Saturday, March 17, 2012

Welcome Pre-Cherry Blossom Season

I look forward to that time of the year in Japan when cherry flavored everything hits the shelves in anticipation of beautiful cherry blossom season. I've been on the lookout lately and found this chuhai tonight. Spring can't be far away.
61/366 - Spring is Just Around the Corner
(taken on my iPhone, toyed with in Instagram)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Graduation 2012

Today was graduation day, and these students in particular were special to me because of how much they changed. To quote myself from this post last week:
I will always remember these particular graduating 3rd year classes. They taught me to never give up trying to teach even the more difficult students and to just get more creative and more patient and more focused on whatever successes until, just maybe, the magic happens and some of them come around and surprise you.
Lots of crying today all around, but in between the tears, it looked something like this (well, except that there were students, but to respect their privacy, I can't share those shots publicly - imagine lots of cute, uniformed students).
60(1)/366 - They Seem to Say "Happy Graduation," Don't They?
60(2)/366 - Company's Coming  (and if it's Japan, they'll need indoor shoes)
(these were for folks like the mayor, head of the Board of Ed and other fancy pants people) 
60(3)/366 - To the Gym
(Graduation is held on a school day, and the younger students attend, sing and even
give a thank you speech to their sempais that will make everyone cry.) 
60(4)/366 - The Stage
(Students do not come up one by one for their diplomas, but speeches happen here, and the principal gives
the diplomas to the class rep, who gives them to the homeroom teachers for each class to distribute later.)
60(5)/366 - Homeroom 3D Forever
(This is the 3D homeroom teacher about to give out the diplomas.)
60(6)/366 - Graduation Bento
(Colorful, elaborate, delicious and reminds me of the way flowers have a way of saying something.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Woman She Was Before All of That

This is that day. The one that comes every year. The day after my mother's birthday. The anniversary of her death. This time it's 17 years. Ridiculous. Impossible.

Lou Gherig's disease (ALS) is indescribably and unbelievably cruel. I still look back and wonder if it wasn't all just some nightmare. For many years, on this day, it was so hard not to remember her that way, the woman shrunken and distorted in sickness with a mind alive and well trapped inside the prison of a paralyzed body (I still can't imagine), instead of the woman she was before all of that. I want to remember that one:

The one that could speak (usually too loud). The one that could hug (the best kind of no holds barred hugs). The one that could smile (happily, mischievously, she had all kinds). The one that could laugh (loudly, from her gut, sometimes at inappropriate times). The one that really was my mom.
58/366 - The same flowers, depending on mood.
(taken on my iPhone, toyed with in BeFunky app)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March 13th, 2012 (for lack of a better title)

It's my mom's birthday. And I miss her. Rather than attempt to write some elaborate post that I just don't have it in me to write after this past week or so, I dug through some old posts and enjoyed wandering through some memories. Three stand out: one where I described my mom, one where I told her a hilarious story that happened to me in part because I am her daughter (if you understandably don't click on all three, just go read this one, seriously - I'm a nut, and I bet you will laugh) and another where I sorted out just where it is that I know she lives now. She does not live in the sky. Still, she is all around me and within me, and seeing a beautiful sky today on the way home from work somehow seemed fitting.
57/366 - Happy Birthday, Mom.
(taken on my iPhone, as is, amazingly enough)

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Road Ahead

I've had to make some very difficult decisions lately. From those consequences came the opportunity to make another decision that is more than a little long overdue. It never occurred to me that I had a choice. I am at once sad yet liberated, walking forward on a road that may be bumpy but that will lead me to a place of healthy perspective where the truth I know carries more weight than what someone thinks they know.

56(1)/366 - I. Am.
(taken on my iPhone, toyed with, sepia'd and stuff)
56(2)/366 - Me and My Shadow, Facing the Road Ahead
(taken on my iPhone, toyed with, sepia'd and stuff)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How to Rock. And Tea. And a Day to Reflect.

It was a fun night out in the city for our little group out here in the inaka. There was a ridiculous amount of meat eating and some hardcore karaoke. And also a stop at a tea shop one of our group loves where I might have purchased some decaf black tea that is supposed to remind me of spring and definitely reminded me of cherry blossoms.
54/366 - How to Rock Properly
(taken on my D5100)
55/366 - Remind Me of Spring and Cherry Blossoms and Hope and Warm and Happy Times.
(taken on my D5100)
I'm posting two pictures today and numbering them separately as part of my 366 project. Tomorrow is March 11th, the 1st anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that claimed 19,000 lives and drastically changed the lives of many, many more. I can't imagine what I might find to photograph that would feel appropriate. Maybe I'm wrong about that. Either way, I'm planning to take the day to reflect. If you are interested in seeing a very recent (just aired on BBC about a week and a half ago) documentary mostly from the perspective of some amazing children who were affected, I recommend this one (also below). It's an hour long, but I found it worth watching. It is both heartbreaking and hopeful, and it includes the realities of people's lives even almost a year later, some living just outside of the exclusion zone, forced to abandon their homes even if it was one that hadn't been destroyed, and still close enough that radiation is still very much still a daily topic. It's hard to believe it has been a year.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Georgia Black, Friday Night

At some point in my late 20's I realized that drinking coffee in the evening made it more likely that I'd stay up too late and have weird dreams when I did actually go to sleep. A few years after that, it bothered me enough to make a point of avoiding it. Something I will never understand is that the weird dreams from evening coffee consumption never happen to me if I don't have to get up for work the next day. The other thing I will never understand is the whole Georgia coffee brand here in Japan. Seeing Ranier as a coffee brand makes sense - Mt. Ranier, Washington, Starbucks, coffee, drive-thru coffee huts in gas station parking lots. Georgia? I think peaches. And a cute accent. And being on my mind, and stuff. Not coffee beans. In any case, this Friday night was the right time to run across the street to the vending machine for a can of coffee just because I could.
53/366 - Georgia Black on a Friday Night
(taken on my iPhone, toyed with in BeFunky app)

Thursday, March 08, 2012


I'm preoccupied with some heavy things but still aiming to post a picture every day even if I'm not doing so great at commenting back right now. Thank you for still stopping by anyway. Honestly, the highlight of this tough day was a new bar of soap I bought to try. So clean, so fresh, I love I new bar of soap. Just me?
52/366 - Clean
(taken on my iPhone, toyed with in Instagram)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


I saw red on three occasions today. Two of them were highly unpleasant experiences. This one was the opposite of unpleasant and definitely my favorite. What a good looking train.
51/366 - Seeing Red

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

March is Thank You and Goodbye

March is already a tough month for me, but in Japan it's also graduation season, a bittersweet mix of wishing my favorite students well and knowing that I will miss seeing their faces when the new school year begins again in April. Today I said goodbye to half of my 3rd year students. Tomorrow, I get to say it to the others. I wrote them a letter of congratulations and encouragement  to dream big and to not be afraid of making mistakes in English but to just try to communicate. That's what language is really all about in the end. I reflected about how much they have grown. I met them as unruly 1st years and who became difficult 2nd years who started to change mid-way through that year into the 3rd year students in front of me, with whom I developed some hard won rapport. I didn't expect any words back, but at the end of our final class (*sniff*), they stood, and one of them read me this short note while I did an amazing job of mostly holding back tears.

I will always remember these particular graduating 3rd year classes. They taught me to never give up trying to teach even the more difficult students and to just get more creative and more patient and more focused on whatever successes until, just maybe, the magic happens and some of them come around and surprise you.
50/366 - March is Thank You and Goodbye

Monday, March 05, 2012

Under the Bridge, Down the Road, Not In the Ditches

(Funny enough, we studied prepositions today in my 2nd year class. Then I come out with this title and realize the connection after the fact and giggle at myself. I'm easily amused.)

Today was rainy off and on, so that means I walked, as I do on days like this. Snapped this quick picture on my iPhone while walking. If it looks almost familiar yet different, it's the same bridge, different street from the post linked above.

I mentioned back in the post about how I don't drive here that one of the things that looks so tough is the combination of narrow roads often lined with ditches. This road is a bit narrow, but not nearly as narrow as some that look more like bike paths. Until you see a car headed toward you. It's also lined on both sides with those ditches that (as I explained in that post) many of us call gaijin traps (gaijin = 外人 = literally, outside person = foreigner, so, basically, "foreigner traps," a term that just cracks some of my my Japanese friends up the first time they hear it). The real name is 溝 (mizo), and most of them are wider. And are on narrower roads. I've never seen a car stuck in one, and this is completely amazing to me.
49/366 - Under the bride, down the road, not in the ditches.
(taken on my iPhone, then toyed with just a bit for fun)

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Mini Road Trip

If our dear Lotus is doing Weekly Winners this week, these are my best of those, even if they were all taken yesterday. Saturday turned into a mini road trip to Hinase. These are the highlights.
48(1)/366 - Drive
48(2)/366 - Spanning
48(3)/366 - Under the Train Bridge
48(4)/366 - Primary Colors
48(5)/366 - Purples and Blues and Pretty
48(6)/366 - Bay
48(7)/366 - Reflecting
48(8)/366 - Kaki (Oyster) Okonomiyaki to Be
(Hinase is famous for it's oysters, and now is the season)

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Ferry Boats

There's something about boats and sunsets.
47/366 - Ferry Boats
(taken on my D5100, toyed with lighting just a bit to un-darken the dark)

Friday, March 02, 2012

Haiku Friday - Say It With Flowers

Haiku Friday

"they mean spring comes soon,"
she translated from flower,
and i understood

One of the teachers caught me taking this picture on my iPhone on the way out of school on Friday afternoon. She explained the meaning that I'd already known and felt in my heart the first time I noticed these flowers earlier this week. Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) can be so amazingly expressive. Every week or so, I'm realizing, a whole new arrangement appears in the entryway of my school, just like that, without me even having to seek it out. Yet, until looking for something to take a picture of every day for this project, I've been somewhat oblivious. Have there always been new beautiful flower arrangements appearing approximately weekly for the whole two and a half years I've been here?! Or is this a recent thing? Either way, from now on, if they are there, I'll be making a point to stop a moment to hear what they are saying.
46/366 - They Mean Spring Comes Soon
(taken on my iPhone, then toyed with the colors
to make them as I remember them feeling)

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Yellow, Happy

Yellow is a happy color. I don't really own or wear anything yellow, but my friend does. Tonight we headed out of our tiny town for dinner and some girl time. Girl time, the train, yellow shoes - so much happiness.
45/366 - Yellow, Happy
(taken on my iPhone, toyed with in the BeFunky app)