Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Happy New Year.

I am celebrating in Laos.

I may or may not dance to an Outkast song tonight.

If I don't it probably will not really feel like New Years Eve.

From American house parties to Houyxai, a town with one road, enjoy ringing in 2008!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


You think you have everything and then you find a pair of blinged out ballerina earrings.
Now I really might have it all.

It is funny hanging out with my sister and some of her NGO friends.
Last night at Christmas dinner people were talking about helping. What their job is and how they help people.

In Japan, I am not normally surrounded by enough people who speak English well enough to get into detailed, global, political, disscussions of helping.

And the English speaking people I do hang out with are all English teachers. And we all sort of sit around and bitch about our jobs or talk about the hilarious things that some kid did.

So as everyone talked about helping on global levels I sat their saying- la, la, la (or as japanese people do - ja, ja, ja) in my head. And I just felt pleased to live in a country where they have got their act together.

The weather in Thailand is beautiful, the food is the best (I just miss chop sticks), I love being paid in yen, and Japanese peope might be the nicest people in the world.

Ja, ja, ja.

Find me a better feeling than being on vacation ... I dare you.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Oh that internet fix.

Me. Bangkok. Now.

I just want to say that if my mother were Asia my sister would have come out Thailand I would have come out Japan.


I am really clean and stylish.

My sister is messy and super fun.

Things that are not cool:
I already lost of my favorite earings.
I sat next to this really tall German guy on the plane that spent, I would say, a total of 3.5 hours with his finger up his nose.

Things that are cool:
I am in Thailand. It is crrrrrrazy!
And warm and all the uniforms are so colorful!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Heartwarming Holiday Stuff

2007 ... 2007 ...

I spent half of 2007 with a job I hated. Having late nights on Guilford Ave. and late afternoons at Ihop.
It was a lot like that Lilly Allen song, "Alfie."

So I will leave 2007 at that.
And ring in 2008 in Laos (that is the plan at least).

I am off to meet my sister in Chiang Mai on the 24th. And meet Brad on the 26th.
We will go to Laos on the 30th.
Hang out in some tree houses from the 1-3rd.
Then head to Luang Prabang.
To then fly to Bangkok and back to Kansai, arriving on the 7th.
Where I will meet Cara and Rory.

I am currently staring at a pile of clothes and my backpack, pretty sure I am packing appropriate stuff.
But when it is cold and rainy outside it is hard to understand that where I am going it will be warm enough to go swimming and wear miniskirts.

This packing happened after I pulled myself out of my warm bed after about 14 hours in it, enjoying some sleep, reading, and Annie Hall.

Last night at my end of the year enkai (work drinking party), I told 3 of the male staff members that I love hot sake and American girls are very strong at drinking. Both of these statements are true, but only should be mentioned when you can spend the following 14 hours in bed.

So today I have been transitioning (very slowly) into my holiday vacation.

Neutral Milk Hotel sums up what I will miss and gain as I embark upon a holiday with only Ann, singing, "Your mom would stick a fork right into Daddies shoulder. And Dad would throw the Garbage all across the floor."
"But then they buried her alive, one day in 1945, with just her sister by her side."

Maybe that is a stretch, but I have been listening to a lot of NPR suggesting that people go home in January or February when everyone is less stressed out.
I am thinking I will return for my next visit when it is warm enough to walk down American suburban sidewalks with bare feet.

I am feeling rightfully BLESSED this time of year as I have an adventure with my sister and a new friend.
As I still love, love, love those old friends.

In case my holiday cheer is not giving you that warm fuzzy feeling, this surely will. If that does does not make you feel like cookies and pine needles you have a cold heart.

Please enjoy your Christmas and New Years.
Give a fuck-ya to freedom.

And SEE YOU!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sports that do not make me cry.

The last time I played volleyball I was in 10th grade gym class. It was a semester that I had to take gym instead of dance and all my friends signed up for coed gym, so I did the same (which was a mistake).

The class was post lunch, so it was rare that I would actually return to school, after indulging in subway sandwiches and everyones favorite herb.

But I chose to attend gym that day we played volleyball. I remember being yelled at, by my peers, as I gracefully escaped the route of any volleyball.

My 6th grade gym teacher also yelled at me for being bad at sports. She called me a frou- frou and said I was only bad at sports to look cute for the boys. I cried. Lots.

Yesterday at my Jr. High we had a sort of end of the term sports day. I spent about 2 hours standing in the gym as some of my favorite students played volleyball and I pulled my scarf tighter around my neck, watching my breath escape from my mouth.

When the official game ended I jumped in with some of the volleyball ladies, told them I was really bad but could not think of a better way to keep from freezing to death.

As I hit the ball in opposite directions or missed it completely on serves they all would scream ''Almost Caity!’’ Even though it was nowhere near almost.

We took a hiatus from volleyball to cheer for basketball. When the girls started to play again they insisted that I join them. When I crossed my fingers as a ‘no’ gesture they came over, physically insisting.

I continued to be a horrible volleyball player. They continued to enjoy my presence on the team.

When it was all over they said, '’Please. Play. Volleyball. Again!’’
I said, '’OK!’’

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Can I return this?

I have really been giving, sharing, and caring this holiday season.
On Friday, the west-side Tokushima JETs went Christmas Caroling to the various Jr. High Schools we work at.
A few of us climbed into a car Thursday night, drove through the rain, up the mountains. After we got lost, we made it to Iya Valley where another JET lives.
We gathered under the Kotatsue and practiced our carols. We woke-up the next morning to put on our Christmas gear and make it down the mountain, stopping at schools along the way.

It gets dorkier ...

And as the day progressed we got genkier. During Frosty the Snowman one lines features something about Frosty encountering a traffic cop who for some reason yelled "Stop!"

After our impromptu "Stop" became a choreographed highlight we decided to add a "hammer-time" and then dance around for about 35 seconds, to then return back to Frosty.

This move began at the Miyoshi special needs school, lets just say it was a hit and we decided to continue this move for the rest of the afternoon.

Our overall performance was a success. My Jr. High cheered for an encore. We gave them the first verse in Jingle Bells.

We even spotted some snow on our way down the mountain.

This Sunday I visited an orphanage in Tokushima city with other JETs. We played some games, I brought materials for some simple crafts for the kids to do, and then they all got gifts.

We passed out the gifts beginning with the youngest kids. They waited patiently to open their respective gifts. When we told them they could open them, they took their time. Even the 3-year olds.

One of the youngest girls to get a gift from Santa waddled back to her seat and sat their beaming, staring at this wrapped present that was about the same size as her. This was only moments after she had a little melt down when of the JETs tried to pick her up.

She slowly opened her gift and proceeded to walk around the room, proudly showing everyone what she got.

Some of the kids opened their gifts, looked at their gifts pleasingly, to then re- wrap them and walk around with all pieces of the gifts they had been given.

To state the obvious, I was feeling tremendously guilty about my typical Christmas attitude.
My adult sister and I often tear through the wrapping paper, give my mother a shrug, and ask if she still has the receipt because -I already have like three black sweaters and I really was hoping for a teal green one to match my new skirt.

This year my sister and I will not be throwing out wrapping paper at Inglewood Drive, watching the high channels, eating when we are not really hungry. And I am ready to board that plane for a Christmas in Thailand.

Last night, I drove to the train station of a nearby city with Brad to pick-up his brother, who had been doing business in China.

It got me really excited to see my sister, to see anybody I knew from my American life.
When we returned to Naruto Brad and his brother gathered around the computer to skype their parents. Though I am a big fan of Mrs. Direnzi and her hip eye glasses, I had to crawl under the blankets and countdown the days till I get to talk about a shared "Mom" with one of my siblings.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pals Dot Com

My Birthday is actually in November.
I did pull a little bit of a Sam Quinn, as I thought, "don't tell a soul it is my Birthday" this year.
I kept it low- key here in J-town.

But Cara, Molly, and Emily remembered my special day all the way from North Carolina ...only a little late.

I want to give Cara and Molly a big kiss:
My car and I are both looking super fly.
My car supporting WQFS everyday.
And me thinking about Ed McKay's in my night dreams.

And my dear heady friend Emily Mayer really showing off some friendship dedication as she included some things she picked out for me at a yard sale THIS SUMMER:

yea! She got super creative with this one.

Everyone deserves these kind of packages on their birthday.

As that Caitlin/Molly birthday time concludes the Christmas/ winter vacation time rapidly approaches.
People all the way in Japan are programmed to NEED a break from work and life this time of year.

This week, I was about to drop my M&M's at any moment. Like Freshman year at Guilford when we decided that we were all 7 years old, walking around with a handful of M&M's and the second we stumbled and they all fell out of our hands, we were going to lose it.

Currently referred to as "one-year weeks." In other words, I would only want to stay in this country for one year.

Dragging loads of Christmas gear to elementary schools. And listening to Winter Wonderland over and over at the Jr. High.
I feel exhausted.

I cannot say I am a teacher deep down but Japanese elementary kids do the same thing for me that dogs do for people with social anxiety.

These are some of the 6th grade ladies I teach on Tuesday afternoons.
After class they like to walk up to the desk, where I have all my things spread out. They pick up and touch everything and ask me where I live and what my apartment is like.

The four boys in the class could care less, they head out the balcony connected to their classroom immediately after I thank them for the class.

Again, everything coming back to all things Kawaii.

I am counting down the days till I get to drive out of Ikeda to return again with Cara and Rory accompanying me in my car.

And I daydream about free refills on coffee as this cold weather makes me perpetually sleepy.

Until then, "I hope all my friends are together getting wasted and are staying glued together." -The National Boxer

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Call me Tania

Since arriving in Japan I have developed Stockholm syndrome.
Japan kidnapped me and I have begun to grow loyal to Japan, despite its strange ways and customs.
Like an abducted Patty Hearst, I was initially frightened yet intrigued by my kidnappers. But, after four months, I am beginning to understand why Japan acts the way it does. And this lifestyle might even occasionally suit me.

Like why Japanese girls stand pigeon toed.

When I first arrived I wondered if this pigeon toed problem had something to do with the lack of calcium in the Japanese diet and maybe this somehow affected how young women stand.
When inquiring on this feminine stance I learned that Japanese girls do this to look cute.

Four months later, I think it is cute. When I am feeling real Japanese I stand like this.

And the peace sign.

I got sick of people throwing the peace sign and talking about peace about 5 minutes after I got off the plane. Back in August I was saying, "F*ck peace signs and peace."

It did not take too long for me to get over this. Next thing I knew I was throwing double peace signs all over the place.

Also, extreme politeness.


About four months ago, when waiting in a line I would take really long, deep sighs. And I would wish I was in a country where people could understand me when I mumbled, "Jesus, how hard is it to work at a Lawsons? How goddamn long can it take you to ring a person up."

Now, I fear returning to the States because I know the first time a person gives me attitude I am going to burst into tears. I will tell them I am sorry and I do not understand why they felt the need to raise their voice to me. Then I will bow as I wipe the tears and snot from my face.

Then there is how much Japanese people love uniforms.

I have never enjoyed taking advice on what to put on in the morning. I thought Japanese youth were completely crazy when they showed up to school, for a Saturday festival, all in uniform.
I smiled at the girls who had small studs in their ears, hidden behind their hair. I wanted to hand out dark purple nail polish and teach the joy of rebellion through fashion.

But this last weekend, I met a Naruto Jr. High School girl in her Saturday attire, complete with a nose ring, short shorts, knee high boots, and a cigarette.
I did not know what to think. If I had a small child with me I certainly would have covered the babies eyes.
I commented on the length of the girl's eyelashes, walked away and spent the next twenty minutes shaking my head in disbelief.

I could go on, but I will leave my list there as I gradually denounce the name Caitlin -as it comes out as a stuttered 'Cait o ren' with a Japanese accent- and I will tell you that I am adopting the name 'Caity.'
Perhaps in the same vein as a young woman who once stood in a bank lobby, clutching a machine gun and yelling, "I'm Tania."

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Let's Get Cozy

Kotatsu is the best thing that has ever happened to cold weather.

My hair is damp from grease and I probably smell like a boy who had two different bands on Myspace in 2005 because I have not showered all weekend since my hot water is not working. Despite all this, I am happy to be buried underneath my Japanese heating system.

I am a firm believer that the United States is the greatest super power but they have not figured out the brilliance of a kotatsu.

Sitting on top of one blanket, to stretch your legs out under a heated table and then drape another blanket around your lap is a delightful way to waste cold, rainy days.

I remember a conversation I once had with Jake Kalos. We were naming our top three favorite things in the world.

My original list:
1. literature
2. film
3. red wine

Jake made some revisions to my list, allowing for accuracy.

1. blankets
2. other warm and soft things
3. red wine

I am brainstorming a mindless craft I can pick-up this winter that can be done while my feet warm. I always thought knitting was overrated. I might return to that no fail water coloring hobby.

In case you are thinking that Japan cannot be completely cozy in the winter due to the absence of Christianity, which one would think would lead to an absence of Christmas, furthermore an absence of Christmas decorations.
You are wrong.
Japan is all too familiar with Christmas songs, Christmas trees, and stockings.

A student in my Adult Conversation class invited me to her house to "look at her Christmas decorations."
I would probably feel kind of sorry for someone in the states that took such pride in decorating their home for a holiday that has gained popularity due to the American need to constantly consume.
But, when I know that I will not be home to see my parents tree and I have the ability to admit that the American tradition of consumerism will always make me happy ... I felt real cozy taking pictures in front of her decorations.

After the photos were snapped we got under her kotatsau to drink tea and eat sweets.
We decided that my next visit should take place in the evening, when we will drink lots of beer, then I will sleep in her guest room because Japanese people are real into NEVER driving drunk (still cannot totally wrap my brain around that one).

Bar G is another cozy place in Ikeda.
While most places in Japan have no heat Bar G pumps up the heat! They can probably afford to do so because they charge roughly $10 for a drink.
But the drinks are so fancy and delicious.

Ashley and I like to go there and pretend we are really fancy, sip our expensive drinks and repeat, "oishii desu" to the all-star bartender that is there every night.

Bar G is my Japanese College Hill, except that when I pay my $30 tab I am only slightly buzzed as opposed to being completely inebriated and only realizing I managed to spend $30 at the bar when I find my debit card receipt in the bottom of my bag, covered in loose tobacco.

I have not completely given in to hibernating in Ikeda. In the early afternoon when the sun is out a vibrant fall still exists in every corner.