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I'm writing this at a little B&B place in the "charming" town of Jefferson, Texas. I'm not sure why Mom decided to stay here rather than actually going into Linden (note : it was because Linden is a hole) where her folks are, but I'm glad. I'm not particularly fond of Uncle Paul and brood, so I much prefer hanging out a town away with Aunt Janet and Bryson for company. The drive over here, which was supposed to take three hours, ended up taking about four and a half due to a four-mile section of road work that backed up traffic for about 10 miles before it. Sigh. Mom and I would have made it talking about music, but having Aunt Janet around to tell funny stories and Bryson to talk computers and Monty Python with was a little more steadily entertaining. Bryson and I had actually spent a good couple hours earlier hanging out, playing cards and bullshitting... I swear, with each sentence that boy utters, I feel worse for him. Here's a kid who really should be hanging out with Brandon and Patrick joking about mounting drives while watching a sci-fi movie, and instead he's stretched out mid-game of rummy complaining about how he's probably going to be checking the "divorced" box at 22. Augh! I may just barely know him, but it's obvious that he'd fit right in with my peers... and it's not fair for a peer of mine to have to be dealing with this crap. Not that he's entirely blameless, of course. Aunt Janet says that he "thought she was on the Pill," but it seems to me that unless BOTH of you KNOW she's on it, dropping condoms isn't a stellar idea. And of course abortion isn't quite as in favor in Texas as it is in Washington (at least in the Puget Sound area), nor are 29 year olds as eager to drop a pregnancy as a younger girl might be. I asked and he said they'd only been dating for three months or so before the shit hit the fan. Not Fair! Grumble. To discuss something other than dear Bryson's personal life (and if you're reading this, um, I'm sorry? Not sorry enough, obviously, but still), it rained five inches yesterday near us, and at least that if not more today. It got to raining so hard at one point today that Mom and I actually pulled over to the side of the freeway. I've only had it dump that hard on me once while freeway driving before - it's pretty unnerving to not be able to see beyond the front of the car. We saw at least six other people pulled over before us, so I don't think it was just us being weenies. One of Bryson's co-workers sent thanks to me and Mom for bringing rain... I don't think he understands that today and yesterday were as far from Seattle rain as apples are from oranges. I mean, they're both fruit BUT...


For a day where I basically did nothing, I'm exhausted. Mom and I did wander in to see the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, but that's about been it for the day. Sounds like Bryson's coming with us to the chintzy bed and breakfast town we're spending the weekend at. I'm glad; I'll have someone around to mock it with (heh). Oh, Mom and I ate at Waffle House this morning, which would make Steph and the rest of the Georgia crew smile. I saw a couple Chick-Fil-A outlets on our drive, too. Really, driving around with Mom wasn't too bad - East Texas has a lot more trees than West Texas (where Mom is actually from), and a couple recent rains have kept it from being entirely brown. It is still, however, entirely too flat. I realized some years ago that I'm slightly phobic of wide open spaces that aren't enclosed at the edges by mountains. Silly Seattle child I. I told Mom about it, and she laughed - apparently when she'd moved to Seattle from Texas 30-odd years ago, she'd been slightly claustrophobic for some years. I remember being in Times Square, looking down some of those straight-into-infinity New York streets and nearly fainting... I just feel very strongly that the world ought to have definable edges rather than simply curving out of sight. Mom and I spent most of today in the car talking about music and the state of radio (how corporate it is, how Seattle's 107.7 The End and Dallas' 102.1 The Edge are the same station owned by the same people with the same playlists and DJ personalities only very slightly regionally tuned). I may not always get on with my mom, but it's nice to know that no matter what, our mutual love of music can always bring us together in civil conversation. That's more than a lot of people can say about their parents.


(Editors's note : I've just typed this entry in THREE times, each time to have my connection reset. Someone is displeased with me.) So I didn't write anything for a couple days... I actually thought about it last night, but while we're at Aunt Janet's house Mom and I are sharing a bed and I didn't want to get up and disturb her. Aunt Janet isn't really my aunt - she and Mom have known each other forever (their parents knew each other long before they were born) and while I've not met her very often, Mom talks about her a lot more than she does her own brother. That and Uncle Larry (Aunt Janet's brother) lives in San Francisco and comes up to visit every so often. I met my "cousin" Bryson for the second time today; he's about six months younger than me and his younger brother is about the same from Bryce. They'd come to visit us in Seattle years ago (I think Bryson and I were about 15) and I'd just fallen in love with both of them. They make much better cousins than my actual ones, that's for sure. It was fun to find out that six years or so have passed and Bryson and I clicked just like before. He's a programmer whose apartment was suspiciously stocked with D&D books and whose sense of humor is straight Seattle cynic. I think my mom's been harboring hopes for years that he'd come to Seattle and date me (heh). This made Aunt Janet's bombshell news when we arrived yesterday even more of a shock to her - my 21 year old smart-alecky cousin Bryson got suddenly married over the summer. Aunt Janet had told us in June when she'd last visited that he had a new girlfriend... well, apparently new girlfriend turned into expectant mother. Aunt Janet says that Bryson married her to try to keep her from moving to California and taking the child away. Sigh... the poor kid. He got married in late July to a 29 year old basket case of a woman who's apparently made his life miserable for the past month and a half and is currently living at her friend's place. I feel so terrible for him - everything I've heard from Aunt Janet and everything he let slip at dinner points to this Melanie being a complete nutter. I hope everything works out for him, if not with his wife (a term I have an extremely hard time using in connection with a guy my age... but there is Brock, too), then at least with his kid in 6 months. Hearing Aunt Janet talk about it is so tragic... it did, however, make me feel better about my love life. A callous thing to say, it may be, but it's true. That's the kind of situation I'll never be faced with from his side, and hopefully I'll never create it for someone else (knock on wood).


Moving into a new apartment does no good for things like updating webpages. But the important part is that there is a new apartment, located nicely near the Wedgwood Safeway and the 65 bus to campus. Ground floor and they allow cats... only icky bit so far (other than several things that need fixing, like the cold water tap not working in the kitchen) is the upstairs neighbor who came down last night at 12:30 to ask us to be quiet. I really don't think we were being very loud, so it bodes ill for future ease of mind about noise. My bedroom is huge, though, which has a way of smoothing over other annoyances. Life is very very very good this week. If it remains good in this particular way after school starts, I think I will be the most mother fucking ecstatic Jen to inhabit the Earth. I'm going to Texas tomorrow morning until the 4th of September, so this page will not be updated. If I was going with Dad, it might, but with Mom as a travel partner, there will be no laptop loving. I'll snag along my journal and have a Japan-style update next week.


A doctor told me I won't die from my back injury. That and free samples of uber-strength Ibuprofen seems to have calmed me down about that, which is nice. A week of excruciating pain followed by five weeks of twinging pain had me a little concerned. It hurts when I drive, which is an annoyance, but I won't be driving too much once I get into an apartment. Gah, why must it be strung out this painfully slow and full of obstacles? I think I jinxed it, as I often do, by telling my parents about it. I should have kept my big mouth shut, but at least it hasn't spectacularly blown up the way my jinxes usually do. This time it's just stumbling over every bump possible, so perhaps my jinx will work itself out in that way this time. It may sound silly to talk about jinxes, but in the last several years, if it's one thing I've learned, it's that talking about things I want is one of the best ways to see that they do not come to pass. Bah humbug. In other news, dinner tonight with Zach was fun, yet tinged with that "Internet friend" uncomfortableness (at least for me). It's really rather odd, seeing as I've met him in person several times. One would have thought that the feeling would have faded by now. I think it's likely due to the fact that always before when we spoke in person, it was quick banter at an ADP show or somesuch (the few rambling conversations we had way back when we first started to know each other don't seem to have really sunk into my awareness). Yet on ICQ and email, we've had conversations about love and life... it sets up a dichotomy of "when is it appropriate to talk about what" that sets my internal face to tilting with an off expression. Of course, if I were ever to actually meet John in person, my head might explode.


Okay, I've done enough damage for the day. My smallest directory is completely fixed up according to new specs, which isn't really something to be happy about, but all of the thoughts pages being good to go rather is, I think. I deleted June 00 by accident at one point but Google cache is only slightly less of a hero than Patrick. It's 3:30 am and I really don't want to go to bed though I am exhausted; I really don't want to work on my page anymore, though, so I don't know what to do now. I just looked over on my dad's desk and it looks as if my grandmother has published another book. How neat. Jesus christ, I can't believe how utterly wiped of ability to think my brain has been wiped by the last four hours of computer use. Two months away and I lose all my stamina, fucking hell. Okay, I lied, I wasn't done. I think I like the red accent better than the grey, but I'm too tired right now and too lacking in something that will do a search and replace to go through and fix the last 18 months or so. Why oh why can't I do an even bigger shtml file... that is a good question that I will investigate.


I finished writing up the thing today. I also embarked on the grand redesign. A look at Personal will show how it will all conform. Conformity, it's the name of the vacation-time wasting activity! If you care, you can look at how I'm thinking of doing Thoughts and tell me what you think. I may not listen to you. There's also four or five things that will be done tomorrow, so if it's something really obvious like "the backtext isn't there," I will begin to mourn for humanity. I got so very very little sleep last night (about 2.5 hours) and I've been feeling the punchiness all day. I can't fit into a pair of jeans that I used to when I was in shape, though my weight's not really different. That's rather bothersome, but if I move into a flat neighborhood, perhaps I'll run once more. What an idea. There was something profound I thought about in the car after dropping the boys off (thanks again, you two, and have you noticed how if you put our initials together, you get a PB&J sandwich?). Ah, the revelations of insomnia.


Something about driving past Mark's old street listening to Tool really made me think about him. It was odd that the music tripped the memory, seeing as he was much more Peter Gabriel than Tool. Brother and more than friend, and I really miss him. Our five weeks together were quite possibly the best of my life, though there have been spans of time elsewhere that were good for longer. Perhaps it was the shortness that made it so much better. I hope Boston is treating him well. We went and looked at the apartment (in Toby's old complex, for maximum amusement, and it has a pool) today, and will be dropping off our applications tomorrow. It is very nice. It feels as if it has slightly less space than my old one, but that may be mostly due to the fact that it doesn't have the hugely high ceilings. Brandon's room, assuming that they rent to us, is smaller than mine but still about twice as big as his old one... someday, the boy may move up to something resembling normal scale, but we're working it slowly. Now he just needs a bed. It's a sunny place with lots of windows, on the ground floor and it has a back door. If that's not neat I don't know what is. Plus having a linen closet will be neat, and they allow cats (with a huge deposit). Hamsters intrigue me. It's 2:30 am and I should go to bed to get up in 7 hours, but I think I'm rebelling against having gone to bed early all summer to either have gotten to school early or have gotten out of that house early. We could have the apartment as early as Saturday and likely by Monday. It needs some "fixtures." It is not on the freeway. There is street parking. I am pleased.


I am at home. I have been up for way too long of a time and I'd forgotten that the apostrophe was anywhere other than shift-7. I almost cried when I landed in Seattle and was overjoyed that Brandon, Patrick, and Kate were there with my parents to welcome me back. I wrote a weird new essay on me on the plane that I'll post tomorrow or something, and I might have an apartment this week. I am very tired but almost don't want to go to bed... God, I'd missed this place. Nothing taught me how lucky I am about my friends here like having to go and make all new friends from a limited pool. Kate especially, for giving me my first backrub after getting back, I LOVE YOU.


So here I am, writing my last post from Japan actually in front of a computer at time of writing, for once. There have been a whole host of things I never got around to writing about - the weird mirror in the bathroom, the kind old lady at my bus stop, and other things just will have to stay in my memory, I suppose. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day, but at the endpoint of all that flying is getting to see my family, and even if Brandon and crew can't make it to the airport, I'll get to see them later in the evening. I have an apartment to go look at, and frisbee to play with Ian whether he wants to or not. I'm going to go have my last curry doughnut for what will be at least a year, but in about a day, I'll have my first Twix in two months. Funny how all that stuff balances out. All my shopping's done, and due to me not really paying attention when I bought the last stuff, a lot of it isn't wrapped. Ah well. I'm bringing mochi home for people to try... I wonder if it'll keep? We'll see. This has been one crazy summer, that's for sure. Best of all, I still have over a month of vacation. Life is good.


(added 8/18, Japan time) Saying goodbye to everyone today was pretty sad. I may not be the sort to break into tears at partings, as several other people apparently were, but I'm still going to miss my friends here a lot. Hatakayama-sensei actually started crying on stage while congratulating his class at the closing ceremony. He's such a sweetie - Hal, Amanda and Kyle were super lucky to have him for a teacher. Personally I was just glad he was always around to be my purintaa kamisama (printer god) when I was having to fiddle around with the damn Japanese computers for album stuff. Hanabusa, Satou, and Yamada-senseis all went through and publicly complimented each of their students individually on personal merits during their addresses, which was really cool (but I wasn't surprised that Taguchi-sensei didn't follow suit). I made my goodbye to H-Mike short so I wouldn't say anything too dumb, and I'm really glad I said my farewells to dear Steph at the party, because she never caught up with us this afternoon as we'd hoped. I spent the afternoon with several people omiyage (souvenir) shopping, and thus managed to eke out an extra few hours with Hal and S-Mike. I found myself the most upset today about hugging Massey (S-Mike) goodbye when he took his leave of us out of all of my "see ya's" today. I really hope he's in Denver visiting his folks when I get over to visit Dad's family later this year; there's a boy I really wish I was bringing home to Seattle with me. Unexpectedly, it was Hal who I said my final farewell to when I rattled his baseball cap goodbye right before I got on my bus. As the other seven people had peeled off all afternoon, me and my good ol' Georgia boy just kept on chilling and gabbing down to the very end. In the hypothetical I-go-to-Georgia-to-visit-Steph scenario, I'll have to search him out and see if he's found himself a BAC (bombass asian chick, to borrow terminology that my friend Jay and I created years ago) at Valdosta. I didn't get to say a proper goodbye to several of my friends, but that's the way things go. All that's left for me is to get the last of my shopping done tomorrow and do the packing thing. Best thing, faceciously speaking, about today, though, was getting not one, but TWO curry doughnuts for free at the closing party. They may be "blatantly Marxist," but I'm going to savor my last one tomorrow just as much as I'm going to enjoy my first meal back home!


(added 8/18, Japan time) I am mildly displeased. I am writing this on the stoop of my house at 8:00 at night, waiting for the Sakuradas to come home. I told Susumu yesterday that I might be out as late as 9:30, but that I'd definitely be home before then. If it's 9:30 when they come rolling back, hell, if they come back now, for that matter, it is going to be with great pleasure that I stand up as they get out of the car and pointedly say okaeri (welcome home). I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that they took the chance to go out, seeing as I wasn't going to be around for dinner, but sheesh, they could have left the back door unlocked, Still, I had a really good day today, even considering the final and getting a shitty exchange on the last of my TCs. The final was much easier than I had expected it would be, even if I flubbed some of the kanji because I'd totally forgotten them. I was thinking that wasting time until dinner was going to kind of suck, but I ended up being able to spend four hours curled up in one of the two comfy chairs in the lounge (as opposed to the several uncomfy ones), first reading the paper and then having a long bullshit session with Jim, Kent, Karl and various floaters in and out. Three hours of chilling with friends talking about everything from videogames to Mormon secret underwear (Kent is an ex-Mormon, and gave us an hour long talk/Q&A session about Mormonism... I'm not joking about the secret underwear) was way cool. Around 3:30 I rolled out with Jim and Karl to get some errands done around the eki (station) before busing over to Goryoukaku for dinner; the 25 min walk over there from school was dominated by a discussion between Jim and I about our two favorite things - eating and flirting. It turns out that Red Shadow isn't playing in town after all, so Hal and I can't go tomorrow (sniff), but while walking back from checking the second theater, I found a cheap and nummy tempura place. I know where I'm getting a light lunch on Saturday. However, the best thing about today was the reason why I don't have to go way cheap on or skip lunches the next few days - I caught the bus over to Goryoukaku, so no money was spent on the densha (streetcar), it turns out Stephanie owed me money that I'd forgotten about, so she paid for my dinner, and I was done eating early enough to run out and catch the bus, so I didn't have to shell out for a taxi! My evening expenses went from an expected 3720 yen to 460 (snagging a bit of tempura, paying Ashley back 200 yen I owed him, getting some candy at the bus stop, and buying ice cream at the konbini (convenience store) near my house when I realized no one was home). I am a very happy camper. I may still be stressing about the baggage weight thing, but before I was stressing out about that AND the running out of money thing. Dinner was delicious and best of all, Jim actually said "it's naked time." I stopped with a fork halfway to my mouth and just stared for a moment before I started laughing my head off. It'd been so long since I'd heard that phrase, and the fact that it was coming out of a Jim's mouth just made it all the more funny. (hehe) They got home at 8:45 and the gomen nasais fairly flew, especially when they asked how long I'd been waiting and I said "well, I caught the last bus," which they knew meant that I'd been here since 7:30. It may sound bad, but I really enjoy situations like that. To a perpetually guilt-collecting person like myself, it's refreshing to have a situation where I am wronged and am so totally not at fault that not even my conniving brain can assign blame to me. I win!


(added 8/18, Japan time) I figured out this afternoon why Kyle has seemed so familiar to me all summer. His hair is blond and he's shorter, but he's a good enough ringer on Zach to be a brother. I had a fun time playing Japanese teacher to him on the walk over here to the eki (station) - I'm never as happy with my understanding of something as when I find out I can explain it so that someone else can understand it. There's not much better than watching the "oh, I get it!" spark flash into someone's face. Hanging out in the arcade with him for a bit just now, I decided that I really want to start playing more video games again. Not computer games, because those are the spawn of the devil (ELO, god save me), but console games. I want to get copies of the Tekken games and Soul Caliber and play a long game of Romance again. I wonder if I'll be able to find those big arcade pads for the Dreamcast anywhere... I think a trip to Funco Land is in order Or maybe I'll finally screw up my courage and order stuff online. I've been being a ridiculous pansy about that for years now; it's related to my irrational fear of credit cards. But I'm starting to think that it's really time to get a credit card some time in here. So many things to start thinking about when I get home... four days from now at this time, I'll be transferring flights at Kansai. I complained a bit about my host family on the program evaluation I turned in today - Wayne teased me about probably writing an essay, but it wasn't that bad. I just gave my opinion on first-time host families. So glad to be going home, la la la lah! I tried to sell Kyle on moving to Seattle over lunch; talking about Seattle and all its good and bad things didn't help the homesick excitement thing any (heh). So presentation went okay today, but it turned out a bunch of random Japanese people (teachers, we think), came to listen to our presentations. Taguchi-sensei claims she told us they were coming, but a quick check after class settled that if she did and I forgot, everyone else in class suffered from the same amnesia. I was terrified - one scary old man had gotten on Ashin's case about only interviewing smokers for his project on Japanese tobacco attitudes, and he'd gotten a little on Ashley about something too. I was extremely relieved when my turn came about right after the first break and he'd gone to saijyou kyuu (upper advanced) for that hour. Not relieved enough to not be scared, though - there were still six Japanese people I didn't know sitting back there and I was up in front in a t-shirt, grubby shorts and sandals, giving a report on a project I basically hadn't done. I about killed Karl for loudly pointing out right as I began talking that I'd used the wrong particle in the title that I'd written on the blackboard. Sometimes you just need to let things ride, sheesh. Ugh - just got home from a muggy icky bus ride. Today is one of those days where I just want to scrape a layer of skin off. Final exams are tomorrow, which will kind of suck, but I'm not going to care too much, I've decided. Money's going to be super tight if I go to a movie with Hal on Friday, but it'd be worth it. Two letters today, the last I'll get and it was double the happiness - sweet!


Yuck. I'm writing this as a homework break from the stoopid flipping report. I should call it the "repeat" instead, seeing as I feel as if that's all I'm doing. Still have to come up with the speech, but I'm mightily tempted to try to wing it. It may be 10% of my grade, but on the other hand, it's only 10% of my grade. I just worked it out that I rally don't care that much. I'll scribble a page down following her example and be done (though lord knows that'll take another hour or two, sigh). What do I have to talk about? There was an earthquake this morning. It rumbled enough to scoot my bed on the floor and wake me up, at which point I thought "ooh, it's a little earthquake. How neat," and promptly went back to sleep. The entire Georgia contingent was flipping out about it at school, though, as well as multiple New Englanders. I may not have been in many earthquakes (four that I can think of and one I was too young to remember), but the differences between me and the California people as opposed to the East Coast earthquake virgins were the stuff of amusement all day. I found my last present and the money I got for selling back a couple of used CDs nearly covered buying it, which pleased me. I'm still flipping out about the luggage weight limit thing, but I'm not going to be as bad off moneywise at the end of the week as I thought I would be (knock on wood), so I'm slightly mae yori (from before, better translates to compared to before) relaxed. Only two more days of school... I so HAPPY. Looks like I'll be TAing a chem lab in fall and I wonder if I can work in going to Colorado around two different orientations. Still no apartment and now Ryan wants Bill to live with us... sigh. I really don't want that, the more I think about it. Bill's a good guy, but he's a little bit of a drinker and I don't really want to put up with that. Plus increasing the room search to four isn't going to make anything easier... Augh! And here I was just starting to calm down about things. Fret fret. It would have been so sweet to get that Roosevelt house. Sigh. Ah well, as Jim told me sternly today as I freaked out about the luggage thing in the gakusei (student) lounge, worrying does no good. Absolutely nothing really happened today. I'm so tired of school that even classroom discussions hold no excitement anymore, and so school is just one big suck these days. I get so wiped out by class that I droop the rest of the day until I fall asleep way too late from fretting in my mind with no energy to work it out somehow and drag myself out of bed in the mornings in the same dread state. I wonder how long Patrick's hair has gotten and if Zach has drawn my picture yet and if M&M's, Skittles, and Twix will taste as good at the airport as I'm dreaming. I wonder if Kana will stop screaming tonight - she's on her loudest and most hyper kick all summer. Bah!


(added 8/18, Japan time) Vending Machines with M&M's. At the airport in San Francisco, M&M's will be mine. I miss American candy so much... I'm so glad I have a couple US dollars on me to blow on an airport vending machine. Kind of strange here - you can get nearly anything in vending machines, from beer to eggs, but I have yet to see a single vending machine for candy. Skittles and Twix, I miss you so. American and Japanese candy are zenzen chigau (totally different), of course, so that may have something to do with it, but I find the lack of vending machine chocolate to be a vexing problem. Only one more day of real class, and then I get to bullshit for 10 minutes (ugh) about a project I haven't done. Me and my slackerness... it's a good thing I'm a damn good liar, but James knows my secret, so hopefully he won't let it spill. We put the album together today and we'll pass it out tomorrow - my section had to be shrunk (so the pictures turned even shittier than they already were) and several other people's contributions had to be cut in part or full to fit in a 30 page limit we didn't know we had until today. Big suck for album people who know how it was supposed to look, but it should still be decent for everyone else. It's got badly photocopied pictures, mispelled names, and more ass than should really be in something official, but we made it, it's ours, and we're proud of it. Augh, so crazy to think I'm going home so soon!! I'm stressing big time that my luggage will be too heavy - Grace said that hers was on the way here and it had to be sent next-day-service to Hakodate. But I can't have mine sent next-day to Kansai, I won't fucking be there! I'm assuming they don't check carry-on weight, so hopefully I can shoulder anything over the 30 kg limit if it comes to that. Why can't Hakodate be big enough to have a United flight to the States? Bah! I'm jumpy minded, as I've been at night for the last several days - I've become the insomniac from stress/excitement about leaving that I didn't become from 16 hours of jet lag when arriving. I'm the child that knows that Santa is bringing her her pass of of this goddamn house, and Christmas is still six long days away. I'll be avoiding them completely, hopefully, on Thurs-Sat, and Sunday is the magic day... so really, just two more days of suck. Woo HOO!


(added 8/18, Japan time) I think I'm just going to have to bend to "necessity" and cash my last traveler's check this week to be able to have a good time these last several days. Not that it's a bad thing to use that money; I did bring it to be used, after all. I'll just set half of it or more aside as weird emergency money... Dad said he had to pay a weird exit tax when he left the country, which may have been a mistake, but who knows what might happen at the airports (7 days from now! wooo!) That way I won't have to not eat lunches and stuff this week to be able to afford to go out on Thursday for mekishiko ryouri (mexican food) again and buy the last remaining presents. I'm all alone today, which is super sweet. They all took off shopping before I got up this morning, leaving me breakfast and a note promising they'd be home before night. The later the better, I say - I'm mightily enjoying a day to myself to chill on the deck in the sun, doing laundry and listening to the radio. I don't think I'll do laundry here again; I've got enough clothes to last the week now, and I'd like to avoid giving my clothes further trauma. Japanese washers, detergent, and line drying have not been nice to them. I think it's funny to compare Kana and me in our Japanese ability - we've been students of the language, in our respective ways, for the same three years and change. If anything, I've had longer exposure than her, counting anime watching in high school. I can read (to some extent), and she can't; I know a whole range of advanced vocabulary that she doesn't. But due to the nature of her experience, she's fluent, and I'm not. She produces the language spontaneously and without great effort, while I'm completely opposite. It was comforting to think that most kids don't learn how to read until they are at least four or five - I've got a head start on someone, and give me another three or four years and I'll be doing decent, I hope. It's become increasingly important to me that I find a career that uses Japanese... left to my own devices, I might let the experience of the last three years lapse, and I don't want that. I wonder what my parents think/hope I'm going to do with myself at this point. They must have given up hope years ago that I'd be a scientist; I'm curious what they're expecting now, and I wonder what they'll think when I come home and tell them I'm considering even more school. Sheesh. (Later) I'm not sure what to think of just waking up from an afternoon nap to find they've left me alone for the second time today. I'm not angry at all, I just find it kind of funny. They got home at three, made me a quickie instant yakisoba lunch (unfortunately proving in the process that it IS possible to ruin yakisoba : seedy cheap restaurants, school cafeterias, and convenience store lunches can't do it, but instant can), I settled down in my room to read and ended up dozing off around 4:45 or so... I woke up at 7 and the second note of the day was on the table! They'll likely be getting home soon, but I am pleased with having been able to avoid them nearly completely on the last of these tortuous bus-pass-doesn't-work Sundays.


(added 8/18, Japan time) Seven days until I'm away from here, not counting today! I can't wait! The day's been pretty good so far, but that's largely due to the fact that I jetted out in perfect synchronization to see no one this morning, spent a few hours shopping and using a computer, and am sipping minted coffee at Mr. D's. I need to figure of something to do for the next four hours or so, because I sure as hell am not going home early. I could write about the talent show, but I think I'll leave it at the highlights - Hal and Kyle's pan (bread) masks, being told to my face I was hot by two different guys, and doing the limbo on stage to Copa Cabana. The details really can't be written down accurately - memory will have to serve (and verbal descriptions to people at home). Suffice to be said that it was an absolute blast. And Mexican food afterwards... oh man, James and I were practically in convulsions of joy in that tiny restaurant packed to the gills with ryuugakusei (foreign students). I wish I'd remembered to bring along something to read today, but perhaps I'll go find a park and take a nap after finishing up the trailing end of today's omiyage (souvenir) shopping. After today there's only four things left to get, three of which are meltable things that I'm leaving until the last day. Which for shopping is a scant week from today - let me rejoice some more! I'm still not sure what to get for my last present - everyone else's has jumped out at me to some degree or been a request, but this last one's tricky. Maybe I'll consult with Stephanie or Tracy; it'd be fun if I could pull them shopping with me. (Later) Serendipity! I ran into Joop on the way out of Mr. D's, and spent a lovely afternoon with her, shopping and gossiping and eating ice cream. My feet hurt terribly after walking for basically three and a half hours with only a few short breaks, but it was so worth it. She teased me a lot for having been haunting downtown since 9, and H-Mike said later (we ran into him and Hal at Goryoukaku) that he felt really bad I was always trying to get out of my house, desperate for company. I laughed it off and apologized for being a pain, but well, it's true. I decided on the bus home that I'm going to write a group letter to all the people I relied on at one time or another to keep me sane, and thank them for being generally so awesome. I figure Ill write it out and scan it, rather than sending them each a copy by mail. Gives me something to look forward to doing after next weekend (as if I'm not pumped enough already!).


(added 8/11, Japan time) Way to go, Sakuradas. Thank you for spoiling what had been one of the best days I'd had all summer. I've been robbed of all desire to talk about the talent show and dinner with friends for the first time in two months. I'm down 2210 yen for a taxi, neatly clearing me of half my budget for free money for the rest of my stay, and it turns out they hadn't gone to bed like I'd thought. Who knows if I misdialed or they just ignored six rings of the phone, but either way, I'm pissed off. I'm angry that I got scolded for not chanto (rightly) calling before 10, seeing as that's a rule they'd never uttered before. As I cried a few angry tears up in my room, I tried to remind myself that it was what I wanted, but it really isn't. I wanted rules and structure, not a free form sort of bullshit that ends up with me getting in trouble over "broken rules," rules whose existence I was never informed of. The only thing that's nice to think about right now is that in two days over a week I'll be sitting around a table with my friends at home. It's not really worth it to actively hate this place with just a week to go, no matter how much I resent an unfair scolding and not being asked "how was the talent show," "did you have a good time," or "why is your hair done up like that?" Actually, I would have been less pissed off if they'd even asked me "why are you so late?" rather than just me getting a Stern Talking To. So instead of writing about what was my best day in weeks, I'm angry and frustrated and feeling ashamed and planning on getting up at 7:30 on a Saturday to get a shower in before I take a bus away from here. I thought about taking the 7:30 bus to be gone sooner, but then I might run into Susumu on his way out around 7, and I'm rather interested in avoiding these people as much as possible for the next week. I can't wait to get back to a place where I am an active, integrated factor in my friends lives; I'm really fucking tired of this shit.


(added 8/11, Japan time) I have nothing to do. Why can't tonight be Monday? Sheesh, Utaban is on tonight, but that's only a scant hour of my time that needs to be wasted. Maybe I can convince myself to fall asleep after it... or maybe I'll type this thing up? Probably not. I basically have no homework and the very last of my album responsibilities were done when I printed out the last of my contributions today and there's no vocab quiz for tomorrow. I suppose I could fret about the talent show tomorrow night, but I don't think I shall (my class is going to do a Miss Ryuugakusei pageant, where Ashley will win, but the best is going to be Evan, H-Mike, Dan, and Michelle's Copa Cabana song and dance). Today was good once class was over (the test blew chunks - two essay questions! Even always-done-way-early me only finished five minutes before the break, and I was 15 min ahead of everyone else, who worked -through- the break). Nine of us when out to lunch at the curry place, and talking with Tracy over chiizu chikin karee (cheese chicken curry, better than it sounds... white cheese all gooed into curry was more delicious than I had predicted) about teaching really pleased me. She recommends the Japanese Pedagogy Masters at UC Boulder if I decide to screw TJ and teach instead, which would be attractive to me and make Grandma Gloria, Vera, and Grandpa Chuck ecstatic. I don't think I'd mind a couple-three years in Boulder... (hehe) if I do a year in Japan, three years of TJ, and then another three years of a pedagogy Masters, I might be getting done with my education right before I turn 30. I noticed over lunch that it's likely Dan has a little thing for me. How fun of a thing - there's nothing to make you feel good in the world than by being thought attractive. The realization even managed to gloss over the annoyance caused by the fact that the 9th of us was Jewish Dave (as opposed to Dave, Little Dave, and Dave Who Went Home). Lord, that boy is tiresome. How anyone can be that consumed by finance and economics and be that adamant about telling everyone all about it is beyond me. We just all nodded and took turns changing the subject. Later on, after we walked Dan to the BC, S-Mike and I desserted at a cake bar I hadn't been to yet. The cake bar thing, we decided, is one of the truly sublime creations of Japanese society. I like the cake, and he likes the cake and all the pretty girls who go to eat cake. I always tease him about how he sits with his back to the wall so that he can "survey the selections of reasons why he loves this country." I swear, we couldn't go 10 feet down the street today without a pause for an "I love this country!" James and him and their code phrases for "damn, that chick is hot!" Sheesh. Addendum - right after this writing, they randomly decided to go to an open-air college jazz concert. That, plainly put, kicked ass.


(added 8/11, Japan time) It would have been a much better day if it hadn't been 6:45 am in my room since I set my alarm last night. I can't believe that I actually pulled the forget-to-put-the-clock-back-into-normal-mode trick on myself. It's been so long since I accidentally overslept that I don't remember the last time I did it. I stretched awake at 8:45, realized what time it was, and rushed downstairs to see a two-hour-old breakfast. Manami, doing her normal make me breakfast and bolt back to bed thing, had probably thought I was in the shower or something. She was getting up for real at about the same time I did, and it rather irked me that what she said was "you overslept???" (duh) "when's your next bus?" (glum look, "not for an hour") "(deep sigh) I guess I'll have to take you. Call your teacher." And that was it other than incredulously asking me if I meant to eat breakfast as I threw some butter on the cold toast... I think she thought I was going to make myself later and inconvenience her more, sheesh. But that one's mostly due to the fact that Japanese almost never do the eat as they walk thing, much less the eat as you throw on your shoes and run out the door thing. So anyway, being coldly driven to school and being a half-hour late pretty much sucked ass. Getting the inadverdent extra two hours of sleep just wasn't worth it. Ah well. I had a really fun afternoon with Stephanie after I finally finished the last of my album stuff. We walked around, had doughnuts, snagged some burgers, compared Hal and H-Mike and her cute judo sensei notes and commiserated about not being in our usual only-girl-and-therefore-center-of-attention situations. It was greatly amusing to talk about Hal, seeing as we're both in the same "we'd kind of like him, if he weren't so much of a flaky Asian-girl chasing flirt" place. I don't get to truly girl-gossip much in life, so I'm eating up the chance while I can - it may be shallow, but I'm just kind of programmed to do it, and damned if it isn't fun. I'll end up a supermarket-haunting gossipy old lady yet. I rather wonder why it is that girls are so in love with talking about people, in all their varied ways and looks and actions. I suppose it's just an outlet for the constant judgement process I, at least, have rumbling away in my head. One of my favorite discussions a few weeks ago was about the "types of people we like/don't like." I totally went to town, and got to learn all sorts of vocabulary about categorizing people mentally. I've always got strong opinions about people I know, and it's amusing to be able to express a lot of them now in Japanese (including me being gossipy : I'm a pechakucha hanashiteiru oshaberi na josei, or empty headed-babbling gossipy girl). Mexican food on Friday after the talent show, theoretically... I don't know who's going besides me and Steph, but hopefully we can drag several people along. I can't believe I'll be home in just over a week and will never see my friends here again... I may have to take up steph's offer of visiting her in Georgia... I've never been to Georgia.


(added 8/11, Japan time) I wonder where I'll be living when I get home... Brandon's been having no luck, apparently, on finding us a place (at least one that's not a hole). No offense to him of course, but if he lands us in a place like the one he's in right now, I'll be mightily displeased. I will have more spare space than I would have in the dorm, of course, but is a Jim apartment or a Patrick and Kate apartment really too much to ask? I have a feeling I know what I'll be doing the week after next... starting the 20th, it's going to be apartment hell week. Please oh please let us find a place - I can live at home but don't want to, and my poor kiddo doesn't have that option. I wish I was there! I don't trust Ryan's judgement much and Patrick and Kate seem to have used up their juju! Fret fret fret... I hate not being in control of things - I don't like having to place my faith in others, no matter how worth of that faith they may be. Fretting about those letters I sent to Patrick, Jim, and family, too. I don't remember the time stamp on Jim's email saying he hadn't gotten it yet, but said email was sent after the weekend, and those letters should have gotten there late least week. Damn using a different mailbox! Watch it have been "mail to Uganda only" or something. Fret fret fret... I've been nervously pulling out hairs all afternoon and evening. Add in the goddamn looming interview project (even if I've decided to falsify my results and morals and "good experience" be damned) and the hectic album preparation, not to mention the thrice damned talent show that we have to do a class skit for and next Thursday's final exam and my absolute crying terror of the getting home bit having to do with transferring flights in Osaka, and you get a raging nervous wreck. And let's not forget the necessity for the hot date with the bank tomorrow, and the fact that James lost my jacket the night of the Akafun parade... is it any wonder my handwriting's gotten more scrawly as I've written this? Augh! The rest of the summer's flown by, but this week is so weighted with worries that it truly feels as if it's only Tuesday. I am now changing the subject. I've been listening to Algerian (I think... one of those French speaking NE Africa/Middle Eastern countries, anyway) music all day. When I get home, I'll have to increase my collection of Arabic music up from one 2 CD set and a handful of mp3s... the super tripped up beats and the vocal trickery just blow my mind at times. I wish I had as good connections for it as I do for jpop; maybe I'll have to start striking up friendships with the guys at Aladdin's so that I can get them to recommend me music. I'm still seriously considering taking the intro bellydancing class if it works in my schedule for fall. Patrick, stop laughing. It may not be "me," but it'd be as fun as hell. And how else do things become "me" than by doing them?


(added 8/11, Japan time) The plan WAS to get my full complement of Monday night TV in tonight, but I've discovered that without Dekichatta Keikon (loosely translates to Shotgun Marriage) to keep me sane, there's no way I can sit down there for any great length of time, even with Smap Smap as a promised reward. And seeing as Susumu mysteriously decided to come down and watch the news downstairs tonight rather than in his room, Dekichatta Keikon was kind of precluded. I feel like a total pig today - I goggled down the last of, just now, the white chocolate I'd meant to last me more than just a day. I think my body knows it's going back to the States and is thinking "I have to get back to where I was!" Ah well, I don't look any different either way, so plus/minus a few doesn't really bother me much. Much. I am still a girl, after all. I wonder at what point it is that we girls become obsessive witches about our weight. It's really ridiculous, but I can never quite seem to shake it, despite my upbringing to ignore other's physical appearance and my own awareness of my folly. I'd rightfully be better off never setting foot on a scale again, but every now and then I just can't help but be drawn to the damn thing. I'd give anything, consciously at least (which means it's rather a moot point, seeing as the entire thing is unconscious anyway), to be as unconcerned about my weight as your average guy. Obsessing over it, even given my light amount in comparison to a supermodel, is just rather tiresome. I thought a lot today about parenting as I watched Susumu and Manami and Kana. I can't believe how Japanese parents let their kids hit them all the time. It hurts, as well as just seeming to me a bad habit to encourage. Sure, these kids seem to grow up into relatively normal adults regardless, but it seems to me that a less personally painful and annoying way to go would be preferable. I remind myself that Kana is only three, after all, but it seems to me that the phrases "don't do that, it hurts," and "don't do that, it'll break" should be getting some sort of response by now. Maybe not - I'm not really down with stages of childhood. Makes me all the more shuddery to think that Grandmama Marilyn was twice a mother and at the bat for three at my age (I think.. I'm pretty sure she had Cynthia before 23). I'd go absolutely batty. I'll wait until I'm not a neurotic child myself, thank you very much.


(added 8/11, Japan time) Well, yesterday evening kinda sucked, but I've come to be resigned the last few weeks that any time I'm around the house is going to suck in one way or another. When I woke up, Mone-chan was over, which was really fun. It was such a nice feeling to have my ohayo (good morning) returned with a cheery one of her own, rather than Manami's mumbles or Kana's stares. I had a good time watching her and Kana play with origami paper and applauding the ones she showed me. It was also cool to have a oishisou, ne! (that looks good, doesn't it) addressed to me from her mother while watching a cooking show on TV - it's been weeks since Manami was interested in any sort of echo assessment from me. So anyway, I took a long walk to get out of the house and ran into a batty old man and his sister on the way to the dam. He wanted his picture taken with me (I obliged) and ended up walking me all the way to the dam and sitting with me at the park for a while, babbling his head off in an old-man blend of Japanese I had trouble understanding even half of. He was awfully nice, though, and I couldn't help but regretfully think that if I'd been exposed to more babble like his this summer, rather than being in the Silent House, I might have understood a bit more of what he was saying to me. I know this trip was really one of those "it is what you make of it" things, but why do I always have to do everything by myself? Why couldn't I have gotten a break and landed a talkative, experienced family? Life is, as ever, the proverbial unfair. They were just finishing lunch when I wandered home an hour and a half after leaving, so I got to eat all by myself. That one was my fault, but the fact that Manami did everyone else's dishes, and then pointedly turned off the water and left the kitchen when I came in with mine was a little uncalled for, I felt. Ah well. This time two weeks from now, I'll be at home! I find it funny, as well as something I'm proud of, that for all my dissatisfaction here, I'm raring to come back. I figure after two or three more trips I'll get over the "do it for me" thing and get my ass in gear about that self-motivation stuff. I took a two hour nap today on my couch - there are few better feelings than drifting to sleep on a sunny afternoon with a breeze coming in the window. I would have been happier if I hadn't discovered that the only DMB (I was in a very Dave mood somehow) album I brought with me, for some reason, is Everyday. Not that it's a bad album, per se, but how could I have left BOTH Under the Table AND Crash at home? What was I thinking? Listening to Everyday, I couldn't forget "back to the garage with you and your band" and it just kind of spoiled it (heh).


(added 8/11, Japan time) Man, it'd been a week since I'd gotten me a curry doughnut! So yummy that I totally wolfed it down despite already having been a pig on matsuri (festival) food earlier. I had a Japanified gyro today - despite the addition of odd items like Thousand Island and salsa, and a distinct lack of onions, it was extremely tasty. I'm tempted to shell out to come into town tomorrow on the last matsuri day and get another one, as well as a sno cone or some other stand treat... makes me miss that day at Folklife with Patrick. I caught up on The Stranger a little today, but only on I Anonymous and Savage Love. It's too bad they don't archive I Saw U. I'm looking forward to being able to resume my habit in a couple weeks. Only two weeks left to go, which is simultaneously pleasing (be out of that house) and disappointing (leaving Steph and Hal and Tracy and the Mikes and James and Ashley and curry doughnuts and daily supermarket Japanese). I really want to come back a year from now, but it may be that if I do that, I'll have to put off grad school an extra year (beyond the one I've already planned). Not that that's a bad thing - any time spent improving my Japanese will help me when I enter that program. I'm really wanting to get home and start planning all that stuff out, contacting JET and the TJ people and figuring out what I'll have to get done to be graduating around this time next year - now that's a scary thought. Been thinking a lot about what it'll be like to be gone for a whole year - Brandon'll have to find another roommate, and any relationship I'm in at that time will have to be dealt with - what a messy thing. But curry doughnuts are worth it. I wonder if Mr. D's up and down the country all have the same ELO tape or it's just the Hakodate branches. Such a jumble of thoughts today and I forgot to email Brian about the boy band kid who looks like him and seeing B'z on Music Station (Koshi Inaba is, hands down, my favorite Japanese man in existence, especially in those pants - num). The two punked-out kids a table away keep sneaking looks at me, which makes me smile. I wonder if this summer will have done me good in terms of reducing my fear of standing out... I can't really tell. Almost time to snag me an old-fashioned doughnut to round out the meal; I'm such a creature of habit it's sill at times. I wonder how everyone's doing at Aomori - I kind of wished that'd gone, but it was 100$ that I didn't really have to spend on a weekend trip. Things I'll miss : Hal's drawl and Manami's cooking. Things I'm looking forward to : normal bathrooms and my UPass. Life is good today, as it always is; I just don't bother to notice most of the time.


(added 8/11, Japan time) Well, the basically silent treatment continues unabated. Unfortunately, I've come to the sure decision that it's not because she's particularly angry at me, or just being mean (though I'm still pissed that her excuse for not wanting to pick me up last night was because she wanted to take Kana to the parade and she thought "it'd be too hard to find me in the crowd".... and then they didn't go - it was a bullshit reason in the first place, but she didn't have to let me know it'd been an outright lie), but just that she's got her hands full with doing her own thing. This is "unfortunate" because unlike in the former two cases, I can't really blame her too bad for the latter. Sure, other host parents are better, but they've done it before. I just didn't turn out, I think, to be whatever it was that Manami had expected. I've gotten tired of her bullshit - I'm not in any doubt that she deserves to have gotten tired of whatever my bullshit is. I wonder if I'll get to do any sort of exit evaluation of my family... I hope I didn't spoil Manami on this whole hosting students thing. I do really wish, most of all, however, that there was a tactful way to ask her to put a little more effort out, because she is upsetting me. But I don't know how to put it to her while both protecting her feelings and asserting mine, and while I could easily express the problem in either language to Susumu, or to Taguchi-sensei, or to the HIF staff, I just don't feel comfortable with the idea that they'd basically be going to her and saying "Jen came and whined to us." Especially in the case of going to HIF - after overhearing poor Dan spill his story to them yesterday, I just don't feel at all good about complaining about my itty bitty stuff. Today's high point was Stephanie bringing me doughnuts this morning because she knew I had to be at school at the normal time (FUCKING BUSES) instead of getting to come in an hour late like everyone else. I hereby publicly take back any reservations I may have had about her character - that girl is all heart, and I'm DAMNED lucky she saw fit to take me under her wing this summer.


(added 8/3, Japan time) Super Parenthesis Madness! Today was another one of those days that ruled with a few exceptions. Kyle drank WAY too much at the parade and had to be taken to the hospital, which was suck number two, chronologically speaking. It's too bad... I like that kid - we don't hang around each other much but he always treats me like any of his normal friends when we do. As for suck number one, Manami pissed me off so badly about cancelling picking me up after the parade that when I got off the phone I went back into school and had a minor tantrum in the bathroom for 20 minutes, involving me punching a (tile, very unforgiving) wall and having the bruised knuckles to prove it. It wasn't until a couple hours after school got out that I found out there was a special late bus because of the matsuri (festival), so I spent a good couple hours being furious at her. Well, I'm still pretty annoyed 11 hours later, actually, but her being a bitch indirectly led to one of the good things tonight, so I can't complain too heavily. Unfortunately, I can't really do the parade justice without pictures. I'm going to ask Hal to pretty please mail me a copy of the picture of him and me that he got taken with his camera, but I'm mainly going to hope that Steph got some real pictures along with her video so that I can have her scan some for me. You see, nearly all of the male students got dressed up in akafun (literally "red loincloth," but the whole outfit consists of shoes, said red loincloth/diaper thing, a white length of cloth wrapped tight around the torso, a red headband, and a talsmanic necklace thing... and said red loincloth is REALLY a loincloth, as in there was much and I mean much ass to be seen) and carried a huge shrine on their shoulders as part of the biggest parade of the year in Hakodate. Several of the girls wore happi (traditional Japanese festival outfits) and went alongside the guys, fanning them, handing them beer, and spraying them with water (well, it was water for the first 10 minutes, but after that it was beer). Tracy and I elected to not dress up (in happi at least - Tracy had on a lovely yukata, making her the prettiest gaijin of us all), but walked along with them anyway. I was basically the picture bitch - I carried Justin, Jim, and Hal's cameras through the entire thing and took countless shots with cameras handed to me on a temporary basis. It's a good thing they were all drunk to some degree... no way that they would have let me take so many ass pictures for them if they'd been sober (hehe). Lisa, Little Dave, and Kyle all had too much to drink and had to ride in the truck, but everyone else was pretty okay... and really, you just can't go wrong with that much ass on display! None of the guys were drunk enough to hit on me, though - sigh (heh). Kinda funny that Hal was flirting with me more before he started drinking than after (at which point he became rather preoccupied with getting me to take his picture alongside yukata-clad Japanese cuties). After I left the group, I had me some tasty festival food and went to wait for my bus; I'd lent James my corderoy shirt (weenie Florida boy), so I just had my t-shirt on, which started the samui deshou? (aren't you cold?) conversation with the two Hakodate Bus employees keeping an eye on festival bus flow. So we're having a good time talking and we see my bus finally coming, 20 minutes late... just as I'm standing up and they're apologizing for it being late, it zooms right by without even slowing. We all just kind of stared as it drove by, and then one of the men grabbed my arm and started running me to his car to try to catch up (hehe). We got stuck in traffic, so he ended up driving me all the way home. I couldn't believe he was being so nice, and it was so cool to talk to him in the car - he was really interested me and Seattle and my Japanese just flowed..... woo!


(added 8/3, Japan time) Today, with one huge exception that spoiled it all, ruled. To get the spoiler out of the way, I'm sick as a dog. My stomach started kinda hurting two days ago, a little more yesterday, and then during class today it started feeling like someone was twisitng a screwdriver inside my guts. It hurt so bad at times this afternoon I was nearly in tears at more than one point. I felt at various times like I wanted to throw up, but it was from pain rather than actual queasiness. Totally bizarre, wrenching stomach pain without any other symptoms AT ALL. I'm just hoping it fades overnight. And because I'm sick, we skipped out on the huge fireworks show tonight. It would have been miserably cold and blowing rain, but it would have been a fantastic spectacle nonetheless. Sigh. But other than dreadful pain : Class today ruled - we were laughing so hard at at least three points that apparently the both the Mikes' classes started asking their sensei what was up. S-Mike said that he was terribly jealous... it made me think that while I may really not like Taguchi-sensei personally, the slack we're given in class that allows the sort of situations like today is something our class and only our class gets. I got to give a five minute talk about Brian, which caused one of the laughter riots; it was a good day. I went out to lunch with the Mikes and Michelle at a too-fancy-for-its-pants restaurant, but as always, getting to hang out with that pair is reward in itself. Incidentally, in the process I learned that S-Mike is 20 and H-Mike is 23... they're both younger than I had them pegged at by a year. But the best part at lunch was Michelle's news that she found a Mexican restaurant (interlude - aw, so sweet, I told Manami that I really didn't feel like eating dinner but that some soup would be nice, and she not only made me some misoshiro (white, dinner-miso) special, but brought it up to my room as well) somewhere in Goryoukaku!! She and H-Mike and I are totally going sometime next week, we decided. Boy, do I love that boy's opinions on eating; like me, he's one to really enjoy his meals while avoiding being a food snob. There's no one I'd rather eat with here than him and Dan - they're good people like that. So after lunch I hung out with the Mikeses for a fantastic couple hours; walked down to the eki (train station, same place as the Bus Center) to wander around the beginnings of the matsuri (festival) and great conversation was had by all. Later I got to see Jim and Dan dressed up as some Russian dude and Commodore Perry when the costume parade passed by where I was waiting for Manami to pick my sick ass up. It's a shame I missed the play, but I was glad that at least the parade passed by so that I could see them at all. Best of today, though, was getting a letter from Mom. Coincidentally mailed the same day I mailed them a letter last weekend, it was great to hear news from home-home, and I'm glad that she reminded me that I'm going to Texas with her for a week about a week after I get back; I'd totally forgotten, but I can't think of anything better sounding right now than some true Texas barbeque... PS Sweet! It turns out I could see the fireworks from my window, so I just spent the last hour standing on my table, watching. I was going to say my favorites were the whirling galaxies, until the finale. A reach-into-the-clouds-enormous white sparkler, it was impressive for size alone, but just when it was fading out, each of its trailers exploided again into a rainbow of different colors of scattering sparkles... oooooh.