Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New Blog New Me

Since I am no longer in Japanland, I started a new blog that chronicles my thoughts, experiences, and craziness. If you're interested in seeing how I'm doing since the JET Program, check out,

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Zits the Size of Mt. Fuji

You’ve finally settled into your apartment and your new routine in Japan. You’re in the euphoric peak of culture shock, where everything is perfect and wonderful. Until one morning, as you wash your face, you feel slight pain underneath the surface of your skin, indicating an emerging zit. “Whatever, it’s no big deal,” you tell yourself as you head out to work. However, later in the day, the zit finally pops its ugly head, causing you to rush to the bathroom to pop it. “Problem solved.”
However, the following morning you notice three more giant, Mt. Fuji-esque zits have appeared on your face. You decide it’s best to ignore the problem but every day more zits appear on your face while older zits take a long-drawn-out time to disappear. Sooner or later, it looks like Godzilla has wreaked havoc on your skin, forcing you to feign illness and wear a surgical mask at work in order to hide the blemishes. Despite sympathizing with your pubescent students, your confidence has plummeted and, in a foreign country, you are unsure of your options.

Don’t panic! Instead, let’s talk about acne and learn about some of the options available to you in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Here’s the Deal about Acne

Your skin in the largest organ on your body and many factors can contribute to acne. Acne is a disease of the skin not a skin type that affects a wide range of people of various ages. In other words, your teenage students aren’t the only ones who can suffer from acne. In fact, there are many people who suffer from skin-related issues, like acne, after their arrival to Japan – you aren’t alone! The important thing to remember is that you do not have to put up or “deal” with acne. Nevertheless, if your acne is serious, see a dermatologist (legal disclaimer: done).

Identifying the Cause of Your Acne

Scientists are stumped at the exact cause of acne (you know, since it’s your largest organ) but recent research has identified certain factors that may worsen acne in someone who already has the skin disorder. These factors can be broken down into stress, diet, hormones, and genetics.

Photo by Jpellgen

Whether you’re upset when automatic doors in Japan won’t open fast enough or frustrated when someone uses difficult-to-understand 敬語 over the phone, research has shown that moments of heightened stress can cause your acne to flare up due to the increased production of sebum, an oil secreted from the sebaceous glands, which mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria to clog pores. Life in Japan is full of daily stressors, but it is vital to relax and unwind at the end of the day. Meditation is a great way to destress and if you’re new to meditation or can’t get out of your own head (like me), the app, Headspace, offers a wonderful guide to assisted meditation. Exercise is also a great option for those who like to actively unwind — just make sure you wash your face. Another app, Pocket Yoga, offers an inexpensive way to get a great workout at home. Tie that in with medication, and you’ll be Gandhi in no time!

Unfortunately, a modern-day Gandhi (or Dōgen — if you want to get Japanesey) can still suffer from acne. Nevertheless, in a moment of stress, the worst thing you can do to your face is to pop your zits. Unsightly blemishes are stressful, but resist the urge to scan your face and pop a zit. This is especially difficult when the craters of Mt. Zitville are staring at you, but it’s best to leave them alone. When you pop a zit, you inadvertently spread bacteria and oils from your hands to you face, causing small gashes that can lead to scarring. In short, keep your hands off your face.

Photo by Mie Imanashi

There is no solid evidence that links poor diets with acne, but research has shown that high glycemic diets and high glycemic foods, which increase insulin production, are associated with worsening acne. Binging on Japanese sweets since your arrival? Maybe that fifth box of コアラのマーチ wasn’t the best idea. I’ll admit Ghana chocolate by Lotte is amazing but if you notice a correlation between eating sweets and acne, then it’s time switch to healthier options like fruit. You may also need to lower your consumption of processed carbohydrates, such as rice and breads (yes, even melon pan). Milk in Japan, usually whole milk, is high in lactose, which is a type of sugar. Therefore, a low-sugar or lactose-free option, such as Blue Diamond’s Almond Breeze, is a healthier alternative.  Everyone bodies react to foods differently, but eating healthier could help your complexion. Sayonara 給食 milk!

As you age, your hormones change and this may cause an increase in testosterone that could lead to acne. My dermatologist lovingly refers to it as a “second puberty.” Therefore, someone with relatively no history of acne can have a sudden and aggressive outbreak due to hormonal changes. These zits usually appear on the lower part of the face around the mouth and jawline. Also, unlike whiteheads, they are profounder, red, and painful — almost like cyst. Only a dermatologist, who may prescribe a combination of antibiotics or recommend birth control, can treat hormonal acne.

You’re grandparents had acne. Your parents had acne. Your older sibling had acne. Now, you have acne. You were born that way (#LadyGaga), but you don’t have to live that way — visit a dermatologist.

Other factors
Call me crazy, but I have a strange theory that there is something in the air or water that can also trigger acne or other related skin issues. My friends and I noted that our acne would go clear up when we visited our home or other countries, but would emerge once more when we returned to Japan. I’m not sure if it’s pollen or hard/soft water, but that may be something to look into.

Acne Products in Japan

It’s difficult to know what Japanese products to use because everything is unfamiliar. Therefore, you could spend an exasperating amount time at the store trying to read labels in order to figure of if the product is a face or hand wash. Nevertheless, here are some products you can try:

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, commonly found in grocery stores, superstores (like Don Quixote), and Aeon (a.k.a. Jusco), is a wash that removes dirt, clears impurities, and dissolves makeup while nourishing the skin. Ladies and Gents: it’s important to develop of nightly cleansing routine that consists of removing makeup and/or washing your face — no excuses.

For a cheaper alternative, try Kose Softymo Deep Cleaning Oil. Looking for a natural solution? Try extra-virgin olive oil!
Mentholatum Acnes Medicated Cream

If you’re looking for an everyday acne cleanser, look no further than Mentholatum Acnes Medicated Cream. This product’s active ingredient, isopropyl methyl phenol, sterilizes skin in order to prevent acne. You’ll be able to spot this product with ease at grocery stores and Aeon – just look for the word “Acnes.” Despite its great reviews, this product can cause peeling and redness in those with dry or sensitive skin. I recommend using minimal amounts of this product, every other day, along with an oil-free moisturizer. If your skin feels tight after using the product, you have inadvertently stripped the necessary oils from your face. This will cause your glands to produce more oils, which can clog your pores and cause acne. Remember, you want a clean feeling, not a tight feeling. Also, avoid exfoliates, as they can irritate the skin and worsen acne.

This company offers other acne products such as spot creams and medicated BB cream.

Strawberry Nose Medicated Concealer

Are you covering your pimples with foundation? Stop that immediately! Covering your strawberry nose full of the redness of pimples or blackheads and/or large pores with makeup only makes the situation worse. Care for your face by covering those pimples with our medicated concealer, while wearing your makeup as usual! The medicated agent kills germs, suppresses inflammation and prevents the formation of pimples! The cute design of the bottle will cheer you up, too.

The only downside is that the concealer is only available in light skin tones and it’s mostly found in stores with a large makeup selection, like Don Quixote.

Manuka Honey
Need a mask for spa night? Try a mix of Manuka honey and cinnamon. Manuka honey is produced from bees that feed from the manuka tree in Australia and New Zealand. As you may not know, honey and cinnamon are natural antibiotics, and Manuka honey is the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson of honeys. Manuka honey is found in stores like Max Value or online at

Dermatologist Visit in Japan

The best solution for acne is to see a dermatologist. This can be a bit daunting in a foreign country, but don’t fret - it’s painless. Search “Dermatologist” or (hifuka) on Google Maps for a local clinic or ask a close friend/coworker for a recommendation. Generally, dermatologist’s office hours extend into the late evening and weekends, but you don’t need an appointment - just visit the clinic, present your insurance card, and let them know you are there for acne (ニキビ; nikibi). You will be asked to fill out a general medical form while you wait. Be prepared to wait at least an hour before seeing the dermatologist, as they are in high demand.

Once you are called, you will be presented to the dermatologist who will quickly examine your face (sans makeup, ladies). There may not be much of an exchange between you and the dermatologist because this is a fairly common disease. Depending on the severity of your acne, the dermatologist may proscribe a combination of medicines:

  • Antibiotic creams, such as clindamycin
  • Oral Antibiotics
  • Vitamin B12 and E
  • Kampō, Chinese traditional medicine, for detoxification

Be sure to use the medication as proscribed, but here is some insight: the antibiotic creams can cause drying, irritation, peeling, and redness. Make sure that you are using a gentle face wash (not medicated) before applying antibiotics. Moreover, avoid spreading the cream on the bags of your eyes, as your skin is thin and highly sensitive in this area. Also be forewarned that your acne may temporarily worsen before clearing, so be patient. Nevertheless, if you do not see result by the second week, visit the dermatologist once more so that they may prescribe a different medicine or additional treatments.


There is no simple solution for curing acne and it’s not an overnight fix. Try to identify what factors in your life, whether stress or diet, have changed since you’ve arrival to Japan, familiarize yourself with Japanese products and if your acne worsens, visit a dermatologist who can prescribe the necessary medications. It’s a hard battle — one that I am still battling — so to everyone fighting acne in Japanland, 頑張っれ!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


 I had a week to recover from JET lag before starting my first day at work

 The JET Handbook has a small chapter dedicated to reverse culture shock, but I'll sum it in one sentence: no one cares about your JET experience. That sounds pretty harsh but the reality is that most people will not be able to relate to the experience despite finding it interesting.

I was back to where I started, physically, but I was a different woman than the one who boarded a plane over two years ago. If I could visit my past self, I'd give her a big hug. And then a small shove to toward the plane because we'd create some sort of disaster when seeing each other...what was I talking about?

Oh yea! As you learned from this post,  I secured a good job before my return and I focused all of my energy in setting up my life in Miami. Unfortunately, that was more expensive than what I previously imagined; no thanks to my cat, Tiger, and his visit to the veterinarian the day after my arrival. Oh Tiger. But I managed.

My first real moment of reverse culture shock occurred on my first day of work. I was so overwhelmed with the newness of everything that I looked at my Taketomi star sand and said, "Was I really there?" I  realized that I was no longer an English teacher in Japan and, weirdly, my experience felt like a dream. Another moment of reverse culture shock occurred at the grocery store. I idiotically made the mistake entering a Super Walmart. I felt completely overwhelmed and left without buying any food because there were too many unhealthy choices.

I've previously stated that I hate change. Now, I know that I can handle any unknown situation as long as I focus on the benefits. I can also cope with change by creating a routine, one that ultimately benefits me. That right! Your girl as gone all philosophical! So if you're wondering, I can handle the supermarket now.

I wasn't too worried about my social life when I returned because my birthday fell on the weekend that I returned. I was use to "chill" nights every weekend with my OkiLocos, but it was great to go out with my ladies and have THE WORST BIRTHDAY EVER! My all-time-favorite restaurant really let me down in more ways that one. And the following day of snorkeling was 5% LESS OF A DISASTER! When did Jellyfish season start in Florida? It was great seeing my friends and catching up with people I haven't seen in forNEVER! They've really helped smooth my transition back home and I can't thank them enough. Thanks you guys!

Right now, I am focused on growth - both professionally and personally. I told my friend the other day about an event that I want to attend and she said, "Lmao, you're into that?" I replied, "The point is to try something new...I'm not trying to be that stubborn, crazy girl I use to be." Ok, I'll always be crazy and a bit stubborn and, although you'll never see me waste my money on a Miami Dolphins' game (DefinitelyNOTSorry), I want to be exposed to different things. Listen, I use to hate swimming and after Okinawa, I'm a mermaid. 

So my advice to JETs returning home:
  • Start your job search early
  • Meet with friends
  • Be a tourist in your own hometown
  • Focus on growth
  • Do you


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Yaya's Goodbye Rap

Iacinta (a.k.a. Yaya), an OkiJET from New Zealand, wrote the awesomest rap EVER! She's a downright sweetheart and the most coolest girl I know! Thanks Yaya! This made me ugly cry at the airport. I plan to visit you in New Zealand soon! Hobbit holes!

Yo! Yo!
Let me tell you 'bout Gabie
Pretty girl from Miami
Likes having fun in the sun
Making Nuns Buns not puns

Nights out on the town
She'll be tryna "get down"
Causing good kinds of trouble
Sippin' drinks without bubbles

Ain't got no time for shy guys
So she gives them the side-eye
Such a powerful stare
That makes the typhoons disappear

But don't mistake her kindness for fierceness
For she is actually just fearless
We will miss dear Gabie sorely
But we'll catch up one day, won't we?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Saying Goodbye

“Why can't we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn't work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes. I know what I need. I need more hellos.” - Charles M. Schulz

I was uncomfortable informing the Kinderbabies at my Monday school that I would not return after summer vacation. They were confused because they cannot yet comprehend time or space. They believed I returned home to the U.S. every night and then flew back to Japan every morning. It took them a few minutes, but they eventually understood - Gabi-sensei would not return to play with them anymore. Some cried while others hugged me and said,「また遊びに来て下さい」or "Please come back to play [with us] again [sometime]."

My three schools and board of education put in the effort to say a proper goodbye with assemblies for the students and farewell parties for the staff. I was presented with cards and expensive gifts but more importantly, I listened to touching speeches from those who thanked me for my two years of service in Ginoza. I was moved and ultimately heartbroken to say goodbye to my students and the people who were my second family. 

Speaking of second family, I didn't realize how difficult it would be saying goodbye to the OkiJETs until I was ugly crying in the club with my besties. Okinawa hosted a diverse group of JETs who came together during my final year to form a great community and support system. Luckily, I now have new places to visit on my travel bucket list!

I will return to Okinawa someday as a tourist but for now, I bid my OkiJET experience adieu. I'll miss the mad dash out of my apartment to make it to work on time; the rolling hills with the most beautiful sunsets; my kei car and its missing door handle; Hey boy heeeyyyyy; gossiping with my coworkers; all of my past and present kinderbabies; the incredible view from Matsuda Elementary; traveling to nearby countries; "Chill" nights; Thursdays a.k.a. beach days; Joshikai in the bathroom; pushing my students to do their best; Shommi, "I see you;" Spa nights with Yaya (surely); giving everyone the side-eye; Kanna Beach, my thinking spot; the talkative principal who held the longest staff meetings; Snapchatting during those meetings; walking down the hall and hearing "Gabi-sensei;" delicious onigiri, the love of my life; my sweetheart student neighbor; weird Japanese holidays; school lunches; arguing with Ian; scaring students by yelling "No Japanese!" during an interview exercise; eating three bowls of tofu cereal and immediately regretting it; doing eyebrows; obsessing over Nutella; 何人, 美人; having Genki Time with Hayley; my students singing the alphabet backwards; secret changing; Indian food; serious discussion with Nic and Matt; Aly's Line messages of truth; that student who told me my makeup was too dark; Tka's Line calls, discussing fecal matter with everyone; telling Mark he can't get to second base; my sassy dance teacher and the dancing grandmas; the way my students would say "What" or "oh my God;" kissing that cute Hawaiian JET (figure it out haha); popcorn; Bad Bitch nights; talking to my Japanese-American students; the call to assemble the ladies; Tka's dancing during a dancehall song; Japanese chocolate; Ashley's dancing and insight; the male teacher who told me to focus on myself; the teachers who cried with me when it all went down; my frenemy who was actually a friend; the person I thought was a friend, but turned out to be a frenemy; Eisa; not functioning the next morning; and salsa dancing with my instructor.

I'll miss it all! 

As for this blog, I'll add my experience with reverse culture shock and include a few retroactive posts.  But to my readers: whether you stubbled upon my blog, kept up with me for years, or creeped, thank you.  Seriously, thank you and good luck with your adventures.

P.S. can I now say the word "bully?" ;)