Mind Toot #2

Good day, y’all!


As I mentioned in my previous albeit slightly less happy post, I’ve been up to a whole smorgasbord of whatnots and going-ons during the past few months or so. In no particular order, I will regurgitate my life for you in Mind Toot #2. Let’s hop to it!


    1. I read English Karuta cards for all of the Ichinensei over the loudspeaker
      1. It was kind of a last minute decision. “Karuta,” and the version that I played, called hyakuni-isshu, is a card game commonly played in Japan. The students are expected to memorize a hundred old Japanese haikus.  In the game, a moderator will read the whole poem, but the cards in front of them will have only the second half printed on them. If they have memorized the whole poem, they can scope out the card based on the second half of the poem and claim it for keeps.
      2. Because it was too cold in the gym to do regular Karuta on the scheduled day, we instead used that time, for a reason still unbeknownst to me, to do English Karuta. I was given about fifty of these poems translated into English and read each one three times over the intercom. I was downstairs reading the cards and not in the rooms with the students, but I heard that the kiddos really seemed to enjoy the challenge.


  • I also read Japanese Karuta cards.


      1. To be more accurate I read a single Karuta card. The classical Japanese teacher was kind enough to dig out a pretty simple card for me to read, and I read it in the weird sing-songy voice without fail!
      2. Unfortunately the kids were a little distracted because at the same time, a teacher decided to jump off of the stage in the gym instead of going down the stairs after he handed me the microphone and fell on his behind. Oops.


  • I bought a hamster!


      1. I’m a bad ALT. I’ve technically broken my contract by buying an animal that I’m not allowed to have. Contract states that ALTs are not allowed to have pets. I say it’s a stupid rule.
      2. I got sad after Christmas and realized I was not designed to live without a pet. And I’ve already taken care of hamsters before, so I know what I’m doing, more or less.
      3. So I bought one. I went to a store that takes very good care of it’s animals. Housed properly, lots of toys in their cages, lots of quality merchandise available, complete with store recommended products.
      4. Kudos to the staff for not letting me actually buy the hamster until they explained everything to me about how to take care of it. A lot of American stores would not do the same.
      5. Of course, because my Japanese is so abysmal, the staff had to hunt down the single employee in the store who (hallelujah!) spoke fluent English.
      6. And so I bought the necessities the day before, and bought the hamster the next day, on New Year’s Eve.
      7. I named him Deku after the main character of Boku no Hero Academia. I told my students about him and they thought it was hilarious.IMG_1349IMG_1357IMG_1347


  • I built the most bomb house for my hamster ever.


      1. Just look at it. Beautiful, ain’t it?IMG_1346
      2. I had to make several trips to the hardware store because I kept buying the wrong crap. (Trip 1-bought drill and realized that the el cheapo drill I bought did not come with drill bits or that it needed a drill bit. Trip 2–bought bolts and screws but didn’t get the right size because apparently I can’t measure. Trip 3–bought right size screws, wire cutters, and wire mesh because I somehow forgot all that too. #winning #notreally #whyIamIusinghashtagsIreallyhatethem)
      3. I know not only know what a drill bit is, I also know how to attach it to my power drill and use it!
      4. Yes I own a power drill now.
      5. I also own lots of other tools that I needed that I will probably never use again. Maybe I’ll use the hammer and screwdriver, but probably not much else.
      6. Hamster house is complete with three levels. The main cage is built out of clear plastic storage bins that I bought for 400 yen each. Screwed the lids of the bins to the bottom of the bin above it. Cut holes and installed plastic hamster tubes for travel from bin to bin. Complete with litter box, food bowl and water bottle, built-in shelves for climbing, a suspended acorn toy, and several tiny huts for him to sleep in. Oh, and I attached a separate tunnel box on the left for added enjoyment.


  • I sliced my middle finger open while building the hamster house and bled everywhere!


      1. The stupid part is that it wasn’t even when I was building the actual cage. It was when I used my excruciatingly sharp utility knife to smartly cut open the plastic on a piece of decorative tape because I was too lazy to get up and walk TWO FEET across the room to get a pair of much safer scissors.
      2. I bled for about twenty minutes and it looked relatively deep, so for a sec there I thought I would have to go back to the hospital even though I had just been there two days before.
      3. Even though it had difficulty closing up, it did eventually heal. All’s well that ends well, right? Maybe?


  • I taught my students how to play Settlers of Catan.


      1. Because who doesn’t love Catan? It’s my new favorite board game. It truly brings out the worst in people.


  • Bought a cool bookshelf unit.


      1. Spices up the place, I think. And I put it together ALL BY MYSELF. Really digging this whole DIY thing.IMG_1249


  • Also bought a wardrobe.


      1. Thanks to Ryoko for helping me buy it and Yoshi for waiting for it in my apartment while I was still trapped in the hospital against my will.


  • Did some Hobbit Hole fung-shui.


      1. You know, moved things here and there. I am trying to solve all my storage solutions with the wardrobe and using the closet for actual storage. Gotta get rid of the stupid table in my bathroom first, though…


  • I did get rid of the table in my bathroom and the desk I never use!


      1. Thanks again, Ryoko and Yoshi for helping me out with that! Got a whopping 200 yen for my bathroom table when I sold it at the secondhand store. But then had to pay 600 yen to get rid of my other table they wouldn’t take? Oh well. Useless tables are gone now.


  • Saw a totally random Kabuki street performance.


      1. On my way back from the hardware store I took a shortcut through the shopping mall to get to the station. And what was there but random Kabuki? Oh Japan. Gotta love the random street performances.


  • Saw a graduation.


      1. My first group of third year students graduated last week. Scratch that. a long time ago. I wrote this post months ago.
      2. I was terribly sad about it and almost cried because I liked them and actually knew ALL of their names, not just the troublemakers.
      3. It was very different from an American graduation. The underclassmen were forced to attend as well. Parents sat in the back with the absolute worst view. Teachers sat at the sides. Students wore their normal school uniforms, which I guess is kinda special for my school since my high school is one of those fabled “uniform optional” schools that most of the time you only see in manga. Students didn’t individually get the diplomas. A representative collected a symbolic one. Nor did they walk across the stage. Just said “hai” when their names were called. They did a little tribute to their teachers at the end which was actually pretty sweet.
      4. And I forgot to bring my hiragana copy of the school song even though I really wanted to sing it.
      5. And I desperately had to pee the whole time even though I specifically took measures beforehand knowing that it would probably happen to prevent myself from having to desperately pee the whole time. So I was a little distracted and instead of enjoying the moment, spent every second thinking, “DEAR GOD WHEN WILL THIS END I NEED TO PEE SO BAD!!”
      6. Next year, I just won’t be allowed to drink a single drop of anything before graduation. Maybe even the day before. YAYYYY DEHYDRATION!!!
  • Went to Himeji Castle with a math teacher in my section
    1. Kunimasa-sensei was kind enough to drive me there and back. We saw the castle (which has a lot of stairs?), the gardens, and even went to a tea ceremony after!IMG_1323IMG_1321


  • I painted some stuff.


      1. These are the products of my week long social media leave of absence. Enjoy.
      2. IMG_1341IMG_1336IMG_1339


  • I killed myself off in a lesson for the second time this year for the sake of entertaining my students.


      1. I wanted to end the school year with a bang, so I concocted a “murder mystery” style game for my last lesson with my first year students. I took some elements from the internet, some from the CLUE game, and adapted the rest to fit my needs for a 40 students class.
      2. I killed myself off and told the students that they had to solve my murder.
      3. They had even more fun because I gave them really goofy character names. For example, Hello Kitty, Pikachu, PikoTaro, Taylor Swift, Izuku Midoriya, Ciel Phantomhive, Doraemon, Michael Jackson, Anpanman, and Morty Smith, among others.
      4. They had fun because I wore a Japanese-style ghost headband the whole time.
      5. In one class, when they found out that “Peter Pan” had killed me, “Peter Pan” came up to me and bowed to me in apology for his character’s actions.


  • I joined a gym!


      1. I’ve finally managed to drag my lazy self out from under my kotatsu and exercise.
      2. I also think it’s hilarious that joining a gym is more difficult that going to the doctor. I am now fully capable of going to the doctor by myself as I have gone three times now sans assistance. Yet how many attempts did it take to sign up for my gym membership?
      3. THREE. THREE FRIGGIN’ TIMES. Let me explain how.
        1. On day one, I was told to come back on Friday because they were having a promotion starting on Friday. Three months at half off, which is a significant discount given the hefty price tag of Japanese gyms. Full price is $100/month. I figured heck, I could wait two days for such a great discount. I like saving money. I’m stingy.
        2. So I went back on Friday. I tried to communicate that I wanted to join. But between my Japanglish the Japanglish of 4 different Japanese staff members, they couldn’t explain everything to me. They said they wouldn’t let me sign the contract unless I understood EVERYTHING. And then told me to come back with a Japanese friend. Come on man, what if I didn’t have any Japanese friends? Would I have been royally screwed?
        3. So I then semi-desperately asked my friend/first-week Japanese host, Junko, to help me out. Thankfully, we had already had plans that weekend, so she took me to the gym afterward.
        4. Junko went with me on Saturday. Even with her assistance, it still took about two hours to sign up. TWO HOURS!! First they had to explain. Then we filled out the form. Then we didn’t press the pen on the carbon copy and had to do it again.
        5. THEN finally I got a tour of the gym, but had to wait to use it until Monday when I had an introductory course/orientation.
        6. After all the struggle, at least it was worth it, because this gym is ritzy y’all. Onsen in the bathing area. Hair dryers provided. A pool. A sauna. Massage chairs. Three studios for classes. Lockers with bracelet keys so you never have to worry about bringing a lock. Fancy key things that you put into the machines that log all the calories you’ve burned for the day. Swanky I tell you. So swanky.
        7. Only downsides are that I stick out like a sore thumb because to my knowledge I am one of only two foreigners and that because Japan, you have to take off your shoes every three seconds. No shoes in the locker room. No shoes in the stretching area. No shoes at the massage chairs. Where am I allowed to wear my shoes???


  • I got a new air-conditioner.


      1. My old aircon died about three or four weeks ago a while ago. I went a week without doing anything hoping the cold wouldn’t be a big deal. It was. So I told my school about it. A guy came a week later. All I understood from said repair guy was that something was old and needed replacing. Repair people came back two weeks later. Little did I know, they ended up replacing the whole thing. I was worried that it would cost me a small fortune. Turns out the landlord is covering the entire cost! So now I have a magical aircon that is I swear ten times more powerful than the old one and TALKS when you turn it on and press the buttons and I didn’t have to pay a single yen for it. Hahahahaha.
      2. IMG_1368
        The most amazing thing ever


  • Bought a ton of different KitKat flavors to mail to my friends back home.


      1. Pumpkin, strawberry, ginger, green tea (matcha), raspberry nut, regular raspberry, sake, Kobe pudding, strawberry cheesecake, purple sweet potato…it goes on and on and on.


  • Remembered what would have been Ruby’s birthday and death day.


      1. I got sad. I loved my baby. Why did those days have to be only five days apart??


  • Celebrated a Potato-versary.


      1. One year of having a little Potato in our lives! Such a wonderful little spud she is!IMG_1258


  • Tried the Sakura frappuccino at starbucks.


      1. It was sooooo good y’all. You don’t know what you’re missing. Next on the list: the American cherry pie frappuccino when I get back to Japan. 

        Yummy sugar overload


  • Visited a cat cafe.


      1. It was about time. My favorite was named Momiji. He reminded me of Buddha. Kept licking my hand the whole time. Pretty tuxedo cat.
      2. The rest of the cats pretty much ignored my until I purchased a cup of treats. Then they were all suddenly my best friend, except for the grumpus munchkin cat who was apparently having a bad day.
        Grumpy on the bottom level wouldn’t come out

        My buddy Momiji!


  • Went to Sapporo.


      1. I wish I had been able to continue my whole trip and go to Hakodate and Aomori as well. But it was a pretty snowy and magical three days in Sapporo, at least. I saw the Sapporo Clock Tower which was more like an old church than anything else, the old Sapporo government building, the TV tower, Hokkaido Shrine…It was my magical winter wonderland.
      2. IMG_1297
        The Sapporo beer museum
        Random American style diner
        Torii gate at Hokkaido Shrine
        Don’t know what this was, but it was pretty
        Odori-koen at night
        Snow for daysssss
        The old Sapporo government building


        The Sapporo Clock Tower



  • Helped an old man who had fallen and couldn’t get up.


      1. Like in those commercials, you know? Life Alert? Something like that? I didn’t realize he was a person at first. Then a car came and the headlights revealed that he was. Did the car stop? No. When I asked a stranger for help, did she stop? No. Jerk. After a few minutes of trying to communicate with this old man, a man and his young son came along and responded to my pleas for help. This kind stranger helped me get the old man back on his feet, and then walked him home. Thank you kind stranger!


  • I had to take out the two cartilage ear piercings that I loved so much.


      1. Because I became a semi frequent flyer at the hospital, I ended up back there because I had a suspected sinus infection. To diagnose what ended up only being an ear infection and not a sinus infection, they did a CT scan of my head, and I had to take ALL of my earrings out. I managed to salvage five. But one of the ear lobe ones was terribly not in the right direction, so I decided to let that heal up and pierce it again later even though I could get it back in. But the cartilage ones, I couldn’t even find the holes because the angles were so messed up.
      2. Now I have bumps from the scar tissue on my ear.
      3. At least the bright side is that I can now sleep comfortably on my left side for the first time in a year? But there goes about $140 in piercing costs and a lot of pain, time and effort trying to get them to heal.




      1. Level 12, fools!! Out of the “pleasant” levels and into the “painful” ones!! THE NEXT STEP TO LITERACY!!!


  • Had a lovely time in Tokyo with Sara and Marco!


      1. My lovely American friends came for a two week visit to ye ole land of the rising sun for a two week vacation, and I got to spend about a week with them in Tokyo. Due to some unfortunate communication issues, I ended up doing a lot of back and forth travelling to and from Tokyo (my school told me I could have a whole week off for spring bring, then when I went to confirm with them they changed their minds and said I had to be there for the Monday and Friday of that week even though I literally did nothing and there was no reason for me to be there). SO I took a night bus on a Thursday and I went to Tokyo for a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and took the shinkansen back to Kobe on Sunday night, then the next day took another night bus back to Tokyo to spend two days in Disneyland and Disney Sea.
      2. I was a Disney virgin and it was just as magical as I was hoping it would be. I wish I could have done the Tower of Terror but I was worried that it would upset my ailing gallbladder.
      3. I had to sneak food in on day 2 because I basically just ate a salad and a couple of fruit cups on Day 1.
      4. People at Disneyland are really into popcorn? Like lots of flavors of popcorn? Tomato herb, caramel, white chocolate, curry…kinda weird given that the only place I’ve been able to find popcorn at is Costco.
      5. They had an ENTIRE STORE dedicated to Winnie the Pooh, which I love, and it took every ounce of self restraint and reminding myself that I’m poor and have no money now between airplane tickets and hospital bills to only come out with some Winnie the Pooh ears and a new cell phone strap.


  • I came home to the US of A for surgery, but more on that later…

Finally, enjoy some random pictures.




I think that’s about it? Hopefully I’ve gotten you all up to speed now. If you care. Maybe you don’t. I dunno. But until next time,


エリン (Erin)


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