was sleeping

Long drives

I got a few days off between the semesters, so there were a few places not too far away that I wanted to visit, plus having a car makes going anywhere easier. I wanted to visit Matsumoto, about an hour's drive away, because it has rock climbing, alpine slides, and some of the best bookstores and restaurants. I thought it would be an easy drive--it's only an hour, right? There wasn't even anything particularly difficult about it: a very long uphill, and a very long downhill and you're there. But I could not believe how exhausted I was by the end and how much I wanted to be anywhere but the driver's seat! What is it about a longish drive that's so hard, anyway?

A few days later I drove a third of the way to Nagoya. It's a four-hour car trip, or about seven hours by bus and train, since you have to take a bus, then a train in the wrong direction, before you can get on the train that goes there. I drove about a third of the way, for an hour and a half, to a city with a direct 2-hour train connection. Most of it was highway driving. Maybe it was because I knew the sort of mental effort that driving takes, maybe highways are just easier than normal roads, but I felt less tired after that hour and a half than I did after the 1 hour to Matsumoto.

How long was it before any of you got used to long drives? I know there's a huge amount of stuff within just a one-hour driving radius, and if I could handle a four-hour drive, I could go almost anywhere.
forgot to sleep by amaralen

Bookshelf!

I just got a new bookshelf delivered (bookshelf, $40, delivery and assembly, $80), and I can't believe how happy I am!

I've been needing a new bookshelf for months. There were piles of books on every flat surface and in the corners of all of the rooms. I went through my whole apartment and gathered all the books that weren't in my other bookshelf, and found a lot of books I'd half forgotten about already. I'd also gotten rid of about 20 that just weren't doing it for me.

And now the ones I want all have a home! And somehow the process of going through all the books again, sorting them (manga, novels, cookbooks, study books, Go books, etc) has made about 20 more books I don't need appear, as well as a lot more of those delicious half-forgotten ones--about 40 of them! I feel so rich. If each of those were $5 (which is not the case, as some were $20, some were 1, and some were given to me by friends), that would be like $200, and I never spend $200 at the bookstore! (Well, almost never, anyway. That was just that one time, and three of the books from then that I'd been meaning to get to turned up again anyway.)

It feels so good for all of my books to have a proper home again! Now all of the books in my apartment are on shelves, except for the ones I'm going to give away, the ones I'm borrowing from friends, the big ones that don't fit, the library books, and the ones I'm reading now. And when I next need another book, I'll have all these waiting for me.
was sleeping

Why, Japan??

I am so annoyed with myself. And with Japan.

Today at lunch, along with spinach and sesame salad and noodle soup, they served us chunks of a dark meat in a thick, dark ketchup-based sauce. It looked just like the way they do liver, and tasted almost the same, but was considerably tougher. I'd only gotten about a third of the way through in the allotted 15 minutes for lunch, and was going to throw it out, when one of the students I was eating with asked for its leftovers. (This is not very common.). He explained that it was not liver, but whale.

There is always an announcement over the intercom about what the lunch is, but by the time it came on people had been talking and eating, so I didn't hear. I'd only caught "traditional".

I ran to the staff room to check the ingredients list, and sure enough, "whale" was the first ingredient, followed by sunflower oil, ketchup, starch, miso, and curry powder. (I intend to give you many recipes in the future, but please don't combine all those other ingredients either.)

How can they do this?? To not only kill whales, but to give them to the partially-trained people who make school lunch? To serve them to hundreds of kids who may have no idea of what they're eating? Some of the other teachers also thought it was liver. I ate one of the most endangered animals, and I didn't even know it!

I should know by now that if there's anything you don't want to eat, you have to check everything. When I was vegetarian, I might ask for a tofu salad, or a sliced cucumber, only to find it covered with fish flakes. I might ask for them to avoid those too, only to have them serve me shrimp and clams. There are only a few animals I definitely don't want to eat, and I was sure that they are all so expensive that they would never appear in school lunch, but I was wrong.
me frosting

(no subject)

You guys. I have just made Melissa Clark's pasta with fried lemons. You make pasta which you toss with butter and Parmesan, but before you boil the pasta, you blanch some lemon slices in the water first. You fry the lemons with a pinch of sugar while the pasta cooks, and in the end toss them in with some additional zest and juice. I was worried that the lemons would be weird and bitter, since you eat them peel and all, but they were so so good! They were just a bit chewy and unbelievably sweetly lemony fragrant, not bitter at all! I don't know how this would come out with regular lemons (I happened to have Meyer lemons) but I definitely want to try this again. I wish I'd made more!
forgot to sleep by amaralen

(no subject)

I think the most Japanese thing expats living in Japan can do for New Years is to go home. For the past 2 weeks, everyone's been asking me, "Aren't you going home for New Years? Don't you miss your family?" Over here, New Years is kind of like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, all rolled together. You're supposed to spend the few days before and after with your family. Furthermore, the whole country shuts down for the week: banks close, ATMs close, garbage pickup stops, supermarkets close, buses stop running, libraries close, gyms close. Pretty much anywhere you go on your own closes; only places you can go with your family, like movie theaters and certain restaurants, stay open.

Anyway, happy new year, congrats for making it here, and good luck for next year!

My New Year's resolution: use up and wash out jars of mustard and jam etc when I get close to finishing them, not leave them to molder in the fridge.
was sleeping

Tokyo job fair

Normally I wouldn't go to Tokyo just 2 weeks after I was last here, but a friend told me about a job fair this weekend. I'm trying to decide whether I want to recontract or to move on, so I need to know what the non-JET workscape is like.

Everyone had to wear suits, but it was set up in a nasty concrete warehouselike space. There were rows of booths set up, with all decorations and pictures and sometimes balloons, and behind rows of plain white booths for interviews. I kind of get a panic attack right away in that kind of atmosphere. Plus, the reps were standing outside the booths, trying to get people to check them out-- I couldn't shake the feeling that there must be something very wrong.

Then, none of the companies I talked with seemed quite right. There were jobs like hotel receptionist or shirt salesman, with salaries of about half of what I get now. There were highly technical engineering jobs, which I amnt qualified for. There were IT jobs, where they train you in all the technical stuff you need, but that takes 2-5 years. I thought I knew enough Japanese to start working already!

I suspect that when the time comes, I shouldn't rely only on job fairs like this. I'm debating whether or not I want to even go to the second day. But if that's a good representation of the current jobscape, I'd be better of staying a JET for as long as I can.
was sleeping

(no subject)

3 updates on my life as of now:

1: I took the JLPT1 again. As I prepared more by reading than by studying kanji, the reading section, which pretty much destroyed me last time, seemed pretty simple. I didn't even run out of time. But the vocabulary section, which I aced last time, was mostly guessing this time.

2: I finally bought a hot water bottle, a 3-liter one, and I can't believe how nice it is to have something to keep your feet warm! It even stays warm all night!

3: Is anyone else also super annoyed that even though Marvel films have been announced through 2019, we still aren't getting a [spoiler]Black Widow movie?
was sleeping

my surprise for the day

Today 2 of the English teachers were discussing the various classes, and one of them mentioned that for one class, in gym class, when it was time to swim, it became a big deal who went first-- it was a very shy class.

I went, "Wait a minute-- so all of them knew how to swim already?"

Them: "Well, they have to. Swimming is required in gym class."

Me: "But what if they don't know how to swim?"

Them: "They teach them how to in elementary school. Is America different? Are there a lot of Americans who don't know how to swim?"

Given that I still don't know how to swim, I was surprised (and felt so inadequate!) to hear that they all learn how to swim in elementary school! American school districts can only wish for the sort of money that lets them put a pool in every elementary and middle school. And I cannot imagine trying to teach a whole class full of first-graders how to swim!
was sleeping

(no subject)

I just got the strangest chilly reception I've ever gotten in a gym. I had been debating between 2 gyms (see post in TQC here: http://thequestionclub.livejournal.com/114930343.html ), but a coworker just told me about another gym. It's a little farther away than Close Gym in above post, but it's on a 50 kph road, so it takes the same amount of time to get there. I checked it out online, and it looked awesome: generally 3 classes per day, and it charges only about 2/3 of what the others charge. It has aquabics once a week, and it also sometimes does Tai Ch'i.

So I went there to check it out, and felt sort of disappointed right away. It's a small studio in the middle of a shopping center with restaurants and pools, so the 3-level parking garage was crowded. Next, the guy at the reception desk seemed sort of disappointed that he'd have to guide me. Then, there were people lined up outside the studio, and he said that that's because the studio is locked when not in use, until 10 minutes before the classes. There was going to be a barbell class in 10 minutes, so the teacher had just showed up, and I asked if I could talk to her to get a sense for what her class was like, and he pointed to the description on the schedule, and said, "Just read the description. The class is starting soon, so she doesn't have time."

Next, there is another studio that is always unlocked, but it's just a largeish room, with one of those nubbly carpets that you see in offices. There's no mirror, and the only equipment I saw were yoga mats and cushions to sit on. He said that I could use the yoga mats but not the cushions, since they belong to another group that sometimes uses the studio. "In that case, can I bring in my own equipment?" I asked. (After all, being honest with myself, even if I have some no-equipment or low-equipment workouts, I don't really want to do them in my living room.)

"What sort of equipment?"

"Like a Pilates wheel, or a yoga ball, or a stretching pole," I said.

"What's a stretching pole?" he said.

"A pole about so big (gesturing with my hands). You use it for stretching."

"In that case, no. It would be a bother to the other people who want to use the studio."

"I don't understand. It wouldn't be much more of a bother to other people than my arm or leg would be."

"Well, if that's the way you think, then we would prefer if you restrain yourself from joining."

He also showed me the pool, which is about a third the size of the one at either of the others, and said that it was 1 meter deep and 31 degrees C (about 88 degrees F). He didn't let me go up and stick my hand in, either. But it seemed to be more a pool for relaxing in and less for swimming or even pool-walking in.

I left feeling sort of disgusted. I called Close Gym, and they said that bringing certain equipment in is OK, but not others. Stretching poles (which they already have anyway) or tennis balls for stretching are OK; hula hoops and jumpropes are not. (I already know that Far Gym also locks the studio until 10 minutes before classes.)

But on the other hand, I kind of don't want to completely lock this one out of my decision just because of that one receptionist who I didn't like. This has more classes and more bathrooms than Close Gym does, and is cheaper, too. But I have never gotten such a chilly reception at any kind of gym or studio before.
was sleeping

driving situations where I don't know what to do

-Say you're driving along a 40 or 50 kph road and you want to go to a convenience store or something on your right (or on your left, for USians and other people who drive on the right). So you'd have to cross a lane of traffic that's going 50 kph in the opposite direction, while people behind you are assuming that they can keep driving straight at 50 kph. If you just stop in the middle of the road and wait for a gap in the oncoming cars, all the cars behind you pile up and start honking, and maybe some of them try to pass you. What should you do?

-What if you're at a light and you want to make a right turn, and the light in front of you is green, but there's another light at the start of the road you want to make a right turn onto, and it's red. What do you do?

-Is there a polite way to signal when you know you want to take the next left that comes up, but you don't know when that's going to be?

-You're going 20 kph on a 30 kph road, because it's a 2-way road that's barely wide enough for 1 car, and there's a steep ditch right at the side, and it's dark and hard to see. The car behind you wants to pass you. What do you do?