Hello 2018: Living Abroad

I’ve lived in Japan since I made the jump in 2013.  I’ve had the opportunity to live in two different cities while I’ve been here (not including my study abroad in Kansai in 2009).  Since I’ve come here, I’ve fallen in love with the island that is Kyushu.  So today, I’m thankful a thousand times for this chance!

Living Abroad

I’ll be honest, living in another country where English is not the native language has been a challenge.  And even though everybody studies English from Junior High School, their communicative skill in English is not very good.  Hence the reason why conversation skills are really popular.

But, when you have a challenging situation and you can power through it and be successful in another language it’s way more rewarding.  I’ve had plenty of situations where I’ve had to bumble through with my Japanese skills and though I was nervous and scared at first, but when I finished I felt such a sense of accomplishment.

Living abroad has taught me a lot about myself, and a lot about patience and acceptance.  We’ve talked a lot about making study abroad mandatory in some of my higher level classes and I truly believe that we should be encouraging more students to study abroad if they can.  It helps to make more well-rounded and diverse global citizens.  And I think on this global stage and as we continue our slow, seemingly slight descent into the future, we could use more people with level-heads on their shoulders.

Just about 2 years ago I moved to Kumamoto, Japan and I think I’ve finally found a place where I can be comfortable and happy.  When I was living in Fukuoka I felt happy, but I always felt like something was missing.  Coming to Kumamoto gave me a city full of amazing and accepting people, a wonderful night culture and the most amazing friends.  It was a bit strange how I came to be here, one day I’ll address it, but I wouldn’t change this decision for the world.

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Understanding Depression and Suicide

I hold this topic very close to my own heart, having struggled with depression for many years.  Recently there has been a lot of controversy and things in the media and I wanted to address them, mostly to help myself wrap my mind around what happened.

First, I wanted to address the sudden suicide that rocked the Korean entertainment industry, the death of SHINee lead singer, Kim Jong-hyun.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been a fan of SHINee since 2013.  I remember watching their video for Lucifer, entranced with the music and words and the handsome guys as they flashed across the screen.

I was obsessed and fell down the rabbit hole, watching video after video, eventually finding their time on Hello Baby.  If I wasn’t head over heels for them before, I was after watching the show.

It had always been one of my dreams to see them in concert, so when I woke up one morning to a good friends message that Jong-hyun had passed away I was in shock.  I immediately turned to Google and found reports about what had happened.

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Vertigo

It starts with a rumble, in some places a loud boom.  Before you know it, everything around you is violently shaking.

It seems to last for hours, but really it’s only 30-40 seconds.  Dozens of aftershocks follow, strong, but not as big as the first one.

It’s the middle of the night, sleep wants to claim you but the fear keeps you awake.  Socks still settle against the soles of your feet, waiting in case of a midnight dash.

And it happens.

You sit up, phone clutched in your hand as your world begins to tilt.  How strong is it going to be?  Bigger than the one yesterday?

You get to your feet and bam, the whole apartment starts to sway.  Everything is a jumbled mess.  Things you had picked up from the first earthquake are back on the floor, strewn about in a wild mess.

Your head finds the edge of the table, knocking you senseless but not  unconscious.  You can hear everyone’s voices in your head: Get to the table, Get to the door.

Where do you go?  Everything is fuzzy now, all you know is that you need to get out of there.  You make your move to the door, forgetting the bag you packed only an hour before.  Thankfully, the lights are still on.

Everything around you is vibrating, you can’t stay on your feet… Your head hurts so bad you’re sure that it’s bleeding… now you’re just waiting for the blood to drip into your vision.

Somehow, you reach the doorway, but not unscathed.  Days later, you won’t remember the details, everything has a dark haze around it.  You think the bathroom door handle gave you the wicked bruise on your hip.  Maybe it was the box by the doorway that got your foot.  But your arm, with the giant bruise and shredded muscles, that you have absolutely no recollection of.

In the doorway, you dare a glance back into your home.  Everything is moving, you can see the doorway twisting and turning.  Everything is flying around like some sort of Tasmanian devil has entered your apartment.

The lights go out, and you know, more than anything, that darkness terrifies you.  Somehow you manage to grab your shoes, so many people have told you over the last day to get closed toe shoes and to be careful of glass, and race out the door.  The initial quake has stopped, but the ground is already gearing up for a nasty aftershock.  With speed you didn’t know you had, you race to your co-workers door.  You’re screaming and crying, worried about their safety and afraid for your own life.

After what feels like an agonizing wait, he wrenches the door open and throws you under the table.  For the first time since it happened, you feel safe.  But then the reality of the situation hits you.  Everything hurts, the world won’t stop shaking and before it happened, this uncontrollable fear gripped your heart.  If you had listened to it, had gone and stayed with someone else, you wouldn’t have been alone and you probably wouldn’t have gotten injured.  Looking back in hindsight, you’re terrified and angry at yourself for being so vulnerable and unprepared.

Even a week later, you’re still terrified, even though you’re in another city and the aftershocks don’t always reach you here.  But when they do, that terror grips your body and brings back every memory.  You can’t be alone at night.  You have trouble even being alone during the door.  Every time you’re alone, you have to fight back the tears.  You remember the feeling, the shaking, the terror that gripped you and won’t let go, even now.  Sometimes, in the dark of the night, while he slumbers peacefully next to you, the throbbing of your own heart sends you into a fit of terror.  Every thing feels like it’s moving and you wonder if maybe one day every thing will stop, or if this is the new normal.  You’re life is now a constant vertigo.

I wasn’t going to post this here, as you know I have a creative writing blog.  But this is something really important to me.  One day, I’ll post the full story, maybe when it’s not so painful for me to remember, because even now it terrifies me. 

But I was in the Kumamoto Earthquakes 2016.  I did survive.  I was injured and have been dealing with the resulting concussion and the PTSD that it brings afterwards.  I am terrified to go back to the city I had been falling in loving with.  But I will find the courage and strength to go back

Monster Cookies Recipe

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Look at these delicious cookies.  On a very cute bunny plate (of course)!  I’ve always been a fan of monster cookies, but never thought about making them.  I have no idea why the thought never crossed my mind… But talking to a student a few weeks ago, I decided to try it out here in Japan.

What you need:

– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 3/4 cup (1 & 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
– 1 whole egg
– 1 egg yolk
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 1 cup oats
– 3/4 cup peanut butter chips
– 1/2 cup chocolate chips
– M&Ms

This recipe will make around 30 cookies (more if you like small-ish cookies, less if  you like big ones).

A few things first, finding baking soda in Japan can be a bit tricky.  It’s called タンサン here and it can be difficult to find.  If you look in the baking section (usually in the cereal aisle) you can find it tucked away near the bottom.  I went to my local Suny and after some poking around finally found it.

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Left: Baking Powder – Right: Baking Soda

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Root Canal in Japan part 3

If you haven’t read parts 1 and 2, I suggest you go back and take a peek. – Parts 1 and 2

So, after the last visit I was starting to dread the next one.  I knew it was going to be routine maintenance but I just didn’t want to go.  I made myself get out of bed and head to the dentist though.

My train was delayed leaving Meinohama, so I arrived at the dentist right on time.  I turned in my appointment card and health insurance card and sat down.  2 minutes later they were already calling me back.  She told me today they were going to clean it again and that she had extra time today, so if she finished early she was going to start measuring my gum pockets.  I just nodded my head, my thoughts drifting to my hope that the whole thing would be over as quickly as possible.

She starts by drilling off the temporary filling and pulling things out of my tooth.  All of this is painless but feels a bit strange.  Then she starts sticking a tool up there to feel around and see if I feel any pain.  Every thing is going well at this point, so she starts sticking the file up there (barbed brush – tool of the devils) and of course it hurts in the one canal.  The pain is less than it was last time, so I just gritted my teeth and bared with it.

After a while she thought they were clean enough to be filled, but she wanted to be 100%, so she stuck these wooden sticks in and sent me off for an x-ray.  This wasn’t as bad as when I had the metal needles sticking out, but still a bit uncomfortable as I couldn’t bite down. Continue reading

Root Canal in Japan parts 1 and 2

Root Canal Procedure

So, to really begin telling what happened, we need to go back about 2 months…

At my job we often get a lot of snacks from our students.  They all end up on a table in our office and we snack on them during the day.  We had gotten some cookies from a student, so at the end of the day I decided to grab one before I left.  I popped it in my mouth, went to town on it and just as I was about to swallow, I felt this sharp pain in my crown.

Back story: I got a crown about two years ago.  The filling on the cavity kept coming out and each time they re-filled it I was losing more and more tooth.  They said to save the tooth it would be better to put a crown on.  At the time I had no pain at all, so they said I didn’t need a root canal.  Considering the price in America, I was more than ok with that.  Immediately afterward I started to have sensitivity to hot/cold and some pain when chewing hard foods, but other than that I was ok.

I thought maybe some of the cookie bits had worked their way into the gap of my crown, so I decided to watch the pain for a few days to see what happened.  Every one in a while it would come and go, but it was never constant.  Then I started to have trouble in my jaw (I also have pretty severe TMD) and a lot of pain.  It started to feel like my teeth weren’t fitting together correctly anymore and about a month after the cookie incident the pain became so bad I could barely sleep at night.

So, I decided to bite the bullet and head for the dentist here.  I had been avoiding it as much as possible because you hear HORROR stories about the dentist in Japan.  I already have pretty rough teeth and I have very low pain tolerance when it comes to my teeth.  But, I knew I needed to go if I wanted to sleep, so they made an appointment for me to go the next day.

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Batten down the hatches!

There’s another super typhoon on course for Japan.  It’s going to hit the mainland Sunday/Monday.

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Image from: http://www.jma.go.jp/en/typh/ (Borrowed just to show where I live!)

This is the projected path of the typhoon.  The black circle is where I live.  The most I’ll get is some strong wind and some rain, so please don’t worry about me.  ^^ I hope everyone closer to the eye and in southern Kyushu are ok.  7 people were killed in the typhoon that hit last week.  Make sure to be smart… don’t go surfing in typhoon weather!

The storm is already weakening as it heads for Okinawa.  At it’s peak it was similar to Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Phillipines last year.  It’ll weaken even more before it reaches the mainland.

For more information on Super Typhoon VongFong, check out: http://www.jma.go.jp/en/typh/