Sunday, August 31, 2008


Justin, John and I went out for dinner one night to try okonomiyaki...

It's a Japanese dish which literally means: "grilled what you want."

So you first order a big bowl of 'what you want.' Here's a picture of John's brave seafood bowl.... I opted for the pork one (i think)

Then Justin is demonstrating for us how you then proceed to vigorously mix up the ingredients in the bowl (it comes with a battery substance at the bottom) until you have a nice delicious mixture.

After that, you pour the contents of your bowl onto the hot plate in the center of your table and let it fry away. Once it's cooked on one slip you flip it like a pancake. Once it's done cooking you add seaweed flakes, algae sprinkles, ginger bits, mayo, spices and whatever else you want.

It was my first time cooking it - so mine didn't turn out too pretty... but it was tasty!!!!

Team Marimo!!!

I want to introduce you to Team Marimo...... John, Justin and myself....

We have just a tad bit of an obsession with the amazingly wonderful marimokkuri.

Justin and John came to Sapporo for the JET orientation 2 weeks ago and we had a fun and crazy time exploring the city together... Now we are planning our big adventure to Lake Akan - the BIRTHPLACE of the real marimo!!!!

Below you can see some marimo merchandise, an aquarium filled with the true life marimo algae balls and justin cracking open our marimo energy drink which we toasted to in wine glasses. :)

Stay tuned for more on our shenanigans in Sapporo...

(if you missed my explanation of marimo click here!!!)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Shiroi Koibito Park/Chocolate Factory

Last weekend I visited the Shiroi Koibito Park/Chocolate Factory which was right down the street from the Chieria Festival.

When I got to the Chocolate Factory - the big front doors were locked and boarded up. A sign hanging on the door read: "WE CLOSED UNTIL JAN. 2008" ummmm.... but its August 2008???? I almost was about to give up and go home when I wandered around the huge factory walls and then entered into this magical surreal German Alice in Wonderland Disneyesque theme park!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was crazy!!! This is what greeted me upon entering...

The clock tower had animals parading around with musical instruments. There were New Orleans trumpeters playing overhead one of the doorways... a row of annoying chefs singing LA LA LA LA LA LA over and over again... (watch the end of the video to see the amazing little boy rokkin out to them)

Then there was this miniature house world which was a labyrinth of rose bush paths into crazy little mini houses. Also, there was a chocolatey chubby man who blew bubbles at kids... making them scream with glee....

Then inside was a chocolate factory with the most amazing smells..... The shop inside was stocked from floor to ceiling of the famous Sapporo omiyage (gift) which are these expensive cookie type wafers with chocolate. Japanese tourists were buying them by the truckloads.

To see some of my photos from this check out:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

black men

So I thought HS1's students' English was suffering.... but actually they are pros compared to my HS2 kids.

The HS2 students are soooooo sweet... but they struggle and perspire when they have to put together anything more than "I'm fine." After school today 3 girls from the school newspaper came to interview me. One of them almost vomited all over me when I said hello to her. She was soooooo insanely nervous and shy. I tried to make her calm and comfortable but she couldn't even say a word the entire time - not even when i told her she could ask me in japanese! I seriously think I saw a rash appear on her upper lip during the time we were sitting in the same room together. the poor soul. luckily the flamboyant librarian guy (who i LOVE!!!!) helped the poor girls through the interview. (but his english isn't all there either so I just gave my japanese intro speech that i had been using in class) i think my japanese is going to quickly improve here! :)

But the highlight of my day was when I opened a class up to questions after one of my self introductions. At first I had the usual: "What Japan food like you?" and "You have boyfriend?", "Whats your bloodtype?"

But then I got: "Do you like black men?"

Hahahahha... I lost my breath for a second..... did he say what I think he said??? I asked him to repeat. and oooooooh yes! He asked me if I liked black men.

I was assuming he was asking this since I talked a little bit about how I lived and volunteered in Kenya.... (uh oh.... did this student also google me and find something I didn't know was online?!?!?) I glanced over to my Japanese teacher and he motioned me to answer.... so stupid me goes on to say.... Oh yes, um... I like black men.... But I also like white men and Japanese men and red men and purple men and green men and everyone! (i was trying to divert the question into one of um... global love and peace?)

My Japanese teacher then stepped in to clarify that he didn't mean African men - he meant tanned Japanese men... He told me the student was darker skinned from working outside, so he wants to know if I like Japanese men who look like him. Ummm..... seriously??? they want me to answer this???

I went off on another tangent about how in America people like to be darker skinned but in Japan they want to be lighter..... but how everyone should just accept themselves for who they are and..... um....... awkard???? but hilariously awesome at the same time.

Learning Japanese with DS

for those of ya who have Nintendo DS - I just found this new game thats coming out next month.... looks purty darn nifty... I just pre-ordered it on Amazon: nifty japanese game

and this is the kanji dictionary that i bought in case ya want it: nifty kanji dictionary

be careful what ya post my fellow JETs...

I remember at Tokyo orientation one of the speakers mentioned that you shouldn't write the name of your schools, teachers or students on your blog because they might see it.... At the time I was like - ok... whatever.... im sure that will happnen!

But when I had my first day of school at High School #2 (ill call it HS2 from now on), one of the teachers came up to me and was like: I LOVED how you taught dance to your Deaf students in Kenya... I replied - "Oh thanks! Yeah, it was a lot of fun!!!" But then I thought - wait a minute - i never even told him I was in Kenya! After a few seconds of bewilderment I asked him how he knew that...

He googled me!!! He found this awful video which Peace Corps put up when they interviewed me at my school (i have an amazingly awful kenyan english accent)... Aren't there any other Callie Sorensen's in the world to help hide me???? i take up 3 damn pages of google... and my blog is one of em.

Luckily everyone is soooooooo sooooooo sooooooooo nice at both of my schools so I won't have to censor much :)

Chieria Festival 2008

Here's a few photos and videos from the Chieria Festival. One of my Japanese girlfriends was the MC for part of the fest so she invited me to come out for the day... There was a stage for games, music and dancing, little amusement park games for the kids to play, food stalls galore (mmm...... yakitori!!! (bbq chicken on a stick)... but inside.... some of the festival performances were a bit bizarre if you ask me.

The first act I watched were these 2 ladies doing some sort of cooking show. Only one had on a fake tuxedo and the other one a fake pink dress with fake pearls and fake cleavage. At the end they gave out bizarre balloon creations to kids.

Then there was this unique magician with a not so slight slight of hand (he accidently gave away his tricks not 1 not 2 but 5 times)... I sadly didn't get it on video. But here's a clip of him playing with his rings. Take a listen to the heartfelt moving tunes he carefully selected.

There's also a ventriloquist, a hip yo yo-er with a whoops and some soothin tunes... enjoy!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

my school is next to saruman's tower

OK....... the tower on my left is right smack directly next to my second school.

I swear its Saruman's tower from lord of the rings.

He haunts me from every classroom window.

my first gift from a teacher

I had my first day at my other high school today... Everyone is sooooooooo nice. I can't get over how nice everybody is here in Japan. So welcoming and accommodating and helpful...

While I was sitting in the corner waiting to introduce myself during the morning teacher meeting - one of the teachers from another department came up to me and handed me this gift!!!! soooooo sweet. he first asked me which transportation i come school to. then handed me this!!!!!!

its taco.... and no no no... not the mouth watering latin dish i miss so much (im talkin about you mighty taco and el famous!) but here in japan taco means octopus.

soooooo.... i received dried octopus cakes! a specialty from osaka. mmmmmmm..................

bruised prune legs

heres yet another example of my inability to read.

i went to buy pantyhose for my first day at work....... i found their section at the store no problem and bought the cheapest ones which was in a black package..... but when i opened it up and put em on - i looked like a big bruised prune!!! (reminded me of drop dead fred!!!) hahaha... but a few girls commented on how sugoi (cool) they were so i guess prune legs are in fashion here in sapporo.

Neighbor gomi war???

Sooooooo... I wrote a post before about gomi (trash) and how its a bit of a public thing amongst your neighbors.

Well...... when I arrived home after school today I found a bunch of trash, wrappers and food containers spread out on my front step and a big garbage bag torn open in the front of my house!!!!!! I freaked out thinking I made my neighbors angry with my amateur gomi sorting skillz.... but when I took a closer look at the bag I realized it was NOT MINE.

So now im really really really confused. Maybe some other neighbor wanted to have a laugh with the new white girl on the block and purposely put out the wrong trash on the wrong day so that when the other neighbors saw it they would automatically think it's mine and throw it right back at me.

ummmmmm..... i just hid the bag in my shed for now and cleaned up the other trash hoping this gomi war will blow over. wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

1st classes...

So I finished my first 2 days of actual teaching!

For those of ya JETs who are looking for ideas for high school. This one worked pretty well:

I put together a 25 minute slideshow introduction presentation about myself, my family, chicago, etc...

Instead of talking at the students for the full time I put together 25 numbered short questions and passed them out randomly amongst the students.

Then I told them to read their paper once I called their #....

I would say: Who is #1???? then they would say: "what is chicago famous for???"

I would answer - GOOD QUESTION! THANKS FOR ASKING!!! then show a corresponding slide to answer the question.

I also threw a bunch of funny ones in to get them laughing...

One paper read randomly: "Callie! You are soooo beautiful today!" Then i responded: WHY THANK YOU!!!

They died laughing. (if i heard crickets i would have the person repeat louder until they got the joke. :)

I also had them ask: "Do you have any pets???" (why yes i do!) What is your dogs name??? (gizmo! - showing pictures along the way) Then I threw in for them to say: "Callie - your dog gizmo is so cute!"

Another one was when I was talking about Fukudome being on the Chicago cubs. I put on my Fukudome headband and pretended to play baseball... then the next paper read: "Callie, your fukudome head band is so cool! SUGOI DESU NE!"

I think this got the students to practice speaking English in front of me in a relaxed and fun way...

I also would throw out american candy to the ones who asked or answered any questions I that weren't written down... and i gave a $1 bill to the first person who answered my very first question. they ate that up!!!

Off to my new school tomorrow. Not sure what to expect there! :)

more kanji woes...

Ok... sorry I've been talking about kanji a lot lately... but its crazy!!!

Tomorrow will be my first day at my other high school. I have to fill out a form for this high school in order to get reimbursed for travel. That would normally be no big issue... but this is me.... in Japan.... and I found out I have to fill out the entire form IN KANJI on my own. Crap. (why am i not suprised???)

It is pretty funny since I have no idea what I'm writing. I thought I was being clever when I asked my supervisor to fill out a sample form for me so I could just try and copy the kanji line by line.

Not so easy... Mine looked like a 2 year old's scribble pad. It's hard enough trying to write some of the kanji from a text book – but its even more impossible to try and copy a Japanese person's kanji handwriting which to me looks like a heap of mumbo jumbo cat scratches.


Last night I went to a Japanese class which is held by volunteer Japanese teachers every Monday night. Hopefully with my own studying and by attending this class every week I'll slowly build up my kanji reading and writing skillz.

Another thing that I just bought is a nifty new toy: the Nintendo DS... not only can I play Mario kart but I bought this Kanji/English dictionary meant for Japanese people to learn English... The great thing about it is that I can draw kanji on the touch pad and then it will give me the pronunciation in Japanese and the meaning in English!!! Yeah for technology!!! Finally Japan scores a point in that department. (a big thanks to john and rob who showed me this nifty toy!!!)

Hey Baby!!! What's your blood type????

Get ready to answer this question if you're ever headed to Japan.

I guess knowing one's blood type here in Japan can tell them a lot about a person. (ive learned to stop asking quesitons here)

I never even had a clue what my bloodtype was until I went through the application process for Peace Corps. Back home a blood type test will set ya back $150! and me being the cheapskate I am found out that if you donate blood you can ask and find out your blood type for free. I signed up to donate but fainted before I even entered the building. I had 2 other failed attempts (my mom even tried to drag me to one appointment) when I finally gave up on the idea of sitting there for a good umpteen hour while they drain my blood.

I ended up getting my blood test done through a finger prick for $1 in Ecuador while I was volunteering there. My oh my how I love 3rd world countries! So lo and behold I am AB.

When I told my students I was AB they covered their mouth, gave a shriek and acted like it was the coolest thing on the planet.

When I tried to tell them I was a Gemini they were not at all impressed.

I guess I'll stick to: Hi! I'm Callie. I'm AB.

I seem to be rackin up points that way. Try givin it a go!

Monday, August 25, 2008


another fun thing to do in japan is open a bank account (or 2 or 3)

the guy who was here before me had a citibank account and said he liked it so my japanese supervisor was nice enough to take me there to help me translate so I could open up an account. well.... i guess theres a new policy where you are charged $25/month if you have less than $5,000 in your account. i threw that out the window.

i saw on the JET forums that people really like the post office accounts cause you can withdraw money from just about anywhere in japan... even in rural places. so again - my supervisor and i went off to the post office to open an account. easy enough, eh?

well.... a week later my school tells me they can't deposit my salary into my post bank account sooooooo, my supervisor and I headed off yet again to another bank to open yet another account.

at the end of the school day - i guess it was pay day since a little bald man (with no english) in the office motioned for me to come in. he sat me down and handed over an envelope with $3,600 cash. holy crap...

i asked my supervisor how i deposit money into my bank accounts. he said its easy. just go to an atm.

ummmmmm.... ok?

since hes helped me get around and translate for the past week... i didnt want to drag him with me for the umpteenth time back to the bank.

one big annoying side note is that banks here in japan are only open 9-3pm. so how the hell am i supposed to do any transactions?????????? it would be easy (i should say easier) if i could go in person and have someone help me in person... but i guess thats why he mentioned ATMs.

so i feel adventurous and go to bank #2 first to try and deposit half of my money. luckily for me there was absolutely NO ENGLISH.... it was all kanji. crap. i stared dumbfoundedly at the machine hoping that a miracle would happen when all of a sudden i heard distant voices from behind the ATM machine.

i started screaming. HELP ME! HELP ME! SUMIMASEN! OSHIETE KUDASAI! it had been 3 days and i still had almost 4 grand in cash on me. i need to get rid of this and im becoming desperate.

the voices stopped then turned into a quieter distant whisper. i continued screaming until a nervous women came out from behind the iron door. WALAH!!!

(thats kind of how i figure things out here.... look around cluelessly and yell out SUMIMASEN OSHIETE KUDASAI! or just HELP ME!..... someone is bound to pull out some poor little japanese guy or girl from a back room somewhere who can speak 2 words of english and push them in front of you.)

so with my little phrase book and broken japanese i managed to have this poor lady help me put my money and bank book into the scary kanji laden ATM.

phew. thats one more thing off my to do checklist.

Be careful when buying rice cakes in Japan.

Sooooo...... I had yet another failed attempt at the grocery store. I bought what seemed to be rice cakes... they looked like rice cakes, felt like rice cakes and they even had a little picture of a popped corn type of thing on it.... I smothered it with my precious skippy peanut butter i found and then took a huge bite into the fishiest stankiest tasting rice cake ive ever eaten. grrrr.........

I'm now starting to fully understand my Mom's story from her Fulbright trip to Japan...

"Looks like a pizza, smells like pizza............. tastes like fish."

"Looks like a hashbrown, smells like a hashbrown.............. tastes like fish."

"Looks like a pancake, smells like a pancake..................... tastes like fish."

The list goes on...

Photos of my Introduction Speech

A teacher came to my desk this morning and gave me photos from when I spoke to the school last Friday.

The principal is seated on the far left and the vice principal is on his right.

I still can't get over how nice everyone is. What a change from the teachers in Kenya!!!

These shots are of me teaching the students a bit of Kenyan Sign Language. They are still running around calling me alligator! :)


callie is terrified. it is august and callie is already freezing her bum off once the sun goes down!!!!!

last night she was in her fleece PJ pants, winter socks, fleece jacket and under a new blanket AND sleeping bag AND was still freezin her patoopy off. good thing i also bought a little fleece jacket for my toilet!

crap. if this is august - what will feb be like?!??!?!!??!?! im poopin my pants.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

yet another club...

whoops... i think i forgot to mention i was also volunteered into joining the guitar club. hahah...

when a student asked me if i played any musical instruments i mentioned i used to play guitar in high school but i haven't played in years. the next thing i know im practicing with the guitar club and helping them with a flamenco song they'll perform in hakodate! hahaha...

lucky for me i just bought a yamaha acoustic guitar from a guy who's leaving japan... i got it for $25 with a stand, case and tuner. not too shabby. now i just gotta get the rust off my fingers. yikes...


Everywhere I go in Sapporo I see KUMA KUMA KUMA!!!! It's printed on T-shirts, bags, posters, wristbands, hats, everything!!! Every time I see it I get a bit flustered.

I'm a bit taken aback by this since in Swahili... well... um... kuma is a dirty dirty way to talk about a woman's genitalia.

Here in Japan they love kuma (and by that i mean bears.)

More Engrish...

I love this t-shirt.
Great advertising!


Legalize what?

Maple syrup???

And.......... my all time favorite clothing line:


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Amazing Japanese English/aerobic lesson...

English lesson on how to talk to Americans
This is a magical Japanese English lesson/aerobic exercise/avoiding panty-faced American rapists instructional video.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Final Sports Day...

I gave my introduction speech today to the entire student and teacher body today. Over 1,000 students!!! Wowie. I've been floating around for the past two days chatting and getting to know the students while they were in their tournaments, so at least it wasn't too too nerve wracking.

Luckily the speech was at the closing ceremonies for the Sports Festival, so the students were pumped up about the games and were super genki! When the teacher made the introductions and then invited me on stage the crowd went WILD. hahaha... I gave my speech in Japanese which drove them nuts, every word i said they were screaming and cheering at the top of their lungs. I've never felt like such a celebrity! Towards the end of my introduction, I taught them a bit of sign language: Hello! How are you? I'm fine! Then... See you later alligator! They were SCREAMING... Now in the hallways whenever the kids see me in the hallway they scream: SEE YOU LATER ALLIGATOR!!!!!! along with the big chomping sign. It's pretty hilarious.

I think sign language is a great way for the kids to build confidence to come and talk to me. They are terrified to use English so this way they can come up to me and use sign without having to speak. Then slowly we can work English in!

Next week I have to give my self introductions to each class separately. I have 8 classes at this base school and then on Wed and Thursday I will have my first day at my other high school, where I will have to do all of my introductions again!

Engrish Sports Shirts

My high school consists of three years. Within each year they are divided into 8 classes of about 40 students. The 32 classes competed against each other in various sports... Each class designed their own t-shirt with their nicknames on the back. Some of them were cute and others had amazing engrish. The 2 girls posing with me had a drawing of sesame street - big bird had glasses on and below it read: sasami street. awww....

a bit random - "don't make fun of us! or else..." umm.... i wonder what they were going for... if you make fun of us we will kill you and pose your skeleton bones into the shape of a heart???

at least the english is good on this one!

I think this shirt was one of my favorites. It speaks for itself.

I wish I took more of the other classes - one had the statue of liberty pumping iron and it said: WORK GOOD TELL ME!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Off to shop for high necked shirts...

Soooo...... I've realized the teaching type of shirts I wore back in the States and Kenya just aint cutting it here in Japan. What might be considered 'conservative' while standing upright in front of a mirror suddenly changes its appearance once I hop on and lean over on my mountain bike and zoom around town.

I was riding home from the Sapporo orientation on Tuesday when I noticed a business guy on his bike coming at me from the opposite direction. He had his phone in his hand sideways and was pointing it right at me when I suddenly realized - he was taking a photo or video of me!!!!!! I wondered why and then glanced down and realized my once oh so conservative shirt was draping down exposing my bra!!!! crap. let me know if you see those shots on the internet.

I'm off to go shopping this week for more appropriate work/bike clothes.

Sports day, eyebrow shaving and small faces

School is finally back in session! I was at the Hokkaido orientation Mon - Wed. so I returned to my high school today to catch the last two days of the Sports Festival.

This morning I had to give my introduction speech in Japanese to all 60 teachers, but after that I was able to wander the halls and meet a lot of the students while they played basketball, volleyball, baseball, soccer and table tennis. They girls were so cute and piled around me wanting to touch my hair, feel my skin and they commented on how small my face is. (I guess in Japan this is a way of complementing someone????) A lot of them also asked me how I shaved my legs and eyebrows. Bizarre... I guess shaving your eyebrows is the hip thing to do here. Now that they've asked me, I've noticed that even the boys shave their eyebrows!

While the girls were dying to chat to me and work together in teams to find the right English - the boys played it cool... but a few of the class clowns came over to joke around or to yell out I LOVE YOU then run.

I accidentally mentioned I liked playing volleyball to some of the kids - so at 3:30 I realized someone volunteered myself to join the teacher's team. Crap...... I had to change out of my suit and join the teachers in a practice game against the students!!!! (tomorrow we'll be playing the championship boy's team in front of the school!!!!) The students yelled out to the others that I was on the court and everyone crowded in to watch this new blonde gaijin girl play volleyball with all the boys. I think I luckily fed off of the adrenaline from the kids and actually was able to hold my own on the court and have a few saves. Phew!!! Or maybe I just thought I did good cause they were screaming and cheering every time the ball came close to me! I'm terrified for tomorrow when we have to play in front of the entire school. HELP!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Arcade toys...

Japan LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVES arcades... You can find them on just about every street corner in Sapporo. They are amazing. I have a lot of stories to post about them, but first I had to share these photos I took of one game I recognized from back home... the one where you stick in a quarter (here its 100yen) and then move the robot hand strategically to impossibly pick up big stuffed animals... Only in Japan they not only have the 'kawai' (cute) stuffed animals (and eye balls?) in this photo, but they also have: dum dum dum...........


huh????? yup! you see it right. The photo on the left was the first one I spotted. A big blue kawai teddy bear dripping blood from under his nose.... and hes being consumed by 100's of bloody arms with bloody claws. hrmmmm.... Does anyone else find this a bit strange???

Thennnnn.... a few days later in yet another arcade I found:

The same kawai/cutesy teddy bear arcade game but this time it said in English: "HEAVY BLOOD VER."

And they think the bloody claw/arm game was the light flowing blood version???



This post is dedicated to Monty - my corgi neighbor from back home... (HI MONTY!!!!)

Here's a photo of a corgi I met in Odori Park. Japanese dogs are always dressed to impress. This little guy is sporting a casual sporty t-shirt. It's amazing how many dog clothing stores I've found in Sapporo! They have outfits for every occasion.

In the book shop I even found a magazine dedicated solely to corgis!!! Wow...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Japanese take on American food...

Since Sapporo is a metropolitan city they have been putting in a good effort to internationalize and offer various types of Western food. Below are 2 photographs which I took at a crepe shop in the fancy Sapporo Factory Mall.

The dish on the left is labeled: "Frank Pizza Cheese" (it looks like a crepe with marinara sauce a hot dog and mac 'n cheese) and the second photo is "Frank salad" (a crepe with tuna salad, corn, hot dog and ketchup) and then on the far right is "Spaghetti Meatsauce" (in a crepe!)

Need I say more????

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Tanners can speak Japanese!

My Japanese Angel...

I have found my Angel here in Sapporo - Mayumi!

I met her at one of the tourist information booths in the underground shopping mall. I asked if she knew anyone who wanted to be tutored in English in exchange for helping me with my Japanese. She jumped with joy and said: MEMEME!!!

For our first meeting we met by the Sapporo TV tower and ended up going to the beer gardens. She insisted on treating me to a beer and food because she was so happy to find someone to practice English with. Her English is actually quite good because she lived in both Australia and Canada for a year each. But she said she's quickly losing it since moving back to Japan.

When I told her I was interested in finding a gym that offers classes in martial arts, aerobics, yoga, etc... she went home and researched all the gyms around my house and school - printed out all of their schedules and info AND translated the important bits AND labeled them on a map for me!!!! How nice is that?!?!?! Not only that but she came over to my house Thursday evening and helped me go through my house and helped me figure out the washing machine, my hot water contraption and helped me figure out whether the tubes of liquid I had in my bathroom were lotion, conditioner or body soap. (i had been cluelessly trying them out in all 3 ways with no luck!) I also had a problem with my sink drainage - so then she taught me the Japanese translations so I could go to the store and ask for help!

Sooooooooo sweet!!!!! She saw my Chicago Cubs hat so now is planning a trip for us to go see the Nippon Ham Fighters (Sapporo baseball team) AND she saw a stain on my sheets so will drive me to her favorite discount bedding store to help me buy sheets and a comforter. She also told me I have a big 100 yen shop hiding on the streets behind my grocery store I never knew existed. Wow.... talk about an angel!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm starting to finally feel like I'm getting my act together. hahahaha... (for now)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Gomi gomi gomi... Trash trash trash

Gomi gomi gomi… Which trash day is it today????

Taking out the trash is normally a pretty mundane chore no matter where you are. But in Japan there is an extra element of excitement – you get to play a guessing game with everything you throw away AND that your neighbors are watching your every move!

In Sapporo specifically (each town is different) you have to sort your trash into 4 strict categories which have separate pick up days. (here's a picture of 2 of my 4 trash bins in my house)

1. Burnables (food scraps, paper, wood, clothes… anything that can burn burn burn)

2. Non-burnables (except for aerosols and batteries which go in their own separate bags... but then big things like TVs, mops, chairs, etc... can NOT be thrown away. You have to pay money to have it disposed of... but don't ask me how to do this... and I don't know how I would charade the details of that question to my neighbor)

3. Plastics #1 (all plastics except for plastic that has PET written on it, no plastic bottles, no plastic with any aluminum or anything else on it.)

4. Plastics #2 (Plastic bottles with PET written on it, but not their lids (don’t forget to remove their tops), aluminum cans, aluminum tops…

All of the above needs to be emptied out, rinsed, clean and dry… Then, each category has their specific day for collections:

Mondays and Fridays is burnables

Tuesday is non-burnables

Thursdays is plastics #1 and #2

How did I know this??? Well... during orientation JET talked a little bit about how important sorting trash... so I finally met one of my neighbors and asked him to help. (he didn't know English so we played a crazy game of charades mixed with our broken languages)

It’s pretty funny because with one item such as a tub of yogurt – you might have to dispose it into 4 different bins: The spoon might be PET plastic, the shrink wrap is the other kind of plastic, the top is a foil type non-burnable (I think), and the container is a thick paper which is burnable. (for some other smaller towns they have divide normal paper and thicker paper into separate bins. Geeeeeez…)

All of your neighbors bring their trash to the same area and place it under this fishing type netting. (Oh yeah... and you can't bring it out the night before cause the crazy crows with tear everything apart and sprawl your trash up and down the street.) Your trash also has to be in a clear plastic bag which means everyone can see what’s inside! I’ve heard other JETs who say that if you put the wrong trash out or accidentally put the wrong thing in the wrong bag on the wrong day your neighbors will either put it back on your doorstep or re-organize it themselves whilst holding an unknown grudge to the unsuspecting foreigner.

I had my first trash days last week so I tried to hide my bags at the bottom of the pile and then I went home and prayed that everything would work out OK. Trash is here public domain – anyone can snoop through it and especially since I’m a new blonde foreigner on the block I’m sure everyone will want to see what goods I’ve thrown away. I’m also a bit nervous since my predecessor left a bunch of bags full of liquor bottles- I hope my neighbors don’t think I’m a drunk. Hahah…

The second picture is of a trash collection point on the way to school. Mine is actually sprawled out along the floor instead of in a bin - so it's much easier to spy on others gomi. :)

Creepy guy...

It's a bit challenging yet exciting starting a new life in a new city on your own. I didn't know anyone in Sapporo before I moved here so getting myself out there and making new friends is high on my to do list…

I find it funny how I have so many Kenyan ways stuck in my head. In Kenya when a stranger approaches you, I would automatically wonder – what does this person want from me? Money? To steal my bag? Maybe they want me to contribute to their son or daughters or cousin of cousins school fees??? Or maybe they just want to touch my blonde hair or pull at my arm hair. In Kenya I always found myself thinking twice before starting a new friendship. I had many friendships that would sometimes go for a few months or even the whole two years before I realized all they wanted from me is to be their sponsor or ticket to America – and when I said sorry - POOF they were gone.

In Japan, I need to start afresh and forget my Kenyan thought process. During my first week in Hokkaido, I stopped in the tourist information center next to the clock tower to see what's going on in Sapporo. The ladies at the front desk were so friendly and helpful. I was asking them where I could take an Aikido or Kung Fu class when a middle aged Japanese man overheard us talking and offered to teach me Kendo at his house with his daughters and exchange students from the Philippines. My honest initial reaction was... weird… What does he want? Will he rip me off and ask me to pay some extraordinary amount after we begin??? But I caught myself and said wait… let me give Japan the benefit of a doubt and maybe take this guy up on his desire to help me out and perhaps he just wants to practice his English. (which by the way was almost non-existent) Plus, if the tourist info ladies seemed keen on the idea of him helping me then he must not be so creepy. We exchanged contacts and have been emailing back and forth in our broken English and Japanese. I'll meet him for the first time on Saturday to go to the Susukino Festival in Sapporo.

OK… fast forward to the Susukino Festival. I met him at the Susukino police box last Saturday evening. He was dressed a bit young and hip – sporty sunglasses and a white collared shirt with a gold embroidered huge tiger on the elbow. Weird. But who am I to judge Japanese fashion??? We watched the mikoshi parade and taiko performances. It was good practice for my Japanese since he didn't speak much English at all. We then went to the stalls to have a bite of yakitori (skewered chicken). He saw some of his old friends so we sat by them and as they jabbered away in Japanese I made friends with an old woman with a Chihuahua and was able to hold the little cute guy in my lap. Everything was going fine until we left the food fair to go watch the super genki University dancing… It turned cold and he asked if I was OK and then started rubbing my arm continuously while I was trapped on a guard rail between 1,000 bikes!!!! EWWW… OK – I've only been in Japan for a week but I do know that they are not a touchy feely society – I mean it's even weird to hug people! So come on… I think my first impression at the tourist information desk was right. Arghhh… I quickly said I was tired and ran off to get my bike and rode home.

He emailed me the next day offering to drive me to the Noboribetsu Hell Festival (which I sooooooo do!) but I ignored the e-mail.

THEN… two days later at school I'm on my lunch break and walk to the 7-11 conbini around the corner to grab some sushi and guess who is outside of 7-11 with his sporty sunglasses, a bright red racing tanktop and shorts - leaning against a black sports car?!?!!??!

CREEEEEPY. I don't know if I just have the worst luck or if he's spying on me. Whatever it is – I got the heeby jeebies. When he asked me why I didn't reply to his e-mail I pretended I didn't understand his Japanese and wished him luck and said goodbye! Yikes…. later when I got home, I replied to his email and said I couldn't go to the Hell Fest.

I told this story to a few of my Japanese girlfriends and they too said KARAI! (I think that's the equivalent to Scary! Creepy!)

Shucks… it would have been nice to have free kendo lessons and a ride/Japanese guide to the Noboribetsu Hell Festival!!! But not worth it! I guess there's creepy guys no matter what country you live in. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Clothesniverous Washing Machine...

Here we go again..... my lack of kanji reading once again has me stuck and terrified. My predecessor was luckily around to show me my new house... and his instructions for the washing machine were: "press the purple button first, then the green."

Walah! It worked!!! But when I took my clothes out for the first time - all of my underwear, and a few other items were ripped to shreds. just great...

Turn on the gentle spin cycle you say???? Oh... OK! Why don't you just tell me which of those buttons will do that...

Welcome to my new world.

So the top button is easy enough - the little pictures tell me how big of a load it is. phew! The second button??? The hiragana says: susugi which of course isn't in my dictionary.

Luckily when I was out shopping at the amazing 100yen shop, (like our $1 store but imagine 5 stories tall and a million times better) I found the clothes washing section which had loads of netted bags with pictures of shirts and underwear being protected from the washing machines. Ah ha! So I guess here in Japan they throw their clothes into these bags first so that the machine doesn't eat em up.

I was excited when I saw a sentence in English on the packaging- it read that each bag had a specific purpose. The purple for lingerie ONLY, and the other 2 were for SHIRT ONLY and BLACK SHIRT ONLY. they looked identical to me. but i bought all 3 to try out - i didn't want to ruin the last of my clothes and no one speaks good enough english for me to ask any questions.

I think I'm drifting back to the point I made with my shower situation - isn't Japan one of the most innovative and technologically advanced nations in the world?!?!!??! I don't see why they can't invent a washing machine that doesn't tear your clothes to shreds. hrmmm... but maybe i'm just being silly. I mean - since no one seems to own dryers here I guess theres no choice but to spin the heck out of the clothes. (it's seriously scary to hear my washing machine jump and rattle and whirl while i sit back and pray my clothes won't be eaten)

Hopefully these mesh specific bags will help me out here so I won't have to spend yet another 2 years washing my clothes by hand.