Posted in Blog/Vlog Announcements, Uncategorized

Changing Things

I’m getting into the rhythm of this new stage in my life.

Well, I’ve got a job and a new apartment, so it’s all slowly coming together anyways. Unlike when I worked at my previous job as a high school teacher, the odds of overtime for this eikaiwa job will be few and far between. In other words, I have no excuses to not devote the time I need to my goals.

The high school job allowed me to make great friends with great co-workers, but it didn’t allow for much time for myself. Looking back, I let myself get really sucked into the Japanese way of working. I went to work on Saturdays when requested, I worked during holiday times when requested, I stayed after school late often for English Club, all because I enjoyed what I was doing. I felt really connected with the teachers and the students, and was fulfilled in many job satisfaction aspects.

But at the same time, I realized that in the three years I worked there, I didn’t publish nearly enough stuff. I actually started several new hobbies. Comedy shows, YouTube, performance shows, volunteering with Stonewall Japan, it all added up. At the same time, those hobbies weren’t my passion. I kept crunching time to do this activity and this other activity, but I didn’t make enough time for writing.

I was also Stonewall Japan’s Vice President for a year, which was a wonderful if challenging experience. I learned a lot, gained much needed experience in team building and project management, but it was essentially a volunteer part time job. So many aspects of the national leadership role demanded time and attention, which in turn meant devoting less attention to what I wanted to do.

I decided for myself the best thing to do would be to step down from such a major role. Instead, I will be Kanto East Block Leader for the next year, which will be a significantly less responsibility than Vice President. I will still be a part of Stonewall’s plans for pride events and such, but I won’t be planning meetings, attending leadership meetings, vetting out new people, checking in on National Newsletters, etc.

What am I gonna do with all this free(er) time? I’m going to write more.

I want to make more content for this site and other sites I have. I want to write more freelance articles and get my name out there. I want to start self-publishing these novels just sitting in my hard drive and waiting to be pushed into the world. I want to really focus in on the love I always had for writing, but never devoted enough time to it to make it the thing I do for a living.

It will be a process, it will take effort, but I want to make it happen.

I’m the kind of person who always has pens, notebooks, or other stationary items on hand just in case an idea pops into my head. I will write scribbles of novel ideas into agendas, tell myself “one day,” but then the one day never comes. I’m tired of always dreaming about it or talking about it but never getting it done.

It’s time to change that, it’s time to just quit kidding myself. I’m not superwoman, and I can’t do every single thing I enjoy as well as give myself time to write. I have to straighten out my priorities into the way that’ll get me to where I want to go. To be sure, I’ll continue to do my hobbies. Specifically, the comedy shows and YouTube will keep being regular occurrences, but I won’t be running off to this event or that one all the time anymore.

One of the goals I have will be doing daily posts. They might be short or long, but they will be up here. I hope that the daily posts won’t be too annoying for people following me, but I need this exercise to keep me actively writing.

Change can be daunting, but the one is for the best.

Posted in YouTube Videos

Catching Up | Vlogs with Friends!

I’ve been busy running around with people lately, which ya know, is important when you live abroad. If you’ve ever been an ex-pat, the daily grind can really get you down, but luckily for me I have some great people around who are super awesome and supportive. A healthy and active social life (or semi-active in my case) is vital if you want to stay sane.

That night I also went out to Tokyo Closet Ball, which was recently featured in the Japan Times!  If you didn’t know, Tokyo Closet Ball is a public drag event show that happens every month. The locations sometimes change, but I’ve been going for over a year or so now. It’s always a blast!

I have a few photos from that event. Each night has a different theme, and the theme this time was 60’s, 70’s and 80’s night.

You might know G from the Inclusive March we did awhile back. She did a wonderful dance for leaving member Zowie (David Bowie re-imagined).

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God, I love top hats.

I even got up on stage in the final performance for Hairspray’s “You Can’t Stop the Beat” which was kind of like my mini-debut on that stage? Everyone involved in those productions are so encouraging, I decided to give it a try. It’s such a great community, and the friends I’ve made through it are unforgettable.

Later on the next weekend, I headed up to Daryle’s Spring Event Party. Daryle is a fantastic cook who dreams of owning his own restaurant one day. He does pop up restaurants that have so far been successful in selling out everything he has made. I went to his place for some delicious Filipino food.

I really admire Daryle, actually, he always puts forth so much effort to bring people together. He makes his food with love (well, and stress, a bit of that) and I think people can tell. I love that he’s kept working on this dream for so long, and within this or next year he’ll make it come to fruition. And when he does, I’ll be his uh, quality assurance manager (i.e. taste tester).

I’m really thankful that I’ve met such amazing friends. I know, I’m a bit repetitive about that, but it’s true. At times I get so wrapped up in my own head, or I get kind of depressed and don’t even realize it, and then I feel isolated even though I’m not at all. It’s great that I’ve got people around me who can grab me out of dark holes (without even knowing they are, half the time) and get me to do new things.

Anyways, basically this whole post is just one big thank you to my Japan and abroad friends. There are others, so many others, I can’t even list them all. From my Japanese friend who takes me to karaoke at least once a month (S, you know who you are), to Emmanuel Transmission whose “real” name will definitely be stolen for my first born, to my high school and university friends who talk to me half a world away, to the co-workers who don’t even know this blog exists, and so on and so on.

You are all amazing, let no one tell you otherwise.


While I was at Daryle’s I discovered that Amaranth, a club in Daikaiyama, is going to feature a documentary called “After Stonewall.” For the price of one drink order, you and your friends can have a fun time next Sunday as well as support LGBTQ+ efforts in Tokyo by going to watch the film. The schedule is as follows:

 

Date: Sunday, 26 March
Time:
14:30 Opening
15: 00 ~ 17: 00 (Movie Screening)
17: 30 ~ 20: 30 (Savato) Hanging Out and Discussion
21: 00 ~ Amaranth's Usual Order of Business

If you can, please come! I know I’ll definitely be there. The movie will be in English, but Japanese subtitles have been created for the film so everyone can enjoy it.

Posted in flashback friday

Flashback Friday: A Slice of Life Post

From July to December I traveled, but also in between those travels was of course the everyday life of Itako. It wasn’t until December that it occurred to me that I should talk about the actual, ya know, job I was doing and what it all entailed.And thus, I finally wrote about all that, and about other things.


MY SCHOOLS, STUDENT STORIES, AND ALT ISSUES

In Itako, I work at two junior high schools, Itako 2nd Junior High School and Hinode Junior High School. Right now I’m at Hinode JU, and next month I’ll rotate over to Itako 2nd. I love both my schools. Itako 2nd wasn’t damaged very much by the earthquake, so by the time I got there everything was fixed.

Hinode JU has construction going on right now. Basically, Hinode is rice fields all around. When the earthquake happened on March 11th, the ground actually collapsed downward. Poles are still drooping left and right all over the place. Some sidewalks are nearly vertical. The roads are a mess, with pot holes and gravel all over the place. I have to be careful when I drive, too, because sometimes the roads suddenly have huge bumps that could be mistaken for hills. I can go air born if I’m not paying attention.

Even My school is still undergoing reconstruction. When I first arrived here, the entrance had a space from the floor level to the ground. That’s been covered up with asphalt. There’s luckily no structural damage done to the building. The gymnasium was unusable for a little bit. The gym had a massive crack up the side, like it was torn in half (and I suppose it kind of was). That’s all fixed up now. Slowly but surely, Hinode is recovering.


Slowly, yeah, like a snail’s pace. Even as I left in my third year, they were paving and putting the roads back in the places they were supposed to be. The problem was that the area didn’t have enough money to fix everything, as in literally nothing much except to patch the most important things up (like the water lines) until money came in from tourism.

Oh, did I mention that the bulk of tourism was in summer? Yep, which meant we had to wait around for another year before things got back to a semblance of normal. It was no one’s fault, that’s just what happens when it comes to natural disasters. Stuff gets broken, stuff needs fixing, but the money has to come in later.


My kids are great. At Hinode JU I’ve got the more shy crowd than with Itako 2nd. Hinode students will take to me more often when I’m at the mall and at 7/11 than at school. I’ve started eating lunch with them so that they will speak more English.

Lunch at my school goes like so: Students don’t go to a cafeteria like in America. Instead, they eat in their classrooms. Some students in each class are selected to dish out the food. These students dress up in white uniforms that include hats, gloves, and face masks. They dish out the food onto other students’ trays. When that’s all done, the class says a big, “Itadakimasu!” (I humbly accept this meal!) And they eat. When they’re done, they say, “Gochisosama deshita!” (Thank you for the food!)


Those lunches were…decent. I see people sharing those viral videos about how “healthy” those school lunches are, and I guess in comparison to American lunches they definitely are. At the same time, most of the fish and meat parts are fried 9 times out of ten. The soups have veggies, but the salt content is high as hell. Most vegetables had obviously been frozen, reheated, soaked in salt and grease, and then put into a huge soup dispenser. Most of the other foods were processed like that.

However, there might be a few pieces of fresh fruit every now and then, like apples and grapes. I loved orange season, because we’d get oranges for days. Since the meal was regulated to one meat thing, one veggie thing, and rice, the calorie portions were well within dietary guidelines to stave off obesity. And like I said before, the taste was decent, as in not awful, but I wouldn’t say it was awesome either.

Most students weren’t fans of anything but Curry Day, which was like how students in America love Pizza Day. It’s not at all healthy, but it’s the one actually delicious meal of the month.The milk was my biggest problem. I’m lactose intolerant, so I would pretend to drink some of it, and then throw away the rest.


 If you read manga or seen a single episode of a anime series set in high school, it will come as no surprise to you that Japanese students have to clean their schools. At Itako 2nd, students usually clean the school after lunch. At Hinode, students usually clean the school after all six periods are done.

It’s fun to watch them do it. Teachers supervise the students, making sure that they actually clean instead of play. Students wipe down windows, sweep, mop, and so on. When they have to sweep the gym, they’ll race each other to finish. They also like to janken (play rock, paper, scissors) for the tasks they hate. Loser, of course, has to do it.

I walk around when they’re cleaning sometimes and talk to them in English. I’m encouraged to talk to them in as much English as possible at my schools. From these conversations, I’ve gotten some pretty interesting questions. For example, one student asked me for my bust size in perfect English. I rewarded her with the correct answer and giggled for the rest of the day. I have boys asking me if I like them, which is adorable. Other students want to know if I’m eating KFC for Christmas (insert raging expletives here). And so and so forth.


There is a slight misunderstanding about students cleaning schools. For some reason, people are under the impression that janitors don’t exist at the schools. That’s a lie, they have janitors, but the janitors aren’t called janitors. School assistants with part time jobs, whose exact title changes with each school, are basically janitors and then some. They come into the school and deep clean about once a month, but they also have other tasks like scheduling lunch food drop offs, cooking (as in reheating the frozen food) lunches, and etc. They’re behind the scenes, and are often unappreciated in my opinion, because they make sure the school looks good and gets all the random tasks taken care of so the school works like a semi-well oiled machine.

I was friends with one of them at Hinode JU, until she retired my second year. She was a sweet old lady with a heart of gold. I do not remember her name, but she was also our office lady and she sneaked me sweets because I sneaked her some. She was awesome, and I hope she’s doing well.


I try out my Japanese on them sometimes, which makes them all kinds of surprised. I don’t use it that much with them because I want them to talk in English, but sometimes I can’t help myself. One time, I used an expression my friend, Nobuko, taught me on a boy. He was not looking at my eyes, so I said, “Anata sukebe ne?” Which basically means, “Oh, you’re a perv, huh?” And he shook his head and said “No! No! No! I am good! I am good!” I rewarded him with a sticker for the English and for suffering the shock of a lifetime.


Apparently, I didn’t set up why I said this, which is odd. The full story, because for some reason I still remember this, the boy said, “You have a body I like!” which astounded me because he’d not spoken but all of two English sentences before. Instead of reprimanding him (as I probably should’ve?), I wanted him to keep speaking English, but also make sure he knew that wasn’t ok. Thus, I shocked him with my Japanese.

Weird, why didn’t I mention that? Was I worried people would think I was adding to the ‘pervy-Japanese’ stereotype? The fact is that high school boys, no matter where in the world, are all high school boys. Not all of them say outrageous stuff and act crazy, but you know more than a few do, and sometimes they say things about bodies and butts and stuff. If I got angry with every single weird comment, I’d have no energy for anything else. Instead, it’s always best to match them with the higher level wit given to me over years of teaching (and having far worse harassment before in life).


Right now, we’ve got testing going on, so my schedule’s a little erratic. I can have anywhere from one class a day to five. The five class days are killer. I don’t know why, but it’s so draining. Just one class right after the other and talking to students at lunch, there’s barely anytime to go to the bathroom. When I have just one class, I try to use the time wisely by studying Japanese, but I might meander onto Cracked.com or Facebook when I get bored.


Here we come across one of the other reasons I decided to quit JET. As much as I loved those schools and those students, five classes back to back with lunchtime basically another class, plus hours after school for Interactive Forum for half of the year, I got burnt out. I was trying to tell myself that I could do it for five years, but the truth was that already in the first year I could tell that I wasn’t going to make it the full five.

I knew that other teachers had harder schedules, working five classes everyday with no lunch break at all, and little to no prep time except on weekends. Then again, other teachers didn’t have to prep at all, and they’d only have four classes with no lunchtime with students. Regardless, for me, the work schedule at that time came with also the underlying (i.e. unspoken) agreement that I couldn’t complain, because I was paid so much to “just be an assistant,” which was a bit unfair.

I was an assistant teacher to two schools, with two different sets of teachers with different expectations for classroom English activities, and two different sets of students who I couldn’t remember all the names of until the very end of each year. It was hectic, and even when I got used to it and rolled well, I was still struggling because nothing was consistent. I was getting flopped around back and forth between these different working environments and expected to just enjoy the ride.

Not saying I didn’t most of the time, but it was exhausting in ways that are hard to explain. A foreigner with little to no grasp of the native language, no teaching experience, and learning everything on the fly in a foreign country was already hard enough. Having an inconsistent environment to work in every month just compounded those problems.


I’ve started staying after school to play some sports. I played volleyball yesterday, and tomorrow I’m going to play basketball. The students are happy to see me, and the coaches help to encourage them to do English when I’m there. I love sports, I really do, but I’m bad at them. My volleyball girls would giggle whenever I completely failed at a maneuver (which was often). One girl, Kanna, helped me out with the footwork by trying to tell me things in English. In the end, she would say the Japanese, and I would say the English, and then she would repeat the English. Close enough, right?

At one point yesterday, I had a ball just fly left and keep going. I said, “Sumimasen. Sorry.” And one girl smiled at me and said, “It’s ok! Ball likes to go!” I wish I could’ve given here like a thousand stickers in that moment, because that was awesome.


“OH?!” you say at the fact I stuck around after school to play sports, “If you were so tired then why were you playing around? HUH?! Liar!” Well, no, not really.

See, there was this unspoken thing about being on JET (although sometimes spoken outright as well) that since we’re paid “so much” to “just be assistants” then it only makes sense for us to stay after school and on weekends to speak English with the students. Also, JET meetings and seminars were very intense on getting students to “speak as much English as possible” because they didn’t meet the required 90% English requirements in classrooms. So it was up to us, the hero JETs, to save Japanese students and fill their lives with as much English as possible!

But of course, what the JET meetings and seminars don’t say is that Japan shouldn’t need “heroes” at all. If Japanese teachers spoke the required amount of English in English classrooms, we actually wouldn’t be necessary at all. Also, getting paid for a full time job and telling someone they shouldn’t be paid that much because their level is lower than that of others in the workplace is a bit harsh.

JETs need that money, because moving to another country isn’t cheap. We have to pay for all sorts of start up costs: cell phones, contracts for cars, if you don’t drive then bikes, TV, internet, etc. We’re not just assistants, we’re foreign workers, and that’s why JET pays well. It wants to give incentives for people to stick with the job and not quit, and hopefully bring more people over. Not everyone wants to go to Japan, despite the high number of JET applicants telling otherwise.

Anyways, yes, I at times overworked myself too hard. I wanted to be the best JET I possibly could, and I was. I just didn’t realize at the time that I didn’t have to be the very best.


When I leave Itako 2nd, I go home by taxi service. No, it’s not because I’m that important, but instead because of this safety clause in my contract that states I can’t drive myself during school hours. When I’m at Hinode, I walk to school because I live so close. When I went to the elementary school, I would walk there, too.

I’ve only been to the elementary school once, but I want to go again really bad. They’re so adorable! Oh my god, I want a Japanese child! They kept asking me questions in Japanese, so I had the greatest test of my Japanese skills with them. I managed to make it through pretty well. Luckily, elementary Japanese is around my level of equivalency.


Jesus Mother Mary and Joseph, there was a time I actually enjoyed elementary school classes.

Let’s just say I’ve discovered over the years that I love playing with kids, but I don’t love teaching children. Especially when two classes (or that one time THREE) get all shoved together into the same time slot and I have to teach about 80+ children a lesson while also making sure none of them kill each other. It was fine at first, when I was only going a total of two days once a month and doing proper 30-40+ kids. When the school I guess decided to cut the budget and English class hours, ughhhhhh.

That being said, I heard Itako finally got around to hiring proper elementary school JET, so yay you new person, enjoy.


I got a lot of, “Are you married?” and “Boyfriendo?” questions that made me sigh. That question will never die. Unlike my junior high school kids, my elementary school kids really couldn’t believe it. They were so confused. I tried my best to explain, but I think I failed that part of the interview. Instead, I moved onto talking about MatsuJun and Arashi.


Nowadays, I get the question in high school, “Husbando? Boyfriendo?” looks cautiously both ways, “Girlyfriendo?” And the answer to that, even if it’s a lie, will always and forever be, “I’m single.” If you answer yes to any of those questions, the students will badger you until the day you die about every single detail. Best to just cut off that insanity before it even starts.


Most of my students and I get along pretty well. I have a couple of disruptions every once and awhile, but I’ve been figuring out ways to solve them as I go. In class, one of the best ways is for me to just move and stand close to a students that’s misbehaving. Out of class, I yell out in Japanese and startle my kids to cut it out. It’s the power of being a foreigner. People pay attention when you do anything. It’s a little unnerving at first, but I’ve started using it to my advantage at school.


Shouting was basically the only form of discipline I could do at my old schools. Nowadays, I keep them in the afternoon for study time and cleaning time. Back then I had no power or authority to do anything, so I just did what I could with yelling and tattling to homeroom teachers about super obnoxious or dangerous behavior (fights and such) but honestly I didn’t have to do that much. Japanese students are generally more well behaved than American students.


I love my job. I love getting up and working everyday. However, there are a few issues. People who are interested in the JET program and teaching in Japan in general should know the job can be challenging. After all, even the best schools and best students won’t be perfect 100% of the time, so sometimes you’ll find yourself feeling like maybe you’re all alone with these problems, exacerbating the already kind of isolation you get by living abroad.

Some of the issues I’ve faced as an ALT in my schools include getting time to discuss future lessons with Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs).  I’m lucky with my placement. I can usually get time before class to discuss a lesson with the English teacher in charge. However, that’s not always the case, and many ALTs are not so lucky. It’s not unheard of for an ALT to get no information on a class at all before having to walk in and start teaching.

Sometimes I’ve just had to wing it because the teacher’s been too busy with his or her other responsibilities to tell me the plan. After all, the teachers have to do so much. They have to plan out lessons, grade everything, keep the grades straight in the grade book, and so on. Also, most teachers aren’t just teachers. They’re also coaches, supervisors over school projects, members the Parent Teachers Association, and so on.

For times when you can’t grab a teacher to find out the plan, just give it your best guess and plan accordingly. Make two lessons, one which is grammar point oriented and another that’s much less difficult to do, just in case the JTE says, “Oh no, that’s too hard!” and you’re not left in stunned silence with nothing to do for that class.

One of the things that will be a little frustrating at first is trying to figure out the students English level. Students will know some words but not those words, and they will know this basic bit of grammar but something very similar is too difficult, oh and this cannot be said the way you usually say it because students get confused…You get the idea.

It’ll be frustrating, but it’ll be alright. If you get a textbook and flip through it, you’ll get an idea of what the students know and don’t know. If all else fails, ask the JTE. They will probably tell you a lot at first, “Can you make it easier?” and you will probably think, “But it is easy…” but what they mean by “easier” is actually like shorter words and shorter sentences. Think less complex and more elementary school English.


Past me is right about everything here. Japanese English teachers are super busy, they rarely have time to sit down and help you plan things out. Make the worksheets simple and easy in accordance with the grammar lesson, and don’t be afraid to fail. Some classes aren’t going to go well, just do what you can with what you’re given.


Also, you will speak English too fast when you first get there. It’s just a fact. You will speak English too fast at first for students to understand. Your JTE will inform you that you have to slow down over and over again at the beginning, and you will think, “But I am talking slow.” Sorry, still too fast. Don’t worry though because after about a month you’ll develop Shatner-esque style of talking that will become your default mode for students. It’ll take a while before you can get it to feel a little less robotic, but you’ll make it work somehow.


Also, if you have an accent, it will mellow out as time goes on. My Kentucky accent was already barely there in the first place, but it’s all gone now.


In JET, there’s this saying that they use at orientation called E.S.I.D. (Every Situation is Different). Meaning every class is different and every student is different and every teacher is different. When it comes to conversing with Japanese Teachers of English and other Japanese co-workers, the task is daunting at first. At Hinode my teachers are a little more shy and nervous around me at first, but after while they’ve gotten used to me and ask me about my day. Itako 2nd embraced me wholeheartedly and it feels like they never stop talking to me. Since I’m shy around people at first and a natural introvert, I had to force myself to speak and interact, with can be terribly difficult with the language barriers.


Once again, I forgot to mention that students will be shy as hell around you at first too. It’ll take them about a couple of weeks to get used to you, and even then, there will always just be that one shy kid in class who won’t have the nerve to converse with you until the very end of a school year. Just be yourself, your teacher self anyway.


Miscommunications can and will happen. That’s just part of it, but they can be hard to work through. For me, the miscommunications I have the most pertain to class and how to teach during class. There are some fundamental cultural differences between the Japanese style and the Western style of teaching. In Japan, it’s usually lecture style, with the teacher at the front telling students what to learn and no interruptions allowed.

I tried when I first got here to ask questions when I was at the front to get a more discussion style class going, but that quickly died. Japanese students are really not trained like Western students to be active in class. It’s actually considered rude to interrupt or ask questions because that means the teacher didn’t do a “good enough” job teaching. My JTE at Itako 2nd actually sat me down to talk with me about it, and said even though the Japanese schools want a more Western classroom for English classes, it’s a going to be a while before it actually happens.


Oh yeah, this problem. I fixed that within the first year. The trick is to give out stickers every single time someone says something, even if it’s wrong. Ask the teachers if bonus points are allowed for speaking up. I did more games, allowing for more talking, and made most of them conversation style. It took like 9+ months, but eventually most students could answer questions.


At the end of the day, I do my best to say goodbye to as many students as I can before I go home. I love my job, but I will say it’s draining some days. I try to remember my trump card: “I’m tired, but I’m tired IN JAPAN!” It still manages to perk me up. Also, when my students are shouting, “Goodbye!” and “I love you!” I feel a little proud that I’ve got such great kids.

And now, I’m going to go dive under my kotatsu.

TTYL!


They were great kids, I’m still proud of them. I met one of my old students at Tokyo Station once by chance. We exchanged LINE Ids, but then I got a new phone and lost all my old contacts (iPhones suck). Before I lost her, I found out she went on to be a student at Yokohama University. She was still studying English, and she was doing well. I was so happy she remembered me when she saw me, and I remembered her. Even if I never see half my students again, every single second I spent with them I wouldn’t take back.

I also miss you, my dear kotatsu. I hope my successor is treating you well!

Alright, see you in two weeks for the next flashback!

Posted in cultural differences, flashback friday

Flashback Friday: Christmas LIES!!!

Before we go any further, I feel the need to explain that Christmas isn’t as near and dear to me as Halloween. That being said it’s definitely the second favorite, and for reasons that are quite beyond me, I always get irrational when people who aren’t from America try to tell me how Christmas in America “actually is.”

LISTEN HERE, I am American, I am a Kentuckian, so don’t try to spread these LIES on my watch you KENTUCKY FRIED LUNATICS!


MERRY KENTUCKY FRIED CHRISTMAS LIES!!! AND OTHER CULTURAL CHRISTMAS DIFFERENCES

Once upon a time, I’m innocently gallivanting through the Aeon Mall in Narita with my good friend, Ai. We’re checking out different stores, and I’m squealing like a ten year old at every little cute thing in the huge shopping area. Basically, I was squealing at everything. Japan is full of cuteness, that makes me happy.

Anyway, just as we’re swinging through the last bit of mall, I catch sight of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in a food court. I remembered that I promised someone I would look at the price of their Christmas bundle of grease, so I walked over there with Ai to find it.

You see, in Japan people can’t get turkey. Turkey is hard to find, and if you find the bird it is really expensive. Instead of turkey, Kentucky Fried Chicken is used as a replacement.

Most foreigners find this tradition a little baffling, since Christmas usually also implies all the food is cooked by a grandmother or mother. Why would you want to eat fast food for Christmas? Honestly, it’s just a cultural thing. Why do Americans blow stuff up to celebrate the birth of America? Because we’re Americans and that’s what we do.

Anyway, I found a sign that looks like this:

KFC Christmas LIES.png
Yes, I do kind of want it. 

I picked up a pamphlet and began to walk away.

But then, I discovered an atrocity.

There,  sitting on the table with all its disgusting merriness, was a Christmas plate. Did the plate say, “Merry Christmas!” No. No it didn’t. It said:

“Kentucky Christmas.”

Ai got to experience one of my rants that day. It’s been a long time since I just let one off out of blue, and I might have scared some poor Japanese people in my near vicinity.

I believe I said something along the lines of, “We don’t eat KFC for Christmas! For the thousandth time, we eat ham and turkey! HAM AND TURKEY! Not fried up  grease attached to dead poultry!”

Ai was laughing pretty hard, and she wished she had recorded it all to put up on YouTube. I’m really glad she didn’t. I do not want to be an overnight YouTube star.I do not want to go down in internet history as “The Kentucky Fried Lunatic.”


Hahaha, let’s all laugh together at past me who thinks she’ll never be on YouTube. Joke’s on you, past me!


The thing is I wouldn’t care so much if not for the unfortunate problem that some Japanese people do believe that folks in Kentucky eat KFC all the time and must eat it at Christmas (for the plates tell them so). It makes me want to beat the marketing people senseless.

I’m resigned to the fact that people will forever and always associate my state with a gross fast food chain. However, Christmas is a sacred time of family, presents, and real food. For someone to dare tarnish the reputation of my beloved commercial holiday memories throws me into an irrational fury.

As Christmas draws near, the number of people asking me questions pertaining to my Kentucky heritage and my version of Christmas has increased. There’s the common question of, “Do you eat KFC on Christmas?” I respond, “No. No I don’t. Most of the people I know eat ham and turkey.” With a hundred side items and desserts, but I never get to that part.

People usually then respond, “Oh, really?” (I’ve come to recognize this phrase as something thrown at Japanese in English class, and I know this information because I’ve been wincing every time my students have to use it in class.) I usually respond with a small sigh and say, “Yes, really. And we have fruit cake.”

“What’s a fruit cake?”

A gross concoction  that looks like food. I’ve had very few good experiences with fruit cake. However, my mom just gave me a recipe for chocolate rum fruit cake. I’m kind of excited about that one, but I’m not ever excited about the prospect of fruit cake otherwise.


Funny thing, I made two batches of that chocolate rum cake (after, of course, taste testing one batch for science purposes). I gave those to my two main junior high schools, and surprisingly they loved those cakes! I was so terribly pleased with myself.

You’ll be horrified to know that fruit cake is sold in grocery stores over here more and more. Pretty soon, the annual tradition of passing around a fruit cake until it ends up in someone’s garbage will soon be a thing in Japan, too.


Japan has a decidedly better improvement. It’s called a Christmas Cake, and it looks delicious.

christmas-cake
Yum, yum!

I want to get one, but they’re apparently in really high demand. I don’t know if I will, but I’m going to try!


As I recall, I bought one at my local liquor store. Apparently, that’s where all the single people went to celebrate Christmas, so they had mini-Christmas cakes there for the lonely types. It was freaking delicious, too, like super packed with strawberries.


The other questions pertain to what I do on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I told my friends and JTEs about how Christmas Eve is usually reserved for getting together with family and friends. I have a family tradition with my Dad’s side of the family that involves invading my grandmother’s house so we can eat good food and open up presents together. Most families reserve the present opening until Christmas Day, and I open my presents from my mother and her side of the family on that day.

A couple of people have asked me if I’m going to spend Christmas with a boyfriend, to which I responded two different ways:

“Where’s this imaginary Japanese man that’s fallen madly in love with me and why haven’t I met him?”

and

“Why would I celebrate Christmas with a boyfriend?”

Apparently, Christmas time is couples’ time in Japan. Boyfriends apparently do romantic things for their sweethearts, like buy them a present or take them out somewhere nice. If they want to be really beloved by their girl, they will take her to Disney Land or Disney Sea (depending upon the age. Disney Sea has drinking.). I won’t lie, if I had a boyfriend, I would totally beg him to take me there. Do you know how cute that place is? Ridiculous I tell you!

Christmas at Disney Sea.png
Come on, you totally just went, “Awww!” 

I explained that it’s really a big family time of the year, so I would not celebrate with a boyfriend on Christmas. I would celebrate on Christmas Eve with him before my Dad’s family time, but I don’t think I could’ve done it on Christmas. Dedicating the whole day to a boyfriend would get me disowned.

I’ve also discovered that Japanese parents have it tougher than American parents when it comes to sneaking the presents. American parents just have to sneak into the living room and put the presents under the tree and fill up the stockings. Japanese parents have to put presents beside their children’s beds at night. I couldn’t do it. I would wake up my child instantly due to some klutzy error.


Japanese parents, though, don’t generally buy a lot of presents for their kids. It’s usually only one or two kind of nice toys and that’s it. See, kids generally get these money envelopes on New Years Day, so pretty soon after Christmas they’ll have more presents. So it’s not like they’re going in the room with like a whole Santa bag, mainly just one or two boxes, which does make a bit easier.

Still, ninja skills, man.


Apparently, Santa Claus is pretty much the same jolly man in red. I’ve been asked if Colonel Sanders in Kentucky dresses up for Christmas, and I had to really think about it. I couldn’t remember our KFC even having a Colonel Sanders statue. I said I think so, but I honestly don’t remember. I know for a fact that Colonel Sanders does dress up as Santa Claus in Japan. It actually looks pretty neat.

Colonel Sanders Santa.png
No thanks, Colonel Santa. 

Right now, I’m trying to avoid KFC, lest I fly off the handle again and cause an international incident. I’m sure I’ll eventually eat there (I do love the biscuits), but until the holidays are over it’s best to just stay clear.

I will say that some cultural things about Christmas are the same. It’s about being with the people you love and showing you care. Regardless of where the presents go or the thrice damned chicken, both Americans and Japanese jump through hoops to get those special gifts for their beloved people. Just as in America, parents have got it tough, and in the name of love for their children they will do anything to get that stupidly popular (insert item here).

Christmas cheer is everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. The Christmas music started earlier than America because there’s no Thanksgiving to hold it back, and oddly enough it’s mostly the same American choices for music. For example, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” plays all the time. I kind of like it, but I’ll be sick of it by the end of December.

There are Christmas trees, too. They’re a little smaller than the average American tree, but that’s to be expected since most Japanese homes are smaller than the average American home. I’m considering getting either a small tree or a poinsettia. I was surprised to find the poinsettias over here, but they’re apparently just as popular here as in America.

Alas, I will not be celebrating Christmas in Japan, however. I will be going back to Kentucky for Christmas, which means no KFC for me! Yay! Instead, I’ll be chowing down on ham and fudge and pie and burritos and tacos (because Mexican food is only found in all of two cities, and I live in neither of them) and more pie and cheeseburgers and…Well, you get the idea.

I’ll be back in Japan for New Years, so until then TTYL and Merry Christmas!

P.S. Here’s a link to Badger Girl and a recipe for fruit cake so you can make it for the unsuspecting person of your choosing:

http://learntocookbadgergirl.com/?p=1761


Alright, so I’ll be restarting flashback Friday, but I think I’m going to do it every other Friday instead of every week like I was doing before. See you all in two weeks then!

Posted in Uncategorized

How to be a Liberal Dick in 3 Easy Steps

The difference between the news and the tabloids is a thinner line in the good ol’ USA than I’d like. Sensationalism has become nearly synonymous with journalism, which is just a  depressing reality in the new age of #alternativefacts. I’d go so far to say more yellow journalism gets churned out daily than legitimate news articles, so when I hear people shout about fake news, it’s actually not that hard to see why.

And liberals, despite what we’d like to believe, can be awful. We can play hard at the sensationalist side of things, and more often than not we’re not even aware how utterly hypocritical we’re being about. Because of that lack of self-awareness, it’s pretty easy to become a dickish liberal. As a liberal myself of the moderate bitchy variety, I think it’s time we take a look at this process.

Step 1: Be a Feminist (But Only When it’s In Style)

Let’s take a look that this piece of trash masquerading as news, shall we?

shame-on-you-for-not-smiling
Slate: A “news” organziation

Heather Schwedel (and her source Jezebel, which we won’t even step into because that’s a whole other article) is a smile analysis expert, apparently. I find it astonishing that a Slate editor looked at this barely-an-article thing, said, “Yeah, you go girl!” and up it went. Schwedel seems to have a lot of other articles that are pro-ladies, but Melania is of course exempt because it’s now fashionable to hate her. By the way, let’s not even get into the fact that it was a reverse gif so…talk about FAKE NEWS.

I’m a feminist, do you know what I hate being told all the time? “Smile honey!” It makes me want to punch people in the throat. Stop policing my damn smiles, I’ll smile when there’s something to smile about, so screw you.

Actually, remember when everybody was on board the no catcalling bandwagon? Here let me refresh your memory.

This video went viral in like 2014, that was all of two years ago, and apparently nobody learned a goddamn thing from it. I thought that it was about how telling women how to act and how to behave is more or less harassment, but no. Instead, we’re back to square one, and it’s totally fine to nitpick at the ladies to be perfect little smiley angels all damn day long.

Look, Melania is the First Lady of the United States, who was probably tired as hell from getting dragged around from this photo op to this speech thing to this church thing, leave her the hell alone. I don’t smile all the damn time, and she shouldn’t have to either. If us liberals are going to be all about fairness and equality, we need to be FAIR and EQUAL about it. I don’t see articles pointing out how Trump didn’t smile throughout the entire inauguration, so why is Melania getting dumped on? Because she’s a women, and they always get the bum end of the deal in the media.

And yet if you think women are the only ones who get the low blows, sorry to say, there are definitely lower ones.

Step 2: Attack the Kids (For Extra Points, Be an SNL Celebrity)

Kids don’t get to choose their parents, so they just have to deal with the fallout of dad or mom embarrassing them at the mall. At least, normal kids do, but Barron Trump has the unfortunate plight of being the child of Donald J. Trump. And so, that means some people think it’s fine to say things like this:

What did she even mean? If he’s a shooter and he’s home-schooled, what he’s going to shoot his parents? So a ten year old is going to assassinate the president? She obviously didn’t think this “joke” through. It should be noted that Katie quickly apologized like so:

But all the same, who the hell thinks it’s cool to call a ten year old kid a future terrorist? (Besides Texas and that whole clock business, I mean). Barron will probably grow up and become a rich white dude of some variety, and that’s about it. He might be a politician, he might be a TV personality of some kind, he might be a model like his mom, who the hell knows or even cares. He’s a kid, leave him alone, let him figure that out.

Anyways, I feel a little bad for Katie, since she’s getting flack for something that most of Twitter gets away with a lot.

how-is-this-news
The entire “article” is 90% Twitter embeds. Adam Boult be lazy much?

That’s right, an entire article, devoted to pointing out that a kid was tired looking at an event. That’s it. The kid was up for over 24 hours, but somehow that’s unforgivable? For children to be tired?!

Now, did the alt-right racists attack the Obama daughters? They sure as hell did, but that doesn’t make this nonsense equal out. Leave the damn kids alone, they’re not in charge of your country. Send your ire towards the easy target: Trump and his tiny hands (…approving the abortion gag from the Reagan era)

Step 3: Commit/Cheer On Violent Acts (Don’t Bother to Stop Them)

No one is without sin, and yet everyone feels like casting that first stone. Sometimes, right into shop windows.

Washington riots.png
HeraldScotland.com

People are saying that these “activists” (*coughanarchistscough*) have no affiliation with the “peace and flower loving liberals who marched without causing problems.” Alright, but do you think that news affiliates care about that? NO, no they don’t. They’re already talking about “radical leftists” and “terrorist activity” instead of, ya know, researching like journalists should (Google search is HARD you guys).

Marchers need to take action when they see looting and rioting, or even better, they need to take preventative actions. How do you prevent rioting and looting? Easy, before a group heads out for protests, tell them that there’s now a 10 year jail sentence for people who get caught destroying property. When no one believes you, because wow a decade for that seems a bit much, inform them that fellow marchers will call the police on you if you begin to loot or riot. Finally, inform them that if/when they’re caught looting and rioting, you’re not protecting them from the police. “Oh, you want to throw a brick into a Starbucks? Have fun getting baton beaten and pepper sprayed.”

There’s solidarity in the face of adversity, but then there’s being a by-stander to criminal activity. When you march, you be ready to stop that shit.

And then there’s also just going around punching people you disagree with, something that people out of high school should know better than to do.

Now, I’m not going to say this guy didn’t deserve a punch to the face (Captain America would probably be proud), but it’s not something to cheer about either. I’m not going to condone violent actions. I might be internally gleeful that an asshole got what was coming to him, but in the end it only hurts the cause against racism.

This punch will be used as proof at every alt-right/Neo Nazi meeting in the country that they’re right about the “savage” black race and blah blah blah [insert more asinine bullshit here to support stupid eugenics and white superiority that’s based on super false “science”].  So while people want to cheer on this vigilante, remember that violence is what the other side wants. They want people to get angry, to punch, to loot, to make a smear campaign. They want to see us fail, essentially, to be the freedom fighters and instead paint us as terrorists.

The alt-right/Neo Nazis might even look at this post and start frothing at the mouth, “See! Even the libtards and special snowflakes know they’re wrong!” But no, that’s not the point. I want to make it clear that I’m still a liberal, I’m still a “social justice warrior” (I prefer the term armchair activist, if we’re going for derogatory titles), and I agree with most liberal ideals. However, in order for liberalism to keep its footing, it needs to take a good hard look at its flaws and hypocrisy. We liberals need to always endeavor to do better, we should always be trying to improve, and to do that we need to see what’s wrong with us.

If you don’t want to be a liberal dick, it’s actually pretty easy. DON’T share tabloid headline nonsense about the First Lady, DON’T make fun of children to further your own political aims, and finally DON’T riot at peaceful gatherings or punch people. DO praise the organizers of the Womens March, DO talk about education funding of public schools (call your legislators, people!), and whether you’re liberal or conservative try to DO all things with the goal of achieving peace.

 

 

Posted in Jobs in Japan

Working on the Future: Take Your Chance When It Comes

In my previous post, I did a vlog about the After JET Program experiences I had, but along the way I mentioned some regrets I held over not taking some chances that would’ve made my life much easier when I left JET. Everybody, I think, has these kinds of thoughts. We look back and in hindsight we could’ve done more or done this thing or gone to this event, generally the regrets are things we didn’t do.

Opportunities can pass by so quickly. One minute you’re contemplating whether or not you should do something, and then all of a sudden, BOOM! That precious moment, probably vital, is gone. When I had the opportunity to get TEFL/TESOL certified, I should’ve gone ahead and signed up for those classes. Without it, I ended up struggling after JET to get a direct hire position. I eventually got one through the merits of my hard work, but I could’ve saved myself nearly two years of effort. Taking those kinds of chance, to better improve yourself in your field (whether you want to stay in it or not) are always good investments.

Many people I know in Japan have taken online classes or correspondence courses in order to accumulate credits for graduate school. I don’t particularly want to do graduate school, but I realize in this day and age the more education I receive, the more the payout will be later. Besides, if you’re not interested in teaching in Japan forever, that would be the smart move. Or let’s say you want to stay in Japan but simply don’t want to teach, then gaining experience in a different field through certifications gained by online courses or correspondence is a great way to start busting out of that bubble.

 

You also need to network, as in introduce yourself to new people when and where you can and discover what they do. If you’ve got a similar interest, or they know an insiders look into something you want to do, you need to exchange contact info. Even for English teaching, use those business cards and hand them out like they’re candy. You need to expand the people you know, so that you can help them and they can help you when it comes to professional matters.

For me, I have wanted to do freelance or writing in some aspect. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite start hard on my blog when I came to Japan. I was a sporadic in posting, to say the least, because I never thought I would be doing it as a means to an end. Back in the day (she says like she’s so old), blogs were considered a small media form, not really useful or taken seriously.

Nowadays? You can actually make blogging and vlogging a full time career. I wish I’d done more with my previous blog, that way it could’ve grown into something amazing over the course of the three years I kept it up. Granted, now I understand how blogging connections work, and how to make my “brand” (that’s kind of weird to say) stand out a little. I’ve got Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Channel, an Instagram all connected to this blog. I’ve learned and improved quite a bit over the years, but I just wish I’d improved a little faster or done more with the time I had in the past.

However, that’s not to say I’ve done nothing. I’ve been writing for online sites when I can, and I’m going to continue to do my best with this site. Progress, no matter how small, counts as an accomplishment. Still, the future comes quickly, and missed opportunities can mean a lot of roadblocks in your path to your end goal that you could’ve avoided. It’s important to do what you can when you can. Even if you’re working a full time job, even if you’re doing overtime, you’ve got to make time to do something for the betterment of your future.

Your future self will thank you, and you will be where you want to be.