Thursday, May 31, 2007

My new job

Oh! You are all so smart and have so many good questions!

For those who have asked, thank you for wanting to take the time to find out more about what I'm going to be doing! I am so excited to share...

The school I'll be at, Nagoya International School, is the only English-speaking school in Nagoya, the third largest city (population: 3 million) in Japan. NIS is an American school with American curriculum. I'll be speaking and teaching in English, as most students are fluent English speakers. To speak, teach, or know Japanese will not be a requirement for this contract.

The compensation package they provide is one of the highest in international schools. Although I've only taught two full-time years, they are still starting me at Step 4 on the salary scale. Although there are taxes to pay, they are low, and after taking those, medical, retirement, pension, and utilities each month, I'll still gross more take-home salary per month than I made in Waukee. My (furnished) housing is also provided, as well as, $1000 to ship anything I want from the States, and a $1500 relocation grant to take care of any purchases I make during my first two months of settling in. My salary the second year will be higher than the first, and will rise subsequently, should I choose to stay longer. In Japan, I'll be a millionaire, as my salary in yen will be more than 4 million. Which is pretty cool.

My contract starts mid-August and lasts two years (yikes! I know!). The school pays to fly me out of Des Moines to Japan and back at the beginning and end of my contract, and a round-trip home once a year, at any time of my choosing. I get two months off in the summer, three weeks at Christmas, a week during the spring, and many three-day weekends.

I'll have full medical and dental, 100% coverage including all perscriptions. I receive 10 paid bereavement days and a full paid trip home in the case of a serious illness or death in the family. I have 5 paid personal days and 10 sick days through the year as well. A health club membership is included in my salary, and there's a golf course nearby.

I'll also be given $1000 for professional development, which I will probably use to take overseas Masters courses in either Child Development or Pediatrics (yes, doctor stuff!).

Although there's probably more, that's all I know for now. Either way, though, I'm pretty pumped for what lies ahead.

Lastly, here is the website for the school:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thoughts from May

As the month wraps up, please enjoy some random thoughts.

I think it's really really cool that the toilets in this country NEVER clog. Not once, NEVER, have I seen a clogged loo. Ever.

When I come home I'm going to take a BATH. I'm tired of 3X3, square, roofless, glass showers.

A few weeks ago I put my hand through a glass window in my flat. The shocking thing was that while I bled all over the floor, I just stood there,, more upset that I just broke the window and would likely have to pay for it (sooooo poor right now). Sheena came in and said, 'Wenz! Go wash it!' Although I had 6 severe cuts on my hands and feet, this little accident wasn't enough to warrant a free trip for my parents to be with me in the hospital, courtesy of my travel insurance. But if it didn't hurt so much, I'd do it again and REALLY hurt myself so that they'd have an excuse to come.

If you want to order a Sprite in New Zealand, make sure you ask for a lemonade. If you want a lemonade, make sure you ask for a fresh lemon juice. Available at most international food courts and worth a trip.

I STILL think it's really gross that people walk in and out of stores without shoes on. Especially food stores or cafes.

I would die (just DIE) for a cup of powder, push button, instant coffee from a gas station. In a giant cup. Here, the coffee is fresh made everywhere (even gas stations), and comes in one size only: small. I still have to go to Starbucks to satisfy my large coffee requirements. Keep your small-sized coffees, you silly fools! I'm American! I want a big damn coffee!

Yesterday I made the mistake of wearing my American Cancer Society t-shirt, the Cheeseball Liverfanny one, to school on the day when I ran cross country with the kids. The mistake is that a fanny in New Zealand isn't a rear end. A fanny is the front side of the rear end. Apparently pretty inappropriate for a school setting.

Winter is settling in here. I have a heater in my room at night, but when I leave the comfort of 70 degrees each morning and walk into the hall in my flat, I can see my breath. I will appreciate central air/heat when I come home. For sure.

Two weeks ago I bought a bed (a real bed!). So I'm off the floor again. I had the GREATEST sleep in it the first night I had it. Always thought I had been fine on the floor (and I was), but am so glad I finally made the purchase. Except now I am leaving in 5 weeks and need to sell it again. Know anyone who needs a bed?

Welcome June, welcome cold, welcome my last month in New Zealand.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Sheena Estelle Papuni, how do I love thee?

Let me count the ways...

(it won't take long) ;)

Truly, though, I love Sheena.

Sheens is one of my closest buds, but we couldn't be more different if we wanted to.

She's 23, beautiful, looks amazing night and day with VERY little effort, and has an amazing (23-year old) body that is wonderfully complemented by a closet full of great, expensive clothes that she didn't pay a cent for (she gets $600 free each month as part of her manager contract at a local retail store).

It drives me crazy.

She loves drama, having drama, being dramatic, creating drama, which makes her a typical kiwi. Sometimes I think she has more problems than I have shoes (which is a lot).

It drives me crazy.

When she washes dishes she doesn't rinse them. Just sticks them from the soapy water right to the drying rack (I can hear your gasps of horror from home, really, I can).

She's an incredible dancer (the body and clothes help) and looks effortless doing moves that I (shocker...) look like a moron doing.

She won't be told to do anything by anybody, and if you ask her to turn the radio down, she'll turn it up.

It drives me CRAZY!

She is ABSOLUTELY the MOST unreliable person I have ever met. Her plans change from minute to minute, and I have come to learn to NEVER count on Sheen to do something with you unless it's spur-of-the-moment. Even if it's her idea, likely is that she'll be too tired or will 'hit a wall' before you can get there to do it.

As a person who likes to plan, this drives me crazy. Because we're such good friends, I know and expect and respect her for these choices. But it still drives me crazy.

And sometimes, she can be a real, grade-a bitch.

Which at the time, drives me the craziest.

But something that Sheens should be really proud of is her incredible confidence. Now, of course, she doesn't really count herself in as a confident person. But I see otherwise. She has a great sense of people and can speak to you as if she's lived ten wise lives. At bars, she loves to flirt and is good at it (confidence built on the fact that she never gets turned down. Ever.). Confidence above and beyond her 23 years, paired with a hot body and great hair makes for a big shadow to follow, no matter where we are(although I am learning to hold my own...).

She's pretty amazing, and it kinda drives me crazy.

But, she's helped me come out of my shell a little. I have learned to be more confident when going out. I buy more fun clothes and try to eat better (not because she convinces me to, but just so I can look good next to her in my bikini...). She'll be the one I get my third tattoo with, if we decided to do one before I go.

So, all and all, although she drives me crazy, my over-dramatic flattie is one of the greatest people I know.

I hope she's one of the five people I meet in heaven, cause that'll be a rockin' party.

I love you Sheens.

126 ova and out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lost in translation

Ah, texting. I sing it's praises time and time again. From being texted about relief work from my principal to my 'effing' dictionary, I can't speak enough about texting.

I've mentioned before that I never use the letter u to represent the word you, or the number 4 to represent the word for. I always, always, always make my sentences grammatically correct, with proper spelling and punctuation. The only thing I don't do is capital letters, same as many of my e-mails. A text from me would look like this:

hey nina! mareta and i are up for some wines at SPQR after school on friday and you're coming too! that way, we can all hang out, drink, and you can say that you've finally been!

But others aren't so keen to be correct with sentence structure or proper grammar. And sometimes, it's a real mission to figure out what they're saying. Take these actual texts, written exactly as I received them...

i sd it 2 him b4
Oh and whle i waz in telecm grabd a mag 4 u.
no txtng babe felt strengthened n hotter by yr confirmation.Went out 4 drnks last nite bouncd out of bed bn 4 walk up th mauga n hvn chai latte up sym str lovit
fank u xx
wot u up 2?
haha whoop whoop im gd at livin rm with bellew watchn ruggas. wea u at america wat r ur coordinates ova.
sweet!thts us!
me comin in now. wana get a beer out front b4 shift?
Im so happy 4 u al!Wr al partying u go galfriend.Tim txt ths morn 2 wish gr8 time
---- nite watchn rugby...u stil at work? Buzi?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Child Endangerment Laws

I haven't written about school much lately, so I thought I was due. I reckoned it'd be interesting to speak about the child endangerment laws. Or the lack thereof, I guess. It's much different than America...

1. Last Thursday I was at school and it was my turn for lunch duty (which I have every Thursday). Two children had launched a paper airplane (this term's unit is flight) onto the sails that cover part of the playground. To try to retrieve the airplane, they were throwing shoes up at it in an effort to bounce it off. I allowed this, as I found it to be an inventive, creative way to get the item. As would be expected, though, a shoe ended up on the roof of the school. It was near the end of duty time, so I told the kids to go get Tu (the groundskeeper) and ask him to get it off the roof. I then went in the building go ring the bell, signaling the end of play.

When I came back, the ladder had been put next to the building and unattended children were climbing it, trying to get to the roof. Tu hadn't stayed to help, no teachers were present, just children climbing a ladder to try to get to the roof. I immediately went over to, a) take over the situation because the kids were too short to get to the roof, and b) take over the situation because really, were these kids climbing on to the roof without supervision?

I got on the roof and got the shoe, but got stuck (laughable, right?). So I asked Suzie Jo, a middle school teacher, to come help me get my feet back on the ladder. Once I was down, she said to me (in almost a scold), 'Next time, don't climb on the roof. One of the kids will do it.'

I'm sorry. What?

2. The following day there was a union meeting for all the teachers at school. The union meeting took place during the day, so after lunch, all the teachers left to go to the meeting, leaving a skeleton crew of 3 non-union teachers and 2 relievers (including me). Earlier that week the students had taken home a notice letting parents know that there would be a union meeting, and it was encouraged that parents find alternative care for their children for the afternoon of the union meeting. Being the good Ponsonby families they are, most kids were picked up at noon.

The interesting thing, though, is that no child signed out. The parents just rocked up and grabbed their kiddos. No telling teachers, no telling the office, just up and gone. Hayley my principal, was actually walking by me when a parent approached her and said, 'Do we need to sign them out?' to which she replied, 'Nope, they can just go. See you tomorrow.'

I'm sorry. What?


Kids aren't required to wear shoes. Anywhere.

The schools have no fences around them. Strangers can rock in and out at will, if wanted. Side doors (unwatched by office persons) are unlocked. Again, just come in and out if you want to, guys.

I'm allowed to touch children (gasp!)!

I never wear gloves when touching blood or (yes, I've had to) urine.

But, at the same time, kids are happy here. They are (for the most part) respectful and mature. They feel safe. The lack of fences has never caused a kiddo to go missing, through his own will or the will of another.

So although the practices still sometimes shock me, they sure are working.

(the picture is Hugo, one of my little cuties...)

Thursday, May 17, 2007







ok, so I don't actually know all those little lines and stuff mean, but it's SUPPOSED to say:

Dear family and friends,

I hope you will all come and visit me soon in Japan, as I have just accepted a position at Nagoya International School.



Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Betty Boombox, some call her.

Her real name is James.

She's a tranny, which is slang for transvestite. This means that he is a she is a he is a she.

Still with me?

Betty is a bartender at SPQR. She is very (and I mean VERY) cool.

It's no lie that I was initially shocked when meeting Betty. I guess this little girl from the Midwest wasn't ready for that kind of person. And I remember trying to not to picture the logistics of he is a she is a he in a visual way.

In reality, though, Betty is one of the kindest, most amazing souls I have ever met.

To be a tranny takes a lot of work. It's not just chop here and fold there. It's years of therapy, hormones, and for some, a loss of identity. Betty's takes a cocktail of pills each day. Depression pills to counter the effect of the pills that fight the testosterone and the pills for extra estrogen, pills for this, pills for that. I've seen them, man, and there's a lot.

Betty's house is nicknamed the Tranny Wonderland. It's a fifth-floor, downtown, high-rise apartment, and it's beautiful. It's full of Maori treasures from her ancestors, pictures of friends, and a huge, huge model train set. One night, in the funniest story I'll ever tell, I had a few too many with Betty and Nay Nay (who also lives there) and ended up making a last-minute decision to stay the night. I slept in Betty's bed (she insisted on sleeping on the couch), wore Betty's robe, and (gasp) even borrowed a pair of (brand-new) underwear that she had in her drawer. She had a riot telling everyone at work that we shared panties.

Oh, Betty.

But the most special thing about Betty was her recent gift to me. Pounamu, or Maori greenstone, is a gift that can only be bestowed on you (you can't buy it for yourself). It's a great honor to receive it from another person. My person was Betty.

I love Betty's beauty, inside and out, and my wish for her is to always be as happy as she makes others feel.

(good on ya, girl...)

Friday, May 11, 2007


(Instead of a card, my grandpa sent the following message this morning. I think he's quite clever, I especially like #7...).
Happy Birthday!!!!!

Since I didn't get a card sent, I am going to make you a list. It is a list of the...

10 reasons we are happy Wendy is 26!

She's old enough to vote (but only if she comes back to her own country to do it).

She's old enough to drink (as long as she can recognize the difference between a straight and a gay bar)!!!! Sorry.

She's old enough to drive. (But can she re-learn to sit on the correct side of the car to steer - and refrain from "driving" while
on the right hand Passenger seat when she returns to the US?)

According to the old saying, "She's old enough to know better" but also knows better than to resist the great things in life such as chocolate and other sticky-gooey foods.

She's old enough to be on her own (a wonderful thing for parents in terms of money and the worst thing for parents in all other ways).

She's old enough to not wet or dirty her diapers (but do realize that may return someday - just with a new name)!!!

She's old enough to make her own decisions. (Yes, Dear, we know you have been doing that for 25-plus years - just not realizing you were not old enough to do it.)

It just adds one more year of things she does of which we are proud.

She's old enough to realize how much all of us love her!!!!

And, she's old enough to know we mean it when we say, "Have a really happy birthday and many, many more!!!!!"

I love you, Wendy

Grandpa D and Marvel

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Three Simple Rules

When I was teaching at Waukee Elementary, my students once had an Earth Day activity to complete independently at station time. The job was to color and cut out a picture of the world, glue it to a second sheet, and write three things one could do to keep the earth beautiful.

One of my little cherubs, Jacob, hit the nail right on the head. In fact, he did such an amazing job on this project that I kept his work, framed it, and have it now hanging in my room. It's even one of the 4 prized possessions I would grab and take with me if the house was on fire...

Jacob's three simple rules for keeping Earth beautiful?

1. Help pick up trash.

2. Always keep it clean.

3. Make love and good friends.

Yup. That'll about do it, buddy.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Lessons Learned

By Wendy.

In a week I will transition from my early twenties to my late twenties.


The lessons I've learned since my last birthday are many. I could write a book, but that'd be boring. Instead, I'll just share a few...

I've learned that no matter where you go, there you are. You won't be different, but you will change.

I've learned that loss hurts. A lot.

I've learned that when things aren't going your way, it's o.k to ride the waves. Good days can be good, bad days can be bad. And whether it's a day, a week, or a month, this too shall pass.

I've learned that the best cure for a hangover is a trip to the toilet and a mince and cheese pie (though not at the same time). In fact, I look forward to the mince and cheese pie after a night of drinks. It's like a guilty indulgence.

I've learned that some nights, no matter how tired you are, you just don't sleep.

I've learned that it's o.k. to accept those nights.

I've learned that insecurities are a part of each and every one of us. They make up a big part of who we are.

I've learned to learn from every mistake I make.

I've learned firsthand that tattoos are cool, but that they hurt. A lot.

I've unfortunately learned that in general, most Americans typify why people hate Americans.

I've learned not to be one of those Americans.

I've learned that sometimes you have to be a better friend to others than they are to you, and although sometimes they make it hard, I've learned to treat others the way I want to be treated for that exact reason.

I've learned that I won't always get what I want.

I am learning to accept that I won't always get what I want.

I've learned that if you love something enough, you sometimes have to let it go. And if it comes back to you, it's o.k. to tell it to sod off.

I've learned that working hard for something, and I mean really, really hard, is worth it.

I think I've learned that being indecisive can be a good character trait sometimes.

I've learned to live my life to the fullest. I refuse to settle for mediocrity, and I hope my passion and zest for making the most of my life is contagious.

I've learned that living is easy with eyes closed.

I've learned to never say no to a friend.

I've learned that patience is a virtue (that I still don't possess).

I've learned that the time to be happy is now.

Lastly, I've learned that the most important thing I can do for the world is to be selfless. Good deeds done each day - giving your time and expecting nothing in return, smiling, being a role model, doing no wrong by others - truly work miracles. If everyone could do it, the world would be a better place. And since I know that it's not easy for everyone, I'll do my best to overcompensate by constantly being a better and better person each day.

Until next year... the end.