Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stay On the Sunny Side

Hi all,

So as I sat on the train to NYC yesterday (drying out from the downpour that kept me hydroplaning on the way to the station), the thought arose "This could be the biggest interview of my life", followed by "I sure hope not!". Because, honestly, I hope that I'll never have to look back and be able to find a single moment that is able to define my entire life. Sure, if I get the JET position I'll definitely walk a much different path then if I don't. But, if it's meant to be, it's the only path I can be on. I'm honestly at a very good point of equilibrium, if I get this position, I think I could be up for a great new challenge. If I don't, there's obviously a different place that I'll just have to find my way to.

After a minute of misdirection, (and one of the grossest bathroom changing experiences Grand Central could offer), I was able to find my way to the cleverly hidden Japan Embassy on Park Ave. I was greeted at the desk where I became I67, led upstairs with a guard escort in a group, walked through a metal detector, handed back my penny, met some recent JET returns, listened to some very hyped-up other interviewees and fought a minute of inferiority. Both JET returnees insisted that you didn't have to know Japanese, but both had some. One of the guys had been there before and became smug, while the other whitened a shade and desperately looked for an in for the conversation. I had a moment, but I realized that I was there and had represented myself honestly, and was good enough so far. I went in, shook hands, and was utterly me. I gave an honest account of my experiences and opinions on why I wanted to go, and got to demonstrate my horrible drawing skills. Not the brightest moment, but it was still fine. When I found myself back in the lobby I wasn't terribly relieved, except that now I've done all that I can. They seem to know what they're looking for, and hopefully they'll be interested in what I have to offer.

Now I get to sit and wait.

For 6 weeks.

On the bright side, I'll probably catch up with seminar soon. Hopefully. It was a busy week. Monday found me balancing a garage door (light, pull down) on my shoulder, with a 70+ villager hanging off the handle. "Dolly" lives in my house, and is the doll that her name implies...she's got a great sense of humor but is always into something (getting up early doing harmless things like denuding a dying houseplant to the not-so-harmless putting a ribbon around the cat's neck and locking her in the bathroom. When another villager commented that Dolly had been up since 5 and we asked how she knew she answered that she'd come downstairs to use the bathroom. Why? Because the cat was shut in the upstairs bathroom. Now that we've discussed that there's no litter tray and we'd rather not have a repeat of the kitty poop in the sink incident, this may stop. We hope. Anyhow...story). She has a thing about closing doors, which is limited to 1 in the house. Apparently she always closes the neighbor's garage door. This isn't very safe as she has to walk on the icy path by their car, plus she's been requested not to do it. This was the first I'd heard of I picked my battle. She came back after her first attempt, but I stoically held my ground and repeated it was time to go to work and no, this wasn't our door to close. She went away a bit weepy, but was consoled by her friend.

When I returned home from lunch, she seemed to be in fine spirits. Wanting to make sure that she knew this wasn't personal, I asked "Are we ok about that door?"

Dolly leaned over, with a glint in her eye and said "Yes...I closed it! Heh heh heh" She cackled.
She got it on the way home.

It's a start.

She really keeps us smiling though, so it's easy not to take it personally.

 I walked up behind her and rubbed her shoulders (she's a hugger and very affectionate), and she suddenly proclaimed "Don't undress me!" And then burst into laughter...

What can you say to that?

Anyhow, a villager passed away this week. It was an interesting experience. I didn't know this one, (which is surprising, but they were sick for a long time since before I even came to the village). It wasn't a big surprise, and the end came painlessly. But a loss is always felt throughout the whole community, and I attended the funeral with Schmee and the house today because it felt like the right thing to do and to support the house. The funeral wasn't what I expected, but the music was beautiful and carried a sense of peace.

This week had quite a few ups and downs. Lots of nightmares filled with death and stressful situations, but also wonderful experiences. We were having dinner Thursday night and the phone rang. This is annoying, since no one is supposed to call during meals (although we'd been interrupted at breakfast and resthour that day, so it was becoming a trend. Baker answered it, and when I asked who it was he whispered the name. I wanted to know which one, since we have 2 in the village, albeit with a great height difference, so I pantomimed the question. Short or taller? He shook his head and gestured REALLY tall..."Don't be silly, that one is in Germany!"

Nope, he wasn't.

"HE NEVER SAID GOODBYE!"...yes, he did hear that on the phone.

I also said it again when he came to our living room and flung myself at him for a hug. His response?

"Well, I didn't say hello yet either..."


Anyhow, it was wonderful and unexpected to see him. But disappointing, because he'd come over to get a ride from Baker to go back to NYC that evening. BUT, he was in town until Monday, so I got to make plans for after my interview to get together for dinner.

So, after my interview (and another gross Grand Central bathroom-changing experience) we met up. I put him in charge of navigation and we went to Chinatown/Little Italy and walked around talking until we found a place. It was pretty authentic...forks were not provided, and Dusty laughed at my feeble chopsticks attempt. Something I'd work on if I get accepted by JET. Anyhow, I was the one laughing when he realized that the panfried noodles were going to prove a big challenge.

We managed.

So, that was such a nice surprise. This year is kind of a dud. We have a TON of couples, and we don't have an "organizer" like last year. Also, everyone isn't anywhere close to 21,  which limits our after-nine activities. It's much more cliquish. I think that part of the problem is that an American could step up and organize things, but we're all pretty over-committed and simply don't have the time. (Or possibly patience). Anyhow, it's late and I need my sleep. I took a later train back last night, and it took me an hour to get home, as the rain had turned to snow and ice. Most of the roads were fine, but I was (gratefully) behind 2 snow plows, and the last few miles were actually quite bad. But I made it.

And now I need sleep.
So, hope all is well,

PS. Might've watched "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" tonight with Schmee...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Cat Pooped in the Sink Today

Hi all,

I really wish that it was April first. But, it's not, is it? I have numerous approaches to looking at this...first: BAD. Julia had come over to say hi, and was desperate for a bathroom - and since the downstairs one was being used, she ran upstairs. Of course, she noticed right away, and so I was able to get some gloves on and take care of it. Memo: house needs bleach. On the other hand, it could have been worse. I mean, there USED to be a litterbox in the bathroom, and maybe the cat was locked in accidentally. It was the bathroom, so in the right neighborhood. Additionally, she might be pissed off that she doesn't get to go into rooms or outside at night and may be a little disgruntled. Still, it was just one of those kinds of days.

People keep asking how it's going, as if they're expecting us to proclaim it's a catastrophe. It's nice to hear people are concerned, but it almost makes you paranoid when you can say things seem to be going fine for the most part - at least with everyone currently living in the house. Sure, there are some hiccups and things that we're still learning about each other. We have different styles and different needs that we have different approaches to fulfilling. But people seem happy, and we have lots of laughter around the table. Schmee, Baker and myself see how it is and know where we'd like to get it to be, but are aware of our limitations and that some things will just take some time. But I think we're all up for the challenge.

Yesterday we had our first neighborhood meeting, which was certainly a different experience from my old neighborhood, and it was just a small gathering due to it being our first meeting. It's interesting to watch the power dynamics.

It was also Franklin's birthday recently, and so I went out with my old house to celebrate. We had dinner and a movie, and it went as well as it ever did, but we made it.

In other exciting interview is only 8 days away. I've been brushing up on facts on Japan, and investigating their education system a bit. Little things just seem to be pointing to this being the next step. I'm not a huge "It's a Sign!" sort of person, but this just feels right somehow. Time will tell, but I am happy and honored that I even made it to this stage.

Anyhow, as things get settled in I'll try to post more, but no promises. My stress level is definitely up and I'm spending most of my time trying to relax or study. Seminar is marching on and I'm letting it go loosely, the interview is priority. Surprisingly, Valentine's Day was completely a non-issue this year. In years past it was always a bit romantic when I was with someone, or a bit wistful/hateful if I wasn't. But this year I was just grateful that I didn't have to worry about it. Plus, I got some good Valentines from a few friends and a very cute one from my father.

Hope all is well,

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Hi all,

So...changes again. I moved into a new house yesterday afternoon, but only managed about 45 minutes of unpacking. Schmee has been here about 3 weeks already (super excited to be running a house with her and Baker!), and she was great help for keeping me company while I tried to figure it all out. I was so exhausted after yesterday I fell asleep at 10:30 and was out hard. I've spent a little more time today unpacking and arranging, but I went from lots of shelves to 6, plus a huge closet. I'm actually put off by the whole notion of a "walk-in" closet (although it narrows in the back withe eaves), but that's probably just laziness of not being able to just stand in front of it. Pathetic, I'm sure.

The last few weeks have been a blur of getting everything wrapped up in my old house (2 audits, plus trying to file all the old financial records that have been rotting in various drawers...still might've not found them all!), going on an outing to NYC with a few people from the house for a benefit concert for a neighboring community, coping with the fact Calvin AND Buttercup ended up taking vacations at the same time for about 8 days, having a delivery pass us by, having it late this week because he had an accident, seminar, various meetings, etc etc etc.

Oh, did I mention I got a JET interview?

Yup. Still haven't gotten the letter for when, but should be at the end of the month. So, my days off will be filled with writing seminar papers and studying up for the interview.

So Steph's stress level has been pretty impressive.

There was a lot of shifts and changes and stress surrounding the actual move, that it's simply an incredible relief to be here. It's strange, as Schmee put it, because we know what we have to do...just not the details for how to do it with the people we're with. So, there's a good learning curve.

Anyhow, here's a good quote for you...backstory first: our truck driver got delayed in one of the many snow storms last week that happened on Tuesday. He called the co-op early Wednesday morning, and someone answered. He said he'd be there around 9, but might need directions. Work was off in the village that morning, but I was there waiting. At 10:30 I finally called the company. The transportation office claimed they tried to call to ask about road conditions and when they didn't reach us, had the truck bypass. They know our hours of operation, and if they called when I was on the line, surely they could've tried again or deduced that someone was there...But apparently not...

The proud-American delivery guy I have in the morning asked me about it:

"So when did the truck come in?!?!"
"Uh, it didn't..."
"Why not?!"
"Um...because they're (hold back, Steph...)...nincompoops!"
"What the hell is a nincompoop!?"
"Idiots...they're idiots"
"Oh - like you! Hahahaha"

It was pretty funny...

So, my brain is still pretty dead, so I'm about to turn in soon.

Hope all is well,