Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gomen

(sorry.)

Wendy's World Tour is on haitus.

Lately, it seems that my blog is being read and scrutinized by people other than those intended, and the innocent intent of sharing the funny and enjoyable is being taken a bit too seriously.

Where and when persons who are easily and unjustly offended begin to complain and stir up muck, when my personal life and exploits are scrutinized, and when the actions of my friends and I are read by judgmental eyes, I find that the desire to share what's going on in my life, with all of you back home, falls.

For all of you friendly and faithful followers, I apologize.

To all the rest of you: blah.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Sofubus

(Grandmas and Grandpas)

I kid you not, that one out of every third person I see in the gym when I go at night in my weight lifting area, is a grandpa. And I wouldn't be surprised if, at any time, he could kick my ass in weightlifting. Or muscle building. Or running. Or life-longevity.

Imagine, if you will, 70-year old men with thick leather weight belts, pressing and squatting free weights without spotters.

Imagine, if you can, your grandpa doing the same. I mean, really. Could he? I know neither of mine could (no offense, Grandpa...).

These guys are nuts. Every time I go over to the free weight area to do dumbbell lifts (which, compared to what these guys can do, is pretty puny), I just stare. And stare. And stare some more in disbelief.

Last week, for example, I watched a man (who had to be pushing 80-years old), use a chair to climb up, and with pull-up wrist straps, wrap his wrists to the top bar of a free weight stand before kicking the chair away and doing 30 pull ups and inverse crunches. While hanging from the bar. He then simultaneously unstrapped his wrists and jumped down.

Raise your hand if you think you could do that (as I keep both hands on the keyboard).

Conversely, behind me in the glass-walled studio (which, isn't at all awkward, by the way), are 100 oba-chans (grandmas), pumping their legs up and down, sweating their wrinkles away. 50-, 60-, 70-year old women, keeping up to Ne-Yo and Lady Gaga on the overhead speakers, kick, push, step, up, up, up.

Usually that's about the time I head over to Starbucks for a venti-sized latte.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

My pot of gold

My pot of gold looks like a tin can.

In fact, it is a tin can. It is a big, gold, tin can.

And in this tin can holds my new obsession - ¥500 coins.

¥500 coins, which roughly exchange to about $5, are easy to collect, and even easier to spend. Until you're on a mission to save them, and then they become, again, an obsession.

In the last 9 months, in any circumstance, I will go out of my way to tip the register so that my change includes a ¥500 coin. I constantly carry extra change so that if I find myself in a situation in which the till rings up ¥615, I can pay ¥1115 (and get a ¥500 coin back). I've even gone so far as to pay a ¥2913 bill with ¥3413 (so I can get that ¥500 coin back).

And what do I do with these coins?

When I get them, I pop them into the shiny little tin can container whence they belong.

And what do I do with this container? Well, I save, save, save! The containers, which come in different sizes, when full, can hold between ¥100,000 ($1000) to ¥300,000 ($3000) depending on the size, and are easy to fill when one is diligent.

Which I am.

Now, on one end, this means that every cup of coffee at Starbucks, or every meal at Mc Donald's, or every cup of noodle at the convenience store literally costs twice as much (because as instead of paying just ¥400 or so yen, I keep the other ¥500 as if I've spent it and and put it away).

But, on the converse, I save heaps and heaps of coins, which add up. Which is great. And diligence is key. When I started this last March, I was able to save up ¥95,000 before I went to Europe. And I was incredibly super diligent upon coming back to Japan - between landing in August and leaving for Vietnam, I was able to save ¥70,000.

A pot of gold for me? A piggy bank for grownups?

Yes. And worth every cent. Literally.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

What's the big deal?

Jusco is our local grocery store right down the street. That I know of, there's nothing fancy in it or around it, nothing special that would draw you in for any particular reason. It's just regular, everyday grocery store that just happens to be (as all things are in Japan) overpriced. Nary will you find a sale, or anything interesting worth going for, above and beyond everyday grocery items.

Having said that, I've always wondered at the crowd that gathers before the opening moments at Jusco on the weekends.

Some force draws people here, every Saturday and Sunday morning, to line up, if for nothing else but to be the first ones rushing through the aisles. Every Saturday and Sunday morning, as if it were the day after Christmas, scores of people line up and wait to get in. Upon looking inside the store, you'd guess that there was going to be shortage of food, a famine of rice or eggs. Alas, though, a 12-foot high mountain of soymilk boxes stand ready, and all of the shelves are stocked completely and neatly, with not a box or can out of place. $4 apples are on sale in the bins, just like they are every other day.

At 9 on the dot, the doors open, and you are ushered in to the sound of chiming bells and chirping birds, which is slightly reminiscent of a soundtrack that Rogers and Hammerstien wrote more than 40 years ago. All that's missing is Julie Andrews in a habit, although, in her place, are not hills alive with the sound of music, but the store employees, who have lined up on both sides of the entrance to bow and ask your honorable forgiveness for making you wait until 9 to get in, as well as share their honorable pleasure for the opportunity of getting to serve you so graciously each and every day.

And as the doors open, I am typing this on my 6-inch keyboard (while it's fresh in my mind), and 70- to 80-year old grandmas and grandpas barrel past me, angered by my lack of urgency. No joke. It's just what I imagine being on Supermarket Sweep is like, only with the smell of moth balls permeating your nose. Mothers with small children race past me to get to their kiddos shoved into the kiddy carts so that they can be first to the rows and rows of regular-priced frozen vegetables waiting to be purchased.

I just don't understand. Yet, something draws me as well. Is it the music? The honorable apologies at the door? The scads of oba-chans and oji-sans giving me the foreigner eye? Maybe. Whatever it is, I just can't bring myself to arrive any later than 9:00. I need to be there with the crowd. And now that I think about it more, maybe I believe, just like them like them, that one of these days, the eggs will actually be on sale...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vietnam, Part 2 (Wendy, Ricco, Jen, and Rachel do Halong Bay)

10/20
10:45 - After three days in Saigon and on the Mekong Delta, we arrive at our very posh hotel room in Hanoi. Thank you, travel agent Jackie Wong.

2:00 - We grab lunch at Acalon, a high-rise eatery overlooking the pagoda lake. We play 'how much is it in dollars game' with Dong, as we still can't, five days later, wrap our heads around the currency exchange. I eat the most delicious spring rolls. Ever.

7:00 - Jen and I sit down for a seriously delish Thai meal. And huge glasses of wine. We have a great heart to heard, and I am, as always, glad that Jen is my friend.

8:15 - We grab a good-looking kid to tuk-tuk us around the city for an hour. Our hips together don't fit on the seat, so we take turns sitting over-under.

9:15 - We meet up with Ray and Ri for the famed and not-to-be-missed water puppet show. Ri tells us that he has just been propositioned to buy weed, which, as a good boy should, he turned down.

10:00 - We all agree that the water poppet show would have been better had we all been stoned.


10/21
Halong Bay

8:45 - We get into a comfy van and brace for the four-hour ride to Halong Bay. Almost immediately outside the city, Jen spots cornfields and remarks, "Is this Heaven? No, it's Vietnam." We are sure the nice older gentleman stuck with us in this van is wondering what he did wrong in a past life to deserve us.

4:30 - We stop at a secluded beach. At first it's just us, and after taking a quick dip, we strike up a three-on-three volleyball game. Before long, other junks arrive, and before we know it, the beach is boasting with hot Europeans and a 7-on-7 game, as well as an entire stand of spectators. Beach volleyball has never been so fun (or hilarious, as I was only sporting a bikini, and not a substantial top of any sort).

5:30 - Before dinner, we sit down to chat with Peg and Paul, an amazing couple who just happen to be 2 of the 8 other people on our bus. Like us, they are world travelers, and have visited (maybe my details are sketchy on this) more than 200 countries over the past 20 or so years. It was such a lovely pleasure to chat with them and get to know their story a bit better.

6:30 - We decide to top off lunch's bottles of wine with two more for dinner, as well as two bottles of reallybad cherry brandy. Our eight-course seafood dinner becomes a lively discussion.

8:00 - I tried squid fishing. And failed.

8:05 - Another bottle of wine is ordered. Jen tells the waiter to put it on Kyle's tab (where Kyle is Jen's husband who is not actually on holiday with us).

9:00 - We open up the third bottle of cherry brandy. Hilarity ensues.

10:00 - Jen challenges Ricco to a drinking contest. Jen wins. For the next hour, Jen continues to drink Ricco under the table. I think he lets her. But, still, he doesn't even know what hits him (except that it was probably a bus).

10:30 - We decide to make mischief. Ricco and Rachel attempt to pull up the anchor by it's rope. I attempt to steer the boat right out of the bay (all the while wondering what kind of captain leaves the steering room open at night?). We attempt fishing again, and re-inact the love scene from Titanic. Jen, still the most sober, captures it all on film.

11:30 - We return to one room where Ricco falls asleep. Jen and I, now resigned to sleeping in one twin together (as Ricco-bear is sleeping in MY bed), take advantage of the situation by dressing up Ricco in earrings and a red cowboy hat. We leave him like that, take pictures, and go to sleep.


10/22
Approximately 2:33 - I am awoken by Ricco, who is about to mistake the window next to our bed for a restroom. Suspicioisly, his cabin is exactly the same as ours, so I'm not sure what that was all about.

Approximately 3:15 - I wake up boiling, and realize the air con is actually on heat setting. No wonder.

6:55 - We are all abruptly awoken in the morning for 7 a.m. sharp breakfast. Evidently there was no come-and-help-yourself option. Breakfast at 7 or no breakfast at all. So much for our only day of sleeping in.

6:58 - Ricco denies all soul searching and bearing truths of his heart. Or wearing earrings and a cowboy hat. Or trying to pee out the cabin window. Except that we have pictures to prove it.

8:00 - We take a wooden boat into the heart of the caves of Halong Bay for an early-morning view. In an effort to force ourselves into sobriety, Ricco, Jen, and I jump in for a swim as the rest of our fellow passengers look on. Within a few minutes, Jen's back in the boat, and Ri and I are left in the lagoon. Never one to turn down a challenge, and to the cheering and encouragement of our entire boat, we swam the entire way back to our vessel. Hangover gone.

11:15 - We get back to Halong Bay and gather our belongings onto a smaller boat which will take us from our large boat to the dock. Because she was in the bathroom at the time, the smaller boat, after failing to quick count the passengers, started to leave without Jen. We quickly stopped them to wait for her. As she finally makes it on board, Ricco says, "Wow, Jen, you really missed the boat on that one."

4:00 - We arrive back at Hanoi after a four-hour trip. I have never, ever been so glad as I was to find out that a) the receptionist spoke kinda-English, b) that she knew what a tampon was, and c) that she pointed me in the right direction to find them. Disaster averted.

5:00 - Naps for (almost) everyone!! (Because Rachel prefers hour-long-runs-though-crazy-death-defying-traffic over real rest....).

7:00 - We find a fancy massage place and treat ourselves to 90-minute, posh massages. Because we are decadent...

9:00 - Dinner out. I order spring rolls and what turns out to be softshell crab, which is served and meant to be eaten whole. With the shell. And there's no way I'm eating that. Luckily, the spring rolls are divine.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Our First Night In Vietnam

(Written into the Iphone more than a month ago, this post, and the next have been back-dated to reflect the true date. Since the time was so long ago, there are no more memories than the ones described within these two. The writer gives sincerest apologies for neglecting to write more about this trip...)

-----

10/17
11:30 - Having just arrived in Vietnam, taxiing to our hotel, greeting Jen, and heading back out, we walk up the street towards the places we saw on our way in and want to go now. Hungry, we are side-tracked by a BBQ restaurant hat is still open. Never to turn down food or a BBQ, Ri makes the exec decision to stop in for our midnight meal. We are server barely-dead prawns and a plate of raw meat, both for self BBQ-ing.

12:04 - We see an employee using scissors to clean out his toenails. Except that the scissors he was using are the kind that are the exact same as customers are given to us to cut our meat with.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cereal

Cereal. It's the bane of my existence. I will eat cereal all day long. I will eat it and eat it and eat it, and then, if you give me some more, I will eat that too. And, in some cases, I will leave little trails down the hallway when I eat it, which means that everyone else knows I eat it too...

Yesterday morning I was walking down the hallway, getting ready to dive into my last (sigh, oh woe is me) bowl of Lucky Charms. Like usual, I had filled the bowl completely full (yes, I do go through a small box of Lucky Charms in three days), and then added milk (soymilk, of course). And as usual, I was trying to eat it and walk down the hallway at the same time. The problem, though, is that because it was so full (as it is every day when I face this problem), each time I wanted to take a bite, my spoon spilled little bits of charms all over the floor, leaving a trail behind me. Which I had to get down and pick up. In heels. Which made me tip the bowl and spill more. Which made me curse. And I was thankful that there was still an hour before school started so that a) no kids heard me cursing, and b) no teachers saw me on the floor picking up my precious Lucky Charms and (forgive me for those of you with a faint stomach) putting them back in my bowl.

Hansel and Gretel would be proud. Except for that part where I picked up my breadcrumb (i.e. Lucky Charm) trail and ate it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fashionomics

Ok, so I am inspired to write this blog by Annie, a friend of mine whom I haven't seen in 10 years. She has always been trendy, and since leaving high school, has followed that inspiration to become an interior designer in California.

Just recently, I realized that An has a cool blog where she shares tips and ideas for things that inspire her in and within the world of fashion. It's a great site, and has recently started inspiring me, since I am also a big fan of all-things-that-look-good. The other day, she posted a contest on her blog, that in order to win a pair of gorgeous feather earrings, you just had to post a comment about what inspires you. So I did, and I won! There is more to the story about me being the fourth person to write on her wall (as well as my lucky number being #4), and she posted that on her blog as well (it's well worth a read: and the winners are...). Please check out her site: http://yolksy.blogspot.com for a bit of fashion inspiration of your own!

As a result of this random set of circumstances, An and I have been back and forth checking each other's blogs out, as well as getting back in touch via Facebook and e-mails. It just so happens that all of this reconnecting has happened in the last week, after I wrote the blog about my clothes fetish (see: stuff), which Annie enjoyed. So, in her latest e-mail to me, she said this: "You should send me pics of your organized closet...people go crazy over that stuff!"

Well, ok!

I mean, I thought about it for about one second, and realized that, YES! I do have some really great fashion tips for keeping scads of clothes organized. A few that would only personally work for me (like the bike - see below), and others that could be used (and should be used) for anyone (backwards hangers - it's for the environment!).

So, with pleasure, I present to you 'Wendy's clothesroom tips'...

1. Keep pictures that inspire you (especially of outfits that you'd like to try) clipped out and stored in a place where you can look quickly for inspiration (especially on a bad clothes day).

2. Use anything and everything you can to hang clothes, hangers, or odds and ends on (you see, storing my bike in my spare room was originally a ploy to keep it safe over the summer, but will remain an EXCELLENT clothes hanger, and a great place to put hangers, clothes that need ironed, and with two baskets, even dirty clothes!).

3. A girl can NEVER have too many shoes. Or belts. Or earrings. Or clothes in general, for that matter.

4. S-hooks can create space for you anywhere. I use them to hang belts in my closet, jeans from my curtains, and scarves from the door.

5. Clothes make great decorations too! A great jacket, a purse, some bracelets, and shoes can really brighten up a regular chair (and create more space elsewhere!).

6. Never, ever, ever, ever be far from your iron. The truly well dressed always look well kept too. (note to #2 - an ironing board is also a great stand for night-before outfits, didn't-work-this-time shirts, or occasionally, a chair).

Now, most of the above are fun, or easy tips that you can take or leave. But I do have one trick that I pride myself on for it's practicality, fashionability, and environmentally friendliness:

7. Each fall and spring, I hang all of my clothes in the closet so that the hanger's hook faces out. After I wear an item of clothing, I hang it back up in the closet with the hanger's hook facing in, in the opposite direction. For starters, this gives me a good indicator what I have and have not worn (lord knows we ladies like to wear the same thing over and over again - this ensures that you can be more uber-fashionable, as well as get more wear out of the clothes you have). As for the clothes whose hangers are still backwards after 6 months, and haven't been worn? They get donated or recycled.

Which gives me an excuse to go shopping again. So really, everyone is a winner, right?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Those who can't, teach.

I've always hated that phrase.

For starters, I don't understand it. What do you mean 'those who can't, teach?' So, like, if I can't play basketball, you want me to teach it instead? WIth all of my knowledge? I mean, if I'm not good enough to play it, why would you want me to teach it to others?

Secondly, as a teacher (and a darn good one), I take offense in thinking that teachers are lesser beings of a bigger purpose, and by lack of qualifications, resign themselves to teaching others (as a last result of a failed existence?).

Whatever.

Whatever, that is, except for today. Because by default, today the saying sticks. I am in charge of new teacher orientation. And because I am not (can not) be a new teacher, I get to teach the others who are. I can't, so I teach. And I've got this orientation thing licked.

When I was a new teacher, we had the most wonderful orientation by two amazing teachers, Brian and Leila, but it was all such a blur of driving down streets to places that I never actually found again. I didn't have any money or way to get around, which, along with being completely lost, kept me from waning to revisit any of the places they took us. In fact, in two years, I can count on one hand the number of places I have returned to after that first week. Not because I don't want to, but because I wouldn't know where to go if I did!

Last year's orientation, done by a different teaching couple, was much of the same. Of course, I didn't take part, but I have the notes, and can sense that it was a very similar overload to the year of my beginning.

This year, though, I have a better game plan. Although orientation doesn't officially start until Friday, I thought, 'Why don't I invite the new teachers over to my place to see what everything looks like?' They can check out the sizes of curtains, dimensions of couches, and so on and so forth. They can ask how to nail things into the wall? How to decorate? What kinds of things can they buy? And I can offload some of my possessions, that, after a summer home of shopping, I have no more room for.

Clever, right? It's a pretty good plan.

But it's even better. Because after that, I will walk them to sushi train (for yummy sushi!), and then Jusco, where I will familiarize them with the walking paths and store layout (and buy groceries for myself at the same time!). You see, this is what I would be doing anyway, only now I'm going to make it an 'official part' of orientation and multitask everything into one. It gets me what I want, gets them what they want, and clears out a bit of space for Friday's schedule, which will (surprise) include more shopping (at places I need to go to too!).

I'm not going to lie - I think I'm pretty clever. So, don't tell me what I can and can't teach...

Stuff.

It's 8:33 and I'm struggling to stay awake. I laughed as I set my alarm for 8:15 tomorrow morning, knowing full well that I"ll be up a good 8 hours before that, but as a wishful thinker, I am setting my sights high.

Of course, I can't go to bed just yet. So, what is a tired girl supposed to do to fill her night for a bit longer?? Iron.

Earlier today, I unpacked my bags, all of them, and quickly and efficiently put everything away. As my closet (truly) filled up, I set aside a pile of wrinkled shirts to be ironed at a later time, which came just a bit ago. But, as you could expect after a summer of shopping, as I set to ironing, I ran quickly out of hangers.

Being a bit OCD, I can't just use any hangers - the ones I need have to be the same light-blue-with-grey-plastic-tip-from-Daiso variety, and although I am fortunately going there tomorrow, it doesn't help me tonight. So what do I decide to do when Ironing fails? Count my clothes.

No, really, I truly sat there and thought (and remember, I am really, really tired), 'Well, this closet looks (amazing and) full, we might as well just count it all up, for just the darn sake of it.' And so I did. I stood in front of my closet (much like a sales clerk inventorying on a clipboard) and tapped the hangers with my pen, creating categories, and writing the results on a pink post-it.

I was shocked (but silently pleased) at the amount of clothing I own. And I think, were I richer or more famous, People magazine would come and take a few shots. But, after getting over my guilty pleasure, it was only 8:30, and unable to go to bed, still, just yet, I set down to find more things to do to kill my time. The result? This blog. I figured, what the heck else do I have to do for the next hour than past my eyes wide open while I type? The subject matter interests me (although maybe not you so much), and the amounts I found are so shockingly ridiculous that they are worth you having a bit of a laugh at.

I no longer wonder where all my money goes. The proof is in the numbers.

The following stats on my closet do not include undergarments, fall/winter clothing, sports clothing (such as t-shirts or running shorts), or casual pajama/housewear. They also do not include my dirty laundry (that is pilling up, and worth a good stat of its own), outdoor-wear, swim suits and swim covers, or the clothes that still need ironed. But they do include the following:

26 pairs of pants (20)
4 skirts (2)
7 professional jackets (3)
18 collared/long-sleeved/lace shirts (10)
18 simple tees (16)
27 tank tops (19)
13 dresses (8)
7 pairs of shorts (5)
9 belts on one s-hook, 6 on another, and 3 draped over the closet door (6)
9 dressy scarves (7)
10 folded pairs of jeans, as well as three s-hooks containing 3, 5, and 2 pairs (15)
39 pairs of shoes (not including flip flops, which make up 10 more) (29!!)
6 pairs of boots (5)
12 clutches (7)
(and)
2 vests (2)

As I sit here, though, I realized that typing it out did not take as much time as I thought (or needed), so for fun (and because it's still not bedtime yet), I went back to my closet and counted only the new items. Then, I subtracted the new from the total, to calculate how many of each thing I had before I left for the summer. Those numbers are in parentheses above.

Evidently, though, having a lot of clothes doesn't solve all problems. You see, I am still not sure what I'll wear tomorrow...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Happy Ending

(read first: Around The World)

I did make it to Narita (Tokyo) just fine. Upon finding the closest United counter out of the gate, and hearing out that there was NOT, in fact, a request for my ticket having been sent through, I was pleased that this agent did what the other two just should have, and plugged in a damn number in the first place. It took her less than 2 minutes and no hassle to just assign me a new ticket number to get me right as rain. Check-in was a breeze, and I dutifully collected my luggage. And to top off things going right for a change, I found an even happier ending when I located a luggage shipment service, cheap as chips, that will deliver my luggage from here in Tokyo to school (in Nagoya) by tomorrow morning. So in the end, I came home luggage-free and lightweight.

And satisfied. So satisfied, that, when I came through the terminal to the waiting area in Nagoya, where, like every other year, noone is waiting for me, I pumped my hands in the air and yelled loudly, 'Welcome home, Wen! Good to see you!' I got a few awkward stares, no doubt, but I am still satisfied.

Now if I could just ship these bags under my eyes. Bloody hell, I'm tired...

Welcome back, Wen.

Around the World

Please sit back and relax as you prepare yourself to go on a tiring and whirlwind adventure of an around-the-world traveler's journey through everything-that-can-go-wrong-will.

To start off, in answer to my earlier question (Read blog post Like Sands Through The Hourglass), I do believe that I am now one day older than I was when I left Japan. I have decided that, scientifically speaking, traveling west, continually, without backtracking east is a surefire way to thrust oneself into the future by a day, (that is, once you have landed where you started). I am officially claiming myself to have two birthdays next year - one on the 11th of May (my proper birthday), and one on the 12th (to celebrate my true age).

But aside from the physics of traveling through the space time continuum, and more importantly for this specific blog, I can also tell you that if you ever purchase an around the world ticket, that it is not advisable to take any chances, move any flights, or take part in any situations that would thereby alter the original ticket in any way. Rachel, Miche and I have learned the hard (and tiring, and tearful) way that much like the idea of traveling one direction entirely around the whole world, each flight on a ticket this kind of ticket is like a link in a perfectly circular chain necklace, where if one piece breaks, the whole thing can virtually be rendered useless.

This was the trouble I faced this morning - a worthless set of tickets. And let me tell you, it was a real mission to get home. I saw it coming - I really I did. I knew there would be trouble, and it started without fail in Indy where Dad and I spent 2 hours in line at the ticket counter as the nice airline lady frantically worked to get me on a flight.

(Quickly backtrack to 6 weeks ago, when while traveling from Barcelona to Nice, my fellow travelers and I, under no fault of our own, missed one flight and were redirected through Zurich instead. Happy to placate us for having missed a flight, the Swiss clerk put us up in a hotel for the night and quickly re-routed us the next morning, getting us to Nice fairly quickly and efficiently. What it seems she forgot to do, though, is keep the chain of flights in tact. By breaking it up and not carefully and correctly re-entering the order of flights, as they were, through the computer system, she effortlessly (albeit innocently) rendered our itineraries useless, and our ticket numbers simply vanished. As a result, ever since that flight, I have shown up to each airport with a paper itinerary that proves I have purchased a flight (16 flights, actually), with my name always in the computer, in the system as a scheduled traveler on each of the flights I have been assigned since the missed one. But, without that ever-so-important ticketing number, which was likely deleted during the re-direct, they cannot find my record in the system, thus making it impossible to get me on the plane).

Thus, the two hour wait at the counter in Indianapolis.

Now, although I missed my first flight out of Indy, I did catch the second flight this morning, with special exception to board the plane without a ticket, followed by explicit directions to, upon arrival in Chicago, leave the terminal (and out of security), to the ticketing counters to get paper tickets printed out. Of course though, as was my luck, my flight landed in Chicago behind expected time, leaving me less than an hour between arrival from Indy and departure to Tokyo. I was then faced with a split decision, a crap shoot: do I go all the way out of the Terminal and risk time and having to explain it all over again, or do I head to the gate and ask there, hoping for quicker and closer help? Well, with less than an hour to spare, I decided on the latter, against my good judgement, as it seemed easier and quicker and likely to be ok.

I was wrong.

(side note: missing my flight from Indy to Chicago was no big deal, as I was sure there would be 1-2 more flights going out that would get me there, which there was. In Indy, I was calm and collected. Missing a flight to Tokyo, though, is a different story, as one flight per day leaves for this destination. A missed flight is a bit more of a big deal when I have to wait 24 hours until the next one. I don't do calm and collected in that situation...)

The lady at the gate looked at me like I was the dumbest thing she had ever seen, and assured me that I would need much more than good credit to board the plane. It was at this moment when the situation, and my day, slowly began crumbling around me. In loud tears (I might even go so far as to call them sobs), I ran my bags backwards through the terminal to the ticketing area. Of course, each person who stopped me was sure she could help me, and, without time to explain the situation, I panicked even more, angering them and frustrating me. I then used my sobbing sorrow to cut in front of a ton of people to get immediate attention at the first counter where I could find a teller. Of course, as expected, I was unreachable in the system, a ghost, now outside of security, with no tickets, and 30 minutes until my flight left.

Now, I am not sure how often this happens to one person twice in a day, but the lady at the counter, after checking with a few other agents, says, "Ok, go ahead and take this boarding pass and get on this flight. We have no time to resolve this now, but we'll work on it while you're in the air." So, I sit on this flight right now, typing this out, as a non-existent traveler, hoping that the message gets through to Tokyo, where my boarding pass to Nagoya will be magically waiting for me. To ice the cake, my checked bags are full of kitchen knives, among other things, which leads me to believe that if I get stopped and searched, I just might end up in international prison. At least, that's how it seems to be going.

I have ended up in a middle seat between two nice men. Of course though, on the unfortunate side, I am surrounded in the front and from behind by the least-nice-to-sit-next-to-on-the-plane people. In front of me, a loud, screaming 5-year old whose parents have no tolerance level for the amount of sound that comes out of his mouth. Behind me are three 20 somethings who have just met, but are what I like to call 'one-uppers'. You know, we all have those friends, braggers who take turns telling stories to outdo each other. The married one on my behind right is obviously the popular one to the younger, more-impressionable college kid on my behind left, and they are enjoying each other's company a little more loudly than I would like. I feel like I know righty better than his wife, who he has mentioned at least 6 times, does.

On top of that, not only is this the FIRST international flight I have EVER taken that does not have private televisions in each seat (yes, I am watching the big screen in the front of the plane, just like it's 1998 or something) but my mid-flight meal snack was ramen. I mean, really. I am getting ready to go live in Japan for 10 months. Do you think what I want you to offer me on this flight is ramen? How about a bit of creativity here, folks? Who makes these decisions anyway!?

At hour 6, minute 14, as we begin our 'descent' from over Alaska towards Tokyo, I spilled bloody mary all over my white lace shirt. Luckily for me, I shop at Forever 21, which means that the cheap synthetic (and obviously plastic) fabric repelled the liquid magnificently. Whew. One less disaster averted. For now...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Shout Out

To those about to be named/mentioned/described, you hold a special place in my summer home, and I salute you...

1. First and foremost to my friend Nikki, whom words can not describe (well, at least not so few words as this will be - look for Nik to star in an upcoming blog post). One of my best friends in the world, and my kind host this summer, Nik deserves an award for the best laugh, greatest hair, and kindest heart. For months and months, you will be seeing me and Nik go back and forth with inside jokes that have been a part of some of the funniest moments I have EVER lived.

2. To, Jen, the Hanf House members, and Mooncheez, who are my favorite form of summer entertainment, thank you. From Rockband jam sessions, writing Japanese on your chalkboard, and glow-in-the-dark sardines games, thank you. I am honored to be a part of your coffee table, as well as your circle of friends.

3. To Jess and her beautiful, beautiful girls, thank you for allowing me to be a small part of your big lives. You and your children are so gorgeous, and I loved every moment of our time together, even if we did only talk about nursing, phonics, and photos. Plus, you had the best PBJ lunch I had all summer, which assures I will come again next year and dine again!

4. To my (literal) old school, from Aimee and Melissa (and Ken) to Randy and Cheryl, and all in between, I appreciated the calls, the coffees, the barbecues, the volleyball games, and the new babies. I wouldn't call it a summer home, or a complete trip if I didn't have time to catch up with you, all of you, who shaped me into who I am today. The team may be split, moved, and switched around, but a better group of people I know not of.

5. A big "talofa lova" to my new friend Albert, whose accent was slight enough to be caught, and whose new friendship included my introduction to arena football, as well as a great partner for coffees. I am still sorry about punching you in the face...

6. Marm and Auntie, my number two girls, thank you so much for all that you give when I am home. I couldn't get around and see people without the both of you, and your patience and giving throughout my summertimes home is not unappreciated or unnoticed. I miss you two an awful lot when I'm away, but know that you are both always ready to welcome me with open arms (and a huge sign) when I come home.

7. To Tandem, I give you lucky number 7. Along with Nik, as a person who influenced my summer in such a positive and healthy way, you deserve one of the biggest shouts. What started out as checking out a movie with Hayley and turned into more games than pool than I can count, time with you was an unexpected surprise and a great treat. I am glad and fortunate to have crossed your path so early, and then so many times thereafter (although I could have easily, and greedily been happy with a little more). You have such a great heart, and I am glad you let me have a little piece of it...

8. Kel-bel, you also fall into the category of 'people I didn't get to spend nearly enough time with.' I enjoyed our dissertation of Harry Potter, a cool night out with some guacamole, and a day at the pool. Next summer we'll do it again, only more.

9. Uncle Don and Grandpa, my golf partners, are the (most patient and) coolest guys to play a round of 9 with. I, like usual, will not do any practicing this year in Japan, but will be glad to take your advice and tutelage next summer, for sure!

10. To the Waages, Foxes, Orths, and Megan - some of my best old kiddies and their families, thank you for all of the traditions - Friday night steaks, Dairy Queen, and Stella's. I look forward to these trips down memory lane more than you know, and it is so much fun to watch you all grow!

11. To the University of Iowa pitching coach - it was nice talking to you at the game. Although you don't know it, I thank you for the inside jokes that my friend Nikki and I still (and will always) have at your expense. If you're ever in my neck of the woods, and find yourself NOT married, call me, because you have great skin.

12. Gary! I enjoy baseball the most when I am: a) sitting front row, b) a bit drunk, and, 3) with you. I love our tradition of catching as many front-row games as we can, whether or not I can or can't speak Japanese to the players. You are one of my favorite people in the world, and I thank you for being my sports pal each and every summer. Next summer, though, let's just share one brat, and splurge more on beers instead!?

13. Dearest Brent, please continue to treat my friend Nikki nicely. She deserves it, and frankly, so do you. I look forward to more free ball games, and fun times at Johnny's with you, and your friends, next summer.

14. To my Chi-town girls (and guy), Tess, Mary, and Tera (AJ too!), thank you so much for making my weekend in Chicago so fun and friend filled. How fortunate I am to have good friends who would come so far to spend some good time together.

15. And lastly, to Daniel - I missed you and our good times this summer, and vow not to do the same next time around. Thanks for your late-night texts, they always made me smile. Even if you do live 1500 miles away (at the closest)...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Can you make it?

Let's pretend you need to pick up some papers at your doctor's office (on one side of town), some items at Target (on a different side of town), and meet friends for coffee

YES! It IS possible to do all this. You see, you might as WELL go do some errands on your way because a) you know you'll have to go through West Des Moines to get downtown anyway (lord knows it would be too convenient to get from Urbandale to Downtown in one shot), and b) because you know you'll have no time to do it later since after your 12:00 coffee, you have another coffee date as far away from Target as you can get. So, you leave your doctor's office in Urbandale at 10:25 and get on to 35 going south towards Kansas City, getting off at Hickman to head to the Target in West Des Moines on the back roads. At Target, you can shop and send 4 texts, pay with debit card, and hold two doors open before getting back onto 235E and making it downtown to Java Joe's. Then, continually re-acclimating yourself with one-way streets, you can pull in with enough time to go in and out of three parking spots, realize you have no change for the meter (thus forcing you to run into Java's to get some before feeding it), and sit to start on a postcard before your friends even arrive.

I can also tell you that you can leave 42nd street and get to 14th (where you cut across 4 lanes to stop for gas, chat with your uncle (what a pleasant and unexpected surprise!) then drive around the one-way-street block 4 times) to park near a school where you're picking up a date for sushi, in only 21 minutes...

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Now, for those who, like me, aren't in town on an all-the-time basis, let me offer an important tip I quickly learned this summer - small signs that say 'No right turn on red' are procreating near the freeway exits around town, and should be heeded with caution. If you're like me, you'll not-notice them about 4 times, and will make the mistake of turning right illegally, before searching them out finally becomes a habit to you (and if you're really like me, you'll be ready to leave town once you've finally figured it out!). But, if you DO get pulled over, but happen to be pulled over by a cop who was once stationed on a military base in Japan, he'll not mind so much that you ran the red light, and will instead banter with you a bit about living in the Far East, choosing to send you on your way instead of ticketing you. At least, I am guessing that's what could happen were you to ever find yourself in that situation.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My first true love

Des Moines.

Having had the chance to check out Des Moines this summer from the top of a well-located, downtown Whiteline loft, I can say that the city, my first real home, holds a place in my heart as the most beautiful city, even above the skyline of Paris or from the highest hills of Barcelona.

Although it was terribly difficult to choose just ten, here are the top things I love best about going home to Des Moines:

1. The aforementioned view of the capitol, day or night.
2. Downtown, including, but not limited to, Raccoon River Brewery, Johnny's, free dancing at Liar's Club, and Mooncheez.
3. I Cubs baseball
4. Continually circumnavigating familiar streets
5. Getting a beer (and a good one) for only $3.
6. I Cubs baseball
7. Downtown and Valley Junction's Farmer's Markets
8. Being reminded of great memories of great past times by great friends
9. Target
10. Midwestern boys, and lots of them

I guess, the old adage is true, there's just no place like home.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mooncheez


Yummy!

My friend Jen's grilled cheez stand is the BEST. Everyone - meet Mooncheez.

You can find Mooncheez on the corner of 3rd and Court on most weekends, (when they aren't being hassled by the cops). They offer a good half-dozen or so different types of late-night taste sensations (including a great dessert sandwich with Nutella and coffee bleu cheez) and are THE PLACE to go get a drunken snack option other than hot dogs or pizza.

To you, Mooncheez, gambatte, and good luck!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Like sands through the hourglass...

I am going to need some help from the audience on this one. If there are any sci-if, time/space continuum freaks out there, this question is for you.

Typically, when I travel from one country to the next, I lose/gain time in the opposite direction when I return. For example, when I fly from the US to Japan, I lose a day, but when I fly back to the States, that time is gained right back again so that time gained/lost during travel cancel each other out.

For this trip, though, I purchased an around-the-world ticket (for its price and convenience). On Friday the 19th, I left Japan and travelled west to Europe on a 12 hour flight, through 7 time zones. After leaving Europe, I will continue to fly west (and for the first time - yay!) across the Atlantic, over another 8 time zones to Chicago and then Des Moines. Lastly, at the end of the summer, I will fly west once more, this time crossing the Pacific (again), back to Japan, and going through 10 time zones in the process.

This brings me to my final conclusion that, all in all, I will cross all of the time zones in the world, going in the same direction, thus successfully gaining another day of life upon the culmination of my travels.

So my questions are, is this possible? Have I calculated this correctly? And on my next birthday, will I actually be 29 and one extra day old?

My hourglass might just might be a bit off...

Monday, June 22, 2009

First thought, best thought...

Now, my first and best thoughts about Europe so far?

It is amazing.

For starters, the people here are enormously tall (which means that I am not!). The men are absolutely beautiful. The women are too - in a stunning and enviable way. Fashion is hip and easy and not hard to purchase (or copy!). And most importantly, much to my (guilty) pleasure, there are at least 6 H&M stores in all of our major cities, as well as an average of 1.2 in every airport we pass through.

Everything is VERY expensive, but, because I can't yet wrap my head around the Euro, it's easy to fall into the habit of thinking that I'm spending dollars intead. This makes money go quickly and effortlessly out of my pocket (€9,50 for two cups of coffee? That sounds about right?!). This is the reason that after less than three days in Europe, I have spent twice as much as I had planned on spending in so short a time. But, to be honest, I don't mind.

I would murder for some red licorice. I had forgotten that in most countries of the world, licorice is only sold in the black variety, which is very yuk. When I want a sweet, though, I buy a Mars bar, which is actually a Milky Way. The Europeans have disguised a Three Muskateer bar as a Milky Way, and real Mars bars don't exist. Thankfully for my waist, I don't like croissants, although to my body's severe dislike, I have begun to eat cheese again, as a.) I am just so glad that it's not raw fish, and b.) simple dishes such cheese on toast with jam or a slice of thin crust Mediterranean pizza are just too delicious to pass up. Also, in two day's time, I have learned to drink two previously disliked beverages - coffee and beer, and now enjoy both as frequently as possible.

I was earlier embarrassed by a Western traveler (for the sake of humor, we'll call him a Canadian) who was very put off that he needed to show his boarding pass to buy a newspaper at the corner store here at the airport. He evidently thought that, by demanding his Euros back and taking his business to the next stand, that his tantrum might improve this inconvenience for further customers, or for when he walked to the next stand. As you can imagine, he was not a winner either way.

The man across from me is reading a newspaper of the nicer-looking variety. I can't read the title (well, I can understand the world 'das' (the)). I am assuming that it is a newspaper only because it looks like one in style and content (big headings with important looking people in pictures, poll charts, weather boxes, etc.). At the same time, though, is a photo of a topless model on the front page. It looks very out of place, although it evidently isn't offensive to anyone else sitting next to or around me. Whatever, right?

I am excited for Greece. The men are gorgeous, tan, and fit, with dark yes and great hair. The food is delicious - my stomach is excited to have giant olives, souvlaki, and the excellent cheeses there, including yummy feta (which is like not cheese-cheating at all, as it is from goats, not cows).

I am sitting in the Frankfurt airport as I write this. As I recently walked through the terminals and made passing glances at departure boards, I found that I was no longer a bit envious that my next destination isn't somewhere a bit more exotic than Des Moines, Iowa or Nagoya, Japan (or even Delhi, India!). Instead I am satisfied and grateful for the opportunity to see our world in this way.

Most importantly at this moment, though, I am desperately jonesing for a much-needed nap, and am hoping to load first so that I may begin that quest immediately. From this exact moment, we will have been out of Japan for 84 hours, for which for only 17 I have slept. My body is tired and wearing down, my eyes are bloodshot and red, and I have the headache of a century. I am SO tired that the moving sidewalks even seemed tedious. A few minutes ago, I half-sleepily finished a delicious deli ham and cheese sandwich and a fresh squeezed juice that cost me €11. My belly is full and I am very satisfied. I would like to get me some sleep very soon.

Now, though, before I board, it's time to head for one last quick glance at H&M (again). That should easily keep me awake for a bit...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Spricht Deutsch

Dutch and German (having separate languages, people, and countries), like Americans and Canadians, should not be confused one for the other.

As far as speaking goes, both languages are throaty and harsh, and, depending on the person speaking, can be beautiful to listen to or a better-avioded spit-bath. Dutch wins the top prize in my book for being easier to understand, singularly sexed (there are no feminine/masculine changes like in the more-difficult ein/einer/eina German language), a bit more soft, and (I'm playing favorites here, of course), part of my heritage.

Because the two languages are very much alike, mistakes are easy. A great example can be found by looking at the name of both languages. The German language is called Deutsch (doy-ee-ch), which can be easily confused with the Nether-language Dutch. On top of that, (and much to Heidi's dismay), I couldn't help but not only confuse the two and often speak the little German I know in front of her, but also to mistakenly occasionally refer to Dutch people as Germans. Yikes - big difference, Wen.

The the similarities between both tongues is striking, though, as both sound alike in their vocabulary and accent. It was interesting to find that, this morning on my flight from Amsterdam to Munich, the flight attendant began by speaking Dutch and English (repeating all messages in both), but that by the end of the flight (and as if the passengers on board had magically changed nationalities), had politely switched to giving both messages in German and English instead. Although funny, nobody seemed too put off by it - most Dutch speakers can understand German, even though they have difficulty speaking it. It would be my guess that Germans are the opposite, and have no problems hearing or speaking the much-easier Dutch.

Getting around and needing to use it, though has not proved difficult thus far. As the first of our flights took us through Germany on the way to Amsterdam, then back through Germany on our way to Athens, we were immersed in both languages almost immediately. I quickly remembered that I had begun to study a bit of German before leaving for New Zealand 3 years ago. I know about 20 German wrods, including greetings such as 'guten morgen' (good morning) and 'auf wiedershein' (goodnight), helpful phrases such as 'vie ist dast weither' (how is the weather?), as well as common vocabulary words such as Mercedes and Hermes. So, I was prepared (and excited) to use a little bit of German while passing through Frankfurt after our first flight from Japan. That morning, approaching the first customs agent in the airport, I gave a hearty, 'Guten tag!' (good day!), to which he, almost as enthusiastically replied, 'Hey! How're you going!?' So, lucky for us, so far as we've gone through this part of the continent, English has been everywhere.

I have also found that less-common Asian languages, such as Japanese, do not get me very far. Nobody seems to understand 'Sumimasen', and the habit of saying as a common, every-hour phrase has not yet parted crowds, nor summoned an omni-waiting waiter to my table as much as it has just drawn me awkward looks. People are so-far very kind to be interested in hearing about Japan, though, and they always think my little purse washcloth (for drying my hands) is very cute.

So I'll go on my way, continuing to figure out languages one country at a time. For now, though, as I head to Athens, I look forward to another non-Roman alphabet, and figure it will all be Greek to me.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rest in Peace

Sigh.

It's sad day in grade 2.

After a successful surgery, as well as rest, fresh food, and constant monitoring in the ICU unit, our overdosed silkworm (and two of his friends) fell victim to a moldy, limp, and puss-filled death.

The message here is very clear: Drugs kill.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Worm Science

So, one of the perks of being a elementary school teacher is really cool science units. Today, I performed an emergency bowel diversion surgery on a silkworm. The patient is now resting comfortably in the ICU. Wierd? Nope - I just teach second grade.

The wonders of life are as fascinating to me as they are to my students. Ricco and I stare and stare at the worms, watching them, thinking about them, asking questions about them, wondering about them, like we're 7. No joke. You can walk into our rooms any day and find us happily shoveling poop out of the bottoms of the cages, cutting rotten leaf paste into bite size bits (so that they won't choke), or saying 'Oh! Look at that one! His skin is coming off again!' Are we insane? Nope - doing this opens up our natural, child-like curiosity for life.

In fact, though, I bet you would be equally as fascinated by the silkworms as we are! They are absolutely fascinating. For example, did you know:

*to spin into a cocoon, a silkworm uses a single strand of silk that, when unraveled, measures 1.5 kilometers in length?

*that to get silk, cocoons are boiled and softened (with worm still inside), and unraveled, all 1.5 kilometers, by a special machine (or, before machines, by the hands of young slave children)?

*that trade on the Silk Road date back to as early as 100 BC and was a significant factor in the development of civilizations such as China, India, Egypt, Persia, Arabia, and Rome? It can be said that, in several respects, the Silk Road (the harvest and trade of this one fabric) helped lay the foundations for the modern world.

And we're growing them right in room 109. Come one, come all.

Now, we'll do nothing so intentionally cruel as to boil them alive, but we have realized that we will make a mistake or two as we learn more about these delicate creatures.

Lesson number 1: Silkworms should not eat leaves which are not a part of their natural diet (i.e. Sakura leaves from our very own playground). If they do, they will go into a drug-induced state of paralysis and exhibit symptoms such as abmormally swollen heads, orange vomit, low vital signs, and lethargy. In other words, the next morning it will look like the aftermath of a bad frat party (minus the bras and panties on the floor).

Lesson number 2: Silkworms are remarkably resilient. Upon returning to the classroom to find many of our silkworms passed out in sakura-leaf comas, we nursed them back to health with clean cages and proper food (of course, cutting it into small pieces to prevent choking). All but one silkworm bounced back within a day, and albeit slowly, to their full vigor and eating power again. The poor dead one, though, spent a day lying on its side, resisting moving upon being prodded, and was about to go in the trash when, the next morning, I miraculously found him on his feet again.

Lesson number 3: Silkworm situations produce some of the best lines (Ricco) and life-saving situations (doctor Wendy). Ricco's winning remark when I gleefully e-mailed him that silkworm 59 had returned from the dead: "Yeah, I called Jesus - he pulled some strings. Silk strings..." Wendy's winning surgical skills: silkworm 59, although alive, was in no shape for excreting the waste that was hanging around his backside, so I carefully put my fingers around his little bottom, gently and patiently massaging it all out. Today he was even eating again.

A great team? Yes. Crazy? Nope - just grade 2 teachers, living the dream.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Frazzled

I now know enough Japanese to frazzle the Japanese.

Recently, as I have become more green-thinking, I have a lot of fun doing it to store employees when it comes to bags. They can't make heads or tails of me, per the following conversation from my recent lunch at Mc Donald's. Mind you, the entire conversation took place in Japanese (them) / impolite Japanese (me).

Clerk: Take out?
Me: Yes.
(clerk pulls 3x size bag out from under counter)
Me: Oh! That's a big bag!
Clerk: You don't want a big bag?
Me: No! A small bag is fine!
Clerk: (horrified) But your drink!
Me: It's ok.
Clerk: But your drink and your food! Together!??!
Me: Yes.
Clerk: (turning to worker behind her who is bagging my food) Drink and food together.
Worker: (horrified) Drink AND food?!
Clerk: Same bag.
Worker: (reaching around clerk) Well, get a big bag.
Me: No! Small bag, small bag, together, together!!
Clerk: (taking out two small bags, to worker) Here, use this too.
Me: No! No!! One bag is fine!
Worker: Together!? In one bag?
Me: Yes!
Worker: Drink and food?! In one small bag?
Me: Yes!

Extending my vocabulary one poor clerk at a time...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ricco

Ricco (even though he probably doesn't know it) is safely one of my favorite people on the planet. He is someone I can count on at all times. He is never in a bad mood, is always wiling to listen, gives me his time, and is always there to talk. He is an incredible teaching partner, and day after day, I feel very fortunate to have him in my life.

But, at first, Ricco kind of scared me.

You see, last year I was 1) a fourth-year teacher, 2) in my second international teaching placement, 3)paired up with an expert in the school, and 4) surrounded by expert teachers and members of the international NIS community.

This year, though, things shifted around, and I found myself the 1) apparent expert between the grades 1-3, 2) the only returning teacher in the lower elementary, and 3) the teaching partner to a very brand new and very green young Canadian. And with no time or patience for an elephant on my back (nor a Canadian, at that), I immediately grew wary of Ricco.

Looking back, I owe him the apology of the century, as, for as fresh as he is, his amazing-ness far overgoes and makes up for the experience I thought he lacked. Each day he comes in with fresh and new ideas that he is eager to share. He watches me teach and shares his ideas about the lesson, with new ways to take kids forward. He is willing to listen, to try new things, and to take criticism when his ideas, frankly, sometimes suck. As a teaching partner, he is the pepper to my salt. He allows me to lead (which I do best), relinquish control (which I do best), and be the expert (which I do best). In return he picks up slack wherever it is needed and is always on hand to give exactly that. We are a glorious pair of teachers together, and I couldn't be more glad to have him as my right-hand man.

Recently, Ricco has really been a great influence on my personal life as well, and has gone above-and-beyond in matters of the heart. He speaks like a boy (duh!), only more thoughtfully, and is fresh with ideas about relationships and how we are all inter-connected in this world. His grasp on the comings and goings of humans and our impact on each other, emotionally and physically, is unmatched, and his ability to listen and advise thoughtfully are always appreciated and never unnoticed. He is never judgmental, and in more recent instances, is attuned to when a hug or generous words of encouragement are needed.

But more than that, Ricco is just a smart, cool, and fun guy. Incredibly handsome and well-built, he is the athlete who will run you over if even if you're an expert and he's not. He'll pick up any girl in the bar effortlessly, but is never really that interested. He constantly thirsts for understanding and knowledge and can already almost speak Japanese better than me (which is a great accomplishment, although also isn't saying too much). He reads books voraciously, ponders what he has learned, then shares his knowledge just when you need it. And, the catalyst of our group, with never a regret in his body, he's a bit crazy, without many limits, which allows us for many really, really fun nights out.

Ricco, if you're reading this pal (which I know you're not!), you're one of my favorites.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

25 things

If you're a fan of Facebook, you'll remember that before all of the 'What kind of (insert anything here) are you?' and 'Pick your top five (insert anything here)' quizzes started taking over the site, people all over the world were keen to write 25 things about themselves and post it, followed by a mass chain e-mail to 25 friends to try to get them to do the same.

Now, don't tell anyone, but, at the time I created a copy on my desktop and started writing. I figured that whenever I thought of something good, I could add it until I truly had 25 random things. But, although the list changed many times, I couldn't bring myself to post it. Jono once noted that this kind of thing is a bit 'self-indulgent', which I actually of agreed to. But, it's also a bit fun, and a bit random, and in the right place, worth sharing.

So I am compromising and posting it anyway, but not for everyone to see. If it's here, only those who really care and want to read it can. It was fun to write, and I relished the opportunity to be a bit random, which is something I don't do very often.

And now I present to you, 25 things about Wendy. I'd be interested to hear which ones shocked you the most!

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1. My favorite song from childhood was 'We Built This City' by Starship. And while we're on the topic of childhood memories, I'll cross the line by telling you that the first sex-scene I remember was from the movie Top Gun. I remember that it made me feel very uncomfortable to watch.

2. I've lately come to think that when I complain, the Universe reacts by making the situation worse. Therefore, I am learning, quite through experience, not to complain. Otherwise, I've truly begun to believe that cosmic revenge is going to kill me one of these days.

3. With the exception of purple and orange, I have at least one pair of shoes in every color.

4. My favorite number is 4. I secretly use it everywhere. Mike has even figured out that whenever I say, 'ok, guys, pick a number between 1-10' that it is always 4. And therefore, he always wins.

5. Unless I am VERY impressed by a performance, I will rarely clap. It's not because I'm a jerk (well, that's a lie, I am a bit hard to please sometimes), but that I am really just a bit lazy.

6. It only took me 6 weeks to learn to read basic Japanese characters.

7. I couldn't think of anything to write for number 7.

8. The further away from my mother I am, the better along we get. Put is in a room together, though, and ask us to try to work a problem together, and it's all downhill from there.

9. My large eyes start conversations everywhere - with boys, small children, taxi drivers, whoever.

10. I am not even a little bit embarrassed to admit that I do not like showering, and that I do it less than most people.

11. The best advice I've ever received was from a 6-year old child, who wrote in response to the following question: 'To save the planet I can...'.
1. Always keep it clean
2. Pick up trash
3. Make love and good friends

12. I love grapes but hate raisins. I love pickles but hate cucumbers.

13. Whenever I go to Mc Donalds, I always order a Happy Meal. I find it's just the right amount of food, toys, and happiness.

14. I will, under no circumstances, eat red frosting.

15. I think I have discovered the three secrets to successful weight loss. First of all, a good heartbreak will for sure do the trick every time. But, if that's not in your plans (and let's hope it's not), try cutting out dairy and eating your last meal before 5pm. I swear, all three (especially in combination) work miracles.

16. I hate being left out. Hate, hate, hate. Whether it's an inside joke, a trip to the supermarket, or about a weekend away, I hate it. It is my deepest fear, and I am very, very, very, very, very, very, very sensitive about it.

17. I am very easily annoyed and have many pet peeves, the greatest of which is people who don't follow through on what they say they'll do. People who make mouth noises when they eat and drink would be a close second. The man sitting next to me at the coffee shop right now has received many an evil-eye for it, too.

18. Please don't make fun of me. I hate being the fool. If you are mean to me, I won't like you for a very long time.

19. I have a higher credit score than is probably possible. I am shocked every time I get it checked. Wanna buy a house? Have me be your co-signer and you're set...

20. I am obsessed with sticky notes. In my wallet, all over my house, covering my classroom, and even on my computer. My last purchase for my classroom was $200 in sticky notes. And I am not even kidding.

21. I crave touch. I don't care who you are - just touch me already!??

22. I keep a carton of a half-dozen hard-boiled eggs in the fridge at all times - they are delicious and convenient for snacking.

23. If you ask me for the recipe of my peanut butter cookies, I won't really give it to you. I'll ACTUALLY give you a really good fake that I found somewhere online.

24. Sometimes I am incredibly indecisive.

25. I leave music playing in my apartment even when I'm not home, just for the lingering aura that I imagine it leaves.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Another...

Another spring.
Another heartache.
Another set of lessons learned.
(although not necessarily in that order)

I'm talking to Ricco the other day, and he, in guy language, says to me, "Wen, we boys are different. To us, it's no big deal. We see a girl, and say 'Oh, she's hot. Sure, I'll go out with her.' But you girls, wow. You've got a whole checklist the first time you meet us. You're sizing us up already before we even say hello. Are we tall enough? How long is our nosehair? Are our toes crooked? [you see, I knew me and Ricco got along well for a reason] We men, and I can speak for most of us, are just different about that kind of thing...

Now Ricco is incredibly intelligent when it comes to people. You will commonly find him with his head in a book about relationships or the brain, or most recently, the female brain. When he speaks on behalf of most men, I take it with more than a grain of salt.

But he's right. And in the end, women do take relationships differently. And I have decided, as of late, that my checklist of no-way criteria includes Nobody named Chris, and No South Pacific men whose name starts with the letters J and O. It seems that men of that nature cause me more grief than any man with copious nose hair or crooked toes.

Ok, so that's a lie. I'm actually really fond of the memories and spring relationships I've had with my Aussie/Kiwi men. But, the news about my break with Jono (a collective sigh from you all, please), and all of the time I have spent thinking about it has most recently led me to believe that the 'J-O's, combined with spring time, mean heartbreak'. This will be my second in three years (and I don't intend on making it a pattern!).

Unlike last time, though, where April meant that I was facing a broken heart while heading into the dreary of cold of a New Zealand fall, I am in ever more awe of the unique April surroundings here, as well as the beauty and wonder of the freshness and warmth of spring. I nearly missed the cherry blossoms last year, and, although I refuse, by principle, to participate in the standard full out picnics to watch and take pictures of them, I do appreciate their very, very raw beauty. I have never seen anything like it.

So, the cherry blossoms, along with such pleasures as quick-drying laundry, growing tulips, playing softball, and opening the windows are keeping me light on my toes right now. I've decided to stop making lemonade (I was getting really tired of lemonade), and instead satiate my thirst with post-run banana-almond-soy-and-peanut-butter shakes (which also comes with an up-and-coming bikini body).

It's funny that in the light of a new love, or an old one lost, we seem to find that every song was written for us. It could be said that we can say the same for a good quote, or a good piece of advice. It is not unnatural that this happens, it is merely our mind's ability to take a piece of information and most closely associate it with our own true self, much like how you could probably read any horoscope and find that it matches you. Two such quotes that I have recently learned to make my own come from some incredible people,

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."
- Robert Frost

"I believe that everything happens for a reason.
People change so that you can learn to let go,
things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they're right...
and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together."
-Marilyn Monroe

I guess it is safe to say that life will always have heartache, and from that we learn lessons. We learn to be strong from what we don't understand, and we learn that pain is sometimes necessary, but almost always temporary.

Fortunately for all of us, though, life will most definitely (and most thankfully) bring the spring. It reminds us that all is well and good again, and that no matter the circumstances that, if we are strong, life will go on.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Before and After

I was just saying to my friend Jerry that there are some things in this country that you just learn to live with. Squatting toilets, electronic everything, lack of communication, dead fish on a stick, etc...

I remember traveling, more than once, last fall, just after my arrival in Japan. At mealtime, I just could not get used to my food being selected for me and brought out on a giant platter of small bowls/plates. Never mind the presentation or delicious Japanese delicacies served in little tiny dishes. I wanted a damn hamburger for dinner and bacon for breakfast. I was not remotely interested in eating the like of whole dead fish or omnipresent bowls of miso soup at every meal, all served to me without my choice or consent. Many a traveling morning I woke up annoyed that a mere slice of toast was out of my grasp. To be honest, I probably even cried about it on more than one occasion.

Now, months later, with the exception of only miso soup (a fairly normal food that I still won't touch with a 10-foot pole), I have succumbed. Not only do I recognize the ingredients in the slimiest of foods, but I enjoy it. I am now more likely to eat ANYTHING if you've put a raw egg in it, can say I eat foods of EVERY color almost every day, and have even made peace with eating the aforementioned dead fish on a stick. Five months ago? No way. Now? I'm picking my battles, and this one's not worth fighting. I'll have seconds, please?

Before (scoffing at the dead fish on a stick - if only you could see my face!):











After
(enjoying the dead fish on a stick - and hoping there might be extras?):

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sterling

Bless Sterling's heart. Bless.

Sterling is the child who you can find sitting in the group of children with his head in a cloud and his eyes anywhere but where I am. It is common to hear me, mid-sentence, bring Sterling back with a 'Sterling, up here, friend', and finish my previous sentence like I had never stopped.

But, Sterling, the biggest space cadet in the class, is also the only student I would EVER feel safe being caught in an emergency situation with, per the answers to the following project, described below. His thoughts blew our minds away.

The project was a culminating part of our unit about Migration. The students were asked to bring a small shoe box full of 3-5 items that they would take with them were they forced to migrate from home (similar to the nature of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower or the Slaves on the Underground Railroad).

Sterling got up during his turn, and in his own special manner, presented the following. It was obvious that he had packed the stuff randomly, and was likely making it all up when he got there. Unlike the other kiddos, he had not practiced what he would say, but it turned out not to matter, as his ability to pull the usefulness out of anything was about to be revealed.

Sterling: 'Uhhh,' (looking blankly at the objects) 'I'd bring this fork. Then I could kill animals and eat it. And I brought this string so that I could maybe tie it to the fork and throw it in the tree to spear fruit. If it was too high for me to get at. Then, um, I brought this mirror so that I could make fire with sunlight. I would do it like this.' (Shows the class). 'And this plastic cup to get water from the river. A plastic would be good because a glass one might break....'

Now, we were amazed (and trying not to laugh out loud) during this presentation, as it was the most clever and useful set of tools any student had packed. Then, students were allowed to ask questions, and Sterling aced each one of them:

Jason: "Sterling - the water in the river will be dirty. How will you drink it?"
Sterling: "Well, maybe I could boil it with the fire. Or, I could use the fork to dig deep into the ground to get water from under there - it's probably clean"

(and so on and so forth)

Sterling wasn't the only star of the group. We had a lot of really great items brought, and well debtated for their good use. Listed below are a few more gems that students decided to bring, and why:

Kiana: "I've got an eye mask so that we can sleep on the ship if someone else is in the same room and I want to get some rest."

Michael brought a hammer, which was a good and original idea. But he was later asked by Taisuke, "Why did you bring a hammer? It's quite heavy. Couldn't you just use a rock?" (yet another brilliant idea!)

Gustavo: "I'm bringing this extra pair of eyeglasses, because if mine break, I can still see!"

Jayden: "I've brought a picture of my family in case I miss them, and just to remember one fun thing that we did together."

Ricco and I have worked hard all year to get the students to think creatively and critically. We were impressed by all of their items and presentations , and felt, from the awe we felt during their presentations, that the unit, as well as the hard work we've expected from them so far this year, has indeed been a success.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

When You've Seen Enough...

Please, please, please, with all of the decency you have, scurry all children from the room before opening the link below.

http://www.yamasa.org/japan/english/destinations/aichi/tagata_jinja.html

No joke, this is where I spent my Sunday afternoon. And by the looks of it, most of the rest of the country did as well. In fact, I have never seen, in 18 months, so many foreigners. We, as a collective whole, were almost as awe-inspiring as the phalli. My friend Carina said it best when she noted, 'Well, just put out some penises and the foreigners will come a-running.'

(If you'd like to see photos, please let me know. I am glad to share them with you - privately. I even have a bit of compelling video to add if anyone is interested...)

Age chin desu!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Heaven

Today I found heaven.

I wrote this on Facebook, and had many generous replies. Most people probably thought I had found the man of my dreams, or had been given a large sum of money.

But nope - I don't really need those things. Today I found heaven the isles of Ikea.

It took a few minutes to get used to the fact that, because of Japanese vowels, Ikea is pronounced very differently here (much to my dismay when trying to ask how to get there). Where we would say eye-key-uh the Japanese pronunciation is ick-ee-uh. I found this to be only mildly annoying.

I decided as well that Ikea (no matter how you pronounce it) is the best place in the world to take color accent photos. And, I realized that even in Japan, stuff can be normal and cute. Ikea (no matter how you pronounce it) is Ikea no matter where you are.

Oh! And Aunt Barb! They have dollar hot dogs here too! Only they're not $1, they're ¥100 (which with the current exchange rate means they're on sale! What a bargain!). Definitely the most delicious thing I ate all day (week?). And to make it more culturally done, I had to buy my hot dog in a vending machine. No joke.

Ikea - I love you (and your hot dogs...).

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Jesus

Out of 127 million people, Japan, known for its Zen religions of Buddhism and Shintoism, holds about 1-2 million Christian residents. Christianity (whose roots are evident during the holiday seasons when plastic waving Santas adorn lawns across the city), is certainly becoming more common, but is still a rare sight in most places.

Recently, though, I have found a couple of, well, interesting references to the good Lord in this seemingly unlikely country. The following two examples have stuck out to me the most, and are definitely worth a try for the oddity-of-the-year award...

#1. This month, Andrew Lloyd Weber's Jesus Christ Superstar is coming to Japan. I would pretend to be even a little bit excited about this, except that, of course, as in all Broadway shows here, the original cast has been replaced by Japanese equivalents who will not only speak in Japanese, but will sing the translated songs in Japanese. And on top of that, in this particular show, Jesus himself will evidently be played by Gene Simmons.


#2. The latest health craze in Japan:
The Jesus Body Diet. I am not even kidding for a second when I say that in seeing this, I was stopped in my tracks. I am also not sure how to comment on this without sounding incredibly offensive (more offensive than the box itself?). One can only wonder who in Hell (pardon the pun) decided to make Jesus the poster boy for this diet fad. I mean, really! Think about this! Is this even a little bit acceptable?


#3. Lastly, a more, well, iconic spot of Biblical proportions. On a recent trip to visit Jono in the northernmost uppers of Japan, a stop at Christ's tomb was a definite. We trekked up stairs and through snow to find the grave of Christ, which is, evidently and interestingly enough, located in Japan. Who would have thought!? We even took it half-seriously, until we read the sign...


I guess I can now finish this line, "You know you've left America when...".

Holy crap...

Monday, March 02, 2009

Train Travel


I am truly, truly starting to loathe train travel in Japan. Minus the glorious benefits reaped from visiting those I like best, I've decided that the Shinkansen sucks.

Between my parents' trip in August and my visits with Jono, I have traveled this great island from one literal end to the other (and have bloody seen enough!!). During this past week it came to a head when I climbed on the Shinkansen for the fourth time in almost as many days. FOUR times! And during these recent trips, I began to reflect on how much one learns from so much train travel. I mean, so much money and time spent on a train must be worth something, right?

Fun fact: The Shinkansen, and every other train in this country, ALWAYS arrive EXACTLY when they mean to. No matter the length of trip or the kilometers traveled, the train will arrive and depart to the minute that it is supposed to. In fact, in a year, the timetable of the Shinkansen will typically shift by about :36. And that's in seconds, not minutes.

Unfortunate fact: There are no discounts for Shinkansen passengers who are residents of Japan. None. For each weekend I visit Jono, I spend the Yen equivalent of $450. To go to Tokyo and back runs a mere $220. And a trip to Kyoto, which is only a 35 minute ride, I pay $100 return. For fun, I recently (ok, earlier today) added up the amount of money I have (or will pay) to have ridden (ride) the Shinkansen between last August and the end of this month and came up with the US equivalent of $3000. Funny enough, that is nearly the same cost as my car, which could take me to the same places for a lot less.

Silver lining: for that amount of money, I guess you could say I travel quickly. The Shinkansen is the world's fastest train. It travels at speeds so high (210 km/h or 124mph) that it virtually floats on its rails. To travel to Aomori where Jono lives, I travel 997km (619m - the same distance as you would travel from Des Moines to the border of Texas) in less than 6 hours.

Train slang: 'I'm coming into Nags eki on the 4:15 Shin from Tokes. Wanna meet for some Yamachan's?'(I'll be arriving into Nagoya on the 4:15 train from Tokyo. Wanna grab chicken for dinner?)

My own personal twist: Recently, I have become proud of my ability (obsession?) to time (to the minute, of course) how long certain aspects of traveling on the Shinkansen take. For example, I know, for a fact, that I can drive from my house (4 minutes) or school (6 minutes) to the train station and get on for a (18 minute express or 24 minute local) ride to Sakae, take a (3-5 minutes depending on the line) detour for a coffee at Starbucks, catch the Subway (for a 4 minute train ride) to Nagoya Station, walk (for 6 minutes, 8 in heels or with heavy luggage) up the stairs to the Shinkansen lines, pick up Cinnamon Melts at McDonalds (3 minutes) and be on the train in less than an hour's time from when I started. I know that trains leave from Tokyo to Nagoya every 20 minutes, that the ride is exactly 101 minutes, and that t around minute 80, I get a view of Mount Fuji (again). Every 23 minutes I am offered tea and sweets by the 'stewardess', and I have found out that, if I close my eyes and pretend I am sleeping, that when the ticket guy comes around after minute 36 to punch my ticket, he'll leave me alone (which isn't necessary, but, since I want to be difficult and don't feel like proving that I am in the right seat, is fun to do). I also know that carying a weekend bag, a computer, a purse, skis, ski boots, and ski gear, all at the same time, will cost you more than one puff on an inhaler at the top of the 26th step at Nagoya station's Shinkansen platform...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Panis


Pennies. Pennies. I am SURE she meant pennies...

(...I hope she meant pennies?)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A 'concern'

Ok. So in writing this, I am taking a bit of a professional risk. What I am about to share, though, was funny enough for me to take the chance. So, I'm going to write it anyway, and keep names completely anonymous. If this turns out to backfire, I'll erase it, quick as snot, and pretend it never happened.

Background story:
Japanese mothers are unlike any mothers in the world. They are often of the wealthy, non-working variety, and like nothing more than to sit around our school (cafeteria, hallways, playground), chatting, talking, and (gasp!) gossiping. Usually about us. Being young and (even though I am not, they don't know it) single makes me, and my similarly-fated friends, large and juicy targets. I have a couple of moms this year, who, under no circumstances, will believe that Ricco and I are not dating. No matter how many times (8) they've asked and how many different people (4) they've sent to ask it, nor how many times (8) we've said that we aren't. They just keep coming back to ask again and again. It is possible that a few of them are fully, fully, fully enamored with Ricco and his good looks (hardly to be blamed, really), and are thus interested in ever personal dealing in both of our lives.

Now, as opposed to mothers in America, who are talking to you and working with you and sometimes bothering you about their child all day long (and when I say 'bother' I truly mean 'taking up a bit more of your time than you would like' - I mean that in the nicest way...), Japanese mothers want nothing to do with you. Not because they really don't want to, but because it is not their culture to come and talk to you about their child. It is a HUGE switch from what we are used to in our Western system, but is a switch I like, as talking to parents is my LEAST favorite part of teaching (just leave me alone and let me teach your precious cherubs, will you?!).

An unfortunate side-effect of the non-confrontational approach is that it is common for Japanese mothers to let you know they have a problem with you through one of two similar means:
1. She will tell one mom, or two, their problem and hope that it somehow trickles back to you,
or,
2. She will tell you the problem directly, but will word it as if it were coming from a group of them, instead of from her alone.
Myself, being a person who doesn't like to talk to parents in the first place, and as a person who annoys easily, find it a bit offensive, but ridiculously hilarious, when they do this.

And so, to prove my point, I have an example to share. My hope is that you will find it as ridiculously hilarious as I did.

This particular infraction on my part happened when I, during an assembly, touched a child with my foot in order to urge him/her to move. In America, this would have been a no-biggie. In Japan, I have realized, it is a bit of a no-no. Mildly worth mentioning, if at all. Also mildly worth pondering, was the fact that I know, if it had been Ricco doing it, nothing at all would have been said.

Please enjoy the following, non-edited excerpt from a recent parent e-mail. The combination of the complaint and the way it was worded is, well, worth a glance:

"I was thinking I will talk with you tomorrow about one things.
But It's kind of hard to tell you...so I will tell you on this Email.
Last time, Assembly. (5th Grade)
we were seeing with some mothers.
before start assembly. you were using foot when children have to move....
some mother was seeing that. And they were little shock and disappointing.
maybe It's no mean for you.
Because I know you are usually very care about children. I know you like children very much.
and also [insert name of child here] like you very very much.
but I think you had better use hand or voice when you ask to children something.
because I don't want people misunderstanding about you.( you are such a nice teacher so....)
Did you understand what do I talking?? (I hope you can understand my terrible English)"

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ode to the Onsen

Onsens. Quite possibly the bane of the Japanese existence. I write this blog for those who have never been to Japan, and who, like I did at first, would really drop a jaw at the idea of bathing openly and publicly with others.

For some, it's a form of leisure (where the definition of leisure is 'just because'), for others, relaxation, and for even others, a necessary act. I have experienced onsens in all of these different ways, in many different places, and after 19 months, finally feel: a) comfortable being naked around total strangers, and b) comfortable talking about it.

But first, for those non-Japanese residents/visitors, the answer to 'what is an onsen?' might make for a good start.

An onsen is a public bath. Within separate rooms, men and women enjoy bathing and washing and soaking within the company of friends, family, neighbors, small children, the cleaning lady, and most often, complete strangers. Onsens vary in complexity, from basic stools and pools, to waterfalls and rockslides. They are mostly indoors, but often outdoors, and the nicest ones have pools in both. For less than $10, a person can enter an onsen, strip down to nothing, stare and be stared at, take a seat at a mirrored faucet, stare and be stared at, clean themselves silly, and then soak in the hottest water on the planet with 100 of their fellow countrymen (women) while staring or being stared at.

My first trip to an onsen was with three colleagues. My second, with one. My third, with two friends, and my last, most recent, as a necessary trip alone.

Onsens are known for their healing power and are often visited by whole families at a time. At the door, mother and daughter will enter together, sending father and son the other way. Often, small boys are allowed to enter with their mothers (and from personal experience, up to the age of 6 or 7, I'd say), and girls with their fathers (so I hear), making it not uncommon (yet a bit creepy) for you to dress and undress within the company of small children.

It is a cardinal rule to be squeaky clean before entering the sauna pools, so a scrub down at the communal sinks is a must. Women enter with baskets of shampoos, lotions, creams, towels, and soaps, and scrub themselves silly for minutes and minutes. It is fairly often (and quite comforting-bordering-cute) to see mothers scrubbing daughters and visa versa, or to see the elderly being scrubbed by their own children/grandchildren.

I used to find onsens quite uncomfortable, embarrassing, and so completely out of my conceptual ability, certainly nothing resembling what I was used to in the privacy of my own bath in America. Now, though, I am more comfortable in my skin, and do not mind the occasional revelry found with 100 naked women. But, I've decided that, although I am now more willing to go, I prefer it as a functional trip on my own accords. In fact, on my most recent trip alone, I went for the shower only, out of necessity of wanting to be clean and finding no other place to do so. Because it was completely anonymous, I was able to walk around as I pleased, had nobody to have to talk to, and finally found it to be completely comfortable, and practical.

Onsen, I finally think you and I are going to get along just fine.

The most romantic Valentine's Day ever...

...was supposed to be spent at the wedding of two friends. I mean, what more could you ask for on such a day? Love, laughter, revelry, wine, good-heartedness...

Instead, though, my Valentine landed himself in the hospital, which is where we were. And not just for the day, but for the whole weekend.

Now, for many reasons, this turned out to be more trouble than we would have ever imagined, as the walls of the hospital evidently have eyes and ears. But aside from that, which is a whole different story for a whole different day, the weekend was pretty much a blow.

Please hope for your very good sake that you never land yourself in a hospital like this one, which, by a friend, was called 'the hostel of hospitals'. Next to us within three feet, as well as in four other beds in the same room were the farts, coughs, and retches of older and ailing men.

Other than that, though, the food was really good*, and the matching pajama sets were comfortable. The company (Jono) and entertainment (movies, books, and nana naps) were unmatched.

And really, for Valentine's Day, what more could you ask for?

-----

(*where 'good' = crap; it was liquid and bland for patients and Cup Noodle from the hospital store for me).