I ordered a sleeping bag from my local Daiki Home Center early last week, since I’m going to need it this weekend and next. It came in last Thursday or Friday or so, in a surprisingly tiny box. Due to the Lord of the Rings marathon and general laziness, I didn’t get around to taking it out of the box until today.

It’s too short.

It’s marked as a 190-cm sleeping bag (and with my being around 175 cm tall, I figured it wouldn’t be a problem), but it comes up roughly to my shoulders! Normally I might be kind of annoyed about this, but I’m just laughing at the absurdity of the situation right now and thinking, “Only in Japan…” I guess I’ll be curled up and unable to stretch my legs while I sleep all weekend–unless the dorms we’re staying in are heated, in which case maybe it’ll be all right. We’ll see.

On the topic of weekend outings, I’m thinking I should have started packing earlier this week. Or earlier tonight. Now I’m sleepy and I still have to hang up my wet laundry and pack for 3 nights (was going to be 2, until I talked to Evan, who’s also volunteering, and realized that we’re supposed to get to Jam Camp tomorrow night, and not just early on Saturday…whoops). I’m really worried that my one overnight bag (swiped from Hannah in August, out of her predecessor Allison’s stockpile–apparently she doesn’t want it back, which works wonders for me, because I’m getting a ton of use out of it) won’t hold enough clothes, including layers (since it’s supposed to be pretty chilly this weekend), for 3 nights, as well as dishware; the next biggest thing I have is a carry-on-sized suitcase, which is too big. I may have to “go to the bank” tomorrow afternoon (or just give in and ask my boss) and see if I can track down a store in town that sells moderate-sized duffel bags or backpacks. That, or I can just wear my huge and quite warm Yoda hoodie every single day…nothing wrong with that.

(It cracks me up that Nightly is still the #1 result for a Google search for “yoda hoodie.” We were obsessed with those things around Star Wars Celebration.)

I’m also hoping that I can manage to carry my overnight-bag-of-as-yet-undetermined-size, my sleeping bag with a pillow (and possibly another sheet inside–I’m giving the sleeping bag a test run tonight to see whether its “keeps you warm in weather as cold as 7 C” promise is as approximate as its 190-cm length), and my violin (since this is a music camp). And hopefully not my khaki-colored shoulder bag for a change, just to minimize everything. I’m at least getting picked up by Evan at Kamojima Station…but to be honest, I’ve never done a true camp like this before. I’m a little nervous I’ll forget something crucial–I have no rain gear other than an umbrella (no, Mom and Dad, please don’t send me one of those Shamu ponchos from Sea World 10 years ago, though I know you’re tempted!).

All right, off with me now…have a good weekend, everyone.

Attn: Georgia Tech Symphony Orchestra

I just want to tell you guys that you rock.

Ethan very kindly sent me a package consisting of several recordings I’d ordered about a year ago which he picked up for me, and it came in today. I’ve listened to “Bohemians and Beatniks” (fall ’04–we did the Moldau, one of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, and Storm, from the Summer movement of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons) and just put in last year’s Concerto Competition recording. This certainly isn’t a perfect ensemble, but none of us are music majors and we were all there because we wanted to be there and play music and be a part of this group, and as a result, there’s so much heart in this music that you can totally hear, and I’m grinning from ear to ear–listening to these recordings we all got to make together has totally made my day!

(The really sweet and supportive letter Ethan included was icing on the cake, so to speak. I’d written my “homesick” entry around the time he put it together, and…I love my friends. I really love you all and feel so fortunate to have serendipitously come into contact with you all and struck up such strong relationships.)

(Oh, and Louise, you rocked the Barber. It’s gorgeous! All the soloists positively shone. I remember that it was a bit of a struggle for everyone to get there, but as it always went before every single concert we ever put on, it totally, totally came together on stage.)

The GTSO is just such a great group of people, and I’m happy that I was able to stick with you all for 11 semesters. I don’t know that I’d ever get a chance to visit home while school’s in session (unless I just get brutally homesick/miserable and spontaneously book a trip, the way Louise has done, since she’s currently back in Atlanta), but if so, I’d love to drop in and say hi.

(Yeah, this isn’t exactly Japan-themed, but oh well. There’s more I could say, but I’d like to actually get back to work off my lunch break on time for a change.)

Unadulterated geekery ROCKS

It’s 11:15, and I’m home, just in time to go to sleep. (Yeah, like that’s going to happen.)

This was a freaking awesome weekend. (Despite the fact that I somehow completely ditzed out and forgot my toothbrush, toothpaste, and pajamas! I still am not clear as to how that happened, because I know I packed them…) As I said repeatedly, it felt so good to be an unadulterated geek–and I knew more about Lord of the Rings than I realized, despite not having read the books in several years, which was nice! It also had a sort of familiar feel to it, because the male-female ratio was reminiscent of Georgia Tech’s, and I quite often would be the only girl or one of few; of the six of us, there was one other girl there (Rich’s wife Lei) besides me. In attendance besides Mat (the host) and me were Jim from Hiwasa, Rich and Lei from Donari, and Mat’s friend Derek (who was in Tokushima for a while but now is in Wakayama). I arrived on Friday night and Derek and I stayed the night, and Jim and I stayed the night Saturday.

It’s also funny that despite the fact that Mat and I have read each other’s online journals for probably the last 6 months, we’d honestly never gotten to hang out before, besides bumping into each other very briefly at a couple of JET get-togethers, so it was almost like meeting an online friend who happened to be involved with some of the same things I was or shared mutual friends with me, which has happened a few times. It was cool finally getting to change that. And of course, we made blogging jokes several times throughout the weekend. “Hey, maybe I should blog about this!” and so on.

Anyway, we did indeed make it through the Extended Editions of all 3 LOTR films–and I like them a lot more, now that these extra scenes have helped to flesh everything out far more. The only thing I didn’t like was the romance, but that wasn’t handled so well to begin with, even in the books. I need to acquire the Extended Editions at some point. We started watching at around 9 or 9:30 AM and went till 12:30 AM (only Derek couldn’t make it all the way through), and took a break after each DVD (the films were 2 DVDs each, each one 1.5 to 2 hours long) to eat and stretch and go outside and walk around. The food was well thought-out and themed as well–we had a Hobbit-like breakfast, with fresh fruit and breads and eggs, and then a Gollum-like lunch with sushi (because, as you know, Gollum likes raw fish!), and then a Middle-Earth-esque dinner, with a roast chicken, vegetables, and bread. And to be honest, it wasn’t at all a difficult marathon! There were a few points where we would glance at the clock and think, “Oh, man, we’re only halfway there…” but I think the breaks were really well-timed and we were able to stay really fresh through to the end. I don’t envy Rich and Lei for making the drive back home last night itself, though; that had to have been tough, since they couldn’t have arrived till close to 2 AM.

I wanted to jot down some really geeky quotes, but I honestly got so into the movies (as all of us did, though we did allow ourselves a chance to give them the MST3K treatment in a way that wasn’t too annoying for any of us) that I didn’t get to jot down much. The only thing I wrote down was during Fellowship, during the Council of Elrond, when Aragorn tells Frodo, “You have my sword,” and Legolas chimes in with, “And you have my bow,” and Gimli adds, “And my axe!” Rich jumped in with, “And my nuclear warhead!”

All in all, the weekend was a smashing success. The marathon went off without a hitch, the organization and preparation were just awesome, and we all had a great time.

Oh, and today, I helped Mat chase off a determined stalker girl by offering to get on the phone with her, with the hopes that her hearing a female voice would scare her off. Later, Jim and I were following Mat as we all were driving to lunch (a ¥400 vegetarian teishoku!), and he suddenly veered sharply off the road and jumped out of his car, dashed towards us, and nearly threw his phone at me (the look on his face was priceless–frantic and wide-eyed near-panic) as soon as I rolled down my window. I actually ended up telling her that I was his girlfriend because she refused to take the hint! I don’t think she’ll call back. (But Mat, if she does, feel free to put us on a 3-way call and I’ll try to scare her off again for you! It was embarrassing, granted, but freaking hilarious, too.)

Anyway…also today, before lunch, we (Jim, Mat, and me) had pancakes for breakfast, took a drive and a short uphill walk to see a really beautiful waterfall not so far away. We then went to lunch, which was quite filling for such a cheap price and gave us a really gorgeous view of the Katsuura River gorge–and having completely vegetarian Japanese food was so refreshing for a change. We also tried to see this huge display of hina matsuri dolls, but we’d just missed the display by 2 days. After that, we made the (45-minute! Holy crap) drive to Komatsushima so I could make my train…except that the train didn’t come and they were heading through the city anyway, so I caught a ride with them and caught a train from there out west (and ran into Julie and her aunt while waiting to board; we seem to have run into each other at train stations several times), and Julie very kindly gave me a ride in her rental car to the restaurant where people were meeting to hang out at Fumi’s for dinner with Ellie and her parents, who are in town for the spring break. Hannah and Lindsay were there as well, and we caught a ride back with Andrew K. to our apartment.

So, moral of the story: Lord of the Rings freaking rocks. And if you ever need a surrogate/stand-in/pretend girlfriend to scare off your stalkers, give me a call.

The week in review

I remembered, firsthand, exactly how potent friendly guilt trips as delivered by cheery, merry, jolly elderly Japanese men (namely, my landlord) are. Ouch.

So, in regards to that last post…I’m not so down anymore. I still am seriously considering going home, though, unless I happen upon a really good travel deal elsewhere and a willing travelmate. My plans to go to Sydney, Australia for Golden Week with Louise have fallen through for sure (we’ll spend a few days hanging out here and going around Shikoku, and we may go up to Tokyo for a weekend after that), so right now I have nothing going on this summer before the new ALTs come in and my duties as one of the AJET officers kick in.

So today at work, I got bored and starting writing up a summary of the last 7 days…

Thursday: shougakkou graduation #2, my Monday-morning school, with 4 graduates; I knew 3 of them quite well but the 4th was the Phantom 12th Student who never, ever showed up to school/class, so I’d never seen him before
– rode back with the new kyouikuiinkai kacho–had never talked to him before, outside of introducing myself when he first started working here a few weeks ago, but he’s a nice guy and knows quite a bit about Atlanta–besides Braves/Olympics/Gone With The Wind, he knows Jimmy Carter/Ray Charles/Augusta golf masters!

Friday: the kacho left today’s graduation (the first of my two Thursday-morning elementary schools) before I could get a ride, so another BOE staffer I’d never talked to before (though he’s been working there since before I came to Japan) picked me up…got a teacher’s corsage and ROSES at this ceremony! And one of those numerous baskets of violets they have everywhere as ceremony decoration

Saturday: Wakimachi show (final of our 5 musical shows)–met up with Julie, lunch at La Tavola, caught a train and Christine picked us up from Anabuki Station and we were among the first to arrive–really gorgeous traditional hall, put up a bunch of my photos
– messing with spotlight–Jordan dancing around to intermission music in multicolored light–Saori doing her intro during our runthrough and either Rory or Elliott trying to sneak out from behind the curtain and ending up right in the light–Rory trying to creep down the ramp, but they had the light follow him
– flying–Jordan & co. taking out the window curtains!
– meeting Claire’s newborn daughter Sofie!
– FORGOT to put on my glasses, which were resting on top of my head, when I got onstage–remembered after a few minutes, but then they kept falling off!
– everyone really hamming it up for the final show (I feel guilty that I didn’t have 100% focus/give it my all that time)
– very awesome and receptive audience, packed theater, laughing at ALL the right times instead of just some–even the constantly-tanking “performance anxiety” line got a few laughs! (probably from the numerous ALTs present.)
– the caravan of 15 cars from Wakimachi all the way to the Mino bungalows for the after-party was fun–loved the look of fear on the Sunkus cashiers’ faces–loved being able to screw with the minds of some Japanese guys who were chuckling (in Japanese), “Whoa, check out the Americans, huh-huh-huh…they were born in a foreign country, huh-huh-huh…California…” as if it was the funniest thing, so I went (in Japanese), “Actually, we aren’t from California,” and they just froze and stared, and I went, “You did say California, right?” and they just kept staring and I grinned, and Elliott and I kind of gloated about how we can totally understand even when they think we can’t
– really let exhaustion/burnout get to me, and though this is completely out of character for me and I feel kind of ashamed for acting/feeling this way, I honestly was really hurt that I only got a bare minimum of recognition for the playbill when the thank-yous were being said at the after-party and Jamie got a ton of applause for the poster (thank you for thinking of me, Julia)…I’m okay now, but I wasn’t so okay that night…didn’t really enjoy the party, was one of the first to go to sleep (at 2:30 AM)

Sunday: was going to ride with Kirsten to the closest train station, but she was really tired and I got the sense that she just wanted to go home and not drive me…ended up riding with Christian, who kindly took me to Anabuki station–it hit me that we’ve never hung out solo, and it would be cool to hang out with him again, particularly back in the US when he’s in far more comfortable environs than these
– went home (a train came in 15 minutes after he dropped me off, conveniently enough), called Hamza and talked for a long time–first time in MONTHS!! got really homesick/miserable
– totally forgot about choir practice for the Beethoven (in June our town’s putting on the Ode to Joy with the Tokyo Philharmonic–they’re not letting people play with the orchestra, unfortunately, but the choir is made up of townspeople and I’ve wanted to get involved; my JTE is singing in it and my junior high music teacher’s helping with organization/conducting)

Monday: my JTE asked why I couldn’t come, oops–she and the music teacher told me the next rehearsal’s the following MONDAY, so I’ll totally go
– was social!
– found out that our farewell enkai for teachers who are being transferred to different schools is this Friday night
– looked around online, found deals for Australia, messaged Louise, who asked if she could maybe come see me this weekend–I told her yes immediately and messaged Mat to cancel on LOTR
– later I kept feeling uneasy, the more I thought about how much effort Mat had put into ensuring veg food would be available…left Louise a msg asking if she could come in several weeks, e-mailed Mat to apologize

Tuesday: Day Of Slack–caught 8:28 express to Tokushima–wanted to find the bagel place Jenna and I had gone to but couldn’t, so had a super-expensive breakfast at Cha-Cha (cinnamon french toast–with vanilla ice cream!–and iced cafe mocha), then went to Uniqlo, found Mod’s Hair, hung out at TOPIA and read some Calvin/Hobbes till I had to go, went for my haircut (the scalp massage was niiice) but didn’t get the discount the other JETs have gotten, had lunch at Masala (veg curry with aloo naan), went to Muji and ran into Claire and Sofie, we went to the Sogo basement together, then she showed me around a bit and walked with me out to the smaller Rica-Oh (surprisingly little there), then we parted ways and I headed back to get a snack (Willie Winkie’s) and catch my train to meet Ben and Julia–the concert was AWESOME, the best I’ve seen in quite some time! (improv/jazz cello by Kikkawa Yoshihiro; absolutely stunning)–then, back to Minami Komatsushima Station…next train not for an hour, so they decided to take me to the city! had dinner at Big Brothers, then headed back to Ikeda on the last train–Julia and Ben are so wonderful.
Uniqlo: 3 pairs of toe socks, tanktop, “cardigan,” fleece
Muji: 2 bowls, 2 plates, shoulder bag (big enough to hold my Japanese textbook and some binders, but not as mammoth as my khaki bag), planner
Sogo basement: Campbell’s soup–tomato and cream of mushroom, and 6 bagels! 2 plain, 2 cranberry, 2 cinnamon raisin
Rica-oh: white cheddar cheese

Wednesday: back to work–Louise messaged me saying that she finally snapped after talking to her ex, and was booking a last-minute trip home! So that, + “well, she can’t afford to travel for Golden Week now, so…” + wanting to nail down how I’m getting to Mat’s and coordinating the enkai + lack of internet at work = STIRCRAZY. still no word from Mat. talked to Louise on the phone for about an hour (she’s going home ON FRIDAY). but we’re just touring Shikoku for GW now, maybe up to Hiroshima for a day. bummed about no AU and no volcanoes, but I have 1 more year!

today: studied Japanese for much of the day. ducked out after lunch to “go to the bank” (e.g., buy my train tickets for the weekend in case I wouldn’t have time to use my Young Weekender Card Friday, and run to the ¥100 store and buy notecards (and ran into a bunch of my Monday-morning kids there! They were all thrilled to see me–it was so sweet. The vice-principal was sort of teaching them the principles of shopping, I think)) and spent the afternoon making cards out of half the kanji in my textbook. Naoko dropped off photos from Lindsay’s farewell enkai. Chatted a bit with the preschool teacher who comes in occasionally, who I’m pretty sure is my age. I picked up my new sleeping bag from Daiki Home Center. Confirmed weekend details with Mat, and talked a bit more about Golden Week with Louise. Had burritos for dinner…mmm, burritos. (Laura will understand.)

And speaking of weekend details…straight after work tomorrow, I have to run home, and my JTE’s (very kindly going out of her way and) picking me up at 5 for our 5:30 farewell enkai, which I can only stay at for under an hour. Just before 6:30 I’m catching a bus to get me back to Ikeda, and with any luck I’ll have time to run home, change into jeans, grab my overnight stuff, and run for my 7:30 train, since this weekend is the Lord of the Rings marathon and subsequent Kamikatsu sightseeing day with Mat and company.

This was rambling and disjointed and all over the place–just wanted to have some documentation of what’s been going on, though! I most likely won’t get to write again for a few days, so I’ll be back in several days.


I’m starting to browse through discount airfare sites to look into deals for a trip home this summer. It’ll be in July, because I have classes till the end of June and then a lot of orientation/newcomer-welcoming stuff starting in August. I feel guilty for not traveling around Japan or Asia, but I really need to see my friends at home again. The time difference is such that it makes it really difficult to set up times to call people–I just talked to Hamza for over 1.5 hours, for the first time in many, many months; I haven’t talked to many of my friends since I called them on my birthday in August.

There are some amazingly good prices on roundtrip flights from Atlanta to Osaka in April/May…I just need to turn that around. And push it back by two months.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll change my mind–I’m really tired right now, after an exhausting weekend, and I’ll definitely be home in December–but I think I just really need this. Asia will still be here when I get back, and I can always travel later. Anyway, we’ll see.

So to my friends in or from Atlanta–I hope you’ll be around during the first 3 weeks in July, because I really, really want to see you all again. Details will come as stuff becomes more official.

Crisis management

I’ve just spent the last 1 1/2 hours scrambling to help a stranded Alexa get in touch with the friends she’s supposed to meet in Nara. (Typing this as I wait for her to call me to let me know she reached safely.) It all went something like this…

– 11:15 – I get an IM from Alexa, asking if I know anyone in Nara, and explaining the situation (supposed to be meeting friends, but the phone number she was given doesn’t work, she was in the hospital this morning and still feels pretty sick).

– 11:20 – We start throwing around contingency plans for ways that she can get some sleep, before she catches the earliest train back home tomorrow since she can’t reach her friends and they can’t reach her–I suggest talking to the people who run the internet cafe to see if they have a cot in back where she can crash, or if they can recommend a nearby hotel/capsule hotel/hostel.

– 11:25 – I send out a quick mass k-mailing to pretty much everyone in my address book, in case they might still be up, asking if they know anybody. No positive responses.

– 11:35 – She continues to explain the situation, how she doesn’t have her cellphone, and how these are friends from the US who are visiting, so they don’t have phones, either.

– 11:45 – She gives me the number for Rose, a friend in Niigata (her home prefecture) who has been helping her out a lot lately.

– 11:48 – I call Rose, explain the (rather strange) situation, and we start brainstorming–she suggests going to a police station and explaining what happened in really easy English, or going to a karaoke place or a manga cafe and renting out a box/cubicle for the rest of the night. I think of renting a room at a love hotel for a few hours. She also suggests catching one of those overnight trains that goes from Osaka to Hokkaido and would stop in their area, except that she wouldn’t be able to get to a train in time to get to Osaka before the trains stop running, and it may not be a good idea to move around so much this late and when she’s feeling so sick.

– 11:58 – I hang up with Rose and start IMing Alexa again–she’d already checked with a love hotel, and that’s out because you can only rent a room at one for 2 hours. But she starts considering the karaoke/manga ideas, though she wants to wait till Rose, who had a possible contact in Nara she could try to reach, calls me back.

– 12:00 – I continue to reassure Alexa that she isn’t at all imposing on us, that this is a crappy situation and we just want to make sure she’s doing okay.

– 12:03 – She explains that after her hospital visit, she went home and slept, but she overslept and left in a hurry to make her train, and in the process forgot her cellphone.

– 12:05 – She quotes Eleanor Roosevelt: “A woman is like a teabag–you never know how strong she is until you stick her in boiling water.”

– 12:10 – Rose calls me back and tells me that there’s a hotel attached to Nara Station, the Hotel Nikko Nara (a rather upscale chain), and they look to have a lot of open rooms. I’m guessing she couldn’t get in touch with the person, who she said she was in kind of a complicated situation in, plus he lives with his family, and…it’s just complicated.

– 12:15 – I pass this on to Alexa, who says that it looked dark and not open, but she’ll definitely consider it.

– 12:17 – I find info for them online and call them, and they say that they do indeed have double rooms open( ¥11,000, or around $100, but beggars can’t be choosers!), and she can check in if she wants.

– 12:22 – Alexa sends me the name of one of the friends she’s meeting, and the room number and phone number for where they’re staying. The phone number sets off warning bells in my mind…it has the 81 in front, which is the international calling code for Japan, and the area code provided doesn’t have a 0 in front of it, which is necessary when making domestic calls in Japan, though it’s rarely printed on websites, because when calling from abroad, you don’t use that 0. I ask her, and she says she dialed it with and without the 81, but doesn’t say anything about the 0.

– 12:23 – I google the number with the 0 and immediately pull up the website for her hotel.

– 12:24 – I call the hotel and talk to a gentleman, who searches for the friend’s name and can’t find it. I give him a super-basic rundown (her friends are there, she gave me this number, she’s supposed to be there too but can’t reach them), and he asks me for Alexa’s name, but can’t pull up either. In the process of all this, Alexa mentions via IM that the guy whose name she gave me is a fellow Georgia Tech alum.

– 12:29 – I tell her I didn’t have any luck with the hotel receptionist, and she tries to remember the name of the second person who’s there, the friend of her friend.

– 12:31 – I realize she gave me their room number! I then proceed to smack my forehead several times.

– 12:33 – Rose calls me back and tells me that she called the Hotel Nikko to check on their availability, and I fill her in on everything that’s happened. She wishes me luck, I apologize for keeping her up and she assures me that she’s “just chilling,” and we both find ourselves kind of laughing sympathetically at how insane this all has been.

– 12:35 – I call Alexa’s hotel again, right as she gives me an approximation of the other guy’s name, and I give the receptionist the room number, and he confirms that the reservation is indeed under the second guy’s name! The receptionist, who I’m now quite friendly with, patches me through, and I talk to Alexa’s friend, who sounds pretty bewildered, but immediately agrees to walk to the station and meet her.

– 12:42 – Alexa tells me that in her current state of health, she doesn’t think she can wait the 30-40 minutes it’ll take him to get to Nara Station, so she’ll just hail a cab.

– 12:43 – I call back and the friend’s still there, and I relay this and he agrees to go wait for her in the lobby.

– 12:47 – I give Alexa my phone numbers, in case something else goes wrong and she needs to call someone. She thanks me profusely, and signs off.

– 1:15 AM – my cellphone rings. I recognize the number on my cell as being from the hotel, and she greets me with an exhausted, embarrassed, but warm-sounding, “Hey, babe, I made it.” I order her to get a lot of sleep, and forget her friends if they try to make her wake up early.

And now, I’m off to get some sleep as well–thankfully, we aren’t meeting until the early afternoon for our final musical show, so I can still get a solid 8 hours of sleep. Whew! Good night, everyone.

Musical and graduation…stuff

Hmm…I actually haven’t really had the urge to write. It’s just been about a week, so I’m just checking in.

I miss my kotatsu so much right now. The weather got cold again on Monday, after only somewhat chilly weather over the weekend, and it snowed Monday and yesterday–quite a bit yesterday, though nearly all of it had melted by the afternoon and it’s all gone now. I’m huddled under a blanket currently. I’ll be getting the kotatsu back this weekend, after our musical wraps, and I hope I can still put it to some use before spring sets in.

Yesterday was Pi Day (March 14th, or 3/14…get it?)–I completely forgot until I saw the date on one of those digital signs outside a nearby restaurant when walking to the grocery store last night (I was wearing 4 layers at the time, because I was so cold in my apartment that my hands and feet were numb and my toes were tingling–I got a lot of stares for looking so bulky and just for wearing a hat and gloves, when even the senior citizens weren’t wearing hats; I would have been embarrassed if I weren’t so freaking cold). I did indeed eat some pie yesterday, sort of, in the form of an apple pie pastry.

So the Insane Weekend came and went…graduation was Saturday morning, and I headed out the door with my shoulder bag, my costume/change-of-clothes bag, and my ¥1000 Christmas tree to serve as a prop, and while wearing my suit and heels. A strange sight, indeed.

The ceremony was interesting–a bit different from US ceremonies. For one thing, most schools don’t have a junior high graduation, and if they do, it’s not nearly as big a deal as in Japan. It was a very emotional day for these people–while graduation’s a day to rejoice and celebrate in the west, it’s a very tearful day of farewells here. I didn’t cry, but I felt that familiar ache in my throat and twinge in my nose that told me that I was close. The diplomas were handed out first, and then the speeches followed–the whole ceremony was 2 hours long, and there was a lot of kiritsu/rei/chakuseki, enough that I nearly stood up one time when just the students were supposed to, and the teacher to my left grabbed my arm as I started to move. I exchanged a sheepish grin with the teacher on my right, and the teacher to her right, smiling, scribbled on his programme, mata?

After the ceremony, the students and teachers met outside to say goodbye to the students as they departed the school, and the underclassmen had gifts prepared for the graduates. There were a lot of photos, the brass band played, the 3rd-years assembled and sang a song for their homeroom teachers…I sort of hung back because I never had a chance to be the favorite of any of the students, due to my rarely being at that school for a full day. Eventually I retreated to the teachers’ room to kill time till Joe and Jordan would be by to pick me up, and I folded about 100 of the 250 programmes I ended up having to print, due to Jordan running into issues (I didn’t think my school would let me do it, but they were quite awesome about helping me out).

When I finally headed outside, some of the sannensei were still there, and I ended up getting a group photo with about a dozen guys–Naoki first approached me to get a photo, and then another guy jumped in, and another, and another, and then they had me sit in front and crowded around me with peace signs and the like. I wish I’d handed my camera over to get a copy of that photo.

I first noticed that Joe and Jordan were coming when I saw Joe’s green jeep accidentally going up the wrong hill. Anyway, we headed out, with much fanfare from my students, who were amazed to meet other area ALTs. We drove to Mikamo, where we switched cars and Saori drove us the 3 hours down to Hiwasa. I’d gotten a headache at school and started feeling sick to my stomach, so I slept for much of the ride. I woke up about 20-30 minutes before we got there, in mountains that just seemed different, and then we arrived in the town of Hiwasa, which was right on the coast! It was adorable, and I really started liking it just from the drive through–I’d love to stop by another time.

The venue was also cute, if small–we got applause from the rest of the cast when we arrived, since we four had to come the farthest and we arrived a couple of hours after everyone else. The show went pretty well that night, though it had its own erroneous “theme”…the way that the show the Sunday before had people falling off the stage, this was the show of the random/runaway microphones rolling around on the stage. People nearly stepped on them, people had to roll them out to people onstage who’d forgotten them…it was pretty funny.

Bessie, Julia, and Amber were all staying at my place that night–way out west–and we ended up being among the last to leave because nobody else helped us clean up the venue. I still felt headachey and really sick and was a little worried I was going to throw up…until we stopped for dinner, and I realized that I hadn’t had breakfast and only had a meager lunch–I was hungry. After eating two servings of meat/fishless chaahan, I felt much, much better, and stayed awake to keep Bessie company for the rest of the drive (tsukaresama, Bess!), while Amber and Julia dozed in the back. It was a solid 3-hour drive, and we got here around 1:30 AM…but despite how tired we all were, we ended up staying awake till 3 AM, just teasing each other and giggling. The whole night was almost like a sleepover–we even played Truth or Dare in the car (more like Truth or Truth, really), but a very good-natured version.

Ironically, despite being really close to Mikamo, where the Sunday performance was, we were an hour late, but so were a bunch of other people. This show had our least turnout (though six of my eikaiwa ladies showed up!), but the most enthusiastic kids–some highlights include a kid coming up and making tongue-clucking noises at the edge of the stage and Chris as Hook interrupting himself to snarl, “Quiet!” at him; kids actually reading aloud the “I don’t believe in fairies” signs, during the scene where Pan is explaining why you should never, ever say those words; and just lots of giggling and shrieking at the appropriate times.

I also was able to do a brief and pretty simple dedication to Adam at the end, during the time when they were passing the mics around to have people living near the venue give thanks to friends/teachers/etc., so I thanked the people from my junior high (though none were present–my JTE was sick or she would have been there) and my eikaiwa ladies, and slipped in something along the lines of, “And on a more personal note…a couple of weeks ago, just before the first show, a good friend of mine back home in the US passed away. So Adam, this is for you. I love you and miss you.” The rest of the cast very kindly applauded at that (I honestly wasn’t sure what the reaction would be)–thanks, guys. I was a little surprised to find myself choking up a little bit–I guess it’s still a bit raw.

Because of graduation on Saturday, we got Monday off–even though I didn’t stay at school the whole day, my boss kindly let me take the day. I went with Lindsay to see some of her kids put on a rock concert at our community center, though we could only stay for 2 songs because she had to go meet somebody. I also got a small vase at the ¥100 store, and transferred Noam’s flowers into it and used the Old El Paso salsa bottle for the bigger bouquet that Yaemi and Kazumi, two of my eikaiwa ladies, had given me on Sunday (they ran up to the edge of the stage while I was talking–it was so sweet).

And this morning was the first of the three elementary school graduations I’m attending–they very kindly sat me at the teachers’ table. It was a shorter version of a junior high graduation, with no student speeches (did I mention that one of my speech contest girls was kind of the Japanese equivalent of valedictorian, so she gave the final speech, and was crying really hard in the middle? God, poor thing…there was also a speech about how everyone must eat the school lunch and 3 square meals a day, so they can keep up their strength and therefore become the future leaders of tomorrow–kind of funny, actually), but tears all around. I’ll be seeing all these kids in April, but I couldn’t help but think, “Enjoy this free time while you can…this is the last time you’re truly going to have fun in your academic life.”

And that’s all for now. Plans are falling into place for some of the post-musical stuff I’m doing, like the Shikoku frisbee tourney and Mat‘s Lord of the Rings marathon and subsequent day of exploring Kamikatsu. I have two more graduation ceremonies and two classes before I’m done with classes for a month…it’s time to figure out how to either make productive use of my time at the BOE, or how to successfully look like I’m doing work. Any suggestions?

On graduation and twentysomethings

Jennifer gave me Adam’s mother’s contact info. I’ll be sending her an e-mail, once I figure out what to say.

I also got a referral from someone that searched for “adam stevens suicide,” and it made me furious. Is that what people think actually happened? When he had so much going for him and such a bright future ahead? It’s such a huge show of disrespect, to assume or even seriously consider that he took his own life. I mean, yes, we don’t know what happened. But anyone who knew Adam would know that he would never do anything like that.

Well, moving on…

I had a slightly strange encounter at today’s elementary school. The kids at this school are great, and out of a class of 29, 19 of them are graduating next week and will be entering my junior high in April. But I get a strange vibe from the teachers sometimes (the two I work directly with are great, really friendly and genuine, but I’m referring to the ones who are in the staffroom when I arrive)–sometimes I feel like they’re friendly towards me just because they have to be, and it’s a little forced, particularly from the principal. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been nothing but courteous towards me…but the fact that I’ve noticed my principal gazing speculatively and silently at me on more than one occasion when I look up from whatever I’m doing at the time weirds me out a bit.

Well, anyway, today the principal asked me if I was coming to their graduation next week, almost as if they’d already expected me to be there.

Unfortunately for them, my answer was a very awkward “no”–all the elementary school graduations are on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I lucked out on Wednesday–only one of my elementary schools has its graduation that day. However, two of them occur at the same time Thursday and three of them occur at the same time on Friday. This school is one of the two Thursday-graduation schools, and the other Thurs-grad school is my Monday morning class, which is hands-down my favorite elementary school to teach at. The staffroom is really warm and friendly, the kids are fabulous…compared to this school, as much as I hate to say it, there just was no contest.

I could tell that they weren’t happy with my answer, but I’d already talked to the Monday school about attending their graduation, and they were thrilled to hear that I wanted to go. Though it was nice to receive a direct invitation from this school (I had to inquire about it at all the others, but I think that’s mainly because it was something they didn’t think I was interested in–once I expressed interest, they were genuinely enthusiastic about my joining them)…I told them I’ll definitely be there next year. I guess we’ll see.

In other news, I’ve discovered that there are people my age who live in this town. They’re just married, and usually have kids. Kids.

I was at Sunshine (the bigger of the two major grocery stores–not counting Ikeda Family because that place is a little scary) and ran into one of my beginners eikaiwa students, who called me over to the customer service counter once I’d finished checking out to make sure I signed up for a points card. He started telling the girl behind the counter about me, and after I put my birthdate down on the form to get the card, he asked her age compared to mine, and she admitted that she was older than me, at 26 years old. He then went on to tell her all about how I was from the US, how he’d met my family when they were here over the holidays, and how we’d originally come from India. I didn’t really know what to do besides just nod and smile and feel a little embarrassed, but it was sweet that he was so excited about all the internationalization I’ve been able to expose them to just as a result of my family history.

And another story…I went by the nearby Passion Bakery yesterday to grab a snack, except that I forgot my wallet, and the younger of the two women who regularly work there let me go ahead and take my maple walnut roll and said that I could pay her back whenever. I ended up sitting there and eating, and she sat her son down next to me so he could eat a snack and watch TV, and when nobody else was in the store she’d come over to join us, and we chatted for a bit. I’m a regular in there, and she’s asked me about myself before–she’s obviously pretty curious about me and my background, the way I’m curious about the lifestyles of people my age who live here. She finally asked my age yesterday (I could tell she was particularly curious about that question) and was really surprised to find out that I was younger than her (and to be honest, I’ve given up trying to guess people’s ages here because I always end up being way, way off, but I did guess that she was in her 20s, though maybe on the younger side? The presence of a baby boy sort of befuddled my age-guessing sense, though–it turns out that she’s 25, turning 26 this year), and she expressed wistfulness at not being able to travel or really do much of anything now that she has a baby.

It hit me that she felt a little embarrassed or even ashamed, after seeing that I was so close in age to her and that our lives were so drastically different: I’m single and living abroad, and she’s married with a child and unable to leave this small town. She actually used “shimaimashita” when referring to the birth of her son, in terms of how it hindered her from doing all these things she dreamed of doing. She asked me about my dreams and long-term goals as well. I really didn’t know how to respond–really, it’s all luck of the draw. If she had happened to be from a family that lived in one of the suburbs of any of the big cities on Honshu, her life would be different. I’m not even completely sure that she attended college; she said something about it but I didn’t get a chance to ask her to clarify. Similarly, if my family had decided not to move from India to the US during my infancy, my life would be completely different.

To some degree, I envy her as well. I envy that she was able to meet someone she was willing to start a family with. That’s one of the big struggles with me right now–trying to figure out how to overcome the crippling awkwardness that completely paralyzes me when matters of the heart are concerned, because it’s kept me from ever being in a relationship or even on a real date. I know I’m not yet mature enough to handle being a mother, and since I have these opportunities to spend time abroad and be a little adventurous before buckling down into a career path or academia, I want to take advantage of them. But I’ve been able to do this at the expense of getting into a relationship, which is something else I want very dearly. I don’t doubt that she’ll have opportunities to travel later in life–but I’m sure it bothers her that she can’t do these things while she’s young, just due to her current situation.

It’s easy to forget how fortunate we are to be here. Once we get caught up in our daily routines, it’s easy to forget that we are indeed doing something that very few people get an opportunity to do: living and surviving in a foreign country for a long stretch of time. It’s not at all hard to lose sight of, because in some ways, life just isn’t that different, and you see the common threads that tie everybody together. I was going to make a “grass is greener” comparison, but to so many people I’ve met in rural Japan, the grass really is greener on our side of the fence, completely due to our international experience. I’m guilty of taking international travel for granted sometimes, because I have family on opposite sides of the planet, so it’s natural that I’ll travel to meet them…but very few people are so lucky. Being in Japan is serving me a real dose of humility and a reality check, which I’m certainly grateful for.

Survived the weekend

And what a weekend it was.

Firstly, in response to the last post…it was indeed difficult. Saturday especially–it was still such fresh news that I found myself in tears at several points during the day. We have a scene where Hook kills Tinkerbell and Peter brings her back to life (I’m a bit rusty on the original story, so I’m not sure if that was in there or not), and when we did our full technical runthrough on Saturday, I actually found myself choking up a little bit at it and finding it hard to keep emoting, and had to excuse myself from our dinner break to go out into the hall and compose myself before anyone could see me. (Though inevitably, people did, and I got several shoulders to cry on in the process, which ended up kind of working out.)

The response from the other ALTs was just phenomenal, though–they were so supportive and so encouraging, and just the fact that this was a really energized and enthusiastic atmosphere because of the nature of what we were there for–that all served to help me out a lot. When it came time for the actual performances, I was fine. I don’t think it would have been quite the same in any other prefecture…just from what I’ve heard, I don’t know how many other prefectures put such an emphasis on ken-wide gatherings and activities the way we do. I was getting a lot of comfort from people who live 3 and 4 hours away. I was even given flowers (in a sort of furtive, “hey, these are from my teacher…though I’m not telling you that I suggested she give them to you, but it’s my/our way of trying to cheer you up and thanking you for hanging in there with us during such a hard time” way) by a guy who lives 2 1/2 hours away, and they still make me smile every time I walk through my kitchen and see them.

As for the weekend as a whole–stellar. Absolutely awesome. Our opening night show was a huge, huge success–we got a huge crowd, massive applause, and a ton of donations, and our performance was rock-solid. The Sunday show was essentially a comedy of errors…lots of goofed-up lines, stuff falling and making noise backstage, two people falling off the stage (well, Jordan nearly did, and Christine actually did–all I heard was the shriek and crash, but I guess something must have distracted me, because she then blurted, “You bastards!” at Chris and Noam for not properly spotting her. I can’t believe I missed that)…figures that a TV crew was at that one. I believe one was at Saturday’s as well, but we’d been previously notified about the Sunday one.

I’m really, really psyched about the upcoming weekend. Not about all the traveling we’ll have to do–leaving straight from my junior high graduation ceremony on Saturday to drive 3 hours down to Hiwasa, and driving back that night–but this musical is just so good at making us all feel really good. We’ve even had people who have seen multiple musicals over the years that this is one of the best ones they’ve seen, if not THE best, and that’s a huge thrill. Additionally–this is a bit of vanity on my part–the Sunday show is really close by, and people I know from Ikeda will be there to see it, like some of my eikaiwa students and teachers, and maybe even some students.

The principal at today’s elementary school told me that she saw an article in the Tokushima Shinbun about it, and went to dig it out for me–I’m in the accompanying image, along with the other Lost Kids, Peter, Tink, and half of Wendy. I haven’t tried to translate it, since it’s really kanji-heavy, but the kocho-sensei pointed out that it says that it involves easy English. That was a really pleasant surprise, because a lot of us have been worried that it’s too much for ESL learners, and we’ve done what we can to water it down.

By the way, all my photos are up (snapped backstage and behind the scenes this past weekend–click the Flickr thumbnail to the left), and a few new videos are as well. I’m not entirely sure how to go about rotating the last 3 video files, though, since I (stupidly) turned the camera to capture them; they’re 640×480, but even after rotating, they remain 640×480 (as opposed to 480×640), so the image is skewed. I don’t have access to any serious video editing software, either–any ideas?

I feel like I have a lot more I’d like to say–I actually started this entry Sunday evening, and have come back to it a couple of times due to just not having time to sit down and work on it. Oh, well–if I think about anything else to write about, I’ll just post another entry.

But, yeah…I’m finally, slowly, coming to grips with the idea of Adam being gone. It’s just so difficult to wrap your mind around, though, when you live so far away from home. It isn’t like I regularly ran into him at a specific place, and now I’ll notice his absence from said place…with the exception of my family and Louise and the relatives I met in India, I haven’t seen anybody from home in nearly 8 months, and it’ll be months still until I see any of them again.

But additionally, thanks to this news, he’s been on my mind a lot more lately, and I find myself wanting to send him an e-mail saying hi, until it hits me why he’s on my mind. It’s such an awful, random, and ridiculously unfair tragedy–he was so young. From the digging I’ve done, it seems to have been due to natural causes (maybe some long-term medical condition? Speculation only, though)…but someone pointed out that nobody knows exactly when he died, because they didn’t realize he was gone until he didn’t report in for work last Thursday, they called the cops, and the cops broke into his apartment and found him. Also from the digging I’ve done, I learned that he founded the Georgia Tech Campus Democrats–I knew he was really heavily involved with them, but I never realized that. They were a really prominent and powerful organization, and very heavily involved with the Democratic Party in Georgia…and it’s all thanks to him. Wow.

I remember him being really excited when I told him that I was finally a registered voter (I didn’t get my US citizenship till 2002, though I’d lived in the US for the majority of my life, and I finally registered to vote when I renewed my driver’s license a few months before the last presidential election–not that my votes did any good, since Bush is still in office and gays and lesbians still can’t get married in the extremely red state of Georgia). He asked me if I’d thought about registering with a political party, and I told him that I definitely leaned Democrat, and he was really keen on helping me become a registered Democrat and him being my contact/reference. It never happened, though.

Well, anyway…no sense in dwelling on could-have-beens. It would have made him happy to do this, though, but I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a huge victory for him, since we’ve generally had similar sets of political beliefs all along. At the same time, the small victories can be just as sweet, though.

But anyway.

Speaking of small victories, I’m now officially one of the Tokushima AJET officers for 2006/2007. I’m the new webmaster (Andy’s even changed his forum screen name from “Web Monkey” back to his name, I guess to reflect this), and Kirsten, Jordan, and Anya are the other three, with Kelly and Rory assisting us every so often. It’s cool to know that I’m going to get to really get involved in the Tokushima JET community for the next year, but at the same time, there wasn’t even an election because not enough people officially ran for the posts. Eh, at least I put in the effort of officially applying, which ended up clinching it. Jordan also wants me to help out with our quarterly Teamwork Tokushima publication (a book with a lot of lesson ideas submitted by ALTs and JTEs across the prefecture)–I may end up the high school editor, which just means I get a day off every few months to go hang out with people in Itano(?) and collate a bunch of e-mails into booklet format. It should be fun, and this should all keep me busy in a good way, I think.

All right, this is really long, I suck at making decent transitions/conclusions (blame it in the cold I caught–probably from my students, ugh), and I need to go clean up my apartment before it gets too late. Apologies for the mammoth post.


For every up, there’s always a down somewhere. And the higher and more elating the up is, the more devastating the down ends up being.

The up: getting an e-mail from David Kirschner, the creator of Pirates of Dark Water, thanking me personally for the effort I put into my fan site for the show, and even going so far as to offer to take me out to lunch if I ever find myself in Los Angeles. And yes, I did verify (to the best of my ability–meaning, I recognized the e-mail address, and I ran a WHOIS search on an IP listed in the full header info) that it’s legitimate. It had me on freaking cloud nine ever since I saw the message on Wednesday night. I sent a response that night (and, naturally, made sure to ask the Big Questions: how was it supposed to end? There are rumors that you want to bring it back–are they true? There are many more, but I’ll start with those), and am hoping that he’ll respond!

The down: hearing this afternoon that Adam Stevens, a good friend from Georgia Tech (Computer Science ’04–he entered in 1999 with me, and we had CS and Japanese classes together for a couple of years, before I gave up on CS and he gave up on Japanese), was found dead in his apartment yesterday morning.

It has me really, really shaken up, and actually having to talk about it–explaining to my BOE why I was 45 minutes late coming back to work from my lunch break and why I missed my bus, explaining to today’s school why I didn’t get to write up a congratulatory graduation statement to the 6th-graders (which I was going to do during the 2 hours I would have had to wait for my class, had I taken the bus), and so on–has been very hard to do. Silently, with nobody else around or talking to me, I can keep it together fairly well, and being in the classroom distracted me from dwelling on it as well.

I’ve never handled death well (it’s the one thing I’m truly afraid of–it’s completely irrational and childish, but I can’t handle thinking about my own mortality). The cause of his death is unknown, or was when I last heard. He was a really wonderful guy, always positive in the face of adversity, passionate about things that were important to him, charming in his friendly geekiness, and one of the greatest guys I’ve had the fortune of knowing. You know the saying, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone?” That was never the case with him–I always felt really fortunate to have him as a friend, and was grateful for it.

While we didn’t really keep in touch with each other as well as we could have after he graduated (a year before me–he was really busy from the moment he stepped off Tech’s campus, first with finding a job and then with the job itself, granted, but we did manage to catch a viewing of Star Wars Episode 3 in the weeks before I left for Japan), I really valued our friendship and loved hanging out with him. When we parted ways after the movie, we gave each other a big hug and I told him to come visit me in Japan anytime…and that’s not possible anymore, nor is any visit of any kind. I’m never going to see him again. As silly as it sounds, I wish I were back in Atlanta, even though that wouldn’t make any difference–most of the mutual friends I had with Adam don’t live in Atlanta anymore.

Today has been difficult. This weekend will be really rough. I hope that the musical will distract me from dwelling on this, and not that this will impact my onstage persona; I was able to handle class today, just several hours after receiving the news, so I suppose I ought to be all right tomorrow, after a full night’s sleep. Lindsay and Hannah have been absolutely wonderful–Hannah couldn’t stay for long, due to having to catch a train, but I’ll be seeing her this weekend when our musical performances start, since she’s our sound engineer. I spent several hours with Lindsay–she invited me to hang out and see a movie tonight, but it feels like it’s midnight and it’s only 8 PM, and I have to recharge for the insanity this weekend will bring.

I just can’t believe this has happened…