Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Favorite Foods from Home

I know this blog is about me in Japan, but at the moment I'm not in Japan. I'm in America enjoying all the foods I miss living in Tahara. These include...

Pretty much anything from Lulu's Asian Diner but especially Tom Yum soup, Pad Thai, and crab rangoon. The Chinese food in Japan is usually fantastic but nothing will ever beat Lulu's. I worked there two years in high school and never got tired of it. Ten years later I still can't get enough.

Wheat bread! Multi-grain bread! Anything but white bread.

Pizza that doesn't have corn, mayonnaise, or tuna on it but instead comes with pepperoni and a thick crust.

Orange freezes from UDF. The UDF might look like just a gas station convenience store but in Ohio they sell awesome ice cream, floats, and freezes.

Biscuits from Cracker Barrel. Or blueberry pancakes from Cracker Barrel or their fried chicken or anything really from Cracker Barrel.

Lemonade! Lots and lots of lemonade.

Root beer floats from the Sharonville Root Beer Stand. It's a total dive but they make their own root beer on site that is to die for.

All the many different varieties of CHEESE! Atsumi Foods actually has a pretty good sampling of cheese for a Japanese grocery store but it's still nothing to just a normal Kroger's and the Kroger's Marketplace down the road has a cheese I've been looking for for four years since I got back from France - Saint Agur - and I can't wait to spend crazy amounts of money on it.

BBQ ribs. I'm heading to North Carolina this weekend and I plan on getting messy.

Red wine that isn't served chilled. Seriously Japan what is up with the ice cubes in my red wine? I miss the selection, the cheaper prices, and wine tastings at Awakenings with my friend Judy.

Turkey sandwiches! I can't find turkey in Japan, not unless I want a whole one ordered off the internet and shipped freeze dried.

That's all I can think of for now, although there probably are more. Looking over this list though I can see why I gain weight when I visit home, not that it isn't totally worth it. :-)

Friday, July 24, 2009

In the news

I'm in the Tahara City Magazine! This isn't the first time, but this is the first time it wasn't just introducing the year's ALTs, (to warn the citizens about the devil foreigners that will be wandering around town. Hahaha...just kidding! They love us in Tahara.) This time I'm in a piece about the new English program for 5th and 6th graders. They also talk about the exchange students visiting from Canada. At least that's what I think the article is about based solely on the pictures. I can't actually read it.

In the first two I'm teaching my fifth graders "Hello, how are you?" and "I'm hungry, good, tired, ok, etc." And the second from the bottom I'm doing a Show and Tell with the White House for my eight graders.

tahara magazine

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sayonara Nate!

The best part of my job is the amazing amount of vacation time I get. Unlike other ALTs who have to sit around the office even when class is not in session, I am given the boot. All I have to do is submit a report telling them my plans and then I'm out the door. In summer that means I head home to America for six weeks of friends, family, wheat bread, Cracker Barrel biscuits, and orange freezes from UDF. I got home yesterday after 24 full hours in transit (that's three trains, three planes, and one car ride.)

But before I left we had the first of what I'm sure will be several sayonara parties for Nate. The party was at a club in Toyohashi and Nate was clueless despite several people suspiciously showing up from Nagoya with little explanation as to why they were there until we got to the party. There was food, an open bar, a few speeches, and plenty of karaoke. It would have been the perfect party if only it hadn't been Sunday. Not that stopped most of us from having a good time.

Singing YMCA


I know he's not going to miss me or Japan but the job won't be the same without him. This last year I've argued over whose state is cooler (Ohio!) looked up lots of completely random things on Wikipedia (naval lint for one), recited SNL sketches in class (I've got a fever...and the only prescription is more cowbell), and cracked up over Nate's William Shatner impersonations ( But now, he's on his way back to Kentucky. I'm on my own from here on out.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

In Mourning

Since it was a rare sunny day during rainy season, Nathan, Miyuki, and I rode our bikes to the beach this afternoon. Once there we were met with a sad sight - a huge and very dead sea turtle had washed up on shore. It looked like he strangled himself on some rope, died, and then washed up. Further down the beach are dunes where turtles come ashore and lay their eggs. Nathan has plans to take his brother when he comes later this month there late at night to see if they can spot some. Today when we saw this poor thing, he said,"You were worried about not seeing a sea turtle, Jennifer. Now you have." In this case I really wish I hadn't.

Miyuki lays down next to it to show how big it is.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Love Hotels are recession proof

A poem

My third graders (US 9th grade) were writing English poems this week. We started with a Mad Libs sort of exercise where each student picked a phrase and wrote it on a sheet of paper, then they combined them with the other students in their row to create a poem. This one was my favorite.

My pet
Across the sky
I feed it everyday

I want a pet rainbow that eats fun!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Update on Best Dancer in the Tahara Mixed Chorus

Turns out that not just people who showed up to the concert in May got to see my amazing Ponyo dancing skills. Anyone who tuned into the local access channel could see me dancing like a loon as well, including two of my school principals and one Jr. High English teacher. Yeah, I'm awesome. And pretty embarrassed.

I'm bustin a move on the end in orange.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Eye Doctor

I went to the eye doctor today. This is a big accomplishment coming from the girl who said she would never ever go to another eye doctor other than Dr. Parker ever again. I love Dr. Parker. We searched for years and years for an eye doctor I would be comfortable and when I finally found her I refused to go to anyone else. Even when we lost our health insurance for a short spell, I made my mom promise me she wouldn't make me go to someone new. I was in a panic about it, but she promised me I didn't have to see anyone other than Dr. Parker.

I've been going to her for over ten years now. We even laughed about it the last time I saw her. She told me that when my mom made that first appointment she told them I was a very nervous patient and to be please be gentle with me but after the exam I said, "gee, that wasn't bad at all!" It was love at first sight (harty har har.) This woman even bought an $800 set of knives off of me that horrible summer of Cutco. So you know she is pretty darn awesome.

I really considered coming home and having my eyes checked by her over my summer vacation and if America didn't have a completely screwed up health care system then that's exactly what I would have done. But the miser in me kept reminding the wimp in me that it would be very expensive to do it that way and rather silly since I have insurance here in Japan. The wimp in me reminded the miser that I don't speak Japanese well. The miser put her foot down. And since I had the afternoon off today, I visited the local clinic.

It wasn't that bad. But Japanese clinics are completely different than American ones. American doctors and medical staff are tied up by HIPAA regulations that go to sometimes silly measures to protect patient confidentiality. There is no such thing as patient confidentiality in Japan, except when the doctor decides not to tell the patient what is wrong with them, to protect them from bad news supposedly. There are no separate exam rooms. There was a waiting room, a testing room, and the doctor's office with a curtain for a door. Aides flitted around with their patients in tow, each of us at a different testing station right to each other.

My Japanese was just good enough to get my point across and there was only one test that I was slightly confused about, but I finally figured out what they wanted me to do. They did a lot more tests than Dr. Parker ever did and the doctor concluded that my glasses are actually stronger than I need. I don't feel like spending any money to replace them at the moment because they don't bother me, but I did order more contacts. Although they would only let me have a 3 months supply at a time. Not that this is a huge problem. I only wear my contacts on the weekends or special occasions so 3 months will likely last me through until next summer.

The doctor and my aide was super nice and made me feel very comfortable despite my lack of Japanese. The only real downside was that it took forever. You don't make appointments in Japan you just show up and join in the queue, so I had to wait a bit. Then there was about 45 minutes of eye tests. Then another wait to see the doctor and another wait after that while they figured out the financials, coming to a grand total of almost 2 hours. And it would have been longer if I had arrived any later than I did because it got real busy while I was there. But it's over with. I survived. And I saved money. Woohoo!