Nov 24, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 20, 2011

Lazy Weekend

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

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

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

Stopped by Mister Donut on my way back.

A "Chocolate Ring" and a "Caramel White"

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

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

Nov 19, 2011

Build Me Up Buttercup

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 13, 2011

Shopping Date in Harajuku

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 6, 2011

Another Pre-typed Entry

November 3rd
Health Checks

Had my first experience at a doctor's office here yesterday.  Everyone at my school has to have yearly physical examination (健康診断, kenkou shindan), since we work with babies and young children.  My friend who came here as an ALT through the JET Program had written about her health check experience so i had an idea of what to expect. 
Actually, the first part of the examination was a couple weeks ago, when i was given a little plastic vial-like thing and a set of instructions.  I'll let you figure out exactly what was involved.. 


So anyway, yesterday morning my boss dropped me off at the doctors office around 10am.  The waiting room was fairly crowded, but i only had to wait about 15 minutes before my name was called.  First part of the exam was the urine-collection.  As far as i can remember i've never had to give a urine sample for anything, although i remember being with an unnamed family member as a young child when they had to give some, and they kept having me run the water in the sink because they just couldn't go.  I was afraid i'd be in the bathroom forever as well, since i'd peed just a little over an hour before and didn't have the urge to go again so soon.  Luckily, sitting down was enough to muster up just enough for a sample for the little cup they'd given me with my name written on it in hiragana.  I left the cup in the little basket as they had instructed me, and moved on to the next bit.

They led me over to another little area where they measured my height (169.7cm) and weight (50.5kg) and took a measurement of my waist (or hips, i'm not sure what you'd call that area).  Then they had me lie down on a bed and they attached little suction cups and clips to various points all over my body.  I forget what they said that machine measured- my pulse or something- but they lifted up my shirt and bra to attached some of the little suction cups just under my boobs.  Then they took my blood pressure, but i forgot what they told me it was.  I have no idea what's considered a good or bad blood pressure reading anyway.
After that they brought me over to the vision chart, where i had to cover each eye and then tell them which way the "C" was facing.  Both eyes got a 1.0 (i think.. my right eye did at least and i'm pretty sure my left was the same), which i'm not sure what that means, haha.  I can see well enough though.

Next was an X-ray, i believe.  They didn't really tell me what they were doing at this part, just gave me instructions on what to do.  They led me to a different room and had me take off my bra but leave my shirt on.  I had to stand facing the wall while resting my chin on this little chin-rest and wrap my arms around the front of the whole chin-rest-stand contraption.  They turned off the lights briefly and they came back on and told me i could but my bra back on.
They told me to head back out to the waiting room to wait for the doctor to come see me, but called me back a couple minutes later to the X-ray room because they forgot to do the hearing test.  Just had to put on some headphones and push a little button each time i heard a noise.

After waiting in the waiting room again for a few minutes, the doctor called me in to his office to ask me about my medical history- if i had had any major illnesses or injuries in which i was admitted into the hospital for.  The only incident i could think of was my whole toe-incident in high school where i caught my toe on a sharp metal part on my bed and split the part in between my baby toe and the next toe over, then got staph infection and needed IV drips and all that fun stuff.  Then he made some small chit-chat with me about where i'm from, and his few trips to the US for various medical conferences and stuff, before he sent me on to the last part of the check that i was dreading.

Blood test!  I have a long history of pure dislike for syringes/injections/needles piercing skin.. the sight of syringes or other medical needles makes me cringe and writhe involuntarily.  So when the nice nurse set me down and had me set my right arm up on the little arm rest i kept my head turned to the left the entire time.  She warned me when she was putting the needle in though.  I tried to not think about it but i could still feel it in my skin and the thought of it was making my nauseous.  I hadn't eaten anything that morning, as instructed, so i was also getting very light headed (the hyperventilating didn't help).  I don't know how long it took but it felt like a while, and when she was done the nurse tried making some small-talk with me, to try to distract me i think, but i was still feeing like i was going to throw up and/or faint.  So she led me over to a bed, covered me with a blanket, and told me to lie there until i felt better before closing the curtains around me.  Luckily the yucky feeling passed after just a couple minutes, so i was free to go after that.
Fun-fun times indeed!  Time from walking into the office to the time i left was about an hour and a half.  At least i don't have to dread doing this again until next year!

Long Time No Post/ Halloween Weekend


Getting used to this whole no-internet thing.  It's not so bad really, but i just feel so out of the loop when i log on again and see what's happening in the world (i don't have TV so i can't watch the news or anything either).  Haha.

Anyway, a couple pre-typed entries of recent happenings:

November 1st

Halloween Weekend

Halloween has definitely been gaining popularity here in the recent years, within the past 5 years or so, from what i'm told.  I was surprised when, at least a month before Halloween, i found tons of Halloween decorations for sale at the 100yen stores in my area, and both Don Quijote and Tokyu Hands had big Halloween displays selling decorations, candy, and costumes.  There was also a really huge Halloween parade in Kawasaki on the 30th.  I wish i had gone to that.. my friend showed me pictures and it looked pretty awesome.  Next year for sure!

So i definitely did get a pretty good celebration in for Halloween.  Saturday i headed to my old guesthouse for the party with the students and teachers.  I had bought a Pikachu kigurumi at Don Quijote the day before, so i brought that with me in my backpack and put it on once i got there.  (I considered wearing it on the train, but i'm not brave enough to go out in costume here on my own!  I bring enough attention to myself as it is, just being not Asian).  Lots of the students there loved the costume, especially the ladies: "Oh, Pikachu!  How cute!"  "Kawaii!!" (a word i hear far too much..) as they played with my Pikachu ears and tugged on my sleeves.  It was a lot of fun, and even Mr. Boss Man, who is usually very mellow/monotonous/disgruntled, was in good spirits and pulled me in for a picture with him, which ended up being named as the "Best Picture of the Night".

The "Best Picture of the Night"

Package from Mum!
Sunday i spent a lot of time cleaning the apartment, and putting up some of the decorations my mom sent for me (thanks Mum!).  As i wrote about before, i did get a couple things from the 100yen shop, but was about to go out and buy some more the day the package arrived.

I also made some Halloween onigiri and bought some candies.  Gaki-chan showed up around 5, and we hung out in our costumes until S arrived, then we started feasting and drinking.  Mr. Rich Man had said he would come when i asked him a few days before.  Him being who he is, is very fickle and despite him saying so, i didn't think he'd actually come.  But he did!  Ohhh, did he ever.  Of course he, being who he is, had the most amazing(ly inappropriate) costume ever.  He showed up in his normal clothes, motorcycle helmet in tow, then went into the bathroom to change.  He was in there for a while, so both S and i were expecting something great.  Gaki-chan hasn't known Mr. Rich Man as long as we have so i don't think he knew what Mr. Rich Man is capable of.  Despite our expectations, we still weren't expecting something so spectacular!  I think the video speaks plenty.

Couldn't even laugh properly.  Listen to my ridiculous hyperventilating!

After a bit we decided to head over to the station in costume.  Mr. Rich Man of course covered up a bit.. we didn't want any issues with the police.  We stood around for a while at the east exit, greeting people with "Happy Halloween!"s.  Some people ignored us completely, others gawked as they walked by without responding to our greetings or waving, some gave a smile or nod and maybe a reply of "Happy Halloween" in return, and then there were some who were so thrilled and estatic to see us!  They would shout "Pikachu!!" or "Buzz!" or "Michael!", and "Happy Halloween!" and jump up and down or wave both arms high over their head, or come up to us for hugs or high-fives or pictures, it was a lot of fun.  Pikachu definitely got the most attention though, while poor Santa got next to none.  At one point, a group of policemen walked by.  We actually weren't doing or saying anything as they approach, and at first they passed by us and i thought they were just on there way to the koban at the end of the station, but they stopped a few meters from us in a little group, chatted amongst themselves for a few seconds, then a couple of them broke away to come tell us "お静かに".  Please be quiet.  Was kind of miffed at that.  For one, we weren't being any louder than a lot of the drunken groups are that wander around at night.  Two, we were outside of a bustling station which is loud anyway, not in a quiet neighborhood where people are trying to sleep.  I think since all they do all day is sit around in their police box and give directions to people they feel the need to hastle someone to make themselve feel like they're "protecting" their neighborhood.  So yes, protect your neighborhood from some excitement and Halloween cheer.  We decided next year we'd probably head in to Tokyo instead, maybe around Harajuku or Shinjuku or Shibuya, a place with a bit more nightlife where we can't be heckled for being "loud". 
The others were wanting to head back at that point, but i convinced them to just go walking around a bit and greet people as we pass.  We headed down one of the busier streets with a lot of pubs and shops that were still open and got a few more great reactions.  One guy from a restaurant standing outside (workers often stand out in front of their stores advertising and trying to coerse people inside), said "Pikachu!" as we walked by.  I waved and jumped excitedly for him, and then he went on (in English!) "Pikachu, I love you!"  So i echoed back, "I love you!" 
He continued- "I want you!"  I echoed him again.
"I need you!" 
It was too funny, so i ran back to him for high-fives and hugs.  I hope i made his night, because he sure made mine, haha.

We finally headed back to my place, changed back into normal clothes, then headed back to the station- west exit this time- to an izakaya.  Enjoyed a lot of delicious food, and by the time we got back to my place again it was around 3am and we were all exhausted and crashed on the uncomfortable wood floor.  Well, Mr. Rich Man was smart and crashed on the sofa-bed but the rest of us were sharing a blanket on the floor.

Spooky cobwebs in the genkan!
Halloween banner!
Halloween onigiri
Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!
Pikachu texting to find out WTF people are
Michael Jackson back from the grave to Thrill(er) us on Halloween!
And of course, sexy Santa paid us a visit too.  Couple months early but whatever.
Some girls that were very happy to see us at the station  :)
Zonked out after a long night
 The next morning we all got up and showered and changed, and since we were quite hungry and there was nothing left to eat but candy, and since Mr. Rich Man was wanting some soba or udon he looked up restaurants around my neighborhood and discovered that what i thought was a house just across the street from me is actually a really nice restaurant!  So we went there and had some amazing food before everyone parted ways and i headed in to work.

My lunch set, soooo goooood!
G-chan's lunch
S's lunch
And Mr. Rich Man's lunch!
Monday i had to work, but i did wear my Jack Skellington shirt S had gotten me for Christmas last year, and the pumpkin socks my mum had sent me, to be festive.  The only group of adult students that day brought in cookies and candy and we snack on them while we talked, and when i got home that night i watched Hocus Pocus (as is my Halloween tradition!) while i ate dinner, so i did do some celebrating on actual Halloween as well.

In short, Halloween this year certainly didn't disappoint, but next year's will surely be better.  :)

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