somehow I feel like my sphere of the world is about to shift under me and I can do nothing to stop it.
the work of the semester is beginning to pile up (the fact that I was at flurry this weekend didn’t help, though it was lovely) and all I want to do is curl up and be held with no other expectations. unfortunately the position of holder-of-me has no applicants in Oberlin so I’ll have to make do with a blanket.
Woke up with a sore throat that turned out to be strep. I’m glad I went early to get meds because I should be fine for the dance tomorrow.
In the meantime, I’m watching Pom Poko and maybe I’ll be able to finish Utena tonight.
Living in the Pioneer Valley has been good to me re: calling.
places I have called guest slots:
Youth Trad Song Weekend
Ralph Page Legacy Dance Weekend
bands with whom I have called
Frost and Fire
A pickup band with most of Last Exit
The Riot Act
Winter Storm (Linda Leslie)
Earl and Squirrel (Chris Weiler)
Lads of Ohio (Rick Mohr)
Pinewoods Dish Helper’s Reel (me!)
You Can’t Get There from Here (Carol Ormand)
All of them went quite well in my mind except for the one at RPLDW; I got through the dance but I couldn’t back off the mic without one line nearly unzipping because the dancers were rushing the calls and getting way ahead of the music, which was a tad slow. Next time I’ll ask the band for a bit more speed. My favorite slot was calling my dance, Pinewoods Dish Helper’s Reel, as part of Nils Fredland’s program at Greenfield with Maivish as the band. The crowd was advanced enough to handle it and the roll away into ladies chain created an “awesome vortex,” as someone in the car home pointed out to me. That dance is staying in my box.
I’m also digitizing my calling cards into Caller’s Companion, which Will Loving sold to me for half price. It should be a lot easier to program now, if I do end up programming and not flying by the seat of my pants! Hem of my skirt? I’m not sure if I’ve ever contra’d in pants.
New Year’s Eve was, this year, devoid of broken bones, getting left outside in the New York cold for 45 minutes, and/or getting sick at dances.
So that was one of the best nights of contra dancing I’ve ever experienced. Too bad the band was a one-off for the night because I’d drive hours to dance to those bagpipes again. Thank you Greenfield.
My flight back to the USA had Pacific Rim, Rise of the Guardians, 20 Feet from Stardom, AND Goodfellas.
I didn’t take my laptop out once.
I am going to cry when I leave my host family’s house tomorrow.
Today was my last day in the house. I spent it packing, going out for 100-yen-a-plate kaiten-zushi with a friend, and teaching my host mother to play “Itsumo Nando Demo” on the piano. She had asked me earlier in the semester after she first heard me play it, but I hadn’t had time. She made okonomiyaki with squid for my last dinner with them. Most of my room is now packed into three bags that I’ll carry on the train tomorrow to Tokyo, save for a few chargers. I am so lucky to have been living with this host family and I know I’ll stay in contact with my host mom for the rest of my life.
I’ll be approaching the Pacific coastline in four days.
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.