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New Camera

3 Jun

I bought a new camera recently, a Pentax x90, to be specific. It had just recently been released when I made my purchase, so there weren’t many solid reviews on it, but it seems to be just one step down from the Pentax k-x and I was mainly looking for something a little more powerful than a standard point and shoot but not ridiculously pricey.

The crummy thing is, since I bought it here in Japan, the manual is in Japanese and though I DLed a free PDF in English, I don’t like reading a lot of stuff on a computer screen, it starts to strain my eyes, so I’m slowly learning all the controls by fiddling with the different settings. I’m not a professional photographer by any means, so I think this camera will work well for me. Here’s a review that was actually just posted yesterday.

Something that’s interesting and fun about the camera is that it comes with a bunch of filters and frames that you can add to the image after the fact. The filters look cool and I will probably use those, but I probably won’t touch the frames after I played around with them today to get some samples.

I took a shot of Kobe Port Tower from across the water at Harborland while I was out with friends last week. The weather was gorgeous, by the way. Click the images to see the larger size.

The original shot

Color Filter

Toy Camera Filter

Old Camera Filter

Black and White

Color Filter: Blue

Sepia Filter (eew, btw)

Soft Filter

Heart Frame

Pin Board Frame

Memo Frame

Heart Frame 2

As you can tell, the frames are really corny and lame, but the filters are more interesting. I like the toy camera one best, now I don’t have to go out and actually BUY one. 🙂

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Uhh… No?

1 Jun

A New Ad Campaign for Ciggs

Hey Japan,

Just so you know, this new ad fails. I don’t know what point you’re trying to make with this image, or who you’re trying to reach. Do you guys even know the meaning of homoerotic? Some questions for the ad creators:

  • Why is it a foreigner?
  • Why are his biceps so HUGE. (They hurt to look at)
  • What’s up with the teeny-tiny jean shorts? So Village People, ya know?
  • Not a question, but I’m a little jealous of the smooth silkiness of his thighs.
  • Or maybe… smoking will make my thighs that silky, だろう?

Maybe you should just go back to the old ads…

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.

Put a Hole in My Nose!

28 May

For several years now I’ve been contemplating getting a nose piercing. I’ve always thought they were really cute on practically any woman I saw wearing one. They’re also small enough that you barely notice them but give just a little extra detail to your face. When you seen photos like the one below of Indian actress Ashwarya Rai in a traditional Indian wedding outfit, how can you not appreciate its appeal? The tradition of wearing a chain connecting the nose ring to a matching earring has always seemed so beautiful to me.

Indian actress Ashwarya Rai in a wedding costume

But then again, Ash Rai could hawk Pet Rocks while wearing a potato sack and I would probably consider buying one.

In any case, the biggest opposition to this tiny body modification is, of course, from my mother. Who’s gonna hire you with that?! she asked, but that’s like a knee-jerk response to all of my non-corporate-world-friendly ideas. The same thing was said about wearing an afro instead of straightening my hair all the time. Back to the point, though.

Lately, my desire to stay out of the corporate world has brought the idea of a nose piercing bubbling back up to the top of my conscious thoughts. As with all forms of body piercing, the practice of nose piercing has been around for hundreds (if not thousands) of years already and across cultures on many continents. I just found out today that in Ayurvedic medicine, the left nostril is believed to be connected to a woman’s reproductive organs and that piercing that particular side can help ease child birthing pains? As a woman who has suffered from extreme menstrual cramping since the very first day of my period, the impending doom of birthing pain is enough to either A) choose to have a cesarean section (more risky for momma and baby, I know) or B) not have any babies at ALL! The idea of easing uterus-related pain (including the mittleschmerz pain that shows up 2 weeks before the actual period) while looking stylishly adorable is a major selling point!

The Ayurveda-recommended side to pierce

Now, I am considering trying my hand at a little local acting and modeling when I get to Melbourne (shallow?), so I don’t know how well a piercing would go over in most casting sessions. Though there are options available that can make the piercing less obvious, like clear fittings to keep the hole from closing. And since I definitely don’t plan on getting one while in Japan or America, that means I’ve still got several months to think it over, maybe get a few opinions.

All I know is, this girl wasn’t made for a corporate world, so I should be able to look any way I want.

Opinions??

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.

Apprehensive

6 May

It’s been a long, long time.  And Japan has done a lot to me.

I’ve been here for a year and eight months so far. It’ll be time to leave soon. I decided not to stay a third year. These past few months have been difficult for me. Not because of work, but because of culture and life and dealing with so many things on my own.

I have to constantly remind myself to look at the good things: my Japanese has improved, after persevering at this second school things have really turned around and I love the students and staff, I’ve made lasting relationships with Japanese people and friends from across the globe, I’ve gotten to travel to so many places and I met a truly amazing person.

It’s just that the difficult bits rear up over and over again: I still can’t read any decent amount of Japanese, I have a third school that I now rotate to and the teachers seem a tad unfriendly and openly disappointed in my level of Japanese, I live in a homogeneous society and I yearn for diversity, traveling now makes me ache to escape and the one person I feel I can share all these feelings with uncensored is on a completely different continent in another hemisphere.

Before I came here, a friend told me not to change. I’ve since found that to be an absolute impossibility. Living here has increased my tendency towards anxiety. I don’t want to meet new people, I don’t want to face new situations, I don’t want to be outgoing. New things stress me out on a whole new level than ever before. I just want to hide in a comfort zone.

Sometimes I wish *I* could be a metal man...

It probably sounds like a lot of complaining, or culture shock, or whatever. To be clear, I absolutely appreciate the opportunities I’ve had in Japan, and I don’t regret my decisions at all, but one can’t expect to live in such a different country than their own and not be affected to some extent.

Which is what causes me the most worry: that I will go back home and people will see the changes and not accept them or not like them or won’t be able to deal with them. Of course, I am happy with the person I have become, but to a certain extent it comes at the cost of others’ pride and faith in me. It’s really hard to disappoint so many people you love for the first time ever in life in such a short time, especially when it’s the first time you’ve been truly happy in a long while. How can you explain that?

Despite all of this, I am looking forward to going home. I love my family and I miss my friends. I just hope that everything turns out positively in the end. I’ve got less than four months left over here and though I’ll be more than happy to leave, it will still be with a bit of sadness for all the good experiences and personal growth this stint in Japan has given me.

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.