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Long Distance Relationships

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Hey, how ya doin’? Yep, I’m back. Let’s get to it!

With years of experience dealing with long distance relationships, I think I know enough about how to make them work. So, if you’re considering entering one, or are in one and need a little boost, or assistance, I hope these tips will be of some use.

*Disclaimer* I AM NOT A LDR/RELATIONSHIP EXPERT! Nuh badda blame me if things go sour, ha!

1. Make sure you BOTH want to do long distance. If one person is not enthused, jump ship. Abort mission. Say peace out and keep it moving. That person who isn’t on board will, most likely, blame every upcoming problem on the distance, even when there is no correlation.

Don’t worry, you can find someone else. You don’t want to be with someone who isn’t going to put in the time, effort and energy to make it work, anyway.

2. Establish an end date. Do not be one of those people who ends up twiddling their thumbs endlessly for the eventual reunification. It gets exhausting. Having an end date also helps in two ways:

-On a GOOD day, it helps you to plan. So, if you’re doing, say, 5 months of LD, you can try to plan 5 monthly activities to keep things interesting.
-On a BAD day, being able to look on your calendar and knock off time already gone serves as motivation to keep on keeping on. Kinda like when you’re closer to your goal of saving money or so.

3. Discuss the mode and frequency of communication you expect PRIOR TO the beginning of the distance. Are we Skyping? Skyping once a day or once a week? Do you expect to hear from me daily?

You may not have to discuss these things when your relationship has you in the same place. I mean, it tends to come naturally. But with new places, routines, different time zones etc., it’s good to have an idea of each other’s expectations. But be flexible…you’ll see why below.

4. Okay, so now you’ve started the relationship. He is nicely settled in Australia and you’re in New York. Now what? COMMUNICATE! Talk as often as you both need to, but be flexible and accommodating. I’d recommend scheduling talk time. Sched-what?! That’s so boring! …..Perhaps, but it’s better than running the risk of barely ever talking.

Also, remember discussing how frequently you guys were gonna talk? This is the time to see if that works or not. If someone is off at school, the pre-determined talk time for an hour every night may not actually work. If you’re in two different time zones, an email a day may be a better bet than say, a phone call, which may disturb sleeping house-mates. These are all kinks you’ll have to work on when you first start out. What you wanted to do before may change. That’s fine.

5. Remember, life happens. I say this because I know all too well about things getting in the way to mess up communication. If you’re in Jamaica, light may go. Womp womp…that means no Skype for you. Or, a person may oversleep. Your girl may have to work late and that cuts into you’re scheduled talk time. Your husband’s car may break down while you’re sitting at the computer waiting for him to talk to you. Point is, don’t be mad if something throws off your routine. Now if it happens all the time and they never send you a message beforehand, that’s a different matter. But for one-off things, be understanding.

6. Keep your activities varied. Telephone calls only are not enough. Skype alone is not enough. Emails alone, nope…not gonna cut it. Social media…nuh uh. No one form of communication is good enough to make a relationship last. It doesn’t work for no- distance relationships and it certainly won’t work for this. Be creative and thoughtful.

7. Keep yourself occupied! Hello! This opportunity for being in a relationship but not having the person there constantly is a blessing! You know why? It gives you the best of both worlds. The significant other AND the chance to do whatever the hell you want, because now you have a lot more time. Make use of it! Go read the mountain of books you have gathering dust. Go check out that new restaurant. Go out more with your friends. Join a club. Take drive- outs alone. Visit Portland. Write a book. Whatever.

Not only does it distract you from missing the person, but it also gives you new things to bring up when you guys chat. Let me tell you about my day. I went and picked up the girls and then we drove to the beach and saw this really funny thing happen or well, I woke up, ate, went back to sleep. Which sounds better? Yes, the first one.

Also, if you’re the person who has left and gone to a new place, go explore it! Do not be that fool sitting waiting hopelessly by the telephone.

8. Do not seek the validation of those around you. More often than not, people don’t support long distance relationships. I cannot tell you how often I’ve heard that they don’t work, that I’m wasting my time, that there are people around I could be going out with, and other such things. It’s okay for people to have their opinions, but focus on you and your relationship. You know why you decided to take the LD plunge. You know the qualities that are in this person which keep you attached to them in spite of the miles of separation. You know your end goal. Keep focused on that so that when you do hear stuff from the nay-sayers, you can block their negativity. By the way, a little gem to throw back to people who say LDR never work…no-distance relationships also fail left, right, and centre. May what will happen, happen.

There are hard times in every relationship, but with trust, and a little extra work, a long distance relationship can most certainly work out. And if you don’t believe me, check the internet for thousands of success stories!

Take care,
Minny

 

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Small Teaching Joys

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Sometimes, just as the frustration is beginning to rise and you’re losing patience or tolerance, the universe sends you a little sign that there is still some good left in whatever crummy situation you are in. I had one such moment last week. I was at work, bogged down by marking and test preparations, recovering from a nasty cold, tired as all hell because the nasty cold wouldn’t allow me to sleep the night before and constantly staring at the clock to see that lovely moment when I could run home to the comfort of my bed. Then I got a letter from a student. 

She is one of the few students who makes an effort to converse beyond “hi Sasha” in  the hallways. She gave me the letter to thank me for the key chain I had brought back from Singapore for her (and two other students) to congratulate them on their constant effort to speak English outside of class. I mean, that is such a rare thing that I figured I should reward them. 

That little letter really reminded me of why I am here which is largely to foster appreciation and understanding of foreign cultures. Beyond that, I am also here to be the approachable foreigner, the bridge between the Japanese world and all that is outside it.  I was so happy when I got that letter, because it was another move in the direction of positive interaction.

Impressive English aside, I loved her genuine curiosity in my travels. It went beyond “do you like Singapore?”. She wanted to know about the food and recommendations for places to visit. She told me about things she had read about the country and asked me whether they were true or not. If you’re not an ALT in Japan this might all seem trivial, but believe me, such inquisitiveness and desire for knowledge from a student, especially regarding a place OUTSIDE of Japan (more so, one that is not the great US of A), was refreshing. It reminded me that one of my responsibilities here is to open the minds of my students to the world outside of this box they are in. To let them ask questions, to let them actually think of questions to ask, to give them answers and expose them to aspects of foreign culture that their own society often doesn’t. You’d be surprised at the number of Japanese people who have no interest in the world outside Japan. 

Needless to say, the letter was the highlight of my week. I wonder what small joys will come my way this week. Have a great week folks!

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2012 Progress Report and 2013 Goals

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Time to reflect on the year that was. Here are the resolutions I made and the success I had with them:

-develop abs

No abs

-be able to bend over and touch my toes/the ground without bending my knees (how I will be able to do this is beyond me…I’m the least flexible person I’ve ever met in life)

I started going to yoga to help with my flexibility and overall fitness. However, I quickly realized that the steel and pins in my back were not cooperating with that whole bend like a pretzel thing and I had to stop. I think I will restart though, now that I understand my limits

-be able to order a meal at a Japanese restaurant without assistance

Sort of. My Japanese hasn’t improved much. I think what it is is that I have actually gotten better with my gestures. It also depends on the type of restaurant I go to. I will never, ever, ever be able to understand kanji but if it’s katakana I might be able to understand something on the menu. We have a long way to go for this one.

-save atleast 20,000 yen a month (about 22,000 Ja which is very, very, very low and doable)

Yes, yes and yes. Money in the BAAAANK. Perhaps my biggest success of 2012. Let’s just say I’ve certainly met this goal.

-decide what I want to do in grad school, where I want to do it and how I’m gonna get it done

I’ve decided on an area of study, I have an idea of where it will get done and my only hope is that I am accepted into the programmes I’ve looked into. 

High points included welcoming my nephew into the world, hosting my cousin in Japan for a month, surprising my father by taking a trip to Jamaica and travelling to South East Asia (again). I couldn’t help but feel that the year, overall,was pretty lackluster though especially when I compared it to 2011 which was all manner of awesomeness. There was very little spark and excitement. That said, perhaps that’s a good thing. Maybe I needed a relaxed year. Maybe it was the universe giving me some time to just reflect and be calm, to prepare for an amazing 2013. Who knows? I think perhaps what I’m happiest about as far as 2012 was concerned was that everyone close to me came out alive and well. 

Now, I suppose that because my birthday is January 1st, the concept of making resolutions holds a little more weight for me. I mean it really is a NEW year for me; not just a new calendar year but a new year of life. As such, even when I want to be like other folks and throw making resolutions to the wayside, I never do. Here are my resolutions for 2013:

1. Make it to 100 lbs

2. Keep saving that 20,000 yen a month (about the same as the JA dollar)

3. Grow out my hair a full 5 inches longer

4. Write more. I’ve been told it’s my talent. I ought to make an attempt to tap into it and see where it can go. Investing in my craft and all these things…

That’s it. All doable. What are yours? 

Good health, happiness and prosperity this year! Have a great 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Mizu-Akari Festival

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Japan has a festival for everything. The most recent one was called “Mizu-akari” which I’ve read translates to“faint reflection of light upon the water in the dark”.  Thousands of candles are placed close to the castle (yes, we have a lovely castle in the middle of the city). They’re along the sidewalks, on the streets and even in bamboo cut into very intricate, beautiful patterns. Have a look.

Candles in Bamboo

Other Bamboo Designs

The colours were my favourite for the night!

Candles floating along the river.

Another river picture.

Candles lining the pavement leading up to the castle

Little paper tents. I have no idea what they signify though but they were cute.

A closer look at them

Now you all know that I took these pictures with my iphone which is nothing close to a great, professional camera, so please bear with the quality 🙂 Perhaps I’ll get a video of the festivities next time as well. It was really lovely and I’m happy I went!

Communication Triangle

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Hello guys and gals. I know it’s been a LONG time since I’ve said anything here but I promise that as of today I will be using this platform more often. Now let’s get right into things, shall we?

Not too long ago I was having a conversation with someone, discussing the concept of the information triangle as it pertains to partners and friends. The issue: what rules should govern the passage of info between two people in a relationship and an outside friend, especially if the outside friend of one of the partners is of the same sex as the other partner? Example: you, a girl, are in a relationship with a guy who has a female friend.  Should you, by virtue of being his partner, be privy to secrets they share as friends? Or should you understand that their friendship does not involve you, so if he doesn’t want to tell you about whatever the friend has said, you should leave it alone?

There are two sides to this. I have been the friend on the outside. I have a very good male friend who I often confide in. One day it occurred to me that he probably told his partner all the stuff I told him regarding my own love life and problems. At first, it made me a little uncomfortable just because I thought well, this is a little awkward. But you know what? I cut out that line of thinking real quick because for ME, it seemed disrespectful  to even think about him not sharing something with her if she wanted to know, especially since I, the friend in question, was another female. Imagine her asking “so, what did you and Sasha talk about today” and him replying with “nothing” or “none of your business”…no sah…that should not fly. So immediately after acknowledging my discomfort, I also acknowledged that my line of thinking was poor. They came as a pair. A pair I really, really like and a pair I trust. So, though I may not have been going to her directly, I was and still am 100% okay with him sharing whatever it is I say with her, because that is his partner, his confidante and that sort of bond that they have is what it should be. Now, had this been some little fly by night girl that he had for some short time, or a girl who I didn’t respect, clearly I would not feel the same way, but if it’s a serious relationship or more, marriage, I am fully, 100% okay with information like that being shared. We ought to acknowledge the role that a person’s significant other plays in their life and give them the due respect, provided it is a relationship that we respect. If you truly don’t want the partner knowing, perhaps you should think twice about sharing it with him. Essentially, you shouldn’t want your friend to be hiding things from his partner anyway.

Now, as the person IN the relationship…I don’t really make it a habit of asking about the conversations a partner has with his female friends. I don’t want it to seem like I’m being nosy, to be honest lol. However, I would like to know that if I enquired he would tell me because he A. feels comfortable enough sharing things with me and B. trusts that I will not spread the information.Now, if I ask and he doesn’t want to let out anything,  I’d understand that we have different views on these matters and perhaps the fellow is just trying to be loyal to his friend. However, a small part of me would feel a bit slighted if someone flat out refused to tell me anything, especially if I went ahead and asked. Again, if I don’t ask, you don’t need to tell me, but if I ask and you say no…well then yes, I’d feel a little bad, considering the fact that it would not be a habit of mine to be asking anyway. Does that make sense? Also, I don’t know how I would feel about a woman telling him, point blank, that she doesn’t want anything she tells him to be shared with me. It would make me wonder, what does she think of me? Does she respect me as his confidante? Does she respect the role I play in his life? Again, if I was new on the scene and she had reservations I’d understand, but after some time if she was still pulling that stunt the wheels in my mind would start to turn.

I like to think of honesty and communication as some of the key ingredients of a good relationship, but is there a limit to the level of communication that should take place? What do you folks think? Am I alone in my opinion? Please share.

 

 

Trip to Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe

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My cousin is here visiting from England for a month. As such, I’ve planned a few eventful weekends for him since they are my only times of freedom. Weekdays are off limits…I am a working woman, after all. This past weekend we decided to visit Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, three big cities in Japan. Osaka is the equivalent of Montego Bay in Jamaica. The second “big city” after Tokyo. Kyoto is well known for it’s rich display and wealth of Japanese culture; lots of temples, shrines and such. Kobe is most famous for it’s beef and for the major earthquake which severely destroyed it in 1995. The trip  got off to a tricky start. We missed the bus to the airport in a city two hours away and ended up having to take a different bus, a train, running for dear life and reaching the airport with four minutes left for check in. But…we made it, whew!

On Friday morning we headed out to Kyoto. Just getting there was a task in and of itself. Taking the wrong trains, having to ask directions fifty million times…TEDIOUS! The first stop was Kinkakuji, the golden pavilion. It’s one of those places that EVERYONE tries to visit, so naturally we did as well. It’s a beautiful site, but I was a bit disappointed because well, that’s it. No tour. No…anything else. Just the golden structure in the middle of a pond. In fact, the most eventful part of that visit was the bombrush we got by some Chinese/Korean tourists that were so amazed at the sight of black people that they asked to take pictures with us.

Look at all that shiny gold!

After that we visited another temple, the name of which I can’t remember now and then Gion district where we saw a few geishas roaming about. That was also interesting. I felt like a member of the paparazzi trying to snap pictures with the poor women. It was crazy. Crowds of people lining the street just waiting for one to appear to get a picture with them. After that we went to an open temple area which was beautiful, free and quaint and then walked around the town a little, checking out the shopping areas before heading back “home” to Kobe where we stayed.

On Saturday we ventured into Osaka. This boy was hell bent on seeing any and everything he possibly could for the day and so we did a LOT. I’m still tired from it all. We went to see Osaka Castle, the Osaka History Museum, the Floating Botanical Garden/Sky Building, some other tower I can’t remember the name of and a huge ferris wheel which in some accounts is said to be the largest in the world (I’m not sure about that).  It’s such a vibrant city, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed it a lot more had the rain not been showering down for the vast majority of the day. For me the best part was the ferris wheel. From the top we were able to get a grand view of Osaka Bay. It was spectacular. His favourite was, I’m assuming, the Floating Garden, since he was going on and on and on about how awesome it was. It really did give a majestic view of the city as well, but it was raining so hard that we didn’t get to experience it in all its grandeur.

Part of the museum’s display

Osaka Castle

We didn’t do much in Kobe as it was only a place for us to rest. It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t sample some of their world famous beef, but at roughly 5000 yen (about the same in Jamaican dollars), I let it pass.

Do you see that angry sky?!

It was a great trip to the Kansai region. I wish that we had headed out earlier on both days so that we could have fit a few more things in and I also wish it hadn’t been rainy season that we did this. If you ever make it to Japan, or you’re here and haven’t gone yet, definitely head to the area! As usual, my pictures are not the best since they were taken with my i-phone, but enjoy none the less!

Osaka Bay from the roller coaster.