Ohhhhhh fuzzy socks. How I love you so. You keep the frigid clutches of frostbite away from my poor, defenseless ankle appendages.
Ohhhhhh kotatsu. How I love you also. For many years I dreamed of keeping warm under your fluffy blanket, ignoring the typhoons raging outside and instead focusing on regaining feeling in my arms and legs. ❤
Alright, moving on. More on fuzzy socks and kotatsu later.
It’s highlight time! Here are the best/craziest things that have happened in the last few weeks. There are quite a few!
- My fiancé is coming to visit! He bought his plane ticket last week and his passport came in soon after. He will be here for about two weeks at the end of December. Plans include snow monkey park and skiing 😀 Can’t wait!
- While helping with a ninth grade class, the students were going over the answers to a worksheet when one girl, in all seriousness, said, “The boy shitting under the tree is Takeshi.” I struggled to hide a chuckle, when my JTE (Japanese Teacher of English; the ladies I co-teach with) decided to make this a teaching moment. She wrote ‘sit’ and ‘shit’ on the board, explained the difference, then had them repeat both words after me. So there I was. In a ninth grade class. Cussing with the students. Made my week cause it was just so weird.
- On a similar note, the seventh graders have somehow, somewhere, learned the ‘f’ word. I was in class when I heard behind me, “weeee will, weeee will, F*CK YOU.” Maaaaannn I turned around so fast! The students saying it caught my eye, made a panicked look, and looked away. I was like, “…..guys…. you know I’m American, right? You know that’s an American cuss word, right? OF COURSE I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SAYING!” Then the JTE heard it and said, “Don’t say that word. It’s a bad word. If you say that in America you’ll get shot.” Uhhhhhh ok.
To help me deal with the cold I’ve set up my kotatsu in my living room. Guys. My kotatsu is everything I thought it would be and MORE! I’ve always wanted to sit under a kotatsu and now I don’t think I’ll ever be able to leave it haha. For those of you who don’t know what a kotatsu is, it is essentially a heated table. On the table frame is a small heater and a fan. The top part of the table comes off, you put a large, fluffy blanket over the table, then put the top part back on. Then you’re free to stick your legs under the table, under the blanket, and keep them warm. It’s fantastic.
- Going off of that, my mom keeps getting ‘kotatsu’ and ‘tonkatsu’ mixed up which has led to some interesting conversations. “Have you plugged in your tonkatsu yet? What color is your tonkatsu blanket?”
- Survived my first typhoon! Typhoon Lan blew through last night as a Cat 1 hurricane I believe. I didn’t sleep well because while I’m used to lots of rain, I’m not used to the wind. I could hear things blowing around outside and every once in a while something would hit one of my windows. I’m not sure how strong the gusts were, but in Nagano city they were calling for gusts of up to 50 mph, and I am considerably higher in elevation than Nagano city. I woke up in the morning to a siren going off and an alert on my phone warning of possible landslides. Fun times!
- Went canyoning in Minakami, Gunma! SOOOOOO much fun, and I’ll post a story about it later. Have some cool videos, too, but again.. Can’t share them.
- Played ‘fruits basket’ with some students! Every day after lunch, everyone cleans the school. However, like one Wednesday a month or something, we don’t clean. Instead we play a game. So all of the students split up and get into groups with other students in the school (so first graders are in the same groups as ninth graders, etc.). I was curious so I was just spectating. I would walk from class to class and watch. I gradually understood the rules. Then, as I was poking my head into a classroom, the music teacher spotted me and waved me in! She gave me her chair and then grabbed another for herself. It was so much fun! Fruits basket is kind of like musical chairs. There are chairs for every player except one, and the odd one out stands in the middle. Then, that person says something like “people who are wearing red” or “people who have an older brother” and if that applies to you, you have to get up and sit in a different chair. You can also say “fruits basket!” and everyone must find a new seat. So… I was in the middle and said “Fruits basket” and nobody moved. They all looked at me like I was crazy until one of the JTEs (who was also playing) said “furutsu basketo” and they all went “ahhhhh” and got up. *face palm*
School has been going well so far. There are still days, though,
where the kids are crazy (I’m looking at you, third graders),
when my day is just hectic,
when I feel I don’t fully understand the Japanese school system (like when a girl in first grade insists she’s sick, and instead of sending her to the nurse, the teacher says “naw, you’re fine,” and she throws up maybe 10 minutes later, destroying all attention on the lesson. Or when a second grade girl starts crying in class because she’s being bullied and when I take her out of that situation, the teacher comes in later and puts her back in the situation. Or when students come to class crying, talk to the teacher, and instead of going to a guidance counselor – a position I’m not sure even exists in Japanese schools – they just sit in class and cry. I could keep going.),
and when I just generally feel more like an outsider than normal. This last one is especially painful for me, but is easily remedied by small things, like the music teacher inviting me to play fruits basket with the kids. One day, while I was driving home from school, a student chased me down the sidewalk just so she could wave to me. Another day, the seventh graders made their own three hint quizzes (Ex: I am in the kitchen, I am a rectangle, I keep food cold, what am I?) and one of them was about me: I teach English, I am from America, I am very cute. So it’s not all bad, just hard sometimes.
Other than school, the biggest thing I’ve been struggling with is the weather. Specifically, the temperature. Lately the highs have been in the 50s, the lows in the 40s. This is fine. Except I don’t have central heating in my house (like most Japanese houses and apartments). Pair this with the fact that most Japanese houses are very poorly insulated and you have a house that is the same temperature inside as the outside world. The first couple days I didn’t really mind. You layer up, wrap a blanket around you, and take warm baths. However, after this last week of low temps and rain, I was definitely beginning to feel depressed. It felt like I hadn’t seen the sun in so long and I was SO COLD ALL THE TIME. I have never been this consistently cold in my life – and it’s not even winter yet. My feet were always cold. My hands wouldn’t work right because they were too cold. I didn’t want to eat. I just came home from work, sat in my desk chair wrapped in a blanket that aggravates my cat allergies, and watched Netflix.
Eventually I had had enough and slowly took steps to change my situation. I bought a ridiculous amount of warm, fuzzy socks and a pair of super warm, soft, fuzzy jammies to lounge in and sleep in, and set up my kotatsu. I bought cheap yarn from the 100 yen store because I’ve been dying to knit something. I asked people for ideas on food to eat when its cold (may seem like an odd question, but back home even if it’s 40 degrees outside, I will still eat a sandwich or cold food because it’s warm inside. But when it’s 40 degrees in your house…. I swear I have eaten more instant ramen in the past week than I did while I was a college student) – the overwhelming answer was curry. Make a big pot of curry, then store it in your fridge. You now have food for the whole week; all you have to do is make some rice to go with it and throw it in the microwave for a little bit. I actually have curry in my fridge right now because I knew that, with the typhoon, I may not be able (or may just not want) to go to the store for food.
So there you have it. A rather long update on my life. Winter is mid-December to mid-March, with the first snowfall happening mid-November – but many people are predicting early November because we’ve gotten so much rain this fall. Now that I have identified some of the issues dragging me down, I hope to be able to combat them more efficiently during the next few months. Warm socks, curry, and plans to investigate every part of Nagano station (to get me out of the house) will hopefully keep me sane this winter. If anyone has ANY tips on combating the winter blues or how to keep warm I would love to hear them 🙂
Until next time!
I am an American (surf) rock band that started in the 60s. I am from California. I sing, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” I help cold Americans stay warm by singing beach songs 🙂
Start buying winter sporting accessories, i.e. snowboard, skis, etc.
Buy a heat lamp and grow something pretty.
Indulge in comfort foods: mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, fresh warm bread.
Write letters to your Omma!