Friday, September 4, 2009

Daily Life

So, what exactly is daily life like here in Japan? I know this question keeps you awake at night, so I am happy to answer it for you here to the best of my ability.

Waking up: I usually wake up somewhere between 5-7am, depending on what my schedule looks like for the day. When I first came to Wakkanai, there were days I was up at 4. Ahhh, jet lag (and no daylight savings time). Hey, did you know that Hawai'i doesn't observe daylight savings time? Anyway, I digress. Once I'm awake and up, I make my bed by folding it up and putting it into a cabinet. I sleep on a futon, in case you are wondering. It's not like those ubiquitous dorm room couches, but more like a pallet consisting of a mattress that folds kind of like a kindergarten or exercise mat, the bottom of the futon (kind of like a thick comforter), a sheet thing, and the top of the futon (like a thinner comforter).

Breakfast: I've eaten many things for breakfast at home from rice to cereal. I've been on a cereal kick for past week or so (the milk here is awesome). If I'm out somewhere, I love a "traditional" Japanese breakfast: rice, fish, miso soup, and other sundry items.

Commuting to work: I have four main methods of getting to work (sometimes it's a combination of all four). If I'm working a local school or at the BoE, I walk. Somehow, I almost always manage to get stuck at red lights! I'm actually thankful to cross with lights (even though they are always red...). Some of you know my amazing aptitude for directions like right and left. Well, as you can imagine, I've had quite a time figuring out which cars are going which way. I'm often surprised by mysterious appearances of cars coming from the left when I'm looking right, or vice versa. It's probably good that I'm not driving.

If I'm going to one of the islands, method two comes into play. On island days, I catch the 6:24 bus to the island. Just kidding! I do take the bus at 6:24, but I just ride across town. Then, I walk to method three - the ferry. The first time I rode the ferry, I traveled with someone from my office. He showed me how to use the ticket machine, and two tickets popped out - one to go, and one to come back. The second time I rode the ferry, I walked up to a machine, and it had 2 big flashing ferries on it. I thought that it looked rather strange. I then realized that the machine was out of order. I went to another machine, and it looked more normal. Although the machine was Japanese only, I felt pretty confident that I could muddle my way through the process. I remembered there being a 1 and a 2 on my first ticket (which I'm pretty sure was for 1 person, 2nd class), so I made the machine say 1 and 2. Hmm, it cost more than I remember. I went back a step and made it say 1 and 1. Yow! Then it really cost a lot! Well, I thought that perhaps the higher cost was due to tourism or something, so I went back to the 1 and 2. I put my money in, and 4 tickets came out. Well! That was unexpected! I just decided to try not to worry about it and just hope they let me on the ferry. Well, when the time came to get on el boat, I went through the check in line and they wanted to know where my child was. Oops. So that's what the 2 was for... They were actually really sweet and someone ran to give me my money for the child fare back. The next time I rode the ferry by myself, I was determined to work out the ticket machine, but I was kindly (and firmly) shuttled over to a ticket agent. I have to say, it's much easier to use a ticket agent!

I really do enjoy riding the ferry. My favorite place to be is on the deck outside. I will probably continue to ride there until it is too bitterly cold to sit outside. There are 2 reasons I like being outside. I love being outside and there are chairs. You can see some amazingly beautiful sights outside on the ferry and enjoy the fresh air (until someone starts smoking). Also, my Western bod has not adjusted to spending long amounts of time sitting on the floor yet (and when you are wearing a skirt, your sitting options are even more limited). The weather yesterday was absolutely perfect for riding the ferry. The way out was gorgeous blue skies and water, and warm sunshine. Ahhh, bliss! The way back was an amazing sunset over the distant mountains on one of the islands. Coming from the flat forest lands, it's really a different feeling to have the horizon so wide open and beautiful views in all directions (not that I don't love the forest - this is just different). I'm sure winter will be different, but I am soaking in and loving every minute of the gorgeous summer weather.

So far, every time I've arrived on an island, someone has picked me up to take me to school (method four). I've pretty much stopped trying to get into the drivers seat, so I'm making some progress there. I was supposed to walk to the last school, but I must have had a lost look on my face, because they decided to have someone come pick me up instead. ;-).

Well, that's enough rambling about myself for now. There are still many times where I am surprised to realize that I am in Japan! Every day really is an adventure!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hurray!!


...drumroll, please...

I now have internet at home! It's a beautiful thing! My wonderful co-workers set up the connection today - I have to say, Japanese instructions and an English computer make for an interesting
mix.

Some of you have expressed an interest in my sundress curtain. I'm going to post a picture, but I thought that you might like to see a picture of my apartment first. It's just a tiny little place, as you can see.








OK, maybe not! Wouldn't that be nice, though??? How about this one?











Wait, I even have a picture of the kitchen!!










All joking aside (nah, that wouldn't be any fun, would it?), I am pleased to present to you, gentle reader, my bathroom! Well, I suppose bath and shower room would be a more appropriate
name. That's really all that's in there, though. Well, if you
don't count the makeshift shower curtain. Starting the shower is pretty epic - there are actually several steps. Since I know you are burning with curiosity, I will tell them to you! Step 1, turn on the gas. Step 2, push down and turn the top left knob about 1/8 of a turn. Step 3, while continuing to hold down the knob, turn the crank a few times and
look for the pilot light. If there is no pilot light, repeat steps 2 and 3 until there is a pilot light. Step 4, release the knob. If the pilot light goes out, go back to step 2. Once the pilot light stays on by itself, go to step 5. Step 5, turn the knob to about 7:00 and push down on the lever to start the water. And there you go!



My life here is definitely an adventure. It's not always easy, but what adventure would be? By the way, I have been here one month as of today!

Adios for now! Tomorrow I'm going out to one of the islands, and I have some prepwork to do for class!