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Amparo Bertram

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03:58 pm: Gee, it IS winter
We got our first real snow here in Moriyama today. By "real" snow, I mean that it was visible on the ground for a while (though it melted by lunchtime). There had been a few scattered flakes this past weekend, but they vanished upon hitting any surface. The snow itself wasn't a big problem, but the strong wind that accompanied it proved annoying. Note: Biking into a freezing wind = major suckage. At least my body acted as a windshield to keep snow off my bookbag in the rear basket...

My students begin their final exams next week, and I've been scurrying to grade all assignments and write up review sheets and such. Grading can be a hoot sometimes. In particular, I gave one activity for our "shopping" lesson in which the students had to complete a conversation between a salesperson and a customer, starting with "I'm looking for ___ for my ___."

Example 1: The student clearly understands what she is writing; the content itself is funny.

Customer: I'm looking for a soccer ball for my boyfriend.
Salesperson: What color do you want?
Customer: Pink.

...Only in Japan...

Example 2: It's hard to decide whether the student understands what she is writing and is trying to be funny, made a spelling error, or doesn't understand the vocabulary.

Customer: I'm looking for a skirt for my father.

Example 3: This student clearly has no clue what she is writing.

Customer: I'm looking for a teddy bear for my sister.
Salesperson: What size do you wear?

Anyway, as the year (and my contract) draws to a close, I am now starting to panic about my future plans. The end of March used to seem so far away! I still can't decide whether I want to take a trip to Australia before going home, and I'm running out of time to make reservations. I don't have a clue what I'm going to do with all the STUFF in my apartment, since I won't have anyone staying there after me. It costs a lot of money to dispose of things like televisions and refrigerators, since you can't just stick them out in the trash.

On the bright side, I am told that if I fly directly back to America when my contract ends, the city will pay for my ticket. (That's standard procedure with JET, but I wasn't sure how it would be handled here.) That means I can't go Japan → Australia → America though, if I decide on the trip.

Another thing I did in preparation for leaving is send in my passport for renewal. Since I am applying from overseas, I had to pay the fee by way of an international postal money order. (The US Embassy in Tokyo doesn't accept personal checks. After my experience trying to cash a check in Japan, I don't blame them.) I was dismayed to discover that the privatization of the post office caused the fee for a money order to go from 300 yen (as it was last year) to 2000 yen. Youch. I noticed that ATM usage (which used to be free) now has a 100 yen fee during business hours, 200 during extended hours.

Also, the brochure I picked up states that there are now 16, count them, SIXTEEN machines in the entire country that operate 24 hours a day on an experimental basis. For Japan, this is progress. Another ten years and we MAY get weekend banking hours.

So, total cost of passport renewal: $67 (fee) + $20 (money order) + $5 (self-addressed express envelope) + $12 (photos) + $1 (padded envelope) = $105. It's a good thing I only have to do this once every 10 years.

As a final note, considering the population of my friends list, I want to recommend the game Once Upon a Time. The game consists of two decks of cards, one with story prompts, one with story endings, and the object is to use the prompts to make up a story that reaches the ending in your hand. I bought the game to play with my visitors over the holiday, and we had a blast with it (though we did add our own special rules). We wound up playing for the sake of creating a fun story, rather than for the sake of winning, but the point is to enjoy yourself anyway.



[User Picture]
Date:January 20th, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC)
Some moving advice: Look into international movers. (The company I used is Shipmates, but that was only because of the JET discount they offer; there might be other similar companies.) Really. I know I had the thing with the missing box, but I don't think that's a common occurance, and anyway, I found the experience as a whole to be a positive one. I can't imagine how I would have gotten all my stuff home trying to mail it. There's just no way. Using a company like this is easier, safer, cheaper, and faster than mailing your stuff home.

For the junk stuff you don't want to take home, talk to someone at school. It shouldn't be totally your responsibility to take care of all of it--it seems like they should at least help you with some of the more difficult to dispose items, especially the ones that were already in the apartment when you got there. You might want to look into recycle shops, too. (Um, "recycle" in the Japanese sense, not American.) I'm sure you could sell some of the furniture and stuff...I wonder if they would come and pick it up for you? That would certainly help matters.

Good luck and don't be stupid like me and put it all off to the last minute. -_-;;
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