Where has the year gone?

Wow, I have become super bad at blogging. My job now is way more involved than my last one, so I have been a lot busier during the week and a lot more tired when I get home. On top of that, the last few weekends have been crazy as well! So here I am on a Sunday night minutes before going to bed filling you in on my little Fukuoka life.

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that delicious umegaemochi, famous in Dazaifu, Fukuoka

A few weeks ago, a friend from Kagoshima came to visit, and we had some great food and good beer. We also went to Dazaifu to try to see some fall leaves changing color, but it wasn’t quite the right time to get the full effect of 紅葉 (kouyou-autumn colors/leaves changing color). Regardless it was a nice weekend!

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too concerned with the margarita to worry about the flash

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Christmas…disco balls?

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all veggie and bean burrito mmm

The next weekend, some of my best friends in Japan came to Fukuoka! We all went out Saturday night to the exact same places I went to the previous weekend, but it was so much fun. On Sunday, some of us saw the amazing Big Bang and the Yahoo Dome. Big Bang is always great, but their new album is amazing, and this year they are all looking especially beautiful (ok, fangirl moment over). I really really missed my Kagoshima friends, I’m glad some of us were reunited in my new home!

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same Mexican restaurant, different people to enjoy it with

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we sneaked a few illegal shots at the concert

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a little bar called Cable Car in Daimyo

Last weekend, one of my favorite people on the planet came up for some personal business (but also sort of to see me). I also had my first 忘年会 (bounenkai-end of the year party…I’ve talked about this before) at my new job. It was at a swanky hotel in Hakata and although I couldn’t eat hardly anything there, I had a blast (mostly because I drank A LOT of wine and also because my coworkers are super cool). We had a little karaoke session afterward and my friend even got to meet my coworkers for a bit. My old and new lives combined. So good. On Sunday, we went to Ohori Park to see their winter illuminations (I don’t know…is that a real English word? They were Christmas lights…), and we had good long talks about everything. It was amazing to have most of my friends from the first leg of my Japan journey (who are still in Japan) come see me here. But I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t exhausting! Keeping your apartment in shape for sleepover guests is hard, and having to be in a good mood for three weeks straight when you are me is even harder. I am so thankful for my friends though, and I’m so so happy I got to see them.

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I love where I am now. I am so much happier with my life and where it is going. But I do miss things about Kagoshima–and America. I miss all my friends and that feeling of community I had before. I haven’t been in Fukuoka very long, so I haven’t made a lot of close connections yet. Now that I’m eating plant-based, I miss American grocery stores that much more (haha…totally not important). I miss my family too, now more than ever I think. It may have something to do with the fact that I am not going home this year to visit, and I don’t know the next time I will be able to go home, but I also think it’s because I have fewer distractions now. Like I said, I am so much happier here. But now that I am so much happier and so excited for future possibilities, I’ve been thinking more about the other things that are missing. It’s almost Christmas, and I wish I was spending it with my friends and family back home, but I want everyone to know that I am doing super great here. Healthier and happier and just great. I will see all of you back in America soon enough. I promise you that.

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Quarter of a Century

bday outfit

bday outfit

I recently celebrated my 25th birthday!! Yay! OK, so birthdays in the third world really aren’t huge achievements until you’re 85 or so, but 25 feels big. I’m a real adult now, all fully grown and perfectly me. It feels amazing.

I’ve heard from some people in this country that 25 is the age by which you should be married…or at least seriously thinking about it (totally BS btw…who actually believes that?). If you know me at all, you’ve never really expected me to get married any time soon. Up until a year and a half ago (estimate), I was certain I would never get married. Now I’m open to the idea, but I’ll also be okay if it never happens. Which is great because I haven’t been on a date in FOREVER.

I am about 90% okay with that though. I’m 25 and awesome, and I really don’t think I need a man to tell me that. Unless it’s my dad. Dad, I need you to say I’m awesome. Anyway, I have some time left before my eggs shrivel up and die, so I can patiently wait for all the cute romantic things to happen again. I’m not stressing.

So, back to my actual birthday. I spent my birthday eve with my favorite people in the eastern hemisphere, and we had a great time. There was a moose and a golf game involved. And horrible karaoke singing. And lots of hugs. It was magical, and I am so lucky to have such kind, amazing people in my life. And almost no one important to me forgot to wish me a happy birthday! I do wish I could have seen my family and friends from the US too, but overall it was a great time. I am so excited to see what 25 holds for me!
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presents!

presents!

dinner AND golf

dinner AND golf

Where have you been?

I’ve been pretty MIA recently, and I apologize. I’ve been super busy. The old school year has finished and another has begun, so I’ve been wrapped up in planning new lessons for new classes and getting used to all the teacher changes. Let me say that I am very excited to start the non-ALT part of my life, because dealing with some of the teachers at my elementary schools is a nightmare. All but maybe two or three of them speak zero English, and yet half of them insist on controlling the lesson (but not their students) and I frankly can’t take it anymore. My junior high remains a very exciting and interesting place, and some of the new teachers seem really cool as well…so no complaints there. BUT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL! I love the kids though. In the next couple of days, I’ll definitely be posting about some of the crazy and cute things they say.

new school year opening ceremony

new school year opening ceremony

In addition to all that I’ve had a lot more social gatherings planned because of the beautiful change in weather. It’s like all the bears have come out of hibernation and are ready to go fishing. Everyone is doing something. I also can’t really complain about this; being busy with fun is never a bad thing. Although I wish I had a few more days to myself, it’s been great to see most of my local friends and catch up!

we wet to a rock festival at Sakurajima (volcano)

we went to a rock festival at Sakurajima (volcano)

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Tesla wa nakanai–pianist

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Tesla doesn't know how to cry's singer and the gang

Tesla doesn’t know how to cry’s singer and the gang

a little jazz concert in a temple

a little jazz concert in a temple

had an amazing friend date with one of my favorite people

had an amazing friend date with one of my favorite people

monthly international party in Shibushi

monthly international party in Shibushi

The biggest consumer of my time, though, has definitely been the band. We’ve been really focusing on polishing our original songs and getting ready for shows. We had one today at Kanoya Earth Day, and we should play at least one next month as well. I am so into this band, and I’m super excited to play live more. Creating music is definitely a challenge, especially when you’re writing personal lyrics and all that, but it is so rewarding when it all comes together. If we get some good videos or recordings done, I’ll be sure to share them on my other blog!

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the boys of Ashfall

the whole band and a friend

More adventures and pictures to come!

Junior High School Stories: Kids are so Weird

I haven’t written about my students in a while, and I feel like they know it because they’ve been giving me a lot of great material lately. Cute, but mostly creepy material. (NOTE: some student comments are translated from Japanese.)

 

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My 8th graders have been studying infinitives and what expressions to use them with. Things like “I like to play soccer” or “I want to go to the movies.” So one day at lunch, I asked some students what they want to do in the future.

The young lady sitting across from me said, “I want to marry a rich, handsome man so I can sit on the couch watching TV and eating potato chips all day.”

To which I replied, “You want to do nothing but sit and eat? that’s not very healthy.”

And she said, “Oh we’ll have a pool. And three mini poodles. It’ll be fine!”

Okay sweetie, what a wonderful dream!

The boy next to her said the opposite. Apparently his dream is to marry an ugly, poor woman. I just don’t even know where they get this.

 

2.

Soon after that conversation, one of my most adoring students came over to poke me and ask me weird questions. I ignored her and asked her the same question as above instead. Her answer? To be my boyfriend. She meant boyfriend. When she was in 7th grade she wrote “I Love KORI!” on her arm and told everyone she was my boyfriend. Hmmm….::concerned face::

 

3.

That same day, during 5th period, I asked a young man where his workbook was, because he was supposed to be working in it.

He said, “It went home.”

“It went home? What?” Because I thought he meant it was at home.

“Oh, yea, it went home. By foot!”

 

4.

Another day, I was walking back to the 7th grade teachers’ room after a lesson. I walked by a group of three girls, and as I passed, I could feel them stop and face me. I turned to see one girl sniffing my shoulder.

“What are you doing!?”

“YOU SMELL GOOOOOD!”

 

5.

Almost everyday, someone (usually a boy) will scream, “I DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH!” in English. Why?!

 

6.

One day I caught a boy copying the answers for the workbook page he was supposed to be doing from the answer book. I grabbed the answer book, playfully tapped his head with it, and then erased all of his answers. He laughed nervously, and then actually did the workbook page correctly. It was a rewarding day for us both.

 

7.

Recently the 9th grade upper level English students were writing group essays. Their teacher was absent this particular day, so I went to the lessons by myself and helped the kids with their grammar and word choice. Easy stuff, you know. I’m helping one group write something about kimono or something, when one boy starts yelling “BEE! BEE! A BIG BEE!”I freaked out, because for once the students knew the correct English word for such an animal and because our school had been having a problem with giant hornets that are apparently vicious and painful. I did not want to stick around to find out what it felt like to be stung by one, and with all the children flailing around like drunk donkeys, that bee was probably peeved enough to stick his little stinger right into my face. Before I could calm anyone down, or breathe for that matter, the tiniest girl in class had run to the teachers’ room, fetched a bug spray gun, and begun (trying) to kill the little insect. She was way too short to reach the bee, who was flying close to the ceiling like any smart bee would, so all she managed to do was douse the classroom in a very obnoxious fume cloud. We all had a good laugh at her futile attempt to murder the poor thing, and then a much taller boy yanked the canister from her hand. He gave that hornet the lethal dose every student was hoping for, and  the little bug buzzed his little way down to the floor where he perished in a puddle of poison.

I felt so weird. This little bug had the ability to scare 20 teenagers with just the flap of his wings, and yet he died so easily at a few breaths of poisonous air. I didn’t know what else to do, so I made the kids have a little funeral for him. We all said “Sorry. Goodbye Mr. Bee.” and threw him into the “general waste” bag.

 

8.

Every Tuesday I help the 7th graders clean the teachers’ room, mostly because I like to look busy, but also because I like to make them speak English. A while back, I taught them the words “dustpan” and “broom.” Now, every week without fail, a boy who could easily pass as an American 3rd grader comes to my desk and exclaims, “Kori! Clean time!” It’s so cute, I have to clean. He is also “dustpan” boy, so whenever someone yells, “DUSTPAN!” he promptly scurries over to them, not unlike a mouse, and provides his dustpan-steadying skills. Tuesday is probably my favorite day of the week because of Dustpan (his loving new name).

 

9.

My favorite thing about my job, by far, is watching students’ faces when they randomly blurt out an answer and it’s right. They’ll say it happily, and if you don’t immediately congratulate them on their answer, they doubt it and try to retract it. That’s when you say, “THAT’S RIGHT!” and their faces light up like the sky on (American) New Year’s. It’s more beautiful than the most beautiful fireworks display, really, and it’s why I do what I do. Slowly, these kids are picking up English and enjoying it. And maybe English itself isn’t so important big picture-wise, but being bilingual is correlated with higher intelligence right? And it means they can talk to me more, because Kori-sensei does not speak Japanese at school without good reason. No sir.

 

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you enjoy this kind of post. I certainly enjoyed writing it! Until next time!

Third Year

My oh my! It has been over a month since I’ve last posted. I guess I’ve been a bit busy. Sorry >-<

 

I have started my third year as an ALT after all. The originally plan was to only stay in Kagoshima for 2 years and then try to get a different job or go back to school. Life has a funny way of hardly ever doing what you want it to. Oh well, it’s best not to dwell in the past I’ve been told. Actually, I’m not that upset I’m still here. I do occasionally wish I had moved on sooner and left, but there are some things to still be happy about.

Last summer I took the level 2 Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and passed! So I’m one step closer to being fluent (on paper)! My spoken Japanese is getting better too though. I’ve shed most of my fears of daily life in Japan, and because of this have been able to communicate with those around me better. Not only does this mean I get more stuff done and understand the world I live in better, I’ve also gotten pretty good at speaking Japanese. Not to toot my own horn or anything, it’s just Japanese is really hard, and it’s nice to be sort of good at something!

In addition to being able to serve my sass in a foreign tongue, I’ve also gotten a lot better at teaching. I think. I really get to shine at elementary schools where few other people speak English, and I can actually teach whole classes by myself. Not a huge accomplishment maybe, but getting 60 seven-year-old monsters to listen to you speak in their language is pretty big for me. Plus, the longer I’m around, the more my kids grow to like me (or put up with me…however you want to look at it). Well, I mean, kids tell me they love me, so I’m doing something right, right? I do love my students, and most of the teachers and staff I work with are lovely as well. In fact, the nurse at one of my elementary schools is so excited when I’m at the school that she pats my head and nearly hugs me every time. It’s a bit odd, I’ll admit, but I’ll take it.

Finally, I have friends. I know, crazy. Friends are hard, but somehow I’ve manage to make a few who really like me (or again, put up with me). Two of my friends recently got married, and I wish it wasn’t weird for me to hug them both for 5 minutes every time I see them. I just love their love that much.

Actually, that brings me to one major reason I wish I wasn’t living here anymore. Most of my friends, especially the ones who are physically close to me, are in relationships. Long-term, committed, beautiful relationships. I don’t wish anything else for them. In fact, I love talking about relationships and love and all that gross stuff. It just always makes me remember the main reason I am still living in Shibushi; at the time I decided to re-sign my contract, I had a future with someone else to look forward to. I do wish sometimes I could escape to a big city and never look back, but a big part of me knows that I needed this place. I needed that experience. I needed to know what it was like to part with someone. And I know there’s a reason I’m still living here. I’m not done with this place. Everyday I go to bed wishing that I could up and leave, but every morning I wake up alive and happy and ready for my next mini adventure in Kagoshima.

I also think I’m still here because I have no money, and it’s really hard to move to somewhere like Fukuoka or Tokyo without a little clank in your pocket. I do miss my friends and family back in the states, but I’m not ready to go back. I’ve come this far haven’t I? So next year, I’m planning to start my big city Japan life. If I can find someone who wants to hire me.

 

Until next time, take care!

Live Music in Japan

Recently, I’ve realized how much I truly miss going to see live music. My best friend always tells me about the amazing people she sees live, and I can’t help but get a little bit jealous. It used to be so easy to spend the night lost in the music of a band you love, but here…not so much. I grew up near Houston, a fairly large city, and went to school in Austin, the “live music capital of the world.” Austin is home to tons of live houses, Blues on the Green, ACL, and South by Southwest. Japan has big music festivals too, I just live no where near them. In Japan, I live in the country and most of the live music I see is in tiny bars or outdoors on tiny stages. Needless to say, my experience with live music in Japan is not really comparable to that of America, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been interesting!

I have only been to two stadium shows in Japan, and they were both for Korean artists (Big Bang and G Dragon). At big-name stadium shows, it’s nearly impossible to take pictures; you will be thrown out if someone sees you with a camera or phone. And people are really quiet. People cry and scream at pop shows in America. I’ve seen the videos. In Japan, people act very polite. Even people in the front rows just sway and sing in unison. It’s actually very strange. I’ve seen videos of huge rock shows in Japan, though. At least they crowd surf.

I haven’t seen any smaller venue professional shows yet. In America, I went to a lot of indie shows, and they were always so much fun. The bars and venues have room for people to stand in front of the stage and dance or sing at the artists or whatever. There’d probably be somewhere to sit near the bar or on a patio, but at shows I’ve been to, people stand most of the time. Or mosh or two-step or something. In Japan, at every music show I’ve been to, there are tables and chairs. People sit quietly and watch. They clap politely afterward. Sure, I haven’t been to see an artist I’m really into with a dedicated following besides Big Bang, but even at small shows in America, even at high school Battle of the Band’s, people get into it. Here, it seems, that’s left to the old people. That being said, I have had a lot of fun here. Even in this rural area, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to see live music…good live music. Kanoya, the city near my town, has a few monthly music events, my favorite of which being Takibi Live (takibi means bonfire). Professional and local musicians perform once a month at a riverside stage surrounded by fire. Best of all, it’s free.  Going to friends’ shows in America was always enjoyable, and that hasn’t changed. I rather enjoy seeing unknown bands and their relaxed jam sessions. I like hanging out with friends and not having to pay to see decent music all the time.  It makes this little part of the world comfortable and more like home.

Anyway, last weekend some friends of mine performed at Takibi Live and another monthly live held in a hall attached to an onsen. We had to wear slippers inside, but it was enjoyable! I took some videos! As you can see, the venue is fairly small, and no one’s really moving. That may just be because it’s so small though. Enjoy!

 

 

The long awaited food blog

People often ask me, “Which do you like better, Japanese or American food?”

I prefer Japanese food, obviously. And I’m not just saying that because I live here or think American food is horribly unhealthy and not-so-tasty. So much of Japanese food (or food easily found in Japan) is delicious.

So I hate milk. And most dairy. I don’t hate cheese, but it does not like me. I’m also not a fan of red meat–or any meat for that matter. I can eat seafood. I love fish and shrimp and oysters, OH MY. And while modern Japanese cuisine is full of fatty animal products and sugar and all that, it is relatively easier to find healthy options (or foods without all those things I hate) in Japan. I think. I at least feel healthier eating Japanese food than I do typical American food, but I’m not really sure what’s right anymore. Either way, I’d like to share some of the foods I’ve eaten while in Japan. To the best of my ability, I will describe these foods and grade them based on their deliciousness, etc.

1. Sushi. The picture below is of various fishes and fillings for a temakizushi (hand rolled sushi) session. Sushi is one of my favorite foods in Japan because it is filling, easily accessible, and freakin’ delicious. Sushi is popular all over the world now, but I promise you it tastes best where it all began in Japan.

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Here we have crab sticks, Japanese-style scrambled egg (tamagoyaki), tuna, octopus, sea urchin (uni), and so many other fishes I don’t remember!

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This spread was also for temakizushi, which is really easy to do at home and makes for a wonderful dinner party!

sushi and tempura

sushi and tempura

***Helpful tip: for the last time, sushi does not mean raw fish or fish at all. Sushi refers to the vinegared-rice used. Raw fish is called sashimi.

2. Sashimi. Actually, I might like sashimi more. All of the flavor and none of the white rice. This spread included the standard types of fish and the meat from that little crab/lobster thing (sorry I don’t remember his name). It was so fresh that his arms were still moving. Not going to lie, it was a little unsettling at first, but the tastiness made up for it.

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3. Noodle dishes. The first is udon. Udon is a noodle made from flour. It’s usually really thick, but thin varieties are also available. In my opinion, udon tastes the best with a soy sauce based soup, green onions, and a big slice of fried tofu. This is commonly referred to as kitsune udon (fox udon), and it looks like this:

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You can also have kitsune soba, which is a noodle made from buckwheat. It is also delicious, especially when followed by matcha dango, a sweet dessert made from sticky rice flour and matcha powder.

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Then we have ramen. Ramen is actually a Chinese dish, but has been made it’s own phenomenon in Japan. Ramen is super super famous, but it’s nothing like those 10 cent soup cups you can buy at the super market. It has a rich, fatty flavor that makes you feel like you’re getting closer and closer to a heart attack with every slurp. It usually has a pork base, and the starchy noodles soak up all the flavor. I rarely eat ramen and can never finish a bowl, but it usually tastes pretty good after a long night of drinking. philips vacay 085

4. Takoyaki, y’all. Takoyaki is a glorious food. It’s little pieces of octopus, green onion, and maybe ginger surrounded by a little ball of fried batter. It’s covered with katsuoboshi (dried bonito flakes), mayonnaise, and a special sauce. It’s like Japanese comfort food and I want to eat it everyday. The Texas State Fair needs to get on this. NOW!
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5. Pizza. Pizza?, you ask. Yes, pizza. Despite being (maybe) Italian, Japan makes pizza all its own. One of my favorite varieties here is seafood pizza. Standard crust covered with squid, octopus, shrimp, and maybe some scallops is the perfect pie for me! However, for those of you less thrilled by shellfish on your pizza, margherita pizza is pretty easy to find in Japan.

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6. Tonkatsu, or deep fried pork cutlet, is probably my least favorite food ever. I ate it once because I agreed to go to a specialty restaurant a while ago, and I’ve never gone back. This particular one included cheese and miso paste. For someone who isn’t a huge fan of pork to begin with, this greasy slab of pig and cheese was torture. I wanted to die for a good 24 hours afterward. This is definitely not for the weak of stomach. stuffs 020

7. Matcha sweets. Above you can see a picture of matcha dango, but that’s really just the beginning of desserts using Japanese green tea powder. Ice cream, cookies, chocolate, cake…you name it, it probably exists in Japan. Oh! Matcha KitKats! My mouth is watering.

Matcha ice cream is so so good. I don’t even know how to describe it.

Obviously, Japan is a far more exciting culinary experience than one blog post can accurately show, so I hope to post more in the future! I haven’t even told you about school lunch yet…not to mention torisashi!!

See you next time! ^-^