Wednesday, October 26, 2005

There are so many things...

I want to write about everything I've seen, I've felt, I've smelled. The days are falling so quickly into each other and I'm struggling to keep up. Like on Sunday, I went shopping with a student and her mom and we went to one of those smoky game centres to have our photo taken in a booth. I had so much fun posing with her and then decorating our pictures on the interactive photo selector. Now I have memories of a really cool day with a really cool girl forever. Or, when I saw a family of Black people in a super cheap Winner's-type store. It was almost cliche that I saw Black people in a discount store. For a moment I thought I was back home. Or today when K-sensei made a girl cry in front of me. I hate tears from people I don't know, but this was especially bad because this girl basically just failed a test, so getting a "pep" talk from the English teacher was probably the last thing she wanted to hear.

I want to tell you that I'm getting blisters on my hands and feet from kendo practice today. I want to describe how liberating it was to scream and brandish a wooden sword. I also want to tell you how much I like my english conversation class members and what kind of treats they bring me. Or howI didn't go to badminton last night but still managed to get some treats that where distributed there. I also want to tell you how I went jogging two days in a row and how my ass muscles hurt and how much I love it.

I want to describe the emotions that went through my body when I found out that there may be a slight chance that I could be transferred to another school if I were to recontract. How my thought pattern is these days and how much I'm loving the person I am and becoming, while realizing a few important things about other people - "my, myself and I, that's all I got in the end". Or how much my Japanese is progressing and how rapidly my English is disentegrating.

I want to write about finding out that one of my sister's friends died a violent death in a club last week. How sad I am for his family and how grateful I am for mine. I sometimes feel overwhelmed with my thoughts about love, life, future, money, sex, time, hair, things, work, happiness and what the fuck it all means.

But I'm so tired. My shoulders hurt from being hunched over my computer. I should stay home this weekend, I know I should but it is looking less likely.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Eating: The New Sex...

Today I had an orgasmic experience. Some people, okay boys, believe that Japan is a heathen haven where anything goes and hedonism and self satisfaction is god. And from what I've seen, heard and experienced, there is a smattering of that, and you can usually find it hand and hand with alcohol. JETs, in particular, can be a particularly incestuous bunch. My feelings on this usually range from "vive la sexe libre!", to "shouldn't the incidence of unplanned pregnancy and STDs be much, much, much higher among JETs??", to "yes, I am enrolling at the nunnery. Now, does this chasity belt make me look fat?". It changes like the weather, but I know for certain that nothing trumps the heat between 2 people when they are in love, or in serious, serious like. But I'm digressing.

Anyway, like I was saying, I had an orgasmic experience. Ed and I ventured into the big city and a visit is not complete with Mos Burger. Ok, for those who don't know, Mos Burger is a fast food resto that has awesome burgers. My fave is the Fureshi (Fresh) burger that consists of a patty, some kind of mayo/ketchup sauce, a tomato and letture. It is usually quite delicious, but for some reason today, it was orgasmic. Ed and I were literally moaning with pleasure and rolling our eyes. It was a sight: two gaijin sitting at a table moaning and groaning over hamburgers. With conviction in my voice, I stated to Ed: (smacking of lips) "Ed, this is my new sex." He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and said "Neh. " (He's a Brit-Scot). "It's better than sex." There was no argument, no further discussion; it was just so. And the best part is that there is no awkwardness, no silly post-coital stunted conversation, no fumbling. When it is done right, food is just sooo good.

Sometimes another good sex replacment is shopping and Ed and I came to the big city to check things out. I had my heart set on buying the new 30 GB ipod that plays videos and tv shows, but Yamada Denki didn't have it. Apparently, they'll only have it in about 3 weeks. I was so disappointed. I think I couldn't stop talking about how disappointed I was for about 15 minutes. We went to Takashimaya (sexy, sexy department store complete with Coach, Chanel, Burberry, the works) before Yamada and I didn't buy anything but presents and some truffles because I was going to plunk some coin on the ipod and it wasn't there. Like bad sex, shopping can also be highly unsatisfying.

Anyway, we missed the 4:00 train home and that meant (cue scary music), I had to walk home in the dark. I called Nakano-san to come pick me up, but unfortunately, he wasn't home. So I called Mel to keep me company (thanks Mel!!). Let me say this: it was fucking scary. For the majority of the 15 minute walk(!), it was pitch black. I heard rustling in the bushes and I freaked the fuck out. I kept thinking "It's only 6:30. Far too early for rapists and bears!" But I got home safe and promised myself that that wouldn't happen again.

Yesterday I went out to dinner with some peeps, thus reneging on my promise of a FULL weekend of me time. But it turned out to be quite fun. Ed, Christina, Aidan, Emily, Jeff and I hooked up at a pretty fancy, authentic, Chinese restaurant. However, the portions were ridiculously small, which caused some raucous behaviour - Ed: "fucking Chinese!!!" While he was bitching about the portion size, he failed to realize that we were in the company of not 1, not 2, but 3 Aussies of Chinese origin. Bu we had a good laugh about it later. Really.

Let's see...what else...This past Monday, I went to a farewell enkai for my pred Dave. Irregardless of the fact that he left Neo in July, the party, the food and the company were great. And hey, an all you-can-eat, all you-can-drink really is the best way to start a week.

I've received my study materials for beginner's Japanese from JET. I've been studying and practicing and surprise myself and a couple of friends with my language skills. It was unobvious to me just how much my vocab had grown but I really put it to good use today and yesterday. In fact, I had to be the interpreter a couple of times. My application of particles sucks ass, but I can generally be understood. YAY for me!!! So happy! Makes me want to keep on trucking!

I also received my re-contracting papers. Yes, the deadline is Feb. 6, but I think the JET people just want to lay the seed early to make sure we are thinking about it. Or maybe, the want us to re-contract now before the "death-month" arrives. FYI, IMO, the "death month" is February. The absolute fucking worst month of the year. I shudder to think about it. Anyway, to stay another year...I think about the things I have missed in Montreal, the little things I miss everyday, the things I will miss. I think about my loved ones and their lives and I think about my future. I think about how much I am enjoying my life here and the progress I've made and the growth I've undergone. I think about the places I want to see and the things I want to do. I think that July is closer than it seems and I think I won't be able to do everything I want to do by then. I haven't signed anything but I think my heart and head know...

I found out that I am anemic once again and I am bummed. I was hoping that my all encompassing tiredness (I've had to take cat naps in the school bathroom) was due to an overactive lifestyle, but alas it ain't. I was also informed that I have put on a couple of kilos and my fat % is over the "normal" level for me, so I gotta lose 5 pounds. I had an informative chat with the dietician and I've put on my conscious eating hat again, along with my running shoes, so it will be a matter of time before I return to my fighting weight.

Last thing: I booked my flight to China today!!!! Very excited now!!! Departing from Osaka on Dec. 23 and arriving in Beijing. Will be in Beijing on Christmas, Hong Kong on New Year's, and will fly out of Shanghai. It's 2 months away, but I'm so excited. Ahhh. To me, this is life.

Ok, this is the real last thing: This is a picture of the sky at dusk the other day. The picture itself is kind of bad, but the colours were breathtaking. God is everywhere.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Buddha says everything is going to be okay...

One of the things I like about myself is that I am resilient. I allowed myself to really feel that low so that I could get over it and move on. I cried, I sulked, I daydreamed and then I made some phone calls and sent some messages and I feel pretty much back to normal. And oh yeah, I had a kick assed weekend.

I just wrote in very great detail everything I did and even had some personal insight into myself, but then I pressed the wrong button so everything went to shit. Crap. It was good too. I don't have the time to start over so please enjoy my pics.

Fire on the water...Saturday was the last day for cormorant fishing. It was the most romantic thing I've seen while living here. To find out what cormorant fishing is, go here:

This is the cormorant fishing master and the ukai. The fishing demonstration was both beautiful and cruel. However, the birds are very well treated and appear very healthy.

This is Ed and myself at Cafe Yurla. He was doing everything in his power not to smile, but to appear creepy and antagonistic. Unfortunately, he is the sweetest young man and it's always a great time when he blesses me with his presence. The woman in the background is one of the most naturally gorgeous people I've seen in Japan. Ed was gaga over her and I was enthralled so I told her how beautiful she was. She blushed and then told me how beautiful I was and how much she liked my hair. Too bad that tipping is not done in Japan because she would have received a huge pourboire from me.

This is Ed and Jeffrey hamming it up.

After brunch, we headed to Tsutaya ("the Blockbuster of Japan", but better), where I bought Bjork, Greatest Hits; Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit; Alicia Keys, Songs in A Minor (525 yen), and Norah Jones, Feels Like Home (525 yen). I had to take a picture of this because I need to show you how "urban" music is classified here. I've had several Japanese people tell me that they like "Black music", but holy cow.

Ok, I'm off to the shower then too bed. I just got back from an enkai (dinner and drinking party) and I'm bushwacked. There were about 100 courses and I ate everything and feel ready for a diet, even though I was complimented on my "beautiful body". That's one of the funny things about Japan - Japanese people won't touch you, or want to be touched by you unless they are drunk, but they will say without hesitation that your body is hot. Wakarimasen (I don't get it). Oh yes, I'm going to try traditional Japanese dancing this Friday and I hope to stay local this weekend, meaning sleeping in my own bed.

Shout out to Dan in Japan and Steph for their encouraging words. It's nice that we're all in this together and I just hope to return the favour some day.

Another shout out to Flow for sending me the link for the old skool break beats. I'm listening to it right now and it is taking me to the days of Groove Society and watching Tactical Crew do their thang on the cardboard. Ahhhh, everything was so new and shiny then...I loved it. Thanks for bringing back those memories (inadvertedly I suppose). Ohhh, shit - Rob Base, "Joy and Pain", that's the soundtrack to my life. Ohhh, damn, BBD, "Poison". "Never trust a big butt and a smile". Again, the soundtrack to my life.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

My mea culpa...

So, I've heard from a source that my little breakdown (see last post) was apparently problematic for some people. In particular, my words about Dal were misconstrued and taken at face value. Firstly, I'd like to say that I was under duress when I poured my heart out onto my lap top and all of my thoughts probably did not come out in the most eloquent of ways. Secondly, Dal and I have one of these relationships where we can call each other the kinds of names that would probably offend most other people. And thirdly, Dal and I are more sisters than friends and I love her with my whole heart, and words such as "stoopid" and "shut up" are actually terms of endearment. So with that, I want the world to know that I love and respect Dahlia. She is the most sweet, level-headed, upstanding and mature individual on the face of the planet. I've known her since before I hit puberty and she is my cheerleader, confidante, best friend and sister from another mister. I'm not going to go into the kind of sonnet that I said at her wedding, THE ONE THAT MADE EVERYONE CRY, but I just wanted to set the record straight. I have nothing but love for this fine Trini princess. We are different patterns cut from the same cloth and I love my girl.

(Disclaimer: This rant may have been brought on by the lethal mixture of homesickness and PMS).


Thursday, October 13, 2005

It finally happened to me. You read about it, you wonder about it, and when it finally hits, you recognize it. It has hit me how much I miss my friends and family. I broke down and I cried, and I cried and I cried some more. When I thought it was over, more tears came. My sobs filled my bedroom and I have never wanted someone to hold me so badly. The deluge went on until my head ached and my sinuses were congested. I miss talking to Shauna during commercials between American Idol. I miss talking to Ayanna several times a day at work. I miss conference calling the both of them. I miss calling Dahlia "bitch" and "stupid" and telling her to shut up. I miss having discussions/arguments/philosophical musings with Cheryl. I miss discussing things pragmatically with Jenn and then dishing about our latest hot boi. I miss making plans with my friends to see the latest movie/going to a new resto/heading out for a cinq a sept/going shopping and taking jaunts down to Ogilvy's to look at stuff we'd never buy. I miss arguing with my sisters and doing Tae Bo in the morning with my mom and Lisa. I miss my uncle telling me to "shaddup!" I miss having Bridget calling me and whining about her boy situation and then me consoling her. These women in my life mean so much to me and they are irreplaceable. Great people will come into my life and they will be awesome additions, but my hometown peeps are the greatest...I love each and everyone of you...

All these emotions is futher compounded by the news that my pred. (who has become my best friend in Gifu) will be moving away. I am so crushed. I'm going to miss him more than I can articulate right now...

Sleep is calling me. It helps me to forget.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

One of my students said I looked like Michael Jackson today…

Due to the language barrier, I didn’t ask him if he meant Michael Jackson circa Jackson 5, Michael Jackson circa Off the Wall, or Michael Jackson circa child molestation trial. For my sanity and self-esteem, I am going to assume that he compared me to MJ because we are (were) both Black and because they don’t know of any other Black woman to compare me too. But Beyonce would have been nice…

I’ve opted to rock a new hairstyle for a little while in an attempt to give my hair a break from all the combing and brushing. Though I love this style, I was hesitant to do it because I knew I’d receive a lot of attention. From kocho-sensei exclaiming “BIG CHANGE!!” to yon-nensei gakusei (4th graders) petting my hair, yesterday and today were hair focused. We’ll see what happens when I rock da braids!

My weekend in Takamatsu, Kagawa-ken, on the island of Shikoku was a blast. Mel was the hostess with the mostess and we had a great time drinking, eating, talking, laughing and gossiping. On Saturday, she a threw a birthday house party and about a billion people came over, and about a million slept over. At the end of the night, I had to put together a makeshift “bed” on the kitchen floor because I was too slow in claiming a space. Ok, maybe not too slow, but definitely preoccupied…

I got to put a lot of faces to the names and they were all great people. Shout outs to: Jim, Teresa, Jeremy, Liz, Grant, Erica and Dee! (That weird looking instrument in the pic is called a pianaka and Jeremy took great pleasure in playing it to Liz as she prayed to the porcelain god).

I even got to try the prefecture-famous udon noodles. They were tasty and carb-irific! I also had Indian food not once, but twice. I had chicken tikka masala both times (at different restaurants), and Spice Kingdom (?) was the clear winner for me.

On Sunday, we took a long walk around town and she brought me to the harbour where we looked out into the sea and the surrounding islands. It was so beautiful that I actually started to tear up. It was a combination of the natural beauty and a sense of peace I have inside me. I wish I could just bottle up the sights, sounds and smells and ship it to all of you back home. I guess you are just going to have to visit me to check it out for yourselves.

I had a great time on "The Rock", and missed Melissa-san the next day, but I will go back soon and rock the place again!

Mel and I also got info about China and she actually booked her ticket. I still have to confirm my schedule with my schools but if everything works out, I will be departing on December 23. Mel and I will be spending Christmas in Beijing and New Year’s in Shanghai and possibly a few days in Hong Kong. I’m so looking forward to it.

Autumn has definitely come to Neo and some of the trees are changing colours. Today was an absolutely gorgeous day: fluffy white clouds, crisp blue skies, a brilliant sun, and just a hint of wind. It’s the perfect time to fall in love or to be in love. **Sigh** Too bad that won’t be happening anytime soon. Don’t worry, I’ll post some pics soon. Unfortunately, along with the beautiful weather, autumn also brings along some unwelcome visitors, i.e. the dreaded mukade:

It was honestly disgusting, but I handled myself well. I got up and ran to the kitchen in one swift move and got a plastic container. After I trapped it, I did what any other blogger would have done: I photographed it. After the shoot, I found some cardboard paper and swiftly flushed it down the toilet. FACK! I hope I never see one of those again. Not only are they poisonous, their bites hurt like a mofo.

Oh yeah, I tried kendo today. It was fun and I worked up a sweat, but my forearms will be sore tomorrow. This is in addition to the sore thigh muscles I received from a game on Saturday night and trying to kick a suspended volleyball above my head. What can I say? Pain turns me on!

Oh, and Swel, I will mail you your 5 yen right away for guessing CB4 correctly. Sorry Dan, you were too slow.

Shenehneh – hope that everything is going well with Jr. I will call you this weekend!


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Pocari sweat... the shit! Ok, it doesn't sound very good, and admittedly the first time isn't the greatest, but it cures what ails ya! For those who don't know (and that would be almost everyone), it is a lightly flavoured ion supply drink. After a few hours of running around with the kiddies, it revitalizes you and keeps you going for the next few hours. It has dug me out of physical slumps much better than chocolate ever could!

Speaking of the kiddies, today was an awesome day at the shogakko (elementary school). What I really like about shogakko is that it is really challenging to think of fresh ways to teach things, challenge the children's minds and ensure that they are having a great time learning a new language. Yesterday, I spent about 3 hours putting together bingo cards on my computer(the topic was fruits) and nearly an hour laminating them this morning. I cursed my way through it, but it paid off when the kids went APE SHIT over it. And all I have to say is FRUIT BASKET is manna from Heaven. At the end of the day, I'm usually very satisfied with what I've put together, and the kids are happy, so I must be doing something right!

Today I sent an S.O.S. message to Black people all over Japan - my hair needs help! It's falling out en masse, more so than usual, and it's probably due to the fact that my life has COMPLETELY CHANGED (Montreal Mel concurs). On top of that, I don't have access to a hair salon that specializes in African-American hair, so that is undoubtedly stressing me out more. I'm thinking about going back to braids because it will just make my life easier and keep my hair in check. I got a hit from a chick who lives in Hyogo, which is about 2 hours away from me. It is nearly the same distance as Tokyo but a heck of a lot cheaper. Yeah, I know 2 hours seems ridiculous to travel for hair maintanence, but I'M BLACK Y'ALL, I'M BLACK Y'ALL, I'M BLACKER THAN BLACK AND I'M BLACK Y'ALL! (5 yen to the first person who identifies that line!)

I just had tacos and a salad for dinner. Tacos? In Japan??? Hey, I have to keep it real. I saw the taco kit in a supermarket and I got so excited. I didn't find cheese, however, but the tacos were really good. A nice change from all the tofu and stirfrys and fish everything I've been eating!

Ok, I have to get myself together because I am going to visit Mel in Kagawa-ken tomorrow, and she's got a full weekend planned! So excited.

Updatcha latah!

BTW, WTF, Katie Holmes is pregnant!!??! Has the world stopped using birth control?? Her and Tom Cruise, or collectively, TomKat, make me sick!!!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Time flying...

I've been meaning to update this blog for the past week, but it's been just crazy here in persimmon land. I guess the only thing I can do is share the highlights...

I played some kick ass games at badminton last Tuesday night, and I think this improvement can be attributed to the fact that Yamamoto-san gave me a new racket. We were making chit chat before playing and I mentioned that his daughter, Miho, was a good student. One of the wiseguys was like "Honto (Really)??!!!), and I said yes. It must have touched Yamamoto-san because he ended up giving me a racket. The racket I had borrowed from the JHS was really heavy, but I didn't realize it until I ot my new and improved model. I think I should go around complimenting students to their parents more often! (SIDEBAR - Most of the kids are fantastic so this wouldn't be problem).

I almost started crying at the elementary school the other day in response to the tears of one of my students. I had paired up the kids to play a vocab day and it was supposed to be competitive. The first few teams did really well, but when I got to the next team, they couldn't name most of the words. I noticed that one of the girls had shiny eyes, and I thought that it was a little strange until I realized that she was crying. You have to understand that this is my most difficult class and I try really hard to motivate some of the kids while keeping the overly genki ones under control. On top of that, I have to drag the homeroom teacher into the lessons and get him to participate. All the kids are great, but they have very little discipline. With that being said, the preparation for the class, the stress during the class, and the crying girl nearly put me over the edge. Luckily, it was my first class in the morning, so my day greatly improved after it was over.

On Friday, I went to Tokoro-sensei's house for the weekend and attended my first ever sake party with him and his wife. It was amazing. There were about 7 different brands of sake and an amazing bento with so much food. Thankfully, there was also water so I didn't get too soused. And, in true Kaki-in-Japan fashion, my presence created THE STIR and I was quite popular. On top of that, I had a few obvious admirers and two requests to model for some paintings. (Hmmm, I'll tell my people to contact your people, ne?)

On Saturday, after trying to get over my upset stomach by eating an awesome breakfast, T-sensei, Yoshie-san,his wife, and I went to Mino City, which is famous for its washi (Japanese style paper) and a light festival. We went to several washi shops but I couldn't afford anything I truly liked, so I bought baked goods from a bakery instead. It's been so long since I've indulged and it smelled so good that I had no choice but to cave.

After Mino City, Yoshie-san and I went to the video store to get a DVD and I ended up buying 7 (!) used videos. They ranged from 12O-380 yen. How could I resist??? And we rented The Interpreter with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, which ended up being really good. For dinner, we had a traditional dinner where we made our own onigiri (rice, fish and veggies wrapped in seaweed paper). I couldn't stop eating and I unded up staying up all night from a horribly upset stomach. But I had to get up early because Yoshie-san and I had to get ready to go to Gifu City. We met her friend and we were on our way. We went to an outdoor flea market where I purchased a totally-not-me-but-fun-anyway shirt for 450 yen (you can bargain in Japan, yo!) and we watched a parade. We shared many jokes and chilled out Yoshie-san's friend's parent's house. After that, we made our way back to the Tokoro household, but not before I dropped a fat wad of cash at the grocery store.

The Tokoros are really awesome people and I feel like they are my Japanese parents. Yoshie-san speaks really good English and we have a good time talking about marriage, movie stars and my goals. She calls me when she needs help with English and Tokoro-sensei updates me on their dogs. They are really good people. And a little ghetto too: we went to a Honda dealership to test drive a car, but they later told me that they were not interested in buying the car - only in receiving the free remote controlled car! Tokoro-sensei was really stoked with it and spent the duration of The Interpreter putting it together. HOT.

I had a bit of a rough day at the JHS yesterday and so did my pred. David, so he came over and we bitched and moaned and he may end up quitting (he is a private ALT). If he leaves, I'll be crushed because he's one of three people whom I consider close friends in my prefecture, and he lives the closest to me and we talk/text ALL THE TIME. He used to work at my schools so he knows everybody and is just an all around great guy. Anyway, I'm being insanely selfish, and I told him so, but I am trying to convince him to just hang in there.

And there you have it. It's Tuesday again, so I'll be going to badminton tonight. I will be heading off to Shikoku island, Kagawa prefecture to see Mel in 3 days (can't wait!!!).

BTW, the picture at the top of this post is for a bakery!!! It is called Faushon (Fashion) and had the most expensive shit. 1800 yen for jam - WTF???