Unlikely partnership

I haven’t written much lately, feeling very much in a slump.  I haven’t written, finished unpacking from my move nor am I, apparently, in any hurry to finish my home deco projects to help me unpack and be happier with my new place.

So instead of forcing myself to work on something, I’d rather write about a new… experience, if you will, that only began after my move.

One interesting thing about the new place is that it changed my behavior with spiders. Weird, I know. This apartment is about twice as big as the one I left and I relish all the open space, no longer feeling like a dog in a kennel.

When I spotted the first spider, easily within reach below my window, I was kind of grossed out and a little uneasy; but fine, it’s not moving, and it’s not exactly bothering me. So I let it be, for now. With each passing day, I got used to it being there when I open the curtains in the morning and close them at night.

Then I started finding and killing bugs. Hello new friend, have some dinner! (My sadistic side came out a little, so what…) I’d drop the dead insect into the web and sit back to watch how quickly the spider worked. This one must have been ravenous: it sprang to life and worked on the insect, quickly wrapping it in a cocoon too thin for my eyes to see, but I could definitely see it being cocooned. (Thank you, LOTR, for providing me with vivid imagery.)

The next day, another spider moved in, still below the window but in the opposite corner. Fine, so I have two pets now. I kept feeding the smaller one though, as I’d promised it – because of course I started talking to them. Then I fed a humongous fly to the biggest spider, and the next day, a smaller spider had arrived, neatly hanging above the second spider.

Great, three of you. Hmm… Whatever. And before I knew it, a fourth one had come in and settled in the middle of everyone. By that point the grossed out feeling surfaced again. “Come on guys, four of you? That’s way too many for this tiny space!” But fine, not like they bothered me.

I decided to stop feeding them though, because apparently they emit an “omnomnom food!” signal and all other spiders congregate. Let’s not. The thing is, a few days later, they auto-regulated and only one was left. Hooray! One I can manage. One of them must have returned to the kitchen ceiling and another went by the front door, as I’d suggested.

In case you think I’m crazy, well… who cares. I just got into this weird mood of talking to spiders with some patience and telling them they were in the wrong spot, this wouldn’t work, please move. I guess it worked? Except in the toilet, because there are now six of them and probably not enough bugs to survive. I guess they’ll find out.

I don’t know why upon moving apartments I became able to coexist with spiders, but I kind of like it that way. They’re not around my bed and mostly in places I don’t access, and they work better than a can of bug spray (for the most part). Except last night when I had to actively seek out and exterminate a mosquito before dropping it into a web with a “bon appétit!” It was gone in the morning.

Our partnership continues.

Ali J.



You know what I hate?

I hate the accusatory, entitled tone some old dude takes when I don’t answer his “bonjour mademoiselle” the first time around, as much as I hate the woman behind him scoffing at my abrupt answer as I keep walking.

What do you expect? I’m happily buzzing in my own world and thoughts, listening to my music and going about my business. I’m out for groceries, not a conversation.

I hate being honked at while unlocking my front door only to see some random ass dude waving at me from his camionnette.

It’s also slightly terrifying because that person now knows where I live.

I hate seeing a group of guys turn around to watch me walk away.

Don’t give me that “boys will be boys” bullshit.

I hate being told “give me a smile” just as I hate always being caught off guard and giving them attention they don’t deserve.

You’re not entitled to anything: not me, my time, or my smile.

But I hate it even more because this shit only happens when I wear a fucking dress.

Apologies for the language (and the blazing inferno heat behind this) but given the first happened barely an hour ago, I had to share. So there you have my compilation. It’s also a vain attempt to make up for my lack of March Monthly Blurb (inspiration disappeared, hopefully it’ll come back).

I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this Snapshot, dress or no dress (it’s just a lot more pronounced when it is a dress), and it really pisses me off. I’m now out of words.

Fight on,
Ali J.

The Inadvertent Thief

The day had barely started yet her brain already stacked things in a mental to-do list. Go to the store. Return the blackened carrots. Buy lunch. Print materials for class. See the secretaries for exam scheduling.

So anxious she was to go home and eat, she didn’t want to take a big bulky cart as it’d only slow her down. She zipped through the aisles, checking her watch repeatedly. Cheese, yes. Bread, pickles. Frozen stuff, nope. Lunch, check. She stuffed the items into her canvas bag, careful not to squish anything.

Ready to checkout, she quickly scanned the registers for either the shortest line, or the line with the least amount of items to check out. Sometimes her luck was rotten, because the shortest line had the slowest customer or cashier, or they’d forgotten something, or or or… Sometimes, it was the opposite and no one was there. But today was a normal day, with a little waiting time.

For once, she paid by cash instead of card. Frustratingly, the cashier set her change on the belt rather than in her hand. Precious minutes wasted… But at least, it wasn’t raining and she was home in less than 10 minutes. After shedding off her coat and scarf and unzipping her ankle boots, she emptied her canvas bag before preparing lunch.

Bread, cheese, pickles, lunch. Cheese?


Confused, she pulled out her receipt and counted all her items. Eight. Why did she suddenly have nine!?

“Oh shiiit…!”

She realized that cheese –une bûche de chèvre, a particular favorite of hers – had probably been hidden by her secondary shopping bag. In all her rushing through the ‘now’ and worrying about the ‘later,’ she’d basically become a thief. Inadvertently, of course. But what could she do, return to the store after work and say “Hi, I realized I didn’t pay for that this morning, can I pay now?”

No, that would only get her weird glances and who knows how the employee (or worse, security!) would react. It was too late. All she could do to ease her guilt was savor the cheese. After all, we all know things we don’t pay for taste better, right?

Bûche de chèvre

Monday Blues

As much as I came home feeling rather pleased with my lesson planning last Monday, you could say today was the stark opposite. No, it has nothing to do with the pre-6p.m. darkening of the sky or with my cleaning procrastination. I just feel like a failure. Can I even call myself a teacher?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for pity or anything (although hugs are always welcome), I’m just declaring my overwhelming feelings of inadequate-ness. Some classes zip by, like a car on the highway, while others feel like a car on a dirt road, getting stuck in ditches and having to come out and push to move forward.

There are a few classes I fear more than most, and that every week. A recurring “please no, not this class” dreading feeling. My strongest, despairing “nooo”s come on Sundays and Wednesdays. Today, I wasn’t disappointed. Although I was rather surprised when I got an “oh crap– they’re bored” feeling barely halfway through two other classes. Why does it always feel like they’re never into things I think will be super interesting? (Don’t answer that, I know… Or at least, I have many suspicions.)

All that to say, there are days when reality slaps you so hard in the face you come home and just want to wrap yourself in a blanket and hibernate until better days. This is my self-reminder that it won’t. Not unless I do something to change “it” (whatever that refers to), myself and especially my thought process.

I bet you if I stopped fearing/anticipating/groaning about these “atrocious, monstrously unpleasant” classes, they wouldn’t feel so bad. In fact, why don’t I stop those “I don’t wanna gooo” feelings? I know for a fact just changing your mindset can affect – well, everything. I’ve done it for another class and was shocked when a student shattered my skewed perception of her. So it does work, but implementing that new train of thought requires a lot of effort.

Not any more effort than preparing a good class, but maybe I need some combination of both: confidence in what I have planned, and an open enough mind to be willing to have my world perception changed. I want to be surprised, in the best way possible! The outcome can only be positive, right?

Instead of agonizing over my decision(s) and thoughts of what I should do next year – move, or stay and teach university – I should focus more on the challenges at hand. Live in the ‘now’ rather than the future, or the mistakes of the past. Then maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel slightly more accomplished and worthy than even yesterday.

Fight on,
Ali J.


The first week back to school is always hard, for students and teachers. So imagine the speed at which my dedication burst forth, like a cat on a laser dot, when I got less than half my students showing up for the first class. Great start guys, I can feel your determination already!

This week’s lessons were relatively simple, to ease back into a school pace once more – after a much deserved 3 week break. I picked an activity I’d done with my JHS Japanese students, “Answer Me Bingo,” and changed a few answers to make it more challenging. (In case you’re curious, the aim is to get students to create questions that will have me answer with the words/expressions in a box. It’s a fun game, especially for younger students!)

One of my answers was “to get published,” to get a question like “what’s your dream” or more broadly, “what’s an author’s dream?”

If you’ve taught before, you know how vulnerable you can feel when exposing pieces of yourself to students. Why, it’s just like writing! Although the feedback is more immediate and usually visual in class.

So at the end of one class today I had a student come up to me and ask if I was writing a novel. (Warning: paraphrasing myself.) “Why yes, I am! It’s a work in progress.”

We then spent 5 to 10 minutes talking about  how expensive it is to get published, how fierce competition is, and overall how hard writing can be. This student entered a contest where even if her work doesn’t get picked, she’ll get feedback from a panel of judges, and I’m so very excited for her!

I think I’ll always fondly remember this moment and feeling from now on because one ‘silly’ activity and a mere 3 words got a student to open up to me, and about writing! What’s that expression… two birds, one stone? Victory? Nope, today it’s bingo!

With that fruitful tale, I feel slightly more confident in sharing bits of myself with my students, if only for those brief rewarding moments.

Be yourself!
Ali J.

Holiday Travels

From the moment the elderly couple latched onto me at the train station, I knew this trip would be good.

The night stretched deep into the winter morning and I had to keep moving to avoid frozen toes. The elderly couple was talking to someone, who turned around and asked me if this was the right train then bid them goodbye and left. Right after, the couple inched to the side and stayed quite close, asking me a few questions because “we’re not used to taking the train.” Usually, I might’ve become irritated and wished they’d leave me alone, but I felt quite compelled for company and welcomed their ‘intrusion.’ We chit chatted about the cold, the train and our respective vacations. I don’t think they understood I was changing continents, and I didn’t press the matter – I didn’t want to shock them too much.

The train finally arrived, late, and I found my seat, although it was occupied by a sleeping student-aged woman. Already mentally complaining, I had to stop myself and realize this was probably better because I was getting off at the next stop and it’d be really cumbersome to sit by the window while managing my three bags.

Once at the airport, I stood in what I thought was a long line, humoring the employee asking if I packed any dangerous items. “Well, unless you count chocolate… no.” Her face showed no amusement and she proceeded to interrogate the person behind me. After finally getting to the counter, I found myself harping on the French slowness of things. Stop chatting with your colleague and speed it up, can’t you see the line? The fact that she spoke English to me as soon as she spotted my American passport and didn’t acknowledge my French question did nothing to help either. Until she handed me a ‘Fast Track’ pass to skip the longer lines. Score! I turned around and noticed how long the current line was. Hah! I take it back, my line was short.

At last, I made it by the gate, and nibbled on some snack in lieu of breakfast. Might as well start grading those papers. I’m pretty sure I get some weird looks from people not understanding why I’m stifling laughter when students misspell “autopilot” as “autopalate.”

The flight itself was fine. My neighbor had to ask me for help a couple of times to figure out how to turn the light on/off or where to plug in his headphones. I gotta say, the touch screen was really nice, except when it came to playing games on it – my arm would get quite sore. Although I didn’t play all that much, and tried very hard to finish my grading but could only manage my 3rd year papers (and yes, I did watch two movies). I might’ve napped for an hour. And I definitely scarfed down the lunch they served, my only proper meal the entire day.

Once in Washington D.C, I had to wait for my luggage only to recheck it, go through customs then security again. I managed to find the right currency and got myself a smoothie before going to my gate 5 mn before the boarding time. Except, there was still no aircraft. Sick of sitting after about 10 hours, I stood in line, because I could. It didn’t take long before the announcements had the passengers groaning, and the people around me were surprisingly chatty.

The lady behind me commented on the delayed flight. “As long as we have a plane.” Chitchat was abundant until the plane arrived at last and the passengers unloaded. Never had we seen a plane unload so quickly. Despite the employees’ attempt to clear the lanes to facilitate the unloading, people aimed for the shorter route: cut directly behind the employees’ counter. “We have your back, literally.” My neighbors laughed.

I kept the jokes coming until we could finally board the plane – only an hour late. But contrary to our expectations, the plane stayed on the tarmac for another 30 minutes, and when we finally kicked away from the gate I got to talking to my neighbor. Turns out, he spent 3 years in Japan! Talk about a common interest. We had a nice conversation for the next two hours.

“How’s your Japanese?”
“Not as good as yours.”
“How do you know!?”
He just laughed. (But seriously, how did he know!?)

He gave me his number in case I wanted to go down to Torrance for “the best” Japanese food and entertainment (his words). We chatted some more until I gave in to my exhaustion and managed another nap. When we finally got to LAX, we taxied for some time while the flight attendants kept asking the passengers without a connecting flight to stay seated until those whose connections were waiting could get up and leave. By that point, I didn’t care, as long as I got my bag, found my dad and got to the car. Figures, the flight attendant’s “we’ll leave in just a few minutes” wasn’t the only lie they told us. “Your luggage will be at carousel 3.” Nope, it sure wasn’t!

But that’s alright. I was, after all, home in one piece and with my luggage. The positive outlook all those hours ago certainly made this trip positive despite all the opportunities to get mad or annoyed. And after some real food (my second real meal for the day) I went to bed at 10a.m., my Saturday.

Happy Holidays! Spread the cheer around. ~(^o^)~
Ali J.

New category: Sudden Snapshot!

While eluding sleep, it occurred to me I should just make a new category to group the random tidbits from daily life I might happen to write about.

The previous post fits perfectly, and another came to mind, so when I’m no longer drowning under papers, grading and packing pressure, I’ll be sure to update. Who knows, things happen during long trips, and inspiration comes from all places because “reality surpasses fiction!”

On that note, (holiday) cheer on!
Ali J.