Dealing with Garbage in Japan

Well, here it is… Wednesday. 11:15 pm Japan Standard time… Which means most of you are going to sleep LAST NIGHT, relatively speaking, here in a few hours. Confused??

Many times in the past week I have posted Mental Xanga posts. Mental Xanga posts are like normal xanga posts, except they are in my head and therefore cannot  be appreciated for the awesomeness that they are , by you, the reader.

In any case, you should know about 2 events that have occurred in my live since my last post.

The first is that I did yardwork Saturday! Hopefully most of you remember that I live in an apartment in JAPAN, and houses of entire families rarely have yards to sit cross-legged in… let alone an apartment in japan having a yard. But I did. Well technically I did balcony work…  which is a lot like yard work, except you are in an area the size of a roach motel and about 30 feet off the ground. My goal for last Friday (my day off to appreciate the Autumn Equinox) was to basically destroy the large bamboo screen that had been decaying for years on my balcony. To understand why this is a difficult task, one must first realize that garbage in Japan is a frequent pain in my rear-end. Certain sizes, certain things, on certain days, may only be disposed of… and if you have an item that doesn’t fit into the category… like my bamboo screen… tough patootie. But I wasn’t about to let this eyesore- and quite frankly, DISGUSTING piece of rotting nastiness infested with bugs… on my balcony. I contemplated breaking it down little by little and putting small amounts of it out with my normal garbage… Shawshank Redemption style… but after 2 months, I had finally had it. So I went to the Home Stock store and bought  gardening clippers and gloves. Now the fun part…

This bamboo screen is about 8 feet tall. (remember I am only about 5) and spans about 8 feet wide. I am surprised that this enormous object even fit on the balcony. the pieces of bamboo are all different sizes, but most are about as think as a woman’s finger with some of the larger ones being as thick as a thumb. There is a hemp-like rope that  weaves in and out of each piece of bamboo and there is a rope across the span of the screen about every foot up it. so, even though it is pretty decayed, I can ‘t just rip it apart. I have to separate EACH piece of bamboo and then cut it. So, I start out working in my balcony the size of a roach motel… destroying this piece of nastiness, and avoiding the bugs… which I was surprised weren’t as many as I thought there would be. FOUR hours later, drenched in sweat… the fruits of my labor includes 3 large garbage bags full of the bamboo screen, rope and miscellaneous bugs. But even then, I couldn’t throw these bags away until Monday morning (though I snuck out and threw them away Sunday night…) it was SO nice to have a view free of that bamboo screen.

The second story might seem anticlimactic… I went shopping by myself in a town 20 minutes away. I also had my first fast food since my arrival in Tokyo. McDonalds… was a welcome visit from home! I basically had a date with myself… and I liked it!! So much so, that I am going to do it again this weekend… so that I can buy a new T.V. because YES… mine is BROKEN. And NO I don’t even want to think about how on Earth I am going to get rid of the broken one just yet. I just got rid of the bamboo screen….

On other news… sumo is over. I am sad.

And I have my flight reserved to come home!! Very happy.

That is all for now… until next time…


I can’t believe it has already been a week since my last post. CRAZY. I swear the time is flying, and I am HAPPY about that!!! 80-something days until I grace the North American Continent of the AMAZING  US of A. You people (yes YOU PEOPLE) in Colorado just keep soaking up the fact that you can go buy coffee or chai….mmmm chai….. from a Starbucks. Yes I probably could too… but that would mean a bus ride to a place where I would take a ferry to my final destination of a Starbucks, where the employees probably wouldn’t understand that I need a chai as large as Titanic with 2 shots of vanilla and whip cream. Maybe if I compared it to Godzilla…. hmmm. (The cost of travel, the actual cup of chai and the giant cup holder (which the Japanese people probably imported from America, since that is the only place where you can by a 50 gallon single serving of anything) would set me back my entire paycheck for the month. But really… I am in serious withdrawals from conveniences of the motherland…. like 2 ply toilet paper that feels SOFT, and grocery stores where I could ACTUALLY know what it is I was buying… because, let’s face it… I don’t speak or read Japanese so my next option is to study the pictures on products and hope I choose the better tasting. However… be it known… pictures on foods in Japan, DON’T MEAN ANYTHING!!! There will be a nice picture of something, a flower, a smiling little girl holding her bunny, a beaver gnawing some wood… all of these are on opaque packages (that would take Superman’s x-ray vision to see through) on the aisle that seems to be fruits and vegetables. This is when I leave that row, and head toward the produce department… where everything is clearly marked APPLE, BANANA, FISH, OCTOPUS. No it isn’t REALLY labeled. But God did a pretty good job of distinguishing natural foods with their own characteristics so that stupid people (or people in foreign countries unable to tell if a beaver gnawing wood is gonna be something that tastes good) don’t die of starvation.

This is not meant to say that I am not STILL loving it here. I am. I mean, where else can you get the day off because the national holiday is Aged Day. (Or in other words, a day to celebrate OLD PEOPLE.) So great!!! This also happens to fall within the same week (which, looking at my calendar only happens every 7 years IF leap year doesn’t happen) as the Autumn Equinox… which I also get the day off for. So, two three day weekends with a three day work week… I may never be this utterly rested again.

Well, it is now 4 pm Japan Standard time. Which means it is 1 am for all you Coloradans… I am going to go home now and watch SUMO. More on that topic…. Later.

A Wonderful Day

Hard to believe, it’s Tuesday. Yesterday it was Monday and tomorrow is Wednesday.

I know, right? Pointing out the obvious. No, I am not insane, it is just crazy how time has been cut and sized and categorized into measurements of… what?? Life? How many years I’ve lived? How much more time until my next birthday? Not like I need a calendar to tell me that I can’t do the flexible things I used to do when I was 6. I mean seriously.

But how does one describe a day, that was not out of the ordinary. The sun came up, it went down, the breeze blew, the shadows grew and I functioned the way a human does. I went about my tasks that were to be accomplished, and actually finished them all… yes that was an feat a bit out of the ordinary… but a day, nonetheless, like every other day. Something about the day, gave me a renewed sense of self. Perhaps the completion of my goals… maybe. But the significance of the goals was minimal… clean my apartment, write that letter, do the dishes, make the dinner… and the list goes on.

Perhaps, it was that I found enjoyment in those things that I did. Not that I had tried to, it kind of just happened. I enjoyed making fried shrimp for the first time in my life and french fries to boot! I enjoyed the clean feeling of the my apartment, and the joy I got in taking pictures to send home. I enjoyed walking to the bank and the grocery store and being able to get everything on my lst, and some. I enjoyed it. Perhaps, it is not the actual events in which characterize a day, but the satisfaction one finds in doing those events. Not that I have found a secret to doing this, because I still hate washing dishes, doing laundry and hiking up my mountain with 4 bags full of HEAVY groceries. Yet there is satisfaction, in that I don’t have to do those things again for a while. And the state of being “done” which never actually occurs permanently… is experienced for a moment. a moment in an ordinary day… that’s all it took to make yesterday, extraordinary.



In that word, I express many things:

I express how different it is to be a teacher instead of the student, and how all of you should ask for forgiveness for all the mean things you ever thought about a teacher. (Believe me, I already have.) It is hard to be a teacher in general, but if one desires to be an EXCEPTIONAL teacher, one must first surrender all hopes of sanity, sleep, and pride. (I have also learned there is a fine line between being the cool teacher, and being the teacher that makes you hate coming to class even more because they are SO dorky.)

I express how a typhoon larger than Katrina swept over the southern part of Japan and while the day of the arrival kept getting pushed back, it FINALLY chose to come its closest to Awaji last night at 10 pm, making sleep impossible due to the wind howling and things banging ect ect… not to mention typhoon #14 was my first experience with an ocean formed natural disaster.

I express how, even though school was canceled this morning for students due to ‘insanely strong winds that will rip your hair out’ (at least that is what I THINK the Japanese newsperson said) that just because school is canceled for students (for ANY reason, typhoon, tidal wave, earthquake, the rapture…) Teachers are STILL EXPECTED TO COME* (*footnote: unless, and I quote ” It is absolutely impossible for you to get to school”) . Can SOMEONE please explain how this makes sense?? Yes students must walk or ride their bikes to school which could prove dangerous, and most teachers drive to school (I am the one and ONLY exception to that rule, but I live pretty close to the school) BUT, it is mathematically more probable (due to surface area of a vehicle) that something would prevent the teacher from not making it to school.

I express how the school then decided it was ok for students to come back to school and we spent the afternoon doing a lot of standing and then picking weeds…. For like an hour.

I express how I was told today about an after work party that costs 5,000 yen and will be held Saturday after being at school all day long…. in the sun… on a SATURDAY. I mean ARE YOU SERIOUS?

I express how surprised I was when I felt a personal victory when a girl named Aya, who I thought hated me due to her frown/growl that she had on her face as I taught my first class last Friday, smiled at me and came over to pick weeds with me and answered me when I asked her a question.

And finally I express how even though so many things don’t make sense, how much I dread eating Japanese food (for fear of throwing up whatever raw thing it may be…), and as much as I am looking forward to coming back to Colorado for vacation in December… that I really love it here.