12.27.2007

My Christmas in Japan

There was nothing special about my Christmas in Japan except for the fact that it was December 25th. I awoke a bit later than usually and headed to my first lesson at 11 am. It lasted for an hour and a half and my student informed me of a historical shogun. After the lesson I rode my bike home and had an interesting chat with a close friend. After a few discussions with this individual around the holidays, I came to the realization that he did not enjoy these special days. Of course, I asked him why.

He surprised me with a rather interesting point of view. In his opinion, people are a$$holes 90% of the year and they think that being nice on the holidays makes up for their rude behavior. Also, according to him, holidays have lost their meaning and instead, we should call them what they really are - "Let's Spend More Money Days!" Christmas is no longer about Jesus or Saint Nicholas but about buying gifts. It has no longer become the "season to give" but the "season to give to one's own." I thought that my friend had hit on a very special point and I felt obliged to include it in this blog.

I went to my next lesson at six and enjoyed a nice conversation with my student. At the moment, her English is not that of a native but that is why I am giving her lessons. Anyway, after the lesson, she asked me in broken English if I had placed my stocking by the fire. I informed her that I had not so she asked if Santa had come to visit. Once again, I replied in the negative. Next and in broken English, she told me that Santa had stopped at her house and left a gift for me. I must say, this simple act made my Christmas. She is such a kind and caring person; furthermore, she gave such thought to her presentation that it brought me such joy. Additionally, a lot of my other students have given me gifts as well: home made cookies, chocolate, a good luck charm, a coffee mug, home made jam, as well as several other goodies. So, as much as it was different, it was still a little bit of the same.

Finally, the evening ended when Joel and I made a nice Mexican dinner for Hiroko. We had chips and guacomole, tacos, beans, and Spanish rice. I must say, it was rather delicious. However, I never would have thought I would be in Japan eating Mexican food on Christmas. Everyday things are a little crazier.


Finally, work will not being on January 10th for me as scheduled. Due to the low number of students which have returned to Nova thus far, there is not a demand for all of the teachers to return. G-Education has given us two options. They will either help us look for a job or provide a plane ticket free of charge to our home country. I must say, this is a rather tempting offer but I am fully committed to staying in Japan, at least for a year. On the other hand, I am not so sure what option Joel is going to take. Therefore, things may be come even more difficult if Joel decides to go home. But, I will just have to cross that bridge when I get there. Hope everyone is doing well and has had a very Merry Christmas. Speaking of which, I will be going to Hiroshima tomorrow so this will be the last update for perhaps a week or so. So, Happy New Years, I will write again next year. Take care and enjoy the holidays, especially the time with family (which the poll concluded overwhelmingly was your favorite part of the holidays).
By the way, the beard is still growing and it is as disgusting as ever. Only a week to go!!

Ben and a fridge and Christmas


There has been a lot I have been wanting to post for the last week or so but I just have not been able to get around to it due to the holidays. For starters, my old roomate Ben headed back to Austrailia for Christmas. It was not because of the Nova situation but because he had planned to go home for the holidays. He was a friendly, nice, and great guy, one of the best roommates I have ever had. His girlfriend was a sweetheart as well and used to cook dinner for me every once in a while. So, Ben, I hope to see you again soon and if not, at some point I plan on going to Australia to visit. Best of luck in the job search and with the long distance relationship, I know they can be challenging.

The new apartment is pretty much complete and we are only lacking in one thing right now, a can opener. If you look at the picture below you will see Joel using our current can opener. We searched at the dollar store but with little luck.

About three days after we got our fridge that came with the apartment, the anti-freeze line broke so we put it outside in the cold and used mother nature as our anti-freeze

Pre-Christmas Christmas dinner. Thanks to Joel and my father, I was treated to a Christmas dinner surprise. So, thanks for the dinner Dad! We went to a really good sushi restaurant with Hiroko. Hiroko was having some boyfriend troubles so we invited her with to take her mind off of things for a while. Anyway, we had a delicious dinner, grabbed a few beers at the convenience store, and walked around Namba for a few hours. It was nice to get out of the house and enjoy all the Christmas decorations. Sadly, Christmas is similar to Valentine's Day and there were a lot of couples around. Which I do not think was good for any of us but what are you going to do.


(Christmas sushi)



(Hiroko and Justin)

(The Restaurant)




12.24.2007

Merry Christmas from Japan

Merry Christmas

video

Merry Christmas!!

Hello everyone! I just wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday or should I say a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Things are going well over here and I am getting ready to go on my trip to Hiroshima. We had a Christmas Party December 21st so I will put up some pictures of that. Also, there is a lot of news I just have not had time to update the blog. I hope you enjoy the video and the new slideshow!! Merry Christmas! Love you all! I will be thinking about you over the next couple of days. Sorry I could not afford gifts this year but just know you are in my thoughts! Thanks for all of the cards and gifts thus far! Take care and stay tuned for more updates!

Official Merry Christmas

Well everyone, it is now 12:11 am in Japan which makes it officially Christmas; so, I just wanted to say...

Merry Christmas to ALL and to ALL a good night!!!
or, as the Japanese say Meri-Kurisumasu!!!

Christmas Party

This past Friday night, December 21st, we decided to have a Christmas Party in honor of the holiday season. We invited a couple of friends, some from W.S.U. and some which I met through NOVA, as well as Hiroko's parents. Everybody bought a snack in order to help with costs and we also had a bit of a white elephant exchange. The gift exchange went rather well and I decided to keep it simple instead of letting everyone swap gifts and all of that jazz. We had a lot of fun and I ended up staying up until 5 am chatting with friends. Joel only made it until about 2 am until he hit the sack. Needless to say, I had a bit too much to drink. Here are some pictures from the party...




(The Christmas Tree with gifts in the background.)



(Myself and as I now just realized, all women!!!)




(Joel as he opened his gift.)



(Hiroko's Mom as she opened her new slippers.)



(Yui, Momo, and Rie - Joel's potential new lady...)



(Sang Sang as he opened his new sandwhich maker.)



(Hiroko's father watching me intently as I open my gift. I got a device which tells you which part of the body is weak by standing on it.)


(Hiroko's happy father as he opened a gift from Hiroko - what are the chances?)

(This is my boy Decky. He has just opened his gift and guess who it is from - Joel!)

Once again, I just want to say Merry Christmas! I am going to try and call friends and family either tomorrow or the next day. Tomorrow is Christmas and I now have two lessons, one in the morning and one at night. Other than that, no plans for Christmas. So, I hope everyone enjoys there X-mas parties like I enjoyed mine. Right now, tomorrow seems like just another day for me but perhaps I will realize its Christmas at some point. Take care, miss you, and love you all.

12.17.2007

An Unlucky Day

After arising from a rather incomplete somber, I decided to grab some breakfast - tangerines to be exact. Anyway, I pushed my chair back from the computer and headed for the kitchen. I found the tangerines as I had left them the night before, still in the brown bag on the floor. Needless to say, I was hungry and quickly peeled my first tangerine. It was rather frim and ripe, with an extremely sweet taste. Since I had such success with my first endeavor, I quickly grabbed the second one and began to peel it. The skin came off too quickly and there appeared to be a space between between the covering and fruit itself. As I took a bite, I quickly realized that this one was past its prime; it was soft, tastless, and the juice did not burst into my mouth as it had with the prior one. Little did I know that my luck for the day had vanished as quickly as the first tangerine.

I entered my room shortly there after to find a bit of smoke beginning to rise from my towel. As I pushed back my chair, I took little notice to the heater sitting directly next to it. Now, there will forever remain an engrained brown spot upon my towel to remind me of my clumsiness. Luckily, as we do not have fire insurance on the apartment, I caught my mistake before it burnt down the house. Once again, I thought my luck was perhaps taking a turn...

I had a lesson in Shin-Osaka at 11 am so I hopped on my bike and away I went. I bet some of you know where this is going and to give you a hint, I still have my bike. Anyway, after the lesson was over I threw my bag in and headed home. As Joel has said to me, "riding a bike in Japan is like a video a game." At each cross walk you are thankful that you have survived another there block. Besides the countless people on the sidewalk, many which seem to appear out of nowhere - from around a corner or out of a store - there are also the other bikes which present an immenient danger. Oh yeah, and the cars. In order to avoid the people it is sometimes easier to ride your bike on the street which eliminates many of the aforementioned hazards. Well, on my way home, I took such an action in order to avoid the swarms of people on the sidewalk. I figured I would shoot out around them and then return the safeheaven of the sidewalk after it was clear of pedestrians. I managed to go about twenty yards before I saw my opening and made my move back towards the safety of the cement.

It all happened in an instant. I continued to head towards the sidewalk as my bike went straight and the seat came out from under me. I attempted to return to the sidewalk at the very point which there was a one inch lip. I noticed the lip and thought that my angle was sharp enough that the front tire could overcome this hurdle. Well, as you already know, my calculations proved to be rather poor. As a result, my pride has been damaged, as it occured right in front of a fairly large supermarket on the corner, I have a brush burn right below my right knee cap about the size of a quarter, and the palming of my glove has had its stitching partially removed. Well, at least I have my first accident under my belt and I am sure that there will be plenty to come.

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day in the house. When I got home I took the liberty to inspect my injuries a bit more. I forget to mention that the hand which I landed on was indeed my right, the same one which has a two and a half inch scar from wrist surgery. The past few days it has been rather stiff but slowly, the pain is subsiding. Additonally, I never could understand "old" people as they complained of joint pains in the winter months. However, I now have a new appreciation for their pain as my wrist is often stiff and bothersome as of late. Over the summer and when I first arrived, my wrist had given me few problems, quite frankly, none that I can think of. As of late it has been quite a different story. I can feel the nagging pain as I do my push ups or use my wrist for any other period of time. Oh well.

Well, that is all for now as there is nothing else of interest to report on. I have a feeling that tomorrow I am going to purchase my new shoes with the money that my grandmother has given me for Christmas, either before or after my lesson. Other than that, no plans for tomorrow. Hope everyone is smiling. Take care! I have been thinking a lot about everyone with the holidays lately and I am trying to get my Christmas gifts all sorted out. I have an idea but you'll just have to wait and see...

One last thing, I will be working on Christmas. After my lesson today, my student informed that she would not be able to make her regular scheduled Monday lesson due to a national holiday. She then informed me that it was the "Emperor's Birthday Celebration" on Monday since his actual birthday is on Sunday. So, I agreed to meet her next Tuesday. So, as you go to bed Christmas eve, I will be waking up and preparing for my lesson.

12.14.2007

The New Apartment

Hello Everyone,

I know a lot of you have been asking about the new apartment so I tried to include a video as well as a few pictures for everyone. The video does not include Joel's room or the living room so if you are wondering where I keep all of my clothes... there is a closet in the living room. Also, we have a balcony which a view similar to that of my room. I hope you enjoy. The first pictures are from the river walk which is a path that stretches for miles along a river. I usually do my running there. Next is the park which is right outside my window and literally a 20 second walk from our door. Finally, there is the video.




(The River Walk)










(The Beautiful Park)


(A Workout Center within the Park)

(A mini-field within the Park)



(A "water feature" as Joel would say)


(The Video)


video

Well, that is pretty much it for the new apartment. I hope everyone enjoys the pictures. Although it is a bit far from our regular train station (an 8 minute bike ride), I really do enjoy the location. There is city everywhere you go so it is nice, at least for a bit, to escape to the park or go for a run along the river. Interestingly, one thing which I forgot to mention - the gardens along the park are communal. I am not sure if you have to rent them from the government or a land owner or what but every Saturday and Sunday, the riverwalk is alive with everyone tending to their own little plot. Take care everyone. Jen, I hope you have your new life goals all figured out and have found the perfect running shoes!

What a Great Day!!!

Although I received some unpleasant news today or at least some news which could have been better, I realized that I am happy. Lately, with a lot of time on my hands, I found it very easy to discover all of my faults. To name a few: I am lazy, which I absolutely despise, my time management skills are poor, I am impatient, I do not eat the healthiest foods, and I often let my desires get the best of me. Nevertheless, I left the apartment, with the sun shining and the cold air in my face, I had an epiphany.

Although I might be dissatisfied with several minute details in my life, I am extremely happy with where I am at right now. I currently reside in Japan, a foreign country, and, on top of that, I am a teacher. As of right now, I do not know what else I could ask for in my life. I have always wanted to travel and see the world and now, right now, I am getting that opportunity. I AM DOING WHAT I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO! Needless to say, this thought brought a quirky little smile upon my lips and I gazed at the numerous signs which I could not understand.

On a side note, I now have a bike, one which was given to me by a friend. I rode the train to her station, met her there, got on the bike and headed home. I had no idea exactly how to get home but had a general idea. I came in from a different area then I had planned but luckily I was able to recognize a Pachinko place which I took note of the night before. The whole adventure took me through the maze of back streets in Senrioka, over a river, and almost into a warehouse of some sort. The bike came rather close to crashing on two instances and I have no doubt that before my stay in Japan is over, the aforementioned action will occur, it is rather only a matter of time.

I have found much joy in reading Sherlock Holmes; however, the shorter stores by O’Doyle are too predictable after the longer novels. I am only half way through the book at the moment but I believe there are only short stories left to read. Tonight I am going to have some coffee with friends. My next lesson is not until tomorrow evening and I am debating whether or not to go to Kyoto with the Aochi’s. Hope everyone is doing well. Try not to focus too much on the minor details of your life. Although introspection is necessary for development, do not let it overwhelm you or allow it to lead to your misery. Keep on smiling! Life is great in Japan!

12.12.2007

A New Dew


So, yesterday I went to get my haircut as an offer from the blog. The man suggested an English lesson in exchange for a haircut so I agreed. He was a great guy and has spent the last five years in Manhattan. Not only was he a hairdresser but he was also an artist, a talent which I wish I would have acquired during some point in my life. During my haircut he showed me pictures of his art scrapbook/history. I enjoyed seeing his work because a lot of his work had meaning behind it. He showed me one picture which had about ten birds circling around the sun and one was black. He informed me that the black bird represented black people and although it stood out, it was still a bird nonetheless, same as all the other birds. He also did these amazing "dot" paintings which I am at a loss to describe. Eventually, I am going to put a link up on my blog to his website. So, if any of you are in need of a haircut and live in Japan, then I recommend you pay this man a visit. During my cut he informed me that if I came back I could get another haircut at a discount. Then, at the end of the lesson he suggested that we should go to Umeda sometime and hang out. Hiroko, Joel, and I all agreed and we exchanged contact information.



Tonight we are supposed to go and thank Masami for helping us to create the blog. I am a bit hesitant to thank him because I believe that he had ulterior motives and still plans to use the blog even after Joel and I are done posting. However, he did help us get some private lessons and spent a lot of time on the blog. So, I am going to go, shake his hand, tell him thank you, and then be on my way.

Joel is still working on internet at the new apartment. Last night we were unable to get the network up and running. We have internet but it is only on one computer for now so I only been on for half an hour thus far. However, perhaps it will be different tonight. It has rained the past few days so I am not sure when I will be able to take pictures to post on the blog. I got a blister on the back of my heel but did not realize it until I took off my sock after running this morning. I am sure it will be all heeled by tomorrow. Whenever I run, for some reason, my pinky toe starts to hurt. There is a sharp pain in it and I can't tell if its because my sneakers are too big or too small or if its the way I run or what. So, with the Christmas money that my grandma and grandpa gave me (thanks Mimi and Pop-Pop) I am going to buy some new running shoes. I wish I would have brought an extra pair of sneakers with me when I came because I think I wore my running shoes out with the walking I have been doing lately. So, I guess some time in the next week or so I will get a new pair of sneakers to aid in my workout regime. So, that is all for now. It is 1 pm on Thursday and my next lesson isn't until Saturday night at 5. So, I have some free time the next couple of days. Probably do some reading and studying. Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying life! For some reason, I have been extra happy lately. I walked out the house this morning by the park and had a smile on my face. For some reason or another, things are looking up lately...

12.11.2007

Pay and Apartment Update

Wonderful news! I checked my bank account this evening after my private lesson and sure enough, the 150,000 yen was in my account!!! That will sure make things a lot easier this next month and I will not have to constantly worry about saving money. This does not mean that I am going to go crazy here and spend a large sum of money. I already got myself two Christmas presents – a pink and grey sweater from UNIQLO.

Today, after my lesson, I went to the bookstore in Umeda. They wanted $20 minimum for a book. It is ridiculous! They have a Shakespeare anthology which includes most, if not all of his works and I thought about buying it, except for the fact that it was $80. So, whenever you come to visit, please bring a used book or two so I have some reading material. Right now I am reading some Sherlock Holmes. I must admit, I enjoy the mystery/criminal stories. After a long day of walking yesterday, in which I made three round trips from the old apartment to the new apartment, I thought I would be able to just go home and fall asleep. I took a quick shower and settled in to bed, with the orange glow of my heater lighting the room. I decided to do a bit of reading so I grabbed the book and yanked the chord for the light. Four hours later I was still engrossed in the novel and came teasingly close to finishing the second story before my eyes gave way. I put on my headphones and listened to my Deep Sleep Mediation track (which has me create a blue mist of comfort around my body) and was out in the next ten minutes.

As for the apartment, my move went relatively easy compared to Joel’s. I have no problem asking for help, especially in a foreign country and with the assistance of Hiroko’s father, moving was a breeze. We went to the dollar store today and got some more hangers, towels, sponges, as well as a few other little touches for the apartment. Between now and Friday I will attempt to take some pictures and put them up on the blog. The apartment is situated in what I deem to be a decent part of town. There is a beautiful park which I can see from my window and a river walk not four minutes from our place. The location in that sense is wonderful. However, it is about a twenty minute walk to Shin-Osaka, the train station I most frequently use. Nevertheless, I sent my friend a message today and she has an extra bike which she is going to give me. I should be able to pick it up on Friday, the same day our refrigerator is supposed to be delivered. So, with money in the bank, which I did not have to put in there myself, and the apartment coming along nicely, I am in a wonderful mood! Hope everyone is doing well and finals are coming along without a hitch. Surely most of you are preparing for Christmas, putting up lights and decorations, as well as a tree. I am in the Christmas spirit and find myself playing Christmas music often. Hope everyone is doing well. Take care! Love you all and have a great day.

On a side note, the Generals/Panthers upset (which was not an upset according to my dad) the JR Flyers! Way to go boys!

On a second side note, no internet at the new apartment yet so we still have to hike up to the old one in order to use it.

12.08.2007

A Tale of Three Friends

The following is an account of Joel's moving adventure written by Joel himself. I hope that you can find the humor in it as I did. Of course, it is better in person; but, I hope you get a chuckle out of it. While you are reading, I ask that you please take the time, read slowly, and actually picture this event in your mind...

“Yeah, this’ll hold up.” I said, shaking the blue tubes.
Attached to the bottom end of the tubes were what seemed to be some sturdy looking, made in Japan, wheels, which altogether made a somewhat reliable device for moving my things from my current apartment to my new apartment; the very same cart which I developed a friendship with, will now be known as “bluey”.
“Yeah, you think we can get the couch on it?” Justin asked.
“I don’t know…” I honestly replied.
“Yeah, we’ll just get it outside and set the couch on it face down,” he said.
“Alright, well I’m gonna take it upstairs and use it tomorrow for all my crap,” I stated, thinking that this was the golden ticket to my new residency…


It was about 4:45pm. I had just finished signing my life away for the new apartment. It was a nice apartment in Shin Osaka. The flooring and kitchen seem to have been recently renovated, and the bathroom and shower as well. I was ready to run back home and throw all my stuff on “bluey” and headed for freedom. But I couldn’t escape the deathly grip that my Real Estate agent had on the conversation. Toshiko is her name. She’s an older lady, who’d rather be retired but has to work until she dies. She can’t rely on her children to support her, or at least this is what was conveyed to me in broken English. I sipped my hot lemon tea as she continued on. She would like to dye her hair purple but because she’s a Real Estate agent she has some reservations about such a bold fashion statement; luckily, Toshiko had another appointment at 5pm just down the road. I reminded her of this as I inched upward out of my seat, wiping my mouth with a warm napkin. Happily surprised that I reminder her, she thanked me and we were both off and away, finally.


I rushed upstairs and looked around my room. The boxes were sitting there as I left them, ready to be moved. I figured I could get 4 boxes, 2 bags, and some bedding material onto my newest friend “bluey”. My relationship with old “bluey” got off to a rough start; I couldn’t even get out of the door. I had packed a nice cart, but was just centimeters shy of making it out my own door. So I unloaded everything, took the cart, 4 boxes, some bags, and some bedding outside and repacked “bluey,” again. Not a great start, but from here it should be a cake walk.


I began to wheel “bluey” down toward the elevator. As I approached what would be the first of many known obstacles I swiftly lifted my end of “bluey” over the step to the elevator. I then proceeded to press my foot onto the bottom bar, lifting the other end over the step. I made it onto the elevator platform without a problem. A few more steps at the entrance to the apartment would also prove to be easy. With a few slow and steady moves I was on the street. I took a moment to stand back and prepare myself for what would be a standard cart move operation. A quick glance at the sky revealed I should move quickly, as it could rain soon.


I grabbed “bluey” by the bars and pressed forward. 1 foot, 2 feet, I was off! But suddenly the front wheel hit a bump in the sidewalk, “bluey” began to move drastically to the left. He was already out of control! As “bluey” rolled forward I peaked around the edge of the cart just in time to see the corner bump into a line of bikes parked outside Sukiya (the McDonalds of Japan). Luckily, the second bike didn’t budge and I was able to get away without being noticed. I quickly moved to the intersection. I had the green walk signal, so I headed across the road. It was smooth, much smoother than the cobblestone sidewalks that cover Japan. I wasn’t quite half way across the road before the green walking light suddenly switched to the much hated red STOP hand. So I picked it up to a light sprint hoping to avoid being struck by a vehicle. My light sprint came to an abrupt stop as the front of “bluey” ran into the bump that leads back onto the sidewalks. The bag I had resting on the top flew several feet in front of the cart and I was still sticking out into the street. As horns honked I maneuvered “bluey” onto the sidewalk and grabbed my bag, throwing it on top, again. This might be a little harder than I first expected…


Aside from the starring and strange looks from pedestrians passing by the next few blocks weren’t too bad. There were a few snags with the sidewalk, but nothing “bluey” couldn’t handle. However, right as I began to feel comfortable with the situation again, something happened. I couldn’t really figure it out but “bluey” was gradually getting harder and harder to push. As I continued, I kept my eye out for a dark side street or alley to duck into, as to avoid looking like a fool anymore than I already had. There were none to be seen and at this point but I could tell old “bluey” needed some help. I scraped “bluey” along until I finally found some large pillars wide enough to hide me a little bit.


“Bluey” suddenly screeched to a halt. With sweat dripping down my face I slowly inspected the key areas of “bluey’s” infrastructure. To my dismay, the front right wheel had completely broken and was obliterated. The last 500 feet must have melted what was left of “bluey”s” right front wheel. For a few seconds I thought I could lift the front end up and only use the back wheels. But if 4 wheels couldn’t handle the load, how could two? Oh well, I had to give it a shot. 3 inches later I gave up the idea. Ten minutes into what should have been an easy walk and I was already in a heap of trouble.


I had no choice; abandon ship with whatever I could carry. Hoping to God my stuff was hidden from the street well enough I grabbed my clothes bags and briskly walked to the apartment. I returned twenty minutes later. My stuff was still there – whew! Now I just made it back to my old apartment and grabbed “bluey”s” first cousin. “weaky”.


If the name is any indication, you should know what direction this story is headed. “Weaky” was similar to blue in some respects; the original purpose of both “bluey” and “weaky” was to hold clothes. “Weaky” was named “weaky” because it was decided prior to moving that “bluey” was a much better candidate for moving items. “Weaky” was the ideal Wal-Mart special clothes rack; made in china, cheap, and loaded with plastic parts. The only metal “weaky” had was a few bars holding all the plastic together. But I had no choice, it was all I had left.


Me and “weaky” went strolling down the street together and my hopes were once again high. Somehow by the time I reached my first abandoned friend, “bluey,” one of the metal pieces from “weaky” was missing. It wasn’t an integral part, just en extender to hold more clothes, it wouldn’t pose a problem for carrying my things. I ran behind the pillar to “bluey” and there stood a fairly large man in a uniform starring curiously at me belongings… I explained in Japanese that these were my things. I pointed to the wheel and said “broken”. I apologized for leaving my things there and said I would be leaving right away. He didn’t seem to mind, and told me in Japanese that it was no big deal. Still embarrassed at this point, I grabbed the boxes and bedding, and transferred them to “weaky”. Since I had taken the heavy stuff to the new apartment already I figured “weaky” could handle a few boxes and some bed materials… Well, I didn’t even make it to the next intersection before “weaky” completely dismantled. “Weaky”s” metal bars began rolling down the street and I knew I was finished. Soon enough I was at a total standstill. “Weaky,” or what was left of him, wouldn’t budge. I was stuck in some back street not even a quarter of the way to the new apartment.


Down and out, I sat there thinking “Did I actually think I could make it there with “bluey,” let alone “weaky”! A new option revealed itself – a Taxi. I sure didn’t want to pay money to move, but at this point I was desperate. Just as the idea came to me, a drop of rain lightly patted my cheek followed by a few more. It had now begun to rain. However, a miracle then occurred! A taxi pulled up across the street and stopped. He was working on some sort of papers or whatnot. I quickly got up and ran across the street, nearly being swiped by the oncoming traffic. I still haven’t gotten used to the cars being on the opposite sides of the streets. I thought I had the driver’s attention, but he began to pull away. I ran harder and barely was able to tap on his window…


I stuffed the trunk and few minutes later we were on our way. I left “bluey” and “weaky” behind, alone in a back alley; but, at least they had each other. I made small talk in Japanese with the driver. I guess it was going to get busy for him pretty soon but it wasn’t too bad yet. I instructed him where to drive in Japanese. Left, straight, right… As he pulled in right we almost got hit by oncoming traffic. It was probably my fault as I instructed him to turn down a one-way road. I know this because his English was good enough to shout “One way - One way!” I didn’t know. I shouted “Goodluck” and he entered oncoming traffic. I’d only walked to the new apartment before and didn’t even realize it was a one way road. No worries though, I told him to continue for a little and we’d definitely be at a two way road. Another left and right and we were there. Finally.


After I got all my stuff inside, the rain finally quit. Good timing… But I made it! I hit the switch to the light as I entered the kitchen, but the light didn’t turn on. I tried again - click ,click, click… nothing. So I walked back to my old apartment to stay the night… It turns out the breaker switch just needed to be turned ON; but, Toshiko failed to tell me this while I was signing the papers…

12.07.2007

The Last Few Days...

The last few days have been a bit stressful to say the least. On top of all of this blog controversy, I received an email from Katrina, made dinner for the Aochi family to thank them for all of their help, and this morning I began packing. I have a lesson today from one to two, then Hiroko's dad is going to help me move, after that, its another lesson from six to seven, and then tonight I am going to eat dinner with a friend.

So, let me start with the email from Big K. It really didn't say too much except for Happy Holidays. It was a shock to get an email from her because I had been thinking about writing one myself. Needless to say, it has definitely made me think a lot this past week. I told her I needed some time to think about things and I will probably write her a message either tonight or tomorrow, it all depends on the moving schedule. Let me just say this, I realized that life is all about timing. Although every other circumstance might be perfect, if the timing is off, then things just don't seem to fall in to place.

For dinner last night I made shrimp Alfredo for the Aochi family to thank them for everything they have done for me. I think I added a bit too much butter but it still turned out okay. Anyway, they have honestly been like a second family to me here in Japan. A few weeks ago, I had no idea what was going to happen, if I'd have to go home, where I would live, etc. However, after meeting Hiroko's family I felt a sense of comfort and assurance - I knew if anything happened, I would have a place to stay and food to eat. That alone eased my mind more than any of the news I have gotten from Nova or anyone else. I wish I could do more for them right now but I can only make dinner and supply some chocolate.

Speaking of which, thanks mom for sending the chocolate, shirts, book and letter. Additionally, thank you Aunt June for my Christmas card in advance. It is nice to have American money again as I haven't seen it for close to three months now. I am not sure if I am going to exchange it or just hold on to it for the holidays. I guess it all depends on how much I can save between now and then. I was going to put my new address up but due to the recent situation (i.e. the nutty people who have found my blog) I will send out an email. Also, I have decided to close comments as this is to be a personal blog for friends and family; however, that is no longer the case. I am debating on whether or not I should start a new blog so be ready for an email in the near future.

Now, for the big event, moving. I got most of my things packed up this morning in about an hour. I am hoping it only takes a trip or two until with the car, but you never know. Joel had a hell of a time trying to move yesterday and I am trying to get him to write a story so he can explain it himself. Needless to say, we were both crying we were laughing so hard when he told me. We are supposed to have a refrigerator in the new apartment but that has yet to show up. Also, Joel went yesterday and we have no power. However, looking at the positives, we did have running water and, we now have a place to call home, an apartment we don't have to worry about getting evicted from, at least not yet anyway.

Well, I hope all this craziness settles down within the next few days. Then again, you never know. Hopefully everyone is doing well, full of smiles, and doing what makes you happy. I miss you guys, especially with the holiday season around the corner. Although I have spent the last few Thanksgivings with friends, this will be my first Christmas away from home. Take care everybody!

Some People are Crazy

So, I began to glance over the other blog, the one I created about Nova, and apparently some nutjob decided that it was her moral obligation to inform everyone on the old Nova blog of my personal blog, this one. First of all, what person has the time to sit around on the computer and take the time to find someone else's blog? Doesn't this person have anything better to do with her life? Secondly, and of course anonymously, the person decided to leave a comment to inform me of what everyone on the old blog was saying. Let me remind you how easy it is to post under the veil of anonymity, so as to make sure that they would not have to be held responsible for their comments. After deleting her comment, she decided to post it again and again and again. Once again, this person must have no life as she has the time to continue to post a comment on my wall. I guess she is just a person of high moral fabric, someone I hope to grow up like someday.

So the story is over... No, think again. After I close comments to Blogger members only, another crazy person creates an account just so he can leave a comment in Japanese. Honestly, are you kidding me right now? Once again, I guess people have nothing better to do with their lives than to leave me a comment in Japanese on my personal blog asking me why I deleted the first person's comments. I will tell you why - I don't want strangers to post on my personal blog, the one I created for friends and family, not weird random people such as the two who have left the last comments.

Now, part of me wishes I had never started the Japanese blog. Of course, there are a lot of kind Japanese people out there who wanted to help and did so by taking lessons. However, there are also some crazy people out there who have nothing better to do then scour the internet and leave comments. The Japanese blog was started to find Joel and I a job - it has served its purpose - now there is no longer a need for it. So, Wegner and "Booty" please do me a favor and leave me alone. Comments have been closed and will remain so, best of luck to you now.

P.S. - Another person asserted that Joel and I abused Japanese kindness and offered free lessons in Osaka. Wow, once again, a role model which I can look up to. I am sorry that person hasn't been in Japan for three months without a legitimate paycheck. I am sorry that as of right now, I do not have the financial means available to do such a thing. However, just because I did not continue the blog does not mean that I have taken advantage of Japanese kindness in any way. I guess it means that I am just raking in the money if I have about 30,000 yen to my name. I hate the fact that I have to justify myself but sometimes, it just feels good to get it off your chest.

12.04.2007

Why the New Blog?

I am sure many of you are wondering why I chose to switch blogs... For starters, a friend asked before where she could leave comments. On the old blog, this was not possible. However, with the new one, anyone can leave a post. Also, this blog offers other features which we previously not available. If you haven't noticed, there is a poll on the side about Christmas. Please take the time to vote. In the future, I can create several other polls as well. Furthermore, I think this new blog is more aesthetically pleasing. I was also asked about pictures for the new blog. There is no section designated for pictures so I will be posting them along with the regular posts. However, I recently added a slide show in the upper right hand corner. Also, I have added a list of my favorite links which will take you right to the webpage as well as my favorite songs of late. Hopefully everyone enjoys the new blog and if you have any suggestions, please leave a comment. If you have any more questions, please let me know and sorry for the inconvenience. I will no longer be using the old one just so you know. Hope you are doing well and those of you right now who have finals - ganbatte (good luck in Japanese)!

12.03.2007

Nara pictures

Traditional House in Nara
(Inner Garden)


(Stove)

Monkeys (I do not know why but for some reasons, monkeys appeared to be a part of the culture as several homes had the same red monkeys hanging from their porch ceilings)

Why I Loved Nara



The Monks of Nara - there were quite a few throughout the day




This was the second time I had seen a monk who stands alongside the road. They don't beg for money, they just stand there. And when someone donates, they say a prayer. At least that was the impression I got.

More Temple photos

The "Tunnel of Happiness" as Mr. Aochi put it so elegantly in English. After squeezing my way through, which I only saw about 3 kids do before me (and two other gentlemen who tried but failed), Mrs. Aochi informed me that I would have a long life filled with happiness. If I get paid by this new company, that will provide me with enough happiness to last through next year.

(A Guardian of the giant Buddha)


Standing in front of the temple, perhaps with the tiny people in the background you can get a sense of how truly large the temple is...


Deer, deer everywhere...


Another protector of Buddha. I did not realize he was so endangered that he needed to have all of these protectorates. Going through the museum I learned that he had 10 total.

Nara with the Aochi's (minus Hiroko)

On Saturday night, I ended up going to the Aochi's for dinner - Hiroko was still in America visiting her boyfriend so I wanted to spend some time with her mom and dad. Her dad ended up taking me to a Chinese restaurant. I must admit, it was rather delicious and the first time I have had actual Chinese food and not American Chinese. Anyways, I had some shrimp, chicken with vegetables, gyoza, and some fried chicken. It was absolutely delicious. After dinner, we went to a place called Don Kihote (pronounced Quixote), a discount shop. I am ready to go back and do some shopping - they had everything from food to couches and underwear. I guess you could say it is the Japanese walmart. After dinner we just went home, hung out, and drank some beer. The exciting part was yet to come because I was going to spend the night and go to Nara the next day with the Aochi's. After a few laughs, I got a great night of sleep.

I awoke to pancakes, fruit, and yogurt. After breakfast, we were off to Nara. I must admit, Nara has become my new favorite place in Japan. It is very similar to Kyoto only there is more open space, more nature. And, the deer roam around freely. Actually, locals sell deer food to tourist and the animals are quite tame.

If you look closely, you can see two deer on the left side of the picture. And, in case you couldn't tell, this is Hiroko's mother. We started off the day viewing the pagoda in the upper left hand picture. It is a very famous one in Japan and the second tallest in the country. After that, we went to a museum; there were a lot of interesting things but cameras were forbidden. Next, we walked past Nara park, through the deer, and went to Todaiji Temple which was built in the Nara period or the 8th century.


(Todaiji Temple)


(Cleansing Ceremony)


The temple itself still ranks as the largest wooden structure in the world and it is impossible to describe the enormity of the statue. If I had to guess, I would say that it is easily 200 feet tall. However, before you enter the building, apart from washing your hands, it is custom to bath yourself in incense. For some reason is cleanses the soul and brings forth good luck. After the temple we ended up going to another place which had an absolutely gorgeous view.

Although I do not remember the name of this temple and while the temple itself was not that spectacular, the view surrounding the temple was amazing. In the picture below you can see the city in the distance and where Nara park begins and ends.
After the this temple, we headed to a part of the city which still appeared to be traditional. Many of the houses were of the same structure and material of those which would have been made a few hundred years ago. Actually, we were able to go in to an old urban townhouse which doubled as a residence and workplace. (see below)
It is difficult to describe but the houses are narrow and long since taxes were paid based on the width of one's house. There was also a garden built into the house structure and a "shed" in the back for storage. The staircases doubled as storage and there is a smoke duct to ventilate the smoke after cooking. While we were there, the woman showed me how the door closed at night at which point, a smaller door could be opened to allow guests in and out. I think the only reason she showed me was because of my American descendant as I did not see her show another person. That was pretty much my stay in Nara... I will post come more pictures on the next blog. Hope everyone is doing well and happy. I know things are looking up here. After I have a place where I know I can stay and not have to worry about eviction, I will feel a lot better (after the moving and everything). Sorry for the change in blogs, I just like this one a lot better, the style and options and everything. Have a great day and smile!

Option #2

I got all dressed up to go to work at Nova with my mind pretty much made up. I must admit, two months ago I could put on a suit and tie in about 7 minutes. I think it took me a good 15 minutes to get ready today.


Anyway, I have officially signed the paper work to go with option #2; I figured I will still be able to do private lessons this month, go to Hiroshima with Momo, and get free money. So, it seemed like the only logical choice. Plus, at the meeting, they informed us that if option #1 was chosen and a person remained at home on a day which they were supposed to work, they would receive only %60 of their salary. So, until it was all said and done, a person might end up making less money to be on call and actually have to worry about working. At least that is what I told myself. Anyway, I am working about 10 hours a week at the moment, enough to even out the loss for not working. The big hit to the bank is going to come this Friday when Joel and I have to make our first payment on the new apartment. It is going to end up costing around 72,500 yen, a nice chunk of change. Then, shortly thereafter comes Hiroshima. So, I am sure after the New Year, I will be right back to where I started in terms of savings - $0. So, I will continue to do private lessons even after I start my job with Nova on the 10th of January.

One a side note, I guess December is a very busy month so a few of my privates have actually canceled for the whole month. Last week and I had around 17 private lessons and this week 10 or 11. So, I am sure that will make a difference as well. Either way, making 2,000 yen an hour is nothing to complain about and I am happy to have as many privates as I do.

My grandma asked about my health. I am doing great. I got over my cold a little bit ago and I have decided to change my lifestyle habits. Since giving up on the smoking and having a little extra cash in hand I have set the following guidelines: fried foods only once a week, more fruits and vegetables, and no eating after 7 pm. I am trying to get myself healthy again since I am no longer playing sports and went on a run today with Joel. I will keep you posted on how that goes...