Tales From A Broad

My year of teaching English in Japan is up. Next mission: backpack Asia before going home to the U.S.A. Currently HOME!

I went to hell & all I got was this lousy t-shirt: the 8 Hells in Beppu

Thursday, September 29

After Fukouka, we went to this town called Beppu. The whole place is built on a volcano, Mt. Aso. They're so much geothermal activity going on that there is steam rising EVERYWHERE: cracks in the sidewalks, gutters, chimneys..everywhere. Steam is so abundant that people literally set up stands, put baskets of eggs on the sidewalks, and come out with hard-boiled eggs in no time. BTW, I had the plumpest and juicest corn on the cob by this method....ooiiiishiii (yummy in Japanese)!!!! There are 8 areas around town that have hot springs with boiling hot water, hence the name, "The 8 Hells." One of them has red water, tinted because of the clay. Another one is named "Shaven Head Hell" because bubbles of hot, gray mud boil to the top, looking like the shaven heads of monks.

Since Beppu is known for its hot springs, onsens, there are some where people can actually dip in and relax. Basically, it's a glorified way of taking a bath. OK, the catch is, you have to get buck ass naked in front of complete strangers. I was walking around with my delicates all over the place, trying not to be bashful, but it was pretty hard not to laugh! hahah I get enough stares being a foreigner, let alone the fact that I was scrubbing myself--naked--on a stool the size of a bike tire. So, we tried some sand baths, mud baths, steam rooms, pebble baths, outdoor baths, etc. The outdoor bath was prtty cool b/c you're basically in this enclosed outside area with waterfalls and trees. One of the places we visited was up in the mountains, so you had to take this long pathway to finally get to the mud bath. Evidently, Mother Theresa went there before she died. They had tons of pics of her stay hanging on the walls. Needless to say, going to an onsen is a must when it comes to having an authentic Japanese experience. The whole process from start to finish--taking a shower BEFORE getting in the onsen, washing your hair, body, shaving, etc; slowly pouring small amounts of the ridiculously hot water over your body, then dipping into the onsens, remaining as still as possible, then cleaning up afterwards--is a methodic and sacred process.

Of course, we couldn't leave Beppu without checking out the sex museum...that's our motto: "Sex museums 'til death." Even in sex, the Japanese are overly poilte and inhibited. Not only do they scramble their porn, but they also scrambled the glass covering the paintings conveying tantric positions. This resulted in Anh, Hannah and I simply stretching--spraining really-- our necks to look at the goods. Oh, that Lord Adinath was quite the devil... This museum wasn't as impressive as the sites in Amsterdam, but it did boast an over-sized wooden penis. I couldn't help but reminisce of the "Ambigously Gay Duo" sketch on Saturday Night Live--the museaum was only missing the ass-shaped cave.

Other notable mentions at the sex museum:
1) Those claw vending machines that could grab anything from porn videos to vibrators
2) A room dedicated to the Prince walking in on Snow White having an orgy with the 7 Dwarves (leave it to the Japanese to find Disney remotely sexy)

'Nuff said...

Fukuoka is my fave

Monday, September 26

I went to Fukouka on Friday night with a few of the 'Guch crew to check out the scene. Aside from Hiroshima, it's the nearest major city to me. I fell in love with the city instantly (more so than any other I've been to here). There wasn't a piece of trash anywhere and, fully equipped with cobblestones and a water fountain clock, even the subways were immaculate. Fukouka screams Japan without overdoing it. There are the bright lights without the tackiness. The cool hipsters without the cutesiness that infamously plagues J-culture. The art deco dotting the streets without the hippie-wannabes.

Hannah, Jeannette, Paul, Pete, Marina, Jason, Sunny and I checked out the infamous “Happy Cock (not as gay as it sounds)” for some good 'ol clubbing action. The poor Japanese try so hard to dance, but they end up looking like those games at Chuck E. Cheese's where you have to hit the weasels with a cushion mallet when they come out of their hole: one pops up here, and BAM, they've clumsily bumped into the next hopeless dancer; another bobs up for air there, and BAM, they've spilt their drink. But the most pathetic attempt was a middle-aged woman, well passed her prime, gyrating her Black Wranglers and mesh black top (think Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation) to the Black Eyed Peas. Bless their hearts.

We were supposed to check into a capsule hotel that night, but considering the fact that it was 5 in the morning and we had a bus to catch at 8, we decided to nix the plans and raid Lawson's, the nearest convenient store. As you can see, Pete and I didn't last as long as the others. What was supposed to be a military style power nap, back-to-back, ended up being a hibernation session on a park bench. I can't wait to go back to Fukouka.

Frusteration at its finest

Thursday, September 22

Being far away from the States during Hurricane Katrina has shifted my perception. I have an opportunity to spread the word about what it’s like to be American to an area that would otherwise be clueless. To show them that there’s a lot more to our culture then McDonald’s and Hollywood movies. For the past month, my co-workers have been asking me all kinds of questions about the hurricane. Of course, the J-news has covered it, but not as extensively or with as many graphic images then American news has.

I decided to give a presentation about the hurricane. I showed the students pictures. Told them about how people evacuate before the storm, or at least try to evacuate. Explained how families are dispersed throughout the south, if they survived at all. There was absolute dead silence. They were hooked. It was then that I decided to collect donations to send to the Red Cross in the States. The vice principal told me that he’d get back to me after he got the OK from the principal, but there was never an OK.

The VP sat me down and explained to me how they can’t collect donations from the students. “It is our school policy, to not except money from students for charity. We’ve never done that. Most students don’t have jobs, so we can’t ask them for money.” No, but it doesn’t stop them from asking their parents to buy them Louis Vuitton purses (and they usually oblige. J-parents are notorious for spoiling their children). Typical. I should have known that just like everything else in Japan, people can’t think out side the box. The second someone threatens the daily routine with a new idea, the superiors shoot it down. More enraging then it is shocking, I knew it was something my students would’ve loved. I already had 3 girls approach me about helping the cause last week.

The VP then suggested that I could collect donations from the teachers but not the students. While it would definitely be an option, it defeats the whole purpose of informing the students on current events around the world. Otherwise, they are clueless like most teenagers are in high school. Their world is small. It revolves around dating, sports, drinking, dating, and dating. They need exchanging of new ideas, ideas that aren’t uniquely Japanese. Believe me, that it is ridiculously hard here because they seem to have an insular school of thought. Unlike America, schools aren’t necessarily about making the students smarter and teaching the subjects very well. No matter how little a student works or incapable they are, they will pass, as long as they go through the motions. Instead, schools are a training camp where students learn to be Japanese. Learn to bow at the beginning and end of class. Addressing their superiors with the appropriate titles. Grrrrrr…….!

Toshio/Empanada/Chep/Josefina is coming to town!

Monday, September 19

More good news: one of my best friends from Tallahassee, Joe, is coming to visit me for Christmas. After practically hanging out with each other everyday back home, I'm in need of a serious Filipino fix. But, once he cracks a few jokes, it'lll be as if I never left. We're thinking Thailand for sure, then either Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam. :)

Road trip to Hagi

Sunday, September 18

I'm writing this post with complete relaxation and satisfaction. This weekend was just what I needed. Hannah, Justin and I (JETS in my town) rented a car and drove to Hagi to visit our buddies. Driving on the left side of the road is confusing! After almost hitting several old fogies on their bike, skidding dangerously close to the edge of the mountain and playing chicken with the oncoming traffic, I seemed to get the hang of it. The ride was stunning. The only thing breaking up the rice paddies and mountains were small villages and shrines. Once we arrived, we picked up the Hagi crew and rushed to the beach. Trying to avoid the jellyfish, I floated all afternoon. I forgot how much I missed the beach. After spending the whole day shooting the shit, talking about places we wanted to go for Christmas, a clan of about 8 Japanese people formed a circle, and belted out melodic Buddhist hymns. We knew it was our cue to leave.

That night, Rosie and Dan threw a BBQ party at their house. We feasted on everything from skewered chicken and onions (yakitori), grilled sliced pork and Asahi beer. More importantly, we were able to hang out all night getting to know each in a chilled environment. It quite possible could've been one of the best nights I've had in Japan because we were able to hang out and get to know each other without having to scream over loud music. I'm realizing more and more how lucky I am to be surrounded by such intriguing individuals. So many people have been to so many countries, seen so many things and aspire to do even more. Some have been to Oktoberfest twice, lived in India for a couple of years, taught in France, graduated from Cambridge, were movie driectors back home, the list goes on... What I love the most about the JET program is that it has this knack of attracting people from completely different walks of life into situations where they would never normally find themselves in. There are no pretenses or notions of popularity, doctrines to act by or unspoken rules to adhere to. Practically everyone I've met has come off more genuine then some people I've known for years.

The next morning we did some more sightseeing. We visited a shrine, castle and made one more stop at the beach again. There just so happened to be a non-Japanese family enjoying the beach as well. Being here has honed my skills of spotting any foreigner like myself. I can't help it. Japan is a self-contained society that prides itself on homogeneity; the only true minorites are Koreans who were brought in for labor dozens of decades ago. No Hispanic, black, Indian, or European citizens. That's why the Japanese have coined people like me as gaijins--foreigners (see outkasts). That's also why I can't go anywhere without being stared at by at least 5 people. On rare occasions like this weekend, I pinpointed an American family. There is always this mutual, unspoken thought through gaijin's heads when we spot one another: "Who are you and what are you doing here?" We introduced ourselves. The mother told me that they're American, but they've been living in Japan for 10 years. Their children were even born and raised in Japan. Like most foreigners, she was a JET teacher when she came here and loved it so much that she decided to stay. Soon after, her kids were dragging Justin, Matt and I in the ocean to play frisbee and football. Except for the fact that they spoke perfect Japanese, they were as American as can be: blonde, blue-eyed, outgoing and independant as hell. I suddenly felt nostalgic.

Our trip was nearly over, so we grabbed a bite at MosBurger (puts McDonalds to shame) and headed back to Tokuyama. Once we got home Jutsin and I crashed Hannah's place to watch Lost in Translation and drink red wine. The perfect movie to end the perfect weekend.

Funny quotes from the BBQ:
"What a man whore! He'd do it for free!" Rosie describing Matt's promiscuous pose on the hood of the car in the pic above.

"It's not as dirty as you think." Paul describing his first night at a hostess bar.

"Since everyone already got a piece of chocolate cake, can we just pick at it with our forks?" Victoria asking Rosie.
"Doooozo!" Rosie answered, as she digs in.

My 22nd Birrffffday!

Tuesday, September 13

**I posted pics from my birthday and random sheizer on my site (link is on the right).**

I must admit that my birthday turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting much considering the fact that my school had the cojones to switch my work schedule at the very last minute. So, off to the school festival I went, on a Saturday. Luckily, the other JETS planned a party that night in a town (Yanai) a couple hours away from me. Keith graciously showed up in his P.E. coach/70's pimp afro costume and that's when the night took its turn. I was obsessed with his poor fro and held it hostage for most of the night. Kind of like Steph's El Diablo persona, I seemed to transform into some Black Panther-disco-lovin-God-fearing-mamma-jamma of sorts.

The theme was to dress as ridiculously schoolish (Japanese style) as possible. As most of you guys back home know, I would have jumped at the opportunity to dress up and make a fool out of myself, but I decided it was too short notice. Instead, I vouched to embarrass myself through a few drinks. The 2nd year JETS were cracking me up. I still can't get enough of Chris' (the guy in the blue shirt lifting his shorts up) British rendition of Coolio's "Gangsta Paradise".

The bar had a trivia game and I joined a group that was full of English-speaking Taiwanese 20-somethings living in Japan. They just so happen to live in my city and go to school at the nearby university. What are the odds? Although we didn't win the game (we came in second), we did hit it off. Things got a bit hazy after that. Miraculously, I woke up in Ellen's apartment the next morning, not quite sure how or when I got there. She later told me that Rosie took good care of me--thanks Rosie (and to the rest who made sure I never went thirtsy)!!!! :) It was the best night I'll never remember...

Your Tentacles Are Showing

Tuesday, September 6

For only 1500 Yen, or roughly $15, this squid can be all yours, ink included.

School's Back for Summer

This pic was taken at Sports Day.

Japanese students started school last week and are already prepping for entrance exams and club activities. Although I have one base school, Tokuyama Senior High School, I'll be visiting 6 other schools in my city: 1 technical high school, 1 junior high school, 3 elementary schools and a school for disabled children. My base school is for honor students and is ranked #1 in my city. These kids are complete overachievers; even during the summertime, they'd come in and practice their club activity, Judo, badminton, even play in their rock bands.

The students are really friendly and they love to chase me down the hallways and yell, "Harrrrooo!!!" No marriage proposals yet, but I've lost count how many times I've been asked if I have a boyfriend. The girls are in awe of my curly hair, clothes and tell me I have "cute body," grabbing my stomach, laughing. It's kinda weird b/c they are tiny in Japan; my foot is bigger than most of their heads. So, I put stickers on their shirts and laugh.

This is a pic of some elementary school boys playing during recess.

I visited my first elementary school last week, too. The kids are too cute with their little mushroom haircuts and Digimon (Japanimation character) backpacks. The 1st and 2nd graders run up to me and ask for my autograph. I eat lunch with them, play Duck, Duck, Goose with them at recess and teach them about what Florida and America are like (usually constitutes pointing and grunting).

Typhoon Shmyphoon

Thanks to typhoon Nabi, school got canceled today. My city got tons of rain and winds, but nothing devastating.

Having the day off was so nice b/c I gotta catch up on much needed sleep. Plus, I followed the FSU-Miami and, finally, we reversed the curse: Miami 7, FSU 10. I won my bet and Evan owes me dinner. As Nelson would say, "HA HA!"

But a woman can only take so many naps, read and fart around on the internet. I'm excited for this weekend...

Peupty Pants

Sunday, September 4

I just found out that one of my girls from Tallahassee, Jaime, is definitely coming for Christmas!! We've taken so many 'lil trips together: London, Vegas, Mardi Gras (where this pic was taken)... Where's our next adventure going to be?? Thailand? Vietnam? Cambodia? Sky's the limit...


Thursday, September 1


...and nothing like kielbasa in the rear.

My sister asked me if I would participate in the beloved Japanese reality show, "Most Extreme Challenge (called 'Takeshi's Castle' in Japan)," since I'm in the country. For those who don't know, the show is a Japanese game show which is broadcast across countries all over the world--in America, it's on Spike network. As the program is in Japanese, the program is voiced over by English commentators, and is broadcasted on Spike TV.

People humiliate themselves for a shot at fame. Notably, couples jump over massive, rotating logs to get to the other side of a lake, resulting in men losing their balance and landing on their gonads.

Other games include:
Brass Balls: Get across a shaky bridge holding a brass ball sent to you without falling or getting shot by one of the resident snipers

Get Hard: Crawl on eighteen million cubic feet of wet quick-drying cement to get to the other side and grab a flag before you get hard.

Check out these stats (infertility, humiliation, missing testicles and other miscallaneous injuries haven't been included):
41 people broke their ribs
35 concussions
19 broken jaws
2 fractured skulls

I did some homework and found out that the show got canceled. Maureen, I guess your physical therapy sessions will just have to wait.