Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Miley Cyrus in Japan 2

Miley hasn't gone with me on all of my adventures, but lately she's been enjoying the fall weather in Nagano Prefecture. The rice fields are turning a beautiful shade of gold and the trees on the mountains are changing into reds and yellows.

Here she is in Iida, a nearby city.

in front of a rice field in a small town on the way to Iida.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I've become a slacker at blogging. Forgive me.

I haven't been blogging much because of several reasons: 1)I've gotten pretty comfortable being here and things aren't quite so surprising, 2)there have been times when I've been really lonely and wondering if things will get better and I didn't want to rant about that on my blog, and 3)I have so much free time and so little structure in my day-to-day life that I have no motivation. Also, things are still uncertain about my getting a visa. Yes, I know it's ridiculous. I've been working for this school for about 4 months now and they said they could give me a 6-month contract. Turns out that they can't really do that because of company policy. I'm not happy about it and I refuse to sign a year-long contract with them because if I quit early, I'd probably get a terrible reference from them. Seeing as how this is my only job experience that matters for getting another job in Japan, I don't want to have a bad reference.

So I'm here, I feel like this is my home for now, and I still don't have a visa. I'm working on a few plans to remedy this but none of them are certain yet. I'll keep you posted.

I finally discovered the joy of an enkai, Japanese drinking party. Last Monday was a national holiday, so Sunday we joined Tetsuya and some other Japanese friends at an izakaya and did what any normal people would do if they had the next day off work: we drank until we all wanted to sing karaoke. Very loudly. At an enkai, each person pays a set amount (usually about $30) and gets to eat and drink as much as they want.

Zack and I needed that enkai. We had just spent the day wandering around Iida, a city nearby that we had never visited. It was just as depressing as Ina, where I work. Ever since I went to Korea I've been hearing the call of the city. And we just want some more friends. All of our JET friends live just far enough away and are so busy that getting together is basically a hassle. Since I don't work until night, I'm just alone all day. So it's starting to wear on us.

But this weekend was another reminder of how much I really do love Japan. Saturday night, we joined Tetsuya's family to celebrate their son's birthday. We went shopping for Halloween costumes and ended up at an "American" cafe where you can get a free giant parfait on your birthday. Here's Shoma with his birthday ice cream:

Here's Tetsuya and Shoma. Don't they look exactly alike?

Zack bought a hilarious bear costume to wear to work in honor of Halloween.

The next day we helped out at the Kodomo Expo, a sort of fair to teach Japanese kids about other cultures. Zack and I volunteered to paint faces. Apparently face painting isn't common in Japan because we had a lot of people ask if it was some kind of American tradition. After almost 5 hours of painting faces, hands, and arms, our backs were sore from leaning over and it was time for another enkai. Zack's company were the main ones helping out with the expo, so I got to meet a lot of his coworkers. There were people from Australia, Spain, Sweden, New Zealand, England, and one other American. It made me realize how much more of the world I want to see.

Some days are still frustrating, but I'm learning the language, getting braver, and still appreciating the beauty all around me. The trees on the mountains are starting to change colors and next month we're going to Kyoto to see some fall foliage. The thing about traveling is that the highs are the most exhilarating highs you can imagine--but the lows can take you lower than you've ever been because you're so far away from home.

I'm looking forward to the future and taking care of myself and Zack. I can honestly say that life is good.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Comfort Women

I keep thinking about the play we saw in Korea called Hotel Splendid and how terribly the "comfort women" were treated. One of the parts that made me cry the most was when an 11-year-old girl (yes, they enslaved girls that young and sometimes younger) was talking about sending a message in a bottle to America to come and save them. She said, "MacArthur will save us." Part of the beauty of the play was that it was entirely in Korean with subtitles projected onto a screen beside the stage. Well, today I found this article: It turns out that the American military made use of these "comfort stations," too. Here's another website where you can read some of the survivors' stories: It's sad, but so important to know about.

If World War II was indicative of what modern humanity is capable of, I hope I don't live to see World War III.