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Stormy Weather

The past few days the weather has been somewhat unpredictable. It can’t decide if it wants to stay sunny and at five billion degrees, or try to drown us. Either way, walking to school has been a bit of a challenge. I’m counting down the days until cold weather arrives. The cold might suck as well, but at least I can bundle up more and hide behind scarves. It’s considered inappropriate to strip down in public to avoid sweating to death.

At least inside the school it’s bearable lately. I’ve just had to roll with the weather and take a washcloth to school with me. As soon as I arrive, I put my bento in the office fridge, dump my things at my desk, and head off to the bathroom to wash my face and try to look presentable again.

I never look my best in hot weather. My face doesn’t cool down as much as it should? Or as fast as it should? So it gets more and more red until, if I don’t watch out, the blood vessels burst. (When I was a kid and unaware of what was happening, I seemed to permanently have the two bright pink circles on my cheeks like you see on anime characters. The doctor said I needed laser surgery, but I healed on my own! I’M WOLVERINE.)

I was clearly not made to exist outdoors, though.

In student news, I had one 3rd year boy declare loudly that he was free when I said I didn’t have a boyfriend, and I had another serenade me with some pop song I’m unfamiliar with.

In another class, a girl who seems physically incapable of paying attention to the lesson rescued me from a string that was dangling from the back of my collar.

I’ve also gotten to know the three students in my assigned cleaning area. The boy wants to be a doctor, one girl a nurse, and the other girl a flight attendant. I told all three that English could be helpful in those careers and they seem somewhat willing to practice speaking while we clean.

I’m thinking… that I might like this school. The kids remind me of my favorite school. Lots of energy!

The only thing I dislike about the school so far is that the third years seem to know less English than the first and second years. It’s really unsettling. Hopefully when I go to the other third year classes tomorrow I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Thinking Ahead

freedigitalphotos.net

freedigitalphotos.net

Before everyone becomes too accustomed to my Japan-oriented posts, I wanted to take a moment to update with something a little different. Still somewhat related, though, and if you’re considering coming to Japan as an ALT, it’s something you might want to keep in mind.

Since coming to Japan, I’ve received two different pieces of advice that have steered me toward my current life plan.

The first piece of advice was given to me in the form of a question. While in Japan, what is it that I hope to accomplish? What do I eventually want to do with my life?

For the longest time, my ten-year plan led up to an ALT position in Japan. It seemed such a big, faraway dream until suddenly… it happened.

I scrambled for an answer to the question, but I only had vague notions of what I wanted to do next: translation work (a little  ambitious when I still couldn’t read or speak Japanese fluently), writing, something related to writing (publishing?)…

I was told to think about the question and use my time in Japan to plan ahead to make my goals happen — to not wait until the end of my time here to suddenly wonder what happens next.

The next piece of “advice” came from a therapist. In Japan, therapy isn’t covered by the national health insurance program. I paid out of pocket. The man I hoped would help me with a really difficult situation instead took it upon himself to make everything worse. He said a lot of biased, hurtful things to me during my one visit, but the comment that stuck the most was that working as an ALT is like a black hole — it won’t go anywhere.

As awful as he chose to be, there was a little truth to what he said.

ALT work doesn’t lead directly to a new job, but the experience you gain from working abroad can do wonders for your resume. Just so long as you know how to apply it.

I’ve been struggling for months, wrestling with the question of what to do with my life after this. Finally, I’ve decided I want to eventually go into publishing — potentially in the editing side of things. I’ve lined up a potential internship for next year that will give me some experience editing a project. Meanwhile, I’ve applied to a few things online that will give me relevant experience in the field. I have at least two potential jobs in writing lined up. I landed a small job writing travel guides for an app and another job working with a book review website. I’m in a really good position with my job as an ALT supporting me. I can afford to work for free on some things just to gain the experience and resume gloss I’ll need to get my foot in the door when I return to the US.

A plus side to these extracurricular activities is that I’ll be honing my writing skills. Maybe I can tack on finishing and publishing my novel to that ten-year plan.

More on that later, though. Tomorrow returns you to your regularly scheduled Japan updates, but expect the occasional dash of book/writing/publishing talk from time to time.

My Apartment

I got really lucky with such a large place! The only problem is that the AC is located in one room and I have to get creative with spreading the cool air around. The best strategy is a fan in doorways. You can also see my balcony (and my laundry — oops!) in this photo.

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Next up is a better picture of my sitting room. I’ve kept it fairly open, but back in winter I finally broke down and bought a couch (not shown). Sitting on the floor or on my bed got old really, really quickly.

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For the longest time I kept my bed just like this, using the winter comforter even in summer as some extra padding. Japanese beds are firm. Later I bought a futon and threw it on top of my bed. I sleep much better now.

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The nice thing about the closet space in my room is that it is fairly gigantic. I can store any number of things without filling it up. I’ve contemplated another futon in there for a reading nook, but my current bed works just as well.

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My kitchen is super cute and fairly easy to cook in. I miss owning a real oven every day I’m here, but my microwave has a fairly decent oven setting. One thing I’d recommend is buying footies for your chairs if you have this type of floor. They tend to stick in the summer otherwise.

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Take your shoes off in the entryway. Most homes provide slippers for guests, but I haven’t gotten that accommodating yet.

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Here’s my washer. You’ll note the lack of dryer. It’s very, very rare to have a dryer in Japan. Almost everyone does their laundry outside. This can be a real problem when winter hits. Or when it rains. Plan accordingly.

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Your eyes do not deceive! That is indeed a sink built into the toilet. I happen to have a sink in my little laundry area shone previously, but if you lack that, you can wash your hands here. Water automatically comes out whenever you flush, saving you time and energy. 😀

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Last, here’s my washroom. In Japan, it’s proper to clean yourself first, get in the tub second. My water temperature is all operated digitally. There’s even a button on the panel (not shown) that will reheat the water. It’s a godsend in winter!

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Cosplay

There’s always been the stigma for me in the US when I’ve explained some of my less mainstream hobbies. Novel writing?   That’ll get a quirked eyebrow, but it’s not so weird. Drawing? As long as I’m drawing something traditional or they’re looking at

318205_10100910939122765_2088813721_none of the portraits hanging in my parents’ home, that one gets a pass as well. Cosplay, though. That one I need to justify. Usually I can sooth my way into a pass, though. I usually break out the Kami-Con justification.

Kami-Con i s an event I’ve helped build from the ground up since the beginning of college. Thousands of people go to it annually and it’s becoming (become?) fairly successful. My hobby is a part of that hobby. I mention numbers and dollars, then I can come out of the conversation without seeming like a total weirdo. Usually.

Japan, though, is an entirely different ballgame. When I first arrived, I wanted to   include cosplay in my self-introduction to the JHS kids. I’ve been in two of the    main-event stage plays for Kami-Con, so I wanted to tell the kids about how I love acting and making costumes. I was cautioned by the other ALT to leave it out, though. That it was too much. I can talk to other extremely nerdy foreigners and get similar reactions. D&D? Sweet! Cosplay? Whoa, take a step back! Slowly I’m trying to come up with a way that explains it to Japanese friends so that it won’t make them immediately turn their noses up. It’s fun trying to explain the differences in American anime cons and their Japanese counterpart, though.

Really, though. People need to be a touch more open-minded. Cosplay is an art to a lot of people — myself included! It’s a way to put those sewing talents to a creative and fun use. I used it as a way to connect more with my grandmother. We made my first cosplay together — her coaching on sewing techniques, me trying to make those techniques mesh with my grand vision of how the finished project should come together.

I use cosplay and cons as creative outlets and ways to connect with other creative people. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? ❤

Dentistry in Japan

Not too TMI, promise.

In the past month I have discovered more than I ever hoped to about dentistry around the Narashino area.

Overall, my experience has been good, though!

Before coming to Japan, I knew I needed to get some cavities taken care of and my wisdom teeth yanked. Unfortunately, I had little time and less cash for either of those things. When my insurance completely objected to covering any of the cost for getting my (impacted) wisdom teeth out surgically, the choice was made to have it done in Japan as soon as I was settled in.

I started out my foray into getting my teeth repaired by searching for dentists who spoke English, because, let’s face it, I am light-years away from ever memorizing enough teeth-specific vocabulary words to navigate the pitfalls of dental visits. And who wants to be 89% clueless about what’s going on when the person you’re talking to is armed with a drill?

The dentist I eventually chose had her office in nearby Mimomi and turned out to be possibly the best choice out there. Not only could she speak English, but she wants to be a translator for dentistry in the future and wanted to improve her English! In addition to that, she had a friend who recently moved his dental surgeon office into the hospital in my part of the city. She agreed to not only be my dentist, but to also translate for me when I went to get my wisdom teeth surgically removed.

I heard horror stories on the net about dentists in Japan not wearing gloves and other questionable practices, but I encountered none of that at my dentist’s office! Her equipment was more modern than my American dentist’s equipment and she was much more concerned with getting me through my visits pain-free than my American dentist ever was. Before cleaning my teeth, they even numbed my gums slightly! I have really sensitive gums, so I was shaking from anticipating the pain, but that saved me from feeling anything! It was amazing. I will never go back to my American dentist.

The only thing I had a problem with was arguing for a resin filling on a large cavity I’ve been fighting with for more than a year. My American dentist tried to fill it at least four times and screwed up every time. The last filling held until two months into my stay in Japan, then promptly fell out again. My dentist preferred ending that problem with a metal cap, but I was pretty stalwart about avoiding that. I’ve got a few metal allergies and I wasn’t about to deal with getting any metal permanently installed in my mouth. Eventually she gave in and did the filling amazingly.

And then she took pictures with her crazy mouth!camera to show me the results.

Sorry, American dentists, this lady has you outclassed at every turn.

Yesterday I at last went in for the big day! Getting my first wisdom tooth out! In Japan, it’s common to use local anesthetic instead of knocking you out completely. I was… leery about this. My surgery took about 1 hr 15 minutes because the surgeon was petrified of touching the nerve my wisdom tooth was sitting on. I experienced measurable pain maybe once. For an instant. And then they gave me another shot and all was well.

They put in stitches after all was said and done, gave me two different rounds of antibiotics, and a whopping four pain pills. When my American dentist removed a wisdom tooth, he packed me with gauze and an entire bottle of pain killers.

No such happening in Japan! Despite it being surgery and more intense than my last wisdom tooth, I had no ill effects until it hit 2AM (my pain pill wore off). After popping another one I slept fine and when that one wore off… no significant pain to speak of. My face didn’t even swell up until this morning and already it’s less severe than it was. I can eat fine and the only bleeding I experience was last night when I talked too much with my mom!

So far I rate dental work in Japan as amazing. It’s odd scheduling multiple appointments for different things, but my dentist and dental surgeon put those multiple visits to good use by being extra careful and paying special attention to what they were doing.