Things I’ve Noticed AFTER Turning 30

Hi, there. You must be close to turning 30 or are already over the threshold if you’ve stumbled across this. Here, you’ll want this butt donut and there’s some refreshments on the table over there if you find yourself getting thirsty. Don’t worry, they’re all easy to digest and sugar-free.

Hm… you’re not looking too sure. It must be your first time. Nuh-uh-uh-UH! No-o-o you don’t! Don’t try and weasel your way out of using that donut. It’ll come in handy, trust me. Here! Take this and read up on what your 30s have to offer before I get started on more things I’ve realized.

What’s up, doc?

Forget things happening or coming in 3s. Let’s be real — that hasn’t happened in a hot New York minute and our bodies don’t bend that way anymore. It feels like mine has gone on strike and I’m having to go see a doctor more often than I used to. Before ya’ll get all high and mighty about getting out and exercising, I KNOW. I just choose to ignore it. I have zero interest.

Truth.

ANYWAY. Ahem.

Seriously, as we get older, seeing an OBGYN and whoever it is that tickles the insides of glory holes becomes a must. Our teeth and skin start to take a dive, showing spots, weird dents, crooked wrinkles, bleeding at odd times, or just ashy AF no matter how much lotion we lather on. I’ve become increasingly aware and yet, am still in denial over the fact that I’ll have to talk to my local Smash-a-Boob about cancer screenings some time soon.

Totally disregarding the aforementioned ashinasty, any itch has me checking for rashes and bumps. Any slight ache of the throat has me hoping I haven’t caught the ‘VID. Any excess hair in my brush has me praying it’s just stress and not something more. Farts got me clenching my butt harder than usual, I’m seriously considering the benefits of therapeutic shoes, and my increasing disgust with bodily fluids has me washing clothes way more often than my nasty-ass teenage self could ever understand.

…ew. I can practically hear my mom telling me “I told you so! You didn’t wanna listen to me, didja?”

Sigh… and don’t get me started on how much money I’ve thrown at the dentist since my last blog post, but I’m just going to blame genetics on that one. Also, let’s tack on some recent news that I’ve received from my company: the mandatory health screening is due in two weeks. Doctors can see just about anything what’s not right with us through blood. Say a chant with me, charge them crystals, and light some herbs to prevent any voodoo on my read-out plz k thx.

Who am I? What am I?

And for some reason, having numerous health check-ups = grandma. Like, ¿que? ¿Cómo se dice BOOL-SHYEET? If you’ve noticed people treating you differently because you’ve added on a year, you’re not alone.

Not being “young” anymore has thrown me for a loop. 30 now has somehow brought back The Twilight Zone (the BW version, amiright?) and I feel myself being pulled two ways: one is to be the responsible adult and fit the stereotype of success, and the other is still trying to convince me I can walk in a short skirt and toothpick stilettoes without eating the pavement.

I mean, who isn’t coasting through life right now?

I’ve entered my 30s uncomfortably unprepared. The amount of things I just don’t know is staggering. There’s suddenly this pressure to read more, be woke, eat conspiracy theories for breakfast, and walk a political tightrope.

Barking Mad and Mentally Mental

These are my special guests: Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity and Guilt. Say hello, you freeloaders. If ya’ll in the audience know a good lawyer, I’d like a referral because these dudes owe me back rent.

I’m still baffled by the fact that life follows the movies. Y’know, the same opening scene where the main character is spread over a psychiatrist’s sofa, spilling all their worries? That one. I’ve entered that and it seems to be helping (!!). Yes, that’s right! I’ve taken a step in the right direction and am getting professional guidance on how to manage the unwelcome guests that have been squatting unhindered since forever. Their numbers have increased as I’ve gotten older.

But why is it with age, we become more self-aware? That means we’re noticing intrusive thoughts, poor decision-making, burnout, and whatever else this generation has going for it. Holding onto festering ideas and stress, morphing it into something normal, is not healthy.

Let me ask you, would you keep moldy fruit? You wouldn’t. You’d throw it out, beat back the mold stain, smack the flies with a newspaper (are those even a thing anymore?) and start fresh, right? I know that and you know that, and yet, some of us keep repeating the habit without a second thought.

Eventually, with the therapist’s help, I’ll be able to reform my habits and start saving money. If you’re struggling too, I gently suggest seeking third-party help, as they’re removed from your situation, triggers, and stresses, and can provide an objective eye.

Not understanding the young people

Unfortunately, those triggers can take any form and mine seem to be everywhere. One of them is social media with its intense saturation of young women flaunting their goods for easy likes. Seriously, we’re missing out on a profitable business. We’d have way more millionaires in the world if those likes were currency! On the downside, it really puts Insecurity at risk of setting Anxiety off.

The trends and habits of today’s youth are starting to baffle me. What is so appealing about smooth-skinned hot thangs swishing their hips to some random EDM? They all make me feel fat, ugly, and old. I’ve seen 2D characters with more dimension than them!

Does it sound like I’m complaining? Probably. More and more though, there’s a disconnect. I’m finding myself having generational shock. Y’know, like culture shock, but… between me and them.

Does Hobby Lobby have hobbies for sale?

And as we get older, many of us will fall into two camps: being super unmotivated or being intensely genki (Japanese for energetic, healthy). The genki folks undergo a transformation as they take on new challenges, start eating healthier, and overall becoming the superstars we all secretly envy.

Our views of success get distorted, and with that, comes apathy; apathy towards everything that once defined us. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not telling you to hold onto ungratifying pastimes. If you’ve stopped for valid reasons or absolutely need to change for your health, that’s fine. What I’m trying to say is that it’s sad when we stop doing what we love; when we sever that important emotional connection.

We end up becoming unmotivated. And what do we say to that?!

If this line ain’t a motto for a lot of people, I don’t know what is.

By the way, if having a mountain of unfinished projects stacked up around the house applies to you, raise your hand. Mine’ve been there for months. You might as well call me an odds and ends collector or Miss Money Throw-away ’cause that’s just about what it amounts to. If I take a moment to think about it, the oldest unfinished item I have is from like… around… 2011? TEN YEARS YOU GUYS! Ten years that project has been hopping from the storage bin to boxes to my floor and back to the storage bin.

I’m loathe to admit that I might have picked up the negligence from my dad. Seriously, why can’t those projects do themselves?!

There’s an upside, though. Slowly, I’m reaching back into my youth and picking up old hobbies. Do ya’ll remember boondoggles? Does anyone play with Tamagochis anymore? I would totally love to have my old Lite Brite back, dressed up in one of those gawdy princess costumes with the clickity-clack plastic pumps.

Hee-hee-huu-huu!

Truly though, this is where the panic sets in. Panic that you’re going to kick the bucket before you can get everything set and squared away. Panic about seeing people you haven’t reached out to in years. Panic over not being as organized and upstanding as you’d like. Granted, some people are more well-rounded and stable than you and I and they’ve already got a hefty 401k going, their eyes are on a house at the age of 27, and have several rescues they’ve fostered out.

What is the dream anymore?

It’s an all hands on deck kind of feeling. The deadlines you thought you were ahead of are either moved forward or they shank you when you least expect it. Perhaps you have a kid and you’ve realized you’re in need of self-help books for the eventual mood swings and goth period they’re bound to have.

Best have a lot of skip and reverse cards handy, or at the very least, some good pals you can depend on. There were plenty of times I wish I had them.

Friends

Speaking of friends, we either keep them always and forever or we gain the seasoned ones later in life. That seems to be my case, anyway.

Allow me some sentimentality. Friends are beautiful. They are a kaleidoscope of personalities, likes, and interests that are all, funnily enough, suited to us in some way. Just look at the number of quotes and sayings on friendship! I bet you could wallpaper your house with them all.

As we age, we notice more readily who’s valuable and safe for us to know and have around and… well… who’s not. Our view of people regresses back a couple decades, shedding the multiple lenses we use, and becomes much more straightforward. We literally have lost the patience to get to know someone.

Those friends come in handy too because, let’s be real, we’re all still scared of the dark.

Hey! What’ve you been up to?!

The dishes from Christmas dinner need to be put away.

I keep staring out of the curtained window, like I’m waiting for something to happen.

What is it artists use to record their videos?

Do I even want to push my art into the world and jump on that bandwagon?

A composition I threw together from some scribbles that were already on the page. Who knows if it’ll ever make it onto a canvas. (Dec. 2020)

Groan. I still have those Christmas wreaths to get started and finished.

Ah, and I need to start working on something for the company newsletter, too…

Can’t you tell that I’m super distracted? I’ve told my counselor a couple of times that being at home, unfocused, is a dangerous thing. It’s easy for me to slip into that dark corner and think little of myself. Last week was so busy and now I’ve got another two days to slog through. Where’s that teenager at? I need a right proper scoff and eyeroll!

Let’s get to back-pedaling.

No joke, I thought I was in trouble there for the last couple of months. I wanted to disappear, angry with everyone around me for not noticing how much of a mess I was becoming. Work was becoming increasingly busier, I felt incompetent, I held grudges against colleagues… I needed my screen to flash GAME OVER. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Why am I not as good as everyone else? Why am I not more liked? If I were just a bit more like everyone else, I’d have more attention.

HURK BLARGH. How petty are those thoughts?! Seriously, I feel disgusted with myself. Combine those insecurities with the fact that my family seemed to be suffering blow after blow, I hit the end of my rope faster than I would’ve liked. I couldn’t, wouldn’t accept that all roads were starting to point me in other directions.

Change is scary. Acceptance is every scarier. I’m learning, though.

I’m learning to accept that I won’t ever be as popular as other artists, that my skills will stay where they’re at until I hunker down and practice. I’m learning to appreciate what I’m capable of doing already and now. I’m learning to love my determination and single-mindedness regarding my work as an ALT.* I’m learning to stop thinking “I’m always alone” and ask for help. I’m learning to be grateful for what Japanese I know.

Be kind and love yourself. Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I’m worthy.

I’m valuable.

I’m not insignificant.

My work and my accomplishments in life will speak for themselves.

Just this month, in fact, I was notified by my branch that I was awarded Top Motivational Instructor. It’s the highest honor an ALT can receive in my company for superb work ethic. I’m still trying to process it! I certainly wasn’t expecting it — I even went to one of my bosses and urged him to remove my name from any kind of running. I felt I didn’t do anything this year to deserve recognition in… well… anything.

I hadn’t done any work with my English boards.

I completely scrapped my English newspaper.

I did absolutely nothing for my schools this year, but somehow… my supervisors and bosses recognized and acknowledged something I don’t see within myself.

Some time during this winter vacation I’ve got to make a small speech for the occasion. Who would I even thank?

I’ve thought about dedicating this win to my late Aunt Judy. She was taken from us rather suddenly this year and not from COVID. I feel I’d be more at peace with the whole thing if it had been that — I mean, it’s kinda become the taste in everyone’s mouths. Other than that, I have no clue on what to say. Have you ever written a speech before?

I’ve also seen some success in the wreaths that I make in my spare time. The praise I receive from one of my schools certainly helps keep the motivation going. They’re not hard to make if you’ve got some wire cutters, scissors and a lot of hot glue sticks. Perhaps it’s a good thing that Japan doesn’t have Hobby Lobbies. I’ve included a video from my Facebook page for your viewing pleasure!

2020’s Halloween wreath as featured on my Facebook page, Artleycoul.

Other ways I’ve been attempting to handle my stress and keep my mental health healthy is through baking; specifically brownies. My friend Carla, over at The Geordie Gaijin, seems to really enjoy them. I’m happy my sweets can reach her “cold, bitter English heart” as she more or less puts it.

I’m in a love-hate relationship with breads, too. It’s so incredibly easy to kill the yeast! I never seem to know when to knead the dough enough, so I’ve just kinda given up reading the instructions. I work it all until it comes to a consistency I’m comfortable with and give it all shove into my tiny oven. Which do you enjoy baking, quick breads or yeasty breads? I think my specialty will always be an improved version of my grandma’s banana bread recipe.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A third method has been to write an extended letter to my dad. I made it to 11 pages (they’re small — maybe like B5 size) and stopped writing after December 2nd. I suppose it can be considered to be a really long conversation.

The lovely thing about the whole deal is that it got him in the mood to write me a letter, too. It arrived with my Christmas package! It’s always a pleasure to receive something as special as that from loved ones.

***

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! It’s been a long time since I’ve felt comfortable with airing out my thoughts. I’d like to invite you to join my artful progress by following my Instagram and Facebook page. Both hold a spot on my homepage. Let me know what you think and if there’s anything you’d like to see me try!

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.

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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.

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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:

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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!

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.

Kimchi, Pork, and Tofu

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It dawned on me that I should probably write about my meal before posting it to Instagram saying there is, indeed, a blog post detailing the ingredients. Also, I think my butt will start looking like rice if I keep eating as much as I do. Funny how one carb was switched out for another…

Even a boozy brain can figure this one out. You take kimchi, thinly sliced pork, and tofu, throw it into a hot, oiled up pan and go. Actually, I wouldn’t recommend getting the pan too hot because I had to finally toss my favorite one out due to… peely circumstances. PSA: Be nice to your pans, folks.

I suppose if you want more flavor, you can fry up your pork with a touch of salt and pepper to give the vegetables and soy more flavor… but when you’re hangry, the quickest option is sometimes the better one. And before you diss kimchi (nee kimchee), it’s good stuff. You can even get it tailored to your preferred spice level. All it is is pickled napa cabbage in a balance of spice and sweetness… or, if you’re like me, your optimum is more sweet than spicy.

Go ahead. Give it a shot! Happy cooking.

Ashley Goes to the Konbini

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As I was eating my food, I realized that I could do a segment on the things I buy and try out. Unfortunately, the items I’m going to share with you today have already been ingested and are now succumbing to my acid. Wait… that doesn’t sound right. Let’s try that again!

Unfortunately, the items I’m going to share with you today have already been impounded and are currently going through processing.

ShockingPowerfulAardwolf-size_restricted

…moving on!

7-11 is a thing here and it is quite different than my American counterpart. Two words: NO. SLURPEES. Despite not offering the snacks and hot foods I grew up eating, Japanese 7-11s are dope in their own way. The main reason is the above. If I could live off fried chicken and rice balls for the rest of my life, I would but I’d hate to see what my body’d look like after 10 years.

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The Jell-O dessert.

First up to bat is this “cream soda jelly.” Yes, Jell-O is called jelly here. Which is easier for you to say? Honestly, my mind gets stuck on the #ujelly schtick…

Topped with a cocktail cherry (sorry, it’s not a maraschino), whipped cream, and lemon mousse, it’s actually pretty tasty. I was transported back to my childhood. Story time! Furr’s was a buffet or cafeteria-style restaurant my family would take me to every once in a while. It has since been closed for many, many years. But I distinctly remember their green (lime-flavored, maybe) Jell-O with whipped cream. I think it became one of those must-haves a child always looks forward to.

 

Furrs
Once upon a time, there was a place.

VERDICT: 7/10. The dessert here was extremely pleasant. The Jell-O wasn’t overpoweringly flavored. The whipped cream was light. The lemon mousse was en point. It’s probably one of the few Western things Japan is doing better than their competitors. The only downer was that cocktail cherry.

 

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Tuna salad and rice. Who’da thought?

Up next, we have the humble rice ball. Why it’s called a “ball,” I have no idea because in Japanese, it’s called おにぎり (onigiri, oh-nee-ghee-ree). The number of things you can wrap rice around is just about endless, but let’s talk about this particular one: tuna mayonnaise. The mayonnaise in Japan is not Best Foods. Whatever their egg to oil to whatever ratio is, it’s tasty cold or warm.

The rice is fresh and springy; not cold and hard. The tuna is your typical, flaked variety. The mayo is mild and I swear it’s seasoned with something. VERDICT: 8/10.

 

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Goodness on a stick.

Last, but not least is the fried chicken (called 唐揚げ [karage, kara-age]). Made from thigh meat, the chicken is marinated in some kind of soy sauce, sake, ginger, and garlic combination or simply dipped in seasoned flour and fried until golden brown. Instead of nachos or a hot dog, you can buy these babies for about $1.50 each. Their crispy, juicy deliciousness will not leave you disappointed. Just don’t let it get soggy. VERDICT: 9/10 (Maybe I have low expectations, but wait until you try it.)

Honorable mention: Popcorn is popcorn. I’ve yet to eat bad popcorn that I didn’t make myself.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my account of konbini food. Stay tuned for the next episode!

What do you mean ‘I’ll get lonely?!’

Disclaimer: Any advice given or situations are from my own experiences. Please take what I say with a grain of salt when comparing it to your own situation.

typingWhen you type into Google “teaching in Japan” or “ALT jobs in Japan,” it may not cross your mind that you’ll be lonely. You can only think of all that fresh, juicy anime you’ll be able to get your hands on, or the delicious foods you can finally try that’ll knock the socks off an instant noodle cup. Japan! Temples, beaches, cute boys, adorable women, fashion, music! YEAH! You find a company you like and click that “Apply” button.

Now it’s time to buckle up and brace yourself for the ride.

im ready

Fast-forward to a month in. Everything is uncertain. You’re uncertain of your choice, you’re uncertain of yourself; so, you call your family and cry. You complain of the prejudice. You complain of the lack of friends. You complain about how the food isn’t what you thought it was. The strings of malicious words are non-exhaustible. Most of all, you’re lonely. Oh-so oppressively lonely.

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Wait… what? “But Ashley, loneliness wasn’t on the agenda.” It never is. “How do I deal with it?” I’m still learning and searching for that answer myself. Ultimately, you have two choices: healthily or unhealthily. Do you want to save yourself from the agony your emotions will cause or tackle it head-on? As for myself, I feel it’s like walking a tightrope. Some days, I’m above my pettiness and others… well, I drown in it.

For the first 7 months of ALT-ing, I felt I was doing fairly well if I took out all the weekends I called back home sobbing. I was connecting with my school and connecting with my students. I was becoming a regular at many of the shops and even made a friend here and there. I certainly won’t knock my time in my original placement. However… but… a part of me kept listening to the niggly peanut gallery. The devil on my shoulder was getting louder. “You could have more friends. You could have more relationships. You could have more sex. All it takes is for you to log on. You’re a pretty girl. Think of all the attention you’ll be getting!” it would whisper.

kronk

Call it confidence or call it stupidity, but I listened to that voice and stepped into the world of online dating in Japan. Yeah, I know. I can already hear your scoffing and see your eye-rolling. Why couldn’t I have been stronger and found other things to put my energy towards? Well… the answer is “Loneliness will do that to you.”

Being in another country with this newfound independence creates a drug-like effect in your brain. You’re free. You’re away from the judgment of your friends and family. I mean, what they don’t know won’t hurt them, right? I can guarantee that there’s so much going on in my daily life that doesn’t end up on my social media.

Without going into detail about that messy thing, I will tell you that life alone in another country is hard. Battling internally with myself has led me to question, has led me to doubt, has led me to self-hate, lowered self-esteem, a bad body image, and has led me to this ugly, clouded room of choices that look lifesaving but are actually there to hurt me. I am literally stuck within my own mind most of the time. “Ashley, you think too much,” you say. Yup, and I’m not ashamed of my problem.

Self-hate

I have discussed my issues with my friends and family attempting to find some kind of answer as to why. Why do I subject myself to this nonsense? This the advice I’ve received (as best as I can remember it):

  1. You need a pet or someone to take care of
  2. You need to ignore what everyone else is doing
  3. It’s normal. Don’t worry about it
  4. You should date more
  5. Concentrate on your hobbies
  6. Stop being so concerned about everyone else

Let’s address each of the points mentioned, shall we?

  1. In regards to pets, I live in a LeoPalace whom of which doesn’t allow animals in their buildings. Whether it’s because of noise or because of filth, I cannot have one on the premises. I did sneak fish into my place though but they don’t have the cuddle component one would look for in a dog, cat, or bird. As for having someone to take care of, that has backfired miserably and I want no part in it.
  2. Ignoring people is successful to an extent but keeping that up 24/7 is exhausting and once that barrier comes down, the world barges in. When I do this, I usually end up having an emotional breakdown. I’m surprised that there are less holes in my walls.
  3. Loneliness is normal, yes, but bone-crushing, fatigue-inducing loneliness with a side of depression is not. It is especially not normal when you’re thinking of ending it all during one of these episodes. (If you know someone who is suffering from suicidal thoughts or are suffering yourself, please do not hesitate to call a friend, a family member, your next-door neighbor, some randomly dialed number, 911 [110 for Japan], or the Suicide Hotline @ 1-800-273-8255 [or for Japan, +81-035-774-0992])
  4. Just… no.
  5. I have way too many hobbies but this has worked a bit. Lately, I’ve been trying to develop a caricature art style and it’s been fun. I’ve also invested money in coasters with the intent to design embroidered Sailor Moon themed sets to sell to the hardcore anime fan. Unfortunately, remaining interested is a struggle.
  6. Being concerned about everyone is in my DNA. For some reason, I’m always extending help to someone in some way. My heart is too big to not to. The downside to this is that I end up not taking care of myself. When I become worried over what everyone else is doing and thinking, it sends me into a funk that takes days to shake out of. I plummet right back into the Negativity Room. When I’m there, I don’t believe anything anyone says. I hear them but I don’t listen

I truly believe that rooms absorb our feelings. Being trapped in my apartment during the day or in times of rest when I’m not sleeping leads to ugly thoughts. I turn into this… awful, disgusting, vicious, spiteful, bitter woman. It becomes hard for me to relate to anyone or anything. I shut off. So, what do I do? I get out. I ride my bike to nowhere in particular. I take pictures of things I find interesting and share them on Instagram. I give my surroundings stories and characters. I let these small moments fuel my artsy-fartsy side and before I know it, I’ve emerged from the gloom renewed.

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Loneliness is tough and it should be taken seriously. Most of all, my advice to you is to analyze why you feel lonely. Finding the reasons while help you in punching the emotion in the face. You and I are smart. We are valuable to someone even if that someone is ourselves. We can overcome this.

Hurry! Get your curry!

What do you think of when you hear the word “curry?” Ann Curry? Tim Curry? Curry with naan? I bet you weren’t aware that one of the staple dishes in Japan is curry. That’s right! I’m not talking about a stereotype here. Curry in Japan is a soul food – kids roll up their sleeves for it, adults sigh contentedly when they eat it, and foreigners even have their go-to chain restaurant for it.

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Katsu curry from a restaurant in my town. The curry itself was vegetable-less.

Let’s compare and contrast the curry you know vs. the curry you don’t know. Without the excruciating etymology and historical details, the table looks a little like this:

Indian Curry

Japanese Curry

Comes in a wet or dry form Less seasoned
Yogurt, coconut milk, cream No creams or milk
Goes back a couple of hundred years Brought by the English in the 1800s after the Japanese seclusion
Has sub-types depending on the region More of a stew
Originally a sauce to go with rice but became a stew with rice in it Invented in 1912 and uses onions, potatoes and carrots
Contains garam masala, ginger, chili and so forth 1923 saw the first Japanese curry powder and in 1954, the first sauce
Wasn’t originally spicy but due to ship routes, chili peppers were introduced Comes in a wide range of flavors and spice levels

Curry in Japan is a serious business. When I type “curry” into Google Maps, 20 restaurants in a few-mile-radius come up. They include both Japanese-style and Indian-style places. Even restaurants that have a main attraction like hamburg or pizza have curries or curry-flavored things 95% of the time.

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A box of curry roue. This one says “Vermont Curry.”

But I’m not here to discuss its popularity. I’m here to tell you how it’s a go-to for first time Japan-livers. It will be your best friend if you don’t know how to cook but can boil water. What’s wonderful about it is that it’s so versatile with no set filling recipe. Here’s what I throw in mine:

  • tiny bits of chicken
  • pumpkin or potatoes
  • carrots
  • daikon or kabu (i.e. radish, turnips)
  • mushrooms (sometimes)
  • green beans
  • peas
  • chigensai (called “baby napa” in English)
  • chrysanthemum sprouts (sometimes)

Do you see a pattern? Usually, I go for white-orange-green colors. As nutritionists will tell you, the more color you have, the better you’re eating. Seriously, curry will fill you up. In hotels, it’s even served for breakfast!

When you come to Japan, take a look around your local grocery and convenience stores. Oh! Before I go, here’s a word of warning if you can’t read Japanese. 甘口 (amaguchi, literally “sweet mouth”) means sweet or “no heat,” 中口 (chuguchi, “middle mouth”) means it’s hot and 辛口 (karaguchi, “spicy mouth”) means it will melt your face off. You can see these cute warning labels on the front of the package in the corner somewhere.

Happy eating!

P.S. If you ever get around to eating a dish called hayashi rice, you can find the roué in the curry aisle, but look hard! I almost missed it the first time I wanted it.

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Hayashi rice. I like to put scrambled egg on top of mine for added a breakfast benefit.

A Weekend Diary: The Backwoods

Once upon a time, there was a sporadic blogger who disappeared. She was found a year later, quietly rotting away from overwork and self-imposed stress. If you listen closely, you can hear the tapping from the keys on her laptop and the frantic clicking of her mouse. She now serves as a living reminder to the young and carefree to not be so serious about life.

Just kidding.

Really, though, where has the time gone?! I suppose the stars have fallen from my eyes after almost two years of living in Japan. The adjustment time has ended. The urge to visit the places I saw in anime and other kinds of pop-culture has vanished and has been replaced with a desire to explore locally. As a challenge to myself, I will attempt to detail my weekend adventures instead of trying to remember everything I do on actual vacations. Mom, Dad! I’m sorry I’m such a failure!

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First, I have to say thanks to Niantic for bringing out PokémonGo. When I first moved here, I thought my area was a PokéStop desert – nothing to be seen or gotten. The oasis was an hour’s bus ride away if I wanted any action. So, having had a falling out with running, I decided to put my worn-out shoes back on and start walking. Luckily for me, my town has proven to be decently laden with Stops.

After passing through the local shrine a couple of times and seeing11325043_1559328200989984_1491583606_n a sign for “Hosoe Park – Welcome! Let’s walk together!” I got curious about what was actually up there in the woods. As a side note, I’m terrified of closed in spaces because I have no idea what will jump out and get me. The desert is much kinder and kills you faster.

Walking up the damn mountain was a bitch. After 5 minutes, I was huffing and puffing my way through dense foliage, rugged concrete paths, and glory-seeking spider threads. A glimmer of white finally greeted my vision and… wait! Is that a place to rest?! Do I spy a water fountain?! I’m SAVED! (‘cause, y’know, I’m a dummy like that and don’t hydrate). Oh… no. It’s just an observation deck with sour water.

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The view from the observation deck. You can see Lake Hamana on the far right side and the Miyakoda River leading to it under the landmark bridge.

As I continued trekking, I realized I’d come across a municipal hotel. No, joke, that’s what 国民宿舎奥浜名湖 translates to. Japanese lesson, go!

Japanese Lesson 1

I remembered an acquaintance told me there was a restaurant up here (coupled with seeing signs – am I psychic?!), I braved the front doors. As I walked in, unsure if the place was open to public patronage or not, I was greeted warmly and allowed to look around. Of course, in traditional Japanese capitalist fashion, a small shop dedicated to the local foods and souvenirs drew me deeper into the depths of a broke life. In case it wasn’t mention before, Hosoe is famous for tangerines (i.e. mikan), eel, and miso products. As it is March, there were also seasonal treats available. Anyway!

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My lunch. Rice, pickled vegetables, dipping sauces, red miso soup, a salad and fried shrimp.

I spotted a book titled “The Town’s Princess Road.” In Japanese, it’s 姫様道の町 (himesama dou no machi). Hosoe’s top festival is the Princess Road Festival and this book details important locations within the town that are relevant to the history of the area. Naturally, I had to have a copy despite the need to translate it.

This leads me to my next discovery: The Dual-Weight Saint. Thank you again, PokémonGo, because this place was listed as a gym. My original goal was to get to it and put a Pokémon in. (Tangent: the one I placed there stayed there for 2 days. No one battled it out.) But instead, I found a small shrine with a bunch of red-dressed monk statues commonly called Jizo* there. One in particular was singled out and protected with a bunch of origami cranes. Coincidently, the book I had purchased told the story of this place. Fast forward two days and here you go!

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The Dual-Weight Saint. It has since been enshrined.

おもかる大師
昔、おきぬという信心深い老婆が木の実を拾おうと気賀の裏山をさまよっていると、萩の下にお地蔵様のような形をした変わった石を見つけました。
「これはこれは、御大師様だ。何かのご縁に違いない」と、おきぬは、その石を近くの木の下に据えました。
その後、おきぬは毎日水や花を持ってお参りに来ていましたが、ある日、道順の良い所へ石を動かそうとしたところ、重くて動きませんでした。ところがある日、急に雨が降り出してきたため、石が雨にぬれてしまうと思い、動かしてみると、今度は軽く動くので、大きな松の木の下に移してやりました。そのうちに、おきぬは、この石には重い日と軽い日があるのを知りました。
この話が人々に広まり、多くの人が参けいに訪れるようになりましたが、願いをかけてそれが叶う時は軽く、叶わない時には動くて持ち上がらないことから、いつしかこの石は「おもかる大師」と呼ばれるようになりました。

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Jizo’s true appearance. He holds a wish granting jewel in his hand. (Props to you Inuyasha fans who get the reference.)

The Dual-Weight Saint
                Once upon a time, an old devout woman by the name of Okinu was wandering around the backwoods of Kiga when suddenly, she came upon a stone under a bush of clover in bloom. It looked like the saint, Jizo!
                “This… this is a saint!” she said, as she placed the figure under a nearby tree. “This must be fate, make no mistake.”
               After that, Okinu brought flowers and water for it every day. It became a ritual for her, when one day, she decided to move the stone to a better place. Upon trying to lift it, she discovered she couldn’t! Suddenly, the rain began to fall and she hurried to get it out of the way. It was light! She could move it! Quickly, she placed it under a pine tree. It dawned on her that the stone had its heavy days and its light days.
               The story became widely known by the townsfolk and they visited with their wishes. If the stone was heavy and they couldn’t move it, their wish wouldn’t be granted. If the stone was light, however, they could rejoice! Their wish would come true. It was from then on, it was called the “Dual-Weight Saint.”

I didn’t try to move it.

**According to Wikipedia, Jizo is a Buddhist deity. His original name is Ksitigarbha. He guides people through the 6 Realms of Existence. More information was found in The Japan Times article “A guide to Jizo, guardian of travelers and the weak.” Because Jizo is a protector of those who travel, he is often found at boundaries, physical or spiritual. Dressing and caring for this saint allows the soul to accrue karma for the afterlife.

 

 

100-yen Splurge

Hello! And Happy New Year! In Japanese, we say, 「明けましておめでとうございます。」(akemashite omedetou gozaimasu) and is often shortened to 「おめでとうございます。」(omedetou gozaimasu).  When you see a friend or a family member for the first time in the new year, you are required to say it. You’re also welcome to extend the politeness to strangers but it’s not necessary. No one has told me what happens when you don’t say it… It uses the same character as “bright.”

In the theme of the day, here is a bright, shiny, new post for you after a month of hitting the deck and kissing my ass (and sanity) good-bye.

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I told you once upon a time you can find just about anything at 100-yen shops, right? First, we have organizers. My rolling dresser that I was storing my hair things on wasn’t cutting it anymore after I purchased a small bookshelf, so now I have something a little more handy and accessible. What’s awful is that I hear my mom in my head whispering to me, “Y’know you’re going to have to bring all of that back.” Moms always know best, don’t they? It’s a shame we don’t give them enough credit most of the time.

The white bucket-looking thing is my pseudo-trash can for the bath. Japan prides themselves on convenience and I’m right on board with it. Using the small trash bags (in another photo), this will provide me a place to toss and amass dirty, slimy, minty-smelling dental floss.

Next, we have a tape roller and refills. Japan is big on reusing things and will often charge less for the refills. You definitely know you’re paying for the plastic here. Next to the refills, there is a silver-ion air filter for my aircon unit. Part of the reason for my inconsistent blogging is because I came down with a cold. I’m striving to keep myself from further marinating in any kind of contaminants while I sleep by utilizing this item.

Lastly, there is the filter for the exhaust fan I have above my tiny stove. That air filter is now firmly lodged in the darkness of a trash bag and awaits its fiery death. It caused me so much grief and prompted a panicked phone call to my ever-so-patient father at 1:30 in the morning Las Vegas time and a rapid skim through the manuals I never bothered to look at when I moved into this apartment. I swear he needs to be inducted into the Sainthood Hall of Fame. Thank you, Grandma, for raising such a wonderful son!

Moving along…

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Boom! Cosmetics, smelly things and… my feet. I’m so sorry. I seem to have unintentionally subjected you to a profound horror. Excuse me.

In this photo, we have Disney themed oil blotting paper for my face, Halls throat lozenges*, hair elastics (since I seem to be running out of the ones I use to tie the ends of my braids with)**, shower caps, nail cream that I intend to use for cracking cuticles and crusty nostrils, hand lotion and a body cream I was hoping to try out as a facial moisturizer (a note to the people who are used to using soft water: Japan has NO soft water. Prepare for flakage).  Oh, yes, and the aforementioned trash bags.

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A disclaimerthe pop-capped bottles on the left were not purchased from the 100-yen shop. I don’t know how or why I put them in this picture.

Snacks: cup ramen, cookies and popcorn. Last night, I got into the bag due to laziness in regards to dinner making and I decided that Family Mart definitely has better popcorn. It must be the oil (or they use MSG).

In the back, there’s a small box for sending packages. If you’re looking for much larger boxes, save the ones you get from Amazon or ask the post office.

Next is the Tupperware. The plastic used for these is relatively thin and I wouldn’t recommend microwaving them for too long even if the label says they can tolerate it. Use a plate and save yourself the grief.

Another miso bowl. Mini broom and dust pan (Remember: flakage. Every time I brush my hair, I shed this ungodly disgusting pile of human waste). Futon attachment for the vacuum. Vacuum bags. Crochet thread. If you go to a well-equipped 100-yen shop, you’ll find a decent selection of yarns and threads. They also stock various other craft goods for us folks who like to use our hands. There is an extra soft yarn they have that is oh-so-alluring and I’m tempted to buy it in a “Why not?” moment, but that’s how hoarding starts and my poor Japanese apartment can’t handle that kind of stress.

Anyway!

I hope you are well. I hope you aren’t sweating the small stuff and adding gray hairs to your scalp library. Breathe deep and be grateful for every moment you’re alive to experience. I’d like to think our thoughts and adventures will keep us company wherever we go after The Big One.

Happy New Year.

*If you’re used to the strong Halls in America, buy the black wrapper when you get here. Take my word for it.
**Japanese hair elastics, if they are unbaubled, require you to tie them yourself. For the longest time I thought all of my female teachers and students were having problems with their bands breaking but after buying mine, I understand. You will, too.