- Where did January go? I’m actually not too sad to see it go, because I am still waiting on graduate school admission results. Those will come at the end of February or beginning of March, so I hope February is a short month. I mean, February is already short because of the number of days, but I hope it feels short as well.
- It was hard to get back in the "swing of things" after coming back from Italy. I do seem to have a hard time with transitions. It was cold, there was snow everywhere, my house was messy, and I had a weird lingering jet lag that caused me to not get sleepy until after midnight and then struggle to wake up in the morning. I usually *always* wake up before my alarm.
- I was back to normal after a couple weeks and started back up with yoga with my mom on Wednesday and Friday mornings at 6am. It’s been really good for me emotionally and physically. She has been teaching me via Skype and it has been wonderful. I finally feel like I am making some progress and getting pretty good at a few things. I hope I can make this a regular thing for me. I just have to remember to go to bed early the night before.
- I went skiing in Owani with my co-workers again this year for our annual “ski school” that my office puts on for district teachers.
It is for teachers to learn how to ski, the techniques of skiing, and how to teach skiing to kids (I think). It wasn’t as fun as last year because I was miserably cold and skied alone for a bunch of the time.
- I started teaching again on January 22nd. This is one of my bus stops (and yes, the snow is that high):
It had been a full month since my last class because of school holidays. So far I’ve been at schools every single day, junior high and elementary. It’s a bit exhausting, but better than sitting in the office all day. Well… I take that back. I would like to have at least one office day per week so i can catch up on paperwork and prepare for classes. It would be nice if this day was a Monday. Maybe I’ll talk to my supervisor about that…since he does all the scheduling. It would just make things easier and give me more time to properly prepare activities for class.
- On January 20th, I went to my friend Kiyomi’s house to taking a cooking lesson from her. There was one other lady in the class. The three of us made amazake Japanese curry and it was SO delicious. Kiyomi even won a curry competition with that curry. I made an Evernote of the recipe and will be making it for people when I get back to the States. We also made "ebi-fry" (shrimp tempura) out of carrots. Don’t they look like read shrimp?!
- I had three Christmases this year.
Number One: Italy. Enough said.
Number Two: Sharpe Family Christmas
On Saturday, January 5th, we got together in the evening and Kyle made french toast and cheesy eggs. I just had french toast and fruit, since I don’t eat cheese. It was the first time for me to have french toast in… 8 years? Something like that. It was yummy.
After that we went around and opened up presents. I am notoriously hard to buy for, but I loved all my gifts that I got from Tori, Kyle, and Kimberly. I got mustard, chipotle Tabasco sauce, a Supernatural book (John Winchester’s diary), and a pair of wind-proof gloves. A good haul!
I gave Kyle a snowboarding sticker and some money for new clothes, Tori a cute teacup/mug and a bunch of Aomori food goodies, and Kimberly a Rilakkuma bear piggy bank and 3 pairs of cute character socks. I thought there was one other thing, but I can’t remember it now.
Our Christmas was small and cute. Perfect.
Number Three: Hirosaki Family Christmas
The following day, we had our Hirosaki Family Secret Santa Gift Exchange. This group was comprised of myself, Tori, Kyle, Kimberly, Travis, Evan, Shaheen, and Theresa. Travis’ girlfriend was in town visiting too.
We did a White Elephant with things from our houses first, drawing numbers to see who got to pick first. Travis got my collection of little bags and I got Travis’ Year of the Snake soap. The hilarious thing was that for my first present draw, I had chosen and opened Kimberly’s huge Costco sized bag of beef jerky. I, the only vegetarian, had chosen that particular one. Everyone got a good laugh out of it. Someone graciously stole that gift from me and I was able to choose another.
After that, we did our Secret Santa (with 2,000 yen limits)… which was super fun! I got a bunch of cool stuff from Thailand from Shaheen and I got Shaheen a nice grey scarf from United Colors of Benetton in Italy. We had both drawn each other! Then, Tori had stockings for all of us. <3 The others played Settlers of Catan while we watched A Christmas Story.
I had fun playing with Kimberly’s Thor bobblehead.
- It probably is the same in the US, but the flu is really rampant here. It is kind of a big deal. I think it spreads especially fast here in Japan because the population density is so high and everyone is in close quarters. At one of my junior high schools, the kids are dropping like flies. There was at least one new case every day I was there. I’ve never had the flu, but it sounds awful. I really don’t want to get sick this year.
Last night (Tuesday), Tori texted me to ask if I would go with her to the doctor. She had a rising fever. When it got over 100, we decided to go. We went to my clinic that I always go to (my supervisor has taken me there twice now) and it was really empty, so we were in and out pretty fast. It was just before closing. They tested Tori for influenza, and sure enough, she had Influenza A (the most common). The doctors gave her a bunch of medicine for the fever and nasal symptoms and told her to not leave her house for 5 days. Crazy, huh? Now Kimberly is sick and I went to the doctor with her this evening. The result was no flu (yet), but fever and body aches.
- My mom mailed me my sister’s kindle fire since my sister never uses it. I have read more books in the past month than I have in the past 3-4 years. I have all these e-books just cued up to read… I don’t really have access to the English-language books I would want to read here in Aomori, so I’ve been reading on the kindle and my iPhone. I used to be a ferocious reader back in the day, but once I got to college… I just stopped reading for fun. I am hoping to make a come-back, because reading is awesome.
- And so… life goes on. My friends are sick, so it is best that I keep my distance for a few days… As sad as that is. I have so many school visits scheduled in the next few weeks that I can’t really afford to get sick. There are some things I am looking forward to this month, mainly the Aomori AJET Masquerade Ball. It will be held in Aomori City at Hotel Aomori and will be a fancy event with dinner for 30-40 JETs and friends. Exciting, right?
- Oh, and one more thing: This winter seems milder than last winter. And honestly, the snow hasn’t been that bad. For that, I am extremely grateful. It gives me hope, the feeling that "Yes, I can make it through another winter! I can do it!" My new coat has been keeping me very warm and my new tall boots keep my feet dry. The weather has been manageable and I am hanging in there, despite my very poor circulation in my hands and feet.
The only bad thing is that my chilblains are back. Chilblains are “a tissue injury that occurs when a predisposed individual is exposed to cold and humidity.” Cold and humidity, which is pretty much Aomori in a nutshell. “The cold exposure damages capillary beds in the skin, which in turn can cause redness, itching, blisters, and inflammation.” I started getting them last January and they are quite uncomfortable when they get bad.
Here is what my right foot looked like last week (I need a pedicure, please don’t mind my messy nails):
On any given day, a few particular toes (not all of them) will be swollen, itchy, red, or purple. It’s just something I have to deal with during the winter here. Some days are better than others, so that’s good. But isn’t it gross??