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!

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7 thoughts on “Running with Chopsticks

  1. Thank you for the wonderful update! It seems you are really adjusting well to your new life. The key is to stay busy so you have no time to think! It is fantastic that you are looking forward to the challenge of the job, even if you had your doubts for a moment. You can only enhance the lives of those kids, and they yours. Love you and miss you! Laura

  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE your bike!!!! And it’s great to read about you exploring your area!! All the pictures are wonderful 🙂 And you said you never get up early enough to hit that bakery down stairs well I’d go in the evening then you’ll have it for first thing in the morning for breakfast 😉

  3. Oh to be young again, just to ride a bike! Actually I can but it scares the heck out of me. All the pics were wonderful to look at, the rain gorgeous. God is good. I look forward to being there. I want to hear the quiet.
    Love , Mom

    1. Hi Mommy!! Well, you’re gonna have to get over your fear because it’s how we get around in these parts 🙂 I plan to call this weekend to make some plans fro December…I think I finally have my dates down. Love you and miss you!

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