While the threat and scare of the swine flu has passed everywhere else in the world, Japan still remains under the media-hyped scare of worldwide swine flu pandemic. They are even going so far as quarantining people at the airport who appear to have swine fu symptoms. And actually, since the swine flu is indistinguishable from any other variation of the flu, they are, in fact, quaranting anyone who has any kind of flu-like symptoms. I know, right?

But that is not the worst of it. The airport has actually become a little more relaxed, but now the real quarantining is happening privately in companies. ECC, as well, has sent out an H1N1 influenza information memo, including their right to quarantine any employee for ten days without pay, if they believe that you might have contracted the swine flu. So, although Japan as a country will let me in, my company can still quarantine me. Hmm…

But the best part of that memo for me was the table they made to compare swine flu symptoms and regular flu symptoms. In the swine flu symptom category, eight of the ten descriptions were Not Defined Yet and the other two just used bigger comparatives: regular flu-high fever, swine flu-very high fever. I had a good time reading it.

The rest of the world has moved on, now that they know that the swine flu is not a killer strain, while Japan has only just now started taking precautions. Things are a little slower when you live on an island I guess.


Over the Big Blue Sea

After much waiting, I am finally leaving for Kathy wedding tomorrow!! And although it has been a long time coming, somehow, it doesn’t really feel like I’m leaving tomorrow. Go figure. But, to the shock of all who know me, I actually started packing last night, more than 24 hours before I’m scheduled to leave. I know, I am shocked by my own behavior actually. I am about 80% done packing, and most of the things I have left to pack are things that I’m still currently using and wont be available for packing until tomorrow morning.¬† I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself all of tonight since I wont need to run around the place like a crazy girl. Well, I might do it anyway for sentimental reasons.

A few weeks ago, I had a dream about my trip. I dreamt that I missed my flight out of Japan actually. I left my apartment to go to the airport at the same time that my actual flight was scheduled to depart. Needless to say, it made me a little paranoid, and I checked my flight time last night, yet again, just to make sure that I would leave my apartment at the correct time. So, my flight leaves at 12:45 PM, which means that I have to get up around 8 to finalize everything and make sure that I am ready to go in plenty of time. I will actually obey the rule about arriving two hours early for international flights this time around. With the swine flu threat still running rampant around  Japan, one can never arrive too early at the airport.

So, to all my friends in the wedding extravaganza, see you very soon! And to all my friends here in Japan, catch in about a week. And to everyone else, as always, thanks for reading.

Dancing Shoes

Tonight I went salsa dancing! I haven’t had that much fun in a long time. One of my adult students hobbies is salsa dancing, so some other students, staff, and I decided to go to the salsa school where he dances. On Sunday evenings they have a one-hour salsa lesson for beginners followed by salsa club time where you can dance and socialize.In total, there were seven of us, all girls, excluding my salsa dancing as a hobby student, who is a guy. None of us had salsa danced before, so we were all on the same level.

I learned meringue, salsa, and ba cha cha. Sorry about that last one, it was all in Japanese and that is the Japanese pronunciation. Yep, the whole lesson was in Japanese, but it was no problem to understand as long as I did the right moves. I feel quite accomplished in my dancing skills. Okay, not that I was the Fred Astaire of salsa or anything, but at least I didn’t fall down. And I definitely want to learn how to salsa dance for real now!I also learned that shoe selection is very important. The teacher had on these extremely sparkly silver strappy shoes and most of the other girls who were regulars had on similar shoes. So, if I really plan on learning salsa, I should get some strappy heels that will stay on while I am getting my dance on. And if they’re sparkly, all the better.

On a side note, during the dance party, the guys always ask the girls, and I was a little concerned that I would be a wallflower. But, seriously, I have never been so popular in my entire life! I danced almost every dance! I guess Japanese guys who can salsa aren’t hindered by the typical crippling shyness when it comes to talking to girls, especially of the gaijin variety. So, all in all, awesome night!

Under the Influence…

Tuesdays are now my only evening work shift this year. Otherwise, I am working in the office, or teachng on Saturday mornings. So, my Tuesday schedule is quite a bit different from the rest of the week, and I am still adapting to it. Ordinarly, I have to get up around 8 or 9 so that I can get ready and get to work on time. But since I am still working at 3:30 on Tuesdays, I can sleep in.

Last Tuesday I slept in and felt great when I woke up. But around 2, I felt really tired, and when I got on the train to go to work at 2:30, I had a horrible headache. I could not for the life of me figure out why I was feeling that way since I had gotten such a good nights rest. But then I thought back over my morning and realized that I had skipped my daily cup of coffee because it was warm when I woke up and I wasnt at all tired. Once I got to work, I had a cup of coffee and wouldnt you know it, I felt back to normal within the hour.

Thats right, I am seriously addicted to caffeine. I mean, there are much worse things that I could be addicted to, but this is just really annoying. So, know that I know this, I am always sure to get my caffeine intake in the morning. Now, how to break the habit without the headaches?

Crowded Trains

Japanese people have some strange unwritten, unspoken rules when it comes to riding the train.

~When filling the vacant seats of a train, you should never sit down directly next to someone if you don’t have to.But this rule doesn’t apply to rush hour, or other popular commute times, say 9 at night.

~If there does happen to be a vacant spot, you should only sit there if you are the same gender as the person you plan on sitting down next to. Now, I think that men are more prone to break this rule and sit down next a woman. But it is a rare occasion to see a woman sit down next to a man, unless that girl is a foreigner like myself. I have no compunction in sitting next to a guy if my feet are tired from my heels.

~If you don’t want someone sitting next to you, try to take up two spaces by putting your bag next to you, or something else that people cant easily sit next to. Even if you occupy only a part of the seat next to you, there is only a ten percent chance that someone will overcome their inherently polite Japanese nature to make you move your belongings.

Inevitably, all this leads to trains seeming much more crowded than they actually are. I admit that I am even guilty of succumbing to the above rules on more than one occasion, especially the first one. Thus a surplus of people ending up crowding in the open area around the door and never move to the more central parts of the train. But that is one sight that I just cannot comprehend. I love seeing a train stop, noting the very crowded, almost sardine can-like appearance of the door area, then looking over and noticing that the walkways where the seats are, are completely vacant. Why would you allow yourself to be squished like that if you didnt have to be? I take great delight in pushing past all those people and then lounging in the middle with room to dance if I so chose.

During the most crowded train times, those people in the doorways stubbornly refuse to move and make space for the wave of people waiting to get on at the next stop. I have seen people taking up the room of two people reading newspapers, mailing on their phones, playing their DSs on super crowded trains while I myself was making like a plank and trying desperately not to brush into the person next to me. Because whatever else happens on the train, you should definitely not touch anyone else, no matter how crowded it is! That is the cardinal sin on train riding, right along with making or receiving a call.