Sunday, March 30, 2008

Phase Three: Acceptance

I've been here a little over six months, so I think I'm right on schedule. First, there was the "euphoric phase," where everything in Japan was new and exciting and I was impressed with myself for taking the train.

Then there was a slump, or "disenchanted phase." This could have easily been confused with my general outlook on life, dim, depressing, annoying, not worth the time... but if we subscribe to the phase theory (which we do even though Ive never read about it, only heard about it from a girl at a party in Montreal), most of my unhappiness was with Japan and it was to be expected.

I think I probably got jipped out of a few weeks of "euphoria" after my company went bankrupt and every night was a drunken bitchfest followed by days of hungover boredom. With no money.

It could be a temporary manic state, but if it's not, I think Ive plateaued into a stage of loving and hating Japan simultaneously. Im used to it. A lot of it still sucks, but Im over not having tacos or cheap produce. There are a lot of good things about my situation here. I have my own apartment, I dont drive, I go out a lot, my job is easy and entertaining, I have peach popsicles with gooey insides...

The society is wicked bizarre and interesting, too. It's so unlike anything Im used to. Although Im not in the group, watching the way the society works as a whole being is amazing. Accepting yourself as forever an outsider is key.

I think what helped get me to look at the bright side with no regard to my poor retinas was the offer I had to go back home. It was like a "get out of jail free" card. I could have left here, no questions asked, to start a new life in America doing something I would have probably really enjoyed. But I stayed here and I dont regret it.

Thursday I had another Japanese lesson. I learned how to say "This is my book."

Who's blog is this?
Kono blog wa dare no desu ka?

This is my blog.
Kore wa watashi no blog desu.

And check out that photo of my homework. I can read and circle the answer!

Off the subject (I dont feel like starting a new blog post), last week Lauren sent me all my Simpsons DVDs. I watched the episode where Homer quits drinking beer for a month and thought to myself hmm, if Homer can do it... I think it's a Japan thing, but I feel there is always an occasion to go out drinking. And with me, there's always an occasion to stay home and drink, too. And drinking usually involves nomihodai [のみほだい] and after hours trips to the yatai. Too much.

Maybe it's just the hangover talking, but Im afraid I may marry some random Japanese dude one night. Last night I came very close. In Japan, I have the perfect pick-up line, "O-namae wa?" [おなまえは] or What's your name? That would never fly back home. I'd also like to quit drinking for a month to see the kind of results Homer got. He saved money, got in shape, and was less depressed.

And I wanna blog and bitch about it.

So it's settled. I'll quit drinking for a month April 1st! While Liz is here (a true test of strength). I can be that guy, you know, that guy. The guy who sits at a bar drinking Giner Ale and claiming he's having a good time. I'm so him.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Doctor Robotto

As if my life didnt suck enough lately, yesterday I woke up totally sick. I couldnt stay awake more than 10 minutes at a time and I had a fever and a sore throat and murderous thoughts. Luckily I had today off, so I went into work to find out how one would treat these symptoms in a country like Japan. My boss than handed me a map to a clinic.

Nothing like a long bike ride on a warm day when you cant breath or swallow your spit.

Despite the map I made it to the clinic. I took off my shoes, and hesitantly put on the communal slippers. I wondered How many people a year come here for foot infections? Foot infections caught by all these fucking communal slippers?

I went up to the desk, without appointment or translation book, and did that thing where I just stare blankly with my big blue gaijin eyes until they figure out what I want.

I filled out a short survey with questions that included, "Have you ever fainted during treatment?" and "Are you married?" I guess in Japan you cant perform an operation on a woman without the consent of her husband. Maybe that'll help explain the nurses uniforms; little pink paper hats with matching smocks.

It only took about three minutes before they got me in to see the doctor. Three minutes! I thought with crazy national health care I'd be standing in a line out the door, next to the place where you pick up your sugar voucher. Maybe America lies to me. I was pretty happy to see a doctor, actually. Just because I probably havent been to one in over two years.

So the pink nurse guided me into the doctors office. I sat on a stool next to his desk and he asked if I speak Japanese. I managed to get a "no" out. Then he stuck a piece of metal and a flashlight in my mouth for less than a second and went on to explain for five minutes what tonsils were, and that mine were swollen and infected. Then the nurse took my temperature under my armpit (which was a little sweaty, with the fever and the biking). I noticed that even though Japan loves over wrapping your food products, there are some things they dont think to wrap. Including thermometers and those metal things they stick in your mouth. No plastic sleeves! Weird.

Then he wrote out a bunch of prescriptions and told me "that's all." So I went back to the waiting room, not really sure what I was waiting for. They didnt take my vitals or any of those formalities they do in the U.S. He didnt listen to my heartbeat or breathing, either.

BUT! It only cost me 1000 yen! That was pretty sweet. After I paid the nurse walked me to the pharmacy next door. I knew where it was, but you know, I dont speak Japanese so maybe Im an idiot.

I filled out the same questionnaire at the pharmacy, about my marital status and fainting spells. And I gave my little note to them. I waited for like four minutes this time, then the pharmacist came and tapped me on the shoulder (without actually touching me, somehow). She was small and spoke really quietly. First she whispered, "I am sorry for the wait." Then she began placing envelopes on the counter. There were five of them. She started taking out the contents and explaining when I should take them and why. I had no idea what she was saying, but she was so shy and scared I couldnt bare to interrupt and ask questions. I just paid the 950 yen (score!) and took my bag of drugs home.

As strange as this all sounds, Ive never received this kind of service at these prices at home. The few times I had health insurance when I was a kid the doctors pretty much did the same thing but with more touching. And I like the less touching.

So now I have all these powders and pills that I kinda know what to do with. Hopefully they work, because I have to go to work tomorrow, and calling out sick just means Ill be doubling my work the rest of the week, so I'll go in. I just wont be able to talk or pay attention or keep my eyes open or look presentable. Anyone who knows me knows this is so unlike me, Im the master of sick days. Japan is really teaching me life lessons! Like avoid doing things that'll stick you with tonsil infections!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Glug Glug

Despite what my mother says, I am not an alcoholic. I do, however, like to spend countless hours teaching Japanese people (of all ages) how to mix cocktails. Most the time I dont know what Im talking about, or how to spell it, but no one has complained about their "White Russian" homework.

I realize the amounts on the W.R. are a bit off, but it was a class of middle-aged housewives, so I let them have a little extra cream.

Oh, and besides the bad spelling, check out my disregard for capitalization rules. You all are just lucky Im not teaching you anything.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rock Bottom

I really put myself out there on this blog. And Im going to continue that trend and be honest. A few nights ago I rented "Music & Lyrics" from Tsutaya. It's a horrible movie starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. I knew it would be bad, but I few choices. Id rented every single English DVD in Japan.

I had never even heard of "M&L" until I came here and started compulsively renting shit movies. As the films I watched got worse the previews before them did too. I kept seeing the ad and telling myself you're not renting it, it will be like this awful commercial but longer. But it was even worse than I could've imagined. Im so totally offended by how bad it was, and I wasnt even watching it most the time, I was playing Scrabulous on Facebook.

What I did watch made me sad for Hugh Grant, but also sad for myself for feeling sad for Hugh Grant. He's old and not funny or charming. And that movie looked like it took all of 15 minutes to write. Besides there being no plot, no one falls in love with a guy that much tanner then they are. That's just retarded.

And Happy Birthday Alex! You dont read this, but if you did you'd think Im an awesome sister!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy Sainto Patarikuzu Day

I have all this Irish blood in me (maybe I'm like 15% Irish--I dont really know, Ive never had my genetic makeup tested), but Ive never felt like celebrating Saint Patrick's Day before I came to Japan.

So on Saturday I paid 1000 yen to hear Sagi from Iwakuni play "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes. Id never heard bagpipes before in my life. I dont think experiencing them played indoors by a Japanese self-proclaimed beginner was the best idea.

We went to the local Irish Pub (we actually always go there, this holiday is just a happy coincidence) and Guiness was only 500 yen so that was fantastic. I dont really have anything else to write about this night, but I need a few more lines so my photos are properly formatted on this post. If I didnt write this much they'd all be shoved together at the top and I wouldnt be able to go to sleep knowing how unattractive my blog has become. No one reads this shit anyway.

Oh and I dont smoke. *cough* I was just holding it for the cameraman. *cough*

Tomorrow I have my first Japanese lesson with my new teacher. It's at 10AM. That will be painful.

And Liz is coming in like a week and a half! Squeeeeel!

Dustin, Me, Ashley, Nick

Reckless Boredom

Welcome to Tokuyama.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Say "Ahh"

Sometimes depression hits you like a ton of bricks. Or, a pound of bacon? It hits you like a tube of Pringles. And like a bottle of Grapefruit Fanta with a bottle of vodka. And then everything is painful. Being awake becomes very painful.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Convenient Zen

Ok, this was taken yesterday. And obviously not by me. But, it was my camera. So here's your photo of the day!

I'm waiting outside 7-11. That's what we do here.

In unrelated self-kudoracity, today at work I was Google Imaging "springtime illustration" with my boss, so I could steal some images for a sign we were making. On page 10 my "I Ruin Everything" comic showed up. Me, in my bra, angry at the world. Dont know what that has to do with springtime, but needless to say I didnt click it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fleeting Moments of Intense Joy

Usually caused by a surge of caffeine, alcohol, or sugar.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Domo Arigato Mr. Robotto

I requested it but they stuck to their set. This is a band who's name I dont know, at People's in Tokuyama.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Im Like a Real Person Now

If there's one thing Ive learned from living in a country where nothing is edible-- it's how to cook for myself. Like, real cooking. Before I came here I would have never biked in the rain to the grocery store at 9:30PM, bought ingredients like ginger and pumpkin, and brought them home to accompany my soaking garbanzo beans in what would soon become a delicious curry. I would have never spent over an hour boiling and sautéing food that would be eaten only by me, while sitting on the floor in front of the television.

I would have gone to Taco Bell after work. It's open late.

And, this isnt even the first time ive done this; it happens three or four times a week!

Oh, and to just pile on how super productive today has been, I also learned how to say "I like Japanese" in Japanese!

Watashi wa Nihongo ga suki desu.

This almost makes up for Monday, when I stayed in bed until 4 eating chocolate and talking to Owl Skunk.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


I cant use 'em. I thought I almost had it today, having taken some advice from Ashley about both pulling down and pulling up my pants, but no. Pee splashed on my shoe. It was gross. Im not proud. I just dont fucking understand the things. How to I get my urine to shoot down, not get on my pants, not splash on my shoe, while holding my pants up and down, and reaching for toilet paper? What am I missing? Because Im sick of taking off my pants and underthings, folding them neatly, and balancing them on my head every time I have to take a leak.

(I like the surprise factor with toilets here. Sometimes there's a heated seat, sometimes there's a hole in the ground.)

Reason Number Seven

That Ill never get married (or have friends).

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

On the Floor

New Best Blog Friend

Im not one to have internet friends (HA!), but when I came into work today* and saw a package tumbling out of my mailbox I knew I made a brand new BBFFL (I just coined that acronym). At first I had no clue who the name on the return address was (everyone but me uses pseudonyms), but when I ripped through the box I was shocked and delighted! I knew exactly who sent me the most extensive stash of voyeur porn ever!

Just kidding.

Inside the box was a stack of discs with This American Life podcasts burnt on! And strawberry marshmallows! And other snacks this horrible country will never sell (at least in that kind of quantity)!

For those of you not paying attention, my reason for needing free podcasts shipped to me is that Im stealing some slow wi-fi here, so I cant download jack (even my beloved voyeur porn).

This post is to formally thank LSL (who also sent me a bunch of books during the Japan Book Drive. Now, I know some of you are saying, Jeannette, I send you stuff, too. Where's my link? Obviously, you're not sending me enough. But seriously, I am totally grateful for everything everyone has sent me (btw, so far Lauren is winning, if we're counting packages), but the stuff from LSL is a bit more surprising because I only started reading her blog like a week ago (err--I told you, shoddy connection).

Everyone is too nice to me. Not just in Blogland, but in real life as well. And the saddest part is I cant repay anyone back, it's not because I dont want to, it's because in my selfish mind I will never have a concept of what you need or want. It's true, ask Lauren.

*I didnt not give you my home address. I have a sign on my door telling Mr. JP that if Im not home he should redirect any packages to my school across the street.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Severed Tongues

Japan has the best $7 strawberries Ive ever tasted.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Eating Out

I feel like this is my last year. And that feeling is worse then if it were true.

Where's Waldo in the Mall?

My photo of the day, taken at You Me Town in Hofu. Im sure about the rules to this game of mine, but since I didnt get home last night in time to post a photo I'll probably put up two today. But, for the record, this is Saturday's.

Oh, and the really close runner up, taken at Ell's---

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Are you with us?

edamame dangler

Um, because Ive gotten in a few more naps and cups of coffee since my last post, let me explain what I meant a bit. Im going to [attempt to] post a new photo of Japan everyday. Hold your applause, let me finish. There are three [conscious] reasons for this:

1. I havent been carrying my camera around much lately.
2. To balance out my negative stories about this god-awful place.
3. To have something to blog about!

You can see the runners up on my Flickr page (a plethora of macro zoomed meals).