Natalie Goes to Japan

40 year old very married blonde woman having a midlife crisis who heads to Japan alone to follow her dreams. Be careful what you wish for ... you just may get it.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

1 month anniversary

I have been here a whole month. And truth is there have been times when I probably would have gotten on a plane and left, if I could figure out how to do such a thing. But, then there are times when I think I am starting to settle down and enjoy. Two of those times came within 24 hours of each other on Thursday. One of my classes took me to dinner at a traditional Japanese restaurant. They are such a good bunch of people. We had a least 8 courses and they had prepared most of the dinner vegetarian style in honor of me, and when the course was not vegetarian, they had a separate option just for me. Some of it was yummy, some it was okay and some of it wouldn't go down my throat. Everyone ordered drinks and I ordered a screwdriver. Unbeknownst to me, it was a superstrong screwdriver. Well we had a lovely time and Mr. Bossman sent us all home in taxis. Good thing. Well, between the superstrong drink and all that strange food, I didn't have a good night's sleep. And trying to jump around and sing the Hokey Pokey for 4 hours the next day was pretty horrible. I just barely got through the day without barfing all over a hoarde of toddlers. But I survived. And when my stomach gets back to normal, I will only remember the good part of the evening. It was really great.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Hot as Hades

Have I mentioned how hot and humid it is! And remember I came from Georgia. I'm not actually sure it is more H&H here, it might just have to do other factors, too. Like the fact that the A/C here is pretty pitiful. I think Americans overuse Air Conditioning and I am always freezing in the Grocery Store. But here it is sort of sad. In the building I work, the building I use internet, and just about everywhere else I go. My A/C at the apartment keeps it cool enough for me, I just don't know if I can really afford it. Guess I will find out! Another factor being how much time I spend walking around. Let's face it, Americans don't like to even walk from the store front to their cars. And we had several neighbors who drive to their mailboxes! Well, we will have to see if I can survive the summer without throwing off all my clothes and jumping into a fountain. The thought has crossed my mind MANY times. Talk about an international incident!

Thursday, July 21, 2005


My boss is a royal pain in the ass. Mr. Obtuse is the most un-Japanese Japanese boss ever! On Wednesdays I have had only one class. Tuesday night at 9:30 pm he tells me I have 4 classes on Wednesday. Show up at 2:20. He doesn't tell me what kind of classes or anything. I show up, and am completely unprepared. Luckily the students are forgiving and we manage to take up a lot of time talking about me. Apparently I am the more fascinating than I realized. Two of my classes were spent just answering their questions about little ol' me. The other one just about made me jump out the window into direct traffic (or I could have chosen the back window and jumped directly on to the train tracks). They were a couple of adults using beginner books that weren't even in the office. Grrrrrrrrrr! I muddled through using the next level book. Well, on the bright side I seem to be getting the hang of this driving thing, except for the one motorcycle I hit. And even better, my Skyland Hotel class wants to take me out to dinner next week during class. We'll practice ordering things in English as an excuse to take a field trip. But I think they are worried that I am starving to death, being a vegitarian and all. They can't even wrap their heads around vegitarinanism. It's amusing now, but I have heard from others they have gotten so sick of explaining themselves they have given up and just started eating meat. I can't envision doing that. But then on Monday I could barely envision surviving the week. I'm feeling a bit calmer now. Speaking of calmer, I think I hear a gin bottle calling me name. Ciao!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Drove on in

Yesterday I moved to the aparto. The girl before me said Mr. M was gonna have the place cleaned after she left. I didn't hold out much hope for that as he is really not that thoughtful. And I was right. I am gonna have to clean it from top to bottom. I started with the closet. But that meant I had to go buy cleaning supplies. So I walked to the supermarket...which is a whole lot farther on foot than by bicycle. Got me a nice little sunburn. It is friggin hot! And then had to do a lot of guess work with the cleaning agents. I really need some metal polish for the back splash in the kitchen, but I will just wait until someone who can read Japanese can go with me. Couldn't really find a picture that looked like metal polish to me on the billions of cleaners I looked at. Then this morning I did the thing that has been scaring me the most. I drove to work. I survived and so did everyone else in my path. I know that in the beginning I will do okay, it is that period about two weeks in where I think I am getting the hang of it...and then boom! I will be going the wrong way down a one way street or on the wrong side of the road. So far the trickiest thing has been using turn signals. They are also on the wrong side of the car, so every time I go to signal I end up turning on the windshield wipers. Well, need traipse back to the car and try the return route. Wish me luck.

P.S. I won't be getting internet installed at the place for at least 10 days. Yuck!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Such a moron

I feel like such a moron! I keep having to get help to do the simplest things. And when it comes to the f*******g cell phone I am just completely inept. Last night I came home from class I went to pull the dangly pull-thingy from the main light in my room and got nothing. As it was Saturday night I figured I would just have to live with the desk light for the whole weekend which gives off no more light than a nightlight. But when I went downstairs I noticed that quite a few people were working in the office, so I popped in to get some help. First it took lots of charades to get them to figure out lightbulb. Then the boss man went and got a ladder out of his car. I am 5`4" and I am taller than anyone in that office by a good 6 inches. So they bring up the special lightbulb and the ladder and someone then had the audacity to turn on a switch on the wall and the light turned on! Yikes. I had only turned the light on by the pull string. Didn't know there was a switch (I thought that switch went the the electrical socket underneath). I have also had to get help with the DVD player, resetting the clock, and especially that danged cellphone. I am a girl, and therefore willing to ask for help quicker than a dude, but some point you just start feeling like a dumbass.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Laughing Fit

Okay, so maybe I will survive this, and even become good at this teaching thing. I can't go on with my story because the guy next to me is cleaning his ears with a Q-Tip. I'm about to completely loose it. I'm trying so hard not to laugh I am about to cry. Oh, now he is trying to hock up a loogey. Oh God! Help me. Okay things have started to settle down. Concentrate, concentrate. Oh God, it's no good! Which is kind of funny, because my entry is about how I made a kid laugh so hard he did a sort of narcoleptic thing. This was in one of my bazillion 2-3 year old classes. And we do this bit where we act out how thirsty and hungry we are and then we I try to drink something silly like alligator juice or spaghetti soda. All the kids scream "NO" and then we choose something normalish like orange juice or melon soda (normal for Japan). Then with the hungry bit I said I wanted strawberry pizza and the kids all screamed "NO". Then I said I wanted a cat hamburger. When I went to bite into it, Misty did a meowing noise that kinda suprised me. So I looked at the pretend hamburger with really big, scared eyes and threw the hamburger away. This one little guy got the giggles so bad he just couldn't stop. Which gave all the mommies and us teachers the giggles. So there we are all giggling and then little giggleboy went completely limp and was out cold. Which only made us all bust out laughing so loud I thought I would pee my pants. Eventually the kids decided we needed to eat a sandwich and life got back to normalish and giggleboy woke up. I knew I was a hoot, but this is a first for me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Terrified of two year olds!

I spent the most nerve wracking night. I was up until 3 am just terrified of my first class. I had an extra cocktail and watched several hours of Sports Night to keep myself from bolting or having a breakdown. I'm getting old, and I hate starting a new job. I was so nervous walking to the Community Center that I was shivering in the 90 degree weather. You would think having Misty there to be my backup would have been comforting, but it only made it worse somehow. My fear was completely illogical, but logic and my stomach were not communicating. You will all be relieved to find out I did great. It is exhausting work, but I am much calmer about it now. And I only have one class today. Yipee.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Adventures in laundryland

Well, yesterday was a day of calm. My first day off since I arrived. I found my way to the large grocery store near the apartment, which might mean I can find the apartment again! I bought exciting items like laundry detergent and peanut butter (small jar for $4). Then I returned to the cubby and figured out how to operate the washing machine. And then hung the laundry to dry. I know that might not sound like a full day to you, but when everything you do is a giant puzzle a day can be filled up by the little things. Off to try and figure out other puzzles, like getting a cash advance on my credit card.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Bad night turned good

Big news. I met people last night. I was invited to the party for the girl who I am replacing. It did not start out well. I was supposed to meet Renako at Starbucks at a designated time. Renako is what has lovingly been referred to as a Gaigin (Foreigner) Junkie. She did the foreign exchange thingy a good 10 or 15 years ago, and can't get enough of Americans. She has a small English tutoring business on the side. Now that I've met her I think of her as Princess Za Za. She is infuriating and adorable all at the same time. But boy she sure is handy to have around when you need something translated. Well...back to the story, I started off for the meeting with Renako and it started to rain. No that's an understatement. It started to pour like a Florida afternoon storm. Within one block I was soaked from the waist down, and the wind got decidedly cold. So I turned around and went back for better clothing...thinking to myself "I am way too tired for this" and considering not going at all. But I changed and tried again. Turns out I should have stayed in the first might have dried by the end of the night. Second pair of shoes got so soaked that when I walked home after the party water was still squishing between my toes. But the party was a huge success. I met a great couple of Brits, who seem willing to give me the low down on Hamamatsu and loan me books (I have already read two of the ten I brought with me). We also went to a local gaigin/veggie cafe that will be very helpful for me. Stayed out until 1 am. And it was a beautiful walk back to the hotel, squishy toes and all.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The evil that is 3 o'clock in the morning

Misty finally took me by the apartment I will be taking over in a week. It is exaclty like I imagined it to be. Not great. I knew that! Then how come I woke up in the middle of the night and was so pissed as hell about it? The reason is that I adore my little cubby I have now. And if I had never stayed in it, I wouldn't be so let down by the apartment. And when I had one of my rare, brief chats with Mr. M. I just mentioned how much I liked the Skyland Hotel....just as a bit of conversation. He said "Oh, apartment is very similar!" Mr. M. is a big fat liar, it's dark and old and far from the community center. The cubby is light and new and within a 3 minute walk of the CC. I hate 3 o'clock in the morning. Really, I was so upset about the apartment it was all I could think about. And having that moment when you finally get off cloud nine and say to yourself "What the Hell am I doing here?" No getting back to sleep after that. When daylight arrives the world seems much better and I know I will be able to handle it all. And I know that my biggest problem is lack of sleep. The world is always a better place when you have had enough sleep.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Baby-Kids and Munchkins

Okay, so now about the kiddies. It turns out that most of my classes are with 2 and 3 year olds. It's sort of a Mommy and Me sort of thing, where the mothers help them with the singing, and motions, and coloring, etc. And, the kids are so cute you just want to eat them up. Then I have 2 classes with the 4 & 5 year olds. No mommies. And these classes are awesome. The kids have more personality and don't do that thing where everytime something doesn't go there way they run to mommy. They suck it up and keep trying. I have one class each with 6-7, 8-9, 10-11. All great kids. They are in the classes mainly because they want to be. And this is all extracurricular so we got to keep it fun and hope they absorb a little something in the meantime. Hey, even better news, I got 7 hours sleep overnight! Whooohoooo! Not all in one batch, but added together a good 7 hours. How come I am even more tired this morning than any other I have been here then?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Cash, Cash, Cash

Where has all my cash gone? Well, I actually know. A great deal of it has gone into this blog. You all better appreciate it. I also splurge each morning and go to the same coffee shop for breakfast. Four dollars gets me a crossant, a hardboiled egg, this awsome salad with corn on it and something to drink. And then there has been all the cash I have laid out for things to survive in the cubby. Dishwashing soap, sponges, food, salt, pepper, gin (hey, I'm still me), toilet paper, etc. Oh, I had a visit from one of the young ladies who works in the hotel front office. She saw me limp into the apartment holding one of my sandals in my hand. She came up to make sure I was okay (and be a little nosy), but she got me the use of a bike! Kayo is now my best friend in all of Japan. Okay, she's practically the only person I know in Japan. But it was still awfully nice of her. Gotta go, my time's almost up.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Self flagelation

Well, I seem to have beat myself up yesterday. First, I cut myself shaving (achilles heel) and it bled profusly. Then I wore my flats when I went for my morning trip to my favorite breakfast spot and to update you my dear devoted readers. I got huge puss filled blisters on both feet. So I changed to my nice flip flops. I tripped over them going up some stairs and got a bruise on my knee the size of Kentucky. Then the flip flops gave me a blister on the top of my foot. And later in the day I walked into some automatic doors and got a bump on my head. Apparently automatic doors in Japan have it out for me. They are never opening when they should. So all these things add up to either 1) I'm out to punish myself for living the dream OR 2) My feet are swollen from all the walking and my jet lag (which is severe) is making me loopier and more klutzy than usual. Don't know what I am going to do today. I have only one class and I want to stay off my feet a little. As Vicki Lawrence said in the spoof Went With The Wind..."Guess I'll think of somethin'".

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I am an alien!

Well, yesterday was interesting. Went to the school for the first time. I will only be teaching at the school proper once a week, most of the classes take place at the community center and a few take place on site (ie Sony, etc.). But this school is not much bigger than my closet. This is not an exaggeration. Like I said only one class a week there. After visiting the school Mr. M. took me down to city hall to register me. I felt like a dog getting licensed. I am now a registered alien. Mr. M. is a bit disorganized (read really scatterbrained). To get your dogtags you need to have two passport sized photos. One to be kept on record, the other to be attached to your foreigner id card. He got all flustered when he found out. This is not the first time he has had to do this I'm sure. The funny thing is that I knew that photos were needed. But he has done so little to help me, that I thought I would just sit back and watch. It was quite amusing. So we scurried down to the photo place and back to city hall. Got my application submitted and appropriate hoops jumped through. Then he hustled me down to the cell phone place. Well, here we go again. It went a little like this...

Must have bank account
Don't have bank account
Oh dear dear
Hey, I got a Mastercard, will that help?
Mastercard very impressive (it's really hard to get a credit card here)
Very good
Now, just need your dogtags
But I just applied for them
Oh, dear dear
Let me phone head office
Head office says you should have gotten temporary dogtag
(Mr. M. and I scurry back to Dog Pound, get temporary papers, scurry back to phone place)
Very good, very good!

Now insert any marginal experience you have had buying a car and you will know the rest of my story. I am signed up for way too many extras and may have signed away god knows what. Having a little (lot) of buyers remorse. Oh, well, when in Japan....

Off to meet the munchkins now. Hope I'm good with the 2-5 set. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Why does my food strainer have a hairnet?

Well, I survived my first day all by my little ole self. On Saturday Mr. M. said "I no come tomorrow, be ready for meeting 10:30 Monday". Well, it's (hey I found the apsotrophe over the number 7) a good thing I found being abandoned in a strange country exhilerating and not terrifying. I walked around downtown for hours yesterday. I found both a Hundred Yen Store (ie Dollar Store) and a reasonable market, all in the same place (Za Za City). It's quite a hike from my adorable cubby hole (mile, mile and a half), but it is such a cool walk. First I walk a block to "Act City" this is 50 story sky scraper, with a hotel, shopping, performance theaters, and lots more. It has all these cool, beautifully landscaped covered people movers. Oh, did I mention it's the rainy season? Then you come to the underpasses. These are not your father's underpasses. These are lovely, well lit tunnels that get you around under the traffic and out of the rain. They have big open-to-the-sky areas in the middle with fountains, or scuptures, or monumental flower beds. Too bad this isn't the part of town I will actually be living in. I plan to enjoy it while I can. I had to make two trips to Za Za yesterday, to buy essentials (like a really cute dish with a rabbit design on it) and food. Well, I guess I better get back, so I can be ready for Mr. M. Can you tell I am still walking on air?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The space bar is about an inch long

Well, I arrived. And I was so exhausted. I did not get a minute of sleep on the plane, even though I took two valium. It was a very long day, up at 5 to be ready to catch shuttle at 7, trip to airport, hour and half in line to check in, 10 minutes to catch plane, 2 hours to Chicago, transfer, 13 hour flight, breeze through customs, hour and half trip to Hamamatsu, 2 hours of being introduced to my hotel room (oh so complicated) unpacking enough to find my pjs and to bed. Only 40 hours. And if you know me at all you know how I love my sleep. Slept until 3 in the morning local time. So, obviously my whole internal clock is screwed up. But it is all worth it! Hamamatsu looks like it is going to be a kick in the pants. And I love my hotel room. Wish I could just live there! The bad news is that I have no internet access there at the hotel. So I am posting this from an internet cafe. $4 an hour. But, I just can not live with out access. Trying to adjust to a Japanese keyboard is an interesting experience. The space bar is only an inch long, and I can not seem to find the apostrophe. Notice I have not typed any contracted words. My hotel is right downtown, so I have been walking the city since about 6 a.m. And everyone I have been in contact with has been very helpful. They seem to take it as a fault that they can not speak English well, rather than be hoity that I do not speak Japanese. Well, I do not think I will be posting any pictures for a while, if I can not find the apostrophe on the keyboard, how am I going to figure out how to upload any photos. Well, just wanted you all to know I was alive, if not kicking yet. And how delighted I am be to here. Really, I am so giddy I have to keep myself from dancing a little jig and upsetting the locals.

P.S. I am a little concerned that my side bar has disappeared. Hopefully it will return when I am back on my own computer.

Here are some photos of this great little hotel I am staying in. Skyland is great, wish I could stay here forever.

Friday, July 01, 2005

What we both looked like 13 years ago Posted by Picasa

My heart broke tonight

Tonight I walked my dog for the last time before I go. It had just started to rain a little when we set out, but that doesn't bother her much. I remember when she used to trot up ahead and pull at the leash. Her tail used to curl over her back and the fur used to swish from side to side as she pranced in her superior way that she had. Now, she has trouble keeping up with me at my slowest pace. She stumbles alot. But her nose still works and she still gets very excited about going for her very short walks. Tonight I watched as she sniffed a particularly wonderful patch, and some leaves drifted from trees in the pre-storm breezes. And I cried, and I cried. She just stumbled toward the next wonderful smell. She luckily is oblivious to my turmoil, plodding forward in her happy, doddering little world.