Back to work today. I’m not really in the mood to write much so I’ll keep it short. Elementary school kids had discipline problems and the teacher nearly dragged out out of the classroom and made another bow and apologize to me. Sky and mountains were truly gorgeous today. However, the rainy weather persisted far longer than we’d hoped and we couldn’t see any meteors tonight. Julie came over to grab dinner–it was going to be a small group, but it ended up just being us two, and we just hung out here for a while and she just left.

Oh, the biggest piece of news: my cholesterol is NORMAL. It’s exactly the same as it was 5 years ago! (Still high, but not by Japanese standards, at least, and not at all alarming by American standards, either.) I have no idea how that’s possible, but it was a very, very relieving piece of news.

I’m also feeling really foolish about something, possibly irrationally so. Jordan’s going to Tokyo tomorrow to accept a very major award on behalf of the Tokushima JETs from Crown Prince Naruhito himself. I excitedly posted about it publicly to our forum, not realizing that the other AJET folks were waiting for Jordan himself to make the post, so then I felt bad about that. I then found out that it turns out that Jordan isn’t completely clear on what this award is for, but I thought he was clear, so I may have misled everyone into thinking this is a bigger award than it actually is. I don’t know if it’d make things better or worse if I somehow edited/deleted the public thread I’d posted about this. I feel really stupid and pretty embarrassed right now.

At least it’s exactly a month till I leave for my trip home. That’s kind of cool.

Okay, that’s all for today.

Thinking ahead

Today was another do-nothing day, but I at least left the apartment for a little while.

Julie called me earlier and we talked for a bit. She’s one of the few people I feel like I can just call up and chat with; it makes me want to start doing that more for the people who live south of the city who I rarely see as well. I miss long phone calls–calls home to my friends are a real treat, since it’s tough to “schedule” times in with them due to the awkward time difference.

Anyway, we’re going to get together for dinner tomorrow and another try at viewing the meteors, since that should hopefully be the tail end of the shower. We’re also working out the logistics of the Avatar party I want to throw, to air the season finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender in a couple of weeks. So far it’ll just be 3 of us–Julie, Brian, and me–but I posted to our messageboard in case there are other closet fans around the prefecture who may want to come out for it.

(Mom and Dad, just to give you an idea, Avatar is kind of the new Pirates of Dark Water for me. Minus the website and stuff, though. I’m hoping to buy the DVDs while I’m at home…unless Samnta gives them to me first. Hint-hint! You really would like the Asian references–they just introduced an Indian guru who’s going to be a major character in the next few episodes, and there’s totally a Hindu temple at the end of season 1. It’s full of strong references to many world cultures.)

Claire’s throwing a nengajou-making party on December 3rd. I’d really like to go out for that. It hit me that I actually would love to send cards to a ton of people this year…I bought stationery at home to write notes to close friends, and instead of traditional holiday cards, it’d be more novel, and cheaper, to do it Japanese-style and send new-years postcards. Of course, I have to have them ready to go before I leave Japan. At least it gives me something to do during my downtime at work…I wonder when the post office starts selling blank nengajou?

Nothing to report

Seriously. I’ve just stayed indoors all day. I’d meant to run errands and then that just ended up not happening. It gave me a chance to catch up with some friends who I normally don’t talk to since they’re online while I’m at work, though, and since my last 4 weekends have been fairly eventful.

After coffee last night, we went out to a park right on the Yoshinogawa (River) at Julie’s suggestion, and we all lay on the hood of my car and watched the stars for an hour, maybe more. Julie ended up pulling out the sleeping bag she’d brought in case we stargazed too long on my roof and she needed to spend the night, and we used it as a blanket.

The sky was beautiful. We could see almost from horizon to horizon, and any surrounding lights were few and far between and did not obscure the sky in any way at all. The Leonids really peaked something like 4 years ago, which was the year my family saw around 75 meteors in an hour, but usually it isn’t nearly that common. I counted 7–3 for sure and 4 wisps out of the corner of my eye that I was about 90% sure weren’t just my imagination. On top of that, though, the sky was so clear that we got to see hundreds of stars, far more than I ever could in Atlanta. I finally was able to see the Milky Way for the first time in my life–the slightly hazy, cloudy, star-sprinkled belt of the galactic plane. (It’s nice to be able to use the word “galactic” in a non-science fiction setting for once!)

We finally retreated to my car to warm up, and I drove Julie and Sally home. I’d planned on heading up to our roof, and I knocked on Ashley’s door to tell her…except for one big unforeseen problem. I’d never been up there before, and it turns out that nearly the entire roof has a huge overhang over it, for tenants on the lower floors to go up and hang laundry and whatnot. There was only a small part of the sky that we could see–and there were a lot more street and building lights on than I anticipated. Ashley did come up there a few minutes after I did, though, and we ended up just talking for about a half-hour; since her family’s been here I haven’t seen much of her lately. It was nice getting to catch up.

I had a brief debate with myself (and some others who I bugged on AIM) over whether or not to wake myself up and drive out to Mikamo again to watch more of the meteor shower. I figured I would set my alarm for 3:30 AM and see what happened from there.

Jenn, who was one of the people I’d talked to, actually called at 3 AM my time to wake me up for the meteor shower…I didn’t/couldn’t get myself “with it” enough to get up and answer the phone, even though she let it ring around 20 times. My alarm went off about a half-hour later. I opted for sleep, though, and I don’t regret it. I saw enough in that hour-ish last night to keep me very happy. It’s not often I truly get an occasion to go stargazing. It’s raining today and will be cloudy tomorrow, so that’s it for the Leonids this year–but it was great while it lasted.


(The subject means, “shooting star.”)

After work, I went to have some blood drawn to have my cholesterol checked. It’s long overdue; I’m genetically predisposed to have high cholesterol, and lately if I eat eggs or anything with very high concentrations of it, I just feel off afterwards. I might even go so far as to say I can feel my arteries clogging, and not mean it in such a hyperbolic sense.

Of course, I had to explain why I was having my cholesterol checked–the doctor and nurses were definitely perplexed that someone as young as I am would be concerned about that. I then explained that it’s a genetic thing, and that I don’t eat meat and I only rarely ate eggs back in the US, but I eat them regularly here because there’s no other option many times, and of course that started a discussion about the kinds of foods I as a vegetarian do eat. (“Tofu? Yasai? Gohan?“)

The results should be in by Monday. I’m a little nervous about that, and how far gone I’ve become in the 5 years since I last had it checked (at which point I was already over 200, by doing absolutely nothing at all).

I’m currently downing a quick easy-on-the-stomach dinner, then going to hang out at that awesome new coffeehouse in Mikamo with Julie and Sally, and then the 3 of us are coming back here and heading up to my roof to hopefully watch the Leonids tonight, possibly/probably accompanied by (new) Christine. I’m tempted to swing by the home store on my way and pick up one of those portable folding chairs, like the big green/blue ones made out of nylon, to spare my neck at least a little bit.

Anyway–this is exciting! Last night ended up being completely cloudy, but the sky was almost totally clear earlier this evening. I hope there’s a spectacular show tonight…and even if there isn’t, it’s still a chance to stargaze. I’m constantly amazed at how many stars I can see out here–far more than I ever could see in metro Atlanta.

Oh, crap

I just found out that none of my third-years know how to read English characters. They don’t learn how to read Roomaji (the way of writing Japanese in western characters) until fourth grade.

Oh, MAN, that explains a LOT. It also means it’s totally time to switch gears and cover material I should have covered back in the spring! I’d preemptively copied some alphabet sheets today, and I handed out nearly all of them in the end, to the 3rd-graders and to the older kids who said they’d like to review.

(I got back about 10 minutes ago from my elementary school classes, and am about to head out now to grab lunch and head into work. Just thought I’d state this while it was fresh.)

Oh, and while I’m here–the earthquake and tsunami in/near Hokkaido were on the other side of the country from me, so we got nothing whatsoever down here. The only ones you would need to worry about are ones related to Kyushu, western Honshu, or Shikoku. Our area doesn’t really get big quakes anyway, so it’ll more likely than not be all right. But thank you for your concern, those of you who did contact me! (Including my dad, who called me just after my classes wrapped up.)

Idol worship, among other things

Okay, this’ll be the first time I actually edit out significant portions of a post. Suffice it to say that one of my students, one of the two special-needs kids (a boy with ADD), has a crush on me, and while it was kind of cute at first, it’s become uncomfortable as of late, because he likes to stare at me in the hall, his head turning to continue to stare at me as I pass by, and he gives me a completely wide-eyed, enthralled stare as he gushes about how amazing I am when I play the violin (he walked in on me one afternoon when I was playing and stood right next to me, staring, and when I took a step away he took a step towards me to compensate) and even when I do something as mundane* as eating an apple. Due to rather unpleasant past experiences involving people clinging to me very intensely, it’s really creeping me out, though I know it’s nothing I should worry about, but I can’t shake the discomfort it causes.

*Starred, because eating a whole apple in Japan is akin to an American watching a person from Europe eat a whole tomato.

Today was orienteering day, where the kids followed a map and trekked 12km to various checkpoints to answer questions related to their classes while looking at significant/historic places scattered around the school, with teachers stamping their forms at the checkpoints to show that they’d checked in. Today was also freaking cold, and my hands were so cold they were red. It was fun hanging out with the kids, though, and I now have photos of nearly every student at my junior high. I could only stay till just after lunch, though, since I had an afternoon elementary school class. It was cool, though. I wish that we had comparable things when I was growing up.

On a more humorous note, I just set some roti on fire. The directions said to heat it over an open flame so it would puff…but it never occurred to me that I had to keep rotating it constantly or it would catch on fire. Oh well–I ended up making a rocking chole that tasted exactly like my mom’s purely by chance.

And on a more sober note…I opened the fridge in the kitchen/lounge of the teacher’s room to get some milk this afternoon, and noticed an uncovered plate with some large leftover boiled crab legs on it. It didn’t hit me at first, but then yesterday morning came back in a rush, and I slammed shut the fridge door quickly and just stood there for a moment, feeling a little queasy, physically and emotionally. There are some parts of Japanese culture that I think are truly beautiful…but this is one thing that will never cease to horrify and sicken me, and it’s one thing I can never and will never understand. Vegetarianism and that Buddhist belief in the equality of all life is such a crucial part of who I am. This felt so cruel and barbaric.

On vegetarianism in Japan

A couple of days ago I was in Marunaka, a grocery store chain with a location in Mikamo, and after the Evanescance song that’s been all over the place finished up, they started playing “White and Nerdy” by Weird Al. It was priceless. I was grinning the rest of the time I was in the store.

Today, something a little less grin-worthy…our science teacher found a huge crab on the banks of the Yoshinogawa (River) and brought it in to show everybody today. I saw it in the kitchen/lounge area out of the corner of my eye (it was in a box) and went to check it out–it wasn’t particularly cute, but it was truly fascinating to look at. About 20 minutes later, during the 10-minute break between classes, a bunch of teachers who’d been in class came back and saw the crab…and their immediate response was to gush about how delicious it looked.

This is very obviously another instance of cultural differences in action–it goes hand-in-hand with the vegetarianism thing. The way they view animals here runs completely counter to how I view them. I often have people, including fellow teachers, telling me, “Zannen…” when they hear that I don’t eat meat–something I wouldn’t really put up with at home, but I just assume they think I can’t eat meat, though they know I made the choice in junior high to go veg. I just tell people I’m vegetarian for religious/cultural reasons, because getting into my whole personal-choice/animal-rights/all-life-is-equal stance would be confusing and probably would even alienate some people here. Needless to say, this made me feel really uncomfortable, and I was truly sad for a while, wondering if the crab would survive the night.

Of course, I’m very much a non-confrontational, peaceful vegetarian, with the exception of joking with my friends about whether they’re enjoying their dead animals…but I do sometimes wish I could make my Japanese friends, colleagues, and acquaintances at least see it all the way I see it for several moments, to understand why I feel this way and to be exposed to a different viewpoint. I wish I could explain it to someone properly and have a really good and involved discussion about all this. I’d love to be able to explain my view thoroughly, as well as to get some insight into theirs.

Sounds like someone’s got a case of the Mondays

Wow, the first half of today was pretty bad. Forget Friday the 13th–it’s Monday the 13th, the combination of Mondays and that unlucky number, that tend to screw me over.

I woke up this morning and was feeling great…I did a load of laundry…only to realize, once I started reaching for the clean clothes I’d planned to wear to work, that I’d just dumped them in the washing machine.

I then logged on briefly to check my e-mail–and had two messages, from Anya and Kiet, letting me know that our AJET forum had been hacked! I scrambled to figure out what was going on–the hacker had left a calling-card, a smiley-face image and his first name and e-mail address (??), so I was able to track him down online fairly easily. However, by that point I didn’t have time to do much besides just re-upload the index.php file, and I figured I’d snack at my elementary and junior high to cover my lack of breakfast.

It wasn’t till I got to my elementary school–with less than 10 minutes to spare before class–that I realized that not only had I not eaten breakfast, but I’d forgotten my lunch, too.

After that, it picked up a bit, though. Classes went well, and I was able to run back into town, pick up lunch at the grocery store and bakery, and finish just in time, before our class immediately following lunch break. I also finally(!) participated in school cleaning time, which I think really made the teachers happy (in my defense, I’m rarely even around for it, and I’m planning lessons or reading or something and don’t notice it until it’s already gone by or halfway done with), and I ended up leaving at the same time as the students, and got some really big grins and cheerful farewells along the way. My kids are totally what make this job worthwhile.

So, yeah, in the end it worked out fine. I just had to throw the Office Space reference in because I borrowed Ashley’s DVD of the film and have been watching and re-watching scenes from it intermittently since. It seriously makes everything better.

Weekend’s end

Made it with less than an hour to spare…

My place is a wreck. But my new kotatsu-buton cover is ready to go, and it looks awesome! (Too bad my table doesn’t match it at all, but oh well, it’s still gorgeous.) I’ll clean up after I warm up a bit under the kotatsu first. I’ve missed how cozy this feels.

So I crashed at Brian’s last night, after some awesome curry/basmati rice/papad and a fairly recent Bollywood flick which I fell asleep halfway through (but it wasn’t like I couldn’t predict the ending). We headed to Kamiyama today–the drive was gorgeous, by the way–and checked out Ariel Kontact.

The art was gorgeous! They all did a really great job. I really loved Chalice’s work, but I’m already a big fan of her paintings from what I’ve seen displayed in her apartment. Joe’s solitude/”missing the point” photography, Brian’s abstract mix of art and words, and Charlotte’s stunningly simplistic but striking paintings were really wonderful. By far the best exhibit, though, was that of one of the Artists in Residence–a series of small papier-mache houses with a lens/peephole on one side, with holes/slats cut through the roofs/walls, so that when you held the houses up to the light, you could see the insides, which were very intricate recreations of rooms and other imagery. I can’t even describe how awesome those were.

Ashley brought her parents down there as well, and so the three of them, Chalice, Joe, Brian, and I hung out for a bit, chatting and talking about the artwork. Brian and I finally took our leave, heading out before it got too dark, and we stopped by BookOff (where I scored yet another steeply discounted Yoroiden Samurai Troopers/Ronin Warriors CD! Suiko Den, this time) before having Sri Lankan for dinner. I love that place–the food is awesome, and the owner is just cool. I think the server working tonight was his wife, but I wasn’t sure…she was really cool and we talked for about 15 minutes after we finished dinner.

Okay, now I have to unearth myself from the warm delight of my kotatsu (it’s in the 40s outside–it’s getting steadily colder with each passing day) to clean up and get to sleep. I’m trying to keep louder music on so it doesn’t make me doze off preemptively. Have a good evening!

Not much to say today

…except that it was really nice to sleep in. I stayed up pretty late finishing the redesign of my visual portfolio. It’s nice to have that done with.

I drove up to Takamatsu today–it gave me a chance to see more than just the immediate area around the station. I’d definitely like to go back. I went up to buy a kotatsu-buton cover at Loft, though it seems that all the Lofts outside of Osaka/Kobe don’t have much in the way of home furnishings, but a store next to Loft on the same floor did. I got one that I really liked, and a floor mat to match it.

I’m now off to Brian’s for an evening of movies and Indian food–he made dinner with his massive stash of AmbikaJapan groceries to repay me for driving us to Kamiyama tomorrow for the Ariel Kontact art show. I should get going, though…I already got back pretty late.