Dec 27, 2011

Christmas, Continued

Didn't quite get around to my post about Christmas Day when i had hoped to.  Been trying to get a lot done these past couple days before the New Year's holiday starts.  We get the 29th-3rd off, hooray!  Relaxation.  But then, come the 10th, i have to fill in for Mama Ann while she's home in the Philippines for a month.  Will be exhausting but the extra money will be nice..

Anywho, let's see what "Santa" brought.

From a couple of my students- adorable washcloths!  I don't think i want to use them because they're too cute. :3

Christmas Day- Santa sure was nice this year!  (Note the chocolate orange.  Yumm).  Felt like a kid waking up on Christmas morning to lots of gifts to open.  :)    

My dad had sent my PrismaColor pencils and pad of Bristol paper for me.  I knew he was sending it, because i asked for it, but i was only expecting the box and the pad.  Forgot about my extra pencils and my sketch kit.  Excited to use them again. :)  Also got some Christmas moneys from him too. 

Lots of comfort food from my mum. :D

From M-sensei, my lady-boss.  Muji-brand hot water bottle (i love the Muji store, going there makes me want to have a house to furnish and decorate.  And wow, hot water bottle!  Feels like the olden days.  But it's awesome and warm).  Cute little edamame cloth (noticing a trend with the washcloths?), and some really tasty gummy candies.  <3

Cookies, warm winter undershirts, and a thick warm jacket from my Boss and his wife.  :)

Also got cards from a couple relatives and friends.  Thank you to everyone for thinking of me, you are awesome!

Just a quick mention about my babies now, before i post this and head off to bed.  Baby R-kun is walking so well now. *sniff*  It'll still be a few months yet, but i don't want him to be moved from the baby room to the toddler room!  Yama-chan (who i don't think i've mentioned by name yet) is progressing slowly with his walking but he's getting there.  He's about 14 months now, but has still to take more than one step on his own, whereas Baby R-kun and A-chan- who both just turned 1 a couple weeks ago- are walking quite well.  But he is the best at mimicking and responding.  He claps when i sing "If You're Happy and You Know It" and touches his head and his toes when i sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes".  It's adorable.  
And Older R-kun (the one who loves cars) has been proving that he is understanding, at least sometimes!  I thought last time was a fluke when i asked for a certain car and he'd pick it up, but he did it again today.  And while he still doesn't really say more than a few choice words (all vehicle-related except for 貸して when he wants something... though he doesn't pronounce it as kashite, it's more like kakaka...) he's good at mimicking intonation and was mimicking me today when i was saying "ambulance".  I love this kid, i think i might steal him.  ;)  And man, i wish i could post photos and videos of them all here but alas, no can do.  Can't even have photos or videos of them for myself..  :-/

Well off to bed now.  One more day of work, then heading to a 忘年会 (year-end party) with my old housemates afterward, then heading home to dye my hair, finish cleaning, and pack for my trip early Thursday morning to Mito!  Spending New Year's vacation with the Besties, sooo excited. :D

Dec 24, 2011

Little Black Plaid Dress

Christmas this year was quite a bit different this year than what i'm used to.  Not in a bad way, no.  I did have quite a nice Christmas Eve, for sure.

So yesterday i was woken up shortly after 9am by my boss calling me.  I ignored it and initially rolled over to try to get some more sleep, but after a couple minutes i figured it'd be best if i just got up.  So i did, and sat around in bed for a couple hours studying, until my boss called again to tell me he was downstairs and that his wife was coming up.  Haha, what??  I jumped up to grab a comb to tame my wild locks before she came knocking at the door.. didn't have time to throw on some jeans so i answered, apologizing for still being in my Hello Kitty pajama pants.  She had a good laugh though then handed me a huge bag of gifts.  Sweet lady, she is.

Finally got around to getting showered and dressed, did a little cleaning and some laundry.  A little before 5pm i hopped on my bike and pedaled off to the next station in search of a Terry's chocolate orange.  I had heard tell that there was a store there that sold them, and the thought of Christmas without a Terry's chocolate orange was just a little bit sad to me, lol.  Parked my bike across from the station, but then was drawn away from my task by a beautiful chorus of voices.  Had stumbled upon a Christmas concert performed by a local high school chorus group, which i posted a video of yesterday.  Luckily had caught the last 5 or 6 songs.  After their last song i walked across the street to the shopping center, and in to the imports store that would supposedly have my delicious chocolate oranges.  And indeed they did have them!  For a whopping 567yen.. about $6 or so.  So much for buying a few to take to work, haha. 
After that, i walked across to the plaza on the other side of the station where there was a nice little Christmas light display.  But wow, couples everywhere!  I'd always heard Christmas Eve here is like Valentine's Day, and it's true.  A huge date-night for couples.  And families too, apparently.  Lots of little behbehs and toddlers running around.  (Just the toddlers running, of course).  About a month ago i was talking with one of my students and she had mentioned that she and her friends had planned to go to a spa together on Christmas Eve.  I laughed and asked, "Why Christmas Eve?"  To which she replied, "Because we are all single!"  
Yes, so in addition to not getting to spend it with family, i also didn't get to spend it with a significant other, either! 

Some Christmas lights around the station/shopping center
I did get to spend it in the company of some friends though.  After looking at the lights and catching the last song of another caroling performance, i hopped on the train to head to my old sharehouse.  Got off a station early to head to the recycle shop in search of some extra blankets, for guests, since i only have my one.  Found a nice electric blanket instead (which i'm making good use of now, it's so nice!), in addition to some clothes.  Haha.  It was terrible.  I've found i'm really addicted to recycle shops.  They are so cheap, and this one especially had a lot of really nice clothes!  Not at all like Goodwill or Pick-and-Save (..their Halloween collection? Not a lot to be desired).  I only walked down two aisles but had to stop myself from going further because i knew i'd buy more that what i should.  And actually just buying what i did was more than i should've.  I don't feel too bad though because 1) until coming to Japan i really haven't bought many new clothes... seriously at least 90% of my small wardrobe now is at least 3 years old, and 2) they're recycled clothes!  I always feel guilty buying new.  It feels like such a waste, to spend so much money on something that was made in a sweatshop by some poor soul who's given up their life to earn a couple dollars a day.  But that's a topic for a different time..

I'm a sucker for hoodies... only 800yen!

Little skateboarding American bear, lol.  Only 500yen!  Less than the chocolate orange..
Anywho, walked from there to the old sharehouse, and enjoyed talking to Mr. Boss Man (former "boss"), my old housemates and some of my previous students.  We drank, snacked, and listened to Christmas music until almost 10pm, when people started heading home.  Good times! 

Just not photogenic.. can't take a picture without pulling some sort of weird face or pose!
Was walking to the station to catch a train home, talking excitedly along the way with another of the previous teachers/tenants at the sharehouse (we both now have legit jobs elsewhere but usually go back monthly for the parties) about our mutual love of K-pop, when we passed by a group of 3 guys.  They kind of stopped, one of them was gawking, another smiled and waved at me- i smiled and waved back-, and one turned to the others and was like, "かわいいじゃん".
I kind of laughed to myself, but then just as we passed one of them said, "ベリーキュート! (Bery kyoo-to!  That's the best i can write it in the accent, haha.  "Very cute").  I looked back and thanked them, and they got excited and started waving and shouting, "Bye bye!" at me.  It was a fun encounter, kinda made up for the fact that i had to go single on the Japanese equivalent of Valentine's Day, lol.  And i'd like to thank my new little plaid dress, which against my better judgement i decided to wear again today.  It had red in it and seemed kind of Christmas-y, so..  I did have to double up on my leggings though, and wear an undershirt under the dress, and two jackets over it to keep me sufficiently warm!

Another highlight of the night was getting a surprise phone call from my awesome little Kansai buddy T-chan!  I had sent out a mass Merry Christmas message to all my friends on my phone, and got a reply back from a number i didn't recognize, then got a call from it while i was at the party.  Tried calling the number once but there was no answer.  They called back again, when i was back at my station, and i answered it and lo and behold it was T-chan!  I had his email saved to my phone, but not his phone number, so i had no idea who it was.  Definitely a surprise, so i ended up walking through the station talking on the phone with the biggest doofy grin on my face.  Whatever, it's always nice to hear from awesome friends.  :D

So that was my Christmas Eve.  Am glad i did get to partake in the Christmas spirit and enjoy the company of some good friends.  Had quite a few cards and packages to open this mornign so that was fun.  Will post pictures of my loot later.  Hope all of your Christmases- or Chanukahs or Kwanzaas or Solstices or End of the Years- are similarly joyful.  :)  


Merry Christmas to All

And to all a good night...


Dec 18, 2011

Another All-Nighter

First, pictures of the room we stayed in at the Ritz, as requested!

Long entryway.  The door on the right goes into the amazing bathroom!
And our beds!  Sadly, i only have these two pictures of the room...

So, onto this weekend's adventure!  Friday was my half-day at work.  I finally got off at 4pm and made a mad dash home to try to pack up some Christmas packages to get shipped off before the post office closed at 5pm.  Made it there just in time and spent almost as much on shipping as i did for the gifts!  Next year, the kids are getting a card and money.  Can't go wrong with money, right?!
Anyway, ran back home to change then headed out to Shinjuku where i was to meet up with my good friend from Korea who was here visiting!  I got to see him on my three-day trip to Korea this past summer.  It was actually quite funny.. maybe two weeks ago i had a dream he was here in Japan, so i sent him a message on Facebook telling him about it, and he wrote me back saying, "Oh, well, actually I'm thinking of going to Japan next week before I start training at my new job!"  He took that as a sign that he should come, so he did!  Haha.
Anyway, met up with the little Sunbeam, and we were joined soon after by our Sweet Girl.  Shinjuku station was insane that night, even more so than usual, i'm surprised we were able to spot each other!  Yu-yu was supposed to meet us then as well but when i called him he said he'd be there in about an hour.  So the three of us headed out to find some place to eat.  We first tried a couple of nicer places but they were all full up, so we settled for one of those cheap izakaya where everything on the menu is 270yen.  I love those places, super cheap and super delicious so i didn't mind that it wasn't a fancy restaurant.  We had all sorts of delicious food and drinks (fresh fruit kiwi sour, that was amazing!  I had two, and was tempted to get two more but decided against it, lol) and chatted away until Yu-yu finally made his way over.  

They hadn't seen each other for over a year and a half~
A mini UW reunion!  <3

Sweet Girl had to leave soon after, so then it was me, Yu-yu, and Sunbeam eating and drinking and talking more until about 10pm when Yu-yu flaked out too.  Sb and i took shelter at a Burger King while we waited for S to arrive.  That crazy girl had just worked a 2pm-9pm shift and straight afterward hopped a train to Tokyo, with the intent of hanging out until she could take the first train back in the morning to arrive in time for work at 10am!
We met her at Shinjuku station around 11:40pm when she arrived, then relocated to a McDonald's so she could get some food and we could sit and chat.  It was a pretty cool McDonald's, actually.  I'd been there once before but ate on the 2nd floor.  This time we went up to the 3rd floor and were pleasantly surprised with some Beatles memorabilia, and Beatles songs playing over the intercom the entire time.  :)

Statues right in the middle of the eating area!
John Lennon's guitar, according to the letter on the left

At 2am, the dining areas in McDonald's were closed, so we were back out on the street trying figure out what to do.  Luckily we stumbled across a Don Quijote.  That store has endless wonders, and since luckily this one was 24 hours we got to kill plenty of time in there.
There was a creepy guy in there though, who was just blatantly staring at us as we walked past him.  Incessantly staring.  I could feel his eyes boring holes into my back as we were walking away from him down the aisle.  We kept running into him too, and he just wouldn't stop staring.  I know staring happens when you look so different from everyone else, but i've never been stared at like that before (no, scratch that, actually i believe i have...), it was actually quite unnerving.  S and i both were hella creeped out.  
Other than that though, we had a ball!

Awesome glasses require the duckface.

Even more amazing glasses!

Just before 4am we purchased our little goodies we couldn't leave without, then headed back out into the cold, and decided it was time to get some more food into our bellies.  We found a cheap little soba noodle place and ate some warm food there.  

So good!

Then we ran to the station so S and Sunbeam could catch the first train to Tokyo Station.  We said our goodbyes and parted ways.
I had some drunk business guy fall asleep on me on the train back home.  I see it happen to people often, and it's happened to me once with some really sleepy lady who was slumped over until her head was almost in my lap, but it was rather awkward and uncomfortable with this guy, because he turned and mumbled something inaudible at me shortly after he plopped down in the seat, which i ignored and kept staring straight ahead, and then he actually purposefully put his head on my shoulder, then promptly passed out.  There were a couple guys standing up in the aisle and i think they noticed how awkward and uncomfortable i was feeling.. i saw them looking towards me while they were talking to each other, then as they were getting off one of them kicked drunk business man's leg as they passed by, which startled him awake and thankfully off of my shoulder.  The guy who did the kicking gave a quick glance back to me before the doors shut.  It was a nice thought, and while the guy quickly fell back asleep on me again i only had a couple more stops until i needed to transfer so i got to slip away soon after anyway.
Finally got home and into bed by 7am, haha.  Trying not to make this too regular of a thing.  It was for a good cause though, definitely worth it.
Back to work tomorrow.. only a 4-day week this week, thanks to the Emperor's birthday on Friday!  :D

Dec 17, 2011

My High Class Weekend

Have neglected writing any real updates this past week.  Those meds kicked in pretty quick and i was feeling loads better the next day.  Well, except for my stomach which i believe was from pill-overload, so i stopped taking them since they did their job quite well.

I've been meaning to blog about the night i took that Tokyo Tower picture, but that was last weekend already, and i already have more adventures from this weekend to write about!  Last week's adventures first though, i suppose!

So, last Saturday i rushed through some chores and errands before i made my way to Harajuku to do a little shopping before i was to meet up with S.  See, i had to go pick out a dress.  Truly a shock to anyone who knows me... i haven't really willingly worn a dress since i was a wee little thing (prom junior year and my sister's wedding were the most recent dress-wearing occasions, so it was kind of obligatory that i wear one).  I felt that that night kind of warranted a dress though, but more on that later.

Was afraid of running late so i rushed out of the station and started down Takeshita-street to pop into a few of my choice stores to see if a could find a dress that i would be alright with wearing.  I was barely 2 minutes down the street when some guy was next to me trying to get my attention.  I wish i could ignore people sometimes, but being too nice i stopped to find out what he wanted.  
"本当に綺麗ですね," he said.  You're so pretty.
Well, that's new!  Usually it's "cute".
But oh, haha, ummm thanks?!
He insisted i keep going on my way and he'd just walk with me and talk.  The thing、though, was that i was trying to find a store down a little side street and i was trying to focus on where i was going.  I ended up looking like a fool, stopping mid-conversation to look around confusedly trying to figure out if i'd passed the street or not, and walking up and down the street at least a couple times.  Finally he left and i was able to find my store.  I suppose i should've been flattered but i just wanted to do my damn shopping in peace!  He had wasted at least 20 minutes of my precious shopping time so i was feeling quite rushed by then, which i hate when i'm shopping, especially for clothes.
Luckily, it didn't take me long to find a dress that i actually thought was cute, and it was super cheap too!  Only about $25.

I didn't wear it just like this mind you, i did have leggings and a jacket.. far too cold to wear as-is just yet!
 Sorry, no picture of me in it.  I just don't think the world is ready for that yet..

Regardless of making good time, when i got to the station and saw a crowd formed outside and heard the announcements going over the loudspeakers, i knew my rushing was all in vain.  I checked the monitors near the ticket gates and sure enough, the Yamanote Line (as well as a few others), the one line i needed to take, was to be halted for nearly an hour, due to a 人身事故 (jinshin jiko).  A "human accident".  I figured it was a pretty bad one, considering the length of the delay.  One side of the Yamanote Line started running sooner than anticipated, but of course the side i needed to take was delayed more that an hour.

Finally got to Roppongi, after having to wait in the cold for that long.  
Now, on to why i needed the dress.  I was meeting S and a couple of her good students, who are also her self-proclaimed J-parents, for dinner at Azure 45 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, where we would also be staying for the night!  Her J-parents i guess have been wanting to meet me for a while, so when they planned their little Roppongi excursion they invited me as well.  :)
Anyway, I don't think the restaurant has a dress-code, but i just couldn't see showing up there in jeans and a hoodie like i usually wear.  Even with the dress i still felt... under-dressed, lol.  Dinner was amazing though.  It was a bit weird having the waiters fuss over us so much, like waiting to push our chairs in for us every time we got up and came back from looking out the window at the eclipse that was happening that night, and to replace the napkin on our laps every time haha.  But the food, though sometimes i was unsure of how to eat it exactly, was absolutely delicious.  I had wanted to get pictures of it but my camera sucks at taking low-light pictures and the only light we had were a couple of candles at our table... Do rich people like eating in the dark or something??

After dinner and lots of pictures (not taken by me though!) we dropped our bags off in our room then headed to my and S's club of choice, same one we went to a couple times during Golden Week back in May.  I think the club was a bit overwhelming for S's J-parents because i don't think they stayed for even an hour.. :(  S and i stayed the whole night though, almost until they closed at 5am.  Met quite a few people, including a guy who had studied at Ritsumeikan University, which surprised me since many of my good friends go there!  It was fun though, but i'm sure it's the club that triggered the cold, because of the smoke and the close proximity to people, and trying to talk/yelling over the music the entire night which made my throat raw, then walking around after sweating all night, outside in the freezing cold for almost an hour trying to find our way back to the hotel, haha.  Those five-star beds were sooooooo amazingly comfortable though!  And the bathroom!  I wish i had taken a picture of it, i swear it was just about as big as my bedroom.  It was glorious, made you feel rich even just taking a piss.
Despite the lack of sleep and the sickness that followed, i really enjoyed my weekend as a rich person!  It was also nice to meet S's J-parents too, they are such nice people and they even payed for everything!  I still have to run by the Fujiya near my apartment to get them a nice thank you gift~ 


The picture of our view from the restaurant, again.  I quite love this picture.  :3

Dec 13, 2011

Pill Cocktails

A vast array of meds, instructions, and my おくすり手帳 (okusuri techou, medicine handbook)



I've always thought it weird that people here will go to the doctor for something as little as a cold.  To be honest i think people here depend on the doctor far too much, but i guess if your healthcare system isn't in the crapper *coughgetwiththeprogramamericacough* why not go to the doctor if you are sick, since that's what you're paying health insurance for, right?  (Trying to refrain from more rants about healthcare back home).
So, my boss, Mr. Big Bear  took me to the doctor today, at the insistence of M-sensei, since i was looking and sounding pretty pathetic.  I could just be a big baby, but i hate sore throats and not being able to breathe through my nose! 
I've also always heard that when you go to the doctor here, you get sent home with a ton of medicine, and it's true!  So i'll be shooting back these pills (and that nasty powder, i'm not sure how exactly i'm supposed to be ingesting that, really) multiple times a day for the next few days in the hopes that it'll help make the few days i am sick a little more bearable. 

Dec 9, 2011

♪Won't You Be My Neighbor♪

I don't really see my neighbors often, but from what i've discovered my apartment building is pretty "international". (Japanese people love this word, i've found, and use it to describe anything/any situation where there's a foreigner. I hear it too much, in Japanese and in bastardized English pronunciation)

Anyway, there are only six apartments in my building. I usually only see the lady on the first floor.. i'm pretty sure she's Brazilian but i'm not sure. She's pretty nice and we usually greet each other in passing. And i've seen a couple other people from the second floor only a couple times. But the other week i had an interesting encounter with someone else who lives on the first floor.
I was walking down the stairs one evening, i think i was probably going to go get groceries or something. Was coming down the stairwell to the first floor and there was a rather good-looking guy there, probably close to the same age as me, tying his shoe on one of the steps. I think i had seen him from afar before, but i could be mistaken. I see many good-looking people on a regular basis, it's hard to remember a particular face.
So, he looked up and moved out of the way to let me come down the stairs, we exchanged "Konbanwa"s (Good evening) like good neighbors do, and i continued walking toward the street.
Then suddenly, from behind me i heard in a perfect English accent: "Do you speak English?"
I was rather taken aback, and i was sure my ears were playing tricks on me.  It's not unusual for me to hear random English spoken at me, but it's usually very heavily accented and limited to "Hallo!" or "Where aah you furomu?".  (Or sometimes, "Ohh, naisu body!!")
I turned around and said, "Uh.. yeah."
"Oh, okay.  Just wondering."
Then there was a few seconds of awkward silence.  I wasn't sure what to say then, but i was curious about his English and i was struggling to find the right way to ask.  At first i was about to ask, "What are you?", as in are you really Japanese, or were you raised elsewhere or what?  But "what are you" of course does not get across what i was wanting to find out, and just sounds very rude!
"What.. uh... you speak English too?"
"Yeah, I was raised in the Philippines, so.."
"Oh.  So... are you Philippine?" Yes, i asked if he was a country, not a nationality, lol!  Like i said, it was a very unexpected encounter and i wasn't thinking straight.
"I'm half-Philippine half-Japanese."  I'm pretty sure he responded the same way though, haha.
"Oohh, i see."
"I've seen you around town a lot..."
I kind of wanted to say "Well, yeah, i'm kind of easy to spot", but i didn't want him to think i was being rude.  Instead i just said, "Well, yeah, i live here, and i work at the hoikuen down that way, so..."  
"Ah, I see."
There was more awkward silence, so we started saying our parting words or whatever and i backed away step-by-step and he started fiddling with his bike lock, and that was that!
Another guy in my neighborhood i have to mention.  I've never actually seen him, but i hear him quite often!  He walks down the street at night, just singing his little heart out.  It's almost always around midnight or later, so i'm pretty sure he's coming home from some drinking-party with coworkers or whatever, though i have heard him a couple times during the day.  I'd like to catch a glimpse of him sometime though.

Should be off now, meeting up soon with S for some amazing fun times again.. :D

Dec 6, 2011

Those in Need

A fellow blogger who i've been following for a while has posted this video that i thought i'd share.



It breaks my heart that i can't take one.  Or all of them.

Hop on over to her site.  She's been up around Fukushima Prefecture since after the Big Earthquake in March, rescuing lost, stranded, and abandoned animals within the evacuation zone.  I think it's amazing that there are people like that doing this sort of thing.  You can make a donation to the cause on her site as well.


Dec 5, 2011

Christmasifying

Went to the 100-yen store yesterday while i was out shopping to get some decoraaaaations.  The only wreaths they had were really plain so i had to buy some other things to spruce it up.


Bought some tinsel to put up around the window with the left over Christmas ornaments, to go with my construction paper tree.

Festive window!

Stopped by the McDonald's next door beforehand to try their new "グラコロ" (Gracoro; Gratin-coroquette) burger.  I got the regular cheese one the day S and i went to Fuji-Q, but last night i wanted to try the tomato cream one.  It was pretty good. 


*End pointless post!*

Dec 4, 2011

Thanksgiving and Fuji-Q Weekend!

Saturday the 26th was when we had decided to celebrate Thanksgiving, since actual Thanksgiving Day was just another work day.  I did some shopping at my old station to get some imitation meat since i knew of a store there that carried it.  I also tried my luck at finding some cranberries because my thing is to make homemade cranberry sauce every year.  Eff that stuff in a can, it's gross!  Was about to give up hope when i did find one little lone carton of cranberries, about the size that they sell raspberries and blueberries in back in the US.  For 800yen (about $9).  So i decided i didn't really want to make cranberry sauce that bad and bought some tasty-looking cassis preserves from France instead for half that price.  Close enough, i figured!  And it was still delicious.
I had ventured to the Ito Yokado the day before to try and find things for a pumpkin cheesecake and green bean casserole.  Pumpkin cheesecake stuff was easy to find (and it turned out quite good, btw!!  Despite the whole melting-the-top-of-the-fridge-to-the-bottom-of-the-toaster-oven mishap..), but for the green bean casserole i just couldn't find cream of mushroom soup or the French fried onions, so i improvised:

Mushroom pottage soup packets, i just added less water than called for to make it the consistency of the condensed cream of mushroom soup.  And Calbee potato snack sticks that i crumbled on top, instead of the French fried onions.  Would've worked out great if i hadn't underestimated my toaster oven, because they got burnt so i had to scrape a bunch off the top.  Boo..

Anyway, on my way back home through the station some guy tried to pick up on me.  That was awkward.  Especially since he did the whole, "鼻がたっけぇッ! (Your nose is high!)" thing.  Meaning the bridge of my nose.  I get that sometimes, and i've heard of many other foreigners getting the same "compliment" too.  It's strange but i guess it's an attractive feature.  Just like having a "small face".  Oh, another favourite description of mine that i've gotten a couple times is that i have "sunflower eyes".  Haha!  Whatever that means.

Yeah, so after that i headed back to my place to get started on the green bean casserole.  S arrived around 7pm with her adorable little Pee Monster of a pup, which i realized i didn't get any pictures of!  D:  Our friend Sho-sho arrived shortly after, then we headed back to the station so S could pick up some ingredients, then we got cooking!
And a lovely feast was had.  With Oldies in the background.





Awesome!

Our delicious spread!
My first helping! Pumpkin dinner roll at top, with cassis preserves, green bean casserole in the middle, S's delicious potatoes, and my imitation meat.  And a nice glass of sangria up top there too. ;)


Sunrise, 6am
We stayed up til nearly 3am playing with the pup, talking to J on Skype, and chatting away while trying to fall asleep, only to get up 2 hours later at 5am to get ready and head on out to Fuji-Q!!  Somehow it took us like 2 hours to get ready though.  Don't know how that happened..

Our initial plan was to take the bus, but we waited til the last minute and then found out we had to make the reservations by phone and the office was already closed for the day, so we ended up just taking the train to Shinjuku station and getting train tickets to Fuji-Q there.  Round-trip it was about 1000-1500yen more than the bus tickets would've cost, but oh well.  We got a nice view of Mt. Fuji on the way there.

Picturesque Fuji!

We got there around 9:30am, shortly after the park opened.  Got our Free Passes (which aren't free, as the name might suggest.  Just gives you free reign of the park, almost) then took forever to decide what to do first!  We finally decided to brave the ええじゃないか (Ee janai ka).  It was about an hour-and-a-half wait, but it was pretty freaking awesome.  S even bought the picture for me that they took of us on the coaster, our faces are amazing, and so is my hair!  Like it exploded.  I screamed the entire time.. actually i think i screamed the entire time on all of the coasters we went on!  

This made me laugh: "FUCK待つ時間" "本当だ!! " ("FUCK waiting time" "For reals!!")  There was lots of graffiti all throughout the queue.. near the front of the line someone had drawn boobs and wrote "さわってください さわるとすぐ乗れます" (Please touch  If you touch them you will get to ride soon).  S and i both touched them, then a couple minutes later one of the park workers came through the line looking for a group of 2 to go to the front, so those boobs really did work!  If you're ever in line for the Ee janai ka, be sure to touch those boobs.

After the Ee janai ka we decided to get some lunch, since we didn't really have much of a breakfast.  Got a nice HUGE kakiage-don, tempura veggies on top of rice, yummmm.
Being overly stuffed from our huge rice bowls we decided to ride a kiddy ride before going on another intense coaster, to give our food a change to settle so we didn't have to see it again, flying around mid-air on a loop or something.  Our choice of kiddy ride was not the best though.  It was a mini roller coaster that went hella fast with lots of really sharp sudden turns and sudden ups and downs..  i was sitting in the outer seat so whenever we came to a sharp turn i was sure i was going to fly out of the cart, it was horrifying!  We left that ride beaten and bruised (literally!) and with a bit of whiplash.

OMG SO EXCITED for the ride, before we knew what would become of us..

After that we got in line for the Fujiyama coaster, which was my favourite of the day!  Also had the shortest line too, i think we waited less than an hour.  By the time we were done with that one, it was almost 4pm and the park was to be closing at 6pm, so we had a couple more hours to fit in the last two main coasters in the park.  First the ドドンパ (Do-don-pa).. that thing is intense!  You can't tell from the video in that link so much, but when you're first shot out of that tunnel it feels like you're... time travelling or something, it's crazy!  So fast, that after another hour-and-a-half wait, we were on that ride for maybe a minute, lol.
After that, we had time for the last main coaster- 高飛車 (Takabisha).  I think we were dreading this one the most but it ended up being the least scary i think, haha!  It takes you straight up at 90° then has a 121° drop.  Going up was actually the scariest part because you feel like you're going to fall out backwards or the cart is going to fall off the track!  The drop actually wasn't scary, except that when you get to the top it stops you for a second, looking down to the ground below because of the way the track curves in and you can't see it.  And that's when they take your picture on this one!  It was dark out when we were riding this one, so of course my eyes were reflecting the light in the picture, and i had this crazed look on my face so i really looked like some crazy-ass demon.  I wish i had bought that picture, actually.  Pretty priceless.

We had definitely had our thrill fill for the day, and it was pretty cold and the park was finally closing, so we finally headed for the exit, stopping into the gift shop on our way out to get the obligatory souvenirs for our coworkers and such.  I'd definitely like to go back again sometime that's not on a Sunday so we have a couple extra hours to do some more rides.  Next time we won't faff around for an hour trying to figure out what to do first, and we won't make the mistake of wasting our time on that bloody kiddy coaster again either!

Dec 3, 2011

When I Say "Gah", We Gah

Got back from an amazing time at Fuji-Q Highland last Sunday to find that my wireless modem had shut off so i was again without internet and unable to post about my nice Thanksgiving weekend.  Now after nearly a week of restarting my modem and computer numerous times each day i'm finally connected again!  *sigh*  These internet troubles won't go away until i get a new computer, it seems.  But that's not going to happen for a while, so i guess i just gotta deal.  Piece of SH*T!

Will try to post about last weekend tomorrow.  For now just an update about recent happenings, though nothing too exciting.
Winter is definitely upon us now, it seems.  I've always heard that Japanese houses are poorly insulated/get super cold in the winter, and judging so far from my time in my apartment i can definitely vouch for that!  It kind of sucks.  In Seattle i could usually get by without using my heat at all.  My apartment here though, i swear it's just as cold as outside.  My boss gave me a little electric space-heater though, so i've been making good use of that in the evenings.  I don't use it when i'm sleeping though.  Burrowing in my futon keeps me plenty warm.  I've also been taking the advice of this site and keeping my thick curtains closed at night.  I might try that bubble-wrap idea too.  It does kind of suck to get up in the middle of the night to go pee and have to leave the warmth of my futon.  I wish i had a heated toilet seat but my toilet is old school.  At least it has a fabric toilet seat cover so i don't have to sit down on an icy seat!

Was shaken awake by a rather long earthquake this morning around 6am.  I was still half asleep though so i don't think i really realized what was happening.  I just got up and went pee and didn't think about it until i finally woke up again hours later.  I way overslept.. woke up at almost noon.  I think now since i keep my curtains closed the sunlight doesn't wake me up in the mornings like it used to.  Though it was cloudy and raining this morning so no sun anyway.  I had wanted to go to my acupuncturist since i didn't get to go last week, but the clinic is only open until 1pm on Saturdays so i wouldn't have made it.  Did some domestic-y things instead, like sweeping and cleaning the bathroom sink and toilet and shower, and did some grocery shopping too.
Going to do some Christmas shopping tomorrow, i'm actually excited!  Was going to do that today, but i didn't want to go out biking in the rain.  Forecast says it'll be sunny tomorrow, so crossing my fingers that it actually is.
Oh, and since it's finally December, i decided i could finally start getting into Christmas mode.  Retail has made me rather bitter towards the holidays, and i'm very much against anything Christmas-y appearing before Thanksgiving.  Japan though is really no different and i was seeing Christmas displays up even before Halloween.  I wanted to ask, "Why?  98% of you aren't even Christian!"  But i guess i can't complain, it is nice to have Christmas-y things and celebrations around just like back in the States, despite it being a bit different.  I made a little Christmas tree today out of the colored construction paper i had with me (the props i made for my Amity interview) and it's in the window of my dining room now.  I think i'll get a couple other little things at the 100yen store tomorrow.  Just a little wreath for my front door and maybe some garland or tinsel.  I don't want to start accumulating a whole lot of things that i'll have to haul around with me should i need to relocate or anything!

One last thing, i just need to gush about my babies at work because they're adorable and i'm so proud of them, so bear with me for a sec!  Or just skip the rest of this, i won't be offended lol.
So, i worked a half-day yesterday.. i usually have Fridays off but since there have been no Saturday students recently i've started doing 5-hour shifts on Fridays instead (yes, that's literally a half-day since Monday through Thursday i work about 10 hours!  It's actually not bad, the time goes by pretty fast), and while i'd actually prefer it to be this way i know my boss wants to try to get some students back on Saturday so i know it won't last... :( 
Anyway, Mama Ann came in around 3pm as she usually does, and by around 4pm i was getting ready to leave.  Baby R-kun (my favourite of the babies, remember.  Not to be confused with R-kun, my favourite of the toddlers!) was standing up holding on to the toy shelves, or maybe holding on to M-sensei's legs i don't remember.  Anyway,  he turned, let go and just started walking toward Mama Ann!  She and i both screamed and looked at each other with our eyes all huge and our mouths open, and i think we scared M-sensei because she whipped around and was like, "What happened??"  He had only been able to take 1 or 2 steps on his own before, before falling down, but this time he took at least 6 steps, but i think probably more.  And i remember when he first started crawling too *sniff!*
Also, a bit about R-kun now (not Baby R-kun).  I think this happened Thursday night.  R-kun is always the last to be picked up, usually between 6:30 or 7pm.  I was sitting with him and playing with him with his mini cars (his favourite thing in the world), and each time i'd ask "Where's the ambulance?" or "Where's the mail truck?" he'd grab the correct car!  I was quite surprised to say the least!  And while it could've just been a fluke, i still thought it was awesome that he might possibly actually understand me and be remembering words!  He's almost 2 and hasn't really started speaking yet.. mainly just "bye-bye" and a couple other Japanese words, though not really clearly as he mainly just mimics the intonation with consonant sounds but doesn't really say the actual word, if that makes sense.
Well, should be off to bed now as i don't want to sleep the day away again tomorrow.  Toodles.

Nov 24, 2011

Thanksgiving!

For those of you in the US, your Thanksgiving preparation have just barely started (or will be starting soon), and before long you'll be gathered around the table stuffing your faces and stomachs with all that delicious food you slaved over for all day.

My Thanksgiving is nearing an end, and it passed as normally as any other day.  Work from 10:45am to 8:30pm.  Come home, eat, and veg out in front of the computer.

I did get a day off yesterday, however, for 勤労感謝の日 (kinrou kansha no hi; "Labour Thanksgiving Day"... most of my students were calling it "Thank You For Working Day" lol, but i think a better term is "Worker Appreciation Day".. kind of like Labour Day i guess).  Didn't do much yesterday but i did get out to the recycle shop a couple stations over and got a new little toaster oven.

No worries, i will be celebrating Thanksgiving soon enough, with as much of the traditional foods and i can make with two burners, an itty-bitty toaster oven (the inside is about 24x20cm), and limited ingredients!  S is coming down for the weekend and we'll be spending Thanksgiving together with an additional friend or two.  I've decided i'm going to attempt a pumpkin cheesecake.  We'll see how that goes over in the toaster oven, lol.

To celebrate at least a little bit today, after i post this i'm going to watch a Thanksgiving episode of Rugrats that i downloaded a while ago but haven't watched yet.  Rugrats was definitely my favourite show growing up, and i'll admit i still enjoy it.  :)

So i'll leave you all with a festive video that i've already watch at least a half-dozen times since J posted it the other day:

(A little inappropriate, and a lot funny!)
"Mom knew Thanksgiving wasn't about turkeys. It's about turkey, and being turkeys."

Enjoy your Thanksgivings, and think of me as you dig into the green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, Grandma R's pink fruit salad, and pumpkin pie.  (But not the turkey... urkey.  Ick!)

Nov 20, 2011

Lazy Weekend

On Friday i woke up pretty late, almost noon.  The latest i've woken up in a while.. nowadays i'm up at 10am or earlier, even on my days off.  Not a very exciting day.  I did a lot of cleaning before biking it to physical therapy.  My boss introduced me to one of his doctor friends who does acupuncture and physical therapy.  I've had neck pain for probably about a decade, and so my boss brought me to the clinic and i've been going at least once a week since (the first week i went a few times).  I was really afraid about the acupuncture thing at first, since i can't stand needles, but i seriously couldn't feel anything the first time he put the needles in.  He said, "Okay, it's in."  And i had to ask, "Really??"  The acupuncture he does for me for free, since he's friends with my boss.  Each time i go in i get a little... electric treatment?  I'm not sure what it's called.. 電気 (denki, electricity) in Japanese but i'm not sure what you'd call it in English, although i did have it done once in high school when i went for physical therapy.  The lady there had it turned up too high and my muscles twitched and constricted and it was not a pleasant feeling.  The sessions now are just fine though, and he finishes up with the acupuncture, heat therapy, and a little bit of massage/acupressure.  It has been helping considerably, which is amazing because i've been dealing with this neck pain nonsense for too long.  And it's really cheap too, since it's covered by the 国民健康保険 (Kokumin Kenkou Hoken), National Health Insurance.  Each session is only about $4 USD.

Yesterday was rather uneventful as well.  Woke up late again, around 10:30am.. did some studying and sweeping and laundry.  Doing laundry when it's raining sucks because i can't hang my stuff outside to dry.  Actually doing laundry in the winter just sucks in general because it takes forever for anything to dry.  At least it was mostly sunny today, so i put the clothes out in the morning to finish drying.  Nothing else exciting yesterday.  I stayed inside the whole day in my PJs, it was nice.

Was shaken awake this morning around 10:30am by a rather long earthquake.  I usually send S a message when i feel earthquakes to see if it originated up north.  Usually they are, although there was one that happened a couple months ago, when i was still living in the guesthouse, that actually happened in my prefecture.  I might've written about it before.  It was actually kind of funny because it was around dinnertime and i was in the kitchen with all the guys.  We were inspecting one of the cucumbers one of our students had given us, as it was rather oddly shaped- really bulbous on one end then it got skinny towards the middle so that if you picked it up it drooped over into the shape of a candy cane.  So i picked it up and was like, "What's wrong with this one?  No one's going to eat it!"  And then suddenly we were all jostled about as a magnitude 5.something hit us.  The strongest one i've felt since i've been here.  We were all joking afterwards about how we had upset the cucumber god.
Anyway, off topic.  So a shaky start to my morning, but i guess it was good because i probably would've slept until almost noon again if i hadn't been woken up.  Took my time getting ready.  Did a little kanji study before i decided to take a trip out to the local Ito Yokado to look for a little toaster oven.  I've been doing without one for a while, but with Thanksgiving coming up and S and Gaki-chan and maybe a couple others coming over to celebrate, i figured it might be a good time to invest in one.  Sadly, Yokado didn't have any good ones (good ones meaning within my price range!), so i think i'll head up to the second-hand store on Wednesday (a day off, yay holidays!) and see if they have any good ones.
Right before i was about to leave for the store, a huge rain cloud blew over the area and just opened up with a crazy downpour!
It passed in all but 5 minutes, then i was on my way.  The sunset was just gorgeous.


Stopped by Mister Donut on my way back.

A "Chocolate Ring" and a "Caramel White"

I love the little Peanuts bag they put it in.  Happiness is... two donuts all to yourself!  ^-^

On a random unrelated note, was really happy that i  fixed the second burner on my stove the other day!  For a while i could only get one to work, and i was wondering how S and i would manage cooking for Thanksgiving with just one burner.  A couple weeks ago i realized that there was foil covering the second knob for the gas.  I always thought the one knob turned on the gas for the whole thing.  Anyway, after i turned on the second valve, i got the second burner to light but as soon as i let go of the button the flame died.  Then on Friday, when i was cleaning the stove, i realized on a little round part on the burner there was an arrow with the word テマエ (temae), which i guess in this case would mean 'forward' or 'front'.  I noticed that the arrow on the first burner was pointing toward the front of the stove so i adjusted the part on the second burner to be the same.  Pushed the button and voila!  Success!  I now have two working burners and i feel proud for finally fixing the problem myself.  :D

Nov 19, 2011

Build Me Up Buttercup

That song's been in my head for a bit this evening.  A nice change from the usual mix of Anpanman songs that get stuck in my head.  I guess it's only natural that happens though since i hear the songs multiple times on an almost daily basis.  
Been working a lot more hours than when i first started as an 'official' employee, which is fine.  Mama Ann (my Filipino coworker) needed shorter shifts because of her hip/back problems, so we traded hours.   More hours equals more money!  Initially my days off were Friday and Sunday, but the past couple of weeks there've been no Saturday students, so i've had three-day weekends.  Despite that, i'm still working about 40 hours a week anyway, about 10 hours a day.  The work isn't stressful, but it is physically quite exhausting.  Imagine lifting 10-12kg weights all day.  Weights that wiggle and squirm in your arms, scream and cry in your ear, leave rancid poos in their diapers for you, run (or crawl, really) amok when you put them down and throw toys and books around and blow raspberries when you feed them, spattering drool and food bits all over.  I can't lie, they are still adorable and i enjoy being with them and watching them grow and learn and acquire new skills.

Wednesday i went with my boss and a couple coworkers for a little nomikai (drinking party) after work.  We went to a neat little local place not far from the daycare, run by a couple of old biddies who were losing their memory and hearing, it seemed!  We all had the all-you-can-drink meal.  A bunch of small dishes were brought out in succession- first some sort of fish liver with wakame seaweed and some sort of dressing.  I passed on that one.  Then was a really amazingly delicious tempura fig.  It was a rather large fig, at least compared to the ones i remember seeing on my aunt's tree growing up.  Still, really really good!  Then we had a type of "mountain potato", cooked with butter, which was also really good.  Finally, the huge nabe hot pot was brought out and i had my first experience with nabe, as well as fugu!

You can see some pieces of the fugu on the left, between 9 and 10 o'clock, if this were a clock face


Veggies, mushrooms, tofu, and fugu were thrown into the hot pot of water in the middle of the table, and once it was all cooked we each helped ourselves straight from the pot with our chopsticks, dipping the stuff into some ponzu sauce.  When all of it was eaten, one of the old ladies brought out rice and a couple of eggs to add to the remaining water in the pot.  Super yums!  And at the end of it all, my boss insisted on paying for me.  He keeps telling me he wants to be my Japanese dad, so that's really nice, and while of course i still offered up some money he refused, and who am i to refuse a free meal?  ;)

Rained all day today but tomorrow is supposed to be mostly sunny, so i think i'm going to go out to the local Aeon Mall or Ito Yokado in search of a little toaster oven.  We'll see how that goes, and i'll write about the rest of my uneventful weekend later.

Nov 13, 2011

Shopping Date in Harajuku

So yesterday, i had a little shopping date with myself since there were no Saturday students scheduled and i had the whole day off.   :D  
Initially i was going to go on Friday but the weather was really crappy (rained from sunup to sundown), so instead i just went to the mall near my station.  It's a really high-end mall (read: everything is way to frickin' expensive!) so i didn't expect to find anything i'd like or could afford.  I really don't like shopping at these types of places either, because i'm a really indecisive shopper- part of the reason i do shopping dates by myself- and the girls who work at these stores are way too in-your-face.  Of course they all chorus the whole "Irasshaimaseeeee!  Douzo goran kudasaiiiii! (Welcooooome!  Please look around!!!)" that you hear walking past any store anywhere in this country.  But then once you're in the store, they're practically breathing down your neck and anytime you so much as look at something they're right beside you giving you a detailed explanation of the product and pointing out it's cute features, etcetera etcetera.
One store in particular, i went inside because i saw some cute jackets on display.  I was looking at them and one of the workers was of course right there next to me, talking about the jackets and showing me the matching shorts that go with the jackets too.  Initially i thought it was a really good deal, because the sign read "¥3420" for the shorts set.  I decided to try them on, only to look at the price tag on the jacket, then on the shorts, and realize that there was a little "+" in front of the "¥3420", meaning that if you bought the jacket you could make it a set with the shorts for 3420yen.. the jacket itself was about 9000yen, and the shorts on their own were 5900yen.  
I opened the door to the dressing room to find the lady waiting there for me, meeting me with an "Ikaga desuka? (Would you like it?)".  I told her i wasn't going to buy it now, that i wanted to look around a little more.  Of course she was cordial. "Yes, I understand!"  And then she proceeded to follow me, stopping with me each time i stopped to look at something and she would pull it off the shelf and we'd talk about how cute it is, before i finally made it out of the store. 
The few other stores i braved weren't as intense, but still, nearly every time i showed the slightest interest in something, i felt like someone would just appear from nowhere next to me and start advertising it.

Anyway, Harajuku, in my opinion, is a much better place to shop!  And i was glad i decided to wait until Saturday, since the weather was wonderful for one, and the place was also quite bustling with life.  I am claustrophobic, but oddly i don't really mind crowds.  It just makes things feel a bit more cozy, and it also makes people watching a lot more fun!
Harajuku can also be a really cheap place to shop too, especially if you stick to the famous Takeshita-dōri.  Lots and lots of shops, with lots of cute and fun clothes for any style.  I wrote about the Thank You Mart before, and there are also some used clothing stores that are fun to check out as well.  
I came away pretty well i think!  Starting some winter-clothes shopping, since i mainly only brought summer clothes with me when i first came here in April.  
Modeling my new cap and sweater!  Yes, i know i can't model/pose to save my life, haha

New sweater, thick socks, sneakers, spiffy leopard-print shoelaces, and knitted cap!

 Came away with all of that for about 4000yen, pretty awesome deal if you ask me. :)
And of course, for me no trip to Harajuku would be complete without some delicious crepes.

I chose #13, the "Blueberry Ice", blueberry sauce and ice cream yumm!
 

 There are quite a few crepe shops around in Harajuku, and there are so many different kinds, even savory kinds like pizza or potato salad, that i feel like i have to go and try a new one each time.  It's okay, they're worth it.   :D
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