The Convenience of it All

So, today I paid one of our bills at the convenience store. Crazy, I know, but somehow, the cashiers at the convenience store have the authority to take my money and transfer it to the proper bill company. I think the bill companies figured out the power of the convenience store in Japan, and made an alliance with them.

Because in Japan, life is all about convenience, and the convenient store is the epitome of all convenience. There are more 7/11’s in Japan than the U.S.- no joke! There are three convenience stores on my 15 walk to the train station alone. But they seem to pop up everywhere, like daisies! There are even convenience stores on the platforms of most train or subway stations, just in case you need something in that 2-5 minute period of waiting. But, unlike stores in the U.S., it’s not very common to find a gas station attached to a convenience store. Actually, there’s a gas station around the corner that I actually think is part of a mechanic’s garage. Also unlike convenience stores in the U.S, you can actually trust and eat the food in convenience stores here. My personal favorite is a meat bun. I never remember what the name in Japanese is, nor do I know what kind of meat’s in it, and though it sounds a bit disgusting, it’s delicious!They sell all kinds of food, including full meals that they offer to heat up for you when you pay. I’ve seen it done, it’s pretty awesome, despite being a bit illogical. Most likely, you’re buying the meal to eat at home, where you could just heat it yourself. But convenience is what it’s all about here.

Here are a few other examples of convenience at work:

~There are about a hundred drink machines all over the place here. Sometimes they’re about ten feet apart, no joke. You will never go thirsty here.

~Taxi doors open automatically. The driver pushes a button so that you can get in and out of the taxi without ever having to exert yourself or even touch the door.

~You can buy about 80 different kinds of passes to use public transportation, depending upon your need. They want to make it as convenient as possible for you to travel.

But in all of this convenience,  ATMs are few and far between. Oftentimes, you actually have to go to your bank if you want to get out money. And after a certain hour, they charge a fee to withdraw money. For a cash-based society bent on convenience, this is the one area where they failed miserably!

Thanksgiving!

Well, it’s a little belated, but here’s some various media of our Thanksgiving festivities! Granted, we missed out on a lot of the traditional Thanksgiving, I’d say that it ranked as my all-time favorite international holiday! And I’ve spent quite a few holidays abroad, so that’s saying something! Maybe one of my favorite parts of it all was that in lieu of turkey, we bought KFC. So, none of us felt the need to take a nap after dinner. We, of course, made a ton of food, and we’re still eating the leftovers, nearly a week later. So, that was very typical Thanksgiving behavior! And I must say that I made some awesome mashed potatoes! All in all, it was a great night, and my only regret is that I forgot to take a photo of the food!!

http://ohio.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2184253&l=0a126&id=12323934

Rextastic

Jen and I have this friend from church. His name is Rex. He’s originally from L.A. and he’s here in Japan as an accountant.

By day, Rex is very mild-mannered. He can’t get anywhere without GPS. (See my earlier blog about being seriously lost. Rex was driving) He’s quiet, soft spoken. Imagine Clark Kent, only without the glasses, and looking Asian.

But at night, on the phone, Rex is a crazy man! He’s soo stinkin’ hilarious! We had him on speaker phone, and he was cracking jokes right and left. He has even given us our own nicknames: Jenster and Rachael Green (from Friends). I’ve never imagined that one person could be so drastically different, but it is in fact true. I’m not sure what it is, maybe a split personality that’s triggered by phone usage. Now you can imagine, not Superman, but Rex Manning. Because let’s face it, as cool as Rex is on the phone, I somehow doubt that he’s wearing red tights and a red cape in the comfort of his own home. I’d go with Rex Manning because he’s seriously cool like Rex Manning, only without the bad haircut and frilly shirt!

Jen and I are on a mission to find him a girlfriend. So, if you’re not in school, have a job, and are fairly independent, please apply here! He comes with a money back guarantee!

“I don’t like the chair…I’m not sitting down.”

A Heavenly Bed

Yesterday I bought another futon for my bed, as well as a super fluffy futon cover/blanket. The blanket feels like lamb’s wool and the extra futon makes the bed so much softer.

When I woke up this morning, it was delicious! It was the best sleep I’ve had in such a long time. I didn’t even feel the floor at all, and it was so soft! I think I actually prefer my current bed to my bed back in the states. Although, if my comforter were a bit longer, that would be much better. But you can’t win every battle.  So, I’ll just be content to sleep in my heavenly bed as is!

Although, maybe next month I’ll buy another pillow. I’m kind of a pillow fanatic. Okay, in actually it’s not “kind of,” I really really really love pillows of all shapes and sizes on my bed! It makes me extremely happy! But now I only have one pillow and it’s perfectly adequate, but I want more! They have really cute decorative pillows here as well! So, I have to make sure to limit my spending, or I could be in some real trouble!

Old School Communication

I love letters. There’s something really appealing to me about opening your mailbox and having a piece of mail waiting there for you to open, especially a letter. It makes any day bright, and it puts a smile on my face for the rest of the day. I don’t know what it is, but I have always loved writing and receiving letters. And my favorite movie of all time, You’ve Got Mail, is based on that concept. Granted, they exchange emails, but they’re very much like letters, and in the original movie, The Shop Around the Corner, they exchange letters.

I think for me, a letter conveys so much more than just what you write. It really lets someone know that you care enough about them to take the time to handwrite something just for them, and you’re willing to pay the postage that gets more and more expensive everyday (especially now for me since I live in another country). I mean, does anyone ever get a letter and think, “Crap. I really didn’t want this. Why do people keep writing to me?” Okay, maybe once they read what’s in it, but that doesn’t count. But actually, now that we have telephone and email, people shouldn’t really be putting negative news in a letter. That’s just a bad idea altogether. Well, as we all can see, I could really get on a soapbox about the pros of writing letters, but I’ll cut myself off before I really get going.

But in closing, two things. First, don’t let this be any kind of a guilt trip that makes you feel obligated to write me a letter. I understand that some people are simply not letter writers, and I’m okay with that. Second, if letter writing could be a love language, it would be one of mine for sure. So maybe you’ll be getting a letter from Japan in your mailbox sometime! And if you really want some Japanese mail, just send me your address, and I’ll be very glad to send you a letter!

My Saving Grace

Here’s why I will probably always have a job at ECC as long as I want: according to Japanese standards, I have the cutest voice ever, seriously. Inevitably, after nearly every kid’s class I teach, I either am told or hear that the sensei’s voice is so kawaii (cute). It doesn’t matter how shy or scared a kid might be when they see me-the new teacher, by the end of the class they are yelling and singsonging right along with me, and I really think that it’s my voice that does it. I don’t do anything special, just teach the lesson. And I also think it gives me the ability to make ordinarily tight-laced Japanese adults do whatever I want during a lesson. I’ve gotten adults to role play, sing Jingle Bells as the sound of a door opening, and laugh pretty heartily. My voice puts some kind of spell on Japanese people. I’m like a snake charmer, but instead of just getting a tame snake to come out of a basket, I get people to speak English! Similar tactics perhaps, but English has a greater benefit to mankind than a snake with a bit of a weaving problem.

But, no joke, today I had a model lesson for a little girl who was thinking about going to ECC. Her mom hadn’t officially signed with ECC yet, and it all hinged on whether or not this girl liked me. We had a fun lesson (in my opinion), and afterwards, the director told me that the girl liked me, so they were going to sign with ECC, and as he said that, I heard both the mom and the daughter saying in Japanese that I had such a cute voice. So a big part of my appeal is my little girl voice.

But, I’m not going to diss it because apparently it’s a huge benefit here in Japan. In a culture where “the cuter the better” is the standard, I fit right in! But I am excited for the private lesson. The girl, Wakana, is 7 and she’s great! She’s energetic and a great learner! I think it’ll be a good time for the both of us every Saturday afternoon! 🙂

Late Night Blues

So, yesterday I got 11 hours of sleep!! Yes! But now I’m paying the price, completely wide awake at 2:30 in the morning. And being wide awake at night often leads me to have either some really revolutionary ideas, or complete randomness. Here’s what I’ve got…

I’m a blogging junkie. Seriously, if this were a drug, I’d have to go into rehab.

I’ve completely acclimated to cars driving on the opposite side of the road, but I still can’t get used to seeing no one in the “driver’s” side of the car. I still freak out about it sometimes.

When people get sick in Japan, they wear face masks. But I’m not sure how effective they are because I see just as many people wearing face masks as I would people walking around with tissues in the states. And where did the idea of wearing face masks come from anyway, and how did they popularize country-wide, even among the youth? That would never fly in the states.

Why is that even though peanut butter is about one of the greatest foods ever, it only seems to be popular in the U.S. and maybe parts of Canada? For the being a leading country in the world, why can’t we get peanut butter to export? Maybe Congress should look into that one. We could make a killing.

Has anyone seen Celine Dion lately? One of my new favorite songs is “Then You Look at Me” and I watched the video on YouTube, and she looks really really weird, and kinda creepy. Apparently, her voice will go on, but her looks need some artificial enhancement. Also, dark hair is not a good look for her.

“Stop this train. I want to get off and go home again. I can’t take the speed it’s moving in. I know I can’t. But honestly, won’t someone stop this train?”