29 March 2009
My mother-in-law just dropped by unannounced today. I open the door and she drops a 14kg (30lbs.) bag of rice at my feet! I can't believe how much rice we now have, in the apartment! It's crazy.
And then, she dropped by again, about 1-2 hours later, and gave me some frozen pork and beef! And this beef is the really nice kind, that you usually get when you eat out at a Korean barbeque, or yakiniku joint. Alllriiigghhtt. :)
28 March 2009
I wasn't tagged but I saw Lulu from her 'CherryBlossomAdventures' blog do this meme! So I thought I'd take a crack at it:
7 Things I Love -
1. Takeshi.We've been married since last May, and while I never imagined I would be married so soon in my life, I am incredibly lucky to have someone who loves me for who I am, and loves me through all the hard and frustrating times we've had so far. He's the most dedicated guy I've come to know so far. Even while we were dating, we went through some frustrating times, from me leaving MD to go to college in PA, to him leaving to go work in NYC, and finally a brand new scene, here, in Japan.
2. Family and friends.I live nowhere near any of my family members or friends from the States, so I try to keep in touch with everyone as much as I can. It's hard sometimes not having anyone here in person, if I want to talk or hang out. Some people that I have considered friends have not kept in touch with me, as I would them, so I do appreciate those friends who do. Even most of my relatives in the States do not correspond with me at all. But it's not like I've been really close with any of them, ever. So I do really appreciate anybody who takes the time to chat me up on a regular basis.
3.Having a dog as a pet.I am a dog-lover, and pretty much have always had some kind of pet around in my life. Finally not being able to be with my family's dog, back in the States, makes me realize how much I love having a dog around. A dog can become your best buddy in the world, and doesn't judge you at all. They're a great companion.
4.Art.I'm majoring in graphic design. I've been drawing and doodling since I was little. This is how I can communicate feelings, and ideas. Art allows me to daydream and create different worlds, people, animals, and places. My art is an extension of me. To create art is a need.
5.Tea.I've been drinking it since about high school. I hate sugary American tea. The tea in Japan is ridiculously awesome. I love the process of brewing tea, and tea can bring to mind so many different smells and tastes. Drinking tea makes my mind wander and relaxes me. I always love trying new flavors.
6.Foreign cuisine.I am all about trying out new food, besides the food that I've grown up with in the States. There are so many new smells, tastes, and textures to be experienced. I love Indian cuisine, Japanese cuisine, Thai cuisine, and the list goes on. I've tried things that look horrific but taste wonderful, so now I try not to judge something before I've tasted it.
7.Bubble baths.I especially like them now, since Japanese bathtubs are soooo much deeper than American bathtubs! I love the feel of the bubbles on my feet and legs, and squishing them between my toes. I like hiding in bubble baths, and of course the lovely smell in the air, depending on the scent you use! Sometimes I almost fall asleep because I'm so warm and comfy!
I talked to my dad last night online and it seems that my parents are on their way to Japan! They had to leave yesterday even though they'll finally here on the 31st, which is this next Tuesday. Hope their travel goes smoothly as possible, and hope they're not too brain-dead when they arrive! Yikes.
Yesterday I tutored Nodoka again at the Bell City mall. When I had first met with the whole family with my father-in-law, the original plan was to teach at their house, but so far I have only done it at the mall. I have one more tutoring meeting with Takeshi's fellow co-worker, Miki, at the Starbucks in the mall, this coming Monday. So far I am only being paid to tutor Nodoka; I am helping Miki to learn conversational English and whatnot for certain tests/exams that she has to pass for school. What I don't get in payment from Miki is made up in gifts she has brought me so far! The last time she came (which was our first meeting) she handed me this huge paper shopping bag, which her mum has stuffed with tons of vegetables, for me to have! We got 1 head of cabbage, 5 carrots, 1 huge daikon radish, and a cluster of some kind of leafy green vegetable which Takeshi can't even identify yet. Miki said told me last time that when we meet this coming Monday she would make me a matcha cake and bring it for me! Sometimes I'm still surprised by the gifts that Japanese people can bestow on you, to show their gratitude. It makes me feel bashful and kind of unworthy to get so much stuff!
Recently Takeshi has found more sources and references to turn to information about the visa/green card we want to obtain. He's been talking to some people he found online who have gone through the same process we are trying to go through, with getting a U.S. visa or green card while living here in Japan, before we start looking for a place to move to in the States. We have already set up a date for the initial step and acceptance of the I-130 form, at the consulate office at the embassy in Tokyo. We will have to go to Tokyo in person on the 20th of April at 2pm. So things are progressing there, even though, at this point in time, neither of us have any idea of where we will be going to in the States, since we don't know when to expect to get the visa/green card for him. We were given a little bit of good news from the people he's been speaking to, when they said the process took a lot less time when they did it through the Tokyo or Naha embassy here in Japan, instead of mailing/shipping forms back and forth to the USCIS in the States. Takeshi and I will definitely be dealing with the Tokyo embassy instead of the Naha embassy, since Naha is in Hokkaido, which is even farther away from us.
Since coming here to Japan I figured that I'd have a harder time finding clothes, shoes, etc. that would fit me, since I view Japan as "The Country of Small-Bodied Women". On average, Japanese women are teeny tiny! I've already had problems with finding tops and t-shirts that fit me, because my shoulders is wider across than the women here. Everything else with the shirt is fine but the shoulders on these things NEVER are long enough for me! Grrr. A while ago I had to buy a pair of MEN'S jeans, since my waist/hips/thighs were too big for the women's jeans. Now, trying on clothes has gotten a lot better because I've been able to lose about 5 lbs. (about 2.27 kgs.) since first arriving in Japan. Yay for me!
But just recently I had to go out and buy some new bras for myself and AGAIN found trouble. I thought that buying bras here in Japan would be way easier than pants and shoes and such, but nooooo. I went to the mall and found that Japan has a different size system for their women's bras than the U.S, does. It turns out that when I take my U.S. bra size to Japan, the bra size is bumped up to some of the biggest sizes they have! It makes me feel like I have huge boobs or something, when I actually don't. But I guess, compared to the average Japanese woman, I do have bigger boobs. Haha. So, I ended up trying on many bras that day, and each time I thought it would fit, I would have to go back and pick out a bigger size. GRRR. At the end I actually just gave up for that day and left with nothing. I stopped at a certain size, and promised myself that I'd have to come back another day and try on the rest of the bigger sizes they sold. Ugh. I hope THOSE fit. I wonder if there are any plus-size store here for women. I may just have to rely on it! When I tried on the bras, it wasn't the cup size that was too small, but the strap that goes around you to connect in the back. Now, I may STILL be pudgy on some parts of me, but that area where the bra strap is, doesn't have ANY extra pudge. I couldn't believe it! I was thinking, "What is this? Do I have a bigger rib cage than Japanese women now...?" It really, really frustrated me, and I left store, literally grumbling to myself.
"Stupid Japanese women and their tiny ribs, and tiny lungs, or whatever.....grrrrrrr."
Yes I am a crazy foreigner lady....Oh well. I'll try again sometime. I was telling TK about my unsuccessful shopping trip that day when he got home and I was saying, "Do I have loose even MORE weight before I can wear clothes in Japan, at all?!"
Anyway, to change the subject, the other day I ended up watching an episode of Oprah on Youtube. I don't watch Oprah but I saw an episode that was about puppy mills and animal shelters. Long story short, that footage made me cry! I usually am not one to get teary-eyed that easily when watching anything, but I am an animal/pet-lover and it made me so sad. I remember thinking about my own family's dog, Daisy (a Bichon Frise), who lives with a neighbor of ours in the States, and how much I still love her and miss being able to see her. I have always had a dog around so I miss having one. The episode also talked about animal shelters and how they have to euthanize so many cats and dogs all the time, because not enough people will adopt them, and there becomes no more space to house them all. Abandoned cats and dogs, that people didn't want or couldn't keep, and pets that had been abused and then rescued.
I am determined to get a Chihuahua puppy someday, and I always thought of picking one out of a pet store, but after seeing that episode, my view was changed. I am making a personal promise to myself that whatever dog(s) that I get in the future will come from a shelter. I remember my mum taking my brother and I to the SPCA in Maryland when I was younger, and walking through it, seeing all of the dogs and cats waiting for homes.
The other day I did a search on Google for 'animal shelters in Japan' and found this shelter's website:
They are called Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK), and they are located in Osaka. I don't know how long we'll be in Japan, and if I'll end up adopting a dog from a Japanese animal shelter or not, but this place looks like a wonderful place for rescued dogs and cats to be. So, like I said, my views have changed about where to get a dog from, and hopefully anyone who reads this will consider it as well. I feel that it is a great thing to choose to adopt a dog or cat in need of a loving home, who has not had the best life so far, and who may be euthanized in the future if they cannot find a hero in one of us.
23 March 2009
I finally was able to try out my new camera last Thursday, when a fellow co-worker and friend of Takeshi's, Kato-san, invited us to come to Kyoto with him. He evidently had been planning to visit some places there; Takeshi told me before we went, "Yeah, he wants to go see this museum, go to this ramen place in town, and maybe go see some plum trees." Cool. I was game. Kato-san is in his late 20s and is very soft-spoken but is laid-back. He is not as laid-back as Takeshi's other friend from work, Mayumi-san, who I think is very fun to be around - and Mayumi-san is already in his 30s. Takeshi told me that Kato-san actually knows some English but I never heard a complete sentence from him the whole day. Granted, I did not try to start up an English conversation, but I think that Kato-san is one among many, many Japanese who are studying English, or at least know some English, but are too shy to try it out on a native English-speaker.
We ended up going to an area sort of on the outskirts of the city of Kyoto, called Yamazaki. It was a beautiful day out and warm! I figured that it would be a great day for some photography. The museum we visited was called the "Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art". It is located near to a JR train station. We drove to the location and parked in a small lot on the other side of the train tracks. You have to cross over the train tracks to the other side, to actually get to the museum, which is at the top of a STEEP hill, which starts right after you cross over the tracks. Life there in that part of Yamazaki seems to move slower, at an easier pace. Right next to the small train station there is an equally small convenience store called, "The Daily Yamazaki". There, we were far away from busy, cramped streets and traffic, and people walked along the streets and stopped to talk to other passersby. This is probably a regular occurrence, since most of these people who live in that small area probably know each other.
The museum was interesting and I was pleasantly surprised with labels for items on display in English and Japanese. So I was able to get that much out of it, at least. The museum was actually someone's home (the man long since dead) and was huge, with three floors and a large outdoor, manmade garden and granite pool. Huge koi swam around lazily, and every tree and flower had begun to blossom in the warm weather. Of course the Japanese HAD to put a cafe on the second floor of this guy's house! I thought it was a little cheap. Haha. But, these are the same people who put gift shops EVERYWHERE, so I wasn't surprised that they turned a part of someone's house into a place to sell more things to visitors.
Also, we ended up visiting and taking a tour at the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery which produces whiskey, which I hear is fairly popular in Japan (and perhaps to any other whiskey drinkers). I was pretty sure, going in, that I remember not liking whiskey the last time I tried it - and when we were given a sample drink at the end of the tour, I said, "Yup...I was right. I don't like whiskey at all." And oh my GOD could you call what they gave us, a sample! I was assuming we'd get a little ketchup cup-size sample (like what you get for condiments in a fast food place), but NO, it was a whole glass of it with ice!
I felt kind of bad, handing my glass back to them at the end (they asked everyone to return their glasses upfront), when it was still pretty much ALL there. But I was damned if I was going to choose to drink that much whiskey (even if I like the drink), at about 2-3 o'clock in the afternoon! Takeshi and Kato-san thought it was hilarious when they saw all of the old men drinking the whole glass that they got! Like it was soda or something. One elderly man even went back up to the front to ask the tour-ladies for a refill! Takeshi and Kato-san were snickering at this.
Weelll....even though I hate the taste of whiskey, I can still appreciate the fine process it takes to make it, and the beautiful shades of amber of the liquid itself.
So here are some of the photos I took during the day (with my new camera!):
17 March 2009
07 March 2009
I'm still not sure how they make 'Blendy' and 'Maxim' instant coffee here, in Japan. And it's the first time I've seen people buy liquid, syrupy sugar for their drinks. I don't think it's sold in the States...hmm. We usually buy Blendy, but it's amazing how expensive all of those instant coffee brands are!
Good news for me today! I found a missing earring while I was cleaning and reassembling the bed coverings and such. よかった！
I usually don't want Japanese television too much, at least when I'm by myself during the day. I just can't understand Japanese at the regular speed! I'm able to pick up words and simple phrases, but at this point, I'd love to have subtitles. I do have some favorite shows though. Actually, what I like is anything with my favorite ”お笑い” (owarai) duo called "Downtown", which features Hitoshi Matsumoto and Masatoshi Hamada.
More info on this comedy style: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owarai
04 March 2009
Gosh, I like mochi a lot! But I actually don't eat mochi everyday. That would make me gain about 10 pounds! Oh no.
I know that it's obvious to anyone at this point, but, yay for a new look for the blog! And I included a clipped image of some of my digital art as the banner! Groovy stuff.
We woke up this morning and it was raining cats and dogs outside! Yikes. Nothing better than cold, wet weather. I still had to do the laundry today, though. Our bathroom is equipped with a special fan setting that helps you to dry laundry in there on rainy, humid days. So I lugged all of the laundry into that tiny room and hung up as much as I could on the shower curtain pole (which has never had a shower curtain on it! Aha!). But fortunately, as I type, the rain has stopped and the sun has actually come out for a bit. Yay! So....I pulled all the laundry out of the bathroom and stuck it outside for now. I'd rather save some electricity, and just let mother nature dry our clothes for us instead. :)
At about the time the rain was coming to a halt, I decided to go out to the small local bakery (my favorite bakery right now) and buy a few little bread-things for Takeshi and myself! And it IS Friday today so that means that the bakery is selling their fig bread! Yum yum. The bakery is called 'Pain de Ble' and I'm not sure what it means, but I think it's funny to say. Hehe.
And here are some of the things we've bought from the bakery:
Bread at this bakery is fairly priced, with little baked treats at an average price of ￥140 to ￥180, and the small little bread "dots" are only ￥40 a piece! Today I bought a fig bread, the mystery bread for TK, and 4 of the bread dots, and the bill only came to ￥500. So that's not bad at all! They also sell small loafs of bread as well, and maybe in the future I'll try buying one instead of buying a loaf from the grocery store.
03 March 2009
I've been reminiscing lately about how Takeshi and I got to where we are now. Things are not well right now with our current situation and environment.
Certain people who know me may have different ideas about exactly why we decided to move to Japan last May. I'd like to say that it was all planned out but it wasn't. The real reason that I agreed to move to Japan with Takeshi was because he was terribly unhappy with his situation in Lancaster, PA where we had been living before moving. I was going to college there, about to finish my BFA in graphic design up in another year or so. He was, at the time, working at a restaurant where that he couldn't stand, and Pennsylvania is not the culinary center of the country by any means. I was needing to stay in Lancaster because my degree, but we were being torn apart because he desperately wanted to move elsewhere, and he stated that he also missed his family in Japan. His parents had just recently moved back to Japan, after living in Alabama for many years. I'm sure this hit home for him, and I'm sure he was starting to miss them. The grief got so bad that at one point, one night, he seemed as though he couldn't stand it anymore. So in an effort to help him out and ease his despair I finally said, "Ok well, fine, let's move to Japan. I can finish school online there." He wanted to go, I was feeling the obligation to stay, but we couldn't imagine living apart. We were officially married through paperwork, only about 1-2 weeks after moving here. We never got to have a wedding or honeymoon. Takeshi keeps telling me that we can save up for a honeymoon one day, but right now I doubt that very much. I try to not get my hopes up. We started our marriage, right off the bat, with frustration, and with rushing to get ourselves situated in this country.
Now, we've been living here for 8 months. From my perspective, I went from being in the States where I WAS somebody, who was in school, had a car, and had a goal and a purpose in life, to being a nobody, in a country where all the natives are afraid of you, where I am still struggling to learn the language, no longer with a car, not in school again yet, and without a job.
Takeshi works long hours everyday, usually from 10:00am to 10:30pm. Right now he has Thursdays off, but it's not enough. We are staying in a small K1-sized apartment in a small city with nothing to do too much, beyond the small boundaries of the mall and shopping centers. We don't see each other at all, and now have come to the point where we can't find anything to talk about when we're together, since we're apart so much. I want to have a job again, since I am usually battling huge guilt over the fact that I can't hold a decent part-time job without knowing the language a hell of a lot better than I do now. Takeshi is the only one who can earn money right now, therefore his long work hours.
Since we have moved here, I spend every day in the apartment, trying to do whatever I can - cleaning the apartment, doing chores, making meals for Takeshi when we gets home at night from work. I do not go out that much at all, unless I need to buy food, or whatever else. I haven't talked to anybody else in person for a long time. I have no friends yet here. I sit at home and surf the web, draw, listen to music, nap, space out, study Japanese, and wait for Takeshi to come home.
Perhaps if we were in a bigger city like Tokyo, Osaka, or Nagoya, then I could find other English-speaking foreigners to talk with the do things with.
We're trying, TRYING to decided whether or not to move back to the States in the future, but when the hell will that be, if it ever happens at all? We need to get him a work visa, and therefore go to Tokyo to turn in the paperwork in person.
I'm not going to say that we made the worst possible decisions early on, but most days I really regret coming here. I love Japan for many different reasons, but I do miss having a purpose in life. I hate being an alien. I feel like my life is going nowhere, while I watch other people have fun, graduate from college, have weddings, and indulge in things that I only dream of.
I keep trying to tell myself that one day we'll have stability, a house of our own and settle down - I'll have my degree finally and have an internship or a job, Takeshi won't have to be working 6 days a week anymore. That I'll have a big group of friends to get together with - that Takeshi will have friends too.
One day we could have those things. But right now, I can't see a light at the end of the tunnel.
It may seem to other people who talk to me, that I'm pretty well emotionally, but everyday is hard for me - to not be depressed, to try to think positively. Right now, the bad days are outnumbering the good. And all I can do is try to keep my mind off the real questions, problems, and the unknown in my life. I just don't have it show too much in front of Takeshi, since he has enough to worry about already.
I guess I'll just keep dreaming about it!