Japan Day, Chez Rachemicah

After our harried brush with Mother Nature at the beginning of this Memorial Day weekend, we decided to take it easy for the rest of the weekend and we mostly succeeded. We did a few light chores, some visiting with family, some yoga, grocery shopping, and some cooking.

I think it was Micah who declared that JAPAN DAY at our house would be on Monday. This was decreed because will be teaching in Japan again this summer and he is going to come and visit again, yay! However, both of us need to brush up our Japanese culinary skills (for fun) and we desperately need to learn more Japanese (for enhanced communication opportunities and fewer awkward moments for everyone involved). It’s true that Americans can get by knowing very little Japanese in Japan, especially in the big cities, as most people speak English and most important signs are in English.  But a huge part of the fun of traveling to another country is being able to communicate with other people and not being able to do so can be frustrating, embarrassing, and unfulfilling. and  Both of us know very basic Japanese words and phrases and Micah’s food noun vocabulary far surpasses my own (someone was studying last summer!), but we want to be able to communicate with people as much as possible while in Japan.  So let’s Japan Day!

We started with a “morning set”, NW USA style: blueberry pancakes, fruit, coffee, and sausage.

The complete “morning set” was consumed before I could think to to take a picture of it, om nom!

After breakfast, we reviewed the last aural / oral Japanese lesson courtesy of Pimsleur.

For the midday meal, I made onigiri (rice balls with yummy stuff in the inside) with the help of this awesome blogger recipe.  Her onigiri is far more lovely than mine, but you have to start somewhere, right?

The filling for these onigiri was leftover from last night’s dinner: rosemary salmon with some balsamic aioli, another fusion of NW USA and Japanese cuisine.  It tasted like a yummy modified version of my favorite onigiri filling in Japan: tuna with mayo.  Or in kanji (according to Google Translate): マヨネーズとツナ

In between this meal and the other, Micah played some Diablo III, drank some whiskey, and I went to Zumba class with a friend.  Only one of those activities is Japanese, but video games and group fitness are enjoyed by folks all over the world, right?

The last meal of the day not only steals the show, it also freed up some much needed space in our fridge: leftover tonkatsu ramen broth from last December’s meat simmering festival.  Goons with Spoons hooked me up with this exquisite recipe, which I dare say makes some of the best ramen broth I’ve ever tasted.  Behold:

It tasted just as it did back in December: like velvety-meat heaven. (Thanks for the shinkansen chopsticks, Kat!)

After dinner, we listened to a new Pimsleur lesson, which made it pretty clear to us that instead of JAPAN MONDAYS that we should be studying Japanese every day of the week in order to have sufficient communication skills.  Heheheh.  But now we can say: “Shinjuku eki wa doko des ka?” (Where is is Shinjuku station?)  Too bad we already know how to find that place in Tokyo.  Let’s keep studying!

 

Brrrrrrr to Broasted: what not to do in the outdoors

Today, Micah and I had a fairly scary and intense brush with Mother Nature and her unforgiving power.  Without exaggerating unnecessarily with dramatic language, we both thought that there was real possibility that one or both of us could have died of hypothermia today, or at the very least suffer from limb extremity cellular damage.  Thankfully, neither of those things happened and we are counting our blessings and lucky stars.  We were fortunate to make it to the safety of our car in time before we drifted further than stage 1.5 of hypothermia.  Needless to say, even though we consider ourselves to be very experienced, cautious, and prepared outdoors people, we learned some very important lessons from today.  Want to hear about them?

(This picture of the US Forest Service map was taken when we got home.  Notice how soaked it is.)

Today was the first day of Memorial Day weekend and as we are wont to do, Micah and I were eager to get out of the house and into Big Nature.  Micah has always wanted to bike along the Old McKenzie Highway 242, which runs northwest / southeast between Highway 20 and Hwy 126 in the central Oregon Cascades. Map is here. The cyclists draw to riding this highway is that it’s open for 2-3 weeks a year exclusively for bikes; ODOT plows the road, allows the sun to clear the rest of it, and then it opens back up to cars sometime in June.  This highway is very scenic; winding up through the pass, through lava flows, and at the top is Dee Wright Observatory.  From the trail head where we parked, this ride would have been a 12 mile uphill switch back bike ride and then an easy coast / brake-squeezing ride back down. I didn’t take this picture, but I found it on Google image search:

Who wouldn’t love to experience that on a car-free highway?  It looks stunningly beautiful.  I hope we can see it some other day.

As we were prepping our bikes for the ride, a few riders came down the hill and said comments to the effect of: “there’s snow in the road, so your trip will be pretty short.”  We were disappointed to hear that, as the road was reported to be open, but since we had made it all the way up there, we decided to ride up a mile or so up the road anyway, just to see the snow.  About 10 minutes up, we got stuck in a rain shower and decided to hang out under a tree to wait out the majority of the rain while it past.  Our hands and toes were freezing, but we thought some more uphill riding would fix that, as soon as the rain stopped.  This was the first sign that we should have heeded to that we were unprepared; both of us had cold weather riding gear on, but neither of us had rain gear.  My bright yellow “don’t-hit-me” coat was somewhat “water resistant”, but not nearly as much as we needed for that day.

Since we were only 10 minutes up, and we decided to find out where the big scary snow drift was that was turning people away, the rain let up after about 10 minutes and we proceeded up the hill.  Our fingers and toes were freezing from the rain, but if you’ve ever ridden uphill in a bike, especially at high elevation, you expect that you’ll warm up pretty fast.  And warm up we did; as the sun came out, we got warmer and warmer and our toes and fingers finally defrosted a bit.  The snow drifts that people had warned us about either melted from the rain downpour or were navigable at slow speeds, so we kept on.  About 10 minutes later, we came up to a lovely vista to take a picture and eat some Clif Bars and Clif Bloks to reward ourselves for “toughing it out”.

(Sorry for the unflattering photo of you my love, but I was eager to warm my hands up more and yummy on down on some of that Clif Bar in your hands…)

We were delighted that it was sunny and also that the snow covering the road that was turning other people away was relatively easy to navigate with our skinny road bike tires.  We were riding slowly anyway going uphill, so there was no trouble in our minds.  Until we got to this giant snow plow and noticed that there was another rain squall on the way.

Oy rain.  After a failed attempt to break into the snow plow cab to stay warm, we rode a little further up the road, ditched our bikes, and hiked up to take rain shelter under a tree.

We were doing okay, but we were still not very warm, even under our tree shelter.  We thought: “if only this squall would pass and we could get back to our uphill-bike-riding-generate-body-heat plan”.  And that’s when thunder and lightning started.  If you have ever spent any time with Micah outdoors, you know that thunder and lightning is his kryptonite.  He is rationally / irrationally afraid of thunder and lightning and here we are, taking shelter under a tall fir tree.

We huddled and had fun with lichen to try to pass the miserable time away.

I suggested that we eat our sandwiches to stay warm and pass the time.

But it was ultimately very cold and uncomfortable.  A little bit romantic too, but only for me, who wasn’t trying to mentally battle a fear of being caught in an electric storm over a mountain pass summit.  Before we even finished our sandwiches, we decided that it was definitely time that we started our 4-5 mile decent downhill and back to the safety and warmth of our car.

This is the part of the trip where things got very hypothermically scary for us and where it finally hit home for us how unprepared we were for this bike trip.  Since we were both cold, we obviously wanted to get to our car as soon as possible, which was a 4-5 mile bike ride away, as seemingly close distance.  But this was easier said than done, when you consider that we were: a.) already wet, b.) didn’t have proper rain gear, c.) we had to navigate down the road somewhat carefully through those snow / slush patches in the road, d.) road biking downhill is creates a wind which is very cold and e.) the air temperature had dropped 30 degrees since we began our ride about an hour ago.  Less than halfway downhill, Micah stopped and reported that he was so cold.  He was not in a good mental place and it struck me exactly how cold he was and exactly how ill-prepared we were and what the implications were for both of us if we couldn’t warm up or couldn’t make it back to our car.  It also occurred to me that him being colder than me was a very unusual circumstance; yet another sign that we were in some real trouble.  We decided to switch jackets; I had an additional layer on underneath and my jacket was much more “water resistant” than his, which could be described as “light weight” at best.

Down we rode on the highway, Micah’s comfort increasing slightly, but my body temperature dropping now.  We both looked a little like this, but note how this smart gentleman in this picture (courtesty of Google IS) has a proper rain coat on?  He isn’t wearing gloves, but as we learned, gloves were useless in today’s rain.

We both flew down the hill, arms and hands freezing and aching from the cold.  Road bikes are not known for their comfortable brake location and Holy Mother of God it hurt so badly to brake.  At first we were riding at about 6-8 miles per hour down the hill.  But as we got lower, I began to get more scared that we would both become too cold and die of hypothermia on this closed-to-vehicles highway.  In between my hyperventilating (from panicking and also as a convenient body warmth creation mechanism), looking over my shoulder to make sure Micah was still behind me, and squeezing my brakes with my cold, numb, wet hands, I looked down at my odometer and we were flying down the hill at 19 miles per hour.  Definitely not a safe speed given all the circumstances.

We made it to the gate that closed the road to cars and then a minute later to our car and I almost cried with relief.  Micah fumbled the keys out of his bag and we both ditched our bikes outside and hopped in the car, out of the rain.  We stripped off our wet clothes, and put on dry clothes.  I remember the chin buckle on my helmet being almost impossible to operate and squeeze open with my nubby cold fingers.  Micah was uncontrollably shaking and he tells me that my lips were blue.  Micah turned on the car ignition and the heat up to full blast.  We hyperventilated and warmed our way back to sense of normalcy.  Now in dry clothes and in an enclosed, covered shelter, our core body temperatures came back up in good time, but our feet were still frozen.  Micah tried to put on his shoes to get the bikes back in the car and get on the road, but he couldn’t get his shoes over his frozen heels.  But our feet followed suit too and thawed out in about 20 minutes.  We were then enroute to our next part of our plan for the day: head over to Belknap Hot Springs for a mineral pool soak to warm up and sooth our exhausted bodies and minds.

Ahhhhhhh.  104 F degree water.

I don’t have photos from the hot mineral pool, but here is a lovely shot of the McKenzie River, from the Belknap Hot Springs Resort.  It’s one of my favorite places in Oregon.  The water is always that clear and beautiful year round, and also the source of Eugene’s drinking water.

Pink rhododendrons in full bloom!

Hooray, we’re still alive and we can take pictures together.  Heheh.  But really.

The day ended better than it could have with a much anticipated trip to Ike’s Broasted Chicken and Pizza.

This place is an iconic restaurant on Highway 126 that we always drove past and meant to stop at and never had.  Last winter, we read in the paper that it had closed and we were so sad because we never took the time to eat at this restaurant.  Then to our great fortune, it was purchased and reopened by a new owner.  We finally got to dine on “broasted” chicken (which I’m told is essentially chicken that is cooked in oil in a pressure cooker).

It tasted like greasy heaven and it was probably for the best that they are a week away from getting their liquor license.  Because as good as a beer sounded after a day like that, I probably would have passed out from exhaustion right there at the table.  We got home and tossed our wet biking clothes in the washer and they were wetter than any clothes that I have ever taken out of any washing machine after a spin cycle.  Lordy.

So several life lessons were gleaned from our experiences today as outdoor buddies and hopefully our notes can serve as a cautionary tale that fortunately ended well, but easily could have ended badly.

  • Never rely on the fact that both of you are generally outdoor savvy to prepare you for the outdoors.  Never.  Ever.  Seriously.  Check in with each other to make sure that you have all of the safety essentials that you need and go acquire the ones that you don’t have. We stupidly realized later that we didn’t bring some of the most basic essentials, like a first-aid kit.
  • Not all outdoor activities are created equally and thusly different gear is required for different activities.  I know this advice is from the school of NO DUH for most outdoor enthusiasts, including us, but do have an intelligent thought exchange about what gear might be needed for the particular activity you are engaging in.  Just having proper rain gear would have made today far more enjoyable and far less of a scary jaunt into the world of hypothermia.
  • Even if one if you is a weather forecasting enthusiast, you should always be sure to check the point forecast for the area where you are venturing out into Big Nature.  Again, NO DUH, right?  But just make the time to do it.  It doesn’t make you neurotic on a Friday night; it makes you smart and hopefully enables you to be more prepared.
  • Learn from your mistakes.
  • Eat at that iconic local restaurant; you never know when it might close.

It’s time to wind down from today with some TV watching, snuggling, beer consumption, and an early night to bed, thankful that tonight is a normal night and that we are lucky to have dodged a bullet.  Micah’s final thought: “it definitely gave me a new perspective on ‘cold’”.  I’ll say.

Way way back!

So we had some old backups from when I moved the site into hostmonster…..The steps to recovery went something like this:

1. Resurrect old file server that had stopped working 7 months ago that you had been putting off fixing
2. Repair broken linux md software RAID array
3. Update server to modern linux patches
4. Write backup scripts for hostmonster to download daily to repaired server
5. Bother wife to go through photos from 2003-2008 while 4000 miles away to make room for your new daily backups (Bad idea)
6. Find out you had plenty of unallocated space to backup the data all along
7. Discover your mysql database backup is from a version of wordpress not available since 2007
8. Hit head against computer for several hours trying to make the database format work anyway
9. Discover there are old version of wordpress still available that you could install and then recovery your database into for possible additional export methods.
10. Guess and check which wordpress database schema version the mysql backup might have come from
11. Guess wrong
12. Guess again
13. Guess wrong
14. Guess again
15. Guess right!
16. Export posts and comments from old wordpress blog
17. Reinstall current wordpress version since you screwed up your install trying hammer your square database backups into the newer round database hole.
18. Import old content from your export file that you created
19. Tweak blog settings (again)
20. Delete old wordpress version
21. Delete old databases
21. Post about your joy!

A Crummy Day

So on Thursday morning I woke up like most mornings and on my way out the door, checked my email for a message from my wife on oatmail.org.  The server was replying with a message indicating “invalid username or password.”  This was funny.  I don’t have any password expiration policies set on oatmail accounts.

All day on Thursday I was up in Portland at a vendor event, and I wasn’t able to look into the errors at all. When I got home to my house in Eugene I discovered that all of our data had been deleted from my hosting providers’ storage.   This included the last 6 years of mail (for some users it was more like 9 years of email).  It also included all of our files and this blog that has chronicled our endeavors together since marriage.

When I discovered that all of our account data had suddenly gone missing, I contacted technical support immediately.  They claimed that the data had been deleted by me.  I’m the only person with direct login to the account and it turns out I use a unique password for the main account that nobody else knows or is used elsewhere on the web.  I also hadn’t logged into the account in over 5 weeks so this was a bit of a quandry for me.

I pushed the hosting company for logs or other data that could backup their accusation and they were unable to produce any information at all showing that anyone had accessed the account.  Despite this, they insisted that they did not delete our account data.  Because of their lack of explanation, I can only assume that our account was compromised and some disgruntled hacker decided to delete the last 9 years of our lives.  The hosting provider refuses to investigate the ticket as a security incident.

Adding to the insult, they had no backups of our account.  The data is gone.  I should have assumed that they wouldn’t take backups.  This is my bad, and a valuable less that I should have already learned.

I have re-created the blog, I’ll see if there is some magical way to restore the content from internet archives at a later date.  I’m sure Rachel will post something soon on the website, she is traveling in Japan at the moment.

In any case, sorry for those of you who couldn’t get in touch with us over the weekend, our email should be working again.  I have also changed some configuration options to remove access for “service accounts” that hostmonster creates by default, I have purchased SSL certificates for our email websites, and I am implementing online nightly backups of the website.  All of these things I should have done before.  I can’t help suspect though, that this was related to a mess-up by the hosting provider rather than an actual security compromise of our account.  Either way, I’ll never know.

 

Engrish-only

It seems fittingly ironic that I studied Spanish in college, hoped to find a job teaching in Latin America or in Spain, and in the end, me and my Spanish language skills (deteriorated though they might be) are here in Japan.  We have been rekindling our relationship, my Spanish skills and I.  You can find us together in most places here in Japan, staring awkwardly at each other when can’t understand spoken or written Japanese, shaking our heads and thinking: “Damn girl, couldn’t you have found room for a Japanese first year series in your undergraduate courses?”

I did try to learn a few phrases from the audio Pimsleur language learning series before I left.  It was very useful, but I had a hard time fitting in time for learning because I was busy with the end of the school term and trip preparations.  But thanks to Pimsleur, I can say a few essential phrases:

-”Sumimasen” (Excuse me / I’m sorry)

-”Ohio gozaimas / Konichiwa / Kom ban wa” (Good morning / Good afternoon / Good evening)

-”Nihongo-ga wakarimas-sen.” (I don’t know Japanese.)

-”Eigo-ga wakarimas-ka?” (Do you know English?)

-”Domo arigato gozaimas.” (Thank you very much.)

-”Domo” (Thanks)

-”Kudasai” (Please)

-”Oy-shi-katta” (That was delicious!”

-”[insert noun / toy-re] wa doko des-ka?” (Where is the (e.g. toilet)?)

-”Hai” (Yes)

-”Ei” (No)

These basic phrases are enough to get by and communicate most things politely.  But communication gets muddled or halted completely when the conversation gets more complicated… like checking for hotel room availability for a place that doesn’t do online booking.  Figuring out proper postage and asking questions for how to write on a special money-sending envelope.  Wanting to have more than a basic conversation, but not being able to.  Wondering if a bag of white powder food stuff at the grocery store is sugar or salt.  Desperately wanting to practice little phrases with store clerks, who narrate and guide the entire transaction with what I assume are polite little phrases.  Wanting to know the ingredients of the food that I’m considering for purchase, but not being able to read a damn thing.  Being able to answer back immediately when a group of drunken festival men dressed in white shorts ask you if you’d like to be hoisted up and blessed in their local festival way (they originally asked me in Japanese and I had no idea what they said until a coworker translated for me a few seconds later).

(It just occurred to me that I haven’t written a blog post about this festival that happened a few weeks ago.  I will get around to writing about this soon… it was lots of fun!)

Somtimes it’s just as well that I can’t speak Japanese, because even if I was able to, doing so here at the university would break the rules of the intensive English program that I work in, which maintains a strict “English-only” policy for students and faculty in the classrooms, cafeterias, and a few other instructional situations.  Much to my surprise and pleasure, the majority of these students actually follow the rule!  It’s rare that I want or need to speak or read Japanese on campus, but the desire to not come off as illiterate tourist is definitely felt when I’m out and about in the little villages around here or whilst speaking with the facilities staff members.

I’ve had a few interesting language interchanges with the university facilities staff.  Here on campus, there is an “energy center”, which is in charge of switching the air conditioning on and off for the entire university.  In response to the 3/11 earthquake and the nuclear power plant shut downs, Japan is making serious efforts to reduce their power consumption, so as to avoid rolling blackouts for lack of power resources.  Thusly, if you stay late in your office here or if you would like the air conditioning switched on or off in the gym, you must call the energy center and request for them to turn the AC on or off.

The first time I worked past 18:00 (6:00 p.m.), which is the magical witching hour for air conditioner shut-off in my office building, I called the energy center.  Someone answered the phone with a polite Japanese expression and I responded with “Kom ban wa” (good evening, remember?).  Then I proceeded in slowly paced English with my request: “Please turn on the air conditioning.  Research Center, room 205.”

…Cue the music for Led Zepplin’s “COMMUNICATION BREAKDOOOWN!”

Communication Breakdown

Needless to say, the air conditioning did not get turned on.  (Later I remembered that I was given a little phrase book by my the university for facility-specific essential phrases like this one.  Whoops.)

The next time I found myself in need of calling the energy center, I was in the gym and I wanted to have the AC turned off (for warm, stretchy yoga practice!)  I did not have my little aforementioned university phrase book.  But I did remember some advice that my friends who had traveled to Japan before gave to me, which was to “speak Engrish (speak English with a heavy Japanese accent) and you will be understood”.   I took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and called the energy center.

EC: “Polite-Japanese-greeting-phrase-that-Rachel-can’t-remember verbatim”

Me: “Konichiwa.  Hai, airo condishun, room one pifty (150), please turn off-o. Okay?”

EC:  “OH OKAY! Room one pifty, off-o. Hai, hai.”

Me: “Arigato gozaimas”

… within 30 seconds, the AC in the gym was shut off, as requested.

I couldn’t believe that speaking Engrish actually worked.  I felt so rude for using a mocked accent for real communication, but as far as I know, the reception with the person that I spoke with was positive, and the message was communicated.  So… win!  Right?  Maybe?  Who knows.

Whenever I go off campus, I’m always sure to keep my Lonely Planet phrase book near me and I should really be practicing some more Pimsleur lessons when I have free time in my dorm.  But knowing that Engrish is seemingly unoffensive to Japanese speakers (unless I’m completely misreading the cues) and that it can get the message across in a pinch is a nice little tool to have in the language tool belt.

FIFA Women’s World Cup!

Last Monday, at 04:00 (Japan time), the women’s soccer teams from Japan and the United States duked it out in the final match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.  Here are all of my thoughts on how the match turned out, A DEFINITE SPOILER ALERT if you are still waiting to see that epic game (and by the way, if you haven’t seen it, shame on you, it’s been almost a week, get to viewing that game already!)…

… (sorry, the more button tag is not working, so here is some awesome placeholding text)…

 

JAPAN WON!

That game was one of the best soccer matches I’ve ever seen in my life.  I didn’t get up at 4:00 a.m. here to watch it, but my coworker, who is a Japanese woman and a hard core women’s soccer fan, did wake up to watch it and in retrospect, I wish I had joined her.  She and other male Japanese students in my class were thrilled at the outcome!  I, being the sleep wuss that I am, watched a replay later that day at 6:30 p.m. on the “BS” television network (bahaha!)  What a game!  Tied 1-1 at the end of the game, tied 2-2 in 30 minutes of OT, and then what a dramatic shoot out win with penalty kicks!  Supposedly, the USA women are ‘effing awesome with the PKs… but not that night.  3-2 was the final winning score.

Both the USA and Japan fought equally hard and brought their best skills to the field.  The USA team was more aggressive in the first half of the game, but they lost some of their steam in the second half.  There were no fake injuries to slow the game down, and only one “magic spray” analgesic application by the medical team for an actual, legit, gross and bleeding scrape on the knee.  Both teams played so well together and both teams played appropriately aggressive.  Japan’s team captain, Sawa, tirelessly motivated her team in the final match while also playing her heart out.  And Japan’s goalie, Ayumi Kaihori, made SO MANY AWESOME SAVES; catches, punches, and even a kick deflection during one of the PKs in the end!  I’ve never seen anything like that before.

I thought the red card on the Japanese player in OT was unnecessary… yes she tackled a player close to the box, but it was an appropriate and legit tackle.  Oh well.

Man, that game was great.  I was an edgy bundle of nerves for most of the second half and all of the post-game play AND I KNEW what the final score was already!

I think overly-aggressive male soccer players around the world, especially in the professional leagues, should take notice of the fact that soccer can be played without unnecessary aggression, violence, jersey-pulling, and fake injuries to slow the game down.  I really hate watching men’s soccer these days for those very reasons; it’s a giant testosterone festival instead of a game, in my opinion.  The MLS league is all right, those guys don’t get so aggressive and they play smart for the most part.

I think it’s very worth mentioning that both teams made it to the final match while playing on a continent which neither of their countries is on (the tournament was held in Germany).  Japan also beat the host country on their home turf… an amazing feat to say the least.

I got a little teary-eyed watching the celebration ceremony for Japan at the end of the game  This country has suffered so much this year and to have a win like this is a real moral boost for them.  I’m so happy for them!  And I’d like to get a women’s soccer t-shirt or something to commemorate the fact that I was here when they won the 2011 Women’s World Cup!

Five gripes about Japan

If you’ve been reading this blog the past few weeks, by now you likely know that I am intrigued by Japan and I am having a love affair with this place and all of the fun idiosyncrasies it has to reveal.  There is so much to like here and there are so many unique-to-Japan sights, so many in fact that it is impossible to photograph and share them all.  I’m definitely putting forth my best effort to capture as many images and write as much as possible about my experiences here, but even then it’s hard to capture just how charming this place is.  Case in point, just a few nights ago I saw this wonderful sign while out on a bike ride:

However, there are a handful of minor things that have continually irked me since I arrived here three weeks ago.  Since the majority of these blog posts will likely be about the numerous positive aspects of being Japan, I feel that it’s okay to kretch about a few things.  I’ll start with the first thing that I noticed:

(1) Floor Ledges

With the exception of the way that the sidewalks slope nicely down to street level without requiring  curb cuts, this country is not very alter-abled accessible, at least from what I’ve seen.  In doorways mostly, and in other areas where flooring medium types transition (from linoleum to tile, for example), there is almost always a ledge, like this one:

I have tripped on ledges like these more times that I am proud to admit.  In hotels, restaurants, subway stations, shopping malls, everywhere.  They were hard for me to get used to, even though I have the advantage of being short and not that far from the ground!  I feel a little embarrassed and afraid for tall newcomers to Japan who may not be aware of these trip hazards.  I thankfully haven’t experienced a full-on, sprawling face-plant yet, but I still have many weeks left here, so I won’t rule out the possibility entirely.  Hopefully my newfound wary awareness for doorways will pay off while I’m here and save me from extreme embarrassment!  And speaking of doorways, my next area of complaint is…

 

(2) Doors

My complaining about doors is reserved only for the giant, mammoth heavy doors that are everywhere on the IUJ campus.  The doors in most public places in Tokyo and at restaurants here in Urasa are very cool.  Most places in Japan have these glass slider doors that will either open automatically or quickly at the push of a button.  They are profoundly aesthetically pleasing, energy efficient, and just cool all around.  I haven’t taken any pictures of them yet, but here is an example of said cool door from our hotel in Tokyo:

The IUJ doors are completely different animal.  To be fair, it gets damn cold here in the winter time and the snow piles up very high, so having big thick doors to protect entry ways and keep the warm air indoors makes complete sense to me.  However, those practicalities don’t keep me from hating on the user-unfriendliness of these doors.  They are heavy and gigantic.  The ones in my dorm look like they are made of steel and old heavy glass and I feel like I need 10 times the upper body and core strength that I currently have in order to open and enter though these doors gracefully.

The worst doors on campus are the ones into my office building: made of heavy glass and the handles are in completely the wrong place for the leverage needed to operate them smoothly.  There is not one, but two sets of glass doors to enter this building.  Again, two doors is great for energy conservation, but two heavy, hard-to-open doors are not great if you don’t feel like getting assaulted by a giant chunk of glass while trying to pass through a doorway.  Even if you muscle them open, they will quickly reassert themselves and show you that their closing speed is the same, whether you use your arm and shoulder brawn or not. These doors give me about, oh, one and a half seconds to get myself and my bulky shoulder bag through before they close.  Note: during this sliver of time, it is imperative not to forget about the aforementioned floor ledge trip hazard (see gripe #1 above).  These glass doors always give me nice pat on the rear on the way in, as if to say: “Welcome, we just wanted to make sure that you got in quickly.  Now get to your office and get some work done.”

As if opening and walking through doors wasn’t challenging enough, most entry ways have two sets of two doors.  Easy enough, right?

Not so much.  Notice the “push” signs on the door.  These signs are not to be ignored.  Frequently, the first door on the left will be locked and the door on the right will be unlocked… most of the time (not in the case of the doors in the photo above, but you get my drift).  The unlocked doors are labeled “push” or “pull”.  In the case of the photo above, both of the first doors are “push” doors, but as for the second set of doors, only the one on the left will open to the outside (and the photos is blurry, but it is a “push” door, for your information).  The door on the right is locked.  You can know that, because there is no “push” or “pull” signage on it.

My central thesis for successful door operation here on the IUJ campus without tripping, getting stymied by a lock, or squished is to a.) look where you step, b.) pay attention to which door has the “push” or “pull” sign, c.) become okay with the idea that the doors will probably hit you as they close.  If you ignore the little signs and choose your door based on the logical walking traffic pattern, you’ll likely be met with a locked door and you’ll look like a fool.  I have tried to anticipate and predict which doors will be locked or unlocked by not looking at the signs and I have had fruitless results.  Near as I can tell, there is no rhyme or reason to when doors are unlocked on the right or left, nor is there logic as to when “pull” or “push” signs are used.  What’s most important is to not ignore those signs.  It’s like a mini intelligence mind game.  It is still a guessing game for me and because getting through doors here is awkward enough for me as it is, I’ve defaulted to reading all signs while using doors, so as to avoid moments depicted in this famous Gary Larson cartoon:

 

(3) Excessive packaging for everything

The wonderful philosophy of of Japanese culture that all things should be aesthetically pleasing is very sweet, but it also has a dark side: many goods come wrapped in excessive packaging.  I’ve never seen food covered in so much packaging.  For example, I tried hard to find some rice snacks that came in a bag, but it turned out that they were all individually wrapped:

I bought peaches that not only came with their own little individual styrofoam jackets, but what you don’t see in this picture is that they were place in a styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic wrap:

Just yesterday, I went to a little cake shop and bought two muffins.  I unwrapped one this morning and discovered this little “stay fresh” pack wrapped up with it.  This came from a specialty shop that sells fresh, homemade goods, and still, so much packaging:

The amount of packaging that I alone have gone through during my short time here is staggering.  I hate to think about how much is wasted on a national level.  Yikes.

You might think that in a country as organized and detail-oriented as Japan that they would have an epic recycling system in place to recycle or reuse all of this packaging some how.  If such a system is in place, I have not had the privilege of seeing it.  Which brings me to my fourth gripe about Japan:

(4) Burnable and unburnable trash

As the above title denotes, there are two disposing options for discarding waste: burnable or not burnable.  The only two items that cannot be burned are glass and cans. 

That means that the following goes in the burnable can: plastic (all of the many kinds), paper, cardboard, aseptic containers, foil, and food scraps.  I shudder to think about all of the dioxin-like compounds and other toxic gases that are released into the air when all. that. plastic. is burned.  Here is a picture of the trash piles in my dorm alone (18 rooms, some single and some family occupancy):

There is ONE pet bottle recycling place on campus next to one vending machine and for some reason pet bottle cap recycling is big here, so there are a few locations around campus for caps.  There is ONE paper recycling location, next to the copier.  I’ve been saving most of my paper recycling and cutting it into note-sized scrap paper and whatever paper I don’t use by the end of my stay here will definitely find its way into the recycling pile.  But all of that burned plastic… ugh.  It hurts my Pacific Northwest nerves to the core to have to throw all that plastic away and not recycle it, especially because I know that the technology exists for that material to be recycled!  But this is not my country, so all I can do is hope that the energy conservation trend that has spread so rampantly across Japan ever since the nuclear plants have been inoperable from the 3/11 earthquake will encourage people to push for better recycling efforts.

 

(5) “Seven Bank” ATMs diagrams

This last complaint is minor, as it has been resolved.  Before I get into detail, please look at this photo:

How would you opt to insert your debit card based on what you see in that picture?  Magnetic stripe up?  Or magnetic stripe down?  To me, it looks like magnetic stripe up.  It looked that way to Micah too.  But no, the proper way to insert your card into the ATM is mag stripe down.  Hurr.

We learned this after a few mishaps with our debit cards: it turns out that Seven Bank (located all over the place in 7-11 convenience stores) is seemingly the only bank that will accept our credit union debit card.  After learning that, we were profoundly frustrated that none of the Seven Bank ATMs would take our damn debit card.  Let me tell you that it’s not at all settling when you are in a rural location in a foreign country that is still very cash-based (read: many places don’t accept credit cards) and your debit card refuses to function.  On a side note, it’s my firm belief that all ATMs worldwide should be of the “swipe-only” variety, and not of the “suck-your-card-into-the-machine” variety.  Every time I’ve used my ATM card here, I take a little leap of faith and say a little prayer: “Please don’t let the machine eat my card”.  So far, so good.  :)

So there are my five gripes about Japan.  I tried hard to think of more than those five, but that’s all that there really is to complain about.  There are hundreds of other great things about this culture, so five gripes out of a few hundred likes is a good ratio I think.  Have you had any funny travel gripes in Japan or elsewhere?

Marichyasana C

Before I get into yoga shop talk, I want to take a moment and thank all of you readers who have been so supportive of the fun parts of my journey in Japan and also the not-so-fun adjustment period part that I experienced when I arrived at my university and Micah left Japan.  There are definitely things to be learned from all struggles in life, but one of the positive things that has been profoundly highlighted for me during my time here is how fortunate I am to have such a great network of friends and family who support me and wish the best for me during my time here.  I sincerely thank you all for your love and support and you motivate me to fully take advantage of the great opportunities that I have here in Japan.

And speaking of opportunities… on to the yoga post!  If you’ve read the previous entries about Japan, you know by now that the weather is here is unforgivingly hot and humid in the summer. The Urasa, Japan area where I am is slightly cooler than Tokyo, but the average temperature here (as Nodakademic noted in her comment a few posts back) is 88 degrees F and 85% humidity.  There isn’t a lot to like about this kind of weather at first… my methods of choice for coping with it when I first arrived were to a.) turn on the AC, b.) take a cold shower, or c.) all of the above.  But after having lived in these weather conditions for two weeks now, I have started to get used to them.  For example, my skin, hair and nails are loving the moisturizing / perspiring affects of the humidity.  Exercising outside feels extra cathartic with all the extra perspiration (so long as you stay plenty hydrated!)  And the best part of all… the heat and humidity is a perfect combination for facilitating a deep yoga practice.  Eugene School of Yoga readers take note: this is the promised land of yoga (#2 behind Mysore India, of course) during the summer months and you would all love practicing here.  I’ve done a couple of full practices here indoors (without air conditioning) and I feel so stretchy and flexible.  So stretchy in fact that today while practicing alone at the university gym, I was able to bind a yoga posture that I’ve been working on and getting assists into for awhile: Marichyasana C!

(No that is not a picture of me, but doesn’t she do Marichyasana C so well?  Thank you, random internet yogini, for your demonstration!)

The side that is pictured is exactly the side that I was able to bind today.  The first (the opposite) side is still a challenge for me to bind, but that’s okay.  I have the heat and humidity of Japan to thank for helping to warm up my torso and shoulders so much that I could do this posture today.  It took two attempts to bind this posture… the second time I thought: “Come on hands, find each other, you can do it…” and then they magically did.  Once they were bound, I held on for dear life and breathed into it for a few breaths and then released it, but I didn’t spring apart, as I normally do when I get an assist in this posture.

I’d also like to note that, unlike my usual attempts at practicing yoga in the afternoon a few hours after having eaten lunch, I didn’t feel like I was carrying a food baby around during this practice.  A highly unusual and exceptional piece of luck indeed, especially for this posture, which as you can see, involves a lot of twisting of the abdominal area and the “organs of elimination”.

Welcome to my yoga practice, second side bound Marichyasana C.  I hope you don’t disappear anytime soon, but if you do, that’s all right too.  :)

Tokyo Day 2: July 4th

We celebrated the 4th of July by getting up and going up for a run, trying our best to simulate the Butte to Butte 10K tradition that happens every 4th of July in Eugene.  We enjoyed our time in Ueno Park the morning before, so we got up again, early in the morning (thank you jet lag!) and went for a run. We ate our delicious Japanese hotel breakfast, hung out at the hotel for some down time, and then took advantage of our early morning rise and headed out to the Tsukiji Fish Market.

The Tsukiji Fish Market is a huge tourist spot in Tokyo.  Prior to the 3/11 earthquake, many tourists exclaimed to other tourists: “you MUST get up early and go see the tuna auction!” It was apparently a sight to see back in the day, but we had read on wikipedia that the tuna auction was closed to tourists after the earthquake.  I don’t really understand how the earthquake has anything to do with needing to close the tuna auction… it seems to me a good excuse for keeping tourists away from where the fish vendors didn’t want them to be.  Maybe, maybe not.  Either way, this sign confirmed that we would not be seeing the infamous tuna auction:

We did not exactly refrain from visiting hall of the public.  But neither did many other people.  So we tried our best to stay out of the way and be aware of our surroundings as we gawked and the sheer volume of fresh fish and seafood and watching the hundreds of workers who were moving, packing, cutting, and otherwise processing all of the fish and seafood for Tokyo.

I learned later that our hotel fish of the day came from here, which was pretty cool.  Here we have whole slabs of tuna, just waiting to be consumed.  NOM.

As is the touristy tradition, we stopped into a local izakaya after taking in the mayhem of the fish market and plopped down to a small sushi bar just outside of the auction.  The chef was friendly and gave us lots of complimentary salads that we didn’t order and that he didn’t charge us for.  We made friends with a couple from Japan who were on a three day weekend holiday (he was pretty blitzed, but he was friendly and shared his beer with us… at 10:30 a.m.!)  We tried out our rudimentary Japanese and the local customers spoke some English with us.  It was great fun and a very Japanese experience.  I wish I had remembered to take pictures inside this place, but there was a huge line of people waiting outside the restaurant (a good sign, I think!) and I didn’t want to make them wait to fill their bar space… plus the people outside looked miserably hot and in need of some sushi and a cold biru.  Here’s a shot from the outside:

After we felt cooled down, we ventured out to the Akihabara of Tokyo and visited Yodabashi Camera.  En route, we popped into a Starbucks for a cold drink and a hit of AC (remember what I said about the “walking tax” in Japan?)  The drinks tasted exactly the same as they did in the United States… franchises are so very interesting like that.  But back to Yodabashi Camera…

…holy crap (the picture shown is of the Ueno store, but it’s just as big as the store in Akihabara).  That whole building is the department store.  The whole thing.  You read correctly.  This place is an eight floor department store, filled with electronic goods for computers, mobile phones stereos, cameras, household appliances, you name it, if it’s powered by electricity or it’s some sort of accessory for an electronic, it’s there at that store.  It was like viewing an entire internet electronics retailer in person, complete with competing loud sounds, televised advertisements, sales people trying to get you to buy their mobile phone contract, all in Japanese.  I’m learning that this is a theme of being in Japan: wanting to flee in order to prevent mental overstimulation, yet not being able to just for the sheer curiosity and novelty that is to be absorbed from the experience.  I believe that this is an extension of the duality of cultures in Japan and the phenomenon has definitely infiltrated my mind as well.  :)

This link is great… it’s a video of Micah trying out noise canceling head phones in the loudest most appropriate environment to do so:

Micah in Yodabashi Camera

We stayed there for three hours (did I mention that there was free AC?), just gazing at the sheer amount of different and fun things   I tried to get a pre-paid mobile phone plan, but since I’m not staying in Japan for 3 months, it is nearly impossible and perhaps too difficult to get a plan.  The three giant mobile companies here have great names: “Soft Bank”, “Docomo”, and “Au” (amusing, yes?)  At hour 2.5in Yodabashi, I plopped down into a shiatsu massage chair and closed my eyes.  Thank you, electronics, for facilitating relaxation.  Before we left, I purchased a hair dryer, a hair straitening iron, and a USB drive (I couldn’t find mine at home and I paid through the nose for it at this place… $15 for a 4GB USB drive… ouch).  Here is a picture of the box that the hair dryer came in, there is some great Engrish on there:

We were told that the food courts at the top of department stores were awesome and this department store did not disappoint.  We were finally able to order a cold noodle lunch.  We were sat next to an older salary man and what looked like to be his assistant (who looked profoundly bored and sad while he was writing dates in a calendar and listening to his older counter part rattle of details).  Dinner later that night was somewhat uneventful… we tried to pick a good place, but we were tired and overwhelmed, so we ended up eating dinner in a smoky and overpriced izakaya.  My food came out late and I was pissed off in general that no one could seemingly go out and eat dinner at a restaurant anywhere in Tokyo without involuntarily inhaling second hand cigarette smoke.  Yuck.  Bed time for the cranky, jet-lagged traveler!

Transition from Tokyo to Urasa

Disclaimer: this post is full of observations and experiences that I did not anticipate to be as profoundly emotionally distraughtful as they turned out to be when I first came to my summer job at a university in Japan.  The emotions that were involved with relocating to a rural area in a different country and separating my life physically from my spouse proved to be astonishingly difficult for me; I almost feel as if I’m reading about someone else’s experience when I read this post.  Consider yourself forewarned that this might be full of “over-shares”, or personal information that you may or may not want have wanted to ever know about me.  I don’t mind if you read it, but I want you to be informed that the content is heavy.  I ultimately decided that writing about this transition would be relevant for me for reflection, useful to anyone else who might be in a similar situation, and good for comparison later on during my time in Japan.  There was definitely some personal growth that happened during the week that this post was written about, but it wasn’t without a lot of struggle, I tell you what.

July 6th: We went shopping for gifts and Micah’s shoes, bought our tickets for the train, rode the shinkansen (bullet train) to Urasa Station (we were two of five people that got off the train).  Micah was in train nerd heaven before, during, and after our train ride.  By the way, one of my colleagues drove from Tokyo to IUJ and it took her about 4-5 hours.  We arrived from Tokyo to Urasa on the Shinkansen in a little over an hour.  Amazing.

We were picked up by some of the full-time staff at IUJ and shuttled to the grocery store so that we could cook food for ourselves that night (surprise!)  All of the items in the store were in Japanese and the store didn’t take credit cards (and we had limited cash from the ATM fiasco the night before).  We arrived at IUJ.  Micah and I were taken to my spacious and fully-accommodated dorm and then I was shown my office.  I was given a faculty orientation packet and all of the keys to the spaces on campus that I would need.  Such precise levels of organization!  I even had a sign on my office door!  I got invited to a casual social gathering that evening and I intended on making an appearance, despite feeling overwhelmed.  But the overwhelmedness caught up with me when I went back to the dorm… and thus commenced the anxiety attack that lasted for the next two days.  Boy howdy.

All these feelings came up and out: I felt extremely isolated, extremely out of place, and very guilty that Micah would have to leave in a few days and that I had opted to live apart from him for this length of time, for this personal and professional experience.  I felt scared.  I felt selfish.  I was confused because everyone said that I would love it here, but I knew nothing about the surrounding area, the faculty, the students, the campus, and so it was hard to contextualize anything about it as positive.  I could only see the experience as abandoning my husband and I felt terrible about it.

I felt so conflicted because I had actively sought out this experience to teach English abroad for years and now and I had anticipated it with such enthusiasm (fueled by my own expectations and also the build up that everyone had given me about Japan).  I was here in Japan and all I could think of was how awful I was for leaving my spouse for a new life that I knew nothing about and I felt bad that I would put him through so much hardship and make him accountable for all of our shared responsibility back home.  I did not anticipate that I would be affected so much by I all of this, but I was and it was profound.  Unlike my usual MO of dealing with stressful situations, I couldn’t shake the feeing, and I couldn’t snap out of it.  It scared me.  Micah made dinner in the new apartment and I tried to unpack and not cry.  I had zero appetite at dinner.  I couldn’t eat anything.  I tried to convince him that since I couldn’t deal, that I should just pack up my stuff and leave with him on the train the next day.  I should forget about this silly living/working in Japan business.  He wasn’t having it.  He reminded me that vacation time was over and work time was just beginning.  (This was also the first day of “ladies holiday” as we call it in yoga, so that probably wasn’t helping.) He set up a screen saver slide show on my laptop that toggled my pictures in my iPhoto library, to remind me of home and make my new space more homey.  All I could do was cry at every photo of family / friends / pets and think of how far away from them I was and why the heck did I leave such a great life and so many people who love and support me?  I felt so bad that I wasn’t hungry because he made us a delicious noodle dish with tofu and vegetables.  All I could do was eat a few bites of noodle, pass out and go to sleep; it was the only thing that felt right about that evening.

 

July 7th: I woke up all sad and uncomfortable from sharing a twin bed.  I had slept for almost 12 hours, but I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality.  I mentally willed myself to get out of bed and stand up and the first thing I did was cry.  Micah made me breakfast and I put myself in the shower and went to the first work meeting.  I met my nice coworkers.  Micah went on a run while I was gone and he was bursting with excitement and photos at all of the cool sights that he saw along the way.  I (not surprisingly at this point) got all teary eyed and waited for him to rinse of the humidity lather before we went on a faculty group shopping trip to buy things at the grocery store, drug store, and 100 yen store.

Grocery shopping is already somewhat of an overwhelming task for me back home, even when I can read all of the words in English, even when I know the store layout, even when I have a list (big or small), even when I’ve eaten on a normal schedule, and even when I’m not in an emotionally distraught space.  I couldn’t read anything at any of the stores; everything was in Japanese (not surprising).  The grocery didn’t have everything that I wanted.  I had to have my new friend/coworker, who is a Japanese national, translate practically everything.  I was happy to have made a new friend in her and I felt bad to be asking her so many questions, but she didn’t seem to mind too much.

Through the entire evening, I was still anxious that Micah was leaving the next day and completely overwhelmed by the newness of everything.  Micah made dinner again and I could hardly eat more than a bite or two.  I cried, and cried, and cried.  Anytime that we weren’t in the company of other people, I did one of two things: a.) breathed heavily from anxiety that he was leaving,  b.) stared off into distracted space, wondering what the hell was wrong with me and how I was going to cope with all this for 8 weeks plus traveling later or c.) cried my face off because Micah was leaving.  Embarrassing, but true.  Man.  I am still so very surprised by my own level of anxiety and sadness around Micah’s departure.  I anticipated that it would be difficult, but no where near this difficult, nor did I think that I would have such a strong, uncontrollable, visceral response to this whole experience.

 

July 8th: Micah’s plane was scheduled to leave Tokyo at 3:30 p.m. this day.  I said goodbye to him in the dorm apartment because I had a meeting that started before he had to depart on the IUJ bus to get to the train station.  As I’m getting ready for work, I learned that my mother was going in for unexpected emergency surgery to remove her ruptured appendix.  I sent an email to my step-dad, wishing her well through her surgery.  More crying (surprising, I know), I love yous, and goodbyes were exchanged and finally I closed the door and walked to my meeting.  God that was an awful morning.

I’m glad that I had new things to learn in a work meeting and try to comprehend the extremely organized curriculum to take my mind off of things.  Doing this gave me the sense of normalcy that I had been craving and I couldn’t negotiate when Micah was in the apartment.  I learned more about my new teaching job and was pleased to learn that everything in this program is extremely well-organized and pedagogically legit.  I watched the clock and at the time when I knew that Micah was on the train, I felt less sad.  When I found out later that he was boarding the plane, I felt even better.  Somehow having him here and knowing that I was about to leave him and do something else without him made everything so difficult.  Now that I knew he was safely on his way, I could relax a little bit and regain some of my normal mental functioning.  Midway through the meeting, I witnessed my first big giant thunderstorm here in the valley, which was awesomely loud and later during a break I ran back to my dorm to unplug my laptop, for fear that the electrical storm would destroy the power supply to my one and only communication medium for back home.

I finally figured out my IUJ email account credentials and got on wireless.  I checked my email and learned that my mother was out of surgery and doing well.  WHEW.  I started to feel relieved and less anxious for the first time in two days.  I went back to the apartment and finally had the appetite to eat a substantial meal.  I went on a bike ride around the local area and took pictures.

I began to realize that I’m staying in a beautiful place and just how fortunate I really am to be here.  Some coworkers invited me to play tennis, so I joined them after my bike ride.  I ate dinner in the university cafeteria for the first time.   Slept well.

July 9th: I got a chance to Skype with my mother in the hospital and it was great to hear her voice and see her.  Micah make it home safely, after driving several miles home and talking with lots of family on the way home.  Through more meetings, I continued to learn more about and love my new job and my new coworkers.  After a week of meetings, IUJ took the faculty out to a local Japanese restaurant and we had an all-faculty dinner.  It was a great way to get to know the people that I’ll be working with for the next eight weeks better.  I declined an invitation to “the Paramount”, a local dive izakaya and night club, but I did go and play billiards in one of the student dormitories with some of the instructors and also meet some of the students.  Slept well.

July 10th: my first Sunday and non-work day alone in the dorm.  I did a full yoga practice with the patio doors open.  The heat and humidity provided an opportunity for deep, cleansing asana and it felt great and very grounding.  I made some breakfast: white bread toast (more griping about the bread offerings in this country later) with whipped peanut butter and jam, yogurt, and half a peach.  I followed my instinct to CLEAN ALL THE THINGS on Sunday and cleaned my bathroom, kitchen sink, desk and table, and vacuumed and scrubbed the floors… in 25 minutes (hooray for small spaces!)  I did laundry at the coin-op machines in my dorm.  Hung up some of the laundry to dry outside on my balcony (Japanese-style).  I got hungry and made home-made sushi.  I started to enjoy and relish my alone time.  I spoke with my girlfriends in Oregon on Skype who were celebrating a bachelorette party that weekend.

I Skype chatted with Micah and learned that he came down with intestinal issues and a fever… probably more bad seafood on the airplane.  I felt helpless and awful that I couldn’t be with him when he was sick.  I learned that my mom was still recovering in the hospital, as anticipated.  I went into my office for an hour to read through all of the materials and note any questions that I had for our meeting the next day.  The office was sweltering hot and I didn’t have the Japanese language skills to ask the “energy center” to please turn on the AC (I forgot to look in the back of my faculty packet… all of the keywords and phrases to do that are in there, whoops).  I left my office, came home, and went for a bike ride to Urasa to “the Cupid” grocery store.  I bought enough breakfast items for the week (because the cafeteria on campus only serves lunch and dinner) and a few more meal items.  Some Japanese people giggled at me when I tried to ask if a product was salt or sugar.  I met an IUJ student from Malaysia and her family outside the store who asked me if I was a visiting instructor.  The bike ride back to IUJ was only 2.5 miles or so, but it was a sweaty, uphill bike ride home.  I relished the fact that I had no other choice other than to exercise to get my groceries (because the university bus doesn’t run on Sundays).   I uploaded the photos from the trip thus far, wrote a blog post, and went to bed. Slept well.

So that was the first half of my first week at IUJ.  It was difficult and challenging, but ultimately I am really loving it here and really enjoying the place more and more.  I can’t wait to share more experiences about this place.

I also feel that it’s essential to mention that Micah in no way guilted me, manipulated me, or intentionally made me feel bad about leaving.  All of my guilty feelings were self-inflicted and if anything, he did everything he could to remind me of why I was doing this, how great of an experience it would be, and how supportive he was of my being here.  I have truly arrived as a human being to have him as a spouse, which of course makes it even more difficult to be away from him.  When he returns, it is my hope that we have a lot of fun together traveling in Japan.