“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!

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“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.

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

This year, I spent Christmas and New Year’s in Thailand. Which, and maybe this is a little obvious, made it seem like anything but the holidays. I mean, I LOVE Christmas. It’s my absolute favorite holiday, as I’m sure you noticed in one of my more recent posts. But here’s the thing, everything I love about Christmas, it doesn’t really work in Japan, or Thailand. In Thailand I think it’s because the country is almost entirely Buddhist. And I mean Buddhist. Not the general, yeah, shrug shoulders, point at a temple Buddhism you find in Japan. I mean seriously Buddhist. The rest of the country, and I’d have to look up some figures here, but I believe most of the remaining percentage is Muslim, with perhaps a few Christians hanging on. So Christmas in Thailand almost snuck by unobserved. Yes, everyone had on Santa hats and there were Christmas carols in the air, but I get the feeling that was going on long before I got there on the 24th, and it was going on after December 31st. Still, it’s better than Christmas in Japan which is basically a hallmark holiday. If you have a problem with Valentine’s Day, or even worse Sweetest’s day, (or white day if you happen to know what that is…it’s reverse valentine’s day in Japan) then you’ll definitely have a problem with Christmas in Japan. It’s basically another valentine’s day, with Santa, and parents giving their kids presents.

Anyway, Thailand!

The first day we went south, and stopped in Pattaya. Crazy foreigners, everywhere! I don’t know what it is, I mean Thailand is huge (compared to Japan), and maybe I just do more touristy things here, but I have seen flocks of foreign people almost every day I’ve been here. And Bangkok is a big city. So is Tokyo, but it always seems like there aren’t that many foreigners around when I’m in Tokyo. Bangkok has been the opposite of that.

Especially Pattaya. But we arrived and went to check out this museum that has all these optical illusion paintings on the walls and floor that you can just kind of play around with. So we did. We spent at least two hours in there, just posing and messing around with the camera angles. It was a lot of fun. (A lot of this trip has been posing for photos, but that’s okay, I rarely remember to take my own photos, so having someone else doing it is kind of great!

After Pattaya, we went to the ferry to Koh Samed, a gorgeous Thai island. All Thai islands are gorgeous, this one was no different. The best part of the island, for me, was the taxi service. Hear me out. Tuk tuks are frickin awesome. Tuk tuks are like the best way to get around, next to the terrifying motorbikes.

(A quick aside about Thailand roads: OMG! The scariest thing ever. If there are speed limits, I don’t know where they put them. I have yet to see a sign anywhere except the dead-man curves all over the freeways. But perhaps worse than there being no agreed on speed limits, high or low, is that any road lines appear to be more of a suggestion than anything else. Every day I’ve been in a car, we’ve regularly driven half in one lane and half in another, or riding along in the lane reserved for making U-turns (not the suicide lane) despite the diagonal yellow lines underneath. And crossing the entire highway width to make an exit. It’s been rough on the motion sickness. But I guess it works, since everyone is doing it. But motorbikes! They turn what is a three lane road into a seven lane road, weaving in between cars, moving or stopped. Traffic lights seem to be the only thing, most people pay attention to. Motorbikes and even the occasional tuk exempted.)

Back to the island, they didn’t have tuk tuks unfortunately, but they did have pick-up trucks that have these makeshift benches in the back. It’s like a mix of car and roller coaster and it is amazing! So we rode around the island, from ferry to hotel to beach, in these trucks. We spent all afternoon on the beach, in the water and relaxing in beach chairs. It was very nice. Leaving behind winter in Japan and enjoying the 90 degree weather was one of the best things I could think of to do. (Japan does not, after all have central heating.) The hotel was right on the beach too! Thai islands are like post card perfect vacation places.

Sadly, we had to leave to go back to the mainland, and Pattaya the next day. It was a nice leisurely day though. We went to the aquarium, and I was fascinated by the horseshoe crabs, because they were so weird to watch! They just sort of lie on their back and swim in a really awkward folding motion. I spent like ten minutes just looking at that tank. Then I watched some starfish move around. Much slower but equally fascinating.

Sunday was kind of a bust. I had not been as careful as I should have been with what I ate, and was sick all day. It only lasted about 24 hours though. So I was lucky there.

Monday and Tuesday were very lazy days. Waking up late morning and going to the zoo or an exhibition center for the afternoon. It was cool though. The zoo had a bunch of animal shows and a spy show that we saw. And you could feed giraffes!!! I love giraffes! But one tried to lick me, and that wasn’t so cool. And it was a good day of easy walking/driving after being sick. AND after the spy show I was asked by one of the random people there if I was from Australia. Which was weird. I guess in Thailand to a guy from India on tour in the Bangkok Zoo, I look Australian. I have been told that in Japan, if I don’t talk, I look like I am from England. (So where do I look American? OR do I ever look Canadian? Or….just a general….what…?)

The exhibition center was really cool. A lot of Thai history and information about the king and the palace, but they had a bunch of models or art styles and craft and clothing, and Thailand through the decades. I would definitely suggest going, and if you can, ignore the tour guides. They have pretty good English, but they rush you through, and you don’t get to read all the signs and information.

New Year’s Eve was also pretty chill. We went shopping and to the movies (which are SOOOOO cheap compared to America and Japan!) I had no idea what seventh son was about, and maybe that made the movie better, but it wasn’t terrible either. And shopping is fun, for me anyway. I didn’t have a lot of room in my suit case to bring a lot home though, so I didn’t get to do a lot of shopping. But I did eat some macaroons, which are my new favorite cookie! AND I saw a milkshake/ice cream/yogurt/something chain called ‘Hmm…..milk!’ which was interesting and I definitely made fun of it a little bit.

On New Year’s Day, we went to a place called Ancient Siam, which is this park like area that has recreations of temple and different ruins from all around Thailand. They also have some original designs of temples/buddhas/statues of various things. That was really cool, we got to walk around and take pictures; and because it wasn’t the original thing we were able to climb on the ruins/go in the temples. Within reason. You couldn’t climb/do whatever you wanted anywhere. But it was pretty cool. I had a lot of fun. AND, randomly, early in the day, while walking around looking for more places to take pictures, this random lady grabbed my arm and made me take a picture with her. So that was…nice, I guess. I choose to think it was because she thought I was pretty or someone famous or liked my clothes, and not because I looked funny, or something like that.

On the second and third we got Thai massages!!!! One of my goals for the vacation – massages! Apparently Wat Pho is one of the origin places for Thai massage, so you can go in and get them there. It was really nice. A little weird, because all these beds are just next to each other with no walls or anything, but you just change into some baggy pants and then whatever shirt you had on, and they start pulling and pushing your organs and muscles and limbs. I have never had all my toes and fingers and elbow and joint cracked like that before. It was really relaxing though. I loved it. Although she did bend my arms and knees into some positions that I did not think they would get into naturally. The second time was a salt scrub massage, and that was so nice! My skin still feels smooth and soft from that. It was great! I fell asleep too, until she started pushing on my stomach and I was awoken by my brain saying that “hey! There are organs in there.” It was good. And after a mini adventure with the car breaking down a little bit, we returned to watch this Thai drama that has like 30 characters.

That was the one thing that I was not prepared for. I knew that it would happen, but still. I do not know Thai (now, I know like 4 sentences…maybe 5 or so: but pretty useless stuff like this is an eggplant, and that is not a bird.) And constantly being surrounded by it was tough. In Japan, even though my reading skills are not the greatest, I can guess at a lot of things from what little I do know. But I cannot read the Thai alphabet, and don’t even know where to start with learning. And even if I could read, I don’t know what anything means. I really missed English and even Japanese. Or just having some ability to do things on my own, and not needing to ask, “what? what?” every time I went somewhere or someone talked to me.

The last day, we spent at an amusement park. It was fun! It was also a good thing to do on the last day. That way we weren’t too sad all day. That happened in the airport. But instead, all day, we could focus on the rides and the different thing we could do. Of course we went on all the biggest roller coasters and spinning flipping rides. But we also did stuff like bumper cars. It had been years since I did bumper cars. It was a lot of fun, maybe more so now that I can drive, and super dangerous, probably. My car jumped completely off the ground a couple times after getting slammed into, and drifting it around a sharp corner was way too easy. I loved it though!

And they had a giant’s house, supposedly from Jack and the Beanstalk. There was a giant rocking chair you could climb into, and huge slippers and silverware and everything. It was little difficult for us to get up into the rocking chair, because we were so short, but it was really cool for taking pictures. I just wish the lighting had been better in the room.

Of course it wasn’t comparable to Cedar Point. Not for the first time have I realized how lucky? unique growing up in Ohio and having things like Cedar Point so close was. People all around the world have heard of Cedar Point. It’s one of the best amusements parks in the US and possibly the world. And for me, it’s normal. In fact, the only place that I’ve been that you can talk about rivaling it is Disney World. Also fairly close to Ohio, in the grand scheme of the world. Crazy.

Also, after coming back to Japan, it has been brought to my attention that having names for coins, penny, nickel, dime, and quarter, not to mention a 25 cent piece is odd. And confusing for people that don’t use such things. This came from my Australian friend, so maybe it’s different in, say, Canada or England. But it was a hard idea to wrap my head around – that dime is not an obvious description for a ten cent coin. Just a random thought to end a ramble-y post on. Sorry it took so long to get up. I’ve been lazy. I will attempt to be better. I will try. I hope.

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you”, that would suffice.” — Meister Eckhart

Well, here at least it is Thanksgiving. It’s still another couple hours/a day for you, but it’s already starting to get dark here. I can believe how much I miss daylight savings time. In the summer the sun NOT coming up at 4 is nice. And in the winter the sun NOT setting at 4 is nice. All of both of those things are nice. It’s so disheartening to see the sun start setting and know that there is another hour before I can go home. So not fun.

But this is not a complaining post! That was the last one. It’s very rant-y.

This is a thank you very, very much post.

To my family, my big, beautiful, colorful, crazy, ridiculous, awesome, magnificent, smart, wonderful, and open-hearted family – each and every single one of you – thank you. For being whom you are, for all the get-togethers, and dinners, brunches and vacations, parties and presents and holidays, for being family, with or without the blood to prove it; for all of that and more, thank you! I love all of you so, so much!

To my friends, my amazing, worldly, adventurous, creative, gorgeous, awe-inducing, trend-setting, kind-of-fantastic friends – thank you! Thank you for everything! For being whom you are, for dealing with my crazy-self, for shopping, and conversations, for TV marathons, and actual exercising, for phone calls and texts that go on for days! Thank you! You are more than any one deserves, and better than I could’ve asked for! I love you guy too, so much!

To everyone else – thank you! Thank you for everything, for reading this, for being here. Thank you!

To everyone that supports me and helped me to be the person I am now, though you may not be reading this, or even know it’s here, thank you.

So take a drink for me today, spare a second for a thought, send some love out into the world and eat some good food. Have a wonderful thanksgiving, and remember this quote, for me:

“God gifted you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you?’” — William A. Ward.

p.s. Today is 8800 days of Sam! Little ol’ me 8,800 days old. Just a random fact to make your Thanksgiving a little more math-y.

“Until I feared I would lose it, I did not love to read. One does not love breathing.” — Harper Lee

I know that it’s been a while. And I have been told to update. I thought I mentioned that it was going to be NaNoWriMo, but that is no excuse. So as it is Thanksgiving for me now, I will put up as many posts as I can. Even though A and B are not mutually exclusive, but I have three hours of sitting and waiting to get through.

I heard it snowed stateside! I wish it would snow here, not just for the obvious and eternal ‘maybe-I-don’t-have-to-go-to-school’ reason, but also because then it wouldn’t be cold enough to rain. It’s not fun trying to decide what to wear in 40 degree rain. Nor is it fun to wake up and walk to school at 7 in 40 degree rain. Nothing is fun in 40 degree rain, except sitting inside under a blanket and pretending you’re asleep.

And on my four-day weekend this week, I did just that. On Saturday, because I could, and what else does one do with their Saturday morning? Stuff, Errands, Chores? No. I should have been writing. I always should be writing, or finishing applications, but you don’t need to tell me that. I know! I know! It’s getting done. Slowly, surely, it’s getting done.

What else is new? I have hiccoughs right now and it’s driving me crazy. And I know it’s because both my brain and my body agree that I should take a nap, but somehow I don’t think the school would appreciate that. Plus it’s like they’ve never heard of insulation. The walls are so thin, or made mostly of glass, and the BOE announced this week that the heaters should not be turned on until December. Because it’s not like there’s the flu going around or anything, and I know that’s not how germs work, but I’m sticking to it.

On the plus side, you can find every size and type of hand warmer you could dream up in seven-eleven. Like small or large, or stick on or for your toes. So if it gets too bad I’ll just layer those on under my suit. Well this has been fun and rant-y.

I wish you could find turkey here. Or anything other than fried chicken or ham. That’s what I really want right now is turkey and stuffing. And just thinking of all the pies and cookies and mashed potatoes and green beans. Man, I miss thanksgiving food. I don’t miss the food-coma that come after it, or black Friday adds. And cyber Monday. I can’t think of anything dumber.

But that means it’s Christmas time! Officially. There is nothing in between that you can throw at me and say: “it’s too early! What about __________?!” After tomorrow, Christmas songs will no longer lurk among the random radio stations and muted shopping store music. They will be blasted unapologetically from rooftops and anything that could remotely hid a speaker. TV stations will begin pushing their Countdown to Christmas events like crack cocaine and no one can stop it! Charlie Brown, the Grinch, Rudolph, and three ghosts of Christmas will gang up and take over, like some sort of evil Christmas affiliated Avengers team. Elevators will play the Nutcracker suite, and candy canes will sprout like weeds everywhere you go! It’ll be weeks until you can even hope to get the scent of evergreen out of your nostrils. And the increasingly popular measurement that we all live our lives by, the Starbucks peppermint latte, needs no longer hid behind the red and white snowflake cups! It’ll be everywhere; you thought the pumpkin spice latte needed to take a break? The pumpkin spice latte is the peppermint lattes unpopular kid brother! I love Christmas.

Unfortunately, Christmas in Japan means a bucket of KFC and some vaguely log shaped cake. Blech. I don’t know how that came about, but it makes me very sad. And the Starbucks here? They’ve been taking liberties with their menu. First – they didn’t even have the pumpkin spice, and now? They’ve replaced the peppermint latte with the snow maple toffee latte. Which, I will admit isn’t that bad, and hashtag-first-world-problems all you want, I still want some peppermint latte on the few occasions I can make it out to a Starbucks around here. (Though seriously if you hashtag at me, we won’t be friends anymore, because outside of twitter, it’s dumb, and even on twitter, it’s still dumb. Twitter is dumb.)

Back to Christmas in Japan…KFC is gross. I think everyone can agree with me one that. It’s just not good. But you have to order like weeks in advance to get a bucket of chicken on Christmas here. It’s so weird. So weird. And Santa? He doesn’t come in through the chimney, mostly because they don’t have chimneys here, but he also doesn’t leave presents under the tree. Though they do have those little fake, plastic-y, sad-looking trees in the stores here. So I guess Santa breaks in through the window and flies around on stolen tooth-fairy wings (which is another thing they probably don’t do here. I dunno) and then magically sneaks a present into your bed. I’m not sure, and I’ve in no way checked anything I just wrote, but I think that’s probably what it is. Definitely, maybe. (Which is a pretty good movie, also.)

And snowmen! Snowmen here are only two snowballs! Two! I drew one on the board the other day, and everyone laughed because there were three sections. Personally, a snowman with only two sections looks a little ridiculous to me, but that’s probably cultural. Most likely. I wish I knew why that was though. Like, who decided how snowmen would look?

If you’re interested in some new Christmas songs to listen too, instead of the same old versions of the same songs, I’ve come upon some really good ones recently. Straight No Chaser, an a capella group has some pretty funny versions of songs. There’s the 12 Days of Christmas version of their, that I’ve probably made you listen to. It’s along the lines of other 12 Days of Christmas-like songs. But it mixes in different carols and popular Christmas music – it’s good, let’s just say that. Then there is the Christmas Can-can song, which is hilarious and awesome. And the Nutcracker song, equally hilarious. Check out all three. But then realize that there is nothing wrong with Alvin and the chipmunks, and listen to that album too. Do we still have it on a record, like a vinyl record? I think we might…do that instead. That’s better, somehow.

Then go caroling and get a peppermint latte because I am STILL NOT OVER THAT!

Then send me a picture, so I can show it to a barista here while crying and maybe they’ll make me one out of pity.

Just kidding about the picture part. But really, Happy Thanksgiving to all! And to all a good night!

Oh and then totally check out the Thrilling Adventure Hour, especially the episode in which they rewrite T’was The Night Before Christmas poem for their (dark knight) batman/aquaman character – Phillip Fathom. Because (1) TAH in general is hilarious, (2) it’s written by two guys named Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, seriously, like really, that’s their names, and (3) the best way to pull through a food coma is to laugh all those calories off! Remember the average American will gain 7 pounds this holiday season! Do you seriously need any more of a reason? Ooo. Rhymes.  

“We all have a hungry heart, and one of the things we hunger for is happiness. So as much as I possibly could, I stayed where I was happy. I spent a great deal of time in my younger years just writing and reading, walking around the woods in Ohio, where I grew up. ” — Mary Oliver

This is supposed to be a post in a media that I don’t typically use. I’m not sure what to do for that so whatever follows…just keep that in mind. Also, threw some Ohio love into the quote today. ❤

I have a feeling I’ll be distracted by Pinterest. Ah-ha! I’ll share some of my favorite funny pins!

Okay. So glad I did that. I’ve been laughing at these for like an hour now. Still have more to go through, but my battery is dying and I don’t want to lose all this copy and paste work I’ve done.