Thursday, April 11, 2013

I have the best excuse


Maybe your life has trundled along so busy and fabulous that my absence here hasn’t even registered on your radar, or (as I would prefer) you’ve been impatiently waiting for me to post something, suffering some kind of withdrawal that involves a nervous twitch, copious trying-to-fill-the-void chocolate consumption, and tearful phone calls to your mother asking “Why, Mom? Whyyyyy? Where did she go? What did I do wrong? Should I have called? Written? What?? How do I bring her back? Pleaaaazzzze!!”

Well, here I am, kids!

Alive and well, slightly sunburned, high on Japanese cough drops, dizzy with nights out dancing and days under the cherry blossoms, and in total pedantic overdrive teaching English to the masses.

Something has changed in the month since I’ve last written on this blog and I had to stop and wonder what it is. And it turns out to be this:

I’M OKAY!

Like really. Like more than okay. Like amazing!!

And it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Let’s have real talk:

As you might recall, I’ve overshared here about some of the changes I’ve dealt with in the last couple of years, and a bit about the experience of becoming severely burned out in my previous job. And looking back on the last month I realized that a full six months after I quit my job, and four months after I moved to Tokyo, I finally feel entirely like ME again. Only a better version of me. More……….ME? That’s not helpful, I know. More confident and less afraid, more open, more flexible, happier, more enthusiastic, more dance-on-tables and throw-my-head-back-laughing-until-I-pee, more if-you-want-to-stare-I’ll-give-you-something-to-stare-at. It’s been a truly lovely experience. And frankly I’m giddy with the magic of having my internal world set to rights.  

The wild swings between utter emotional numbness and the crazy crying jags are gone. The neurotic insomnia is over. The inner turmoil, the feelings of failure, the desire to escape have all dissipated. I am happy. I am healed. I feel whole again.

I could have kept doing the same thing I was doing, working in the same job out of some misguided idea that I *should.* It’s so easy to get trapped by expectations, by routine, by the familiar, by material things and mortgages and car payments, by the belief that because I earned this degree there is a very specific path that it should be applied to lest I waste it. There’s a whole set of “rules” we follow…the ones set by society, by family, by our peers, by us ourselves, that give us some sense of the world being black and white and predictable and comfortable and safe. But it’s all arbitrary in the end, and ultimately dangerous, if not life-threatening.

What I am excited about is that I have finally learned to live in the grey. I have no idea what is coming next and I don’t need to know. I don’t really know what I’m doing here or why, but I’m open to finding out.

It feels so appropriate that all of this has happened just as the weather is turning to spring, after the first real winter I have ever experienced in my life. If I wanted to get all poetic and nerdy, I could write something all mushy and symbolic…I might already be risking that! Well, get this for poetic and symbolic: I plan on burning my winter coat because I never want to see that sucker again. TRUTH. And when I walk out into the sunshine, I throw my hands in the air and freak out my Japanese neighbors as I enjoy the warmth and greet the sun.  And I will continue to be thrilled that a true and abiding delight in life is back, and frankly I JUST CAN’T HELP MYSELF. I mean, get this: I EVEN WENT ON A DATE. WHAAAAT??? If you felt the earth slow its rotation in confusion for a minute, that's what that was about. I'm saying...junk has gotten out-of-control good.

I will try to be better about posting more often and sharing the crazy experiences I’m having…but if you don’t hear from me, assume that I am off in the thick of things loving the life God has given me, excited about whatever might come next, all the while recommending that YOU SHOULD BE TOO. And toss the "rules." They're garbage. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

These posts always start out one way and then just get away from me.

What up, kiddies??

It should not surprise you for one second to learn that my cell phone has an entire Spring wardrobe...and if you are surprised, then clearly you have NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION.

Because even my phone wants to dress like an adorable cat sometimes.
This is for FANCY DRESS.
That babyhead will steal your soul. Don't look too long.
This is only for the most special of occasions.
Like when you take your pandahead to karaoke for the first time.
Or go on a Pikachu latte quest. You know. As one does.
Ready - FIGET!
There isn't anything about this I don't love.
This one is for every day use. Obvi.

PANDAS CHOOSING UNDERPANTS???
I'm amazed I survived so long without this in my life.
There *might* be a corresponding little shimmy dance that goes with this case.
(No, you will never see it.)
Also for everyday use.
This is what my phone is wearing RIGHT NOW.
Saucy.

So do you ever look around and realize you've suddenly developed an obsession for something without really being aware of it? Like maybe for Abraham Lincoln? Or is that just me?

He snuck up on me like Booth snuck up on him. Blammo!!
Too soon???
PS I love all the random Abe stuff you all send me. If anyone wants to get me these band-aids, I might lose my junk entirely:

"He will heal your wound as he healed a nation"


But I digress. So as I purchased my SECOND panda cell phone case this week, I realized that maaaaybe I've developed a bit of a "thing" for pandas. You know, that really is surprisingly painful to say. I wanna be all like "You don't know me! I do NOT have a THING for PANDAS!!!" But, A) I'm talking to myself...and well, I sound like a moron, and 2) Denial is a river in Egypt, and C) What's the point of trying to hide it? I LOVE MY NEW PANDA FRIENDS. I AM UNASHAMED!!! 

I had a whole blog post devoted to these crunchy suckers.
And then I bought the GREATEST POST-ITS IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE
But I think this should have been my FIRST CLUE.

PPS I am still in selective-Panda-obsession mode. Not just any pandas will do. Only the best and the brightest need apply. DO NOT MAIL ME PANDA JUNK. Or, no, do. I love mail. MAIL ME PANDAS!! But mail me Abe band-aids first. Priorities!!!

PPPS How appropriate is it that the recently elected Japanese Prime Minister's name is Shinzo ABE??? Yup. MEANT TO BE.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I get psych-nerdy at least twice, but I promise it's worth it

Ahhhh!!

Time just gets away from me!!

I have so many things to share!!! See, if I just had that bionic eyeball camera I keep on about, I could just keep a webcam feed going here at all hours. Oh boy. That would be so crazy and overwhelming. For all of us. THE THINGS I HAVE SEEN. I feel like international laws would somehow be broken. Ummmm...maybe let's not.

It is 2am. I should go to sleep, like NOW. So here...this isn't a real post...just a sampling of stuff from the last week or so:

So Abe turned 204, and we got all patriotic. For AMERRICUH (haha, my friends are British...TOTALLY got them to sell out!!! Quick, tell the Queen!!)
Let's!

Then there was Tokyo-style Valentine's. There was a whole set of Snow White themed cakes...why would you buy a poisoned apple cake for Valentine's?? Or the evil queen??? Anyway, beheading that squirrel and the dwarf was SO ROMANTIC.  Then we watched Les Mis. Do you have any idea how much they SING in that movie? GEEZ.

Then, you know, unrefrigerated roast chicken in a bag. For that yummy salmonella taste. Ugh. WHY??? Wisely left that one in the store. 

Then off to a 10-story megaplex for some exposure therapy to get over our fears of this addiction they call KARAOKE. I love teaching students to pronounce it in "English"..."karry-oki." Shoot me.

These are our REAL FEELINGS, people.

Where we spent the next 5 hours belting out the hits. Sometimes alone, sometimes together, sometimes at waiters. Always awesome. 

SHE looks like a pro in every photo.

Whereas *I* look like I'm fighting invisible ninjas in every photo.  It's like the most accurate Rorshach ever.

This is what it's like to go to the Japanese ATM. I love the little glued down calculator. It ALWAYS feels like a miracle when you actually get money out.

This is a little hook to hold your umbrella while you use the ATM. Again: WHY??
This is what happens when you drop a Florida girl in a Tokyo winter. Vader and a fur hat. THAT'S HOW I ROLL.
 
So first I asked "What is 'Natural Damaged Hair'?"

Then I just started laughing. I have NO IDEA.

Some shops have yetis. Marketing magic. Yetis ALWAYS draw me in.

And sometimes $2 buys you so much happiness you don't know how to stand it. CUTEST PILLBOX EVER.



And then as my parting gift to you this evening, there's THIS:

                                        

Byeeeee!!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bizarro Snack Food: Un-ice cream

Sooooo today one of the Japanese staff at work noted that I sure am a healthy eater.

*Cue maniacal laughter....that lasts for HOURS*

But I guess if all you ever see me eat is inari-zushi (that would be sushi rice wrapped in sheets of tofu, in case you didn't know...yup...I eat that every day), yogurt (same as home, but weirder flavors...aloe yogurt, anyone?), and satsumas (like tangerines...geez...do I have to translate everything??), then maybe that's a reasonable assumption.

LITTLE DO THEY KNOW.

So I'm in the conbini looking at the crazy snack foods, as I'm wont to do (EVERY SINGLE DAY), and lo, that looks like ice cream.

Key words: "LOOKS LIKE ICE CREAM."


But it's on the shelf? Not in the freezer? So maybe this is one of those Pinterest-inspired things where they have you bake cupcakes in the ice cream cone, all the while feeling like some kind of kitchen wizard. Okay...I LOVE cupcakes...so YES! Let's try it!

I remember making these...cake in a cone! Yum! Yay, childhood memories!!!
Then I open it. It's not soft like cake. It's firm.

But it seriously looks like ice cream. I am kinda freaking out inside. But PLAYING IT COOL.
It's kind of like chocolate, but has lots of air bubbles like cake.

Do you appreciate that I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE?

Really, it tries to approximate real ice cream without being frozen. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? I wrote it, but I have no idea. How can you be non-frozen ice cream????

Every bite is a question mark. A BIG STUPID QUESTION MARK.

All it succeeded in doing is freaking me out.

And yes: I finished it. Of course I did. I always do. Healthy eater? Ha.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ssssssilly little hobbitsesssss

Why is there a window in the bathroom door?? Riddle me this, Batman! RIDDLE ME.

NEVER NEED WITNESSES.
And why is the front of the toilet only six inches from the door. What kind of hobbit is this meant for exactly?? Are the Japanese really that tiny??? (Answer: OMG yes. Sometimes my students are so tiny I can't even hear what they are saying because I am busy measuring them up wondering how they are actually real). You have seen my legs...I have no hope of actually sitting down. Might as well have one of the traditional Japanese squatty toilets in here...it'd be easier. DID YOU HEAR THAT? I JUST PREFERRED A SQUATTY TOILET!! WHAT HAS HAPPENED?????????

I feel like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat every time I successfully navigate this situation. Dude.
And the doorway is so short! Helloooooo head trauma!

What is that look on my face? Fear. That forehead knows pain. TRUTH.
And WHY IS THERE A SINK IN THE TOILET TANK? I'm all for efficiency, but NO.



This is what I deal with EVERY DAY, people. EVERY. DAY.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

As if I could really forget for even FIVE SECONDS

Today I had one of those moments where in the middle of teaching a lesson it hit me:

When I leave here and go outside, I will be in JAPAN.

Well, duh, okay, I know even in the building, even at work, I'm still in Japan. But everyone speaks English...it's the one place I can mayyyyybe forget for half a second.

It's been more than two months, and it still surprises me all the time that I actually live here. I really don't know how, because the reminders are RELENTLESS.

Here's a sampling from the last 24 hours for you:

A little Nuance Airy to start the day? 
Every morning, I visit my train mascot friend. He's ALWAYS happy to see me.
Today on my way to work, I decided to count the vending machines I pass on my 8 minute walk to the train station. You know, for kicks and giggles. Now mind you, half of my walk is through an entirely residential neighborhood. Guess how many. Just guess. Did you guess? You didn't guess. Whatever. I'll tell you:

NINETEEN.

That's right. Nineteen vending machines. They are EVERYWHERE. And that's despite the fact that I also pass THREE convenience stores, a major grocery store, two pharmacies, and a drinks and snacks kiosk. Oh and let's not leave out the three bakeries and two cafes. And the countless restaurants and noodle shops. If ever you are in Tokyo, rest assured: you will never be more than 50 feet from a beverage, or a snack, should you need one. How do they stay so skinny? NO CLUE. America couldn't handle it...buncha fatties.


Snack time! Puffed pea snacks!

I. Don't. Know.

Okay. Pumpkins are green. Accepted.

Meat candy. Check.

And the last store I pass before I walk up to work. Gets me every time.
What else? Ummm...right: so I have to wear a black suit to work with "minimal" jewelry because corporate culture is all conservative blah blah, but it's okay for my students to come in to lessons still drunk from the night before wearing crazy anime-style contact lenses, looooong fake eyelashes and a hoodie with ears and a tail attached like a little jungle cat? Really, I can ignore the cat thing (I really can)...but YOU ARE A HUMAN CARTOON!!! The anime contacts and the eyelashes KILL ME. Maybe even worse than the eyebrows. But I do LOVE how they take it in stride when their conservatively-dressed instructor explains how she dresses like Abe Lincoln and Lady Gaga in her spare time. And it's this nonplussed attitude that keeps me here, kids. Boom.

Then there was a minor earthquake last night, but since it was like the third one in three days, it didn't even rate grabbing my phone to check the seismological service website. How crazy is that?! But whatever...where I work, there are TSUNAMI PROCEDURES posted in the staff room. Normal junk, y'all.

And finally:

Last night when we got home, we found THIS on our front door:



In the past month, three of us have been stopped by Japanese men when walking home asking to be "friends." They are apparently mesmerized by our milky skin, round eyes, and movie star English. WHO WOULDN'T BE??? Seriously. No, seriously: we're lovely. But now they are stalking us. Creepers of the world, folks! Anyway, we've started a wall in our kitchen where we post their business cards. We figure that when one of them murders us all in our sleep, we've given the police a head start on suspects. Or so that we can laugh our heads off every time we're reminded. Either way, it's helpful.

My wrestler bear socks will keep me safe. The left one is Takahiro and the right one is Masahiro. Tag team champions. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Happiest Pocky on Earth

Emotional eating never felt so good! Oh, Japan. CUTEST SNACK FOODS EVERRRRR!!!!

It doesn't matter that the Pocky itself kinda had a sawdust quality. Just the packaging itself made me happy. And now I share that happiness with YOU!! You're welcome. And if you don't know the joys of Pocky, then GO! Find Pocky! Educate thyself!! IMMEDIATELY!

And ask yourself: WHY DON'T I KNOW ABOUT POCKY??? But be kind to yourself...we all make mistakes. We do. It happens. It's okay. You're okay, I'm okay. Okay? Okay.


Why hello little Panda bear!
Happy childhood memories of a slip n' slide, evoked by a little dancing bear. Who knew?
 
The pyramids?? That is some next-level multicultural junk right there. Oh how I wish I could read Japanese...

I'm still looking for the elusive chocolate banana Pocky...if anyone finds it, let me know! The prize for that junk will be AWESOMES. Trust.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Snow-Coated Reality

I'm a Florida girl. And what do I know about snow? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

I've visited winter in the past (and serious winter at that...hello?? -40 degrees in Finland, thank you very much), but it took one snow day here in Tokyo to inform me straight up: I'm screwed.

My Florida winter clothes are a JOKE. And not the funny kind. The ohhhhh-you-poor-thing kind. So I wear a lot of layers. Like 4 or 5. Like I can't bend my legs.

But in my defense, the people I asked said it "doesn't really snow" in Tokyo...so I didn't worry too much.

Until it snowed in Tokyo.

Ummm...that's snow.

Like more than just "a little."

But it sure is pretty. Even if it is breaking branches and threatening to drop piles of stuff on my head.

Once it's enough to make fake people, it's officially too much..
But we had a great day learning about snowpeople of the world. Like this Russian snowwoman. She is quite voluptuous, but we tried to keep it tasteful.
Or the Japanese snowman. Kawaii!!!
Japanese Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Adorbs!
But at least we look great in the snow! 

I'm sorry but this doesn't look like "it doesn't really snow" to me. But maybe it's an issue of perspective. Maybe THIS is what snow means to them:

Ummm...yeah. I didn't take this picture. I don't want to be anywhere NEAR this!! But it is in Japan.
 So it snowed. And I looked in my closet and realized that I own three pairs of boots, but two of those have five-inch heels (haha, stupid Floridian!) and the last pair has soles so slick that I've already slipped and fallen twice, and that's BEFORE snow and ice entered the picture. And none of the above are waterproof. There is mad laughter in my head as I write this. Totally and utterly unequipped.

So I went shopping for winter things. And after looking for snow boots for five minutes and realizing the biggest size they have for women is an 8.5, I decided I wasn't up for public ridicule today. Kids, hear me: I wear a size ELEVEN. And as I have mentioned here before, I have arms and legs for daaaaays...allow me to reiterate:

That is my LEG I am leaning on. Foot flat on the floor. FYI: THAT IS NUTS.

Buying a jacket and snow pants is going to be an absolute nightmare. So I did what any sensible Florida girl does: I bought summer dresses. But to balance it out, I did find a ski hat...at least my head's not too big for Japan (yet):

Yay! WARM HEAD!

So I survived the snow day like a champ. Though my feet were totally soaked. But at least I didn't fall on my accident-prone keister...A MIRACLE! I felt like Bambi on the frozen pond, but without the adorable woodland sidekick. And then I spent 24 hours hiding in my bedroom watching movies and trying to drown out the sound of snow sliding off the roof and crashing to the ground. 'Cause you know it would've landed straight on my head. NO THANK YOU.
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