Monday, December 21, 2009

Super long pre-flight post

I sent out an email to some Brebeuf peeps today, so I'm just taking an excerpt from it to post here. Enjoy! Oh, and I apologize in advance for not updating for a while and having to dump everything into one post.

I have never been good about writing blog posts or sending out email updates. Since I'm not teaching any classes today, I guess I should send out a reply! I warn you it will be long so you may want to break up reading it over a few days or weeks. lol. I'm getting ready to go back to the States tomorrow! I'm taking a couple of trains tonight to stay with a friend, (Jen) and my flight leaves tomorrow (Wednesday December 23rd) at 12:55 PM Japan time. After we all do the time warp on the plane, I'll be landing in Detroit at 10:45AM on Wednesday December 23rd. I'll tell you it feels great to get those two hours back! Jonathan and I will be in town until January 2nd, so let me know if y'all in the Indianapolis area want to hang. I need to practice my conversational English like nobody's business.

So over the course of the past month, I feel like I have done a whole lot of nothing, but I guess I was actually having a prettty good time. Jonathan and I went to Nagoya to visit friends the first two weekends in December, and we did all night karaoke both weekends. After the first bout of all night karaoke, Jonathan and I wandered around trying to find a love hotel that would rent by the hour, but we were so exhausted that we had the brilliant idea of sleeping in one of the manga cafes. They have these buildings that are filled with little cubicles where you can read manga (they offer an extensive manga library), watch anime or read manga on the computer, or do other activities like sleep. The one we stayed in was 1300 yen (about 13-15 dollars) per person for 5 hours. They gave us a room for two with a padded foam floor and bean bag chairs (used as pillows). These places have a free all-you-can-drink drink bar (non alcohol), free blankets, free slippers, and shower facilities (about 2-3 dollars for 30 minutes with complimentary toiletries and stuff like hair dryers and shit). I thought that it was friggin awesome, but Jonathan was grumpy probably because he wanted to sleep in longer but we had to meet some friends for dinner. Both weekends we sang, I had drinks, and we ate food and looked at other foreigners. It is nice to go to a big city like Nagoya after living out in isolated Oi town for so long. But, big cities are expensive so that stinks.

I was a bit lonely this past week since Jonathan went back to 'Merka (abreviation of America) early, but luckily I have some great friends, good books, and cool students and coworkers. I went out for dinner and drinks on Friday night with some of the Obama crowd (Grainne, Felipe, and Jay). We ate okonomiyaki which is like amped up omelets that you get to make yoself. The table is a grill top like you would see at a Japanese steak house or something but noone comes to make food for you so you need to make your own onion volcano and throw fish tails into your own hat if you want that kind of entertainment. I think we would actually get kicked out of the restaurant if we tried it, but maybe not since they seem to like us ok. We go to this restaurant all the time so I don't even have to tell them to leave the fish and meat and fish flakes out of my food anymore. It is pretty awesome. After dinner we went to the bar downstairs from the restaurant and had some drinks. Felipe lives way across town so he couldn't walk back home so he stayed over with me and Grainne. As we were walking home, it started to really snow, big fluffy snowflakes, and it was really beautiful. When Grainne got us home she immediately opened a big bottle of sake and practically forced us to drink the whole thing. It was a lot of fun to just hang out with other foreigners that I actually really like a lot. We all come from very different backgrounds but we mesh really well and hanging out is always fun. After the sake Grainne tried to give us more beer, but we both had places to go the next morning so we called it a night there. Felipe had his bonenkai which is an end of the year party where the teachers take a bus to another town and drink themselves into blackouts, starting at like 8AM. I had a kindergarten recital to go to, and my god it was adorable. I taught the kids two English songs so they sang those, but they also played instruments, sung Japanese songs, had a fashion show, did a hula hoop routine, did a jump rope routine, and ended with a famous dance that like every kind in Japan has to learn for every school event called soran bushi. Youtube it, it's funny.

*** The following paragraph may contain information about people living in Fukui Prefecture that is offensive or blatently incorrect. Read at your own risk!! Also, feel free to correct my information via text, phone call, or email at your earliest convenience. Maybe I am overreacting and assuming people get upset when you don't have their nationality or family situation straight, but I can't be sure so better safe than sorry!***

So I guess I want to tell you about my new friends now! Grainne is from Ireland, so obviously she was trying to get us drunk the whole night (jk (actually not jk she really was)). She is pretty much awesome and I love her to pieces. You can't drink and drive in Japan at all like not even a sip so I stayed over at her apartment in Obama Friday night. Jay is from Boston, and he brought his wife who is Japanese. They are pretty great and real sweet, and Jay is like one of the block leaders for our section of the prefecture (Reinan Block). Felipe is Canadian but originally from Latin America. I want to say he was born in Colombia but I could be wrong. Nope, I think I'm right because I remember him making a cocaine joke Friday night. Fukui prefecture seems to be filled with Canadians who were born in some other country. Like Galina, Iker, and Felipe. Maybe that is not technically 'filled,' but I only know one Canadian who was born and raised in Canada. I don't get out much so there you go. Also I'm 60% sure my friend Lucia's family immigrated to New York before she joined the JET Program. All their English is like perfect, so it is cool to have some internationalization that doesn't consist entirely of a whole bunch of white americans and australians flooding Japan. Some other friends who live in Obama are Asa, who is a foul-mouthed adorable chinese american chick that cracks me the heck up, and Edwin who is pretty awesome! He will be here for the maximum 5 years and he is engaged (now married) to a cute Japanese woman, Mayumi. Melissa lives about 40 minutes away, and she is pretty cool, a native Texan who did peace corps in the Ecuadorian mountains and on the Galapagos recently before coming to Japan, she always has great ideas about where to go and what to do and I think she is really easy to be around. Lucia lives about 50 minutes away and as I mentioned she is maybe originally from the Dominican Republic? I forget. She's a true New Yorker, and she is pretty effing amazing too. Soooo, this is getting long, eh?

I'll finish with my story of what happened to me at work yesterday. I only had one class in the morning, so after lunch I was sitting at my desk reading a book online (it's been a slow week), when Hotta sensei asked me if I wanted to help clean the lights. I was like wtf you talkin' 'bout? It turns out from 1:30-4:30 was designated clean the school time, so we all got up and started cleaning the staff room wiping everything down, washing the windows Mr. Miyagi style (wax on, wax off), and then proceeding to clean the rest of the school too! The students clean the school every day for 30 minutes after lunch, which is very common throughout Japan (maybe mandatory). So we cleaned the things the students don't usually get to like the nurse's room, the windows in the hallway, cleaning out the store room in the music room, shoveling snow off the sidewalks. In Japan they do not hire janitors, so the students and teachers do all of the cleaning, including scrubbing the toliets and taking out the trash. When I forget how different America and Japan are, all I have to do is go to the elementary school and watch little 2nd graders scrub the toilets during cleaning time.

Sorry this was excessively long, and possibly wildly inappropriate. In my defense I think I cleaned out all of the curse words.
I hope you all are taking good care of yourselves!
Love and kisses,

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy Belated Thanksgiving

Hello all,

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, but we have not been doing anything interesting. We have pretty much stayed at home for the past three weeks since I have been trying to get over a lingering cold. We had a Thanksgiving dinner party with some friends in Tsuruga on Saturday, November 21st. Jonathan made delicious pumpkin pie from scratch from Japanese kabocha, which is like American pumpkin but different. Kabocha is smaller and denser than pumpkin, and the skin is dark green. We got a package from home this week, which always brightens our day. Work is going well for both of us and we are getting excited to come home in a few short weeks. For those of you who are interested, I will put up our address in Japan at the end of this post since we have been getting a lot of requests for information recently. I believe Jonathan will be flying back to Indianapolis on December 17th, and I will be headed back on December 23rd. We both return to Japan early January, I think the 2nd and 4th. I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving, and we look forward to meeting up with some of you soon!

Laura (and Jonathan)

Laura Allen and Jonathan McKenzie
Kyouikuinjuutaku 201
46-21-1 Okata Oi Town,
Fukui Prefecture 919-2116

or in Japanese:
教育員住宅 201
アレン ローラ様, マッケンジー ジョナサン様

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Laura and Jonathan's first slideshow movie!

So I made the video bigger so it is easier to see the pictures. But, now the pictures are a little blurry and you can't read anything in the sidebar so I had to move it down. :( Oh well, try to enjoy it anyway!



Here's a little video made by me! Enjoy! It has pictures from high school, college, and life after school.

Laura (and Jonathan)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Live from Japan, it's 14 hours in the future!

Hello everyone, and happy November!

I know we have been rather remiss about updating our blog about married life and our adventures in Japan, so I decided to work on catching everyone up all at once! Jonathan and I were married June 20th, 2009 in New Plymouth, Ohio. We had a wonderful small wedding, and we will post pictures once we receive the high resolution photos in December. Most of this post probably sounds like a listing of facts instead of a traditional blog post, but too much has gone on to recap in an interesting but concise way. I have always been a woman of many words, but instead of breaking up the events of our life together in to chapters I'm writing the semi-abridged version in one post.

Our honeymoon was a blast. We decided to take a camping road trip honeymoon around the western parts of the United States for 3 weeks in late June and early July. We Ravenwood Castle, Ohio on June 22nd and got back to Indianapolis on July 14th. One week after a lovely wedding open house at the Allen family home on July 18th, I left for Japan on July 25th. I had a week of orientation in Tokyo and Fukui City, and then my supervisor picked me up and drove me to our new home in Oi Town, a small town of 9,000 people in central Japan, 5 minutes from the Sea of Japan coast. Mr. Taniguchi, my supervisor, speaks no English, and although he is a kind and hard-working individual, he is not very capable when it comes to setting up utilities, recommending car companies, purchasing a cell phone, or any other activities that are taken care of by his wife. My first night in our apartment, July 31st, was hot, humid, and lonely. Jonathan was still in America and I did not have a phone, internet, or a car. The nearest pay phone was a 35 minute walk away, at the train station. The nearest convenience store takes about 40 minutes to walk to and the two grocery stores in our town, A Co-op and Mama Store take about 30 minutes to walk to. Luckily Mr. Taniguchi took us to the grocery store that day so we could buy dinner, breakfast, soap and toilet paper. For the next four weeks I did not have a car and I had to walk through the hot humid rice fields to bring home groceries or get to the train station if we needed to go anywhere. I did not have internet for three weeks, and I did not get a phone for 1 or 2 weeks. I did, however, have 12 TV channels, so I watched a lot of Japanese music videos, game shows, and some dramas.

Jonathan arrived in Oi on a Wednesday morning, even though I was expecting him on Tuesday evening. Since I had no phone or internet, he had no way of telling me he missed his train, so I waited at the train station for him by myself at 10:00 at night until the last train came through and then I walked home alone, pretty dejected. I thought of calling my parents to see if he had checked in, but I did not want to make Mom worry about him in case he didn't call. Sorry, mom, but I know you are a worrier, and Jonathan doesn't usually call to let anyone know where he is other than me. It turns out he did call my mom and left a message for me with her. The next few months were crazy, lots of adjusting and figuring out where to go and what to do about all of the little problems that come up in life. We bought a car and car insurance all in Japanese, Jonathan found a part-time job tutoring English the next town over (more on that later), and I settled in to my work schedule traveling to 6 different schools per week all over Oi Town. I teach all grades kindergarten through middle school (which ends at 9th grade in Japan). I love all of my schools, and I am enjoying singing and playing with my students. I plan out my own lessons at the majority of my schools, and I follow a prepared curriculum at others. On Tuesday evenings I teach two additional English classes, a children's class and an adult's conversation class. There is another English teacher in town, he lives in the apartment directly below us, but he is very busy with work and so we do not have much opportunity to hang out. We have had beautiful weather overall, but there was a typhoon at the beginning of the month and a few other bad storms. We bought a clothes dryer last week, and it is amazing to have clean, dry, fluffy towels after months of line drying them and having to wait for the rain to let up enough to do another load of laundry. We are both very happy and healthy and excited about our life together in Japan. We had lovely birthdays and we are looking forward to coming home for the holidays in December. Jonathan will be home for two and a half weeks, and I will be home for about 10 days.

Hugs and Kisses,
Laura (and Jonathan)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Whirlwind everything

A quick update for all of you- Laura is in Japan right now, in Oi town. She's establishing our apartment, getting the internet set up, going grocery shopping, doing more orientations, etc. I leave tomorrow morning at 8:50 AM for Tokyo and arrive at 3:05 PM at Narita Airport. Right now it's the rainy season there, and the weather is really hot and humid. We're both really excited to be together again!

Our wedding was great; thank you to everyone for making it such a wonderful day! Pictures and all that will be coming at a later time.

Our honeymoon was decidedly grand. Like the canyon. We saw a lot of our beautiful country, which we will share with you also at a later date. We needed three months to do everything we wanted and not just three weeks. One day we'll revisit that adventure...

But now, a new adventure!



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Living in Japan

Hello everyone!

Today, Jonathan and I found out where we will be living for the next year! I was placed in Ooi City, Fukui Prefecture. We don't know that much about it yet, except for the name, but it is on the Sea of Japan coast (western side) in central Japan about 3 hours and 30 minutes from Tokyo by bullet train. I will probably be working in elementary and middle schools as opposed to high schools, but I won't know for sure until my contracting organization contacts me. We'll keep you updated!

Here's a link to Fukui Prefecture's official website. I'll put this link on the right side of this page, but here it is for now:

Here's a link to the Japan National Tourism Organization page on Fukui Prefecture:


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Registry Information


Jonathan and I have been working on the registry, and we've come up with a few things we might need for the honeymoon. I'll put the link at the end of this post and over to the right under "useful links". The registry requires a visitor's password so that random people do not log on and change things. The password is our last names, allenmckenzie, all one word. If you have any problems, please let us know. You can go the the main site and type in either one of our names to get to our registry, or you can use the lower link to get there.

We may add a few more items later, but since we are not sure where we will be living or what we will be doing, we are not registering for household items like appliances, dishes, linens, etc. Please remember the only gift we need is the gift of your presence, and that the registry is only for those who feel absolutely obligated to give us something.

Laura and Jonathan

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Info Coming Soon

Hello friends and family,

Thank you for coming to our blog! We will be updating this page soon with information about wedding weekend events, registry information, and our plans for the future. Please be patient as we finish planning! We have started posting some helpful links about the Hocking Hills area to the right, so check them out!