Saturday, August 5, 2017

When you hit rock bottom...

When you hit rock bottom just remember... theres always lower to go.

Ok, thats dramatic, but sometimes life can feel that way.

Turns out grandma's place is not going to be our home. Yeah, my head is spinning too. Long story short- turns out Kris isn't going to attend San Francisco State and also theres termites in the downstairs shower. So while they take care of the house we figured its time for us to go crawl in a hole and die. Just kidding, we gotta figure out plan B... plan C.... whatever we're on now.

Are you exhausted yet? Cuz I frickin am. Where do we go? What do we do? It kinda feels like fate is pushing us really hard in some direction, but what is it?! I'm kinda over it really.

If you know what we should do please tell me cuz I'm feeling a bit lost right now.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Second night

Written on July 16th, 2017

Its our second consecutive night in our now place and today was all about relaxing and feeling more comfortable here.  I never moved when I was younger but I learned a lot from moving to Japan (and then back, to Modesto). A really important part of moving, for us, has been to discover things we like near our new home and remove some of the newness and mystery. Obviously Kris has lived here before, but that was well over a decade ago so theres still lots to discover or rediscover. 

We started off with a chill lunch at the first pho place Kris ever went to. There were doubts about whether or not it was as great as he remembered- and luckily it was! Not the best we've ever had but it was close. It was also located in a shopping center we'll probably return too often as it has a Ranch 99 (asian market) and Daimo, a late-night Chinese food joint.

We also visited Target for some soap- you know you're home when you switch from travel-size soaps to full-frickin-size. By the time we got home it was late afternoon on a hot day and a nap sounded perfect. I feel like napping is also a sign of becoming more comfortable... Wait, now we're starting to sound like an adopted dog...

Anyways, after our nap we walked to Safeway- literally a 10 minute all downhill walk. Cake. Walking back wasn't too bad either. I got a ground view of our neighborhood and a good reason to walk more. Oh- and have you seen the gluten free section lately?! In Japan there was no gluten free anything, and while we were gone its like the gluten free section just EXPLODED. I love the frickin variety!

So finally back home we ate our simple dinner on our bed and watched Rocky Horror- one of the few movies downloaded to my computer. We still don't have any internet- hopefully that'll be fixed this week though.

The last, and maybe most important part of the day, was the battle. The battle between me and the spiders. You see, the spiders have fully infiltrated the downstairs area. They're all daddy-longlegs, so its not quite as terrifying as it sounds, but still. Anyways, so today I fought a battle to reclaim the bathroom. The spiders got some early hits in- mostly with surprise attacks. I know the war isn't over, but for now the bathroom is ours. The bedroom, however, is another story.

I did a couple other small things- hung up a new shower curtain and window curtains for the bedroom. I condensed some boxes that need to be moved into the storage room. There's still a ton to do but... at least its starting to feel a little like "ours".

Thursday, July 20, 2017

East Bay!

Written on July 15th, 2017

I'm sitting here in our new bed in our new home. Its 10:30PM- Kris and I just showed up after a sudden decision to spend the weekend here instead of in Modesto, where we've been living with a friend. Kris has orientation day on Tuesday at San Francisco State, so we'll stay here until after that. This trip actually marks the beginning of our transition to this location.

So more about our new home: We are going to live with one of Kris' relatives. At their house there's a downstairs master bedroom on one side of the house and a storage/bonus room on the other side. We will essentially have the whole downstairs as our private living space- however the bonus  room is basically all taken up with storage-- mostly old boxes, some spiders and a ton of dust. We're able to clean out some space in there to use as a office/painting studio though.  We do have our own bathroom, which is nice. And of course we will have access to the kitchen and living areas upstairs, but we'll probably keep to ourselves aside from mealtimes. 

We're living in a particularly hilly part of the east bay, so this house as kind of a split-level home- meaning you enter the house upstairs and the downstairs exits into the backyard. Since we are downstairs we have a window that looks out on that backyard- mostly just overgrown plants for now. The view upstairs, however, is much better. You can see the San Francisco Bay easily from the dining room- and if this dumb tree weren't there you'd be able to see San Francisco itself. The views of SF and the bay are easily one of my favorite things about this area.

This house is located in El Cerrito, which is a small town close to the more famous cities of Berkeley, Richmond, and Oakland to name a few. Kris grew up here, in this very home for a time, so he is very familiar with the area. I've only just started to drive around here- before I was too afraid of the small, confusing roads and all the inclines. I'm not used to driving on hills! Pulling out of a stop uphill terrifies me. So its on the list of new experiences to enjoy here.

Of course it sounds terribly exciting to move to a new home in such an exciting location, but it doesn't feel exciting right now. To be honest it can feel like a failure sometimes. A reminder of the fact that I failed to secure a job and a home upon our arrival in the States. A reminder that I'm currently not making money with my art. I'm sure for Kris it has the added negative stigma of moving back to your parents' house (though its not).  It feels a little like the last resort. 

But a great friend tried to put it in perspective for us. This home isn't a last resort- it isn't what we're stuck with. Because we don't have to do this- I can look for another job, heck Kris could too. But we decided not to- we decided to go for our dreams. So this home is a blessing- a blessing that allows us to pursue those dreams. Its a pathway that gives us the freedom to work for experience instead of money- to focus on improving our skills instead of working a job that will distract us from our goals.  Our time here may not always be ideal- it may be quite painful- but all transitions are. With any luck we'll look back at our time here and appreciate it. 

In the meantime I'll try to write about all the ups and downs. This is a crazy time for us- it feels much more risky and dangerous than moving to Japan. Theres a lot at stake and tensions are already beyond high. Wish us luck.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Home... kind of

We've been home for about 3.5 months now and it has been nuts. Kind of a rollercoaster actually.

When we moved we had all these plans- for an apartment, for a job, a plan for school and art, etc. Its amazing how literally not one of those plans worked out.

First for the job- I had secured a job interview for a position I am well qualified for at the vet hospital I used to work at before we went to Japan. When I finally went to the interview it turns out the position had already been filled.... but they wanted to create a new position just for me since I'm so uniquely qualified for it! That sounded awesome! It wasn't going to pay as much but we could still make it work somehow. So a month goes by and the manager I've been communicating with about this position keeps dragging his feet. Finally he calls to tell me that, for now, this new position has been terminated because they aren't making enough money to support it right now. I was devastated. All my plans fell apart immediately. Our only chance of affording an apartment in the Bay Area (without Kris having to get a full time job too) was for me to get this job with such good pay. My world basically crumbled.

So now I had no job lined up and no apartment. We were able to continue living with our friend out in Modesto (Hannah, you literally saved me life!) and we're actually still living there for now. Unfortunately its not a sustainable solution though. So what to do?

Well we did some soul searching to figure out what really mattered to us and what we need to do now. Ultimately our goals are to make it as a film maker and an artist respectively. We knew that making those dreams come true would require us to devote all our energy towards them.... Well here we are with no other obligations, all the time and energy in the world. All we need is a place to live. Turns out Kris has a family member that lives in the East Bay and has extra room for us! So a new plan formed: live with this family member and devote all our time and resources towards making our dreams come true. We've given ourselves about a year to see how far we can get towards that goal.

Its a terrifying plan- especially right now! We don't have much money coming our way right now, so its crunch time! The pressure of making things happen is pushing us hard to make things work, but right now its still unclear whether or not we can make do it... Its terrifying and stressful, but I'm really hoping it will pay off.

So now here's your chance to follow us on our next adventure out here in the bay area! Wish us luck.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Coming Home

We've been living in Japan for almost 18 months. And now its time to go home.

Since I last updated this blog not much has changed- except that we eventually stopped going to Japanese classes. We've reached a point in our Japanese level where we can get through normal everyday interactions fine, but if we wanted to get through special situations- like doctors visits and stuff- we'd need to learn a TON more. We're a bit too busy to realistically reach that level of communication so yeah... we're comfortable where we're at haha.

all the time
Kris has been filming more of our adventures here but instead of making small 2 minute videos he'll edit them together later in one big video- so we've all got that to look forward to. Aside from that he's been editing movies and writing new scripts to film when we return.

I've been arting for fun- watercolor, vector art, I'm sure you've seen it by now. I am DYING to paint in acrylics or even oils, so I'm super looking forward to that.

Everyday life here has been just like everyday life back home. Except colder. MUCH colder. We currently have the heater off to save on bills so I have on multiple layers of clothes plus two blankets. Oh WAIT-- the heater actually is currently on. Dear god this is crazy. And the bathroom isnt heated at all- so imagine spending any amount of time in there. Not fun. At least we have on those fuzzy toilet seat pads so you don't get a heart attack when you sit down.

just sat down- dead
In anticipation of our departure we've been figuring out all that we need to do:
  • Cancel our cell phone plans and close our bank account (in person)
  • Inform the government we are leaving and end our health insurance (at City Hall)
  • Cancel our internet service (on the phone? not sure)
  • Cancel utilities and pay the final bills (in person at our home on our last day)
  • Get rid of all the furniture, food and possessions we aren't taking with us (???!!!)
  • Ship home anything we don't need for now (already got 2 huge boxes of clothes ready to go)
  • Buy (used) suitcases (x3-4)
So far the only thing I'm kinda freaking out about is getting rid of all the furniture and stuff here. Some of it was rented for us by Interac- like our fridge and one desk. The rest of it needs to get taken away- hopefully by someone who has just moved to the area or something. We'll be posting it online for either really cheap or, in an act of desperation, for free as long as you pick it ALL up from our place. Ugh.

yeahhh not for us
Honestly this is a LOT less work than we had to do to get here and get everything set up. But then again, he still don't have a home or jobs lined up for when we get home... But at least we'll be able to do everything in English, so really can't be that hard.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Life Lately

as illustrated by gifs

In the morning:

at work:

Out in the world:

At home:

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Learning Japanese: immersion

You've probably heard before about how someone learned Japanese just from reading lots of manga or watching lots of anime and listening to Japanese songs. I call bullshit.

Sure, there's probably some people out there that are amazingly smart enough to do that- but I can't frickin imagine doing it. I mean, once you get to a certain level of understanding then sure, you can figure out the couple of words you don't know through context clues. But starting from not knowing anything? No way. Not for me, at least.

I feel like it doesn't even make sense to watch anime/read manga in Japanese until you're at the conversational level- as in you can basically hold a simple conversation in Japanese. At that point you'd have enough vocabulary and understanding of grammar to understand a majority of what you see- and you can look up the rest. When you try to jump into those deep waters too soon you will find that you need to look up every other word or even whole sentences. Stopping every couple of sentences to go look something up isn't really teaching you anything at all, and it can even make you feel discouraged.

People also might tell you that the only way to really progress is to be totally immersed in the language by actually going to the country its spoken in. This is also bullshit. We've obviously lived here for this long and the only things we learned through immersion were how to tell the convenience store people to heat up our bentos. Again, hearing Japanese all the time isn't going to do anything for you if you cant understand any of it- and you actually learn to just tune it all out.

The CDs that come with your textbooks, or obviously Japanese classes or tutors, can help you get exposed to listening to (and speaking in) Japanese within the context of what you understand. This is the best way to solidify those skills and build on them. If you're able to do this then definitely start speaking right away, no matter your level. They say one of the best ways to learn a language is to actually use it (at your level). There are websites that actually team you up with a native speaker of the language you're learning, like a personal tutor, so you can practice conversation at your own pace. I haven't used any so I can't really suggest one, but they're pretty easy to find online, just hunt around.

Now all that being said, I have heard of a manga that great for beginners. Its called Chi's Sweet Home and its about a kitten adopted by a young family. Through the series the Japanese is very simple and slowly progresses, perfect for learning along. I have the first book and so far I'm still at the level where I need to translate something every couple of words so I had to put it down and practice a bit more. My goal is to start reading it this summer, so I'll let you know how it goes.


Friday, May 6, 2016

Summer is coming

Golden week just passed! It was three awesome days off in the middle of the week, Tuesday to Thursday. Golden week is three consecutive national holidays: Constitution Memorial day, Green day, and Boys'/Children's day.

Each color of fish represents a specific family member- ours is just Kris (in black) and me (in red).
For Tuesday Kris and I mostly relaxed, but we also went and picked up this awesome indoor yaki-niku grill. It was less than $80 and totally worth it as we'll save that much by eating yakiniku at home very quickly. We've already used it twice and we're super satisfied with the tasty results.

Grilled food is the best food.

Wednesday we went to Ikea in nearby Tachikawa to spend time with some friends and eat some swedish meatballs. It was a nice relaxing day that included a cool view of Mt. Fuji that is horribly represented by this photo:

Mt. Fuji is the snowy mountain top in the middle, very very very far away... like from San Francisco to Morgan Hill.

Finally, on Thursday we went to our first matsuri (festival) of the year. We went to Fuchu, about 40 minutes away, and hit up the Kurayami Matsuri, or Darkness Festival. It was the last day of the festival so there was a TON of people, but there was also a TON of amazing food and some cool things to see! As we spent most of the time filming video I dont have many good photos from my phone, but here are a couple.

Chocolate Stick Waffle!!! Why don't all festivals in the world have this???

The event was in a huge shaded park with tons of trees.

Tons of people, beautiful banners.

Power cords ran like vines around this place.

The walkway to the shrine.

Chocolate bananas were adorable and plentiful.

Cotton candy with popular characters- can you name them all?

A rotating shooting range for pellet guns- win a prize if you knock one down!

One of the many food stand alleys.

Delicious grilled meats made right in the stand.

We found a churro stand! It had cinnamon, chocolate, strawberry and sugar flavors.

The giant drums came down the parade route, pulled by about 40 people.

These people led the drum team with lanterns.

Candied strawberries- hard candy shell with sugar, warm ripe strawberries inside. Outstanding.

So look forward to a video about this festival soon. We have another festival to look forward to in another week too. Today, Friday, I had work again, but luckily only two classes so I relaxed and studied Japanese the rest of the day. Since today is our anniversary Kris and I enjoyed some amazing yakiniku and delicious ice cream dessert. It was a pretty low-key event but we had one of those "WHOA, we're in Japan" moments when we realized we were eating yakiniku in our livingroom in Japan for our anniversary. So much can change in a year.

As its getting warmer and summer is creeping up we're simultaneously excited about festivals and cicadas and dreading the killer humidity. Look forward to the festival video soon.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Japanese- next steps

Now that you've (hopefully) learned katakana and hiragana, you're ready to learn some real Japanese! Now is a good time to go back to the notes I wrote from our first Japanese lesson HERE. In those notes you'll learn how to make a short greeting and say a little about where you are from. This is a great start!

If you dont yet have a Japanese textbook YouTube will be your best friend. There are tons of YouTube channels that teach beginner Japanese or help explain certain concepts and give advice on studying! Here's a list of some of the ones I watched (click for link):

Japanese Pod 101
Japan Society NYC
Japanese from Zero
Japanese Joshi

If you're serious about learning Japanese you're honestly going to need a textbook. I mean you wouldn't try to learn calculus just from watching YouTube videos right? So bite the bullet and buy a textbook. Obviously you can always find cheap, new, and used books on Amazon which is how we got our textbook. I did a bit of research and found out that many people recommended the Genki Japanese Textbook so thats what we went with, but there are some pros and cons.

Pros: it does a great job of explaining grammar points and it has you practice those points with all sorts of written questions. Cons: its focused on learning Japanese from the perspective of an international university student so a lot of the vocabulary and dialogue is centered around school and not normal daily dialogue you'd otherwise use. We also bought the extra workbook that goes with the Genki textbook. Its great if you just want even more written questions to practice the grammar you've learned, but its by no means essential. The textbook and workbook also come with CDs so you can listen to the dailogue you learn and theres even listening questions to work on, but I've been a bit lazy on studying at home with my computer and the CD so I haven't utilized this enough to comment on it. I bet if I used this feature more I'd be better at listening in Japanese...

So I would recommend getting the Genki workbook for the great grammar explanation, but it might also be useful to get another book that supplements that textbook with different kinds of vocab and topics- which is what we're doing with Japanese classes and the new textbook we got for those classes.

Like I said before, to make (and keep) progress its important to study daily, or as close to that as is realistic for you. At work when I don't have a class I spend my time working in my Genki textbook are drilling kanji/vocab flashcards. It does get a bit tedious, and sometimes I just can't stuff any more Japanese into my brain so I need a frickin break. but ultimately this has helped me advance as far as I have. Hey, learning something as difficult as a new language, especially Japanese, isnt going to be easy. It's just not. But it will be rewarding and exciting! So go check out some textbooks and keep practicing your vocab and kana in the meantime.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Second Japanese Class

Last Wednesday we went to our second Japanese class! So that means I have new notes for you to study. We started out reviewing the things we learned last class, which just meant asking each other the questions about our name, country, and where we live. Click HERE to go back to that first class we had. After that short review we moved on to numbers! This time we talked about time and price. Once again, my notes from class can be found HERE.

Since the last class Kris and I were able to find the textbook- and apparently we bought the last one because no one else in class has found one, even at the bookstore we got ours at.... oops. So the book has almost no English in it. It's designed so that people from any country can use it to learn Japanese- but you need to know hiragana and the basics of Japanese grammar and vocabulary first. It seems that its made so you are introduced to the language in class and you can figure out any questions there, then go home with the book as your class notes then practice what you've learned and see it written in Japanese, including kanji. I'll be miking some notes about what you see in the textbook, with pictures from the book, so check my notes list for that soon.

If you're learning along with us then definitely get that katakana and hiragana down so you can move on to vocabulary and making sentences. Vocabulary is great to practice right now! Once again, Memrise is your friend. On Memrise there are tons of flashcards for vocabulary but you'll figure out that some are better than others. I usually try some out and if I don't like it I move on to another one. Two I kind of stuck with was the Core 1000 and 125 Most Useful Words. I haven't finished either though, not even close. Core 1000 basically means that if you learn these 1000 words you theoretically know just about all the words you'll need for a huge majority of normal conversation. I should really get back to studying those....

Anyways, go check out my notes, practice your kana, and then start on some vocabulary. And look forward to the next post about diving into learning Japanese- cuz right now you're just getting prepped for the deep end. And once again, heres my self intro based on what we've learned in class:

はじめ まして。ケンドラ   です。わたし  の  くに  は  アメリカ  です。すまい  は  みなみおさわ  です。かぞく  は  よにん  です。わたし  は  えいご  の  きょし  です。いま  は  ごご  にじ  です。わたし  の  べんと  は  さんびゃくごじゅう  えん  です。