Tuesday, December 29, 2009


A few plans have fallen through and a few have gone fine.

Zack and I made it back to America after about 24 hours of traveling in planes, trains, and automobiles. We spent 3 hours on a bus, two hours on a train, about 14 hours total on a plane, and I spent 4 hours in a car (he spent about 2). But we made it safely. Walking through that terminal into the airport is one of the best feelings in the world, better than peeing on a long car trip. I hate flying. Even moreso because some guy tried to blow himself up on a flight two days after I flew home. What a scary world.

So my plan to surprise Melissa for Christmas was a success. Our ideas for how to surprise her (should I be in a big gift box?) didn't exactly come to fruition; instead, we met her in the parking lot of the Dollar Tree. She and Olivia were really happy and it made me feel good to give her a good surprise for once in her life. My big sister deserves a lot more than what this world has given her.

My plans for returning to Japan are still not finalized. I have a return ticket for January 3 that I won't get to use. I finally quit my job. I could only deal with them putting off getting me a visa for so long. When they told me to re-enter Japan on a tourist visa again using a fake ticket, I knew it was time to get out. I got my diploma from them and left a note at the main school building.

Zack and I have been offered jobs from the same company which we will most likely take. They said during our interviews that they could give us jobs close together. So I will be returning to Japan in March.

For about three months, I will have to readjust to life in America. I will have to deal with having little to no income again (unless I can miraculously find a job). I will have to drive again. My risk of getting cancer is increased.
I know it seems like a weird thing to worry about, but America has the highest rate of cancer in the world. When I moved to Japan, my risk of getting cancer was 1 in 4. Now, my chances are back up to 1 in 2. And it's easy to see why. The most shocking part of coming back was seeing the sheer size of things. The roomy lanes on roads. The huge SUVs and pickup trucks that people leave running while they order lattes at a coffee shop. The trash cans that we stuff bottles and styrofoam plates into without taking a moment to think about where it will end up. And of course, you see it in the people. In the way their clothes stretch tight across their chests and bellies, the way they load pounds of beef and buckets of butter-flavored spread into their shopping carts.

I've already gained back most of the weight I had lost in Japan. I know what you'll say, that I really shouldn't worry about that, but I do. I worry that I'll let myself go and end up like one of the women who tell me that they were once my size but got lost along the way. I just don't want to be unhealthy. I don't want to tell sell myself short.
Because the thing that is smaller in America is the life span. We may have what many consider the highest standard of living in the world, but we don't get to enjoy those pleasures as long as other industrialized nations.

I'm a little sad. I've been living in a place where it's hard to be unhealthy, where people feel it is their duty to sort the trash into bags to be recycled, where being old is seen as a mark of dignity instead of a burden, where people work hard and take care of themselves and each other. Now, I'm back in the land where you're free to be as horrible to yourself and the world in general as you want to be.

We will be long distance again. I hate being so far away from Zack but at least this time I can see a clear and happy ending. When he left the first time, all I could see was a depressing haze of calendar pages with nothing on them. I was in purgatory. Now, I'm more on a break from foreign life, just gearing up for the next adventure. I plan on getting a lot of writing done while I'm here. Work on my novel and interviews for the memoir that I hope to complete one day.

But I'm back in context. It's less comforting than I thought it would be. At least I get to see some of the people I love. They're the only thing that make this place seem like home.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Every year, I make a little list of resolutions. This year, I'm putting them online so that maybe they will seem more important somehow than a note scribbled in one of my notebooks. I've learned more in this past year than probably any other year in my life. I'm finally starting to feel like an adult. It's a weird but good feeling.
Here goes.
This year, I resolve to:
1. Finish the novel that I started in Nanowrimo and at least get excerpts from it published, if not the whole book.
2. Get a full time job in Japan and legitimate work visa. I've already started on this one!
3. Never drink as much as I did on Halloween. Ever again. I'm a grownup now; I can't be doing stupid shit like that.
4. Be a better environmentalist/vegetarian. I've been kind of slacking in my ambition to be a part of the solution rather than the problem. There's just something about traveling that makes me feel like I'm not in the real world any more. Which is stupid because anyone who cares about environmentalism knows that everything that happens on one part of the world has a direct impact on every other part. No place is that isolated; we live on a giant ball. My biggest goal is to stop eating fish. I've justified it in every way I could since coming to Japan but the truth of the matter is that it's wrong. The fishing industry is terrible for the environment; overfishing, bycatch, and fish farms are all working together to further destroy the ocean. Once the ocean is a dead zone, it won't be too long before the land is a dead zone too. At least one species of tuna is about to be added to the endangered species list. I want no part of it. I have decided that I will make exceptions occasionally for fish products like bonito flakes and dashi stock, because at times in Japan, it's almost impossible to find something in a restaurant without fish ingredients. My favorite "vegetarian" sushi from the grocery store even has fish flakes. Other than that, it's egg, mushroom, and cucumber. It's so good! But I will try not to do that very often. As for fish flesh, I'm done eating it.
5. Get pretty skin. I hate that I'm 24 and still break out; not as bad as I once did, but it's still embarrassing and painful. Any factor that could contribute to acne makes me break out. On top of that, my scars just keep looking worse and worse. I am sick of feeling like a leper if I don't wear makeup. This year, I am going to try my hardest to get rid of my acne and decrease the appearance of my scars with natural remedies. One major driving force behind this is the fact that I will be getting married at some point in the next year and a half. Ganbatte!
6. Start figuring out grad school and long term goals. I think that after one more year of being in Japan, I really want to go to grad school. I need to figure out what I want to get a master's in exactly. I love love love writing but I also want to be equipped to work for nonprofit organizations and charities. Hmmm...
7. Plan a wedding. I'm looking forward to this one the most.

So I hope you found these interesting. If you need any goals for the upcoming year, I urge you to consider doing "Meatless Mondays." It's an easy way to eat healthier and help the environment. http://www.meatlessmonday.com/

I'm missing everyone more and more as the holidays approach. I love you all!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I've been spending too much time in front of a computer screen. I need to remedy this soon. My latest online fascination is the story of Jason Statts, a musician who was shot in Savannah last year and was left paralyzed. His wife, Lyra, kept a blog of their first year dealing with their new life, a life totally different from their "pre-injury" life. Their story is so sad but so inspiring. What a strong couple.
Here's where you can read their blog: http://www.myspace.com/stattshimself

I started thinking about all the things that I have to be thankful for in my life, and all the things I take for granted. I'm going to try and be more aware of all the wonder in this world.

Being surrounded by beautiful mountains that are gradually being dusted with snow really helps with that goal. Last night, it started snowing on me as I was walking home from the train station. Snow is just so much more magical than rain. I took an extra long path just to walk through it a little longer.

I've never lived in a place with four distinct seasons before. Georgia kind of blurs between summer and a light autumn. A few random cold days in March but nothing really that drastic. I like living in a place where a scarf is actually used for function rather than as an accessory.

Riding on the train is like looking at a perfect snapshot of Japan. Out the windows you see mountains, rice fields, and traditional houses interspersed with stretches of aging, bright-colored stores like something out of a cyberpunk movie. School boys with spiky anime-esque hair stand in front of the doors, texting or playing handheld video games. School girls giggle and old farmers in bonnets and aprons sit hunched in the seats. Japan is so much more than I thought it would be.

I had an interview for an ALT job that starts in March. Here's to hoping that I get it so I can tell this job to go to hell. Good night! (Well, good afternoon to you.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

oh bla di

Things have been somewhat uneventful lately. My work visa is applied for but I have no idea when I will actually have it.

Zack and I have been semi discussing plans for a wedding. It's really weird that we're engaged, but in a good weird way. I shouldn't be thinking about it until I have a full-time job but I guess the "crazy-I-secretly-love-weddings-and-am-a-princess" part of my brain has been activated. I look at dresses. A lot. Still not sure if I should change my name to Butterfield either...one step at a time.

I've been falling a little behind in my writing the past few days. I think it's because they cut back my hours at work (A LOT) and I'm pretty much back to where I was when I first arrived in Japan, that is, with way too much free time and no structure. Which means that I don't get much done and drink at every opportunity. My company is figuring out which full-time teacher is going to stay on past February. I'm just dealing with the cut hours to get a visa and hopefully find a better job that starts in March. My student loan payments are looming in the near future.

This past Saturday was really awesome. We went on a tour of a ryo-kan, or traditional Japanese inn. We got to wear a yukata, which is like a light kimono that people wear during summer or just to be comfortable at home. I ate some amazing handmade ice cream made from soy flour and honey. The day ended with an awesome lunch and onsen.

It's weird how much more comfortable I am about being naked in front of strangers (all women, mind you). I've even gotten used to the fact that I'm pretty much always the only woman in the room to have tattoos and they will get stared at. (Still don't regret the tattoos, although I'm considering getting the skull covered up with something else one day). It certainly doesn't help that I've lost at least 7 pounds since I've been here (like 3 kilograms). Rarely eating cheese and never eating meat, drinking a ton of green tea every day, and being a pedestrian is the best way to stay in shape, in my opinion. I haven't looked like this since freshman year. But I'm also paler than I've been in a long time. Which is totally normal here. I appreciate living in a place where people aren't encouraged to fry their skin in a cancer box just to have darker skin. Probably another reason why the lifespan is higher here and the cancer rates are half of what they are in good ol' America.

The best part of the ryokan tour was when my former student Hatsue (they gave her class to another teacher) let me wear a really amazing kimono. She dressed me up in it and I walked into the big lunch hall and everyone went "ooh" and "ah." It's apparently a kimono that only a woman who is about to get married can wear. It was pure silk and had really long, traditional sleeves. It is worth about 1 million yen, or roughly $10,000. So I didn't wear it long. It was like trying on a diamond necklace or something. I was honored to wear it, especially since Hatsue's own daughter had worn it before her wedding.

Sadly, I forgot to put a sim card in the camera so I'll have to steal pictures from people where I can.

In the meantime, here's a picture of me with Mieko and Hatsue, my two favorite students:

Mieko works with the English Guide Club in Ina, and they are the ones who planned the ryokan trip. Hatsue owns an amazing restaurant in Ina called Hiromeya that serves traditional Japanese cuisine in a traditional setting.

Saturday ended with dinner and shenanigans with our favorite Japanese party animals, Takae, Tetsuya, and Hidoyuke. We chilled at Hidoyuke's house with everybody's families and drank until the men were drunk enough to take off their shirts and hit each other in the stomachs with a big ass beer bottle (which made me think of the old man tests at 276). Hidoyuke's wife just had a baby about a month ago. She is an adorable baby named Mika. Great night, great food, great friends.

I'm really homesick because I keep seeing Christmas stuff and hearing Christmas music. Bah humbug.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

taking a break

I'm taking a break from writing for a moment to think about all the books that i want to read. i stole this list from a fellow writer's (brandi wells) blog. this is a list of essential books to read. i just thought it would be fun to see how many i've read and see how far i have to go.

bold=i've read it

one flew over the cuckoos nest
anna karenina
the grapes of wrath
crime and punishment
war and peace
the communist manifesto
the invisible man
heart of darkness
a room with a view
cat on a hot tin roof
of mice and men
the turn of the screw
baby doll
breakfast at tiffany's
the beautiful and the damned
the autobiography of malcom x
the outsider
les miserables
the time machine
let the right one in
hell's angels
a tale of two cities
in cold blood
death of a salesman
guys and dolls
the count of monte cristo
the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy--could only make it halfway though
one thousand and one nights
the three musketeers
catch 22
the trial
all quiet on the western front
gulliver's travels
the unbearable lightness of being
the war of the worlds
david copperfield
don quixote
mrs. dalloway
jane eyre
the portrait of a lady
moby dick
slaughterhouse five
for whom the bell tolls
the picture of dorian gray
brave new world
swiss family robinson
the dharma bums
lord of the flies
atlas shrugged
the metamorphisis
another roadside attraction
white noise
the art of warfare
east of eden
the thin red line
tropic of cancer
a farewell to arms
confederacy of dunces
undaunted courage
cannery row
the idiot
waiting for godot
invisible man
their eyes were watching god
the bell jar
the color purple
madame bovary
the sun also rises
the jungle
infinite jest
dandelion wine
the wind-up bird chronicles
things fall apart
uncle tom's cabin
gravity's rainbow
gone with the wind
to the lighthouse
naked lunch
beh hur
mere christianity

Saturday, December 5, 2009

pinch me

The last week has been amazing.

I'm engaged to my favorite person in the world.

I finished a rough draft of a novel in a month.

I have a job interview for a full time ALT position that starts in April.

I have finally applied for a work visa for my current job.

We don't have a date yet, but I'm guessing we'll get married sometime in 2011. I can't wait! I'm so excited I can't stand it.

Next weekend, we're going on a tour of a traditional Japanese inn. Life is good!