Oatmeal ( Let’s Enjoy This Together Part 2)

Smile

Smile

As much as I’d like to get all creative on yall and give a poetic explanation of why this post is titled “oatmeal”, I gotta be honest. I just named it this because this has been my go-to meal for the past month. Yes call it lazy or whatever, BUT it’s pretty easy to cook and it’s just way too cold in my apartment to be slaving over the stove. It’s pretty healthy too. Most of the time, I just have it for breakfast. When I’m super tired, I eat it for dinner. The weather has dropped alot here in my city. It’s about 40-50 degrees. I think this is the normal temperature in North Carolina around this time. I might be slightly colder but I remember experiencing chilly falls in NC. However, the buildings are what makes 40 degrees here feel like 20 degrees. THEY AREN’T INSULATED.  Because of this, my apartment feels colder than outside (yikes!).  I never imagined I’d turn on the heater during the fall. It’s insane. As soon as I walk in my house, I blast both of my heaters and jump underneath the covers.  I’m nervous about winter. I’m afraid I might not have enough warm attire–seeing that I’ve already started wearing my winter sweaters.

Anyways, to add on to my awesome week ( last week). My friend, Akina, and I performed at a fighting event in Kazuno. We are starting a hip hop dance class and used this event to advertise for the class. It wasn’t what I expected– the event that is. It was in a secluded area and there were a lot of younger people. When I say younger people, I mean people in their late 20s and early 30s. It’s very rare to see young folks in Kazuno. I find myself having potlucks with women who are my mother’s age or older ( Unbelievable– never thought I’d see the day).  Back to the event, so, the event was intense. I can officially say that violence is just not my thing.  Watching it turns my stomach. After watching about 3 intense fights, it was finally our turn. I didn’t think I’d get butterflies before I performed, BUT I did. I was quite nervous. It still amazes me that after 10 years of dancing, I still get that tinggling feeling every time before a performance. I took a few breaths and took the stage. Well not stage, an uneven mat.  I think for only a month of practicing twice a week, an uneven stage, and my friend’s first time ever hip hop dancing, we did a pretty decent job. I hadn’t choreographed/performed for a year so I felt a little rusty around the edges.

Too bad the video won’t upload

Akina waiting to perform

Akina waiting to perform

We received alot of compliments about our dance. Of course, you all know me, I’m critical. The perfectionist in me wanted to refuse the compliments because I just know my old dance teachers would tear this performance up. But, it was just for fun and we did only practice for about a month. — just had to keep reminding myself that haha.  By the way, that jump suit was so tight around the thighs. Bought it at a store in Japan, I’m officially not fit to wear clothes from any store in Japan haha.

Later that week, I attended one for my school’s festival. I felt like a proud parent–though I did absolutely nothing to help with their performances. It was cool to see my students outside of the classroom setting. They performed a series of plays and sang a song ( this song has been stuck in my head ever since).  Being at the festival brought back many memories from my childhood. When I was younger, we ( my sisters and I ) participated in several plays and performances throughout the year.  Remembering how I felt as a kid after my performance, I could imagine the pride my students had showing off their skills to their parents. It was a different feeling being on the receiving end of the event.  I tried to imagine how my parents must have felt seeing their daughters performing their little hearts out. Because we were some awesome girls, I just know they left each performance gleaming with pride (haha).  My students are so talented. Sometimes, I wish I could speak Japanese to learn more about their interest or talk to them about what kids do back home. They are very curious children and so fun to be around ( well at this one school haha). I enjoy being surrounded by so much talent and bright minds.

As much as I don’t want to say this, I definitely feel like a celebrity in this town. I seriously walk most places and someone says my name or references my upcoming dance class. I’m shocked when some people tell me what they know about me haha. On the weekends–when I am in chill mood and sometimes bummy attire ( depends on if I’m making a quick run)– I run into my students. They gasp and then say my name– that’s the moment I really want to get out of dodge. A woman who I’ve never met or seen told me she knew about my dance class. She told me everything (the date, location, and time). I soon found out she wrote the whole dance schedule down in her agenda. I didn’t even know the word was out! Caught me by surprise BUT I was happy to know that people knew about it. Especially after leaving a discouraging conversation about my cultural dance festival idea.

Overall, I’ve had an amazing two weeks. I’m scheduled to teach a Christmas lesson in December ( Christmas in  America) at the community center and teach a dance at the end. I’m so excited for what lies ahead. I’m so grateful for God’s blessing on my life. Til next time.

So how do you stay warm? Glad you asked :D

Thawing my feet

Thawing my feet

Ha, I don’t!

My definition of ” staying warm” is the ability to walk around in every part of my apartment without seeing my breath. In other words, CENTRAL HEATING.  (Yes that’s a spoiled request BUT I like warmth)  This is only true for ONE room in my apartment. The room I never leave until my stomach growls for food or I need to shower. Oh  Keeping this post short, I’m just going to list the ways I attempt to “stay warm”

Panel heater set to high

Electric Heater

(both options above made my bill sky-rocket so now I only turn on the heat if the cold is super unbearable)

Drink hot tea/water every 3 to 4 hrs ( I don’t do this everyday)

Hoodie

Warm schools

Five blankets

Running across the cold kitchen to step into the steaming shower room

Running the sink water  for 2 minutes before I start to wash dishes

Layer, layer layer

Long johns for pajamas/long fleece dress

Turn on electric heater in kitchen to warm kitchen before I cook. It usually doesn’t help much

Place my hands over the steam that comes out of the electric water heater

Kick off my shoes at the front door ( once I get back from work) and rush to the my room

Thaw my feet in front of the heater

Pray not to wake up shivering once I turn off the electric heater

Blow hot air into my hands before flipping the food on the stove

Make quick and easy meals (ie oatmeal, fruit, eggs,salad) to avoid staying in the kitchen for too long

Always wearing socks on my feet

Creating a small cave with my blankets when I head to bed (pretty cover my whole body including my head so my face isn’t cold)

Well there you have it! It’s been quite an experience staying warm here. I don’t wish this lifestyle on anyone from the south who isn’t used to cold weather. I’d choose my hot and muggy environments over this cold climate any day!

Gimme Gimme summer 😀

 

Tokyo Blues

She's on the youtube video I posted about Blacks in Japan

She’s on the youtube video I posted about Blacks in Japan

After about a 12 hour comfortable bus ride–No, it really was comfortable. It puts the greyhound bus to shame but what bus company can’t put greyhound to shame– I arrive to a train station in Tokyo. Immediately, I became overwhelmed by the large crowds and people walking in all directions to find their train. I stood there for what felt like 10 minutes taking it all it. I realized I’d been locked away in little ole Kazuno for so long that I wasn’t used to the city life anymore.

I think people could tell I wasn’t from around there because first, I had no idea how on earth to get a ticket for the train. I asked the lady at a bread stand for help and she pointed me to the ticket area. There were many touch screen things that meant absolutely nothing to me because I really don’t know what they were for/what they were saying. After waiting in the line to buy a pass,  I stood at the Kiosk wondering what in the world I am supposed to do. There were a list of prices that you choose from. I had no idea which was the correct price and I didn’t want to be the person that gets rejected because their ticket fare is too low.  I ended up purchasing a random number (250 yen) and proceeded to the entrance of the train stations. Ok well not the entrance, I tried to enter through the EXIT. No, I wasn’t trying to get one over, I really thought that was the entrance. A cute little couple saw me struggling trying to figure this train stuff out and guided me to the entrance. Sigh of relief, I made it to entrance–victory dance! I thought this should be a piece of cake now-nope! My next task was to get those little grey doors to the train area to open in front of me. I saw people speeding by swiping something. I wasn’t sure what it was because sometimes it would be a wallet and other times it would be their purse. But, every time this little swipe worked. So, I decided to just rub my little ticket on the pad in front of me and that was an unsuccessful attempt. I tried a few more times looking super confused every time it didn’t work. Eventually, that same little couple, which I’m sure petied me, showed me where I needed to put my ticket. And tah-dah,  I was off to explore more of Tokyo.  Thankfully, I didn’t run into anymore problems with the train machine and was able to get two and from places pretty easily– thanks to the help of my friend’s father!

My girl, Cece, and I grubbing on cold stone!

My girl, Cece, and I grubbing on cold stone!

As I walked around (feet started hurting at some point) and greedily grubbed on some good ole fatty American food in Tokyo, I took note of how different things were from the country side. The city life is quite busier than the country. There are tons of people in the streets and causally greeting each other isn’t the norm in Tokyo. Everyone minds their own business and walk with some sort of swiftness to get to their destination. I also saw alot of different faces–there were a lot of foreigners. Many women were dressed up to the T, decked out! Full hair and make up, heels, and just strutting away. It made me feel like the person who attended a fancy party and came under-dressed haha. I still don’t know how these women do all these walking in heels though. I was struggling with my flats so I can’t imagine walking for hours in heels. Tokyo felt like a Times Squares. Big lights, many shopping areas, food like crazy, and a bunch of people walking with a purpose. There were little to no personal interactions that went on outside of ordering food at a restaurant. This is what I kind of made me miss the country side. Although it can be weird having everyone know who you are in the grocery store, it’s pretty cool to see my students from school and my dance class in the store get super excited when they see me.  Or having the guy at the gas station know your face well enough to ask you where’s your car  when he sees you walking in the snow ( true story but I’d rather not go into details about why I was walking). There’s a personable feel about the countryside that I didn’t get in Tokyo. Everyone is more relaxed and calm. And we take the time to “smell the roses” ( well at least I do haha ). While I love love Tokyo, I do appreciate the chill atmosphere of Kazuno. There’s nowhere to rush to and people actually know, look, and acknowledge you. I think wherever I live next needs to have a good balance of both the fast city life and a chill countryside vibe to it. Overall, I would definitely not turn down another trip to Tokyo! Tokyo, we shall meet again in April!

Looks like Times Square

Looks like Times Square

The famous cross walk in Shibuya,Tokyo

The famous cross walk in Shibuya,Tokyo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, I went to a black history month event while I was there. There are definitely alot of people of color hanging around Tokyo. It was great to just grub on some food and fellowship with one another. It reminded of a family reunion. I think it’s beautiful when folks from different backgrounds come together, like family, in a foreign country and celebrate such an important and meaningful cultural celebration that has affected all of our lives in some way, shape, or form. For the first time, Japan really felt like ‘home’ and NOT because it was all black folks ( it wasn’t). The atmosphere felt warm and peaceful and was full of laughs just like the atmosphere my family creates when we get together.

Food Makes the World Go Round (literally)

Let’s talk about the lean mean Japanese cuisine!

Sukiyaki desu.

Sukiyaki desu.

I’m sure you probably can’t visually tell BUT I do love me some food. While yes I do miss the luxury of having a million food options 5 minutes away from my house in the US, I have enjoyed several Japanese dishes. Unfortunately, I’d much rather drive 45 minutes to get it done the right way versus failing miserably by trying to do it myself. So, here are a free of my favorite Japanese dishes to grub on when I’m not balling on a budget.

The very first meal I feel in love with here was SUKIYAKI

My first love

My first love

I had the pleasure of chowing down on this at my welcome party with the English teachers. Although I didn’t eat the beef and pork ( I imagined how delicious they were) I still ate the veggies and tofu. This dish is prepared on a nabemono ( Japanese hot pot). The pot contains a soy sauce, sugar ( there’s one more thing not sure what is ) mixture.  This mixture is heated up.  Once the pot is hot enough you add the meats, veggies, and tofu. While you wait you can crack an egg in your separate bowl to prepare for the feast once they meat is ready. When they are ready, you grab what looks tasty, dip it in the raw egg, and eat.  I was a little skeptical to eat at first because raw egg isn’t typical on the menu at US restaurants. Now when there’s a party or I’m going out to dinner with friends, I secretly hope sukiyaki is on the menu.

My next favorite dish is OKONOMIYAKI

First time trying okonomiyaki

First time trying okonomiyaki

My friend from home mentioned this tasty omelet/cabbage pancake to me. I googled it and it looked quit disgusting. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a go. The English conversation class that I attend every once and a while planned an okonomiyaki dinner so that I could try it out. It was quite the experience. I enjoyed trying to flip the ‘pancake’ over perfectly without messing up the shape. I have to say okonomiyaki is pretty addictive. Some days I crave it so much I drive 45 minute to an hour to the birth place of my okonomiyaki addiction.

Sushi in Japan

Sushi in Japan

SUSHI ( you know that had to make this list)

I loved sushi before I arrive to Japan. I love it even more now that I’m here! No, it’s not the typical California Rolls and Dragon Rolls we have in the States. It’s a ball of pure awesomeness. Some of my friends here laughed when I told them that the sushi back home has avocado in it. They thought it was odd to put avocado and rice together. Unlike okonomiykai, I CAN  turn down sushi especially when it has wasabi or natto in it. The sushis is definitely  fresher than back home and looks pretty different. It’s not a huge different BUT I can easily point out US sushi from Japanese sushi ( I think).

Notice a difference?

Notice a difference?

SOBA NOODLES

Cold Soba

Cold Soba

These are famous Japanese noodle made from buckwheat. I was first introduced to soba noodles after finishing an intense dance practice at my friend’s, Akina, house. Her mother served it cold with some type of sauce. I remember having to dilute the sauce with water and then dip the noodle in it. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical about it. Soba noodles by themselves are quite tasteless but when you add the sauce… BANGING! If you aren’t a fan of cold food, you can eat soba hot. And, they are super easy to make (especially if you are lazy or your kitchen so cold you can’t stand to slave over a meal for hours on end) I learned about these noodles before chowing down on them with Akina but I didn’t try any until dinner at Akina’s.  Fun Fact: There’s an old building where they used to make soba noodles back in the day in my town.

ODEN

Oden in the house

Oden in the house

This is not my favorite dish rather a ‘go to’ meal when I want something hot and when I’m trying to avoid the carbs in ramen. Akina’s mother introduced this to me to this  as well. It’s pretty much a soup served mostly in the winter. It’s really not a soup but I ask them to add extra broth so that I can eat it like a soup. Oden is a food mix. It contains radish, fish cake, tofu, boiled eggs which are stewed in some type of broth. Luckily, it’s found in most convenient  stores.

TONKATSU

'Katsu for short

‘Katsu for short

I think this is ten times better than fried chicken— sorry southerners. Tonkatsu is a breaded, deep fried pork cutlet. I’ve been lucky enough to have a friend who own a restaurant in town how makes a chicken tonkatsu for me 🙂 ( I don’t eat pork). There is this sauce that he serves with the ‘katsu that just puts a little more umph in the meal.  I don’t eat this that often because of course it’s deep fried and I ain’t trying to turn into a piece of tonkatsu. But, on day’s I’m feeling super greedy and healthy stuff won’t suffice, I head on down to the restaurant and order me some tonkatsu.  I think it’s the texture and the sauce that makes me say it’s better than fried chicken. I hope I can find a Japanese restaurant at home that makes this!

RAMEN

Yatzee!

Yatzee!

Let me just say that once you taste ramen here you can never go back to those bags a ramen you grubbed on in college. I don’t think I can describe just how awesome ramen is here. The sauce, seasoning, noodle, and extra veggies and meat they add to ramen makes you wanna just shout! You either just gonna have to taste it or believe me, but the ramen here is POPPIN’.

Am I in heaven?

Am I in heaven?

There are many other Japanese dishes that I’ve tried and absolutely loved. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the name of the dish/I didn’t have it again. I love Japanese food!  But, don’t get it twisted, it doesn’t replace food back home haha!