Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sweet Dreams

Again, it's been a long time since I've written anything, and it's been an even longer time since I've been this open.

A little over a two months ago, my boyfriend and I decided to split. I'll spare the mushy gushy, sob-story details; the important thing to know is that the relationship has ended.

I guess this is a test of faith for me. It gives me time to prioritize my life goals, emotions, and personal values.

It just hurts that I have some gut feeling that I'll never see him again. I don't say this out of pessimism; I just feel that something is wrong.

I'm unsure of whether or not my feelings will change as time goes on--a lot of people reading this will probably say, "Yeah, they do."--but the fact of the matter is that I don't want them to change now. At this point in time, and for the past two and half years, I have loved this person unlike I have loved any other human being. I want my heart to stay here where it is.

Wherever you are, my thoughts, prayers, and heart are with you.
Please stay safe.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Like a Goldfish





Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Demons Within

It's been a month since I left Japan, today, which means that I've been home for a month. I can't necessarily say that anything important has happened since my return to the States, other than returning to school, starting back at my part time job, and reuniting with my friends and family. However, I think it's important that I acknowledge myself, as well as the thoughts running through my head, and right now, I can't help but wonder: What are these demons in my mind?

As many of you know, and probably don't want to admit, returning home to the US was a rather painful experience for me. I can't lie and say that it wasn't, but I understand I should be a bit sensitive when stating how painful it was as well. I am still a fish out of water, despite being on home soil, and it's impossibly difficult to find my rhythm. I am still sleeping at weird hours, trying to figure out how to eat, and fighting whatever is left in my lungs from a year of back-to-back colds. The Japanese class at my University, while more challenging than those at Ritsumeikan in some regards, is not nearly as challenging, and I find myself struggling with my other class, one taught in English regarding the politics, philosophy, and ethics behind many current issues today, despite it being held in my native language. So why am I struggling?

I wonder if this is some sort of automatic defense mechanism to protect me from my own thought process. Naturally, I'm a pessimist, and at times like these, I would be weighing myself down with how absolutely horrible it is to be home. (Perhaps I'm starting to do that . . . ) But this feels different. It's as though I left part of me in Kyoto, and my chest aches. If that's the case, then I can't assume, logically, that I would be functioning correctly with a part of me missing. One of my professors would define this as part of the re-entry process, with or without the reverse culture shock.

Whatever the reason may be, I've found myself sitting up at night thinking about Mibu Dera, a local ramen shop, the heavy dialect of my next door neighbors, and a tranquil breeze while riding a bike downhill. I miss the old ladies who crowd the shopping street near my apartment, and wonder if my older neighbors will still be around by the time I return. The delicious contrast of red-bean paste with bland rice flour, my eccentric culture teachers, and beautiful people. The light seems to filter, as if everything is in the past, despite being in the present. Living through tradition while striving for the future, Japan is a beautiful country.

I'm American, but something strikes me about Japanese culture. When asked, I can't put my finger on it. Perhaps my vocabulary isn't sufficient for the emotion that emerges when imagining the serenity of something so foreign to what I was exposed to as a child, but a part of me needs Japanese culture. I crave the lifestyle not as an addiction, but as a need. I don't think I can reach my full potential here.

Until I can meet with my friends and sit in a dimly lit Izakaya, I  will do my best. Because they're waiting for me, I will succeed.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Musings and Hope

After a year of being abroad, I realized some things about myself:

I am not the weak, emotionally-overrun girl I knew in high school. I am moved by the world around me, inspired by the events that occur on a day to day basis. I cry when something makes me insanely happy, and I sob when my chest aches for seemingly no reason whatsoever. Rather than see these as signs of emotional instability, I see them as a cause for joy. I have an innate ability to express myself emotionally. It's painfully easy for me to express how I feel, even if I don't know a concrete adjective to do so.

With that said, I am a body full of opinions. I don't want to break the peace, and would rather keep my nasty thoughts to myself than disrupt the harmony of a group. However, I will not let someone tell me what I think is stupid, irrelevant, or wrong. I have a mind of my own, and I will not let you tell me what to do. Not anymore.

Living in Japan had made me independent. I went to Japan running away from a series of events, many deep, bitter contemplations about myself and others, and I hoped to some superior being that I would be able to land in my dream. Thankfully, someone heard me struggling. I had so much help along the way, so much encouragement, that it makes me cry with joy. I have a feeling some of my friends would tell me that I did all of these things on my own, or that my determination is what got me where I am today, but I'm only human, and I feel that I would not have been able to have such a great experience without my support group, American, Japanese, Italian, German, Norwegian, Filipino, Malaysian, French, Chinese, Singaporean, Thai, Sri Lankan, and Korean. I've had so much encouragement from the world, and met so many wonderful people. I'm so grateful for all of you.

The purpose of this blog entry is simply to analyze the thoughts running through my mind. Today was not a bad day. On the contrary, it was quite a good day considering I drove my car for the first time by myself since my return to the states nearly two weeks ago. However, it is one of the days where I've found my emotions a bit too much to handle. My future academic career, human relationships, financial status, and impending entrance into the job market weigh heavily on my mind today.

I feel as though lately, my voice has grown stronger, but I am unable to reach the person I so desperately want to speak with. I don't think that person reads this blog, and if they do, I'm a bit surprised. I won't say more than that this matter pains me.

At times like this, I need to remember that I have friends and family who are around me. I have a family around the world. I can do anything I want to.

In retrospect, this means my voice isn't loud enough.

There's no use crying. It only stuffs-up my sinuses, flushes my cheeks, and I look pathetic. But this is the first time I cried since I left Japan.

Watching Narita airport fade in the distance made me choke up on the plane. My friends and I agreed not to cry, but I couldn't hold back one tear. the green grass eventually grew further and further out of reach, fading into checkered rice patties and farms. Blue turned into white, and from there, we sailed through the sky. I couldn't sleep, and I took a Dramamine in hopes of making myself drowsy. The Dramamine then combined with red wine during dinner, and I still fought my eyelids. Sleeping meant the trip would end soon, and I desperately didn't want to go home.

But being back in Texas is familiar, and the view of my backyard is comforting. It's nice to be around my family and animals. For now, I'll do my best until I can go back to the country I came to love.

Mascara tears don't make this blog entry any better. It's time for me to crawl into a bed, motivate myself to study at least a little for my classes tomorrow, and realize that I can't do more than my best.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mixed Emotions and Returning

This is the first blog I'm writing from the United States.

To sum it up, being back in Texas is strange. I feel numb and as out of place as ever. I can't really fathom the idea that I am back at the place I grew up. Everything looks the same, and the people are how I remember, but I feel like a part of my mind is missing.

As it were when I left Japan, I feel as though a large chunk of my life has been a dream, a nd I'm starting again.

My time in Japan was perfect, despite all the difficulties and challenges. However, I feel as though it were longer than one year, but distant in a moment, as if I had woken from a great dream.

I think my heart is aching, but the emotions won't come to my eyes.

In any case, I am in Texas.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sai-Sai Sayonara, Bye bye, Wait...See you later

Today is the last time that I will write from Japan. Well, the last time that I will write from my stay in Japan this time. I told myself, "This isn't goodbye, but see you later." Yet, it still feels heavy and surreal.

I am getting excited messages about my going home, but it feels as if I'm waking up from a dream. I remember landing in Japan nearly a year ago, but that memory in itself is hazy. It feels as though I've lived in this country for a majority of my life, and I feel essentially more at place here than I do in the States. I could talk about this in more detail, but while it might be cathartic, it's not the time nor the place.

In a few hours, I will be boarding a plane from Narita, and bound for the States. It feels like I'm going to sleep. My body is light, but my mind and heart are heavy. I'm going from life to a dream, and I'm uncertain of what will happen when I go home.

I want to preserve the memory of the Rurouni Kenshin Move, The L'Arc~en~Ciel concert, nights of karaoke, late-night drinking with friends, and everything I've learned.

From this point forward, I'll do my best.

I'm not going to give up until I make it back to this country.

Until I land in the states, See you later.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rainbows, Kids, and English Immersion

I'm writing while sitting onthe floor of a hotel somewhere in Japan, listening to "Niji" by L'Arc~en~Ciel, and preparing myself mentally for another set of long days, happy faces, and tears.

English Immersion Camp is a great experience for those involved. I've been volunteering with the Kumon Company for a little while now, and my skills were finally put to the test a little over a week ago. The 6 Day camp began, and I have had the pleasure of working with many people from all over the world. Our journey together is far from over, as we have another four days to go starting tomorrow. Now, we all enjoy some down time, take some time to get back to our healthy selves, and enjoy our time together as human beings.

Working with Kumon on the journey for world peace through children has taught me a lot of things. I need to open my mind to more people, try new things, and listen.

The world is a big place, but we're all linked together as human kind. This means we must learn to love one another, respect one anothers culture, and ultimately, laugh together as we share in each others warmth.

I love the people I have met here with all of my heart.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gazette and the "Emo"

During my time in Japan, I've realized different aspects of my personality. Other people may call it finding self-identity, or figuring out who you really are, and while this may be true, I think that understanding my personality is different than identifying myself as a person in this world.

In high school, although I never knew the real reason behind any of it, I often felt down, depressed, or anxious. It was as if something bad would happen if  I turned the wrong corner, or out of nowhere, this empty void would fill my chest. People often described me as the nice kid, and I was well-liked by my classmates. However, when I began opening up to those around me about the pain I was feeling, everyone, even my own family was surprised. There was no "logical" reason as to why I was depressed. I had a great family, kept myself busy with hobbies and school activities, and was making great grades. But this pain came from somewhere, whether or not my family or friends believed it or not.

Like many other kids who are thrown into the emo, goth, or scene category, I was labeled by my school as emo. I found myself dressing in black clothes, listening to heavy music, and on really bad days, I even wrote poetry. My parents grew more frustrated as I became more withdrawn, more interested in the J-Rock and visual-kei scene in Japan, and it became evident that many people humored my interests rather than try to understand what was going on in my head.

After I entered college, I wondered if I really had gone through a faze. My taste in music, while perhaps not completely changing, altered itself seemingly day-by-day.I found myself listening to happier rhythms, melodies, and lots of Korean pop music. In the back of my head, something told me what I was doing was only making things worse, and that the pain as still there, growing, and waiting. I ignored it and almost stopped listening to both completely during the time I started dating my boyfriend.

At that time, I had no idea who I was, and was trying to find myself through loving another person. This eventually led to arguments, lack of communication, and neither of us succeeding in the relationship, or even getting to know ourselves. A year into this relationship, we were determined to make it work out of our love for one another. We re-evaluated ourselves, our actions, and told each other that we would both work on ourselves and treat each other fairly.

Then I came to Japan.

As soon as I set foot in this country, I felt at home. There was no adjustment period. At least, it didn't feel as though I was going through culture shock. The biggest adjustment was learning how to handle myself and living alone for the first time.

This is when I realized that I should have listened to myself.

I realized that there is this pain inside of me, although I don't know where it comes from. It's not something that I can locate exactly. I can't go to the doctor to have them fix it with drugs I don't need. It's something in my blood, and it numbs my body.

And I realize this through music.

I looked up at the stage as Ruki reached out to the crowd. He talked a bout a flower blooming, and while the tears didn't make their way down my face, I found my eyes watering. I had dreamed of seeing Gazette in concert since I was fourteen. I had heard his voice in my dreams, telling me to keep going rather than stopping where I am in times when I needed support, but got it from few around me.

I've never been so relaxed at a concert, and I never thought I'd find peace through the Gazette.

Part of me is relieved as I tell myself once again that I will never stop listening to this music.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Three, Four

Today was the reception for students who have completed Ritsumeikan University's SKP Program. I still don't feel as though it actually happened.

Rather than be sad during the activities, I felt a weird indifference. I was neither happy nor sad, but numb. The faces I saw in class everyday smiled at me, and I felt my heart sink, but I couldn't feel the emotion. It's as though I were standing in a room and the volume had been set to mute. Floating figures, faces, laughter, warm hugs. Yet I can't believe I was there.

I received my certificate of completion and made my way back to my friends. I won't get to see them as much as I'd like before I leave, and this is what makes the numb turn to ice.

A few days from now, I will have limited access to the internet, mobile devices, and contact with friends. Until then, I will have many things to do, and no time in which to do them. Pack? Eat? Sleep?

My appetite has faded as I start imaging the garbage bags I will carry down the stairs, the money I'll spend on post, and the agony of feeling alone in my apartment.

I don't want pity. I'm not sad. I'm not "lonely", but alone. I'm stuck in my head, figuring out who I am, where I want to go with my life, and what will happen when I return to American soil.

It's almost a month away, and while I'll be greeted by smiling faces, I have a feeling the sense of a mute dream will continue. I want warm embraces, laughter, and relaxation in the company of good friends. I want to drink with some sassy Germans, go shopping with my favorite Norwegian, and laugh with my Japanese best friends.

Where did time go?

"Here," it answers. "I've been here."

It's like high school all over again. Only this time, without the drama of teenage self-discovery. It's pain, and I feel cold . I can't find the source.

I can always come back to this beautiful country. I will keep practicing this beautiful language, I will contact my professors.

So why so numb and heavy?

It's as if Kyoto stopped moving. The street lights glitter in the darkness, and I relish the warm breeze lifting me from my bike. The world is silent, but welcoming.

Maybe I've lost myself, as well as my senses.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Doubt and the Other World

It's getting closer and closer to the time I have to leave this marvelous country, and with that said, I'm still not sure how to react. I do not say this out of sadness, bitterness, or resentment, but with honesty.

I was thinking about life back home, and realized that my trip in Japan has been hard, but enjoyable all the way through. When I think of back home, I see a lot of sticky situations, with my family's finances, school, relationships, etc. This can bring about good or bad, but I guess that's why they call it "home" for a reason.

After a Bati-Holic concert last night, my friend asked me why I didn't want to return home. She thought it was a bit strange that I wasn't excited. I told her that for some reason, I feel more at place in Japan. It's as if the world is still and things happen in the moment they're supposed to. Even when I'm rushed, it feels as though time goes by at exactly the speed it needs to. At home it feels like I'm always running straight ahead, jumping over the hurdles, and dodging the things thrown in from the present.

Here, I'm living in one moment. Difficulties, triumphs, everything is happening now.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Counting Crows

Today was a rather ordinary day for me. Well, it was up until I parked my bike to go to Wagashi (Japanese confectionery) class.

The story I'm about to write is rather emotional, and I've felt restless ever since this happened. I'm not sure how well I can write, as it's close to two in the morning, I'm very tired, and the thoughts are jumbled like wadded tissues between my ears.

It was a little after 4 p.m., and I walked my bike up to a local shrine gate. On the ground before me, I saw a crow, spread out on the ground as if someone had smashed it with a bat, and I inhaled sharply. It looked like a fluff of feathers, and the bugs were already taking over the poor, lifeless body.

An old woman sat in the shade, and watched my reaction to this bird. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her grin as I jumped when the bird moved. My stomach churned and I remember, for the first time in my life, wanting a gun.

The woman hobbled to me and started speaking in a dialect too heavy for me to understand. I told her that I felt so bad for the bird, and that it was in pain. The bird kept flapping its wings, unable to gain flight due to the broken lower half of its body. In the near distance, its friends cawed for their lost comrade.

To ensure that I understood her, or perhaps to make me feel better (although, if that's the case, I don't understand her methods), the woman poked her cane into the ground in front of the bird. It opened its beak, and instead of a caw, I could hear the screaming of its broken body as it tried to fly away from the woman.

Suddenly I heard the voice of my dad and boyfriend simultaneously. Then my mother. All of them telling me something along the lines of: Sometimes you have to hurt something to save it.

The image of that bird struggling to breathe still makes me shake. I felt so helpless. I wanted so badly the knowledge of how to kill a creature in one blow. I thought, "How can I use my bike, that rock, anything, to get this bird to stop suffering?" The old woman, on the other hand, was perhaps amused that a foreigner was getting so emotional over a common crow.

Suddenly, as if to protect their dying friend, two large crows began to swoop towards the old woman. I told her that I would run to the police station, and ask if there was anything they could do to help the bird.

I arrived at the station a few moments later and struggled to remember my Japanese. I kept saying things that translate roughly int, "I want it to be killed," and "It looks so pathetic, painful," and what hurt me the worst, "bird friends are telling us it is bad to be near the broken bird." Still feeling helpless, and feeling like minutes are hours as the woman finally understands how important this is to me.

Within a few minutes, the woman's apathetic stare turned into one of pity as I began to cry. In the beginning, I was told that there was nothing they could do. It wasn't a pet. It was a common crow. She told me to go to a different department, her words, I didn't understand. Suddenly, a male policeman came over and told me that the zoo had informed them they would see what they could do to help the bird.

After this came another eternity of waiting, my broken conversations with random police officers, and finally, the journey over to the shrine. While the old woman had told me she would wait, she and the crow's friends, had disappeared. The crow was lifeless on the ground.

I could hear the policeman mutter under their breath, questioning whether the bird was alive when I saw the flies on its back jump.

The bird was breathing.

They told me that from there, they would transport the bird to the zoo, although they said, unfortunately, the bird would probably die before getting there. I was crying. I was so glad they listened to me even though it felt like such a small thing. Whether the bird lived or died, I felt as though it were being relieved of torture.

After the police left, I stared at the shrine gate. I began to wonder if that old woman were ever there at all. What if she were some form of a god?

The whole scene felt very spiritual to me. I don't know much about the Christian religion, much less the different sects of Buddhism or Shinto-Buddhism. However, I thought I had heard of a similar situation in some story from long ago.

I wondered if I had been tested. had the woman been waiting all day, like the crow, for some person to take the time to help them, despite the inevitable death? Did the crows leave because they were chased away, or was it some sort of sign that time was running out?

I walked through the shrine gate and continued to cry. Pigeons cooed for mates at my feet and I remembered screaming with my boyfriend over our baby bird, the formula getting cold, and him ultimately saying, "If you don't feed it, it'll die!"

I suddenly understood his way of thinking, and dragged my feet to class.

I don't know what happened to the bird, and I have a feeling the police would tell me not to worry if I went back. In any case, wherever the bird is now, I hope that he is out of the tremendous pain he must have felt earlier.

I hope that no one goes without a friend in their last moment.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Time is Running Out

Today is the day one of my best friends from my home university, Mary, returns home to the states. I am so glad that both of us were able to be in Japan at the same time, even though she studied in Tokyo, and I came to call Kyoto "home." We didn't get to see each other very often due to the distance, but it was very refreshing to have a friend go through the same experience, in completely different ways, through different people, at the same time. I hope Mary makes it home safely, without any glitches through the airport and airwaves, and it's weird thinking that one of our journeys has come to an end, and a new chapter of life will begin upon landing on US soil.

Mary's departure has made me realize that my own journey in Japan will be ending in less than two months, and as much as I dislike the thought, I have to remind myself to be positive in my remaining time abroad.

Speaking of staying positive, I received a package from Captain Cornelius, one of my friends in Germany. I had no idea that he would be sending me something, and when I received a notice from the post about a missed package, I was more than surprised. However, it came at a time when everyone I knew was telling me that they were happy to be returning home, or my friends and family from the states were telling me they couldn't wait to get home. I felt as though I were the only person dreading the return, and tried to make myself think more optimistically.

Cornelius sent me a box full of chocolates and gummies from the Deutschland, but it was his letter that brought tears to my eyes. I feel like a drama queen when I type this, but I was really comforted by his letter. He told me to make the most of my time there and that I shouldn't worry about leaving even though he knows I'm upset about it. He's one of my loyal readers, I should say. (Although, that sounds weird since I don't update this blog on a normal basis, and I feel as though I have let the readers I have had down in the process of laziness.)

This letter resonated with me because I remembered how upset Cornelius was before his departure to Germany. Although he was, like many people I know, a bit happy to return home, and he felt that his trip to Japan had been satisfactory. But I felt that what I was feeling was the closest to what he was feeling months ago, even though it isn't striking the nail on the head exactly. In any case, because of this, I took his letter to heart. Yeah, it really sucks that I'll be returning home, but on the bright side, I'll be able to see people I haven't seen in almost a year, eat food that I love (Hello, burritos and salsa!), and more importantly, I'll have a better understanding of myself when I return.

Before I left for Japan, I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, where I wanted to end up in the future, and who I wanted to be around for the rest of my life. Now that I've been abroad, I understand that I want, more than anything, to end up in Japan in my future. I want to teach English, not because it is the "Global Language" or anything like that. I want to give those learning English a positive experience. I want to talk about the things they enjoy, or help them learn English regarding the field of their career. While I love my friends and family, I don't feel as though I belong in the states, at least, not for all of my life. I want to travel, live in different places, and get a job in which I don't have to worry about myself financially.

As of now, I guess I can feel a bit relieved. The situation is a bit troubling, but despite working out things with my home university through contract, it seems as though they have dropped me as a student because I "haven't been in school for a year". It's annoying, and I feel betrayed by my school, which adds to the resentment and unhappy feelings I have held toward my university for the majority of my time there. Although I am very happy and grateful for their approval for me to study abroad, as well as the partnership, I must say I think some things about university policy should be changed, especially when the school knows the student is studying abroad.

In any case, because of my "lack of attendance", so to speak, I will not be given financial aid for my Fall 2012 school term in the states. This means that I will not be able to go to school, as like many families in the US, my parents cannot afford for me to continue my education in this economy. I have a year left of school, but my parents lack of savings, my lack of job when I return home and drained bank account won't permit me to go back to school. I am communicating with my parents, my home university, and academic advisers about this problem, but depending on the result of our conversation, I may or may not be going to school in the Fall.

A plus of this is, if I cannot return to school immediately in the fall, I will be able to stay for another week or two in the country that I love.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Typhoons and Playing Catch-Up

I've had a heavy feeling in my stomach for awhile now. I feel as though I'm guilty of something even though I know there's not a real reason to feel that way. The more I think about it, the more I come to realize it's because I don't want to go home.

This is going to make me sound like a horrible person, and perhaps I am for even thinking this, but I don't really have a desire to return to the United States. I love my family, friends, boyfriend, coworkers, but I don't want to go back. I feel more at home in a place where I stand out easily in a crowd than I did in a place where I spoke the same accent, dialect, and played my part in the majority quite well. I'm sorry to those of you who are reading this. I'm hurting a lot of feelings and a lot of mixed emotions will probably come from this, but please understand I'm writing this as a way to come to terms with my own thoughts on two countries I love: the United States and Japan.

I know there are things that I can do in the United States that I will never be able to do in Japan. No matter how hard I try, no matter the visa or legal status I obtain, I will never be Japanese. I was not born in this country, and while this may sound quite racist or close-minded, I think that to some extent, I would have to look the part to be Japanese in this society even if I were a white woman born in this country. Even if I speak the language fluently, I will never truly "fit in" in Japanese society. I will never be able to erase the more American aspects of my personality. I will never truly understand what it's like to refrain from saying my opinion, I will never be able to completely work towards the group rather than an individual, and I will never fully be able to submit myself to a lower status than my male counterparts.

With all of these things said, I do not feel any differently about my desire to live in this country. Perhaps I'm one of the lucky exchange students, but Japan is home to me in a way that my hometown in Texas will never be. I know many of my friends cannot wait to return home to lands of cheese, cheap food, driving one's own car, and Mexican food. (I have to admit, the unavailability of Mexican food really takes it out of you sometimes.)

I do not regret living in my hometown or growing up in Texas. I think that it is a great place to raise children, especially if you live in a town in which the balance between open-minded and close-minded people are present. I'm glad that my town was relatively rural, but that I have had experiences (good and bad) with people who are stubborn and those who are willing to try new things. And I'm very thankful that my family, while stuck in their ways on some matters, encouraged me to try something different before making a judgement. Without their support, I don't think I could have ever experienced something so exciting, terrifying, and something utterly enchanting as my life in Japan.

Maybe I'm still young, and I'm not necessarily in love with the place where I grew up. I love the memories of my house in Texas, the moments playing with my cats and dogs outside, swimming in my pool in the summer, and enjoying the times, happy or sad, with my parents and relatives. These are things that I will treasure always.

I know I'm stepping on some feelings and I feel guilty for saying it, even though it's my own opinion, but I am in love with the country, culture, and people of Japan. i feel as though I should be crying over my family and hometown in Texas, but I feel like the land of the rising sun is calling my name.

Maybe my mind will change when the rainy weather clears up, the cockroaches invade my apartment, and I've had my fair share of final exams, but as for now, I am truly dreading the moment when I pull out my dusty suitcase from under my bed.

I can feel the tears well up in my eyes as I think of saying goodbyes, even though I know I will really be saying, "See you later!" and "We'll meet again sometime soon." I have made a great bunch of friends here, from all over the world, and it's really hard to imagine life without them. My departure from this country will be sometime in the near future.

I don't like it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Dread and Flower Blossoms

I don't even know where to begin with this entry.

I feel like time is going by too quickly, and I'm dreading the last two months of my stay here. I will be leaving sometime around the end of August, and I'm horrified that it's already June.

While it will hurt many of those who are home, I don't want to go back to the States. More than almost anything, I want to stay here. I want to live here and flourish. I know that I can come back in the future, and if things go the way I plan, I can work in a middle school teaching English. My dreams are right under my fingertips. I'm teaching English at an English Conversation group, working at an English camp this summer, and even working with middle school students sometime soon. I've never been so proud of myself, and I don't remember ever being this happy to wake up and go to class.

I really don't want to leave this feeling behind. While I know people believe that happiness is something that is created by one's own will, I really think that happiness is easier for me to grasp outside of the states. I'm so much happier being myself here than I am in Texas. I think this is because I feel as though I found my place here.

It's weird getting used to being the minority, but aside from that, my personality seems very Japanese. My Japanese friends tease me about my eating habits, politeness, and often say something that roughly translates into, "Wow, you're so Japanese!"

I feel as though I'm searching for my identity all over again.

I've found myself staring outside more often than before. I enjoy the gentle breeze, walk without an umbrella in the soft, steady rain, and listen to the sound of buses passing by. I feel like this is the last time I'll get to hear these noises. An onigiri that I've eaten every day never tasted so delicious, and my house never seemed further from the school.

I feel like I belong here.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's hard to believe that it's already May. The cherry blossoms have bloomed and fallen. My second semester at Ritsumeikan University has begun, and it's weird to think that I'm only in Japan for another three months.

There's so much left to do. I feel like I've wasted a lot of time.

This semester, I'm putting my studies first. I'm extending my Japanese practice outside of the classroom. I try to watch an episode of a Japanese drama every day, write a journal in Japanese, and use Japanese only when speaking to my Japanese friends. I'm taking three culture classes, all of which are in Japanese, and am limiting time I spend with my friends who speak English. (If you're reading this, and you're one of my English speaking friends: This does not mean you're not as important as my studies, but I feel it's a priority to use Japanese while in Japan.)

Similar to my first few months of school, this semester began with me being sick. I've been fighting a stomach bug of some sort for the past two weeks. I'm not sure how I got it, as I haven't eaten anything strange lately, and I am usually pretty cautious around people who are sick. I missed two days of class within the first month of school, and I feel terrible about it. Anyway, I am fighting this illness in the best way that I can: Relaxing and taking it easy when and where possible, and fighting the rest of the way.

My patience has been wearing thin with a lot of people lately. I'm not sure exactly where it comes from, but I am learning to do things my way. I think somewhere inside me, I finally understand that I do not have to be friends with everyone, I do not have to talk to everyone who rubs me the wrong way, and most of all, that it's alright to stand up for myself.

I will say this again: I will not answer questions that can be answered by modern-day internet search engines. In a past entry, I listed tools that can be helpful when reading my statuses on facebook (if you are a friend) or  reader. I will use Japanese terms when I feel the English doesn't work correctly, and I will not be explaining them. I don't mind answering questions about culture when I feel that I have enough knowledge, or experience, to answer. I understand it is a pet peeve I will have to deal with, but things like Japanese holidays, sweet names, etc. can all be looked up on google relatively quickly. However, in this day and age, I feel that it is so easy to find information that it's necessary to try finding it yourself before asking someone for direct answers. Everyone may not see it this way, and I understand.

BUT if you post a question that can be answered by a simple google search, I will not respond. (This is mainly to my friends on facebook, and yes, it is a bit passive-aggressive.)

Had to get that out of my system.

Anyway, back to normal journal writing. (These things are so unorganized.)

It's hard to believe that I will be back in Texas sometime in the next few months. I get weird feelings of deja-vu, more like a reverse deja-vu, lately. It's as though I realize that I'm really in Japan. It's strange to me because I've gotten so used to life here. I've gotten used to being a foreigner in a world of people who aren't like me. I've become accustomed to the rules of everyday life, and I feel quite welcome and at home here. It's going to be a huge shock when I get back. I feel like I'll be annoyed with everyone and disappointed with everything. I wish I could stay here until mid September, but there's absolutely no way to do that with my school.

Ideally, I could miss the Fall 2012 semester at my home university, work part-time for a semester before returning to school, and then work from the spring to the fall. However, this is something I will have to figure out soon, so I can prepare myself for either decision.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Back-and-Forths and Fleeting Time

It's official, I guess: I really can't keep up with a blog, can I? My apologies to those at home.

The past month has been eventful in some ways, and less eventful in others. I went to Tokyo for the first time since September, traveled to Nagoya to run a marathon, and fought a nasty bought of depression. Now it's exactly a week before I go back to school for orientation, which includes a placement exam, and then it's on to the last semester of school in Japan.

I'm sorry I don't write about all of the details about each excursion, but to me, my trip here is more than that. I feel if I tell all of the details about what I see on a day-to-day basis, the magic of the country is lost. Perhaps this just means my writing can't do it justice, and it also is a nicely put way of saying that I'm lazy. In any case, let me get back to writing while I still feel self-motivated.

Spring break wasn't very eventful for me. Looking back at it, I think I wasted a lot of time by not doing anything. I didn't want to do anything, really. Unlike most of the people I know, I don't have any desire to sight-see. Traveling is fun, but hard to do without a plan, and friends who share the same interest. Most of my Japanese friends were traveling, working, or job-searching, so it was more convenient to sit at home and do nothing. Thinking back, I should have put this effort into studying, watching Japanese television dramas, anime, or whatnot. Honestly, I've just been blah for the past while.

I wanted to go back home for a bit during Spring Break to see my boyfriend's art show, visit my family, and just figure out exactly why I'm in Japan all over again. I guess I'm just not strong mentally; the last month has been full of bitter, lonely feelings. And I'm disappointed in myself for wasting so much time, angry that I wasn't physically strong enough to finish a full marathon, and a bit jealous of those around me. Every day I realize that my kanji writing skills aren't where I want them to be, my vocabulary is lacking, and I'm still struggling over things on a day to day basis.

I guess it's just one of the downs of being in a country that you love.

One of my friends told me recently, "It's not always easy doing the things you love. There will be some hard times, some good times, and a lot of things in between."

Maybe I'm just too hard on myself. I have a feeling that some of my friends would be telling me, "You needed this break. You needed to sleep, eat, and just be lazy." or  something like, "Macy, you push yourself ALL the time. Just relax." Even still, this inkling doesn't keep me from feeling so weak, or feeling that my pace isn't good enough for just a fast paced society.

I think school will be good for me. It'll put me on a regular schedule, and I'll have less time to wallow in my thoughts. I'm looking forward to using my Japanese on a regular basis, make new friends, and study.

I've always taken myself for granted, I think. In Texas, I came from a small-town school where most of the people I met told me I was smart and gifted. I was told that I learn quickly, adapt to new situations well, and that I'm a bright kid. Getting out in the big world has shown me something different though. I've never felt so stupid, unprepared, and out of place. Even still, I feel that I've become used to a land that is so foreign to the place I came from. This rift exists, but it's as if I'm on neither side. It's as if I am used to the environment without being fluent in the language.

Again, I can hear my boyfriend saying, "Just do it. Just be fluent."

Maybe I should just stop writing, and work hard from tomorrow. I have a week to learn right?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Home and the Meaning of Cross-Cultural Boundaries

I thought I was going to write a little over a week ago, when two of my friends, Sandra and Cornelius, left Kyoto. Each of them were on their respective journey, Sandra on her way home, and the Captain on his way to Tokyo with his girlfriend before returning to Germany. I felt an immediate and sudden emptiness and sadness as soon as we said goodbye to each other on dark sidewalks. Cornelius took a left at a four-way, walking over ma bridge and out of my life until sometime in my future. Sandra walked home with me, but parted ways at a small alley near my house. I know I won't see either of them for a very long time. I plan to meet them in Germany sometime in the future, but that doesn't necessarily fix the problem of wanting to hang out with them now.

I thought I had overcome my homesickness, but how quickly things are changing in Japan and back home has thrown me out of the loop once again. Soon, my boyfriend will be having his Masters of Fine Arts art exhibition, and I won't be there to see it. I try to smile and say that it doesn't bother me, but even though I'm happy to be in Japan and explore, I really wish that I could stand beside him and support him in person. I want to dress up and stand by his side as he walks into the gallery, and just converse with his friends and contemplate what exactly mixtures of blue and pink mean. Is there a feeling connected with purple? A sound? What about a smell?

Baylie Brown, a girl I knew throughout school, but never really conversed with often, is (at this point anyway) in the top 24 on American Idol. I'm very proud of her for getting this far, and even though I never really care about these things, I think it's neat that she's representing my hometown of Krum, Texas. I've been watching her performances on youtube, and I found a video of her touring Krum. I feel a bit embarrassed saying it, but I cried when I saw the four-way stop, my high school, and other small landmarks that only mean something if you come from such a small town.

I love Japan. I'm really happy to stay here, but I guess it really takes being displaced so much to understand exactly what a hometown means to you.

The weather is changing here. It's getting warmer. I think it will be Spring sometime soon. Then the cherry blossoms will bloom.

Even though I'm happy to be in Japan, I'll be really happy to eat Mexican food with my family again when I return home. I think I feel that Japan could be my home. I love the people, the atmosphere, and how things work on a daily basis. But I guess I'm starting to realize that home isn't where you feel comfortable, necessarily, but sometimes it has a lot to do with the people who help you get where you are now.

Anyway, I'm going to stop being whiny and go lie down, take a nap, and cuddle my new plush toys.

If you're interested in supporting my boyfriend and his art show, here's a link that has the information:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Changing Perspectives

I'm not exactly sure what this blog has turned into. I say this in a good way. While I'm not updating daily, and I'm not writing every single thing I do each day, I think this blog has captured my study abroad experience better than I could have expected. I feel as though it encapsulates the developments in my character, personality, and my overall growth as a human being. Growth, however, never comes easy.

Lately I've found myself pondering, "What exactly do I want to do with my life once I return home?" I'm homesick, but I dread the thought of going back into my major back home. I don't think I necessarily have what it takes to continue as an English literature major. I've always had a love-hate relationship with writing, but I think it's more a masochistic pleasure than anything else. I know better than to compare myself to authors of classics, but as a writer, I really hate how English is taught, and how students are encouraged to analyze readings to death. I think it's fantastic that teachers try to get students to question information rather than take it in readily, but is it really necessary to analyze all the time. Anyway, time to get back on topic.

I feel like I've been beating myself up lately because I don't know what I want to do with my life. I'm only 20 years old, sure, that's fine. But I'm also only two semesters away from graduation. If I change majors now, it means I've wasted time and money chasing something that is useless. Do I stay with a major in English Literature for the rest of my term in school, or do I drop where I am now and pursue something like Anthropology or Social Linguistics?

I never realized how lonely it could be inside your own head.

I think I'm very fortunate in the fact that I haven't been struck by massive waves of homesickness like many of my friends, but it's times like this when I miss talking to my family, boyfriend, and best friends back home. Then again, I don't want to be known as the girl that only talks to the people back home when there's a problem. I need to learn to listen too.

When I was drawing to relax earlier, I remembered a conversation with my Mom I had when I was little. At that time, I suddenly realized that I wasn't the only person seeing the world. I realized that the way my eyes see the world is individual in itself. Isn't it amazing that so many people are seeing the world in so many different ways at once?

I mention this because I've been hearing so many things from all of my friends and family. Part of me wants to relax, but I know I shouldn't waste my time. I need to stop speaking English. I need to hang out with my Japanese friends. I should be keeping a blog in Japanese, not English. I should be focusing on the correct words to use instead of being vague. It's overwhelming to me.

Did I come here with the goal of becoming fluent?

It's been so long since I've actually thought about why I've come here. I see kids staying in their room and studying their asses off, and I see kids that party and enjoy a social life. Living in between is difficult. I wonder if I'm somewhere in the grey? I think I give myself too much credit if I say that's where I lie. I think I've been off the scale in my own world here.

I've gotten too caught up in the way words sound when people say them and the meaning in the words. But this is why I hate my English major, and why I want to study Linguistics. What I hate is what I love, and my thoughts spiral into this annoying paradox.

And at the beginning of this cycle is the self-evaluation.

What do I like about myself? I'm passionate, creative, and adapt well to new environments. What do I dislike? I'm pessimistic, stubborn, quick-tempered, and unable to finish things through. I have to realize that it's okay to be hard on myself. It's okay to relax. It's alright to enjoy your time in a foreign country and work when it's time for school.

Then the other side of me says, "Go talk to more people in Japanese!"

What I want to study is useless for becoming fluent. The relationships between culture and words is no use if I'm unable to communicate fluently and effectively in the language I'm studying, right?

I'm not even able to do this in English.

Do i listen to everyone pressuring me to become fluent? How do I enjoy myself if I'm studying all the time and trying to be the best in my class? Is that the same thing as being fluent? I'm not sure, but that's what I've always associated. I'm not a language prodigy, and I never have been.

I guess I should learn to laugh at myself and accept the fact that I don't excel at everything.

I'm one of those people that's just average at doing everything. Someone who does nothing well as well as someone who does nothing terribly.

This is the time when I see myself later in life as a freelance writer who smokes and drinks boxed wine.

A small voice in my head smiles and says, "You're the only person who's good at being you." Yeah, that's true.

I have to learn to accept me before I can ever succeed in anything I want to do. So I'm back to the beginning of the board game. Whoever is rolling the dice, please be kind to me. I'm not as strong as you'd think.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Heartbeats and the Sound of Taiko

I really should change the description of this blog. It's definitely not a daily thing, is it?

A while back I was going to write about the death of one of the exchange students. Around January 20th, one of the SKP exchange students, Alex, passed away. The exact cause of her death is unknown, but it was very sudden. While I was not close friends with her, I enjoyed her presence every time I spoke with her. I laughed with her, and even told her I would show her around Austin when she traveled to Texas. While I want to cry while remembering her, I know that she would laugh and tell me to smile. Instead of crying, I'd like to remember her as the girl I always saw smiling. She laughed life away and enjoyed herself.

We all miss you, Alex. And while it's sad that you're not with us in person, we'll carry your spirit with us as we continue our journey in Japan.

Alex's death made me ponder my own lifestyle in Japan. I feel as though I don't appreciate my time here like I should. What if I were to pass away tomorrow? What if I were to disappear today? Would my life have meaning?

Better yet, what parts of my life would be memorable?

I've decided to do a few things differently for the next semester. I feel as though my life has always been something that I can improve. I am never satisfied with anything I do, and this is especially true with school. I want to learn to accept the things I can't change. And this means accepting myself first, the good and the bad.

I want to do my best in Japanese. But instead of just hating my time here and locking myself in my room to study, I'm going to talk to more Japanese people. I'm going to make time for the friends I have made and learn to do things on my own. I'm not going to rely on the friends I have or wait for them to do something I want to do. If I want to go shopping, I'm going to. I can do it on my own.

For this, I'm going to tell myself that doing things I enjoy is not necessarily something that is selfish. It's not selfish for me to do things on my own or enjoy time by myself. I'm going to explore things I enjoy and not waste my time doing something that i hate or dislike. Sure, the things you dislike make you stronger sometimes, but this doesn't mean you have to torture yourself. You don't have to be the strongest, most beautiful, talented, or even the smartest person in the world. If I'm not me, then who else will be me?

I never realized how important music was to me. Well, I can't limit the importance to music, but sound. I'm terrified of losing my hearing. My left ear is the weaker of my ears, and I'm scared of losing hearing in that ear permanently. I want to enjoy sound while it's still possible. I'm not going to try to act cool anymore. I enjoy the crappy music of Korean boy bands and I love the distraught chords within metal and rock. No one has to agree with what I like or dislike. It's my choice. If you respect my choices, I'll respect yours as well.

We don't have to agree with the same things. We all just need to respect each other.

In order to respect each other, we need to know ourselves.

I struggle with loving myself every day in Japan. I don't say this to fish responses of pity or empathy. I'm writing it because I feel like I need to say it. I don't like myself on a daily basis. I love myself on a temporary basis. I don't know who I am, but I know what parts of me I dislike, and I want to work on those.

A goal for the new year is to devote myself to something. While I want to do Aikido, I don't feel it's right for me to pursue that while I'm in Japan. I want to pursue music while I'm here. I want to dedicate myself to Taiko. I want to experience the physical release of stress and self-hate. I want to find my spirit in the sound of drums as the sun rises.

I miss dedicating myself to something.