Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Worst Sensei Ever

When I was 12, my 6th grade gym teacher called me a frou- frou and said I was bad at sports on purpose to look cute for the boys.
This was so traumatizing that it is the second time I have mentioned it in this blog.
I just do not understand why any person would tell a 12-year-old girl (who is obviously extremely self conscious because she lives and breathes) that she is flat out bad at something. Especially sports, something that is the act of putting your body on display. Yea, make a 12-year-old girl feel even worse about that and call yourself a teacher. Sure, I feel bad that same sex marriages are not recognized in the state of Pennsylvania but I still do not have ANY sympathy for that woman.

The lesson learned this weekend was that frou- frous are good at sports too.

In fact, they can run 10 kms in 1 hour and 40 seconds and still look cute enough for the boys.

I listened to Girl Talk as I ran. Remixes of Salt n` Pepa made me want to stop running and just shake my sh*t, but it was sports time. That frou- frou stuff goes on after the sun sets.

While I exist in this foreign country I manage to understand Japanese subtilties enough that I can create an inside joke, at a work party, with one other teacher and we both snicker at the older drunk mans expense. I build relationships with 10 year olds that exist outside of a shared language and are rewarded with hugs. And I run 10 km races.

I will always be a frou-frou as I talk to various boys on skype during the week and put down those whiskey shots on the weekend. But, in Japan, even frou-frous are encouraged to play sports.

I spent the majority of the race running alongside one of those above frou frous in red. Her hair was curled and tied so delicately in her side ponytail. Her makeup complimented her outfit. And we both pushed each other to keep up. But in the end, the girl with the makeup and scrunchie stormed ahead.

And in Japan, when you get 3rd place in a race like my friend Ashley did, you win cake mix.

And now this frou-frou is off to New Zealand for two weeks. I tell everyone that I want to enjoy some of the breath taking and untouched nature that this world has to offer. But honestly, all that matters is that I look cute for the boys.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

In like a Lion and out like a Lamb

“When the sun shines down on me, I want to feel like I deserve it.”

And I have earned it.
I found my hammer and screwdriver last night so I could fix the screen of my window.
I put on the Bon Iver CD, used my telepathic powers to thank Matt and Katie for the new selection of music they sent me, and turned it up so I could hear it in my kitchen.
I opened the window that faces the mountains and the backdoor that leads to my small porch.
I stood over the sink, cutting strawberries and felt like the cold rain that preceded such moments justifies this temperate day and warm smell.

I forgot how much I love spring.
Seasonal conversations are ones I frequently have in Japan.
Japanese people pay close attention to seasons. When no buildings have insulation it is impossible to forget what is happening outside.
I always reply that my favorite season is fall.
Autumn allows for scarves and hats. As the days get shorter in October and November I rediscover my favorite sweaters and find turtlenecks that I can pull over my nose.

But, after emerging from dark winter days spring is a great reward.

The spring in Tokushima feels like North Carolina. The temperature, the smell, and the way the sun falls. It is reminiscent of the arboretum and porches of Greensboro, NC.
It makes me homesick for the previous five years I had spent driving up and down Market Street and Friendly Avenue or opening a PBR as dusk sets in.

I feel crazy for leaving this welcoming of warm weather to fly south where I will spend two weeks in New Zealand to greet fall.
But, I only have this crazy feeling for a moment until I realize that I will not spend any part of my day in an office that smells of kerosene.
Instead I will be wearing sweaters of yellow and orange hues, watching the leaves change as I drive south.
Upon return, Japan will be full of Cherry Blossom trees and I will be celebrating their bloom with a couple of crazies from Pittsburgh who will all converge in Shikoku.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Tokushima Expressway

Friday afternoons I drive to Hakuchi Elementary School. I do not teach any classes Friday afternoons. I drive there to watch the clock, play soccer with 3rd and 4th grade boys, drink Japanese sports drinks, photocopy some stuff for the following week, and watch the clock some more.

Most weekends, around 5 p.m., I get in my car and head eastward to the big city.
I prefer to take the expressway.

I could take local roads, but that takes at least twice as long.
On local roads I have to wait at stop lights and for people to pull in and out of the various restaurants and shops that hug the streets I am trying to fly down.

The 2050 yen (about 20 USD) is worth the fast ride on the expressway.

A few weeks ago I got out of work early, so I decided to use the local roads.
As the sunset I watched red brake lights flicker on and off.
The closer I got to the city the quicker I had to switch songs on my Ipod. One hand on the steering wheel, the other on my music, listening to about 15 seconds of every song that came on shuffle.

I sat in traffic, pulling slightly to the right in attempts to see what was slowing me down.

I finally reached over, one hand rummaging through my glove box, hoping I could find a single cigarette or anything that would keep me from screaming.

The moment I get on the expressway it is like I leave Japan, the only place I am is in my car. And I am not saying I want to leave Japan, but on a Friday at 5 p.m. the expressway makes it is easy to take a deep breath and feel comfortably alone while adjusting the volume on the car stereo.

I drive as fast as I want because when I am paying that amount of money to drive down a road I think it is only fair to take liberties in regards to speed.

I pick an album to listen to. I can enjoy every song in the order in which it was meant to be heard.

I know how much closer I will be to my destination when I get out of a certain tunnel or when I reach the top of a hill to go down another.

When the weekend ends I never question which road I will take home.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Feel Good Moments from the Couch

Recently, I have had two really feel good moments straight from the couch. Or rather the floor because there is no couch, but there are a lot of blankets.

Across the Universe. Realistic musical with a message and attractive well known actors. Beatles songs are better than any of the songs in Moulin Rouge and I found myself feeling good at the end as opposed to curling up in a ball and bawling in a Dancer in the Dark kind of way.

Teen pregnancy angst in a loving two parent household, over sized band t-shirts, and a soundtrack to shake your bangs too.
Feel good movie.

I will live anywhere as long as I can watch lots of tv and movies.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Breaking things and Dressing up

I scraped the side of my car awhile ago. I was singing along to Tegan and Sara, I remember it well, alone in my car, "I know, I know, I know" horribly off key with all the windows up.

Even over their cute voices and my poor rendition I could hear that scrap, probably for a good five seconds.

The sound of my car running against the side of some woman's garage entrance.

My gut reaction: my father is going to be pissed. Then I remembered that this was my car. I paid for this car, only my name is on all the car documents, he cannot even give me advice as to what to do when the car starts being weird, he has never even seen this car.

It all became much easier. And of course, the woman, whose wall I ran into was more concerned about my car than her property.
There is still a big dent in the side of her garage and she still smiles every time I see her.

The ear piece of my glasses snapping in half was much more upsetting.

I took my glasses to all glasses stores in Ikeda and there is no fixing them.
A part of me has died. Four years with those glasses. You would think that I could find some frames here in Japan, but there is just something about my pale face and big nose that does not work with Japanese style eye wear.

Despite my clumsiness when I get behind the wheel or when I fall asleep with my glasses on one too many times, I redeem my grace when I play dress-up in Japanese clothes and sit seiza for two hours.

The most challenging aspect of Japanese tea ceremony is sitting on ones knees with a straight back for a long period of time.

I sit still in this uncomfortable position so well and my kimono compliments my hair color in such a way that Hakuchi elementary insisted that I help place students hands in the correct tea ceremony positions as these nine and ten year olds took on this daunting task of patient for the first time.