Public Urination
A high school student just took a leak outside my apartment window. I think he knew I could see him. He looked up at my window. But he went ahead and peed in the gutter anyway. This is the third case of public urination in broad daylight I have witnessed in Japan. Does this kind of stuff happen in America and I just never see it?
written by Ruthie @ 3:15 AM   2 comments
Clothing Store
I see American stuff in my dreams a lot. Does that mean that I haven't lived in Japan long enough to dream about it?

Scene: In a clothing store. It looked like an upscale place-- in a warehouse or something, industrial-- like Old Navy or Aeropostale, but more expensive. I'm with other people-- Americans, at least one was a male. I'm pretty sure they aren't relatives. Probably friends or coworkers. The clothes in the store are boring, beige and gray colors. I look at a price tag: $200 for shorts or something. After that the dream gets really hazy and confused, as dreams often do. I sense someone following me or chasing me, so I run out a back door of the store into harsh, white sunlight-- the kind in afternoon on a winter day. I'm at a docking bay for trucks. I can't remember anything after that.


written by Ruthie @ 10:50 PM   0 comments
Not Plastic Food
They look plastic, but they're really vegetable-shaped, white sweet bean paste-filled confections to eat with bitter green tea. Apparently they're from Thailand. I didn't really enjoy them.


written by Ruthie @ 10:45 PM   0 comments
A view from atop the Shimo. Christian Center. Jenn and I went exploring with the help of a ladder and me forcing Jenn to suck it up and just climb the ladder.

Yeay Jesus! Me in mid-happy dance at the foot of the cross.


written by Ruthie @ 10:11 AM   1 comments
I wanted it to be a surprise, but since my parents found out (stupid NWA calling my emergency number! for shame!), I can tell the world: I'M COMING HOME FOR SPRING BREAK!!! I'll be in Iowa (mostly the Des Moines area) from March 24-April 4. If you're around, let me know! I'm hoping to come up to OC for the weekend of the 1st, so if you're at NWC, maybe I'll see you there! Yeay for America! Yeay for authentic Mexican food! Yeay for English everywhere! Yeay for no bowing! Yeay for a dachshund to sleep in my bed with me! Yeay for an actual bed!
written by Ruthie @ 10:08 AM   3 comments
Plastic Food
A display of all that this restaurant sells. This type of display is typical in store windows, especially in malls. At least you know exactly what you're getting. I ordered something once based on one of these plastic thingers, and I kid you not-- it looked EXACTLY THE SAME as the display. I took a picture of a display with a lot of particularly Japanese-looking food.


written by Ruthie @ 10:24 AM   1 comments
Those Crazy Americans
Last term I asked my senior high school students who had traveled to the US what they thought was strange about American culture. Here are there responses:

Daily Life:
  • There is no take-out in Japan. They thought it was strange that people can ask for their leftover food to be put in boxes to take home.
  • In movie theaters, people say "Awwww" at sad scenes. I think the Japanese are generally more quiet at movies than Americans.
  • You can't purchase huge jugs of milk in Japan. My students were appalled at how much milk people bought.
  • Buses stop at train tracks in the US. Apparently they don't do that in Japan.
  • No one takes off their shoes when they enter a house. Gross! Don't the floors get dirty?!
At school:
  • In almost every school in Japan students wear very formal, very strictly enforced uniforms. My students were surprised at what American high school students are allowed to wear to school.
  • American students often eat food or chew gum in class-- something that NEVER happens in Japanese schools. My American colleagues and I are not technically allowed to hand out candy or cookies to students as rewards, but we do anyway. It's a hard habit to break, and they're just so dang cute and appreciative of us giving chocolate or candy to them.
  • Boyfriends and girlfriends are ALL OVER EACH OTHER in the hallways in America, my students said. Here in Japan, Public Displays of Affection are kept to a minimum in public. I rarely even see people holding hands at the mall.


written by Ruthie @ 1:15 AM   0 comments
Fluorescent Lights
I hate fluorescent lights.

They're like the teenagers I never had. They're lazy, irritating, and only do a half-ass job. When I flip the switch, they take AS LONG AS POSSIBLE to turn completely on. The light over my bathroom sink is a perfect example. After I flip the switch, the bulb takes about three seconds to start blinking, then three more seconds to produce a steady stream of light, then three more seconds to come to full strength. I think it's dragging its feet just to annoy me. This morning, I turned the light on, waited until the light ACTUALLY came on, brushed my teeth, turned it off, walked away for a moment, remembered I also needed to wash my face, came back to the sink, and flipped the switch back to on. You'd think that since it was just on that it could come back to life quickly, but OF COURSE IT TOOK THE SAME AMOUNT OF TIME TO TURN ON, IF NOT MORE.

The worst part of the fluorescent light anomaly is that they are EVERYWHERE in Japan. I have SIX in my apartment. The only non-fluorescent lights are the ones I bought and the one over my toilet (thank God. It would suck to wait a good nine seconds to be able to see the toilet seat when I really gotta go). Essentially this means that I live with SIX bratty teenagers. Take that, Mom and Dad! --of course, it could be worse. The fluorescent lights could make a huge mess in the kitchen and then not take responsibility to clean it up.
written by Ruthie @ 1:42 AM   1 comments
These statues are outside of the mall. I don't know what the two are doing (maybe dancing), but the one in the back is drumming.


written by Ruthie @ 4:12 AM   0 comments
Random Epiphanies
Japanese people can sleep anytime, anywhere and wake up exactly when they need to. I've witnessed this on the train a lot. People fall asleep a minute or so after they sit down on the train, then when they arrive at their stop, they wake up. They don't wake up at every stop, just at their stop. It flabbergasts me, because I can't sleep on anything that moves.

I've decided that Rodrigo Santoro is the sexiest man alive. Brad Pitt is now moved to the category of chopped liver (and actually, have you seen pictures of him lately? He looks like his diet consists only of lemons. He's so pinched and squinty). Becks, you know the dude from Love Actually that wasn't Colin Firth that I DROOLED over when we watched it together? That dude. I watched Love Actually again the other day and had to watch that one scene with him and Laura Linney three or four additional times. Oh man. I need to take a cold shower.

I'm making 1000 paper cranes. I'm in the vicinity of 200 right now. Yeah. I have a long way to go. I started about two weeks ago because I was so bored at work I needed something to occupy my time. I'm using 5cm square paper in a variety of colors and patterns. Making 1000 paper cranes for someone is a Japanese tradition. Usually the recipient is sick and the cranes are a sort of "get well soon" card-- with every crane the person making them thinks a good thought/prays a prayer for the person who will receive the cranes.

I thought, since on Sunday it was in the low 70s, that the weather would continue to be "springy," but I was wrong. It SNOWED today. Granted, there was no accumulation, but COME ON, people! It snowed in March! On the southernmost tip of Honshu! And later this week its supposed to get down into the teens (Fahrenheit). Take that, global warming crazies!

I'm hooked on Hikaru Utada right now, especially her songs "Passion" and "You Make Me Want to Be a Man." Love them. Check out the music videos. They're both really cool.


written by Ruthie @ 3:55 AM   1 comments
That means "Fire Mountain," which is where I took this picture. It's pronounced "hinoyama" in Japanese. I love the name of the mountain (which actually barely qualifies as a mountain. It's really just a massive hill. But it was still fun to climb, don't get me wrong). There is an awesome park and walking trails that lead to the top, where these is an observatory. I went to the park in hopes of taking the ropeway to the top to take pictures of the whole Shimonoseki and Kanmon Strait area, but the ropeway was closed, so I started hiking, without thinking about having a water bottle or good hiking shoes with me. At first I was just walking around taking pictures of random flowers and pathways and stuff, but after about twenty minutes of walking I realized that I was really thirsty and hungry and sweaty and that I would have to hike back down as well. So I abandoned getting to the top and settled for getting to the nearest vending machine. So I'll have to go back sometime to get some good panoramic shots of the water and the bridge and the mountains. For now the above picture will suffice.

In other news, I wrote another haiku, this time only in English:

the deep black of crows
glistens in the morning sun
as they feast on trash.

I read it to one of my Japanese colleagues and at the end she said "yamete," which means about the same thing as "shut up" or "stop it." I asked her if she didn't like it, and she said that in Japan crows are a symbol of death, and are especially inauspicious in the morning. She said I should never write haikus about crows. It wasn't a super-serious thing to her, so we laughed at my foolish cultural mishap, but I still got the impression that the poem was unsettling to her. So I learned never to wax eloquent about crows in Japan. Let that be a lesson to you as well, my loyal readers.

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written by Ruthie @ 6:00 AM   1 comments
Today was the high school graduation ceremony. Many of the mothers dressed in kimono, like my student's mother pictured above. One of my students described the ceremony as "grave." I think that's an accurate expression. It definitely wasn't the celebration that American graduation ceremonies are. And it was very formal-- lots and lots of bowing. After the ceremony the students signed each others yearbooks, cried together, and took pictures. I and my coworkers gave our congratulations to our English students and took some pictures as well.


written by Ruthie @ 7:35 AM   0 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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