My real voice

In college, I spent a summer studying in Germany.  It was a language school setup, filled with foreigners, but in such a small town that everyone knew that we were studying German, and so everyone always spoke to us all in German.  I had already studied abroad a few times before this adventure, and I had learned firsthand about what works and what doesn’t work, in terms of language immersion.  I was dedicated to learning German, and so I made sure that I only spoke in German with others, even if they spoke to me in English.  This made friendships hard among the people in my program’s group, since they all used English together; I came across a bit snobby, but I was just really committed to learning German.

I made friends with other foreigners rather easily, though, and especially ones in higher levels of German, which was even better for me.  My German was improving immensely.  But this led to a unique situation one day.

One day, near the end of either my time at the school or my friend Paul’s time there (he’s British), I found myself faced with a desperate Paul, actually begging me to speak English.  Why?! was my repeated question to his pleas.

“Because I want to hear what you sound like!”

I don’t know if he was pleased or not by how I sound in English, but I spoke a little for him.  And it was way weird, using English with him, despite the fact that I’d heard him speak English loads, and that it’s our common native language.  I had just never used it with him.

And then this brought up a unique and interesting sentiment.  He wanted to hear me, and that meant speaking English.  I can guess that my native tongue was the one in which Paul believed my identity to lie.  I know that it felt like I was setting aside a sort of mask when I switched to English with him.  I even felt a little called-out… as though I had been hiding somehow, and it had been behind German.  The real me (I) lay in English, in the English part of me.

Yet, years later, here I am, missing the parts of me that belong to these different languages in which I have lived.  A part of me, true me (I), exists only on German, and others in French, in Spanish, and in Japanese. So much so that the real me (I) is this whole combination of languages – I feel a huge emptiness and feel not myself when I am using only English in my daily life.  I listen to Spanish-speaking radio when I’m in Houston, mostly because I don’t get to use Spanish often enough.  I read every night in French, and trade off an English book for a German one at times for my evening reading, too.  I regularly pull out a Spanish book to read, or my German audiobooks.  And I have noticed that I have been searching for a tolerably satisfying way to have Japanese in my near-daily life, too.  (For now, it has just been the occasional music, and a perpetual repeat of a certain song being stuck in my head.)  When I don’t have them all, it is as though a part of me is missing, and suddenly getting to speak with someone in them, almost reminds me of that mask I was setting aside in Germany with Paul… like I am again setting aside some mask I have been wearing.

Perhaps it is now a mask of monolingualism, pretending that I only speak English, while I long for the world to talk to me in several languages, all the time.

Anyway… I’m exhausted.  And I miss Paul.  He was studying opera, and was a really great guy.  I wonder if he’s been really successful with opera these past several years.  Maybe I can go see him perform one day.  That would be awesome.  ūüôā

Post-a-day 2017

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a place in our world

Sometimes I wonder about whether there really will be a place for me in our modern, developing world.  There so many things that are becoming commonplace that go against so much of who I am.   From the simplest tiny things to morals to lifestyle to core beliefs and thinking patterns, I notice a difference between so much of how the society functions around me and what is in me, myself.  I realize that, somehow, I will have a place in the world, but I wonder if it is in the part of the world I already know, or if I will find myself in an entirely different society, somewhere else in the world‚Ķ not in what I consider my home.

I just wonder…

Post-a-day 2017

Am I insane yet?

Have you ever felt as though you were going insane?  I have been in the US for four days now.  I feel like I am losing it.  I have conversations, and I struggle to maintain focus.  People tell me things, and I have only a vague memory of what wa said to me, without actually being able to remember anything concrete from the communication.  A coworker told me her name today, and I consciously felt as though I had completely lost her name.  However, when I threw out what felt to be a random guess at her name, the guess was correct.

Whether I am actually losing it, or I am merely living in a different state of consciousness relating to memory, I am not certain.  I am almost certain that it is all mainly due to the fact that my brain has not adjusted to the 14-hour difference in life here yet, nor to the constant English all around me, the combination of which puts me into a real state of confusion as my brain attempts to pay full attention to every bit of English it hears.

It really just makes me feel like I might simply be going crazy.  I know that I’m not.  It just feels like insanity settling into my head.

Post-a-day 2017

Getting to the airport

So, I still hate living in Japan, and it reminded me of this fact on my way to the airport this morning.  However, I also still truly love parts of this place and culture.  My trip to the airport reminded me of this fact, too.

As I struggled with three rolling bags and a guitar (I know, I know – stupid.  But it was unavoidable.), the terrible signage and lack of findable elevators was driving me insane, along with the constant rumble strips for hard-of-seeing individuals (I don’t blame anyone for that – it merely added to my struggle, is all, with the suitcase wheels constantly getting stuck in them.).  

So, rather than just being able to take an elevator to the right level, and walk flat to my airport train, and then take a second elevator down, I took what felt like an insane route, due to poor signage.  Struggling to exit the final tiny escalator (width-wise tiny), and get my stuff out of the way for the people behind me, I was totally I surprised to find myself outside with rain.  Yes, the whole station connects in a covered and underground area.  But this was the only path I could take, based on signs (which I know is false information, because I’ve been to the same area before, just from a different direction).  I finally gave up attempting to pull both big bags at once (one had the smaller rolling bag on top of it, and was somewhat impossible to manage off smooth, flat terrain), and just left one sitting near the escalator.  I trudged through the rain with the two bags, and wasn’t even sure how far I would go before turning back for the other bag.  I was unconcerned about leaving my bag, though, because 1) this is Japan, 2) it’s freakin’ heavy and hard to move, and 3) some station staff were standing right near it, and they saw me leave it there in my struggle.

I could tell the station staff guys were a bit concerned about my bag, so, when I found a spot covered from the rain, just around the corner, I propped my two bags against the wall, and started heading back for the other bag.  Of course, there were no signs for the train line I wanted, but that was no surprise – this is Japan.

As I came around the corner, however, one of the old men station workers was heading my way with my bag.  I thanked him in Japanese, and started to go to take the bag from him, but he asked in adorable English (meaning I understood, but it was not really correct at all) if I were taking the Narita Express.  I said that I was, and he just nodded, kept walking, and pointed up the escalator to the left.  I quickly grabbed my other bags and followed.

The big bags barely fit on the even smaller escalator we were using, but we managed.  At the top, I expected he might return my bag to me, but he again kept walking ahead of me, showing me the way to a train whose signs I still couldn’t find.

Remember that this is Japan (as if you could forget), so, of course, we came to a staircase now.  No alternate route.  None.  But we took an escalator to where we were, so it makes perfect sense for only stairs to follow.  But then, the upside of Japan came again, and a young-ish guy helped us carry the bags up the stairs, once he saw the station worker attempting to pick up one of my bags, as I carried another up with the guitar.  I heard the station worker comment to the guy that I was alone and carrying all three suitcases, and I smiled – people really can be super sweet here.  I in no way deny that.

So we continued on, and found our ticket barrier for the train.  I still had to buy a ticket, so he asked the window worker, and she sent me to the machines.  Unfortunately, the 7:13 train that was about to leave didn’t have any tickets available on the machine.  The next was at 8:00-ish, which started to put me into a panic.  I quickly asked about the 7:13 train, and my old man asked the window people for me.  Yet another station worker came from the window, and started tapping at the machine screen for me a few moments later.  Eventually, despite various issues, I got a ticket for the 7:13.  At least, it would let me on the 7:13.

Again, I heard the conversation happening about my being hitori desu! and mitsu desu ne.  The worker who helped me get my ticket then took over for the old man from the other section of the station, and took one of my big bags for me.  I thanked the old man profusely, and marveled one last time at his light blue eyes.  He wished me luck and courage.

I got stuck in the ticket barrier.  Yes, literally, because the one bag was too wide, and so the lady let me go back and bring my bag through the side area.  However, that meant that my ticket was eaten by the machine, since I didn’t make it all the way through the barrier.  And I only had so many minutes before the train.

The lady rushed over and opened up the ticket barrier, pulled out my ticket from a bin, and handed it to me, wishing me luck and courage, as well.  I thanked her greatly, and started rushing after the worker who’d taken my other bag.

We had just barely five minutes, and I could  tell we had far to go, simply by the fact that he was checking his watch and hurrying along so quickly.  The long corridor that greeted us as we rounded a corner made me a bit more nervous.  We rushed down the walkway, though, and he eventually declared that it would be okay.  He led me to an elevator (phew!), and we went down to the track.  The whole time, he had been talking with me, chatting about my stay and whatnot, and then telling me about where I could sit on the train.  Some good final practice for my Japanese, I suppose.  It was really nice to have someone to chat with me casually, though, especially with the physical stress and mental workout that had been going on so far today (and that still awaited).

He helped me on the train, showed me the secret seats in the wall, and wished me safety and good health.  After a few minutes on the train, the ticket checker guy who’d seen us get on came out of his little room and smiled at me as he walked past.  A few moments later, he came back and summoned me silently with the Japanese wave.  I followed, and he offered me a real seat in the cabin.  I thanked him, and collapsed into the seat.

Now, a bit of snacking and a bathroom break later, I am almost to the airport.  I don’t know how much my bags weigh.  One is for sure okay, the other concerns me a bit.  I’ve never measured 70lbs before, so I don’t know how that feels.  I’m a rather good judge for 50lbs, though, and my second checked bag is right close to 50.  My carry-on is way heavy.  But it might still be okay.  We shall see…

I still have to cancel my phone contract at the store, too.  And get through security with my Fuji-San hiking stick.  And make it on the plane, of course.  So, let’s hope for the best here, eh?

Fingers crossed!
P.S.  Oh.  And, as a side note, I happen to be sick right now, too.  It all started with the whole smoking at dinner the other night. My throat started burning then, and hasn’t stopped since.  :/

Post-a-day 2017

Getting ready to time-travel

And so one thing ends, and, with anxiety, something new begins.  Tonight, I complete my life here in Japan, and dream one last dream before I move forward to my next step.  I felt like I was in “What About Bob?” today, taking my mother’s guidance to do whatever needs to be done next – aka baby steps.  I took my baby steps all day long today, and finally got it all finished.  I even accomplished a few things I expected not to be able to do.

One of those things being seeing the guitarist I’d seen a couple weeks ago at the nearby train station, who had greeted me in English one night as I was moving my stuff to my friend’s place.  He greeted me and asked how I was doing tonight, as I was walking in Shibuya, and ended up accompanying me, with my comfortable acquiescence, to the phone shop to disconnect my phone (It was closed.), and then buying me a Japan-only Yuzu frappucino from Starbucks, and sitting with me as I finally watched the Shibuya Crossing from the Starbucks window (It wasn’t actually very impressive, but I think I never really expected it to be, anyway.), at which point, we finally discovered that we had, in fact, seen one another those two or three weeks back.  He was a nice guy, Ryo.

I ended my evening with my last gaiten zushi (conveyor belt sushi), on which I spent ¬•680 (just over $6 US), and which I didn’t even finish eating.  I’ll miss such affordable sushi, but I’ll survive quite well back in Houston, I do believe.  Green smoothies and colorful veggie-based juices are calling me.

And now, at long last, I shall sleep.  Rest, anyway.  We’ll see if it really is sleep tomorrow morning, when my alarm wakes me just before 5am.  I hope I wake rested well.

Anyway, this is it, I guess.  Tomorrow morning, I say goodbye to Japan, and then I time-travel (departing 11:10am on Saturday, 12 August, and arriving 9:30am on Saturday, 12 August).

Goodnight!

Post-a-day 2017

More than they can handle?

Riding the trains recently, I am often reminded of one of the Рif not the Рfirst times I rode on subways.  I was with my mom and two brothers, and we were on vacation in Washington, D.C.  I was around age ten or twelve.  Throughout the trip, we used public transit.

While we were on the subway train one particular time, I was hanging on some of the handles that dangle from above, and chatting with my mom and brothers.  One of my brothers then commented to my mom that she needed to start teaching me how to shave.  I had only just recently begun having hair growing under my arms, and this was the first time I ever really noticed.

I was totally embarrassed, but that was no surprise / nothing new for me, since I was with my brothers. ¬†They regularly said and did things that had me be embarrassed. ¬†Not in mean ways, or anything – they just called me out on things. ¬†Like the time I did everything backwards in my dance recital, because I was watching the teacher off to the side. ¬†They weren’t being mean to me after the performance, but simply pointing out in a slightly teasing way that I had done everything backwards. ¬†So, it was definitely teasing, but out of love and good humor.

Anyway, I remember that experience.  I was a bit embarrassed to put my arms up to hold onto the handholds on the train, because I had hair growing from my underarms.

Now, fast-forward to today. ¬†I have hair growing from my underarms, as well, but, just as it was new to me then, this is new to me now. ¬†I have only recently given up shaving. ¬†It wasn’t even entirely intentional – it kind of just happened. ¬†I can talk about it more at another time, but for now, I’ll leave it at that.

So, I have hair on my underarms. ¬†I don’t have purely clothing that covers my underarms. ¬†I use public transit here in Japan. ¬†Therefore, there are times at which I am on the train in something like a tank top, and don’t have a seat, and so need to hold the hanging handholds. ¬†Doing so, of course, exposes my underarms. ¬†Each time feels a lot like that time in D.C.

Except, this time, I consider things a bit differently.  At first, I worry, of course, as it reminds me of the D.C. experience.  Then, however, I consider what my specific worry is.  Is it about looking good?  Mostly.  Is it about social standards?  Somewhat (part of the looking good aspect).  Is it about concern for exposing people to something distasteful?  Barely.

The only reason that actually holds any merit after these considerations is the distasteful one.  As odd and harsh as it seemed at the time, I still believe that the Scientology guide we read in high school held merit in it.  Long story short, I did a summer symposium at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas.  There is a Scientology place on one of the main strips around campus, as a couple of us picked up the free guides one day, and ready through them.  The guides were kind of like a list of rules, so to speak, of how to do certain things for daily life, so as to be a good person.  Some were entirely normal and standard concepts for being a good person.

One, in particular, struck us, and has stuck with me ever since then. ¬†I don’t remember the exact wording, and so I won’t attempt to quote it. ¬†However, the words we used to explain it were, “So, don’t be ugly, because that’s displeasing to others.” ¬†Our words, of course, were a bit abrasive, but they relate the idea. ¬†Take care of your appearance, because who wants to look at someone with matted hair, rotting teeth, dirt-caked skin, and the rest of that kind of package? ¬†I don’t know anyone who truly enjoys seeing people like that. ¬†And I do know that, for myself, I rather enjoy seeing people who are cleaned up nicely. ¬†Who doesn’t enjoy a chance to see someone beautiful?

This isn’t a matter of dressing to impress, but simply dressing to be appropriate, so to speak. ¬†What I gathered for myself from that guide was one simple question that I ask myself: ¬†Do I enjoy looking at myself? ¬†Whatever I am wearing, however things are, I just check in with myself. ¬†Am I okay with what I am wearing, with how I look? ¬†Would I be offended seeing someone in my place? ¬†It is not a question that often is answered with a negative, and so it is often more of a background idea, as opposed to a conscious effort. ¬†However, this is what comes to mind with situations like this whole train thing.

That being said, I consider this Scientology guide’s note of personal appearance whenever I am in my train circumstances these days. ¬†Is my showing arm hair actually offensive, or merely unexpected and outside of the ordinary? ¬†I believe it is the latter.

At this point, I consider things in terms of male standards of acceptable behavior. ¬†Yes, it would be rude to put my underarm into someone’s face, I think. ¬†I would be totally annoyed if some guy had his pit in my face on the train. ¬†Though I would be totally fine if he were in a tank top, holding onto the handholds up above, if his pit were not in my (or anyone else’s) face. ¬†I know that guys traditionally have underarm hair, but they don’t exactly flaunt it at everyone. ¬†And so I want to do the same. ¬†I don’t love seeing guys’ underarm hair all the time, but I’m also not offended when it shows up here and there.

And so, I go ahead and hold onto the handholds most of the time.

I am cautious due to cultural standards, and I don’t need to freak out these poor, unsuspecting Japanese folk. ¬†However, that just means that I don’t flaunt it. ¬†Perhaps I’ll turn a bit one way instead of another, but it is specifically so as not to scare people (even though I find it silly that such a thing would scare people, I keep in mind my own former comfort levels with female underarm hair, and my own in particular – it has been a process). ¬†I am not stopped for a fear for myself. ¬†I am not worried that these people will dislike me – not at all. ¬†It is kind of like how I don’t walk up to fat people and tell them that they would do well to eat a good diet and get a significantly greater amount of exercise than they are currently getting – it is entirely unnecessary, and could be incredibly rude. ¬†(Though, I currently don’t really see a scenario in which that wouldn’t be totally rude.) ¬†I do not fear for myself, and have that stop me. ¬†That fear ends at the first round of questions regarding my worry. ¬†It just becomes a matter of whether people can handle that part of me, or whether it is best to leave that out of the social conversation.

 

Post-a-day 2017

Asia?  Really?  Really

Who would have thought that I would spend a year of my life living in Asia?  I never even had any real desire to go to Asia, until I met my circus acrobat friends, who are from China.  But the desire that developed out of those friendships was merely a cultural trade among friends – I had shared it of my home with them, and now they wanted to give the same to me.  In essence, I want to go to China to be with my friends, not because I am specifically aiming to see China.  Nothing against China, of course – I just have never had a real desire to see it.

On that note, – let’s roll with the thoughts here – I feel as though I have a rather ability to distinguish between my real desires and my that-would-be-cool desires.  I explain.  When I have what I am currently calling a “real desire”, it is something that I intend to pursue.  With general desires, they are things that would be nice to pursue, but I have no deeper intentions to pursue them.  These are, of course, both to varying degrees.

Being a multi-millionaire would be amazing.  I desire it.  I truly do.  However, it is not something I intend to pursue, as much as I may wish to attain it.  It is a general desire for me.  Returning to German-speaking Europe for Christmas markets is a “real desire”, as I am calling them (Can you tell that I don’t much like my current terminology?).  No, I will not do it this year, most likely, and probably not next year either.  However, it is in my thoughts, and I intend to do it at some point.

This is where the varying degrees comes in for distinguishing.  This is one of my middle-range real desires.  Yes, I want to do it, and yes, I believe I will do it.  No, I am not in a hurry to do it.  Having a frozen margarita in Texas is more of an immediate real desire.  I will not wait for this one to come up somewhat conveniently, and then take action, or casually plan for it in my some time soon future.  My mother is picking me up at the airport when I arrive home to Houston, and she has known for months that I want to go have margaritas the day I arrive.  We are getting margaritas within hours of my arrival to Texas, and are only taking that long, because I want it fresh, customs and immigration and baggage take time, and the airport is a ways away from good margaritas.  Essentially, I am pursuing this desire as soon as it is possible for it to be fulfilled.

One other example, just for clarity (or to confuse you more, if this all doesn’t make sense to you), could be in my desire to bungee jump off a bridge that is over water.  Something a long time ago gave me the desire, but it was more of an unreal desire for me.  I didn’t expect my life to have it ever be an option.  However, once I went small-scale bungee jumping with friends, it began to shift to a real desire.  I was afraid to pursue it, so I left it in the gray area, ready to be pursued, should the opportunity arise.  Now that I have lived somewhere that offers such a thing, – Ibaraki, Japan – I see myself pursuing it.  I notice that it is not huge in my list of desires, but it is a real one.  The opportunity presented itself two weeks ago, and I made arrangements to go jump.  Of course, timing was such that I got dreadfully sick the day beforehand, and so rescheduled with my friend.  I am now scheduled to go with a different friend next week.  If it doesn’t work out, I’ll be okay.  This is a real desire that I have, but it is so much on a non-time limit that I am okay not doing it now – I know I will get around to it at some point, so I don’t have to hassle myself extremely to make it work at this one place.  That being said, I really do want to handle it all now, and bungee off my bridge in Japan, partly because it’s one less thing for me to think about in the future, and partly because it makes for a fun story.  And I used the word “handle,” not because I dislike the situation, but because a lot of things here recently have kind of been a real hassle for me, and so I tend to think more in terms of ‘managing’ things in life for the next two weeks, as opposed to just ‘living’ life and ‘creating’ things, and all that jazz.
Anyway, that was a fun tangent for me.  I could have explained it loads better, but I didn’t.  I hope that’s okay for now.  I’m sitting on a train to go up to my final festival in Japan, and I really need to pee, but don’t want to bother using what might be a gross train toilet (notice that I have no concern for leaving my belongings at my seat – score one big one for Japan on this point), when I know I can make it all the way to the station.  So, I have written this to help me pass the time without wandering thoughts on the discomfort of a filling bladder (the realness of the discomfort can be evidenced by the fact that my shorts haven’t been buttoned for close to an hour already).  I dislike writing on my phone, and for more than one reason (physical slowness of thumb typing and high error rate are two of the main ones).  Therefore, I’ll end with this:

I never expected to end up living in Asia, for any period of time.  I especially did not expect it to be for longer than I had lived in any country other than my own.  I like Europe.  I would have expected my doing a year there long before I even visited Asia.  But here I am, one year through (and very through, I do believe) life in Asia.  It has turned out that Japan is not a very good place for me to live my life, but that I really do appreciate Asia.  I actually have real desire to return to Asia, and to experience more of it.  Japan, Korea, and Singapore have only gotten me started, it seems.

In a way, it is stressful, because there are now even more places I want to visit.  However, I will just roll with what life offers to me, and aim for returning for at least one visit for a start, hopefully within the next few years.  I’d say that this is a middle-range real desire, similar to, and likely above the Christmas Market one.  It’ll happen, I believe, as I have full intentions for it to happen.  It’s a real desire I have.  Life does what it does, though, so we’ll just have to see.  For now, I’m at the end of the train line in the next minute or three, so I’ll go wrangle my baggage – giving away loads of nut butters, smoothie boosters, and spices, as well as my Magic Bullet (c) (Is that right?) – and head for my friend who is meeting me at the station.  Then I’ll use a bathroom either there or at her nearby home.  And then we’ll enjoy fireworks and a festival, possibly in the rain.  Whatever the case, we will enjoy it, which is a main part of what called to mind my thoughts on having lived here in the first place.

Post-a-day 2017