Monday, October 31, 2011


I feel as though the jet lag, time flip, or whatever you want to call it hit me recently. I've usually been pretty good about waking up in the mornings, perhaps hitting the snooze one or two times on a bad day. Recently, though, I can't bring myself to throw off the blankets, get out of bed, and get ready for school.

I'm not doing anything overly physical, and I haven't been speaking Japanese to the point where my head hurts from translating and thinking in another language. The real cause of this is probably a lack of iron. I have vitamins, but haven't been taking them for the past week or so. I'm horrible at remembering things.

So, when worst comes to worst, I find myself pouring a hot cup of water and mixing in some decent instant coffee I bought on sale. I never thought I'd enjoy espresso, but now I see its benefits.

Time for a hot cup of coffee, and homework for the rest of the day.

It's the little things that get you.

Call me crazy, but I'd like to go to Iwaki, Fukushima before I leave Japan.

Yes, I know the risks and health consequences of going there. But that doesn't change this feeling of need: I really want to see Iwaki.

Earlier this year, in June, my boyfriend looked at me and asked me if I wanted to go with him to his hometown. The look on his face at the time was one of disbelief for what he had just suggested, mixed with an ache that can't be healed with ibuprofen, Hello Kitty band-aids, or time.

My boyfriend was on the phone with his Mom when the first earthquake hit on March 11, 2012. I remember the silence after he hung up the phone and the sound of his voice when he said, "My Mom's never scared." And when I asked what was wrong, all he said was, "A really big earthquake..." Before his voice faded off as he typed quickly on the computer. His parents are lucky; they live inland and only suffered the wrath of the earthquakes. But the rest of my boyfriend's hometown was soon featured on world-wide television broadcasts.

I admired my boyfriend's determination and want to return home, especially when his parents told him to stay in the States, away from the radiation and decomposition. For months he kept saying, "I have to go home," or, "It's the last time I can see my home." While I was struck by the magnitude of the event when it first happened, it didn't fully reach me until today.

I felt this nagging tug at my heartstrings during speech class. Our teacher had asked us where would would go in Japan if we could make a trip, as well as where we'd like to go before we left. I raised my hand. She looked at me, and "Iwaki" left the room breathless.
I explained to my teacher why I wanted to go, and she asked me to talk to her after class. I knew what she would say, and it felt like my stomach fell to my knees.

It was one of the few times I had heard my teacher speak full sentences in English. Usually, she would translate an unknown vocabulary word or grammar point, but she looked me in the eyes and said, "I wouldn't recommend you going to Fukushima." I kept telling myself the equivalent of "Be patient," or "Keep going" in Japanese, but I could feel the smile twitching on my lips. I wanted to cry, and my teacher knew that what she said had upset me. I told her I knew in my head that it was bad to go there, and that everyone I told had looked at me like I was suicidal, but she understood that my heart wanted me to go.

It's a time when being an emotionally-oriented person doesn't do any good.

I'm not sure what my boyfriend would say if he were reading this. (Or what he's thinking if he is reading this, for that matter.) I'd like to guess that he'd tell me not to go there because it's dangerous and really a bad place to go. The look on his face when he talked about "home" upon his return to the States was something heart-wrenching in itself. I'm sure everyone else reading this is saying, "Don't go! Don't go! It's dangerous! Think of the radiation!"

Don't worry; I don't think I'm going to go. At least, I don't have the time or monetary funds for going anytime soon. And I highly doubt that my source of income would allow me to go.

When I first told everyone that I was going to Japan, I was asked, "But . . . is it safe?" Even now, I still feel that I mean it when I said, "Kyoto is relatively safe. The food is probably contaminated, as well as the water and air, but I want to go, despite all of the possible risks. I feel the benefits are much better."

Usually, I follow my gut. If I could follow it now, I would still go to Fukushima. It's one of the few times I wouldn't want to go somewhere alone though. I guess I'll have to wait for a day when I can return with my boyfriend. I don't know if he'll ever decide to go home, but I'd like to think that someday he'll take me there.

I want to see what happened for myself, help people where I can, and learn as much as possible while I'm in Japan.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Isshi, may you rest in peace.

I haven't written anything serious or contemplative in awhile, and I really haven't talked about many things that are important to me. While studying, I ran across some music I used to listen to when I was in high school, and it felt like someone jammed an electrical socket into my chest and started flipping electrical breakers. I forgot how much Japanese music had meant to me, and upon this realization, I recognized that it's too late to see one of my favorites in concert.

Isshi, the lead vocalist of the band Kaggra, died earlier this year on July 18th.

I had seen Kagrra in concert once before, and it was wonderful to see the members' passion for Japanese culture resonating on the stage. Traditional instruments integrated into hauntingly charismatic tones of purple and crimson; it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. while I don't believe that I am someone that can see colors in sound, Kagrra makes me experience something very similar. It's as if all of my senses are inflamed when I listen to their music, and I feel it's a shame that Japanese pop culture has lost something so beautiful. I am writing this article out of time, Kagrra disbanded in March of this year, and Isshi died shortly after. As always with important things, I realized too late how much they meant to me. As a sort of tribute, I'm going to share some of my favorites. So, please, if you're up for listening to something interesting, please click some of the links below.

While there is no official video for Murakumo, the song is frighteningly seductive. It empowers the charisma of a Japanese demon and the melody creates a trance.
Kagrra, Murakumo

Another piece of hypnotizing music: Uzu.
Kaggra, Uzu.

When I listen to Kaggra's music, I hear the essence of Kyoto. There is the new and the old, as well as the fantastical and the realistic. When listening to Kagrra, I remember temples and shrines, demons at the gates, and a vending machine next to a shrine entrance. There is a very sort of wabi-sabi undertone to their msuic. Howeve,r it's so perfect that it can never be incomplete and frail; it can never be truly old and disregarded as something ugly. Their music is colorful and insightful. It's more than my words can encapsulate. I can't do justice to my own emotional reactions, and this is why I cannot write.

Please experience it for yourself.

And Isshi, for the inspiration and pleasure, thank you. May your spirti rest in peace, wherever it lies.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Coffee, Chocolate, Shinsengumi, and Pervs.

There's nothing better than procrastinating homework with cheap chocolate, instant coffee, and mac'n'cheese. Well, the mac'n'cheese isn't made yet, but it certainly sounds delicious. Say what you may about my eating habits, It's the little things that make a stressful week a bit better. Well, by the little things, I mean comfort food.

I realized today that there is a strange sadness lingering in my apartment. I'm not sure if I'm just adjusting, or if there is a legitimate reason for this sadness. There are dogs outside whining and barking, cats meowing in heat for a mate, and old people struggling to walk inch-by-inch to the nearby grocery store. Is this what life looks like everywhere, and I'm just now starting to realize it?

All I want to do is sleep.

It must be the weather. Fall is blowing in the wind and turning leaves over crimson. My clothes don't dry in thirty minutes like they did before, but the breeze feels nice when it goes right through me.

I have a Shinsengumi tour this weekend. I just spent twenty minutes on the phone with a girl struggling to speak English while I struggled in Japanese. I wish there were a way to say, "You're speaking way above my level," but no matter how you word it, it sounds as if you're giving up. I don't mind using English to coordinate plans and events, but I would like to learn how to do these in Japanese. That's why I'm here, isn't it?

I also want to learn how to say, "Watch where you're looking, geezer." I'm not bragging about my chest, but if another man gawks at me like it's the first time he's seen a woman with breasts, I'm going to smack someone. I don't know why people don't understand that it's rude to stare. Perhaps this is me being close-minded, but maybe it has something to do with Japan's history of a patriarchal society.

Oy. I'm getting grumpy waiting for my mac'n'cheese to pop out of its box. I guess I need to start doing some homework.

Cheers for crappy coffee, cold nights, and food without friends.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I have always been terrible at managing my time. I procrastinate and multitask at times when it's terribly inconvenient. I'm not sure if I'll ever learn how to make a schedule that actually works for me. I feel like I do well with to-do lists, but when it comes to making a decision about what I have to do and something I want to do, I feel torn between myself. I feel like I'm stating the obvious. Of course there is a difference between needs and wants. (No shit, Sherlock.) But what if the wants will help you with a need?

I can't decide how to manage my time this week. There is a quiz on Thursday, one that I have not prepared myself to take, and a large test on Monday. Usually, I would only have to worry about Aikido practice on one day of the week, Saturday, but this week happens to be a day off from Shamisen due to my teacher's professional work schedule. This means I could attend the Wednesday Aikido practice AND the Saturday practice. Yet, my inner majime gakusei won't allow me the pleasure to attend one or either of these meetings. No matter what I do, I always hear a nagging in the back of my head, "School comes first!" Yet, I understand very well that school is not the only thing in life that matters.

Living alone, I find that I am more worried about myself than school. I'm worried about my safety and comfort, and emotional and physical aspects of myself and my personality. Aikido would help me find a sense of myself. It would help me achieve balance (physical and mental) as well as ensure that I could protect myself in the event of another creepy salesman incident. Yet, I want to get good grades.

Then I hear a side of me that rarely speaks: Why are grades so important? They don't matter later in life. They don't define you as a person. Why do you feel like you have to beat yourself up over a stupid number?

Am I really that competitive?

I feel like Aikido will help me learn how to hone the rather gluttonous part of myself that spoils any form of relaxation and entertainment I find. I just want to have fun. Sometimes i wonder if I should have listened to my boyfriend when he told me, "You don't have to go to school to become fluent in a language. Graduate from your American university and go to Japan afterwards. Live there. Don't study there. It's not the same." Perhaps it's the same if I had a more laid-back personality, but I'm not like everyone else. Part of me is still learnign that this is okay.

Please don't take this as me not enjoying y time here. These blogs are reflections of my life. While I would like to write and teach everyone about the things I am learning, I am not a teacher. I'm not here to instruct you how to live in Japan or answer cultural questions. Part of this blog is learning through my experiences. I want to share my thoughts and experiences with all of you. There is a rather bittersweet part of studying abroad that appears only once in awhile, but it's not a bad thing. With all good, there is also bad. You have to learn to take both of them and balance.

I think the balance is what I'm missing in my life. I want to take Aikido. I want to learn how to balance myself, so my life will fall into place where it needs to be. My voice is stronger here than it was home because I am discovering myself. But I need to learn how to control it.

I'm still not sure whether or not to go to the practice on Wednesday. Perhaps it is better to go to practice on Wednesday than Saturday. I will ask the captain which is better for me. I've never practiced before. Perhaps I can join a small dojo in the area until I am good enough to join next semester. Perhaps I can be manager, water girl, or even clean-up helper. I just want to be part of that group. A group where I felt home.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Aikido and a New Apartment

Although I know it's wrong to procrastinate, it seems to be a habit I've fallen back into recently. I hate waiting to the last minute because I always feel so panicked and helpless. But alas, when I think about studying Keigo or Kanji, i don't want to do anything othe rthan sleep. Then again, it's been a long day, rather, a long weekend, so I can't blame myself for being a little human once in awhile. I'm not a superhero. (But I like to pretend I am one.)

Friday was the beginning of an insane, but rather enjoyable, weekend. It started with my waking up at one in the morning, not being able to go back to sleep, and discovering that I was not able to pay for my new apartment. That stressful snowball collided with the visit of a rather strange salesman that thought it rather interesting to look inside the crack of my door, checking my apartment, and my physique, while trying to sell me newspapers. I didn't want to completely scare him away, so I told him to come back at a time when I wouldn't be home. I took care of my apartment scare at school and in the midst of all that, I forgot about an appointment to skype with my boyfriend.

Saturday morning, I woke up at nine AM to the sound of my doorbell. I tried to roll over in bed, thinking it was the mailman, but the doorbell rang three more times in quick succession. I cocked my eyebrows and reached for my cell phone(s). I muted my alarms before they could ring and I also muted the volume on my computer. The hair on my neck started to stand when I heard my mail slot open, but not close. I held my breath until I heard it close, and then I heard knocking. I knew at this time that the salesman had decided to come early, so I tried to act like I wasn't home. (Although, I knew he probably peered down through my blocked off mail-slot to see my shoes and umbrella. Sneaky.) Because the walls of my previous apartment were pretty thin, I tried to listen for his footsteps walking down the hall. I couldn't hear anyone moving anywhere though, and that scared me. I got on skype with my exchange student and quietly typed what was going on. She told me not to worry, as Japanese salesman are much more aggressive than their American counterparts. I decided to listen to her and try to get ready for the day. I agreed to eat lunch with a friend and decided that it was best to get ready for the day and out of the apartment while the salesman wasn't around. However, as soon as I turned off the water and reached for my towel, the doorbell rang. I grabbed my phone and sent an urgent text to Ai-chan: Subject: He's back. Text: Creepy.

I waited until I couldn't hear anyone and then hurried to get dressed in my bathroom before diving onto my bed to talk with Ai-chan again. I asked her if I should call the police. She sounded more worried but told me not to worry because he hadn't actually hurt me. Then, my doorbell rang again. He had come three times within an hour, possibly an hour and a half at this point, which was rather new and disturbing to me. I told her I would get ready to leave, but I would leave when I  was sure the man wasn't at my door. We agreed that I should call Ai before I left, and talk to her in urgent-sounding English all the way out the door. As I was putting on my shoes, the man rang my doorbell. I held my breath and this was the ONLY time I heard him run to another door on my floor. He rang my neighbor's doorbell, and when I heard him talking, I raced out my door only to bump into the man. I told him there had been an accident and that I had to go. In the flustered moment, I almost forgot to lock my door. I ran back and locked it, and as I ran away, he ran after me. I started to sprint, talking to Ai-chan all the way until I reached a large road. She told me to call the police. The salesman crossed his ground and I had his business card, name, work and cell number. So, as soon as I was about ten minutes away from my apartment (about three minutes at a run), I called the police in the presence of my friend Laura. We waited in the company of a woman from a glasses shop until the police were able to meet us. Ai-chan talked with them over the phone and the policeman assured me that the man would never talk to me again. They told me, "We're going to call this man and tell him it's forbidden for him to talk to you again. Don't worry." I felt safe. They asked for my new address as well, so if they ever got a call from me again, they would know where I was.

I looked at Laura as they left and said, "Man, am I happy that I'm going to Aikido tonight." She laughed and we walked towards Ten Q to have lunch.

At 4:25 pm, I found myself leaving my house twenty minutes later than I had imagined to catch the bus for the Aikido circle meeting. One of the female members was going to meet me at a train station and take me to the club dojo. She called me after I was late, as I didn't have her number, and I apologized all over myself. She laughed and told me not to worry. Soon, I was with her, walking to a training center by Heian Shrine. Wow. Talk about intimidating.

Aikido is like nothing I have ever seen. I wanted to write about it yesterday night, but I couldn't find the energy or words to describe what I saw. Even now, it's hard to make the experience roll from my thoughts to my fingertips. I was disappointed in myself for not writing about it, but even though I didn't get the words out then, I think the things I saw will stick with me forever.

As soon as I walked in, the students stopped and stared at me. I understood why. I was a gaijin walking into traditional Japanese territory. My jeans and Dir en Grey t-shirt did nothing to help my appearance. The teacher told me to practice the basics with the group and sit and watch when things got difficult. He smiled and told me that Texas has good beer, and that he visits each time there is a conference in Dallas.

I am so sore from just stretching. Nothing we did was too severe, but I'm out of shape. I practiced basic deflections and footwork with the group and messed up on all of them. The girl training me laughed but encouraged me to keep trying. I got better and once she even said, "Wow... You're pretty good."

Then I sat down. I was scared (excuse me) shitless from the throws I saw. People sounded like they were getting hit by trucks when their bodies hit the foam tatami mats. Bodies contoured to the momentum of their opponents; it was painful. Yet, despite all of the pain, there was this beautiful sense of harmony between the thrower and the person being thrown. Everyone was relaxed despite the pain. It was beautiful. It was so beautiful. My heart kept beating faster and I found myself mesmerized by the speed and sheer strength of all of the members. I felt stronger just by watching.

After class, the members started talking to me. They teased me because I was an American girl that liked the Shinsengumi, and treated me like they would any Japaense person entering the group. I pulled my weight and helped put up tatami and training weapons. I felt so much at home in that environment. I really hope I can succeed in this.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sounds like a Typhoon.

I'm not sure if a typhoon is causing it, but it sounds like hell outside my window. No, I did not mean, "hail." I meant hell. The rain is strong and tapping at my window like acrylic nails in a classroom full of annoyed teenage girls. It'll stop every now and then and give me hope that these raindrop-girls have calmed down and started their studies, but by the time this happens, they start drumming away again.

I woke up this morning to a cloudy sky with a slight tint of gray. I was told at four in the morning that the payment for my new apartment could not transfer. The grey sky reminded me of this, and I wanted to crawl back in bed and skip class for the day. However, I went out the door and continued to school. After about an hour of craziness, I managed to secure my apartment and save myself from another IBS attack. My landlord is really kind and understands the difficulties of transferring money to and from foreign bank accounts. I was so worried that I wasn't going to have a place to live, that I really thought I was going to have to beg a friend to stay at their apartment. but once  the real estate agent told me that the landlord would rather me move in, and pay the money later in one large payment, I felt that the rain was washing away some sort of sadness and replacing it with a new one.

As I walked, I could see the streams of raindrops like whispers floating through the air. They'd trip off of my umbrella like a word would from someone's lips. It seemed sad that these teardrops weren't being received, as the ground was already soaking wet. So they became stagnant, rippling only when receiving another cold word from their brethren. I felt relieved, but a different sort of sadness replaced my feelings of anxiety. Even now, I can't quite put my finger on what is causing it, but perhaps it's something with the weather.

I move into my new apartment this Saturday, and until then, I don't want to do anything. However, I've got an appointment to watch the Aikido club tomorrow, and I've got to finish packing by noon on Sunday. It's going to be an interesting and busy weekend, and I'm not sure whether that is a good or bad thing. It's good because I will be getting out and experiencing new things, but it's bad because I am losing time to pack as well as time to catch up on sleep that I've lost this week due to stress. But it's time to be strong about it and just keep going.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Emotional Issues and Determination

I should start calling this the Frustrated Exchange Student blog.

I'm not sure where my issue lies, or where I should even begin with this post. I know it's my blog, so technically, I can say whatever I want, but I am still very conscious of how I word my thoughts, and moreover, how these thoughts relay to other individuals. With that said, however, here's my disclaimer: There will be times when these posts are not happy, exciting, or monumental in any way, shape, or form. My life isn't interesting all the time. (Sorry to break that to you.) I'm a normal human being. With all of that off of my chest now, I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings; I just need to say things every once in awhile. Writing is my therapy.

Now, to the first frustrating point:

The first thing I would like to rant about for a moment or two is relatively petty. It's more of a pet peeve than anything. However, I always find myself biting my tongue and stomping away from my computer when I see these types of instances occur on facebook. It never fails. I post something in Japanese, or in romaji (the English version of a Japanese word), and I get a comment like this, "What does [insert word/kanji/romaji here] mean?" My gut response is as follows:

There is a website called GOOGLE TRANSLATE. Use it.

That's a little strong, so I usually end up biting my tongue and typing the definition. But I'm not going to do that anymore. While I don't mind talking about Japanese culture and giving a little background on things in this experience occasionally--usually within this blog--I am not the walking encyclopedia of Japanese information. I am learning, as are many of the other exchange students studying abroad. I do not know all of the answers, nor do I know why certain things happen or exist. It doesn't take five minutes to look up a kanji on the very helpful websites (a Japanese dictionary online/the most useful one) or  Google Translate. Please respect that my status updates on facebook are my way of giving little blurbs into my life, usually when I don't have time/am too lazy to write an in depth blog. I don't want to spend more time defining every little thing I say or type, especially not on Facebook. This issue makes me understand why teachers don't want to teach during the entirety of a class period; students will treat them as a walking encyclopedia rather than looking up the information themselves and learning on their own. While it may be expecting too much from my readers, unless it is a paragraph in Japanese, or google translate/ is not giving an comprehensible translation, please look it up yourself.

Point number two:

If you want to know about my life/experience why I am here, READ THIS BLOG. This is kind of a moot point since the people that read this typically are interested in what's going on in my time here. However, I am always happy to reply to e-mails if there are other questions about my experience as an exchange student. Which takes us to . . .

Point number three:

When on skype, I may sigh and sound annoyed at a few questions. I don't want to repeat myself very often, and when I repeat myself, I don't want to have to answer the same question twice. Many times, I have either written the answer to certain questions down, or spoken with someone (probably the person asking me) about it many times. If you feel that I  have not told you, please tell me, and I will apologize for my grumpiness, but there will be times when I just don't feel like answering the typical questions. Some examples of these questions, with my gut responses in italics, are as follows:

"How do you like Japan?"  What do you think? I've wanted to come here for seven years.
"Have you eaten dog or cat?" Are you stupid?
"Can you eat pizza in Japan?" Have you looked at my facebook photos?
"What's it like in Japan?" READ MY BLOG, LAZY [insert favorite curse word here].

I don't take ignorance very well. If you are interested in Japanese culture, research it. While wikipedia may not be a website you can cite for school papers or academic essays, it is a good place to get tidbits of information. You can also look things up on Google, or if you want to be safe, go to your local library. If you're reading these blogs and ask me these questions, I might be just a tish angry. (Unless I haven't written in awhile, then it's okay.)

Point FOUR:

Because Japan is a different country, actually, I should say, because Japan is a country that has stayed to itself for the majority of its history, it hosts a rather interesting and unique culture. So I may at times say, "You can't do something like that here." Literally, "だめだよ。" I am not saying this to be rude, I am saying this as someone that genuinely cares about Japanese culture. I also feel that as a foreigner, I have a pretty good understanding of the Japanese tatemae (public face) and honne (private face) concept. There may be times I become frustrated with my friends, family, acquaintances, etc. because they do not understand this concept. If you are planning to visit me while I am in Japan, please understand that I WILL get upset if I ask you to respect Japanese culture. I have written a few of the following down below. I want to make an instructional video about it, but knowing how I procrastinate, that won't happen.

1. Take your shoes off when you enter someone's house. It's rude to walk on the floor in "ouside" shoes. Think of it like gym class in elementary shoes.

2. If you are at a restaurant, someone's house, or in a situation where you do not like the food or drink, do not complain noisily. This is especially true of someone's house. If you have been invited, it is rude to say, "But I don't like this..." or "That's nasty..." or "EW... *Disgusted face* I am NOT gonna eat that!" (I think that if you do that at home, you didn't learn enough manners when you were little.) IT is respectful to at least try the food. There are polite ways to refuse food, and if you're interested in learning, I would be happy to teach you, but I won't do that here. Japanese people understand that the foreign palate is different, so if you at least try it, it shows that you are being respectful. Also, allergies are understood. Please don't eat something with peanuts in it just to be polite!

3. You cannot just ask somebody for a favor in Japanese as you would English, nor can you do things last minute. This has been particularly frustrating for me lately, as I am a pretty punctual person and like to plan things in advance anyway, but it's especially true with money, banks, hanging out, etc. Japanese people are VERY punctual. Just like in any country, there are certain courtesies that must be followed and obeyed when requesting a favor or duty. Of course these differ if friends are involved, but please understand this.

Man it felt good just to get those things off my chest. Again, I'm not trying to stomp on any toes, but I'm tired of holding this stuff in. I'm not going to answer posts on facebook regarding the stuff I write in my blog because I feel that if someone is really interested in my time here, they would take ten or so minutes a day to read and or check to see if I've posted.

Time to eat and maybe do some more homework. I took an eight hour nap. It's four in the morning.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I think one of the first things I will buy for my new apartment is a jar of instant coffee. Any suggestions, anyone?

Lately, I haven't been sleeping as I should; I'm procrastinating all homework. I want to say that this form of procrastination isn't a problem, but it's really jeopardizing my sleep schedule. I've been napping during the day and staying up all night. I feel like a vampire, a vampire that drinks a whole lot of coffee.

I've never really liked drinking coffee. I love the smell and flavor in candies and sweets, but I've never really enjoyed drinking it until recently. I always thought coffee made me sleepy. But in Japan, I've been drinking Boss: Cafe au Lait as if it were water. I don't like the after-effects, but it tastes better than any energy drink I've ever had, and it seems to last longer as well. I feel like I'm going to the dark side: Coffee vs. Tea. Tea or Coffee? (Since when did beverages become the Matrix?)

I think I've been procrastinating (*coughhackwheeze* like I am now!) because I am dreading my decision to drop a class I know I would be getting credit for at UNT. I am taking a Japanese Society course and I absolutely dread the homework and the class. While the topic is interesting, I don't feel as though I'm benefiting from reading a 20-30 page reading each week, answering three surface questions, and comparing articles to students in the classroom to find the differences and similarities. It's a mixed class of native English speakers (A.K.A. Foreign exchange students) and Japanese speakers/non-native speakers.

Part of me wants to be a smart ass and say, "If I can't read this article and understand it in its entirety, what makes you think that a student learning English would understand this sort of thing?" However, I know that if I ask this, it seems as if I am not giving the non-native-English speakers enough credit, as many of them get their opinions across quite well in English, and I know that I have difficulty doing the same in Japanese. I also feel that by dropping the class, I am doing the students a form of disservice, as I will not be able to influence or enhance the class by giving them an opportunity to listen to a native English speaker. Yet, the whole topic is difficult, and I'm not sure what I want to do. The part of me that wants to study Japanese agrees with the lazy side: 1) You hate the structure of the class; 2) The readings take up a lot of time (That could be spent on Japanese; and 3) None of this is really useful while you're in Japan as it is a class in English, not Japanese. Yet the humanitarian/goody-two-shoes/perfectionist in me says: 1) The class is once a week. If you manage your time a bit better, it's totally do-able; 2) You know if you drop the class, you won't do anything useful with your time; 3) You will help more students and make more Japanese friends if you stay. To me, they all sound logical, and after typing the latter argument, I feel guilty for even thinking about dropping the class. Yet, I try to ask myself:

Is this really how I feel: Guilty? Or is this a habit originating from years of trying to be the "good kid" after my older brother made a few interesting choices in high school? Furthermore, I start to wonder: What exactly will it change if I drop this class? Would I just be lazy, or would I actually be proactive? Why am I taking it if I hate it? And why can't I let myself understand that I don't have to do everything that is bad for me? Yes, sometimes painful or difficult situations can make someone stronger, or at least, that's what I believe. But can someone really always think that way?

When I stop and think about it, I feel as if I'm giving up by not taking this class because I simply don't want to use the time when I don't enjoy it. I think of my best friend's Mom who, after a divorce, raised two young children practically on her own and takes every situation as a challenge. She always says, "Sometimes, you just gotta back yer ears and get it done." In order to come to Ritsumeikan, I adopted this mode of thinking, and it enabled me to succeed in making it to Japan. But isn't there some sort of balance?

I always want to relax and have a good time, but I have a really difficult time accepting the fact that, "Sometimes, it's okay to have fun." Even more so with the idea that, "Sometimes, it's okay to do things for yourself. You don't have to do everything for other people." I have thought about this issue plenty of times, as well as tried to fix it, but I do not succeed. When attempting to fix myself, I am still in the mindset of trying to be perfect rather than letting myself emerge as whom I want to be. Is it weak to stay in a class that I hate? Or is it more weak to drop it? This is something only I can decide, but I really do not know which to choose. Perhaps I will talk with the teacher about it in the morning. I feel as though he needs to know why the students are having a problem. Even more so, I feel that he deserves to know why students are dropping.

In fact, I think I will write him now.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dealing with Stress and Finances

I hate to start every blog with, "I'm sorry for not writing. I was . . . ", but it's going to be another one of those weeks again. (Please bear with this lazy writing a bit longer.) I ate bad curry at the school cafeteria about the same time I started getting another cold, and I ended up with a cold and food poisoning since the beginning of October.However, after getting better and having a fantastic weekend, I am feeling better and realizing that being in Japan is serious, but it's good to have fun every now and then too.

My financial situation has caused my IBS to act up, and it took a rather nasty case of debilitating stomach cramps to make me ponder why I am here and what I want to gain from being in Japan for a year. I realized that becoming completely fluent may be a bit hard to reach, but I still want to aim for as close to fluent as possible. However, I'm going to drop one of the classes I am taking in English in order to achieve this. I can't be taking the same number of classes as I am in Japanese if I want to be fluent. I need to spend more time doing homework in Japanese, speaking Japanese, etc. if I want to be fluent. I can't use my native language while I'm here.

Although, I'm confused as to why I still continue to use English when communicating with my Japanese friends from the States. I don't understand it, but I think it's become a bit habitual. I can't let this mandate how I communicate, though, so I need to start communicating in more Japanese.

I have found a new apartment close the apartment I have now. The apartment will save me about the equivalent of $700 dollars a month, so I will be able to enjoy myself a bit more.

i'm telling myself that I'm going to learn Japanese through enjoying my time here. Perhaps when I'm at the new apartment, I won't have to worry about money as much and I can learn that it's okay to spend money once in awhile. I don't feel like I'm spending money on things that aren't necessary. I'm in a country where public transportation is very convenient, and using it is a bit costly. A bus ticket (to and from school) every day is 440 yen, about the equivalent of 5 or 6 US dollars. If I get a bus pass, it's cheaper in the long run at about $80 a month. I think I might start walking to school on days when my classes start later. I need the exercise. Perhaps I can run to school in the long run.

I'm learning to live by myself, and it's been really interesting. I kind of enjoy taking care of my own place. (I even enjoy the frustrating parts like washing and sorting the trash and keeping things clean.) I'm learning more about my honne, or true self that I don't really show to people. I'm learning that while it's okay to be very polite to people, you have to stand up ever once in awhile and say, "I'm me. Deal with it."

I love Japan. And I'm learning how to enjoy myself while I'm here.

I'm sorry for a crappy/less-thought provoking entry. I can smell some broccoli boiling and it's making me crazy hungry. I haven't eaten lots of vegetables in awhile. It might help with my stomach. :D