I have been here in Japan for four days now, making my apartment my own, grocery shopping, getting to know the neighborhood, and getting the necessary paperwork done in time for school to start. One person I have met here who has been a great help is Shibata-san. Shibata-san is (I think) a maintenance man for the school-owned apartments. He was at the apartment the first night I arrived, helping me learn how to use things in the apartment and making sure I could get settled enough to sleep that night. Tuesday he came by with the internet/phone guy to get my internet up and running. Later that day he came by again to see if I wanted any stuff left behind by former Baiko English teachers. I got a microwave, stereo, and a cool metal storage rack thingie. The next day I went with Higuchi-sensei (one of the English teachers) to open a bank account, get my alien residency permit, and fill out some paperwork at the school. Shibata-san was there to help me, always with a smile. Later that afternoon he stopped by the apartment to invite me to church with him on Sunday, to give me the music for the new worship song for Sunday, and to share some ice cream treats with me. He loves to practice his English and he is so willing to go the extra mile. Rachel told me that Shibata-san doesn't do anything half-way. I can see that already.
written by Ruthie @ 2:36 AM   5 comments
First Notes
My liquids were confiscated after all. The worst part was actually that they just throw the liquids away; they are not donated, nor can the security people keep them. So the brand new travel toothpaste I bought, the expensive Bath and Body Works lotion, my hand sanitizer, my body spray-- all thrown away. That probably amounted to about $20 worth of liquids. Fortunately my ear drops were not taken, but the elderly black security gentleman inspected the bottle quite suspiciously. He reminded me a little of Morgan Freeman. Very polite and unhurried.

While going through security I was near a very confused Chinese man. He didn’t know what security line he was supposed to be in, and some huge, crass black woman started yelling at him in a thick black accent to get back in line. Of course he didn’t understand her so he started walking toward her, thinking she was telling him to come over to her. She then yelled at him more. Then some Americans and I kindly motioned over to us. Then I talked to him in Chinese a little. It was fun. I think he appreciated hearing someone be nice to him in a little of his own language.

As I predicted I slept only an hour or so on the fourteen-hour flight to Osaka. I even tried taking Dr. Kang's advice of drinking some wine to fall asleep and that only gave me an hour's reprive. Fortunately, Pride and Prejudice was one of the inflight movies. So I watched it two and a half times.

All I could think when I was in Osaka, then in Fukuoka, then in the car with Chieko Higuchi-sense and her boyfriend was: “This is just a bad dream. I didn’t really agree to stay here for two years. I’ll wake up at home in my bed any minute now.” I was suddenly so fconfused and so frightened to be thrust into this foreign world alone. Gladly that feeling wore off after the first day.

I keep comparing everything to China, because it is very similar. The road design and the way people drive (besides the fact that they drive “backwards” here), the noodle shop we went to (the noodles were very much like the Chinese noodles, except that I didn’t end up crying from all the hot peppers), the airport was very similar in construction and level of chaos, the people are dressed similarly, their mannerisms are very similar-- the list can go on. So I fear I will continue to compare this world to the one I grew to love last summer, maybe to my detriment.

The last two days I have been busy making this apartment my own: putting up posters, moving furniture around, figuring out how to use the stove, shower, air conditioner, toaster. Thankfully I have a Western toilet, so I'm not forced into doing squats for daily excercise.


written by Ruthie @ 10:49 PM   0 comments
Keep the Change
HyVee customers often put unwanted change-- mostly pennies-- into small translucent containers in front of the cash register. I imagine that at one point there was a display that explained the good cause to which the pennies were given: March of the Dimes or breast cancer victims or AIDS prevention in Africa. Now all that remains-- at every register-- is the plastic box-- no marker indicating a charity. And people continue to put money into them. I wonder what motivates their action. Do they place coins in the container assuming the money will be put toward some greater good? Or do they simply want to unburden their purses and pockets? In reality, they have no idea where their money is going. It could be supporting child pornography or a Neo-Nazi radical group or a coalition of baby seal poachers. I think that, even if people knew the truth, they wouldn’t care-- they just want to spare themselves the nuisance of a few extra pennies jingling in their pockets. When I worked at Burger King’s drive-thru I saw many customers, after receiving their change, let it fall from their hands onto the pavement below. It seems that Benjamin Franklin’s adage “A penny saved is a penny earned” doesn’t jive with our present culture of instant gratification. Americans would rather be rid of a present annoyance than bear it for a short while, even if it means profiting from the wait. Do people in other countries do this?


written by Ruthie @ 12:28 PM   1 comments
Mastercard? No, Visa!!
I never thought I would say this, but I am: Thank God for U.S. mail.

I got my Certificate of Eligibility today. This is the document I have been (sort-of not patiently) waiting for so I can get a visa for Japan. It finally arrived, so I mailed it and my passport and my visa application to Chicago via express airmail today. For about $18 my application will be in Chicago at the consulate of Japan tomorrow by noon, or I get my money back. Some bond company stooge at the consulate told me that, once the application is at the office, they can process it within 1-2 business days. Meaning: I will actually leave for Japan next week! AHHHH! Am I really doing this?! I am really going to teach English--in Japan--without being able to speak the language--and with a degree in Music--not English! Holy hyphens!

To all those who either a) love packing, b) abhor packing, c) have any good advice on packing, or d) have ever packed a bag in their lives, please tell me your stories, tell me what to do or what not to do, or at least tell me to have fun and not freak out. Please.
written by Ruthie @ 11:51 PM   1 comments
Things I learned today:

(photo: flowers in my backyard. I had fun taking pictures in the garden this afternoon.)

Japan and the U.S. use the same electrical outlets, except that Japan's never have a ground wire (that third round prong on the bottom or the outlet).

Iowa's laws on keg distribution recently changed so that a person wanting to buy a keg must pay a $30 deposit, keep a special sticker placed on the keg intact and undamaged (or they don't get the deposit back), and bring the keg back within 60 days, instead of the 90-day period they used to have. Why is this relevant? People who planned on being drunk quickly get upset when they find out they have to go through this new rigamaroll at the HyVee customer service counter. Meaning, I get pissy customers telling me they'll buy their kegs somewhere else next time. Go ahead. Make my day.

My new favorite ice cream is Ben and Jerry's Dublin Mudslide: Irish Cream flavored coffee with chocolate chocolate chip cookies and a coffee fudge swirl. And this week it's on sale!

Laptop computers and bright sunshine don't work well together. It is very difficult to see the screen at all.

I can multitask like nobody's business. I can take a phone call, work on a one-hour photo order, refund bottle deposits, print lottery tickets, return videos, and make copies all at once. But that doesn't mean I like doing it.

I love my dog way too much. Everytime I scratch him and he rolls over, his paws up in the air and belly exposed for me to rub, I feel an overwhelming urge to make baby noises and nuzzle him.

written by Ruthie @ 8:38 PM   1 comments
New Favorite Artist
I have fallen in love with Regina Spektor. I saw her music video "Fidelity" on VH1 the other day and was intruiged, so I looked up her website and found some clips of other songs to listen to. I love her! I think of the New York indie-songstress as a sort of Norah Jones on acid. Her velvety, intense voice mixes with some of the most uniquely-written piano music to create some great alternative pop-jazz-folk--stuff I've heard since Coldplay or Keane. So good. I just may have to buy a new CD.


written by Ruthie @ 6:48 PM   1 comments
I have been trying to learn some Japanese for a couple of weeks now, in a vain attempt to be able to communicate upon arrival in the Land of the Rising Sun. However, I think I will only be able to apologize and say "I don't understand" with a believable accent. Anyway, during my studies I have found that the thing that sets Japanese apart from every other language I have encountered is the freakishly large amount of syllables the language requires. Here are a couple of examples:

my friend (2)..... wode pengyou (4)......watashi no tomodachi(8)
thank you (2)......xie xie (2)..................domo arigato (6)
hello (2)..............ni hao (2)..................konichiwa (4)

Knights of Columbus! It even takes four syllables just to say "hi"!! My conclusion is that Japanese people are fast talkers. They probably have to talk very fast so they can get all the syllables into a managable block of time. If they were to talk slow, they'd be standing around all day trying to say a couple of sentences. Nothing would get done.


written by Ruthie @ 3:49 PM   1 comments

Name: Ruthie
Home: Japan
About Me: I want to know who God is and what his truth is. I love getting lost in beautiful music and cloudless star-filled skies, especially in the fall. I hate being bored. I like big cities. I want to travel the world.
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