Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I Wouldn't Want to Have it Any Other Way...

I'm addicted and I just can't get enough... of Japan.

So... you may or may not have noticed my penchant for lists. I love them. They keep me organized, help me put things in order, and generally keep me happy because I know what is left to do/buy/ignore. I thought about starting this particular collection of words a while back but I didn't think I could make a good sized list out of it. Well, now that I'm a seasoned veteran of Japan (a whole 6 months! What! What!) I feel competent enough to put together a reasonably decent list. Hrm, "decent" may not be a good word for this list... maybe I should just stick with calling it a "list" with not other descriptive terms. Anyhoodle, thar she blows.

Things Japan has taught me/ What I've learned since I moved here:

1. You can fit much, much more than you think you can into a 5foot tall fridge. (No I'm not talking about me climbing in it... this time) All I'm trying to say is that when you have to compact your life a bit, it's easier to go ahead and either work around it (i.e stock the pantry better) or just deal without (do I really need two jars of mayo?) than to wine and moan and get nothing settled. 

2. If you are dumb enough to reply with "Mr. Roboto" to a  Japanese person who just says "Domo Arigatou" they will not laugh. They will probably shun you and then talk smack about you later because you are a dumb dumb gaijin. I watched in terror as some dumb dumb kid said this to a sweet old lady and she seriously just huffed and turned and walked away.

3. Toilet seats can and should be heated. I don't feel like this one needs any additional explaining.

4. There are piss-poor drivers in EVERY country, in every area, and in every city. Bad drivers are not specific to one race, culture, or religion. The jury is still out on gender differences. Japan has just as many buttheads on the interstate-type-thing as North Florida. Which leads me to my next point:

5. Roombas will pick up an entire bag of spilled rice if you give it long enough.

6. If you want to dry something in the Japanese dryer, you better only put 2 things in it. Those two things better not be denim. It will take forever. And it will take longer if you're in a hurry to rush out the door in an outfit that's currently in the dryer. (It's like watching water boil.) You're better off hanging things out to dry. Which involves not only hanging all your stuff up outside but also involves watching the weather to make sure you don't come home to even soggier clothes than when you left in the morning.

7.  I really hate the cold. Yes, I do understand that I've always said this... but now that I've lived somewhere that gets legitimately cold in the winter, I can OFFICIALLY say that the cold and I do not get along one single bit. 

8. Hurricanes and typhoons are the same thing. (Wait, I may have forgotten that I learned that in middle school... meh.) The only difference between the two weather thingys is the hemisphere they are located in (I think). Also, hurricanes go from Category 1 to Cat 5+. Typhoons go from 5 on down to 1. It's backwards... much like many other Japan things.

9.  The best pick-up line to make new Japanese friends is "Do you all want me to take your picture?" The girls travel in packs just like US girls... and they always want pics taken.

10.  Driving on the left side of the road is way easy. Now, I don't recommend you go out and try this in the US. For one, you will probably get a major ticket if not carted away by the po-po because they think you're whacked out of your mind. But driving was one of the easiest things to adjust to over here. I drive on the right side of the car on the left side of the road. I dig it. When I went back to the US for 2 weeks after the earthquake... I was afraid to drive on the side of the road I learned how to drive on. Weird.

11. If you go to unlock the house with your key... you turn the key the opposite direction that you would in the US (for most homes). I turn the key clockwise to unlock the door and counter-clockwise to lock it. Try it on your own door, you'll see how difficult it is to try and master.

12. No matter how amazing you were at recycling back home in the states (not saying I was... I was horrible at it), you will not be good enough for Japan standards. When I say they attempt to recycle everything, rest assured that I mean EVERYTHING, not just the bottles, cans, and paper. You have to take each of those categories and divide it up multiple times. Glass or plastic bottles? Are the plastic bottles PET? Paper? Is it cardboard, printed on office paper, or a paper milk carton? Cans? Well you have to take the paper off of them which will obviously go in one of the 82 paper categories. Don't even get me started on non-PET bottle plastics. Holy hell. I'm making a great effort though. My favorite days are Monday and Thursday... burnables days. Stuff that I cant fit into any other category goes away on this day. You'd be surprised at how much doesn't fit into any of the other 9,000 categories. 

13.  I said I would never get Twitter. Now I'm a full-blown twit. I said I didn't need Skype. It's always up on my MacBook. Never thought I would write a blog, but I'm doing that now too. Thing is... when you're away from the people you love so much, you do random things to keep in contact with them. Some of my friends aren't on Facebook or Gchat... so I got Skype to instant message them. I got the Twitter because I could follow things from back home AND get all the Japan earthquake, nuclear plant, typhoon, tsunami, and volcano warnings ASAP.  I blog so people know what I'm doing. I really want my friends and family back home to know I'm doing better than okay and that I miss them on a regular basis. And despite how much fun I do have pretty regularly, I still do hold down a full-time job, work out 5 days a week, teach conversational English to two students, try and study my Japanese,  and explore Japan. Moral of the story: I miss my peeps. You all should visit. It's worth it.

14. I never want to live anywhere with crows again. You laugh? You try living with these devils. Try taking out the garbage while they give you the stink eye from a fence post 8 feet away. They can and do attack. Ask the kid who stuck tree branches in his bike helmet because his friend got attacked while riding his bicycle one day... *shudder*

15. There is no rhyme or reason to Japan fashion. EVERYTHING goes. I can walk out of the house in thigh high socks, combat boots, a men's tee shirt, volleyball shorts, a beret, and 55 watches on my wrist/arm... totally kosher. I could also walk out in a full ladies suit and no one would give me a second glance. The Harajuku girls are just like in the videos. No holds barred fashion. I use the term "fashion" very loosely because 1) I am a horrible  judge of it and 2) I don't even know what it really is. But whatever "it" is... "it" is accepted fully in Japan. I love this place. 

Well, that's my list for now. I'm sure it will need to be updated soon. I'm continuously learning things here... not only about Japan and it's people but about myself too (that's pretty deep for a Tuesday night blog lol). 

Hasta Luego!



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Please Don't Stop the Music...

CAUTION: For the next 2 to 30 minutes (depending on how fast you read) I will be bragging about my luck and expertise in the music arena. Not playing music, I’ll leave that to the talented people, but my knack for getting into, getting backstage, getting free stuff at, and other participatory concert stuff. My shenanigans are known all around Monticello the world. This post is full of name-dropping and awesome music memories. If you don’t want to hear about how awesome I am… this particular blog post is not for you.

Me being awesome. In case you needed a visual.

I’m not exactly sure how many of you all actually know me… but if you’ve barely met me for 5 minutes, you know how the first thing I ask people is “Know of any good concerts to go to coming up?” (Okay, the actual first thing I typically ask is “Do you have any beer in the fridge?” or “How old do you think I am?” or “What’s your favorite dirty word in Japanese?”) Whatever, I usually get around to asking about music at some point during my meeting with a new person.

Seriously, I may have a concert addiction. (An addiction I apparently share with Emo kids. UGH) I have been to nearly 120 separate concerts, starting from the time I was about 11 or 12 years old. I have seen legends like Santana (YOINKS!) and BB King (hilarious guy) and Bob Dylan (meh…). Also in my repertoire of performances seen are Bon Jovi (“Bon Jovi ball sweat is like angel tears”- not me), Dave Matthews Band (J) and the Twisted Sister Tribute Band (better than the original and way more makeup).  Lest you think that I have a rock-oriented brain… my music preference extend way past those of any one particular genre. Keith Urban (*swoon*) and Kenny Chesney (turbo energetic) are two of my favorite country live-music peeps, as is Gary Allen (more swoon). I’ve gotten drumsticks, tee-shirts, backstage passes, set lists, tickets, guitar picks (over 50 collected- WOOT!), handshakes, been on tour buses, and was even given a phone number by Chris Cagle’s guitarist. I'm a boss.

Another boss

This kind of thing doesn’t happen because I am some crazed celebrity musician stalker. I genuinely enjoy concerts, music, and talent. Celebrities don’t make me all weak at the knees and nervous and scared. I think that might be why I get backstage a lot (that and because I win things CONSTANTLY). Personally, I think it’s easy to hang out with me. Musicians don’t want people freaking out and screaming about how amazing they are… well, they might, but that kind of reaction doesn’t float my boat. Also, I’m nice. I talk to people and try and help out. The guitarist for Cagle (I won’t name names) gave me his number because I offered to help him pass out flyers for the concert, I thought he was some college kid trying not to die in the heat while giving out the brochures about the show. Turns out that he wasn’t. And my girlfriend, Carolyn, and I ended up on the tour bus hanging out and eating pizza with the band, Chris, and the crew. Fun, right?

Been to concerts at fairgrounds, opera houses, bars, clubs, stadiums, Churchill Downs, civic centers, patios, and basements. These venues have been located in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Miami (not Florida), Mexico, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee… and now Japan. I recently attended my first Japan concert (OMG right?!) I know what you all are thinking… “Oh that crazy Megan, she gets herself into so many predicaments, I can’t wait to hear about this.” Alas, my friends, there are no crazy stories about this concert. Unless you call going to Tokyo, to see a TALLAHASSEE band, crazy! Or unless you think that meeting the 5 bands in a restaurant and eating with them is crazy. Or unless you think getting a free backstage pass and ticket, that would have normally cost $100, is crazy. Also, if you think spending the night in a “hotel” room the size of an office cubicle (a small one) is crazy. And especially if you think that partying for the rest of the night along with your 10 new Japanese friends and missing your train home is crazy… in that case, yes, this is a crazy concert story. Well dang, I guess I blew all the surprises in the story. But as is usually the case with my blogging, I’ll give to the quick run-down of what had happened.

How I view myself lately

I found out there was a concert in Tokyo. This concert happened to be with American bands (and one Swedish band, I think). Went to Tokyo to spend the day and later attend concert. Went to lunch. Listened in on American tourist convos at Freshness Burger. At one point one of the tourists said something hilarious and I laughed, spraying my drink all over my burger. I was busted. They knew I was eavesdropping and asked me if I spoke English. My response: “Si!” Lol. Yes, yes I did say that. They laughed, I laughed, Japanese people scowled. They asked if I lived in the area or if I was visiting. Living. I asked the same. Visiting. They asked where I was from. Tallahassee, FL. I asked them. Tallahassee, FL.

WTF? Yes, they were the bands playing that night. I ended up joining them the rest of the afternoon. The amazing bands included, Mayday Parade, the Summer Set, Anarbor and With the Punches.  They were so awesome. I helped them practice Japanese. Took pics of the guys with their adoring fans. Played rock paper scissors and participated in all sorts of non-raunchy band fun. It was a blast. Got a pass into the show. Which I never expected them to do… okay, I did expect it because I am awesome and I’m from the same freaking town as the headlining act. And I could kind-of-sort-of-pretend-to-maybe-partially translate. Hell, they didn’t know how much Japanese (I don’t) speak. But everyone was turbo nice (with the exception of one of the foreign guys who was creepy).

So the performances were amazing. I didn’t see the first 2 groups because I was outside the area conversatin’ with the locals and the Mayday guys. Heck, I was so happy I would have talked to a brick wall with a face drawn on it in chalk. (Actually, I may have.) But this isn’t a “judge Megan” story… so I shall continue on. After concerts were over, stuck around  canoodling and hanging with the awesome new Japanese lady friends (whom I met because I asked if they wanted me to take a picture-see, niceness- and they wanted one with me too. They really only spoke Japanese, but finally communicated in the universal language by asking me “Facebook?” So now we’re all facebook BFFs).  

No, this picture has nothing to do with this story. 
But I bought a flamingo for my office at work and wanted to show people. 
His name is Fred. His name is Fred because I like alliteration. 

We were there forever. I realized that it was 11:30pm. Oops. The shows started at 6pm. I was there almost 7 hours at that point. Can I make the train home? Nope. Can I make the train to a populated area with hotels? Yup. So off I went with my new buddies. We got into Shibuya and decided to hit up one more club. It was fabulous. Do I remember the name? No. Could I find it again? Not without assistance. We stayed there for another 2 hours and then we called it a night. They all lived in the area so they could go home but I needed a hotel type place. I was taken to this awesome little place called Moopi (?).  

My new posse. We rock.

Moopi is a manga comics place for dorks and for people who miss the train and for people who want to take a nap during lunch break. It was 1200Y ($15ish) for 8 hours at Moopi, which included your own personal computer, TV, and cubicle with a locking door. The floor was made out of pleather couch material so you could pass out in comfort. If you felt like they hadn’t cleaned it well enough, they provided antibacterial wipes to make you more comfortable. You could take a shower. Buy the soap and rent a towel (shower cost: 100Y- $1.25USD). You could buy Ramen to eat. You could chillax in your cubby and eat and watch TV and surf the net and sleep and completely not care about missing the train. That’s what I did. 

My cubicle in Moopi- no I didn't make up the name.

When the girls had gotten me checked into Moopi, they headed off to their houses. I took my shower and thought about how amazing life was. I Facebooked with a couple of my US people because they just had to know about my night. 8 hours later… after being too excited to sleep a full night, I explored Tokyo a bit more and then headed home with a big shit-eating grin on my face. Life was good.

That’s my 1st-concert-in-Japan-awesomeness story. I’d say more, but just can’t risk making you any more jealous than you already should be.

I love you guys!


Monday, July 11, 2011

So Tell Me What You Want (What You Really Really Want)...


It's Ajax's mom's birthday today! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope it's wonderful! I got a cake to celebrate... but since it's probably not a good idea to ship it from Japan, I guess I'll have to bite the bullet and eat it myself. How horrible, right?

On another note: I've gotten quite a few emails from people wanting to know what I want or need over here (I think people believe that I live in some third-world country where I can't get Coors Light or Lucky Charms and don't have access to anything but a squatoilet (yes, squat toilets are definitely alive and well in Japan. Remarkably easy to use, I might add). But never fear, dear Blog Readers... I am (for the most part) able to access most of the comforts of home, with the exception of a few items. I have compiled a list of things that I'd like IF you just have to send me a package over here. Seriously, this is not a request to get massive amounts of stuff, I promise. This is just for all my wonderful people who have asked me to compile this little list.

Things I could get shipped here but it's a hassle:
  • Aveda tea (actually, any decaf tea... the boyfriend and I go through a lot of tea... at least two cups nightly)
  • Aveda hair products- No Aveda here. :(
  • Rice crispy treats cereal- Obviously the best cereal on earth, and I can't find it on our bases.
  • Cheap clearance FSU stuff- I give FSU gifts to students/neighbors/landlord (we have to give presents out a lot here... it's like a cultural rule). So I'm trying to populate Japan with Seminole fans! Bumper stickers, cheapy hats and on-sale $4 tees are perfect. They eat them up! Or scrunchis! The women still love scrunchies here!!! And I know they go on turbo sale after football season because no one in the states uses them anymore. 
Things I need/want but won't buy myself:
  • Cardigans- I wear them to death here
  • Flat Shoes- I can buy them off base here but they are so expensive.
  • Magazines- Have to restock the bathroom reading material since Ajax lives in there.
  • Eyeliner- Base has crappy selection and off base is like 1100Y ($14) for eyeliner. WTF?
  • Funky earrings (especially cheap awesome ones from Country Dollar back in Tally-Tally ladies, hook me up!)
  • 100 calorie snacks and almonds - I do buy these for myself but I eat tons of them. 
Personal things from you that I would love:
  • Cards from you (SHOUT OUTS to Katie and Care! Carolyn sent me my FIRST piece of mail in my new mailbox... It was very exciting business! :) And Katie sent me THREE cards that I got all on the same day... they were hilarious! :) Made my morning to go to the post office and get cards.)
  • Printed pics
  • Old USBs full of music!!! Especially newer music (think past 6 months).
  • Visits. Seriously... when I say people have an open invitation to stay in Japan with us.. I mean it. We'd love to have visitors.
That's it for now... Ill probably think of more later but this is what I put together in about 5 minutes. I love you guys. Have a fabulous week. 

Stay out of trouble! 


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

There She Is... Miss America...

 A blonde walks into a bar...

It sounds like the beginning of a horrible punny joke, right? Right. Yes, the time has come for me to tell you about my amazing experience while meandering through random places around my train station in Japan. There are a few things you should know about me (if you don't know me that well or just happened across this blog):

  1. I am random.
  2. My randomness is only superseded by my willingness to try new things.
  3. My willingness to try new things is only superseded by my height.
  4. Japanese business men love me.
  5. I end up in crazy situations on a regular basis.

Two Fridays ago I was bored at home... as is typical before a great "OMG Megs seriously, I can't believe that happened to you" story. I decided to go for a little bike ride. (And by 'little bike ride' I do mean little. My bike is not the appropriate size for a 6'2" person. *le sigh* story of my life here in Japan.) I hopped onto the bike o' destiny and took off towards the glorious setting sun (i.e. the area with all the bars). By the time I got to the train station area, I was drenched in sweat. It was that hot outside. So you can just imagine how sexy I looked. Still in work clothes, sweating like a hooker in church, and makeup running... I had to beat the men off with a stick. Why couldn't I have been born rich instead of good looking??? 

Parked my bike in the little bike holder doowhomper and headed into the tallest building by my station (100Y for 3 hours isn't bad in Japan considering it's better to do that then have them tow your bike- And yes, they tow bikes). I'd never been in this building before but it looked promising with its colorful signs and pachinko parlor on the bottom floor. I told myself I'd stop at the first bar that would let me in. 1st floor... closed. 2nd floor... closed. 3rd floor... possible nudie club- pass. 4th floor- WIN! 

I walked to the open door and immediately people started screaming at me, so obviously I started to run away (those Japanese are feisty, the last thing  I need is to get smacked down by a Gaijin-hating ninja). One of the ladies came out and stopped me by saying "First beer free!" Well, if you didn't know by now, two of my favorite words are "beer" and "free" and when they are combined, it's like the heavens opened and the angels were singing. Walked back in the bar with Sue (real name is way too long to spell) and met Kiu, they were the bar owners, both women from China. Basically the only Eigo (English) they knew was "First beer free!" There was a Japanese man at the bar next to where I sat down and he did a bit of translating for everyone. Then we got out our handy-dandy iPhones and Droids and used the translator apps to continue longer convos. It was great. The bartenders loved having me there, it made for great conversation for them and I think I'm now their token American friend. 

Note: Google translate is not always accurate. Be warned!

More people came in for their after-work beverages and social time. I was introduced to everyone. I had tons of snacks and Sue and Kiu were absolutely spoiling me rotten. One gentleman came in and introduced himself as (I kid you not) Crazy Uncle Tom. But it was more like "Kazy Awncur Tomb." My translating buddy told me that the guy was a typical patron of the fine establishment and always did crazy stuff.  I didn't think an 80 year old man could be too crazy, but I quit trying to guess what will happen in Japan months ago. (Japan's slogan should be  "Welcome to Japan. We do crazy shit here!") And when this older guy shows up, his crazy rubs off on everyone else. I'll give you a quick synopsis of the next two hours' events:

  • Was proposed to- TWICE! (That makes my 4th proposal from Japanese men since I've moved to Japan)
  • Was asked to "Teach them how to Dougie"- I guess they don't understand that I'm extremely white.
  • Arm wrestled- and lost.
  • Stood up to be measured next to every person that came into the bar.
  • Took pics with everyone (Sue still has to email me the pics)
  • Had the bar owners stand on chairs next to me so they could be my height.
  • Got free sushi, snacks, and tofu... and my free beer. 
  • Laughed constantly.

    But the best part was when "Uncle Tom" said something to Sue in Japanese and she turned on the karaoke machine. Up until that point I didn't even know it was a karaoke bar. (But seriously, what bar isn't a karaoke bar in Japan?) At that point, Uncle Tom said "Hit it!" (Yes, just like in the movies) and Sue turned down the lights and turned on the disco ball. I was already laughing so hard I though I was going to pee my pants. The he started singing:
    "There she is, Miss America. There she is, your ideal.
    The dream of a million girls who are more than pretty
     can come true in Atlantic City." 

    LOL I don't even know all the words but he sang it in such amazing Engrish that I started crying laughing. Best song choice ever!!!!!! By the end of the song he was on one knee in front of my chair holding my hand & grinning like crazy (did I mention he was missing about half of his teeth?). I had no earthly idea what to do so I applauded & got him a drink. I guess that probably means we're married now. Ajax might not be too happy about that.

    I think he was trying to tell me that I was a good-lookin' tall girl. 
    But I can't be sure.
    After another 30 minutes of fun singing and partially understood conversations, I headed out to go home and crawl in bed. We took a group photo and then they watched me leave and waved out the window as I rode away. Which was very sweet but it sucked because I ended up running into a telephone pole... they surely saw the whole thing.
    So that, wondermous blog readers, is the story of my random excursion. And yes, I will be going back again soon.
    Love Y'all!