Typhoon Roke is headed to my area. I am glad to have been allowed to come home early. Local schools are only teaching in the morning, the students have already gone home, but I was at city hall.
I'm not expecting it to be too bad here, but I am happy to be indoors. It was much worse down south, which was already not doing well after typhoon Talas.
One of my earliest memories of teaching in Japan was going home from a typhoon and watching an old black and white movie lent to me by a teacher. It taught me why our windows have metal shutters here. EVen shuttered I remembered a horrible sound and there being a mystery quick rush of water into in one room. In all my three years in the apartment I never figured out how the water got in, although it must have been window-related even with them shut, and it never happened again.
Pro: I have mini icepacks tied around my neck.
Con: The faculty room reeks of those burning misquito coils
Pro: I’m sipping cold mugi-cha and I don’t have a class for a few hours.
Con: I’m knackered from teaching last night.
It’s now in the 80’s and 90’s much of the day but with humidity also in the 80’s and 90’s we’re all exhausted as soon as we wake up. The curtains I made to clip-in my kitchen windows when I go to work has cut down the feeling that I am returning to an oven when I get home. When I get home my first task is always to water every single plant I own. They get watered about 3 times a day in this weather. I get watered more often.
Tomorrow I have a massage appointment. I think of it often and fondly.
Today should be getting up to 31 degrees Celsius. Welcome to summer!
I’ve got my hair pulled up in braids, Heidi braids. Expect more braid varieties this summer, including Frida Khalo homages. I realized I could no longer spend all my summer in ponytails (as they do look a little severe on me) and buns…so I did the same thing I did when I had to learn about make-up…I spent some time on youtube watching tutorials by girls half my age…trying…swearing…searching…until things made sense. Thank you youtube, without you I’d have to kidnap my own teenagers and bribe them with coke, candy, and introductions to young men up to no good.
I biked to work today. It’s my first day (of the semester) at the school closest to me (about 10-15 minute bike.) I was greeted by children and by a giant red mascot, Chiba-ken….He’s a dog in the shape of Chiba Prefecture. The principal commanded a child to hold my bike while he got a picture of me and the mascot. I bet I’ll have a copy of the photo in a few days.
I’d hate to be wearing a mascot uniform today. I’m already regretting trousers today.
It should be a horribly hot summer…and one of energy cutbacks. Japan-wide, many businesses and governments are adopting “super cool biz” steps in relaxing dress codes so people don’t die. This won’t mean much of a change for me as I already dress for work in the spring and summer like I’m attending a casual cruise party or a picnic.
And, as today brings the full sun. It’s the first morning that I’ve clipped-in my homemade summer-time kitchen-cooling curtains…in hopes that my kitchen floor won’t be hot to the touch each day I come home this summer.
My balcony garden is also full of awesome for the summer. It’s a good thing I am not planning to leave Japan this summer…as Mrs.Nakajima could never take all of the plants home with her. If I go anywhere for a few days I’ll look into setting something up with Nin, who works nearby.
My awesome container garden…excluding those in my kitchen:
I look forward to eating my own bitter melons, tomatos, cucs, eggplants, peppers and more. I’ve already got more shiso than I will ever need and my need to search the more expensive stores for fresh herbs is almost down to zero.
You wake up half-naked in an unfamiliar room. Your pockets are full of leaves and your hair is a fucking mess. There are some cats in the corner. They look at you with a mixture of pity and distrust. “How did I get here?” you ask yourself. You could lay there pondering this question for a long time, but I think you should find a shirt, try to do something with your hair, apologize to those cats, and get the hell out of there. Get on with your life.
That’s how I feel these days when asked “How did you come to live in
I forwarded the you tube clip of my local dental debut in a Japanese educational film to a friend last night..and he noticed how I cover my face slightly when I smile.
I posted a photo of the latest costume in progress last night, another friend remarked on the peace fingers I was flashing and noted that my hand has “Gone native.”
And any friend who has seen me within 48 hours of flying in America knows that there is a patina to my motions that is new…although it can be subtle in comparision to my temporary in-ability to see large empty streets without wondering what terrible nuclear event has happened, my freezing when faced with the choices and sizes of food,and the fact that I talk and gesture like I assume most everyone around me has a rudimentary grasp of English.
I get nervous for a while when we eat without saying itadakemasu. I bow my head at everyone.
When I first moved to
And if you’d asked me, I’d have told you that I wasn’t experiencing culture shock…that my research into Japanese life and culture had protected me from such bumps. I was in shock. My studies created a sensitivity to my otherness and potential offenses that I was reacting against, and probably increased how lost I became in body and mind.
I didn’t see it happen. Those around me had no idea, because they had no sense of who I was across the ocean.
Then I visited Praveen in
We talked of foxes and hedgehogs…and while I don’t believe in such strong dichotomies to describe the intricate lives and personalities we are…I will agree that finding me rolled-up in a ball to protect myself from externals is something that would rightly share the shit out of most people who know me.
On August 8th, 2010, I will mark nine years since I landed in Narita for the first time.
I have adapted to my surroundings. My otherness has also become clarified in a way I now embrace. I continue to have jobs that are predicated on my otherness and yet require that I can integrate in traditional Japanese ways. I used to think of this as a balancing act, but now it is just what I do. Yes, it is a state of inhereint and shifting contradictions, but it is also the state where I live. I know my limits and also retain the flexibility required to prevent me from becoming the bitter ex-pat I could be.
I cover my teeth when I laugh but it is a laugh you can hear from rooms away.
I bring my hand up to the back of my neck in a move of modesty, nerves, submission, and then I look into you with the eyes I’ve always had.
I continue to be the girl you’ve always known…and that girl was always in flux....but I am also that girl who stood strong and solid.
Do you know where you're going?
Light years to come home
This is one of many small poems in a tiny, handmade booklet I have. The poems are hand printed and photocopied. I've had this for a year and a half.
I got in when my third job in Japan fell through and I was in the rush of a new job hunt. I'd broken up, once more, with Wataguy and was reeling. One night I met up with my tattoo artist for an indian dinner, and as I waited at Hachiko
From Mar. 10th, 2008 at 10:36 AM, I blogged here
A Japanese man with near flawless English (slightly European sounding)
came to talk to me. I tried to blow him off, thinking it was simply
"talk to the foreigner" stuff. He gave me a collection of his
photocopied haikus and asked for money because he's homeless, and I
gave him some. I don't usually give cash, but in Japan I am rarely hit
up for it. He was pleasant to talk to and I found that being asked for
cash bothers me less than having someone who just wants to waste my
time making painful English small talk with the foreigner. The
mini-book of haikus wasn't half bad either. I figured I could use some
good karma, although in the scheme of things I know 8USD of karma
Other poems include:
In my uncertain shelter
Build all by myself
A torrential rain
Pushing man into a pub
To keep him drinking
On the back is written
Copyright by Hideo Asano 2005
He still blogs...and once lived in Christchurch.
"I think it's because you eat natto every day."
If I was having this conversation a year or so ago I would assume that "looking more Japanese" was code for "thinner"...but now I don't know what to think. This teacher thought I was thin last year, so it's not that.
Any of you who have me friended on Facebook know this already: I am photographing my life more than ever.
When I went over to watch IronMan at Puppy’s place two weeks ago we both whipped out our Iphones and geeked it up for a bit.. He admitted to having been so into his iPhone that he didn’t sleep the first night he had it. Me? I dated Pretty Boy my first night with my iPhone, but I almost made myself motion sick on the train home by reading stuff on my iPhone for too long. I don’t have much in the way of OMG really cool apps…but Puppy was appreciative of the sheer geekiness of how I keep track of all my costumes and when I wear them via Touch Closet. Puppy, however, brought Toy Camera to my attention…and I have flooded my Facebook with images ever since.
(We also geeked out on Dexter, which he was very excited to tell me about)
About 5 years ago, Praveen got me into toy cameras. I hunted down where in Japan I could get a Lomo after I saw his pictures and had hit a few web sites devoted to them. With a trusty Lomo I attacked Japan. The Lomo is a camera that exists due to Classic Soviet Union Technology. It is a fun camera but it isn’t a “good” one. The lens configuration somehow produces odd color saturation (which is exagerated with the use of low speed cheap films) and uneven exposures with darker corners not unlike you get from pinhole cameras. After weeks of carrying my Lomo everywhere and photographing everything “from the hip” (my stealth train skills got good then) I branched out to an additional Holga (a cheap Chinese “Brownie” camera with more dramatic pin-hole exposure) and a Holga-Pola (Holga with a 120 Poleroid attachment, which I still use from time to time. This icon was shot with my Holga-Pola).
With my Lomo I shot Japan and much of one trip to Cambodia (I shifted to a nice Hexar Silver for Mexico, the Hexar is not a toy) and have gone through two Lomos in my time. The summer after I got my toy cameras I ended up walking around Madison with Scotty the summer he taught a class in pinhole cameras, we geeked out.
When Puppy brought the Toy Camera ap to my attention it was love at first sight.The iPhone camera is kinda crap when it comes to normal digital standards, but it seem to work well by toy camera standards. Toy Camera processes the iPhone photos you take in a way that simulates the uneven, leaky, exposures and over saturated colors of many toy cmeras like the Lomo and Holga. If you want you can specify the filter (sepia, low contrast B&W, high contrast, different color saturations) or, as I usually do, allow it to randomly pick a filter each time you shoot. I like the randomness. If it took less time to change settings I would probably tweek more, but I like just clicking away and seeing the results.
What I like about the toy camera (real ones and the app) is that they depict the Japan I feel with greater frequency than photos I take with well balanced digital or my Hexar. I’d really have to be pushing film and playing around in a lab to get a better camera to show the Japan I think I live in. My Japan is alternately garishly over saturated and dramatically dark. My Japan isn’t evenly exposed. My Japan surprises me by not developing the way I thought it would. My Japan involves many hours a week in transport. My Japan looks a little lonely somedays. My Japan is surprised to find me doing what I am doing. My friends haven’t seemed to grow exhausted by seeing Japan through my eyes.
The images, although the first few predate the toy camera.http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=
This task would be made much easier if I could ever get my co-workers to check my bloody Japanese on all of this...and it is bloody. It takes no prisoners and leaves polite forms bleeding in the stage directions. I am acutely aware that brutal Japanese is just the thing to allow a few homeroom teachers to sigh inwardly and say "Ah, Kathryn does not understand the Japanese way of doing things..."and leave my flowsheets as unread as my detailed lesson plans.
I have learned that putting lesson plans on desk with pleading notes do no good. Results are only gotten by poking and thrusting my screen in front of co-worker and saying "I promise, just a sentence..." The sad thing is my Japanese skills and my ability to write detailed descriptions are improved every time they do help and if they'd take the time now there would be a lot less poking and prodding in their futures. These people know nothing about timely rewards for swiftly completed work but they are on a different time schedule than I am: they are under pressure to stay late and receive praise (or the absence of negative punishment) if they always appear to be working hard... I get off at 4:30.
It's the sort of checking task that, if it were in English, I could do in under an hour...
Some of my lessons I love to revisit and some are simply placeholders I pray I am never called on to use. "Egypt!" I could wander around in for ages. It has room to expand and contract. Alas, "Let's go camping?"...I'd rather not.
And with that I get plunged back into the lesson plans...I just found a conflict in two of the things they've been asking me to do...nd they do need "Let's go camping" and 11 other lesson plans I wrote (which I thought they'd given up on using) prepped enough so that people who are not me can teach it. It's the last week before a new school year...everything changes on April first (including the first appearance of English textbooks in the elementary schools) and right now everyone is getting so red-tape brutalized it's hard to find where the tape ends and the intestines starts. I, for once, am no exception. I know what comes after this rush of things to do...boredom.
The Japanese started to make my head hurt, so I will be asking favors of people I know locally to help edit my Japanese.
There was some talk of having me correct the English on my contract and clean up the translation (if I have time I will post you some gems from my contract) but there is that conflict of interest in it being MY contract I'd be working on. We don't have anyone else who could do it...well, the support staff, but I don't think they want the support staff seeing the details of my full-time contract.
Rob, Colt and I planned to meet up for lunch to socialize (and so that I could get my key) on Sunday.
They chose Akihabara (Akiba). I dislike the electronics district. It makes my skin crawl. My only good memory of Akiba has been sitting in the massage chairs with Warning-san after a long day of walking. Akiba is hyperactively geeky and creepy. All the electronics you need...got em! Latest ultra-small technology for photographing girls in on toilets...got it! UBS attachable penile-stimulating sleeve in the shape of a tentacle in order to fully experience on-line anime-porn games...probably*....but Rob and Colt had some Macross thing to go to later in the day in Akiba so Akiba it was.
Part of the treat of having visiting friends is seeing Japan through fresh eyes. You also get to go do touristy/strange stuff you'd never do alon/with ex-pats/Japanese friends...for me that meant suggesting a maid cafe...which apparently was already in the day's plans. Colt, Rob's friend who is studying here in Japan, already had one in mind. I've been to a cat cafe alone (where I played with cats, not people dressed up like cats) but I'd never go to a maid cafe by myself.( Akibake! )
Not wanting to be left out, I grabbed one as well.
It turned out to be the Inaugural Edition! Front page pictures and article about the inauguration, middle pages more pictures and the whole inaugural speech translated into Japanese, back page the English article and the speech in English.
It was horrible, yes, but such things are still rare here. Many co-workers think it is terrifying and that it has changed their ideas about how safe Japan is, how safe they are. I'm from America. I'm an American woman. As much as I spend a certain amount of energy telling Japanese people that America isn't THAT scary, the knowledge that walking down a street, even a busy street, might not always be safe is part of who I am. I don't worry about it, it's just something I know to be true. Random violence and targeted violence happens. There are things you can do to be aware of your surroundings and situations, but nothing is 100%. You can only worry so much, some things are out of your control.
The attack didn't kill or wound anyone I know. All my geeks are in America and not currently visiting Japan/Akihabara. It did, however, kill a recent graduate from the public school system I work at.
The connection is close enough to remind me that these things happen...but not enough to feel the impact of it.
It reminds me of Jerry, my best landlord ever. Jerry was a nice man in MIlwaukee who made me steamed veggies when I was sick and who moonlighted as a low-level pro-wrestler. He knew all the folks in his building: the jazz pianist who lived next door (my bathroom sounded great ), the stoner upstairs who loved anime...all. A few years before I moved to Milwaukee he had lost a tennent ...to serial killer Jeffery Dahmer.
I remember talking about the Dahmer days with a female teacher of mine from MIAD. She told me about the time when Dahmer was as of yet unknown, but the disappearances of young men was being felt...and our school was in the gayer area of Milwaukee, so it was felt...she remembered seeing male students being hesitant about going out to their cars or apartments alone after dark and other small issues of vulnerability American women are raised to be aware of but (muggings and bad neighborhoods aside) most men aren't.
Between Dahmer one year and the cryptosporidian problem the next, there was a certain awareness of human vulnerability.
Mmmmmm. Rumors of a boil water advisory...there are certain rumors worth paying attention to.
Really, Neither Henna or I understand why we've never done a duet together. We seem to have a similar affinity for goofy faces.