My February 2017 Blog Challenge

I want to challenge myself to write more this year.

So I decided to start with February. Next month, I will post something new every Monday through Friday. (Notice I picked the shortest month of the year for this challenge!) If you’re counting, that’s 20 new posts in all.

In an effort to organize this a little bit, I made a theme for each day of the week:

(Monday) Office Life: On these days, I will write about my experiences working in Japanese high schools. Observations of office culture and working with foreign-born students.

(Tuesday) Extracurriculars: Aside from teaching classes, traveling, and eating, what the heck do I do in Japan? Well, more than you might know. This Tuesday series will exclude anything directly connected to my schools… so kimono (which I do at my base school) and all the speech contest prep that I do, won’t count towards extracurriculars.

(Wednesday) Photo of the Week: I’ll post a photo and probably the story that goes with it. This is meant to give me a mid-week break from writing — I don’t have as much free time as you might imagine!

(Thursday) Weekly Challenge: In addition to challenging myself to write more, I’ll also challenge myself to do something a little outside my comfort zone each week. Honestly, this is the day that scares me most… I’m really nervous about the two of the four challenges I picked out for myself. They aren’t even scary! I just don’t like shaking things up sometimes.

(Friday) Thoughts from Places: Some of these might be silly, and some of these might be a little more… well, thoughtful. Just some storytelling.

I’ve already started writing some of these posts to give myself a head start, so hopefully I’ll beat my own expectations and actually complete this challenge! I look forward to writing, so I hope people will look forward to reading!

New Years 2017 in Japan: Mt. Takao, Disney Sea, and Kamakura

I went home for Christmas 2016, my first time back in the USA after almost a full year and a half (17 months) of living abroad. Basically, I spent those two weeks travelling from place to place (I hit three states!), catching up with everyone I haven’t seen in the past 17 months, and eating all the food. Highlights included burritos with real sour cream, Wawa everything, bacon, and pizza.

After returning to Japan and resuming work on January 4th, a coworker rushed over and demanded to see photos — as she does after all my trips — and I realized that I really only had three pictures from the USA to show her:

My family, my best friend since 2nd grade, and my cat. And they were all taken on the same night. I guess I was too busy catching up with everyone to think that, “Oh, we need to take a picture together!” So unfortunately I missed multiple opportunities of capturing the moment with my grandmother, my cousins, my college roommates…

Luckily, I remembered how to snap photos once I arrived back in Japan for New Years.

J and I had a plan for New Years in Tokyo, you see. As always, we planned to do EVERYTHING, and of course it didn’t work out; but I was impressed by how much we actually did in three days.

Continue reading

The 16 Books of 2016

I managed to read 16 books in 2016, which is a little disappointing considering my original goal of 20 for the year. It’s doubly disappointing because I’m sure 14-year-old me would have easily doubled that number.

I can, however, console myself by remembering that most of these books are significantly longer and less “fun” than the fantastical fictions I used to devour in my teens. Case in point: the Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (all 56 short stories and all 4 short novels) totals 1886 pages! Although Sherlock wasn’t any less fun because of it. In addition, some of my choices were a little more experimental in genre, which didn’t always make for quick reads.

Here is the list (and a quick ranking) below.

If the author’s name is followed by a star * (and happily most of them are) it means that I would readily recommend the book to a friend.

Two stars ** means I very highly recommend the book. Something about a two star book really stuck with me after I finished reading it.

And of course, if it lacks a star… it means that I personally had a hard time getting into the book, but I know every reader is different!

The 16 books of 2016:

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale — Margaret Atwood ** 
  2. Cutting for Stone — Abraham Verghese **
  3. The Enchanted — Rene Denfeld *
  4. The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 1 — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle **
  5. Kafka on the Shore — Haruki Murakami
  6. Me Before You — Jojo Moyes *
  7. The Glass Castle: A Memoir — Jeannette Wells **
  8. The Picture of Dorian Grey — Oscar Wilde
  9. Redeployment — Phil Klay *
  10. Catherine the Great; Portrait of a Woman — Robert K. Massie **
  11. The Martian — Andy Weir *
  12. Assassination Classroom (all 22 books) — Yuusei Matsui **
  13. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (reread) — J.K. Rowling **
  14. How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia — Shannon Young *
  15. The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 2 — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle **
  16. Great Expectations — Charles Dickens *

Now for the “Book Awards”: basically, my top four books of the year — why I chose them, and why I loved them.

Continue reading