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.  ðŸ™‚

Post-a-day 2017

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Ouch!

I bruised my pinkie toe today, it seems.  It might actually be fractured, due to the style of pain, however, the impact didn’t seem to have enough force behind it to have caused a fracture, which is fortunate.  Sitting here on my bed at my mom’s house, thinking about how that happen today, has me recall the last time something similar happened while I was living here.

I was on my way to Worlds, as we call it in the community.  “Worlds” is short for United Country Western Dance Council World Championships.   (See? “Worlds” is easier.)  And it is relevant that I tell you the full name of the event.  I promise.  I had participated in and scored high enough in other events throughout the year in order to qualify for Worlds, and I was incredibly excited.  It isn’t every day that one competes for a world title, and it isn’t even in every life, either – this was an honor and a privilege, and I was ready for it.

Therefore, when I managed to hook my toe underneath me on a stair as I rushed back downstairs after having run upstairs one last time to grab something small that I’d forgotten, my mind was reeling with concern.  I was in extreme pain, and I curled up to the floor, crying, holding my foot, barely even able to make contact with the toe.  I almost couldn’t think straight, or even at all, such was the disturbance.  “If I just broke my toe, I can’t dance,” was about what I said to myself, asI was  curled up around my toe.  I prayed in a way that I didn’t know how to make selfless, and I also prayed that that would be okay for this occasion.

I realized, as my brain power began to return to me, that my fear and concern was compounding the intensity of my crying, and that the physical pain wasn’t quite so bad as I’d been thinking.  Yes, it absolutely hurt, but a large part of any impact’s pain is the initial set-in, going from comfort and ease to pain.  That is, it hurts really badly at first, but then calms after the initial shock, and then the pain begins to subside exponentially.

And such was the case.  The extreme pain was real, but was not the full cause of my tears – I was dreadfully worried that I wouldn’t be able to dance, and all for that pair of socks, or whatever it was I ran up the stairs to grab.  My toe continued to hurt for a while, – maybe even the rest of the day – but it was doing well by the time my day to compete came around.  I have been forever grateful that my toe was spared and my dancing was blessed.

If you win at Worlds, you get a specific jacket, and your name is embroidered on it.  I still have mine.  ðŸ™‚

Post-a-day 2017

Books for Previews

I read books in the movie theatre.  It’s true.  I really do.  Not during the film, of course, but beforehand, and sometimes even during previews.

It all started when a friend of my dad’s gave me a book called Staying Alive in Year Five.  I think it might be an Australian book.  Whatever its origin, I loved reading the book.  I remember being so excited to see what happened next that I took it with me everywhere, so I could read whenever I had the chance.

This, naturally, included the movie theatre.  We always get to the film early in order to get good seats, and then the movie itself never starts at the specified time, anyway.  So, I sat down in my seat by my family members, and I opened up my book and read.  I was excited for the film, but I was also disappointed at having to stop reading, when it got to the beginning of the film.

Nowadays, I still read before a movie, if I’m there at all, of course.  There hasn’t been much to spark my interest lately, so I haven’t often been at the cinema.  And Japan was different, simply because I wanted to learn as much Japanese and Japanese culture as I could, so I watched all the previews and everything rather avidly.  Aside from those specific circumstances, I read.  I almost always have a book with me.  Living in Japan meant that I ended up always having my Kindle, since hard copies of books in not Japanese weren’t so easy to come by.  I would read at work, on the train, and at home.  While walking around (once I bought earphones I could wear again [Thanks, Korea!]), I listened to audiobooks.  Occasionally, I listened to music, but typically not.  I just love books.

Post-a-day 2017

A compliment to remember

About a year or two ago (though, I think it was two years ago), I received one of the most memorable compliments I have ever been given.  I was reminded of it today, as my mom and I drove around in the sunny daylight that was following our storm so nicely.  With all of the rain and flooding, many people have pulled out their trucks and boats, and gone to the rescue of those in need of water transportation in areas that formerly were roads (and which, I suppose, likely still are, just beneath all that water now).  For this reason, I was reminded of a particular friend of mine who has a boat.  (Or, at least, he did have a boat when we last were in touch.  Currently, I’m not so sure, because we simply haven’t been much in touch since I moved to Japan.)

This particular friend was a childhood friend.  In fact, he was one of the neighborhood kids. I secretly – or so I thought – had crushes on him and his brothers when we were all little, and we all would play together all along the street, the whole lot of kids.  Anyway, as everyone moved off to college and parents moved off the street, a lot of us rather lost touch.  Here in there, though, we each would see others briefly in life.  About two years ago, this happened for me with this particular friend and his brothers.

We were at a country-western bar/dance club in Houston, and I recognized them.  Sure, they were all massive men compared to the last time I had seen them, when they were all possibly in college.  Big and strong, burly men was an easy way to describe the guys who stood before me in this bar.  I was amazed, though delighted – I guess scrawny little boys can grow up to be big, strong men, after all. 😛

It was as I was talking with one of them that the memorable compliment came.  He said to me simply, “You’re gorgeous.”  And he said it multiple times.  I’m not sure how many times exactly, but I know that it was more than once.  What really stood out about it was not so much the words (though they were amazing), as how he said them.  I can still hear it, even, it was so impactful.  He did not say them in any condescending way – ‘How unexpected that you would be gorgeous,’ – or as though he were hitting on me – ‘Hey, let’s go to my place, gorgeous.’  He was simply stating something he believed, and earnestly, with feeling.  It reminded me of how girlfriends (true ones, not the fake kind) might talk to the girlfriend who has just found the perfect dress for something, and is thrilled, or who is all dressed up for a big date or presentation or her wedding – there is no jealousy or dishonesty, but pure love and honesty in the declaration of her being gorgeous in that dress.  He wasn’t being sleazy, but truly gentleman-like, and it was amazing. It really was.

And that was it.

Because of this brief interaction I had with this friend, he has remained in my regular thoughts these past couple-ish years.  Every so often, I am reminded of him, and I am grateful for him, and I wonder how he is doing (and I usually get distracted by something or other before I am able to send him any kind of message to check in, but I occasionally manage it).  This weekend especially, I have wondered how he is doing, over and over again, and I finally managed, after however many days this storm has been, to check in with him.  It was brief, but I made contact and found out that he and his family are doing okay.  They all hold special places in my heart, because of their various roles in my childhood, but he has an especially dear one, thanks to his beautiful compliment, whenever that was.

Post-a-day 2017

I can’t walk right…

I walk on the wrong side, too.  Whenever I’m on the stairs, or even if I end up in a sidewalk/hallway sort of situation most times, I don’t even realize that I’m in the left side until I reach oncoming traffic.  At those times, I resort to my Japan automatic behavior of scooting simply to the middle of the stairwell, as opposed to switching sides entirely.  While escalators and roads were set sides, stairwells and walkways often had signed alternate setups for walking (due to high traffic in train stations and such), so I regularly was too confused when either there weren’t signs or people united them.  It quickly became a habit of mine, especially at school, just to put myself in the middle of the stairwell, and to let people go around me as they pleased.

And now I find myself always starting on the left side, and pushing quickly to the center as people approach, just like in Japan.  I find it amazing, the habits we build in life.

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