life

Letter from Tokyo: “Just Got Paid! It’s Friday Night!”

Just got paid, it’s Friday night, party hunting, feeling right.- Johnny Kemp (Just Got Paid)

Hi Friends,

When I told my brother DJ last night (Thursday night) that it felt like Christmas Eve, because the very next morning Payroll Santa (St. Nick’s fatter, rosier brother) would be depositing some cash in my bank account, his response was, “You should be rocking the Johnny Kemp soon.” My brother’s wrong, constantly, about a multitude of things, but which song to jam on an occasion is never ever one of the things he’s wrong about. If you just got a job, gained some pounds, lost a job, lost a toe, lost a lung, he’d know what song to play. Do you have an incurable illness? Your sister is really your mama? You’re being evicted? No worries; call my brother DJ, he’ll send you the soundtrack of your life; his phone number is 011-852-255-5555.

Tonight was my fourth week in Tokyo, and today was the first time that unborrowed money has graced my hands. It’s been “a hard knock life” people…. well not really, but almost. There were many spaghetti and butter days, spaghetti and cabbage days, spaghetti with no sauce or olive oil days; I needed a paycheck. Wait! Before we go on, let’s hear from the man himself, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Johnny Kemp…:

So, though my classmates and I, only got paid for five days, October 12th-17th, and are still technically broke until November 28th, there’s no way the first payday, and the end of my first month in Tokyo, was going to go uncelebrated. For the record the next payday, November 28th, is gonna be the biggest bash since the birth of Christ (actually, that was a small affair, though I hear alot of sheep and three guys were there); bigger than the birth of Muhammed and Krishna; it’s going to be Hannukwanzaramadamas Day! Forget the turkeys, we’re going to get gravy, smear that all over 1000 yen bills, wriggle our faces in the bills, and wash our poverty down the drain with Suntory. After the end of November, we’re in the clear… except for loan repayments that is.

How’d I celebrate the first payday.. “I just got paid! Friday! Tell me where the party is?” Let me recap for y’all: I woke up early and had some hair removed at the Shiseido salon in Nihonbashi (I didn’t know I was so hairy (but it’s been 3 months!–they don’t use wax, and those electric clippers were whirring for an awfully long time), had lunch at the vegan restaurant It’s Vegetable at Kinischo Station Exit 5 (yum!– who knew soy meat could taste so good?– I’m not vegan, so you can trust me), stopped at the local florist, picked up my Alien Registration Card, aka “Gaijin Card,” which allows me to stay in Tokyo hassle-free until 2015, then went to M‘s dinner party/ housewarming. The dinner party was great, except for the part where M seriously sliced her finger cutting a baguette. We ate a ton of bread with all types of cheeses (goat cheese, blue cheese,parmesan), had a great Nepali dinner of spicy eggplant stew and couscous, and washed it all down with Shiraz, Merlot and Yebisu. It was fun, real fun… though the “party hunting” of which Kemp speaks will be reserved for Wednesday night (Ladies Night). Can’t wait for that either!

Good night guys… and thanks for reading (this is the 59th post!).

Sayonara,

V

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Letter from Tokyo: Holy High Heavens!

Through the mirror of my mind, time after time, I see reflections of (…) the way things used to be. – The Supremes (Reflections)

Dear Friends,

A few months ago, which now seems like a lifetime ago, I had three jobs.  I worked Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 5pm as an administrative assistant at a university, taught literature at a community college, and worked as a bridal consultant at a major department store. In addition to the three jobs, I was taking two classes, on Mondays and Wednesdays, to finish my MFA. All that to say that I was tired as hell. There was not one day, in that period that I had a day off; so, let me rephrase my previous statement, I was tired as hell, cranky, a bit stressed, and had little inclination to go anywhere but to bed in my free time.

I must say that I was also happy and giddy during those months. Working like a slave is never such a bad thing, when you’re your own master and Canada is in sight. Sorry for the bad analogy, but the point was that I was working my way toward freedom. The point was to have enough money to spend time in France, and The Netherlands, and Great Britain, and Spain, and eat, and drink, and be as merry as I wanted. Sure, there were glitches in the plan, like the TEFL class that was never taken, and the fact that I overspent in Europe, the fact that I didn’t get a job in France, and the fact that I had to fly to Tokyo, and set myself up… but, do I regret anything? No. Nope. Hell no…. especially, since I’ve learned I’m not alone in this life.

I’m free, and grateful to be here. Let me share with you how my week has been thus far: Monday–2 lessons, Tuesday– 1 eighty minute lesson, 1 no show, Wednesday (today)–1 eighty minute lesson, 1 no show. Tomorrow and Friday are my days off in which I’ve already made plans for both days. And Friday, magical Friday, much anticipated, long-awaited Friday is PAYDAY (I wasn’t sure if I should capitalize, bold or italicize, so I did all three).  I feel that Rest God is smiling at me, patting my back, and whispering, “It’s all you babe.”

And speaking of babes (perfect segue if there ever was one), I really need to talk about a student I had this week. The ridiculously, gorgeous, hotness on a stick that is *Ryo (*name has been changed). I was sitting in Room 25, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for my student who was ten minutes late, when in strode such a specimen of beauty that I was rendered momentarily speechless. I squeaked. Yes friends, I the English teacher, forgot how to say “Hello.” English Schmenglish, I could only stare. My student R is too good-looking; the kind of good-looking that should only be on screen and not randomly and unexpectedly dropped into an unprepared life; the kind of good-looking that will cause embarrassing drooling; the kind of good-looking that everybody can agree on regardless of physical preferences or “types.” Can’t you all see that even my sentences are gushing?

I’m gonna be straight up with all of you– I couldn’t teach. Firstly, I couldn’t put coherent sentences together; and secondly, R was not only late, but unprepared. He didn’t bring his textbook to class. I gave him, all 6’2″, tanned, Southern Japanese, slim, immaculately clad specimen of him, notebook paper, on which he wrote nothing for eighty minutes. He obviously wasn’t in the mood to have a “real” lesson, and I wasn’t in the mood to do anything but admire his face, the cut of his jacket, and the lines of his pants. On my five-minute break, I went to the hallway to alert the other instructors that the building was on fire. Hotness like that can never be contained. T, the only other female instructor on the floor, swung casually by the classroom and wholeheartedly concurred. The straight guy in the hallway said, “I know that guy. He really is good-looking and all his clothes are tailor-made.”

Those eighty minutes with R were quite informative; I don’t know if he learned anything, but I learned where his dream vacation home would be (Bali), how many rooms his dream home would have, his hobbies, his big project at work, and his passion for surfing. His magnificence energized me, but I can tell you one thing– I don’t need or want students that attractive in my classes. I can’t concentrate, English sounds like a second language for me, and I leave the still smoking building with only half my possessions. My God.

Sayonara,

Val

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Identity Issues

Hi Friends,

In the introduction to Oliver Twist, it is stated that Charles Dickens was “dedicated to any and every sort of game or jollification.” I underlined it twice, because I too have devoted my life to “jollification.” Sure, there were the years in Newark, NJ which will always be referenced, if mentioned at all, as  “The Dark Years,” when things weren’t very jolly; but, I’m trying my darnedest now to rectify those three and a half years of my life.

The fact that I haven’t once mentioned ever living or working in Newark, since I’ve been in Tokyo, drives home the point of how extremely easy it is to reinvent oneself in a foreign land (especially when there’re no friends or family around). My identity is ever-shifting here, and I’ve done nothing to correct misperceptions, and I’ve certainly done my fair share to promote other misconceptions.

My Age: Anyone who’s ever met me knows that I don’t like to mention/talk about/discuss/ or celebrate getting older. Yes, it’s a part of life, but I didn’t think it’d be a part of my life. Yes, I thought the good died young, and I was sure I wouldn’t make it past thirty. So what, if other people happily embrace their grays and wrinkles and sags and bags? That’s never been me. I’m not mature when it comes to this topic, and I don’t mind if you judge me and say, “Wow, how immature.” Yes, I’m immature about getting older and if that r&b group still existed I’d ask them if I could be their backup dancer. Yes I’m alive, healthy, I made it, life is good, yada yada yada… I still don’t like aging, and one by one I may have to distance myself from people who know my real age.

However (this is a big, awesome however), at my job all my coworkers think I’m anywhere from 26 to 28. I’ve done nothing to correct them. Nada. I think I may have even nodded the first time it was said. I don’t lie, what I do say is “I don’t want to talk about that.” I don’t pretend to be coy and giggle and say, “Oh a lady never talks about her age.” What I do is give a very stern look (but not stern enough to cause wrinkles) and say, “Let’s change the subject.” I wish it weren’t such a big deal to me. I wish when I was asked I could proclaim, “Oh, I’m –,” but the number scares me and it’ll surely scare others, especially as it seems that the people whose company I enjoy here are much younger than me.

It happened again today. After work, two of my coworkers invited me for pizza and beer. I worked for three hours today (big grin!)… but I digress… So, they invited me for pizza and beer, and I turned them down, because I’m stone-cold broke until this Friday, aka payday. T, a really sassy beauty from Seattle, insisted that I go and she’d cover me until that elusive day, aka payday; I, happily accepted, because it’s not only important to widen my circle of friends here, but I love pizza… and beer. T, D and I went to Gohan, where we ordered a sausage and pepper pizza, a Caesar salad pizza, and an order of nachos (can I just tell you the sausage pizza was off the chain, and I don’t even like sausage). I asked T to take a picture for me, because I was without my camera, and a pizza that gorgeous needs to be seen. D said something about not hanging with many of the people at work, because “they’re not our age, and they don’t really get it.” I simply nodded– “Those people over 30 just don’t get it, do they?” Friends, I’m on borrowed time– when will I be found out? I also just came home and saw a message on FB from my gorgeous, twenty-something friend Sonia highlighting our approaching birthdays (Oh no, not again!).

And here is the problem– on the train home, I was trying to think what age I’d feel comfortable saying out loud, and what that would then mean of all the other extra years. The problem is there’re no years I’d give up; there’re no years that weren’t crucial; there’re no years, not even “The Dark Years,” that didn’t add value to my life and teach me how to be myself today (crazy and accepting of it); there’re no years where I didn’t feel ecstatic to know the people I know and love the people who I’m blessed enough to have in my life; there’re no years that were a waste and that I can simply erase from my existence. So, therein lies the quandary: do I embrace and say my age out loud, ’cause I wasn’t just alive, I lived those years, or do I leave everyone thinking I’m 27  (28) and just another cool kinda woman/kinda girl? Hm. All I know now is that like Charles Dickens, I’m going to continue devoting my life and my time in Tokyo to the pursuit of “every sort of game or jollification.”

Ciao,

Val

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life, travel

Jamaica: Not Just Sun, Sand, Sea

Two days, I spoke to my mother on Skype, and after hearing about her trip to The Blue Mountains, I begged her to write it down and send it to me. My mother’s voice is soothing and warm like ovaltine, but her words are richer. Please see her trip in detail, in her own words.

Jamaica: Not Just Sun, Sand, and Sea

by Lorna Smith

I often lie on my bed and look at the mountains. First thing in the morning after opening my eyes,
I open the balcony door, stand for a moment, look at the mountains and savor the day. Often, I return to lie on my back, gaze at them and feel their presence anchor and ground me.

I have looked at the mountains with love and respect and have thought, “I lift up mine eyes to the hills, ”and today I am here at last fulfilling one of my deepest wishes. As a child of the inner city, I had often wondered what it would be like to live where everything was green, quiet and peaceful. As a young adult, I migrated to the concrete jungle and never had time, space or opportunity to
find out. And now, at the sunset of my life, all that I have the courage to pursue is open to me. Sure, my knees won’t allow me to climb to the top of the mountain as I had always dreamed of doing, but with the aid of a car, I can now climb into her lap and be enfolded in her arms. And so, seemingly on the spur of the moment, I made arrangements.

Earlier in the day I had thought of postponing my trip, due to torrential rains, and called to cancel but it was too late; the car had already left to pick me up. We made the twenty- five mile journey
upward into the heart of Blue Mountains in the continuing rainstorm. However, traffic was light and the roads good, except for a short stretch as we neared our destination. So good in fact that the driver and I joked that the politicians must have their homes in these hills. The driver was very careful; he seemed to sense my disquiet as we navigated the many twists and turns. Then very high up in the mountains, the road ran through the training camp for the soldiers. Newcastle. We watched them as they drilled, ramrod straight. They didn’t even glance at us as we passed. Once dry gullies, now rushing rivulets dressed in full khaki, washed the roadway as impromptu waterfalls cascaded.  As we ascended, I saw the way lined with wild flowers, big blowsy lily-like flowers on cane like stalks, and underneath them, ferns. Now and then, an intemperate mongoose flashed across the road.

After hearing of a series of illnesses and deaths of acquaintances, I decided to give myself a respite.
I opened the telephone directory and randomly chose the Starlight Chalet and Health Spa based on their advertisement, in which they offered peace, quiet, nature walks, and “a Blue Mountain Escape.” The chalet is located in the beautifully named Silver Gap. It is a part of the John Crow Mountains in the Blue Mountain chain. In a few shorts minutes all the arrangements were made and now, two days later, I was about to fulfill a long-cherished wish.

At last, we turned onto a long curving driveway drive way and approached the hotel, a venerable pink lady two-stories high, attended on both sided by tall trees, sitting in the protective arc of the mountain.  Flowering shrubs lined the driveway and I gasped in pleasure in anticipation of tomorrow and hopefully the end of rain.  I arrived in a furious rainstorm; sheets of heavy rain in a continuous downpour, accompanied by a thick mist, shrouded everything.

The Starlight Chalet and Health Spa is not a large hotel; however, I was shown to large airy room which opened onto a private verandah and a three sided expanse of mountain. A beautiful canopied bed awaited me.  Only the sound of the rain could be heard.

I woke up early; it was still dark outside, and I lay still and content waiting to watch the sun as he also awakened from his slumber. The morning dawned bright and clear and, from where I am stood on the verandah, the hotel seems to be held in a loose embrace by the mountains. A series of hills present themselves to my admiring gaze. Verdant folds of the nearer ones and in the distance, sharp ridges clothed every shade of green imaginable. In the pure morning light the trees on the top of the mountains were sharply defined as they reached up to a clear blue sky. On the distant lower mountainside, the bright green is almost black at its base; the summit is backdropped by fluffy white clouds that seem to touch it like a layer of icing on a cake. Now, as the sun gets higher, the morning coolness is somewhat dispelled and a curtain of mist covers the near mountains and the characteristic blue that gives the mountain its name is evident.

So, I have learned something this morning, it seems to me that the two strong forces of green and gold uses the cool air as a catalyst to produce that unique blue; almost diaphanous, almost indigo, can’t properly describe it, except with my heart. The blue clothes the mountains of my beloved land.

Now the sun is in my face, I am being embraced by him. There is a soft breeze that floats off the trees and there is the sound of the river far below. I hear the trill of a bird nearby. My senses are overwhelmed.  As I watch the mountains, it seems that the colors shift momentarily; only the view in the distance remains constant, covered as it were with its blue sheet. The nearer slopes are very dark, almost black and bright green with the progression of trees up its slopes. As I feel the increasing warmth of the sun, I am eager to dress and go outside, morning ablutions kept to the very minimum in my haste.

A gentle breeze rises up from the valley and caries a fragrance I cannot define. I had not intended to walk or to explore the grounds before breakfast, but the grounds are magical. The driveway
approaching the chalet follows a curve along a gently sloping assent. It is bordered by hydrangea, rhododendrons, daylilies, old fashioned pink roses, and abundant in bloom and beauty are lesser players in every shade tucked in between. I sit for a while on a bench tucked in a small secret garden that is not visible from the house or the main pathway. I lie on my back and watch the
hummingbirds as they put on their dazzling show. As I, in bliss, drift, I am certain that I hear a dazzling saxophone reach, circle and float away. As I listen intently, I recognize Miles Davis and John Coltrane on the scented air. A gentle breeze, the murmur of the river celebrating “Blue and Green,” and, in this piece of paradise, the trumpets caress and celebrate every “Kind of Blue” in
my heart.

This morning, “I lift up mine eyes to the hills.” As I witness the sun spread his splendor over the newly washed mountains, golden rays through a diaphanous mist, joy bubbles up within me. For a moment I do not recognize the feeling, I’m so transported. Then, when I do recognize what this is, it takes me a few seconds to claim it, hug it to me, to cherish it. This is it– a feeling of ultimate lightness, transcendence, pure, joy.

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“Friday Evening, What a Feeling!”

Friday evening, what a feeling, feel like singing. - Mick Jackson (Weekend)

Hi Friends,

Fall has fallen in Tokyo. Though Tokyo’s not nearly as brisk or as rainy as NYC, the temperatures have most decidedly dropped. We’re now in the mid-sixties, and soon on our way to low-sixties.

Despite the cooler weather, E, M, and I concluded that the best way to spend a Friday would be in the park. Why not enjoy moderate temps for as long as possible, and those of you who were with me in Paris (by blog) know that there’s nothing better than a park on a nice day. I haven’t seen many real parks in Tokyo, so imagine my real surprise and pleasure when we entered Yoyogi Park in Shibuya. Yoyogi is akin to NYC’s
Central Park: huge, gorgeous, dotted with loungers and students reading; it was the perfect setting for our little picnic. For me, a park + fountains + birds = mini-heaven.

* I love old people… from afar… and some, who think they’re old and are not, very much up close.

After M left our outdoor tea party (it really was a tea party, as we’ve found a bottled green iced-tea that when imbibed daily reduces the abdomen by 7cms after a few months–*scientifically proven), E and I went window shopping, where I fondled a Marc by Marc Jacobs bag that cost more than my rent (I’m not a label whore, but the bag is gorgeous!); and we drifted through Zara, touching every blazer, blouse, and scarf on all three floors (I, happily, discovered that they sell size 10 shoes in that Spanish paradise, so ignore my shoe request from the previous post– I know you’d already ignored it, but this is official).

After we left Shibuya, we hopped on a train to Shinjuku, which is three stops away on the JR line. We wandered around for a bit, where we unsuccessfully tried to find the Amazon store; however, we were succesful in leaving Shinjuku with B-complex vitamins, a grocery bag filled with avocados, grapes, bananas, and one pomegranate, and freshly squeezed juice (E had grape and pear juice, and I had kale and apple).

Walking around in the mist of Shinjuku, sitting in the park, and touring shops we can’t afford for two more paydays made us hungry, so we got back on the train to Shibuya (where it was raining quite a bit), and went to a 270 yen restaurant (the lunch and dinner interval was six hours).

* We stood in the street at the intersection of Shibuya trying to capture the 5000 umbrellas about to cross. It was fantastic.

At the 270 yen restaurant, we were ushered into private booths where we ordered on computer screens set up on the table (there is an English option on the screen as well as food, drinks, and desserts buttons). At the end of each submission, the screen asks for a confirmation of the order… we only saw waitstaff when the order was being delivered or empty plates were being taken.


* The edamame’s complimentary.


* This screen is asking for a confirmation that the person who just ordered beer is 20 years old or older and not going to drive. Trust.

We ate well, laughed well, unmaliciously gossiped well, and thoroughly enjoyed our Friday,”’cause you’ve got to make the best of life while you’re young (and semi-young in my case).” :)

Sayonara,

Val

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life, travel

A Letter to My Future Expats

Konnichiwa Friends,

You don’t know how much it excites me that quite a few of you have sent me emails requesting more information regarding living and teaching in Tokyo. It would be so great to have my own little expat community here (maybe we could name ourselves something cool and Jam/erican); however, lest you think it’s all bright lights and parties in Tokyo, let me highlight some things.

The Job: I can only speak of English teaching, since I’ve no clue what the other markets are like. With that said, if you’re a native speaker of English, with a bachelor’s degree in any discipline, it’d be pretty hard for you not to get a job here. After the earthquake in March, many positions opened up, despite the fact that Tokyo wasn’t affected much by the quake. Many English teachers fled.

At the school where I work, the maximum amount of hours that you’ll teach each week is 26.6. After one month, you can choose to teach more hours for extra pay. You get paid if the students turn up or not. If you have any other interests you’d like to pursue, such as obtaining an online degree, taking classes at the local universities, or drinking Asahi until your stomach bursts, you’ll find your schedule quite adaptable to your needs. It’s perfect really. One of my coworkers writes science fiction novels (and sells them) in his spare time.

The Pay: We get paid once a month, at the end of the month. English teaching is a respectable profession here, and you’ll earn a respectable salary. I get paid much more than I when I worked 37.5 hours a week in New Jersey, but the city’s also a hell of a lot more expensive. Even so, you’ll definitely have more than enough to live and to save if your rent isn’t too high… speaking of rent; let’s take a really close look at the next point.

Living Expenses: There’s no other way to put this– Tokyo’s expensive as hell! I’ve been to expensive cities: Paris, London, New York, Zurich, and I can tell you that compared to Tokyo they’re not so bad (well, maybe Zurich). I’ver never seen anything like Tokyo in terms of expenses. Don’t be like me, and come to Tokyo after you’ve almost finished your savings. Save as much as you can before you come. If you choose to live here, you’re going to rely heavily on your savings, because as aforementioned you’ll only be paid at the end of the month and you’ll need cash to set up. You also don’t get paid for commutation expenses or orientation. You will however get a commutation allowance every month after you’re officially hired (after orientation). It’s no joke in the hood.

Of course, everyone knows it’s the most expensive city for expats, but what does that really mean? It means that a bag of four tangerines at the neighborhood market is US$5. A pomegranate (the best fruit ever, and one I used to enjoy) is US$5. In NY, a movie is $12.50; in Tokyo, a movie is US$24, except on Ladies Day (Wednesday) when it’s US$11. Transportation: You will need a Passmo card (like NY’s Metrocard or London’s Oyster card), and you will pay by the distance; so, your trip can be US$1.60 or it could be US$5.50 (this is the very reason I cannot visit M until after payday). My rent as I’d mentioned in a previous post is US$600 (utilities included), and I share a room. A private room in this house is US$800. Please do the math and figure out what the landlord collects each month. Do you see why I chose to share?

It is possible to get your own place, but unless you know the language or know someone here who can help you adjust, it’d be best to live in a shared house, and there are many. My housemates took me to the supermarket, nearby eateries, etc., and acclimated me to the neighborhood and the way of life in Tokyo my first week (by housemates I mean R and M). If you’re coming with a mate and need your own place, there are companies that are set up to help foreigners find housing for a fee.

Social Life: A few of you have asked me about socializing, but I can only say that however you socialize in New York, Kingston, or Philadelphia is how’re you going to do it here… if you party hard there, you’re going to party hard here, and vice versa. Everything you need to have a good time is here, and no shortage of people to do it with. Everything you never knew you needed is here. Also, there are many expats here, and if you choose to teach, your school and orientation class will have a few people that you’ll connect with. Even if you fail to connect with them, I’m here and up to hang (after payday of course). Let me reiterate there are tons of expats here, so yes you can date/hang out/speak English/find clothes/etc. However, though there are many expats in Tokyo, there are a gazillion more Japanese folks; so, build your communities. Smile, be nice, make friends (kinda like in kindergarten).

I’ll tell you something, I was subconsciously a bit resistant about coming, because my desire was to stay in Paris, eat croissants, and learn French. The universe had other plans for me, and threw me into the biggest change of my grown life. My experiences won’t be yours, but if you’re not happy where you are, or crave change, or feel stagnant, why don’t you make a change? You don’t have to move to Tokyo, though it’s a great choice (and I don’t say that about all the cities I visit); but if you’re unattached, you should get up and go somewhere. Let me tell you, the only thing I regret about coming to Tokyo is not coming sooner.

Sayonara (for now),

Val

p.s

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Letter from Tokyo: This Week in Tokyo

Dear Friends,

How can it already be the end of my third week in Tokyo?

Let’s take a look at this past week:

Monday: Monday was a holiday, and a much needed day of rest after orientation. I spent the day in Jiyugaoka with M, and saw something I haven’t seen much of since leaving Paris– trees, parks, benches (well, they weren’t quite benches, more like little stools). Sadly, Jiyugaoka is an hour and two trains away from where I live, but I will make it a point to get out there more.

Tuesday: I finished my training with two written tests and one lesson observation. It’s impossible to fail the test, if you were even semi-awake during the week’s orientation. However, I did hear through the grapevine that a few months ago, a guy from New Zealand, had a bout of hallucinations during his training, which culminated in an argument and a flip-out at his lesson observation. When he was told that he wouldn’t be getting hired, he asked if it was because of the panda he’d seen. Hm. I’m of the strong opinion that they should’ve hired that guy, as he would’ve brought real spice to the school. Every office needs (and has) a nut.

Wednesday: I taught my first lessons with two students in eighty-minute blocks each. I can’t make an informed decision about my coworkers, so rather than putting my foot in my mouth, I’ll say nothing for now. What I can tell you is that the men far outnumber the women, though sadly there’s no one jumpable. The breakroom, however, is an English major’s heaven with authors ranging from Dickens to Vonnegut. I’ve started to re-read Oliver Twist (actually, not sure if I ever read Oliver Twist, but I sure do love the part in the movie when Oliver begs, “Please sir, can I have some more”).

Thursday: My day off. Sure, I’d only worked a total of four hours by Thursday, but I needed the break. I met up with E for an early dinner in Jimbocho. I thought it’d be great if we went to the kushiage place that M had introduced to me. There are no English-speaking waiters, nor are there pictures on the menu, but E and I decided that we’d be just fine pointing at the menu and eating whatever was brought to the table. Friends, we were successful; and, we ate two rounds of chicken (one seemed to be just fried gizzards), fish, and sausage with a pint (or two) of Suntory.

Friday: I met up again with E, and also with A, so that we could open bank accounts. It took us over an hour to open the accounts, as the language barrier posed a real problem. The women were so nice, even when insisting that I rewrite my signature many times because they didn’t exactly match, that I couldn’t really get annoyed. Eventually, we finished at Citibank with much head bowing and many thanks and we took the paperwork to headquarters. Do you know what this means? This means that when payday finally rolls around on October 28th, our earnings will be direct deposited into our new accounts, and by extension our grubby little hands: “Please Payroll, can we have some more?”

Saturday and Sunday: These are my long days and work was fine. More importantly, after work I went with my coworker Helen to the Banana Republic across the street. Now, I’d been just saying to my friends last week, before I entered any stores, that I wasn’t sure why all the American women were complaining about not being able to find clothing when all the stores are here: Zara, H&M, Forever 21, Gap, Banana Republic, Top Shop, etc. What I didn’t understand then was that all the shops are here, but half the sizes didn’t make it to Tokyo. The largest size in the stores is an American 6 (European 10); the largest shoe size is an 8 (European 38). Good luck to you, if you’re bigger than those sizes. With that said, who’s going to mail me some shoes?

Sayonara for now,

Val

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