Wednesday, February 23, 2005

No Pony

Back in my freshman year of college when I worked in the law school copy room, a few of us were just sitting around doing nothing in particular between the "must have photocopies NOW" rushes. One girl was talking about her particularly romantic weekend with her boyfriend, and another one sighed, "I want a boyfriend!"
I laughed, then sighed, "I want a pony!" She saw the humor in my comment, and we had a good chuckle.

But I'm sighing now.

It's not even an issue of jealousy. Most of the JETs I know are single, and I don't envy any of them who have left their significant others back home; this is the best time in my life to move halfway around the world, unattached as I am.


Normally my baseline is a general feeling of, "Yeah, I'd like a boyfriend, but I'm in no hurry to get one." Sometimes it weirds me out to think of spending the rest of my life attached to someone, and sometimes it's the most pleasant thought in the world, but most of the time I'm simply content.
But there's something about Japan... probably not Japan itself, but there's something about me being in Japan that makes my desire for attachment stronger. I feel sorrowful lonesome at times, during a period of my life when I'm experiencing so many new things, and the people with whom I am normally close can't understand. I have friends here, both Japanese and foreign, and they're all great, but I'm beginning to wish more and more for someone I can call mine. Someone with whom to be quiet together. Someone to whom I can say, "You know what So'n'so said today?" and he knows exactly why it's so hilarious. Or poignant, or whatever.

I suppose I can be thankful that I don't have some Mr. Unattainable in mind; that would drive me truly insane. Been through that before.

Here I am
Take my hand
Lead me to the promised land
I'll take you there
if you're ready
Dance with me in some fields
Move with me, you've got the deal
You can't hide
Disguise is futile

Make me see summer is ready
Make me feel complete
Take me to the forever show
Make me feel complete

-shapeshifter, "Move with Me"

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb

Among the things we did in Hiroshima City last weekend was a brief visit to a decent-sized music store that has a jazz section. Jazz! I miss jazz music! So of course I had to buy three five eight CDs there (not all jazz), one of which was Chanticleer's newest album, How Sweet the Sound: Spirituals & Traditional Gospel Music. The first song on this CD? "Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb."

From the lyrics printed in the extra Japanese liner notes:
(You know now) Ev'rybody's worried
'bout that atom bomb.
Well, no one seems worried about the day my Lord shall come.
(You better) set your house in order,
(well He) may be coming soon,
and He'll hit like an atom bomb when he come, when he come.

In 19 hundred and 45, the atom bomb became alive.
In 19 hundred and 49, the USA got very wise.
They found that a country across the line
had an atom bomb of the very same kind.
People got worried over the land,
just like the people in J-pan. [Japan]
God told Elijah He'd send down fire,
send down fire from the sky.
He showed old Noah by the rainbow sign,
it won't be water but fire next time.

(Oh well now) Ev'rybody's worried (don't you know)
'bout that atom bomb.
Well, no one seems worried about the day my Lord shall come.
(You better) set your house in order,
(well He) may be coming soon,
and He'll hit like an atom bomb when he come, when he come.

Now don't you get worried, bear in mind,
trust King Jesus and you shall find
peace, and happiness, joy divine,
with my Savior all the time.
God told Elijah He'd send down fire,
send down fire from the sky.
He said he would, and I believe He will,
He'll fight your battles if you keep still.

Ev'rybody's worried
'bout that atom bomb ...

... And He'll hit...
And He'll hit like an atom ...
Hit like an atom ...
Hit like an atom bomb when He come, when He come.
(You better straighten up and fly right 'cause He may be coming soon.)

Saturday, February 12, 2005


Yesterday I got into my first car accident.
I'm fine, Dad's fine, the car is mostly fine, and there were no other cars involved.

I drove to Osaka to pick Dad up from Kansai Airport yesterday. And that is one long, crazy drive. We agreed that when anyone else comes to visit me, they should definitely fly into a closer airport (Izumo, Yonago, or Hiroshima) or resign themselves to taking the bus to Matsue. Osaka has no snow, and was relatively warm as we were driving back (and getting lost in Kobe—but that's another kettle of fish).

Saijo is a town in Hiroshima Prefecture, just across the border from Yokota. So we were almost home when I took a lefterly curve a bit too fast (~60km/h). The air was freezing, and it was snowing lightly, but the road was clear... except for this one stretch of ice. I felt the car sliding, and then we were spinning counter-clockwise for ages, and I had a vague sense that something dangerous was happening, and that I must be dreaming but probably wasn't. I don't remember if the car made one full rotation or two, but when it finally stopped, I realized my feet weren't on any pedals, so I guess I did well.

I pulled over and we got out to survey the damage. Not too bad, except the left foglamp is broken, and the front left signal is broken, too, and now the left signal blinks twice as fast as before, so there's some circuitry damage as well. The left headlight is a bit damaged, but still works. Dad noticed a bit of fluid running downhill—from beneath the car, it appeared—but it didn't smell or feel oily, so I'm not sure what it is. Maybe antifreeze. Then Dad said, "Let's get out of here, before someone does the same thing and crashes into us." So we were off. I drove very slowly back home, with visions of the car careening off the Okuizumo Orochiloop, which we still had yet to pass. (The photo is the first one on that page.)

But we're gonna take her out on the road again today, to drive to Akagi where we'll meet with Trevor and Matt, and ride down with them to Miyoshi, and take the train to Hiroshima. The roads look dry here, and it's not too cold outside, so we should be set. Gotta get back up on that horse.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Once bitten, twice shy

At eikaiwa (English conversation class) last night, only Tanabe-san (the man who organizes the class) and Kenji (the teacher at Yakawa Elementary) were there, so instead of playing a game with the proverb cards I'd borrowed from Tane-sensei, we just talked about English and Japanese proverbs.

After looking over the list of English proverbs, Kenji said, "I think there are more positive English proverbs than Japanese."
"Oh, I'm sure they just picked the positive ones for these cards." So I looked through my notebook for some proverbs I'd remembered on my own. "Like this one: 'The lesser of two evils.' This is a saying we use when we have to make a decision between two bad things. Some people said it during the last U.S. election between George W. Bush and John Kerry. 'Bush... Kerry... I'll pick the lesser of two evils.' In fact, some people say that about every election." They thought that was funny.

"Or this one: 'Once bitten, twice shy.'" I bit my hand to show "bitten," and said, "If something or someone hurts me once, I will be careful around it two times. I mean, not exactly. For example, if I pet my neighbor's dog, and the dog bites me, then I will stay away from that dog for a long time."
"Ah," said Kenji. "We have a similar proverb. 'Atsumono ni korite namasu o fuku.'"
Tanabe-san laughed. "Have you heard it before?" I asked him. He hadn't. Kenji explained: "It means I burn my mouth with hot food, so next time I blow on cold food." He looked it up in his electronic dictionary (many of which contain idioms), then laughed and showed Tanabe-san. "What is it?" I said.
He showed me the screen. Next to "Atsumono ni korite namasu o fuku" was written, "Once bitten, twice shy."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Bad news and not-so-bad news

So Dad's missed his flight.
Highly uncharacteristic, I know, but I guess he misread his departure time.
Fortunately, he was able to re-book for the same time the following day. In fact, his entire flight itinerary has been shifted one day into the future, so he will also be leaving Japan one day later.

The bad news: I'd planned on having Dad visit Yokota JHS next Wednesday, and then taking that Thursday off so I could drive him back to Osaka. Now that he's leaving on Friday, I need to take that day off to drive him, but Thursday is still up in the air. I've e-mailed Ikeda-sensei to ask if it would be possible for Dad to come in again on Thursday—this will allow me not to use up an extra day's nenkyu (paid personal leave). She will tell me to talk to Kyoto-sensei (vice-principal), which I know is the proper way to go about it, but what I really want to find out from her is whether this change will inconvenience her and Watanabe-sensei; if it will, there's no point in me asking Kyoto-sensei, as far as I'm concerned. The last time I explained this reasoning to her, either I didn't communicate it very well, or she was being purposefully obtuse about it, cos she only reiterated the necessity of talking to Kyoto-sensei first. Anyway, Dad has volunteered to "walk around town" for a few hours if I need to work on Thursday, so that's another option; the third option is for me to take both Thursday and Friday off, which again leads me to the problem of inconvenience. Ikeda's suggestion that I not come in on Friday leads me to think that this won't be much of an inconvenience, though.

The not-so-bad news: The changed flight itinerary doesn't change my plans for the weekend, which was to go to Hiroshima City with Dad and some other JETs on Saturday and maybe stay the night. I had planned to just lay low on Friday to let Dad acclimate somewhat to the time zone, so all we have to do is skip that part. Dad has no problem with this.
Last week I requested nenkyu for today (I guess it is today now, isn't it?). For about ten minutes after I got off the phone with Dad, I actually considered going in to school (Nita JHS) tomorrow. But my apartment still looks like a disaster relief zone (umm, except without the death toll), so a full day to clean in a non-panicked state will be nice.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Gmail Invitations

So after feeling not left-out at all for a few days, I have finally found myself among those Gmail users who have suddenly been given 50 Gmail invitations. Woo.

And since I have nothing better to do with them, I'll give them away to whoever wants one.* Just leave your current e-mail address in the comments section of this post, or e-mail me at the address in the sidebar.

Oh, and to make this at least marginally worthwhile for me: if I give you an invitation, tell at least one person about this blog. I know, some of you will pocket your invitation and walk away chuckling, "Sucker...." But even if I never learn of it, a certain sorrow will have entered my life. Don't let that happen.

*Terms of service are subject to change without notice. Offer void where prohibited. The Gmail invitation is provided "as is;" Em makes no guarantees, either express or implied, that Gmail will always be available, accessible, uninterrupted, secure, and error-free, nor does Em warrant the quality of e-mails sent through Gmail. Use Gmail at your own risk. Floss regularly.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Quiet American

Ikeda-sensei just gave me something to chuckle about.
Michihata-sensei is a social studies teacher at Yokota JHS. His wife once attended my English conversation class. (I don't remember who she was; she probably introduced herself by her given name.) Michihata told Ikeda that his wife's impression of me was that I was a quiet American. "She said you were the only quiet American she's ever met."

Oh, that was a hoot. "How many Americans has she met?" Ikeda didn't know.
"If she's only seen Americans on TV, well, only the loud Americans get on TV. The quiet Americans don't make it."

She's also concerned about me working on Friday, two weeks from today. Dad's plane leaves from Osaka at 7pm, so I'll be driving him there and driving back afterward. I'd told her I'd probably be in the next day. "I usually don't get to bed until after midnight, anyway."
"I am worried about the snow," she said.
"It's two weeks away; maybe the weather will be okay." Pointing to my calendar, I said, "I should know a couple of days before if the weather will be bad. If it's too bad, then maybe I won't come in on Friday."
"Ki o tsukete! (Be careful.) I don't want you to die!"
"Well, I don't want to die, so we're good!"

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day

Isn't it funny how, despite whatever miserable weather February 1st brings, it always seems to clear up for Groundhog Day?

Yesterday there was talk of stopping the buses because of the snow, which would have meant sending the students home early. The bus company decided instead to delay their runs for this morning, so school started two hours late today... but of course the teachers had to be in at 8:10 like usual.

"We are adults," Ikeda-sensei said, explaining why we had to be there on time.
"So are the bus drivers!" I protested.
She was unpersuaded... not that she likely had a say in the matter. But even if the bus company's decision to delay their runs was not influenced by the school, shouldn't it indicate that maybe the roads aren't safe for anybody?

So the drive home yesterday was my most harrowing driving experience yet: the main roads had last been "plowed" hours earlier, visibility was poor, and students who didn't dare walk on the buried sidewalks carefully picked their way along the streets, occasionally moving over to let the cars pass. Mabel had asked if I wanted to go out for dinner, and while nothing sounded lovlier than eating tasty food at the cozy warm "Italian" restaurant in Yokota, I realized how impossible that would be when I pulled into Mabel's parking lot. It had clearly not seen anything vaguely resembling a plow, and my door pushed about 4cm of snow out of the way when I opened it. It was then that I knew I couldn't just wait out the storm (which showed no signs of abating) but had to get home before dark. Getting back out of the parking lot, pushing and packing snow as the car went, was definitely a trick. My little car is brave.

Visibility this morning was better and worse. It didn't snow at all while I was on the road, and the bounds of the streets are more well defined, but since they were never thoroughly scraped, the snow that remains on them is hard-packed and highly reflective in the morning sun. I usually hum some Copland or Holst to distract myself from the psychological component of my photosensitivity, but sometimes it's too bad even for that.

I discovered that my car has anti-lock brakes; that is to say, when I pulled out of the parking lot down the little hill to the street, the brake pedal started pumping under my foot. For some reason. I hadn't even started to slide. My car is smart, but sometimes she's a little too smart for her own good, making executive decisions like when to change gears and when to go into ABS mode without conferring with me, resulting in much frustration and gnashing of teeth.

This entry was composed entirely on my cell phone. It took two hours to write, and contains 2,811 characters. The sky was sunny when I began, and now it's snowing again, just like yesterday.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Big Kerosene Heater

Big Kerosene Heater

In the Yokota JHS teachers room, This is the shrine at which we pay our respects several times a day.

Most ritual prayers involve the sacred incantation, "寒い… 寒いですよ!"