Been a while…

Hey–sorry about the long hiatus. I just didn’t really feel like writing much else while I was home, and I was simultaneously busy and jetlagged for my first week back home. Happy New Year, firstly, and best wishes for 2007. (Happy Pongal, secondly. I’m a bad Tamilian–I totally forgot about it, though we never really had a huge celebration of it at home, and it isn’t like I could do much from here…but I’m getting a group together to go to that amazing Indian restaurant in Zentsuuji tomorrow night, so maybe that’s something.)

The trip home was fantastic. I got to see my best friends, spend an excellent evening with my orchestra friends, and even catch up on the phone for 45 minutes with Hannah out in Seattle, formerly my downstairs neighbor here in Japan. I ate lots of different foods, engaged in true Americana by joining Terry and Ryan for a game of Bingo (which was, amazingly, a lot of fun), toured the Atlanta Ikea for the first time and played Design Consultant for Hamza, readjusted to western driving (and even got caught in classic Atlanta I-285 rush-hour traffic)…played a lot of Scrabble with my family, helped my brother practice for his driving test (and took him to the test, only to find out he had to be accompanied by a parent), and slept and ate a lot.

It was also just really great being back in Atlanta, back in a city I’m familiar with, and with such familiar sights around me. I definitely did get the sense this time that I was 6 months removed, even though I did just snap right back into my routine, but…yeah. Absence has made this heart grow fonder…in some ways.

My trip back to Japan was not nearly as eventful as the trip to Atlanta (though I was almost tempted tofind a way to make myself sick enough so I could pass out and be upgraded this time around…almost)–besides needing an extra suitcase for all my food and omiyage, and besides getting to the airport around 3:30 AM and hanging out with my parents for an hour or so before I finally left them so they could go sleep before their workday started, and besides realizing that I’d left my thick winter coat in our hall closet (they shipped it the next day and it just arrived yesterday–Atlanta was ridiculously warm, while Tokyo…really wasn’t, but luckily, I had multiple fleeces/sweaters), that’s really about it. The veg meals on the way back were Indian-themed, and there were actually mini-samosas in one of them!

In Tokyo, after dropping my two suitcases off to be shipped back to Tokushima (why don’t they have a similar service in most American airports? ¥3000 to ship 2 suitcases halfway across the country is insanely reasonable!), I found my way to the platform for the Narita Express to get back to Tokyo Station, and ran into an ALT named Allison in Fukushima Prefecture, who’s good friends with people who Louise used to be good friends with when she lived there last year, and Allison had in fact heard of Louise. We ended up being seated next to each other, and made jetlag-induced-drowsy conversation for a while, and parted ways at Tokyo Station, as I found my way to my hotel room and then collapsed without eating dinner.

The next day, I wandered around Shibuya and Harajuku–it took me about 30 minutes to find the famed Hachiko exit of Shibuya Station and the world’s most populated pedestrian crosswalk, mainly because I’m a huge idiot. I went up to the Tsutaya Starbucks (where scenes from Lost in Translation were also shot) and tried to snap a touristy photo or two. I also discovered another multistory Loft store, which rivals the one in Osaka, and found the paper lamps I’ve been coveting for many months, so after much deliberation, I bought two, and I love them. I really hope they work stateside. I had lunch at a surprisingly crowded Indian restaurant where a bunch of Indian programmers also had come out for the lunch buffet–the main waiter, a friendly guy, was from Mumbai but he’d spent a while in Madras, so he could (and did) speak some Tamil. I also found a stationery store that sold cards that say, “You are not ugly” on them, of such a design that you’re meant to write uplifting messages on them and give them to friends who apparently are indeed feeling ugly. I totally bought one.

I headed to Harajuku in the afternoon–it was a Sunday, so it was incredibly packed, but I unfortunately didn’t get to see many decked-out punk/lolita/cosplay girls, except for the ones standing along that main teen-haven arcade and advertising their stores. I ended up having jasmine tea and cake at a barren but charming cafe, before deciding to head back to Shibuya for dinner.

The massive Shibuya crosswalk was a lot more impressive by night–neon, lots of it, and people everywhere. For dinner I wanted to go to a British pub, which I’d read about and had found earlier in the day, but I couldn’t find it again; I then found TGI Friday’s and figured I’d give that a try, but the wait was huge, so I braved the vomit-scented hallways below and had Mexican at a western-cantina-style restaurant (complete with the free nachos and mild, watery salsa–or “saabisu,” as they say in Japan) in the basement of the same building.

The next day, I headed back to Tokyo Station and caught a Fukuoka/Hakata-bound Nozomi Shinkansen, making sure to get there in time to grab the nonsmoking nonreserved car and make the mad dash for a right-hand-side window seat. I was able to score one, which was incredibly fortunate, because it was a clear day…and about an hour out of Tokyo, Mount Fuji came into sight. It was…magnificent. I definitely understand why people claim it’s the most perfect mountain in the world–I really don’t think I’ve seen many other sites that could have rivaled the sheer beauty of that mountain, and I’m not saying that just because I’m a volcanophile. I snapped a few photos to attempt to capture that same feeling of elated glory, and most of them are up on Flickr now.

And since then…I came home to find a bunch of greeting cards and my Secret Santa gift (a couple of mix CDs, a postcard, and colorful toe socks, from Jami) waiting for me, as well as ¥5000 in Visa Gift Card gift certificates due to some sort of random holiday drawing/contest/campaign my ISP put on! Sweet! I think I may use them on merchandise, but we’ll see. In addition, my apartment’s been an eternal mess, and I’ve gone back to school and handed out nearly all my omiyage and combatted jetlag knocking me out at 9 PM nightly for all of last week, even if I drank coffee to force myself to stay awake.

Friday was more eventful, in a bittersweet sense–I turned in my recontracting papers with “I have decided not to renew my contract” circled, and I felt tears come to my eyes when I did it. My boss looked similarly regretful…but I’m officially down to my last 6-7 months here now, and am resolving to make the best of them.

On a much less optimistic note, I was hit by this really strong wave of depression/homesickness on Friday, which was truly horrible timing because our start-of-term enkai was that night, which I dragged myself to…there were a few good moments, but on the whole I was silent and just felt miserable, and I feel really badly about it, because I didn’t want the other teachers to think I was turned off by them.

And then this weekend came and went with scarcely anything noteworthy, besides resting up (I was going to go to a pierogi/latke-making party, but I felt really tired, and got my fill of potato goodness by eating baked french fries instead), and now it’s Monday. I have the poster for this year’s musical to work on ASAP, and our Mid-Year Seminar is Thursday and Friday, with our annual Burns’ Supper poetry/haggis meetup on Saturday.

Subsequent entries will be shorter and a lot more frequent. Sorry! But even though I know that about 1/4 of my hits are from my dad, thanks to the rest of you for continuing to check in regularly–I really appreciate it!

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