Monday, December 01, 2008

How do I feel this good sober?


November is one of my two sober months. This month, I did really well. Though I did have some tastes of sake in Takayama, and two Coronas last Friday, I pretty much stayed alcohol and tobacco free for a month. After the first week, it didn't seem so bad at all, except of course at parties and bars. I found that without drinking, being in a bar with drinkers isn't so fun.

Which made me realize something: this world is full of non-drinkers, and they don't really like drinkers, much in the same way that drinkers don't really like non-drinkers. After remaining sober during a very very drunken party, I had to admit that I felt a little isolated from the collective drunken debauchery idea of fun, despite being amused at seeing the other side for a change. The next day, I asked my non-drinking girlfriend, who ironically has a bar, "how on earth do you not only handle being around drunken people all the time, let alone me, the epitome of a borderline alcoholic?" Her answer was "because I love you". Sweet, but it didn't satisfy my curiousity.

After I pressed on, and said, ya....but come on, after years and years and years of nights like that, you must get annoyed. Right, right? And so she admitted it, yes, she doesn't really like it so much. This, of course, does make me feel uncomfortable, as an avid drinker...but, what can you do?

Regardless of that, I often get angry at myself after a night of much drinking when I feel sick in the morning, or acted a fool in front of people I don't know well, which are usually the occasions when I feel less confident and prone to drink more. So, May and November act as a reminder that I'm strong enough to be a non-drinker if I am so inclined. Am I?

Of course, I wish I didn't have the urge in my blood, in my childhood memories of parties and good times meaning lots of alcohol. I wish I didn't know how good it feels to be free of your stifling inhibitions and shyness. Knowing how good it feels to be drunk, standing on chairs or tables, yelling or laughing or sing at the top of your lungs without any reservations, as if you were a child again, playing as loud as you'd like, in the middle of a play yard, with friends.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Je ne veux pas travailler

I spoke to two people today. The first was my father who saw I had just signed onto Skype. Shortly after, my phone rang. It was one am his time, we talked about various things, mostly updates about my siblings. The other call was from my girlfriend who had worked all day, and was really just calling me back.

I didn't leave my house today. It is a Monday. Don't worry, I didn't call in sick. It was a make-up holiday for the Saturday school. I woke up at four pm. It is three thirty in the morning now. I don't want to go to work. I don't want to eat. I only want to forget and so I smoke.

Hello was the first thing I said, and my voice was hoarse. I thought I may have been losing it. The last thing I said tonite was "of course not, goodnight". Then I cried.
I know this happens whenever I quit smoking. Like a broken heart, the sun streams in through the bars of this cage. Something inside of me can see the invisible, ghosts of the future. I'm seeing something.

It must be wonderful to be nice, but i've never known it.



Sunday, November 16, 2008

Prequels vs. Sequels

i could hear the cymbals crash
slamming through the halls
hanging on the walls
i could have sworn it rock and roll
how was i supposed to know
how was i supposed to know

i felt them underneath
so soft, yet firm, petite
a cry from my feet beneath

a row of hearts
a queen of tarts

i felt them underneath
so soft, petite
they are lined up in a row
i could have sworn it rock and roll
how was i supposed to know
and know, and know

im finding yours and yours and yours
i've met them all before
i've loved them all before
ive loved them all before


The Wheel in the Sky



I've been trying to figure out why all I want to do everyday is sleep. Is it the changing of the seasons, the fact that it's dark when I get home from work? Is it the anger my body feels for taking away its nicotine, its alcohol? Is it that I can't feel anyone's presence unless they are in the room with me? Could it be that I feel all it's based on is nothing but a clock's countdown, and that's all there is to this thing we have?

Lately, I had been considering staying in Japan, moving to Tokyo.

Today I talked to my mother. Guess it was time for the "You're almost thirty years old" talk. I'm glad she reminded me. I had almost forgotten;-}

"i've been to Hollywood, i've been to Redwood, I crossed the ocean for a heart of gold, i've been in my mind, it's such a fine line, keeps me searching for a heart of gold, and i'm gettin' old"

She doesn't understand my inherent fears of being locked into something. I don't have a job with a four O one K. I'm not preparing for my future. I'm not going to have a husband to take care of me or pull me out of financial difficulties. She says.

I had been telling people that I'm planning to get a job in Tokyo, take Japanese classes, apply for school.


I don't let people make my decisions for me, though I do take into account their sentiments urging me to come home.

And it was at this afternoon that I realized, there's nobody here telling me to stay. So a girl must wonder, what am I to do?


AND SO TODAY MY THOUGHTS IN SONG----------------

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I secretly read Postsecret.com



Because I also share this fear, I am quite grateful to how Japanese toilet stall doors usually reach the bathroom floor.

Friday, October 17, 2008

How I feel today in Song Form

Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin


I may be just a stupid baby, but i think is the fuckin awesome-est musik thing ever. I respect this band in all ways.....and if you don't agree, then i'll probably think that you know nothing about rock and roll




I dont know how I can be so busy all the time, always having somewhere to be, someone to meet....yet I get so very little done. I'm confused, in alot of ways.

My favorite Japanese karaoke song at the mome

Soba ni iru ne



Anata no koto (wata)shi wa ima demo omoitsudzukete iruyo
Ikura toki nagareteyukou to I’M BY YOUR SIDE BABY itsudemo
SO. donna ni hanarete iyou to
Kokoro no naka dewa itsudemo isshoni iru kedo samishiin dayo
SO BABY PLEASE tada HURRY BACK HOME

BABY BOY atashi wa koko ni iruyo doko mo ikazu ni matteruyo
YOU KNOW DAT I LOVE YOU dakara koso shinpai shinak(u)te iindayo
Donna ni tooku ni itemo kawaranaiyo kono kokoro
Iitai koto wakaru desho?
Anata no koto matteru yo

[SoulJa]
Nna koto yori omae no hou wa genki ka? chanto meshikutteru ka?
Chikusho, yappa ieneeya
Mata kondo okuruyo ore kara no LETTER

[Thelma Aoyama]
Sugisatta toki wa modosenai keredo chikaku ni itekureta kimi ga koishii no
Dakedo anata to no kyori ga tooku naru hodo ni isogashi kumisete ita
Atashi nigeteta no
Dakedo me wo tojiru toki nemurou tosuru toki nigekirena iyo anata no koto
Omoi dashite wa hitori naitetano

Anata no koto (wata)shi wa ima demo omoitsudzukete iruyo
Ikura toki nagareteyukou to I’M BY YOUR SIDE BABY itsudemo
SO. donna ni hanarete iyou to
Kokoro no naka dewa itsudemo isshoni iru kedo samishiin dayo
SO BABY PLEASE tada HURRY BACK HOME

BABY BOY atashi wa koko ni iruyo doko mo ikazu ni matteruyo
YOU KNOW DAT I LOVE YOU dakara koso shinpai shinak(u)te iindayo
Donna ni tooku ni itemo kawaranaiyo kono kokoro
Iitai koto wakaru desho?
Anata no koto matteru yo

[SoulJa]
Bukiyouna ore tooku ni iru kimi
Tsutaetai kimochi sonomama iezuni kimi wa icchimatta
Ima ja nokosareta kimi wa ALBUM no naka

[Thelma Aoyama]
ALBUM no naka osameta omoide no
Hibi yori nanigenai hitotoki ga ima ja koishii no
('SoulJa' kimi no nukumori)
AND NOW anata kara no denwa machi tsudzukete ita
Keitai nigirishime nagara nemuri ni tsuita
('SoulJa' dakishimete yaritai)
Atashi wa doko mo ikanaiyo koko ni iru keredo
Mitsume aitai anata no sono hitomi
Ne~ wakaru desho? atashi matteruyo

BABY BOY atashi wa koko ni iruyo doko mo ikazu ni matteruyo
YOU KNOW DAT I LOVE YOU dakara koso shinpai shinak(u)te iindayo
Donna ni tooku ni itemo kawaranaiyo kono kokoro
Iitai koto wakaru desho?
Anata no koto matteru yo

[SoulJa]
Ore wa doko mo ikanaiyo koko ni iru keredo sagashi tsudzukeru anata no kao
YOUR egao ima demo sawaresou datte omoi nagara
Te wo nobaseba kimi wa

Anata no koto (wata)shi wa ima demo omoitsudzukete iruyo
Ikura toki nagareteyukou to I’M BY YOUR SIDE BABY itsudemo
SO. donna ni hanarete iyou to
Kokoro no naka dewa itsudemo isshoni iru kedo samishiin dayo
SO BABY PLEASE tada HURRY BACK HOME
Anata no koto (wata)shi wa ima demo omoitsudzukete iruyo
Ikura toki nagareteyukou to I’M BY YOUR SIDE BABY itsudemo
SO. donna ni hanarete iyou to
Kokoro no naka dewa itsudemo isshoni iru kedo samishiin dayo
SO BABY PLEASE tada HURRY BACK HOME

Amor de mi Padre

Primer
There was a thunderstorm coming into the windows of our house, and my family was hiding. I would be cuddled with my father in the armchair by the window, and lightning bolts would crash into the windows, making a fire in our house.

Segundo
I would be playing with my toys in the middle of the living room with my parents in the room. Suddenly, I would start to float up into the ceiling. It would be too fast for anyone to catch me, and I'd be too high for my parents to reach me. Suddenly, the front door would open and I'd be pulled up and float up into the sky. I'd continue to float up up up, screaming in a child's voice.

Tercer
It was my birthday party, it was time to hit my pinata. They told me that other kids would be hitting my pinata first. I cried because I wanted to go first. I ran behind the garage where my parents used to keep the trash cans. My dad found me and told me I would be the first one to hit my pinata.

Cuarto
I was sleeping quietly in my room when I heard arguing in the living room. I awoke and walked into the room. He was gathering his stuff to leave. He put me back into my bed, and I fell asleep holding his arm. I remembered waking as he pulled his arm away, I reached up but missed, and fell back into sleep.

Quinto
He used to call me "superbaby", and fly me around as if I really were a super baby.
I don't know if it was because my dad wasn't strong enough or I had grown too heavy, but there came a day when I lost my ability to fly.


Monday, October 13, 2008

電車の人  (分からない)

The first time it happened, I was on my way to Chu's house.

The Kamata bound subway on the Ikegami line (or "T-bone's line" as I secretly refer to it)was packed with people coming from Gotanda station. I smashed my way to the corner by the door and held the hand grabby thing as I waited until the train pushed off.

After we had gone a few stops. The man beside me brushes past my arm in a downward position and bounces off of people a la pinball and ends up on the floor. At the next stop, people help him up and sit him on a chair outside. He slouches over and a woman alerts the train guard. I exit the station and head over to Chu's house. After ten minutes, I forget anything even happened.

The second time it happened, I was on my way to meet Laura and Maki in Yokohama on the Keihin-Tohoku line when I noticed a man slouched down unusually low in his seat. I went back to studying Japanese grammar, and when I looked up again, I saw him sliding down his chair. The man two seats beside him patted his back and asked "大丈夫?”

応えない。So the man sits back in his seat, and again continues to stare ahead. Meanwhile, the passed out salary dude slowly slinks down onto his knees, and 3 train stops pass.

I don't know why I let those 15 minutes pass just watching everybody else watching him. So at the next stop, I halfway hung out of the train waving my arms to the station guard who blows the whistle at the ends of the train. The train is long, about 10 cars, so I doubt he sees me, yet I continue. I know the doors won't cut me in half if they were to close on me. They close on me, and i slither back because both my stuff and the man are inside the train.

My Japanese vocabulary is still pretty limited to a 4 or 5 year old child, so when I approach a couple and say "荷物を見て下さい", I know that I am not asking "Could you please watch my stuff for a moment?". Instead, I'm saying "look at my stuff". However, by pointing to the man, my stuff, and the door to the next car....their confused looks suddenly turned into an understanding smile, and they nodded.
So I began my journey down to the end of the train.

Apparently, Whistley Mcgee saw me after all, and was on his way to my car when we met in the middle of the train. I said 病気な男があるの and did my characteristicly gaijin finger-point over into the man's direction. The station attendant hurried to the man and began to attempt to wake him up. The man would not wake up. Simultaneously, a man with a briefcase in the same car, who had also been watching this guy for the past 15 minutes, ran to them saying what I can only guess is "I'm a doctor" in Japanese.

The train stops at the next station and they carry the guy out. As passengers board and depart the train, I watch the scene out the train window while the "doctor" unbuckles the guy's pants, takes off his tie, and rolls him to his side. As the train makes its rolling start, I look down at my grammar book.

I wonder how long I'd be on the floor unconscious before somebody does something.


[


電車の人(分からない---densha no hito (wakaranai) Train People (I don't undestand)
"大丈夫?-------------daijoubu Are you okay?
応えない--------------kotaenai He didn't answer.
"荷物を見て下さい"-----nimotsu wo mite kudasai Look at my stuff.
病気な男があるの-------byoki na otoko ga aru no There is a sick man.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why Rude is Better

Since I'm in a bit of a fluster, I am having trouble locating the place that I ought to begin this rant. Perhaps I should remind you again about 空気読めない or kuuki yomenai or being unable to read the air. I wrote about it once here: Heavenly Evil Spirit Maybe I just suck at reading the goddamn air, even though I always thought I had a knack for it in my own country. Tonight I'm plagued by the feeling that I'm really just living in a vaccuum.

I have decided to begin by recounting a recent experience which happened amongst strangers, so I am the least bothered by it. Although, the truth is that this recount is the perfect representation of how experiencing and dealing with differences in culture can become increasingly more difficult to shrug off. I feel like I have continued to deal with the difficulties, but it's hard to figure out whether I am receiving any new knowledge or understanding rather than only accumulating more and more examples of how things are just fucked up.

So last weekend I accompanied my new buddy, James, and my even newer buddy, Melissa to a couple of the gay men bars in Shizuoka. The two of them had gone to these bars the previous weekend, so they were familiar with us when we entered the door. We were welcomed by the "mama-san" which is what the women of straight Snack Bars are usually called, who entertain their male guests. So, at the gay bars, there is also a mama-san. Anyway, Mama-san welcomed us kindly, took our orders, and after a short while, we began to mingle. By the end of the night, at four in the morning, we were sitting amidst 5 Japanese guys who could barely speak English in a full-fledged conversation about to whom they had lost their virginity. In Japan, a virgin male is called a "cherry boy", so the way they phrased losing their virginity was "when they broke their cherry".

Everyone was laughing, having a good time and when we left everyone was smiling and waving. We departed from the bar rather drunkenly, cursing the soft rain while we galavanted the empty streets in search of a cab back to James' apartment. The next morning, we talked about how the last two trips to the gay bars, the first in Hamamatsu and the second in Shizuoka, had been so fun and refreshing. We spoke about how friendly and open-minded they seemed, willingly and comfortably able to make comversation with gaijin, happy and in a good mood. It was fantastic, we thought. I had even discussed my surprise and admiration for these new friends to my other friends who had not joined us that evening, telling them that they've gotta come to the friendliest place in Shizuoka.

Two days later, I felt like a fool. I was chatting on the phone with James, as he talked of his adventures the next night that he decided to go visit the bars. He began by saying, "I think it might be awhile since I take chicks to the bar again." I, at first, assumed he meant because he could spend more time talking to the locals rather than chatting with his gaijin friends, but he went on. He told me that a new guy who could speak English fluently, told him that it is not customary, or even allowed to have women in male gay bars in Japan. He went on to say that many of the customers, even some of those we had spent hours chatting seemingly happily with, complained to Mama-san that there were women in the bars. My response was nonchalant, "ah, too bad because it was actually fun. What a shame", then my thoughts and our conversation floated into a new topic.

It wasn't until today, after another experience I had with a co-worker from school, that I thought again about what I had learned over the weekend. I feel like my relationships with certain people at school are slowly disintegrating. I'm not sure what the cause is, or whether they were ever so solid in the first place. But, it's definitely causing me to become more sensitive to the little things. I shouldn't give details, as this blog of mine IS public, but it generally revolves around people smiling with their mouths as their eyes show something different, then later, only to learn that there was a complaint about whatever the topic was that was smiled about. I don't know how many times I have uttered the phrase "but if you don't like this, I can change it and try something else. What do you think?" That's my standard answer when I see those eyes with the strange, seemingly insincere smile.

So when I thought more about the gay bar situation, I thought, "ya, you know, Japan IS pretty backdated in the eyes of Westerners concerning woman's role in society, gender, and sexuality in general. So, I definitely understand the rules of the bar and why they have been erected". Yes, I understand the rules, but I don't understand why were weren't just shoo-ed out of the bar in the first place. Why didn't they just say "no women allowed" when we all walked in together? Why did they sit and chat it up with us for hours, smiling, pretending to have a good time with us, when they were only later to complain that it made them feel uncomfortable. Seriously, what the fuck?

I feel that as I become more aware and increasingly more sensitive to this element of Japanese culture, I am simultaneously trying to combat feelings of annoyance because I don't want to close myself off from people just because of differences. On the same hand, I do recognize that I also have kept negative thoughts and opinions locked away in my head, only to complain about it later to another trusted friend, while never considering the consequences of how rude it could be constrewn as being if those opinions were to ever be blown into the air for others to read. I have also partaken in hypocritical behavior, which has now spurred me to try to pay attention to how and when, and to try to cease these actions.

I don't know what I should do, or what I should think. Whenever I try to discuss it with other like-minded gaijin, it ends up turning into a bitch fest that doesn't seem to have any positive result besides blowing off steam. That's not really what I need, I'm able to let my steam out without complaining to others, though it is nice to have someone listen to the stories once in awhile.

However, what I wish for is someone to help me in the search for a way to figure out how to make people understand that it is more hurtful to find out someone is pretending to like you, faking their smiles and laughter than to just have someone flat out ignore you or say, "hey, i don't want to talk to you" or "I don't want you around me". The sentiment is the same, but at least the latter doesn't allow you to build your hopes up that you might be making a real connection with someone, only to later learn that it was fake. The fake politeness seems to be nice, but in reality, it is so goddamn rude. I am not interested in changing this, nor do I think I can, I just want to figure out a way to explain that sometimes rude is just better.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Another Thought on English Education in Japan

Three weeks ago, I grew appalled by how my third year students did not understand my English when I spoke the words "noun", "verb", "adjective". Even when I tried using the words "meishi", "doushi" and "keiyoshi", these seniors at an advanced level high school did not know how to identify them within simple sentences written not only i English, but even in simple Japanese.

Luckily, I am given the freedom to create this class' curriculum, thereby immediately changing course from how to argue and make a speech to how to diagram simple sentences.

I began by defining the 5 easiest parts of a sentence to identify: subject, nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Next week, I plan to teach them prepositions and prepositional phrases. By separating each of these by colored chalk and writing simple sentences on the board, we've been spending the last couple weeks of repeatedly underlining all the words in simple sentences in different colored chalk.

Loud cries of "eeeeeeeeeee?" could be heard when I informed them that "could have seen" is all one verb form. Same thing when I told them that "a" and "the" are really just adjectives given the special name "articles". I am making them memorize that adjectives only describe nouns, while adverbs can describe other adverbs, adjectives and verbs. As they grasp the distinctions of which words are which, they have become remarkably good at drawing the adjective arrows towards the noun in which they describe, just as how they've now become able to draw the arrows from the adverb to what it describes.

I wish that I would have known earlier that basic grammar such as this is ignored by the typical curriculum made by the Japanese English teachers, as well as ignored in college entrance exams. Now, i can better understand why my students seem to have little confidence in being able to construct their own sentences. Sure, they are masters at vocabulary and memorizing sentence structures, but when it comes down to making their own sentences, they tend to freeze up.

Another topic that I've been focusing on lately during these grammar lessons is learning how to correctly tell the difference between adjectives such as "excited" and "exciting". There are so many of these, which even my English teachers commonly misuse. The distinction that I've decided to make isn't foolproof, but it has helped clarify about eighty percent of the confusion.

For example....students commonly make mistakes in saying "I'm exciting" when they mean to say "I'm excited". In Japanese, the distinction is made between "wakuwaku suru" and "wakuwaku saseru". The difference lying in whether the feeling is being sent out or sent in. These types of adjectives are extremely difficult for them to distinguish.

The explanation that I have begun using goes like this.

Excited-Exciting, Disgusted-Disgusting, Confused-Confusing, Surprised-Surprising

Making a list of these types of adjectives is recommended. After that, separate "ED" and "ING"

I told them that:

-ED is people adjectives
-ING is a thING adjective----notice ING is in the word "thing"

He is excited about the party.---------ED, people----he
The party is exciting for him---------ING, thing---the party

After multiple examples and exercises, they become experts at making the distinction. Of course, this rule isn't fool-proof, as we native English speakers are aware of. "He" can be "exciting" even if "he" isn't a thing.

Nonetheless, once they become used to the rule, I think it becomes okay to explain the exceptions. Hopefully they will learn to distinguish between the two, almost as if naturally.

Lastly, I have been setting up a kind of "office hours" type thing before the midterm and final exam. I compose a very minor section of the listening portion of their test that covers the material they were supposedly to have learned during TT classes. On the last week of team teaching class before a big test, I have announced a special lunch-time review session where I basically go over exactly what I contribute to the big test. It's a bit of a freebie time where I basically tell them what they need to know in order to get a full mark on my small contribution to the test. The review session has only drawn about ten to twenty students, yet it has steadily grown. Besides that, it gains you points in the eyes of your JTEs that you are committed to helping your students become better test takers.

I wish I had learned these things earlier. I may have been a far better teacher had I done so.

Las Reinas

So yesterday, I rented and watched Elizabeth: The Golden Age, while today I indulged in the Sofia Coppola movie I've been wanting to rent for the past month, Marie Antoinette. Of course, both of these movies focus more on their love lives than the political problems of their day.

Unfortunately, my European historical knowledge is so limited that both movies taught me something about the wars of those eras. In Elizabeth's case, England's disapproval of the Holy Wars headed by the Spanish and the interesting defeat of the Spanish Armada. When watching how crudely people spoke on invading and warring upon each other in God's name, it felt so reminiscent of the ridiculous wars we are fighting in this age.

Then, how the debt and depression in France caused by the Seven Years War, which eventually was blamed on Marie Antoinette's royal spending caused France to revolt against the monarchy. While mostly focusing on fashion and cool indie music from the Eighties, Coppola's Marie Antoinette film did manage to impart some interesting tidbits that can definitely be applicable to the polital and economical problems between the superpower countries of today.

One of the reasons that I am so uninterested in politics and economy is because I feel powerless and insignificant to affect its improvement, nonetheless even minorly change it. Therefore, I revel in my shameful apathy and cover my eyes and ears to everything shouting out its existence.

But, even still, I am not a moron. I may be willfully uninformed, and shamefully evasive...but that doesn't mean that I ultimately don't know or care about the constant, exponential growth toward social meltdown once the "precious" resources we're fighting over become depleted.

My brother will be sent to Iraq in November. Suddenly, I have become a bit more stricken with concern over my country's retarded sense of internationalism. However, I haven't any idea what to do. I don't believe that peace activism really works. I don't believe fear can be lifted, and I certainly don't believe change will come soon.

Honestly, I wish I did. But if those lame movies taught me anything these last two nights, it is that the collective unconscious of man has traveled the same roads for so many years, that the wild nature off in the distance is much too frightening for the masses to follow into.

I wonder if you can believe me when I say that I wish I could believed otherwise.

Skirting around my Pride

I lied when I said that I had never failed a test before coming to Japan. In fact, I failed two of my favorite classes during my freshman year at UC Berkeley. Upon graduating as one of the top five from my college preparatory Catholic high school, I boastfully chose four of most difficult freshman courses offered at my new college. Cleverly regarded as weeder classes, Calculus One B and Chemistry were two of the most challenging things that I had attempted thus far. Throughout the semester, the difficulty of the classes was far superior to anything I had experienced in my lame ass high school classes where I easily passed most tests with minimal study.

However, these classes at Berkeley opened a whole new playing field of difficulty for me. These classes required me to sit through lecture confused as fuck, barely able to even take notes for I slowly began to realize that my previous experience in these fields were positively rudimentary compared to what others of my caliber were used to. I remember that early summer week vividly--as I was a Spring admit---....as I ditched the two final exams which a passing grade was dependent upon passing. I sat in my dark room, drinking white wine and listening to the Cure's Disinegration album while I watched the clock mark the passing of time that embodied my exam period. I felt a sense of urgent disappointment, yet drowned it out with alcohol and phone conversations with a friend from home.

So yes, I have failed before. Twice.

However, since I have come to this country, I have yet again experienced the uncomfortable realization that I am yet again underqualified to keep up with the status quo. Upon trying to take a language test of which I tried my hardest to study and master, I failed. And now, yet again, as I just recently attempted for my third try....I failed my driver's test. Please keep in mind that I have been driving since I was sixteen. That's thirteen years now. In California, my driving record is flawless, which is surprising considering how many nights I drove home under the influence of severe amounts of alcohol. Despite my ability to operate a motor vehicle even in the condition of drunkenness, I still have not been able to successfully pass the Japanese Driver's license test.

I was fully warned that life would be hard for me in Japan. However, nothing yet has been so successful in stripping me of my feeling of adulthood than living in this country. Here, I can barely read, barely write, barely speak....and yet, I love it and have not made any plan to leave.

Who am I?


This is who........a pic of my third failure on the Shizuoka driving course.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How I feel Today in Song

Dark Come Soon by Tegan and Sara



Dark, you can't come soon enough for me
Saved, from one more day of misery
Everything I love
Get back for me now
Everyone I love
I need you now
Don't forget a million miles for me
Safe and another day passed by me
Everything I love
Get back for me now
Everyone I love
I need you now
Come on,
I lied I lied to me too
(so what?)
Come on,
I lied I lied to me too
(so what?)
Hold out for the ones you know will love you
Hide out from the ones you know will love you
You, you too
Go to the edge and barely there
Slow
To make my move, I'm almost there
Everything I say I say to me first
Everything I do I do to me first
So what, I lied I lied to me too
(so what?)
So what, I lied I lied to me too
Hold out for the ones you know will love you
Hide out from the ones you know will love you
You, you too
Dark you can't come soon enough for me

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Down Under

Last night, I walked by the Hamamatsu bar, Down Under, a local gaijin bar that has recently become overtaken by the Brazilians. However, the Brazilian explosion is not really my point today. As I was walking past, I was suddenly in a fit of laughter. I was bombarded with a series of mental image memories of my brother's first wife's bachelorette party in Vegas.

Against the wishes of everyone, my mother purchased a pack of tickets to the Las Vegas Show "Thunder from Down Under". The drinks were very expensive, but soon after the show started, we decided that this show could not be sat thru sober, so Jenna and I went and had a couple shots at the bar, and continued to watch in awe of how creepily middle-aged women behave at these shows. We soon began to feel a little guilty that our nay-saying faces began to put a damper on my mom's evening. She had been so excited for all the girls to have fun together. So, after a couple more trips to the bar, we decided to join in the utter ridiculousness of the evening, and go join the massive crowd of ladies hugging the stage hoping for one of the dancers to throw his shirt at them.

I love those strange moments when my ridiculous life lived comes back to haunt me.


Friday, September 05, 2008

How I feel Today in Song form

The KKK took my Baby Away by The Ramones







She went away for the holidays
Said she's going to L.A.
But she never got there
She never got there
She never got there, they say

The KKK took my baby away
They took her away
Away from me
The KKK took my baby away
They took her away
Away from me

Now I don't know
Where my baby can be
They took her from me
They took her from me
I don't know
Where my baby can be
They took her from me
They took her from me

Ring me, ring me ring me
Up the President
And find out
Where my baby went
Ring me, ring me, ring me
Up the FBI
And find out if
My baby's alive
Yeah, yeah, yeah

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Scenes from Tokyo


Izakaya inside Shinagawa station. After a long train ride to Tokyo, I like to refresh with a beer as I watch the other solo beer drinkers trying to forget their work troubles.

Wandering around Takeshita street in Harajuku can entertain the tiny Lewis Carroll inside of us all.


You can never be sure what you'll find during an afternoon stroll in Yoyogi park. This guy paints scenes from his audience as he sweatily dances to the boombox he's got strapped across his chest.

The Gyoza stand around the block from Advocates in Nichome is a delicious midnight snack.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

In Japan, nature is beautiful everywhere you find it.


About a ten minute walk from Chu's house, there is a sweet, little sanctuary that makes you forget that you are in one of the largest metropolis' in the world.
Senzoku Ike is a little park with a pond that provides the home to ducks, turtles, koifish, rowboats, and park-people.

For less than 5 hyaku yennies, you can row around the lake for an hour, and enjoy the lovely scenery of the park.

This bird held my attention for about ten minutes.

Chubabe is sleeping off her ice-cream hangover, while I row and hassle my new friend, the bird.

The koi loved the olive oil and parmesean flavored crackers I brought for our park picnic.

Beautiful places can be found all over Japan. If you drive up the Oigawa for thirty minutes, you can find this paradise. Surrounded by mountains of various green hues, the river's color becomes a light blue-green from the reflection of the sky, forest and white rocks which scatter along the vast riverbed expanse.

Alone from the rest of the world, you can do anything here. We, had a BBQ and swam.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

True Dat, bitches (An ode to hopelessness)

I was born two legs. With ability, I stood.
Practice, soon, they became hungry chopsticks.
You might catch me before the bullet hits the air,
hopeless.
I believe in pessimism.

Should you wait, sound meets the ear
yet again, hopeless.
There are many beliefs,
also, romance.

Lines are full, so unbelievably full.

Walking from a vendy at night, thinking of you.....

So goes the rice,
in their neatly drawn rows,
tucked soft away in their gently tanned clothes
charmed by the dance of a windy night blows
just as the writer of these faulty words knows
that the beaming just above the crook of your nose
holds the same facination, as knowing love goes
when she knows,
she knows!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Just another reason why I miss him


Yesterday I almost started crying in the teachers' bathroom of the high school where I work. I would never tell anybody else this story if I could talk to him as freely as I did when he lived in the same country as I. However, now my morning is his night and regardless of such minor problems, it's just not the same.

Actually, he would hate this story, just as I am sure that you will. He would just repeat words he's told me hundreds of times before. Toby, there are some things that you need to learn to keep to yourself.

That is your warning to stop reading. If we were to talk tonight the way we did before he left, he would have saved you. I don't really want to share this with my family, friends, and any other random stranger who happens to blogger search "best friend".

But...

I was kneeling over the toilet. Seconds before, as I was about to flush and as my eyes glanced over the poo I made, I could had sworn that I saw a white worm slither and disappear into my poo. I gasped. I began to panic. Thoughts began to push and shove their way around the crowded, frenzied train station that is my brain. How could this happen? Is that my punishment for eating those undercooked octopus balls at the firework festival last weekend? Or maybe it was the microwaved chicken on a stick that I could have sworn was pre-cooked? Why oh why aren't I a vegetarian? This would never happen to a vegetarian. No, no, no, this would never happen to a VEGAN. And what the hell am I supposed to do now? I don't recall "tapeworm" being in the medical word section of the little JET memo book we received. How am I going to explain this to a doctor? Why, oh, why, oh, why did I eat that goddamn takoyaki?

I was so disgusted, feeling scared, helpless and tears were just about to arrive on the next approaching train...but then there was an announcement over the loud speaker. Luckily, they were all words I know, so I was able to understand.

No need to worry, silly girl. Don't you remember? Chu made us spaghetti last night for dinner. It's just an undigested spaghetti.

Of course, worrywort that I am, I couldn't just take the announcer's word for it, which was why I was kneeling down beside the toilet. I stared for several minutes, making sure I didn't see any other spaghettis move anywhere. Finally, my mind became at ease, and all the station attendents waved away the last train of the night. They could finally finish up their day.

A Lover's Secret

As we were watching a movie I chose at the video store, she turned to me and proclaimed that she gives me full permission to write whatever I'd like about her, about us, about anything. The movie was somewhat of a romantic comedy, my secret obsession. Though I choose only to discuss prevalent movies, indie flicks, award winners, widely acclaimed and acknowledged films, I can't deny my love for cheesey, girly, romantic comedies. I love Sandra Bullock films, "Fried Green Tomatoes" "Beaches" "Terms of Endearment" "Pretty Woman" and any other Julia Roberts/ Richard Gere flicks that stir up the cheese, not to mention that I prefer seeing Jack Black playing a romantic lead than a comedic sidekick....
Yeah, i'm that kind of girl. Actually.

So as we watched "Margot at the Wedding", a flick about bickering sisters who share a love-hate relationship with everyone around them, driving them all bananas, there was a scene where Nicole Kidman, a writer, is accused of exposing all of the families' secrets in one of her novels.

It was then that she so innocently turned to me and reliquished to me complete permission to write anything I want about her, or us, or anything. I couldn't help but smile at the fact that she sees me as a writer. However, further than that, I also thought about how I would never want to share my people; failures and much less triumphs, love affairs, secret anecdotes and intimate details of any of my sincerest relationships between my kindred with anyone else.

What kind of writer could I possibly be while holding onto those kinds of ideals?

However, should I ever give up those beliefs, I would have nothing less than a phenomenal story about a wonderfully beautiful woman who has opened up my world to a myriad of recounted experiences that I'd never have been able to dream. Her life, and my life without her, would be a novel never written....because some things are too privileged to share, despite all permission given.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Real World


It seemed as if someone just slapped down a mangled moral, a last-minute life lesson, a gambatte goodbye without any of the gambarimasu groundwork. Circumstantially, I thought it was fine. The action, the events keep your attention, and this novel would certainly pass an entrance exam for a plausible finishing college. However, it was the closing statement, the final judgment that just didn't fit. It just didn't belong.

The release of this book couldn't come at a more appropriate time. As Japan's youth slowly slips down the superficial, consumer-driven rabbit-hole, out from the hole jumps a book attempting to explain and expose the misanthropic mindset of a misunderstood generation.

Every character who recounts their motive for becoming involved in a murder is under the legal drinking age. Each of the characters struggle with an intrinsic mistrust of the adult world, in which they feel more fear toward than a teenaged murderer.

This book criticiizes all the needless pressures that Japanese society places on young adults; cram schools, university exams, advertising, commercialism, unrealistic expectations of success, et cetera. Of course, this book mirrors a horrendously realistic vision of young sociopaths. Usually, that word, sociopath, evokes fear, thought of as only describing murders, criminals. However, the term includes a much broader spectrum of those who behave in an antisocial manner that lacks tender feelings for others, that lacks remorse or warmth. This book accurately reflects the multiple levels of sociopathic behavior of seemingly normal people.

By depicting a true to life crime that has been occurring more and more often in Japan, Real World unfortunately does reflect the real world. Merely months ago, surely after this novel had been finished by the author, a man from my prefecture went on a stabbing spree in the busy area of Akihabara, a famous tourist site called "electric town". After they apprehended the killer, and investigated deeper into his personal life, they found that he was tormented by his ideas of personal failure which are believed to have come about by once being a high achiever in high school. Like the Akihabara stabber, the characters in Real World have much self-directed anger for failing to live up to the high test scores of their past that had once promised them success.

This book is an amazingly swift read, for the mere fact that it's difficult to break away from. These kids in the story, the same age and situation as the kids I teach everyday, kept me involved with every turning page. Worried for their state of mind, concerned for their mental health, I can't help but wonder if this world view is indeed inside any of my students' real world. It is hard to imagine it to be true considering the childlike innocence and kawaii-obsession that sprawls across their desks during our once-every-two-week English lessons. I don't spend enough time with them to know otherwise, nor do I speak their language well enough to detect anything other than the image they portray as their school persona. The Japanese are masters at making personas.

Besides my interest in understanding the high-school aged psyche, I also couldn't resist the fact that my friend, Dave, who recommended me this read mentioned the existence of Homodachi. Considering the overall tone of the book, I suppose I couldn't expect that even the queer reflections of Japanese society wouldn't expose the underbelly of the Nichome scene. Having spent much time in that district, in those bars, I can't say that I've ever witnessed any hints of what I read in this book. I have never encountered any trannies on their aggression-filled offnight. I couldn't even imagine it, as they've always only shown me their demure, Diva-esque class. However, much like how I can't claim to understand the kids I teach, I also cannot claim to understand the strangers I meet in bars. Really, all this book has shown me is there might be a world that could be real....only perhaps I'm too foreign to recognize it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Calm Cafe

If you ever find yourself on the western side of the Izu, near the junction of Rt. 17 and 134, then I highly recommend you stop for lunch and a few road beers at this fine cafe. Outdoor seating isn't really very big in rural Japan, so you can imagine how excited we were to find that this outdoor veranda had a breath-taking Suruga bayfront view of the fisherman, sailboats, and scuba divers. Since there is a diving school to the right, we could see many seal-like people crawling from the surface of the water.


Here, a happy Stephanie poses in front of the cafe after we spent about an hour and a half, eating a delicious lunch, ordering beer and wine, and moving over to the grassy knoll in order to enjoy the scenery a little better.


When we saw the sign boast "Pasta and Curry", we were like...uh, whaaaat? However, the restaurant did prove to have excellent food. Steph and Nicole are two of the food-snobbiest people I know (said in a very loving and respectful tone), so the fact they agreed that it was great that we took a chance on this place was golden.

Here's the map of the area. I drew a red circle where i thought it was, but actually it is a little higher up on the map, on that same road.

The Basil bruschetta was so fabulous, we had to order it again after we devoured the first plate.

Nicole ordered the salmon and avocado pasta. It was delicious.

It was nice to have a real Ceasar's salad for once. It was served in a huge, chilled bowl. Very classy.

Stephanie's curry dish looked very beautiful, as the vegetables radiated their natural colors. It was very fresh, and I had a little taste. It was divine.

Here's a little picture showing the beautiful view from our table. The staff was also very friendly and beautiful, and the prices were very reasonable. I am reluctant to share my little slice of cafe paradise with the world, but I want to be able to find it again, so I thought I ought to write about it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Staring Contest


Nobody holds eye contact in passing. However this dude seemed to have no problem staring directly into my eyes for 7 train stops, till I reached my destination, Shizuoka. Even as i snapped this photo, he did flinch at all. I cant help but entertain the notion that he may be the Japanese "Bernie". I should have played some reggae music and found out.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's its own gift box

There's no finer way to say "Thank you", "I respect you", "Congratulations", "I'm sorry", "I love you" than to present someone with an outrageously expensive, vegetative anomaly.




~$150.00

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Konbini Love Child

I used to worry that living in a small countryside town would eventually backfire on me, however I've successfully kept it hidden that I have been keeping two girlfriends for just over a year now. Aiko was the first. I met her over a year and a half ago at the funeral of my next door neighbor. Our families had lived beside each other since I was an elementary student. Totsuka-san was a teacher of classic Japanese literature. He became my homeroom teacher when I was a junior in high school. During his funeral procession, I became overwhelmed with a deep nostalgia of how he would joke in class about how I used to ride his young son around in the basket of my bike. It embarrassed me immensely when I was but a 16 year old punk teenager who didn't want anyone to know that I played with children. However, when I glanced at his son, who was now the same age I was when Totsuka was my teacher, leaning his head on his mother's shoulder, hiding his tears, I quietly exited from my seat and went to smoke a cigarette away from the crowd.

My mother later chastised my disrespectful behaviour, however, I only did it because I didn't want to become too overwhelmed. I didn't want to cry. I truly did miss Totsuka-san's late night "tadaima" as I'd spend the summers outside working on my motorcycles.

It was while I was searching my pocket for my lighter, that I first saw Aiko. It wasn't her cherry red lips or her perfectly shaped legs that had caught my attention. I hadn't noticed those things until I later approached to ask if she needed a hankerchief. She was crying. I asked her how she was related to the Totsuka family, but she answered that she was just an ex-student. Later in the conversation, I grew deeply embarrassed that we were actually in the same homeroom, yet couldn't remember her at all. She didn't take offense, she just smiled and said "Well, it is not surprising for I rarely ever made a presence in my classes. Not even Totsuka sensei would remember my name."

Soon afterwards, we began dating. I soon realized why she seemed so familiar. I asked her if anyone has ever told her that she looked like Ayumi Hamasaki. She smiled and said that I compliment freely. It was then that she admitted to styling her hair like Ayu-chan because she thought it would match her face well. Sometimes I got the feeling that it was a little more than the innocent admiration of Ayumi's hair, Aiko also owned every CD she's ever released. She would never agree to sing any of her songs during Karaoke, however. I would have liked to see that.


She was and still is a librarian assistant at a library a few towns away. She often talks about how it was Totsuka sensei who inspired her to appreciate the fine literary works of haiku poets. On my last birthday, she took me to her room inside her parents house and asked me if I would like to have my present. I nodded, and she slowly began to unbutton her blouse, never once looking me in the eye. After a moment's hesitation, she opened her shirt. I was amazed at the beauty of her body.

Earlier that morning, she had carefully written an original haiku that she had composed in front of a mirror. On her belly was written

cherry blossoms fall
someday my bosom will too
but we are here now

I didn't know how to react. I stood there quiet and she then began to button her shirt. My friends were to meet us at a restaurant in a half hour, so I took her queue that we should hurry and make our way.

I often think about that afternoon in her parent's house. I almost cannot believe that Aiko, as shy as she is, gave me such a beautiful birthday present. However, since that day, I grew incredibly impatient. I soon began to wonder when we would eventually come to making love.

We've only made love once. It was a month after I had turned 21. After my birthday, I had grown increasingly obsessed with becoming one with her naked body. But she was shy. I soon began to grow irritated that she gave me such a beautiful birthday present, however never let me touch her when we were alone. She would complain that it made her uncomfortable. Actually, it was never a complaint, just a comment, an explanation. So one night, I grew exceptionally impatient and told her that I wanted to break up. She nodded and asked me to take her home. Silence ensued for the duration of the drive to her house. When we approached, she began to cry. I couldn't bear to look at her, so instead I remained quiet and stared at the road ahead.

Then, she put her hand on mine and asked if I wanted to visit a nearby love hotel that we would often pass on our way back from the local hot spring. I turned the key and we made love that night. Our first and only night.

I met Rina at a movie theatre in the city. My best friend, Kento, and I had no intention of watching a movie that day, however, we were bored and wanted to kill some time before the izakayas opened. When I came out from the bathroom, I saw Kento talking to someone. She wasn't really a beautiful girl, her face was round and her arms were chubby. He was glad to see that I returned and quickly said goodbye to her and we entered the dark room. The movie had already started.

Afterwards, as we were smoking a cigarrette in front of the theatre, Rina had spotted us. She was alone. I mentioned that we were about to go have a few beers at our favorite izakaya, and I immediately felt Kento's angry stare. The three of us walked a couple of blocks and entered the bar, only to find that it was jammed packed. He grew very angry that we couldn't be seated and suggested that we go home. I didn't want to and he excused himself and said that he wanted to meet some friends down the street. I was about to follow him, when Rina grabbed my arm and suggested that we get a few drinks and go into the park to talk. I didn't know how to respond, however, Kento quickly excused himself and before I realized what had happened, I was walking into a Konbini with Rina.

Rina loves sex. Even now, I've never thought that any girl felt the kinds of urges that guys feel. Yet, Kento still tries to convince me that I should not have two girlfriends. I almost took heed of his advice until I caught him trying to seduce her on the balcony at a party. After every night I spend with Rina, she confesses her love and adoration for me, begging me to marry her. When I come to think about the situation honestly, I realize that I prefer the nights with Rina much more than the ones with Aiko.

I have grown comfortable with them both. I love them both, and though my paranoia about the possibility that they may someday find out about each other still lingers, nothing seems finer than how things are at the moment.

However, recently, I have wondered about my latest obsession. I have found that after a night with Rina, spending hours at our favorite bar, dancing to the songs she chooses on the jukebox, arguing about our favorite baseball teams with the bartender, making out in the tiny waiting area outside the bathrooms, I have taken to quite an unusual practice.

After we go back to her apartment above the hairshop she works at, after we tire ourselves out atop of her cool cotton sheets, after she lays her head on my elbow and whispers her goodnight "I love you's" into my cheek, I cannot fall asleep.

I lay there. At first, I used to try to close my eyes and concentrate on her breathing, thinking that the rhythm would lull me to sleep. However, these days, I have found that the only solution is to sneak out of bed, put on my pants and shoes, walk to the Konbini down the corner, and stand in front of the magazine stands. I flip through each one, searching for pictures of Ayumi Hamasaki.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Losing my Memory Card

Succeeding through one world, brings you to the next. I’ve passed through many and this one proves a challenge. Energy has been lost, lives as well, but I’m here. By this point, I am in the middle of a night, with just the lonely illumination of my modern, seemingly fruitless perseverance.

I want to turn it off, get some sleep, perhaps prepare for school. I’d like to find the courage to disregard all the points I’ve collected, monsters I’ve defeated, levels I’ve lived through. But I’m here now, and I’ve never seen this one before.

Surely, this will be over soon. I will discover the path, find every key, meet but another boss. I’ll probably lose a couple lives along the way, make a few mistakes, and run my time down after falling into the hidden traps that were designed for just that purpose.

But this is merely a game, yet another test of endurance, dedication. I may not sleep tonight, nor complete my studies. I may face another tomorrow filled with mothers who come into your room at night, turn off the world, preaching wasted time, forcing bedtime. And I shall sleep.

Until tomorrow. Only to return, press reset, and get there once again. Only, this time, in half the time and a fourth the effort.

Many people believe games are a waste of time and energy.

And life?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Arachnophobia

The person who has been dubliously refered to as my "psychic partner", schooled me well in the Buddhist way. One of his teachings has stayed with me for a long time. I haven't killed any living creature since my murder days in college.

California does not have much of a problem with pests such as mosquitos. Yes, they exist, but they don't bombard your room at night and eat at you for hours. However, here in Japan, they do. Insects here are most disgusting, especially spiders. You see, in tropic regions, insects tend to grow much larger than they do in highly populated cities. Blame the foresty nature, I do.

However, when I first arrived in Japan, I was introduced to some extremely foul-looking wildlife. I was very timid, still in the clutches of Buddhist ideals. I used to spend my summers trapping spiders under drinking glasses. I had never experienced such nasty creatures in such numbers, so I assumed trapping them was the way to go. However, they would escape. Sometimes, even, the glasses would be tipped as is they summoned super-spider strength, like mini superheroes. It was creepy as fuck. Losing a trapped spider is one of the most unsettling sensations a person who desires sleep can feel. Because, you know, it has been written that spiders are attracted to the carbon dioxide in the exhaling of breath that one does in their sleep. Yikes.

By the way, another hideous fact about spiders is that they have an uncanny, evolutionary ability to hold their breath for very long periods. Therefore, if you bomb your house in order to rid yourself of insectual nuisances...spiders will survive unless it is done professionally. This is because they can hold their breath for up to periods of 5 hours which surpasses how long the poison lingers.
Double yikes. Nasty Spider Facts

Knowing this, and eventually becoming fed up with the countless amounts of mosquito bites I've suffered through, i decided to disregard Buddhist teachings. I grew sick of scratching my body like some kind of freakish crackhead. Since the time I heard someone mention that the inside of vacuum bags are lined with pesticides, I realized that vacuuming spiders and mosquitos was a much more efficient way of insect removal. After then, I would never have to get icky, shivery feelings each time I poured a drink into my glasses.


But! But! But! Today. Today, my house was a mess...a total disarray. I would be so incredibly embarrassed if I were to have had some sort of accident that rendered me impaired. Imagine if someone had to come inside for some reason, perhaps to help me, perhaps finding me paralyzed or something like that? Considering my staircase is ridiculously steep (yes, Janine, just like the one in the Grudge), and I've fallen down them before....What if a stranger were to have come to save me, thereby witnessing the filth in which I was living?

So of course, it was imperative that I clean. I began, and soon encountered 8 long, hairy legs. I froze. I escaped upstairs to calm myself with a cigarette on my balcony. I did not want to go back downstairs. I did not want to stare back into the eyes of that hideous creature. But I gambarimasu-ed, like an adult, for I am one of those, an adult.

The point? I'm getting there.

So I slowly descend my stairs, inspecting each area I place my foot, tippy-toe-ing around my tatami, methodically grabbing my vacuum, and quietly pointing it at the beast. I press the on button, and the spider bolts from the sudden noise. I follow, as I hover the rectangular sucking brushes over the monster.

What happened, you ask?

My god....do you really want to know?

Well, it jams. The vacuum begins to wail as if I accidently sucked up a marble or a small rug. It loses control and begins to vibrate and emit a yucky smokey spider smell. The creature is too big to be sucked into the hole.

My reaction? I freak out. I drop the vacuum and run to my hallway. I teeter from left foot to right foot...my heart quaking, adrenaline galore. My eyes look away and I try to ignore the hideous noise the vacuum begins to scream.

Eventually, I realize that I cannot escape the situation. So I turn off the vacuum's motor. The spider does not escape. In fact, I cannot see it at all. Not until I come closer do I find that the huge creature has in fact died. It looks much smaller than minutes before when I saw it scampering across the tatami.

It looked crumpled, imploded, tiny.

Guilt is not a Buddhist thing. It is very much Catholic.
Nasty Spider Facts

六月祭 (Mina tsuki sai) June Festival

In the eyes of the students, the most exciting time of the year is the school's cultural festival. They plan it for months, and look forward to the June weekend with great anticipation. Since I already knew what to expect, and wrote about it in great detail last year, I won't bother writing about it again.

What is Shimada High School's School Festival like?

However, I would like to mark this memory with a few notes to my future self on how I wish I could have done it better. Next year, I want to be more involved in things, I should take note that meetings about the festival begin happening at the beginning of the year. Next year, I want to start making a performance for the OC class earlier. I also want to be in the band disney performance.



These are a few of my OC students.


Look carefully, and you'll see that I am getting flipped off. I wonder if it is wrong that I react with laughter and amusement. Well, perhaps since I rarely witness rebellion, it strikes me as comforting when given just a little.


I love this picture. This is me peeking in on tea ceremony club.


It's pretty awesome to see your quiet, obedient students rocking out.


These didn't taste as good as they look.


I love this photo for a variety of reasons. Firstly, everyone is in pink. Secondly, pictured here are 2 of my favorite students.

Number 1 is Eisuke, a quite amusing boy. He's not in my OC class, however, he became memorable to me last year when after his trip to California he wrote his entire English diary assignment on the hot sauce he bought at the Farmer's Market called "Off your Ass". During the show and tell performance, he put a big spoonful onto a banana and ate it in front of the class. It was awesome.

Number 2 is another of the nameless kids.

Number 3 is Hiroshi, one of my amusing and secretly good at English OC kids.

This year, the OC class performed Green Eggs and Ham. I was surprised to learn that nobody, teachers nor students, had ever heard of this book before.


Here is one scene with Shizuma and Naomi.


I was extremely proud of their effort.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

天の邪鬼 あまのじゃく (Heavenly Evil Spirit)

Today, my email word-of-the-day was "devil's advocate". I really enjoy the word, as well as the concept behind devil's advocacy. Though some people enjoy playing the devil's advocate because they enjoy argument, others do it for the much more fulfilling purpose of opening their minds as well others' to ideas in which they don't necessarily believe. These people are often thought to be liars and as a result of their advocacy, they are commonly misunderstood.

Wordsmith defined devil's advocate as a noun meaning "One who argues against something for the sake of argument, for example, to provoke discussion and subject a plan to thorough examination."

The etymology of this term comes from Latin "advocatus diaboli". The Roman Catholic Church used to have a person appointed as a devil's advocate to argue against elevating someone to sainthood. The person arguing for the proposition was known as God's advocate (Latin advocatus dei).

A habit I've come to develop as a foreign language learner is that when I commend a word on its coolness, I immediately wonder "how do you say that in Japanese?" The closest equivalent, says my sexiest Japanese English teacher, is "ama-no-jaku" or a "heavenly evil spirit". This teacher did warn me though, that it is not as commonly used as its English counterpart. I imagine the reason may be that it is not really typical for Japanese people to create argument or discord, especially if it involves opening your mind. Ouch. That was harsh. I take it back, but only in words, not by actively pressing backspace. Of course, everyone is different, even if most try to be the same. Or perhaps I, myself, engage in the evil pleasures advocating for the devil.

This concept is actually quite new to me. Very early in my Japan days, I learned that there are many words in both English and Japanese that do not have exact translations or even exact meanings. There are things you can express in Japanese that are near impossible to exactly say in English, and of course, vice versa. (You see, a new wonderment popped up in my brain's inbox. "how do you say vice versa in Japanese", but i digress) So even though I learned that early on, it wasn't until a sunny day in Yoyogi Park, that I realized how language is dependent on culture and a society's behavior. On one early spring day, Chu and I had bought pastrami sandwiches and rode the motorbike to the park. We ate, talked and people-watched, enjoying the warm sun and happy park sounds. We were very close, and I wondered "How do you say "cuddle" in Japanese?" She thought about it for about three seconds and answered, "there is no word for it". I was a little taken aback and sat there pondering her answer with that weird-looking, confused face I sometimes get. She must have sensed my long silence and read my face, because she then said "i think the reason there isn't a word is because Japanese don't cuddle". My response was immediate. "What are you talking about? Of course Japanese cuddle! Come on." She laughed, and I could tell she was joking, but then I thought about it more, and finally felt the realization that there are things without names in Japanese because it is a culture based more on sensory communication rather than verbal.

There's this thing called KY, or 空気読めない (kuuki yomenai), which means a person who cannot read the air. It describes that dumbass who isn't sensing the mood of the others around him and either destroys it or makes it worse. I can't help but wonder how many times I've misread the air. Anyway, we say things like "kill the mood" or "oblivious" but I wonder if the sentiment is similar. So, this makes me wonder, since English lacks a direct translation for this, does that mean that we have less of a tendency to be able to read air? I wonder. Perhaps, i will counter the opinion of the unlucky sap who unknowingly brings up the topic. However, I'm not sure how heavenly my evil spirit can get. Gambarimasu.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Living Laps

We Live in a Fantasy World was the literary mirror of not only the physical, but also psychological break I was trying to make with America in 2006. I had made a decision nine months before that I was in need of a significant change. The experience could be compared to a pregnancy. I did the deed late at night, as a spontaneous, almost angry response to something not even worth mentioning anymore. It was done with love in mind, certainly. A few months later, I received confirmation that conception was a success. The following months were spent in anticipation, careful planning, and strongest of all, the unknowingness of what gifts would be given to me.

I’m ridiculous and dramatic, I know. Considering that I am still that way, I might as well try to suggest a point will come soon. There really is no need to make pointless metaphors and/or exaggerations. I just needed change, and well, I received.

It has been almost 3 months since I’ve last updated my fantasy world. I last spoke on the beauty of spring in Japan. The seasons have again shifted, as one might expect. Today was cloudy, hovering in sprinkley showers. It is June. I am giving you facts, however, unless you are here, standing outside with me, would you understand how beautiful this weather really is. The warmth is above average, almost to the point of hot. The word is humid, mushi atsui in Japanese, but in this weather, you can’t complain because the complaint of humidity is masked by the kimochi ii (good feeling on your body) of the cool misty rain.

Besides the weather, June also offers other pleasantries. In late May, the local farmers in my countryside town plant their rice. Do you know how rice is grown? Well first, they soak the dirt for about a week, then plant the sprouts, all the while keeping the field filled with water resembling a rectangular pond of green, grassy rows. Since the water simulates a pond, it attracts a home for creatures such as frogs, and uh, mosquitos. This phenomenon makes nighttime a conundrum. On one hand, the soothing nighttime sound of froggies and open windows make for the perfect lullaby. While, on the other hand, open windows must have screens that shut properly, otherwise you become the sleeping dinner to annoying pests.



Since we’re on the topic, don’t trust screens. What am I saying? No, don’t trust mosquitos. They are rotten, little disease bags. My summer night ritual consists of filling up two large water bottles and placing them in the fridge for the next day, then chasing mosquitos until I have reclaimed all the blood they have stolen from me. Not until then, can I enjoy my cold goodnight shower, only to recoil beside my nay-saying fan as I read or study myself to sleep.

This time of early summer also beckons the ume. Ume means plum. Gabe told me that he believes that ume is not plum, but unripe apricots. I am seriously considering his hypothesis, but am waiting until my ume ripens before I taste and finally make any conclusions. This onset of the plum makes two very exciting promises. My personal favorite is Umeshu. Last year, I came across a recipe for Umeshu (plum wine as it is called in America) in the grocery store. That’s the cool thing about the Japanese, they make it incredibly easy to follow seasonal traditions. How sweet of the grocers to move the large bottles of white liquor and rock sugar over to the produce section of the store. Right there beside the tall piles of ume bags (perfectly measured to wash and throw into the bottom of the 5 litre bottles)! How wonderfully convenient! Last year, I made some. It takes 3 months to soak in the ume taste properly, which means that this concoction becomes fit to drink upon the onset of Autumn. The other big use for unripened ume during this time is to prepare umeboshi. Umeboshi are salted plums that are eaten with rice, usually in bento boxes.

As shown by my blatant abandonment of updating my blog, time runs fast in Japan. Seasons change suddenly. You will just start getting used to mikan season, when suddenly it becomes ichigo season. (Translation: Mikans are Mandarin oranges, sweet tangerines, that grow during the autumn. Suddenly, they disappear from the shelves, and ichigo appears. Ichigo are strawberries. The oncoming of strawberries marks that winter is now here. The sakura then begin to populate the naked trees, and before you have the chance to pull your camera from your bag, the wind blows them down, and suddenly the pink and white trees become a light, leafy green.

I am now finishing my second year in Japan. I have experienced each of these yearly phenomena twice now. Finally, I think I understand. Go ahead and call me stupid for barely figuring things out, I don’t mind. This place has made me feel stupid and unprepared for things since I’ve first arrived. However, I am about to cross the third year mark. I arrived here in August 6th, 2006, and we are rapidly approaching the anniversary of that date. This is why I am writing today.

Despite nine months of preparing to move to Japan, I was still a bit in shock and awe throughout my first year here. That’s what life as a first year JET is, really. Adjusting, exploring, and walking around like someone afflicted with Down Syndrome. As a second year JET, you begin to realize and understand the purpose of things, and you are given the chance to improve things that you botched the first time around.

Like I mentioned earlier, I will soon be beginning my third year. There aren’t any excuses I can make for myself anymore. I intend on doing things better this time around.
I am basically referring to things at school, such as teaching and participating in school events, however, it extends into other important areas such as daily life and Japanese study.

I am best at tending to my goals, when I have collected them all together in one place.
Some things I will focus on (chronologically speaking, yet at the same time, no specific order):
1) Making Summer count----swimming (our school has a pool), riding my bike by the river, drinking by the river, standing in the river, camping, and making goals for the school-less days ahead of me.
2) Welcoming and truly helping the new kiddies who have been placed in Shimada and close areas.
3) Seminars---doing them well this time
4) Saving money
5) Visiting home during Christmas (successful America shopping)
6) Taking on more responsibility at school during the new school year
7) Caring and preparing for bunkasai much earlier
8) Traveling around Japan—specifically Okinawa and the south
9) Get my license and buy a motorbike, in order to explore in more depth.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring's Encroachment

There are seasons in Japan. Growing up in Southern California, it is hard to notice the changing of the seasons, since they are not very different from each other. But yes, friends, Japan has seasons and they live in them quite happily. The most common topic starter of conversations is usually some comment on the state of the weather.
Rainy, cold, foggy winter weather---寒いですね。Cold, isn't it?
Warm, sunny breezey--いい天気ですね?Good weather, isn't it?
hot, humid, summer---あついですね?Hot, isn't it?

I admire the relationship that the Japanese hold with the seasons, and spring is by far my favorite.

In Mr. Hepler's senior English class, we were forced to read Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales". At the time, I had no appreciation for literature. Don't get me wrong, I now find Chaucer to be quite close-minded and just merely a product of his generation. The introductory lines of the prologue describes the onset of Spring, but words, however famous or beautiful, cannot compare to riding your bike down the roads watching the newly sprouted flowers attacking the trees.


THE PROLOGUE
'Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye'

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And this is only the beginning.