What have I been up to for the last month?

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February 16th 2006
Published: February 20th 2006
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Well here it is, a month after I last updated and over 5 weeks since I arrived here! Some dedicated readers of this blog have been chomping at the bit for an update so I figured I had better get on it.

The last month has been crazy at times and uneventful at times because I have somewhat settled into a routine (shudder). I am up every day before 7 for breakfast with the family. (I think I am making progress on training myself to become a morning person). Of course I go to class four nights a week and on those days I also normally head to the gym, do some studying, eat lunch with friends, and run any errands I need to take care of. On the weekends all bets are off and I will head out with friends, do some sightseeing in an area I haven't yet explored, have English lessons with the children, and any other combination of random things.

Rather than give a lengthy run-down of 4.5 million occurences/thoughts, I will just make a list of some of the more memorable moments and let the pictures below (somewhat) speak for themselves.

In no particular order:

1) Sensubun. It is the day before the first day of spring (yes, spring begins super early here and like I said to my host family, it is WAY too cold to be spring!) and involves throwing beans out of every window and yelling Japanese phrases at the top of your lungs to keep the bad spirits out and bring happiness in. Then you eat an entire sushi roll while standing silently and facing a certain direction. Hilarious? Yes. Random? Most definitely.

2) Feeling an earthquake while in class one night; even while living in California I never felt one!

3) Eating dinner out in an extremely fancy Japanese restaurant as the only female with four Japanese professionals, ranging in age from 35-60, and trying to not completely embarrass myself. Let's just say I held my own but the waiter stopped by to give me a chopsticks lesson and I felt mortified but the men thought it was hilarious and everyone joined in to practice....

4) Showing up for a class at the gym which is called "Kick 60." Expecting this to be a kickboxing class, you can imagine my astonishment when it turned out to be some type of bizarre thai chi where for the first 30 minutes we sat on mats and massaged various parts of our body while Enya-esque music played in the background. I spent the entire 60 minutes not able to relax and counting down until it was over, thinking so much for the great cardio workout I had planned! At the end was even more surprised when I felt the teacher's hands on my bum while we were all lying down on our fronts...

5) Seeing Ying-Ying again (we met in Adelaide). She came here to Tokyo with her friend and I think they saw more sights in their 5 days here than I have seen in my 5+ weeks here. The second night we met we spent nearly an hour wandering around in the freezing cold trying to find a sushi restaurant for them on their last night in Japan! Never would I have thought sushi could be so hard to find in this city. I promise if anyone else comes here I will be a better tour guide!

6) Karaoke. Yes, it is like "Lost in Translation." Who would've thought singing along to cheesy 80's songs and random Japanese songs in a tiny room could be so much fun?

7) Receiving two kimonos from Yuko's mother in law. We went to her traditional Japanese style house for the day this past weekend and since receiving a kimono is a very big deal, I was completely blindsided when she insisted on giving me two! She also gave me Japanese teacups, bowls, and vases! Yuko also insisted on having my calligraphy (I don't think I can call it art) framed, and I have now acquired so many things that I am going to have to have a whole room dedicated to Japan. We are shipping all the stuff home since there is so much.....anyway, I had no idea there are so many layers underneath the kimono (so no, I haven't gained 15 pounds though it appears that way!). Getting me into everything took nearly 45 minutes. Before whenever I saw women in the city walking around in kimonos, I always thought they must be cold. Now I know they are probably just fine! At any rate, I will probably never wear the kimonos again so they insisted in taking about 25+ pictures of me in the one. They also bought me special hangers so I can hang them up stretched out for display.

8) The amount of effort it took on my part as well as others to get U2 tickets! Long, LONG story but let's just say Japan's system for getting tickets is even worse than ticketmaster (who would've thought that could be possible?)....but now the tickets are in my hands so 4 April is a go for the next rendevous with the love of my life.

9) Snow here in Tokyo. And by snow I mean not much more than what people in Atlanta call snow. Granted it doesn't happen that often but still. Similar to Atlanta everyone pretty much stays home and things shut down. Similar to Atlanta, I find the whole thing pretty amusing.

10) A visit to Japan's Supreme Court and a Q and A session with one of the 15 justices. Their court is very different than ours and before going I couldn't believe there are that many justices until I found out that they hear thousands of cases a year, vs. the US's several hundred.

11) Clubs here in Tokyo. I don't know what is funnier: seeing young Japanese businessmen in their suits very drunk in a club, or seeing the same type of group singing karaoke. It's really a tossup. Also entertaining is the amount of western men here who are wining and dining Japanese women, most often MANY years their junior. If you are an attractive local female, you could pretty much have foreign men lining up at your doorstep.

12) A nerve-racking interview for a position that was poorly explained to me prior to it and the realization during that I wasn't that interested in the position anyway! Needless to say I didn't get it and I wasn't too disappointed. I have the opportunity to do some legal work at a non-profit here so am starting work there next week. I'm excited to get some experience and something on the resume; not so excited to give up my days of going to the gym and out to lunch with my friends. Ahhh, I can feel the real world slowly dragging me away from the free-spirited, globe-trotting life I seem to be leading now...

13) $25 cab rides home at the end of the night after the trains have stopped running. OUCH. Can't keep doing that.

14) English signs/ads. See picture below. I honestly could make a whole entry just with pictures of signs around the city. The family just about died when I took a picture of that pizza box and I spent the next 15 minutes trying to explain to them why no, you would never say anything like that in English.

15) Seeing all the women out in hordes buying chocolate for the men for Valentine's Day. Here it's reversed and the women are supposed to buy and not receive anything. That's just wrong if you ask me. Women usually like chocolate more anyway! Like my girlfriends and I laughed about, at least we didn't have to buy anything!

16) Observing at the children's school. Between classes they have breaks lasting anywhere from 10-25 minutes and during these breaks it's-for lack of any better description-an absolute free for all! I remember being taken outside by the teacher during elementary school for recess, but I do not recall being allowed to run around the school crazy, yelling/screaming, wrestling, playing piano, drawing on the chalkboards, etc. Maybe their craziness is to make up for the fact that they only get one month's summer vacation.

Ok, enough listing things.

I will close by saying this week has been especially exciting because I have now finalized my future travel plans. I am going to China for spring break!! I am flying to Beijing on 10 March, will spend a few days there, then take an overnight train to Xi'an (home of the terra cotta warriors), spend probably two days there, then take another overnight train to Shanghai for the last few days and fly back from Shanghai on 20 March. I have wanted to see the Great Wall of China ever since I was little so am really, REALLY looking forward to that. I just hope getting around on my own with the language barrier isn't too hard; I am sure I will have some good stories to tell afterward! After purchasing those tickets, less than 24 hours later I bought a one-way flight to Bangkok on 9 May and then a one-way back to Sydney on 19 May! My last exam is on 3 May, so I will have 6 days to do any last minute sightseeing, say goodbye to everyone, etc. Then I will have 10 days in Thailand (of which I haven't thought about other than how paranoid I will be leaving my huge suitcase in the airport), then back to Sydney. I most likely will be working for an immigration firm there until August, which will be a very good opportunity so please keep your fingers crossed for me!

In the upcoming weeks before heading to China I will be doing some daytrips out of Tokyo as well as (at a minimum) heading to Kyoto sometime, so check back and I will do my best to once again entertain/distract you. 😊

Additional photos below
Photos: 35, Displayed: 28


The children's safety patrol groupThe children's safety patrol group
The children's safety patrol group

I never quite figured out what the group does. I just couldn't get over that their uniform is shorts despite the fact it is freezing out!
Cappuchino made by Tokyo's award winning barristaCappuchino made by Tokyo's award winning barrista
Cappuchino made by Tokyo's award winning barrista

He said the girl was supposed to be me. I suppose there is only so much detail one can include in the foam of a coffee.
Bright lights of IkebukuroBright lights of Ikebukuro
Bright lights of Ikebukuro

Unfortunately no city shot is safe from the looming golden arches.

16th March 2006

I am so happy for you that you are able to experience all of this!

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