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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Lydia's LiveJournal:

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Friday, July 13th, 2012
3:29 pm
The Huntsman

The night before last I was reading in the living room, while over by the bathroom sink I could hear Kami-chan batting something around. He’s got a number of cat-toys that he hockey pucks around the house on a regular basis, so I didn’t think anything of it. Later when I got up I saw that he was staring intently at the narrow gap between the wall and the sink. I figured his toy must have gotten out of reach. Absentmindedly noticing what look like a two-inch piece of fuzzy brown twine on the floor, I bent over to peer into the crevice. A seven-legged huntsman spider clung to the wall. 

Don’t know what a huntsman looks like? Go do a Google image search for “huntsman spider.” Unless, of course, pictures of ENORMOUS spiders give you the screaming heebie-jeebies, in which case you should never, ever do a Google image search for “huntsman spider.” Normally I’m pretty cool with spiders; as long as they’re not actually climbing on me I generally leave them alone. Even exceptionally gruesome specimens, like huntsmen, usually warrant only observation from a safe distance with a mixture of fascination and revulsion. Since this one seemed inclined to stay put behind the sink, I left it where it was. It was still there when I went to bed, but was gone the next morning, and I forgot about it.

Fast-forward to a little after four this morning, when I was awakened by Kami-chan, that obnoxious little crepuscular creature, clawing at the window screen. I got up and knocked him off the sill and closed the window, and then decided that since I was up anyway I might as well go pee. In the pre-dawn gloom I could just barely make out my surroundings, so I didn’t bother turning on any lights. And of course, being a classy young lady who lives alone, I rarely if ever shut the bathroom door. So there I was, sitting on the toilet in the dark, when the cat gave a happy “Yay! A toy!” kind of meow and started chasing something. Something fast. Something that ran across the kitchen and into the bathroom, where I was still in a rather delicate position. Kami-chan caught up to it and it ran up the white wall and stopped close enough to my face for me to confirm even in the dark that it was indeed that humongous spider. It then ran back and forth on the wall, while the cat threw himself up at it, and I panicked as I tried to figure out whether I should swat at the spider with something or try to save it from the cat or just get the hell out of there as quickly as possible. I grabbed the cat and tossed him out the door, but he just gave a little meow of protest and charged back in again and leaped at the spider once more. It ran down the wall and disappeared from my sight as it got down to the dark floor by my feet. I shrieked, yanked my feet up into the air, lost my balance and toppled to the side but caught myself on the toilet paper dispenser. Which then pulled loose from the wall and crashed down to floor. I fell over and then scrambled up as quickly as possible and the cat and I both exploded out of the bathroom in terror. I flailed about for a bit, imagining giant spiders all over me, then ran over and jumped back into bed.

Just as I was starting to calm down, the cat started running around chasing something again. I pulled my pillow over my head and resolved not to get involved this time. I heard him chase it, catch it, and let it go to chase it again a few times before he settled down to some satisfied smacking sounds. That noise and the dawn crow chorus kept me awake a long time, but I somehow managed to fall asleep again eventually.  When my alarm went off a short time later, the cat was curled up on the bed next to me, looking cute and innocent. In the middle of the kitchen floor were the scattered remains of a very large and very well-chewed spider.

Saturday, July 7th, 2012
8:49 am
new school is awesome in many ways, but still moronic in others
It's Saturday.

There are no students at school now.

I have no classes to prepare for.

I have no tests to mark.


Also, it rained last night and a heavy rain warning is still in affect, even though it isn't raining now. For the students' safety, if there's an active weather warning in any of the school's catchment area, the students get to stay home. (Not the teachers, of course!) However, it looks like this morning a lot of kids saw that it wasn't raining and came to school to do their club activities. They are now being turned away at the gates.  There's a knot of them loitering outside the gates, and I passed some more on my way here, trudging dejectedly or chattering animatedly at the bus stop.  Really, school? Whose brilliant idea was this?  "No little girl, you may not come inside and practice your tuba in the music room. Because of the potential for dangerous rain, you must stay out on the streets."
Friday, May 18th, 2012
12:34 am
On the limitations of "live and let live."
Queen wasp on my veranda?  I'll knock down it's nest again and again until it finally decides to build elsewhere.

Big hairy spider in my bedroom?  I'll catch it in a cup and put it outside.

Cockroach in my bathroom? DIE, MUTHAFUCKA, DIE.
Thursday, May 17th, 2012
11:30 pm

It's midterm test time, so there are a few hours of tests in the morning and then the afternoons are free.  Later this month a group of students from India will be visiting, and yesterday there was an Indian cooking demonstration that parents and staff could participate in.  I went along and had fun cooking; the potato and onion dish was really good, although I of course didn't try the chicken curry.

We were taught by an Indian lady who lives in Kobe.  She's been in Japan for 25 years and has a Japanese husband and adult children who are now a doctor and a lawyer.  When she was introduced she was asked if she spoke Japanese, and she answered "A little," which is of course the polite response you should give if you don't want to seem like a complete braggart.  But throughout the demonstration it became clear that her Japanese was quite good, certainly adequate enough to converse with everyone and answer their questions.  Yet in spite of this, after the demonstration was over the teacher in charge asked me to come along  and have tea with him and the guest teacher and act as interpreter. WTF?  She's been in Japan five times as long as I have, and her Japanese seems as good as or better than mine.  Why would they need me to interpret?

Sure enough, during tea time with the Indian lady, two teachers from my school and me, no translation was needed. Then they had some paperwork to take care of, including something with a space for a stamp from her hanko.  "Oh wait, do you have a hanko?" Teacher-Dude asked, and turned to me. "They don't have that custom, do they?"  Again, WTF? Why are you asking me? She can explain her own customs.  And given that she's lived and worked in this country for 25 years, it's pretty reasonable to assume that she's got a hanko.  A second later she explained that yes, she's got one, she just didn't have it on her at that moment, and made arrangements to send the form back by mail.

Sometimes people ask me if I plan to stay in Japan forever, and I usually answer "No" or "Maybe."  It's this sort of thing that makes me think I couldn't stand to live here indefinitely.  Every time I meet someone new, it's always the same old questions about where I'm from and how long I've been in Japan and why I'm here.  And yes, I can use chopsticks, and I can eat Japanese food.  Waitresses and shop clerks will gush about how good my Japanese is when all I've said is "Konnichiwa" or "Arigato gozaimasu."  And sometimes I can ask a stranger a question in what I know is perfectly understandable Japanese only to get a blank stare in response because they can't fathom the possibility that they could actually communicate with a foreigner.  Even when I'm talking with my friends, the conversation will sometimes get derailed off of whatever subject I actually want to talk about and onto "Wow!  You know that word? You can read that kanji?"  

Usually I don't really mind all these little rituals that are part of being a foreigner in Japan. I'm often happy to chat with people who are curious about me and what I'm doing here.  But sometimes I just want to buy a damn loaf of bread or take a freaking taxi or have a fucking drink without being reminded that I'm a gaijin. For now, the times when these things wear on me are outnumbered by the times I don't care that much.  But could I handle it for twenty-five years?  For my whole life?  I don't know. 

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
7:29 pm
I moved!
I moved! I am now in the city! With a new job!  Yay!

Moving is a pain.  Lots of little things need to be done.

Services to take care of:
Alien registration: go to city office, get gaijin card updated Done!
Bank:  I went to open a new bank account today, but it was 3:15 and apparently it closes at 3.  Maybe that's a sign I should go with a different bank.
Electricity:  It's on, but I also have a phone number I was told to call when I moved in.  Do I still have to do that?
Water: same as electricity
Gas: call company, arrange a time for them to turn it on and show me how it works Done!
Phone:  I don't need a landline unless it's necessary for internet.  I still need to cancel my old phone.
Internet:  Some neighbor of mine has an unsecured wireless network. I need to get my own, but in the meantime . . .

Household things I need to get:
Washing machine
Lights (kitchen, dining, little downstairs room, top of stairs, bedroom)
Pole for hanging clothes in the closet
Pole for hanging clothes on the balcony
Dining room table
Additional chairs for dining room
Carpet to make the downstairs living room less echoey
Curtains for upstairs living room
Pantry/cabinet for food and dishes
Rack for drying dishes
Bath mat
Towel rack
Door stop
Smoke detector
Mesh for cat-proofing the balcony
Converter for TV
Things for container gardening
Things for general beautifying/comfifying

I had a lot of these things in my old place, but chose not to bring them. My refrigerator was older than me, and the washing machine was almost as old and a total pain in the neck. Other things were built in, or not compatible with the new place. Blarg. You'd think that with all the junk I hauled over here, I wouldn't have so much to go out and acquire.  On the other hand, I am totally excited about decorating and arranging the new place!  Yay new things!

Current Mood: excited
Tuesday, August 9th, 2011
6:03 pm
Just a food post

La la la.  I want to post, but I don’t feel like writing anything serious.  Umm, here’s what I am planning to have for dinner.


Super Simple Summer Spaghetti  (alliteration!)


*Pasta  (I used a mix of whole wheat spaghetti and penne – an odd combination, but I’m trying to use up what’s left in my cupboards

*Basil (grown myself, started from seeds in a bottle cap)

*Tomatoes (I used three varieties, given to me by a neighbor who comes back with a bag of vegetables whenever she returns from her hometown in Okayama)

* Mozzarella cheese

  *Olive oil


Rip up the basil, chop up the tomatoes and discard at least most of the seeds, and cut the cheese.  Put it all in a bowl, drizzle olive oil, add salt, mix it up and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  Boil pasta, drain but do not rinse, and put the hot pasta in with the other stuff.  Stick in the fridge a bit more to cool it off, and eat!

Current Mood: hungry
Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
11:01 am
I am stressed. Making a list to clear my head.
-  My job ends at the end of the month.

- I don't know yet what I'm doing after this.  I need to find a new job and a new home.

- I need to deal with all the stuff in my apartment.

- I screwed up some things people expected me to do for Taj Ultimate.

- Taj Ultimate is this weekend.  I'm the director now, but I don't feel like I'll have the answers to any other questions people will be asking me.

- I feel I did poorly on the JLPT last weekend.

- Things have just been weird with many of my friends.


Current Mood: anxious
Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
11:44 am
Is this a culture difference, or is it just me?
If you drop something, do you have to pick it up immediately?

It's summer, it's hot, and there's no air conditioning, so all the windows are open.  This means it's windy sometimes, which means papers get blown around sometimes.  If I'm explaining something to class and a paper I don't need right that second flies off my desk, I'll let it sit on the floor until I've finished what I'm saying and I can pick it up at my leisure.  Or if I drop the piece of chalk I'm writing with and it rolls away, I'll grab another one of the fifty-billion pieces lying around and use that instead.  But inevitably, within seconds of something hitting the floor, the other teacher or a student or someone will jump up to pick it up for me, or at least point and say "ochita!"  Yeah, I know it fell, but sitting on the floor an extra fifteen seconds isn't going to hurt it!

Or last night at the grocery store, I was fumbling for change in my wallet when a ten-yen coin fell and landed by my foot.  I noted its position and continued searching for the correct change, planning to pay the cashier as soon as possible and then pick up the the fallen coin while she was doing the cash-register thing.  Then she started to come around from behind the register to pick it up for me.  Geez lady, that's nice and all, but I can pick it up by myself.  You keep doing that register thing and I'll do that pay-you-as-quickly-as-I-can thing, and we'll both keep the check-out line moving, ok?

So, is needing to pick up fallen items omg-right-this-minute a Japanese thing?  Or is it an everyone-thing, and I'm just weird for not caring so much about letting things sit for a bit?

Current Mood: blah
Monday, June 6th, 2011
1:21 pm
On one full tank of gas, I drove 599.8 kilometers. 

When I refilled it, I paid 144 yen per liter.  That's $6.79 per gallon.  I got 32.41 liters, for a total of 4667 yen, or $58.16.

My car got 18.51 km per liter, or 43.53 miles per gallon.

Driving costs me 7.78 yen/km at this price.  So a round trip to work costs ¥31 and going to Toyooka or Yooka costs ¥233. 

Getting around is kinda pricey!  But it's worth it.

Current Mood: geeky
Thursday, April 21st, 2011
4:19 pm

I saw her in the grocery store and quickly moved to another aisle, uncertain whether I wanted to be seen by her or not. I hadn’t thought about her in two years, but I remembered her. She was one of those first years who wasn’t afraid to talk with me and would always say hello and ask me all sorts of questions, some of them inappropriate. Loudly friendly most of the time but quick to get angry if anyone tried to make her do something she didn’t feel like doing, she was always in trouble. She constantly talked in class, always had her skirt rolled up short and her shirt collar hanging out of her blazer, and kept getting her cell phone confiscated for sending texts during class time. She had a boyfriend at another school and most of the example sentences she wrote in my class were about him. When she was suspended for bullying, her grandfather called the school and angrily insisted that there was a mistake, that his granddaughter would never do such a thing, that she was the one being bullied. She was gone before second year. Last month, the rest of her class graduated without her. 

 I got into line behind her while the woman she was with (forty-ish, her mother?) paid the cashier. She turned around and spoke to me.

 “Lydia, genki?” 

 “Un, genki!,” I replied. “How are you? Genki?”

 “Genki da yo,” she answered quickly, before amending it to “Maa, bochi bochi.” She looked tired, pale. 

 I smiled and waved at the black-haired baby in her arms. “Hello!” The baby smiled back. “Kawaii!”

 My former student said, almost confrontationally, “Unda de.” 

 I just kept smiling. “What’s her name?” 

 “Kokoa.” Cocoa. A very cute name, but not the kind of name you would give to a girl you hoped would grow up to be a doctor or lawyer.

 “Hi Kokoa!” I said, and the baby smiled again.  The grocery transaction was finishing up.


“See you.”

 She and I went separate ways. 

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011
10:21 am
Kabocha Soup!
1 onion (¥66, 44 Cal)
1 carrot  (¥49,  35 Cal)
1/2 kabocha (¥150, 450 Cal)
1 chunk of fresh ginger (¥49, 10 Cal)
2 tbsp? oil (200 Cal)
3 stock cubes
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup? milk (¥33, 150 Cal)

Dice up the onion and carrot and ginger saute in oil on low heat.  Put the kabocha in a shallow bowl of water and nuke it for a few minutes.  When it's soft enough to cut, remove the seeds and dice it up.  Add it to the now-squishy onion carrot mix.  Add water and stock cubes.  Boil until the kabocha can be easily defeated by a mighty wooden spoon.  Transfer to a blender, blend it up, put it back on the stove and add milk and pepper.

Results:  Pretty good!
As good as the packaged stuff, not as good as restaurant stuff.
Salty.  I'll use just one or two stock cubes next time.
Weird fiber bits from the ginger.  Maybe use powdered ginger instead?

Cost:  ¥347+  and ~889 Cal per batch.
Makes maybe five servings, so about ¥70 and 180 Cal per serving?
Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
3:49 pm
I`m marking tests.  For this part, the students had to listen and fill in the blanks.  A few of them correctly wrote "carrots."  But the rest of the answers included:


































Well, at least none of them wrote "ninzin."

Thursday, October 7th, 2010
1:03 pm
For the last couple days third-year students have been suddenly stopping me in the hallways and asking to see my eyes.  Umm, okay . . . I let them, and they stare intently for bit and then say stuff like, "yeah, they're black!"  Huh?

Then the biology teacher explained what was going on.  Apparently they're learning about eyes, and got into a discussion about differences between Japanese black/brown eyes and non-Japanese blue/green eyes.  Some of the kids were skeptical about her statement that while some people have blue or green irises, everyone has black pupils.  So she told them to go find me and look at my eyes to see for themselves.  (She apologized for siccing them on me, but I don't mind.)

Really, kids?  You guys are 16 years old and haven't figured out that everyone has black pupils?  What, in the three years I've been teaching you, you never noticed that my eyes aren't solid blue discs? I guess falls under the "internationalization" part of the job.  I should tell them that not all white people have blue eyes - some even have brown eyes!  I bet that would really blow their minds. 

Current Mood: amused
Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
10:31 am
The school festival is coming up in a few days, and the kids are all working like crazy preparing for it. Just now, I was walking past the second-year classrooms, admiring all the props and things they`re making for their class plays. 3-3 had made enormous cardboard crocodiles, parts of a ship, and something that appeared to be a giant hat. Wait, what`s that spray-painted on the side of the hat?


My surprise must have been showing on my face, because a passing girl stopped to ask what was up.  I pointed at the h
at. "なんか変?Is something weird?"  I nodded.  She turned and yelled down the hallway to her friend. "みなみちゃん!やっぱりフック船長のつづりが違う!”  " Minami-chan!  I told you that`s not how you spell "Captain Hook!"

Current Mood: amused
Wednesday, August 25th, 2010
10:13 am
Why do I do this?
I was up until 5 AM last night. Mostly, I was playing mahjong solitaire. I was super tired and couldn`t even concentrate on the game. I wasn`t even enjoying it. It didn`t matter if I won or lost, I just kept playing game after game, all the while feeling a bit miserable and telling myself I should really go to bed.

I do that sort of thing a few times a month. Late at night I`ll play a game, or watch Youtube videos, or read the archives of a blog or something. I don`t enjoy it but I`ll just keep doing it for hours. It doesn`t matter if it`s a weeknight or a Saturday night, and I actually seem to be more likely to do it when I`m already tired to begin with. I really don`t understand why I do it. Most of my behaviors, I have a pretty good idea of why I do what I do, but this late-night zombie gaming perplexes me. Anyway else do this sort of thing, or have a name for this kind of behavior? Somebody psychoanalyze me!

Current Mood: tired
Thursday, August 5th, 2010
10:49 am
The local news
I’ve been reading the local news a lot lately – not that there is much actual news. The weather, seasonal events, and cute little human interest stories dominate the headlines in a way that underlines how small and rural the area is. It’s nice. Around here, reading the local news is usually a warm, fuzzy experience.

Here are the top ten Google news results when searching for “豊岡市:”**

1. The coastline all the way from Tottori to Kyotango (with Toyooka in the middle) has been declared a “geopark,” and various ceremonies are involved in that.

2. 38 degrees in Toyooka – the hottest recorded temperature in the prefecture this year (Also, the hottest place in all Japan that day! They shut down the trains for a bit because they were worried the tracks would distort in the heat.)

3. There are a bazillion sunflowers blooming in Kannabe.

4. The staff at Kinosaki station are wearing yukata

5. There`s a new vending machine in Izushi selling tote bags.

6. The city is suing a credit company for something involving nonpayment of taxes and interest.

7. Toyooka was the second-hottest place in the country the day before yesterday.

8. Everyone had a great time dancing at the Toyooka festival.

9. Toyooka has donated 400 picture books about the storks` return to JAL, so the story can be read in the sky.

10. Handicapped children got to try paragliding in Kannabe

See! With the exception of the credit company lawsuit, it`s all weather and soft, sweet stories.

** "Toyooka city" can refer both to the town of Toyooka itself, or the amalgamated political entity that also includes the smaller discrete towns of Izushi, Kinosaki, Takeno, Tanto, Hidaka, and Kannabe. I live in Izushi, but drive into Toyooka proper two or three times a week and often visit the other bits of the area.

Current Mood: cheerful
Friday, July 2nd, 2010
9:01 am
enough already
Ok, I think I`ve had enough from one of those obnoxious third-year boys. The day before yesterday I was closing the windows in one of the classrooms after school, and he and a friend were in the courtyard below. He saw me, and yelled something about "oppai." Oh goody, I thought, now he`s saying something about breasts. This should be charming. He went on to elaborate: "おっぱいちっちぇえ!何カップ?Bカップ?ちっちぇえ!ちっちぇえから、おれ興味ねえ!" (Your breasts are small! What cup are they? B cup? Small! They`re too small, so I`m not interested in `em.) Delightful.

Just now I was outside saying good morning to all the kids as they got to school. Most of them say "good morning" or "ohayo gozaimasu" in return, but what did he say? "Oppai!"


Normally I just roll my eyes, tell him he`s rude, and walk away. I don`t care too much if he says stuff when he`s just showing off for his stupid friends. But in front of a ton of other kids, from all different grades? Not cool. I don`t teach his class anymore, so I just see him in the hallways occasionally. But I don`t want the first and second years, the kids I have to teach everyday, to get the idea that they can talk to me like that. So I asked one of the third year home room teachers to tell him to knock it off. I don`t want to get him in serious trouble or anything, but enough`s enough already.

Current Mood: irritated
Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
3:22 pm
Obnoxious third-year boys, in rapid Japanese: Hey, how old were you when you first had sex? How many times have you had sex? How many men have you slept with?

Me, in rapid English: Oh my god, you guys, that is so freakin rude! I`m a teacher, you`re supposed to be respectful! Why the heck are you asking questions like that?

Students: へえ、なんて?

Me, slowly: I`m a teacher. So, you should respect me.

Student: ああ、先生だから尊敬しなさいってこと?

Me: そうです。

Students: (pause)

Students: So, do you like sex? How often do you do it? How many men have you slept with?

Current Mood: annoyed, but kinda amused
Thursday, June 24th, 2010
11:15 am
Right now I want
to drink coffee, which is extremely unusual for me, because I don`t like coffee, and I`m feeling rather hyper so I don`t even need its sweet caffeine-y goodness

to dance, which is not so unusual for me. I want to do leaps and pirouettes in the hallways, but do not want to be seen by students (who would be distracted from their studies) or staff (who might think less of me).

to write, a desire which is almost always present but comes in many flavors. Sometimes I like the idea of writing, but have no interest in what I may write about, and other times I have subjects breeding sentences prolifically inside my head but have interest in actually typing those words out, and sometimes it is both or neither.

to eat my lunch, but I am resisting, because it is only 11:15, and 11:15 is too early to be eating one’s lunch

to be productive, but I don`t have any motivation to do anything specific, nor do I even have concrete ideas of exactly what “productive” looks like

to talk with friends, which shall surely happen at Frisbee practice tonight. Yay!

to continue to get stronger, faster, and slimmer. The results are very gradual and not noticeable to anyone besides myself, but I can see little changes occurring.
Saturday, June 12th, 2010
12:11 pm
a non-event
The labeled tags sticking out of the petunia pots outside said “248,”but at the register my three pots rang up at 348 yen each. As I walked out of the store I briefly considered just letting it go, but then I grabbed one of the pots with a label and brought it back inside to the register. Every one was super nice, and I got 300 yen back.

This is a boring little non-story, I know, but its significance to me comes from the fact that I didn’t freak out about asking for the lower price, that I stood up for myself. Complaining in a store or restaurant used to be a huge anxiety-ridden ordeal for me, so much so that I would almost always just hold my tongue and slink away. But now I’m pretty nonchalant about it. I wonder how that happened?

Current Mood: contemplative
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