It's been awhile, hasn't it?
I always feel like I have nothing big to report on here. Maybe because I've been living here long enough that I never find anything groundbreaking to report. I've been finding lately it's the small moments that capture my attention. I bought a notebook to write them down in, and I haven't been very dedicated to it, but I'm trying harder. Looking at the fact I have all my short and sweet thoughts I'd like to hold on to and share, I actually see how Twitter is a semi-good idea (I still did not join). So, here's some thoughts and observations, in no particular order:
Learning a language is tough. It's like being in a long-term relationship: You savor the good and endure through the bad. Keeping on track is key. If you can't keep that spark of wanting to learn it, or at least to re-capture it when you have the rough times, you might as well throw in the towel. I had a day last week when the English department head spoke in her quick Japanese and I spent the entire day feeling stupid and going, 'huh?' Then, later that day I went shopping and chatted with a clerk who helped me pick out a mattress. I felt really smart. The Japanese will NEVER say "oh your Japanese sucks," but they will constantly say "oh you're so skilled" after you say one phrase. They give you credit for trying, or they just flatter you. Sometimes it's hard to tell which.
Speaking of the mattress purchase... I hate futons. I've slept on a bumpy mat of a futon for the past 7 months. I even bought 2 and stacked them. My hips still sunk to the floor. Then one day, I discovered futon care that I've been neglecting to do. The Japanese always fold up or hang out their futons on sunny days. Why? I found out why. My futon MOLDED. It was disgusting. So, futons are uncomfortable and require too much care. I can't understand owning something to sleep on that I have to fold up every day and could potentially mold from said usual everyday use. I have enough room where I don't need to fold up my sleeping area every day, so I went with the convenience and comfort of a mattress. I also think that as an American, I find my bed is my comfy inviting sanctuary, so I need it around for naps and lounging.
I've been to Tokyo before, back when I studied abroad. I don't think I got the entire view of the place when I went... I only saw it for a weekend as a tourist. I went and stayed for a week and a half with a friend outside the city, but went in every day to explore. You can live a very American lifestyle in Tokyo. You can go to Costco and buy an industrial size case of root beer or take a trip to Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, etc. I went to Ikea and browsed the cheap Swedish furniture and home goods I saw in the US. If you are a well-taken care of expat, you can have a huge multi-story apartment that would fool anyone into thinking you were in the US. My zen spot became a used English bookstore. 80% of the time I stepped onto a train or subway, there was another foreigner on it. The metropolis is teeming with foreigners from all over. It was lazily intoxicating to live more American. Outside your apartment is Japan, but you can build your own American sanctuary. Of course, when you go to Americanized spots there are still touches of Japan. Naturally, you still have the challenges of the language barrier, but you also can have the fun touches. There's curry-flavored popcorn at Tokyo Disneyland.
One thing I learned about the Tokyo trains is the display of the real-time delays on the various lines on board the trains.
Me - "Oh look, that one line is delayed due to 'mechanical problems.' What does that mean? That makes me kind of nervous."
Friend - "Whenever there's a delay on a line it usually means someone jumped in front of a train and committed suicide."
Me - "Really? How often does that happen?"
Friend - "Usually every day."
I knew about the train suicides before, but...
I've always been one of those unlucky girls who goes and gets my hair cut and styled, only to have no awesome plans to show it off afterwords ('All dressed up and nowhere to go' syndrome). From there, I never have the patience to keep up the hairstyle routine that the salons spend so much time (and hair product) on. The great thing about working at 8 different schools is, I'm going to have people noticing my haircut for the next month. I guess I better keep the style up. That's a self-esteem boost bordering on annoying.