An Ode to the Three Day Week End

Chrono, logically.

The weekend started off with a bang at the Final Fantasy Friday (Free) screening of Baron Munchausen.

An early morning bike ride to breakfast at the Chicago Diner (Splitting vegan biscuits and gravy, and eggs benedict with my Love, and washing it all down with bottomless yerba mate. Oh, and free vegan corn muffins. In a Word: deeeeeelicious.) Catching the tail end of a twenty-four hour art/print making lock-in. Doodling on tracing paper while indulging in captivating convos with quality individuals. An afternoon swim in the community pool. Soggy seats and talking, talking, talking with our new friend in his home. Making dinner and laughing the night away.

Working on Sunday. More swimming. Riding up to Sultan’s for the best falafel sandwich four dollars can buy. Riding over to see none other than Mr. Ornette Coleman perform for free, from fantastic seats. Riding up the lake shore to see the fabulous Jon Jameson and his band of merry music men (Also Known As: Delta Spirit) play sweet tunes to an adoring audience.

A trip to Starved Rock. A lovely picnic followed by a long and lovelier hike. Burritos, Mexican hot chocolate, and a movie.

It’s safe to say: Life is Good.


Things and Stuffed

Dear dearest of deerhearts,

How are you lovelies?

It has been over three months since my move to Chicago and my, oh My, how the time has flown. . .

Wherever has it gone? You ask.

Well it went up and up and down, down, down, but it seems the tides are turning and we are headed for an upswing.

I can’t help but compare this move to the one I made to Japan a few years back. Lying on my bed and crying myself asleep each night is no longer a reasonable option. I am neither tough, nor admirable for making the small move to Chicago. If I don’t call people back, or make phone calls in the first place, the Price of Long Distance Calling and/or the Great Time Difference no longer takes the blame, and here I don’t have the overwhelming support like I did when I was all the way over in Japan.

It has been strange moving somewhere all alone with (and for) someone else. I realized recently that I had grown accustomed to having a large number of diverse friends at arm’s length. That lifestyle was stripped away when I made the move for Theodore. And here I am with one human being to fill all those gaps in my heart.

Those are some big, big shoes, my friends.

Throughout it all, Ted and I continue getting to know one another, ourselves, our new selves, and our new city . . .

And as for this, the Windiest of Cities, I feel as if I have to find an answer for “So, How do you like Chicago?” almost every day. Here is my standard response:

I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to live in a city that I never would have thought to move to. I am proud to live in one of the few places in America that wasn’t stolen from its original natives. (Native Americans rejected the Chicago area as a place to live. They considered it a worthless swamp.) I read that Chicago’s beauty is found in its things, (hu)manmade. Its architecture, its parks, and its people. I also read that Chicago is a city of rejects, a place for people who don’t belong anywhere else to fit in. And so far, this is proving to be accurate.

As for la-la-Life:

In the beginning, I was focused on struggling to survive. Within my first two weeks, I got a seemingly fantastic job, a beautiful apartment, met and moved in with my first housemate, Renee. The next month allowed time for me to realize how perfectly compatible Renee and I were as housemates, and what an amazing friend/person/inspiration she is. That month also turned out to be our last one living together, as she found the Opportunity of Opportunities and had to move out in order to pursue it. (Taking with her, her girlfriend Stacey, who is also a Friend of All Friends that I cried to see leave.)

Round month three, Life seemed to be trading in all of its ups for downs. I was all alone again, friendless (with the exception of the exceptional Theodore), housemateless, and beginning to hate my job. Not to mention the facts that: My ambulance adventure (that you may or may not remember/know about) was going to cost me one thousand big ones, and Ted’s apartment (of which he lives in the basement) flooded. Those were sad, sad times.

However, my new housemate is moving in today. I have had a grand total of six houseguests, each having significantly cheered my heart and brightened their share of days. (The last three of whom left yestermorn.) I have found and wrapped myself up in our local Food Not Bombs. I have discovered weekly free fantastic film screenings a brief bike ride away from my apartment (Brand Upon the Brain! last Wednesday, Two Lane Blacktop the week before, and we shall see what comes next. . . Three cheers for things to look forward too. Hip! Hip! Hip!). The future holds free magnificent music to be seen and heard not so far away. There is actually quite a lot going on in Chicago, particularly in my neighborhood, it has just been a matter of getting plugged in.

Today I feel optimistic, so I’m going to go with it, and go go go. . .

Thanks for reading, thanks for caring. This one was a biggie. I guess I had more thoughts stored up than I anticipated. I’ll try to do better next time.

Love, love, love you and your yous.


(in)famous last words

I'll write (/call/email/hang out) more soon.

(Baby steps gots baby feets; baby, baby, I miss you.)


For Prem:

The other day, my mother said to me,
"Hey Melissa, do you know about Google?"
to which I answered,
"Hey Mom, do you know bread comes in a sliced version?"
and then we laughed,
and laughed,
and laughed.



How I felt about being a woman in Japan, especially one who is part Japanese;
How my experience may have been better/worse/different than that of the poster boy white male ALT:

Being a woman, and interacting with Japanese women was quite possibly among the things that impacted me the most during the time I spent overseas.
*WARNING: The following is loaded with gross generalizations.
The first year I taught in Japan, I was surprised by how seemingly unhealthy the relationships between my male and female students were. It was like looking at a time warp back to when boys and girls had cooties, when to punish a student, all you had to do was force them to sit next to a member of the opposite sex. (I really did have to do that on occasion, only because it really did work.)

The second year I started to see how it affected the way women related to each other. There was much less of the cattiness and competition that I remember being a part of my own high school experience. I found an ease at making friendships with other women unlike ever before. I had always had an easier time befriending boys, or other girls who also had an easier time befriending boys. My theory, is that all those years of sticking together and telling each other how KAWAIIIIIII!!! everything is, raised many kind hearted women who understand the value of being a friend to other women.

My black hair, almond eyes and olive skin granted me anonymity. I was able to wander around undetected much easier than any of my gaijin counterparts. I wasn't stared at, or pointed out. But, I also never received home cooked meals at my doorstep, or a free bicycle because I look like one of those "Nice Mormon Boys". I had a harder time getting attention when I wanted it. Travelling alone, no one came up to me and asked if they could practice their English. I had to walk up to other foreigners and say, "Hey, how's it going?" and wait for their shock at my perfect pronunciation to wear off.

You win some, you loose some. My experience and that of my dear friend JMP in the end, will have been entirely different. At the same time, my experience and that of my dear, Japanese American friend Erika, will also be totally different. I really do believe that on both sides, the grass is truly green, it's just a little patchy.

What I think of the JET Programme/ Teaching English in Japan in general:

It was the most difficult easy thing I have ever done in my entire life. It felt unfair to have the respect that come with being a Teacher in Japan attached to myself. My days consisted of reading books, writing letters, talking to students and occasionally preparing a lesson and teaching it. For the first year, I lived in fear of the day when things at work would really start to become difficult. I expected the jig to be up, any day now. . . Only after I had gone through the whole year's cycle did I realize that the hardest part (at least at my schools) was just being there.

I allowed teaching English to really inhibit my Japanese studies the first year that I lived in Japan. All day, every day I focused on speaking English and English only with the students, and also with the teachers. I felt really selfish any time I tried to practice my Japanese. Even with my Japanese friends, that first year I'd find myself constantly in "Teacher Mode", concentrating on improving their speaking skills, ignoring the fact that my Japanese, more often than not, could use a LOT more work than their English.

Somewhere along the way I got over it. I started letting myself be taught, and practicing what I had learned. Then things started improving. . . and then I had to leave.

Top Three Reasons California is the best place on earth:

3.Here, it is possible for anyone to become governor.

Top Three Reasons Japan is the best place on earth:

3.feeling doki doki

Why teleportation can't be a reality:

I blame J-Pop.


b sides

OK, OK, blog reading world. We've had ourselves quite the hiatus, to say the least.
Before I move on to sharing with you stories from Life Post-Japan. I feel compelled to get a few things out of my system. Such as, the following pictures which, for one reason or another (mostly because these photos were taken and given to me by other people, far too many to list), never made it into any previous blogs.

This will be really boring for people who are not interested in seeing snapshots of Melissa+Strangers, or Strangers+Strangers. (However, this may be fascinating to creepy internet types that I don't know. Creepy internet types, please stop feasting your creepy eyes on myself and people I love. I know deep down, you're better than that. Now, get off the internet and go make some real friends. Thank you.)

And with that, I give you the following photographical catagories:

Fabulous Friends
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(FYI: That dessert is vegan friendly.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(I reeeeeally wish I could remember what he said.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(The guy on the left in this photo makes me laugh again, and again, and again.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(The KKrew+Satte-Mitsuko/Rachel)

How we do what we do in Japan
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(One of these things is not like the others.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(a lot of sitting on the floor)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(a lot of shoes at the door)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This was the smallest room I have ever stayed in.
It was supposed to be a "double" but our futon couldn't even fit on the floor.
When I reached my arms out, I could almost touch both walls at once.
I guess you get what you pay for, and at 3000en a night in Tokyo,
I'm don't know what we were expecting. It was, an adventure.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(sympathy for the elderly)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(making mochi)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Derek took this picture of my beloved ketai in its glory days.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(The view from Satte Shogyo)

Super Students
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The day of our last lesson, Kotomi and Ikumi brought me presents that they had made.
I miss these girls so much.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

In Japan
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

anyone can be a rock star

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

OK. Now, as a reward to those of you whom have scolled all the way through photos and memories that mean everything to me, and most likely nothing to you. . .

Here is your reward:
Seeing is believing
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Even I can still hardly believe it.



So, a month or so ago, I volunteered to help out with this year's Christmas Lecture in Japan.
They needed a vegan and (sometimes I think that) I am the only one living in Japan.
All I had to do was pull four hairs from my head, alow them to be tested,
stand in front of an audience of thousands of eager Japanese school children
while holding a card with a number on it,
sit and watch an honestly interesting lecture,
and later return to the stage to turn around my numbered card
and reveal the fact that the tests were correct, and I am, in fact a "vegan".

Oh, and I also "had to" travel to Yonago
and spend some time with a group of wonderful and interesting people.
They paid for my flight and one night's stay in a very nice hotel
and a lovely vegan dinner at a party with all of the aforementioned people.

I was treated like a VIP, all because when put through a mass spectrometer
you can see that
my hair is quite different from the meat eating population at large.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

It ended up being a perfect break in the go-go-go that is currently consuming my life.
While I was out there we did a (very) little hike, and played a fantastic game of cards.

But the real highlight was my getting lost on the way to the airport.
For real.

I caught the wrong bus, but I was unaware until the bus driver pulled into the bus station,
and I realized that there weren't any airplanes around.
I asked him if this bus was headed towards the airport, and he told me that I was way off.
He explained to me what I needed to do
(which involved waiting an hour for the very same bus to head back where I started,
so that I could wait another hour until the bus I needed took off from that point.)

He then told me that it was hot, so I should go inside the "bus staion".
Which was one tiny tatami room, with a TV and another bus driver inside it.
They both seemed quite entertained by the fact that

a)I look Japanese, but do a terrible job trying to speak it and
b)The fact that I was lost.
They were both really sweet, and made sure I was comfortable.
They gave me fresh watermelon to eat, and black sugar candy to put in my purse for later.
They asked me all sorts of questions, and laughed at my jokes.
But, the BEST part, was watching as the bus driver magically changed before my eyes
from a grumpy, jaded man, to a smiling, caring, friendly one. It was amazing.

Later he took me back to the station, and when I got off the bus, he made sure I knew which platform to wait at.
Just before my bus finally came, he had pulled up again for his next round at that station.
I looked through the big bus windows and saw that it was him, and he saw that I was me, and we both laughed.
He then waved me over to come to talk to him. I did, and he quizzed me on what bus I should be taking.
A few minutes later, my bus pulled up,
but before it did, I watched as my bus driver friend called the new bus driver guy over,
and talked and smiled with him, while pointing over at me.
People started getting into my bus, and my friend got out of his bus, walked over,
and made sure I got onto the right one this time.

I don't think I could have smiled any bigger.

I love getting lost.

Oh my Okinawa


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Last week I took a break in the chaos and went to Okinawa with a lovely friend of mine. . .
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

ha. ha. ha.

Tanya really is beautiful, inside and out.

When we're not donning our animal costumes. . .
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

She looks a little more like this. . .
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

We had an excellent time. . .

We ate at cute, delicious cafes. . .
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Found (or were directed to) hidden little treasures. . .
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Swam with the fishes. . .
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Although, these ones we viewed while we rode a glass bottom boat)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

At an amazingly beautiful beach. . .
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And we even made time for a little sight-seeing. . .
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Don't even get me started about how wonderful the locals in Okinawa are. I could go on and on and on. . . Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the ones we met. In fact, I didn't even take most of the photos above. They are brought to you by Tanya for your viewing pleasure.

Okinawa was beautiful, wonderful and just what I needed.
I am sorry, but yet again, I am without the energy to properly express how fantastic it really was. You'll just have to use your imagination. . .

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting