I'm sure my neighbors hate me now.
{I love singing at the top of my lungs at odd hours...
something my last landlord knows too well.}

I wanted to play with "chilling" ethereal-istic vocals.
And thus, I chose to sing the first part of "Soulmate"*
by the magnificently-talented, Natasha Bedingfield.
{Oh, I love her.}

*Also posted on the "MP3s for You" page.
"Everywhere is walking distance, if you have the time."
-Steven Wright

...I say "hiking", because that's exactly what we did!
{This place is gi-normous.}
So, the background story to the "Twelve-Layer Kimono" post...
I went to Himeji with one of the English teachers at my school.
{She's Japanese.}
After hiking the castle,
we went to a historical museum
and that's where I tried on the kimono.
{It took about 15 minutes with two ladies to dress me up.}
So! Back to the castle:
This is the Okiku Well...
haunted by a ghost every nightfall.
{I could barely see the bottom... it's deep!}
Himeji Castle is enormous,
surrounded by a mote
and tons of secret gates and corridors.
{The lady in the picture is the one who encouraged me to enter the kimono drawing.}
Ye Olde War Guns.
A shrine for the gods on the top floor of the castle.
{You can see all of Himeji from there!}
Grab a hold and give it a yank
to "wake up the gods"
and make them pay attention to your prayers.
Kinda awesome. :)
Japan has such a rich history.
There's so much to learn,
and so little time!
Only 10 months & 24-ish days left!
There was a drawing in Himeji
for the chance to wear a 12-layer kimono.
I was reluctant to enter,
but my friend seemed to think I'd win.
She said, "Pray to your God."
And guess what?
I won.
I have a hearty respect for Japanese women of olden times.
How anyone can walk in one of these is beyond me.
But golly,
it sure was fun.
{Undressing. Phew!}
After thanking my friend for encouraging me to enter the drawing,
she stated, "Your God is very strong."
I agree. :)
"If people were meant to pop out of bed, we'd all sleep in toasters." -Anon

I dunno about you,
but I stink at waking up the first time my alarm clock jingle-jangles.
"5 more minutes, just 5 more min... zZzZz..."
So, to get genki for my students today,
I sang a silly song
and danced with a curling iron next to my face.

I can't wait for the summertime.
My mornings are just plain groggy when I'm up before the sun.
Do you have a magic trick that helps you wake up?
Besides coffee? :)

{Image via Dani}
" get her LOVE."
And there he is,
being all sneaky-like in an apple tree.
I found this at a hyaku-en shoppe.
There's no way I can pack it in my suitcase,
but I had to get it for my Kakogawa home.
It's just... SO cute. :)

I can't remember the last time I've fought this hard to
stay strong.
So, if I keep holding on,
the rewards will surely be incredible.

Someone once told me teaching English was easy.
And my response to them is:
"You may have the personality for it,
but I certainly do not."
So right now, it's all about the climb.
{"The Climb" copyright Jessi Alexander & Jon Mabe}
"Life is a process. We are a process." -Anne Wilson Schaef
I took a stroll in the cemetery today.
Like the rest of their architecture,
Japan builds their tombs up.
There were statues of gods in every courtyard,
along with wells where you wash your hands and pray.
I need hardly say it,
but I think this country is growing on me.
{click to enlarge}
Who loves anatomically askew animals?
Speak up! Don't be bashful!
...What this has to do with my life in Japan is...
Well, I made Japanese curry today. That was delicious.
Alright, I'm going to bed.
All sugared carbohydrates in Japan are exquisite.
I'm talking breads, cakes, donuts...
{And I don't even like donuts.}
Japan loves its packaging,
as you can see with this lil' slice o' Heaven.
Peel off the wrapper, and wa-lah!
Oh, and by the way,
I've decided to go into cake testing.
I will travel the world, in search of the finest cakes.
And every country will welcome me with open arms,
and free cakes.
I also plan on gaining about 250 lbs.
give or take.
And here's some Engrish love in a cafe.
Please don't bleed my sandwich too much, Waitress,
I like 'em rare.
"'tis healthy to be sick sometimes." -Henry David Thoreau

I've filled an entire trash can with tissues.
But atleast this gives me time to clean my apartment.
{In between naps, of course.}
I was the first to get culture shock,
and the first to get sick in our little group of interns.
{I hope I'm the last.}
But, if someone else does get sick
in either way,
Atleast I know how to comfort them now.
{Image via Frederik}
I seem to only be writing about food, lately.
But Japanese food is SO DELICIOUS.
{Internship Coordinator}
invited me over to her house on Sunday,
and I tasted a bit of heaven.
{Viva la Gnocci!}
Yoshiko cooked a rather European meal
because she thought I'd be sick of Japanese cuisine by then.
{As if!}
And here's an Engrish for you.
And here's a happy, full flower to you.
"Wanna swing from a star in the big blue sky,
don't wanna watch it all go by,
so I'm gonna fly."
-Sydney Forest (Kiki's Delivery Service)
Friday came
and I boarded the train,
bound for Amagasaki.
I went to sleep over at the mansion,
my family-away-from-family's house.
They cooked me delicious nabe for dinner.
Tanuki sighting!
Whenever I see a tanuki, I have to snap a picture.
I blame Ghibli for my fettish.
Saturday brought with it
an adventure in Arima,
a little mountain town
that's famous for its hot spring.
I love trying tasty, new foods... I know I'm in the right country!
Japanese treats may look/sound/seem suspicious,
but they're delicious.
A rhyme. Ha!
Friends, meet dango.
Dango, meet friends' tummies.
This is a snack you'll definitely want to try sometime.
I asked Akemi
{my Japanese mama}
if this was a hot spring monkey.
The answer was no,
thank goodness.
But farther up in the mountains,
monkeys and people alike soak in the water together.
I want a picture of that.
{An appropriate one, of course.}
Wandering up the little road,
we came across a basket weaver in action.
His shoppe was filled with
baskets, chopsticks, clocks...
everything woven by his own two hands.
So, uh, my talent is playing the piano...
No comparison.
Venturing on to HarborLand
{a place to view all of Kobe}
we found a tiny Ghibli shoppe.
"Totoro, Totoro..."
And for dinner,
we stopped at a kaiten zushi.
And they had corn sushi.
And here's some... uh... Engrish?
Japan never ceases to surprise me.
"God gave you my favorite smile in the world. Please use it!" -Elder Farnsie
While most of the teachers are shy around me,
the students run up--giggling--blurting out any English they know.
Mostly, it's just:
But, sometimes, it's:
"You are so cute!"
"You are beautiful!"
"I love you!"
"I want to take you home!"
{Actually, that one was in Japanese.}

And then, my favorite:
"You are so Caucasian."
Uh oh, they're on to me...

And then, today, we practiced American Tongue Twisters.
I had students stand and recite one Tongue Twister of my choosing.
Group Three had: "A Big Black Bug Bit a Big Brown Bear"
What came out was: "A Big Black Butt Bit a Big Brown Bear"

I love my students.
{Image via Amanda}
"Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts."
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (Homesick in Heaven)
Meet Akemi,
the Japanese woman who took me into her home
right after I graduated high school.
Now, here I am,
back in Japan more than 2 years later,
and she still treats me like her daughter.
After purchasing some home essentials for me,
and bags full of groceries,
she bought me a train ticket to Amagasaki
{her hometown}
and bought me a movie ticket
to see Avatar.
And then paid for my way home.
No matter how many times I insist I have money,
she waves me away
and hands the cashier her own satsu {bills}.
I'm so grateful for her,
and for the rest of my friends.
I miss my home dearly.
I'm out of my comfort bubble here,
but that's necessary if I want to grow up.