Thursday, May 31, 2012


Yesterday I walked 5 miles, ran in each of my classes, and helped with gym class.
I got home and fully intended to have a productive evening. But instead I fell asleep at 7:30 pm. I feel old.
It's a good thing I did because I walked more and ran more today.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


A monster crept upon us, and nearly overtook us all. We had weapons prepared, and were well armed. Yet we were powerless when it arrived. I think that we would have fought harder had we known what it would take. But the monster was sly and hid his true face. It crept upon us silently, consuming us one by one.

It took our leaders first, our peers whom we looked up to. We watched them change, but were unaware of the demon they now carried. One by one we fell, consumed by the monster inside. Laughter and tears were abolished by the monster, and in their wake, only a void remained.

Some fought valiantly, they offered us new weapons, and gave speeches.
But it was to numb crowds, already defeated.

I was taken by the monster. It did not hurt. In fact, it was quite nearly the opposite; just a passive submission into nothingness. I was seduced by the lack of suffering it offered me. It promised me immunity to cruelty and failure. I did not understand at the time what I would be sacrificing.

I began my new life. A zombie amongst all the others. We had no fears, regrets, ambitions….

I had nearly forgotten about the monster’s hold on me when I stumbled
upon the cure.
Like every monster, love was its Achilles Heal. It wasn’t a romantic love. It wasn’t even a love of a person. My love, my cure, was music. My love for music built slowly year to year, but it all culminated in one moment. A moment where the monster’s grip was torn away, and I saw, for the fist time, what its true face was.

My moment occurred on a warm day in fall. The wheat was still tall and golden, the wind made waves through the fields. I drove my car out to a place where all I could see was an ocean of grain, and a backdrop of mountains. It was windy but still warm. I turned the music on in my car as loud as I could, and lay down on the roof. I let the rhythm take over my heartbeat. The music engulfed me and I was flooded with love. Every ounce of my soul was given over the music. I slipped from the grips of the monster, and was finally free.

I faced the monster and saw what I had sacrificed; my teachers’ aspirations, my sister’s respect, my boyfriend’s tenderness, my parents’ encouragement.

I gazed upon the face of my monster, and its name came to me: Apathy. The monster’s name was apathy. I, like most of my peers, was taken over by this monster in my teenage years. I still battle it today, it creeps upon me when life is difficult, but I always rise, I always conquer. I am a warrior against the monster called apathy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lesson Plans

I have decided to post my lesson plans that I've made this year so far. I follow the chapters of the books, but I have yet to use the books in class. If I had a choice in the matter I would definitely do the chapters in a different order.
Hopefully some of you will have some ideas for games.
Good luck to any other ALTs. Please feel free to steel any ideas you like!
Lesson plans for the Hi, Friends! Textbooks.
Hi, Friends! Lessons for ALTs:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Takao, Octoberfest, and Commore Concert

Ben and I had one heck of a weekend. We hiked Mt. Takao, we went to a beer festival, and we saw a local concert. It was fun to be so busy.
Approximately 2.5 million people climb mount Takao every year. Which means that on a sunny weekend day in May there are thousands of people on the mountain. Frankly this means it sucks to hike. Every aspect of hiking that I enjoy (serenity, solitude, nature) was stripped away. All that was left was a 2 km hike up hill weaving and pushing through crowds.
If you come to Japan, skip Mount Takao.

 The first view we came across as our reward for making it to the top of the mountains was a row of vending machines. I was annoyed.
 There were many types of traditional food being made. It smelled really good. It felt more like a fair then a mountain top.

 We did end up buying some Tayaki, which are sort of like sweet bean filled waffles. The tayaki we bought were in the shape of little angry birds, they were pretty cute.

There was a buddhist temple at top of the mountain. This was the highlight of the hike. There were huge lines for different worshiping zones. There were shorter lines at Disney land.
I practiced a bit of zen. I took a deep breath, told myself that I was one of 2.5 million people to come here. It was time to look around an appreciate why they came here.
The architecture and statues were really cool. It was amazing to see so many religious rituals being mixed in the same area. There were some beautiful engravings. There was some monk making highly lude noises off in the distance.
One of the Tengu Gods, they bring you good fortune

Beautiful engravings on one of temple buildings.
A second building, with fancier decor.
The final building with elaborate painted carvings.
The view from the top was beautiful.

My favorite scene of the day. This is the Japanese equivalent of a wishing well. 

After hiking we primped ourselves and went into Tokyo. We went to the Hibiya Octoberfest... in May... in Japan. It was really fun.

On Sunday we went to a support a local band. One of Ben's coworkers plays base in a band, so we went to watch them. We felt like locals for a bit.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Staring Contest

I met a Japanese girl who had done a year long foreign exchange in America. She was very nice, it was good to meet here. It was also really fun to talk about the strange things people do when they see you as a really foreign person. She lived in Ohio when she went to America, and lived in an area that was not very racially diverse. We talked about how strange it is when people just continue to stare you down as you do mundane things like shop for groceries. People sometimes forget that you are even a real person, they act like you are separated from them by an invisible TV screen.
The other day, I was walking to the train station; a large group of high school boys were walking the opposite direction from me. One of the boys was staring at me, while walking towards me. I really think he thought I was a figment of his imagination, because he looked utterly shocked and mortified when he walked straight into a real physical being. He had no concept of how to deal with walking into a foreigner, so he turned red, kept staring and stood as still as possible. It was a very strange interaction.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Ben and I really enjoyed the Eclipse on Monday morning. We were afraid that we would miss it because of clouds, but the clouds were just thin enough that we could still see it perfectly. The clouds gave some texture to the scenery. We drove up to this beautiful vista on the west edge of town, we could overlook the whole city, and we had a beautiful view of the eclipse. We listened to Holst's "The Planets". It was perfect.

In case you have never listened to the Planets here is a YouTube Link

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Aerobics in Japan

Yesterday, I went to an aerobics class!
It was fun to feel awkward, lost, and exhausted, along with about 8 other women. As the class went on I got more and more tired, and less and less coordinated. It was really fun!
The class was 2 hours long. I was so tired, but I felt so good.
Language was barely a barrier, but for now I'm going to pretend it is... no one needs to know yet how uncoordinated I am.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tokyo Disney

Yesterday, Ben and I went to Tokyo Disney Land to celebrate our 7 year anniversary. It was incredible.

 My favorite part of the day was the parade. My emotional level as about a 9.9. Way beyond what I could handle.

 Lilo and Stitch are way more popular here than back in the states. There was an antire area devoted to them.

Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite disney movies, I really liked the wonderland zone.

I'm so glad Ben and I have been so happy
Best Place for an Anniversary

Perfect Day!

Friday, May 18, 2012


A treat from my students
Today all my students were on a field trip. I was left to my own devices to figure our how to be useful at the school with no students. I took the opportunity to decorate my English classroom. It was fun.

Uenoharanishi elementary school is in a very nice neighborhood, the houses are big, beautiful, and well kept. It feels suburbany.

The view is amazing from the school, it is placed at the top of a mountain, if you look up you can see Mt. Fuji (on a dry day), if you look down, you can see into a valley. It's very beautiful.

I really like the school, the students are very ambitious, and they are far less shy then the average Japanese person. The teachers are also the most pleasant to work with. I look forward to Tuesdays and Fridays.

Students win points for their class by completing my challenges (class 5-2 is winning)


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Welcome to the Real World

Yesterday, Ben and I had a lovely dinner with Akemi, a woman in town who has been very kind to us. She made some amazing dishes, my favorite was the mountain vegetable tempura. After dinner we all went English conversation class. I look foreward to the class every week. It's nice to just have a social club to enjoy every Thursday.
Yesterday I spoke about our hopes riding on our phones. As it turns out we were right. I now have solid social plans, on Monday I'm going to go to aerobics, I'm invited to join a cooking club, and we're meeting up for drinks next week with some people we met.
Not having a phone was a larger social barrier than my poor language skills.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


We Got Phones

Phones are a hugely powerful tool.

Without phones Ben and I have had so many difficulties, you can’t get
something delivered unless they have a phone number, you can’t sign up
for point cards or credit cards, we can’t use mobile coupons. It’s
been frustrating. The worst part though has been the social disconnect
it has caused. When we meet someone they want to get your phone number
to make plans, but without one they don’t know what to do. It just
seems too difficult to them to make plans on the spot, and such a
commitment because they can’t adjust them if something comes up. Ben
and I feel like we have finally opened the door to socializing here in
Japan. Already tonight Ben and I are invited to have dinner with a
woman we met.

We decided to get iphones here. We were just too tempted by GPS,
Japanese-English translation, and Skype on our phones. ( I got to call
my sister on my morning walk to school).

I feel almost guilty being so excited about such a materialistic
object, but the phone is so cool. It’s shiny, it helps me, and I am so
much more connected to the world.

I am also excited for the Japanese Phenomenon surrounding phone
accessories. People of all ages use their phone as their own personal
canvas for showing how they are unique.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Germ Warfare

Germs are tricky little bastards. We as humans go to great lengths to avoid getting sick, but the methods we employ to combat germs are not cross cultural.

In Japan they go to great lengths to avoid airborne illnesses.  They wear masks. It is hard to go anywhere without seeing someone wearing a mask. In America, masks are almost never used.

In America, we are constantly aware of the germs from the things we touch. We wash our hands, and use hand sanitizer. We also get way more upset about things like wet door handles than Japanese people.

I wonder if Japanese think it's disgusting and weird that people don't wear masks. It's very rude here to be visibly sick and not wear a face mask. People here wear face masks as a precautionary measure for themselves and the people around them.

Japanese people are not cautious about the germs on their hands. In Japan their are no towels in the bathrooms, you are suppose to bring your own handkerchief to dry your hands on. This leads to people skipping the hand washing part of their bathroom visit. People also use their handkerchiefs as handkerchiefs. People in food preparation often skip washing their hands. The most shocking to me was when I had my blood drawn here, the woman did it without gloves, or washing her hands.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Earthquake Drill

There was an earthquake drill at my school today. It was really adorable. All the students filed out of the school very quickly with their seat cushions on their heads and handkerchiefs over their mouths. All the teachers had helmets on.
Earthquake drill

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mothers Day - Gardens

My mother is an amazing gardener. When I've nearly killed something I can take it to my mom, she is my plant hospital. She grows the most beautiful roses in the entire world. Her lawn is so green, so soft, and it has so many layers of manure that you never get stabbed in the food with a stick or pine needle. She grows these snowball flowers that are huge; they are simultaneously humorous and beautiful. In the summer when I go over to my parents house, I don't bother looking for my mom indoors if the sun is up, I know she's gardening. She also grows so many things that you can eat; tomatoes, snow peas, arugula, and spinach. 
My mom's garden is eclectic, and nearly overloaded. I love it. The gardens here are orderly. 

The absolute best part of her garden is her herbs. My mom and dad are an unstoppable culinary team in the summer. My dads a fantastic cook, but he is about 5 times better in the summer with the amazing power of my moms herbs. 

On mothers day I know my mom will spend the day gardening, and will wrap up the evening with an outstanding meal. 

Every time I pass a garden I think of my mom. I want to take her to a botanical garden when she's here.
Here are some of the gardens that made me think of my mom.

The best lawn in town!

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Otaku is the term that refers to people who have obsessive interests.
Ben and I went back to Akihabara today. We had high hopes of buying a phone (finally) but they were quickly crushed. Although we have our visas, our alien registration card is still processing.
We decided to enjoy the day anyways, and spend the day creeping ourselves out in Akihabara.

Akihabara is the mecca for otaku's What ever your obsession, Akihabara is there to fulfill your needs.
See for yourself...
American food 
American food

My tastiest obsession: Sushi

Filming an add (random)


Retro Games

Angry Birds



Creepy Robot Bears...

Alien version of familiar things

For the Hermione Otaku ;)

Harry Potter

Lolita dolls

Star Wars


Ben and I ended our day at the gundam cafe. It was really fun!


This is a gundam

My drink had chunks of Jello...

Char Fried Rice