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A Change is Gonna Come

24 May

The weather over the past two days has been crazy. Winds like a typhoon blowing rain, leaves, tattered umbrellas and cars everywhere! Today two parked cars fell down a hill onto the train tracks, stopping travel for a 5-station range. I was thanking God I didn’t have to go to work today. I’m only hoping tomorrow the weather will be a bit more gentle.

It’s almost June, which means my time in Japan is coming to an end relatively quickly. I say “relatively” because when I think in terms of work being finished, being able to go back to the States (and then subsequently, Australia) and seeing people I truly miss, it’s taking forever. But when I think about having to clean and organize and get everything in order for my departure, time seems to fly by almost too quickly. Hopefully I can find balance and maintain my sanity.

I think the balance will come from my time between both schools. The main school I’ve been at for over a year now keeps me busy with lesson planning and chatting with the students, while my newer school, on the other hand, bores me to tears. I don’t plan lessons, the students are off-putting and the teachers are somewhat un-aproachable by comparison to my first school. During my times at the boring school, I’ll use all that free time to organize myself and my apartment. Sort things out and get ready to ship boxes across the world.

I’ve been doing research on different events happening in the Bay Area during August and September and trying to learn and acquaint myself with Melbourne events and culture from October. I can’t wait to see what the coming months have in store for me, though I’m going to try to remember to relish my remaining time here in Japan. Who knows what may happen.


2008… What Did You DO To Me?!?!

29 Dec

I don’t know if any year of my life has ever been so epic and life-changing.  I was looking over the blogs from the past year and I can’t recall any other time in my life that has been as epic as these as these last twelve months.

In January my Grandmother was diagnosed with bone cancer and after a few months of caring for her weekly, she passed at the end of April this year.  My sister learned she was pregnant and the baby was born in October.  I had also heard from the JET programme about my application just before beginning my last semester of college.

In February I interviewed with JET and both my brother and Grandfather were in and out of the hospital a few times.  March was kind of quiet aside from working on school projects and trying to learn Japanese while I was still waiting to hear back from the JET programme about my interview… that was agonizing.  Oh yeah, and we moved.  I hate moving.

In April I found out I was accepted into JET and just two weeks later my Grandmother passed away.  I drove cross-country three days to attend the funeral.  I also found out the baby would be a girl.  In May I finished my final project for school and graduated with my Bachelor of Arts degree after what seemed like forever.

In June I just spent time with family and in July I spent countless hours staring into my closet figuring out what to bring to Japan.  I had a going away party and in August I moved to Japan.  The last four months of the year have been an absolute whirlwind.  I’ve picked up a lot of Japanese already, I’ve met lots of great people, and have traveled to several places across the country.

Nara, Japan

Nara, Japan

I’ve had many firsts this year, like a great leap in feeling independent and having a disposable income.  2008 made me feel death, life, divorce, ridiculous drama, knowledge, growth, accomplishment, fear, apprehension, shame, pride… and love.

If this next year is anything like the one that’s coming to a close; I should prepare to get my socks rocked off.  So let’s get ready to eat some mochi, drink some sake (everyone else… not me), and ring the temple bells into the Year of the Cow!

Me in Hiroshima

Have a Very Merry

25 Dec

It’s Christmas here in Japan… well… what’s left of it anyway.  At 11:30pm Christmas is pretty much over; especially in a country that loves the commercial aspect of the holiday and believes it is celebrated with buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Christmas cakes.

I don’t even know what a “Christmas Cake” is; all I know is that when I asked my students what they wanted for Christmas, several of them said Christmas Cake.  I don’t know what type of cake is used for Christmas here in Japan: chocolate, fruit, rum… I have absolutely no clue.

I do know that this Christmas has been kind of weird and a little lonely, even.  I mean, it hasn’t been completely lonely… I got to spend an early Christmas with a family and have a turkey dinner and play some Mario Kart on the Nintendo Wii with a set of gorgeous and absolutely amusing children… but having to work on Christmas (because I couldn’t justify to myself taking paid-leave to sit in my apartment all day alone) and then come home to a lonely apartment with no music, no family, no comfort foods… it was chotto tough.

I don’t want to sound like a wet blanket, though.  I will admit that I did get a nice little mini-vacation the weekend before Christmas, and I will be going home on the 9th for a visit with family, so I don’t have too much be negative about especially since school is out for vacation and (because of my trip home) I won’t have to teach until late January.  That’s a nice feeling.

So, Merry Merry; Happy and the like.  Spend time with the ones you love.  =D


9 Dec

Yeah… gomen nasai for not posting frequently.  Bad blogger/daughter/friend lately for being pretty slack on communications outside of Kobe, no lie.  In fact, even inside Kobe I’ve just been a bit lazy.

Also, I haven’t felt like anything too spectacular happened to post about, besides the epic visit of several other San Francisco JETs placed in Southern Japan… but it was also a little too much drama on one particular day so I didn’t want to share that =/  But having the friends over was a good weekend.

Uh… right now I have a weird throat thing going on.  Itchy, coughy, sore.  I actually called in sick today.  I felt really bad because I was supposed to be doing an elementary school visit today, too. For the next three days I’m going to be doing Christmas lessons for each grade.  yay.  Hope that goes well, I even have backup plans, for real.  Some of the kids can be hard to please.

Oh yeah, it’s recontracting time.  I sent in my essay about 10 days early, but I just wanted to hurry up and get it outta the way so I don’t have to worry about it in the upcoming chaos that seems to be the end of the term.

Umm… otherwise life is good.  If people want to holla at me, you can always email me at gmail.  The pre-@ is stina.christina.  Bust a line and I’ll get at ya.


14 Nov

I will update soon, I’ve been really tired lately, or not in the blogging state-of-mind if you understand.

Here’s a barebones update:

  • My birthday was last Tuesday, it was pretty cool.  I went to Kyoto with my Ni-Nensei students (7th graders)
  • I got a package in the mail from home, thanks Mom!
  • I might not go home to visit in January as planned because my sister, her husband, and baby Gabby may be in Antigua for half the time I want to come home. My opinion: it’s almost pointless to come if the baby won’t be there. Almost.
  • The temperature here is playfully dipping between winter colds and autumn warms on an almost daily basis.  I’m afraid for the winter that’s around the corner… my first one with snow.
  • I’m getting along really well with my teachers and students.
  • Some other JETs from San Francisco will be coming to visit next weekend.  I’m excited.
  • I would have to take a paid day off to avoid working on Christmas.  I just might do it because that might be too hard for me to handle – working on Christmas, no family around, not being home, etc.

So… yeah. Hopefully I shall return soon.

Socially Speaking…

19 Oct

The teachings of my parents coupled with painful social experiences through gradeschool made me develop and maintain as truth the idea that everyone, no matter the case, deserves a fair shot to show themselves (their personality) to you before you make any judgements against them.  I try to practice this with every person I meet, I am not 100% all the time, but I’m pretty good at giving everyone the chance I believe they deserve; so when I meet people who so adamantly prejudge others, it always kind of rubs me the wrong way.

I know I’m not going to get along with everyone I meet, but I will let the other person’s (re)actions decide that for me.  I try not to write people off until they act negatively against me personally… even if they have a bit of a reputation for being a mean person or something like that.  People deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Someone said to me last week that they can’t afford to give people the benefit of the doubt, I guess they’ve been burned too many times.  I responded that I can’t afford not to because of my belief that everyone on this planet is the same and deserves the same amount of initial respect.  What they do to gain or lose respect, though, is a completely different matter.

In that same vein of respect, I find that if you acknowledge that you will not become fast-friends with everyone, you should still be able to maintain respect for others.  If you find someone that you do not get on particularly well with, make amends and move on with your life.  Constantly speaking negatively about someone and openly sharing your disdain for same-said person will rapidly make me lose respect for you as a person.

To say things like someone is “not cool” makes me automatically feel like you’re also “not cool” for so simply debasing someone.  Also, to say that someone says “stupid things” however often shows that you don’t often listen to yourself because no one speaks poetry at every utterance; and to me even says that probably say many dumb things yourself.

In the case that you are ever placed in a relatively small community of people who live in the same situation as you, work in the same occupation as you, and are a part of the same employment/exchange program as you it seems unwise and just plain rude to openly and oftenly make negative remarks about people that you must be around weekly.  You never know what ears may hear and how third parties may feel about you and also about the person you despise so much.  In fact, it may even cause people that you do get on well with to lose initial respect and wish to avoid making contact with you in further instances.

It’s sad to say that in conversation with the one who does not give people the benefit of the doubt, they mentioned this type of thing and I said “I can’t really imagine that happening”.  Well, then.

Kobe… The City, Not the Dude.

16 Aug

Pretty much everyone knows the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” but the images I saw online before I came do absolutely no justice to my new home. Kobe, while it may be hot and unbearably humid (for me) is ridiculously gorgeous.

It’s a big port city with a lot of shipping going in and out of Osaka Bay so there are cranes dotting the coastal edge of the city and when my flight was landing into Kobe I was surprised at how much it reminded me of the Bay Area.

A view of Kobe from the South

Kobe and Oakland

The cranes and ships at the water’s edge, the bay, the green hills as backdrop to downtown that you even have to drive through to get to the more suburban part of town on the other side. I didn’t get homesick, but I immediately felt like I would fit right in. My apartment is gorgeous, thanks to my predecessor, and it’s a great size with lots of space for entertaining; which I hope to do in a little while.

My Tatami-floored Living Room

My Tatami-floored Living Room

Dining Room

Dining Room

The first event I went to with a lot of the other ALTs was a fireworks show in Osaka. I have no idea why there were fireworks, but Osaka is only a short train ride away so I was down. Osaka was jam-packed full of people but we did find a decent plot of grass to camp out on.  I don’t know what’s up with the Japanese there, but they must LOVE tanning because half the Osaks I saw were darker than some of my family members!!!  When we walked by one group, they kept saying “sugoi!!!” (cool) a lot.  I thought it was so funny that they were so interested in us.  It was sugoi, though because I love talking to Japanese people… especially the little kids, they just FREAK OUT when I speak to them on the trains or in a department store…. be it in Japanese or English!

After a few hours, though, the Osaka skies changed and pretty soon lightning we’d seen far off in the distance got closer and closer to us, was accompanied by thunder, and very quickly broke into a rain shower.

The group quickly picked up our tarps and everyone huddled together on the ground trying to stay out of the rain because we hadn’t thought of bringing umbrellas, even though it seems to rain quite often here in Japan during the summer. After a while, though, my legs were hurting from crouching under the tarp, so I just said, “forget it” and came out from under the tarp and stood in the rain for a while and soon after that the fireworks started (yeah, they did them anyway, rain and all) then everyone else just stood in little clusters under different tarps watching the show. I’ve never watched a fireworks show in the rain and I was soaked, but it was AWESOME!

After the show was over, a few of us wanted to go do karaoke but didn’t want to wait in the giant line of people exiting the place, so we scaled a wall, ran down a grassy slope that was slicker than normal because of the rain, and headed back to Kobe and belted out some awesome tunes. Climbing that wall I felt like someone crossing a border wall or something because it was pretty steep, we all got kinda messy, but it was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

The rest of the week was relatively mild: hoofing it all over Sannomiya and downtown Kobe learning where stuff is, touring a jr. high school, and 4 straight days of Japanese lessons. I also had a monstrously difficult banking situation for several days that got resolved the other day, but it made me angry because no one at any bank branch at home explained international banking laws to me and kept saying that things would be the same in both countries, even after I told several people that I would be moving out of the country and would not be doing many transactions from the States. Stupid bank.

There was also a food party hosted by one of the ALTs in my neighborhood. The great thing about Kobe is that there is a fantastic cultural mix, so there are people not only from the States, but also from Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, and more. Since there are so many different people here, another girl from the States and myself decided to introduce people to the S’more.

The S'more

The Smore

First, I’d asked if people from other countries knew what it was. When I explained that it was melted marshmallow on top of a bit of chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers there were some mixed reactions. Then after explaining to them what a graham cracker was, some people said it sounded awfully sugary, which, admittedly, it is. But I also explained that most people generally only have one s’more in a single sitting.

At the party I thought, “Hey, maybe this is not the greatest stereotype to reinforce about people from the States: that we love sugary snacks that could easily make you diabetic. But that was before an Aussie guy walked in with a plate of “Fairy Bread” and the girl from New Zealand shrieked in delight.

Fairy Bread... an Aussie and Kiwi favorite

Fairy Bread... an Aussie and Kiwi favorite

Everyone from the U.S. was like, “what the *heck* is ‘Fairy Bread’?” Basically it’s a piece of buttered bread with colored sprinkles on it. It’s good, but I laughed so hard when bread-lovers talked about how you’d be the most popular kid in elementary school if your mom brought in Fairy Bread for snacks or something. No one from back home would even try to bring s’mores as a class snack because everyone sort of agreed it was just too much sugar! But it was hilarious.

That incident is one of the many examples of why I know I’m gonna like it here *humming Annie soundtrack* People seem really easy to get along with here. Not everyone gets along with everyone else, but I haven’t had any problems, so yay!

Today I’m just going to keep in mellow, probably stay in my neighborhood, do laundry, watch a movie, etc. Hopefully I can update soon; next week is summer school and I know that’s going to be hilarious.

P.S. Here’s a link to some pictures I took with my phone.