Laptop charger let off a huge spark when I plugged it into the computer. It had been getting old but tonight was not a convenient night for it to break. I had been planning on working on my final presentation for a class and now I can’t till I get a new one, which I’ll be able to do tomorrow but still. Also, the horribly cold room I am living in is not doing the accordion any favors in ease of playing or in sound. Urgh…
Went to explore Mt. Hiei today with my friend from Australia. It must have been about 55 degrees up there, but she was holding onto her hand warmers like a shipwreck survivor holds onto a life raft, whereas I was fine in my 3/4 sleeved shirt, jeans, and poncho — and I get cold the most easily out of my group of friends. Lesson learned: sweet Australian summer children know nothing of winter (but actually, they don’t, because the average high temperature in Perth during winter is about 60 degrees) I’m going to look at the Maine tag now, because being on Hiei made me miss mountains.
Because of my room’s being the closest in the house to the nearby rice paddy, I’ve had a few mosquito problems (okay, quite a few) since I’ve come to Japan, especially in the first month which was so hot that it was agonizing to not have the window open, even when I had the fan on. However, in the past few days, I’ve only had to go late-night mosquito hunting once, and this morning when I woke up and looked out the window, I found out why. Three local spiders have apparently gotten wise to the fact that mosquitoes like me, and they’ve set up shop on the overhangs outside my room and are flat out feasting on the little bastards.
The first one I saw is by the window by my bed, and the second and third are outside the sliding glass door to the little balcony. The first time I saw the second, it chomped into a large bug’s head the second after my eyes lit on it, and my first thought was “Oh, I guess you’re Charlotte then?”
Five seconds later I realized that Charlotte is probably the least original name for a spider.
Anyway, I have no fear of spiders, and so Gertrud, Charlotte, Elly, and Elly’s two smaller neighbors are welcome to hang out outside my room and eat as many bugs as they like.
Miscellaneous karaoke shenanigans from today in Hirakata. Includes my trying to find all the Lancaster canon on the machine, mostly with successful results.
A dance club of older women in Hirakata came to Gaidai a few weeks ago to outfit some international students in yukata and teach them some Bon dances and a party game called Yakyuuken. I’m the one in blue who’s winning at Janken in the bottom picture.
After the day’s activities, the dance club called for a few students to learn a more complicated dance than what had been taught that day, and perform it at their showcase later this month. I signed up for that because a. I had fun dancing during the one day workshop, and b. I think it would probably be a good thing to interact with some people who aren’t between the ages of 18 and 23.
We had practice yesterday and it seems my color guard muscle memory re: smiling while concentrating intensely still exists.
On my Japan to-do list is to watch a bunch of Japanese series that I’ve been meaning to for a while but haven’t gotten around to yet. Travel, though I love to do it, is expensive. A round trip ticket from Hirakata-shi to Osaka or Kyoto is 680 yen, and that’s only if the destination can be gotten to using only the Keihan Line. Usually, it can’t, and I’ll have to take a subway or switch train lines. The fact that I can’t work for money is quickly becoming an annoyance; I’m needing to live on about 10,000 yen a week, about 3500 of which has been going towards food — meaning, lunches on school days (usual cost: between 400-600 yen), the odd coffee, and some dinners on days that I go to Kyoto or Osaka and don’t make it back for dinner. I’m trying to see if I can knock that number down, but that would require either never drinking coffee or eating the least appealing food in the Gaidai cafeteria every day. This week, I’m writing down wherever my money goes.
Anyway, the amount of downtime I have is giving me more than usual to practice the accordion, play a beloved video game from my childhood in Japanese with an emulator, and watch all the anime I don’t get to when I’m too mentally fatigued to process anything that is not school, co-oping, or dancing The first series on the docket was Serial Experiments Lain, a very dense, very surreal cyberpunk series about the Internet, what it means to be a human, and how a shy teenage girl plays an important role in all this. In Episode 2 of said series, her more mature-looking classmates persuade her to come to a dance club, and she’s not quite sure what to do with herself there.
How I looked last night:
How I felt:
I’m twenty years old. Legally, an adult. I can drink in Japan. But put me in a club situation, especially one where I don’t know most of the people there, and I’m an awkward fourteen-year-old all over again. The club in question was in a basement in Ame-Mura, short for Amerika-Mura. America Village, in Osaka, is a neighborhood full of neon flash, American clothing stores, nightclubs, and windowless love hotels. Maho had invited me the night prior; a friend of hers who teachers English in Tottori, who had previously been a Gaidai student, was back in Osaka for the weekend to celebrate her birthday and had invited her. Her friend and a few others were planning on partying all night, but Maho and I had homework to do the next day and were only planning on staying late enough to get on the last train. I’d never been to a club besides the Sco at Oberlin, and if I go there I’m guaranteed to know at least a few people. She hadn’t been to one before either.
We got some ramen in Dotonbori and got to the club at about 9:30, when her friend said she would be there, but she was nowhere to be found. The music was loud rap and R&B, all in English. Maho didn’t get up to dance, but she was swaying and saying she liked it even though she couldn’t understand most of the lyrics. I was kind of relieved that Maho turned out to not be a club dancer, because that would have given me the not-so-appealing options of either sitting alone at the table or trying to dance in my usual awkward way, which passes for the Sco when I’m in a circle of friends but definitely wouldn’t fly in Ame-Mura. I wasn’t dressed like most of the people there either; most of them favored very tight, patterned clothing — short shorts or skirts or body con dresses, and there I was in my Stevie Nicks-esque usual going-out wear. Maho’s friend was nowhere in sight, and an hour and a half passed of us shouting over the loud music in our usual patter of mixed English and Japanese. After drink #2, my Japanese was markedly better, a phenomenon that apparently isn’t too rare.
Brooke, an energetic blonde from Idaho, ended up showing up three minutes after we were supposed to leave. She had texted Maho and said she would be there “soon” an hour before, and then we had gotten another text saying “almost there.” We only had enough time for one very blurry picture on Maho’s phone before we had to catch the last train. Both of us had had a few drinks by then and I may have treated Amerika-Mura to a few verses of the Police’s “Walking on the Moon.”
Woke up in Maho’s apartment. Both of us laid our futons out, watched gameshows, drank tea and collapsed once we had rode the last train back. No hangovers for either of us. Pineapple pancakes from a bag for breakfast, and I wrote postcards to send to America tomorrow once I got back to Sonenji.
I feel very detached from last night. I was there, but not all there. Someone who looked like me was sitting in that club drinking sweet cocktails and my usual Great Lakes or straight whiskey-drinking self who sometimes enjoys Kahlua with hot chocolate (but only in the middle of winter with friends) was hovering in the air behind her, watching with amusement.
iPod: broken, then fixed. Nice earbuds: broken. Camera: so broken. I’m incredibly fortunate that I’m going to the camera’s homeland and will probably be able to get it fixed there, otherwise today would have been a lot worse than it actually was, which was pretty awesome after the riding-around-on-buses and being told that my camera had no easy fix part was done with. Even during that part, I found some wild blackberries by the road. Nothing could have been more delicious to my breakfast-deprived stomach.
There’s really nothing like the descent into Seattle. You’ve been flying over endless flat squares of varying shades of brown and green for hours upon hours, and you’re shocked from the lack of sleep, and you’ve tried to get some rest so you’ve closed the window on the bright sky.
Then you open the window as the flight attendants instruct you to turn off your electronics, and the world has risen under you, reaching for you with stony fingers covered in green fur. Rainier, perpetually covered in snow, breaks through the blanket of cloud, with St. Helens and her hollow top standing sentinel in the distance. Not even the pain in your ears can keep you from smiling.
I said goodbye to my family for the next four months at 6AM. My checked bag weighed exactly 50 pounds. I was wearing my heaviest shoes — a pair of new Born clogs that look like they belong to someone else — and I changed into my lightest pair before I went to meet Annelise downtown and explore the art museum. Now, I’m on Lewis’s couch waiting for his affectionate cat, Mr. G, to come in from outside. Tonight there will be blues dancing, and I’ll see more people I know.
It’s a good feeling, this one of living out of a suitcase, a purse, and an accordion case. I’ve missed it.
Lavender chai may also be the most addictive drink ever. Don’t worry, concerned family members. I only had one.
Hello lovely people (and random jerks on the internet)
The next few months may feature a major post slowdown, as I will be in Japan with questionable access to internet at most hours of the day. if you’re interested in following my adventures in Japan:
japanese (feel free to correct me if you see mistakes): niten.postach.io
I think postach.io is a more convenient platform to use when blogging overseas; for one, you write your posts in Evernote and it automatically sync to the Internet, so it takes less connection effort than going through Tumblr. I can write a post anytime and wait to sync it when I connect rather than having to wait till I have Internet or write a post in Word then remember to publish it. If I do remember, I’ll crosspost the English posts here. All my Japan adventures will be tagged with “Kansai Gaijin.”
I have a bunch of friends who went to Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, and I got curious a while ago and wondered if Simon’s Rock was an actual rock. Wikipedia said Simon was a child from the village who claimed the rock as “his own” in the 1920s, and the rock, a glacial erratic, could be found “in the woods by the college.” Today, I set off with a friend to find it.
We couldn’t see the town from the top of the rock like the children of the 1920s could (or the sign by the rock said they could) because the trees were too thick, but it was beautiful all the same. Those woods seemed to have a long memory.
*watch anime *chill with cousins *try to go hiking but get rained out *learn Money Musk on accordion*Anki till I drop
This heat wave has turned New Jersey into a hellhole. It has been too hot to run for the past few days. I’ve just been walking in the morning and staying out for longer than I would for a run. In the meantime, the Couch to 5k app hates my ass and is scolding me.
I’m really doing the best I can, little encouraging cartoony trainer.
I take the Morris and Essex Line into work every day, 30 minutes in, 30 minutes out. Any other time, and it takes 45, but rush hour trains don’t make small stops.
The Valley of Ashes of Morris and Essex is the train yard just east of Newark. Today, I looked down from my train window as we passed through, and my eyes lit on the macabre scene of a ditch, about 100 feet long, lined with dead, drying fish. Have they always been there, or have those cracked, tan bodies blended so well in with the stones of the train yard that I just never noticed them? Were they drowned on dry land when their home dried up, or were they dead already when the water left, hchoked by the pollution of the train yard and there having been so many of them, tails overlapping with faces with tails? My seatmate, a woman of about 40, looked out the window too. I heard her gag. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to not look down now.
Five minutes later, as we passed close to Secaucus, we stopped, a common occurrence on NJTransit as we wait for Amtrak to pass by. I had my music on shuffle; my friend Kirk Pearson and his musical partner Julia’s “Quebec.” Dancing in the wind were countless, tiny bits of fluff, having been blown off a nearby tree. If the emotional impact of those little white flakes was heightened by the music, or the dead fish — I do not know, but it made me almost tearfully happy.