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Sneezy, Grumpy and Sleepy So I Went to The Doc

1 Jun

Last week I kept having sneezing fits. I didn’t think it was a cold so I assumed it was allergies, although I never usually get allergies. It was probably because my eyes were itching something crazy, like when I was in Melbourne last Dec/Jan. I also thought it was allergies because whenever I left my neighborhood, I felt better. There’s a mountain in my backyard, so you can imagine the pollen count.

Look at all the allergies!!

So I finished out the week, sneezing and sniffling along the way, but on the weekend, the symptoms changed. Now all of a sudden I was feeling really tired, hot-flashy, the phlegm changed color and I could feel fluid in my lungs. I had also developed a cough and a sore throat. I knew I needed a sick day to rest up, but since it was a Monday and the first day back at my second school in two weeks, I had a feeling they wouldn’t quite believe me if I had just phoned in.

I woke up Monday morning and dragged myself to work, just to tell the Principal and Vice Principal and fellow English teachers that I was not feeling well. To make it even easier for them to believe me, I rocked up to school wearing a face mask. I hate face masks with all my might. I didn’t even wear a face mask during the Swine Flu freak out last Spring (and you can believe I caught all kinds of looks on the train as the only person NOT wearing one…) Anyway, I wore the mask and described my symptoms, including a headache, an oncoming ear infection and itchy eyes and general grogginess. I was outta there in less than 5 minutes. The only annoyance was that now I had to walk all the way back to the train station to ride all the way back to my neighborhood to get to the hospital. 5 minutes walk from my home train station. >.<

But, I got the the hospital about 10 minutes after opening and the place was already full of old people and babies. Had to wait about 90 minutes but in the end the doctor told me that I had in fact caught a cold at first, and then without treatment it developed into an upper-respiratory infection. That was a first for me! So I needed meds. And as MUCH as I try to avoid them, especially anti-biotics, I decided to take the recommended prescription because I didn’t want it to develop into pneumonia or something worse.

The best part, though: the kind doctor gave me three days of sick leave! Did I mention that I really don’t like going to the second school? The kids are kinda zombie-ish and the teachers are only lightweight friendly.

Today is day #2 of sitting at home recuperating (and I’m already feeling much better, btw), but I’m still going to take tomorrow off. I’ve been using the free time to clean my apartment and sort things out for the move.

Now, back to my movie.

Let’s Physical = GET!

26 May

So I’ve decided to start working out again. Most people figure that Winter is a pretty good time for that. Not me. Winter isn’t a pretty good time for anything. Anything besides sitting in my living room, parked in front of the heater and under the kotatsu table watching movies and TV shows until Mr. Sun and his buddy Warmth decide to come back. I mean, seriously, I can’t even muster the energy to clean when it’s super cold outside.

In any case, even though this week has apparently been a prelude to June’s rainy season and full of crazy winds and chilly weather, it’s still not as cold as that Winter weather. Plus, I finished my art piece for the Kobe show and I told myself I’d start working out after I finished dedicating two weeks to its completion.

I had a fitness DVD. Something really embarrassing and corny and 80s. The ladies’ outfits consisted of leg-warmers, plain white granny-style hi-top Reeboks (though I will admit, a pair of red-on-red would be noice) and those leotards that ride so high you can see their uterus’ (uterae? uteri?) with shiny leggings.

Ms. Fonda, are you... ovulating?

It was BAD. And not in the Run-DMC way. It was so awful I used to turn down the music on the DVD and play my own stuff just to get through it. It wasn’t made any better by the fact that once I left it out on the table and Damon saw it. He made fun of it for awhile and will still bring it up. But I got it for $5 at Fry’s, so… this cheap lady can’t really complain.

Anyway, my subconscious mind must have been so ashamed of it that it won’t let me remember where I put it. I searched hi and lo in my apartment and cannot find it. So I had to resort to looking for free workout videos on the interwebz. Maybe that was a good thing because the videos are a LOT less embarrassing and there’s not a single glimpse of scrunchie socks on the entire website.

Japan, please don't bring these back, too.

I’m only on day #2, which means my body huuurts. Thighs, abs, arms, etc. I really hope I can stick with it. My goals are to be healthier overall and to slim my waist and bust down a bit as well as tone up my upper arms and thighs. I’m not really shooting for a weight goal, since muscle weighs more than fat. I’m just focusing on converting fat to muscle and becoming smoking hawt by the time I board the plane for los Estados Unidos. Maybe I’ll be able to rock that violating leotard!

Let’s get physical, suckas!

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.

Oh Geez!!!

15 Apr

Gomen, yo. I feel like my Ozzie boys for not updating in over a month.  Andy’s last update was in January and Damon’s was… yipe. He just updated a few days ago so I’ve really gotta get on it.

In any case, I have survived the last vestiges of Winter to experience my first Japanese Spring and all the Sakura that make the Nihonjin go crazy.  In the past month I’ve switched my phone provider from AU to Softbank (yay for free iPhone deal!!); gotten a PitaPa which is a magical card that gives me quick access to most rail lines in the Kansai area, do quick check-outs at many stores, and is a “credit” card that is directly linked to my Japanese bank account so I can do PayPal transfers (except when I recently checked, PayPal changed their system so you can now link directly to a Japanese account… it wasn’t like that before which is why I got the PitaPa… anyway).

As per the Board of Education I am employed under, I switched schools in the beginning of April and luckily, I am still very close to my apartment, which means I can wake up late… out of ~30 foreign teachers in my neighborhood, I believe I’m the last one to leave my apartment for work.  It’s nice.

I’ve also gone to 3 or 4 teachers parties and 4 Sakura-viewing events. Made hella (bad) short self-intro-type speeches in Japanese… Although my Japanese is rapidly improving, I get nervous at making speeches or reading/reciting prepared stuff.  I’m much better when I’m freely speaking… *sigh*  But I’ve had classes with most of my new students and even though I’m at a bad school where the kids don’t really study and score (maybe?) lowest in the district, I’m having a good time because it’s a lot more laid-back, relaxed, and welcoming than my first school.

So I’ll just leave you with some images of the latest goings on.  I will be more prudent about updating =D Enjoy!

The Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum

The Osamu Tezuka Manga Museumin Takarazuka

You see the camera crew?  Apparently they were filming promo material for the museum and I unwittingly (and a little unwillingly) became an extra while in the manga library. >.<

Damon had a gig at Trinity

Damon had a gig at Trinity

My friend Damon had a music gig at Trinity that turned out pretty well… except for the creepy guy butchering several West Coast (California) dances in lame attempts to game on J-girls.

Ijinkan Foreigner House in Kitano, Kobe, Japan

Beth, Che, and I finally visited one of the turn-of-the-20th century foreigner houses that Kobe brags about…. it was aiight.

Crazy monkeys!  Dont eat me!

Crazy monkeys! Don't eat me!

Went to Monkey Mountain, a park in the Arashiyama district of Kyoto and fed a bunch of crazy monkeys from inside a cage.  The big ones were really fat, so I tried to feed the babies.  They were mecha kawaii!!!

Sakura Viewing in Akashi Castle Park

Sakura Viewing in Akashi Castle Park

Akashi Park was hellllla crowded that day. I’m so glad I got to enjoy a few hours in an emptier area of the park… plus, no stares.

Sakura in Himeji Castle Park

Sakura in Himeji Castle Park

Many people knew this was probably the last weekend to view Sakura before some rain came and knocked them all down (yesterday); so last weekend at Himeji Castle Park was insanely crowded as well.  My friends and I got a nice spot without too much visual interference (people).   When a strong wind blew, petals would rain down from the trees and it was really lovely.  They got into everything, haha.

Hanami Within Himeji

Hanami Within Himeji

I imagine it was nice to be a lady living in the castle come Hanami time… this is beautiful!  More shots:

Himeji Castle with Sakura and Trees

Himeji Castle with Sakura and Trees

Outside the Castle

Outside the Castle

The last month or so has been crazy, but I’m REALLY looking forward to Spring and Summer.  I feel like I have successfully(?) survived my first “real” winter, which must be why I’ve been hearing Beyonce singing in my head all week.

The weather has been nice and warm lately, you might be able to tell from the beautiful clear blue skies (which will turn grayish come the summer humidity).  Yesterday it rained, though, so the raindrops beat the sakura from the trees and now  petals litter the ground like an autumn scene that has been miniaturized and colored a soft pink.

Sunshine and warm weather make me abundantly happy.

I Am A “Samugari”…

22 Jan

The phrase goes, “if you can’t stand the heat…” but is there one for being unable to withstand the cold?  I am currently experiencing my “first” winter; one with actual snow and frost and ice.  On top of that, I’m living through it in Japan, the land full of people who don’t seem to understand the concept of insulation outside of thermoses and soup containers.  Currently it is 37°F/3°C outside which means my apartment is probably 1 or 2 Farenheit degrees warmer without the heater.

If you read the blog title, then you may be asking, “But what is a ‘samugari’?” No, it’s not some kind of special Samurai class (although that would be mind-blowingly awesome if I were somehow a samurai… hmm); what “samugari” (寒がり) actually means is someone “being sensitive to the cold” and that describes me to a tee!  I already knew before I arrived in Japan that I didn’t really enjoy winter, but my my; being here has elevated that sensitivity and disdain to levels nearing intolerance and hate.

Now, I try my best to fend off the cold with a nice combination of long johns, thermals, extra layers, big coats, gloves, scarves, thick socks, multiple layers of socks and hats; and I have 2 heaters, an electric blanket, and a kotatsu at my disposal so if you’re thinking “Just put on a sweater and, boom, problem solved!” then you don’t really understand what I mean.

The problem comes when I begin to peel off the layers and expose myself to the bare elements with no comforting heating machines to stave off the biting cold.  It’s as simple as having to use the toilet, both at school and at home. Japanese-style toilets are no problem – you don’t touch anything.  Western-style causes yelps of shock when you have to tinkle at 2am.  Lucky for me I picked up a furry toilet cover for only 100yen at Daiso (such a lifesaver, I tell you).  When it’s time to wash hands, ice-cold water rushes through the faucet and drives your fingers closer to frostbite than you ever want to be, spurring myself and many other ALTs I’ve talked to to second-guess the oh-so-necessary act of handwashing.  Another lucky thing is to stash anti-bacterial hand gel in your pocket to avoid the hand-numbing act of washing.

So already it seems like I’ve come up with some workarounds to avoid some of the issues that plague a samugari such as myself, so you might well be thinking “So shut up about it already“… but, no.  The ultimate, and yet-to-be-solved problem still remains: the shower.

The thing is, when I turn on my tiny little space-heater, I close the door to the front area of my apartment so that I’m only heating a smaller section and not wasting energy (think green!) but the problem is that the entry to my apartment contains not just that little space where you leave your shoes, but also my washer, sink, toilet room and, you guessed it… shower!  This means that while I’m sitting toasty in my tatami room, my shower area is the still the same freezing 3°C.

Let me tell you, the worst part about taking a shower is getting in and getting out.  Once I get in, the water is at a nice, cozy 100°F/39°C but even in the shower there is enough cold air to dampen the experience.  That’s why as soon as I get home from school, before even turning on my heater, I force myself to get in the shower before the sun sets and the temperature difference between indoors and out increases.  And once I park myself in front of my heater, post-shower… man… you’ll be hard-pressed to rip me away from that thing.  Like a suckling baby to the bosom.

Needless to say, the weather calendar says it should start warming up around mid-March, thank God.  I actually saw a website that said, “Japan is an island country and hence the temperatures never reach the extremes.” and that is truly funny.

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

雪, 雪, 雪!!!!!!

28 Dec

This past Thursday in school on Christmas (yes, I had to work on Christmas… lame, I know) the teachers put the weather channel on the television at the end of the room.  All day I kept hearing them say “雪 (ゆき), 雪 (ゆき)!” [yuki=snow]; now as you may know, I’m still learning Japanese but there are some words that stick in my head like glue and I knew that one!  I turned to one teacher and said  “yuki? Is it going to snow?” And I got a bunch of “はい!… たぶん”s [Hai!… tabun=Yes!… probably].

Sure enough the next morning when I stepped out of my apartment, I looked down over my landing steps and saw bushes and cars and everything covered in white stuff.  I am 24 and that was definitely the first time I had been in falling snow.  It was AWESOME!

Some people may not like snow but I thought, “Well, hey, I already have to deal with the cold… I might as well get some snow with it!”  I was so excited and I wanted to take pictures of EVERYTHING and so when I got to the bottom of my steps and whipped out my camera, I was able to take one shot before the battery completely died on me because I forgot to charge it:

From the bottom-floor landing outside my apartment building.

Right outside my apartment building.

Lesson learned, that’s for sure because while I was at school the sun came out and melted all the magic away.  It hasn’t snowed for two days.  I know we will have some again soon and next time I’ll be ready.  It looks like icing was dumped onto everything!

For now it’s just cold… no snow – just cold.  How lame.