Monday, June 25, 2007

lassitude in my (lad)itude

termites are on the way out; the jolly exterminators (seriously, they were jolly! i've never heard grown men giggle like that) visited my house mere days after the problem was discovered. if you have the beginnings of a bug problem in japan, you've got the makings of a full-blown disaster. my entire house is made of wood! a few months and it might've fallen with a whhhump into a heap...only the tile roof, my scattered shoes, and a tangle of yarn remaining.
last year i got ants. unlike dopey, dim-witted colorado ants that take weeks to organize enough to pose a nuisance, i saw a few ants in my kitchen in the morning, and by nightfall, it was like a river. i couldn't even find what they were eating. i had everything with sugar (glucose, fructose, OR sucrose) in the freezer, but they were everywhere anyway! their cleverness was also their fatal flaw; when i put out ant poison, they were all over it in minutes and gone the next day.
happily, the termites went back in the closet for my party, so i was truly able to relax and hang with the north mie kids. we had a liesurely beach day which made me impossibly happy. atashika is supposedly one of the 100 most beautiful beaches in japan, and it's only a 20 minute drive from my house. since i will soon have a car of my very own, this will no longer be an obstacle worthy of note. yes, i've bought myself a flea with wheels. the main obstruction remaining is my driving test which is closing in. will independence day return my autonomy to me in the form of a driver's license, or will i have another month chained to my bike? my heart pounds at the thought. (aack!!)

here's our fabulous ad for mini-beers. i know, it's hard to see them in our hands! these are fun 'cause you can drink them before they get warm. public drinking is all systems go in japan.

me and memento molly

since my house was damaged in the Great Termite Storm of '07, they got in there right away and replaced almost all of my nice, silky, weathered, golden tatami with new, green tatami. this would be fine with me except it smells like HAY. not romantic like faint sweet straw--like "i've been sitting in a barn for a year" HAY. it's overwhelming. here's the difference in color:

i do appreciate knowing that there are no hidden things wriggling around underfoot, though. i get to start fresh. the rainy season is delightfully dry this year so far, so i haven't been seeing any mukade yet, good news! i can't handle more than one bug problem at a time. here is the kanji for bug: 虫 doesn't convey any of the disgust i feel.
getting around to the title of this post, though, i've been feeling a japan low lately. not so much japan as work in japan. someone i know called working for the JET Programme "a velvet rut," and that's precisely what it is. we make plenty of money and live comfortably enough, but even with the responsibility i have here, i am not a Real Teacher, i am just an assistant who can be demanded of and undermined at will. most of my teachers are great, but a combination of my duties and the students' lack of motivation is so draining, and then there's the fun bag of cultural differences that can vacuum the energy right out of you. that's why i jumped at the chance to teach mr. m some english when he asked me. sure, it doesn't hurt that he's totally cute too. i was a little nervous for our first formal lesson--where do you begin? how do you know how to fill in the blanks for someone who knows a lot of vocabulary but little grammar? our first lesson was so much better than i was expecting! instead of not being willing to act out situations like my high school students, he totally humored my impulses. i indroduced myself as someone else, and we went over the small talk questions and answers like you would when meeting someone in a casual situation. it was fun! he shook my hand but didn't know when to let go (tee hee). he seemed actually eager to learn, which was so refreshing. i had him ask me questions, and he was off like a shot, communicating the hell out of everything. our next lesson is today, and we've agreed he'll pay me in kakigori which are snow cones, basically. i know, i'm cheap, but i love me some flavored ice.
yesterday i came home and just couldn't manufacture any more energy. i wanted to go for a walk or anything, but i didn't have it in me. instead i managed to get up and make one of those meals i grew up on...salmon croquettes. the smell of cooking onions overpowered the barn fetor and revived me, and though the tiny cans of salmon were expensive, the croquettes were tender and marvelous. here's the recipe:

1 can salmon (about 2 cups) or 4 mini cans in japan (that's got a ring to it)
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 egg
1/2 cup of bread or cracker crumbs, or, as i tried last night, crushed corn flakes

mix it all together (don't be startled by the cartilege in the salmon--it's totally edible) and shape into croquettes (about 1/4 cup each)
fry in oil for about 5 min on each side (till browned) and enjoy with ketchup

last friday i was at the home store with melissa, and we were chatting about and looking over all the flowers and herbs for sale. i looked up and saw a non-japanese man walking out of the store right by us. i was so stunned that my mouth was literally agape. he said something like, "good afternoon, ladies." i didn't recover in time to respond! what does this say about me!? on saturday, i was talking to my mom on skype (using my computer's ambient microphone, so she can hear everything, including the daily loudspeaker playing Edelweiss at noon) when my landlady stopped by to tell me that she couldn't find a place to have my key copied for a spare. when i got back on the phone, my mom said, "it sounded like you were understanding and responding in japanese!" i was like, yeah...she doesn't speak english. it was the first time someone i know has overheard me speak anything other than english. that's one of the reasons i really want someone to visit me here--i have no barometer of how much i've learned!

i have one more bug-related story. i woke one morning with a 1 inch diameter circle on my arm with a smaller circle inside. it looked like a bug bite--spider maybe. i began worrying about renegade populations of brown recluses or something equally ridiculous. everything is more of a big deal here since i don't have the greatest faith in the health system. it faded eventually, but the next day i woke up with a similar mark on my arm in a different place. what on earth could it be? i went over to my bed and what did i see? it was the impression of the button on my rilakkuma teddy bear that i must have been clutching tightly in my sleep!!


  1. Aww, Rilakkuma branded you! How sweet! Stan's bears always smother me with kisses. It's a bit suffocating, really.
    I am so relieved to hear that your termite problem was taken care of promptly! And as for hay-tastic tatami, at least you know they aren't full of dust mites; and the skin flakes and toe jam of all the ALTs who came before you!

  2. Fresh tatami looks beautiful! As much as I like eau de barnyard, though, breathing it in all day and all night sounds less than pleasant.

    'Twas Joanna Newsom who coined "the velvet rut".