Tag Archives: posts I probably shouldn’t publish

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.


1 Comment

February 8, 2012 · 7:47 pm

A post that deteriorates quickly

Greetings from Japan! First of all, I made it to Toyama, safe and sound. It’s Monday, August 8th now, and I have been in Japan for a full week. Today is the first day that I do not feel like I’ve been sucked through the engine of a jet. In fact, today is the first day that I have needed my alarm clock to wake up for work, a great victory in the battle against jet lag.

The first two days in Tokyo were a bit rough. They were filled with meetings of one sort or another from for a solid 12 hours each day. I have to be honest; I didn’t leave the hotel much at all. While other people used the evenings to see some of the sights in the city, I used them to sleep. I was a bit upset with myself for not seeing more of Tokyo but I’m over it now. I can always go back for a weekend and actually be able to see things during the day, rather than being stuck in conference rooms.

The third day, August 3rd, I hopped on a plane with the other newbies from my area and we headed for Toyama. At the Toyama airport my supervisor and my predecessor greeted me and drove me into the city. They helped me pay my rent and apply for my alien registration card. (You might recall that it took me a full 3 months to get my ARC in Korea. This is proving to be a much different experience so far.) After all that was done, I met the other English teachers from my school an we went to dinner. It was, to say the least, a very warm welcome.

The only thing major thing that we didn’t do the first day was go to the school. This meant that on Thursday morning I had to make my way to the school without ever having been there. No worries, I got off at the train station and followed the children in uniforms, like a true creep! Anyhow, things at school are good. My predecessor left awesome notes and a ton of materials for me to go through. It’s also summer holidays right now so there are no classes for me to teach and very few teachers in the staff room. There are still students at the school, however. Some are there for club activities and some for extra exam-prep classes. So, I have met some students. I had forgotten how much I can intimidate children just by speaking English.

I spent the weekend unpacking my bags, doing laundry, exploring my neighbourhood a bit, learning how to use my phone, and generally relaxing. I like my apartment a lot. It’s pretty big (very big, by Japanese standards) and for the first time in my life I have a living area that is separate from my sleeping area. I feel like Kate Middleton. However….

My building is known to have a cockroach problem. Not my apartment, specifically, but the building in general. I didn’t think much about this before arriving. I had dealt with cockroaches in Korea and, while I wouldn’t call myself an expert, I can at least kill them without squealing.

Or so I thought. Saturday evening I was chilling, watching some CSI, when a giant beast thumped across my floor. Seriously, this cockroach was twice the size of my big toe. I HEARD it before I saw it. I, unarmed, did the logical thing and jumped up on the table. That’s when the cockroach saw me. It looked at me, sized me up, and then laughed in my general direction before it swaggered away to smoke cigars under my TV stand.

I took this opportunity to fetch a hiking boot and returned to my perch atop the table. When the cockroach emerged, I pounced with all my might and I smashed it with my boot. I decided that there was an acceptable amount of cockroach gut on my floor so I left to get a Kleenex for clean up. I also took this opportunity to brag to everyone on Facebook that I had defeated the cockroach.

Since I had already finished my bragging, you can imagine how red my face must have been when I returned to the living room to find that the sucker was gone. Vanished. He had duped me. How embarrassing, to be outsmarted by a cockroach. Once I realised that the little jerk was still at large, I emitted some high pitch noises and jumped back up onto the table, where I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, I saw some antennae poking around from under the closet doors. I got ready and soon he emerged. His injury had slowed him so I was able to attack with ease this time. The scene that ensued would have been worthy of its own CSI episode. But in the end, he was dead. And flushed down the toilet. (I watched the toilet for a few minutes to make sure he didn’t crawl back up.)

So… where was I again? Oh, right, Japan is great! I originally meant to write a post about how I suck at languages, but now I’ve spent too much time blathering about roach-hunting. It is my intention to eliminate any potential readers, one revolting topic at a time. Next post: ear wax. I’m just kidding . . . probably.


Filed under Uncategorized

A post that has nothing to do with Michael Jackson’s son

Dear Blanket,

Until today, there was a void in my life. I had my new chair. It rocks and is big enough to curl up in and I was happy, at first. But then I realised that a chair isn’t worth curling up in without a blanket.  Thus I began my search for a blanket. I started at Emart but they had almost nothing. In fact, nothing would have been better than what they did have: small, ugly blankets with pumpkins on them.  Sale or no sale, I did not want that blanket mingling with my chair.  I went to Lotte Mart, where they had nothing. I went into some smaller stores, still nothing. Along the way I confused many kind Koreans who pointed to all sorts of bedding but could not direct me to a chair-curling-up blanket. Days passed and I still had no blanket. I spent evenings sitting in my chair, wondering what my future blanket was doing right at that moment.  Probably, I thought, it was sitting on a shelf and wondering when I would find so it could live up to its cuddle potential

And then, when I wasn’t even looking for a blanket, I found you.  I was in Emart to buy bread. You were in Emart because someone had returned you and thousands of other heartless, judgemental shoppers had rejected you.  Well, dear blanket, I decided to take a chance on you, you and your pumpkin pattern.

I’m not sure what it was that made me give you a second chance. Some might call it a great sale, but think of it as destiny.

Blanket, you taught me tolerance. I will no longer dismiss things based solely on their pattern. You have proven to be so much more than a Halloween-themed textile. In fact, you have restored my faith in life’s little surprises because you, dear blanket, are not only a blanket.  Oh, no.  Hidden inside your Korean packaging was a fantastic surprise: a hooded cape.  I didn’t know how much my life was missing a hooded cape until I found you.  So thank you cape, for reminding me that you can’t fall in love if you don’t take a chance.



Together at last


Filed under Uncategorized

Clint Eastwood, eat your heart out.

This just in: learning a language is difficult! I mean, really, very difficult.  I’ve always known that I don’t have a knack for language. I was lucky that I was able to learn French when I was very young so I think that its foundations are permanently engraved into my brain.  I tried to learn Latin when I was in university, but I only made it as far as Latin 100a.  I still remember some basic vocabulary: sailor, girl, rose, and praise.  Thanks to mandatory chanting in class, I can still conjugate “to praise.” However, if someone put a gun to my head and ordered me to put together a proper sentence in Latin, my best effort would probably resemble “An sailor gave a roses from the girl.” So, languages are NOT my forte.

My first Korean class was on Wednesday and it was almost entirely devoted to learning the alphabet.  The teacher would point at a symbol and we would try to make the sound.  I can’t find a great way to explain the experience.  Except maybe this: have you ever had the misfortune of being seated beside a linguistics class in an exam auditorium? It’s a bit distracting because the whole class spends much of the 2-3 hours trying to contort their mouths, tongues and throats to produce various sounds.  I’m quite certain that an unknowing passerby would have thought we were taking a linguistics exam in that classroom. The only difference is that while the linguistics students try to make the noises under their breaths, we were making noises loudly, and in unison.  Like a phonetically challenged adult choir.

That night’s homework was to practice reading and writing the alphabet over and over. In the end, I was feeling pretty good. I could recognize all of the characters and I at least knew what sound they ought to make, even if I couldn’t quite produce the noise.  This confidence was reinforced at the beginning of Friday’s class, when I proudly read words like “cucumber,” and “baby” in Korean.  Excellent. Maybe learning a language isn’t so hard!

If my life were a Western movie, then this would be the scene where we all have drinks in the saloon and a man in a vest plays bouncy music on the piano. Morale is high; the town has just rid itself of a confidence robber and it seem that the streets are once again safe. However, the drinking and dancing is interrupted when the doors swing open and a mysterious figure enters and leans against the bar, surveying the crowd. The camera pans to the wanted poster on the wall and the audience realises immediately that that the evil compound vowel is about to turn the town upside down.  (He’s easily recognised because he has a bad moustache and brandishes not one, but two guns.) The compound vowel grins as he sees the horrified faces in the crowd.  End scene.

Where was I? Right…. Learning Korean. Well, I have brought my total Korean word count to about ten, and I can read most of the hangul characters. However, those darned compound vowels continue to mock me and they make opening my textbook a rather daunting task. I will keep on trying though, in hopes that maybe someday I won’t sound like a wannabe linguistics student.


Filed under Uncategorized

I have a feeling that this post will be more fun to write than to read

A lot of people who come over here to teach end up rarely using their kitchens. This is for a few reasons. The first is that generally the kitchens in the apartments supplied by the schools are not what we’re used to at home. For example, my kitchen currently has two burners. I have no microwave and no oven or toaster oven. (A toaster oven will be one of my first purchases next pay check.)  The second reason is that you can eat out at Korean restaurants for very little money. In fact, if your Korean skills are good enough, you can have pretty much anything delivered to your apartment too, even if the meal is only 3 000 won.

Despite all of this, I am using my kitchen quite a lot.  And not only to make peanut butter sandwiches. (Although I have consumed an alarming quantity of peanut butter since arriving.  Oops?) Mostly this is because I like cooking but it’s also because comfort foods, like spaghetti, are not readily available in my neighbourhood. Hence, I make somewhat frequent trips to the grocery store. As I have mentioned before, this isn’t always a simple task.  I have been drinking 1% milk rather than skim because that’s the only thing that I know for sure is milk.  The first time I tried to purchase milk I discovered upon my first sip that it was actually milk’s gross cousin, cream.

However, I consider Saturday’s grocery adventure a complete success because I managed to find several items that I had either not remembered to buy or not been able to find until now.  The first is a re-usable grocery bag. I’m so used to them being at every check out and scattered around every store at home but in Korea you don’t have to pay for plastic bags, so the reusable bag hasn’t caught on in the same way yet. Until today I had dedicated a portion of every trip to finding the elusive eco-friendly bag, convinced that they must exist. It turns out that they are stocked in the same aisle as the brooms. (Obviously!)

I also bought rice today, and soy sauce to go with it. That was time consuming. The rice was simple enough to find. The soy sauce, on the other hand, was challenging. There were two complete aisles of dark brown or black sauces and it took me until the end of the second aisle to find the bottles that said “soy sauce” in tiny writing. I’m just grateful that it was written in English at all.

And here’s a surprise for the elusive catagory: garlic. Although perhaps it was less elusive and more camouflaged. I have strolled the produce sections many times now, looking for bulbs of garlic. I once found a bag of pre-peeled cloves but that just wasn’t going to cut it for me. I know that Koreans use garlic in their cooking, so I figured I must have been missing something. As it turns out, I was missing a BIG something.

This is what I was looking for:

and this is what I found:

Seriously.  Does anyone know the best way to store garlic long term?


Filed under Uncategorized