Day 16: A Career Change? Well, no.

I think I’m just going to go ahead and say it’s pretty unlikely I’ll ever be able to write a blog post on a Saturday, so maybe I won’t be too down about missing another day. But on the bright side I’m half way through my 30 days!

Today while doing dishes and cleaning my kitchen I listened to more of My Dad Wrote a Porno. For anyone not familiar with this podcast, a guy and his two friends read a rather poorly written erotic novel that he discovered his dad had published under a pen name. I rarely laugh out loud at media while alone in my apartment, but I had to stop washing a pan because I was laughing so hard that water was splashing around.

As I was listening I found myself wishing I had something as entertaining to share with the world because I think I could do well with humorous readings. In college I sometimes held dramatic readings of fanfiction classic My Immortal for my friends, and I wish I could share similar experiences with more people.

I’m always looking for more creative projects to get involved with. I do someday want to be involved with something like a podcast or youtube series, I just haven’t found the time or right idea yet.

If you have some quality content you want me to read on the internet please let me know. I’m here and can lend you my flight attendant voice.

In other news thank you to everyone who has taken the time recently to let me know you’re reading my blog posts. I really appreciate it!

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Day 15: Gross Sacks of Fluid

Today was probably the trade-off for having such a good Wednesday.

I’ll start from the beginning. I’m going to talk about gross foot injuries, so you’ve been warned.

I walk a lot. My feet have thick calluses on the bottom from my 5+ miles a day of walking. It’s gross probably, but it’s much better than the pain of weak skin. And yet despite my strong-ass foot skin, I still often get little blisters. The problem is when I get little blisters under my strong-ass foot skin, the skin is too strong for the blister to get to the surface so it just stays there, trapped.

Today it was raining and so I had to wear my rain boots because I am sick and tired of wet shoes. I was also running very late, probably because of the rain, so I had to seriously hustle to get myself to work on time.

I did manage to make it into the office just as the clock changed to 8:20 (when the morning meeting begins), but I also managed to sprout a bloody blister on my foot that was probably about 3.5 inches around and made it very difficult to walk. When I sat down to have a look at what was causing so much pain, I could actually see, and feel, the blood sloshing around in the bubble underneath layers of my skin.

Hope you weren’t eating.

I also forgot to bring my phone charger. I realize that this shouldn’t be a big issue because I should be working and not on my phone, and in all honesty I did do a lot of work today, but also today the US launched missiles at Syria and not being able to keep up on the latest developments because my battery was rapidly dying was very stressful.

Also it was raining and if you’ve ever read my blog before you know how I feel about that.

So it was just not the best day. On my way home from work I had to do the same walk. Even walking slowly and carefully limping the whole way back, it was a very painful journey. Near the end of my walk home I noticed it was suddenly a lot easier to step on my foot. Turns out the blister finally burst. It was gross. It still is gross. Human bodies are gross. We’re all just gross sacks of fluid.

But then! Tonight at choir practice we starting singing Seasons of Love, which I’m always ready to sing. The English is difficult for many members of the choir, but I’m loving it. I also am getting a chance to sing Collins’ solo, which is very nice considering I already have a pretty sizable solo in our other song this month.

So singing Seasons of Love with my choir friends totally turned my day around and now I’m ready to sleep and pretend it isn’t so humid outside.

Day 14: New Term, New Me

Things are starting to pick up here at work. Today we had our ceremony officially welcoming our new teachers and beginning the spring term. We heard speeches from out new principal and vice-principal, and the 2nd and 3rd year students got to find out which teachers are in charge of their clubs and classes this year.

Tomorrow we will be welcoming our new class of 1st year students to the school in a special ceremony, and they will be meeting the students who will share their class for the next year.

This term is an exciting time for me. This week I was given a cleaning job: the second floor girls bathroom. This may not sound as thrilling as it is, but supervising a team of 5 girls scrubbing toilets is the most responsibility I have been given in a year and a half working at this school. I felt almost like a real adult with a real job as I supervised the heck out of that toilet scrubbing. I even told two girls to go back and clean something again!

Wow, such power.

As a side note, the other teachers were very surprised when I agreed to supervise bathroom cleaning. I think the teachers here have no idea what I’ve had to clean to earn a paycheck before. Diapers left open on the floor and puke in the carpet at the movie theatre, anyone?

I think having a cleaning supervision job is really important at my school. Not only is cleaning time something the entire school does (apart from me before now) but it gives the students a chance to see me as more than the strange foreigner who comes to class once every two weeks and forces them to speak English. This gives the students and the teachers a chance to see me as more a part of the school community.

Actually since my leaving teacher gave me a shout-out at the leaving party last week, I’ve noticed many teachers making more of an effort to include me and treat me as a welcomed part of the team. It’s been a great feeling to have people asking me questions and starting conversations. Even if I’m not necessarily very welcomed in my own department, it’s nice to have teachers from other departments making an effort.

My hope is that my last term here is my best. I would like to leave this high school on a positive note. I think it would be good for me personally, good for my school, and even good for my successor to have a position to fill that is seen in a positive way. This term will be my busiest yet, but I am looking forward to getting back to having work to do, even if it means less time for reading and blogging at work. I think having a more normal workload will also help me transition back into being busy for my next adventure, too.

I don’t want to have unreasonable expectations. I’m not sure at all what this term will hold for me, but for now I’m going to hold on to the hope that it will be a time of positive interaction with the people at my work, meaningful classes with my students, and a resulting general increase in my sense of worth in my place of employment. Hopefully these aren’t unfounded hopes!

And hey, at the very least I’ll have the scheduled bathroom cleaning to look forward to.

Day 13: A Good Day

Today was a good day. I had planned a much longer post for today, but today was a good day and I drank some wine and now I’m ready to go to sleep. And you know what? Today was a good day so I’m just going to go ahead and go to sleep because I deserve it.

This morning I woke up to find that finally after 13 months of ~life style changes~ I made my weight loss goal of losing 50 lbs. I’ve been within 1 or 2 pounds of my goal for quite some time, and so today when the scale finally said I was below it I was a little bit confused by what the numbers even meant. I’m sure that I’ll be back up above my goal tomorrow, but you can expect some longer thoughts on losing 50 lbs soon because I have… a lot.

After that I thought my day might be terrible because they changed my account on the school network and I lost all of my lesson plans, but surprise! They found them. Still a good day.

Then this afternoon I stood up for myself and the value I see in my classes at the scheduling meeting and not only were the classes they were going to cut not cut, but I have three additional classes added to my schedule this term.

So it was a good day. I should have something more profound to say about it, but it is still a Wednesday, so before Wednesday can do something to mess it up (as Wednesday always does) I’m going to go to sleep.

Day 12: A Confession

I have a confession: I love cheap romance novels.

This is a secret obsession I have inherited from my mom and that I have to keep secret and separate from my study of more serious literature, but I have decided to share this with you all today.

There is just so much to like about cheap romance novels. I think of them as low-engagement fanfictions because you get all the fun of reading fanfiction without the involvement in the fandom and any disagreements with the author’s characterization (see: me yelling at my computer “Draco would never say that!”). You can get all the same tropes as fanfic–friends to lovers, enemies to lovers, magical tattoos (probably)–but they don’t carry the same overused feeling as, say, a Merlin coffee shop AU.

(Let’s be real I’ll still read all the Merlin coffee shop AUs.)

In a cheap romance novel you can enjoy the ridiculous set-up and often ridiculous conflict with the comfortable knowledge that in the end everyone will be loved and happy. There is some comfort in that. I also secretly take a lot of comfort in the idea that no matter what your glaring character flaws might be, there is someone who will love you.

I am very cynical about my own love life, but my cynical exterior is covering a milk chocolately center that will quickly melt for any sappy love story. Cheap romance novels allow me to soften my gooey center without anyone knowing that my gooey center exists.

I know that most of the time the cheap romance novels are not well-written. Hell, most of the time they aren’t even good stories, but at the end of the day I think romance novels are there to remind us that even in a world full of terrible things, there is 1) always someone more dramatic than you, and 2) always someone who will love you.

 

(Whether or not #2 is true is a subject for another blog post where you will be able to see my cycnical hard candy coating.)

Day 11: Rest

Today is the end of my four day spring vacation. It’s sad having to go back to desk warming, even if things should hopefully be getting more involved soon with planning for the new year. Even so I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to just be my own person for a weekend.

I don’t know what made me so tired last week. I was feeling like maybe my medications were out of whack or maybe it was just the stress of having no work finally getting to me, but either way by Friday I was barely staying awake through the day (and in fact fell asleep and made my friend wait for me for 15 minutes until her calls finally woke me up).  By the time Saturday rolled around I wanted nothing more than to rest.

So that’s what I did. I spent the entire day at home in bed watching shows I’ve been meaning to watch. This weekend I finished Iron Fist, watched the second season of Outlander, and the second season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It was exactly what I needed to do with my time.

In addition to the excessive Netflix binge I washed dishes, did two loads of laundry, aired out my futon, cleaned the shower and the toilet, went grocery shopping, and pre-made lunches for this week. It wasn’t an entirely lazy weekend, but I definitely needed all 3 days of downtime to get everything done.

The change in weather is going to give me a constant headache for the next…who knows, but I’m now feeling much more human and much better prepared to begin my last term of teaching here in Japan. Sometimes, especially when living in another country, all you need is some time to rest.

Day Ten: Music is International

It finally happened: I missed two days of my blogging challenge. It was inevitable, but I was hoping to get a little bit further into the challenge. I just became overwhelmingly tired and was very busy on Friday and very lazy on Saturday as a result and now it’s Sunday night and here I am.

On Friday I went with my friend Kozue and members of our gospel choir to a local day service to share music with the elderly patients who spend their days in the care of the facility. Kozue and I have played at two day services before now, but this was our first time including so many other people.

Kozue studied piano in college and is quite talented. I have played trombone casually since I was 11, and though I’m very out of practice I do still really enjoy playing. Playing music with people who speak a different language is very interesting. We may not have the same words for everything, but we can look at the notes on the page and produce the same results. When we can then take those results and create music that brings joy to elderly people spending their days in a home it’s a wonderful feeling.

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You can tell this photo was fake by how I’m holding the trombone.

We play many folk songs as well as a few other fun songs thrown in. We play a jazz version of 上を向いて歩こう (known as Sukiyaki in English because it was easier to say) as an encore that has improv sections for both of us and is a really fun way to end a show.

I enjoy being able to bring music to rooms of strangers in Japan. Part of my job here as I see it is promoting the internationalization of the community, and by sharing music together I feel that I am removing some of the barriers that exist between us. When we sing together, or share in the creation of the same piece of music, we are sharing something that cannot be replicated and cannot be created in any other way. I love sharing music with my students as a way to learn English, but I love creating music together even more because it teaches more than just language–it shows our shared connection through the very human experience of music.

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This action shot from an actual flip phone. 

Finding ways to create music with friends has made my second year in Japan a much more meaningful experience than my first. Joining the choir and volunteering with Kozue will surely be some of my greatest memories from my time here. Music will always be a part of my life. That was a commitment I made early in life and solidified by my commitment as a sister of Tau Beta Sigma. I hope that wherever I end up and whatever I end up doing there will always be a place with people for me to create music with because there is nothing else that can compare to the experience.

Day Nine: Goodbyes

It’s the time for goodbyes in Japanese schools. Today we said farewell to the 13 teachers and office staff who are being transferred to other schools or retiring this year. This included our principal, vice-principal, and the two most senior office workers, so next year is going to be an interesting time.

I also said goodbye to two of the English teachers who have been most influential on my time in Japan. Of all teachers, these two always took a concern in my well-being and overall adjustment to living in Japan, and were always there to stick up for me and the importance of my lessons.

One teacher in particular has been my friend and mentor over the last year. I learned so much from our conversations together, just as I hope he did. We talked about everything from movies and TV shows to the effects of poverty, what it’s like growing up without a dad, religion, race, and sexuality. Everything was up for discussion, and those discussions will be some of my favorite memories of my time here.

In his goodbye speech tonight this teacher took the time to tell everyone that he thought I was intelligent and a good teacher. This meant so much to me, not only because receiving public recognition from a mentor is a good feeling, but it felt especially meaningful in light of the recent cutting of my schedule for next year.

I think it will be more challenging to make it through my remaining months at work without my friend and fellow gossip, but I will always have the memory of his compliment and know that he believes in my ability to be a good educator, and that’s no small thing.

-Annamarie

P.S. If for some reason I didn’t understand a subject change in his speech and he didn’t actually compliment me please don’t tell me.

Day Eight: Cycles

Life is full of cycles. People who menstruate are probably most aware of how cycles affect our lives, even if like me the cycle is medically induced. Our hormones cycle, the seasons, the beginning and end of sports season after sports season–some cycles are more apparent than others.

Facebook memories have allowed me to see more clearly some of the cycles in my own life. Apparently, around this time every year I get laryngitis and lose my voice. Just two days ago I noticed my voice was getting a little rough again. What is it about the coming of spring that takes my voice away, no matter what country I’m in?

The laryngitis cycle began, as far as I can tell, with the Great Laryngitis of 2012. At that time, what started as a simple case of laryngitis became an entire month of no speaking and nearly two months for my voice to return to full function, which put my grades in danger and permanently altered my voice. The permanent alteration to my voice brought me to an ENT, who in turn brought me to my first STD test when I got a letter from the ENT’s office saying that improper cleaning of his scopes may have exposed me to Hep. B, Hep. C, and HIV.

The Great Laryngitis of 2012 was an experience I will never forget.

Since The Great Laryngitis I’ve had a small bout of voice-loss every year at almost exactly the same time. In my Facebook memories this week I saw both the start of last years laryngitis and TGL of 2012.

I wonder what other cycles in my life I’m not so aware of. I know that, for example, I never want to cook dinner on Wednesday nights. Is that some sort of cycle or do I just hate Wednesdays?  What strange cycles in my life have I not noticed just because I don’t have the scope to see them or haven’t kept a record? I guess I’ll never know.

-Annamarie

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This post is day 8 of a 30 day blogging challenge.

Day Seven: Clinic

In Japan it is nearly impossible to get prescriptions for medications for longer than one month at a time. This is to make sure you are only getting medicine you need and that people aren’t abusing their prescriptions, but for someone who has been taking the same hormone and thyroid medications for six years it can feel like quite the unnecessary hassle.

Today was my monthly visit to the local English-speaking clinic. I am incredibly lucky to live two minutes from an English-speaking doctor, especially an English-speaking doctor who spends half his week teaching at Kyoto University. For the most part I can trust the advice he gives me, even if we sometimes have a little back and forth about my weight.

The way the clinic here works is a little bit different from the doctors offices I’m familiar with in the US, so I decided to write about that today.

Walking into the clinic, the first thing you have to do is sign in on the sheet and give them your card for the clinic if you already have one. The card is what they clip to your file and use to keep everything organized. They also can use it to give reminders back to you. For example, when I got my card back today it had a note stuck on it saying “You must see the doctor again next time” so that I don’t “forget” and try to convince them just to give me the prescriptions without talking to the doctor.

Not that I’ve ever done that.

After signing in you take your blood pressure yourself with a little machine and take the printed receipt back to the nurse. Eventually they call your name and you go up to the front of the waiting room and talk to the nurse about any symptoms you’re having. This is also the time they check your insurance information.

One thing that is very different from the US is all of this preliminary stuff is done in the waiting room with everyone else. It can be a little awkward, and a little cramped and germy during flu season, but it allows the building to be much smaller than US clinics and it keeps the process moving at a certain pace.

Around this time they usually call me back and take my weight. This is not done for everyone, but my doctor is ~concerned~ and checks my weight every month to see if there are any changes.

Eventually they have you move into a second waiting room outside the exam room. This room is, in my local clinic, just a hallway.

Soon enough you are in to see the doctor. Today we looked at my blood test results from last month. He told me he was concerned I gained 1kg (2lbs). I told him it’s perfectly normal for me to change 1kg up or down from day-to-day, let alone from month to month. I told him I feel like my hair is thinning. He told me that happens to most people when they come to Japan.

After meeting with the doctor it’s back out into the waiting room until you’re called up to pay and get your prescription. They also return your patient card to you at this time. The paper prescriptions can then be brought to any pharmacy, ideally along with your pharmacy booklet which shows the pharmacist what medications you have received from which pharmacies and when. (Although if you forget your pharmacy booklet they will still give you the medication after giving you a little bit of a hard time… not that I’ve even done that, either.)

While I am very lucky to have a pharmacy and an English-speaking doctor 200 yards from my house, I can’t say I will miss the need for monthly visits. Sometimes, especially during flu season, it can take up to 3 hours to get my prescription as there are no appointments, only walk-ins. On one hand it’s nice to have a monthly reassurance that I’m healthy, but really I’d rather same the time and money and get back in on that 3 month+ prescription action in the US.