Blog Archive


The end of JET

One more thing...the JET Program is pretty interesting in itself. I think if anything the misuse of JETs in school is evidence that the program is still needed. The lack of understanding or feeling that there can not be understanding between us, is JETs cause on some levels, but I completely agree with the misrepresentation of "internationalization" that is happening when most JETs are pulled from the U.S., UK or Australia. I have no problem saying that the JET Program needs to change, but I hope it doesn't go.


One crazy finish line

I am incredibly grateful for the past year. My life here has been surreal. It has been hilarious. It has been difficult, sad, happy, frustrating, confusing, boring, exciting, bizarre, lonely, relaxing, inspiring and amazing. Many times I verged on the edge of deleting this blog. I think blogs are dumb to have. They are presumptuous. But in between hating myself for having a blog, I occasionally enjoyed using work time to figure out how to write again. In between hating what I wrote, I occasionally enjoyed reminiscing about where I was mentally at each step of the way in this strange parallel universe. So thanks for reading I guess, I sometimes resented you for upholding a phantom pressure to write and for prying into my personal life. How dare you!

Anyways, Oh! where to begin to end…

I agreed to go to Japan because I was looking for a place to go for a year or less. They said they would pay, so I said OK, Japan.

I knew nothing about Japan coming in. I learned maybe I should know more before I go to someplace and have to establish a life.

I saw the Japanese language as the big scary OZ. I watched the curtain get pulled down.

I thought I was coming here to teach English. I realized that was not going to happen.

There came a point where this stopped being an experience and became life. This meant I was free to openly dislike the way things were done, without feeling ungrateful or culturally insensitive. In theory, JET is a good idea. A great idea! Someone should tell my co-workers about this idea.

But I, one large bumbling apologizing sweaty faux pas, carried on. When Coach John Wooden passed away a few weeks ago, one of his quotes resurfaced in my mind, and it struck me as the rallying cry of my last 12 months.
“Do not let what you can’t do, interfere with what you can do.” Nice words Coach.

School and work wasn’t everything though. Of course under these circumstances it sometimes felt like it was. (note: Japanese people work a lot) Work was what landed me on this island, and kept me from getting off, so I struggled to redefine my existence otherwise. I don’t know many people who would choose to go back to middle school, let alone go back to middle school as the friendless, communicatively challenged foreigner.

The closer to the end I got, the more flips my stomach started doing. Ending this was way more nerve-wracking than beginning it.  And when it came time to leave, when the ship pulled away, I started to understand more about why I felt this way. Each face from the pier waving goodbye was a challenge and a gift for me. It wasn’t until I scanned all these faces that I could see a summation of what I did this year. Leaving that behind hurt.

We often talked about how this was a blip in real time, how we were living on an alternate plane of existence and when it was over our bodies felt they were going back to where we left off. I’m trying to focus on how I’ve changed and what things I want to take away from this experience, and I hope I can convince myself I’m going somewhere new.


Little amazing things

Today I found out that my school has albino frogs. I went a whole year without seeing these hilarious frogs. I never went down that hall because I never knew when students were changing. That doesn't really matter I guess though because they  usually just strip down in the classroom. This seems to be yet again, a one sided awkward situation for me.

I had some extra special moments with students today. Some kids going out of their way to say "Herrow!", or demo some Engrish. I even had some extra special moments with a few teachers. I found myself playing mancala with them at recess, and the vice principal bought us haagen-dazs.

And then after school I saw the sunset from beneath a Christmas tree while underwater.

All little amazing things that make me confused about leaving, even though I know its the right decision.


I'm a beautiful mermaid

I woke up this morning a little confused about where I was. After 11 months there are still some days it takes me 3 seconds to realize I am in this house alone, and then another 1 second to realize that this house is in Japan.

But I had the most amazing dream! I rode my bike to the beach in the middle of the night. The tide was high but shallow, so I walked out 100 yards underneath stars that filled in the sky from mountain to mountain, with the calm ocean stretching out like a giant pool around me. And when I looked down I saw a trail of sparkles. Waving may hands through the water made swirls of light! My body was shimmering! I was transformed into a magical sea creature. My hands looked like the soft giant paws of Leo running through the sky. My legs turned into a mermaids tail bursting with light. I was transfixed in each individual sparkle of transformation, and there were thousands of them.

And then, as I started to gather my stuff to leave for school I caught my sandals in the doorway. They were filled with sand.

This insect is CRAZY!

When I came back from the bathroom a teacher was spraying a rather GIANT looking wasp thing behind my desk. The other teachers were standing outside the room, so I asked if it was the type of bug that stings and hurts. They said, "No hurt, You DIE! YOU DIE!"

When I came to Japan people told me about the poisonous centipede, the mucade!, and the posionous snake, the mamushi! but no one ever told me about this bad ass hornet, the most poisonous hornet in all of Asia, the one that each year in Japan causes more deaths than "all other venomous and non-venomous wild animals combined, including wild bears and venomous snakes!"

I did some research (wikipedia, national geographic) and this is the most fascinating insect I have ever come across!

It can fly 25mph. That is faster than the legal speed limit of my scooter!
It can decapitate 40 honeybees per minute, a few can wipe out a 30,000 bee colony in hours!
These honeybees defense is a trap in which thousands of them make the hornet overheat by luring it inside the hive and then they flap their wings until it gets to 115 degrees!
The venom can dissolve human tissue and has an enzyme which attracts more hornets to the victim!
"They are excellent mothers"   ...?

And then I read this..."Adult hornets feed their young by chewing the flesh of their victims into a gooey paste that the offspring devour. The larvae are well fed, and in turn provide the adults with a powerful energy-boosting cocktail in their saliva. It's called vespa amino acid mixture, or VAAM."

AND WHAT DID I DRINK LAST NIGHT... why a energy drink someone gave me: 


The magical road

I have found a way to time travel! Usually when I plan to just ride around the block I end up on top of a mountain. It’s probably less to do with getting inspired than it is to do with the geography of Kamigoto. Seeing as how most roads lead to one, it really isn’t hard to end up on top of a mountain,

This particular mountain adds to my LOST fantasy. When I found it the first time, the road appeared to end in dense forest at a fenced in “facility” of some kind. This time I took the road around the back, thinking it would loop around the building, but instead it started to go down. Its practically impossible to turn around and go home when you are going downhill through a mysterious tunnel of ferns when you have no place to be and nobody knows where you are. There were so many twists and turns, I lost track of what direction I was heading. The road was clean though; a perfect smooth snaking blacktop through lush green forest and smokey dusk. There was only space in my head for exhilaration. I have long since let go of questioning why there are perfectly new roads in the middle of nowhere. That is one of those Japanese things.

But, this road came out into a timeless agrarian valley. The magical road.

The mountains turn into fields at almost a 90 degree angle, making a powerful frame for the blazing orange and pink sunset that was reflecting in the new rice paddy water. Nothing can describe my feeling of awe. I rode up, undiscovered, behind the only other person around, an old man on a mama cherrie. I didn’t have the heart to say excuse me or pass him. The man was singing and putting along until he turned down another road. I was invisible to him, but he was the center of my world in that minute. Some house lights were turning on. There were no cars to be seen. Just peace and the crunching of dirt underneath my tire.

I’ve been back to this road many times, and each time I have seen something new.

Once I turned the corner to face 3 cats lying in the path. From afar they looked like sweet country cats, cousins or something. Up close they tried to jump me for my lunch money. I just narrowly passed, only to find crabs scurrying away from me with their claws held high ready to defend themselves. I laughed at how worried they seemed and at their uncanny resemblance to the stereotypical portrayal of Japanese people, fearful of big scary foreigners and ready to yell “take anything you want!” I may be big and may be scary with my red hair looking a bit electrically charged in this humidity, but I usually leave my gun at home.

The most magical time I went to this magical road was at night to see fireflies. I didn’t know this at the time, but it is the most famous spot in all the Gotos for firefly viewing. There are over 40 firefly species in Japan, and you can only see them for about 2 weeks. (I saw this translated news article of the annual firefly viewing on Ojika, another island. Please note the last caption.) Everyone on the island seemed to know this viewing was happening, except for me. At the turn off, community volunteers in vests, waving glowsticks, helped people park, the path was lit with special red lights, and there was an ice cream truck!

As you walk into the darkness, fireflies start to blink in the forest alongside you. The valley narrows at the end of the fields and turns into a river. Over this river there were literally hundreds of fireflies, their jazz jamming with their own reflections in the water. There were some floating up to the sky and sometimes you couldn’t tell what were the stars, and what were the fireflies. It seemed the stars were coming down to dance. We all agreed it was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen. There was something so profoundly stunning and magical that resulted in a proportional feeling of absolute loneliness. I think because it is rare to know in the exact moment, rather than after the fact, that its beauty is once in a lifetime.