Dec 31, 2012

2012 in Review

Here it is, the last day of 2012!  I've been spending it back home in the States which has been nice, and will have an update about all the going-ons later.  Right now I'm going to take a look back at what all has happened this past crazy year.  In all honesty it was kind of a crappy year, but I can't complain too much- I have my health and a job and money to buy food and clothes and do things I like.  And the world did not end which means there is a chance to have a better year this time around.

*Rang in the New Year with the besties, S and J, at Meiji Shrine!
*Went snowboarding for the first time and loved it!  
*Lost my Grandma O, my baby girl Arctic, and my sister's kitty Diesel; and found out my aunt has cancer and had to have her leg amputated.
*Took a couple trips to Kansai with my friends.
*Acquired my Roomie!
*Celebrated my and Roomie's birthday at Tokyo Disneyland.  :D
*Watched the solar eclipse.
*Started a shitty second job (aka Other Job).
*Had to say goodbye to my first "baby", R-kun.
*Got to spend some time with my aunt, my cousin and his family at the base in Kanagawa.
*Climbed Mt. Takao, and got to go to a K-pop concert and meet the band!
*Celebrated Halloween and Thanksgiving with some good friends.  :)
*Got to come back to the US to spend Christmas and New Years with my friends and family, and got to see my older sister and my nephew for the first time in almost 2 years!

Wishing everyone a safe and happy New Year, and many good times in 2013!

Dec 8, 2012

November

Well, a month has passed in the blink of an eye and I haven't written anything about it!  Let's see what I can remember..

-November 4th:  Roomie and I took an excursion to 菓子屋横丁 (Kashiya Yokocho- Candy Alley) after watching a special about it on TV.  Took a bit of an unintentional detour on the way there and ended up walking a ways through some really peaceful countryside.





-November 11th:  Roomie and I met up with S and our other uni friend Ku in Tokyo for some amazingly delicious Chicago style pizza at a place called DevilCraft in Kanda.  It was drizzly that day and the shoes I wore had a hole in the sole of one of them so my foot got completely soaked, but I'd like to say that the pizza and good company made up for it.

-November 13th:  Had a date of sorts in Yokohama.  Had some breakfast (omelets and pancakes) for dinner, checked out the Chinatown and did some palm reading (of which I just observed), and took a ride on the Cosmo Clock 21.  Fun times!




-November 23rd-25th:  Three-day weekend!  The 23rd was a holiday- 勤労感謝の日 (Kinrou Kansha no Hi; aka Japanese Labor Day)- which just so happens to fall right after Thanksgiving in America, so Roomie and I decided to host a Thanksgiving dinner at our place.  We invited S, J, C-chan, and Sushi-kins.  Sadly J could not make it, though he did join us for a bit through Skype, and S brought her boy along.  Food and wine and shenanigans were had.
 


  
 

-December 1st:  I accompanied a coworker from my Other Job to watch the filming of an NHK program called Cool Japan, at Kanagawa University.  It was interesting, though quite a long time to be sitting in a hot auditorium with lights blaring in your eyes.  We ended up on the same train as a group of the people that appeared on the show and had a nice chat with them, during which I was asked again (3rd time in my life) if I'm British because of my "accent".  Irish, more specifically.  Which I am but I'm born and raised American and have sadly never even been to Ireland.  Someday, though.

-December 2nd:  The JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), Level 2!  I feel very confident about the listening part- it was deceivingly easy.  The kanji/vocab/grammar/reading comprehension part though.. I'm pretty apprehensive about.  Have to wait for nearly 3 months to find out the results.  Thanks guys, for making the wait excruciatingly long!

Now, less than 2 weeks until I'm on a plane back to the States for my winter vacation.  It's crazy to think about, I've been gone for so long!  Granted I did go back for a few days in February, but that was a rather miserable time and it all happened so quickly it felt like I wasn't even there.  I'll get to see my older sister and nephew for the first time in almost 2 years as well, very excited about that!  It's nice to think about going back to enjoy some time with my family and friends this time.  And of course all the food I've been missing too.

Nov 2, 2012

Halloween and Little Hugs

Last weekend Roomie and I headed over to Tokyo to see our friend Sushi-kins, who left last year to study abroad for his Masters in the UK.  He's one of our good friends we met while he was studying abroad at UW back in 2009/2010.  His birthday was last week- just before he arrived back in Japan- so last Saturday we met up at his place and brought him a cake, he made some nabe for dinner, and we stayed up late eating and drinking.  We played King's Cup, and also a drinking game while watching the first part of Breaking Dawn (if you laughed you had to take a drink.. it was so hard not to).  Poor Roomie drank a bit too much and had a hangover the next morning.  It had been a while since I'd done any drinking so I was surprised that I was fine.  Must be the Irish in me.

That Sunday we headed over to Kawasaki, since Sushi-kins lives so close.  They were having a huge Halloween parade, so we went to watch the festivities.  Lots of really amazing costumes, and some silly ones and nostalgic ones too.  And some furries...  In the evening we headed back home, got some Halloween-themed donuts from the Krispy Kreme at our station, and Roomie joined in on my annual watching of Hocus Pocus (it was her first time to see it, I couldn't believe it!).

Caramel Jack and Purple Sweet Potato donuts

 And that was the extent of my Halloween.  No surprise visits from Sexy Santa or Buzz Lightyear this year.  Maybe next time!

Nearly threw in the towel at my Other Job last week.  It's a long story and maybe I'll share it here once I'm officially finished with that job.  This past week I was debating with myself on what to do.  I had been telling myself I'd just stick it out until my contract is up in March, but after the incident last week I really considered just not going back.  
The other day though, when all the kids were lined up by class for their morning routine.  I was standing in front of my class, and my favourite kid Ei-kun (he just turned 3 years old) was standing at the front of the line, hugging my legs.  He mumbled something and I bent over and asked him what he said.
"I like Mei-sensei."
Melted my heart it did.
Yesterday we had our school trip with the kids and their parents.  Ei-kun's mom couldn't come so he was there with his grandma.  All the kids in my class decided to ride on the train that went around the little theme park we were at, and his grandma sent him on board with me while she stood with the stroller and took pictures before our departure.  He wanted to hold my hand the *whole* time, while he excitedly watched everything we passed by.


It was a good day.  I think I'll be able to make it.

Oct 25, 2012

Reunions

I was rereading through some of my previous posts last night, particularly the one I wrote about R-kun.  Still, it was much to my surprise today when just before 4pm someone showed up at the door of the daycare and rang the bell.  I glanced at the security monitor we have up by the door to see whose mother it was, but was confused by the head of bleached-blonde hair.  One of the other teachers closest to the door also seemed confused by what she saw on the screen and opened the door cautiously.  It was then I saw the somewhat familiar face that belonged to the bleached hair, and beside her the little round-faced long-haired boy I was just reminiscing about last night.

I have to admit I am not good with handling the rush of emotions that comes with surprises.  I cried at my surprise 20th birthday party, I cried last year at my birthday surprise as well, and it took all I had today to keep from bawling when I saw my little boy today, carrying a toy car in each hand.  His beloved cars- that sure hasn't changed!

It has been nearly 3 months since he came last.  He was a bit shy and cautious at first, just wanting to stay by his mum, but after about 15 minutes or so he was playing around again as if he had never even been gone.  Alas, it was goodbye again far too soon, but it was definitely a huge bright spot in an otherwise completely shitty week.  I have really missed that kid, his smile, and his craziness.  <3

Oct 20, 2012

Kids Draw the Darndest Things

At my other job, I have been reading a Halloween peek-a-boo book with my kids to help them learn some Halloween-related words (and as an added bonus have also learned the word "upside-down"- which they love to say for some reason- as there is a bat in the book that's hanging upside-down). They love the book and have been very interested in Halloween, so last week when we had a little bit of time to just do some free coloring I asked them to do a Halloween picture. When they were finished I went around and asked them each what they drew and wrote their response with their name and the date on their picture. Here are the results: 




 (This was on a rare day where I only had 5 kids.. The usual as of late has been 8 to 10 kids, all on my own. Yesterday I was on the verge of just walking out..)

Oct 13, 2012

My Friend the K-pop Star

Last weekend was a three-day weekend, with Monday being a national holiday (体育の日, Taiiku no Hi- Sports and Health Day).  Did the mountain-climbing thing on Saturday, and then Sunday was just a day for recuperation.  Monday was also mainly going to be another relax day, maybe go run some errands, but as I was sitting around Sunday night being lazy on Facebook, a friend of mine messaged me.  He was one of my housemates when I lived at the guesthouse in Osaka for a month last year.  He's back in Korea now, but we still message back and forth every once and a while, which is why I wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary when he first sent me a message, asking if I was still in Tokyo.
I said not exactly Tokyo but close enough, and then he asked if I was free the next evening.
At first I was thinking, Oh maybe he's in Japan visiting or something?
But then he said, My friend is in a Korean band and they're performing tomorrow night in Tokyo.  If you'd like you should go, you can get in for free, just give them your name.
I was like, What, really?? Okay, sure!
K-pop is my guilty pleasure.  When I was first introduced I just waved it off- just a bunch of silly boy bands after all.  But I suppose growing up in the boy-band era of the 90s with N*Sync and Backstreet Boys and all that, the nostalgia won me over.  The music is quite catchy too, in my opinion.

Anyway, he sent me a link to their Japanese website ( http://ntrain.hanryu-concert.com/ ), and then said, My friend is the band's leader, lol.
Wow, talk about connections!  I don't think they're too well known here yet- definitely not Super Junior or TVXQ status- but I feel like they are gaining some popularity.  They had a pretty good turnout at their show.
Anyway, of course I agreed after confirming if I could bring Roomie with me.  Gave him our full names, and that was it.

The next day I was really nervous on the way there.  I wasn't sure how to go about the whole "just give the staff your name" business.. it felt so VIP, and I had just found out about the band the day before!  I was telling Roomie I felt like I was going to get up there and tell them our names and then they'd be like, "Who are you?  We don't have your names down anywhere, goodbye!"
And that, kinda almost happened lol.

Getting there
We went up to the counter where you could pick up pre-purchased tickets or buy day-of tickets, and told them our names.  They of course didn't have our names down on their sheet.  I told them my Korean friend's name too, but they didn't have anything under his name either!  I pulled up Facebook (hooray for 3G smartphones!  Glad I bought one finally) and showed the guy the conversation with my friend, and the kanji for his name too just in case.  They still couldn't find anything, and while they could've just said, "Sorry, we have no proof of anything for you and we can't just go off of some Facebook conversation", they still gave us free tickets inside.  Granted, they were the cheaper 3000-yen seats, but I feel like if the same thing had happened in the US it would've just been a too-bad-so-sad sort of ordeal.

After we sat down though I messaged my friend again and told him that I told the staff our names but they didn't know anything about it.  He messaged back rather quickly saying, "What?  Just a second, someone should be coming to get you soon."
And sure enough, not even five minutes after we had sat down, one of the staff came and got us and took us up to I think about the 3rd row- to the expensive 7500-yen seats!

The Show
Then the show started.  They came out and did one of the only two songs of theirs that I had been able to find on Youtube, which I think are the only two songs they've officially released?  They did another song, I don't remember what but I don't think it was one of theirs.  I really don't remember!  After they did two (or possibly three, according to Roomie) songs they talked to the audience.  A lot, lol!  It was great seeing them try their hardest to speak in Japanese, and they honestly did quite well and only had to rely on the translator a couple times, though I still had trouble understanding their accents..  Any accent when someone is speaking Japanese is hard for me.. actually, the only accent I'm used to is my Filipino coworker's accent, haha.
The best part though was when Yu Jin said, "ウンコください!  (Unko kudasai! Poop please!)" instead of "音楽ください! (Ongaku kudasai! Music please!)"
They each came out and did their own solo thing- Jung Kyun (my friend's friend) first on the piano and singing.  Next was Sang Woo I believe.  He played the guitar, then did some stuff on the piano too.  They all had really amazing voices, but Sang Woo especially- when he started singing, Roomie and I looked at each other just like, "Wow!"  It was nice to hear that they all were really great singers even without all the synthesizers.  
After him was Soul J, who did a break dance of sorts with a couple backup dancers, which also involved him ripping off his shirt.  He then surprised us with an amazing cover of "I Believe I Can Fly".  Then was Seung Hyun, who came out and did a pretty good cover of Linkin Park.
Last was Yu Jin, who is adorable, though I don't remember what he sang.  I was too tickled by the whole poop mistake.  x)
They all came out again, talked to the audience some more, did a few more covers, and gave us a preview of some new song they're releasing.  Oh, and as a surprise for Soul J's birthday (which is this month) they had everyone at the show use green or pink paint to leave their fingerprints on a shirt as they came into the venue.  I left a couple green fingerprints not even knowing what the T-shirt was for or anything.  They brought out a cake and presented Soul J with the shirt.

Meeting
They came back out for an encore, then the show ended.  The five of them went around to stand in a line in front of the exit to clasp/shake hands with everyone as they left.  Roomie and I were the last ones in to leave from the pricey area, and as we approached them, Yu Jin, who was first in the line, looked sooooo surprised to see a couple of whiteys there!  His eyes got all big and he looked soooo excited and said, "OH!  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!" as he grabbed our hands (they weren't doing normal handshakes, it was more like a double high-five hand-clasp-in-the-air thing).  It was weird to have a (semi-)famous person be so excited to see me!  Then I approached Jung Kyun who was in the middle of the line, and when he saw me I think he realized who I was, because his eyes got all big and he was trying to ask me if I was so-and-so's friend, though I didn't get a chance to answer because there was some staff lady who was standing there and pushing everyone along, so I tried to nod my head and shout "yes" before I was pushed out of sight.

Roomie and I were standing out around the merchandise booth, trying to figure out how to get into the signing session so I could at least try to greet him properly, when a cameraman came up wanting to interview us.  I hope they never air that footage because it was so awkward having this huge camera lens a mere foot away from my face, and to finish it up they wanted us to give a special message to the band while holding the little file-folder set I had just bought in an attempt to get a pass to the signing session.  All I could think of was I just found out about these guys yesterday, what the hell should I even say!?  We ended up just saying generic things like, "We love you N-Train!  We're rooting for you! Ganbatte! Fight (said with Japanese accent)!"
Afterward we found out that we'd have to buy this 4000-yen merchandise set to get into the signing session, and were just ready to give up and leave when the staff guy that brought us to our special seats came to fetch us and took us upstairs where the signing was taking place, then just left us there right near the signing table.  Roomie and I stood there awkwardly while waiting for the signing session to finish, all the while trying to ignore the stares of all the people in line who were probably thinking "Who the hell are they?"
Roomie said she saw Jung Kyung pointing to me and (probably) explaining to the other guys who I was.  After the signing finished, they all came over to greet us- shook our hands, introduced themselves in English, thanked us for coming, yadda yadda.  They all seemed genuinely nice.  Then Jung Kyung suggested we all take a picture, so the group gathered and one of the staff took a picture with my phone.  They of course were very busy and the staff/management people were trying to hurry them away for whatever they had to do next.  We said our goodbyes, Jung Kyung shook my hand again and.. said something along the lines of contacting me through our friend.  Or something.  (Two non-native Japanese speakers speaking Japanese to each other can sometimes lead to miscommunications!)

Anyway, that was that.  My friend must really be close to Jung Kyung because by the time I got home and logged onto Facebook, my friend messaged me saying, "How was it?  Jung Kyung told me you guys took a picture, I want to see it!"  So I uploaded it, he tagged me and Jung Kyung, and then later Jung Kyung sent me a friend request.  (Because nothing's official until it's on Facebook right?)
So that was my unexpected, most exciting moment of the year, haha.  And I did enjoy their performance and I do like the two songs they have out, so if K-pop is your thing I would definitely recommend checking out N-Train.  :)


Back, from L to R: Roomie, me, Jung Kyun.  Middle, LtoR: Yu Jin, Seung Hyun, Sang Woo.  Front: Soul-J


(In addition to my hair looking stupid, I just realized... I'm the oldest one in this picture, and that makes me sad!)


Oct 7, 2012

Pregnancies and Scaling Mountains

Nothing particularly new or exciting as of late.  Just keeping up the same old rhythm of waking up, working, coming home for dinner, then going to bed to do it all again the next day.  I don't mind long work days.. in fact a 12-hour work day is quite normal here.  But my Other Job is just plain unpleasant, which makes getting up for work in the mornings a bit of a chore.  And it's not just me.  There have been many people who've quit because of multiple issues with the company.  Keep in mind that I am actually a replacement for the teacher who was in charge of the 3-year-old class because she quit, and in the past couple weeks alone there has been a great exodus, with four teachers leaving.  There's been some murmurs and I have a feeling there will be one more soon.
Not me though.  I've dealt with unpleasant jobs before, and there's just a few months more left that I have to deal with.  When I first started my Other Job, Roomie asked how long I had to work at that place and I replied, "About eight months."
To which she exclaimed, "Eight months, that's a long time!  That's like, having a baby.  You could be pregnant that whole time!"
So it's been our running joke that the Other Job is my "pregnancy".  I'm getting sick all the time at that place, so we've been calling it "morning sickness", or she'll ask me if I think I can make it to term and I'll reply, "Yeah, I don't think I could go through with an abortion."  Sometimes I'll say, "I'm sick of being pregnant!" and she'll offer some encouragement and say, "Just a few more months, then you can give it up for adoption!"  Probably offensive jokes to some, but it always gives us a laugh.

I contracted a pretty bad cold at that place about a month ago and have had a cough ever since.  The first two weeks were pretty bad, to the point where I would dry-heave and nearly throw up from coughing fits.  Went to the doctor finally and got a round of meds to take.  They helped significantly, but I'm still coughing stuff up.  All of us teachers are always sick at that place, I wonder how long it'll take to fully get rid of this cough..

In some more exciting news- did some mountain climbing yesterday!  Went to Mount Takao, which is very close to Tokyo, and not an extremely huge mountain so it's do-able for people like me who are not regular mountaineers.  The plan was to do it last weekend but with the typhoon rolling in we pushed it to this weekend.  It was me, Roomie, our friend C-chan and a two of her long-time friends.  There was one more of her friends who was supposed to come but he got tied up with work so he couldn't make it.  The five of us met in Shinjuku and relaxed in Starbucks for a while, waiting to see if he could make it, but 11am rolled around and there was no word from him so we headed off for the mountain. 
It was very nice weather-wise.  Partly cloudy, not hot and not rainy.  We got a bit sweaty along the first stretch, but after we got used to the climb we weren't breathing so hard or sweating so much, and it was fairly nice going after that. 
We had chosen a couple different trails we wanted to take on the way up and down to see certain things like the monkey park, the bridge, and the waterfall, but somehow kept taking the wrong paths whenever the trail branched off.  We did pass by the monkey park but didn't go in because we didn't want to pay for the admission, lol.  We also did make it to the bridge on our way down, but somewhere along the way we strayed from the main trail onto one that was more off the beaten path, and ended up on the other side of the mountain from where we wanted to be!  Luckily we found a bus stop to take us back around to the train station, but not before C-chan, Roomie, and I tried our hand at hitchhiking.  There were many cars that slowed, but I think once they saw our group of five they would decide that was too many and pass us by. 
By the time we got back to the station it was dark.  We freshened up before heading back to Shinjuku to find someplace to eat for dinner.  We decided on Indian food and enjoyed our yummy curry while chatting away. 
C-chan, Roomie and I had a bit of issues trying to get on the right train back home, I think because we were all so tired!  We were running up and down stairs from platform to platform trying to catch the appropriate train.  It took us about five tries and we were laughing so hard at our stupidity!  But luckily we made it in the end.  Definitely a good day, and I think we're all agreed on another excursion again soon.  :)



Sep 22, 2012

Boat Rides

I got so wrapped up in Crazy Mama Drama that I didn't even write about my yakatabune experience.

Roomie and I were invited to go on this yakatabune excursion back on the 9th.  We met up with Mr. Big Bear and M-sensei and headed to the meeting spot where we were picked up by a large tour bus.  There were about 30+ others on the bus already.  We were given drinks and snacks as soon as we sat down, then we headed off to Tokyo.

The whole boat ride pretty much just consisted of eating and drinking.  When we tired of that we could go up onto the roof of the boat and hang out.  It was a fairly nice evening, especially with the breeze from the moving boat.  Got lots of really nice pictures.




Also, just last night Roomie and I went over to Mama Ann's apartment, because she wanted me to show her how to make bibimbap.  So we had a delicious dinner then rode our bikes over to the closest Aeon mall.  I didn't plan on buying anything but there were some really good deals that would've been silly to pass up!

I had been wanting some jean capris for a while.. now that it's finally cooled off I probably won't get to wear them until next year, but they were marked down from ¥1980 to ¥980, plus an additional 30% off at the register, so they were only ¥600-something! 
I've always been a one-bag kind of person... the thought of having to transfer everything from one bag to the other each day just seemed bothersome.  BUT!  This bag was cute, red plaid flannel material, and no leather handles or anything.  Only ¥980.  :)
And lastly.. Roomie was looking at baby clothes for her new nephew who's due in January, and I saw this and thought it was too cute!  Normally I wouldn't've bought it, but it was on sale for only ¥100!  It seemed too good to pass up.  My reasoning was that someone I know will get preggers eventually, right?  Well, if it's a boy then I've got part of a gift already bought!  But for now, I guess it's just going to sit in the closet, lol..  Any takers??



Sep 15, 2012

More Drama Ensues

Crazy Chinese Mother has returned to bring more drama!  So much for her daughter being in another class and not having to deal with her.
So, Thursday morning she came to the school to drop off her daughter as always.  I was going about my morning duties as usual when one of the Japanese staff came up to me and said CCM wanted to talk to me about something that happened yesterday.
Seriously?  Again??? was all I could think.

So, she told me about how her daughter had said that yesterday, in the morning during their free playtime she had fallen, and that I went over and pulled her to her feet and said to her, "何やってんの?"  (Nani yattenno? A kind of rude/slang way of saying "What are you doing?")

Oh, the ridiculousness of it!  I don't think I've ever spoken a word of Japanese to any of the students.  I rarely even speak Japanese to any of the Japanese staff because it's an English school and we try to avoid using Japanese in front of the students and parents if at all possible.
The Japanese staff lady who CCM was using as a kind of go-between, bless her heart, stood her ground and stood up for me and insisted that none of the English teachers speak Japanese to the students, and that she's never heard me speak Japanese either.  CCM hmmm'ed and haaa'ed and rambled and insisted she didn't think her daughter would lie, and finally just told me to "Use my smell to the children."
I just kind of went, "Ohh.. kay."  I thought perhaps she meant something about some 'sense' or something, I have no idea.
"You understand what I say?"
"Umm, not really... use my smell?"
"Yes, use your smell with the children."
I looked at Nice Japanese Staff  Lady for help.
"におい?" NJSL asked for confirmation using the word for smell in Japanese.
"No no," and she pointed to her cheek and made as much of a smile as her permanently angry-looking face could muster.
"Oh, smile!" NJSL explaimed.
"Yes, smell." CCM continued.
I just nodded, saying, "Okay, okay."
She finally left.

Other teacher, who has CCM's daughter, came to me later and said there was a note for me in the renrakuchou.  And what a note it was!  An angry, scathing note questioning why I would say such a thing to her daughter when she fell down, didn't I know what I was saying?, and that I should say sorry to them, "because you should be!"
 I wrote as polite of a reply as I could, explaining that her daughter did not in fact fall, but that she and another girl were goofing off during our morning activities and that I had asked them to stop playing and stand up, and that I never use Japanese in front of any of the students.  

Friday came, and so did her reply in the notebook: I hope what you said is true.
So, again, I wrote another politely-worded but firm reply, that yes it is true, that I have no need to use Japanese at the school as my job is to teach English, which is my first language and what I use naturally anyway, and that I didn't think her daughter was purposely telling lies but that children that young don't always understand everything around them, especially if it's in a new language to them, sometimes they just make mistakes.  
There was a lot more that I went on about, but that's the gist of it.

All my Japanese coworkers have been very supportive of me, which has been nice.  "Don't let her bother you!"  "I know you didn't say that, don't worry!"
Even one of the higher-ups came in on Friday before classes let out, to tell me that she knew I wouldn't say that and that she was going to talk to CCM and explain to her that her daughter had probably picked up that phrase from other kids in the class.
CCM was cordial to me that day when she came to pick up her daughter, but I left shortly after so I don't know what happened after the higher-up spoke to her or after she read my last reply.  We'll see what comes of it on Tuesday I guess.  Monday is a national holiday... definitely a much-needed 3-day weekend as I have also had this really persistent cough all week that I just can't seem to kick!  Did a really thorough cleaning today, which was also much-needed, so the next couple days I can just enjoy and relax.
So, in parting I'll leave you with the lovely view I had from my kitchen window today.



Sep 12, 2012

Foooood, Family, and Fun

To counter the negativity from the post about the crazy mum, I thought I'd share the letter I got from a different student's mum a couple weeks ago.



"Hello.  Thank you for always taking care of my daughter.  Every week she comes home saying things like "I did my best today so I got a sticker!" and "I answered lots of questions so I got a little note pad!", and seems like she's really enjoying it.  Thank you.  Please continue to help her with her English studies."

Notes like that really help brighten my day, especially since it's from one of my Wednesday evening students.  Normally I dread those classes (one of which includes the Little Shits I talked about before), but I do enjoy my last class.  They're good kids, and to make things a little more fun for them and to motivate them more, I started this point system.  Each time they answer a question they get a point, even if the answer is wrong.  I don't care about mistakes, I'm there to correct them, but I can't correct them if they don't speak!  
Then, at the beginning of the class the following week, I total up who had the most points from the previous week, and that person gets a piece of candy and a sticker (and since everyone always tries their best and answers as many questions as they can, the others get to choose either a sticker or a piece of candy).
And *then*, at the end of 4 weeks, whoever had the most points total gets to choose a prize.  Granted, it was all stuff I just grabbed at the 100 yen store, but they were *so* excited when I pulled out the bag and were ooh-ing and aah-ing over everything, saying how lucky the girl was who won.  Like I said, they're good kids, and I felt bad for them at first because every class I ask them how they are and they always say 'tired' and 'sleepy'.  They're worked too hard, these kids, so I'm glad I can help them enjoy the class at least a little bit. :)

Anywho, on to other recent events.  


Went to a Bon Odori with Roomie and Mama Ann.  Mr. Big Bear was working the anpan stand and his friends were working the yakisoba stand and the drink stand, so we got free food!  :)  And a TON of raffle tickets.  I swear we had about 40, so the three of us divided them and during the raffle drawing would search through our stacks to see if our number was called.  There were lots of great prizes and we would've been happy with any of them, even the bag of rice which we needed at the time, lol.  But alas, nothing.  It was still a fun night though.



Roach Battle.  This is part 2.  I won't show part 1, which is The One That Got Away, since it's really just a bunch of screaming and no real conclusion (although we set up a trap for it and caught it that night).  This one's ending is a bit more satisfying.
And if you don't know me, I just have to make it clear that I am not a wuss!  Bugs don't bother me- moths, beetles, spiders.. even had a pet tarantula at one point and held it with my bare hands!  And I love lizards and snakes and the like too.  But roaches... guhhh.  They're just little demons after my soul.  

Finally, last weekend I went to go visit some of my family who's here in Japan!  My cousin is in the military and got stationed here, so he and his wife and 3 kids moved here this past March.  My aunt (his mum) came over to visit them, and they invited me to join them for their middle daughter's birthday party.  Mr. Big Bear gave me that Friday off, and I called in sick to Other Job that day too so I could go to the immigration office and get my visa officially renewed (finally!).  Headed over to the base after all that was taken care of, and spent the night there and hung around most of Saturday too, just visiting.  It was really nice, and I got to see  my little second cousins who weren't so little anymore!  Before I left they also took me to the grocery store on base so I could get some comfort foods I had been missing.  :)  Got my belly filled with lots of good-old Amurrican cookin' while I was there too.
Got a nice family picture of them all, but my aunt and cousin's wife were insistent that I not post it even on Facebook, which is private, so I doubt they'd be happy if I put it here.  Instead you get a picture of my food haul.



Soooo many good vegetarian/vegan things that I just can't get here, and at the same price I'd pay back in the States.  :)
Nice to have family close by that I can visit when I'm getting a little homesick.


Sep 6, 2012

Problem Parents

A "problem child" is to be expected when teaching, and while irritating they are tolerable.  After all they are children, and as such will act like a child.  What is really irritating to deal with are the problem parents, and I had my first one this week!  Basically, the parent of a newer student, who started just a few weeks ago, was all in a huff when she came to pick her kid up after her trial Art Kids lesson (an art class thing offered on Wednesdays after regular school ends at 2pm, when I and all the other teachers go home).  Her daughter was supposedly crying and had a scratch and bruise under her eye.  The girl said it was because another kid in my class hit her (said kid isn't even there for the art class), and the next day mother came in all upset with me and my helper-teacher for not saying anything about it.  In her broken English she told me she didn't think I wasn't "pro".  I looked at her incredulously before having to stifle the laughter and the urge to tell her, "Of course I'm not, do you think this company would fork over the money to pay a 'professional teacher'?"  And then I just felt pissed off and wanted to tell her, "Alright, let's stick you in a class with 10 psychotic three-year-olds and see how you fair." 
Because seriously, that's how it was.  Granted, there were two teachers in that class.. it was chaos when it was nine kids but when they decided to stuff one more new kid in our class this past week that was just kind of the breaking point for me and I told them that having this many little kids in one classroom (and having to actually TEACH them) was just insane.  (I won't go into all the other reasons why I think this company is just complete BS.  That could take up a whole other post..)

But then to have this mother get all pissed with me because "I wasn't watching her daughter", just really f***** me off.  She wrote a long note in the renrakuchou (little notebook for notes between the parents and the school) that she wanted us two teachers to read and write a response to.  Other teacher ended up writing the response, because they FINALLY split our class and that girl is in the other teacher's class, not mine thank God.  Now I won't have to deal with that mother's nonsense.  Though I really did want to be the one to write the response.. other teacher was quite nice in her response, but it might just be that I'm at the point where I don't give a shit anymore.
Don't get me wrong, I completely understand that, as the mother, she would want to know what's going on with her child and if there are any problems.  But then to go off on me with out knowing the situation and to question my capabilities...   Rrr!!

First- when I left at 2pm your daughter was perfectly fine.  She was making her usual goofy faces as we sang the good-bye song.  Her eye was fine, she wasn't crying.  If something happened during the extra hour she was there after I left, well how the hell am I supposed to know about that?

Second- if it did happen during class time with the kid she claims hit her, and I didn't see it?  That's something that needs to be taken up with the company.  I have TEN KIDS to look after, with only two eyes that can only see in one direction at once, and there is almost always at least one kid screaming and crying for one reason or another that needs to be held/comforted, or other kids arguing over toys who need to be talked to, notes that need to be written to other parents, lessons that need to be planned, all while 10 little maniacs run around strewing toys everywhere.  Granted yes, I have help, but she is also trying to do all the things I'm trying to do as well.  Sorry ma'am, I can't watch ONLY your daughter for every bloody second of the day.  If that kid hit her in the few seconds my eyes were averted, and she didn't cry or say anything to me, it must have not bothered her all that much.  They were playing together the whole time, carrying around a basket of plastic fruit together and everything.  They took a couple spills because they wouldn't stop running around, jerking each other about with that basket, but I certainly did not see any hitting.  Ever consider the possibility that your daughter isn't telling the truth?  She is 3 after all.  Kids are good at making stuff up.  I doubt she'd be doing it maliciously to get the kid in trouble, or even intentionally.. Maybe one of those times she fell and bumped heads with said kid, or the kid just accidentally got her in the face while they were playing, but in her mind he hit her on purpose
And lastly- questioning my ability.  Hi, yes.. you have one daughter.  I have taken care of more kids in the past year than you probably ever will in your entire life, under the guidance of licensed day care workers and a child psychologist.  No, I am not an expert by any means and I don't pretend to be, but I've been around kids enough to know how they interact with each other, and how to handle situations like fighting, hitting, etc.  If I had seen something happen, I would have addressed it appropriately.  So please give credit where credit is due.

I knew I'd be having issues with this woman the first week her daughter was here.  Her daughter was crying one morning and was saying she didn't want to go to school because some kid was being mean to her.  I knew for a fact that wasn't the case.  Said kid hardly even interacted with her that first week.  It was the girl's first week at the school, after having just moved to Japan from China.. of course she's going to be upset having to be adjusting to so much at once.  But mother was so concerned, making a big fuss with me and all the Japanese staff that we have to watch her daughter and make sure she has this and that and is comfortable and happy and rah rah.  
Yes.  Because we don't do that already..
All the other parents I've ever dealt with have been wonderful and understanding, and I've even gotten some really sweet notes from some of the mothers in the renrakuchou..  I know I shouldn't let this old biddy with unrealistic expectations get to me.  I just needed to rant.  

I would like to hear other people's perspectives on the matter though.  From a mother's perspective, or another teacher's perspective?  Or just and outsider's view.

I didn't want to get into it too much, but that just turned into a really long rant.  But, like I said, the classes are finally split so I'll only have half a flock to look after and won't have to deal with crazy mum.  Yesterday was the first day with five kids and my goodness it was a dream!  I didn't feel like wringing their necks every five minutes!  :D
Called in sick today though so I could go to the immigration office (they wouldn't give me the day off for that, but that's another rant I'll spare you), and then it's off to visit my aunt, and my cousin and his family.  Should be a good day ahead.. gotta hurry and get ready.

Sep 2, 2012

Kitties and Goldfish

Been a while since I've really posted about any of the going-ons in my life.  Working two jobs sure can take up a lot of one's time.

Well, lets see.. The few days before August 4th (the day my visa was to expire) was a bit of a whirlwind of last-minute visa-extension madness.  Turns out my Other Job had forgotten that my visa was expiring and they didn't have any of their stuff together.  Luckily though I got a couple days off to do all the errands that needed to be done, like getting a hanko (name stamp) made so that I could then open a bank account. 

My hanko.  Got my first name done instead of my last name, because my last name uses four kanji characters and for that I would've had to buy the bigger, more expensive one.  I like the characters of my first name better anyway.  Hanko here are often used for stamping official documents, and you need one here to open a bank account.
Hadn't had any need for a bank account up until now, but Other Job requires us to have one if they're sponsoring our visa, so get one I did.  The process took almost 3 hours; 2 of those I swear were just spent waiting.  The lady went through the trouble of explaining the different account types and terms and conditions and whatnot, and a lot of it was over my head but I'm proud to say that I got it done all by myself!  I am now the proud owner of a Hello Kitty bank card.

Kitty-chan cash card!  Came with a Hello Kitty bank book and pack of HK tissues too. 


 There was a lot of other document-gathering, taking of ID photos, and excessive amounts of running/biking around (thank God I had just bought my own bike, sure saved my butt), but I got everything turned in on time.  Will finally be able to go back for my new visa stamp within the next couple of days.

A few weeks ago, friend Gaki-chan and his girlfriend (who came with us to Disneyland back in April, she's a nice girl :) ) came up from Nagano, and S came down from Ibaraki and we all met up to go see this goldfish exhibit that just opened up in Tokyo.  Very interesting, and very artsy.  It was only 1000 yen to get in so I think it's worth a visit.


There has also been a Bon Odori festival, and a couple epic cockroach battles on the home front as well.  I have videos of both, I'll try to get those posted before too long.

This Friday I'm going to meet with my aunt who is here to visit, and my cousin and his family who are stationed here, so expect to hear about that in the near future as well!
Now, I'd best be getting ready for bed.  I need all the rest I can get in order to function during the chaos that is work.


Aug 14, 2012

Exercising My Freedom of Speech

The whole Chick-Fil-A ordeal had pretty much blown over now, thankfully, and people are now starting to move on to other things like.. Pepsi.  More on that in a second.
Now, I kept fairly quiet through the whole thing, and while I don't want this to be a politically-influenced blog I just feel the need to rant about a couple of things. 

First, how on earth did it all become about the 1st Amendment?  I'm sorry but no one's 1st Amendment rights were or are compromised.  The CEO has every right to state his views, and as far as I know no one tried to come in and sue him for saying those things. Why?  BECAUSE OF HIS 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHTS.  And as far as I know, no one is trying to do away with the 1st Amendment either.  So to all who lined up for hours to buy some oh-so-healthy fast food goodness under the guise of supporting freedom of speech- congratulations, you successfully supported nothing but a multi-million dollar company whose rights were never compromised in the first place.  
Yes, everyone still has their freedom of speech.  However, that DOES NOT make you immune to backlash from people whom you offend with your words.  So, boycotting Chick-Fil-A because you don't agree with the CEO's values does not equal trying to take away someone's 1st Amendment rights.  Just to clear that up.

However, if you really went to Chick-Fil-A to show you objection to same-sex marriage, your money could have been so much more well-spent if you had just given it directly to the anti-LGBT groups that Chick-Fil-A supports.  

Which, my friends, is the real issue.
Now, it's one thing to have a differing opinion (though, as the CEO of a large company I think it's quite unprofessional to make such statements against a group of people like that).  While I feel his views are quite bigoted and outdated, whatever.  I get it.  Gay marriage is against his religious beliefs.  Good for him, he's doing such a good job following his beliefs and not getting a gay marriage.  BUT!  Supporting groups whose goal is to take away the rights of the gay community, that is a lot different.  
Let's just try looking at it in a different light.
As bogus as it is, please pretend for a second that Mr. Cathy was not opposed to gay marriage, but was instead opposed to Christianity (yes, I know.. when Hell freezes over, but this is for example's sake).  Now, if he had publicly announced that he was anti-Christian, I can guarantee there would be backlash there.  But, what if in addition to that he was also monetarily supporting anti-Christian groups who were working to take away people's rights to practice Christianity.  Sounds absurd, right?  But there is absolutely no difference.  Oh, you don't agree with homosexuality?  Well, let's just take away the rights of homosexuals!  What, you don't agree with Christianity?  Alright, let's just put an end to that shall we?

Now, in addition to all of the chicken hubbub, I've started seeing this too:

Okay, now this smells so strongly of double-standards I think I might gag.  The people opposed to Dan Cathy's views chose to boycott the company and all these people come out wailing about freedom of speech and blah blah I support you Chick-Fil-A let's buy some chicken sandwiches.  But now here comes Pepsi, not even saying anything against Christianity, but you know hey they don't want to use the word God so let's boycott their God-less cans.  I honestly don't get it.. what happened to the freedom of speech you all were going on about a couple weeks ago? 
[Edit: Apparently this isn't new, but that it's even resurfacing is still very very sad.)

We all have different views and different lifestyles.  We're not going to always agree and that's just fine.  Boycott the chicken burgers or line up for hours to buy them, whatever suits your fancy.  But let's not take away people's rights because you don't agree with them.  So many of my good friends and family are devout Christians, and I would definitely have something to say if there were people out there trying to make sure they could no longer live the life that gives them purpose and happiness.  But, you know what?  Their rights are already protected and are not being threatened.  I only wish to see the same for my good friends and family who are gay.

 
 

Aug 4, 2012

R-kun

I had mentioned before about writing about each of my kids at the daycare.  I had some free time one day between shifts at my other job so typed up a draft about my favourite kiddo, R-kun.  There was Baby R-kun as well, but he moved away back in April, and while Baby R-kun was my favourite of the babies (under 1 year), R-kun was my favourite of all.  My baby.  He was there Monday through Friday, from about 8:30am to about 6:30pm, just about every single day the daycare was open (I only remember him being absent 3 or 4 days when he had the chickenpox), since shortly after the daycare opened for business in April 2011.  I started working there July 2011, so we were together just about every single day from the beginning. 

But shortly after I wrote up this draft, I got the news I knew I would dread hearing.  R-kun was leaving.  The reason for him leaving was especially upsetting, but as I don't feel it is right to post publicly about his family situation I'll spare you that rant.  In the end he was leaving, and that honestly was a bit hard to take.  I never saw myself getting so attached to these kids, but it's hard not to.  You end up being their parent for a good part of their day, and when you're with them that much for pretty much half of their 1- or 2-year life, it's kind of inevitable.  You're part of their life and vice-versa.

I had to say my goodbyes last Tuesday, the 31st.  He went home at the end of the day, just like every other day, but not knowing he would not be coming back like he had every day for nearly the past year-and-a-half.  Not having him greet me with his huge grin and a big hug when I showed up for work this past week was rough.  Granted I got smiles and hugs from my other babies (and some head-nuzzles too from Yama-chan), and I do love them to bits as well, it's just not the same without R-kun.

I figure I'll just post what I had wrote about him initially since I wrote a lot about his English ability, which has really amazed me.  I hope wherever he goes he still gets that exposure.. English is required here from elementary school now, and he'll be so far ahead of the others if he keeps it up.  Regardless, I hope he has plenty of opportunities in life, and grows up strong and happy like he deserves to be.

Now on to the part where I gush about how awesome he is..

Jul 23, 2012

Just Lucky I Guess

I guess the weather took my misery to heart and cooled off considerably this weekend.  It was absolutely lovely, I actually got chilly during the night and had to use a blanket!  And when Roomie and I went to the festival on Sunday, it was perfect temperature-wise, and cloudy but no rain.  I wish it would be like that all summer.  It is cloudy still today but it's definitely getting warmer again.  Have the fan on my right now.
Now some pics from the weekend.  We were watching the mikoshi parade (same one as last year), and I was wondering if the same group that let me join them last year would be there again.  I was looking for their yellow sign, but they had a blue one this year which I didn't see, until all of a sudden the guy leading the mikoshi was running over to Roomie and I, grabbing our wrists, and telling us to "Come on, come on!" before throwing us into the middle of their mikoshi-carrying group.  A few of the people recognized me from last year, and one guy even remembered my name!




Jul 16, 2012

'Tis the Season

'Tis the season- when the giant roaches emerge, the mosquitoes flock to feast upon my blood, my armpits stink, and I'm constantly wiping up underboob sweat and picking sweaty wedgies.  Oh, summer how I loathe thee.
A sane person would stay inside with the A/C on if they're lucky enough to have it, or in my case in front of the fan.  But I was invited by my boss to join in the mikoshi-carrying festivities that happened yesterday, so I layered up in the traditional clothes I was lent and gifted with and shouldered a huge, heavy portable Shinto shrine for the good part of four hours yesterday.  Sweatiness and bruised shoulders aside, it was a fun experience.  You may remember my post from last year, where by chance I was summoned from the sidelines of the mikoshi parade to join in the carrying.  That was fun, but it was even better to actually be a real part of it this year.
Video to follow soon, maybe.  :)

Jul 9, 2012

Pics From the Weekend

Went to see the Tokyo SkyTree this weekend. There was lots to see, and TONS to eat.


Jul 7, 2012

Doctor's Visits and Star Festivals

Spent another enjoyable Saturday morning/afternoon at the women's clinic today, to get the results of my uterine cancer/health check from last month.  I went in shortly after 11am, thinking I'd be in and out rather quickly since I was just there to get the results from the check.  Nope.  Had to sit for an hour and a half before I was called in to see the doctor.  He showed me the paper with my results, told me I had no uterine cancer (yay!) and that all of my blood counts, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. was all normal.  Though there was a little asterisk next to my BMI and he told me I was "ちょっとやせています" (a little skinny), but that otherwise everything else was fine.  Took all of 1 minute, then went out to wait again for about 10 minutes before they called me up to the counter to hand me the same exact documents the doctor just went over with me, and tell me there was no charge for today and that was it.  Woo.

Today is 七夕 (tanabata, Star Festival).  I'll let Wikipedia tell you about it in more detail, but normally one would write their wish on a piece of paper and hang it on bamboo.  However, it's been rainy all day and it's said that your wish won't come true if it's cloudy/rainy, so I didn't make a wish this year.  Tanabata was the first festival I got to experience when I came to Japan for my homestay 8 years ago, so I am quite fond of it.  Though I didn't make a wish, I did make some of the traditional origami to hang on the bamboo sprig I got from my boss.  :)  I don't have a picture, but here's a website where you can learn to make some origami of your own: Star Festival Origami

Now, just thought I'd upload a slideshow of some pics I never got around to putting up here, from the Thai Festival that Roomie and I went to last month.





Now just some other recent pictures:

Roomie and I met up with C-chan at a cool cafe!



Roomie and I made pancakes at home!  In high school my friends and I would always put food coloring in our pancakes, so for old time's sake I wanted to do it again.  The powdered food dye is a lot stronger than the liquid stuff so the colors came out really amazing.  I don't recommend using the blue though, unless you want hunter-green poo for two days.  That was weird..

Jul 4, 2012

Happy 4th! And a Bit of Shit

Happy 4th of July! From a cute little kitty.

And for the fun of it, cakes with some very special rockets.

Didn't do anything celebratory today.  There was a summer festival at my local shrine today (coincidentally... obviously they don't celebrate Independence Day here so it was just a random summer fest), but was too tired after work to check it out.  Today being a Wednesday I was at my second job all day.  Mondays I'm at the daycare from 11am-8 or 9pm; Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday I do classes with the 2- to 3-year-olds at my second job until 12:30, then go to the daycare from 3pm; and Wednesdays I do the toddler thing til 12:30, then do evening lessons at the school's offices from 4:20 to 6:30.  A huge break in between which is pretty stupid, but I've been making use of it by bringing my laptop and JLPT study book, and studying and eating lunch at cafes in the area or going up to the rooftop park atop the Sogo shopping center.  

Still, I'd rather go straight from the toddlers classes to doing my 2+ hours (one 50-minute class and two 40-minute) of teaching the elementary schoolers then be done with it earlier.  And to be honest I'm really not a fan of doing those classes.  They're scheduled literally back-to-back, and I have to make sure to finish the first class one minute early so I can dash to the next class.  My first class is fine, a private student.  He's a good kid, but he's young and gets bored and doesn't like studying for too long.  I don't blame him and try to make things fun and let him goof off/take multiple trips to the bathroom if he wants.

Second class though, there are six kids, about 9 and 10 years old.  Two boys, four girls.  The girls are the most timid, soft-spoken things ever and I have the hardest time hearing their responses to anything I ask them, and the two boys are rambunctious little shits- flinging things across the room, flailing around in their chairs, making snide remarks...  Last week- my first time with them- left me quite frazzled.  I knew what to expect this time though, and came prepared.  I ran by the 100 yen shop before heading in to do the classes and bought a pack of little foam balls.  I came up with a game where I had the action words they were supposed to be learning lined up on the board- the one holding the ball would ask "What is he/she doing?", and the other would reply "He/she is ________ing."  Then the one with the ball would have to throw it and hit the appropriate action. There were only 2 of them in the class today, since the others were taking a test in another room, so it was just one Little Shit and one Quiet Girl, and they both seemed to quite enjoy that one.  At the end of the class when the other kids were coming back from their tests for the second half of their lesson with another teacher I heard LS 1 telling LS 2 "Today was fun, we played this game and blah blah blah...", so that made me feel accomplished.  Even if they are terrible I feel bad for them for being there even if they don't like it.  I feel like, for kids their age at least, once school is out they should go home, finish their homework, then go and be a kid.  But it's not that way here, so if I can get them to laugh or crack a smile, while speaking at least a couple English phrases, I feel like I've done my part.

While those classes aren't very enjoyable for me, the private lessons I do for the older kids/adults in the evenings at the daycare are a lot better, and I actually enjoy a few of my students there.  The youngest ones I have there are 1st year in junior high, so 11 or 12 I think.  Either they like learning English, or they're just a lot better behaved.  I do enjoy them though, they're good kids.
But, in the end, I've discovered I'm really just not meant to be a teacher.  I'm a good bull-shitter though, and I speak English obviously, which I think are the only two qualifications for teaching English here.  Anyway, I just hope I can eventually move on to something different.

I realize there was a lot of negativity in this post about the way things are here.  As a whole, I do enjoy living and working here, but not everything is all sunshine and unicorns.  I just had to rant about the little piles of unicorn poo that are lying around.  ;)


Jul 3, 2012

Two Jobs and Tall Noses

Well, i haven't posted anything substantial for a while.  Most of my days just consist of work- not that it's a bad thing because hey, i have a job (two now, actually!)- but it's just not anything really blog-worthy.  I always think about all the things i could write about my kids though, but i could probably write a whole entry about each one of them!  Which, i think i might when i get around to it.
But about the two-job thing.. my boss was having difficulties with being able to get my visa renewed for some technicality or another (it's a small business/new business/daycare-hiring-an-English-teacher?  I don't know... in short, Immigration here is stupid.  Not as stupid as it is in the US but still..).  SO.  I got right online to find something on Gaijinpot.  Low and behold the night i checked the site the company one of my former housemates used to work at a few stations away had just posted a listing.  I sent them my resume and heard back from them by the end of the week to set up an interview.  Last week was my first week with them.  The pay is good, i get paid holidays, visa support, etc... The contract is only until March too, which is fine.  Working two jobs 9am-9pm five days a week is not something i think i can keep up for too long.  I don't know how the salary men here can do it.  I've talked to people who often work 14 or more hours a day...  That's insane.
But anyway, it's fine for now.  My time at University was even more insane than this, so i know i can do it.  I have another game plan for the future which i'm quite excited for and the money from this is just what i need. :)

Aside from that nothing else really.  My weekends keep me sane.  Sometimes i do fun things, sometimes just poop around and relax.  Roomie is back in the States now for a friend's wedding so it's just me.  Last weekend i entertained myself by going around Tokyo (Ueno, Harajuku, Shin-Okubo) to look for birthday gifts and check another DonQuijote for a little travel suitcase i've been wanting.  All the ones in my area were out of the design i wanted, and everywhere else i look didn't have very cute suitcases and they were all very expensive.
By chance, after my day out in Tokyo i stopped by the Donki at my station to look at their sunglasses since mine broke, and much to my joy they had it back in stock!  I've been checking DonQuijotes for probably 3 months now, lol.  My persistence finally paid off.

I just had to have the purple-and-black-checked one

Had quite an interesting encounter at the Donki that night too.  If you read my Facebook posts you've already heard about this (translated):
‎(Today, at the DonQuijote)
Good-Looking Guy: What nationality are you?
Me: American
GLG: American? You're good at Japanese.
Me: Oh, no not really... (Can you tell from just one word??)
GLG: Your nose is tall/high!
Me: .... yeah, so I'm told.
(GLG's friend appears)
GLG: Well, thanks! (To his friend) She said she's American!

I was left just kind of baffled.  Oddly enough i've had strikingly similar conversations before, either having my Japanese complimented after having said something as stupid as 'thank you' or 'one peach and whip cream crepe please'.  And the "tall nose" thing too.  Curse my tall-nosedness.  I am told it is a good thing.  Still, it's funny the kinds of things they notice.  Before coming here i never thought about the height of one's nose.  (If you don't know what that's about, just look at the pictures of an Asian side profile and a Caucasian one.  You should be able to tell).

Enough rambling for now, i'm off to bed.  Might get around to uploading some recent pictures sometime soon.

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