Saturday, October 25, 2008


Based on the recent popularity (and really well-written posts) of guest bloggers on my site, I am implementing tryouts for anyone who wants to try it out.

It's easy.

1. Write whatever you want
2. Submit it to me (for consideration of course)
3. Send along a picture of you blogging (whether with quill and parchment, on the computer, or notes on a napkin)

Then, I will edit, proof, and post! It's that easy!

No topic is off limits (unless you write something I don't like, of course!). Whatever you can say, do, or contribute to make the world more literate - we want you!

Plus, it's a bit of time off for me too...

submit to:

Happy Writing!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Jen and Kyle

When I lived in New Zealand, I used to do a bit where every few blogs, I would post about the people I loved the most. I even created a sub category on my blog page for all of these people so that they could be referenced both quickly and efficiently. Now, though, for no reason whatsoever, I find that my writing in that area is lacking, which of course, needs to be fixed immediately.

William James once said: 'Wherever you are, it's your friends who make your world.' He couldn't be more correct. And, to do justice to those who, here in Japan, really do make my world, I am going to attempt to introduce my greatest friends and companions to you, one (or two) cool person(s) at a time.

It's only fitting that, after this week, I am inspired to put my good friends Jen and Kyle first. But, where, oh where, do I start?

Well ok. it's actually pretty easy. I'll just start off by saying that my friend Jen is a real bitch. A self-proclaimed (and she would endorse me for saying it) bitch, no less.

Strong-willed, tempermental, and used to getting her way, it's no wonder we're really good friends. Jen currently lives in the amazing, but less-than-ideal-for-her, world of the military spouse. As I realized quickly during my time on the bases in Okinawa, the military pays little attention to the needs of spouses, who often quickly lose their identities and lives (and careers, and profiles, and autonomy, and independence, etc...). For a strong woman like Jen, a woman who has always fended for herself, this is difficult to swallow. Although being a 'military wife' is not on Jen's high list, she accepts is as what it is, and 'appreciates' the challenges that come with, like fighting for what she believes in, keeping her brain sharp and strong, and helping others with the planning of their post-military lives. Now maybe she doesn't do it with quite as much effort as when she was a high-flying career woman in Ames, Iowa, but it is what it is, and she is Jen, doing the best she can, in a man's world.

For all her toughness, though, Jen's heart is like gold. Rachel and I both noticed it, I especially more than I ever had. The qualities that make her hard are complimented by her ability to put people at ease, be kind at all (most) times, and her killer sense of humor.

Now, don't get me wrong, Jen is an AMAZING person on her own. But for the last year, she has had something else that has complimented her better than anything I have ever seen: Kyle.

At first, I wasn't sure what I would think of Kyle. When I first heard about him, the summer before I headed to New Zealand, Jen and Kyle (whom I had never heard about, let alone met) had just split, and she talked to me about him when I had no prior knowledge, face, or personality to attach the information with. He was a republican in the military dating my friend Democrat Jen, and I was sure that they would never work out anyway. But, after moving abroad and losing that ever-important contact with those you love, I found out that Kyle and Jen made it back together, and, after some time, were eventually married.

By some scattered twist of fate, 6 months later they were stationed in Okinawa, Japan, a mere two-hour flight from me. To think, Jen and I, friends for almost 15 years, were now on the same continent, living a short flight away from each other, without having planned or tempted fate to put us there.

When I arrived in Okinawa this week to meet Jen and spend a week with her during my autumn break, I, of course, was to meet Kyle for the first time too. Boy, was I amazed. My friend Jen, the real bitch, has a husband whose heart is as golden as hers is, if not more. I have never seen a man so adoring, complimenting, and loving towards any woman in my generation (and I only say that because my grandparents, equally as amazing, are a different subset completely!). Jen, deep down knows it, and loves him equally. They truly are the odd couple, not likely, but very much right together.

Kyle bent over backwards for us all week. When we (including Jen) needed something, he got it, made it, fixed it, bought it, called for it, or planned it. He took time off to take us places, play golf, hang out, eat dinner, and was very generous with his house, his time, and his life. At the end of the week, he made us feel like we had done them the favor by coming over, and to this day, I am not sure who benefited from the holiday more. Always the perfect gentleman, Kyle regularly opened doors, spoke with courtesy, complimented his wife, and chewed with his mouth closed. He is good, good people. The kind you'd be proud to take home to Mom and Dad. He and Jen go together like peanut butter and jelly. Like milk and cookies. Like Japanese Military Police and attitude problems.

As I write this, nearing to my finish, a tear comes to my eye. I am sitting on a plane, just having left paradise, as the happiest girl in the world, and flooded with emotions. If nothing else in this confusing world, I wish for myself, and others, to love and care for each other (whether you're friends of lovers) as Jen and Kyle do, with a deep respect, understanding, and appreciation of each other. As all good couples, and things that work together well in this world, do.

So, in the end, to Jen and Kyle - I say 'compai'. And thanks.

A New Inisight...

(by guest blogger Rachel Hall)

the sharp salute, stony gaze, red, white, and blue
medals of every kind ; ribbons, planes, bars, stars, stripes, gold, sliver, bronze, and purple
yes maam no maam, forward march, company halt, freedom
taps, star spangled banner, trumpets, horns, drums
children laughing, wives crying, joy, sadness, fear, disappointment, love
perceived situation

gate guards, guns, boredom, frustration
inequality, stolen identity, shackles, bondage
grey, drab, stoney, ancient
pregnant mothers, running children, chaperoned streets
music echoing at 8 and 6
compromise, patience, elation, love
precious time, stolen moments
tears, letters, laughter, fear,
red, white, blue, freedom?

Firsts and Lasts

Our last day in Okinawa was filled with many firsts, which included:

... me waking up on the couch.
... Rachel waking up with a scotch hangover
... taking Jen and Kyle's dog Hari to the vet, where he peed on the floor, and was eventually taken in to be neutered.
... makeovers by the keen makeup girl at Lancome.
... a long, long walk with Jen, wwhere we divulged our deepest darkest secrets.
... a ride in the slowest, giant ferris wheel along the ocean, which delivers some of
the best views of downtown base central (well, best next to being 1000 feet in the air in a cessna, that is).
... a fine pot-luck dinner, which included baked beans and Mountain Dew, so generously
provided by Uncle Sam and the US Marine Corps.
... being asked to take our lighters OUT of our checked luggage to be instead carried
on the plane (what the??).
... getting away with bringing two 70 pound suitcases for check-in and not being
questioned for even a second.
... all of Rachel's luggage arriving ON TIME!

Our last day in Okinawa was filled with many lasts, as well. Some of them, sadly, included:

... one last day at the beach.
... a few last bikini photos before having to put them away for winter.
... the last $150 splurge at the Post Exchange (hello, new makeup brushes!)
... one final cornerside Starbucks or two.
... the last use of our MOR citations to get us on base.
and lastly, most unfortunately,
... one last goodbye to new friends, old friends, and some fine-looking Marines as

I think Ray and I both left a bit of our hearts in Okinawa, and I, for one, look forward to visiting again soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

2 down, 5 to go

Finally, finally, in all of my long years of playing golf (which is 2), I've tackled my new favorite sport on two continents: America and Asia.

What has stopped me from playing in Japan so far? The $200 price tag, required suit, and 8 hour play time necessary for a formal round on mainland.

In Okinawa, though, on the bases where all things are American, 18 holes, a cart, and club rentals set me back about $36.

And, fortunately for me, Kyle and his friend Langdon are both avid golfers.

So, on Thursday morning, bright and early, I laced up my sneakers, threw on some sunscreen, and headed out for 18 of the most beautiful holes I have ever seen. The base is right along the ocean, boasts 18 different holes, and allows amazing views of the most amazing (and loud) airplanes taking off from the hangers less than 500 meters away.

My golf partners were pretty great too. Langdon, a triathlete and great golfer, led the team in our best-ball game. Kyle and I, who finally warmed up around hole 14, contributed as well. We told dirty jokes, ate and drank the whole way through, and had a great boy's day out.

Oh, and my cowboy hat only fell off once...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Okinawa from 1000 feet

This week was full of best things ever. Laying on the beach, good looking Marines, sun and sand, and all things American. But, truly, one of the BEST things ever was flying above Okinawa at a little over 800 feet, in a small cessena, flown by a retired FAA pilot.

For one hour we were shown the sights and scenery of the entire west coast of Okinawa. I rode in the front (in typical Wendy fashion) and Jen and Ray were happy to fly in the back.

Worst part? That I tried to joke with the pilot about how much the Stealth Jet tour cost and that he didn't find it the least bit funny.
Best part? The sunset over the ocean, the beauty of Okinawa at dusk, and taxiing with F-16 fighter jets that shortly took off, right in front of our eyes (and at the mercy of our ears!) after we landed.

It was something that I will never, ever forget.

The common criminal

The common criminal is a dirty scoundrel. You think of him/her as someone who will ruin your day, steal your wallet, offend you, or maybe even touch you inappropriately.

On day three in Okinawa, the common criminal became Rachel and I...

Imagine our shock, when, while coming back from a standard day at the beach (like we had done for the two days prior) we were detained at the gate of our base, Camp Lester, for not having a sponsor (Jen or Kyle) to accompany us with our passes.

(As a side note - these passes I speak of had been registered to us earlier in the day, as had to be done on a separate base every day, so that we could enter and exit the bases on our own free will, and of which getting, mind you, was a big pain in the ass for all parties involved (please refer to blog 'I Hate America'), where parties involved is Jen and Kyle, Wendy and Rachel.

So, again, passes in hand, Ray and I cruised up, on foot, to the pass shack, flashed our passes to the Japanese guards, like usual, and were instead detained and asked to stand to the side until we could prove we belonged on the base or a sponsor could be found to accompany us in.

Why is this a big deal? Many reasons.

For starters, it was about a Brazillian degrees outside. Ray and I were in our swimsuits and sundresses, sweaty, sandy, and smelly. And as we stood there, outside the pass shack while the Japanese gate police called for verification, tens of cars, all with passes (and AC), scooted by, staring at us. The two girls who, if were allowed base passes in the first place (please, again, refer to blog 'I Hate America'), wouldn't be standing there feeling like common criminals.

'Criminals?', you say? 'Hardly, Wendy! They were just checking to keep America's service men and women and their bases safe! No worries, girl!'

Yeah, right.

Because then the Military Police rocked up in their cozy little cruiser. Turns out that the verification that the Japanese gate guards needed came in the form of the American Military Police.

Glad to find somebody who could finally speak more than 7 words of my language, I spilled the beans about our situation to the small, skinny little Lance Corporal, very quickly explaining why we didn't have REAL passes in the first place (please, again, refer to blog 'I Hate America'). The small, skinny, rank-less little Lance Corporal listened, made a couple of calls (again, refer to the above paragraph about it being a Brazillian degrees out), and came out to let us know that he was going to issue us an MOR, which, as explained to me, sounded like a free pass into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory (or, actually, just free access to every base, which we hadn't been able to get before).

Ray and I laughed all the way home that the skinny little Lance Corporal was able to get us a free access pass that even the highest ranking officers wouldn't issue. We laughed, and laughed, and laughed (and even told the Lance Corporal that we'd refer him to the general). Then, we got home, prepared to tell Jen our funny story, opened up our MORs, and realized that MOR actually stands for Minor Offense Report. Meaning that Rachel and I had just ACTUALLY been handed Military citations for trying to enter a base without proper ID.

Now, this story does have a happy ending in that in hindsight, the LCPL actually issued us the MOR so that it would look, from that point on, that we were just military-related personnel (spouse, cleaner, whatever) who had 'lost' their military IDs and were in the process of getting new onse made. He hadn't wanted to offend the Japanese gate guards by just letting us roll by without the proper authority, so he issued us citations, which actually satisfied not only the Japanese gate guards in their thirst for finding someone to pick on, but also Jen, Rachel, Kyle, and myself, who for the next 72 hours, did not have to apply for new passes on a different base each day.

But, the coolness of being a common criminal in your own country is still pretty great, I guess. And, it makes a great story to tell the kids. But, if Rachel and I show up on your local milk cartons, we know nothing about it...

Monday, October 20, 2008

America Sucks

Imagine HOW mad Rachel and I were this morning when we realized that being American no longer mattered.

Rachel and I, two America-loving, tax-paying, property-owning, independent, registered voters. Two America-loving, tax-paying, property-owning (and so on and so forth) Americans who no longer believe in their country.

It's sad, really.

We decided that we hated America this morning when we were denied entry onto an American base on account of our residency status in Japan. You know, it's funny, that when the man argued that we were residents of Japan (according to the condition of the 3-year work visa inside our passports, that is) thus refusing us entry to the base, I actually replied, 'Well, it's not by choice!' He didn't seem to care, though.

It's true. Can you believe it? Two America-loving, tax-paying, property-owning, independent, registered voters, not allowed easy access onto the bases in Okinawa because we're not, evidently, 'American' enough.

We've reckoned that the basis of this claim is to keep non-family, residents of other countries from having easy access to the American base, but for bloody Christ, we're FREAKIN' American, right!?

So, again, when the man today, told us that we, two, America-loving, tax-paying, property-owning, independent, registered voters, couldn't gain easy access to the base, as all other Americans are allowed to do, we were pretty pissed.

Were? Are. And probably will be forever.

As Ray lays next to me, her words are, 'hurt, actually'. I couldn't agree more. We, as international Americans in a world who scorns Americans, are some of the country's biggest cheerleaders. Sure, we don't lay down our lives by serving our country with honor and pride, but we do sneak into International teaching placements to brainwash small children into believing that America is the greatest place on Earth. And what do we get in return?


To make matters worse, being a resident in Japan gets us absolutely NO special privileges on the mainland. Which means that Ray and I, in the grand scope of the global world, feel pretty useless right now.

And to prove just how mad we were today, we chose to shop at Japanese Jusco, instead of the American base store, with our fellow Okinawan brothers and sisters. But, even they stared.

God bless America? Not today.

Okinawa, Day 2

Boy, we sure are having fun in Okinawa. Not only are Jen and Kyle AMAZING hosts, but we're just in such awe at the line that separates Japan from America - it's called Hwy. 58.

Day 2 was really great. We did some really cool cultural stuff having to do with the war, like visiting the Peace Park next to the ocean as well as some underground tunnels dug by the Japanese during the Battle of Okinawa (which was the bloodiest battle of World War 2!). To end our day, we took a 'spooky sights' tour, which was pretty bad, mind the scenery, which was cool.

I've included some of the best pictures of our day below.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Okinawa, Day 1

Jen, my wonderful, great friend Jen, really, really was convinced that when we came to Okinawa, we'd be disappointed at how we'd really, really be staying in America. In fact, she hates it because on the base, it is SO American, and she's exactly right.

But I assured Jen that Rachel and I really, really wouldn't mind, and that no matter how much she forced us to eat A&W's and Macaroni Grill, we'd really, really be ok with that.

So, none of us were surprised that our first stop, lunch, was at Chili's. Yum. I mean, I would have just been happy with the diet Coke, but cheese dip too? And loads of single army boys? It was heaven right in front of me.

Of all of the firsts that I saw, though, nothing struck me as funny as seeing military license plates, which are the EXACT same to our license plates except for one small but significant difference: the letter 'Y'.

On the mainland, all license plates are four numbers proceeded by one of the 45 or so Japanese Hiragana phonemes. Mine is the Hiragana letter 'te'. Here on the base, though, in an effort to make military personnel stand out even more than they already do, all cars that are owned privately by military people instead have the letter 'Y'.

What does the 'Y' stand for?


This is wrong on so many levels...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Getting better all the time

When I accepted this job, I remember worrying about the smallest stuff. I wasn't so concerned about curriculum, how many students were in my class, the obvious language barrier, or anything of that sort. Instead, though, I was terribly concerned with what color my curtains would be, the size of sheets I would ned for my bed, and what color picture frames would best accentuate my new place.

I remember getting the e-mail, with 8 whole pictures, showing me what my apartment would look like:

Then, I remember getting here and having very, very little (items and money) to decorate with. It was tragic how bare and lonely my place was, and I preferred, at all costs, not to be in it as much as possible. Although it was better than the pictures had previewed for me before coming, it still wasn't home:

Since arriving (and it has taken a good year to do so), my place has gotten better and better. And now, a year later, I find myself (figuratively) in the same place that my more tenured (and by tenured I mean 'have been in Japan longer than me') friends were a year ago - where the new people walk into my place and say (just as I did a year ago) ' Your place is actually furnished!' and 'I love how this looks over here.' or 'Where did you get that?' or 'It sure smells good in here - what is that great scent??"

After all this time, A205 has become a place that I actually enjoy spending time in, by myself, or with the company of others.

It's my home. And it's a nice place to be...

Janglish at its WORST

If you have had a baby or small child since I've moved to Japan, you know that my favorite present to send back is baby clothes. Baby clothes here can be found cheap, if you know where to look. And, my favorite store just happens to sell clothes that speak in really, really, really bad English.

For example, this summer, when my parents came to buy clothes for my two young nephews, they were lucky enough to find a shirt that read, on the back, 'It's a hell of a day.'

Tonight was my luckiest night ever. I found the shirt of shirts, which was funny on the front, and funnier on the back. I am NOT kidding that it is the funniest thing I have EVER seen in this country. In fact, I almost choked.

What do you think? I bought it for my future daughter. No joke.



Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A simple misunderstanding?

So, evidently, tonight, one of my adult learners will be absent. At least, I think so? Maybe all of you could help me understand the following e-mail I received for him this afternoon. $5 for the person who writes the best translation below...


deer wendey
thers days cool day by day if you attetion had coold
Im cod coold bifore athers says so today my absant
forever i'm going to study englishes by climb into one's futon
naturally next week i'll go to a crass hatano

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Politics 1

Because politics 101 is what they would call the expert class, and my class is more like Politics 0. The dumb teaching the dumber (where dumb = me and dumber = non-English speaking Japanese adults).

As you can imagine, my adult class tonight was likely full of erroneous information regarding the American political system. And for that, I say to my students 'Gomen ne'. But, I did try to explain it the best I could, in my best teacher voice, as if I were talking to 10-year olds. I won't really try to explain to you what I tried to teach them, for fear of ridicule, but be rest-assured that 11 Japanese adults are going to go home tonight to try to muddle through the election information they hear on the news. All thanks to my bad lesson.

Tonight, to start this conversation (because I was a little slack about planning), I brought in my absentee ballot, a) because it's the coolest thing ever, and b) I knew my Japanese students would give their left foot to be able to fill it out! As they passed it around and 'ooh'ed and 'ahh'ed, I just KNEW that I would get the question, 'Who are you voting for'.

Now, it is not my intention to try to persuade one person or the other. In fact, if you vote against my candidate, I'll be satisfied that at least my vote cancelled out one of yours. And, I'm not about to get into a political debate with you, as I am about as dumb as politics as my students are in English. But, because I think my reasons are good, I am going to tell you who I am voting for, in the same, truthful, plain way that I told to my students.

It all starts like this:

As an international American, the way my country is viewed by the rest of the world is of high importance to me. I find that everywhere I go, people are very interested to tell me what they think of American politics, as if they think I care about politics, or if they think I care what they think. But, nonetheless, choosing the man who represents the face of America is an important choice for me to consider.

Again, I am not an expert on politics, but I do believe that the president of the United States is more like the poster child of America than he is anything else. He doesn't single-handedly pass laws or make decisions. He does, though, speak with foreign leaders, inspire the nation in times of good and bad, and represent what is good in America.

And it's just that when John McCain speaks, I am not ever inspired.

For the last 8 years, we've had a president who is an embarrassing public speaker. Not once in the darkest of times or best of moments have I felt good listening to him. Never have I felt that the words coming out of his mouth were real, or his own. And never, ever, have I had any faith in anything he says.

Plus, I finished off by telling my students that John McCain just has too many chins for my liking.

So, here's my choice, plain and simple, like it or not. Go ahead, cancel my vote out. Or, be smart, and vote along side of me. And my friends. And family. And everyone I know...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Finally bitten

(Jerry, this one's for you. You see, you said that one of these days I'd learn my lesson, and it happened, more prominently than other times, recently. From now on, I'll mind the amount I drink (well, of course, no I won't), and I'll be more careful about what I say when doing so...)

In my life, I've been called many things, but never arrogant. I don't like to think that it would be a word used to describe me. Although others might say so, I would never consider myself to be strong, or even confident either. But, on the night in question, I was overly all three. Now, my excuse will be a bottle of wine, but, needless to say, I found myself in a situation that ended quickly, but brought that embarassing 'did-I-really-say-that' feeling to my stomach for the next three days.

Late (rally late) the other night, as my friends and I were running to catch the last trains (with pig's foot in tow), we were hurried by a conductor to run to the train before the doors closed. Having just made it, and shoving our way on, we sighed relief. But, the people directly behind us made a comment, in Japanese, about foreigners, that I partially understood (*partially understood = heard her say 'foreigners'). So, a loud-ish voice, I said to my friends (and, in hindsight, hopefully said quickly, so that maybe I wasn't understood) 'I can't wait until these people behind me start talking about us in Japanese, and I turn around and let them know I know exactly what they're saying.' I guess I thought I was pretty tough and smart (and MAYBE a bit on the too-much-to-drink side) in front of my non-Japanese speaking friends.

But, an instant later, when the train announcer came on to announce the next station, we started questioning whether we were on the right train. So, loud-ish like (again, sorry about that), my friends started looking at the train schedule and wondering out loud whether the train was going where we needed it. As the train slowed to the next station, and we started to realize that we were on the right train, just going in the wrong direction, the Japanese lady (from earlier) behind me spoke out, in perfect English:

"Yep. You guys are on the wrong train. Ozone is the other way."