I`ve once again realized just how bad I am at this blogging thing. One reason is that I think about what I`m going to write, plan it word-by-word in my head…and then forget to write it! By the time I could sit down and do so, it`s not very timely anymore, so I tend not to. Another reason is that most of the time, my life is pretty normal (e.g. work, home, sleep, repeat), and I don`t think any of that is very interesting to write. A third reason is that I`ve been getting in a weird mood sometimes where even though I have stuff I want to do, I don`t actually want to do it. It`s like my brain is at war with itself sometimes, and it`s super annoying.
So, as seems to be usual with me, this post will be a mix of things, updating, in case you`re interested.
Two weeks ago was girl scout camping. I went with the Fukushima Girl Scouts last year to camp as well. Rather than one town going camping, the entire prefecture does together. What they do here is that when you get to camp, everyone is given a nametag. On the nametag is a symbol or name, and that`s the patrol (group) you`ll be with during the weekend, rather than sticking with your home troop only. Last year, I was the assistant leader of a patrol.
This year, I was the only leader of the patrol! It was middle school students, so when I couldn`t understand or didn`t know the answer, they could easily figure out who to ask, or read the schedule for me. But for the most part, it went fine. We didn`t have any real issues, which was nice. My Japanese is a little better, even if not as good as I want it to be, and being middle school, the five girls I had in my group knew little bits and pieces of English here and there. (Kids here start learning English in elementary school)
Japanese Girl Scout Camping (at least what we did last year and this year) doesn`t quite feel like real camping to me. We aren`t in tents with sleeping bags (though one day last year was), but instead in a tatami mat room in a hostel type place. Which means we have access to a shower every night while camping. And it`s a shared bath, so if you don`t go in with everyone, it`s more noticeable than if you do. I don`t really like shared bathing, but I`ve kind of gotten used to it.
Another weird thing I`ve gotten used to is eastern style toilets. The ones they call `squat toilets` where you don`t sit down. Mostly, they look like this. And the stalls they`re in are usually smaller than stalls with western style toilets. I avoided them for a long time, because after living most of my life in America I think they`re weird, but after about a year and a half of being here, realized that there are enough places that have them that it`s more of a pain if I can`t use them. The place the Girl Scouts in Fukushima go camping is one of them; the only western style toilets they have are in the handicapped stall, and there`s less of those than other bathrooms.
Anyway, so we went camping for two nights. There were activities and stuff of course. Another thing different from townwide camping that I was used to in America was that we ate in the cafeteria in the place where we were staying, rather than make our own food. I took pictures of every meal, just for fun.
Although we did make rice over a fire. It is Japan. 😛
I can`t share all my pictures because most of them are of the kids, so there aren`t a lot. But here`s a couple more.
So that was camping. It was fun, and, like last year, I feel like my Japanese improved just a little, since I had to use it all the time during camp.
Switching topics, I found a budgeting app I`m trying. It`s cute. It isn`t really so much a budget as it is a `put in every single bit of income and things you bought` and then it`ll make a pie chart for you of where you spend the most money. I was writing on paper, but the past couple of months I`ve fallen a little bit behind in doing so, so I thought it better to try something new. I have to say though, seeing the pie chart even after only a few days of being in the new month (my fiscal month starts on payday, of course), it hurts that most of my spending was on loans. Also sad is that that much money has been spent, and I`m only 10 days into my fiscal month. T-T I bet I`m going to be over this month as well…but tracking does have to start somewhere.
Speaking of loans… I know it isn`t the first of the year, but I`ve been comparing this year`s debt total to last year`s, and I`m seeing something interesting. That is, the debt is (slooooooowly) going down, whereas last year it remained about the same the entire year. I`m paying about the same amount every month as I was…the only difference is, from January of 2018, I had no more credit card debt. (I graduated college in 2012, so it took about 5 years to pay off those credit cards!! That was the danger of putting an entire semester on credit cards when they wouldn`t give me loans…)
I know people always tell you to watch out for credit card debt, but it never really hit me until I saw what a big difference it makes to not have it. From Jan. 2017 to Oct. 2017, my entire debt went down by…scratch that, it didn’t go down those ten months, it went UP by $297.37!!!. BUT, with no credit card debt, from Jan. 2018 to Oct. 2018, my entire debt went down by $3,627.92. That is a huge difference. The interest on the loans is still killing me, and is why I haven`t been able to make more of a dent up till now, but still, that the presence or absence of credit card debt makes such a difference surprised me a little. And because of that, my advice is, even if you want to try starting the snowball method to get out of debt, kill the credit card debt first.
And to keep it updated here (though it has been a while… ^^;; ) my current debt situation is:
My substafford loan: $1420.34
My advantage loan: $6396.30
My discover loan: $5642.27
My consolidation loan: $39,681.79
Dad’s consolidation loan: $44,909.65
My discover card: $6.75
September 2018 Debt Total: $98,060.10
Getting out of debt isn`t easy, and it`s taking me quite a long time. I know I`ve mentioned before, but I`ll say again…I`m listing my information here to give some hope to people in similar situations. No, I`m not getting out of debt quickly. But I`m also not living like a hermit and never buying anything fun, and I`m still making a dent. So it can be doable.
And then, this last Saturday, I went to Aizu-Wakamatsu for their international festival. It took 4 hours driving to get there, even though GPS said it would take 2.5. And I left two hours later than I planned to, which didn`t help. I did have a little time to explore… one of the main things I`d wanted to see in Aizu was the Sazaedo Temple. It`s a building built so that you can walk in and out without retracing your steps, which is kinda cool. Originally, there were 33 Buddha statues there, from what I`ve heard, but they aren`t there anymore. It was still neat.
Right next door to the Sazaedo was the grave of the Byakkotai…a group of 16 and 17 year old soldiers who all committed suicide during/at the end of the Boshin war. (Which I know nothing about, so don`t ask.)
After taking a few pictures, I did buy one souvenir. On the side, it has a poem, which I took a picture of up at the grave that had an English translation.
That was pretty much all I had time to see before it got dark, since total I spent about two hours there. And the next day was the international festival. I didn`t get a chance to wander around since I was the only one running my booth but I did take a picture of my booth beforehand. Basically, I had some information about Massachusetts, was selling random trinkets I`d made, and was offering the opportunity for people to make friendship bracelets (for 100 or 200 yen, since there was a materials cost). Surprisingly, I actually made enough money that it paid for all the materials I`d used on the things I`d made and the bracelets, the hotel I`d stayed in the night before, and probably the gas I`d used to get there and home too. And since I still have materials left and can make more things later, I figure I came out ahead. ^_^ Overall, it was fun; at one point though, I had six kids all trying to make bracelets at the same time, so no one could see my Massachusetts information!
And that`s pretty much what`s been happening. Normal stuff. Oh, and I finally bought my plane ticket home for Christmas. Managed to get two direct flights somehow for the same price that it would have been for flights with layovers. (the shortest layover still added about 4 hours of travel time!) I`d prefer direct. Oddly, they`re different lengths of time…one is 12 hours and change and the other is 13 hours and change. Ah well.
It had occurred to me too, if I do manage to find another job and stay here after next August, like I`m pretty sure I want to, I`ll likely not be able to go back for Christmas next year because most jobs don`t give starting people that many vacation days; JET program is a little unusual in how many days they give.