November 26, 2005

Not Thinking

Well, this is a drag. I ran out of money tonight. That is probably the least of my worries though. It only means that I cannot buy anything to eat or drink for the rest of the evening. I will survive. Yes. Survival.

But often us humans need more than survival. Some say it is love that keeps us going. Is it love that also keeps one in a perpetual argument with oneself over what is love and how to act upon such a definition? I have been accused on this very evening of being unable to act in the spirit of "human kindness." A very big accustation, indeed.

When one is accused of something that is unbearable, there is the choice of a) violent and righteous revolt against such a dreaded mistake in the act of thinking and feeling or b) self-destructive acceptance of all that is wrong, embracing with an especial tenderness the thoughts wrought upon oneself with utmost ferocity. I have, like Dmitri Karamazov, been linked to choice b), like the ball at the end of my chain. Were it not for a certain unabashed sense of things to come, an intimation beyond all that is given at any one moment, a place I know to be my home somewhere in the world I create and which has created me, then it would be far too much to digest. But seeing as there is some sort of sense beyond that which I taste and see, I have no choice at all it seems. I have decided a long time ago.

And when the waters subside, the flood is reduced to a small creek in a muddy valley, I will sit down, rest my feet in the stream, and ask myself again why I had to go through all of that just for a moment of peace.

My time is up tonight. I must pay the bill.

November 18, 2005

The Education of a Recovering Spendthrift

The other day I realized how much money I spend on food here in Japan. Too much. I will grant myself some things--I have a more sizeable appetite than most Japanese, I have a generous income, and most decisively I have no culinary inclinations whatsoever to counteract this downward spiral of eating out every other night, "other night" meaning "a night in which I don't want to cook." All of this has changed now, for the time being at least, as I try to raise money for future travelling, for myself down the road past the fork that marks the end of my JET career and the beginning of my toils with financial stability.

What was on the menu this week?
Monday: Spaghetti with canned tomato sauce
Tuesday: Instant ramen with Bok-choy and raw egg
Wednesday: Mah-boh Tofu (stir friend tofu with chili meat sauce)
Thursday: A Big Mac, McDonalds salad & leftovers from Wed. (I am stooping very low, folks, to save precious yen)
Friday: What shall I cook tonight? How about natto sitr fry?

Even all of this is not interesting to me. I spent most of my Thursday night studying Japanese grammar for the level 2 JLPT test. It took me three hours to review the 173 points that I have mastered (more or less) for the test. The disheartening fact is that my reading ability of Kanji, what I thought was my strong point, is not so impressive. After two practice tests and many drills, I can't seem to get over 55-60%. I must, I must, I must increase my vocabulary. Here I am taking giant steps toward that goal. Each minute I spend here at the computer another Chinese ideograph fades from my short term memory.

Why can't I install my electronic dictionary into my brain? Maybe I just have to wait a few years for that. Until then, I will remain content with my borderline test scores. Captain Kanji, signing off...

November 11, 2005

Reflection on a Spring Evening

As the rain ceases, the wind blows,
clouds float by, the moon hides.
Everyone, this is a spring evening.
The raw-warm air blows past.

From somewhere a deep sigh,
a kind of distant vision,
emerges, but I cannot take hold.
No one can speak of this

No one can speak of this--
but this in particular,
is it not life itself
which no one can lay bare?

In this way, people, one by one,
feel in their heart, looking at each other's faces,
perhaps even grinning,
how life passes.

As the rain ceases, the wind blows,
clouds float by, the moon hides.
Everyone, this is a spring evening.
The raw-warm air blows past.

中原中也 Nakahara Chuuya

This is a recent, and very raw, translation I did in my spare time at school. I am thinking of a better word for "reflection"--the word in Japanese is "感懐,” or kankai. It means "feeling" and "nostalgia," but put together it means what? Finding a single word for this is impossible. A legitimately "deep thought," as opposed to the sketch on Saturday Night Live that got old, but was profound in its repetition. Anyways, the moral is my translation sucks. Maybe next time.

November 07, 2005

Looking for Windfalls

Unimaginably fatigued today. Yesterday, I rode my bike down the busy avenue outside my house (Miyakaido) to a restaraunt for dinner. There had been rain earlier in the day, but as I left the skies were clear and a warm breeze rustled through my hanging laundry. I took no umbrella with me. After my meal, I went outside to find my bike slightly damp. It was drizzling, but I could still make it back to my apartment (a two or three minute ride) without getting very wet. About halfway through my ride, a sudden downpour began. For a full two minutes I was riding my bike underwater. My entire body and clothes saturated in the rain, I finally reached home and dried off, changed clothes, etc.

Today I woke up, still sleepy after 8 hours of sleep. Now I have a headache, a fever, a stomachache, and a sore left shoulder (probably unrelated to the other symptoms). I probably suffer from every malady that I have put down on a worksheet for my students when they study how to talk about sicknesses. What should I do? Rest in bed, take some medicine, see the doctor, drink some soup, etc. Anything but ride in the rain again.

I have had a lot of time at school today to ponder life & why I am feeling so stoic about my life these days. My class was another average one. I read the paper at lunch, finishing half of the crossword, giving up by default because I fell asleep. Then I glimpsed at a presentation I am making on teacher self-development, which is a ton of baloney. I hope the workshop goers like baloney. Later Bokui-sensei, a teacher who refuses to teach with me, asked me to narrow down the students' essay topics to three titles from which they choose one. There is a reason why I insist on keeping the words "Free Choice" on top of the essay worksheet. I do not think I can stand to read 300 identically uninspired essays--again. Even if they are bad, it will be a diversity of errors. That, I feel, is a much more welcome burden to carry. Finally, I studied my book of grammatical points for the Level 2 Japanese Language Proficiency Exam, which I am taking next month. This I also left incomplete.

Having no energy to finish anything today, I came back to the computer to continue the one thing in life that never will be finished, but is always worth continuing.

November 04, 2005

Following the Past

I went back to Shimizu Town yesterday to celebrate this year's Culture Day. On my way up the mountain, I remembered many mornings on the bus--rising at 6:00am sharp to ride sleepily in the heated bus up the windy road along the Arida River. Those mornings were full of joy. The one boy who commuted from Wakayama City (roughly a two and a half hour commute) was always too shy to speak with me, but still grinned in appreciation for my speaking to him. Then there was Rumiko, who always wore a very lovely perfume and sat in front me. She always slept with her head drooping straight down, her chin at the point where the collarbone meets in the center. I was always excited to be going to that quiet place where the sounds of leaves, wind, and an occassional bird are the only sounds you can hear from the school building windows...Anyways, yesterday I stumbled unawares into Shimizu Bunko's High School Festival, at which I enjoyed chanko nabe, a stew served for sumo wrestlers with various veggies, meaties, eggs, miso, kimchee, etc. After the festival, I headed to Shimizu Onsen for an hour of roasting in the sauna, dipping in the ice cold water, then soaking up the hot spring water in a 15 minute rotation. The air from the cedar forests was pungent and cool. It was perfect.

When I went back home via Kibi, I made a stop at the Hayashi residence, a home just next to my old flat out in the mikan yards. There I met Ryoko, the youngest daughter (24 or 25) and her one son, Sora (maybe 3). Soon Kaede (6) and her younger brother Soya (1 or so) came running out from the back of the house and the jungle gym was officially declared. For the next half hour or hour I was their climbing apparatus, which they all used to the fullest extent. Then Hiromi, the second daughter of the family (27 or 28) and mom of Kaede and Soya, came out with her two month old baby boy, Ryu. Seeing a chance for a break, Hiromi plopped Ryu into my lap. After I held Ryu for a while I started to get the feeling that probably anyone would have in my situation"...Awww...I want a child someday as well..." Ryu being the inexplicable miracle that he is, I was reminded of that secret wish of mine to have a family. Anyways, I had some tea, spoke with the grandmother, moms, sons and daughters of the entire family and then went on my way back to the city, my bag full of mikan and instant ramen packets.

What a beautiful day it was. I was reminded of the fact that I will remember that first year living in Kibi for my whole life, a year in which I felt something very deep and strangely wonderful. There is no way to ever put it into words, but there it is--always before me.

November 01, 2005

Osaka Halloween Train

Doraemon before he leaves the "dokodemo" apartment.

All of these losers showed up...

And then things started to look better after I switched cars for the fifth time...

Godzilla and Doraemon befriend each other after many rounds of G&T on the train...

On a less crowded train, Doraemon sits alone, wondering where Nobita and Shizu-chan went off to at this time of night...

Doraemon has trouble flagging down a taxi outside of Namba. Perhaps the reason Doraemon can't is that Doraemon has no fingers.