Tag Archives: constipated acorn

No Meagans were harmed in the making of this post


Some days are like that, even in Australia Japan.

Today was actually a really good day. It’s just that my brain couldn’t seem to figure out what country I was in and, consequently, I made a series of really stupid blunders.  Nothing catastrophic happened, although I was pretty humiliated when I couldn’t write my name after having lived in Japan for almost seven months. (I swear, most days I can do it. I just temporarily forgot how!)

Oh, and you might be wondering what a gaijin trap is.  Gaijin means “foreigner.”  It’s actually an abbreviation of gaikokujin, which loosley translates to “person from outside the country.” (And I should probably mention that some people consider “gaijin” to be a rude or pejorative term.  I, however, have no problem with it.)  Gaijin traps are the gutters that run alongside most Japanese roads.  They are sometimes covered and sometimes open. The covers can be either metal grates or sturdier-looking concrete shelves.  Either way, it’s best to avoid walking on them. The covers can cave in or break and you can get hurt or just embarrassed.

This is not the gaijin trap that attacked me but it is a good example of why they are dodgy.

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Where’s Dustin Hoffman when you need him?

*note: as I write this I have been awake for three solid hours, which means that I am probably about 45 minutes from passing out again. So if this post is a tad garbled, I apologize.  

On Monday morning I woke up feeling pretty aweful, but I was convinced that I was just being a baby so I hauled myself out of bed and to the train station.  Before I got on the train I bought a face mask because, hey, when In Rome …

I'm not posting this picture for pity. I'm posting it for the benefit of those who will enjoy mocking me. You're welcome.

When I got to school my mask drew more attention than I thought it would. Or perhaps I was acting a bit loopier than normal.  For whatever reason, I was very suddenly the talk of the room. I was Pippa Middleton.  Or, perhaps more accurately, that monkey from Outbreak.

All of the English teachers approached me individually to ask me if I was ok and to tell me to go home, but I was pretty intent on no taking holiday leave (which is normally the default in Japan, even if you are sick.)

Eventually one of the teachers took me down to the nurse’s office, where we discovered that I had an alarmingly high fever. The nurse called the doctor’s office immediately and I was taken in for an exam.  It turns out that I wasn’t really being a baby. I have Influenza.  This was actually good news for me because having a “brand name” illness mean that my school had to give me sick leave (since I am not allowed to get anywhere near the school while I am still contagious.)

My point (that I think I am failing to make) is that my coworkers have taken such incredibly good care of me.  Between the nurse — who gave me a hot water bottle and a cool compress to comfort me–  and the teachers who moved around their schedules to get me to the doctor, I could not have asked for better help.  The last two nights teachers have even come to my door to deliver  bags full of groceries and to check up on me.

I feel like I won the lottery in terms of school placements. This week, despite the cabin fever (and the actual fever) I am so happy that I have decided to sign on for a second year in Japan.

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February 8, 2012 · 7:47 pm

And Schnitzel with Noodles

Oh culture shock, you’re back.  I’ve written about my experiences with culture shock before so I’ll spare you another long, rambling post about my feelings. Basically, my experience this time around has been identical to my first serious bought of culture shock, full of moments in which I HATE EVERYTHING!

I have been trying really hard to stay positive. So, in that spirit, here is a list of things I love about my life right now.

1) Visiting the special needs school  

I like my base school, where I teach four days a week, but at my special needs school I get to play and sing and be goofy and there is no marking!  The kids there are always genki (enthusiastic and lively.)  They love learning English and are not embarrassed to show it. Also, they love me; I am like a rock star.  During one class about prices I made up a little song.  The lyrics are as follows “Shopping, shopping,shopping, shopping, shopping….” (Got it?) Anyhow, the elementary students now ask to sing it whenever I come in the room.  It’s like I am Barry Manilow.

2) My apartment.

No big explanation required. I just lucked out with an awesome apartment.

3) Kotatsu

4) Japanese delivery services.

Hmm… I need a new toaster oven but I don’t want to carry it home from the store and I don’t want to take a taxi.  I’ll just order it online and it will have free shipping and come right to my door! Missed the delivery? No worries, I can reschedule; no need to walk to the post office to pick it up.  So convenient.

5) Google/iphone

I do not know how anyone lived in a foreign country before Google translate.  I have trouble even remembering how I survived in Korea without a smartphone.  My life is approximately a trillion times easier because of my iphone and other internet-based wizardry.

6) Day trips

Sometimes it is so good to get out of Toyama. Don’t get me wrong, I like Toyama and I am happy to be living here. However, a few hours in a different city really recharges the batteries.  Kanazawa, which is in Ishikawa, is my go-to destination. It is a really fantastic city.  Unlike Toyama, Kanazawa was  mostly spared during WWII so there are still some beautiful old-fashioned streets and temples.   After a long work week , a trip to Kanazawa can remind me of how exotic and interesting Japan can feel.

Higashi-Chayamachi district in Kanazawa

7) Funny signs 

Japan is usually pretty good with signage.  However, every now and then you’ll find one that is a little off, even if it is grammatically correct.  Like this, seen at one of the old geisha houses in Kanazawa:

But... It's just SO EXCITING!

8 ) Last, but not least, days that look like this:

Days like this one (last Saturday) make up for the culture shocky, I-hate-everything days.

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Just some thoughts

This was a tough week. I was in a generally crusty mood and unable to put normal bad-day stuff into perspective. It was a week that made me think I had fallen into the Culture Shock uglies far too soon. However, after dinner with a friend last night I was feeling better and today I’m  enjoying my life in Toyama again!

There were some pretty great moments this week. I thought that I’d share them, in the spirit of optimism! Here we go:

1) I marked about 160 three page essays from the second graders at my school. (That’s roughly equivalent to Canadian 11th grade.) The first two pages were diaries from their summer and the third page was a self introduction. I learned that a lot of the girls like K-pop, so maybe we can sing some 2NE1 together.  They also told me all about how great their respective club activities are. (More on club activities in Japanese schools later; it’s nothing like Canadian extra-curriculars.) My favorite, however, was the student who used his self-intro page to tell my why “The Rambo” is a very excellent film. He had two points. 1) The action is very exciting. 2)There is a plot.  I completely cracked up (Although that might have been related to two days of doing nothing but marking papers.) While I don’t share this student’s taste in film, I suspect that we’ll get along swimmingly!

2)The staff at my school are great.  So many of the teachers have gone out of their way to make me comfortable. Even the staff with very limited English are so great and help me figure the recycling and copy machines etc. I almost always have random candies or treats waiting on my desk after I return from my afternoon walk around the school.  I still don’t quite feel like I fit in (and I’m not sure yet if I will reach that point) but I do feel very comfortable at the school.

3) I ordered a pair of tall, purple rain boots online this morning and am eagerly awaiting their delivery.

4) Yesterday I had an hour-long conversation with the teacher who sits beside me about Anne of Green Gables. (Akage no An — Anne with Red Hair) She told me that when she was young every time she met a boy she would think “Will he be my Gilbert?”  It was fantastic.

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Taiwan, part I

I’ve been having a bit of a stressful time for the last few weeks. Nothing too dramatic, but my time in Korea will be wrapping up before I know it (three months left, but I suspect the fall will fly by) and it’s time to start getting things in order for my life post-Korea. Getting things ready to leave Korea is, perhaps unsurprisingly, proving to be just as difficult as getting ready to come to Korea.  Fortunately, last week was Chuseok, which is a bit like Korean thanksgiving. The actual holiday was Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but my school was also closed on Monday. This meant that we had a whole six days off. I considered using my time to travel within Korea a bit, as there are still a few places that I would like to see. However, Chuseok is one of two major holidays in Korea. It is the time when EVERYBODY leaves Seoul and goes to their hometowns to visit with family. It is not the time to travel in the country if you can avoid it.

Instead, I went to Taiwan. My plan was to stay in Taipei the first night, get rested up, and then head to the South-East coast and do some hiking. I arrived in Taipei early Saturday afternoon.  And then this happened.

Typhoon Fanapi hit the Eastern coast of Taiwan On Sunday, flooding many towns and cities in the southern parts of the country, closing down airports, cancelling trains and generally causing havoc for most of the country.  I was unable to get out of Taipei on Sunday, although I spent most of the day trying to. The staff at the train station first told me that trains would be running in the evening so I spent most of the day shuffling between the train station and the adjacent bus station, trying to find a way out of the city. Late in the afternoon I admitted to myself that I would not be leaving Taipei that day, and that there was a chance I would not be able to go south during this trip.  So I checked into a hostel for a night and formulated my plan B.

On Sunday night I listened to and felt the wind shaking the building. By the time Monday morning came around there were conflicting reports about the damage that the Typhoon caused throughout the country, especially in the south. I read that roads were flooded or blocked with debris.  I  heard that a hospital in Kaohsiung had exploded, however that seems to be untrue.  Regardless, I decided that even if I could get out of Taipei, the trails that I wanted to hike could very well be closed.  I decided, somewhat reluctantly, to stay based in Taipei for the rest of my trip.  (Taipei is an ok city; I just didn’t want to be in a city at all.)  The good news is that there are a ton of great day trips to take from Taipei.

On Monday I had big plans to take the train to Keelung and then bus out to a place called Bitou Cape. I headed over to the train station and bought my ticket for Keelung. As I waited on the platform for the train to arrive, about two minutes before the train was due to arrive, I realised that the Chinese characters on my ticked did not match the characters in my guidebook. I went back to the gates so that I could exchange my ticket for a ticked to the right place. However, after some “discussion” (i.e. lots of pointing and miming) with the man at the gate he assured me that I had the right ticket and I needed to run to catch the train. So I ran and got on the train.

I was, in fact, on the wrong train.  By the time I knew this for sure though I was already about ten minutes out of Taipei so I figured I would go for the train ride and maybe it would take me somewhere great. It didn’t.  The train took me to a small industrial town on the west coast of Taiwan. (But not close enough to the coast to get to the ocean.) Upset, I got on the train back to Taipei.

By the time I returned to Taipei it was late afternoon. It was too late in the day to try to get to Bitou Cape so instead I wandered around the city. It was not a great day and I was feeling pretty pessimistic about the trip overall at that point.  I ended up going back to the hostel pretty early and spending the evening with my book. It turned out to be a good thing that I was so well rested that night though, because the next day was going to be an excellent adventure . . .

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Monday, is that you?

Three things happened today:

  • I got pegged in the face with a ruler and I have a fairly painful fat lip to show for it.
  • A student drew this picture for me. I’m still not sure whether it’s complimentary or not.
  • When I got into the elevator in my apartment building I realised that I had a sticker stuck to my sweater. Even better, it’s a constipated acorn sticker.

I’m going to file today under “You win some; you lose some.” I just haven’t decided if it’s a win or a loss.

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