Monthly Archives: September 2012

All part of the adventure…

I feel blessed to finally have some time tonight to reach out to everyone and say “hi”.  These past weeks have been ridiculously busy; mainly with work, but also with exploring, working out and being sick (boo).  As I sat at my kitchen table to write all you lovely people, I couldn’t decide what music to put on.  I just downloaded an album from Pink Martini, but “meh”.  I thought about my usual go-to, Mr. MRAZ….again…meh.  I just decided to just hit “ALL Songs” and let iTunes decide for me. The first song that popped up was a song by The Head and the Heart…a song I never really paid much attention to.  However, the chorus got my attention tonight:

Nothin’ is as it has been

And I miss your face like hell

And I guess it’s just as well

But I miss your face like hell

It couldn’t be more fitting because I really do miss everyone.  I am definitely loving the adventure, but I’ve mentioned before that the time difference makes staying in touch much more difficult.  I am sooooo appreciating the comments, emails and pictures.  They seriously make my day when I receive them so keep it up!

Last weekend I was feeling those “heavy boots” again and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out why.  Life is good….I’m meeting new people, my job is challenging in a very good way, my apartment is coming along (slowly, but surely) and I have been exploring and enjoying every moment.  The humidity sucks sweaty balls (literally for many), but that has been the worst part (oh, and the mosquitoes…nasty little fuckers)…and it is only temporary as fall is coming soon, yet something just kept tugging at me.  My thoughts drifted to visions of driving over the bridge each day, taking Rufus to the park, and my cottage on Ivy (sitting in the backyard with a glass of wine and shooting the shit with some of my favorite people) and a sense of true nostalgia swept over me.  Then I noticed this on my nightstand:

I found it in one of my bags that I finally cleaned out.  My keyring.  It had actually been sitting on my nightstand for a few days; one of those items that I’m not quite sure where to put because I have no use for it anymore.  At first it may seem insignificant; like it did for me, but then the poignancy really hit me.  My keychains have changed several times over the years and the keys have changed too, but probably not as often (well maybe for me…I’ve moved a lot).  We ALWAYS have our keys on us, or at least close by; to lock our doors when we leave our homes, unlock our cars, start our cars, enter our classrooms/offices, get back into our cars and get back home.  That’s multiple times a day for YEARS! Yet now, I have no use for them.  I do not own a car and my apartment is a keyless entry.  I have no use for something that I have kept with me literally every day for my entire adult life. How WEIRD!  It represents how much my life has changed yet it is already my “normal”.  For the first couple of weeks, every time I left my apartment I would literally stand with my door open and have to mentally tell myself that I didn’t need my keys before I could close the door.  I don’t think twice about it anymore.  My life is my normal, but just three months ago it was completely different.

Which brings me to another topic I’ve been meaning to mention; the name of my blog. “A Beautiful Mess” is the title of a Jason Mraz song near and dear to my heart for several reasons.  More than that though, it describes Life.  Life is beautiful, yet it is so messy…unpredictable; throwing curve balls one minute then lucky lottery tickets the next.  It took me some time to see the chaos of it as beautiful and, like so many others, I dwelled on the unfairness of it, the lack of regard to what I want and how I think it should go….infuriating!  Life is out of our control and once we allow ourselves to just let go it’s so much easier to see the beauty in the ugly.  Letting go is the hard part though and I don’t know if it’s even possible to completely ride hands free.  I’m working on it and I’ll let you know.

Onto life in Japan…

I made a deal with myself to explore each weekend and try something new.  So far so good even though I was sick as a dog this last weekend.  It wasn’t too far of a trek and I’m glad I went and didn’t spew anywhere. Throughout Japan there are Shrine Sales; the Japanese version of a flea market…the difference being that they are held on the grounds of a Japanese shrine (hence the name). This particular one in Takahatofudo was on beautiful grounds with hiking trails throughout the surrounding hills…the scenery was breathtaking.  What is truly astounding is that it was only a block from the train station; these incredible sights are simply smack dab in the middle of Japan’s sprawling neighborhoods and you would literally think you are in the middle of nowhere once you enter these areas.  Japanese do nature very well considering the limited space they have to work with.  Antique porcelain, kimono, pottery, jewelry, woodwork, art and other antiques were among the many treasures waiting to be taken home by the wistful shoppers.   I found myself choosing a couple of obi hangers at the booth of an adorable little man from Thailand.  He spoke English, but I accidentally said “si” instead of ”hai” and he told me he spent a few months in Mexico.  From then on we spoke Spanish instead of English!  Who would have thought I’d get to use my Spanish skills in Japan?  Hands down the coolest part of the entire experience was the chanting of the monks from within the shrine itself.  That was amazing.

Continue reading All part of the adventure…

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Running with Chopsticks

I know, I know…it’s been a while.  I have been one busy little bee and have so much to share.  It’s hard to believe that I have been here a full month now…it has truly just flown by.  Oddly enough I feel I have been here forever, yet everything is still so new.  Will it always feel this way?  I hope not…someday soon I hope to feel at home here…although this perpetual feeling of being on vacation may not be so difficult to get used to after all!

I have been the proud resident of Fastest Lap 402, 2-31-1 Asahi-cho, Fuchu-shi, Tokyo 1830003 for two whole weeks!  And yes, I did have to look up my address as it still has not been stored in my memory.  So what?  Don’t judge.  I still don’t know where the hell I am most of the time, but I’m slowly getting used to that too.  Back to my apartment; Fastest Lap is my building name.  I have no idea why it is called that.  Other buildings get names like “Majestic Lion” or “Fiery Dragon”…I get Fastest Lap? I know it has some significance, which will be revealed to me in time…just like all of the other mysteries of Life.  My place is pretty small; two small rooms, a very small living room and a kitchen.  I will take you on a tour soon, but it is in no shape for viewing right now.  In the past, I have always set up house right away…literally within a couple of days…pictures on the walls, curtains up, décor in its proper place, etc.  I’m lucky to have sheets on my bed at this point.  Between work, trying to socialize, getting around and just taking some time for me, putting my apartment together has fallen to the bottom of my priority list.  It will get there eventually and I know I will feel more at home once I do, but I just don’t have the energy right now.  Here is a short video of my street and I promise to take you on a tour of the inside soon enough.

My green couch 🙂
The bakery under my house. I can smell it every morning when I head to work…luckily I’m always running late so I don’t have time to stop!

The people I have met so far are wonderful and am looking forward to establishing many friendships.  They have experienced so much and have explored so much of the world! Right now, everything is only surface level and it will most likely take some time for any relationship to delve any deeper.  I’m not gonna lie…this opens the door for Loneliness to enter. The bastard. We’ve met many times and lucky for me I’ve acquired the skills to not let him take me down.  The fight exhausts me, but I’m proud of myself for staying on my own two feet.  Bring it on!  As I’ve said before, the people I’ve met are seriously really nice people.  Invitations for drinks, dinners with drinks, get-togethers with drinks, work-outs with drinks afterwards, etc. are bountiful!  As you can probably gather, drinking is a favorite pastime of most teachers here and my fear of not finding drinking buddies has definitely been absolved.  How did I expect otherwise in a country that has beer and whiskey in vending machines for goodness sake?!!  Haha…”sake” like “saké”…you know the drink…I just cracked myself up! No, I’m not drunk.  At least I don’t think so.  Oops…I digress.  It seems strange to think that one can feel Loneliness when so many people are around and there are so many opportunities to socialize.  I remember the first time I visited New York City and what stood out to me was how incredibly invisible I felt in a city of millions; like I could really just disappear and no one would ever notice.  That’s similar to what I feel here and although that may not sound like a positive aspect of this experience, I have learned that it actually is a blessing.  Whatever it is I am seeking is not going to be found by being complacent which is what I was in San Diego (extremely complacent actually).  What I seek will be found by putting myself in situations in which I have to look deep into my inner self and figure out who the hell I am and what I want out of this life!  Not an easy task, but one I am bound and determined to accomplish…even if it takes me the rest of my life, which I really hope it won’t.

I went to a wine bar on Friday night.  It was awesome!  Reminded me of San Diego and the wonderful times I had with beautiful friends over many glasses of wine.  It was tiny, with one long bar and about ten barstools.  The best part of the experience was the adorable Japanese man that runs the place.  He speaks a tiny bit of English and runs the place entirely on his own.  He thanks you profusely for allowing him to recommend a bottle, as if he is so flattered by our faith in the fact that he will make a wonderful choice for us (like I’ve ever sent any back).  He had a very specific ritual for opening and pouring the wine.  It was almost like a true craft and to him I think it actually was.  He also did all of the cooking in a tiny little kitchen.  We ordered many items on the menu and everything was simply delicious!  Even the presentation was impressive…the plates matched the food!  Check out the photos.  This will definitely be a place I visit often.

Roasted eggplant soaked in balsamic…oh joy
Sea salt steamed carrot…it was so simple and soooo delicious!
Zuccini…
**I didn’t get a picture of the prosciutto and fig dish, but it was to die for too

School has begun and I’ve met all 35 of my students.  Yes, I said 35.  I have a rather large caseload and am still freaking out a bit about it.  If I had 35 special ed students at any of my previous schools I think I would have quit teaching altogether.  Here, at ASIJ, I know it will be manageable once I get a handle on everything.  These kids are literally the nicest, most polite kids I have ever met.  Many have attention issues, but none of them have any serious behavioral issues.  They also seem so much younger than my previous middle schoolers; more innocent. I am really looking forward to getting to know them all.  I have to admit something; I had some very serious doubts about my ability to do this job in the days prior to school starting.  People kept commenting on how happy they are to have my expertise on staff and how I am going to be such an asset to the school.  The high school Learning Support teacher (who has a published book about teaching students with attention and motivation issues) actually said how excited she was to learn from me….WHAT?! In my mind I kept thinking, “They hired the wrong person!” “What did I put on my resumé?” “What the hell is happening?”  I felt so much pressure that my program had to be developed by the first day of school and that it had to surpass anything that had been done before, yet I had no direction.  My direction was simply, “There is no specific program, so you can really do what you want to meet student needs.” I actually felt like a fraud and my mind went so blank that I couldn’t even think of an icebreaker for the first day of school. Can you say “Hello Xanex!”?  Thanks to a reassuring conversation with a wonderful friend and a smooth first week of school, I once again have my confidence back.  I’ll be working my tail off this year, but I think I am going to actually enjoy it and luckily my paycheck will make it all worth it.

*Sidenote: So I assumed that since ASIJ is a private school, the teachers would dress a bit more professionally than most at my previous schools so I went a bit crazy upgrading my wardrobe.  Well, I am the most overdressed teacher on campus!  Oh well, I am actually enjoying dressing up each day…minus the bike ride in high heels each morning.

That’s me!

Speaking of my bike…I am seriously loving my new form of transportation!  The roads are quite narrow and traffic is always buzzing by a little to close for my comfort, but it’s just so easy to get around ( and cheap!).  I do have to plan my outings since I can really only buy what I can carry.  I haven’t had a problem yet, but I also haven’t bought some much needed items since I have no idea how I’m going to get them back to my place.  Even with groceries; I can’t buy everything I want because I simply won’t be able to get it home.  I actually do not see this as a disadvantage though because I am only buying what I need and not a bunch of unnecessary crap that will juts go bad anyway.  I do have the train system down from here to Mashashisakai so I can buy bigger items if I need to and just carry them back.  Lucky for me, the train station is right behind my apartment so I don’t have to walk very far either. I’ve even been on a couple of biking adventures!  I rode with a group to an area that we would normally take the train to just because we could.  It was a tough ride, but the 200yen beers were totally worth it.  Randomly this particular izakaya (Japanese bar with snacks) has 200yen beer nights on any day that ends in a 9…your guess is as good as mine.

All loaded up
…and I think my load is tough! I’ve even seen THREE kids on a bike

This past weekend a group of us went to explore an outdoor architectural museum.  It was in a beautiful park and had many homes ranging from hundreds year old farmhouses to the more “westernized” homes of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.  They even had a faux town set up that we could explore…everything was fake in the stores, but the houses were original and we were able to tour through them.  Unfortunately, we had to deal with some rain; however, the Japanese have got their shit together…So outside every house/exhibit was an umbrella stand with umbrellas for our use.  Wait, it gets better.  Not only did they have umbrellas for rain, but also “sun shade” umbrellas for extra hot days.  One of the teachers and I were laughing because nowhere in the states would their be something we could use on our own accord…for free.  There’s just no way!  We would have had to fill out some paperwork and leave a deposit.  It’s one of the beauties of Japan though…they have a very respected code of honesty.  So I’m digressing again, but I have heard many stories of someone losing a wallet or something valuable and they find it right where they left it or it had been turned in to one of the many koban (police box).  Very comforting.

It doesn’t look steep, but it is! A lot of people live in Kogenai which also houses many more stores and restaurants than my neighborhood so I try to get there at least once a week
One of the Japanese homes at the architectural museum

Back to my bike ride:  We rode another 13.5 km to a lake/reservoir that was really quite lovely.  It’s no Tahoe, but it was sure nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of my neighborhood.   We didn’t get a chance to stay long due to the grey, ominous cloud cover looming over our heads…we thought it a grand idea to high tail it outta there before the rain came crashing down.  Too late!  Ten minutes into the ride and we were drenched.  Erin and I took cover while the rest of the posse trekked on…good times.

Shrine on the side of the bike path

It rained the rest of the weekend too.  It is actually a welcome reprieve from the high humidity that has been here since I arrived.  Seriously, I wake up and start sweating.  People literally carry around sweat rags to wipe their faces during the day.  I can’t believe I stopped dating a guy because he carried a sweat rag with him all the time in SD…if he could see me now (I didn’t really base my decision to categorize him as “non-dateable” because of the sweat rag).  I seriously feel like Shaquil O’Neil and at this point I don’t even care anymore.  Like I said, the rain is so very welcoming and I am actually looking forward to the autumn months and the changing of the leaves.  It’s been a while for me.

Well, folks, its time for me to say good-night for now.  I have so much more to write about, but the natives are getting restless (Mom) and I need to get something out there before the troops get sent in.  Love to you all…I miss you!