Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Been lagging on posting. I've been mentally-drafting an entry on Japanese trains and the people in it but it needs more time to develop. I will cheat and show you some pictures with captions. 

This is what I call Monday night carnage. That's three flasks of gin, two cocktails, one bottle of wine, three bottles of original Calpis, one bottle of fruit Calpis, and a bottle of peach juice. That was shared among three girls. We are champions for drinking on a school night.

Don't you love finding random pictures in your cell phone camera? I found this gem of me prancing in front of a passed out guy at an all-night karaoke bar. I don't remember this picture being taken but I do remember mocking him and trying to wake him up. It didn't work. This guy was a goner. 

My Taiwanese couchsurfers who bummed it on my kitchen floor for two nights left me a pretty silk purse and this cute note. Every time I host I get a renewed sense of the innate kindness of people, found in perfect (now ex-)strangers! They didn't even spell my name correctly! They were so adorable. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

old bath water

Have you heard of www.couchsurfing.com? I would rather not explain so if you haven't then just check out the site and it'll explain itself to you. If you have heard of it, then great, what follows will actually make sense to you...sort of. Well, it will make sense in the way that I wordily reroute things. 

Beppu is Japan's hotspring capital. I read some statistic once that it has more hot water than any other place in the world save Yellowstone. Beppu is the slice of meat between gorgeous mountains and a glistening bay. There's so much to do, so much to see! The Hells, monkeys, sea life, wild animals, Hello Kitty and Friends! And although the city officials don't wanna admit it, it's also renowned for its dirty, seedy, raunchy underground sex industry, brimming with snack bars, porno theaters, and that infamous sex museum (conspicuously missing from its maps). It's a tourist town, with peak season in the summer (odd because I would imagine tourists would be attracted to warmth in the winter). I've come to love my town for all its worth, not that I'll ever walk alone at night. I can understand Beppu's allure to the outsider looking in. When I think of the Japanese I think of:

- efficiency
- speed
- lights
- made up and dressed up wackos and bizzaros
- bored and tired salarymen
- trains filled to the maximum capacity of people but are still completely silent
- its categorized language gauged on the level of appropriate politeness
- virginal, giggly, shy school girls
- a lifestyle infused with stifling tradition, strict customs and rituals!

Who wouldn't want to leave all that behind and make the long trek very south for...bath water? 

Let's take a look at the bath. 

Bathing is something you do completely nude, stripped down to the very literal core of your being. You're not even allowed to step into a hotspring unless you've scrubbed yourself squeaky. Any excess dirt, sebum, and baggage must be rigorously washed off and drained. Yes, even behind your elbows, neck, ankles, those hard to reach places. You can shave if you want. You are clean, naked, vulnerable to the elements. Stripped of your guard of clothing and a layer of skin cells. You are the most You you will essentially be. When you're in the water you can just let it all soak in, relax, bliss out. It's very personal; you're sitting in a pot of You Soup...or maybe a You Broth. You feel safe and protected in the warm water surrounding you, you're back in the womb. (And maybe your mother bathed you too, so it could be Oedipal...gross). The water has healing properties. When you're ready to come out you're off on a fresh start, up and at 'em, to take it all on again. Reborn. It's spiritual. Beppu is one hot spot where you can just get the fuck away from it all, away from your compartmentalized lives of home/work/work friends/friends/school rinse and repeat. 

Which brings me to couchsurfing.com. I've had a profile based in Arcadia since last September and I decided to host when I moved to Beppu. Of the 23 listed hosts in Beppu, I would estimate five hosts are actually trustworthy whereas the others seem like people who are not really the people they say they are, who might kill you, steal your shit, or do sordid things to your body while you sleep. Since The Bepp is such a popular town for all those reasons I've listed above, I get quite a few requests, for the other reasons listed above. Since moving here in late November, I have hosted twice and I have some surfers on their respective ways, a pair as soon as this weekend. My account has never seen so much action. I got THREE requests today. I declined them all and I write this entry now because I feel badly for not sharing. It's not the "sharing of my space" and the "sharing of trust" with complete strangers I've met on the internet that's bothering me. I don't mind hosting. I love meeting new people and "sharing stories." But mostly, I feel bad for declining because I really just don't want to share Beppu. I want beautiful Beppu to myself. This is My seedy little town. It's already bad that Beppu's in Lonely Planet. 

In the words of my sagacious 13 year old sister who once argued with me over something I cannot remember a long time ago, back when she could not differentiate pronouns, "It's mine, not you. Don't touch." 

And sometimes a girl just wants to have a weekend alone. I teach bratty kids all week. I wonder if there's a place I can go to just get away...

Saturday, January 17, 2009


The Japanese have this thing called "nomi-tabe-hodai" or, all you can drink, all you can eat. Which to a fat-alcoholic-greedy-American like me really translates to, "try me." It's like a gambling problem: despite the adverse and negative repercussions and the desire to stop you just cannot control the urge, the pathological compulsion to eat and drink as much as you can even though you know it's bad for your health, your waistline and when there's alcohol, your dignity. With two hours to order as much food/drinks as you want, you must get your money's worth, or better yet, turn your 3000 yen into a profit. 

The Japanese izakaya is like Texas No Limit. The pre-flop: everyone's in with their drink orders--a lovely umeshu, or plum wine, for my first bet. Then the community cards are dealt: caesar salad, gyoza, braised mushrooms, that fried chicken and mayo thing, that fatty pork cube in broth thing, that fried shrimp and some kinda red sauce goop, and that weird sticky potato thing. A fine hand, outlook's good, I'm in and invested, and you know what, waitress, I'll raise you and everyone else another glass of lovely umeshu. The turn: I'll call your deep fried cheese-su stick-u and edamame, and this time I raise you a glass of anzu, or apricot wine, on the rocks. Two hours of heavy binge eating and drinking later, the American seems to be holding on her last bet, about to fold to the limits of her stomach's allowance. And the flop: ice cream sundae. All in. Actually, screw that. Check, please. PLEASE. In this showdown, all the players fold. As any stubborn addict would begrudgingly admit, the house always wins...and I'm fat and drunk. Off to shrug off the loss of self-control and dance off the gain of weight with some peer counseling at an all-night karaoke bar. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

god's country

New layout. The main picture is the view from my balcony. Why, yes that IS Beppu Bay right yonder.

What's awesome about this teaching job is that I'm not stuck in one classroom. I'm like a traveling tutor. Yeah it's frustrating constantly trying to figure out the correct train times, sitting through ridiculously long commutes fighting narcolepsy, and deciphering obscure Japanese maps just to teach little shit Japanese kids for a lousy hour... but I get to see things like this en-route to Ozai school:

Those Ozai kids ripped me a new one but I forgive them for giving me this entry. Suckers. 

Unrelated tale of minor miscommunication! 
Went to an awesome, literally underground club last weekend and I fell in love with the deej and his tunes. While the rest of my group complained about how he wasn't spinning any danceable music (and truthfully, if he had, I'm guessing the club wouldn't have emptied out), I on the other hand blissed out to his ambient musical stylings...and since I was completely drunk, I was so diggin' the light show and shamelessly dancing all kinds of silly. I decided I wanted his CD, and assuming that the jockey didn't speaka da Englishy, I went up to his booth and asked for a "SHI-DEE." (Yes, the Japanese pronounce the letter C, "shi.") He looks up from his turntables and blankly responds, "CD?" Um, yes, I did mean SEE-DEE...thanks...it's not like I teach kids how to speak English or something. Anyway, he gets up to find me one and when he returned with a copy to gift to me, I arigatoo him profusely and awkwardly retreat to my friends all giddy and shit. Score! So as the club was closing, the DJ went up to personally say bye to me (probably because I was the only one in there actually enjoying his music) but I get so nervous trying to start an actual conversation that I decide to FORMALLY BOW to him as if he's some kind of member of Japanese parliament. Cute, Lorraine. I leave the club with my friends very shortly after. I'm listening to his shi-dee right now. It's sooo goooood. It's mellow and trippy and comforting. I don't even like electronic music normally. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

hippity hippity hop. hop. hop. hop.

Ironically, even though various brands of gin are easily found and is dirt cheap, and even though Oita is darn famous for its limes, I CANNOT FOR THE LIFE OF ME FIND TONIC WATER. I loves myself a good gin and tonic so this is depressing. So since I had nothing to do one morning I decided to sample which Japanese soft drink goes well with gin. Summarily:

- "Lemon Lime from USA" is too sweet even with plenty of lime. (And yes it's really called that, but any fool outside of Japan would tell you it's obviously NOT FROM THE USA).  
- "Soda" is just, who woulda guessed, gin with bland soda water...but on the plus side, now I know brand to chase vodka with.
- Asahi Mitsuya Cider, while pretty good on its own, is disgusting with gin. It brought out the tinniness of the Beefeater.  
- Gin and gingerale is great rolling off the tongue but mediocre to the palate. 
- And since the scientific method calls for a variable, I bought Calpis, that Japanese cum-looking yogurt water as my wildcard and my "well, it couldn't hurt."  Well slap my face and call me Issac Newton, Calpis is surprisingly excellent with gin. Winner. I spiked what remained in the bottle and toted it with me to class. I was happily buzzed through the whole day of lessons.  

Why would I need to drink before class?? Because I'm forced to sing songs like what I wrote in the subject line to my kids, and I assure you that the hippity hippity hop does not refer to the Sugarhill Gang. As much as my kids would be delighted by rocking it to the bang bang boogie say up jumped the boogie, they are just as content with singing about a damn bunny. My kids love that jingle shit. They will go batshitcrazy for a catchy tune. I will probably die thinking of the "Hello Song." A song where you literally sing "hello" 13 times in about 20 seconds. AND THERE IS CHOREOGRAPHY TOO. 

Check out my BigToaster1000 toaster oven in the photo by the way. The name and the photo's perspective lies: it's actually quite small and fits like a single slice of bread. But what's really nifty is that there's a mochi setting. Whaaaduuppp. 

In totally unrelated news, I cooked the best meat and marinara spaghetti today. It needed a bay leaf or some basil but I'm not holding my breath that I'll find that at the Daiei. During my meal I fast-forwarded through "Chasing Amy" and it was okay, but this was the first time I noticed that Jay was rolling a blunt during the diner scene. I love when Jay tells the waitress Flo to kiss his grits, nooch. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

My kids learned "chill out" today

For my new year's resolution, I'm going to make really good friends with someone in Beppu who has a boat. I'm gonna try to make it happen this Saturday so I can spend the rest of the year boat-resolution-free and muck about...on a boat. Booyah. And you know how I love to muck.

I'm also going to write more, read more, learn Japanese, and only go on Facebook once a day. 

Sunday, January 4, 2009

hong kong phooey

The awful thing about having a blog, for me at least, is the nagging problem of sporadically updating the damn thing. It's like cardio. Working out don't mean a thang, honey, if you only do it ... and now I'm too lazy to complete the simile in ghetto. Sometimes I really don't have anything to share, sometimes I have a lot to share but I'd rather not divulge what I have to say into a public forum, sometimes girl just don't wanna write, yo'. 

My cousin Jasmine told me about the "runner's wall." She hates running but she ran for an hour up a mountain one time and it was just marvelous after she hit the "runner's wall," you see. She said, yeah, running sucks and is tiring, but like after 30 minutes of just pure running you hit a "wall" where you're no longer tired and then you're running on autopilot, liberated from the tediousness and labor of running and you're kinda just in the moment and blissed out. Maybe there's a blogger's wall. 

So it's a brand new year. I celebrated the last stretch of 2008 in Hong Kong with some family and it really was the hap-happiest season of all. Sure the presents were nice, and the food was beyond satisfying, and yeah, true to my nature, I drank and offended strangers and should have been/was close to being arrested/heavily fined, and I brought some great reading material back to Japan that I cannot wait to finish, BUT....I realize more than ever that after this trip there is nothing more in this world that I value more than my family. I think I've been too busy in Japan or wrapped up in myself to realize that I miss my mom and my sister so much, and how my aunts and my cousins are so brave and strong after everything they have gone through, and I'm genuinely happy that everyone is healthy and doing well in life. GongGong and PoPo would be so happy if they were here to see how everything has worked out. I'm getting teary-eyed just thinking of them. I love that even though we're countries apart, we're so close it's annoying. What other family has an e-mail tree 15 members long? I can call any one of my cousins a sister or a brother or any one of my aunts a mother. And I can no doubt tell you that the feeling is mutual among any of the 15.       

We are so cute. In Macau with auntie Connie, sister, mother, me, Jasmine.

Back to the grind...yeah right, back to my incredibly simple "job" of "teaching English" to Japanese children. Here's to 2009 and another awesome year.