Destination X

Wednesday’s are always a fun day. Everything from three-second rule gaffes during home economics to messy self portraits in art and, of course, English lessons. If there’s an opportunity for me to attend a workshop with the kids, I know within five minutes of entering the office. As far as JET experiences go, I wish more schools were like this. Especially since all the down time with the kids makes for greater trust once they graduate to the middle school, where I teach all levels.

So it was with a mixture of anticipation and amusement that I stood before my favorite sixth years. I’ve come to trust them in many ways: asking them to help me research local dialects spoken by their grandparents, taste testing food they’ve prepared solo, water balloon fights, recommendations for places to visit within the prefecture. Now, I was about to integrate a lesson with real world application…

“So we’ve learned a lot about other countries in this unit.”

A couple of shy yeses pop up like groundhogs in the spring. Mostly it’s quiet. I take a deep breath.

“Where should I go on my next vacation?”

“Eh?”

“Nani?”

Their teacher translates. They look back at me, half-amused and half shocked.

“I’ll go anywhere – except war zones – I’ll take pictures to show you and I’ll bring something back for everyone to see.”

Everyone reacts. “MAJI DE!”

This is the equivalent of NO WAY. Also sometimes translated as YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME and YOU’RE CRAZY.

“No, I’m 100% majiME (serious).” Luckily my lousy attempt at a pun goes unnoticed…

“France!”

“Egypt!”

“Brazil!”

“ISLAM!”

We do a 7 minute review on why Islam is not a country. And yet they’re still too enthusiastic, excited even, to pay attention.

“Okay, okay! How about next week we write down suggestions on a slip of paper and I’ll draw one from a box.”

“Maji.”

That seems to be the theme of this semester: crazy English, crazy adventures ;D

We’ll see how it goes but at the moment all we’ve decided is that this trip must take place by Silver Week 2016 and I must take many pictures with myself in front of famous places and bring something back.

The Final Road Trip (with Kim as co-pilot)

From the beloved Gonohe in Aomori to the tip of Kagoshima Prefecture. A projected 25 hour ride along the west coast according to the ever reliable demon oracle Siri, with two friends who made this year the adventure of a lifetime, and you can bet we will be hitting up every last Pokemon center on the way down and on the way up.

Okay, so it won’t be the last road trip I take, but it will be the last with dearest Kim as co-pilot. All good things must come to an end…

thefinalroadtrip

A lovely picture up above, just so everyone can appreciate that this summer may spell out certain doom. Yes, I understand that Kyushu is the single most miserable place on Earth during the summer but the challenge is there, it’s so very much temptingly there… Wanderlust comrades, unite! In reality, we may only get as far as Fukuoka. My boss, in his youth, fondly recalled setting out one day for adventure as he put it… which ended in Hiroshima, but he applauded my recklessness by adding an ever encouraging がんばるべ. Not sure if I shall rent out a car to make driver switching less of a hassle or if taking Suzu-chan for the memories would be, well, more memorable. All 4,000 km.

Which leads me to the Prefecture Bucket List of many a month ago. Considering the length of this road trip, I would be heading towards un-chartered territory (both in methods of long distance travelling and locations). Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, Hyogo, Tottori, and Shimane would be completely new destinations, with Hiroshima/Kyoto/Miyajima being blasts from the past going on round two.

Although, this also serves as scoping out the lay of the land for when Mumsie finally makes her first trans-Pacific flight during summer 2016.

And that concludes the insanity quota for the day, folks.

An Exercise In Not Lying To Myself And Not Editing

Heading off to Tokyo in a couple of hours via night bus – the sudden realization that I’ve become less and less prepared for trips the older I get. Last minute clothes shoved into a backpack, barely remembering to keep passport in hand, and perhaps the keys are in my coat pocket; somehow this feels more like living than before, irresponsible but alive… Question mark.

Lately, I have no desire to continue scheduling my life into hour-long slots any more. Being continuously trapped within four walls will do that to you, I guess. Or maybe this listlessness is a new development in nervousness. Big changes came last week in our district for our educational system, in addition to word on the street being that a new JET will be hired in Gonohe. Excitement. New things. Horizons expanding. Worlds colliding. Exclamation mark.

Sometimes people are so alive, it’s easy to forget that we’re all here on borrowed time. I think, maybe, it’s all just starting to settle into place. I think less about America as the country to which I will eventually return and more as the country from which I came. But I don’t know where I’m going next. When I first arrived I didn’t seriously consider that I would stay abroad forever. This was always supposed to be A Temporary Thing. I expect this opinion to change in three seconds/ day/weeks/months/years. Humanity is a beautiful complication, I’m not even going to pretend to understand half of what I’ve just written but the coffee was particularly strong this morning and the Word Document conveniently opened. Semi-colon.

lepetitprince

 

How to Pack for Long-Term Travel Part I

suitcase_packing

introductionIt takes many types of people to make the world go round but to some extent or other we are all travelers by nature: curious, adaptable, resourceful, and of course survivors. Our species has spread and evolved across every continent and settled in as varied a geographic setting as any that can be found on planet Earth.

But these days we travel more so for business or pleasure than for outright survival, still travelers we remain: from the casual weekend family visit and the cross country road trip to the international months-long backpacking affair and the long-term immigration settling. Unlike our medieval ancestors who were more likely to be born, raised, and die in the village/town/city of their birth, current generations are uprooting more frequently than ever before in history. Mainly for economic reasons (ironically, I cannot find a job in the country that prides itself on perpetuating the ideal of the American Dream even with a degree), which make experimentation with international unions quite popular because they facilitate this kind of uprooting for the citizens of participating such as in the case of the European Union. As such you are most likely reading this article because you are contemplating making such a move yourself and don’t know where to start. Welcome!

This article will be focusing on travel packing for upwards of a year or more but is easily applicable to the semester study abroad student stint. It’s broken down into three easy steps that will cover the initial essentials of packing and how to choose what you will be taking abroad with you.

resesarchPut those research skills to good use, my lovelies. Find out everything you can about your destination: geography, geology, and the highest/lowest/average recorded temperature are all great places to start. Become a fluent converter of Celsius (also known as Centigrade in some countries) and Fahrenheit. You may even want to look up humidity levels because dry heat and humid heat are two different situations entirely. Trust me. As a native Californian I thought I could handle heat, after all the running joke in this state is that California has only two seasons: summer… and not summer. That is until I found myself in Tokyo’s muggy, typhoon mess and between swimming in my own sticky sweat vs weather that was twenty to thirty degrees hotter but drier, I choose the latter any day. So… prepare yourself! Even when you think you’ve got something, turns out the differences might surprise you, too.

For those going to countries with significantly colder weather: although you may feel like investing in TWO suitcases just to accommodate all of your winter regalia, first stop and investigate what options, if any, your new home country will have for you. Sometimes it’s cheaper to purchase it on location than it would be to pay charges for extra check-in baggage. In the event that your new home country will not be able to carry your size (Japan, if you’re a taller/larger/wider American female such as myself – woefully a comfortable medium in USA sizing is an extra large over there) just buy the jackets/boots here and have them shipped in a box. This will save you packing headaches down the road and can be a nice care package from and to yourself 😉

inventorySo what’s in the closet? Once you’ve established what kind of climate you will be up against, the next step is to take stock of what you already own, what will work, what won’t, and what you’ll need. This is the part where people start tearing out their hair. When you’ve settled down somewhere for a comfortable amount of time and have a space of your own that you think of as permanent, you tend to settle down and accumulate stuff. And fast. This goes for furniture and living utensils as well as clothes. Rarely, if ever, do people take a mass inventory of their life’s accumulation for the sole purpose of tossing it out. Be honest, when was the last time you went about doing this?

However, this is also an amazing opportunity to donate all of your unwanted items: thrift shops, women’s shelters, religious organizations, and the Salvation Army will always welcome your used and well-loved items. If tight on cash yourself, you could always opt for the other route, which  is to sell your items as “vintage” on Etsy or eBay, but try donating what you can first to those in greater need than your own.

Start a list, draw it out, sticky notes… whatever helps you get organized.

weedingResearch. Check. Inventory. Check. Now comes the fun (or not so fun, depending on how indecisive you are)! Time to choose what to keep and what to give away/sell 😀 Below you will find an infographic from this neat website which is geared towards simplifying your closet weeding and it gives you a point of reference for what you can keep and what should get thrown out. Generally speaking, I love the flow chart style and it works if you promise not to make special allowances for a single item of clothing. Okay, well, maybe you can give yourself up to three passes but only those three >.>

Once you can mentally take a picture of everything you’ve got and everything you will most likely need to take, this will make it easier to purchase the appropriate type and amount suitcases for your trip. My rule of thumb is pack for a week and a half. Do your laundry more often and accumulate clothes over there as needed. It is astounding how little you need to actually survive. Most suitcases can’t carry much more without going over the weight limit so check with your airline and weigh as necessary.

closetweeding

 

And those are the first three steps to packing for long-term travel 😀 Next we’ll cover choosing suitcases and the lost art of packing them!

Till the next post!