summer in the city.

28 July 2014 § 1 Comment

And just like that, my first year as a secondary school teacher is complete. Above all else, patience and humility got me through – along with some dear individuals who helped me keep things in perspective. I’m excited about putting in to practice next academic year what I’ve learned this past one. I’m also excited that I am in the midst of a six week long holiday. 

While lots of people fly off to destinations far and near, I am spending most of the summer here in London, doing all the things I wish I had more time to do during the school year. Learning to drive in the UK, reading, jogging/making efforts to be more fit, writing, donating blood, learning to make bread. 

Being done my first year of teaching also means that I’ve nearly been living in the UK for a year. 

I’ve been writing poetry on and off since elementary school, nearly since I could write a coherent sentence. I find that each phase of my life is accompanied by a different voice, a different kind of poetry. Middle school was fantasy, Tolkein-inspired stuff. High school was poems about loneliness and love. University was academic and playful. Post-University was thoughtful and romantic. Japan was reflective and focussed on communication. England doesn’t have a voice yet. This has been reflected in my lack of writing poetry, as well as my general ambivalence about living here – so obvious when anyone asks how I find living in London/England (“Umm.. well,.. it’s good. Not great, but.. it’s alright..! You know, I don’t love it, don’t really hate it…”). I’m hoping I can find that voice this summer.

A colleague lent me a book a while back. “Burnt Shadows”, by Kamila Shamsie. I only just started reading it last week, as my holiday kicked off (“At least one book every two weeks!” I promised myself). It seems to fit fairly well with this idea of finding my England voice. While it is driven largely by international conflict, it follows the lives of a few different families as they move about, providing a thoughtful look at ideas of loss and foreignness. I’m about two thirds in. I recommend it. Y’know, if it sounds like your kind of thing. 

And that’s your end of July update! Over and out.





4 July 2012 § Leave a comment

My Internet’s been down for awhile. I think it’s back now, but my Mac won’t connect to it via whatever (ethernet, wi-fi, etc.). We will hopefully figure this out soon. In the meanwhile, my friends are very generous with their internet access.

We’re into July. Which means heat, humidity, and rainy season. All the same, it’s a nice time to get out and do things. I biked down to one of Osaka’s larger parks and went to the botanical gardens there for the first time. I was surprised by how big it was and somewhat regretted having not gone before when I lived much closer. June was rather uneventful, especially seeing as I was working more than usual and it’s the only month without any national holidays (I think?). I held another poetry reading. It was the fifth one (maybe?), and it’s now been over a year since the first one. Around 7 people read, and close to 30 people attended. I’m really happy with how they’re going. Had another improv show at the end of the month in Kobe. There were only five of us from the group performing that night. It was a lot of fun and, unlike usual, most the the audience was Japanese. I made an effort to speak some Japanese while on stage, but kept it minimal.

I’ve seen some interesting, strange things, but having not made any notes of them, I’ve forgotten most of them. A girl on the subway with a big pink purse with big black lettering on it reading “GANG BANG”. A Proactiv (Acne Treatment) vending machine. That’s all I can remember right now.

Since my last post, I’ve been complimented a few more times on my English. One day I might just go along with it, accept the compliment, and carry on with the rest of the conversation like it’s my second language.

July will also be rather uneventful, I think. Most of my money is going towards my trip to Europe next month. I’ve finalized nearly all of my transportation getting to, from, and around Europe, as well as my accommodations. I’m not sure how I feel about traveling alone for the first five days, but staying in a hostel, there’s a good chance I’ll meet some people there.

That’s all for now. I’m certain I have more interesting things to say, observations beyond simply what’s been happening. But for now, this. Internet soon, and so too more posts! Hope you’re all having a wonderful summer, wherever you are!



18 October 2011 § Leave a comment

Some days are still sort of hot here, at least enough for some people to complain about. I think they’re nice, when I’m not wearing all black and walking at a brisk pace in direct sunlight.

Summer went by quickly, painful as it was. It took awhile to get used to, though. It began with small talk about how everyone was trying to hold back on using their air conditioning. That seemed to be a big deal. How long could people tolerate the increasing temperature and humidity before they caved? Given this kind of talk, I figured I could wait awhile. I mean, wow, it must be pretty expensive for people to be waiting like that, right? And so I put myself through torture. I sat in my apartment, with the light s off, the curtains closed, no air conditioning, drenched in sweat. It was gross. I developed a routine of  having a quick, cold shower right before work. If I wanted to wear my hair down, I would put a towel around my neck to prevent sweat from getting my hair wet. At night, I sometimes slept on the floor, hoping it would be that much cooler than lying on my bed (I didn’t actually use my sheets between June and early September.

Then I bought a  fan. That was probably the best idea I had all summer. And during the day, I would blast my air conditioner. It was a little pricey, but I’d also started my second job. At night, I kept the fan on. I started sleeping on my bed again. My routine for work consisted of leaving my house wearing dress pants, flip-flops, and an old t-shirt or tank top. In my bag, I would have a neatly ironed dress shirt and my work shoes ready to change into. Every day, multiple comments from people I passed by or encountered, all the same: “Atsui, ne?” (It’s so hot, ‘eh?).

Autumn is here. The leaves here are still green, but not a couple hours south, they’re changing. People seem generally more happy now. While a lot of girls still go around wearing little shorts and t-shirts, a lot of people are embracing the new season with jeans, boots, sweaters, and scarves. I’ve seen a lot of pumpkin flavoured things, and people are anticipating the mikan (satsuma – you know that really popular scent from the Body Shop??). September and October are also the time for Danjiri Matsuri – cart-pulling festivals held throughout Japan. People are looking forward to enjoying the changing momiji (Japanese maple leaves) in Kyoto and Nara. At work, we are more than half way through the school year.

Christmas seems just around the corner. I’ll be spending it in Canada with my family and friends. Knowing that I’ll be home, every time I’m out and about, I’m thinking about what all I can bring back for people, or even for myself. I should’ve done more of this kind of shopping for people when I first got here, when it was all so novel. At the hundred yen shop (equivalent to the dollar store, but better, really), they’ve already started selling little Christmas lights. I haven’t decided yet what I’ll do for a tree. I like the idea of getting a of twig like thing, akin to that in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

this and that.

26 July 2011 § Leave a comment

I mentioned a couple posts back about not having any sense of the rhythm of the seasons in Japan yet. I think that’s changed. Now that rainy season has come and gone, now that I’ve been to a huge festival (Gion Matsuri), now that everyone goes to the beach on their days off, I’m becoming more aware of how much of a rhythm there is. The seasons are very distinct here. Spring is defined by cherry blossoms, which are preceded by plum blossoms. Rainy season marks the end of spring. The end of rainy season marks the beginning of summer. There are many festivals which people look forward to. People look forward to the fall for the end of the intense and consistent heat and humidity. And in the fall, people go to Kyoto to see beautiful momiji (maples). I’m becoming more aware of these things.

One of the things I hadn’t expected to do here was climb Mount Fuji, but it looks like I’m going to do it in two days. In less the 48 hours, I will be somewhere on Mount Fuji, taking a lengthy rest before climbing to the top, to avoid altitude sickness. I’ve got my backpack and runners ready to go. For 22 400 yen (just under $300), I am taking a spacious coach bus from downtown Osaka straight to Mount Fuji, to the fifth station, following a tour guide along the trails to the top with a group, having some of kind of food provided, and stopping at an onsen (hot spring) on the way back to Osaka. I think that’s pretty good.

I didn’t come to Japan with many plans of doing a whole lot. My two goals, really, were to meet my relatives and to take 1000 paper cranes to Hiroshima. I never anticipated climbing Mount Fuji, or going on a two week adventure during which time I’ll check out 12 cities throughout Honshu, Hokkaido, and Kyushu (I’ll provide you with a map one of these days to give you an idea of what this adventure involves). Given this, everything I do is a pleasant surprise.

There is not too much to tell of any recent venturings around Japan. July was largely spent working more than usual, and in the company of wonderful, new friends. When I’m doing things that involve learning about Japan or sightseeing, I just feel like a tourist. It’s exhausting. There’s something really great about just living life in Japan, regardless of all the opportunities to explore and check things out (not that I’m not taking advantage of these things!! ;).

summer plans.

15 July 2011 § 1 Comment

It’s mid-July and it is very hot in Japan. I’m getting used to it, though. I was told by two people in the past week that I seemed to fit right in, and that I seem like I’ve been here longer than five and a half months. It’s been nearly half a year. It feels like it’s been a month.

My Japanese is coming along. I managed to hold up some kind of conversation with a woman the other day. The different writing systems make learning Japanese an interesting process. Hiragana and katakana are straightforward enough (both syllabaries which are easy enough to read once you know them all), but there is nothing about kanji (logographic) that is so simple. I’ve found that I can now look at a lot of kanji and know they’re meaning in English, but not how they’re read in Japanese. And I know a few kanji and their readings in Japanese, but not what they mean in English. And I know a lot of words in Japanese and their English meaning, but not their associated kanji. It’s a strange process.

I really want to study harder, but there’s hardly any time. I had a little girl run up to me last week at work and start talking to me in very fast Japanese. She seemed to really want to tell me about something. A Japanese teacher helped me out and explained to me that the girl wanted to tell me about her pet bunny. Moments like that one especially make me wish I could understand as well as speak more.

I had been avoiding buying any plants up until now because I’m not good at caring for them. So instead, when I was at a store the other day, I thought it’d be a good idea to buy some pet shrimp. Tiny little shrimp, in a little bowl, with some plants in it. I figured I couldn’t screw that one up. I brought them home and named them (Sydney, Colorado, and Partridge). The next day, when I got home from work, they were dead. I never leave my air conditioning on when I go out, and I guess that little shrimp don’t like the Osaka heat. A good friend is giving me a spider plant next week. Hopefully it’s not so sensitive. Maybe I’ll hold off on naming that one.

I am on to my third stick of deodorant.

As much as I’d like to spend more time on learning Japanese, or at home with the air conditioning on so that I sustain some kind of life so I have some company in my apartment, I’m really excited about all the things I’m busy with right now. Currently, I am spending four days in Kyoto, cat-sitting for my friend Mariko. She thanked me several times for helping her out before her and her family left, but really, I should be thanking her! Four days in Kyoto for free, in a house, with three cats. What more could I ask for? I think four days off in a row should be enough to get me through until two weeks from now when I will be climbing Mount Fuji. Yes, I am climbing Mount Fuji in two weeks, and on the Friday morning, I will watch the sun rise from the top. I’m not convinced that I am in any kind of appropriate physical condition, but I’m not going to let that stop me!

AND THEN, a week later, my friend Dan and I will go on a crazy adventure around almost all of Japan. It will be long. It will be tiring. It will be expensive. It will be awesome. We’ve only planned out the first half of our journey, but it includes Hiroshima (for the peace ceremony), Hakone (for the Little Prince / Antoine de St Exupery museum), Kamakura (I hear it’s quaint?), Tokyo, Nikko (for Toshogu Shrine), a long ferry ride to Hokkaido, Sapporo, and Hakodate. That’s about one week right there. We will post an itinerary on here when it’s complete and, once the journey starts, will be updating my blog – ideally – every day. I hadn’t anticipated much of Japan beyond the Kansai region (Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Kobe) and Tokyo, so I’m very excited.

I’m becoming quite comfortable here.

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