Monthly Archives: June 2011

Daydreaming about cats


Note: This post was very delayed… I wrote it on June 2, 2011… lol. I guess you could say I’ve been a little busy. I think that’s a good thing, though.


Dealing with homesickness on the other side of the world.

Ages ago, I remember reading a page from either Interac or JET about the different stages that manifest during a prolonged stay away from home. At the time, I was probably lounging on my bed while reading it, likely there was a cat snuggled up next to me. Sure, I can handle that, I thought. But imagining and experiencing are rarely the same. How about I describe these stages as they occurred to me.

The first stage is referred to as the ‘honeymoon’ stage. I touched down in Japan and hit the ground running. Things didn’t start to slow down until almost 2 months later. During that time I was exploring, eating, hanging out with friends, and all in amounts more than usual for daily life. It was like going on a long vacation. Even work felt like an adventure and I managed to lose some weight thanks to all the action.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. For the last few weeks, it’s been a downward spiral of events leading to some heavy homesickness. There was my boyfriend coming to visit and his leaving. Then, the weather wasn’t warming up as quickly as I had hoped and the famous Ishikawa rain began to set in. And I had spent some much needed time reorganizing photos and files on my hard drives and this added to a lot of time reminiscing. I can’t tell you how many times I looked at pictures of my cats.

What a goof. This is Floyd.

And the prettiest princess, Sasha.

This past weekend I experienced my first typhoon and the lack of sun was making me feel even more downtrodden. Then one of our cats at home died (Meshka) and my dad’s sister died. Not being able to help console my relatives in anyway is very frustrating. I don’t remember what this stage is called… but it’s not fun. Lots of crying involved.

Though I’m still in the midst of crawling out of this proverbial hole of memories, things are looking up. I get the feeling the universe knows I’m unhappy because a curious series of events happened recently to help spur me to action. On Monday, there was a basketball game at my Jr. High with teachers vs. students. We lost miserably but it was a lot of fun and I needed the exercise, fo’ sho’. Tuesday I had more in depth than usual conversation with my boyfriend that left me feeling satiated mentally.

Wednesday was a three-point shot: in the morning, one of my elementary school teachers commented on how grateful he was that my Japanese is improving because he has such a hard time with English. I also carried on an entire small conversation about the day with another teacher entirely in Japanese. Those moments are always empowering. Then I got to go to my Jr. High’s sumo tournament and that was a whole awesome experience in and of itself.

The cherry on top was this man that was there. I believe he was one of my Jr. High sumo player’s fathers. Evidently, he enjoys bending wire into interesting creations for keychains and when he saw a female foreigner, I guess the temptation was to great. His friend asked my name and then he brought a card to write it down on because it was so difficult (Meredith has a slew of complications for native Japanese). Then he asked what wire color and bell I would like and said ok and went back to his seat. I had no idea at the time what in blue blazes he was making. I asked one of my JTE’s but she didn’t have a clue either. He brought back this sweet keychain. Now, if I was still depressed after all that it would have been a sin but just to ensure my happiness lasted until I got home, I stopped to grab a piece of cake from a conbini on my way back to school (after the sumo tournament). Can’t be too careful.

The stage I think I’m heading into now is called ‘acceptance’. Basically, I’m reaffirming the reasons I’m here, establishing a realization that memories do not constitute happiness, and getting used to the flow of daily life again. It’s a lot to take in. I don’t recommend trying to rush any of these stages. Like I said, I think the universe was looking out for me and let things play out in a certain way for me to gain the maximum benefit from my pain. That’s the key: to be open to the bad bits. It’s the quickest way to happiness.

Now the sun is shining and the birds are singing. It may rain more but the brief moments of sunshine are enough to carry me through the day. Daydreaming about the good food I’ll eat tonight doesn’t hurt either…. mmm curry.

With love – M


2 Frogs on a Bike


Buying a bicycle and riding about town.

For many weeks I debated on which bicycle to buy. I looked at every shop I could find and took forever to make a decision. Here’s why: A new bicycle will set you back at least 9000 yen (a friend got hers for 8000 a while ago but haven’t found that price anywhere since). If you want a subway bike, nicer tires, more gears, electric assist motor and so on, it will cost you more. I had my eye on one of the very normal, ‘everyone and their mother has one of these’ kind of bike.

But I didn’t want to spend all that money on a bike! And I had heard about some ALT’s getting hand me downs. On a mission, I was, to find a used bike. That was when I discovered the junkyards. Very different from in the states, these junkyards are small and well kept for the most part. Specifically, the one in Nanao has quite a few bikes in decent condition. I stopped by with a friend out of curiosity. We asked to look around and took a closer look at some of the bikes. Many were in disrepair but a solid 10 or so were ready to ride. I decided to think about it… for weeks because my schedule was funny and I wouldn’t get home in time to stop by there or it would be raining.

I prevailed. The gentleman at the junkyard was very helpful and let me ride it around the little lot. He even tried to sell me a newer bike (all bikes are the same price) but the handle bars were the curved in kind and I felt more comfortable buying handle bars I was used too. I checked the tires, tested the brakes, shook the front basket, and messed with just about every bit on there. I think the dude was impressed by my thorough inspection. For 3000 yen, it was mine. After 2 long rides on it thus far, I can tell you I’m very pleased with it. Even if it craps out by the end of the summer, I’m only staying for one year. I highly doubt I’ll be riding in the snow and ice.

As for cycling in town versus driving or walking, I like cycling much better. Driving is fast, climate controlled, and can carry more but going so fast, I miss some of the little shops and it’s difficult to park and drive in many areas. Plus there’s the whole paying for gas part. Walking is… well, it’s just slow. I like taking long walks but not alone. And carrying any kind of heavy shopping bag all that way is not my idea of a good time. Cycling, with baskets attached, affords some relaxation/exercise similar to walking and some of the speed and carrying power of a car. Maybe it’s silly but this is how I rationalized it in my head. And paying for gas here stresses me out (self-serve has lots of buttons I can’t seem to remember and full-service is more expensive.

A quick story: This past Saturday, I went on a nice little road trip with some new local ALT friends. We did a lot of walking around and shopping so I thought I was getting at least a little physical activity. As the day wore on, a headache I had been subduing manifested into a full on migraine that would not budge. By the time I got home, all I wanted was to slam my head into the wall and leave it there. In one of my smarter moments, I decided to head out for a ride on my bike to pick up a few small things. After maybe 5 minutes of riding, my head started to clear and my whole body felt much better. It was close to twilight and the mixture of warm air and the familiar smells coming from the bay made it lovely. I would’ve ridden around all night if my legs hadn’t started to get so tired. My booty was really sore in the morning, too. I’ll take that! If I can go for a ride instead of poppin’ pills for my headaches, yes please.

Maybe now I can burn off all those late nights at the local kaitenzushi…

With love – M