sigh or roll my eyes once they’ve passed, but that’s it, and it’s purely a personal reaction for myself.) The people who usually stare rudely are older and I try to give them the benefit of the doubt (stuck in their ways, small community with very little foreign influence, etc.), while these guys were young enough that they totally should have known better.

As always, 5 minutes later, when wandering around the grocery store, I came up with the perfect thing I should have said/done if I’d decided to roll down my window. I hate when that happens.

On a more positive note (pun intended), the 5th-6th graders at today’s elementary school put on a 5-minute mini-concert of their multi-instrumental renditions of Canon in D. There was piano, keyboard, xylophone, recorder, and more. It was really cute, and I really like that they actually learn how to play real instruments in elementary school, and not just facts and history. I remember nothing from my elementary school music classes besides the word “bass” (instrument) not sounding like the fish of the same name, and besides playing the recorder; I think my old recorder is in a drawer collecting dust somewhere.

And so…this brings November, and NaBloPoMo, to a close. It’s been fun. So here’s to December, a very eventful month indeed. I hope it’s a good one for everyone.

Geez, it’s almost December again

I just realized today that I’m leaving for the US in 3 weeks. I’m glad I bought my shindaisha ticket the other day–it’s so much closer than I realized! I think the shinkansen for the trip back may win out–it’s expensive but it’s the easiest and most cost-effective way (ferry = 24 hours and a nuisance and possibly not doable due to the cold weather, overnight bus = cheap but uncomfortable to sleep on, especially for people with long legs, domestic flight = expensive), and if I buy a ticket for the day I land in Tokyo (and I’m almost certain I’m staying in a hotel there that night, to sleep off the first wave of jetlag ASAP), it can be used up to 2 days later, I believe.

So, yeah, trip coming up soon. I already know I’m hanging out with Hamza at some point on the 31st. How about the rest of you?

I need to go to the grocery store, and I need to make dinner. I think dinner may win out–I have this all-purpose mix my mom gave me a year ago that I still haven’t used, so I’d really like to try that out if it’s still good. Mmm, dosas. Jennifer wrote recently about what a homebody she feels like in terms of how much cooking she does. I know I’m not as accomplished in the kitchen as she is now, but I definitely have cooked a lot more and been a lot more original (and successful!) with the recipes I’ve tried in the last year than I ever did while in college. This is out of necessity, as a vegetarian in one of the more veggie-unfriendly countries in the world…but it’s definitely been eye-opening, and actually pretty fun.

December starts Friday*. That’s really disconcerting. It’s been almost exactly a year since I went to India–one of my teachers mentioned today that the first major freeze last year was December 5th. Normally I’d never remember a date like that, but once he mentioned that, I realized that I remembered it after all, because it was the day I headed to Osaka in order to catch my flight into Hyderabad on the following day, and there was a period of 6 very, very eventful hours that unfolded like one big chain reaction as soon as my workday ended. I don’t mean to build up any suspense–it’s just amusing to look back on.

Anyway, I’ll write about it later; my stomach is beckoning me to the kitchen to start dinner.

*Not only does December start Friday, but November ends tomorrow! It’s been fun. I like forcing myself to write daily, so I don’t just recount the day’s events, and can focus on smaller happenings as well.


The leaves were really beautiful during my taxi rides up and down the mountain to my Double-Length Class of DOOM. If only I knew how to navigate those winding, extremely confusing roads, then I would (totally? maybe?) attempt to drive up there while the leaves are still on the trees to snap some photos.

I’ve found myself thinking about The End a lot. I only have 5 double-length classes at this school in the spring because it’s such a short term…and after that, just one more semester, and I’m done. I’ve finally gotten into “the zone” with these lessons. I know what I’m doing, and I work fairly well with the kids. It’ll be tough to give that–and everything here, to be honest–up. I’ve dropped some roots here. I shouldn’t think too much about it, since my mind should be more on what I have to do to ensure I’ll be set once I’m back in the US (or wherever), but it’s always on my mind that everything I’m doing is to prepare for the next step after Japan.

It’s just strange to think that I’m already here, that I’m past the point where I can just close my eyes and enjoy the flow and not worry about what’s happening next. My departure is still 8 months away, but it’s no longer something I can put off thinking/doing anything about.

Japanese schoolgirls

Today, the second-years presented very brief speeches on their desired occupation. They were supposed to write the English word for their job on a piece of blank paper and hold it up as they typed. One of my students called me over and pointed out, looking a little flustered, a smudge of marker ink that appeared below what she’d written–I didn’t even realize there was a problem, so I just told her it looked cute and started to move on. She called me back and asked me if it was okay for her to use white-out to cover it–and it finally hit me that she asked because the teacher had just said, “Write your job on this paper in marker.”

I was astounded. She was sure she would get in trouble because she’d smudged some marker by accident under her title on a piece of blank paper, and because if the teacher says, “use a marker,” it means use a marker to write her desired job in English and nothing else whatsoever?

Kind of along the same lines, a couple of weeks ago our third-years had to do a dialogue in pairs based on interesting images my JTE had found in England (A4-sized images/cards of animals and interesting scenes and the like). My JTE handed the cards out face-down and at random to the groups, and suddenly we heard one pair of girls shriek, because their card had those adorable tree frogs on them. They’d turned it over and were cringing and squirming as if the teacher had dropped a worm on their desk. It was then that I remembered that Japanese girls are as squeamish about frogs and lizards–both of which I think are adorable–as I am about creepy-crawlie things, like multi-legged insects, worms, and roaches. They absolutely refused to accept the card, insisting that it was too scary and disgusting, so my JTE finally gave them another one, and they calmed down.

Really, I love my kids. They’re a really cool and sweet bunch. There are just moments like this that leave me at a loss for words sometimes, which is especially strange since I know these things shouldn’t surprise me anymore.

(And I swear, I actually had a pretty good day! I finally bought my overnight train ticket to Tokyo–it was a lot more expensive than I was expecting, so I may look into less expensive alternatives, and I’m definitely not catching it back, though there really is no inexpensive and convenient way to get to/from Tokyo. That and the thing with the student were the only two noteworthy things that happened today.)


Last night was crazy. The kind of craziness that apparently goes on during college but that I never partook in. This was my one and only night to play catch-up–though I’m really not into “the nightlife” at all, I did have fun, but I’m not keen on doing it again.

  • we (Julie, Ashley, me) met up with Brian and his friend Angelina, a Kagawa ALT, and had Indian food for dinner (there are TWO restaurants in Takamatsu!)
  • parted ways with Angelina and went to Starbucks
  • checked out a drag queen show at a bar/club, stayed till 3 AM
  • slept in Ashley’s car for an hour with Brian (Ashley and Julie stayed in a hotel)
  • slept on a train for an hour (the 6 AM Takamatsu-Ikeda direct express)
  • parted ways with Brian and slept in my apartment for 3 hours
  • showered, dressed up, drove to the city to catch the Vienna Philharmonic String Quartet concert (that’s the reason I went through all of the above; I didn’t want to go in jeans and reeking of cigarette smoke)
  • couldn’t make the concert because Julie/Ashley were still too far out, and I’d also forgotten that the concert was not in Komatsushima but in Anan, even further south than I realized, and I would’ve been late as well
  • went shopping
  • drove 2 solid hours home in pitch-black, rainy, hydroplane-prone weather

And now I’m home, exhausted, with a headache, and no real idea of what I’m doing in class tomorrow. I think I’ll be setting my alarm for a very early hour to throw together a lesson plan in the morning, and going to sleep before too long. This was a crazy, very long weekend…hopefully I’ll rest enough tonight to recharge for this coming week.

Saturday in Kagawa-ken

I played the worst game of bowling IN MY ENTIRE LIFE today. No exaggeration; most of the way through my first match, where I was doing all right (not great, but I hit most of the pins almost every time), suddenly something went wrong with my form or something, and I started throwing the balls into the left gutter. The next match continued to suck–if I tried to throw more to the right, I either threw to the right gutter or still somehow ended up in the left gutter, occasionally hitting the left-hand end pin. After 6 rounds, I hadn’t even scored 10 points. I finally gave up and pretended my hand hurt so someone would finish my round off for me.

Afterwards, several people suggested that maybe bowling is difficult and that it’s still a new game to me, even though I’ve bowled on and off since elementary school. It was…yeah, it was really humiliating. I haven’t felt so thoroughly and publicly embarrassed in a very long time.

With the exception of that atrocious hour, the rest of the day was all right, though. This was the day I spent on a field trip of sorts with my beginners eikaiwa class, and we went to Kotohira in Kagawa Prefecture. The drive was quite beautiful, through the mountains and overlooking a valley, and I saw my Extinct Volcanic Friend (this one peak that kept catching my eye from the train any time I went north, and I couldn’t figure out why until I drove to Takamatsu a few weeks ago and realized it was an extinct volcano–I’ve thusly named it such and silently greet it in the same way that Palpatine refers to Yoda as “my little green friend,” without the sinister overtones).

Today we ate a lot of udon (I also had kaki-age vegetable tenpura, which was really delicious, and I realized how good dumping sesame seeds on my soy-sauce udon tastes), visited a historic and gorgeous kabuki house called Kanamaru-za, and went bowling (ugh…). I’m not sure if we were going to climb Konpira-san, the local temple that’s Kotohira’s claim to fame, or make any other stops, but we just went out for a few hours.

Now, I’m killing time until Julie arrives, and she, Ashley, and I are heading up to Takamatsu, the capitol of Kagawa-ken and the closest big city to us (even closer than Tokushima City) for a night out. We may spend the night, we may not…we don’t know yet. I’m honestly looking forward to it…as long as we avoid the clubs (very much not my thing at all), but it’ll be nice to be around young people and in a big city, especially one as cool as Takamatsu.


Almost forgot, again. Not much to report from today–my car’s totally fine (they just cleaned my brake pads and the sound vanished). I was advised by several people at my BOE to start looking into special winter tires for my car for when we get closer to the freezing point, and ordered to take the bus/train to my Monday morning elementary school once the true winter cold sets in. I had a really good elementary school class in the afternoon–more reminiscent of team-teaching because the presiding teacher is one who was a former junior high school English teacher and jumped in, in very welcome ways, to help with explanations and supervising the kids actively. I’ve spent my evening watching a lot of season 1 of the new Battlestar Galactica and just doing nothing otherwise, and it’s been quite nice.

I’m heading to Kotohira tomorrow with my beginners eikaiwa, to visit a historic kabuki house, maybe visit Konpira-san, eat a Japanese lunch, and go bowling. After that, I’m either heading back to Kawanoe to find Uniqlo, or I’ll head to Takamatsu with Ashley and Julie and maybe track one down there. (I should have shopped for toe socks when I was at Jusco–considering they were selling sneakers for only ¥4000, which is about half what they’d cost in Ikeda…) Ashley said she found several Indian restaurants up there, too.

I really, really need to start on my nengajou/holiday notes/etc., as well as my general holiday shopping for my family and friends. I’ll be home in less than a month!

I’m really glad today’s Friday. Not that I’ll have much time to relax this weekend, from the sounds of it, but it should still be fun.

Just in time

I was just about to sign off when I realized I hadn’t written anything today!

I just got off the phone with Laura, one of my best friends who’s a regular reader and has been keeping up with me, but who I haven’t talked to in months. She asked me to break the monotony of her drive down to Jacksonville for Thanksgiving, so we talked for about 40 minutes, I think. It was wonderful hearing such a fondly familiar voice, and catching up on the events in her life.

Speaking of which–Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and loved ones back in the US! I’m grateful for knowing you (this, of course, applies to those of you outside the US as well) and having you all in my life.

Today is Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan, so we had it off, but we have work tomorrow (UGH!). I drove out to Kawanoe today, in search of Uniqlo, but I stupidly forgot to consult my directions and couldn’t find it…but I found this 2-story megastore called Jusco instead, which was quite awesome, and I picked up some cool things to decorate my nengajou with. I’ll probably try to find Uniqlo again this weekend some time.

Afterwards, Julie and Brian and I got together and ordered pizza and hung out. Pizza Royal Hat has this nice new(?) variety with tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, and garlic that’s really good and surprisingly filling. We also confirmed December 2 as the date for our Avatar season finale party.

I’ve had Weird Al’s “White And Nerdy” in my head today–I can’t imagine that anyone I know hasn’t seen/heard it yet (the music video is brilliant), so if you haven’t, you really, really need to check it out.

International shipping

I saw something really awesome today. On my 10-minute drive between my junior high and my apartment, I always pass a gas station that’s the major truck stop in the area (and which has the cheapest gas–not that that’s saying much, since it’s still twice as expensive as in the US, but I’ll take what I can get). In the shoulder between the road and the actual gas station proper was a standard 16-wheeler’s trailer.

Printed on the side:


A trailer all the way from Mexico ended up in central Shikoku, Japan. How sweet!

In other news, Crush Kid has earned a slight upgrade to Creepy Crush Kid. I ran into him while walking out to my car–he was outside waiting on his bus–and he took up a good vantage point so that he could stare at me, a huge grin on his face, as I walked essentially the length of the school to my car (I will admit that I adjusted my shoulder bag so that it fell and covered my bum, as awful as it sounds; he’s a junior high kid and I wouldn’t put it past him to stare at it, though I’d rather not think about it), pulled my car around in a circle so I wouldn’t have to reverse the length of the school, and drove past him. He was staring and grinning at me the entire time. And then he gave me this really friendly, enthusiastic wave right as my car passed him…and then I noticed him jogging a few steps after my car, watching as I drove out of sight.

I feel so bad writing all this and feeling like this. I know he doesn’t have very many friends since he’s separated and put in a homeroom with one other kid. I’m sure he’s a sweet kid. I also just can’t help that this makes me feel pretty uncomfortable. It’s definitely not something I want to tell my teachers about, because I don’t want to make it a big deal (and it isn’t one–I see the kid 3 days a week and don’t think about him much at all when I’m not at school), and I’ll be gone in 8-9 months anyway. I’ll figure out a way to deal with it.

Well, anyway…

We have tomorrow off, and I’m planning to drive to Kawanoe, just across the border in Ehime Prefecture, to go shopping and just to hang out, since I’ve never spent any time there before. I’m also planning to go by a gas station to see if they can take a look at my brake pads (they squeak for a while every morning, but the sound goes away after a while)–I have an appointment with the local garage for them to take my car in and give me a loaner on Friday morning, but I’d like to avoid it if I can.

For now, though, I’m off to bake a cake and start watching season 1 of Battlestar Galactica. Yay, night of slack!

Princes and volcanoes

Wow, I’m really good at freaking out about things that are not at all a big deal. I almost want to edit the last paragraph of the previous entry out.

It turns out that we were pretty much right–we are indeed being honored for the musical, but also for our general track record of community service and involvement. And Jordan isn’t going alone–another ALT, Chris, is going as well. Jord’s stopping by in a little bit to pick up a copy of last year’s musical to take along, since they’re heading to Tokyo tonight for the ceremony tomorrow. This is so exciting! I wonder if it’ll be on TV, so we can see it happening…there’s supposed to be a NHK announcer there, so I wouldn’t be surprised if news crews were there as well.

Today, I had nothing at all to do. I only have one more elementary school class this week, and I’m pretty much already prepared for it. I forgot my books and other time-wastersspending things in my rush to get to work reasonably on time, and I had essentially 5 solid hours of free time. I actually drew at work today–my second time ever–and requested a vegetarian meal for my flights next month and started on my personal statement for my grad school applications.

Speaking of books, I’m actually rereading a really good one–Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded – August 27, 1883. It’s by far the most fascinating and comprehensive nonfiction book I’ve ever read. The amount of detailed research he did is truly staggering. Winchester is a geologist with a fantastic writing style, and in this book, he argues that the Krakatoa eruption–the second-largest in modern history (the first-largest being Tambora, which wiped out an entire civilization and a language, in 1815) and the creator of the loudest sound ever heard in human history–essentially triggered the formation of the concept of the “global village,” as well as setting off mounting anti-western tensions among the native Indonesian Muslims, tensions which still very obviously exist today.

The more I read about Krakatoa, and about the Indonesian area of the Ring of Fire (Indonesia is completely formed from the massive and rather unstable subduction zones between the Eurasian, Indo-Australian, and Pacific plates, and there are dozens of active volcanoes all over), the more I wish I could go there…but it’s not the best place for owners of American passports to be, especially with this latest round of protests and anti-western sentiments after Bush’s brief visit to Indonesia this week. But all these volcanoes I’ve read so much about…it was a dream come true to actually get to visit Unzen and Sakurajima, which I’d read up on quite a bit. It would be truly amazing to visit Indonesia, especially since I’m so close, relatively speaking.