Monday, December 26, 2011

Tokyo Plans

Oh, I don't know... I guess I'll do New Year's in Tokyo.


Actually, my plan for many weeks has been to go to Ibaraki to visit a friend and to take excursions to nearby Tokyo for fun and New Year's Eve.  It hadn't occurred to me, until Peter pointed it out, that Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world and a huge New Year's Eve partying destination.  And I was like, "Oh, yeah.  YOU'RE RIGHT!!  YES!!!"

I can be a little flighty. 

In Japan, as a JET, you can get lucky or you can get screwed on the topic of holiday time.  I didn't get lucky.  At my friend's Christmas party the other day, we were all talking about our plans for the week and they were all like, "You have to work tomorrow?!"  Yes.  I had to work tomorrow.  Assholes. 

So, I have to work some days this week, but then I am traveling.  I'm taking the bus, the least expensive means of transportation to Shinjuku, an area of Tokyo.  There have been a butt-load of expenses between getting my driver's license, buying a 2nd car, getting shakken and insurance on the second car, Peter moving out and paying key money, Christmas, Bonenkais... Oy!!!  So, the bus it is.  I like the bus.  My professional sleeping skills have diminished significantly since having a child, as I don't get as much practice as I used to, but I am confidant that I will be comfortable and able to sleep on the bus.  I once slept in front of a speaker at a Goldfinger concert.  Yes, sir, I did.

I will get on a bus from Oita to Fukuoka on Wednesday afternoon, then poke around Fukuoka for a while.  I planned my bus a little early so I would have time.  The Mac/Apple store is right near the station.  I'll go play with the iPads.  I'll lose interest in that in about 10 minutes, then maybe I'll go to the MAC make-up store.  Are there any other MACs I can visit?  Maybe I'll get a Big Mac.  Ha!  No, I won't get a Big Mac.  I can't believe you even suggested it.  Then I'll get on a bus at 7pm headed for Tokyo.  I will arrive around 9am in Shinjuku.  I'm looking forward to the hours of watching the Japanese landscape.  I haven't gone one place in Japan where I didn't spontaneously think, "Japan is beautiful." I'm really looking forward to it.

When I arrive in Tokyo, Melissa will scoop me up and we will see the land.  I want to see natural spots most of all.  I want to party like a fucking rock star on New Year's Eve.  Not like any rock star.  Like Ozzy.  Like Rick James.  Like the whole crew of Motley.  Motley Crue, that is.

If I live through that, I will be getting back on a bus the evening of January 1st at 7pm destined for Fukuoka, where I shall arrive around 9am.  I'll probably be tired and just get on the next bus for Oita.

I'm excited to catch up with Melissa, to see more Japanese landscape, and to experience Tokyo.  I've been to Tokyo, but I spent all but a very few moments inside my hotel for JET orientation.  I'm excited to have a real New Year's party experience, and I feel confidant to be in the hands of a very competent partier.  Our friend Mike, who threw the Christmas party, will also be in Tokyo.  We'll have a grand old time. 

Happy almost New Year!!!

From Japan,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Konbini wa kureji desu.

I think it's funny that I just spent 7-man (around $750) at the konbini (convenience store, in this case 7/11). 

Wh- what? you may ask...

You see, in Japan, you can pay bills at the konbini.  Some of my bills come with a tear-off portion that has a bar code that is for the konbini to scan.  I paid my car insurance for the year and my Internet bill for two months, as well as for a salmon onigiri (a triangle of rice wrapped in nori (seaweed)) and a yogurt drink.  So, it's not that weird when I explain it, but it's still kinda funny that convenience stores are so integrated. 

Also, debit is almost non-existent and I'm not sure if lots of people have credit cards, but I don't.  So when you order stuff on Amazon-Japan, there are some interesting options.  One option is COD; cash on delivery.  This is great.  Another option is to pick up and pay for your item at the nearest konbini.  When you set this up on Amazon-Japan, it's kinda like setting up a payment option.  You click on a map and find the konbini you want to add to your account, then you are notified when your stuff is there and you go get it.  That konbini is then registered for you.  Cool, eh?

You might have noticed that I said I paid my net bill for two months.  I have recently re-assumed all control over my bills.  I'm not good with bills.  It's almost like when I get them, look at them, etcetera, I have a zen moment.  My mind goes blank and I pass over the bill and on to something else.  I don't know what it is.  I'm not broke.  I'm not opposed to paying bills.  It's just that money and I have a funny relationship.  When I look at money, I kind of just see special paper.  It doesn't click.  I often run out of money, so that I am stuck at a register only able to pay by digging every last coin out of my purse, or stuck out after the buses are done without enough money for a cab.  But, somehow it always works out.  So, I forgot to pay my Internet bill last month.  I went to pay it on the day after it was due, and when the convenience store clerk scanned it, it made a no-no buzzy sound.  I couldn't pay it because the bar code was expired.  They told me to go to the bank.  I went there.  They didn't know what to do, but they called the company for me out of the goodness of their hearts to help a poor foreigner in distress. 

People in Japan are very responsible.  The Japanese don't think too much about things like this, and bills don't just not get paid.  It seemed like the company didn't really have a procedure for late bills.  So, they just told me, in essence, that it was cool and that they would include both months on my next bill, which I paid today. 

And yesterday I paid my rent.  Aren't you so proud of me?  I'm proud of me.

I will be going to a festival in Beppu tomorrow to celebrate Christmas and see holiday fireworks.  On Sunday, Christmas, I'll go to Mike's house in Usuki to have a Christmas party with a bunch of my friends.  On December 28th-ish I will travel to Tokyo to see a friend.  I'll spend New Year's Eve in Tokyo and then travel back on the 1st-ish.  Then back to school on the 3rd, boo. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everybody.

From Japan,

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Heeeeeyyyy.   I've been putting out a growing number of posts that sort of don't come to anything.  This blog is sometimes my pondering post.  Hope you don't mind.  Hope it gives you something to chew on, yourself.

The pondering of this morning:  Is “fight” a good or necessary quality in a person?

Although I asked the question and I want to explore it, my quick answer is “no.”  I think “fight” is a result of thinking you have to give extra attention and energy to a task or a cause because you think it’s the only way to get what you want.  A fighter thinks if they don’t “fight” they will be lost or left behind, or that they won't achieve their goals.  Impatience probably has something to do with it.  When you fight, you force stuff because you don't want to wait, or because you think time will steal the opportunity.  Forced stuff, however, is kinda false, and when things are false, they end up being… wrong.  And then you waste a lot of time on something that never woulda happened in the first place if not for the “fight.”  That’s not all, of course…

"Fight" is generally looked at as a good thing because many times it facilitates success, and success, our parents say, is necessary and good.  Sometimes things go to the person who “wants it more.”  So the attitude (fight) is confused with the desired outcome (success).  The person who wants it more may indeed more often than not be the victor, but it isn't necessarily because of the fight.  Maybe it is, many times, but it doesn’t have to be.  The thing is that fight is easier to achieve than calm… true calm.  We fiery humans with our hot heads and emotions get to the fight easier because it's the result of a process of falling apart.  Entropy just happens.  It's easier.  It’s the path of least resistance.  It takes work to balance one’s self.  Except, peace and balance are supposed to come as a result of complete surrender, which seems to conflict with my path of least resistance theory.  Surrender sounds like an act of no effort, but it certainly is not.  It takes a lot of understanding and letting go, which is sometimes harder than taking-up and often harder, or at least less naturally arrived at, than fighting back.     

I do think, however, that the opposite of “fight,” mediocrity and a sense of settling, are disturbingly prevalent in the world and in people’s lives.  This is because people lack faith in the idea that they will be taken care of, that they can achieve their dreams, that their choices are important in the grand scheme of things, and/or because they are afraid of something, most often, of failure of some kind… so “fight” is kinda the opposite of that, which is definitely the more desirable state in my opinion, but both are tipping the scales.  The scales are best when they are balanced, so what’s in the middle?  (It’s like past present and future… to be present is best.  In the middle.  Sort of.  Depends on how you see time.  Is the present in the middle?  Most probably not, but I’ll keep that since in our usual lives our tendency is to place the present on a line between the past and future.  In the middle.  Anyway… )  Some kind of peace is in the middle.  It’s not apathetic and it’s not over zealous.  It’s faithful and content.  It’s also rare.

How would a person operate who functions in that peaceful place between apathy and fight?  I think they would love what they do, and themselves, and they would be excited about their work, but they would not act based on the drive to achieve.  Achievements are ends.  Ends fuel the "fight" and are desired because people think when ends are achieved, they will bring peace and contentment.  The achiever will finally, finally have arrived.  They will put an end to the constant desire and fight for more.  But ends aren’t the point, and if you’ve achieved enough of these ends, you know they don’t change anything, at least not for long.  They don’t fill that emptiness or bring the kind of peace that only being present can bring.  It’s the journey that matters to a peaceful person, so the sayings go.  No matter what you achieve, time doesn’t stop.  The journey goes on.  May as well give each of those moments, too, the attention they deserve, not fighting or sitting back watching, but experiencing and honoring the moments we get.

From Japan,

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Approaching Balance

I was reading just now-- The Wastelands; book 3 in Stephen King's Dark Tower series.  I don't know why, but these thoughts came to me:

...actually, I won't jump into the thoughts that came to me, because it won't make any sense that way.  I'll start with an explanation and the thoughts will follow.  I have always been looking to the next moment.  Many people suffer because they live in the past.  A few people are at peace because they live in the present.  And many people, like me, are never content because they live in the future.  I have always been focused on my next achievement, my next place, my next stage in life.  Because of this, I guess, I'm always reaching, looking, feeling, dreaming, thinking, wondering... about what comes next; how I will get there; what I will find; how it will be.  Now that I am 31 and I have done many things, I feel like I've come to a place in my life where I can look back and connect the dots.  I have enough perspective to see where my ways of life have gotten me; enough content to reflect upon and enough distance to enable reflection.  I see that my most futile action has been doubting myself.  Doubt has created fear and anxiety about the future.  Doubt caused me to have higher expectations of myself than was fair or reasonable:  I have tried to prepare myself for any contingency.  My thought was, Be the best, and no obstacle will matter.  Be perfect so my reasons to doubt will be inconsequential.  In The Wastelands, I think this is what Roland, the main character, calls "the shadow of your self."  I'm going to butcher what Roland says by weeding out the message from the particulars of the story:

You haven't finished, but not because you are afraid to finish.  You're afraid of finding you can't finish.  You are afraid to go down there, but not because you are afraid of what may come.  You're afraid of what may not come.  You're not afraid of the world, but of the small one inside yourself.  Come from the shadow of yourself.  Come now.

I've struggled, and made many mistakes, mostly by doubting myself, by standing in my own shadow, but by reflecting on the things that have come, I have proof enough that I can trust myself, and sometimes I have the presence to step out of my own shadow and see that... I've done good, I think.  That's not what this is about, but one thing I've learned is to give myself a break, and to admit sometimes that I'm not perfect but... I've done good.  And I don't need to or have to be perfect.  My biggest struggle is trying to live in the present, rather than in the future.  Trying to live in a place that doesn't exist is very difficult.  Trying to live in your own shadow, a shadow that is as long or short as you make it, is very difficult.  The future never comes.  By the time it gets here, it has morphed into Now... sorry I'm confusing two things.  Right now, I'll let them stay strewn amongst each other.  They're good friends.

So as I was reading, I sort of had a daydream.  I was me, looking through my own eyes, and time was flowing at me and around me.  I stayed while everything moved, like a fallen tree in a river, who rocks in the current, but doesn't go along with it.  That's like us; timeless with time flowing by.  The tree is changed slowly over time by its surroundings, as we are.

In the sense that I write here, balance will never arrive because it is always coming, like time.  In this way, life teaches and we make decisions and the learning is never finished.  In the true sense, as I see it, when I stop to pull myself out of the gap between the present and the future and stand in the present moment, balance has not arrived because it has never been away.  You can't arrive at a place that you have never left.  But, there are two worlds of balance; the internal world, in which balance is always available to us if we choose it, and the external world, where balance teeters on the spinning world, reliant on our choices.

I guess that's it.  I'm off to read some more.

From Japan,

PS:  I don't know if it was the book or what, but sometimes I'm reading and thinking about something else at the same time.  No, I'm not that awesome that I can actually do that effectively; I always have to go back and re-read those sections.  This happened to me today, and while it did I thought of this:

Like fingers of the blind,
I'm touching you with my mind.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Jibber Jabber

I got nothin' to say, but I gotta write. 

This morning, I'm tired, but basically content.  I have noticed that I'm too busy.  I can't remember the last time that I could just come home after school and do nothing.  I can't even do my dishes or laundry-- there's always so much to do.  Well, I do kind of prioritize...  I had plans the other day, and like always I needed to run home from school to do this and that and then run out again and then meet someone and then get Knox home and yadda yadda yadda...  But instead of doing what I was supposed to, I took a bath.  When I went to bed the laundry basket was still full, and so was the sink, and it took me days to catch up.  So, one of these days very soon I'm going to have to disappoint someone and just stay home and vegetate; but not even vegetate; get some laundry done while I catch up on Dexter.  That sounds like heaven.

I like to take a bath with a candle burning.  I have a great bath.  I've described it before, but for those of you not in Japan, I'll tell you again:  Japanese bathrooms are great.  You walk into the shower room, mine is maybe 7 feet by 6 feet (I'm bad at those kinds of guess-timations) and there is a tub.  You can stand and shower, or walk around and shower... I often times take a quick shower and then, since it's cold and I want to stay in the warmth, but I don't want to waste so much water, I get into the tub and plug it while I stand there.  That way the tub is filling up and eventually I can transition into the bath.  Then I can turn the water off and continue to enjoy the warm water.  I leave a candle burning in the window between the little toilet room and the shower room.  It's really nice and relaxing.  I should add some Enya or something equally stereo-typically relaxing.

I've learned about the post office lately.  It's not so bad.  I've learned to take good care of my packages before I go to the post, and not to go to my local post.  I take care of my packages by taping them up well and wrapping them with brown paper.  It makes them look so innocuous, so even if I have alcohol or some other product in there that I'm not supposed to mail, they think, "Wow, what a nicely wrapped package.  I can't disturb the paper that was so painstakingly folded over its corners.  I will not question the contents of this box, which clearly holds nothing illegal."  Yeah.  That's what they think.  And I don't go to the local post anymore because they have too much time and too many resources.  They have the time to unwrap my package, nose around inside, and re wrap it better than I did.  I want to avoid being investigated, so I go to the big city post.  Also, I had been intimidated by the mail slips that come when they try to deliver a package when you aren't home.  Sure, I have to make a trip to the post office, but I just go up to the back counter and they can find your package or easily schedule a redelivery for later the same day.  It's way better than doing it on the phone.  I was afraid because I was ignorant, but I'm friends with the postal service now.

So I have this "friend" who likes to tell me when my blog sucks.  She called me out for a post a couple of weeks ago.  I said, "But I posted that Karate chop one, that was fun."  She said, "That was weak compared to your other fun stuff."

Well exuuuuuuse me.

This friend (KAPGP) also reads every post and encourages me.  She gives me feedback on almost every post.  She keeps me motivated to write consistently.  If it weren't for her pestering me last October for post after post, I don't know if I ever would have kept posting consistently.  I didn't know anyone cared to read what I wrote, so I didn't get invested.  But once somebody showed support, even just one person, I was happy to write.  I really like my blog, so girl, thank you for keeping me going and helping me to keep my quality.  I'd write only for you.

As for my "weak" post... she was right.  It's like she knows what I'm thinking.  She usually FB chats me and gives me a one line summary of her opinion, and it's like she drew it straight out of my head.  It occurred to me to write a post about not wanting to write a post, but I thought, eh, I wrote this little snippet the other day.  I'll just post that.  What happened is that I had been having a lack of appropriate ideas.  There's plenty going on, but it's not mostly stuff I can tell the world.  But there's always something to say, at least, I always have something to say... well, not to SAY, to type.  I can type about stuff literally all day and never stop except out of hunger or a desired change of pace.  Or to wake my sleeping butt up. 

I don't have time to read this over before class, so I hope it doesn't suck too bad.  KAPGP?  Does it suck?  ;-)

From Japan,