Haircuts, parties, and cop checkpoints

Still sick, but getting better.

There’s something going around–I haven’t come down with something that’s stuck with me for nearly a week in a very long time. A lot of ALTs have been sick lately and my JTE had similar symptoms last week. I’m over the hump, though, and I’ll be going in to work tomorrow.

Yesterday I picked Julie up and we drove into the city, each with our own set of errands to run and each with appointments at Mod’s Hair, the (ridiculously overpriced) hair salon with English-speaking employees. I accidentally told them to cut my hair too short–it’s now the same length it was when I chopped it off last year, with the bottom layers touching my shoulders, but I never like how it looks when it’s this short. Oh well, at least it’ll grow, and the next time I get my hair cut will be back in the US, when I can explain exactly what I want in English and have the people completely understand me–and only charge me $13, as opposed to ¥5000. Ridiculous.

After running some other errands (including buying what seem to be completely vegetarian cans of Thai red and yellow curry paste from the Sogo basement–SCORE!), I headed to Root Down for Chris and Akiyo’s post-wedding party. It was a good crowd and good company, and a sentimental and nice affair on the whole. Akiyo was saying they’re leaving next April to return to Oregon, which I already knew, but they may then move back to Japan a few years after that, and maybe go back and forth. The wedding was a multicultural one, with Chris wearing traditional Japanese garb and Akiyo wearing a white gown. I’m glad I could be there to celebrate it with them, and I really hope their life together will be a happy one.

Afterwards, I picked Julie up and (after some mishaps involving trying to get on the river road that Genna had shown me how to take last week, except I took a wrong turn and ended up angling southwest and intersected route 192 instead) headed west and picked up Brian and Sally and went up to the Mino bungalows, where Ashley and Kiet were throwing a birthday party for themselves. (Kiet’s 25 today and Ashley’s 23. Happy birthday, guys!) They’d been at it for a couple of hours already by the time we got there. It ended up being a lot of fun, a good mix of ALTs and Japanese friends. I finally had to leave after 1 AM because I was still feeling ill and sleepy, so I took Brian and Julie home, and Sally stayed behind and caught a ride with Chalice.

After dropping off Brian, I got pulled over and had to take my first-ever breathalyzer test.

This is the two-week period where Japanese cops are out in full force to enforce traffic. It’s ironic–they spend 2 hours cracking down on people speeding and whatnot, and then do almost nothing for the rest of the year. There was a checkpoint just a bit west of Brian’s house on route 12, where they were conducting breathalyzer tests on everyone passing by. At first I thought they’d pulled me over because I was speeding–I was going about 10km over the speed limit–but then they said something about how they were conducting checks for the purpose of driving safety. (Did I mention that the allowed BAC on Japanese roads is 0.00? You aren’t allowed to have anything at all to drink.)

Today I slept in and met up with Ashley for a lunch of donburi and went grocery shopping, and have pretty much been lying low. I’m still tired from whatever this is that’s been plaguing me, and it’s also hot out. It’s definitely time to swap out my winter and summer clothes…which also means that it’ll soon be time to start shipping my winter clothes back to Atlanta. We’ve come full-circle, and winter’s become spring, which is already edging on summer. The time’s almost here, but I foresee many more good times like this, spent in the company of good people.

This is really annoying

Still sick, for the record.

I did end up taking yesterday off, and I’m glad I did because I was a lot worse than I’d been on Wednesday. Yesterday evening, I walked 10-15 minutes to the post office, 5 minutes round-trip to the 100-yen store to buy some bubble wrap, 2 minutes back from the post office to the grocery store, and then 10 minutes home from there. (By the way, Mom and Dad, keep an eye out for a parcel coming your way–belated birthday/Mother’s Day presents.)

When I initially arrived at the post office I already felt ridiculously fatigued. When I came home, I ate something and then went to bed by 8 PM. I woke up this morning at 7.

I figured I would at least try to go into work. Less than an hour later, my head started spinning and I was still coughing a lot and had bad cold symptoms, so I came home, less than 30 minutes before my community conversation classes were set to start.

Now I’m home, and I feel much better! My coughing’s all but stopped and I can more or less breathe through my nose. My head still feels a bit funky, but I don’t feel dizzy or queasy the way I did at work. I feel like I could handle 2 hours of community classes, though I’m still feeling the fatigue.

I think I’m allergic to work.

Apparently the 11 hours of sleep I got last night weren’t enough, so I’m going to lie down again. I’m really hoping that if I rest and medicate myself like crazy today, I can be back on my feet tomorrow so I can go into the city to get some stuff done and then go to a couple of parties tomorrow night. This week has kind of turned into Golden Week’s evil twin–I get Thursday and Friday off, but it’s not nearly as fun.


I’ve been a little sick over the last couple of days. I think it’s the really abrupt change of weather we’ve had; last week I still had to take a pullover with me, and today it was 33 degrees Celsius. I had cold symptoms (some medicine took care of those), but I still have a cough, and I feel perpetually exhausted and fatigued. Ironically, I actually feel considerably worse at work, and it’s not just a psychological thing. In the car and in my staffroom today I was having issues keeping my eyes open or moving if I didn’t have to, but when I left a couple of hours early and came home to rest, I felt much better as soon as I walked through the door of my apartment.

I took a nap, and now I feel sluggish instead of flat-out exhausted, and I still have my cough. If I’m still down like this tomorrow, I’m going to call in sick and go to the doctor. I was hoping resting up would help, but evidently not. I’m also really not looking forward to dragging myself through three back-to-back-to-back classes tomorrow where I have to be twice as energetic to motivate the really little kids to join in, when I have less than half the energy I usually do.

The big bummer is that I’m too tired to do anything around my apartment, like do any serious cleaning/scrubbing. I wouldn’t mind getting that out of the way, but it’s so easy just to be lazy, especially when you’re sick with something perpetuating that. I also should pull out my violin and start rehearsing stuff for the open mic we’re hoping to do at Paparagi in Mikamo next month, and I should start working on Sindya and Hemant’s design commission, or even on the redesign of this site, or on hammering out the faulty CSS (which did work and now doesn’t) on

The other big bummer is that this all means I can’t sing or groove along to any music right now! My sore throat is messing with my pitch and vibrato (not that I’m some virtuoso singer, but I do enjoy it, especially on long car rides and commutes, and I think I’m an all right singer), and I don’t have the energy to hold out long notes. Maybe I should go see the doctor tomorrow…

At least I had some chickpeas with yogurt and dill tonight. It was refreshing and I feel very Mediterranean now (is that even possible? Sort of along the lines of, “I am feeling very Olympic today” from Cool Runnings, or something), but not quite refreshing enough. Grrr.

Begin the countdown

As of about an hour ago, I’ve reserved a one-way plane ticket from Osaka to Atlanta. I’ll be leaving Japan and returning to the US on August 16, 2007.

Tomorrow marks 100 days until I leave. I went back and counted almost as soon as I got off the phone. It’s a very strange feeling, having an end date to all this. I definitely remember counting down to the starting date, and panicking in those last couple of days…especially the night before I left. I’ll never forget that. This time, though, there’ll be nobody to console me, and I’ll be making my own way to the airport, without anybody seeing me off there. While it’ll be tough, I think I’m definitely at a different point in my life than I was when I left for Japan almost two years ago. I can handle it, or at least in a more adequate manner than I could have then.

Well…I think so, anyway.

Another weekend on the coast

I just got back last night from a whirlwind 36-hour trip back down to the coast. It felt like much longer, though, and definitely in a good way. We all had a great time and really enjoyed each other’s company and had a lot of fun in the process. (Genna’s posted her photos already.)

Quite possibly the quote of the weekend:
“Okay, now that all of our menstrual cycles have aligned…” – Kiet, commenting on the slight estrogen overload that comes with hanging out with 3 girls

General overarching themes of the weekend:

  • Kiet’s trying really hard to prove to everyone that he’s not gay, and they don’t believe him.
  • If you truly want to do something, especially when you’re still unmarried and don’t have kids or any pressing obligations, or if you can relax those obligations a bit, it’s completely possible to make time for it and to make it happen. You can put off the job search for a few months, or just not work for a while. You can take a semester off from school. Life’s happening right now. It sounds so clichéd, but it’s the truth. Don’t let these opportunities and these chances for exploration, self-discovery, and happiness escape you.


  • picked up Kiet, then Genna and Ange(la) around 10:45-11:00 AM
  • drove from Awa down to Hiwasa – about 2 hours
  • “hippie Indian” (as I call it) lunch at Anand, with a stop at Yakuoji, pilgrimage temple #23, and wandering around omiyage shops as Genna fell in love with the cat of one of the shopkeepers
  • went straight to Kochi – brief stop at Shirahama Beach, then on to Ikumi Beach
  • they swam, I waded contentedly, picked up shells, walked along the beach, and stared at the dozen-plus jellyfish that had been washed onto the shore
  • returned to Bessie’s house a couple of hours later
  • called and messaged Bessie to get instructions on how to operate her shower (the 4-knob/lever version, where you have to spark the gas yourself to heat the water–she was gone for the weekend) and ended up calling Chris R. to walk us through it
  • went to an izakaya for dinner and dealt with blatantly staring jerks, and went to a convenience store for dessert and to pick up breakfast food
  • returned to Bessie’s
  • in the pitch black, as we fumbled to find the light switch, Ange pressed a button she thought was the hall light, except it was the fire alarm
  • neighbors came out of their houses, other tenants in the building came up (including an old man in his pajamas who was glaring at us) and one actually dismantled the alarm bell to get it to stop – we think they called the police and fire department to tell them it was a false alarm
  • called Bessie to tell her (it turns out our friend Paraone/Aaron did exactly this, too), and she couldn’t stop laughing, so I started laughing, and so did everybody else
  • Ange went to sleep, and Genna, Kiet, and I played a zombie strategy board game till Kiet started dozing
  • Genna and Ange snuggled up in Bessie’s bed, while Kiet and I slept in the living room, sort of–he forgot his pillow and we both just kept waking up (I woke up when I heard loud sounds, and he snored, so…)


  • wanted to drive down to Kochi to see the sun rise, but it was cloudy and we were sleepy, though I went out onto the balcony for a few minutes to watch some color come into the sky
  • made fun of baseball players (Ichiro hikes his pants up way too much, has Brad Pitt lips, and is trying too hard to look cool; Matsui is ruggedly handsome (though apparently his nickname is Godzilla because he’s apparently that ugly–we disagree!); Igawa looked like any of our typically misbehaving punk students) and wondered if they’d ever had ALTs, and how those former ALTs felt about their former students being internationally famous baseball players now
  • got a late start, checked out Ikumi Beach for Ange, but it was crowded and the waves weren’t that great
  • drove down to Muroto, with a few stops for photo ops
  • stopped at Myoto-iwa, this massive rock formation, and spent 30 minutes there, snapping photos and hanging out
  • TRIED to eat my lunch, but they’d put huge slabs of bacon in my mushroom sautee sandwich
  • big and really nice heart-to-heart/Girl Moment with Genna and Ange (as Kiet dozed, in a daze from the estrogen overload)
  • made it down to Hotsumisaki-ji (temple #24 of the pilgrimage), drove up to the temple and walked around and talked about the logistics of doing the pilgrimage in one go
  • visited a series of several temples in small tunnels
  • missed the turn for the golden reclining Buddha, but oh well
  • stopped a couple of times on the drive up, and ran into Dani, a really sweet private ALT in Tokushima City
  • went to this special Sunshine grocery store with a ton of foreign foods–ricotta/spinach tortellini! Gnocchi! Lindt Lindor chocolate! Tim-Tams! Cadbury’s chocolate!
  • bought Bessie a thank-you gift, went back to tidy up and pack out, and snapped a photo of ourselves posing next to the fire alarm button which we sent her
  • went back to Anand in Hiwasa for dinner, and had a really wonderful and musical time, gushing over handmade tonal percussion instruments made by the restaurant owner (forgot the instrument’s name), and talking about what a wonderful thing music in general is and how there’s no feeling in the world like making music (Genna plays oboe, I play violin, Kiet took piano for a year after coming here but had to stop due to lack of time)–I loved seeing their eyes light up as we talked
  • drove, and drove, and drove
  • upon turning onto the River Road in Tokushima City, we stumbled across a huge nighttime meeting/convention of decked-out trucks, with lights and banners and fancy horns
  • dropped off Genna and Ange, had another round of hugs
  • took Kiet to his apartment, where he realized he didn’t have his keys
  • after 10 minutes of searching my car and his bag and wallet, he remembered that he’d left his keychain on Bessie’s kitchen table, a 2.5-hour drive away
  • he managed to climb from the second-floor staircase landing to his balcony and let himself in, and I messaged Bessie to ask if she could mail him his keys
  • we said our goodbyes, I left and was finally home 1.5 hours later, by 9:45 PM

Kiet and I sort of had a semi-argument going all weekend, starting with him sort of being a backseat driver (though Genna and Ange had my back), and continuing with him feeling insulted when I made one of my “are you enjoying your dead animal?” comments (100% jokingly–anybody who knows me should know that I would never force my beliefs on anybody), and I was insulted when he started teasing me a bit too much about liking Star Wars so much (but he plays console RPGs and yet claims he isn’t a geek because those are more “mainstream”–we called him on that).

I got him back in the end–after his whole climbing-onto-the-balcony thing, I told him the Force had been with him. He cringed but went with it, but got me back by telling me really slowly, in an intentionally patronizing voice, how to turn my wheel and reverse my car to get out of his lot. Heh.

On the whole, it was a good, good weekend, with a great group dynamic. There was also already talk of post-Japan meetups, and keeping everyone informed on where we’ll end up. Ange and Kiet are recontracting, but Genna’s heading back to Kansas and I’m…heading back to some as-yet-undetermined location in the US or Canada, wherever I can find a good job.

I called Laura today and happened to catch her at a good time, and we talked for about an hour. I have to call Sindya and Hemant fairly soon about some design commission work, and I should get some stuff done around the apartment. I need to go to Paparagi to pitch the idea of an ALT open mic to the Mama-san there, and I may make some of the tortellini I bought in Mugi yesterday for dinner. It’s also time to get back in gear for work, since we have no more national holidays for the duration of my time here. The concept of a five-day week is feeling kind of strange right now.

Bad movies and good company

Holy freaking crap! Someone found my blog by using the search terms “Yesterday as sung by Jim in Hiwasa.” That’s insane! There is indeed a town called Hiwasa in southeast Tokushima, the one with the hippie Indian restaurant, and the ALT there is named Jim. (We may start calling him Synthesis Jim now, though, thanks to this sign, spotted in his town.) But man, Lancaster, Ohio…natsukashii, yo. I lived in Ohio when I was little and all those names of places and things I remember from those days still have this neat nostalgic feel to them.

I met up with Kiet, Genna, and Genna’s friend Hitomi last night to see Spiderman 3 at the Cinema Sunshine in Kitajima and to work out logistics for a proposed Golden Week trip. The company was wonderful, as always, but the movie was…really bad. Oh, look, a conveniently-located open-air particle physics reactor in New York City, with conveniently placed verbose signage! Pointless dance routine and many moments that read like a really, really bad comic book! Clichés galore! I think we really loved ripping it apart in that love-hate sort of way, because at least two of us have strong scientific interests/backgrounds, and I know I for one get a perverse pleasure out of dissecting bad science in movies. At least it was Ladies’ Night, so three of us paid “only” ¥1000 for our tickets, and Kiet’s ticket was discounted because we caught the latest show.

It was pretty late when we wrapped up and we were all tired afterwards, so I crashed at Kiet’s again last night. We ran to Sunkus to get some drinks and snacks–he picked up a small bottle of Ureshii Wine for himself as a nightcap, and offered me a glass when we got back…and we ended up splitting the bottle and staying up almost till 4 AM, just talking about life and swapping gossip (of which there is always plenty). I’ve never hung out with him solo before, and I’m definitely glad I had the opportunity to do so, especially since we have a lot in common–very similar backgrounds and cultures, and he’s from Cleveland; my family lived in Akron/Uniontown/Medina for 5 years when I was little and I still have a lot of family scattered throughout Ohio.

Today we woke up slowly, showered, and waited for Genna, who biked over, and the three of us went out for brunch at Royal Host and discussed Golden Week logistics. We’re going south again tomorrow, the three of us and possibly Ange as well. We’re staying at Bessie’s place while she’s out, and hanging out on the beaches in Kochi. I’ve convinced them that the drive to Muroto is indeed worth it–well, Genna, anyway, who’s seen several of my photos–so hopefully we can work that in. Driving to and from Muroto is about 3-4 hours roundtrip, so maybe we can do that on our way back home or something.

I also spent a couple of hours this afternoon at Shizuko’s house, chatting and drinking tea with her, her daughter Rie, and, briefly, their granddaughter, who’s a student at my chuugakkou. I love that family–they’re all so open-minded and giving and wonderful. I offered today to make them a home-cooked Indian meal sometime, since I actually have achieved some level of competence at cooking Indian food now, and I’d like to share true Indian food with them, to repay them for all their generosity and kindness.

This has been a really good 24 hours, overall. I’m definitely psyched about going back down to the coast tomorrow–still not sure if I’m going to actually get in the water, but I do need to swap out my winter and summer clothes today, for sure.

A weekend on the coast

Feeling a little sleepy–the only other person in the staffroom is the secretary because there’s a meeting for all full-time teachers right now, so there’s a sleepy atmosphere in here right now. This is very much a pure-and-simple recap.

I left Saturday in the late morning to drive down to Mugi, 4 hours away on the southeastern side of Tokushima. I stopped for lunch in Kamojima and then got a message from Bessie, the Mugi ALT, asking if I wanted Indian curry for dinner, because Rory and Tracy were catching a train down. I got to Hiwasa, the town north of Mugi, about 20-30 minutes before everybody, which let me walk around and stretch after such a long drive. I then met up with Bessie and we waited for Rory and Tracy to arrive a few minutes later, and we had what I would deem to be hippie Indian curry (but preferable to the Japanese-style Indian curry at Masala) at Anand. Stephane came in while we were there, too, so the five of us hung out for a while. We then dropped my car off at Bessie’s and gave Tracy and Rory a ride down to Kainan, where they were staying at Randy’s house, and then went back to her place and talked past 1 AM.

On Sunday we got a lazy start and then went down to Ikumi Beach just across the Tokushima-Kochi border, where we met up with Bessie’s friend Louisa, an Aussie who’s married to a Japanese man. The three of us hung out and chatted for a bit, and then I went to dig my toes into the sand and wade around in the water a little bit. It was my first time on a beach since probably 2002-03, whenever I went to Jacksonville with Laura over spring break. The weather was gorgeous and the water was a really good temperature, and the sand just felt awesome. We then got a snack and Louisa left to go with her husband and their friends to change into their wetsuits to go surfing, and the two of us walked the length of the beach, picking up shells and pointing out jellyfish and snapping photos. We climbed onto a jetty formed from old coral and rocks and watched Louisa and her friends surf for a bit. Afterwards, we went to Shirahama Beach for a little bit and tossed around my frisbee, but we didn’t stay for long because the sand was pretty cluttered with rocks and shells and sharp things, and there was a yakuza car there.

We then went to a local cafe that’s like the Paparagi of the south and ate a lot of food and lounged around there, as she messaged Noam in Hanoura and Jim in Hiwasa to see if they’d be up for karaoke that night. After a day in the sun and our tummies full of good food, we went to have a brief siesta at her apartment, which turned into a 2-hour nap, which was only interrupted by my JTE calling and then Noam messaging Bessie back. We got up, freshened up, and headed to Hanoura to meet Noam and a friend of his whose name I can’t remember–a Japanese girl, really sweet, with a wonderful singing voice. The karaoke place we went to was right next to a Mos Burger, and you could even order Mos Burger food from inside the karaoke booths, so we got a booth and ordered dinner and started singing by the time Noam and his friend arrived. I think we spent 3 hours there in all, but it was a really good and fun session. Noam and Bessie are great people to do karaoke with.

On Monday, I got an early start and left Bessie’s apartment by 9:30. After stopping by a bank and gas station, I started what would end up being a 6-hour drive along the southeastern coast of Shikoku. From Mugi I went south, across the Kochi border, with the ocean almost constantly at my left, and before long I was driving on a road with a completely unobstructed view of the ocean directly to my left. The mountains rose directly from the sea and the road was built into them, so less than 100 feet to my left was the Pacific Ocean for the better part of 2 hours. I also saw this really amazing sight, something I’d never seen before–it was like a rainbow reflected in a cloud hanging over the sea, but it was just the spectrum of colors, and not an actual arc. I couldn’t stop staring at it. There were plenty of temple pilgrims walking down to temple 24 on the point of Shikoku that day as well, and I saw one look to his left, see the rainbow-cloud, and stop dead in his tracks.

I arrived at Muroto a bit shy of noon, and went to visit Hotsumisaki-ji, the temple situated right on the southeastern point of Shikoku. It was surprising to see how many temple pilgrims were out that day–there was a line leading out the door of the henro center. After that, I checked out the view from the lighthouse actually on the physical point. A bit of it was obscured, but you could definitely see a panorama of nothing but ocean. I snapped a bunch of photos with the hopes of piecing them together into a panoramic image. Before long, I was on my way again, heading west along Kochi’s south coast. There were towns clustered along the south, with many ports and shipping and fishing facilities, so the drive wasn’t nearly as beautiful, but it was still nice. I made it to Nangoku, just east of Kochi, by a little after two, and turned onto Route 32 (which eventually runs up through Iya and Yamashiro into Ikeda and on up to Takamatsu) and caught the expressway from there to Ikawa-Ikeda, arriving home around 3:30.

In all, I drove 10 hours this weekend, and close to 400km. It was so absolutely worth it for that view off the eastern coast of Kochi Prefecture, though, and for the relaxing time I was able to spend with Bessie lounging around and taking in some sun on the beach. I would love to go back again before I leave, but I’m definitely feeling fortunate that I made it down there once.

Yesterday classes started up again, and today I had one more shougakkou lesson (in which I taught my kids to haggle in a joking manner in English–thank you, GenkiEnglish!) before classes adjourned all over the west at noon for the aforementioned meeting. Tonight I’m hoping to meet up with some of the Awa crowd to watch Spiderman 3 (and have them fill me on Spiderman 2 over dinner, since I haven’t seen it yet), and I may be traveling somewhere “local” (in or near Tokushima) with some people over the break–a low-key trip, most likely a day-trip but possibly overnight, but something that definitely needs to be decided soon. I also have several phone calls to make while I have daytime hours at my disposal to contact friends back in the US at night–one about a design commission I’ll be starting on shortly, one to Laura, and one to Terry, who’s dead-set on coming to Japan in July with Ryan.

So…yeah. Busy times. This break should be a lot of fun, though, and for those of you who are about to kick off Golden Week where you are, have fun and happy travels!