Tuesday, July 27, 2010

bikini blues

It isn't fair. I thought that I wasn't supposed to be this scared about getting into a bathing suit after middle school.

I look pretty good in the full-length mirror sitting in my bedroom. Not airbrushed magazine good, but not too shabby.

Well, yesterday I decided to try on my bikini since I hadn't put it on in a while. I stepped further away from the mirror than I usually do. The lighting in our room comes from some weird fluorescent bulb that is only slightly more flattering than a fitting room's.

Stepping back from the mirror was a terrible, terrible mistake. I realized that not only am I a little bit out of shape, but I am also pretty gross looking in a bathing suit. I have cellulite. When did this happen? Have I always had weird ripples of fat on my thighs, and I just didn't notice because I never stepped far enough away from a full-length mirror to realize? It also doesn't help that I am paler than I have been in years. A tan really improves the way things look, even fat.

I don't know if any of this would have happened if I had just kept up with the running routine that I started last year. But no, I decided that I walk pretty often, and I have a high metabolism blah blah blah so that should be enough. Why couldn't I have realized how horrific I look in a bathing suit a few months ago? Why did it have to be now, as I'm packing to go to a tropical island?

I know that it sounds incredibly petty and vain to care about these things. Most women I know have at least a little cellulite, and they lead pretty good lives in spite of it. I don't know any super models. Zack didn't even know what cellulite was until I started shrieking about it. Most people don't even notice things like that, and if they do, they usually don't care (I don't really care if other people have cellulite).

But I think what really bothers me about this discovery is that it reminds me that I am getting older. I can't keep relying on genetics to keep me looking a certain way. I will never be as young as I am now. And infinitely more important than the way I look is how I feel. My health is going to suffer if I just sit back and let my thighs go.

Maybe THIS is the freaking final straw that will make me motivated. I have always wanted to be a fit person but I keep putting it off. And now, as punishment, I have to expose my jiggly thighs to the Balinese. I'm definitely getting a sarong as soon as I can. And a tan.

Monday, July 26, 2010

goals

I was looking at my friend Melanie's blog today. It's her attempt to get organized and figure out how to accomplish all of her goals.

I decided to do that too. At least the list-making part. And you have to read it! HAHAHA! You have no choice.

My goals, in no particular order:
1. Get at least 2 books published in my life (but hopefully more)--novel(s) and my memoir
2. Go to grad school for free dollars and do awesome at it
3. See lots of Europe and South America and hopefully more
4. Sing with a live band at least once
5. Have a great marriage that lasts my whole life
6. Volunteer for an animal charity, like Farm Sanctuary, and learn how to take care of animals
7. Have an organic garden and a house in the woods (I'm totally serious about this)
8. Master another language--probably Spanish
9. Get right with God somehow
10. Get those lines in my stomach that people get when they work out a lot
11. Be braver
12. Be vegan for at least a month
13. Go to New York and California and New England and hopefully live in one of those places
14. Go to the Iowa Writers' Workshop
15. Make the world a little better
16. Read at least 20 books a year

I guess that's all I have right now. I don't have my life together at all. I feel like other people have this secret that I don't have, like they get life memos every morning and someone forgets to put them in my box.

I bought my first pair of hiking boots yesterday. The boots are completely hideous but I guess that's the way with shoes made solely for function. In three days, I'm getting on a plane to Bali, where I'll bumble around for 2 weeks, getting lost and maybe having some fun along the way. It'll be sort of like my life in general, except that I'll have a guidebook in my hand and a pair of ugly shoes on my feet.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Continuing Saga of Emily Money

Well, as you may have noticed, the world did not end last week. That`s because there was some controversy surrounding Emily money. One of the teachers didn`t like the idea of Emily money. We`ll call her Teacher A. Teacher A was supposed to announce at a teachers` meeting that we were giving out prizes. That was what Teacher B (the enthusiastic teacher who really likes the idea of bribing kids with prizes) and I thought she was going to do. Instead, Teacher A asked all the teachers if they thought it was a good idea. Most of them thought it was.

The koucho-sensei (principal) wasn`t at school on the day of the big teachers` meeting to give his approval, so we weren`t allowed to sell anything last week until he had come back to school, had a secret meeting with Teacher A, and then debated for a few hours in solitude.

Meanwhile, Teacher B was telling students in her classes that soon they would be able to buy prizes with their fake money. Teacher A gave no such announcements in her classes. I had to turn a few students away last week because I was waiting on the koucho-sensei to give us his decision. When he finally said that it was okay, Teacher A came to me with a strangely written list of `cautions` to keep in mind when using such a reward system. But I was allowed to give out the prizes, and as far as I know, I will still get reinbursed for what I bought. On Friday, I put the prizes into boxes and typed up some price sheets. I thought that this saga was going to have a happy ending after all.

Well, now it`s Monday, and I am allowed to sell the prizes during a 15-minute break today, tomorrow, and Wednesday. That`s it. I also found out that this will the only semester that we can use the Emily money and that not all the students will know about the prizes (according to Teacher B, we have to keep it kind of secretive). So maybe the world will end right before I`m supposed to go to Bali, when some of the students realize that they can`t get prizes, and that all their hard work and cheating during Bingo games were in vain. The wages they have received mean nothing in this cold, beaurocratic world.

I didn`t mean for any of this to happen. After my initial terror at the thought of middle schoolers hunting me down all day, I accepted my fate and was actually excited about showing the kids the kawaii stationary, stickers, and pencils that we picked out for them.

So basically, I feel really awful for ever printing that first sheet of seemingly innocent $100 bills with my face in the middle. This must be what it felt like when the inventor of money, the guy who first used kaori shells or whatever to buy food, realized that he had unleashed a great evil on the world.

I`m thinking of writing a children`s story called If You Give a Kid Some Money in the vein of
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, except that it will end with the apocalypse.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The adventures of Emily-sensei

It took a bunch of middle schoolers looking at my pants and giggling for me to even notice the stain beside my crotch today.

And tomorrow might be the end of the world. And it`s all my fault.

I thought it would be a great idea to make fake `Emily money` to give out to the kids for winning games and completing certain activities.

Some of the students are completely unmotivated to participate in English class, so I thought it would be a good way to bribe them into being excited about learning my native language. I got the idea out of the JET Program book that has been passed from ALT to ALT at Eimei Junior High. I decided that just because I am a JET reject doesn`t mean that I can`t be one of those above-and-beyond kind of teachers.

They make it sound so easy. Just give the kids play money with your face in the middle, and be amazed by how much they love learning English.

I did as the book suggested. I found a $100 template on the Internet and put
my picture on it.

I started giving the money out cautiously, because I didn`t know what the students would be able to do with it later. The only idea I had was to give the person with the most money from each class a special prize at the end of the semester/year. Two of the teachers didn`t really seem to care either way about the money, since they had their own stamp reward system already in place.

But one teacher was really excited. She started asking me to give the kids money for any small accomplishment, like completing a not-hard word search in 10 minutes or saying an easy tongue twister.
There were times when I ended up giving the whole class money, which might sound like a good thing, but we all know what happens when there is too much money in circulation.

I didn`t worry. I still believed that I would only have to give out a few prizes at the end of the year, which I could easily obtain from the ¥100 shop (i.e.,dollar store). The thing that I didn`t take into account was the legacy of past ALTs, who were also inspired to above-and-beyondness by that cursed JET book. One of them made a prize list and had a little shop all set up for kids to buy prizes from. And now I have to do it too.

I bought a bag full of stuff from the ¥100 shop, feeling triumphant over any potential crises that this reward experiment may have spawned.

But the enthusiastic teacher said that it wasn`t enough; some students had about $1,000 in Emily money. So I had to stay at school late yesterday and accompany said teacher to the store to buy more prizes. I`ll eventually get reimbursed in October, but who knows if the world will last that long?

Tomorrow, the prize lists will be posted on the bulletin boards in all the classrooms and the kids will start coming. They will follow me all day. They will hunt me down mercilessly and demand stickers, erasers, and pencils in exchange for the phoney currency that I created. Next, they will demand drugs and precious gemstones. I will use up all the packs of paper in the copy room trying to appease them, printing and cutting and cursing fate for putting that JET Program book in my desk in the English room.

They will not rest until all the prizes have been bought, and then they will get angry. There will be a riot. The school will burn down and next they will destroy the entire city of Chino. Maybe they will make a bomb with all the Emily money prizes and blow up Nagano ken. The bombs might trigger earthquakes throughout the Pacific Ocean, causing untold damage and destruction throughout the planet.

Japan will blame it all on me and demand that I pay for the damages. And they will lock me up because I will have nothing but useless pieces of paper to give them.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The most horrifying article I`ve ever read.

This is why reading the news daily is dangerous. Is the end really coming or will this turn out to be like the Hadron Supercollider?

is it Friday yet?

If I don`t get a good night`s sleep soon, I`m going to shrivel into a little raisin person. Yesterday, even stolen coffee couldn`t help me. I was completely exhausted until it was bed time--then every tiny sound or change in temperature made me go crazy.

Two weeks to Bali. As usual, I am completely unprepared. I wonder if you grow out of procrastinating?

I`ve been working on a new short story since I submitted `Light as a Toy.` I honestly can`t tell if it sucks or not because I`ve been so absorbed in it. But I really hope to just finish it, sucking or not, tomorrow so that I can submit it somewhere. I`m going to let Zack read it first.

Internet searches have confirmed that Lady Gaga and the entire pop music industry are, in fact, working for the devil.

And I`m going camping this weekend. I was really excited until I realized that camping meant real camping...as in, no shower or toilet facilities any where. I love nature, but I also enjoy basic amenities. I feel like a middle schooler again because all I can think about is how disgusting my skin will look after two days of no face washing.

I`m also trying to get a performance of The Vagina Monologues organized in the Nagano area. I`ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

battle of the ages

I would estimate that it has rained for like 26 of the last 36 hours or so. I wish that I had bought a pair of ugly rain boots a long time ago.

I stole a cup of coffee today. I`m supposed to pay ¥50 per cup (that`s less than 50 cents) at work, but I left my wallet at home. I try to avoid drinking coffee because I have an addictive personality and am found of getting a buzz off caffeine.

But I woke up at 5:30 this morning. I had a weird dream about Lady Gaga. I think that her arrival on Earth is a sign of the apocalypse. The dream probably stemmed from me and Zack watching a documentary about Stephen Hawkings` views on the universe and the possibility of life existing in places other than Earth.

Clearly, Lady Gaga is an alien. She is an alien with mind control powers. She invades my Google News feed, her `Bad Romance` song invaded my every waking thought for a couple weeks, and now she invades my slumber.

In the dream, I was a commercially successful writer who had agreed to appear on some MTV special. Gaga was also appearing on the show. We were in the dressing room, where there was an aquarium full of weird sting ray-like creatures who were so smart that they could jump out of their tank and throw food to their friends. Anyways, Gaga was a bitch. That`s all you need to know about the whole thing. She was wearing nothing but fishnet pantyhose while the costumer measured her. And she was really mean. She would only talk to someone if they first complimented her, like `Oh you brilliant artist, you amazing singer you, what color eyeliner do you want?` I refused to praise her. Although I was going on MTV, my dream writer self still had some integrity. I could sense this veil of evil around her.

I wonder if dreams hold any significance at all. When it`s a bad dream, like me getting a tumor or getting in a plane crash or being kidnapped by the Crypt Keeper, I always hope that they don`t. But when it`s something strange or exciting, like the idea that Lady Gaga is really working for Satan, I kind of hope they do. I guess dreams are like your brain having a period. Dreams are the shedding of muck around your thoughts.

Thinking about life on other planets or evil existing in our own just makes me think about uncertainty. I suddenly have some uncertainty in my life. Some people find it exciting. I do sometimes. But mostly I just find it terrifying.

In other news, my ankle is pretty much all better. I didn`t have to take a day off work. It`s amazing what a laying-around-documentary-watching binge and a bag of ice will do.

I`m gonna go steal another cup of coffee.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

the end of a gimp day

I hope that I'm not less funny and interesting than I was a few years ago. I read some posts from one of my old blogs, and it seems like I was just full of wit and inspiration when I lived in a haze of drunkenness/hungoverness. Not that I want to go back to that lifestyle. But still.

It makes me wonder. How do we keep the good pieces of our youth if we lose the bad as we get older? Do you have to keep the bad--like a pretty bad drinking habit--to keep the good?

I think watching hours and hours of documentaries melted my brain a little. I watched documentaries about anorexia, 2012, the obesity epidemic, and one about David Reimer, a man whose penis was destroyed in a botched circumcision when he was a baby. He was raised as a girl because this crazy doctor was obsessed with the idea that "nurture" can influence gender more than "nature." It's a really sad story that I first heard in my women's and gender studies class a couple years ago.

Maybe that's it. I had to write these little bios to send out with my short story when I submitted it, and I realized that I've been out of college for a little over two years. I didn't really know what to put into that little bio.

"Emily graduated in 2008. Since then, she has slacked off and made excuses for herself and is only just now starting to sort of get her shit together. She currently lives and teaches in Japan."

Sometimes 24 feels so young and sometimes it feels so much older than I've ever been. I'm practically someone's wife. I make a salary. I feel inclined to fully cover my breasts in public.

I just hope that the impending doom of 25 will keep me motivated. That, and the fact that the world is probably really going to end on December 21, 2012.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

gimp

You take the little things--like having complete mobility--for granted, until they're taken away.

I actually wanted to go running yesterday. Zack and I were walking to the park near our house and admiring the sunset over the mountains when I was suddenly on the sidewalk. Apparently, I placed my foot in the one tiny dip in the sidewalk and sprained my ankle. Not only did I sprain my right ankle, but I also busted my left knee. I'm going to have a scar on top of another scar. At least once every year or so, I fall down and get a new scar on my left knee. This is why I wonder about the part of my brain that controls coordination.

I was supposed to go to Nagoya today to see a sumo match. I got up at 7 to give us plenty of time to get the bus, only to find that my ankle was still swollen and painful. Since we had already reserved the bus tickets and sumo tickets, I told Zack to go without me. Now, I'm at home, trying to keep my ankle elevated above my heart. I'm exhausted from hopping on one foot and I can't crawl because the giant wound on my knee will start bleeding again.

I also realized today, while trying to carry a plate from the kitchen to the living room without putting pressure on my ankle or spilling any food, that my workplace is completely not accessible to handicapped people. I walk to work every day, and then I have to jog up and down stairs all day to get to classes. How am I going to do that with a sprained ankle?

Japan is one of the worst places to be handicapped. The sidewalks are tiny and elevators are rare. I've only seen a handful of wheelchair-accessible restrooms since I got here last year.

Looks like I might have a day off tomorrow. Today, I am laying around and watching documentaries. Zack gets tired of hearing about how disturbing and truly fucked up the world is, but it never ceases to fascinate me. I am also going to write. I basked in the glory of my short story being published for a few minutes, then realized that I would never be able to bask again if I never finish another short story.

Unfortunately, my motivation level is directly proportional to my caffeine intake, and it is very difficult to hop from room to room while carrying hot liquids.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

VICTORY!!!!!!!!!!!

My story is getting published in Monkey Bicycle tomorrow! I`m so happy! It`s an actual literary journal. I`ll post a link to the story as soon as it`s up.

And I have a draft of another short story that I`m going to revise and finish by Monday to submit.

AND I somehow gained 3 followers for my blog in the last week.

I`m at work right now so I can`t really celebrate. But tonight I am so eating Nepalese curry and drinking a delicious beer.

I feel pretty.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

rebel with a lot of causes: EWG



Things are not what they seem.

I`m an avid label reader. It all started back in 2007, when I read Fast Food Nation and decided to become a vegetarian. While scouring labels for animal-based ingredients, I realized that there were a lot of things I couldn`t identify as being animal, vegetable, or mineral. Why are there diglycerides in my bread? What exactly is partially hydrogenated palm oil? So I did more research and felt pretty good about what I was putting into my body. All was well.

But then I stumbled upon a book called Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. The book chronicles the mission of a few women to find out what was in their beauty products. What they found out was terrifying. The U.S. government does not regulate personal hygiene products. Instead, they let the cosmetics industry regulate itself through a company-appointed Cosmetics Ingredient Review Panel. (I urge every woman to read this book, especially if you have a child. Many of these ingredients appear in products designed for kids and babies.)

Some of the chemicals commonly used in cosmetics have not been tested for safety. And some chemicals that have been banned in almost every other industrialized country are still finding their way into American products.

It was like I entered the consumer Matrix. After realizing that my scented body lotion was laced with parabens, a substance now linked to breast cancer, I couldn`t stop myself.

If the government didn`t care about what went into my personal care products--and thus my body--what else are they not protecting me from?

Apparently, a lot of things. The author of Not Just a Pretty Face works for the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that does indpendent research for the sake of consumers everywhere. Their scientists were some of the first to discover the link between BPA and birth defects, parabens and breast cancer, and how the widespread use of chemicals in the environment is affecting our health, even before we are born. (Please click the link and watch the video. It`s powerful.)

Their website has a wealth of information, including a safe sunscreen guide, a guide to which produce you should buy organic, and how the products you use in your home can lower your cancer risk. The EWG is at the forefront of the fight to get safer products and tougher chemical regulations in the U.S.

So, my cause today is education. Take the red pill and check out the Environmental Working Group website and find out how you can make yourself and your loved ones safer.

If you really appreciate all the hard work and research they continue to do in the name of education, please think about donating. Even $5 helps. At the very least, please sign their petition to help enact a Kid-Safe Chemicals Act.

I think every person I know has been touched by cancer in some way. In this artificial, chemical-filled world, we can`t afford to be uneducated. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is deadly.

Instead of just accepting our fate and saying, Well, everything gives you cancer, I`d rather say, It doesn`t have to. I`d rather fight back.

[Sorry that this post is so link heavy. This is just something that I feel very strongly about and wish that more people took seriously. It breaks my heart to know that people today are born inundated with chemicals, and that well-meaning people die of diseases every year that might have been prevented.]

Sunday, July 4, 2010

cultural exchange

Of course. I took the camera out of my backpack last week, and of course something cool happened today.

A group of students from China came to our school. I watched our first years (seventh graders) have an assembly with them. The Chinese students played recorders and sang a traditional song. Our school band played and the students sang the alma mater.

It was kind of like being on an international flight. The vice principal or whoever had the microphone would speak in Japanese, and then a woman would translate it into Chinese. The languages are completely different, even though they share some of the same characters (kanji and katakana). The schools exchanged gifts. After the assemblies, the students got to play sports and just hang out together. Isn`t that awesome?

It was one of those moments when I remembered how lucky I am to have this whole experience. I can`t believe that I live in the Japanese Alps and get to talk to Japanese people every day. Today, I got to see two different cultures come together and just learn from each other.

I guess we always get an international experience in the States, but I wish that we had something like this, too. Having a whole group of students from another country come and teach the natives about their culture seems a lot more productive than just tossing a few Spanish-speaking students into an an American classroom. Many Americans don`t know anything about their neighbors to the south, even if there are several Mexican students in their classes. There are so many different immigrants to the States but very little helpful cultural exchange. At least, it seems that way to me.

Japan really needs to have programs like this though; they are so much more isolated than people in the U.S. are.

I`m just glad I got to witness this.