Thursday, August 29, 2013

Happy happy day day~!~!


So I'm a little amped on an interesting combination of beer and coffee and pain killers right now so YEAH HAHAH FUN POST. I AM A RESPONSIBLE ADULT

Okay so. Uhhh where to begin. Right. MY APARTMENT?!

THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE (Note: if you click on a picture, you can browse through them at a larger size)


(Tired of caps lock now, yes I'm sure you're a little mentally tired of me screaming in your head) It looks like the world is ending outside, but trust me when I say it's not. 

My wall in my living room!! I've got some bird decorations and put up pictures from home of my friends and family!! And also some inspirational quotes <3

Toooo the kitchen!

Ohoh! Here it is

Plenty spacious for one person (not pictured: rice cooker, far left, off screen. DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN MAKE CAKE IN RICE COOKERS??? (Oops not done with caps lock apparently, get too excited about cake) Yeah I mean it's just a little steamer machine but FOOK YEAH CAKE

The entrance, my pink rug and shoes~

Toilet to the left, washroom straight ahead, and shower on the right.

Shower. Nothing to see here, nothing to add. Actually yeah I do, the water kinda sucks, it takes me about five minutes to get it to a good balanced temperature.

That was the grand tour! Now you've basically been inside my apartment. Let us marvel again for a moment at how amazing it is that you can see my apartment from a world away. A WORLD AWAY!

Okay moment's over moving on.

     And today at work I took pictures of my base school! I call it my base school because it's the one I'll report to daily; the junior high school in Tateyama, with over 800 kids!! I'll work there all day Monday, and then every morning Tuesday - Friday. Thursday afternoons I have off, and Tues, Wed, and Fri I'll be reporting to one of the four elementary schools - the schedule shifts every week. I've met all the teachers for each school and they all seem great, and I'm real excited to work alongside them!

     In a week and two days, we'll have Sports Day, an annual holiday/festival for schools all over. The kids spend a little over a week preparing; practicing cheers and dances and flag turning or whatever that's called (color guard?), warming up and training for races and tug of war, the whole shebang. I was planning on participating in some of the events (joke's on the team that would get stuck with me for a relay race) until I done and went effed up my ribcage (I went to the doctor; apparently I bruised/messed up the cartilage that connects my lower ribs together, so in any case it'll hurt for about 3 weeks, hence the pain meds. He also gave me some magic patches that aren't unlike those hot/cold things (icy-hot! I've been trying to remember the name for that for literally 48 hours) but basically sucks the pain out of my abdomen. Total cost to see a doctor, receive a month of pain meds, 21 icy-hots, and 10 bandages; an estimated $30. Yup! National healthcare! This is what you're fighting against, America.) 

Anyway what was I saying before I interrupted myself. Uhhhh oh yes! So I went and effed up my ribcage and it hurts even just walking about so I probably won't be doing any running (Ohhhhhhhhhhh daaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrnnnn) BUT I will be there to cheer everyone on and witness Sports Day for myself so, get pumped for that, because if I'm there, that means YOU'LL be there too! <3 Basically

Moving on! I took pictures of my school today, check 'em out!!

While looking at these, keep in mind that in Japan, there are no janitors!! There is a special time everyday during school hours that the students set aside to get on their hands and knees with towels and cleaning supplies and run down the hallways and classroom floors to mop, while other students tidy up the rooms and just make sure in general that everything is in tip-top shape. They also clean the bathrooms, the cafeteria; everything. In fact, often times kids take turns acting as lunch-ladies and dish out everyone's meals. Is that one of the reasons Japanese kids, and in turn, adults, are so orderly, clean, team-oriented and well-disciplined? Hard to say, but I'd say it's an aspect of the culture worth noting.

Also, every morning in the staff room for about ten minutes, everyone picks up supplies from the cleaning closet and finds something to clean. I, too, partake in this culture, to which I am sure my mom is laughing about

The view outside one of the classrooms

And over hereee

And this way agaaaain


Another immaculately clean hallway

Out the window, into the courtyard

Tea ceremony room, probably for club, not sure there's a class about it

The library from above, from a window in the hall
One of the chalkboards of the classroom, the teacher seemed to have drawn some art on the board, including the word "cool/refreshing," as in a way to describe the weather. It has been rather cool lately, it's been a nice break from the usual 95 degree, 70% humidity that is a typical Japanese summer.

I do love the look to this school, it's rather chic 

Saw the Alice in Wonderland staircase and knew this was the place I was meant to work at. Love Alice.


Off the balcony from the teacher's office!

  Finally, some really exciting news from me. So as I damaged my rib area last week on my priceless and incredibly intelligent bike-ride in the dark, I was pretty bummed that I wouldn't be able to do Japanese archery for a while because I read online (and later it was reaffirmed by the doctor) that I would be in pain for about three weeks. But I decided that I wanted to see everyone again and get to know them, because I'm serious about joining Japanese archery, as it's the most bad-ass thing possibly on the planet, possibly ever. 

It all started some years ago, when I was about thirteen - a little before I started learning Japanese (I wanna say I was 14 when that happened - 9th grade...yep 14), and I was reading this manga (Japanese comicbook) called "Alice 19th," where a girl must fight off darkness to save her sister, or some awesome stuff like that. 

In the book, some of the characters were part of an archery club, and I remember seeing the uniforms and the huge bows and thinking, god DAMN that is bad-ass:

Kyo, the main character's crush, doing Kyudo. His form is so-so if you ask me, but...I also know nothing. Yet. ("So beautiful~")

The main character's sister, looking awesome.

The uniform from the back.

Also, I remember several instances of stumbling across these pictures (a quick google search led me back to them), when I would do random quizzes online (anyone remember quizilla? That shit was my life) -

She's the only one in these pictures wearing the actual Japanese archery get-up and doing the proper form.

I mean, those are just freaking gorgeous. It's no wonder I got into anime/manga for a while.

...And these pictures not only became inspirations for me as an aspiring artist at that age, for it was at that time that I started to learn to draw, but it also told me in a very direct way that Japan + archery = beautiful and badass. And so I kind of always had this image in my head of me doing it someday.

I joined archery club at UW Madison my first semester there, and eventually became too busy to justify ever going back - which is unfortunate, because I wasn't too shabby and it's fun as hell, and there's something really satisfying about the way your arm kinda stings from the string snapping against it so many times, and even missing and going out to retrieve your arrows brings about a new hope for the next time you'll shoot them. 

And when I studied abroad in Nagoya, I got the chance to go to a Kyudo (Japanese archery) dojo and try it for myself - I loved the feel of it, but a taste of it only left me wanting to participate even more badly than when I started.

And so, when my supervisor told me last week that I'd be able to go to a Kyudo dojo and try it myself, I freaked out in excitement and we went. When I first arrived, everyone was staring down the field with very serious faces, aiming at the targets; but once they were done they were all really kind and easy to talk with and before I knew it, I had started to make friends. The night was over too soon and I promised everyone I'd be back again.

Well, the next Thursday rolled around and my supervisor took me back to the dojo; for me to find that in the last week, they had prepared an entire uniform for me, to call my own. Which is UNREAL because usually that's something that takes months, as does joining the club - or so someone from the JET program told me. I thanked everyone profusely, and we went about putting it on; only to find that it fit perfectly; the shirt, skirt, belt, and even the socks,  which were 24 inches (about a size 7 and a half). "IT'S FATE!" I declared, to which everyone eagerly and firmly agreed. I got to chat with everyone some more before they had to get down to business and have a meeting; they have a tournament this Saturday that I plan on attending to cheer them on for. 

(I look a bit pained, and that's because the belt and skirt are meant to be extremely tight, and they happened to rest riiiight on my bruised rib, which also made it incredibly hard to breathe. Can't wait to heal up and look like a bad-ass!)

So me and my supervisor peaced out for them to have their meeting, and I left feeling ridiculously happy, extremely lucky, and yet again, very welcome in Japan.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Let's Start With What a Not Idiot I am

I mean, we've all done stupid stuff when we were kids. Like trying to discover kissing when you're five with your neighbor boy who you didn't even like when your mom finds you behind your house, or putting an orange TicTac up your nose to see if it'll fit (I'll have you know, it comes out dissolved and white when you're done with it). And probably even more stupid, reckless stuff when we're college students, like starting the night off with four shots of vodka because your friend, who is incredibly good at Crash Team Racing on the Playstation, challenged you to a race and raised the stakes at the last minute before it was too late to back down (that's a hangover I'll never forget). Or maybe you've seen the movie The Divide (it's a horror movie that is seriously, SERIOUSLY not for the weak-stomached, weak-hearted, or anyone who can't deal with a heavy dose of reality regarding human nature) - that's probably my latest mistake.

Oh no, I'm sorry. That WAS my latest mistake. 

Gather 'round, boys and girls, it's time for a story.

It seemed like it was going to be a good day, hanging out with a friend, eating pizza and watching movies and laughing. Because first of all, PIZZA?! IN JAPAN?!!? That's right; while Pizza Hut may be the worst kind of pizza in America, when you're in Japan its status increases ten-fold. That delicious mozzarella cheese, pan-style pizza, with onions and green peppers and meat...and no tuna, or corn, or other kind of fish the Japanese put on pizza - and ESPECIALLY no mayonnaise, uuugh like seriously, it was so great to have some "real" pizza, however unreal Pizza Hut pizza usually seems. In any case, the pizza was SPECTACULAR.

After I walked my friend home from the station, I thought to myself, though it was nearing eleven at night, "It's time for a convenience store run." Now this is a fairly normal urge for one to get while in Japan; I remember several times going to the store at night while I was in Nagoya for that late-night ice cream. Of these incidents, I now recall, however, that I was always on foot. 

Well, I think to myself, I'll be smart. Not only will I save time by not walking, but I'll also be faster than any predators lurking in the shadows! Oh-hoh! Haley, you are a smart, smart smart smart, girl. Look at you, being so smart. 

And so it was with this in mind that I smartly hopped on my bike and went to the convenience store.

The night was dark as I crossed over the train tracks, and only a few cars traveled on the road that evening. A couple of headlights flashed past, the cicadas were chirping to one another, but other than that, everything was still, quiet. It doesn't occur to me that I couldn't see the road that well, as there are some streetlights; they're just somewhat few and far between. 

I'm crossing the street, not a block away from my destination, when it happens. I'm suddenly in the air - then on the ground - and my bike is below me, my chapstick rolls past me, and upon instinct I'm already standing up again, for I've found myself in the middle of the road. A car passing slows and then  continues on its way as I'm standing, fixing my skirt, wondering what the hell just happened.

You see, ladies and gents, for an instant, as I watched the street light instead of the sidewalk, there was what you may call a barrier between me and my destination. And if I had been a little smarter that evening - because biking in the dark, that seemed so smart as it was - I would have remembered a key street difference between America and Japan.

In America, our sidewalks and curbs look like this:

And in Japan, Japan, they look like this: 

It may be a bit hard to tell from that photo, but if so, I'll explain; the curbs are raised in Japan, like a sort of barrier between the road and the sidewalk (this is a really wide sidewalk incidentally, they're usually closer to a third of this size). And where there are curbs, the barrier curves with it, so that to cross the road you have to go a little to the right, cross, and then once past the barrier on the other sidewalk you go a bit to the left and you're back on a straight path.

I, I who take the road less traveled by, indiscriminately went straight, not seeing the curb, and properly ate asphalt. And this curb, specifically, seemed to not like foreigners - coupled by its clear thirst for blood, I never stood a chance.

I also have the evidence of my wounds, or as I like to call them, battle scars. 

Unfortunately, that's not even the worst of this. As I write to you, my fellow readers, I have an ice pack on my side, where I do believe I've bruised a rib. It hurts to laugh, cough, and move - which is unfortunate because I must get up and get my charger for my computer now before continuing this post. HEREIGOHHHHGHHH. That took way longer than it should have. In any case, there's not a lot one can do for a bruised rib, except to lay low, put on an ice pack, and tough through it. It became excellent incentive to write a blogpost.

So besides being an idiot some of the time, life in Japan has been good. For example, before I ate shit while biking, earlier that day I had made a wonderful investment by...purchasing a bicycle. That's right, my brand new bike threw me off of it like a horse who hates people and can't be tamed. Bike: 1, Haley: 0. The good news is the bike is fine; the bad news is the basket...not so much. A little bent, but hopefully it can get fixed.

Anyway, before I remembered why I hate exercise, I went for a bike ride with it around Tateyama town. Here are the results.

It looked so innocent then. Little did I know...

 Please enjoy my thumb in the upper right corner. Thank you.

It was a beautiful day, to be sure. And there have been many beautiful days in Japan - and no doubt there will be many more to come! If I can manage to stay on my bike. 

Earlier this week I climbed Mt. Tate with friends from the JET Program - and let me tell you, it was stunning. It's too bad it started to rain - of course, it made the climb that much more dangerous and that much more exciting - but I had wanted to see a beautiful view from the top. Guess I'll have to go up sometime this fall and hope for better weather! Still, got some great shots on the way up, before the rain started...

If anything, the fog and rain only added a sense of mystery and wonder to it. Tateyama is a beautiful place, and I'm enjoying exploring it quite a bit.

Maybe eventually I'll talk about work and other things, but for now, this is where I'll end. 

My closing message: Beware of bikes, don't take the road less traveled by unless you know where it goes, and while being careful, find a new adventure everyday. They turn into great stories later on (even if you can't laugh at them right away due to your bruised rib).