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!

*Sniff*Sniff* :)

Tuesday, May 30

After that day in school, we took day trips to a little island called Miyajima, which is one of the most scenic spots in Japan with its floating red gate in the middle of the ocean. We spent the day lazily walking around and eating those little pancakes filled with cheese..mmm. The next day, we we went to Hiroshima for the A-Bomb Dome and museum. It really is true: you can spend a whole day in that museum if the details dont make you leave first. It's super detailed (with saved fingernails and pieces of skin), but obviously really compelling. The next day, I said goodbye to my family and generally spent the morning in disbelief that their trip felt so short. I'm really glad that they got to see what my life is like here b/c it really is hard to put it all into words on the phone, blog, emails, etc. Thanks for coming out!

Home in the 'Guch...

...and I was already putting my family to work! I took them to Yaji Shogakko, one of my elementery schools, to meet my kids. They went to all my classes, helped me teach them the body parts in english, eat lunch with them and play with them during recess. My principal, who ive always thought was sweeter than anything, made sure that my fam felt at home by showing us shodo (Japanese calligraphy). He also took us to a local shrine that I didnt even know existed and printed out some pictures of us. On our way out, the school's nurse, who i really love, gave us a bag of goodies to take home. Sometime, I cant help but feel guilty for how nice Japanese people are to foreigners. The good thing about the day was that my fam now understands why i dote on my kids the way i do--they are seriously the cutest people on the planet.

Kyoto II: Carrying Buddha

Since i'm really slacking on the blogging--been feeling especially uninspired lately--i'm going to sort of rush through the rest of the family vacation and let the pics speak for themselves. I finished putting them all on my website, so click here if you're interested.

The rest of Kyoto was just as fun since we happened to stumble upon a festival at one of the most famous temples in Kyoto (the one with all the crimson toriis jam packed on top of a hill). My parents were able to bond with some Japanese people while this old Japanese guy gave my sis and I a free beer. People were dressed in the typical festival fare and were carrying those portable shrines on their backs. By the end of it, some guy who looked like a professional photographer took pics of us.

One of the nights we slept in a temple that had a zen garden in the middle and a huge cemetery outside. Normally the fact would give me the creeps, and at times the wind shaking the tall wooden sticks against each other did give me the creeps. Other wise, it was surprisingly serene. After Kyoto, we went to Kobe for a really short time (like a day and a half) and just walked around the city and went to some sake breweries. At this point, we were exhasuted and were happy to be going to my home in the 'Guch.

A Random Interlude

Saturday, May 27

The secret's out: I miss Simon Cowell.

Every few months, some JETS in my prefecture publish a crazy magazine called ZenZen. There's usually a literary montage to somebody or something and I happened to be chosen to grace last issue's backcover. It's taken me months to finally get it scanned..sorry for the delay! According to the writers, I look like Simon Cowell's girlfriend. What do you think?

"You know what I take from the back cover of the last ZenZen?
That for people who come from lily-white coun­tries, all Hispanics look the same."
-Paul C.

Pimp my rickshaw

Monday, May 22

So maybe it's just a gimmick now, but riding a rickshaw is worth doing at least once to pretend like you're some important geisha or an emperor. The job might be a drag, since these guys have to pull big tourists around in bright sunshine and attempt to make generic English conversations (Where are yuuuuu from?), but our guide was funny enough to joke with my sister about being the poster child for the company on their brochures. He took is through bamboo forests in the outskirts of Kyoto. Once inside, you can find anything from temples to food stands selling octopus to art vendors. We met one particularly cool artist who not only knew some broken English, but also could speak functional Spanish.

Kyoto-Part I

According to my guidebook, "Kyoto is a perpetual embarrassment of riches."


Kyoto was our next destination and a first time for all of us. Even though we stayed there the longest out of any other place we went, we didn't come close to doing it justice. Yea, we saw the Golden Temple. We did a rickshaw ride through bamboo forests. Sure we went geisha hunting. We combed the streets of Gion. But, I get the impression, that unless you live there, you could spend your whole life discovering another national treasure here and there. After all, it was Japan's capital for more than 1,000 years.

We were on a mission to spot a geisha power walking in those clunky clogs, but had no luck. Instead, we hung around the river that runs through the middle of town. All along each side is a row of cafes with paper lanterns dotting the pathways. The massive windows are perfectly situated so that the people eating in the restaurants could look to the river and everyone on the streets can see the perfectly synchronized geishas serving them. The rest of the population was either roaming the narrow alleys or sitting on the sand right next to the river, lighting fireworks or having late night picnics. All the while, the Perez family was standing along the bridge, admiring the scene. This is what seems to set Kyoto apart from most other Japanese cities. It's charming. It's a big city and it's personable. It has everything that any other big city offers while staying comfortably livable.

Now I understand why almost all my students tell me Kyoto it's their favorite Japanese city because now it's mine too (tied with Fukouka).

Faster than a bullet

Thursday, May 18

From Tokyo, we took the bullet train to a little resort area called Hakone that's supposed to have the best views of Mt. Fuji. One of the highlights for my family was just riding the bullet train, which was really impressive for my sister, dad and I, but scared the crap out of my mom!

Too bad it was cloudy in Hakone, so there were no scenic views of Mt. Fuji, but we did manage to walk around in yukatas (summer kimonos) and try the onsens (hot springs). We stayed at a traditional Japanese inn where the owner made us a traditional J. breakfast. Want to write more but am feeling especially lazy. :-/

La familia in Tokyo

Sunday, May 14

I'm back from my family vacation in Japan and it was so many things: warm, comfortable, stressful, and everything in between. I've got to give my parents credit for doing something as daring as traveling to Asia (growing up, our idea of a "vacation" was driving 5 hours to Miami to visit family), and my sister..well being the world traveler that she is, it was all just so easy for her. There's so much to write about, so bear with me while I sort out all my thoughts throughout the week. I'll try to cover the main stuff.

I think I've taken for granted how comfortable I am living here because I almost forgot how overwhelming and trying it is to come to Japan--and survive. I really was the tour guide in every sense of the word. "Don't lose this ticket...Put on these indoor shoes...stand to the left..don't touch..." At first, it was frustrating, but once I realized how ridiculously strange Japan is for Westerners, I relaxed. I met them in Tokyo and showed them around Shibuya at nighttime, which puts New York's Time Square to shame. Bright, BRIGHT lights that make it easy to mistake it for daytime.

We stayed in a capsule hotel for the first night so my fam could experice the tiny foam mattresses for themselves. It was a good J-experience, but one night was enough. :) I'm going to upload all the pics from our trip onto my website soon.

One thing that I loved about this trip was that I was reminded how cool Japan really is. I hate to admit it, but it's really lost its appeal for me and I got a bit jaded with this country for a while. I stopped noticing things that are clearly everything BUT American. Worst of all, I stopped asking questions. But once my sister was talking about the crazy lights, polite taxi drivers in white gloves, crowded streets, and just overall gaudy decor surrounding downtown Tokyo, I suddenly got nostalgic for my first few weeks here. That curious awe when I first saw those massive crosswalks coming to meet from 5 directions. The innocent novelty of seeing young Japanese in the tackiest, yet endearing outfits. Beer vending machines. 20-story buildings turned into TV screens. Pachinko parlors (gambling) and space-age arcades at every corner. Brainless techno that could only be enjoyed if you were on 20 pills of speed. Tokyo is the epitome of sensory overload. Like everything else though, the first time is always the best.