Switching sites

So
apparently I`ve hit the limit for how many photos I can upload without paying money per month.
So, since I am already paying for a domain name, all the rest of my posts will be there, even though I didn`t intend to mix them. But that photo limit is a pain!
New site:

http://www.artsandwitchcrafts.com/blog/

 

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Normal Days

You might have noticed that I`m really bad at writing or posting. >.>
It`s just…when every day feels normal, I feel like there isn`t really anything to write.

I`ve gotten tired of taking pictures of lunch, so these are probably the last for a while unless there`s something really strange or interesting:

I did think it was pretty funny that one of the lunches came with a single cherry tomato. XD

The only thing I did out of the ordinary recently was take a trip up to Sendai to see a friend. Well…to see a friend and order a doll. Volks has a full choice system for their dolls, and I`ve wanted one for the past 6 years. The Sendai store is temporarily closing, and amid rumors that they won`t have full choice anymore when they re-open, I decided that now was the perfect time to get one. I have paid off the smallest loan I had (I`m trying the debt snowball method) so I figured it was all right. I did get the smaller doll though, a 43 cm one. The 60+ cm full choice dolls cost $800+, so at the moment that`s a little out of the question. Someday, if I ever get all my loans paid off maybe.

It took 4 hours to order the full choice doll. Most of that time wasn`t even translation issues, though that was a little part of it. Most of it was all about the customization. What exactly I wanted the faceup to look like, what wig I wanted for the doll, what eyes, what legs…I was kinda amazed. The people in the store were so wicked nice and patient though, so it worked out well!

And since the Sendai store always has a photo spot for your dolls, I did bring Rhi, and she got her picture taken:

The second picture was of a creme puff thing I bought at lunch. 😛

A week in Tokyo (long post, lots of pictures)

Last week (May 3-5) was Golden Week in Japan. It’s not an entire week off, but Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were all holidays. So including the weekend, 5 days. And I took Monday off. So I had 6 days. I had decided to go down to Tokyo to see Yumi, the person who had stayed at my house for a few months, way back when I was in 3rd grade. Of course, since I’d be in Tokyo, there were other things I wanted to do as well…and turned out that May 6th was a huge dolls party!!!

Driving from my town down to Tokyo would take 4 and a half hours. However, I chose the 6 hour bus so that I wouldn’t have to worry about parking. The bus stop is about a half hour walk from my apartment, so, through sheer willpower, I forced all my stuff to fit in my backpack, only realizing too late that there was going to be a problem if when I bought stuff to bring back.

The bus took 6 hours because it stopped twice on the highway, and had three stops in Tokyo itself. At one of the bus stops I found a curious sign on the road… it says “ETC card ok?”

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Once in Tokyo, I immediately headed to my hostel to drop my bag off. I had managed to find a hostel that averaged approx $30 a night, and that included breakfast. But because of that, it was about an hour from the major towns in Tokyo.

I wasn’t happy at first despite how nice the hostel looked, because check in took a while. And they had English speaking staff, so that wasn’t why. But in 6 days, that was really the only snag I ran into, so it was all right. Each bed at the hostel got a locker and key to store important stuff. Being a hostel, I was in a room with 7 other people, and there were shared bathrooms for the floor.


As soon as my stuff was settled, I ran back onto the train to go meet two friends for dinner. I had met them at the Showa Institute in Boston when the JET program was having all those optional workshops before we left. It was nice to see them again, Suzu and Yui. And after dinner, we went for purikura! Purikura are photo booths that sort of beautify you and you can decorate them with all kinds of stickers and stuff. After that, we just wondered around Shibuya a bit before calling it a night.

Thursday, I went to meet Keenan, a friend who I had met while at KCP International School 6 years ago. For this time, we’d decided to go to the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno, since neither of us had been there before. You can see us in some of the pictures, reflected in the glass!
On the way out, we found a bookfair, and I found a Japanese copy of the book “My Father’s Dragon” though in Japanese, it’s called “Elmer’s Adventures”. It doesn’t seem to have hard kanji in it, so maybe I’ll actually be able to read it! We also stopped by a random store and found that it was Kirby`s birthday, then went to a nice little place for lunch. I had pancakes that were overloaded with sugar 😛

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After that, I ran to meet the friend that I hadn’t expected to meet. Vaelen lives in Michigan, had moved there several years ago, so I hadn’t seen him since, and while he and his fiance sometimes come to Japan for business, they pretty much always stick to Tokyo. This time, it just so happened that our trips collided. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed him till I saw him again.

So we had dinner with a couple of friends of theirs, one of whom is also on the JET program, but placed here in Tokyo. After that, we wandered around Ikebukuro, and did also get a purikura. I think those sticker machines are rather fun.

Friday, I had plans to meet up with a new friend I’d met online on the doll forum, Lorelie, but not till afternoon. So in the morning, I went one stop down from my hostel to see a famous temple.

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When I met Lorelie in the afternoon, she brought her doll too, and we met up in Akihabara. First we just wandered around a bit, talking, then went to the Volks store that’s in Akihabara. Then we wandered some more and got a purikura. 😛 We ended up eating dinner at McDonalds, which is out of the ordinary for me, since my town doesn’t have one.

In Akihabara, I found omiyage for my schools. Omiyage is sort of like a little prepackaged food that you bring back when you’ve been on a trip. I’ve never been quite sure if its a “haha don’t you wish you’d been on a trip too?” Or more of a “hey, I know you guys were all working while I was having fun, so here.”

But, three schools means enough omiyge that I had to buy a duffle bag too. Kidding, a little. Between the stuff I bought, and the omiyage, I really did need another bag. And since I have a backpack, though its small, and I have a rolling suitcase at home, I bought a duffle bag because I’ve been meaning to get one anyway.

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Saturday was the dolls party!!!! Early admission (which I had a ticket to) didn’t start till 10, but online it had said that people start lining up at 8:30! I got there around 8:45 or so. On the way, the train passed by the ocean…and just for a minute, I was incredibly homesick. Mostly for Massachusetts and the people there. And…even though it had only been a few days, a teeny bit for Minamisoma as well. But then the train arrived and I was distracted with figuring out where I needed to go. I ended up following the general crowd, since they seemed to know where they were going. And I was right…the crowd led me to an area where there were people wearing Volks staff shirts. Then I had a choice of what line to go into…the line for the hobby shop, or the official store line, or the line for the dealers market. So I went into the store’s line. There was really only one thing I’d planned on getting, but…well, let’s just say I need to stop bringing credit cards into doll stores. (Though I am planning to get a new doll soon to celebrate that one loan is paid off. Only another $100,000 to go…)

When I left the official doll store area (I’d gotten number 33, so pretty early. It actually meant 233 since 200 people had paid like double to be allowed in at 9:45), I explored everything else. There was a dealers section with all kinds of doll stuff, clothes and accessories. Some of the display dolls were wearing cute or fancy clothing, so I went around asking if I could take pictures. There was a dollie hospital type area, where if you waited, you could pay to have them fix like, tension or something on your doll. There were Volks One For All Games. Volks One for All is the charity that the company set up 6 years ago after the 3/11 earthquake, and all funds from paying to play those games goes to rebuilding, which they are still doing. I won some postcrds, doll eyes, and a plastic doll carrier. ^^ And the doll carrier even came with snacks and DDS sized pants in it! And one of my dolls is a dds, so that works perfectly. I also outright bought a cute little bag that was also for Volks One for All. They were going to have bingo at 4:20, but I’d promised to meet Yumi at 5, so I had to miss it. It made me a little sad to miss it, since in the bingo game there’s a (small) chance to get one of the dolls that they don’t sell but only auction off at events.

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But my original purpose in coming to Tokyo had been to see Yumi, so I skipped bingo and went. And you know what? It was worth it. Yumi took me to see Aladdin the Musical! I didn’t understand all of it, (it was in Japanese, of course) but the cast had so much energy, and it was so colorful, and the songs were fun, so I enjoyed it very much. I ended up buying the cd too. It annoyed me that the japanese version of the cd was like $7 more than the english version. But I had just watched and enjoyed the japanese version, so why would I want the english cd? During intermission, I had debated it, but as soon as the first song in the second act came on, I decided that I needed that cd. ^^

I can’t remember having seen this musical before. It was loosely based on the Disney movie, rather than the original fairytale. They had several nods to Disney in it as well…which kinda makes sense since I think it’s billed as a Disney musical…in the Genie’s intro song, they had him start to sing a beauty and the beast song, a song from little mermaid, and one more that I didn’t quite recognize. It was also a cool song because they were doing magic tricks on stage. Like, Aladdin sat in a chair and they covered him with a cloth and a few minutes later he tumbled out of a box on the other side of the stage! I’ve seen magicians do that trick before, and I actually know how it’s done, but it’s still fun to watch. A nod to the original movie came in the Prince Ali song. When they said he had so many monkeys, they held up a picture of Abu from the movie! Because in the stage version, Aladdin has three friends, rather than one monkey friend. And it was actually these three that sang what I think might be my favorite song from the musical. It’s called “Adventure” I think, and it’s the three friends trying to rescue Prince Ali who has been captured and put into the dungeon by Jafar. Of course, those three eventually get captured too, but the song was lots of fun to watch.

Also, the guy who played Jafar did this great evil laugh. And the guy who played Iago (Iago was simply a sidekick, rather than a bird), hit the right note of funny/annoying. The musical had great effects. Tons of lighting, some firecrackers or something sometimes, and lots of moving scenery. One thing that I thought was interesting was that it was the Genie,  not in disguise who introduced the story. He was funny too…when he officially came on in his role in the cave of wonders, he motioned that the audience should clap either more or less. And he apologized to people in the back row when he ended his intro with a saumersault. At the end too, when the cast had already done like 3 curtain calls (and Jafar’s cloak caught on the scenery once!) the Genie came out alone, motioned for more or less clapping, then ended it that way. 🙂

As much as I love listening to musicals, there’s always something special about actually seeing one in person. (Though this was only my third, I think. Nutcracker if that counts as a musical, Wicked, and now Aladdin) You can better sense the energy that went into making it, and it’s fun to watch.

Sunday, I got to visit Yumi’s house! And I met her dad, and her sister. And Yumi gave me some old clothes of hers that she didn’t want anymore, most of which I can wear to school because they’re suit type things! (And that’s another reason I needed the duffle. For the extra clothes I hadn’t expected). Yumi’s sister has a dog, and he’s cute. I was a little wary though, because Yumi said that sometimes he bites.

We went to a noodle place around the corner. I forgot to take a picture, but I need to remember that if the photo looks like there’s a raw egg on top, there’s most likely a raw egg on top. It tasted pretty good though.

Monday was check out day. In the morning before I had to check out, I ran to the station to put more money on my train card, packed everything, and came to the conclusion that even though it was so hot (21c hitting 28c around 2pm…that’s like 69f turning into 82f) I would have to wear my sweater because I couldn’t get it to fit in any of my bags. @_@

I met Yumi for lunch at this really fancy restaraunt, and I found a statue of godzilla on the way. ^^ The view from the restaraunt (which was on the 17th floor) was pretty neat, and you could see the Imperial Palace. I remember seeing it closer 6 years ago, but it’s on my to-see-again list next time I go back to Tokyo.

After lunch we headed towards the bus terminal…Yumi very nicely walked with me to help since my bags were much heavier than I’d originally thought they were. So I got to the bus terminal about 20 minutes early. The bus was supposed to leave at 3:30.

However, around 3:20, when it was time to board the bus, there was a crunching noise outside! Apparently, when trying to pull away from the wall to get into position, the bus had hit a fire extinguisher that was up on the wall! I felt bad for the bus driver, since that then led to like an hour of paperwork for him, and the bus didn’t actually leave the terminal until 4:20.

We must have made up the time on the road though, since we only got back about 15 minutes after we were originally supposed to. It was a long week, but overall fun. And I definitely want to go to another doll party!! And see all my friends again too, of course. ^_^

Day Trip to the Seaside Park

So, last week the elementary school I go to on Fridays had their school trip. And since I would have otherwise just sat in the staff room for 8 hours, they asked if I wanted to go with the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th graders. I immediately said yes.

It took an hour to walk from the school to the Seaside Park, and then the kids simply got time to wander around and play. I took some pictures, mostly of Rhi, to show off the park. (I`m not allowed to post pictures of the kids).

 

I did walk around with a few of the kids, although I think the main thing I taught them was the word `pinecone`.

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There were some pretty sakura flowers there, so I made sure to get a few pictures. The kids thought it was amusing that I was taking pictures of Rhi. ^_^

And then, at lunch, or rather, as lunch was starting to end, the kids kept coming up to the teachers and giving us snacks!

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After a little while longer of playing, it was the walk back. One of the kids who isn`t all that great in English actually talked to me a little, probably because I was using a little bit of Japanese. But his question was “What is ばか in English?” And that word, “baka” means `idiot`. >.> On the plus side though, he actually talked to me. So I`m of mixed minds about it.

Mini craft fair

One of the librarians at one of the elementary schools told me that yesterday, there would be a mini craft fair at a visitor`s stop along the highway. It was about 20 minutes from my apartment, but I figured I might as well go check it out.

It was a regular visitor`s center, from what I could see. In the main room, they had life size statues of samurai on horses:

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I forgot to take actual pictures of the craft room (there were only like four tables set up there). But the people there were so nice, and wanted to talk to me (because I was obviously a foreigner?) but that was ok since it was a good chance to practice Japanese! They always tell me that my Japanese is good, but since I don`t understand everything they say, I always say that it isn`t.

Oh, they wanted to take my picture with one of the people who had a stall…I found a mini doll sized wreath there, that I haven`t figured out where to put so I don`t have a picture of it yet.

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Then, after talking with other people more and buying more things, including mini dollhouse sized veggies for my smallest doll:

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there was a group picture.

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Not sure why and I realized after that I should have bent down more so that I wasn`t blocking someone. >.> But it was fun.

A couple of the people I got LINE information for, so I have new friends I can talk to! ^_~

Since it was rather warm yesterday, when leaving, I got ice cream. It claimed to be sakura blossom ice cream.

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Since I`ve never eaten a sakura blossom, I couldn`t say if that was what it actually tasted like, but I liked it. ^^ I`m not sure if you can tell in the picture, but it was actually pale pink.

I felt like that was a Sunday afternoon well spent. Unfortunately the next one is the weekend I`m going to Tokyo next month, but I`ll definitely go to the one in June!

Random, because why not?

I am really bad at posting all the time. I suppose it`s because, to me, I`m not doing anything interesting. I go to work, go home…and for the most part, that`s it. Sometimes I go to the store, try to figure out budget…all that fun stuff.

So I`m posting some more random pictures. School got back from Spring Break, so I have a few more school lunch pictures to share. ^_^ And it`s flower viewing season in Japan, so there are flowers pretty much everywhere. I still need to take a walk and see what I can find, since so far I`ve only gotten pictures of the flowers near my junior high.

Over Spring Break when there were no kids at the school but I was supposed to be, I made a Spring/Easter display:

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The candy wrappers were actually an online printable for dolls, since they don`t actually have those candies here. (No reeses, no laffy taffy, no starburst, no mike and ikes, no peeps, no chocolate bunnies that I`ve seen…). And I chose to draw the Easter Beagle over the Easter Bunny because I thought it would be more fun. 😛

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I got a chance to paint a kokeshi doll for some kind of contest. I already mailed it back to them, since the deadline was originally April 9 before they extended it. You can kind of tell I did it quickly and am really bad at painting faces.

A little cake from the bakery I like. It was so cute in the shape of a hedgehog that I couldn`t resist. It had an interesting flavor though…like it looks like, all that brown was chocolate. But the white? That was some kind of weird fruit flavor that I couldn`t quite place.

Some of the flowers near my Junior High. The Sakura flowers are so pretty!

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Randomly, this is a picture from a TV show I catch sometimes. I don`t remember what it`s called, or when it comes on, so I usually only see it by accident. It`s a show to teach English. My favorite segment is the small segment near the end, where they look at a sign that`s somewhere in Japan that used a weird English. That blonde guy gets so over-excited about it and goes like “Why, Japan?!” This particular sign that says “Order Biking” I would have never figured out. Apparently, the correct English would be “All you can eat buffet.” Go figure. And the other one they did this particular day (though I didn`t get a picture) was a pizza place that advertised with “Don`t you hungry?”

Some pictures of clouds, because I like clouds, and then last, a few school lunches. Monday was curry and that`s one of my absolute favorite school lunches, so I was happy. ^_^ (The little Mickey Mouse thing from today`s school lunch was a little piece of cheese, in case you were wondering what it was.)

 

Birthday

I know there was other stuff I meant to post and keep forgetting to… (that volunteer day two weekends ago, the meeting with another doll collector last weekend…) but I find today I`m distracted by the fact that it`s my birthday.

The neighbors knew that today was going to be my birthday, even though I don`t remember telling them. On Friday, I had gone over to give them some Jello since I had made a little too much (kinda on purpose)

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And in return, a few hours later, they brought me some mini manju from the little bakery nearby that I like. If I understood right, it was because they knew my birthday was coming up, which is really sweet of them.

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(I had already eaten one by the time I thought to take a picture 😛 )

So, back to today…I was thinking about birthdays in general. It`s rather funny, in some ways. As a kid, you think that your birthday means you`re king of the world, and everything revolves around you for the day. And despite knowing that it really doesn`t, it`s kinda funny that that feeling doesn`t go away completely. Like because it`s your birthday, you expect something amazing awesome to happen, even though it`s really just another day. And I have worked on my birthday the past several years, so I thought I was beyond that feeling.

Although it certainly looked like Google was celebrating…because when you click on it, all it tells you is that today is March 21st!

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…I just realized that I`m logged into Google. Which means it stalker like looked up my birthday. XD Ah well. It was still fun to see when I got to the Google homepage today.

The other thing I considered was that I`ve heard that people get more mature and responsible as they grow older. And I`m sitting here like, I don`t feel any older now than I was at like, 17 or so. And when does this becoming more responsible part come in? I`ve still got dishes left in the sink and mess in my apartment because I didn`t feel like cleaning last weekend…

Nothing way out of the ordinary happened, but it was a nice day. ^_^ It was rainy and cold all day, and while I don`t mind the rain, the cold part is a little annoying, especially since the first day of spring yesterday was so nice. But walking in the rain always makes me want to start tap-dancing and singing. ;P

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I was at an elementary school today, so that was nice. ^^ And in my last class of the day, we were going over months of the year, which I`d already done with other classes. This was the only class that asked when my birthday was. So I had to say `today` and then they had to sing. Which was embarrassing, but at the same time, was kinda nice that at least I got sung to once today.

After school I headed to the bank…today was payday, and I had already gotten a couple of bills in the mail, and the sooner I bite the bullet and transfer money back, despite the crummy exchange rate, the sooner I can pay those bills as well. (Maybe that`s the mature part I was mulling over earlier?) Plus I wanted to buy cake. That little bakery I like usually has cakes that say (in Japanese) “Happy Birthday” on them, so I wanted to try one.

I was waiting to cross the street from the convenient store (where I paid bills) to the bakery, when I noticed a small group of people hanging around a white car next door to the bakery. And one of those people was a child with a familiar school uniform. She saw me too, and immediately waved and called out, despite the fact that she`s either 1st or second grade, which means I`ve only taught her class maybe once since August when I arrived.

When I got over, she told the people she was with that I was the English teacher at her school. (Her little sisters who were twins and her dad, I found out after). And the three kids were all excited because the car they were looking at so intently was an undercover police car. And like, cool undercover…there`s a spot on the roof that opens up so that the flashing red light can come out! And then when they aren`t using it, the red light completely folds back into the car so that you can`t see it! So if that car was behind you, you`d never know it was a cop car…

One of the bakery workers came over then as well…turns out she`s the mom in that family! They didn`t speak much English (read as, only a few words), though the little girl insisted on telling me everything she did know, which included singing the alphabet song, telling me that “Inu is dog, and neko is cat.” It was cute. And her parents were nice, and we had a mini conversation for a few minutes. ^_^

Then I did go into the bakery, and there was a birthday cake there. They had two versions, a 4 person version and a five. But since it was just for me, I went with the cheaper 4 person cake.

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It says “Otanjoubi Omedetou” which literally is like “Congratulations on your birthday”

While I was checking out, the bakery mom asked me if I liked anko (sweet bean paste) and I do, so I said so. So on my way out, she gave her daughter a fried manju to give me (for free). Manju is basically doughyish breading around sweet bean paste. They`re yummy. And this one was fried! It was really good, and now I think I want to go back and actually buy some of them at some point.

Anyway, so I said “Thank you” and the little girl piped in with “Very much.” XD So of course I changed it to “Thank you very much.” And I spent another few minutes chatting with her and her parents. At one point, the girl said that there was English written on the side of the cake box, and what did it say? so I  looked, and was like “Nope, that`s french.”

And they all kind of looked at me, and the girl had asked what it said, so I defended with (in Japanese) “It says `This cake is delicious.`” Actually, I think it says something like “The bakers make (or send?) delicious cakes” but I wasn`t sure how to translate that, so I went with a simpler version. wp-1490093096936.jpg

That led into a small discussion about languages, and they wanted to know if I could speak French. I only took one semester though, so while I can read a little bit of it sometimes, I couldn`t just up and start speaking French at the drop of a dime. They were really sweet and added Japanese to the list of languages I could speak, even though otherwise I would have said only English and Spanish. Although I suppose as much better as my Spanish is from my Japanese, my Japanese is from my French.

And the little girl piped up with more English that she knew, which was “Father” and “Daddy”. So then they wanted to know what the difference was, and I looked up in my dictionary to explain that `Father` is a bit more polite. And that yes, it was the same thing with “Mother” and “Mommy”. Although then I tried to confuse them by adding in that there`s also “Mom” and “Dad”. In Japanese they do have several different versions though, so it wasn`t too hard to understand.

One thing I`ve definitely noticed living here, though it doesn`t happen a ton, is that sometimes I get odd questions because the person asking had never had a chance to ask a native speaker that question, and they were curious. I don`t mind questions like that, and sometimes it makes the conversation keep going, which can be fun.

Anyway, I went home after that, and realized that because I`d stopped to talk, the walk to the convenient store and bakery which would normally take maybe 45 minutes or so had actually taken more like 75 minutes! But since I had nothing planned, that was fine, and I did enjoy chatting with the people. It wasn`t until I cut the cake that I found out that the cake was not simply strawberry shortcake like I`d thought, but there were also pieces of orange in it! And it came with candles, in case I felt like lighting them. (I didn`t, mostly because I looked at the design and was like, where would I even put the candles?).