I’m a little late with this post this year, many apologies!
On the whole, 2012 was not an easy year. I learned a lot and experienced a lot. There were highs and there were lows; and I am ever-so-grateful for the people who were there to share in the highs and catch me in the lows. I couldn’t have done it without you.
I am proud of what I have achieved last year and am very much looking forward to what 2013 has in store.
And now without further ado, I bring you… 2012:
I became a grown-up and bought my first couch. My first significant piece of furniture! It was a floor model from Nitori and I fell in love with it immediately, mostly because it reminded me of my parents’ Pottery Barn couch in the States. It set me back 40,000 yen, but it was oh-so-worth it. This couch has now become my command station and is a great extra bed when guests come. Look! It even has a chaise thing!
Other notable happenings: Skied in Aomori for the first time. Also did tea ceremony in full kimono.
Strangely, I can’t remember too much about this month.
On February 14th, I took part in a Japanese office custom: Obligatory Chocolate. The three other office girls and I pitched in to buy chocolates for all the men on Valentine’s Day. It was not optional. Girls don’t get chocolates or flowers on Valentine’s Day in Japan (they get them on White Day, March 14th).
Because I don’t have a picture of my office’s Valentine’s Day gifts to the men, here is a stock photo of what it might look like: (imagine me giving chocolate to men old enough to be my father in suits.)
Oh, I remember why this month seems like a blur… I was sick! Darn those little germ gremlins…
But the good thing is that I finally got a haircut. My bangs returned!
I saw a frozen waterfall. [Here’s the blog post]
Other notable happenings: I received sweets on White Day, made friends with some of the younger teachers at one of my elementary schools, and attended my first junior high school graduation.
On April 28th, my Aunt Jan and I reunited! We met each other in Kyoto Station, after I stood nervously outside the Kyoto Tourist’s Information Center for a while. (It was our meeting place and it is always tricky meeting up without cell phones these days.)
But she appeared and there we were, the two travelers together in Japan!
It was an amazing feeling. But you know, even though I was still in Japan, I felt like Aunt Jan brought a piece of home to me. It was that comforting feeling that only comes with being in the company of someone who has known you your whole life.
Needless to say, we both had an amazing adventure in Kyoto and I enjoyed being able to show her my new home in Hirosaki.
Here are the blog posts:
Kyoto, Spring 2012: Days 0, 1
Kyoto Spring 2012, Day 2: Arashiyama, Obanzai
Kyoto Spring 2012, Day 3, Fushimi-inari, Uji
Kyoto Spring 2012: Day 4, Kyomizu, Kinkaku, Bicycles
Kyoto Spring 2012: Day 5, Uzuki Cooking Class
Other notable firsts: I saw the snow corridor on Mount Hakkoda:
It FINALLY started to get actually warm. Words cannot express how happy I was that the snow country had finally begun to thaw. I mean, look at this. Look how happy I am to be outside in just a shirt and sweater. And the sun is shining!
In May, the cherry blossoms came and went.
Aunt Jan was still with me when the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival was going on, so we went together. I introduced her to my awesome friends:
I struggled this month, with trying to stay healthy in heart, mind, and body. Nevertheless, I still managed to get myself out of my house to do some pretty awesome things.
The Hirosaki Yosakoi Festival was an amazing sight. Huge flags and dancers everywhere…
Oh, and I also managed to go clubbing with my friends until the wee hours of the morning. See, I can dress up once every blue moon…
After a year in Japan, I went home to Austin, the home of my heart. I’ve had many homes over the years, but none have stuck with me as much as Austin. The flight was long, but I knew who would be there to welcome me with open arms.
I stayed with Sam at her place and had an awesome time living it up in Austin again. I was allowed to drive her car, I reinstated my gym membership for the two weeks, I ate deep-dish pizza for the first time in my life, I visited my first vegan ice cream parlour, I saw friends who feel more like family (♥), I went to the most beautiful wedding, I got an awesome tan at Texas’ biggest waterpark, I took the GRE and got a decent score, I saw my old orthodontist and got Invisalign, I went to all my favorite restaurants, I saw the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises… How ever did I manage to fit all that into two weeks?
Here’s the blog post: [Come Back To Texas]
Other notable happenings: I went to Sendai to visit a friend!
I took a road trip with Tori and Kimberly up to Mutsu to visit a friend. [Here’s the blog post] It was such an amazing weekend, exactly the escape I needed. Friends, sun, cool clear water… It was, easily, one of my favorite weekends I’ve spent here in Aomori so far.
Other notable happenings: I attended my last Hirosaki Neputa Festival, Aomori Nebuta Festival, and Goshogawara Tachinebuta Festival. I also took another road trip with Tori and the gang to Akita Prefecture to see a huge fireworks festival. August is Festival Month in Japan.
At the end of the month, Zandra and her two friends came up to visit Aomori from Tokushima! They stayed with me in my apartment. Zandra and I have known each other since middle school and we even studied abroad in Tokyo the same year. I loved getting to see a familiar face and catch up with her. Plus, she and her friends loved Hirosaki.
I turned 25! I became a quarter of a century old! My office gave me a birthday card and my friends helped make the day special.
And here is my birthday purikura (a couple days late, Sept. 20th):
But some other important things happened in September… Like when my girls from one of my rural junior high schools placing well in the regional speech contest. In the original speech category, H placed second. In the recitation category, K and R placed 1st and 2nd, respectively. It was my proudest day as a teacher to date. (H went on to later win the prefectural contest and was eligible to compete in the national contest in Tokyo.)
I also walked as a model in my first fashion show for the local design school. It was a long, hot day and I had 3 outfits to get in and out of, but I’m glad I did it. One of my friends from Owani came to watch me and gave me flowers afterward. Here I am in one of my outfits:
Last but not least, I SWAM under a waterfall and jumped off cliffs!!
Looking back on August and September… I know they were hard months emotionally (especially after adjusting back to life in Japan post-vacation to Austin), but as these pictures show, I still did a lot of AMAZING things with my friends here. Thank you, guys.
I ran my second 10k… and improved my time by a full minute! My time for a 10k is now 53:03… without serious training. Go me! The thing I remember most about the race is that I went out too fast and just tried to hold on until the end… And then at the end I saw my student (the one who won the speech contest) cheering me on. Seeing here there gave me the strength to finish…
Here is me at the finish line:
Here is our team of foreigners!
We are the champions!
(Note the guy next to me wearing the burnt orange Longhorns shirt… He is a new JET this year, from AUSTIN too! Yay!)
November was a busy month. I taught a lot. Work-wise, we Aomori JETs had the annual Skill Development Conference (SDC) in Aomori City. Kimberly and I stayed at our friend Jen’s house overnight for the two-day conference. I got a lot more out of the conference this year and it was overall a good experience.
I also walked in my second ever fashion show, held at a department store downtown. It was the graduating design school seniors’ final show and quite a production! I loved my denim kimono that I got to wear. Plus I kinda like having people do my hair and makeup…because it’s a hassle to do by myself! …I’ll also be getting a dvd of the show later, so I’m excited to see that.
What an action-packed month.
My office’s end-of-the-year party was on Friday the 14th, at the same place as the previous year. I had a blast, as I expected. My office knows how to party it up!
I also attended my first real grown-up Ugly Sweater Christmas party at a friend’s bar in town. There were a ton of JETs and Japanese people there. I dressed up in heels, skinny jeans, and a Santa hat. We had a White Elephant gift exchange (with 20-odd people) and everything. It was awesome.
I certainly ended this year with a bang, didn’t I?
Bring on 2013!