Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Best Feeling in the World

Last weekend I was waiting in my apartment for a call from my parents when I suddenly heard fireworks.  It was about 10 am and I felt like getting out so I went to investigate.

I threw on some clothes and put the equivalent of $30 in my pocket and set out.

Over at the parking lot of the public bath there were tents everywhere and a stage.  On stage there was a program with people dressed up as anime characters who were fighting some monster and a woman narrating.  It kind of reminded me of the play Peter Pan, audience involvement and all.  

People were really excited that I was there.  A lot of my students were there.  The people from the Board of Education were there running the event.  Akaki-san found one of my students and coerced her into showing me around.  It turned out to be a lot of fun.  We walked around and bought food and looked at stalls. 

The fair extended into the shops on the main road in Nankan.  So I went in.  Almost every place I went they offered me free food, and almost all of it had natural or unnatural sugar.  Ugh.  I like sweets but I hadn't eaten breakfast.  And the sweat bean paste they use for their traditional  sweets is just unbearable after five bites.  But I still had a great time.

I went home around 2 pm and had a late talk with Mom and Dad and Joe.  Then I went out for the end of the festival.  They did a lottery, which I didn't win.  Akaki-san was very apologetic.  I kept telling him it wasn't a big deal.  Then they threw these traditional sweets to the crowd.  I really wanted to catch one.  I'm pretty sure the lady said they are good luck for the new year.  I almost caught several of them.  

It was near the end of the give away and I was sad I didn't have any.  But I didn't give up.  And I finally caught one.  Yes!  It was a great feeling.  But as I walked away I saw a little girl about 5 years old who was holding her grandma's hand.  She looked really sad.  I didn't even know what I was doing when I walked up to her and held out the mochi I just caught to her.  I told her to smile using gestures. She took it and her grandmother thanked me again and again.  

As I walked away I had the best feeling of my life.  I felt such a connection to every person and I almost cried with joy for giving the girl the mochi.  I've never felt that way before, but it was fabulous.  

The next week one of the people I work with at the Board of Education came up to me and thanked me for giving his granddaughter the sweets.  He said she was very happy and that she remembers my name.  I had met her before when I was walking around Nankan.  About a year ago her mother died so she lives with her grandparents.   I'll never forget that day.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Freakin Cold

I would like to start this post by saying it's cold.  It's colder inside my home here than it is in Minnesota.  My bedroom at home was usually around 50-65 degrees.  It is colder here. 

So I couldn't help myself from writing some comments about the cold.  Here they are.

Ramblings of the cold

You’re too cold when

* You take the toast out of the toaster oven a minute early and stick your hands in.
* You fill your bath with 50 degree C water every night because you can’t help yourself.
You stay in said bath until you start to prune
You stay in even when you have to pee.
You stay in when you get hungry.
You stay in when you feel light headed.
Eventually, you get half way out, but keep your feet and hands in.
Later you climb back in because you can’t stand the thought of waiting another day until you have another bath.
* You look around so you can stand in front of your space heater and realize you already are.
* You have to pull your pajamas out of the blankets on your bed because that’s where you changed this morning.
* You use your computer continuously and put your hands on the bottom where the fan is to try and warm your fingers.
* You wear two pairs of pants, a sleeveless shirt, two t-shirts a long sleeve shirt a sweat shirt, jacket, and the pair of socks that in America you loved but couldn’t wear because your feet started to sweat, all at the same time.
* You who has never run for any reason find yourself jogging five times a week because you want to feel your toes
* You remember exactly how god awful hot it was in the summer and still want to go back in time.
* You boil water so you can put your hands in.
* When you drink tea your nose runs and you can smell for the first time in days.
* You pull out the strange heaters that have illegibal or unknown words on them and decide to experiment until it turns on. you don’t care that it could burn the house down if you have it set up incorrectly.
* You cry when you have to turn the heater off at night because if your blanket gets on it it could start a fire.
* You take the heated floor rug and use it as a comforter on your bed.
* You stop seeing people because it could interrupt your bath schedule.
* You wear your ski hat to bed.
* You can't seem to stop thinking about the weird ass things you do when you are cold.

PS I found out today that my airconditioner (which turns into a heater) is very very broken.  Also it turns out that the slot on top of my small space heater in my bedroom is for water so that the heater can make steam.  Oops.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's Next?

Hi all.  

You know, getting to Japan kind of threw me.  I dedicated a year of my life to getting here.  After arriving, I faced one of the same difficult questions I did right out of college: what's next?

And since I have been sick for over a week now, with nothing to do but sleep, try to sleep, watch House, and survive my classes, I faced the question.  I did it in a round-about kind of way, not admitting at first that this was why I've felt agitated for the past three months.  

The problem I faced was: I want to live in Japan.  I don't want to be a regular member of the Japanese work force that works for 10 to 14 hours a day.  And I don't want to teach English for the rest of my life.  I love it; my kids are great.  But after 3-5 years I think I'll be ready for something new.

And I was sitting in my bath tonight (I mean really, where else do you expect me to be?) and I accepted the answer.  I didn't find the answer.  I didn't come up with the answer.  The truth is, I've known the answer all along.  

But what did they say in every Landmark class, introduction, or water break?  Knowing makes no difference.  I've known the answer since I went to Kansai Gaidai.  It was something I wanted just as much as returning to Japan, but I said it was impossible.  

I want to work at Kansai Gaidai as a history teacher.  I love the area.  I love Osaka.  I love history.  In the past I said it would be too hard.  I wouldn't get into the grad programs.  And trying to balance being published and work as a teacher would be too difficult.  

Before I came here and started teaching English I also said I wouldn't make it as a teacher.  I was really scared.  Just as scared as I was of coming to Japan the second time.  That's how I know this is what I really want.

I see Mom reading this and saying, "Save money for grad school."  I see Dad reading this and thinking, "Damn all that money to airplane tickets."  I see Joe not being surprised.  I see Deborah saying, "But you're supposed to come back!" I see Audrey using this as an excuse for many future vacations.  Amanda I see you coming to eat really awesome ramen with me (before the grad school!).  

Courtney, you have a good game face.  I'm not sure what you'll think.  But I do see Andy convincing you he should come over and 'practice' his driving.  Just let him know that all he has to do is show his driver's license at the AAA and pay $15 to get his international driver's license.  I thought of you Andy the other day!  We could hear the cars on the race track over at the school where I teach.  And I thought of you Courtney yesterday when I walked by a house in my neighborhood and there was a woman brushing a long haired version of Clutch.  Same color and all.

For everyone else, I think of you too.  I think of things to say to you everyday.  But I'm sick, I'm going back to bed. 

Good night!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

He He Again

Compared to when I lived with a host family in Osaka there are some things I like better about living alone.

The best by far is the bath.  When you are the third to take a bath with five people in the family, you tend to keep an eye on what time it is.  You relax, but there is the ever impending thought, "Oh I'd better get out so that X has enough time."  

But alone, I can just sit in there for as long as I want.  There is no one else.  And it really is a waste to draw all that water to only sit in it for 15 minutes.  You really need to stay in until it cools down to a medium level.  There are bathless kids in Africa, after all.

And thus I have discovered a new way to determine when it is time to get out of the bath:  When I am so relaxed I'm about to lose control of my bladder, it's time to leave.  

Thank you.