Thursday, September 25, 2008

I'll be coming 'round the mountain when I come...

...and I'll most likely be singing, too!

I tend to do that while I'm driving. You probably already knew this about me since I've written about singing along with Billy and various others. And if you've ever ridden with me, you know from first-hand experience.

But don't worry, I pay close attention the road. I'm very careful as I go "'round the mountain."

Being from Indiana, I came to Japan not exactly used to driving up, down, around and through mountains. They're a bit scarce in the Hoosier state, after all.

But teaching at the schools in Kuji has required me to get used to it. And it really hasn't been a hard adjustment at all! In fact, I love my commutes to and from the schools, and driving is one of my favorite parts of the day.

It's so peaceful, and the views are quite lovely. Wednesday and Thursday are my "mountain days," when I wind around mountains in order to get to school. Friday is my "ocean day," when I drive along the sea and admire it.

I would love for you to join me (and whoever is singing from my car's speakers) on the scenic drives. I'm serious. Just imagine that you're sitting in the passenger's seat -- which remember is on the left side of the vehicle -- looking out the window.

So fasten your seat belt, sit back and relax (I'm a good driver, no worries!) and here we go...

Ok, but before we go, here's a shot of our classy mode of transportation, so you know what you're sitting in. :)

First, we're headed to Yamane Jr. High School, where I teach every Wednesday. It's a 30-minute drive, and we go through eight tunnels!

Oooh, here comes a tunnel up ahead. (*Turning the headlights on now.*)

Sing with me! "Don't go changing, to try to please me. You never let me down before...mmm..."

The sound of the water is so soothing. I have to turn Billy down a bit so we can hear it.

I've pulled over, and we're at this scenic overlook place, looking over at the scenery of course. Those two tunnels look like caves, don't they?

There's a bend in the narrow road, so I have to use the mirror (the thing on the orange pole) to see if anyone is coming.

We're on our way back from Yamane now, and isn't this tunnel cool? You can see out the side of it. And notice the airfreshener on the dashboard. It's apparently called a "happy poppy" (that's what its mouth says), and it makes me smile.

Alrighty, let's go to Mugyo Jr. High school now. That's where I go every Thursday. By the way, feel free to put your window down like I did since it's such a nice day!

We've just rounded a corner, and here's the view to the right side. Aw, I want to go swimming!

Ok, we're at Mugyo, and I just parked. My parking place has an ocean view. Turn around, and you see Mugyo, the junior high school that has only four students!! It used to have a whole lot of students, and now it's so small that they're closing soon. But I don't want to talk about that.

Let's go to Friday's school now -- Misaki Jr. High. I'm popping in a new cassette, one of my two newest ones (thanks, Jennifer!), the Oak Ridge Boys.

"Juliet, Juliet, you've got a smile that I can't forget..." (And this song has a catchy tune that I also can't forget...)

Don't you just love the ocean view? And now with your window down, you can feel the sea breeze, and you know what I mean when I say that the drives are lovely.

Well, our drive is over now. I hope you enjoyed it! And now I'll appropriately leave you with a sunset shot I recently took.

Oh by the way, after tomorrow I'm taking a break from driving for four days. I'm headed to Tokyo by bus and bullet train ("shinkansen" as they call it here). So this also means that I won't write another blog post for a while. But I'll talk to you soon, and I'm sure I'll be full of stories about Tokyo. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New words ("kotoba") and new friends ("tomodachi")

Tonight was my first Japanese lesson.

Well, that's not entirely true.

I feel like I've been having Japanese lessons ever since I arrived in Japan! It's kind of like in the movie Akeelah and the Bee, (if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend watching it) when Akeelah prepares for the spelling competition by practicing words with different people in the community. Only instead of just spelling Japanese words, I'm getting all kinds of people in Kuji to help teach me new words and how to pronounce them.

But tonight was my first official lesson with Sean, one of the other ALTs, who obviously speaks both Japanese and English. We're having lessons every Tuesday, in addition to my Japanese practice I have with Tomoki -- the boy I'm tutoring in English -- every Monday and Wednesday.

I'm proud of how much I've learned in just over a month. I can introduce myself in Japanese and ask some important questions such as:

"How are you?"
"When is your birthday?"
"What time is it?"
"Where is the bathroom?"
"Do you sell ice cream? How much does it cost?" :)

Plus I know two different alphabets (hiragana and katakana) and some random words. I just learned the word "friend," which is a good one to know since I'm making new friends here.

I recently met Toshi, a policeman who speaks English. He wanted to practice speaking, so that's why I met him for dinner. Although Kenji said the real purpose was so I can get out of trouble when I have a run-in with the law since I have a friend on the police force!

From left to right: Toshi, Kenji and Sean, at a Chinese restaurant called Leeshe.

With Sean, my new Japanese teacher, fellow ALT and friend.

I just made an album of pictures from the festival that was this weekend. Click here if you'd like to see it. "Tanoshimimas." (Enjoy!)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It didn't rain on our parade!

And even if it had, I wouldn't have let it dampen my spirit.

I was having too much fun for that.

My afternoon consisted of: waiting in anticipation with my co-workers for our turn to line up for the parade; carrying a lantern as we marched down the street; waving at the crowd along the way; a feast at the end of it, with the other City Hall folks involved in the parade.

All of it with a smile on my face.

In a way, the festival reminds me of the Indiana State Fair. Only there are no rides, no animals, no 4-H exhibits and everyone is Japanese. Ok, so really it's nothing like the fair!

But the festival this weekend was crowded with people, it's an annual event that people really look forward to and the smell of fried food lingered in the air. (So now you can understand how I get the "fair vibe.")

Oh, the festival food! It's definitely different from food back home, and yet much of it is different from what I see at the grocery store here. Of course I had to sample as much as possible! I enjoyed hanging out with the other ALTs yesterday, each of us buying and sharing different fried things with each other. Like the fair, if I ate this way year-round, I'd be 100 pounds heavier!

Here are a few pictures of some of the foods I saw at the festival this weekend:

Tofu on a stick! Next to it is "moshi," which is basically a rice ball, and I think it's bland. I passed on both. I've had plenty of tofu lately. Granted, it hasn't looked like a popsicle before!

The tofu on a stick lady is so cute!

And this guy is cool, too. Liz bought this, and we shared it. And even after eating it, I'm still not sure exactly what it is. I know the white stuff all over the top is mayonnaise though.

Squid on a stick. Sick. It didn't smell good, either. In fact, these look and smell just like the one I boiled! Brings back bad memories.

This looks pretty sick, too. Those are octopus tentacles you see oozing out. I didn't have this kind of takoyaki; I ate the kind where the octopus is hidden inside the dough.

A sliced banana dipped in chocolate and covered with sprinkles = yum! I literally just took this picture. This was my funky festival hair-do. (All the ladies in the parade had funky hair do's...and I saw some hair don'ts, too. haha)

I have plenty of other, non-food festival pictures. One day this week when I have the time (but not tonight because I'm getting sleepy), I might make an on-line photo album.

But now it's time for me to march on to bed! Sayonara.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Let the festivities begin!

The shrill trilling of flutes, the constant pounding of drums and chanting in Japanese.

These are the sounds I've heard coming from right outside my window every single evening from about 6 to 8 for the last two weeks. All of the hours of outdoor band practice--why it has to be outside is still a mystery to me--have led up to this weekend. (Thank goodness, I can soon have peaceful evenings again!)

The time for Kuji's biggest festival of the year has arrived. It's the time to pray for a bountiful harvest. And it's also the time for: parades with giant, spectacular floats; the streets lines with streamers, flags and food vendors; performing dancers and musicians; and a lot of fun for me, who lives right in the center of the action!

Bring it on.

The festival began last night with the opening ceremony. I've discovered that opening ceremonies are commonplace in Japan. The schools have opening ceremonies, both speech contests I attended had an opening ceremony, as did the baseball tournament on Monday.

So it came as no surprise to me that a festival this important and magnificant would have an opening ceremony of an equal magnitude. However, it did suprise me that the location of the ceremony was literally my backyard--the parking lot behind my apartment!

I attended the festival's kick-off last night, dressed in my outfit for the occasion, which I obtained from City Hall. All of the City Hall employees involved in the festival wore purple.

Now I know what it feels like to have feet like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

The opening ceremony featured a display of all the impressive floats, with the contrast of the bright neon lights against the black sky. (The picture below really doesn't do it justice.) Aromas of the festival food mingled in the air, as did the sounds of chanting and musical instruments, of course.(Those are some of my students in the pictures at the top.)

I wrote a few weeks ago about trying takoyaki -- fried balls of octopus. This is the "real thing," a popular festival food.

It's going on 1:30 Saturday morning as I write this, and I'm just now getting sleepy because of the energy in the atmosphere! Ever since I got off work, I've enjoyed the parade and the "party" that is going on outside my front door.

The festival is definitely appealing to the senses -- the sights, the smells and I guess the continual sounds of the flutes and drums, since they add to the ambience, are fine after all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom!

I've been thinking about my mom all day long, as I do every September 17th.

It's her special day. I wish I could celebrate it with her, but since that's not possible, I've been observing her day in my own ways.

The celebration actually started last night when I ate the most delicious dessert I've had in Japan so far. This was better than a birthday cake -- maybe even at the same level as ice cream cake. (That's saying a lot because I enjoy ice cream cake immensely.) I'm referring to a crepe with a banana, custard and chocolate hidden inside. Oyshi! (That's "delicious" in Japanese, a handy word to know.) Liz introduced me to a little bakery within walking distance that's run by a sweet little lady who makes the most amazing crepes. So to celebrate Mom's birthday, I had a birthday crepe instead of a birthday cake. :)

When I woke up this morning, one of my first thoughts (besides "Yay, the sun is out!") was "Happy birthday, Mom!!"

It has indeed been a happy day. I always enjoy my 30-minute drive to and from Yamane Junior High School because of the scenery. With the car windows down and the music up, the perfect weather made the commute even more enjoyable. Here are some pictures from my drive:

This is the river I follow once I get close to Yamane.

Yamane is at the end of this river. It's hard to see, but it's there.

On the way to and from the school, I pass by a dam that has a scenic overlook of Kuji.

This is one of many rice fields I pass once I'm done winding around the mountains. I feel like the side mirror of my car makes this an artistic photo.

Tonight for dinner I ate salmon, rice and vegetables -- one of my mom's favorite meals. And my water was even room-termperature, just as Mom likes it. Tomoki came over tonight for his English lesson, and I told him about my mom's birthday today, just as I told my students at Yamane. I've been teaching him a song to learn all 50 states, and I'm amazed at how well he has learned it!

As I've been enjoying Mom's day on this side of the world, she has been sleeping. And as she celebrates her birthday, it will be my turn to sleep. That's what happens when there's a 13-hour time difference.

September 17th was definitely a great day for me, and I hope that it's a wonderful day for my mom and a good day for you, too!

Monday, September 15, 2008

A somewhat schizophrenic cheerleader

The Colts versus the Patriots. Franklin College versus Hanover.

When I'm watching a game, there usually is no question about which team has my loyalty.

But not today. I ventured to the baseball diamond within walking distance from my apartment, ready to root Misaki Junior High School's baseball team to victory in the tournament. However, when I arrived at the field, I discovered the identity of Misaki's rival -- the team from Okawame Junior High.

I teach at both schools.

So of course I had to cheer for both teams! What choice did I have, really? I wanted to stay and watch the game. Not only did I want to support all of my students, it was a perfect day to watch baseball, with the weather being sunny and warm. No one had school today because of a national holiday, so it felt like a two-week late Labor Day for me. What better way to spend it than outside, enjoying the weather?

I had been told before I left Indiana that baseball is big in Japan. This is true. The tournament attracted quite a crowd, which I happily joined. As is usually the case when I'm watching a game of any kind, my attention to the sport deviated, and I began people-watching instead. I made a couple of obersevations....

#1) Tan is bad. Despite the lovely weather, I was the only person wearing shorts. In fact, most people wore long sleeves and pants. I learned that many Japanese people do not want their skin to get darker. Since watching baseball requires sitting out in the sun for a long period of time, most people covered up to avoid the sun. Or they sought shade under an umbrella.

#2) A+ for school spirit! I immediately noticed the impressive cheer block for each school. It seemed that every single student (not on the baseball team, obviously) was part of it! They would stand up and yell, had noisemakers, and always chanted the name of the batter up to bat. Oh, and both cheer blocks had a big drum, too. Although the cheering of both schools impressed me, Okawame's (pictured below) could get especially enthusiastic.

The cheering impressed me more than the game, so that's what I took a picture of!

As the game went on, I continued to cheer for everything! It was nice to be supporting both teams because I didn't have to "boo" anyone. There was no reason to get upset and no way my team could lose since I rooted for them both. :) I'm sure I confused people though. Who is this foreign girl in the shorts, and whose side is she on, anyway!?

Okawame ended up winning, 3-1. That's what happens when you have such an impressive cheering section, haha! Honestly, they deserved to win because they played better. Misaki's team had more fumbles. (That's a term I learned from watching the Colts. I wasn't sure if it applies to baseball, but it does. Did you know that "muff" is a synonym for "fumble?" Google teaches me all kinds of things!)

Although I'm athletically-challenged and sports knowledge deficient, I had a nice time watching baseball as a somewhat schizophrenic cheerleader. In fact, you could say I had a ball! :)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Some updates on life in Kuji

I've lived in Japan for over a month now. (Time flies when you're having fun!) Here are some updates on...

Feeling like a resident -- Last week, I went grocery shopping and took my list with me, which included bread, eggs, and milk...and bananas. The staples. (Yes, bananas are definitely a staple as far as I'm concerned.) While I was wandering the store -- which I'm now pretty familiar with -- I ran into the vice mayor, my "Beatles buddy!" I talked to him for a few minutes. Later, as I was reaching out for some eggs, I was taken by surprise when I heard, "Dana Sensei!" (I jumped and almost created scrambled eggs on the floor. No "yoke"ing!) It was one of my students from Okawame. We had a conversation that consisted of, "Hi! How are you? I'm fine thank you, and you? Fine, thanks." I couldn't help but think, "I have arrived. I'm at the grocery store with my list, seeing people I know and chatting with them. Feels like I'm an official citizen of Kuji!"

My relationship with B.J. (Billy Joel) -- We're taking a break. We were spending too much time together. I'm hearing from (but not seeing) other singers now, so I've moved on. But I'm sure that I'll still be hearing from him occasionally since we're still friends. ;) (Seriously, thanks for sending some cassettes so I have a variety of music to listen to! You know who you are.)

The squid -- I put off cooking the squid I received as a gift from one of the teachers at Misaki. (I wasn't sure how to prepare it, and I also was a little bit grossed out by the thought of touching it.) But I finally boiled it and ate it. Well, I ate a few bites of it, anyway. The slimy creature stunk up my apartment, and I think it was the stench combined with the weird texture, as well as thinking too much about what I was actually eating that initiated my gag reflex. I didn't mind the fried squid rings I had for lunch a couple of weeks ago. But they looked like onion rings! So I have a new rule with regards to food in Japan: Stay away from things that look like they could have been swimming just a few minutes ago! (like the squid) I just can't handle seeing my food staring back at me!

Another different food experince -- I finally had yakiniku, which is considered Japanese BBQ. I had heard of it, and am glad I finally got to try it. It's a style of cooking where you grill your own bite-sized pieces of meat at the table. Below are are a couple of pictures from dinner. A group of us ALTs -- plus Kenji, the super nice Japanese man who likes to help ALTs -- went to celebrate Oliver's birthday.

The whole group. You can see the grill at the right, where we cooked the meat and the small bowls of dipping sauces.

Just the ladies. From left to right: Jemma, Liz, Mayla, yours truly

The movement of the earth -- I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I didn't get to experience the earthquake in Indiana last spring. (I was fast asleep.) It's not that I want to be in a disasterous earthquake, I just felt like it was a moment in history that I missed out on. Well, on Thursday I was at Mugyo, and my desk started shaking a little. Everyone's desk was shaking. It didn't last long and it wasn't anything major. But now I can say I've experienced an earthquake. And I'm satisfied. :)

What I did today -- This morning I volunteered at a preschool down the street with Jemma and Liz. It was so much fun! I'm going one Saturday a month to play with the cute little kids. After our time at preschool, the three of us went to a judo tournament that our students were participating in. It was neat to watch, and I'm glad I could be there to support some of my students. Here are some pictures. (They're small because one of the teachers from Misaki e-mailed them to me this small.)

So those are some updates on what's been going on with me. Please update me about what you've been doing! I'd love to hear from you. You can always e-mail me at

Thursday, September 11, 2008

From the bottom of my heart

Usually my blog posts are light-hearted, but I can tell you now that this one isn't going to be. However, I can assure you that it will be heartfelt.

As soon as I realized today's date, I couldn't help but think about the terrorist attacks that happened exactly seven years ago. And as you know, there really wasn't anything light-hearted about Sept. 11, 2001. So my thoughts today have been reflective and solemn, as they have been and will be every September 11th.

I vividly remember learning about the attacks on America and spending the day as you probably did -- glued to the T.V. watching the unbelievable scenes unfold. It broke my heart. And it's still heartrending to think about all of the familes who suddenly and unexpectantly lost their loved ones. I recently read two books by Karen Kingsbury called One Tuesday Morning and the sequel, Beyond Tuesday Morning. Although they're fictional stories based on 9/11, the books made the suffering of people directly affected by the attack become real to me. I whole-heartedly recommend any book written by Karen Kingsbury.

There's another book I've been reading that also has me thinking about the suffering of other people. It's title is Not on Our Watch: The Mission to end genocide in Darfur and beyond. Even though there doesn't seem to be much media attention drawn to it, the fact remains that there are mass atrocities occurring in Darfur -- the western area of Sudan, Africa that borders Chad.

As unpleasant as it is to think and talk about, I've been imagining what it would be like to live in Darfur, struggling on a daily basis to survive in the midst of civil war, mass murder, rape, starvation and torture. And even though I'm being "Dana Downer" right now, I think it's important that we think about these things. But even more important, we must do something to STOP it!!

So besides making me think about genocide, this book about Darfur heartens my spirit because it encourages me to ponder what I can do to make a difference for the innocent people in Darfur. I figure that writing this blog post to spread the word about genocide is a small start. And I can encourage you to think about it, too, and check out this Web site to educate yourself:

I just read a prayer written by Naomi Levy, and I want to share it with you:

I watch the news, God. I observe it all from a comfortable distance. I see people suffering, and I don't lift a finger to help them. I condemn injustice but I do nothing to fight against it. I am pained by the faces of starving children, but I am not moved enough to try to save them. I step over homeless people in the street, I walk past outstretched hands, I avert my eyes, I close my heart.

Forgive me, God, for remaining aloof while others are in need of my assistance.

Wake me up, God; ignite my passion, fill me with outrage. Remind me that I am responsible for Your world. Don't allow me to stand idly by. Inspire me to act. Teach me to believe that I can repair some corner of this world.

When I'm in despair, fill me with hope. When I doubt my strength, fill me with faith. When I am weary, renew my spirit. When I lose direction, show me the way back to meaning, back to compassion, back to You. Amen.

Wow, that's powerful. Pretty much says it all. No matter who you are reading this, I encourage you to pray this prayer and join me in doing whatever possible to help end genocide.

Let's think about and reach out to people all over the world who have experienced/are experiencing any kind of tragedy, which of course includes 9/11. I ask this from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"Let's enjoy English. Yeah!!"

It's hard to see, but the white bubble coming from the teacher's mouth says, "Touch your head."

I absolutely love to be around enthusiastic people. And children who seem to be downright thrilled about learning English are the best!

The teacher at Osani Elementary School taught her second grade students to say, "Let's enjoy English. Yeah!!" before they begin English class. And along with screaming "Yeah!!" they raise their little fists into the air and have giant smiles on their faces. Gotta love it. :)

I tried getting the students at my junior high schools to say and do that, too, and I'm pretty sure they thought I was on something. A couple of them did it to humor me, but clearly they're too old for that kind of enthusiasm about learning English, and it's just not cool. What a shame.

But I still have fun at the four different junior high schools I go to, don't get me wrong. I help teach a different lesson at each school, so there's variety in my week. However, my first day at each junior high school went the same way: a self introduction followed by a question/answer session.

"Hello. My name is Dana Sease. I am from Indiana. Indiana is a state in America. There are six people in my family. We all have names that start with the letter "D." I am the oldest and shortest of four kids...and the speech continues..."

"This is a picture of the Sease side of my family." Family, I miss you! I've been thinking and talking about you a lot!

At each school, my goal is not only to help the students learn English, but also enjoy learning it. (Yeah!!) I no longer have to introduce myself, so from this point on I'm helping the English teacher implement his or her lesson plan. At Okawame Jr. H.S. today, I helped teach the students the difference between "I want" and "I have." At Yamane Jr. H.S. last week, we read a story and talked about the pronunciation and meaning of each unfamiliar word.

The lesson at Mugyo Jr. H.S. last Thursday was about poetry. I helped the students write a poem similar to a haiku. Here's one of the students with her completed poem:

And I wrote several of my own poems. One of them was about my brand-new cell phone and another one about my boss, Yamadate. (When I gave the poem to Yamadate, he was flattered! haha.)

Cell phone
Hard to use
I must learn how

"Noisy crazy"
Makes me laugh
Never a dull moment

As much as I like going to the middle schools, the super cute elementary kids have a special place in my heart.

At the elementary school I went to yesterday, there was an adorable little girl who said to me, "Hello. How are you? I'm fine, thank you, and you?" Haha! The little kids always get so excited to see me and have so much energy.

I just can't help but enjoy teaching them English. (Yeah!!)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fun, Friends & Food

Three of my favorites! And this weekend involved a lot of all three. :)

The teachers at Misaki Jr. High School had a welcome party for me on Friday night, so I ate dinner with all 11 teachers and the principal in a private room at a restaurant. It was so much fun and quite a feast! The English teacher at the school speaks English extremely well, so he acted as a translator.

We took our shoes off before entering the room. (I have to do this at all the schools, too.) And during dinner, we sat on the floor and used chopsticks, of course. The traditional Japanese dining experience!

The whole group. The English teacher, Mr. Nakano, is on the far right in the white shirt, and the principal is in the middle, wearing a tie.

One of the teachers from Misaki gave me squid as a welcome gift. How...err..umm...wonderful!!

At the end of the evening, we decided that sometime soon we'll have an "okonomiyaki party" at school. Two of the teachers tried explaining to me the ingredients in okonomiyaki. "Cabbage fried...yes, cabbage...and sauce and...mayonnaise. And what is it? Bread...made from bread. You know...made from bread!!" (I think the English teacher/translator was involved in his own conversation at this point. So I had to figure out the mystery ingredient on my own.) As soon as I said, "flour??" they both at the same time shouted, "FLOUR!! Yes!" *High-five!* Haha.

I also had a good time yesterday evening, when I went to a cookout on the beach for ALTs in the Iwate area. Iwate is the prefecture (kind of like a county) that Kuji is in. There were probably around 30 or so people there, and I had fun making new friends. It was also nice to speak English at my normal pace and be easily understood! Everyone brought different kinds of meat and vegetables to grill, and I enjoyed the delicious food.

Today (Sunday), I went with the other ALTs from Kuji to the U.S. Airforce base in Misawa to watch an airshow. I went expecting to see some amazing airplane acrobatics, but there was none of that. Maybe because of the rain? I also didn't see as many Americans as I had anticipated, although there were definitely more Americans at the base than in Kuji! But it was worth the drive to the base because I ate lunch at Taco Bell!!

You know the saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder?" Well, I think absence makes the taste buds grow fonder, too. :) I don't think a burrito has ever tasted so good to me! Even though it's only been a little over a month since I last had Mexican food, I've missed it. I savored every bite of the scrumptious burrito, knowing that it could be months before I have another one.

In addition to Taco Bell, there was also a Pizza Hut, a Baskin Robbins, a Cinnabon and a place to shop for American foods! So all of us walked away from the base loaded down with shopping bags.

I now have a Cinnabon to eat for breakfast tomorrow, and I'm pretty pumped about it! Oh, and I also have a packaged squid to eat for dinner -- not quite as exciting. :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Something is not quite write about this sentence.

Of the random English words and phrases that I've found in Kuji, most of them are right (not "write," haha), such as the English I wrote about in my last blog post. However, sometimes the English is wrong.

There are two kinds of wrong. First, there is the kind of wrong that makes you smile and chuckle because it's kind of cute. It's the kind that makes you think, They tried, and I understand the meaning, but it's not perfect. (For example, the title of this post!) :)

Here are a few more examples:

This was a poster in the gym where I played volleyball earlier this week.

Not once -- but three times -- the sign above the entrance to this store says "Let's Good Shopping!" Maybe this is supposed to be a play on words? -- a cross between "Let's go shopping" and "Good shopping." But somehow, I doubt that. Nice try, though!

Hmm...I guess quality can feel elegant. And I suppose that the quality of somthing can be elegant. But I know for sure that the word "elegant" has an "a" in it!

It's usually just called a toy box. Maybe even a box for toys. But not a "toys box," even though toys go into the box. See, this is why English can be difficult to learn! It's tricky sometimes.

So that's the first kind of wrong, which is the most common type. Then there's the second kind of wrong. This kind of wrong makes you wrinkle up your forehead and scratch your head because it makes no sense whatsoever!

For example, the following is a picture of Yamada, the "Best Buy" of Kuji:

Notice at the top where it says "For Your >> JUST." I really don't get it. For my what? And why is JUST completely capitalized? I'm not going to think about it too much; most likely the person who came up with that didn't put a lot of thought into it, either!

At the elementary school I went to on Monday, I couldn't help but notice the strange t-shirt that one of the little girls was wearing. The following was written on it: "Brown Sugar -- a mild and natural material to the body." Huh?? What is that supposed to mean?

I saw another t-shirt recently that struck me as funny, but now I forget exactly what it said. It was something like, "Candy in my mouth make my cheeks bulge." Ummm...okay. I guess that makes sense, but it's definitely odd.

While I'm amused by some of the things I see and hear in English, the people here often laugh at me when I try to speak or write Japanese! So it goes both ways. :) I've concluded that the Japanese must be geniuses for memorizing so many kanji characters, not to mention hiragana and katakana -- two other forms of Japanese characters. It really boggles my mind! Their language is definitely not easy for me!

But all I can do is try, right? So I applaud the efforts to speak and write English! And meanwhile, I will try to learn Japanese as much as I can. I take "a pride" (hehe) in the fact that I have memorized the entire chart of hiragana!

That's ReaLLy rAnDom!

It should come as no surprise that Kuji has a lot of signs that are written in Japanese. (You'll have that in a city in Japan! haha)

However, it came as a surprise to me that there are English words written on some of them. And you don't always know where you're going to spot some English; it's really random.

Since today was gorgeous, I went on a walk and did a little photo scavenger hunt for English words. These pictures probably aren't exciting to you --"Wow, an English word. Big whoop!" But to me, this is exciting stuff because these are words that I can actually understand while walking down the street! So anyway, here are some examples of random English that can be found in Kuji:

"Taxi" -- the only English word on this sign. Random.

I know it's hard to read, but the store name is Sasaki, and above that it says "jewelry, watch, optical."

I found this outside of what looked like a daycare. "Happy birthday" is written on the cake. This sign is double the excitement because Winnie the Pooh and friends are on it!

One of 3,454 barber shops in Kuji, where they cut and perm. I really don't know how many barber shops there are -- I chose a random number -- but it seems like a ton! They are all marked by the red and blue striped pole, which I think is kind of cute. :)

The post office is labeled in English above the door. This one's for you, Donna!

On the back of my milk carton the only English says "3-A-Day." Besides being random, I think this is neat because the same dairy campaign is in America.

English words are not the only randomness in Kuji. Yesterday, I (finally!) got a Japanese cell phone. The phone came inside a gift bag, which also had the instruction booklet, the phone charger...and flip flops!? But these aren't just any flip flops. They're giant ones that look like the outside of watermelons. Check 'em out:

It seems to me like most people here don't have feet big enough for these flip flops! And I love the random squirrels on the package. What squirrels have to do with cell phones or watermelons, I'll never know! And I'm receiving these flip flops in September, no less. So even if I could wear them, I'd have to wait until next summer. How random can you get? haha. Oh well, it's the thought that counts I guess. :)

In an effort to be a little less random myself, I'm going to *try* (being the key word in this sentence) to write a blog post every other day by 10 a.m. (Indiana time) from now on, so you don't have to guess when there will be a new post. But I'm not going to guarantee that the topics won't be random!