2015? More Like Burning a Hole in my Wallet Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I know it is a tad late but I had a crazy New Year’s (half good, half not so good) that let’s just say got me to reevaluate some things. But I’m good now and it is time for the obligatory New Year’s Resolution/goals post!

Here is a list of goals/trips I have planned for 2015! (in order of when they happen? When I remember them? I don’t know xD) It will be the year where my new wallet will not be too happy with me but that’s okay because experiences over possessions is what I spend my money on (thanks, Danny!).

You're welcome, Lucy. Stay sexy!

You’re welcome, Lucy. Stay sexy!

1. Get my apartment situated. I have it all drawn out and everything. I just need to go to the places (with the help of my teachers), buy my things, put them where they need to go, and put the things on the things. Once it is all clean and organized and worthy of guests, I will invite people over for movie nights and food and stuff. I have been putting off turning my apartment into a home due to work and weather and stuff, but I am determined to make it happen this year!

2. Go to Osaka and to Universal Studios. The Universal Studios part wasn’t a part of the original plan. One of my friends is coming to Japan from Korea to celebrate the Lunar New Year in February and we were just going to hang out and do touristy stuff. But then…this…

Yes. All the yes.

Yes. All the yes.

It is going to be up at the time I am going to be in Osaka so how could I not go?! Even if I have to go by myself, I will! I can’t pass up this opportunity because I will not find myself in Osaka until probably July when the boyfriend comes to visit and that is too late. But along with Osaka…

3. Visit Kyoto to see my host parents again. During the time I am out and about with my friend in Osaka, there will be a couple days of Kyoto they are planning. One of them will be my Universal Studios day but the other will be seeing my host parents again. Even though I did not grow particularly close to them (well, in comparison to some of my other friends who did), they were still a part of my life and I want to see them again while I am here. We have been keeping in touch (more or less) so hopefully they will be around when I swing by. If not in February, then definitely in July when the boyfriend comes to visit.

4. Start a monthly newsletter sort of thing at my schools. One of my teachers gave me the idea to write a newsletter that introduces myself to the teachers and maybe to the students I don’t get to see. Not only will it give me something to do during my downtime, but it will allow me to have a conversation starter with some of the teachers that I would love to talk to. I am very shy when it comes to initiating conversation with someone I don’t know (especially in a language I have not grasped yet) and I often find myself without any point of interest to talk about. Haha I know, it’s ironic because I am a Communication Studies major, yet talking to some people is difficult for me. But it just goes to show that there is a difference between theory and practice, and this newsletter will be my practice. I am calling it “Hyouka” after the anime Ozy and I were watching at the time.

Thanks, honey.

Because I am very unimaginative.

5. Join school clubs at the beginning of the school year. I did not do this when I first came here because of that shy thing and also I felt awkward just coming in the middle of the year to join a club (Japanese school years start in April and I started teaching in September). I figure the new year is a great opportunity to start up in the clubs, get to know the new members, and establish a routine. Not only the clubs, but I have other stuff planned for the new year in terms of teaching.

6. Take the boyfriend around Japan. Assuming all goes well and money and time provided, he wants to come visit me in July and then I will take him around to some of the historical/beautiful places. That means hitting up Kyoto again, Osaka, but also Tokyo and the area where I live. It all depends on how long he will be here and what he wants to see (and how much he is willing to spend). Assuming no one else comes to visit me between now and July, he will be the first person from home to come see me in Japan. I am excited to show him all the little things that have become mundane to me and witness his excitement over them.

7. Pass the N4 in July. I am pretty confident in my ability to pass the N5 so I will skip that and go straight into N4. My overall goal for my time here is to master at least N2 (good enough Japanese for me). It will take some time and dedication but I do not want to waste the time here not learning the language. What’s the point in living in another country if you can’t at least pick up the language? I just need to get some books and maybe a tutor…

8. Go to Australia. This is probably the one trip I am looking forward to the most. I haven’t ventured in that area before and it is much easier to get there from Japan than it is from the states, so why not? But the biggest reason is to visit Ozy. He has grown to be very important to me and seeing as how I am in a better position to visit him rather than him visiting me, going to Australia is in the works. Just have to save up the funds for it and request the time off for it. Although he isn’t making it too enticing to go, considering everything is huge and will kill you if you anger it and he reminds me of that sometimes. I do not need to know or see the size of the spiders that are living in your backyard, thank you very much. They are NOT cute! >.<

9. Go back home for the holidays. Don’t get me wrong: the holiday season in Japan was fantastic and more than I expected. I went to Nagano, spent some time with a very good friend, met some new friends, and overall avoided the city that would have been filled with happy kissy couples that would have depressed me. I played in snow, saw snow monkeys chilling (well, not chilling. Warming? That doesn’t sound that relaxing) in a hot spring, and went to some hot springs myself. Christmas day was wonderful because it actually snowed so I had my first white Christmas. The day was great too with sake tasting and a gigantic and delicious Christmas lunch. But nothing could beat Christmas evening when my good friend and I went to an outdoor hot spring and watched the sun set behind the snow covered mountains. We then saw actual stars in the night sky and towards the end of our time, it started to snow. Snow surrounding the hot spring and snow falling from the night sky; it made for an unforgettable experience (not to mention drinking more sake with new friends).

Ahh yiiiiis

Ahh yiiiiis, that’s the stuff.

But seeing so many friends go home for the holidays, having their family come here, and hearing about what mine were doing back home, I did miss them. My mother sent me a care package that was waiting for me when I got home from Nagano and when I found the Christmas present she put in there for me, I cried. It was hard to be away from home for many reasons, so this year I plan to go back. That does mean waiting an entire year and living somewhat minimally so I could save up for it but it will fly by before I know it. Five months already flew by since I arrived here so what’s 12 months but a blink of an eye.

10. Finish the Sex Communication textbook. This is more of a year long goal (depending on how productive/lazy I am feeling) but this will be a major accomplishment if I can pull it off before my inevitable return to the states. And writing other things too…

New Year’s Resolutions?

The thing about resolutions is that I end up breaking them by day two and I feel bad about it. Instead, I will think of it as habits I need to get into or routines I should establish but it wouldn’t be a huge loss or blow if I don’t. Some of those habits include:

  • Study more Japanese! This has been neglected for a while and I have hit my limit of what I remember from school and my listening ability so now it is time to take it a step further and pick up new words, new kanji, and new grammar. I want to be able to hold a conversation with someone without resorting to Tarzan Japanese.
  • Cook more. I made it a goal for myself to attempt to cook something new every week. Seeing as how I did not cook that often when I was at home, starting from the bottom is simple. Almost anything I cook is new!
Albondigas was first on the list and man, was it good.

Albondigas was first on the list and man, was it good.

  • Save money. I do this already with the trips I have planned (hence the year of burning a hole in my wallet), but I want to save more money for the sake of saving money. With the yen being so weak right now, my hopes is that by the time I have a nice chunk of change worthy enough to be sent back home, it will improve. I am doing the 52 week challenge where I stash away a few bucks a week and at the end, I should end up with about $1400. My plan is to use that money for more traveling and experiences.
  • Read all of the Harry Potter books. Okay, this actually sounds like a resolution… but I have a whole year and I don’t have to do it every day so ha! I stopped at the fourth one and just didn’t pick it back up. I figure I could start reading them again, ya know, during my breaks between TV, YouTube, anime, and work.

What do you have planned for 2015? Doing anything crazy? I want to know! 😀

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Peace Out, 2014!

(I know it is a tad late but it still counts!)

And talk about a crazy and amazing year. So much has happened that changed my life forever. So here is my recap of the important events (that I can remember) that happened this year (in order? Not in order? As I think of them ^^;)

1. Creating a sexual communication class. Last Spring semester was the first run of the sexual communication class at my university and it was pretty fun. Granted most of the time (if not all of the time), we were coming up with stuff on the fly and experimenting with what worked and what didn’t but hey, it made for a fun experience. Now we will take the class forward with a textbook that I STILL need to write my sections for. I would blame my lack of a proper laptop that could work at my speed, but as someone very near and dear to my heart told me: “a bad craftsman blames his tools”. But by creating the class, I made my CV that much more impressive.

2. Getting accepted into the JET Program. May 8th (I think…) was the day that changed my life forever. I got that upgrade email saying that I have been short-listed into the JET Program. Of course, I was excited to go to Japan and teach, but I never expected to get so much more out of this experience thusfar. It has only been five months but I have pulled from this living and working abroad thing more than I expected (more on that later).

3. Graduating with my master’s degree by passing my thesis defense. After hours upon hours of reading, writing, crying, drinking, and sometimes a mixture of all four, I finally produced a product that I felt proud to show off and say that I made it with all my blood, sweat, and tears. Although it was one hell of an ordeal with scheduling conflicts, making deadlines, and driving around trying to find that ONE book and couldn’t find it, I was able to finish it in the summer and add another degree under my belt. Two down, one more to go! One day, you will call me “doctor”. 😀 But in all seriousness, that was the biggest accomplishment of my life up to that point and I will cherish all the memories I have made with the people I have met during my time in graduate school.

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My thesis was also very long and hard.

4. Preparing and leaving for Japan. The month of July this year was so hectic. My defense was on the 11th (I think…I have a terrible memory) and I was hopping on a plane to go live in Japan on the 27th. Talk about time crunch! I was running around, buying gifts and worrying about that, getting copies of my thesis made (which still messed up somehow), hanging out with friends, and all while trying to spend time with people before I ship my ass to Japan. Shopping, packing, more shopping, reflecting on life. July made for a very stressful yet exciting month for me this year. It was rough leaving my family and friends behind while I embarked on my new journey to Japan on my own, but I am happy to have such a supportive network.

5. Living in Japan. I have done so much and yet so little here. I have met some amazing people whom I’m sure we are going to be friends forever (as long as we put in the effort haha) and I have seen some interesting things. And yet I have done so little because I have not yet traveled outside of the Kanto region (that was until this past Christmas when I went to Nagano). I haven’t gone north or south or more west yet, but I do have plans for those! I also want to travel around Asia too (although in the next year, that may be difficult due to timing).

6. Meeting a special someone. September 23rd, post Tokyo Game Show. We met in person during Tokyo Game Show after knowing each other online as acquaintances and hung out in Tokyo the Monday afterwards. I didn’t expect he would be someone who would change my life forever, but let’s just say he came into my life at the right time when I needed someone most. I cannot say much about this person but I can say that he means a lot to me (let’s call him Ozy since he’s Australian).

Look at this delicious crepe! Oh yeah, and that's him in the background.

Look at this delicious crepe! Oh yeah, and that’s him in the background.

7. Visiting home and seeing what changed. I didn’t expect so much to change in such a short amount of time but it did. People getting involved in big and exciting things, relationships forming and breaking, and an overall reverse culture shock that made me both appreciate what I had in California and miss what I have now in Japan. I am sure in the next few years, many other things will change and I will just ride it out and be excited to the new world I return to (assuming it didn’t turn to shit).

8. The year of firsts. First time living on my own and being an adult (or at least trying to). First time working an actual 9-5 job (and I am still getting used to it because I grew used to a sporadic schedule for what, three years?). First time playing in snow. First time eating maaaany mysterious yet tasty things. First time decorating my own space (I did not think there were so many things to consider!! Like a color palette, which I totally decided on blue, black, and white). First time grocery shopping for myself (and trying new things). First time cooking for myself (and failing miserably sometimes). First time making a budget (and yet still not stressing about money). I kinda went balls to the wall with this living abroad thing and so far, I am not freezing or starving to death so I would say I am doing pretty good.

Although I tried to highlight all the positive moments this year gave me, there were some not so positive moments. The incident with my dad, the weeks I went through assessing what I wanted in my future and many sleepless nights devoted to that, not getting into the JET Program at first, assessing who my friends were back home while here in Japan, and most recently my PS3 being broken (it is only heartbreaking because I have a stack of games I want to play but can’t now).

But 2014 proved to be a pivotal point in my life that opened the door to a world of opportunities that I dived head first into. It was definitely a roller coaster ride that was quite enjoyable.

What about you? What are some of the highlights of 2014 for you? What do you expect in 2015? If you want to read mine, check out my post about 2015 goals!

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‘Tis the Season to be Jolly and Joyous

Nothing screams Christmas more than Christmas cake, illuminations, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, at least here in Japan. There is definitely a different feel to Christmas here than in the states. For one, it sorta crept up on me. I mean, I know how soon it is but it doesn’t really feel like it because I am not running around buying presents for people, wrapping them, and making sure I write Christmas cards for others (or rather just sign the ones my parents make). I am just going about my daily life and not giving much thought to the holiday season. In a way, I kinda like that. Christmas isn’t shoved in my face of sales and presents and stressing over what to get people. It’s just…there being inviting enough for anyone who wants to join in yet gentle enough to not shun those who are not into the Christmas spirit.

Another different feel is how I am spending it this year. This was the first year I did some Christmas-y things that normal people did but I just missed the boat on it. For example, build a gingerbread house. I have never built one before but it wasn’t for lack of interest. I just didn’t think to make one because I usually have other things on my mind during the holidays like gifts and school. I was happy I was able to make one with my friends here in Japan. I would not have had it any other way.

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And it was devoured faster than it was built. And it was delicious.

Along with the gingerbread house, we celebrated Christmas Japanese style with KFC and Christmas cake.

He sees you when you're sleeping... He knows when you're awake...

He sees you when you’re sleeping… He knows when you’re awake…

Cake cake cake cake

Cake cake cake cake. Why there are candles, I do not know.

Another first was snow! My entire life was spent living in an area that never saw snow. Heck, it never saw below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). So when I walked outside and I saw snow on my car, literally my first thought was “who put salt on my car?” Then it clicked that it was snow and I was so excited! I played with it a little bit and even made a snowman! My very first snowman out of snow! He had no face but that’s okay.

Do you want to build a snowman? NO! Because I already did :D

Do you want to build a snowman? NO! Because I already did 😀

But it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows (neither of which are in the sky anyway). There are some things around this time that make me sad. The first being it is flipping cold! The benefit of living in perfect weather your whole life is also the drawback when leaving it to go anywhere remotely different. I am freezing cold and everyone knows it. The good thing though is that everyone else is just as freezing as I am so I don’t feel like a little bitch when I say that I am cold.

And they said it's going to get worse in January and February. FML.

And they said it’s going to get worse in January and February. FML.

But the biggest is that this is my first time I am away from my family. I have never been apart from them longer than a month and that was only during the summer when I was here last. Now, I have been away for almost five months and it is the holiday season where people go home for Christmas and spend time with those they love and care about. I can’t do that this year because I already spent the funds to go home on the conference that was lackluster anyway. When I think about my friends and family back home, I cry over how much I miss them. That loneliness and missing people I loved has put me in a bit of a grumpy funk this past week and I can only foresee it getting worse the closer Christmas approaches. Video calls are fine and all, but nothing beats physically seeing someone and holding them close to you.

My supervisor at one of my schools did something that made me cry but in a good way. After talking about random stuff for an hour, I started to pack up my things to go home to my cold, uninviting apartment. As I was packing my things, she comes over to my desk with a small package and a card on top of it. She said “I know this is your first Christmas in Japan…” and handed me the package. At first, I was like aww you didn’t have to but thank you and opened it and she told me what it was (Japanese cloth used for many things is what I pulled from it and some tea). But then when I left and I really thought about it, I started to cry. That was the first gift I have received while here in Japan and I didn’t ask for anything nor was I expecting anything. The more I thought about it, the more I took it like she was doing a mom thing (she has kids of her own). Then I thought about my own mom and dad and how much they are probably missing me and yeah, turn on the waterworks.

I could use them to dry the tears I have for receiving them.

I could use them to dry the tears I have for receiving them.

But it isn’t all bad (ending on a positive note). I have plans to go to Nagano with a good friend of mine and celebrate Christmas onsening it up (and maybe some shopping or winter sports…maaaaaybe). I am also excited to experience New Year’s in Japan, whatever that means. This time will pass and I will be back to experiencing my time here in Japan and looking forward to the days where I get to see them again.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year! 😀

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