***Part of my delay with getting these blogs updated is that I’m technologically inept when it comes to this site I am using! Sorry about the pictures…they are all mixed up and kinda all over the place, but hopefully you can still enjoy. I’ll get better, I promise 🙂
Brrrr! As I pedaled home tonight in the pouring rain having forgotten my rain jacket, for the first time since I arrived in Japan, I was cold….and it was FABULOUS! The heavy humidity and the daily deluge of sweat constantly gushing from my pores was enough to turn me into a hot, sweaty monstrous biatch. I have never welcomed the turning of the season as much as I am right now. The mornings and evenings have a cool crisp to the air, but the afternoon sunlight warms everything up enough to be “just right”. There is some subtle evidence in the foliage as a few leaves are just starting to turn; the rest will follow suit soon. Many people have told me that the fall season lasts for quite a while here and that the real cold doesn’t hit until we return from Christmas holiday. This is great because it allows me a couple more months to explore and actually experience a season change…it’s been seven years for me!
It’s been a long time since I have written and I have many adventures to share; some close to home and others a decent trek away. I’ll share as much as I can, but others may have to wait until next time. I know, I know…if I updated more often then I wouldn’t have so much to share. Stop lecturing me! J
This is a lovely hiking area about 2 hours directly west from where I am. Of course it took me about 2.5 hours because I hopped on the slow train instead of the rapid. I still haven’t quite figured that all out yet. I’m lucky enough if I get on the train going in the right direction. The morning somehow flew right by and I didn’t actually leave my place until noon; like that’s a surprise, right? As I mentioned in my last blog, this was my first real outing on my own. I have to admit that I was quite nervous; especially after two hours on the train and then second-guessing if I was on the right one! Others who had hiked Mt. Mitake before had told me to just follow all the people (Japanese really enjoy hiking and nature), but since I had such a late start the train was rather empty. The scenery on the train was beautiful. My first glimpse of Japan’s undeveloped nature and it was nothing short of breathtaking. The mountains are covered in deep green forest and they are massive and expansive. This is the Japan that everyone raves about and I started to feel giddy about exploring and simply getting out of the congestion that is Tokyo. Seeing the untouched mountainsides also made me understand why the people here value nature so much; not only is it beautiful, but you can escape your busy life in just a couple of hours and feel like you are in a completely different world.
Getting to the mountain posed some challenges, as I had to catch a bus and then a cable car to get to the start of the hiking trail. Well, let me be honest; I could have skipped the cable car and hiked my way up, but I didn’t want to. The bus was easy to find and so was the cable car. The cable car literally went straight up and I couldn’t have been happier with my decision to take it rather than climb the steep first leg of the mountain. As soon as you reach the top, you are immediately swept away by the views. The sprawl of mountains and valleys continued as far as the eye could see. If it didn’t take so long to get to it would be my place to escape from it all on a regular basis.
The hike itself was not very strenuous and since I started from the top my trek was mostly downhill. The colors were so vibrant…the greens literally looked as if they were glowing. I wish the pictures could show this. I reached the Rock Garden, which is simply an open area with a stream and rocks of all shapes and sizes; most covered in moss. Because of the dense foliage, the overall light seemed dim, but was illuminated by the fluorescent green tones of the moss. I knew it was getting late and I would lose all light pretty soon, but I was determined to make it to the waterfall. I could hear it and knew it couldn’t be too far, but every time I came around a bend it wasn’t there. I finally decided to turn around. At this point I wasn’t sure how long I had been hiking and since my return trip would be uphill I figured it would take a bit longer than coming down. I have never booked it so fast in my life. Sweat dripped from my face and my quads were on fire, but I had to get out of there before the sun went down.
I made it to the shrine before it became dark and luckily for me the rest of the trail to the cable car was lit so I could finally relax. On the way back home I was tired, sweaty (probably stunk too) and my stomach was yelling at me, but all I could think about was how excited I was that I finally trekked out on my own. I did it! I didn’t get lost and I finally got to see the beautiful side of Japan. The experience was empowering and I was now equipped with the knowledge that I can do this. I can make a life for myself here and truly enjoy it. Yay!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
It’s Monday night and I have made it through my first week living abroad *cue applause*. The above picture is the result of quick grocery run so I could fuel up and tell you all about said first week. Now before you judge me on the contents of my dinner I must inform you that I have been trying all…umm…’most’ of the food presented to me with the exception of raw eel and fermented beans. Considering my history as a picky eater I’d say that’s progress. I also must say that I fully intended to bring home some take-out sushi (I’m serious), but they did not have any “lunchboxes” (that’s what they call them…well…in Japanese, but I don’t know how to say that) without those red fish eggs that look to me like bath beads and I’m just not quite ready for fish juice squirting in my mouth. Maybe next week. As I perused through the aisles wondering what strange concoctions reside behind the cardboard cartons and plastic containers, I stumbled upon the salami and cheese and I couldn’t resist. You can’t blame me right? I guess I needed a little piece of home…I won’t mention the Pringles and PB and jelly…oh shit, I just did. The triangle thing is actually a rice ball with some salmon inside wrapped with seaweed. It is soooooo delicious! Can’t have a good meal without a good beer and a bottle of sake. Oh, and I’m not sure if you can tell, but there is a pack of 50 chopsticks because I couldn’t find any forks…haha!
The first thought that comes to mind to share with you is that my inner compass is completely out of whack…not that it was ever 100% accurate. It is very unsettling not knowing where I am or having reference points. In Reno, I always looked to the mountains. In San Diego, I looked to the sun and knew where everything was in reference to the ocean. Here…I never know what direction I’m heading to and I get things backwards ALL the time. I try to focus on the sun, but it just doesn’t seem to be helping. The streets are narrow, curvy and don’t seem to follow any pattern at all. Many are dead ends. I was asked in what direction the windows in my apartment face and I literally could not figure it out! South…I think that would have been Guess #4. I know how to get to school from my hotel and have figured it out from my apartment as well. It’s a start. I know that eventually I’ll be able to navigate myself around and I so look forward to that day. I feel like a rat in a maze right now.
This is a two lane street…
I bought some shiny new wheels the other day. Oh yeah…she’s a beaut for sure. So I took her out yesterday and we explored the park (Nogawa) next to the school and the cemetery (Tama) which is a few blocks from my apartment. I’ve have a couple of videos that I took, but am having some technical difficulties. I’ll get them when I can. Both places were absolutely beautiful and I felt at peace for the first time since I’ve been here. They are my new Balboa Park; a place to get away and find a reprieve from it all. I’ve been told that when the cherry blossoms bloom in the spring that the cemetery is illuminated. Can’t wait!
Tokyo is a city of about 35 million people, but it is so quiet. Ok, so yes…I totally live out in the ‘burbs, but there are still a helluva lot of people out here. My neighborhood is just houses upon houses in between all shapes and sizes of apartment buildings….yet it is eerily quiet. Nobody raises their voice for any reason it seems; the trains are quiet, the streets are quiet…even the stores are quiet (except for the poor guy who has the horrible job of standing in the middle of the department store announcing a sale). In addition to the quiet there are many unsaid rules in which everybody follows. Nobody walks and eats, no one talks on their phones on the trains, no one ever speaks in a loud voice unless they’ve been out drinking and then it’s humorous, you always walk on the left, you let people off the trains before getting on (duh), in crowds you get through via a line formation…It seems very regimented, but everything flows very well and I really think I can get used to that! Right now I’m just observing constantly to see the proper way of doing things. When I was purchasing tonight’s wonderful dinner, I noticed that the cashier shifted the food items from my basket to another basket after scanning them. After you pay you take your basket of food to a little counter just past the cashier and bag you shit yourself. I thought that was so clever!! How many times have you waited while the cashier has to finish bagging the person’s items in front of you?? We all have and this system made it so quick…although you do have to do your own bagging.
Vending machines everywhere!!
So far my experience with the Japanese people has been incredible. They are VERY customer service oriented…so much so that I almost can’t believe it! I’ve had to purchase a lot of things and have needed a lot of help since I have arrived. Every time people have literally bent over backwards to help me. You walk into an establishment and everybody greets you!! I have no idea what they are saying. but they seem so happy that you are there…and when you leave they do the same thing. At restaurants, even the cooks will wave and bid you farewell. I can’t articulate how wonderful and refreshing it is just to have some kindness bestowed upon you by a stranger. The other day I went into a bakery (oh yeah…fuck the whole veggies and fish diet…these people LOVE their sweets!!) and I bought a few pastries to take to a dinner I was attending. The woman literally walked me back over to the baked goods and made me pick out two more…she just gave them to me! Today when I was buying my phone, I received a free Apple TV device as well as a digital picture frame just for being a customer. I can easily get used to this.
I mentioned a bit about the food, but I want to wait until I experience some more and I think it will deserve its own blog. One thing I learned very quickly is that I am going to have to learn to tolerate many different textures. That’s my biggest challenge when it comes to food. Sushi consumption is going on strong and I’ve actually really been enjoying it. I have actually put things in my mouth without knowing what they are! The Japanese like to put meat on a stick and grill it. It’s called yakitori. This past weekend I went out to Kinchijoji with our new AP and her husband and we found a restaurant that had pictures on the menu (seriously…this is how we choose!). It was a great little place where we sat on pillows with a sunk-in table. We actually called our waiter by banging on a wooden gong. When anyone banged the gong, all the waiters and cook staff would yell in unison. Pretty cool. Anyway, we ordered some yakitori based on the pictures thinking we had one chicken, one pork and one beef as there were many to choose from. Ummm…we don’t think any of them were actually what we thought they were.. Then we ordered these friend things that maybe we thought were popcorn fish because there was a lemon in the picture. Again…not fish, but a super tough substance that I would have hoped was octopus, but when I talked to one of the teachers and used the analogy that it had a consistency like cartilage, he said, “oh, it probably was”. That made my stomach turn a bit. One more thing; I mentioned that Japanese love their sweets and one of the most popular sweets is a sweet bean puree. At first I thought this sounded disgusting. Who would ever associate beans with dessert? At one of the many bakeries, I purchased what I thought was a jelly donut. It was actually filled with this bean puree instead of jelly, but I thought it was delicious! I’m willing to try it!
Miso soup…with shrimp 🙂
As for me…a dear friend gave me some great advice to find a routine and to figure out how to have some comforts from home. I downloaded Season 6 of Dexter and have been anticipating my alone time at the Hotel Mets to watch a new episode each evening (ok maybe 2 episodes but who’s counting?). Having this to look forward to helps with the alone time. Don’t get me wrong; anyone who knows me knows that I love my alone time, but its different here. When I come home in the evening it is sleeping hours for those that I would normally talk to. I can’t just call and chat if I want to…that piece is what makes the alone here so alone. I know I will meet people and form some great friendships, but this transition phase is tough. Another factor is that most of the teachers here are married. This makes me feel very single. Being single is what allowed me to embark on this journey and I truly hope that being single will not dampen my experiences here. Singledome is a whole other blog, but I’m definitely feeling it.
Check out the sign on top…7-11. They are everywhere and even have superstores!
That’s plenty for now. Please ask me anything you are curious about. I will give you my thoughts an observations as well as I can, but I know that in time they may change. I can’t believe it has only been a week! It seriously seems like forever…most days have been quite busy with simply the tasks of trying to establish a household. It’s been a lot of work. Thank you all for reading and supporting! I love hearing from you and even if I don’t get back right away (internet time is limited) please know that your communication truly warms my heart…
When heading to school, I know to turn right when I get to this shrine.
Musashisakai: home of the Hotel Mets…my temporary home.
Right now at this very moment as I am typing these first words to this blog I have been in Japan for a full 24 hours. I know what you are all asking: How do you feel? What is your first impression? What’s it like? Sooooooooo????
I am a fish out of water.
And I don’t mean that in a negative way; I am just overwhelmed. My head is spinning and…well…I just don’t know yet. So let me back up a bit and I’ll try to explain my experience thus far as well as I can.
I read this book not too long ago in which the main narrator was a young boy with autism. One of the main traits of people with autism is that they have difficulty understanding their emotions. This particular character described his feelings of worry, sadness or just melancholy as having “heavy boots”. I think that is a perfect way to explain my feelings during my last days in Reno and this term flashed in my head as I thought of what was to come. Not having a home, Rufus being gone, selling my car, living out of my suitcase, the impending task of saying good-bye to loved ones (again), the fact that I was moving to a foreign country….all of it gave me heavy boots and the fact that I should have been excited and ready to leap into this journey made my boots even heavier because I wasn’t feeling excited; just riddled with anxiety and uncertainty. To make things worse, my flight out of Reno was delayed and I missed my connecting flight to Tokyo only to be told I would have to be on standby and possibly wouldn’t be able to fly out until the next day. As I sat waiting, I couldn’t help to think that this was a terrible way to start my journey and that maybe it was a sign…Luckily for me I was able to get on the flight AND was upgraded to first class which was a total first for me and my “sign” completely did a 180. Yay.
Arriving in Japan was a cinch; upon arrival to Narita Airport I was led to a small room off to the side and it took only 5 minutes to get my alien registration card, another 10 minutes to grab my luggage, another 10 to get through customs and BAM! just like that I was in Japan! I was greeted right outside of customs by Marty, our business manager, and thus began my first true glimpse of my new home.
I have to admit, and unfortunately it may be disappointing, but I can’t really explain the journey from the airport to my hotel. It took about 2.5 hours and Marty pointed out many things to me, but all I can really recall is that downtown Tokyo is huge and we passed Tokyo Disney. After coming off a 10.5 hour flight with the stressful 2 hour delay, I don’t think I had the ability to be totally observant….Also, it was about 3 in the morning for me, I had taken a full Xanex on the plane and everything still seemed so surreal…like a dream and I was just floating on top of it all. Marty helped checked me into my hotel which is in a really cool part of “suburban” Tokyo called Musashisakai. At about 8pm when I arrived it seemed that the area was really hoppin’ and my plan was to get my luggage to my room, do a quick makeover and go explore. However, the next thing I remember is waking up about 12:30am sprawled out on my bed with my clothes still on as well as all the lights in my room….apparently I was more tired than I thought!
I woke early ( about 5am) and just hung out with my thoughts for a couple of hours; trying to wrap my head around the fact that I now live in Japan. The hotel provided a complimentary breakfast via a voucher for a cute café (Starbucks knock-off) right next door. My breakfast consisted of a ham sandwich with a bit of potato salad and a coffee As I ate I tried I noticed how quiet the café was; people reading, quietly eating and one lady was even sleeping ( head totally sagging to the side and she had her sunglasses on). I still had an hour before being picked up thus my first adventure of finding an ATM machine began! I remembered reading that most ATM’s were closed on Sundays, but luckily the third one I found was able to dispense some money for me (all in 10,000 bills!)
Toshi came to pick me up right on time and he took me to my new school. I’ll have to write more about my school later because, again, my observational skills were still on hiatus. Another teacher met us in Toshi’s office and we chatted for a few minutes about the places we were going to look at. Suzanne was looking for something larger than I needed so we had a few options for both of us. The first place we looked at was not on the list, but the agent we were working with wanted to show it to us anyway. It was super cute, right above a French bakery and only three blocks from school. It was tiny…but I figured that was going to be the case. It may not have been perfect, but with the location; I couldn’t pass it up. The other places we looked at were much nicer inside; one was a standalone house with sliding paper doors and windows, another was totally open to pets and even had a dog washing station built in the bathroom, another even had a view of Mt. Fuji!!! As appealing as all of these were, the downside was they are all pretty far out and I just felt that I needed to be close to the school and other teachers…for now anyway. Toshi shared his concern about my choice only because a big holiday is coming up and he wasn’t sure if it could be cleaned and ready for me in a timely manner. I might have to stay in the hotel for another 2 weeks! Arghh…oh well, what’s two weeks in the grand scheme of things, right?
Toshi dropped me off at my hotel and I was pretty much on my own for lunch. Unfortunately, I started to have heavy boots again. I had been here less than 24 hours, was told I’d be well taken care of yet here I am in the middle of a neighborhood I can’t even pronounce and I’m left to my own devices. I can’t lie; my frustration was building. I hadn’t heard from anyone by 4pm so I called Marty and left a message regarding the plans for the evening. He texted me an hour later to say he’d be there to pick me up to take me to dinner at the headmaster’s house. It was something.
At Ed’s house (the headmaster), I met the other two new people who were starting at ASIJ, plus some other administrators I’d be working with. I loved hearing everyone’s stories of travel and experience, but it seemed so out of my league. These people were experienced…they’d seen more of the world then I could ever imagine….”When I lived in Delhi…When I lived in Prague…When I lived in Paris…When I lived in China…When I lived in Quatar…Uh When I lived in South Park…”. What I need to remember is that everyone started somewhere and my somewhere is here and now. I’ll have my experiences soon enough and I can’t express how thoroughly grateful I am that I traveled through Europe this summer (thanks, Mom!) because at least I could contribute somewhat. I even met another teacher who backpacked through Michoacán as I had and we bonded instantly! The rest of dinner went well and I have a good feeling that all is going to work out and be an experience I can’t and won’t regret.
So there’s my first 24 hours…a bit long-winded and boring, but that’s it. I’ll have much more interesting stories to share in the days to come! …and pictures too…
When I moved to San Diego seven years ago I uprooted everything I knew
to be home. My family, my lifelong friends, my home, my
job…everything. I knew not a soul nor did I have a job, but I knew
it was something I had to do; a calling I just couldn’t explain.
Unfortunately, my first year in I wanted nothing but to return to the
comforts of “home”. I never knew Loneliness like I did those first
few months in America’s Finest City. I thought I had…you know those
Friday nights when the phone stays quiet and you think that none of
your friends like you anymore because they are all out having fun
without you and didn’t think to call you (when the reality is that
they are all at home staring at the phone as well). No, that wasn’t
Loneliness, just his pansy-ass sidekick . No, Loneliness envelops you
and pins you down, smothering you with his darkness so you can’t
breath, can’t move. Loneliness and I tangoed constantly and after
about 7 months into it I called “uncle” and told my family I was
coming home. Loneliness won. However, after a long conversation with
a very wise woman, my mom, we both decided that I needed to give it at
least a full year. My mom is probably kicking her own as—butt about
that conversation, but it was one of the best pieces of advice she
has given me…I grew to love San Diego as my home and the growth I made
personally and professionally was astounding. Now seven years later
I’m moving on again.
Between battling with loneliness that first year, getting myself into
a financial hole and a “not-so-fun” break-up, one might think that my
thoughts about leaving would have been “GOOD RIDDANCE” as I flipped SD
the bird while watching the downtown skyline shrink in my rearview
mirror as I headed north on the 5, gleeful to have this phase of my
life finally behind me. On the contrary, my years in San Diego have
been nothing short of wonderful. The hardships I endured only made me
stronger and I am grateful for the support and love provided by those
near and far. When I think back seven years ago, I realize that
leaving Reno was not difficult…leaving my loved ones was killer, but
Reno itself? No biggie. Saying good-bye to SD was more difficult that
I could have possibly imagined. Those last few weeks were spent
berating myself for not grasping every opportunity possible. I wanted
to spend more time at the coffee shop down the street, go to more
farmer’s markets, take a surfing lesson, paddleboard more often, run
on the beach, have a crepe at Café Madeline’s, invite my friends over
for wine and snacks, participate in a triathlon, make my own beer,
swim in the ocean, start road-biking…I could go on and on. And to
think I stayed quite busy most of the time already! I left part of my
soul in San Diego and I know in my hearts of hearts that someday I
will be back…we are connected.
Ironically enough my battle with Loneliness that first year dealt
mainly with the fact that I had such a difficult time meeting people.
Since I grew up in Reno, most of my friends were childhood friends;
we had history and that network of friends just continued to grow as
we all got older. However, when I moved to SD I didn’t have that
network anymore…I had to start from scratch. But the people here sure
had their networks dialed down and let me tell you, trying to get in
with no connections is not an easy task! Fortunately for me it was a
task I accomplished and one I accomplished very well…I have been so
blessed with the friendships I have made and will miss so many people
as I embark on this new endeavor. I know that many will stay in my
life for years to come and I can’t express how truly grateful I am.
So thank you Whale’s Vagina; thank you for the life lessons learned
while residing in your beauty, thank you for the laughs, smiles and
love from your people, thank you for the 15 extra pounds from having a
bit too much fun most of the time, thank you for year-round sunshine
(ok except maybe May and June), thank you for the fresh ocean air and
thank you for giving me the courage to leave you…
Valentine’s Day is a ridiculous holiday. Yes, I am single and I think that most singles would agree with me; however that fact that I am single is not the reason for my vehement dislike for this day. I admit, I do get a bit green with envy at the romantic gestures of friends’ husbands and boyfriends as I head out for yet another
Girl’s Night Out in which my single gal pals and I awkwardly laugh and joke about singledome when it’s pretty obvious that we all just want to bury our heads in our glass of wine, curl up in the fetal position and have our own solo pity party. Throughout the night you can hear us saying statements such as: “I like not having to worry about someone else.” or “It’s so nice to do whatever I want.” or “I love my alone time.” Too bad we are all secretly sneaking glimpses at the sweet, loving star-crossed couples surrounding us at every corner; wistfully hoping that it will be us next year so we don’t have to endure another VD as a lower class citizen, aka; single woman in her 30s.
Even when in a relationship my disdain for VD held true. I tried to convince myself of the absurdity of the day and to not have any expectations as my then “manfriend” wasn’t much of a romantic anyways. Right. Allowing oneself to have zero expectations on Valentine’s Day is as easy as popping a zit in the middle of your back. I would play it off as no big deal, but inside I fervently hoped for a romantic getaway or a surprise night out on the town or, yes, even an unexpected proposal. Year after year it was the same obligatory flowers, wine, chocolate…but I did get some nice lingerie one year. Yippee. I was appreciative of course, but couldn’t help but to be slightly disappointed. After all, this was the one day a year that he really had an opportunity to show me how much he loved me, right? See that’s why I abhor this holiday. Every day should be Valentine’s Day,
yet people leave it to this one time a year to do something extra special for their other half. That’s lame.
This VD a high school student that I tutor came to see me for one of her sessions. Of course, her English teacher gave her a collection of writings to acknowledge this blessed holiday. We read a depressing poem on marriage, some lyrics to a love ballad, a review of The Taming of the Shrew and an article titled “Mr. Good Enough”. At first when I read this article it really pissed me off. The author talked about how women are too proud to “settle” so they choose to be alone and that this is a downfall to the whole feminist movement and women’s independence. A downfall? On the contrary, she argued, women should settle…Mr. Good Enough is really just that; good enough. Wow. She went on the say that women who wait for Mr. Perfect end up waiting their lives away and that if they just settled for Mr. Good Enough they would end up content and complacent in their lives as Mr. Good Enough will make a good enough partner, a good enough father and a good enough husband. Mr. Perfect, she explained, does not stay perfect forever and cannot keep up the expectations of staying perfect, thus eventually causing extreme disappointment in the relationship/marriage. The article’s targeted audience was definitely women in their thirties (me) and she emphasized that we are not being honest with ourselves when we say we’d rather be alone than to settle; that every woman wants to be someboody’s wife and if we say otherwise we are full of crap.
During the initial read, I couldn’t keep my anger at bay. How dare she say that I am not being honest with myself! Of course I am going to wait for Mr. Perfect because, goddamit, I deserve him! And if we never find each other, well then that is just fate and I guess I’m destined to be alone…I can handle that. Settle? F that. I almost did that and now, in hindsight, I realize how miserable I would have been. Who is this lady anyway? Some bitter single lady that wants the rest of us to suffer with her? Interestingly enough, once the dust cleared I kind of saw her point. I don’t agree with everything she had to say, but a tinge of truth could be deciphered. After F-squared I had to change my song and dance. How can I admit that marriage, kids and a white picket fence is something I still want? That dream was taken from me and now, ironically enough, the thief is living it…living my dream. That’s not easy to accept.
Here’s the thing that I have realized: I have several dreams that I want to fulfill in this lifetime. My move to Japan is one of them. I have always imagined myself in a far off country; learning a new culture and experiencing as much of the world as possible. My mom loves to tell the story about how when I was little I wanted to be Christian singer and travel the world in my own private jet while feeding the poor. My American Idol for Jesus dream may be over (sorry mom), but I am faced with an amazing opportunity that I simply cannot let slip me by…and maybe I’ll even toss out a couple loaves of bread while abroad so at least 1/2 of my original dream stays true to form. Yes, I want to be married to Mr. Perfect for Me. Yes, I want a family. Yes, I want the house with a baby’s room and an office and a kitchen bigger than my bathroom (oh and while I’m at it a walk-in closet would be nice!). Yes, I want to join the Mommy clubs and compare birthing stories and my breast pumping schedule. I admit it and I’m not afraid to admit it. What I won’t do is wait around for it. I have spent the last two years picking up my broken pieces which, in my opinion, is way too long and now I need to do for me. This next chapter is going to be amazing…I can feel it! And wherever Mr. Perfect for Me is, I will find him eventually. Who knows, maybe he’ll be in Japan.
Upon initial acceptance of the offer to uproot myself and start my life anew in Japan, I was nothing but elated. I couldn’t hold my excitement in and I often caught myself daydreaming of riding my bike to work and speaking Japanese with the locals as I shopped the corner market for my fresh fruits and veggies. I couldn’t stop smiling as I shared this amazing news with my family and closest friends. The adventures I would soon be faced with and this new life I was imagining brought a flutter to my stomach and I couldn’t wait to begin.
Then one, dark, cold and stormy night a few weeks after the “handshake” I had a face-off with my long, lost nemesis, Panic. Ok, maybe Panic was conjured up by a bit of recreational sampling, but that is neither here nor there….Panic was in my face regardless of how he got there. I think this was my worst bout yet and I’ve had many. I was trying to fall asleep when my mind literally started swarming with questions. It was like the floodgates opened and I couldn’t even concentrate on one before another entered, then another, then another…Then I could feel the sensation in my entire body. If you’ve experienced this type of panic attack you know exactly what I am talking about, if you haven’t then I hope you never do. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone…I mean that. Think about that feeling you get when you just realize you forgot an important appointment or when you “almost” get into an accident. That rush of adrenaline shoots through your entire body in a split second. Now imagine that rush you feel in those situations shooting through your body, only it keeps shooting back and forth, back and forth like a frickin pinball…it doesn’t go away…just ricochets off every corner of your body. My heart pounded so hard it felt that my chest would burst and I struggled to take in air while trying to rationalize the irrational thoughts that were plaguing my mind and keeping me from sleep. How will I know where to go? What if I get lost? What if Rufus doesn’t make the flight? What if I can’t take him? What if the whole thing is a scam? What if I get there and I’m stuck and I can’t leave? These questions/thoughts wouldn’t stop…not even for a short break and I knew it wasn’t going to slow down anytime soon.
So what does one do when they are having a panic attack in the middle of the night? Duh-they wake up their roommate! Poor Courtney, there’s nothing that can be said or done to ease one of this feeling. I was bombarding her with questions like: Why am I doing this? How could I be so stupid? How did I think I could do this? What was I thinking? All questions she couldn’t answer of course…although she gave it her best effort. She watched as I paced and yelled at no one in particular for my poor decision making; moving from the fetal position to child’s pose then back to pacing. Finally after 2 1/2 hours of sheer insanity (I think Court had already dialed the looneybin) I finally took a Xanex. Why did I wait so long you ask? Well, rational thought is pretty much an urban legend when in the midst of a panic attack. As the wonder drug kicked in, we perused websites and learned a few essential Japanese phrases to help ease my worry and in no time at all (Courtney’s version would say otherwise), I finally fell asleep.
My tune has definitely changed since that awful night. I am still excited and looking forward to this new change, but the thoughts and questions from my panic episode still linger. Of course, I’ve weeded (no pun intended) out the really irrational ones like “How will I know what train to get on from the airport?” or “Could this be a scam?” because I’m pretty sure I’ve got those covered at this point. I also know that Rufus, my biggest concern, will be fine. The questions that remain now are more along the lines of: Will the people I meet be as close to the caliber of those currently in my life? Will I fall in love with the culture or find it so awkward that I truly cannot wrap my mind around it enough to embrace it? Will I love my job or regret that I didn’t go for a general ed position like I had hoped? Will I be involved and find the right group of people to spend my time with and travel with? Will I be as miserable as I was when I first moved to San Diego? These are legit questions at this point and they really cannot be answered until I get there….they are the unknown. A few of the answers are also up to me and how I respond to this change and if I allow myself to open up and truly accept all possibilities. That part is up to me. I think the positive that came out of my miserable night with Panic is that I now understand the magnitude of this decision. I’m still proud of my decision and know it will truly be an experience of a lifetime. I am finally doing what I’ve always dreamed of…seeing the world!
Being a creature of habit is not as dismal as some may think. Think about it; the agonizing task of making a decision is eliminated and disappointment doesn’t even have a chance to show it’s ugly face. Plus, the wonderful servers in the world can get on with their lives instead of waiting patiently by your table as you decide if you want to try the lemon crusted salmon or the veggie pasta primavera (I’d go with the salmon). Seriously, making decisions is time consuming, somewhat painful and there’s always a risk because the outcome is unknown ( the salmon may have been totally overcooked). I, myself, am not a creature of habit and truly enjoy the new experiences and variety that I am fortunate enough to have in my life. That’s not to say that I don’t have my regulars; I certainly do. Sleeping in on Saturdays, Stella Artois and Chef Boyardee raviolis ( ew, I know….) are all habits that I enjoy immensely and wouldn’t want to give up for anything. But those are inconsequential habits…well, except for the extra 10 lbs that I just can’t seem to shake-I’m sure Stella and the chef are somewhat to blame ( ok, so maybe it’s 20 lbs, but whatever).
The whole point of my pointless rambling is that I really wish that I could be more of a creature of habit. I used to think it was boring and unadventurous and, well, stagnate. However, every five to six years and get this feeling, this itch to make a change and not just a simple change like repainting my kitchen (already did that), but a major change that will completely uproot me and send me in a whole new direction. See where I’m going with this? This feeling causes me to have to make a decision, a BIG one that may involve huge risks and possible devastating outcomes…and I truly wish that I could just be satisfied right here and now with where I am in life; physically, emotionally and mentally. Courtney says this is human growth; that we all get this feeling and some choose to do something with it, but others don’t. The last time this feeling emerged I moved to San Diego.