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Oct. 3rd, 2011

[art] wasurenai de

wasureta.





Three months since my last update. Oops? It didn't feel like that long.

I've been trying to survive one last year of college without sinking so far into a frustrated, depressed mud hole that I vanish from sight. Eaten by the Earth, never to reappear again. I just need to finish, and get to the other side. Get it done, for good, so I can worry about the next thing. Like finding a job.

I've composed a number of entries about things I'd like to do, new projects and secret little desires, but they all get swallowed up by this constant chorus of you don't deserve nice things. My mother said, the other day, that I was addicted to guilt. Which sounds harsh, but doesn't always feel far from the truth. I have a bad habit of screwing up or making nothing of everything I do.

What have you been doing?



Jul. 8th, 2011

[art] wasurenai de

bikkuri



Oh shit, you guys! (The three or so of you who read this journal.) I haven't updated in two months. Oops. Time flies when you're having fun. Or, you know, not.

I have been busy, though. Got back from an Atlanta visit, packed, flew back to Madison, got all my shit out of storage and moved into a new apartment, started working. I started trying to teach myself to cook as well, but now all I do is work, and then come home and crash like a zombie and eat really pathetic excuses for dinner, like a bag of pita chips.

I've been halfheartedly looking for post-college job opportunities and trying to plan out my last year of school, but there's only so much you can do over the summer. All of my advisers are running around in Asia, and until they get back my credits from Nagasaki can't be allocated and approved, and until they do that, I don't even know what classes I still need in order to graduate. If I have the space in my schedule, I really want to indulge a personal desire and learn Korean, but I should probably be responsible and take Japanese for Engineering/Business, or write a thesis (which I was into for a while, but now I've got this voice that just goes 'pfffft, who am I kidding, I hate writing papers and I'm not going to grad school'.)

And by "looking for post-college jobs" I also mean I've been mostly just poking around Monster for a few minutes at a time, before I get too intimidated to continue. Then I go back to daydreaming about moving to California, finding a part time gig in a surf shop, and living in a shack on the beach. Or finding a little white-washed apartment with big windows in Paris, or Prague, or Antwerp, and working in a bookshop. I have nightmares about cubicles and no marketable job skills.

I haven't thought about Japan a whole lot, since coming home, although there are some things I miss. I really need to start practicing again, though, because I haven't spoken a word of Japanese since I got back, and with my luck that part of my brain is going to atrophy soon. I do miss New York, and my family, and New York. I've been a bit socially deprived out here, and I'm contemplating either getting a cat, or flying back for a weekend. I'll probably do the latter anyway, before the fall semester starts.

May. 6th, 2011

[art] wasurenai de

tsumaranai.

Dear Diary,

So far today I have only been marginally productive. Aside from the stuff that actually needed to get done, like making an eye appointment and paying bills, I have done little more than paint my nails, clean up a three foot square pile of stuff, think back on my life and the carefully cataloged and maintained list of things I have to regret, and tame a really freakish case of bedhead. The day is now half over, and the internet has ceased to entertain me. I really should eat lunch.

I keep thinking I need a hobby, or more friends. Really it's just for one more week, though. Jesus Christ, for once I cannot wait to get back to Madison, where I have a new studio apartment, a storage container full of my shit, and a job just sitting there, waiting for me. The prospect of once again seeing paychecks magically appear in my bank account every single month, and a whole closet to live out of, rather than a suitcase, is enough to make me weak in the knees.

Here are some pictures of a half successful venture into the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, before the nuclear situation in Fukushima shut down the tuna auctions.







Apr. 13th, 2011

[jpn] the simple answer

tadaima.









This is more than a little late in coming, considering I've been back in the city for two weeks now, but. I'm home. And, other than a delirious and slightly perilous-seeming ride home from Far Rockaway on the A train, I haven't experienced any real culture shock.

I've been visiting my mother's new place in northeast Pennsylvania, though, and I keep forgetting not to drive on the left side of the road. Doesn't matter much, since it's all farmland and there's no one around. I spent the past two weekends kicking around up there, feeding the fish in the pond and watching the turkeys and deer in the field behind the house.

I'm heading to Atlanta for a little while, next week, and then back to Madison in mid May, when my new lease starts. I'm figuring out classes for fall, trying to organize myself for writing a thesis and graduating. Looking forward to springlike weather, having my own apartment again, my old job and the return of paychecks into my life. Thinking about getting a cat.

I'm still sorting through and editing the last of my pictures from Japan, and I'll write more about it when I put those up.

Mar. 11th, 2011

[art] wasurenai de

jishin.

I'm okay. More seasick, than anything else. Thanks to everyone who left messages checking in.

I'm living in northern Tokyo, so I was out of range of the tsunami and the flooding, and though the gas is shut off, no leaks or power lines went down in my neighborhood. Everything is shut down, including the train lines, so mostly I've been riding out the aftershocks at home. My little house is still swaying around like it was built out of jello, and I feel like I've spent the last six hours on a carnival ride.

Have to figure out how I'm going to eat tonight, and how this will all affect my mother arriving from the states tomorrow. But considering the last one of this magnitude leveled the city and killed 140,000 people, I think we got off pretty lucky.

And I can now cross "living through an earthquake" off of my bucket list.

Mar. 1st, 2011

[art] wasurenai de

fumin.





I'm tired. I have been traveling a lot. I've got a backlog of photos I can barely keep track of.

And this post took me twenty minutes to write the first time I attempted it, so. Here are the rest of the pictures I took while in Osaka and Fukuoka, over the holidays. I've got more from my three weeks of day trips on my rail pass.

I have another week and a half alone in Tokyo, before my family gets here. I'm actually looking forward to just wandering around town with my cameras, no sightseeing list, no schedule, having the time to step outside of the "taking 'tourist' pictures" box, as I've come to think of it.











ps. I have a Flickr stream with everything on it, including my polaroids, and photos that haven't made it here, yet. So, you know. If there's any interest, that is where all my stuff is dumped.

Feb. 14th, 2011

[jpn] the simple answer

shin sekai.













I'm alive.

I spent a very unintentionally expensive winter break in Osaka and Fukuoka, despite getting sick and camping out in my hotel room for three days, and then triggering so hard to some animal issues every time I tried to leave, that half the time I simply couldn't. Something about that trip, and coming back to school to a bill for next semester equaling nearly $10k, just snapped whatever was holding my resolve together.

I talked to my parents. I finished up the semester and told the school to shove it that I wouldn't be coming back. I traded my visa for a tourist stamp, and bought a rail pass. And then I got the hell out.

And now I'm living in Tokyo for a couple months. My family is coming to visit at the end of March, I'll travel with them, and then we'll all come home to the States.

In the meantime, I'm going to see as much of the country as I can, until my rail pass runs out.

I'll keep studying on my own for the JLPT and take it in New York, in December.

I've got my old job at school back, as soon as I'm enrolled in classes for the fall, and I think I've got a place in Madison lined up for May, which gives me just enough time for lingering in NY.

I'm alive.

Dec. 22nd, 2010

[art] wasurenai de

brick walls.





A taxi driver a few weeks ago asked if I was from Italy. A shopkeeper in town thought I was from Israel. You get a lot of stares here, and though you also get used to it after a while, I think often about how being both an American and a New Yorker has spoiled me. When I step out of my front door back home, it almost never occurs to me that the infinite variety of people I see aren't also those same things.

Homogeneous societies have always kind of given me the heebie-jeebies.

In any case, things are... not great. Without exploding into a ridiculous, foaming at the mouth rant, I'll just say that this school is a joke. It would barely receive accreditation in the US as a vocational school, certainly not as a college or a university in a million years, and I am not learning anything. And given that I've essentially put my education on hold to come here, when I could be graduating this year, given the amount of money I paid to get here, given the amount of time I am stuck here... I am not happy.

I've been trying to study as best as I can, on my own, trying to prepare for the JLPT exam next year, but it's difficult. Made more trying when this town has become small, resources few and my options for exploration exhausted, and my host family beginning to grate on my nerves. They're very nice people, and have done a lot for me, but three months of living in a stranger's house, after two years of having my own place, I'm desperate for some breathing room.

I have trouble functioning when I don't have a place of comfort and safety, a place that's mine to retreat to.

I could have chosen to go home early, pull the plug on this miserable situation and go back to my country, where things make sense. But my school isn't expecting me back until next fall, which would mean eight months of sitting around my parents' house. And I know, ultimately, I'd regret it.

So I sold a handful of my Apple stocks, that I'd been holding onto since I worked there. I decided that, if I was going to make as much as I could of this year, I was going to travel as much as that money, and any time outside of school, would allow me.

So I've booked a trip for winter break, starting this week. I've got plans floating around for spring break.

My family is visiting, in March.

I found an apartment of my own, for next semester.

I'm making plans. I doubt the animosity toward this school will fade anytime soon, but I'm trying to keep my frustration from overflowing into hate for this entire country.

If nothing else, this year will be informing. And one way or another, I'll get through it.

Nov. 17th, 2010

[art] wasurenai de

party town.

Fall in Japan is all about festivals. And the weird things that sometimes happen therein.





Nagasaki Kunchi is a really big deal here; it's a three day Shinto festival put on by Suwa Shrine in early October, that highlights the city's eclectic exposure to foreign cultures, but a lot of what goes on boils down to really ridiculous displays of physical strength and stamina.

kunchiCollapse )

A few weeks later, my host mother told me about another Shinto shrine in town, in this case an Inari shrine, holding their yearly festival.



foxesCollapse )

Finally, last weekend was Shichi-go-san. Families dress their children of certain "lucky" ages in traditional kimono, and take them to Shinto shrines to be cleansed of evil spirits, to pray for good health and long life, and to congratulate them on their growth thus far.

Since my host family's granddaughter turns three this year, I got to tag along. It was an awesome chance to see the inside of Suwa Shrine, where you can't normally go, as well as listen to a priest chanting and see a shrine maiden dance. But photography wasn't allowed, and with all the shuffling around and bowing before the Gods, it was difficult to watch.

Tons of cute children walking around in old school kimono and hakama sort of made up for it, though.

Oct. 19th, 2010

[art] wasurenai de

nichijou.











Things have smoothed out a bit. Habits form, routines emerge, places become more familiar, more comfortable. Once I'd weathered the incredibly ungraceful way I was dumped into this situation, things began to get better.

I got lucky with my host family, I realize that. They're kind, accommodating, they live very comfortably. My host mother has taken it upon herself to help me experience new things, since she found out that the school had no plans to provide extracurricular activities for us. She's taken me to museums and restaurants, on a drive down the coast. We have plans to go to Fukuoka next month, for a Sumo match and shopping and to eat my favorite ramen.

I've gotten a bit more used to Nagasaki, as well. I can navigate now, find my way on the buses and the streetcar lines. The New Yorker in me can't fully feel calm, until I've mapped whatever public transportation I have available to me. Between school and trips and festivals, I haven't had the chance to see all the local sights, yet. I have time.

It's finally cooling down, the humidity gone and the breeze picked up. The more Japanese I speak, the better my reaction time gets, the more vocabulary comes back. I have two conversation partners, a few Japanese friends.

I don't feel like a tourist, anymore. I feel like a resident. Despite the way I still gets stares in restaurants, on the street and on the bus, sometimes I forget that I'm an outsider. My American friends and I laugh sometimes about how, already, we look around us and forget that we're not also Japanese.

I bought my first BB Cream, had my first two visits to a Japanese hospital, drink tea more than anything else, these days. I'm doing this.

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