Birthday

Today was/is (depending on where one is in the world right now) my birthday.  Thank you to my mother and to my father for having and making me.

Now, people at school totally forgot about my birthday, and that’s okay.  A friend was even giving me a hard time about details for an upcoming trip while I was in the middle of my birthday lunch at a nice little Nepalese restaurant, and that’s okay, too.  I wasn’t looking too forward to all of that.

I have been working on my mental and physical health lately, and one part of that has been going to my gym more often.  Instead of once or twice or zero times a week, and only for, perhaps, an hour, I have been going more like five to ten hours a week, attending all sorts of fun classes (boxing to ballet, angels training [a misleading name for the crazy-hard workout that comes with it] to yoga [yes, normal yoga]).  The gym is all women, and we all have to have nicknames, so as to create a close-knit space (instead of the formality of Japanese culture and always using last names), so it makes for a really great environment.

That being said, I was really looking forward to getting to my gym today.  Dinner with a friend was something great on the list, too, but the gym had the extra excitement of helping out my physical health while I enjoyed its being my birthday.

I knew that some of the ladies knew that today was my birthday, and so I was excited to be going somewhere where I could feel the love, so to speak, for my birthday.  Just after I walked in the front door, the lady at the desk wished me a tentative English, “Happy Birthday…?”  A huge grin and verbal thanks assured her of the success of her endeavor.

As I was changing for class, I heard some English being practiced in the common area, “How old are you?”  So, I suspected I was about to be asked this question when I got into class a few minutes later.

What I did not expect, however, was to walk into my step class of older Japanese ladies, and for them to break into song, singing me “Happy Birthday”.  And in English!  I actually started tearing up a bit, it was so wonderful.  If I had been hoping for some welcoming love here, I certainly found it, I found myself thinking.  Essentially, it was perfect.

After class, a number of people kept wishing me a happy birthday and talking to me about this and that.  Before the next class began (yoga), I made a point to interrupt the delighted chatter of the older ladies from step class, and to thank them especially for their singing and well-wishes.  And I did it all in Japanese, and successfully.  They were just so wonderful.

And then they all started asking me how to say the name of a bicycle that has a motor attached to it.  Amidst all the Japanese, I declared that I’d have to do some research, because I could only think of electric bicycle and motorized bicycle.  

But that’s not quite the point.  The point is, I suppose, that step class is amazing – you could do yourself quite well by joining one wholeheartedly today.  🙂

Also, all of my thanks to all who played a part in my coming to be.  🙂

Happy Birthday to me.  Watch out, World!  😀
Post-a-day 2017

 

Mardi Gras

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras and my birthday.  This is the second time in my life that the two events have coincided.  It just so happens that people haven’t even heard of Mardi Gras here in Japan, so we can let alone the idea of their celebrating it.  I am throwing an impromptu dinner tomorrow night (decided it this afternoon), and am only certain of two guests (a Canadian and a Japanese friend).  Not my favorite kind of Mardi Gras bash, but it’ll still be nice, I think.  Nonetheless, this will be one of my most simple and uncelebrated birthdays yet.

The last time my birthday coincided with Mardi Gras, I was in ninth grade, and we had arranged with a friend of my mom’s to go stay at his place on one of the main parade roads in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  Unfortunately, that was 2006, and Hurricane Katrina cancelled those plans for us.  

We instead grabbed my childhood best friend, and went down to Galveston for some all-you-can-eat pancakes and a good ole parade.  It was nothing like New Orleans would have been, but it was still wonderful, and it started a tradition.  Almost every year since (we must exclude the year I was studying in France), my mom and I have gone to Gaveston for Mardi Gras.

Which makes it totally weird that there is literally nothing around here for any Mardi Gras merriment… happy birthday to me?  (There’s got to something good for me to get out of all of this.) 😛
Post-a-day 2017

Pork Buns and Handkerchiefs

Today, at the train station, my brother and I were looking for a place to sit down and eat our lunch.  We found a single spot on this rounded bench, and went for it.  I originally attempted sitting on my bag, but was uncertain as to its ability to withstand the weight, so ended up sitting on the bench (at my brother’s insistence), with my brother squatting in front of me.  We were chitchatting about the food as he opened up the bags (it was some dumplings and pork buns from this famous local bun shop, 551), and the old lady next to me readjusted her belongings a bit, and scooted to her left enough of army brother to sit down next to me.

He thanked her in a fabulous Japanese fashion (so proud!), and took the seat.  As he had the box of buns in his hands, when he opened it up, he offered one of them to the lady.  After some coercing, she finally accepted a half, and even one of the shrimp dumplings, as well (she seemed to perk up a bit when she saw the dumplings, and had no hesitation in the offer of one of those).

She and my brother continued a bit of chitchat about the fact that the buns were from the famous shop, as well as why each of them was there (This was all in Japanese, of course, so I understood the bulk, but couldn’t quite jump into the conversation due to the Japanese and the fact that we were on a rounded bench, so I couldn’t quite see the lady, unless I leaned way forward.).  Eventually, after she learned that I was his younger sister, I heard the same comment I always seem to get here in Japan: that I am “cute”.  While it is not exactly something we love to be called back in the US, it is actually a quite nice compliment here in Japan.

Then, as my brother explained about my living in Japan, she asked me how I liked it.  I gave a half smile and wobbled my head a bit, but couldn’t bring myself to spit out any words – I truly had no idea how to answer, and I could feel something uncomfortable rising inside me already.  Fortunately, my brother, perhaps sensing my hesitation-slash-unwillingness-to-answer, took over answering the question for me.

His answer, however, surprised me – he was quite open and honest with the woman.  I, just in thinking about it all was already starting to tear up, but I felt a small sense of relaxation and relief as I listened to my brother share with the lady how I was not having too easy or good a time (and that that was part of why I had come down to visit him for the weekend).  I had finished eating what I was going to eat, so I excused myself, saying it would be good to jump in the line for the bathroom before I had to go get on my train.

Once I reached the bathroom line, I couldn’t help it, the feeling was so overpowering: tears started pouring down my burning eyes, as I gasped quietly for air.  I couldn’t quite understand what was happening with me.  I had noticed that I was a bit borderline already earlier in the day (borderline tears, that is), but I hadn’t known why, nor had I expected something like this to send me into such a state as I was now.

I used the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and went back out to my brother, who was standing ready by my bag.  I broke right back into tears when he asked if I was alright, and he just held me in a big brother hug for a bit, soothing me, before gently telling me that I had about 8 minutes before my train, so we’d do well to head toward the gate now.

He was holding a marigold handkerchief in a little clear plastic bag, and he proffered it to me, explaining that it was dyed with actual marigold, and the old lady and her sister (the one whose son is a pianist, and whose concert the old lady was coming to see) had wanted me to have it.  They said that they wanted me to enjoy my time in Japan, and that they hoped things improved for me.  They had wanted to talk to me, too, but had had to leave, so they left the well-wishes and the handkerchief with my brother to pass on to me.

Naturally, there were even more tears at this point, but with a slightly different edge to them.  : )

As we hurried off toward my train, I expressed how my visit to my brother and his girlfriend was so wonderful, that, now that it was at an end, it was difficult for me to think about going back to my life, my town.  I had gotten a taste of so much of what I had been missing these past seven-ish months, and I didn’t want to go back.  Not that I had any intention of not going back – there was just a taste of dislike for what awaited me.  I had finally started to be accustomed with my circumstances, it was hard being reminded of what had been wanting from my life.  I know that I’ll be okay, and that I likely will very much enjoy these next few months – it’s just never so easy to go back to plain white bread when you’ve had all your favorites available to you.  (That sort of idea, anyway)

Yeah… that’s all I have to say about that.  : )

 

Post-a-day 2017

 

 

“Chocolate”

Okay, here’s an anecdote from the wonderful dinner we had tonight (despite the fact that there were people smoking off and on in the restaurant).

My brother, his girlfriend, and I all had dinner with my brother’s private student tonight.  He’s this older Japanese guy, perhaps in his fifties, who is quite fun and silly, and who loves his family and my brother.  At one point in the night, we ended up on the subject of the pronunciation of English words in the Japanese style (Katakana English, as we like to call it), and specifically the struggle for Japanese people to say the word “chocolate” like a native English speaker.

My brother’s student was determined to pronounce chocolate like a native, and so we kept having to say it ourselves, and then analyze and critique the student’s pronunciation.  Most of the time, there was some special vowel added to the middle of the word, because Japanese doesn’t have consonants side-by-side (only “ts”, “ch”, and guttural stops written as a double consonant [e.g. “tt”, “kk”, etc.]).  So, instead of the native’s “choc-lette”, it tended to come out as “cho-koe-lay-toe” or “cho-ku-ray-toe” (They also don’t have R’s or L’s in Japanese.).

Back and forth, back and forth we went, my saying “chocolate,” followed by my brother’s student saying “chocolate,” the two pronunciations forever being different from one another.  But the student and my brother’s girlfriend, being Japanese speakers and non-native English speakers, couldn’t quite hear the differences.  Whereas my brother and I heard the difference every time, resulting in a good amount of laughter and face-making (You know how you make a face when something isn’t quite right?  That.).

The student even called over two of the waitresses at one point, explaining the situation to them, and asking them to listen to me and him saying each of our versions.  ‘Did the pronunciations sound the same to them?’ he wanted to know.  Yes, they did.  However, when I then said both versions myself, they heard a difference.  So, having lost that bit of the battle, he had them try to pronounce chocolate like native English speakers.  No, they couldn’t quite get it right, that middle “cl/kl” sound being the constant culprit in the matter.  This, of course, created and even greater flow of laughter in our corner of the restaurant.

There is a Japanese comedian who goes around to places (I’ve only seen and heard of ones in the US, but he might go elsewhere, too), asking for different things, but using Japanese English and odd translations.  For example, he walked around New York asking for a “boat-plane” or “sky mamma”.  He was, naturally, looking for a naval aircraft carrier.  The Japanese characters individually mean “sky”空 and “mother”母, and it is, of course, a sort of boat with airplanes.  The whole purpose of his show, of course, is to be silly in interacting with the Americans who have no idea what he is asking.  Having talked about this show earlier in the night, I eventually wondered what might happen if this guy were to try ordering the Japanese version of “chocolate” in, say, a coffee shop or restaurant.

My brother and I did our darndest in listening, but we couldn’t hear the words as people who didn’t know what was being said.  That is, we understand and are accustomed to Japanese English, and so couldn’t figure out how it would sound to people who don’t understand Japanese English.  So, we decided to send a voice message to my mom, recorded by my brother’s private student.

“White chocolate, dark chocolate, bitter chocolate…. please!”

(rather, “Waiito chocorayto, dahku chocorayto, beetah chocorayto… pureezu!”)

Naturally, my mother had no idea, no matter how she tried, what on Earth was being said.  Then, when we went for some other variations, – that is, his attempts at pronouncing it as a Native English speaker – she thought he might have been saying something about a certain kind of energy used in Reiki.

As one can ascertain from that, his “native” pronunciation has some room for improvement.  He declared that his homework was to practice only pronouncing “chocolate” all week.  He even has a voice memo of me saying, “Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate,” on his phone for reference.  We’ll see if he ever manages that native-sounding “choc-lette”.

Now, for anyone concerned about the fact that, ‘Well, chocolate does have an O in the middle,’ recall that that is not the point.  They are not saying the word differently out of righteousness for the fact that the O is there and therefore must be pronounced, but out of the fact that the “cl/kl” sound is just somewhat impossible for Japanese folks.  It makes for some pretty funny-sounding words in English, if you ask me.  😛

 

Post-a-day 2017

 

 

 

The Shinkansen

There is a general air of ‘nothing special’ as people mill about the car, taking their time sitting down.  Suddenly, though nothing inside has changed, everything has changed – the train is moving.  It began without a start, reminding me of the ever-odd sense of perspective in 1984, where they are now at war with whomever, and, therefore, have always been at war with that same whomever – the train is now moving so smoothly along, it feels as though it has always been moving, never having been stopped in the first place.

And, for some currently-unknown reason, I find myself looking out the window, listening to my wonderful Spanish music (Mexico), and crying.  As in the case of my seeing Le Roi Lion (The Lion King) musical in Paris, I am suddenly overwhelmed with some emotion expressed with intense tears and a heavy tremble of breathing, deep in my chest.  I don’t know what emotion this is, but something is saying to me, “It’s okay, honey.  It’s okay,” and meaning it.  Everything is all right, and I can be at ease.

That’s when I notice that I have a joint experience of joy and terror.  

I have joy for the excitement of being on such a train.  I am, after all, on a Shinkansen, one of the world-renowned bullet trains of Japan.  Something I learned existed when I was a child, and never considered my ever having the opportunity to see, let alone having it becoming an easy weekend thing for me to ride on a whim.  Being here, right now, on this train, is like I am living in the middle  of the history I once studied in a book.  Like when I wandered around Spain with my class, like it was no big deal, seeing the places where all of these people and things once were making history.  I’ve been to so many places like that, I don’t even remember where all I have been.  How crazy is that?!  And here I am, doing just that sort of thing all over again.  And like it’s no big deal – it’s just part of normal life.  Insane.  Joy.  : )

But recall this terror, this fear that also finds itself within me as the train begins its southward journey.  What is this terror?  Why did someone inside have to tell me that things really were all right, when they seemed to be obviously so?  

I think this ties into what I was considering last night about dreams and such, though it isn’t just that.  I think I am somewhat afraid of living my life to the fullest on my own, because why would I want or need anyone else, if my life is already amazing solo?  (By the way, this is huge for me right now.)  If I am 100% content and delighted with my life, then why would I want anything to change?  Why would I want someone else to come into it and to join me in all of my endeavors?  It sounds silly to me, but I think it has some truth to it for me and how I live my life.  I think I am terrified right now on this wonderful train experience, because I am not with my future partner (or anyone else of particular importance to me), yet this is still something amazing.  It is as though a part of me was asking if it were okay to enjoy the experience, even though I’m all on my own.  Even though this might always be something that stays shared with only ‘me, myself, and I’.  

Is that why I was so afraid, so worried and concerned?  I don’t know.  But it feels more and more the case by the moment.  

I have all of these absolutely amazing things in my life, happening all the time.  Just take the fact that I am listening to this Spanish music for example.  (As a side note, I found some old headphones!!)  Much of why I live the artist is that I understand and can sing along to the songs.  I can sing along, because I have studied in Spain, I have visited Mexico, and I have various ties to Spanish native speakers.  And Spanish wasn’t even anything to do with my major in college or anything – it was just a sort of passive hobby for me, and it still is.  Just one of the many amazing things that have happened and continue to happen in my life.

The thing about these amazing things is, they never seem to me to be much of anything special, abnormal.  I’m not living in a hut in the middle of Africa, hunting baboons at night with spears and rocks, so my life isn’t really crazy or unique or anything special, right?  I think I expect to be doing things closer and closer to that sort of life once I’ve found a partner to share in it all with me.  But, until that time, I feel like my life is just a matter of this and thats, a feeling of ‘just hang on until your real life begins’ in the air.

Interesting, huh?  : )
Post-a-day 2017

 

Dreams, come true?

Have you ever been afraid of getting everything you ever wanted, for fear of losing it?  I’m not so sure where I’m going with this, but I’m beginning to wonder if that fear somehow plays a part in my own role of not pursuing fully my dreams, and not creating the space in my life for certain dreams to come true…

It’s only a thought, but I just wonder…
Post-a-day 2017