Ni-sen…nantoka…onee-san (or; the 2 thousand …something?… older sister)

This week at school I got to meet and talk to two of the cutest roly-poly little twin sisters I have ever seen!  They are two of the new 1st graders.  I haven’t gotten the opportunity to teach first grade yet this year but they also attend the “special” class near the teachers’ room…probably because they have major A.D.D!  Their attentions spans are really short…even for 6-year-olds!  I really feel for their parents!  Hopefully they have a lot of help at home because they are quite the handful!  (^o^)

I was coming down the stairs from lunch with the 3rd graders when I first met them.  They were standing with their teachers near the teacher’s room and they were showing off for them when one of the girls saw me.  She came straight up to me and said “Dare desu ka?” (Who are you?)  I laughed because she was just too cute and told her my name.  Then she said something to her sister along the lines of “Look!  She looks like the 2 thousand (something I didn’t understand) big sister!” (Children often call older kids and teenagers “big sister” or “big brother” … technically I should be called oba-chan (auntie)).  I have no idea who they were referring too…and the other teachers were surprised and didn’t seem to understand who or why either.  Maybe it was in reference to my weight. (-_-)  Here in Japan I have to shop in the Plus-size section even though back home I wear a size 12. LOL!

Anywho!  They were completely adorable!  They dragged me around and then told be to come to the Tanpopo room with them (Dandelion Room).  I followed along and they started riding the rolling white boards around the room.  Their teacher seemed fine with it!  That was the first time I had spent recess-time indoors!

The next day as I came down from lunch with another 3rd grade class I met some teachers at the foot of the stairs.  They asked me if I could hold on for just a bit since the girls were coming with the “grandpa” (their nick-name for the school groundskeeper.)  Sure enough they rounded the corner with the “grandpa” in tow.  Then they traded off and grabbed me again and had me follow them to the special education classroom.  This time I drew some pictures for them on the whiteboards… and I got pwn’d!  At 6-years-old they are already better artists than I was at 10 or 11!  (Granted I didn’t really start drawing until junior high…) But for 6-year-olds their hand-eye coordination is awesome!  One girl’s favorite thing to draw was Doraemon. She draws him very well!

Unfortunately they only had one marker!  Which meant I had to swipe it while they weren’t looking to avert any more arguing.  This is also where their ADD came in handy because all I had to do was distract them into doing something else…not difficult at all to do with those inclined to being distracted!  Distraction is a handy tool I learned while taking care of very young children at church during Sunday School!


I’m baaaaaaack! From the land of the unliving blogs!

I have decided to move my livejournal over to wordpress.  I am liking it a lot so far.  I have a lot more freedom to change the layout to suit my needs!

So!  I have been away from my blog for a ridiculous amount of time!  I have been relying far too much on my Facebook account to keep in touch with everyone.  I miss writing my journals however!  Especially since a lot has been going on in my life…

First of all, I am still in Japan!  Geh!  I am turning into a “lifer”; someone who swears they are only going to stay for “one more year and that is IT!” …but somehow they always get roped into another, and then another, and then another…. イヤーダ!

This is my last year!  I swear it! (yeah, where have I heard that before, hmmm?)  Right now I am already anticipating my summer vacation in Montana with my family and friends.  It has already been two years since I have seen my family!  There has already been one new addition to my sister’s family and another one is on the way!  I need to see them!  Oh, and my sister and the rest of my family too.  😉

I have already begun a count down.  There are exactly 9 weeks left until I leave for home!  I can’t wait!

Reeeeeeally long time, no write!

Yeah, it has literally been months since I last wrote in my blog.  Not because nothing has been going on here…well, nothing has really been going on here.  Not since Becky was here and left back at the beginning of August.  It was a long and hectic vacation.  I thankfully had a couple weeks off after that but poor Becky had to go back to work almost immediately after she got back.  Yikes.  I was wiped!  We did many things while she was here.  Most of it I wrote in my updates on my Facebook.  First we went to hike around and up Mt. Fuji for a few days. (No, we did not hike to the top, we were ill-equipped and I was out of shape…and slightly asthmatic.  I do think living at sea level has improved that.  If I were still living in Butte I would have been coughing my guts out…literally.)  After that it was back up to Oyama to meet up with one of my coworkers from OyaHigashi elementary.  She and her husband brought us, and a couple of foreign exchange students, up to Nikko.  Tochigi Prefectures claim to historical fame.

(Mis)adventures in Vacationing

Long time no write!

Ahhhh.  The unrelentant cries of the cicadas, the pools of melted children scattered around the classroom. Humidity so thick you could cut through it with a butter knife…..yep.  夏だ.  It is summer.  I hate summers in Japan.  The temperature really isn’t that hot…yet. (Around the upper 80s lower 90s?)  But just wait until mid-August around Obon.  Now that is hot!  I do live further up north now, which is a tiny bit cooler…but the humidity still gets to me.  Seriously, I NEVER sweat so much when I lived in Washington, Idaho or Montana.  Sure I could work up a sweat if I was working out or playing sports in the sun…but not so much that it was dripping like a waterfall down my face!  The part I hate the most is how my clothing sticks and clings now.  Even my jeans!  Yuck!    I see now why many Japanese moms are obsessed with doing laundry every day!  I too have started to do my laundry a lot more frequently!  I can’t wait to be back home next year for the nice cool mountain summers.  I will never complain about the heat there again!  At least it gets blessedly cool at night and the air is dry!

I am eagerly awaiting the end of the first term of school here.  Only 2 more days for me!  On the third day I am traveling with some friends to go to an amusement park in Tokyo somewhere to have some fun before the students are released.  Roller coasters here I come.  Heat or no heat!  Then on Monday we will all go to the theater in either Sano or Utsunomiya to watch Harry Potter VI! (The stoooooopid Harvest Walk Cinema here in Oyama does not offer a showing with English audio so we have to go out of town.  Jerks!)  Heh heh heh.  If we go to the theater in Sano maybe we can get some shopping done at the Premium Outlets next door.  No!  Bad Meesa.  You are saving money for summer vacation travel and home.  But, they have lots of shiny toys!   だめ! チェ!  (>_<#)  And so go the little voices in my head. 

Today was my work evaluation.  It actually went pretty well even though I felt like I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  Of course they chose one of the wildest classes in the school to observe.  (not a bad class, just very high energy (read: noisy)).  I thought the entire time that I was going to be marked off because the students were not always paying attention and I only could control them so much.  … but miraculously they really liked it and the principal and teachers praised me as being the best English teacher they have had in a while.  … you guys are talking about the same person, right?  (personally I think classes go so well for me because I would rather play with the kids during recess than be considered a teacher.  … but I also think the classes suck for that very same reason.) 


Oh yeah.  To those on Facebook this is old news…but I bought a violin.  I have a grand total of 4 fiddle songs in my repertoire.   Hopefully I can find a good teacher (and the time), to help me study in more detail.  Right now I suck. 

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned… (a rant, be fore-warned)

Why do people rely so much on their cell phones to communicate with each other when they live in the same building?  Whatever happened to just stopping by and knocking on the door?  (-_-;) (especially when you know they are home…)

I never hear my cellphone unfortunately, it is always muffled inside my purse…I rarely get calls anyway so I am not really paying too much attention to my purse other than to curse it for mysteriously swallowing my cellphone into a hidden black-hole on the rare occasion that I do hear it ringing


My current situation makes me miss my college days.  I miss my friends from then too.  (Thank goodness Becky is coming during the break.) Some people might think that living with 5 other girls in a small little apartment might be…cramped… but I loved it.  I liked the community feel to it.  There was always someone interested in making a taco or Wal-Mart run.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love having my privacy.  But I am also a pretty social creature.  I also like having my family around.  (I know, strange, most people want to escape their parents but I am one of those weirdos who actually wants to live within a day’s driving distance at most.) Currently, though, I often go a week at a time (or more) without really talking to anyone outside of work.  (In that vein I am working hard on my Japanese studies…but it will be a long time before I am up to long conversations.)   Not exactly my idea of a great time.

Oddly enough I am not really terribly home-sick, though.  I do manage to call home every week. (anyone who makes me miss my scheduled time had better pray that their hiding spot is secure enough to save them from my wrath…)  but other than that I guess I am fairly adaptable.  I just keep reminding myself that I only have so many months left to my contract and that I only have to put up with this tedious c**p until then.  I’m not bitter…not at all!   0:-) 

Thankfully I love the kids I teach at school.  I actually look forward to going to school on most days.   There are always little people who are happy to see me!  It is a great boost to my ego.  (not that it needs much boosting…heh heh (^_~;) )  I love playing with the kids on the playground during recess.  I look forward to recess just about as much as the kids do! I really am still just a big kid at times!  (at times?  Ok, always!)  Lately I have been playing with the boys during Baseball club.  It is flattering that they actually think I can hit the ball all the way to the pool.  Silly kids.  I have never been able to it the ball into the outfield in my life.  I made up for it when I was younger by being a fairly fast sprinter.  …  I can’t do that anymore…and I am getting shin splints.  Ow.  I so need to get into shape… (but I will probably keep saying that for the rest of my life…sob.)

Earlier this week I was talking with some of the second graders and was shocked to discover that I was actually as old or older than many of their mothers.  Dude!  I am only 27.  Crazy!

On School and Life

It has been a long time since I last updated.  I guess I have been feeling a bit drained after school lately.  The humidity is rising…and while it isn’t really hot yet, thankfully, the humidity is still oppressive.  I find it amazing that I can become drenched in sweat just by standing still.  Maybe it isn’t sweat.  Maybe the air is just condensing…  ha!

I made a couple of "friends" at work these past two weeks.  One of the teachers who comes in to teach art has invited me to go to the Aqua Museum in Ibaraki Prefecture tomorrow.  She doesn’t speak much English and I don’t speak much Japanese…this should be interesting!  She is also the teacher who introduced me to another lady who comes in to help one boy who moved to Japan some time ago and is still wrestling with the language.  She also happens to speak English rather well…and now they want to interview me for a city newsletter…thing.  I have no idea why.  I am rather bemused by the whole thing actually.  This Wednesday the head of the English department at the Board of Education even gave me a copy of the information about the interview.  It listed the date, time, who was being interviewed, who was interviewing…it was basically a grandiose permission slip that had collected no less than 5 hankos (personal stamps inscribed with the owners name).  It boggles my mind.  Why must they make everything so complicated.  Did my being interviewed really need to be approved by 5 different people With the head of the English dept and my school’s principal among them?!  No pressure Marisa!

And apparently the common consensus is that I am aged anywhere from 19 to 23 years old.  Seriously, I thought I had aged a lot more than that!  Although I have commented that I do feel that I stopped at 23 years of age, before.  (^_^)  Even my students think I am younger than I am.  (>_<;)  Man, when I was a kid anyone over the age of 17 was just a "grown-up" of indeterminable age to me.  And generally they say that Japanese people tend to appear younger than Westerners.  No matter how long I am at a job I always look like a greenie!  むかつく!

On a bizarre note… a 2nd grader at my school decided to sit her small little desk next to mine in the staff room.  For some reason she doesn’t go to classes with the others very often.  (that is not really the bizarre part…)  We had fun drawing and playing and writing for the first three periods where I didn’t have any classes.  (Now here is where the odd part comes in…) After lunch this same girl and her older sister drag me outside where we meet up with the head teacher who hands out a couple of fishing nets then we head out to the pond near the students’ rice paddy (yes, and honest to goodness rice paddy), where we are instructed to capture as many tadpoles as possible.  This is basically how my part of the conversation went (translated into English.)

Yes!  I caught it….Now what do I do with it?….but won’t that kill it?…ah, I see.  That is the idea…

I felt a bit bad about turning the froglets out onto dry land.  I don’t really have anything against frogs.  Some are even kind of cute.  But apparently these ones are a blight that need to be managed.

I’m Allergic to Japan – or, a rant on air pollution

Right about now I really wish I could be back home.  It is already warming up to the 80s here…which isn’t so bad… so far…well, at least it isn’t humid yet.  But it is already a lot warmer this year than it was last year at this time of year.  It does not bode well for the upcoming summer.  Blech!

I have also come to the conclusion that I am allergic to Japan.  Well, to be more specific, I am allergic to whatever junk it is that they are currently releasing into the atmosphere.  For the past couple of days the skies have been cloudless and brown.  And they can’t blame it on the Yellow Dust from China this time either…I already checked out the monitors on that and they haven’t shown anything flying over for a long time now. 

It all started out a few days ago.  My lungs started to burn.  The kind of burn I get after exerting myself too much in the cold, dry , oxygen-poor air in Butte, Montana.  See, I have a fairly mild case of asthma that usually only affects me during aerobic exercise or if I breathe in some sort of strong chemical that my lungs don’t like (oven cleaner for one)  or if I am around second-hand smoke.  So I naturally avoid those triggers and I don’t normally get attacks when I am at home chilling out in front of the computer. 

At the time I had no clue what was bringing it on…until I went outside to make a grocery run.  It was about an hour till sunset and already the sun was blood red.  That was my "A-ha!" moment.  I thought, "Well, that explains it."  But the air quality hasn’t gotten any better in recent days.  If anything it has only gotten worse.  I went out today for another grocery run…and to get some sort of medicinal relief…and the scent of smoke was much stronger and the horizon was a putrid brown.

Now, in recent years in Montana there have been several large forest fires.  And Butte seems to have this natural cauldron effect that traps the smoke from those fires.  I remember several days where visibility was severely limited, I couldn’t see uptown from where I lived down on the flats, and some people were walking around with masks on.  But that smoke didn’t effect me nearly as much as this smoke does.  I have no idea what it is they are burning but I am not the only one who is feeling the burn in their lungs.  I see a heck of a lot more masks now.  Of course, that could just be because of all the many allergens floating around in the air since it is spring…or because of a combination. 

I wish I could sue somebody over this air pollution!  Wait, somebody already has…they sued the local auto industries for the emissions pollution in Tokyo because they claimed it is what caused their asthma.  I think they really should have sued all the farmers too.  As soon as they harvest they burn their fields…and they are always harvesting something.  My first year here was the worst…I lived out in the country then.  It was especially bad when they were burning the rice husks.  And my horticultural friend from college pointed out that when they burn their fields it is really only benefiting their neighbors.  I mean, come on, where do you think the wind is carrying all that nutrient-rich ash? 

So here I am, sitting at home hacking my bronchial tubes out and breathing fire while I rant about the miserable air quality in Japan when I should be out enjoying my Golden Week holidays.  And that is what it all comes down to.  I want to sue because they are ruining my vacation time!  Grrr!  And since it is a national holiday break a lot of doctor offices are closed…so I am stuck with over the counter relief.  … not that Japanese medicine is very strong to begin with…

I am so ready to come home.  One month down…only eleven more to go.