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  • My new house
  • River by my house
  • My new car
  • Unicycles at the elementary school
  • Man with Wings Statue
  • Week 3

    Friday, August 15, 2003

      IN A NUTSHELL: Hiroshima Day 3 and Returning: Driving Woes and Cemetery Visits

      Odd Things in My Hotel Room Drawer I was doing a last check of my room before checking out (amazing what they squeeze in). I opened a drawer and saw something unexpected. It was a book entitled "The Teaching of Buddha" and it was written in both Japanese and English. Woah! Gideons for Buddha? On a whim, I looked further into the drawer and found a BILINGUAL NEW TESTAMENT (the Bible in Kanji - a painful way to learn). The books happily coexisted but I stared in shock for several moments.

      Western Breakfast Again Since my work had paid for my breakfast (how nice!) I have gone both days and although I have eaten many hotel breakfasts in my life, this is one of the more impressive ones. Oddly, it was similar to the breakfast we had at the Tokyo oOrientation which I thought was purposefully western. Scrambled eggs, toast, yogurt and orange juice were in abundance. However, miso soup, a few unidentifiable items in bowls, picked vegetables and salmon were also an option. Not great, not bad, but no cereal or muffins this time.

      Mid-Aisle Advertising Carina and I followed the map no problem, ended up at the shopping center with my supervisor, had some okonomiaki (my first time having Hiroshima's famous meal) and spent a good long time in the supermarket. As I was walking through an aisle, I noticed something that I thought was a coupon pull for a product. No. It was a tiny TV showing a tiny advertisement for a product (in this case, it was for lotion or soap: two trapeze artists were practicing, the top woman had washed with the soap and therefore had oh-so-soft hands, after she said this to her partner, the bottom woman slipped off and fell on the net below. Odd ad.) Very unneccessarily high-tech, I thought.

      What's the Point of Business Hours? I was all psyched to finally get all my insurance paid for so I could DRIVE. So sure was I, that I told Carina I would drive to her house tomorrow and help her get connected to her ADSL line (oh, yes, envy is much on this end). After dropping her off and driving toward Sakugi, I double-checked with my supervisor about the bank hours since it was after 4:00. She said they were open until 5:00 and then said I could use the bank in Funo. I didn't get how, but I went along. She dropped me off at an ATM and told me to go on ahead, she would wait. Um. Okay, so I got some cash using my passbook, thinking maybe I needed to pay cash when we got to the other bank? Then, realizing this made no sense, I told my supervisor that I hadn't needed cash, I just wanted to pay my insurance. She made a kind of 'oooh' sound and told me I could not do that since banks did not do that after 4:00. What is with banks and post offices that are open until 5:00 but do not do what you need them to do after 4:00? Are they determined to make it impossible for working folk to use their services?? ARGH! I was very, very disappointed because I had been told several times that I would be able to take care of this and drive TODAY. Now I was in the same boat I was on Wednesday and now would have to wait until Monday again. Sensing my disappointment (it, um, wasn't OBVIOUS or anything), she told me that I could drive to Funo if I wanted because it was not very far, but to really be careful. Earlier she went on a schpiel about what would happen if I got into an accident and how bad it would be if I was not covered. It's amazing how much I understood of her schpiel. Maybe because I wasn't saying "Hai" every five seconds, I was too busy pouting, and therefore listening. So, I don't know. Should I wait? But Funo is really close. Well, it does seem illogical to not be insured on what theoretically is my worst day of driving in Japan. Then again, Freakin' ARGH!

      People and Beetles! All that talk about bugs had made me paranoid. I proceeded to vacuum my whole house. Lucky I had a running vacuum cleaner hose when I caught that black beetle in my room. I barely noticed it and was just sucking it up when I went, oh jeez, that was a big, icky beetle! I hope I killed it (and it did not spread eggs). As I vacuumed, I kept hearing voices outside. Upon checking, I saw several different groups of people walking up behind my house and back again. It appeared as if they were taking flowers to the cemetery plots up there. I did find a path up there, but it looked blocked off by a low fence, so I thought I was not allowed in, but all these families obviously climbed over it, so maybe I can too?

      What the Heck is Going on in New York! My supervisor had mentioned in the car something about New York state losing electricity or something. When I turned on the news tonight, the story was EVERYWHERE. The New York Blackout 2003. What the...? I had no idea!! I felt extremely out of touch and isolated suddenly. I haven't listened so hard to the Japanese broadcasters since the Columbine incident. Luckily, they had a lot of clips from American TV and I heard interviews in English (and a very tone-dead Moron Bush say nothing useful). All I can say is yikes! I need the web! MUST KNOW: what happened, how it happened, WHY it happened, if is it still going on, and if it has spread. My Japanese is not good enough to pick up details, though I found out it started on August 14th at 4pm. I felt somewhat less bad when I realized one of our best presenters at the orientation was from New York (she had arrived the previous day) and obviously did not know a thing about it. Still, I am dying to get online.

    Saturday, August 16, 2003

      IN A NUTSHELL: Stupid Internet

      Where is the Internet! I ride my bike all the way over there, despite the Honda calling my name, and the internet doesn't FREAKIN' WORK! I tried four LAN lines on four computers and ZIP. I am now going crazy! I have only felt this out of touch once, when I lived in Mexico when I was 17 and had to find out a month late that George Bush Sr. had bombed Iraq. But now, my addiction is full and unrelenting and I am absolutely helpless to do a damn thing! I started whining to a random woman I passed on the street and she theorized it may be because it's still the Bon Festival vacation time. Hmm.

      Since I can't go online... The Japan Automobile Federation's Rules of the Road: English Version was waiting for me when I came back home yesterday (the cash-in-the-envelope must have worked after all). For your enjoyment, here are some excerpts:

        Page 5:   "Try to drive quietly so as not to disturb residents along the road." Then again on Page 49:   "You mustn't make abrupt starts or accelerate noisily, or race the engine in a way that can disturb residents and others in the neighborhood."

        Page 12:   "Pedestrians must not stagger drunkenly on the road, or otherwise interfere with road traffic by talking, sitting, or lying on the road." Also, "One must never rush or disturb the driver." In addition, on Page 12 is a note that said, "One should also refrain from placing any part of his/her body outside the vehicle." yet the entirity of Page 52 is a chart of hand signals one can make, putting the entire arm out the window.

        Page 19:   In the section on 'Watching Out For Children,' I could probably quote nearly every single one from making sure infants look both ways to noting that it is the responsibility of EVERY adult to stop children from playing in dangerous places, but here's a funny one in particular, quoted both for the fact that it has nothing to do with driving, and for the amusing misplacement of the word 'until': "Parents should make their children get into the habit of telling them where they will be going. Parents should remind children not to go too far, and not to play until after dark."

        Page 37:   "Vision, among all of the human senses, is probably the most important for safe driving."

        Page 38:   The section on the laws of physics is both amusing and disturbing. Disturbing when amusing reminders such as "The severity of an auto accident depends on the degree of the impact of collision your car projects on the party, or the impact of collision you've received from another party." are accompanied by a rather demonstrative diagram comparing accident severity to what floor building the car would have to fly off of to equal it. It's rather shocking how high up the skyscraper picture the 100kph mark is (about 62mph).

        Page 41:   This would never be in the American equivalent book. "Don't drive with footwear such as geta (Japanese wooden clogs) or high heels."

        Page 48:   "Special attention must be paid to senior citizens because, due to changes in physical conditions caused by aging, older people generally tend to walk more slowly, have difficulty reacting to dodge danger, take more time to detect or avoid danger and walk in a less stable manner."

        Page 70:   "Fog drastically reduces your visibility."

        Page 71:   "When you sense you're about to have a head-on collision, sound the horn, apply the brakes and pull over to the left as far as possible. Don't give up until the last moment to avoid a collision."

      Okay, I'm ready to take on the challenge of driving on the same roads as ojiisan's, obaasan's, and SMAP. I won't give up until the last moment!

    Sunday, August 17, 2003

      IN A NUTSHELL: Stupid Internet Again

      Internet-wa Doko? I figured my luck had no reason to change so I decided to make the trip somewhat worthwhile and DROVE to the bunka center. Ha, ha, ha. So there. And, I have to say, for future reference:

      Mentally practicing left-hand stick-shifting made ALL the difference.

      My Left Hand Gave Me Pride Only ONCE did I accidentally hit the windshield wiper instead of the turn signal. Otherwise, no problemo. I'm still going to be as careful as heck, but I'm a lot less worried than I was. So, after all, did the internet work? No. Was the person there once again very surprised that it was broken? Yes. Am I absolutely dying to upload this journal, see if the i-shot sent from my mobile phone worked, read my email, and find out what the heck happened in New York? YES! But I am helpless! I feel like my IV has been taken out and my nutrients are being sucked out of me. (Okay, I suppose I COULD drive all the way to Miyoshi and look for an Internet Cafe, but I'm not feeling THAT confident about driving.) Argh, argh, argh. So I came home and am now sitting in front of the tube waiting for Antonio Banderas to come on. If he is pre-empted by baseball, I will be very disappointed.

    Look, it's my pretty blue car!

    Monday, August 18, 2003

      IN A NUTSHELL: Good Ego Boosts

      My Own Nametag! Today, I was handed an engraved nametag! It said (in kanji) Board of Education and had my name in kana under it. Yay! I feel special!

      Melissa's Plaza To add to the ego excitement, the first draft of the Sakugi News Magazine was going around for people to correct. I found not only the page I had done, but an article in the beginning about me. It had one of the sweaty holding-flowers pictures accompanying it, but it was small and I had lots of distracting hair so I was pleased. I read the article (well, attempted to) and I swear it quoted things I did not say. Luckily, they were things I would have said had I been able to spout intelligent Japanese at will in front of people. My page survived pretty much intact with a few grammar corrections and one rather large change I thought. It was originally Melissa-Kai (which from my dictionary scanning seemed a relatively appropriate way to translate Melissa's World) but now it is changed to 'Melissa Hiroba' and hiroba, as far as I can tell, translates as "open space" or "plaza." Well, I trust Tamura so I assume this sounds much better in Japanese.

      Useful at Last! A small girl came up to the office window and said she could not get her computer game to work. No one really did anything (because everyone assumed they were helpless when it came to computers, maybe) so I said Why Not and followed her back to the public library computer. Her problem was simplicity in itself (someone had moved the Games folder out of Accessories and onto the desktop for easy access, therefore outsmarting the girl who was still looking for it in Accessories) and she was playing cards in no time due to the strange foreigner hanging out at the bunka center. See, Freecell fosters internationalization. Who would have thought?

      English Conversation Classes Even more fun stuff to make me feel important! Arikawa-san (err, that may or may not be the name of a fellow in my office. It might be the name of a fellow who sort of resembled him at my Tokyo office) asked me to continue the evening Eikaiwa of my predecessor for interested Sakugi residents. He was very sensitive to holidays and left December pretty much wide open just in case. Also, I get two hours per class (per week) to add to my vacation time. Woo hoo!

      PET Mystery Solved Thanks to a dear friend, I now know what PET actually means. It stands for (take a breath) Poly-ethylene (with or without the Terephthalate or High-Density-ness). It's kind of like the HDPE bottles in the States. It's the kind of plastic they are made from (and theoretically can then be recycled into.) See, don't you feel as enlightened as me now? I'm still going to call them pets, though (since I don't have a dog or fish).

      ISDN Woes but Driving Fun I drove!!! Being all legally able to and insured now, I decided to go all the way to Funo, the neighboring town. I didn't ONCE bang the door with my right hand while trying to shift. Well, okay, once, but that was IT. Woo hoo! Then I tried for almost an hour and a half to get my ALT friend's built-in ISDN line to work. I went through a lot of options and it looks like a network driver for the serial port is needed. Or maybe not. Well, it was cool to hang out and check out her place anyway. It was really spooky driving back, especially when driving through the tunnel. Fog was INSIDE the tunnel and made visibility quite low. It's like I was driving toward a mysterious blur.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2003

      IN A NUTSHELL: I Can't Beat the Just-Picked-In-Front-Of-You-Vegetable Gift

      What's a Water Strider? Today was monotsukuri day again (read: I get to pretend I'm elementary student and put together a nifty creation. I still can't believe they pay me for this. They are apparently paying me to go to cooking class tomorrow.) Anyway, I forgot the name of what we were making, so I asked. Don't you hate it when your co-worker takes the time to look up a word in his Japanese- English dictionary (which everyone has) and you don't know the English? What the heck is a 'water strider'? Some kind of bug? Apparently so and it was lots of fun to make. Like the other one, this had a propeller, but this was run by a battery-operated motor and had styrofoam feet so it could float in water. We even tested them later in a kiddie pool. When we were painting the wooden 'bug' part, I was amazed that everyone had a identical well-used paint set. I borrowed one from a little girl I thought was maybe six or seven who turned out to actually be ten. Either I suck at figuring out ages or I just physically matured a heck of a lot faster than the average Japanese kid. One boy was nearly as tall as me, though. Apparently all the children know how to use exacto blades (called something that sounds like 'cutters'). I don't recall even knowing what an exacto blade was until I went to architecture school and built models.

      More Honda Issues Two hours. Yes two hours was how long I spent composing an email to my predecessor. She had replied to my email with a short statement of self defense, saying that she was told it was a 1996, followed by a remark that I should appreciate what I got. She also told me how much she paid for the car. I took the initiative and confirmed the amount. It was wrong. I spent a long time thinking she had outright lied to me and had come up with several ways (some rude, some manipulative, some diplomatic, and some just fact) to approach her with the lie. However, as I began to actually write the email (several co-workers had told me I could go home since it was nearly 6 at this point) I realized that what she said was not a lie if she was counting the shaken. Well, it all makes sense now. It did seem weird that she would say something false when I can so easily check it out. The email that I wrote back came out light-hearted and not nearly as defensive, etc, as the previous and I think someone up there nudged me in the right direction. I do not know how she will react, since some of it was accusatory (after all, she still charged me almost the same price that she paid, give or take a piece of furniture), but since it was worded so infinitely better than my previous attempts, I cannot regret writing it. It had been on my mind since this morning and although I want nothing from her, I don't like letting grudges of any sort simmer. (I really should just let it go. I've had a lot of arguments with a lot of people about money. And usually, I'm the one who ends up being in the wrong.)

      * * STUPID THING OF THE DAY * * This is not a culture mistake, just me being stupid. I left my freakin' carton of orange juice out this morning. Had to dump almost a liter of it when I got home to my (hot and stuffy) home.

      Lots of Vegetables! Jicho-san presented more asparagus to the staff today - maybe he grows it? - and I had a nice bundle to bring home. THEN, about to go for a nice bike ride, I saw two of my neighbors out in the garden. On a whim of outgoingness, I approached them and had a whole cool conversation with the really nice, easy-going couple. Bright Side: my Japanese was Up! Yay! It was a relatively intelligible conversation. We talked about everything from my age and where I come from to how white my skin is and how my salary is pretty substantial. Down side: I tasted very good to the bugs hanging around. I had two nasty unidentifiable bites and two or three regular mosquito bites afterward. Anyway, toward the end of the conversation, he picked two cucumber-like things and gave them to me as a present, suggesting I peel them and eat them with mayonnaise, which is exactly what I did later that night. It's a new health record - my dinner has never had so many green things. (Granted, I managed to squeeze in two chocolate servings too. You know, needed to balance the meal.)

      Because The Doorbell Only Rings When I'm Naked Yep, that's right. Nice, leisurely shower and I step out onto the towel. Ring. Argh. At least I can hold them off with the intercom phone ("Chotto matte kudasai") while I try to find some way to answer the door with more than a towel on. This is where we all thank the idea I had of bringing a sleeveless pull-over dress. No bra, no underwear, but no one could know any better. (I least I hoped so). So what did I get from the polite delivery man at my door? An English version of my mobile phone manual. Yay! I'm already looking up stuff (like how the heck to deal with the memory stick and how to change my phone-mail address.) Inevitably, one of the notes said, "When using the mova in public, busy, or quiet places, be careful not to disturb others." I think Japan should have a warning label, reading, "Please do not Disturb the Japanese."

      Moral of tonight: I really, really can't deal. What can't I deal with? It does not have anything to do with my position, the people I work with, or my situation, it has to do simply with my environment. Why? Because my environment, my hot, humid environment harbors VERY LARGE BUGS. I apparently do not have it as bad as some of the other JETs, but no, I cannot deal with cockroaches in the pantry. This is a new experience for me. My first cockroach experience was quite recently, actually, in Hawaii. However, there was a nice man there to deal with it for me. Not now. This was my cockroach. Mine alone. Luckily, my predecessor left me bug spray. Remind me to harbor no bad feelings toward her. Chemicals were my ONLY source of empowerment. I did not like spraying chemicals near my food, but I liked the cockroach even less. The worst part of it all? THE WORST PART OF IT ALL?? I don't think I killed it! I've never seen any roach move that fast. I mean I had super-spray and I was missing it or something. I sprayed the whole area it disappeared to. I haven't seen it since. I put up another roach hotel (I noticed there was already one in there... maybe it ran out of green roach food stuff?) and prayed.

      Still praying.

      Wait, something is occurring to me here, though not something all that important. This being all new, I really don't know the difference between a beetle and a cockroach. I called the thing I vacuumed over the weekend a beetle because it did not seem to be that big and I called this one (they were both black) a cockroach even though it looked the same except for being bigger and faster. Am I confused? Maybe I need a website so I can differentiate between the two. Insect research isn't really high on my Want to To list, but I think I should know what I am killing and how. I sound like an assassin.

      To end on a Higher note, here is Cool Thing About My House #26: My microwave plays a little tune to me when it is done! It then proceeds to beep in intervals unless I remove the heated contents. Who needs a PET when I have an interactive microwave!

    Wednesday, August 20, 2003

      IN A NUTSHELL: I Love the Kids!

      The End of the Car Drama First off, the car tax is legit. Second off, my predecessor replied to my email and the email was no longer accusing; it was more like a 'it did really cost a lot' thing and a 'we started off on the wrong foot' kind of thing. Whatever it is, I decided I am not irritated anymore. It could be because of the empowering bug spray or just that everything else is rolling along so smoothly. But, anyway it is no longer an issue for me. I wrote her a more cheerful email back (in which I thanked her for the bug spray). Today was the first day I commuted by car to work. The left handed driving thing is coming along fine so far, but that could be because of my experience living and driving in left-handed New Zealand.

      Making a Japanese Meal from Scratch Yes, they paid me not only to learn how to cook, but to eat it too! I walked into the lunch room a few minutes early. All the kids (all younger than third grade I think since tomorrow's cooking lesson is for the older kids) were already gathered at the tables and spontaneously clapped when I walked in. Didn't expect that since I assumed the whole town knew me already. I said "Ohayou Gozaimasu" then "Good Morning". They all replied "Good Morning!" my predecessor has them trained well! So, I was handed an apron and handkerchief for my hair (all the kids and teachers were wearing them and I tried to copy how they had put theirs on) and we found our tables in the room. Four eqipped tables were there and at each table were six kids plus sensei, which makes for a small bit of chaos, but it was handled well. They had the wee kids chopping vegetables, mixing a batter and turning the gas on to heat oil in a pan. No accidents, though. I could not read the recipe, but that did not matter since the sensei was guiding us. We ended up making a nifty soy-based soup, a rice-noodle-meat-cabbage extravaganza, a funny-looking fried onions and red peppers in batter thing, and finally, a dessert. I did not know it was a dessert because it was the first thing we did. We removed the seed from a shriveled green fruit (?), put the fruit bit in a plastic cup, poured some kind of funny liquid we had boiled over it, then put it into the fridge. I literally did not know until we were eating an hour and a half later that it was meant to be dessert: the liquid had turned to gelatin and the fruit was very sweet. The meal was delicious and I quickly finished. I ate far, far, far faster than anyone else in the room... and that was with chopsticks.

      Isn't That a Chore? The kids, after eating, took their plates up and WASHED them of their own volition, obviously knowing what they were doing. It reminded me of kayak day when they all cleaned out their gear without a single complaint. Now maybe this is unusual, but I didn't know how to wash dishes when I was a kid. I did have chores, just not that particular one. (In fact, the first time I think I ever washed dishes was during a Jr. High retreat, then Foods class in High School, then not until college.) Also, I remember chores being associated with whining in the States. Not so here.

      Covered in Little Girls! My participation in the cooking (i.e. hanging around helplessly, sticking my hand in the icky bowl to help mix the batter and encouraging fly-pan flipping) apparently endeared one little girl to me. She literally ran up and jumped on me, which I thought was way cute. It also started a trend. So instead of going to the post office during my official lunch hour, I ended up playing with lots of little girls, mainly three enthusiastic ones. When they all toppled me, I turned myself into a boat and 'rowed' until we all fell over. I was spinning one little girl around a lot. When another, overweight girl wanted to as well, the first girl said she couldn't cause she was too big. That was sorta rude, I thought (though I don't think it sounds as bad in Japanese) so I made sure everyone got a turn for spinning. At one point they were playing hide-and-seek with my shoes. It was all way fun, but one of my coworkers peeked in and in polite (but unmistakable) gestures, told us to keep the volume down. I suppose at this point, we were in the library section of the bunka center so, um, oops. It was the lunch hour, though, so I did not feel quite so guilty. Anyway, later, when Kato san was leading me toward the elementary school for my 2:00 meeting, one of the little girls who was still hanging around, jumped right back on me. I still thought it was cute, but I tickle attacked them and said I had to go and couldn't play (in my anime-learned kid Japanese). Kato-san informed me after we were out of earshot that I could say 'No' if I needed to and if I had trouble I could talk to the staff or teachers. I was sort of affronted because I did say no earlier (when I had to disentangle myself to get back to work) and hey, I'm trying to build good will here. I do wonder what I will do, though, if I'm toppled in a classroom and am tempted to just play instead of playing learning games.

      A TV in Every Room? Yes. Central Heating? No. I had a meeting with the elementary school teachers today, one in particular. She gave me a schedule and showed me materials. I was very, very happy with all the books and CDs left for me, though was not sure what to think of her insistence that I give her a lesson plan a week or more before classes. I suppose I can understand her anxiousness, but... well, I was told that they were critical of lots of my predecessor's activity ideas. I'll see what they say about mine (which are probably going to be re-hashings of ideas in the half dozen books I have on the subject). While I was in the office, there was a strange and loud noise. It sounded like a child's toy turned on suddenly, playing a really absurdly happy little tune. It was the phone. Anyway, after the meeting, she took me on a tour and found a wall area full of stuff that my predecessor had done for the kids. Extensive and pretty cool, it was. I'm not sure HOW I'm going to get bored with all this stuff to do (the monthly total is now: a Sakugi Newsletter, two Bulletin Boards, a Jr. High Newsletter, and an Eikaiwa) though I have been told I would feel like I had nothing to do. The elementary school is in a brand new building, amazingly equipped for a small school in the country. It has a broadcasting room (and here I thought those Marmalade Boy 'Lunch News' scenes were fancy), keyboards in the music room, a FULLY equipped cooking room (which I was in this morning), a chemistry room, TVs and intercoms in every classroom, tons of supplies, and a fancy meeting room with a stage. The fourth-year classroom had a 'romaji' chart ("Romaji on the Wall" sounds like a good name for a band) but it used the other system. The octagonal stage room had four air conditioner units like the ones in my house. Why is somewhere as high-tech and efficient as Japan uncomfortable with things like insulation and central heating/cooling? And dishwashers, too (though this might be the whole having to turn on the gas every time to heat the water, thing). Hmmm. Conclusion: I should just suck it up and buy leg warmers for the winter.

      Unicycles, a Japanese Phenomenon? I saw the unicycles lined up by the elementary school, but I somehow did not really believe that they were used. How wrong I was. When I was walking back, one little girl was just casually cycling around on a unicycle. Woah. I learned on two wheels (plus two training wheels) when I was not much younger than her. I repeat: Woah. Is Sakugi determined to be known for things or is this simply a popular kids activity? (You know, given that the kids handle exacto blades, gas burners, sharp knives, and ride around on one wheel, the stereotype of mothers being overprotective can't be all that true.)

      They actually ride these things!

      Finally, Some Photos I got my mobile phone camera to send emails with pictures attached to hotmail, which I then downloaded onto my computer and have peppered across my website. No, the pics don't get any better, but hey, isn't that cool?? I can take pictures with my phone and not have to spend $300 for a digital camera! And, it's a phone and stuff! Yay! Oh, and another technical note: I found out that the ISDN might have been disconnected, so after all that, it might not even be us.

      In Insect News... I am less and less afraid of the pantry as more time passes without sight of any crawly things. Oh, I saw my first TV ad for a spray to get rid of tatami bugs, which I don't think I have (though the bites I got yesterday near the cucumber plant are itching like crazy). I sent the "Bugs, you don't want to live at my house no more." vibe out last night.

    Thursday, August 21, 2003

      IN A NUTSHELL: I Actually Felt Like I Was Working!

      I spent the day at the Jr. High. I made a self-intro bingo card like the guy at the orientation suggested and said "had worked 200 times." I actually figured out how to enlarge stuff on the copy machine, though considering it works exactly like any other copy machine (even though it was in kanji, it said things like '200%' so it was not too hard.) I noticed that me and the desk next to me were one of the few groups of desks without a 'blue cord' for the LAN connection. I half wondered if this was on purpose but also noted that Nosohara-san, who is the vice-principal, has to use the common computer in the middle. Maybe it was not on purpose. Otherwise, my desk rocks! It's by the window and faces the center of the room so I don't have people looking over my shoulder without me noticing.

      Need to Learn Tolerence for Germs I used the Jr. High School bathroom. The fact that they were all squat toilets was not too much of a big deal since I got the hang of the method while in Tokyo, however, it is still a school bathroom! I suppose I was hoping there would be a nice teacher's bathroom somewhere since I never used the bathrooms at my high school. Ick! The worst part was that there was no soap, which brings us to: reason #1 I am not like the Japanese. The Japanese are very clean, but believe that clean means washing with water. (For example, at the cooking school, all the kids washed their hands. But only with water, not with soap.) There was no soap in the bathroom. This is also true at the bunka center bathroom (side note: I thought that this pretty little container with purple liquid in the corner was soap, but after awhile I realized it was probably some kind of air freshener or something. It did not occur to me that a bathroom that nice would not have soap so I used it. I'm still not sure what it is, but it does not bubble.) The kind of ironic part about all this is a little sign in the Jr. High bathroom next to the mirror that says (in kana and kanji) "Please make sure to fully clean your hands." How do they expect anyone to do that if they never replace the soap dispenser? Do I need to learn to be less of a germ freak?

      Because There's no DeoDeo in Sakugi DeoDeo is a mega-cool electronics store chain. The closest one is in Miyoshi (there is a 7-floor one in downtown Hiroshima). Anyway, on my air conditioner, a light lit up that said 'osouji' over it, which I was pretty sure meant 'clean.' I confirmed it today and lovely Maruyama-san (who happened to stop by the Jr. High to talk with Nosohara-san) went over to my house right then and there in the middle of the work day, checked it out and thought it looked okay to her, but called her nephew (I think) anyway who works at DeoDeo and had him come over to check it again. He arrived at about 5:45. This brings me to reason #2 I am not like the Japanese. He walked in, leaving my door WIDE open. I had to tell him to close it. I was thinking 'bugs, bugs, bugs!' Anyway, he also said my filter looked fine and reset the light and told me to brush the dust off the filter once every season. It's good to have connections in this town.

      It Is Dead By amazing timing, I happened to see Evil Cockroach speed into my room right before I was about to go in to set up my futon. First thought: Crap, it's in my bedroom! Second thought: There's nowhere in my room to hide! It's now or never! I quickly retrieved the spray and ran into my room, finding the Black Bug after a short search. I turned on the spray. I had to spray for probably a solid 30 seconds (which is long in bug-time) as I followed it along the edge, but I killed it in the end. And, you know what? It's not nearly as big as I had thought. Yes, it's still GROSS and I went through a bit of jumping around like a wimp trying to get it into a bag, but maybe it's not really a full cockroach. Anyway, I feel better now. I have hope that I will adjust.

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