Just throwing this in for my parents, in case they get worried–I probably won’t be able to blog or sign onto AIM for 2 weeks. I’m off to Kobe for the Recontracting Conference and a weekend of hanging out in Osaka, and the power/water will have been cut off here when I return, and it’ll take another week for the internet to propagate to the new place. Send a message to my cellphone if you need to reach me immediately.

I’m pretty much done cleaning (besides sweeping, which doesn’t require power/water), and now I don’t want to use my bathroom at all, for fear of “despoiling” my cleaning job. Now I’m packing and will probably get to bed around 2 AM–it feels like college all over again.

Anyway, just checking in, only to check out again. Good night, and see you later!

Unwelcome visitors

When I came into work today, Chalice almost immediately asked me if we’d had any bug problems, and then showed me her arms and neck, where she had a number of large, really red, painful-looking insect bites, and explained that she has them everywhere and has been getting bitten by something in her sleep lately. We think it’s bedbugs (or nankinmushi in Japanese), and Chalice commented that when they were in Korea, the place they stayed during their last night wasn’t very clean, and maybe they picked them up there–and that she’s had run-ins with bedbugs before, and the same thing happened, and they waited until spring to “hatch” and attack, which seems to be what happened here.

I explained the situation to our boss (and to the rest of the ladies in the BOE, who listen in on everything), and she wanted Chalice to go to the doctor, but Chalice disagreed, saying that it’d be better to get rid of the bugs first, or her bites will only get worse. She then recommended that Chalice go buy a bug bomb and use it during the day.

This afternoon, after my Double-Length Class of DOOM (they had me teach the whole school–all 9 students–how to sing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver at the start of class), I returned to the BOE and was getting myself a cup of coffee to wake myself up after the very doze-inducing taxi ride down the mountain, when I saw a tiny red speck scuttling across the hot water heater. I looked more closely–it only had 6 legs, so it wasn’t some rare kind of spider, and it was blood-red. I flicked it onto the counter and squished it (vegetarian-haters, don’t you dare start with me), and the, er, remains were the exact color of human blood. We think it was a stowaway from whatever’s in Chalice’s apartment.

We’re all kind of on high alert now. I’ve been jumping at every little twinge in case I picked up some stowaways of my own. I’ve been a little itchy today, but I think that’s from something in the air in my new place, and I’m wearing clothes that spent the night in there (though I’m wondering what’ll happen when I actually relocate there permanently–I have this current place through the 7th, and though I pretty much have to clean it all today due to my water/power getting stopped this week, I still have time to move my sundries downstairs; we had dinner last night for Hannah’s brother who’s in town, and everyone trooped straight up here afterwards and moved all my big items down to the new place in about 20 minutes flat; it was just amazing, and I owe them a HUGE debt). At any rate–I hope this all ends well, and easily.

Moving status

Tatami room: nearly empty. (And really, really dusty.)

Kitchen and bathroom: nearly full. Crap. I’m going to need to pilfer another big box or two from Daily Mart after work today, if I’m able to conscript people to help me move my stuff before/after our dinner meetup for Hannah’s brother.

The utilities are getting shut off in here on Wednesday. I was hoping to have everything out of here by tomorrow, but I just don’t know if I’ll have time to move everything, pack for Kobe, and clean this place thoroughly before I leave for the recontracting conference…

I’m going to be in the US a month from now. For some reason, even though it’s only 3 1/2 weeks away, it feels like it’s months from now, and I just can’t explain why. Maybe it’s because of my upcoming 5-day trip to Kobe (crap, I have to somehow start packing in the middle of this whole moving ordeal, and we still don’t have hotel accommodations for Fri/Sat nights…). I told Louise that it feels so far away and she seemed pretty concerned and asked if I wasn’t looking forward to it. I think I’m not looking forward to how short and crazy it’ll be, but there’s just no way around that.

Eh, anyway. It’s a Monday. I have no junior high classes today–actually, none till June, and even then, I’ll only have a couple of weeks at my junior high before my JTE leaves for a month of English education research in England. I’ll be going back for speech contest training over the summer, but it’s strange to be there so rarely these days.

I think I’m a little stressed out. Moving is a huge ordeal, and it’s easy to forget that. Maybe Kobe will be the release I need at the end of all this.


When at the supermarket just now, I ran into the snack bar owner in my Friday beginner eikaiwa who was the only absent student this week. He looked really regretful for missing class and for forgetting to call me, and explained that he was hung over and just slept in. Poor guy.

So my goal is to have my tatami room empty except for my big chest of drawers, aircon unit, TV, and maybe TV stand, by the end of the day. I’ve been slacking off a lot, but it’s easily doable. And if I have time after that, I’ll start in on the kitchen, on spices and canned goods and occasionally-used utensils. If this weren’t the weekend of the beach party, I could be downstairs setting up shop right now…but this means I have 2 more days of internet access, since they’re only switching the phone line over on Tuesday. I also have to call Yahoo!BB to switch my service over to the new apartment–luckily, they have an English customer service line.

Well, before any of that, I need to figure out dinner first.

It hit me today that I don’t really have a lot of close guy friends here. The guys here are great, and I definitely do have some pretty good friends and “geek soulmates” among them, but it’s only on extremely rare occasions that I hang out one-on-one with them and/or talk with them at length. I can count off the guys I can have and have had these kinds of conversations with on one hand. I called Hamza back home (well, in Auburn, but still, the general southeast region) today, and it hit me that these days I only have these long conversations with guys at home (Hamza, Ethan, Moshe, Ankur occasionally, and some online friends like Andy and Philip), and not often at all here.

Coming from a university with a relatively small female population, where I actually hung out with only guys (either solo or in groups) pretty often, it’s strange to not have that so readily available here. Hanging out with Joe and Jordan on car rides to/from musical stuff was the closest I’ve come to that, and the Lord of the Rings marathon was a breath of fresh air because it was actually a more familiar male-female ratio for me. I don’t mean to say that I don’t know how to act around girls or anything like that; I had my own fair share of girls’-night-outs back in Atlanta (with like-minded, not-really-girly girls). It’s just that I’m seriously not used to hanging out with mainly girls so often, without being able to hang out with guys to balance it out a bit. I honestly hope that Hannah’s successor is a guy who’s big on hanging out, just for that.

It’s that time of year again

It’s a year to the day since I received my Tokushima acceptance e-mail. I wanted to post some kind of retrospective, but I know it’ll be extremely long, and I know you guys have begun to take issue to that lately. (*cough*Moshe/Dad/etc.*cough*)

But what do you know–I’ve been looking around a bit, and the Tokushima placements are coming in! So for any new ALTs who find this journal, welcome to Tokushima! Your contracting agencies and predecessors should be contacting you in a matter of days, if they haven’t already, but if you have questions you’re dying to have answered before then, feel free to ask. I’m actually the Tokushima AJET (Association for Japanese English Teachers) webmaster, so let me also direct you to our AJET messageboard, Chiisai Sudachi (the name’s a parody of the infamous behemoth known as Big Daikon–“Chiisai” = small, “Sudachi” = a local citrus fruit Tokushima’s famous for), and the Yahoo! mailing list. Our forum’s active and the ALTs are really eager and willing to answer all your questions, so please consider signing up! (And please e-mail me if/when you do, since this is a private forum and I have to approve new memberships.) And even if messageboards are sort of new/strange to you, please sign up for the mailing list, so we have a way to contact all the JETs.

(The domain is ours as well, but it’s currently undergoing a massive overhaul. I just took the site over in late April.)

All right, I need to get ready for work. It’s New ALT Season again! Even though I’m staying put for the next 14 months, this is still kind of exciting.

Another goodbye

I got to hang out with three of my favorite people in the prefecture tonight at various times (Yuri, Julie, and Hannah), and one of them, sadly, is flying back home to Calgary this weekend. Take care of yourself, Yuri! Good luck with the wedding preparations and everything else–you’ll definitely be missed. I really hope that I can make it out to Calgary to see you and Will sometime–we totally need to stay in touch.

It also turns out that the sushi place behind my apartment building is amazingly affordable, and really, really good! I got 4 pieces of tamago sushi, 1 set of 6 pieces of kappa maki, and an order of veggie tenpura for ¥1260, or around $10. I’ve been there for enkais before and I often pass the store owners on the street, so they knew me and were addressing me as “sensei”–I’ll totally be going back, even if I can only eat 3 kinds of sushi that they offer (if you include inari).

When chatting with Hannah and Julie, I sort of simultaneously realized that I’m from the Deep South, and I remembered some things I left behind without a second thought. Hannah said that her dad’s going to be in Atlanta, and I mentioned that it’s hard to recommend stuff for them to see, besides the Coke museum and Stone Mountain–and when she asked about it, I explained that it has several Confederate generals carved onto one face (“It’s like the Mount Rushmore of the South!” she gasped), and that maybe 40-50 years ago, they used to hold Klan rallies on the big sloping grassy field in front of that sculpture.

I also remembered the Trinity Broadcast Network, and the gold-plated throne-like chairs, the really plush red carpeting and the tapestries and stained glass, the alleged school in Haiti they were collecting money for, and the woman with the HUGE pink hair. Do any of you know who I’m talking about? I remember her turning the pages of her Bible with fingers sporting perfectly manicured fingernails, perfect tears rolling gracefully down her cheeks and not at all affecting her thickly-layered mascara and overexaggerated eyelashes (though, now that I remember, they were making a massacre of the really heavy facial cosmetics she’d donned–is it bad that I’m really perversely amused by that?), as she read aloud a particularly moving verse. The sheer fakeness of the gesture and the hypocrisy that she and her network embody is all so revolting.

I also remember some of the on-the-street segments they did, and one particular one about people’s thoughts on homosexuality, and how this one boy (who’d very obviously been brainwashed by his ridiculously fanatical parents–maybe the ones who run the restaurants that sponsor the “JESUS IS LORD AT (whatever) RESTAURANT” billboards south of Macon) responded with something along the lines of, “I don’t like it, because I don’t like that they date men, and they’re going to come and make me date men, and I don’t want to!”

I’m dead serious. Can you believe how simultaneously laughable and horrible that is? Yet another reason why I need to get out of the South when I return…it’d be nice to be around like-minded people.

Anyway, in other news, I’m moving in the next week! By the time Julie comes to stay at my place next Tuesday night so we can catch our 8 AM bus on Wednesday to the recontracting conference in Kobe, I should be settling into my bigger apartment downstairs. They’re turning on the utilities in that place tomorrow and turning the ones here off the day I leave for Kobe. I’m off to finally start carting some books and miscellaneous papers downstairs in just a bit…it’ll be nice to spread out and have enough room to truly organize my stuff.

We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it

I’ve spent chunks of today watching the DVDs Joe left with me yesterday. There’s one of Matsushige, one of Hiwasa, two of Wakimachi, and one “mystery disc”–that ended up being a several-minutes-long promotion/retrospective with clips of the Wakimachi show and a Japanese ticker-tape description at the bottom. All I have to say is…wow, home video is really good at making your hips look HUGE. Heh, I could’ve been two Lost Kids in one! But anyway. The Hiwasa show was definitely our best, and I totally understand why Joe has been leaning towards it. I’ll probably make copies of all of them for myself (Hiwasa for its quality, Andrew’s Wakimachi one for its image quality and the really nice way he handled the credits (and Bessie’s Rasta “Yeah mon!” during the pirate scene), and the Matsushige one for its infamy–read on), but for my friends/family, it’ll be the Hiwasa one for you all. Not like you care, but anyway.

After last night’s showing, I got a little concerned about my overall performance, but then I realized we watched the Wakimachi show yesterday, and I’d essentially hit burnout and just didn’t have it in me to give my all…which sucks, because either that show or the opening night in Ishii got the highest attendance. The others made me feel a little better, though. And I guess I’m not such a bad dancer after all.

Apparently the Ishii show, which the Ishii Kouminkan ran with and marketed as a community-wide event instead of just an ALT event, was aired 16 times recently–4 times a day for 4 days. I hope somebody taped it. We were joking that Christian should go loiter around Ishii, wearing the same green shirt he wore as Pan, and see how much attention he gets. When we were in the elevator heading up to Bell’s Bar on Friday for the Ugly Men/semi-open-mic night, these two random Japanese girls in the elevator with us recognized him out of the blue. (It helped that he was wearing the shirt, though.)

Oh–and I finally watched the infamous Matsushige show. I saw Jordan (as Michael Darling) nearly fall off the stage right at the end of “Night Of Fire,” and I saw his improvisation on the, “But mommy, we’re so tired!” line soon after (he added onto the end, “And my leg really hurts!”). And we didn’t see Christine make her Fall of Fame when she (as Tiger Lily) attempted to climb onto the stage with Hook and Smee (Chris and Noam) behind her, but I heard the shriek and the thump and heard the whole audience simultaneously gasp and go, “Ohh!”–and then, loud and clear, “You bastards!” I was laughing so hard I almost started crying. Poor things!

Anyway, moving on.

My flight to the US is now confirmed–I just received the ticket voucher from No. 1 Travel. I just have to bring it and my passport to the No. 1 counter at Kansai to receive my boarding passes, and I’m all set! I depart a month from the day after tomorrow…it feels like so long, but any time I tell anybody, they say, “Only a month from now? That’s so soon!” Maybe since they see it as coming so soon, it’ll start to feel pretty soon to me as well.

I didn’t mention this, but I’ve also essentially assumed the role of Tokushima AJET graphic designer as well as webmaster. I had no classes on Thursday, so I brought my laptop to the BOE and cranked out a flyer that’s going to the new ALTs with their welcome packets. And we do have some extremely vague details about them–right now, we know how many new ALTs there’ll be, but for obvious reasons, we don’t have details. It’s just so strange to think that this all happened a year ago. I received my e-mail from the Atlanta consulate on May 18th, 2005 (ooh, the 25th anniversary of the Mount St. Helens eruption…wow, I’m a nerd)–ATL has been consistently faster than most of the nation, sometimes by a little and sometimes by a lot, and different countries have different timelines, but…yeah! It’s New JET Placement Season now.

This afternoon I went for a 3-hour walk around town–I checked out a small temple, took some photos of the dam, tried to cross a small suspension footbridge across the Yoshinogawa (River), and checked out a larger temple (possibly one of the Other Shikoku 88) right behind one of my elementary schools, and walked a little further to catch a train home 3 hours after I’d left. I say “tried to cross” with regards to the footbridge, because once I actually got to the bridge, I realized that the surface was all wire mesh, and completely see-through. I have a mild fear of heights and a moderately strong fear of falling, so I got maybe 1/4 of the way across the bridge before the bridge’s faint swaying coupled with seeing the river rushing by far below my feet to make my knees start quaking, so I turned around and hurried back off the bridge again, the thin metal mesh clanking loosely below my feet. When I did, I looked back and saw the support cables swaying, and it made me wonder how often people actually use that bridge. It also made me wonder what Kazurabashi and the vine bridges in Iya are like, and if I’d be able to cross those.

This has the potential of sounding contrived, and I really don’t mean for it to. I still have my friends and other people saying that they think I’m really brave for doing this, and that I must have some really strong moral fiber or some really daring sense of courage or something. With all due respect, that’s all a bunch of crap, honestly. I’ve talked to so many JET participants who, in the days leading up to departure, were really nervous, and who, on the night before departure, were panicking and in tears the whole time, and who stayed up all night cramming as much as humanly possible into their suitcases. I was such a wreck the night before–crying into my mom’s shoulder, snapping at my parents when they were trying to be kind and “savor” (heh, oops) their last time with me living at home for months (if not years). I(t) was such a mess. And now that I’m here, I’m just sort of living here and doing my thing. I have a routine. I’m no different than I was at home–except now my Japanese is a lot better, I bow a lot, and maybe my social skills and cheer level aren’t quite as high due to the homesickness and relative isolation of my living situation. But we’re still who we were at home. We still have the same strengths and weaknesses. My having the willpower to let everything at home go and move to Japan for 2 years doesn’t mean that I can do anything–I couldn’t walk over that bridge today, and I probably never can. I still can’t dance. I still can’t find a boyfriend or work up the courage to ask a guy out. I’m still a disorganized and lazy slob. And I’m gaining weight, too! We are who we are, and we bring ourselves here, to experience another country for 2 years, to teach the people about ourselves and learn about themselves and their lives and their country. We aren’t unusually strong–we just have an interest in Asia and the time to spend here, and the interest and credentials to get us through the application process. Being here has taught us a lot–it’s simultaneously humbling and ego-boosting, but hopefully we’ll still remain essentially the same, and just a little “enlightened.” I hope I can come away with more confidence, the drive to do anything and travel anywhere I set my heart to, and a new appreciation of how simultaneously large and small the world is. And a smaller pants size.

Laying the musical to rest

I may be playing a violin-piano duet with Amber, and a violin-piano-guitar-and/or-voice trio with Amber and Bessie, for the final Open Mic before the departing ALTs (including Amber) head home. I’m pretty excited about this–too bad I live 2 hours west of the city, Amber lives in the city, and Bessie lives 2 hours south of the city. Coordinating that ought to be an interesting challenge.

We had our viewing of the musical DVDs tonight at Root Down, a bar in the city run by the same guys who run Big Brothers, the American-style cafe. It was really nice revisiting those memories with nearly the entire cast present. I have to admit, though, that I was astonished that Andrew K., who put together our most professional-looking DVD, would actually edit the original presentation of the musical by superimposing music over any scenes with no preexisting background music (which was a lot of it), especially when it really obscured the dialogue in many cases, which was part of why we didn’t have background music, since we didn’t use mics. I don’t know what he was thinking when he decided to do that–and without consulting the directors, either.

Anyway, for various reasons, I’m currently in possession of pretty much all the original DVD copies of all the various recordings people did and sent in to us. I’ll probably spend tomorrow watching highlights, and I’ll try to track down software that’ll allow me to grab some video clips so that I can show you all what it was all about. To my friends at home: if you want a copy, I’ll gladly burn you one, as soon as I determine which is the best show to send you.

Oops, never mind…

Update: it was indeed animals that wrecked our trash bags. My landlord was saying that he cleaned up the mess, not that he wrecked the bags while cleaning. It was certainly awkward to have to go pay my rent after having my BOE boss call my landlord to straighten this out, but at least it totally is straightened out. Some omiyage’s probably in order.

I shouldn’t stay up late because I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in several days. This was a good weekend–therapeutic in many ways. And, as usual, a list of bullets of what we did…

  • Wednesday: went to Okayama and met Louise, returned to Ikeda, ate La Tavola for dinner, and returned to my place and cleaned up the trash from my doorstep, and went to rent a couple of movies (In Her Shoes, which we ended up not getting to watch and watched my copy of Amélie instead, and Big Fish)
  • Thursday: talked to my landlord, which sparked the Uncomfortable Weekend Caused By A Huge Linguistic Misunderstanding; on a much nicer note, though, we also discovered a temple really close by, up a nearby mountain! Rengenji, I believe it’s called: not one of the Shikoku 88, but one of an alternate set of 88 temples scattered around Shikoku
  • Friday: went to Takamatsu, where we drank mildly dissatisfying Starbucks, wandered around the incredible Ritsurin Koen, ate McDonald’s, bought a bunch of bagels, and sat by the sea during dusk and had a long heart-to-heart before heading back to Ikeda
  • Saturday: went to Tokushima, ate burritos and chatted with Dave and his new employee-in-training, hiked Bizan (we took the path behind the temple next to the Awa Odori Kaikan–it ended up being the shortest, as well as one of the 3 most difficult), went to Uniqlo, did purikura (Louise’s first time–she enjoyed it) and played the taiko game to most of the classical “pieces” it had, had Indian food for dinner and Tully’s ice cream for dessert, and caught the last express out west, instead of making a night of it
  • Sunday: it rained, so our walking plans (to check out this footbridge that crosses the Yoshinogawa (River) and to check out a moderate-sized temple right behind one of my elementary schools) were canceled; we pulled out my violin and messed around with some music, and in the afternoon we went to Sunrise and bought bento boxes for lunch at Daily Mart and did more purikura and played the taiko game on the top floor arcade and were mobbed by high school kids (and had our photos taken with several), came back and watched Bend It Like Beckham, and sang 1 1/2 hours of karaoke at Chantez, ending with, of course, “Georgia On My Mind”
  • Monday: put Louise on her train to Okayama, jump-starting her long trip back to Kooriyama/Inawashiro, and started my week

Actually, that about covers it. We did a lot of walking and a lot of hanging out–I do feel bad that we didn’t get to do everything she wanted to do (visiting temples 1 and 88 of the Shikoku 88; it turns out that they’re pretty far apart, though, so even if we’d tried, since I don’t have a car it would’ve been tough…also, eating kaitenzushi, seeing bunraku, and more), but we’re both grateful for the chance to hang out. We may run into each other just a couple of weeks before she returns to the US–I got a k-mail from Alexa asking me about hiking Fuji-san this summer, which we’d agreed to do on July 23-24, while we were on the plane(s) from Atlanta to Tokyo together. However, my nenkyuu is drained–I only have 4 hours left until the end of July, but there’s a long weekend in July that I suggested we utilize, and it turns out Louise and her friend Rachel, who’s coming and staying with her during the last couple of weeks to help her wrap up and leave, are planning to hike Fuji-san that same weekend. I guess we’ll see.

I also experienced my first earthquake Monday–a fairly small one just before 1 PM (well, technically, Georgia actually had one or two earthquakes in the last 5 years, but I slept through it/them)…originally I thought it was a 1-pointer from what my teachers were saying, until I remembered (thanks, Ethan) that you can only feel a magnitude 3 earthquake and up–the teachers also mentioned the number 4, so maybe it was a 4-pointer. It lasted all of 5 seconds, and it was essentially a sharper version of the rumbling/vibration you feel when a big truck goes by the building you’re in. It was really surreal, though, and I was a little unsettled for the rest of the afternoon. Most of you know what a big geology nerd I am–this was my first actual brush with geology at work, though. Now that the initial strangeness has worn off, I intend to have many more; I’ve heard all these stories about how geologically incredible Kyushu is, particularly the surprisingly active Aso-san, and Chalice, who’d lived in Kagoshima before coming here, was telling me about how Sakurajima would spew ash occasionally and the sky had taken on a permanent tinge from the ash. I don’t think I could be in a better country for this sort of stuff–I just have to overcome my initial fear of actually confronting such powerful forces that I’ve admired from afar for so many years.

And there’s probably more I could say, but it’s way too late as it is. Good night!

Just to keep you posted

The garbage bag trashing culprit was my landlord.

This has me feeling extremely uncomfortable. I’m going to talk to Chalice and Hannah as soon as they get back, and to my boss at the BOE after work on Monday. I sent Lindsay (now back stateside) an e-mail, and she also says that it sounds really unusual and that I should tread lightly. I feel weird going to ask him about anything now–like paying my rent today, for example–because why would he trash my bags? He claims that it happened while he was cleaning the landing, and he admitted it without any regret or embarrassment, but couldn’t he have knocked on my door to ask me to bring my bag inside (I was making enough noise outside that he totally knew I was there), instead of slamming my trash bags around and letting it all scatter to the four winds and waiting to say anything until I went downstairs to talk to him about it? Or couldn’t he have, you know, moved my bag out of the way of his sweeping/cleaning? And he did the same thing to Chalice!

I’ll post a longer recap of the weekend later. Louise is still here (her train to catch her shinkansen tomorrow leaves 10 minutes before the one I need to catch to go to school)–it’s pouring rain today, though, so that’s put a damper on our plans to wander around Ikeda up around the Yoshinogawa (River), but we’ve done plenty of other walking (including hiking Bizan in Tokushima yesterday) to make up for it. With the exception of this really strange and unnerving garbage situation, this has been an awesome weekend.