Saturday, May 29, 2010


I've decided to start doing a weekly feature. It seems like the thing to do in the blog world, and even though I don't usually do "the thing to do" in life, I want my blog to be more...stranger-friendly? I want it to be a better site for strangers to stumble onto, rather than just my personal rant-a-thon.

I'm thinking the feature will be called "Things to Love/Hate about Living in Japan." And maybe I'll post it every Saturday. Yeah, that sounds good. Maybe I'll even start posting this feature today....

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I should be doing some creative writing. Instead, I am sitting beside an open glass door, listening to the Shins and eating half a honeydew melon. It is finally spring, happy-cheery-looking spring, and it makes me so excited. It's so beautiful and safe here that some days I want to skip to work.

For a brief moment, I thought that we were going to Paris in August. Our main reason for going was that our friend Morgan is doing grad school there, so we would have a free place to crash, which would make the plane tickets worth it. It turns out that Morgan is visiting America at the same time that we wanted to go. So we're looking into other options for how and where to spend our summer vacation.

Europe is like Narnia for many Americans--it's hard to get there once, let alone multiple times. Once you're there, it's like time passes at a different pace. History is everywhere, and modern people exist alongside it. I've wanted to go back since my first trip in 2006, when I spent 5 weeks in London and 1 interesting weekend in Amsterdam. It's magic there. It's romance and Audrey Hepburn and runways. The only castles in America are at theme parks. What do people in other countries think of when they imagine America? I'm sure it's something like the Rocky mountains or Indian reservations or blond chicks with big boobs or massive hamburgers. I'm sure it's never a strip mall or a parking lot full of SUVs or abandoned Wal-Mart buildings. Every place looks great from far away.

And then you get there and see it up close. I'm starting to understand Japan's society more, and it's not all beautiful Alps and wonderful hosts in kimonos. It's a system built on people giving their time away for no apparent reason. Not for overtime pay. Not for happiness. Not for the betterment of society. Simply because that's the way it's done here; that's what you do. People spend more time at the office than they do in the houses they pay for (unless they live with their parents, which many adults do). More and more people are going without spouses or significant others because they just don't have time to meet anyone new, let alone form a real, human bond with that person. It's really sad. All of the other gaijin I talk to about this phenomenon have similar experiences at work: teachers pouring themselves a cup of coffee at 5:00 p.m., trying to catch a second wind until they can go home at 10:00. Always working. I know that many Americans are workaholics, but in Japan, it's not considered a problem or fault. It's considered a person's duty. I just hope that more people will start to rebel, will start to re-claim their right to spend their time as they please. Everything works like clockwork here, right down to the bells tolling at 6 p.m. to tell kids to go inside.
I guess the logic is that the less time people have to themselves, the less mischief they can cause.

Here's another side of Japan that I wasn't expecting:

With its extensive recycling program and the way the Japanese value natural beauty, I'm still shocked when I look at these pictures.

Just goes to show that no place is perfect. Even Narnia was tainted. But I want to keep looking, just to see for myself.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


What can I say? Life has been pretty ordinary lately. It`s a relief, really.

Zack and I went on a shopping adventure in Chino yesterday. We were mainly looking for a good place to get my hair cut. We found a place that would cut it for only 2100¥ (about $21). I thought it would look a lot crazier and different than the style that I usually give myself, but it`s pretty similar. I feel much better; I was starting to revert to my thick curtain hair from high school.

While on our adventure--during which we discovered a Subway--we both kind of decided that we would only do this year and maybe one more. That`s it. Japan is wonderful, but that`s the problem. It`s such an easy place to live. The pay is pretty decent, even with the high cost of living, and the people are nice. Being an ALT is really easy and fun (usually). It`s easy to get caught in what I`ll call the teaching trap. We`ve met several people who have lived here for five years without realizing it. It`s just that comfortable. While I like the idea of a steady job that isn`t totally mind numbing, I have other plans. This is a good place for people who don`t really have a direction yet. Living abroad gives you time to think about your options while doing something adventurous.

I have ambitions, and I plan to pursue them. I am going to grad school before I`m 30. It`s something that I`ve always wanted to do. So, now that we have this timeline (leave Japan in 2012), I can start working.

Our other tentative plan is to travel as much as we can while we`re on this side of the globe. Plane tickets to Europe and Asia are way cheaper on this hemisphere. We`re going to take advantage of that fact as much as we can without totally going bankrupt. I`ve got student loans to worry about, but other than that, we are untethered. No mortgage, no car payments, no credit card payments looming. It`s a nice feeling, even if the thought of paying back all the interest on my loans makes me want to vomit. One of the best things that Zack ever taught me is that time does not equal money. Time and experiences are worth so much more than a piece of paper will ever be.

It`s starting to be more summer-like, which means humid and rainy. The rainy part sucks, but I`d take it over Georgia heat any day. I just need to get some rain boots. Summer also means that more fun stuff is coming up--a concert in the woods, firefly adventures, cabin parties, and hopefully, a trip to another country during our summer break. I can`t say with certainty what will happen today or tomorrow or next year, but it feels so good to think about the possibilities.

Monday, May 17, 2010

burst the bubble

The problem with life is that there aren't any deadlines. At least, not any deadlines that we're aware of.

We feel infinite. And since we feel so infinite, we have dance parties and play video games and make posters and watch 80s fantasy movies and lay in bed trying to fall asleep instead of chasing our dreams.

I have to get back to my inspired and motivated place again. I just keep floating in this little bubble, hoping that it will carry me over the difficult part, and just drop me at the end, leaving me safely at the place that I hope to be one day. I really need to just pop that bubble and land on my ass. I've always been scared of that sort of thing--I honestly can't even ride a bike because I'm so scared of falling--but that's just what you have to do. You'll never learn or go very far if you don't let yourself try.

Sometimes I wonder if pills would help me, if my problem is really some sort of imbalance that can be fixed, or if it's just a part of who I am; not so much a problem as a weird, annoying quirk.

I need some goal to work towards. I've heard that it's better to set smaller goals for yourself because you gain confidence every time you accomplish one, and before you know it, you're achieving your life's dreams. So that's what I'll do. One goal at a time. My goal this week is to finish something else, either this new weird short story I started last week, or the essay that I started in March but never finished. I will finish something. And then I will send it away. Push my baby down the river on a bed of reeds.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


We`re hosting our first party in Japan tomorrow. I doubt it will be a party though; I`m guessing it will be more of a shindig, whatever that means (what are you digging your shins into exactly?). I`m really just having it so that I have an excuse to clean up everything and so that I can drink a little and not have to worry about walking in the cold or catching a train. And because I like our Chino/Suwa friends and want to show them a good time.

In other news, my laptop is on the brink of death. I think the water tumor I gave it two years ago has finally metastasized and is taking over its little hard drive. I feel kind of bad for it, but at least it can`t make sad R2D2 noises.

I started watching The Wonder Years again and I can`t believe how good it is. I remembered being deeply moved by it as a child, but I was also moved by Full House and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back then. It`s a relief to know that I wasn`t totally stupid as a little kid. Zack never watched The Wonder Years when he was younger, so I`m glad I can expose him to a TV show that doesn`t suck; a show that is inspiring even. When a TV show or movie is this good, it makes me want to write scripts. It makes me feel like there is hope in the world, that maybe all forms of entertainment aren`t completely useless. They make all the shitty reality TV shows and sitcoms with laugh tracks almost worth it just to be able to see these rare shining gems. The shows that I feel have achieved such greatness are The Adventures of Pete and Pete, My So-Called Life, The Wonder Years, and Freaks and Geeks. Amazing shows, mostly thanks to amazing writing.

One more class to go today, and then I am off to Weekend Land.

Note: I am typing on a Japanese keyboard; that`s why all of my apostrophes look so weird.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

pay day!

I finally got my first grown-up pay check from my first real grown-up job. I took my man out to dinner and now I'm eating chocolate.

Life is good.

Monday, May 10, 2010

home sick

So I'm feeling rather homesick lately. I miss familiar food, familiar words, and most of all, familiar people.
I really like the people that live in our area--don't get me wrong--but I feel like I'm the worst person in the world at making the right impression. Everyone probably just thinks I'm some idiot who over-drinks in social situations and who secretly wants to be a pop star. That's what one girl said when I was dancing by myself the other night: "Tell her she would be a good pop star. That's what she wants to hear."
It made my skin crawl; the way her voice sounded, like she was talking about a five-year-old lip synching Britney Spears or something. Just because I was dancing. I miss being in a place where I can dance and be crazy and have really mixed, weird opinions of pop culture, and that be okay.

Apparently, if you get a little microphone-happy at karaoke and end up singing multiple Lady Gaga songs in one night, some people will start to call you "Gaga" every time they see you, and no one will believe you when you say you don't really like being called that. In fact, you fucking hate it.

The problem is I start trying to talk about pop culture with people--specifically pop music, since it's so ubiquitous--and no one understands my point of view. So I have to write it here so that maybe even I will understand it.
I don't really like pop music. I like it for its danceability, and some songs I think are pretty awesome (i.e., 80s pop and "Bad Romance," the only Gaga song I really like). I guess the best way to describe my relationship with pop music is love-hate/guilty pleasure. A part of me does get a sick thrill from watching new music videos, from seeing how far the sexual envelope is being pushed by women who are paid to be attractive. I mainly like to keep track of pop because it's interesting. It's interesting to watch how culture is changing over time, and pop music, just like new TV shows and movies, reflect that change. And now I have nieces who have to navigate through this world of pop images, images that get more intense and disturbing every year.
So yes, I like to keep up to date with it. And I will dance to pop, when partying is involved. That's the only real merit it has--danceability.

But I also hate it. It's a dirty industry. It's an industry built on mass producing something that they call "art," but is essentially just an avenue through which to sell products. They pick a person, sometimes talented, sometimes not, and shape them into a new creature. A phenomenon called a pop star. A person who acts as a puppet for their record label, and in the case of females, have to be insanely sexualized and attractive at all times. That's not art to me. I think Gaga knows what she's doing, and I give her props for writing her own music, but I still don't take her seriously as an artist. She uses the same tactics as other pop singers, but instead of producers and executives bossing her around, she tells them what to do. She is very fascinating to me, which I think is what she's going for.

The main reason I hate pop music is because I don't want to like it, but it's almost impossible not to like it on some level. It's catchy and fast paced, and sometimes, downright fun.

I just had to go off on this rant because of some of the strange comments I've heard from people lately--comments that border on offensive to me. Why can't a girl just sing whatever she wants at karaoke and dance to what she wants without being pegged as being some sort of pop princess? I'm hoping that the awesome punk dance party we're having on Friday will remedy this situation.

In the meantime, I'm taking it easy and trying not to sweat the small stuff. I will get my first real paycheck this week! Yay!

Friday, May 7, 2010

the baby upstairs keeps crying

I am exhausted. I have all these questions floating in my head about babies and trash and life.

We went on a road trip for Golden Week with our buddies Tetsuya, Hideyuki, and Takei--and their families. That means all spouses and offspring were in attendance. I've been around the kids en masse before, in houses, restaurants, or outside. But never trapped with them in a van and an SUV. For hours and hours.

There were seven kids total--five children (none over the age of 7), a toddler, and an infant. All so cute they could be little kid models. But the cuteness starts to wane after about the fifth pee break.

I'll get to the part where we make it to the ocean later. I started thinking about them a lot after our family-oriented adventure. Do we need kids to make our lives worthwhile? That probably sounds like a stupid question, like the answer is simple, but that's not really what society tells us. I got to thinking about them because by the end of those two days, I was more sick of the children than I was of being in a car. I was sick of it taking forever to just go into a restaurant. I was sick of the way they constantly picked their noses without shame and pulled out bright green boogers and wiped them on their pants and the seats of the car. I was sick of the way that they had to be forced to eat when we were in public, but as soon as we were on the road again, they were suddenly dying of starvation.

I guess it's just been too long since I was a kid. It was beautiful to watch them all run to the edge of the water and squeal with delight every time the waves washed over their little feet. They didn't even notice the trash and debris littering the sand behind them. All they saw was the beauty of the moment. All they knew was that they were at the ocean. When we stopped at the zoo, they didn't care that the monkeys and elephants were kept in concrete enclosures with little to no mental stimulation--the equivalent of animal prison--they only cared about how cute and friendly the animals looked.

I just can't figure out completely what I want from life, and if that life should include kids. I think there is a lot to be gained from the experience of parenthood, but I think there is just as much to be gained from a life of other experiences, of experiences outside of the home and the family structure.

I had a talk with some friends the other day about this. They are a couple who choose to live childfree. They were commenting on how strange it is that their lifestyle is considered subversive, almost more subversive than being gay or an alcoholic nowadays. A white, heterosexual couple that chooses not to have kids, but rather to dedicate their lives to traveling and learning about the world. How deviant!

What do you think? Why or why don't you want kids? (I think that people who do want kids should be asked this question just as much as those who don't want them.)