You snooze, you lose, Slow News.

Inspired by one of the fellows I follow here on WordPress, I thought I would type out a quick update on my life.

Slow, indeed! My days seem to pass as thickly as molasses. There is no pressure to complete work and projects. I didn’t mention in my last post, but school is to be closed until May 6th. Classes are to resume May 7th; however, the Hamamatsu mayor said that, should PM Abe extend the duration of his state of emergency, the city will do the same.

So, what have I been doing besides being a lazy blob? Well, I’ll show you.

1587432333414

I thought I would give cinnamon rolls a shot on… the 19th? Something like that. They didn’t turn out well at all. The yeast seemed to be the culprit, as it had expired a long time ago. Having gone out and replenished my stash, I tried again.

And look at how nice they turned out!

I honestly was so surprised and ecstatic. It had been so long since I had had a good cinnamon roll. Obviously, these were no Cinnabon, but there was something so pleasing about enjoying these.

I disobeyed the whole social distancing thing, hopped on a bus, and went downtown to share these with my friends. Bless their hearts. Carla said,

“Thank you so much Ashley!! They were amazing. … My friend Marie didn’t realise you’d baked them – she thought they were from a bakery!” (she has her own site, too! You should give it a go)

and Mr. M (his ID done been snatched) said,

“They certainly were the genuine article. I’d pay money for those, true fact.”

I gave the tray in the picture to my neighbor down the street to enjoy with her children. She commented too that they were very good. Couple with my various other hobbies, I’m on the sure path to filling, at least part-way, my grandmother’s shoes. That woman is amazing, I love her so much!

Anyway. Yeah.

1587718150878

Then I tried my hand at chocolate donuts since donut shops are not a dime a dozen around here.

If you want it done, best to do it yourself, right? Isn’t that way it goes…?

At first, I tried frying them, but after I made the oil way too hotI thought it would be best to hang on to the remainder of the dough and try again some other time (it got baked).

It was a rather sticky and expensive experience. One cup of cocoa powder cost me about $4 USD at my local supermarket. As hindsight is 20/20, I’ll have to see what Amazon Pantry has baking ingredients going for.

Leaving the bit about adding chicken-fried oil to the fresh oil aside, I found my donuts tasted better the day after. I suppose the sugar glaze had ample time to soak in and make it taste that much more delicious!

Have you ever tried making cinnamon rolls or donuts? If yes, how did it go? If not, what are your reasons for not trying?

Next up is, after seeing one of my friends enjoy her home-grown garden, I wanted to do the same. I’m no stranger to growing vegetables, as I’ve been successful with cucumbers back home in hot AF Las Vegas. It’s hard to believe that, once upon a time, Las Vegas was a flourishing tropical oasis. NOT NO MORE.

Anyway. After digging up… ha.. see what I did there?… No? That’s OK. After digging up some garden starter ideas on the internet, I decided to make a trip to the hardware/gardening center a ways away. They didn’t have much in the way of herbs, so I ended up going with these guys:

1587954647652
Photo was taken April 27, 2020

I planted radishes, basil, Japanese basil (shiso), and two kinds of lettuces. A long time ago, my breakfast diet was typically eggs and toast and/or hash browns drowned in ketchup. Nutritious, I know. Now, I enjoy a green salad with my eggs (sometimes I’ll throw in yogurt, natto, toast, soup, or some kind of meat too!). This free lettuce buffet will help me cut down on the grocery bill just a smidge.

Have you tried growing a garden before? Let me hear about it!

Lastly, did I mention before that I’ve started uploading videos to my YouTube channel? I can guarantee 100% that it’s the most boring material you’ll ever watch and listen to. But as a challenge to myself, I’ve been reading Harry Potter.

Unfortunately, the videos’ve come to a standstill as I’ve run into a snag with receiving strong enough internet. Thanks but no thanks, corona, you’ve gone and closed McDonald’s. It was my closest provider of speeds capable of uploading a video file. I won’t lose heart though. Some real internet will be in the works once I’m able to secure an installation date, but… who knows how long that’s going to take? UGH.

At least I’ve got some dinky pocket WiFi to tide me over. I’m not a big user, you see.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is staying sane and healthy!

Self-isowhat?

Never would I have thought that I’d be stocking up on non-perishables and learning how to make a mask. Sure, the folks who have believed the zombie apocalypse would be coming all along have been prepared for ages, but what about the rest of us who can’t even grasp the idea? Part of me is still in denial.

20200412_070832
My stash of water, and newly acquired items: tissue, toilet paper, flour, tea, curry rou, udon noodles, chicken stock, rice, canned tomatoes, honey, and dressing.

According to the NHK, Japan’s largest broadcasting network, 197 new coronavirus cases were reported as of Saturday in Tokyo. (April 11, 2020), 674 nationwide. Just before that, dear ol’ Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finally caved and agreed to issue a State of Emergency (plus stimulus package!) for the 7 prefectures most currently affected by the outbreak. While many people, including myself, are on the fence as to whether or not his measures will be effective or not remains to be seen.

In wake of this “soft lockdown,” my own prefecture and Board of Education has advised the closing of schools as well. I consider myself lucky in that I’m still receiving pay and my company is working as hard as it can to keep the business up and rolling. Unfortunately, many are not receiving the same kind of care. The General Union, based in Osaka, was kind enough to get the most current information together and put it upon their website.

20200412_093429
The mask that was never finished.

None of us thought we’d be in this kind of situation.

With mask buyback programs in the works (at least in Wisconsin), closeted seamstress and grandmothers working their fingers to the bone churning out homemade coverings, and people walking around with water bottles on their heads, it’s clear to me that there’s some confusion going on. (Seriously, the number of memes on this stuff is lit.)

My real question, though, is: How hard is it for people to understand that they just need to stay home? The closest I get to going out is usually stepping out onto my balcony if I don’t have business to conduct elsewhere. And… by “business to conduct,” I mean go buy craft stuff from the 100-yen store and donuts from Mr. Donuts. HOWEVER, DO AS I SAY AND NOT AS I DO. There are tons of ideas for people to search for on the internet now.

Heck, the activities they choose don’t even need to follow someone else’s plan! They can make and follow their own! This is the age for ingenuity and critical thinking. For too long, as a society, we’ve been soft and comfortable with our sheltered lives!

TLDR; I’m feeling guilty over my conduct lately while all my friends and family have been so good about self-isolating.

Seriously, though. I want some donuts.

Myers-Briggs and I

Let’s talk Myers-Briggs. Just about everyone and their mom should know what this is or has had heard of it at some point. It’s basically a psychological test that puts an individual into a personality type based on the level of disagreement or agreement they have towards choice statements (i.e. After a hard work week, you prefer to be around a boisterous crowd rather than sit at home -> Greatly Agree, Agree a little, etc.).

There are 16 types of personalities, by the way, which are grouped into opposites:

  • Extroverted vs. Introverted
  • Sensing vs. Intuition
  • Thinking vs. Feeling
  • Judging vs. Perceiving

1200px-Unclesamwantyou

From the get-go, we can all basically say that we’re either extroverted or introverted. For some, it’s definitely a deciding factor in regards to hobbies or jobs. I was one of those people. Myers-Briggs was the test I took when I was having trouble figuring out what I wanted to do after college. You might laugh and say that’s funny, but it was doubly more useless than the bullshit ASVAB test the military gets you to take under the guise of Want to Know What Job is Best for You?! Take Our Test!

When I was at the precipice of deciding whether or not I should go into chiropractic work (Plan A: what I thought I should do) or go to Japan (Plan B: what I wanted to do), I took a Myers-Briggs test. My result? INFP: Introverted Intuition Feeling Perceiving or “The Mediator” or “The Healer.”

At least… I thought it sounded like me? I was very concerned with wanting to be of use to someone, caring for others, and providing support. Basically, I wanted to nurture someone without having to have children I wasn’t ready for. At the same time, I wanted the freedom to be creative and pursue my art. Doing a quick Google search on “INFP careers” gave me a list of things I was already interested in or already doing!

Here are some examples:

  • Fine art
  • Animation
  • Photography
  • Writing
  • Nutrition
  • Chiropractics
  • Nursing
  • Languages
  • Plants and flowers
  • Investigation and research

One career that stuck out was “teacher.” Because of what I was going to be doing in Japan (being an ALT, Assistant Language Teacher), I thought, “This must be a sign. I love it when I can share my knowledge with others and enlighten them. Maybe this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Fast-forward to 2020 and here I am, taking the test again.

I was inspired to do so by a young person I follow on Instagram. They had posted about feeling insecure about their artwork and not feeling like they were good enough, what with being surrounded by better and more advanced artists.

I felt that.

I felt that so hard that I had this drive to tell them they weren’t alone. I too have the same huge weight on my mind. It’s so humongous in fact that I have more or less stopped drawing.

Anyway, so what did I get this time? ISFP-T: Introverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving – Turbulent, “The Composer” or “The Adventurer.” But… what does “turbulent” mean? This is the first time I’ve seen it.

Turbulent Adventurers are just as likely to explore, just a little closer to the familiar and deeper within their comfort zones.

[They] may be less sure about their contributions… question the worthiness of their ideas and results. [They may even feel uncertain about them]. Their doubts may make any breakthrough successes hard to accept.

[They] are less likely to feel competent in the face of stress. At first glance, this might appear negative. But whenever these personalities encounter something that feels stressful, their lack of confidence is likely to cause them to be more concerned about it – perhaps even to feel dread because of it. These feelings may bring about a heightened awareness of actual or potential problems.

…societal pressures still seem to influence many Adventurer personalities. Standard scorecards that pinpoint who is doing well in a community carry more weight among Turbulent Adventurers…

Turbulent Adventurers are likely a little less independent, but more likely to be open to working on a team or collaborating. They need to know that others approve of them and that the people who matter to them are all right with what they do.

Oh, OK. So, basically, I’m sensitive and constantly worried about what others think. Mmyeah, that sounds about right. More often that not, I let those negative emotions suppress my talents. But what about the rest of it? I’ll bullet-point it here along with a comparison between an INFP and an ISFP.

IMG_20200411_0001

At this point, you’re probably going, “But they’re the same thing.” Heck, even the career suggestions are similar or outright exact. I want to personally thank the people over at reddit for digging deep into the topic of Myers-Briggs and MBTI typing. Having read their collected information on INFP vs. ISFPs, I can certainly say that I feel more at ease with my typing as an ISFP rather than an obsessive INFP. Granted, I can still get obsessed about things, but it seems that it’s in a different manner compared to my sibling, the INFP.

Do you know your acronym? Has it helped in determining your path in life? Let me know!

Sweet Dreams are Made of These

It’s weird how dreams stick with you. It’s even weirder how your subconscious blends in with the real stuff and leaves you feeling things; confusion especially. I also really wanna go find the bird that I found in my sleep. That was freaky time slip disco right there.

time warp

What did I dream about, you’re probably wondering? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is a large veranda. It was wide, like a rooftop, surrounded by a wrought iron fence, and white. Think hospital or office. And yet… as dreams are often wont to do, the fence became bushes and flowers with a creaky gate hanging open off to the side.

rooftop
From this to the Secret Garden. No joke.

Before I knew what I was about, there was a group of faceless junior high school students to my left, blurred by my peripheral, lined up, and being addressed by a teacher who looked eerily like my old English teacher, Mr. Archibald. (If you ever happen to read this, Archi, you’re the best! Tell everyone I said hi!) To my right, a string of sweaty teenagers were dumping their rank, yellowed T-shirts in a pile at my feet. I’m concerned now with how saturated they were with sweat. Never in my life do I hope to experience this firsthand.

dirty laundry

Now, when I was a teenager and young adult, I didn’t understand why laundry was such

a big deal. It was a chore! It was a pain sorting out the colors from the blacks and making sure nothing red ended up in the whites. Boy, has my tune changed! I enjoy doing laundry now. And that’s exactly what I did in my dream.

Cue environmental change and I’m back in the crowded garage of my family home. The amount of laundry I personally generate wouldn’t even be adequate enough to fill the humongous Samsung Autobot my folks have, but I digress. In the dream, I threw all the nasty shirts into the barrel and set them to go. In the meantime, I hear this chirping.

hummingbirdMind you, birds flying in and getting stuck in the garage isn’t unheard of. Sometimes hummingbirds will chill on the junk my dad has hanging from the ceiling or sit on his tool boxes, watching everything. But the noise I was hearing belonged to a cockatiel and I found him! On the floor! With a bum wing! Now, this is where things get strange.

Apparently, this little guy was missing but, in my dream mind’s eye, I see a breaking news story that the bird was reunited with its owner as it happens in real time. The woman was crying and was so ecstatic over being with her pet once more but… it was right there with me as well…? How could I possibly be experiencing something, while at the same time, also living it in my head? Yeah, I dunno but that bird stuck with me after I woke up.

Do you ever have strange dreams that hang around in your head?

Give me corona, or give me soap!

Give me liberty or give me death” certainly wasn’t how I thought I’d start this out, but it came to mind anyway. I suppose it fits the current situation nonetheless.

Everyone is aware that the coronavirus is wreaking mayhem across the globe. It’s seeping into our already weakened economic sectors, scaring politicians into denial, and causing panic all around. Even I’m starting to feel the nervousness around me.

When Abe Shinzo hit Japan with his suggestion to close all schools, the whole country absolutely freaked out. Social media lit up and everyone was left wondering: what’s next? My suspicions aside, I suppose the crackdown has helped… a little. Despite Japan’s uncanny ability to adjust and adapt, the cons are causing the scale of balance to tip.

Stocks are dropping.

People are becoming scared and downright mean.

Events are being cancelled.

Places that were once teeming with life have emptied.

Every morning, I watch the local train pass by my window. It’s become a ghost train; not a soul aboard. I so desperately want to go out and experience the world around me, but cannot because it’s been recommended that I not go out unless I have to.

To avoid people.

To… exist.

I honestly feel like I’ve walked into a Ray Bradbury story. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up.

Give me corona, or give me soap.

A Weekend Diary: Dilly-dallying Depression and Fried Food

This weekend was interesting in that I tasted the rainbow when it came to emotions… and I didn’t even have to eat any Skittles!

eyeroll

Usually, I’m preparing and giving an English lesson on Saturdays except that this time, my student e-mailed me to explain that her daughter was placed in in-home quarantine. If you’re thinking Gasp! It’s the coronavirus! you’d be right… but also wrong. The daughter is completely fine, but because of the insane amount of paranoia running rampant in this country… cue the eye roll.

I was antsy, energetic and desperately wanted to get out of the apartment on Saturday. So, I did something weird: I donned some earrings, my denim jacket, and boogied on to the mall that’s FOREVER AWAY but whatever.

20200229_105555

Once I got there, a sense of apathy rolled over me. The lights were on but no one was home. When I saw the puppies in the pet shop though, I perked up a smidge. Every one loves them a puppy.

Over the course of a few hours, I leveled up my life experience by cruising the whole length of the mall, eating some good tonkatsu (sorry, no photo), and gorging myself on some bomb donuts from Mr. Donuts (Dunkin’ Donuts for the rest of you). Unfortunately, I think being out and exposed overstimulated my system and I arrived home with a splitting headache.

Sunday, too, had me in bed with a headache, but for a different reason. I won’t go into it here; however, tears were shed on two different occasions. Depression man… Just when I think I’ve got it under control and have achieved some kind of stability, it comes RIGHT ON BACK. Seriously, I wasn’t expecting it. As I tried to work through it, I suddenly had a craving for some 唐揚げ (からあげ, karaage).

Not a little craving. A BIG craving.

Coming home the night before, I had seen a place that looked newly open. It was hoppin’, too. Well, needless to say, I hunted it down on Google Maps. It’s a place dedicated to fried chicken goodness, からやま (Karayama). It hails from my favorite area in Tokyo, Asakusa, and I wasn’t disappointed by what I ordered.

20200301_124923

The meal included 4 pcs. of lemon-sized chicken, oh-so crispy and juicy! Rice and miso soup was there too. A larger order of rice could be handed to me for free, but I ain’t into rice that much. The sauces that came with it were a kind of sesame seed something, and some spicy-sweet oil. In the last well, I blooped out some mayonnaise. (Never thought it would be good? You should give it a shot. I mean, ya’ll be dipping your Tostino’s pizza rolls in ranch! …wait. Maybe that’s a me-only thing?). The french fries weren’t part of the package. I ordered them separately.

The grand total for all of that? About $10. And I left completely stuffed and sated. I’ll definitely be back. I got a ¥100 coupon to use!

Cold, Cold, Aa-choo!

We’ve all been there. I was there earlier this month. Whenever sudden symptoms crop up, we rush to the internet and research them. 99.9% of the time, it tells us we have some rare form of cancer when in actuality, it’s a cold. Next, we look up “easy ways to get over a cold” or “quick cold remedies.” I get a rhino in the room every year it seems, so I think I’ve got my routine down pat, but what about you?

20200222_160129

We all know that someone somewhere has got some whacky home cure to give you. You’re also probably feeling just bad enough that you’re willing to try it. In my case, I’ve gargled apple cider vinegar, drank a rancid lime and garlic tea, and have even taken shots of honey and lemon juice with a dash of pepper.

Crazy, right? But what does Japan have to offer?

First, the internet said (pages linked are in Japanese):

Probiotic foods
Found on Google that was linked to this page on probiotic health.

(Source #1): Dr. Mako

 

        • Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep
        • Do a sinus rinse
        • Drink an herbal tea
        • Try some Chinese medicine
        • Gargle salt water
        • Don’t go nuts with OTC drugs
        • Suck on some throat drops
        • Take care of your gut with probiotics
          • For example, yogurt, kimchi, miso, etc. (A.K.A fermented foods)

(Source #2): Meiji Food Co.

        • Get some good rest
          • If you snore or can’t breathe, use a breathing strip so your sleep isn’t interrupted
        • Relax and quiet your body
        • Eat nutritious foods (high in vitamins, minerals, and protein)
          • Specifically easy to eat foods, like yogurt, fruit slices, and Jello, if your throat is hurting
          • Suggested Meal #1: Hot pot
              • Recommended because the nutrients from the vegetables and meat bleed into the broth. Eating hot pot ensures you’re getting all of it and not just some of it
          • Suggested Meal #2: Miso (instant or otherwise)
              • Recommended because it’s chalk-full of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals
          • Suggested Meal #3: Rice porridge
              • Recommended because it’s easy to swallow and is hot, helping you get some water (especially if you’ve got a fever)
        • Drink water along with a sports drink to get electrolytes

I went around and asked some of my friends and acquaintances, seeing if they could provide any novel advice. Here’s what they said:

  1. Drink sports drinks
  2. Sleep… a lot
  3. Drink Kakkonto*
  4. Drink Yunker**
  5. Gargle with green tea***
  6. Soak a long time in a hot bath
  7. Drink water
  8. Encourage sweating through hot foods like spicy curry with lots of garlic
  9. Drink warm milk and honey
  10. Eat vegetable soup with grated daikon root drizzled with ponzu

Basically… it’s all common sense.

As for my personal methods, I pound back black tea with lemon and honey, use my NetiPot religiously, gargle salt water whenever my throat starts feeling thick and sore, swallow way too much cold medicine, and take A LOT of hot baths. A phone call to the family telling them how miserable I am always seems to help, too.

What do you do when you get sick? Bye for now.

 

goodbye

 

*Kakkonto contains the following: (1) puerira root – improves antioxidant function, among other things, (2) ephedra herb – treats membrane inflammation, (3) jujube – packed with minerals and vitamins, it is used to relax the body, (4) cinnamon bark – a Chinese medicinal serve-all, (5) peony root – another medicinal favorite, this helps with inflammation and spasms, (6) glycyrrhiza (aka licorice) – acts as a biological adhesive helping other medicinal components get through the body more efficiently… plus it adds flavor for an unpalatable medicine!

**This English website provides drop-down boxes explaining what the herbs they use do. It’s very convenient.

***Rumor has it is that this is something only people in Shizuoka may do.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! …OK, so it’s not the first day of the year, but cut me some slack here. This blog has been quiet for some 6+ months. You should be patting me on the back for getting some kind of energy up enough to even post something.

Snarkiness aside, I have a question for you. Did you get your omikuji (御神籤、おみくじ) yet? How about your omamori (御守り、おまもり)? It’s a common enough custom in Japan that has little to no substance except that, with the new year, it’s out with the old and in with the new.

’tis the season the flock to a shrine or temple and get lucky!

20200113_103900

Omamori can be purchased throughout the year, depending on what you need one for. I only buy and keep one. Last year’s was for good relationships with people. This year’s is a standard safety one. Prices typically range from ¥300 to upwards of ¥2,000, so about $2.50-$18.

Omikuji are meant to be purchased ONCE and, if it’s a good one, it’s to be kept in your wallet or on your person at all times to better preserve the good luck. If it’s a “death will come to your door tomorrow” kind of fortune, you tie it some kind of sacred string the shrine keeps handy and hope for the best. At this point, you’re welcome to draw another lot. If that one is even a little bit lucky, cherish the heck outta it.

Just like last year, my fortune was average.

Most start out with a small Japanese poem. Mine was:

「雪にたえ風をしのぎて / 梅の花 / 世にめでらる、その香りかな」

This more or less translates to “The plum blossom that survives a snowy wind can be admired and smelled another day.” Romantic, ain’t it? Next comes the words of wisdom:

In the beginning, there will be a profoundly sad event, but if you can refrain [from drowning in it?], your mind will open. A confused and disordered heart is a calamity that needs to be calmed.

I’m sure there’s some kind of nuance that I’m missing here, but whatever. The last bit of the fortune talks about specific aspects of one’s life. Mine were as follows:

  1. 願望 (ねがいごと, negaigoto, hopeful wishes) – Late, but will come true. It’s good to try and speak simply (avoid manners of speech)
  2. 待人 (まちびと, machibito, awaiting person) – Will arrive late
  3. 失物 (うせもの, usemono, lost item) – High chance of appearing
  4. 旅行 (たびだち, tabidachi, travel) – Good to refrain from traveling, no benefit
  5. 商売 (あきない, akinai, business) – No risk in dealing with others
  6. 学問 (がくもん, gakumon, school) – Hurry and plan your objective
  7. 相場 (そうば, souba, stock market) – Good! Sell
  8. 争事 (あらそい, arasoi, quarrels) – Speak with your eyes
  9. 恋愛 (れんあい, rennai, love) – Can be enjoyed to a certain degree
  10. 転居 (やうつり, yautsuri, moving) – Good! But hurry
  11. 出産 (おさん, osan, pregnancy) – A safe delivery is favorable
  12. 病気 (びょうき, byouki, sickness) – No worries. Believe in the gods
  13. 縁談 (えんだん, endan, marriage) – Negotiations will be broken off, but after helping (the person? the people?), all will be well

What are some crazy things your family does to welcome in the new year? Do you have any interesting traditions or superstitions? Let me know! Bye for now.

A Weekend Diary: Summer Break (Part 2)

Being alone with my thoughts during this extensive summer vacation, of which ends in one more day (hooray!), has led me to wonder if I’m doing the right things in life. I suppose those are the kind of philosophical mysteries that I’ll never know the answers to. Even historians debate about the correctness of events long after they’ve happened.

Anyway.

In between gallivanting throughout shopping malls, playing PokemonGo, and cooking more food than I’ll actually eat, I participated in the English summer camp a local after-school club puts on every year. I wasn’t around last year to participate, but I hear there was a forest and tons of mosquitoes.

Have you ever gone to camp? I image it to be something like this.

summercamp3

summercamp2

summercamp1

This particular camp is basically an escape from home that kids so desperately need once in a while to be something they don’t normally get to be. Instead of watching the girls this year, I was thrown in with the boys. Surprisingly, they were easy to entertain and keep happy if one remembered to give them space. I’m assuming we were all the same when we were preteens.

But… what actually happens at an English camp? Activities vary, to be sure, but this schools’ selection is pretty tame. It all begins with welcoming the kids into the school and making sure they’re rounded up, comfortable, and sorted into their groups. Name tags are then made (even though the wisdom of this is lost on me as the tags fall off after 5 minutes).

Board games and funsies came later as we waited for lunch to be made. If there was time, we worked on some kind of performance to put on on the second day. Two groups chose a song and dance, the third did only a song and mine did… a weird variety of things. I believe in letting them make up their own things while I monitor because creativity in this structured Japanese society is so important.

20190808_134752
Taking a quick break to check my phone.

After copious amounts of soda and juice were consumed, it was finally time to pack up to go to the pool. I can’t remember the last time I had bothered to go swimming and I still suck at it as much as I did before. While the latest pop hits were blaring on the radio, we all splish-splashed about, getting ridiculously tired and sun-BURNT. I’m still trying to figure out to this day why only one foot got crispy while the other made it out unscathed. As an added bonus, it was funny as shit watching all the boys run away from the wasps that remained determined to terrorize them on the train platforms.

20190808_191008
Gotta love everyone’s impression what a BBQ should be.

Oh! On the first day, we were permitted to wash up in the spa/hot springs area in the neighboring hotel. Man, I don’t think heaven could get any sweeter. Do you ever get the impression you belong somewhere else other than where you are currently? For example, you might feel you have an old soul and don’t groove with today’s lifestyle, etc. Well! Hot springs were made for this girl and the eucalyptus-scented waters were hard to give up. The ice cream at the end of it was nice, though.

20190808_164638
Strawberry-flavored shaved ice with frozen berry topping.

After going back to the school and having a lovely BBQ dinner, we gathered up the chil’ens to watch a movie. The choices were Lion King, Toy Story or Frozen. Even though Frozen was on the agenda to be watched, the kids unanimously chose Toy Story. Thank you, Pixar. The power you hold to manipulate childrens’ emotions extends across oceans. I suppose it’s a good thing to get the international attention because 100% of the girls and boys under my partial watch weren’t born yet when the first installment to the series came out (1995 to be extact!).

I had forgotten how cool the first movie was. As I got older, I developed a kind of… complex (?) against Tim Allen and Tom Hanks. Their brand of comedy and gimmicky behavior wasn’t my cup of tea, but perhaps it simply wasn’t flavored with the things I prefer. What was even cooler was that two of the ALTs who were attending the camp alongside me had never seen it before. To see them touched just as the kids were was something special to experience. When I go back home, I’ll have to make sure to get the 2nd movie to complete my set and that’s only if the VHS for the first one is still up and running. Man… I’ve still gotta turn all those tapes into DVDs but I digress.

20190808_115659
A mixed sandwich and Coke for lunch. The fried pork cutlet was fresh this time and oh-so good!

Even though I won’t see most of those boys and girls ever again, their faces will blur into the fun and fine memory soup that I’m sure all of my experiences in Japan will culminate into. Sitting here, it’s hard not to become proud, sentimental, and content with the hand I may or may not have had in their lives. I guess I can only hope that their continued encounters with people of other cultures and backgrounds will convince them that the world isn’t as scary as the main Japanese cultural mindset wants them to be.

A Weekend Diary: Summer Break (Part 1)

Do you have those kinds of days? Those kinds of days where you’re sat in your chair or aimlessly walk around the house, staring into space? Since summer break started, that’s ALL I’ve been doing. That’s not saying I don’t have things to do – I have plenty – I just don’t have the interest to do any of it.

Ha! My boredom is my own fault, isn’t it? That’s OK though because I wouldn’t be here trying to focus on my writing if I was engaged elsewhere.

Because I chose not to travel this summer (a.k.a I didn’t have any money), I’ve been putzing around doing a variety of activities. Some were relaxing and others, not so much. When you wake up with no plans to do anything, the day kind of unfolds on its own. Like Marie Kondo finds joy in the smallest of things, I’ve managed to do the same.

20190802_133854[1]
Riding the train, on my way to Nagoya!
My first incident of joy was going to my first-ever concert in Nagoya on August 2nd. I bet you weren’t preparing yourself to hear that it was a classical concert, were you? While many others would be over the moon to go and see their favorite band or singer live, it’s not my cup of tea.  I kid you not. It was such a treat to be able to sit in a music hall and listen to THE MAN, Joe Hisaishi. In my mind, him, John Williams, Alan Menken, and Hans Zimmer are the best. They are the musical geniuses behind Ghibli, Harry Potter, Disney, and Pirates of the Caribbean, respectively, among others.

Sitting there in the second row, surrounded by the razzle and dazzle of lights, crystal fixtures and the gleaming instruments is a moment in my life I wouldn’t… couldn’t trade for anything on this green earth. Even now, I can recall how the music lifted and swelled my soul to popping as tears of emotion rolled down my cheeks. The smile I had on my face would’ve cracked my head in two if it were possible.

Joe himself was such a humble man, thoroughly enjoying the audience’s energy. I can only imagine the immense honor it was to play for him. At the end of the concert, he was free to select the scores he wanted to play as a surprise for us. I was absolutely ecstatic to be able to listen to Merry Go Round of Life from Howl’s Moving Castle, one of my favorite Ghibli movies.

20190802_175719[1]
The Aichi Prefectural Art Theater.
If you ever have the opportunity in your life to see something classical, whether it’s a ballet, opera, or musical, I wholeheartedly recommend you do so. It puts you in touch with emotions and memories you thought were gone forever. You are literally transported to another plane of existence.

Stayed tuned for the next installment of my summer shenanigans, coming soon!