Thursday, February 21, 2008

the best 40 bucks i ever spent

since last winter, i have lamented[1] the fact that every single window in my house is made of rippled privacy glass, not clear glass. when the windows are closed, it's like being blind. i hate it. in the winter i feel like my mind and heart are held hostage, and it's been slowly paralyzing me.
this year, i decided it was a priority to get the glass changed out, and i've been desperate to do so. i had one teacher working on it, but it'd been weeks and i had heard nothing. (for heaven's sake, i even dreamed about it). finally, after sighing about it to yet another teacher, she actually stepped right up and called a glazier[2] to get some prices, and she didn't ask anybody's permission. the prices were more than fair--about 70-90 dollars, definitely worth it for some sanity. a hopefulness i haven't seen in a long time exploded out of my pores. i chattered excitedly about waking up and having tea in the morning, actually being able to see the day, watching the trains go by, and looking at the rising sun[3]. we seemed set to go: i knew how to get the windows to the glass shop; i knew how much it would cost; i knew how long it would take. tired of high (or even moderate to low) expectations dying with a plummet into frustration and despair[4], i planned to go straight after work. the same helpful teacher made the mistake of mentioning these plans to the office. then the office gutted and dismembered my hope. i was told they had been unable to reach the landlady for permission during the past three weeks and that i shouldn't do anything until she had been contacted. after the (almost exact same) experience last year of trying to get screens for my house and being made to wait five months for something i could have easily bought and installed in less than a week, that news pushed me over the edge. in a move completely unlike the obedient and respectful girl that we know, i went straight home and took out the window, drove to the glass shop, and had that thing changed. it cost forty bucks.

then i was riddled with guilt.
and overwhelmingly pleased.
it was very confusing.

however, i was granted mercy. the next morning, the landlady gave her consent, and no one was the wiser. i had the second window replaced that evening, and now i have a stunning view. that first night i sat in the dark wrapped in a blanket and did what i've ached to do for eighteen months. i watched. i watched the clouds slide over the moon; i watched the headlights crawl like shadows across the school buildings; i watched bright trains shoot sleekly in and out of mountain tunnels. i watched the quiet night.

wailed about to anyone who has every stayed at, eaten in, or imagined my house.

never, ever thought i'd use that word.

not directly of course. that causes blindness.

known as the japanese tango. the steps are simple; your superior tells you, "i will ask every person's opinion in this school and maybe a few of my relatives in another prefecture, and until it's unanimously decided how we should treat this issue which is none of our business, you will have to sit on your thumbs and wait.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

carry the zero

after dreaming last night that i had just been sent to jail for four months, i decided i needed a treat this morning. for breakfast i broke out the french bread and boursin cheese. i discovered boursin this year when danielle brought it to my thanksgiving party. after two days of cooking and two strong martinis, all that went through my head when i tasted it was, "MORE!" that may have been the only thing that escaped from my mouth too. it tasted amazing on toasted bread with sliced tomatoes, probably the best breakfast i've had this year. the only drawback is morning garlic breath--yech!
i too have been struggling with the winter blues, but i'm trying to keep my spirits up. the writer's strike in hollywood is over; that's cause for great celebration! i'm not sure i could go on without my weekly transfusion of Bones, Numb3rs, and [Psych, Law and Order Regular, CI, SVU, Chuck]... so i watch a lot of tv. it, uhhh, keeps my english current.
the weather is getting better finally, and the days aren't getting dark until 6pm now. the endless japanese school year is grueling, though. how do they ever feel really rested? i never do. but this morning as i walked through the actually warm sunlit morning, i was reminded that the winter will not last forever, nor will this long lonely season of my life.
i just turned 29, the age my mom was when i was born. weird, because though i've always wanted babies someday, i've never wanted them now until very recently. in reality, babies are still probably a long way off for me, but it's nice to feel more confident of my adult status. it's nice to feel capable of raising children. i don't want to do it alone, though, as my mom did. so i wait.

Monday, February 18, 2008

不思議の国のローレン, or: my creativity is lost on them sometimes.

this morning i rolled out of bed, put on some pants, and basically went to school in my pajamas. this is a secret pleasure of mine; it's like getting away with something. i imagine it's like having an important business call in your underwear. i am particularly fond of the way my sky blue, long-sleeved shirt smells when i've worn it to bed for a few days, and i got no small pleasure from sniffing it throughout the day. i have to wear so many layers to stay warm anyway that no one can really tell what i'm wearing.

i've been assured by many people that this winter is much colder than last, but this is news to me. i figured it was only possible to adjust to one end of the spectrum, and since i made peace with the heat last summer, i was dreading the cold. could i have adjusted to that too? it seems unlikely, but i haven't spent nearly as much time hovering over the kerosene heaters, nor have i felt the need to ingest my weight in hot tea, which actually works in my favor because it prevents as many trips to the glacial restroom.

lately i've been reading leno's humorous headlines until i'm gagging and wheezing with laughter. this is probably not the best use of my time at work, but it does manage to put me in a very good mood. the teachers around me, unable to understand what's causing my convulsive (and no doubt annoying) laughter just cock their heads curiously in my direction and go back to their work. this is my ammunition against constant interruption, department politics, and the recent dispiriting covering of all the windows. [they're scraping and painting our building for the next two months, so we're stuck in a cage of scaffolding and translucent film.]

after eighteen months of making dialogues with imaginary people doing imaginary things in imaginary places for my english classes to use as speaking practice, i recently had one of my team teachers approach me with a concern. in my most recent dialogue, a job interview, the HR manager of Sony interviews a student for a graphic artist position. she then tells the student to report to work wearing black jeans and red heels (i was feelin' saucy when i made it).
my teacher voiced his concern, "ah, I'm worried that for sony, this isn't realistic. sony would never have a person wear something casual like jeans."

... !

many thoughts raced through my head, but i finally stuttered out, "well yeah, it's imaginary."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

pretty maids all in a row

my time hasn't all been spent stewing over my job. actually, i've had buckets of fun lately. just last weekend i attended our monthly knitting party, witnessed an actual snowstorm (my first in japan!), and rocked the city for the first time in one of my lolita dresses.

shut up! look at all that snow! i couldn't believe it.

i headed to fern's house the next day and made it into my girly base of operations. you wouldn't believe the amount of luggage it requires to carry all that fluff! early (ok, it was 11) monday morning i dressed up in fake hair, fake eyelashes, sass, and a three-person entourage and hit nagoya with some badass femininity. daniel, the obliging photographer, enjoyed people's reactions even more than i did. that's the thing about japan. you can get away with wearing anything. plenty of people didn't bat an eye, but i'm one tall dolly and hard to ignore.
at one point i came face-to-face with a japanese lolita who didn't know what to make of me. she stared me right in the eye, puzzled, and i just smiled. we made several trips through the busy station as we searched for a place to stash my stuff, so i enjoyed a lot of attention. we found a guy emptying the only available coin locker, and i flounced up and asked if it was ok that i took it. he looked pleased, flustered. he could barely get out the words, "just a moment." then a last look and a breathless, "goodbye!"
finally we got out on the streets where fashiony guys who hand out ads and usually ignore me as hard as they can were throwing themselves in my path, eagerly smiling. maybe i should take that outfit out more often.
we made our way to the epicenter of lolitas--an entire department store floor devoted to the different brands of lolita haute couture. we checked out the dresses and mandy and fern started to catch the lolita contagion. they each left with a new dress and plans for more outings were excitedly discussed. i am ridiculously pleased.

love sniper

valentine's day traditionally comes at that time of the year when you've really hit the stride in your winter depression--on the fast track now! but i just wanted to share this little gem and send you all some love.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

can't fight the seether, or: hugging my grudge

i'm sure you are wondering what decision i made about next year, yes?
after hours of laborious pro and con weighing (and having completely opposite "gut" feelings depending on the day and circumstance), and when my head felt constricted to the point of implosion, i finally chose roots over wings and signed over my life for another year. that means i will be a JET for as long starting now as I've been until now. i'm sitting on the halfway mark.

i made this decision in spite of several things that have come to light recently, namely that i may be forced to entertain my special needs students once a week (rather than once per month) without even being asked how i feel about it. i seriously love those students, but each hour-long class requires at least seven hours of planning and preparation. where would i get that kind of time and energy every week!? the teacher doesn't speak much english, and we have very convoluted conversations that tax both of us.

i already teach 15 hours of class per week, three different grade levels and with an average class size of 30 people. i am involved in almost every step of planning for these classes including curriculum development, lesson planning, grading, and testing. unlike many people in JET, my school actually puts me to use. the regular schedule allows me to form friendships with my students and encourage them personally. that's the most rewarding part of my job.

mainly i fear that if i was sent to the other school, the four upperclassman classes i teach would be seen as less important than the six freshman ones and would be sacrificed due to my more limited schedule. that would kill me. freshman classes are brutal, and my upperclassmen keep me laughing. i have a history with them, and i finally get to see the kind of people they are growing into. their english level is higher and we can do more diverse and challenging lessons. i love them!

i was told secretly by another teacher that my new interim supervisor had been asked if it would be a problem to send me to the other school once a week, and without even asking me about it, he said, "no problem." i've never felt more like property. i see he hasn't wasted any time in using his power for evil.

don't worry, though; knowing all this was initially infuriating, but i did eventually come around to looking for the positives. maybe my class load would be reduced, and i could have even more time to plan creative lessons. maybe i wouldn't have to teach with my supervisor at all. who knows? i tend to be decidedly attached to my routines, but it isn't always bad to have them changed. regardless, the next year is absolutely my last in the inaka.

today, as i faced my morning freshman class, i had a renewed sense of how amazing it is that i get to stand up in front of these young people and hear what they have to say. i lose sight of that sometimes, but it's a gift that can't be taken away, even by a supervisor without my best interests at heart.