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!

Me Love China Long Time

Sunday, July 30

Disclaimer: This is long.

Maybe we've been in China for only a week, but it seems loads longer considering how much Selena and I've done. We've wanted to blog about it sooner, but we didn't know that communist China would block all blogs from public servers, so I'm sorting writing this post in a backwards way.

Getting on that boat to China was my pot of gold at the end of rainbow. When the post office in Japan was giving me hell about what I could and couldn't send home, I'd close my eyes and think about the boat. When my Japanese friends tried to make me feel guilty about leaving after, "only one year."....the boat...When I rode my bike to school in torrential rain, dropped my farewell gifts (cakes) to the teachers in school in a puddle of dirty water, and no one offered to help me...the boat...When my supervisor didn't want to help me with important Japanese government papers...the boat...

28 hours later, Selena and I arrived in Qingdao, China, a medium-sized port town in between Beijing and Shanghai. The Germans colonized it way back in the day, but the buildings and streets still feel surprisingly European. There's not much in the way of sightseeing, just nice beaches and China's arguably most famous beer, Tsingtao beer.

Qingdao's skyline

Luckily for us, one of my Japanese friend's brother lives in Qingdao and in good Japanese form, gave us all his contact info to meet. His name is Kenji and we had absolutely no idea that the would lead us to one of the best adventures we could've ever wished for in this otherwise unremarkable town. One phone call later, he comes to our hostel and had his personal driver pick us up and take us to this nice Chinese restaurant . His Chinese translator/friend joins us and she just happened to be our age and a socialite. From that night on, Kenji and his translator, Catherine, were like our own personal tour guides/chauffeurs/translators for the rest of our trip.

Catherine & Kenji

They took us out every night for dinner, and something special after. There was the free 2 1/2 hour full-body massage where they put hot ginger packs on our legs that left them stinging all night. There was dinner at a spicy Chinese restaurant with shrimp that you boil in chili water. 20 minutes after eating a few of those suckers and your lips turn from tingling to just numb. It was the best meal Ive had in China yet. There was the manic club with a bouncy floor, tiny fly girls, and a performance by an ambiguously gay pop star. There was the gothic bar with Koreans and sketchy Chinese men with young girls. A cultural experience indeed. Before leaving we met some French guys who live in Qingdao and had a little dinner party at theor party. It was all pretty random, but nice to bond with them and know that they didn't perpetuate the "French stereotype." ;)

Selena & I getting our free massages

The dancefloor was like a massive trampoline!

The delish dinner that our new French friends cooked for us.

Our whole stay in Qingdao was the best introduction to China we could've ever asked for!

The most striking thing about China is that there's life spilling all over the streets. Sure the streets smell like piss and rotten garbage, but the people play card games on plastic tables and mini chairs. Sure people don't form lines and push if they need to, but they laugh loudly, smile freely, and walk hand in hand with their friends and boyfriends/girlfriends. Sure, the air is dirty and your tissue are dark green after blowing your nose, but people like foreigners and aren't shy to approach them, even if they don't know any English. Life is everywhere here and anything goes. Eating on the sidewalk. Sleeping on concrete ledges. "Potty training" kids without diapers, only pants with slits in the back.

It's really hard for me not to compare the Japanese to the Chinese, although it hardly seems fair b/c they really are complete opposites. I may not be much of an authority on Chinese culture, but the way the Chinese hold themselves in public says a lot. In general, they aren't afraid to be loud, have many friends of the opposite sex, and are really outgoing, especially to foreigners, while Japanese are quite reserved , shy to speak to foreigners and people of the opposite sex, serious about work, and mechanical with all the polite mannerisms. This is obviously a stereotype and not true of all people, but it just seems like Chinese people are more genuine and sincere.

We took a 28 hour train ride to Beijing and have been doing lots of sightseeing and shopping. Everyone in China is a friggin' businessman (I keep forgetting that it's a communist country). I've bought $1 DVD's (the new Superman!!) from a guy's apartment; fake Puma's for $10; a "Max Mara" trenchcoat for $20... Everything is fake and cheap. As far as sightseeing goes, we've done markets, the Forbidden Palace, the Temple of Heaven, Tianmanen Square, and we're going to see an acrobat show tonight and climb the Great Wall tomorrow. The hostel we're staying at rocks the casbah and they're are tons of backpackers from all over the world. It's been good ammo for interviewing for my new blog. I'll try to upload pics in the next couple of weeks.

Sayonara Nihon

Friday, July 21

I've mailed my stuff home, received all my cash from work, said goodbye to friends and co-workers, packed my backpack, made my farewell speeches, got my next trip ready, went bonkers a few times, organized everything for my successor, started my new blog (but, its not ready to be shown to anyone yet. sorry for the delay!); and have answered the, "What are you going to do next?" question a million times. I suppose I should probably spell it out on my blog too. The answer is, I don't have any concrete plans, just ideas in my noggin.

All I know is that I'm about to backpack Eastern Asia for the next couple months or so, until my money runs out. This is what I've got so far (these details will probably bore the JETS who might be reading this, so this is mainly for the peeps back home):

  • Selena (another JET) and I are taking the boat to Qingdao, China on July 22.

  • We'll make our way to Beijing

  • From Beijing, Selena and I will split up and I'll go down to Tianjin to meet up with Jaime (a friend from home) who's studying abroad there

  • We'll go to Shanghai and explore some towns along the way

  • From Shanghai, I'll fly to Singapore, Jamie will fly back to Florida

  • Once I get to Singapore, I won't have any plans or schedules. I'm totally up for anything...

  • Get scuba certified in Malaysia?

  • Take massage classes in Thailand?

  • Learn organic farming in Laos?

  • Volunteer in Cambodia?

  • My flight back to the States leaves from Saigon, Vietnam. I got an around the world ticket, but am sticking to Asia and North America, so it only takes me to Hong Kong, Los Angeles (maybe visit the family?), Dallas, then to Jacksonville, Florida

  • PHEW!! Recover from jet lag, curl up and die.

  • Spend time at home, eat lots of damn good food (get ready Lili), deal with reverse culture shock (have shampoo bottles always been that big?!?), catch up with friends (Mandarin Ale house, anyone?) , etc...
  • Find a job! I'm looking at magazine companies in particular, but anything in marketing will do. If you're reading this, and have heard of anything opening up in Jacksonville, could you please keep me in mind?

These are mainly juust ideas. Who knows? I may run out of money the 2nd week I get to China! Regardless, there will start be something to look forward to and that's going home. All I can say, is that the next few days are going to be exciting. :) I will be blogging during my trip, so be sure to keep checking it because I probably won't be sending emails.

my school's farewell party

wow, i cant believe I'm still blogging. So busy, but I want to keep posting so that when I look back on all of this, I can still remember! I've said goodbye to all my schools and theyve been so sweet. Long story short, i had to give the farewell speech to my main high school in English and Japanese, which turned out pretty well. Here they all are:

My girls in my English club threw me a suprise party, which was pretty funny b/c if you clivk the picture, you can see that one of them drew a picture of Doraeman crying (he's a famous Japanese anime character who is a blue robot). hehehee

While their intentions were sweet, they still managed to misspell my name on the cake. Looks like my job teaching English here is done.

last healthy dose of engrrrish

Wednesday, July 19

Read rule #4. You'll poke your eye out.

We accept cledit cards. Sank you.

The lady doesn't lie.

Those cats look out of of control.

Customer service at its finest.

OK, so the English is fine, but how disturbing is this billboard? "Children of the Corn", Japanese style.

"Why would any kid do this?" --David M.

A sexy pizza.


I am never guilty, wrong, loud, rude, nude, obnoxious, spastic, or abusive when I drink.

some medicine

Monday, July 17

Image hosted by Webshots.com

Here's an idea one of my student's came up with for a newspaper we made in class. It sort of reminds me of that 80's movie, "Weird Science." Ever seen it? Click to make it larger.

Japan taught me...

...how lucky I am to be a native English speaker. It may not be the most widely spoken language in the world, but it sure as hell is the most international. If you were in a room full of Germans, Mexicans and Chinese, I'd bet they'd try to converse in whatever English they know, not in their native tongue.

...how undeniably hard it is to learn English. I know too many Japanese that would give anything to be fluent, so they study every day for 10-20 years and still can't hold a decent convo. They work so hard, but can't seem to grasp it. I have an even deepened respect and admiration for every single immigrant in the USA, including my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. To move to another country, learn the language, and be successful...damn. I've got to hand it to you.
    In the U.S., I may chew your head off if:

  • you get angry when someone can't speak English

  • you tell an immigrant to, "Learn English or go back to the country you came from!" (I've actually heard too many people say this back home, including some of my friends). What the hell do you think they're trying to do? You can't learn a new language, get a job, learn all the new social norms, support yourself and even a family, and everything else overnight. It takes YEARS. Be patient. Get over it.

  • you think the government is "wasting" tax dollars to make important official documents in several languages.
Think about it, I'm an educated, childless, unmarried college graduate, from a developed country, already bilingual in English and Spanish, and for me, learning a whole new language was SO time-consuming and difficult. Honestly, I didn't get that far in one year. If you're a poor, uneducated immigrant from (insert any 3rd world country here), only fluent in your native language, and you come to America, imagine how much harder the obstacles must be for them. Double that if they have children and a spouse to support. Oh, and don't kid yourself: the USA would become extinct if there weren't illegal and legal immigrants. Who'll build roads and bridges? Who'll work on the farms? Who'll fix your car? Not your average ivy-league alumni.

...to have faith in not having any answers. The fact that I did the JET program for no particular reason other than to travel, forced me to believe that there was something more for me here. I found that there actually is. A lot of my friends here are a major inspiration for me. The fact that I'm OK with leaving Japan with no real plans--just faith, proves that.

...how to be a good sport. There were too many times when I was asked to do something that I didn't want to do. Wear a florescent butterfly costume to school? Sure. Go skiing at 5AM with a killer cold, and the vice principal? OK. Ride my bike in snow or a typhoon? Yes. Give an impromptu speech in Japanese and English to the entire staff at school? Fine.

..how to be responsible, really. Probably to the point of, "being a grandma," as Steph said, but it's a new characteristic for me. So, I'm still trying to learn how to balance it. Living alone, paying off all my debts and actually making progress, making a whole new social group, etc, on my own. Seemingly impossible and rewarding at the same time.

...to be patient. Things will start to make sense and the world doesn’t owe me anything.

...what I don't want my life to be. I don't want to work 12 hour days all year with no vacations. I don't want to inhale my lunch and dinner in 15 minutes. I don't want to have so many social rules over me. I don’t want to have such distant relationships and friendships, where the only way to communicate is by texting on a cell phone. I don’t want to see my husband (?), boyfriend only on the weekends because we're just too busy to catch up during the week. I don't want to send my children (?) through a school system that teaches students to conform, follow the rules, and above all, not to think for themselves. I don’t want to feel undesirable just because I have an opinion, am loud sometimes, and independent. I don't want to be "cute." I don't want to talk in a high-pitched, nasally voice and giggle over everything a guy says. I don’t want to care what the neighbors think. I don't want to be obsessive over the time and being "on time." I don't want to live in a homogenous society. I don’t want to separate my trash into 6 different bins.

...to slow down a bit. I eat slower. I walk slower. Now if I could just talk slower. :)

...that I love the USA, but that's it's also overrated. Also, where Japan lies on one extreme of the spectrum--too much of the group mentality, people are sooo considerate of others that they neglect themselves too much, non-individualistic, bizarre, small everything, work too much--the U.S. lies on the opposite extreme--too much of the independent mentality, people are too self-centered/focused on themselves that they neglect their groups too much, bizarre, big everything, work too much.

...that I have a clearer understanding of what life really means.
"I felt that coming to Japan would just be a break from real life. Now I have found myself more aware of what my real life is and a lot of what I was doing back home now appears unimportant." ~anonymous, The Jet Journal

the JET farewell party

This was the official last hoorah for the 'Guch JETS of 2005-2006. Sure, half of us will stay in Japan, but the other half are leaving the cozy bubble that is the JET program. To commerate it all, we had a farewell party. We did the usual: all you can eat (the Italian restaurant we went to was DELISH), all you can drink, karaoke, and a lot more.
There were the ZenZen Awards which basically created some categories for a few lucky JETS to win like "Most Turning Japanese," "Last Person Standing at the End of the Night," etc.
There were the Japanese trains that we invaded by playing foot limbo.
There was Tom Smith and his amazing flexibility when he dances.*
There was saying goodbye to my friends. :(

*Tom Smith, the man, the myth, the legend. Just give him a few beers and he'll be all over the dancefloor in seconds. He's notorious for picking up girls, knocking chairs over with their legs and making them show a little more then they want to when he flings them in the air. (^_-) What can I say? Consider it my farewell omiyage (gift) to you.


Thanks to Lousie, we had a summer kimono party, which marked one of the last times all of the 'Guch JETS would be together before so many of us leave Japan. That could've explained the somewhat surreal aura about that night, or maybe it was just the fact that we were all having dinner at an Italian restaurant that just so happened to be next to a Catholic church--a church that kept ringing it's bells every 20 minutes in Buddhist Japan. Im amazed at how "normal" many things have become to me. The puffy gloves that old ladies wear when they ride their bikes; the sucking through the teeth to express awkwardness; all of the jelly fish products. Yet, the setting of that night did strike Becky I. and I as a little odd, but it's the Japan that we know: bizaare. We had a 2 hour nomihodai (all you can drink) before setting out to the next venue: another nomihodai at an izakaya (a family/drinking retsaurant). Everyone looked so composed and even elegant in the beginning of the night, but you could see everyone's slowly falling apart at this point of the night. Like all good nights, we ended in a karaoke room, singing bad Queen songs.

    Highlights from the blurry night:

  • Ross, obliterated by 10PM, eating someone else's meal. Later got a glass of freezing water poured over his head by El Dibalo.

  • Nate playing Nintendo in a seperate roms with little kids. He was allegedlly heard trying to convince a 5-year old that he was Mario from the"Super Mario Brothers" game whilst doing a borderline racist Italian impression.

  • El Diablo passed out under the table.

The Hall of Shame

Tuesday, July 11

My time here is almost up and it seems only appropriate to finally upload my pictures of the fun times I've had in Japan with the other JETS and the Japanese. If I have ever hung out with you, you're more than likely on my website. Some of the pics are innocent, some are embarrassing, some are risque, some are just retarded.

Here's to all the fun, degrading, humilitaing times we've had with each other. We may have gone too far with some of our antics, forcing some to cry themselves to sleep, only to laugh about it the next morning when their dignity has been recovered (somewhat). Hey, but it made a good story, right?!

Danger: This is not for the weak, faint-hearted, conservative, humorless or lazy (there are 150+ pics!). Click at your own risk! ;)

The Hall of Shame: Your life will NEVER be the same.

Here's a preview:

P.S. Don't sue me.

P.S.S. Mami & Papi, don't worry.

The Statue of Blasphemy

I'm currently in the slooow process of making a new blog/online writing portfolio. One of the themes is about how and why the world perceives Americans the way they do. I'd be your bestest friend in the whole wide world if you could please contribute! Here's an email I sent out to some so far:

I'm writing articles/stories about the stereotypes that the world,
particularly non-American Westerners (Europeans, Canadians, Ozzies, Kiwis, etc.),
have about the U.S. Some are probably quite true. Some are way off,
but the point is to explore why these stereotypes came about and how
much truth there is to them. I'll post them on a new blog as I

If you have 5 minutes to spare, could you please tell me any
experiences that you've either had with an American or in the States
(if you have ever been) that left you with a bad taste about the
U.S.A. OR something that you think is uniquely American and/or quirky
(it doesn't have to be negative)?

What I'm looking for are detailed quotes of specific examples that can
show why the world laughs at, pities or scoffs at the U.S.A. Think of
it as a research project for me: you give me a topic (your experience
with American culture), I'll do some homework and write about it.

Bad Quote Example:
"I met an American guy who didn't know where the Rocky Mountains are."
This is too general and could just mean that the guy you talked to was
not the brightest Crayon in the box, and not necessarily because of
his culture.

Good Quote Example:
"I had a layover in the Los Angeles International Airport and was
looking for a book about history or politics to read for my next
flight, but all the bookstore had were books on U.S. history and
This is a very credible since it can't be refuted and most Americans
would never notice something like this if it weren't brought to
his/her attention.

Thanks A LOT as this is really important to me and hopefully to someone
who might read this in the future! Sorry this is SO long!!