25 December 2007

Merii Kurisumasu!!!

Last year, I wrote out nengajo (New Year’s Cards) to friends and family back home. This year, Christmas cards caught my eye. I got ten of them, but these were the ones that came out the best after scanning and were my favorites.

If you look closely, you will see why I like them so much. Hint: it’s the kitschy aspect.

Miyajima, Hiroshima

Kinkakuji, Kyoto

Sanjusangendo, Kyoto

Kiyomizu-Dera, Kyoto


Himeji Castle, Himeji


24 December 2007


Many things happened this weekend; oh where to begin?

On Saturday, it was pissing rain. HARD. As in, if it were snow, it would be a blizzard. But this is Kyoto and we don’t get blizzards; only genteel snowfalls (I want a blizzard!). And I had to meet up with some students to interview about their Machiya Light-Up project for Kyoto Journal. It turned out pretty ok for a preliminary interview in my halting Japanese; we will do a more comprehensive one in English, so I can record it next week. I was also invited to their bonnenkai (End-of-Year) party; I might go for an hour or so this Thursday.

That evening, I met up with Emily and we went to the old dorm where Colleen used to live for a Christmas party Emily was invited to; she asked me to come because she didn’t know anyone besides the guy who invited her and she didn’t want to be rude and turn him down. We ended up socializing/eating/mingling for about an hour or so and then we went back to my place (I live 5 minutes away), knitted and watched Grey’s Anatomy Season 3.

Yesterday, Emi my jazz singer/songwriter friend performed at ShinPuhKan. On my way there, I noticed that Higashioji-dori was blocked by traffic; after a few minutes of musing, watching people and reading kanji characters disjointedly, I saw the runners and realized, “Oh! It’s the Kyoto Marathon!” and asked the police officer. Actually it wasn’t; it was the national high school race or something like that. I saw the leader run by me; as runners passed, people shouted “Ganbare!” “Run hard!”

The concept of “ganbare, ganbatte, and ganbarimasu” can be applied to any situation requiring luck; so while it means “Good luck” generally, it can be translated to mean “Work hard” as well, dpeneding on the situation.

At ShinPuhKan, Emi’s whole family was there and it was really sweet; Emily and I were the only “non-family” people there. The songs are the same but it’s always fun to see her perform. After, Emily and I went back to my place: more knitting, more Grey’s Anatomy. My baby blanket is getting bigger and I can’t tote it around anymore. I started working on socks for my “tote about town” project.

Speaking of knitting, I got a nice little surprise today and just in time for Christmas! My package from the Kawaii Swap came in today: in it was a pack of Hello Kitty Christmas themed stickers, a small box of chocolate (which I promptly ate, yum yum!) and a amigurumi stuffed cat, with a letter on Chococat stationery. So adorable! I think I will name the cat “Neko-chan.” (“Neko” means “cat” in Japanese).

21 December 2007

'Tis The Season...To Get Sniffles

Fa, la, la, la...la, la...bah humbug.

It NEVER fails.

Every year since I have started college, I get sick around the holidays. Particularly after December 15, and before December 25. I am thinking that since final exams are around that time of year, it's due to the stress of school.

Last year, I had tinglings in my throat, and proceeded to hightail it to the Kyoto Uni health center. I got a weird powdered medicine because I had my flight the next day and didn't want it to get worse. This year, they came back with full force last night.

Just like last year, I attempted to will the tinglings to go away (ok, I had medicine, but I prevented it from getting worse before I went to the doctor). And, it worked. I am getting quite good at mentally preventing sore throats (I do not like them, having a bad relationship with my throat and germs since childhood, but never had my tonsils taken out). Luckily, my glands are not swollen. I just feel a bit dry and as if a cold is coming on. Now I am sneezing.

So, when I woke up this morning I called my koto teacher and told her I had a cold and took two Tylenol. No way I was going to ride my bike all the way down to Kujo today. Still, I took the bus down to Kyoto Eki because I was meeting some friends to check out the Toji Temple fair, since I figured I can make do with the bus and some walking about. Even hough the day was pretty decent, I put on my North Face and wrapped my pashmina around my neck securely.

The lady from the travel agency called when I was out; luckily I had a 1-day bus pass so I went back up to Sanjo. Turns out, the final confirmation of my tickets for Australia were ready, and I got the printout. While I went to the Gap and Zara in search of leggings, I began to not feel so hot again so I took the bus home.

Got home and drank orange juice, ate two mikans (Japanese mini mandarin oranges, they are in season now), took more Tylenol and proceeded to just finish a Halls lozenge. I have social engagements this weekend and will NOT let a fever or a cold take me over. That said, I will rest as much as possible (I knitted all afternoon) so that I am somewhat decent for Monday, as I have to start working on my presentation.

20 December 2007

The Three Month Stretch

Last Monday, Rits called me saying something along the lines of "Information regarding your return home has arrived, please come and pick it up."

I go to the International Center today in anticipation. I get to know when I come home!

Erm, not exactly.

Turns out, I had to fill out a bunch of forms indicating where I wanted to go (JFK, not Newark!) and when. Easy enough. Gave them my passport number, got my adviser to sign the form (I knew his office hours on Thursdays, or at least I can drop in during a specific time and I know he would be there) and got everything neatly filed away with the office by 3:30pm.

I wanted to get it over an done with, because I only go to Rits once a week and its the winter break as of tomorrow. Don't want to deal with this stuff during my vacation.

My dates? First choice is either March 22 or March 23, the weekend before the lease of my apartment expires which is March 25. Get final deposit of stipend on the 19th, and it gives me 3 days (because my stipend arrives at 9 am on the dot of the day that it is deposited) to tidy up my affairs: close cell phone, health insurance and bank accounts.

Things like tossing useless junk, selling furniture, random crap I won't take home and bike will start at the beginning of March when I make "Sayonara Sale" and spread the word amongst my friends. The International Center will call me or email me when my plane ticket arrives.

So that means as of this weekend, I have EXACTLY three months left in Japan.

19 December 2007

It is a Truth Universally Acknowledged...

..that come the end of the year, the subject of "New Year's Resolutions" pops up on most people's minds.

Having received my new Moleskine in the mail (as part of a birthday gift from The Aussie, the package containing THE J.Crew dress and other sundries came, and the dress FITS! Might wear it for New Year party on the 29th at El Coyote) I began to input little memos and reminders, important dates and such for the beginning of 2008. Things like, "Pay rent," "Pay Health Insurance," "Deposit of stipend", and more fun things like "AUSTRALIA! 1/27-2/7."

I also began to put post-its in my Moleskine. I am trying to downgrade from my humoungous planner (that and the refills are too expensive in Japan) so I needed some sort of system for writing random notes. Moleskine's have the "notes pages" in the back, but I want to keep things neat, and re-usable. Hence the post-its.

On one post-it (yellow and pink striped, very cute) I put down my New Year's Resolutions for 2008. In retrospect, I am trying to think of them more as goals as opposed to a resolution because resolutions, in my opinion indicate that there is something wrong and needs to be fixed. I want to accomplish things.

1. Clear American Express card (damn the grad school application fees).
2. Stick to a monthly budget of ONLY $50 for knitting a month (hmm, if I don't spend that, let's let it roll over, no?).
3. NO KNITTING ADD! (Meaning, finish a batch of projects before you start the next group)
4. Eat healthier (which translates to: become a better cook).
5. Learn how to drive (My permit expired. Pathetic, I know).
6. Lose 15 pounds before I get my wedding dress/start grad school (about the same time- September - I've lost 4 already).
7. Get a job for Spring/Summer '08.
8. BUDGET. Stick to it.
9. Try not to panic/experience anxiety.
10. Get into grad school (of course this one is out of my hands, but I tried).
11. Plan wedding with as little stress as possible.
12. Do not buy stupid and useless things (this is ESPECIALLY the case in Japan where amazing, but useless things are right and left).
13. Pass Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 2.
14. Enjoy life.

This post-it is on the front cover of my Moleskine, so that I am always reminded of my goals for the year. Looking at it, they are all inter-related: sticking to number 3 means that number 2 will be accomplished (finish all projects, then get yarn for next means I will try not to have impulse buys on yarn, and if I roll over, then I can save for pretty yarn for a luxe project), as well as 8. Numbers 9, 11, 12 and 14 are really important to me, given the past few months with my semi-quasi "quarter-life crisis" and applying to zoo that was applying to grad school.

Number 14 is a constant work-in-progress, as I did enjoy my life in Japan. When we were discussing my return, my mom said "Of course it will be hard [to come back], Japan is your home, too."

16 December 2007

Namu Amida Butsu

Traditionally, most markets in Japan were held on Buddhist temple grounds. In Kyoto, Hideyoshi moved the temples to a part of the city which was later known as "Tera-machi" (lit. "Temple Town) and if sort of became a fair ground. Today, Teramachi has 100-yen shops, a foriegn bookstore and still, countless numbers of shops selling Buddhist paraphernalia. You can still smell the incense from the remaining temples behind the shops as you walk up and down from Shijo to Sanjo.

I had mentioned once before that there is a temple fair in my neighborhood. I later learned that it is specifically a "Tedukuri-shi" or "handmade craft city" sort of fair. It's actually pretty popular - so much that I learned after going there religiously every month for the past year that it is actually in Lonely Planet Kyoto, where you can see an "alternative" side of the city, whatever that means. You do sorta see the Kyoto version of hippies there, complete with dreadlocks.

Still, you cannot ignore the fact that it is on the grounds of a Buddhist temple, named Chionji. I certainly couldn't ignore the temple (and the ichigo-daifuku, oh yum!) yesterday, as there were sounds like drums coming from inside. Usually, the shoji screens were open, but yesterday they were closed. I noticed other people going inside, so I took off my Uggs, climbed the steps and went inside.

Turns out, there was a Buddhist service going o, complete with acolytes, a head priest and other monks. Inside the dais, two monks and two higher level priests were cleaning the main statue (don't know who it was unfortunately, no information on Google Japan actually) and those parishioners on the inner part of the temple were drumming on these things like wooden frogs and chanting. I sat myself down on the tatami in the outer part of the hall, and tried to do seiza, but lasted less than 5 minutes. Still need to work on that. So I sat indian style, as straight and respectfully as I could.

At the end of the service, the monks and priests and parishioners came to where myself and the other spectators were sitting, and a huge Buddhist bracelet was produced. I sorta followed what was going on thinking it would be rude of me to leave. I can now say I have participated in a Buddhist service in preparation for the New Year. We all sat around the bracelet and with our hands under it, passed it around and around to the chant of "Namu Amida Butsu," the Nembutsu prayer.

That I recognized, and chanted along myself, so I think Chionji is part of the Pure Land sect. I am holding it the wrong way in the picture. My legs are in seiza in that picture, but I stayed that way during the whole thing, even with my knees creaking. People bowed their heads as the main bead passed through their hands - I did the same and hoped for a good new year.

14 December 2007

It's Not Beginning to Feel Alot Like Christmas

Hearing (and reading) about the snowstorm in the Northeast from various sources made me think.

It's weird. It LOOKS like Christmas - even some houses in my neighborhood are strewn with Christmas lights - but it doesn't really feel like it.

This is coming from a person who, in spite of growing up in a place where the snow turns dirty in less than five minutes, still knows that come Christmastime, you are supposed to be freezing your butt off when you venture outdoors, and when you go out, you wear getups just short of "ski bunny" to protect yourself against the elements. And you don't mind, really.

Mel, coming from a warmer climate, actually has a pair of Quiksilver ski pants for those nasty days. They have proven to be very useful, even if not intended for the slopes but rather the nasty winds that turn around the corner of 5th Avenue; I keep telling myself to get a pair.

No offense of course to those living in warmer climates - it's just what I am used to. I spent Christmas of sophomore year of high school in Florida, and the palm trees with Christmas lights were strange. Weirder was walking around in shorts.

It is 50 degrees here in Kyoto and I am still going around in a light jacket, cardigan and scarf. When I ride my bike, I put my gloves on if only for preventative measures at first, since I get hot later and subsequently remove my layers. I only wear a hat if it is ridiculously cold. Which I haven't done yet.

My advisor looked at me a couple of weeks ago - or rather at my feet - in aghast. It was still sunny and pretty warm out, but I wore my Uggs nonetheless; in this country where you take your shoes on and off all the time, they are easy to put on. I would wear my flats or riding boots, but that day the sky threatened rain and I didn't want to ruin those shoes. My Uggs are old. No matter if they get ruined.

So when he asked me if it was too cold for me, I looked down at my feet and said a bit sheepishly, "Well, it IS November. Back home, it's snowing right now."

I miss snow.

12 December 2007

Of All the People, in All the Places in the World

Today I was in the library at the study abroad program puttering away on my laptop, procrastinating and using the internet. I was also doing some work - I am going to lead a part of the class tomorrow so I figured a powerpoint presentation will help a bit, since I still have nerves about talking in front of people.

I print, and head down to Prof. S's office to show it to him. I knock on the door, and see him talking with a petite Japanese woman. She looks...familiar.

We both realized it at the same time - she was my old Japanese teacher from when I started Japanese waaaay back in January 2003 at the Japan Society. I continued with her for about a year, then I went off to London. Oh my god! Of all the places in the world - Kyoto and in particular in Prof. S's office to see my old Japanese language teacher. Prof. S explained what I was doing and in particular why I was in his office - "course assistant."

I waited outside until the two of them were done with their meeting. At first, I thought she was coming here to be a new Japanese language teacher, but turns out she is now at another school and the representative for the school since some of their students are here. After getting over our initial shock, we compared notes.

She asked how Mel was doing; when I began studying Japanese, I dragged him along, and she taught the both of us and knew we were a couple. She asked if I was married (guess she saw something on my finger) and told her I was engaged, and to him as well.

We exchanged emails, and I told her I would email her some photos of my time in Japan. I still can't believe it! So surprising, but a nice one too. She is a good teacher.

08 December 2007

Jumping the Gun

I almost always jump the gun. It's a very annoying trait that I have and I know I have annoyed myself again. However, I am trying to look on the bright side of things.

I have not replied formally to my friend's invitation to Tokyo yet, and in a way it was a good thing I didn't. I was very excited about it, posting it here and such, but I jumped the gun. However, I was getting a bit of a "feeling," if you get what I mean.

I took a look at my bank account today and let's just say with grad school applications (sending stuff international is expensive, now multiply that by 8), Australia, a stipend coming late and the most likely trip to the Philippines in February, coupled with the dismal state of my finances (though I did get confirmation that I made the deadline for immediate reimbursement when I get to Australia so I don't have to worry about that, but I get it when I arrive in Australia) I really can't afford to go to Tokyo, what with Shinkansen ticket and spending money even with a free place to stay if for a few days. Things pile up.

I know it would be a treat to myself, but that money is better earmarked for the Philippines because the family is waiting for The Aussie and I. They actually don't know that we are coming, but I know it's important to The Aussie that we try to go as much as we can. Plus I need to save money for when I get home.

That doesn't mean that things are looking bleak. I met up today with my friend Emi and that Shin-puh-kan (a shopping center remodeled from a 1920s building; I will go back and take pictures) and she mentioned how she was going to perform there on the 23rd and I actually wanted to go - she is an amazing singer. So now, I will go and I think I am going to cook Christmas dinner for some friends. I like to host parties (or at least the idea of it, I haven't really done it yet, but I have had friends over and I like to entertain). I didn't get to do it at Thanksgiving, but I will try to do it now.

Kyoto actually looks very nice all decked out for the holidays. So I may not be going to Tokyo but in the end, everything will work out. Tokyo is really messy, so maybe I will be able to enjoy the holiday more here. Thus, the Starbucks Tall Non-Fat Peppermint Mocha is half-full.

06 December 2007

Acts of Kindness

There is this elderly woman in my graduate seminar - Japanese of course. We chatted a few times and I learned she has a daughter studying in the United States. When I got back from my month long break in Japan she asked how it was seeing The Aussie and how my vacation was. She is very sweet.

A few weeks ago, she asked me if I was going back home for Christmas. There is a phrase in Japanese that goes, "mottanai" - "wasteful." I said that, because I am returning home for good in March, I was back home for a month in August, so there is no point for me going home for Christmas, hence: mottanai.

Today, she surprised me. When I finally settled myself into my seat for class she gave me a small package in a pink bag. "For Christmas," I think she said in English. I told her that she really didn't have to, and I was very shocked. I wasn't really sure what was in the package, but she asked me if I liked Japanese things and wagashi (Japanese paper). I said I did. I always admire the stuff at Kinokuniya back home but it's really overpriced. Now that I am here, I am distracted by the other great Japanese stuff to appreciate the more traditional goods - wagashi, for example.

I opened the package when I got home. What a surprise! In it were two fans, a small wagashi notebook, a large wagashi notebook, a small sewing kit in a chirimen fabric packet, a small chirimen fabric covered box and two small charms. Most of the smaller items were held in a pretty pouch.In the larger notebook (red, with a pattern of irises), there was something written inside in Japanese script. I picked out a few things here and there, but I couldn't read the whole thing - it was in the calligraphic style. I am going to go to Prof. S's house on Monday with the rest of the class for a little party; I think I will ask his wife who is Japanese if she can read it for me.It was very nice of her to do that and I am still quite surprised. As I was opening the small packages, I noticed that one of the fans (the blue and red one) looked gently used - it didn't have the 'spring' that the pink one did. Perhaps, it was one of her own? I like to think so. Maybe a memento, like what was written in the book.

03 December 2007

Random Bullets of...Stuff, I Guess

1) Thank you all for the birthday wishes! It was very sweet of you all who dropped a line, I appreciate it very much.

2) I just submitted School D. Oh my god, finishing that one was killer - an hour and a half to figure out one final sentence!

3) I am not so sure I want to go to School D anymore. Not because it is far (heck, School E is right across the road so to speak in the same 'hood) but because I was looking at the J-History profs and they aren't in line with what I am researching. I am preparing myself for a rejection from them. No problem by me (I sorta like School E if I HAD to choose between the schools. Plus, School E is closer to a city :::cough cough - civilization - cough cough:::. Being near a metropolitan area is important to me - I don't want to get cabin fever. School D is near the same city but you need a car more.)

4) Lotsa knitting done. I also had two hours before class because I finished my midterm (See number 4) and took a nap. As well as knitted. Will put up a more dedicated knitting post later.

As such, most of the madness is over. I have Yo-Yo Ma playing non-stop, apartment is a mess, laundry isn't done, but it's all ok.

02 December 2007

It's My Birthday and I'll Eat Ice Cream if I Want To

You know how one can tell if she is really, truly, 23?

The age changed automatically in her blogger profile. On a blue note, grad apps have made me so wound-up that several months ago, my friend and I figured out that I was having my quarter-life crisis (there was a point that I was considering to screw academia and go to law school, which for my friend was a troubling reaction to see from me, considering I never said a peep about law school before). I have always been a bit mature for my age (so people tell me) so I wasn't surprised that it came at 22 as opposed to 25.

I am 23. Hmm. Interesting. It has a nice ring to it. 22 is still too close to 21, the "Yeah! I'm finally legal! LET'S PARTY!" age.

Life is like wine - it gets better with age.

And I truly mean that. I am still in my early 20's but 20-22 was awkward. I'm looking forward to my mid and late 20s.

For my birthday, I celebrated twice. Last Friday, I went with Waiyee for Indian food, and to the Light-Up at Kiyomizu-Dera. Kiyo is very famous for it's fall foliage. So famous that the place is crowded with tourists and the temple extends it's hours till 9:30pm with strategic lighting displays. For all its touristyness, it was very pretty. That white stick in the third picture is Kyoto Tower. It's downright ghastly close-up, but gorgeous at night. The view of the city from Kiyo is amazing (I have been there once before when Justine came in June).

The Indian food? DELICIOUS. I have had a craving for Indian food for while. It's a chain, and they opened a branch in mine and Waiyee's neighborhood. Reason number 13454 why I love my neighborhood. Affordable (1300yen for a dinner set), AUTHENTIC (it's run by Indians) and tasty (with 5 different levels of spicy; I had level 3) Indian food.

After Kiyomizu, we walked up back to Shijo and had cake, to which Waiyee treated me at Lipton. I had a waffle with bananas, vanilla and chocolate mousse ice cream and chocolate syrup and English Breakfast tea. I was stuffed.

Today, I went to Very Berry on Nijo-Kawaramachi with some girls from the study abroad class that I became friends with. Very Berry is an institution, with American style sundaes. I always make it a point to have ice cream on my birthday; as a winter baby I never really had ice cream cakes as a kid. Now, I make sure I have ice cream every year.

Most of them had not been to the Nijo-Kawaramachi branch (it is a chain, I have been to the one in Teramachi). Alisa and I went to it the first time in September, and loved it. It was in a restored machiya which adds a lot of charm to the place.

Yum! Emily and I split a club sandwich of cream cheese, avocado and salsa - on my way back home, I stopped at the supermarket and got the ingredients for it, hmm, might make one again! We also split a raspberry sundae.

I had a lot of fun. I also got some cute gifts which they really, truly didn't have to, but it was very nice of them. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pics of the sundaes, but don't worry. Very Berry won't be going anywhere and I KNOW I am going back. Again. Many. more. times. In the meantime, you can drool over their menu.

When I got back home, I actually wanted to listen to some classical music, but I deleted some stuff off my iTunes in a deleting frenzy (I still have the CDs back home). So I browsed on iTunes and picked out Yo-Yo Ma's "Bach: The Cello Suites." Amazing, relaxing music to listen too. I heard some other stuff which was good, but for now a solo cello is good for concentration. I might get this Renaissance chorale CD in a week or two, once my mind is not so frazzled anymore.

I submitted School E, aka the application from hell. Thank god that one is done.
Tomorrow: School D. By the end of this week is Schools B and H for sure (I want to mail out my supplementary materials, THEN click the "submit" button.)

By the end of this weekend, I will have Schools A and G done. All that is left are essays for this fellowship (since I had to submit SOMETHING for that for School E, I have it like 90% done) and financial aid application, which all the schools don't require.

01 December 2007

Bite Me in the Bum, Why Don't You

Maybe it was a sign.

Or karma?

First off, it's my birthday today and I am still working on grad apps. I told myself I wouldn't do that, but deadlines are deadlines, and I am at the "checking-afraid to press the submit button" stage. School C is done. I meant to do School F yesterday but I had a little problem.

You see, I was cleaning out some stuff off my hard drive which involved multiple copies of my personal statement.

I ended up deleting one of the two essays for Schools E and F. Oh $%*&^.

So, whilst wishing I had Leopard for my Mac because of the Time Machine feature, I tried to use some data recovery programs. But I had to pay to get all the features. Pfft.

Luckily, I had a draft on my USB stick, so I banged it out again and actually polished it a bit. Submitted it this morning (Side note: Schools B and H are ready to go, but I am afraid to click on the "submit" button. Once I mail out my stuff next week, then I know it's for real and will click on that button.).

This was a bit of deja vu for me. Why?

The day before I had to mail out my application for my scholarship, I forgot to email it to myself from work. In the summer the office was closed on Fridays. So I had to re-write the WHOLE thing. I didn't have a draft backed up. Nothing.

And as all of you know, I ended up with the scholarship.

So maybe this is a sign. It bites me in the bum but still, one can hope this is a sign for the good since the last time, it turned out very nicely.

30 November 2007


I just submitted my first grad school application, School C. I just also realized that I sent my supplementary materials to the History Department as opposed to the Grad School Admissions Office - some schools want the actual department, some schools want the admissions office. I bet I wouldn't be the first one, and it's there already so I know they probably noticed what was up. So I will call them tonight (when it is Friday morning).

Thing is, the deadlines are weird: I didn't know if I qualify under the Non North-American deadline (December 1, which is a Saturday so December 3) because I am in Japan, or the North American deadline, since I am a US Citizen, I am just living abroad. Just to cover my arse, I submitted it today, 10pm EST, November 29. A good 4 days before the deadline for NNA.

I just got the congratulatory email, that I successfully completed the application. Congratulatory, my bum. I get email notification on whether or not I got in my March 15.

MARCH 15. Three and a half MONTHS. Oh, jeez I am going to have a heart attack by then - if I am in the Philippines in the end of February, you can bet I am going to nag The Aussie everyday to take me to an internet cafe. That, or let my sister check my email for me.

Next: School B and School F. Then tomorrow, Schools D, and E.

I added another school at the last minute, which is in the same city as School A as another safety. Prof. L. submitted his rec letter for it and I Prof. O's letter in hand so I figured why not, might as well since I have all the materials for it. So in terms of hierarchy, it is above School G (and is in the same city as School A, you can tell I REALLY want to stay in the tri-state area) but because it's a last minute addition (deadline is Dec 12 so I am all good actually) it is School H.

Final count: 8 grad schools. I really, never EVER want to know how much I paid for all this: transcript requests, mailings, fees (I applied for a waiver for School C let's see what happens), etc. etc.

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.

27 November 2007

Oh Yes, Wait a Minute Mister Postman

I really don't get a lot of mail in Japan. My sister STILL has not sent me her postcard to me from Italy - HINT HINT Little Sister if you are reading this - and the only thing I get on a regular basis are bills.

No, I don't like mail like that. That sort of mail does not count.

This month looks to be a banner month for mail, because of swaps, birthday and Christmas. I LOVE getting mail.

So imagine my joy when I saw a bright pink bubble envelope poking out of my mailbox. In the mailbox was the package from my birthday swapper! I sent out her package yesterday (big holiday last weekend so no post office for most of the latter end of last week) and in it was yarn. Smooshy, smooshy yarn!

Specifically, Patons SWS in "Natural Denim" - 70% wool, 30% soy in a beautiful variegated blue. I also got a knitting magazine called "Knit Simple" and it has CABLE patterns! I am totally addicted to cable patterns - like I mentioned to my swapper, I am learning how to cable without a cable needle. Squee!!!

I like mail.
I like yarn.

I also like knowing that the second essay for schools E & F is done. All that's left is the fellowship essay - I have my points, but right now I really don't care much for it because if I get into the school, they give me funding anyway. So this is just a supplemental thing, and for the other schools I can tweak it more because they are due in January, and even February, but I will get them done before Christmas. School E wants it this-very-minute, along with the application.

Boo to School E, but yeah for yarn! Smooshy, smooshy yarn.

26 November 2007

Sutoresu!!! Sutoresu!!!

Stress!!! Stress!!!

This is what I get for procrastinating. However, being in Japan means I am 14 hours ahead of the United States (at least the East Coast and that part of the Great Lakes that is on EST), which works for me because:

It means I have an extra day for the grad school materials to arrive on time in the States.

I am such a procrastinator. I wait till the week before the first round of grad apps are due (this weekend, exactly) to submit the stuff in the mail. granted it was via EMS, Japan's version of Global Priority, and according to BOTH the Japanese and English websites it will get to the States in two days.

I go to the post office and mail my stuff. Then I ask for confirmation. In Japan I always double check in case I missed something; I may ask the same question 3 times in 3 different ways but it has worked so far.

"Well, it is the holidays, so it could take maybe a week."

A week? WHAT holidays? The country isn't even Christian! Christmas was imported after WW2 for crying out loud and turned into a couple's holiday! (Which is why I hate Christmas in Japan even more. Mel isn't here and everyone and their mother on Shijo is holding hands.)

I freak out. All day. Couldn't do alot of work on my essays. I meet up with Prof. S. before class and he asks how I'm doing, and I tell him what's going on. He told me to not worry. Given Prof. S's experience, I trust his answer. So I am not freaking out so much.

At least EMS has tracking numbers. As of 1:15am Japan time on 11/26 (lunchtime EST 11/25) it was at the Osaka Int'l Post Office. I am guessing it will be on a plane by the end of today.

I can only hope.

I did finish the academic essay for schools E and F.

24 November 2007

Mel Goes a Knittin'

Haha. To some extent, I wish.

He tells me this morning what kind of yarn I want, and that he heard of this store called String, on the UES - it's in Zagat. Have I heard of it?

Of course I have heard of it. It's the Bergdorf of yarn stores. It sells Koigu Cashmere for $50. For ONE skein.

Go figure that he picks the yarn store in Zagat - that is his Bible.

I told him not to get me yarn. While I do love the idea of people getting me nice yarn and appreciate it, and it is really sweet how The Aussie came up with the idea all on his own (which is his affirmation of my newfound hobby, and shows that he doesn't think I am trifling here) in my current situation (me being in Japan), yarn is no good.

I know some of you will be thinking, "The man wants to buy you CASHMERE. What the heck are you thinking, telling him no?"

I am not being picky here. Thing is, I can make only so many hats for myself in Japan, since expensive yarn = not so much yarn. It is also the question of space, and me moving back home in less than 4 months (where did the time go?). It's kind of silly for him to send me something that I won't use, only to bring it back with me. Yarn is smooshy, but I don't want the nice stuff to get squished.

I don't want him to spend so much money, since I am trying to be the sort of knitter that picks the pattern, then gets the yarn. Or if I do an impulse buy, I better find a pattern for it quick. Swaps of course, are totally exempt from this rule; making your stash bigger is a lot of fun. I did say I was "trying" - that being the operative word.

I don't have much space - nor funds - for a lot of yarn so thinking "economy" and "lack of space" is the way to go. One plastic drawer is all I got here, folks. And that sucker better be empty by the time I go on my next yarn binge.

So in lieu of fancy yarn - since he STILL wanted to get me something - I asked for fancy sticks. Yes, we call my knitting needles "sticks." It just stuck. Pardon the pun.

In particular, Lantern Moon needles, size 9, 10" long. Don't mind which color. It is also my dream to have all my needles from Lantern Moon - I love wooden needles. Good chance to start now no? I think they are birthday-worthy sticks myself. Needles, I can use. Like the day I get them in the mail. Yarn? Might wait awhile.

I am also very proud of Mel - he may scoff at the idea of me teaching him how to knit, but he will not balk at going to a knitting store. What a man.

Although he pointed out that he wanted me to get cashmere so I can knit HIM hats.

23 November 2007

I Wonder How Turkeys Say "Gobble Gobble" in Japanese

Or in my case, Turkish.

In lieu of a turkey dinner, Ingram, Alisa, Ted and myself went to have Turkish food. For Thanksgiving. According to Alisa, she put in "turkey" and "Kyoto" into the Google searchbar, and a Turkish restaurant is what she got.

For it certainly turned out to be an expedition. We got to the restaurant, only to realize that we needed reservations, even though the place was crowded. Japan is very weird in this respect - there are certain rules and even the Japanese don't get them.

So Alisa gave the lady her cell number and we trooped back outside, in search of a replacement. Thing is, this is the busiest weekend in Kyoto and all the tourists were out in force. Again, it's momiji madness - the autumn leaves. Pfft. My inner New Yorker says "Go away, tourists! Shoo! How can you NOT hear my bicycle bell!"

This Thanksgiving, I didn't need to take the bus down to Kyoto Station. It took me an hour last year!

But it took about an hour's wait for the Turkey - I mean, Turkish food. Good things come to those who wait because we were traipsing from place to place only to find they were full when Alisa's phone rang. Mmmm...Turkish food! Almost like Greek so I was really happy.

Lamb and chicken souvlaki, hummus, yogurt dip, the works. Not exactly turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes, but the company was the most important thing. To be around friends and have a good time, even if you are in a foreign country, where the largest oven to cook the smallest turkey is practically non-existent. For that I was thankful. We all had laughs and shared memories and overall had a great time.

This Thanksgiving was quite different from last year. Last year I spend it with friends and their mothers and had both turkey and then blowfish the next day - quite different experiences, but being with them was like being with family, and reminded me how mine wasn't there. Add that I was barely two months in Japan and I actually cried from all the emotion surrounding the holiday and being away as I walked home from the bus back to the house that I lived when I first got here. I actually felt very much alone then, and lost.

But now, while I miss my family - and thankful for their support in me being here - it doesn't hurt so much. I am not being cold, but rather thinking that I have changed and grown up a lot during my time here. Being away from family during the holidays does suck, but it happens. I think I am better at dealing with things like that, as if I have gained my footing on my own in this world, and can stand up by myself.

I am also thankful for living in this city and having the opportunity to live here; if it weren't for the scholarship, I would most certainly not be here. Kyoto is great for students and wonderful overall; it's not like Osaka or Tokyo, this big fancy metropolises. There are so many things happening and even though the tourists are annoying I know they are crucial to keep the vibe going. This place is not just filled with little old ladies in kimono. It's a thriving city with a distinct heartbeat.

And because I live in this city, I get to see things that I normally do not see on a regular basis since I grew up in a major metropolis. There are lights everywhere in NYC even in the quiet neighborhoods such as mine and you really can't see the stars, save for Venus and the moon. Lately, on my bike rides back home at night, I noticed that on clear nights, the sky glittered.

When I was in high school I had to prepare for this one event at the science competition, which involved my partner and I memorizing the constellations. I was pretty good at it; I forgot most of them, but when I looked up at the sky tonight, I recognized the Big Dipper.

I had seen it several times before in the past few weeks, but this was the first time that it was as clear as day. Not a cloud in the sky, and the moon was particularly bright. I never get to see a lot of stars, but tonight was spectacular.

It may sound silly, but for that I am also thankful.

21 November 2007

"No Worries"

I was looking at my ticket receipt last night for Australia, when I started freaking out.

I only have one hour and 10 minutes between planes. One hour and 10 minutes to go through customs, possibly get my baggage, and re-check. I then looked up the Brisbane Airport and discovered to my dismay that I need to take an AirTrain between the domestic and international terminals because they are THREE kilometers apart.

Oh, crap. Is it enough time?

I tried to reassure myself, (and my mom tried to reassure me over Skype) saying that I had an hour and a half in Detroit to go through that mess known as US Immigration and Customs (even the US Citizen/Permanent resident line took forever!) and had to get my luggage, re-check, and go back through security. I professed my worry to The Aussie, whose response was not particularly helpful: "I told you that the Brisbane Airport was big" (he of course, has an intimate relationship with BNE since that was his local airport).

Gee thanks. I love The Aussie and all, but seriously? Right at that time men sucked. After some more minutes of conversation, I began to really freak out, thinking that I am going to miss my flight, etc. etc. If I miss my flight, I miss the bus to Canberra.

Plus, I learned that the maximum amount allowed as carry-on is 15lbs total. Either I was going to pack really, really light (thank god there is free laundry in Canberra) or I was going to miss my plane. I think I might leave my laptop behind. Ringo may be pretty light compared to the clunkers that my friends have, but it will weigh me down.

This morning, I called JetStar in Australia via Skype, knowing full well I will not get the specific information via the Japan line as easily and as quickly. Apparently, I didn't have the specific JetStar reservation number so I would have to call back later. This was at 9:30am. JTB (the travel agency I used) opens at 11:00am. It was one of those times that I really wished things were like NYC and open either at 9 or 10am. I STILL forget that the shops (except for the department stores) open at 11 as opposed to 10.

At 11:01, I called JTB. After explaining twice in Japanese, the lady told me she will look up the number and call me back. I got the number in less than 5 minutes, and called Australia again.

Good news - my flights are "thru," which means when I check-in in Osaka, I have also checked-in for my flight from BNE to SYD. Also, my luggage will go between the planes so that means I don't have to pick them up and check them in again, like I had to do in Detroit. But I am still thinking of just going with a carry-on (I will call again like a week before just to double-double check). If I do check-in my bag, it means that I can bring my laptop, but I really don't want to lug it around. Alisa pointed out that I can still tweak my presentation, but it's excess weight.

Honestly, I have no qualms running through an airport. It wouldn't be the first time (when I had known Ingram less than 24 hours, I convinced him to run through Narita in Tokyo so that we could make our connecting flight to Osaka on time).

More good news: I got the confirmation from Wake Up! Sydney - 4 Share Dorm, Female Only. Another good thing about it is that while they do take your credit card for the reservation, it's only for reservation purposes; I will pay in cash there (phew). Very happy, though I think I messed up on the number of nights that I was going to stay. I don't like it when they ask for the check-in date and the number of nights as opposed to the specific dates - it can lead to mistakes. So I counted off my fingers - yes, 2/2 to 2/7 is 5 nights, not 6 - and e-mailed them back, telling them sorry made a mistake, and these are my dates.

"No worries," was part of the reply. How cool - they actually do say "no worries" in Australia, and it's not some Crocodile Dundee thing. Mel not only hides his accent (it only comes out after a tipple and when he gives speeches/presentations) he doesn't say "no worries."

All that's left is to email Mel's mum to let her know when I am going to Sydney so she can email the family friends and let them know that the DIL is coming. They might take me around for a day. Also need to email this professor I know who is at a uni in Sydney - we met last year at a conference, so it would be cool to meet up, if only for a bit.

When I return to Japan, it is going to be very interesting (but I am being sarcastic here). They just implemented mandatory fingerprinting like the US. But unlike the US, even permanent residents (except those "special permanent residents") and those who are on visas and have the gajin card (like me) get fingerprinted. According to the news, travelers are fine by it, but a lot of the foreign residents are not happy.

20 November 2007

Accents Galore

Imagine a 6'2" bear of a man with a very thick Greek accent when he speaks English. Think Kosta, Toula's dad from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," but deeper. And my dad is certainly taller than Michael Constantine.

Now imagine that accent, trying to imitate an Australian accent.

That is my dad for you.

The Bell Lap

I can't run. I know there is a proper way to run, but I actually physically can't do it. For one thing, my Achilles tendons are too tight, so I don't run heel-toe, heel-toe. I used to just walk on my toes, but several years of consciously thinking, "heel-toe, heel-toe" has somewhat remedied that.

In short, don't expect me to run in a marathon. I have however, volunteered in the NY Marathon one year as a chip clipper at the finish line. Kinda yucky since some runners have sweat streaming down to their sneakers, but it was fun. I want to cycle a marathon. That, I think I can do.

I can see the finish line, regarding my grad apps. At least for my personal statement. I have brainstormed for the two essays for the other schools (two schools want TWO essays, the meanies), and have a good idea of what I want to write. But the essay for the other schools?

I hate it. I am constantly second-guessing myself, and have resorted to looking at my resume (since I had to fix it and add Australia on it) for some comfort, to prove to myself that I have done significant stuff, that I am a viable candidate, that yes I do care about the program and I have proof that I am one of the most dedicated and hardcore candidates that you got.

Still, I hate my essay. I don't know what else I can do to it to make it better, which is a sign that it's done. I just need to polish up the closing and add "Why I want to go to X school."

400 people apply.
20-25 get accepted.

One also needs to realize that there are more than 5-6 different fields. So it's about 3-5 people per regional section. At School B, they only accept TWO people for the East Asia track. I am presuming that it's 1 China and 1 Japan.

The odds are not looking good.

That final lap is always the hardest.

19 November 2007

It's Just One of Those Days (Where Ya Don't Wanna Get Up)

Ugh. I had such a crazy morning.

My goal was to get my plane ticket to Australia. I needed to get the documentation for my reimbursement down to Canberra by November 30th and wanted to get it ASAP. I had a sinking feeling that I was running out of time.

Turns out, I actually was running out of time. Because of the snafu regarding my arrival date into the dorms in Canberra, I was actually going to get in one day earlier. Add to the fact that I really couldn't do that cheaper plane ticket via Hong Kong because the time between arrival in Sydney and departure for Canberra was too tight, and I was running out of options.

An hour's worth of searching at the Co-op travel agency led to a ticket that was 177,000yen. About $1700. My heart was falling, and I had a sinking feeling that I wasn't going to go to Australia.



So, with all abandon and muttering curses under my breath (at least I wasn't cursing in Greek, that would mean that it was REALLY bad), I left the co-op, got on my bike and hightailed it to the JTB on Sanjo. I got there in 15 minutes. My heart was pounding and I seriously was not exactly on the verge of tears, but I could willingly turn on the waterworks if I wanted to.

I go to the desk, and begin my search with the agent again. A ticket via Seoul came up, 100,000yen (about $1000USD). Woo-hoo!

Or...maybe not.

The flight from Seoul to Sydney was booked.

SERIOUSLY! Is everyone and their mother in Asia going to Sydney on January 27!

I offhandedly mentioned (in Japanese, of course) to the agent that I was there on Saturday and there was a ticket via JetStar, this Australian airline that is like Qantas. The agent got back to the computer, and typed away. At this point I was just thinking, "Oh feckit (or at least a bit more coarsely), I will just get the ticket even if it is $1700, pay in cash and put the rest on my card." (We can't use credit cards in the Co-op. Weird).

She takes the paper that had the Korea flights on it, and writes something on it:

1/27, KIX-->SYD 21:20-11:00 (1/28)
2/7, SYD-->KIX 12:00-20:00

Total: 101,000yen.
With taxes: 130,470yen.

Oh. Thank. God.

I hightailed it back to the library at the study abroad program that I am the CA for (because I have access to the wireless internet and a printer) and made my reservation for Wake Up! in Sydney. Printed out all necessary documentation for getting my reimbursement, and to prove to my teachers that yes, I am presenting at a conference. Last thing is to get confirmation for Wake Up! and to get my bus tickets ($30AUD total, not bad at all) to and from Canberra.

In fact, when I go to Australia on 1/27, I am making a connection in Brisbane, Mel's neck of the woods. Bit sad. But, I am only going to see the airport.

I ended up skipping the first half of my afternoon class because by that time I still hadn't eaten lunch, and I was not up for a cold sandwich. It's cold today! I wanted nabeyaki udon. So, I also skipped the first half of grammar too. But I did go to the second half and explained to my teacher (she is really cool) that I had to get my ticket today and I was having a hard time. Gave her the letter from the conference people, and a letter from me stating that I am going to be out of Japan during finals period. No problem. I take my exam February 8.

I am on my way!

18 November 2007

Teacher, Teacher!

It's getting colder here. I woke up this morning, and the sky was a bit gray. I got up because I needed to go to the Lake Biwa Canal Museum - I am preparing a lecture to teach a class on "Meiji Kyoto in a Day" this Thursday, and I needed to make a homework assignment, field trip and readings.

Yikes. This is going to be my first time ever teaching a class. In front of college students. Prof. S. pretty much told me to regurgitate my thesis (because that was the topic of the day) but still can't help but be nervous. Readings were easy, I had scanned and compiled them last week. Prof. S. told me not to give them too much, and I didn't.

So I went, and actually got a tour of the museum by one of the guides there. It was in Japanese, I understood about 70% of it, but was quite proud of myself. Asked questions, got some things confirmed, and had some ideas for what to look out for when the kids go to the museum. Still, can't help but be nervous. Even when I answer questions in any class, I feel my face turning red.

17 November 2007

Fall is Here

I started up a new project, for my sister: an iPod cozy. On DPNs (double-pointed needles). Quite ambitious, since I am STILL not done with The Aussie's scarf (never knit a 6 foot long scarf with finger weight yarn!). After several attempts, curses and watching a video on the use of DPNs, I finally figured out how to knit with 5 pointy sticks. I showed my mom via webcam and she was astonished. So was I. DPNs are cool. I don't think I will ever do socks via Magic Loop.

This morning was a meeting of a new Kyoto Stitch'n'Bitch group. Me and two others, met up at the Sanjo Starbucks and knitted for 2 hours. One of the girls uses Magic Loop for her socks, and expressed concern at the possibility of my poking my eye out. We showed each other our projects, and upon further examination of the yarn for The Aussie's scarf (I brought a new skein with the label still on it because I am almost done with my current ball), we learned that it's not just wool, but it consists of mohair (ok, thats normal) and REINDEER. That's what "tonakkai" means. Cool and weird at the same time.

After, I went to Seria (love that 100yen store) and rode my bike back home. It was a beautiful day; and the leaves are really starting to change. So I thought I would end here (and my day of relaxation, back to the grad school grind tomorrow) with some photos of Kyoto in autumn. Hopefully, there will still be momiji (the maple trees) that are red by my birthday which is in two weeks; according to Prof. S. they are turning late this year. Ginko trees, which line Kawabata-dori, turn a luscious gold.

15 November 2007

And Yet More Ouch

Kanbun. Real Classical Japanese.

Also known as my latest foray into Pre-WW2 Japanese. Note: it was used from the 11th Century to the end of WW2.

You definitely want to check it out. The picture on the right side is of the Chinese characters with the numbers next to it. The numbers determine the reading order.

Except in my readings, there are NO numbers.

No funny Japanese symbols to determine the order either, which are also in that picture. Not like I understand it. The numbers are used for us Westerners.


In my dictionary, it means "hell."

But I am a geek, so I willingly put myself through this torture for sake of academic advancement.

14 November 2007


Spurred on by Libby's question on "What is the NHK?" I give you another edition of..."Maria in Japan."

This week's episode: "Battle with the NHK Lady!"

Dum, dum, dum.


Maria is in her apartment, puttering about one evening when she hears a knock on the door. Owner of hand that knocks on door does not announce him/herself.

Maria slowly creeps to door. Well it's more like two paces; this IS Japan, land of the tiny!

She looks at peephole.

Strange person in a suit.

Dum, dum, dum!

Tune in next week for what she does! (Hint: you guys already know.)


As several of you noted, it might be the NHK lady. Or person. They come to collect the fees that no one pays.

What fees? NH-Wha?

NHK is like the BBC. In fact, according to Wikipedia, NHK modeled itself on the BBC. I was able to make that connection pretty quickly since I lived in London, and remember the tv ads and bus ads and posters plastered everywhere warning people who don't pay the BBC fees. It's state-run television, to some extent (hmm, that sounds very Cold War Soviet Union). So in Japan, you have a lot of variety shows and samurai dramas and such.

Regardless, Japanese tv does suck. I only watched it extensively during Golden Week at Mayuko's condo in Shirahama and only enjoyed the commercials.

Japan does have a law stipulating that people pay certain fees. But they don't enforce it! Hence the NHK lady and attempts at freaking me out.

On the outside of the apartment doors in my building are the stickers with numbers for the gas and electric, and a sticker that says "NHK." I knew about the fees when I was checking out my apartment and asked my landlord about them. He actually started to laugh. No one pays the NHK fees. Just like no one pays the BBC fees. But in England you get screwed over more.


Head hurts.

School E (or was it D? Who cares) is kicking my butt. They want me to calculate my GPA four different ways! Bloody nitpicky. I think this is the worst of the bunch - this is the one that I have to write two essays for. PLUS, I can only send a 10-page max writing sample. At least they aren't that sado-masochistic, because they also mentioned that in lieu of a whole writing sample, I can provide a 10-page excerpt with a cover letter. Phew. The rest of the schools are around 20 pages, one is 25 pages minumum.

Guess who is going to be playing with formatting tools on Word!

12 November 2007

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!

So I start the hunt for plane tickets.

And I am going to thank a lot of people in very high places who were able to give me A$1000 for my travel, because my plane ticket + getting my arse to Canberra is about A$1200 total.


As a friend pointed out, "Australia for $200 is not bad."

It's not really, but still I will try to find something cheaper. Due to the following circumstances: check-in to the dorms is really 1/28, not 1/29 (mix-up) and that I do need to take Japanese finals and one will be on 2/8 I will be actually leaving most likely the evening of 1/27 and returning 2/7. Can't make it to the knitting group in Sydney, but I will visit the yarn shop (which is near the Opera House!).

Soooooo many things I want to do; I dug up an old article from the NY Times travel section (yeah for getting rid of "Times Select"! Silly thing, really). They have these features, "36 Hours in [Insert City Here]". Here is the description of Sydney:

"A boarding pass to Sydney should come with a warning label: Beware, this city will have you questioning the quality of life in your hometown. Sydney has managed to skim the best parts of other cities and swirl them into a perfect blend of urban bliss. At any given time, visitors can enjoy the sun-soaked laid-back vibe of Los Angeles, the cleanliness and efficiency of Geneva, the energizing hustle and bustle of New York City and the Old World charms of London. Pair all of that with a unique brand of casual Aussie warmth and you’ve got more than enough to justify the otherwise prohibitively long flight to get there."

Wow. And the things they list! I wasn't really planning on going to Bondi, but now it's a must (and maybe for 2 afternoons?). How can I NOT go to Australia in the summer and NOT come back with a tan (or as a tomato? Which is the modus operandi for my skin, but I'll ask for some Coppertone SPF 50 in my care package).

Many of you will probably get sick of me gushing about my trip, but things will die down once all plane/bus/train ticket and lodging issues are settled. Plus, it's NaBloPoMo, this is certainly something worth talking about! Grad school apps are dogging me so I haven't been out much.

I have been playing The Cat Empire non-stop on iTunes. Their new cd is quite different - more mellow but still snazzy. If anyone is piqued, they do have their second album on iTunes and a EP version of their first album as well. It will even be better if they have a show in Sydney like I mentioned before - according to their site, it's going to be an outdoor tour in February.

11 November 2007

Security Check

Warning: I'm a bit snappy.

You know, they always say that Japan is safe. It sure is to be quite honest; I mean, there have been nights here where I ride my bike back up from downtown at 1, 2 in the morning by myself. No homeless people (they are all under the bridges at the Kamo River, but they don't bother you) no wierdos. I am too busy flying on my bike to garner any attention. Also, there are still people around; the Kamo River/Kawabata-Dori is one of the major North-South arteries of Kyoto.

But still. Except for the fancy manshons (apartment buildings), most apartment buildings in general don't have any security. The main door to my building is never locked; in fact, most buildings don't even have a front door. The only door that you have is the one to your apartment. Anyone can come in.

That has made me a bit uneasy, but I guess I considered myself lucky.

Until about 5 minutes ago.

I was doing my own thing, listening to The Cat Empire when I heard a knock on my door. I muted my music and checked first if my door was locked, then through the peephole. There was a Japanese woman, of middle age in a suit, sort of.

:::Knock knock:::

I KNEW that she knew that someone was inside because obviously I had my music on and I turned it off. But I didn't open the door. She just kept knocking and even looked at my peephole, as if she was willing to see who was on the other side of the door. I am not opening that door! She said not one word. Just knocked. Then she turned to my neighbor (who I think is a bit of a wierdo, he talks in this wailing voice which sorta creeps me out) and knocked.

That's when I knew I wasn't being targeted specifically, but just going around. Then I heard her knock on other doors but not even my neighbor opened his door. And this wasn't the first time this has happened either!

Call me paranoid, but I really don't like it how people can walk into my building without prior notification, or that the front door isn't locked. It just makes the stereotype of "Japan is safe" even worse. Sure, naysayers can say that it's true but better to be safe than sorry. Things still happen here. This place is not paradise.

I am not knocking Japan (pun not intended) - I like it here a lot. But there are just some things that tick me off, which I think is natural. And when it comes to strange people knocking on my door and not even saying a WORD, then we got issues here.

I'm off to the combini. Comfort chocolate is in order.

It's My (Chinese New) Year and I'll Party if I Want To

Here is something interesting.

I thought that Mardi Gras was going to be in Sydney during my trip there.

Well it's two weeks after but...Chinese New Year is going to be up and running! 2008 is the year of the Rat which is extra special because I was born in the year of the Rat (1984, if anyone was wondering). What better time to see Chinatown? I have been to Chinese New Year in London. Funny thing is, I have NEVER seen Chinese New Year in NYC, which by this point is quite pathetic.

Tickets to "As You Like It" at the Sydney Opera House are $35. Hmm...I would LOVE to see a show there, and I have never seen "As You Like It." My dream was to see "Madama Butterfly" (it's my favorite opera) but beggars can't be choosers. I might also want to do a tour of the place too.