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Saturday, August 7, 2010

♥ Final Call

I always prefer to write in Courier New. I think it has to do with the fact that I like history, that old feel, that vintage, rustic feeling that typewriters emulate when print first became attainable for all. I love the look of old newspapers, I love how simple, yet distinct this font is. Beginning this “final words” bit talking about font is a bit odd, I’ll grant you that, especially since you won’t actually read this in courier new. However, I think it’s good to start with that little blurb because it tells a lot about me.

I like tradition, love it, and that is what attracted me to Japan when I was twelve-years-old. In America we don’t really have deep set traditions that have been passed down through culture. Sure, we have Thanksgiving and the 4th of July, but are those traditions? Really? Getting together with your family and eating yourself silly while either watching the Eukanuba Dog Show, football, or shit blow up may just be another day for the average American. I think we, as Americans, have more family traditions rather than national traditions. Sure, there is the Macy’s parades and the lighting of the Christmas Tree at Rockefellar, but maybe Joe in Oklahoma doesn’t watch these with the majority of the East Coast, or even Bethany in California. Japan has national traditions, they have city traditions, town traditions… everything is almost a tradition, or a ceremony, or everyday services well practiced to a fine art.

The traditions and culture I found so fascinating as a pre-teen continued to fascinate me here, and occasionally annoy the crap out of me. I leave Japan in two days and I’ve found myself increasingly contemplative. What has Japan meant to me? What has changed about my perception of it? Is it telling that I spent the days post-contract in other countries and not Japan? I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone who knows me. While I made amazing friends, and established very deep friendships with some teachers and students, my ultimate Japan experience I busted out into tears about when I heard was going, wasn’t everything I had hoped it would be. I think Japan is beautiful, yes, but the culture, I think, can only be appreciated in small bits. Having lived here for a year I’ve determined, for someone of my personality and such, that Japan is an amazing place to visit, but not a place I’d want to live again. The people are kind, yes, but they’re so shut off. When you ask for help, they shuffle inside as if they can’t see you. I know they have this big thing about respecting everyone’s privacy, but dude.

When I left Yaizu Chuo, there was a student whom I had grown very attached to, and her to me. We wrote each other all year, bought presents for one another, baked things for one another… but more importantly, we talked. We talked about everything; her dreams, my dreams, boys, food, culture. When I thought I had hit my lowest point, she would come by and say “I always cheer you up.” Usually I’d just smiled and nod my head, but one day I said, “You really do,” and she understood how grateful I was. On my last day she waited patiently inline to say goodbye to me, a massive bag filled with presents in her hand. She greeted me as always and we opened each other’s gifts. She had made me handmade sandals, given me a book of art she liked, and gave me a cup… “I have the same one. When you see it, you can think of me.” We stalled saying goodbye for nearly a half hour, and when it was time, all the sudden she started to cry and has a realization. “Wow… I’m… I’m really sad.” The suppression of feelings in Japan is horrible, and this open realization for her caused the floodgates to open, as well as my own. I hugged her and the way she just fell into my arms and clung made me wonder… when was the last time this girl was hugged? Really hugged?

My negativity outweighed a lot of my feelings about Japan, even now as I’m on the shinkansen to Kyoto from Tokyo. I think a lot of this is just a direct reaction to the experiences I had here. I went through a lot this year, and naturally that’ll effect my opinion on my year here, as well as the people and the country as a whole. I didn’t really get to teach, at all, and after trying so hard the first semester, I felt defeated, so I stopped caring. Could I have changed things in April? Yes, and I did try. I wrote personal letters to every teacher, encouraging them to ask me anything, to have me come to class, anything. They’d ask me grammar points, and I graded some practice exams, but that was it. I fell in love with my new ichi-nensei, but only got to teach them four times. When I left it was acknowledged that Yaizu Chuo had a problem, and I think it was because of how I reacted. Once very genki and excited, I became very depressed, very quiet, tired, ill. The teachers, and especially my supervisor and vice-principal noticed something was wrong. After a few doctors visits and health scares and such later, it turned out I had Panic Disorder and Depression with Insomnia (as my very frank Japanese Dr. put it… you have psychosis and depression).

I had had these symptoms for years, since high school, but I had never made the connection, and when I came to Japan, I was put into a society that festered it, and then I just lost it. I never let on, as I dislike whining to the utmost extent, and figured I was just crazy. Well, I was crazy, but at least I knew why. Everyone checked on me, stopped by, made sure I was ok. Everyone knew something was wrong that last month and a half (as rumors go wild in the staffroom), and life got a bit better. Earthquakes, typhoons, stress, London, classes, friends, ex-friends, home, Japan, anything and everything; I was going crazy and I had never felt so alone. I hated Japan for a good part of my time here. Hated it with a passion. I tried to book as many trips as I could (and as such I’ve been told by a variety of people I win the “most traveled in a single JET year” award), anything to just get out. Now as I only have two days left, I’m heading to the cultural capital of Japan, one last time, to reclaim what I initially loved about this country.

I don’t hate Japan, but we’re not a match made in heaven, and that’s okay. I had an experience, and no, not all of it was good, but it is one that made me discover a hell of a lot about myself. I know what I want now, I know who I am and what I have to do, and I also know how to use chopsticks like a pro. I bow and mutter “atsui” and “samui” to myself, I say “sugoi” instead of cool, and “kawaii” instead of cute. I can’t imagine life without rice and I have a hankering for green tea. I’ve adapted enough Japanese customs to make me a freak when I go back home, but perhaps these little quirks (like my habit of using British swears and insults over American ones) are what will define me. Traveling is me, and that’s okay. I’m not a crazy backpacker that’ll just jet off, and I don’t immerse myself deep in the mountains to get to the foundations of a country’s culture, but I take in a lot, even if I don’t mention it or write about it. I’ve taken away a lot from my visits this year; China, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Cambodia, and Malaysia. Asia is a different world, and not one I fit in. I’m a Europe girl through-and-through, but still with a connection to my American roots. I appreciate that so much now. The variety, the openness, the fact we are a can-do nation, not a you-should-not-do-that one.

I leave Japan with a generally pleasant feeling though. I am sure I will miss somethings, and be happy to be rid of others. I will miss the connections I’ve made here, the things I have seen. I will miss the beauty of the shoji screen, the laughs of my students, the cultural misunderstandings that shaped so many of my misadventures. I will miss Kyoto and the little shrine by my house in Yaizu. I will miss onigiri and soba, I will miss walking to the train station, and I will miss Mt. Fuji hovering overhead. I will miss kimonos and matsuris, nomihodais and karaoke, I will miss the adventures, the misadventures, the good, and the bad. I’ll miss the music that played in the morning and afternoon, and the nice little old ladies at the local bento shop. I’ll miss the sound of the shamisen and the sakura, and I will miss riding my bike through rice fields. I don’t know when I will come back to Asia, but when I do, I imagine only the positive memories will come back.

Until then, sayonara.


3:02 PM

Monday, May 10, 2010

♥ Vietnam Pictures

I will write a detailed report in the coming days, but for now here are some pictures.


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6:13 PM

Friday, March 19, 2010

♥ A Procrastination Meme

Listening to… Frank Sinatra and Adam Lambert, the most unlikely pair ever

Reading… History in Practice by Ludmilla Jordanova and my own creations

Watching… Merlin and any movie I so desire

Buying… nothing... but thinking of buying a new camera, mine is horribly outdated and dying a painful and shameful death.

Wanting… to go to Thailand, but I don't think it's going to happen, that and the secret to the world...

Trying… to gain my fluency in Latin back, as well as my brain

Loving… the weather, blue skies, and planning trips abroad, but mostly, loving how I'm realizing things about myself.

Planning… my move back to London. It's glorious.

Cooking… I’m offing my conbini obsession and making things now. Most recently Yorkshire pudding and beef strew with a strawberry trifle. I want to know how to cook and I want to eat healthy again, I cannot wait until I can go all organic and whole wheat once more. Dear lord.

Inspired by… my own dreams, blue skies, and the hopeful future ahead of me.


10:47 AM

Monday, March 15, 2010

♥ Pure Joy in Acceptance

The entrance exam results were posted just 23 minutes ago, and already a few hundred eager fourteen-year-olds have screamed, shouted, cried, jumped, and sobbed their way about Yaizu Chuo's campus. For 240 of them, their dream has come true getting into this school, for 100 of them, the dismal reality of private school and non-funded schooling is in their future. I have seen both of these reactions as I gazed out the window. I saw the disappointing stare, but it is mostly overshadowed by the pure joy of those accepted into this school. It's not the top school in the area, that honor goes to Fujieda Higashi, but it is just below it, and one that is quite popular to apply to.

My current students are outsides, cheering, honking horns, and shouting congratulations to the newbies, trying to recruit them for their clubs. They're now a part of this school and are being treated as such.

I couldn't stop smiling as I watched my future students cry with happiness, their parents hug them, cheer them on. It's the most emotion I've seen publicly in this country that wasn't drunken, and for that I am very happy for so many of them. I know what it feels like to get that acceptance letter or posting when you had doubts, when it was the one thing you wanted. I remember jumping for joy, smiling like crazy, and sobbing hysterically. I've been there. It's one of the best feelings in the world.

The honkings of bike horns will probably go on for another hour or so. It's such a great sound. I love this sense of joy.

Live it up kiddos. I'll see you in class.

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12:28 PM

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

♥ Nothing Special

It's rainy and cold and generally boring as HELL.

The last exams of the school year are today and as such, there will be even less to do than usual around here starting tomorrow. Fail.

In the meantime, I started a more academic/thoughtful/slightly more intelligent blog, if that interests you at all. Please follow and comment and all that jazz.

Bespectacled Curls

I'm also on Twitter now (ahgahd) CurlyFourEyes


9:45 AM

Friday, February 26, 2010

♥ Tentative March 20th Train Plan

5:15 - Nishi Yaizu
6:07/6:35 - Hamamatsu
7:09/7:19 - Toyohashi
9:16/9:20 - Maibara
10:13/10:15 - Kyoto
10:43/10:45 - Osaka
11:46/12:06 - Himeji
12:24/12:25 - Aioi (Hyogo)
1:37/1:54 - Okayama
3:14 - Onomichi

Dinner in Senkoji park (千光寺公園), scenic walk through the Old Temple Loop (古寺めぐり) for Cherry Blossoms. Grab some "chider" at Chai Salon Dragon.

7:28 - Onomichi
8:54 - Hiroshima

Get to hostel. Promptly collapse.

2:47 PM

Thursday, February 25, 2010

♥ Bicycles and Me are not meant to Be

When I was ten-years-old, my sister, a friend, and I decided to play follow the leader on our bicycles. It was less than epic, mainly just riding around our cul-de-sack, maybe doing a few wibbly-wobblies or something, but it was hardly an adventure. It was good fun, that was, until I decided to show them all up and do a full 360 degree flip on my bicycle. This would have been amazing, had I not broken both of my arms in the process. Nine weeks later I could move my arms again, but I refused to get back on a bicycle. That was until I came to Japan. I knew I'd have to conquer my fear of it, and so I got on my bike (took me around a week to get up the courage) and after flailing around a bit and nearly falling, I got back used to it. Seems you don't ever forget how to ride one after all.

I quickly became a bicycle master. I could use one hand or no hands, balance precariously between a car and a ditch, and had no general fear. This was made quite true in Beijing where I literally had to ride through crazy ass traffic in a city where there are no traffic laws and even the police have no issue in running you over. I thought I had conquered it all, but, in fact, it was the great achievement before the dismal failure.

I had decided to go out for lunch to send money home and get some actual non-combini food. As I was coming back, quite pleased (it was a beautiful day), I passed the FamilyMart and, as usual, a Japanese person pulled in without looking. I swerved behind him to avoid being hit and crossed the street. I hit the curb wonky and went flying, crashing to the ground to the viewing of downtown Nishi-Yaizu. Also, as usual, no one asked if I was alright or stopped to help me, instead they stared or ignored me as I got myself up, shaking, and bloodied. I've talked before about how the lack of action on the Japanese makes me furious, but after being a victim of it, I felt not only that, but incredibly embarrassed, and even more of a spectacle than I already am being a foreigner in this town. I eventually made it back to school, my bike squeaking and hard to pedal (I still haven't quite figured out what I did to it) and barely able to move my legs. My right hand was unusable and after I finally make it to the school, I got it wrapped and returned to my desk, not letting anyone know what happened. A few have noticed today that I'm either limping or my hand is bandaged, and while there's nothing seriously wrong with me (worst is that my knees are swelling), I do miss just the simple "Are you OK?". This isn't to say everyone in Japan doesn't give a shit, some do, but there's that whole expressing it bit.

Anyways. Fear of bikes has been restored, even though it was mainly my fault, I shouldn't have kept going, I should have just stopped. Mainly I'm just exhausted, achy, and rather pissed classes were thrown at me today. At least my World Music lessons is easy and enjoyable. I don't have to do a whole lot.

I am so over this week. Ugh.

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10:56 AM

♥ Kristina

      The Curls. The girl. The Nippon.

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      22 yrs old
      ALT for Yaizu Chuo HS
      Has really curly hair
      These are my musings

      This blog is rated PG-13 for language, occasional violence, crude humor, and lack of pie.

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