Thursday, May 19, 2011

I want it NOW!

I was witness to an interesting event this week. A student in the junior high refused to get out of his mother`s car to go to school. She and a group of teachers stood outside the car and appeared to strategize on how to extract the kid - acting as though the jaws of death couldn`t pry that adolescent from the grips of his seatbelt. Like the same feeling I have about petting the dog down the street - I`m fairly certain I`d pull back a bloody stump if I ever tried to pet the poorly socialized little feller. This kid is 13 years old and quite intelligent (he rocks at English), but obviously used to getting his way. When I asked others about it, they shook their heads and immediately claimed that it was a mental problem. After discussing it with another foreign friend, she astutely labeled it "a brat problem." So often, bad behavior is excused as a mental issue here. You live, you learn. When I was younger, there was never a question of whether or not I was going to school. I am convinced that my mother would have pulled me kicking and screaming from the vehicle, letting me land on the sidewalk and drive ahead to work. There were two litmus tests - have you thrown up? Or do you have a fever? No? Get your backpack. Sometimes (stress on sometimes) horrible colds and the flu were negotiable. Not that my mother is a cold human being or intent on opening the pandora`s box of runny noses - she is just not a push-over. I feel like 13 years old is a little ridiculous to be throwing a tantrum and being able to walk all over your parents - that should be reserved for younger ages, when you are well-prepared to throw yourself on the floor of the grocery store and scream for strawberry Twizzlers. You know, the worthy causes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ah-ha! Moment

It has been a slow start to the school year thus far. Between the sweat and the occasional four-hour long work party, it has yet to pick up the pace. When I am not at school, I can usually be found sitting on the floor of my apartment, watching enough episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians to deplete my brain power by half or going to the gym and making the men very uncomfortable. When I was there on Saturday, I checked the log you have to sign in to when you begin. A guy had only been there ten minutes when I got there and he left shortly after. I am super selfish though in the gym and love having the machines to myself. Especially the treadmill, which is quickly becoming my favorite now that I have figured out how to turn it on.

I went running yesterday morning really early and as I slowed down for my cooldown walk and was breathing like a pug with blocked nasal cavities, an old man was walking to his field to look at his crops. He stopped me and asked me two specific questions. How old are you? Do you run here everyday? It took me a moment to respond - partially because I had to catch my breath and also because I was shocked. I understood what he was asking. I had a glorious moment in time where I understood everything a person was asking me in Japanese and responded in kind. My Oprah ah-ha moment. It took me a moment to respond because of the breathing and the shock, but also because, always the morbid skeptic, my initial thought was "Why do you want to know? Are you going to be hiding in that brush pile with a knife?"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It`s the Gosh Darn Humidity

Let me start by saying that yes, I did just reference Da Turdy Point Buck. I like to keep it classy. If you didn`t have the privilege of growing up in the upper midwest or being there during deer hunting season, this special song can be heard on the radio about once an hour. Thankfully, the point to which I refer is within the first 15 seconds.

The humidity has officially slammed into Japan. At least, on my island it has. Apparently it is worse here than on the mainland because it`s an island - i.e. it`s surrounded by water. On Sunday, when I had to work, I was walking to work and suddenly realized how much sweat I was producing. And so it begins. Walking to work and the rest of my co-workers driving -> me showing up dripping in sweat and having to change my shirt before school starts and them, foreheads dry, asking me if I`m okay. "No, I`m not having a heart attack. Thank you for the concern." My apartment has constant moisture in the air so I am looking into getting a dehumidifier to fight the damp. I will have to check out the place my sister refers to as Ojika`s Best Buy. You`d have to see the place to see how ridiculous that reference is.

I was teaching my sixth grade students yesterday and I turned to write some numbers on the board and they all went "WOW! SUGOI!" Sugoi means like "amazing!" or to express amazement. It didn`t take me long to realize they were talking about my sweat-covered back. I sweat through two layers. What!? I can`t help it! Later in the day, I walked to the gym to work out and my umbrella was pretty flimsy and turned itself inside out a few times with all the wind. After I was finished, I walked home drenched from my workout and the air was misty from the rain. I was checking out with my items and the owner of the shop said "don`t you have an umbrella?!" I wasn`t about to tell her "oh no, that`s just sweat," so I just told her my umbrella was super small.

My co-worker says they are predicting a hotter, stickier summer for Japan this year in comparison with the last. I`m going to need to save my yen to hire a personal attendant to fan me all day long.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I'm not ASKING you who's on second!

I am in Osaka right now, taking in some sightseeing during Golden Week. Golden Week in Japan is when there are three consecutive holidays in the middle of a week so you can pretty much call the entire week a bust in regard to work. So I took advantage of the opportunity to come to Osaka. So far, I have gone to the Osaka Aquarium, rode the giant ferris wheel and visited Osaka Castle. The Aquarium was okay but super crowded with too many small children. Note to fellow travelers - don't go during GW. Also, while they had the expected fish, sharks and dolphins, it was still kind of depressing seeing their captivity. If you have seen The Cove, you will know what I am talking about. It made me question where those dolphins came from. I still think that Cape Town had the nicest aquarium I have ever been to - barring my dislike for animal captivity. It was impossible to enjoy it when you are trying not to get elbowed. They even spaced out the tourists so that the traffic would flow better but that didn't seem to help much. And parents, note to you: do not put your child up on your shoulders so they can see better!!! You are cutting off the views of the people behind you! When you have that mob mentality, it's survival of the fittest tourism and I prefer the laid back version.

The ferris wheel was fine and did everything it promised to do - that is, turn in a big circle and allow for a few photo ops. And then I headed to the castle, which is pretty but would probably be even more amazing during cherry blossom season, which just passed a few weeks ago.

I saw a Subway for lunch and became super excited for a healthy American-style lunch. I was in for a rude awakening. I ordered the #3 sandwich - a chicken and cheese 6 in. sub with the works on it. It was when I was about to pay, I realized that they had prepared three sandwiches for me! And the resulting conversation was like a bi-lingual version of Abbot and Costello's Who's on First?

Me: Sorry! Just one sandwich.
Sandwich Artist: You wanted three?
Me: No, I wanted one #3.
Sandwich Artist: So, you wanted three.
Me: No, I wanted one.
Sandwich Artist: One?
Me: Yes, I wanted one #3, the chicken and cheese.
Sandwich Artist: You want three?
Me: No, I want one.
Sandwich Artist: One?
Me: (Giving up on life) One.

I am sure that they thought I was an idiot. It is apparent that Japanese Subway shops do not pay attention to the numbers of sandwiches like its American brethren. But then again, why would they think I want three sandwiches? And why do they put a cheese paste on their subs rather than the real deal? So many unanswered questions.