Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An awful, scary, eye opening and heart warming robbery...

Wow... I don't know where to begin.

I guess I'll start from the beginning...

My good girlfriend from High School came to visit me in Japan a few days ago. We were having a blast visiting my school, introducing her to my friends, biking around Sapporo and experiencing Japan...

Then on Sunday we had a lazy morning and took off on our bikes at about 11am. We met up with some of my students who graduated last year for coffee and donuts and then we went to my Taiko drumming class. After class we went out with one of my Taiko friends to eat at a Japanese izakaya restaurant. After stuffing ourselves we met up with some of my Japanese friends and went around Susukino and out for her first karaoke!!! After a long day we got home at about midnight.... Everything seemed normal..... and after some chatting we crashed.

The next morning I woke up at about 9:30am to go to an appointment I had out in Maruyama. I didn't have much cash on me so I went to grab some money out of my secret stash which was hidden in a drawer.... On Saturday I had withdrawn a lot of money.... about $1,100 since my friend and I are off to Kyoto/Osaka for vacation! I told her not to bring any cash to Japan that I would just give her yen when she arrives... So I was planning on giving her half of that money.... but.... when I went to grab some money from my pouch it was ALL GONE!!!! All that was in my pouch was some random Vietnam dong I had from my trip last Christmas. I woke up Jo and told her my money was missing!!! She half dazingly awoke and told me I probably misplaced it and that we'll look for it later... I biked out to Maruyama (35 mins) for my appointment... when I finished, I checked my phone and had 5 frantic messages from Jo saying that her money was stolen too and that I better get home ASAP!!! So I freaked out and called one of the English teachers at my school and asked him to meet me at my house.... I rode faster than I ever rode before!!!

Sweating my balls off I pull up to the house and Jo showed me the back glass door of my house which had been broken into!!!!!! Someone cut the glass, unlatched the lock then cut the other glass door and got in!!!!

Luckily they took nothing but cash (at least nothing else that I know of)..... my laptop with all my pics was still here... our ipods, electronics and everything else.... but they found my stash of money which was probably in total $1,100 in yen plus they took maybe about $200 in USD.... and then Jo had about $300 of yen stolen plus her scorpion pouch which she seemed more devastated about than her cash. hahaha...

What I also find amusing is how nice and Japanese-like the robber was. He didn't tear apart my apartment looking for the cash and he didnt take ANYTHING but cash. I kinda wanna give him a big hug and a good ole F&#*($ YOU all at the same time. (sorry I swore mom) I just hope he used that money for his family... Or maybe he got laid off and needed to pay the bills... It just better not go towards Susukino girls or drugs. I'll be ticked.

Back to the story.... so luckily my teacher arrived soon after and we showed him the broken door and then he immediately called the police....

about 20 minutes later not one but TEN police showed up at my house along with 2 detectives!!!!!!!! WT!?!? They began to scower my house with flashlights, brushes, instruments and who knows what!!!! I never felt so safe before with all of them there! They were all sooo nice and helpful and concerned. One of the cops looked soooo sad and said to me in Japanese something along the lines of: "I am so embarrassed for my country now. I can't imagine how you must feel about Japan. I truly hope you will learn to love us again." Awww..... he was so sincere and concerned. They continued to check my house for a good few hours taking pictures... and had me explain EVERYTHING.... luckily my English teacher was there to help with translations. My friend Jo was luckily finding the humor in this crazy adventure and started taking pictures of the whole ordeal!!!! haha... the cops loved it... they even placed our fingerprints closer for her to photograph! haha...

They took our fingerprints with this magic crazy wax which was clear but later turned to black ink!!! When I was getting fingerprinted the cop looked and me and told me i had beautiful hands! hahahahaha... WT!??! I couldn't tell if he was trying to comfort me or hit on me.

The next day at school I had an overwhelming positive/caring/kind/generous/supportive response from all of the teachers and office workers. They were all soooo concerned for me and so kind. Once they heard about the break in- they must had gotten together to collect money and at the end of the day they handed me an envelope with an apology note. I almost started bawling my eyes out cause I was so moved by everyone's kindness. (instead I waited til I got home)

After school the 2 office workers loaded my bike in their car and drove me home and then took me on a tour of the 2 apartments I can move into... Everyone is insisting that I move cause they want me to be safe.

I think I'm going to take the one on the 2nd floor which is a little more expensive but SAFE! The only downside is that there's a family underneath me so I won't be able to do my fun awesome 80's aerobic dance workouts!!! The floors and walls are too thin. sniff....... but my office worker was like... which do you want... safety... or dancing?!?!

It's kind of sad I had to pause and really think about it, eh???? hahah... I'm gonna miss my workouts... but maybe I can workout in my socks and just jump a lot less. ;-)

After this happened I kept saying to myself.... WHY ME???? WHY JAPAN????? I spent a year in Latin America in some of the most dangerous cities and then 2 1/2 years in Kenya and I've NEVER had anything stolen! Then I move to one of the safest countries in the WORLD and BHAM! This happens.... And it was just awful timing... I had JUST gone to the bank the day before to take out that money. AHHH!!! I wish I would have waited a day... or taken it out in Kyoto and pay the ATM fee. I was trying to save a few bucks by taking it out here. a;ldkfjasl;dfj... but again.... I keep reminding myself it's just cash... and they luckily didn't take anything and we weren't harmed or in the house when it happened... thank goodness.... I think I was still in my Kenyan mindset and kept thinking about how many cows I could buy with that money or how I could put 3 kids through High School plus feed their families.... uff.... But what's most important is our health, well being, friends and family!!! And luckily we have all of those ;-)

After today at school I had some time to myself to take a step back and look at the big picture... and I realized that this whole experience as crazy and scary as it was just made me love Japan even more. Japanese kindness is amazing. I truly do love this place and it's going to break my heart when I have to leave. As one of my friends said... The dark truly makes the light brighter. ;-)

Now I'm off to Osaka/Kyoto with Jo and then when she leaves I'm going to sit my 3rd Vipassana 10 day Meditation Course on the outskirts of Kyoto. http://www.bhanu.dhamma.org/bhanu_.html This course couldn't have come at a better time!

Thank you everyone for your support!!!! I love you all!!!!!!!

xoxo Callie

side note.... I JUST found the scorpion purse hidden away in my suitcase... gave me the heeby jeebies thinking this guy touched everything of mine. *shudder* I think its the thought that someone could come back while we're here which bothers me the most. I can't wait to move!

side note#2... some of you keep asking if the cops were cute.... and sadly NO... I didn't get any numbers out of this whole ordeal! hahaha.... that would have been a good trade off tho! ;-) If any of you have any numbers out there for me please forward that info on!!!! yeeeee ha!

stay safe and happy!!! xoxo

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Japanese Energy Drinks

Being sick is no fun... I came down with a nasty cold which has been slowly creeping up on me. I asked some Japanese friends what they recommended for a cold and a lot of them told me to take an energy/health drink!

For those of you who haven't been to Japan.... at almost every supermarket, convenient store, pharmacy and other random shops you can find one section dedicated to rows and rows and more rows of these magical little crazy bottles. I'm still not too sure what they are exactly. Some swear by certain ones for hangovers, others for sicknesses, others for energy and the list goes on...

When teachers noticed I had started catching a cold one even gave me a drink as a present - so sweet!!!

I gulped it down... but about an hour later had the runs.... ewwww.... not sure if the drink was hard at work or if my body was in shock and wondering what the heck I had just put in it!?!?! hahah... either way I wasn't doing too hot so finally my supervisor suggested I go home at lunch time...

On my way home I stopped to ask the pharmacist what she recommended for a cold and she led me to yet ANOTHER drink.... I gulped that down also but am still sick as a dog and had to take a sick day. I lost my voice and have been sleeping for 12 hour stints.

Hope I can get back on track soon... Not too sure I believe in these little expensive bottles. I'm going back to my secret stash of good ole American powerful meds!!!! (thanks mom!)

A new school year, new teachers and new students...

Not only has spring arrived (FINALLY!) but also there are 320 some new students at each of my schools!!! They are all so cute and soooo shy... I've been walking around the hallways trying to be super friendly by talking to them and welcoming them to school.

Not only do we have new students but we also have new teachers and office workers joining the team. Each school throws a big formal welcome reception/dinner party at a fancy hotel. I jumped on the opportunity to go so I could mix and mingle with the teachers whom I normally get a chance to talk to. Finally my Japanese is at a point where I can hold a somewhat decent length conversation so I've been trying to talk to more and more teachers.

At these Welcome Parties they start out very formal and the Principal and Vice Principals give speeches and introduce the new staff. Then each new teacher/worker has to stand up and introduce themselves. There is a lot of standing, sitting, bowing, clapping and more bowing going on... and thennnnnnn comes the beer and sake and shouchu for a big KAMPAI (cheers) which then releases the food onto the tables!!! We had plates and plates of sashimi, beef, pork, soups, noodles, steamed egg custards, and mochi balls... mmm....

The funniest thing about the Welcome Party was that each new teacher including the new Vice Principal had to get up on stage during the zillion course dinner and sing KARAOKE!!!!! hahahaha... I couldn't believe it. oh wait... yes I could... because this is Japan!!! whoo hooo...

Then of course Monday morning at school is like nothing ever happened... If it was a school in the States people would be laughing and chatting about the party and karaoke tunes... but in Japan it's just SILENCE... and WORK... I think that's why I enjoy the enkais so much because teachers who normally don't speak a word to you at work will be polar opposite at the enkai - so talkative and hilarious - and they even crack out their English!!! ;-)

I'm most excited about my new neighbor/teacher because... he has a CORGI!!!! I luuuuuv corgis! Him and his wife came over to my house to introduce themselves with some cookies... they were so sweet. It will be nice to have some new friendly neighbors!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Move over Easter bunny... here comes Dole-kun

This year I traded in the easter bunny to hang out with Dole-kun - the owl mascot of Sapporo's Soccer team - the Consadoles!!!!

I'm especially fond of Mr. Dole-kun because we share the same initials - CS!!!! whoo hoooooo....

One of my students who graduated this year invited me to a Consadole game with her Mom. They are part of the fan club so go to EVERY game!!!

I had taiko (Japanese drums) practice in the morning so I met them at the Sapporo Dome in time for kick off...


The game reminded me of the Sapporo Ham Fighters (baseball) game I went to last year because there were so many genki cheers with hand movements, waving, jumping, and towel waving... I know nothin about soccer really but the actual game was heaps of fun!!!! ;-)

They even had cheerleaders who came out to cheer alongside Dole-kun...

We were winning most of the game 1-0 but then the other team scored a point in the last 10 minutes so we tied 1-1. The craziest and most shocking thing about the game was at the end.... the team came out and walked around to each side of the stadium and bowed... BUT instead of everyone clapping for them they were SCREAMING WITH ANGER and BOOing!!!!!! They gave them huge thumbs down while shouting at them at how awful they played!!!@(*!&@)! HUH!@*!)(@*??? They didn't even lose - it was a tie!!!! I couldn't believe it!!!! My student and her mom were laughing at me cause I was shouting in Japanese: "It's OK! DON'T WORRY! BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME!" hahah... With how polite Japanese culture is this one took me by surprise!!!! I took a small video clip of the booing cause I couldn't believe it!


After the game we went for a nice dinner out and chatted... They invited me to a game at Atsubetsu Stadium which is an outdoor stadium. I guess when the Sapporo Ham Fighter Baseball team is playing the Consadoles get booted over to Atsubetsu. But I think the outdoor stadium will be good fun!

I can't wait til the next game!!!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Justin's weekend in Sapporo

Justin, a fellow JET friend of mine from Eastern Hokkaido, came out to Sapporo last weekend...

We dined, chatted and hit up the nightlife in Susukino!!!

Here we are dining on okonomiyaki before heading out on the town...

We met up with some other JETs for some drinks then hit MickeyD's on the way home to try the new green tea/oreo McFlurry! (it wasn't so good and looked more like mossy moldy ice cream... but at least it didn't taste like fish)

As we were walking home along the covered shopping street of Tanuki-koji you could tell spring was approaching because the guitar players, dancers and singers were out practicing their tunes.... It was hilarious to watch the girl singers being surrounded by all males and the guy singers surrounded by swooning teen girls! hahah

Saturday night Justin and I weren't too sure where to go in Susukino so we just randomly entered buildings and closed our eyes to press random floors to see what treasures awaited us.... but sometimes we weren't so lucky...

but back on the streets we did hit the jackpot and met a great group of random people who took us under their wings!!!! we went out with them all night.... eating, drinking, chatting and wrapped it up with a fun round of karaoke!!!

since Justin drove out to Sapporo he asked if we could take a trip out to COSTCO!!!!!!!! how could i resist a ride to go visit the heavenly land of over sized portions and greasy american gooooodness?!?!?! we indulged in pizzzzza, hot dogs, free refills and soooo many samples!!!!!

mmmmm..... i looooooooove COSTCO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (the security guard wasnt so excited!)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Graduation party at my house!!!

It was sad saying goodbye to the Senior students at my school. Many of them got accepted to Universities far from Sapporo such as Osaka, Yokohama, Okinawa and even America!!!

So I threw a party at my house to congratulate them on graduating and wish them luck in college!!! I cooked a bunch of food (spaghetti, chili, pita, salad, tuna salad, deviled eggs, chips and salsa, popcorn, chocolate and moooooore) We feasted and chatted!!!

After eating, we played a few hilarious rounds of both charades and pictionary!!! Surprisingly they had never played either game so it was good fun!!! (I had them think of their own topics/people/teachers/places/things and then we put a bunch into a hat to draw from)

It's sad to think they won't be at school anymore... but this week a whole new bunch of 1st year students came!!!!! They are pretty darn shy, but I'm slowly breaking them out of their shells with my GENKIness!!! whoo hooooooo!!!!!

FAREWELL SAN-NEN-SEIS!!!! and GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!! xoxo I'll miss you...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Another night out KARAOKEing!!!


After spending the day in Takayama we took a bus over to Shirakawa-go (meaning white river old district.) Shirakawa-go is a UNESCO world heritage site. The buildings are famous for its Gassho-zukuri, "prayer-hands construction" style is characterized by a thatched and steeply slanting roof resembling two hands joined in prayer.

We hiked to the top of the mountain for a great view over Shirakawa-go... and then at the bottom we sat and had ice cream with Sarubobo. ;-)

We even saw Marimo!!!!!!!! He was on vacation down in Gifu hanging out with his buddy Sarubobo.

We spent the night in one of the old thatched house ryokans. There was a group a fun guys who knew each other from college. We feasted and chatted with them then hit up the onsen in town.

Leah's friend Coleen and her sister picked us up from the train station then we had a great night of curry and chatting!!!

Leah and I then spent the rest of the night bundled up in blankets at her house watching good ole American TV shows... and in the morning we made some yummy German Pancakes from a mix my Mom had sent me for Xmas! mmmm......