Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Busy Bee Week

Whoo, doggies, ladies and gents. It has been hectic round these here parts. Rundown since I last posted:

  • Tuesday: Last day of teaching; teacher kidnaps me before I catch my train to give me a yukata (light, summer kimono). That night is Dara’s birthday dinner and karaoke. Enter Journey songs sung in gravelly Broadway/jazz voice. A friend comes to stay with me while trying to pass the driver’s test.
  • Wednesday: Liz’s last night at calligraphy (see above), houseguest
  • Thursday: Wrist flares up and chose to stay home from aikido. Paint chairs, make lunch for Friday, clean shower. Use found door to make a shelf in the kitchen (see below). Houseguest
  • Friday: Run to grocery and then home to buy the rabbit some food. Feed rabbit, eat lunch, race back to work. After work rush home, let rabbit out, change clothes, hang up laundry, race out the door to Kyoto for a farewell dinner. Catch last train home and meet up with houseguest.
  • Saturday: Clean during the morning. Go to play a taiko performance at 1, come home and pass out while scratching Kuma's forehead. Go to Liz's farewell party from taiko people. Make makizushi (the sushi with the seaweed wrap). Gain new respect for history when lady of the house/restaurant we visited pulled out items that had been in her family for hundreds of years. Laugh and stuff my face until I can stuff no more, pause, laugh, and then stuff my face again.
  • Sunday: Skyping with the family (minus Dad). Chatty, laughy, advicey, good timey. Make lunch and clean. Head to train station, meet Dara to head to church. Church. Dash out as soon as service ends, miss train even though we trot almost the whole way. Hit up Starbucks for tomorrow's coffee. Go home. Make Mac and Cheese. All the Kameoka Jets + Dara chez moi to see Liz's work on our short film project (more details on that in a later post) and a muay thai action movie, Chocolate. Go to bed.
  • Today: Make a layout for a newsletter, make videos for future posts. Go to the store after work to get an obi (fancy belt) for my yukata. Taiko is a beast. Post this beaujazz like a boss.
  • Tuesday: Return to that kidnapper teacher’s house and have dinner, play her piano, and learn how to tie the obi on the yukata.
  • Wednesday: Calligraphy
  • Thursday: Aikido
  • Friday: Taiko performance
  • Saturday: DAY OFF, SUCKERS! I will not answer my phone or door, and will sit around in pajamas all day and scratch my mosquito bites. How did I get six mosquito bites under my shirt last night? They're in my armpits, to boot.


And AFTER. YEAH. Get you some.

Also, I did plant the basil, I gave Kuma a new litter box, and so the only thing on my DIY list that I didn't do is clean out the fridge. I kind of feel like there should be food in it for me to do that.

Next up on the DIY list:
  • Finish painting chairs (one is pretty much done, but I did not do a great job)
  • Paint kotatsu
  • Reorganize closet
Those are pretty big tasks, so I'll make that it for the week. I'm going for the minimum amount of disappointment per week.

Question: There is a big empty space on the wall shown in the kitchen. Does it need something there?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

DIY Update 2


· Turn upper kitchen cabinets into seasonal/tool/rarely-used-item storage. Done and done

· Clean out fridge. Still a big fat no.

Genkan (entryway)

· Find alternative to coat tree (no room) and coat hooks (concrete walls). I got a bigger and sturdier curtain rod. I got bigger hooks. I’m awesome.


· Find a litter box solution that I like (poor Kuma, all these transitions). No time yesterday. No time!

· Fold my stupid clothes. Success.

· Vacuum, because Kuma is effectively destroying that old phone book into tiny bits. Done again.

Living Room/GeneralPaint kotatsu top and chairs (sanded and primed on Thursday)

· Plant basil cutting. Those roots are ridiculong. Still nope.

· Put most of that little junk in those cute containers I bought in March for that purpose. Yep

· Recycle plastic bottles I've had since coming here. I will be eco-friendly! Done. And I recycled my cans and glass bottles.

It rained on Sunday afternoon. As I stood with my finger on the “Open” button on the train and watched the doors shut right as Dara arrived, it began to rain. By the time I reached Kyoto it was raining so hard that people had stopped walking on the sidewalks. They stood huddled in the station, waiting for the torrents to weaken before dashing to wherever they needed to go. I, determined to get to church, marched to Starbucks (1/4th of the way to church) to grab a snack and wait for Dara. I gave up stepping over puddles when they were too wide to be traversed. My shoes and socks were soaked, my shorts were wet, and my shirt was wet. I had an umbrella, but because of the wind power it only protected my head and shoulders.

When Dara showed up she was soaked as well. We were now 20 minutes late for an hour-long service, the rain showed no signs of letting up, and we were wet. After a brief debate on how long it would take to get to the church we opted to attend Church of the Train by the Tracks.

Liz Brent was having a going-away party for herself and some of the other Kyoto ALTs. Dara and I hurried over to grab a bento from the grocery and then to my apartment. After toweling off, grabbing my camera and changing into galoshes (an awesome fashion statement with shorts) we waded through Kameoka to Liz’s place. Good times had by all, blah blah blah, and I got home at 2 a.m. Long day.

Thank you, Lord, for long weekends. Monday morning I woke up and went to meet the party people at a park. They had grabbed Mickey D’s and donuts, so I watched them eat and then we said our goodbyes. So long, people. Hope we see each other again at some point. Good luck back in the states.

Then I went home and discovered what the spates of rain had done to my paint projects.

Revenge on the weather! It ruined two days of hard work. Plus, it’s supposed to rain every day for the next week. I’ve debated laying out a tarp in my living room so that I can paint part of the piece outside, bring it in to dry, and then taking it back outside for another coat. Given the current state of my living room [picture] this could be difficult. I am planning on taking that table apart and offering it to the new ALTs or giving it to the thrift store. That monstrosity will invade my space no longer. The piano will move to the bedroom. The cow will jump over the moon. Big plans, folks, big plans.

Monday afternoon the most benevolent Lady Dara came to my apartment to help me organize. This woman is the heart of selflessness. I can only think of two other people who would help me clean and tidy my apartment without complaining or belittling me for the mess (holla to Hannah T and Aunt Joan!). I had half-joked about hiring her to help me organize, promising to pay her with food. Dara had nothing to do and offered to help me right then. I was in awe.

Dara got right to work. I tried to do laundry, broke the jar that held my detergent, folded the clothes from all over my house, and pulled tools and junk from the shelves in my room. In the meantime Dara vacuumed all of my floors, Swiffered, did dishes, and completely reorganized my shelves. Amazing. I promised her dinner on Tuesday night, which isn’t really anything because it’s her birthday. No one should have to buy their own dinner on their birthday.

Safe to say that Dara is the nicest person in the history of nice. I will buy her many a dinner since I got paid today.

Though I planned on making the day all about reorganizing and cleaning, when Margaret came down to visit we came to a bit of a halt. It was time for a break, some ice cream bars (again, courtesy of Dara) and a little chatting. Then I put all of my tools, gardening supplies and the things I use to heat my body during winter into the cabinets. It felt good, ladies and gents. It felt good.

Aside from completing the above list I plan on finishing the following during the coming week:

Collect materials to make myself a desk. I’m crafty.

Give the genkan some curb appeal

It’s going to be a busy week, so I won’t set too many goals. Thanks to farewell parties and classes I won’t have a free night until next Monday night. Ultimate goal: keep the kitchen as clean as Dara left it. Thank you, Dara, for inspiring me through your service.

Why is it, by the way, that fluorescent lighting + rainy days = massive headaches?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

DIY Update 1

It's 2:42 p.m. on Sunday and here's what I've done thus far:

  • Turn upper kitchen cabinets into seasonal/tool/rarely-used-item storage. I've cleaned them inside and out. Progress.
  • Clean out fridge. I took milk out of it, poured some in a glass, then put the carton back in. Does that count?
Genkan (entryway)Better shoe storage for genkan (entryway). Check. I switched out one of my poorly utilized jewelry shelves and turned it into a shoe rack. My entryway is so clear and ready for sweeping!
  • Find alternative to coat tree (no room) and coat hooks (concrete walls). I tried taking a page from my fellow ALT/ABIL 1 resident, Paulette's, book and put up a curtain rod up against the wall. She hangs her umbrellas from it. I thought, me too! and snagged a free rod from another ALT who had extras. No dice. Overall, fail.
  • Find a litter box solution that I like (poor Kuma, all these transitions). Cleaned out an old paper tray and am waiting for it to dry. I'll line it with a plastic sack, compost that I'm drying out, and have easily disposed of* litter.
  • Fold my stupid clothes. Halfway done. Next I have to collect the rest from everywhere in my apartment and fold those, too.
  • Vacuum, because Kuma is effectively destroying that old phone book into tiny bits. Check, though this might turn into an every-other-day kind of activity. How can something so furry be so voracious? Poor old phone book.
Living Room/GeneralPaint kotatsu top and chairs (sanded and primed on Thursday)
  • Plant basil cutting. Those roots are ridiculong. Nope.
  • Put most of that little junk in those cute containers I bought in March for that purpose. Nope
  • Recycle plastic bottles I've had since coming here. I will be eco-friendly! Nope
  • Find more concrete blocks for stairs to the back porch. A two-foot drop is just too much. Yep.
Yesterday I continued spray-painting the kotatsu cover and a chair. They're not turning out as magically as I thought, likely because Japan is a dusty, dusty country and I can't paint in a controlled environment. I'll probably lacquer the chair for some extra oo
mph and to cover up the rough patches. The kotatsu will need five million layers of white paint.

During the afternoon Kim and I went thrift store hunting. A new desk has become a near obsession, and I wanted to see if there was anything that would fit both my budget and tastes. I didn't find a desk that thrilled me beyond words, but I did find a magnificently gauche deep fuchsia bar chair that I will go back and get on Tuesday. Hello, piece of kitsch. I also found the following light fixtures:

I can't afford them right now, and am not sure if I have the skillz to switch them out for my awful light fixtures, but I am committing the sin of covetousness.

Due to the poor decision of drinking Coke at a late hour last night I was still awake at 1:30 in the morning. A fluorescent light bulb popped on—it was the perfect time to go liberate some items from the metal/plastic junk yard around the corner! After circling the block once because I was walking in front of a couple of dudes on their way from the convenience store, I snuck in. With night as my disguise I found a new laundry basket (not for laundry, but to protect my garden from the rabbit), enough brick and concrete to make a new step, and new desk materials.

Desk materials? Why, yes. I will make a desk from already-owned metal shelving, an old weird plastic door, and a heavy wooden step or shelf thingy. I'll put up pictures when I start working with it. Apartment Therapy blinded me to the hideousness of most DIY projects, but then I revisited Craftster, searched for "diy desk" and the like, and realized how foolish I am. The desks on there were often hideous, collages and shellacs and Modge Podge creations that just scream I HAVE NO TASTE!!! Some rare finds were well done, but not to my personal taste. I don't go for folksy or shabby chic. I anticipate that my wood/plastic/metal desk will turn out exactly like that—as a complete eyesore.

The one upside to "shopping" from the junk pile is that if it doesn't work out, I can always just put it back. At 1:30 a.m. while I'm high on caffeine and Hot Tamales.

*I will drop the litter in grassy areas in effort to replenish Earth's fast-disappearing topsoil. Geurilla composting! Then I will dispose of the plastic bags separately. I feel like my Environmental Science 101 professor would be proud of me.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I wrote before that I've been reading way to much Apartment Therapy for my own good. I have it in my head that I can completely transform everything in my apartment into showcase-worthy perfection. On Friday I spent the whole day at the office (my classes for that day and next Tuesday got canceled), and I did nothing but read Apartment Therapy, Google "DIY desk" and "Spray paint furniture," and list everything that I could change in my apartment. The list was long, but thanks to iWork Numbers checklists I could do nothing pertaining to work while looking super busy.

Since the tiles walls in my kitchen, toilet and sink areas are an unchangeable 1950's robin's egg blue, I figured I'd go with that throughout the apartment to help everything flow. My curtains, none of which I purchased myself, are either blue or have blue accents. I like blue. I can go with 1950's kitchen. I decided to use white (never been a fan of cream or beige) and chocolate brown as my other main colors for the new palette.

The kitchen. The 1950s. This apartment has been renovated within the last seven years, by the way.

Thanks to some unexpected expenses I've been running on a tight budget. I wanted to get started as soon as possible, but I could only allow myself to spend 700 yen (about $7) per day on my renovation. And food. It's actually been inspiring. I've been trying to figure out how to create a desk out of a bookcase and metal shelving, and discovered that dirt, a cardboard box and a plastic sack makes a great out-of-the-cage litter box (gotta do something with all that compost). We'll see where this no-money home redesign goes, at least until Tuesday, when I get paid again.

My first tasks are as follows:
  • Turn upper kitchen cabinets into seasonal/tool/rarely-used-item storage
  • Clean out fridge
Genkan (entryway)
  • Better shoe storage for genkan (entryway)
  • Find alternative to coat tree (no room) and coat hooks (concrete walls)
  • Find a litter box solution that I like (poor Kuma, all these transitions)
  • Fold my stupid clothes.
  • Vacuum, because Kuma is effectively destroying that old phone book into tiny bits.
Living Room/GeneralPaint kotatsu top and chairs (sanded and primed on Thursday)
  • Plant basil cutting. Those roots are ridiculong
  • Put most of that little junk in those cute containers I bought in March for that purpose
  • Recycle plastic bottles I've had since coming here. I will be eco-friendly!
  • Find more concrete blocks for stairs to the back porch. A two-foot drop is just too much.
Long-term projects include replacing the giant TV I never use with something small and unobtrusive, creating an eating/serving/ironing space for the kitchen, and completely reorganizing my closet.

I had sandpaper, plastic primer and white spray paint from the golden pre-budget days, so I was able to get to work quickly.

And so it begins.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quick Update

I've been pretty busy lately and have been fairly productive during my free time. I'm so grown. But this also means that I don't have as much time to sit and blog.

The coin laundry and the hydrangeas. Rainy season style.

Friday was super-busy at one of my schools. I got caught in a downpour without an umbrella on my way to school. As soon as I entered a teacher dragged me to class, forewarning me about her "monster children." I stood silently for about 10 minutes while she took care of classroom routine (really, teacher? Couldn't have let me dry off for a little bit?). Then I yelled over her monster children. Then I was shuffled to the next class. Repeat twice, then add lunch. During third and fourth periods I hid in the bathroom for a minute to regain my sanity. When I emerged there were three 3rd-graders waiting. Aft I sat down in the teacher's office for the first time at 1:40. I passed out before 8 p.m. that night.

On Saturday four of the six Turtle Hill Crew members headed into Kyoto for filming a silent movie that I wrote while playing around with iWorks templates. There was a group of college students practicing a strange dance the whole time we were there. I kind of wanted to join. I tried to get a picture of this jogger when he was lying on one of the benches, stretching his hamstrings. It was a tad obscene, but I guess that's a benefit of being a jogger. Short shorts acceptable.

Saturday night and Sunday I felt pretty awful. My head and stomach ached and my sinuses were stuffed. I sat around and made jewelry for the first time in a long time. All about the asymmetry.

Today was an office day, so I sat at that desk for eight hours. The new Jet Journal, a publication by the JET Program featuring essays and photos was calling to me, so I read through the prize-winning essays. Inspired, I spent most of the day writing bits of various essays about my experiences in Japan. Motivation? I'll tell you: prize money. One thousand bucks to Mr. or Ms. or Mrs. or Miss Grand Prize winner. The guy who won (and quite deservingly) is a friend of mine and no English major. He's just a fantastic writer. I figure with a year to prepare I can churn out something worth at least an honorary mention. It's still a little money in the pocket. Capitalism!

The parking lot next to the coin laundry. Man vs Nature

This evening I swung by the home and garden store to pick up some spray paint, sealant, and sandpaper. If you look at my Pumpkin Pie Pilgrimage post from November you can see my kotatsu. That hideous green and terra cotta-colored monstrosity sitting in my living room. I've decided that I will no longer be a slave to the ugly. I read too much Apartment Therapy for that. I am going to spray paint the top white, and if I can figure out how to safely remove the heater I'll get rid of the green, too. I have some other cheap-looking furniture that could do with a touch-up, too, so if I have any paint left I'll probably give my chairs a facelift. Woohoo!

Once I got home I played with Kuma for an hour and a half. He needs exercise time outside the cage and I still have to be in the room in case he urinates on something. Constant vigilance! He may be over puberty, but he still is a dumb kid. I need to take him to the vet and make him into an it, for his own sake. Rabbits can get testicular cancer, too. Also, I'm tired of cleaning up rabbit pee.

I took jewelry photos for Etsy while I made dinner. The sunset was gorgeous, though I couldn't quite capture it in pixels. I discovered a little friend who can reduce the gnat population of
my home (brought on by the rainy season. Go away, rainy season!). I'm assuming it's a different breed from the one who has bitten me twice at night. I did kill an eight-legged intruder this morning who was the most likely culprit. After the first bite I vacuumed like it was my job, but summer won't let me keep creepy crawlies out of my space. Nature. It's all over me.