Friday, July 31, 2009

Live from the Inaka

I`m here in my little corner of Okayama Prefecture, out in the inaka, where the scenery and people are insanely lovely. I arrived on Wednesday, after a handful of busy/crazy days in the big city of Tokyo. To say this is the opposite end of the spectrum is an understatement.

Internet at home won`t happen for awhile, but I can use the internet at my desk at work. The menus are all in Japanese, some of which I can read, and some of which I can only guess, so it`s been fun. The apostrophe on the Japanese keyboard is in an entirely different place and requires using the shift key. Still, it`s internet. Sweet, heavenly internet.

Here`s what`s been going on so far:

I got severely lost the first day here (Wed) when I was already physically and mentally exhausted and literally had blisters on my feet from all the walking around Tokyo and all of the lack of sleep due to both jetlag (in the form of waking up early) and wanting to do all I could while still in the city. Getting lost was quite a low point resulting in not being able to hold back tears in public and being really annoyed at the way things had been scheduled so that we (I`m not the only JET here in Tiny Town) were essentially left to fend for ourselves. In bad Japanese, I managed a ride home. The car had lights but wasn`t a police car. (?) Later that night was a high point when my predecessor returned from her farewell party with two very sweet Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs) that I`ll be teaching with this year. They are awesome.

Yesterday, Thursday, after my breakfast of canned coffee and CalorieMate (my two good old friends that sustained me for 3 years last time I did this), it was all about going around to visit every city in the town (or the universe, not sure, but there were a bunch, and each with lots of smiling and bowing), being interviewed on TV (yah, really, this is all apparently big enough news to warrant such a thing here in tiny town) and generally meeting half the town. I`ve made friends with another JET in town, and we`ve made plans to head into Okayama City this weekend for fireworks on Saturday and possibly a festival on Sunday. Details are sketchy, but I promised myself I`d say yes whenever possible about getting out and doing stuff. I`ve unpacked little, but it can wait because I only get one year to live this second chance at my dream of living in Japan again, and the clock is already ticking.

Today is my first full day at my actual school where I`ll be teaching, and everyone is so friendly. Plus, this is my only current avenue of internet access, so it`s even more appealing. In a shocking twist of wow because it seems nothing is ever fast or easy to set up in Japan, I might be able to get a cell phone today if I jump through a paperwork loop different from the one done yesterday.

I don`t have pictures with me here at work to post, but I`ve taken some and will, at some point, though maybe not until I get internet at home in a couple weeks (hopefully not longer than that). Also, I expect at some point to make a video of the process involved with me doing laundry because I forgot how hands on and not automatic it is, but that will be another post for another day.

Sorry if this post isn`t full of my brilliant wit (or humbleness), but any internetting I`m to do until Monday has to be done now, so you gotta know that I`m a busy girl. Can`t wait to post stories and pics. Oh, and to catch up on your blogs. Not sure when that will be, but thank you for reading even while I can`t because it`s great seeing your comments when I do find a way to get online.

Oh, and I thought it might be fun to post new words each day and how/why I learned them if there is some reason. Not sure if this will be a regular feature. Since I`m behind, I give you these:
  • 汗びっしょり = asebisshori = drenched in sweat (because it was hotter than hell when I asked)
  • 滑り台 = suberidai = slide (because we visited so many pre-schools, kindergartens, etc. yesterday)
  • 竜巻 = tatsumaki = tornado (because I said I was from Oklahoma, kinda)

Monday, July 27, 2009


I'm here in Tokyo, awake at 6AM my time due to jet lag but feeling great anyway. Can't type long because my 2 hotel roommates are sleeping, but with 3 sharing 1 internet connection, now is a good time to post. Posting will be spotty for awhile and my visits to most of your blogs not happening until I'm set up with internet at home, but I'll post when I can.

Japan is hot and humid but very much as I remember. There will be pictures and stories, I promise. I've already met a few others from our Chicago group, one who was a JET the same time I was last time, 1995-1998 from Chicago, so we surely were at all the same meetings this time 14 years ago but just met yesterday and became fast friends. Today, there will be approximately another 1000 of us at Tokyo Orientation. I remember it being overwhelming last time. This time will likely be the same. Still, it's fun.

People have asked me if I'm nervous. A fair question. So many are, even those who have studied abroad in Japan or elsewhere because this is different. My honest answer is that no, really, I'm not nervous, just happy and excited other than being away from Tom and about the other stuff I've vaguely mentioned. Last time it was all new, and there was more nervous mixed in with the excitement. I'd never been out of the States at that point.

Well, roommates are up, time for showers and breakfast. The view from the room is nice. I'll post pictures later.

The adventure begins!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In the Morning (and then from there)

I should be packing, furiously, like a woman with lots of packing and planning and freaking out yet to do, and I will, here in just a few minutes. Again. Right now a quick break for a bloggy update while I sip the last of this latte.

Tonight all my bags should be packed with care, a whole year's worth of Maggie Stuff compressed (some with those awesome compression bags - buy real Space Bags, not the generics, even if 99% of the time I opt for generics) into two large suitcases, one carry on, plus my laptop.

I fly to Chicago in the morning, early. Thankfully it's a direct flight. From Tulsa, that's kind of rare. Yay Southwest. They also won't charge me extra for checking the two bags full of all my junk important stuff I'll need for the next year. Not advertising here, I promise, just saying.

I'll spend time with family Wednesday and Thursday, then make my way near the airport on Friday for pre-departure meetings followed by a bloggy meet up of happy proportions where I should get to meet Zoeyjane, Sandy, Maria and again Mishi and Lou (who is awesome enough to help with transport).

Sidenote: Friday night I may or may not have more information or answers about the reason (and barely more clarified here) I'm knocking on wood. Assuming good news or the more likely just plain no news yet, my JET 2009-2010 life begins. (If you want to know the truth, it's this one little bitty paragraph you are reading right now that is more on my mind than anything else, and until we know, I'm scared, not just for possibly not going to Japan but for the whole entire rest of it that I can't talk about here and hope I never, ever need to because it would mean something very sucky.) End of sidenote.

Saturday morning I'm off to the airport and the flight to Tokyo early afternoon. The flight is a bit over 13 hours, but I'll arrive the afternoon of the next day, local time with all that crazy time change stuff (returning from Japan, the time change will mean I'll arrive before I left), and hopefully I'll have some energy to play in Tokyo after getting to the hotel that evening. There will be days of seminars before I'll make my way out to the middle of nowhere in the beautiful place that I'll call home for the next year, near the crazy bitch stuff.

It's looking like 2 weeks or more before I'll have internet at home, but I might be able to log in from work sometimes. Effective now, I'll likely be way behind on all of your blogs and may or may not get to update this one for a few weeks, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised with internet access somewhere/somehow sooner. Or I'll die of the crazy.

Ready to go, I'll appear to be, by bedtime tonight, even if a part of me lingers unpacked, uncontained, unfettered moving freely in spirit all over my home where my man and my kitties shall dwell a gazillion mile away. I can't express how much I'll miss them. It hurts to think about it. It makes me second guess these grand plans, even while knowing it will be a good thing and that Tom supports this 100% (and will get to visit me in Japan!). When I come home, no more being apart. Goodbye is just too painful to make a habit of this kind of thing.

None of my bags packed themselves as I typed this, which means I'm suddenly even more super busy and need another latte.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sticky Situation

Do you remember those one shoes I talked about here? The black patent leather with the stap across the top shoes I bought for my interview in February for the JET Program (the reason I'm leaving for Japan for a year just a week from today)? How I then photographed (from this post) those shoes and talked about me walking in heels and needing the help of YouTube to do so?

Does this help jog the memory?

I wore these yesterday for more walking in heels practice when I went shopping for a million things I still needed to buy before leaving for Japan, mostly items to make sure Tom is a little stocked up on things like toilet paper, granola bars, kitty litter (and hugs and kisses). Being raised with some manners and consideration for others, when I was done loading everything into my non-air-conditioner-having-car (it's been in the 100's here in Tulsa, just saying) I went to put away the cart (here in Tulsa, where it gets stupid hot outside, some call a shopping cart a buggy, which cracks me up and distracts me from the heat for 2 seconds).

Something felt stuck to the bottom of my shoe as I tried walking back to my hotbox car where items were surely melting. When I looked down, I became homicidal.

I saw this:

No, I have no idea how I got the gum wrapped around the entire goddamn shoe as if I'd tried to do as such.

I voiced aloud to myself in the empty-ish parking lot what I thought about the mother of someone who raised her kids (and I bet it was an adult kid, no reason, just a hunch because most little kids do know better) to think that it was OK to toss sticky chewing gum on the ground where someone would step in it. I've been chastised here before for saying something like someone having a filthy pig whore for a mother, but I'll say it again because the shoe fits, and when I'm that mad, I sometimes go straight for your mama's throat like the creative words of disparagement we learned in junior high. That still makes me more mature than the asshat who doesn't dispose of gum properly.

The gum still reeked of the peppermint that was probably being used to cover up whatever diseases are harbored in the offender's filthy pig mouth. I didn't want to touch it because, ew. The napkins I had in my car just made it worse, so even though I was in the middle of a bazillion errands, I had to stop at home to at least get the pig nastiness off of my shoes.

I tried putting the shoes in the freezer as I'd heard for gum removal, but it didn't work so well, and I was completely skeeved out having to pick at the infectogram of hate someone had left on my shoe and getting it under my fingernails. *insert gagging*

So, I turned to Twitter (you follow me, right?), the source of all information, good or bad or other, and the lovely Zoeyjane hooked me up with the solution that worked. She feared the peanut butter option I'd mentioned might ruin patent leather shoes due to the sugars and suggested olive oil.

And the olive oil worked. Like a charm. I put a little on a paper towel and gently rubbed on the olive oil until it got hard the gum started coming off. I get to meet Zoeyjane in Chicago before leaving for Japan next weekend (yay for BlogHer being in Chicago!), and she's getting an extra hug.

There was still gum on the bottom of the shoe where I wasn't afraid to use the peanut butter technique that goes like this:

Get Gum Off Your Shoes With Peanut Butter - The most amazing bloopers are here

Later yesterday, I got information from the Chicago consulate that Japan is still concerned enough with swine flu that I need to track my symptoms and temperature for the whole week leading up to departure and turn in the sheet before I'm allowed on the flight. I'm sure piggishness is not related to swine flu, so I should be OK.

At least it was the patent leather pair I was wearing and not the other new pair, the $100+ Tsubo ones that I got for under $15 (from this post). Can you imagine gum on these? *shudder*


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Problem with Vague

The problem with writing a really vague post is that it makes it awfully hard for folks to have any idea what you are talking about unless they are psychic. I still am not at liberty to discuss what's not mine to share, but since I've received such kind words in response, I just feel like I need to clarify that my last post had zero to do with self-doubt or any fear about going to Japan for a year. Me? I'm fine. I've wanted to do this again since I left last time 11 years ago. No qualms.

That post had more everything to do with the idea that if certain pending medical issues go a certain way for someone (who is not me), I would be willing (more than willing, actually) not to get on that plane to Tokyo in a week and a half.

When I said that I don't always have to do what I have to be willing to do, I meant that the very act of processing the possibility of scary scenarios, and as part of that process exploring my willingness not to go to Japan if that looked like it would be best/necessary, clarified some important things in my life, so that process of becoming willing (or determining that I was already willing) was worthwhile because of what I learned from it, regardless of what happens from here.

I still hope like hell that I don't have to do that which I would be willing to do.

Clear as mud now? Since this post is really just a footnote to the last, and because I like orderliness and have enough that's out of my hands right now, I'm closing comments on this post so that any comments can go on the real post.

Monday, July 13, 2009

What I Have to be Willing to Do

An old friend in old circles once shared an old saying that was new to me then but that often clunks around in my tired old mind now when pondering the tough stuff and the what-ifs and the oh-shits. It's spiritual in nature, even if in so many ways I'm that no longer, which isn't one of my shorter stories, and it simply helps me process complexities and my personal boogeymen by going like this:

I don't always have to do what I have to be willing to do.

I don't know the rest. I just know I've sorted out some thoughts about some of my worst fears. Honestly, they were even scarier than I'd feared. Making the journey into my heart and mind to make my peace with what I'd be willing to do if fear became reality has made a lot of important things crystal clear, unlike my cloudy crystal ball that keeps answering with unknowns. Sometimes you get lucky enough for just the results of such sorting out of willingness to be the whole point. My fingers are crossed for lucky. Toes, too.

Edited to add: This post was too vague to have made it easy to make any sense of it, so I've added some clarification here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Posts Without Proper Titles Need Love, Too

The root canal went great (and thanks so much for all the good thoughts and success stories). No, really, it wasn't terrible at all, no worse, really than a filling, though it took longer. I'm training myself not to cringe at the thought of eating old faves like salads or watermelon or even something like a room temperature apple (yep, even that was too cold/sweet) that would have sent spikes of horrendously agonizing pain through my tooth a week ago. There was a last minute scramble just an hour before the procedure, trying to find a dentist that would be able to come up with a crown in time for my departure from Tulsa (July 22nd) to Chicago and then to Japan since it can take a couple of weeks, but luckily I found a dentist that could get it rushed from the lab. I'll be getting that done next week (the temporary crown is surprisingly solid) and would even consider a root canal on the other sensitive tooth someday, if it comes to that. Words I never thought I'd say willingly.

Within an hour of having the root canal, my visiting dear friend J and I were dissecting my closet full of previously discussed sins and were out shopping for new clothes on a budget so that I don't represent America's worst dressed while in Japan. Deals included treasures like a $50 (*gasp*) pair of jeans that I would never have bought, except for the fact that I got them for about $9. Ditto these ridiculously cute and surprisingly super comfortable Tsubo heels we found that were marked down from $100+ to, um, the realm of my affordability at $12.99. The next day before getting the temporary crown, I even got a couple of pairs of new glasses (just as cheap to get two pairs as one), plus contacts again. I'm sure you'll be seeing pictures of them in posts to come. Well, more the glasses, I guess, since the contacts themselves won't be quite as noticeable other than moments when there is a lack of glasses.

In other news since I can't just say nothing, I'm not really at liberty to discuss something weighing heavily on my mind, so I turn to my favorite way to express myself when I must be vague, my friend the haiku.

still knocking on wood
afraid to jinx all good things
my fist and head hurt

I don't pray anymore, but I don't suppose it hurts any if you do and are so inclined, even with such limited information.

I can't think of a nice cutesy way to tie any of this together, and that, in turn, limits my ability to give this post a proper title.

Off to eat something cold that I hope I don't spill on my new clothes, while I give a seductive glance over one of my new pairs of glasses, as I knock on wood inside my head to keep any badness of any sort at a bay far away. Except that would be too long of a title.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I'd Rather

So many times I've heard people faced with doing something utterly unpleasant say that they'd "rather have a root canal" than do whatever bit of unpleasantness. Sometimes the utterly unpleasant is really bad, too. This may be part of the reason that root canals have such a shady reputation as something really awful, painful, horrible and generally not a happy way to spend a couple hours. Others say they are not that bad anymore, really not much different from having a filling in terms of the pain afterward, other than the whole mouth agape for 2 hours thing. Oh, and the 4 or 5 shots I've read it can take to numb if the nerve is still alive. Mine's alive, along with the nerves connected to my fear of needles in the mouth-al area.

I've never known whether the horror stories are true or if those in the "just like a filling" camp were the real truth-tellers because I've never had a root canal.

Soon I'll know.

The endodontist I saw on Monday said at the point I am now (extreme cold sensitive - they did a test that brought tears to my eyes, but not to tapping), he'd normally recommend a wait and see approach for about another month, but that since I am leaving in, um, under 3 weeks for Japan, he's pretty sure I'd need a root canal in the end anyway, and dental work in other countries can be kind of a mixed bag, even aside from the language barrier and differences in pain management.

I'd rather be doing a lot of things on Tuesday morning, but I'll be having a root canal.

What would you rather be doing?

If you are looking for someone to listen to your non-scary stories about how positively swimmingly (oh, and for me, I'd rather be swimming) your own root canal went, you're in luck, your search is over because I'm all ears.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Friendliness, Toothiness

I had an awesome time visiting old friends in Dallas, Texas just because I could get there in about 4-5 hours (yay, living in the middle!) and managed to see 3 friends I've known from way back in elementary or junior high school in the span from Thursday evening to Saturday afternoon (with lots of poolside drinks and memories and pictures old and new), then got home that night and enjoyed watching surprisingly professional-like fireworks with Tom and some of his friends from the comfort of their backyard, and finally my dear friend J will be coming for a visit starting on Monday to hang out and visit before I leave and to help me sort out which sins of my closet should not make another trip to Japan after already going there over a decade ago and already a decade too late at that point.

It's like a whirlwind of friends all at once, and it's really nice, especially seeing everyone before leaving for Japan, which is looming ever closer, with a million little things to do since it's now less than 3 weeks away, just over 2 weeks before I fly to Chicago a few days in advance to visit with family (and maybe a 2009 BlogHer Conference attendee or two if it works out that night of Friday the 24th that they are willing to come from there to my hotel by the airport before my flight the next day - I'll need to kinda stay put, mostly because I am a safety girl).

Meanwhile, I may or may not be having a root canal during my friend's visit because I'm about out of time and, as suspected, the tooth issue is back, so I'll see an endodontist on Monday before my friend gets here, then have it done, if needed, one day this week while he is still here. Not the kind of things I'd pair together, but my friend tells me that the drinks we will be having should help if it hurts. I guess that makes it not all bad.

It would be nicer if we had a pool, though, too, now that my Texas friends spoiled me with morning swims and evening swims and floating on my back in between conversations swims. I'm just sayin'.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Knock on Wood

Yes, I've been quiet here. Quieter than I wanted to be. Now I feel it's OK to whisper.

I try not to be superstitious, but I'm forever appending hopeful sentences with "knock on wood." I think it's because I've seen what can happen, just when you think things are going swimmingly. Boom! Suddenly something happened, and it's all gone. Or never even was. (Added that last one for dramatic effect.) It's a balance not to walk around waiting for the other shoe to drop but also not to take anything for granted. I like my happy balance in between the two that I've carved out over all these years of all this Maggie-ness. It's me.

You may (or may not) remember that I had to do an FBI background check for this whole moving to Japan thing and that my fingerprints for said background check were rejected because they could not read the prints. Since then, while I was in Chicago, I had another couple of sets of fingerprints done there by a guy (in Niles, IL, in the mall) who seemed to know what he was doing since in Tulsa I have only one place that will do them, and theirs didn't work out so well.

I've got the FBI fingerprint people's number on speed-dial (no, really, I do - it's 304-625-5590 since I know a search engine will direct someone here looking for info, and I hate to disappoint... or be disappointed), and I've been calling daily for weeks (takes a week after they get them to even go to processing, then 7-10 business days to finish processing) trying to ascertain whether the prints were readable this time or whether I was screwed because time is running short. Meanwhile, the Chicago consulate was telling me that it might be OK to leave on time on July 25 without the fingerprints back to them, and that my chances were better having done the JET Program in the past, but that Tokyo was being more strict this year. Terror filled my thoughts wondering what happend if my fingerprints themselves are just not very printogntic (new word I just made up for whatever is like photogenic but for fingerprinting - the FBI should totally hire me to make new words), I may never have good ones to submit and might not get to go to Japan.

When I added the little countdown thingy here a week or so ago, I really wanted to post that it was less than a month until I leave for Japan and share all my excitement about all my preparation and what all I've learned about where I'm going (it's awesomeness) since I last allowed myself to talk about it on here, but I couldn't bring myself to say it in writing here on the blog due to my worry about my silly but potentially very un-funny fingerprint issue.

Today, the woman at the FBI fingerprints phone number (seems 99% are women, and about 99% of those are actually really delightful - no, really, they are mostly sweet) at first told me "nope, not processed," but since it's already 10 business days, I told her my predicament, and she looked in another database that said they'd been processed but just not updated in the database where they typically look.

And, my fingerprints were readable. Able to be processed.

I'll whisper it to y'all, folks, that I think I'm leaving for Japan in 23 days.

Unless something really screwy happens, like the original prints I was supposed to have sent back that are still on my desk actually being an issue. I think I'll call tomorrow, just to be sure. I think it's OK, though.

Knock on wood.

(And now I'm off to Dallas for a couple of days to see old friends I haven't seen in a million years - well including the one I saw a few weeks ago after a million years - because living in the middle completely rocks.)