Monday, January 29, 2007

Sweet and sweeter...don't wanna lose that taste...

Things have been good for your heroine in J-land. The weather has been sunny and relatively warm. The kids have been happy and smiling. I now feel more empathy rather than scorn for my co-workers. I received unexpected gifts and started to build some bridges. I'm half-way through my second year as an ALT and life post-JET is shaping up. Sweet, no? I just hope it lasts...

February will begin in a couple of days and while things have been good, I'm getting that blah. I don't want to teach, I don't want to study/speak Japanese. I want to throw my kerosene heater out the window. I don't know...But the weekends are my salvation. Two weekends ago, Dave and I went to Gifu Park for a little walk and to hang out. I haven't been to downtown Gifu City in months, so it was a surprising treat to re-discover the area. We went to a charming cafe, Primo Luce, and I had Pelligrino along with my strawberry tart. It wasn't exactly the weather for it, but I wanted something that reminded me of home, you know? It was such a simple weekend with simple pleasures, but it was wonderful to the core.

This past weekend, I spent time with Shiloh, catching up and reveling in our mutual love and respect. Damn, I love that girl. After attending my last ever Gifu JET conference (yes!!!), we went out for pizza and talked NON-STOP for like 8 hours. The next day, we took a little hike on a bamboo trail then went to the Yoro International Centre to make Japanese sweets. I ate too many, but how could I not - they're so pretty! Luckily, I gave a couple away the next day, which alleviated the guilt of eating so many.

Well, I'm down to 6 months in Japan and while I'm living each day, I'm still subconciously counting down to the end. BUT, I can say without a doubt, coming to Japan was the best thing I could have down for my mind and soul, and my body ain't doing too bad either. I've met some of the most brillant people here who have challenged me and made me question and re-evaluate my life thus far. My future and my life have been changed and undoubtedly for the better. Hell, the sweet just isn't as sweet without the bitter...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

More postcards from Japan...

Life is interesting in Japan. Some pictures for your consideration...

These little cuties are showing off their kairo (?). Kairo is a basically a hot pocket, filled with god knows what. But when you squish the stuff inside, it gets comfortably warm and keeps your hands from getting frozen when your doing your daily business. I have yet to purchase them but I routinely steal them from the kiddies.


Really, look at him...The kid is a goon.

This is a message I wrote for the graduating 6th graders entirely in Japanese (hiragana) with some kanji thrown in. My Japanese fist is terribly lacking in beauty, but I was proud and happy to write all this myself (I had it checked before submitting the final product). The message will appear in the annual yearbook. It says "To the 6th grade: Congratulations on your graduation. Please study hard at junior high school, but have fun, too. Junior high school is difficult, but interesting (fun) as well. Please continue to study English. You are all good students and you speak English really well. See you at Neo Junior High School! From, Kaki."

I agree: Cats should be smacked.

This lovely character is on display at a clothing store at Malera, a huge mall about 40 minutes away from me. I usually go there to stock up on foreign foods and watch movies at their plush threatre. This horse always gives me the willies.

Nothing pisses a Scotsman off like seeing tiny dogs dressed in tiny clothes.

These sexy leather pants are exclusively for dogs! There is a dog clothing shop in the mall. I haven't bought myself any decent clothes here in 1 and half years, but there's a dog clothing shop in the mall. *Sigh*

I have a very sweet surrogate family here in Gifu. Ma (on the floor) and Pa Tokoro (right) are such sweet individuals and they took me under their wing almost immediately. I've spent weekends at their home and they've taken me out and pretty much made me feel like one of their daughters. I work with Pa Tokoro, and while he doesn't speak much English, when I couldn't speak much Japanese, he was always there with his denshi jisho (electronic dictionary) to make sure I could understand his invitations. This pic was taken at Ojisan and obasan's (grandpa and grandma's) house after a tasty dinner of sukiyaki. The young woman in the picture is Ma and Pa Tokoro's daughter who goes to university in Kyoto.

Me and the grandfolks. They love me.

This is a picture of a picture of Wonda, one of the Tokoro's dogs. Wonda, named after Stevie Wonder, along with the other dog, Mini, get dressed up in some pretty awful outfits. When Ma Tokoro told me she wants to dress them up in kimono (Japanese traditional formal wear), I nearly spit my beer out of my nose. I told them that Mini (a female) and Wonda (a male) should get married and wear a wedding gown and tuxedo, respectively. She told me that would be a bad idea because Wonda is like 40 years older than Mini. Hey, at least she's got some morals.

The sakura (cherry blossom): The ubiquitous flower of Japan.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ebony, ivory and everything in between...

I'm feeling a little...disturbed. Read here to see why (and read the comments too): For those of you too lazy to read it, one of my favourite bloggers posted a piece about interracial relationships. Specifically, she referenced a story about how Will Smith would like to do a romantic comedy with Cameron Diaz, but he thinks that America wouldn't be ready for such a flick. The blogger, Afrobella, asked readers to post their comments and I was really dismayed by what I read. Apparently, according to these readers, they (and America), would most definitely NOT be ready for a film showing black on white love, even if it starred two of America's most bankable film stars. Afrobella mistakenly thought "hey, it's 2007...aren't we there yet?" Reading those comments made me think "no fucking way".

I can't even begin to understand what a lot of Black people in America are going through. With the shadow of slavery, segregation and the violent civil movement still on the country, from what I gather, things seem to be pretty rough. But at whose hand? In a struggle, there is usually an offensive and a defensive. In the past, Whites have been the aggressor while Blacks have been forced to submit. At the late end of the 20th century, I believe, the roles had been reversed. I understand that Black people were/are angry (and with excellent reason), but wow, there seems to be so much vile spitting out of the mouths of my supposed brothers and sisters that it's just making me sick. God, where do I start? Let me try...

All that shit in rap "music" about niggas, hos, ballers, bitches...While I miss music videos, I'm kind of happy to be away from bitches getting champagne poured on them, bling thrown in the air by shot-callers, and video hos ass slapping on top of cars. I can't watch it. Who are these people? How have they become role models for Blacks? How is it that this language has seeped into everyday life like a foul smelling stream? Hip hop, I used to love her...

Black-on-Black hatin'...Speaking from personal experience, Black people dissing other Blacks for not being black enough is just plain old effed up. For example, I read about some Blacks not willing to support Barack Obama because he's a biracial immigrant, and doesn't understand what it's like to be Black in America. Wow, talk about shooting one's self in the foot. Here's a man who is tapped to be President and he doesn't get love from some narrow-minded folks because he's not Black enough!!! I've been dissed for being white-washed/brain-washed/a race traitor for not speaking in ebonics, hanging out and dating Whites and not acting the fool. Even my dear moms tends to remind me by saying "you're not white, you know." What is that? Is it fear, disgust, suspicion? I don't know but I think it does nothing but keep minds close and limit potential.

And that leads me to my last point. By being racist (some would say supporting our own), life and viewpoints are limited. My feeling on this is a bit complex, so let me try to explain it and give an example. Essence magazine, which I happen to pick up from time to time, is a Black magazine that covers issues found in all those mainstream magazines. Recently, they decided to celebrate "Black love" by inviting (Black) men to propose to their (Black) girlfriends through the magazine. Readers could then vote on their favourite couple and send them on an all-expense paid honeymoon in South Africa. While I find it encouraging to see Black couples in love and making the committment of marriage, especially seeing so many discouraging Black relationships portrayed in the media and in real life, I find it sad that all genuine love isn't usually celebrated in mainstream media (I can only thing of O(prah) magazine as the only consistently colour-blind publication). I understand that Essence is a Black magazine but I couldn't help but think why not celebrate love period? Am I too naive?

Living in Japan, and before that, Montreal, such matters are not part of my day-to-day. Inter-racial couples are de rigeur here, particularly between Whites and Japanese. I have friends who are or who have found love outside their race. All I can say that loving someone, anyone, is hard work and being there, no matter with whom it's with, should be celebrated, not questioned or looked down on. To those haters, all I can say is feel the love, no matter what colour it is...

***Please don't misconstrue what I've written as a rant against Black folks. Just needed to get somethings off my chest. Also, I know this has nothing to do with life in Japan and I'll get back to that soon.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Nasty...

We all do it, but we don't talk about it...until now: Click here to be disgusted, entertained, informed and disgusted again. Seriously funny shit, pun intended.

It's the weekend. Yeah! My car's CD player works again. Yeah! I'm out!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Thought I'd share postcards from Japan...

I really want to write something really, really good, but I'm afraid that my brain may have atrophied slightly from watching too many movies this past holiday season (Oh god, Red Dawn. Why, oh WHY???) So, I thought I'd send you some postcards of my life here in Japan. I've been taking crazy pictures so you all get to reap the rewards of my efforts...

This is my kochou sensei (principal) at the elementary school hamming it up for the camera. He loves the taste of sake and proceeded to get supa drunk at our year end party in December.

He showed me the correct way to indicate that you have finished with your sake bottles.

My eikaiwa (English conversation) ladies and I made soba (buckwheat noodles) in my apartment. I love soba and it was pretty easy to make. You mix soba flour and water and beat the dough until it's at the right consistency. Then you have to knead then flatten it with a long stick. This is back-breaking. After the dough is spread thin, you cut it really thin.

Since we were novices, our noodles came out a bit thicker, but it tasted good nonetheless.

This is a handmade hanging scroll Dave gave me for our anniversary. I love, love, love autumn and now I have something to always remind me of the autumn beauty of Japan. If you look closely, you'll see a blue bird on a branch.

This is a geisha doll I made a couple of months ago. In the background is a picture of my godson.

Here is a famous Japanese toilet complete with bidet, spray, flushing sound and a hot seat. I took this pic at the movie theatre because I thought it might make some of you jealous. Going to the bathroom in Japan is a sheer pleasure. A lot of washrooms have disinfectant for the toilet which you hardly need to use. And let me tell you, when it's 2 degrees in the school's washroom, a heated toilet is a LUXURY. Now, if I only I could buy one outside of Japan...I do believe it's possible...

Close up of the command station.

While many toilets have the tradtional handle or automatic flush, this particular toilet has a sensor that you wave your hand in front of to get the toilet to flush. Genius.

For some reason I can't load any more pics right now, but I'll post more pics soon...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Bonzai, Happy New Year and all that good stuff…

Hope everyone had a wonderful and restful holiday and you all get hugs and good wishes for the upcoming year. Wow, 2007…it seems so futuristic. I have a feeling that this year will be odd. Full of upheaval, confusion and imbalance. Maybe I just feel that way because 7 is an odd number or maybe it’s because in 7 months, I will leave Japan and my life will be completely upside down. Well, the only thing I can do is just wait and see. Here’s hoping for a successful and prosperous new year!

On the subject of that, I celebrated my first new year’s eve in Japan. Dave hosted a party at his place (complete with home-made curry and tandoori chicken – DELISH) and we rang in the new year with friends, booze and board games (Taboo and Trivial Pursuit – Dave and I won, despite the head buzz and the fact that I don’t really like the game). I originally wanted to go to a shrine to do the traditional Japanese thing, but it was so cold outside and it had just gotten warm inside, so that idea was nixed. Anyway, it was a good time and we only went to bed when the sun came up. Yeah, my sleep pattern is horribly messed up, but it was worth it.

Will update soon. Latah.