Monday, February 26, 2007

I'm Alive!!

Yes, I am still alive! Thanks to the wonders of (other people's) wireless Internet accounts, I am able to type this from the comfort of my own Japanese home, rather than an Internet cafe. My husband went to one the other day and it was an adventure trying to communicate to the clerk what we wanted.

Everything is going well, no major mishaps to report. We just finished our first few days of teaching, and after a somewhat rocky training period my husband and I are doing fine. I've taught lessons about discussing pet peeves, dealing with bad neighbors, describing art, discussing the weather, asking about prices in shops, etc. etc. The students come from all walks of life and in one class I might have a junior high student, a doctor, a housewife and a farmer. All of my students have been pleasant to instruct and though my teaching skills could use some work, I like the job so far.

Our apartment is small, but nice. It is on the fifth floor and we have a decent view of the city and, when it is not too smoggy, Mt. Fuji. Actually, we have only been able to see Mt. Fuji a couple of times. Here is a view from one of our balconies.

We live much closer to Tokyo than I thought. It is only a 25 minute train ride or so, and that's with all of the stops. So from now on I'm going to claim that my husband and I live in Tokyo, rather than Iruma, because it sounds far cooler and it may as well be true. We've only explored two sections of Tokyo, Ikebukoro and Shinjuku, but both areas have everything a person could want.

I have found that many stereotypes about Japan are true and many are not. For example, yes Hello Kitty is popular. We have seen Hello Kitty hot dogs and toilet paper, but not a whole lot of clothing.

Also, Japanese women are not all tiny, dainty creatures. In fact, I have seen many women who are as tall if not taller than me, and fatter. Even my husband is not so tall here and he's just shy of six feet. I should be able to fit into some of their clothing, which is something I didn't expect to be able to do. However, I have only seen maxi pads, someone might have to ship me some tampons!

There is a lot of gross food around, and one unfortunate night my husband and I accidently ate chicken liver and fried gristle/animal tendons. We went to a restaurant near our home and my husband ordered by pointing to other people's food, which resulted in the fried horror. Everything was in Japanese and no one spoke English so it was the only thing we could do. Thankfully, we had two giant bottles of Kirin beer to wash the fat down. On another night, we went to a bar/restaurant with some people from work, including three Japanese women, and they ordered all kinds of scary food. Delightful dishes of chicken fat and chicken skin, squid guts, and sushi with raw horse meat on top found its way to our table that night.

One strange thing I noticed about some restaurants (and various other businesses) is their choice of music. My husband and I visited this small little place in Ikebukuro (the section of Tokyo nearest us), and while we were enjoying our fried rice alongside Japanese business men, a Ludicrous song came on with the charming lyrics "I got a big weed stash, pocket full of cash, just saw me a big ol ass. It's Saturday! Whooo whooo!" Some of you may know it. It was bizarre.
Getting around on the train/subway is simple enough, although we have not tried to travel too far from our apartment. One evening, we weren't paying attention and rode the train three stops too far, which would not have been a big deal if the trains back had not been shut down for the night. We had our home address with us, written in Japanese no less, but when we tried to take a cab the driver didn't understand. He dropped us off about a mile from our apartment, so we had to wander the streets of Iruma and try to find our place at one in the morning. A nice guy we found on the street pointed us in the right direction, otherwise we could have wandered for hours. That was our biggest adventure in Japan thus far.

Monday, February 12, 2007

See You on the Other Side (Of the World)

This is the last entry I'm going to post until my husband and I have arrived in Japan. Tomorrow will be a fun-filled day of planes, trains and automobiles, with nearly 24 hours of travel time. Here's the equation:

Charlotte, NC to Detroit (2 hours) + layover in Detroit (4.5 hours) + Detroit to Tokyo (13 hours) + bus/train ride to our apartment (? hours) + random waiting around at various airports and stations (? hours) = 24 hours of travel. So there you have it. I'm sure I'll be one cranky bitch by time we reach our final destination.

We've just about completed last minute details like canceling our cell phones, car insurance, making bank deposits, etc. Last night I sold my car to one of my husband's work friends for a ridiculously low sum, which means I won't be driving again for at least a year. Weird.

I still don't think I fully comprehend the magnitude of what we're about to do, but I'll have to start comprehending pretty damn soon.

Be sure to check back! Although I don't know how soon I'll be able to get online in Japan, I'm certainly going to continue this blog.

Until later..............................

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Myspace: A Place to Find Old Friends (And Why You're Not Too Old to Join)

It seems that everyday there is yet another negative news story about the phenomenally popular website known as MySpace. Whether it's a fifteen-year-old getting molested by someone he or she found on the site, or an employee getting fired for comments posted on a personal profile, MySpace affects lives in a way that most websites cannot.

Despite what the negative publicity might suggest MySpace can be an invaluable site when used sensibly. This is true for users of all ages. While many individuals in their late twenties, thirties, forties and beyond believe MySpace is nothing more than a frivolous site for high school or college students, the site can also benefit adults seeking something more.

While high school and college students might typically use MySpace to hook up with other members or post photos of the latest frat party, many older users have come to realize that MySpace is an invaluable method in tracking down long lost acquaintances. Childhood friends, college roommates, high school pals and first loves might all have MySpace profiles just waiting to be discovered.

MySpace offers many ways to search for old friends. Users can simply type a pal’s first and last name in the “Find a Friend” box and see if their friend is a member. If there are too many people with the same name he or she may narrow the search by focusing on a specific geographic area. If it’s old classmates an individual is seeking, no problem, he or she may simply use the “Classmate Finder” tool to find other users who went to the same school. There are filters to narrow the search by years of attendance or years of graduation and still others that find members by clubs, majors, Greek affiliations and more. All it takes is a little patience and a little time for a user to find a friend or family member he or she hasn’t seen or spoken to in years, and never expected hear from again.

Unlike sites like or that charge a fee to get in touch with old friends, it’s quick and easy to sign up for MySpace and best of all, it’s free. It’s free to register, free to search, free to send messages or post comments. Every feature of the site is 100% free. MySpace currently boasts approximately 50 million users, with people of all ages signing up daily. While it’s true that most members are at the lower end of the age spectrum, it’s not uncommon to find users in their forties, fifties and beyond.

So to all those people who think they are too old or too mature for MySpace, why not give it try? You might be surprised, and thrilled, at who you find.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Leaving, on a Jet Plane...Don't Know When I'll Be Back Again

At this time next week, my husband and I will be en route to our new home in the Land of the Rising Sun, otherwise known as Japan. We will not see our cats, family, friends and COUNTRY for one whole year. It's a little weird to think about. I'm used to being apart from my family and friends, since most of them still live in or near my home state of Oklahoma, but the cats and the United States is another story. Who wouldn't miss these adorable, furry faces?

Other than feeling sad about leaving my cats, I am surprisingly calm about the move. After all, people move abroad all of the time and this will undoubtedly be an experience of a lifetime. We're going to meet people from all over the globe, live thirty miles from one of the largest, hippest cities in the world and immerse ourselves in a completely foreign culture. Not bad for two hillbillies from Oklahoma and South Carolina! I'm sure we'll also get homesick and continue our trend of being ridiculously broke, but I don't believe we'll regret our decision to move. All in all, I think it's going to be great. If anything, at least we won't have to hear so much about Paris Hilton. Maybe.

I'm going to post pictures and videos galore, so if you're interested, dear readers, be sure to check back from time to time. My original intent was to remain anonymous, because of the potentially negative reaction my language school employer might have, but I'm not sure if that's going to work for me. What do you think? Should I remain anonymous or come out of the blog closet, so to speak?

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Moving On Up (the Stairs)

Farewell, Charleston!

As of last night, my husband and I are no longer residents of that quaint, Southern city. How I will miss being stuck behind a carriage full of overweight tourists when I am late for work. How I'll long for the mob scene that is the City Market in July. Farewell aggressive palmetto rose children, street performers, tolling church bells and ancient graveyards. I'm being a bit of a smart ass, but I really will miss Charleston and all of my Lowcountry homies. Who knows, maybe my husband and I will return after our Asian adventure. His current post-Japan plan is to move to the Florida Keys and search for treasure. We'll see. That's not exactly a realistic notion.

Last night my boo and I packed/flung our meager belongings into a U-Haul, and then drove the load to my in-laws' beach home in Beaufort (about an hour or so from Charleston). Today we hauled heavy boxes and furniture up two flights of stairs, three if you count the ladder leading to the attic, trying to make it look as if we are not taking over the house. I HATE moving! Fortunately, our cats haven't barfed or crapped on anything yet. I don't want them to do that until after we leave the country. The father-in-law is not so excited about acquiring two new cats. However, my mother-in-law loves animals, and will take excellent care of them. I doubt they'll want to come back with us after living with her for a year.

We have a new laptop!! I sold the desktop on Craigslist two days after listing it and we wasted no time getting to Best Buy. I could go berserk in Best Buy if I had unlimited (or any) funds. I heart electronics. Now if only we could sell our cars...

We got our entry Visas in the mail, so we're now legal to live and work in Japan!