Oni Masturi (Ogre Festival)

The neat thing about small towns, is that each one comes with their own set of festivals and traditions. We were lucky enough that one of these festivals overlapped with one of precious our days off, so we got the chance to experience it!

And of course, since we seem to be a walking spectacle, we became the unintentional center of attention during this festival.

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Road trip to Mt Fuji

How many times can you say that you and some friends jumped in the car and took a road trip to the tallest and most famous mountain in Japan?

Now I can say that I’ve done it.

And we did it right. We rented a car, left early, brought plenty of snacks, and stopped at (almost) all of the rest stops on the highway. Between the company, spontaneity, and absurdity of it all, it was the recipe for a perfect Sunday.

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What I learned in preschool: Forks are Overrated

How old were you when you first learned how to use chopsticks?

But the real kind, not the cheater kind that have the ends tied together. The kind where you can hold one in each hand and stab the food — which I’ve since learned is a big no no. I think I was somewhere in the mid-teens range. (Did I guess right Dad?) And then even after learning, I hardly used them on a daily basis. Maybe they got used when we had Chinese take out at home or when we went out to Asian restaurants. But even then, forks were always on the table as a viable second option.

Its different here.

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On school plays with preschoolers

Before starting this whole adventure, if you asked me what a 3 year old was capable of, I’d probably have responded with “very little…they’re 3…”. Before this I’d had very limited interaction with this age group before and therefore my understanding of their understanding of the universe was nonexistent at best.

Now if you ask me that question, boy do I have a much different response!

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Thanksgiving Abroad 2019

Thanksgiving abroad is unsurprisingly just like every other day of the week here; wake up, work, have kids wipe mysterious things on your pants, make dinner, shower, bed. The routine looked the same yesterday, and it’ll look the same as tomorrow.

It’s very underwhelming.

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Happy Six Months!

Half way.

I can’t believe it’s already been six months since I got on that plane with a one way ticket bound for Japan. Six months since I began learning how to walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk, of changing my shoes before starting work each morning, and of exploring my tiny town of Toyohashi.

Some days, it still feels like I just got here. Others, it feel like a lifetime ago.

So far being here I’ve been to three new countries and countless new places in Japan. I’ve learned how to make a few very Japanese recipes (not well, but I know what I’m supposed to do in theory at least!) and how to make American recipes with Japanese ingredients.

In the classroom I’ve been sneezed on dozens of times, bitten once, have my hair pulled weekly (accidentally and on purpose), gotten licked on my hands and legs, get my feet stepped on daily, and have wiped away a handful of tears. I’ve picked up chewed pieces of food off the floor and off shirts, I’ve helped my kids get changed, and I’ve stood and waited outside the bathroom just to make sure they’ve washed their hands. I’m learning how to discipline, (I’m not very good at it), I’ve caused a few tears and temper tantrums, and I’ve taken away toys because sharing isn’t a 3 year olds strong point.

But I also get daily hugs, constant questions about why I don’t eat my oatmeal with chopsticks, and little notes with drawings of me and my name written in big blocky letters by tiny hands still learning how to hold a pencil.

No one warned me how frustrating, challenging, exhilarating, and empowering moving across the world would be. I mean, I figured it wouldn’t be a cake walk, but no one said that the homesickness would hit at the strangest times, or that some nights would be spent crying into my pillow, or that the first few months of this new job would cause such panic and doubt.

But then again, no one said I’d have to do this alone. I’ve learned just how many people back home are rooting for me and cheering me on; how many people want to come visit because now they have a real reason to come to Asia; and how many people think this is an insanely awesome thing to do when you’re young and able. I forget to look at this experience from the other side, and yeah, from that side it does look pretty ambitious.

Because of this new job, I now have friends and co-workers from the UK, South Africa, and the Philippines and I am thankful for them each day. They are my co-conspirators, my therapists (sorry guys and thanks), my motivation, my sanity, and my support.

On the home front side, I call home each weekend, have phone dates monthly, and sometimes weekly with family and friends I love, and I’ve even had a a few visitors from home come to Japan. I’m learning how to navigate the trains without using Google Maps, learning how to be at peace with myself, and learning how to grow up (spoiler alert, it’s freaking hard).

Six months here and I still cannot speak, read, or write the language. I’m working on it, but it’s just not my main priority right now. Mainly I’m trying to stay sane for the next few months. I still have so many more places to visit and things to eat here, but I’m just trying to take it all one day at a time. I’m trying not to rush things, but at the same time I’m anxious for whats coming next. Living in the present is hard, but I’m learning. And I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who has reached out, texted, emailed, called, and commented these past six months. You are all my champions and I feel the love. I just wanted to say thanks for believing in me and supporting me along this crazy quarter life crisis adventure. Six months down six to go!

3 Days in Hong Kong and Macau

I know what you’re thinking. “Hong Kong!? Right now? Are you sure you that’s a good idea…?”

Welllll, yes and no. The U.S. Travel Agency website lists Hong Kong as a “Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution” (last updated Oct 7, 2019). You know what other countries are listed as a Level 2? Most of Europe and Asia…

Advice from my Dad on this? “Just don’t be dumb and run towards gathering, yelling crowds. Go the other way.” You got it Dad, I did just that.

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teamLab Borderless: A digital art experience

I decided to be spontaneous and get on a train bound for Tokyo this past weekend. (Or in my case, a series of trains because I had about 4 transfers before I arrived at my final destination). I was off to visit the one place I really wanted to visit, but didn’t get a chance to during vacation a few weeks ago. I was headed for the MORI Building in Odaiba, Tokyo to see the teamLab: Borderless digital art exhibition.

But let’s back it up to a very important conversation that I had the week prior, that helped kick off this adventure.

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