Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I walked from the tram, went into my apartment complex, checked my mailbox, waited for the elevator, then said hello to the girl waiting to go down, all with a random guy, and then we ended up opening opposite doors. He is my opposite neighbor. Awkward but also hilarious. I was grinning while opening my door because it was so funny.

"Bonne soirée."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I've only done it once

Buying an umbrella while it is raining is one of the surest signs of failure.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Pas du logement

Waking up, thinking you are home and about to have breakfast with Mom and Dad, but the room is empty (except for you), the bed is old, the floors are wooden, and there is only one dim light that works (to your right). It's barely past 2pm. There are men speaking just outside your door and you can't understand them.

Waking up, and your bed is more narrow than a twin; you turn and you touch the floor. The blankets are stiff and you only have one pillow and it's kind of flat.

The sandwich is mostly bread and butter.

Your socks and shoes like sponges, your feet churning them with every step. You feel your skin begin to prune.

You don't have a bank account here, an address here, a phone plan with internet, no friend's home where you can stay. Il faut une adresse. Il faut avoir un gérant.

They are setting up the fair.

Dog poop everywhere.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Seattle, WA

Some woman just called my dad a chink.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday, June 2, 2013

And one more thing

Oh, and you know what?

Speaking of reaffirming actions, last week I received a large envelope from my senior year high school English teacher. She had had us write essays and letters to our future selves, and now, five years later, has sent them out. I had written the following four "Plan A" predictions for myself:

-Have done study abroad
-Traveled a lot
-Finished at least one more story
-Not married

Well, that's three of four. (I'm still working on that story.) Not bad.

"Not married" was kind of funny.


So I got in.

Here's the thing. My feelings towards this acceptance is a lot more subdued than I had thought or hoped it would be. Lately I've been questioning the path I chose and I was sort of hoping, against what I knew was probably true, that getting this job would fix all that and reaffirm my actions. And reinstate me in the eyes of my peers. Yeah, there's that, too.

I'm well aware of the reputation young English teachers abroad have. It's not a particularly respected position. There are quite a few sub-par teachers out there, only using the position to have fun and travel, delaying "real life" just a little bit more. Of course it depends on where you go and where you teach, but it's not exactly very competitive in general.

To be honest, my primary goal when I applied for this was not to teach either (although I genuinely enjoy teaching and I genuinely love the English language). For me, it was also an easy chance to get abroad and work on my own foreign language skills. The long term goal was to just be there, become fluent, then come back and do some professional work.

It's not as easy as I make it seem, of course, and I worry that this will end up just giving me two blank years in which I'm standing still and all my friends have moved far ahead. Some of them already have. It's a little embarrassing. I also think about how I might never be able to match my parents financially. It's pretty daunting.

I had a short talk with my friend about it, and she understood my concerns. However, she also told me that the path I chose is a decent choice for me based on my background and my goals. I know I shouldn't worry about what others think of me, but I do. It just happens.

If my acceptance had happened at the get go, in the beginning of April, it's possible that much of this self doubt could have been avoided. But it came just two days ago, and I'm not so sure anymore. I'm going to take it--because what else can I do? We'll see. I hope it works out.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Today Rose, Oldie McOldOld's companion and the last of our original goldfish, died.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sneaky basker

I just caught my turtle basking!

The whole time she's been with us (this is fifteen years, roughly), she has been very private and paranoid about basking, jumping into the water at the slightest provocation--a glimpse of a being, a gentle footstep. She is now in a tank with very high, solid walls, so it is nigh impossible to see into until you are right up close. Often I've tried to sneak up on her--just to see her for a split second nice and dry before she dives back in--but have failed every time.

Today I walked up casually and unprepared. I wanted to check if she was under her rock before I poured new water in, so I go and look around. No turtle. I'm about to go back to grab the bucket of water when--there is this dark mass on top of the rock! Speedy! She looks up at me and stares. We are both frozen. I am afraid to move. We stare at each other for maybe five seconds... and she dives back in. Ah well.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

He said

He said,

Monday, April 1, 2013

A waiting game

I'm very nervous.

I've been thinking about it and--
The worst part of failing is telling the people who believed in you that you failed.

I hope this won't have to happen.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I sort of like it when I check my spam folder and I see spam in foreign languages I speak. It's like I've broken in and became one of them.

Sometimes it feels nice when a tram company whose tram I rode regularly over two years ago and haven't been near since sends me an email about updates to its system. I can pretend for a little bit that I'm still there. Just for a little, and then I unsubscribe.

When a game forum I haven't visited in years wishes me happy birthday.

When an old friend's email account sends me a blank subject email, obviously a virus.
(Just seeing their name in my inbox is a pleasant surprise, if only for the briefest moment.)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Over ten years

Today, my old, old goldfish died.

This one.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Looking American

I went to visit the Leshan Giant Buddha (乐山大佛) with a friend in January 2011. When we were at the top by the head, we asked a couple nearby to take our picture. They did, and asked us where we were from. My friend explained that she was a local from the same province, while I was from America. They were very surprised and said that I didn't look American. Haha! Well, my friend explained, she's 华侨--an ethnically Chinese person who lives outside of China.

"Can you speak English?"
"Yes.... hello!"

And they shook my hand and asked to take a picture with me. I hope their friends and family don't disbelieve them because I am not white.

I wish I had gotten a picture with them too.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Correcting corrections

I participate in a site called lang-8. It is a community-based language learning site. You put in your native language and the language(s) you are learning, and then you write journal entries on whatever you want in your foreign language, which will then be corrected by native speakers of that language. You, of course, will able to correct entries written in your own language as well. It's not required but it's common courtesy.

Certainly, because it is community-based, the quality of your corrections will vary. This is okay, because many times you will get more than one person correcting, and in any case, the point is to connect with native speakers in a way that is much more difficult to do in real life. In fact, just writing your entries regularly is probably good practice.

What gets me frustrated, though, is when I see English sentences that are perfectly correct get marked wrong and "fixed" incorrectly, with an incorrect explanation. There is no ambiguity--it is just wrong.

When you are learning a language, the native speaker is like a king. The native speaker lives in the language, able to churn out sentences like breathing without ever once sparing a thought to particles or tense. He understands cultural context and modern usage and slang and can explain this to you better and more fluidly than a textbook can. This is the person you want to be, so when he tells your that your sentence is wrong--and this is why--you believe him. I mean, unless you have rock solid confidence, in which case--maybe you are native-like now.

Usually, this mistaken native speaker (who I will just call the "wrong person" now for brevity) is sincere and probably already knows what grammar is actually correct, but he was a little careless and just zipped through those sentences with that native speaker confidence.

Now, I am not perfect, nor am I an English expert. I like to think myself somewhat above average in my English skills because I love reading and writing, I always did well in my English classes, I lapped up both prescriptive and descriptive grammar and genuinely enjoy learning about it, and I took several linguistic classes which taught me to look at language structure more technically. I have been wrong on lang-8 before--on a word I thought I was familiar with but really wasn't ("instep")--and I corrected myself on it.

So, when I correct these mistaken corrections, I know that the wrong person might get defensive. I used to start off with things like "I don't mean to be a jerk, but..." and maybe end with a "Sorry!" and an emoticon like this: ( ;´Д`)

I decided recently that I didn't need disclaimers and apologies like that. I'm not sorry about it; I don't want the learner to be confused. I want them to know that they are on the right track and they've been right all along. To head off an empty argument and to make sure I'm not doing the same thing, I do some research first--you know, making sure I know damn well what I'm talking about, collecting resource links and examples, using crystal clear language.

What I write is meant to be addressed to the wrong person. Most of the time he understands and agrees, because after all, we are all here to help each other learn in a friendly environment anyway. Then the learner will see this reply and understand, too.

Today, I did the same thing, and instead, the wrong person implied that I was trying to impress the learner, that I was confusing her with my grammatical terms, and that he was helping her take "baby steps." This made me so, so angry. Yes, okay, what I wrote was not easy for a non-advanced ESL speaker to understand; perhaps I should've have explicitly addressed it to him (the wrong person) from the start. However, your correction was not necessary and if you had just thought about it more in the first place and left it off no one would've been confused at all. Backwards steps are not baby steps.

I just get really worked up about it because I feel it's really unfair to the language learner. I know what it feels like to get conflicting information and it just really impairs the process. Perhaps, in the long run, it'll be but a drop in an ocean, but, I don't know, it still bothers me.

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong--just do it with good proof and I will take it gracefully on the chin!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Just throwing this out there

I've noticed for a while now that my posts seem to be disproportionately unhappy ones. Maybe I feel like writing the most when I'm unhappy--I know this was definitely the case when I was younger, and a more proficient and prolific writer. (It's very sad.)

In any case, I'd like to announce that I am usually a happy person, that I enjoy life, and that little good things happen all the time. I'm know I'm a pretty lucky one, and I'm grateful for what I've got.

Teachers and grownups

About two years ago, I sat down with a couple of people in a Hiroshima hostel on Christmas night and we just hung out, talking about our lives and what we do, where we've been and where we are going. Most of them were Japanese, which was the only time that had happened during my many ad-hoc chats and hangouts on that trip--but I digress.

I was the youngest one, and they oohed and said, 若い. Young. I didn't feel like I was that young, but I did mull upon the idea when I wrote in my journal later. Two of the people there were teachers, and I did think that it felt a little bit special to be hanging out with teachers, and that it was unusual, like being in an exclusive club, maybe. I supposed that it was that kind of thought that would out me in the "young" category.

Now, I have a high school friend who I see regularly who is a genuine, full-time teacher at a public elementary school. Just like the kind I used to go to.

A small moment when I feel like an adult.