Archive for ‘family’

May 22, 2016

2015 Year-In-Review

Here is where I reflect on the past year and talk about highlights (or lowlights). I haven’t done this in a couple years and I say it’s high time I got back to it. Even if 2016 is nearly half over.

January

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November 24, 2013

New York City Mother-Daughter Adventure [Day 1-3]

(A very very very belated post about our trip to New York City. I will be back-dating these posts later.)

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I know I probably haven’t mentioned it to many people, I have wanted to go to New York City for some time now. My favorite story of NYC that my parents tell me is of how they and some friends went to see the Phantom of the Opera when it opened on Broadway. With Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford. They went to a super fancy restaurant and took a limousine! That must have been amazing fun.

During my time in Japan, Japanese people would look at me in confusion when I told them that I, as an American in her mid-20’s, had never been to the Big Apple. An American who had never been to New York City? Surely something was wrong with that!

I was due to return to the USA in July, so I began plotting an epic “Welcome Back to America!” trip for myself. At first I thought of doing a road trip and hitting up a bunch of the big-name east coast cities… But who was I kidding? I don’t like road trips. I much prefer to fly.

I thought about going by myself, but… that just didn’t sound like fun. I have traveled by myself before (2 weeks in Thailand/Singapore) and I don’t mind it. Sometimes I actually prefer to explore places by myself, but traveling with a friend is always fun and you’re never lonely. I decided to ask my mom, who managed to get a substitute for a few of her yoga classes that she teaches. We were on! My mom and I have traveled together before and I must say we make fabulous traveling companions.

I bought the tickets in March, so waiting until July was so torturous!

On July 4th, I touched down in Chicago, slept a bit, recovered a bit, and re-packed. Went to a wedding in Indiana, worked at a 4th of July festival for my parents’ restaurant…

Day 1: Monday, July 8th 

We were on our way to New York City on Monday, July 8th at 6:50am. It was my first time flying with JetBlue Airlines, a known budget airline. After reading a few reviews and looking at the prices, I thought to myself, "How bad could it be?" And it wasn’t bad. At all. Not even in the slightest! They gave us legitimate snacks and there was even free cable on the screens. My mom and I distracted ourselves with a HGTV "Love It Or List It" marathon, which helped to pass the time more quickly than I expected.

We touched down around 10am. It was a gorgeous day, the first of many gorgeous days! After a little mix-up with our bags (we had intended to do carry-on only, but the overhead bins had filled up by the time we got on the plane), we got them from the carousel and were off to the trains.

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October 3, 2013

JET-ting Off: The Epic Conclusion to My 2 Years in Japan

Note 1: Maybe it’s not actually epic, but it was pretty momentous to me.

Note 2: I have been meaning to write this post for months, so I am aware it is very very very late! Sorry about that!

In February 2013 I made the choice NOT to re-new my contract (which ended in July). I was loved at my job and in my little circle of friends, but I also felt homesick. The long winters and short summers of Aomori had worn on me. I missed family and friends back home in Texas. I also felt the need to get back on some sort of a career path, because teaching English/ESL was never my true career goal. Two years on the JET Program felt right. I signed the paperwork with my intent not to re-contract and that was that. Another chapter of my life had been signed and closed. All I had to do was enjoy the last five months in Japan.

The actual leaving preparations and goodbyes took about a month. Slow at first, and then fast & furious at the end. It’s enough to make your head spin and I don’t think I will be doing another international move for a very long time.

I thought I’d write about some of the things I did before leaving Japan.

 

I started teaching an English conversation class in the evenings. Three elementary school teachers came up to me and asked if we could have "English Conversation Time" together at a local coffeeshop. Of course I said yes. I liked all of the ladies a lot. We met three or four times and had a lot of fun together, talking about different subjects. One teacher bought me my first soy latte, which tasted pretty disgusting. I couldn’t even finish the whole thing, although I tried to drink as much as possible to be polite. :P They gave me a really nice send-off when I left.

 

Nishimeya Sports Festival [Sunday, May 26]

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I attended my first and last Sports Festival at my favorite junior high school. This is significant because of my position as a one-shot ALT with 12 different schools. When you have so many schools, you don’t have a "home base" and often don’t receive invitations to special school events like culture and sports festivals. I’d never been to one of my schools’ sports festivals in the two years I’d been there. I rode with a Japanese teacher (JTE) and watched my kids run relay races, do tug-o-war, and other events. I loved that day’s weather. I still remember it clearly because the weather was amazing. It was almost warm enough to wear a short-sleeved shirt (for me).

 

Lecture at the Office [Monday, June 27]
For an entire year and a half my co-workers have been saying that they want me to give them a lecture on something/teach them something. They were just so busy or something that it never got scheduled… It’s true, everyone was so busy and stretched so thin with school visits that it was rare that everyone was in the office at the same time. Well, finally… at the 11th hour… they scheduled me to teach them… something. I decided to make 45 minutes of the 1-hour lecture about conversational English. The last 15 minutes would be a slideshow of my 2 years in Hirosaki, the highlights. I figured they would be pretty interested about how foreigners live in their little city. The turnout for my lecture was pretty awesome. Almost everyone squeezed into the director’s office to hear me speak and I held their interest for an entire hour.

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February 6, 2013

January Gone

– 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.

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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.

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The “Holizon”

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August 13, 2012

Come Back To Texas

IMG_1821   stacytexas

Here is my post about my trip to Austin, Texas. I was there from July 11th to July 26th. It was an awesome trip, like a dream.

This post isn’t well-written or anything… It’s mostly just an account of what I did in Austin, plus pictures. Lots of day-to-day things that make me happy.

And beware, this is VERY long.

I began this blog entry by writing in a notebook on the flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Tokyo Narita:

On the plane again. I think this is the first time that I havent been excited to go to Japan. I feel nervous. Sad. Worried. Anxious. Having Sam there in the mornings and evenings really helped. But now I go back to my life and job in Japan. One more year. I can do it. One more year to have more great experiences in Japan.

Being home in Texas was like being the old me again. I got mysummer skinback (my sun-tanned skin). I just feltFree. It kind of fortified my desire to live in Austin again. I need to work hard to get into the University of Texas. I need to give it my all. Good luck, me. 頑張って。

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May 25, 2012

Kyoto Spring 2012: Day 4, Kyomizu, Kinkaku, Bicycles

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Tuesday, May 2, 2012

Aunt Jan and I left the guesthouse around 9:30am via… bicycle. Despite the fact that she had not ridden a bicycle with any regularity for 10 years (am I remembering that right?), I wanted to try it. I had always wanted to bicycle in Kyoto! I have my bike here in Hirosaki and even though it is a simple 1-speed bike, I feel free whenever I ride it. I was convinced that it would be faster to get places if we rented bikes, so Aunt Jan relented.

We started off slow and made our way to Kyomizu-dera (清水寺, Kyomizu Temple). We mistakenly walked our bikes all the way up the hill and then asked where the bicycle parking was once we got to the top. It turned out that there was no designated bicycle parking near the temple complex, but the guard told me where to stash our bikes (off to the side near some public bathrooms in the shade).

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As we were walking up to the temple, we noticed a procession of workers and monks carrying a huge THING wrapped in white sheet-like cloth. TV cameras, crew, reporters, the whole nine yards. Apparently it was a new buddha statue that was being installed in one of the halls. It was a bit of a mess, so it was probably a good thing that we did not enter at that time.

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Instead… I suggested we go down the road a bit and look at shops. I was actually feeling a little hungry from our bike ride and was craving some mochi samples. If you ever want to sample some famous Kyoto Yatsuhashi, Kyomizu Temple is the place to go. There is this one particular shop not far down from the temple that will give you a cup of tea and beckon you inside to try every single thing they sell. And I did. Multiple times. Ahem.

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May 19, 2012

Kyoto Spring 2012, Day 3, Fushimi-inari, Uji

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Monday, April 30, 2012

For this trip, both my aunt and I prepared for cooler weather because we had assumed that it would be spring. Well, it was spring in Aomori but definitely more like summer in Kyoto for those first couple days. It was a bit cooler on Day 3 in Kyoto, so I was able to wear one of the long-sleeve shirts I had brought.

We were both sore and tired from the first two days of walking all over tarnation, so we got to a later start in the morning. We walked from Yahata to Kyoto station and found the right train to go to Fushimi-inari Shrine.

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The first time I went to the Fushimi-inari Shrine, it was snowing. The white was a stark contrast against the thousands of red torii gates. It was a sight that just about took my breath away. I went again that summer and it was blazing hot. After walking around a while, my friend and I had taken solace inside a inari-zushi restaurant for inari-zushi and noodles.

This time, in spring, the temperature was nice. It was a little overcast, but that was a good thing since we were walking around. I even had to roll up my sleeves after climbing a bit. The shrine is at the base of a little mountain covered with torii gates, one after another.

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May 16, 2012

Kyoto Spring 2012, Day 2: Arashiyama, Obanzai

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Much to my surprise, I slept through the night on that futon at the Yahata Guesthouse. I think I woke up sometime around 6am. I never sleep in till 6am. I guess it was just a testament to how tired I was from the previous day’s travel. Aunt Jan was still sleeping, so I snuck downstairs as quietly as I could to get myself some breakfast.

We left Yahata around 8am and thought we might catch some of the action around Nishiki Market in the morning. Usually it would have been open and bustling around that time, but I remembered when we arrived that it was Sunday and a national holiday. Only a few shops were open and busy, so it was a bit of a letdown.

But we had bigger plans that day! We walked to the Nijo JR train station from Nishiki Market. Since my aunt had the magical JR rail pass, I wanted to make as much use of it as we could. So that meant using JR transportation as much as possible, which was not hard to do.

We took the train from Nijo station to Sagano-Arashiyama station. Arashiyama (嵐山) means “Storm Mountain” and is a district on the western outskirts of Tokyo. My roommate Asako took me there for the first time in 2008 and I fell in love with the area. My aunt had never been there before and I was anxious to go again, so it was a plan!

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May 12, 2012

Kyoto, Spring 2012: Days 0, 1

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The Golden Week is a collection of four national holidays within seven days. For many Japanese people, it is longest vacation period of the year. I have never traveled in Japan during Golden Week before, but I decided to take advantage of the national holidays and… my Aunt Jan came to visit! We had quite the adventure.

Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture: April 28-May 3
Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture: May 3-May 9

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March 27, 2012

Japan Firsts

I was reading the JET Programme Official Forums yesterday and someone posed the question:

What was your first experience with Japan?

Well…

When I was 6 years old, I hated the Narita Airport.

My family had gone back to America on “home leave” in 1994, the same summer that the Lion King came out in theatres. My mom took us (my siblings and I) to see it with my aunt and cousins. I soon became obsessed with Simba. I loved the movie so much and quickly became my favorite! While we were in the US, my mom bought me a Simba stuffed animal.

AAAAAmZqlV0AAAAAABqIwwIt was love at first sight for me. I had always slept with a blanket ever since I was born, but Simba and I soon became inseparable. Simba and blanket were my bedtime companions.

We flew back to Singapore and had a layover in Tokyo/Narita airport. Simba and blanket, of course, had to come on the planes with me. Carrying a blanket around was childish, but carrying a stuffed animal seemed okay. Before boarding our final flight to Singapore, I went to the bathroom, taking Simba with me. When I came back to the gate with my mother, they had already called us for boarding. So my family of five rushed to get in line.

When we landed in Singapore, I gathered my things and packed up my backpack. I looked everywhere for Simba, in the overhead bins, under the seats… but he was nowhere to be found. My mom said that I cried for about an hour.

Where did I last see him? In the women’s bathroom in Narita airport. I was so upset that I had lost something so special! But I was also a little angry upon imagining some Japanese child with my Simba. I imagined some cleaning lady finding him and taking him home to her child. I wanted to fly right back to Tokyo to get him, but… sadly, that was impossible. (I now know that the staff in Narita probably must have taken him to their Lost and Found, where he must have lived a sad, childless life… Sniff-sniff.)

They didn’t have those exact stuffed animals in Singapore at the time, so I couldn’t get a replacement. But, life went on until… My amah Maryflor took her winter vacation and went to Australia. She found that exact stuffed animal and brought him home for me! I was absolutely overjoyed. I think I still remember the moment in the kitchen when she came home and presented Simba the Second to me.

Every time I thought about Japan after that, I remembered my poor stuffed animal lonely in the women’s bathroom. When I returned to Japan by myself in 2005, I got off the plane and went to the restroom to brush my teeth. To this day, Narita Airport will always remind me of The Lion King.

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My sophomore year roommate Asako snapped this shot of me while I was taking a nap.
To this day I am most comfortable sleeping while hugging something.

But other than that, what were my first real encounters with Japan and Japanese culture?

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