Monday, August 16, 2010

Things I Love

Excuse me for my writing absence. It's been well over a month since I wrote last and I apologize. It's not because I don't want to write but because there really isn't much new to write about. It's a lot of the same day-to-day things that never change going on over here. Still working for the weekends and that's about it. I also like being alone when I write and (darling, you know I love you) Al is always around so I don't get much time to just sit down with my thoughts and bust out an entry.

I thought I'd put together some things I love and some things I hate (next post) about Japan. And I actually can't even say that I hate anything about this place...there are simply certain things that are terribly inconvenient that make my life more difficult. First, things I love:

1. The train. I absolutely love the idea of a train system. America needs one nationwide, though I don't think it would work out so well. I love being able to walk down the street to the station and hop a train nearly anywhere. It's also really relaxing, though in an odd way because it's loud and bumpy but there is something calming about turning on my iPod and letting someone else take me where I need to be.

2. My bike. The last time I rode a bicycle before coming to Japan was sometime circa 1999. I had always felt a little silly on one, even when it was just my family and I on camping trips. But now that I have a cute purple cruiser I've wondered why I never enjoyed it before. I can get to the market and put my groceries in my basket, go for a ride to the park or simply just escape the smallness of my apartment for a while. Though, if I really think about it, that's (unfortunately) not really an American lifestyle. One can't fit the vast amount of groceries bought from a Super Wal-Mart in a bike basket.

3. Celebrity status. Okay, not really celebrity, but closer than I'll ever get to Hollywood. Being in the smallest prefecture in Japan, the locals don't see many foreigners. I live in a very rural area. (Think rice paddies and shrines, not Tokyo) Al and I get stared at...a lot. I really love it though, makes me feel like we're Angelina and Brad or something. Sometimes it does make me want to roll my eyes because people are NOT bashful about the staring. I mean I'm standing on the train platform and someone sitting on the train very blatently leans to the window and strains their neck to just gape at me. I've also gotten a lot of free stuff too. A lady in the park selling handpainted postcards called me Britney Spears, played with my hair and gave me one of the postcards. (Many compliments on the hair. They think it's my natural color. I let them think that.) I also seem to get free dessert of some kind every time I go to my favorite Indian restaurant in Marugame. I've also been told that I'm a hot commodity when it comes to companies wanting teachers because I have the "ideal blonde hair and blue eyes". Sweet. Ah, the life of a blonde in a black haired country.

3. Vending machines. They are everywhere. It's a way of life in Japan and if you don't believe me google something along the lines of "Japan vending machines" and you will get article upon article about them and how Japan and vending machines go together like PB&J. But you can't get food in them ooooh no. (Besides the few rice machines scattered here and there and the one that sells vibrators down the street from my house) It's all drinks and they are on every corner. At least a few every single block, down cramped alleyways, in people's yards, and rows and rows of them in front of large places like department stores and train stations. The best thing to get out of one is...

4. Milk Tea. One of my favorite things I've discovered about Japan is this delicious, sweet tea drink that comes hot in the winter and cold in the summer. I'm from the south dude we don't put milk in our tea but I've discovered the amazingness of it and I'm already thinking about how I'm going to make some once I get back to the States. I guess it's pretty simple...brew a cup of a tea and put milk and sugar in it. WHAM BAM the best thing ever. I'm completely addicted and I can't seem to be able to pass a vending machine without getting one.

5. All the Louis Vuitton. See previous post.

6. Shopping. The Japanese people thrive on shopping whether they can afford to or not, so even here on my little island the shopping is abundant. Anywhere I go I can buy clothes...or anything really. There are little shops all over the place and malls and department stores and machis the list goes on and on.

Now onto the things I really dislike...

Things That Inconvenience My Life

Now onto the things I really dislike. Mostly a list of complaints. There are a lot of things in Japan that are so completely ridiculous that the foreigners have an acronym for the question we ask so often: "Why?" B.I.J. or Because It's Japan. That is the only reason we have for the nonsensical things we run across.

1. ATMs. Japan is mainly a cash-driven country. I guess a few places will take a credit card if they absolutely have to, but I dont' think I've ever seen anyone use such a thing since I've been here. But now we get to the fun part...the ATMs close at night. That's right, you heard me. There is no such thing as one staying open past 7pm, let alone 24 hours. If you need money at 9:30 at night you can forget it. You won't get any until the next morning. It's something I've had to learn to do...make sure I have enough cash on me at all times.

2. No trash cans. With the superfluous vending machines come the scarce trash cans. They seem to all have a specific dwelling such as bathrooms, train stations and McDonalds and rarely will you find them anywhere else. On the street? N-O. In Japan you are expected to take your trash home with you and throw it away in your own house. Um, okay. Even at the beach...campgrounds...forget it.

3. Laundry. I have a miniscule washing mashine outside on my porch and no dryer. But no one in Japan has a dryer. Everyone hangs their clothes outside and I really hate it. It takes forever to do laundry because I don't have much real estate space outside so I can have maybe two loads hanging out there at a time. I have to wait hours for it to dry then do more. I'm not even sure how it works in the the clothes just freeze?

4. Shoes on/off. On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. I don't see the point of having cute shoes in Japan because I have to take them off wherever I go. When I go to work I have to take them off and so I'm barefoot the rest of the day. Everyone is. Or everyone has special indoor slippers that go on the second the shoes come off. Going to a house party? Forget wearing those cute pumps you just got that perfectly complete your outfit because you have to take them off at the door and no one will ever see them. I found it quite comforting when I first arrived here running around work in my slippers but now it's become one of those things that is way more of a nuisance than a comfort.

5. Drivers. I've already posted how much I hate Japanese drivers and it hasn't changed unless it's just gotten worse. They are always in my way, going too slow, or taking up both lanes...or all three at the same time, which happens often.

6. Food going bad quickly. I guess this a good and bad thing. My fruits and vegetables start going bad incredibly fast and I've been told it's because they aren't full of preservatives like in the US. Fair enough. But when I bring bananas home I have to eat them the next day basically or else they will be too ripe by the second. Occassionally I can get maybe 2 1/2 days out of my fruit but that's pushing it. Bread is the same way...5 or 6 days out of it maybe? Not much more than that. A lot of the food actually has these little fresh packet things inside the packaging so as to keep the food from going bad even quicker. I guess a little packet of something is better than preservatives loaded into whatever I'm eating.

I'm sure I'll be adding more of these love/hate things as I live here longer...stay tuned...