Archive for the 'Work' Category

The Plan

Sunday, August 16th, 2009 by Chris

Some of you may be aware that we no longer live in Japan. Hello from the suburbs of Leeds, England! I thought I’d present a brief roundup of our current situation for those not “lucky” enough to be privy to all the messy daily evolutions of our “plans.”

The most common question, of course, is: Where next?

The short answer is: We don’t know. In fact, Steph came up with a brilliant scheme to postpone that very question: travel around the world until Christmas.

Over the years we have been lucky to befriend many lovely people with penchants for world travel. So now we’re visiting them, in this rough order:

  1. UK (August): London, Oxford, Yorkshire, Edinburgh, plus brief highland road trip
  2. Europe (September): based in Berlin + side trips to Italy and Spain
  3. Moldova (October): to visit my friend all the way back to junior high, Erin!
  4. Cambodia (November): to visit our college friend Katherine!

This is a mixed work-play holiday. I called in a “favor” at work (not really, but this is — actually to the day, I think — my tenth anniversary of being hired) and got a couple months off to spread over the rest of this year. The idea is to follow a pattern of a few weeks of travel and vacation, followed by a month of “settling down” somewhere where I will get some work done and Steph will do some volunteering and planning for her own future.

Right now we’re in the UK portion of the trip. We spent a week in London, a weekend in Oxford, and are now in Yorkshire staying with our friend and fellow Noshiro ALT, Claire. Next week it’s off to Edinburgh and after that, a month in Berlin, staying in a lovely cheap apartment found on Craigslist!

In the long term, we’ll be home for Christmas — probably in California, but who knows. After that, the book is completely unwritten. Where we end up is mostly down to Steph’s job prospects, so I’ll let her write about that!

We’ll try to keep you up to date as the trip progresses!


Thursday, July 24th, 2008 by Chris

I literally just returned from my two-week trip to Boston and Buffalo, and moments after sitting down at the computer… another earthquake! The epicenter was in the same prefecture, Iwate, as the previous big one about a month ago. Poor Iwate.

This one was a little scary because this time, Stephanie wasn’t here in Akita. She and our friend Andy took a road trip to Aomori, and were located much closer to the epicenter than Noshiro. (They are in the armpit of the large axe-shaped peninsula at the top of the island.) Not to worry though; Steph called and assured me everything is all right.

I should also mention that there was a big one in the same region, but a ways off shore, just last week! That makes three in just over a month, all about the same 7-ish magnitude. Definitely some major correction going on in the earth’s crust around eastern Tohoku.

Bagpipes and Applecores

Friday, April 18th, 2008 by Steph

I have a fascination this one question, and lately I’ve been asking everyone within earshot: What was your first job? Sometimes this leads to cryptic two-word answers for which you must invent your own back-story (take for example “cookie factory”). Other times you get more information than you were bargaining for (“I mowed lawns so I could buy my first set of bagpipes”).


Media Madness

Monday, March 31st, 2008 by Steph

A few months ago, Chris and I were contacted out of the blue by an editor at CityWeekend, an expat newspaper in China. He found our photos on flickr, and asked if either of us would be interested in doing some travel writing. As improbable as this solicitation sounded, the inquiry was legit, and I now have a published article to show for it. It’s so beautiful how Flickr brings people together. You can read the article on cherry blossoms in Japan here:

Also, the next podcast with PodAsia is up. This episode is about sacred Mount Koya in Wakayama prefecture. The podcast includes an interview with a monk as well as Buddhist chanting and shamisen music. Check it out, episode 93:

A Catalog of Courtesy

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 by Steph

I thought that I would, as an exercise in introspection, take note of all the times I bow when interacting with others in the course of a normal day. Here’s today’s tally:


Podcast Alert

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008 by Steph

I’ve been working with the PodAsia travel podcast for a few months now, and my first show of the year is up! Check out Episode #85 on summer travels in Hokkaido in Northern

Japan. PodAsia downloads are available for free through itunes or directly from the site at

Read the Air

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007 by Steph

We’re told over and over as foreigners living in Japan that this is a high-context culture. On an abstract level, this means that many things are left unsaid, and it is the listener’s job to tease meaning out of innuendo and implication. Practically speaking, this may manifest itself as imperatives in the form of polite suggestion, or outright refusal disguised as the slightest hesitation.

This quality of Japanese communication can be described by a delicious little phrase: 空気を読む(Kuuki o yomu). The literal translation is “read the air”, and it describes how you have to feel out not just what’s being said, but also what’s left unsaid. Just like “reading between the lines”, 空気を読む describes in a nutshell the necessity of ascertaining intent from the barest framework of spoken words.


Booty Call

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007 by Steph

At first, I thought it was my imagination. I was on my way to teach my first class of the week, which, as usual, means climbing flights of stairs to the top floor of the high school to teach the first years. My mind was on the lesson at hand, how to begin class, when… wait… is that… could it be… are those HANDS on my BUTT?


The Holiday That Keeps on Giving

Thursday, November 1st, 2007 by Steph

There’s something really satisfying about celebrating your own holiday in a foreign country. Maybe not the ones where you usually spend time with your family, but the other ones where there’s lots of silly customs and games, those are fun. Take this Halloween, for example. Because I don’t live in the states, I am not subject to the grotesque advertising free-for-all that comes with any major holiday. I have the luxury of ignoring the commercial aspects, and celebrating if and when I want. Cut to this week’s eikaiwa class.


Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater

Saturday, October 27th, 2007 by Steph

Last Monday I arrived at my high school to discover with dismay that I was at the wrong school. It’s not so surprising actually. With 15 schools to visit, it’s a wonder I don’t make this mistake all the time. With one hour to regroup, I went home and began my planning for elementary school lessons. Raw ingredients for the day’s lessons included:

  • my

    smallest school, with only 10 kids in the entire student body

  • my voice, hoarse and almost inaudible, from a long and insistent cold

I racked my brain: with an hour’s notice, how could I finagle a day of successful lessons? And then it hit me: Of course! I would bring the pumpkins.