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!

Salsa & Soy Sauce

Friday, April 28

What do you get when you find 4 Cubans in Japan? My family and they're coming to Japan for Golden Week (this weekend)!!! To think that it's been 9 months since I've seen them is mind boggling. We start in Tokyo, then to Mt. Fuji for some onsen action (hot springs), Kyoto for the ultimate "Japanese" experience, Kobe for some of that amaaazing beef, Hiroshima to feel sorry for ourselves, Miyajima to pet those stinky deer, and my place in Yamaguchi to take them to my elementary school. And we're bullet train-ing it all the way baby! Well, I'm off. Be back in 2 weeks... (*^_^*)

Archery Festival

Monday, April 24

After camping, we went to an onsen (hot spring) to get so fresh and so clean b/c we were going to a festival in a small town called Tsuwano. People dressed as samurais performed traditional archery on horses.
At the end, there was a taiko (Japanese drums) performance which was really impressive, especially since one of the members was a foreigner. I should write a lot more but am in a lazy mood, so I hope the pics are self-explanatory.

Camping with Shelbyville

Thursday, April 20

If you like the Simpsons as much as I do, then you probably remember Shelbyville: the neighboring town to Springfield that looked and sounded like Springfield.

The day after Hanami, a big group us from Yamaguchi headed north to go camping with our neighboring prefecture, Shimane.

They were Shelbyville and we were Springfield. They talked like us, acted like us and drank like us. Might I add that there was even an El Diablo in their group? She was Irish, but still "could start a party in a graveyard" just like our own little precious. Together we rocked the casbah out in the middle of the mountains..."roughing it up" although I don't consider heatable toilet seats rough, but whateva. Japan's idea of camping?

A few drinks and tasteless photos later, we managed to eat s'mores, cram 12 of us in a cabin and wake up early next morning, delirious as ever.

I have no idea what's going on here... ;)

"I've got a yosh in my pants!"
-said by everyone

Coming soon: a traditional Japanese archery festival


Wednesday, April 19

After all the hype, they're finally here: the cherry blossoms (sakura).

They are in bloom for only about 10 days out of the year, just to come swirling down in a pink petal tornado. Back home, I never gave flowers anything more than a passing compliment, but here, I've become a flower connoisseur. Maybe it's the Japanese's infectious enthusiasm for the pretty pink hues. Or maybe I'm delirious with the pollen. But, one thing is for sure, I'm glad they're here and the best way to experience it is with o-hanami. O-hanami is a glorified picnic. People have them at all times of the day and night, bring a grill, loads of raw meat, veggies, and ridiculously large amounts of alcohol.

Good thing Rosie's birthday fell right during this time, so we had a little o-hanami for her. It was so nice to be back in Hagi, one of the best places in Yamaguchi. It's really good to see this bunch, especially b/c I barely saw any of them during the winter.

Sidenote: Dan showed me the handicap toilets in the park--a regular western-style toilet. No handrails for the handicap. No easy access to the handle. Just a regular toilet (not Japanese squat toilets). Yet another Japanese reminder that gaijin are a little disabled.


Tuesday, April 18

Starting now, I'm going to learn as many Japanese insults as possible. Why? Today while riding my bike, I got hit by a motorcycle b/c it thought it would be a good idea to not stop, slow down or even look both ways before passing through my lane--the bike lane, which had the right of way. Physically, I'm completely fine (save a sore tailbone) and my good 'ol grandma bike is still miraculously in good shape. What's bruised is my intellect. Out of complete anger, I wanted to tell him to piss off, but the only words that came out of my mouth were in English and Spanish meshed with polite Japanese (not b/c I wanted to be polite, but b/c it's the only thing I've been taught). I have no idea why. Once I realized how pointless it was to even try to yell at him, an overwhelming feeling of helplessness came over me. In the time I've lived here, have I really not learned any bad words in Japanese?* Shocking. The more I think about it, the most insulting thing I know to say is bokke nasu...in English, "You demented eggplant."

My friends, help a sistah out. Do you know any good insults to teach me? Preferably something along the lines of, "You're a dumbass." If so, send them my way. And believe me, such a noble favor wont go unnoticed.

*In my defense, Japanese doesn't really have "bad" words like English does. Instead, it's much more insulting to disagree with someone or simply take the "please" out of a sentence. What comes out is, by American standards, a very watered-down version of an insult. "What you just did was contradictory!" and "If you think I don't know anything, you're wrong!' are good examples.


Thursday, April 13

I ate raw blowfish and not only did it taste good, but I'm still alive! Evidently, it's supposed to give you a tingling sensation in your back, but I didn't feel anything. Is it just a myth?

I didn't quit

Since I'm still getting phone calls and emails from friends who fell for my April Fool's joke, here's another post for compensation. Consider it a shining happy people montage. I still like my job, love my students, and get along with my supervisor just fine. Thanks for the concern and sorry to make you feel like a terd. Truce?

My English club under the cherry blossoms.

Although my fave kids of all time, they love to gang up on me at recess..especially the kid with his mouth wide open.

My cute elementary school kids making tofu in cooking class.

Way too early in the morning to be photogenic. Check out the poisonous kerosene heater next to my desk.

Making Kanji (chinese characters) out of the days of the week.

What can I say? They're adorable.

A Traditional Tea Ceremony

Tuesday, April 11

Around the Himeji's castle grounds is a traditional teahouse for a tea ceremony. I’ve really come to like matcha (green tea) a lot, despite its bitterness and i love all the care that goes into serving it. Since it’s spring break for all schools around the country, the people serving me were little school girls in kimonos.

I think that they were shocked to see a foreigner, but they were soooo cute. This girl was the most fascinated because even though the ceremony was suposed to be serious, she kept snekaing a peek at me with a curious little smile. Everytime I whispered, "Thank you", she'd giggle as quietly as she could.

They served me 2 glasses of matcha, a sweet omochi and a plate of azuki (sweet red beans). I still haven’t mastered the art of sitting in seiza position (my legs go numb after 10 minutes), but it was fun trying.

Himeji Castle

Monday, April 10

Our last stop was to Himeji, home to Japan'’s most impressive original castle. Justin and I got bikes from the grandma at our hotel (can u believe that she calculated our bill with an abacus?!?) and cruised around the castle grounds. Along with the typical history like bloody invasions and emperor's extravagant lifestyles, my favorite historical tidbit was how the samurais used to pour boiling animal fat onto intruders from the tiny slanted windows.


Wednesday, April 5

**I put my pics from Osaka on my website. Click here or on the link on the menu**

As far as Japanese culture is concerned, Nara is a special little place. It’s kind of like bloated Kyoto, brimming with most of Japan’s national treasures, threw up and Nara came about with its own pagodas, temples, the biggest Buddha statue and cute deer prancing around.

I made a day trip out of it, split up from Justin and met up with David, my Irish comrade from our Thailand trip. It was really peaceful walking up the little street where cooks were making omochi (pounded rice filled with sweet red beans).

The most important thing I wanted to see was the big Buddha statue in one of the shrines--the biggest in Japan.

One of the wooden scaffolds holding the shrine up had a little hole and a crowd was hanging around it. There was a good reason for the all the people waiting in line: good luck and blessings to those who can climb through to the other side. Kids were the main ones going through while their parents took pictures of them on the other side.

Being in Nara was perfect--really chill and good to catch up with David (who filled me about serendipity). Plus, the plum blossoms were out, so the park even smelled good. This is a picture of one of the most scenic shrines we’ve seen.

I quit

Saturday, April 1

I quit my job today.

I couldn't take it anymore. Today, I tried sorting out all the final details about my family coming in May. My supervisor has known they are coming since last November, so all I had to do was fill in the blanks--exact dates, where we'll stay, etc.--to get everything sorted at work. At least that's what i thought. But, guess what he decided to pull on me? He said that there's a mandatory meeting on one of the days when my family and I are supposed to be in Tokyo. So, I told him I'd just use paid holiday. He then goes on about how it's one of the few days of the year that teachers SHOULD NOT take off unless it was an absolute emergency because all these big-wigs from the PTA were coming to evaluate the school (why the hell is my school chosen to do this?). Ok, long story short....he lost his temper in a very Japanese way: sucked through his teeth, tilted his head, mumbled under his breathe...all signaling that what I was asking for was, basically impossible.

You guys, I lost it.

When I realized that there was just no compromising with him, I told him that I wasn't coming to work, whether I had the day off or not. This is where it gets heavy. All of the teachers, at this point, have stopped pretending to look busy and are now starting to talk and dissuade me. One of the teachers, who i don't even know well at all, grabbed me while i tried to walk into the hallway to collect my thoughts. He started walking into me until i backed into the wall--he might as well have just pushed!!!! Seeing how I was cornered, I decided to quit.

So, yea. I'm leaving Japan, and have to move back into my parent's house until I find another job. I have a month until my visa runs out, so I have to be on a plane out of the country within that time. I'm sorry that some of you guys have to find out this way, and i would tell you in person, but I know that I might not see some of you before I leave.

This is the WORST day I've had in Japan!!!! I don't know what to do. If you're reading this, then you're obviously a friend and I'd really appreciate it if you'd leave a comment. Thanks.