Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Pass me the remote

As I've said before in my blog, I'm somewhat surprised by the types of hobbies or interests my students list in their profiles. As a comparison, in Seattle I would expect to see such things as skiing, snowboarding, hiking, bicycling, and backpacking or even reading, movies, and food.

In Tokyo I've seen such things as "drinking beer," "sleeping," and "watching TV." There are many who say they like to travel, but almost always it's related to business trips.

Is the lack of interest in active hobbies because people are just too tired? Or is it something else that I don't yet understand about Tokyoites?

The ubiquitous wash cloths

Everywhere I go, people are mopping their brows, faces and necks with wash cloths. Now I've even seen a few people carrying small towels, not just wash cloths. I started off carrying tissues, but this is the kind of heat where wimpy tissues are useless. You'd need to carry boxes and boxes of tissues to handle this clothes-soaking sweat.

In a way, I'm glad to see others are now suffering as much as I've been over the past few weeks. Before, it seemed that I was the only one noticing the heat, but now everyone is miserable. People are cranky. People are hot and tired and dreading the next two months of this unbearable heat. Temperatures are in the 90s with humidity nearly as high. There's so much moisture in the air that it's hard to breathe, and the same hill I've been walking up to get to my train station now seems like Mt. Everest. By the time I get midway I have to stop to catch my breath. By the time I reach the top I'm drenched and gasping like a fish out of water.

Will I ever be able to adapt to this suffocating blanket of heat?

Bear looking for auto parts?

As most of my friends know, I'm quite intrigued by bears. For a while I lived in an area along the coast of Oregon where there's a hefty population of black bears. They wandered through the neighborhood at will, eating huckleberries and blackberries. I even managed to get a few pictures of one who decided to lounge in my front yard.

Now that I'm living in the greater Tokyo area, I didn't expect to be reading anything in the newspapers about bears, but this article appeared Monday. I couldn't help wondering if maybe all the bear really wanted was a few replacement parts for a car damaged while sniffing out snacks in the back seat!

Wild bears injure 4 in Iwate, Hiroshima

Monday, June 28, 2004 at 05:00 JST
TOKYO — Four people suffered various injuries Sunday after being attacked by bears in Hiroshima and Iwate prefectures, police said.

A 30-year-old man sustained head and back injuries when a bear entered an office at an automobile parts factory in Akitakada, Hiroshima Prefecture, and attacked him.

We will. . .we will. . .rock you

The GuestHouse anniversary party was in full swing by the time I got home from work last night. I was so tired I just went to my room, thinking I would go downstairs later. When I finally did, it was around 9pm and things were absolutely wild. What a loud and raucous party! They even had an emcee (or DJ) or whatever, and the whole house was rockin' to the beat! I took one look in the living room and there were people everywhere. Most of the food and drinks were already gone, so I just slowly backed away from the door and went back to my room. It was too much to handle, and I was, by far, the oldest person there, so I didn't want to be--to use a Las Vegas term--a "cooler."

Most of the noise died down around 11pm, but there were quite a few people running, literally, running up and down the halls, screaming and laughing, and pounding on doors. Sounded like everyone was having a good time. There were some fireworks, and one guy I know here ended up burning his chin and neck a little bit when something he was doing caught him on fire! He's OK, just a couple of small burns, but I saw him this morning and he was telling me about it. Don't know exactly what he was doing, but it had something to do with breathing fire. . .wild party, right?

I'm surprised the neighbors didn't call the cops--or maybe they did and that's why things quieted down so suddenly at 10:30.

Well, I took a little break and went downstairs to bring in my laundry and there were a couple of people I know hanging out in the kitchen, so I asked them about the party. They said the police were called by the neighbors because of the noise. Guess that means it was a successful party, right? Anyway, the management begged people to leave, so most of them finally did around 11 or so, but a few hung on until around 12. I went to bed around that time anyway and didn't hear anything more because I had the AC on.

Food is my happiness!

Last weekend I was doing a lesson about food and all the various flavors we enjoy such as salty, sweet, sour and spicy. My student was a very hip young man who manages a store in the upscale Roppongi Hills area of midtown Tokyo. After we worked on all the different flavors of food and talked about examples of these types of foods, I asked him if he had a favorite food. His response was something I'll never forget: "Food is my happiness!"

Of all the things we can say about food, I thought that was an eloquent and succinct summation.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

In training

The storm has settled down and things are heating up. It was the first day of summer, officially Monday, so people seem to think that's why it got hot so fast. I slept with my window open last night and didn't have to get up at all to turn on the AC, so that was great! The rain cooled things off just a tiny bit to enjoy the evening.

Today, however, I've had the AC on for most of the day--at least the part when I've been home. Work felt like a walk-in refrigerator--but I'm not complaining. It felt quite nice, actually.

I saw a Starbucks packaging ripoff at the grocery store today. They have a pre-packaged latte in a paper cup with lid and straw that looks, at first glance, exactly like a Starbucks product. Upon closer inspection, the green circle logo contains a picture of a snow-capped mountain and the words "Mt. Rainier." Can't believe they're getting away with it, especially since Starbucks coffee shops are so popular over here.

I opened something today that I thought was orange-flavored yogurt, but in a bigger carton, and it definitely was not yogurt. I'm still trying to figure out what it was. It had the consistency of Jell-O, kind of, and it was orange. No milk or cream at all. It was just this orange, wiggly stuff inside. It was sort of sweet, but not too much. The Japanese are not big on really sweet stuff. Then I got to wondering if I had eaten orange juice concentrate. But it wasn't frozen or in a long, thick can like frozen orange juice concentrate. It was in a carton that looked exactly like a yogurt container. Anyway, I bought three different flavors, so I guess I'll be eating the rest of them soon.

There are just so many images I want to capture, but I'm still reluctant to whip out my camera. Like tonight, for example. I've seen this a lot, but for some reason tonight it really hit my funny bone as the business men piled into the express train around 9:30 (I was heading home from work). I always let the express go, even though I want to take it because it's so much faster, but if you could see what it looks like as the train pulls out of the station, you would either recoil in horror, or laugh. And laugh is what I did tonight. It's so darn funny to see all these people smashed against the doors, literally with their cheeks pressed into the glass. No matter how tired I am or how soon I want to get home, nothing is worth that kind of discomfort! (quote me in a few months!)

So when I did get on the train, it was the local which is also quite crowded at that hour, but not as bad as the express. After a few stops where people got off, I got a chance to sit down. I love to observe all the cute young girls (20s or so) who end up sitting next to some big, ugly guys who want to fall asleep on their shoulders. The girls have this down to a science and it's absolutely hysterical to watch! For the most part, they have all the body language of someone saying, "eiwuuuuuuu! don't come near me you creep!" The guys usually ignore that and proceed to "fall asleep" faster than you can say "now's my chance." They lean and sway and bob to the rhythm of the train clacking down the tracks, all the while their heads are getting closer and closer to the girl's shoulder.

The girls, for the most part, are on alert (even though their own eyes are closed and their heads tipped downward) and ready to jump into action. There's a whole series of "proper etiquette" and those girls who are really cute and more outgoing will simply give a heave-ho with the shoulder closest to the "wannabe prince charming." This usually knocks him back over into his own space. The guys who are really good at this game never skip a beat. Their eyes remain closed, mouths gape open a bit and it starts in all over again. If the guy reeks of beer, it's usually even more fun to watch! I've seen girls move forward in their seats a little just to get some leverage from their elbows which end up in the guys ribs! This will usually put a stop to the game.

The less pretty girls have a little different strategy, usually. I've seen them take quite a bit from the big oafs before fighting back. They all, whether pretty or not, get this look that crosses their faces. I wish I could capture it on camera. The look is as though they have just smelled something so entirely offensive that they might throw up. Their brows furrow, the tip of one lip pulls up from the "smell" and they become completely revolted by the would-be "sleepy lover." There's usually a series of shoulder bumping, but I've also seen girls who literally make themselves smaller. They seem to suck their shoulders together in an attempt to keep any part of their body from coming in contact with these slobs. As the guy weaves dangerously close to falling on her shoulder, the girl will throw a punch with that shoulder. I've also seen girls lean away in the other direction, as far as she can go, to keep away from the sleeper--all the while holding that same disgusted look on her face.

I couldn't take my eyes off the performance tonight. You can't pay for entertainment this good!

Another thing I've noticed is that most of the young girls have this full-time pout on their faces. Even if they're walking with the cutest guy on the planet, they maintain a perpetual pout. There's nothing any of these guys can do to be good enough for this kind of gal.

And one more thing, many girls seem to walk with this funny foot-dragging thing--whether they're in sandals, heels or whatever. They have created an art form out of this. Many of them wear thong-sandal-heels and they seem incapable of actually lifting a foot to take a step. It's quite odd to see, actually. Most of the time they come across as these little baby girls dressed in their mother's heels, trying to walk. Most amusing.

The exaggerated pointed-toe shoes have taken their toll on so many young feet. I was shocked to see how many are disfigured. Their big toes are bent over, often pointing to the second toe. It reminds me of the 60s when so many women ended up with the same disfigured feet from wearing those pointy-toed heels.

Anyway, that's enough of my latest observations. There's just so much, I could go on and on.

Sexual revolution

I always ask students to tell me a little about themselves, and it's been quite interesting to hear how they prioritize their lives. The men almost always completely focus on their work (like the U.S. I suppose), but when I ask Japanese men what kinds of hobbies or interests they have, most of them look a little startled and really have to think about that question. I have to prod them a bit and give them some ideas of what might be hobbies or interests, then they'll say something like reading books or playing golf once or twice a year. They just don't seem to be able to look at their lives as having room for hobbies or other interests. I've also never heard any Japanese man talk about things they like to do with their families. Kind of sad, isn't it?

Also, I would say that at least half of the female students are unmarried and still living at home, even though they're in their 30s. From what I've heard, they are the women who are now considered "unmarriageable." As for the men, while the older ones are no longer living with their parents, many of them are unmarried. I heard that for many Japanese women, they'd rather stay single because the men have been too spoiled by their mothers. Maybe there's a sexual revolution going on in Japan.

As an aside about the marital status of the Japanese, I must find out if married men usually do not wear wedding rings. The reason why I'm wondering is because I see very few Japanese men wearing them.

Dogs on parade!

It seems that everyone in Tokyo has a dog, and they love them dearly and take them everywhere! I'm going to have to start taking pictures of them. Most of the dogs are tiny, but I've seen a woman walking her black lab early every morning near the guesthouse. I've also seen a yellow lab, but big dogs are rare for obvious reasons. Tonight when I came home--around 6pm--it seemed that my entire neighborhood was out walking their dogs. It looked like a dog parade. How cute!

I saw a cute little kitty on the way home from work Thursday night. I was so startled to see it running toward me on the sidewalk! It was around 10pm, and I have never seen a cat in my neighborhood. The street is narrow, but cars go up and down it very fast, so I was terrified that the little kitty might dart out into the street. How nerve wracking! I spoke to it, and it had the most interested look on its face, like it wanted me to pick it up and take it home. Oh, how I wanted to! I just kept walking and didn't look back--as cars drove madly down the street. People here don't let their animals stray, so I worried that it had gotten out accidentally.

I hope it got home safely.

Sewers and trash

It's getting hotter and hotter every day, and this will continue now through July and August. I don't know how I'm going to manage. It will really be a test of my stamina and endurance.

The sewers are getting pretty stinky now with the heat. If the breeze comes from the "right" direction it can be pretty awful! It's only happened in certain areas as I've walked, and especially around sewer vaults. Remember, Tokyo is quite old, and the infrastructure is pretty rustic. For example, the sewer and water pipes are not completely underground. Well, they are in a way, but it's hard to explain. The sidewalks are lined on one side (toward the houses) with a long row of large, concrete tiles with "hand grips" on two sides. Those tiles cover the sewer/water system, and workers can get easy access to them if there are problems.

It's quite amazing how little garbage people put out for pickup. Nobody uses large trash cans like at home. They just use plastic trash bags (like kitchen trash bags or smaller) and it's usually full of empty beer cans.

Anyway, I'm amazed at how little trash people have, especially considering all the extra packaging everything seems to come in! The trash is picked up often, though. Where I live, it's picked up four times a week. I guess it has to be often if people don't have trash cans. Today when I walked to work someone had set out several white plastic bags that were filled with really nice-looking blankets and other linens! I so wanted to stop and rummage through them (I know, I'm sounding more like a bag lady everyday) but if you had seen them, you might have wanted them too! They were really beautiful! I couldn't imagine why anyone would throw such nice things away. I mean, at least give them to needy people! (Despite Japan's attempts to convince the world that there are no poor people in Japan, I actually saw a couple of young women sleeping on blankets in front of the supermarket near work. Now, either they were anxious to get in as soon as the store opened in the morning, or they were street people. There was something on the news a couple of days ago about a new law being passed to provide some housing for street people, so I know they're here.)

Living on a tight budget

Yesterday I taught 9 classes although I was scheduled for 10. The last one of the day cancelled at the last minute so I got to go home early. Among the teachers, that's known as a "gift from the gods." Today I taught 10. That's quite a bit of teaching over two days. The other 15 classes are spread out over 3 evenings.

I never thought I'd be able to take on so many classes so quickly, but it's amazing how fast you get into the hang of it. There's only 5 minutes between classes to write a short note about the previous class, prepare for the next student and run to the bathroom. I had one 40-minute break for lunch today, so I ran across the street to the supermarket and got a small takeout meal of rice, shredded egg strips, and a couple pieces of sashimi artfully arranged on top. It was quite tasty, and at only $3.40. I also bought a bag of very tiny grapes which I brought home tonight to snack on.

Most of the food is so incredibly expensive! I gasp every time I have to go shopping! I'll never complain again about food prices in America! It's a little startling to walk down the produce aisle and see 4 kiwi for $6.98, or a large apple for $3 or $4. Cantaloupe-type melons are about $8 each. A watermelon slice (maybe about 1/4 of a small melon) is about $4. The half pound or so of grapes I bought was $4. Peaches will be ripe soon, and I'm dying to have one, but I know they will cost about $4 each.

Clothing is also extremely expensive. My feet are swollen from the heat so I've had only one pair to wear that I can still fit into. (I've worn them everyday for a month now.) Women have to wear heels (short ones, at least, with NYLONS) to work everyday, so I've been trying to find a beige pair of heels to buy. The cheapest ones I've found were at the train station where there's a cut-rate kind of store. Even there, they were $59. In the department stores, they're at least $100 for the cheapest ones.

Oh, a note about nylons. I finally found knee highs and they were quite inexpensive. I got 5 pair for $2.98. The really great thing about them is that they're cut shorter so they're not all the way up past my knees, which is nice. Also, they're a much lighter weight and don't feel as hot as my American ones. I'm thinking about buying Japanese pantyhose because they're probably also cooler than the ones I brought with me.

Simple, basic women's shirts are $69 and up. I bought a pair of summer-weight pants for work that were on the 50% discount rack and were $75 on sale. They were the only pants I could find in my size at any of the stores where I've gone. Probably another reason why they were on sale.

Most of the clothes are in size 0-4. They're cut differently, too. Sleeves are shorter as well as slimmer, and the arm holes are tighter. Pants are cut with no room for hips. Many foreigners have to mail order clothing or buy things when they take trips home. The only problem with that is the weight of the fabrics is heavier, and the styling is much different.

One of the teachers from Canada told me he had to throw away all his summer suits because they're unwearable here. The fabrics of our clothes from home are much heavier--even the summer fabrics. He said his Japanese suits were extremely light-weight and much cooler. I happened to notice a Japanese businessman on the train yesterday who was wearing another version of a summer-weight suit. In his case, the fabric was so light weight that I could see his white shirt through the back of his black suit. The lining was cut away. Overall, the effect was not particularly pleasing. Maybe he was just wearing one of the cheaper models.

Usually, the classrooms are air conditioned, but sometimes there's a battle going on between who likes it warm and who likes it cold, so I never know what to wear. None of the clothes I brought with me are anywhere near cool enough for my comfort, and I'm usually drenched with sweat by the time I get to work. Even the trains are often hot. Everyone told me the trains are air conditioned, but that's not entirely true. For some ungodly reason, they seem to think it gets cold at night (down into the high 60s or low 70s, but still very humid), so for early morning commuters, the heat is often on! It's not until the trains are completely packed and everybody's boiling to death that they finally turn on the AC.

On the mornings that I have to work, I leave around 6:30 or 6:45 and try to catch a train no later than 7, but it's usually very humid and hot even at that time of day. I've liked working evenings because, until lately, there's been a nice cool-ish breeze when I walk home around 10pm from the train station. My room, however, is always hot and smells strange because of the tatami mats. They smell like mildew (probably why I have developed an allergy), so I have taken to lighting incense to get rid of the smell. I'd like to have an air cleaner but I'm sure they're very expensive. When I priced curling irons, the cheapest was around $80 so I'm sure air cleaners are several hundred.

Nothing seems very affordable, but the other teachers have told me it will all seem different when I start thinking in yen instead of dollars, and especially when I'm paid in yen. We'll see.

Muggy Sunday

It was muggy and raining most of the day--well, not real rain, more the misty kind of rain. I went to the grocery store and spent at least an hour there, just looking around at everything, trying to figure out what I needed to buy--or rather, what I could identify. When I think of fixing a simple stir fry or something, I can't find the ingredients I'm used to using, especially the seasonings. I'm going to have to go with one of the housemates here to get a shopping lesson.

I did manage to buy oranges, kiwis and tomatoes, so that was good. And I bought a couple of pre-made salads. I had one tonight for dinner and it was quite good, but I had forgotten to buy salad dressing or vinegar. I had olive oil, but didn't have any vinegar, so one of the residents here let me have a couple tablespoons of her rice vinegar. It tasted very good.

Tonight there were so many people cooking in the kitchen. It was amazing to watch them. I didn't want to look too inept, so I only
came in and glanced around a couple of times. I'm sure they're wondering what the heck I'm doing there. One girl has been really
helpful. She was an exchange student in Kansas (of all places) and speaks English very well, so she's an enormous help. Most of the other residents are Japanese, Korean, or Indian. I would say that the ratiois two men to one woman. They've just been super to me, and are always very helpful.

Let's see. What else is there to tell you about? Oh, I'm also trying to find out how I can get a phone-- soon ! It's making me crazy not to have one!

When I came back from shopping today, I was so tired--again. The humidity really knocks the stuffing out of me. I unpacked all my things and put them away, and then laid down for a nap. That was around 4:30 and I didn't get up until 7:00. I think I need to get some kind of air mattress or frame to get me up off the floor. My hips are really screaming at me and I'm doing so much tossing and turning at night. I think it would help if I had a little more padding on the floor. These American bones just aren't used to sleeping on the floor (even with the tatamis).

I saw a guy walking his dog today, and it was completely outfitted in a rain coat and pants. Poor thing. It must have been roasting to death inside! I've seen so many dogs being walked, and most of them are really tiny. People do seem to love their little dogs here. I haven't seen any strays at all.

Is all business done in person?

I just got back from making my "gaijin," or foreigner, application. Good thing Hisae went with me because the guy there didn't speak any English. Why do they have people working in an alien registration department who can't speak anything but Japanese? Is that just too much to ask? What about publishing some kind of booklet in several languages for people to refer to when making application for their "foreigner" card? How many years have foreigners been working/living in Japan? Hasn't anyone had time to consider the need for such a booklet? I'm not complaining, just making an observation.

Anyway, it took about 1-1/2 hours to APPLY and get my 4 "Stamps" (which I must give to the bank, the cell phone place, my apartment and anyone else who asks for "proof" of my status in Japan--for $3.00 each). In two weeks, I have to go back in person to pick up my card. Has anyone here heard of using the postal service? I have to keep going to all these places in person! What a waste of time!

So, now I'm back in my apartment, doing laundry. The sun is out today and no rain, so it's a good time to get laundry hung out to dry. Then I'm going to take a short nap and dream about having my gaijin card so I can finally be official. Once I have that document I'll have to go register with my local ward. Another bureaucratic challenge, I'm sure. Foreigners are required to make their presence known in the neighborhood where they're living. Sort of like registering sex offenders.

Another sample, please

Just got back from the grocery store and I'm ready to fall in front of the A/C! It's muggy, but at least there's a nice breeze. The fact that it's a 6 block walk--each way--and that I was carrying bottled water, cooking oils, a few cans of beer and other heavy stuff--made me wonder if maybe I need to buy one of those "granny carts" to drag along behind me.

My little 1.5 cu. ft. fridge just doesn't hold more than a day or two of stuff in it, so I need to shop a couple times a week to restock. Most of the time I try to do it when I'm coming back "home" on the train, but this past week I've been getting back so late, the stores are already closed (and I'm too tired anyway).

Today I went to a different store than I usually go to (it's supposed to be cheaper than the one at the train station), and this old security guard must have decided I was there to steal everything or to bomb the store. He followed me everywhere. I even caught him looking over my shoulder. He must have had to get up on his tip toes to see what I had in my hand (my palm pilot/shopping list). Every aisle I walked down, there he was "surreptitiously" following me. I checked out and realized that a few things I still needed were upstairs. I'm still trying to get used to the idea of having to go up stairs or escalators to do all my shopping. Most stores are not laid out all on one floor. Anyway, I had my paid-for groceries in my Trader Joe bag and went upstairs to get a couple more things. Paid for those, went back down the stairs and started to head out of the store with my two bags. The guard barked something at me behind my back and I just kept on walking--didn't even look back. I was just waiting for him to accuse me of something! I was in no mood for any crap and would have really blasted him, considering I had all my receipts in my bag! Anyway, he didn't follow me or say anything further. Don't mess with a middle-aged, sweaty, tired woman!

Oh, but the good part was, as I was buying my 2 cans of beer (a 6-pack is around $12 for the cheap stuff!) a young store clerk offered me a sample of something at a little sample stand (like at Costco). I asked what it was and I thought she was trying to tell me it was apple juice. So she poured some from a can and I glugged it down. It was beer!!! Now that's a cool sample stand! She was so cute. Couldn't have been more than about 20 years old, but she was so happy to have me try this wonderful new product! She kept trying to tell me something, and then she finally pointed to the back of the can where she said there were only "105" of something. I think it must have been a low-cal beer. Then she said something about "very popular in America." I thought about asking for seconds, but decided not to.

Service, and then some. . .

There are so many things I want to tell you about. I wish my eyes were cameras so they could record all that I'm seeing.

It's astounding how many people are employed doing almost meaningless jobs. For example, at the train station during the rush hours, there are young men in crisply starched and ironed uniforms and white gloves standing in a line parallel with the train platform, only a couple of arm lengths apart. Starting from the last train car, almost like a choreographed performance, a man will raise one gloved hand in the air and then drop it straight down. The man next to him will do the same thing. . .so on and so on, all the way down the entire line, until the last man makes the signal and the train pulls away. Is this an all-clear signal? The other day, added to this ritual, I saw what must have been the "big man" standing on a two-step soapbox kind of thing (nicely painted, of course). I think it was his job to stand there to monitor all the young men raising and dropping their arms. Talk about an inflated payroll!

Then there are the old people who are constantly sweeping and picking up cigarette butts or any other offending material. You will almost never see any trash in the train stations or on the platforms. In fact, there aren't even any trash bins! (I heard they were removed because of terrorism.)

Also, when you go into a shop there must be at least a handful of "shop girls" to wait on you--one to carry your item to the counter, one to take your money (as they ask you to have a seat "and relax"), one to go get the change, and at least one to wrap your item and put it in a bag. This goes on everywhere ! It's no wonder everything's so expensive. They've got all that overhead!

There are no CHEC medical-type places in Japan. If you feel the need to see a doctor, you usually go to the hospital where another half dozen or so people will tend to your needs. Someone at work told me that some of the hospitals close on weekends, so they drive patients to other hospitals that remain open over the weekends or holidays. I guess you're not supposed to get sick or injured during "off" hours. I was also told that the police departments are only open during "regular working hours." Apparently, Japanese criminals only commit crimes during work hours. I still need to find out if this is true or not.

As I looked out the window at work today into the window of a hair salon across the way, I noticed that, again, there were a number of people involved in the simple process of cutting and blow drying hair. I even watched two people blow dry one head of hair!

If you want service, come to Japan! But, be ready to pay dearly for it.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Latest discoveries

David told me that men are not allowed to try on shirts before buying them. I guess you just have to hope that you picked the right size! You can't return them for another size either. Weird system, isn't it? I guess men are supposed to know their exact measurements and buy accordingly.

One of the teachers at work told me how much it costs to get a driver's license. Are you sitting down? Unbelievably, it costs $3,000 to get a driver's license and about $2,500 to get one to drive a motorcycle. I said, no way, that can't possibly be true. That must include driving school or something else! But, several of the teachers told me it was true. I still can't believe it! I don't know if it's to discourage people from driving (and clogging the roadways even more), to fill Japan's government coffers, or what the deal is! Does that mean only the rich can afford to drive a car? Seems like it.

All the little critters

I saw a woman this morning out walking her two Welsh corgies. They're such strange looking dogs with their big chests and those short legs. I also saw a guy walking his very beautiful golden retriever. A couple of nights ago, I saw a man walking his smallish husky-type dog. I felt sorry for it with all that hair in this hot climate. I've also seen quite a few beagles. There was one little dog I got to pet who looked like a small fox. It had longish red fur, a very long pointy nose, small perky ears, and a bushy tail. I asked the man walking it if it was a puppy, but he shook his head no and held up two fingers, so it must have been two years old.

A few mornings ago there was a little black kitty who ran after people walking down the sidewalk, just crying and crying. It really broke my heart because it just looked so desperate to find its owner or to be picked up. I had my window open and heard it crying for at least 30 minutes. It wasn't the kind of cry of a cat in heat, it was a "I'm lost, somebody help me!" kind of cry. This was the second kitty now that I've seen in my neighborhood, and both times I've wanted to pick it up and take it home. It's so hard not having my own kitty!

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Short-term solutions

I finally had to speak to one of the managers about the late-night noise at the guesthouse. I was very nice about it, and just asked if there was a way to ask people to be quiet after 11pm since so many people had to get up early to go to work. The gal said she would take care of it, and that night by 11pm everything was quiet. I was stunned! I got a good night's rest. However, the next night people were back to partying out on the patio until 3 or 4am--right under my window. So, I'm not sure how effective the "lecture" was from the manager. Now that it's getting so hot, even in the evening, I'll probably just have to close my window and run the AC. The only problem with that is I think the AC is exacerbating my cough. It must be an allergy because I don't feel sick, but if I take Contac it helps to stop the cough.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Things that go bump in the night

When I got back to my room tonight I changed clothes and reached into the closet for my little basket with soap, washcloth and toothbrush. As I picked it up, out ran this enormous cockroach! I screamed and threw the washcloth down on the floor, which happened to land right on top of the creature, so it stopped running and hid under the cloth. I didn't know what to do, so when in such a situation, call a man! I ran down the hall to a room where the door was open slightly and knocked on the door. It happened to be the room of a really nice Indian guy. He came, laughing, to see what it was that had scared me so badly. When he picked up the cloth, the cockroach ran over to my futon and hid under it. Aaarrrgghhh!!! UNDER MY FUTON! The guy just laughed and laughed and said not to worry, he would get it, which he did. On parting with the creature dangling dead, between his fingers, he said it was "that time of year." He said, "they come out with the heat." GREAT! That kind of news I don't need!

So now I'm trying to decide if I can go to sleep tonight--on the floor--and not visualize things crawling on me. I hate this!

Call me sensai!

Well, I'm officially a teacher! Thats what sensai means in Japanese.

I taught four classes tonight and it went well, I think, considering it was my first attempt at teaching English! My first class was with two 40-something women, both professionals. They were difficult students because they were such beginners. I really had to work at explaining things and getting them to construct complete sentences. The way it usually works is for a student to take two classes in a row, so I had them for a second class also. One of them was tape recording, so it made me a little nervous.

Then I taught a thoroughly polished professional woman, probably in her 40s also, who works in the technology field. She was very, very sharp and progressed nicely over her two lessons. We had a few good laughs and I think she enjoyed the lessons. She wants to prepare for a conference to be held in Europe next year.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Hit the jackpot!

I had a very productive evening at the guesthouse. For $25 I got a coffee table, a lamp, a chair, a folding chair, a 5-drawer dresser (plastic bins) on rollers, a couple of cute baskets with handles, 2 pants hangers (heavy duty),and some clothespins. Not too bad, huh?

The coffee table is very low, wood, about 3 x 2 with legs that fold up so that it can be stored flat. The chair is padded, with no legs, so it just sits right on the floor, but it's quite comfortable. Right now I've got my laptop on the coffee table, with the little lamp, and sitting
on my new chair. The only thing better would have been if I could have had first dibs on the air mattress to put under my futon, but someone else got that.

I wish you could have seen the guy's room who owned the coffee table. I cannot believe what all he had in that little tiny room (about 100 square feet) ! I tell you what, when you have to live in such small spaces, I guess you become very resourceful at how much stuff you can get into a room. He had a wrought-iron bed (slightly bigger than a single), a desk, dresser, and tons of storage cubes all over the place stacked clear to the ceiling. He also had rods that went completely across the room near the ceiling where he had tons of baskets hanging from hooks that held everything imaginable! On top of those rods, which were spaced close together, he had storage boxes. I couldn't believe my eyes! I'm sure there were lots more things--oh I saw a TV--but I didn't want to be rude and go inside to look. Unbelievable!

Everyone was wheeling and dealing, but for the most part, things were really cheap. I was looking for a laundry basket and a full-length mirror, but no one had one for sale, so I'll have to find one. I was also hoping to find a futon bed frame so I could get up off the floor. There's a gal who's going back to Australia next month, so I should ask her if she's got one. She said she had lots of stuff that she'll probably give away.

It was really fun to see everyone haul their stuff down to the living room and start bargaining. Oh, one guy gave me a Norah Jones CD. He said it was a bootleg CD from China, but the sound was perfect. He was a really cool guy who also teaches English. He's got a British accent but is Japanese. I took some pictures tonight while we were all eating dinner, but forgot to go back and get my palm pilot to take pictures of the flea market sale. Wish I could post pictures to this blog!