Friday, December 26, 2008

KL: Day 2 and other disasters

Hee, I'm exaggerating a little, there was only one major cock-up today and that was the devastation of me somehow breaking my camera! I was taking a picture of some birds in Negara Zoo and out the corner of my eye I saw a big black thing land on my hand. Not realising it was a butterfly I let out a very controlled 'Mrrfph!' and jerked it off my hand while diving to one side. I didn't drop my camera but I think when I jerked it I knocked something out of alignment because the lens refused to move in and out so I couldn't take pictures. I tried to fix it but had no luck, and then tried to take it to a camera shop to get it fixed and got the expected spiel of how I should buy a new camera instead. I ended up going to Plaza Low Yat (an electronics mall where you can get cheaper deals) and buying a new one. It's the same Olympus brand so I can keep my memory card with the photos I already had, and I'll be able to use the same battery so I'll have a spare. Malaysia and the UK have the same plugs so I can use my old charger in Japan (I
bought the one that broke in Japan) and keep the Malay one for home. It's a better camera and pink!

This means I get a FAIL for budgeting. Or does it? I was counting out my money so I could rebudget how much I had for each day, and I realised that I had somehow counted an extra day in the first time (wprkign with 12 days instead of 11), so I had a bit more money than I thought in the beginning. I only spent about half the money I had planned out for today, so adding that all together I was only a little behind. Woohoo! Money and a new camera, score! I have about 170MYR a day now instead of 200, so I'm pretty well set.

We had a gorgeous dinner tonight, pineapple rice and barbecue beef. I have food pictures but won't be able to upload them until I'm home. Now that I know there is easy Internet access here I'm going to try and blog when I can so I don't forget anything, it's hard to come home with two weeks worth of stuff to condense down otherwise.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

KL: Christmas Day

Just grabbed the Internet in the lounge of our hostel to say Merry
Christmas! The travelling took ages but we got here eventually. I'm
having a really good time! We were a little worried because we realised
(on the plane, after we had gone to the bureaude change) that there was
a really small limit on how much of the local currency you could carry
into the country. After some creative filling in of the declaration
forms we were really freaking a little about how seriously they would
take it, that was until we saw the Russians in front of us in the queue
very obviously bribe the customs lady by slipping money into his
passport ("so, these two women are my daughters"). After that we
were less panicked that they would be checking our declaration
carefully....

I'm really happy. The budget hotel we are in is
really nice, and the owners are very helpful and friendly. I thought
cleanliness might be an issue (as it is in many hostels) but everything
is pristine. I was also worried how everything would be after last
years trip not going very well, but the girl I'm with and I seem to
have really similar ideas to how we want to spend our time and are
getting on really well. After this we're getting on the monorail and
heading to China Town for some lunch, and then maybe to the night
market in that area. The city is much nicer than Bangkok was, less
dirty and broken down. I don't feel as worried about walking around
here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bye Bye!

I'm leaving for Malaysia in about 6 and a half hours, so goodbye to everyone!

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

My week

Argh, how has it been so long since my last post?

Food hasn't been good this week, I think I may have jinxed myself by saying how happy I was. Most days were bad, with one or two being just not good. Oh compulsive eating, have I mentioned how much I adore you recently? The closer I get to leaving the less I seem to care, that's not how that's supposed to work right?

The dress I mentioned a few posts back arrived the other day. I'm glad I ordered it online because when I first saw the material I thought 'uh oh', so I don't think I would have tried it on in the store if I'd seen it in person. It looks really nice though! The bust needs taking in (oh my poor pear shaped body) but I was expecting to need to shrink into the hips before the dance and it turns out it fits perfectly. I was looking for spare change in my old bags yesterday (err.. see next paragraph, don't judge me!) and found a little handbag I forgot I owned that will go perfectly with the dress, so now all I need are shoes.

Payday today! Thank Christ for that. I knew I was scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel when I found 50 yen ($0.56 £0.37) on one of my tables and it made a significant difference to my dinner plans. I added it to the change I had in my purse so I could buy milk, so I could make a chicken supreme sauce pack I had to go my chicken/mushrooms/broccoli.

I have the International preschool Christmas party tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to that. They're the same kids that had the Halloween party before and as cute as anything. My friend is coming to my place Saturday night because we have an early start to get to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka on Sunday, my supervisor helped me to get slightly discounted tickets at the train station (every little helps!). Then I have work Monday, a public holiday (for the Emperor's Birthday) on Tuesday so I can do laundry and pack, then back to Osaka Wednesday to fly out to KL. It's going to be busy, but in the most awesome sense!

The exchange rate is insanely good today, I'm trying not to think about it too hard because I'm looking forward to my trip and I know I'll have a fantastic time, but a little part of me really wishes I could send money home today so everything would be clear for the new year. Ah well.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My nemesis

I'm not going into gross detail here, but if you think the subject is going to be TMI click away... now. Or, you know, don't and judge for yourself if it is or not, but then it will too late!

The toilets in Japan can be amazing. They are Western style, heated seats, washing, music playing, fake flush to cover noise sounding, air deodorizing, all singing, all dancing units.

But sometimes, it all goes wrong.

I've mentioned Japanese squat toilets before, insofar as to say how much as I hate them, and oh, how I loath them.

Behold, a typical Japanese squat toilet:


My school contains only squat style toilets. Usually when you go out there is a choice of at least one western style. I used to wait until I got home (many a peepee dance being done as I unlock my door) because the school loos? Never a pleasant visit.

It starts with the freezing temperature. My school has managed the somewhat dubious achievement of being noticeably colder inside than out. If I'm going to be spending the day outside of one of the busy rooms I take extra layers to wear inside, and/or a lap blanket. The toilets are no exception, and are in fact even colder owing to the window always being left open to help air out the place (regardless of the layer of frost outside a few days ago).

The next step is the stupid, hateful toilet slippers. When you go into a toilet in Japan there is usually a pair of slippers outside, you have to change into them before you go in. My school decided the rubbery slip on slippers were too welcoming and opted for the traditional hard wearing wooden sandals.

After you've changed your shoes you do the slip and slide over to the cubical of your choice (the floor is usually wet from when the students mop it after lunch). The cubical is very small, not ideal for someone of my, er, dimensions. I usually take my trousers completely off rather than play the roulette of keeping them out of my way. You have to do a deep squat facing the hood, getting as close to it as you can.

This is one of my bigger problems. If you're in position then you've literally got your knees to your chest, it's a deep squat, because you're crowding the hood for balance and to ensure the hole doesn't come up short, because that would be an embarrassing accident to explain (*fingers crossed* hasn't happened yet). If you're having kind of digestive issue that results in you being there for more than a few moments your legs go stiff, making getting up a problem. An problem not helped by the fact that one of your wooden sandals is sliding further away from you on the wet floor surface as you're trying to keep your balance and you can't stop it. If you fall on the way down, you will just go backwards, straight into the toilet.

Squatters: Good for the leg muscles, not so much for the dignity.

Sometimes it's hard being me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An interesting article

Gentle reader, have I begun to smell or something? You'd tell me right? Comments have been low!

The aforementioned interesting article:

Gene triggers unhealthy eating

One of my favourite quotes from it is right near the end:

"If we are to tackle this problem adequately, we need to get smarter and start dealing with all the underlying forces that influence our choices"

On an unrelated note, what's up with the 503 errors I keep getting from twitter?

In Control

When I gain control of one aspect of my life, the others seem less overwhelming, more manageable.

When I'm doing well on my weight loss, I keep my apartment clean and tidy, I take time to exfoliate and moisturize properly at night, I stick to my to-do lists and plan my lessons before the first period of the lesson day.

When I'm keeping in control of my finances I find it easier to lose weight because I'm budgeting my groceries. I cook more at home and I plan my meals, so I know what ingredients to buy and what I'll be using them for. That way they don't end up rotting in my fridge and being wasted.

When I'm in control at work and spend the day marking books and planning lessons, the momentum keeps me going. I arrive home and give the living room a tidy, or run the vacuum around the floors. I may even go so far as to put on an exercise DVD and do a mile.

It's a wonderful, glorious feeling, this control I have right now. I am this-close to being out of debt! THIS-CLOSE! I made a budget and I stuck to it and it's worked. What a concept. I was talking with my mum a couple of nights ago, and I made a plan. It has a few vague spots (err... job when I go home? Anyone?) but it's got a solid foundation. In the time between now and when I go home I am capable of saving £10,000 (assuming the exchange rates don't shoot up), which given the property market in England means that will be enough to pay a deposit on my own house. My Own House. You have no idea how excited that idea makes me. The mortgage payments would end up being the same or less than renting my own apartment, so I'd rather have something to show for it at the end. When I go home my mum is going help me find somewhere (she works in mortgages).

So I signed a form yesterday saying I intended to stay in Japan another year. It will mean I'll be leaving here in August 2010, having spent a total of three years here. I was really on the fence about staying earlier this year, but now that I know what I'm planning to do, rather than wandering a little lost and aimless, I feel much better about it. I have a goal and staying here for another year is vital to it.

There are times I feel a little guilty feeling so happy, with so many people facing uncertain and unstable futures. It just happens that with my working abroad and the yen being so strong (and the pound so weak) I'm in the perfect position to take advantage of the problems with the economy. I can take it for the opportunities it offers me, and I'm so thankful for that.

The weight plan is also there. It's a little harder to follow, but it's still possible. That's how I feel right now, like things will be OK, like everything is still possible, and not only possible but beginning to happen. I have to hold these words and know the shape of them, to learn their feel so I can call them back to me when I need their help.

Things making me happy right now:

I'm almost 23lbs down from the Christmas Challenge
I'm getting paid for my adult class tomorrow, so I'm on budget until payday next week.
I'm nearly out of debt
Including my Christmas presents, which I've already paid off
I'm going to the international preschool on the 20th to help with their Christmas party (oh the cuteness)
I'm going to USJ for the day on the 21st with my friend as our Christmas trip together.
I'm going to Malaysia on the 24th
I'm looking forward to 2009

A challenge for you all! Go to your blogs and write a list of things that are making you happy right now! Things are tough for a lot of people at the moment, it's a good time to remember the better things too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pretty things!

I realised a few months ago that Yours, a plus size clothing store in the UK, actually delivers internationally! The discovery wasn't so good for my bank balance, but was wonderful in every other way.

I have an night out to go to in February. It's for Valentines day, and is the only formal-wear night of the JET year. I was browsing the site a couple of weeks ago and completely fell in love with one of the dresses there. I'm not sure why as it's a style I don't usually go for, in a colour I don't often wear, but I saw it and though to myself 'ooooooooooh purty'.

My mum has said she'll get it me for Christmas, but they were becoming difficult to find as they sold quite well, so I ordered it the other day and mum is putting the money in my bank account. Free shopping is the very best kind. I also got a little black shrug to go over it because the dress is strapless, and baby, these arms 'aint going strapless.

The dress:

The shrug:


With a pair of dark tights and some shoes it will be perfect.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What's this?

I don't check the Internet all day and there is nary an update on my weight-loss reader list? Gah! I have no classes tomorrow guys, I'm going to be relying on you stop me stabbing out my own eyes from boredom.

Today was really busy. I was teaching 3 classes in a row, starting first period, and then we had to do all the prep for the special English Club Christmas Cookie baking. The actual baking was done after school with the group, so I didn't get home until about an hour ago.

Cookie baking wasn't exactly in my eating schedule so I did the best I could. I did eat some, but only three or so. I was going to bring the tin of cookies home with me to take to my adult class on Friday for a snack time present. After eating my third cookie I realised how monumentally stupid that would be of me and calculated the probability of them actually making it to Friday in my head. It didn't look good. I left them in my staff room after passing the around the other teachers. Tomorrow I'm going to give some of them to the teachers I like that don't sit in my room with me, and then leave them open on the table for whoever wants them afterward. I don't really like them that much, the dough came out too wet because we couldn't chill it, so instead of rolling it out we improvised some little drop cookies. The texture was a little too cake-y for my tastes (if I'm going to have a cookie I like it to taste like one) because they were thicker than they were meant to be, but I know if I brought them home or kept them near me I'd just keep picking at them regardless of taste.

The students seemed to have a really good time anyway, so that was worthwhile.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Challenge Check-in

Wow, been a while since I've had one of these huh? The last couple of weeks I've gained a little, so while I've mentioned this on my blog I've been avoiding dedicating a post to the check in. Fortunately this week has gone better, so I'm doing a proper check this time.

Pounds Lost This Week: 4
Total Christmas Challenge Pounds Lost: 22.9
Pounds to Go to Reach Christmas Goal: 18

I got back up to 110.0kg before coming to my senses and knuckling down, so while I have lost 4lbs only 2.2 of them are 'new'. As with my last weigh in I actually had a lower number a couple of days ago (107.6) but my end of year party put paid to that (worth every bite!). I'm going to try to not let that knock me over again this time. Last time I was feeling bad about it because I had eaten out and that had caused the bump up, but this time I don't so maybe that will make a difference.

Now, the Christmas challenge is finishing soon so there is no way I am getting to my 40lbs lost goal, but I want to go as far as I can in the time left. If I really work I might juuuust be able to scrape a 30lb loss. It's worth a try anyway.

Even if I don't make it, I'm really glad I did this challenge. Sometimes I join a challenge and it overwhelms me, I get stuck and I feel worse as everyone does better, but this one really seems to have clicked. Even if I do end up taking two steps forward and one back, that's still a step forward in the end.

How is everyone else doing? Working off that Thanksgiving turkey?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

おいしかった!

おいしかった: oishikatta 'it was delicious!'.

The meal went really well. I ate some things that aren't on plan (three things to be precise), but they were Japanese sized portions so I don't feel bad about it. I took pictures of everything so prepare yourself for a pic heavy post.

Ready? OK.

We had a French-style (well, the Japanese version of a French style!) meal, and it was bloody gorgeous. We started with a light sashimi (raw fish) course, served in a hollowed out grapefruit:

This was followed by a bowl of onion soup, and the first of my contraband items, two little bread rolls. One was くるみ (kurumi walnut) bread, and the other was ごま (goma sesame) bread:

Next came our second fish course (I cut into it and then remembered the picture, sorry!). It was a big prawn, a scallop, a type of white fish (though sadly I don't know the name) and a piece of asparagus, with some kind of sauce on it:

This was followed by our meat course, a lovely piece of rare beef, atop a slice of 大根 (daikon Japanese white radish), with a kind of mustard vinaigrette reduction? Again, I'm not entirely sure what was in the sauce:

The beef came with a side potato salad (contraband number 2!) topped with crab, served in a tomato, The scoop was small enough that I'm not worrying too hard about it:

Finally, we finished with contraband number 3, a cake and fruit dessert plate:


I love my adult class. I panic some times over what to do with them, because I feel like I should be better at teaching them, because I want them to love the class because I like them so much. The class has been going on forever. As in, there are people who have been in the class since it's conception 37 years ago. Last time they showed me a picture of the same class (and most the same members, though a few of the slightly younger ones weren't there) and on the back it was dated May 12th 1983, which is 6 days before I was born.

They're always happy and excited to see me there, and always want to give me things or show me things. I only wish my senior high school kids could be so enthusiastic! (though to be fair, some of them are). Today we were on the bus back from the hotel (it was a hotel shuttle bus, taking us all home) and we had dropped off all but three people and me. Emi (the youngest member of the group, early thirties, very cool) came over and told me that when I came into the hotel today Ohichi-san (the oldest member of the group at 88, he was in the very first class all those years ago) said to her in Japanese that I looked especially beautiful today, particularly my face. I had made an effort with my outfit and done full make-up as usually all I can do before a regular class is slap on my mascara/lip gloss and then go in my work clothes. The fact that it was the first thing he noticed was sweet, especially considering I wouldn't expect him to notice those kinds of things.

Fantastic night - I regret nothing!

Bonenkai blues

I saw a new number on the scale today, big hurray!

I am pretty worried though. Last time I did this I ended up with it jumping up right before weigh in, which ended up with me going into a bit of a tailspin. I have a bonenkai (end of year party) tonight with my adult class and think I will see it on the scale tomorrow. These parties are a big set meal, and while a lot of the food will be fine (the sashimi, the crab, the meat) there is guaranteed to be a lot of rice and stuff too. It's very hard to subtly eat around things as I tend to be center of attention at these gatherings, so I'll have to keep my fingers crossed and see how it goes. God, the stress.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Not the most auspicious start

About 9:20 this morning I got a message from my supervisor asking me where I was. It woke me up. Fuuuuck.

My alarm either didn't go off, or I slept through both it and the snooze alarms. I called her in a panic to apologize and told her I'd take a vacation day but I hate this situation. During the conversation she said 'remember to come to school' which I know she didn't mean in a patronizing way, but it really make me feel like that. I have to be helped with so many things here because of the language barrier and I hate being babied. I wanted to say 'Oh no? Really? Duh!" in a really sarcastic way, but given the situation I didn't really have a leg to stand on.

On the bright side the scale was down a bit today and I'm on plan thus far.

I need to clean up a bit. The rooms I use are clear for the most part, but elsewhere things are getting very cluttered. I want to put up my Christmas decorations but not while my apartment is like this. I also think I should get an electric blanket. I have my mattress in the living room right now because it's warmer, but I don't like it there. My apartment always looks better when I'm using my bedroom, it stays tidy longer. With it gone I can also put my tree up.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

*headdesk*

I'm so bored it's unbelievable.

The down side to this is that my thoughts keep turning to food just for something to do. There's no food here, so there's no way I can mindlessly snack, but it's driving me crazy.

I need to start packing lunches the night before again. I was planning on doing it for today but never got round to it (something I'm really regretting now!). I said I didn't want to spend any more money on eating out, but I'm really considering walking out to Denny's just to break up my day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Taking stock

Today is shaping up well.

Food-wise, I went into Denny's for lunch because I had to go the bank and it's right next door. I think I did really well because I ordered the small Cobb salad with dressing separately, and a demiglace hamburger with an egg on top. I picked out the little pieces of tortilla from the salad so it was totally on plan, and didn't eat the potato wedges that came on the side of the burger. Burgers here aren't served on a bun anyway, but I also told the waitress that I didn't want the bread/rice option of the set, so everything was good.

Money-wise, I updated my pass-book while at the bank and I'm just about right there as well. It will mean no more eating out until after payday on the 19th (with the exception of the free end of year party/meal I'm going to with my adult class) in order to stay that way, but I'm feeling OK about that.

In terms of me, I managed to explain the changes I wanted at the restaurant in Japanese without a problem, which made me happy. My house is reasonably clean, and I'm making a good pace with my work, so I'm feeling fairly in control and satisfied. I made plans to go to Universal Studios Japan on the 21st, so I'm excited that I have that to look forward to.

Day 2 (thus far, don't want to jinx myself) a success on all counts!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I took the day off from work this morning. It wasn't planned, but I woke up late so was rushing around, then went into the bathroom to discover that the drip bucket I'd put under the pipe was filled right to the very top so the moment I picked it up to change it I sloshed water everywhere, then went to put my contacts in and they burned because they hadn't cleaned properly in the different solution I used.

I decided then and there that if this was indicative of how my day was going to be then I was staying home. A quick call to work and it was all squared, it is exam week this week so I have no lessons (just books to mark).

Today has been good. I went back to bed or more sleep and have eaten on plan so far today. I think if I can just keep to phase one for a while I'll feel better in a more controlled head space.

I went shopping yesterday and got my Christmas decorations. I haven't put them up yet, I think that will be something for this weekend, but I'm happy I've got them. Last year I didn't bother because I was going away, so it didn't really feel like Christmas, but this year I don't leave until Christmas Eve so I'm going for it. I got a cute little door wreath for my front door (I was so close to getting the one that said 'Merry Winter', Japan gets English confused a little sometimes) and I have a little fake tree. I wanted to get snow spray for my windows but they were out of it at the dollar store, that's probably for the best.