?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Week 108 Maybe???

My friend from high school (Gill from the girls school) came to visit me last week. She kept saying that I overly critical of Australia to the point that I sounded like I hate Australia. Well, that can't be true because my Yankee friends criticize me for blowing on the "Australia is the best" horn. I suppose for me saying good-bye to this place is very hard and that it's only natural to point out the great things (things that benefit me) I'm going to miss here. For example, my teeth are considered wonderful here. I have all my own teeth, they are all in pretty good condition and no work is necessary. In Australia, I have a mouthful of rotting teeth and need a few thousand dollars worth of maintenance. I'm not judging Japan or Australia that's just how it is. Standards are different and schools of thought are different. I just know where I feel happier in regards to the condition of my teeth and the effect on my bank balance.

At times I'm not sure if I'm ready to go home. But I suppose the longer I stay here the less ready I'll become, and all these emotions I'm feeling at the moment will just be stronger and more aggressive.

I've met the young lad that has taken over Aaron's and my apartment. He talks like a rocket; he has so much energy and is so excited to be here. Was Aaron like that when he came? I have no idea? Now he is living Aaron's old life and a very tall, strong Nigerian has taken over my job. The kids LOVE him because he can pick up two or three of them at once. It now feels like my place in Gunma has been pushed out of the way by all these newbies. Which means it's time for me to move on.

After reading over my blogs for the last two years it's very hard to say that I haven't had an exciting time here. I think I'm happy with everything I've done and all the decisions I've made and all the boys I've dated, er um boy, I've dated. The one last place I want to visit is Okinawa and I suppose that will happen some time in the future. Now it's time for me to raise my glass and say Good-bye Japan, thank you for the adventures, the friends and all the priceless lessons I've learnt and ignored. See you again.

It's time to start looking forward to the next exciting phase of my life, with my old friends doing what I used to love the most – hanging out (for the time being anyway).

SAYONARA. XX

Amber
So I’ve been getting mixed messages from various people about when they think I said I thought I would be going home. The answer is anywhere between August 1 and September 30. I want to be back before my birthday since I would like to have a “Big Kev Bitching Beer Bash” seeing that my trivia group has continued for almost two years after I left. Also I think it is against team rules to have a beer drinking party without ME present. So by my calculations there should be at least 12 slabs and 12 disco Jesus lamps.

I am a member of “It’s Art House, Not Porn” trivia team Facebook group but every time people add photos or new members join I find myself scratching my head wondering, who are those people??? It’s MY team… Was my team… I was part of the team, I felt like it was mine… I might be exaggerating my importance… but I’d like to think I’m not. Anyway, I am so excited about returning to Tuesday night trivia with cheap Chinese for tea beforehand. Aaron said he would go sometimes, but sounds rather reluctant about it. The reality is he doesn’t understand how seriously I take my team and winning. Not that I am actually a useful part of the answering or sculling part of the game, I like to think of myself as the “manager”, but seeing as the team has lasted all this time without me I’m being to ask if I was ever that useful to begin with… wait… this isn’t the time for self doubt. This is the time to talk about my return party expectations.

Seeing that Aaron will be coming at some point, I’m thinking I would like an “Australian themed party.” Does anyone remember the damper party I held for my Japanese share mates and someone decided that the quality of the damper depends of the size of the fire and poured citronella all over bonfire and all the damper tasted toxic. I was thinking something like that but with damper that is edible and a bon fire that is “safe.” I would also like to play “goon a fortune” so does anyone have a hills hoist that actually spins??? I would also like a piñata in the shape of a kangaroo that we can bust up with a cricket bat and just for added atmosphere I ask that everyone wears their favourite akubra and drizzabone.

Anyway moving onto news, last weekend Aaron, a bunch of friends and I went on a long weekend camping trip to an island off the coast of Tokyo. This Island known as Niijima is apparently one of the best surfing locations in the world. I wouldn’t know about that, but the waves did look very nice for surfing and there were certainly heaps of surfers floating around in the ocean. The other thing this island is famous for is Yunohama hotspring on Yunohama Beach, it’s a large outdoor bath built in the style of retro Greek ruins that provides stunning panoramic views of the setting sun and the Pacific Ocean. I was torn between awesome or tacky… but non the less very Japanesey.

The second night was very tiresome. I windstorm blew though the campsite blowing over countless tents. Some tents were actually damaged and torn. Aaron, Shane and I were very lucky that we decided to move our tent, when it first blew over and went to bed early to hold the tent up from the inside. I got some sleep but I’m sure most people suffered cold sleepless nights.

I don’t have any photos since a friend of mine and I thought it would be fun to juggle my camera. It turns out the camera didn’t think it was that fun :(

Passover In Japan

It all started sometime a few weeks ago when a friend of Aaron's rather bizarrely discovered a bottle of kosher wine for Passover in a discount supermarket in the middle of Minakami which is in the middle of nowhere somewhere in the middle of Japan. It's mountainous and beautiful area but not really a major destination for Jews to warrant retailing such a product there. Anyway, a Jewish person did stumble upon it and bought it and together with a friend whom is a culinary master decided to celebrate Passover with a Passover Seder. I stayed out of this decision making process mainly because I don't know anything about Jewish food.

It turned out that Aaron really had his work cut out for him. Most of the recipes he wanted to make required and oven (which we don't have) or Matzo which he didn't have enough for making dishes to serve five people or exprience cooking Jewish food himself. We/he thought the Matzo problem was solved since one of my co-workers actually told me her friend married a Jewish man and nearby there was a store that sold "important Jewish things." Aaron came to the conclusion that Matzo would fall into that category and so when I then asked her to give me the details of the store she contacted her friend and then asked me, "Jewish is Islamic right?" I confessed they were different but got the details anyway. Aaron and I then went on a journey to find this Islamic store and sure enough they sold important things, but NO matzo. The important things did include hookahs, videos, crime novels, western branded deodorants, and my favourite: over the counter antibiotics and other drugs that are normally available by prescription only. When I say over the counter I really mean there was no counter just drawers of antibiotics and painkillers with codeine that you could help yourself to. I'm not a doctor but I did feel a big sense of relief to see antihistamines for sale.

Another friend helped Aaron locate an oven, which was really exciting and could fit on the back seat of Aaron's little windy. On the first night we baked an apple pie and a pumpkin pie. Considering there is apparently a shortage of butter in Japan (according to an Age article last week) it's seems to be a strange time to start baking things.

I didn't get to witness this taking place but Aaron had a holiday on Monday and I can't believe I'm about to type this… he spent the whole day baking. He made an apple salad with honey and sweet red wine (Charoset), Potato Knishes, a sweet potato and carrot dish with honey, pumpkin pie and chicken soup with chicken dumplings. I was honestly surprised when we arrived at our friends house in Tsukiyono (the middle on nowhere) and Aaron pulled out a chicken carcass to make chicken broth… I wanted to say, "too fancy for stock cubes are ya???" But surprisingly everything turned out really well. Honestly, the morning of I was a little nervous for him. I advised him in the morning to just follow the recipes, keep it simple and that not everything needs cumin and mixed Italian herbs. But in the end he didn't need my advice, everything was edible, perhaps even delicious. I gave him my heartiest, "Good onya Mate."



The next day when I arrived home to a pile of dishes and a floor covered with food scraps something out of place caught my eye. By the dishes alone lay a slightly deformed orange. But on closer inspection it turned out the peel had been grated off… Unbelievable… Could it be??? ... Aaron used orange zest in something!

I'm addicted and I miss youse all

The dangerous kerosene gas heater that kept Aaron and I alive through the winter was put away last night. Now the faint stink of gas will only leak out the cupboard instead of filling the living room night after night. I liked the kerosene heater (perhaps I like the smell!) It was like having an open fire in the middle of the apartment. I'm surprised the floorboards (which are some sort of wood plastic concoction) didn't melt around it.

The cherry blossoms I spoke about last time have come and gone and time is moving on rather rapidly. They were spectacular. We went to a cherry blossom viewing BBQ in a park in Tamamura filled with Brazillians. When we drove into the carpark some hoodlums had the Chilli Peppers blasting from the cars sound system and people were dancing on the lawn by the river. It didn't feel like Japan at all for a moment. But now the blossoms are basically gone and so too is the bracken that which normally covers Aaron's face. It usually takes a little while to adjust to that change in the scenery but once I've overcome it, I prefer it. Not that I would ever be controlling or demanding about the issue.

Anyway, I don't write as often as I would like to anymore. It's not that I am no longer staring at the computer for hours on end, because I am. But a month ago Aaron's sister invited me to play scrabble with her. As a result of my pathetic competitive nature it now takes up a good part of my life now. I'm not every good at it, but I have learnt all the two letter words. It's very important. I don't know what "te" "ag" "qi" or "xi" mean, but you don't need the definitions for it to be valid right! Of course this is causing great frustration for Aaron because I want to tell him about the rude words I made and how many points it was worth and all the 2 letter words that were involved, but he just doesn't give a hoot. I suppose most people don't.

I guess the big news at the moment is that I will be going home at some point this year. Aaron has 15 weeks left on his contract and he'll be going to the US then and I am trying to discuss with my work when the best time to leave. At this point it looks like I will stay in Japan slightly after Aaron leaves since that is the busiest time of the year for Kids World.

Every now and then we talk of all the things we need to do before we leave Japan. These things are baseball games, sumo, Disney land, more hot springs, more castles, more more more. I've done everything I want to do so I suppose the only thing left on my list is Okinawa but I doubt I'll be doing that this year.

Many more things can happen in the next 15 weeks. Even though my mind is shifting to the end of the Adventures of Amber in Japan, my parents are planning a rather extensive trip of Japan which includes climbing Mt Fuji – again. I don't think I'll climb it again. I think I will enjoy Fuji Town or just put them on a bus in the right direction. Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyushu and Tokyo, Chiba (Disney land) and Gunma. They are planning to tough it out on the living room floor. Lucky it didn't melt in winter eh??

I hope everyone is well and taking care of themselves. Love and kisses to you all.

Amber

Mar. 19th, 2008

Well Hello Hello My dear family and friends,

It’s been about 6 weeks since I last sat down and wrote a big email. It’s not that I haven’t been doing anything; on the contrary most weekends have been rather action packed. But now the back log of totally awesome things I've done has exceeded my ability and will to write... Also the winter has been so miserable here I thought I might just wait until the weather finally changed. So I’m pleased to say I think spring might have just arrived. There are plum blossoms popping up around the place and I’m sure the cherry blossoms (Sakura) will arrive again shortly to remind “us” of the transient nature of life with their extreme beauty and quick death.

This week is the end of the school year in Japan and over the last few days I have been saying good-bye to the “little kids” who come to my center in the mornings as they prepare themselves for kindergarten. They are all so little and so cute and with each group when we sing the goodbye song for the last time most of them are clueless to the reality that they are not coming back.... agghhhh transient nature of life.

For the international pre-school, which is the area I look after with a woman called Tamiko, we participated in a fairly exciting graduation ceremony in Tokyo. We’ve been practicing with the children for the last 3 months how to dance to a whole bunch of kids songs as well as YMCA and to make a superman pose with “serious faces.” The theme for my kids was “marching band” and I too had to dress up as one of the marching band members. I wore a cute little green tartan skirt, with knee high socks with green ribbons, a white blouse with a black vest and silver buttons and gold tinsel trimming and a matching tartan beret. Doesn’t that sound cute! I got a few pictures but none of the kids in their adorable costumes… I thought I would have received copies by now… but I haven’t.



Moving right along....




Also on the weekend Aaron and I went to see Damo Suzuki play again in Japan. It occurred to me that now I have seen him play more often in Japan than in Australia. But I will always remember the time he played with On The mountain coz that was great! This time my friend Keito (my co-worker) joined us. It also happened to be her birthday and the day she and the boy she was dating decided to make it offical – the dating part and confirmed formally they are now boyfriend and girlfriend AND it was White Day… the opposite day of Valentines Day in Japan???? I know that was just the most lame-ass incorrect/correct definition of White Day. But all I meant to say is that for Keito it was a great night and the music was also new and exciting for her and new and exciting for the poor Japanese guy that collapsed at our feet and was taken away in an ambulance.



Aaron and I also just bought a huge bottle of absinthe. I think I only tried it once in Australia… now it’s every night before bed. In fact I’m drinking it now.

Cheers.

Amber

I want to keep you updated :(

I know I keep complaining that lately I am so damn busy... I truely wish I had more time to do exciting things.

But coming soon is Amber dressed as a Marching Band member in a short tartan skirt, white blouse and a beret. Surely that sounds cute and is enough to make any hot blooded mans heart pump! Maybe not.... :(

Damo Suzuki is returning to Japan... and with his return means more trips to visit tokyo`s seedy underground.

I`ve been reading Ryu Murakami... so I am really looking for something seedy.

Amber

Year 2, Week 27

I keep trying to send an email… but I just find these days I just don’t have any time. I wake up, work, sleep and repeat that cycle. The last few weekends have been entertaining with action packed days of ice skating, drinking, and training (for work). I feel like I barely have a moment to just sit and vegetate… which happens to be one of my favourite pastimes.

My work contract with the daycare center is until March. I guess the reason for that is there is a very real likelihood the center won’t be open next year. Which is a little sad because as busy as I am, and exhausted from all the children, I feel like I have started to fall in love with all the little monkeys that come to visit each day. I’m not sure what I will do if that is the case, but I guess I will go back to the drawing board and wait for my parents to come visit in June / July. Aaron’s parents have also mentioned that perhaps they will come to visit too. I think that would be great since they’ll be able to carry Aaron’s crap back to the U.S. (There is heaps of it). And my parents can carry some of my crap back to Australia.

I think it would be great to drop all the parents off at Houshi onsen up in northern Gunma and let them get to “know” each other. Do you remember I wrote about Houshi onsen? I was the ONLY girl in the mixed onsen of 30 odd guys. I don’t think my parents would care. Didn’t you guys have a date like that in some hotel mmm? The problem I would face is that if they (my parents) did care… I would have trouble caring for them… since I would just leave them there to enjoy themselves even if they weren’t.

Oh oh back to me. Talking of Onsens, Aaron and I wanted to travel to another famous onsen area in Gunma this long weekend. But yesterday we noticed that his Shaken (Japanese car registration/insurance stuff) had already expired. I would like to use some expletives to describe the person who sold him the car since that person basically lied about the expiry date and overcharged him for the amount of shaken on the car. Now he can’t drive the car and has to figure out how to get more in a short period of time over a long public holiday weekend. To make matters worse since she lied about the expiry date it means that he has been driving for about 2 weeks with no shaken. If Aaron had had an accident in that time… oh I don’t want to think about what the consequences would have been.

I got my results of the Japanese language proficiency test level 2. Just like I thought I sadly failed. I would like to say that this year I will knuckle down and study… but the fact is I won’t. I speak Japanese well enough to do the things I want to do… and somehow that seems like just enough. I would like to learn something else instead. I’m not sure what that is but I don’t really care that much at the moment either. That seems to be something that Aaron and I differ on. Sometimes I think he is in such a rush or gets frustrated by not knowing what to do next. I am almost certain that I will never find what it is that I would like to do, but when I figure that out I’m sure it won’t be too late.

I am starting to miss home just a little, but the thought of going home almost certainly sometime this year makes me terribly sad to leave Japan. I know when I leave this time I will be saying a very final living and working goodbye to Japan.

I don’t really have any other news. I hope everyone is taking care of themselves and each other.

Love Amber

Year 2, week 24.6 Blocked Toilet

So we came back from China and everything has been great. Aaron and I have returned to work as that's just boring old routine that is not very exciting at all. But there has been one little hiccough that we have noticed. Upon our return, after being away for two weeks our toilet was/is suffering from flush and draining problems. The problem being when we flush the toilet the bowl would fill almost to the brim with water and then slowly drain not really taking away the waste in the bowl.

Anyway, since I have a fear of cleaning up water and poops from the toilet I got in contact with Aaron's real estate agent and told them (in the best Japanese I could to explain the situation) that the toilet was blocked. They sent over a plumber later that evening and he seemed to do little more than flush the toilet, say it's fine and leave. Aaron and I were both a little concerned because he didn't seem to fix the problem.

The problem did seem to magically solve itself and all was forgotten until last night when we received a letter from the real estate agent.

I translated the letter as follows

"repairs on the pipeline are now complete. The problem turned out to be a blockage with toilet paper. However, if you use normal toilet paper it dissolves in water and so Mr. Aaron what paper have you been using? The problem is not regular paper bought at the supermarket, but a large amount of printed paper! If this is the case Mr. Aaron you must immediately stop doing this.

This time the landlord will pay for the repairs, but if the same thing happens again (paper besides shop sold toilet paper blocks the toilet) you will pay the costs of repair.

Thank you, Management."

I have read this letter a few times now and each time it just makes my heart sink. The blockage occurred when we were not even in the country and I'm sure it could have been caused by anyone in this building or even the neighbors. It feels like that because we are foreigners of course we have "special needs" and the glossy smooth pages of a fashion magazine or the entertaining news of a Japanese tabloid newspaper makes me feel fresh and clean down there.

I am also very concerned about the threat to pay future blockages because neither Aaron nor myself have ever put anything that is not supposed to go down a toilet in a toilet.

I know of one particular story where a Japanese friend of mine caused some damage by flushing tampons down the toilet over a number of years. When I heard that she did this she said that no one had ever told her not to flush them!! and they seem like just the right size for the purpose.

I need some time to process this letter but hopefully on Monday I can sit down with a coworker and ask them to help me write a response. I would like all the neighbours to get a note about the problems putting printed paper down the toilet and to stop doing it.

To make matters even a little more concerning, this morning when I flushed the toilet, the cistern didn't automatically fill up. Agghhhhhh. I feel like if that turns into a problem they will find something crazy that only a foreigner could possibly do and make us pay for that too.

I hope everyone is doing well. My new job is terribly busy and I find I have very little time to do anything besides work and sleep.

Anyway, take care everyone.

Love Amber
Welcome to 2008. I know I’m a little slow and I’m sorry I didn’t send out many Christmas and New Year greetings, but I did think about everyone.

2007 was such a hard year for me in terms of employment and trying to find some sort of direction. But that extra time did give me the time to focus on some other interests and hobbies I have. (or didn’t know I had…)

Anyway, I’m back in Japan having spent a wonderful two weeks traveling China with Aaron. This was the cheap alternative to Australia… and my goodness things are cheap. We picked up a REAL leather Gucci wallet for only a few dollars, Real DVDs for only a $1 each and Aaron picked up a real leather Vivienne Westwood Michael Jackson style Jacket for about $14. On some nights dinner for two was less than $3.

The pollution was amazing, and we weren’t even there during really heavy pollution days. The sound of great big phlegmy slags still resonates in my ears and the “snot rockets” were incredible.

We met some friendly con artists, and we happily parted with our money. It was a sad reminder that perhaps I’ve been in Japan just a little too long and I am just a little too trusting. I was on guard in Thailand; I’m not sure why I was so relaxed in China????

We went to a bird aviary in Taiyuan and many of the birds were dead…

I saw the Terracotta Warriors and I thought they were just fantastic. Pity it was so darn cold when we went there. Fortunately it never rained or snowed, but it barely got higher than 0 degrees. Night was freezing.

We made it to the Great Wall and my goodness it was grand.
”Far grander than I could have imagined,” That’s what Bill Clinton said about the part of the wall that we climbed anyway.

Aaron wrote a more interesting account of our trip and you can read it http://mrgitorinsan.blogspot.com/

I made a video of our trip and you can see it on


I can’t really film myself, but there is plenty of Aaron.

Take care,

Amber

Year 2, Week 17.9

In the last few weeks I feel like I have just been busy busy busy. I have started working "part time" which is10am to 6pm Monday to Friday at a day care / kindergarten a 30 minute (7km) bike ride from where Aaron and I live. I get all the same benefits as the JET program, but the role itself is a lot busier. I don't have time to play defense tower, reply to emails or do the laundry or dishes like a good kanai. Kanai means "house + inside" = "wife." Basically I spend the day caring for and playing with really little kids doing finger painting, making xmas ornaments and musical instruments from milk cartons and other stuff. I speak to the kids in English and the parents feel like this will help them in the future when they begin their English education at school. Actually they do remember a lot at the age so I guess it's good for them. Hopefully, the kids won't be afraid of foreigners and perhaps even eager to learn how to communicate with them when they grow up. Perhaps even study abroad in Australia or do a working holiday.

In other news I spent some time in Tokyo. One morning was spent at the Chinese embassy trying to get visas for China. The embassy website was FULL of miss information which was really annoying. You'd think they would have that shit up-to-date. The website originally said, to apply for the visa you have to go IN PERSON to the nearest embassy or consulate between 9-5. On arrival at the embassy it had a sign out the front saying between the hours of 9-12. Our nearest embassy is a four-hour trip from door to door only to find out it closes at noon. How annoying! Also the website stated that at an additional cost you could have your passports spent back to your home address by registered mail. This was also not true! To ease the pain they said that anyone could pick our passports up, the only condition being they had to be picked up in person with the original passport vouchers. Luckily, we are only four hours away, but I really do wonder what people who live further in the mountains do if they want to go to China. I found the whole experience at the Chinese embassy frustrating, there was no queuing, staff were talking to people waiting behind me and they didn't do what their embassy website said they would. I left the embassy after an hour and half very annoyed, not even confident that the forms were completed correctly. I seriously doubted whether the visas would be processed at all. The pick up vouchers were scribbled on (by the staff) and the pick up date was confusing since the staff member gave different dates. Good lesson in patience and perhaps a reminder that things are so tidy and organized in Japan that China may be a shock to my poor little brain.

Anyway Aaron had to call in sick to work to pick them up. He found the staff to be very friendly and helpful. Easy. Makes me so mad. But then again all he had to do was – pay and pick them up in a different section to the one I went to. Perhaps people are kinder when you are handing over cash.

Two weeks ago I traveled from Gunma (Takasaki) to Kobe (Myodani) and back again for less then $10. That's about 710km or 442 miles. Good value huh… I would like to explain how I did that, but the answer is not something I am proud of… well… part of me thinks its funny and part of me thinks it's not. It has something to do with people not checking tickets and a big smile goes a long way!!

I got to see Paul for a few days in Kobe. I think I needed a little break from Gunma before I start working again. It was good to see Paul and Yuko, I only wish we lived a little closer together.

Aaron and I still need to talk about what to do next year. My parents want to visit… but they will have to do some serious organizing for them to be considered into plans. Hint Hint.

Americans can now do the working holiday in Australia. Yeay…! Australian's can also get one for the US… but I am pissed off with whoever negotiated that visa agreement since Australians still need to have their working holiday sponsored by an organization IE: the YMCA for either a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars. Then you are restricted to only work for that organization. So I can't just travel around and find casual / part time work with whomever I like. It makes me so mad that things can't just be fair (by my standards of what suits me!!). Well perhaps that's why Americans have to pay three times as much for a visa to China compared to other countries. I guess it all balances out in the end.

I don't want to turn this into a rant… but I am doing well. I actually had to undergo a fairly thorough health examination. I asked if everything was okay and the doctor and nurse looked over my sheet of kanji kanji kanji and numbers number numbers and said I was very healthy, perfect in fact. Aaron and I checked the results at home on the net and my cholesterol is low, my blood looks good, liver function is nice, I can hear and see, I'm not colour blind, I can breathe, my heart pumps and I have lots of red blood cells and hemoglobin… ohh and other stuff that I didn't understand is perfect too. The testing took half a day and I could wear hospital issued pajamas. The total cost was about $130 without insurance (but my company with reimburse me.) I think Aaron is thinking of doing it one day before he leaves since they do everything and it's way cheaper than the U.S. I'd never had an intensive health check up like that before. I'm glad I did it though.

One strange thing during the health check was that everyone was allocated a number, then for the rest of the day I was referred to as "Miss 27". Of course I had to do a urine test. When I was finished producing my urine sample I had to put the cup on a windowsill that joined the toilets to the laboratory. The strange part was I had to put my cup on a grid numbered 001 to 200. My number was 27 so I had to put my cup between other cups of pee that were just sitting there waiting to be collected. I was wondering what would happen if I just happened to knock the cups next to mine with my long useless uncoordinated foreigner arms and knock over all the cups causing a domino effect of cascading cups of piss all over the hospital bathroom. I feel like that is exactly the sort of thing I would do. Lucky it didn't… not this time anyway!

Hope everyone is well.

Amber