We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls. — Anais Nin

I’m not gonna lie. This is definitely a problem of mine. Being a writer never helps. I’m constantly wrapped up in daydreams, some less realistic than others. And I am always wondering, ‘what if?’ And so, for the fourth time, I’ve moved halfway across the planet.

Yup! Back in Japan. Back to blogging. I’ll be better (again I say this. I will TRY this time.)

But this time I live in the country. I’ve never lived in the country! I’m a city girl, through and through. I know you know. Even if you wouldn’t say it to me, we both know you know.

And now I live in city about the size of my suburb, surrounded by Strawberry fields and a ring of mountains in the distance. It’s not helping with the daydreams.

Fortunately, I’m so…what’s the best way to say this….confident, yet mildly terrified and stressed out about driving, that I’ve been super aware of what I’m doing in the car. (Yes, I have a car. It’s rental, it’s tiny, like shorter than I am, and it’s boxy and I kind of hate it, but love it too.) And I have to have a car, not because its the country. There is a train; compared to Yokohama, it’s a pathetic little thing, with trains every 20/25 minutes and only two directions to go in. But as we have already established, I am a city girl, and Yokohama spoiled me. Anywho, I NEED a car because I have 10, TEN, 1-0 schools. TEN!!! Wait, one more time, 10!!!!!!!!!!

Yup! Three elementary schools, 6 kindergartens, and a nursery school. Yeah….yup. I don’t know how to get to most of them. But that’s what GPS is for. (I do know how to get to the ES I go to almost every day. So as far as that goes, I’m good.) But two of the ES are straight up in the mountains. Like, they don’t think my little-motorcycle-engine car will make it up the road if it snows. (I learned to drive in snow…I’m not too worried about snow, but if there is ice, I’m not sure the car is heavy enough to keep it from sliding down the mountain.)

But because it’s in the mountains, there are cows! Yeah i know that doesn’t make sense. It’s Japan, what do you want? COWS! And this farm/kids education place/? that makes really, reeeeeeeeeally good ice cream. It’s really good! I will try to stop there like every week when I go to that school.

(I’m only half kidding.)

Other than that….classes haven’t started yet. So, I dunno? People seem cool so far. And the kids all seem pretty nice. I don’t have the preteens this time, thank god. I’m planning on making posters all day tomorrow. Prolly about the months. Cause English really had a field day with naming months. Japanese did the smart thing and used numbers; first month, second month, etc.  To the kids, it probably seems like English just smashed random letters together, stood back, and said ‘that’ll do’. So I’ll be thinking up some way to make it easier to remember…if there is one?

Mmm. Yeah. I’ll post again soon.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” — J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Goodbye Japan; Hello Scotland!!!! 

It’s only my second day here. And I’m still getting used to the whole time zone change thing. I’ve mostly been walking around the city, or to use the scientific term – getting lost. Streets do not have a nice straight way about them here. 

A few things are the same as Japan. I still, unfortunately, feel a bunch of people starting at me. Only now, instead of knowing the reason – being a blonde pale person, relatively tall – I have no idea what they’re lookin at. Am I obviously American? Probably…although living in Japan should have softened that, right? Am I doing something that’s weird? No idea… 

I mean I’m not wearing the apparent skinny pant uniform that almost everyone else is…but how boring would that be? (And I do mean almost everyone) But is that really a reason to stare at me? I wouldn’t think so. 

I was rocking sunglasses yesterday. But I love sunglasses. And even a little light can blind me. I am loving the clouds though. I missed that in Japan. With all its stupid sun. Cleveland has gorgeous gray days all the time. Apparently so does Scotland. 

Maybe by fall I’ll be able to blend in more. 

Another problem that I’m having is this unconcious, almost, habit of planning what I’m going to say. Even though it’s in English, and I know English. It’s a leftover from Japan.  Planning my japanese sentences just made everything go a bit more smoothly. And I find myself doing that here. But in English. Oops?

Walking is my friend too. Even though I have no cell coverage so can’t get a map and end up with very little idea of where I am. Buses and trains and taxis scare me a little. Because I don’t know how money works. In Japan at least, I had it. I could do money. Not always in Japanese, but I knew what and how much etc. Pounds though? No clue. I had a mini panic when I realized that there’s a difference between Bank of England and Bank of Scotland issued notes. And again with these 1 pound coins. Like 100 yen coins. What’s wrong with 1 dollar bills? Apparently that’s not a common thing. 

I think Australia also prefers the coin variety. And pence….? Money’s hard. 

But I’ll get it sorted. I can do this – I have to do this. I’ll need to be able to do this in September. So there’s that. 

Everything is stone here. Where are the wood buildings? But it’s cool. Very UK-like. I do just want my central-heated wood house though. I’ll see you soon (one week). 

And my doggie! So many dogs here. Beautiful fluffy things. But I want my Kuma. My great big dumb beastie. Oh and my family and friends. I want to see them too. Of course, I want to see them. My dog just better be there too. At least for the first week or so. 

But I’ll write more later. I’m off to look for Nessie tomorrow, and the at least one more day trip to various castles (castles!) around the country. AND most important – my new school. I’m super excited about that. 

I did learn how to put a kilt on – like the full kilt thing. Not just the skirt-ish part. So I can do that now. If I had one. Maybe I can figure out some terrible kimono/kilt monster hybrid. 

Till later. 6 more days till Cleveland!

“…rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” — Abraham Lincoln

Just a note. This is a super old post. I don’t know why it didn’t get uploaded. 

How wonderfully perfect and amazing is that quote? Yes, it is only half of the quote; the first part is something like should we be sad cause rose bushes have thorns. But that’s boring because it’s just so….true?

But: REJOICE! Rejoice because thorn bushes have roses. I don’t think people use the word rejoice enough. This is my new philosophy. And for every question someone asks me that I don’t want to answer: rejoice! For thorn bushes have roses. (Maybe throw a little confetti) then run away. For every lull in a conversation: rejoice! For every tense conversation I do not want to be a part of any more:..rejoice! 

For every morning I spend sitting in a government building waiting for my ticket number to be called so that I can hand in a piece of paper and then….go sit and wait some more: rejoice! For thorn bushes have roses, and what a wonderful idea that is. What an amazing combination of words and letters. What a great thing the english language is. How awe inspiring are those that have a solid grasp on it, the true wordsmiths. 

Rejoice! What a great word! For thorn bushes have roses! What an uplifting idea. Isn’t that a smile that flickered across your face? Isn’t that amazing? How great! How beautiful! 

Oh and p.s. I think I’m going crazy waiting in this dumb government building. I am just so very bored. 

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” — Albert Einstein PART TWO

Subtitle: Buses and Blizzards

Today, dear friends, we return to the exciting adventure of our hero, Samara. When last we saw our intrepid adventurer, she was waiting to board the flying machine that would take her to the frozen north, Hokkaido. Has she arrived? Did she accomplish her quest to ski? And, if so, how did she do it? I will keep you in suspense no longer! Thank you! you will exclaim. Thank you! I’ve been worried sick over all of it! 

And to this I say, calm down and we will begin!!

Indeed, our hero did arrive in Hokkaido safely. The flight, though delayed a few minutes, was soon up in the air. It was a short flight, and the adventurers next to our hero shared their gum with her.

She was most grateful for such an alliance, and began the second leg of her quest in high spirits.

The airport in Hokkaido was nothing, easily explored. But, unknowingly, she walked straight into the second test.

THE BUS!

Our hero was smart about planning her adventure, even if her packing was a little..last minute. She had been assured passage from the airport to the quest location lodgings. However, the second test was not to be so easily conquered. She would need to discover the place of departure for the bus. The first step: procure a map of the location. Quickly done, our hero had a map of the location of the map.

If she had a map, you interject, how hard could this test be? And your questions are not unfounded. Our hero too, took the test lightly, proceeding to catch some lunch and lazing about by the cars for hire.

In fact, this test was not one of difficulty or intelligence. This test was one of group thinking. Our hero, having understood the directions she was given, proceeded to the location of the bus, only to find out that this was, in truth, not the true location. She’d been duped!

If only, instead of trusting the counter dwellers she had negotiated with for the map; if ONLY she had read the map, she would have realized a second step to obtaining the true map. For indeed, she only had a map of where to find the map of the bus!

If she had followed the other lost looking foreign adventurers, she would have known. Eventually though, after asking help from a herder, she found her bus.

At last! you think. She is truly on her way now.

And so she was. The trip was a long and not particularly dangerous one. Over hills and around harbors they traveled, the outside world obscured through a veil of snow.

How is that not a concern! you interrupt, again. And if you had let me continue, I would have describes this veil, thus: It was a threadbare veil. The majority of the cloth holes.

You sigh, and slump back into your chair relieved.

Truly the only point of interest at the place in our narrative is that somehow our hero had picked up an unknown sidekick. A small ladybug rode with our hero part of the way, until it landed on her face. And since our hero had no knowledge of this companion, swatted it away to search for a more welcoming party.

The sun set, and our coach finally reached the lodgings out hero had secured. It was quite nice lodgings: warm with central heating, which is all out hero could really ask. She quickly was shown to her room, and without a moment to lose, set off to truly begin her quest. She sought out, the dreaded rental cave!!!

The lodgings, catering to daredevils such as her, had its own questing site, complete with lift and storage for the various items one needed to equip for a large range of quests. Or hero need not delay from her quest, though the sun had set.

In fact, her lodgings were well equipped for NIGHT QUESTING. 

Ah-ha! Night questing! Could it be so easy?!  you ask, curiosity running over and around your tongue, tripping it up. So much so, that your exclamation sounds something similar to: Ah-ha! Nigh guesting! Cout ib eezo izzy?!  But I understand you dear listener, I do. My answer to your question is INDEED IT WAS! Within the hour, our hero had been equipped with weapons for defeating the downhill slope, and set off to do just that! And in the process, she conquered another mini-quest.

Another?! Could it be? Did she really?

But don’t forget, dear listeners, this is Samara, hero and adventure! Of course she managed such a feat!

The mini-quest: gain secret intelligence. Our hero: easily completed this task, while looting for the perfect equipment to slay the mountain dragon! The rental cave denizens, suspecting our hero to be just another traveler, happily chatted away in front of her. It was not until she was leaving that they discovered her understanding, and amid smiles and laughter all around she set off to ski!

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” — Albert Einstein PART ONE

Subtitle: Adventures in Airports

Once upon a time, a specific time in fact, there was a girl. This girl’s name was Samara. And one day she woke up. Well, she woke up almost everyday, In fact, it was so close to being every day that we might as well just say she woke up every day. But there was one day in particular upon which she awoke that we are talking about. It was a Sunday, and it was early.

Earlier than usual, but there was a very good reason for this. It was after all the day she set out on an adventure. An adventure?! you may be thinking. And the answer, as I just said, is yes. An ADVENTURE!

To where? would be your immediate response, quickly followed by, For what purpose?

To the frozen north! I would respond, and then for further clarification, Hokkaido, the northern most island of Japan. If this still did not satisfy your curiosity for knowledge of exactly where this adventure was to take place, I can only suggest you look it up on a map. I mean really.

But why? you’d scream, the need for knowledge tearing at your very being until tears fall from your eyes. Why would she go there?! What is the adventure? WHAT IS IT!

A little taken aback at this show of emotion, I would first: clear my throat, second: hand you a tissue, and third: say the following,

TO SKI!

in a very loud and kind of important announcement like voice.

For to ski was she going. Downhill or across country would she ski. She would ski in the morning and then again in the afternoon. At least, she planned on doing so.

But we are ahead of ourselves in the story and need to backtrack. It was Sunday, she awoke early, for an adventure. She gathered her bags and (after turning off the lights, heater, and checking that everything in general would be alright, locked the door and) set off. She walked and for meters and meters to the train station, and then took a train minutes upon minutes to a bus stop! From there she bought passage on a bus bound for the airport!

This was however her first trip within (domestically, by air) a country to which she was foreign, and she was not sure of the correct procedures. Not wishing to offend, and perhaps delay her trip, she was cautious.

Why was she cautious? you ask. Was there a dragon or giant troll to defeat? A magic spell to break? 

Again, I would clear my throat, this time a little irritated at the intrusion on my narrative! And say, with a stern look in my eyes:

It was still early. In fact it was…three and a half hours early. Having grown up in  country where air travel had become a complicated dance of government issued paperwork, large sums of money to exchange as a bribe for more official papers and the need to wear easily removable outer layers and shoes, she was prepared. She had forgone the easily removed shoes in favor of sturdy walking boots, but she was prepared to remove them when necessary to prove her worth to the guardians of the flying machines.

However, upon entering the airport, she found that she was TOO early.

The shock upon your faces says it all. Indeed, she was two hours too early. Still, she check in her more cumbersome baggage, and set off on a mini quest! To find a warm cup of coffee!

Have succeeded, quite easily and quickly, in finding coffee she sat and waited, ten, twenty, thirty minutes. Still here flight number had not appeared. She began to worry.

All she had was a piece of paper that said, in a script that was new to her, e-ticket. What this strange ticket was, she was not sure. There was not seat number, no gate information. She asked, but was assured that she would be granted passage, at the appropriate time. So she returned to the seat to wait. Another fifteen minutes passed.

We are skipping a lot of time here… you mutter. And yes we are, I agree. But unless you would like every detail of the pinteresting (I’m sorry I had to!) way in which she distracted herself, it is not that important to the adventure!

Soon, she saw the flight number appear on the announcement board. She join the queue to enter into the belly of the beast, so to speak. As we have covered there is no beast here, just a metal flying machine weighing thousands and thousands of pounds and consuming the long-dead liquefied remains of actual monsters.

Slowly, she moved closer and closer to the guardians of the flying machines. And was surprised to find that not only were shoes left on, but so were coats and scarves. She grew wary. Her ticket, this lax guardianship, would it be alright?

She approached the first guard and handed him her ticket. He took it, scanned it, and gave her the information she had been missing! A seat number! A gate! Huzzah for the first guard!

She slid her remaining baggage along the metal chute, removing all electronics from her carry on belongings and prepared to be asked to remove her coat as well. Instead the second guard waved her through, and when the sensors did not beep, let her pass. She felt relief and moved ahead, to await the arrival of her backpack.

However, she could not get away as smooth as this! It was an adventure after all. Something must happen to give our hero a fight!

As so, the third guard approached. Her baggage had been sabotaged?!

WHAT?! you exclaim. The horror of such action against our hero bringing rage and fear into your eyes. When!?

But I will not keep you in suspense. The third guard took her bag and again ran it through the metal scanner. The adventurer behind her had passed a bottle of water through the same scanner and had proceeded easily. What could be causing such an exertion with her bag? Had she not complied with their unreasonable decrees. That no liquid above 3.4 ounces be obtained, and that no fragile or explosive or dangerous items be included with her belongings?

She was sure she had! But wait! She had packed carelessly the night before, scoffing at the seriousness of her adventure in favor of the pursuit of making pancakes! What if in her hurry to cook dinner she had indeed included something she had best left at home?!

The backpack returned along with the third guard. She asked permission to open the bags and look, in person, at the objects within.

The small bottles of liquid and creams that our hero had fretted over were passed by. What could it have been? What could be in her belongings that would cause her to be delayed from her adventure?

Her pen case was taken.

It was scanned a third time, and the third guard returned.

Her pen case! Of course! in her absent-minded packing she had left her pen case in her bag. The scissors, collapsible as they were, were still inside. Would they be taken? If that was all that was wrong, she would gladly give them up.

The third guard took them, and pulled out a measuring stick. She examined the scissors carefully, and pronounced them acceptable.

What! Our hero thought. She was allowed to keep her scissors? Could it be?

But the third guard waved her on, and she hurried away.

Oh! you say, relaxing back into your seat. The muscles you hadn’t known you were tensing relaxed at the easy resolution of this first test of our hero. Good, I’m glad. 

And so you should be. For, to be sure, this stage of the adventure is not over, and our hero only awaits being called to the gate. Unless some heretofore unforeseen  foe should appear, all will be well.

But this is not the end of our hero’s adventure! This, friends, is only the beginning.

What will happen? Will she ever complete the quest? What kind of skiing with she be able to accomplish? What awaits our hero in the frozen northern lands? Stay tuned, friend. Stay tuned.

“Be obscure clearly! Be wild of tongue in a way we can understand.” — E. B. White

I feel like this is the best advice to possibly give any ALT. Because wether you are good or bad, upbeat or monotone, none of it really matters. I have found that regardless of how I want the class to go, the class usually has a mind of its own on such matters.
And a lot of it has to do with the attempt at making them magically learn a language instantly.
Which is not my fault. Nor is it entirely the Japanese teachers fault (usually; I do keep a special place reserved for Scary-sensei, and his unique hands/eyes/brain off approach to teaching – Only when I’m around).
I blame the BOE and the textbooks. The lovely textbooks, which have brought us such great phrases to teach as:
But I prefer the Eagles. Their music is more beautiful.
I learned that making fireworks is hard. But if I make them, I can have fun and give pleasure to others.
You can see flowers and animals with vegetables and other foods.

And more exciting awkward phrases that while technically might make sense, I have never (and hope to never again) uttered in my life. Blech.
I think being in Japan (read that, teaching this terrible terrible english book’s phrases) is starting to effect how I speak. Awkward, weirdly polite or formal phrase want to burst out of my mouth, while my brain is registering the words as completely ridiculous. But what can I do?! I try my best to imply that if you said this to someone in, for example, America they’d stare at you in horror and amusement! If you said while showing someone a photo album, “please look at them and share my memories”, you would soon find them backing away slowly in fear. At least, that’s what I try to imply. But maybe this is just me? Maybe it is merely my sense of Ohioan, Northern-cities Shift English with a touch of mumbling and a bit too much reading thrown in?
But I think that the kids respond in a less-than-enthusiastic way sometimes for this very reason. They too realize that this book is trying to teach them some weird-(dare I say)-Japanese-filtered English and they want nothing to do with it.
I did get a chance to teach them “meet up” and “hang out” this week though. But I couldn’t quite explain why meet up was meet up and not just meet. It involved a lot of pointing at the ceiling and confused looks. I suppose Google would tell me if I cared to ask. But I don’t much care to find out. It is what it is. As for hang out, they spent most of the time trying to say it like me, dropping ‘g’ sounds and ‘t’ sounds all over the place. Oops.

“Though the doctors treated him, let his blood, and gave him medications to drink, he nevertheless recovered.” — Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

I have heard others say that the Japanese health care system is not so great. (Something I don’t want to get into, but feel I must mention: Is America’s, though?)

Here is my opinion, or rather my experience today, fresh off a visit to the doctor and pharmacy.

No appointment: I just straight up walked in and was like, My body is fighting off tiny invaders. Can I see the doctor?

They said, Sure! But first, fill out this rather basic information chart. (Compared to the extensive family history you need to see a doctor in America, this was rather pleasant, if in a foreign language with a rather complicated writing system. No longer did I need to guess whether or not my great-grandmother’s husband, or my mother’s great-aunt twice-removed was the one with an upset stomach after eating a questionable potato salad that one time.) In fact, they did not ask one single question about anyone else in my family. (I was there about a cough though, so maybe that just didn’t come up.)

The only weird things I was expected to know, weird because America uses a ridiculously complicated and unique measuring system, was my height, weight, and blood pressure. Luckily they had a blood pressure machine!

AND, the machine did not take three or four tries to acknowledge that I was a living thing. It is rather annoying when no one can find a pulse. Even worse when a machine can’t.

So I waited a couple minutes, let’s say 20, and then was talking to a doctor. He spoke English, which was awesome! Because in my illness-raddled brain I could not remember the word for throat. He took my temperature, (a slight fever, which again, didn’t really understand until I looked up the conversion to American), listened to my breathing, and then was like, X-rays for everyone!

They took two, in five minutes, I waited another…let’s say 15, and then I was back sitting with the doctor looking at my lungs and heart and boooooones. (Are lungs just supposed to show up as two black expanses surrounded by bits of bone and a weird shaped heart thingy in the middle? I hope so.) The doctor seemed to agree that I looked free and clear of plague and pneumonia, So he gave me a prescription and sent me off to pay.

Less than 20 dollars. Seriously.

I did have to walk to a pharmacy to get the medicine, but that’s okay. Normally, when my lungs aren’t trying to escape my body, I like walking. It’s pleasant. Today, every time I had to cough,  I instead was treated to my leg trying to do a jerky dance as I tried to walk and regurgitate bits of organs at the same time. I probably should just stop trying to multitask.

At the pharmacy, I  had an equally easy experience. I did have to fill out another very similar looking form for a medical history. This one had more medicine related questions though. Like do you eat three times a day? And how much coffee do you drink a day? (Yes, I might have fudged that one a bit, mostly because I haven’t been drinking a lot of coffee with this particular cold.) They also had one about driving and drowsiness on medicines but it’s cool. I don’t have a license here.

When they called my name, I swear, only 10 minutes later, they gave me FOUR…I’m sorry, wait a minute…FOUR different medicines. FOUR!

And the best part was that for a 5 day dose, 3 times a day, of four different pills (well ones a powder…ish substance) I paid 5 dollars. 5 dollars. 5!

Either they’re sugar pills or they think I’m in a gang, cause that’s the cheapest medicine I’ve ever seen. Though for three of them, I’m not exactly clear on what they do. Something, I hope.

I guess you can compare this to your own recent doctor visits and make your own judgement. Though do keep in mind, if this wasn’t my first year on the social health insurance, I would be paying at least twice of what I am now a month. Win some, lose some.