Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun...

The past three days have been absurd, absolutely crazy. Let's start with Monday. The beginning of the week we celebrated President's Day. Fabulous! I got to stay home, organize the house (yet still manage to be a bum) and just do what I wanted. I was all by my lonesome, so I took myself out to a nice meal of awesome Ramen within walking distance of the house. No complaints about Monday. I baked the landlord and his family brownies and blueberry muffins and went to go give them to them (along with the FSU hat I bought for him). Well no one was home but I didn't want to wait until the next day so I went back to my house and translated and english note into Kanji so that I could leave it on his doorstep with the gifts. Well, not 2 hours later, the doorbell rings (I didn't know it was a doorbell but I happened to be on the phone with Alex at the time and he knew what it was) and I pulled on some pants and went to the door. The landlord came over with his entire family to meet me officially. He brought his wife, son, and two adorable grandsons. The learned a few english phrases to greet me and I had learned a few Japanese ones for them. They loved the gifts. It was so nice to meet them.

Tuesday was just dumb. I've never referred to an actual day as dumb, but Tuesday definitely was dumb. I'll Cliff Notes it for you:
  1. Hit the snooze button for the first time in my life, causing me to wake up 15 minutes later than I normally would. (Which offset my entire day- I'm anal retentive like that).
  2. Could NOT get my keys to work in my new bike (yes, I got a bike this weekend. And for those of you who haven't heard already, I suck at biking. I havent been on one since i was in my early teens and I am sooooo bad at it. I almost ran over TWO pedestrians today - Gomen nasai). So I was forced to walk to the train station to get to work. 
  3. I took my train to another train (typical) and then went to my final destination of Soubudaimae station. The station closest to wear I work, less than a half mile. Well, you know me, somehow I manged to get myself completely lost in that less than half mile between the station and base. I took a wrong path and went completely UNDER the base and all the way around again. Finally a coworker called to see where I was (I had no clue) and said he would come pick me up. I walked around for another 5 minutes before I realized where I was and finally got on the direct road to base,  and found my coworker! I walked at least 5 miles on Tuesday. Because I had to walk home from my train station, because of the not-being-able-to-unlock-bike-this-morning thing. 
So Tuesday was dumb....
Today was a hoot. (Yes, I said "a hoot," get over it.) I biked to the train station (after finally realizing that I mixed up the mail box keys for my bike keys (damnit, they looked the same). When I try and park my bike at the station, the flipping parking thing doesn't want to work for me. (Side note: when you park your bike at a station there are little padlocks that clasp down over your wheel so you keep your parking spot all day and then pay for your time there when you return.) I ended up having three different Japanese people try and help me with my bike (turns out that the specific parking area I was using doesn't open until 9am- so I use a different one tomorrow that opens earlier). But the lady that (bless her heart) was trying to help me spoke no English at all. And you all should already know that my mastery of the Japanese language is still a work in progress. But she eventually conveyed to me that she worked next to train station and would lock my bike up at 9am when it opened. (Yes, I believed her. No, I'm not gullible. In Japan, your word is your bond and I absolutely believed that she would help.)

Then I got on the train for work.  Waited at the station this time for my coworker, mainly because I didn't want to get lost and have to walk through the tunnel of doom again. And worked all day. Got a one month pass on and off base until my actual military card comes in - which makes things a lot easier on myself and my coworkers. Then I got a ride home from my boss. Well, I got a ride to the train station to get my bike so I could ride home.

I made it about 500 yards before I got hungry and thirsty (btdubs, I am so out of shape) so I stopped at a local restaurant. BEST DECISION I'VE EVER MADE!!! I walk in an I get the typical "ahhhh, so tall" from a few people there (this place only holds like 12 people at the max). But the difference this time was that everyone wanted to talk to the "blonde gajin" (blonde foreigner). I met a girl named Keiko (Cake) (I say girl because she looked like she was my age but claimed to be 44 with a daughter who is 20), who was eating and drinking there and Hide (He-day) and Nori (Nor- eee) who worked at the place. Turns out that Keiko was pretty awesome at understanding and relaying my English (and poor excuse for Japanese) to everyone at the bar/restaurant. She had me hysterically laughing a lot. Hide and Nori kept bringing me yakitori (yah-kih-tour-eee) meat on a stick) and whiskey lemons (highballs) and biros (beeros- Asahi beers). Oh my goshimas it was awesome. I was only there about an hour and a half but I definitely made my mark on the neighborhood. I was invited to a volleyball game on Friday. "7-9pm we play. 9pm until whenever, we DRINK!!!" is what I was told. So apparently I need to attend this volleyball game on Friday so I don't lose face or disgrace anyone in my area. I am so excited! Eventually I decided to go home and crawl into my bed... so I asked for the bill to pay and leave. 960 yen. 960 yen total! For 3 beers, 2 whiskey lemons, and 4 yakitori sticks. That's about $10USD. I love that place. I will be back. And I can't wait for volleyball.

That's it for the past 3 days. I'm exhausted.



PS. I spied on the neighbor's cat tonight. That thing is loud. It hangs out by the landlord's door and caterwauls until he feeds it/lets it in/kicks it/etc. But I had never seen it before... so I grabbed a vending machine beer and stalked it. That thing is huge. I may actually be afraid of it. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oh! What a Beautiful Morning! ...

I have been in Japan for 16 days.

On snow: Have I annoyed you enough yet about how much I love this place? Despite the snow, sleet, hail, and general cold that’s been here since my arrival, Yamato is amazing. Yes, friends, I have been trekking my lil southern raised tail to and from work and to and from the trains in the snow. As a self-proclaimed snow hater, I’ve spent my entire life bragging about how us Florida folks don’t have to deal with the inconvenience on the frozen white weather. Now that I’ve “lived” with it for a few weeks, I can say it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it was originally. Don’t get me wrong, I still despise it. Snow means that I do not get to wear my cute little flat shoes that I typically live in because getting my feet soaking wet and cold is just not an option. I have to take an umbrella with me everywhere (because that’s just what you do in the snow in Japan). It scares the bejeezus out of me when Ajax has to drive in it (since I don’t have my license yet, I still am unable to drive). But despite all the horrible things I think about snow on a regular basis here, there are some positive things about it. It makes everything gorgeous. Our backyard (the bonsai garden) turns into this dreamland when we get a few inches of snow. Another positive is that it’s so nice during the day that usually most of the snow melts by the time I got home after work.

On Driver’s Class: Yesterday I took my driver’s licensing class on Camp Zama. It was interesting. One of the biggest things to learn for driving in Japan is that YOU MAY NOT HAVE ALCOHOL IN YOUR SYSTEM! Yes, I typed that all in caps for a reason. Japan has a .03%BAC limit. That means that if you blow a .03 into a breathalyzer then you are going to get a DUI. If you blow a .05 then you get a DWI. A DUI (using me in this hypothetical situation) would get me a 1,000,000 yen (over $10k) fine and 23 days imprisonment before I even get a chance to bail or see an attorney it would also get my license in Japan revoked and as a military civilian, I would lose my SOFA status and have to move back to the states. Japanese law is just as stringent on military personnel.  There is a zero tolerance policy on drinking and driving here, which is great. And seeing how you can get anywhere in Japan by train, there is no excuse for getting DUIs. Moral of the story, if I have even one beer, I will not be driving. That can wreck your life over here.

 The building I took the class in can't spell "military."

On my job: So a lot of you still don’t know exactly what I do. I am the College Programs Coord. for a college that has campus on most major military bases in Japan (and around the world for that matter). I oversee a representatives that are located at 9 bases in mainland Japan and Guam. The reps come to me with questions about tuition costs for military members, spouses, etc as well as questions about enrollment, status, books, tests, and class schedules and instructors. I get to put together the schedule for each term (5 annually). Each term includes several face to face courses on each base as well as dozens of online courses offered that can be taken from anywhere, including from deployed ships. That’s a little bit about what I do. Thus far it’s been great. I’m learning a lot about the higher education arena and I am looking forward to learning more.

On how hungry I am right now: SO HUNGRY!
 Picture from the housewarming BBQ at the house

On Newcomer’s Orientation Class: Meh. It started today and goes through tomorrow. It was unnecessarily long and drawn out. But I did see it as a good opportunity to market the college I work for within the presentations. I’ll get right on that! Just call me Marketing Megan. :) Also, they had a Taste of Japan luncheon during the orientation... the food was horrible. It was by far the worst food I’ve had since I arrived in Japan. We’ll see if tomorrow is any more entertaining. We have the “learn how to ride the train” class tomorrow, but I’ve already got that covered.

On haircuts: Last night Ajax had to fly, so he gave me some yen to take myself out (I guess he thought it would be better to kick me out of the house than to let me “organize” more of his stuff). So I headed to Ebina... on the train... by myself. I actually made it to the right place. Which goes to show that even the blondest of blondes can survive here! I got to Ebina and walked around the city-walk area there and got the urge (I’d been putting it off for a while now) to get a haircut. I found a salon the looked nice and I knew it was going to be costly (I am in Japan, they say everything costs more here). I went inside the salon, no one spoke English but they totally understood the language of “bad hair, need cut.” She pointed to the price which equaled about $47 in American cash. Expensive for someone who is used to Aveda haircuts for $14. I did a lot of “pointy-talky” yesterday at the salon. I used pictures and they understood what I wanted. Then they took me to the hair wash station...OMG. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was unreal how amazingly wonderful that hair wash was. It was 30-40 minutes of head massaging, washing, rinsing, soaping, conditioning and more massaging. I was in heaven. Then I went back to the chair and they had two people working on me. One massaging my shoulders and one brushing out the tangles in my hair. Then Keiko began to cut my hair. She understood exactly what i needed and somehow I knew what she meant when she would try and describe something in Japanese to me. She cut it wet and dry. Then she wanted to know if it was okay to put big wavy curls in it ... heck yes. So she did it. I think I was in there a total of maybe an hour and a half. It was worth wayyyyy more than the $47 I paid for the service there. Boyfriend liked it too. :)

Awesome haircut by Keiko

Life is good!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why Can't We Be Friends...

I'm like 90% sure that the people of Japan are incredibly afraid of Ajax and myself when we walk down the streets near our house. Folks get quieter than they already are normally. Those on bikes swerve around us. Heck, I made a toddler run away in the market (okay, that was really funny). But even though we may frighten everyone, they've been super nice. I go to bakeries and restaurants and they always welcome me and smile. (Perhaps it's because I'm a paying customer... but I choose to believe it's because of my amazing personality)

Random Japan thoughts for the day:

  • I love the bathrooms here! The showers are amazing. The toilets (not mine- but a lot of the nice bars/restaurants) have heated seats. And the public bathroom stalls don't have that creepy crack between the door and the stall walls where people can walk by and look at you. Yes, its weird that I'd notice that... but I did. 
  • Crows are everywhere! They are noisy and mean and ballsy. I'm considering a paintball gun. Black paintballs of course, so the Japanese neighbors wouldn't know I was pegging the birds.
  • Recycling is crazy here. It's absolutely nuts. So much work. I'll talk more on this soon! Apparently I'm a very trashy person though.
  • I get to go to a super secret saki tasting party on Saturday... more info on this soon too!
  • Yokohama is huge. We took a train to the main area of the city last night (Wed night here) and I was floored by the amount of sky-high housing units we passed on the way. The Yokohama train station has a full blown mall inside it, with everything from bakeries to peruvian flute music, to hat stores, to a seaweed market. It was phenomenal. 
  • We ate at a Japanese Italian restaurant. We had to use forks there... I'm not going to lie, I had almost forgotten how to use them!
So that's about it for me tonight. I'm going to crawl under the warm comfy sheets and pass out!

Give everyone hugs for me!

xoxo Meg

Friday, February 4, 2011

One Week...

It's almost officially been my one week anniversary in Japan... and I am still loving it. I think that I am figuring out my job, getting stuff organized in the house, and finding my way around the neighborhood. :) It's so exciting. I'm still waiting on the head honchos in the college to approve my civilian employee status at Camp Zama. That should all be finalized on Tuesday when I make a day trip with my boss to Yokota to meet with the Dean and her minions. Should be interesting. From there I take the driving course the following Tuesday and the initiation to Japan course that Wed and Thursday... all on Zama. Ajax is flying a lot of mornings, so this awesome chick I have been training with all week has been taking me to and from work. It was very nice of her. Anywho, it's Friday! Hopefully I'll be able to meet up with my awesome friend Meems tomorrow and then the boyfriend and I plan to head to Tokyo to go eat dinner and visit the 5 story 7-Ereven. :) (Btdubs, the Engrish her IS that bad... we had a drink menu two nights ago that had the word "cooktails" on it)

I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend.