Saturday, June 28, 2008

High on a Mountain Top

We live, we love, and we laugh a lot
One of those little tiny specs of building is my home. I cannot seem to make it out through the 7 a.m. fog.

I live in a small town, in a small world.

Last night, I crossed the Yoshinogawa and went up a side of the mountain that I have always been curious about.
After about four hours of eating and drinking, in a house on top of that mountain, Ashely and I asked the cute young Japanese girls what they do when they make their way down from their weekday home in Iya Valley, to the slightly bigger town of Ikeda.

It was not a surprise when they told us that they sometimes go to Bar G. They continued to tell us that one time they saw two blonde girls sitting next to each other at Bar G. And that night they got free peach drinks thanks to those girls. See, two men had offered to buy those blonde girls drinks and the bartender was confused and gave those drinks to the Japanese girls from Iya and not the the blonde girls. In the end, the Japanese girls and the blonde girls all got free drinks. Ashely and I raised our hands in excitement as we explained that we are those blonde girls (I have still not managed to meet a Japanese person that understands the concept of redheads).

In this small world we all live in, Ashley and I and the other set of girls all found humor in this story of coincidences.

And that night I found myself in a big mountain top slumber party with those girls and one of their stuffed animals.

Friday, June 20, 2008

All that you Have

If nothing else there is always The Books

Listen to the album The Lemon of Pink.
Listen to the song "Tokyo" and think of me.
Listen to the song "Take Time" because I think it is beautiful.

But appreciate the absence of sound when you drive up into the mountains to look at fireflies, where there is not cell phone service but only abandoned schools.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Freedom Fighters


In just about one month I will be in the USA. I am flying into Pittsburgh on July 16th. I am tentatively planning to head to Philadelphia on Wednesday or Thursday July 23rd or 24th. From there I will head to Greensboro, NC on (probably) Saturday, July 26th. I will hang out in Greensboro until (about) Wednesday, July 30th. Then it is back to Pittsburgh. And I will return to Japan on Saturday, August 2nd.

I will most likely be driving from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to Greensboro to Pittsburgh, so if you are going to be in one of those places and would like to go to the next with me let me know!!!!!

And if you live in one of those places, let's hang out and if you are really important to me, I would love to know that you will absolutely be there.

I am exhausted and I miss you. I woke up in this evening, on my floor, with a sore neck and confused about what time it was as the sun had set.

My love and hate relationship with Japan continues. My love and hate relationship with life continues.
I am so glad that in one year I will be plunging into my next adventure. I cannot believe I only have one year to do the millions of things I am in this country to do.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wallow around in Self-pity

Dear Japan,
I love you.
I love you not.
I love you.
I love you not.
I love you?

It is so easy to fall into a big hole of self-pity and spend a decent amount of time rolling around in it while living in Japan.
It is also easy to fall into that hole quickly and somehow manage to pull oneself out with the same amount of speed.

Wednesday I hung out in that hole for a while. In a class of sixteen weird, country, elementary school kids only two of them paid any attention to that day's lesson. This has been my most challenging school since I have gotten here. So when I have ambitious moments while at work I plan a special lesson, just for that school, different from all other lessons for that week (I know ... so ambitious). These special lessons mostly involve drawing and coloring something. And this past week, that special drawing and coloring lesson did not even work out. So I wallowed for a couple of hours.

That evening, I barely made it off my weird bed to make it to ballet. But when I got there and we did grande jette's, I jumped right out of that hole. The ballet teacher told me I was beautiful and explained to everyone else in the class that I was beautiful because of how high I held my chest as I flew across the floor. So I came home and pique turned around my kitchen while I made pancakes.

Today, I went to the best elementary school in the history of all elementary schools. I actually know students names at this school. They hug me and I hug them back because I am genuinely glad to see them.

I sat down with a bunch of six and seven year olds to eat lunch. I tried to speak with them in Japanese, they tried to speak with me. But we just could not seem to have any successful communication. I find it most difficult to speak with the really young kids. I speak Japanese like a puzzle, with many missing pieces. First grade kids have a difficult time filling in that puzzle. Once they are in Junior High they are pretty good at it.

So I headed back to the staff room after lunch to wallow. The wallowing started to get intense when I realized that my mother writes me more emails than anyone else because she is "so excited to see me this summer." But my mother would be pretty excited to see me no matter what ... she is my mother.

Then a little seven year old friend of mine walked into the staff room, asked to speak with Caity Sensei, walked right over to me and in a slightly nervous voice requested that I play soccer with him.
I minimized the window I was staring at on my computer, "Ima desu ka?!"
He replied "Hai!"

We walked outside together and he explained soccer to me, in Japanese, because to a six year old it makes sense that I do not know how to play soccer, since I have such a hard time with his native language. I pretended to understand his Japanese, which was a good trick because really I just understand how to play soccer.

So then I loved Japan because a bunch of six and seven year old boys were adamant about me playing soccer with them. And I loved Japan tonight when I sat in an onsen then when I was eating udon and when I came home to listen to the Awa Odori drumming outside my window.
But I will probably post this blog and stand up and find some reason to really hate Japan.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Love Romance Love

This is where I live.

Doesn't it make you want to come visit?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Some things never change.

For ten months I have been really far from home and anything familiar and I am finding happiness in the same things as I always have.
I came to Japan and put my television in the closet. I spent a decent amount of money on food and cooking utensils. I went running, at least once a day. I aspired to devote intellectual free time to learning a second language.

It was a matter of weeks before my television was at the foot of my bed so I could lay there and watch shows like Monk. My diet now includes miso udon, which is the biggest culinary risk I have taken in the kitchen. I was fooling myself when I would walk into the supermarket and buy anything other than bananas, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, and fixings for french fries.

That running thing lasted awhile and I want to say that I have not completely given up on it. But, I have found a ballet class on both Wednesdays and Fridays. Nowadays, when my ballet teacher slides down on the floor into a split I produce a deep groan and I stay about two feet off the ground. At this point in my life I am fully aware that my prime leotard wearing days are slipping out of sight, but that is never going to stop me. I will become a crazy old lady who tells people that my hobby is "dancing" and I will wear dance attire, that will be inappropriate for my age, to dance classes that leave me sore and confused.

And this studying a second language thing is something that I am still finding steam for. But, when it comes to after work intellectual free time my heart only has room for one true love.

I have rediscovered any creative writings I have and I am currently procrastinating on a, far reaching, application. But when I sit down and put a pen to paper to revise the English language I am at my happiest. When I really put my mind to Japanese I cry. Even if I am not sad. I still manage to cry.

Ten months and thousands of miles around the world I have not changed. So french fries and word documents it is ... and that is fine.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Once Upon a Summer

This is how it is going down in Ikeda this summer:

It is not much, but is as much porch as anyone is going to get in Japan. Japanese people do not appreciate porches the way Americans do and especially not the way North Carolinians do. When my sister came to North Carolina to visit me in May of last year we walked around my neighborhood and admired the wrap around porches, second floor porches, and the porch swings that line the streets of Greensboro.

The side porch of my home on 105 Inglewood Drive is the setting of romantic, adolescent, late night, kisses. And it is a place where I could always find my mother sitting quietly, drinking coffee on warm mornings when no one else was around.

For now I have put those tires to use that have annoyed me for the past nine months. And I like to think that this porch is like the small concrete porch that I spent Canadian summer vacations on. The porch that I would sit on in my childhood when I would let chipmunks climb up my legs as I fed them peanuts. And where I posted up reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests when I was 16 because I knew everyone else would spend their afternoons closer to the water.

The month of June is tsuyu or rainy season but in between the days of rain shower everyone in Japan is getting outside and enjoying the sunshine in the unique ways that Japanese people do.