First Month Video

I forgot how much joy there is in simply making something. When I was in college, I use to be all about creative pursuits. Writing, painting, making videos, crafts, playing music… Even if the skill wasn’t for me (like that time I made a “scarf” that was only the size of a coaster), being passionate about learning and trying was what mattered most.

When I moved to Los Angeles to work in a creative field, that all sort of stopped. I became a giant consumer of media without actually outputting anything. Not a video not a story not even a sketch in a notebook. And that bummed me out. I don’t know where that passion went.

I have friends in LA who work 12+ hour days AND have their own side business AND create beautiful projects just for fun AND have time to hang out with me. Those people are my heroes & I admire them so much.

A friend off-handedly dubbed my time in Okayama my “renaissance year” but that phrase has stuck with me. It’s given me a new motivation to spend my free time wisely. I’ve been pushing myself to get back into writing, learning Japanese, and making videos, all the things I use to love in college. I’m also trying out new skills like photography.

Taken in Tokyo

So much happened in the first month here that I usually forgot to take out my camera. With what I did capture, I was able to put together a montage. It was all shot on my iPhone so the footage isn’t spectacular but what’s most important is that I had fun putting this together.

When you stop caring about what others will think and just start doing things for you, that’s when something magic happens. Here’s to having fun & maybe learning something too.

K♥

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School Lunch

When I was in middle school & elementary school, I lived off of Lunchables and rarely (or never) ate the school lunch. That food was terrible! More recently, when I went with my little sister to kindergarden, I found that nothing had changed. In fact, they may still be using the same shipment of food because I don’t think there’s anything real in there that could have gone bad in the last 20 years.

the bomb dot com

the bomb dot com

Before we started school in Japan, we were given the option of signing up to receive the school lunch or bringing our own bentos (packed lunch). Since I have a kitchen the size of…. well you know what it’s more of a hallway than a kitchen… Anyway, it’s really really really small and I don’t want to cook everyday. Also I’m lazy but let’s blame the kitchen size.

So I signed up for school lunch (給食, kyushoku) and IT’S SO GOOD. I look forward to lunch every single day which I can’t say I ever did back home. The only thing that was difficult getting use to was the milk. There’s none of that 2% milk over here. This stuff is basically cream. But it’s grown on me. Did I mention this delicious meal is only 300 yen ($2.50)???

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From L to R, pork gyoza, a pear, veggies & tofu stew type dish, rice, and milk

It doesn’t look like much food but trust me I’m always completely full and only need a small snack for dinner. Even after spending 20 min chasing 3rd graders at recess.

I haven’t taken more pictures because I usually eat lunch with the students in the classroom, but I’ll post more when I can. The whole lunchtime procedure is completely different than the States and is worth it’s own blog post.

Next week is a holiday called “Silver Week” so we don’t have school for 3 days! Three other ALTs and myself are heading to Tokyo on an overnight bus & staying in an AirBnB near Ginza. The birthday celebrations will continue! We’re going to get all dolled up and paint the town red.

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I’ve made reservations at a rooftop Mexican restaurant in Shibuya at sunset. Mexican food + Good friends + A beautiful sunset + A beautiful skyline can only equal an unforgettable night. I have a good feeling about 28…

Have a great weekend everyone!

K♥

Birthdays

I celebrated my first ever birthday abroad. I always hoped that would happen one day but I’m still shocked it’s a reality. Surreal. I feel like I say that word at least once a day.

I started the day at school. In my self-introduction class, I told my students I liked the Miyazaki film “Spirited Away”. So for my birthday, they drew me cards with characters from the movie and surprised me in the teachers room. My heart melted, I thanked them, and I was so excited I said a bunch of things quickly in English that they probably didn’t understand. I think they got the sentiment though.

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Don’t worry. We’ll work on the English.

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My birthday is also Mexico’s Independence day so I usually like to have some form of Mexican food. After school, me and some of the other ALTs went out to the one Mexican place in town called “Freedom Tacos”. This place is just south of Shujitsu University, in the middle of a residential street. The decor of the building was really cool.

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Japaxican fusion. Adorable taco & chill and cat? charms.

Japaxican fusion. Adorable taco & chile & cat? charms.

Now I wouldn’t say this is the best food I’ve ever had…. but it is the best Mexican food I’ve had in Japan. You can’t be too picky when you’re across the Pacific.

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This is what freedom tastes like

We ordered the “taco set” which is this sampler plate that cost us 1880 yen (about $15). It came with six brown tortillas that tasted like the bread you get at mass. We also tried a few of the other items on the menu.

Why are they brown..

Brown tortilla quesadilla

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Nachos

I’m so happy to know there’s at least one place in town I can go to when I really need a taste of home. And I’m so thankful to have all these wonderful people who came out to celebrate with me.

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I’ve lived a lot of places now and it’s never the place that I fall in love with. It’s the people. Good friends can make anywhere feel like home. Even when home is over 6000 miles away.

K♥

Not-So-Guilty Pleasures

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What I’m reading: The Martian by Andy Weir 

A sci-fi drama with a sense of humor. This was recommended to me by Debbie (miss you) and I can’t wait for the movie coming out soon. You can watch the trailer here

What I’m buying: Camera Equipment 

I’ve always wanted to get myself a decent camera and when I realized I might spend this entire year in Japan with only iPhone photos, I knew it was time to make the jump. Lucky for me Japan is full of camera equipment at a lower cost than the U.S. Double lucky for me the U.S. dollar is doing very well compared to the yen. And triple lucky for me it’s almost my birthday. I am now the proud owner of a beautiful Nikon D5500. Thanks mom & dad for the early birthday gift. 

What I’m watching: Attack on Titan 

I really miss movies. So much so that I was willing to go watch one in Japanese. I picked one that looked VFX heavy since I figured I could understand at least 40% of it without knowing the dialogue (explosion = monster go boom. got it.) I later found out the movie is actually based on a popular manga & anime so in preparation for my movie trip, I gave it a watch and became addicted. You can check out the film trailer here

What I’m eating: Mango Popsicles from 7-11

Until recently, I couldn’t leave my house without carrying a sweat towel. (That’s not a joke. It was so hot.) To keep cool I’ve been snacking on these delicious popsicles from 7-11. Fruit is not as abundant in Japan as it is in California so every fruit flavored treat feels like a luxury. 

Now that the typhoon has passed, the humidity is finally going away. There’s a cool breeze in the air which means fall is right around the corner. I cannot wait! Scarves & beanies & changing leaves. I love fall. 

 

K♥

First Month In Japan

The first month in Japan FLEW by. Everyday is filled with new things. It seems like everyday tasks are a huge adventure: Getting a cellphone, signing up for a bank account, or figuring out how to buy salt. But now things are slowing down enough for me to sit and write.

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Okayama Castle

I just finished my second week of teaching at 3 elementary schools and 1 junior high school. On Monday I had a big surprise. The mayor of Okayama showed up to my class with a camera crew and a photographer from the local newspaper. I found out the next morning that I was on the local news! Just another day in the life of an English teacher. Saying you have to be flexible in order to do this job is an understatement.

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Ready for the 1st day of school

The students here are so great. Even the “bad” kids are great. They’re only “bad” kids because they have colored hair (I’m not talking pink hair, I’m talking red brown or anything not black) and smoke cigarettes.

The elementary school students are my favorite. They are SO STINKIN CUTE. Especially the little 1st graders who’s backpacks are bigger than they are. It’s one heart melting moment after another.

Lesson planning is going well. I’m now an expert in teaching shapes & colors. I was nervous before my first day but now that’s gone. It feels so natural to be up there teaching. Maybe I owe some of that to having two teachers as parents.

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Getting flashcards ready for class.

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Welcome sign on my shoe locker.

There’s something I really like about living life 45 minutes at a time at school though. It’s helped me focus and be more present on the task that’s in front of me.

The Japanese teachers I’m working with have been really great too. I get to speak Japanese with them in the teacher’s room, which is great practice. They all took me out to a big welcome dinner on Friday which was so much fun. It was nice to have a chance to thank them for making my transition into this job so easy. I really lucked out that I like all my schools so much.

After school, I’ve been hanging out with the other teachers in my company and our “rival” company JET. Its crazy to suddenly have a big group of friends from Canada, Ireland, Wales, England, the Philippines, and the US. We’re one big happy gaijin (foreigner) family.

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Interac ALTs

So to summarize, life in Japan has been amazing and the transition has been so easy. I think about the month before I left and how I couldn’t get to sleep at night. And now I’m here and it feels so much like home.

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There’s so much to share I don’t even know where to start. I could write an entire blog on the food alone. Did I mention there was raw horse meat at dinner yesterday? Yeah… I’ll get to that later. Off to a BBQ with the other ALTs. Hope everyone’s having a nice weekend!

K♥

The Language Struggle

Hello internet! I’ve been in Japan for a month now and it’s taken me this long to sit down and put together a blog post. I hope to get in the habit of writing at least once a week. I think it will be a great way to stay connected with friends & family back home, beyond the couple of words I can put on instagram. It’s also a great record for me of my time here in Japan. It’s ALSO a good place to practice my English because I’ve already noticed myself saying things in strange, Yoda sounding ways, such as “Yes, cabbage it is.”

And if you think my English is bad, you should hear my Spanish now. It’s become some kind of Spanish-Japanese hybrid where I go in and out of both languages. Spango-nese? Who knows. Never has the language side of my brain been put to so much work.

The good news is that my Japanese vocabulary is expanding everyday. It’s been a struggle to sit down and study grammar but we’ve all signed up for a class twice a week after school that’s been helping. I’ve learned that I need structure when it comes to studying. I’m not always so great at being an independent learner.

I myself am amazed that I’m able to survive on the daily with the little Japanese I know. I owe a lot of that to the kindness of the people in Japan. God bless them for having the patience to deal with an adult who has the vocabulary of a 5 yr old.

Well, I still have mixed feelings on having a blog. There’s always been a little too much ego in the idea for me. Especially when it feels like you’re not adding anything to the conversation. But I’ll give this a go.