(added 8/3, Japan time) The depths of depression at which food is still able to reach me at and pull me up from never fail to amaze me. Before dinner, I was only just barely (and intermittently) keeping tears back, unable to study or do homework or even play Solitaire, stretched out on my hardwood floor, staring up at the ceiling and generally feeling very sorry for myself. But feed me some delicous right-off-the-grill okonomiyaki (Japanese pizza-pancake-not-really-describable food) with fried-in soba noodles, and for the next few hours, I'm set to jet. Mealtimes and the hour or two directly afterward have been the high points of the last few days—there is extremely little in life that cannot, at least temporarily, be solved with food. My stomach is the greatest weapon against depression—no matter how much I want to wallow in misery, if food gets in front of me I'm generally helpless against it. Once upon a time I would just keep myself away from food when I was feeling depressed, but in the last few years friends have kind of precluded that one. Probably for the best—I'm no more particularly fond of my depressed self than I am of my habit of chewing on my nails. Anyway, I'm hoping I can get to sleep before okonomiyaki wears off—I'm heartily sick of my mood of late. It's frustrating to be getting so upset about my host family—by everyone elses' viewpoints, I've got one of the sweeter set-ups around. More than a few students would trade their nagging hosts for my let-us-be-we'll-let-you-be hosts. I really shouldn't complain—my host dad didn't die suddenly two weeks into the program, my family didn't declare bankruptcy the day after I got here, I'm not out on a farm being woken up at 4 every morning to help with the chores, and my host parents don't get drunk and try to pick fights with me. But my problems are MY problems, and I've never been able to do that other-people-have-it-worse routine and actually feel better. I tried to explain to Dan on the way to Planet of the Apes today about how I had, in a weird way, been actually looking forward to having a nagging host family that'd tell me I was being too quiet, that would correct my Japanese, that would ask me where I was going this weekend and who my friends were. It just didn't fly. Of course, being the master at finding things to make myself miserable that I am, I'm certain I'd end up just as frustrated in that situation as Dan and the rest, regardless of how much I thought I'd wanted it. I just wish so much that I wasn't feeling like a boarding house resident—these people are supposed to be part, a big part even, of my support structure while I'm here, and well, they're not. Thank god Manami can cook, or I'd be on the verge of wanting to kill them. But as I said, dinner is a wonderful temporary antidote. That and the first verse of Miss America made me smile.
(added 8/3, Japan time) I suppose there is something to be said in itself about a funk so deep that not even a string of good events like hallway conversation with H-Mike, shiroan mochi (a sweet) for 130 yen, email from friends, a delicious dinner and Monday night TV haven't fully pulled me out of it. I woke up exhausted and out of sorts with the world, and I'm going to bed 16 hours later in pretty much the same fashion. Something about Ashley talking about natsukashii sutekki (longed-after steak) set me thinking all day about how I want nearly nothing more these days than to eat in Seattle. Not steak, though... what I've been craving for over a week is Mexican food. Some good old Americanized enchiladas verdes with a heaping, cheese covered side of rice and beans, a dollop of sour cream, chips and salsa to start and a strawberry daquiri. And after that I want Indian. I want nan and shahi korma spiced past yellow into orange with lassi to smooth it all down and bismati rice. And then I want a burger, a Red Robin beast with grilled onions and cheese and barbeque sauce. God, I'd kill for barbeque sauce on anything right now—I'd take some bbq sauced wheat thins right out of freshman year and plead for more. I want chicken breast in cream sauce with artichoke hearts... I want an artichoke, for that matter, with peppery Hollandaise and a glass of milk. And then some Thai basil noodles and a basket of Schultzy's fries and a plate of Stella's ravioli with the ultra garlicky pesto. Mom's tuna melts or Dad's baloney slop or Jim's cinammon toast or Brandon's stir fry or for god's sake, ANYONE'S MASHED POTATOES. Guh. There are things you shouldn't think about when your stomach's been hurting. But oh, I do so want some American hodge-podge food. To not talk about it anymore to allow the drool to dry... I wish I'd gotten Zach's address before I'd left; I would have written him something. I wish I could collect my thoughts into a letter to Seth. I wish... that I could have some chicken chile verde quesadillas and eat them with Chris. Funny that it's been nearly a year since he's gone; it doesn't seem like it. Funny that I've only been at my job for two years and I already want to quit... silly time.
(added 8/3, Japan time) It is entirely possible at this juncture that I will choose to not look at the kanji for tomorrow's test at all tonight. I just really don't feel like it. I can't wait for my vacation... I'll get bored a week or two in, no doubt, but the ability to actually sleep in sleep in will be so appreciated. I went into town today and played Ultimate with Evan and Dave-who-looks-like-Bryce and a bunch of other people. It was great fun, but I am so goddamn out of shape it's pathetic. All of my walking muscles are doing better here in Japan than they were at home, but my running muscles are two and a half years out of any sort of shape. I've never been the most athletic, but I had to have been better than this. I think when I get home I'm going to test the feasibility of starting up running again. I figure if I ease into it by taking regular walks, I might be able to get myself to do it. Plus the incentive of keeping from gaining back the weight I've lost here is a good one. I'm near down to the -weight- I was at when I didn't mind wearing just shorts and a sports bra around the dorm—if I can get back to the body firmness that I had, I will be seriously pleased with myself. Anyway, enough about my weight and on to a much more interesting related topic : food! I had two beautiful food experiences today, meaning that no matter what, it can't have been a terrible day. After I got home from Ultimate, I pulled out the grapefruit I had squirreled away. Instead of bolting it down as I desperately wanted to do, I turned it into a 45 minute experience that would have done a pomogranate proud. A grapefruit has never tasted so good. For dinner we went out, and I ordered shrimp yakisoba. What was placed before me was so delicious that I nearly cried when I was done and it was all gone. It was yakisoba with an almost Chinese-style sauce dripped over it, redolent of lemon and cayenne pepper. The lemon slice garnish just made it taste better as time went on and more lemon seeped in... god, I'm still hungry.
(added 8/3, Japan time) Well, I didn't write anything yesterday because I was too exhausted at the point of going to bed to delay sleep long enough to say anything interesting. And I figured I'd have this dead time before the movie (my favorite activity in Japan—wasting time that the buses leave me as well as having written enough in letters to count as my "literary" action for the day. I'm tempting fate by getting coffee this morning... I'm just going to barely have the money to get into school on Monday. Damn the banks and their 3 pm closing time and not being open on weekends! Augh! Of course, if I'd gone to the bank yesterday right after school rather than indulging in lunch with the Mikes, or if I'd not gone to the speech contest... but I won't bemoan it too much—I'd rather have good conversation with the Mikeses and laugh myself to tears watching Ashley on stage saying gomen ne (hey, sorry) pitifully to his shoulder than have money. You can't buy good life experiences like that. Well, that cup of coffee was the worst I've ever had at Mr. D's... thanks for giving me the rank bottom of the pot, buddy. And here I was sitting here thinking to myself that you were cute! Bah! So all the host families came to school yesterday and went to their respective students' classes. I really didn't like having all those extra people in the room with me, and when we had to go around interviewing them about their ryuugakusei (exchange student) experiences, I was mortified. Both to ask questions and to have Manami being asked questions... everyone else's family has been doing this for years, so things like "what's shocked you the most about your ryuugakusei?" could have answers relating to anyone. Manami's answers, on the other hand, are, um, me. I asked her later what she answered to that and she said she'd answered that my Japanese was much much better than she'd expected. Thank god... the people I had talked to all had terrible stories about awful faux pas that had upset them. Sheesh. So I'm just waiting to get dreadfully ill—Susumu came down with a dreadful fever three days ago, and has barely been able to go to wrok (he'd not be going, in the States, but attitudes about missing work are a lot different here). Kana came down with it the night before last, and has been hacking all around the house. I didn't see her and Manami this morning because they'd gone to the doctor... sigh. Doris had to miss a day of class two weeks ago, Joy's been sick as a dog this week, and Ashley's been fighting off strep—I really don't want to join the disabled list. Talk about suck. Later : Well, I don't know if Manami's mad at me or something, but ever since I got home there's been a baaaad vibe in the house. There has been nothing said to me other than a terse okaeri (welcome home, a set always-said phrase that has nothing to do with actual welcome) and Susumu's tadaima (I'm home, another set phrase). I don't know if what Manami snapped at Kana about the grapefruit was "don't bother Jen" or "don't bother asking Jen (she won't understand)." I came back up to my room after dinner because it felt so wrong down there. Rather than inviting me down for dessert, they sent Kana up to give me some apple and then run away... was it because they don't want to talk to me or because they think I don't want to talk to them? If I weren't in such a bad mood from the aura today I might ask them... instead I think I'm just going to ignore them. I rather wonder, if I don't talk to them at all, how long would we go without speaking to each other aside from aisatsu (set phrases like the above)? I start at least 95% of the conversations I have with them. Really, I wonder how long it'd take them to check on me if I just didn't come out of my room tomorrow. Hal complained a lot to me today about his host family wanting "detailed itineraries four weeks in advance," while here I am with the family that barely talks to me, and hasn't yet expressed much of an interest at all in whether I come or go. Gee, I might as well not have left home. I just need to do some mental adjusting, I guess. They may be my host "family," but in practice here it's a lot more as if I'm just a neighbor who shares their kitchen. I just need to pretend I'm renting an apartment, and not expect any sort of particular interest in me now that my initial novelty has worn off. Blah. The movie was so much fun today—I understood a lot more than I thought I would of a Miyazaki film, and even if I like Mononoke much better, I'm glad I went. I was shocked to learn that Hal is 24. I had totally thought he was, at oldest, my age. Him and his baby face... even now that I know I can't quite believe him. I think I'll have to double-check with Steph. I almost called her tonight, I'm in such a funk... I thought about calling her, or Hal, or H-Mike. But I'm not really sure about what I'd say... "you guys barely know me, but my family's got me down and I just want to have someone talk to me"? Because that's what I want—I want someone to talk to me. To talk to someone else, of course, but if only that were the case I could write a letter, or write more here. No, I want someone to percieve me as a worthy audience, to ask me questions or just think I deserve to be told about their day—I get no verbal contact here without initiating it other than aisatsu and occasional instructions (I'm lucky to get that one at all).
(added 7/26, Japan time) Oh man, I'm going to be seriously jittery soon in here. I'm starting my second cup of coffee in an hour—I'm hoping Mr. D's decent cup will rinse my mouth's memory of the swill they just served me at the new internet cafe near school. Lord, that was foul stuff—it was the worst coffee in my memory times two. Big ick. New place was disappointing—new computers, flat screens, and nearness to school are all bonuses, and the price isn't that bad, but the coffee was dreadful, I felt way too exposed, and they've done something screwy to the comps so that I can't get a run prompt, run a search on the system, or see anything I download to the desktop—meaning that unless I find a crazy web-based telnet/ssh program, I'm stuck there with Webpine (or Webpain, slow and frustrating) and no page uploading without a fight. I'd rather just take the bus and brave the broken-down comps in Goryoukaku. I wonder if I'll be on TV tonight; a crew was in there filming the place for the news. I hope not—A it'd be embarrassing and B I look awful today (heh). I went to see A.I. today and feel terrible about it—H-Mike and I had decided to go with whoever else we could round up, but because his class ran overtime and the rest of us booked off to catch the 12:40 show, he got left behind. Joking around with Daniel and Steph was fun, of course, and I'm glad Joop and Michelle made it, but I feel like a stinker for leaving him behind when it was his idea in the first place! Ah well... I enjoyed the movie in general—it had its flaws and I found the end terribly cruel and depressing (rather than sappy, as everyone else did), but all in all, it was in no way a waste of 2.5 hours and 1000 yen (special ryuugakusei price... woo!), so I'm glad. The thing I will miss least about Mr. D's when I leave Japan (other than the "egg salad doughnuts" in the case, the very idea of which turns my stomach) : the same damn tape playing all the time. It's a faux radio program and it's all ELO all the time. If I never hear ELO again I'll be a happy girl. At home now... damnit, I just ran out of paper while writing back to Jim! I knew I needed envelopes, but I didn't realize I only had four sheets of paper left... oops. I was so happy to see that letter from him on the table when I got home that I nearly danced. Today has just been all around good—we made Taguchi-sensei laugh to the point of snorting in class today, and really, any day in which you can say that about your teacher ain't half bad. With no homework tonight because of tomorrow's test, I think I'm gonna type this up... FINALLY. And actually get it posted, god forbid.
(added 7/26, Japan time) Inspired by yesterday's ray of light, I did my speech today on the wonder, in this day and age, of recieving and writing actual letters. It generated a good discussion even though I felt it was mostly bluff and bullshit, so I'm pretty happy with it. My already over-sized head is getting bigger by the day here—I may not be getting the highest grade in the class, nor be as confident off the bat speaking Japanese as Danielle and Ashley, but I wonder how many of my classmates can say that 2 saijoukyuu (upper-advanced class) people, 1 former saijoukyuu person, and a Japanese person have all expressed to them that they should have been in the upper class? I may not really agree, but the compliments aren't doing my ego and (objective) good. It should be noted that these comments have been far outside the standard Japanese empty praise... I became inured to that long before I ever came to Japan. Today was nice and chill—Co-op lunch with H-Mike, Evan, and Tracy was fun, group picture for next year's brochure was a nice class break, spending all afternoon deciding on omiyage (souvenirs) with Steph and Mary was amusing (and now Bryce, Dad, Voni, Brandon, and Mom have all been set, and Monika and Kate are down to two possibilities each... Patrick WOULD be getting Giant Melon Pocky if I could read the label to ensure it was safe—he's staying on the undecided list for now), having to run after my bus for three blocks turned out okay, dinner was yummy and homework light. What can I say other than "sweet"? I played a bunch of Solitaire stretched out on my couch after a nice shower in the evening light—it's kind of silly to repeatedly play a game that I have, going by my past record, a less than 13% chance of winning on any given deal, but it's calming and doesn't take a lot of brain power. I think it's funny how much I talk to my Visor... not necessarily verbally (I try to avoid the stares that that sort of thing gets), but inside my head is pretty much a constant one-sided conversation with my cribbage opponent or the Solitare spirits. I threaten, I coax, I coddle and I gloat, an uncaring machine recieving the brunt of all the things I can't express to people here. I encourage the behavior in myself, as silly as it may seem—with no Monika to bitch with or Patrick to yell at for things which aren't his fault, I'm in danger of becoming the bottled up nervous wreck I was a few years back. No thanks.
(added 7/26, Japan time) I hate it when events are clearly conspiring against me (as opposed to covertly....). I came into Goryoukaku by the streetcar (when I missed the bus I should have just taken the hint), ran into Jovanda going to the same internet cafe (hint 2 : I really don't like her), the first computer I used had several keys not working (hint 3), and the one they switched me to had a weird half-size left shift key (hint 4) and a capslock that once turned on, couldn't be turned off (hint #5, which I finally took). Argh! I want to email Ian and write up close to a week's worth of this junk. Instead I'm fuming in Mr. D's over coffee, having wasted 460 yen and disgusted with life. I have a speech to give tomorrow as well as homework and a quiz—I really should do something related to that, but instead I think I'm going to brood over Solitaire (I've run up against a temporary cribbage overload). Later : I've stayed up until midnight (in itself a weird thing for me to utter) for the second day in a row now. Damn vacation threw off my only very delicately balanced sleep schedule. I suppose the day didn't turn out too bad; nothing makes a day in Japan better like getting a letter in the mail (and nothing makes a better excuse to not do studying in any form, seeing as even TV doesn't qualify here). So I spent a good hour dwaddling over a reply, which calmed me down quite a bit, which in turn gave me my inspiration for my 1:35 minute speech tomorrow on why handwritten letters are such a wonderful thing. I owe all good humor I enjoy at this moment to Ty. I thought a lot at the bus stop today about the mentally ill kid that is always there in front of Book Off running around, hooting and singing and waving his arms. He's there at all times of the day that I've been here the last three weeks, so I don't THINK he's waiting for a bus. Given that, I find it an intriguing ongoing experiment in crowd mentality. I have the excuse of poor Japanese to hide behind, but why does no one else call the police, day after day? I'm starting to think it really should be done, if not for disturbing the peace then for being a danger to himself and others, seeing as lately he's occasionally been darting into traffic. Instead, everyone pretends to not notice his antics, while at the same time furtively watching out of the corner of their eyes and jumping ever so slightly when he yells. Everyone thinks someone else should call or perhaps already has called, that basically it's someone else's problem to take care of. Who knows, maybe he IS waiting for a bus... in which case I rather wonder where he's coming from, where he's going, and how on earth the people he rides with maintain their own sanity.
(added 7/26, Japan time) More things I'm proud of : learning the word subarashii (wonderful, great). Coming to understand most of the words in all the songs on Playboy, Playgirl without trying or even noticing the process. Oh, Smap Smap, how do I love thee... it's Monday so I could add to the ways, but I think I'll spare even myself from it. I hate how I look here—I may have lost a little weight but I'm sure it'll find me again. What's really obnoxious is the perpetual state of total breakout... it makes me want to SCREAM. It'd be bad enough by itself, but combined with my penchant for scratching, both subconscious and not, it ain't pretty. I think I must be dreadfully annoying to sit across from in class; always fidgeting, chewing or picking at my nails, scratching absently at my hairline, rubbing sweat off my nose. In a word—ugh. It may be downright cold here by Japanese standards, but god, I'd kill for Seattle's humidity. Better yet, Colorado, where it has the decency to be bone dry when it's beastly hot. Today sucked less than it could have—I spent a good hour hanging out with Tracy at Mr. D's, which neatly headed off my depression until I got home (I'm too busy playing crib and Solitaire on the bus to be depressed) and had to concentrate on my homework. It's 7:56 am in Seattle right now. Funny how I've not gone through the oh-god-why-am-I-here stage that so many of my fellow students have hit—I guess even homesickness is subject to individual tastes. But I'll be glad to be back, where the Japanese teachers are nice and space bars are the right size and I can walk out to get ice cream at midnight on the weekends or to Ghetto Safeway at 2 in the morning to buy chocolate. Back where girls' fashion and boys' hair don't make me gag and kitchen sink taps shut off down instead of up; back where pillows are objects of comfort rather than pain and where pho, gyros, and real curry are all within reach. Back where the advertisements make sense and I can read the signs—back where I have friends to call at strange times if I'm sad, lonely, or just bored...
(added 7/26, Japan time) Well, that email from Ian really put me in a funk. Funny how you can trick yourself into thinking you're relatively okay, and then one little paragraph that likely doesn't even mean what you fear it might mean throws it all out of whack. I wish desperately for my lonely apartment where I could scream and cry if I wanted, where I could leave for a walk without a lengthy discussion (if not downright prohibition, considering it's dark out). Instead I'm stuck in an uncomfortable room that isn't mine, sitting on a pillow on the floor and trying not to bawl. GODDAMNIT... if only I were at home! It's all been a farce by my desperate mind and what a fucking time to start thinking about that, with a month left to go! There's only one thing that'd make me feel better right now and it's rather impossible. I've known it in some fashion all along, of course, but I WAS managing not to think about it too much. FUCK! I will now write about something else, because while it may not be fixable right now, I really should stop making it worse. I'm annoyed at Manami tonight. She asked me to start drying the dishes and putting them away after I wash them, instead of the I-wash-she-dries routine we had going for the last month. I might not have minded so much if she hadn't also recently started leaving all the day's dishes for me to do after dinner. It annoys me doing dishes for a lunch I didn't eat, and their breakfast dishes slimy with natto (slightly fermented soybeans) residue and caked with 13-hour old grit are a real big fucking pain (I rinse mine out after I eat). Then she got annoyed at me for using what is, it turns out, Susumu's face towel to dry my hands in the washroom. Apparently one that's on a hook around my knee level is "mine." Something which I had not been informed of previously (I'd assumed it was something for Kana, being so low). I didn't get to go for the walk I wanted because it started to pour at the same time I was about to leave, and my back STILL hurts. The only good thing about today was playing with Kana's cousins Mone-chan and Oto... either Kana's exceptionally spoiled, they're exceptionally good, or Japanese kids spontaneously become socially acceptable at the age of four.
(added 7/26, Japan time) I can't really see well enough to write, but I'll try anyway... we're spending the night at Manami's parents place, which has been pretty cool so far. I got completely lost in her mother's lengthy lecture on the Japanese tea ceremony, but hey, whatever. The day's been decent, even if I missed mailing off Kate's letter. Slept in until almost 10:30 for the third wonderful day in a row—you just can't go wrong with a start like that. The futon I'm on here is infinitely more comfortable than that at home... but I don't have any pillow other than the dreadful stock Japanese one. My neck is going to be severely displeased with me in the morning. I've not a clue what to say—I was planning on doing the bus into Goryoukaku thing today, which was headed off by this trip out to the grandparents' place. So I avoided being bored, but it's still not been the most interesting of days. I played Solitaire on my Visor for a straight hour before we left... there just wasn't much else to do. Lord, how I miss my friends. Or being able to walk to the Roma and read the paper. Or even just having my computer to run random Google searches on people. I've never been this repeatedly bored since summer vacations in middle school. The worst part is that I can't even do any good thinking when I'm this bored—my mind seems to much prefer doing interesting thinking in avoidance of something rather than avoidance of nothing. I got very tired of Disney songs in Japanese on the drive over here—it was the same mix tape that Kana had Susumu playing all last night. I got annoyed listening to it partly because it was so repetetive but mostly because it made me realize I don't know any of the words to those so-familiar songs anymore. Not that I could sing along to the Japanese ones at all anyway, but it's kind of depressing to have forgotten things that gave me such joy in my childhood (I do still know the words to A Spoonful of Sugar, though). It makes me want to go binge on Disney movies for a day.
(added 7/26, Japan time) I don't feel like writing tonight, but I didn't actually forget. So I figured I'd write extra big and sloppy to express my non-desire. Going to see the fireworks was pretty fun tonight. Since I'd missed out on the Fourth at home, it was nice be able to see some here. There were colors I'd not seen in fireworks before (a true yellow, a magenta, and an aqua), and the Japanese do a lot more shaped fireworks than at home (the most impressive was the Cheshire Cat face, and the prettiest were the flowers complete with stems). Unfortunately, they could take some timing lessons from people in the States—there'd be a 2 minute burst of light, and then a 5-7 minute wait... and then a few more... then wait... Manami's sister said that's how they always are in Japan. I kept wondering how we'd know when they were actually over (one pause was almost 10 minutes long), but that was settled when a burst of three yellow signal flares informed us it was finished. My favorite was the white crackler that looked like raindrops on a pond surface. Kana was a total brat the whole time though, in solid contrast to her cousins, who sat still and ooed at the show while Kana ran around hitting people with shoes (yours truly included) and getting in her dad's face. That made four times just today when I wanted to throttle her. I don't understand why she feels that if I turn the TV on that's her cue to start singing tuneless nonsense at the top of her lungs in her playroom (the door to which is right on the side of the living room). I swear, it never fails. Anyway, the other cool thing about tonight was seeing so many people in kimono to see the fireworks (the cutest, though, was Kana's 4 year old cousin Mone-chan in her pink kimono and her hair in little buns). Kimono here are like nice dresses at home—people don't wear them a lot, but when they do, it's a pretty sight.
(added 7/26, Japan time) I hiked up the mountain a ways today. The road I hoped went somewhere interesting turned out to be an access road for some forest park (seeing as there were signs asking people to keep the forest clean and a guide map of some sort, I figured I wasn't straying into some top-secret government area). I didn't go up into the pass too far—it was sprinkling and I was hoping to get back to catch my bus, but I might head up there again tomorrow. The forest is strangely full of the stone buddhas that crop up everywhere here in Japan—what was eerie was that while some of them were right by the roads I was wandering, some were so far back into the woods it was only by chance that I noticed them at all. And I'd stop, and watch one for a little while, and wonder why they nearly all have a cloth apron covering their stony fronts, snugly tied up under their chins. The aprons of statues in town are brightly colored, while the lonely forest ones have faded out to bleached greys. No one brings the mountain shrines flowers, and I wondered who'd put one way up on a cluster of boulders... I wasn't even sure how someone had gotten up there in the first place. And just when I thought I was in a totally abandoned place, I followed a split that curved around the side of the mountain and found a garden. About the size of my room, it was neatly fenced off from the forest with barbed wire a mere two feet high and a rusty chain, but recently tended and with a beautiful view down into town. Rather freaked out, I headed down the road and stumbled across an abandoned VW bus, rusted through and with the top peeled back like a can of sardines. I still wonder what did that. A little farther down was another field, this one's rows overgrown with brush and detouring demurely around the base of a huge electrical tower. It was all rather strange. Other than that, things were uneventful today—I got to talk to Patrick and Brandon a bit and play crib with Brian, which was a treat, and Altoid coffee was just as good the fifth time as the first; watched the Mariners play KC tonight and blew kisses to Bret when he brought Dan home in the 10th. It's a shame that I'm developing a fondness for baseball out of homesickness when everyone's thinking it's just because the Mariners are so hot these days (damn fair-weather fans). The two are linked, of course—they wouldn't be on TV here so much if Ichiro and the crew weren't beating so much ass. Ah well, if it lasts after I get back, I'll be more pleased with myself.
(added 7/19, Japan time) I'm pretty annoyed at myself for missing the chance to talk to H-Mike today. And I'm upset with myself for being annoyed. It's a messy situation inside my head, "a pattern of doubts playing tag," to quote David Brin. Thoughts scrambling around every which way, with nothing but fretting to be had on any side. I'd be lying if I tried to say I wasn't interested in Mr. Medieval History Major, Harvard Japenese History Grad Student. I doubt he returns it; he may even have a girlfriend, who knows... that's a hard thing to tactfully find out, but I wouldn't be surprised. It's not really important, anyway—it's foolish to fall for someone who's going to be in Boston after the next month (lord, deja vu). I have no intention of doing so. I just want to be able to spend time hanging out with him. Thus I am disappointed that I missed him today (he's going to Sapporo with a bunch of people for the break—won't be back until Sunday). This immediate issue is trivial—I'm one to enjoy pleasures in life like eating and flirting, and that's just the way I am. The larger issue is why, at this particular time, I'm anguishing over my desires. A part of it, to be sure, is his similiarity to Jim—I'm suspicious of a replacement effect in my affections (it's happened before). But beyond that is just that I feel guilty. I feel as if even considering anyone else is cheating... cheating on someone who dumped me, but at the same time cheating on someone I love. Foolish foolish me, with my wishes and hopes that will only end up being dashed, but whose existence can't quite be stamped out. I'd like to be able to blame it on a breakup that wasn't clean, but that's not really it. What it is is that I'm in denial; three months later I'm still in denial. I flirt the non-serious flirting of the attached, I often refer to "my boyfriend," and have to stumble in a phrase later with a "I mean my ex-boyfriend," and when I find myself wanting to be around someone, I feel like shit. I'm acting like an ass. I say to myself "someday here you'll get over it," but at the same time I whisper "I don't want to get over it, I can't get over it, getting over it is not even an option." I'll have no choice come a month here—if it isn't settled soon after I get home, I'll go mad. I need to know one way or another; such a shame that you don't discover how necessary that certainty is until the person you've unintentionally been torturing for 7 months comes to you and gives you a leather jacket once and for all.
(added 7/19, Japan time) Things I'm proud of: learning how to write the kanji for iya (bad, pointless, worthless, I don't want it or to do it... very useful word). Learning what akirameru means (to give up) and getting over my fear of manga. Finding out how to use phrases like kochi oide (come here) and chodai (give one to me / I'd like one). There are others, but those are the ones I can think of off the bat, and honestly I think those are good things to have to show for a month. I remember finding some interesting thing while at Goryoukaku that I was going to talk about, but unless it was something about the used CD store that's uncannily similar (down to the same Mariah Carey, Smap, and MC Hammer CDs in the 500 yen bin) to the one by the station, I don't remember it any more. Like so many of my good thoughts, it fluttered away in the wind of the day. A day which kind of sucked otherwise too... I didn't really have a reason, but it did. I woke up in a bad mood, and it would have taken something damn good to get me out of it. You can only diiscover something like Smap Smap every so often, though, so while my day, to be sure, had its decent points (lunch with the Mikes and crew, "village idiot Japanese" email from Zach, coffee and manga reading at Mr. D's), I certainly am not going to try to remember it much. Things floating around my head : Jim. A Perfect Circle by A Perfect Circle. Feeling slightly bad for ditching Steph's group for the Mikes and crew again today (only slightly bad—the girls are nice, but the Mikes, Evan, Wayne and Tracy are so much more on my level that I'd be a fool to pass them up). Worrying about my midterm tomorrow. Nothing spectacular... just the normal brain ooze that sloshes around at any old time. I'm so egotistic, to believe I have anything that's really worth saying; every thought I've ever thought, ever experience I've ever experienced has been thought or experienced by some other person at one time or another. See the first poem for an 9th century example. So given that, why do I bother? I suppose that right now it's more of a mass letter/status report than anything else, but for before and after, what gives me any clout? Only my own pride, which is vaguely depressing. Thankfully, only vaguely—I'm having the good fortune to be thinking about this on a day where I'm too apathetic to be strongly empassioned about anything. I wish somone was here to pop my back—it's hurting really badly still.
(added 7/17, Japan time) My god—I have discovered heaven and its name is Smap Smap. For the first time ever in my life, I'm going to say this (and it will be the last time, as I hate this phrase with a passion) : I want to find whoever thought up that show and BEAR HIS CHILDREN!!!!!! Aaaah! Aaaah! Let me scream some more! Aaaaah! Dear god, it has cute boys, music, and cooking, all in the same show! Aaaaaah! There is nothing else in life to desire, and some wonderful genius has put it all in the same place! Aaaaaah! Aaaaaaaah! I want to say something constructive or intelligent, but I can't! I'm just sitting here fluttering my hands in the air and putting exclamation! points! everywhere! Aaaaaah! (shake) Okay, stopping now. Really (aaah!). Seriously, I'm not going to be able to get anything done on Mondays now. Detective Conan, Hey! Hey! Hey!, Shotgun Marriage, and Smap Smap, all in a row, right after dinner... it's a sign. Of course, I'm gibbering about Smap Smap (I'll have to tell Brian), but before I watched that, I was going to talk about Shotgun Marriage. Today was the first time that I watched the whole thing, and of course I got hooked. I remember watching Long Vacation and totally rooting for the brother charcter, and now he's the romantic lead in his own show while I'm here... there must be a god. It was funny to realize I knew all but one of the Smap Smap guys... one was the lead in Long Vacation, one is Shingo Mama, one's a host on Utaban, and one's currently starring in a police/detective drama (he's the one I noticed while flipping channels because he looks like a Japanese Richard, which is kind of freaky). Must... say something... non-TV related... I had a great afternoon—lunch with the Mikes, Evan, and the woman whose name I always forget was yummy and entertaining (Evan is Franklin, in all the good ways). H-Mike was his gentlemanly sweet self and walked me to the station even though he had his bike. I got to poke around CD stores while waiting for the 3 pm bus, even if Justin glommed onto me. I confirmed that I can use my pass anywhere along my route when I got off at Goryoukaku. I ran into Hal and Stephanie and got to hang out with them for an hour or so. I got to have a curry doughnut and mint coffee with them at Mister Donut. Rather than pouring like yeserday, it just kind of drizzled and was really cool. Someone somewhere said, "Jen's been having a rough month. Let's giver her a really fucking good day." And lo, there was Smap Smap. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
(added 7/17, Japan time) Homework break to briefly note that my god my back hurts. Stressing out my muscles yesterday and then sleeping on a futon seems to have really angered my lower back; I can't even lean forward while sitting down without a hiss of pain. And the bus was torture. It's pouring rain outside. I was glad enough that Manami had pulled my sheets in earlier this afternoon, and that was just a drizzle... now it's hammering down out there. When Susumu and I went out to get ice cream after dinner, it was almost hurting to be out in it! I suppose it's cool and all, and I like the sound right now, but I'd really prefer a cold drizzle to a hot downpour. I watched a terrible TV show w/ Manami and Sumu tonight—it's called The Stinger. People set up their significant others without their knowledge and see how they react to things like old boyfriends (did he get jealous enough to prove his love??). Tonight's was awful—this guy set up his girlfriend to get picked up by a guy (the episode was called Evil Nanpa Examination—nanpa is picking up random girls), to see if she'd cheat on him. The stinger was bugged and had a preset date course where there were hidden cameras. It was terrible—the boyfriend was sitting with the hosts of the show in a room with a TV, sound pickup, and a phone where various establishment staff members would call in with updates. He just got more and more upset as his girlfriend flirted more and more with the stinger—I seriously thought he was going to cry. The worst was the end, though. The stinger invited the girl up to "his apartment" (actually the room where the boyfriend and hosts were), complete with "are you sure it's okay to not call your boyfriend and tell him you're going to be late?" And she responds "I'm not going to call him," with a flirty look and the boyfriend listening in just looked apolectic. When the stinger opened up the door and the girl was behind him holding his hand I thought the boyfriend was going to assault them. And the whole time I was thinking, "Lord, this show just wouldn't fly in the States!" When the girl realized what was going on she burst into tears... I had to leave the room. Who thought this up????
(added 7/15, Japan time) Especially for a day that I thought was going to suck, today ruled. I got a ride from Goryoukaku to the picnic from some HIF people, which was pretty sweet. I got to Goryoukaku early, of course (damn buses), but hey, it meant I had time to go to Book Off and Mister Donut (and have some Altoid-laced coffee) while I waited. The picnic was fun; good food, good flirting with Hal and the Mikes, and a couple fun games of Ultimate were all in evidence. I got a bit of a sunburn, but I figured it was worth it to get to run around in the grass and throw a disc. Looks like I'm going to see the new Miyazaki movie the weekend after next with Hal and his host family. They have an extra ticket, so he invited me along, the sweetie (and his Georgia accent is so cute... heh). So the picnic was winding up and I was starting to prepare myself to come home and read manga and be bored, when H-Mike and I got to talking, and he took pity on me and invited me to hang out with his family for the afternoon. He's such a star! We went, with his mother and a friend of hers, to the Lavender Festival (and met up with his father there). It was a small, neighborhood annual party in honor of some guy who died about 10 years ago but who was a big hotshot in town. He's buried in some land he owned which is now a park, including some lavender fields. Mike's family is awesome—I envy him parents who have hosted before and know how to get a shy foreign student involved in things. And his mother's friend was really funny—we joked around a lot. So we all cut some lavender to take home, and then sat down to talk and eat. There were 20 or so volunteers manning grills and dishing out food and Mike and I totally went to town. Lord, that boy is a fun guy to eat with (hehe). After-dinner entertainment was the best, though. Hana-chan, a cross-dressing singer, seranaded us with enka (a style of music that kind of has to be heard to be understood). Nothing makes a party fun like a drag queen! Mike got pushed out by his host family to give Hana-chan flowers, something that I'm under oath to not tell other HIF people about (seeing as he narrowly escaped getting a kiss in return, and later Hana-chan came and sat with us and was flirting with him). Hehe! I had an awesome time, especially getting a chance to really talk to Mike and his family... good good day.
(added 7/15, Japan time) I feel a bit bad about not finishing my letter to the boys today—I had ample time to do it this evening but I watched TV instead. And got everything through yesterday typed up—I'll upload it somehow in the next day or two... finally. In the course of TV watching, I discovered that Music Station is on Fridays at 8 pm. That's three days a week with music programming at that time; makes me think I should flip channels on Tues and Weds to see if I can become a daily addict. Bands were so-so, but I got to laugh at the Kinki Kids and find out that the keyboardist of Dreams Come True looks like Errin and that their guitarist is hot. Earlier I heard RBI Samurai on the news... I want that mp3! I was totally absorbed in the news about the All Star—turns out Zach WAS there; why couldn't he have gotten himself on TV? Sheesh! I'd thought I'd maybe spotted him yesterday, but I suspect that was more wishful thinking than anything else. So we got the paper finished up today—I think there's a typo in my article, but oh well. I got to spend some time chatting with Kent and the Dave who looks like Bryce while we collated, which was pretty fun. It was particularly fun to talk Ultimate shop with Dave. Wayne kinda fluttered around us—I think the dirty old man has something of a crush on me, or whatever you call it when you're in your fourties. It's kinda weird, I guess, but he's harmless and entertaining, so I think I shall choose not to mind. He drew me and the Mikes into the manga he put in the paper, which made me smile. Not that they're good likenessess at all (we look rather like Charlie Brown characters), but the thought was nice (even if I'm one of the students being sacrificed to the giant Hakodate squid at the end by the school girls from space). I'm settling in more and more here as time passes, only to think about, tonight, how I'm going home in just over a month. It's already half over! I really understand why Ohta-sensei said a summer just wouldn't cut it... I can't wait to see Brandon and the rest, but it's a shame I'm leaving so soon.
(added 7/15, Japan time) This is getting written before letters tonight to attempt to avoid journal burnout (this may or may not work). So today was pretty good—I didn't get in too much trouble from my "forgotten" homework, and doing it during the break seemed to have mostly appeased the Wicked Witch. Test wasn't too hard, though I know I flubbed one of the grammar questions—none of us had really gotten the usage she was trying to teach us. We all could use it formulated one way, but the other usage is just esoteric and bizarre. So of course, on the test, rather than having us construct our own sentences with that grammar, she forced us into a fill-in-the-blank option using her bizarre way (which twists around the meaning such that we just don't get it). Bah. I chatted with Adam B. and S-Mike at lunch about why I'm having such a negative reaction to her—she may be a perfectly competent teacher, but if that's so, then I've been blessed with super-above-average ones for the last three years, because she's a total ogre in comparison (even Fujita-sensei was better, and I couldn't stand her). But I really should stop complaining—it does make me feel better to whine, of course, but it doesn't do anything else constructive. So we went to an Ainu museum today with the Intermediate 2B class (S-Mike's). The first 30 minutes or so were really cool—the curator gave us an (all Japanese) lecture on Ainu culture. After that, though, rather than letting us wander around and enjoy the place, the teachers formed us into groups and made us do a stupid little scavenger-hunt for information thing that we had to turn in for credit before we left. Which meant that we were all scrambling blindly for answers in Japanese rather than getting to absorb anything. I was so annoyed by that that when our visit was over I just bolted with Adam and S-Mike rather than stay there longer. Which was pretty counter-productive, I'll admit, but hey, it meant that I got to hang with S-Mike for a couple hours again. I wish H-Mike had been around, though. He really reminds me of Jim (which is variably a good thing), but he's generally a little quieter than S-Mike, so they balance each other well.
(added 7/15, Japan time) I watched the All-Star Game on TV tonight. Seattle's weather looked gorgeous, and I was envious. It rained here today, which I wouldn't have minded if it hadn't been warm at the same time, which just seems wrong to me. I guess I wasn't too hot in my Standard Seattle Issue boots, jeans, t-shirt and long-sleeved overshirt, so I can't really complain—if I were in Tokyo I'd be dying. Brief return to baseball : I hadn't realized how CUTE a lot of baseball players are. Shit, even if I had to be restricted to just ones on the Mariners, I wouldn't turn me down a Bret Boone, no sirree. I watched the whole game equally to get glimpses of Seattle scenery/people and to ogle the players. Yum. I'll never be a big fan, but I'll never turn down watching a game (heh). I don't know what to talk about—I'm exhausted and I haven't studied for tomorrow's test and I'm going to have "forgotten" my homework because I really don't feel like doing it. I just wrote Ty a letter, so maybe I already wrote myself out. Um, tidbits—I hung out with Wayne for a while this afternoon, which was okay. He's an older guy and a bit of space cadet... come to think of it, he really reminds me of a middle-aged Bolling-sensei. After that I ran into S-Mike on the way out of the building, so I walked him home and we talked for a while. I solidified that he's good people. I had to take off to be able to go shopping before I really wanted to leave, though. It was Manami's birthday, so I bought her some little flower-shaped sweets. I got praised for the nihontekiness (Japanese-ness) of my present, which made me smile. I was glad that I remembered to get something—it obviously touched her a lot. But really, I haven't done much of anything today, which may be blamed partly on baseball and partly on my Japan apathy. I did have the house to myself for a while, but I didn't do anything then, either; I didn't even take the chance of having an un-Kana-chan-interruptable TV watching session! I had to use the key to get into the house, since Manami wasn't back yet; it was strange to have the whole house be locked up. It might be locked more often now—apparently some elementary school kids got held at knifepoint by a high school burglar last night about three fields and four blocks away. Creepy.
(added 7/15, Japan time) There is something about Japan that my skin really disagrees with. Not that I have a crystal clear complexion normally, but ever since I got here I've felt like one huge pimple. Who knows if it's stress or something in the air—I'm actually prone to thinking the latter. My glasses get dirty a lot quicker and a lot worse here than they did at home; perhaps whatever is coating the lenses is getting into my skin. I'm chafing to get this stuff posted so that I won't have to describe as much when I get home... I was thinking I could wait until the "semester break," but that's still a week or two away. Maybe I'll do it this weekend; Manami and Kana-chan are going to be in Sapporo, so I might actually get to sleep in some on Saturday. Not likely, though : I want to go to that school picnic that day (and have already pitched in money for food). It doesn't start until noon, but I wouldn't be surprised if I have to get up by 7 am in order to get myself bused over there. Sigh. Hrm—I just checked, and there's a 10:26 bus that might do to get me to the station to transfer to the other bus and streetcar I need to take. Might. Good, getting up at 9:30 would be like sleep from heaven at this point. I took another one of my not-quite-nap thing today—it's quite a habit now to come home and flop on my couch to half-doze for the hour or so until Kana-chan yells out GOHAN DA YO!!! (it's dinner time!) at the top of her lungs. I'm so tired all the time—Yamada-sensei said at my status interview that that's pretty normal. That's not really comforting, but at least I'm not angry and threatening to go home because of the stress, as some students are. Two even packed up and left, which I just couldn't believe. I may be lonely and easily tired, but I'm still chugging through class and eating like a horse. My parents didn't shell out a shitload of money (which I still feel terrible about) for me to wimp out and come home, even if I was considering it. I can't imagine what those two's families must feel (seeing as both sets of parents had funded things). Crazy. S-Mike and I talked a lot about adaptability today and how we couldn't understand the line of thinking that has led several of our compatriots to want Japan to change to suit their wants and preconceptions. He's making the better of it than I am (due to some extraordinary luck in host family, location, and an incredible-to-me ability to make friends), but what we have in common is an ability to go with the flow, to deal with small problems as they crop up, and always keep moving ahead. I mean, what could moping do for me that finding Koshi Inaba's Magma CD while wandering around by my lonesome couldn't? Not a thing.
(added 7/15, Japan time) I watched Hey! Hey! Hey! tonight—I was pleased with myself for remembering to catch it (and write down which channel it's on, this time). I'm looking forward to next week; I don't know any of the bands that will be on, but just about any band would be better than this week's guests, and I still enjoyed it tonight. Even if the Matsuri groups were there, meaning that the Rainbow Bright girls were on. Ick. I think Brian must have talked to me about Hey! Hey! Hey!... I think he watched it while he was here. That and Smap Smap, which either isn't on anymore, or I can't find it on the limited Hakodate channels. Too bad—I've never seen it, but I was curious about it. Anyway, I was disappointed tonight that there weren't more boy bands to ogle (Glay was on, but they were the only male guests, and I wasn't impressed with their new single). With lack of any serious intellectual pursuit other than school available here, I've reverted to guy-watching. How sad is that. I kind of wanted to stay downstairs and watch Shotgun Marriage (featuring the rebellious-brother actor from Long Vacation), but at the same time, I figured I'd already had enough TV for the night. I did find out that Detective Conan is on the half-hour before Hey! Hey! Hey!, which made me happy; there's nothing that makes me feel good like understanding most of what gets said during a television show. Other than TV, though, today was pretty blah. Class sucked no more or less than normal, lunch with Steph and crew was normal (I think I may try to groupie along with the Mikes tomorrow for lunch if I can, though), I typed up my article, which took some fighting with the computer, but in the process I found that Hitakayama-sensei knows Ohta-sensei, which was neat, and then I did some homework. I feel in such a rut—I leave for school at 7:20, go to school, diddle around afterwards doing homework or wandering around bookstores until 4:45, get home at 5:35, chill in my room to avoid Kana-chan (often napping) until 6:30 or so, eat dinner, do homework/watch TV until 10 pm or so, go to bed, rinse-gargle-repeat. The schedule doesn't really change. I relish Manami's cooking, but at the same time I find myself longing for the randomness and spontaneity of dinner with my friends at home.
(added 7/15, Japan time) To put it in the least-charged terms possible, I spent a statistically significant part of shopping today thinking about what good taste Manami has in husbands. Shopping took about four and a half hours, including dinner, and we're talking very statistically significant. I suppose there's some sort of moral/ethical more I'm violating by even thinking it, but hey, that's what idle imagination is for. I nearly died when he bought a slinky rave-y shirt. I feel like the stereotypical movie character forced to chew on a knuckle. Anyway, to speak of less heebie-jeebie things, I bought a B'z CD (Loose) today at a used CD shop for 500 yen. Needless to say, it made me think about Brian. I'm glad, now, that we broke up—it was really one of the most obnoxious of my relationships, when I think about it. He's not a bad guy, but we just couldn't handle each other at all—I was too needy for him and he was too flaky for me. It's nice to be able to say that without having any secret "buts" stacked behind it. Time cures all afflictions eventually, this being a middling eventually of about 2 years. Mary talked about her boyfriend a lot this weekend... in a misguided attempt to cheer me up, she related how she and Jerry broke up once, two years ago. They were apart for about two weeks. I was not comforted. It'd be so much better if I knew he'd found a new girlfriend; it'd hurt terribly for a bit, and then I think I could start to let it go. But somehow I doubt it happening soon. Blah! I bore even myself with the endless bemoaning on this subject, but I just can't quite help it. I was going to talk about the Mikes tonight, but I really don't have the space. Perhaps I'll write about them tomorrow, if they haven't spontaneously decided to hate my guts. Thankfully, I figure the chances of that are rather low. It's nice to have found "my kind of people" after all, where I was starting to think there were none. I find it funny, reading back over this, to see how much more event-oriented over thought-oriented I am in a journal when I'm not able to tell people about my day like normal. Jee, imagine that.
(added 7/15, Japan time) Well, my roommates are all bickering about the lights, but they're quieter than other roommates would be, so I can't really complain. I just got back from the bath at the resort and ohhhh... the Japanese have very much the right idea about baths, I'll swear to that. The day's been pretty good, even if I didn't get to play Ultimate. I got that letter sent off to Monika, and that was my big goal of the day. Had some nummy grape ice cream, told Steph some of the sob story of my life, and that was all by 2:30 when we got here. I hung out with Mike and Mike (Stanford S-Mike and Harvard grad student H-Mike) some more and decided they're really my kind of people. The right combination of smart and sociable. The "Sports Slider" (or perhaps "Sports Rider") at the resort was nuts—a slide down a hill on a little black plastic coaster with a handbrake. Fun as hell. Watched a bunch of the (cute) guys play soccer, and found out that Adam R. is the other UW student! Communications major with Japanese minor. Over dinner, I unfortunately had Karl sitting next to me—Evan was going to sit there but Karl just kinda took it. Oh well—I had fun joking with Dan and H-Mike across the table. It was a Mongolian grill type thing with every five people sharing a grill. Delicious, and I got to win myself a new friend by impressing Dan with my carnivorishness. I don't know exactly what it is about that that guys (at least guys I tend to meet) find so awesome. I mean, Dan pointed out that people that enjoy their food generally enjoy life and are fun to be around, but it's not really that. It's something about being the sorta petite girl who's packing away a lot of meat and asking for more. Bizarre. Karaoke was interesting, but I would have liked it better if we'd rented a small room instead of going into the big one with all the drunk kids. Ashley and I sang Puff the Magic Dragon, which was kind of funny, and Adam B. is truly the Karaoke King, but once the drunks took over... well, it was amusing for a little while and then it was just annoying. Ah well, the bath and the time spent sitting on the field were worth it.
(added 7/15, Japan time) As interesting as that scrawl yesterday looks, I think I'll try to guard my handwriting a little more from now on. Looking at that, I see a terrible future for people who use computers too much—handwriting has already become dreadfully bad, and I shouldn't be hastening that demise. I'm at Manami's ikebana (flower arranging) class tonight. I got lots of work done at this desk at the back—wrote a letter to Monika, figured out how to read all but two of the kanji for Monday's test and got all of their meanings, and got my draft done for the essay I have to turn in on Monday. I need to consult a dictionary for some vocab and kanji, but it's kind of nice to not have it be hanging over my head this weekend. However, I wish I could have spent tonight doing some laundry and vegging in front of a TV. I need to wash my two pairs of jeans, but there's no dryer, so I have to budget my sun-drying time carefully. If I want to play Ultimate at the resort this weekend, I'll have to wear my boots, which means I'm probably going to be bringing a pair of dirty jeans with me. Joy. But Manami kind of pushed me into a corner about coming with her tonight... she said it was so that I didn't have to be at home by myself, and before I could say "oh, I'll be fine," she tacked on a "and that way, you can help me carry things, which'd be such a big help!" Sigh. Watching people snip flowers isn't really my idea of a good way to spend a Friday night. A couple of the women have come over to talkt o me, which has been a little uncomfortable—the first one I could understand pretty well, but I couldn't think of anything to say to her... the second one spoke a little too fast for me to get much of what she said, so I just nodded a lot. Then suddenly she was offering me some walnut bread and yogurt, which I thanked her for, accepted, and even nibbled on for a bit before I remembered that I probably should have refused it. To repay me for not remembering Japanese customs of empty offers, I'm now sitting back here feeling incredibly guilty. I've this terrible feeling that Manami's going to tell me in the car that I ate the poor woman's dinner. Sigh. It's been one of those embarrassing sorts of days.
(added 7/15, Japan time) I didn't write anything yesterday; Isuppose I'll keep up the tradition of doing a double-entry, then. I wastoo annoyed last night to even pull out my bed—I slept on the couchinstead. I spent about 2 hours typing this entire damn thing up when thecomputer barfed on me. Guess who hadn't saved it at all. As I told Kateand Brandon, some serious Stupid User Stick beating was in order. Sloppy, slanted writing-to-one-side-while-lying-down handwriting tonight. What can I say about yesterday? Taguchi-sensei started hassling me aboutnot having a dictionary. I don't want to buy one because I have twoperfectly good ones at home and I don't have money coming out of my earsover here. I'm really terrified of using too much money and then runninginto some trouble while at the airport or something. I'll probablyactually have enough left over in the last week to splurge and buy someCDs or something (more if I'd stop spending my lunch money on manga andsave it instead), but that's the last week. I just don't feel comfortablespending 30$ on a dictionary right now. And she's actually on me to buya denshi (electronic) one—which would easily run over a hundreddollars. Um, no. I'm incredibly pissed about the dictionary situation. Sure, it was my fault for not bringing mine, but I figure the schoolshould have some available for student use. Oh, they have dictionariesall right, but here be the stats : 8 Japanese-only dictionaries. Woo. Zero kanji dictionaries amied at foreign learners. 9 English to Japanesedictionaries, none of which have furigana (readings for the kanji), sothey're only useful for writing something—woe betide the student asked toread their composition aloud! 2 Japanese to English dictionaries, neitherof which is very comprehensive. It's just totally stupid, and I resentTaguchi-sensei for harping on me about how I should by my own. So tocontinue the complaint, Taguchi-sensei's first words to me this morningwere "so, have you looked for a dictionary yet?" At that point I decidedto change my presentation today. We were supposed to come prepared with aproblem-example-opinion piece to present to the class for discussion, and I'dprepared a bit on violence in American high schools. But instead Iad-libbed a speech on the dictionary situation at school. I was glad thateveryone agreed with me, even Ashely, who swears by his denshione. As he pointed out, most denshi ones don't have furigana...as Karl noted, if you'd brought some dicts to Japan that weren't pocketones or denshi, they get awfully heavy to lug around. My mainopinion was that it's laughable that the dictionaries "for student use"can't be used by the students. I doubt that sensei will pass the problemon, but I suppose it was gratifying that she complimented me heavily on myspeech and was completely flabbergasted that I'd done it without a scriptat all. Yay me and my ability to bullshit Japanese for the purpose ofclassroom presentations. It'd be a lot better if that special abilitywere extended beyond that restricted situation. So anyway, enough aboutthe damn dictionaries. I learned how to play Go today. Well, "learned"isn't exactly right; I wouldn't say I could play Go any more than I'd sayI know how to play chess (my oft-used answer to the "do you play chess?"question : "I know how to move the pieces"). It was really interesting tolearn about it, though. Hrm... interesting that this horribly slantedhandwriting looks really awful from straight on, but kind of cool from theside. I got rained on today. I missed out on an Ultimate game yesterday. I have a test tomorrow. But dinner was delish, and I'm actually not in asbad a mood as I think it may sound as I am. I love the general aspects ofbeing here... it's just that the specifics could use some adjusting. 18days of journal. 19 days in Japan.
(added 7/15, Japan time) It's a lovely stormy day—warm and breezy, with looming dark clouds threatening to push in. No rain yet, only threats and crackles. The occasional sunbeam and the heat are the only things that don't mesh with Seattle. Sitting on a bench at the BC, staring past bright and blaring Japanese signs, there's nothing up there in those clouds but home. With James Hatfield screaming into my ears, I can push out my feet, settle into the bench, and feel just right. I thought this morning as I walked to school that there's something delicious about walking down a cramped and badly paved Japanese market road with something like Metallica pounding into me. It's a secret between my headphones and me, a breathcatching secret that has my tongue running over my teeth and my hands clenching with the rhythm. My eyes widen and I feel so very alive, me and my secret taking in the sea breeze with deep draws. Sitting at the bus station just isn't the same—it's the weaving through the crowd, it's the man at the crab stand staring past me over his cigarette and the fruit shop woman's beckoning in chance time to the beat. It's the old couple at the ramen place, and the groups of high schoolers gliding past doubled up on bikes. Some of them look at me with curiosity, some look at me with disinterest, and most of them don't look at me at all. But they don't know my secret, don't know that Led Zepplin or Tantric is choreographing their movements. It's the surreality of the American soundtrack to the very unAmerican scene; it's the contrast of the small, delicate and homey to the harsh, loud and bold. Perhaps it's something totally different. But it's primal, exciting, and has a different taste to it than music does walking to the U. The clouds have grown closer, the air more and more damp. If I could find my place here, I think I'd even consider staying. My bus arrived—a new one today to hopefully permanently replace the old rattletrap. The seats are plush, the lightboard at the front is new and bright. But the floor is made of wood, and so the city passing by is scented by the slight dusky odor of damp wood.
(added 7/15, Japan time) So I still haven't written my article forthe newspaper yet. I have to turn in a draft on Wednesday and while Ihave a topic I was given, I still feel spectacularly uninspired aboutanything to say about it. I really should have done it today, seeing asstudying for tomorrow's quiz was my only formal homework (of course,running through all that goddamn vocab—upwards of 70 words—took meover an hour, so it's not really like I had the evening off). But insteadI finished the first Hana Yori Dango manga. It was shorter than Ithought... has some silly alternate universe mini-story in the back whichI didn't bother to read. So two manga and about six bucks down. Sixbucks ain't bad for about three and a half afternoons of entertainment,really. Sigh... I've always avoided manga like the plague, but now I'mstarting to get infected. Unfortunately, I think I remember that they'remore expensive in the US—I forget. It's 10:39 and I have to get up at6:15 to get a shower in in good time. I thought I'd left behind gettingup so beastly early when I got out of high school. Oh, and I was right -Stephanie (and Amanda, as it turns out) has a thing for Joe. I can seewhy. I won't interfere with their fun... I guess I'll... um... talk toKarl. Joy. Not that he's a bad guy; I just find him really annoying. Especially the tortuous way he has of stuttering out Japanese. James isjust as bad, with his endless aaa, nanka, etohs, but it's adifferent sort of annoyance than watching Karl screw up his face andoccasionally bang on his forehead to get a word out. Sigh. I'm being sonegative! I've decided today to not be suspicious of Amanda et. al., andjust accept them at face value (heh, so big of me, huh?). I like thatmuch better than being alone. I've had the misimpression that I was fineby myself... until the last year or so. I cannot function without a groupof friends, even if they're shallow ones. I guess that makes me weak, butI prefer to think about it as confirming human social grouping instinct. Speaking of being alone, today would have been the year and three month. Why I keep track still, I can't excuse. It's just pathetic how I stilllove him. I can't help but compare myself to Ethan and gag. Thecircumstances are a little different, but only a little. I think he'sjust stringing me along. I don't want to think it, but that awful,suspicious, pessimistic, logical part of me won't stop whispering in myhead...
(added 7/15, Japan time) I didn't write anything last night, so I guess I should do it now. Really, I just don't want to start my homework, but hey (shrug). So yesterday was Saturday, but I got up at 7:30 to have Manami haul my ass over to Takoka Primary School by 9:00 am. I didn't really want to participate in the school visitation, but rather than asking us to sign up for it, they'd said "let us know if you can't go." I couldn't think of any reasons other than sleep and general disinterest, and I didn't figure those would fly too well. It wasn't terrible or anything, and I even enjoyed learning how to play a little game with stones similar to marbles from the kids in the sixth-grade class I was placed in. But the assembly where they paraded us in front of the school population was excruciating, and the teacher in my class didn't have us do any of the cool stuff I heard some of the other people's classes did (Mary and Steph's class did acrobatics for them, even). Generally, I would have preferred sleeping. One thing that really threw me for a loop, though, was the realization that we were the first gaikokujin (people from a foreign country, often contracted to gaijin, meaning outsiders) that most of those kids had ever seen in person. No wonder some of us get stared at. I think that growing up in a city like Seattle with a large Asian population and going to a bilingual elementary school where my class was evenly split among African-American, Caucasian, Filipino, and Puerto-Rican kids, and hell, growing up in America at all, has served me more than I ever really realized in terms of being accepting of others. I've always taken it for granted that there are people who don't look like me in the world; it's never even occured to me to stare at someone because their skin is a different color, because a variety of people was always the norm for me when growing up. It's never occured to me that the language one speaks would be at all related to how one looks, but that's what a lot of those kids have grown up thinking. That's really kind of sad, I think. Reminds me, though, how important it is for me to raise my kids somewhere like Washington. I don't know how to study for my test tomorrow, so I'm kind of considering just going to bed... at 8:45. I'm really dreading tomorrow, seeing as I have a feeling that the test is going to suck big time. There's no way I'll remember all the vocab they threw at us this week (about 280 words, for god's sake). The grammar hasn't been intensive, but I'm worried about the fact that she told us to study the readings really well. Are we going to have questions on the contents of those horrible things? We don't know at all... blah. In other news, I'm trying to decide if I'm going to sleep on the couch again tonight. It was good last night... except for being too short and not wide enough, it's more comfy than the futon. And I don't have to make it and unmake it, which I honestly think is my biggest issue. I don't even like going to the effort at home of washing my sheets, and now I'm having to freaking assemble and disassemble my bed every damn day. I suppose I could just close my door and not unmake it, but what if, in the afternoon, Manami asked to get something out of my closet? I envy those two their beds. I think, though, that nice as the couch sounds, I really shouldn't sleep a full night on it again—my feet fell asleep at the ankles more than a few times last night. I didn't really do anything today—there was a school fair at Kana-chan's kindergarten (btw, Japanese "kindergarten" actually spans three years—ages 4,5, and 6, I think) today, so we went, but it was pretty uninteresting. I got real tired real quick of all the screaming kids, and really wished I'd been able to just stay home and read. Oh well, I finished my letter to Patrick and wrote my essay, so it wasn't a totally wasted day. I just... well, I wished I'd spent it shopping with Kate.